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Web Log - "Watching the pot come to a boil"

11-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood'

Pentagon deploying hundreds of troops to Helmand in Afghanistan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pentagon deploying hundreds of troops to Helmand in Afghanistan


US soldiers in Afghanistan (AFP)
US soldiers in Afghanistan (AFP)

With the Taliban resurgent in Helmand province in Afghanistan, the US will deploy a force described as "battalion strength," probably around 800 troops, to the region to support the Afghan military. US troops have already been involved in combat against the Taliban recently in Helmand, including an hours-long battle last month. But in keeping with Barack Obama’s formal declaration that the US is not engaged in combat, defense officials said the additional troops would not take part in combat.

According to Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan:

"The battalion will bring a small number of trainers to assist with the efforts to re-man, re-equip, and re-train the 215th Corps, but its primary mission will remain force protection. This is not a new force protection mission, but an enhancement of the existing force protection mission to increase the capacity of our current train, advise and assist efforts."

The new deployment will not increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan. The additional forces will be taken from the 9,800 troops already in the country. The advisors and infantry will come from the 10th Mountain Division. Army Times and Guardian (London)

Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood'

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday signaled a major split with the Obama administration by accusing it of adopting a policy that has turned the Mideast into "a sea of blood."

On the same day, Frances outgoing foreign minister Laurent Fabius also blamed President Obama for inaction that's led to numerous setbacks in Syria, and said that he doubted that Obama would follow through on previous promises to back Syria's moderate opposition:

"There are ambiguities including among the actors of the coalition. I'm not going to repeat what I've said before about the main pilot [Barack Obama] of the coalition… but we don't have the feeling that there is a very strong commitment there.

I don't think that the end of Mr. Obama's mandate will push him to act as much as his minister [secretary of state John Kerry] declares."

While Fabius merely blamed Obama for inaction, Erdogan blamed Obama for specific actions -- namely supporting the YPG, the armed wing of the Kurds in Syria. The US has been supporting the YPG as its foot soldiers in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). However, the YPG has ties to the PKK in Turkey, which an internationally recognized separatist terrorist group that has been conducting terror attacks in Turkey for decades. Furthermore, the YPG is allied with Russia, which is now a bitter enemy of Turkey.

Erdogan on Wednesday said that Obama has to make a decision whether his ally is Turkey or the YPG:

"Hey, America. Because you never recognized them as a terrorist group, the region has turned into a sea of blood.

“We have written proof! We tell the Americans, ‘It’s a terror group.’ But the Americans stand up and say, ‘No, we don’t see them as terror groups.' ...

Am I your regional partner or are the terrorists in Kobani [the YPG]? ...

They [US officials] do not say anything to our faces, but they make different statements elsewhere. It is not possible to understand what type of partnership this is."

Erdogan added that it's impossible to trust America at this point.

Erdogan indicated that Turkey would break with American policy and implement its own solution, referring to his proposal to create a safe zone or buffer zone in northern Syria. As we wrote yesterday ( "10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border"), Erdogan appears to be taking advantage of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on Turkey's border by setting up refugee camps in Syria, effective creating a de facto buffer zone. CNN and Daily Caller and Vice News and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border

Turkey border 'buffer zone' could result in clash with Syrian army

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mass exodus from Aleppo continues amid reports Russians are using cluster bombs


Refugee camp in northern Syria on border with Turkey on Monday (AP)
Refugee camp in northern Syria on border with Turkey on Monday (AP)

Russian warplanes continue to pound civilians, causing tens of thousands more to flee the city.

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that Russian warplanes used cluster bombs in at least 14 attacks across five provinces since January 26. Cluster bombs open in flight and scatter dozens of explosive munitions over wide areas. They're particularly effective in killing large numbers of civilians over a wide area.

The United Nations has warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians could starve if, as feared, forces loyal to the Syrian government encircle Aleppo and submit it to a siege, backed by Russian warplanes. It said that a huge new wave of refugees would be forced to flee from a Russian-backed assault. Independent (London) and Fox News and AP

United Nations demands that Turkey admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees

Thousands more Syrians continue to flee Syrian army forces and Russian warplanes pounding Aleppo, and are joining the tens of thousands already massed on the border with Turkey.

The Red Crescent (the Islamic branch of the International Red Cross) has been overseeing refugee camps in Turkey, as well as aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey, and is now providing eight tent camps and humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria massed on the border with Turkey. They have provided 2,000 tents, as well as blankets, food, water, and hygiene kits.

However, aid groups say that tents on the Syrian side of the border are overcrowded and that food is in short supply. The United Nations is demanding that Turkey open its border to "all civilians who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection as they have done since the start of this crisis."

There are two major reasons why Turkey is reluctant to open its border to tens of thousands more refugees:

Some Turkish columns are calling European Union calls to open the border "a joke":

"It’s almost like a bad joke. At the very moment when EU member states are doing their utmost to close their borders to Syrian refugees, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini is calling on Ankara to admit the tens of thousands of refugees piled up on Turkey’s borders near the town of Kilis, following the recent advances near Aleppo by al-Assad regime forces supported by Russia and Iran.

Mogherini is saying that there is a moral if not legal duty to provide protection to these people. According to her, the EU is also providing funds to ensure that Turkey has “the means, the instruments, and the resources to protect and host the people who are seeking asylum.”

This appears to be no more than a flimsy attempt to retain a moral high ground against Turkey at a time when Europe is reacting deplorably to the refugee crisis and therefore has much to answer for. What Mogherini says also completely disregards what Turkey has been doing for the past four years."

Turkish columnists also note that the EU has promised financial aid for refugees in Turkey, but that the financial aid hasn't materialized. Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Washington Post

Turkey border 'buffer zone' could result in clash with Syrian army

There's another, more strategic reason why Turkey is setting up refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border near Aleppo.

For four years, Turkey has advocated setting up a "buffer zone" on the Syrian side of the border, starting at a time when hundreds of new refugees were entering Turkey each day rather than many thousands. Turkey received no international support for the idea, because of the concern that it would bring Turkey's army into conflict with Syria's army. ( "17-Mar-12 World View -- Turkey once again talks about a 'buffer zone' in Syria")

Now, with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on Turkey's border, Turkey has managed to set up a de facto buffer zone. Turkey considers this even more urgently needed today not only because of the larger mass of refugees, but also because Turkey wants to prevent the hated Kurds from creating a de facto Kurdish state along the entire border, from western Syria all the way west into Iraq.

However, the concerns today about a clash with Syria's army are just as real. Syrian officials are making it clear that they intend to "control the borders" with Turkey.

In an interview, Bouthaina Shaaban, advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said:

"[There would be no letup in an army advance, which aimed] "to liberate cities and villages that were controlled by the terrorists for 3-1/2 years, and also an attempt to liberate the city of Aleppo from the crimes of terrorism.

[We intend] to control our borders with Turkey, because Turkey is the main source of terrorists, and the main crossing for them. ...

We hope that the operation will continue in the north until we control the borders and stop the terrorists who Turkey has since the start of the crisis worked to send to Syria."

This is not something that Turkey would want to see, as it would certainly mean Kurdish control of the entire length of the border between Syria and Turkey.

Perhaps Turkey will back down and let the masses of refugees into Turkey, and allow the Syrian army to take control of the border region. Or, perhaps Syria will back down, and allow Turkey to keep its de facto buffer zone in Syria along the border.

Syrian army forces are already just 25 km from Turkey's border. If neither side backs down, then there will be a clash in the next few weeks.

As long time readers know, Generational Dynamics has predicted for years that the entire Mideast is headed for a major war between Jews and Arabs, between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and among various ethnic groups. Things have been moving very quickly for the last few months, and each new week seems to have some event that brings that prediction closer to fruition. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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9-Feb-16 World View -- Monday's stock market rout blamed on China's foreign currency selloffs

Hong Kong experiences worst violence in years

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bangladesh covers up Tibetan art after China threat


Dhaka Art Summit is the biggest art show in Bangladesh with about 300 South Asian artists participating
Dhaka Art Summit is the biggest art show in Bangladesh with about 300 South Asian artists participating

Bangladesh's biggest art show, the Dhaka Arts Summit, was forced to cover up an exhibit by Tibetan artists, due to threats from China's ambassador. The exhibit page homage to 149 Tibetans who had self-immolated (burned themselves to death) to protest China's policies. The exhibit displays five letters written by Tibetan protesters before they burned themselves.

According to the artist:

"They had to be covered because the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh (Ma Mingqiang) found the works offensive, during a visit to the summit on Saturday.

We were told by the curator (Diana Campbell Betancourt) that he exploded as soon as he saw it and asked the works to be removed immediately or face consequences."

The nature of the "consequences" was not explained.

China heavily censors art displays within China, and now is censoring art displays in other countries. AFP and Indian Express

Desperate China official rapidly selling of foreign currency reserves

People used to say that the U.S. was so deeply in debt to China that China could blackmail the U.S. by simply threatening to sell off all the Treasury bonds that it owns. In those days, the U.S. was importing so much from China that China had to buy US Treasuries to help the balance of payments between the two countries.

Those days are long gone now, with the American dollar steadily strengthening and China's economy steadily weakening.

For a number of months, China's economy has been weakening, months, and the government has had to battle a stock market rout, slowing factory production and falling exports last year, and causing China's renminbi (yuan) currency to weaken. The People's Bank of China (PBoC) central bank has responded by selling its holdings of foreign currencies (dollars, yen, euros) in order to buy up yuan on the international markets, thereby increasing the demand for yuan and preventing it from weakening further. The PBoC fears that there could be an international run on yuan currency, causing a rapid devaluation, and destabilizing China's economy.

So it still came as a surprise that China's foreign currency reserves plunged $99.5 billion in January. In other words, China sold off almost $100 billion in dollars, yen and euros in order to purchase yuan, to prevent a devaluation.

At $3.23 trillion, China still has the world's biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings. But that has declined by $420 billion in just the last six months, and is now at the lowest level since May 2012.

According to one analyst, "While the remaining reserves still represent a substantial war chest, the mathematics around this rapid pace of depletion in recent months is simply unsustainable for any length of time."

That means that the yuan is continuing to lose value, and analysts are expecting the PBoC to devalue the yuan by substantial further amounts in the next few months.

Already, the yuan has declined 1.24% against the dollar so far this year.

In fact, the yuan may be in a vicious deflationary spiral. Forex (foreign exchange) investors see that that the yuan is going to be devalued so they are selling yuan to purchase dollar-denominate assets -- the exact opposite of what the PBoC is doing. Investors selling yuan will cause the yuan to devalue further, causing investors to sell even more.

According to this analyst: “Domestic private investors and global currency traders see a one-way bet against the currency. This has resulted in large-scale private capital outflows since early 2015 as expectations mount that the PBoC will eventually be forced to capitulate once its reserves are sufficiently depleted."

Devaluing a currency makes the country's products cheaper on the international markets, and so makes the country more competitive, increasing exports. That's what China would like.

But there are many emerging market countries, especially China's neighbors in Asia, whose economies depend heavily on trade with China, and so they're devaluing their own currencies in sympathy with China. The concern is that this will be a different kind of vicious cycle, as countries compete with each other to "race to the bottom," with devaluations in one country triggering further devaluations in other countries.

A "race to the bottom" among Asian and emerging market currencies could have a substantial effect on the U.S. economy, since the dollar is expected to strengthen substantially in this scenario, making American goods extremely expensive on world markets. This could dramatically reduce exports, reducing earnings, and causing the stock market to tumble, which is part of the explanation for what happened on Monday. BBC and Bloomberg and International Business Times

Monday's stock market plunge blamed on China and on weak earnings


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 21.41 on February 5, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 21.41 on February 5, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)

Monday was another dramatic day on Wall Street, as the day began with a 400+ point drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), with oil prices falling once again below $30 per barrel. By the end of the day, the stock market recovered to "only" a 178 point loss. Analysts are mostly confused about why the stock market has been falling recently, and I frequently see them on tv scratching their heads wondering why such a "small economy" like China's is having such a big effect on Wall Street.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (February 5) was at an astronomically high 21.41. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

If you compare stock price and P/E ratio changes in the last month, there are some interesting observations. Last week, on the moring of February 5, the Dow was at 16417 and the S&P 500 P/E ratio was at 21.40.

A month ago, on the morning of January 8, stock prices were higher, but the P/E ratio was lower. Specifically, the Dow was at 16514, and the P/E ratio was 21.03.

Now that should be impossible. The P/E ratio is, well, a ratio of stock prices to earnings, and so if stock prices fall, then the P/E ratio should fall as well.

But of course, that's not always true, because the earnings may change as well. What's been happening is that fourth quarter (4Q2015) earnings have been coming out in the last month,

In fact, 63% of S&P 500 companies reported results as of Friday morning, and Q4 earnings are on track to decline 4.1%. This is even worse than the 3.7% decline that analysts had been predicting at the beginning of January.

The 4.1% decline in Q4 earnings would be the biggest drop in six years, and it follows a 0.8% decline in Q3. Revenue figures followed the same path, with revenue falling 3.5% in Q4, after falling 4.4% in Q3.

And so, the reason that the P/E ratio increased in the last month, despite the fact that stock prices have fallen, is that earnings have fallen even more.

If earnings decline two quarters in a row, then it's called an "earnings recession." We won't know for several months whether the GDP also fell for two quarters in a row, which would be the definition of an "economic recession."

The stock market has been in a bubble for several years. Although analysts are always claiming that "this time it's different," the fact is that it's never different, and Generational Dynamics is predicting a stock market panic and crash, with the Dow falling to 3000 or lower. USA Today and Barrons and Investors Business Daily

Hong Kong experiences worst violence in years

Dozens of people, including several Hong Kong policemen, were injured in some of the worst Hong Kong violence in years.

With the Lunar New Year celebrations in progress, police were called in to shut down illegal food stalls and food hawkers in the main shopping district. "Pro-democracy" activists had been prepared for the arrival of the police. Around 100 protesters began throwing missiles, including paving stones, bricks, bottles and plant pots at officers. They also set fires and blocked roads, while the police fired warning shots over the crowd. Coconuts Hong Kong

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Feb-16 World View -- Monday's stock market rout blamed on China's foreign currency selloffs thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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8-Feb-16 World View -- Plans continue for Western military deployment into Libya

UAE says it's ready to supply ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Plans continue for Western military deployment into Libya


At Republican Debate, Jeb Bush advocates military intervention into Libya
At Republican Debate, Jeb Bush advocates military intervention into Libya

As we've been reporting since the beginning of January, plans are being made in Washington, London, Paris and Rome for military intervention in Libya in the next few weeks, probably in March, to counter the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). ( "6-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016")

Reports indicate that the government of Britain's prime minister David Cameron is making preparations for a military intervention in Libya in the next few weeks. "Italians are doing a lot of surveillance, identification of targets for possible bombing by the British and Americans," according to a British analyst.

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said there were “growing signs that the British Government may be preparing to intervene militarily again in Libya," and he's demanding that the Parliament be given a chance to debate any future plans for military intervention in Libya:

"The Prime Minister should report to Parliament on what steps have already been taken – and, in particular, whether UK drones are being used to support armed forces or militias in Libya’s civil war by gathering intelligence for one side or the other.

We need an unequivocal assurance that no decision has been taken to use drones, over which Britain has control or partial control, in support of military operations in Libya. And he must make a clear commitment that MPs will be given the chance to debate in advance any decision to renew British military intervention in Libya."

During Saturday evening's Republican candidate debate, there was one question about Libya asked of two candidates, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. The question and Bush's answer were (my transcription):

"Question: Governor Bush, Libya is a country in chaos, there is no government. Defense officials said this week that there are now 5,000 ISIS fighters there roughly doubling previous estimates. We know you and others have been critical of the administration's handling of initial airstrikes that you supported. This is a problem you would stand to inherit if you're the next president. Reports this week said the administration is considering new air strikes, possible special operations raids. Would you support renewed airstrikes or any US involvement on the ground?

Bush: I would, and I would do it in concert again with our Arab allies, and with Europe most particularly in this case. This is the lesson learned in history: if you bomb something and not do anything as it relates to deal with the aftermath of this, if you don't have a stable government, you get what we have in Libya, and leading from behind is not an effective policy. We have to lead. Without the United States, nothing seems to work. Europe doesn't seem to have the ability to forward lead in this regard. And so dealing with the caliphate is important because it has now spawned in other areas, there have been 70+ attacks in 17 countries either inspired by ISIS or organized by ISIS, Libya being the most important one now.

We have to deal with the caliphate with building a Sunni army there, but we also have to deal with it in Libya, and I think the United States is ultimately is going to play a significant role in this.

The problem with the Obama administration is that they see this incrementally. They're reluctant. They don't lead. No one knows whether we're serious. And when they do it, they do it in increments that you can barely see. The United States has to lead in a much more aggressive way than we're doing right now."

Ben Carson's response was as follows:

"Carson: I wanna something say about this, because I'm not here just to add beauty to the stage. You know I've been talking about Libya for quite a long time. I think I was the first one to start talking about it. Because we have to have a proactive foreign policy strategy, and of course the next place that ISIS is gonna tack to is Libya. If you wanna expand your caliphate, and increase your influence, then you're gonna wanna go to a place that's strategically located. You go north across the Mediterranean, you're into southern Europe; you go south, you're into Chad and Sudan and Niger, and not to mention the fact you have much more oil than you do in Iraq.

That's the kind of places they're gonna go to. Therefore, we need to be thinking about how to prevent them from tacking over there. They're already sending their fighters there. We need to be consulting with our military experts and asking them, what do they need in order to prevent ISIS from being able to take over Libya. That's gonna have enormous consequences."

A British government spokesman said: "The UK, along with international partners, is supporting the process to form a recognized Libyan government. No decisions have been made about the future deployment of any British military forces to Libya as part of an international coalition force." Independent (London)

UAE says it's ready to supply ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria

United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday joined Saudi Arabia in saying that it was ready to supply ground troops to fight the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Syria, raising the possibility of even greater foreign involvement in the five-year-old civil war.

According to Foreign Affairs minister Anwar Gargas:

"I think that this has been our position throughout ... that a real campaign against Daesh has to include ground elements. ...

We are not talking about a thousand troops but we are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way, that will train, that will support ... And I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses. ...

Of course an American leadership in this effort is a pre-requisite."

Saudi Arabia has already announced that it was ready to send ground troops into Syria, though as we reported yesterday, Iran, Syria and Russia responded to Saudi Arabia's announcement by ridiculing the Saudi army.

In related news, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees continue to flee from Aleppo, as Russian airstrikes slaughter large numbers of civilians, and as Syria, Iranian and Hezbollah troops continue to encircle the town, preparing for the final siege and mass slaughter.

Turkey, which is hosting 2.5 million Syrians, says that it's "at capacity," and cannot accept any more Syrian refugees. However, Turkey has set up 8 refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border, and is pouring tents, food and other supplies into the refugee camps. The intent, presumably, is to meet its international obligations to care for refugees, but doing it on Syria's soil, rather than Turkey's. Reuters and Gulf Today (UAE) and USA Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Feb-16 World View -- Plans continue for Western military deployment into Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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7-Feb-16 World View -- Iran, Syria and Russia ridicule Saudi Arabia's army

Europe sends mixed messages to Turkey about new flood of Syrian refugees

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey will keep Syria border closed as Aleppo refugees mass


A boy on a fence watches thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey in the cold and rain (AFP)
A boy on a fence watches thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey in the cold and rain (AFP)

As Syrian regime forces and Russian warplanes continue to pound civilian targets in Aleppo and cut off supply routes, people fleeing Aleppo will not be permitted to cross the border into Turkey, according to Süleyman Tapsiz, the governor of Turkey's Kilis province, which borders Syria. Tapsiz says that 35,000 people are already massed on the border with Turkey, and 70,000 more are expected in the next few days.

"Our doors are not closed, but at the moment there is no need to host such people inside our borders," said Tapciz. Refugees are being directed to refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border, and they're being given food, blankets and tents. AFP and Cihan (Turkey) and Reuters

Europe sends mixed messages to Turkey about new flood of Syrian refugees

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Turkey on Saturday to reopen its border to "Syrians in need for international protection," and allow tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to come to Turkey to seek asylum. Mogherini that "the support that the EU is providing to Turkey, among others, is aimed exactly at guaranteeing" that Turkey can protect and host people that are seeking asylum.

As Syrian regime forces encircle Aleppo with the help of massive Russian warplane airstrikes, it's believed that are remaining in Aleppo because they have no place to go, and that hundred of thousands more civilians would flee north to Turkey if they believed that they could cross the border.

Also on Saturday, another EU official, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, said that Turkey must slow down the flow of refugees from Turkey into Greece, something that Turkey has failed to do, despite a November 29 deal to reduce the flows. According to Hahn:

"This action plan was agreed more than two months ago and we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants, Turkey could do more, I have no doubt."

On November 29, the EU has agreed to give Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) to keep Syrian refugees on its soil in return for an acceleration of the EU accession talks and speeded-up visa liberalization for Turks visiting Europe.

Europe's message is even more confusing because it's losing control of its own borders. Earlier this week, the EU said Greece had to re-establish full control over its border with Turkey. According to Hungary's foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto: “If Greece is not ready or able to protect the Schengen zone and doesn’t accept any assistance from the EU then we need another defense line, which is obviously Macedonia and Bulgaria.”

The Schengen zone is a group of 25 European countries that permit visa-free border crossings among them. Free travel between countries is considered to be a right that's at the core of European Union. However, the Schengen zone is already in trouble because of the flood of refugees. Six Schengen members, including Germany and four other EU countries, have resorted to reinstating temporary border checks, at least until May. AP and Zaman (Ankara) and Guardian (London)

Syria, Iran and Russia ridicule Saudi Arabia's army

As we reported two days ago, Saudi Arabia announced that it is ready to send ground troops into Syria to fight the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). The announcement was apparently triggered by Russia's massive bombing of Aleppo.

Theoretically, Russian warplanes are fighting ISIS, but in fact they're leaving ISIS completely untouched and are carpet bombing civilians linked to moderate opposition to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The same is also true of Syrian troops and Iranian troops.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia says that they're going to be fighting ISIS, but in fact they're going to be supporting the same groups that the Russians are carpet-bombing.

So even though the Russians, Syrians, Iranians and the Saudis all talk about fighting ISIS, they're actually going to be fighting each other. And if Turkey enters the fray, which is certainly possible, then we'll have a full-scale regional sectarian war in progress, with Russia, Syria and Iran fighting Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Now both Iran and Syria are turning up the nationalistic fury by ridiculing and insulting Saudi Arabia's army.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have already terminated diplomatic relations, as of early January. Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said on Saturday:

"They claim they will send troops (to Syria), but I don't think they will dare do so. They have a classic army and history tells us such armies stand no chance in fighting irregular resistance forces.

This will be like a coup de grace for them. Apparently, they see no other way but this, and if this is the case, then their fate is sealed."

Syria's foreign minister Walid Muallem has warned responded to Saudi Arabia's announced with a warning:

"Any ground intervention on Syrian territory without government authorization would amount to aggression that must be resisted.

Let no one think they can attack Syria or violate its sovereignty because I assure you any aggressor will return to their country in a wooden coffin."

The mocking and ridicule didn't stop there. Maria Zakharova, the spokesman for Russia's foreign ministry, treated the reports with sarcasm: "I’m afraid to ask, have they already defeated everybody in Yemen?" CNN and Russia Today

Turkey confiscates parrots and parakeets on Syria border

Turkey's army has has confiscated 700 parrots and 294 budgerigars (parakeets) on the border with Syria. The border closings have also shut off what was long a thriving illicit trade in goods including fuel, cigarettes, and sugar, as well as rare birds.

According to Mehmet Turan, a bird breeder in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli:

"They were generally bringing Sultan, Love and Paradise parrots. Here in Turkey a Paradise parrot goes for 1,000 lira, but they were bringing them over for 500.

It's the same for lovebirds. We were selling them at 25 lira retail, but they came from Syria at 12.5 to 15."

Reuters

North Korea launches long-range missile, violating Security Council resolution

North Korea on Sunday morning launched a long-range ballistic missile test. North Korea claimed it was a test with the intention to put a satellite into orbit, but it's believed that N. Korea is using the satellite claim as a cover for its test deployment of a long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

North Korea had pre-announced the test, saying that it was planned for some time between February 8 and 25, but then moved the launch date up and abruptly launched the missile.

Japan had been preparing for the launch by deploying land-based missile interceptors on its southwestern islands around Okinawa, with plans to shoot the missile down if it headed for Japanese territory.

There have been no reports of any Japanese launches following the North Korean launch. CNN and Nikkei (Japan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Feb-16 World View -- Iran, Syria and Russia ridicule Saudi Arabia's army thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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6-Feb-16 World View -- As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious

Turkey blocks tens of thousands of Aleppo Syria residents from entering Turkey

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey blocks tens of thousands of Aleppo Syria residents from entering Turkey


Thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey (AFP)
Thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey (AFP)

The 300,000 residents of the city of Aleppo, formerly the commercial hub of Syria, are being used as pawns in a deadly game that will lead inevitably to mass starvation.

As we reported yesterday, Syrian regime troops are encircling Aleppo with the aid of massive Russian airstrikes on civilian neighborhoods. Tens of thousands of Aleppo residents are fleeing the city, heading north, hoping to enter Turkey, and from there to travel on to Europe. However, Turkey has already taken in 2.5 million Syrians since the war began, and is now blocking the border, forcing tens of thousands of refugees to mass on the border.

It's believed to be Russia's strategy to kill as many civilians in Aleppo as possible, so that the rest will flee to Turkey, leaving the city abandoned for the regime to take over. Russia would also gain the advantage of tens of thousands more refugees pouring into Europe.

Turkey apparently plans to try to thwart this strategy by keeping the border closed. Some reports indicate that Turkey is providing food and medicine to the Syrians in Syria, effectively making the northern region of Syria a refugee camp.

Many residents of Aleppo are remaining for now because they know that the border is closed, and they will be prevented from entering Turkey. According to one resident, "If people had guarantees they could enter Turkey, everyone would leave. I would leave." Washington Post and BBC and Military.com

As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious

Iran's nuclear deal with the West has exposed major generational political fault lines within Iran's government. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei was making one demand after another, apparently to torpedo implementation of the agreement.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the Islamic Republic's founders, a former president and now head of Iran's Expediency Council, publicly disagreed with Khamenei's orders and brushed aside Khamenei's new demands. Eventually, Khamenei had to back down and allow the agreement to be implemented. ( "29-Oct-15 World View -- Iran's government splits over implementation of nuclear deal" )

Khamenei is in the generation that fought in the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and is today in the hardest of the hardline Iranian political factions. A feature of these hardliners is that they're using similar tactics to the ones that were successful in 1979, including the very successful taking of American embassy personnel as hostages.

Rafsanjani is in the same generation as Khamenei, and adheres to the same "revolutionary principles," but is considered a "moderate" or "pragmatic" because he combines these principles with a desire to modernize Iran and integrate it with the international community.

The political fault line exposed by the nuclear negotiations still exists and is worsening, with a new election approaching on February 26 to elect a new Majlis (parliament) and Assembly of Experts.

There is now a vicious political battle in progress over which candidates will be permitted to run in the elections.

In December, Iran's hardline watchdog body, the Guardian Council, ruled that thousands of potential candidates, almost every one from the moderate political factions, were to be disqualified from running in the election. The Guardian Council is under the control of Khamenei, and is an unelected body of 12 Islamic jurists and hardline clerics, that can veto election candidates for reasons such as lack of commitment to Islam and the constitution.

Khamenei said, "Those who don't have faith in the clerical establishment, should not be allowed to perform a duty."

The objective of the mass disqualifications seems obvious: To prevent the Majlis from implementing many reform policies favored by Rafsanjani and the current president, Hassan Rouhani. Khamenei's remark about "those who don't have faith in the clerical establishment" was an offensive insult to the moderates, by implying that their support for political reforms might be treasonous and a religious apostasy.

Unsurprisingly, this has created a firestorm in Iran, with many clerics taking offense at the disqualifications. Many pointed out that Khamenei's act was self-defeating:

Ayatollah Kazem Nourmofidi said, "Disqualification of those who believe in the Islamic Republic, Islam and the pillars of our system ... will create a deep rift between real believers of our system and the establishment."

Grand Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheyb, in a letter to the Guardian Council, said: "You have acknowledged the right of only 30 percent of our voters, ignoring rights of others. Don't you think it will create a huge rift between the people and the leadership?"

Even worse, there are concerns that public anger at the Khamenei and the other hardline geezers is going to trigger massive anti-government protests. This happened in the 2009 elections, resulting bloody massacres of peaceful protesters by Khamenei's storm troopers. (From June 2009: "Iran's Khamenei appears desperate, as reports of Tehran massacres grow")

The anxiety over a possible repeat of 2009 seems febrile, as exemplified by this extraordinary directive from the Herasat Office, Iran's domestic intelligence and security forces, entitled: "Issue: Paying workers’ wages in the final days of the year":

"With greeting and respect, you are hereby informed that given that the end of the [Persian calendar] year is approaching and taking note of the instructions handed down by the minister and competent authorities regarding timely payment of workers’ wages and back pay, you must instruct that all wages, bonuses, back pay and overtime pay be paid no later than February 24, 2016 in order to prevent any possible gatherings or sit-ins and their related negative consequences.

You are reminded that given the upcoming elections of the Assembly of Experts and Islamic Assembly (Parliament), this issue must be treated with especial importance and sensitivity in order to prevent any misuse of this matter for publicity in particular in the realm of workers’ protests."

In other words, a lot of Iranians haven't been paid their salaries, and the Khamenei regime is ordering that they be paid the money they're owed by February 24, two days before the election, in the hope of defusing any potential mass protests. Tasnim News (Iran) and Memri and Reuters (21-Jan) and National Council of Resistance of Iran

Iran's historic struggle between Principlists and Reformists

America in the 1960s and 1970s was one generation past the end of World War II, and went through a generational Awakening era, with a "generation gap" that pitted the generations of war survivors (the GI and Silent generations) against those who grew up after the war (the Boomers). The result was "days of rage," street protests, the Summer of Love, the national Democratic convention riots, the Kent State shootings, Watergate, and regime change.

Iran is now in a period one generation past the end of its last crisis war, the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988. Iran is going through a similar "generation gap," pitting the Revolution survivors versus the generations growing up afterwards.

Although there are various splinter groups in Iran's government, they break down into three major categories:

Iran's constitution contains a central contradiction that's caused one political crisis after another: the assumption that elected institutions would function in harmony with the rulings handed down by religious jurists.

Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, assumed that, in a rightly ordered state, God's will (as determined by the clerics) and the people's will (as manifested through elections) would coincide. This happened during the first years of the generational Recovery era following the crisis war. But as young people with no personal memories of the war entered their teen years, anti-government protests began, and had to be violently put down by bloody massacres.

The first major political defeat of the hardliners occurred in the 1997, to replace Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as president, when the victory went to Reformist cleric Muhammad Khatami. There were more reformer victories in the 2000 parliamentary elections, gaining more than two-thirds of the seats.

In the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council disqualified thousands of pro-reform candidates from competing for seats, just as they're still doing in the 2016 parliamentary elections.

With the younger generations of Reformists increasingly moving into positions of power, and as the Principlists die off, the remaining hardliners have been panicking and using the Guardian Council to quash any attempts at political reform, and bloody massacres by the security police to prevent any street protests from becoming effective.

Since then, the moderate Rafsanjani has led the "pragmatists" in their attempt to resolve the constitutional contradiction, by reconciling the injunctions of the Islamic Revolution with the democratic norms espoused by the West. Rafsanjani has had to be careful to reject the Reformists' demands for regime change, so as not to risk being jailed. (Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani was jailed last year for the crime of "inciting unrest" in 2009.)

Both Khamenei and Rafsanjani are founding members of the Islamic Republic; they both fought in the Islamic Revolution; they're in the same generation. But they're bitter political enemies because Rafsanjani wants to implement political reforms that Khamenei dogmatically opposes. The February 26 elections provide the backdrop for a dramatic new battle in their relationship. Eurasia Review and Memri and Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Council on Foreign Relations (August 2004) and BBC (15-Mar-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Feb-16 World View -- As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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5-Feb-16 World View -- Saudi ready to send ground troops into Syria, as regime encircles Aleppo

Turkey denies Russian reports of Syria invasion

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syrian regime encircles Aleppo, causing new flood of refugees


Syrian refugees in the Elbeyli refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey (Anadolu)
Syrian refugees in the Elbeyli refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey (Anadolu)

Syrian regime forces, backed by massive bombing by Russian warplanes, cut a vital commercial supply route between Turkey and Aleppo, Syria's largest city. This route is used to provide food, medicines and other supplies to the more than 2 million people living in Aleppo.

Already, tens of thousands are fleeing from Aleppo. Turkey says that there are already 10,000 refugees at Turkey's "door," stranded at the border crossing to Turkey, and 70,000 more are already on the way. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that about 40,000 people have fled the region in the past few days.

There are fears that regime forces will now move south and encircle and starve Aleppo, as the regime has done in Homs and other cities. In that case, there may be hundreds of thousands attempting to flee and head for Turkey.

These are all new refugees that could enter Turkey and then attempt to reach the Aegean Sea and travel to Europe. Europe has in the past asked for Turkey's help in slowing the flood of refugees reaching Europe, and has promised financial aid for the refugees to encourage them to remain in Turkey.

At an international Syria donors conference held in London on Thursday, countries pledged billions of dollars in aid for fleeing refugees. Germany pledged $2.6 billion in aid, the United Kingdom pledged $1.7 billion and the U.S. pledged about $925 million.

What usually happens with these international aid conferences is that a lot of money is pledged, but the pledges are forgotten once the conference and the opportunity for publicity end. In this case, it's hoped that the pledges will be fulfilled, because it's the only hope of slowing the flood of refugees.

The conference itself was overshadowed by the collapse of the "peace talks" in Geneva, as we reported yesterday, and by today's news of the impending humanitarian disaster in Aleppo. In addition, there's continues to be increasing talk about Western military intervention in Libya in the next few weeks, where ISIS is gaining greater and greater control. The old post-WW II order in the Mideast is collapsing, and it seems that barely a day goes by without something new about the collapse. Deutsche Welle and Bloomberg and Vice News and International Business Times

Saudi Arabia ready to send ground troops into Syria

Saudi Arabia is ready to supply troops for a Western ground operation in Syria. According to Asiri:

"If the leaders of the international coalition unanimously decided to carry out such operations, the kingdom would be ready to participate in these efforts."

Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, and has carried out more than 190 aerial missions. It's also believed that the Saudis have previously supplied weapons to moderate rebel groups in Syria fighting ISIS. The use of ground troops has been hinted at in the past, but the latest announcement is formal and serious, the sources said.

The announcement came after the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, as well as several similar attacks last year. Nominally, Saudi troops in Syria would be fighting ISIS.

Saudi Arabia is already fighting a war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthis, and that war appears to be stalemated. Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter enemies, and a month ago, the countries broke diplomatic relations with each other. Saudi troops in Syria might well end up fighting Iranian troops. Saudi Press Agency and Reuters

Saudi Arabia sees itself in an existential crisis

Saudi Arabia is facing multiple crises, including a crash in oil prices, its principal source of revenue, and wars in neighboring countries in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir says that Saudi Arabia has been unfairly blamed for the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States, and that in fact it's Saudi Arabia that's under attack by terrorists and by Iran:

"Some try to malign Saudi Arabia by reciting that “15 of the 19” 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. They should know that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told US interrogators that the initial plan was to have 20 hijackers from different nationalities, but late in the planning Osama Bin Laden directed him to use as many Saudis as possible to give the attack a Saudi face.

This was likely designed to drive a wedge between the Kingdom and the US. If this was Osama Bin Laden’s plan, it almost succeeded, as we saw from the wave of criticism the kingdom experienced after 9/11. ...

“Saudi Arabia has long been a target of terrorism perpetrated by Iranian proxies. ...

“Many countries have known the grief and pain [terrorism] causes. It makes no sense for Saudi Arabia to support or condone those who have as their goal the destruction of Saudi Arabia. It is against our values, our faith and our national character.

That is why the Kingdom has responded with strength, persistence and resolve. To accuse the Kingdom of being lax, much less complicit, when it comes to combating terrorism and its financing is not only irresponsible but also flies against the face of reality."

It's widely believed that even if Saudi's government is not sponsoring terrorism, then some powerful Wahhabi Salafi groups within Saudi Arabia are doing so. Saudi Gazette

Turkey denies Russian reports of Syria invasion

The spokesman for Russia's defense ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, says that Turkey is trying to conceal "illegal" military activity on its border with Syria. Konashenkov's unsupported claim is that Turkey is firing artillery into populated areas in the north of Latakia Province, and is preparing to invade Syria.

According to Konashenkov, "The signs of hidden preparation of Turkish armed forces for activities in the territory of Syria we notice more and more."

However, an unnamed source in the office of Turkey's prime minister told CNN that there are no such plans. "Simply they are diverting attention from their attacks on civilians as a country already invading Syria," the source told CNN. "Turkey has all the rights to take any measures to protect its own security." Russia Today and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Feb-16 World View -- Saudi ready to send ground troops into Syria, as regime encircles Aleppo thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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4-Feb-16 World View -- Syria peace talks collapse as Russia carpet bombs opposition in Aleppo

John Kerry warns of ISIS expansion in Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria peace talks collapse as Russia carpet bombs opposition in Aleppo


U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at Wednesday news conference announcing a 'pause' in peace talks (Reuters)
U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at Wednesday news conference announcing a 'pause' in peace talks (Reuters)

The Syria "peace talks" being held in Geneva collapsed on Wednesday, as the opposition walked out because Russian warplanes were saturation bombing opposition fighters in Aleppo, after Russia had promised to stop bombing altogether as a precondition to the talks.

A week ago when I wrote "25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva", I pointed out that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad used the preceding attempts at "peace talks" as a cover to continue his genocidal attempts at extermination of Sunnis in Syria, and that he never had any intention of fulfilling any commitments he made, as all commitments were just stalling maneuvers to give him more time to continues his genocide.

The new "peace talks" never had a chance because the Syria and Russian regimes once again were using it as a cover. The opposition groups did not want to attend at all, but they sent a representative under enormous American pressure, under assurances by Secretary of State John Kerry that the Russians were committed to pause the bombing at the start of the peace talks.

Instead, when the peace talks supposedly began on Monday, Russia not only did not pause the bombing, but actually redoubled the bombing on innocent civilians, thus making a fool of Kerry. According to a report that I heard from al-Jazeera's United Nations correspondent, Kerry tried to phone Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, but Lavrov didn't return his calls.

Syrian regime troops backed by Russian warplanes are now poised to recapture Aleppo from the opposition rebels. This will be a major victory of the opposition forces. Rebel forces are probably entrenched in the town, but that won't be a problem for the Russians who will bomb and flatten entire village, killing as many thousands of innocent women and children as necessary.

It still never ceases to amaze me what a disaster the Syrian, Russian and Iranian regimes have brought about, being entirely to blame for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, triggering the flight of millions of refugees to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe, and creating the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

As the entire Mideast continues to fall apart in different countries, as Europe continues to be flooded with Syrian refugees, and as ISIS affiliations continue to spread around the region, many international leaders have been hoping and praying that the Syrian peace talks would bring relief for all these problems.

The desperate Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy who is shepherding the negotiations, said that the collapse wasn't really a collapse, but just a "pause" until February 25. Still, the air in Geneva, the United Nations and throughout the Mideast is thick with anxiety and desperation, as many people wonder what the next disaster will be to strike the Mideast.

For years, Generational Dynamics has predicted that the entire Mideast is headed for a major war between Jews and Arabs, between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and among various ethnic groups. Reuters and Baltimore Sun and Washington Post

John Kerry warns of ISIS expansion in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday that ISIS is creating a new stronghold in oil-rich Libya:

"As everybody here knows, that country has resources,” Kerry said at a conference of 23 foreign ministers from nations that form the core of a coalition fighting the Islamic State. “The last thing in the world you’d want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars in oil revenue."

As we reported a month ago, reports indicate that the US, Britain, France are preparing a new Libya military offensive around the beginning of March.

Kerry on Tuesday ruled out military intervention in Libya by the United States in the near future, but he said that could change if there were "some turn of events, like weapons of mass destruction ending up in the hands of the wrong people." Washington Post and NBC News and Arab News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Feb-16 World View -- Syria peace talks collapse as Russia carpet bombs opposition in Aleppo thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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3-Feb-16 World View -- US Navy's Freedom of Navigation Ops in South China Sea to grow in scope and complexity

Jordan's King demands more refugee aid from international community

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Jordan's King demands more refugee aid from international community


Jabal Al Hussein Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan. Originally built in 1952 as a refugee camp for Palestinians fleeing conflict from the Arab-Israeli War, it has morphed into a permanent neighborhood in downtown Amman that houses Syrians and Egyptians, along with Palestinians. Many Syrian refugees in Amman live in Jabal Al Hussein Camp because of the affordable rent and to avoid the official refugee camps. (PRI)
Jabal Al Hussein Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan. Originally built in 1952 as a refugee camp for Palestinians fleeing conflict from the Arab-Israeli War, it has morphed into a permanent neighborhood in downtown Amman that houses Syrians and Egyptians, along with Palestinians. Many Syrian refugees in Amman live in Jabal Al Hussein Camp because of the affordable rent and to avoid the official refugee camps. (PRI)

There are already about 1.4 million people living in Jordan, and more are pouring in every day. According to Jordan's King Abdullah:

"The hospitality of our country has been known for decades. We have looked after waves and waves of refugees. And again what you have to understand, and what is not being spoken about, is not just the 20% of our population, which is Syrian refugees. And, again, reminding everyone in the international community that 90% are outside of the refugee camps. They are in our infrastructure; they are in our schools; they are in our hospitals. Rent in many areas has gone up by 300%. In the northern provinces that you have been, in the northern governorates, in a lot of areas, the Jordanians are in the minority. Rent is up 300%, as I said."

Abdullah says that Jordanian people, especially young people, can no longer find jobs because they're displace by refugees. As more and more refugees pour in, the situation "has gotten to a boiling point. Jordanians are suffering from trying to find jobs; the pressure on the infrastructure for the government; it has hurt us when it comes to the educational system, our healthcare; people, just Jordanians trying to get along with their lives. Sooner or later, I think the dam is going to burst."

Abdullah is traveling to London to attend a donors conference for Syrian refugees. He says that he'll be issuing an ultimatum that he needs more international aid, or he's going to refuse to take in any more Syrian refugees beyond "limited numbers."

Like many Mideast leaders, Abdullah is contemptuous of the whining of European leaders who are complaining about absorbing a couple of million refugees into a population of 500 million, less than half of one percent, as compared to 20% for Jordan. He said that Europeans have been profuse with praise for Jordan. "Those words were all wonderful, but it wasn’t until a trickle hit European shores that then, I think, eyebrows were raised and they began to realise the reality of the challenges that Jordanians have faced."

Abdullah added:

"Whenever the international community has asked for Jordan to fight the good fight, alongside of our colleagues all over the international community, we have never said no. What we are asking now for the first time is, the international community, we have always stood shoulder-to-shoulder by your side; we are now asking for your help, you can’t say no this time around to us."

My guess is that there isn't a snowflake's chance in hell that Abdullah will get the international aid that he wants. The best he can hope for is a few more wonderful words, and promises of aid that will never be fulfilled. Jordan Times and Public Radio International (PRI) and Jordan Times

US Navy's Freedom of Navigation Ops in South China Sea to grow in scope and complexity

For the second time, on Sunday the US Navy has sent an American warship on a "Freedom of Navigation op" (FONOP) into the South China Sea near an island claimed by China as sovereign territory. The Navy did something similar last year in October, in both cases to challenge Chinese claims.

Both FONOPs were made in pursuit of stated US policy. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that "The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world."

However, there were significant differences between the two FONOPs, with two different legal rationales.

In October, the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. Subi Reef has been made into an artificial island by the Chinese, and they are now claiming that the artificial island is their sovereign territory. The purpose of October's FONOP was to contest China's claim that it was an "island," rather than a "low-tide elevation."

On Sunday, the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels, which is controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. In this case, the legal rationale was to assert the right of innocent passage through territorial waters without having to give advance notice, something that both China and Vietnam demand when foreign vessels transit through territorial waters that they claim. According to the Defense Dept:

"This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas. The excessive claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention."

China's foreign ministry responded as follows:

"According to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, foreign ships for military purposes shall be subject to approval by the Government of the People's Republic of China for entering the territorial sea of the People's Republic of China. The US navy vessel violated the relevant Chinese law and entered China's territorial sea without authorization. The Chinese side conducted surveillance and vocal warnings to the US navy vessel in accordance with the law. We urge the US to respect and abide by the relevant Chinese law, and make more efforts to increase mutual trust between China and the US and safeguard regional peace and stability."

The interesting thing about this statement is that it makes no reference whatsoever to international law, but only to Chinese law. It's as if I declared the street in front of my apartment building to be my sovereign territory, and then threatened anyone who violated "relevant John Xenakis law" by traveling across it. China is claiming the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, even though many parts of it are legally in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of other countries, and have sovereign territory of those other countries. Like Russia, China today is following the example of Adolf Hitler by annexing regions belonging to other countries, and in the case of Hitler, this led to World War II. China and Russia are both contemptuous of internal law, and only reference it when doing so is to their benefit.

Sunday's FONOP had the effect of isolating China from the other two countries claiming the island. All three countries have historically demanded “prior permission or notification” before any innocent passage in their territorial waters. But only China has actually protested and condemned the Wilbur passage.

Instead, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement stating simply that Taiwan abides by both the U.N. Charter and UNCLOS and will not pose any “obstacle” to resolving disputes in the South China Sea. Vietnam also released a statement reiterating its sovereignty over Triton Island but also saying that “Vietnam respects the right of other countries to innocent passage in its territorial waters as per the regulations promulgated in international law.” Importantly, neither country condemned the U.S. operation for failing to obtain permission before the “innocent passage” even though both countries apparently codify that requirement in their domestic laws.

According to Admiral Harry B Harris Jr., the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM):

"I think that as we continue down the path of freedom of navigations, you will see more of them, and you will see them increasing in complexity and scope in areas of challenge."

Harris added that as China continues to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, by 2020 China would effectively control the waters – through which 5 trillion dollars of global trade pass – with only Washington being able to challenge it. The Diplomat and China's Foreign Ministry and Lawfare Blog and The Diplomat

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Feb-16 World View -- US Navy's Freedom of Navigation Ops in South China Sea to grow in scope and complexity thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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2-Feb-16 World View -- France issues ultimatum to Israel as West Bank tensions grow

Israel rejects France's ultimatum to recognize state of Palestine

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

West Bank tensions rise after Palestinian policeman shot dead


Thousands of people filled the streets for the funeral of Amjad Sukkari on Monday (AFP)
Thousands of people filled the streets for the funeral of Amjad Sukkari on Monday (AFP)

Palestinian Authority (PA) police are praising the martyrdom of their colleague, Amjad Sukkari, a 34-year-old policeman who worked as a bodyguard for the Palestinian attorney general, who was shot dead by Israeli troops on Sunday morning after he opened fire on the soldiers at a checkpoint, injuring three.

Thousands of people took to the streets on Monday for Sukkari’s funeral after Israeli forces released his body just a few hours after the shooting. Two of Sukkari’s brothers, both Palestinian police officers, carried the casket from the hospital to the city’s martyrs cemetery as crowds waved flags and chanted “martyr”.

The Palestinian police said in a statement that "with great pride, the members of the Palestinian police eulogize the brave martyrdom of their colleague, Master Sergeant Amjad Sukkari, 'Abu Omar', who committed the operation at V.I.P checkpoint in Beit El."

Palestinian Authority (PA) officials did not participate in the funeral and have refused comment on the matter.

However, officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad publicly endorsed his actions and called them a natural reaction of occupation. According to a Hamas spokesman, "This attack showcases the rejection of security coordination with the occupation, even among members of the PA security forces."

The Hamas statement signals a possible turn of events that could be extremely dangerous.

There is a long-term agreement between PA and Israel to coordinate security. Thus many potential terrorist attacks on Israelis are prevented by the PA security forces. According to an Israel's defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, the PA foils 20% of organized terrorism by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while Israel thwarts the remaining 80%.

Obviously, this kind of security coordination between Hamas and the PA is bitterly opposed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Now, the Palestinian police eulogizing the "brave martyrdom" of their fellow policemen Sukkari suggests that the PA security forces themselves are opposed to any security cooperation with Israel.

A campaign of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians has killed 26 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since the start of October. Israeli forces have killed at least 153 Palestinians, 99 of them assailants according to Israeli authorities.

As we described last year ( "18-Oct-15 World View -- Palestinian 'Oslo Generation' relationship with Israel extremely toxic and explosive"), there has been a significant change in attitudes in the West Bank, especially young people who grew up after the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians. They're reacting to the fact that in 23 years since the accords, there have been no changes to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. They've decided that there's no longer any hope of a two-state solution, and they're looking for a new leader, someone who will "get things done" with the Israelis, using whatever tactics are necessary.

The violence between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank has been growing steadily, and there's a fear that Sunday's attack could trigger a new escalation in violence, this time involving the PA peacekeeping forces themselves. Jerusalem Post and Reuters and Middle East Eye and Jerusalem Post

Israel rejects France's ultimatum to recognize state of Palestine

France said on Friday it intended to make another push at trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and warned that if its efforts failed, it would recognize a Palestinian State. According to France's foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius:

"France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the two-state solution.

[If this attempt fails, then] in this case, we need to face our responsibilities by recognizing the Palestinian state. ...

We see that unfortunately colonization continues and that recently, the Israeli Prime Minister went so far as to reproach the UN Secretary General for encouraging terrorism on the basis that he had reminded of colonization’s illegality and asked that it cease,"

Fabius's last remark referred to remarks by Ban Ki-moon criticizing senior Israeli officials for abandoning the two-state solution, as the current situation was untenable. Ban added that it was "understandable" that Palestinians were resisting Israeli military rule. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded, saying that Ban was "encouraging terrorism."

The Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed France's initiative.

Netanyahu said that Israel did not reject Fabius's proposal for renewed talks, but said that France's ultimatum was "an incentive to the Palestinians to come along and not compromise." He added,

"I assess that there will be a sobering up regarding this matter. In any event, we will make effort so that there is a sobering up here, and our position is very clear: We are prepared to enter direct negotiation without preconditions and without dictated terms."

However, senior Israeli officials reportedly responded off the record with sarcastic remarks, such as: "Will France be calling for an international conference with the Islamic State, too? It has, after all, been conducting terrorist attacks on French territory."

When President George Bush announced his "Roadmap to Mideast Peace" in 2003, I wrote that the Mideast peace plan would not be implemented, because Israelis and Palestinians would be refighting the 1948 genocidal crisis war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. In that article, I said that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leader Ariel Sharon hated each other but, consciously or unconsciously, they were cooperating to prevent an all-out war, because they both survived the bloody 1948 war and didn't want it to happen again.

Since 2006, there have been five Mideast wars, and they've all turned out to be non-crisis wars, with operations dictated by political leaders: the war between Israelis and Hezbollah, fought largely on Lebanon's soil in 2006; the war between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2008, that led to Hamas control of Gaza; Operation Cast Lead, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza early in 2009; the two wars between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in November, 2012 and July-August 2014.

There have been several attempts at Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, including two or three by the Obama administration, and they've always been disastrous failure. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the new French initiative will fare any differently. The only question is: When it fails, how bad will the disaster be? France 24 and Al Arabiya and France 24 and Al Monitor

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Feb-16 World View -- France issues ultimatum to Israel as West Bank tensions grow thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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1-Feb-16 World View -- Damascus terror attack deals a new blow to Syria 'peace talks'

Dozens killed in ISIS attack on a Shia shrine in Damascus Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Dozens killed in ISIS attack on a Shia shrine in Damascus Syria


Aftermath of triple suicide bombing in Damascus on Sunday (SANA)
Aftermath of triple suicide bombing in Damascus on Sunday (SANA)

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for a massive series of suicide bomber attacks on Sunday at the historic Shia Sayyida Zeinab shrine in Syria's capital city Damascus, killing at least 71 people and injuring dozens more.

Two days earlier, a terrorist bombed a Shia mosque in al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia. Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, it was similar to attacks by ISIS. The perpetrator was later identified as a Saudi national.

Iran's Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the Saudi mosque:

"The repetition of terror attacks to mosques and Husseiniyehs in eastern Saudi Arabia indicates the worrying security situation in the region and negligence of security forces in fulfilling their responsibility in maintaining public security against terrorists' attacks."

The Iranian comment, essentially blaming the Saudi government for the bombing attack, reflects the increasing hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia, following the execution by the Saudis of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr after being convicted in court of being a terrorist. ( "4-Jan-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran as violent Shia protests spread around region")

The tables have turned on Iran with Sunday's attack in Damascus, in the back yard of Iran's ally, Bashar al-Assad. Iran's Foreign Ministry did not issue any statement condemning Bashar al-Assad after the Damascus attack. Instead, Syria's Ambassador Bashar Jaafari blamed the Saudi government and its alleged links to ISIS for the attack.

The area was heavily protected and was supposed to be safe. After the first suicide bomber exploded people gathered around to see what had happened, and then two more suicide bombers exploded. The heavily populated area of southern Damascus is a site of pilgrimage for Shias from Iran, Lebanon and other parts of the Muslim world. The Sayyida Zeinab shrine is one of the holiest in Shia Islam, as it houses graves from the time of the Prophet Mohammed. The area is also the stronghold of several Shia militias.

ISIS and other Sunni jihadists say that Shia Islam is an apostasy, and many Sunni jihadists groups have pledged to exterminate the Shias. More attacks on Shia targets are to be expected. Vice News and Gulf News and Al Manar

Damascus shrine attack deals another blow to the Syria 'peace talks' in Geneva

A week ago, I wrote "25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva", as the Geneva talks were beginning. The ISIS attack on the historic Damascus shrine deals another blow.

There's a great deal about the Geneva "peace talks" in the last week that can be mocked, but there's also an increasing feeling of anxiety and desperation about what's going on in the Mideast.

On Sunday morning, I heard al-Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara say, "The Mideast is falling apart. This is not an exaggeration. The Mideast is falling apart." Almost every analyst and politician who expresses any opinion says that they don't expect much from the peace talks, as there have already been several failures in the past.

The Bashar al-Assad regime and the Iranians are making it clear that they have no intention of conceding anything. With the Russian bombing going on, the al-Assad regime is gaining strength on the ground, though not enough to win. Furthermore, the Iranians refer to the al-Assad opposition as all "terrorists," and suggest that they won't concede anything to terrorists anyway.

This is the attitude that caused ISIS to be formed in the first place. The Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime started massacring and slaughtering innocent Sunni women and children in 2011 when they were peacefully protesting. This triggered one of the most spectacular events of my lifetime -- tens of thousands young Sunni men from countries around the world, from south Asia to Pakistan to the Mideast to northern Africa and up to Russia's Caucasus region, joined by many young men from Europe and even the U.S., traveled to Syria to fight al-Assad, even leading to the creation of ISIS.

So now, the Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime is still calling anyone who disagrees with them "terrorists," and it continues its policy of extermination of all Sunnis. This is exactly the attitude that caused ISIS to be created in the first place. And now the Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime is being joined by the Orthodox Christian Vladimir Putin regime from Russia to further inflame the jihadists. As I've said in the past, the Three Satans of our time are Bashar al-Assad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Iran's Seyed Ali Khamenei. These Three Satans are entirely to blame for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, creating ISIS, and triggering the flight of millions of refugees to Europe.

So coming back to the Geneva meeting, the drama all week was that the al-Assad opposition "rebel" groups are unable to select negotiators to attend the Geneva negotiations. They point out that the Russians are still bombing and slaughtering entire neighborhoods of innocent people, something was supposed to stop before the negotiations began. They say that they're unable to negotiate with someone whose warplanes are trying to kill them. And indeed, the al-Assad regime has no intention of negotiating with them either.

The opposition groups are under tremendous pressure from the Americans and other Westerners to attend the Geneva "peace talks," whether they like it or not.

The "peace talks" are futile for many reasons, and the two attacks on Shia shrines over the weekend illustrate one of the major ones. Iran and al-Assad are not going to end their slaughter of innocent Sunnis, but even if they did and there was a so-called political solution, ISIS and other jihadist groups would still be intent on exterminating Shias and attacking the Shia/Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime.

More and more analysts and politicians are anxiously reaching the same conclusion that Marwan Bishara did -- that the Mideast is actually falling apart. Al-Jazeera and AFP and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Feb-16 World View -- Damascus terror attack deals a new blow to Syria 'peace talks' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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31-Jan-16 World View -- Turkey threatens 'consequences' after Russia violates its airspace again

The English language becomes an issue between Turkey and Russia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey threatens 'consequences' after Russia violates its airspace again


Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their last 'friendly' meeting, on November 16, a week before Russia's warplane was shot down over Turkey (AP)
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their last 'friendly' meeting, on November 16, a week before Russia's warplane was shot down over Turkey (AP)

Russia is denying as "baseless propaganda" a claim by Turkey that Russia has once again violated its airspace, this time with an SU-34 bomber on Friday. According to a statement appearing on the web site of Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

"Yesterday (29 January 2016) at 11.46 hours local time, a SU-34 type Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace.

Before the violation actually took place, Russian plane was warned numerous times by Turkish air radar units, (through appropriate channels) both in English and Russian languages.

Despite several previous explicit statements of warnings by both Turkey and NATO, this new violation is yet another concrete example of Russian escalatory behavior.

We once again explicitly call on Russia, to act responsibly and not to violate Turkish Airspace, which is NATO airspace. We underline that such actions could lead to serious consequences, the responsibility of which will totally rest with the Russian Federation."

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Russia of purposely trying "to escalate the crisis in the region," and added that "If Russia continues to violate Turkey's sovereignty, it will have to face the consequences." Erdogan also pointed out that Turkey is a member of Nato, but did not specify what "the consequences" would be.

This is the latest in a series of increasingly hostile acts between Turkey versus Russia and its ally Syria. In June, 2012, Syrian forces shot down a Turkish air force jet. On September 16, 2013, Turkey scrambled two F-16 jets, and shot down a Syrian Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter, after warning it that it was approaching Turkish airspace.

In October of last year, Turkey threatened Russia if airspace violations are repeated, after Russian warplanes violated Turkey's airspace on two occasions over one weekend. At that time, Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said:

"Turkey's rules of engagement apply to all planes, be they Syrian, Russian or from elsewhere. Turkey's armed forces have very clear instructions. The necessary steps will be taken against whoever violates Turkey's borders, even if it's a bird."

Then on November 24 of last year, two Turkish F-16s were involved in the shooting down of a Russian warplane in Syria near the border with Turkey. According to Turkey's military, the Russian aircraft was warned 10 times in five minutes that it was violating Turkish airspace. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

Russia and Turkey have been bitter enemies for centuries in several generational crisis wars, especially after 1783, when the Russian armies captured Crimea in what was the Ottoman empire's first significant loss of Muslim territory, and then again in the Crimean War of the 1850s.

Since the November 25 shootdown of the Russian warplane, Russia has become increasingly hostile and threatening to Turkey, not only imposing harsh and increasing economic sanctions on Turkey, but also forcing other nations in the regions to choose sides between Turkey and Russia. ( "21-Jan-16 World View -- Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey")

So this new incident of Russia violating Turkey's airspace is not the trivial incident that it might otherwise seem to be. Turkey and Russia seem very close to war as it is, especially since the Russians have continually expressed nothing but contempt for Turkey, implying that Russian warplanes can do what they want.

Turkey, on the other hand, is committed to a highly nationalistic view of responding to any Russian incursion, even one that's harmless. When Davutoglu says that the rules of engagement have been determined, it implies that the next Russian incursion will be met with a missile launched without requiring further permission from the government in Ankara. AP and Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Russia Today and CS Monitor and Daily Sabah (Turkey)

The English language becomes an issue between Turkey and Russia

Saturday's statement by Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes the following sentence:

"Before the violation actually took place, Russian plane was warned numerous times by Turkish air radar units, (through appropriate channels) both in English and Russian languages."

In denying the incident, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Iror Konashenkov denounced the claim that Russian pilots had been warned "in English and Russian" as a story made up by "ignorant propagandists who watched too many Hollywood action movies."

After the Russian warplane shootdown in November of last year, Turkey's military said that the Russian aircraft was warned 10 times in five minutes that it was violating Turkish airspace. Russia denied that any such warnings had been issued.

It emerged later that Russian military pilots are not required to learn English. English is a requirement for civilian flights around the world. For example, if a Russian civilian pilot were landing his plane in Saudi Arabia, in most cases the Russian pilot would not know Arabic and the Saudi air controllers would not speak Russian, and so they would communicate in English as a common language. However, there's no such requirement for military pilots.

According to Russian military media:

"An active military pilot who asked not to be named told the Voennoe.RF [Russian military news] reporter that English language proficiency was not a necessary condition for service in the Russian Airspace Force. "Yet it’s not obligatory", he said having added that there were neither language courses nor interim assessments.

That was also confirmed by other officers and engineers of the Russian Airspace Force. "The main things are good health and general erudition", emphasized one of them."

This gave rise to the possibility that Turkey had, in fact, warned the Russian aircraft 10 times in five minutes, but that the Russian pilots were ignorant of English and didn't understand the warnings.

So Saturday's statement from Turkey emphasized the fact that "the Russian plane was warned numerous times ... both in English and Russian languages." In response, Russia's Defense Ministry mocked the "English and Russian" claim as a story made up by "ignorant propagandists who watched too many Hollywood action movies."

I'm not sure how to interpret the Russian statement since, of course, Hollywood action movies are generally in English. Mil.today (Russia, 21-October-2015) and Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Jan-16 World View -- Turkey threatens 'consequences' after Russia violates its airspace again thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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30-Jan-16 World View -- Japan tries negative interest rates as US economy slows

Mainstream economists are oblivious to the velocity of money

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Japan announces negative interest rates as an act of desperation


Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda (AFP)
Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda (AFP)

In a move widely viewed as an act of desperation, the Bank of Japan on Friday surprised economists by announcing that it will reduce a key interest rate to a negative value, -0.1%. This means that if a Japanese bank wants to "park" its excess reserve cash in the Bank of Japan, then the bank will have to pay the BOJ to do so. It also means that if a bank wants to borrow cash from the BOJ, then the BOJ will pay the bank to do so. It's an upside-down world. Unfortunately, the BOJ won't lend money to ordinary people.

According to the BOJ statement:

"The Introduction of 'Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing (QQE) with a Negative Interest Rate'

  • The Bank will apply a negative interest rate of minus 0.1 percent to current accounts that financial institutions hold at the Bank. It will cut the interest rate further into negative territory if judged as necessary.
  • The Bank will introduce a multiple-tier system which some central banks in Europe (e.g. the Swiss National Bank) have put in place. Specifically, it will adopt a three-tier system in which the outstanding balance of each financial institution's current account at the Bank will be divided into three tiers, to each of which a positive interest rate, a zero interest rate, or a negative interest rate will be applied, respectively."

Many economists were shocked because Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda had insisted only last week that the BOJ would not adopt any new monetary easing policies, especially negative interest rates. The purpose of the "three-tier system" is to reduce the amount of shock, at least at first. This may be temporary because the statement also says, "It will cut the interest rate further into negative territory if judged as necessary."

In addition, the Bank of Japan is continuing its "quantitative easing" (QE) program, and will continue to buy up government bonds worth 80 trillion yen ($660 billion) every year, adding that money to the economy.

The latest data on the Japanese economy shows the reason for the desperation. Household spending in December fell 4.4% from a year ago, and monthly industrial production contracted 1.4%. Official data shows that Japan's inflation rate was just 0.5% in 2015, and appears to be falling. Like most central banks, the BOJ has a target inflation rate of 2%, and that target seems far out of reach. Three months ago, the BOJ projected a 2016 inflation rate of 1.4%, but now has had to lower that projection to 0.8%. CNBC and Bank of Japan (PDF) and Market Watch

Negative interest rates are supposed to improve the economy

The logic behind the negative interest rate is that if a bank has too much money sitting in its reserve accounts, then instead of depositing it in the central bank, they might lend it out to businesses, who will then use it to hire people, pushing up wages, putting more money in people's pockets that they'll spend, pushing up inflation.

Unfortunately, that hasn't worked too well in other countries. In mid-2012, Denmark went to negative interest rates. In 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) and Swiss National Bank (SNB) moved into negative territory and Sweden did the same in early 2015.

In fact, if you add together the GDPs of all the economies whose central banks have negative interest rates, then they add up to 23.1%. In other words, almost 1/4 of the world, measured by GDP, are economies where the central bank pays someone to take their money.

However, it is possible for ordinary investors to take advantage of the negative interest rates by purchasing some government bonds. Some Japanese government bonds, for example, have negative yields that go as low as -0.08%.

At the same time, the ECB and BOJ also have large "quantitative easing" programs, pumping money into banks by buying any bonds that are available.

So all this money is pouring out of the central banks into the regional banks, but there's little or no inflation, and certainly no hyperinflation. That's because the cash is just being hoarded by the banks and other financial institutions, for fear of a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. And if the money isn't being spent, and isn't being used to hire people, then it's as if the money weren't available at all. WSJ Blogs and Reuters and Market Watch

United States GDP figures show a slowing economy

The growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the US economy slowed markedly in the fourth quarter of last year. The economy expanded at a rate of 0.7%, a big drop from 2% in the third quarter, and 3.9% in the second quarter.

Economists gave several reasons for the fizzling American economy:

The reason that banks and consumers are hoarding cash is related to the velocity of money, which is discussed below, and which mainstream economists are apparently totally oblivious to. Market Watch and Guardian (London)

Mainstream economists are oblivious to the velocity of money


Velocity of money, 1920 to present (St. Louis Fed Fred Graph #282038)
Velocity of money, 1920 to present (St. Louis Fed Fred Graph #282038)

Mainstream economists (including those in the so-called "Austrian school") think that inflation is determined by the amount of money in circulation as set by monetary policy -- interest rates and quantitative easing. And you can find thousands of articles in the past decade explaining why continued low interest rates would cause inflation.

But anyone who's taken Economics 1.01 knows that inflation is caused by two factors: the amount of money in circulation times the velocity of money. You can google "velocity of money" for a full explanation, but it represents how frequently money is actually used to buy things or pay wages.

The above graph shows that the velocity of money has plummeted three times in the last century: During the Great Depression of the 1930s, following World War II in the 1940s, and during the financial crisis of the 2000s.

Economists -- and I mean pretty much all economists of all ideologies -- are completely oblivious to the velocity of money. If they think about it at all, then they think that if the central bank prints money, then it will raise not only the money supply but also the velocity of money.

What economists don't understand is that they have no control over the velocity of money. It's a generational variable, just like attitudes towards sex or war. A high velocity of money means that people are willing to spend lavishly, even go into debt. A low velocity of money means that people want to save money prodigiously, or to pay off their debts. These are attitudes that are deeply ingrained in people, just like their attitudes toward sex or war. The government cannot change the velocity of money by either monetary policy or fiscal policy.

And if the government can't control the velocity of money, then the government can't control the inflation rate.

Here's what former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in December:

"I think negative nominal interest rates are something the Fed might consider. We’ve seen it put to work in Europe primarily. But the scope for negative nominal interest rates is fairly limited. You can’t get very negative before people will begin to hoard cash, for example, which pays zero nominal interest rates. Although I’ve been surprised by how negative have been able to get in some European countries, I don’t think that, in the context of the United States, I don’t think that it could really be a central tool because I don’t think that rates can get that negative."

It's pretty clear that Bernanke doesn't understand the velocity of money, or thinks that hoarding money is being caused by low interest rates. The causation goes in the opposite direction. Since 2007, the velocity of money has been decreasing, meaning that people are hoarding their money more, not spending it. This is causing a deflationary spiral, and forcing the Fed to lower interest rates. As the deflationary spiral worsens, the Fed in desperation will resort to negative interest rates, as has happened in Japan. So it's hoarding of money that's causing low interest rates, rather than the other way around.

Ever since 2003, when I started writing regularly about Generational Dynamics, I've repeatedly written that in this generational Crisis era, Generational Dynamics is predicting a deflationary spiral. Mainstream economists, on the other hand, have been predicting that inflation or even hyperinflation would begin "next year" every year since then. Mainstream economists have been dead wrong, and continue to be wrong, while Generational Dynamics is right. The reason is that mainstream economists are oblivious to the velocity of money. Market Watch (15-Dec-2015) and St. Louis Fed

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Jan-16 World View -- Japan tries negative interest rates as US economy slows thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) =eod

(30-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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29-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France, Italy continue plans for Libya invasion against ISIS

Russia builds military presence in Dagestan after ISIS attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia builds military presence in Dagestan after ISIS attack


In Russia's 5,000 year old city of Derbent, the Citadel was built by a Persian shah in the sixth century.
In Russia's 5,000 year old city of Derbent, the Citadel was built by a Persian shah in the sixth century.

Russia is increasing its military presence and conducting large counter-terrorism military exercises in the south of its North Caucasus province of Dagestan in southern Russia.

The military exercises were triggered by a December 29 Islamist insurgency gun attack at the Derbent citadel, a Unesco World Heritage site and big tourist attraction. A group called "warriors of the Caliphate", affiliated with so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), claimed responsibility for the attack.

The insurgents opened fire on a group of tourists accompanied by two border guards from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on the citadel's viewing platform. One border guard was killed, and eleven others were injured.

At least 120 people were killed by insurgents in the Derbent region last year. Since this was the second shooting in the Derbent area in the past three weeks, it is clear that a local cell of the armed underground movement was involved. The insurgent cell is apparently targeting the police and FSB (Federal Security Service) in that part of Dagestan. After both attacks, the militants managed to escape unharmed.

Russia's media is playing down the ISIS connection. Russia also attempted to do that after an ISIS affiliate brought down a Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 airliner over Egypt in November. As we wrote in "5-Nov-15 World View -- Bombing of plane in Egypt threatens Russia's Syria strategy", the Russian military intervention in Syria is inflaming Sunni Salafists and jihadists, who have been threatening to increase their attacks on Russian targets as a result.

The reasons is that the injection of Orthodox Christian Russian troops in Syria is reviving the memory of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, which Salafists saw as a Christian invasion of a Muslim country. It brought the rise of modern Sunni jihadist movements, including the leadership of Osama bin Laden and the formation of al-Qaeda, so the invasion runs very deep in the psyches of Sunni Salafists and jihadists. Russia's new intervention targeting mostly Sunni Muslims in Syria, appears to be a repeat.

With ISIS now claiming credit for terrorist attacks in Dagestan, Russian officials have to deal with new problems. More and more Russians are questioning the wisdom of the Syria intervention. Many reports indicate that Russian soldiers do not wish to fight there. Reports of ISIS attacks on Russian airliners and tourist locations will only turn public opinion against the Syria intervention. Tass (Moscow, 30-Dec-2015) and Telegraph (London) and Jamestown and Tass (Moscow)

US, Britain, France, Italy continue plans for Libya invasion against ISIS

Officials from the US, Britain and France are becoming increasingly alarmed at the growing strength of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Libya, which already controls a long strip of coastline around the city of Sirte, has used heavy weapons to launch attacks against a series of oil facilities.

The US has already sent a group of special forces to Libya, and plans are continuing for a Western invasion of Libya, as we reported three weeks ago ( "6-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016"). The military offensive is planned for around the beginning of March.

Libya now has two rival governments. One of them is in the far west in the capital city Tripoli, and the other is in the far east in Tobruk. Both governments signed off in December on a UN-backed "peace plan" to establish a single unity government that could lead a military push against ISIS.

However, earlier this week, the Tobruk government, which is the government that's internationally recognized, announced that it was rejecting the UN plan.

A precondition for the Western military intervention is implementation of the unity government plan, and an endorsement of Western military intervention by that unity government, so that the invasion won't be seen as yet another Christian invasion of a Muslim country.

But with ISIS stepping up attacks throughout the country, Italy's Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said in an interview that the West is prepared to intervene militarily even if Libya fails to agree on a unified government. According to Pinotti:

"We cannot imagine the situation in Libya remaining in a stall as spring comes and goes.

In the past month, we have worked more diligently with Americans, British and French. I wouldn't call it an acceleration, and it's certainly not unilateral. We are all agreed that we must avoid uncoordinated action."

According to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook, "We're looking at military options." Reuters and Gulf News and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France, Italy continue plans for Libya invasion against ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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28-Jan-16 World View -- China's game of Go beaten by Google's AI software, bringing the Singularity closer

Google's AI technology will soon start taking people's jobs

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China's game of Go beaten by Google's AI software program AlphaGo


Two pattern recognition problems.  Top: Find the best move in a Go position.  Bottom: Find the clock in the room.
Two pattern recognition problems. Top: Find the best move in a Go position. Bottom: Find the clock in the room.

Google's artificial intelligence (AI) division, DeepMind, announced that it has developed a software program called AlphaGo that can beat human masters at the ancient Chinese game of Go.

This is considered a significant milestone in AI because the game of Go is massively more complex than the game of chess, which was conquered by computers in the 1990s. It's also significant because it brings the world one step closer to the Singularity, the point in time where computers are more intelligent than humans.

The game of Go is thought to have originated in China 3000-4000 years ago. It's the oldest game that's still played in its original form. Today, it's popular throughout Asia, and it's played to a lesser extent in Europe and America.

Players take turns alternately placing white and black stones on a 19x19 board. If your stones completely surround your opponent's stones, then you've captured his stones, and you've gained territory. But if you're too ambitious and overreach by trying to capture too much territory, then your opponent can turn the table and surround your stones. The best players, who have been playing for decades, develop an intuition that allows to play unexpected moves that permit a group of stones at one end of the board to link up with stones at the other end.

The two pictures above show two different "pattern recognition" problems. The top picture shows a typical Go position. There are too many possibilities for someone to use simple reasoning to find the best move. Instead, a master who's played hundreds of thousands of games over decades will recognize patterns from previous games that show what the best move is.

The bottom picture is of an ordinary furnished room, and the problem is to find the clock. Almost anyone can find the clock immediately, because over the years you've seen perhaps millions of clocks, and your brain can do the necessary pattern recognition to find the clock instantly.

This kind of pattern recognition has been extremely difficult for computer software to master, because the computer would have to create a database storing perhaps trillions or quadrillions or quintillions of pictures, and then the software has to be able to compare the picture or the game position to all those pictures stored in the database.

Amazingly, the human mind is pretty good at that, because it can store huge numbers of images and then do many comparisons in parallel. But in the past, computers did not have enough memory for such a large database, and did not have enough computing power to do all those comparisons. But as computers have become more and more powerful, doubling in power every 18 months or so, huge pattern matching applications have become more feasible, and this has led to the implementation of a winning Go-playing computer program AlphaGo. American Go Association and MIT Technology Review

Google DeepMind's Go algorithm uses massive pattern matching neural networks

As I described in my article "Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity by 2030", the human brain uses two kinds of problem solving methods. One is illustrated by the bottom picture above, where the brain uses massive pattern matching to quickly find the clock in the picture.

The other is ordinary step-by-step reasoning, where you think "If I do A then B will happen, and I can do C." The game of chess was solved using computer software that does this kind of reasoning, employing something called a "minimax algorithm" that was invented in the 1960s.

The minimax algorithm works the same way that an ordinary person plays chess. You think, "If I make move A then he'll make move B and I can make move C, but if I make move X they he'll be forced to play move Y and I'll win." Chess-playing programs do the same thing, and can examine millions of positions in this way, evaluating them to decide what the next move should be.

The minimax algorithm requires that you have a simple way to evaluate a chess position numerically. A good chess playing program can evaluate any position by adding together numbers for the amount of material, for how much of the board is controlled, and other factors such as King safety.

In the game of Go, no such simple numerical evaluation method exists. There are dozens of white and black stones scattered over a 19x19 board. You could try some simple method of counting occupied positions, or something like that, but that would never capture the complexity of the position.

So the AI experts at Google's DeepMind used the power of modern computers to develop an advanced pattern matching technology. The technology known is as "neural networks" that was developed in the 1980s because it supposedly simulates the way that networks of neurons in the human brain perform pattern matching.

They created an enormous database of 30 million Go game positions developed from human expert games and by allowing the computer to play against itself for days. They developed advanced neural network applications to perform massive numbers of comparisons of a board position to those stored in the database. The "value networks" perform pattern matching with the database to evaluate board positions, and the "policy networks" perform pattern matching to select moves.

Using this approach, they developed the AlphaGo program and tested it against a human European Go champion, Fan Hui, winning five games to zero.

In March, AlphaGo will play a match to be held in Seoul, South korea, against one of the world's best players, Lee Sedol. 9 To 5 Google and Nature

Google's AI technology will soon start taking people's jobs

As I wrote in "29-Dec-15 World View -- Artificial Intelligence breakthroughs in 2015, the Singularity by 2030", the year 2015 saw many major achievements in artificial intelligence, and the Google's AlphaGo technology continues that trend.

What's interesting is that as recently as 2014, most experts thought that for a computer program to play Go at a master level was at least a decade away, and possibly several decades. This illustrates how many people in the computer field underestimate how rapidly computer AI is improving, and how quickly the Singularity is arriving.

As I wrote in the article referenced above, I estimated in 2004 that the Singularity would occur around 2030, and I have no reason today to change that estimate. However, people tell me all the time that computers won't be as smart as humans for many decades, even centuries, because we don't yet understand enough about the human brain. However, this misses the point. Humans are smarter than apes even though we don't understand apes' brains, and computers will become more intelligent than humans by using technologies that don't require understanding the human brain.

In fact, we're going to start seeing rapid changes well before 2030. According to a new report from the World Economic Forum, AI is take away 5 million jobs from humans in the next five years.

Jobs that are most at risk of this transition to artificial intelligence are in administrative and office divisions, so much so that some jobs today are already being replaced by mobile apps and algorithms linked to the internet. For instance, a website may offer finding better hotel deals than a travel agent, or a mobile application can help you learn better Mandarin or French than a personal instructor. Other sectors that are also at risk are manufacturing, construction, health care, and even the arts and entertainment.

And it's my personal estimate that AI will replace most computer programmers' jobs within the next five to ten years. Wired (12-May-2014) and StGist

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Jan-16 World View -- China's game of Go beaten by Google's AI software, bringing the Singularity closer thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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27-Jan-16 World View -- India deploying 'submarine killer' planes to counter China's submarines

China demolishes Southern Mongolian herders' homes in mid-winter

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India deploying 'submarine killer' planes to counter China's submarines


China commercial and military route through Malacca strait
China commercial and military route through Malacca strait

As China continues to deploy new missile systems that can target any part of the United States with nuclear weapons, and submarines that can target any part of the trade routes from China, through the South China Sea, and into the Indian Ocean, India is preparing to defend its Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

India has detected Chinese naval ships coming close to the territorial waters of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Chinese ships attempt to get close at least twice every three months. India is concerned that the islands are mostly undefended, and a lightning attack by the Chinese would be successful.

In response, India is deploying eight P-8I aircraft, obtained from Boeing under a 2009 deal with the United States. The aircraft will be stationed at the southern tip of mainland India in Tamil Nadu. They will serve as reconnaissance aircraft, and also will be equipped with missiles capable of neutralizing enemy submarines and warships.

According to Indian media:

"It's not uncommon for Chinese naval vessels to get close to the 10 degree channel, which is a 150km-wide channel that separates the Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands. Officers feel that the Chinese may choose the Andamans for a sudden strike instead of the mainland. After all, the Chinese know that India has an upper hand for the first 7-8 days due to her advanced air assets if an attack is launched on the mainland.

Things would change after that due to attrition and other factors but no armed conflict between two nuclear powers like India and China is expected to last more than a week before the international community intervenes.

"The only place where the Chinese can strike without facing any real opposition, merely to bother India, is the Andamans. After all, our assets on the mainland can't remain at a top level of preparedness for an indefinite period every time a Chinese warship is detected close to the islands. Capabilities of the assets from the mainland will also be hampered by bad weather and other factors. The Chinese will also factor these in if they choose to strike. The Chinese presence on Coco Islands continues to remain a matter of concern. The length of runway there has been increased to 8,000 feet. When it becomes 10,000 feet, all kinds of aircraft can land there and we will have a full-fledged Chinese base some 30-odd miles from the Andamans," the officer added."

The Coco islands are north of the Andaman islands. They belong to Burma (Myanmar), but are believed to be under control of the Chinese. Lowy Institute (Australia) and The Diplomat and Times of India and The Diplomat (19-Dec-2015) and Washington Free Beacon (11-Dec-2015)

India to build satellite tracking station in southern Vietnam

India and Vietnam continue to enhance their military relationship to counter China's military belligerence in the South China Sea, where it it annexing regions historically belonging to other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

India is building a satellite tracking and imaging center in southern Vietnam. Although it's billed as a civilian facility for agricultural, scientific and environmental applications, the improved imaging technology means the pictures could also be used for military purposes for both countries. India Times / Reuters

China demolishes Southern Mongolian herders' homes in mid-winter

Despite police in China's Southern (Inner) Mongolia arresting herders for contacting "overseas news media," news is leaking out the Chinese authorities are driving Mongolian herders out of their homes and demolishing their homes in the middle of winter. According to the activist organization, Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), at least 160,000 ethnic Mongolians have been forcibly evicted from traditional grazing lands in recent decades.

China's government has announced long-term plans to move all traditional nomadic groups into permanent, urban dwellings, to make the grasslands available for other purposes, such as mining.

In 2008, local authorities implemented a ban on livestock grazing, and promised to pay subsidies to the Mongolian herders as compensation. However, the herders say that the subsidies stopped six months ago without notice.

In May of last year, and again in December, and again last week, hundreds of Mongolian herders have staged protests at government buildings and military bases. Early in January, Chinese officials arrived without notice and started evicting people and demolishing their homes.

Starting this week, local police authorities began arresting dozens of herders for contacting “overseas news media and hostile forces” and “engaging in national separatism." Many other herders received threatening phone calls from the local police authorities warning them not to contact any foreign news media or overseas organizations.

Communist China has a history of brutal treatment of minorities, including the slaughter of thousands of Tibetans in Tibet and Uighurs in Xinjiang. Radio Free Asia and Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Jan-16 World View -- India deploying 'submarine killer' planes to counter China's submarines thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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26-Jan-16 World View -- Mass protests force Moldova to choose between Europe and Russia

Moldova crisis presents opportunities and dangers for Russia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mass protests force Moldova to choose between Europe and Russia


 Hundreds of protesters broke through police lines on Wednesday to get into Moldova's parliament on January 20 (Reuters)
Hundreds of protesters broke through police lines on Wednesday to get into Moldova's parliament on January 20 (Reuters)

Months of anti-government protests in Chisinau, the capital city of Moldova, reached a head last week on Wednesday, when tens of thousands of stormed the parliament building, and police began using tear gas against the protesters, resulting in dozens of injuries. This mass riot was triggered by parliament's approval Pavel Filip to be prime minister. The protesters chanted "We Are the People" and "We Want our Country Back" and "Down with the mafia" in both Romanian and Russian, and demanded that the president, prime minister, and parliament all resign, and new elections be called.

Protesters are demanding the investigation of the “theft of the century” – the disappearance of an incredible $1.5 billion, 15% of the country's GDP, from three national banks ahead of the parliamentary election of 2014. The money was discovered to be missing a year ago, in January 2015. The prime minister Vlad Filad was arrested on corruption charges, and the parliament appointed a successor, Valeriu Strelet. In October, Strelet was dismissed in a no-confidence vote, and Moldova has had no government until Wednesday of last week, when the parliament selected a new prime minister, Pavel Filip.

There are two major ideologies in Moldova, the pro-Europe side and the pro-Russia side. Since 2009, the pro-Europe side has governed, but since the corruption scandal broke a year ago, voters have become increasingly disgusted with all sides.

The prime minister selected last week, Pavel Filip, is still nominally on the pro-Europe side, Filip is thought by many to be under the control of billionaire Vladimir Plahotniuc. As a result, both pro-Europe and pro-Russia protesters temporarily put aside their differences and turned against Filip after he was selected last week.

If there are new elections in the near future, it's expected that the pro-Russia side will win in the parliament, which will then select a pro-Russia prime minister. However, Filip, and Plahotniuc behind him, are resisting that outcome.

Filip himself is making the usual claim of politicians in power by saying that his stepping down could harm the country:

"We could find ourselves in a deep economic and social crisis. It's possible that Moldova wouldn't be able to pay salaries and pensions for four months."

Adrian Candu, the speaker of parliament, says that there's no legal way to call elections now, and adds:

"The current government and parliamentary majority really has to show results in days and weeks. We are counting on the first 100 days of the government to show actions and results. The time for nice messages is over."

However, both pro-Europe and pro-Russia groups accuse Filip and Plahotniuc of holding on to power in order to hide their corruption. Many observers don't believe that the new government will have even 100 days before widespread riots begin, perhaps modeled after the Maiden riots in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, in 2013-2014, leading to a major European and Russian crisis. BBC and Irish Times and Jamestown

Moldova crisis presents opportunities and dangers for Russia


Map of Moldova highlighting Transdniestria / Transnistria province (Economist)
Map of Moldova highlighting Transdniestria / Transnistria province (Economist)

Moldova is a small country squeezed between Ukraine and Romania. A strip of land on Moldova's border with Ukraine is the province of Transnistria. Polls in Transnistria indicate that people there would like to secede from Moldova and join the Russian Federation, in the same way that happened to Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. In fact, when Russia was in the process of invading Ukraine in 2014, leading to the annexation of Crimea, it was widely believed that Russia's invasion would continue on to the port of Odessa and then on to link up with the secessionist Transnistria province of Moldova.

That never happened, as the Russians became bogged down in East Ukraine, and the Russian economy was beset by Western sanctions and then by crashing oil prices. And now with Russia's military adventure into Syria, Russia is stretched too thin to revive a large military incursion into western Ukraine.

Now there's a new opportunity for Russia. If there are new elections in Moldova, and if, as expected, the pro-Russia factions win, then Russia will have a political change of government that will gives it influence of Moldova without the cost of a military invasion.

If pro-Russia forces come to power in Moldova, it would be a big public relations coup. Furthermore, such a victory would help settle the Transnistria issue, by unifying the secessionist province with the Moldovan government so that they're all pro-Russia.

However, such a victory would be a mixed blessing for Russia, as it would trigger other problems, according to Russian journalist and political analyst Gevorg Mirzayan. In these days of sanctions and counter-sanctions, both Ukraine and Romania would act harshly to pro-Russian forces in Moldova.

"[Ukraine's] reaction to pro-Russian forces in Chisinau would not be difficult to guess – a sharp hardening of relations and an economic blockade of Moldova from the east would be almost inevitable.

As for Romania, here too there are several possible negative scenarios. It's doubtful that the EU will simply close its eyes on Moldova's demonstrative return to the Russian orbit, and using a deterioration of the socio-economic situation, they would attempt to convince Moldovans that they have made the wrong choice.

As a result, Moscow, which already has its hands full, will have to analyze all the options for supporting a pro-Russian government in Chisinau."

Mirzayan points out that if the pro-Europe factions continue to discredit themselves, especially following the corruption scandals, then the pro-Russia opposition will become stronger in the long run. Global Risk Insights (2015-Nov-10) and Sputnik News (Moscow) and Global Research

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Jan-16 World View -- Mass protests force Moldova to choose between Europe and Russia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva

Previous attempts at Syria 'peace talks' ended in farce

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Previous attempts at Syria 'peace talks' ended in farce


Vietnam anti-American antiwar protester John Kerry gives the 1960s 'peace sign' at a United Nations news conference in Vienna last week (Reuters)
Vietnam anti-American antiwar protester John Kerry gives the 1960s 'peace sign' at a United Nations news conference in Vienna last week (Reuters)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is spearheading the drive for peace talks for "peace talks" to get a "political solution" to the war in Syria. This follows the efforts by Kerry and others in the successful Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, successful Afghanistan Taliban peace talks, successful Pakistan Taliban peace talks, and successful Ukraine-Russia peace talks.

Oh wait.

Not only have all the above "peace talks" been total failures, so have several previous attempts at Syrian peace talks.

Let's recall that in March 2012, the vitriolicly anti-American former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan headed up the effort to bring peace to Syria. At that time, al-Assad had already massacred thousands of Sunni women and children as punishment for peaceful protesting, and only a few thousand refugees had already fled to Turkey. Bashar al-Assad made a fool of Kofi Annan by promising that he would make an "honest effort" to achieve peace in his country, at the same time that he was launching brutal attacks on civilians in Idlib.

At that time, I wrote "22-Mar-12 World View -- U.N. Security Council adopts farcical 'peace plan' for Syria". The terms of the 6-point peace plan were:

The whole "Syria commits" was a joke, since al-Assad honored no commitment. In fact, the whole peace plan was a joke. As I wrote in "3-Aug-12 World View -- Kofi Annan resigns in failure as Syria envoy", Annan was bitter and angry when he resigned, blaming his decision on what he described as Syrian government intransigence, on increasing militancy by Syrian rebels and on finger-pointing and name-calling by members of the United Nations Security Council.

In fact -- and this is important -- the whole "peace plan" was deceitful sham on the part of al-Assad. He continued to say that he was "honestly" working for peace when he had no intention of doing so, but continued his genocidal attacks on innocent Sunni women and children. He agreed to the "peace process" so that his acolytes in the press and online would keep supporting him and lying for him as he slaughtered more and more innocent people. The "peace process" also provided cover for Iran and Russia to continue supplying billions of dollars of weapons to the al-Assad regime for use in slaughter of innocent women and children; and it provided cover for the U.S. and Britain and France and Turkey to do nothing, since doing something might harm the "peace process." After Annan resigned, Lakhdar Brahimi took over as U.N. and Arab League envoy to the "peace process," but to no avail.

That whole "peace process" was a deceitful sham by Syria, Russia and Iran that allowed them to completely humiliate that total fool, Kofi Annan.

The Three Satans of the modern world are Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Iran's Seyed Ali Khamenei. These Three Satans are entirely to blame for the following:

These Three Satans have done an almost unbelievable amount of damage to the world, and now John Kerry is going to be "negotiating" with them. This ought to be sickening.

Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva

Here's how I described the "Geneva-II" peace conference led by Lakhdar Brahimi, when I wrote about in January 2014: In the mornings, both sides are in the same room with Brahimi. The two sides are in the same room, but they don't talk to each other. Each of them talks only to Brahimi. The purpose of the morning sessions is to discuss the agenda for the afternoon sessions. In the afternoon sessions, the two sides are in different rooms, and Brahimi goes back and forth between the rooms, like Henry Kissinger's "shuttle diplomacy."

Well, I didn't know it at the time, but there's a phrase to describe this kind of peace talks. They're called "proximity talks," as opposed to "face to face talks," because the two sides are in different rooms.

The proximity talks were supposed to begin today (Monday), but they couldn't because there's no agreement on who will represent the anti-Assad "rebels." Russia already controls the al-Assad side, and apparently wants to control the "rebel" side as well. Apparently, none of the "rebel" groups wants to take part in the talks, because they realize that they're only a farce that will be used as a fig leaf to allow al-Assad and the Russians and Iranians to continue the war and then blame the "rebels" for violating the "peace process."

According to news reports, John Kerry has announced a "breakthrough" and a "compromise." Apparently a delegation of Kurds will also take part in the negotiations, which is one of the demands of the Russians, who are allied with the Kurds. This will be in addition to a "rebel" group favored by Kerry. The news reports don't indicate whether the Kurds will be in the same room as the al-Assad negotiators, or in the same room as the "rebels," or in a third room all by themselves. In the latter case, Kerry will have to go from room to room to room, instead of just from room to room. That's the way "proximity talks" work.

Actually, the word "negotiations" is already a joke, since the Syrians are already saying that they have no intention of negotiating. Before the active intervention by Russia, the al-Assad regime was losing more and more territory, and his army was near collapse. But now, thanks to the massive Russian bombing campaign on homes and neighborhoods of civilians supporting the "rebels," the al-Assad regime is doing a lot better, and believes that it has no reason to negotiate.

In remarks published on Sunday by Hilal al-Hilal, a senior official in al-Assad's ruling Baath party:

"We are not going to give today what we did not give over the past five years. This year will be the year of victory for Syria because of the heroic acts and sacrifices by its army and people,"

So what's the point of these "proximity talks"? They're just another scam by the Three Satans to cover up the massive disaster they've created.

Whenever I hear about a "political solution in Syria," there are two questions that always immediately go through my mind.

The first question has to do with peaceful demonstrations. Even if there were some kind of political solution, what would al-Assad do if peaceful demonstrations began again? If he allowed them to go on, then it would prove to the world that his whole motivation for starting the war in 2011 was idiotic. So he would have to start bombing innocent Sunni women an children again, and the war would begin again.

The second question has to do with ISIS and with the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front). They aren't even going to be part of the non-negotiations in Switzerland. So what does Kerry think would happen to them if they were presented with some "political solution"?

I was listening to the BBC on Sunday, and I heard an analyst give an answer to that question. He said that once a political solution was reached, then all the Sunni jihadists would leave ISIS and al-Nusra, and go home, since the political solution would leave them no more reason to fight, and then ISIS and al-Nusra would dissolve.

Just as al-Qaeda has dissolved in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria and Mali. Oh wait.

Really, we have so many people living in Fantasyland these days, it's no wonder that the world is on fire.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is a generational Crisis era, where the rules of diplomacy and mediation and compromise from the 1990s no longer apply. These "proximity talks" are a joke and a scam by the Three Satans, al-Assad, Putin, and Khamenei, who have already caused an enormous catastrophe, and have no intention of stopping now. Bloomberg and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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24-Jan-16 World View -- Migration crisis signals historic shifts in Europe and Mideast

The 2016 market meltdown raises fears of financial crisis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Reader comments on xenophobic 'Soldiers of Odin' in Finland


The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement split the Mideast between Britain and France (Jewish Virtual Library)
The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement split the Mideast between Britain and France (Jewish Virtual Library)

My recent article "Clown protesters mock Finland's xenophobic 'Soldiers of Odin'" described a vigilante group in Finland confronting migrants, harassing them and sometimes threatening them with violence.

This article drew some reader criticisms:

"Why am I classed as xenophobic in the derogatory sense when what I want is: 1. Preservation of my Judeo/Christian heritage and its attendant culture 2. Primacy of the English language in this country 3. Not to have crowding so as to packed in as an overpopulated 4th world dung heap - shades of "1984" 4. While I have sympathy for the refugees I will become one with them if they all come "here". No country afford to pay for, settle and provide jobs for all who wish to enter.

Every single picture I have seen of the countries of the refugees there is a dichotomy; the small population of the very rich, a middle class on the economic edge and vast majority in poverty. I do not want to see that as the future in this country and I am sure the xenophobic Europeans (my ancestors) do not want it either."

"Blaming the West is not the right answer. They've been fighting amongst themselves for centuries, and they all believe their way of worship to be closer to allah then all the others. The Shiite, Sunni, and the rest are unable to get along, and if you took the West out of it, you'd see just as much destruction.

Muslims have been blaming everyone but themselves and always will. They are always the victims even though their acts are barbaric. Stoning women, beating and raping they feel justified in doing."

"The Soldiers of Odin may be the only protection women have from the invaders."

The first problem with xenophobia is that it's un-American.

The problem with vigilantes is that they do no good. A few vigilantes in Finland are not going to do anything to stop the flood of migrants and refugees coming into Europe. It's like trying to stop a tsunami with a teaspoon.

Another problem is that it makes things worse. Vigilantes will have no effect at all on the supposed objective of "protecting women," but what it will do is aggravate people, create further hostility, and energize jihadists.

What you have to accept, Dear Reader, is that there are historic changes going on, and that they can't be stopped. Today's World View article is about those historic changes, with the migration crisis challenging the borders of the European Union and the Mideast, while at the same time the global economy is facing a crisis.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is a generational Crisis era, where the rules of diplomacy and mediation from the 1990s no longer apply. Treasure the time you have left, and use it to prepare yourself, your family, your community and your nation. How you do that is up to the individual, but being a vigilante will not accomplish it.

European Union said to be collapsing over migrant crisis

More than one million migrants and refugees came to Europe in 2015, mostly entering through Greece and Italy.

Remarkably, some 35,000 more arrived during the first three weeks of 2016. It had been thought that the winter weather would slow the flow to a trickle, but it hasn't. That's almost 12,000 per week. That suggests that there could be millions more migrants and refugees arriving in 2016.

Already, the European Union's prized open-border Schengen Agreement, appears to be crumbling. Several east European countries have put up fences, and other countries have closed all their borders, instituting border controls.

According to far left billionaire George Soros, the European Union is on the verge of collapse:

"There is plenty to be nervous about.

As she (Merkel) correctly predicted, the EU is on the verge of collapse. The Greek crisis taught the European authorities the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road, although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking a ball uphill so that it keeps rolling back down.

Merkel correctly foresaw the potential of the migration crisis to destroy the European Union. What was a prediction has become the reality. The European Union badly needs fixing. This is a fact but it is not irreversible. And the people who can stop Merkel's dire prediction from coming true are actually the German people.

Now it's time for Germans to decide: Do they want to accept the responsibilities and the liabilities involved in being the dominant power in Europe?"

French officials believe that France has been particularly affected by the migrant crisis since the November 13 attacks in which 130 people were killed by gunmen in a series of coordinated attacks across Paris. It later emerged that the gunmen had arrived in Europe with the flood of migrants entering Greece.

Following the attacks, France instituted a state of emergency, allowing the police the power to raid homes without warrants and to impose house arrests without first seeking judicial oversight.

France's prime minister Manuel Valls said that it would be in effect until ISIS is defeated:

"[France will be] using all means in our democracy under the rule of law to protect the French people.

As long as the threat is there, we must use all available means. [The state of emergency should stay in place] until we can get rid of Daesh.

In Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, we must eradicate – eliminate – Daesh. It is a total and global war that we are facing with terrorism. The war we are conducting must also be total, global and ruthless."

The European Commission President Jean-Claude Jüncker warns dismantling the Schengen zone and imposing new border controls would cost £2.3bn a year in lost business. The European Council President Donald Tusk says unless the EU makes progress in the next two months, Schengen could fail. CNBC and France24 and Independent (London)

Mideast borders set by Sykes-Picot and Balfour declaration under fire

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, named after Frenchman Francois Georges-Picot and Briton Mark Sykes, signed by Britain, France and Tsarist Russia in May 1916. The agreement was originally kept secret because it was a betrayal of promises made to Arabs, but it was revealed in 1917 when the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in Russia. This was followed by the Balfour Declaration in 1917, promising the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

The borders set by Sykes-Picot/Balfour have remained largely intact, with few exceptions. There was the independence of Sudan from Egypt, and then the secession of South Sudan. North and South Yemen were unified, as were the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There were also changes to the Palestinian territories and Palestine, related to the establishment of Israel.

But there are many Arabs, especially Palestinians, who blame Sykes-Picot/Balfour as the source of all their misery. The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has specifically said that Sykes-Picot is dead, but other nationalist Arab groups are calling for its abolition, mostly for local political reasons. The Kurds have been leading the calls for an end to Sykes-Picot, and the creation of a Kurdistan state.

According to Oxford University historian Eugene Rogan, "The wartime partition agreements left a legacy of imperialism, of Arab mistrust in great power politics, and of a belief in conspiracies (for what are secret partition agreements if not conspiracies?) that the Arab peoples have held responsible for their misfortunes ever since."

The rise of ISIS, fueled by sectarian violence led by Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Iran's Seyed Ali Khamenei, have caused massive migrations of millions of people that are challenging the existing borders in the Mideast. Generational Dynamics predicts a major Mideast war between Sunnis and Shias, Israelis and Arabs, and among different ethnic groups. At the end of that war, there will be a major international conference that will set the new boundaries in the Mideast, as dictated by the winners, and that will certainly be the end of the Sykes-Picot agreement. Middle East Monitor and Atlantic Sentinel and Foreign Policy Journal and Jewish Virtual Library

The 2016 market meltdown raises fears of financial crisis

The first three weeks of 2016 have been the worst start of the year in market history. There were two emergency market shutdowns in China within the first four trading days of 2016. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has never lost this many points within the first three weeks. Trucking freight in the U.S. is in steep decline. Jobless claims are beginning to surge again.

According to financial analyst Doug Noland:

"The world has changed significantly – perhaps profoundly – over recent weeks. The Shanghai Composite has dropped 17.4% over the past month (Shenzhen down 21%). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 8.2% over the past month, with Hang Seng Financials sinking 11.9%. WTI crude is down 26% since December 15th. Over this period, the GSCI Commodities Index sank 12.2%. The Mexican peso has declined almost 7% in a month, the Russian ruble 10% and the South African rand 12%. A Friday headline from the Financial Times: “Emerging market stocks retreat to lowest since 09.”

Recent weeks point to decisive cracks at the “Core” of the U.S. financial Bubble. The S&P500 has been hit with an 8.0% two-week decline. Notably, favored stocks and sectors have performed poorly. Indicative of rapidly deteriorating economic prospects, the Dow Transports were down 10.9% to begin 2016. The banks (KBW) sank 12.9%, with the broker/dealers (XBD) down 14.1% y-t-d. The Nasdaq100 (NDX) fell 10%. The Biotechs were down 16.0% in two weeks. The small cap Russell 2000 was hit 11.3%.

Bubbles tend to be varied and complex. In their most basic form, I define a Bubble as a self-reinforcing but inevitably unsustainable inflation. This inflation can be in a wide range of price levels – securities and asset prices, incomes, spending, corporate profits, investment and speculation. Such inflations are always fueled by some type of underlying monetary expansion – typically monetary disorder. Bubbles are always and everywhere a Credit phenomenon, although the underlying source of monetary fuel often goes largely unrecognized. ...

[In the 'Periphery':] At $275 billion, Chinese Credit growth surged in December to the strongest pace since June. While growth in new bank loans slowed (15% below estimates), equity and bond issuance jumped. China’s total social financing expanded an enormous $2.2 TN in 2015, down slightly from booming 2014. Such rampant Credit growth was (barely) sufficient to sustain China’s economic expansion. At the same time, I would argue that Chinese stocks, global commodities and developing securities markets in particular have been under intense pressure due to rapidly waning confidence in the sustainability of China’s Credit Bubble.

A similar dynamic is now unfolding in U.S. and other “Core” equities markets: Sustainability in the (U.S. and global) Credit Bubble - the monetary fuel underpinning the boom - is suddenly in doubt. The bulls, Fed officials and most others see the economy as basically sound, similar to how most conventional analysts argued about the Chinese economy over the past year. Inherent fragility and unsustainability are the key issues now driving securities markets – in China, in the U.S, and globally. And, importantly, sentiment has shifted to the view that policy tools have been largely depleted."

As I've written many times (see "28-Aug-15 World View -- Explanation of Price/Earnings ratio and Stock Valuations"), Wall Street stocks are in an enormous bubble, with the S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at an astronomical 22, far above the historical average of 14. Generational Dynamics predicts a financial panic and crisis, with the Dow falling to below 3000. ETF Daily News and Alt-Market.com and Credit Bubble Bulletin

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Jan-16 World View -- Migration crisis signals historic shifts in Europe and Mideast thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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23-Jan-16 World View -- China signs nuclear deals with Saudi Arabia and Iran

China signals support for Saudis in Yemen, and for Palestinian state

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China signs nuclear deals with Saudi Arabia and Iran


Xi Jinping and Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud
Xi Jinping and Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud

China's president Xi Jinping has completed a visit to Saudi Arabia, during which he and Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud signed several agreements, mainly in the fields of energy, culture and industrial cooperation:

According to a Chinese spokesman,

"A total of 14 agreements including memorandums of understanding were also signed between the Kingdom and China at the palace. ...

The signing of the agreements was witnessed by King Salman and Xi together in a very candid and cordial atmosphere.

Major pacts inked by the two sides also include an energy cooperation agreement and an accord to work together on the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative to achieve goals of development within the framework of the initiative. ...

We hope and trust that Saudi Arabia, located at the west crossroads of the Belt and Road, will become an important participant of, contributor to and beneficiary of this initiative."

As part of his Mideast trip, Xi Jinping will also visit Iran, where he is expected to finalize a deal for two Chinese-built nuclear power plants.

In a visit to Egypt, Xi agreed to a rail project in Egypt worth $1.1 billion, and construction projects worth $2.7 billion.

As part of the "New Silk Road," Russia is proposing a 2,000 mile railway link between China and Iran. Bloomberg and Arab News and China Daily and Arab News and Tehran Times

China signals support for Saudis in Yemen, and for Palestinian state

China has always had a policy of "non-interference" in other countries, largely for fear of being criticized for its own brutal treatment of Tibetans and Uighurs, as well as for its own brutal treatment of dissidents in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

However, that policy has apparently been completely abandoned in the visit by China's president Xi Jinping to the Mideast.

In a joint statement, Saudi Arabia said that "Both sides stressed support for the legitimate regime of Yemen."

The war in Yemen is viewed as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran is supporting the Shia Houthis, who overthrew the elected government a year ago. Saudi Arabia is supporting the internationally elected government that was overthrown by the Houthis, and which is living in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The joint statement seems to make it clear that China is siding with Saudi Arabia, and against Iran. When a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was asked whether China was siding with Saudi Arabia, he said, "(We) hope clashes in Yemen can come to an end as soon as possible and there can be reconciliation so the country can return to stability."

Xi Jinping also gave a speech to the Arab League in Cairo, and said:

"China firmly supports the Middle East peace process and supports the establishment of a State of Palestine enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders. We understand the legitimate aspirations of Palestine to integrate into the international community as a state."

Perhaps the pro-independence activists in Taiwan can use this quote in their protests against China.

As I've been writing for almost ten years, Generational Dynamics predicts that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, Russia, India and Iran will be allies of the United States, versus our enemies, China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries. Reuters and Quartz

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Jan-16 World View -- China signs nuclear deals with Saudi Arabia and Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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22-Jan-16 World View -- Clown protesters mock Finland's xenophobic 'Soldiers of Odin'

The European Central Bank saves the stock markets for another day

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Clown protesters mock Finland's xenophobic 'Soldiers of Odin'


Clown carrying sign 'Sieg Fail' to make fun of Soldiers of Odin, whose leader is a neo-Nazi
Clown carrying sign 'Sieg Fail' to make fun of Soldiers of Odin, whose leader is a neo-Nazi

A group of clowns has taken to the streets of the town of Tampere in Finland to make fun of a new group of anti-migrant vigilantes called the "Soldiers of Odin," named after a war-like Norse god.

The vigilante group was formed late last year in the northern Finland town of Kemi, near the point on the border which has become an entry point for migrants arriving from Sweden. They wear black jackets, and run street patrols carrying carry signs saying things like "Migrants not welcome." Police have received complaints that they've approached migrants, and also citizens whom they've accused of being migrants, and harassed them and threatened them with violence.

After the recent reported incidents of hundreds of alleged sexual assaults by Muslim migrants in Cologne on New Year's Eve, The Soldiers of Odin have spread to other towns, and similar groups have sprung up in other countries. Most Finns oppose them, but they've received qualified support from the nationalist Finns Party, and they've been increasing in popularity since the New Year's Eve incidents.

In the Finnish town of Tampere on Saturday night, the Soldiers of Odin street patrols were met by a group of clowns calling themselves the "LOLdiers of Odin," where LOL stands for "laughing out loud."

The vigilante group named themselves after the mythical Norse god Odin who was highly war-like. However, Odin did not end well. At the time of the cataclysmic Ragnarök between the giants and the gods, Odin fought with the enormous wolf Fenrir. Fenrir killed Odin and swallowed him. Fenrir also swallowed the earth and sun. After the Ragnarök ended, everything was destroyed, and the world had to be recreated. Think of it as the mythological analog to World War III. Helsinki Times and BBC and Helsinki Times and Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Encyclopedia Mythica

The European Central Bank saves the stock markets for another day

After several days of frightening plunges in markets in Asia, Europe and North America, things settled down a bit on Thursday after Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), suggested that massive new quantitative easing (QE) would begin again in March, and that there will be "no limits" to how far he will go.

There have been trillions of dollars of "printed money" in the form of quantitative easing from central banks around the world, including the ECB, the Bank of England, the Federal Reserve, and the Bank of Japan. However, this tsunami of money has only ended up in the accounts of banks and hedge funds, and it's pushed up stock markets well into bubble territory. As these bubbles now seem to be imploding, the ECB has promised more and more liquidity to try to keep them blown up. The Bank of Japan is preparing to boost currency stimulus next week.

One side effect is that the US dollar continues to get stronger and stronger. This is related to the fact that the Fed has ended its QE program. Thus, after Draghi's announcement, the value of the euro fell 0.3% against the dollar, while the yen fell 0.2%. Both currencies are set for their biggest weekly drops this year.

However, these desperate attempts to keep the bubbles from imploding may be nearing an end, according to William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD's review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). According to White:

"The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up. ...

Debts have continued to build up over the last eight years and they have reached such levels in every part of the world that they have become a potent cause for mischief."

According to White, combined public and private debt has surged to all-time highs to 185% of GDP in emerging markets and to 265% of GDP in the OECD countries, both up by 35 percentage points since the beginning of the last financial crisis in 2007.

European banks have already admitted to $1 trillion of non-performing loans: they are heavily exposed to emerging markets and are almost certainly already rolling over further bad debts that have never been disclosed.

According to White, who predicted the 2007-2008 financial crisis:

"It will become obvious in the next recession that many of these debts will never be serviced or repaid, and this will be uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something.

The only question is whether we are able to look reality in the eye and face what is coming in an orderly fashion, or whether it will be disorderly. Debt jubilees have been going on for 5,000 years, as far back as the Sumerians."

Well, if we're depending on politicians who "are able to look reality in the eye and face what is coming in an orderly fashion," then we should expect the worst. Bloomberg and Telegraph (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Jan-16 World View -- Clown protesters mock Finland's xenophobic 'Soldiers of Odin' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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21-Jan-16 World View -- Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey

Azerbaijan becomes the hub of the Caspian Trade Corridor, part of the new Silk Road

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey


Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Within the past couple of months, two major fault lines have developed and widened in Eurasia: Russia versus Turkey and Iran versus Saudi Arabia. These developments have forced a number of countries in the region (and beyond) to make choices between two sides where this hadn't been necessary before. We've written articles on the mediation issues facing Tajikistan and Pakistan and various Sunni countries and the United States.

In addition, there's the two-year-old growing Russia versus Ukraine fault line.

Azerbaijan is thickly involved in all of these major fault lines because of its strategic location and because its interdependencies:

Azerbaijan is officially neutral in the dispute between Turkey and Russia, but Azerbaijan has two major flash points with Russia.

First, Azerbaijan has military treaties with Turkey. Azerbaijani and Turkish Armed Forces regularly conduct joint military exercises, and two are planned in 2016.

Second, Azerbaijanis living in Russia are pressuring the Russian government to abandon plans to pass a law making it illegal for any individual to deny that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Armenia is an enemy of both Turkey and Azerbaijan. 30 leaders of Azerbaijani organizations in Russia, apparently organized by Azerbaijan's government, demanded that that the law be withdrawn, pointing out that the Russian government had refused to acknowledge that the Hojali massacres in 1992 were a “genocide” of Azerbaijanis by Armenian forces. One Russian official called the demand a "stab in the back," because it threatened to "challenge the law in the courts of international human rights."

People who think we're still living in the 1990s are expecting everyone to come to their senses, and for all of these fault lines to dissolve, so that things can return to "normal" again. But this is a generational Crisis era, when fault lines widen rather than dissolve. It probably won't be long before a new fault line between Russia and Azerbaijan develops, and they start imposing sanctions on each other. APA (Azerbeijan) and Rubin Center (Israel) and Jamestown and Regnum.ru (12-Dec - Trans)

Azerbaijan becomes the hub of the Caspian Trade Corridor, part of the new Silk Road


The Caspian Trade Corridor is part of the New Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe
The Caspian Trade Corridor is part of the New Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe

In ancient times the Silk Road, a complex road network, was the most favored transport route between China and Europe. In recent centuries it lost its importance because of new developments in maritime technologies which led to cheaper and higher-volume seaborne trade.

But with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the rise of China in world trade, there has been interest in a "New Silk Road" for about 20 years.

With all the fault lines widening and sanctions being imposed in Eurasia, a number of trade routes between Asia and Europe have been closed, the New Silk Road concept has become more urgent, and this has presented a kind of opportunity to Azerbaijan to become the hub of a new collection of trade routes known as the "Caspian Trade Corridor."

China and Ukraine are important trading partners, and if China wants to ship goods to Ukraine, they can try shipping through the India Ocean and risk meeting pirates, or they can ship overland through Iran or Russia, and risk being stopped by sanctions.

Even more important, 40% of the world's exported oil passes through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Some 50,000 ships go through the Strait each year, making it a major choke point in international trade. Even a brief blockage would have major negative effects on the international energy markets.

For these reasons, the concept of a "Caspian Trade Corridor" has been discussed internationally for almost twenty years, but now with tensions growing throughout Eurasia, the discussions are becoming more urgent, to provide alternate trading routes.

The plan is to develop infrastructure within the Caspian Sea to effectively connect Central Asia to the Caucasus region. Goods can travel overland from India and China through Central Asia by truck and railway, to a port on the Caspian Sea. From there, the goods are ferried across the Caspian Sea to a port in Azerbaijan. From there, they can travel overland again, through Georgia, Turkey, and then into Europe, including Ukraine.

Turkey expects to benefit greatly from the Caspian Corridor. Turkish trucks that used to travel overland through Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan are now being blocked from entering Russia. However, Turkey has yet to complete 76 kilometers of a railway that will connect Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It's now considered urgent to complete this railway line as quickly as possible.

Azerbaijan’s Port of Baku is converting Baku into a logistic hub. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are building high capacity ports on the Caspian Sea, and are investing in marine transport vessels.

Turkish officials expect the Caspian Corridor through Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea to actually be cheaper than existing routes, and to give Turkey the opportunity to open new markets in Central Asia and China. Jamestown and Euro Dialog (2014) and Daily Sabah (Istanbul) and Haldun Yavas (Istanbul, 9-Dec-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Jan-16 World View -- Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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20-Jan-16 World View -- Germany's Angela Merkel under pressure to restrict migrants

Puerto Rico's debt problem even worse than expected

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany's Angela Merkel under pressure to restrict migrants


Anti-Merkel rally.  Sign reads: Merkel, take your Muslims with you ... and get lost!!!' (Der Spiegel)
Anti-Merkel rally. Sign reads: Merkel, take your Muslims with you ... and get lost!!!' (Der Spiegel)

With her poll numbers falling and regional elections scheduled for March, members of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are pressuring her to reverse her policy on migrants. According to the dissenting deputies:

"In light of the developments in recent months, we can no longer speak of a great challenge -- we are on the verge of our country being overwhelmed. ...

We do not want to divide the CDU parliamentary group -- we are only asking for the law to be applied."

"The law" in this case is the European Union's Dublin asylum regulations, which say that refugees must seek asylum in the first member country that they land in. In that case, any refugee reaching Germany would already have been processed in Greece or Italy, and those not qualifying for asylum would already have been deported.

Germany has had to deal with an influx of 1.1 million migrants in 2015, and thousands are still arriving despite the winter weather. That volume may increase substantially when the warm Spring weather arrives.

The recent reported incidents of hundreds of alleged sexual assaults by Muslim migrants in Cologne on New Year's Eve have been explosive, and increased pressure on Merkel.

Merkel has suggested several solutions. She has attempted to persuade other EU countries to take in quotas of refugees, and she has pushed for reception centers to be built on Europe's external borders and for Turkey to be paid to keep refugees from entering Europe. However, none of these solutions has work.

On the other hand, the solution proposed by CDU party dissidents may not work any better. If 5,000-10,000 migrants arrive every day in Greece, then it will be impossible to process that many asylum applicants, and attempts to prevent them from surging northward may result in violence and become politically impossible.

In other words, the migration of millions of refugees from Asia, the Mideast and Africa into Europe may be an unstoppable historic force of nature. AFP and Der Spiegel and Gwynne Dwyer

Puerto Rico's debt problem even worse than expected

Puerto Rico's government issued a new report saying that the territory's financial situation is worse than the previous estimate, made in September of last year, and that its deficit estimate over the next five years has widened to $16 billion from $14 billion since September. The debt deficit has occurred due to lower than expected tax collections. This means that Puerto Rico will not be able to reduce its $70 billion debt load, but that in fact it will increase. The governor has said that it's in a "death spiral."

Many officials were surprised that Puerto Rico was able to make most of the bond payments that were due on January 4, but it did that by delaying over $100 million in tax refunds and not paying government suppliers. Puerto Rico faces a $923 million negative cash balance in June just as the commonwealth and its agencies must pay $2 billion in principal and interest July 1. The cash crunch is so bad that Puerto Rico's prison system is no longer paying the vendor that supplies food for inmates, and some special education instructors have stopped getting paid.

According to Puerto Rican Secretary of State Victor Suar the welfare of the citizens of Puerto Rico is at risk, because the government cannot deliver proper public services:

"The failure of the government to make timely payments for the delivery and provision of essential government services is putting at risk the health, welfare and safety of the people of Puerto Rico. ...

Continuation of these measures is neither sustainable nor in the interest of any stakeholder, as they will only deepen the financial gaps that the commonwealth and its creditors will need to resolve."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has promised some action on Puerto Rico by the end of March. Still, many Republican members of Congress and some creditor groups have been leaning on Puerto Rico do more to pay its loans without restructuring its debt. They say the island should further cut government spending, tighten its administrative processes and look into privatizing government property before asking creditors to take a hit. Latin One and Bloomberg and Washington Post and Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Jan-16 World View -- Germany's Angela Merkel under pressure to restrict migrants thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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19-Jan-16 World View -- Tajikistan's bitter split with Iran tempts it to side with Saudi Arabia

Split triggered by Iran's invitation to an alleged anti-Tajik terrorist

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Tajikistan splits with Iran over invitation to alleged terrorist


Iran's Supreme Leader meets with alleged anti-Tajik terrorist Muhiddin Kabiri in Tehran on January 4
Iran's Supreme Leader meets with alleged anti-Tajik terrorist Muhiddin Kabiri in Tehran on January 4

Tajikistan has reason to have good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Tajik people are of the same ethnic Persian descent as the people of Iran, and the Tajik language is a dialect of Persian. On the other hand, Tajikistan's people are mostly Sunni Muslims, unlike the Shia Muslims of Iran, but like the Sunni Muslims of Saudi Arabia.

Tajikistan and Iran have had close relations for many years. Iran needs Tajikistan as a gateway for trade into Central Asia, and Iran has invested millions of dollars in commercial and infrastructure projects in Tajikistan.

However, things went awry in December, when Iran infuriated Tajikistan's president Emomali Rahmon by inviting Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the Tajikistan's opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), to attend an "Islamic Unity" conference, held in Tehran on December 27-29, 2015.

Tajikistan went through a generational crisis civil war from 1992-97. The IRPT played an important part in the civil war, which left tens of thousands dead and more than 1 million people displaced. There was a peace agreement in 1997, but it left many divisions unresolved. According to one estimate, Tajikistan's government effectively controls only 30% of the country.

Whatever was left of the peace agreement began to unravel in April of last year, when Gen. Gulmurod Khalimov, the head of Tajikistan's national Special Assignment Police Unit defected to the the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). In May of last year, a YouTube video of Khalimov appeared, in which he threatened:

"Listen, you dogs, the president and ministers. If only you knew how many boys, our brothers are here, waiting and yearning to return to reestablish Sharia [Islamic] law [in Tajikistan]. ... We are coming to you, God willing, we are coming to you with slaughter .... Listen, you American pigs, I’ve been to America three times, and I saw how you train fighters to kill Muslims. God willing, I will come with this weapon to your cities, your homes, and we will kill you."

According to a report by the Crisis Group, this spectacular defection by Khalimov shows the growing appear of violent radical Islam, and that the president Rahmon may no longer know who can be trusted in his own government. According to the report:

"Since the civil war’s end, Rahmon has tried to marginalize and eliminate opponents, a tendency now gaining momentum. In turn, his government’s draconian responses to what in the society is not firmly under its control, such as dissent and Islam, are creating a backlash."

According to the Norway-based human rights organization Forum 18 Rahmon is reacting to the threat from ISIS by cracking down on all expressions of religion, including:

"[A] ban on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission; severe limitations on the numbers of mosques permitted and activities allowed inside those mosques; the banning of Central Asia's only legal religious-based political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), and the arrest of its senior party figures as prisoners of conscience; forcing imams in state-controlled mosques to preach state-dictated sermons; forcible closure of all madrasahs (Islamic religious schools); a ban on all public exercise of freedom of religion or belief, apart from funerals, by people under the age of 18; and state censorship of and bans on some religious literature and websites."

A law was also approved banning children under 18 from attending Friday prayers.

Rahmon is following a generational pattern that we've seen repeated in one country after another in the years following the end of a generational crisis civil war between two ethnic or religious groups within the country. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe from the Shona tribe conducted a massive genocide of his political enemies from the Ndebele tribe. In Syria, Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad began in 2011 committing war crimes and genocide against peacefully protesting Sunnis. In Burundi and Sri Lanka, the leaders are just beginning on a similar path. ( "14-Jan-16 World View -- Report: Sri Lankan government repeatedly torturing and raping Tamils")

It's thought that this harsh crackdown might be counterproductive, in that it will encourage Islamist radicals. EurasiaNet and The Diplomat and Crisis Group and Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Forum 18

Tajikistan considers turning from Iran to Saudi Arabia

In 2015, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) was declared illegal, and its leader Muhiddin Kabiri was declared a terrorist by the government. And so, Iran's invitation to Kabiri to attend the December "Islamic Unity" conference in Tehran. On December 29, Kabiri even met with Iran's Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Some Tajik officials blame Iran for instigating the destructive civil war that took place in Tajikistan in the 1990s. Now Tajikistan has accused Iran of inviting "the head of a terrorist party suspected of mounting an attempted overthrow of the government" to its conference. A Tajik official asked:

"How it is possible for the leader of a party that has repeatedly ordered violent acts and killings to speak about unity and Muslim brotherhood? Iran has always spoken of Tajikistan as a brotherly nation with a shared faith and culture. How it is then possible to welcome a terrorist?"

Another official called Kabiri a "traitor," and accused Iran of "openly [supporting] the enemies of the Tajik nation." These claims by Tajikistan have been discredited internationally, including by the United States.

However, these claims are driven by the same kinds of emotions and desire for revenge that we've described in the leadership of Zimbabwe, Syria, Burundi and Sri Lanka.

Tajikistan's president Emomali Rahmon paid a visit on January 2-4 to Saudi Arabia. The trip was undoubtedly planned months before the disputes with Iran began, but with both the Saudis and Tajiks in disputes with Iran, events gave the visit a symbolic meaning.

The meeting was presumably about combatting ISIS, and the possibility of Tajikistan joining the Saudi-led 34-member Anti-Terrorist Coalition, which would effectively align Tajikistan with the Saudis in the growing tension with Iran. The Tajiks have apparently chosen not to join the coalition, partially because Tajikistan has close relations with Russia, and Russia opposes the Saudi coalition.

In fact, Tajikistan is depending on Russian troops to protect its long border with Afghanistan from Islamist terror infiltrators. ( "29-Sep-15 World View -- Afghan Taliban capture of Kunduz has major repercussions for Central Asia"

Tajikistan's economy is desperately on the ropes. In the past, Iran has invested more in Tajikistan than Saudi Arabia has. Now, the Saudis are suggesting that they'll invest more. But the Saudi economy is in difficulty because of the collapse of oil prices, while Iran is at its peak in regional influence because of the nuclear accord and because it's receiving billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

For those reasons, most observers believe that, despite the bitterly vitriolic dispute between the two countries, Tajikistan will decide to "follow the money," and choose Iran over Saudi Arabia. Jamestown and EurasiaNet and RFE/RL and EurasiaNet (30-Dec-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Jan-16 World View -- Tajikistan's bitter split with Iran tempts it to side with Saudi Arabia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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18-Jan-16 World View -- Pakistan tries to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran

Reader questions about Mideast country alignments

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan tries to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran


Saudi's defense minister visited Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif, but failed to get his support versus Iran. (AA)
Saudi's defense minister visited Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif, but failed to get his support versus Iran. (AA)

Following Saturday's announcement that sanctions against Iran are being lifted, tensions are continuing to increase between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Tensions turned to hostility earlier this month when Saudi Arabia executed 47 alleged terrorists -- 46 Sunnis and one Shia, Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, infuriating Iran and Shias because it implied that Shia terrorism is equivalent to Sunni terrorism. Iranian mobs firebombed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and attacked the consulate in Meshaad. This led to the severance of multiple diplomatic and commercial ties between Iran and several Saudi allies.

With sanctions lifted, Iran is now expected to flood the already flooded markets with additional oil. With the price of oil now well below $30 per barrel, Iran and Saudi Arabia are accusing each other of trying to damage the oil-producing nations.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif will visit Saudi Arabia on Monday and Iran on Tuesday on a "peace mission" to "normalize" strained relations between the two countries.

According to a Pakistani officials:

"Pakistan is deeply concerned at the recent escalation of tensions between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. ... The purpose of the visit is to mediate and to end the standoff between the two countries."

Pakistan is a mostly Sunni Muslim country with very close ties to Saudi Arabia, including mutual promises of military support when needed. Pakistan is also thought to have promised the Saudis to provide them with nuclear technology to match Iran's nuclear technology.

This would seem to mean that Pakistan's one-sided alliance makes them an unlikely mediator. However, Pakistan can point to the fact that it's refused to provide military support to the Saudis in their proxy war with Iran in Yemen. Pakistan has diplomatically supported the Saudis in that war, but when called upon by the Saudis to provide troops, they refused, angering the Saudis.

Saudi Arabia's defense minister visited Nawaz Sharif last week, with the objective of getting Pakistan's support in the conflict with Iran, but he failed to do so. A Pakistani official said:

"Our policy is clear. We will stay neutral in the heightening tension between the two Muslim states.

Although we condemn Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia, including its reaction to Sheikh [Nimr Baqir] al-Nimr's execution, still we will not be part of any military offensive against any country in the region."

From the point of Generational Dynamics, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever to "normalize relations" or "end the standoff" between the two countries. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Pakistan Today and AFP and Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

Reader questions about Mideast country alignments

Two days ago, we wrote about the trending Mideast alignments, with "the two main world powers, America and Russia, tilting towards the Shiite bloc of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah versus the Saudi-led lineup of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan," which is the alignment that Generational Dynamics has been predicting for years. I suggested that any analyst, politician, army general, or college professor whose job depends on knowing what's going on in the world would do well to study generational theory.

Readers have asked several questions:

Question: You've said that Generational Dynamics has been predicting for years that Iran would become an ally of the United States. Now that it's happening, it appears to be Obama's doing. Would there have been a nuclear deal if Mitt Romney had been elected president in 2012?

Iran's rapprochement with the West is not coming from Obama, but from the Iranian people themselves. In the article "9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement", I included in some excerpts from articles in the early 2000s that I had saved in my archive. The articles described large pro-Western protests by college students who had grown up after the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution. The news stories described how Iran's security forces used violence to crush the protests.

Today, the college students in that generation are now 30-40 years old, and have moved into positions of power. As they've grown up, they did not change their minds and adopt the harsh hardline views of the old geezers who survived the 1979 revolution. Instead, they're tired of being told what to do by the revolution survivors, and they want to rejoin the modern world. Those are the ones that are bringing about Iran's rapprochement with the West.

Every day that goes by, more and more of the revolution survivors die off, and more and more of those college students replace them in positions of power.

So if Romney were president, the same kind of thing would have happened, though of course with a different scenario. For example, it might have been a kind of "President Richard Nixon goes to China" thing, where the news reports at the time in the early 1970s said that only a Republican could have gone to China because Americans would have protested too much if a Democrat had tried it. Well, in this case it's Obama who "went to Iran," and there have been a lot of protests, but if Romney were president, he too would not have missed the opportunity for rapprochement with Iran, just as Nixon didn't with China.

Question: What about Europe? Will all the European countries align with the U.S.?

The European Union is facing two major existential crises. One is the financial crisis, which has raged for years, especially in Greece, but is currently in remission. The other is the flood of migrants and refugees coming from Asia, the Mideast and northern Africa, numbering in the millions. This is ongoing, and will almost certain surge again when the weather improves in the Spring.

These two crises have exposed fault lines in Europe, even to the point where border controls are being reimposed. But no fault lines have so far risen to so high a level that war is threatened.

If we look at history, there's been a great deal of animosity between England and France, with many examples since 1066. But Britain and France were allies against Germany in World War II.

Another issue is the role of Turkey and Russia in Europe. In WW I, Turkey was allied with Germany while Russia was allied with France. Today, the hostility between Turkey and Russia is palpable, and they'll certainly be fighting each other, as they have many times the in past centuries.

So does that mean that Germany and France will follow Turkey and Russia, and be at war with each other? It doesn't seem plausible today, but stranger things have happened.

This question could be answered in greater detail with resources beyond what are available to me. This would involve, for example, research to determine changes in attitudes of the people of each European country, on a month to month basis, to see how they're trending, and how people are responding to various events.

Question: How does Generational Dynamics interpret the rising tide of anti-immigration parties springing up in Europe? It seems that the people are starting to resist, just like here.

I've written about this subject before -- the general rise of nationalism and xenophobia around the world in this generational Crisis era. The survivors of World War II saw that much of what happened had its roots in the same kind of nationalism and xenophobia, and decided that it must never happen again. The whole "European project" that led to the formation of the European Union was exactly for that purpose. But it didn't work, because now the same nationalism and xenophobia are growing again anyway. The recent reported incidents of alleged sexual assaults by Muslim migrants are particularly explosive, and may motivate further violence.

In yesterday's story about the Taiwan election, I included news about a 16 year old girl was forced to apologize for waving a Taiwanese flag. The forced apology infuriated the Taiwanese people, and appears to have influenced the election in favor of Taiwanese independence. This is an example of how an incident can incite a mob to vote a certain way.

During a generational Crisis era, once the scene has been set with two ethnic or religious groups becoming increasingly belligerent towards each other, and start blaming each other for the world's problems, any sort of crisis could mobilize mobs of people to violence. We've seen intermittent examples of this in countries like Egypt and Burma, as well a several countries in the Mideast. Throughout history, major wars often began with exactly these kinds of increasing mob violence.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Jan-16 World View -- Pakistan tries to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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17-Jan-16 World View -- Taiwan's pro-independence party wins historic presidential election

Pop star's Taiwan flag incident illustrates how tense relations are

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taiwan's pro-independence party wins historic presidential election


Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's new president (Reuters)
Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's new president (Reuters)

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen won an overwhelming victory in elections on Saturday. Although the DPP has won elections before, previous victories have never been as large and decisive as this one.

The last time the DPP was in power, relations with mainland China were extremely tumultuous. In 2005, China passed an "Anti-Secession Law" that stated that China will take military action in response to anything that even hints at independence:

"Article 8: In the event that the "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful re-unification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Passage of this law in China in 2005 provoked massive riots and and anti-China demonstrations in Taiwan.

For the last few years, Taiwan has been governed by the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) party, which favors the "one China" principle and unification with mainland China, and which has fully supported all of China's claims in the South China Sea.

The KMT and DPP parties represent major generational differences. Originally, the KMT members were refugees from China's civil war (1934-49), Mao's Communist Revolution. Today, the civil war survivors have almost all died off, but the members of the KMT party are typically from older generations, children of survivors. The DPP came to power after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing was viewed in horror by college students in Taiwan, who decided that they didn't want to be any part of China.

So now that the DPP is back in power, Taiwan-China relations are sure to become extremely rocky again.

In her victory speech on Saturday, Tsai said the following:

"The results today tell me the people want to see a government that is willing to listen to the people, that is more transparent and accountable and a government that is more capable of leading us past our current challenges and taking care of those in need."

This seems like the kind of innocuous thing that any politician would say, but in the phrase "is willing to listen to the people" is a huge red flag for the Communist government in Beijing, which sees listening to the people to be a major evil, whether in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong, or in Taiwan.

It's a particular problem in Taiwan because, as the years go by, "the people" are becoming increasingly in favor of independence. When people are asked whether they consider themselves to be "Chinese or Taiwanese," the KMT members mostly say "Chinese." But the younger generations that form the DPP, and who are extremely distant in time from the days of Mao's revolution, are much more willing to call themselves "Taiwanese."

When the DPP were last in power, the pro-independence line was aggressively pursued. But Tsai has promised a more balanced approach, by maintaining the "status quo." Indeed, 70% of Taiwan's population support the status quo, according to a poll.

The "status quo" means that Taiwan rules itself without official independence, and will no intention of becoming part of China. China has indicated that this will be OK for the time being, but not forever.

China had once hoped that improving commercial ties and relations would make the Taiwanese people want to be part of China peacefully. This is exactly what China tried with the outgoing KMT government, but it's obviously failed. How long China will keep trying before striking militarily remains to be seen. Focus Taiwan and BBC (14-Mar-2005) and CS Monitor and BBC

Pop star's Taiwan flag incident illustrates how tense relations are


Chou Tzu-yu, 16, in publicity photo (L) and apologizing on Friday (R)
Chou Tzu-yu, 16, in publicity photo (L) and apologizing on Friday (R)

Sixteen-year-old Taiwanese pop singer Chou Tzu-yu is part of the Korean pop (K-pop) band Twice. In a November broadcast, she held up a Taiwan flag. The incident might never have surface, except that another singer Huang An, who is Taiwanese but who has lived in China for many years. Huang apparently is on a crusade to "out" any Taiwanese performer who favors independence from China.

Once Chou was "outed," retribution was swift. Chou's endorsement deal with China's Huawei Technologies Co. was canceled, and Chou had to cancel all appearances in China to allow for a period of "reflection."

On Friday, the evening before Saturday's election, a YouTube video appeared with a 90 second apology from Chou Tzu-yu. Reading from a prepared text with her voice shaking, she said:

"There is only one China... I have always felt proud of being a Chinese.

As a Chinese person my improper words and behavior during my activities abroad hurt my company and the feelings of netizens across the strait. ...

I have decided to stop my activities in China for now to seriously reflect on myself."

When the apology appeared, Huang An, who has outed Chou, gloated:

"We have won back a good child who identifies with the motherland. It is yet another major achievement in the people of the motherland's fight against Taiwan independence."

Almost without exception, commentators in Taiwan believe that she Chou was forced by her management company to make the apology. The video instantly went viral, and infuriated Taiwanese people. It's believed that the video increased turnout in Saturday's election, and is part of the reason for DDP's overwhelming victory.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) issued a statement on Saturday:

"It is absolutely fair and justified for a Taiwanese person to hold a national flag to show his or her love for the country, and we support such a patriotic act."

Focus Taiwan and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Jan-16 World View -- Taiwan's pro-independence party wins historic presidential election thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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16-Jan-16 World View -- Mideast trends: Sunni-Shia countries align along predicted lines

Saudi Arabia faces increased social unrest with sudden austerity budget

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mideast trends: Sunni-Shia countries align along predicted lines


Saudi Arabia's Khurais oilfield (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's Khurais oilfield (Reuters)

I want to extract one paragraph from the analyst report on Saudi Arabia quoted at the end of this article:

"As the Shiite-Sunni contest builds up, Riyadh [Saudi Arabia] sees the two main world powers, America and Russia, tilting towards the Shiite bloc of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah versus the Saudi-led lineup of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan."

This is exactly the alignment that I've been predicting for years, based on Generational Dynamics analyses, long before it seemed possible. As I've described dozens of times, in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the "allies" will be the United States, India, Russia and Iran, while the "axis" will be China, Pakistan, and the Sunni Muslim countries. Quite honestly, I'm as astonished as anyone is when the generational theory analysis and predictions turn out to be true time after time after time.

I'm going to take this fortuitous opportunity to give some advice to all the people who have expressed contempt and scorn every time I've made one of these predictions, though they themselves couldn't predict their way out of a paper bag.

If you're an analyst, politician, army general, or college professor whose job depends on knowing what's going on in the world, you would do much better if you took the time to learn generational theory. Generational theory was first developed in the 1980s-90s by William Straus and Neil Howe, who showed how it applied to Britain and America since the 1400s. Generational Dynamics extends their work to include all nations at all times in history, and it provides a forecasting methodology that has been almost 100% successful, as proven by hundreds of predictions in thousands of articles since 2003.

The theory behind the Generational Dynamics forecasting methodology combines historical analysis with MIT's System Dynamics applied to generational flows, the most significant and important application of MIT's systems analysis found to this day. The theory also incorporates Chaos Theory (to determine what can and cannot be predicted), Mathematical Logic (to derive results from abstract models of the world), Macroeconomics, Technological Forecasting and Sociological Analysis.

If you or someone on your staff wants to master generational theory and Generational Dynamics forecasting, the material is all on the Generational Dynamics web site, and is freely available to anyone. You can start with the 2010 paper: Generational Dynamics Forecasting Methodology (PDF). If you don't take advantage of it, then your competitor might do so first.

Saudi Arabia faces increased social unrest with sudden austerity budget

With the price of oil now falling significantly below $30 per barrel, and analysts expecting further plunges, the government of Saudi Arabia is facing existential threats from several directions.

The most obvious threat is the loss of something like 75% of its income from oil exports. This has forced the Saudi government to adopt an "austerity budget" in 2016, cutting back massively on social spending such as free health care, or subsidized gasoline, electricity and other utilities.

Saudi Arabia is deep into a generational Crisis era, with its last generational crisis war having been the Ibn Saud family's victory over the Wahhabi Salafists that climaxed in 1925. The outcome of that war was an uneasy peace between the two groups that allowed the Saud family to govern but the Salafists to maintain much of the social control in the country, including education and the "religion police." It's rare for a country to go more than 60 or 70 years without a new generational crisis war, and indeed as I wrote in September ( "12-Sep-15 World View -- Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque, site of huge construction accident, has links to 9/11"), things really came to a head in 1979 with a major terrorist attack by a Salafist group on the Grand Mosque, shaking the Saudi government to its core. That attack lit the fuse that led to the creation of 9/11 and al-Qaeda and, more recently, the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The 1979 attack might have been the first step towards a new crisis war, but the Saudi government has been able to hold off the Salafists since 1979 by using their vast oil wealth for immense social spending to prevent social unrest. But now, with the new "austerity budget," the Salafist groups are threatening the government.

When the Saudis executed 47 "terrorists" earlier this month, the government talked about protecting its security. As one pro-government cleric tweeted, the executions were "a message to the world and to criminals that there will be no snuffing out of our principles and no complacency in our security."

However, one of the 47 was a Shia cleric Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, and his execution inflamed Iran, as well as Shias in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Pakistan. After Iranians firebombed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the two countries severed diplomatic relations. ( "4-Jan-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran as violent Shia protests spread around region") So the Saudi government is facing social unrest from both Sunni Salafists and Shias.

Saudi Arabia's new King, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, rose to power in January 2015, almost exactly a year ago, after the death of King Abdullah, and there are concerns about a power struggle and possible coup.

Debka's subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber) says there is a risk of a coup because of strong opposition to some of Salman's policies:

  1. The Yemen civil war initiated by the defense minister has reached a stalemate despite Saudi military intervention. The failure to break through to victory has seriously weakened his position and that of his father, King Salman.
  2. The Yemen war is costing the Saudi exchequer an astronomical $1 billion per month, equal to a whole year's outlay for the Russian intervention in Syria. With oil prices plummeting to below $30 dollars per barrel, Riyadh has had to dip deep into its reserves. In 2015, the Saudis drew some $90-98 billion out, $600 billion total. The oil kingdom, with little experience of having to count pennies, is aghast at its new situation.
  3. The king's son is drafting a crisis plan for the sale of some 5 percent of Saudi stock in Aramco, the state-owned company that is the world's largest oil producer and one of the most valuable in the world. The royal family has yet to decide whether the shares will be sold exclusively to Saudis or to foreign investors as well. The possible sale of some of royal-owned lands is also under consideration. ...
  4. ISIS is a growing menace to the kingdom's security - internally from disaffected young Saudi men and externally from Iraq and Yemen.
  5. As the Shiite-Sunni contest builds up, Riyadh sees the two main world powers, America and Russia, tilting towards the Shiite bloc of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizballah versus the Saudi-led lineup of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan.

With regard to the last item, which I also quoted at the beginning of this article, there is of course a third major world power, and that's China, and Generational Dynamics predicts that China will be very much on the side of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the months and years to come. Reuters (3-Jan) and Washington Post (4-Jan) and Energy Fuse and CNBC and Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Jan-16 World View -- Mideast trends: Sunni-Shia countries align along predicted lines thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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15-Jan-16 World View -- UN's Ban Ki-moon calls Syria's Bashar al-Assad a war criminal

Second aid convoy arrives in the starving Syrian city of Mayada

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

UN's Ban Ki-moon calls Syria's Bashar al-Assad a war criminal


Starving boy found by aid workers in Madaya, Syria
Starving boy found by aid workers in Madaya, Syria

Aid workers reaching the town of Madaya, an hour from Damascus in Syria, found an almost unbelievable horror as thousands of people were close to starvation. The regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, with the support of Iran's puppet terror organization Hezbollah, has been blockading Madaya for 200 days, preventing food or medicines from reaching the town.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday accused the Syrian government of committing war crimes by using starvation as a weapon. He accused the Bashar al-Assad regime of committing "atrocious acts" and "unconscionable abuses" against civilians. According to Ban:

"Let me be clear: the use of starvation as a weapon of war is a war crime. All sides, including the Syrian government which has the primary responsibility to protect Syrians, are committing this and other atrocious acts prohibited under international humanitarian law.

UN teams have witnessed scenes that haunt the soul. The elderly and children, men and women, who were little more than skin and bones: gaunt, severely malnourished, so weak they could barely walk, and utterly desperate for the slightest morsel."

The town of Madaya is not unique. According to Ban, there are 180,000 people similarly besieged in areas controlled by the Bashar al-Assad regime. There are also about 200,000 people besieged by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), and 12,000 in areas controlled by opposition groups.

As I've been reporting for years, Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity continuously. In 2011, he began a campaign to exterminate innocent Sunni protesters. He's killed children by sending missiles into exam rooms and bedrooms. He's used Sarin gas against his own people, and he's killed countless more with barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas. In addition, he's used electrocution, eye-gouging, strangulation, starvation, and beating on tens of thousands of prisoners on a massive "industrial strength" scale, and does so with complete impunity, and has been doing so for many years.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin and Iran's Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei are also war criminals for supporting Bashar al-Assad's war crimes.

Russia's state media reported Ban Ki-moon's accusations of war crimes, without displaying any irony over Russia's complicity in the war crimes. Iran's state media quoted Syria's ambassador as saying that "media reports of starving civilians in the southwestern town of Madaya have been fabricated in an attempt to defame the government of President Bashar al-Assad." Reuters and Russia Today and Press TV (Tehran) and Anadolu Agency (Turkey)

Second aid convoy arrives in the starving Syrian city of Mayada

A second wave of aid convoys entered Madaya on Thursday evening, delivering food and humanitarian supplies to the population of 40,000. An earlier convoy of aid arrived Monday, bringing many starving residents to tears, as Madaya had received no foreign aid since October.

For months, the Bashar al-Assad had refused to allow food or humanitarian aid to reach the town, but was finally forced to relent under enormous international pressure. The aid is being delievered as part of a U.N.-brokered deal, according to which aid must also be delivered simultaneously to regions of al-Assad supporters being beseiged by anti-Assad rebels. CNN and Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Jan-16 World View -- UN's Ban Ki-moon calls Syria's Bashar al-Assad a war criminal thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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14-Jan-16 World View -- Report: Sri Lankan government repeatedly torturing and raping Tamils

Iran releases American sailors as end of sanctions approaches

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran releases American sailors as end of sanctions approaches


Screen grab from Iranian video showing capture of American soldiers
Screen grab from Iranian video showing capture of American soldiers

If things go as planned, Iran will have access to $100 billion in frozen bank accounts, starting next week when American sanctions are lifted.

It's thought that this is the reason the Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) so quickly released the ten American sailors captured a day earlier, allegedly for violating Iran's territorial waters. It's believed very unlikely that the sanctions would be lifted if Iran were holding ten American sailors for no reason.

According to some reports, there were widespread Iranian social media postings pressuring the government to release the sailors, so that Iran could collect the money from the raised sanctions.

Iran released a video showing the American soldiers on their knees at gunpoint, and an American sailor apologizing and saying:

"It was a mistake that was our fault and we apologize for our mistake. It was a misunderstanding. We did not mean to go into Iranian territorial water. The Iranian behavior was fantastic while we were here. We thank you very much for your hospitality and your assistance."

When British sailors allegedly entered Iranian waters in 2007, they were accused of being spies, paraded on television in a big Iranian song and dance, and only released two weeks later after forced confessions. CNN and NBC News

Report: Sri Lankan government repeatedly torturing and raping Tamils

Evidence is mounting that Sri Lankan government security forces are continuing high levels of torture and sexual violence on Tamils, as revenge attacks since the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009.

The Sri Lanka civil war was fought between two ancient races: The Sinhalese (Buddhist) and the Tamils (Hindu). WW II was a generational crisis war for India and for Ceylon, the former name of Sri Lanka. There was relative peace on the island until 1976, when the Tamils began demanding a separate Tamil state, and formed a separatist group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or just "Tamil Tigers."

In January 2008, the low-level violence turned into a full scale generational crisis war, as we reported at the time. (From 2008: "Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels")

Under United Nations and intense international pressure, the Sinhalese-led Sri Lankan government has repeatedly promised to pursue reconciliation with the Tamils. But a new report by the "International Truth & Justice Project Sri Lanka" (ITJPSL), based on interviews with victims, indicates that Tamils are being targeted for torture and rape.

According to the report, the abductions and torture were pre-planned in each case, after collecting information about the victims' political activities, perpetrated by senior officers in the police and military intelligence. Torture included being hung upside-down and beaten, being branded with metal rods, and asphyxiated using a plastic bag soaked with petrol or chili. Both male and female victims were raped repeatedly. IRIN (United Nations) and International Truth & Justice Project Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka joining the torture club, with Syria, Burundi, Zimbabwe

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Sri Lanka is beginning down the same path that we've been seeing in Burundi, Syria and Zimbabwe, following a generational crisis war that's also a civil war.

These examples, particularly the Syrian war, have led us to add to the generational theory related to the outcome following a generational crisis war, as we've been describing for several months.

Among generational crisis wars, an external war is fundamentally different than an internal civil war between two ethnic groups. If two ethnic groups have lived together in peace for decades, have intermarried and worked together, and if then there's a civil war where one of these ethnic groups tortures, massacres and slaughters their next-door neighbors in the other ethnic group, then the outcome will be fundamentally different than if the same torture and slaughter had been rendered by an external group. In either case, the country will spend the Recovery Era setting up rules and institutions designed to prevent any such war from occurring again. But in one case, the country will enter the Awakening era unified, except for generational political differences, and in the other case, the country will be increasingly torn along the same ethnic fault line.

In some cases, where the government during the Recovery Era is controlled by the winning ethnic group, the government uses "preventing another civil war" as an excuse to target the losing ethnic group, whether by economic discrimination, torture, revenge murder, or mass slaughter.

So now it's beginning to appear that Sri Lanka is joining the same torture club as these other three countries. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, these are not four unique situations, but rather four countries following exactly the same pattern. As generational theory develops in this area, it will be possible to make a broad range of predictions about the futures of many countries. There really is nothing new under the sun.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Jan-16 World View -- Report: Sri Lankan government repeatedly torturing and raping Tamils thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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13-Jan-16 World View -- Royal Bank of Scotland predicts sharp 2016 recession, says 'Sell everything!'

Suicide bombing in Istanbul Turkey kills 10 tourists

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran captures ten American sailors in Persian Gulf hours before Obama speech


Two US Navy boats with 10 American sailors held by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. (PressTv - Iran)
Two US Navy boats with 10 American sailors held by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. (PressTv - Iran)

According to Sepah News, the official site of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC):

"The army detained two US military ships in the Persian Gulf which were in violation of Iranian territorial waters. ...

At 16:30 Tuesday armed gunmen being carried by two US military vessels that entered the territorial waters of the Islamic Republic of Iran near Farsi Island were seized and transferred to the island. ... Those on board the American vessels included 9 men and a woman."

US Defense Department officials say that the Iranian's have informed them "of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey."

As we wrote in "9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement", there are many opponents to the nuclear deal in Iran's government, including many who would like to sabotage it. It's thought that Tuesday's incident was timed to embarrass President Obama just before his State of the Union speech.

This was just the latest of a series of hostile incidents. Two weeks ago, Iran launched rockets that landed within 1,500 yards of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. Iran is also holding a Washington post reporter in jail. Sepah News (Iran - Trans) and Military.com

Royal Bank of Scotland predicts sharp 2016 recession, says 'Sell everything!'

Economists at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) are predicting a sharp 2016 global recession and deflation, with stock market prices falling 10-20% by the end of the year.

The RBS report repeatedly says that this is about "return of capital, not return on capital," which means that the analysis is not about earning 3%, 4% or 5% on your investments, but is about not losing 10-20% or more on your investments. Forecasting a "cataclysmic year" and a global deflationary crisis, the report concludes:

"Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small."

The last sentence means that when stocks start falling, everyone will try to sell, but only a few will succeed in doing so without losing a lot of money.

RBS has repeatedly warned that global finance "looks similar to 2008," when the last major financial crisis occur, but now the outlook has become significantly more ominous in the last six weeks.

The author of the report says that global debt ratios have reached record highs and are particularly ominous, and "China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the 'Goldilocks love-in' of the last two years."

Another ominous trend is the plunge in crude oil - down 19% so far in this year (2016) alone, and an incredible 72% plunge from crude oil's June 2014 peak of almost $108. On Tuesday, oil prices fell below $30 per barrel for the first time since December 2013. RBS, Morgan Stanley, Standard Charter and Barclays have all recently predicted that oil will fall below $20 per barrel, perhaps below $10 per barrel.

Commodities in general have been plummeting, a sign of weakening global economies, especially in China and emerging markets. The RBS points out that in the last six weeks alone, copper has fallen 1.5%, coal down 6.2%, wheat down 3.5%, corn down 4.1%, soybeans up 0.3%. The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of international commodities shipments, has fallen 16%.

One more forecast mentioned in the RBS report: "Automation on its way to destroy 30-50% of all jobs in developed world." That indicates something much worse than a 10-20% recession.


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 21.03 on January 8, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 21.03 on January 8, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (January 8) was at an astronomically high 21.08. This is a bit smaller than it's been in a while, but still far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower. Royal Bank of Scotland (PDF) and Guardian (London) and Telegraph (London) and CNN

Suicide bombing in Istanbul Turkey kills 10 tourists

A suicide bombing killed at least 10 foreign nationals, most of them Germans, and wounded 15 others, blowing himself up at a major tourist spot in Istanbul on Tuesday. The explosion occurred near Hagia Sophia, which was originally a Greek Orthodox cathedral, the largest cathedral in the world, until the fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453. After that it was converted to a mosque, and later to a museum, and is now Istanbul's biggest tourist attraction.

The perpetrator was 28 year old Nabil Fadli, of Syrian origin, born in Saudi Arabia in 1988. He has been identified as a member of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

There have been three major ISIS terrorist acts in the last seven months. ISIS was blamed for a bomb that killed four people at a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) rally in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir on June 5, 2015. An ISIS militant also killed 33 socialist activists on July 20, 2015, at the Amara Cultural Center in the southeastern district of Suruç. Two ISIS militants then killed at least 100 people attending a peace rally in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015, in the deadliest attack in the country’s history. Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Jan-16 World View -- Royal Bank of Scotland predicts sharp 2016 recession, says 'Sell everything!' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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12-Jan-16 World View -- India threatens retaliation on Pakistan terrorists for air base attack

Pathankot air base incident revives memories of the '26/11' Mumbai attack in 2008

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Terror attack on India's Pathankot air base exposes weak defenses


Aftermath of terror attack on Pathankot air base (AP)
Aftermath of terror attack on Pathankot air base (AP)

Indians are in shock at how easily a terror group was able to infiltrate an Indian Air Force Base at Pathankot, in Punjab province near the border with Pakistan, for a devastating terror attack on January 2-3.

In retrospect, it seems like a comedy of errors.

India's Border Security Force (BSF), which guards the international border between Punjab and Pakistan, at first had no clue that heavily armed terrorists had infiltrated the base from Pakistan. The terrorists evaded the BSF when they were discovered, but the BSF didn't raise the alarm, thinking they were merely robbers.

Late on December 31, the terrorists grabbed Pathankot’s Superintendent of Police (SP), Salwinder Singh, blindfolded him and threw him out of his car, in which they fled. When Singh reported the incident, his seniors didn't take him seriously, thinking that he had gotten drunk at a New Year's Eve party. When they finally took him seriously, they had no idea where the terrorists had gone. The base has a sprawling perimeter with a circumference of 25km, and has nearly 10,000 families living there.

India's National Security Guard (NSG) was activated, and gunfights between the terrorists began on January 1, and continued through the night into January 2. Three terrorists were killed, and the NSG thought the fight was over, but gunfights with the remaining terrorists began again later that day.

The terrorists had defeated every layer of protection that India had put in place to protect the Pathankot air base. The terrorists had managed to enter the air base undetected. They were already inside the base's reinforced gates well before the NSG commandos took position. The terrorists had managed to evade the Border Security Force (BSF), the Punjab Police and the Garud and Defense Service Corps.

The Pathankot incident is being viewed as an index of the extraordinary weakness in the protection of the country’s critical strategic assets. The air force base constitutes the frontline air defense for any confrontation with Pakistan, and yet the terrorists succeeded in penetrating into the campus and inflicting significant casualties. This was despite nearly 20 hours of clear warning, a definitive identification of the intended target, and a systemic response that had been initiated fairly early on January 1, 2016, after central intelligence agencies picked up conversations by the terrorists with their handlers and their families, and the Punjab Police received specific information about their movements and intention from the ‘abducted’ Superintendent of Police whose car was used by the terrorists. Hindustan Times and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India)

India threatens retaliation for the Pathankot attack

The perpetrators are believed to be the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, based on evidence collected by India, and passed on to Pakistani authorities.

India's prime minister Narendra Modi had visited Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the latter's ancestral home near Lahore on December 25. (Neither Hindus nor Muslims celebrate Christmas.) The meeting was described as "very warm," and held "amid immense goodwil in a very cordial atmosphere."

Their meeting was part of the hallucinatory "peace process" talks that have been off and on for years, through many changes of government, but never getting anywhere. It's thought that Jaish-e-Mohammed may have conducted the Pathankot attack in order to, once again, derail the "peace process."

There are certainly no "peace talks" planned now for any time soon. India's defense minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday warned that India will get revenge on the perpetrators of the attack.

"If someone is harming this country, then that particular individual or organization, I purposely used the words individual and organization, should also receive the pain of such activities. The time and place should be of our choosing.

Basic principle is that until we give them pain, whoever they may be, until then, such incidents will not reduce."

However, Parrikar did not respond to questions about whether that India is planning a retaliation attack on Jaish-e-Mohammed on Pakistani soil. New Delhi TV (25-Dec-2015) and Indian Express and India.com

Pathankot air base incident revives memories of the '26/11' Mumbai attack in 2008

The Pathankot incident is reviving bitter memories of the horrendous "26/11" terrorist attack on a number of hotels in Mumbai, India. The attacks began on November 26, 2008, and lasted three days, killing 166 people, and wounding hundreds more. ( "After Mumbai's '26/11' nightmare finally ends, India - Pakistan relations face crisis" from 2008)

The attack was blamed on Lashkar-e-Taibi (LeT), a Pakistani terrorist group that was formed in the 1990s by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to fight India in the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu. After the attack, India threatened to send its army to attack LeT on Pakistani soil, which might have led to a major war. This was prevented by hard intervention by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Pakistan promised to pursue and prosecute LeT in its own courts. However, the alleged leader of the Mumbai attack, Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, has never been seriously prosecuted, presumably for fear of implicating some Pakistani government officials. Lakhvi is out on bail, and is now leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is a front group for LeT.

The Pathankot attack revives the same issues, particularly after Manohar Parrikar's demands for retaliation, and the hinted possibility of Indian military action to pursue Jaish-e-Mohammed on Indian soil.

All the usual diplomatic moves are being played:

Pakistani authorities have carried out raids and arrested an unspecified number of people. The arrests led Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to order a joint investigation team of Intelligence Bureau(IB), Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Federal Investigation Agency and police to thoroughly probe the Pathankot attack links to Pakistan. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Daily Pakistan and Indian Express and Pakistan Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Jan-16 World View -- India threatens retaliation on Pakistan terrorists for air base attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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11-Jan-16 World View -- Britain debates leaving European Union amid National Health Service (NHS) crisis

Hungary's PM tells Cameron: 'Hungarians in UK aren’t parasites'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) existential crisis continues


David Cameron warned to take 'bold action' to save the National Health Service
David Cameron warned to take 'bold action' to save the National Health Service

As we wrote several months ago, Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is so deeply in debt that currently unacceptable levels of service are going to have to be cut even more deeply. Staffing will be reduced in hospitals and other providers, and waiting times will be extended from their 18 week time frame. The system is rapidly becoming insolvent.

The system is deeply corrupt, with doctors falsifying records, claiming for work that was never done, or putting in for bogus overtime. Dentistry services are so bad that people are buying "do-it-yourself (DIY) dentistry kits" to take care of their whole families, as was done centuries ago. ( "5-Aug-15 World View -- Britain's National Health Service (NHS) faces existential financial crisis")

Now 40 leading UK charities have written a letter to Britain's prime minister David Cameron telling to take "bold" action to save the NHS:

"We need to ensure we have an NHS and social care system that is fit for purpose otherwise it is the elderly, disabled people and their carers who will bear the brunt of inaction.

“Bold long term thinking is required about the size, shape and scope of services we want the NHS and social care to provide - and an honest debate about how much as a society we are prepared to pay for them."

In many areas, America's Obamacare system is modeled after the NHS, certainly in spirit if not always in detail, but Obamacare is also facing an existential crisis for financial reasons. As I documented in "Healthcare.gov -- The greatest software development disaster in history" after several months of research, Medicaid is a financial disaster, the Obamacare exchanges, co-ops and risk corridors are financial disasters, tens of millions of people are effectively uninsured because of astronomical deductibles, and tens of millions of people have been forced into part-time jobs by their employers to avoid Obamacare regulations.

In the same article, I listed some of the well-documented problems in the Veterans Administration (VA) health care system, including fraud, corruption, unbelievably poor services. The VA has something else in common with Obamacare -- anyone who complains or who reveals what's going on is the target of retribution and revenge by Obama administration officials.

In the case of Britain's National Health Service, the financial disaster is coming at the same time as many of Britain's other problems, especially the flood of migrants reaching Britain. However, although Syrian refugees are some of the problem, it's worth pointing out that many of the migrants come to the UK perfectly legally, because they're coming eastern European countries within the EU to take advantage of Britain's welfare and NHS benefits. Yorkshire Post (UK) and Daily Mirror (London)

David Cameron hopes to 'reform' the EU to avoid British exit (Brexit)

Britain's prime minister David Cameron says that he is very close to a deal with European Union leaders in Brussels to reform the EU, so that Britain will remain in the EU.

A couple of years ago, Cameron promised to hold a nationwide referendum in 2016 on whether the UK should exit from the EU ("Brexit") or stay in the EU, and to abide by the result. No date has yet been fixed for the referendum, but it's expected in the summer or fall.

The question has been very divisive in British politics, with leaders and ministers in both the Conservative and Labor parties on both sides of the issue. Cameron himself says he strongly favors remaining in a "reformed European Union." In the current negotiations, Cameron is demanding the following reforms, as listed by the BBC:

One senior Conservative party minister said that he and many others in the party would be voting to leave, and he called it "disgraceful" that Cameron isn't making contingency plans:

"It's a very complicated operation to carry out if it happens.

The sooner the prime minister produces his worthless deal the better - then we can move on to the genuine campaign and the British people can at last have their say and leave the outdated political circus that the EU has become."

Such statements by ministers in Cameron's own party are actually a help to Cameron in his negotiations with Brussels, since other EU leaders are desperate to avoid Brexit. He can say to the other European leaders, "If you don’t give me a deal that I can sell to my party – really meaningful concessions that the anti-EU camp can’t pick apart – then I’m going to lose this thing." BBC and Telegraph (London)

Hungary's PM tells Cameron: 'Hungarians in UK aren’t parasites'

The most controversial of David Cameron's "reforms" of the European Union is the proposal to restrict migrants from other EU countries coming to UK to have restricted access to certain welfare and NHS benefits for four years. One of the most vocal opponents is Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is simultaneously on both sides of the issue of migrants.

On the one hand, he's been among the most vocal opponents of Syrian refugees entering the EU, with his right-wing Fidesz party government having been conducting anti-migrant media campaigns against the migrants.

On the other hand, Orbán is a strong advocate of permitting migrants from Hungary to go to freely to Britain and collect benefits there. He said:

"We would like to make it very clear that we are not migrants into the United Kingdom.

We are citizens of a state that belongs to the European Union, who can take jobs anywhere, freely, within the European Union.

We do not want to go to the UK and take away something from them. We don't want to be parasites. We want to work there. And I see that Hungarians are working very well.

Those Hungarians that are working well and contributing to the UK economy, they should get respect and they should not suffer discrimination."

At a joint press conference with Cameron, Orbán said: "I am open to other solutions... and I am confident we can reach an agreement." BBC and Independent (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Jan-16 World View -- Britain debates leaving European Union amid National Health Service (NHS) crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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10-Jan-16 World View -- Arab countries deeply divided over Iran vs Saudi Arabia confrontation

Saudi Arabia and Iran accuse each other of terrorism

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia and Iran accuse each other of terrorism


Bahrain representative (L) and Saudi representative (R) at Saturday's GCC meeting (AFP)
Bahrain representative (L) and Saudi representative (R) at Saturday's GCC meeting (AFP)

A Saturday meeting of Arab states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to discuss the growing confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran ended in full support for the Saudi position, and any measure against Iran to halt Tehran’s “terrorist acts” and to ensure that it refrains from “meddling in the affairs of Arab nations.” However, no concrete action was taken or committed.

According to Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir:

"The Kingdom is looking at additional measures to be taken, if Iran continues with its belligerent policies. ...

We cannot deal with a country that attacks and burns embassies, whether those embassies are British or American, or for that matter Saudi.

If it is a nation state, it should act like a responsible state. If not, it will be further isolated.

The escalation is coming from Iran, not from Saudi Arabia or the GCC. We are evaluating Iran’s moves and taking steps to counter them … things will be clearer in the near future. ...

It is entirely in the hands of Iran, whether it wants to be a good neighbor or it prefers to remain in a hostile environment within the region."

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a letter to the United Nations, blamed Saudi Arabia specifically for numerous terrorist attacks, from 9/11/2001 to Paris to San Bernardino:

"Regrettably, immediately after the successful conclusion of the first interim nuclear agreement between Iran and E3/EU+3 in November 2013, Saudi Arabia focused all its resources to prevent or defeat a comprehensive deal, and preclude normalization in the region. Today, there are indications that some in Saudi Arabia are on a mission to drag the entire region to conflict, fearing that removal of the smokescreen of the manufactured Iranian nuclear threat would expose the real global threat posed by extremists and their sponsors.

It is an unfortunate reality that most extremist perpetrators of acts of terror from September 11, 2001 to the recent senseless terrorist shooting in San Bernardino and all other episodes of extremist carnage in between whether in Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul and Peshawar, or in Paris, London, Moscow, Madrid and Ottawa – and most members of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and Al-Nusra Front were either Saudi nationals, or those mis-educated in Saudi financed schools or otherwise brainwashed by petro-financed demagogues, who have promoted an anti-Islamic message of hatred, exclusion and sectarianism across the globe for decades."

Saudi Arabia has called an emergency meeting of all 22 countries in the Arab League, to meet in Cairo on Sunday (today). Arab News (Riyadh) and Tehran Times

Arab countries deeply divided over Iran vs Saudi Arabia confrontation

According to Fawaz Gerges, Mideast expert at the London School of Economics, interviewed on Al-Jazeera on Saturday, Saudi Arabia views Iran's penetration in the Arab world in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon to be an existential threat to Saudi Arabia, and so the Saudis have made a strategic decision for all-out confrontation with Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have severed diplomatic relations with Iran, Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors, the UAE downgraded its ties and Oman condemned the embassy attacks. The Saudis are pushing very hard for more mare Arab countries to cut diplomatic relations. The Saudis would like a united Arab position to counterbalance Iran.

However, the confrontation has deeply divided the Arab world, and split the countries into three blocs, according to Gerges:

Gerges points out that the Saudis believe that their "strategic partner," the United States, has let them down and sided with Iran against them, allowing Iran to gain the upper hand in the region. For that reason, the Saudis did not consult with the US before deciding to cut diplomatic relations with Iran.

Meanwhile, according to Gerges, the Obama administration is very unhappy with the current Saudi-Iran escalation, because it diverts attention from the US agenda: to focus confrontation on ISIS, to find a diplomatic solution in Syria, and a ceasefire in Yemen.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, these objectives are pretty much fantasy anyway. Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major war between Shias and Sunnis, between Arabs and Jews, and between different ethnic groups. Events of the last year, including the war in Yemen, the rise of ISIS, the Russian military intervention in Syria, Iran's nuclear deal with the west, and now the Saudi-Iran split, have moved this prediction much closer.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Jan-16 World View -- Arab countries deeply divided over Iran vs Saudi Arabia confrontation thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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9-Jan-16 World View -- China-North Korea tensions high after nuclear test

South Korea resumes broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

North Korea's explosion was probably not a 'hydrogen bomb'


South Korean loudspeakers delivering propaganda to North Korea
South Korean loudspeakers delivering propaganda to North Korea

Last week, North Korea's news service reported that Kim Jong-un had "made the final decision on January 3 to go ahead with the hydrogen test and accordingly we have conducted hydrogen bomb test at 10 a.m. on January 6 with total success." The weapon was to be used to defend against the United States. The test was immediately condemned by officials around the world -- in the US, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United Nations to start.

A hydrogen bomb is about a thousand times more powerful than an "ordinary" atom bomb, and actually uses a small atom bomb to trigger the h-bomb explosion, so this would be a significant development if true. However, many observers quickly pointed out that all the signs indicated that it wasn't an h-bomb, but a "boosted" a-bomb, using a small amount of nuclear fusion to produce copious amounts of neutron radiation that, while contributing little to the explosive yield directly, caused additional fissions that would boost the bomb's yield.

Forensic scientists have been trying to collect clues that would indicate what kind of device it was. Access to the actual site of the explosion is, of course, forbidden, but information will come from aircraft circling North Korea and sniffing for radioactive fission products that have vented to the atmosphere. By measuring the atomic weights of the isotopes in the fission products, it's possible to determine which kind of weapon it was. Combining that information with the explosive yield of the weapon, forensic scientists should be able to make a pretty accurate determination. According to news reports, few people today believe that an actual h-bomb was exploded. Popular Mechanics and The Atlantic

South Korea resumes broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers

In response to North Korea's fourth nuclear test, the South Korean military has resumed an earlier practice of broadcasting propaganda via loudspeakers located along the border between the two nations. The propaganda is broadcast at 11 sites near the border, and includes a great deal of content, according to the South Korea's military: pertinent truth about the repressive state including a purge of the North's high-ranking officials, criticism about the Kim Jong-un regime, the superiority of democracy, international news, weather information, and K-pop (Korean pop) music, a genre of music popular in South Korea.

This seems to me, and probably to most people, to be a very mild form of retribution by the South Koreans against the North. But apparently its psychological is enormous, because it infuriates the North Korean government so much that they claim that it's an act of war.

South Korea was broadcasting such propaganda to the North starting in 1962, only taking down the loudspeakers in 2004 when because of a landmark agreement between the two. The speakers were reinstalled in 2010 after the North torpedoed the South Korean warship, Cheonan, killing 46 sailors (see below). However, because of furious objections by the North, the speakers were not used at that time.

South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts for a couple of weeks in August 2015 after land mines planted by the North Koreans exploded and wounded two South Korean soldiers. The broadcasts ended after an August 25 agreement.

The new decision, following the announcement of the "hydrogen bomb" test, was to resume the broadcasts and also impose some sanctions -- to suspend social and cultural exchange and aid projects by civic groups, and to limit entry into the Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex (GIC), which is a major source of foreign exchange to North Korea. The South Korean government says that further action will await a decision by the United Nations Security Council.

In taking these actions, the South is risking the possibility that the North might decide to retaliate militarily, something that could spiral into a larger war. Hankyoreh (Seoul) and AP

North Korea's nuclear test revives memories of the 2010 Cheonan attack

On March 26, 2010, the South Korean warship Cheonan was sunk by an explosion. It was immediately assumed that the attack came from North Korea, but for weeks, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak carefully avoided accusing the North of being responsible for the explosion, for fear that merely saying so would also compel him to a declaration of war. It took two months for nationalistic fury to cool down enough. (See "21-May-10 News -- S. Korea accuses N. Korea of sinking warship")

At that time, South Korea imposed what have become known as the "May 24 Sanctions," a set of measures that ban any trading activities between the two Koreas, except for the Gaeseong Industrial Complex (GIC). South Korea demanded that the north apologize for the Cheonan attack before the sanctions would be lifted, but the North has refused to do so.

Instead, on November 23, the North Korean military launched dozens of artillery shells on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, killing four people, including two civilians. ( "24-Nov-10 News -- South Korean civilians shelled by North Koreans")

The "May 24 Sanctions" have never been fully lifted, but last year's August 25 agreement (mentioned above) between has improved relations between the two Koreas - until now.

US intelligence officials concluded that North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-il (the current leader's father) personally ordered the torpedo attack on the Cheonan. South Korea didn't directly blame Kim, but suggested that the attack might have been ordered by military subordinates without Kim's knowledge, a scenario believed by many to be unlikely. The six North Korean sailors aboard the submarine that attacked the Cheonan were given "hero" status. Korea Times (27-Aug-2015) and Chosun (Seoul, 27-May-2010) and UPI 23-May-2010)

China faces limited influence and high frustration dealing with North Korea

After North Korea's nuclear test, US presidential candidate Donald Trump said:

"China has total control over them (North Korea) and we have total control over China, if we had people who knew what they were doing, which we don't -- we have no leadership in this country. We have China because of trade.

They say they don't have that much control over North Korea, they have total control because without China they wouldn't be able to eat. China should solve that problem and we should put pressure on China to solve the problem."

Trump followed that remark by saying that, as president, he would impose a 45% tax on Chinese goods imported into America. I guess business mogul Donald Trump doesn't understand international trade very well, because that tariff would cripple many American companies, such as Apple, whose iPhones are manufactured in China. Many American companies would go out of business.

It would also be nice if someone running for president had the vaguest clue about American history. The June 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act not only worsened the Great Depression but also triggered World War II. Germany and Japan were both in the same Great Depression, and these tariffs were a financial disaster for them. The Smoot-Hawley act pretty much shut down exports of Japan's biggest cash crop, silk. In September 1931, almost exactly a year after Smoot-Hawley, Japan invaded Manchuria and later northern China. In December 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. So in my opinion it's pretty certain that a 45% tariff on China today would trigger world economic disaster and World War III.

As for China's supposed control over North Korea, it's true that China could starve the North Koreans, but that would not by any means cause the super-nationalistic North Koreans to bend to China's demands on nuclear testing or anything else. All it would do is destabilize North Korea's government and result in millions of North Koreans pouring into China to look for food. And that's the optimistic case. The pessimistic case for China is that the North Korean government would completely collapse, and China would be dragged into a major new war between North and South Korea.

The current North Korean president's predecessor and father, Kim Jong-il, had good relations with China until the 2010 Cheonan incident, but relations have gone downhill since then. When Kim Jong-un took over as child dictator at the end of 2011, China repeatedly made clear its displeasure with Kim about the nuclear tests, to which the Chinese were adamantly opposed.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has visited an astonishing 37 countries since becoming president in 2013, but so far North Korea has not been one of them.

Even more humiliating for Kim occurred in September of last year, during China's massive celebration of victory in World War II. South Korea's president Park Geun-hye attended the victory parade, and sat right next to Xi on the reviewing stand. Kim had been told that he could attend as well, but he would not be on the reviewing stand at all, but placed to the side. Kim chose not to attend, but sent a North Korean official who was seated in the furthest corner to the rear. ( "14-Sep-15 World View -- S. Korea's President Park basks in the afterglow of successful visit to China")

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week was extremely blunt, demanding "denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula:

"The Peninsula nuclear issue has existed for a quite long time and is very complicated. China insists on finding a solution to the issue and each side's concerns within the Six-Party Talks framework. Realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and maintaining the peace and stability of the Peninsula conform to the common interests of all parties concerned, and are of each party's responsibility. This calls for concerted efforts of all parties."

This is considered a very blunt criticism of North Korean, because it was clearly directed at North Korea, and it wasn't softened in the usual way by blaming the United States for something. BBC and Business Insider and Washington Post and BBC and China Radio International's English Service

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Jan-16 World View -- China-North Korea tensions high after nuclear test thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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8-Jan-16 World View -- Iran struggles to recover from its firebombing of Saudi embassy

Desperate Chinese officials remove stock market circuit breakers

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Numerous countries end diplomatic relations with Iran after Saudi embassy firebombing


Shia Muslim Houthis hold posters of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr outside the Saudi embassy in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
Shia Muslim Houthis hold posters of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr outside the Saudi embassy in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)

After Saudi Arabia last Saturday executed Shia cleric Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 other prisoners, on terrorism charges, international moral outrage appeared to be on the side of Iran. Officials in many countries oppose capital punishment as a matter of principle, and the Shia world was particularly shocked that al-Nimr was executed along with 46 alleged Sunni terrorists, infuriating Iran by appearing to make Shia terrorism equivalent to Sunni terrorism.

But the actions of Iranian protesters to storm and firebomb Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran, followed by violent protests outside the Saudi consulate in Mashhad in northwestern Iran, have turned much of the moral outrage around, in favor of the Saudis. These actions were apparently permitted by Iranian officials at the time they occurred, but now they're a major embarrassment to Iran, especially because Iran has a history attacking other nations' embassies in Tehran. The Saudi execution of al-Nimr may have been unfortunate on many levels, but it was perfectly legal in international law for a country to charge one of its own citizens with a crime (terrorism), try him in a court of law, and execute him if found guilty. Indeed, Iran does the same thing, and in the 2009 it massacred many peaceful protesters in the streets with no due process at all.

But attacks on embassies are not only major violations of international law, but are considered intolerable by most countries on all sides of the issue, because no country wants to see its own embassies at risk.

Thus, Saudi Arabia cut its diplomatic ties with Iran, and other Sunni Muslim countries, including Bahrain and Sudan did the same, while United Arab Emirates (UAE) downgraded its relations with Iran. Then Kuwait and Djibouti also followed by cutting relations. Significantly, Bahrain is the home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, while Djibouti, in the horn of Africa, is home to the US's only military base in Africa. Qatar has recalled its ambassador without cutting ties completely.

On Thursday, Somalia also cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The reason given was "in response to the Republic of Iran’s continuous interference in Somalia’s internal affairs," without mentioning Saudi Arabia. Together, Djibouti and Somalia control access to the Red Sea across from Yemen, which is strategically important to Iran.

If Shia Muslims had simply peacefully demonstrated against the Saudis for executing al-Nimr, then none of these diplomatic terminations would have occurred. The embassy attack has changed the entire diplomatic structure of the Mideast, and raised Sunni-Shia tensions much than just the execution of al-Nimr would have done. International Business Times and KUNA - Kuwait News Agency and Mail and Guardian Africa

Iran seeks to pass the blame for the Saudi embassy firebombing

Iran still celebrates the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran every year and refers to it as the second revolution. Since then, Iranians have attacked several embassies in Tehran — including those of Kuwait in 1987, Saudi Arabia in 1988, Denmark in 2006 and Britain in 2011. Evidently, Iranian officials have never punished the attackers in these cases.

Some of those attacking the Saudi Embassy and starting fires took selfies and published them on social media, indicating that they too expected to be treated as heroes rather than criminals.

This time, however, with so many countries ending diplomatic relations with Iran, the firebombing of the Saudi embassy has become a major diplomatic crisis. This is at a time when Republicans in Congress are headed for a showdown with President Obama over sanctions related to the Iran nuclear deal, and the embassy firebombing gives them ammunition. Getting America sanctions is probably Iran's most important diplomatic objective right now.

At first, Iran's Revolutionary Guards immediately blamed Israel, while Lebanon's Shia militia Hezbollah blamed the United States, on the grounds that the US had "moral responsibility" for the execution of al-Nimr, which presumably justified the embassy firebombing.

Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, Iran's Justice Minister, referred to the threat of “enemy influence” in Iran and stated that the embassy attack “could have been designed and supported by infiltrators.” He also condemned the embassy attack itself, stating that it was carried out by “a limited group of people,” and added, “We must not allow emotions to overcome thought, for the result will certainly not be in our interest."

One particularly bizarre twist is that Iran on Thursday accused the Saudis of hitting its embassy in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, with an airstrike. However, news photos from Sanaa show no damage to the embassy.

But Iran's president Hassan Rouhani, who is part of Iran's "moderate" camp, has taken more direct action. He first said with regard to the al-Nimr execution, "But the Iranian people should not allow this to become an excuse for rogue individuals & groups to commit illegal acts & damage Iran's image."

On Wednesday, Rouhani asked Iran's judiciary to urgently prosecute the people who attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran:

"By punishing the attackers and those who orchestrated this obvious offense, we should put an end once and forever to such damage and insults to Iran's dignity and national security."

Iranian police have already announced the arrest of 50 people for the firebombing. In previous cases, such rioters have simply been set free within a few days without facing any charges. This time, they may have to stay in jail a few days longer, until the American sanctions are lifted. Quartz and AEI Iran Tracker and Al-Jazeera/Reuters and AP

Desperate Chinese officials remove stock market circuit breakers

Twice this week, on Monday and Thursday, China's Shanghai stock market shares plunged 7%, before trading was halted by a so-called "circuit breaker" rule that stops trading at 7% to prevent a further plunge.

It had been thought that the circuit break rule would halt a full-scale panic, and perhaps it did. But now the circuit breaker is being blamed for two plunges. The reasoning is that as stocks began to fall, investors decided that they had to sell fast before the circuit breaker kicked in, and that accelerated sales.

China has been desperately trying to find a way to stop its huge stock market bubble from imploding. Friday's new rule change du jour is to completely eliminate the circuit breakers on Friday, to see how that works.

After the Friday morning opening in Shanghai, the stock market has been extremely volatile, first rising 2%, then falling 4%, then back up again to a 2% gain. CNN Money

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Jan-16 World View -- Iran struggles to recover from its firebombing of Saudi embassy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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7-Jan-16 World View -- German 'Code of Conduct' for women shows pendulum swing on gender issues

Merry Christmas!

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

String of New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Cologne Germany


After decades of decline, the number of stay-at-home moms is increasing (Pew Research)
After decades of decline, the number of stay-at-home moms is increasing (Pew Research)

News stories on gender issues are often pretty bizarre and often fictional, but this one of the most bizarre gender stories I've seen in a while.

Allegedly, some 1,000 young "heavily intoxicated" men carried out dozens of sexual assaults on women in the city center of Cologne, a city in western Germany on New Year's eve. Some 90 criminal complaints, including one allegation of rape, have been brought to the Cologne police department after women said they were molested by a crowd of men. Police have said that about a quarter of the complaints related to sexual assaults and that they believed the assaults were probably intended to distract the victims, allowing attackers to steal mobile phones and other devices. Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg on New Year's Eve, with 39 reported sexual assaults and 14 robberies.

What makes this a particularly touchy politically issue is that the 1000 men were described as "Arab or North African" in appearance.

According to one official:

"We will not accept that groups of North African men gather expressly for the purpose of debasing women by sexually assaulting them."

If in fact 1000 migrants conspired via social media or whatever to sexually assault women on New Year's Eve, it would indicate a kind of mass collusion that would suggest that migrants really are close to total war with Europeans. This would not be just a gender story, but a very significant geopolitical story.

But I've learned over the years that most of these gender stories are total nonsense, and I'll be waiting to see whether this one is or not.

The first thing that's suspicious about it is that, with hundreds of sexual assaults, not a single perpetrator has been arrested, even though six days have passed, though three suspects have been identified but not arrested.

The second thing that's suspicious is that with all these sexual assaults going on in large crowds of people ringing in the new year, there are no reports of other people, men or women, stepping up to intervene in these attacks. There are also no reports of men coming forward to corroborate the reports.

Third, no attribution is being provided by this "Arab or North African" description, making it appear, until an investigation proves otherwise, that this accusation is not dissimilar to the hysterical accusations that resulted in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, where one group of girls accused several other women of being witches in league with Satan.

It's worth recalling just how hysterical and hypocritical feminists are about rape. Julian Assange has been hiding from rape charges in Ecuador's embassy in London, and not one single feminist has spoken out to express outrage over the alleged rape victims in Sweden.

Then there's Bill Clinton who has credibly been charged with multiple rapes of employees as governor of Arkansas, and feminists have been enablers and supporters of this alleged rapist. The biggest enabler was Democratic Party official Susan Estrich, who sold herself out as a woman and rape victim by enabling and supporting alleged rapist Clinton. There's a bitter irony for both of them that Donald Trump has forcefully revived these charges of Clinton's sexual assaults.

Then there was the Duke lacrosse team that was accused of mass rapes in 2007. The District attorney Mike Nifong kept pursuing the rape charges even when he knew they were false. The NY Times kept repeating the accusations even when the reporters knew the accusations were false. (From 2007: "Collapse of Duke rape case represents cultural change")

Hysterical rape accusations pour out of the Obama administration, as they claim that 25% of all college girls are raped in college. The actual figure is around 0.1%. The administration claim is a hysterical lie.

So now we have this bizarre report where 1,000 young intoxicated men of "Arab or North African" appearance have sexually assaulted dozens of women on New Year's Eve. Does this seem credible to you, Dear Reader, or does it sound like the Salem Witch Trials of 1692? I'm waiting to see the evidence before reaching my own conclusion. Deutsche Welle and Eyewitness To History and Minding the Campus

Cologne mayor attracts backlash for advising women to adopt Code of Conduct

The mayor of Cologne Germany, Henriette Reker, reacted to the reports of the New Year's Eve sexual assaults by advising women to protect themselves with a Code of Conduct.

Mayor Reker said it was “unbelievable and intolerable what happened on New Year’s Eve” but there was no reason to believe those involved in the attacks were refugees.

The Code of Conduct included the following advice:

Henriette Reker has received a huge amount of derision from Twitter users, who employed the hashtag #einarmlänge, which means "an arm’s length."

Reker says that a complete Code of Conduct will be posted online soon. Deutsche Welle and CNN

The pendulum swings back on gender issues

When there are stories that Boko Haram or ISIS commit mass rape on girls in villages they capture, the news analyses portray these as unique to Muslim terrorists, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

During a generational crisis war, when battles become completely chaotic, massacres occur and discipline breaks down, a soldier who is covered with mud and the blood of his comrades who had been killed by the enemy would not be likely to resist the temptation to rape a young girl whose brother, uncle or father had participated in killing the soldier's comrades. Rape would be both a sexual act and an act of revenge. If the girl hasn't seen a man in a while, she may viscerally not want to resist anyway. This is not particularly politically correct to say, but if it weren't true, then neither I nor the people reading this would exist today, since the human race would not have survived.

At the end of World War II, the Soviet army allegedly committed millions of rapes of German women. According to a German historian, 1.6 million American troops in Germany raped 190,000 German women within ten years after the end of the war. There have also been charges of mass rapes by American soldiers in France.

So it's not surprising that protecting women from rape became a big part of the European and American culture at the end of the war.

Henriette Reker's Code of Conduct was just the beginning. Women were advised to wear girdles, and men and women were separated in many environments.

When the 1960s generational Awakening era arrived, nobody wanted to talk about rape during WW II, so Boomers were literally completely unaware of it. They regarded such "Codes of Conduct" as unnecessary, and feminists blamed them on men's relentless of oppression of women, supposedly demanding that women remain in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, whatever that means.

So the 1960s launched a pendulum swing towards greater sexual freedom for women -- bra-burning, miniskirts, hot pants and free sex.

Today, we're in a new generational Crisis era. We're seeing the first sign of mass rapes again, whether in Syria or Nigeria. And now we have these charges of mass sexual assaults in Germany on New Year's Eve which, as I said, would be a major geopolitical issue if true. This is resulting in a swing of the pendulum back towards greater protection of girls and women, and Reker's Code of Conduct is just one sign of it.

Actually, this has been going on for a while. In 2004 I wrote "'It's going to be the 1950s all over again'", quoting feminist professor, Linda Hirshman, who found that 85% of high-powered married women she interviewed were staying at home to take care of the kids.

The events of the world today are increasingly showing how vulnerable women are to rape and sexual assault. Like it or not, this is part of human nature, and as I said the human race would not have survived if it didn't happen. As world chaos increases, more measures will be put into effect to protect women, and more Codes of Conduct will be published. Der Spiegel and Pew Research

China halts stock market trading to prevent crash

China's Shanghai Stock Market index fell over 7% in the first half hour of trading on Thursday morning, triggering circuit breakers that ended trading for the rest of the day, for the second time this week. This occurred despite massive influxes of money into the banking system by the People's Bank of China (PBOC) to allow large companies to purchase stocks. As usual, China has already issued regulations that prevent many stocks from being traded, and that provide that any bloggers who use words like "stock market slump" should be arrested and hung in a cell by his ankles. Such is the Chinese way.

China's stock market is in a huge collapsing bubble, and whether the PBOC can find a way to slow down the implosion remains to be seen.

However, other Asian stocks also fell sharply on Thursday morning, after Wall Street and European stocks also fell sharply on Wednesday.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts a major global financial panic and crash. It's possible that things will settle down in a few days, or it's possible that the predicted crash is now beginning. We won't know for sure for a while yet, but in the meantime, investors are advised to stay out of the stock market. Bloomberg

Merry Christmas!

Today (January 7) is Christmas for the Russian Orthodox church and many other Orthodox Christian Churches (though not the Greek Orthodox Church, which celebrates Christmas on December 25). Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Jan-16 World View -- German 'Code of Conduct' for women shows pendulum swing on gender issues thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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6-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016

ISIS assault in Libya giving militants control of oil fields

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS assault in Libya giving militants control of oil fields


Map of Libya showing regions controlled by various factions (Political Geography Now, 2015-August)
Map of Libya showing regions controlled by various factions (Political Geography Now, 2015-August)

Ansar al-Sharia, the Libya branch of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has been assaulting Libyan forces guarding the country's coastal oil terminals. For more than two days, ISIS militias have attacked oil facilities in the so-called "oil crescent" along Libya's northern coast.

During the "Arab Spring" four years ago, in 2011, the dictator Muammar Gaddafi was threatening to massacre thousands of civilians in Benghazi. Britain, France and the US intervened under a UN mandate by air and sea. Aided by rival Libyan factions united by their opposition to Gaddafi, the allied forces removed Gaddafi. After that, the rival factions turned on each other, and Libya has been increasingly chaotic.

Libya now has two rival governments. One of them is in the far west in the capital city Tripoli, and is backed by an Islamist alliance called Libya Dawn. One of the factions is the terror group is ISIS-linked Ansar al-Sharia. The other government is a secular government in the far east in Tobruk, and is the official government internationally recognized.

The valuable oil fields have been in control of the Tobruk government, but many are controlled by individual militias, far out of control of any government. Ansar al-Sharia is now trying to take control.

The war between the two governments is actually a proxy war along a major Arab fault line that was exposed by the 2014 Gaza war of Israel versus Hamas. Hamas and the Islamists, including the Islamists in Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are aligned with Turkey and Qatar. The secularists, including the Libyan secularists and president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, are on the other side of this fault line, aligned with UAE and Saudi Arabia. Qatar and UAE have been supplying weapons to the opposing sides, and Libya has become awash with huge numbers of weapons. ( "26-Aug-14 World View -- Egypt and United Arab Emirates (UAE) enter the war in Libya")

The heartland of Ansar al-Sharia is Sirte, along the coast east of Tripoli. The ISIS fighters have been moving farther east, and fighting is now taking place around Sidra, where a missile launched by ISIS blew up a large petroleum storage tank two days ago. Whether Qatar is involved in the current efforts by ISIS to attack the oil fields is not publicly known, but it is known that Qatar has supplied weapons to Ansar al-Sharia in the past.

Reports indicate that around 5,000 Islamic extremists have already secured more than a dozen major oilfields, adding millions of dollars to their war chest. VOA and Political Geography Now (2015-Aug-22) and Al Jazeera

US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016

Libya is geopolitically very important for several reasons:

For these reasons, the West has been considering a new military intervention into Libya for several months. The plans are apparently now turning into implementation.

New reports indicate that UK Special Air Service (SAS) troops have already arrived in Libya, laying the groundwork for a large allied troop intervention. The force will include 1,000 British infantrymen, and will involve around 6,000 American and European soldiers and marines - led by Italian forces and supported mainly by Britain and France. Spain and Egypt may also participate.

According to Debka's subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber), US, British and French marines will land on shore for an operation billed as the largest Western allied war landing since the 1952 Korean War. One group will move west to take over Tripoli, to Libya’s central government there. The second group will move east to take control of Benghazi.

The military intervention will have several objectives:

According to Debka, in this military campaign, the US will not "lead from behind," but will be in front, indicating another reversal of President Obama's Mideast strategy.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is all on the same trend line that we've been describing for years, where the Mideast is headed for a major regional war pitting Israelis versus Arabs, Sunnis versus Shias, and ethnic groups versus each other. In just the last few days, this trend line has advanced significantly, with split between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There are already proxy wars in progress in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, with participants from Iran, Russia, the US, and several Gulf nations. A new proxy war in Libya will add significantly to the chaos. Daily Mirror (London) and Guardian (London) and Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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5-Jan-16 World View -- President Obama may have to choose between Saudi Arabia and Iran

European and Wall St stocks fall sharply, following China

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sectarian Sunni-Shia split deepens over Iran - Saudi split


Shia protesters against Saudi Arabia holding posters showing Nimr al-Nimr in Najaf, Iraq, 100 miles south of Baghdad (AP)
Shia protesters against Saudi Arabia holding posters showing Nimr al-Nimr in Najaf, Iraq, 100 miles south of Baghdad (AP)

After attacks by Iranians on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, including setting the building on fire after looting the computers and documents, the Saudis cut diplomatic ties with Iran, as we reported yesterday. On Monday, the Saudis announced that they would end all air traffic and commercial relations with Iran. Bahrain and Sudan also cut all ties with Iran on Monday, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) downgraded its relations with Iran. Other Sunni Arab countries – Kuwait, Qatar and Oman – did not follow suit.

The Iranian attack was triggered by Saturday's execution on terrorism charges of 47 people, including Shia scholar Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 Sunnis. The Iranians, and the Shias in general, are particularly infuriated by the message that Shia terrorism and Sunni terrorism are equivalent. Shia protests continued in Iran and around the region.

The storming and burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran has divided Iran's government. The hard-liners, generally represented by the older generation that survived the 1979 Islamic Revolution, see this as a victory. But for the moderates, generally represented by the generations growing up after the war, this is an embarrassment for Iran. Iran has a history of storming and looting foreign embassies for political purposes -- a major violation of international law. Iran created the 1979 hostage crisis by allowing students to storm the American embassy and take the 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. In November 2011, Iran's Revolutionary Guard attacked the British embassy in Tehran, forcing it to close. (See "30-Nov-11 World View -- Iran relives its glorious past as students storm Tehran's British embassy") Reuters and CS Monitor

Hezbollah-Israel violence growing on Lebanon border

The regional turmoil caused by the Saudi-Iran split is giving Lebanon's terrorist group Hezbollah an opportunity to initiate an attack on Israel across the Israel-Lebanon border.

On Monday, Hezbollah set off a large bomb on the border, targeting Israeli armored vehicles. Israel army responded with cross-border artillery fire at targets in Lebanon. According to an army spokesman, "We have opened artillery fire, and created a smoke screen to cover the area. We are in control of the incident."

Israel's army has been concerned for some days that Hezbollah is preparing to launch an all-out attack on Israeli territory in the northern Golan Heights, and so has been engaged in an artillery bombardment for four days. Hezbollah has promised revenge in retaliation for Israel's assassination last month of Samir Kuntar, a former Hezbollah commander.

Furthermore, some reports indicate that Hezbollah officials are increasingly stressed by growing military cooperation between Russia and Israel with respect to the war in Syria. We've reported a couple of times in the last month that Israel has been bombing Hezbollah targets in Syria, including a weapons convey near Damascus, evidently with the approval of Russia. There are also reports that Israel is providing intelligence to Syria about anti-Assad rebels in southern Syria. This alliance directly threatens Hezbollah, whose only raison d'être is to attack Israel and the West, and it's thought that Hezbollah may be initiating an attack on Israel in the hope of derailing the alliance. Needless to say, this kind of reasoning is very dangerous, and could result in a new regional war. Jerusalem Post and Daily Caller and Debka

President Obama may have to choose between Saudi Arabia and Iran

The growing split between Iran and Saudi Arabia is a major new problem for President Obama's plans to bring peace to the Mideast.

Obama had been pushing for one "peace process" to bring peace to Syria, and another "peace process" to bring peace to Yemen. Multinationals committees for each of these peace processes were scheduled to meet later this month. In both cases, both Saudi and Iran officials were to be part of the negotiations. But now, both of those peace processes are in chaos.

President Obama has been openly siding with Iran against Saudi Arabia since the start of the "Arab Awakening" in 2011, when he pressured Egypt's long-time leader Hosni Mubarak to step down. Since then, the Saudis have been increasingly angered by and contemptuous of Obama's policies. The culmination of this contempt followed the Iran nuclear deal with the West, which was achieved when the administration was perceived to repeatedly back down to Iran's negotiating demands. ( "15-May-15 World View -- Obama repudiates the Carter doctrine at bizarre GCC meeting")

As I mentioned above, Iran is especially infuriated that Nimr al-Nimr was executed along with 46 others as terrorists, sending the message that Shia terrorism and Sunni terrorism are equivalent. This message is intolerable to Iranian officials, and Saudi officials would have known that. This suggests that they performed this mass execution to send an unmistakable message to Obama that enough was enough.

Starting with his "apology tour" in 2008, Obama had fantasized that he could bring peace to the entire Mideast. As has been increasingly clear in the last few years. Obama has no clue what's going on in the world, and this is one part of it. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the Mideast was headed for a sectarian war that couldn't be prevented, so the approaching Mideast can't be blamed on Obama, as some of his opponents claim. But he can be blamed for dissipating all of America's influence and prestige by a policy which was no more realistic than tilting at windmills.

So the Saudi-Iran split is producing bitter problems for Obama. Obama has thrown the Saudis under the bus, and has pandered to the Iranians, so neither of them trusts nor believes him. And yet, events are moving quickly, and at some point Obama may be forced to choose.

Long-time readers know that almost ten years ago I predicted, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that Iran would become our ally and the Saudis our enemy. ( "9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement") This analysis seemed crazy at the time, but in the last few years, but it has been increasingly true in recent years, as Obama clearly has favored Iran over the Saudis. It would be strongly against trend for Obama to side with the Saudis against Iran, and so when Obama is forced to choose between the two, the chances are enormously greater that he'll choose Iran. Washington Times

Residents of Tel Aviv Israel in panic after Friday's gunfire attack

On Friday of last week, a gunman opened fire in Tel Aviv, Israel, on of the busiest arteries in the city and a popular hangout for both locals and tourists. The shooting spree began at the crowded Simta Bar, where young Israelis were gathered for a birthday party, then continued at a restaurant next door before ending at the bustling Sidewalk Cafe. Two people were killed.

The suspected gunman is a 31-year-old Arab-Israeli citizen named Nashat Milhem. Police have thus far refrained from calling the shootings a terrorist act, saying that Nashat Milhem’s motives are not yet known and that his modus operandi was not necessarily that of a terrorist. His father, a volunteer policeman, called police after seeing security camera footage of the attack on television and recognizing his son. Milhem has not been caught, and there's a massive manhunt in progress. According to reports, the Israelis have asked for help from the Palestinian Authority in finding him.

Residents of the area are close to panic because Milhem for years worked in the area as a delivery man, and has an intimate knowledge of streets and buildings in the city, so he may be living in an empty apartment he knew about. This is leading to fears that he might emerge and repeat his gunfire attack. As a result, many residents are staying at home, and keeping their children out of school. Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Washington Free Beacon and Jewish News

European and Wall St stocks fall sharply, following China

The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 275 points lower, or 1.58%, for its worst start on the first day of the year since 2008. Earlier, the index fell 467 points, or more than 2.5%, temporarily on pace for its largest percent decline on the first trading day of the year since 1932. European stocks closed sharply lower, with the German DAX 4%, and the STOXX Europe 600 closing 2.5% lower.

It appears that European and American stocks were following the Shanghai stock market on Monday. Shanghai stocks fell 5%, triggering a circuit breaker that closed trading for 15 minutes. But after lunch, stocks another 2%, and trading was quickly ended for the day. Analysts blamed the plunge on bad manufacturing data the came out on Monday.

There are concerns that closing trading is going to result in panic selling on Tuesday.

China's Shanghai stock market appeared to be in a full-fledged crash in the middle of last year. China's government responded with an almost unbelievable set of interventions -- forbidding government owned corporations from selling stocks, arresting people who "spread malicious rumors" (like "stocks are slumping), or who "meddle" in the stock market by selling stocks. In addition, Every day around 2 pm, the Chinese used government-backed funds to make huge purchases of shares in large capitalization companies. ( "2-Sep-15 World View -- China leads a worldwide stock selloff")

As I wrote last year, it's impossible for the government to cause, prevent or stop a full-fledged stock market crash. The Chinese government was able to stop the Shanghai slide last year, by intervening so thoroughly that it wasn't really a market any more, but they didn't (and couldn't) do anything about the underlying imploding bubble and except prop it up for a while. At some point, the implosion will have to continue, and it's possible that that time is now.

I listened to numerous analysts on Monday explain why Wall Street stock fell so sharply. A typical opinion was the following (paraphrasing): "The Chinese plunge shouldn't have happened, because the bad manufacturing data was really expected. For the same reason, the Wall Street plunge was only temporary, and once investors look at the fundamentals and how cheap stocks are, 2016 should be a very good year for the stock market."

I heard several variations of that, and it's so ridiculous that it's laughable. By very careful wording, the Shanghai bubble was not mentioned at all. And Wall Street stocks are not only not cheap, but they're in a huge bubble. Needless to say, the words "bubble" and "price/earnings ratio" were not mentioned by any of the analysts on Monday.


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 22.95 on December 31, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 22.95 on December 31, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)

As I've repeated many times, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (December 31) was at an astronomically high 22.95. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

Update: The Shanghai Stock Market recovered slightly on Tuesday morning, after the Chinese government injected $19.9 billion into the banking system, to provide liquidity to push stocks back up. CNBC and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Jan-16 World View -- President Obama may have to choose between Saudi Arabia and Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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4-Jan-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran as violent Shia protests spread around region

Sunni vs Shia sectarian tensions grow rapidly

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Violent Anti-Saudi Shia protests spread around region after al-Nimr execution


Anti-Saudi protest in Islamabad Pakistan on Sunday (AFP)
Anti-Saudi protest in Islamabad Pakistan on Sunday (AFP)

Shia Muslims continued protests in Iran and eastern Saudi Arabia on Sunday. In Bahrain, Shia protesters had violent clashes with police. The protests spread as far as Pakistan, where Shia groups held protests in Quetta, Lahore and Karachi. The Shia community in Indian-administered Kashmir also staged outraged protests, which were violent at times.

The Shia world is shocked that Saudi Arabia executed Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr at all, that they executed him suddenly at this time, and that they executed him in a mass execution in the company of 46 alleged Sunni terrorists, as we reported yesterday.

Iran's media has been demanding that Iran take revenge. Iran's Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei said that al-Nimr "neither invited people to take up arms nor hatched covert plots. The only thing he did was public criticism." In addition, he tweeted:

"Doubtlessly, unfairly-spilled blood of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians."

Shia Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said that the execution of al-Nimr underlines Al Saud's terrorist arrogance and insistence on murdering all who speak out truth and right. He said:

"Sheikh al-Nimr's blood will plague Al Saud till the Day of Resurrection. ...

The corrupted Saudi court, where the defense lawyer cannot argue with the judge, failed to prove that Sheikh Nimr held weaponry since he was peaceful as all the clerics in the Eastern Province in Saudi and in Bahrain. ...

Is not it high time to say courageously and regardless of all scores that the principle and spirit of the takfiri thought which destroys, murders, commits massacres and threatens the whole world is produced by Al Saud? Is not it high time to speak out right before the tyrant which is destroying Islam and the Islamic Umma?"

Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Al Manar (Lebanon)

Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran

The Saudis late Sunday announced that they were cutting diplomatic ties with Iran, and requiring all Iranian diplomats in Saudi Arabia to withdraw within 48 hours. This was in reaction to partially violent protests continuing outside of Saudi Arabia's embassy in Tehran and outside of the Saudi consulate in the city of Mashhad in northwestern Iran. This was a day after protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and set fire to it.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Araboa will no longer deal with a country that sponsors terrorism and sectarianism. He delivered the following speech:

"After having been briefed on the details of the hostilities which the Saudi diplomatic mission in Iran sustained, I would like to further inform you that the Iranian regime has a long record of violations of foreign diplomatic missions. I, herewith, cite the occupation of the U.S. embassy in 1979, the attack against the British embassy in 2011 and yesterday's offense against the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and consulate general in Mash-had.

Such continual assault on diplomatic missions constitutes a flagrant violation of all international agreements, charters and treaties.

Also, these attacks come after aggressive statements issued by Iranian prominent figures, a blatant provocation that encouraged others to attack the Kingdom's missions.

These offenses are considered a continuation of the Iranian hostile policy in the region aiming at destabilizing the region's security and stability and spreading sedition and wars.

This matter is certain as the Iranian regime provides safe havens on its territories for Al-Qaeda leaders since 2001.

The Iranian regime has also provided protection for a number of the involved in Al-Khober Towers explosion in 1996.

In addition to these hostile attacks, the Iranian regime has managed to smuggle weapons and explosives, plant terrorist cells in the region, including the Kingdom, aiming to spread chaos and unrest.

The history of Iran is full of negative and hostile interference in Arab countries affairs, always accompanied with subversion, demolition and killing of innocent souls.

Upon these realities, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announces cutting its diplomatic ties with Iran and demands all the members of Iran's diplomatic mission (embassy, consulate and other offices affiliated to them) to leave within 48 hours.

The Iranian ambassador to the Kingdom was summoned to notify him of this development."

The ministry accused Iran of “blind sectarianism” and said Iran’s reaction only shows that it is a “partner in their crimes in the entire region.” Saudi Press Agency and Arab News (Riyadh) and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Jan-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran as violent Shia protests spread around region thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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3-Jan-16 World View -- Mideast sectarian tensions surge as Iranians burn down Saudi embassy in Tehran

Execution of Shia cleric Nirm al-Nimr triggers mass protests in Mideast

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabians execute 47 prisoners for 'terrorism' including prominent Shia cleric


A graphic appearing on the web site of Supreme Leader Khamenei that accuses of Saudi Arabia of supporting ISIS and also beheading people as ISIS does (khamenei.ir)
A graphic appearing on the web site of Supreme Leader Khamenei that accuses of Saudi Arabia of supporting ISIS and also beheading people as ISIS does (khamenei.ir)

On Saturday, protesters in Tehran, the capital city of Iran, stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy, setting it on fire, and burning the entire insides, according to reports. There were widespread Shia protests in other parts of the Mideast, including the coastal city of Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia, and in northwest Iran.

What triggered the Shia protests was that Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 47 prisoners -- 45 Saudi citizens, one from Egypt and one from Chad.

According to Saudi news media, most of those executed were Al-Qaeda members convicted for their involvement in bombing major government facilities 2004, the Ministry of Interior and the Emergency Forces in the same year, killing several security men and citizens. They were also found guilty of bombing the US Consulate in Jeddah in 2004, killing four security men; and attacking the water refinery in Abqaiq in 2006, which claimed the lives of two security men.

According to the Saudis, the executed men were convicted of embracing takfiri (deviant) ideology, contradicting the Koran and the Sunnah. The Sunnah are the writings of Muslim scholars in the centuries following the death of Mohammed, and they are one of the bedrocks that distinguish the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam.

Embracing takfiri ideology apparently meant not just the Shia ideology, but also the Al-Khawarij doctrine. The Khawarij were the first sect, in 657, to split from the mainstream Muslims following the death of Mohammed. They're rejected by both Sunni and Shia governments because they oppose much of the rule of law, even Sharia law, except their own interpretation. The Khawarij are still active today and, according to some scholars, the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) is a Khawarij sect. Arab News (Riyadh) and Arab News and Call To Islam

Execution of Shia cleric Nirm al-Nimr triggers mass protests in Mideast

Iran officials have been harshly condemning the 47 executions, particularly the execution of Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, a well-known Shia cleric who spent more than a decade studying theology in Iran. He became an anti-government protester in Saudi Arabia, and has encouraged Shia protests in eastern Saudi Arabia. He was arrested in July 2012 and sentenced to death on October, 2014. Since then, Iran has frequently condemned the killing of al-Nimr, and demanded his release.

There were numerous statements form Iranian officials, including one by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei who compared Saudi Arabia to ISIS in its ideology and the brutality of its executions. A statement appearing on the web site of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seemed designed to encourage Shia's to protest:

"The criminal act of execution of Sheikh Nimr the leader of Shia in Saudi Arabia is part of a Zionist [Israeli] conspiracy to sow discord among the world Muslims which will be aborted by the Heavenly blessings coming down to us by the pure blood of these martyrs. Definitely, Muslims will react to this atrocity and violence through consolidation of unity, which will contribute to the resistance ideals of liberation of the holy Quds [Jerusalem].

The medieval act of savagery by the Saudi regime is blatant violation of Sheikh Nimr’s inalienable rights and the freedom of expression, and a clear evidence that Takfirist [deviant] ideology of Wahhabist teachings, now championed by ISIL, has dominated the files and ranks of the Saudi government. ...

Saudi regime will definitely pay heavy prices for the execution of Sheikh Nimr as unabashed and rash conduct."

Widespread Shia protests began shortly afterwards the eastern coastal city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia, in Bahrain, outside the Saudi consulate in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, and at the Saudi embassy in Iran. Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and set it on fire, burning the entire inside of the building according to reports.

There was a BBC World Service special show that aired a couple of days ago -- an hour of the top BBC reporters and analysts predicting what would happen in 2016. Most of it was pretty fatuous, but the thing that really made me start laughing was when one of the reporters -- I think it was Lyse Doucet -- predicted that in 2016, Saudi Arabia and Iran would get together to start peace talks, and would settle many of their difference by the end of the year. That was two days before the current incident. I don't tell this to criticize Lyse Doucet, who is a fine reporter and analyst, but rather to show that reporters in general are extremely liberal and have no clue what's going on in the world, even in the countries they report from as correspondents.

As I've been saying for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major war between Arabs and Jews, between different ethnic groups, and most particularly, a massive sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias. Thanks to numerous events in 2015, including the war in Yemen, the rise of ISIS, the military intervention of Russia, and Iran's nuclear deal with the west, this sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias has moved a lot closer. And now it's only January 2, 2016, and these new events are going to have major repercussions in the weeks and months to come. Mehr News (Tehran) and Press TV (Tehran) and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Jan-16 World View -- Mideast sectarian tensions surge as Iranians burn down Saudi embassy in Tehran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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2-Jan-16 World View -- In bizarre gaffe, Erdogan compares Turkey's government to Hitler's Germany

India imposes men-only driving restrictions in Delhi to curb pollution

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India imposes men-only driving restrictions in Delhi to curb pollution


Cars and autorickshaws move through New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. (AP)
Cars and autorickshaws move through New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. (AP)

With pollution levels in the capital city Delhi some of the highest in the world, India is imposing an even-odd system to limit the number of cars in Delhi. For the next two weeks, only cars with odd-numbered license plates will be allowed on the roads on odd-numbered dates, with only even-numbered plates on other days.

However, the restrictions apply only to men. Women are free to come and go in Delhi on every day, irrespective of license plate. I'm guessing that the reason for this exemption is to do nothing to prevent women from coming to Delhi to shop. But a woman with an adult male in her car is still subject to the restrictions.

Politicians, judges and VIPs will also be free from restriction.

Motorcycles and motor scooters will also be free from restriction, even though they're extremely heavy polluters.

Pollution in Delhi in 2015 was significantly worse in 2015 than in 2014 For example, the pollution level was "severe" in Delhi for 73% of the days in November 2015, versus 53% in November 2014. New car sales are soaring in India, with 1,400 extra cars taking to the capital's streets every day.

After the two-week pilot project is complete, Indian officials will evaluate the result to determine whether a permanent restriction should be ordered. BBC and The Hindu and AFP

In bizarre gaffe, Erdogan compares Turkey's government to Hitler's Germany

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been strongly advocating a constitutional change that would take some power away from the parliament and give it to the president, creating a much stronger presidential system. Erdogan has indicated that this constitutional change will be a major political objective for him in 2016.

A reporter on Thursday asked Erdogan whether a presidential system could be adopted while keeping the country's unitary structure. His response:

"There is no such thing as 'no presidential system in unitary states.' There are examples of this around the world. There are examples in the past, too. When you look at Hitler's Germany, you can see it there. You can see later examples in other countries as well. What is important is that a presidential system should not disturb the people in its implementation. If you provide justice, there will be no problem because what people want and expect is justice."

The comparison of Turkey to Hitler's Germany has caused quite a bit of outrage, especially among Erdogan's opposition, but still one wonders what the heck he was talking about.

A "unitary system" is one in which all power is held by the central government, and none by the states or provinces that make up the nation. Here are internet definitions of the three systems:

Other web sites list many other countries with a unitary system: France, Spain, Italy, many more European countries, as well as many countries in Africa, Asia, and South America.

So Erdogan had plenty of examples to choose from, without going to Hitler's Germany. He issued a statement saying that the news stories have distorted his message, that he was saying that Hitler's Germany was a unitary system that went from a parliamentary to a presidential system the wrong way, and that Turkey should do it the right way. Zaman (Istanbul) and Reuters and Skyline College and Lewis Historical Society

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Jan-16 World View -- In bizarre gaffe, Erdogan compares Turkey's government to Hitler's Germany thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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1-Jan-16 World View -- 2016 and the 'dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world'

Angela Merkel urges Germans to see refugees as an 'opportunity'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Angela Merkel urges Germans to see refugees as an 'opportunity'


Time Magazine's Woman of the Year, Angela Merkel, gives her New Year's Eve speech (Reuters)
Time Magazine's Woman of the Year, Angela Merkel, gives her New Year's Eve speech (Reuters)

Over one million refugees have arrived in Germany seeking asylum in 2015, and it seems likely that there will be another million in 2016. Many people blame the flood of refugees on the welcoming remarks of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this year. Merkel has been increasingly criticized, even by people in her own party, and her poll ratings have fallen.

In her New Year's Eve speech to the nation, Merkel stood firm and responded to her critics, calling the influx of refugees an "opportunity":

"Next year is about one thing in particular: our cohesion. It is important we don't allow ourselves to be divided - not into generations, not into social groups, and not into those that are already here and those that are new citizens. ...

It is crucial not to follow those who, with coldness or even hatred in their hearts, lay a sole claim to what it means to be German and seek to exclude others.

Our values, our traditions, our sense of justice, our language, our laws, our rules, [apply] to all who wish to live here.

[The efforts put in to cope with the challenges would be worth it in the end because] countries have always benefitted from successful immigration, both economically and socially. ...

I am convinced that, handled properly, today's great task presented by the influx and the integration of so many people is an opportunity for tomorrow."

Her reference to "those who, with coldness or even hatred in their hearts," referred to Pegida, an anti-immigration party considered by many to be xenophobic, but which has been rising in the polls. Deutsche Welle and Expatica Germany

UN refugee czar Guterres calls for mandatory funding for refugees

After ten years, December 31 is the last day in office for UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres. In an interview with the BBC, Guterres had a great deal of criticism for the European Union and for other nations, who were not responding to appeals for money to provide food and help for refugees.

I take note of the fact that although the audio portion of the interview is available on the BBC web site, there is no transcript available, and even the BBC news stories that quote Guterres only quote two or three sentences. Since I've become an exceptionally jaded and cynical person, I can't help but wonder if the BBC is playing down the interview because what Guterres said was so fantastical.

At any rate, what follows is my transcription of excerpts from the interview. He starts with harsh criticisms of the European Union, especially those countries that try to make themselves look as bad as possible, so that refugees will want to go to other countries:

"For the first time in meaningful numbers, refugees and other migrants came to Europe, and Europe was totally unprepared for that. But not only was Europe unprepared then, it's still unprepared today. And it was unable to get its act together, and the divisions in Europe do not allow for a European response. to this situation.

The first thing one needs to look at is what the reality is, not what the perceptions are. We reached one million people that have crossed the Mediterranean. But we are talking of the European Union of more than 500 million people.

So we have less than two refugees per thousand people in the European Union. Now if you go to Lebanon, we have one refugee for each 3 or 4 Lebanese. So it is clear that this problem could have been managed, but to be managed it would be necessary to have all European countries assume a common responsibility. First of all, doing their best to address the root causes, doing their best to contribute to the peace in Syria or of other crises.

But at the same time recognizing that many will come, preparing that arrival with adequate reception conditions at entry points, making sure that people at entry points could be welcomed, could be given shelter. This would require an important investment if proper reception conditions would be in place. And a fair distribution of people by plane in normal circumstances to all European countries, this crisis would have been perfectly managed.

Now, what we are seeing is that countries are trying to solve the problem by themselves, trying basically to avoid refugees to come into their borders, and to go into the neighbors' one. And some countries that are trying to have a regime that is a little bit worse than the neighbor's regime, to make sure that the refugees go into the neighbors, and not their own country."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Guterres is wishing for a return to the 1990s, a time when people were wealthier and the mood was egalitarian. Today, in this generational Crisis era, people in America and Europe are sharply divided politically, and nationalism and xenophobia are rising.

Guterres was asked whether he was receiving all the money necessary for his work, and he said that countries have been contributing only about 50% of the needed amounts.

The BBC reporter asked him which countries disappointed him, because they could afford to pay more. He was obviously looking for criticism of the US or Britain, but Guterres surprised him:

"Everybody, to a certain extent. There is a number of countries that are now emerging as new relevant economies in the world that are not also coming with their expectable share of responsibility of the new emerging economies. I would hope that they would be able to increase their contributions too."

So Guterres was apparently criticizing China, not the US, which was certainly a surprise to me.

Guterres things it's strange that the "global public good" is funded by voluntary contributions, and he's looking for ways to make the contributions mandatory - a "system such that every country in the world has to contribute in way that is predictable and is fair."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the most interesting part of the interview was the end, where he described a world spiraling down into total chaos:

"It's important to be aware that we are just looking at just one of the symptoms of a deeper problem, and a central question is, the reason why [the refugees] are fleeing. It's this dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world. It's the fact the international community has lost much of its capacity to avoid conflicts, to prevent conflicts, and then to timely solve them. And this what leads in my opinion to have a "surge" in diplomacy for peace.

Ten years ago, we had about 38 million people displaced by conflict in the world. Now we have about 60 million people.

According to the numbers of the first semester of this year, things are still getting worse in 2016. 5% more people displaced, 80% more individuals by requesting help. And worse than that, ten years ago, we were helping one million people go back home every year. Now in the last year, we only helped 130,000 people go back home, which means we are having more and more people forced to flee, and less and less people being able to find a solution for their plight.

We are like a nurse that provides an aspririn to a patient. we are able to alleviate the pain, but we don't solve the problem. That is the political dimension of the humanitarian crisis. Humanitarians need to be impartial, neutral, to abide by humanitarian principles, not to be political. But we need to be humble enough to recognize that there is no humanitarian solution for this problems. The solution is political."

His desire to have "a 'surge' in diplomacy for peace" is somewhat amusing. Of course he's contrasting to the American troop "surges" in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suggesting that diplomats should surge as well. This is something that might have been possible in the 1990s, but is completely impossible in today's generational Crisis era. BBC and United Nations

The 'dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world'

A couple of sentences from Guterres' interview are worth repeating: "It's this dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world. It's the fact the international community has lost much of its capacity to avoid conflicts, to prevent conflicts, and then to timely solve them."

He couldn't have chosen better or more accurate words to describe what happens in a generational Crisis era. Guterres pointed out that the number of refugees in the world now exceeds 60 million, but in the last year his agency was able to help only 300,000 of them, a much worse ratio than ten years ago.

For most countries, the current generational Crisis era began around 2003, 58 years after the climax of World War II, a time when the retirement of the survivors of WW II accelerated and caused them to lose almost all influence over the rising generation, Generation-X.

I happen to have in my archives a Boston Globe article from August 29, 2004, that says that the number of war deaths has been decreasing substantially:

"[T]he number killed in battle has fallen to its lowest point in the post-World War II period, dipping below 20,000 a year by one measure. Peacemaking missions, meantime, are growing in number.

"International engagement is blossoming," said American scholar Monty G. Marshall. "There's been an enormous amount of activity to try to end these conflicts."

For months the battle reports and casualty tolls from Iraq and Afghanistan have put war in the headlines, but Swedish and Canadian non-governmental groups tracking armed conflict globally find a general decline in numbers from peaks in the 1990s.

The authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in a 2004 Yearbook report obtained by The Associated Press in advance of publication, says 19 major armed conflicts were under way worldwide in 2003, a sharp drop from 33 wars counted in 1991.

The Canadian organization Project Ploughshares, using broader criteria to define armed conflict, says in its new annual report that the number of conflicts declined to 36 in 2003, from a peak of 44 in 1995."

So as most of the world ended its generational Unraveling era, when the last of the WW II survivors were in charge, and entered a generational Crisis era, things changed.

Since then, we've had four or five wars among the group consisting of Israel, Hezbollah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Gaza. We've had a huge surge of Muslims killing Muslims through the Mideast, in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, following the "Arab Awakening." That includes President Obama's new Iraq war, following the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Ukraine's Crimea, the first such peacetime action in Europe since Adolf Hitler's Nazi army had invaded, occupied and annexed a portion of Austria (the Anschluss) on March 12, 1938.

There's also the "surge" in Afghanistan, and African wars in Mali, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. We'd also have to count the slaughter of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar (Burma). And while the world seemed very prosperous ten years ago (the middle of the real estate and credit bubble), we've had to endure a financial crisis after the bubbles imploded.

The Outlook for 2016

Will there be any more conflicts in 2016? Almost certainly. Let's take a look at the current situation:

The thing that makes a generational Crisis era unlike other eras is that, with rising nationalism and xenophobia, something that might be considered trivial at other times could be a cause for war now. In 1914, a Serb, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his pregnant wife Sophie. Assassinations were not uncommon in the world, then or now, but to most of the world's complete astonishment, this assassination triggered World War I.

A similar thing could happen 2016, in any region of the world.

Happy New Year!

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Jan-16 World View -- 2016 and the 'dramatic multiplication of conflicts in the world' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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31-Dec-15 World View -- Puerto Rico avoids default with partial bond repayment

Central Africa Republic votes for new president and legislature

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Puerto Rico avoids default with partial bond repayment


San Juan at night
San Juan at night

Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced at a press conference in San Juan on Wednesday a series of financial maneuvers to avoid default in January, when more than $1 billion in bond payments are due.

Over $100 million in cash reserves that had been set aside to pay other debts will be part of a $357 million payment of interest due on Puerto Rico's general obligation debt, thus avoiding default.

However, two payments, also due on January 1, will not be paid. One is a $35.9 million payment on debt issued by the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority, and the other is a $1.4 million payment on Public Finance Corp. bonds.

According to a spokesman for the US Treasury Dept.:

"Today’s announcement that Puerto Rico will miss additional payments demonstrates the gravity of the Commonwealth’s fiscal crisis and the need for Congress to act now. Puerto Rico is at a dead end, shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and diverting money from already-depleted pension funds to pay both current bills and debt service."

The Treasury Department, the Obama administration, and Puerto Rican officials are pressuring Congress to to pass legislation enabling the commonwealth to seek Chapter 9 protection from creditors or create a financial control board that would have enough authority to coerce recalcitrant bondholders to join a restructuring plan. The word "recalcitrant," which is used in news reports describing this proposed legislation, indicates why bondholders strongly oppose this plan. Republicans also oppose the plan, fearing that it would force the bondholders to bail out Puerto Rico, and would allow the commonwealth to continue its practice of unlimited debt and spending that gave rise to the current situation in the first place.

As we wrote two weeks ago ( "20-Dec-15 World View -- Puerto Rico negotiates restructuring after Congress fails to allow Chapter 9 bankruptcy"), a Puerto Rican default would have widespread negative impact on ordinary American investors, because of the massive size of the investments in 401k's and ordinary investment funds.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has refused to push the bankruptcy legislation, but has promised to create a legislative package by the end of March to deal with Puerto Rico's financial problems. If this is accomplished, then it will be done just in time to avoid a full default in May, which otherwise is all but certain. Bloomberg and Washington Post

Central Africa Republic votes for new president and legislature

International officials are hoping and praying that Wednesday's presidential and legislative elections in Central African Republic (CAR) will turn the page for the country, end the violence, and bring happiness to all.

In other words, the hope is that Christians whose villages were burned to the ground by Muslim militias, and Muslims whose families were raped, murdered and dismembered by Christian militias, will all put aside any desire for revenge, and all that will be required is that the new government take office.

Many people are particularly hopeful because there were long lines to vote in the capital city Bangui, but no violence. Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza was very pleased:

"Many thought this day, this vote would not be possible for security and organizational reasons. But, you see, we all are voting in dignity and peace and I am proud."

Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, the African Union's commissioner for political affairs added" “With the election held today, we are confident that the transition in the Central African Republic is coming to an end, and that this would usher in peace and stability and prosperity to the Central African Republic."

However, as we wrote three weeks ago, when a new constitution was adopted, the elections may actually worsen Muslim-Christian violence. Either the Muslim side or the Christian side is going to come out ahead, and the other side may not tolerate it.

There will be plenty of excuses for either side to pursue renewed violence. There were a number of irregularities in Wednesday's elections. There were some errors in printing the ballots, and ballots didn't arrive in time in some parts of the country.

Indeed, CAR is a huge country, and the capital city Bangui is only a tiny dot on the map of the country. All the news reports so far about a violence-free election came from Bangui, where thousands of African Union and United Nations peacekeepers have been brought in to make sure nothing happens. By contrast, there are no peacekeepers in vast regions of the country, some warlords (both Muslim and Christian) have declared that they won't abide by the election, no matter what the result. Out of a population of five million, there are about one million who have been driven from their homes, and many of those will have had no chance to vote. There have been reports of continuing violence between Muslims and Christians in some parts of the country.

The vote count is expected to take several days, and the presidential vote is expected to go to a run-off on January 31.

As I've written in detail several times in the past ( "2-Oct-15 World View -- Violence resurges in Central African Republic crisis war"), CAR is deep into a generation Crisis era and in the middle of a generational crisis war. A new constitution and a new election are not going to stop the huge generational forces that are pushing the Muslims and Christians into this war of mutual extermination. The war will not end until it's run its course, and apparently still has a long way to go. AFP and VOA and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Dec-15 World View -- Puerto Rico avoids default with partial bond repayment thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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30-Dec-15 World View -- Central Americans reach agreement on letting Cuban migrants reach the US

ISIS may be linked to massive suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Central Americans reach agreement on letting Cuban migrants reach the US


Route used by Cuban migrants before Nicaragua closed the border: Plane flight to Ecuador, then on foot overland to the US
Route used by Cuban migrants before Nicaragua closed the border: Plane flight to Ecuador, then on foot overland to the US

A meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA), a political and economic organization for Central American countries, has reached agreement to help thousands of Cuban migrants, stranded in Costa Rica, to reach the United States. The migrants were stranded in Costa Rica after Nicaragua closed the border, refusing to let the migrants pass through.

US law has "wet foot, dry foot" policy with respect to Cuban migrants traveling by boat from Cuba to Florida. According to the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, if the US Coast Guard intercepts them before reaching Florida ("wet foot"), then they can be sent back to Cuba. But once they set foot on American soil ("dry foot"), then they are allowed to stay and can apply for asylum after a year.

However, Cuban migrants have found an alternate route that takes advantage of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy -- by traveling overland through Central America, through Mexico, then to the United States to apply for asylum.

Cubans who take this alternate route begin by flying to Ecuador, which had no visa requirements for Cubans entering the country. From there they travel on foot overland through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica to the Nicaraguan border. They then continue on foot through Nicaragua and north, eventually reaching Mexico and then the United States. Once they reach the US, they can apply for asylum.

Few Cuban migrants attempted this route in the past, but the numbers sharply increased since December 2014, when the Obama administration announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, for the first time since the Cuban Revolution of 1960 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

Since the restoration of diplomatic relations, many Cubans feared that the US would end the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, and that they would be just all the other Latin American migrants, treated as illegal immigrants when they enter the US. So Cubans have been rushing to beat any possible change, and the number of migrants has gone as high as 1,000 per week in recent months.

Since Nicaragua closed its border in mid-November, the migrants have been stranded in Costa Rica. There are now as many as 8,000 Cuban migrants stranded in Costa Rica. SICA has had several meetings since then, asking Nicaragua to provide a "humanitarian corridor" through which the migrants can travel north.

Pope Francis has called for a quick solution:

"I invite the countries of the region to renew with generosity all necessary efforts in order to find a rapid solution to this humanitarian drama."

Nicaragua has refused to allow any "humanitarian corridor." It's believed that the reason is that Nicaragua is a close ally of Cuba, and Cuban authorities have been demanding that the US end the "wet foot, dry foot" policy which has allowed so many Cubans to leave for the United States. A couple of weeks ago, Nicaragua withdrew from SICA membership, rather then be pressured.

So in its Monday meeting, SICA came up with a kind of "plan B": The migrants will be put in a plane and flown from Costa Rica to El Salvador, where they will then be ferried toward Mexico by bus.

There are still some hitches that have to be worked out. It's not known who will pay for this transportation, and Mexico, which is not a member of SICA, has to sign off on the plan. A pilot program will begin as early as next week, when 250 Cuban migrants will be flown from Costa Rica to El Salvador.

When word spreads that a deal has been reached to bypass Nicaragua, it's fear that there will be a new surge of Cuban migrants trying to take advantage of the new opening. Prensa Latina and Reuters and BBC

ISIS may be linked to massive suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan

A suicide bomber on Tuesday blew himself up outside a government building in Mardan in northwest Pakistan, near Peshawar. 26 people were killand and dozens wounded. The casualties would have been much higher, but a security guard stopped the suicide bomber from reaching a crowd of 400 people queued up to get papers.

Terrorist group Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA, Assembly of Freedom) has claimed responsibility for the bombing. JuA has long been one of the terrorist groups under the umbrella group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). JuA split off from TTP in the middle of 2014 in a disagreement caused by TTPs plans to hold peace talks with Pakistan's government. JuA has rejoined TTP this year, but has also declared allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), which would make Tuesday's bombing the first major terrorist attack linked to ISIS in Pakistan.

It's thought that JuA perpetrated Tuesday's attack because it's the one year anniversary of the horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren, for which JuA is also responsible.

Pakistan's people over the years have exhibited an accepting attitude towards the Taliban, even when they conducted terror attacks on Pakistani soil. A lot of this acceptance occurs because many of the attacks were on Shias, whom most Pakistanis don't care about, and many other attacks were against targets in India and Afghanistan of Indians, whom many Pakistanis hate.

However, last year's Peshawar attack targeted innocent dozens of innocent army schoolchildren, and was so devastating, that many minds were changed. Pakistan's military stepped up attacks on Taliban targets in Pakistan's tribal areas, and also began hangings for convicted terrorists. This has infuriated the Taliban, and it's feared that Tuesday's terrorist attack was part of a growing spiral of revenge. The News (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan) and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Dec-15 World View -- Central Americans reach agreement on letting Cuban migrants reach the US thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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29-Dec-15 World View -- Artificial Intelligence breakthroughs in 2015, the Singularity by 2030

Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

2015 - A breakthrough year for Artificial Intelligence


Female humanoid robot.  Do you think she'd go out on a date with you if you ask her nicely? (Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology)
Female humanoid robot. Do you think she'd go out on a date with you if you ask her nicely? (Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology)

Many analysts consider 2015 to have been a breakthrough year for Artificial Intelligence (AI), not because of any single achievement, but because of achievements across the board in so many different areas.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are now operating their own AI labs. In areas such as image recognition, computer vision, face recognition, voice recognition and natural language processing, there are a wealth of new products (think of Siri or OK Google) that are becoming increasingly reliable and increasingly available.

Several companies are testing self-driving cars, and they're expected to be available commercially by 2020. Robots in the military are becoming more common, from robots on wheels to pilotless drone warplanes. All of these robots still require constant human intervention and control, but they're slowly migrating away from human control to algorithmically based decision making and control. Robot form factors are improving, with some robots looking almost human.

In 2011, I wrote how the news that IBM's Watson supercomputer bests human champions on Jeopardy! advances AI significantly, because it shows how, within a few years, computers will be able to "read" everything on the internet and learn from it. Today, IBM has Watson-based applications in multiple industries, from retail to healthcare. IBM also has a program to allow developers to incorporate Watson into mobile phone apps. Bloomberg and World Future Society and IBM

The debate about preventing the Singularity

The development of technology leading to the Singularity cannot be stopped. Even if the United States passed a law, or the United Nations passed a resolution, that would not stop China, India, Europe and other countries from continuing this technological development.

In fact, it wouldn't even stop the United States development. A university scientist who's working on a better self-driving car is not going to stop development because that technology might be used in the Singularity. The Singularity is coming, whether anyone likes it or not.

That hasn't prevented a debate on how to save the world from AI. Elon Musk, the founder of electric car company Tesla Motors, has been one of the leaders in making that argument. He's formed a non-profit artificial intelligence research company call OpenAI. This company will develop AI technology as open source, available for anyone in the world to download. Google and Facebook are also open-sourcing some of their AI technology. According to Musk's partner, Sam Altman: “Developing and enabling and enriching with technology protects people. Doing this is the best way to protect all of us.”

If Musk and the others really believe that open-sourcing will protect the world from the domination of super-intelligent computers, then they're living in a total fantasy. The concept is supposed to be that with many people around the world working on AI software, they'll check each other and prevent the development of software that will dominate humans. The whole concept is so absurd, it's hard to know where to start. Probably the best thing is to simply point out that making AI technology available to anyone gives everyone a head start. A jihadist in Karachi or a military scientist in Shanghai will be able to download the OpenAI technology and build on it to create intelligent robots that can conduct terrorist attacks or war.

In fact, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation has nominated Elon Musk for the 2015 Luddite of the Year.

In 2015, the US Department of Energy awarded $200 million for the next generation supercomputer. It will be commissioned in 2018, with a performance of 180 petaflops (thousand trillion operations per second) of processing power. We're already beyond the processing power of the human brain, which is estimated to be 38 petaflops. Computer power is doubling every 18 months. This is known as Moore's Law, formulated by Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of the Intel in 1965. Moore's Law has been valid for 50 years, through several technologies, and is expected to continue.

It's the doubling of computing power every 18 months that makes it all but certain that the Singularity will occur by 2030, whether we like it or not. Wired and Washington Post and Defense One and Government Executive and Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and US Department of Energy

Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change

Politicians and climate change activists like to say that the claims about climate change have been endorsed by 95% of all the scientists in the world. This claim is a total fraud, because it confuses two things.

First, we have the claims by scientists that the earth is warming because of human activity. Arguably, that HAS been proven by scientists. But that's all.

The second part is predictions about the future, which are mostly total crap, and certainly not science. In fact, climate change scientists have been making predictions for 25 years, and they've almost completely turned out to be wrong. The truth is that scientists who claim to know what the earth's temperature will be in 2100 can't even predict what the weather will be next month.

During my lifetime, I've seen any number of hysterical environment disaster predictions. My favorite was the prediction in 1970 by far left-wing Ramparts Magazine that predicted that the oceans were becoming so polluted that by 1980 the world's oceans would be covered by a layer of algae. It didn't happen.

One way to know that the climate change activists are wrong is that these climate change scientists never mention the Singularity or future technology. There is a very powerful historical precedent that they all ignore. In the late 1800s, streets in large cities were full of horses (think of a traffic jam in any large city, with horses instead of cars). These horses were producing huge volumes of urine, manure, flies and carcasses -- not to mention cruelty to horses. By 1900, there was 1,200 metric tons of horse manure per day. There were international conferences (like today's climate change conferences) that accomplished nothing. But within 20 years, the problem took care of itself because of new technology - the automobile.

History shows that new technology, including new AI technologies, will solve the "climate change" problem, and that politicians will have absolutely nothing to do with it, except to take the credit when something works, and to blame someone else otherwise. Daily Caller and From Horse Power to Horsepower and The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 and Great Moments in Failed Predictions

Proof that the Singularity will occur by 2030

The Singularity is the point in time when computers will be more intelligent, more able, and more creative than humans. Ten years ago, in 2005, I wrote an article called "The Singularity," in which I forecast that the Singularity would occur around 2030. Today, I see no reason to change that forecast.

There is now an updated version of that article available: "Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity by 2030". The contents are as follows:

For those interest in computer software algorithms, the article contains the Intelligent Computer (IC) algorithm in the article is as follows:

The article also contains a proof (under reasonable assumptions) that every intelligent species in the universe must follow the same Generational Dynamics cycles as humans is outlined as follows:

This article is available online at this location: "Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity by 2030".

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Dec-15 World View -- Artificial Intelligence breakthroughs in 2015, the Singularity by 2030 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Dec-15 World View -- Japan says that armed Chinese ship infiltrates its territorial waters

Japan aggressively expands its military defense of the Senkaku Islands

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Japan says that armed Chinese ship infiltrates its territorial waters


Chinese coast guard patrol boats
Chinese coast guard patrol boats

According to Japan's coast guard, an armed Chinese coast guard vessel entered Japanese waters off the disputed Senkaku Islands for the first time on Saturday. That ship and two others had been sailing in the area since Tuesday. The Japanese government protested to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo and to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

China's sovereignty claims over islands in the South China Sea have been in the news a lot this year, but China also is in a simmering dispute with Japan over the issue of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese) in the East China Sea. In 2005, the dispute became so bitter that military action was being threatened on both sides. (See "China and Japan head for military confrontation over disputed islands.")

In November 2013, China escalated the confrontation by announcing the creation of an "East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone" (ADIZ), claiming administrative responsibility for the entire East China Sea region, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands that have historically belonged to Japan.

China has been annexing regions in the South China Sea belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines without interference from the United States. But the situation in the East China Sea is potentially very different. The US and Japan have a Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, signed on January 19, 1960. It commits the United States to help defend Japan if Japan came under attack, and it provides bases and ports for U.S. armed forces in Japan.

So the question arises whether the US would intervene militarily if China attempted to take the Senkaku Islands by military force, as it's done in the South China Sea. In 2014, it was widely noted that the Obama administration was failing to clarify that commitment, despite several opportunities to do so.

Then, in April 2014, President Obama visited Japan and said that the US would defend the Senkaku Islands:

"At the same time, the United States is going to deal directly and candidly with China on issues where we have differences, such as human rights. I’ve also told [China's] President Xi [Jinping] that all our nations have an interest in dealing constructively with maritime issues, including in the East China Sea. Disputes need to be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, not intimidation and coercion. The policy of the United States is clear -- the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S. -- Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands."

China frequently runs patrols in territorial waters of the Senkaku Islands, but this is the first time that an armed Chinese vessel has entered waters claimed by Japan. Japan Times and Shanghaiist

Japan aggressively expands its military defense of the Senkaku Islands

Japan has announced an aggressive new military policy to defend the Senkaku Islands from Chinese incursions. Japan is preparing to deploy thousands of troops and build anti-aircraft and anti-ship missile batteries on 200 islands in the East China Sea located roughly 870 miles from the Japanese mainland toward Taiwan.

The announced follows adoption by the Japanese of new "collective defense" laws, partially departing from the pacifism that Japan adopted in its constitution after World War II. The old self-defense clause of the constitution permits military action only when Japan itself is being attacked. The new laws reinterpret the self-defense clause to include "collective self-defense," which would permit military action under some circumstances when an ally (such as the United States) is attacked. I discussed the meaning of "collective self-defense" in detail last year in "5-May-14 World View -- Japan debates 'collective self-defense' to protect America and Japan".

Along with the collective defense laws, the Obama administration has been encouraging Japan to take greater responsibility for its own defense, in view of China's growing military aggressiveness, reducing its dependency on the United States military. This announcement appears to be in response to the administration's request.

Chinese ships sailing from their eastern seaboard will be forced to pass through this string of islands with its seamless barrier of Japanese missile batteries to reach the Western Pacific, access to which is vital to Beijing both as a supply line to the rest of the world's oceans and for the projection of its naval power. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's broader goal is a strategy to dominate the sea and air surrounding the remote islands. Reuters and International Business Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Dec-15 World View -- Japan says that armed Chinese ship infiltrates its territorial waters thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Dec-15 World View -- Reader comments on 'The Big Short' and the financial crisis

'The Big Short' today versus 'The Three-Penny Opera' in pre-Hitler Germany

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

'The Big Short' today versus 'The Three-Penny Opera' in pre-Hitler Germany


Poster for 1931 London production of Three-Penny Opera
Poster for 1931 London production of Three-Penny Opera

In yesterday's article, " "'The Big Short' - an infuriating movie about the financial crisis"," I reviewed the movie "The Big Short," based on Michael Lewis's bestselling book "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine," describing the financial crisis of the past decade.

As I wrote, the movie did not sugar-coat anything. It unequivocally painted investment and mortgage bankers, financial managers and real estate brokers as crooks and bastards, but they were only financially rewarded by the Justice Department. It ended by making clear that the same people are doing the same things today, and that the financial crisis is far from over.

It seems pretty clear that the director David McKay had the objective of making a political point: That people should be a lot more outraged about what happened, with millions of people losing their jobs and homes and going bankrupt, and that they should demand that some of these crooks should be prosecuted rather than rewarded.

There's a historical analogy to this objective. Bertolt Brecht's 1928 play "The Three-Penny Opera" (music by Kurt Weill) had a similar objective - to portray the corruption and criminality of the day in order to provoke outrage and bring about change. (If you haven't heard of the play, you may be familiar with its most popular song, "Mack the Knife".)

In her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt describes how that objective completely backfired:

"Particularly significant in this respect was the reception given Brecht's Dreigroschenoper [[Bertolt Brecht's The Three-Penny Opera]] in pre-Hitler Germany. The play presented gangsters as respectable businessmen and respectable businessmen as gangsters. The irony was somewhat lost when respectable businessmen in the audience considered this a deep insight into the ways of the world and when the mob welcomed it as an artistic sanction of gangsterism. The theme song in the play, "Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral," [["First comes gluttony, then comes morality."]] was greeted with frantic applause by exactly everybody, though for different reasons. The mob applauded because it took the statement literally; the bourgeoisie applauded because it had been fooled by its own hypocrisy for so long that it had grown tired of the tension and found deep wisdom in the expression of the banality by which it lived; the élite applauded because the unveiling of hypocrisy was such superior and wonderful fun. The effect of the work was exactly the opposite of what Brecht had sought by it. The bourgeoisie could no longer be shocked; it welcomed the exposure of its hidden philosophy, whose popularity proved they had been right all along, so that the only political result of Brecht's "revolution" was to encourage everyone to discard the uncomfortable mask of hypocrisy and to accept only the standards of the mob."

Arendt's description, "The play presented gangsters as respectable businessmen and respectable businessmen as gangsters" is what closely ties the two dramas together. Corruption was massive in 1928 Berlin and today's Washington. Both plays equated gangsters and businessmen -- and also equated gangsters and politicians. But the Three-Penny Opera simply amused and delighted those involved in the corruption, and seemed to endorse it.

"The Big Short" portrays the delight that the bankers took in making millions of dollars while making millions of people homeless. Some of the characters even bragged about it. If the politicians and bankers and journalists who watch the movie have the same sense of fun that Arendt describes, then McKay's message will indeed have backfired. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarism and The Three-Penny Opera

Reader comments on 'The Big Short' and the financial crisis

After reading " yesterday's article, many reader comments expressed outrage in political terms:

"It's disgraceful that the people responsible for the crash were never prosecuted. It is beyond belief."

"Makes me ashamed in every way."

"They will never be prosecuted....why????? Obama and his cronies are all in on it and crooks..."

"All financial authority should be on notice that the public institutions who rely on their "veracity" can and should demand clarity and proof on a daily basis. Selling your ratings, is not the same as giving your ratings."

"This is exactly why Trump and his adjustable rate mortgages on over-priced New York real estate will be broke by the Presidential Election and Trump will be on food stamps and New York Medicaid, poor fool. Trumps so-called wealth is all on paper and Bloomberg reports that New York real estate bubble is bursting and has dropped every month since February 2015 with no end in sight."

"There is another aspect to the "big theft" that is usually left out. The influx of Mexicans et al to build the houses in the first place. We did not have the workers to build those houses to bet against."

"Bush back in 2006 tried to get congress to do something and the usual suspects in the Democrat party dismissed the fears! Thanks community organizing leftists!"

Readers' personal experiences with the financial crisis

One person, a mortgage underwriter, described his own experiences:

"Mr. Xenakis, a Belated Merry Christmas to you. Did my own research back when I first came across your site, years ago, and still sing your praises.

The problem with our entire society is the head in the sand/kill the messenger mentality that is a cancer on reason and logic. I don't like delivering bad news but in my profession I must on occasion and am floored by some of the responses I get. Had one that actually paid money for an attorney that she could have used for ultimately getting approval- I am a mortgage underwriter- and close. I told the parasite to get phuqed and call his congressman- that's who it would have taken to get the lending laws changed like he wanted them- and hung up.

There is an reactive, unconscious vindictiveness in people that I had never encountered before. Just boggles the mind how fundamentally unequipped people have become. I tried to call her afterwards, just to try and explain how she had just blew up everything and most likely lost even her earnest money, and still all she could do is scream and threaten me. This was, for me anyway, the most extreme and early example of the 'sense of false entitlement'.

Keep your head up, keep in mind what my dear departed father used to say; 'phuq 'em if they can't take a joke'. Works on about anything, other than jokes. And don't get too worried about the future, the Chinese are going to bow US into the stone ages. Might I suggest some of the urban survival courses? Online, YouTube. If nothing else you start seeing your neighborhood in a whole new way."

A stockbroker of 30 years wrote to say that the warnings put forth in "The Big Short" are frighteningly accurate:

"John, may I first say that Generational Dynamics is frightenly accurate. I have been a daily reader for approximately 10 years. I can say with certainty that you are correct in your assessments. The future Gen Dyn predicts scares the hell out of me. I too watched The Big Short on Christmas Day. I too see that our financial system has not learned anything from the past. In fact it is by far worse. I have been a stockbroker for the past 30 years. You may hate me and lump me in with the others but I have always been honest in my career and honest with my clients. My upper management of the firms I have been associated with over the years are complete idiots. All they care about is shareholder value and their bonus not the client's best interest. Over the years I have seen these same upper management morons continue to make millions and do nothing about the situation of product layering. I agree that government has turned away from prosecution of the fraud. I do think it is not a red vs blue political issue. It is much bigger than that. It is the ultra wealthy vs the rest of us. Two of my clients, one on the red team and one on the blue team gifted money to their families again this year from profits of their investments. Each are multi billionaires. They give children, grandchildren, great grandchilren and various LLC's and trust they control millions each year. Each contribute millions to their red PAC and blue PAC which is now easier with the Supreme Court ruling. My conclusions are based on what I experience daily. Management in all brokerage firms are idiots. Racism exists and is strong in the south. Most importantly, the Ultra rich control government. God bless you and anyone else who can see the truth. Prepare yourself for the future Gen Dyn predicts."

Another person, a college professor, has also been reading my web site since 2007 and says the reason that her students -- and many of their professors -- didn't see what was coming at that time was that they don't know how to think:

"It's not that people can't see what's coming. It's that they don't have critical thinking skills.

Some people are corrupt and taking advantage of other people, and when people walk away with all the money, it's not accidental.

But I teach with some of the academics and I can tell you that even people that I know that are straight couldn't see what I could saw in 2007, and one of them was a finance professor.

Talking to the generation that's now in their 30s, they're clueless. They have no sense of threat, they have no understanding of what's coming at them."

A couple of people wanted to give me investment advice:

"John, wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Although I don't agree with all of your predictions, I find them insightful nonetheless. I hope that you invest based on your analysis. For a little unsolicited advice, I was told once to invest small sums for risky bets. I treat my political donations the same way!!"

"Some of us are listening. Based on your advice, I liquidated half of my Roth IRA last year. And sometime in January or February of 2016, I'm going to sell the other half of my shares. I'm doing this because I am heeding your warning of the coming stock market crash. Thank you for raising the alarm."

"I read your tirade today, wanted to give you some reassurance. I’m just an average guy, but I’ve read your blog every morning for years. I don’t take it as gospel, but I am more inclined to believe it than pretty much any other internet source. I can’t be the only one. Keep it up."

"John, thanks to you & Harry Dent I've been in cash equivalent investments for years. And I plan to stay that way for a while. In spite of our spats in the past, I still love your work John."

A parent of Generation-Xers describes his experiences

One person (writing to a third person) tells what happened with his own Generation-X children, something that other older parents may enjoy reading:

"As you know I've been reading John X., your friend's newsletter now for years. He drew my interest originally when I read him because his thinking was so close to mine; we largely mirrored each other. I called my thinking generational churn. In which in changing generations the newer generation in part forgot or deliberately ignored what the previous generations tried to pass on.

It happened between me and my children. They are Gen X and I saw on a personal level what happened tho as it was happening I didn't truly appreciate the process at the time.

They were called the "can do" generation. The generation that would clean up the messes of previous generations. They were the first truly electronic & digital generation. Influenced in a way no prior generation had been. Weaned on gizmos and gadgets unavailable to previous generations. They didn't have a generational war previous generations had had so they were more homogeneous than prior generations had been. United by all those factors.

You can't tell them a damn thing because they have all the answers. Imbibed at the common cafeteria they all grew up on. A centralized common source connected by the electronic and digital grid of an increasingly centralized educational, entertainment, news, corporate, political, and governmental complex.

They knew they were right because the people influencing them told them they were right. They are in their later 30's to very early 50's & they still play with toys. Their president is known for dealing with crisis by playing golf.

As a parent of that generation I thought I was a good parent. I didn't fully appreciate how all these forces were and would overwhelm the lessons I tried to pass on."

Finally, here's a quote from someone from a person on the Millennial/Generation-X cusp who blames it all on Boomers:

"Tyrannical boomers shove money-grubbing ideology down our throats saying that the purpose of life is to accumulate wealth. Boomers saw the potential of Xers and millies decades ago, and decided to tyrannically suppress them so that the country would continue in the direction of a wealth based and feelings based society. Even though doing so violated first Xers and the Millies rights. Xers and Millies can clearly see the patheticness of the current generations of leaders and see the competent governance in their national rivals, Russia and China, now the boomer elite wants to end any possibility of reform by shoving Bush and Hillary down our throats. What's with the boomer love affair with weaklings? Trump is advocating a completely different form of government than what has traditionally existed in this country."

This is why we refer to "the nihilism, destructiveness and self-destructiveness of Generation-X."

Alan Greenspan recognized the bubble in 2005, but won't admit it

I forgot to add this to yesterday's article. Alan Greenspan went through an amazing flip-flop in 2004-5, when he was Fed Chairman, as I wrote about in several articles at the time:

I traced this reversal of opinion by reading and reporting on Greenspan's speeches. Those speeches are still on the Federal Reserve web site, for anyone who wishes to confirm this. But, strangely enough, Greenspan has never admitted, to my knowledge, that he recognized the asset bubbles in 2005, and no one else, to my knowledge, has ever reported on his reversal of opinion. Alan Greenspan speech (26-August-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Dec-15 World View -- Reader comments on 'The Big Short' and the financial crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Dec-15 World View -- 'The Big Short' - an infuriating movie about the financial crisis

Criminality in Washington


The Big Short
The Big Short

I saw the movie "The Big Short" yesterday (Christmas), and found myself becoming increasingly upset and infuriated as it went along.

The movie is a description of the financial crisis, based on Michael Lewis's bestselling book "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine."

The main characters are money managers Michael Burry (Christian Bale) and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who foresaw the crisis and found ways to make over a billion dollars profit from it. They foresaw that the housing market and the supporting subprime mortgages were going to crash, and they found a way, using credit default swaps, to bet that the housing market would crash, and they won.

Along with them is a supporting cast of stupid, sleazy bankers and real estate brokers who sold subprime mortgages, created the fraudulent subprime mortgage backed synthetic securities, and defrauded investors.

In many ways the movie is a comedy because the material is presented in a clever way. For example, the movie might cut to a girl taking a bubble bath who looks into the camera and describes a type of investment; or to a chef who chops up three-day-old fish (representing rancid investments) and throws them into a pot to make fish stew (representing collateralized debt obligations or CDOs). A lot of the movie takes place in Las Vegas, so there are a lot of pretty semi-dressed girls as backdrop. The purpose was to make this super-dry financial stuff interesting enough to make it interesting to the audience. Those who see the movie and want to understand the mathematics behind CDOs and credit default swaps can read my January 2008 article, "A primer on financial engineering and structured finance".

In the movie, Baum spoke to mortgage consultants who bragged about selling huge subprime mortgages to people with no jobs, no income, and absolutely no chance of meeting the mortgage payments. The bank lends the money for the interest-only mortgage and the banker gets a huge commission; the mortgage consultant gets a huge commission; the mortgagor gets to move into his new house, and will stay there until the interest-only period ends, and then he gets evicted and screwed. The total immorality of the mortgage consultants and bankers, bragging how they screwed people, is clear.

Baum visited a stripper who had gotten a mortgage through the consultants. He had to pay her fee for an hour of her time in order to interview her. He told her that her mortgage payment would soon double or triple. After learning that, she was no longer pretty.

Baum went to Florida and found developments with hundreds of houses, almost all abandoned because the owners had been foreclosed. The few people left looked like they were staring death in the face.

Baum also visited a money manager who had merged thousands of faulty subprime mortgages, knowing that they would default, and created the CDOs and CDOs-squared and other fraudulent securities that he sold to investors as AAA investments.

Baum visited someone at the S&P Rating Service to ask why the synthetic bonds were still rated AAA, even after large numbers of subprime mortgages had gone into default. He was told that the banks had paid them to give them the AAA rating, and that if they refused, the bank would go to Moody's, a competitor. In other words, the S&P Rating Service did not actually rate the fraudulent bonds; they simply gave an AAA rating because they were paid by the bank to do so.

I saw all this stuff going on and I became angrier and angrier. As long-time readers know, I've been writing about the housing bubble since 2004, and how it was going to cause a financial crisis. (From July 2004: "Real estate is in an overpriced bubble all over the world") I've been angry for years about what was going on, and what this movie did is bring back all that upset and anger in one huge clump. (Don't worry. I didn't go ballistic, but fumed in silence.)

And there were so many levels on which this movie infuriated me.

First, this movie was full of crooks, some of whom made thousands and other who made hundreds of millions -- on the backs of families who lost their homes and jobs and went bankrupt. But now, in 2015, not one goddam one of them has even been prosecuted and sent to jail.

The Obama Justice Department has adamantly refused to prosecute anyone, because they all used a portion of their fraudulently obtained millions to make large contributions to the Obama campaign or projects sponsored by Obama. Not one single person has been prosecuted. They're all in the same jobs, able to find new ways to defraud people -- as we've seen in the Libor and Forex scandals -- and continue to pay off the Washington politicians.

Prior to the 2000s, I would never have believed that this massive level of corruption and criminality was possible in the United States. Maybe in Russia, maybe in China, but not in the United States. It was only made possible with the rise of Generation-X in the 2000s.

The second infuriating thing is that so many mainstream economists and bank managers and politicians claim they never saw the financial crisis coming. They didn't even know there was a housing bubble until well after the financial crisis began.

And my question, the one that I've asked myself over and over for years, is: If none of these people knew that there was a housing bubble, then how the frigging hell did I know it in 2004? And why, year after year, did people I tried to explain it to treat me as a pariah? (Yes, this has gotten very personal for me.)

The fact is that I've concluded long ago that they weren't caught by surprise at all. The Gen-Xers who created the fraudulent synthetic securities had by and large graduated with Masters degrees in Financial Engineering in the 1990s. Many Gen-Xers (including Obama himself) were children of divorce and hated their fathers and their fathers' generation. There's huge amounts of stuff on the internet about this. So when the Nasdaq crash occurred in 2000, they blamed it on their fathers' generation, and purposely sold them fraudulent securities to get even with them.

What about the bank CEO and other top-level bank managers. Did they know that they were defrauding the public?

Yes of course they did, and I'll explain why. In April 2010, Congress interviewed numerous financial executives, including former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince and former Citigroup Chairman Robert Rubin, who was also the Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. (See my April 2010 article: "Financial Crisis Inquiry hearings provide 'smoking gun' evidence of widespread criminal fraud")

Based on the testimony, the Committee concluded that these banks had made investment claims that were mathematically impossible. In brief, they had taken B and C rated securities, sliced and diced them into CDOs, and came up with AAA rated securities with the same nominal value, which is mathematically impossible. Commission member Byron Georgiou said:

"Yesterday I likened it to the medieval alchemy, and today, as I study it more, I'm beginning to believe that maybe it was hallucinatory."

Georgiou went on to summarize the "smoking gun" figures that proved that fraud was committed, and that Charles Prince and Robert Rubin must have known this. Prince and Rubin could not have understood the mathematics behind the creation of the synthetic securities created by Masters of Financial Engineering, but they certainly must have known that when B-rated securities are turning into AAA-rated securities of the same nominal value, then something illegal must be going on. In other words, the Committee proved that Charles Prince and Robert Rubin had committed criminal fraud, and that they should be prosecuted and, if convicted, sent to jail.

After I wrote the 2010 article on the Commission hearings, I waited for the investigations and prosecutions to begin. And of course they never did. It was too lucrative for the Obama administration, who needed those campaign contributions for the 2012 reelection campaign. So all the criminals are still walking the streets or, more likely, at their jobs criminally defrauding more people.

Going back to "The Big Short" movie now, the movie does not attempt to sugar coat what happened. Although the movie does not name names of bankster criminals, Baum and the others repeatedly make it clear that these bankers and politicians know they're committing fraud, and they're going to do nothing about it. In fact, probably the most depressing moment for Baum in the movie is when he realizes that the Justice Department is not only not going to prosecute these criminal bankers, but is going to go further and bail them out with taxpayer money, rewarding these crooks for their criminality.


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 22.95 on December 24, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 22.95 on December 24, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)

The end of the movie also makes clear what I've been saying for years: That crisis is far from over, and there's going to be a new round of job loss, homelessness, and financial ruin for millions of people.

As I've repeated many times, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (December 24) was at an astronomically high 22.95. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

This brings me to the final reason why this movie so infuriated and upset me, and this is extremely personal. As I said, I knew in 2004 that there was a housing bubble, and I wrote about it many times. Other people (such as Baum in the movie) figured it out and were able to make millions of dollars, but all I get for getting it right is to be treated as a pariah. My web site, using generational analysis, has for years correctly predicted what would happen in the Mideast, in Afghanistan, in Russia, in China, and so forth. There is no web site or analyst or journalist in the world with anything like the predictive and analytical success of my web site. But not only is this apparently not of value to anyone, but it's brought me nothing but misery, as I'm hated and shunned by many people, in some cases even people I've known for years.

My story is the story of the mythical Cassandra. After her predictions all came true and Troy was massacred, Cassandra was raped and assaulted. My only hope is that when everything that Generational Dynamics predicts comes true, my demise will be a lot quicker and a lot less painful. For me, that's the lesson of "The Big Short." Variety and USA Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Dec-15 World View -- 'The Big Short' - an infuriating movie about the financial crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Dec-15 World View -- Israel and Hezbollah may be close to war again

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Belated Happy Hanukkah, Ramadan, Winter Solstice!

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Belated Happy Hanukkah, Ramadan, Winter Solstice!


Merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas!

Hezbollah promises revenge for deadly Israeli airstrike in Syria

Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah leader promised revenge against Israel, "and we will pick the time, place and manner to do so," in retaliation for Israel's assassination of Samir Kuntar, a former Hezbollah commander. Kuntar was killed on Sunday in an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in the suburbs near Damascus, the capital city of Syria.

The airstrike represented a fairly significant achievement, in view of the intelligence required to identify the safehouse where Kuntar was located, and to coordinate the airstrike with Russia, which controls the air space over Damascus. We wrote about this coordination earlier this month ( "6-Dec-15 World View -- Israel bombs targets in Syria with Russia's tacit cooperation"), and there is increasing evidence that Russia and Israel are sharing intelligence. Israel has allegedly conducted other airstrikes in Syria, usually targeting convoys delivering Iranian weapons to Hezbollah.

Nasrallah has suggested that revenge would take the form of another war against the Zionist entity, but a war at this time may not be possible.

First, Hezbollah is still heavily engaged in Syria, where some 1,300 to 1,500 of its fighters have been killed in battle, and about 5,000 injured. In July, Israel Radio reported that Hezbollah had arrested 175 of its own fighters after they refused to take part in battles in the Syrian city of Zabadani, close to the border with Lebanon. So Hezbollah may simply not have the manpower at this time to even attempt a new war with Israel.

Second, Israel's airstrikes in Syria bombing Hezbollah and Iranian targets, and they have been met with the approval, or at least the tacit approval, of Russia. This suggests that any Hezbollah war with Israel will not be supported by Russia, and may even be opposed by Israel and Russia as allies. Russia is in Syria for Russia, not for Iran and not for Hezbollah. In fact, Iran is actually losing territory in Syria that it thought it had gained. The Russia-Israel coordination of Israel's strikes at Iran-Hezbollah targets must be a bitter blow to Nasrallah.

However, all-out war is not Nasrallah's only choice. The revenge could take the form of terrorist attacks or border attacks. In fact, shortly after the Israeli airstrike killing Kuntar, three rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel. Israel retaliated with some eight rounds of 120mm mortar, but no casualties were reported from either side.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced great concern today over Monday's firing of rockets from South Lebanon towards Israel, calling it “a serious violation” of the ceasefire. He noted Israel’s retaliatory mortar attack, and urged maximum restraint.

Whatever form Nasrallah's revenge may take, Israel's military is warning Nasrallah that Nasrallah and Hezbollah would be making a big mistake if they perpetrated a lethal terror attack in an attempt to avenge Kuntar's assassination, and they promised a "disproportionate response" to any Hezbollah attacks. CNN and Times of Israel and Lebanon Now and YNet (Israel) and United Nations

Israel and Hezbollah may be close to war again

Ever since the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah ended, things have been pretty quiet between the two.

In fact, the 2006 war was pretty much a surprise to both sides and a disaster for both sides.

The war was triggered when two Israeli soldiers were ambushed and kidnapped while on patrol near the border with Lebanon. Israel panicked and launched the Lebanon war with Hezbollah within four hours, with no plan, no objective, and no idea what was going on. The Israelis then blundered from one objective to the next, until the war finally ended.

Hezbollah's leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said after the war that he had underestimated Israel's response to the ambush. Many Lebanese people blame Hezbollah for causing the war, which resulted in huge destruction to much of Lebanon's infrastructure, and Nasrallah apologized to the Lebanese people. Lebanon was split between those favoring Israel and those favoring Hezbollah, but no matter which side they were on, they didn't want anything like it to happen again.

It's now been almost ten years since then, and there have been plenty of "lessons learned" on both sides. Both sides have much more advanced weaponry, and both sides will be much more militarily aggressive.

In 2006, Hezbollah was launching a little more than 100 rockets a day into Israel, and mostly into neighborhoods in northern Israel. Since then, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with a huge stockpile of much more accurate and powerful rockets that can reach all the way into southern Israel, including airfields, headquarters, and economically important sites. In addition, Hezbollah will use the same kinds of tunnels and deep weapons stores that Hamas used effectively in the 2014 Gaza war.

In 2006, Israel considered itself to be at war with Hezbollah, and targeted Hezbollah infrastructure and assets in its airstrikes. In a new war, Israel will be at war not just with Hezbollah, but with all of Lebanon. According to one analysis, the international community will turn against Israel very quickly, as it always does, and so Israel must attack the Lebanese army and the infrastructure of Lebanon, including the airports and seaports, and destroy as much as possible within a few days.

Most analysts believe that there will be another war between Israel and Hezbollah, with certainly. However, this time it will not be a surprise. It will be well planned by both sides, and a lot deadlier and more destructive than last time. YNet (Israel) and Washington Institute (29-Jan-2015)

Russia is sharing information with the Taliban in Afghanistan to fight ISIS

Zamir Kabulov, a Foreign Ministry department head and President Vladimir Putin's special representative for Afghanistan, says that Russia and the Taliban are sharing information in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). According to Kabulov:

"The Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours in the fight against ISIS in Afghanistan. I have already said earlier that we and the Taliban have channels for exchanging information."

Russia has also been reported to be supplying weapons to the Afghan government as well as to India. Russia appears to be extending itself substantially. Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Dec-15 World View -- Israel and Hezbollah may be close to war again thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Dec-15 World View -- Paralyzed Lebanon decides to export its garbage to Europe

Syrian refugees in Lebanon increasingly face starvation

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Paralyzed Lebanon decides to export its garbage to Europe


A man covers his nose from the smell of the garbage in a Beirut street (AP)
A man covers his nose from the smell of the garbage in a Beirut street (AP)

Lebanon's government approved a decree on Monday to export the garbage generated by the citizens of Beirut and Mount Lebanon to Europe. This would include much of the trash that has accumulated around the capital region, last estimated in November to exceed 100,000 tons.

There will be two firms under contract: Howa BV, of Holland and Chinook Urban Mining International of Britain. It has not yet been announced where the garbage will be dumped after it leaves Lebanon. The two European firms will charge Lebanon $212 per ton to remove the garbage, about $60 per ton more than Lebanon used to pay the Lebanon's garbage contractor, Sukleen.

The garbage crisis began on July 17 when Lebanon's dysfunctional government simply closed Beirut's main landfill, without providing any alternative. With no place to go, residents simply piled the garbage in the streets. The smell has become increasingly putrid. Every time it rains, streams of garbage flow down the streets. One video that went viral showed uncollected garbage being swept down a flooded street in Beirut. The filth is seeping into the drinking water, and dysentery is feared.

Lebanon's government became officially paralyzed and dysfunctional on May 24, 2014, when Lebanon's last president, Michel Sulaiman, ended a six year term, and officials were unable to select a successor president. Hezbollah and various political coalitions continually boycotted meetings and sabotaged processes, rather than risk have an opposing party or coalition win the presidency. There is still a cabinet, and the ministers in the cabinet are empowered to make some decisions, but that's largely dysfunctional as well.

By August, tens of thousands of demonstrators were filling the streets of Beirut in the new "You Stink" campaign, where the protesters were using the epithet to describe both the garbage and the government. That led to violence, as Lebanon's security forces fired weapons, sprayed tear gas and water cannons, and arrested dozens of protesters.

Out of desperation, the cabinet did finally reach a decision on Monday to contract to the two European firms to haul the garbage away.

One politician patted himself on the back:

"The Cabinet has turned a new page today and lifted a great weight off the backs of the people."

However, another politician was more direct:

"We’ve gotten to the point where we’ll agree to anything. We have no choice but to finish with this garbage, exports or otherwise."

However, the crisis is far from over. Exporting trash is governed by the United Nations Basel Convention which requires exporters to declare the hazardous content of their waste, something that Lebanon may not even be capable of. Another problem is that no decision has been made as to where the money will come from to pay the garbage export contractors. So even in the rosiest scenario, garbage exports won't begin for weeks or months.

And Lebanon still has no president. Daily Star (Beirut) and Gulf News (Dubai) and Daily Star (Beirut) and The National (Dubai)

Syrian refugees in Lebanon increasingly face starvation

Lebanon, with a population of less than 5 million people, is hosting more than one million refugees from Syria. International contributions to aid the refugees have been dwindling, and food insecurity is mounting. In 2014, 49% of the refugees were below the poverty line of $3.84 per day, but now some 70% are below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

According to the UN report:

"With the Syrian conflict now in its fifth year, the refugees face severe restrictions on accessing the Lebanese labor market, their assets and savings are increasingly exhausted, their debts are mounting and they must fulfil specific requirements to legalize their stay in Lebanon."

With refugees generally forbidden by law to take jobs in Lebanon, some refugees are making money on the side by growing and selling cannabis. According to one landown and grower of cannabis: "Any job in Lebanon makes you $700 per month, but working with drugs can get you $10,000 a day." United Nations and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Dec-15 World View -- Paralyzed Lebanon decides to export its garbage to Europe thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Dec-15 World View -- UK bitterly sends troops back Afghanistan's Helmand province

Number of migrants entering Europe this year passes the one million mark

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

UK bitterly sends troops back Afghanistan's Helmand province


Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers in Helmand on Monday (AFP)
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers in Helmand on Monday (AFP)

As we wrote two days ago, Taliban forces in Afghanistan are scoring victory after victory in Helmand province. Some reports indicate that the crucial city of Sangin has been captured, and that all of Helmand province is in danger of falling.

To bolster desperate Afghan government forces, Britain said on Tuesday that it was sending some forces back to Helmand province. A unit of about 30 soldiers from Britain's elite Special Air Service (SAS) and up to 60 U.S. special forces have been sent to bolster the Afghan forces to defend the town, but the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said that they were not sent there to fight, but only to advise.

Britain ended combat operations in Afghanistan last year, but before then it was British troops that were mainly fighting the Taliban in Helmand. Sangin became known as “the most dangerous place in Helmand” because of the ferocity of attacks that claimed the lives of 106 British service personnel. The body count rose as the first UK units endured the most intense ground fighting since the Korean war, fighting for control of a district that was a major prize for Taliban fighters because of its lucrative opium trade.

Many UK mothers are now expressing concern that everything that the British troops fought and died for was for nothing.

The BBC interviewed a mother of a soldier who lost both his legs while serving in Afghanistan, and who was asked how she felt about the decision to send troops back to Helmand:

"Sadness, anger, but most of all a desperate, desperate sense of waste and fear that we are still not learning the lessons and that it's British troops that are going to pay the price for that failure to learn.'

[The lessons learned are] that you don't get yourself involved in an under-funded, under-defined, under-supported war in an isolated position, that these issues have got to be global and that there has got to be support from the Muslim world, throughout the world, and that we cannot - we don't have the resources to - take on these issues by ourselves."

Besides its importance for its lush opium trade, it's also a major transit point and close to a major highway that cuts across Helmand. If the Taliban take control of Sangin, then will the Afghans will be unable to resupply its forces in southern Helmand. Daily Mail (London) and Telegraph (London) and Reuters

Number of migrants entering Europe this year passes the one million mark

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1,005,504 migrants have entered Europe this year as of December 21, and they're still arriving at the rate of 4000-5000 per day.

According to the IOM, the numbers by country of entry are as follows:

Country      Total      Sea    Land
-------- ---------  -------   -----
Greece     821,008  816,752   4,256
Bulgaria    29,959   29,959
Italy      150,317  150,317  
Spain        3,845    3,845   
Malta          106      106 
Cyprus         269      269 
TOTAL    1,005,504  971,289   34,215

The total of migrant/refugee deaths now stands at 3,692.

Over half of the migrants were refugees escaping the war in Syria.

Germany, the most economically powerful country in the European Union, has led the way in extending a welcome to migrants, and is expecting to take in a million asylum-seekers.

At the other end of the spectrum is Hungary, led by prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has become increasingly popular since his right-wing Fidesz party government has been conducting anti-migrant media campaigns against the flood of migrants. According to Orbán:

"Mass migration is threatening the security of Europeans, because it brings with it an exponentially increased threat of terrorism. ...

We know nothing about these people: where they really come from, who they are, what their intentions are, whether they have received any training, whether they have weapons, or whether they are members of any organization. Furthermore, mass migration also increases crime rates."

Syria's neighbors are bearing most of the burden of flood of Syrian refugees. Turkey is hosting 2.5 million, Lebanon and Jordan are each hosting more than a million. International Organization for Migration (IOM) and BBC and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Dec-15 World View -- UK bitterly sends troops back Afghanistan's Helmand province thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Dec-15 World View -- Russia's Syria airstrikes kill many innocent civilians, but otherwise appear futile

Azerbaijan's currency devalues 32%, following Russia and Kazakhstan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia's Syria airstrikes kill many innocent civilians, but otherwise appear futile


Idlib devastation, after Russian warplane bombing on Sunday (Reuters)
Idlib devastation, after Russian warplane bombing on Sunday (Reuters)

When peaceful anti-government demonstrations began in Syria in 2011, Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad responded with a genocidal series of airstrikes on innocent Sunni civilians, using heavy weapons supplied by Russia. This resulted in a worldwide movement of young Sunni jihadists from almost 100 countries, traveling to Syria to fight al-Assad. This resulted in the creation of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), which is still benefiting from a large influx of jihadist volunteers from around the world.

Now Russia is directly taking part in the war, and is substantially increasing the massacres of innocent Sunni civilians. Russia's warplanes have added a new layer of carnage, reportedly killing at least 600 Syrian citizens, including 70 in Idlib on Sunday. In Syria’s north and in opposition-held parts of the cities of Hama and Damascus, the destruction wrought on civilian infrastructure and population centers over recently is more intense than at any point in almost five years of war.

Human Rights Watch is reporting that Russia's massive extermination bombings have extensively used cluster bombs, whose use is considered a war crime. A cluster bomb contains dozens or hundreds of bomblets and are fired in rockets or dropped from the air. The munitions are capable of killing even long after the initial attack, especially when unexploded bomblets detonate. They aren't militarily effective, but they cause many civilian casualties, including many women and children.

However, as the US has learned in Iraq and Syria and Saudi Arabia is learning in Yemen, airstrikes alone are not enough to win a war without ground troops. Now Russia is learning the same lesson, as reports indicate that Russia's massive airstrikes are accomplishing little beyond the slaughter of innocent civilians.

When Russia began its airstrikes 12 weeks ago, Syria's army was supposed to supply the ground troops that would make the airstrikes effective. But as we reported earlier this year, Syria's army was nearing a complete collapse, which is one of the factors that led Russia to intervene. Syria had been losing one city after another, as massive desertions had crippled al-Assad's army.

The al-Assad regime is now in a desperate program to conscript new people into the army. A man from Damascus is quoted as saying that four of his friends were taken from their homes to an army base in the city early last week. “There are trucks driving around with loudspeakers ordering men and boys to join,” he said.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Syria is now in total chaos. The American-led coalition has mostly evacuated Syria since Russia intervened, but there are still many groups participating in the war -- Russia, the Kurdish YPG militia, most of the important rebel groups, including radical Sunni organizations tied to Al Qaeda, such as the Nusra Front and Ahram al-Sham, Iran and Shiite Hezbollah, and ISIS. Guardian (London) and ARA News (Syria) and Debka (Israel)

European Union renews its sanctions against Russia for Ukraine invasion

Despite internal divisions among the European Union members, the European Council of all 28 EU member states renewed for six more months the sanctions against Russia that were set to expire later this month.

The sanctions had been imposed last year, after the Russians invaded and occupied east Ukraine, annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, and later shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a missile.

Many Europeans are still shocked by Russia's actions, because they have historical memories of European leaders appeasing Hitler and the Nazis with the Munich Pact ("peace in our time"), after Adolf Hitler's Nazi army had invaded, occupied and annexed a portion of Austria (the Anschluss) on March 12, 1938.

There was internal dissension among EU nations over renewing sanctions, especially from Italy, which has traditionally close times with Russia, which criticized Germany for having an energy deal with Russia, while other EU countries were being asked to sacrifice their national interests. France and Bulgaria had similar objections.

The sanctions renewal comes after the end of a year in which it seemed that the EU was facing one existential crisis after another, including Greece's financial crisis and the massive refugee crisis. AFP and Washington Post

Russia retaliates against Ukraine by banning food imports

Russia's Foreign Ministry called the extension "illogical," and added: "Instead of building constructive cooperation in countering the key challenges of our time, such as international terrorism, EU authorities in Brussels prefer to continue to play the short-sighted sanctions game."

Russian also then played the "short-signed sanctions game" by immediately retaliating against Ukraine and announcing a ban on imported Ukrainian food, effective January 1. Ukraine has signed a free trade agreement with the EU, set to take effect on January 1, and Russia claims that if Ukrainian food were freely allowed into Russia, then Ukrainian distributors would simply purchase EU food via the free trade agreement, and then relabel it and export it to Russia.

One reason that Ukraine is going ahead with its free trade agreement with the EU is because of what happened when the previous Ukrainian government did exactly that, late in 2013. ( "3-Dec-13 World View -- Ukraine again in crisis as anti-government rioters demand president's resignation")

At that time, at least 100,000 anti-government protesters packed Independence Square ("the Maidan") in Kiev on a single Sunday, demanding the resignation of then-president Viktor Yanukovich. More than 200 people were hurt when police used tear gas and flash grenades, after some marchers tried to storm a government building. Video has emerged showing police brutally beating protesters and journalists with clubs. The riots continued through the night and into Monday evening, forcing riot police to line up to protect the office of the president.

The riots were triggered when Yanukovich did a highly visible flip-flop on signing a trade agreement with the European Union, evidently because of pressure by Russia's President Vladimir Putin. So this time, the current government is not going to do a similar flip-flop. Russia Today and BBC and Tass (Moscow) and Politico (EU)

Azerbaijan's currency devalues 32%, following Russia and Kazakhstan

Until Monday, Azerbaijan's currency the manat pegged at a fixed rate against the US dollar. But the dollar has been getting stronger and stronger on foreign exchange (FX) markets, while the price of one of Azerbaijan's chief exports, oil, keeps plunging to new lows. The result is that Azerbaijan has lost over half of its foreign currency reserves. A year ago, Azerbaijan had $14.9 billion US dollars, but the reserves are now at $6.2 billion, a "critical level." Oil and gas account for 95 percent of Azeri exports and 75 percent of government revenues.

The result is that the manat currency has now fallen 32% against the dollar. This means, for example, that any imported goods denominated in U.S. dollars will be much more expensive. Something previous costing $100 will now cost $147 (=$100/(1-.32)). However, Azerbaijan's exports are now 32% cheaper on world markets, making the country's products more competitive.

As we wrote earlier this month in "7-Dec-15 World View -- Azerbaijan faces rising radical Shia Islamist insurgency", Azerbaijan has been facing both Shia and Sunni jihadist insurgencies, largely among population groups at the worst poverty levels. With prices of many goods now increasing by almost 50%, which is almost a "hyperinflation" rate, this currency devaluation is going to further destabilize the country.

Kazakhstan scrapped its currency peg for the tenge against the dollar in August, and Russia has devalued its ruble several times, because of the oil price plunge and the international sanctions.

What everyone is watching for is what Saudi Arabia will do. The Saudi government needs oil prices of $90 per barrel to balance its budget, and no one expects prices like that again for a long time. However, the Saudis have plenty of foreign exchange reserves, thanks to previous years of high oil prices, and would not be forced to abandon its dollar peg for four years, according to estimates. Reuters and The Street

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Dec-15 World View -- Russia's Syria airstrikes kill many innocent civilians, but otherwise appear futile thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Dec-15 World View -- Taliban victories in Helmand put Obama's Afghan withdrawal policy in doubt

Obama's 30,000 troop Afghan 'surge' strategy now in seventh year

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Defense Sec'y Carter visits Afghanistan, warns of ISIS and resurgent Taliban


Afghanistan's Helmand province is being overrun by Taliban, dealing withdrawal strategy a setback (VOA)
Afghanistan's Helmand province is being overrun by Taliban, dealing withdrawal strategy a setback (VOA)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter paid a surprise visit on Friday to a remote army base near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, and warned of the threat of deteriorating security in Afghanistan from a resurgent Taliban and a growing number of fighters allied with the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The warning comes after a year that saw Afghan army and police suffer more than 5,000 casualties. U.S. commanders estimate that ISIS has 1,000 to 3,000 fighters here, many of whom apparently are former Taliban members who shifted allegiance.

Carter's remarks reflect a major new Pentagon report on the war in Afghanistan, which states:

"In the second half of 2015, the overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated with an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] and Taliban casualties. Though the insurgency remains resilient, the Afghan government remains in control of all major population centers and continues to deny the Taliban strategic ground throughout the country. The Taliban have remained active in their traditional strongholds, namely in Helmand in the south and Logar and Wardak in the east, and also created a sense of instability for brief periods of time in other parts of the country, such as in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Nonetheless, the Taliban were unable to hold territory they had wrested away from ANDSF control. The ANDSF consistently retook ground they had temporarily lost to the Taliban. Although the ANDSF maintain a significant capability advantage over the insurgency, insurgents are improving in their ability to find and exploit ANDSF vulnerabilities, making the security situation still fragile in key areas and at risk of deterioration in other places."

As stated below, even this assessment is being challenged by the governor of Helmand province as being far too optimistic, and this may force a further retrenchment in Obama's withdrawal plan, which has been repeatedly revise since Obama's original commitment of total withdrawal in 2014. In the latest version of the withdrawal plan, the US will maintain its current force of 9,800 in the country through 2016, and after that will leave a force of 5,500 troops in place to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism missions. LA Times and DOD Dec 2015 report on Afghanistan (PDF) and Long War Journal

Taliban victories in Helmand put Obama's Afghan withdrawal policy in doubt

The Taliban have been defeating Afghanistan's National Army (ANA), taking over districts in Helmand province, and appear close to a victory that will give them control of the entire province. In the latest victory, on Sunday, Taliban forces have taken control of the Sangin district, and claim to have surrounded around 150 fleeing ANA soldiers.

During a Taliban assault on Sangin in November, more than 60 Afghan soldiers were killed while another 70 defected to the insurgency. The crucial district had been one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for NATO troops who fought for years to secure the volatile poppy growing region.

Sunday's Taliban victory came after a desperate plea appeared on the Facebook page of Deputy Governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, writing to Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani. Rasulyar said that he knew of no other way to contact the government in Kabul, and wrote:

"Your Excellency, Helmand is standing on the brink and there is a serious need for you to come. Be quick and act on this! Please save Helmand from tragedy. Ignore those liars who are telling you that Helmand is secure. ...

Helmand will collapse to the enemies and it's not like Kunduz, where we could launch an operation from the airport to retake it. That is just impossible and a dream."

The reference to Kunduz indicates that the situation is similar to the situation that led up to the fall of the northern city of Kunduz in late September, when Taliban fighters seized and held on to for several days before government troops regained control. ( "29-Sep-15 World View -- Afghan Taliban capture of Kunduz has major repercussions for Central Asia")

The desperate plea highlights the dangers faced by the Afghan government as the US-led coalition withdraws from the country. The Ghani government has been claiming that the Afghan security forces have been controlling the insurgency, but a series of Taliban victories have put that claim in doubt.

In fact, there have been unconfirmed reports in the last week that the US has once again been committing troops to Helmand, and that there are more American troops fighting there than at any time since President Obama last year announced a formal end to combat operations in Afghanistan. According to the NY Times:

"The extent of the American role has been kept largely secret, with senior Afghan officials in the area saying they are under orders not to divulge the level of cooperation, especially by Special Operations forces on the ground. The secrecy reflects the Pentagon’s concern that the involvement may suggest that the American combat role, which was supposed to have ended in December 2014, is still far beyond the official “train, advise and assist” mission."

This is the latest in a series of escalations that have forced the Obama administration to repeated renege on its commitment to remove American forces by the end of 2014. VOA and Reuters and Independent (London) and NY Times

Obama's 30,000 troop Afghan 'surge' strategy now in seventh year

In fact, it was just six years ago this month that President Obama gave a speech at West Point announcing the troop "surge" in Afghanistan:

"As cadets, you volunteered for service during this time of danger. Some of you fought in Afghanistan. Some of you will deploy there. As your Commander-in-Chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined, and worthy of your service. And that's why, after the Afghan voting was completed, I insisted on a thorough review of our strategy. Now, let me be clear: There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners. And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people -- and our troops -- no less.

This review is now complete. And as Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan."

That was in December 2009, the same month that Obama went to Oslo to accept his Nobel peace prize, and then went on to Copenhagen to give a speech to a farcical climate change conference.

The West Point speech was sharply criticized on both the left and the right as I wrote at the time. ( "People are shocked! shocked! at Obama's war plan in Afghanistan.") People on the left criticized it because it was another escalation of the Afghan war. People on the right criticized it because of the 18-month deadline.

Indeed, people on the right have been bitterly criticizing Obama's strategy from the day it was announced. By giving an 18-month deadline, Obama was giving the enemy a huge strategic advantage, since they could plan their military campaign based on Obama's unilateral withdrawal announcement. And Obama has been repeatedly criticized for ignoring and overriding the recommendations of his own army generals, even though Obama has no clue what's happening in Afghanistan.

Obama has had to repeatedly extend the 18-month deadline, which is a surprise to no one. Now that Obama is being forced to send additional troops back into Helmand province now, six years later, it's clear that the critics were right, and the 18-month deadline was a disaster.

A worse irony is that President Obama's Afghan war strategy is modeled after President Bush's "surge" strategy in Iraq, something that Senator Obama bitterly opposed before it turned out to be successful. However, I wrote a detailed comparison of the Afghanistan versus Iraq wars in mid-2009 in "American army general warns of imminent defeat in Afghanistan war,", showing that the Iraq "surge" strategy could not work in Afghanistan.

As I described at length in that article, there are important differences between Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq's previous generational crisis war was an external war, the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, where Sunni and Shia populations were united to defeat the Iranian enemy.

The situation in Afghanistan was always very different. Afghanistan's last generational crisis war was the very bloody 1991-96 civil war between different Afghan ethnic groups. The Sunni Muslim Pashtuns in the south fought against what later became known as the "Northern Alliance" -- Shia Muslim Hazaras, as well as Tajiks, Uzbeks and other ethnic groups in the north. Iraq has a long history in generational crisis wars of uniting against a common external enemy, while Afghanistan has a long history of internal generational crisis civil wars of fighting each other.

An even worse difference is that Afghanistan is right next door to Pakistan, which is in a generational crisis era. As I pointed out at the time, ethnic Pashtun Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan would cooperate with each other, and that's what happened, as Taliban forces in Afghanistan conduct attacks and then flee across the border, where they're safe from Afghan government forces. No such similar situation existed in the Iraq "surge," as I described in my 2007 article, "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq". Obama's surge strategy is failing for precisely the reasons that I detailed in 2009, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis. White House (1-Dec-2009) and CS Monitor (2-Dec-2009) and CNN (22-Jun-2011)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Dec-15 World View -- Taliban victories in Helmand put Obama's Afghan withdrawal policy in doubt thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Dec-15 World View -- Puerto Rico negotiates restructuring after Congress fails to allow Chapter 9 bankruptcy

Delusional claims made during the Democratic debate

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Puerto Rico negotiates restructuring after Congress fails to allow Chapter 9 bankruptcy


Old San Juan, the center for Puerto Rican tourism, on November 12, 2013 (Getty)
Old San Juan, the center for Puerto Rican tourism, on November 12, 2013 (Getty)

Congress has passed the humongous $1.1 trillion spending bill for next year, and President Obama has signed it. It will completely bust the sequestration that has kept governing spending down for several years, and now we can expect that federal deficit to really explode in size next year. (See "2-Feb-15 World View -- Washington joins the world in explosive spending splurge")

But one Christmas present left out of the bill was an Obama-favored proposal to allow Puerto Rico, much of whose economy is close to debt default, to take advantage of chapter 9 bankruptcy laws. According to Puerto Rico governor Alejandro García Padilla:

"By not acting now, Congress has opted for the U.S. commonwealth to default on its obligations and unfold into chaos. Once again Wall Street has demonstrated its control over Congress; Wall Street rules Congress."

Puerto Rico faces an enormous $72 billion debt, $900 million of which it must pay to bondholders on Jan. 1. According to Padilla, Puerto Rico will default on its debt in January or May.

In many ways, Puerto Rico has gotten a free ride from Congress for years. Congress granted Puerto Rico investments a "triple-tax free" tax rate. This means that you can invest in Puerto Rico's bonds and earn 10% interest every year, and not have to pay federal, state or municipal tax on the interest you collect. There were other major tax benefits granted exclusively to those investing in Puerto Rico.

The money that investors paid for these bonds has been essentially "free money" to Puerto Rico, since nobody apparently believed that it would ever have to be paid back. As a result, Puerto Rico has felt free to spend huge amounts of money on social programs, with bills that are only now coming due.

Detroit defaulted on its debt several years ago, but it didn't really hurt too many people, because the bankrupt debt was $18 billion, and few ordinary people owned Detroit bonds, as most investors were institutions that hedged their purchases with credit default swaps.

A Puerto Rican debt default is likely to be much more widespread. The triple-tax free 10% interest deal has drawn massive amounts of money from 401k's and other ordinary investment funds. These funds will all lose significant principal in a Puerto Rico default.

Almost all Republicans were opposed to giving Puerto Rico retroactive bankruptcy protective protection, since that would only benefit the bondholders who took advantage of the triple-tax free 10% deal. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan promised to come up with a "responsible solution" by March 31. According to Ryan, "While we could not agree to include precedent-setting changes to bankruptcy law in this omnibus spending bill, I understand that many members on both sides of the aisle remain committed to addressing the challenges facing the territory."

Foreseeing the likelihood that Puerto Rico would not get debt relief from Congress, negotiations have been proceeding. On Friday, Puerto Rico's electric utility reached a tentative agreement with insurance companies MBIA Inc. and Assured Guaranty Ltd., along with some bondholders, to restructure the utility's $8.2 billion of debt, This potentially averts a default on January 1, and raises hopes that there will be no default in May either. NBC News and The Bond Buyer and Bloomberg

China's military on high alert when US bombers flew over South China Sea

China's military went on high alert two weeks ago on December 10, when two American B-52 bombers flew into the airspace within two miles of one of China's artificial man-made islands in the South China Sea.

According to China's Ministry of National Defense on Saturday,

"Such actions have severely threatened the safety of Chinese personnel and facilities as well as peace and stability of the region. ...

The actions by the U.S. side were a serious military provocation, creating complex conditions in the South China Sea and even militarization in the region."

The Pentagon said Friday that the two bombers flew closer than planned to Cuateron Reef in the Spratly Islands and that the incident is being investigated.

The Navy's 7th Fleet, based in Japan, regularly patrols the South China Sea. According to one analyst:

"We need to remind ourselves that [the] U.S. Navy ... has been conducting freedom of navigation operations since Jimmy Carter was in office. If you simply acquiesce to somebody else's claims, you could lose your rights."

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that "The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world." Xinhua and USA Today and Navy Times

Delusional claims made during the Democratic debate

I watched the Democratic debate on Saturday evening, and want to comment on a couple of delusional claims that I've written about many times before.

Delusional claim #1: We should protect Americans by passing gun control laws.

This is delusional for several reasons:

According to one analyst, "The [number one] driver of firearms sales is fear-- primarily, fear of registration restrictions, banning and things like that."

So gun control talk only increases the number of guns being sold and used.

Delusional claim #2: The 2003 Iraq war was the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. Also, according to Bernie Sanders, it caused the destabilization of the entire Mideast.

As I've written many times, Bernie Sanders and anyone who thinks that the Iraq war was a mistake should be held accountable for his willingness to allow Saddam Hussein to kill tens of thousands of people with weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam had already attacked Iran with WMDs in 1988, so Iran knew that Saddam would not hesitate to do it again, if given the chance. During the recent nuclear negotiations, it emerged that Iran had been developing nuclear weapons for decades, but Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei ended that development in October 2003, and that would not have happened if the Iraq War had not proved that Saddam was no longer developing nuclear weapons. ( "29-Oct-15 World View -- Iran's government splits over implementation of nuclear deal")

So the Iraq war was not only not a blunder, but may have prevented a nuclear war between Iran and Iraq.

As for destabilizing the Mideast, the Arab Awakening was triggered by the death of a street vendor in Tunisia, which had nothing to do with Saddam. And whatever you think about the Libya intervention, it had nothing to do with Saddam. BBC and PJ Media and Politico (22-Jun-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Dec-15 World View -- Puerto Rico negotiates restructuring after Congress fails to allow Chapter 9 bankruptcy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Dec-15 World View -- Taiwan may reverse South China Sea policy and oppose China

Burundi calls planned African Union peacekeeping force 'an attack'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taiwan may reverse South China Sea policy and oppose China


Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's likely next president, at a protest against a controversial Taiwan-China trade agreement last march (Getty)
Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's likely next president, at a protest against a controversial Taiwan-China trade agreement last march (Getty)

There is one and only one country in the entire world (and China says that it isn't even a country) that agrees with and supports all of China’s legal claims in the South China Sea. That country is Taiwan, though China says that Taiwan isn't a country, but only a rogue province of China that will return to Chinese control as soon as possible.

For the last few years, Taiwan has been governed by the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) party, which favors the "one China" principle and unification with mainland China, and which has fully supported all of China's claims in the South China Sea.

But Taiwan is about to hold new elections on January 16, and the KMT party is expected to lose to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Of Taiwan's two major political parties, China has always been very friendly with KMT, and very hostile with DPP. China has frequently threatened military action if Taiwan's leaders take any political steps towards independence from China, and those threats have almost always been directed at the DPP.

From a generational point of view, the supporters of the KMT are mostly older generations, including the remaining survivors of Mao Zedong's bloody Communist Revolution civil war that climaxed in 1949. The supporters of DPP tend to be in the younger generations who have no personal memories of the Communist Revolution, and who are increasingly distant from mainland China as the years go by. As the older generations die off, Taiwan's people are likely to support independence more and more each year, which could well trigger a military invasion China.

China has been annexing regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues to use belligerent military operations to enforce its seizures. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China's claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing that they would lose.

Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP leader and likely next president of Taiwan, has not specifically said that she would oppose China's claims. In fact, she has carefully avoided stating what her policy will be with respect to the South China Sea when she takes office in May, four months after the election.

However, DPP statements in the past have taken the position that the South China Sea disputes have to be handled peacefully, according to international law, namely the United Nations Commission on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) convention. This would require the disputes to be submitted to the United Nations international court in the Hague, something that China has bitterly refused to do. Taipei Times and Lawfare Blog and Focus Taiwan and Taipei Times (27-June-2015)

Burundi calls planned African Union peacekeeping force 'an attack'

The government of Burundi is responding angrily to an African Union proposal to send 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi, saying it would be "an attack" on Burundi.

International officials are becoming increasingly alarmed that Burundi will see a repeat of the 1994 genocidal war between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi and Rwanda that led to the slaughter of almost a million Tutsis in a three month period. The U.S. special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region, says that in Burundi he could feel a "palpable sense of fear or concern" on the streets. According to Perriello:

"I think you see across the region and across the world a much greater sense of needing to come together to solve this thing — that the fears of a civil war are very real, we still have time to stop it, and the people of Burundi still want to get back to that decade of progress of post-conflict reconciliation."

The African Union's Peace and Security Council stated that “Africa will not allow another genocide to take place on its soil."

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Thursday “Burundi is at bursting point, on the very cusp of a civil war."

As I've written many times, there is no chance whatsoever of a repeat of the 1994 war because there are too many survivors of that war, and they won't allow it to happen. What's happening instead is that Burundi's president Pierre Nkurunziza, whose announcement last spring that he would run for an unconstitutional third term triggered the violence, has been following in the path of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Syria's Bashar al-Assad by conducting genocidal violence against his own people in order to stay in power.

The worst violence so far occurred last week in the capital city Bujumbura, when Nkurunziza's security forces killed over 80 people, and left their corpses piled in the streets, to be discovered by ordinary homeowners when they woke up in the morning and looked out their windows.

It's possible that the proposed African Union 5000 man peacekeeping force could turn Burundi into another Syria, where external forces turn a civil war that might otherwise fizzle into an international proxy war. Nkurunziza's opposition has been calling for a peacekeeping force, Nkurunziza himself has said any such peacekeeping force would be an "attack," suggesting he would order his military to respond, repeating the Syria scenario.

What happened in Syria was that peaceful protests in 2011 were met by the Bashar al-Assad regime with genocidal attacks on innocent Sunnis, using heavy weapons obtained from Russia and even Sarin gas. Sunni jihadists from almost 100 countries around the world poured into Syria to fight al-Assad, and they ended up forming the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

Hutus and Tutsis are almost entirely Christian, so it would seem to be unlikely that Sunni jihadists would identify with either side in Burundi. However, it is possible that an al-Qaeda linked or ISIS-linked terror group might take advantage of the chaos in Burundi and conduct terror attacks, in the same way that they have in in Paris or San Bernardino or other places. Foreign Policy and VOA and IRIN (United Nations)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Dec-15 World View -- Taiwan may reverse South China Sea policy and oppose China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Dec-15 World View -- Another Putin lie: America wanted Turkey to shoot down Russia's plane

Turkey announces plans to build a military base in Qatar

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Another Putin lie: America wanted Turkey to shoot down Russia's plane


Putin at his tv call-in marathon on Thursday (AP)
Putin at his tv call-in marathon on Thursday (AP)

On Thursday, Russia's president Vladimir Putin gave one of his marathon voter call-ins, answering people's questions for three hours.

Apparently he was feeling good because he finally admitted that there were Russia troops in Ukraine, essentially also admitting that he lied about it in the past, but we all knew that anyway.

What was more significant was that he all but accused the United States and President Obama of a secret deal with Turkey: Turkey would shoot down a Russian plane, and America would get a part of Iraq:

"We do not know it for sure and we do not know whether it was right or wrong if somebody in the Turkish authorities decided to lick Americans in a certain place.

Firstly, I do not know whether Americans need it or not. Perhaps there were some agreements at a certain level, that ‘we shoot down a Russian plane and you close your eyes on it,’ and that we, let’s say, enter Iraq and occupy some part of Iraq.

I do not know, but maybe such exchange did take place, however, we do not know it for sure."

If Obama had wanted to occupy some part of Iraq, he would have done so months ago. Obama has repeatedly made it clear that he doesn't, and Putin knows that, so Putin knows that his remark is completely full of crap. Putin's remarks are simply a new lie.

Putin's technique is that when something goes well, he takes the credit, and when something goes wrong, he blames it on America. This is the same kind of technique that President Obama uses, taking credit when something goes right, and blaming President Bush when something goes wrong.

With regard to Ukraine:

"We never said that there weren’t people there [in Ukraine] dealing with certain tasks, including in the military sphere.

But that doesn’t mean there are regular Russian forces there. Feel the difference."

In fact, Putin repeatedly denied that there were no military role in Ukraine, so this is an admission of past lies. Keep in mind we already know that there were thousands of Russian troops in Ukraine, because last year it was reported by multinational sources, including British and European reporters, Nato, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the U.S. State Dept.

In fact, several Russian officials were forced to admit that Russian soldiers were participating in the invasion of Ukraine, but they always insisted that they were "volunteers."

This is another joke. Last year we quoted the Moscow Times as saying:

"About 190,000 members of the 760,000-strong Russian army are currently serving upon their own volition. The rest are conscripts."

So when Russian officials refer to "volunteers," they're referring to the 190,000 "volunteers" in the Russian army. By the way, the American army is 100% "volunteers," so when we send soldiers to Afghanistan, they're just "volunteers."

Two weeks ago, I made list of several of Russia's recent lies about Ukraine and Syria: Russia lied about its invasion of Crimea, Russia lied about invading east Ukraine, Russia lied after shooting down a passenger plane over Ukraine, Russia lied about Syria's president al-Bashar Assad's use of Sarin gas on his own people, Russia lied about the purpose of its military intervention into Syria as being to attack ISIS.

A number of web site readers, including several paid Russian trolls, complained that I was being unfair repeating Russian lies. My response is that if Putin and other Russian officials keep lying over and over and over, then they can't expected to be believed in the future. I recommend that these people read the Aesop Fable about the Boy Who Cried Wolf for further information. The moral to the fable is that nobody believes a liar, even when he tells the truth. Tass (Moscow) and Moscow Times (1-Sep-2014) and Telegraph (London) and Aesop: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Vladimir Putin praises Donald Trump

Donald Trump has repeatedly praised Russia's president Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail. During his marathon voter call-in, Putin returned the favor:

"It is not our business to determine his merits, that is up to US voters. But he is the absolute leader in the presidential race. He is a very outstanding person, talented, without any doubt."

So if we apply the rule that Putin never tells the truth except by accident, then we have to assume that this statement is meaningless except that Putin wants to do one two things:

Does Putin want Trump to be president, or not? We'll have to see what he says in the future. BBC

Israel and Turkey reach preliminary deal to normalize relations


The Mavi Marmara
The Mavi Marmara

Israel and Turkey have reached a proposed agreement to normalize relations, including the return of ambassadors to both countries, according to an Israeli official. The agreement was apparently reached at a secret meeting in Switzerland.

Turkey broke off diplomatic relations with Israel after the deaths of nine Turkish citizens on May 31, 2010, in a confrontation between Israel's navy and the boat Mavi Marmara in a flotilla headed for Gaza in violation of Israel's Gaza blockade. Since then, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has specified three conditions that Israel would have to fulfill, in order to restore normal relations. First, Israel would have to apologize, and Israel did so in March 2013, under intense pressure for president Barack Obama.

Second, Israel would have to pay monetary compensation to the families of the victims. According to the Israeli report:

"The two nations agreed on a number of steps: Israel will found a compensation fund for victims of the raid on the Marmara; all charges against Israel will be cancelled; the ambassadors will be returned to work; and high-ranking Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri will be banned from entering Turkey."

Reports indicate that the compensation fund will contain $20 million, provided by Israel to Turkey.

Erdogan's third condition was the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. News reports on the agreement do not mention this condition, and it's unlikely that any such proposal would be acceptable to either Israel or Egypt. Today's Zaman (Ankara) and AP

Turkey announces plans to build a military base in Qatar

Turkey has announced that it will build a military base in Qatar, to help the two countries confront "common enemies." This will be Turkey's first Middle East military base outside of Turkey itself. Plans are to station 3,000 ground troops, as well as air and naval units, military trainers and special operations forces.

More than other Middle East countries, Qatar has had the closest relationship with Turkey in the past. After the 2014 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, there was a major split among the Arab countries, with Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority allied against Hamas, Qatar and Turkey. ( "3-Sep-14 World View -- Mideast realignment continues following the Gaza war")

That split has largely healed since then, but Qatar and Turkey still have many common interests not always shared by other Mideast countries. They both support the Muslim Brotherhood, they both oppose the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, both have condemned Russia's intervention in Syria, and both have opposed Iran's increasing influence in the region.

According to Ahmet Demirok, Turkey's ambassador to Qatar:

"Turkey and Qatar face common problems and we are both very concerned about developments in the region and uncertain policies of other countries. We confront common enemies. At this critical time for the Middle East cooperation between us is vital."

Demirok said that the establishment of the base was a renewal of the “historic and brotherly ties” between the two countries, referring to the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Qatar is also home to the largest US air base in the Middle East, Al Udeid, which serves around 10,000 personnel. Middle East Eye and Al Bawaba and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Dec-15 World View -- Another Putin lie: America wanted Turkey to shoot down Russia's plane thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Dec-15 World View -- Despite China's disapproval, US will sell $1.83 billion in weapons to Taiwan

Russia and Ukraine escalate mutual trade sanctions over occupied Crimea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia and Ukraine escalate mutual trade sanctions over occupied Crimea


Crimean Tatars living in Turkey hold flags during a protest to call for human rights in Crimea last week, outside the Russian embassy in Ankara (AFP)
Crimean Tatars living in Turkey hold flags during a protest to call for human rights in Crimea last week, outside the Russian embassy in Ankara (AFP)

Russia on Wednesday announced plans to launch a second electric power supply cable from Russia directly to occupied Crimea.

Crimea, which was occupied and annexed by Russia last year after its invasion of Ukraine, declared a state of emergency in November after the entire peninsula was plunged into darkness because the transmission towers (pylons) carrying electricity lines from Ukraine were sabotaged. It's believed that the perpetrators were ethnic Tatars who had lived in Crimea prior to the Russian annexation. Ukraine's government in Kiev promised to restore electricity within four days, but that was delayed because of blockades set up by the Tatars.

The Crimean Peninsula’s only land border is with Ukraine, which means that Russia cannot use trucks to transport goods from Russia to Crimea. However, Russia's territory of Krasnodar has its own peninsula that stretches into the Black Sea, below the Sea of Asov, so that it's only a few miles across the Kerch strait to the eastern edge of Crimea. So Russia has is building its electric cables across the Kerch strait, and has also been ferrying supplies in the same way.

Since Russia annexed Crimea last year, Ukraine and Russia have been in tit-for-tat escalating sanctions with each other. Russia has announced an embargo on food imports from Ukraine, to begin in January. Ukraine announced that it was planning to end all commercial trade with occupied Crimea, and this week on Wednesday, Ukraine officially announced that in 30 days, "all supplies of work, goods and services from the temporary occupied territory to the other territory of Ukraine and/or from the territory of Ukraine to the temporary occupied territory of Ukraine, except for personal belongings of citizens, socially important foods and humanitarian assistance, are banned."

After the electricity supplies from Ukraine to Crimea had been cut off, there were warnings that Russia might retaliate by haling coal shipments from Russia, resulting in winter blackouts all over Ukraine. Some observers are suggesting that a secret backroom deal occurred -- Ukraine would resume electricity supplies to Crimea in exchange for resumed Russian coal shipments to Ukraine. Jamestown and Russia Today and International Business Times and Reuters

Despite China's disapproval, US will sell $1.83 billion in weapons to Taiwan

The United States announced the sale of $1.83 billion in weapons to Taiwan, under the terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed to ensure that Taiwan can maintain a credible defense in case of an attack from China.

The timing of the announcement is interesting for two reasons.

First, tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea have been increasing. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, and is annexing regions that have historically belonged to other nations. China appears to be in the process of building a massive military base on artificial islands, and the US and other countries have been confronting China simply by sailing and flying in the vicinity of the artificial islands, which are considered international waters, despite loud and aggressive Chinese warnings not to do so.

Second, Taiwan is about to hold new elections on January 16, and the current governing party, the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) party, is expected to lose to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). According to China, Taiwan is Chinese sovereign territory, and China has frequently threatened military action if Taiwan's leaders take any steps towards independence from China. China and the KMT party are very friendly towards each other, while China and the DPP feel vitriolic hatred towards each other.

In view of the expected change of government, it's thought that the US announced the arms sale now, since after January 16 it would be seen as a hostile signal to China that the US was rewarding the DPP for its victory.

Even so, China expressed its fury at the arms sale. China's Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang on Wednesday summoned Kaye Lee, chargé d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in China, and made this statement:

"Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. China strongly opposes the U.S. arms sale to Taiwan.

The arms sale severely goes against international law and the basic norms of international relations, severely goes against the principles in the three China-U.S. joint communiques, and severely harms China's sovereignty and security interests.

To safeguard our national interests, China has decided to take necessary measures, including imposing sanctions against the companies involved in the arms sale.

No one can shake the firm will of the Chinese government and people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to oppose foreign interference."

However, according to one Chinese expert, the weapons will not make any substantial change because the weapons are outdated. LA Times and Xinhua

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Dec-15 World View -- Despite China's disapproval, US will sell $1.83 billion in weapons to Taiwan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Dec-15 World View -- China and Ukraine develop closer ties, as Russia looks on

Japan and South Korea leaders attempt to rewrite history textbooks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Japan and South Korea leaders attempt to rewrite history textbooks


Street protests in Seoul, South Korea, over government plan to write a history textbook (AFP)
Street protests in Seoul, South Korea, over government plan to write a history textbook (AFP)

Japan's prime minister Abe Shinzo is proposing that school history textbooks be rewritten to stop over-emphasizing Japan's colonial past, and stop presenting a negative image of Japan, and instead to instill a sense of national pride among Japanese citizens.

South Korea's president Park Guen-hye is proposing that school history textbooks be rewritten so that they won't be so ideologically biased, and instead to instill a sense of pride among the South Korean citizens.

This appeal to nationalism in both countries is typical of the grown in nationalism in countries around the world, as the world enters a generational Crisis era, as the survivors of World War II continue to die off.

But for both Abe and Shinzo, these attempts to rewrite history go beyond their country's nationalism, and are extremely personal.

Abe's grandfather, Nobusuko Kishi, worked under prime minister Hideki Tojo during World War II, enslaving thousands of Koreans and Chinese, and ended up serving three years in jail as a Class A war criminal, before later becoming the prime minister of Japan in 1957. Since assuming office, Abe declared his intention to restore the honour of his grandfather as well as other wartime veterans.

Park's father, Park Chung-hee, led South Korea from 1961 until 1979, when he was assassinated. He brutally crushed democracy protests during his reign in which thousands were killed, and also carried out massive human rights violations in the name of economic development in South Korea. Park believes that her father's history should more greatly emphasize his accomplishments.

All of these proposed changes are extremely controversial, and many people and scholars in both countries strongly oppose attempts by the government's leaders to revise school textbooks to reflect their own biases. Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS - India) and BBC and Japan Times and Korea Herald

China and Ukraine develop closer ties, as Russia looks on

A lot of people believe that Russia and China are close allies, because they both annex other countries' territories, because they both support each other in the United Nations Security Council and veto the same things, and because they both oppose the West in general and the United States in particular in many areas.

Countering that view is that Ukraine is the world's fourth-largest arms exporter (behind the U.S., Russia and China), and that China is one of Ukraine's most important customers.

Ukraine and China have just agreed that a Ukraine firm will open manufacturing plant in Odessa next year to manufacture China's Hongdu L-15 light attack aircraft.

There are many ironies in this situation. When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, many Soviet military assets were split up among the 15 newly independent countries. Since then, Ukraine has continued manufacturing jet engines and supplying them to Russia for some of Russia's warplanes.

However, after Russia illegally invaded, occupied and annexed Crimea in March 2014, Ukraine embargoed exports of the jet engines to Russia. Now those same jet engines will be components of the Hongdu L-15 warplanes being sold to China. Russia in the meantime has had to develop and manufacture its own variants of the same jet engines.

It's not just military hardware that China is importing from Ukraine. 90% of China's imported corn and 95% of imported sunflower oil comes from Ukraine. There are plans for China to invest in Ukraine's energy industry, infrastructure and construction.

As regular readers know, I've been writing for years that Generational Dynamics predicts that Russia will be our ally and China will be our enemy in the next world war. In brief, China will be allied with Pakistan, while the US will be allied with India, which will be allied with Russia and Iran. (See "15-Jul-15 World View -- Arab views of Iran nuclear deal")

Since being isolated internationally after invading Ukraine, and because of crashing oil prices, Russia's economy has been collapsing, and Russia has desperately turned to China for help, signing energy deals highly favorable to the Chinese. China's growing relationship with Ukraine illustrates the China really doesn't care what Russia thinks, and history shows that Russia and China are much more certain to be enemies than allies. Jamestown and Kiev.ua (Ukraine) and Xinhua

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Dec-15 World View -- China and Ukraine develop closer ties, as Russia looks on thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Dec-15 World View -- BBC reporter confronts China's military in South China Sea

Egyptian scholar: The original al-Aqsa mosque may not have been in Jerusalem

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egyptian scholar: The original al-Aqsa mosque may not have been in Jerusalem


Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

In a recent TV interview, Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan said that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestine is not the Al-Aqsa Mosque referred to in the Quran. Citing ancient scholars, Ziedan said that the Al-Haram Mosque and Al-Aqsa Mosque were "on the road from Mecca to Ta'if." "Neither we nor the [Jews] have anything to do with it," he said. "It's all politics."

Ziedan is quoted as saying:

"Hamiqdash ["the temple"] is a Hebrew word. This is a Hebrew concept. The Christian [name of Jerusalem] is "Aelia." The Al-Aqsa Mosque, in my view, is not the one [in Jerusalem]. It cannot be. ...

Our ancient religious scholars ... said that the Prophet Muhammad, ... went to the city of Tai'f. On the road to Ta'if, there were two mosques: Al-Adna Mosque ["the nearest"] and Al-Aqsa Mosque ["the farthest"]. The Quranic verse [17:1] ... says: "Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from the Al-Haram Mosque to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the surroundings of which We have blessed." At that time there was no prayers yet. So it was a place of worship. The place was well known. Otherwise, its location would have been specified. Therefore, ... these two mosques were on the road from Mecca to Ta'if. ...

The Al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] did not exist back then, and the city was not called "Al-Quds." It was called Aelia, and it had no mosques. ... The Al-Aqsa Mosque represents a political game by [Caliph] Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan."

So I did some checking on Caliph Abd Al-Malik ibn Marwan. Abd al Malik was Caliph from 685 to 705, several decades after the death of Mohammed. He was clearly not only a conquering military leader, but also a politician. He centralized power in the capital at Damascus, he was responsible for establishing Arabic as a standard language, he centralized the control of minting money by standardizing coins of remarkable uniformity, and he even established a postal service.

He also oversaw the construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which celebrated the location of the ascent of Prophet Mohammed and proclaimed Islamic dominance over Jerusalem, the holy city of Judaism and Christianity. The Dome of the Rock was also meant to compete with the great Byzantine holy sites in the region.

It's this last accomplishment that's being challenged by Egyptian scholar Youssef Ziedan. If I understand what Ziedan is saying, Abd Al-Malik was a politician who named Jerusalem as the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the ascent of Mohammed for purely political reasons, when the real al-Aqsa Mosque was hundreds of miles to the south, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

It's an interesting theory, and makes for good political talking points during the various "peace process" negotiations. But whether it's true or not, it won't make any difference. Jerusalem is the epicenter of the growing conflict between Jews and Palestinians, and nothing that Ziedan says is going to change that. Memri and Oxford Islamic Studies and Metropolitan Museum of Art and Islam Laws

BBC reporter confronts China's military in South China Sea

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that "The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world."

In pursuit of that pledge, the U.S. has repeatedly flown, sailed and operated close to China's artificial islands in the South China Sea, despite warnings from China. Apparently Australia has done the same.

Last week, BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, with a small crew, hired a plane in the Philippines, and flew past China's artificial islands. At the first set of artificial islands, the pilot got nervous and turned away. After hours of negotiation, the pilot agreed to stay on course in traveling near the second set of artificial islands.

There was a radio conversation between the Chinese Navy and the pilot:

China: "Foreign military aircraft in north-west of Meiji Reef, this is the Chinese Navy, you are threatening the security of our station! In order to prevent miscalculation leave this area immediately!"

Pilot: "Chinese Navy, this is Philippine civilian aircraft en route to Palawan, carrying civilian passengers. We are not a military aircraft, we are a civilian single-engine aircraft."

China: "Foreign military aircraft in north of Meiji Reef, this is the Chinese Navy!"

The loud and aggressive Chinese warnings continued until the plane left the region.

According to Wingfield-Hayes:

Below us we could see the lagoon teeming with ships, large and small. On the new land, cement plants and the foundations of new buildings.

Then, as we rounded a cloud, we got the first clear view of the new runway China is building here, just 140 nautical miles from the Philippine coast. I did a quick calculation. A Chinese fighter jet taking off from here could be over the Philippine coast in as little as eight or nine minutes."

He adds, "[China] is building new runways, high-powered radar stations and deep-water port facilities." It's clear that China fully intends to militarize these artificial islands. And once they're completed, there's little doubt that they'll be used for military action against neighboring countries. As has been clear for years, China is preparing for preemptive war, and will trigger World War III unless Russia beats them to it. What's most worrying is that the Chinese are deluding themselves into believing that, in the end, no one will challenge their military takeover of the South China Sea, and that there won't be a war. This is a disastrous self-delusion that China and the whole world will regret. BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Dec-15 World View -- BBC reporter confronts China's military in South China Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Dec-15 World View -- Russian Duma goes after Protestant churches as 'sects and cults'

Central African Republic elections may worsen Muslim-Christian violence

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russian Duma goes after Protestant churches as 'sects and cults'


Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church

The fall of Constantinople and the Orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453 triggered a major turning point in Russia. Russia would become an Orthodox Christian state, and the protector of Jerusalem from the Ottomans.

The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was a bloody repudiation of that decision, resulting in the near-destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church and the declaration that Russia and the Soviet Union were an atheist state. The Russian Orthodox Church only began to seriously revive again during World War II, when Josef Stalin discovered that he needed the help of the Church to fight the Nazis. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Vladimir Putin has led the way for the full restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and Russia's government. (See "Russian Orthodox Church reunites 80 years after Bolshevik Revolution" from 2007.)

In 1997, Russia enacted the Freedom of Conscience Law, which enacted separation of church and state, making Russia a secular state, not an atheist state, with freedom of religion. Since then, the law has been amended so much that there is little freedom of religion now, except for the Russian Orthodox Church.

Now Russia's Duma is going farther. Led by Abbot Serapion, the deputy head of the Church's missionary department, the Duma is considering going after "sects and destructive cults" which challenge Russia's national security.

In the past, "destructive totalitarian sects" referred to Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, the Unification Church (Moonies), and Hare Krishna, and were thought to be undermining the state.

But today, the main enemies, according to Serapion, are the "Protestants (Christians - Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Adventists), Jehovah's Witnesses, in the company of neopagans and Wahhabi extremists." While the Russian Orthodox Church fully supported the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, many of these "sects and cults" opposed the Ukraine actions, making them enemies of the state.

According to the new proposed amendments to the 1997 law, any group of ten or more believers must notify the authorities of their existence, lists of members, meeting places, and the amount of income.

It appears that Russia is abandoning its secular identity and returning to its traditional identity prior to the Bolshevik Revolution -- a Russian Orthodox state.

In the current world, there's talk of an Islamic State, a Muslim state, a Jewish state, a Palestinian state, a Hindu state, and so forth. So a Russian Orthodox state fits right into this increasingly nationalistic and xenophobic world as the generational Crisis era deepens. Eurasia Review - Paul Goble and Slavic Center for Law and Justice (SCLJ) - Roman Lunkin - Part I translation and Part II translation and CNS News

Central African Republic elections may worsen Muslim-Christian violence

Central African Republic (CAR) voted on a new constitution on Sunday, but there were many problems with the referendum, and combined with the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for on 27 December, it's feared that the elections will cause more anger and more violence. Heavy gunfire has already broken out in the Muslim district of Bangui, the capital city, during the referendum.

It was just two weeks ago that Pope Francis visited Bangui to propose "a renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration, as opposed to elimination, paternalism, indifference or mere containment." ( "28-Nov-15 World View -- Pope Francis to visit Central African Republic in middle of civil war")

The two elections were supposed to be the mechanism by which this "respectful urban integration" would take place -- that is, the Muslims and the Christians would stop killing each other.

However, the elections have already been postponed from the original scheduled date of October 27, and they are still fraught with severe problems:

As I've written in detail several times in the past ( "2-Oct-15 World View -- Violence resurges in Central African Republic crisis war"), CAR is deep into a generation Crisis era and in the middle of a generational crisis war. A new constitution is little more than a piece of paper, and it's not going to stop the huge generational forces that are pushing the Muslims and Christians into this war of mutual extermination. The war will not end until it's run it's course, and apparently still has a long way to go. BBC and African Arguments Forum

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Dec-15 World View -- Russian Duma goes after Protestant churches as 'sects and cults' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Dec-15 World View -- India, China, U.S. react to China's S. China Sea military expansion

Worst violence in months in Burundi's capital city Bujumbura

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Worst violence in months in Burundi's capital city Bujumbura


Men carry away a dead body in Bujumbura on Saturday (VOA)
Men carry away a dead body in Bujumbura on Saturday (VOA)

Residents in several neighborhoods of Bujumbura, that capital city of Burundi, were horrified to leave their homes early Saturday morning and find dozens of corpses scattered in the streets. The military said that they had killed 79 "enemies" who had attack their army base, killing eight soldiers and policemen.

This is the worst violence in Bujumbura since two-term President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek an unconstitutional third term, and then won an election that many observers have said was rigged. Analysts say nearly 250 people have been killed since then, and that some 200,000 residents have fled to nearby countries to escape the violence.

As we wrote just three days ago ( "10-Dec-15 World View -- Burundi's Nkurunziza continues down Mugabe-Assad path of genocide"), Nkurunziza appears to be using an increasing amount of violence to stay in power illegally, and may be going down the same path as Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, both of whom have used massive genocidal violence to stay in power. VOA and AP

China increases South China Sea military buildup

China appears on the path of building a massive military presence by means of the artificial islands it has created around the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

China has been annexing regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues to use belligerent military operations to enforce its seizures. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China's claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing that they would lose.

China already has one airfield, and satellite photos show work on two or three additional airstrips. Having military airbases in this region would significantly change the balance of power in the region.

The airfields would allow Chinese aircraft to refuel, repair and if necessary, rearm without having to fly the more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) to the nearest Chinese air base on Hainan island. On the other hand, they would also be highly vulnerable to bombing in an actual conflict.

Just as important, the airbases give China military control over the vast mineral deposits and fishing fields in the region. According to one analyst, "If we start to see satellite evidence of fuel storage going in on a large scale in the artificial islands, that will be the clearest indicator that China is planning to develop them as active air bases." International Business Times and AP

India, Japan, U.S. react to China's military expansion

China's continuing rapid military expansion in the South China Sea is causing countervailing responses on the part of several countries.

The United States has been challenging China by sending surveillance planes and ships into the regions near the artificial islands. China has angrily warned that such incursions are illegal, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that "The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world."

On Monday of last week, Singapore and the U.S. issued a joint statement that a P8 Poseidon spy plane would be deployed in Singapore. The move is clearly aimed at China, and is likely to anger China.

In another development targeting China, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has visited India, and a joint statement with India's prime minister Narendra Modi said:

"In view of critical importance of the sea lanes of communications in the South China Sea for regional energy security and trade and commerce which underpins continued peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, the two Prime Ministers noting the developments in the South China Sea called upon all States to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to tensions in the region."

Modi and Abe have issued joint statements before, but this is the first time that they've explicitly mentioned the South China Sea which, once again, is going to infuriate China.

In response to a similar statement in September, China issued this statement, which describes "The Five Persistences":

"China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha (Spratly) Islands and their adjacent waters as well as sovereign rights and jurisdiction over relevant seabed and subsoil,” the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs had told HT in a written statement. ...

We have always adhered to the principle of 'Five Persistence,' which stands for

  • persistence in maintaining the peace and stability of South China Sea;
  • persistence in settling disputes with the party concerned according to the International laws via bilateral negotiation based on respect for historical facts;
  • persistence in relying on rule-based system to control disputes;
  • persistence in sustaining the freedom of flight and navigation in South China Sea;
  • persistence in practicing a win-win policy via cooperation."

It sounds good, and one might almost be tempted to believe some of it, if it weren't for China's aggressive military buildup and belligerent military actions in the South China Sea. China's message has always been, as far as I can tell: We want to have harmonious relations with you. Just do exactly as we order you to do, and we'll have harmonious relations. If you don't, then we'll kill you, and after that we'll have harmonious relations that way. Reuters and Indian Express and Hindustan Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Dec-15 World View -- India, China, U.S. react to China's S. China Sea military expansion thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Dec-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey try to 'blackmail' Armenia into their conflict

The mirror images: Donald Trump and Barack Obama

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia and Turkey try to 'blackmail' Armenia into their conflict


Russian Mi24 helicopters
Russian Mi24 helicopters

With the dispute between Russia and Turkey showing no signs of ending, Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has called Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane a "casus belli" (justification for war), although he added that full-scale war is not planned. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

Russia already has soldiers stationed in a Russian military base in Armenia, near the border with Turkey, and those Russian troops have been put on high alert. Seven Russian Mi-24P attack helicopters and some Mi-8 transport helicopters have been delivered to another Russian military base in Armenia.

Even before the downing of the Russian plane, plans had already been announced for a unified air defense system, where Russia would extend its air defense system to Armenian airspace in order to contain Turkey in particular, and Nato more generally.

To add to the tensions, the day after the plane was downed, Russia's Parliament introduced a bill that any individual who denies that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915 is to be fined 500,000 rubles (more than $7,500). The Armenian genocide accusations have been infuriating Turks for decades.

Armenia is a long-time ally of Russia, but Armenia is concerned that it's going to be dragged into the Russia-Turkey against its will. According to Manvel Sargsyan head of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, Armenia's close relationship with Russia has gone on for many years, but:

"Now, it causes big problems. At this point we can not abandon that policy; instead, the desire to create a unified air defense system will further those relations. Armenia has allowed Russia to use its air defense units. ... Of course, the new situation in the region, and will deepen these processes, which contains many dangers."

Even worse, Armenia is being blackmailed into becoming a pawn in the conflict, because Turkey will encourage its ally Azerbaijan to provoke Armenia via the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. (See "7-Dec-15 World View -- Azerbaijan faces rising radical Shia Islamist insurgency")

According to Sargsyan:

"One thing is clear. The conflict that arose between Russia and Turkey ... makes use of the various factors involved. And if Russia so demonstrably raises the issue of the [Armenian] Genocide, it is natural that Turkey should remember the [Nagorno-]Karabakh issue to the parties involved in the conflict. Firstly, this is blackmail, but it would have meant that both sides are trying to involve Armenia in the conflict. And it creates a difficult situation for Armenia, taking into account Armenia's and Russia's strategic relationships, attachment to each other."

Sargsyan added that Turkey had hoped that Nato would defend Turkey's claim that the Russian plane had entered Turkey's airspace before being shot down. According to Sargsyan, Nato's member states were opposed to defending Turkey, and so it was left to Nato's Secretary General to make a statement defending Turkey. Thus, Turkey has created problems for Nato.

Now, according to Sargsyan, Turkey "is doing everything in order to be able to come out of this hole," and so it's involving other countries, including Armenia. Jamestown and Deutsche Welle and Armenia Now (26-Nov) and First News (Armenia, 1-Dec) (Trans)

The mirror images: Donald Trump and Barack Obama

Obama and Trump are mirror images of each other, and both are embarrassments to the United States.

Years ago, John Kenneth Galbraith developed the concept of "countervailing power" in labor markets -- large corrupt corporations give rise to large corrupt labor unions. In the same sense, Obama has given rise to Trump.

Obama never accomplishes anything, but never tires of implying that the entire country is mean and racist, never tires of inciting black violence against cops, never tires of disparaging and offending Christians, never tires of blaming innocent gun owners for the crimes of Islamist terrorists, or of making moronic remarks like blaming terrorism on climate change, while his foreign policy has been one disaster after another.

Trump has no clue what's going on in the world, and thinks that foreign policy consists of insulting any racial or religious group or person he dislikes by treating them as he would any incompetent jerks who work for him. His money has made him powerful, and his power has gone to his head and made him completely corrupt. He thinks that he can buy anything or fire anyone, leaving him free to be as destructive and offensive as he wants to other people. His recent statements about banning Muslims are a disgrace to America. However, people are supporting Trump because they're sick and tired of being constantly offended, insulted and lectured to by Obama, while accomplishing nothing.

Obama is the cause of Trump, and is to blame for Trump, by the principle of "countervailing power." But it's neither Obama nor Trump, but the rest of us who will have to pay the consequences. EconLib: John Kenneth Galbraith: Countervailing Power

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Dec-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey try to 'blackmail' Armenia into their conflict thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Dec-15 World View -- Decaying stadiums from 2004 Athens Olympics have new lives housing migrants

Greece transports migrants from Macedonian border back to Athens

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Decaying stadiums from 2004 Athens Olympics have new lives housing migrants


2014 photo of the abandoned stadium that hosted the hockey competition during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games (Reuters)
2014 photo of the abandoned stadium that hosted the hockey competition during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games (Reuters)

On Wednesday morning, Greece used 45 buses to transport 2,400 migrants from the Macedonia border back to Athens, dropping the migrants off in front of the Taekwondo stadium, one of the decaying relics left over from the ill-fated 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. The Taekwondo stadium is reportedly nearing maximum capacity and other asylum seekers are being taken to other stadiums or to Ellinikon, the former Athens airport.

Athens has been scrambling to find shelter for migrants, and began using old Olympics stadiums in October. The stadiums are ideal solutions, because they're athletic venues, so they have such things as toilets and showers.

Many people blame cost overruns and delays of the $10 billion Athens 2004 Olympics as major contributors to Greece's debt crisis in the last few years. Once the games ended, there was no money left for investment and development, so the stadiums have been overrun with weeds.

The migrant crisis has given new life to the stadiums. According to Manos Eleftheriou, deputy mayor of Galatsi, "They move on every couple of days. Here we give them food, medical care, clothing. We provide theater, music, Spanish food, country music. We're trying to show them the diversity of the Europe they are going to." Kathimerini and CityLab (11-Aug-2014) and LA Times (12-Nov)

Greece transports migrants from Macedonian border back to Athens

Greek police have removed about 2,400 migrants stuck on the border with Macedonia, and has transported them by bus back to Athens, housing them in the decaying stadiums left over from the 2004 Summer Olympics.

In months past, migrants would travel from Turkey to Greece to Macedonia for the trip north, hoping to reach the imagined Nirvana of Germany or Sweden. According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), nearly 770,000 migrants have entered Greece so far this year -- 58% men, 26% children, 16% women. About 3,500 have drowned this year.

The flow has been slowing down as winter approaches, but only slightly. An average of 3,800 per day arrived so far in December, compared to 4,560 per day in November.

Almost all of them arrived first by paying a human smuggler to transport them from Turkey, across the Aegean Sea, to one of Greece's islands. This trip is fraught with danger. A major international news story on Thursday is about a man who lost his wife and seven children because the human smuggler lied and put all of them on a boat that could not survive the Aegean Sea.

Once the migrants reach the Greek islands, Greece has been ferrying them to the continent, and from there they've been making their way to the Macedonian border.

Much of Europe has been overwhelmed by the massive flow of migrants. Many people blame Time Magazine Woman of the Year German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the size of the flow, because of her remarks months ago that migrants would be welcome in Germany.

Overwhelmed countries have been reacting by erecting razor-wire fences and imposing border controls, making the trip north harder and harder for migrants.

Macedonia has now erected its own fence and border controls to allow only migrants from war-torn Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan to pass through. Thousands of others are being designated "economic migrants," and they've been stuck on the border for weeks. Greece has been transporting them back to Athens. However, they're not being imprisoned in Athens, and they're free to leave. AFP and Washington Post and AFP

Migrants blocked from Macedonia face difficult choices

The migrants being transported back to Athens are from countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco, Somalia, Eritrea and Algeria. Since these countries are not a war, Macedonia considers their citizens to be economic migrants, not refugees.

While the migrants transported back to Athens are not being imprisoned, they face difficult choices. They have several options:

IRIN (United Nations)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Dec-15 World View -- Decaying stadiums from 2004 Athens Olympics have new lives housing migrants thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Dec-15 World View -- Burundi's Nkurunziza continues down Mugabe - Assad path of genocide

EU-Burundi peace talks collapse amid worries of new Hutu-Tutsi genocide

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Burundi's Nkurunziza continues down Mugabe - Assad path of genocide


A policeman walks away after throwing a tear gas canister at protesters in Bujumbura (Reuters)
A policeman walks away after throwing a tear gas canister at protesters in Bujumbura (Reuters)

In Burundi's capital city Bujumbura in the last 24 hours, police and security courses controlled by Hutu president Pierre Nkurunziza killed seven additional people who opposed Nkurunziza's unconstitutional third term. At least 240 people have been killed since April, when Nkurunziza announced his candidacy, and about 215,000 others, thought to be almost all Tutsis, have fled to neighboring countries. The latest killings included the wife and child of an assistant pastor of an Anglican Church.

I've heard several analysts say that there are no signs of anything like a repeat of the 1994 Rwanda-Burundi Hutu-Tutsi genocide, and that's absolutely correct. It's only been 21 years since event occurred, a genocide so horrific that it's considered one of the worst of the century, comparable to the Nazi Holocaust. Since only 21 years have past, there are many, many people still alive who are in the generations that survived that event, and who will not let it happen again.

However, there may be a different kind of genocide in progress, far smaller, and far less memorable, but a genocide nonetheless. As I've written in the past, it appears increasingly that Nkurunziza is planning to copy the technique of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is best known for his 1984 genocidal pacification campaign known as "Operation Gukurahundi" (The rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rain). During that campaign, accomplished with the help of Mugabe's 5th Brigade, trained by North Korea, tens of thousands of people, mostly from the Ndebele tribe, were tortured and slaughtered. So far, Nkurunziza hasn't gone as far as Mugabe, but he is systematically slaughtering and torturing peaceful protesters from the Tutsi tribe who oppose his grab for power.

We see the same thing happening in Syria, where Shia/Alawite genocidal monster president Bashar al-Assad transformed peaceful protests in 2011 into a genocide against innocent Sunnis. Like Nkurunziza and Mugabe, he's willing to slaughter any number of people, just to stay in power.

Nkurunziza is starting on the same genocidal path as Mugabe and al-Assad, but hasn't yet gone so far that he can't turn back. However, there are no signs that he will. AP and Reuters

EU peace talks collapse on Burundi's failure to commit to human rights

Despite the Burundi government's release of 100 jailed political prisoners, as a kind of good-will gesture to the EU, negotiations between the European Union and Burundi representatives collapsed on Wednesday, according to a European Commission statement:

"The European Union considers that the essential elements have not been met by the Republic of Burundi.

Following the consultations held in Brussels on 8 December, the European Union took note of the replies given by the Burundi Government and its commitment to provide clarifications to questions and to accelerate certain judicial procedures. Nevertheless, the European Union considers the positions expressed do not help to improve the breaches of the essential elements of its partnership with the Republic of Burundi."

The "essential elements" referenced include progress on human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law specified in an EU-Burundi agreement. Presumably "not killing peaceful protesters" is in there somewhere as well.

According to Adama Dieng, the United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, there is a serious risk that if the violence in Burundi isn't stopped there could be a civil war:

"I would not say that tomorrow there will be a genocide in Burundi. But there is a serious risk that if we do not stop the ongoing violence, this may end with a civil war and following such civil war everything is possible."

Now, everyone who reads my World View columns regularly knows how cynical and jaded I am, so you won't be surprised to read that I'm the Christmas Grinch who points out that although we all know how wonderful the United Nations is, and although Adama Dieng may be a truly wonderful, decent person, and although his mission statement is wonderfully benevolent:

"The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide acts as a catalyst to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilize for appropriate action.

The Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect leads the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the Responsibility to Protect."

But as wonderful as Dieng and his mission are, his budget depends on how many genocides and almost-genocides and potential-genocides he can identify, so it's to his benefit to exaggerate the possibility of genocide.

As I wrote above, a 1994-style civil war is not occurring, and from the point of view of Generational Dynamics can't occur during a generational Awakening era. The 1994 genocide came "from the people": For example, a Hutu who has lived next door to a Tutsi family in peace, and their children had played together and all that, suddenly picks up a machete, goes next door, kills and disembodies the husband and children, then rapes the wife and kills and dismembers her. Nothing like that is happening in Burundi, or could possibly happen, since the survivors of the 1994 war won't let it happen. Today's genocide is all political, all from Nkurunziza.

The UN has been pitifully irrelevant in stopping the genocides in Rwanda-Burundi and Syria. Dieng won't stop it, unless Nkurunziza decides he wants to stop it. Episcopal Digital Network and UN Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Dec-15 World View -- Burundi's Nkurunziza continues down Mugabe - Assad path of genocide thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Dec-15 World View -- Number of foreign fighters joining ISIS in Syria doubles to 31,000

About 700 women from Tunisia are thought to have joined ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Number of foreign fighters joining ISIS in Syria doubles to 31,000


Sources of foreign fighters joining ISIS (Soufan Group)
Sources of foreign fighters joining ISIS (Soufan Group)

The foreign fighter phenomenon in Syria and Iraq is a truly global phenomenon, with at least 86 countries worldwide seeing one of their citizens or residents travel to Syria to fight for extremist groups there, primarily for the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). (Paragraph corrected. 9-Dec)

The number of foreign fighters traveling to Syria has doubled in the last year, reaching 27,000-31,000.

But the flow is neither uniform by region nor by country, regardless of the pool of residents who may be susceptible to the Islamic State’s appeal. That's because The motivation for people to join violent extremist groups in Syria and Iraq remains more personal than political. There have been "hotbeds of recruitment" scattered around the world, which exist because of the personal nature of recruitment.

Some of these hotbeds are:

As hotbeds develop, recruitment through social media becomes less important than via direct human contact, as clusters of friends and neighbors persuade each other to travel separately or together to join the Islamic State. Soufan Group (PDF) and The National (UAE)

About 700 women from Tunisia are thought to have joined ISIS

Tunisia has suffered two major terrorist attacks this year. Terrorists attacked the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March, and a gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel in Sousse on Friday, killing 37 people. ( "27-Jun-15 World View -- Terror attacks in Kuwait, France, Somalia and Tunisia highlight growing sectarian war")

Of all the countries in the world supplying foreign fighters to ISIS in Syria, Tunisia has supplied the most, between 5,000 and 6,000.

According to Tunisia's minister for women Samira Merai, many of those foreign fighters are girls and women:

"We have noted a development in the phenomenon of terrorism. Today there are 700 (Tunisian) women in Syria, and there are women in Tunisian prisons [on terrorism charges]."

AFP

Return of Russia's foreign fighters from Syria threatens Russian security

In Soviet times, authorities used a registration system that made it almost impossible for people to move from one region to another without approval from the Soviet authorities. This meant that rural residents stayed in the villages, and migration between Soviet countries was prevented. All of this is now changing quickly, threatening Russian security. In Russia's North Caucasus provinces, young Muslims can move from villages to larger cities or to Moscow, leaving them disconnected from their traditional ethnic communities and then easily mobilized by radical Islamists.

The form of "migration" that is generating the most concern involves those who have gone to the Middle East to fight for ISIS or other radical groups and who are then returning home, where they will continue their fight or recruit others. Russian officials say that there are only 500 North Caucasians in the ranks of the ISIS, but local experts say the figure is 5,000 or even more.

Russian officials have not yet figured out a good strategy to cope with the jihadists returning from Syria and ISIS. With unemployment very high and wages very low in the North Caucasus, draconian counterterrorist operations are proving counterproductive, driving more North Caucasians into the arms of the radicals rather than breaking their will. Jamestown/Paul Goble

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Dec-15 World View -- Number of foreign fighters joining ISIS in Syria doubles to 31,000 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Dec-15 World View -- Oil prices crash and OPEC collapses over Iran-Saudi rivalry

Kazakhstan may be forced to choose between Russia and Turkey

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Oil prices crash and OPEC collapses over Iran-Saudi rivalry


Iran and Saudi Arabia use oil as a weapon in their sectarian conflicts (CNN)
Iran and Saudi Arabia use oil as a weapon in their sectarian conflicts (CNN)

Oil prices fell over 5% on Monday, with West Texas Intermediate (WTI) prices crashing below $40 per barrel to $37.65.

The oil markets have changed substantially in the last few days, because a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) collapsed on Friday, without reaching any agreement on capping production levels.

Historically, OPEC members have collectively owned about two-thirds of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and account for two-fifths of world oil production. OPEC was formed in 1960 in order to gain control over oil prices by limiting the production of oil. It gained notoriety by tripling oil prices late in 1973, during and after the Yom Kippur war between Egypt and Israel, and continuing to raise prices throughout the remainder of the 1970s.

OPEC has had its ups and downs over the years, but now appears to be falling apart completely, mainly because of Iran's nuclear deal with the west. Iran expects to the West to lift sanctions that have prevented Iran from selling oil. As a result, Iran plans to come to market with a tsunami of oil next year, which may push the price of oil down into the 20s.

Up till now, one of the main factors in the fall of oil prices has been the fracking (hydraulic fracturing) revolution in the United States, which initially created the oil glut that caused prices to decline from a high of more than $110 in June 2014.

Iran and other OPEC members wanted to Saudi Arabia to boost oil prices by cutting its production. But the Saudis have been saying for a couple of years that they are going to continue full production in order to put the US drillers out of business. Fracking isn't profitable unless the price of oil is above $60, and the strategy has been working, as U.S. rig counts have fallen substantially.

Saudi Arabia at last week's OPEC meeting had proposed to reduce output provided that everyone else did as well. "We cannot cut alone," said an official. "Everyone has to contribute to that – Iran, Iraq, and the rest outside OPEC." However, Iran and Russia rejected the plan.

With sanctions lifted, Iran expects its own oil production to surge. Iran's oil minister said that setting production levels "is our right and anyone cannot limit us. ... [W]e do not expect our colleagues in OPEC to put pressure on us. ... It is not acceptable, it’s not fair."

That was the end of any hope for a deal. Now, "Everyone does whatever they want," according to the oil minister of Iran, which plans to increase exports by a million barrels a day next year.

The huge fall in oil prices has been disastrous for the economies of oil producing countries, including Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria. As I've been writing for over ten years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the world is in a deflationary spiral, and the collapse in oil prices, and prices of other commodities, appears to be accelerating that deflationary spiral. Oil Price News and Bloomberg and CNN and CNBC

Kazakhstan may be forced to choose between Russia and Turkey

On the one hand, Kazakhstan is a member of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which also includes Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russia is Kazakhstan’s largest trade partner.

On the other hand, in the last ten years, Turkey's businesses have invested $1.8 billion in about 1500 businesses in the Kazakhstan economy, particularly in the areas of construction, retail commerce, the processing industry and pharmaceuticals.

Kazakhstan is a Turkic country, and was one of the republics of the Soviet Union. When it collapsed in 1991, Turkey was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan's independence.

So Kazakhstan in a difficult situation, and stands to lose from the Russia-Turkey conflict, no matter what it does.

The worst case scenario for Kazakhstan is that war breaks out, and Turkey closes the Turkish straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles channels) -- the waterways that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea -- to both Russia and Kazakhstan. ( "4-Dec-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey increasingly on a war footing")

Like Turkey and Russia, Kazakhstan is one of the countries that border the Caspian Sea, and most Kazakh oil is exported to the world market through the Turkish straits, so their close would be a catastrophe. That's why Kazakhstan is trying to remain neutral between the countries, and is struggling to formulate a coherent message that refrains from offending either side. We'll have to see how long that will work. Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Dec-15 World View -- Oil prices crash and OPEC collapses over Iran-Saudi rivalry thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Dec-15 World View -- Azerbaijan faces rising radical Shia Islamist insurgency

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh surges again

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Azerbaijan faces rising radical Shia Islamist insurgency


Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh, occupied by Armenia (CIA World Fact Book)
Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh, occupied by Armenia (CIA World Fact Book)

On November 26, Azerbaijan officials killed five "radical Islamists" and arrested 32 others, all members of the radical "Movement for Muslim Unity," in the village of Nardaran, near the capital city Baku, for allegedly plotting a coup to establish the "Sharia State of Azerbaijan."

It sounds like a familiar story that you've read over and over since the "Arab awakening" began on 2011, but there's one big difference: The radical Islamists are Shia Muslims, and the Movement for Muslim Unity is a Shia organization.

Azerbaijan's population is about 80% Shia Muslim, 15% Sunni Muslim and 3% Christian. The government is secular. Nardaran is an extremely poor village, and a stronghold for Shia Muslim Islamists.

On November 25, the Azerbaijani police arrested Taleh Bagirzadeh (also known as Bagirov), leader of the Movement for Muslim Unity. As many as 500 residents of Nardaran came out to the city’s main square to protest his arrest and demand his release. Clashes with the police broke out, resulting in five deaths among the demonstrators and two among the police; 14 people were arrested. The city residents then threw up barricades and demanded negotiations about those arrested and the return of the bodies of the dead. At that point, the authorities shut off power and telephone lines to Nardaran.

The charges were:

"An armed radical Islamic group was preparing a series of acts of provocation, terrorist attacks and mass riots. The interior ministry has taken the necessary measures to neutralize this group. ... [They were] planning a forcible change of the constitutional order and the introduction of Sharia law in the country."

Jamestown and AFP and Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)

Fears that Azerbaijan's Sunni Salafists who joined ISIS will return

Ironically, Azerbaijan also has a Sunni Islamist problem. There are communities in Azerbaijan’s north where the Salafist influence is on the rise. Although Sunnis are a small percentage of the population, it's believed that hundreds of them have been to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) to fight the Shia/Alawite regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The fear is that they'll return to Azerbaijan with their newly developed terrorist skills and use it against their Azeri Shia institutions.

In recent years, developments in Azerbaijan have favored the growth of both Shia and Sunni Islamists insurgencies. Poverty is extensive. Corruption is widespread, and the gap between rich and poor is growing wider every day. The government has become increasingly oppressive, muzzling non-governmental organization representatives, independent journalists and rights activists, most of whom happen to be committed secularists.

Azerbaijan’s "rust city" of Sumgayit is a hotbed of Sunni Islamic radicals that is thought to have supplied hundreds of jihadists to ISIS. Towns in northern Azerbaijan near the border with Russia’s Dagestan, a region long troubled by Islamic militancy, also are a frequent source of Syria-bound jihadists.

Azerbaijan would be an attractive target for returning ISIS terrorists. It is one of the few countries in the world with a Shia Muslim majority population. On a geopolitical level, going after Azerbaijan would also seem attractive for the ISIS, given the country's links to Russia, the United States and Iran, three countries that are among the ISIS's chief antagonists. EurasiaNet (12-Aug-2015) and EurasiaNet (31-Oct-2014) and Freedom House and Guardian (London)

Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh surges again

Azerbaijan is not lacking in problems. Not only does the mostly Shia Muslim country have both Sunni and Islamist Muslim insurgencies, but also one of its provinces, Nagorno-Karabakh, is occupied by the Orthodox Christian (Armenian Apostolic) Armenians. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a very bloody war that ended in 1994 with Armenia gaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, hostilities between the countries have been "frozen," but simmering. In fact, Azerbaijan is a country split into two non-connected parts, as shown in the above map. The enclave on the left is Nakhchivan, which has been the subject of past conflicts involving Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The war that ended in 1994 has been mostly frozen since then, but hostilities have suddenly been growing.

According to Azerbaijan's defense ministry, Armenian armed forces have broken the ceasefire with Azerbaijan 105 times in various parts of the contact line between Azerbaijani and Armenian armies over the weekend.

According to the Armenia's defense ministry, 110 ceasefire violations by Azerbaijani armed forces were registered in the reporting period, with over 1600 shots fired from various caliber artillery weapons.

If the "frozen conflict" suddenly becomes unfrozen, as appears to be happening, then a renewed conflict would pit Armenia, Russia’s ally, against Azerbaijan, NATO-member Turkey’s ally. This would be just like the situation in Syria, where a potential war could emerge between Russia and Turkey directly. Trend (Azerbaijan) and Pan Armenian and EurasiaNet

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Dec-15 World View -- Azerbaijan faces rising radical Shia Islamist insurgency thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Dec-15 World View -- Israel bombs targets in Syria with Russia's tacit cooperation

NY Times Page One calls for laws to confiscate some gun owners' guns

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

NY Times Page One calls for laws to confiscate some gun owners' guns


NY Times front page, 4-Dec-2015
NY Times front page, 4-Dec-2015

As I've written several times, the National Rifle Association should present an award to President Obama for his endless threats to impose gun control, because each time he does so, sales of guns and ammunition surge. Based on my conversations with gun owners, they do this because:

Now, the New York Times, which never misses a chance to suck up to the Obama administration, is going even farther than Obama by writing an editorial that encourages the government to confiscate guns:

"Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens."

What makes this editorial newsworthy is that it appears at the top of page 1. The last time the NY Times had a page 1 editorial was on June 13, 1920, expressing disapproval of Warren G. Harding’s nomination as the next Republican presidential candidate.

Obviously the NY Times editors don't care how many people buy guns, just as the Black Lives Matter politicians don't care about black lives and the feminists don't care about women. All of these politicians swim in the worst political sewers, advocating ways to make problems worse so that their organizations can get more money or votes.

Nobody opposed to gun control, least of all gun owners, is going to care what the NY Times thinks, so all this is going to do is sell a lot more guns. I wonder if the NY Times editors own stock in gun companies?

The Washington Post wrote its own editorial, "The folly of the New York Times pleading for gun control on page 1," saying the following:

"Republicans have relentlessly accused the "mainstream media" (of which the Times is a flagship member) of advancing a liberal agenda. What they often fail to recognize — or deliberately ignore — is the separation of news and opinion. They'll read a column, blog or editorial that is critical of their policies and then angrily tell supporters that they can't get a fair shake in straight news reports. Most of the time, their complaints are unfounded or greatly exaggerated.

In this case, however, the Times has (at least temporarily) knocked down a wall by placing an editorial in a spot normally reserved for news. That does not mean the paper's political reporters will suddenly abandon all sense of fairness as they cover candidates who staunchly back gun rights. But it does give those candidates new cause for suspicion — a cause they will almost certainly exploit on the campaign trail."

You don't have to be a Republican to see pretty clearly that the NY Times reporters are fawning lapdogs for President Obama, or that Obama's political agenda is never separate from "news" on the NY Times front page, so in that sense the new editorial isn't much different than a NY Times "news" story. But the WaPost editors are right about one thing: The NY Times has given Obama's opponents a new weapon on the campaign trail -- a page one editorial urging the confiscation of some gun owners' guns -- and they're going to point to this NY Times editorial over and over.

And of course, that's just going to cause more people to buy guns, which obviously is perfectly OK with all these liberals, because they'll get more money for their organizations. NY Times and Washington Post and Politico

Israel bombs targets in Syria since Russia's military buildup

In a television interview on November 10, Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked whether Israel would intervene in Syria. His reply:

"I’m not sure how to intervene, but I’m sure of this: First, if Syria fires on us, we fire back. Second, if Hezbollah establishes a position on Golan Heights, we’ll take action against that, as we have. Third, if Hezbollah wants to transfer weapons through Syria, we’ll take action, as we have. Fourth, if we don’t see it but it went through, we’ll take action on Syria on weapons that we do see to degrade weapons caches that could be transferred later."

In particular, Netanyahu has repeated his threat to use airstrikes to take out any Syrian regime convoys traveling from Syria to Lebanon that are suspected of carrying sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.

A lot has happened in the four weeks since Netanyahu made that statement. Turkey's warplanes shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber on November 24, and Russia has responded savagely against Turkey, with massive sanctions and by bombing every possible Turkish target in Syria, especially Turkmen enclaves. In addition, Russia is implementing a massive military buildup in Syria, with a sophisticated S-400 air defense missile system that can "see" any Turkish, American or Israeli planes, and destroy them if desired. ( "29-Nov-15 World View -- Russia's military buildup a game-changer in Syria")

However, Israel has continued to conduct numerous airstrikes on Syrian regime targets within Syria.

These Israeli airstrikes in Syria have received no known objections from Russia, even though they're striking at Russia's ally, the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, as well as al-Assad's ally, Hezbollah.

Times of Israel (10-Nov) and Jerusalem Post (24-Nov) and Times of Israel(29-Nov) and Times of Israel(4-Dec)

Israel receives tacit approval from Russia for Syrian airstrikes

Last week, a Russian warplane entered Israeli airspace but, unlike a similar situation in Turkey, the warplane was not shot down.

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, said that after the November 24 shootdown of Russia's warplane by Turkey, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, and agreed to open a channel for coordination between them "to prevent misunderstandings." According to Ya’alon, "The jet penetrated about a mile into our territory. We established radio contact with it and it immediately returned to Syrian airspace."

Ya’alon added a comment that sounded fairly snarky, following the incident in Turkey:

"Russian planes don’t intend to attack us and therefore there is no need to automatically, even if there is some kind of mistake, shoot them down. ...

Just as we don’t interfere with their operations and we don’t get involved, as a policy, in what is happening in Syria, they also don’t interfere with us flying and acting in accordance with our interests."

This is somewhat surprising, especially after a senior IDF officer said on Friday:

In our worst nightmares, we never dreamed we would have the S-400 system in our backyard with Syria, or that there would be cruise missiles here,” the member of the General Staff told Israeli defense correspondents at a briefing this week, the Walla website reported.

[But, the IDF] does not currently view the S-400 as a threat to Israel."

Nonetheless, Ya’alon's statement indicates that airstrikes that Israel has made in the last couple of weeks, with targets belonging to Syria's al-Assad regime and Hezbollah, have the tacit approval of Russia, by agreement, at least for the time being.

According to Debka's subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber), Israel and Russia have a secret deal:

"In a weird quirk of the Syrian conflict, all foreign air traffic flying over Syria has been suspended excepting over its eastern edge, but for Russian and Israeli warplanes. The US, Britain, France and Turkey initially discontinued their air strikes when Russia posted the fearsome S-400 anti-air missile system Syria in the wake of the downing of its warplane by Turkey.

This week, some Western air strikes were resumed, but only after circling around to strike from the east.

Even Bashar Assad takes care to consult the Russians before ordering aerial missions.

DEBKA Weekly's military sources report that Israel received the personal go-ahead from President Vladimir Putin to carry out air strikes over Syria without fear of interference by Russian missiles or jets."

I like to reference Debka's newsletter, which is written from Israel's point of view, because they have military and intelligence sources that provide valuable insights. However, it's not unusual for them to get things wrong.

With that caution, the Debka newsletter also says that Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin also have a secret deal about handling Syria and Iraq:

"Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin reached a quiet agreement in November to split up between the US and Russia the northern Syrian-Iraqi front against the Islamic State. ... The two halves are populated almost entirely by Kurds and hinge heavily on their coveted fighting prowess.

Divided by the Euphrates, the two leaders assigned all Kurdish areas in Syria and Iraq east of the river valley to the US and the Kurdish districts to the west, to Russia.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will be more apoplectic than ever over this secret deal, which undoubtedly boosts Kurdish separatist aspirations, especially in Syria. ... Russian sponsorship of the Kurds will no double promote the merger of the three Kurdish enclaves into a single national entity."

Assuming that these reports are true, then Russia is pretty much running the show in Syria and Iraq, Israel and the United States are going along, as is Iran, and Turkey is being shut out.

Long-time readers will recall that I've been writing for years that Generational Dynamics predicts that Iran, Russia and India will be American allies in the next world war, with enemies that include China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries. (See for example "9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement") Step by step, week by week, that prediction is coming true. Guardian (London, 29-Nov) and Times of Israel (4-Dec) and Times of Israel (4-Dec) and Al Monitor (2-Dec) and Al Monitor (2-Dec) and Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Dec-15 World View -- Israel bombs targets in Syria with Russia's tacit cooperation thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Dec-15 World View -- Violence feared in Venezuela after probable Socialist loss on Sunday

Venezuela likely to end 16 years of Socialist government

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Venezuela likely to end 16 years of Socialist parliamentary government on Sunday


People walk past a billboard with Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) logo and an image of “Chávez’s Eyes” in Caracas (Reuters)
People walk past a billboard with Venezuela’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) logo and an image of “Chávez’s Eyes” in Caracas (Reuters)

Nicolás Maduro, the Socialist president of Venezuela and successor to the Sainted Socialist God, the dead Hugo Chávez, is expected to lose his majority in the National Assembly in elections on Sunday. This will be the first time in 16 years that the ruling United Socialist Party have not been in power.

Oil is the main export of Venezuela and provides most of the country's foreign currency. Venezuela should be one of the richest countries in the world, with the world's largest proven oil reserves controlled by nationalized Venezuelan oil companies. For years Chávez, and then Maduro, took advantage of high international oil prices to buy votes by creating huge socialist spending programs, with large welfare payments and heavily subsidized and price controlled food, gasoline, and other goods.

However, the price of oil has plunged by 60%, and the economy is a wreck, with severe shortages, and inflation running over 30% per month. The government-run oil companies are drenched in corruption. Shoppers have been breaking into supermarkets to see scarce consumer staples including milk, rice, flour, ketchup, diapers, and toilet paper. Crime and violence are becoming rampant. And the fall into hell has been rapid -- 75% of Venezuelan homes now live in poverty, compared to 27% just two years ago.

Although the Socialists' vote-buying programs have made them wildly popular in past years, the Socialists' supporters have been turned off by the governments almost unbelievable stupidity and incompetence.

Opinion polls indicate almost certain victory by the opposition parties. The opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable, leads the ruling United Socialist Party and its allies by as much as 35 percentage points. Maduro’s own popularity has been hovering around 20 percent. Miami Herald and The Atlantic

Venezuelans fear violence or political chaos if Socialists lose

It's a recurring theme in history that many leaders are willing to use torture, violence and even violence to stay in power. We've seen this in recent times with Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and in the last century in Germany's Adolf Hitler and Russia's Josef Stalin.

So many people are fearing the worst -- that Maduro will join the ranks of al-Assad, Putin, Mugabe, Stalin and Hitler, and use violence to stay in power if he loses his parliamentary majority in Sunday's election.

Maduro has signaled that he wouldn't hesitate to use violence if his wishes weren't followed:

"Imagine if they dominated the National Assembly. I wouldn't allow it, I swear, I wouldn't let my hands be tied by anyone. I'd take to the street with the people."

Last month, Maduro said he was activating an "anti-coup plan" in case he lost the elections. "This revolution will not be betrayed nor surrendered," he said, warning that rightist forces at home and abroad (i.e., Americans) are planning a "counter-revolutionary coup."

Maduro has already exhibited his willingness to use abuse and violence during the campaign. Opposition figures have been jailed, and one was gunned down in the street. Non-government controlled news agencies, including foreign news agencies, are being severely restricted.

If the Socialists lose on Sunday, Maduro will still be president, and will still have the army, security forces and all state institutions under his control. Maduro will simply find ways to bypass the National Assembly, to ignore any laws it passes, or to bring retaliation and retribution to any legislator he doesn't like.

Still, the opposition is excited by the possibility of having a majority, although the size of the majority will dictate what they're able to do. With a simple majority, the opposition can pass amnesty laws to try to free incarcerated politicians, embarrass the government with investigations, and wield budget approval; with a three-fifths majority, it could theoretically fire ministers after a censure vote.

According to one opposition leader:

"If the result is close, the government could be tempted to sort of barricade the new National Assembly, to use the control it has over the Supreme Court, the state prosecutor, the ombudsman's office, to try to block it off."

Despite the vast lead the opposition has in opinion polls, Maduro still has control of the polling places and vote-counting processes, and so Maduro could still win on Sunday. Reuters and Fox News and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Dec-15 World View -- Violence feared in Venezuela after probable Socialist loss on Sunday thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Dec-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey increasingly on a war footing

Russia cancels Turkey gas pipeline, prepares for Bosporus closure

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia and Turkey exchange vitriolic accusations about ISIS oil sales


Turkey's evidence that Bashar al-Assad is supporting ISIS by buying ISIS oil (Anadolu)
Turkey's evidence that Bashar al-Assad is supporting ISIS by buying ISIS oil (Anadolu)

Russia's president Vladimir Putin, who is not Muslim, invoked the name of Allah to push up the threat level at Turkey even farther on Thursday for shooting down a Russian warplane last week:

"Only Allah knows why they did it. And I guess Allah decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by stripping it of its sanity. ...

We will not saber-rattle or take dangerous, hysterical actions. But those who hope we will be content to [stop trade in] tomatoes or constrain some construction work after they committed a war crime by killing our men, are wrong -- we will remind them time and again and they will regret it, time and again."

In his "state of the nation" speech on Thursday, he also repeated the vitriolic personal accusations directed at Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that Erdogan's son Necmettin Bilal Erdogan is a terrorist sponsor supporting the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) by arranging for the purchase of large quantities of oil from ISIS, on behalf of Turkey.

Unfortunately, nothing that comes from Putin or the Russians can be believed. Russia lied about its invasion of Crimea, Russia lied about invading east Ukraine, Russia lied after shooting down a passenger plane over Ukraine, Russia lied about Syria's president al-Bashar Assad's use of Sarin gas on his own people, Russia lied about the purpose of its military intervention into Syria as being to attack ISIS. So any "evidence" produced by the Russians that Turkey is buying oil from ISIS is worthless.

In other words, Putin could swear on a stack of Orthodox Christian bibles that the proof Russia is showing as evidence wasn't Photoshopped, but he still can't be believed, and any evidence that the Russians present about anything can be assumed to be worthless dross.

Beyond that, accusations are flying.

Russia says that Turkey is supporting terrorism by buying oil from ISIS. Turkey says that Russia is supporting terrorism by buying oil from ISIS. Last week, the US and Germany both said that the al-Assad regime is supporting terrorism by buying oil from ISIS. Also, Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is being quoted as saying that the ISIS trucks in the photos that Russia is producing as "evidence" are not ISIS trucks at all, but are KRG trucks, transporting oil legally.

So maybe ISIS is selling oil to Turkey and/or to Russia and/or to al-Assad, and eventually we'll know which of those if any is true, but for now the important thing is the accusations themselves, the growing, vitriolic war of words between these centuries-old mutually hated enemies, and the possibility that these words could lead to actual war. Breitbart and Daily Sabah (Ankara) and Independent (London) and Daily Sabah (London) and Anadolu (Ankara) and Jamestown

Russia cancels Turkey gas pipeline, prepares for Bosporus closure

Many analysts have pointed out that all the sanctions that Russia imposed on Turkey -- food imports/exports, tourism restrictions, etc. -- would hurt both economies, but were not sufficiently serious to be significant. What would be REALLY significant, according to several analysts, would be the cancellation of joint projects to build gas pipelines that would carry Russian gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey and to the European Union. That would mean that Putin REALLY wanted to hurt Turkey as much as possible.

Well, Russia on Thursday announced that further plans for the TurkStream gas pipeline project have been canceled indefinitely. Russia had begun work on the pipeline in May. In addition, Russia's Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant project in southern Turkey was canceled.

Gas shipments from Russia to Turkey through the existing Blue Stream trans-Black Sea gas pipeline will continue, for the time being. However, Turkey is preparing to survive without any Russian gas, if necessary.

Russia, meanwhile, is doing its own preparing to survive if Turkey takes a much more drastic step in retaliation -- closing the Turkish straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles channels), the waterways that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

As we reported a few days ago in "1-Dec-15 World View -- Putin's Syria intervention hobbled by weak Russian economy," Turkey is bound by the 1936 Montreux Convention ao allow Russian commerce ships to pass freely through the straits; only warships may be regulated. I wrote that if Turkey closes the straits to Russia, that may be the trigger that launches a war, and that's true. Nonetheless, Russia is making plans to bypass the Bosporus if necessary.

Currently 32-35 million tonnes of Russian oil pass through the straits each year. 8 million tonnes per year could be transported by rail. It could also transport 13-15 million tonnes through the Baku Azerbaijan - Tbilisi Georgia - Ceyhan Turkey - Odessa Ukraine - Brody Ukraine pipeline. However, Russia does not have too many friends along that pipeline's path, so there may be problems.

A potentially more serious problem for Russia is that essential supplies of armaments and munitions are transiting through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles to Russian troops and Russian allies in Syria; this supply mission could be seriously affected if Turkey curtails sea transit trough the Straits. BBC and Jamestown and Tass (Moscow) (Trans)

Turkey's grievances against Russia, and the road to war

Vladimir Putin has claimed that Russia "did not threaten Turkey in any way," prior to shooting down Russia's Su-24 bomber. But from Turkey's point of view, that's far from true, and it's worthwhile listing some of Turkey's grievances against Russia, prior to the shootdown:

I've seen and heard several analysts refer to Russia and Turkey as "friends" who are now at a temporary impasse. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I wrote in "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars", the Russian population and Turkish population have a deep mutual hatred of each other that goes back many centuries, through many bloody generational crisis wars.

Sometimes countries that fight generational crisis wars are able to move past the hatreds that led to previous war and become friends. For example, this appears to have happened to America and Japan after World War II, also deep hatreds still exist between the Japanese and Chinese.

Russia and Turkey were never going to become friends. As I've been writing for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major, bloody sectarian crisis war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, and that America would be allied with Russia, Iran and the Shias. Russia and Turkey have appeared to be friends, but that would have to change.

It's truly amazing how quickly things have changed. In less that a month, any veneer of friendship between the two countries has been wiped away, and we're seeing a trend of bitter, vitriolic words, backed by punitive actions that worsen almost every day. A week ago, I wrote "26-Nov-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey move closer to the brink of war," and that's even more true today. It's not a question of "if"; it's a question of "how soon?"

In this generational Crisis era, these two countries are only going to become even more nationalistic and xenophobic than they already are. This is clear a path to war -- not a new war, but a revival of an old war that has already been going on for centuries. Generational Dynamics: History of Islam versus Orthodox Christianity (2003)

San Bernardino mass shootings

With regard to the San Bernardino mass shootings: Until we get climate change under control, these things are going to keep happening. The Federalist

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Dec-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey increasingly on a war footing thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Dec-15 World View -- HRW: Bahrain's Sunni government continues abusing and torturing Shia majority

NATO formally invites Montenegro to join the alliance

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

HRW: Bahrain's Sunni government continues abusing and torturing Shia majority


Pearl Square in Manama, Bahrain, after March 15 2011 protests.  The beautiful Pearl monument was torn down by the regime on March 18, because it was thought to be encouraging protests.
Pearl Square in Manama, Bahrain, after March 15 2011 protests. The beautiful Pearl monument was torn down by the regime on March 18, because it was thought to be encouraging protests.

Bahrain's Sunni government is still targeting innocent Shia protesters and reporters with arrests, murders and torture, and has not implemented any reforms since the bloody massacres by Bahraini security forces and Saudi troops in the capital city Manama in 2011. These are the findings in a new report by Human Rights Watch. ( "15-Mar-11 News -- Bahrain uprising becomes explosive as Saudi troops arrive")

The world was shocked in the days following the "Arab Spring" protests by the extremely violent and bloody overreaction of the Bahrain security services, backed up by troops from Saudi Arabia. The protests began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011. Dozens of protesters were killed, over 1,600 were arrested, and thousands were injured. A report published later that year by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) said that the National Security Agency and the Ministry of Interior “followed a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture, with respect to a large number of detainees in their custody.” Many Shias were arrested and held for months with no charges, merely because they had been suspected of protesting. Even after the protests ended, Bahraini security forces continued to arrest dozens of Shia professionals, including lawyers and doctors.

After the report was published, Bahrain's government promised reforms, but recent interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch indicate that the Bahrain regime has continued to be just as brutal and bloody as ever.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Bahrain's Interior Ministry Undersecretary Major-General Khalid Salem Al-Absi said that Bahrain has always been a gathering of religions and civilizations and a symbol for moderation and tolerance under the reforms launched by His Majesty the King.

Unfortunately, this is laughable. Besides the Human Rights Watch reports, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters without Borders) reported that on Tuesday, Bahrain sentenced a reporter to ten years in jail on charges of terrorism. The crime was that he gave mobile phone SIM cards to protesters, and photographed anti-government protests.

Bahrain has a Sunni Muslim government, which maintains control and doesn't permit opposition, even though the country's population is 2/3 Shia Muslim. Bahrain is also the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Human Rights Watch and Alwefaq.net and Bahrain News and Reuters

NATO formally invites Montenegro to join the alliance

NATO has formally invited Montenegro to join the alliance, a move that's spurred threats from Russian officials. Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic tweeted:

"Today, we proudly receive a #NATO membership invitation. This is a historic day for #Montenegro. The most important (since) the 2006 (independence) referendum."

The 2006 referendum refers to Montenegro's secession from Serbia, a close Russian ally. All three are Orthodox Christian countries.

Montenegro is a tiny country on the Adriatic Sea, which separates it from Italy by only a couple of hundred miles. Montenegro is thus much closer to Italy than to Russia, and yet the Russians are extremely upset that Montenegro might join Nato.

Historically, Montenegro has had a close relationship with Russia, and has been a close and faithful ally in the Balkans. Both of them are Orthodox Christian countries. Russian companies have invested millions in Montenegro, which has also become a favorite tourism destination, and Russians have been buying property along the Adriatic sea. According to reports, Russia has offered Montenegro several billion dollars to build a Russian naval base on Montenegrin coast. Montenegro is a very poor country, and so the money was tempting. But Montenegro has refused, preferring instead to join Nato.

According to a Montenegrin official, the country has never considered Russia's offer seriously:

"For as long as I have been a member of the Commission for Defense and Security, and this is already my second term, this topic has never been discussed. It was not mentioned during the commission’s sessions. I believe these are irrelevant stories, and our stance regarding our national priorities has not changed in the past ten years. Our main national and state priorities are NATO membership, and after that membership in the European Union. That is something Montenegro will not give up on."

Russia is threatening to withdraw all its investment projects from Montenegro. According to Sanda Raskovic Ivic, the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia:

"I think that NATO made a big mistake inviting Montenegro. The issue of NATO has already divided the country and created an atmosphere of an imminent bloodshed. ...

It may complicate the situation in Montenegro, because a lot of people are already against that, and do not want to indulge that situation and support [Prime Minister Milo] Djukanovic in the direction to NATO. People want a referendum on NATO in Montenegro, and that should be done."

Montenegro is already involved in NATO's efforts in Afghanistan and has actively cooperated with the alliance in other ways. AP and CNN and Radio Slobodna Europa / Radio Liberty

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Dec-15 World View -- HRW: Bahrain's Sunni government continues abusing and torturing Shia majority thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Dec-15 World View -- In major new escalation, US special forces will conduct combat in Iraq and Syria

Germany may deploy 1200 soldiers to Syria to fight ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany may deploy 1200 soldiers to Syria to fight ISIS


German troops in Iraq are already training the Kurdish Peshmerga (DW)
German troops in Iraq are already training the Kurdish Peshmerga (DW)

Germany's cabinet voted on Tuesday to recommend sending military support to Syria to fight ISIS. The support would include 1,200 soldiers, along with Tornado reconnaissance aircraft and the naval frigate Sachsen.

Four to six Tornado jets would be stationed at two locations. are underway with Jordan and Turkey about using the airbases in Incirlik and Amman. The frigate would be assigned to help protect the French flagship Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, from where fighter jets carry out bombing runs.

However, defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said, "The top line is: there will be no cooperation with [Syria's president Bashar] al-Assad and no cooperation with troops under his command."

Many Germans are wary of external troop deployments, after the Nazi experience in World War II.

According to a YouGov poll, 71% of Germans fear a terror backlash due to Germany supporting France in its military campaign against ISIS.

Dietmar Bartsch, chairman of the Left party, expressed skepticism that there was a military solution to the conflict:

"We have to impede ISIS, but that means, for example, through financial means, through the flow of weapons. We must put an end to the smuggling of oil in this area. We can't defeat ISIS with bombs. ...

I don't understand why the federal government, why other countries, have learned nothing from Afghanistan."

Green Party chairwoman Simone Peter said, "This deployment also has no political goal, no political concept and that's why it's irresponsible."

A final vote by the Parliament is scheduled for Wednesday.

Until now, Germany's biggest foreign mission has been in Afghanistan, but that has gradually wound down to a force of just under 1,000. Last week, Germany agreed to send 650 soldiers to Mali, to join 1,500 French troops deployed to fight IS militants. Deutsche-Welle and BBC and DPA and Sky News

In major new escalation, US special forces will conduct combat in Iraq and Syria

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced on Tuesday that the US military will be sending an unspecified number of special forces troops to Iraq and Syria, beyond the 3800 that have already been sent, and that they will for the first time be conducting combat operations against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh):

"Next, in full coordination with the Government of Iraq, we're deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL. These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders."

This is the second major troop escalation by the Obama administration in a month. On October 30, the White House announced that, for the first time, special forces troops would be on the ground in Syria, as well as Iraq. At that time, press secretary Josh Earnest said:

"The President does expect that they can have an impact in intensifying our strategy for building the capacity of local forces inside of Syria for taking the fight on the ground to ISIL in their own country. That has been the core element of the military component of our strategy from the beginning: building the capacity of local forces on the ground."

Blah, blah, blah. Earnest also said that "These forces do not have a combat mission." Well, with Tuesday's announcement, now they do.

According to analyst Michael O'Hanlon at the liberal Brookings Institution, commenting on the 10/30 announcement:

"Clearly, our Syria strategy has been failing for four years. The renewed tensions in U.S.-Turkey collaboration, the lack of progress in establishing a safe zone in the north and working together with the Kurds, and now the Russian intervention have underscored how much of a dilemma we face.

So while some of us have viewed the situation in Syria as very serious for a long time, it is increasingly hard for the administration even to attempt to argue otherwise."

Let's recall what President Obama said on Sept 12, 2014:

"But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order."

This is what happens over and over. A president starts out with "advisors" or "special forces," and ends up in a war.

On Tuesday, President Obama was speaking at the "climate change" conference in Paris, making his self-delusional statement that climate change is the cause of terrorism. A couple of commentators pointed out that Obama seemed to be very "sad" and "depressed" as he was speaking. Why was he depressed? Possibly because every foreign policy initiative he's tried has been a disaster, and now he has "boots on the ground" in both Iraq and Syria, proving that his contempt for President Bush and for Boomers was also self-delusion. Rudaw (Iraq) and CNN (10/30) and NBC News (10/31)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Dec-15 World View -- In major new escalation, US special forces will conduct combat in Iraq and Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Dec-15 World View -- Putin's Syria intervention hobbled by weak Russian economy

France demands that Russia target only ISIS in Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

France demands that Russia target only ISIS in Syria


Syrian Turkmen fighters near border with Turkey last week (Reuters)
Syrian Turkmen fighters near border with Turkey last week (Reuters)

Russian officials have been claiming that their warplane targets in Syria are all targets owned by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). We know from the Ukraine experience that Russian officials and media never tell the truth except by accident, and so any claim by Russian officials about warplane targets can simply be ignored.

In fact, there are been numerous Western media reports indicating that Russia's warplanes are hitting an occasional ISIS target, but Russia is mostly leaving ISIS alone, which seems odd when Russia's president frequently talks about how dangerous ISIS is. Instead, Russia has been targeting non-ISIS rebels fighting the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

Reuters has done an analysis of data available from Russia's Defense Ministry, and found that Russia's own data supports the Western media reports.

Instead, Russia has been targeting regions have no ISIS presence, but whose population is largely ethnically Turkmen, who are Syrians of Turkish descent, descended from groups who began moving from Turkmenistan in Central Asia into present-day Syria in the tenth century.

Furthermore, Russia has been targeting these Turkmen regions long before Turkey shot down the Russian warplane.

On Thursday of last week, France's president François Hollande traveled to Moscow to meet with Russia's president Vladimir Putin. Hollande said that Putin had agreed that Russian attack should only hit ISIS and "similar jihadi groups" in Syria. There is no evidence that Russia is abiding by this statement which, like most of Putin's statements, is really meaningless.

On Friday, a spokesman for France's former ministry was asked about Russian airstrikes on Turkmen areas. The spokesman, Romain Nadal, said:

"There can be no possible ambiguity on the objectives being pursued, which must only target the destruction of Daesh (ISIS)."

According to the Reuters data analysis, however, Russia's warplanes are still heavily targeting ethnic Turkmen areas. Reuters and Independent (London) and Reuters

Putin's Syria intervention hobbled by weak Russian economy

There are two sides to this story, both sides filled with wishful thinking. On one side, Russia's military intervention in Syria and the new sanctions imposed on Turkey are so expensive that Russia cannot afford them for long.

On the other side, Putin is determined to continue his Syria policy, irrespective of the cost. This view was express by Henri Barkey of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, being interview on al-Jazeera (my transcription excerpts):

"Putin wants to make sure that Erdogan really pays a very heavy price for this.

This is clearly a case where Erdogan overreached. It was a mistake to shoot down the airplane. Initially after the shooting down, Erdogan was very bombastic about it, and said he would do it again.

And so Putin has ratcheted up the pressure on Erdogan. The Turks are now realizing that this was a huge mistake, and I think everyone now realizes it. A Turkish airplane was shot down in Syria three years ago, and Erdogan had said at the time a minor violation of the airspace is no reason to attack. And now he does exactly the same thing for a 17 second violation. So the Russians are understandably upset. Even Turkey's Nato allies are upset, because this has given Putin the excuse to bring huge amount of military equipment into the region, including S-400 very sophisticated anti-air missiles.

And this is going to make American and allied bombing raids over Syria much more difficult, because they have now to worry about this very sophisticated system, even if the Russians have no intention of shooting down American airplanes. So this has been a terrible mistake on the part of Erdogan, a completely unnecessary one, and now he's paying the price for it. Putin is probably enjoying this, and wants to make Erdogan even more humiliated as he can."

However, Turkey-Russian commerce is worth an estimated $31 billion annually, with Russian wheat and gas and Turkish agricultural products making up the bulk. Russia's economy has already been battered by European sanctions and the collapse in the price of oil, and is suffering from severe inflation that is approaching 20% per year. According to one Israeli analyst, Russia's companies will suffer from Russia's sanctions even more than Turkish companies, especially since Russia is so much more isolated, while Turkey is being pushed into the arms of Europe.

Russia's military adventures in invading and occupying Ukraine and annexing Crimea have been extremely expensive for Russia, and Russia has already been forced to cut back his military in eastern Ukraine in order to transfer troops and equipment to Syria.

Russia's military intervention in Syria is now hobbled for a non-economic reason. He would like to strike back at Turkey militarily, but that would result in a confrontation with Nato, which would be forced to support Turkey.

Turkey has one powerful sanction that it could use against Russia: According to the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey must allow Russia and other Black Sea states to send ships of commerce and of war through the Turkish straits (the Bosporus and Dardanelles channels), which connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Ocean. The Montreux Convention has been very important to Russia following its recent military occupation and annexation of Crimea, and its plans for a major expansion of its naval base at Sevastopol, which it's Black Sea fleet is based. If Russia strikes too hard at Turkey, either militarily or through sanctions, then Turkey may close the Bosporus to Russian ships. That would be a powerful sanction, but it would probably trigger a new war such as those that the Turks and Russians have been fighting for centuries. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

Jamestown and Debka and Jerusalem Post and International Business Times (12-May-2014) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Turkey)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Dec-15 World View -- Putin's Syria intervention hobbled by weak Russian economy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Dec-2015) Permanent Link
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30-Nov-15 World View -- Nepal's fuel deal with China collapses, as India border blockade worsens

Communist Maoists block all India vehicles from entering Nepal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nepal's fuel deal with China collapses, as India border blockade worsens


Graffiti in Kathmandu reads 'Let's protest against the Indian blockade' in Nepali (Reuters)
Graffiti in Kathmandu reads 'Let's protest against the Indian blockade' in Nepali (Reuters)

The Hindu religion Madhesis ethnic group, living in Nepal's Tarai region on the border with India, is continuing its blockade of all commercial traffic from India, which started on September 24. The blockade has cut off the only source of imports of petroleum and cooking gas to Nepal, as well as many other goods. ( "8-Nov-15 World View -- Nepal turns to China as border tensions with India increase")

On October 28, China and India signed a memorandum of understanding that China would provide fuel to Nepal to compensate for the blockade, effective ending India's monopoly over fuel supplies to Nepal.

However, the deal may be collapsing because the committee charged with implementing the deal, the Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC), are apparently so buried in bureaucracy that they can't make any progress. According to an anonymous bureaucrat:

"In the last two months of the crisis, only three meetings of the NOC board, chaired by commerce secretary, were held and they were focused on monitoring and distribution of petroleum products rather than on expediting the business-to-business (B2B) deal with PetroChina."

Details from open news sources are sketchy, but apparently Gopal Bahadur Khadka, managing director of NOC, was holding up the official deal because he was trying to use his privately owned company Birat Petroleum to purchase the fuel from China at the market price, and then to resell it to NOC at twice the market price. (Paragraph corrected. 30-Nov)

With all the corruption going on in Washington and on Wall Street, it shouldn't surprise anyone that there's also corruption in Nepal. Nepal still hasn't recovered from the massive earthquake six months ago, and people without shelter are going to have to try to survive the Himalayan country's cold winter, but none of that mattered to Khadka, apparently, as long as he got his money.

A source close to the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said that Khadka is going to be sacked on the charge of "failing to perform duty satisfactorily." Are you kidding me?

In the last decade, American banksters created trillions of dollars in fraudulent subprime mortgage backed synthetic securities, and sold them to investors knowing that they were fraudulent. And yet the Obama administration, which depends on these banksters to make huge donations to his campaigns, and to his pet projects like Obamacare, has never criminally charged a single person. It's enough to make any decent person vomit, but the mainstream media are too in love with Obama to vomit.

So now, in Nepal, a bureaucrat who allegedly committed truly massive fraud, at a time when Nepal itself is in danger, is being fired for "failing to perform duty satisfactorily." That would be the reason to fire someone who was falling asleep in meetings. We can only guess that Prime Minister Oli is probably getting kickbacks from somewhere, because if Khadka isn't a criminal, then I don't know what a "criminal" is. Himalayan Times and Review Nepal

Communist Maoists block all India vehicles from entering Nepal

While ethnic Madhesis in Nepal are blockading commercial traffic from India into Nepal, Communist Maoists have announced a bandh (general strike) that blocks any India vehicles whatsoever to enter Nepal. According to an India police chief:

"We have not allowed Indian vehicles into Nepal via Banbasa bridge today after a bandh call by the Maoists (Viplav faction) in Nepal, but Nepalese vehicles plied normally.

The Nepalese police had advised against allowing Indian vehicle towards their territory fearing violence by the Maoist group which has called for the bandh."

The Maoists are blaming India for the blockade by the Madhesis, who are Hindu. The blockade was triggered by the passage of a new Nepal constitution that marginalizes the Madhesis, and purposely limits the Madhesi representation in the parliament to 10%, even though they constitute 40% of the population. India has been lobbying Nepal to modify the constitution, but insists that it's done nothing to support or encourage the blockade.

On Saturday morning, a car belonging to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu was vandalized and torched. A Maoist spokesman claimed credit:

"We had earlier warned not to ride Indian vehicles in Nepal, otherwise the angry people can do anything. [India's Narendra] Modi government did not take this issue seriously and that is why the people are angry. This anger will convert into a struggle. This will neither benefit India nor Modiji [Modi supporters]."

Interestingly, both police officials and embassy officials are denying the Maoist claim, saying that the vehicle caught fire due to a technical fault. Presumably, the same technical fault broke the windows, even though the car was parked and no one was in it.

According to the Maoist spokesman:

"Our strike is against India's blockade and its interference in Nepal. How long will people of Nepal suffer? India must back down."

Tribune of India and AFP and Review Nepal and Times of India

Many lose jobs in Bihar, India's border, as well as Nepal

The blockade is causing economic devastation on both sides of of the Nepal-Indian border.

After the blockade began, Nepal's border state of Tarai was forced to close industries, shops and schools. This put many Madhesis out of work, and resulted in skyrocketing prices for essential commodities and petroleum products.

For the same reason, thousands of workers from the India's eastern state of Bihar were out of work. Prices also skyrocketed in Bihar itself because of the shortage of essential items. Tribune of India

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Nov-15 World View -- Nepal's fuel deal with China collapses, as India border blockade worsens thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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29-Nov-15 World View -- Russia's military buildup a game-changer in Syria

Turkey's Erdogan 'saddened' by downing of Russia's warplane

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia's military buildup makes Syria into a Russian no-fly zone


The S-400 missile can reach 400 km, and as high as 27 km.  The radar has a range of 600 km. (RT)
The S-400 missile can reach 400 km, and as high as 27 km. The radar has a range of 600 km. (RT)

Russia's deployment of its advanced S-400 air defense missile systems at Syria's Khmeimim airbase one day after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane has effectively implemented a no-fly zone under Russian over most of Syria, as well as Lebanon, Cyprus, half of Israel, western regions of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and a vast part of Turkey.

According to Russia's Ministry of Defense:

"In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, today an S-400 air defense missile system has been promptly delivered, deployed and already began combat duty to provide cover for the area around the Russian Hmeymim air base in Syria."

This is certainly a "game-changer," as it makes many flights by American, Israeli and Turkish planes almost impossible without permission from Russia. In fact, Russian media are bragging that the U.S. and Turkey immediately stopped airstrikes since the S-400 systems were deployed, and Turkey is avoiding all flights near the Syrian border.

There's also an electronic jamming war going on between Russia and Turkey. The Russians put into place anew electronic warfare multifunctional systems to disrupt Turkish flights and forces. Turkey has countered by installing the KORAL electronic jamming system along its southern border with Syria.

This vast Russian military buildup in Syria has significant consequences for Turkey. Turkey and Syria have centuries of bitter warfare behind them, and now Russia is hemming Turkey in from the south in Syria and from the north in occupied Crimea. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

It's also significant for Israel which has, on occasion, conducted airstrikes into Syria to prevent convoys of weapons from being delivered to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such weapons convoys will now be under Russian protection, and Hezbollah will get all the weapons it wants.

It's worthwhile reminding readers at this point that, as I've been writing for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that Russia and Iran will trend towards becoming our allies, while Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Sunni Muslim countries will trend towards becoming our enemies. (See for example "9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement") Those predictions seemed fantastical ten years ago, but now we see them coming true, step by step, week after week, much to many people's astonishment, including mine. Russia Today and Debka and Russia Today

Russia ends food imports from many countries

In 2006, Russia wanted to retaliate against Georgia's increasingly pro-Western stance and ambitions to join Nato. So in March 2006, Russia banned wine imports from Georgia. In 2005, Georgia had exported wine worth a total of $81.4 million, but by 2007 that figure had fallen 64% to just $29.2 million.

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the West imposed financial sanctions on Russia. Russia retaliated in August 2014 by banning most food imports from the EU, as well as from Australia, Canada, Norway and the US in August last year. Three months ago, the ban was extended to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania and Montenegro.

Ukraine has announced plans to implement a free trade agreement with the European Union, beginning in January 2016. Russia retaliated by announcing that food imports from Ukraine would be banned, also starting in January 2016.

Now Russia is banning food and agricultural products from Turkey, in retaliation for the downing last week of the Russian warplane.

One might wonder if Russia is running out of countries to import food from. Well, with over 200 countries in the world, that's not likely to happen soon. In fact, Russia's agricultural minister has pointed out that Russia could import fruit and vegetables from Iran, Israel, Morocco, Azerbaijan, China, South Africa and Argentina.

Other Russian sanctions target Turkish businesses in Russia, and Russian tourists who wish to visit Turkey.

Russia's sanctions may benefit the United States. The sanctions will also terminate millions of tons of Russia's wheat exports to Turkey. Russia is the largest wheat exporter to Turkey. U.S. and European agricultural dealers have millions of tons of wheat in storage, and could immediately sell that to Turkey.

However, there is a broader point to be made. I frequently have someone tell me that "those two countries won't go to war because it's bad for business." The assumption is that if two countries trade a lot with each other, then they won't do anything to disturb that trade.

I've frequently heard this argument with regard to China and Taiwan. "China won't invade Taiwan," I'm told, "because it's bad for business." And yet, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, even though it was bad for business. In fact, if war were prevented because it was bad for business, then there would almost never be any wars.

But now we see that just the opposite is true. If two countries have strong trade relations, then trade simply becomes another weapon of war, in the form of sanctions. Whether sanctions ever actually accomplish anything useful is highly questionable, but trade does not prevent war. BBC and Sputnik News (Moscow)

Turkey's Erdogan 'saddened' by downing of Russia's warplane

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not apologize for the downing of Russia's warplane last week, but seemed to come close, when he said that he was "saddened":

"I'm really saddened by the incident. We wish it had never happened, but it happened. I hope something like this doesn't happen again.

We hope that the issue between us and Russia does not escalate any further, become corrosive and have dire consequences in the future. ...

"What we tell Russia is 'Let's resolve this issue between ourselves and within its boundaries. Let's not make others happy by destroying our whole relationship. I think the U.N. Global Climate Change Summit to be held in Paris on Monday could be an opportunity to restore our relations. ...

Russia is important for Turkey as much as Turkey is important for Russia. Both countries cannot afford to give up on each other."

Actually, this statement sounds a bit desperate to my ear.

At any rate, Russia's president Vladimir Putin has demanded a full apology, and says that he will not speak to Erdogan until Erdogan apologizes. So it seems unlikely that they'll meet in Paris on Monday. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Al Manar (Lebanon)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Nov-15 World View -- Russia's military buildup a game-changer in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Nov-15 World View -- Pope Francis to visit Central African Republic in middle of civil war

Pope Francis blames starvation and poverty on a new form of colonialism

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pope Francis to visit Central African Republic in middle of civil war


Pope Francis welcomed by Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni (at right with hat), in Kampala on Friday (AP)
Pope Francis welcomed by Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni (at right with hat), in Kampala on Friday (AP)

The United Nations will provide hundreds of additional peacekeeping troops on Sunday, when Pope Francis visits Bangui, the capital city of Central African Republic (CAR), in the midst of a sectarian civil war that's been going on for three years, and shows no sign of ending. The visit will last 26 hours.

The Pope is completing a six-day tour of Africa, with stops in Kenya, Uganda and CAR.

In Bangui, the Pope's first visit will be to the PK5 mosque in Bangui. PK5 is a Muslim enclave that continues to be extremely dangerous. Renewed violence erupted in PK5 in September, after a Muslim man was killed. The Pope had wanted to visit a hospital in PK5, but it was deemed to be too dangerous.

After visiting the mosque, Francis plans to hold a prayer vigil at the cathedral in Bangui and spend some time at a displacement camp.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in CAR currently has some 9,100 peacekeepers and about 1,500 police. It will be boosted with an additional 750 troops and 140 police for the Pope's visit. The additional troops will stay for eight weeks, until after presidential and parliamentary elections take place on December 27.

Despite the additional peacekeepers, Vatican officials have said that the Pope could cancel the visit at the last minute if it appears to be too dangerous, either to the Pope or to the people that he will be visiting. The last pontiff to visit CAR was Pope John Paul II in 1985.

The CAR sectarian war began in March 2013, when François Bozizé, the Christian former president of CAR, was ousted in a coup in March 2013 by Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, who became president and served until January 2014.

After Djotodia's coup took place in March 2013, Muslim Seleka militias began committing atrocities, particularly targeting the Christian constituencies of the deposed François Bozizé. In December 2013, French Foreign Legion peacekeeping troops arrived to disarm the Seleka militias.

But then the Christian anti-balaka militias "rushed into the vacuum," and began committing atrocities in 2014, for revenge against the Selekas. Since then, both Christians and Muslims have been committing atrocities, and it's become a full-scale generational crisis war. Thousands have been killed, and millions have been displaced.

As I've explained in the past, CAR's last generational crisis war was the 1928-1931 Kongo-Wara Rebellion ("War of the Hoe Handle"), which was a very long time ago, putting CAR today deep into a generational Crisis era, where a new crisis war is increasingly likely. ( "2-Oct-15 World View -- Violence resurges in Central African Republic crisis war")

Many people of faith hope that the visit by the Pope will somehow magically tranquilize the fighting and end the civil war. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this civil war will go on until it reaches the point of exhaustion, and there's an explosive climax, some kind of bloody, genocidal massacre that will be remembered for decades. Deutsche Welle and Time and Reuters

Pope Francis blames starvation and poverty on a new form of colonialism

Pope Francis was apparently very deeply affected by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, after which he declared that the upcoming Christmas festivities would be a "charade," with the whole world at war:

"We are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. It’s all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war."

Pope Francis might be a reader of the daily Generational Dynamics World View articles, because he appears to believe that the world is headed inevitably to a new world war, and he's in great despair over it.

In a speech on Friday at the Kangemi Slum in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, he declared Africa to be a "continent of hope," but went on to continue his message of despair:

"One very serious problem in this regard is the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services. By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centers, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer in particular to access to drinking water. “Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (Laudato Si’, 30). To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need

This situation of indifference and hostility experienced by poor neighborhoods is aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organizations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as “cannon fodder” for their ruthless business affairs. I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers. I ask God that that the authorities may embark, together with you, upon the path of social inclusion, education, sport, community action, and the protection of families, for this is the only guarantee of a peace that is just, authentic and enduring.

These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems. They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism which would make African countries “parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel” (Ecclesia in Africa, 52). Indeed, countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate, which seek “to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized” (Laudato Si’, 50).

In this regard, I would propose a renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration, as opposed to elimination, paternalism, indifference or mere containment. We need integrated cities which belong to everyone."

There's a great deal of wishful thinking in these remarks. But the source of the problem was revealed in Thomas Roberts Malthus in his 1798 book, "An Essay on the Principle of Population." In that book, he showed that the amount of food that farmers produce increases every year, but that the annual increase in food production is smaller than the annual increase in population. In other words, the population grows faster than the food supply, which I call the "Malthus effect." (To see how this applies to China, see "6-Dec-10 News -- Mongol invasion of China in 1206 has impact today")

Those who deny the validity of the Malthus effect overlook the number of wars of extermination that happen throughout history. Whenever a society or group of people are facing starvation and poverty, they look around for someone to blame, someone "wealthier" or "more privileged." When the starvation gets bad enough, there is a war. If it's a generational crisis war, then it will worsen the starvation and will become a war of extermination. A war of extermination decreases the population, so that there's enough food for the survivors for a while. That's the cycle that humanity has gone through for millennia.

Theologians often discuss a number of great issues, like the conflict between omniscience and free will. ( "27-Sep-15 World View -- After Hajj stampede disaster, Muslims debate the 'Will of Allah'")

But I've never heard of theologians discussing an even more important issue: Why are humans to blame for wars, when God has created a world in which the population grows faster than the food supply, making war a requirement for human survival? Time and AP and National Catholic Register

Baby kissed by Pope Francis recovers from deadly brain tumor

During his recent visit to Philadelphia, Pope Francis kissed the head of a 15-month-old baby Gianna Masciantonio. The baby was dying of a brain tumor.

Six weeks later, MRI scans show that the tumor has shrunk significantly, and the baby would likely survive.

According to Gianna's father, Joey Masciantonio: "The kiss was God's work, that's for sure. But, the miracle was Him giving us the platform to reach those doctors who, ultimately, played a major role in saving Gianna's life." NBC News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Nov-15 World View -- Pope Francis to visit Central African Republic in middle of civil war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey-Russia crisis continues to escalate

European Union to end visa restrictions on Turkey's citizens

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia accuses Turkey of 'industrial scale' oil purchases from ISIS


Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 16 (AP)
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 16 (AP)

On Tuesday, after the Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey, Russia's president Vladimir Putin said:

"ISIS has big money, hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, from selling oil. In addition they are protected by the military of an entire nation [i.e., Turkey]. One can understand why they are acting so boldly and blatantly. Why they kill people in such atrocious ways. Why they commit terrorist acts across the world, including in the heart of Europe."

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev alleged on Wednesday that Turkish officials were benefiting from ISIS oil sales, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it was no secret that "terrorists" use Turkish territory.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin on Thursday renewed his accusation that Turkey's officials were "accomplices of terrorists" for supporting the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has furiously denied such accusations of several occasions.

At a news conference on Thursday, Putin said that Russian spy planes had witnessed trucks carrying "industrial scale" amounts of oil from ISIS sources crossing the border from Syria into Turkey. He said it was "theoretically possible" that Ankara was unaware of oil supplies entering its territory from ISIL-controlled areas of Syria but added that this was hard to imagine.

According to Putin:

"Turkish authorities should destroy the oil [coming from ISIS], but we do not see the smoke from the fire in the destruction of oil. I repeat, we are talking about an industrial scale amounts."

Erdogan furiously denied the charges:

"Shame on you. It's clear where Turkey buys its oil and gas ... Those who claim we are buying oil from Daesh like this must prove their claims. Nobody can slander this country. I would call them liars [if they do]. If you are seeking the source of weaponry and financial power of Daesh, the first place to look is the Assad regime and countries that act with it."

Most analysts agree that Turkey is not buying oil directly from ISIS, but it's possible that some distributors are buying oil from ISIS and selling it in Turkey. Russia Today and Reuters and APA (Azerbeijan) and Guardian (London)

Russia escalates retaliation against Turkey for downing warplane

Russian and Turkish leaders on each side refused to apologize, but demanded apologies from the other side.

Russia has not declared war over Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane on Tuesday, but is taking a number of hostile steps just stopping short of war.

The forces of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad intensified the shelling and bombing of Turkmen villages in Syria. As we described two days ago, the Turks wish to protect Turkmen rebels in Syria for the same reason that Russia says that it wants to protect ethnic Russians in occupied east Ukraine and Crimea. Russia defended the bombing of Turkmens on Thursday by claiming that they're terrorists, although that description could just as easily be apply to the Russian separatists in Ukraine.

In addition to accusations that Turkey's officials were "accomplices of terrorists" and that Turkey was buying oil from ISIS, Russia says that it will adopt a set of economic sanctions having to do with trade, transport, and tourism:

As we wrote earlier this week, Turkey and Russia have had centuries of bloody, genocidal generational crisis wars with each, and there is certainly a new one on the horizon. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars") However, there is tremendous international diplomatic pressure to keep the current situation from spiraling into war, so it is hoped that there won't be a war at this time. But with Turkey and Russia on opposite sides of the crises in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria, it's clear that no simple band-aid will fix the current problems. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Today's Zaman (Istanbul)

European Union to end visa restrictions on Turkey's citizens

Ever since Russia's warplane was downed, it's been easy to forget that Turkey is involved in at least one more major international crisis: the refugee crisis in Europe. There are still thousands of refugees each day, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, crossing into Turkey, across the Aegean Sea, into Greece.

The refugee crisis has overwhelmed Europe, and the recent terror attacks in Paris have raised terrorism alert levels in several countries.

As we described a month ago, the crisis has forced the EU to reopen and take seriously negotiations for Turkey to join the European Union. ( "20-Oct-15 World View -- As winter approaches, thousands of European refugees may be trapped in the cold")

A European Union draft document is expected to be released on November 29, with some of the following terms:

Hurriyet (Ankara)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey-Russia crisis continues to escalate thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Nov-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey move closer to the brink of war

Turkish analysis of downing of Russian warplane

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia and Turkey move closer to the brink of war


Russian pilots prepare for flight in a Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet in Syria (Reuters)
Russian pilots prepare for flight in a Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet in Syria (Reuters)

Russia's president Vladimir Putin is said to be inconsolably furious at Turkey for shooting down a Russian warplane on Monday. This incident has struck Putin in a deeply visceral way, and there is little doubt that he will seek retaliation. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

According to a statement issued by Russia's military:

"The General Staff is currently working out additional measures to ensure the security of the Russian air base.

First: all actions of strike aircraft will be carried out only under cover of fighter planes.

Second: measures will be taken to strengthen defense. To this end, the cruiser Moskva, equipped with Fort air defense system, similar to S-300, will assume position in the coastal region of Latakia. We caution that any targets, representing a potential danger for us, will be destroyed.

Third: Contacts with Turkey on military lines will be discontinued."

Russia is deploying its most advanced ground to air missile system in Syria. These missiles could target Turkish warplanes, and also bombers from the U.S.-led coalition, including those from the U.S., France and Britain.

I heard several analysts refer to this as a major escalation that could easily lead to a military conflict between Turkey and Russia. Many people believe that Putin will seek further retaliation against Turkey. Indeed, Putin has already promised "serious consequences" for the incident, which was a "stab in the back." This retaliation could take many forms, and a military conflict could be triggered either intentionally or unintentionally.

Russia has used protection of ethnic Russians in Ukraine as an excuse for its army to invade and occupy portions of Ukraine, and annex its Crimean peninsula. As we described yesterday, the Turks wish to protect Turkmen rebels in Syria and Turkic Tatars in Crimea for the similar reasons, and they're furious that Russians are treating Tatars harshly in Crimea, and that Russian warplanes are bombing Turkmen villages in Syria.

So neither of these two countries is satisfied, and either one make seek further military retaliation against the other. International Business Times and Reuters

Turkish analysis of downing of Russian warplane

According to a Turkish analysis, shooting down the Russian warplane was to be expected because "It was Russia that stabbled Turkey in the back." According to the analysis:

Interestingly enough, it seems likely that there is one important thing that the Russians and Turks agree on: That nothing about the current situation is accidental, and both are taking deliberate steps to provoke the other -- Russia in bombing Turkmen and not ISIS, and Turkey in shooting down the Russian plane in retaliation. Daily Sabah (Istanbul)

Quote without comment

At a joint Washington press conference with France's president François Hollande on Tuesday to discuss the terrorist attacks in France and Mali, President Barack Obama said:

"Next week I will be joining President Hollande and other world leaders in Paris for the Global Climate Conference. What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children."

The Federalist

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Nov-15 World View -- Russia and Turkey move closer to the brink of war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars

Turkmen in Syria versus Russians in occupied Crimea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Putin calls Turkey's downing of Russian plane a 'stab in the back'


Florence Nightingale, the world's first nurse, tending to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in 1854
Florence Nightingale, the world's first nurse, tending to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in 1854

On Tuesday, two Turkish F-16s were involved in the shooting down of a Russian warplane in Syria near the border with Turkey. According to Turkey's military, the Russian aircraft was warned 10 times in five minutes that it was violating Turkish airspace.

In addition, one of the Russian pilots was shot dead from the ground by ethnic Turkmens as he was parachuting to earth. A Russian marine was also shot down during the rescue operation.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin called Turkey's downing of the fighter jet "a stab in the back" carried out by the accomplices of terrorists, alluding to previous accusations that Turkey's government were accomplices of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Putin said that the incident would have serious consequences for the two countries' relations.

Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey had the right to respond if its airspace is violated despite repeated warnings.

Russia claims that the Russian plan was shot down over Syria, but that even if it had invaded Turkey's air space, then shooting it down was illegal. According to Anatoly Kapustin, President of the Russian Association of International Law: "Even if the Russian plane flew into Turkish airspace and returned to Syria, it needs to be taken into account that the Russian air force is taking part in an armed conflict in Syrian territory, on the side of the central government."

Other analysts have also suggested that shooting down the warplane was an overreaction, since it was not a danger to Turkey even if it invaded Turkey's airspace.

Russia's Defense Ministry said that it was working on a package of measures to respond to the incident. A Russian warship will be deployed to waters off Syria's western Latakia province, and Russian fighters will accompany bombing missions in the future. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov advised Russians not to visit Turkey, saying that the threat of terrorism was as bad in Turkey as in Egypt, where a Russian passenger plane was recently blown out of the sky. Sputnik News (Moscow) and Hurriyet Daily News (Ankara)

Turkmen in Syria versus Russians in occupied Crimea

When Russian troops last year invaded, occupied, and annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, and also invaded and occupied eastern Ukraine, the excuse given by Vladimir Putin was that Russia has the right to protect ethnic Russians wherever they may be.

So now it's possible that this same argument is being used against Russia. As has been widely reported, Russian warplanes have not been bombing ISIS targets. Instead, they've been bombing so-called "moderate" rebels fighting against Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, including some groups being supported by the United States.

Some of those moderate rebels are in ethnic Turkmen villages that the Russians have bombed. Turkey last week summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the bombing of Turkmens in Syria. Turkmens were originally from Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

On Tuesday, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said:

"Everyone should respect Turkey’s right to defend its own borders. ... We strongly condemn attacks focusing on the places where Bayirbucak Turkmens live. We have relatives and cognates living there."

Erdogan pointed out that the area there were no ISIS militants in the Turkmen region.

In fact, Crimea is the homeland of the ethnic Tatars, who are also (distant) relatives of the Turks, with the same Muslim religion, and Tatars are being brutally treated by the Russians in occupied Crimea. So, from Turkey's point of view, Turkey has as much right to protect the Tatars in occupied Crimea as Russia has to protect the Russians.

It's possible, though unstated, that Erdogan felt that Turkey had the right to shoot down the Russian warplane in defense of the Turkmens in Syria. Today's Zaman (Istanbul) and CNN

Russia - Turkey crisis evokes memories of centuries of Crimean wars

There's been a lot of talk in the media about how Turkey and Russia are such potentially great allies, and that if they could only get past a minor issue or two, then together they could take down ISIS. Such fatuous statements miss the point that the Turkish and Russian people deeply hate each other, based on centuries of extremely bloody wars, often centered on the Crimean peninsula which has been so much in the news for the last two years.

If you want to list the most important wars of the last millennium, one might mention the cataclysmic Mongol conquest of the Han Chinese in 1206, the War of the Spanish Succession that climaxed in 1709, the American Revolution that climaxed in 1782, the cataclysmic Zulu conquest of tribes of southern Africa in the 1820s.

However, the top of the list is arguably the cataclysmic conquest of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire, by the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1453, renaming the city to Istanbul.

In 1472, Russia's Grand Prince Ivan III ("Ivan the Great") married Sophia, the orphan niece of the last Greek Emperor of Constantinople. At that time, with the destruction of Rome by the Visigoths, and the destruction of Constantinople by the Ottomans, Ivan the Great decided that Moscow was going to become "the third Rome," the home of the true (or "orthodox") Christian faith, and the defender of Jerusalem from the Ottomans. He gave himself the title "Czar" or "Tsar," derived from the name of the Roman Emperor Caesar (as is the German word "Kaiser").

The Tatars were a tribe of Mongols that, under the leadership of Genghis Kahn, probably the greatest conqueror in the history of the world, had defeated China in 1217, and then turned westward and conquered much of southern Russia by 1227, where they adopted Crimea as their homeland. The Crimean Tatars had intermingled with the central Asian Turks, and spoke a Turkish language. By the 1400s, they adopted Islam as their religion.

So here's a brief summary of what happened since then:

Western politicians and journalists are pretty much oblivious to all of this. But you can be sure that both Erdogan and Putin are fully aware of it. And with all this history between them, and with Russia now having occupied and annexed Crimea, there is no possibility Russia and Turkey are going to become allies in any meaningful sense.

Long-time readers are aware that I've been writing for ten years that Generational Dynamics predicts the world is headed for a Clash of Civilizations world war, where the allies of the U.S. will including India, Russia and Iran, while the enemies, led by China, will include Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries.

The Turkish downing of a Russian warplane to provide protection of Turkmen villages in Syria will certainly be an important milestone in bringing that prediction to actualization. Russia is certain to retaliate in some way, although it's not expected that Russia and Turkey will go to war at this time, since there are diplomatic efforts going on around the world.

Because of this crisis and the Syrian refugee crisis, in a move described by Turkish journalists as "panicked," the European Union has called an EU-Turkey summit meeting in Brussels on Sunday. This will be the first such summit meeting since the EU and Turkey began their tumultuous relationship in 1959.

According to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, the summit will be held between the 28 member countries and Turkey, and the topics to be discussed will certainly include the Turkey-Russia crisis, as well as new discussions of Turkey joining the EU, and how to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey into Greece. Today's Zaman (Istanbul) and Generational Dynamics: History of Islam versus Orthodox Christianity (2003)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Nov-15 World View -- Ukraine suspends all commercial trade with occupied Crimea

Migrants blocked at Macedonian border sew their mouths shut

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Migrants blocked at Macedonian border sew their mouths shut


An Iranian refugee with his mouth sewn shut protests the blockade of Greece's border into Macedonia (AFP)
An Iranian refugee with his mouth sewn shut protests the blockade of Greece's border into Macedonia (AFP)

Seven men have sewed their mouths shut and more than a thousand Iranians, Moroccans and Pakistanis have blocked a train line on the Greek-Macedonian border, in protest against a recent decision by some Balkan countries to block certain nationalities from heading towards northern Europe.

Following on from last week's terrorist attack in Paris, countries along the Balkan migration trail -- Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia -- have begun refusing to admit people of certain nationalities. In particular, they are screening all the migrants, and admitting only refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. People from Africa, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh -- who collectively amount to less than 10% of the flow through the Balkans -- are being called "economic migrants," and are being trapped in limbo at the borders of Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia.

An average of 4,750 people a day have arrived on its shores from Turkey this month, down from the October average of 6,800 but above the August daily rate of 3,500.

Macedonia is building a barrier along its southern border with Greece. Macedonia’s prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, said: “The status quo is untenable and short-term recommendations do nothing to solve the problem. Macedonia knows that the only solution is European-wide expanded cooperation, real-time exchange of information and additional support so that we may ensure appropriate security and humanitarian outcomes for all involved.” Guardian (London) and Kathimerini (Athens) and Washington Post and Guardian (19-Nov)

Ukraine suspends all commercial trade with occupied Crimea

As we reported yesterday, transmission towers (pylons) carrying electricity lines from Ukraine to occupied Crimea were sabotaged and blown up over the weekend, most likely by Ukrainian nationalists from the far-right party Right Sector or Crimean Tatars opposed to Russia's invasion, occupation and annexation of Crimea. The result is that most of the 2 million people living in Crimea are now living in darkness.

Ukraine's Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry had promised a restoration within four days, but Tatars and nationalists are preventing construction workers from approaching the pylons to repair them.

On Monday, Ukraine's government in Kiev said that it was suspending all commercial trade with occupied Crimea. This is being described as a major concession to the nationalists, since nationalists have been since September blockading the roads between Ukraine and Crimea, attempting to prevent any commercial trade.

Since September, prices for food have been rising sharply because of the blockade, and are now expected to rise much higher. It is now not known how long it will be before electricity will be restored. BBC and Tass (Moscow)

Ukraine and Russia in tit-for-tat escalating sanctions

Monday's announcement by Ukraine's announcement that it's suspending all cargo traffic to and from occupied Crimea is part of a lengthy sequence of tit-for-tat sanctions.

According to Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk:

"Speaking about the embargo, I would like to make it clear that Russian threats to introduce an embargo on Ukrainian goods will face the same response from the Ukrainian authorities.

"There will be an analogous Ukrainian decision to launch an embargo against Russia to every Russian decision to launch an embargo against Ukraine."

However, Yatsenyuk says that he's ordered that the sabotaged electricity transmission lines be repaired, and that electricity supplies to Crimea be restored. Russia Today and Zik (Ukraine)

Steel and other commodity prices continue to plummet

Commodity prices in general have been plummeting, mainly thanks to a slowdown in China, but steel prices have been particularly hard hit, falling more than a third so far this year.

China 800 million tons of steel a year -- four times more than any other country has ever produced. But the sector is in severe overcapacity of some 400 million tons as construction has been slowing. Steel consumption in China hs fallen 5.7% in the first ten months this year. Iron ore is also trading at an all time low. There is little upside on the horizon.

According to one analyst:

"A lot of [steel production] growth is completely artificially, supported by government policies and subsidies so it's natural to see that sector shrink."

According to another analyst, China is pushing production up to create jobs. They "look more at employment and stability in the social environment," and don't worry about the long term effects. CNBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Nov-15 World View -- Ukraine suspends all commercial trade with occupied Crimea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Nov-15 World View -- ASEAN leaders harshly criticize China over South China Sea actions

Occupied Crimea declares state of emergency after electricity is cut

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China blocks Miss World Canada from attending Miss World pageant


Anastasia Lin, 25, Miss World Canada
Anastasia Lin, 25, Miss World Canada

China is apparently blocking Anastasia Lin, 25, the winner of Miss World Canada, from attending the Miss World pageant. Born in China, Lin has been an outspoken critic of China's human rights abuses.

Lin is apparently not going to receive the letter from China inviting her to the pageant, which means that she cannot apply for a visa. The opening ceremony takes place on Monday, but she still hopes to receive the letter in time to attend the competition a few days later.

After she won the competition earlier this year, Lin's father was contacted by Chinese security forces. They threatened that there would be consequences if Lin continued to speak out. As her father still lives in China, Lin is concerned. "Dad's really scared. He doesn't really dare to talk to me as he worries his phone is tapped. He doesn't speak his mind anymore." The Shanghaiist and BBC

ASEAN leaders harshly criticize China over South China Sea actions

While the Western world's eyes have been riveted on the European terror news, tensions over China's actions in the South China Sea have been surging at the annual summit meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), currently being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In fact, week's terrorist attack in a hotel in Bamako, the capital city of Mali, resulted in the deaths of three Chinese businessmen. The ASEAN summit meeting had been expected to discuss global terrorism, but the South China Sea pushed those matters into the background.

China received criticism from almost everyone. The harshest critic of China was outgoing Philippines President Benigno Aquino, who revealed that China had repeatedly been fishing in Philippine waters, and even worse, targeting endangered marine life covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. According to Aquino:

"We had been asked not to make these incidents public, and we agreed in an effort to de-escalate the situation. However, the incidents did not cease."

In addition to going public about these and other incidents of aggression by China, Aquino said that the region’s stability and prosperity were under threat “by unilateral actions such as the massive reclamation and building of structures on features in the Spratly islands.” He said such alarming developments have urgent and far-reaching implications in the region and the international community, and that ASEAN must not allow any country – “no matter how powerful” – to claim an entire sea as its own and use force and intimidation to send its message across.

Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe also criticized China's land reclamation and suggested that Japan might send its Navy to the South China Sea:

"With regard to activity by the Self-Defense Forces in the South China Sea, I will consider it while focusing on what effect the situation has on Japan’s security."

However, a Japanese government spokesman said later that there were no plans to change policy at the present time.

According to president Barack Obama, also attending the meeting:

"Many leaders spoke about the need to uphold international principles, including the freedom of navigation, and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

My fellow leaders from Japan, Australia and the Philippines have reaffirmed that our treaty alliances remained the foundation of regional security. The United States is boosting our support for the Philippines maritime capabilities and those of our regional partners. ...

For the sake of regional stability, claimants should halt reclamation, new construction, and militarization of disputed areas."

During the meeting, Indonesia's president Joko Widodo and South Korea's president Park Geun-hye and other ASEAN leaders all criticized China's actions in the South China Sea.

China's Premier Li Keqiang evaded answering questions related to the subject, but has previously blamed the United States for "provocations" and "meddling." In a statement reported by China's media, Li said:

"In recent years, the South China Sea disputes, which should have been addressed by directly concerned countries through negotiation and talks, have been played up to become a problem concerning the South China Sea’s peace and stability and the freedom of navigation."

Nikkei and Philippine Star and Bloomberg

Occupied Crimea declares state of emergency after electricity is cut

Occupied Crimea has declared a state of emergency after the entire peninsula was plunged into darkness because the transmission towers (pylons) carrying electricity lines from Ukraine were sabotaged on Friday and Sunday.

It's believed that the pylons were blown up by Ukrainian nationalists and Crimean Tatars opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea. In 2014, Russian army troops invaded Crimea and annexed the peninsula to Russia. Crimea is the homeland to ethnic Tatars who have been marginalized by the Russian occupation.

Generators are supplying power for vital services like hospitals and communications. Most of the nearly 2 million people living in Crimea remain without electricity. Ukraine's Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry promised a restoration within four days. Euro News and Ukraine Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Nov-15 World View -- ASEAN leaders harshly criticize China over South China Sea actions thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Nov-15 World View -- European Union considers gun control after Paris attack

Brussels Belgium on lockdown in search for Paris bomber

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Brussels Belgium on lockdown in search for Paris bomber


Closed metro entrance in Brussels on Saturday (EU Observer)
Closed metro entrance in Brussels on Saturday (EU Observer)

On Saturday, the city of Brussels, which is both the capital city of Belgium and the capital of the European Union, was essentially shut down completely, after Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel warned that the threat of one or more terror attacks in the city was "serious and imminent." The terror alert system was raised to its highest level over reports of an "imminent threat" of a gun and bomb attack similar to the one seen in Paris. The metro system was shut down, and all restaurants and cafés were closed by 6 pm. Citizens were warned to avoid large gathers, such as concerts, train stations and shopping malls.

Belgium-based jihadists are increasingly at the heart of the investigation of last week's Paris attacks, since it's been learned that three of the attackers have roots in Brussels' Molenbeek district which, as we described earlier this week, has a large ethnic Moroccan population and is a hotbed for radical Islamists.

Brussels police have intensified raids in Molenbeek and other immigrant districts, hoping to prevent a repeat of the Paris attacks. Belgium's interior minister is calling for house-to-house checks for all home in Molenbeek.

In particular, there is a big manhunt under way for Salah Abdeslam, a 26 year old French citizen, who is believed to be one of the attackers, and is hiding out in Brussels. Abdeslam traveled from Paris to Belgium on the morning after the Paris attacked and was stopped by police officers for identity checks, but was permitted to continue to Belgium because he was not suspected at that time.

Police have issued an international arrest warrant for Abdeslam, who is described as armed and dangerous. Friends of Abdeslam told ABC News they had spoken to him on Skype and said he was hiding in Brussels and desperately trying to get to Syria, to link up with the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Expatica Belgium and EU Observer and BBC and ABC News

European Union considers gun control after Paris attack

I've often suggested that the National Rifle Association in the U.S. should give an award to President Barack Obama. Every time Obama proposes gun control legislation, gun sales surge. Obama has brought about the sales of more guns than the NRA ever could.

So now there's talk of gun control in the European Union.

There's a black market for firearms in all major European cities. However, Belgium is a particularly important player because of its geographical location and history. For centuries Belgium has been a major producer and exporter of firearms. Sixty miles east of Brussels, FN Herstal, the largest small-arms factory in Europe, has been making weapons since 1889. Today, three thousand employees manufacture some fifty models of handguns, submachine guns, rifles (both assault and bolt-action), machine guns, shotguns, and aircraft weapons systems.

Handguns are the preferred firearm for criminals, but lately Belgian police have noticed an increase in the possession and use of military-style weapons such as Kalashnikovs. After the Balkan wars of the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of military weapons stayed in the hands of citizens, and found their way to Western Europe, including Belgium. A typical price for a weapon is $1,000 to $2,500.

It's estimated that there are 81 million illicit firearms across the European Union, but that's just a guess because the EU has no system for keeping track of weapons, even illegal weapons that have been seized.

The EU this week proposed new gun-control rules. But experts say implementing them across the 28 member counties would be difficult.

Some of the rules have to do with the restoration of deactivated or neutralized or decommissioned weapons, a problem not raised much in the United States. An otherwise illegal weapon can be kept legally if it can be deactivated and made into a purely decorative item. Key components can be removed or welded together, for example, but in some cases deactivated weapons can be restored.

The new proposed rules will deal with deactivated weapons, and will propose a ban on semi-automatic weapons. However, none of the proposals offer immediate solutions to the problem of improving coordination and information sharing among law enforcement so guns can be more easily tracked.

Nonetheless, the proposed rules face strong resistance from hunters and sportsmen, who fear it will seriously restrict legal owners. "It seems to be that the Commission now wants to show quick activism after these terrible attacks, but they are going too far," said Hans Schollen, a lawyer and president of a German sporting association, the VDS. BBC and Politico EU and New Yorker

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Nov-15 World View -- European Union considers gun control after Paris attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Nov-15 World View -- Mali hotel terror attack highlights al-Qaeda's strength in Africa

Terror groups compete for credit for Mali hotel attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Terror groups compete for credit for Mali hotel attack


Mali security officers show a jihadist flag that belonged to the hotel attackers (Reuters)
Mali security officers show a jihadist flag that belonged to the hotel attackers (Reuters)

A group of terrorist gunmen assaulted the Raddison Blu Hotel, a luxury hotel in Mali's capital city Bamako, on Friday morning, taking hundreds of hostages were taken. The hotel was hosting a Mali "peace process" conference, and so a number of diplomats were including among the hostages, along with numerous other guests and employees.

Malian troops swept through the hotel room by room, floor by floor, freeing hostages and pursuing the gunmen. They found the floors littered with the bodies of Malians and foreign visitors, including a Belgian government official. At least 20 people were killed.

At least two different terror groups have claimed responsibility on social media for the attack, Al Murabitoon and Ansar al-Din. Both of them are splinter groups associated with Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The fact that different groups are claiming credit on social media shows that, like many acts of terrorism including those in Paris this year, the terrorism has no strategic purpose other than as publicity and recruiting tools. CNN and Washington Post and Time

Mali hotel terror attack highlights al-Qaeda's strength in Africa

Despite claims by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) to be a worldwide caliphate, Friday's attack in Mali shows that not only is al-Qaeda far from dead, but in fact may be getting energized by the recent successes of ISIS.

According to a US military assessment, ISIS has little or no influence in West Africa, as compared to al-Qaeda. According to Army Gen. David Rodriguez, chief of U.S. Africa Command:

"The Islamic State does not have that kind of impact down in that area. [The Mali attackers are] probably someone associated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb because, again, that is where they have the reach."

According to Rodriguez, ISIS's influence in Africa is largely limited to Libya. However, ISIS is “creeping” into Egypt, primarily in the Sinai Peninsula, according to Rodriguez.

The ISIS-linked terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem), which has changed its name to Al Wilayat Sinai (Province of Sinai), is believed to be responsible for the downing of Russia's Metrojet Flight 9268 passenger plane over Sinai in Egypt.

Apart from that, al-Qaeda linked terror groups are surging in Africa. In East Africa, the primary terror group is al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab, headquartered in Somalia, but recently reaching out into Kenya and Ethiopia.

But the "most deadly terrorist group in the world," is neither ISIS nor al-Qaeda. According to the Global Terrorism Index from the Institute for Economics and Peace it's Boko Haram, which has exceeded ISIS and all other groups in "murder, torture and rape," and in the number of terror-related deaths.

Boko Haram has waged an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009 in its bid to create a mini-state under Islamic law. It has forced at least 2.6 million people from their homes, killing at least 17,000 people and abducting hundreds, including the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok village in April last year that prompted an international outcry. As of April, a year after their kidnap, 219 of the Chibok schoolgirls remained missing. A group of around 50 managed to escape. Military Times and Sun News Online (Lagos) and Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Nov-15 World View -- Mali hotel terror attack highlights al-Qaeda's strength in Africa thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Nov-15 World View -- Obamacare in death spiral as UnitedHealth announces pullout

New York Times: Obamacare's high deductibles make insurance all but useless

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

UnitedHealth warns of end to its Obamacare business


An Obamacare promotional banner from happier days (Teneshia LaFaye)
An Obamacare promotional banner from happier days (Teneshia LaFaye)

UnitedHealth Group, the country's largest health insurer, announced on Thursday that it was expecting to lose $600 million on Obamacare policies in 2016 from the health insurance exchange websites, and may terminate its Obamacare business by 2017.

This was a sudden turnabout for the company. It was just a month ago that the company had said in an earnings call that they expected to expand their Obamacare coverage in 2017. According to Dave Wichmann, president and CFO, on October 15:

"The annual care ratio is being modestly affected by the performance of our new [Obamacare] public exchange benefit programs which now served nearly 550,000 people. Like others we observe market-wide data this past spring that suggested the risk pool served by public exchanges would require more medical services than original expectations. Rather than wait for our own experience with our new members to fully developed, we increased rates and repositioned certain products market by market for 2016, and we expect improved performance next year. We will expand to 11 new markets in 2016, and we continue to expect exchanges to develop and mature over time into a strong viable growth market for us."

He went on to repeat his view that the increased rates meant increased profits: "[I]n the first half year, this year, we got industry data that suggested that the underlying use of medical services in that population was high and higher than we thought, and the good news is we use that information as the foundation for our 2016 pricing. So we put in strong price increases. Average increases across the country are in the double-digits. ... So as we look at our exchange business for 2016, ... we expect to see very nice improvement year-over-year."

However, despite the double-digit price increases for 2016, it now appears that UnitedHealth is going to lose a great deal of money in 2016, and this only became apparent in the last month. According to CEO Stephen J. Hemsley on Thursday:

"In recent weeks, growth expectations for individual [Obamacare] exchange participation have tempered industrywide, co-operatives have failed, and market data has signaled higher risks and more difficulties while our own claims experience has deteriorated, so we are taking this proactive step. We continue to be pleased with the growth and overall performance of our Company outside of the individual exchange products and look forward to strong, positive and broad based earnings growth across our enterprise in 2016."

Across the board, Obamacare premium prices are increasing 20.3% for 2016, but apparently that's not enough. Hemsley wanted to emphasize that the recent change in market data was across the industry, not just for UnitedHealth, suggesting that other insurance companies may wish to follow suit.

Obamacare appears to have entered an insurance industry "death spiral." Basically, too many sick people are signing up, and too few healthy people are doing so. This causes prices to surge, and that causes fewer healthy people to sign up. The death spiral continues until the insurance program collapse completely. The 20.3% price increase for 2016 is probably the cause of the current round of the Obamacare death spiral.

Obamacare's fate may now depend on whether other insurance companies follow UnitedHealth. According to analysts, insurers lost about $2.5 billion through Obamacare exchanges in 2014. But the other two large insurers, Aetna and Anthem, have made no comment on today's announcements, but in the past they've said they're willing to continue losing money on Obamacare for a few years. Minneapolis Star Tribune and Business Wire and Seeking Alpha (October 15) and Bloomberg

Obamacare versus Nixon's price controls

As long time readers are well aware (because I've repeated it many times), in July, 2009, when Obamacare was first announced, I wrote that Obama's health plan is a proposal of economic insanity. I compared it to President Richard Nixon's wage-price controls, and I predicted that it would just as much an economic disaster as Nixon's price controls.

In fact, since Obamacare was launched in October 2013, it's followed almost exactly the same trajectory as Nixon's price controls, in a similar time frame. Nixon's price controls were launched on August 15, 1971, with the objective of lowering the inflation rate from 4% to 2%.

When they were first launched, Nixon's price controls were extremely popular. The rules were initially simple, in that no prices could rise except for raw agricultural products. As one politician said, "Remember, Virginia, when it’s a cucumber you can raise the price, but when it becomes a pickle, it’s frozen." Otherwise, a business could only raise a price by filling out a form and getting Washington approval.

Two years later, prices of virtually all commodities -- foodstuffs, minerals and petroleum -- exploded, reaching historic highs. The inflation rate was 11% in 1973, two years after the price controls were launched. Nixon doubled down on his bad policy, and on June 13, 1973, he decreed a new price freeze. The administration said that the inflationary bubble of 1973 was expected to be a "temporary aberration" which would dissipate.

They didn't dissipate. The rules kept changing in the hope of bring inflation down, but it kept surging. The shortages of gasoline, heating oil, red meat, soybeans and numerous other products, together with ruinous price increases, finally discredited price controls in the eyes of the American people, and they were allowed to expire on April 30, 1974, just less than three years after they began.

As I predicted in 2009, Obamacare followed almost exactly the same trajectory of the Nixon price controls after it was launched on October 1, 2013. Actually the Obamacare launch was much worse than the Nixon price control launch, because Nixon didn't have any management disaster similar to the Healthcare.gov web site. (See my August article, "Healthcare.gov -- The greatest software development disaster in history", which I posted after months of extensive research.)

However, once the Healthcare.gov problems were relieved, it appeared to the general public in 2014 and early 2015 that Obamacare was working. In 1973, two years after launch, Nixon's price controls began to be in serious trouble, with severe shortages of commodities and skyrocketing prices.

Today, two years after its launch, Obamacare is in serious trouble. Most new patients are on Medicaid which is just as bad as being uninsured, and prices are exploding by 20.3% in 2016. Obamacare is in a death spiral, and if it continues to follow the same trajectory as Nixon price controls, then it will be so unpopular in 2016 that it will collapse completely.

At any rate, it's actually pretty amazing how closely the two parallel each other. Maybe there's some undiscovered law of economics that says that all hare-brained economic policies never last more than three years. Nixon's wage-price controls - Forty Years After The Freeze

New York Times: Obamacare's high deductibles make insurance all but useless

The Administration has been claiming the success of Obamacare because millions of previously uninsured people are now insured. As I've pointed out many times, this figure is a fraud, because the deductibles are so high that for most people Obamacare insurance is more expensive than no insurance at all, and so these people are effectively still uninsured.

The New York Times, whose reporters have been fawning lapdogs for President Obama and Obamacare, came out with an article this week saying that the high deductibles make Obamacare all but useless. The median deductible is about $5,000, meaning that the policy pays nothing unless the medical bills exceed $5,000. This means that the insurance is mainly for protection against a serious illness that could cause financial ruin.

The NYT article quotes several people saying things like, "The deductible, $3,000 a year, makes it impossible to actually go to the doctor. We have insurance, but can’t afford to use it." These are the sorts of stories that one could formerly only hear on Fox News.

It appears that Obamacare has lost the NY Times. Can it survive for long after that? Bloomberg and NY Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Nov-15 World View -- Obamacare in death spiral as UnitedHealth announces pullout thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Nov-15 World View -- Rwanda's president Kagame becomes another leader refusing to leave office

Turkey soccer fans boo during moment of silence for Paris attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey soccer fans boo during moment of silence for Paris attack


Greece’s players, left, and Turkey’s players, right, bow and observe a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Paris attacks on Wednesday (AP)
Greece’s players, left, and Turkey’s players, right, bow and observe a minute of silence to honor the victims of the Paris attacks on Wednesday (AP)

Turkish soccer fans booed and chanted "Allahu Akbar" [God is Great] during a moment of silence called in remembrance of last week's Paris attack. The moment of silence was help prior to a soccer game versus Greece. Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras watched the game together as a sign of reconciliation after centuries of bloody warfare.

It's not clear to me exactly what the Turkish fans were booing. Here are some possibilities:

Turkey and Greece drew with scores of 0-0 in the game. Today's Zaman (Istanbul) and Washington Post

Rwanda's president Kagame becomes another leader refusing to leave office

Rwanda's senate has unanimously approved a draft constitution that will allow the Tutsi president, Paul Kagame, to run for a third term, not permitted under the existing constitution. The new constitution will have to be approved by a referendum.

We've written in the past how this kind of situation has led to violence in other countries, in the period following a bloody generational crisis civil war:

This kind of power grab is typical of leaders who take power after the end of a bloody generational crisis civil war fought between ethnic groups. The leader claims that he's the only force preventing the violence of a new civil war which, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, is utter nonsense. To the contrary, the power-grabbing leader becomes the cause of renewed violence.

Kagame's Hutu political opponents are certain to start protesting his decision to violate the existing agreement that ended the 1994 war between Hutus and Tutsis. The next step will be up to Kagame, who may follow the example of others and begin using violence to eliminate the peaceful protesters. Reuters and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Nov-15 World View -- Rwanda's president Kagame becomes another leader refusing to leave office thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Nov-15 World View -- Brussels, Belgium, has become the center for European terror

Hong Kong 'boos' China with paper signs at soccer match

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Hong Kong 'boos' China with paper signs at soccer match


Hong Kong fans hold signs and banners saying 'BOO' and 'Hong Kong is not China' at Tuesday's match (Reuters)
Hong Kong fans hold signs and banners saying 'BOO' and 'Hong Kong is not China' at Tuesday's match (Reuters)

Hong Kong and China, playing in Hong Kong's Mong Kok stadium on Tuesday, played to a 0-0 draw in a qualifying round for the FIFA Football (Soccer) World Cup to be played in Russia in 2018. But that wasn't the big news.

The big news was that Hong Kong fans, having been ordered by the Hong Kong Football Association not to boo the Chinese national anthem when it is played, found a way to defy the order. When China's national anthem was played, they sat silently, but held up signs reading "BOO". Other banners declared "Hong Kong is not China.

Ironically, Hong Kong's national anthem is the same as China's national anthem, ever since Hong Kong was return to China from British rule in 1997. So Hong Kong fans were actually booing their own national anthem. And when FIFS fund the Hong Kong Football Association the last time, they were actually sanctioning Hong Kong for jeering at their own national anthem.

The stadium is in the dense, working-class Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, which during the so-called Umbrella Revolution pro-democracy movement protests last year was the scene of violent clashes between police, demonstrators, and pro-Beijing counter-protesters. Three key city intersections were crippled for more than two months. The protests ended in a clear victory of Beijing over the Hong Kong protesters, and tensions have continued to simmer since the protests ended.

The Chinese Football Association added to the resentment when it was accused of racism for releasing a publicity poster describing Hong Kong's players as "black-skinned, yellow-skinned and white-skinned" – a dig at the team's contingent of naturalized foreign-born players.

The 0-0 draw was a stinging defeat for the China team, which needed a victory to avoid being eliminated from the World Cup. At best, China will now have to struggle to be among the four best runners-up. Sydney Morning Herald and WSJ Blogs

Netherlands – Germany football match cancelled after 'concrete threat'

A friendly football (soccer) match between Netherlands and Germany was canceled on Tuesday, after authorities received a 'concrete threat" of a terrorist attack during the game. There was "concrete danger for all Hannover," and "indications" that there were "serious plans to blow something up," according to the police.

After the stadium was evacuated, it was searched, a no bombs were found. Dutch News

Brussels, Belgium, has become the center for European terror

The neighborhood of Molenbeek in Brussels, which is both the capital city of Belgium and the capital of the European Union, has entered the world spotlight following the jihadist attack in Paris last week.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks, is from the Molenbeek neighborhood, and at least one further perpetrators came from there.

Other recent terrorist events can be traced back to the Belgian capital. Mehdi Nemmouche, who in May 2014 killed four people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, had been staying in the suburb of Molenbeek. Early in 2015 in the Belgian town of Verviers the Belgian police dismantled a terrorist group with links to Molenbeek. Ayoub el-Khazzani, who in August 2015 was planning to attack the Thalys train service from Amsterdam to Paris, got on the train in Brussels after staying in Molenbeek.

The perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last January didn't come from Molenbeek, but they did have links to Belgium. Police arrested 13 jihadists in Belgium and two even died in a shootout at the time.

The greater Brussels area has long been considered to be a hotbed for radical Islamists. There are several reasons why Brussels is vulnerable:

According to Noureddine Imnadine, a Moroccan-born architect:

"Many of us studied hard and did well, became architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, but nobody talks about that.

Now times are different, there's not so much work around for this younger generation, so you have these kids hanging around on the streets, feeling excluded, stigmatized, angry. We need a social framework for these kids, to get them engaged in work or in some activities to get them off the street."

Many Muslims who have become radicalized or received military training in Syria, and may even have been traumatized, are returning home from Syria without anyone checking on them whatsoever. It's a problem that is bigger in Belgium than anywhere else in Europe. Der Spiegel and Guardian (London) and PRI

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Nov-15 World View -- Brussels, Belgium, has become the center for European terror thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Nov-15 World View -- Anti-Muslim xenophobia surges in Europe and America

Paris attack significantly worsens Europe refugee crisis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

American politics becomes infused with anti-Muslim xenophobia


New York's World Trade Center displaying France's colors - blue, white and red
New York's World Trade Center displaying France's colors - blue, white and red

I'm well aware that there are people reading this who will be angry that the word "xenophobia" is even being used to refer to attitudes towards Muslims following the Paris attack. But I'm not judging anyone. I'm just reporting what's happening, based on Generational Dynamics analyses, and what's happening is a big surge in anti-Muslim xenophobia.

As we go deeper into this generational Crisis era, and the survivors of World War II are increasingly dead and gone, ethnic and religious fault lines are opening rapidly, and xenophobia in general is growing.

"Black lives matter" activists are furious that suddenly their pet cause has become irrelevant almost overnight. Positions taken last week by candidates running for president are becoming irrelevant. Even the holiest issue of all, climate change, may become irrelevant.

President Obama is planning to accept about 10,000 refugees from Syria in the next year. However on Monday, at least 23 state Governors, 22 of them Republican, announced that their states will not accept any Syrian refugees. Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker said, "There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders through this federal resettlement program, and we must ensure we are doing all we can to safeguard the security of Americans."

After years of hysteria over the NSA's collecting people's phone call lists, it's now becoming fashionable to talk about not only about collecting data, but every sharing it with other countries. CIA director John Brennan criticized the "hand-wringing" of the NSA data collection, and implied that one reason that the Paris attack was not discovered in advance was because of intelligence cutbacks, such as those resulting from "whistleblower" David Snowden:

"I do think this is a time for particularly Europe, as well as here in the United States, for us to take a look and see whether or not there have been some inadvertent or intentional gaps that have been created in the ability of intelligence and security services to protect the people that they are asked to serve. ...

And in the past several years, because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging. And I do hope that this is going to be a wake-up call, particularly in areas of Europe where I think there has been a misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing by some quarters that are designed to undercut those capabilities."

On Monday, President Obama's former ambassador to Iraq and Turkey wrote that American ground forces are necessary:

"After almost 18 months of the Obama administration’s half-measures, it’s obvious that defeat of the Islamic State is not going to happen absent a first-class, mobile ground force being launched to mate with overwhelming air power. That ground force does not have to be large — the main U.S. assault force in the largest battle of the second Iraq war, Fallujah in 2004, counted only seven to eight battalions, with reinforcement and support, for a total of 7,000 to 8,000 troops. Nor does it have to be all American. French and other experienced Western troops could complement U.S. forces, as could effective Iraqi and Syrian formations. But without U.S. ground forces, none of this will take place. The Islamic State will hold together its “state,” and its counterattacks — as well as Iranian-Russian exploitation of the Islamic State for their own aggression — will destabilize much of Eurasia and expose the United States again to mass terrorist attacks."

Sounds easy, doesn't it?

I realize that many people reading this will welcome not only talk of exterminating the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), but also of going farther, exterminating all jihadists, or even all Arabs and Muslims. Many people can't tell the difference between an Arab and a Muslim anyway. If you feel that way, then from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, I can promise you that by the time the next war ends, if you even live to survive the war, then you'll live to regret what you wished for. Breitbart and USA Today and Guardian (London) and US News and Washington Post

Paris attack significantly worsens Europe refugee crisis

Xenophobia is also surging in Europe, especially since it emerged that one of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks came from Syria among the thousands of refugees that arrive in Greece every day. Ahmad al Muhammad entered Greece on October 3. From there he moved to Macedonia, then Serbia and Croatia, where he registered in the Opatovac refugee camp. From there, he made his way to Paris, where he blew himself up on Friday.

Before the Paris attacks, there were many people stating strongly held fears that one million Muslim refugees would destroy the Christian way of life for 500 million Europeans. Now however, the fear is that the refugees would present a severe Paris-like security risk to the 500 million Europeans.

The debate is very sharp in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia, along the path that refugees take after entering Greece. Officials in these countries say that they're on heightened alert about possible jihadists in the crowds of refugees, though no one seriously believes that there's any reliable way of detecting them. But some political leaders and rights campaigners also issued warnings that the Paris attacks should not be directly linked to the refugee issue or used to stoke ethnic xenophobic hatred. According to one activist, “We are already facing serious hate speech, even hatred-driven incidents towards those who are helping refugees."

In France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National (FN) political party, has demanded "the immediate halt of all intake of migrants in France." Le Pen expects to do very well in next month's regional elections in France.

France's Socialist president, François Hollande, began a speech on Monday to a a joint session of parliament in the Palace of Versailles that with the words "France is at war." He promised to exterminate ISIS and he concluded the 50-minute speech with, “We will eradicate terrorism." Lawmakers from all parties gave him a standing ovation and sang “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem.

La Marseillaise is an interesting song, written in 1792 during a generational crisis war, the bloody French Revolution. The song itself is extremely bloody:

"Do you hear in our fields the howling of those fearsome soldiers? They are coming into our arms, to slit the throats of your sons and wives. ... Form your battalions! March! March! And make their impure blood soak into our fields!"

This song fits very well at the conclusion of a speech declaring war on ISIS. CNN and Daily Mail (London) and Balkan Insight and Irish Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Nov-15 World View -- Anti-Muslim xenophobia surges in Europe and America thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Nov-15 World View -- France launches 'massive attack' on ISIS - 20 bombs

Beirut wonders why their terror bombing is less important than Paris's

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

France launches 'massive attack' on ISIS - 20 bombs


International arrest warrant for French citizen Salah Abdeslam, identified by French and Belgian police as a possible perpetrator of the Paris attacks
International arrest warrant for French citizen Salah Abdeslam, identified by French and Belgian police as a possible perpetrator of the Paris attacks

A day after the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for Friday's terror attack on Paris and France's president François Hollande called it an "act of war," France's warplanes have launched what officials are calling a "massive attack" on an ISIS stronghold in Syria.

The "massive attack" consisted of just 20 bombs dropped on a jihadi recruitment center, training camp and arms depot in Raqqa, the ISIS center. According to an analyst, "These are extremely precise airstrikes that are carried out after exhaustive legal processes required under French and international law."

However, despite thousands of airstrikes on ISIS by the US-led coalition in the last year, and claims by the Obama administration that ISIS has been "contained," intelligence analysts say that ISIS is still expanding and growing in strength. They estimate that ISIS gains about 1,000 fighters every month, young jihadists coming from more than 100 countries around the world. It's clear that airstrikes will not "contain" or stop the expansion of ISIS, which is something that analysts have been pointing out since the air campaign began.

ISIS has successfully conducted three major terrorist attacks in the last three weeks -- bombings in Beirut and Paris, and the downing of Russia's Metrojet Flight 9268. Before that, there was a large ISIS terror attack in Ankara, Turkey. As we wrote yesterday, political pressure is growing for from Europe, America and Russia.

There are increasing demands for Western ground forces to enter Iraq and Syria and fight ISIS. We assume that ISIS will be able to carry out further terrorist attacks, and when the next one comes, the political pressure for ground troops will only grow. As I heard one analyst say, "Boots on the ground eventually is going to happen." Independent (Ireland) and Sky News and Asia Times

Beirut wonders why their terror bombing is less important than Paris's

Two coordinated massive suicide bombings on Thursday struck a neighborhood of southern Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, killing dozens. The neighborhood was a Shia Muslim stronghold of Hezbollah, which was apparently the target. The bombs killed dozens and wounded hundreds, and were obviously designed to inflict as much carnage as possible.

But a day later, the Beirut bombings were completely forgotten internationally, as soon as the Paris bombings occurred. a bombing in Beirut was not nearly as newsworthy as a bombing in Paris. The Paris bombing has been covered in excruciating detail. As I'm typing this, I'm watching 60 Minutes where someone is describing how someone fell off a chair to the floor after being shot. There's no similar coverage for people who fell off chairs in Beirut. (World View attempted to provide some sort of parallel coverage: See "14-Nov-15 World View -- Paris and Beirut in shock and anger after massive terrorist attacks")

Even Facebook is ignoring Beirut. Facebook has a new "Safety Check" feature, where all you have to do is push a button to notify friends and family that you're safe after a terror attack. Facebook activated the feature for Paris, but not for Beirut.

I'm reminded of what happened after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January. There was worldwide minute-by-minute coverage of the aftermath of the attack, but almost no coverage of huge, horrific rampage in Nigeria that occurred at exactly the same time. ( "10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre".)

The Beirut bombing could turn out to be extremely significant, because it may cause further destabilization in Lebanon. Lebanon already hosts about one million Syrian refugees, in a country of less than four million people. They laugh at the European Union's apoplexy over receiving a million refugees, but with a population of over 500 million people.

Lebanon security forces have arrested five Syrians and a Palestinian subject in the Beirut bombings. There may be a backlash against Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which could have ripple effects throughout the Mideast.

Even worse, the United Nations World Food Program may have to curtail its food aid to refugees in Lebanon for lack of money. According to Rashid Derbas, Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs, "Do you know what could result from such a step? This simply means that 1 million people on Lebanese territory will be pushed to the edge of hunger. Do you know what that means?'" CS Monitor and Reuters and Time

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Nov-15 World View -- France launches 'massive attack' on ISIS - 20 bombs thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Nov-15 World View -- Paris attacks: Forces coalesce for greater Christian military intervention against ISIS

World reacts to Paris attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

World reacts to Paris attack


French people in Seoul, South Korea, light candles to pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks (Reuters)
French people in Seoul, South Korea, light candles to pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks (Reuters)

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has claimed responsibility for Friday's multiple coordinate terror attacks that killed 129 people.

France's president François Hollande has called it "an act of war," and promised a "merciless response to ISIS barbarians."

Britain's prime minister David Cameron has pledged to do "whatever we can to help." He has indicated that he would like to take further military action against ISIS, though Commons may not approve.

President Barack Obama spoke of "an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians" and called a meeting of his National Security Council.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin is under pressure to take further action against ISIS because of the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268 over Sinai in Egypt.

Forces in the Christian world are coalescing to attempt to use military action to destroy ISIS.

Since this is presumably exactly the reaction that ISIS was hoping for, one might reasonably ask why world leaders are doing exactly what ISIS wants.

There are many historical examples that ISIS could be thinking about, but the one that I always point to is the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979, where a massive, bloody war ended up with a repressive, hardline Muslim theocracy in power in Iran. That's a Shia theocracy, and as I've written many times, al-Qaeda has tried in many countries to repeat that process in other countries, with the objective of creating a Sunni Muslim theocracy in some other country. Now we see ISIS doing the same thing.

A lot more people are killed in Chicago on a continuing basis than are killed in terror attacks in France, but that kind of bloodshed in Chicago is simply ignored, And yet it's this and the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris that may well lead to the all-out sectarian war in the Middle east that Generational Dynamics has been predicting, and that I've been writing about for twelve years. France 24 and Telegraph (London) and BBC and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Nov-15 World View -- Paris attacks: Forces coalesce for greater Christian military intervention against ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Nov-15 World View -- Paris and Beirut in shock and anger after massive terrorist attacks

Europe's Schengen zone is put at risk by Paris attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Lebanon's government in paralysis following Beirut terror attack


Site of the twin suicide attack on a suburb of Beirut on Thursday (European Press)
Site of the twin suicide attack on a suburb of Beirut on Thursday (European Press)

Lebanon on Friday was mourning the deaths of people killed by two massive suicide bombs in Beirut on Thursday. ( "13-Nov-15 World View -- ISIS claims credit for suicide attack on Hezbollah in Beirut Lebanon")

Unlike France, Lebanon cannot declare a state of emergency and close all its borders. In many ways, Lebanon is the epicenter of the proxy war in Lebanon, as Hezbollah has supplied thousands of fighters the last two years to support Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad whose objective is to exterminate as many Sunni Muslims in Syria as possible.

Lebanon's government is almost in a state of paralysis, because the groups that respectively oppose and support Hezbollah can't agree on anything. The government can't even agree on a process for electing a new president, so the country has gone for months with no president.

In Lebanon, the political situation is so fractured that the country has been unable to elect a president for months. Hezbollah militias are fighting in Syria, but that's because Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is forcing them to, and, ironically, that's because Nasrallah's puppetmasters in Iran are forcing him to do so.

In Beirut, the paralyzed government has not been able to collect the garbage for almost four months. Residents are just dumping their garbage in the streets, since they have no other way to dispose of it. In the last couple of weeks, the rainy season has begun. Video showing uncollected garbage swept down a flooded street in Beirut recently went viral. There's a threat of polluted water, cholera and other diseases.

The attack was carried out two days before talks were set to begin in Vienna in a renewed international effort to find a political solution to the Syria conflict.

Thursday's sectarian bombing in Beirut exacerbates the sectarian tensions throughout the Mideast. The bombing killed 43 people and wounded hundreds, but across the Mideast thousands of people are killed every day in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and other areas of conflict. Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for all-out war. CNN and Naharnet (Lebanon) and VOA (6-Nov)

France closes borders in state of emergency after Paris attacks

At least 150 people were killed in a wave of coordinated bomb and gun attacks around Paris late Friday, continuing into Saturday morning. This was the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II.

Gunmen and bombers attacked busy restaurants, bars and a concert hall at six locations around Paris on Friday evening, killing scores of people in what a shaken President François Hollande described as an unprecedented terrorist attack.

Unlike the Beirut attack, which was practically ignored in the West, the Paris attack is receiving hours of continuous and exclusive coverage of pretty much every Western news media outlet.

A Reuters witness heard five explosions outside the Bataclan music hall, where up to 118 people were estimated to be dead and reports said armed attackers had shot concertgoers one by one before elite police units stormed the building and killed four attackers.

France's president François Hollande announced a mass mobilization of security forces and a state of emergency for the entire country:

"As I speak, terrorist attacks of unprecedented proportions are underway in the Paris area. There are dozens killed. There are many injured. It is a horror.

We have, on my decision, mobilized all forces possible to neutralize the terrorists and make all concerned areas safe. I have also asked for military reinforcements.

They are currently in the Paris area to ensure that no new attack can take place.

I have also called a cabinet meeting that will be held in a few minutes.

Two decisions will be taken: A state of emergency will be declared, which means some places will be closed, traffic may be banned and there will also be searches which may be decided throughout [the Paris area].

A state of emergency will be proclaimed throughout the territory [of France].

The second decision I have made is to close the borders. We must ensure that no one enters to commit any crimes and that those who have committed the crimes that we have unfortunately seen can also be arrested if they should leave the territory.

This is a terrible ordeal which once again assails us. We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are. ...

Faced with terror, France must be strong, it must be great and the state authorities must be firm. We will be."

Many people fear that there will be further attacks. After the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January of this year. Those attacks were followed additional attacks on a Jewish supermarket, and a similar situation is feared this time.

Hollande says that the borders are closed so that no one else can enter France to commit further crimes. It's not clear to me how long the border closings can be maintained, since there's supposed to be freedom of travel throughout Europe's Schengen zone, which includes France. There are something like 6,000 migrants entering the EU every day, and they can't be stopped any more than you can stop a tsunami. France 24 and Deutsche Welle and Global News

Europe's Schengen zone is put at risk by Paris attack

Early in the day on Friday, hours before the terror attack occurred in Paris, Austria announced that it will build a 3.7 kilometer fence along its border with Slovenia. This is the first time that a fence will have been erected between two members of Europe's Schengen zone.

France has responded to the attacks by closing all its borders, but it will be impossible to maintain that closure for long. The Paris attack is certain to encourage more countries to abandon Europe's prized open-border Schengen zone. EuroNews

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Nov-15 World View -- Paris and Beirut in shock and anger after massive terrorist attacks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Nov-15 World View -- ISIS claims credit for suicide attack on Hezbollah in Beirut Lebanon

Commodities and stocks continue to plunge

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS claims credit for suicide attack on Hezbollah in Beirut Lebanon


Soldiers and civilians gather at site of Thursday's suicide bombing in Beirut (AP)
Soldiers and civilians gather at site of Thursday's suicide bombing in Beirut (AP)

Two coordinated suicide bombings on Thursday struck a neighborhood of southern Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon. The neighborhood was a Shia Muslim stronghold of Hezbollah, which was apparently the target. The bombs killed dozens and wounded hundreds, and were obviously designed to inflict as much carnage as possible.

There was a string of terrorist bombings in Beirut targeting Hezbollah following the announcement on April 30, 2013, by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah that Hezbollah would militarily enter the fight in Syria on the side of the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades and other al-Qaeda-linked terrorists claimed credit for one of those bombings.

However, those were the days before the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Syria. Credit for Thursday's bombings was claimed by ISIS, and is presumed to be revenge for Hezbollah's military intervention into Syria.

However, it's not always clear what it means to say that ISIS claims credit for a terrorist bombing. ISIS also recently claimed credit for the recent downing Metrojet Flight 9268, the Russian passenger plane, over Egypt, saying that it was revenge for Russia's military intervention into Syria.

It still hasn't been officially confirmed that flight 9268 was brought down by a bomb, but if it was brought down by an ISIS bomb, then it was actually brought down by the terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem), which has conducted numerous attacks in Egypt's Sinai, along the border with Israel and Gaza. ABM was originally pledged to al-Qaeda, but last year it repudiated that allegiance and declared allegiance to ISIS. At that time it changed its name to Al Wilayat Sinai (Province of Sinai). BBC and AP and CNN

Commodities and stocks continue to plunge

As I wrote three days ago in "11-Nov-15 World View -- Global trade plunges as China's economy becomes deflationary", earnings and profits for Wall Street stocks have been falling sharply, as have indicators of global trade.

All of these factors continue to have their effects on Wall Street stock prices, which fell 1.4% on Thursday, the largest plunge in weeks. Stocks have fallen six out of the last seven days, though they have not yet fallen to the level that they reached in the huge slump that occurred in August.

It's a good idea to keep an eye on this situation. As I've been pointing out for years, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio is astronomically high, indicating a huge Wall Street stock market bubble that's going to burst at some point, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling to 3000 or lower by the time it's over. It's impossible to predict exactly when the panic will occur that will begin that collapse, and it's not certain that the deteriorating global financial situation will cause it at this time. But one thing that we can say is that when this panic finally occurs, it will almost certainly follow exactly this kind of global situation.

Because of plunging commodity prices, many analysts are predicting that stocks will continue to fall in the next few days. AP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Nov-15 World View -- ISIS claims credit for suicide attack on Hezbollah in Beirut Lebanon thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Nov-15 World View -- EU and African leaders clash amid accusations of 'Fortress Europe'

Arms race grows between Serbia and Croatia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Arms race grows between Serbia and Croatia


Serb football (soccer) fans. For reasons of security, Serb fans were banned from Croatia home games versus Serbia in the World Cup qualifying competitions in 2013. (Croatia Week)
Serb football (soccer) fans. For reasons of security, Serb fans were banned from Croatia home games versus Serbia in the World Cup qualifying competitions in 2013. (Croatia Week)

Of the seven countries that formerly comprised Yugoslavia, Slovenia joined NATO in 2004 and Croatia in 2009, while Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia are aspiring members of Nato. On the other hand, Serbia has expressed no interest in membership in Nato, and it's a foreign policy objective of Russia to keep it that way.

Russia and Serbia have close ties that date back centuries. They're both Orthodox Christian countries, and they were allies in World War I, which was launched in 1914 when a Serb, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his pregnant wife Sophie. Gavrilo Princip is still considered by Serbs to be a national Serb hero.

Neighboring Croatia, in cooperation with the US, recently launched a weapons procurement program that includes sixteen Kiowa combat helicopters and sixteen 240-millimeter ballistic missile launchers with a 200-mile range.

Russia is going to provide Serbia with weapons to maintain the balance of power. Russia has agreed to refurbish four Serbian Air Force MiG-29s and ten MiG-21s, and will provide Serbia with several state-of-the-art Mi-17 and Mi-171 helicopters.

According to Serbia's President Aleksander Vucic, "We are following what is happening in the region and will not allow a military imbalance." Jamestown

EU and African leaders clash amid accusations of 'Fortress Europe'

European and African leaders clashed on Wednesday at a summit meeting in Malta called to discuss the continuing flow of migrants from Africa to Europe. The summit was planned in April, just after 800 migrants traveling from Libya to Europe drowned after the boat provided by human traffickers sank. The two-day summit is proceeding anyway, even though the problem of migrants arriving by boat from Libya is being dwarfed by the arrival of some 650,000 people, mostly Syrians, via Turkey and Greece.

The position of the African leaders is that the main problem is that the European Union does not provide enough ways for migrants to come to Europe and remain legally.

According to African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma:

"We have to industrialize and modernize our continent otherwise young people will continue to go elsewhere. ... The problem we are facing today is in part because some countries in Europe have taken a fortress approach."

In other words, when the day comes that Africa is as economically prosperous as Europe, then there won't be a problem. But until that day arrives, if ever, then the problem is that "Fortress Europe" is preventing African migrants from staying in Europe.

One EU administrator agreed that most migrants are coming to Europe for economic reasons:

"There is no secret that the Africans are looking for opportunity for legal migration, work permits and these kinds of things, while the Europeans are focusing more on returns and readmission."

However, EU negotiators have different objective: so-called "return and readmission agreements" that provide a way for the EU to deport people back to their home countries. According to Belgium's prime minister Charles Michel:

"We believe we must both combat illegal immigration, combat traffickers, we believe we must also progress in the field of return and readmission policies. In exchange, the European countries must be mobilized for more economic development support, humanitarian support, and also more support to allow for, as an example, exchanges of students to enable the exchange of researchers, which is also important for the future."

As a carrot, the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, is setting up a €1.8-billion "trust fund" for Africa. However, no agreement was reached on the conflicting objectives.

France's president François Hollande singled out Eritrea for particular criticism, as the country providing the most migrants fleeing to Europe:

"Nobody is talking about it. It is a country that is becoming empty of its own population with unscrupulous leaders who let their people go."

Hollande called for Eritrea "maximum pressure" to be applied to the country's leaders to mend the situation.

Malta is an appropriate place to be holding the two-day summit, as it's a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the North African coast. AFP and EU Observer (4-Nov) and VOA

Sweden, Slovenia and Denmark take steps to block the migrant flow

Sweden, which had formerly been welcoming to migrants fleeing from the war in Syria announced on Wednesday that it would close its borders and impose border controls. In the past, most migrants seeking asylum have headed to Germany or Sweden, the two countries regarded as the most welcoming.

According to Sweden's Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, the purpose of closing the borders is to motivate other EU countries:

"Our signal to the EU is crystal clear: Sweden is the country that has taken the greatest responsibility for the refugee crisis. The other countries have to take their responsibility."

Slovenia began erecting a razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia Wednesday as dozens of refugees staged a hunger strike in a Czech Republic detention center. Army trucks laden with wire fencing began constructing the fence along Slovenia's Croatian border. Reuters reported about 1.2 miles of fencing had been erected by 6:30 a.m. EST.

In the past, migrants would travel from Turkey to Greece, and then through Macedonia and Serbia, before crossing over into Hungary, with Germany the objective. When Hungary closed its borders a few weeks ago, Serbia diverted the flow of migrants into Slovenia, through which they could also travel to Germany. But now Slovenia is taking the same steps that Hungary took, and is closing its own border with Serbia.

The flow of migrants has not slowed with the approach of winter, with thousands of new migrants arriving every day. The nightmare humanitarian disaster that many people fear is that tens of thousands of migrants will be trapped at a border crossing with no food or shelter as winter temperatures fall.

Denmark on Wednesday announced plans to make it easier to deport migrants who have no legal grounds for staying. According to Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen:

"The pressure is usually lighter in the winter, but the opposite is happening now. Countries around us are tightening conditions. ... For that reason as well we need to take another step in Denmark if we want to protect Denmark."

An opposition party leader lauded the move: "The government has finally come to the conclusion that the current situation is not sustainable for Denmark." Malta Independent and International Business Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Nov-15 World View -- EU and African leaders clash amid accusations of 'Fortress Europe' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Nov-15 World View -- Global trade plunges as China's economy becomes deflationary

Price/earnings index surges as earnings and profits contract

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Price/earnings index surges as earnings and profits contract


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio surges to 23.41 in last two weeks from 10/23 to 11/6, indicating a rapidly enlarging stock market bubble. (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio surges to 23.41 in last two weeks from 10/23 to 11/6, indicating a rapidly enlarging stock market bubble. (WSJ)

Companies listed in the S&P 500 index are looking at the third straight quarter of steep profit contraction. Third quarter profits fell about 15% from a year ago.

It is the third consecutive quarter in which earnings per share have fallen. In the second quarter, earnings contracted by 16%. In the first quarter, they fell 12.8%.

Sales numbers have also been consistently down, contracting down about 4%, falling in every quarter this year.

The result is that the S&P 500 price/earnings index has been surging. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (November 6) was at 23.41. The last time I posted it was just a couple of weeks ago, when it was 22.07 on October 23. In just two weeks, it went from an astronomically high 22.07 to a super-astronomically high 23.41, thanks to the plunging profits and earnings.

This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower. WSJ blogs

China's import and export trade volumes plummet as deflation takes hold


People's Bank of China
People's Bank of China

Overseas shipments from China dropped 6.9% in October, a much bigger decline than expected. Even bigger was the 18.8% plunge in imports from other countries into China. The sharp decline in imports to and exports from the world's second-biggest economy and "the economic engine of the world" is a sign of collapsing global trade, something that last happened in 2008 along with the financial crisis of that time.

At the same time, deflation is taking hold in China. The consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.3% in October, below the 1.5% that economists expected. But the biggest deflationary signal was the producer price index (PPI), representing prices paid by factories for commodities or components -- that plunged 5.9%, its 44th straight monthly decline.

Many economists say that these figures will motivate China's central bank, the People's Bank of China (PBOC), to "print" a lot more money by means of massive quantitative easing (QE). Pouring money into the economy will supposedly end deflation, cause inflation, and stimulate growth. However, that hasn't worked when it was tried in the past. The main effect of China's QE was to feed into China's three huge bubbles: a credit bubble, a real estate bubble, and a stock market bubble. Some of these bubbles have already started bursting in recent months, and the PBOC will try to blow these bubbles up again.

Changes in China's economy affect economies around the world, including the American economy. U.S. import prices fell 0.5% in October, after falling 0.6% in September, much farther than economists expected. China is said to be "exporting deflation" to the United States.

There are several reasons why U.S. import prices are falling. The deflationary trend in China, especially in the PPI, is one reason. Second, global oil prices and other energy prices have been falling sharply, and that affects almost everything.

The third reason is that with China and other nations devaluing their currencies through QE, the US dollar has been getting stronger and stronger, allowing an American using dollars to purchase more foreign goods than before, at lower prices as measured in dollars. Deflation trends are occurring in many countries, including America, and deflation tends to strengthen a currency domestically. But with other countries using QE, the dollar is also getting stronger internationally, compared to other currencies. Bloomberg and LiveMint (China) and Business Insider (9-Jul)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Nov-15 World View -- Global trade plunges as China's economy becomes deflationary thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Nov-15 World View -- Catalonia parliament votes to secede from Spain

Israel's Netanyahu promises Obama to implement two-state solution

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Catalonia parliament votes to secede from Spain


Marta Rovira votes for secession from Spain in Catalonia's parliament on Monday (Getty)
Marta Rovira votes for secession from Spain in Catalonia's parliament on Monday (Getty)

Spain faces a new governing crisis after the parliament of Catalonia voted on Thursday to "open a process" to secede from spain within 18 months.

Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy said that an appeal will be made Constitutional Court to invalidate the vote, adding "I understand that many Spaniards have had a bellyful of this continued attempt to delegitimize our institutions." However, the Catalan politicians say that they will disobey Constitutional Court rulings. Irish Times and Reuters

Israel's Netanyahu promises Obama to implement two-state solution

For years, every event related to the Mideast "peace process" has been bizarre in some way, and Monday's was no exception.

Visiting Washington, Israel's president Benjamin Netanyahu said the following to president Barack Obama:

"I want to make clear that we have not given up our hope for peace. We will never give up our hope for peace.

I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to protect itself and defend itself against terror and destruction. But neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors who want to make peace with it."

It's bizarre because the fact that it was even necessary to say that there is a "hope for peace." This was necessary because of the intense personal hatred between Obama and Netanyahu, as reflected by unofficial remarks that occasionally leak out from either administration. A member of Netanyahu's cabinet was recently reported to have said that Obama is anti-Semitic, which he and other Netanyahu administration members undoubtedly believe. And the Obama administration has frequently leaked accusations that Netanyahu personally is fully to blame for not reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians, which is why Netanyahu chose to make the statement about "hope for peace."

When you zoom out to look at the entire "peace process," the desire for the two-state solution -- "a vision of two states for two peoples," as Netanyahu put it -- is even more bizarre.

In May 2003, president George Bush published his "Mideast Roadmap to Peace" calling for the two-state solution -- a Palestinian state by 2005, side by side with Israel. The plan was sponsored by the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. It provided a series of steps for both sides to follow, mostly having to do with eliminating violence against both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The solution was to be implemented by 2005.

The 2003 plan was a adaptation of a Clinton administration plan. Since 2003, President Bush's plan has been tweaked in various ways by both the Bush and Obama administrations, and presented each time as a new plan that would bring peace to the Mideast and joy to the world. And it's failed each time.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize it's never going to work, and that trends in the Mideast are going towards war, not a peace process. In recent years, wars have begun in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq; the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has risen in Syria, and has spread to other countries in the Mideast Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Russia's Caucasus provinces. The new "Oslo Generation" of young Palestinians is using knives for random attacks on Israelis, and they declare that they have no use for their own leadership. Anyone can see that trend is away from a "peace process" towards war.

In 2003, there might have been some real hope that a peace deal could be achieved, but today, no one who follows the news could seriously believe that there's any chance the peace process would succeed. In fact, a White House spokesman said last week that the administration now believes that no peace deal will be reached before Obama leaves office:

"This is really the first time since the first term of the Clinton administration where we have an administration that faces a reality where the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution is not in the cards for the time that’s remaining. That was not the case until now."

Well, this is unusual - the Obama administration "facing reality," and saying so. And that makes Netanyahu's statement on Monday even more bizarre, since "a vision of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state" reflects no reality whatsoever. USA Today and McClatchy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Nov-15 World View -- Catalonia parliament votes to secede from Spain thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Nov-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement

The coming regime change in Iran

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement


Women hold anti-U.S.  banners commemorating Iran's 1979 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran (Reuters)
Women hold anti-U.S. banners commemorating Iran's 1979 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran (Reuters)

The signing of the nuclear deal with the West has apparently been the trigger launching Iran into a growing political crisis between the "hardliners," generally represented by survivors of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution, and the "moderates," generally the generations growing up since the Revolution.

Almost all Iranians favor the nuclear deal (the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" or JCPOA), but mainly because it means that the Western sanctions will be lifted and the economy will improve. This leads to today's core political conflict in Iran:

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani, who is considered a moderate, responded last week to Khamenei's additional requirements by making a kind of weasel-worded statement that the “fulfillment of the opposing party’s commitments” will be monitored with “complete vigilance" and that the Supreme National Security Council will “adopt the appropriate decision for the proper course of action” while monitoring the implementation. Rouhani added that the U.S. and the EU have provided “written and formal” guarantees of the complete lifting of all economic and financial sanctions.

As we wrote last week, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of Iran's Expediency Council and the political rival of Iranian Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei, was supporting Rouhani's position and was laying the groundwork for a rebellion against Khamenei over the nuclear agreement.

Hossein Shariatmadari, managing editor of conservative news outlet Kayhan, struck back by saying that Rouhani's administration is not “serious” about implementing the nuclear deal according to Khamenei’s expressed recommendations.

There's really no middle path through these core differences. Iran's hardliners have reacted strongly and critically to reports, apparently untrue, that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has already started dismantling centrifuges under the deal, but this is just one example of vitriolic arguments that are arising. As new deadlines approach, the differences will become more explicit. AEI Iran Tracker (22-Oct) and AEI Iran Tracker (28-Oct) and AEI Iran Tracker (3-Nov)

Iran arrests journalists for allowing U.S. 'infiltration network'

Last week, Iranians rallied to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 attack on the American embassy in Tehran, and taking hostages. At that celebration, the crowds changed "Death to America!", and Iran's hardliners coined the phrase "infiltration network" to describe the treason of allowing American ideas and products to infiltrate Iran's society.

Once again, this appears to be driven by the nuclear deal, which many conservative Iranian hardliners bitterly oppose. Allowing the infiltration of American ideas is interpreted as supporting the nuclear agreement without imposing Khamenei's new conditions requiring the immediate permanent cancellation of all sanctions. Demanding the immediate cancellation of all sanctions is a tool being used by the hardliners to get the deal completely scuttled.

The hardliners have arrested several journalists, as well as dissident writers and artists, on charges of supporting the "infiltration network." However, president Hassan Rouhani has infuriated the hardliners by saying:

"Let us not go and arrest one person here, another there, based on an excuse and without any reason, and then make up a case and aggrandize it, and finally say this is an infiltration movement."

According to Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the hardliners are now going to crack down hard on Rouhani:

“This is the beginning of Rouhani’s end. What we’ll now see, inside and outside the country, is an Iran that will pursue a more adversarial policy while the nice, smiling face of Iran is going to fade."

Khalaji's prediction is possible, but extremely unlikely in a generational Awakening era. Whether Rouhani survives or not, what's far more likely is that the political conflict will increase, as it did in America's last generational Awakening era in the 1960s.

A generational Awakening era is always political battle between the older generation of traumatized survivors of the last generational crisis war versus the younger generations that grow up after the war ends. As the older generations retire and die off, the younger generations take charge and win the political battles. It seems to me that the hardliners cannot win this current battle, since that would mean scuttling the nuclear deal completely. Business Insider (4-Nov) and Reuters (4-Nov) and AEI Iran Tracker (5-Nov) and Reuters

The coming regime change in Iran

Ten years ago I predicted, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that Iran would become America's ally. At the time, that prediction seemed insane, so it's been astonishing to see Iran move step by step in that direction during the last five years.

For this article, I wanted to go more deeply in the reasoning behind that prediction ten years ago. In order to do that, I went back through my archive of news articles that I've cut, pasted and saved (currently totally about 80,000 articles since the 1990s) to find some news articles about Iran that influenced me.

Here are some excerpts from a Washington Times article that appeared on July 11, 2002, about ten months after 9/11:

"Iranians Stage Pro-American Protest Against Ayatollahs

"Death to the Islamic Republic, the Taliban of Tehran." This is the challenge tens of thousands of Iranians chanted to their government yesterday, marking the third anniversary of peaceful demonstrations that left students lying dead outside of their dormitories. The United States should listen to what the people within Iran are demanding since it may affect the outcome of our war against terrorism.

The U.S. war against terrorism is about rolling back Islamic fundamentalism. The enemies of America are not ordinary Muslims living in Tehran, Istanbul, Baghdad or Dearborn. Those who wish to see us dead are the self-proclaimed radical Islamists who have been inspired, supported and funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran, among others, for more than 23 years. If the United States is interested in winning the war against terrorism, then it must pay attention to what happened in Iran yesterday because, for the first time in 23 years, the people of Iran are taking the lead in exposing the bankruptcy of Islam as a form of governance."

The article is referring to July 9, 2009, when tens of thousands of Iranian college students held anti-government protests for six days. Iran's security forces brutally massacred the students, killing many of them, and the protests spread to cities across the country. The above article is about new protests being held on the 3rd anniversary of those protests.

The next year, the government took some steps to contain the fourth anniversary of the 1999 massacre. This article is from the Iran Press Service, dated June 23, 2003:

"Iran Bans Off Campus Protests

TEHRAN — The Iranian government said on Tuesday that it would not allow any protests meeting to be held in the future outside universities.

Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, the official spokesman for the government said, in answer to questions concerning the anniversary of the student's anti-regime revolt of July 9, 1999, "no further demonstrations would be allowed outside universities' campuses."

"The Interior Ministry is opposed to any gathering outside university campuses and no permit has been issued by the government for holding special commemoration meetings, Ramezanzadeh stated, adding that however, the government "will not interfere in any gathering held inside universities." ...

Ramezanzadeh said the government and many students were still "dissatisfied" since the masterminds of the July 9, 1999 disaster