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31-Mar-15 World View -- President Obama to update George Bush's 'Roadmap to Mideast Peace'

Desperate John Kerry looks for a nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Desperate John Kerry looks for a nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday


Western negotiating team in Lausanne
Western negotiating team in Lausanne

As an American, it's embarrassing to see Secretary of State so desperate to get a nuclear deal with Iran that he's willing to concede anything. The deadline is today (Tuesday) at midnight Switzerland time. It's thought that Kerry doesn't want the negotiations to past midnight, because then it would be called an "April Fool's Nuclear Deal."

Many people believe that Kerry's lack of restraint is his desire to win a Nobel Peace Prize. That may in fact be his motive, but to be fair, there's another reason: It there's no agreement with Iran, then the status quo remains: the sanctions continue while Iran continues to develop a nuclear weapons. What's not clear to me is why this is better than having a deal where the sanctions come off, and Iran continues to develop a nuclear weapon anyway.

According to an analysis by Memri, Iran has not backed down in any way from its positions at the start of the talks. As I reported yesterday, Iran has reversed a previous agreement to ship their stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia. Now they intend to keep it, so that it can be refined and developed into a nuclear weapon.

Memri lists the following Iranian positions that remain unchanged:

So it looks like Iran is going to get a nuclear weapon either way.

This is a good time to remind readers that we've been predicting for years, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that Iran was going to get a nuclear weapon, because Iran's public is demanding it for defense. They've already been a victim of Saddam Hussein's WMDs, and the public believes that with Pakistan, Russia and Israel having nuclear weapons, they must have one too.

Still, with President Obama's and John Kerry's foreign policy record of an unbroken string of catastrophes, it cannot do the United States any good to see a servile John Kerry begging for a deal, just to see him later beg for a reward from the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Iran's Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei is demanding that all Western sanctions be removed completely immediately, or there will be no deal. In February, Khamenei made a statement affirming this, but also accused the West of duplicity:

"A scenario of agreement on general principles, and shortly thereafter agreement on the details, is not recommended, because our experience with the opposite side's conduct [in the negotiations shows] that a framework agreement will serve [them] as a tool for inventing a series of excuses in [the negotiations on] the details. If an agreement is to be reached, it must be a single-stage agreement, and it must include the general framework as well as the details. The agreement's content must be clear, and not open to interpretation. The agreement's sections must not be such that the opposing side, which is used to bargaining, will search for excuses on the various issues. The sanctions must be completely removed."

This paragraph may be alluding to a 2013 interim agreement between Iran and the west. The full text of that agreement was never published. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that under the agreement Iran had no right to enrich uranium, while Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gloated that Iran had preserved its right to enrich uranium. The White House published a "summary," but Iran completely rejected the White House summary as "not true." Then, in January 2014, Iran disclosed that there was a secret side agreement to the nuclear agreement. The White House first confirmed this, saying that the side agreement would be made public, and then denied that there was a secret side agreement

So Khamenei is demanding that any new agreement be published in full, that there be no side agreements, that there be no ambiguities, and that sanctions be removed completely, immediately.

So here are two questions: Is Khamenei so resolute that he won't compromise on any principle? Is Kerry so servile that he'll compromise on every principle? Perhaps we'll have an answer by April Fool's Day. Memri and VOA and AEI Iran Tracker

President Obama to update George Bush's 'Roadmap to Mideast Peace'

The Washington Post is saying that President Obama plans to create a new Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal, and to impose it on Israel and the Palestinians by mandating it through the UN Security Council. The "new" proposal would be an update of UN Resolution 242, whose latest incarnation of President George Bush's May 2003 "Roadmap to Mideast Peace," which the Obama administration has been trying and failing to impose on Israel and the Palestinians through negotiations.

Obama has already laid the groundwork by means of his vitriolic criticisms of Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although the details of the "new" proposal are not publicly known, it's expected that it will try to impose a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Most likely it would declare that Jerusalem would be the capital of both nations.

The plan would be silent on the means for protecting Israel from terrorist attacks from the West Bank and Gaza. The plan would also be silent on the question of Palestinian refugees and the "right to return," except to say that those details would be agreed on later. In other words, the "peace plan" would meet the Palestinians' demands, but would not even address Israel's concerns.

As in the case of the Iran nuclear negotiations, all I can do is shake my head at how laughably ridiculous this is. When George Bush proposed something similar, I wrote in May 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?" that it would never work, because Generational Dynamics predicts that Arabs and Jews would be refighting the 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

So President Obama, the smartest guy in every room, is about to launch into his next foreign policy catastrophe by regurgitating George Bush's old Roadmap to Mideast Peace plan with a new title and a shiny new cover. But this time it will not be a "proposal," but a "mandate," which will make no difference whatsoever, except that it will probably infuriate everyone, and may even start another war. Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Mar-15 World View -- President Obama to update George Bush's 'Roadmap to Mideast Peace' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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30-Mar-15 World View -- Arab League meeting ends with promise for joint Arab military force

Top Iranian journalist defects, criticizes US nuclear negotiators

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Top Iranian journalist defects, criticizes US nuclear negotiators


Iran's negotiating team in Lausanne (AFP)
Iran's negotiating team in Lausanne (AFP)

Amir Hossein Motaghi, a top Iranian journalist and close aide to Iran's president Hassan Rouhani, defected to the West on Friday, while reporting on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West. Appearing in a televised interview, he said:

"There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations. But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels. My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more."

Anyone in Iran who criticizes the regime in any way may be subject to imprisonment, torture or death. This was particularly evident following the 2009 presidential election, when there was blood in streets as peaceful student protesters were slaughtered by regime security forces.

Journalism in Iran is a particularly dangerous profession, since angering some regime politician can lead to imprisonment. One of the factors in Motaghi's decision to defect was the arrest of his friend Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American reporter for the Washington Post, who was brutally arrested on July 22 of last year, along with his wife. He's still in prison, and there have been no charges.

Motaghi says there's no point to being an Iranian journalist, since all you do is parrot with the regime tells you to say. He's also critical of Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. nuclear negotiating team: "The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal." Telegraph (London)

Arab League meeting ends with promise for joint Arab military force

Most annual Arab League summit meetings have as their top agenda item the problem of Israel and the Palestinian cause. But this year, the 26th Arab League summit was held in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, and the war with the Houthis in Yemen was pretty much the only major agenda item. Other important agenda items, including the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), the unrest in Iraq, Libya and Syria and the Palestinian cause, were discussed only briefly.

The major decisions to come out of the Arab League meeting were:

The final draft resolution called on Arab countries to support Palestine's budget, and to pressure Israel to respect signed agreements and international resolutions.

The anger directed at Iran is palpable. The Houthi insurrection has done something that the Syria war, ISIS, and terrorism in Libya did not do: It unified the Arab nations, at least for the time being. Yemen is not seen as a local problem, but as Iran's grip on another nation, after Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, while at the same time making use of a "desperate" president Barack Obama.

This Saudi editorial seems to capture what a lot of Arabs are feeling today:

"If anything, the so-called Arab Spring had provided Iran with an unprecedented opportunity to boost its strategic presence in the Arab world. Indeed, Tehran has exploited every crisis in the Arab world to its advantage and to gain a foothold in the region. I will state the obvious and argue that Iran is a revisionist state.

Many Saudis as well as other Arabs believe that Iran’s bullying knows no bounds. Hence, many Arabs are looking up to Saudi Arabia to effectively confront Iran’s expansionist designs in the region. While Riyadh had been working along with other like-minded states in a peaceful way to prevent unnecessary escalation, the Iranian leaders erroneously thought that they could destabilize Yemen, change the balance of power in the Gulf region, and get away with it. In such a situation, it was necessary to formulate a new strategy conveying a strong message to Iran and its ilk that Saudi Arabia could always resort to using military means if and when necessary to prevent an imbalance in the regional balance of power.

The same strategy could be seen currently at work in Yemen. The failure of diplomacy to encourage the Iranian-backed Houthis to negotiate with good faith compelled Riyadh to adopt this approach.

In a short period of time, Riyadh put forward a formidable coalition with one objective: To reverse the gains of the Houthis and to hit them hard so that they understand that their actions will not be tolerated and that they have to negotiate a political settlement.

The running argument within and without Saudi Arabia is that short of taking strong and decisive action against Iran’s proxy, Iran will not change course.

To have a better understanding of this strategy, one has to examine the wider context. Observers in the region agree that United States President Barack Obama is desperate to leave his legacy in the Middle East. Time and again, Obama made it perfectly clear that a deal with Iran topped his priority list. The problem, and herein the crux of the matter, is that such a deal is most likely to give Iran an elated status. It is as if you get the genie out of the bottle. A deal with Iran is likely to strengthen a revisionist Iran, a scenario that will be too risky. Furthermore, the prevailing perception in this part of the world is that the American appeasement of Iran will only hurt the interests of the Arab world in the long run."

This is only a few steps away from a call for war with Iran. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Arab News and AP

Report: Iran nuclear negotiations may be deadlocked

The self-imposed deadline for completion of nuclear negotiations is Tuesday, and it's believed by many that the Obama administration is desperate for a deal, possibly so that Obama and Kerry can share a Nobel Peace Prize.

A report late Sunday indicates that Iran is backing away from a previous agreement to ship their stockpile of atomic fuel to another country, presumably to Russia. This would make the stockpile inaccessible for making a nuclear weapon.

Another major area of disagreement is the removal of sanctions. Iran's Supreme Leader has vetoed any nuclear agreement that doesn't give Iran immediate relief from Western sanctions, as we reported two weeks ago. There is a disagreement among politicians in Washington whether Obama has the power to reduce or remove sanctions unilaterally, without a vote from Congress.

It's typical in a hard negotiating situation for compromises to be reached at the last moment. Daily Star (Lebanon) and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Mar-15 World View -- Arab League meeting ends with promise for joint Arab military force thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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29-Mar-15 World View -- Syria's al-Assad regime suffers major military setback in Idlib

Arab League positions harden against Houthis and Iran

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria's al-Assad regime suffers major military setback in Idlib


Al-Nusra fighters, one carrying an al-Nusra flag, celebrate in central Idlib (Reuters)
Al-Nusra fighters, one carrying an al-Nusra flag, celebrate in central Idlib (Reuters)

A group of seven jihadist factions, led by the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), appear to have seized the city of Idlib, dealing a major blow to the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, who recently declared that Idlib would be freed. The Syrian army forces collapsed rapidly after four days of heavy fighting, according to the jihadists. They were able to make use of American-made TOW missiles that the US had previously provided to friendly anti-Assad rebels. The TOW missiles were used to neutralize Syrian tanks.

Al-Nusra is an al-Qaeda linked group, and is in fact the "official" branch of al-Qaeda in Syria. It didn't join the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) when the latter broke away from al-Qaeda two years ago. The al-Qaeda linked groups and ISIS are theoretically allies fighting the al-Assad regime, but they also get into battles with each other, and there may be a major battle shaping up over who's going to control more of Syria.

Idlib is a the capital of the northwestern province named Idlib. The city has 165,000 people and is close to the main highway linking Damascus to Aleppo and to the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. The jihadists were jubilant after victory, posting videos of themselves taking down al-Assad posters, and yelling "Alluha Akbar!"

This is the second time in a week that al-Assad has been humiliated by an al-Nusra victory. Last week, al-Nusra captured the ancient and strategic town of Busra Sham in southern Syria.

Idlib is the second major provincial capital that the al-Assad regime has lost to jihadists. Al-Nusra captured another provincial capital, Raqqa, but it was subsequently seized from al-Nusra by ISIS, and has now become the headquarters of ISIS.

With the world focused on ISIS, al-Nusra has quietly consolidated its power in Syria. Al-Nusra now controls a large stretch of land from the border with Turkey to southern Syria. Control of Idlib means that jihadists can freely move back and forth between Turkey and Syria. Some analysts believe that Turkey is funding some al-Qaeda linked groups because its major objective is the defeat of al-Assad. The National (UAE) and Belfast Telegraph and Long War Journal

Arab League positions harden against Houthis and Iran

"Operation Decisive Storm," which is the name of the 8-country military operation to bomb Houthi targets in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, entered its fourth day on Saturday night.

Leaders of the Arab League nations used extremely belligerent language in referring to the Houthis and Iran, with the King of Saudi Arabia calling the Houthis the biggest threat to the stability and security of the region, presumably implying that they're more dangerous than the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The leaders backed up the belligerent language with commitments to continue the assault on the Houthis in Yemen. This indicates that positions are becoming extremely hardened.

Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the president of Yemen who has been forced to flee the country, called the Houthis "stooges of Iran," and said:

"I call for the continuation of Operation Decisive Storm until this gang [the Houthis] announces its surrender, exits all occupied territories in the provinces, leaves state institutions and military camps. Operation Decisive Storm will continue until all the goals are achieved and the Yemeni people start enjoying security and stability."

Obviously, there's a lot of wishful thinking her, since the Iran-backed Houthis are not going to surrender without a great deal more bloodshed.

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi said:

"This nation [Yemen], in its darkest hour, had never been faced a challenge to its existence and a threat to its identity like the one it's facing now. This threatens our national security and [we] cannot ignore its consequences for the Arab identity."

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who is leading the assault on the Houthis, said:

"Saudi Arabia did not spare any effort to address the situation in Yemen. Houthi intransigence, pursuit of power and control, rejection of all initiatives and their aggression against the Yemeni people led to the military operation. The Houthi militants elicited support of foreign powers to threaten the region’s security.

We hoped not to resort to this decision (the operation) ... The Houthi’ aggression is the biggest threat to the stability and security of the region."

The Saudi kingdom has taken the lead with some 100 warplanes. Other coalition partners are providing additional warplanes, the coalition partners include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Egypt. There are reports that Saudi ground troops may enter Yemen within a few days.

Egypt's al-Sisi is calling for a unified Arab force to deal with the increasing list of crises, including Libya and Syria. The proposed force would be made of up to 40,000 elite troops and will be headquartered in either Cairo or Riyadh, the Egyptian and Saudi capitals. The force would be backed by jet-fighters, warships and light armor.

Some analysts are expressing doubt that this Arab military coalition will last very long, dissolving within a few days or weeks. That's certainly a possibility, but from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, another view must be emphasized: If this were the 1990s, (a generational "Unraveling" era), then the coalition probably would dissolve quickly. But in today's generational Crisis era, the public mood is very different than it was in the 1990s. Today, with the survivors of World War II gone, the public mood is increasingly nationalistic, xenophobic, and belligerent. So it's quite possible (though not certain) that this coalition will become even more bellicose, and that the war in Yemen will spread to other sites. Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a full-scale war in the Mideast, pitting Arabs versus Jews, Sunnis versus Shias, and various ethnic groups against each other. Al Jazeera and CNN and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Mar-15 World View -- Syria's al-Assad regime suffers major military setback in Idlib thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Mar-15 World View -- Mideast chaos worsens as countries line up for and against Saudi intervention in Yemen

Puerto Rico bankruptcy may be imminent, potentially a 'seminal event'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Puerto Rico bankruptcy may be imminent, potentially a 'seminal event'


Puerto Rico landscape
Puerto Rico landscape

Marilyn Cohen, the CEO of Envision Capital Management, appeared on Bloomberg TV on Friday to analyze the debt situation in Puerto Rico. According to Cohen, a $70 billion bankruptcy in Puerto Rico is a virtual certainty, as early as July.

Many people have invested in Puerto Rico bonds because they pay 10% interest (yields) and because under federal law they're "triple-tax free," meaning that you can earn 10% interest every year and not have to pay federal, state or municipal tax on the interest you collect. It's a sweet deal, provided that Puerto Rico doesn't go bankrupt, because if it does, then you lose most or all of your initial investment.

According to Cohen, the unemployment rate is 13.7%. Only 700,000 of the 3.5 million people, or 20%, work in the private sector. The other 80% either are on welfare, or they receive unemployment or other aid, or they work for the government. Year after year, Puerto Rico sells more and more bonds, and investors eat them up because of the high tax-free yields. But now their string has run out.

According to Cohen, the bankruptcy will hurt a lot of people. She compares it to the Detroit bankruptcy, which didn't really hurt too many people -- the bankrupt debt was $18 billion, but few ordinary people owned Detroit bonds, as most investors were institutions that hedged their purchases with credit default swaps.

But Puerto Rico's debt totals $70 billion, and she says that huge numbers of ordinary investors are going to be hurt. Even if they don't individually own PR bonds, they own them through their 401k's or other investment funds, which have been boosting returns by purchasing the PR bonds. These funds will all lose significant principal in a PR bankruptcy. According to Cohen, this bankruptcy will be a "seminal event."

After Detroit and Puerto Rico, Cohen says that the most likely next municipal bankruptcy will be Chicago, whose finances are "a mess."

By the way, if you'd like to ignore these warnings about Puerto Rico and move there, there are numerous tax incentives available to individuals there not available anywhere else:

So enjoy the free ride while you can. Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg (16-March) and Premier Offshore Investor

Israel releases tax revenue collections to Palestinian Authority

After Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas applied in January on behalf of the State of Palestine to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel retaliated by withholding $130 million per month in tax collections from the PA. This is money that Israel collects administratively on behalf of the PA in taxes and fees.

Although there were the usual expressions of international outrage directed at Israel, everyone pretty much assumed that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made this decision to please his supporters during an election campaign, and that the funds would be released at some time in the future, after the election, and so it really wasn't considered too big a deal.

Well, the election is over, and "some time in the future" is now. Israel announced on Friday in a press release that it will release the money to the PA government in Ramallah.

In December 2012, Israel withheld $100 million in tax revenues from the PA in retaliation when Mahmoud Abbas applied to the United Nations General Assembly to create a state of Palestine with non-member observer status. However, the tax payments were reinstated shortly afterwards. Jerusalem Post and AP

Mideast nations line up for and against Saudi airstrikes in Yemen

Two days after an 8-nation US-backed coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, declared war on the Houthi insurgency in Yemen and began airstrikes at Houthi targets in Yemen, the countries of the Arab League are meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to decide what to do next.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait are particularly disturbed by the growing Iranian/Shia hegemony growing stronger in the region, and so are supporting the Saudis. Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt are traditional Saudi allies and are participating. So is the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

For some countries, participation is a surprise, or at least mildly unexpected. In Bahrain, Sunnis are in a minority, but they still rule over the majority Shias. Qatar is considered the Persian Gulf's "problem child." It has many disagreements with Saudi Arabia, and has relatively strong channels of communication with Iran.

Sudan is the most intriguing Saudi supported. Sudan has had close relations with Iran, and Iran has used Sudan as a waypoint in the transfer of heavy weapons into the Gaza strip. Sudan has recently accused Iran of "spreading Shia ideology," and it's siding with the Saudis against Iran is a dramatic statement of intent.

Pakistan is also supporting the Saudis, though less actively. The Saudis have long had an agreement that Pakistan will supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons technology if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long had, or tried to have, good relations with Iran, but on Thursday said it supported the Saudi-led operation. According to Erdogan,

"Iran is trying to dominate the region. Could this be allowed? This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this. ...

Iran has to change its view. It has to withdraw any forces, whatever it has in Yemen, as well as Syria and Iraq and respect their territorial integrity."

However, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denounced Erdogan’s statement of support for the military strikes in Yemen and for suggesting that Iran is seeking to control the region. Zarif blamed Erdogan for fomenting regional insecurity and stated: "It would be better if those who have created irreparable damages with their strategic blunders [referring to Turkey’s role in the ongoing Syrian crisis] ... would adopt responsible policies." Zarif reiterated Tehran’s support for a political resolution in Yemen. YNet (Israel) and Arab News and AEI Iran Tracker

Mideast countries opposed to Saudi intervention in Yemen

There are several countries that are opposed to the Saudi-led intervention.

Iran, of course, is the leading opponent, and is suspected of supplying weapons and support to the Houthis in Yemen. Iraq, whose government is a close ally of Iran, is strongly opposing the Saudi military intervention.

Lebanon's support is split, just as Lebanon itself is split between Shia and Sunni factions. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Iran back Shia faction Hezbollah, was particularly vitriolic on Friday. In some of his harshest comments to date, Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia of sending suicide attackers to Iraq and of creating the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Addressing Saudi Arabia, he said Iran had expanded its influence in the region because "you are lazy, losers, and you don't take responsibility."

Algeria is usually disinclined to get involved in regional crises, and opposes the military intervention. Oman stayed out of the alliance in the hope of acting as a mediator. Lately, Oman has played a significant role in the US-Iranian thaw that allowed nuclear talks to advance.

As Generational Dynamics has been predicting for years, the Mideast is headed for a major war between Jews and Arabs, between Sunnis and Shias, and between various ethnic groups, and this war is coming with 100% certainty as the survivors die off from the genocidal 1948 Mideast war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Think back to how relatively peaceful the Mideast was just five or six years ago, and you'll realize how quickly the Mideast is now descending into chaos, as more and more of those survivors die off. These trends have been accelerating even in the last few weeks, and it's hard to escape the feeling that all-out war cannot be very far off. YNet (Israel) and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Mar-15 World View -- Mideast chaos worsens as countries line up for and against Saudi intervention in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Mar-15 World View -- Iran threatens retaliation against Saudi Arabia for Yemen strikes

Shia militias sidelined for Iraq's assault on Tikrit, with US help

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia, with US help, leads Arab nations to strike Houthis in Yemen


Iran is threatening to close the Bab el Mandeb and Hormuz straits, isolating Saudi Arabia
Iran is threatening to close the Bab el Mandeb and Hormuz straits, isolating Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and other navy units on Thursday, launching its "sweeping military operation" into Yemen.

Several Gulf Arab states -- Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait (but not Oman) issued a joint statement on Thursday that they decided to repel Houthi militias, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) from Yemen. Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Sudan also expressed their support, and readiness to participate.

The United States military is supporting the operation with air support, satellite imagery, and other intelligence, but is not taking part in the strikes. Al Arabiya and NBC News

Iran threatens retaliation against Saudi Arabia for Yemen strikes

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif demanded an immediate end to the Saudi air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. According to Zarif:

We are calling for an immediate end to Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen. ... We know that these actions violate the sovereignty of Yemen. This operation will result in nothing other than bloodshed, and we will provide all our efforts to defuse the crisis in Yemen. ... This operation will involve the region in much more tension."

Actually Zarif has it backwards when he says that the Saudi airstrikes violate the sovereignty of Yemen. The airstrikes were requested by Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who is the internationally recognized president of Yemen, while the Houthis are the terrorists. So the Saudi intervention is perfectly legal, while any actions that Iran takes to support the Houthis would be supporting terrorism.

Hadi himself was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, and is traveling to Cairo for an Arab League meeting.

Articles published on state-sponsored Iranian media are inciting the Houthis to further violence, telling them to counterattack Saudi Arabia on Saudi soil, and suggest joint operation with Iran to close two choke points in order to isolate Saudi Arabia. According to one article:

"The Attack on the Yemeni Revolution: The Arena Of Retaliation Stretches From Bab Al-Mandeb To The Strait Of Hormuz: Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia gathered several countries ... to ensure that the implications of its attack on the popular revolution in Yemen would be directed at a coalition of Arab countries, the consequences of this move will undoubtedly be directed at its own interests. The Saudi-Western front wants to restrict Ansar Allah to North Yemen and distance the Houthis from [the Strait of] Bab Al-Mandeb. [Therefore,] it is possible that they would go as far as splitting Yemen or occupying parts of the south to realize this goal... Now the Houthis also have the necessary pretext to launch military operations and retaliatory strikes deep inside Saudi territory, in Bab Al-Mandeb, the Red Sea, and even the Strait of Hormuz. The foremost high priority targets for them are the oil fields, tankers, and industry."

As shown in the map above, if Iran and the Houthis could close the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el Mandeb strait, then Saudi oil would be trapped in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

Anticipating this move, the Egyptians on Thursday morning sent its naval and marine forces to take control of Bab el Mandeb. AEI Iran Tracker and Memri and Anadolu (Turkey) and Debka (Israel)

Shia militias sidelined for Iraq's assault on Tikrit, with US help

With the US now conduction airstrikes against Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) targets in Tikrit in Iraq, apparently some 20,000 troops from Iran-trained Shia militias will not be participating in the assault after all, leaving some 4,000 Iraqi regular army military troops as the only force on the ground.

There are two different sets of reasons being put out to explain why the Shia militias will no longer participate. According to the Americans, the US asked Iraq to withdraw the Shia militias so that the US wouldn't be making airstrikes in support of Shia militias. The Shias are saying that they pulled out of the Tikrit operation in protest against the American airstrikes.

Either way, the 20,000 Iran-trained Shia militias are gone, and so is Iran's legendary Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was supposed to have defeated ISIS in Tikrit weeks ago, within a few days. Now we'll get to see whether 4,000 Iraqi army troops, backed up by American airstrikes, can do what Soleimani and his Shia militias could not. AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Mar-15 World View -- Iran threatens retaliation against Saudi Arabia for Yemen strikes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Mar-15 World View -- US announces military operations: with Iran in Iraq, with Saudis in Yemen

Obama administration continues to hail Yemen as a counterterrorism model

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US joins Iran and Iraq in fighting ISIS in Tikrit


Saudi King Salman ordered a 'sweeping military operation' into Yemen on Wednesday
Saudi King Salman ordered a 'sweeping military operation' into Yemen on Wednesday

As we reported a couple of days ago, the attempt by Iraq's army, supported by Iran's Al Qods Brigades and its legendary commander Qassam Soleimani, to recapture Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) had reached a standstill even though it was supposed to be have been quick and easy, requiring only a few days.

Both Iraq and Iran had wanted to win this battle without any help from the US-led coalition, in order to gain a public relations victory. So when Iraqi army General Abdulwahab al-Saadi last week called for American help with airstrikes and intelligence, Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Brigade of Iraq's Shia militias, slammed the request, calling al-Saadi a "weakling."

Well, apparently the humiliation for Iran and Iraq has been too much to bear, and they've requested American coalition air strikes. In addition, the US military will be providing intelligence and surveillance support for the Iraqis and the Iranians.

This is a major policy shift for Iran, but it's also a major policy shift for the US administration. The administration did not want to be seen cooperating with Iran for a couple of reasons. First, it did not want to be seen cooperating with Iran militarily, since many American politicians consider Iran to be an enemy. And second, they didn't want to further inflame the Sunni Arab states, who would be upset at seeing the U.S. and Iran conducting joint military operations.

Long-time readers are aware that ten years ago I wrote, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that Iran would become America's ally as the generation of survivors of Iran's 1979 Great Islamic Revolution died off, and that the Sunni nations would be allied with Pakistan and China against America, India, Russia and Iran. Ten years ago, the prediction that Iran would be our ally seemed insane, so it's been fascinating and astonishing, in the last two years, to see that prediction come closer to reality every week. The Generational Dynamics methodology, which applies MIT's System Dynamics to flows of people through generations, has produced one correct analysis and prediction after another, with no failures. There is no web site, analyst, politician or journalist in the world with a better predictive success than the Generational Dynamics web site, as can be seen with the stunning outcome of the Iran predictions, made ten years ago. CNN

Saudi Arabia begins airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen

On Wednesday, Iran-backed Shia Houthi militias in Yemen who last year had taken control of the capital city Sanaa, continued to move south, took control of the airport in Aden, and were advancing to the interior of the city. Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who last month fled from Sanaa to Aden and set up a competing government, is not getting enough support from the Sunni tribes in the south to defend against the Houthi invasion.

Some reports indicate that Hadi fled Yemen by boat on Wednesday, and so is no longer in Yemen. However, his spokesman denies this report, and indicates that he's in hiding somewhere in Aden.

Saudi Arabia has been massing forces on its southern border with Yemen, and on Wednesday evening Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered a sweeping military operation against the Iran-backed Houthis. A Saudi official announced that a 10-country coalition was conducting air strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen. According to Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the US, the airstrikes target move than one city and more than one region. "We are determined to protect the legitimate government of Yemen. Having Yemen fail cannot be option for us or for our coalition partners."

A senior Arab diplomat said that that all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) except Oman will support military intervention in Yemen. However, the GCC consists of only six countries, and so some non-GCC countries will be involved.

Late on Wednesday evening, the White House announced that it will support the military operation in Yemen with air support, satellite imagery, and other intelligence.

It now appears that a Yemen civil war is well underway. In Iraq, the US will fighting alongside Iran, but it appears that in Yemen, US support will be opposed to Iran. Al Arabiya and CNN

Obama administration continues to hail Yemen as a model

A bizarre side story to the disintegration of Yemen is that the Obama administration continued on Wednesday to insist that Yemen is a model of counterterrorism campaign in its fight against ISIS and 29248 Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Last year in September, prior to Yemen's meltdown, president Obama said, "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."

But in the last few days, the U.S. embassy in Sanaa has been shut down, and several hundred US special forces were evacuated from Al Anad air base in southern Yemen, not far from Aden. The special forces in particular were an essential part of the counterterrorism strategy, which now appears to have collapsed.

However, according to Obama spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday:

"We have not seen that kind of progress in terms of strengthening the central government, I think you could make a pretty strong case that we've seen the opposite of that, but we do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains. There are elements of the Yemeni government that we continue to be in touch with that continue to further our efforts to apply pressures to extremists that seek to operate in that country."

ABC News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Mar-15 World View -- US announces military operations: with Iran in Iraq, with Saudis in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Mar-15 World View -- Almost all mosques have been destroyed in Central African Republic

Russia finally begins to grasp the danger posed by ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Almost all mosques have been destroyed in Central African Republic


File photo, 10-Dec-2013: A Christian mob attacks a mosque in Bangui (AP)
File photo, 10-Dec-2013: A Christian mob attacks a mosque in Bangui (AP)

Almost all of the 436 mosques in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been destroyed by months of bloody fighting between Christians and Muslims, according to Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations.

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, 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. Susan Rice called the destruction of almost all mosques in the country "kind of crazy, chilling."

A European Union one-year military mission in CAR that was launched in April 2014 is now coming to an end. General Philipe Ponties, who led the mission, said he was satisfied with the outcome:

"We are leaving a city [the capital city Bangui] to which peace has been restored and in which a political process is now in motion. People are now leaving the refugee camps and the internally displaced are returning to their homes. I have the impression that we have accomplished our mission. ...

The mission was charged with securing the airport and parts of the capital, Bangui, and with providing assistance for the setting up of a UN mission in the country."

According to Ponties, these goals have been more or less achieved.

This is really an incredibly bizarre conclusion. Bangui may be the capital city of CAR, but it's just one city in a country with enormous land area, and atrocities are continuing by both Christians and Muslims across the entire country. Even in Bangui, there are still marauding gangs of murderers who will now have a free hand now that the EUFOR troops are leaving.

Just this weekend, there was massive violence in the central part of the country, near the town of Kaga-Bandoro. Violence broke out when Muslim herders noticed that their cattle had been stolen. In retaliation, Muslim Seleka militias ransacked several Christian villages, killing 11 people. In a country as vast as CAR, these kinds of attacks might occur every day, and the outer world would never know.

The worst is yet to come in CAR, and as in the case of every generational crisis war, the war will not end until there's some kind of explosive climax that will be remembered for decades or centuries. AP and Deutsche Welle and AP

Russia finally begins to grasp the danger posed by ISIS

Russia's government, whose unlimited support for the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is a major reason for the existence of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), is suddenly discovering that ISIS is a threat to Russia itself.

At a recent top-level meeting in Moscow of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev is quoted as saying:

"We should take extra care about the threat posed by militants involved in the conflict on the side of the terrorist groups and returning from those hot spots. It is no secret that a large number of mercenaries from Russia are fighting overseas today in the ranks of those bandit groups. [As] they return home, they might bring the skills of sophisticated terrorism to our land, including those characteristic of the group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIL]."

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted as saying:

"[ISIS] does not respect state boundaries. ... It is like a cancer, a metastasis, growing in different directions. This is all very worrying and concerns us too, concerns the interests of our national security and that of our friends in the region."

Russian propagandists claim that the West finances ISIS militants to weaken Russia, while even ordinary citizens know that 90 percent of the militants’ resources are of local origin, such as racketeering, sharia taxes (zakat), voluntary contributions by sympathizers, payoffs from officials, etc.

In fact, Russia can take a great deal of the credit for the rise of ISIS in the first place.

ISIS was created in a very specific way: by turning Syria into a magnet for jihadists worldwide who wanted to fight al-Assad, after he started his genocidal assault on innocent Syrian women and children, starting in 2011. There are thousands of young men and women who are citizens of America and Europe, as well as Asia and Africa, who have traveled or are traveling to Syria to join ISIS. That problem didn't exist during the Bush administration, or in the first term of the Obama administration. That problem began specifically when al-Assad started slaughtering innocent Syrian women and children. And al-Assad would have been long gone by now, except that Russia provided him with billions of dollars in heavy weapons that al-Assad could use to slaughter innocent Syrian women and children.

That's the specific cause and effect that led to the creation of ISIS. The primary blame goes to Bashar al-Assad, who is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Secondary blame goes to Russia's president Vladimir Putin, for supplying heavy weapons to al-Assad, and also to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, for supplying troops and weapons to al-Assad. Both Putin and Khamenei are war criminals because they supplied the weapons and manpower to al-Assad, knowing full well that al-Assad was committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

So now Iran has to fight ISIS soldiers in Iraq, and Russia is finally noticing that ISIS soldiers from Syria are headed back to commit acts of terror on Russian soil. Both Russia and Iran deserve what happens to them. Unfortunately, it's going to happen to everyone else as well, and the rest of us don't deserve it. Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Mar-15 World View -- Almost all mosques have been destroyed in Central African Republic thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Mar-15 World View -- Iraq's battle for Tikrit reaches a standstill, humiliating Iran

Greece's Tsipras visits Germany's Merkel and demands reparations

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iraq's battle for Tikrit reaches a standstill, humiliating Iran


Hadi Al-Amiri, head of Iraq's Badr Brigade of Shia militias, calls Iraq's army 'weaklings'
Hadi Al-Amiri, head of Iraq's Badr Brigade of Shia militias, calls Iraq's army 'weaklings'

Iraq's military operation to recapture the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) apparently stalled a week ago. The military operation, which began on March 2, comprise 10,000 troops from Iraq's army, aided by 20,000 fighters from Shia militias, as well as special forces from Iran led by Iran's legendary Al Qods Brigades chief, the Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The plan was to take Tikrit within a week or so, and then move on to a much larger battle to capture Mosul. The Iraqi forces reached the outskirts of Tikrit, and captured some neighboring villages, but were blocked from entering Tikrit, according to reports, by ISIS snipers and huge numbers of IEDs and bombs along the roads, causing hundreds of casualties.

There are a lot of reputations riding on a quick victory in Tikrit. At the beginning, the Iraqi soldiers dropped their arms and fled instead of fighting, and now some are saying that they're refusing to fight in Tikrit. A stalemate in Tikrit would be a major humiliation to Iran and to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was expected to pull off a quick, brilliant victory, but who has now retreated to Tehran, according to reports. Finally, a stalemate would be an embarrassment to the president Barack Obama's administration, which is counting on a Tikrit victory -- or anything, anything, that might slow the continuing humiliation to the administration for seeing Iraq fall under the control of ISIS. Obama completely withdrew American forces, allowing ISIS to take control again, after president George Bush ejected al-Qaeda in Iraq with his "surge."

In fact, with Baghdad, Tehran and Washington all facing humiliation from a potential stalemate in Tikrit, the only group that would look like a winner if the stalemate continues would be ISIS. BBC and Newsweek

Disorganization plagues Iraq's soldiers assaulting Tikrit

Iraqi officials point out that the military operation only began three weeks ago, so even if the initial projections were optimistic, there is still plenty of time for victory in Tikrit.

However, fundamental problems were exposed last weekend in the Iraqi effort.

From the start of the operation, both Iraq and Iran had explicitly rejected any help for US and coalition forces, such as air strikes. However, last weekend, as the operation on Tikrit hit a brick wall, Iraqi General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, who commands the Iraqi army forces in the area, indicated that he favored asking the Americans for help: "Of course... the Americans have advanced equipment, they have AWACS (surveillance) aircraft."

However, Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Brigade of Iraq's Shia militias, slammed al-Saadi's remarks, saying:

"Some of the weaklings in the army... say we need the Americans, while we say we do not need the Americans."

If you have one part of Iraq's forces referring to the other part as "weaklings," then at the very least you have low morale and no unified command. The hodge-podge of Iraqi forces conducting the assault on Tikrit may simply not be up to the job.

If the stalemate continues, then someone will have to reassess, and throw more forces into the battle. These might come in the form of troops or airstrikes from Iran, or a request for troops and airstrikes from the American-led coalition. But there are too many reputations at stake for the situation in Tikrit to continue as it is. France24/Reuters and AFP and International Business Times

Correction to yesterday's report on France's elections

A reader pointed out that I made some mistakes in the details of France's elections in yesterday's report:

"They were in fact departmental elections: regional elections are scheduled for next December. France using a two-round system, the important day is next Sunday when the second round will take place. Constitutionally, the most important is that we are for the first time electing a pair of two councilors (a man and a woman) for each canton. Politically, the important questions are "will the Front National for the first time get the presidency of a département?" and how many départements the Left will keep (Hollande is so unpopular nobody expects the Left to win)."

Greece's Tsipras visits Germany's Merkel and demands reparations

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras visited German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, and after the meeting there were smiles and handshakes and apparent good will.

However, at the post-meeting press conference, Tsipras raised the issue of payment of reparations as compensation for Nazi atrocities during World War II. Merkel answered sharply, "In the German government’s view, the issue of reparations is politically and legally closed."

The disagreement comes during a major run on Greece's banks, with 1.1 billion euros flowing out of Greek banks in the last three days alone. Greece has to pay pensions and government employees, and it's believed that without an infusion of new bailout loans the country will go bankrupt early in April.

According to research by Der Spiegel, Greece may have a good case for demanding payments from the Germans. Besides possible compensation for Nazi atrocities, there may be payments due for forced loans that the Nazi occupiers extorted Greece's central bank beginning in 1941. By 1944, the forced loans may have totaled as much as 300 billion drachmas. The Greek currency suffered hyperinflation during WW II, so all in all, 300 billion drachmas may be worth something like $10 million, not really enough to solve Greece's financial crisis. Greek Reporter and Guardian (London) and Der Spiegel

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Mar-15 World View -- Iraq's battle for Tikrit reaches a standstill, humiliating Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Mar-15 World View -- Yemen's Houthis capture Taiz, advance south to fight Hadi's forces in Aden

France's center-right party edges out far-right National Front in elections

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen's Houthis capture Taiz, advance south to fight Hadi's forces in Aden


Houthis fire tear gas at anti-Houthi protesters in Taiz on Sunday (Reuters)
Houthis fire tear gas at anti-Houthi protesters in Taiz on Sunday (Reuters)

The Iran-backed ethnic Houthis that captured and occupied Yemen's capital city Sanaa last year are following up from Friday's announced military mobilization have seized much of the city of Taiz and the surrounding province. They've taken control of the airport and security and intelligence buildings in Taiz, and have set up checkpoints in the area.

Yemen's internationally recognized president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was forced last month to flee Sanaa, which is Yemen's largest city and is in in the north of Yemen, to Aden, which is Yemen's second largest city, and is a port city in the south of Yemen. Taiz is Yemen's third largest city, and it's located about halfway between Sanaa and Aden, so it's a critical waypoint on the Houthis' planned assault on Hadi's forces in Aden.

The Houthis have been using Yemen's air force for bombing strikes on Aden every day since Thursday. Now that the Houthis have control of Taiz airport, it's expected that further air strikes will be launched from there.

It now seems unavoidable that within the next few days there will be a sectarian civil war between the Shia Houthis versus Hadi's Sunni tribal militias. This will be further complicated by the presence in Yemen of two Sunni terrorist groups, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The Houthis are now in control of the army and air force, and they're backed by Iran which is suspected of shipping additional weapons to them. Saudi Arabia and the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have expressed deep dismay at the Shia takeover of Yemen, but it remains to be seen whether they take any military action to counter it. If they do, then the result will be a sectarian proxy war in Yemen between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The National (UAE) and CNN and AFP and AP

UN Security Council urges 'peaceful dialog' in Yemen

Jordan called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday to discuss the "rapid downward spiral" in Yemen. According to special Yemen envoy Jamal Benomar:

"Emotions are running extremely high and, unless solutions can be found, the country will fall into further violent confrontations. Events in Yemen are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war. ...

I urge all sides in this time of rising tension and inflammatory rhetoric to appreciate the gravity of the situation and deescalate by exercising maximum restraint. Peaceful dialogue is the only way forward."

According to one web site, "peaceful dialog" means "to create a consciousness among members of society – through multilayer dialogue – that they are responsible for peace and that they are vested with the right to demand peace. Peace Dialogue strives to create the conditions for mutual cooperation and support between members of conflicting societies who see no alternative except the peaceful resolution of conflicts. This is achieved through the development of civil peacebuilding potential, strengthening respect for human rights and democratic values, promoting civil peace initiatives, and advocating on behalf of victims of conflict."

So, now that the UN Security Council is on the job, advocating peaceful dialog, we can all feel relieved that the problems in Yemen are over. After all, as we all know, war never solves anything. United Nations and Anadolu (Turkey)

France's center-right party edges out far-right National Front in elections

Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National party did well in Sunday's elections, but not well enough to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy's center-right UMP party in regional elections in France on Sunday. (The phrase "far right" has different meanings in Europe and America.) The stridently anti-immigrant, anti-EU, "anti-Islamization" Front National party has been surging in polls, and many European officials had been concerned that they would win.

President François Hollande and his Socialist Party government have been plummeting in the polls in recent months, so never expected to do well in these regional elections. So, in a surprise move, the Socialists teamed up with the UMP party to issue dire warnings about Front National. Marine Le Pen derided the tactic as "trying to lead a campaign against the people, a filthy and violent campaign that stigmatized millions of French voters."

According to initial projections, the UMP received 31% of the vote, National Front received 24.5%, and the Socialists received 19.7%.

However, this wasn't the final election. There will be a second election next Sunday, March 29, pitting the top two parties from this election, UMP and Front National. The winner of next Sunday's election will determine which leader, Nicolas Sarkozy or Marine Le Pen, will be most likely to win the 2017 presidential election.

Feminists should be jumping for joy over this election. Voters don't select an individual, but they select a pair of candidates, one man and one woman. This should guarantee that half of those elected will be women. AFP and VOA and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Mar-15 World View -- Yemen's Houthis capture Taiz, advance south to fight Hadi's forces in Aden thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Mar-15 World View -- Yemen calls for general military mobilization, as US forces withdraw

Computer geek activists demonstrate against robots at SXSW

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Computer geek activists demonstrate against robots at SXSW


Stop the Robots T-shirt
Stop the Robots T-shirt

Chanting things like, "You say robot, I say no-bot!" and "Humans are the future!", anti-robot activists protested against robots at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, last week.

The protesters expressed concern that robots would take over people's jobs, and other dangers associated with uncontrolled growth and development around artificial intelligence and robotics. However, they insist that they don't want to stop the progress of technology.

The protesters referred to statements by Stephen Hawking and Tesla found Elon Musk warning about the danger of a dark future with intelligent robots.

What the protesters are talking about is the Singularity, the point in time when computers will be more intelligent and more creative than humans. At that point there will be a sharp bend in the technology curve, since super-intelligent computers will be able to develop new technologies exponentially faster than humans, including technologies to make themselves faster. After that, they will essentially be running the world.

Ten years ago, I estimated that the Singularity would occur around 2030, and I have had no reason to adjust that estimate, as I wrote in 2010 in "27-Dec-10 News -- IBM vs Jeopardy! brings robotic warfare and the Singularity closer,".

However, it really makes no difference what these protesters say. The first use of any new technology is in warfare, it seems likely that robots will be making kill decisions on their own by the early 2020s. Even if the United States halted development of super-intelligent robots, development would continue in China, India, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere in the world. So the Singularity is coming whether the protesters like it or not. USA Today and Tech Crunch

Yemen's Houthi-controlled Supreme Revolutionary Committee calls for 'general mobilization'

Yemen's Iran-back ethnic Houthis, who have been in control of the capital city Sanaa since late last year, have ordered for a "general mobilization," through a statement from their Supreme Revolutionary Committee. The call was for land, marine and air forces to confront and eradicate terrorism, referring to the double suicide bombing that killed 137 people during Friday prayers at two Shia mosques in Sanaa. However, it's believed that the real target of the mobilization is Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the internationally recognized president of Yemen, who fled last month from Sanaa to the southern city of Aden, where he's being supported by Sunni tribes.

It's believed that the general mobilization means that Houthi forces, combined with militias loyal to former Shia president Ali Abdullah Saleh, will deploy to the south to attack Hadi and his forces. There have already been air strikes in Aden ordered by the Houthis, who have taken control of the air force. However, there have been reports that the pilots of the warplanes dumped their bombs into the water, indicating that they're not loyal to the Houthis.

Another possible complication is the present of two Sunni terrorist groups, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). There have been reports of them fighting each other, and there have been other reports of them cooperating to target Houthis.

There's also a group of militias known as the "Southern Secessionist Movement" that are advocating splitting Yemen into two countries, South Yemen and North Yemen, as was the case prior to 1990. These militias are reported to be fighting alongside AQAP and/or alongside Hadi's supporters against the Houthis.

Fears are growing for a wider civil war in Yemen very soon. As I've been reporting, there is already a large, growing war of Muslims versus Muslims in northern Africa, the Mideast, and south Asia, and this war is going to continue to grow until it's a full-fledged sectarian war engulfing the entire region. SABA (Yemen/Houthi) and Press TV (Tehran) and Anadolu (Turkey)

US military forces evacuating Yemen, fearing AQAP attacks

The United States is evacuating the last of its troops and special forces units from Yemen, where they are stationed at Al Anad air base in southern Yemen, near the city of al-Houta. The reason for the quick withdrawal is that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seized the city of al-Houta on Friday, raising concerns about an attack on the air base itself. The American forces have been training Yemen's military forces in counterterrorism operations, and have also been gathering intelligence to target AQAP terrorists and other militants from US airstrikes. CNN and NBC News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Mar-15 World View -- Yemen calls for general military mobilization, as US forces withdraw thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Mar-15 World View -- Benjamin Netanyahu's 'no Palestinian state' scandal exposes political fantasies

Yemen suicide bombings bring sectarian civil war closer

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen suicide bombings bring sectarian civil war closer


Aftermath of suicide bombing of Shia mosque in Sanaa during Friday prayers (SABA)
Aftermath of suicide bombing of Shia mosque in Sanaa during Friday prayers (SABA)

Suicide bombers on Friday in Yemen blew up two busy Shia mosques in the capital city Sanaa, during Friday prayers when the mosques were packed with people. At least 137 died, with 357 injured.

As I reported yesterday, the war in Yemen widened when Iran-backed Houthis, who took control last year of the capital city Sanaa, expanded the Yemen war by attacking targets in Aden in the south of Yemen, where Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the Sunni internationally recognized president, had fled.

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has taken credit for the attack. However, it's believed that the actual perpetrators were a local anti-Houthi terrorist group that has linked itself with ISIS. ISIS has become a brand name, and any terror group rebranding itself as ISIS gets them attention, money and recruits.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen, condemned the attack because it targeted mosques. However, that al-Qaeda linked Taliban in Afghanistan regularly bomb Shia mosques.

Yemen is currently in total chaos, with two governments, two capitals, and with the army split between the two. Friday's bombings were the worst violence that Yemen has seen in years, and has raised sectarian tensions to an alarming level. AQAP is taking advantage of the chaos by targeting both sides. Yemen's Shia former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has allied with the Houthis and is fighting against Hadi and his Sunni tribe supporters. Iran is actively supporting the Houthis with weapons and forces, while Saudi Arabia is considering whether to support Hadi. As I've predicted many times, the Mideast is headed for war, and now Yemen may be close to a sectarian proxy war. Saba News (Yemen) and Toronto Star and BBC

Benjamin Netanyahu's 'no Palestinian state' scandal exposes political fantasies

I've been watching the political circus these last few weeks with a great deal of bemusement. I take no position on whether it was a good idea or bad idea for Republicans to invite Israel's prime minister to speak to Congress, and the same for Congress to send a letter to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

What's been astonishing is to watch the almost hysterical overreaction by the Administration. If they'd simply issued a statement like, "The Republicans have a right to do these things, but they're not helpful," then they would have scored points without embarrassing themselves and making themselves look like petulant teenagers.

The latest such incident occurred during the last minute campaigning in Israel's election, when Netanyahu said that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch:

"I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state and open up territory is giving radical Islam a space to attack the State of Israel. Whoever ignores this is burying his head in the sand."

This is actually a perfectly reasonable statement, based on Israel's experience since Gaza was evacuated in 2005. But, once again, the reaction from Washington was close to hysterical, with hints that the Administration might turn against Israel in the United Nations, or even cut off aid to Israel.

In fact, this is exactly what I've been saying time and again for 12 years. The very first Generational Dynamics analysis that I posted, in May 2003, was that President George Bush's brand new "Mideast Roadmap to Peace," which advocated a two-state solution by 2005, would fail, because the young generation of Palestinian militants would never allow it. That's been proven true time and time again, and today it's so evidently true that it's hard to believe that anyone could possibly believe that a two-state solution is possible. When I wrote it in 2003 it was a novel prediction, but today you'd have to be crazy to believe that a two-state solution is possible.

So now Netanyahu is saying what I've been saying for 12 years, and the reaction from the Administration is threats and hysteria.

This is highly personal for me, as I've discovered that as one Generational Dynamics prediction after another comes true, I become the target of scorn and abuse, usually by people who absolutely no idea what's going on in the world. Being right means nothing to these people.

So one might ask why Generational Dynamics is right in one analysis and prediction after another, while mainstream politicians, analysts and journalists are wrong at least half the time.

I've identified two major reasons why mainstream politicians, analysts and journalists continually get things wrong:

I've seen this same behavior from Gen-X managers in the computer industry. As a software engineer, I know that the worst person to work for is a manager who's taken a couple of computer courses in college and thinks he's smarter than another else. These are the people who cause the disasters that are characteristic of Generation-X, and many Boomers as well. I've personally seen these disasters occur when I was working at General Dynamics, Digimarc, and Ability Networks. And the greatest IT disaster in history, Healthcare.gov, was filled with managers who pocketed almost a billion dollars on a $25 million project that still doesn't work right, for the same reason. I've written several stories about these and other disasters, and there are more stories that will come at the appropriate times. (Paragraph modified. 21-Mar)

Now with that background, I'll repeat a couple of Generational Dynamics predictions that I've been making for years:

Now let's apply all of the above to understand the Administration's hysterical and abusive reaction to Netanyahu's statement that there will be no Palestinian state on his watch.

The ancient Greeks understood how all of this works, which is why they created the story of Cassandra and the Trojan Horse. When the citizens of Troy not only ignored Cassandra but treated her abusively, they paid the price by being nearly exterminated. Today, I'm the modern day embodiment of Cassandra, and on this one issue, apparently Netanyahu is Cassandra as well.

Whether it's in the computer industry, or on Wall Street, or in politics, these policies of glorifying stupidity never end well, and produce the world's greatest disasters and the world's worst wars. Israel National News and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Mar-15 World View -- Benjamin Netanyahu's 'no Palestinian state' scandal exposes political fantasies thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Mar-15 World View -- Houthi airstrikes bomb Aden as Yemen war widens

Greece's Alexis Tsipras threatens Europe with 'jihadists and terrorists'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece's Alexis Tsipras threatens Europe with 'jihadists and terrorists'


Alexis Tsipras speaking to Greek parliament (Kathimerini)
Alexis Tsipras speaking to Greek parliament (Kathimerini)

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras called on European leaders to take "bold initiatives" save Greece on Thursday, after EU leaders continued to demand that Tsipras meet the commitments that he's already made. Last month, the Europeans gave Tsipras a four-month reprieve, on condition that he come up with a list of reforms to explain how it's going to meet the existing terms of its bailout agreement. The list of reforms would have to address a number of economic issues, including the bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies. The list was due almost a month ago, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Tsipras is not going to provide any such list.

In fact, he's going in the opposite direction, sponsoring a "humanitarian bill" in the Athens parliament to spend additional government money to help Greeks in poverty.

In fact, Tsipras actually threatened EU leaders in recent comments by saying that an influx of "jihadists and terrorists" into Europe from Greece could be imminent, if bailout negotiations weren’t completed.

Ireland's prime minister Enda Kenny responded harshly:

"People are very encouraged to give Greece support and to give it its time and space to come forward with sustainable solutions, but there’s a difference between political argument and disagreement and threats of releasing jihadists and terrorists in Europe. That’s not acceptable."

Greece's situation is increasingly desperate. There's a bank run going on, and 350 million euros were withdrawn from Greek banks on Wednesday alone. Next week, pensions and public sector salaries have to be paid, and Greece has no money to pay them. The yields (interest rates) on Greece's 3-year bonds rose to 20.44% on Thursday.

So when Tsipras asks for "bold initiatives," what he means is that he wants bailout money without have to make any reforms. In fact, he actually begged EU leaders to meet with him on Thursday evening, in the hope that they would approve more bailout money. Leaders of France and Germany did meet with him, but without making any decision.

So the atmosphere between Tsipras and the EU is extremely poisonous, with no compromise in sight at the present time.

As I've been saying for years, ever since Greece's financial crisis began, no solution exists for the Greek financial crisis. And by that I don't mean that no one has been clever enough to figure out a solution. I mean that no solution exists. Furthermore, the longer the situation is prolonged by "kicking the can down the road" time after time, the worse the crisis becomes, because Greece's debt burden keeps worsening. It's hard to avoid the feeling that a dénouement is very close. BBC and Irish Times and Telegraph (London)

Eurogroup chairman suggests capital controls in Greece

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also the chairman of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, is raising the possibility of imposing capital controls on Greece to stop the bank run that's currently in progress. According to Dijsselbloem:

"It’s been explored what should happen if a country gets into deep trouble -- that doesn’t immediately have to be an exit scenario. [For Cyprus], we had to take radical measures, banks were closed for a while and capital flows within and out of the country were tied to all kinds of conditions, but you can think of all kinds of scenarios."

A Greek government spokesman reacted angrily:

"It would be useful for everyone and for Mr Dijsselbloem to respect his institutional role in the eurozone. We cannot easily understand the reasons that pushed him to make statements that are not fitting to the role he has been entrusted with. Everything else is a fantasy scenario. We find it superfluous to remind him that Greece will not be blackmailed."

With Dijsselbloem's remarks about capital controls, and Tsipras's comments about "jihadists and terrorists," it seems that there's a lot of blackmail in the air. Bloomberg and Kathimerini

Houthi airstrikes bomb Aden as Yemen war widens

Explosions were heard across Aden in the south of Yemen on Thursday, as Warplanes attacked the presidential palace in Aden, forcing Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the internationally recognized president of Yemen, to go into hiding. Last year, the Iran-backed Shia Houthi tribes from northern Yemen invaded and took control of the northern city of Sanaa, the nation's capital city, forcing Hadi to flee south to Aden last month, where he's been supported by some Sunni Muslim tribes.

The Houthis have now allied with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, taken control of Yemen's air force, and are now in all out fighting in Yemen. Iran has started regular flights between Tehran and Sanaa, and is shipping weapons to the Houthis.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen, is said to be taking advantage of the situation by attack both sides.

Yemen is on Saudi Arabia's southern border, and it's not expected that the Saudis will indefinitely tolerate an Iran-backed Shia kingdom on its border. In 2009, Saudi Arabia bombed the Houthis in their home governorate of Saada. The possibility exists of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

There are hundreds of thousands of Yemenis working in Saudi Arabia. As the war in Yemen worsens, they fear being deported back to Yemen. In 1990, Saudi Arabia deported 850,000 Yemenis.

As we've been reporting for months, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war throughout the Mideast, northern Africa and south Asia, killing 5,000-10,000 Muslims every month. These wars are both tribal and sectarian. Sooner or later, the West is going to be dragged into one of these wars, and it will be a full-scale war consuming the entire region. Yemen Post and AP and Reuters and Yemen Times

Kerry: US is 'deeply disturbed' by Syrian regime's chemical weapons

According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States is "deeply disturbed" by reports that forces from the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad attacked the town of Sarmin as a weapon on Tuesday. According to Kerry:

"We are looking very closely into this matter and considering next steps. While we cannot yet confirm details, if true, this would be only the latest tragic example of the Assad regime's atrocities against the Syrian people, which the entire international community must condemn."

I just have to wonder what the point of this is. The al-Assad regime has been dropping barrel bombs laced with chlorine for years, killing entire neighborhoods filled with women and children, and killed hundreds of people using Sarin gas, which triggered the Administration's disastrous flip-flop on its "red line" policy, and let al-Assad continue with chemical weapons with impunity. Now, suddenly, Kerry is "deeply disturbed." I never have the feeling that this administration has any idea what's going on in the world. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Mar-15 World View -- Houthi airstrikes bomb Aden as Yemen war widens thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Mar-15 World View -- Beneath the surface, Tunisia is a terrorist breeding ground

Tunisia in shock after terror attack on museum in Tunis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Tunisia in shock after terror attack on museum in Tunis


Police take up position behind a car near the museum on Wednesday
Police take up position behind a car near the museum on Wednesday

Terrorist acts are occurring every day around the Muslim world, so you would think that no terrorist act in a Muslim country would be a surprise to anyone. But Tunisians thought that they had escaped the worst of the "Arab Spring" terror. The "Arab Spring" began in Tunisia on January 4, 2011, when a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline, and lit a match, and burnt himself to death, in protest for government policies. Since then, Tunisia has been mostly non-violent, unlike Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, for example, and currently has a secular government.

So Tunisians were shocked on Wednesday by the first terrorist attack in Tunisia in over ten years. It was the worst attack in the country since an al-Qaida militant detonated a truck bomb in front of a historic synagogue on the Tunisia's island of Djerba in 2002, killing 21, mostly German tourists.

Two gunmen infiltrated security at the well-known Bardo Museum in Tunis, right next door to the parliament building. They took and killed 22 hostages, with 50 people injured. Almost all of the casualties were foreign tourists, suggesting that the terrorists are trying to cripple tourism in Tunisia, which is the country's biggest industry. The casualties were Tunisian, French, Italian, Polish, and Japanese.

Tunisia's president, Bej Caid Essebsi sayd:

"This is catastrophic for Tunisia. We need to stop those kind of people [referring to terrorists] for good. ...

I want the people of Tunisia to understand firstly and lastly that we are in a war with terror, and these savage minority groups will not frighten us. The fight against them will continue until they are exterminated."

Twitter accounts associated with the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) were described as overjoyed at the attack. Tunis Times and AP

Beneath the surface, Tunisia is a terrorist breeding ground

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack in Tunis. It might have been Ansar al-Sharia, the Libya-based terror group that was responsible for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians last month, and for the murder of American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi in 2012. Or it might have been a terror group linked to Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Tunisia has been the Arab Spring's number one success story, with a secular, democratic government, but beneath the surface there are problems. Tunisia has been the number one supplier of foreign fighters to ISIS: some 3,000 Tunisians have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, more than any other country in the world. For years, the vast Tunisian desert has been home to training camps for various jihadist groups. And Tunisia has been awash with weapons, ever since vast weapons storehouses became available following the fall of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

According to a family member of an ISIS member, Tunisian preachers are skillful at convincing young men to join ISIS:

"At Friday prayers, when a good number of Muslims get together in the mosques, after the prayers, the imams start to give them some advice to follow. They say, for example, 'You have to go to Syria to kill Bashar’s army. Even if you die, you’ll go to paradise after.' And in this way, Daesh [ISIS] got a large number of soldiers."

That's exactly the point. As I've been saying for several months, there is a large and growing war going on, and it's a war of Muslims versus Muslims. All across North Africa, the Mideast, and South Asia, Muslims are killing Muslims at the rate of 5000-10000 per month. By comparison, only a minuscule number of Westerners are killed by jihadists, usually a few dozen per month. And the few attacks on Westerners, such as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and Wednesday's attack in Tunis, are publicity stunts that are sensationally successful because they get a great deal of free publicity from Western media, which then attracts many more discontented young men and women to join ISIS. International Business Times (20-Feb) and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Mar-15 World View -- Beneath the surface, Tunisia is a terrorist breeding ground thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Mar-15 World View -- India and China battle for strategic influence in the Indian Ocean

Questions continue to swirl in Russia over assassination of Putin's opponent Nemtsov

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India and China battle for strategic influence in the Indian Ocean


Infrastructure development project in Sri Lanka (Reuters)
Infrastructure development project in Sri Lanka (Reuters)

India's prime minister Narendra Modi has just completed a major tour of Indian Ocean nations with considerable strategic significance.

The event that triggered the trip was a trip by China's president Xi Jinping to the Maldives Islands, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, just southwest of the southern tip of India. Xi was the first Chinese leader ever to visit the Maldives, and the key outcome was agreements on a number of infrastructure projects, including bridges, roads and a new airport. There is a palpable fear in India that China will dominate the foreign investment sector in the Maldives, and turn the infrastructure projects into military installations that could put India itself in danger.

Modi was also scheduled to visit the Maldives during his travels beginning March 11, but political turmoil forced a cancellation. However, Modi is still traveling to Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Mauritius.

The Seychelles is a 115-island nation located off the eastern coast of Africa, just northeast of Madagascar. India was alarmed in 2011 at reports that Seychelles was offering China maritime bases for military purposes, once again because of the possibility of a military base. This is why Modi will be looking to increase its security cooperation with Seychelles.

Modi will also be traveling to Mauritius, an island nation just east of Madagascar. The country has been looking to attract investments from China, but India is providing a 1,300-tonne Indian-built patrol vessel to help it protect its coastline.

Sri Lanka, a large island located just south of the tip of India, has close historical and cultural linkages with India, but China has been strengthening ties.

The previous government, headed by Mahinda Rajapaksa, was developing closer and closer relations with China. In particular, China supported the governing Sinhalese during the recent civil war with the Tamils, while India has a large Tamil population. Rajapaksa awarded China with numerous infrastructure projects, and allowed the frequent docking of Chinese submarines in the port of Colombo, the capital city.

However, the new government, headed by Maithripala Sirisena, has pledged to "correct" Sri Lanka's perceived tilt towards China in the months to come. Lowy Institute (Australia) and The Diplomat

Questions continue to swirl in Russia over assassination of Putin's opponent

Anyone who's been reading World View for the last few days is aware that Boris Nemtsov, a high-profile political opponent of Russia's president Vladimir Putin, was assassinated right at the Kremlin's front door, and that five Chechens were charged with the crime, presumably under orders from Chechnya's strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Now, with Putin back from his 10-day vanishing, that whole theory has been thrown into question. The suspects are credibly claiming that they were tortured into making a confession, and other holes have been appearing in the argument.

It's clear from the nature of the assassination that it was done by Kremlin insiders, so now the public is beginning to speculate that if Kadyrov wasn't responsible, then Putin himself was responsible. There will be more to come. PRI

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Mar-15 World View -- India and China battle for strategic influence in the Indian Ocean thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Mar-15 World View -- Putin's return leaves more questions than answers for Russia

The talking points of the Russian and Chinese internet trolls

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Putin's return leaves more questions than answers for Russia


Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Russia's president Vladimir Putin ended his 10-day disappearance on Monday by attending his scheduled appearance with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg. He was one hour late for the meeting, and different observers described Putin as looking "healthy," "fit," "puffy," "sweaty," and "pale," respectively, suggesting that he may have been ill. Putin himself offered no explanation for his absence, except to say that "Life would be dull without rumors."

No matter what the reason for Putin's absence, the disappearance has highlighted the potential leadership crisis in the fallout over the assassination of Putin's very high profile political opponent Boris Nemtsov, possibly under the orders of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya. According to one Moscow commentator, the problem is that only Putin should be able to violate any Russian law with impunity, and the assassination seems to mean that Kadyrov can do the same:

"The law of power is very simple. Power is the right to use force with impunity. Whoever is able to use force with impunity is therefore the ruler. The murder of Boris Nemtsov forces one to suspect that Putin is no longer the strongest man in Russia."

If a dictator is no longer able to maintain total control over the government, then it's a potential disaster for him.

Kadyrov's boldness may be a consequence of increasingly widespread questions about Putin's leadership, especially regarding the economy. Although his poll numbers remain high, the economy is crashing, largely because oil and gas prices have been crashing.

This brings the Ukraine situation into play. It's the first anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Crimea, and Putin has been bragging about how he fooled the West by lying about it. The occupation of Crimea is widely admired within Russia, but the war in east Ukraine is raising many questions, because there's no end in sight and it's costing Russia a fortune at a time of a plunging economy.

The combination of Putin's loss of control over Kadyrov and Chechnya, loss of control over the economy, and loss of control over east Ukraine are combining to make Putin appear increasingly weak, a problem that could only have been exacerbated by his mysterious, unexplained 10-day disappearance.

So Putin may be ripe for a coup or other ouster by his growing list of enemies, but that's not necessarily good news. Putin's successor would most likely be from the authoritarian regime that ran the Kremlin prior to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, any such successor regime could not risk showing weakness, so he's have to be even more aggressive in many ways, including in Ukraine, where the attack on Mariupol and all of southern Ukraine would be launched. Such a regime would also almost certainly tighten the screws even further on the Russian people. So, to anyone pleased with the prospect of the departure of Vladimir Putin: Be careful what you wish for. Irish Times and Interpreter/Paul Goble and Jamestown and Interpreter/Paul Goble

The talking points of the Russian and Chinese internet trolls

Anyone who, like myself, writes about Russia or China is likely to run into internet trolls who are paid by the respective nations to harass the writer and post favorable comments on forums, blogs, and news articles. The comments range from lies and disinformation to abuse and profanity.

Each of these trolls is given a list of talking points by the trollmaster who hires him. A study of these internet trolls reveals some interesting information, including their talking points.

Chinese trolls are nicknamed the "50-cent party," because it's believed that they earn 50 cents for each posted comment. Chinese trolls were first launched in 2004, and a 2013 estimate by researchers at Harvard University puts the total number at 250,000 to 300,000. A 2014 email leak included a list of the trollmasters' instructions and talking points:

As an aside, my web site has been attacked a number of times by Chinese hackers.

Few details are known about Russia's internet troll program, but an undercover operation in St. Petersburg revealed that trolls are paid about $36.50 for an 8-hour work day. According to information that we posted last year in "Russia uses an army of trolls on social media," each troll is expected to maintain six Facebook accounts, posting three times a day in each. On Twitter, they're expected to manage 10 accounts and tweet 50 times a day.

Russia has an extremely aggressive troll organization known as the "G-Team." They are anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-liberal, and go further than simply trolling in some cases by threats of physical harm and even murder. The trollmasters' instructions and talking points include the following:

In the last year, a new talking point has been added: "labeling the Ukrainian government fascist." Geopolitical Monitor

Oil prices continue to crash


North Dakota daily oil production and price
North Dakota daily oil production and price

The above graph shows dramatically what's been happening with oil prices, which are now approaching $40 per barrel.

The green line shows Barrels of Oil Produced Daily (BOPD) in North Dakota, where there are many fracking rigs. The black line shows the price variations (dollars per barrel of oil = $/BO) since 1970.

New oil fracking technology has caused an explosion in output from US rigs, starting around 2010 when oil was at $120 per barrel, and oil production has been increasing hyperbolically since then. Oil prices have crashed in the last year, and it would not be surprising to see them fall to $30 per barrel or even $15 per barrel, a price last seen in 2000.

As oil prices have been crashing, the number of rigs has been falling steadily. But oil production has been continuing to increase because the best producing of the existing rigs have low marginal costs, and can make money even when oil is well below $40 per barrel. In fact, despite the tumbling number of active rigs, the U.S. is pumping more oil than any time since 1972.

This is a huge economic dislocation that's affecting not only Russia but many other countries as well. It's expected to go on for another one or two years. Some people will be winners and some will be losers, and there are certain to be unintended consequences. North Dakota Drilling and Production Statistics and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Mar-15 World View -- Putin's return leaves more questions than answers for Russia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Mar-15 World View -- Violent Christian riots follow bombing of two churches in Lahore, Pakistan

Rumors abound in Russia on the disappearance of Vladimir Putin

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Violent Christian riots follow bombing of two churches in Lahore, Pakistan


Pakistani Christians block a street during a protest in Karachi on Sunday, following attacks on churches in Lahore. (AFP)
Pakistani Christians block a street during a protest in Karachi on Sunday, following attacks on churches in Lahore. (AFP)

Violent riots by Christians followed the suicide bombing of two churches, one Catholic and one Protestant, in the predominantly Christian Youhanabad district of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province in eastern Pakistan.

The bombings themselves killed 15 people, including two policemen, injuring at least 70 others. At one church, a guard prevented the suicide bomber from entering the church, and was killed when the bomber detonated the explosive. The other explosion took place inside the church, causing most of the casualties.

Some 4,000 Christians later took to the streets in Lahore, many armed with clubs as they smashed vehicles and attacked a city bus. Two people were accused by the mob of being behind the explosions, and were attacked and killed by the mob. There was also rioting in other Pakistan cities, including Islamabad and Karachi.

Christians make up around 2 per cent of Pakistan’s mainly Muslim population of 180 million. They have been targeted in attacks and riots in recent years, often over allegations of blasphemy regarding the Koran or Mohamed. Sunday's attacks on Christians were the worst since September 2013, when a double suicide-bombing in Peshawar killed 82 people. That came months after more than 3,000 Muslim protesters torched some 100 houses as they rampaged through Joseph Colony, another Christian neighborhood of Lahore, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man.

According to an editorial in the widely read Dawn news site:

"THE suicide attacks against two churches in Lahore yesterday could have been just another gruesome incident in the long list of horrors that has been inflicted on this country in recent years.

The reaction by sections of the Christian community in Lahore and other cities of the country — with protesters taking to the streets and some turning to violence that resulted in two deaths — though suggests that the state’s halting response to the terrorism threat is leading to dangerous ruptures in society.

When non-Muslim and sectarian communities take to the streets in protest and turn to mob violence, it surely reflects the acute stress and intolerable strain that they are under. While all mob violence is deplorable, perhaps the lesson for the state here is that endless violence and horrors visited on a population lead to fear taking over and ugliness manifesting itself."

AFP and Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan)

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claims credit for Lahore bombings, rejoins TTP

The terror group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack in Lahore, and promised that there would be more attacks.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar was formed last year in September, when several terror groups splintered off from the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban - TTP) because of a major leadership dispute within the TTP. At that time, a group of TTP commanders formed Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, taking with them several Taliban factions from Pakistan's tribal areas.

In November, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed credit for 45 Pakistani deaths and 120 injuries when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a border crossing with India, near Lahore, at a time of day when there were crowds of people on the Pakistan side to watch a colorful flag-lowering ceremony. ( "3-Nov-14 World View -- Multiple Taliban groups claim credit for suicide bombing in Pakistan")

Last week, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and two other major terrorist groups rejoined the TTP, after a meeting in which the leadership issues were presumably resolved, although a new leader of the combined group has not yet been chosen. The spokesman for Jamaat-ul-Ahrar issued this statement:

"We congratulate the Ummat-e-Muslima [the Muslim community] in common and especially the Mujahideen of Pakistan for the coalition of strong Jihadi groups, Tehrik-e-Taliban [Movement of the Taliban] Pakistan, Jamaat ul Ahrar, Tehrik-e-Lashkar-e-Islam and Tehrik-e-Taliban on one name Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] against the Taghooti [satanic], Infidel, Democratic, unIslamic system and the Na-Pak Murtad [a Muslim who rejects Islam] Army."

Dawn (Pakistan) and Long War Journal and Geo TV (Pakistan)

Rumors abound in Russia on the disappearance of Vladimir Putin

Russia's president Vladimir Putin, who has not been seen in public since March 5, is scheduled to meet with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg on Monday (today). Moscow has been a-buzz with rumors about Putin has disappeared, and a Monday appearance should bring some resolution.

Until then, here are some of the rumors going around:

The main speculation is that his disappearance is related to a major political crisis that I described days ago triggered by the assassination of Putin's very high profile political opponent Boris Nemtsov, possibly under the orders of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya. The most extreme version of this rumor is that Kadyrov's Chechen men are planning to kill other Putin opponents, and Putin is hiding for fear of retribution. Even if Putin makes an appearance in St. Petersburg on Monday, the rumors about a political crisis over the Nemtsov assassination will continue. Guardian (London) and Daily Mail (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Mar-15 World View -- Violent Christian riots follow bombing of two churches in Lahore, Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Mar-15 World View -- Report: Iran's Supreme Leader has already vetoed any nuclear deal

Fighting heats up on Myanmar (Burma) border with China

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Is Vladimir Putin spending time with his girlfriend and love child?


Rhythmical gymnast Alina Kabaeva, Putin's alleged long-time mistress (pravda.ru)
Rhythmical gymnast Alina Kabaeva, Putin's alleged long-time mistress (pravda.ru)

Speculation continues to swirl over the reason for the complete disappearance since March 5 of Russia's president Vladimir Putin from public view, including the cancellation of several long-scheduled meetings and ceremonies.

Now the New York Post is claiming with some certainty that Putin, 62, is in Switzerland for the birth of a new daughter by his long-time mistress Alina Kabaeva, 31.

Putin has angrily denied having Kabaeva as a mistress. In 2008, I wrote "Putin angrily denies divorce rumors and shuts down newspaper reporting them", and described how Russia's president Vladimir Putin terrorized a female reporter at a joint press conference with Silvio Berlusconi when she asked a question about a rumored affair with Alina Kabaeva, while Berlusconi helped out by gesturing with his hand pretending to shoot the reporter. Finally, in 2013, Putin divorced his wife, with whom he has two children, and continued to deny that Kabaeva is his mistress.

As I reported yesterday, many analysts are convinced that Putin's disappearance has a much deeper explanation, a Moscow political crisis related to the assassination of political opponent Boris Nemtsov. Putin's next scheduled public appearance is on Monday, when he's scheduled to meet with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg. New York Post

Fighting heats up on Myanmar (Burma) border with China

China is threatening "decisive action" against Burma (Myanmar), after a bomb from a Burmese warplane fell into Chinese territory and killed four Chinese people. This comes days after a stray shell from Burma flattened a house in Chinese territory. Beijing has summoned Burma's ambassador, and has launched warplanes to patrol the border between the two countries.

The ethnic fighting in Burma (Myanmar) that began in early February is growing in intensity, and causing a confrontation between Burma and China. The fighting is taking place in Burma's Kokang Special Region, on the border with China, and it's between Burma's army and the Kokang people, who are ethnically Chinese.

Some 30,000 Kokang have fled across the border into China, where they live in refugee camps. Burmese officials claim Kokang attacks are being launched from Chinese territory, and that Chinese mercenaries are fighting in support of the Kokang. Burmese officials are demanding that China prevent this, but Chinese officials are denying that it's happening at all.

It's occurred to a lot of people that this situation is similar to the situation with Russia and Ukraine. Russia has justified its invasion and occupation of portions of Ukraine by the need to "protect" the Russian people living in Ukraine. Similarly, many people are wondering when China is going to send troops into Burma for the "protection" of the Kokang-Chinese people.

However, this presents a public relations problem for China. China likes to claim that no one should interfere with the "internal affairs" of another country. They say this particularly at times when Chinese security officials are butchering Tibetans and Uighurs in China, and they want to shut out the international community.

In the last year, they've already had to carve out several exceptions to this holier-than-thou rule. They've intervened in the internal affairs of Sudan when their own investments were threatened. And of course they've supported their partner in crime, Russia, as it interfered with the internal affairs of Ukraine.

The Chinese have already stated that the fighting in Burma is an internal affair of Burma, but they're under increasing pressure from their own Chinese people to do something. There have now been two incidents in the last couple of weeks of Burmese rockets and shells landing on Chinese territory, killing four people in one case. More such incidents would provide an excuse for China to invade Burma, with two possible outcomes -- a resolution of the conflict, or a spiraling into a larger war. Reuters and LA Times and Xinhua

Report: Iran's Supreme Leader has already vetoed any nuclear deal

A report in Debka's subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber) says that its intelligence sources have learned that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, after vacillating over the nuclear negotiations with the United States for months, has now come down firmly against any deal. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif have been working to complete a deal by the March 31 deadline, but Khamenei has now rejected the entire framework that they were developing. The intelligence sources say that Iran may shut down nuclear negotiations completely, unless the West first removes all sanctions, a request that will not be satisfied.

A major reason given is that dissent within Iran itself has been increasing. The dissent is spilling over from government critics to broad sections of Iranian society, such as academics and op-ed writers.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, none of this is surprising. As I've said many times, it's a core principle of generational theory that, even in a dictatorship, major decisions are made by masses of people, by generations of people, and that politicians are irrelevant except insofar as they're implementing the wishes of the masses of people.

This is a good time to review Iran's strategy with regard to the nuclear issue, which I've stated many times in the last few years, based on a relatively straightforward analysis of Iran's history in the last century.

First, Iran will not be prevented from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran has already been victimized by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, and is now surrounded by potential enemies -- Pakistan, Russia, Israel -- that have nuclear weapons, with Saudi Arabia planning to obtain nuclear technology from Pakistan. The Iranian people overwhelmingly feel that they need nuclear technology for self-defense.

Secondly, however, Iran has no intention at all of using a nuclear weapon on Israel. If you look at Iran's major wars in the last century -- the Constitutional Revolution of 1908-09, the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1989 -- Iran did not attack any other nation, and takes pride in not having done so.

Another reason why Iran could not use a nuclear weapon on Israel is that doing so would kill millions of Palestinians, and Iran knows that the Arab backlash would be enormous, irrespective of what happened to Israel.

Furthermore, the younger generations of Iranians, the ones that grew up after the war, do not hate Israel, and do not wish Israel harm, and they would be particularly opposed to any Iranian nuclear attack on Israel.

The collapse of the Iran nuclear negotiations would be a major blow for the Barack Obama administration. The foreign policy of Obama and his clownish Secretary of State John Kerry has been one blunder and reversal after another, and they were hoping for a nuclear deal to burnish their legacies, and possibly to get Nobel Peace Prizes as a result. Look for them to blame it on the Republicans, but preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon was never a possibility.

By the way, Debka is also predicting that Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat in Tuesday's election is a foregone conclusion, and that unless something spectacular happens, Israel's next prime minister will be Yitzhak Herzog. Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Mar-15 World View -- Report: Iran's Supreme Leader has already vetoed any nuclear deal thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Mar-15 World View -- Putin's disappearance may be part of a major Moscow political crisis

Fears grow of violence between Kadyrov's security forces and Putin's FSB

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Putin's disappearance may be part of a major Moscow political crisis


Public shrine to Boris Nemtsov in Moscow (Moscow Times)
Public shrine to Boris Nemtsov in Moscow (Moscow Times)

As we briefly reported yesterday, Russia's president Vladimir Putin on Thursday canceled a long-scheduled ceremony to sign a treaty annexing South Ossetia into Russia, amid rumors that he was seriously ill. Putin's health is apparently OK (though questions remain), but the fact still remains that Putin has not been seen in public for several days, with no satisfactory explanation.

Putin's next scheduled public appearance is on Monday, when he's scheduled to meet with the president of Kyrgyzstan in St. Petersburg. Perhaps we'll get some answers then.

It's increasingly believed that his disappearance is related to a growing political crisis in Moscow following the February 27 assassination of Putin's political opponent, a liberal, Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov was out on a stroll with his girlfriend in a very high security area almost on the doorstep of the Kremlin in Moscow. Nemtsov was killed by gunmen who meticulously planned every detail. They knew where he would be, they knew how to evade security forces reaching him, and they knew exactly how to escape after the assassination.

There are two important facts related to Nemtsov's killing. First, it was not random. It was perpetrated by people who must have had a great deal of inside information about people and security around the Kremlin. And second, this is the highest profile assassination in Moscow in decades. It's fairly common for the Kremlin to order the assassination of unfriendly reporters or the massacre of any number of anti-government protesters, including women and children, but Nemtsov was very high profile. He was at one time the putative successor of Boris Yeltsin to be President. Nemtsov's high profile means that killing him does not benefit Putin, because Putin is immediately suspected of ordering the killing. In fact, many in Putin's opposition have been accusing Putin of exactly that.

Putin condemned the killing, and immediately took "personal control" of the investigation, insinuating that Americans or "foreign agents" had perpetrated the killing to make him look back. The FSB, the successor to the old Soviet KGB, took charge of the investigation, and soon identified the culprits as five Chechens, led by Zaur Dadayev. Dadayev is a close associate of Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin's hand-picked governor of Chechnya, suggesting that Kadyrov himself had ordered the assassination in order to embarrass Putin and the Kremlin.

Chechnya is, of course, a major Muslim republic in Russia's North Caucasus. In the 1990s, Kadyrov was a separatist rebel fighting against the Kremlin, but who later switched sides and pledged loyalty to Putin. Today, Kadyrov has his own army, known as the Kadyrovtsy, and last year he was filmed giving a long speech to thousands of armed Chechen police and special forces saying his men had pledged loyalty to Russia, and to Putin personally, and ended by shouting:

"Long live our great motherland Russia! Long live our national leader Vladimir Putin! Allahu Akbar!"

Moscow Times and Guardian (London) and Telegraph (London)

Fears grow of violence between Kadyrov's security forces and Putin's FSB

So what does all this have to do with the disappearance of Putin? According to an analyst Friday on the BBC world service, Putin has retreated because he has to find a way to deal with a potential conflict between two armies: the FSB, which is personally loyal to Russia, versus the Kadyrovtsy, Kadyrov's army of police and security forces, which is personally loyal to him. The word "personally" in each case is significant, because neither of these armies is loyal to Russia.

Zaur Dadayev and his four alleged Chechen accomplices were brought into court last Sunday (7-Mar), and there have been some political theatrics since then. Dadayev confessed to the assassination, and blamed it on Nemtsov's criticism of the terrorists who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, saying that he (Dadayev) was personally very offended by the Mohammed cartoons that had been published.

Kadyrov confirmed Dadayev's claims by saying:

"Anyone who knows Zaur can confirm that he is a deep believer, and that he — like all Muslims — was shocked by the activities of Charlie Hebdo [newspaper] and by comments made in support of reprinting the cartoons. I knew Zaur as a true Russian patriot."

The political theatrics continued on Monday, when a Kremlin statement announced that Kadyrov had been awarded the Order of Honor for his "professional accomplishments, social activities and many years of diligent work."

The great fear is that Kadyrov is only paying lip service pledging loyalty to Putin, and that he's building up his Kadyrovtsy army in preparation for a new separatist battle with Moscow. Chechnya was ill prepared for the Chechen wars of the 1990s, and Russian forces put them down rather easily. Kadyrov is going to be much better prepared this time.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, a major war between Chechnya and Russia is coming with certainty. Chechnya's last crisis war was World War II, climaxing with the wholesale deportation of the Chechen people by Russian army forces in 1944. It was not until 1957 when Nikita Khrushchev permitted the Chechens to return to their homeland, but this act was considered to be a Russian genocide of the Chechen people, and young Chechens today, many of whom are in Kadyrov's Kadyrovtsy army, are looking forward to the day when the get revenge, and Nemtsov's murder might have been the first step in getting revenge. Moscow Times and RFE/RL(19-Jan) and BBC Podcast (MP3)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Mar-15 World View -- Putin's disappearance may be part of a major Moscow political crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Mar-15 World View -- Karachi Pakistan fears 'nuclear nightmare' over planned nuclear reactors

South Ossetia discourages trips to Georgia for medical care

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece threatens to confiscate German property as war reparations


Nazi soldiers raising the swastika flag on the Acropolis
Nazi soldiers raising the swastika flag on the Acropolis

Greece's government has threatened to seize German property in Greece as compensation for a World War II Nazi atrocity, the massacre of 218 civilians in the central Greek village of Distomo on June 10, 1944. In 2000, Greece's Supreme Court ruled that Germany owed the relatives of the victims of the Distomo massacre 28 million euros. The decision was not enforced at the time, and the Greek government is attempting to enforce it now.

Among possible assets that could be seized are property belonging to Germany's archaeological school and the Goethe Institute, a cultural association.

Germany rejects the claims, saying that the 1990 "Two Plus Four Treaty" settled the matter. One German political threatened reprisals if Greece seized German property: "The subject has been closed since the 1950s. If it came to Greek violations of German property, Germany would know how to defend itself."

Then there was a new development on Thursday.

Greece has lodged a formal complaint against Germany for an insult by Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. According to press reports, Schäuble called Greece's Yanis Varoufakis "foolishly naïve" in his dealings with the media following EU discussions in Brussels on Wednesday.

According to Greece's Foreign Ministry, "As a minister of a country that is our friend and our ally, he cannot personally insult a colleague." Greece is demanding an apology. Guardian (London) and EurActiv and Deutsche Welle (Berlin) and Kathimerini (Athens)

South Ossetia discourages trips to Georgia for medical care

An embarrassment to officials in both occupied South Ossetia and Russia is that many South Ossetians travel to Georgia for medical care.

It's not an easy trip, either. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, and occupied and retained control of two of Georgia's provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, Russia has closed the border between South Ossetia and Georgia, and so the only way for a South Ossetia to reach Georgia is to go north into Russia, and then travel back into Georgia. Thus, they have to cross the Main Caucasus Ridge twice, a particularly difficult journey in winter.

Leonid Tibilov, South Ossettia's Russian-appointed leader, says that "in the overwhelming majority of cases there is no need whatsoever for patients to go to the neighboring country. We have to develop our own medical centers and attract specialists. We are already doing it actively – we are launching construction of a modern medical center with relevant equipment." However, no modern clinic has appeared in South Ossetia since the 2008 invasion.

According to South Ossetia's healthcare minister, Grigory Kulidzhanov, most patients "are ignoring" the government decree:

"Often people appeal [to the healthcare ministry] insisting on sending them to hospitals in Georgia, ignoring offered alternative to receive medical treatment on the territory of Russia. Of course we can help a person when it is a life-and-death issue and we are doing it, turning a blind eye on political aspects, but in most of the cases requests for sending them to Georgia have no clear justification, meaning that similar treatment can also be provided on the territory of Russia, including in North Ossetia."

Kulidzhanov makes the point that if patients really want to leave South Ossetia for medical care, they could easily go to a hospital in Russia.

However, a Georgian official points out that Georgia has "a high-quality and non-corrupt healthcare system." Referring to Tskhinvali, capital city of South Ossetia, and to Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, he said, "in order to receive the same level of medical assistance, residents of Tskhinvali would have to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but that is very far away, while Tbilisi is only a 40-minute drive from Tskhinvali."

There is late news that Vladimir Putin has on Thursday canceled a long-scheduled ceremony to sign a treaty annexing South Ossetia into Russia. There are rumors that Putin is in ill health, but those rumors are being denied by a Kremlin spokesman. EurasiaNet and Jamestown and Civil (Georgia) and International Business Times

Karachi Pakistan fears 'nuclear nightmare' over planned nuclear reactors

China will be building two of the most technologically advanced nuclear reactors in the world less than 20 miles from downtown Karachi, which has about 20 million residents. The port city of Karachi is considered to be the economic capital of Pakistan. According to one activist trying to get the project halted:

"You are talking about a city one-third the population of the United Kingdom. If there would be an accident, this would cripple Karachi, and if you cripple Karachi, you cripple Pakistan."

The world has already experienced three major nuclear accidents — at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union in 1986, and the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. A disaster that these new nuclear plants could kill millions of people in Karachi. In addition, Pakistan suffers almost daily acts of terrorism from the Taliban, and so a terrorist attack would be of major concern. Dawn (Pakistan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Mar-15 World View -- Karachi Pakistan fears 'nuclear nightmare' over planned nuclear reactors thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Mar-15 World View -- Fears grow of Shia revenge killings in Iraq

Russia plans military development, including nuclear weapons, in Crimea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Fears grow of Shia revenge killings in Iraq


Iraqi forces fighting in Tikrit on Wednesday
Iraqi forces fighting in Tikrit on Wednesday

Iraqi government forces entered Tikrit on Wednesday, driving out fighters from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), who fled the city, leaving behind hundreds of roadside bombs, according to Iraqi officials.

The Iraqi forces are not, for the most part, from the Iraqi army. Only a single Iraqi army brigade, about 3,000 soldiers, are involved. The bulk of the force are 20,000 fighters from Shia tribal militias, known as Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) forces. There are also about 1,000 Sunni tribesmen in the force.

This entire force is under the command of a Ghasem Soleimani, a top general in Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), supported by dozens of Iranian military advisers.

Tikrit is the home town of Saddam Hussein, and when he was in power, Saddam Hussein was violent and brutal to the Shias. I recall numerous stories of atrocities being committed by Saddam as one of the justifications of the 2003 Iraq war.

So today a massive Shia army, under Iranian command, is entering Saddam Hussein's home town, to expel ISIS and take control. As one analyst asked, will the Sunni people of Tikrit treat the Shia army to be liberators or invaders?

According to US Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifying before Congress on Wednesday:

"We are all concerned about what happens after the drums stop beating and ISIL is defeated, and whether the government of Iraq will remain on a path to provide an inclusive government for all of the various groups within it. ...

There's no doubt that the combination of the Popular Mobilization forces and the Iraqi security forces, they're going to run ISIL out of Tikrit.

The question is what comes after, in terms of their willingness to let Sunni families move back into their neighborhoods, whether they work to restore the basic services that are going to be necessary, or whether it results in atrocities and retribution."

Fears of Shia on Sunni atrocities and retribution will not be unexpected. According to an Amnesty International report published last year in October:

"In recent months, Shi’a militias have been abducting and killing Sunni civilian men in Baghdad and around the country. These militias, often armed and backed by the government of Iraq, continue to operate with varying degrees of cooperation from government forces – ranging from tacit consent to coordinated, or even joint, operations. For these reasons, Amnesty International holds the government of Iraq largely responsible for the serious human rights abuses, including war crimes, committed by these militias.

The victims were abducted from their homes, workplace or from checkpoints. Many were later found dead, usually handcuffed and shot in the back of the head. Reports by families of the victims and witnesses have been corroborated by Ministry of Health workers, who told Amnesty International that in recent months they have received scores of bodies of unidentified men with gunshot wounds to the head and often with their hands bound together with metal or plastic handcuffs, rope or cloth. Photographs of several bodies shown to Amnesty International by victims’ relatives and others viewed at Baghdad’s morgue, reveal a consistent pattern of deliberate, execution-style killings.

Some of the victims were killed even after their families had paid hefty ransoms. Several families told Amnesty International how they had received the dreaded call from the kidnappers, had searched frantically for the ransom money and had managed to pay it, only to discover that their loved one had still been killed. “I begged friends and acquaintances to lend me the ransom money to save my son, but after I paid they killed him and now I have no way to pay back the money I borrowed, as my son was the only one working in the family”, a grieving mother told Amnesty International.

Scores of other victims are still missing, their fate and whereabouts unknown, weeks and months after they were abducted."

These kinds of atrocities, Sunni on Shia, were the norm when Saddam Hussein was power. Once the US ended the war with the "surge," most of these atrocities ended. But once the US forces withdrew, the atrocities returned, this time Shia on Sunni.

During Wednesday's testimony before Congress, American officials spelled out six concerns that U.S. officials have about Iran:

The US is not taking part in the invasion or liberation of Tikrit, even with air strikes. But the US is expected to play an important role later, when the Iraqi forces move on to recapture Mosul from ISIS. USA Today and McClatchy and Amnesty International (Oct 2014) and Al Arabiya

Russia plans military development, including nuclear weapons, in Crimea

In January, Russian officials said that they will be reinforcing the military on Crimea in 2015:

"In 2015, the Defense Ministry’s main efforts will focus on an increase of combat capabilities of the armed forces and increasing the military staff in accordance with military construction plans. Much attention will be given to the groupings in Crimea, Kaliningrad and the Arctic."

This week, Russia's Foreign Ministry added to the information by saying that nuclear weapons are on the table. According to Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Department for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Weapons Control, referring to Crimea:

"I don’t know if there are any nuclear weapons there at the moment and I am not aware of such plans, but in principle Russia can do this.

Naturally Russia has the right to put nuclear weapons in any region on its territory if it deems it necessary. We hold that we have such a right, though Kiev has a different opinion on this matter."

This is typical of the kind of garbage that comes out of the mouths of Russian officials almost every day.

Ulyanov is head of Russia's Department for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, but he has no idea whether Russia has put nuclear weapons into Crimea? That's certainly credible, isn't it.

But Crimea is not Russian territory. It's a part of Ukraine that Russia's army has invaded and is occupying. It was just a couple of days ago that Russia's president Vladimir Putin admitted that he had lied last year about Russia's invasion of Crimea. It appears that Russia is planning a major military buildup in occupied Crimea in order to threaten all the nations bordering the Black Sea, including Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania. Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Mar-15 World View -- Fears grow of Shia revenge killings in Iraq thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Mar-15 World View -- Europe, America, China economies all continue in deflationary spiral

Iran elects hardliner to head Assembly of Experts

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran elects hardliner to head Assembly of Experts


84 year old Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi
84 year old Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, born 1931, was elected on Tuesday to be chairman of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that will choose Iran's next Supreme Leader, when the 76-year-old current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei dies.

The election was a surprise, because Yazdi is considered to be an extreme hardliner, and it's assumed that if Khamenei dies, then he'll be replaced by another hardliner.

Last week, I described significant possible policy changes in Iran that his death could trigger due to generational differences between the survivors of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and the generations that grew up after the revolution. Those policy changes can only take place if a representative of the views of the younger generation is chosen as the next Supreme Leader. It doesn't matter how old the selectee is. It only matters whether he holds the hardline views of the Great Revolution survivors or the views of the generations that grew up after the war. AEI Iran Tracker and BBC

Greece's deflationary spiral continues with consumer prices down 2.2%

Greece's consumer prices fell 2.2% in February, compared with a year earlier. On a monthly basis, prices fell 0.6% compared with January.

Housing prices led the plunge, falling 7.1%. The only product categories to show a rise were food, up 0.9%, and alcohol and tobacco goods, where prices rose 2.0%.

In the eurozone as a whole, consumer prices fell 0.3% in February, after falling 0.6% in January. In the US, the CPI fell 0.7% in January. In China, the economy is not yet deflationary, but the inflation rate is much lower than Beijing's target. In other words, much of the world is spiraling into deflation.

As long-time readers know, Generational Dynamics has been predicting a deflationary spiral for years, despite the insistence by almost every mainstream economist that, because of near-zero interest rates and quantitative easing, the economy would become inflationary or even hyperinflationary. It's worth taking a moment to review what's going on here, in case any mainstream economist is reading and wants to learn something (which, based on experience, is very unlikely).

In the 70s, 80s and 90s, the Fed could reasonably control inflation by setting appropriate interest rates. Generally speaking, lowering interest rates means that people can borrow more, and they use the money to buy things or to hire employees. This creates a demand for things and employees, which, by the law of supply and demand, means that prices and wages should go up, causing inflation. Quantitative easing, where the Fed "prints money" and pours it into the banking system, should create even more inflation. That's why mainstream economists keep talking about inflation.

I always like to make fun of the fact that mainstream economists cannot explain the tech bubble of the late 1990s -- why it occurred at all, and why it occurred then, instead of a decade earlier during the PC technology explosion, or a decade later. The answer is that the 1990s is exactly the time when the risk-averse survivors of the Great Depression all disappeared -- retired or died -- all at the same time, leaving behind younger generations having no clue what could go wrong with the economy. Mainstream economists are from these younger generations with no clue.

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 velocity of money has been plummeting in the last decade, meaning that all that money that the Fed has been spewing out in the form of low interest rates and quantitative easing has just been sitting in bank accounts, and not used for purchases and wages. Actually, it's been used by hedge funds and already-wealthy investors to invest in the stock market, pushing up the Wall Street stock bubble. With the velocity of money plummeting, inflation has been plummeting as well, defying the mainstream economists.

The size of the money supply is set by monetary policy, but it turns out that the velocity of money is set by generational changes. In a generational crisis era, like the 1930s and today, once a crisis occurs, like the 1929 crash or the 2008 housing crash, people's moods change dramatically. They pinch pennies, for fear of a new financial crisis, and they refuse to buy things, causing the velocity of money to plunge. After the 1929 crash, the mood didn't begin to lift until the 1950s. In Japan, there was a stock market crash in 1990, and Japan remains in a deflationary spiral to this day, 25 years later. So this generational mood is very deep and long-lasting.

So when you hear a financial "expert" on TV say that such and such and change in policy will encourage people to spend more money next year, you can be sure you're listening to a clueless mainstream economist. This deflationary spiral is going to continue and deepen for a long time, and will trigger a new stock market crash. Bloomberg and Market Watch and Dow Jones

European Central Bank tries desperate measure to fight deflation


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.50 on March 6 (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.50 on March 6 (WSJ)

The European Central Bank (ECB) is taking desperate measures to end deflation by starting a massive quantitative easing program. On Monday, the ECB "printed" three billion euros and used them to purchase bonds issued by individual eurozone nations.

This huge purchase of bonds caused the prices of these bonds to up (by the law of supply and demand). In the case of bonds, when the price goes up, the corresponding bond yield (interest rate) goes down. So the result of the ECB's actions on Monday was to push many bond yields into negative territory. This means, in effect, that the ECB is lending money to individual governments, and paying those governments to take the money. I wish I could get that deal.

The second effect of the of the ECB's actions was to drive the value of the euro down relative to the dollar. Or, to put it another way, to strengthen the dollar relative to the euro.

This highlights another mistake that mainstream economists make when they're talking about inflation. There are two completely separate ways of looking at inflation: the internal inflation, as measured by consumer prices, and the international inflation, as measured by the value of the currency against other currencies. In this case, the euro is in a deflationary spiral internally, but it's losing value internationally. So it appears that the euro is going in two opposite directions at the same time, one of the many dysfunctions in today's global finance.

All this bad news in Europe affected Wall Street stocks on Tuesday, with a 333 point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (March 6) was astronomically high at 20.50. 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. Tuesday's stock market plunge has probably already pushed the P/E ratio down to the 18-19 range. Telegraph (London) and Reuters and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Mar-15 World View -- Europe, America, China economies all continue in deflationary spiral thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Mar-15 World View -- Vladimir Putin brags about how he lied about Russia's invasion of Crimea

Europe to Greece: Stop wasting time and get serious about reforms

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Vladimir Putin brags about how he lied about Russia's invasion of Crimea


Vladimir Putin during interview in documentary to be aired on Russian TV
Vladimir Putin during interview in documentary to be aired on Russian TV

Russia's president Vladimir Putin said in an interview in a forthcoming TV documentary that he ordered the invasion and annexation of Crimea weeks before it occurred, during a period of time when he repeatedly lied about the presence of Russian troops and about his intentions. He gives as a reason for his decision that Ukraine's Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had been ousted and his life was in danger, but he doesn't explain why that justifies invading another country and annexing its territory.

This whole situation has almost been a laugh factory. Based on news reports it was perfectly obvious to me and Nato officials and other that Putin was lying, but in the United Nations and other official forums it was necessary to play the game that Nato says this but Russia says that. And then there was Putin's army of paid Russian trolls, whose job was to harass people like me who were describing what was really going on. I had the honor of being targeted by no less than three of the trolls on different web sites, and one of them visited me just last week to say that it wasn't anti-government Ukraine Russians who shot down Malaysian Airlines MH17.

Putin's constant lying, and contempt for everyone else, has at least taken a toll. Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials have called Putin a liar. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who originally tried to remain neutral, has become the unlikely leader of the pro-Ukrainian cause, though still restricted to diplomatic means.

There is an increasing realization among European officials that the European experiment is failing, and not just because the euro currency is in trouble. The two world wars were a huge bloodbath across the entire continent, and the purpose of the European experiment was to make sure it didn't happen again. One cornerstone of that experiment was to prevent any dictator from unilaterally redrawing country borders again, as Hitler had done. And if the EU cannot stop Russia from redrawing its borders with Ukraine, then the European Union will, literally, be a failure. BBC and AFP and Reuters

Europe to Greece: Stop wasting time and get serious about reforms

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who heads the Eurogroup of eurozone financial ministers is telling Greece to "stop wasting time." Greece's finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday provided the Eurogroup with a list of reforms, but the list was vague, without any real reforms.

Greece's new radical left-wing government, headed by prime minister Alexis Tsipras, won a four-month reprieve two weeks ago, when the Eurogroup agreed to continue funding the Greek bailout until July, provided that Tsipras submits a detailed implementation plan for meeting the austerity commitments.

So far, Greece has made vague promises with no specifics. The Eurogroup met on Monday in Brussels and reviewed Tsipras's vague list. According to Dijsselbloem:

"We agreed there is no further time to lose. ... We have to stop wasting time and really start talks seriously. We’ve lost over two weeks — in which very little progress has been made. The real talks haven’t started yet. There has been no implementation."

So on Wednesday, the "institutions" will go to Athens to hammer out an implementation. The "institutions" are the organizations bailing out Greece -- the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These three organizations used to be called "the troika," but Tsipras hates the word "troika" and made a campaign promise that there would be "No more troika!". So, there's no longer a troika. Now there are "three institutions."

That's just about the only campaign promise he's kept. He promised other things, particularly that he would convince the Europeans to cut Greece's outstanding debt in half, and to allow a "significant moratorium" on debt repayments. Those and other promises have been completely abandoned. As a result, Tsipras is facing pressure from Greece's far left. Anarchist riots started again recently, and Syriza's political office was overrun by protesters over the weekend.

In fact, not only is Greece not meeting its commitments, it's slipping backwards, in an attempt to appease the hard left. Over the weekend, Tsipras said that he would be submitting legislation to provide free food and electricity to 300,000 poor households, stretching repayment terms for those behind on their taxes (with up to 100 installments!) and freezing home foreclosures.

There is a great deal of nervousness about the upcoming meeting in Athens on Wednesday. History tells us that they'll "kick the can down the road" again, but positions have been hardening, and it's possible they'll end up with blood on the floor.

If no agreement is reached, then Greece will be bankrupt in about three weeks. Kathimerini and Business Insider and Financial Post and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Mar-15 World View -- Vladimir Putin brags about how he lied about Russia's invasion of Crimea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Mar-15 World View -- Mali's capital city Bamako in shock after terror attack

Are ISIS and Boko Haram 'far right' extremists?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei makes public appearance on Sunday


Khamenei in a meeting at his home in Tehran on Sunday (AP)
Khamenei in a meeting at his home in Tehran on Sunday (AP)

Three days ago I wrote "6-Mar-15 World View -- Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran", in which I referred to media reports that Iran's 76 year old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been hospitalized in critical condition with prostate cancer. I described significant policy changes in Iran that his death could trigger due to generational differences between the survivors of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and the generations that grew up after the revolution. Since then, the media reports have morphed into widespread rumors of Khamenei's death.

However, Khamenei was well enough on Sunday to participate in a meeting in his home with environmental activists. The television pictures that aired made him look comfortable and healthy. So it looks like we're going to have to wait a little longer for that policy change. The National (UAE)/AP

Mali's capital city Bamako in shock after terror attack

Northern Mali has been bloodied repeatedly starting in 2012, with a separatist rebellion by the ethnic Tuaregs, which was overtaken by terrorist attacks by the al-Qaeda linked Ansar Dine, and then further attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The Islamist attacks resulted in the destruction in Timbuktu of centuries-old shrines and mosques, along with tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts.

But through all of that, Mali's capital city Bamako, in southern Mali, has escaped the chaos, until Saturday. Residents of Bamako were stunned to hear that a masked gunman sprayed bullets into La Terrasse restaurant and bar killing five people, including a Frenchman and a Belgian. The AQIM-linked terror group Al Mourabitoun (The Sentinels), led by Algerian terroris Moktar Belmoktar, claimed responsibility, saying that it was "to avenge our prophet against the unbelieving West which has insulted and mocked him," and in revenge for the killing of a leader of the Al Mourabitoun group in a French-Malian military operation.

In addition to five deaths, there were seven people injured, including two international experts working for the United Nations. No sooner did the UN put out a statement condemning the attack in Bamako, terrorists attacked a UN base in northern Mali with 30 rockets and shells targeting the base, killing one UN soldier and two civilian children.

As I've been describing for months, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia, and it seems to worsen in one way or another every week. This is a strong historical trend, and at some point it will pull us and the West into it. Irish Independent and United Nations and AFP

Are ISIS and Boko Haram 'far right' extremists?

Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics, occasionally appears on news shows analyzing Mideast events. Appearing on al-Jazeera on Sunday, Gerges was asked to comment on Friday's announcement by Boko Haram that it was pledging allegiance to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The interview was interesting on a couple of levels. Gerges said that Boko Haram was so extremist, that al-Qaeda would not be interested, while ISIS has not been interested in the past, though may be changing its mind. The interview was also interesting for Gerges's bizarre characterization of ISIS and Boko Haram as "far-right extremists." My transcription:

"Ironically, in the last few months, ISIL has not really responded to the many messages by Boko Haram (BK) praising ISIL, and that tells me that even ISIL, one of the most extremist jihadist organizations, have viewed BK as a liability.

But my take now if you ask me if Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, would accept the fealty of BK, I would say yes. Yes, because it's a win-win.

It shows ISIL as the leader of the global jihadist movement, that jihadists near and far, in particular militant activists, whether you're talking about Egypt or Yemen or Algeria or Afghanistan or Pakistan, and now Boko Haram, are basically praising and saying they want to be part of this winning horse. ISIL is being seen as a winning horse, as a powerful organization.

And even if ISIL accepts the allegiance or the fealty by BK, then little will change. Remember, BK is desperate for legitimization. It would like to be part of ISIL which is seen as a basically winning horse, but nothing would change on the ground.

But the reality is you're talking about ISIL and BK, two sides of the same coin, really on the far right of the jihadist movement, and would argue that Ayman al-Zawarhiri, the leader of al-Qaeda central, would really hesitate to accept any kind of allegiance from BK, because BK is seen as ISIL is seen as very extremist, very nihilistic, really on the far right of all militant organizations that exist today."

Gerges very clearly emphasized the phrase "far right," even repeating it, and so we have to assume that Gerges wants to burnish his own far left credentials. Gerges holds the Emirates Chair in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and in today's society, political scientists are almost always far left.

But what makes it so bizarre is that "right" and "left," as applied to politics, is a European concept, and it doesn't really make any sense outside of Europe (and North America) because politics is so different in other regions. In the Mideast, if ISIS is "far right," then who's "far left"? Al-Qaeda? Hezbollah? Iran? It's an almost meaningless question.

But it's also bizarre for another reason. In the French Revolution, where the terms "left" and "right" were first applied to politics, the extremists perpetrating the Reign of Terror were on the left, while the politicians on the right opposed it. So it's hard to see how ISIS and Boko Haram could be called "far right" in any conceivable sense.

I guess you can't trust anyone these days (except me) not to put an ideological spin on something where it doesn't even make sense.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Mar-15 World View -- Mali's capital city Bamako in shock after terror attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Mar-15 World View -- Libya's two rival governments in unity talks to fight ISIS

Boko Haram declares allegiance to ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Libya's two rival governments in unity talks to fight ISIS


Libyan police in Tripoli (Reuters)
Libyan police in Tripoli (Reuters)

Even a couple of weeks ago, it was unthinkable that Libya's rival governments would be willing to sit down and talk to one another.

Libya's elected parliament is in charge of the government that is internationally recognized, and headquartered in Tobruk, in eastern Libya. The rival government is the General National Congress (GNC), headed by the Islamist-backed Libya Dawn faction, headquartered in Libya's capital city, Tripoli, in western Libya. Previous attempts by the United Nations to broker an agreement for a unity government have broken down because neither side wanted to talk to the other.

But in the last few weeks, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has taken control of Sirte, where there are now tanks in the streets and black ISIS flags are waving in the city center. There are fears that ISIS will take control of some oil facilities and export the oil to make money. Furthermore, the recent publicity stunt where 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were beheaded, with the results shown in a gruesome posted video, have changed the mood of the leaders of the two governments.

Although an agreement on a unity government is considered unlikely, on Saturday representatives of the two governments were at least willing to sit down and talk to one another. The UN-sponsored meetings are taking place in Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. After Saturday's meeting, both groups will return to Libya for consultations, and then return to Rabat on Wednesday to sign a deal, if any.

If an agreement on a unity government is reached, then the European Union has said it is prepared to provide some military help in fighting ISIS. On Saturday, UN envoy Bernardino Leon called on the European Union to mount a naval blockade of Libya that would prevent the flow of weapons to ISIS and the illegal flow of oil from Libya. However, the EU has resisted calls in the past for another kind of blockade of Libya, to stem the flow of thousands of migrants from Libya to Italy. Al Arabiya and Deutsche Welle and AP

UAE may replace Saudis as Egypt's most important Arab ally

In recent years, under King Abdullah II, Saudi Arabia has been Egypt's greatest Arab supporter and benefactor. But Abdullah died in January, and his successor King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud has been tilting away from Egypt towards Turkey, as we've been reporting in the last few days.

The issue that's inflamed differences among the Arab states, especially since last summer's war between Gaza and Hamas, is the status of the Muslim Brotherhood and it's offshoot Hamas. Last year, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt considered the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization, while Qatar and Turkey supported the Brotherhood. But King Salman has been openly getting close to Turkey, potentially leaving Egypt out in the cold. Turkey and Egypt have extremely hard and opposing positions on the Muslim Brotherhood, and no one considers a rapprochement likely.

Egypt is the largest benefactor of UAE's aid, especially since the July 2013 coup that ousted Egypt's democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. In addition to providing direct cash aid, the OPEC member has been building schools, clinics, wheat silos and tens of thousands of homes, possibly creating a million jobs in Egypt.

The relationship between UAE and Egypt may be deeper than just supplying aid. According to leaked audio tapes obtain by Turkish officials and released to the press, UAE was heavily involved in bringing about the coup that ousted Morsi. The ouster was triggered by huge anti-Morsi protests, and the leaked tapes indicate that the protests were fomenting using funds provided by the UAE. A leaked audio tape leaked last month contains a tirade by Egyptian official Abbas Kamel describing the Gulf countries as 'half states' and launching into a tirade of insults against the Qatari royal family. AP and Telegraph (London) and Daily Sabah (Turkey) (2-Feb)

Boko Haram kills 58 in multiple bombings in Maiduguri, Nigeria

58 people were killed and hundreds injured on Saturday in five coordinated suicide bombings in various parts of Maiduguri, the largest city in northwest Nigeria, and the city that Boko Haram has named as the intended capital city of its Islamic state.

The first bombing occurred when a female suicide bomber blew up her vest in a crowded fish market at 11:20 am. An hour later, there was another bombing at another crowded market. Shortly after 1:00 pm, a third bombing occured at a busy bus terminal. The Nation Online (Nigeria)

Boko Haram declares allegiance to ISIS

Also on Saturday, Boko Haram issued an audio statement declaring its allegiance to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). "We announce our allegiance to the Caliph ... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease," said the statement. Officials are concerned that as ISIS builds its international infrastructure, and gather resources and military capabilities, Boko Haram and other linked terrorist groups will be able to expand operations and control more quickly. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Mar-15 World View -- Libya's two rival governments in unity talks to fight ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Mar-15 World View -- Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan seek 'Sunni unity' versus Iran

After a year, experts still guessing about Malaysia Airlines 370

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan seek 'Sunni unity' versus Iran


Erdogan and Salman meet in Riyadh on March 2 (Reuters)
Erdogan and Salman meet in Riyadh on March 2 (Reuters)

Iran's influence in the Mideast has been increasing rapidly in recent weeks:

These fast-moving events are triggering fast-moving policy changes, and sharpening the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide in the Mideast, as it heads for a sectarian war.

Last week, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Saudi Arabia's capital city Riyadh, and on Monday met with the new King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to Riyadh later last week, also to meet with King Salman. According to press reports, the main subjects of discussion were plans to for Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to develop strategic plans to seek "Sunni unity" to oppose Iran and, at the same time, to fight ISIS.

The meetings will no doubt reaffirm previous agreements for Pakistan to supply Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable missiles, if Iran develops a nuclear weapon.

An additional area of apparent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Turkey is the need for a no-fly zone over Syria to prevent attacks by the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. Erdogan has repeatedly demanded this, in order to fight both ISIS and al-Assad, while the Obama administration has firmly opposed it, wanting to fight only ISIS. Al Monitor and The Nation/AFP (Pakistan) and Debka

Turkey's Erdogan shuts out Al-Sisi and Egypt from discussions

As we reported last week, reported last week, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi was also in Riyadh last week visiting King Salman, but their paths didn't cross.

When Erdogan was asked whether he met with al-Sisi, he responded, "You've got to be kidding." Erdogan is still furious at al-Sisi for the 2013 coup that ousted Egypt's first popularly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, along with his Muslim Brotherhood government. "After the coup, I cannot justify sitting at the same table with him," he added.

Turkey's support for the Muslim Brotherhood has been a source of tension in the region, negatively affecting Turkey's relations not only with Egypt but also Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Salman's predecessor, King Abdullah II, who died in January, was firmly opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, and sided with Egypt. However, Salman appears to be moving away from Egypt and moving closer to Turkey, which could mean a change in policy towards the Brotherhood.

There is concern in Egypt of a cutoff of the billions of dollars of aid that has been coming from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait since the 2013 coup, if Salman turns against Egypt.

Long-time readers are aware that about ten years ago I predicted, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries would be the enemies of India, Russia, Iran, Israel and the West in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war. This prediction was completely reasonable based on a generational analysis that I've explained a number of times, but even so, ten years ago, this prediction seemed fantastical. So it's been quite startling, particularly in the last year, to see this prediction come closer and closer to fruition, step by step.

However, the role of Egypt in this alignment has yet to be determined. Recent trends indicate that Egypt will be aligned with the West rather than the Sunni Gulf countries, but it's also possible that Egypt itself will be split into warring factions. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Yeni Safak (Turkey) (trans) and Today's Zaman (Turkey)

After a year, experts still guessing about Malaysia Airlines 370

It was a year ago, on March 8, 2014, that Malaysia Airlines flight 370, on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, simply disappeared, and has has not been found yet.

What I found most bizarre was the coverage of the disappearance by people who had no clue what had happened. CNN was the most spectacular about this, with 24x7 coverage. One "expert" would say it had crashed into the South China Sea, another said it was hijacked and had landed in the Mideast, and another said it was in the water just south of India. It was one meaningless guess after another, filling up hours of television. I turned it off pretty quickly, but not before wondering why the experts didn't just say that the Martians had gotten it, and leave it at that.

Still, the incident was a tragedy for Malaysia and for Malaysian Airlines. The families of the passengers are still waiting for some word, any word, about whether their loved ones had somehow survived, or were confirmed dead. China's official media criticized the Malaysian government's apparent incompetence in handling the investigations, and there were demonstrations outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

And, of course, Malaysia Airlines suffered another disaster several months later, when Russian-backed anti-government militias in eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysian Airlines flight 17, using a missile supplied by Russia. Malay Mail Online and New York Daily News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Mar-15 World View -- Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan seek 'Sunni unity' versus Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Mar-15 World View -- Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran

Palestinians vote to end security agreement with Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (Reuters)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (Reuters)

Several Arab media reports indicate that Iran's 76 year old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been hospitalized, and is in critical condition after undergoing surgery for an advanced form of prostate cancer.

If the reports are true, and if Khamenei does not recover, then his death could trigger very significant changes in Iran's policies.

As I've been writing for almost ten years, Iran is a schizophrenic country. The old geezers, the survivors of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution, are extreme hard-liners, trying to revive the widespread revolutionary fervor that followed the Revolution. A generational crisis war always unifies the entire population behind the leader, with the intention of making sure that nothing so horrible should ever happen again to their children or grandchildren. So they fall back on the old out-of-date formulas that won them the revolution -- particularly blaming everything on the United States.

The younger generations, who grew up after the war, think that the old geezers are completely full of crap. This has been obvious since the early 2000s, when Tehran college students started pro-Western demonstrations. The young people like the West, like America, and don't have anything against Israel. Furthermore, Khamenei has seemed increasingly out of touch with reality in recent years. The result is a chaotic political conflict between the generations that survived the war versus the generations that grew up after the war. This is what always happens during a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s.

The death of Khamenei would trigger a major political conflict between two groups of politicians representing, respectively, the two generational positions. If Khamenei's successor is another hardliner, then policies won't change. But it's quite possible that his successor would be another Revolution survivor, but still a reformist. For example, see "2-Nov-13 World View -- Growing power struggle in Iran may make Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani the Supreme Leader". In that case, significant policy changes would be a real possibility.

As long-time readers are aware, Generational Dynamics predicts that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the "allies" would be the West, along with India, Russia and Iran, while the "axis" would be China, Pakistan, and the Sunni Muslim countries. The death of Khamenei, when it occurs, would be a step in that direction. Jerusalem Post and Israel National News

Palestinians vote to end security agreement with Israel

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which governs the West Bank, has voted on Thursday evening to end a security co-operation agreement with Israel which dates back to the Oslo Accords of 1993. The announcement calls for

"[The suspension of] all forms of security coordination given Israel’s systematic and ongoing non-compliance with its obligations under signed agreements, including its daily military raids throughout the State of Palestine, attacks against our civilians and properties. ...

Israel, the occupying power in Palestine, must assume all its responsibilities in accordance with its obligations under international law."

The final decision will be made by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

As bad as the relationship has been between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the West Bank, the security agreement has kept it from becoming even worse. The security agreement required the Palestinians for policing the West bank, so that Israeli police would not have to do so. It's possible that the Palestinian security forces have prevented some terrorist attacks on Israeli targets.

An end to the security agreement would be a major new crisis in the West Bank. There would be daily confrontations between the Palestinians and the Israeli security forces, with a good chance that the confrontations would spiral into a war, just as they have in Gaza.

The announcement is the latest in a string of tit-for-tat actions by each side against the other. When the State of Palestine joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) in December, Israel was infuriated and promised revenge.

In January, Israel retaliated by cutting payments to Palestinians of fees and tax monies that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians on a daily basis, something like $100 million per month. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the move an act of "piracy" and a "collective punishment" against the Palestinian people:

The PLO has been unable to pay the salaries of government employees, including the security forces, and so the new announcement is in retaliation for the non-payment of these fees.

Every move by either side has to be interpreted as an attempt to influence the Israeli elections that are coming on March 17. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is withholding the funds in order to increase his popularity with his right wing. The PLO announced the end of the security agreement in the hope of get Netanyahu defeated. Things should become clearer after March 17. Guardian (London) and Jerusalem Post and Al Bawaba (Palestine) and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Mar-15 World View -- Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Mar-15 World View -- Turkey and Armenia schedule conflicting WW I centennial commemorations

China continues its double-digit military spending increases

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey and Armenia schedule conflicting WW I centennial commemorations


British soldiers just before landing at Gallipoli in 1915
British soldiers just before landing at Gallipoli in 1915

A major battle of World War I was the Battle of Gallipoli, which ran from April 25, 1915, to January 9, 1916. Turkey has commemorated the battle in the past on April 25.

According to Armenia, Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) committed a genocide against Armenians, and the genocide began on April 24, 1915, when the Young Turks government began deporting Armenians. Turkey denies that there was a genocide. Armenia had scheduled a centennial commemoration of the start of the deportations for next month on April 24.

Turkey responded last month by rescheduling its commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign to April 24. Both countries have invited dozens of international country leaders to their respective commemorations, forcing every government to make a choice.

So far, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron have already accepted Turkey's invitation; meanwhile France's President François Hollande plans to attend the events in Armenia.

In this context, Armenia is canceling an American-mediated 2009 agreement, the "Zurich Protocols," which would re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries, and re-open their mutual borders. The agreement was signed in 2009, but neither country has ratified, and now Armenia is canceling it once and for all.

A major reason why the Zurich Protocols were never ratified was opposition by Azerbaijan. From 1988 to 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan, which has a large Armenian population. Armenia won the war, and gained control of about 15% of Azerbaijani territory, creating hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees. That was the time when Azerbaijan and Turkey closed their borders with Armenia and imposed a blockade, closing off Armenia's trade routes to Europe and Asia. Today's Zaman and Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Jamestown and News (Azerbaijan)

China continues its double-digit military spending increases

China announced on Wednesday that military spending will grow by 10.1% in 2015. With the country's slowing economic growth, this was lower than last year's growth rate of 12.2%, but it still comes after years of very rapid military growth through double-digit increases. The increases are thought likely to go towards increasing naval power with anti-submarine ships and aircraft carriers, to further China's strategy of using military power to annex territories in the East and South China Seas that have historically belonged to other countries.

According to China's premier Li Keqiang:

"We will comprehensively strengthen modern logistics, step up national defense research and development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment, and develop defense-related science and technology industries."

Although America's military budget has been declining, China's aggressive military growth has spurred military budget increases in many countries in the region, with significant increases in India, Vietnam and Japan.

But China has been rapidly building its military for years with a variety of weapons and missile systems that have no other purpose than to preemptively strike American aircraft carriers, American military bases, and American cities. Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing to launch a pre-emptive full-scale nuclear missile attack on the United States. AP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Mar-15 World View -- Turkey and Armenia schedule conflicting WW I centennial commemorations thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Mar-15 World View -- Failure of Austrian bank portends major new round of euro crisis

Iran Revolutionary Guards commander leads Iraq's attack on Tikrit

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Londoner takes amazing picture of weasel on flying woodpecker's back


Green woodpecker flying with brown weasel hitchhiking (Martin Le-May)
Green woodpecker flying with brown weasel hitchhiking (Martin Le-May)

An amateur photographer, Martin Le-May, out for a stroll with his wife on Sunday, had an amazing stroke of luck when he photographed a tiny brown weasel on the back of a flying green woodpecker. Apparently, the weasel had pounced on the woodpecker hoping for a meal, but the woodpecker took flight.

Unlike many stories that I tell, this one had a happy ending. The bird landed 20 meters in front of the photographer, and after a tumble in the grass, the weasel ran off. Daily Mail (London)

Failure of Austrian bank portends major new round of euro crisis

Europeans are aware, though Americans are not, that when Austria's Credit-Anstalt bank of Austria collapsed on May 11, 1931, the collapse triggered mass panic and bank failures throughout central Europe, and a worldwide banking crisis.

This isn't nearly as bad as the 1931 incident, but it's raising a lot of concerns. The government of Austria announced over the weekend that it was shutting down the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank, rather than spending an additional 7.6 billion euros of taxpayer money to bail it out. 5.5 billion euros of taxpayer money has already been paid to the bank up to this point, and a decision was made to stop the bleeding.

Hypo is not an ordinary bank. It's a so-called "bad bank" that was set up to unwind bad debts that came out of the financial crisis in 2008. It has no depositors, so depositors will not lose any money. However, many bondholders will lose a great deal, possibly leading to a chain reaction of further bankruptcies.

One billion euros of the bank's debt is guaranteed by Austria's federal government, and that will supposedly be honored. The province of Carinthia, whose borrowing before 2008 was a large part of the cause of the original failure, has guaranteed 10.2 billion euros of debt, and it's doubtful how much of that will be honored. Finally, there's 9.8 billion euros of unsecured debt that's essentially junk. Of that 9.8 billion, almost one billion is due in March, so this crisis will spiral fairly quickly.

The phrase that's being used is "bail-in." That is, the Austrian government will no longer bail out the bank, and so all the investors will be "bailed in" to cover the losses. Most of the losses will be in funds managed by Pacific Investment Management Co., Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG. It is not known who the end investors are, but it's thought that there will be repercussions, and possible further bankruptcies.

Depositors were not "bailed in" by this event, because the bank has no depositors. However, the action that the Austrian government took was under a regulation called the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), which allows a government to force both investors AND depositors to lose their money.

Readers may recall that in March 2013, Cyprus was saved from bankruptcy by an EU bailout, on condition that 60% of the savings accounts of large depositors (mostly Russian oligarchs) be confiscated. One of the outcomes of the Cyprus crisis was implementation of the BRRD directive, which could permit ANY depositor's money to be confiscated, under the right circumstances.

I've repeatedly said that there is no solution to Greece's financial crisis -- not that no solution has been found, but that no solution even exists. No solution existed for Austria's financial crisis either, and so investors are going to lose billions of euros of their money, risking chain reaction bankruptcies. Sooner or later, something like that will have to happen with Greece as well, and it's good to remember that the current "compromise agreement" between Europe and Greece expires in July, with no hope of a suitable resolution at that time. Telegraph (London) and Forbes and Bloomberg

Iran Revolutionary Guards commander leads Iraq's attack on Tikrit

Ghasem Soleimani, a top general in Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with dozens of Iranian military advisers, is overseeing the Iraqi army's attack on Tikrit, with the goal of recapturing it from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The situation is potentially explosive, because you have Shia militias fighting with Sunni tribes and militias over Tikrit, which was the hometown of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein.

Glaringly absent from the operation is participation by US forces, particularly US war planes, which have been striking ISIS targets since last summer. According to the Pentagon, the Iraqis never made any request for US air support.

News reports indicate that Iraqi forces are bogged down on the outskirts of Tikrit, unable to make much headway. ISIS is striking back with sniper gunfire and suicide bombings on Iraqi checkpoints to slow down any advance on the city. If the Iraq army does enter the city, then it will be street by street fighting by the Iranian-led Shia militias against the Sunni tribes and militias. Indeed, many Sunni citizens of Iraq have welcomed the invading ISIS militias as a better alternative to the Shia-led government in Baghdad. AP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Mar-15 World View -- Failure of Austrian bank portends major new round of euro crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Mar-15 World View -- Why did ISIS release 19 Assyrian Christian hostages?

Iran aids Iraq's army in attack to recapture Tikrit from ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Why did ISIS release 19 Assyrian Christian hostages?


An Assyrian woman in church prays for Christians abducted by ISIS (Reuters)
An Assyrian woman in church prays for Christians abducted by ISIS (Reuters)

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) on Sunday released 19 Assyrian Christians, 17 men and two women, among over 200 that were abducted last month. in the recent raid, ISIS overran more than a dozen villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority.

Everyone is wondering why? Some suggested reasons being reported are:

My personal view is generally quite different from any of these explanations.

First off, I don't view ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as any sort of religious person. In the Christian world, serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and many others, all claimed to be deeply religious Christians, and could even quote the Bible on cue. But nobody considered these men to any sort of Christian. Like Dahmer, Manson and Gacy, al-Baghdadi is simply a cheap thug, with charismatic skills in using religion to lead people to their deaths.

ISIS has killed a few hundred Christians, but has killed tens of thousands of Muslims. Al-Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders use a two-step process to kill other Muslims. First, they practice "takfir" -- they declare the people to be apostates for some trivial reason, then they kill them.

There is no way that Islam permits one Muslim to simply declare a village of people to be apostates for some trivial reason, and to kill them. That would give every Muslim a free pass to kill anyone else. A woman could declare that her husband's hair is uneven, and kill him.

Here's something I found on a Muslim web site:

According to a conversation recorded by a contemporary, Mohammed was once talking to an Ansar man:

Suddenly the Holy Prophet said loudly [about someone]: “Does he not bear witness that there is no god but Allah?”

The Ansari said: “Yes indeed, O Messenger of Allah, but his testimony cannot be trusted.”

The Holy Prophet said: “Does he not accept that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?”

He again replied: “Yes, he professes it but his profession cannot be trusted.”

The Holy Prophet said: “Does he not pray?”

He again said: “Yes he does, but his prayer cannot be trusted.”

The Holy Prophet said: “God has forbidden me to kill such people.”

So al-Baghdadi is no religious scholar, or any kind of religious person. He's a cheap murdering thug who killed tens of thousands of Muslims and who, according to Islam, will burn in hell.

So why did ISIS release the 19 Assyrians? Here's my theory:

ISIS leaders are cheap, murdering thugs who murder people for power and money. They've had spectacular successes in publicity stunts posting a few videos of killing a few Christians, because those videos being in recruits and money. But as beheading Christians becomes more commonplace, the publicity stunts become less effective. We've already seen a lot less international outrage of the Assyrian abductions than some previous abductions. One news story writes: "Igniting a live man in a cage; severing the heads of dozens; kidnapping, raping and selling women and children -- ISIS' shocking maltreatment of its captives has become regrettably predictable."

So, in my view, releasing the 19 Assyrians was just a new publicity stunt to get more attention. Like Jonathan Gruber bragging about the stupidity of the American people, I can imagine Abu Omar al-Baghdadi saying the following: "These Western reporters are idiots. Let's release 19 Assyrians to give them a 'glimmer of hope,' and then when we slit the throats of the other 200 Assyrians, we'll get a lot more publicity." Reuters and Christian Times and CNN and Muslim.org

Iran aids Iraq's army in attack to recapture Tikrit from ISIS

American officials were caught by surprise on Monday when Iraq announced that an invasion of the city of Tikrit had begun, with the objective of retaking it from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). In particular, no U.S. air support will be provided, since none was requested. Instead, some Iranian forces are on the ground helping the Iraqis, though it's not known how many. Iraqi fighter jets will conduct air strikes.

The Iraqi security forces leading the invasion of Tikrit number around 30,000, including a mix of Shia militias, Sunni tribes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and Iranian advisors. There are already sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias throughout the Mideast, and Iraq's last generational crisis war was the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, which will still be firmly in everyone's memory. It's feared that this highly combustible mix of fighters will reignite a wider conflict. Employing Shia militias to attack Sunnis in ISIS is almost certain to inflame the conflict.

The city of Tikrit is symbolic for being the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. US forces found the former president hiding in southern Tikrit eight months after the US-led invasion in 2003. Foreign Policy and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Mar-15 World View -- Why did ISIS release 19 Assyrian Christian hostages? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Mar-15 World View -- After almost $1 billion development costs, Healthcare.gov is still a disaster

Al-Sisi and Erdogan miss in Riyadh, signaling stormy times ahead

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

After almost $1 billion development costs, Healthcare.gov is still a disaster


According to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare passed because of the stupidity of the American people who supported it
According to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare passed because of the stupidity of the American people who supported it

On October 1, 2013, the Healthcare.gov web site was launched as the greatest IT disaster in world history. ( "1-Dec-13 World View -- Obamacare: 500M lines of code, $500M, only 60% completed")

Now, almost 1-1/2 years later, the web site still doesn't work. Developers hired by the Administration have focused on making the user interface pretty, able to collect data, and display basic information screens. Once the web site gathers the data, it simply sends the data along as a kind of e-mail message to the appropriate insurance company.

At that point, the insurance company has to go through expensive manual procedures to register the patient. There are constant news reports of patients who never got registered, or who were incorrectly registered, or whose insurance was dropped when there was a change, such as a marriage or a baby. There are reports of massive errors in applying subsidies. These are typical of the kinds of errors routinely made in manual systems in pre-computer days.

So it's been about 5 years, almost $1 billion in development costs, and all we have is a simple shell program running as a web site, designed to look pretty to avoid embarrassment to the Obama administration, but with nothing underneath.

This is a very simple web application. I could have implemented it as a one-man project in about a year. With a small team of programmers and testers, this could have been implemented in 4-6 months for a cost of a few million dollars.

So start with a few million dollars, factor in huge amounts of government bloating, factor in extortion by labor unions, factor in sheer government stupidity and inefficiency, and you only come to about $50 million dollars or so.

So where the hell did that $1 billion go? Until I get an explanation of how a $50 million project cost $1 billion, then I have to assume that Administration is conducting massive government fraud here, padding the bank accounts of its cronies with tens of millions of dollars each. Why aren't the Republicans in Congress investigating? Most likely answer: The Republicans and their cronies are in on the gravy train. Everyone makes astronomical amounts of money, and the taxpayers get screwed.

After last year's disaster, a computer contracting firm, Accenture Federal Services, was issued a $91.1 million no-bid contract to fix the web site. So now, after spending another $91.1, we still have nothing more than this shell web site that I could have written by myself in a year, and all it does is collect information and e-mail it to insurance companies.

The administration is bragging that 11 million people have signed up to Obamacare. That's because the administration is paying them huge sums of money to sign up. In 2014, 87% of federal Obamacare enrollees got subsidies. For the silver plan, out of an annual $4,140 premium, the subsidy amounts to $3,132, leaving the patient only $828 to pay out of the $4,140. So the reason that a lot of people have signed up is that they're getting huge amounts of money from the administration to sign up.

And even with that, a typical deductible is $5,000-15,000, which means that most of these insured are effectively uninsured, since they'll have to pay all their own medical expenses anyway. And of the 11 million that signed up, 89% of the new enrollees last year were for Medicaid, which provides almost no effective coverage at all. So there may be more "effectively uninsured" people today than there were uninsured people in the past.

So this is what Obamacare amounts to. Pay astronomical amounts of money to developers to create Healthcare.gov, which is a piece of crap. And then pay astronomical amounts to individual people to sign up. And if millions more are effectively uninsured because of huge deductibles and Medicaid, then who cares? Certainly no the administration.

None of this would have happened before Generation-X came into power in the late 1990s. Today, with Generation-X in charge, criminal fraud is so entrenched in Washington, on Wall Street, and in our culture that no one has any shame, and no one cares about billions and billions of dollars being thrown away on Obamacare, which has accomplished nothing except to boost Barack Obama's ego. Politico and Free Beacon

Anthem health insurance data breach puts even non-customers at risk

The news just keeps getting worse about the massive data breach at Anthem Inc., where 80 million current and former customers had their personal information compromised, including birthdates, addresses, and social security numbers. Any current or former customer of the following health plans is potentially compromised: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.

As we wrote last month, this includes millions of children of all ages. Birthdates and social security numbers never change, and hackers can dip into this treasure trove of data for years to create an unending flow of identity theft victims.

It now turns out that even 8.8 million non-customer of Anthem could be victims of the data hack, and future victims of identity theft. The reason is that Anthem is part of a national network of independently run Blue Cross Blue Shield plans through which BCBS customers can receive medical services when they are in an area where BCBS is operated by a different company, and so any customer of any BCBS insurance plan is potentially a victim. Reuters

Al-Sisi and Erdogan miss in Riyadh, signaling stormy times ahead

As we reported yesterday, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan are both visiting Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week, to visit with the new King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

Speculation was buzzing that bitter enemies al-Sisi and Erdogan might meet one another, and Salman would mediate some kind of rapprochement between the two. Well, al-Sisi completed his visit on Sunday, and Erdogan is going to meet with Salman on Monday.

So instead of leading to a new Sunni Muslim world of harmony, the entire incident is very publicly exposing just how bitter the split is between Egypt and Turkey. Turkey and Egypt were friends when Mohamed Morsi was president of Egypt, and his Muslim Brotherhood was in charge, but now the presidents of Egypt and Turkey cannot stand to be in the same room with each other.

Egypt will be watching the meeting between Salman and Erdogan very nervously. Salman's predecessor, King Abdullah, had very strong policies against the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, causing a bitter realignment of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the anti-MB side, versus Qatar and Turkey on the pro-MB side. So Egypt is concerned that Salman will reverse Abdullah's policy on MB, which would almost completely isolate Egypt -- though Israel would still be an ally.

Things may have gotten a lot worse over the weekend. As we reported yesterday, Egypt has now declared Hamas to be a terrorist organization. This is turning out to be more than just a simple act of adding Hamas to a list. It strikes at the very heart of giving lip service to Arab unity in the resistance against Israel, since now Israel's view of Hamas has been confirmed by Egypt.

The BBC has been running stories about a new building up of rockets, missiles and tunnels in Gaza, following last summer's Gaza war with Israel. Hamas was completely humiliated by that war since they were so thoroughly defeated by Israel, but now they're applying "lessons learned" to create a network of tunnels and rockets that they hope will draw a lot more Israeli blood.

It was last summer's Gaza war that exploded the fracture in the Arab world over the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. If, as the BBC reports suggest, Hamas is planning another war in the fairly near future, then the situation may be explosive. Middle East Eye and Saudi Gazette

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Mar-15 World View -- After almost $1 billion development costs, Healthcare.gov is still a disaster thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Mar-15 World View -- Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya


Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conduction air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya, as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it's a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year's exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they're testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

Some reports indicate that Russia has indicated a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debka and Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court's decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

"It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization]."

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas's military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday's ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was "dangerous":

"History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. ... This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It's a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision."

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a 'Sunni front' with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt's Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah II, who died last month.

It's not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt's elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan's own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah's policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has "no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization," suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. So really, it doesn't seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new "Sunni front" in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Mar-15 World View -- Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Feb-15 World View -- US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US

China's South China Sea building spree threatens neighbors

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China's South China Sea building spree threatens neighbors


A Chinese Coast Guard vessel passes near a Chinese oil rig within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2012 (Reuters)
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel passes near a Chinese oil rig within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2012 (Reuters)

China is on a building spree, conducting "large scale" land reclamation and construction in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Since last year, China has already built a new artificial island, more than 18 acres in size, whose main building appears to have an anti-aircraft tower.

Satellite photographs have shown that Chinese reclamation work is advanced on six reefs in the Spratly archipelago. Workers are building ports and fuel storage depots as well as possibly two airstrips as China works to project its military power into Southeast Asia. China’s creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea is happening so fast that Beijing will be able to extend the range of its navy, air force, coastguard and fishing fleets before long, according to analysts.

China continues to occupy regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues a massive military 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. Instead, China is becoming increasingly belligerent militarily, annexing other nations' territories, and militarizing the entire sea.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Thursday at a Senate hearing that China is making an "aggressive" military effort to exert sovereignty in the South China Sea. However, he said that China was still in a construction phase so it was unclear what weaponry or forces it might deploy on these man-made islands. Guardian (London) and Reuters and Foreign Policy and Reuters (2/20)

US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US

China is building some "fairly amazing submarines" and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, according to Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. "We know they are out experimenting and looking at operating and clearly want to be in this world of advanced submarines," he said. Mulloy said the quality of China's submarines was lower than those built by the United States, but the size of its undersea fleet had now surpassed that of the U.S. fleet.

China has been building numerous missile systems and other weaponry with no other purpose than to attack American cities, military bases, and aircraft carriers. Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing to launch a pre-emptive full-scale nuclear missile attack on the United States. In the generational crisis war to follow, there is no guarantee that the United States will survive. Reuters and Washington Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Feb-15 World View -- US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Feb-15 World View -- Arab countries moving Yemen ambassadors from Sanaa to Aden

US CPI continues in deflation, as Europe offers negative interest bonds

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Arab countries moving Yemen ambassadors from Sanaa to Aden


Hadi (in suit) meets Saudi ambassador and entourage (Reuters)
Hadi (in suit) meets Saudi ambassador and entourage (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen is leaving the capital city Sanaa and moving to the southern city of Aden. Other Arab countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are expected to follow suit.

Shia Iran-backed ethnic Houthis from northern Yemen last October invaded and occupied Sanaa. The constitutional president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi last month first resigned then escaped the Houthis and fled to Aden, where he has a power base among Sunni tribes.

Now Hadi is essentially setting up Aden as a second capital, splitting the country into North and South Yemen. North and South Yemen were separate countries that were united in 1990, but it now appears that they're close to splitting into two countries again.

For the West, the biggest fear is that all this chaos will give rise to a stronger Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen. With regard to this point, there are some analysts saying that AQAP will not gain strength, because both Hadi and the Houthis oppose AQAP. However, there are now three major centers of power in Yemen -- the Houthis, Hadi in Aden, and AQAP -- and the possibility of a new civil war cannot be discounted.

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said, the country "is collapsing before our eyes." National Yemen and Washington Post

Yemen's banks deteriorate as the economy collapses

Fears of economic collapse are causing Yemen citizens to withdraw their US dollar savings from banks and keep the dollars at home. Yemen is facing economic collapse for several reasons:

It's possible that the Sanaa government will soon be unable to pay salaries within a few weeks. The economic collapse represents a recruiting opportunity for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Widespread protests and riots, as well as terrorist acts by AQAP, are expected to increase. Bloomberg

US CPI continues in deflation, as Europe offers negative interest bonds


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.53 on February 20 (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.53 on February 20 (WSJ)

The US Labor Department said on Thursday that its consumer price index (CPI) fell 0.7% in January, after falling the previous two months as well. In the 12 months through January, the CPI fell 0.1% over the year. The economy continues its deflationary spiral that is predicted by Generational Dynamics.

Europe has clearly been in a deflationary spiral for a couple of years, with January's inflation rate at -0.6%. On Thursday, Germany announced that it will sell five-year bonds at negative yields (interest rates) for the first time ever. That means that if you have a lot of money and you want to put it into the bank for safety, then you have to pay the bank money to keep it.

Five-year bonds from four other eurozone countries -- Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Finland -- also have negative yields.

The negative interest rates are forcing investors to look for other places to invest, and one of those places is Wall Street, which is part of the reason for the surge in stock prices.

The result is that the Wall Street stock market bubble is exploding to new highs. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (February 20) is still at an astronomically high 19.79. This is far above the historical average of 14. It's a large jump from last month, and it's a fresh high in recent years. This indicates 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. It's best to keep money in cash, even in the face of mild deflation, because you stand to lose a great deal of money if/when the stock market crashes. Reuters and Investment Week and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Feb-15 World View -- Arab countries moving Yemen ambassadors from Sanaa to Aden thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Feb-15 World View -- Cyprus gives Russia access to Cypriot ports on the Mediterranean

Greece's PM Tsipras faces opposition from EU bailout deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece's PM Tsipras faces opposition from EU bailout deal


Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tsipras

During the January election campaign in Greece, radical far-left candidate Alexis Tsipras promised that he would stand up to the Europeans: He would get half the Greek debt written off, and "We will not govern with anybody who follows the policies of Mrs Merkel," referring to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. Voters enthusiastically elected him, and Prime Minister Tsipras has had almost 80% public support in the polls.

The jury is out whether his public support will wane once it sinks in with the public that none of the Greek debt was written off, and that, except for a few minor adjustments, the austerity programs will continue as before -- almost a complete cave-in to the demands of Angela Merkel.

Tsipras really had no choice. Money was pouring out of Greece's banks at the rate of billions of dollars per week, and deposited in foreign banks in case Greece's banks collapsed. Greece desperately needed the European Central Bank (ECB) to continue supplying liquidity to the Greek Banks, and that meant that Tsipras had to agree to Merkel's terms before the coming weekend, when the old bailout program officially ends.

News reports indicate that Tsipras spend 10 hours on Wednesday meeting with officials in his own left-wing Syriza party, to sell them on the agreement and convince them not to pull his support. Presumably the pragmatists will support him, and the left-wing hardliners will not.

As I've said repeatedly, no solution exists for the Greek financial crisis, and the longer it's prolonged, the worse it gets. The new bailout agreement makes the problem worse because Greece's financial deficit will increase a bit, because of the adjustments that were made to the original plan.

However, last week's agreement apparently kicked the can down the road four months, until July, when the crisis will be worse than it was last week. Kathimerini and BBC and Kathimerini

Cyprus gives Russia access to Cypriot ports on the Mediterranean

Cyprus on Wednesday signed a military deal with Russia giving Russian military ships access to Cyprus's ports on in the Mediterranean Sea.

Russia has been a silent third partner in the financial crisis negotiations between Europe and Greece, and also in last year's financial crisis negotiations between Europe and Cyprus, because Russia sees them as an opportunity to go around Brussels and gain a foothold in Europe. Russia has offered financial aid to both Cyprus and Greece. Russia has now signed this military agreement with Cyprus, and has also offered to expand military-technical collaboration with Greece, if the latter requests it.

Some analysts doubt that anything meaningful will come from Russia's military agreement with Cyprus. According to one Russian analyst, "To speak of a Russian military presence in Cyprus, on the territory of an EU state, is beyond strange. It just makes no sense. I am certain the president of Cyprus will retract his statement, which is being used as a tool to put pressure on the EU, in my opinion." Reuters and Kathimerini and Moscow Times and Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Feb-15 World View -- Cyprus gives Russia access to Cypriot ports on the Mediterranean thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Feb-15 World View -- ISIS kidnaps around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria

John Kerry says that Russia has repeatedly lied to his face

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS kidnaps around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria


Photo released by ISIS on Tuesday showing a terrorist firing anti-aircraft weapons
Photo released by ISIS on Tuesday showing a terrorist firing anti-aircraft weapons

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) abducted around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria, in a pre-dawn raid as part of a larger offensive on Assyrian villages in the area. ISIS took over several villages in the offensive. The Assyrian villages were supposed to be under the protection of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), but the pre-dawn attack apparently took everyone by surprise.

It's not known what ISIS's intentions are with the Assyrians. One possibility is that ISIS will post a gruesome video showing them being beheaded, as happened with the Egyptian Coptic Christians who were abducted from Sirte, Libya. Another possibility is that they'll be used as leverage to obtain the release of jailed ISIS terrorists.

Either way, the abduction of scores of Christians is certain to inflame passions in the West, and may soon lead to increased anti-ISIS military action from the US or Nato. Drawing the West into the conflict in Syria and Iraq is thought to be part of the strategy of ISIS. ARA News (Syria) and Long War Journal and CNN

John Kerry says that Russia has repeatedly lied to his face

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Russian officials have repeatedly lied to him. He was referencing Russia's president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Kerry said:

"Russia is engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War. And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations - lies - whatever you want to call them about their activities there to my face, to the face of others on many different occasions."

Long-time readers of Generational Dynamics will not be the least bit surprised that Putin and Lavrov have lied constantly, but they, like me, might be excused for wondering what took Kerry so long to point it out.

In particular, readers may recall what I wrote in 2011 in "22-Apr-11 News -- Russia seeks to cripple Nato through Libya United Nations politics". Russia had previously abstained on the Security Council vote authorizing the Libya military action, and was now changing policy to use its veto to exercise almost total control over American and Nato foreign policy. Here's what I wrote at the time:

"Russia plans to demand that Nato restrict its activities to only the humanitarian acts allowed by the UN resolution, and then veto any attempt to expand the resolution in the Security Council, in order to guarantee a continued stalemate in Libya.

This will set a precedent that allows Russia to effectively control future activities of Nato, since only activities approved by the Security Council, and hence by Russia, could ever be permitted.

Moscow has a broader interest in seeing the US and NATO tied down in wars of choice and other protracted confrontations. These wars increase Russia’s leeway for action in ex-Soviet territories, which is Russia's top priority, according to the article. Furthermore, if Libya's oil exports are stopped, then Russia's own oil exports become more valuable."

It's now four years later, and it's almost unbelievable how successful this policy has been. Russia has become an international criminal organization, invading Ukraine, annexing Ukrainian territory, supplying weapons to Syria's genocidal monster president Bashar al-Assad. Putin had been unhappy how the Libya military action, but his policies have had even worse outcomes, provoking war in Ukraine, and pursuing a Syria policy that is the direct cause of the creation of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The latest wrinkle is that Putin is now saying that the recent Minsk agreement on Ukraine has been approved by the Security Council, and so has the force of international law. This is laughable because Russia violated the Minsk agreement before the ink was dry, continuing the invasion of Ukraine with Russian troops and weapons. Nonetheless, Putin and Lavrov will continue to demand that the West abide by the Minsk agreement, while Russia continues as a criminal organization, with impunity. CBS News and Global Research and Deutsche Welle

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Feb-15 World View -- ISIS kidnaps around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Feb-15 World View -- Sectarian violence surging all across Pakistan

Greece misses deadline for submitting reforms list

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sectarian violence surging all across Pakistan


Pakistani Shia women condemning anti-Shia terrorist attack last month (AP)
Pakistani Shia women condemning anti-Shia terrorist attack last month (AP)

Although terrorist violence by Sunni groups linked to the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban - TTP) target both Sunnis and Shias, the amount of sectarian violence targeting Shias in Pakistan has been trending upward for years and is now increasing substantially. TTP-linked groups that I've reported on frequently that attack Shia targets are Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jundullah.

There have been four major attacks on Shia targets in 2015 alone, including the 30-Jan attack on a Shia mosque in a city just north of Karachi, killing 56 people, as we reported.

There are several factors that make the current round of sectarian attacks much more lethal and more difficult to combat. They used to be restricted to just a few small regions of the country, but now they're spread across the entire country, and using larger bombs that result in more deaths.

The port city of Karachi used to be used by TTP linked groups only for financing and logistics. But as the use of violence increased, TTP terrorists attacked Shiite neighborhoods and processions with mass casualty attacks.

But the primary difference is the relationship between the terrorist groups and Pakistan's government. It was no secret that in the 1980s-90s, the sectarian groups were supported by the government, depended on the government for funding, and were therefore controlled by the government. They were largely coordinated with Saudi Arabia in opposition to Iran and India.

But now, terrorist groups are well endowed, with unregulated funding and weapons pouring in primarily from the Gulf region, including the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Thus, the Pakistan government no longer has any control over these groups, even when these groups attack the government itself.

According to a Pakistan analyst Arif Rafiq, the sectarian conflict in Pakistan is not purely Sunni versus Shia. This is not surprising, given that the country's president from 2008-13 was a prominent Shia leader, Asif Ali Zardari. According to Rafiq, the deadliest sectarian attacks come from a Sunni sub-sect known as the Deobandis, comprising about 20% of the population. The other two major Sunni sub-sects, the Salafis and Barelvis, do not target Shias, and the Barelvis cooperate with the Shias on political issues.

On January 1, 2015, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the head of Pakistan's Awami National Party (ANP) said that Punjab was a "training center for terrorists and their masterminds. ... Terrorism could not be eliminated from the country until an operation began against terrorist organizations in Punjab." He added, "there should be no distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban and state institutions should take across-the-board action against terrorists."

As Pakistan hurtles into chaos, it's unlikely that any of these steps are going to be taken. As I've been describing for months, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia, of which the sectarian war in Pakistan plays a major part. And with respect to Pakistan and India, it's worth pointing out, as I have in the past, that for centuries, Shia Muslims and Hindus have been allied in wars against Sunni Muslims. The Hindu and Deutsche Welle and South Asia Terrorism Portal

Greece misses deadline for submitting reforms list

Monday evening was the deadline that Greece committed to last week to submit its list of reforms to the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers to explain how it's going to meet the existing terms of its bailout agreement. Greece has pretty much caved in on every negotiating point, and must now prove explain how it will proceed.

However, Greece missed the Monday evening deadline for providing the list, and says now that it will provide the list on Tuesday morning.

The list of reforms will have to address a number of economic issues, including the bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies.

Once they receive the list, the Eurogroup will have three possible responses: Total acceptance, total rejection, or a call for further negotiations. Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Feb-15 World View -- Sectarian violence surging all across Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi calls for a joint Arab military force

Deadly MERS virus surging early in Saudi Arabia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Deadly MERS virus surging early in Saudi Arabia


Pictogram: MERS health advisory (CDC)
Pictogram: MERS health advisory (CDC)

World health officials are concerned about a new outbreak of MERS-CoV (the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus) in Saudi Arabia that's killed 17 people in the last 11 days, including 6 on one day on Thursday of last week. Although the outbreak is still small, officials are concerned because it's surging much earlier this year than last year. An international team of United Nations human and animal health experts has flown to Saudi Arabia to investigate the recent surge.

Since June 2012, the deadly virus has claimed 382 lives out of 899 infections. There are currently 29 people being treated at various health facilities across the Kingdom.

Last year, there was a great deal of concern that MERS would be spread around the world by millions of people who came to Mecca on October 2-7, 2014, for the Hajj, their once in a lifetime pilgrimage. Saudi officials took numerous precautions, with the result that apparently no new MERS cases occurred from the Hajj.

This year the Hajj is a little earlier, September 20-25, so all those precautions will have to be repeated and increased. Arab News and Reuters

India has worst H1N1 swine flu outbreak in years

This season's outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in India has so far sickened more than 11,000 people, and killed 703, the worst outbreak since 2009. As of February 11, there were 5,157 reported cases, so the number of reported cases more than doubled in 8 days. Times of India and Bloomberg

Egypt's al-Sisi calls for a joint Arab military force

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday have a nationwide television address in which he called on all Arab nations to join together to create a joint military force to fight terrorism.

This call comes a week after ISIS-linked terrorists posted a video of the massacre of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in the town of Sirte in neighboring Libya. "16-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya" The attack itself was a shock to all of Egypt, and triggered an immediate response ordered by al-Sisi for air strikes on the assets of the terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia, that perpetrated the massacre.

Another shock occurred when Egypt received almost none of the international sympathy that Jordan received after its pilot was killed by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), with even the U.S. and European administrations cool to Egypt's plight. Then Qatar criticized the Egyptian air strikes, reopening the bitter rift between Egypt and Qatar, and causing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to side with Qatar in order to prevent the rift from worsening. It may be that the only major power that sympathized with Egypt was Israel.

The chaos in Libya has the potential of further worsening the Arab rift. There are two competing governments in Libya, one in Tripoli considered to be Islamist, and one internationally recognized government in Tobruk in the west. There have been reports, denied by Qatar, that Qatar is siding with the Islamist government, and has been supplying weapons to Ansar al-Sharia. Whether that's true or not, the continuing deterioration in Libya is threatening to worsen an already overwhelming situation with refugees crossing the Mediterranean for Italy.

There have been unconfirmed reports in the past of discussions of a military pact between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait. These discussions now appear to be on tract, with Jordan and Algeria joining, and with France and Italy also joining, because of the refugee danger to Europe. The National (UAE) and Al Ahram (Cairo) and Jerusalem Post

Armenia's president sends condolence letter to Egypt's al-Sisi

The President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has sent a letter of condolence to Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi. The letter said, "During this difficult time of grief and sorrow, I express my full support for you, the friendly people of Egypt and for the relatives of the victims, wishing them steadfastness and strong spirit."

Looking at the Mideast checkerboard, Egypt and Armenia have Turkey as a common enemy. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been bitterly critical of Egypt's 2013 coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi, and Turkey and Armenia have been embroiled in a century-long disagreement over whether Turkey committed a genocide of Armenians in 1915. Turkey is also a close ally of Qatar, and an enemy of Israel. Armen Press (Armenia)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi calls for a joint Arab military force thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Feb-15 World View -- Yemen's president flees to Aden, calls Houthis 'illegitimate'

Nigeria's army recaptures Baga, site of 2,000 deaths in Boko Haram massacres

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen's president flees to Aden, calls Houthis 'illegitimate'


Anti-Houthi demonstrations in Sanaa on Saturday.  The posters have pictures of Hadi (AFP)
Anti-Houthi demonstrations in Sanaa on Saturday. The posters have pictures of Hadi (AFP)

Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, Yemen's constitutional president, achieved a colorful escape on Saturday from his Houthi captors in Sanaa, and fled to his political stronghold in Aden, in south Yemen. From there, he issued a statement declaring that all Houthi decisions made since the September 21 coup were "null and illegitimate."

The 9/21 coup by the Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militias took control of the ministerial government functions in Sanaa, and forced the Sunni president Hadi to resign on January 21. It had been thought that the Houthis wanted Hadi to stay in office, where he could be controlled by the Houthis, who would then have the power but the not responsibilities of governing. Hadi's resignation caused a power vacuum that has never been filled. The Houthis arrested Hadi and kept him prisoner in his home in Sanaa.

How did Hadi escape? It's already becoming an urban legend. One story is that he covered himself in a head-to-toe Muslim woman's burka that exposed only the eyes, and pretended to be a woman. Another story is that he hid in the food truck when it came to deliver his food for the day. Another was that the Houthis let him go as part of a deal with the United Nations, which the U.N. denies.

From Aden, he issued a "presidential statement," implying that he's retracting his resignation. He said that every Houthi decision and appointment must be reversed, and that all people abducted or under house arrest should be freed.

There are many questions about what Hadi is going to do next. Aden is a Sunni stronghold, and one possibility is that he may declare Aden to be the new capital of Yemen, and characterize Sanaa as a secessionist capital, which would amount to a declaration of war between the Shia Houthis and the Sunni militias supporting him.

Yemen is the home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Last year, President Obama referred to Yemen as an administration success story, since the military was successfully using drone missiles to attack AQAP officials in cooperation with Yemen's government, but without requiring US troops. Both the Houthis and Hadi are opposed to AQAP, and two AQAP members were killed in a drone strike on Friday. So apparently the drone strikes are continuing, which is kind of an ironic twist. Still, Yemen began deteriorating last year soon after President Obama's statement last year, and the deterioration is continuing, with the possibility of war in sight, as part of the general deterioration of the entire Mideast that we've been reporting on. Yemen Online and Military Times

Nigeria's army recaptures Baga, site of 2,000 deaths in Boko Haram massacres

Nigerian says that its army has recaptured the town of Baga from Boko Haram terrorists after several days of fighting that resulted in "heavy casualties." Baga was the site of a massive Boko Haram massacre last month. ( "10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre")

According to the army, many Boko Haram militants had been killed, with some of them drowning in Lake Chad as they tried to flee from the approaching army.

Last month's massacre at Baga was almost completely ignored by the international media when it occurred, while the murder in the same time frame of a few white reporters in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris received intense coverage around the world. Some political analysts suggested that the NY Times, NBC News and Al Sharpton consider a dead black person to be of no worth or interest whatsoever unless killed by a white cop.

Early this month, Nigeria announced that the February 14 presidential elections would be postponed until March 28 because of threats by Boko Haram to disrupt the election to terrorist attacks. The political opposition of the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, wondered why the security threats would be any better on March 28, and accused the government of postponing the election to give Jonathan time to fix the election.

The recapture of Baga has a symbolic value, and the army will now claim that it's a success that will make the March 28 election safer.

International assistance is increasingly flowing to Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad to fight Boko Haram. On Saturday, a consignment of military equipment from the United States military arrived in Cameroon. BBC and Osun Defender (Nigeria) and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Feb-15 World View -- Yemen's president flees to Aden, calls Houthis 'illegitimate' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Feb-15 World View -- U.N. may release list of Syrian war criminals

Greece apparently caves in on bailout crisis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

U.N. may release list of Syrian war criminals


Bashar al-Assad is thought to be on the United Nations list of Syrian war criminals
Bashar al-Assad is thought to be on the United Nations list of Syrian war criminals

The investigators at the U.N. Commission for Inquiry on Syria announced on Friday that there has been an 'exponential rise" in atrocities killed in Syria, and that, because Russia's veto prevents the Security Council from taking any action, they may go around the Security Council and reveal a list of alleged war criminals in Syria. The list is thought likely to contain the name of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

The Commission would have liked to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but that requires a vote of the Security Council, which Russia always blocks with a veto. The Commission is therefore recommending a special court without Security Council approval.

United Nations investigators found a way to go around the Security Council once before. After Bashar al-Assad used Sarin gas to kill hundreds of people in 2013, a U.N. chemical weapons team was authorized to investigate the incident. However, thanks to a threatened Russian veto, the U.N. team was forbidden from assigning blame for the Sarin attack. But the team found a clever way of assigning blame without having to say it. In their scientific analysis of the evidence, they included calculations of the trajectories of the rockets that delivered the Sarin gas. They drew no conclusions about where the rockets were launched, but they provided enough scientific information within the report so that experts studying the report could analyze the trajectories to prove that the rockets must have been launched from a Syrian Republican Guard unit.

Bashar al-Assad has been a modern day Hitler. He's flattened entire Sunni villages with Russia's heavy weapons, he's killed children by sending missiles into exam rooms and bedrooms, he's killed dozens with sarin gas, 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 with complete impunity, and in fact with encouragement and support from Russia and Iran. Russia in particular has been providing weapons to al-Assad to support his genocide, making Vladimir Putin a war criminal as well.

If the war criminal list is made public, then it will be done at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on March 17th. United Nations and BBC and VOA

Greece apparently caves in on bailout crisis

The Eurogroup of eurozone financial ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday announced a new deal with Greece that extends the bailout loan agreement for four months. The agreement was an almost total cave-in by the Greeks; however, there was one important concession: The Greeks will not be required to have a higher government surplus in 2015 than in 2014, which means that there will be no further austerity measures imposed this year. Other than that, the terms of the agreement were similar to those of Greece's previous government, and an abandonment of the promises that the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, made during his recent election campaign.

The terms of the agreement are as follows:

Remember when we used to talk about "kicking the can down the road"? Amazingly enough, the Europeans have done it again.

If anything goes wrong with all of these steps, then the plan will collapse, and Greece will go bankrupt, and probably be forced to leave the eurozone, to return to its old drachma currency.

But if all goes well, then by April the crisis will be resolved. Until June, when a new 3.5 billion euro debt payment comes due, and the whole crisis starts all over again.

It's worth repeating what I've been saying for several years: There is NO solution to this crisis. And by that I don't mean that no one has been clever enough to figure out a solution. I mean that no solution exists. So the only thing the Europeans can do is to keep postponing the problem -- kicking the can down the road, allowing the crisis to worsen each time. Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Feb-15 World View -- U.N. may release list of Syrian war criminals thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Feb-15 World View -- Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar)

Libya chaos threatens to reopen bitter rift between Qatar and Egypt

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece and Germany are eyeball to eyeball on bailout crisis


Grumpy German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on left, next to merry Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis
Grumpy German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on left, next to merry Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

Here's a brief summary of Thursday's action in Greece's financial crisis:

The Eurogroup summit of eurozone finance ministers will meet in emergency session on Friday to see if negotiations can yield a compromise. Germany, Finland and Slovakia appear to be taking a hard line towards Greece, while France and Italy appear to be more open to compromise. If there is no compromise, then Greece will completely run out of money sometime in March. Greek Reporter and Deutsche Welle and Kathimerini

Libya chaos threatens to reopen bitter rift between Qatar and Egypt

Last week's slaughter of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya by ISIS-linked Ansar al-Sharia has resulted in a chain of events that led Qatar to recall its ambassador to Egypt on Thursday, threatening to reopen a very bitter rift in the Arab world that followed last summer's Gaza war with Israel. The major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, brought Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority into alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split between Qatar and Egypt had been particularly vitriolic prior to the war, ever since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, but after the Gaza war the split between the Saudis and Qataris was equally vitriolic. Saudi King Abdullah acted as a mediator and was able to paper over the differences and obtain a reconciliation in time for an Arab summit meeting in December, but now King Abdullah has passed away.

The split between Qatar and Egypt was too vitriolic never to resurface, and now it's in danger to be doing so. The slaughter of the Egyptian Coptics has caused nationalism to surge in Egypt, resulting in an immediate decision by Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi to launch airstrikes on Ansar al-Sharia camps and weapons depots in Libya. Egypt says that its airstrikes were carried out in coordination with Libya's air force.

Because Egypt is fighting a two-front war, against Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) in north Sinai and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, both ISIS-linked, Egypt is requesting international help in Libya.

The Arab League initially offered Egypt its full backing on the airstrikes in Libya, saying that Egypt had the right to defend itself and its citizens. But Qatar refused, and said it was concerned the strikes could harm civilians and criticized Egypt for not consulting with other Arab states before launching the airstrikes.

The furious Arab League delegate Tareq Adel from Egypt accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism and deviating from the Arab consensus." Qatar responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Cairo.

In an attempt to keep the rift from worsening, the head of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Gulf Arab nations condemned Egypt's comments as "baseless accusations that defy the truth and ignore the sincere efforts made by the State of Qatar with GCC member states and the Arab countries to combat terrorism and extremism at all levels." AFP and Al-Ahram (Cairo) and Cairo Post

Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar)

Myanmar's president Thein Sein on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and imposed martial law in the Kokang Special Region of Burma, on the border with China. The Kokang people are ethnic Chinese who even use a Chinese phone network and spend Chinese money in this region. The Kokang Special Region was created in 1989 after the collapse of Burma's Communist Party. In 2009, Burma's army intervened to end the arms and drug-trafficking networks, forcing the corrupt Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin, born 1931, to flee across the border into China with 30,000 refugees.

In late December, octogenarian Pheung made a surprise return from China to the Kokang region, and triggered a major ethnic rebellion that's resulted in the deaths of both Kokang people and Burmese soldiers. That violence has continued, and is increasing, resulting in this week's imposition of martial law throughout the region.

In 2007, at the height of the nationwide riots, I provided a generational history of Burma back to the 1700s. (See "Burma: Growing demonstrations by the '88 Generation' raise fears of new slaughter") Since then, Burma's army has loosened its grip on the country, allowing more political freedom. But Burma's last crisis war was a bloody civil war among ethnic groups, with intervention by the Chinese. That war climaxed in 1958, meaning that Burma is now entering a new generational Crisis era, so it's no surprise that there's a new explosion of ethnic violence.

President Thein Sein is asking China's government to take steps to keep the Kokang army from launching attacks on Burma from China's soil, but China is not responding.

The major concern is that China's army will intervene on Burma's soil, as it did during the 1950s civil war, using as an excuse the protection of ethnic Chinese, the same excuse that Russia is using to invade Ukraine. BBC and AFP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Feb-15 World View -- Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar) thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Feb-15 World View -- China, Russia, Syria: The 'Salami Slicing Strategy'

Anthem health insurance data breach puts millions of children at risk

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Anthem health insurance data breach puts millions of children at risk


Millions of children are at risk of identity theft because of the Anthem data breach
Millions of children are at risk of identity theft because of the Anthem data breach

The consequences of the massive Anthem Inc data breach that we described two weeks ago are increasingly being seen as catastrophic. 80 million current and former customers had their personal information compromised, including birthdates, addresses, and social security numbers.

This is bad enough for adults, but there are millions of children included in that theft. A child's identity can be stolen as much as an adult's can, and the child's family not even be aware for several months.

Even worse, the stolen data will be valid for decades. Some hacker group can use it to steal your child's identity next year, or five or ten years from now.

Anthem is providing free identity theft protection, but only for two years.

Any current or former customer of the following health plans is potentially compromised: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare. Credit.com and CNBC and Anthem Inc.

Putin gloats over humiliating Russian victory over Ukraine

The battle over the city Debaltseve in Ukraine, which we described yesterday, has ended in victory for Ukraine's rebels, backed by Russian army soldiers and weapons, and a humiliating defeat for Ukraine's soldiers. The Russian attack and subsequent victory was a violation of the the ceasefire agreement that was signed last week by Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

Putin gloated about the victory, saying:

"Of course, it’s always bad to lose. Of course it’s always a hardship when you lose to yesterday’s miners or yesterday’s tractor drivers. But life is life. It’ll surely go on."

He perhaps unintentionally implied that Russian army soldiers are former miners and tractor drivers. At any rate, it now appears clear that he never intended to honor the ceasefire which, after all, is no surprise.

The capture of Debaltseve is an important strategic victory for the Russians, in that it lies at several crossroads in east Ukraine, with a rail line that links Debaltseve to Russia, and consolidates the Russian invasion and capture of the entire region. According to analysts, the fall of Debaltseve is both a military disaster and political disaster Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko. He faced massive domestic criticism for agreeing to the Minsk "peace agreement" in the first place, for making painful compromises that ceded gains on the ground to the Russians, and now the agreement turns out to be a sham after all, with the Russians gaining consolidated control of a large part of eastern Ukraine.

Few people believe that the Russian invasion is finished. BBC and Deutsche Welle and Fox News

China, Russia, Syria: The 'Salami Slicing Strategy'

As I've been describing for a couple of years, China has been using a "salami-slicing" technique of using military force to annex one portion after another of regions of the South China Sea historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China supports its military force by making unsupported historical claims, and then refusing to defend them in the appropriate United Nations tribunal, since they know they'll lose.

The salami-slicing technique is designed to take advantage of the inherent weakness of democracies during generational Crisis eras. The technique would not have worked as well, or at all, prior to 2000, since the Silent generation survivors of World War II were still in charge, and would not have been fooled or tolerated specious claims like those that China is making about the South China Sea. Indeed, all presidents since WW II have been guided by the Truman Doctrine of 1947, which made America policeman of the world. The doctrine is highly controversial today, but its justification is that it's better to have a small military action to stop an ongoing crime than to let it slide and end up having an enormous conflict like World War II. In other words, the Truman Doctrine could be said to be the antidote to the salami-slicing strategy.

Every president since WW II has followed the Truman Doctrine, up to and including George Bush. Barack Obama is the first president to completely repudiate the Truman Doctrine, even in the face of blatant salami-slicing. And he's not alone, of course, as the entire West is succumbing.

So we have China annexing one region after another in the South China Sea, using as an excuse specious historical claims that the West is unwilling to challenge. Russia invaded and annexed first Crimea and now east Ukraine, using the specious excuse that there are ethnic Russians living there. There are over a million Americans living in Mexico, so under the Russian reasoning, America could invade and annex the entire state of Nuevo León.

Probably the most visible and consequential repudiation of the Truman Doctrine was President Obama's flip-flop on the question of Sarin gas and other chemical weapons used by the regime of Syria's genocidal president Bashar al-Assad against his own people. To this day, he's killed countless innocent women and children with barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas.

Now we have news on Thursday from Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. envoy to Syria, that al-Assad has agreed to a "freeze" in dropping barrel bombs on the city of Aleppo. The "freeze" will take place some time in the future, to be announced. Like China's specious historical claims, like Russia's ethnic Russian excuse, al-Assad waves a sham peace plan in front of the United Nations and everyone starts tittering about a "ray of hope." This is another version of the salami-slicing strategy, and it's possible in a generational Crisis era.

There is a flaw in the salami-slicing strategy. Once a government starts using it, they think they can use it over and over to get away with anything. It's pretty clear that Russia, China and Syria all believe that they can commit crimes with impunity.

But the flaw is that at some point it stops working. That's what happened in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. Hitler was certain that he could take one more salami slice with impunity. But the British population by that time had changed, and become sufficiently nationalistic to refuse to be made fools of again.

I've been describing for years how one nation after another is becoming increasingly nationalistic and xenophobic in a generational Crisis era. So you have two conflicting trends: the criminal nation becomes increasingly brazen in using the salami-slicing strategy, and the other nations become increasingly nationalistic and less tolerant. At some point, these two trends collide, and there's a new world war -- a war that might have been avoided if a policy like the Truman Doctrine had been continued -- or was even still possible. International Living and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Feb-15 World View -- China, Russia, Syria: The 'Salami Slicing Strategy' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Feb-15 World View -- Russians ignore Ukraine 'ceasefire' as 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped

New Zealand debating military help for Iraq against ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taliban claims responsibility for bombing in Lahore, Pakistan


Police rush an injured man to hospital after suicide bombing in Lahore on Tuesday (AP)
Police rush an injured man to hospital after suicide bombing in Lahore on Tuesday (AP)

A suicide bomber detonated his bomb on Tuesday early afternoon in the large east Pakistan city of Lahore, in Punjab province, killing as many as 11 people, and injuring dozens more. The target was a police station. The carnage could have been much worse, but the suicide bomber was stopped by heavy security before entering the building.

Jamaatul Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban - TTP), has claimed responsibility. According to the Jamaatul Ahrar spokesman, the attack was revenge for the anti-Taliban military operations being conducted in Pakistan's tribal areas, and for hangings of several convicted terrorists. The military action was triggered by a massive terrorist attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi last year in June. The hangings began after the horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren in December of last year.

Last Friday, Taliban militants stormed a Shia commemoration service, killing as many as 21 Shia worshippers. Before that was a service in Shikarpur, killing more than 60 people.

As we dwell on atrocities committed in the Mideast by terror groups linked to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), it would be worthwhile to give an occasional thought to Pakistan, where Taliban atrocities are almost a daily way of life. Dawn (Pakistan) and Daily Times (Pakistan)

Russians ignore Ukraine 'ceasefire' as 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped

A ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk, Belarus, last week, but it's being openly ignored by anti-government Russians who are advancing on the central city of Debaltseve, where 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped. The Russians are simply saying that the ceasefire doesn't apply to them, and they're continuing warfare.

A good summary of the situation was provided on Tuesday by William Taylor, former American ambassador to Ukraine, interview on the BBC. He was asked whether the new Minsk ceasefire agreement is going to hold (my transcription):

"It doesn't look good at the moment. All is not lost, it's still possible for the Minsk II agreement to be put into effect, but it has to be put into effect by both sides.

The weapons were supposed to have been pulled back by now, well out of range of each other's. This is a tragedy for the people in the cities, tragedy for people who are living there, but it can be resolved by adhering to this agreement.

[[Question: Would you point the finger of blame equally at the rebels and the Ukrainian troops]]

I wouldn't. I would point the blame at the Russian troops who are in eastern Ukraine. There may be rebels there, maybe Ukrainian rebels are there, but there are Russian troops, and Russian soldiers, and Russian units who are there, who are the principal cause of this overall problem.

[[Question: When you look at what's happening, it looks as if those troops have not even paid lip service to what was agreed in Minsk. Did that take the West by surprise do you think?]]

I think it has. The rebels and the Russians who are there in the Debaltseve have said that the Minsk agreement doesn't apply to Debaltseve. Now, what does that mean? They're clearly in the zone that both sides are supposed to pull back from. Of course the Minsk agreement applies to Debaltseve, and of course they should be pulling back, and the ceasefire should have gone into effect."

It's worth repeating again that anything that's said by Russian officials or Russian media is pretty much worthless. Last year, Russia claimed they weren't invading Crimea, just as Russian troops were invading Crimea. Russia claimed that they wouldn't annex Crimea, just before they annexed Crimea, a clear violation of international law. Russia claimed that there were no Russian troops in east Ukraine at a time when Russian troops were entering east Ukraine. On September 5, Russia signed an international peace agreement (the "Minsk protocols") in which they committed to a political compromise in east Ukraine, and then repeatedly violated their own agreement. Now they've signed a new Minsk agreement on February 11, and are simply ignoring it. Basically, anything that comes from Russian state media or Russia's government should be considered to be a lie, and should be discarded as worthless.

The concern now is that the ceasefire will unravel completely and lead to increased violence, including a full-scale invasion by Russia. Washington Post and Russia Today (12-Feb)

New Zealand debating military help for Iraq against ISIS

After an in-person invitation by Iraq's foreign minister Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari in a visit to Auckland, New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said that plans were being discussed to send about 150 New Zealand troops to Iraq to help train Iraq's army. The suggestion is controversial, with some politicians questioning whether the Iraq army can protect the NZ troops, while others wonder if NZ is getting into "another Vietnam." TV New Zealand and Stuff (New Zealand)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Feb-15 World View -- Russians ignore Ukraine 'ceasefire' as 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt faces two-front war with airstrikes in Libya

Greece bailout talks collapse in acrimony

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece bailout talks collapse in acrimony


Greece's angry finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Monday
Greece's angry finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Monday

A meeting on Monday in Brussels by the Eurogroup, the eurozone finance ministers, which was intended to reach agreement on Greece's financial crisis, ended hours earlier than usual in better acrimony.

Greece has been asking for a "bridge loan" -- enough money to survive for six months, but without having to continue the harsh austerity requirements that accompanied the 240 billion euros already loaned to Greece in the bailout program. Europe has rejected this proposal, and given Greece a "take it or leave it" ultimatum to extend the existing bailout program. The European statement said the Greeks must continue with austerity on "tax policy, privatization, labor market reforms, financial sector and pensions." Indeed, any substantial change in Europe's position would require a vote in the German, Dutch, Finnish and Slovak parliaments.

Greece's new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, from the radical far-left Syriza party, made a bitter statement to the press referred to the European proposal, "an extension of the current program," and calling it "absurd and unreasonable." Indeed, any back-down by Greece's newly elected government would cause a backlash in Greece's public, and a sharp plunge in the new government's poll ratings.

Greece has only two weeks left to come to some agreement, before a huge bond payment comes due. The Greek government is not allowed to borrow money -- issue government bonds. The bailout funding has been suspended, because the Greek government has said it no longer wants to cooperating with the bailout program. The Greek government only has tax revenues to live off of, which won't be enough to pay public sector salaries, pay off pensions which the new government wants to increase, and make debt payments. And Greece's banks are bleeding deposits by two billion euros per week.

According to reports, Greece accepts 70% of the committed austerity requirements, and rejects 30%, but hasn't revealed which requirements are in each category. Some hope that this can form the basis for a compromise.

The Eurogroup has given Greece a Friday deadline to agree to the bailout requirements. The sides are headed for a collision, unless they can quickly figure out a way to kick the can down the road. Kathimerini (Athens) and Telegraph (London)

Egypt faces two-front war with airstrikes in Libya

Egypt's army announced on Monday morning that it has conducted air strikes against militant targets in Libya, including training camps in arms depots. The airstrikes were revenge attacks after a terror group linked to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) released a video portraying the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian fishermen who had gone to Libya to earn money to send back home. Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi had on Sunday given a nationally televised address wherein he vowed to choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings."

Egypt is now facing a two-front war against terrorist groups linked to ISIS. The terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) has conducted numerous attacks in Egypt's Sinai, along the border with Israel and Gaza, and has recently changed its name to "Sinai Province," meaning "Sinai Province of Islamic State" when it repudiated its allegiance to al-Qaeda and declared its allegiance to ISIS.

Libya's terror group Ansar al-Sharia has likewise renamed itself Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus (Caliphate State Tripolitania) when it repudiated its allegiance to al-Qaeda and declared its allegiance to ISIS.

Egypt is fighting ABM with ground troops is Sinai, and for that reason it's believed that Egypt does not have the military resources to send ground troops into Libya. For that reason, Egypt, France and Italy are calling on the United States and the international community to resume military action in Libya. Al Ahram (Cairo) and CNN

Muslim versus Muslim wars in the Mideast continue to grow

As I've been writing for weeks, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia. The Muslims are not at war with the West, as many claim, but they're almost entirely at war with each other. This Muslim versus Muslim war is going to continue to grow until the West is pulled into it, and then the West WILL be at war with some Muslims, allied with others.

There is a tendency to view this situation as similar to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, with ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi taking on the role of Hitler, commanding armies all over the Mideast. But from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, that's not what's going on.

Much (though not all) of the Muslim world is deep into a generational Crisis era, with the last crisis being the collapse of the Ottoman empire, followed by wars of consolidation in the 1920s-30s. Based on historical research that I've been doing for years, countries and societies suffer increasing societal breakdowns as the decades pass since the end of the previous generational crisis war. The "Arab Spring" that started in Tunisia in 2011 was the first major societal breakdown in the Muslim world, and what we're seeing is an increasing societal breakdown.

So, in my opinion, what we're seeing is not the formation of a unified ISIS army waging war against other Muslims, at least not yet, but a general societal breakdown where local, individual terror groups like Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Ansar al-Sharia find it convenient to declare allegiance to ISIS for public relations purposes.

Ironically, instead of a unified ISIS army, what we may be seeing is the mirror image. The "moderate" Arab nations have been notably reluctant to take part in the U.S. anti-ISIS coalition. However, what ISIS's public relations stunts have accomplished is an increased realization of many Arab countries, including Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and now Egypt, to understand that their national security depends on fighting ISIS and terror groups linked to it. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Independent (London)

Iraq army preparing to recapture Mosul from ISIS

Last June, when IS militias attacked Mosul, the Iraq army just dropped its weapons and ran away. Now, according to prime minister Haider al-Abadi, the Iraq army has been scoring successes, pushing back ISIS from areas across Iraq, although ISIS still controls about a quarter of Iraqi territory. According to Abadi, Iraq is planning an offensive this year to recapture Mosul from ISIS. Although US ground troops will not be needed, Abadi said the operation's success would also hinge upon close co-ordination between Iraqi security forces, the US military, and the Peshmerga. BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt faces two-front war with airstrikes in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya

Yemen may form second government in Aden

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya


Screen grab from terrorist recruiting and public relations video showing Egyptian Coptic Christian fishermen just prior to beheading
Screen grab from terrorist recruiting and public relations video showing Egyptian Coptic Christian fishermen just prior to beheading

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi has called a national security emergency and declared seven days of national mourning, after a terrorist group released a video showing the beheading in Libya of Egyptian Coptic Christians. The video was released on a web site belonging to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). The people shown were among 27 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers who were kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte in December and January.

The beheading video comes two days after an ISIS online magazine display pictures of 21 hostages, accompanied by the text:

"This month, the soldiers of the Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus [Caliphate State Tripolitania] captured 21 Coptic crusaders, almost five years after the blessed operation against the Baghdad church executed in revenge for Kamilia Shehata, Wafa Constantine, and other sisters who were tortured and murdered by the Coptic Church of Egypt."

Apparently, Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus is the renamed version of the terror group Ansar al-Sharia, presumably renamed when it repudiated its allegiance to al-Qaeda and swore its allegiance to ISIS.

The "blessed operation" apparently refers to the October 2010 bombing of a Catholic Church in Baghdad. The "other sisters" apparently refers to unsubstantiated claims that Egyptian Christian women who converted to Islam were tortured and killed by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Last year, there were an estimated one million Egyptian guest workers in Libya, but the numbers have shrunk considerably since civil war broke out last summer between the Libya Dawn government in Tripoli and the internationally recognized Libyan government which has fled to Tobruk. The 21 hostages have been identified as fishermen from an impoverished village in northern Egypt. Al Ahram (Cairo) and BBC and Guardian (London)

Egypt purchases fighter jets over fears of militias in Libya

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday vowed to choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings," for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by an ISIS-linked militia in Libya, but military action in Libya has been considered for some time. The murder is increasing public pressure on al-Sisi to take some action to counter the increasing security threats from jihadist militias in Libya. Egypt has in the past denied that it had taken part in airstrikes in Libya, and said that no airstrikes are planned. It now appears that airstrikes are on the table, though ground troops are apparently not being considered at this time. The border between Egypt and Libya has become almost lawless, and cross-border attacks into Egypt have become common.

On Thursday, Egypt announced that it will sign on Monday a $5.7 billion deal to purchase 24 Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets, a naval frigate and related military equipment from France. The purchase will be partially funded by France and by an Arab country, either United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Saudi Arabia. Egypt is no longer receiving military aid from the United States, as the Obama administration cut it off after the 2013 coup that deposed president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government.

Libya itself is almost in total chaos, with two different governments. The government in the west is Libya Dawn, with Islamists and militia from the Misrata region, in control of the capital city Tripoli. The second government is the internationally recognized government, which was forced to flee to Tobruk in the east. The al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia, has been operating in Libya with headquarters in Benghazi, where it was responsible for the attack that killed American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in 2012. However, based on Sunday's news reports, it appears that Ansar al-Sharia is no longer allied with al-Qaeda, and has now pledged itself to ISIS and renamed itself Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus [Caliphate State Tripolitania].

Egypt is facing increasing threats from ISIS-linked militants. There have been other abductions of Egyptian workers by Libyan militias. In the Sinai, along the border with Gaza and Israel, there have been a series of terrorist attacks. There have been recent reports that Israel and Egypt and planning joint military operations to target terrorists in Sinai. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Reuters and France 24 and Debka

Yemen may form second government in Aden

The governments of three Yemen provinces, Aden, Lahij, and Mahra, met in Aden on Sunday to discuss the situation following the government takeover last month by the Iran-backed Shia Houthis of Yemen's government in Sanaa. The leaders of the three provinces announced that they support the country becoming a federation as discussed at meetings last year. They called for the reinstatement of the president and for the militia to step down.

Yemen seems to be going down the same road as Libya, with the possibility of two governments -- a rebel government in the capital city Sanaa, and an internationally recognized government in Aden. There's the additional complication that Yemen is the headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which may either fight with or try to control a second government in Aden.

Also on Sunday, the UN Security Council prepared to adopt a resolution calling on the Houthis to step aside or "face consequences." The Security Council resolution is being supported by the Arab League and by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). According to a GCC statement, "In the case of failure to reach an agreement ... the GCC member states will take measures which enable them to maintain their vital interests in the security and stability of Yemen."

However, a Houthi spokesman responded to the GCC's comments, calling them "provocative blackmail": "The Yemeni people won’t cede power in the face of threats." Arab News and The National (UAE)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Feb-15 World View -- Obama seeks Iran's help as anti-ISIS coalition shrinks

Nigeria requests US troops to fight Boko Haram

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nigeria requests US troops to fight Boko Haram


Goodluck Jonathan on Friday (WSJ)
Goodluck Jonathan on Friday (WSJ)

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan on Friday said in an interview that he wants the U.S. to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram. In the past, Jonathan has rejected the idea of foreign troops on Nigeria's soil, but now he noted that U.S. troops are fighting the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) and has apparently has changed his mind:

"Are they not fighting ISIS? Why can't they come to Nigeria? They are our friends. If Nigeria has a problem, then I expect the US to come and assist us."

However, Pentagon spokesman Rear-Admiral John Kirby said, "I can tell you that there are no plans as I speak here to send unilaterally, to send or to add US troops into Nigeria. There are no US troops operating in Nigeria."

This reminds me of the situation involving the Darfur war during the George Bush administration. In 2004, "peace activist" Jesse Jackson condemned President Bush for sending troops to the Iraq war, but called on Bush to lead a worldwide effort to send troops to Darfur. He said, "If we can have troops in Korea, in Nato, there should be nothing shameful about defending life in Africa."

In 2007, then-Senator Joe Biden criticized President Bush continuing to be involved in Iraq, but for not getting involved Darfur:

"The conduct of this [Iraq] war has so badly damaged our readiness; the conduct of this war and the blood and resources we've had to expend has limited our credibility around the world, and limited our flexibility in terms of the use of force. Here we are - we could end the carnage in Darfur tomorrow."

This statement came shortly after he demanded that American troops be sent to Darfur:

"I would use American force now. I think it's not only time not to take force off the table. I think it's time to put force on the table and use it. ... Let's stop the bleeding. I think it's a moral imperative."

Other "peace activists" at the time were more explicit in saying that President Bush was willing to send troops to help white people, but not to send black people in Africa. Susan Rice, the current National Security Advisor, was particularly vocal in demands to send troops to Darfur.

So let's see if anyone asks this administration why they're willing to fight terrorists in Iraq and Syria killing white people, but not willing to fight terrorists in Nigeria killing black people. Naij.com (Nigeria) and AFP

Debka: Obama seeks Iran's help as anti-ISIS coalition shrinks

Following the capture and murder of the Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), the Arab nations that were announced to be part of the US administration's anti-ISIS coalition have been dropping out. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have dropped out of the coalition completely. There is absolutely no chance that Egypt will join the coalition, as had originally been hoped. United Arab Emirates (UAE) has partially remained in the coalition.

The latest edition of Debka's subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber), contains a detailed analysis of the US anti-ISIS strategy, based on its own intelligence sources. I like to reference Debka's newsletter because it contains valuable insights into what's going on, but it's written from Israel's point of view, and sometimes gets things wrong.

According to the analysis, Obama is taking every step possible to avoid being drawn into another Iraq war. While he's criticized for having no strategy, he actually does have a strategy: to "dump that war in Iran's lap" by using the nuclear weapons talks to draw Iran into fighting ISIS instead of us.

Here's an outline of the analysis:

Long-time readers are aware that ten years ago I wrote, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that Iran would become America's ally as the generation of survivors of Iran's 1979 Great Islamic Revolution died off, and that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would be allied with China against us. Ten years ago, that prediction seemed insane. So it's been fascinating and astonishing, in the last two years, to see that prediction come closer to reality every week.

This is a good time to repeat something I've written about several times. There is no doubt in my mind that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Iran was attacked with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in 1988 by Iraq, and Iran would already have developed nuclear weapons if Saddam Hussein hadn't been expelled by the Iraq war in 2003. Iran sees itself surrounded by potential enemies, Pakistan and Israel, both having nuclear weapons. For Iran, developing nuclear weapons is an existential issue.

However, as I've described before, Iran takes an enormous amount of pride in not having invaded other countries, even though other countries have invaded Iran. If you look back at Iran's major wars of the last century -- the Constitutional Revolution of 1908-09, the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, Iran never attacked anyone else. This is now part of Iran's DNA, and even the top leadership would be repulsed by the idea of a preemptive attack on Israel.

So my conclusion is that Iran will develop nuclear weapons as a defensive measure, but has no plans at all to use them on Israel, which is what is widely believed. Guardian (London) and Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Feb-15 World View -- Obama seeks Iran's help as anti-ISIS coalition shrinks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Feb-15 World View -- Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden

Generational Dynamics and prolactin

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden


Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden, February 1945
Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden, February 1945

On Thursday, 10,000 people joined hands along the Elbe river commemorating the tens of thousands of people who were burned alive on February 13, 1945, when the Allies firebombed Dresden. In the space of 23 minutes, hundreds of bombers dropped some 3,000 high-explosive bombs and 400,000 incendiary bombs. The city center was vaporized. The fires sucked up all the oxygen, so that those who weren't burned to death dies of suffocation. The fires could be seen 200 miles away, and the temperatures reached so high that glass melted in cellars.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the firebombing of Dresden is looked at as part of the "explosive climax" of a generational crisis war. Non-crisis wars almost always end indecisively, as in the case of America's Korean and Iraq wars. (The Vietnam war ended decisively as a victory for Vietnam because, although it was a non-crisis war for America, it a crisis war for Vietnam.)

There are many events that contributed to the explosive climax of World War II, but the following three are perhaps the best-known:

What these three events have in common is that they illustrate something that happens in a crisis war that doesn't happen in a non-crisis war: As the war approaches an end, the value of an individual human live drops to zero, and the only thing of value is the survival of the entire society and its way of life.

This happens to every society, every nation, without exception at the climax of a generational crisis war. When a society becomes desperate enough, they will take steps so horrible that the traumatized survivors will spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty about them and perhaps even regretting them, while the younger generation growing up later will have no such regrets. Reuters and Deutsche Welle and BBC

What's the value of a human life?

I wrote about this a lot when the Sri Lanka civil war was approaching a climax in 2009. The civil war had been going on over two decades, and as far as I know, every analyst and journalist in the world was predicting that the war would continue for many more years. However, in January 2008 something changed that made it clear from the point of view of Generational Dynamics that this war had transitioned into a generational crisis war that would soon reach a climax. As I wrote at that time (see "Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels"), the army suddenly committed itself to defeating the LTTE (Tamil rebels) by the end of 2008.

"We can bring the war against the LTTE to a turning point once we are able to destroy the LTTE capabilities to operate in bunkers and forward defense lines."

What followed during the next year was very dramatic. The LTTE purposely embedded itself in the civilian population, so that the army could not attack them without killing civilians. The army ferociously attacked the LTTE, even when civilian lives were at stake. What happened was that the value of a civilian life had dropped to zero for both the army and the LTTE, and the only thing of value was victory.

Today, there are calls for the Sri Lankan army to be charged with war crimes, to which my response is that if Sri Lanka war is a war crime, then the firebombing of Dresden is also a war crime -- something that some German activists would agree with.

Regular readers of this daily Generational Dynamics World View article may wonder how I select topics and what things I look for. In my mind, I'm constantly trying to measure how much the value of an individual human life has become, and I tend to choose stories that indicate either that the value remains high or that the value is going lower. So, for example, yesterday's story on Europe's search and rescue program for migrants crossing from Libya to reach Italy is really a story about how important it still is to Europeans whether desperate refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea.

Obviously the most recent examples where the value of a human life is zero is terror attacks by the likes of Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even within that domain, there are differences. The Charlie Hebdo bombing in Paris was bad, but not as bad as the slaughter of 2000 people by Boko Haram that was occurring in the same time frame. ( "10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre")

And it's not always Muslims who are the perpetrators. In "5-Apr-13 World View -- Meiktila, Burma, violence has echoes of Kristallnacht", I wrote about the wild, frenzied attack by Buddhists on Muslims that killed dozens and reduced an entire established community of 12,000 Muslims, including homes, shops and mosques, to ashes and rubble. In that article, I compared the slaughter to 1938's Kristallnacht, which was a prelude to the Nazi Holocaust.

I've written several times about the Central African Republic and its generational crisis war currently in progress between the Muslim tribes and the Christian tribes. Both sides are committing atrocities, and this war will not end until there's been an explosive climax that all survivors will regret for the rest of their lives.

A reader recently wrote and asked me:

"John: Which country will be the first to use a nuclear weapon?"

That's an interesting question whose answer cannot be predicted. The countries with nuclear weapons are: US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea. Once the world war starts, any one of these countries might be the first, if the people in that country panic and decide that nothing is more important than victory. By the climax of the war, every one of those countries will have reached that conclusion, and every nuclear weapon will have been used. My estimate is that by the time the war ends, some 3 billion people will have been killed, leaving about 4 billion people to rebuild the world. At that time, the survivors will vow never to let anything like that ever happen again, and will take all the steps they can think of to keep that vow.

Generational Dynamics and prolactin

The discussion above of nuclear weapons is the kind of article that divides people. I've often been puzzled by other people's reactions to my web site. Some want to read it every day, others absolutely can't stand it, and can't stand me as a result. Ten years ago, friends I've known for years treated me as a harmless kook, but now, as the world worsens and one generational theory prediction after another has come true, those friends now shun me. This is similar to the mythical Cassandra, whom I've written about many times. I've also been puzzled why, after 12 years, there's no other web site in the world like mine.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard something that provided some insight. There was a BBC World Service show called "Why Factor," with the subject "Sad/Gloomy Music." It turns out that some people can listen to sad music and really enjoy it, while other people listen to sad music and absolutely can't stand it.

This observation seemed stunningly similar to the reactions to my World View articles and my web site.

The only "happy" music sample they played during the show was "The Beatles - I Want to Hold your Hand." They played samples of a number of "sad" music songs:

Billie Holiday - Gloomy Sunday
James Taylor - Riding on a Railroad
Joni Mitchell - River
Kylie Minogue - Can't Get You Out of My Head
Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude in B minor, number 24
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka - La Separation
Felix Mikhailovich Blumenfeld - Etude Sur Mer
Arvo Pärt - Spiegel Im Spiegel
Djivan Gasparyan - I Am Outcast By You
The Rankin Family - Chi Mi Na Morbheanna
Oliver Mtukudzi - Neria
Víctor Jara - Te Recuerdo Amanda
M.R Shajarian - Rain
Chris Isaak - Wicked Games
Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings

According to the show, the last in this list is the most popular sad song among the show's listeners.

The show described the differences in chord structure between happy and sad music, but unfortunately I know nothing about music and didn't understand, which is too bad.

However, according to the BBC show, the differences in music are also generational: In the 1960s (the generational Awakening era), most popular music had the "happy" chord structure, while in the 2000s (the generational Crisis era), most popular music has the "sad" chord structure.

This opened my eyes to a whole new slant on the generational changes in music. In my 2008 article, "The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X", I wrote about the generational changes in the lyrics of music since World War II, and I quoted some Gen-X lyrics, such as the song "Mr. Self Destruct" by Nine Inch Nails.

However, the concept that there are "happy chords" and "sad chords" and that they differ by generations goes beyond lyrics and was quite new to me.

One personal note: For my whole life, I've always loved Great Band Era music, 1935-45, and I still have a large record collection of Great Band Era songs. I'm going to guess that most Great Band Era music had the "sad" chord structure, and I'm going to guess that that's the reason I like it a lot more than most popular music, and I'm going to guess that my enjoyment of Great Band Era music is related to my being able to do this World View article every day. I also love original cast recordings from the 1930s-50s, and the reason may be the same.

Returning to the BBC program, there's a theory having to do with the hormone prolactin. Prolactin has to do with milk production in pregnant women, and has no known normal function in men. However, according to the show, there's some research that men and women who like sad music have an excess of prolactin, and those who hate sad music don't have enough prolactin. So maybe what makes me unique is that my blood is overflowing with prolactin. And also, maybe the people who read my World View articles have more prolactin than average, and those who can't stand them have less.

According to Prof David Huron of Ohio State University, quoted in the program:

"The research shows that for ordinary sadness, when we're in that state, we are our most deadly realistic in our self-appraisal. It has beneficial effects on judgment, on memory, all sorts of cognitive benefits that happen from being in a saddened state."

Since the World View articles are most "deadly realistic" analyses around, then this is the theory how I can write these articles every day: I have a good analytical ability, I have just the right education, and, most important, I have too much prolactin in my blood. If this theory is true then, Dear Reader, that's why I'm able to write these articles every day. And for similar reasons, that's why you read them every day.

Here's a comment from a reader:

"I have a sister who sees the world through rose colored glasses. I have ceased to attempt to give her insight, or guidance into where we are headed. She prefers, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to see the world as a "nice" place, where someone will always arrive in time to save her, and those she cares about, from evil."

My suggestion: Both of you should be tested for prolactin levels.

BBC World Service - Why Factor - Sad Music and Podcast (mp3)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Feb-15 World View -- Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Feb-15 World View -- Europe faces 'enormous tragedy' over Europe's Mediterranean rescue program

Confusion reigns over Ukraine ceasefire deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Europe faces 'enormous tragedy' over Europe's Mediterranean rescue program


Rescue of migrants in  rubber dinghy
Rescue of migrants in rubber dinghy

At least 300 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean sea after their boats sank earlier this week. They had departed from Libya on Saturday in four rubber dinghies that sank after four days at sea. Only nine people were rescued out of hundreds of migrants trying to reach Italy's Lampedusa Island.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe bureau director, said:

"This is a tragedy on an enormous scale and a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea. Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late."

This "tragedy" is going to force the European Union, once again, to go through a painful review of its search and rescue policy in the Mediterranean, to prevent it from turning into what Pope Francis called "a vast cemetery."

Europe was forced into such a review after two tragic shipwrecks October 2013 in which more than 400 Eritrean, Somali and Syrian migrants drowned. ( "16-Oct-13 World View -- Sicily declares state of emergency as African migrants flood in") After that, Italy began spending 9 million euros per month on a program called "Mare Nostrum" (Latin for "Our Sea") to rescue drowning migrants trying to reach Italy.

Italy has been complaining since then that it shouldn't entirely be Italy's responsibility to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, and that it should be a shared responsibility among all the EU nations. Naturally, other EU nations were perfectly happy letting Italy foot the entire search and rescue bill.

But after much haggling, the Mare Nostrum program expired in October, after which the search and rescue function was taken over by an EU operation called "Triton." However, Triton's budget is much smaller, just 2.9 million euros per months. And it restricts its operations to only within 30 miles off the Italian coast.

In the year from October 2013 to October 2014, Italy rescued about 100,000 refugees. Estimates are that 3,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean 2014, critics are complaining that "multiples of the 3,000" will drown because Mare Nostrum was replaced by Triton. Adding to the concerns is that the number of refugees attempting the trip doubled in 2014 to 218,000 from the 2013 figure. The number is expected to increase further in 2015.

It's politically almost impossible for the EU or any democratic government to ignore and allow thousands of people to simply drown, no matter who's at fault. Pro-refugee activists claim that the EU has no choice but to increase its search and rescue budget again.

People smugglers charge desperate people from Syria and North Africa thousands of dollars each, stuff them all on a boat and send it out to sea, knowing that someone will rescue them (or not caring whether someone will rescue them). In a well-publicized case in December, people smugglers packed almost 1,000 people into a boat, after typically collecting thousands of dollars from each migrant, and sent the ship out into the open sea with no crew, running on autopilot. ( "2-Jan-15 World View -- European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships") The Italian navy was able to board the ship and take control of it.

Skeptics point out that having a robust search and rescue operation only encourages migrants to risk the trip. They argue that if there had been no search and rescue effort, then migrants would not attempt to reach Europe. Others point out that desperate people in Syria and Eritrea will take the risk no matter what Triton's budget is. Irish Independent and UNHCR and Guardian (London, 31-Oct-2014)

Confusion reigns over Ukraine ceasefire deal

Ukraine ceasefire negotiations continued through the night in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. The negotiators were Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President François Hollande.

On Thursday morning, Putin came out and announced a ceasefire deal. According to the deal:

It's hard to find anything meaningful in this. Do we believe that the anti-government Russians in east Ukraine are going to stop shooting? Do we believe that Russia is going to stop sending soldiers and weapons into east Ukraine? Do we believe that Putin will keep any commitment at all, if he doesn't feel like it? A lot of people would answer "no" to all of these.

If the West lifts the sanctions on Monday, then Putin will have won a total victory, and completely humiliated the West. More likely, the sanctions will be kept in place, and nothing will have changed. We may have some answers by mid-week. AP and Globe and Mail (Toronto) and Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Feb-15 World View -- Europe faces 'enormous tragedy' over Europe's Mediterranean rescue program thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Feb-15 World View -- US closes Yemen embassy, following Somalia, Syria and Libya

Greece's negotiations with eurozone fail to reach deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Failing Ukraine ceasefire negotiations to go through the night


Grim faces in 'family photo' during a break in the negotiations (EPA)
Grim faces in 'family photo' during a break in the negotiations (EPA)

As of this writing on Wednesday evening ET, the negotiations to achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine have failed to reach agreement. However, negotiations will continue through the night.

Violence has been increasing in eastern Ukraine, as Russia has poured heavy weapons and possibly thousands of soldiers from Russia to support the anti-government Russians in east Ukraine.

The meeting is taking place in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. The participants are Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President François Hollande. Earlier in the day, a tense Vladimir Putin broke a pencil he was holding. At a scheduled "family photo" during a break in the meeting, all four faces were extremely grim.

Ukraine's government would like Russia to stop supplying weapons and soldiers to the insurgents. Russia would like Europe to end the sanctions. Right now, it looks like neither side will get what they want. BBC and Twitter

Greece's negotiations with eurozone fail to reach deal

Wednesday's meeting of the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone financial ministers ended in failure, with no agreement. Under its new government, Greece is demanding a "bridge loan" that will permit it to pay its bills and increase government spending over the next six months. Several eurozone countries, led by Germany oppose this proposal. Since no joint statement was issued on Wednesday, it's thought that the two sides are very far apart. There will be another Eurogroup meeting on Monday. Kathimerini

US closes Yemen embassy, following Somalia, Syria and Libya

Violence in Sanaa, the capital city in Yemen, has been increasing after the al-Houthi ethnic group completed its coup last week, and took complete control of Yemen's government. Anti-Houthi demonstrations have been growing, and Houthi militias have been using force to disperse crowds. The al-Houthis are an Iran-backed Shia militia, and their slogan is: "God is the Greatest. Death to America. Death to Israel. Damn the Jew and Victory to Islam."

Fearing an assault, the U.S. on Tuesday closed its embassy in Sanaa and evacuated all personnel. As soon as U.S. officials left the capital, the Houthis seized more than 20 vehicles from the evacuated embassy.

Yemen is the home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the U.S. has been fighting with the cooperation of the preceding government. It's not clear whether the new al-Houthi government will agree to continued attacks on AQAP, particularly the drone strikes, but the al-Houthis themselves also would like to see AQAP defeated.

Yemen becomes the third Arab country to lose its American embassy since December 2010, when the "Arab spring" began, creating turmoil in one country after another throughout the Mideast. The Syrian war forced the closure of the US embassy in Damascus in February 2012, and the dissolution of Libya's government forced the closure of the embassy in Tripoli in July 2014.

On January 8, 1991, looters in the army of the government of Somalia fired rocket grenades in the capital city Mogadishu, leading to the famous "Blackhawk down" incident. The U.S. embassy was closed, and all diplomats and employees were evacuated. In July of last year, President Obama appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Shamarke to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991. However, Sharmarke will work out of the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. AP and U.S. State Dept. and ABC News (14-Jul-2014) and LA Times (8-Jan-1991)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Feb-15 World View -- US closes Yemen embassy, following Somalia, Syria and Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Feb-15 World View -- Iran/Saudi relations worsen over Yemen and falling oil prices

Citigroup: Oil could plunge to $20 per barrel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Citigroup: Oil could plunge to $20 per barrel


Iran's Supreme Leader tweets a threat to Saudi Arabia over falling oil prices (Memri)
Iran's Supreme Leader tweets a threat to Saudi Arabia over falling oil prices (Memri)

After falling during the last year from over $100 per barrel down to below $45 per barrel, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil has record to around $52 per barrel. However, Citigroup analysts say that the current price is unsustainable, and that we'll soon see oil fall well below $40 per barrel, and perhaps as low as in the $20's range for a while, possibly triggering the collapse of OPEC.

The reasons for the continuing plunge in oil prices are:

The result is that oil storage is "heading toward the tank-tops," meaning that storage space is running out, and the oversupply will push prices down substantially. Bloomberg

Iran's threatens oil transports, blaming Saudis for falling oil prices

On February 24, 1990, after a drastic fall in oil prices, Iran accused Saudi Arabia of being party to a Western plot against Iran. At that time, Iran and Iraq were still at a state of war, and Iran threatened to confiscate oil shipments to Iraq that pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran demanded that the Saudis conform to the demands of the oil cartel OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries).

Two weeks ago, the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, renewed that threat, by repeating part of it in a tweet, saying that "crashing oil prices ... is a blow against Islamic and independent nations," and promising to "answer a blow with a blow."

According to a state-sponsored editorial:

"Iran, as the center of Islamic awakening, shows tremendous patience in [its] foreign policy... But the anger of this patient element has irreversible consequences for the Aal Saud family and their allies in the region, from Aal Nahyan [the UAE royal family] to Aal Khalifa [the Bahraini royal family]. Beware of the patient ones. Saudi Arabia must not depend on sunny days – on the contrary, it must prepare for a stormy day... The nations of the region will not forget the Arab leaders' betrayal by means of reducing oil prices, and revenge will be a minimal punishment for this strategic mistake by Saudi Arabia.

Today, all the arteries of oil transport – from Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz – are under Iranian control, by means of Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, and within range of Iranian missiles. If the need arises, the nations of the region will be informed of Saudi Arabia's and its allies' despicable collaboration with the Zionist regime..."

Iran has recently been bragging that they now have control of the capital cities in four other countries -- Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and most recently Yemen. The Supreme Leader now wants to leverage that control by threatening oil transport throughout the region, in order to raise oil prices.

With the death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah II, and his replacement by King Salman, the Saudis have been indecisive in reacting to the takeover of Yemen by the Iran-backed Shia Houthis. Saudi Arabia has contributed some $4 billion in aid to Yemen since 2011. That aid was largely suspended in December after Houthis took control. Now the Saudis have to decide whether to go further and intervene militarily, which would raise the conflict with Iran to an even higher level.

Iran's attacks on Saudi Arabia are extremely vitriolic. When the news of King Abdullah's death broke, an Iranian state-sponsored news agency published a cartoon welcoming him to hell:


Iran cartoon on King Abdullah's death: Left devil: 'Welcome'; right devil: 'The Master in the furnace of hell' (Memri)
Iran cartoon on King Abdullah's death: Left devil: 'Welcome'; right devil: 'The Master in the furnace of hell' (Memri)

After Abdullah's death, a top Iranian advisor called on the new King Salman to change policies: "As for King Salman's desire for an Israeli-Palestinian peace – this is impossible, because the Zionists need to leave the occupied lands..." Memri and Al-Jazeera

More on the growing Muslim versus Muslim wars

I received a number of reader responses to yesterday's article on Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism, and the point that Islam is at war with itself, not with the West. There are no Muslim countries or Muslim armies attacking the West, but there are a number of Muslim armies and militias attacking and killing thousands of other Muslims, including Muslim women and children.

Most of the questions were of the following sort: "Why can't Muslims be at war with other Muslims AND with the West?"

The answer really is "No".

It's certainly true that Osama bin Laden was at war with the West, as were a number of Saudi jihadists. Other jihadists groups would like to be at war with the West, but they're too bogged down killing other Muslims to attack the West. That's the point. For example, I'm sure the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) would like to wage war against the West, but they'll never get the opportunity because they'll never defeat all the Muslim armies around them, without a world war. No Muslim army could possibly have the resources to fight other Muslim armies and the West at the same time.

As I've been saying for years, we're headed for a world war where the Saudis will be our enemy, aligned with Pakistan and China, and Iran will be our ally, aligned with Russia and India. It will never be the case that "Islam is at war with the West," but it will be like World Wars I and II, where we were at war with some Muslim armies and allied with other Muslim armies, and that will be bad enough.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Feb-15 World View -- Iran/Saudi relations worsen over Yemen and falling oil prices thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Feb-15 World View -- Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism are nonsense

Nigeria and Boko Haram declare war after election postponement

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism are nonsense


Bill O'Reilly's facts that prove that Islam is at war with the West
Bill O'Reilly's facts that prove that Islam is at war with the West

Islam is not at war with the West. Islam is at war with itself, as I've written several times. There is a massive, historic war of Muslims versus Muslims that is growing every week. Things like the Charlie Hebdo attack are only for recruiting and fund raising. Countries include: Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria-Niger-Cameroon-Chad, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh. ISIS armies are not attacking the West; they're slaughtering tens of thousands of Muslims. It's the most important development going on today.

On Friday, I watched Bill O'Reilly's show on the Fox News Channel, where the subject under discussion was Islam's war on the West, and that Islamic extremism is an existential threat to America. O'Reilly said that it was, and he promised that he "had the facts." I was quite curious to know what "facts" he had, so I stayed tuned.

The "facts" are summarized in the graphic shown above, based on a Pew Research poll. He said that this graphic showed that "a significant minority of Muslims do support violent terrorism." He read off the stats, and ended with: "and in Bangladesh a whopping 47% of Muslims support suicide bombing against CIVILIANs."

Are you kidding me? Does O'Reilly or anyone else believe that Bangladeshis care about a suicide bombing in the West, or that they'd even pay attention if one occurred? These people struggle every day just to feed their kids, and couldn't care less what happens in the West.

Now, I doubt that anyone on O'Reilly's staff knows even a single fact about Bangladesh, including how to find it on a map, and that would explain their silly conclusion. To illustrate, here's a two-day-old news story:

"Nine killed in Bangladesh fire bomb attacks on bus, truck

DHAKA Sat Feb 7, 2015 1:36am EST

(Reuters) - At least nine people, including two children, were burned alive in Bangladesh when opposition activists hurled petrol bombs at a packed bus and a truck in the latest spasm of worsening political violence, police said on Saturday. ...

At least 70 people have been killed and hundreds injured in violence over the past month, including the latest deaths in arson attacks overnight."

This is day to day life in Dhaka. In 2009, I wrote a lengthy article about violence in Bangladesh, that began:

"76 Bangladesh army officers were mutilated and killed last week by men under their command. The massacre, which occurred over a 33 hour period on February 25-26, has shocked the country for its brutality. Bodies of officers and their wives were mutilated and piled into mass graves. Security forces have arrested hundreds of guards, including many who fled to towns and cities across the country."

In 1971, Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) fought an extremely bloody and genocidal civil war between two Muslim ethnic groups -- the Urdu-speaking Biharis from the upper castes of Indian society, versus the indigenous Bengali-speaking Bengalis, from the "untouchable" castes of India.

Although the war ended, the hatred continues between these two ethnic groups, and today there are still calls for violence by one side against the other. That ALWAYS happens after a civil war.

In fact, it sometimes happens in countries where there's been no civil war. I remember America in the 1960s, I remember the "long hot summers" of violent riots, and I remember the bombings and calls for violence from groups like the Weather Underground. During "the Troubles" in Ireland, both Catholics and Protestants were calling for violence. Today in Mexico, you have drug cartels slaughtering civilians and calling for violence, and we needn't be reminded that these people are Christians, not Muslims.

The point is that if you take a bunch of poll results, as O'Reilly did, and claim to have the "facts" about something, then you're talking nonsense. When a person's wife and children are slaughtered by someone else, that person will want revenge. That's a human emotion, whether the person is a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew or a Christian.

I'll discuss one more item on O'Reilly's list: "Muslims in Palestinian territories -- 46%." Here we have to be reminded about some facts that a lot of people don't want to hear. The Gaza Palestinians believe themselves to be Israeli's prisoners, and in last summer's Gaza war, thousands of Palestinian women and children were killed by Israeli airstrikes. These airstrikes may have been completely justified by the tunnels and weapons stores, but that doesn't matter to the people whose family members were killed, and who now seek revenge. But it doesn't mean that Islam is at war with the West. It means that the Palestinians are at war with the Israelis, and there's little doubt that that's true, and that explains the Pew poll statistic.

Islam is NOT at war with the West. ISIS armies are fighting Muslims, not Westerners. In country after country, Muslims are at war, almost always with other Muslims. That's a completely different thing, and it's extremely dangerous because sooner or later we'll be pulled into it, whether we like it or not. We should try to understand that, instead of referencing irrelevant poll statistics. Reuters and Pew Report (PDF)

Nigeria and Boko Haram declare war after election postponement

Nigeria's government has caused an international uproar by Saturday's announcement to postpone the February 14 presidential elections for six weeks, until March 28. The reason given was threats by Boko Haram to disrupt the election with terror attacks. However, the Muslim opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, is accusing the government of using the Boko Haram threat as an excuse to gain time in order to keep the Christian president, Goodluck Jonathan, in office for another term.

Nigeria had an extremely bloody civil war between 1967 and 1970, that pitted Christians versus Muslims and ethnic groups against each other. In order to avoid further violence, officials in 1979 adopted an informal rule that the office of president would alternate between a Christian and a Muslim, with two 4-year terms each. This rule was followed until 2010, when Jonathan took over as head of state after the death of the Muslim president Umaru Yar'Adua, who was part way through his first term. Jonathan then won the next election in 2011, and so a Christian has been president almost continually since 1999.

So the Muslim opposition now suspects that the purpose of the election postponement is to give Jonathan a way to gain time to win the election, possibly through fraudulent means.

Indeed, many people are wondering what good the six-week extension will be at all. Nigeria's army has totally failed to bring Boko Haram under control for six years, so what good will another six weeks do?

The army responds that things have changed recently, and that they're now getting plenty of international help from Cameroon, Niger, Benin and Chad, and that the combined effort of 7,000 troops could bring violence "to a level that will allow for a free and fair election."

However, Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, issued a video on Monday, effectively declaring war on the international coalition.

"Your alliance will not achieve anything. Amass all your weapons and face us. We welcome you. ... You send 7,000 troops? Why don't you send 70 million? This is small. Only 7,000? By Allah, it is small. We can seize them one-by-one. We can seize them one-by-one."

The fear is that the next six weeks will see increased violence in Nigeria's northeast, forcing another election delay and, in the worst scenario, bringing about a new military coup. BBC and Deutsche Welle and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Feb-15 World View -- Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism are nonsense thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Feb-15 World View -- 30 dead in Cairo Egypt as soccer fans clash with police

Greece's Alexis Tsipras approaches Wednesday confrontation with Europe

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

30 dead in Cairo Egypt as soccer fans clash with police


Pickup truck in flames during Sunday's clashes between football fans and police (AP)
Pickup truck in flames during Sunday's clashes between football fans and police (AP)

Authorities are concerned about widespread riots and demonstrations after 30 people died and dozens were injured in clashes with police at a football (soccer) game in Cairo on Sunday, when hundreds of football fans tried to enter the stadium without buying tickets. Police fired teargas and birdshot to disperse the crowd. Most of the deaths were due to suffocation, while other were killed in a stampede after the police fired teargas.

Young football fans in Cairo, known as Ultras, have become highly politicized. Football fan clubs joined together in Tahrir Square in 2011 to bring about the ouster of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak. When the army took over, the Ultras demonstrated against the army. Then they demonstrated against the Muslim Brotherhood, during the days of president Mohamed Morsi. Now the fear is of major demonstrations and riots against the former general and current president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi.

Sunday's incident is certainly going to renew the widespread criticism of the police in an incident that occurred on February 2, 2012, at a football match in Port Said, when fans of two opposing football clubs were killed in clashes with each other.

The attackers were mostly fans of the home team, the al-Masry football club, while the victims were Cairo Ultras, fans of the visiting team, Cairo's Al-Ahly football club, a group that had actively taken part in the Tahrir Square protests during 2011, and the suspicion is widespread that police were responsible for the violence, in order to get revenge against the Ultras. There were plenty of riot police present at the game, but video shows that they allowed the violence to continue without interference, and they may even have aided the violence by blocking the escape route of the victims.

However, fans were furious a year later when an Egyptian court sentenced 21 football fans to death for participating in the riot, while the police were completely exonerated. This particularly infuriated the ultras, who believed that the police were responsible. ( "27-Jan-13 World View -- Egypt in crisis after two days of violent clashes")

After the 2012 incident, Egyptian football matches were closed to spectators, a ban which was only just recently lifted. Egypt's cabinet has now decided to suspend all football game indefinitely.

There are hundreds of thousands of politically active Ultras, and it's now thought that it's almost certain that they'll be returning to Tahrir Square for anti-government and anti-police demonstrations. How far these demonstrations will probably depends mostly on how skillfully and transparently they handle the investigation of Sunday's incident. Al-Ahram (Cairo) and Al-Jazeera

Greece's Alexis Tsipras approaches Wednesday confrontation with Europe

Greece's new radical left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras appears to be approaching a head-on clash with the Eurogroup, the eurozone finance ministers, when they all meet on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Tsipras gave his maiden speech to Greece's parliament. He repeated his plan to increase government spending, and he repeated his demand that Europe continue to fund Greece's increased spending by billions of dollars. In particular, he's asking Europe to provide a "bridge loan" to support the increased spending through June, to give Greece and the Europeans time to negotiate revised bailout terms that will allow the increased spending to continue into the future.

He's also demanding World War II reparations from Germany for the damages brought by the Nazis. He called it, "A moral obligation to our people, to history, to all Europeans who fought and gave their blood against Nazism." Germany has already firmly refused to consider reparations.

In his speech, Tsipras announced the following new and revived spending programs:

Offsetting these spending increases, Tsipras promised to reduce corruption and tax evasion, and also to sell off half of all government limousines. Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Feb-15 World View -- 30 dead in Cairo Egypt as soccer fans clash with police thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Feb-15 World View -- Iannis Xenakis's work 'Kottos' echoes Greece's Nazi vs Communist struggle

Greek Tragedy and Generational Dynamics

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iannis Xenakis's work 'Kottos' echoes Greece's Nazi vs Communist struggle


Iannis Xenakis -- 1966 picture
Iannis Xenakis -- 1966 picture

Iannis Xenakis's 1977 work "Kottos" for cello will be performed on Thursday at Harvard University. Like other works by Iannis, it's not exactly melodic. The composer himself describes it as follows: "In general: the sounds, except for the harmonics, should not be beautiful or nice in the usual sense, but rough, harsh and full of noise." (Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is my first cousin - father's brother's son.)

It's roughness comes because it echoes the conflict between Communists and Nazis in Greece during World War II. In the 1940s, Iannis was a member of ELAS, the Communist-led Greek resistance, helping to drive the Nazis from Greece. The subsequent British occupation and the conservative Greek monarchy turned against ELAS; Iannis, having survived a British shell that destroyed his eye and shattered his face, fled. The Greek government sentenced him to death in absentia. He settled in Paris, working as an architect and, then, a composer.

In Greek mythology, Kottos was giant with a hundred arms and 50 heads. Kottos fought in the massive war between Zeus and the Titans. Like Iannis, Kottos was imprisoned and exiled. Iannis' cello composition echoes both of those stories.

If we look at the trends in Greece over the past five years or so, we can see the same trend lines emerging as in World War II. The radical far left party Syriza is governing Greece today, aligning with Russia and mocking the Germans. At the same time, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has been gaining strength in the last two years, despite the fact that several of its leaders are in jail for corruption and murder. Greece's relationship with its European lenders, especially Germany, is currently in crisis, and with a new bond payment due at the end of February, the crisis may be about the worsen substantially.

As I've been writing for years since the Greek fiscal crisis began, there is no solution. By that I don't mean that we haven't been clever enough to find a solution. I mean that, as with many of today's world problems, no solution exists. Greece, Germany and Europe are headed for an inevitable tragedy which they've inflicted on themselves, and even though we can see it coming, we can't stop it. Extrapolating these trends, we can see that the war between Zeus and the Titans will be fought once more. Boston Globe and Xenakis Project of the Americas

Greek Tragedy and Generational Dynamics

I've found that few non-Greeks really understand what tragedy is about. As a Greek I know that a sense of tragedy is in my bones. Tragedy as an art form was invented in ancient Greece, and three of four great tragic artists of all time were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides of ancient Greece, with the fourth being Shakespeare.

What tragedy does is to bring order out of seeming random events. Many people misunderstand the deepest meanings of tragedy. If a child is killed in a random traffic accident, then it's a terrible event but it's not a tragedy in the classical sense, because of that randomness.

The essence of classical tragedy is that the tragic event is not random. The tragic event is inevitable: it MUST occur, and the reason it must occur is because of the nature, the personality, the character of the protagonists. A true tragedy cannot be prevented, even by those who foresee it, because the forces bringing about the tragedy are too powerful for anyone to stop.

Like the child killed in a random traffic accident, the protagonists of a true tragedy have a great future before them, and in the Greek view, perhaps even a heroic future. But the heroic future turns into disaster because the players in the true tragedy move step by step towards that disaster; and all of us on the outside can see it coming, because these particular players are uniquely capable of inflicting this disaster on one another.

The war between Zeus and the Titans could not be prevented. The war between the Nazis and the Communists in Greece in WW II could be foreseen, but could not be prevented. Today, the growing conflict between Greece and Germany once again is completely foreseeable, but can't be prevented, because no solution exists. In each case, it's the nature, the character of the participants that leads them inexorably to inflict a horrible tragic disaster on each other.

It would not be wrong to describe the Generational Dynamics web site as displaying the greatest tragic play in human history. The countries of the world -- the US, China, Greece, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, etc. -- are all moving towards a tragic disaster that only they are uniquely capable of inflicting on one another. The script for this play is being written in the daily World View articles. Nothing can be done to prevent this tragic disaster, but through Generational Dynamics we have a way of standing on the outside, and watching it arrive, step by step by step.

Nigeria postpones national elections because of Boko Haram

Nigeria's electoral commission has postponed the February 14 presidential elections by six weeks, in view of threats of further terrorist attacks by Boko Haram. The US State Dept. says that Boko Haram has become extremely wealthy and has large storehouses of weapons, and it's hard to see how the security situation will improve in six weeks. It's feared that Nigeria is on a path that will inevitably cause it to join other countries, including Somalia, Libya, Central African Republic, and Yemen, that are disintegrating before our eyes. Nigeria Tribune and BBC

Gulf Arabs condemn Houthi takeover of Yemen

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Gulf Arab nations has condemned the Houthi takeover of Yemen as "a grave and unacceptable escalation [that] endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen." The GCC said its own security was linked to that of Yemen and vowed to take "all the necessary measures to defend their interests." Arab News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Feb-15 World View -- Iannis Xenakis's work 'Kottos' echoes Greece's Nazi vs Communist struggle thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Feb-15 World View -- Central African Republic 'peace deal' collapses instantly as slaughter continues

Houthis complete takeover coup in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Central African Republic 'peace deal' collapses instantly as slaughter continues


Central African Republic refugees plow a small plot of land for food (UN)
Central African Republic refugees plow a small plot of land for food (UN)

Two former presidents of the Central African Republic (CAR) signed a "peace agreement" in a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, several days ago. One was Francois Bozizé, the Christian former president, who was ousted in a coup in March 2013 by the other participant, Michel Djotodia, the Muslim former president, who served until January 2014. The ceremony was kind of laughable, since the agreement was meaningless from the moment it was signed.

After Djotodia's coup took place in March 2013, Muslim Seleka militias began committing atrocities, particularly targeting the Christian constituencies of the deposed Francois 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.

Throughout 2014, various African Union and United Nations committees and conferences have been looking for ways to bring the violence to an end. On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council to approve 1,030 more peacekeepers to bring the total to nearly 13,000. Just to put that number in perspective, the NY City police department has over 34,000 uniformed officers for just one city, while CAR is an enormous country the size of France. However, NY City has 8 million people, while CAR has 5 million.

However, considering the situation in CAR, 13,000 peacekeepers is far too few. According to the UN, 438,000 people in are displaced within CAR, more than 423,000 people have fled to Cameroon, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and 2.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Michel Djotodia was interviewed by the BBC on Thursday and asked if he would be able to return to Bangui, the capital city, and take part in elections planned for later this year (my transcription of simultaneous translation):

"The conditions are not right. I can't.

The provisional government is having trouble protecting even the palace in Bangui. So what would I do? I can't return. There must be some security. That's why I'm here - to try and bring back peace and security to the country.

But the people don't want it. First of all, there aren't even any institutions in CAR. The state as such no longer exists. The army has disappeared. The police doesn't exist. Justice is on its knees. All these state institutions have practically vanished.

One, how can anyone claim that we're ready for elections? Two, the majority of Central Africans are outside the country. How can we organize elections? You'd have to take the ballot boxes on your head to Chad, Cameroon, and France, so that people could vote. Do you find that normal? It would make a mockery of CAR's people."

The United Nations and Djotodia together describe a disintegrated country in total chaos. Most of the peacekeeping forces are concentrated around the capital city Bangui, and even there are not keeping much peace. The Muslim Selekas are mostly in control of the east, while the Christian anti-balaka militias are mostly in the west.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, CAR is in a generational crisis war, and it won't end until it's fully run its course, and reaches a climax.

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 deep into a generational Crisis era, where a new crisis war is inevitable.

The Kongo-Wara rebellion was nominally an uprising against the French colonialists, but it also had its share of the same kind of tribal violence that we are seeing today. After a crisis war like that ends, the survivors on both sides look back in horror at the acts that were perpetrated on both sides, and vow to devote the rest of their lives to making sure that nothing like that happens to their children or grandchildren. They succeed at that, but once the survivors have passed away, so that there's no one left with a personal memory of the last crisis war, then there's nothing to stop a new crisis war from starting, and that's what's happening now.

Many people are surprised at this narrative, mainly because they've never heard of the Kongo-Wara Rebellion. But just as young Americans today have heard of World War II, you can be sure that young people in CAR today, both Muslims and Christians, have heard of the Kongo-Wara Rebellion. And these young people know nothing of the horrors of that war. What the Muslims know is that their great-grandfathers were war heroes because they killed thousands of French and Christians, while the Christians have heard that their great-grandfathers were even bigger heroes, because they slaughtered even more Muslims.

So, the French Foreign Legion and the United Nations and African Union peacekeepers will try desperately to put a lid on the current war, but nothing will stop it now. All Africa and Bloomberg and United Nations and Reuters

Nigeria's Boko Haram attacks towns in Niger, as war expands into region

Nigeria's terrorist group Boko Haram invaded Niger on Friday, attacking two towns in a part of Niger that is already home to tens of thousands of refugees who have fled Boko Haram attacks back in Nigeria. On Wednesday and Thursday, Boko Haram attack a town in Cameroon, leaving nearly 100 dead and 500 wounded.

The Boko Haram insurgency is rapidly becoming an international war, with Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin all having pledged to send troops to fight Boko Haram. AP

Houthis complete takeover coup in Yemen

After several days of large anti-Houthi public demonstrations, often violently disrupted by Houthi officials, the minority Houthis have completed their coup and taken complete control of Yemen's government in Sanaa, replacing the elected parliament with a military council completely controlled by the Houthis.

The Shia Houthis are thought to be supported by Iran. They now have control of northern Yemen, but Sunni tribes in central and southern Yemen are not expected to accede to their control. These include the moderate Islamist Islah party, backed by Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and the secessionist groups in Yemen's Southern Movement.

The main concern now is that tensions among these groups will spiral into a civil war, joining the growing war engulfing the Mideast that I've been talking about for weeks. Probably the best scenario that can be hoped for is that Yemen will quietly become a disintegrated state, joining Libya, Syria and Iraq, joining Somalia and Central African Republic in Africa, with Nigeria on the horizon.

The previous government had depended on aid from Saudi Arabia to pay salaries. That aid is being cut off, and so the next crisis may be unable to pay salaries in one of the poorest countries in the world. Yemen Online and VOA and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Feb-15 World View -- Central African Republic 'peace deal' collapses instantly as slaughter continues thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Feb-15 World View -- Mideast war widens as Jordan vows to destroy ISIS

80 million people exposed by massive Anthem Inc. data breach

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mideast war widens as Jordan vows to destroy ISIS


Jordanians chant slogans to show support for government action against ISIS, carrying posters of the slain pilot and of King Abdullah II (AP)
Jordanians chant slogans to show support for government action against ISIS, carrying posters of the slain pilot and of King Abdullah II (AP)

For months I've been describing the Muslim versus Muslim war that has been growing throughout the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia. This week, the Mideast war has widened as Jordan begins to take revenge against the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

Two days after a video emerged showing Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive, Jordan has apparently declared all-out war on ISIS. Jordan began with airstrikes on Thursday, targeting ISIS training centers and arms and ammunition depots, in an air mission named "Muath the Martyr."

The military, in statement directed at ISIS read on state TV, said, "This is the beginning and you will get to know the Jordanians." Other messages called ISIS the "enemies of Islam."

Jordan's foreign minister Nasser Judeh said: "We said we are going to take this all the way, we are going to go after them wherever they are and we're doing that." This means that Jordan will be conducting air strikes in Iraq, as well as in Syria as before. The United States military is cooperating by speeding up arms deliveries and by moving search and rescue capabilities from Kuwait to Iraq.

The mood in Jordan has changed substantially. Last week, the population was split between wanting to stay in the American-led coalition and those wanting to withdraw completely. This week, the public seems to be united in favor of revenge. The National (UAE) and CNN and AP

80 million people exposed by massive Anthem Inc. data breach

The massive Anthem Inc. data breach affects 80 million current and former customers of the following health plans: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.

The following information was apparently obtained: names, dates of birth, member ID/ social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information. Medical information was not obtained.

Unfortunately, there is no time limit on this exposure. Once hackers have your social security number and other information, they can use it for identity theft at any time in the future.

If you are potentially affected by the breach, you should go to the Anthem Inc. data breach FAQ and take steps to protect yourself. Anthem is offering its customers a free identity theft protection service.

Anthem says that they have a "state of the art security system," but that seems to be a joke right about now. One problem is that social security numbers, birth dates and other information were stored in the data base in clear text. If that information had been stored in encrypted form, then it would be useless to hackers. But, as an IT professional and a Senior Software Engineer, I know from my personal experience and the experience of friends that trying to convince management to encrypt this data is liable to get you admonished or fired. Something like that probably happened at Anthem, and now 80 million people will have to pay the price. As in other industries, stupidity has no limits in the computer industry. USA Today and Wired and Anthem Inc.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Feb-15 World View -- Mideast war widens as Jordan vows to destroy ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Feb-15 World View -- Terrorists attack school, part of growing violence in Karachi Pakistan

The European Central Bank turns the screws on Greece's banks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Terrorists attack school, part of growing violence in Karachi Pakistan


Warning letter left by terrorists after bombing Karachi school on Tuesday
Warning letter left by terrorists after bombing Karachi school on Tuesday

Seven terrorists riding motorcycles hurled hand grenades at a school in the port city of Karachi in Pakistan. The school was damaged, but there were no casualties. Before leaving, the terrorists left a threat letter (shown above) saying that this attack was only a beginning, and that "the flames of war WILL intensify and engulf your homes!"

The attack was emblematic of the daily violence that occurs in Karachi, making it possibly the most dangerous megacity in the world. The massive terror attack on a Shia mosque that I reported on a couple of days ago took place in a Karachi suburb. There were at least 1,135 fatalities in 2014 from terror attacks in Karachi. Although many of them could be classified as ordinary gang warfare, many of the attacks are also sectarian in nature. Pakistan's government has repeatedly promised to fight terrorism, but despite terrorist activity is increasing throughout Pakistan, authorities have done little.

Violence has been increasing in Karachi for decades, and is now approaching a crisis level that has the potential to transform into a sectarian war that engulfs first the region, then the entire country. Express Tribune (Pakistan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India)

Jordan's King vows 'relentless' war on ISIS 'on their own ground'

In the aftermath of the video by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) depicting the barbaric murder of Jordan's pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh, Jordan's King Abdullah II has promised a "relentless" war:

"We are waging this war to protect our faith, our values and human principles and our war for their sake will be relentless and will hit them in their own ground."

Two jihadists in Jordan's jails, previously convicted and sentenced to death, were executed by hanging on Wednesday morning. However, the father of the murdered pilot, who belongs to a powerful tribe in Jordan that is close to the king, said that wasn't enough:

"I demand none of them amongst us be kept alive. I demand the revenge be greater than executing prisoners. I demand the ISIL organization be annihilated.

This murderous organization, made up of militants from all the world countries, is acting in barbaric ways, violating all the international laws, codes of ethics, and prisoners' conventions. That is why I strongly demand the government to swiftly take revenge for the blood of Moaz and the dignity of our country."

Public opinion in Jordan, which last week seemed to favor withdrawing Jordan from the anti-ISIS coalition, now appears to have undergone a complete reversal. Al Jazeera and Reuters

The European Central Bank turns the screws on Greece's banks

Greece's new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, part of the Syriza government of radical left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras, is telling anyone who will listen that Greece will not be meeting its austerity commitments that it made in return for receiving 240 billion euros of bailout money paid so far, and that it will inaugurate new spending programs.

With Greece on a collision course with Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) has taken the first step to isolate Greece financially. As part of the previous bailout negotiations, the ECB had implemented a waiver that would allow Greek banks to borrow money from the ECB using Greek bonds as collateral, despite the fact that Greek bonds are "junk bonds" with little investment value. On Wednesday, the ECB announced that it was lifting that waiver, and so Greek's banks may no longer use Greek bonds as collateral.

Greek banks are already in trouble. During December alone, 4.6 billion euros in deposits were withdrawn from Greek banks and deposited in banks in other countries. A full-scale bank run is feared.

There is another way that Greece can borrow from the ECB, the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) program. The ELA is considerably more expensive, but it doesn't require collateral. Kathimerini and ECB Press Release

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Feb-15 World View -- Terrorists attack school, part of growing violence in Karachi Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Feb-15 World View -- Nationalism surges in Japan and Jordan after ISIS atrocities

Analysts are puzzled by ISIS's burning alive of Jordan's pilot

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Analysts are puzzled by ISIS's burning alive of Jordan's pilot


Muath al-Kaseasbeh, drenched in gasoline, watches as the flames approach his cage to burn him alive, in screen grab from ISIS video.  (Memri)
Muath al-Kaseasbeh, drenched in gasoline, watches as the flames approach his cage to burn him alive, in screen grab from ISIS video. (Memri)

On Tuesday, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) released a 22:34 minute video that portrays Jordan's pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being locked in a cage and burned alive. Jordan is part of the coalition conducting air strikes on ISIS, and al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS several weeks ago.

A number of analysts on Tuesday expressed surprise that ISIS committed this atrocity. Al-Kaseasbeh was a very high-value hostage, a member of a leading tribe in Jordan. His value was second only to the value of a captured American pilot, if one should occur. ISIS could have leveraged al-Kaseasbeh for many things, including millions of dollars in ransom money and the release of scores of terrorists in Jordan's jails, in exchange for his release. Also, Jordan's involvement in the American coalition against ISIS was becoming increasingly unpopular in Jordan, and ISIS might have even been able to force Jordan to withdraw from the coalition. In fact, Jordan stopped taking part in the anti-ISIS airstrikes since the pilot was captured.

There are reports of a split within ISIS between factions that wanted to kill the pilot and the factions that wanted to use him for negotiating leverage. However, analysts are saying that it appears that the pilot was actually killed some time ago, possibly on January 3, so negotiating was never a serious option. Obviously, the winners in ISIS were the factions that wanted not only to kill him, but to kill him in as barbaric a way as possible. What was the motivation?

The analysts I heard point out that every time ISIS posts a video of this sort, the number of recruits joining ISIS surges. Thousands of young men and women from around the world have been traveling to Syria to join the ISIS bloodbath, and this video will bring more. These would-be jihadists are mostly used as cannon fodder in ISIS's war against other Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

The ISIS strategy has to be seen in the context of the reality that ISIS is facing. As I've been describing for weeks, there is a growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa, and South Asia, and ISIS is one of the armies fighting in that war. ISIS's armies are not fighting Europeans or Israelis; they're fighting and killing Muslims. For ISIS to succeed, it needs an even bigger army. Negotiating with Jordan for the release of the pilot would have done nothing to increase the size of the ISIS army. Burning him alive in a barbaric fashion as a PR stunt will have that result. MEMRI

Jordan promises revenge against ISIS for killing pilot

Analysts on Tuesday were speculating whether the barbaric killing of Jordan's pilot would cause Jordan's public to demand that the government get revenge, or demand that the government withdraw from the anti-ISIS coalition. As of this writing on Tuesday evening ET, it seems clear that Jordan is committed to revenge.

Actions that Jordan might take include the following:

During the America's war with Vietnam in the 1960s-70s, whenever the North Vietnamese committed some atrocity, such as burning down a village and slaughtering all the women and children, or committing atrocities against American soldiers, these acts would fuel the American anti-war movement, and bring cheers from the likes of John Kerry and Jane Fonda. America was then in a generational Awakening era, one generation past the end of World War II, when nationalism is typically at a low point. But Jordan today is in a generational Crisis era, and we've reported in the past how nationalism is increasing in countries around the world, including the U.S., Europe and China. Anti-war movements gain little traction at such times, so it's not surprising that those wanting revenge in Jordan are having their way today. VOA and Time

Japan's nationalism surges over ISIS killings of two Japanese hostages

ISIS was embroiled in another hostage drama in recent days, having abducted Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa. ISIS demanded $200 million in ransom for the freedom of the two hostages, even though it was clear that no sum that large would ever be paid. In retrospect, it appears that ISIS had no intention of freeing the two Japanese than it had to free Jordan's pilot, under any circumstances.

So when ISIS released videos in the last few days showing the beheadings of the two hostages, prime minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising "to make the terrorists pay the price." He added:

"No country is completely safe from terrorism. How do we cut the influence of ISIS, and put a stop to extremism? Japan must play its part in achieving this."

Abe's statement seems straightforward enough, but in fact it appears to mark a watershed in Japan's military policy. After being defeated in World War II, Japan adopted a constitution that permitted the military to be used only for self-defense. The U.S. has been pressuring Japan for decades to increase its military budget, to take on a greater share of responsibility for its own defense, and to participate more in multilateral, global security operations by committing self-defense forces.

Japan has resisted for decades. It was thought that only a major military confrontation with China or North Korea would cause Japan to reverse its policy. But now, ISIS seems to have accomplished something that the US couldn't accomplish. The beheadings of the two hostages have infuriated the Japanese people and increased nationalism to the extent that they may now support greater military commitments abroad.

Over the weekend, a Japanese diplomat said:

"This is 9/11 for Japan. It is time for Japan to stop daydreaming that its good will and noble intentions would be enough to shield it from the dangerous world out there. Americans have faced this harsh reality; the French have faced it, and now we are, too."

This reference to 9/11 is interesting because 9/11 was also cited frequently in past weeks in reference to the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris. 9/11 has become a symbol in one country after another to describe an event that turns the country around to cause a surge in nationalism and willingness to use the military. (In generational theory, these are called "regeneracy events," because they regenerate civic unity for the first time since end of the preceding crisis war.) Any country is susceptible to such popular reversals during a generational Crisis era.

What was particularly infuriating to the Japanese people was that ISIS gave as a reason for beheading Goto that Japan was a member of the American-led coalition against ISIS. The reason that this is infuriating is that Japan was NOT a member of the coalition, and could not have been a member because of the country's constitutional restrictions on the military to defense only. However, Japan did offer $200 million in humanitarian aid to countries fighting ISIS. KForce NightWatch and NY Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Feb-15 World View -- Nationalism surges in Japan and Jordan after ISIS atrocities thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Feb-15 World View -- China builds more man-made islands in the South China Sea

Jordan returns its ambassador to Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China builds more man-made islands in the South China Sea


Satellite picture of China's man-made island, November 2014 (Janes)
Satellite picture of China's man-made island, November 2014 (Janes)

China continues to occupy regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues a massive military to enforce its seizures. In addition to building oil rigs and taking control of fishing grounds in other countries' territories, China has been building man-made islands to use as military bases and landing strips. 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. Instead, China is becoming increasingly belligerent militarily, annexing other nations' territories, and militarizing the entire sea. This is exactly the behavior that the Nazis used, leading to World War II.

China has already created a new island nearly 2 miles long and several hundred yards wide. China is rapidly building five man-made islands from tiny reefs and shoals in the South China Sea. These islands will be used to for military operations, including combat and support aircraft, when the inevitable day arrives that China's seizures of other countries' territories leads to a military confrontation that could spiral into war. LA Times and Janes Defense Weekly

Pentagon would welcome Japan air patrols in the South China Sea

With China becoming more and more militarily belligerent in the South China Sea, a Pentagon official said that the U.S. would welcome Japanese air patrols over the South China Sea. According to Admiral Robert Thomas:

"I think allies, partners and friends in the region will look to the Japanese more and more as a stabilizing function. In the South China Sea, frankly, the Chinese fishing fleet, the Chinese coastguard and the (navy) overmatch their neighbors. I think that JSDF (Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces) operations in the South China Sea makes sense in the future."

However, the State Dept. and the Pentagon may be in disagreement over this idea. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said, "We’re not aware of any plans or proposals for Japan to patrol the South China Sea. ... It sounds like reports aren’t accurate." Reuters and Japan Times

Jordan returns its ambassador to Israel

On Monday, Jordan announced that its country's ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat would be returning to Jordan's embassy in Tel Aviv.

Obeidat was recalled three months ago at a time of violence in the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Temple Mount is the holiest site in the Jewish religion, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. When violence forced Israel to shut down access to the Al-Aqsa mosque for two days, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas called it "tantamount to a declaration of war," and Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel. Jordan had said that Israeli practices in Jerusalem were undermining 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. The peace treaty had reaffirmed Jordanian oversight of Jerusalem's holy sites.

In its announcement on Monday, Jordan's government says it noted a "positive development" in Israel's stance as 65,000 worshippers now pray in al-Aqsa Mosque on Fridays. Middle East Eye and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Feb-15 World View -- China builds more man-made islands in the South China Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Feb-15 World View -- Washington joins the world in explosive spending splurge

The Iraq war had nothing to do with the federal deficit

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

End of sequestration signals explosive new spending splurge in Washington

We have governments around the world spending like drunken sailors. Japan and Europe are planning enormous quantitative easing programs, and the new radical far-left government in Greece is demanding that many of its debts be erased so that it can go on a new spending binge.

America's experiment with "sequestration" was truly mind-boggling. It was proposed by President Obama as a stunt, thinking that the Republicans would never agree to let it be applied to defense spending, and then when the Republicans signed on, we could all enjoy a few rounds of Schadenfreude watching Obama try to squirm out of it.

What was mind-boggling about it is that it did cap spending in Washington for a while, something akin to pigs flying, and something that could only have happened by accident -- in this case the unexpected outcome of Obama's stunt.

But now many Republicans are pointing to unrest in the Mideast and the militaristic rise of China with concerns for the defense budget, while Obama would like to join Greece in going on a new spending binge.

A major part of that spending binge is on Obamacare, which is a financial disaster but is being held together with duct tape and astronomical subsidies. In 2014, 87% of federal Obamacare enrollees got subsidies. For the silver plan, out of an annual $4,140 premium, the subsidy amounts to $3,132, leaving the patient only $828 to pay out of the $4,140. And even with that, a typical deductible is $5,000-15,000, which means that most of these insured are effectively uninsured, since they'll have to pay all their own medical expenses anyway. So there may be more "effectively uninsured" people today than there were uninsured people in the past.

Then there's CNBC, where the analysts lie constantly about stock valuations. I used to quote analysts doing this, hoping to name and shame them. (See, for example, "14-Apr-12 World View -- Wharton School's Jeremy Siegel is lying about stock valuations" from 2012.) But now criminal fraud is so entrenched in the culture that no one has any shame. And they're just taking after the Obama administration that brings criminal investigations against reporters they don't like, and uses the IRS to attack political opponents with a level of criminality that goes far beyond what Richard Nixon ever dreamed of or was threatened with impeachment for. Congress is just as bad, with massive insider trading and fraud conducted by both parties and both branches of Congress, as exposed by former Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, covered at length on the CBS show 60 Minutes.

By the way, according to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (January 31) is still at an astronomically high 19.79. 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.

I've been around for a long time, but I never thought I'd live to see the current massive level of criminality in Washington and on Wall Street.

With sequestration likely to be thrown out, and a new spending binge approved in Washington and around the world, this is a good time to go over some interesting facts about the federal deficit. AP and Guardian (London)

The Iraq war had nothing to do with the federal deficit


Federal income, outlays and deficit, 1980 to present (as of November)
Federal income, outlays and deficit, 1980 to present (as of November)

We're going to look at the above graph, step by step, to show where the federal budget deficit comes from.

Almost everybody believes that the large federal budget deficit was caused by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, since the deficit began in the year 2000, so the Iraq war couldn't have caused it.

So start by looking at the above graph. To begin, focus on the blue line - government expenditures:

Government receipts plunged when the bubbles burst

Next, in the above graph, focus on the red line - government income / tax receipts:

The high federal deficit is caused by bubbles bursting, not the Iraq war

Finally, in the above graph, focus on the green line - government surplus or deficit (surplus increase upward, deficit increases downward):

So the government surplus at the end of the 1990s was caused by the tech bubble. The government deficit in the early 2000s was caused by the crash of the tech bubble. The reduced deficit in the mid-2000s decade was caused by the real estate bubble. The deficit increased when the real estate bubble crashed. Now the deficit is coming down because of the new stock market bubble.

As I wrote above, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio is at astronomically high levels. It will fall to about 5-6 or lower at some point, and the stock market index will fall by 75% or more.

At that point, the deficit will soar to unsustainable levels, and all these new spending programs will have to be canceled, except those on which the survival of the country depends.

St. Louis Fed - Fred graph

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Feb-15 World View -- Washington joins the world in explosive spending splurge thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi blames foreign countries for terrorist attacks

Spain's far left Podemos party hopes to copy success of Greece's Syriza party

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Spain's far left Podemos party hopes to copy success of Greece's Syriza party


Podemos supporters in Madrid's Cibeles square on Saturday (Skyline Webcam)
Podemos supporters in Madrid's Cibeles square on Saturday (Skyline Webcam)

A week after Greece's radical far-left Syriza took power in Greece, Spain's radical far-left Podemos (Spanish for "we can") hopes to do the same. In a major show of force, some 100,000 party supporters held anti-austerity demonstrations in Madrid on Saturday, chanting "Yes we can" and "tick tock tick tock," the latter to tell politicians that the clock was ticking. The party is tapping into anger over austerity programs that the EU forced them to impose and over corruption among the political elites.

Podemos makes many of the same promises that Syriza did. They promise to significantly raise the minimum wage, enact laws preventing businesses from laying off employees, lowering the retirement age from 65 to 60, and increasing pension payments.

However, the path for Podemos will be much harder than it was for Syriza. Podemos is polling at only 30%, not enough to gain a majority, and without the ability to take advantage of any quirk in Spain's election laws similar to one in Greece's election laws that turned Syriza's 36% plurality into a governing majority. Furthermore, Spain's economy has been doing a lot better under austerity than Greece's has. Even though the unemployment rate is still 23.7%, it's been steadily declining.

The rapid growth of Podemos in Spain shows the danger that Europe is facing in its crisis negotiations with Greece. If Europe is too tough, then Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone, which would some analysts say would be disastrous for both Greece and the eurozone. And if Europe is too easy on Greece, then you get "contamination," where countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy will demand similar treatment that Germany, among others, would not stand for. Spain Report and Bloomberg

Egypt's al-Sisi blames foreign countries for terrorist attacks

Egypt is still in shock in the aftermath of Thursday's multi-location terror attack in North Sinai that killed 25-30 people, most of them soldiers. Egypt had imposed a curfew and harsh security measures on North Sinai after a large terror attack in October, and it's clear that those security measures have failed.

On Saturday, Egypt announced harsh new measures to try to prevent new violence.

Egypt's "Cairo Court of Urgent Matters" issued a verdict banning Hamas and designating its military wing Al-Qassam Brigades as "terrorist organizations." The court ruled that:

A spokesman for Hamas said that the verdict was "dangerous," and that "Al-Qassam Brigades are the symbol of resistance against the Israeli occupation, and a symbol of the [Palestinian] nation's pride and dignity, despite all attempts at defamation."

Shortly after the court decision, in a strident televised speech on Saturday, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi blamed Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and unnamed foreign countries for the terror attacks on Egypt:

The terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) took credit for Thursday's terror attack, and has perpetrated numerous attacks in the past. In November, ABM changed its allegiance from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). At the same time, ABM changed its name to "State of Sinai," in harmony with the ISIS name "Islamic State."

Hamas itself was founded in the early 1980s as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and there were reports last year that the Brotherhood is funding ABM. According to Nabil Naeem, founder of the Islamic Jihad, another terror group in Gaza, ABM has two branches, one in Gaza and one in Sinai, and has close relations with Hamas.

Al-Sisi concluded:

"We will not leave Sinai to anyone. With your will the army will win its confrontation with the terrorists.

It was your will on the 30 June 2013 (the date of mass anti-Morsi protests), and it was one of the hardest decisions taken by you; and it's your will that will keep Egypt strong and able to defeat these terrorists."

We've been reporting since last summer on the changing alliances in the Mideast, particularly the aftermath of a major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, bringing Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split between Qatar and Egypt had been particularly vitriolic prior to the war, ever since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, but after the Gaza war the split between the Saudis and Qataris was equally vitriolic. Saudi King Abdullah acted as a mediator and was able to paper over the differences and obtain a reconciliation in time for an Arab summit meeting in December.

But now King Abdullah has passed away, and two things on Saturday indicate that the vitriol is returning in full force: the court verdict banning Hamas, and al-Sisi's accusations directed at "foreign countries."

Lebanon's last generational crisis war was the 1980s war with Syria, putting Lebanon today into a generational Awakening era, and so it is quite believable that the Lebanese people do not want another war with Israel, and so Hezbollah is backing down from war with Israel, as I wrote yesterday.

But Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are in generational Crisis eras, and so are attracted to war. So it's very unlikely that there will be a new reconciliation between Egypt and Qatar, or between Egypt and Hamas. Israel and Egypt now appear to be firmly in the same corner, fighting terrorist acts from Palestinians, al-Qaeda and ISIS, and these relationships are expected strengthen with each new terrorist attack. The Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa, and South Asia, that I've been describing for weeks, continues to grow and become more dangerous on a weekly basis. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Daily News Egypt and Al Ahram and Egypt Independent (9-Sep-2014)

Houthis use live fire against protesters in Yemen

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in several cities in Yemen on Saturday, as opposition continues to grow against the Houthi takeover of the government in Sanaa. Houthi militia fighters used live ammunition to break up the demonstrations, firing live rounds into the air. Several protesters were reportedly abducted on Saturday by Houthis, including youth activist Fouad al-Hamdani. Al Jazeera and Middle East Eye

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi blames foreign countries for terrorist attacks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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31-Jan-15 World View -- Hezbollah backs down from war with Israel

In Denmark you are now paid to take out a mortgage

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Hezbollah backs down from war with Israel


Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech on Friday
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech on Friday

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech on Wednesday gloating about Wednesday's attack on an Israeli convoy that killed two soldiers. According to Nasrallah:

"If Israel thinks the resistance is deterred and is scared of a conflict, I tell you now after the attack in Qunetra, we are not afraid of war. We will not think twice about confronting the enemy and we will do so if he forces us.

We don't want war but we don't fear it. The resistance in Lebanon is not concerned with rules of engagement. It is our legitimate and legal right to fight aggression, wherever and whenever it may occur."

It was a retaliation attack for Israel's January 18 airstrike at a convoy in Syria that killed two of Hezbollah's top commands, as well as five Iranians and a senior officer in Iran's élite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). It was feared that Hezbollah would demand additional revenge beyond the killing of two Israeli soldiers, or that Israel would strike back. Either way the fear was that something would spiral into a larger war, as had happened in 2006.

But in fact there had already been several reports that Hezbollah was signaling Israel that it was backing down and didn't want a war.

That Nasrallah wanted to back down is completely believable. As we explained two days ago, the Lebanese people are unified in being opposed to another war between Israel and Hezbollah, since the 2006 war accomplished nothing but to make like miserable in Lebanon.

In addition, Hezbollah is completely tied down in Syria. It's undoubtedly true that Nasrallah would like to be responsible for killing a few Jews, but his behavior indicates that he's much more excited by the possibility of massacring and slaughtering thousands of Muslims in Syria.

As I've been reporting for a few weeks, the real war going on in the Mideast today is not Muslims versus Westerners, but Muslims versus Muslims. The same is true in South Asia and North Africa. We have major terror attacks in Egypt and Pakistan (see below), as well as news that Chad is bombing Boko Haram positions in Cameroon. This large war of Muslims versus Muslims is growing in many countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, and others to a greater or lesser extent. Daily Star (Beirut) and Times of Israel

Clashes between Nusra front and Free Syrian Army spreading in Syria

Although the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) gets most of the press these days, thanks to their beheadings and other publicity stunts, there are still other groups fighting in Syria, and one those fights is said to be spreading. The al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) and Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) are both supposed to be fighting against the army of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime but, instead, they're fighting each other. The clashes began on Thursday, just west of Aleppo, and on Friday spread into Idlib province.

However, Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist militia in Syria, has worked with both groups in the past, and is calling for an end to the clashes, and said the disagreement should be settled in an independent Shariah court. Daily Star (Beirut)

Jundallah takes credit for massive mosque attack in Pakistan

A powerful explosion leveled a crowded Shia mosque during Friday prayers in Shikarpur, a city 200 miles north of Karachi in southern Pakistan. At least 56 people were killed. Jundullah, a splinter group of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP - Pakistan Taliban) claimed credit: "Our target was the Shia mosque ... They are our enemies."

TTP and its various splinter groups have in the past attacked both Sunni and Shia targets, but Jundullah has specialized in sectarian attacks against Shias. Some of these targets have been on Iranian soil, though most have been in Pakistan. Some analysts are warning that sectarian attacks are increasing in Pakistan, at a time when Muslim versus Muslim attacks of all kinds are increasing throughout the region. Daily Times (Pakistan) and AFP

Egypt's military begins 'wide military offensives' in North Sinai

After Thursday's sophisticated multi-location North Sinai terrorist attack by the ISIS-linked terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) killing 31 people and injuring dozens, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is under heavy criticism. There was a similar terrorist attack by the same group last October, leading al-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the Sinai, and to build a one kilometer wide buffer zone along the Gaza border, and yet ABM apparently defeated the security measures with ease.

Al-Sisi has cut short his participation in the African Union summit in Ethiopia to deal with the aftermath of the terror attack, and Egypt's army is starting wide military offensives throughout North Sinai, targeting terrorist hideouts using Apache helicopters and un-manned planes.

There is a feeling in Egypt that the harsh security measures that were taken after the October attacks have backfired, in the sense that the Bedouins living in Sinai have become even more estranged from Cairo. Al Ahram (Cairo)

Greece clashes with eurogroup 'No more bailout, no more troika!'

Greece's new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met with the Eurogroup of eurozone finance managers, and quickly announced that the meeting was over. Varoufakis said that Greece did not want an extension to meet the bailout conditions, and he said that he wanted to meet with European leaders, not with technicians the "Troika" of organizations that have been bailing out Greece -- the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Greece is supposed to receive an additional seven billion euro loan at the end of February in order to made debt payments that will come due in March. Greece needs to make those payments or else declare bankruptcy and leave the eurozone. However, that money is dependent upon a review by the Troika, and Varoufakis said he would not negotiate with the Troika. Varoufakis says that Greece doesn't want the money, because it would be used to pay for things they don't care about -- namely their debts. Instead, Varoufakis wants to negotiate directly with European heads of state and negotiate staying the eurozone without going bankrupt and without leaving the eurozone.

After the meeting, eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, "Taking unilateral steps or ignoring previous arrangements is not the way forward." Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

In Denmark you are now paid to take out a mortgage

As we've been reporting for some time, Europe is in a deflationary spiral which will end in a major financial panic and crisis. Now we have a new sign: Nordea Kredit, a Danish bank, is offering a mortgage with a negative interest rate -- which means that the bank lends you the money, and then pays you interest. Actually, the interest rate can vary from +0.03% to -0.03%, so not everyone will qualify for negative interest rates, but a mortgage rate of +0.03% is not that much anyway.

In a deflationary spiral, most people and businesses postpone purchases and hoard cash. Hoarding cash is socially acceptable for a residential family, but not for a bank, which is expected to lend money for business loans and mortgages. And now, with the European Central Bank planning a massive quantitative easing program, which will "print" a lot of money and pump it into banks and the stock market, banks are expected to get rid of that cash any way they can, and now we're seeing the first negative rate mortgage.

The deflationary spiral in the U.S. is not advanced as far as it is in Europe, but it's coming. Zero Hedge

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Jan-15 World View -- Hezbollah backs down from war with Israel thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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30-Jan-15 World View -- ISIS-linked terrorists kill dozens in Egypt's northern Sinai

Greece forces compromise in planned new EU sanctions against Russia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS-linked terrorists kill dozens in Egypt's northern Sinai


Egyptian armed forces in Sinai
Egyptian armed forces in Sinai

At least 26 people were killed and 105 injured on Thursday in a series of four coordinated terror attacks in Egypt's northern Sinai. The attacks involved car bombs and mortar rounds. They targeted army and police personnel, but civilians were killed as well.

The terror group "Sinai Province" claimed credit for the attack. The group used to be named Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) and was linked to al-Qaeda, but late last year pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), and changed its name to "Sinai Province."

In October of last year, ABM used a car bomb to kill 33 Egyptian troops in northern Sinai, causing Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the Sinai peninsula to last three months, with a curfew in force between 5 pm and 7 am. That curfew expired a few days ago, but was renewed for another three months. ( "26-Oct-14 World View -- Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai")

In addition to declaring a state of emergency, Egypt closed the border with Gaza, and began building a kilometer-wide buffer zone along the border the Gaza. The buffer zone has received a great deal of criticism because it required thousands of Egyptians to leave their homes and relocate. However, al-Sisi may now announce more extreme new measures to combat terrorism. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Reuters

Russia looks to Greece as an ally against EU sanctions

With Greece's new radical far-left prime minister Alexis Tsipras questioning EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, Russia is considering financial aid to Greece. According to Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Greece has not yet requested assistance from Russia, but a request would be considered:

"Well, we can imagine any situation, so if such [a] petition is submitted to the Russian government, we will definitely consider it, but will take into account all the factors of our bilateral relationships between Russia and Greece, so that is all I can say. If it is submitted we will consider it."

Both Russia and Greece are Orthodox Christian countries, and have a long history of economic and cultural ties, and of course the Nazis invaded both countries during World War II. Almost 13% of Greek imports came from Russia in 2013, according to the IMF. CNBC and CNN

Greece forces compromise in planned new EU sanctions against Russia

Last week, ethnic Russians in east Ukraine, backed by heavy weapons and possibly thousands of soldiers from Russia, launched an attack on the port city of Mariupol, although so far they've held back from an all-out assault on Mariupol. It's assumed that Russia's objective is to create a land bridge between Russia and Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia invaded, occupied and annexed last year.

In view of this new military attack, the European Union in Brussels issued a statement saying that all 28 EU nations agreed that Russia "bears responsibility" for the attack on Mariupol. On Tuesday, however, the new Greek government issued a statement that

"[The EU statement] was released without the prescribed procedure to obtain consent by the member states, and particularly without ensuring the consent of Greece. In this context, it is underlined that Greece does not consent to this statement."

Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria had also voiced objections earlier. These are the countries whose economies are most negatively affected by the anti-Russia sanctions.

The result was an emergency meeting on Brussels on Thursday. Although the Russian sanctions were a completely separate issue from the bailout of Greece, one EU official implied that they might be linked:

"You just cannot, on the one hand, demand from Europe to show solidarity with your own country like Mr. Tsipras does and then, as a first official step, split the joint European position."

So Greece's Finance Minister said on his blog that it was all just a big misunderstanding:

"The problem was that [Alexis Tsipras], and the new Greek government, were never asked! So, clearly, the issue was not whether our new government agrees or not with fresh sanctions on Russia. The issue is whether our view can be taken for granted without even being told of what it is!"

At Thursday's meeting, EU extended the existing sanctions on Russian officials until September but, at Greece's insistence, did not add anyone new to the list of sanctioned individuals. Greece indicated that it was prepared to use its veto to block sanctions in the future. Reuters and Russia Today and Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Jan-15 World View -- ISIS-linked terrorists kill dozens in Egypt's northern Sinai thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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29-Jan-15 World View -- Greece's Alexis Tsipras escalates confrontation with Germany

Israel promises revenge after Hezbollah attack kills two soldiers

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece's Alexis Tsipras escalates confrontation with Germany


Alexis Tsipras places flowers on the National Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani on Monday. (EPA)
Alexis Tsipras places flowers on the National Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani on Monday. (EPA)

On his first days on the job, Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras moved quickly to implement costly government programs that Brussels and Germany have warned him against. Wednesday's announcements included halting the sale of the state-owned Public Power Corporation of Greece (PPC), halting the privatization of the port of Piraeus, raising pensions for those on low incomes, and reinstating some fired public service workers.

The Athens Stock Market index plunged 4%, with bank stocks falling over 12%. The Greek 10-year bond yield was at an unsustainable 10.3%, meaning that Greece would have to pay 10.3% interest to anyone willing to lend it money.

As if that weren't enough, Tsipras delivered what one commentator called "another 'up yours' to the Germans": He visited the National Resistance Memorial at Kaisariani where, on May 1, 1944, German Nazi forces executed 200 Greek citizens, mostly Communists.

In a recent article ( "26-Jan-15 World View -- Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece"), I asked whether Greece's new far left prime minister Alexis Tsipras would be pragmatic, seeking an agreement with Brussels and Germany, or delusional, believing that he can bully the Europeans into accepting huge new spending programs by Greece's government. After Tsipras' first days on the job, it appears that he's heading in the direction of being delusional. Kathimerini and Guardian (London)

Israel promises revenge after Hezbollah attack kills two soldiers

In the worst Hezbollah attack on Israel since the two were at war in 2006, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles in Shebaa Farms in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. The attack killed two soldiers and injuring several others. Israel responded by firing at least 25 artillery shells into Lebanon. Apparently, one of these artillery shells killed a Spanish member of the UN peacekeeping force that's supposed to separate Hezbollah from Israeli forces.

According to a statement from Hezbollah:

"At 11:25 [Wednesday morning] the Qunaitra Martyrs unit targeted with appropriate missile weapons an Israeli military convoy comprising several vehicles and [transporting] Zionist officers and soldiers causing the destruction of several vehicles and inflicting many casualties on the enemy."

Hezbollah made it clear that the attack was made in revenge for a January 18 Israeli airstrike at a convoy in Syria that killed two of Hezbollah's top commands, as well as five Iranians and a senior officer in Iran's élite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). However, it's feared that Hezbollah will demand additional revenge beyond the killing of two Israeli soldiers.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Those behind the attack today will pay the full price," and compared the situation to the run-up to summer's Gaza war:

"To anyone who tries to challenge us on the northern border, I suggest that they look at what happened here, at the Gaza Strip. Last summer Hamas took the hardest blow ever since its establishment and the IDF is ready to act, with might, in all sectors. Security is above all."

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN Security Council, said that Hezbollah is violating the Security Council resolution that was passed following the 2006 war, which demands the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon:

"For years, Hezbollah has been stockpiling weapons in Southern Lebanon in violation of Security Council resolution 1701. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah regularly threatens Israel and his terrorist organization took responsibility for this morning’s attack. Hezbollah has the military capabilities, it has made its intentions clear, and this morning we saw the results.

Israel will not stand by as Hezbollah targets Israelis. Israel will not accept any attacks on its territory and it will exercise its right to self-defense and take all necessary measures to protect its population."

Hezbollah and Israel have been building up to a new war ever since the 2006 war ended. The fear is that, with the heated rhetoric and tit-for-tat violence, the time will be now. Daily Star (Beirut) and Telegraph (London) and Algemeiner (New York)

Hezbollah's attack breaks a taboo from 2006 war

In 2006, Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Lebanon border. Within four hours, Israel panicked and launched a full-scale war with Hezbollah, with no plan and no objectives. The war was a disaster for both Israel and Lebanon. Israel accomplished nothing but to destroy a great deal of Lebanon's infrastructure.

Some people in Lebanon favored Israel to win the 2006 war, and some favored Hezbollah. But once the war ended, all the people of Lebanon were united in not wanting anything like that to happen again. And so it became taboo for Hezbollah to provoke Israel again and risk another attack. Wednesday's attack breaks that taboo, and is the worst Hezbollah attack since the 2006 war.

The taboo was clearly stated in a Wednesday editorial in Beirut's Daily Star:

"Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s targeting of its convoy in Syria less than two weeks ago came as no big surprise Wednesday, as the resistance party was being pushed – both politically and physically – by Israel into a response. But it is imperative now that Hezbollah thinks of what is best for all of Lebanon, not just the party itself.

The party has made it clear that the attack in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms came in retaliation for Israel’s deadly attack on its convoy. And Iran – which also lost a general in the attack – sent a warning to Israel Tuesday. But in terms of Syria’s place within all this, amid the numerous attacks against it by Israel over the last few years – the latest one occurring early Wednesday morning – it still seems it is unable or unwilling to retaliate itself.

Israel cannot claim to have been shocked by Hezbollah’s response, which it surely expected. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many close to him in government will indeed have welcomed Hezbollah’s response, for parliamentary elections in March are fast approaching, and war is always good for a hawkish leader’s ratings.

This is just one of the many reasons that Hezbollah must now act with wisdom, caution and also a degree of humbleness. It would do Israel too many favors now to escalate the situation on the border.

Hezbollah must think of the entire country, and not just its own interests and pride. Lebanon cannot afford the response that Israel is promising. The country is in such a precarious security position that a new conflict could prove disastrous."

The concern is that now that the taboo is broken, then the floodgates are open. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.) Hezbollah's leaders may feel that they have not extracted enough revenge for Israel's January 18 attack, and Israeli leaders have already promised retaliation for Wednesday's attack. Even if neither side wishes a war, a war may occur anyway through miscalculation, as each side retaliates for the other side's previous retaliation. That's pretty much how last summer's Gaza war began, and it could happen again. Daily Star (Beirut)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Jan-15 World View -- Greece's Alexis Tsipras escalates confrontation with Germany thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Jan-15 World View -- S&P lowers Russia's bonds to junk status

ISIS-linked group takes credit for hotel bombing in Tripoli Libya

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS-linked group takes credit for hotel bombing in Tripoli Libya


Flaming oil storage tank after being targeted with rockets by militias in Libya (Reuters)
Flaming oil storage tank after being targeted with rockets by militias in Libya (Reuters)

Militants linked to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) took credit for an attack on the the Corinthia Hotel, Libya's most elegant hotel, in the capital city Libya. The attack combined gunfire and a grenade. Of the nine people killed, five were foreigners, including American, one Frenchman, and the rest from unspecified Asian countries.

In the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, the United States "led from behind" in a Nato operation that aided anti-Gaddafi tribes. Many of these tribes were united in overthrowing Gaddafi, but afterwards splintered into two loose confederations. The government in the west is Libya Dawn, with Islamists and militia from the Misrata region, in control of Tripoli. The second government is the internationally recognized government, headquartered in Tobruk in the east. In addition, an al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia, is operating in Libya with headquarters in Benghazi, where it was responsible for the attack that killed American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in 2012. In recent months, a number of individuals in Libya have pledged themselves to ISIS, and have traveled to Syria for terrorist training. Some may already have returned.

The 2011 Nato operation did not pacify Libya, and so Gaddafi would have to be acknowledged as correct when he warned that Libya would descend into chaos if he were ousted. Even worse, there was no follow-on from Nato, and huge storehouses of Gaddafi's weapons were left unprotected, and those weapons have spread throughout Northern Africa and beyond, via al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

However, it must be noted that Libya is in a generational Crisis era, and that conflicts between militias began well before the ouster of Gaddafi. Indeed, it was one of those conflicts that led to the civil war in which Nato intervened. We can never know what would have happened in Libya if Nato had not intervened, but in view of Libya's generational timeline, it's quite likely that Libya would have sunk as deeply into chaos as it did with the Nato intervention.

The war in Libya is becoming more violent every day. As I've been reporting for several weeks, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war already in progress, not just in Libya, but across North Africa, the Mideast and South Asia. This war is of historic proportions, and will affect all of us. Reuters and CNN

Libya's oil production plummets because of conflict

Just as there are now two competing governments in Libya, there are also two competing national oil corporations, with oil tankers and pipelines becoming war targets. Libya holds the largest oil reserves in Africa, and in good times has produced up to 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. Since its militia wars began, however, daily production has dropped as low as 200,000 barrels. However, the oil production began to fall long before the civil war that ousted Gaddafi, thanks to conflicts between militias during Muammar Gaddafi's reign. VOA and Reuters

S&P lowers Russia's bonds to junk status

Russia's financial crisis deepened on Monday, as ratings agency Standard & Poors cut Russia's rating to BB+, which is junk status. The move had been widely anticipated, but the value of the ruble fell 6% against the dollar. Russia is still at investment grade with the two other major ratings agency, Moody's and Fitch, although many analysts expect them also to lower Russia's rating to junk status in the near future.

Russia's financial troubles stem from years of generous spending programs based on an oil price of $100-120 per barrel, as oil production is Russia's biggest industry. But facing oil prices now below $50 per barrel, and with no spare industrial capacity because of lack of industrial investment in the last two decades, Russia has no way to generate foreign reserves. Add to that, the Ukrainian invasion has turned out to be very expensive, and the Western sanctions have made it almost impossible for Russian entities to borrow money. The result is that Russians are moving their dollar-denominated accounts and assets to other countries, fearing that their bank accounts might be frozen. The result is that Russia's economy is in a downward spiral, with no visible way of recovering. Moscow Times and Forbes

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Jan-15 World View -- S&P lowers Russia's bonds to junk status thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Jan-15 World View -- Kurdish militias drive ISIS out of the Syrian town of Kobani

Australian backlash grows over knighthood for Queen Elizabeth's husband

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Kurdish militias drive ISIS out of the Syrian town of Kobani


 A fire burns in Kobani Syria during heavy fighting between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces (Reuters)
A fire burns in Kobani Syria during heavy fighting between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces (Reuters)

Kurdish forces announced on Monday a major victory over the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), having driven all ISIS forces out of Kobani Syria, a town strategically located on the border with Turkey.

The battle over Kobani dominated news coverage for a while starting in summer of last year because ISIS had committed so many of its men, weapons and other resources to capturing the town, largely occupied by Kurds. Syrian PYD Kurdish militias were losing ground to ISIS, even with the help of daily American warplane strikes. Tens of thousands of Kobani refugees were pouring into Turkey as refugees.

Note: Peshmerga = Kurdish militias in Iraq. PYD = Kurdish militias in Syria. PKK = Kurdish anti-government insurgents in Turkey.

Then, in October, Turkey had a major policy reversal, and announced that it would, after all, allow Iraqi peshmerga Kurdish militias to cross the border from Iraq into Turkey, travel over Turkish soil, and then cross the border into Kobani in Syria. This was a big problem for Turkey, and actually caused a political rift, because Turkey has fought an insurgency by PKK Kurdish insurgents in Turkey over the last two decades. So it was a surprise when Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in October that this would be permitted. The peshmerga forces from Iraq were heavily armed, and their aid to the PYD are now given credit for turning the tide in the battle of Kobani.

Numerous analysts have stated that the U.S. administration's announced military strategy of airstrikes-only, without "boots on the ground," has no chance of pushing back ISIS. The battle of Kobani is actually an example of the kind of battle that these analysts have been describing as necessary, but with Kurdish peshmerga forces supplying the boots. However, there is no other publicly-declared example of US-led forces closely coordinating militarily with a ground force to battle ISIS.

The withdrawal of ISIS from Kobani raises the question of what ISIS is going to do next with the forces that have become available. Zaman (Turkey) and Cihan (Turkey) and Zaman (Turkey)

Turkey opens its biggest refugee camp to house 35,000

Turkey on Sunday opened its biggest refugee camp to house 35,000 people fleeing from the fighting in Kobani. There are 1.7 Syrian refugees in Turkey, of which 200,000 have come from Kobani. The majority of the refugees live outside camps, sometimes on the streets and in shantytowns, creating tensions with the local population. Turkey has some 24 camps, housing 265,000 Syrian refugees. Zaman (Turkey)

Australian backlash grows over knighthood for Queen Elizabeth's husband


Queen Elizabeth, with her husband Prince Philip to her right, in a group shot with the Knights of the Thistle. (AFP)
Queen Elizabeth, with her husband Prince Philip to her right, in a group shot with the Knights of the Thistle. (AFP)

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott has awarded Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, with an Australian knighthood, the country's highest honor. Prince Philip is the husband of Queen Elizabeth, who is Australia's ruling monarch in name only.

According to Australia's Defense Minister Kevin Andrews, Prince Philip's contribution to Australia has been "phenomenal":

"It doesn't cost us anything to give him this award. How else do we say, in a sense, thank you to someone who's given six decades of public service? I think it's a phenomenal contribution. He's still doing it in his 90s now and I think we should just be generous about it."

However, many MPs were angered and dismayed by the award. One said that the award was "a stupid announcement" and "manifestly amazing in the worst possible way." Another said, "I thought it was wackily quaint and anachronistic. But now it's just become an acute embarrassment, just plainly ridiculous." Australian Broadcasting

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Jan-15 World View -- Kurdish militias drive ISIS out of the Syrian town of Kobani thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Jan-15 World View -- Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece

Is Greece's Alexis Tsipras pragmatic or delusional?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Girlfriend Peristera (Betty) Baziana good fit for Greece's Alexis Tsipras


Alexis Tsipras and Peristera (Betty) Baziana
Alexis Tsipras and Peristera (Betty) Baziana

The girlfriend (or common law wife) of 40 year old Alexis Tsipras, Greece's new Prime Minister, seems to be a perfect fit for him. They're both good looking, and they share common radical far left political beliefs.

38 year old Peristera (Betty) Baziana was an activist in the Greek Communist Party Youth in high school, where she met Tsipras, and joined him protests and school occupations. They've lived together for 17 years, but don't believe in marriage. Their first son, Pavlos, was born in May 2010. Their second son was born in June 2012, and was named Orpheus and Ernesto, after Ché Guevara, a hero of Tsipras. Greek Reporter

Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece

Greece's radical far left politician Alexis Tsipras has led his Syriza party to victory in what is being called a historic election, because of its implications for Europe and the eurozone. Tsipras's campaign slogan had been "Hope is coming!" In a victory speech reminiscent of Barack Obama's 2008 victory speech, when he promised that the world would be a different place on January 21, the day after he took office, Tsipras promised that "the period of austerity" is over:

"Greece leaves behinds catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish.

Our priority from the very first day will be to deal with the big wounds left by the crisis. Our foremost priority is that our country and our people regain their lost dignity."

Leftists were dancing in the streets in Athens when the first exit poll results were announced, and they were joined by visitor from left-wing parties in Italy, Germany, Spain and elsewhere. Voters were reacting to huge budget cuts and heavy tax rises during six years of crisis that has sent unemployment over 25 percent and pushed millions into poverty.

Here are some of the promises that Tsipras made during the campaign:

As I wrote several times during the various Greek crisis periods of the past years, there is no solution to Greece's debt problem. Saying this did not require a crystal ball; it simply required doing some simple arithmetic. As we'll discuss further below, obvious truths are simply ignored by everyone, when they're not part of the narrative or either the left wing or the right wing. Now Tsipras has come up with his own non-solution.

Greece has already received some 240 billion euros in bailout loans. It needs an additional 10-20 billion euros in loans this year, starting in March, just to avoid bankruptcy -- and that assumes that the austerity measures are kept in place. With Tsipras's spending splurge, that figure could easily go up to 30-50 billion euros. Are Greece's creditors, including the IMF and Germany, going to lend that kind of money to Greece to fund a spending splurge? The question answers itself.

However, there's another side to this, and this is probably what Tsipras is counting on. Tsipras's Syriza is an umbrella party for a number of far-left, communist and marxist policies, who will not tolerate any compromise by Tsipras. So Tsipras will go to Brussels and say, "Hey help me out guys. If you don't give me the 50 billion euros I need, then my government will collapse, Greece will be forced to leave the eurozone, and that will be a disaster for you guys, because you need Greece more than Greece needs you." Kathimerini and BBC

Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is third in Greece's elections

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which has in the past demanded that anyone not of Greek ancestry be deported from Greece, has come in third place in the voting, at 6.3%. This is behind Syriza, at 36%, and New Democracy, at 28.2%. New Democracy is headed by the departing prime minister Antonis Samaras, and was the governing party until this election.

This is a remarkable showing for Golden Dawn, despite the fact that the party's leader and most of its lawmakers are behind bars, facing charges of participating in a "criminal organization" accused of murders, brutal attacks on migrants and others, extortion and arson. These crimes include the Sept. 2013 murder of a leftist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas. AP and Kathimerini

Is Greece's Alexis Tsipras pragmatic or delusional?

I've told this story several times over the years, but it's highly relevant today:

When I heard Obama campaigning in 2008, saying that with his election the earth would heal and the tides would recede, and making other ridiculous promises, I didn't think much of it, since politicians always say ridiculous things when they're campaigning, and then they pull them back after the election.

After the election, when I heard Obama continue saying the same things, that the world would be a different place starting on January 21, then I knew we were in trouble, and the thought that came into my mind was, "Holy crap! If he really believes his campaign rhetoric, then he must be delusional." Since then, Obama has had one foreign policy disaster after another.

So now Greece's Alexis Tsipras is in the same situation, following an election in which his major campaign promises were, in effect: "After I'm elected, 2+2 will equal 5."

Now, it really doesn't matter whether Tsipras is the greatest orator in the world, or the most charismatic leader in the world, or the smartest person in the world, or the best politician in the world. 2+2 does not equal 5, and never will equal 5. Just as Obama blames the Republicans and Fox News for 2+2 not equaling 5, Tsipras will blame his political opposition in Athens, his political opposition in Brussels, the "Nazi" Germans, the European Central Bank (ECB), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But no matter whom he blames, 2+2 will never equal 5.

Tsipras and Obama both have a common personality type that I began writing about frequently in 2007 (See "The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X.") I've seen this personality type frequently, almost always among Gen-Xers, not only in politicians, journalists and other public figures, but also in the computer industry, where I've personally seen it lead to disaster, as well as in my personal life.

I've written about many examples of this in the 12 years I've been developing Generational Dynamics. In the mid-2000s, it was perfectly obvious that there was a huge housing bubble, and I wrote about it constantly. I sold my own condo in November 2005, at the height of the bubble. But the problem is that a housing bubble does not fit the ideological narrative of either liberals or conservatives, and so the delusion was massive. Mainstream financial analysts, economists and journalists would say, "Housing prices can't go down -- people have to live somewhere," and "Banks won't foreclose -- it's not in their interest to do so" and "These housing construction firms know what they're doing, and they wouldn't be building houses if it were just a bubble." It wasn't until 2009 that mainstream economists began saying that there had been a housing bubble years earlier. Duh!

The personality type that I'm describing is common today in Generation-Xers, who drive public opinion, and I've seen in many of them the two major characteristics of someone with this personality type:

This is why such people are delusional. When a decision leads to bad results, it must be because other people are sabotaging it, and since the decision could not possibly have been bad, he doubles down on it. He knows with absolute certainty that 2+2=5, and when it doesn't turn out that way, then other people are to blame, and he has to take additional steps to force 2+2 to be 5, which it never can be. Those additional steps create the disaster.

As an example, one disaster in the last decade was the financial crisis that followed from the collapse of the housing bubble that didn't even exist because everyone has to live somewhere.

So in the days and weeks ahead, we're going to see whether or not the radical left Tsipras is pragmatic or delusional. If he proceeds pragmatically, if he works for some compromise that everyone, including Brussels, the ECB, the IMF and the Germans, can go along with, thus ending the crisis, then he'll turn out to be an intelligent politician and leader, which will surprise a lot of people, most of all me.

But if he doubles down, and pursues a policy of blackmailing Brussels and the Germans, saying in effect "You need me more than I need you, the eurozone needs Greece more than Greece needs the euro, and so I can do whatever I want, and you'll have to go along with it," then we can anticipate the worst of all possible scenarios. Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Jan-15 World View -- Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Jan-15 World View -- Measles outbreak being blamed on the 'anti-vaccine movement'

Russians re-invade Ukraine, targeting Mariupol port city

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Measles outbreak being blamed on the 'anti-vaccine movement'


Visitors ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Disneyland in Anaheim on Thursday (AP)
Visitors ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Disneyland in Anaheim on Thursday (AP)

Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but 71 new cases of measles have been reported in the last month. The number is expected to climb. Almost all of the measles patients had not received measles vaccinations, or had had only one of the two required vaccine shots.

62 of the cases were in California, with the rest in Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and Mexico. Almost all the patients had visited Disney theme parks in Anaheim around Christmas, or had contact with someone who had visited Disneyland.

The resurgence in measles is being blamed on the anti-vaccine movement -- people who are refusing to allow their children to be vaccinated. Many of them have refused vaccinations because they still believe now-discredited research linking the measles vaccine to autism.

In California, most of the measles cases are occurring in certain pockets, in places where there is a community reluctance to vaccinate.

The measles vaccine first became available in 1963, and had eliminated measles in the United States by 2000. But that announcement caused many parents to decide that it was no longer necessary to vaccinate their children, and now measles is reappearing. However, starting last year, the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children declined slightly, and is expected to decline further this year. Mercury News (San Jose) and SF Gate (San Francisco) and LA Times

Russians re-invade Ukraine, targeting Mariupol port city

In a significant escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, ethnic Russians in east Ukraine, backed by heavy weapons and possibly thousands of soldiers from Russia, are apparently launching an attack on the port city of Mariupol. Mariupol is a strategic objective that would give the Russians access to the Sea of Azov, and would provide much of what's needed to secure a land bridge between Russia and Crimea. Russia invaded, occupied and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula a year ago, and has had to bear enormous expenses supplying troops and civilians in Crimea by sea. Conquest of additional Ukrainian territory to provide a land connection between Russia and Crimean would result in considerable cost reductions. The attack comes just one day after the east Ukrainian Russians rejected a ceasefire agreement reached last September, when an east Ukrainian leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, announced, "We have started an offensive on Mariupol." On Saturday, Zakharchenko said that the Mariupol offensive would be "the best possible monument to all our dead."

Russia's government claims that it's had nothing to do with the new offensive, but an AP reporter saw convoys of pristine heavy weapons arriving last week, apparently in preparation for this attack.

Apparently we're now going to have to deal with another period of Russian government statements in clear contradiction to reported facts, and so it's a good idea to recall what happened last year. Russia claimed they weren't invading Crimea, just as Russian troops were invading Crimea. Russia claimed that they wouldn't annex Crimea, just before they annexed Crimea, a clear violation of international law. Russia claimed that there were no Russian troops in east Ukraine at a time when Russian troops were entering east Ukraine. On September 5, Russia signed an international peace agreement (the "Minsk protocols") in which they committed to a political compromise in east Ukraine, and then repeatedly violated their own agreement. Basically, anything that comes from Russian state media or Russia's government should be considered to be a lie. Washington Post and BBC and AP

Yemen appears to be further destabilizing after president Hadi's resignation

The coup by the Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militias, taking control of the ministerial government functions in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, followed by the resignation Yemen's Sunni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, appear to have sparked several groups into action on Saturday, further destabilizing the country:

The Yemeni parliament is scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss Hadi's resignation, which has not yet been accepted, or to appoint a successor. Al Jazeera and World Bulletin (Turkey) and Gulf News and AFP

U.S. policy in Yemen affected by Houthi takeover

For years, the U.S. has been conducting counter-terrorism operations, including drone strikes, targeting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), with the cooperation of Hadi, who just resigned, and his predecessor, the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted by Hadi in 2011.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. has been forced to suspend counter-terrorism operations in Yemen, because of the government takeover by the vitriolicly anti-American Houthis. However, administration officials are saying that the drone strokes and other operations are continuing, but without the aid of information from Yemeni intelligence agencies, which are now controlled by the Houthis. Washington Post and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Jan-15 World View -- Measles outbreak being blamed on the 'anti-vaccine movement' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Jan-15 World View -- Death of Saudi's King Abdullah raises concerns about policy changes

More on the political realignment of the Mideast following the Gaza war

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Death of Saudi's King Abdullah raises concerns about policy changes


The four Arab capitals claimed last year by Iran -- Beirut (Top L), Sanaa (Top R), Baghdad (Bottom L), Damascus (Bottom R) (AlWeeam)
The four Arab capitals claimed last year by Iran -- Beirut (Top L), Sanaa (Top R), Baghdad (Bottom L), Damascus (Bottom R) (AlWeeam)

The death on Thursday of Saudi Arabia's 90-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud and the subsequent appointment of his younger half-brother, 79-year-old Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, is raising a number of questions about whether Saudi policies are going to change under the new leadership. The consensus is that the succession was carefully planned in advance to preserve stability and continuity, but still, some concerns have been raised. Most of the media coverage has been about women's rights, but there are other issues of greater geopolitical significance.

First, Yemen is along Saudi Arabia's southern border and as we've been reporting, the government has collapsed, and no one knows who's running the country today, let alone who will be running the country next week. The Iran-backed Shia Houthis have taken over most of the government buildings in the capital city Sanaa, and may thus be considered the de facto government, but the Houthis have made it clear that they want to run the government without actually being officially in charge. One of the reasons for this gracious reluctance is that the Saudis have made it clear that they won't tolerate a Shia government in Yemen. In the meantime, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen, is taking advantage of the chaos in Sanaa to link up the other Sunni tribes in preparation for a sectarian war, while the tribes in the far south of Yemen are declaring their intention of seceding.

Next, Iran is Saudi Arabia's bitter enemy, and Iran is gaining influence throughout the Mideast, at Saudi expense. In fact, last year Iran bragged that Sanaa is fourth Arab capital in Iran's grasp, joining "the three Arab capitals who are already a subsidiary of the Iranian Islamic revolution," and part of "the greater jihad." The other referenced Arab capitals are Beirut Lebanon, Baghdad Iraq, and Damascus Syria. Iran is also supporting Shia activists in eastern Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has urged both Israel and the U.S. to go through with much-discussed plans to take out Iran's nuclear facilities with military strikes.

The meteoric rise of Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) is obviously of concern to the Saudis, as it is of concern to everyone in the Mideast. It's widely believed in the West that some tribal elements in Saudi Arabia are providing funds and support to ISIS, with the intention of eventually overthrowing the al-Saud government, replacing it with an ISIS or Wahhabi government.

An interesting sidebar is that the Saudis have discussed building a 600-mile barrier along its northern border, to provide protection from ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and another fence along its southern border, to provide protection from the Houthis in Yemen. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, we've seen fences built along the southern border of the U.S., around all the borders of Israel, and along the border between Greece and Turkey. These would be two new fences.

Oil policy could play a big part in the decision making of the new King. Oil prices have fallen 60% since June of last year, mainly thanks to fracking in the United States, and the Saudis are being pressured by some other oil-producing countries to reduce oil output, to boost oil prices. Immediately after the death of Abdullah, the Saudis reassured the world that there would be no reduction in oil output. Oil prices increased briefly, but soon decreased again. BBC and Reuters and Daily Mail (London)

Saudi Arabia trapped in a corner over Syria policy

Like many Arab Sunnis, the Saudis are appalled that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has been conducting virtual genocide against his own people. Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad has flattened entire Sunni villages with Russia's heavy weapons, he's killed children by sending missiles into exam rooms and bedrooms, he's killed dozens with sarin gas, 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 with complete impunity, and in fact with encouragement and support from Russia and Iran.

The Saudis blame the rise of ISIS on al-Assad's actions (as do I). The Saudis are furious that the U.S. did nothing to stop al-Assad's genocidal attacks on Sunni Arabs in Syria, and are particularly contemptuous of President Obama's "red line" flip-flop, allowing al-Assad to use chemical weapons on his own people with impunity.

In a recent interview, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud likened ISIS to the Mafia, saying that they are "more criminal than they are religious." His own anecdotal evidence suggested to him that the group's members were more concerned with "robbing" and "looting," with many only joining the organization for the money.

This is potentially an explosive situation, because it's not clear how long the Salafist factions in Saudi Arabia will continue to tolerate al-Assad's genocidal actions. Whether the West likes it or not, the new Saudi leadership may decide it has no choice but to take its own action against al-Assad. CNBC and Deutsche-Welle

More on the political realignment of the Mideast following the Gaza war

As I've written several times last year, there has been a major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, bringing Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split was extremely vitriolic, especially between the Saudis and Qataris, and although the differences were papered over late last year, there's little doubt that the feelings are as strong as ever. And the mediator who got everyone to agree to paper over the differences was none other than Saudi King Abdullah, who has now passed away.

This is a deep, simmering issue in the Arab world, and the new King of Saudi Arabia is going to be at the center of it. All the Arab states have as a policy the destruction of "the Zionist entity," at least at the lip service level. But there are plenty of open questions. When something happens that forces both the Saudis and Qataris to choose between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, will they both choose the same side or different sides? Once again, this is a potentially explosive situation that only time can resolve.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Jan-15 World View -- Death of Saudi's King Abdullah raises concerns about policy changes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen government resigns, creating power vacuum for AQAP to fill

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen government resigns, creating power vacuum for AQAP to fill


A tank sits near the presidential palace in Sanaa Yemen on Thursday (CNN)
A tank sits near the presidential palace in Sanaa Yemen on Thursday (CNN)

The agreement reached on Wednesday between Yemen's Sunni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and the Shia leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi or the insurgent Houthi militias collapsed within 24 hours after it was agreed. It was not so much an agreement between equal partners, anyway. It was much more a set of demands forced on Hadi by the Houthis. On Thursday morning, al-Houthi refused to remove his troops from Sanaa, and Hadi resigned, taking his cabinet with him.

Most commentators agree that what the Houthis wanted was for a weakened Hadi to remain as president, where he could be controlled by the Houthis. The Houthis apparently do not want to take complete control of the government, and so Hadi's resignation presents them with a problem. The Houthis announced that they are appointing a military council to select a successor, but the choice is going to be tricky.

Hadi was the deputy of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and when Saleh was forced out by a coup in 2012, Hadi was the "safe choice" to replace him, someone that everyone could live with. Thus, Hadi's resignation now, along with his cabinet, creates a power vacuum that will be very hard to fill.

For Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the chaos in the capital city Sanaa is a golden opportunity. AQAP has been partially held in check by US drone strikes coordinated with the Hadi government, but now AQAP may have nothing to hold them back. AQAP is going to tap into the discontent of all the Sunni warlords and Sunni tribes, pointing to the Iran-backed Shia militias in power and the overthrow of the Sunni president, who was supported by Saudi Arabia. The nightmare scenario is a full-scale sectarian war between the Sunnis and Shias. Reuters and BBC

Southern Yemen leaders call for secession from North Yemen

The resignation of the government of Yemen's president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was enough to trigger an announcement by Yemen's southern separatist movements to call for secession. North and South Yemen were united in 1990, and this is a call to split Yemen in two again.

Police and other security officials in southern Yemen say they are no longer taking orders from Sanaa. Houthi militants have already seized and taken control of almost all state-run media announcements, and during the televised announcement by southern leaders to break with Sanaa, Houthi officials cut off the live televised feed, further angering people in the south. Middle East Eye and APA (Anadolu Agency - Baku)

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies

Saudi Arabia's 90-year-old king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died on Thursday. His younger brother, 79-year-old crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz will succeed Abdullah.

There are concerns that Saudi Arabia is now going to join the unrest that's been spreading throughout the Mideast in the last four years. However, with Abdullah ailing in recent months, Salman has been taking on most of Abdullah's responsibilities, and so it's hoped that things will be calm for the time being. BBC and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen government resigns, creating power vacuum for AQAP to fill thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen's president accepts Houthi demands, possibly resolving crisis

Leader of Germany's anti-Muslim Pegida movement resigns over Hitler photo

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Leader of Germany's anti-Muslim Pegida movement resigns over Hitler photo


German newspapers carrying the photo of Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann posing as Hitler (BBC)
German newspapers carrying the photo of Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann posing as Hitler (BBC)

Officials in the anti-Islam Pegida movement ("Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") forced the group's leader Lutz Bachmann to resign on Wednesday, after it emerged that he had posted a picture of himself posing as Hitler on his Facebook page two years ago. His troubles increased on reports that he had called refugees "animals" and "scumbags."

Bachmann said that the Hitler photo was a joke, and apologized for the inappropriate remarks about refugees. However, the incident has been a huge embarrassment to Pegida, which bills itself as a moderate political movement, and rejects characterizations as "neo-Nazi." One German official said, "Anyone in politics who poses as Hitler is either a total idiot or a Nazi."

Pegida's "anti-Islamization" protests have been growing larger and larger each week since they began on Monday. However, anti-Pegida protests have grown larger than the Pegida protests, especially since the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. In Leipzig on Wednesday, about 7,000 Pegida demonstrators were blocked by 20,000 counter-protesters, while the police worked to keep the two groups apart. Deutsche-Welle and BBC

Yemen's president accepts Houthi demands, possibly resolving crisis


Members of the Yemeni presidential guards, wearing civilian clothes, leave the presidential palace with their belongings in Sanaa on Wednesday, after being driven off by Houthi militias (Reuters)
Members of the Yemeni presidential guards, wearing civilian clothes, leave the presidential palace with their belongings in Sanaa on Wednesday, after being driven off by Houthi militias (Reuters)

Yemen's president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, surrounded by Houthi militias after his own presidential guard had been defeated, agreed to all of the demands of the leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi of the Shia Muslim group backed by Iran. The Houthis will be given positions of power in all state institutions, and will not be required to withdraw their forces from the capital city Sanaa, as they had committed previously in an September agreement.

Hadi had no choice but to accede to this agreement, but it remains to be seen whether it will be acceptable to the Sunni tribes south and east of Sanaa. Concerns have been increasing that a Houthi coup would unite the moderate Sunni tribes with the terrorists in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), leading to a sectarian war. Indeed, a statement on Wednesday from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of mostly Sunni Arab nations warned that they "would take all measures necessary to protect their security, stability and vital interests in Yemen." It's hoped that Wednesday's agreement will head off a larger conflict. Others point out that the Houthis are in power, and may not be satisfied by stopping with the gains they've already made. AFP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen's president accepts Houthi demands, possibly resolving crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Jan-15 World View -- U.S. prepares Yemen evacuation as Houthis apparently complete coup

Obama calls for Congressional approval of military action

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

U.S. prepares Yemen evacuation as Houthis apparently complete coup


Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi giving a televised State of the Yemen speech on Tuesday
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi giving a televised State of the Yemen speech on Tuesday

The U.S. military on Monday night has moved two amphibious ships, the USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry, from the Gulf of Aden to the southern Red Sea, in preparation to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, if it becomes necessary.

Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militants stormed the presidential palace in Sanaa, and are reported to be approaching the private residence of president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, where he's thought to be. The Prime Minister's resident is also under attack. One government minister called the actions "the completion of a coup."

Shortly afterwards, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the head of the al-Houthis went on nationwide television and gave a kind of rambling State of the Yemen address, which was full of threats and accusations:

As we reported yesterday, analysts were hoping that the al-Houthis would stop short of taking complete control of Yemen's government, because of the consequences that would result. But after today's events, including the harsh personal criticisms of Hadi, it appears very likely that the existing government is about to collapse. The al-Houthis are already in de facto control, and today's events seem close to formalizing that control. CS Monitor and AP

Obama calls for Congressional approval of military action

Last year in June, President Obama announced that the U.S. would send 300 American advisors to train, advise and support the Iraqi securities forces fighting the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). Since then, this number has been increased, one step at at time, from 300 to 800 to 1500 to 3100. He said that this was "not mission creep." He insisted that the "U.S. will not be putting boots on the ground." The goal is "to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL." ( "8-Nov-14 World View -- Obama sharply escalates U.S. involvement in Iraq war") All of this was in addition to air force strikes against ISIS.

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, Obama said:

"In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL. We need that authority."

I thought that air strikes against ISIL were already "the use of force." So it's not clear whether this is a further escalation, or whether it's simply requesting the legal authority to take the military action that's already taking place. (The phrase "We need that authority" was added to the prepared text.)

I have not yet heard any military analyst claim that Obama's strategy will succeed in its goal "to degrade and destroy ISIS." Every analyst I've heard says that American "boots on the ground" will be required.

In fact, as I've been reporting repeated in the last few weeks, there is a growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, South Asia and North Africa, with tens of thousands of Muslims slaughtered every year. Generational Dynamics predicts this will spiral into a full scale regional war, and after that into a world war.

In the speech, Obama did not brag about Afghanistan, except to say, "Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead." Obama was burned after withdrawing from Iraq without leaving a residual force, and today it's far from clear how the withdrawal from Afghanistan will fare. Washington Post and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Jan-15 World View -- U.S. prepares Yemen evacuation as Houthis apparently complete coup thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Jan-15 World View -- Israel on alert after Iran confirms its general was killed by Israel

Muslim vs Muslim war escalates in Nigeria and Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists spread into Cameroon


The town of Baga, after the Boko Haram attack, where hundreds or thousands of people were slaughtered
The town of Baga, after the Boko Haram attack, where hundreds or thousands of people were slaughtered

As I've been reporting for the last few weeks, there is a large and growing war in the Mideast and South Asia of Muslims at war with Muslims. Where a few dozen Westerners may be killed in terror attacks each year, the Muslim versus Muslim war is killing tens of thousands of Muslims every year, mostly civilians. This Muslim versus Muslim war is almost invisible in the West, which focuses on the occasional terrorist acts. There is almost no evidence of a war between Islam and the West, and it's increasingly clear that things like the Paris Charlie Hebdo terror attacks have as their primary purpose the public relations value of attracting disaffected young men from the West to come to Syria or Yemen for training in terrorist skills, to aid in the slaughter of other Muslims. ( "12-Jan-15 World View -- Is Islam at war with the West?") Judging from the global daily news coverage, this public relations plan has been remarkably effective.

So today's news is about three countries participating in this huge Muslim versus Muslim war, and how the war is escalating in each of the three countries.

The fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria is becoming more international, as troops from neighboring Chad entered Cameroon to fight Boko Haram there. Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped 80 people in northern Cameroon over the weekend, many of them children and young girls.

Boko Haram gained international notice when they kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, aged 12-25, on April 16 last year, in order to sell them into sexual slavery or force them to marry its fighters. Last week, Boko Haram burned down the town of Baga in northeast Nigeria, and 15-20 other nearby villages, killing up to 2000 resident civilians.

Cameroon's has been fighting Boko Haram in northern Cameroon apparently more successfully than Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram. It's widely believed that some of Nigeria's politicians and parts of Nigeria's army support Boko Haram. With a presidential election scheduled for next month no February 14, the country is almost paralyzed in confronting Boko Haram.

Boko Haram's goal is to mimic the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) in setting up an "Islamic State" in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. There are reports that Boko Haram has been linking up with elements of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), making it a much more international terror group. The fear is that Boko Haram is going to gain so much power that it force Nigeria's government to collapse completely. All Africa and CNN and Guardian (London)

Major escalation in fighting in Yemen

Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militias surrounded the presidential palace in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, on Monday, clashing with Yemen's army. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi doesn't actually live in the presidential palace, but it's believed that he's hiding out there during the escalated fighting.

This major escalation in the fighting is threatening the stability of Yemen, which is already one of the poorest countries in the world. If the Shia militias take full control of Sanaa, then there would be several consequences: The warlords of Sunni tribes have promised to take control of oil fields, essentially starving Sanaa of income; al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will become more active; and southern tribes would call for the secession of South Yemen, which had only joined with North Yemen in the early 1990s.

Another fear is that the war in Yemen will spiral into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has been providing military and financial aid to the al-Houthis, while the Saudis have refrained, so far, from getting involved. However, the Saudis have also made it clear that if the Shia al-Houthis gain control of Yemen, or if Yemen's government collapses, then Saudi Arabia will intervene.

For all of these reasons, some analysts believe that the current al-Houthi military initiative is little more than political posturing, to gain political leverage as a new Yemen constitution is being considered. According to this view, the al-Houthis could have taken control of Sanaa several months ago, but didn't do so because they don't want to be in control of the government. Governing costs a lot of money that they don't have, and they can't count on money from Iran, which is having its own financial problems. Instead, the al-Houthis want to have a major minority position in whatever government evolves. Al-Jazeera and Reuters

Israel on alert after Iran confirms its general was killed by Israel

Israel's armed force have gone on alert after Iran confirmed on Monday that Sunday's Israeli air strike that killed Hezbollah commanders also killed Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi of Iran's élite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), as well as five more Iranians.

As we reported yesterday the air strike on the convoy was a heavy blow to Hezbollah because it killed two of Hezbollah's top commanders. But now it turns out that it's also a heavy blow to Iran's IRGC, which means that Israel's air strike was a strike at all three: Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

Iran does not like to admit that it has IRGC forces in other countries. According to some analysts, the IRGC has about 150,000 fighters in its al-Quds paramilitary force, and also has a navy and air force. It's primary mission is to foment terrorism in other countries, but its forces are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria.

At this point, it's not a question of whether, but only a question of how and when Hezbollah, Iran and Syria will strike back. Hezbollah claims that it has 60-100,000 rockets that it could use to strike anywhere in Israel. Iran might also strike at Jewish targets in other countries, as it has in the past struck at Jewish targets in Bulgaria and Argentina. Or Hezbollah may abduct Israeli soldiers near the border with Lebanon -- a move like this triggered the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Everyone "knows" that a war between Israel and Hezbollah is coming. Hezbollah is so tied down in Syria, that it may not want to risk a full-scale war at this time, and so may decide to strike back only symbolically. However, even a symbolic strike could cause the situation to deteriorate quickly, and Israel and Hezbollah may find themselves in a war earlier than either of them expected. McClatchy and YNet

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Jan-15 World View -- Israel on alert after Iran confirms its general was killed by Israel thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Jan-15 World View -- Lebanon on edge after Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah commanders

Miss Lebanon may lose her title over selfie with Miss Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Miss Lebanon may lose her title over selfie with Miss Israel


From left to right: Miss Israel, Miss Lebanon, Miss Slovakia, and Miss Japan
From left to right: Miss Israel, Miss Lebanon, Miss Slovakia, and Miss Japan

A selfie of four girls, in which Miss Lebanon Saly Greige is posing next to Miss Israel Doron Matalon, with wide smiles on their faces, may get Greige kicked out of the Miss Universe contest. Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan also appear in the selfie. Social media in Lebanon is being harshly critical:

"You could have avoided mingling with the Israeli contestant like previous Lebanese contestants have done throughout the years. And if you were harassed like you say, you could have at least avoided the huge smile [we see] on your face."

Greige could be stripped of her Miss Lebanon title, and kicked out of the Miss Universe contest, but Greige said it wasn't her fault:

"From the first day I arrived at the Miss Universe pageant I was very careful not to take any pictures with Miss Israel, who tried repeatedly to take pictures with me. While I was preparing with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan to get our photograph taken, Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie with her phone and posted it on social media. This is what happened. I hope you continue supporting me."

In 1993, Miss Lebanon Huda al-Turk was stripped of her title for posing with a picture with Miss Israel at the time.

Lebanon's government will launch a full-scale investigation on Monday. Daily Star (Beirut)

Lebanon on edge after Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah commanders

Lebanon and Israel are both on edge after an Israeli air strike in Syria killed two Hezbollah commanders. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is promising revenge, and there are fears that tit for tat retaliation might spiral out of control.

An Israeli helicopter struck a convoy of Hezbollah operatives, killing 12. One of the dead is field commander Jihad Mughniyeh, 25, the son of top commander Imad Mughniyeh. Imad was on the United States' most wanted list for terrorist when he was killed in Damascus by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008, allegedly from the Israelis. Imad's son Jihad had been taking a more prominent role since his father's death, and was overseeing operations in the Golan Heights.

Also killed was field commander Mohamad Issa, chief of Hezbollah operations in Syria, making this strike a major blow against Hezbollah, according to reports.

A Hezbollah statement confirmed the names of six Hezbollah fighters that had been killed, but omitted the names of six fighters from the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) that are fighting alongside their Hezbollah counterparts. Iran has been supplying IRGC troops to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and to Hezbollah, as well as to Iraq's army, but has denied doing so. YNet (Israel) and Daily Star (Beirut) and Ya Libnan (Lebanon)

Europe, under intense financial pressure, expected to start quantitative easing

Many analysts expect the European Central Bank (ECB) to announce on Thursday a quantitative easing (QE) program, in which it will purchase hundreds of billions of euros of bonds issued by the various eurozone countries. Effectively, the ECB will be "printing money," and giving it to the individual countries.

Several countries, including the U.S. and Japan, have been aggressively pushing QE for years, but the ECB has resisted it because of fears of harming the euro currency and because the Germans have been opposed.

But pressure on the ECB to start QE has been increasing, along with numerous eurozone financial problems:

The markets are widely expecting QE to be announced this week, and as the US QE situation has shown, that money just goes into the stock market, so that the top 1% make even more money. So if there's no QE announcement this week, then disappointed investors may sell off, causing the stock market to fall.

Some analysts are concerned that whatever the ECB tries, it will be too little too late. Pressure from Germany may keep the ECB program from being too aggressive. Furthermore, other countries started QE years ago, and it may be too late to catch up. Forbes and Bloomberg and Brisbane Times (Australia)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Jan-15 World View -- Lebanon on edge after Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah commanders thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Jan-15 World View -- Thousands in Muslim countries protest cartoon depiction of Mohammed

Swiss franc revaluation panics East European currency markets

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Fox News apologizes for misreporting on 'no-go zones' in Europe


Fox News anchor Julie Banderas reading apology statement
Fox News anchor Julie Banderas reading apology statement

As I reported last week ( "13-Jan-15 World View -- Concern rising over Muslim 'no-go zones' as terror breeding grounds"), Britain's prime minister David Cameron called a Fox News contributor "an idiot" when he said that Birmingham England was "totally Muslim, and that non-Muslims just simply don't go in." The contributor was Steve Emerson, self-described as "an internationally recognized expert on terrorism," who described similar "no-go zones" in England and France.

Emerson himself apologized, and Fox News issued a retraction, pointing out that only 21% of the Birmingham population is Muslim, as I reported. But Fox News has received a continuing stream of backlash, ridicule and criticism this week for the error.

On Saturday evening, news anchor Julie Banderas on Fox News read the following statement (my transcription):

"A correction now. Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air, regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France.

Now this applies especially to discussions of so-called no-go zones, areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren't allowed in, and police supposedly won't go.

To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country, and no credible information to support the assertion that there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based on solely on their religion.

There ARE certainly areas of high crime in Europe, as there are in the United States and other countries, where police and visitors enter with caution. We deeply regret the errors, and apologize to any and all who may have taken offense, including the people of France and England."

According to a Fox News spokesman, it's highly unlikely that Emerson will ever be booked again on Fox News. Washington Post

Swiss franc revaluation panics East European currency markets

Back in September 2011, as we reported at the time, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) conduct a major experiment. Switzerland is not part of the eurozone, so has its own currency, the Swiss franc. Before the 2008 credit crisis, one euro could buy you 1.65 Swiss francs. But then the Swiss franc became stronger and stronger, and the euro became weaker, and by August 2011, the two currencies were at parity, meaning that one euro could buy you just one franc. This did a great deal of harm to Switzerland's tourist and export business, since people with dollars or euros could buy less and less in Switzerland.

So the SNB announced that it was going to "print" billions of Swiss francs, and use them to purchase euros. It was an incredible experiment. They guaranteed that the franc would not become stronger than 1.20 francs per euro.

They actually kept that promise. The SNB now has hundreds of billions of euros on its balance sheet that it doesn't know what to do with. The euro to Swiss franc exchange rate has been almost flat since then, at 1.20 francs per euro.

Until Friday. Suddenly, and without notice, and much to the surprise of the financial community, the SNB abruptly abandoned the printing program. They issued this statement, where "CHF" is the symbol for the Swiss franc:

"The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is discontinuing the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro. ...

The minimum exchange rate was introduced during a period of exceptional overvaluation of the Swiss franc and an extremely high level of uncertainty on the financial markets. This exceptional and temporary measure protected the Swiss economy from serious harm. While the Swiss franc is still high, the overvaluation has decreased as a whole since the introduction of the minimum exchange rate. The economy was able to take advantage of this phase to adjust to the new situation.

Recently, divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have increased significantly – a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced. The euro has depreciated considerably against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar. In these circumstances, the SNB concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified."

When they refer to "a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced," many believe that they're referring to reports that the European Central Bank (ECB) is going to start its own "printing" program, using quantitative easing (QE) to purchase bonds and make billions or trillions of additional euros available.

The results were dramatic. The franc immediately strengthened to above parity with the euro, and closed at parity (1 euro for 1 franc) by the end of the day, 20% stronger than before. In currency trading, a 2-3% change is considered big. A 20% move could be disastrous (just as a 20% fall in the stock market could be disastrous).

Financial markets went into panic in Croatia and Serbia on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people have loans denominated in Swiss francs in these two countries, and the amount of debt owed by these people effectively increased by 15-20% in one day. Newspaper headlines read "Catastrophe" and "Debt crisis" and "Swiss strike."

At least two currency brokerages in the U.K. filed for bankruptcy by the end of the day, and others across the globe may follow next week. The reason that currency brokerages are filing for bankruptcy is that their clients are applying for bankruptcy. In many cases, investors made currency bets based on margin, and after the SNB move, they're no longer able to meet margin calls. This means that the brokerages that funded these margin debts are now responsible for them, driving some of them into bankruptcy.

If I were to take a guess, I would guess that there are top secret meetings going on this weekend of Fed officials and ECB officials, with the purpose of finding a way to prevent this situation to spiral into a global panic. DPA and Reuters and Swiss National Bank and XE.com - Euro vs Swiss Franc historical conversion chart

Troops and police spread across Europe, in fear of terror attacks

Thousands of police and troops are in the streets of Belgium, Germany and other countries, hoping to head off new terror attacks. This following the terror attacks in Paris two weeks ago, and raids targeting returning Syrian jihadists in the last few days. In Belgium, police are stationed in buildings within the Jewish quarter of Antwerp and the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Troops will reinforce police at least until Thursday. This is the first time in decades that troops have been on the streets of Belgium.

Police in Athens Greece arrested four people allegedly connected to a foiled terror plot that last week's police action in Belgium had foiled. The alleged mastermind was identified as a Belgian of Moroccan descent.

Up to 300 members of the military will be stationed at locations such as the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Brussels and NATO and EU institutions. AFP and VOA

Thousands in Muslim countries protest cartoon depiction of Mohammed

Muslims across the world have expressed revulsion at the jihadist attack on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week, but they're also expressing fury that Charlie Hebdo insulted Islam by publishing a new satirical cartoon depicting Mohammed, something that's forbidden in the Muslim culture.

Protests are common on Fridays, after midday prayers, and on this Friday there were thousands of protests in many countries, including Sudan, Russia's North Caucasus, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and Jordan.

However, in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, three people were injured as police battled activists from the Jamaat-e-Islami party, who were trying to enter the French consulate.

In Niger, at least ten people have died in violence on Friday and Saturday, as rioters burned churches and cars, and attack French-linked businesses. All of the dead were civilians, with most killed inside burned churches or bars. Guardian (London) and AFP

Barack Obama describes an American advantage over Europe

At a press conference on Friday with UK prime minister George Cameron, President Barack Obama discussed the difference between the U.S. and Europe with respect to Islamic terrorism (my transcription):

"Europe has some particular challenges. The United States has one big advantage in this whole process. And it's not that our law enforecement or our intelligence services etc are so much better, although ours are very very good, and I think europeans would recognize that we've got capabilities that others don't have. Our biggest advantage is that our Muslim populations -- they feel themselves to be Americans, and there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition that is probably our greatest strength.

Now that doesn't mean that we aren't subject to the kinds of tragedies that we saw at the Boston Marathon, but that I think has been helpful. There are parts of Europe where I think that's not the case, and that's probably the greatest danger that Europe faces. Which is why as they respond, as they work with us to respond to these circumstances, it's important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems, but there also needs to be a recognition that the stronger the ties of a north African or a Frenchman of North African descent to French values, French Republic sense of opportunity -- that's gonna be as important, if not more important, in over time solving this problem. And I think there's a recognition across Europe and it's important that we don't lose that."

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Jan-15 World View -- Thousands in Muslim countries protest cartoon depiction of Mohammed thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Jan-15 World View -- International Criminal Court opens probe into Israel's war crimes

Fearing bank runs, Greece's banks make emergency aid request

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

International Criminal Court opens probe into Israel's war crimes


Masked Hamas members carry a model of a rocket in a Gaza rally in December (Flash90)
Masked Hamas members carry a model of a rocket in a Gaza rally in December (Flash90)

In a move that some are describing as purely symbolic, at least for the time being, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary investigation into war crimes committed by Israel during the summer 2014 Gaza war.

Once Mahmoud Abbas, representing the State of Palestine, made the request to the ICC, the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is required by ICC policy to conduct a preliminary investigation, to determine whether she should launch a complete formal investigation. She has two options, in that she can decide to launch the formal investigation, or decide not to. However, there's no timeline or deadline. In fact, according to one analyst, there are already pending preliminary investigations for Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq, Nigeria and Ukraine, so Israel would just be another one. If she does launch a formal investigation, there could be war crimes charges against both Israeli leaders and Hamas leaders.

It's far from clear whether the ICC has the jurisdiction to take on this case. The U.N. General Assembly voted in November 2012 to create a State of Palestine, but it's not a member of the U.N., and only has observer status. There is no precedent for a non-member (like the Holy See) to join the ICC. For the ICC to have full jurisdiction in this case, there would have to be an affirmative vote of the Security Council, and the U.S. has already indicated that it would veto such a resolution. Al Jazeera and LA Times and Washington Post

Moody's lowers Russia's bonds to near-junk status

Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on Russia's government bond to Baa3 from Baa2. This puts the bonds just one notch above the non-investment grade, or "junk status."

Moody's lowered the bond grade to Baa2 in October, just three months ago. According to Moody's today:

Moody's one-notch downgrade to Baa2 in October 2014 balanced an increasingly subdued growth outlook -- in part reflecting Russia's weak institutional strength and the challenging geopolitical environment -- against the government's still extremely strong balance sheet.

The negative outlook reflected the fragile nature of that balance, with both the growth outlook and the government's fiscal position exposed to further shocks that could more profoundly undermine consumer and investor confidence, hastening the erosion of fiscal and foreign currency buffers.

As evidenced by the recent further steep falls in oil prices and the exchange rate, these shocks have materialized. According to Moody's, the severe -- and likely to be sustained -- oil price shock, alongside Russian borrowers' highly restricted international market access due to ongoing sanctions, is undermining economic fundamentals and increasing financial stresses on both the public and private sectors. In its updated growth outlook for Russia, Moody's now expects real GDP contractions of around 5.5% in 2015 and 3% in 2016, bringing real growth over the 10 years through 2018 to virtually zero.

Last week, Fitch Ratings downgraded Russia’s credit rating to BBB- from BBB, which is also just one step away from junk level. In December, Standard & Poor's revised Russia’s rating to BBB-, saying there is a 50 percent possibility it will drop Russia to junk level in mid-January 2015. Moody's Investors Service and Russia Today

Fearing bank runs, Greece's banks make emergency aid request

Two of Greece's banks have requested an emergency credit line under the Emergency Liquidity Assistance program, or ELA. Neither bank plans to use the money at this stage, but it requested out of concern over a possible bank run following the January 25 election. The radical far left Syriza party is leading in the polls and is expected to win. The party's leader, Alexis Tsipras has said that he will renege on Greece's austerity commitments that it made in return for its 240 billion euro bailout paid so far. There is a possible "Grexit" scenario with Greece will leave the eurozone and start printing drachma currency again, which would substantially devalue existing Greek bank accounts.

Fearing this scenario Greek bank account holders have been withdrawing money from Greek banks and depositing the money foreign banks, where it would be safe from Grexit. Bank deposits fell by 3 billion euros in December, and have been accelerating since then.

Tsipras has said that Greece will not leave the eurozone because the eurozone needs Greece more than Greece needs the eurozone. He may be right. There are new reports that Eurogroup members are considering offering Greece a six-month bailout extension, and possibly renegotiating a new bailout package. A Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers will take place one day after the elections to decide what to do next. Bloomberg and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Jan-15 World View -- International Criminal Court opens probe into Israel's war crimes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Jan-15 World View -- Belgium police raid multiple groups of returning Syrian jihadists

Lithuania asks citizens to prepare for Russian invasion

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Belgium police raid multiple groups of returning Syrian jihadists


Foreign fighters flow to Syria.  This graphic is from Oct 2014, so the figures may have doubled by now (WaPost)
Foreign fighters flow to Syria. This graphic is from Oct 2014, so the figures may have doubled by now (WaPost)

Belgium police raided ten locations where it was suspected that home-grown jihadists returning from Syria were planning terror acts. One location was in the town of Verviers, where two suspected terrorists were killed after a shootout, and the others were spread across the capital city Brussels, which is also the capital city of the European Union.

Police believe that the terrorists were planning a "major attack," although there was no evidence of an imminent threat. The counter-terrorism raids come one week after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris, though it's not believe that the two are linked. AFP and Bloomberg

The growing problem: Young men return home after ISIS terror training

The Belgium raids highlight a rapidly worsening problem: That disaffected young people from any country can go to Syria and receive terrorist training from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), and then return home and use their newly acquired skills for a terror attack.

I've been discussing this issue for almost two years, but the graphic at the top of this article illustrates it beautifully. The actions of Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad to conduct a genocidal war of extermination against innocent Sunni women and children in his own country, using weapons supplied by war criminal Vladimir Putin, have turned Syria into a magnet for depressed and disaffected young men around the world who think that they'll find true happiness maiming and killing other people. (The graphic is from October 2014, so the figures may have doubled or tripled by now.)

The most significant development of the last year has been the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, led by the charismatic Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who is attracting even more would-be jihadists to populate his self-declared caliphate.

The events of the last couple of weeks have seen another major, significant development. The Charlie Hebdo attackers were trained in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), before ISIS ever gained prominence. In the last few days, AQAP has been crowing about how they were responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack. The new development is that the leaderships of ISIS and AQAP are apparently now in competition with each other to be most fashionable and trendy terror group, so that they'll attract the most would-be jihadists.

Unfortunately, there's every sign that these trends are going to accelerate. It takes only a few lone-wolf jihadists, after getting some training in Syria or Yemen, to set off a bomb or launch a gunfire assault, and it's apparently the desire to both ISIS and AQAP leaders to encourage such attacks. The number of young men willing to go to Syria and Yemen to get terrorist training is growing, and the number of young women going to Syria to marry a terrorist because maiming and slaughter is so erotic is also growing. So the simple math is that there is going to be more of these attacks.

In Belgium on Thursday, the police were able to act before it was too late. It's doubtful that they'll always be so lucky. Washington Post (11-Oct-2014)

Lithuania asks citizens to prepare for Russian invasion

For most of the last century, Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union, and only achieved independence in 1991, after which it joined Nato and the European Union. But the recent Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, annexing territory from each, has led Lithuania's government to issue a manual on "How to Survive a Russian Invasion."

The main advice is:

"Keep a sound mind, don’t panic and don’t lose clear thinking. Gunshots just outside your window are not the end of the world."

In the event of invasion, the manual says Lithuanians should organize themselves through Twitter and Facebook and attempt cyber-attacks against the enemy.

In case of Russian occupation of Lithuania, the manual advises demonstrations and strikes or "at least do your job worse than usual" as resistance techniques. Reuters and Russia Today

The Historical Thesaurus of English now available online

The University of Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English web site was launched on Thursday. It contains 800,000 words from Old English to the present day, based on the Oxford English Dictionary, arranged into detailed hierarchies within broad conceptual categories such as Thought or Music. According to the university, it is the world's only complete historical thesaurus published in any language.

193 words for "drunk," include drink-drowned, jug-bitten, swilled, bumpsy, drunk as wheelbarrow, muckibus, half-shaved, grogged, pickled, swizzled or elephant's trunk, many from the 1600s.

Instead of "darling," try: honey, babe, my dove, lamb, mopsy, flitter-mouse, prawn or my ding-dong.

The Historical Thesaurus has been under development since 1965, and some 230 linguists have been involved in the project. Daily Mirror (London) and University of Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Jan-15 World View -- Belgium police raid multiple groups of returning Syrian jihadists thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Jan-15 World View -- Sri Lanka follows a predictable pattern after its civil war

Pope canonizes first Sri Lanka saint, calls for national unity

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pope canonizes first Sri Lanka saint, calls for national unity


Pope Francis, visiting a Catholic shrine in Madu, Sri Lanka (TamilNet)
Pope Francis, visiting a Catholic shrine in Madu, Sri Lanka (TamilNet)

More than half a million people attended a seafront mass in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, as Pope Francis announced that Reverend Joseph Vaz had been canonized as a saint. Vaz was a 17th century Indian missionary who revived the faith in Sri Lanka during a time of anti-Catholic persecution by Dutch colonists, who were Protestant Calvinists.

The Pope's visit comes five years after the end of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war. Sri Lanka has two major ethnic groups, the majority Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, who control the markets and the government, and the minority Tamils, mostly Hindu, who were rebelling against the government to create a separate Tamil state. The Pope said that he hoped that religion could help heal the divisions between Sinhalese and Tamils, just as Saint Joseph Vaz had helped bring the peace in the 17th century.

The Pope encouraged the Sri Lanka government to appoint a "truth commission" to determine what happened in the civil war, to bring about healing:

"The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity."

This was actually a swipe at the Sinhalese government, which has been accused by the U.N. Human Rights Council of having committed genocide during the civil war. Although the war ended in 2009, there are still some Tamil groups in Sri Lanka and in the European diaspora that would like to revive the war, and the Pope's nice-sounding remarks give encouragement to those groups.

Here's an excerpt from a letter sent by a Tamil leader to the Pope, shortly before his visit:

"I am Mrs. Ananthy Sasitharan, an elected member of Northern Provincial Council in the island. I am working for the people who lost their family members in the last phase of the genocidal war waged on Tamil people in the North-East. We have been tracing the whereabouts of many of the cases that are being regarded in the records as ‘missing persons’. ...

I hope that Your Holiness is aware of the fact that the underlying conflict in the island is a 60-year-long genocide against Tamils. It has claimed the lives of most of the talented people from our traditional homeland in the North-East. A significant number of our resource people are forced into exile. The remaining Tamils are forced to live as second-class citizens, facing various forms of oppressions, colonization, Sinhalicisation and finally Buddhicisation of the traditional Tamil homeland through Sinhala militarisation.

During your visit, the Sri Lankan political leaders ... will be fighting for the opportunity to kiss your hand and get your blessings. ... The political leaders and their military commanders of the Colombo government are seeking to protect themselves and their system from its crime of genocide. ...

Your Holiness, please do not be fooled by their false promises on protecting ‘minorities’. In fact, transforming Tamils into their ‘minorities’ was their first step in the genocide. Tamils are not a minority in our own traditional homeland, which is subjected to systematic Sinhala Buddhist colonization with a genocidal motive. ...

We look at Vatican, as a moral guardian of humanity. The Catholic Church, having witnesses among the people, has a moral duty to safeguard the people from the protracted crime of genocide."

As this letter shows, the civil war ended in 2009, but the tensions and emotions that drove the civil war are still burning. Reuters and Guardian (London) and TamilNet

Sri Lanka's presidential election exhibits high drama

Mahinda Rajapaksa was first elected president of Sri Lanka in 2005, and led Sri Lanka to victory over the Tamils in the civil war that ended in 2009. His political party, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), has won almost every local and national election since then. In October of last year, sure of victory, Rajapaksa called for a new election for January 8, a year earlier than he had to.

However, Rajapaksa's own Health Minister, Maithripala Sirisena, declared that he would create a new party, the New Democratic Front (NDF), and oppose Rajapaksa. Even two weeks ago, it was thought that Rajapaksa would score a major victory. But when the election was over and they counted the votes, everyone was shocked that Sirisena won. Rajapaksa was hailed as a unifier when he graciously conceded defeat to Sirisena.

Then it turned out that, on the morning of election day, Rajapaksa realized that he might lose, and he sought the support of the army in overturning the results of the election. Only after they failed to back him did he concede.

The campaign spokesman of the new president claimed on Saturday that the Sri Lankan army had defied Rajapaksa's orders to use force to keep him in power:

"The army chief got orders to deploy the troops on the ground across the country. They tried attempts to continue by force. The army chief defied all the orders he got in the last hours.

We spoke to the army chief and told him not to do this. He kept the troops in the barracks and helped a free and fair election."

However, Rajapaksa denies that there was any coup plot. According to his spokesman:

"When U.S. State Secretary John Kerry spoke to Rajapaksa over the phone, the former president assured him there will be a smooth power transition as stipulated in the constitution."

Whether the allegations of a coup attempt are true or false, the damage has already been done in the sense that the election results have been clouded, and in the future, Tamils will view election results with suspicions of Sinhalese tampering. Ada Derana (Sri Lanka) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India) and Economist

Sri Lanka follows a predictable pattern after its civil war

As long-time readers may recall, as the Sri Lanka civil war approached a climax in May 2009, every news organization and analyst that reported on the civil war were predicting that the civil war would continue on for months or years, because it had already gone on for 26 years.

As far as I know, every analysis in the world was wrong except the Generational Dynamics analysis. As I had been saying for months earlier, the Sri Lanka civil war was a generational crisis war, headed for an explosive climax, and when that climax was finally reached, then the war would be over once and for all. The comparison I made was to the surrender of Berlin and Tokyo that ended World War II once and for all.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, civil wars are very interesting studies because they're self-contained. With a war involving two or three nations, it gets complicated to sort out the various ethnic groups, religions, and generational timelines. But in the case of a civil war, such as the Sri Lanka civil war, you have two opposing sides with the same generational timelines, and with a clear fault line separating. The result is that the generational timelines for civil wars are more predictable than for multi-nation wars.

Let's illustrate this in the case of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka civil war was fought between two ancient races: The Sinhalese (Buddhist) and the Tamils (Hindu). WW II was a 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."

A non-crisis civil war began in 1983, and the low-level violence continued until a peace treaty was signed in 2002. In the next few months, the peace treaty has been unraveling, and in the last couple of weeks it appears closer to a full-scale crisis civil war.

In 2006, the fighting became a lot more serious and by 2008 it was a full-fledged generational crisis war. The major characteristic of a crisis war is that the value of an individual life goes to zero, while the only thing that matters is the society and its way of life. To illustrate this, I always like to point to the Allied storming of Normandy Beach in 1944, where the American soldiers were shot down like fish in barrel. Subsequently, the allies firebombed and destroyed Dresden, and then nuked two Japanese cities.

WW II had a literally explosive climax, but the Sri Lanka civil war had a climax that was just as explosive, though not literally, and just as genocidal. The Tamils had been using civilians as shields. Since the Sinhalese army did not want to kill innocent civilians, this Tamil tactic worked for years. In January, 2008, the Sri Lankan military commanders promised to "defeat the Tamils once and for all" by the end of 2008. This was a signal that the lives of civilians would no longer matter, and that the army would attack the Tamil Tigers even if it meant killing civilians. (See "Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels" from January 2008.)

Finally, in May 2009, the Sinhalese army trapped the Tamil Tiger militants in a U.N.-declared "safe zone" and slaughtered them, including a number of civilians, although 50,000 civilians that had been trapped there were freed. That was the end of the war. (See "Tamil Tigers surrender, ending the Sri Lanka crisis civil war" from May 2009.)

The genocidal climax of a civil war is particularly shameful for both sides, because the mass slaughter was not directed at foreigners, but against cousins, brothers and neighbors.

Once a crisis civil war ends, the country goes through a Recovery Era, where the traumatized survivors pass laws and create institutions whose purpose is to guarantee that such a war will never happen again, not to their children and not to their grandchildren.

Sri Lanka is now in the midst of a Recovery Era. Tensions are high and bitterness is deep, but there's no more war, at least for the time being. But there's a new generation rising, young people with no personal memory of the horrors of the civil war. After about 15 years after the climax, there's a generational Awakening Era, and they begin to make their voices heard. Young Tamils will demand an end to discrimination, and many young idealistic Sinhalese will join them. But then the incidents of violence will start, expanding into low-level violence, and the cycle will continue.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Jan-15 World View -- Sri Lanka follows a predictable pattern after its civil war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Jan-15 World View -- Europe prepares for Greece's possible exit from eurozone

Paris France's Charlie Hebdo attacks provoke anti-Pegida protests in Germany

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Europe prepares for Greece's possible exit from eurozone


Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras dances with party official Rena Dourou at pre-election rally last month (EPA)
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras dances with party official Rena Dourou at pre-election rally last month (EPA)

It's far from certain, but the impending Greek crisis rerun during the next month poses a real threat that Greece might have to leave the eurozone and start printing drachmas again, with the result that bankers and politicians are drawing up contingency plans in case it happens.

The radical far left Syriza party is maintaining a "stable and sharp edge in the polls," according to one analyst, for the January 25 election, meaning that Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is the most likely person to be Greece's next Prime Minister. Tsipras has promised that if he wins, then Greece will renege on the austerity commitments it made when it received a 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid. In particular, he took a swipe at Germany when he promised that the country will "write down most of the nominal value of debt... That's what was done for Germany in 1953, it should be done for Greece in 2015."

Greece is in serious economic trouble. It has to come up with 4.6 billion euros in bond maturities in March, and 31 billion euros total by the end of 2015. On the income side, tax revenues have been 40-50% below expectations. In February, Greece has to pay creditors 2 billion euros, and must pay another 4.5 billion euros to International Monetary Fund (IMF) this year.

So Greece needs another bailout, and both sides are playing a game of chicken. Germany says Greece won't get the new bailout unless they stick to the existing austerity commitments. Tsipras says that they're reneging on the commitments, and that Europe will have to provide the bailout anyway.

Most analysts believe that "Grexit", the Greek eurozone exit, will be avoided because some compromise will be reached. But in the 1950s, the game of chicken was played with two cars racing at each other until one car or the other turned away, and we know that sometimes neither car turned away, with explosive results. Greek Reporter and Nasdaq and Greek Reporter

Paris France's Charlie Hebdo attacks provoke anti-Pegida protests in Germany

Germany's anti-Islam Pegida movement fielded 25,000 protesters in Dresden on Monday, the largest number ever. The Pegida movement ("Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") protests have been growing in size since Pegida was launched in October.

There has also been a growing opposition, and 100,000 Germans attended anti-Pegida counter-demonstrations. The growth of the anti-Pegida movement was spurred by the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last week by Islamic jihadists. As I've been writing, the number of Islamic terror attacks is expected to increase as collateral damage to the growing Muslim versus Muslim wars in the Mideast, South Asia and North Africa. ( "12-Jan-15 World View -- Is Islam at war with the West?")

According to some historians, Dresden is the perfect city for the growth of the Pegida movement, because of its role in World War II. In February 1945, American and British bombers dropped 4,000 tons of explosives on Dresden, destroying the city. Twenty-five thousand people were killed. The anniversary is still marked every year with protest marches through Dresden’s rebuilt center. The history shapes the worldview of many Pegida supporters. According to Werner Patzelt of Dresden University:

"The argument runs basically like this: Dresden has been destroyed by Americans and English bombers. Americans have never stopped bombing around the world. Now they bomb in the Near East [Middle East]. They destroy states there. As a result, we have so many refugees."

Patzelt adds that Russian flags seen during Pegida marches indicate the desire among some for a counterweight to American power. VOA and Globe and Mail and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Jan-15 World View -- Europe prepares for Greece's possible exit from eurozone thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Jan-15 World View -- Concern rising over Muslim 'no-go zones' as terror breeding grounds

France to deploy 5,000 police to protect Jewish schools

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain's PM Cameron calls Fox News commentator a 'total idiot'


A typical sight in a commercial area of a Muslim 'no-go zone' in France (Daniel Pipes)
A typical sight in a commercial area of a Muslim 'no-go zone' in France (Daniel Pipes)

Steve Emerson, self-described as "an internationally recognized expert on terrorism", appeared on Fox News on Sunday evening, and was asked about "no-go zones." He said that there are a number of European cities "where sharia courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don't go in, and where it's basically a separate country almost, a country within a country." He added:

"In Britain, it's not just no go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in. And parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn't dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire. So there's a situation that Western Europe is not dealing with."

When Britain's prime minister David Cameron was asked about it, he said:

"Frankly I choked on my porridge and thought it must be April Fool's Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot."

Perhaps Emerson's hysterical remarks were in some way forgivable, but one is tempted to agree with Cameron. In 2006, the Congressional Quarterly did an informal survey of Mideast "experts" in Washington, including some who had been analysts for years, and discovered they were abysmally ignorant. One so-called expert, for example, thought that al-Qaeda was a Shia Muslim organization.

That Congressional Quarterly caused some British politicians to smirk about dumb Americans. So the London Times did a similar survey of British politicians, and found that they were equally ignorant. (See "Guess what? British politicians and journalists are just as ignorant as Americans" from 2007.)

As I wrote at the time, I've had many shocks and surprises since I started writing about Generational Dynamics in 2002, but probably no more shocking than the realization that I now know more about the history and current events about the world than do 99.9% of the politicians, analysts, journalists, pundits and others in Washington. This is a reflection on how much work I've done, but it's even more a reflection of the sheer arrogance and stupidity that pervades Washington -- and London. And of course I've written many times about the open lying about stock valuations on CNBC and Bloomberg TV.

So it's not really surprising that a self-described "internationally recognized expert on terrorism" Steve Emerson says incredibly stupid things, since saying incredibly stupid things is the norm.

Fox News later issued a retraction, pointing out that 21 per cent of Birmingham population is Muslim, with 46.1 per cent identifying themselves as Christians.

Emerson himself issued the following apology:

"I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error. And I am issuing this apology and correction for having made this comment about the beautiful city of Birmingham. I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful. There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake. I wish to apologize for all residents of that great city of Birmingham. Steve Emerson PS. I am making donation to Birmingham Children's Hospital."

Birmingham Mail and YouTube and IBN Live and Fox News

Controversy revived over France's 'no-go zones'

Emerson's remarks have revived a controversy over "no-go zones" in Europe and elsewhere, which might be breeding grounds for terrorism. France has identified 751 Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS - Sensitive Urban Zones). These are sometimes informally called "no-go zones," because it's claimed that they're almost entire Muslim, self-governing with Sharia law, and where even the police never go.

Other places where it's claimed that these no-go zones exist are in Birmingham England, Hancock New York, and Dearborn Michigan.

It turns out that France's list of ZUS is from 1996, and many of them are simply places where urban renewal projects have been planned, because of poverty and crime. Today, some of them have been rehabilitated, some are poor but non-violent, and some are poor and occasionally violent.

The ZUS were in the news in 2005, when there were several days of Muslim violence in the suburbs of Paris. However, these were not recent immigrants. In most cases, the youths were French citizens who were second and third generation Moroccans, Turks and Arabs whose parents and grandparents came to France in the 1960s and 1970s, seeking a better life.

Mideast blogger Daniel Pipes started blogging about France's no-go zones in 2006, and updated his blog repeatedly, sometimes with horror stories. Then, in a January 2013 update, he wrote:

"Jan. 16, 2013 update: I had an opportunity today to travel at length to several banlieues (suburbs) around Paris, including Sarcelles, Val d'Oise, and Seine Saint Denis. This comes on the heels of having visited over the years the predominantly immigrant (and Muslim) areas of Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmö, Berlin, and Athens.

A couple of observations:

For a visiting American, these areas are very mild, even dull. We who know the Bronx and Detroit expect urban hell in Europe too, but there things look fine. The immigrant areas are hardly beautiful, but buildings are intact, greenery abounds, and order prevails.

These are not full-fledged no-go zones but, as the French nomenclature accurately indicates, "sensitive urban zones." In normal times, they are unthreatening, routine places. But they do unpredictably erupt, with car burnings, attacks on representatives of the state (including police), and riots.

Having this first-hand experience, I regret having called these areas no-go zones."

As Pipes points out, the unrehabilitated no-go zones are similar to high-crime areas in American cities, such as the Bronx, Detroit and Chicago. And he might have mentioned the far worse situation in Mexican cities where drug cartels are in charge.

The fact that unrehabilitated Muslim no-go zones are similar to high-crime areas in large cities everywhere would be cause enough for concern, but it's believed that these are breeding grounds for would-be jihadists planning to commit terrorist acts. It's known that some 1,200 young French citizens have gone to Syria for training, possibly to return to France with new terror skills, and it's feared that many of them may be coming from the unrehabilitated ZUS. Catholic Online and Snopes and France - government and Trip Advisor and Daniel Pipes

France to deploy 5,000 police to protect Jewish schools

Four Jews were killed on Friday in an attack on a kosher supermarket, in an attack that was linked to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris two days earlier. France's president François Hollande responded by promising the Jewish community would be protected by the French army, "if necessary." The interior minister announced on Monday that 5,000 security forces and police will protect the 700 Jewish schools in the country, though how long this protection will continue was not announced.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has annoyed French politicians by urging French Jews to move to Israel, but in fact that was already happening prior to Friday's attack. A record 7,000 Jews emigrated from France to Israel in 2014. According to historian Marc Knobel:

"There are Jewish people living in sensitive neighborhoods where anti-Semitism has become a daily part of life for them. They feel uneasy. Some are scared to go the synagogue or put their children in Jewish schools because they feel something might happen.

Netanyahu persuading Jews to come to France is not new. It's a policy started by Ariel Sharon in 2002. They see it as logical where Jews are living in situations of peril to tell them to come to Israel."

As I've been reporting the last few weeks, there is a growing Muslim versus Muslim war, with Muslim militias and armies killing Muslims throughout the Mideast, South Asia and Northern Africa. The collateral damage from this war is an increase in terrorist acts in Europe and elsewhere, and many of these terrorist acts may target Jews. Nationalism and xenophobia are increasing in Europe and elsewhere, and Generational Dynamics predicts that this trend will continue and lead to war. AFP and The Local (France)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Jan-15 World View -- Concern rising over Muslim 'no-go zones' as terror breeding grounds thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Jan-15 World View -- Reader comments: Is Islam at war with the West?

Is PEGIDA a neo-Nazi movement, or just a grass roots protest?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Reader comments on Islam and Christianity


U.S. Marines storm Tripoli during the First Barbary War (1801-05) against North African Berber Muslims
U.S. Marines storm Tripoli during the First Barbary War (1801-05) against North African Berber Muslims

In several recent articles, I've been describing the massive and growing war of Muslims against Muslims in the Mideast, South Asia and Northern Africa. I've made the point that Islam is NOT at war with the West, and that the terrorist attacks, such as this past week's Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, were collateral damage from the real war, the war between Muslims and Muslims.

The following are some comments that I received.

Is Islam at war with the West?

"I come to your site every day because I believe you have something valuable to say, but when you make this statement, you destroy your credibility.

'As I've been reporting repeatedly, there is no Muslim war against the West. Even in the last week, when a score of people in Paris were killed, thousands were killed in Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria, while hundreds more were killed in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other countries.'

Muslims are surely fighting against each other - but to declare the war is only happening on one front is nothing less than selective denial. Hitler fought the West, but you might remember he fought on an "Eastern Front" too. Save your credibility sir, Islam is at war with everyone, including their own families."

I've been writing about Muslim violence since 2003 -- thousands of articles. I have, on file, almost 90,000 news stories that I've copied and pasted from media sources around the world. I've read all of these, as well as millions more that I didn't copy. In addition, I've listened to untold thousands of hours from the BBC, al-Jazeera, and domestic news services.

With all of that input, I find plenty of terrorist acts, but I cannot find any evidence of an actual war by Muslims against the West -- as measured by actual behavior, not by the rantings of Muslim terrorists and jihadist leaders.

As I've described in recent articles, there have been fewer than 9,000 Christians killed in individual terrorist acts in the 13 years since 9/11/2011. Now that's a lot of Christians, but it's not what I would call a war, except in a symbolic sense. For it to be a real war, you would need to see Muslim armies attacking Europe or America.

On the other hand, there are militias and large armies of Muslims attacking other Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. EACH YEAR there are 50,000 or so Muslims killed by these armies, five times as many killed each year as Christians were killed in THIRTEEN YEARS.

I want to emphasize what a big difference this is. Individual terrorist acts by individual terrorists are bad, but they're not the same as large armies conducting a real war.

In some ways this is just semantics. For most people, there isn't much difference between being at war with Islamist jihadists versus being at war with Islam.

I think it's dangerous for the West not to know who their real enemy is. Those who say that "Islam is the enemy of the West" or "All Muslims are enemies of the West" are doing a disservice because, if they're believed, then resources will be wasted fighting the wrong enemy. Indeed, it's quite possible that that's exactly what the ISIS and AQAP leaders want -- to see the West waste their resources attacking "Islam" or "all Muslims", rather than ISIS or AQAP or other Muslim terrorist jihadists.

For more discussion, see the following articles:

"10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre"
"8-Jan-15 World View -- The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists"
"1-Jan-15 World View -- The three most important dangers for 2015"
"29-Dec-14 World View -- Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians?"

Is Islam a religion, like Christianity, or just an ideology or mindset?

"Once there is a resolution of the Sunni-Shia schism within Islam, it needs to be clearly understood that this resolution is only the beginning. John's comments make no provision for dealing with the ideology of radical Islam after the resolution of their internal conflict (I have come to believe that there is no Islam other than radical Islam). I can't stress forcefully enough that Islam is not a religion... it is a mind set. Islam makes no provision for the accommodation of anything other than Islam - it isn't just about Allah, it's about Allah in government, it's about Allah in speech (the "rationale" for todays murders in Paris), it's about Allah in school, it's all about Allah in every single aspect of life. Further, to be clear, and make no mistake, there is an Imam someplace who is willing to issue a fatwa that is going to tell you just exactly what that means, and how you WILL comply with orthodox (as he sees it) Islam, under penalty of death. Understand: there is no aspect of life that is outside of the purview of Islam."

Islam is just as much a religion as Christianity is. Or, if you like, Christianity is also just an ideology, in view of Christian Nazis who killed Jews and other Christians, or Irish Protestants who killed Catholics.

"John, on most occasions we are in sync. Here we shall have to agree to disagree.

Grew up in Dearborn, MI - largest Muslim community in the U.S. The high school I attended was 30% Muslim - now it's 100% Muslim. Developed an unfavorable attitude first hand - Muslims are routinely strident, belligerent, and combative. After high school, I lived in Turkey for a year - at the time Turkey was the most moderate of the Muslim countries. Living in a Muslim country made me understand what I saw in high school. I can remember leaving Ankara in 1967 looking out the airplane's window thinking: "... no one will believe what I tell them about this place... God help the world if these people ever get money...." That was over 45 years ago, and now they have the money to buy arms, and explosives, i.e. the means to carry out their mentality; and there is no longer a powerful moral America with the will to stop them.

Muslims are a problem wherever they alight. Philippines, Timor, Myanmar, India, Kashmir, China, Russia, Israel, Britain, France, Nigeria, Thailand, Kenya, et al. Virtually every airplane hijacking since 1970 has been by Muslims, not Christians. ... The only time Muslims seek freedom and tolerance is when they are a significant minority; when they achieve a significant plurality, or majority it is their way or the sword, they have no compunction regarding impressing their will - Sharia Law - upon all. They tolerate nothing, it's Allah, or die - it's Sharia for all. Muslims believe that anyplace Muslims have occupied is theirs forever, anyplace Muslims have prayed is theirs forever. ...

And Christianity is certainly not without issues, but here we are discussing the differences between Christianity and Islam. The difference between Christianity, and Islam is that the embrace of Christianity is voluntary, with no direct physical harm, or ill consequences suffered if one rejects the conversion. As recent events have made clear, in Islam the conversion is not voluntary; it's convert, or the sword - the conversion is coerced and once converted, should you desire to exit Islam, it is a capital offense subjecting you to death. ...

While Christianity has its dark chapters, those are not taking place now. At this moment the Christian Church is as was given to us through the Enlightenment and to a somewhat lesser degree by the American Revolution (the inherent value of life, honesty, the rule of law, personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and many more, among others)."

Your final remark about "dark chapters" is where your argument contradicts itself.

You claim that Christianity and Islam are fundamentally different in that Islam isn't even a religion -- it's an ideology or mind set. To support that claim in practice you would have to prove two things: not only that Christianity and Islam have had different cumulative outcomes throughout centuries of history, but also that Christianity could never return to a new "dark chapter" in the future.

I claim you have no hope of proving either of those. All you can hope to prove is that AT THE PRESENT TIME Islam is producing different outcomes than Christianity. And the latter may in fact be true, as the examples you've given illustrate. But that means that Islam and Christianity are both religions, and differences in outcomes are only temporal.

Why would such temporal differences exist? For the answer to that, we look to a generational analysis.

WW II is still remarkably fresh in the minds of most Christians. How was it possible for the entire Christian German population to turn into Nazis and create the Holocaust to exterminate Jews, and also to turn on the Christian French population, the Christian British population, and also the Orthodox Christian Russian population. This is still a matter of shame throughout the world Christian community, and it affects every Christian's attitudes to people of other religions.

But there is no similar collective memory in the Muslim community. For Muslims, the destruction of the Ottoman Empire (in 1922) was in the far more distant past than WW II, and to them was not a cause for shame among Muslims, but a cause for shame among Europeans and Russians, including Christians and Jews. Furthermore, the loss of the Istanbul Caliphate is a gaping hole in the Muslim psyche.

That brings us to Iran's Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war (1979-1988), which is as important to Islam as WW II is to the West. This was a generational crisis war largely in the Shia Muslim community. The problems that you described as Muslim problems are actually almost always Sunni Muslim problems. Since Shia Muslims have had a generational crisis war much more recently than Sunni Muslims, then have far different attitudes and behaviors. So your argument about Islam falls apart even when you consider temporal differences between Shia and Sunni Islam.

Finally, as another counterexample to the uniqueness of Islam, the shame of WW II does not extend to the Buddhist community, and the Buddhists in Burma (Myanmar), led by a Buddhist monk, are massacring innocent Muslim women and children, razing entire villages. The Muslims under greatest attack are Rohingya immigrants, but the Buddhists have even attacked Muslim villages that have existed for hundreds of years.

Is PEGIDA a neo-Nazi movement, or just a simple grass roots protest?

This comment was in response to an article on PEGIDA, a growing 'anti-Islamization' movement in Germany.

"You interpret PEGIDA as the rise of some neo-Nazi movement. Writing to you this very moment from Germany, I can assure you that thousands of Germans are most decidedly NOT parading around shouting "Deutschland für Deutsche! Ausländer raus!" That was/is the slogan of the far right, to use the phrase, and you are wrong to conflate it and them with PEGIDA.

This movement, a grass roots protest, arose in the former GDR [Communist East Germany], a region that has more familiarity with totalitarian government than you or I have. They know a lie when they are being forced to believe it, first under the SED dictatorship, as socialism, and now under the EU and its constant cheerleaders and propaganda. If you are located on the continent, you will be only too aware of this. If you are not, then you are, as I posted previously, writing with a less than full understanding."

The article was not about me. What I was doing in my article was reporting that European leaders are describing Pegida as neo-Nazi or xenophobic.

In fact, Pegida organizer Kathrin Oertel agrees with my reporting: "Or how would you see it when we are insulted or called racists or Nazis openly by all the political mainstream parties and media for our justified criticism of Germany's asylum seeker policies and the non-existent immigration policy?"

So Oertel agrees with me that many Europeans view Pegida as xenophobic or racist or Nazi. My personal opinion is that Hungary's Jobbik and Greece's Golden Dawn are neo-Nazi, but Pegida is only "a little bit xenophobic," at least so far.

"To make the claim that this is the echoes of the 1930s all over again is patently false. There is not mass unemployment, there is not anarchy, there is no hyperinflation, there is no war just lost, there are no humiliating reparations, there is no loss of territory, no occupation by foreign powers. Would you like me to continue? Today's Germany is a modern, peaceful, prosperous and surprisingly tolerant country. Did you know it took in more refugees from the Yugoslavia conflict than all the other countries put together?"

Oh, really? Unemployment rate at 25% in Greece and Spain, 16% in Italy, above 10% in other eurozone countries. Hyperinflation was an early 1920s phenomenon -- deflation was a 1930s phenomenon, same as today. No humiliating reparations, but humiliating bailout accusations between Germany and Greece, with the same effect. No loss of territory or occupation, but floods of Syrian and African refugees evoking the same emotions.

"But given that a phobia is an irrational fear, there is nothing irrational in witnessing whole areas of the town or city where you were born and raised becoming nothing less than foreign enclaves filled with people who refuse to integrate, let alone be able to even if they should want."

I don't disagree with your characterization, and I might well feel the same way in those circumstances.

As a student of history, surely you must see the similarities with the 1930s. The Nazis gave very "rational" reasons for their attitudes towards Jews -- Jewish bankers had made money from the reparations, Jews had sold out the Germans, etc. One can always find "rational" reasons for any emotion.

But that doesn't change the point that I'm making. Xenophobic and neo-Nazi movements are spreading across Europe today, and Pegida is one of them, even if it's in its early stages. This is a trend that's been growing for years, particularly since the rise of Generation-X, and the trend is going to continue and grow.

By the way, suppose you were King of Europe. What would you do? Deport all the Muslims? Lock them up in camps? Close the borders to Syrian women and children fleeing starvation and bloody massacres? Sink their boats and let them drown in the Mediterranean? What would you do, and why would what you would do be better than what the neo-Nazis would do?

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Jan-15 World View -- Reader comments: Is Islam at war with the West? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Jan-15 World View -- France officials criticized for not stopping Charlie Hebdo terror attack

'Anonymous' declares war on terrorist web sites

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

France officials criticized for not stopping Charlie Hebdo terror attack


Massive rally in support of Charlie Hebdo victims in Marseille France on Saturday (AFP)
Massive rally in support of Charlie Hebdo victims in Marseille France on Saturday (AFP)

Criticism is mounting against French officials for not doing more to prevent Wednesday's terrorist attack by means of closer surveillance of the two brothers who carried out the attack. One of them, Cherif Kouachi, had been convicted on terrorism charges in 2008, while the other, Said Kouachi had traveled to Yemen in 2011 and was believed while there to have been trained in jihadist skills by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Both were on the U.S. no-fly list. When Said returned from Yemen in 2012, both Kouachi brothers were placed under close surveillance, but after a while the surveillance was reduced.

Some problems have no solution. You can prove mathematically that there's no solution to the problem of squaring the circle. There's no mathematical proof in this case, but there's still no solution to the problem of preventing "lone wolf" terrorist attacks.

Thousands of young men from around the world have gone to Syria to learn terrorist skills from training by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), almost 1,000 of them from France alone. Many, like the Kouachi brothers, return to their home countries to prepare terrorist attacks. If the Kouachi brothers and all others like them were to be kept under constant surveillance, it would take a virtual army of surveillors, and even then many would be missed.

It's believed that there are thousands of people across Europe on government surveillance lists. These lists include not only returning jihadists, but people suspected of financial crimes, sex crimes and other serious offenses. Hurriyet (Ankara)

Al-Qaeda in Yemen claims to have directed Paris Charlie Hebdo attack

A senior AQAP official, Harith al Nadhari, is claiming that "The operation was directed by the leadership of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)." He does not claim credit for the attack, but said that France in particularly was targeted because of the cartoons portraying Mohammed.

As I've been reporting repeatedly, there is no Muslim war against the West. Even in the last week, when a score of people in Paris were killed, thousands were killed in Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria, while hundreds more were killed in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other countries. This is a massive and growing war of Muslims against Muslims that is both ethnic (tribe against tribe) and sectarian (Sunni and Shia against each other).

AQAP is embroiled in its own war, far from Paris. The Sunni jihadists in AQAP in Yemen are under attack by Shia Houthi militias thought to be supported by Iran. The Houthis have made substantial gains in the last six months, and are threatening the gains that AQAP made before that.

With so much on their plate in Yemen, one might ask why AQAP would even be interested in what's going on in Paris. Apparently what's going on is a competition between al-Qaeda and ISIS. If there are thousands of young men going to Syria to train with ISIS, those are thousands of young men who might instead have gone to Yemen to train with AQAP, which is what Said Kouachi did in 2012, before ISIS rise to prominence.

AQAP is fully involved with the war in Yemen, while ISIS is fully involved with the war in Syria and Iraq. Every war has both a military component and a public relations component, and the attack on Paris was part of AQAP's public relations component.

It wasn't long ago that al-Qaeda was Numero Uno in the terror business, but they've been eclipsed in the last year by ISIS. Maybe AQAP directed the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, maybe not. But claiming to have done so is a way of trying to return to prominence. Thus, the Paris attack is collateral damage in the real growing war between Muslims and Muslims, and we can expect more of the same. Guardian (London) and Fox News

'Anonymous' declares war on terrorist web sites

Cyber-terrorist group Anonymous, which has attacked many government, military and commercial web sites in the paste, is now naming terrorist web sites as their next target. According to a statement:

"Message to the enemy of the freedom of speech.

January 7, 2015, freedom of speech has suffered an inhuman assault. Terrorists broke into the premises of the "Charlie Hebdo" newspaper and shot in cold blood several satirical cartoon artists, journalists and two policemen. The killers are still at large. Disgusted and also shocked, we cannot fall to our knees. It is our responsibility to react."

The statement was followed by a YouTube video directly confronting Al-Qaeda and ISIS on the Paris massacre. Russia Today and Pastebin and YouTube

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Jan-15 World View -- France officials criticized for not stopping Charlie Hebdo terror attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre

Cameroon requests international help to fight Boko Haram

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre


Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (AFP)
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (AFP)

After a coordinated three-day rampage on the town of Baga in northeast Nigeria, as well 15-20 other nearby towns, up to 2000 resident civilians have been killed. The towns are now "virtually nonexistent" according to local officials:

"These towns are just gone, burned down. The whole area is covered in bodies."

This would make the massacre among the most deadly terror attacks in history.

There's supposed to be a Multi-National Joint Task Force, a French-sponsored alliance of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, stationed in a army base near Baga. The base was supposed to provide protection for Baga and the other nearby towns. But last Saturday, there were only Nigerian soldiers in the army base, and Boko Haram overran the base, as the Nigerian troops once again fled rather than fight. The massacre in Baga began four days later.

Following the philosophy of better late than never, Nigerian ground forces backed by air strikes are now fighting to reclaim Baga and the military base.

In April 2013, Boko Haram abducted over 200 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok. Those girls are still missing.

Nigeria is one of the biggest oil producers in the world. It's thought that Boko Haram is trying to create a secessionist state in northeast Nigeria. NBC News and Reuters

Cameroon requests international help to fight Boko Haram

President Paul Biya of Cameroon is appealing for international military help to fight Boko Haram. According to Biya, Boko Haram has gone beyond being a regional threat to being a global threat that has attacked Mali, the Central African Republic and Somalia:

"A global threat calls for a global response. Such should be the response of the international community, including the African Union and our regional organisations."

The appeal follows a threat from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a youtube video posted on Monday:

"Oh Paul Biya, if you don’t stop this, your evil plot, you will taste what has befallen Nigeria ... Your troops cannot do anything to us."

The "evil plot" is Biya's attempt to rid Cameroon of Boko Haram. ( "30-Dec-14 World View -- Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat") Biya ordered air strikes after the terrorists began crossing the border from Nigeria and attacked villages in Cameroon's north. Nigerian Tribune and AFP

Some random political and media notes

Washington Examiner and Daily Beast

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Jan-15 World View -- Russia faces economic cliff on Monday, January 12

Qatar may be turning against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Qatar may be turning against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood


Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal

Last summer's Gaza war between Israel and Hamas tore open a gash between Arab and Mideast countries, with Qatar, Turkey and Iran strongly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas, versus Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia opposing Hamas, hence supporting Israel. The differences were expressed with extreme vitriol, especially after Hamas was thoroughly defeated by Israel in the war. But Saudi Arabia managed to convince Qatar to a reconciliation prior to the big Arab summit meeting last month.

Hamas's defeat is only a small part of their problems. Hamas used to have a headquarters office in Damascus, Syria. But in 2011 Syria's genocidal president Bashar al-Assad started exterminating innocent Sunni women and children, forcing a split between al-Assad and Hamas's leader, Khaled Mashaal. After months of rumors, Mashaal and Hamas HQ moved to Doha, Qatar, allowing Mashaal to direct the summer Gaza war from afar.

Now, thanks to the reconciliation, there are reports that Qatar is throwing Mashaal out of Doha. Hamas is denying the reports, but other reports are saying that if Mashaal stays in Doha, then he has to agree to keep a very low profile, and not do anything to embarrass Doha. A Hamas official was quoted as saying, "Hamas was asked at least not to engage in any high-profile political activities that may be interpreted as Qatar still supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly after the Egyptian–Qatari reconciliation."

If Mashaal leaves Doha, then he has three choices: Ankara Turkey or Tehran Iran or Khartoum Sudan, the capitals of the three countries that still support Hamas. Iran is a particularly problematic choice, because Hamas still strongly opposes al-Assad while Iran supports al-Assad, and because Hamas is Sunni Muslim while Iran is Shia Muslim, so they have little in common except their common hatred for Israel.

Current speculation is that Mashaal and Hamas headquarters are headed for Ankara. Daily Sabah (Ankara) and Asharq Al Awsat (Riyadh)

Russia faces economic cliff on Monday, January 12

Russia is on a long-term holiday that started two weeks ago and ends on Monday, January 12. At that time, the banks and the stock exchange will reopen, and it's feared that both the ruble and the Moscow stock exchange will fall sharply. Russia's economy is being hit hard by multiple problems: Russia's main source of income has been deeply slashed because oil prices have been collapsing. The inflation rate has grown from 6.5% to 11.4% in a few months, with food prices growing at 15.4%.

The invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea are much more expensive than expected. Now that Russia has "bought" eastern Ukraine, it's stuck with it, and has to provide aid. Russia has almost no spare industrial capacity, and badly needs massive investment and new technologies that are not forthcoming. Western sanctions have made it impossible for Russian companies to borrow money, forcing them to drain their reserves. Capital is flowing out of Russia as Russians with dollar-denominated accounts and assets move them to other countries, fearing that their accounts might be frozen.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin may have no choice but to impose capital controls, which would prevent anyone's dollar reserves to move out of Russia to foreign banks. But the people who would be hurt most would be Russia's elite oligarch class who, up till now, have been Putin allies. If Putin is forced to impose capital controls, it may be a game changer in that he may lose the support of his biggest allies.

The only good news was an announcement that the price of vodka will decrease from $7 per liter to $6 per liter. This will be accomplished by lowering taxes on vodka. Lowering taxes is not something that the Russian government can afford, but it's thought that with cheap vodka the people will be happier. Jamestown and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Jan-15 World View -- Russia faces economic cliff on Monday, January 12 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Jan-15 World View -- The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists

Eurozone inflation rate becomes negative, falling into deflation

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists


After Wednesday's attack, France is on high alert with thousands more police on the streets in Paris (Reuters)
After Wednesday's attack, France is on high alert with thousands more police on the streets in Paris (Reuters)

Wednesday's terrorist attack in Paris requires an appraisal of where the world stands today:

Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Paris are certain to exacerbate these trends.

This was not a random shooting. The terrorists were well trained in using assault weapons, and the attack was carried out with clockwork precision, probably after being planned for weeks. They spoke perfect French, leading to the speculation that they were home-grown terrorists who had gone to Syria for training. The terrorists murdered the editor and several cartoonists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons and articles mocking Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They shouted, "We have avenged the prophet" and "Allahu akbar" (God is great). It's said to be the deadliest terror attack on French soil in 50 years, since 1961 when a right-wing paramilitary organization opposed to France's withdrawal from Algeria blew up a train killing 28 people.

Some Muslim leaders are blaming the attack on the victims. According to one Sunni Muslim scholar, it came as a response to "extremism from the other side." "When freedom of thought oversteps boundaries and legitimizes and encourages the insult of other religions, there will be such consequences." I disagree with this conclusion. In my opinion, it's the other way around, with the mocking of Mohammed purposely triggered by the actions and PR strategy of the jihadists.

Wednesday's attack is creating a backlash within the populations of the West, especially Europe:

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is the kind of thing that happens during generational Crisis eras. In World War II, Japanese were interred, while Germans were not. Today, Muslims are under suspicion (probably with worse to come), while Chinese are not.

This isn't true only in the West. In China, for example, anti-American and anti-Japanese xenophobia are also growing.

As the world today goes deeper into a generational Crisis era, we can expect xenophobia and nationalism to increase in nations around the world. The world becomes a more dangerous place every day, and the growing Muslim versus Muslim war is just one part of it. It's only a matter of time until somebody does something that triggers a real war. AFP and USA Today and Bloomberg and Telegraph (London) and The Trumpet

Eurozone inflation rate becomes negative, falling into deflation

The inflation rate in the eurozone has been extremely low for years, as we've reported several times, and in December it crossed over into deflation, with an inflation rate of -0.2%. The deflation is being blamed on the falling price of oil. Deflation in Europe is an important story, and there's a lot more to be said, but it's been squeezed out by the news from Paris. Maybe tomorrow. BBC and Eurostat

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Jan-15 World View -- The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Jan-15 World View -- Bethlehem celebrates the second of its three Christmases

Hamas blasts Abbas's plan to re-submit statehood resolution to the Security Council

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bethlehem celebrates the second of its three Christmases


Members of the marching band of the Arab Orthodox Scouts of Beit Sahour march through Manger Square in Bethlehem.
Members of the marching band of the Arab Orthodox Scouts of Beit Sahour march through Manger Square in Bethlehem.

It's Christmas in Bethlehem today (Wednesday). Bethlehem is unique in that it celebrates Christmas three times each year:

About 50% of the Palestinian Arab Christian community across Israel and the Palestinian territories belong to the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and celebrate Christmas on January 7. Jerusalem Post and Middle East Monitor

Hamas blasts Abbas's plan to re-submit statehood resolution to the Security Council

It's been a week since Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas suffered a humiliating defeat in the U.N. Security Council, when it rejected, without even requiring a U.S. veto, Abbas's resolution that would require Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories to pre-1967 borders by 2017.

Following the rejection, Abbas signed the documents to apply on behalf of the State of Palestine to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), in order to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officials. Israel retaliated by withholding $175 million in tax collections from the PA.

According to one theory, this was all part of a larger plan. This theory suggests that Abbas knew that the Security Council vote would be rejected (which is certainly true), and that he wanted an excuse to join the ICC. The purpose is to shape the narrative of conflict, changing it from the "peace process" to "war crimes." Joining the ICC means that Israeli soldiers and commanders could be arrested and tried for war crimes when they travel abroad.

As of January 1, the makeup of the Security Council has changed, with Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela replacing Rwanda, South Korea and Argentina as non-permanent members. Abbas has said that he plans to re-submit the resolution, expecting that with the new membership he would get the required nine votes for passage. However, there would still be a U.S. veto in that case.

However, Hamas is completely opposed to any submission to the Security Council, because a successful resolution would "legitimize Israeli occupation." According to Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar:

"This Palestinian resolution is catastrophic and has no future on the land of Palestine. The future belongs to the resistance. We will continue to work to liberate all the land and achieve the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Hamas will not accept anything less than all the lands that were occupied in 1948."

Once again, Abbas is trying to calm the waters by seeking a solution that might avoid all out war between Palestinians and Israelis. As I've written many times, Abbas was born in 1935, and survived the horrific 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Like most survivors of generational crisis wars, Abbas has literally devoted his life to doing everything possible to prevent that horrific kind of war from occurring again. As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that he will not succeed in preventing that horrific war, though he may continue to postpone it.

In fact, the man that most Palestinians consider the most likely successor to 80-year-old Abbas is the fiery 53-year-old Mohammed Dahlan, who announced on Saturday that he would form a united front in opposition to Abbas. According to Dahlan:

"Most of the Palestinian people oppose the proposal that [Abbas] put forward [at the Security Council]. This was a hasty and reckless decision that wasn’t made with the unified consensus of the Palestinians. The proposal was changed a number of times without consultation of the decision makers. This was a decision that constitutes a new disaster for relations with Israel which will bring shame and destruction of the Palestinian issue."

Bloomberg and Palestine Chronicle and Times of Israel

US weights cutting aid to Palestinians after ICC application

The Obama administration said Monday it was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians because of their effort to join the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. Under American law, any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support. Membership itself doesn't automatically incur U.S. punishment. AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Jan-15 World View -- Bethlehem celebrates the second of its three Christmases thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Jan-15 World View -- Wall Street, European stocks, euro, oil all plunge on Monday

Surge in migrants from Cuba trying to reach the U.S. illegally

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany's PEGIDA 'anti-Islamization' protests grow, stirring counter-protests


Cologne Cathedral lights turned off in protest of Pegida rallies
Cologne Cathedral lights turned off in protest of Pegida rallies

The anti-Islam PEGIDA movement ("Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") protests have been growing in size since the movement's founding in October, but they're also stirring counter-protests by those considering Pegida to be xenophobic.

In Cologne on Monday evening, 20,000 residents gathered on the streets to block Pegida protests in that city, carrying banners that read "Nazis, out!" "We will not let a racist mob run free on Cologne's streets." In addition, the lights on bridges over the Rhine and the Cologne Cathedral were turned off. According to the dean of the cathedral, "We don't think of it as a protest, but we would like to make the many conservative Christians [who support Pegida] think about what they are doing." The Pegida demonstrations were canceled in Cologne.

But in Dresden, where Pegida is headquartered, 18,000 people turned up for one anti-immigration rally, carrying signs that said, "Germany for Germans!" and "No to Islamization of Europe!"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly condemned Pegida. Deutsche Welle and BBC

Wall Street, European stocks, euro, oil all plunge on Monday

A couple of weeks ago, on a day when investors were in a drunken euphoria because the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 421 points, I pointed out that if the market could go up 421 points in one day, then it could just as easily go down 421 points in one day. That didn't quite happen on Monday, but there was a plunge of 331 points, illustrating how dangerous the recent drunken euphoria is. Indeed, a number of things happened in unison.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil fell briefly below $50 per barrel on Monday, before settling at $50.44 per barrel, representing a plunge of 4.3%. It was just a few months ago that it was in the range $100-110 per barrel. Although lower oil prices means lower gasoline prices, it's also signaling a decrease in demand, as the global economy slows down and continues its deflationary spiral.

European stocks also fell on Monday, from 2-4%. The fall in oil prices affected a number of energy companies, resulting in something of a domino effect, and a new report showed that Germany is getting closer to deflation.

The euro currency tumbled to a nine-year low against the dollar, based on widespread concerns that the European Central Bank (ECB) is going to start "printing money" (quantitative easing), in order to bail out Greece again.

In his weekly investors newsletter, investment guru John P. Hussman says that he's in the camp that believes that "the likelihood of a market loss on the order of 40%, 50% or even 60% in the next few years is quite high."

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 2) was back up to an astronomically high 18.66. 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.

It's not known even today what the event was that triggered the 1929 panic, except that conditions just prior to the panic were similar to conditions today -- an astronomically high P/E ratio, and a period of highly volatile wild swings in stock prices. Motley Fool and AP and Bloomberg and Dow Jones and John P. Hussman

Europe speeds ahead to a new, bigger Greece crisis

As we recently reported, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said that she's prepared to support Greece leaving the eurozone, and returning its original drachma currency, if Greece abandons the austerity commitments it made in return for the 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid.

Polls are showing that the radical far left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, is poised to win Greek elections on January 25. With Tsipras promising to renege on Greece's austerity commitments, Merkel's remarks have triggered a major debate in Europe.

Here are some of the things that various analysts and politicians are saying:

Despite 25% unemployment in Greece, the Germans are not prepared to make significant concessions to Tsipras, because significant concessions have already been made -- Greece has been allowed more time to pay down its debt than originally agreed and interest payments have been largely discontinued.

The existing aid programs for Greece are set to expire at the end of February. It's pretty certain that there's going to be a major new Greek crisis during the next two months, although no one knows how that crisis is going to turn out. Greek Reporter and Der Spiegel and AP

Surge in migrants from Cuba trying to reach the U.S. illegally


Coast Guard approaches a Cuban vessel with 12 migrants on December 30.  The migrants were later repatriated to Cuba
Coast Guard approaches a Cuban vessel with 12 migrants on December 30. The migrants were later repatriated to Cuba

According to the Coast Guard, the rate of Cuban migrants attempting to reach the U.S. illegally has more than doubled since the December 17 announcement restoring diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Cubans on the island are speeding up their plans to make the trip because they fear that immigration laws are about to change, making it more difficult to avoid deportation. Miami Herald

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Jan-15 World View -- Wall Street, European stocks, euro, oil all plunge on Monday thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Jan-15 World View -- War in Yemen expands as Shia al-Houthis threaten new Sunni provinces

Iran's Rouhani challenges Khamenei in speech demanding reforms

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

War in Yemen expands as Shia al-Houthis threaten new Sunni provinces


Followers watch a televised speech by al-Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed in Sanaa on Saturday (Reuters)
Followers watch a televised speech by al-Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed in Sanaa on Saturday (Reuters)

We've been reporting recently on the growing war between Muslim tribes and sects that is threatening to engulf the entire Mideast, and Yemen is part of that trend. During 2014, at least 7,000 people were killed, including at least 1,200 civilians.

This last year saw the rise of the al-Houthis, an Iran-backed Shia tribe, originally from northwest Yemen on the border with Saudi Arabia. In September, the al-Houthi militias moved south and captured Sanaa, the nation's capital, ousting the Sunni-led government. Since then, they've continued to take control of additional mainly Sunni provinces, and it's now thought that the al-Houthis control about 70% of the army's capabilities. It's believed that the al-Houthis are being backed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The al-Houthis are opposed by two Sunni groups. One is al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), currently considered to be the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda. The second is the Islamist Al-Islah movement, a collection of Sunni tribes that have lost power since the Houthi takeover, and who are now cooperating against AQAP against the al-Houthis.

There's a third power center -- a growing secessionist movement in the south. Prior to 1994, North Yemen and South Yemen were two separate countries.

The international community had hoped that Yemen would be stabilized by a peace plan agreement made last year in February to divide the country into six federally organized regions. However, al-Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi announced in a televised address on Saturday that he was completely rejecting the peace agreement. Beware of any attempts to overthrow the revolution," he said. Al-Arabiya and AP and AEI Critical Threats Project

Iran's Rouhani challenges Khamenei in speech demanding reforms

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday called for an end to the country's international isolation by curbing corruption and mismanagement with reforms that are opposed by Supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). According to Rouhani:

"Our economy will not prosper as long as it is monopolised (by the government). The economy must be rid of monopoly and see competition.

It must be freed of insider speculation, be transparent, all people must be aware of the statistics. If we can bring transparency to our economy, we can fight corruption.

Our political life has shown we can't have sustainable growth while we are isolated."

Rouhani has threatened to call a national referendum if he can't get the reforms he's demanding:

"As the enforcer of our constitution, I would like, even for once, to see conditions ripe to implement a tenet of the common law calling for major issues - economic, social, political and cultural - to be put to public referendum rather than parliamentary vote.

Some 36 years have passed now and this article has not been enforced even once."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Iran is in a generational Awakening era, just one generation past the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war that ended in 1988. There is a "generation gap" splitting the hardline survivors of the crisis wars from the younger generations growing up after the war. This is similar to America in the 1960s, when there was a generation gap between the World War II survivors and the generations growing up after the war.

As I've been writing for ten years, Iran's younger generations are generally pro-American and not particularly anti-Israel. Iran will be our ally in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war. Payvand (Iran) and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Jan-15 World View -- War in Yemen expands as Shia al-Houthis threaten new Sunni provinces thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Jan-15 World View -- Far left Greece election victory may trigger confrontation with Europe

Israel cuts payments to Palestinians in retaliation for ICC bid

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Far left Greece election victory may trigger confrontation with Europe


Torn euro flag from Greece austerity protests in January 2013
Torn euro flag from Greece austerity protests in January 2013

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said that she's prepared to support Greece leaving the eurozone, and returning its original drachma currency, if Greece abandons the austerity commitments it made in return for the 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid. During previous Greek crisis events, it was feared that Greece leaving the eurozone would completely destabilize the euro currency, but reportedly Merkel believes that the euro has become sufficiently strong to withstand a Greek exit.

The new crisis may be precipitated with the snap elections on January 25. The radical far left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, is now ahead in the polls, at 30.4%. Tsipras has promised to renege on Greece's austerity commitments. He also promised to do away with a real estate tax, freeze house foreclosures, raise the minimum wage and reinstate a 12,000 euro ($14,400) tax-free threshold to help low earners.

How would Tsipras like to pay for all these enormous social programs? There's going to be a policy meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB) on January 22. At that meeting, there may be an announced plan for the ECB to "print money" by purchasing billions of dollars in government bonds (quantitative easing). In that case, Tsipras would like the ECB to purchase billions of dollars worth of worthless Greek bonds, so that Greece can use that money to pay for all the welfare handouts. I can just imagine Angela Merkel agreeing to that scenario. This is shaping up to be quite a spectacle. Deutsche Welle and Kathimerini

Villagers evacuated after gunfire exchange in Kashmir on India-Pakistan border

It's once again necessary to evacuate villagers near the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir and Jammu, after gunfire was exchanged this week between Indian and Pakistani forces. Two people, including a 13-year-old girl, were killed and eight more injured, in several incidents, with casualties on both sides.

Kashmir was a major battleground for the 1947 Partition war that following the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, one of the bloodiest wars of the last century, and there have been two more wars fought across the Line of Control (LoC) separating Pakistan and India since then. There have been gunfire incidents across the LoC for years, though it's been relatively peaceful since a cease-fire agreement in 2003. However, as we reported in October, there was a new round of gunfire, the worst in years. At that time, Pakistan said that Indian forces resorted to "unprovoked firing," while India blamed Pakistan for firing first, and promised "effective retaliation."

With regard to this week's new fighting, India's military said:

"Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked and heavy firing and mortar shelling on posts and civilian areas along [the border]. [Border Security Force] troops gave a befitting reply."

In response, Pakistan's military accused India of an unprovoked barrage of artillery, and the Defense Ministry issued a threat:

"In the past six-seven months, we have tried to better our ties with India so that peace can prevail. But it seems that they do not understand this language. I believe, we will now communicate with India in the language they understand."

The thing that has definitely changed in the last six-seven months is that both sides are significantly hardening their positions, and exhibiting a willingness to shoot first and ask questions later. India Times and Kashmir Watch

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Israel cuts payments to Palestinians in retaliation for ICC bid

The decision by Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas last week to apply on behalf of the State of Palestine to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) has brought retaliation, as originally promised by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is withholding $175 million in tax collections from the PA. This is money that Israel collects administratively on behalf of the PA in taxes and fees. The amount being withheld is the collections from December.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the move an act of "piracy" and a "collective punishment" against the Palestinian people:

"If Israel thinks that through economic pressure it will succeed in diverting our approach from freedom and independence, then it is wrong. This is the money of the Palestinian people and Israel is not a donor country."

Israel's left-wing opposition was also critical of the move, saying, "Netanyahu has no real solution to Israel's deteriorating situation on the world stage. Whoever is weak in the face of (Palestinian President Abbas) and fails to act to take steps that will protect IDF soldiers in The Hague cannot really stop this trend." They're opposing Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, and recommending negotiating with Hamas, rather than with Mahmoud Abbas.

There's a feeling of déjà vu in this situation. In December 2012, Israel withheld $100 million in tax revenues from the PA in retaliation when Mahmoud Abbas applied to the United Nations General Assembly to create a state of Palestine with non-member observer status. However, the tax payments were reinstated shortly afterwards. AP and YNet

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Jan-15 World View -- Far left Greece election victory may trigger confrontation with Europe thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Jan-15 World View -- Sweden shocked by arson attacks on three mosques in eight days

Obama administration imposes additional sanctions on North Korea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sweden shocked by arson attacks on three mosques in eight days


Scores of red paper hearts hang on the entrance to the mosque in Uppsala, as demonstrators stood outside, shouting 'Don't touch my mosque' (Getty)
Scores of red paper hearts hang on the entrance to the mosque in Uppsala, as demonstrators stood outside, shouting 'Don't touch my mosque' (Getty)

Over an eight-day period, mosques in cities across Sweden -- Eslöv, Eskilstuna, and Uppsala -- were torched in arson attacks. The words "Go home Muslim shit" were written on the main door of Uppsala's mosque on Thursday, after someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the building. Nobody was injured.

The series of mosque attacks follows the surge in popularity of the "Sweden Democrats" party, a far-right anti-immigration party. (The phrase "far right" has different meanings in Europe and America.) The party won 13% of the vote in September elections, and recent polls put the party's support at over 17%. In early December, the Sweden Democrats precipitated a government crisis by withdrawing its approval of the government's proposed budget.

Prime Minister Dagens Nyheter Löfven said that:

"I will never act in a way that would give power over the country's development to a neo-fascist single issue political party that neither respects human diversity or Sweden's democratic institutions."

Löfven called for new snap elections on March 22.

However, the three mosque attacks appear to have changed the country's mood considerably. After the first attack, Löfven was able to reach a deal with the main opposition alliance, allowing him to avoid the snap elections without compromising with the Sweden Democrats.

The public appears to have a mixed reaction to the wave of xenophobia exposed by the arson attacks on the mosques. More than a thousand demonstrators took to the streets in Sweden on Friday to protest the spate of attacks on mosques, carrying a banner that said "Don't touch my mosque." On the other hand, some online forums saw some Swedes praising the arson attacks. The Local (Sweden) and AFP and Deutsche Welle

Obama administration imposes additional sanctions on North Korea

President Obama on Friday for the first time formally accused North Korea of being responsible for the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. Also, for the first time, Obama signed an executive order applying new sanctions specifically in retaliation for the cyber attack. Obama had previous promised a "proportionate response" to the attack. The executive order "is a response to the Government of North Korea’s ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment," according to the White House.

There are already in place numerous sanctions against North Korea related to its development of nuclear weapons, and so the new sanctions are not expected to make much of a difference beyond their symbolic significance. White House and USA Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Jan-15 World View -- Sweden shocked by arson attacks on three mosques in eight days thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Jan-15 World View -- European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships

Palestine to join the International Criminal Court

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships


The abandoned cargo ship Blue Sky M on Wednesday, found in the open seas packed with 970 migrants and no crew (Reuters)
The abandoned cargo ship Blue Sky M on Wednesday, found in the open seas packed with 970 migrants and no crew (Reuters)

In drama on the high seas, the Italian coast guard has rescued two large merchant ships in the Mediterranean, packed with migrants from Syria, Eritrea, and Africa. The first ship contained 975 migrants, and the second ship has 450 migrants.

This is a new development. In the past we've seen migrants come to Europe in creaky little boats or even inflatable dinghies, sent out into the open sea with a few dozen migrants in the hope that Italy's navy or a passing merchant ship will respond to distress calls.

In the case of the two cargo ships, the people smugglers packed hundreds of people into each one, after typically collecting thousands of dollars from each migrant, and sent the ship out into the open sea with no crew, running on autopilot. The Italian navy was able to board the first ship and take control of it. At this writing, there is a major naval operation in progress to do the same with the second ship.

2014 was a record year for both migrant crossings and migrant deaths. At least 3,072 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, though an unknown number may have drowned without being rescued. And nearly 200,000 migrants attempted the crossing. In 2013, there were about 700 deaths, out of an attempted 60,000 crossings. BBC and Toronto Star

Syria war deaths increase in 2014, as Muslim vs Muslim war escalates

At least 76,021 people died in the Syria conflict in 2014, up from 73,447 in 2013, 49294 in 2012, and 7,841 in 2011.

Of the 2014 total, 17,790 were civilians, including 3,501 children.

The Syrian war is currently the biggest component of the escalating Muslim versus Muslim war throughout the Mideast. AFP

Palestine to join the International Criminal Court

Palestine Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, acting on behalf of the State of Palestine, has signed the Rome Statute, on the path to joining the International Criminal Court (ICC). The intent is to bring war crime charges against Israel, but there are a number of legal hurdles. The ICC Prosecutor must first recognize Palestine as a full member and accept its signature to the Rome Statute. Palestine can then submit complaints to the ICC, but it's up to the Prosecutor to determine whether to order a preliminary investigation, and then a full criminal investigation. In that case, Israel will also be able to bring charges against Hamas for war crimes committed during the Gaza war. Guardian (London) and Jerusalem Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Jan-15 World View -- European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Jan-15 World View -- The three most important dangers for 2015

Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions increase further as oil prices fall

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Happy New Year to everyone!


Fort Bragg fireworks
Fort Bragg fireworks

Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions increase further as oil prices fall

Prices of West Texas Intermediate oil fell another 82 cents on Wednesday, to $53.27 per barrel. It was just few months ago that the price was over $100 per barrel, and oil exporting countries, including Iran, Russia and Venezuela, are facing financial crises as a result.

Saudi Arabia is refusing to cut production in the face of falling oil prices, and many Iranians are accusing the Saudis of purposely letting prices fall in order to conduct economic warfare on Iran. According to an article in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) weekly newsletter:

"The most recent Aal-Saud oil war against Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, waged at the command of the American bosses, is the newest and most overt Aal-Saud hostility... First of all, the new Saudi oil war proves once again that as long as [Iran's] budget is based [almost entirely] on oil, the enemy can exploit this weapon in order to pressure Iran. For this reason, there needs to be an initiative, once and for all, so that [Iran's] revenues will not be oil-based; therefore, senior Iranian political and economic leaders must seriously address the 'resistance economy' [plan] emphasized in recent years by [Supreme] Leader [Ali Khamenei], so that we can neutralize weapons of this kind.

Now that Saudi Arabia is using all its capabilities to harm Iran, the Islamic Republic [of Iran] can also use all the means at its disposal to pressure this obsolete, deteriorating regime. Iran has many options for harming Saudi Arabia. Because this tyrannical, medieval family is now at its nadir, all Iran needs to do is to use a single one of these means so that nothing remains of the entity named the Aal-Saud regime or of Saudi Arabia itself.

Increased public protests, particularly in the oil-rich eastern [and largely Shi'ite-majority] areas of Saudi Arabia, have undermined the legitimacy of Saudi [rule]. These anti-[Saudi] regime protests are not unique to this part of Saudi Arabia; they are [also] happening in other parts of it. Additionally, the Houthis [in Yemen], who are considered Aal-Saud's sworn enemies, are at Saudi Arabia's back door [Yemen]; all they have to do is lift one finger for the disintegrating Aal-Saud corpus to collapse.

Saudi Arabia no longer has the respect it once had from its Arab neighbors – and has serious problems with some of them. On the other hand, its support for the terrorist organization ISIS, and its operation of it, has spawned great hatred of Saudi Arabia in public opinion, in both the region and the world. Elements of ISIS that have been fattened by the Saudi regime have become sworn enemies of Saudi Arabia. Apparently, Saudi Arabia's free oil money cannot stop the increase in the weakness of the Aal-Saud regime."

Other analysts list serious problems facing the Saudi regime:

On top of that, Saudi Arabia is facing a looming succession crisis as the 91-year-old King Abdullah has been taken into a Riyadh hospital. The country's next ruler will almost certainly be a generation or two younger, and all the above problems could suddenly become more serious. Memri and Al Monitor and Business Insider and Platts Financial

The three most important dangers for 2015

No one can seriously doubt that the world has become a much more dangerous place in 2014, and so now is a good time to review the most three most important dangers to watch out for in 2015:

Any one of these three could explode in 2015, and they're interrelated in the sense that one of these major crises could be the trigger for the others.

There is one crisis that isn't as dangerous as I'd expected. I thought that Ebola would have spread far more than it has already, but it hasn't. The mistake that I made was that I didn't believe it was possible for Ebola to spread so wildly throughout Western Africa, and stop at the borders of Mali and Côte d'Ivoire. But in fact that has happened, and I'm still astonished that the international community was successful in doing that.

The Ebola crisis is far from over, and it's still possible that there may be major outbreaks in other places, especially war zones and crowded cities. But for now, it looks like the worst is not going to occur.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Jan-15 World View -- The three most important dangers for 2015 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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31-Dec-14 World View -- Hamas struggles to find a direction after the Gaza war

UN Security Council rejects Palestinian Authority resolution, without US veto

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Hamas struggles to find a direction after the Gaza war


Gaza still in ruins after summer war, with reconstruction promises forgotten (Getty)
Gaza still in ruins after summer war, with reconstruction promises forgotten (Getty)

Hamas's popularity within Gaza surged to its highest levels during the summer Gaza War, especially when Hamas promised that they would never allow Gaza to return to the status quo ante prior to the war. Militarily, the war was a disastrous defeat for Hamas, since Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system blocked almost every Hamas missile entering Israel, while Hamas could put up almost no resistance to the Israeli warplanes bombing Gaza. Hamas had to agree to a ceasefire that was, effectively, a return to the status quo ante. Now Palestinians look around and see a Gaza in ruins. Promises of reconstruction have been almost forgotten. Promises to negotiate opening the borders have been forgotten. Not surprisingly, Hamas's popularity has been falling, and there is popular discontent with the Hamas leadership.

Apparently this discontent has spread to the leadership of Qatar. During the last two years, Qatar has increasingly split with Egypt, and strongly supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, even providing substantial aid to Hamas. But now, threats from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) and from Iran are bringing about a reconciliation between Qatar and Egypt, and even the financial aid is threatened.

This is requiring Hamas's leader to face some difficult choices:

The above two policy proposals are, of course, in conflict with each other. But the fact that two such radical concepts are even being discussed illustrates how directionless Hamas has become, and difficult its choices are now. Al Monitor and Independent (London) and Debka

UN Security Council rejects Palestinian Authority resolution, without US veto

In what was apparently the outcome of a strategic blunder by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday voted against a resolution that would require Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories to pre-1967 borders by 2017.

The motion was rejected because only 8 of the 15 members voted in favor of it, with two votes against and five abstentions, including the UK. Nine votes of support are required, and so it was not necessary for the U.S. to exercise its veto, as it had said it would do. But the PA had wanted to force a U.S. veto anyway for symbolic reasons.

The fact that the vote was scheduled at all was a diplomatic surprise. Many diplomats had expected the vote to take place after January 1, when there would be new non-permanent members, and supposedly a greater likelihood of passage. However, the PA insisted on having the vote today, after France and Luxembourg announced that they would vote for the resolution, which led the PA to believe they had the necessary nine votes. That was the miscalculation as Nigeria, which had been expected to vote in favor, abstained instead.

According to the U.S. State Department: "There are a number of countries that have indicated they cannot support this resolution. Even among countries that are longstanding supporters of the Palestinians and that have indicated they would vote in favor of the resolution, many of them have also acknowledged that it is an unconstructive and poorly timed resolution." Reuters and Al Alaribya (Riyadh)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Dec-14 World View -- Hamas struggles to find a direction after the Gaza war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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30-Dec-14 World View -- Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat

Greece's stocks plunge as government collapses

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan may free the alleged Mumbai 2008 terror mastermind


Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace during the 2008 terror attack
Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace during the 2008 terror attack

Two weeks after Pakistan suffered a horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren, Pakistan's court is about to set free the alleged mastermind of the horrific 3-day terror attack on Mumbai in 2008, when many hundreds were killed and injured, the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel was burned and gutted, and the crowd in the CST Railway Station was sprayed with bullets.

After some investigation, there was little doubt that the perpetrators were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a terror group that had originally been constituted in the 1990s by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) to fight Indian forces in disputed Kashmir regions. India said it had evidence that government agencies of Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack, and threatened to send security forces into Pakistan to arrest LeT members. War was averted between the two countries only after hard intervention by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A conflict was averted when Pakistan promised to prosecute the perpetrators, but although LeT members were arrested, there have never been any prosecutions or trials. Now, a Pakistani court has granted $10,000 bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack, and he may be walking free soon, although he may continue to be held on other charges. There is outrage in India at this development, but there seems to be little concern in Pakistan that a major attack by Pakistan's LeT on Indian targets will pass with impunity.

Following the Peshawar attack, Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said: "We announce that there will be no differentiation between 'good' and 'bad' Taliban, and resolve to continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated." Only a few days later, that promise is now very much in doubt. Express Tribune (Pakistan) and India Times and AFP

Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat

For the first time, Cameroon's air force conducted air strikes in support of the army against Boko Haram positions in northern Cameroon, forcing the terrorists to retreat. Though Cameroon has deployed thousands of troops to the Far North, the region is difficult to police because of the rugged terrain. Vast expanses of territory are uninhabited and there are few physical barriers demarcating Cameroon's border with Nigeria. Many on either side speak the same Hausa language and it is often difficult to distinguish locals from foreigners.

The bombings follow an escalation of the fighting in Cameroon. In the past, Nigerian Boko Haram fighters have focused on hit and run raids on individual settlements. But now Boko Haram is seeking to expand the territory its holding in Nigeria by taking territory in Cameroon.

According to Cameroon, about 1000 Boko Haram fighters over the weekend seized parts of several villages, and briefly occupied a military camp.

In addition, the militants kidnapped several girls between the ages 12 and 15 for forced marriages to the group's fighters. In the past year, Boko Haram has stepped up kidnappings of young women in Nigeria to sell them into sexual slavery or force them to marry its fighters. Leadership (Nigeria) and Al-Jazeera and VOA

Cameroon bombings raise questions about Nigeria's army

A story that received worldwide attention in October was that it took just 30 Boko Haram militants to capture the commercial city of Mubi, in northeast Nigeria, without firing a shot.

An investigation has revealed that the city was defended by over 1,000 well-armed Nigerian troops, but that they dropped their arms and ran instead of fighting. The debacle is being blamed on sabotage by sympathetic northern troops and some of their commanders who refused to fight the insurgents.

Just as some people in Pakistan's government are sympathetic to the Taliban and support them, it appears that there are people in Nigeria's government and army that are sympathetic to Boko Haram and support them.

The actions by Cameroon to conduct bombing raids against Boko Haram positions in Cameroon have highlighted the problem. Nigeria has a much larger and more powerful air force, but they've refused to take similar actions against Boko Haram positions in Nigeria. This Day Live (Nigeria)

Greece's stocks plunge as government collapses

After Greece's prime minister Antonis Samaras received on Monday what is in effect a vote of no confidence from the nation's parliament, Samaras will call on Tuesday for snap elections on January 25.

Polls indicate that the likely winner will be the radical far left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tspiras. Tspiras is demanding that Greece renege on the commitments it made in order to qualify for a 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid. This would push Greece's government into bankruptcy, and push bond yields up well into double or even triple digits, making it almost impossible for Greece to borrow money. Tspiras has indicated that it would be fine with him if Greece completely abandons the euro currency, and goes back to its old drachma currency.

Greece's stock market fell 11.3%, before partially recovering and closing down 3.9%. Kathimerini and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Dec-14 World View -- Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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29-Dec-14 World View -- Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians?

ISIS kills almost 2000 in Syria in six months

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians?


Christians forced out of the town of Mosul by ISIS take shelter in a church. (Aleteia)
Christians forced out of the town of Mosul by ISIS take shelter in a church. (Aleteia)

There's a frequently heard complaint that while the mainstream media frequently report on jihadist attacks, they seem to ignore the attacks on Christians. This criticism was directed at me after this article: "26-Dec-14 World View -- 'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians". One person wrote (paraphrasing): "John, my point is that you left Christians off your list entirely, while at the same time they are being brutally massacred all around the world. You didn't get it then, perhaps due to your biases. You're not getting it now." Another person wrote, "Admit it. You don't like Christians and you downplay violence against them."

Let me assure you, Dear Reader, that I wouldn't hesitate for a nanosecond to report on a massacre of Christians by jihadists or anyone else. So if that's true, you may ask, then why don't I write about massacres of Christians more often?

Let's look at some numbers. How many Christians have actually been massacred by jihadists? I went to the anti-Muslim "Religion of Peace" web site where they have tables of jihadist attacks, including a table of Christians killed by jihadists. Here are the numbers:

A new report sponsored by the BBC finds that more than 5,000 people worldwide died in November alone -- just one month -- as a result of jihadist violence. This would indicate that about 60,000 people have died from jihadist attacks per year.

If you put all these figures together, you can see that the number of Christians killed by jihadists is minuscule -- less than 2% --- compared to the total number of people killed by jihadists. Quite honestly, I would guess that in any given country in recent years, more Christians have been killed by traffic accidents than by terrorists. Overwhelmingly, the people being killed by jihadists are other Muslims.

So that explains the lack of media coverage of Christians killed by jihadists. If fewer than 2% of the victims are Christian, then you would expect Christians to get not much more than 2% of the coverage.

Once again, Dear Reader, when there is a massacre of Christians (let's hope that it won't happen), then I would not hesitate to report it. But what's really going on is that jihadists are overwhelmingly attacking other Muslims. There's a war going on, and it's not between Christians and Muslims. It's between Muslims and Muslims, and it's going to have a huge effect on all our futures. The Religion Of Peace and BBC

ISIS kills almost 2000 in Syria in six months

According to figures published by the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, there have been at least 1878 documented executions by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) since it became a self-declared "Caliphate" on June 28, 2014.

That figure includes 120 of its own ISIS members, who were executed for trying to return back home.

The dead included 930 members of the Shaitat tribe, an important Sunni Muslim tribe that's been opposing ISIS. This is an example of Sunni Muslims massacring Sunni Muslims.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in Syria since 2011, when Syria's genocidal monster Bashar al-Assad began launching heavy weapons and chemical-laden barrel bombs on innocent women and children. Now they've been joined by ISIS in massacring thousands more Sunni civilians.

And by the way, I should also mention Pakistan. Last week's horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren, shows that Pakistan is at war with itself, with Sunni Muslim terrorists killing Sunni and Shia Muslim civilians almost every day.

Once again, Dear Reader, we are not seeing a war of Muslims against Christians, although some Christians are targeted. What we're seeing is something of historic proportions: A massive and growing war of Muslims against Muslims -- Sunni Muslims against Sunni Muslims, Sunni Muslims against Shia Muslims, and Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims. The intensity of this war has been growing for several years, and at some point will engulf at least the Mideast and South Asia. Syrian Observatory For Human Rights and AFP and Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Dec-14 World View -- Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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28-Dec-14 World View -- Darfur on verge of return to full-scale civil war

America and North Korea accuse each other of internet hacking

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Darfur on verge of return to full-scale civil war


There are 2 million people in Darfur refugee camps
There are 2 million people in Darfur refugee camps

I've been following the genocide in Darfur, the western region of Sudan, since it became worldwide news in 2004, and it's been an interesting case study for Generational Dynamics. The genocide has sometimes been called "Everybody's favorite African war," since George Clooney and other movie stars, and politicians like Susan Rice, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden have all made "Stop the genocide" and "Save Darfur" and "Enough is enough" part of a very stylish and progressive do-good campaign.

What I wrote over and over since 2004 is that Darfur was experiencing a generational crisis war, and that the war was a force of nature that could not be stopped until it reached a climax.

Low level violence began in the 1970s between two ethnic groups, one of farmers (the "Africans") and the other of camel herders (the "Arabs"). At that time, disputes over land and water were resolved by the village elders, but by the 2000s, the elders had all disappeared, and the younger generations were more interested in confrontation than mediation. During the 1990s, Sudan's government in Khartoum delegated the responsibility of policing the region to the Arab Janjaweed militia, formed from certain groups of herders. This was an ideal solution to Khartoum, since it meant that the "African" and "Arab" Darfuris would have to solve problems themselves, and Khartoum would stay out of it. During the early 2000s, a series of incidents escalated the violence, until the conflict became a generational crisis war in 2003. (A more detailed history can be found in my 2007 article, "Ban Ki Moon blames Darfur genocide on global warming") At that point, the Janjaweed militias (herders) became extremely violent, with a program of massacres, mass murders, rapes, genocide and scorched earth.

Starting in 2006, the United Nations mounted an expensive, high profile peacekeeping operating, with 20,000 blue-helmeted soldiers on the ground at its peak. The peacekeepers rounded up all the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and herded them into enormous refugee camps, where they were still exposed to attacks by the Janjaweeds. Since then, the budget for the UN peacekeeping force has been dwindling, as have the number of peacekeeping soldiers, though it still costs $1.4 billion per year.

Now Sudan's government in Khartoum, backed by China, is demanding that the UN shrink the peacekeeping force even more, or even eliminate it completely. This is despite the fact that the massacres and rapes by the Janjaweeds are continuing, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced in 2014 alone, and with more than 2 million people in refugee camps. With the peacekeeping forces out of the way, as Sudan and China demand, then the Janjaweeds will be free to complete their mission of mass slaughter of millions of refugees.

In 2004, I wrote that the Darfur war is a generational crisis war that is a force of nature and can't be stopped any more than a tsunami can be stopped. George Clooney has gone home, and Susan Rice has gone on to other causes. After ten years, the tsunami is finally reaching shore. AP and International Business Times and NY Times

Italian navy picks up record number of Mediterranean migrants over Christmas

The number of migrants fleeing from Syria, Eritrea and northern Africa continues to surge. Supposedly, the European Union was supposed to be responsible for patrolling the Mediterranean shores for migrants, but in practice that responsibility has continued to fall to Italy's navy. Over the Christmas period, the navy picked up a total of 2,300 people. About 165,000 people have made the crossing in 2014, compared to 60,000 in 2013.

Most migrants leave from Libya, where they are charged several thousand dollars by migrant smugglers to make the trip. The migrants are crammed into poorly maintained vessels, sometimes no more than inflatable dinghies. However, traffickers are increasingly switching to a new tactic: They simply have to get the vessel out into the open water in the Mediterranean Sea, and hope that the migrants will be picked up by Italy's navy or by passing merchant ships which are obliged, under the law of the sea, to respond to distress calls. AFP and VOA

America and North Korea accuse each other of internet hacking


Billboard advertising 'The Interview' (BBC)
Billboard advertising 'The Interview' (BBC)

North Korea's National Defense Commission on Friday accused the US of shutting down North Korea's internet access, describing President Barack Obama as "reckless" and "a monkey." Another North Korean internet shutdown was observed hours later. Obama has already several days ago accused North Korea of being responsible for the hacking of Sony Pictures. ( "6-Dec-14 World View -- Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers")

The situation now is that both America and North Korea have hardened positions, each blaming the other for a fairly substantial cyber attack. It remains to be see whether these mutual accusations will settle down or escalate. BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Dec-14 World View -- Darfur on verge of return to full-scale civil war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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27-Dec-14 World View -- China's missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy

China debates banning Christmas celebrations

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China debates banning Christmas celebrations


Owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing Santa Claus costumes ride along a street to give presents to elders at a nursing home during a promotional event celebrating Christmas in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Dec. 24, 2014 (Reuters)
Owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing Santa Claus costumes ride along a street to give presents to elders at a nursing home during a promotional event celebrating Christmas in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Dec. 24, 2014 (Reuters)

Citizens, schools and even whole towns in China are attempting to curb Christmas celebrations amid a backlash against what is seen as the increasing influence of Western culture.

At one university where Christmas celebrations were banned, students on Christmas eve instead had to attend screenings of what were described as propaganda films about Confucius. Banners were draped outside the university with slogans that read: "Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch Western holidays," and "Resist the expansion of Western culture."

Schools in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, have been forbidden from holding any Christmas-related events this year. The ban on Christmas events covered all high schools, middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens. Wenzhou has been for years a hub of Christian missionary activities. The city is home for roughly a million Christians, according to previous reports.

The ban on Christmas events came on the heels of a series of conflicts between Zhejiang Christians and authorities this year, as the local government tried to demolish churches and crosses that violated construction standards. A church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou was nearly torn down earlier this year. The authority said the building was not built lawfully and was in violation of construction regulations. The church was eventually saved after a series of negotiations in April.

However, an editorial by Xinhua, China's state-run news mouthpiece, says that there's no need to abolish Christmas:

"The debates over Christmas, however, reveal certain anxieties behind China's cultural ambitions. Some critics associate Christmas with a public obsession for anything Western, while others lament the "shipwreck" of Chinese culture.

For Chinese Christmas fans, the logic is simple: Like Valentine's Day, Christmas is just a merry time to shop, party and exchange gifts. Non-Christian Chinese associate Christmas more with the "Old Man of Christmas", Santa Claus, than any Christian theology.

One reason for the growing popularity of Western festivals here, particularly among the young, is that they offer an excuse to be with friends and lovers, while traditional festivals are more family-centered, celebrated with family get-togethers and feasts.

There is no need to pit Western festivals against Chinese: Chinese Christmas revelers will still number among the hundreds of millions who travel home for the Lunar New Year family reunion."

One reason that the Chinese Communist Party does not want to end Christmas celebrations is because Christmas is big business for China, especially through the Alibaba e-commerce web site. For example, China manufactures 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations. Global Times (Beijing) and International Business Times and Xinhua (Beijing)

China's missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy

For decades, China's military has claimed a defensive "no first strike" policy for nuclear weapons, meaning that they would not use nuclear weapons until after surviving a nuclear strike by an enemy, particularly the United States. However, developments associated with the recent tests of the nuclear-capable WU-14 hypersonic missile suggest that China is now focusing on offensive preemptive nuclear strikes, rather than purely defensive responses.

The WU-14 is a major advance in China's military capability. A conventional intercontinental ballistic missile is shot in an arc higher than the atmosphere, and allowed to fall to the target. American missile defenses are thought to be capable of detecting and intercepting attacks of this kind.

The hypersonic missiles under test work differently. They're still carried up by ballistic missiles, but they're released while still in the atmosphere, and they're allowed to glide almost horizontally to their targets at almost 8,000 miles per hour. Because they travel so fast, they're thought to be able to defeat America's current missile defenses. The systems provide enhanced precision, speed, range, maneuverability and multiple-targeting.

In actual practice, the Chinese would launch simultaneous missile attacks, combining traditional ballistic missile attacks with very high speed hypersonic missiles coming in at low altitudes. "It makes the defense problem orders of magnitude worse for the defender," according to one analyst.

The hypersonic missile is capable of delivering either conventional or nuclear weapons. It's thought that China has between 500-1000 nuclear weapons, stored in a vast network of tunnels. The tunnel network is often called China's "underground great wall." There are some 3,000 miles of tunnels, hundreds of meters underground, deep in mountain areas, difficult to detect from space spy satellites. Details of the tunnels have not been publicized for obvious security reasons, but it is known that they are scattered across China and are not all connected to one another. They are designed to withstand nuclear and conventional attacks. Rail lines and trucks move missiles, related equipment, and personnel within the network. All the activities necessary for launch preparation can be done in the tunnels.

Although China has not announced any change to its no-first-use nuclear policy, there are some signs. China's official defense documents now make no mention of no-first use. China's president Xi Jinping made no mention of no-first-use during a visit to China's Second Artillery Corps to congratulate them on the development of the WU-14. The Second Artillery Corps has developed the WU-14 with both conventional and nuclear capabilities, and the same people worked on both sides. In open discussions of the systems, nuclear no-first-use is rarely if ever mentioned. Instead, the discussions have been on the pre-emptive nature of these systems.

This is not proof that China has abandoned its no-first-use policy. But China has been rapidly building its military for years with a variety of weapons and missile systems that have no other purpose than to preemptively strike American aircraft carriers, American military bases, and American cities, and Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing for pre-emptive war with the United States. It stands to reason that the developers of these massive military capabilities would not hesitate to use a nuclear weapon in a pre-emptive strike if they believed that it gave them a significant military advantage. Washington Free Beacon and Lowy Institute (Australia) and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Jan, 2012)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Dec-14 World View -- China's missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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26-Dec-14 World View -- 'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians

Jordan may exchange prisoners with ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians


Children in Assam relief center on Thursday (AP)
Children in Assam relief center on Thursday (AP)

Indians have expressed shock over the brutality of the barbaric massacre that took place on Tuesday in Assam province, in India's far northeast. A group of 80 members of the ethnic Bodo tribe massacred 76 men, women and children and caused hundreds in Adivasis villages to flee as their homes were being burned and destroyed. Both groups are a mix of Hindus and Christians, with some Muslims.


India's Assam province has over 20 ethnic groups, many minorities, few majorities and over 50 languages
India's Assam province has over 20 ethnic groups, many minorities, few majorities and over 50 languages

The attackers were from a separatist group, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), formed in 1994 to demand their own autonomous homeland, Boroland. In particular, the attackers were from a branch of the NDFB known as NDFB-S, after its leader I K Sonbijit. (Note: Boroland is sometimes called Bodoland, apparently because the actual consonant in the original language is somewhere between an 'r' and a 'd'.) The Sonbijit faction was formed in 2012 to fight Bangladeshi Muslims. Hundreds were killed, and thousands are still living in relief camps.

There have already been a few revenge attacks by Adivasis on Bodos, and the fear is that the situation may spiral into a full-scale ethnic war. The Bodo terrorists have apparently fled to Bhutan and Burma (Myanmar), and India is requesting cooperation from those governments to arrest the perpetrators.

We've seen this kind of ethnic massacre recently in Burma, where Buddhists have been massacring Muslims, in Syria, where Muslims have been massacring each other, and in Central African Republic, where Christians and Muslims have been massacring each other.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, sex and genocidal massacres are both part of the human DNA, and the human race would not have survived without both of them. Times of India and AP and DNA India

Jordan may exchange prisoners with ISIS

American military officials are saying that the Jordanian F-16 warplane that crashed over territory in Syria held by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) was not shot down. However, the actual cause of the crash, if known, has not been announced. ISIS is known to possess shoulder-launched land to air missiles, and they have had some success shooting down Iraqi helicopters with them. But an F-16 flies too high for these shoulder-launched missiles. It's not known whether ISIS has captured some advanced missiles that Russia supplied to the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, or whether the F-16 crash was caused by mechanical failure. At any rate, this was the first capture of a pilot participating in the air strikes against ISIS by the American-led coalition.

There are some unconfirmed reports that Jordan is negotiating for a prisoner swap to get the Jordanian pilot returned. The old al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was the predecessor to ISIS, was founded in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist. Al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006 by an American drone strike, but some of his terrorist underlings were captured and put into Jordanian jails. Several of these underlings may be exchanged for the captured Jordanian pilot. CNN and Jerusalem Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Dec-14 World View -- 'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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25-Dec-14 World View -- Christmas pageantry brings a little cheer to Bethlehem

Christmas is subdued in much of the world

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

Christmas pageantry brings a little cheer to Bethlehem


Christian pilgrims pray inside the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity, thought to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem on Wednesday. (AP)
Christian pilgrims pray inside the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity, thought to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem on Wednesday. (AP)

Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world crowded into the little town of Bethlehem in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. Manger Square was decked out in white and yellow lights and a carnival atmosphere, at a time when there are a multitude of things to be sad about: the persecution of Christians, the July-August Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, and the war in Syria, which pits one genocidal Barbarian regime, led by president Bashar al-Assad, against another genocidal Barbarian regime, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

At midnight mass, the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said that, "this Holy Land has become a land of conflict." Bethlehem and Jerusalem lie at the intersection of the world's four major monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Western Christianity, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Islam. Twal called for Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land to "live together as equals with mutual respect." AFP and AP

In China, Christmas is for partying and e-commerce

There's almost no sign of Jesus in China, but there are plenty of pictures of Father Christmas, especially in large cities. While Chinese festivities are solemn, serious and spiritual, Christmas is an excuse to party. Young people especially go out to movie theatres, bars or clubs. According to one citizen, "Christmas is just an excuse to go shopping, as there are many big sales at a lot of places. The theme is to have fun."

But it's also big business. The Christmas season allows China's e-commerce giant Alibaba to play "Santa Claus for the whole world." On Black Friday alone, the company set a one-day sales record of $2.65 million, a growth of 65.6% from last Black Friday. The Atlantic and Xinhua

Christmas in Pakistan is subdued because of the Peshawar massacre

Christmas is embraced even by Muslims in certain parts of Pakistan's society, especially among the wealthy and education. Large festive Christmas markets spring up in the large cities, including Karachi and Islamabad. Even Muslim children write letters to Santa telling them what presents to bring.

However, Christmas this year has been toned down across the country because of last week's horrific attack on a Peshawar army school, in northwest Pakistan, killing over 130 schoolchildren. Instead, Christmas this year is a time to wonder why Pakistanis have let this happen to themselves. "It is us who have failed, not our children," says one mother. "We have to teach our children to say ‘no’ to wrong. Do not hate anybody, love your country. We are all Pakistanis." Dawn (Pakistan) and NBC News

In Iraq, it's Christmas in refugee camps in Kurdistan

After a year of the self-declared Caliphate of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), and the systematic purging of Christians in Iraq and Syria, most Iraqi Christmas celebrations are being held in Baghdad or in refugee camps in Kurdistan in the north of Iraq.

ISIS has conducted operations of ethnic and religious cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Christians. "Talk of Christmas and Christian occasions is forbidden under ISIS," according to a researcher. "The group has destroyed, torched and looted all churches, and barred any display of Christian faith. They also forced the hijab and Islamic way of dress on Christian women, and killed several Christian men for refusing to obey their orders." Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia) and Huffington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Dec-14 World View -- Christmas pageantry brings a little cheer to Bethlehem thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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24-Dec-14 World View -- Ukraine abandons unaligned status, with intention to join Nato

France is on high alert after a string of 'isolated' attacks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Ukraine abandons unaligned status, with intention to join Nato


A protester in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Tuesday (AFP)
A protester in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Tuesday (AFP)

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to drop the country's non-aligned status as the first step towards Nato membership. According to Ukrainian lawmaker Yuri Bereza:

"If Ukraine had moved to join NATO right after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia would have never dared to deploy its troops in Crimea, annex the peninsula and then incite, supply troops and hardware for an armed mutiny in Donbass.

Now it is up to us to conduct necessary military and political reforms to join the [North Atlantic] alliance. That will be our iron-clad guarantee against a new Russian aggression."

This point of view is consistent with many Nato officials. According to an essay last June by present and former Nato officials:

"Security on the continent has changed dramatically since NATO agreed in 2008 to admit Albania and Croatia, which joined the following year, the last round of enlargement. Russia subsequently used force against Georgia and then Ukraine, changing borders. Well before the annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Putin had come to regard NATO as an adversary. He has also declared Russia’s intention to use force against perceived oppression of Russian speakers, wherever they are. ...

Enlargement contributes to security because it leads to more predictable relations with Russia. Membership has a calming effect on Moscow’s ties with nations as NATO entry greatly increases the costs to Moscow of interfering. Imagine if Estonia or Latvia – two neighbors of Russia with large Russian minorities – were not members of NATO. They could be under as much pressure now as Ukraine. But Moscow has reasons to tread carefully because it knows that an intervention in the Baltics would trigger a collective NATO response."

A Ukraine membership in Nato would create substantial obligations on all sides. Nato would be obligated to come to Ukraine's aid in case of a further Russian invasion, and Ukraine would be obligated to the aid of other Nato members facing military threats. BBC and LA Times and CNN (June 2014)

France is on high alert after a string of 'isolated' attacks

France's government announced on Tuesday that it would deploy up to 300 extra troops to patrol public areas over the Christmas period. The alarm has been triggered by three bizarre "lone wolf" attacks in three days, combined with charges issued by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) to jihadists in France to conduct more lone wolf attacks.

On Saturday, a Burundian national who had converted to Islam walked into a police station in Joué-les-Tours, shouted "Allahu Akbar," and stabbed police officers with a knife. On Sunday, a man with a history of mental illness also cried "Allahu Akbar" and used his car to run down pedestrians in several locations in Dijon. then on Monday, a man ploughed his van through a crowded Christmas market in Nantes, before repeatedly stabbing himself with a knife.

The three incidents are unrelated, as far as is known, except that the third one may be a copycat killing. It's feared that there will be further copycat killings. (However, it's not clear to me how a few more policemen are going to stop a crazy driver from driving his car into a crowd.)

In September, ISIS urged Muslims around the world to kill "in any manner" those from countries involved in a coalition fighting against ISIS, singling out the French. Among instructions for killing civilians or military personnel was to run them over with a car or truck. France24 and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Dec-14 World View -- Ukraine abandons unaligned status, with intention to join Nato thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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23-Dec-14 World View -- Furor in India over Muslim/Christian conversions to Hindu

UN Security Council discusses North Korean human rights crimes

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US suspected in massive North Korea internet outage


Kim Il Sung 101st anniversary in Pyongyang, North Korea
Kim Il Sung 101st anniversary in Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea for several hours on Monday suffered massive internet outages affecting the whole country, or at least the few people that the North Korean government permit to access the internet. According to Dyn Research, which monitors North Korea:

"For the past 24 hours North Korea's connectivity to the outside world has been progressively getting degraded to the point now that they are totally offline.

There's either a benign explanation - their routers are perhaps having a software glitch; that’s possible. It also seems possible that somebody can be directing some sort of an attack against them and they're having trouble staying online."

Last week, President Barack Obama named North Korea as the perpetrator on the massive attack on Sony Pictures, and promised a "proportional response" at the place and time of our choosing. Many people suspect that this is a US counterattack, although there's no evidence of that, and it's being flatly denied by the administration.

Whether the US is actually responsible or not, if the North Koreans assume that the US is really responsible, then they may plan their own retaliation, making the situation extremely dangerous. Reuters

UN Security Council discusses North Korean human rights crimes

North Korea issued its usual litany of threats of war and world disaster on Monday, after 11 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to put the issue of North Korean human rights on the Security Council's agenda. The discussion will be based on a report issued by the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year in February. The report documents North Korean crimes against humanity, including torture, abductions, forced prostitution, starvation, and imprisonment for believing in Christianity.

North Korea said that the US was using the human rights issue to overthrow the government. It also calls the dozens of defectors who fled the North and aided the commission of inquiry "human scum."

Among the Security Council nations voting in favor of the resolution were Australia, Great Britain, Jordan, Lithuania, the United States, France and South Korea. Both Russia and China voted against it, calling the resolution "counterproductive." The Security Council will be asked to vote to send North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but that resolution can be vetoed by any of the five permanent members, and Russia and China will almost certainly do so. There's honor among thieves. AP and Bloomberg and UN Human Rights Council

Furor in India over Muslim/Christian conversions to Hindu

Outrage is growing in India among minority groups, including Muslims and Christians, because of allegedly forced massed conversions to the Hindu religion. Indeed, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organization claims to have brought 500 people from 100 Christian families "back into the Hindu fold" in large ceremonies. At a ceremony on Saturday, all participants were given a pendant with an image of Lord Ram, along with a Rudraksh [Hindu prayer beads] necklace.

According to one VHP official:

"A yagna [Ritual of Sacred Fire] was performed and participants were given pendants with an image of Lord Ram. They discarded the pendants of another faith. We did not lure any participant."

According to another VHP official:

"Several Hindus had left the religion on account of the inhumane treatment they got. They were taken to Christianity under the influence of foreign money and other temptations. Within Christianity, they have realized they were facing neglect. Hence, many are willing to return to Hinduism. Sometimes, it would become a trend."

Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) has become an extremely contentious issue in India since the election of self-described Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as prime minister in May. ( "24-Aug-14 World View -- Narendra Modi and rise of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) in India")

Hindutva activists supporting Modi refer to India as "Hindustan":

"Hindutva is the identity of our nation.

Hindustan is a country of Hindus.

The entire world recognizes Indians as Hindus, therefore India is a Hindu state. The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture."

However, Modi and his political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have disavowed the forced conversions. Times of India and Indian Express and Times of India

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Dec-14 World View -- Furor in India over Muslim/Christian conversions to Hindu thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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22-Dec-14 World View -- Israel-Palestine struggle moves to the United Nations

Reader comments say that Vietnam can defend against China

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel-Palestine struggle moves to the United Nations


Sisyphus
Sisyphus

The mythical Sisyphus was condemned to perform hard labor by pushing a heavy rock to the top of a hill, watching it roll downhill, and push it again, continuing to eternity. The participants in the cursed Mideast "peace process" are all like Sisyphus, in that they keep doing the same things over and over, and start all over again after each failure. And as I've written many times starting in May, 2003, the "peace process" will fail with mathematical certainty, and the Sisyphean negotiations will finally end only with a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

In the latest chapter, Jordan, which is currently a member of the United Nations Security Council, has submitted on behalf of the Palestinian Authority a resolution formulated by France that specifies:

Several countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, all support the resolution.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is bitterly opposed to the resolution, saying, "we will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable."

And the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also bitterly opposes it, saying that it presents a false view of the conflict as one between equal partners with legitimate rights and interests, it provides no punishment for Israel for failing to meet its obligations and, most important, it negates the "Palestinian refugees' inalienable right to return" to the homes of their ancestors in Israel.

At first, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas demanded a vote in the Security Council and, assuming it doesn't pass, a vote in the General Assembly were passage is all but certain, but non-binding.

However, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that if the resolution passed prior to Israel's March 17 elections, it would strengthen the hardliners in Israel's government and affect the elections.

And so, a vote on the resolution has been postponed, this time until after March 17. And thus ends the current round of labor. For the next three months, the participants can watch the boulder roll down the hill again, after which they move on to the next Sisyphean round of their task.

Middle East North Africa Financial Network (MenaFn) and AFP and Jerusalem Post and Palestine News Network

ISIS executes 100 foreign fighters for trying to flee Syria

Syria is turning into something of a roach motel for would-be jihadists who had hoped to join the fight against Syria's genocidal president Bashar al-Assad: They can check in, but they're discovering that they can't check out.

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) has reportedly created a military police force to penalize those who do not report for duty. Hundreds of foreign fighters have been arrested and held prisoner by ISIS, while several dozens have been executed. They've become disenchanted with the grueling fight for various reasons. Some who escaped complained that they were fighting against other rebel groups in Syria rather than against the al-Assad regime. One said, "We aren’t able to speak the truth, and we are forced to do useless things." Another said, "[If] you turn against ISIS, they will kill you." International Business Times

Reader comments say that Vietnam can defend against China

Whenever I express my belief that Vietnam's military is no match for China's, I always get reader comments disagreeing, and my latest such analysis did the same. ( "20-Dec-14 World View -- Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China")

Many recalled how the Vietnamese defeated America:

"I remember they said the same thing about Vietnam, back in the sixties. The flags on the ships bringing supplies into Haiphong Harbor will be different this time."

Another pointed to Vietnam's long history with China:

"Vietnam is no match for China?

Well, tell that to the 5,000 year history of Vietnam, and Vietnam is still Vietnam standing tall today. Certainly, China didn't learn any lesson from the last deadly anti-China riot in Vietnam. Did China shamefully pick up over 10,000 Chinese losers in Vietnam back to mainland China?

Vietnam - a country like no other, has a great history of resisting and defeating the world's great powers. Well, bring it on because the Vietnamese are ready."

Indeed, the explosive Tay-Son rebellion of the late 1770s is the most celebrated military event in Vietnamese history, when the Vietnamese troops repelled a much larger Chinese army in a brilliant battle that united the north and south for the first time. (See "18-May-14 World View -- A generational history of Vietnam")

Another reader, Emily Han, laid out an entire Vietnamese military strategy:

"Of course, if the Chinese compare numbers and incite continued Han-based nationalism so to feel good of thumping these 2 regional challengers then, yes the Philippines and Vietnam would be no match. However, given the world-wide attention and background of South China Sea conflict, Chinese aggressions are limited to at the most, "a justifiable return of foreign occupied assets" and even that will be near impossible to pull off without chain reactions:

* Australia, Japan and India will not watch and in fact are awaiting for such act to populate South China Sea with their warships, lands-based military counter-measures (India) and East China Sea's naval maneuvers (Japan), starting with a Chinese ship-lanes closure.

* Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore will step out of their faked "neutral" interested parties as they can't cover under "salami slicing" and "cabbage peeling". Minimally, they will shut down Malacca Strait as part of the economic blockade.

* To avoid the triggering of US-Philippines treaty, Chinese will target Vietnamese 29 positions with missiles launchers from warships and follow up with amphibious assault vehicles and without air forces. Strategically, Vietnam's asymmetric warfare has sufficient sustainable counter-measures for several months: every position is a self-defense line against individual landing and 9 positions have a 50-kilometers radius of coordinated defense. Within 1 hour of notification, squadrons of Su-30's and Mig's will directly engage en-route Chinese ships while awaiting arrivals of 3 Kilo submarines, 4 Gepard frigates and 24 Molniya high-speed (40 mph), shallow water (500 tons), missiles carriers (16 Kh-35) to conduct hit-and-hide tactics.

* While Chinese navy must build its offense with replenishment waves, Vietnamese goal is simply 1:1 exchange of ships, delaying landing, disrupting re-supplies and retreats (3 days to nearest Hainan base vs.1/2 day or less to Vietnamese shore)

* When Vietnam destroys or damages more than 2 dozens of Chinese warships (regardless of their own losses), the invasion will be called off and the fight will end. China, however may select to save-face by launching ballistic missiles against Vietnam's mainland targets to cause civilian casualties and claim victories - like they did in the failed 1979 cross-borders. Such move will be ill-advised as it will then, invite global interventions beyond South China Sea theater."

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Dec-14 World View -- Israel-Palestine struggle moves to the United Nations thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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21-Dec-14 World View -- After 'Pakistan's 9/11', war is declared on the Taliban

For the first time, US, Afghanistan and Pakistan will cooperate against Taliban

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan declares no more 'good' and 'bad' Taliban


Shoes lie in blood in aftermath of Peshawar school massacre (Reuters)
Shoes lie in blood in aftermath of Peshawar school massacre (Reuters)

After Tuesday's horrific attack on a Peshawar army school, in northwest Pakistan, killing over 130 schoolchildren, Pakistan is essentially declaring war on the Taliban.

The Taliban are not viewed monolithically in Pakistan, as they are in the West. Pakistan's army and the public generally approve of the Afghan Taliban, which attack American and Nato-allied targets in Afghanistan, including Afghanistan's government. And they also generally approve of the Punjabi Taliban, which attack India-linked targets, usually in Kashmir. That's why the first remarks by Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, following the massacre, referred only to "terrorist" perpetrators, not to the Taliban.

By Wednesday, Pakistanis were beginning to refer to the attack as "Pakistan's 9/11," and were calling for a full-scale attack on the Taliban. According to Sharif:

"We announce that there will be no differentiation between 'good' and 'bad' Taliban, and resolve to continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated.

We have decided that all parliamentary and political leaders will form a national consensus to defeat terrorism. We have decided to draft an action plan against terrorists and act upon it immediately."

He added that "the entire region (of South Asia) should be cleaned of terrorism," and indicated that the army will conduct a massive counter-terrorism operation in the tribal area along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan ends moratorium on hanging terrorists

He also announced an ended to the moratorium on the death sentence. The moratorium had been adopted in 2012 in the hope of a negotiated peace with the Taliban. Pakistan has one of the largest death row populations in the world, with more than 8,000 prisoners awaiting hanging.

Pakistan hanged two convicted militants Friday in the country's first executions in years, while warplanes and ground forces pounded insurgent hideouts in a northwest region bordering Afghanistan. So far, 150-200 militants have been killed in the counter-terror operation announced on Wednesday.

However, the United Nations human rights office issued a statement on Friday asking Pakistan to refrain from hangings, saying that they would not stop terrorism and might even feed a "cycle of revenge."

The Taliban have announced that the reason that they attacked army schoolchildren was in revenge for previous army attacks on Taliban hideouts, which their own wives and children. They promised more attacks on schools, and they also promised revenge for the two hangings.

According to Pakistan's foreign minister, "This has shaken the entire Pakistani society to the core, and in many ways it’s a threshold in our strategy for countering terrorism." India Times and Asian Age and The Nation (Pakistan)

For the first time, US, Afghanistan and Pakistan will cooperate against Taliban

For the first time, Pakistan has agreed to cooperate with Afghan, US and coalition forces in Afghanistan in a joint operation against the Taliban on both sides of the border.

One of the peculiarities of most of the last year or two has been that the Pakistani Taliban has been headquartered in Afghanistan, while the Afghan Taliban has been headquartered in Pakistan. This was convenient for both terror groups, because each side could conduct massacres and terror attacks and then flee across the border to the other side, thus escaping the security forces pursuing them.

Part of the new agreement still forbids "hot pursuit" of fleeing Taliban militants across the border in either direction, as that would breach Pakistan's or Afghanistan's sovereignty. However, the intention is that both the Pak and Afghan armies would cooperate in an anti-Taliban operation, so in theory the Taliban would not be able to escape by crossing the border. ("In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." -- Albert Einstein.)

The agreement also provides additional open Pakistani approval of American drone strikes targeting Taliban officials in the tribal area. A drone strike on Saturday ago killed five militants in North Waziristan.

However, in a sign that the era of cooperation may not last, former prime minister Pervez Musharraf rose from political death long enough to blame Afghanistan and India for ordering the attack on the Peshawar school. Daily Times (Pakistan) and The National (UAE) and Dawn (Pakistan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Dec-14 World View -- After 'Pakistan's 9/11', war is declared on the Taliban thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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20-Dec-14 World View -- Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China

China's Achilles' Heel -- the law of the sea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China


Philippine troop and Chinese maritime police boat confrontation at Second Thomas Reef.
Philippine troop and Chinese maritime police boat confrontation at Second Thomas Reef.

With China taking aggressive military actions to annex Philippine and Vietnamese territories in the South China Sea, both of these countries are building up the military capabilities, though nothing that they plan would have more than a small token resistance when facing the massive Chinese military -- until the United States got involved.

The Philippines aims to buy two frigates, two helicopters, and three gunboats for deployment in the South China Sea. South Korea, Spain, France, Italy and Indonesia are bidding on the contracts to supply the weapons.

India is planning to sell to Vietnam several warship -- four patrol boats at first, with seven more later. The sale of these warships has strategic implications for India as well as Vietnam, since India has oil drilling blocks off the coast of Vietnam. New Delhi TV and Reuters

China's Achilles' Heel -- the law of the sea

China continues a massive military buildup in the South China Sea, even going so far as to build an artificial island to use for its air force. But on the legal front, China continues to hide behind bluster.

Outside of China, there are few international law experts who believe that China's South Sea China claims, or their notorious "nine-dash-line" doctrine, have any basis in modern international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China has been nothing but evasive in response to arbitration procedures in front of the UN Arbitral Panel in the Hague, initiated by the Philippines in 2013 and later joined by Vietnam and supported by the United States. China has refused to recognize any form of arbitration, and last week missed an important deadline in submitting a statement of defense to the panel. No one seriously believes international law will affect China's vast military operation in the South China Sea, but for the time being, the law of the sea is an embarrassment to China. Straits Times (Singapore) and National Interest and VOA

China: Vietnam and Philippine militaries are no match for China

According to an analysis by China's military, the countries of the South China Sea are no match militarily for China, but among them, Vietnam is the strongest, followed by Malaysia and the Philippines.

China Military Online

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Dec-14 World View -- Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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19-Dec-14 World View -- Floating weapons armories present new terrorist threats

Stock market continues parabolic climb with high volatility

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Floating weapons armories present new terrorist threats


Weapons storeroom on a floating armory
Weapons storeroom on a floating armory

The explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia, which reached a peak between 2008-10, has resulted in a new, unexpected terror threat. The widespread privacy gave rise to a number of "Private Maritime Security Companies" (PMSCs) that a shipper can hire to provide protection for his ships from pirates.

To perform their service, PMSCs need access to large stores of weapons -- arms, ammunition, body armor, night-vision goggles, and other military equipment. Storing this equipment on land has several problems -- national governments don't like having it there, and the PMSCs constantly have to return to home port to get the equipment.

This has given rise to an explosion of PMSCs with floating armories. These are fishing vessels, tugs, patrol boats and other vessels that have been converted by private companies into floating weapons stores. Sometimes the weapons are made available to third parties for a fee, according to Mark Gray, a director of the British company MNG Maritime:

"It's not the Hilton. As well as storing their weapons, we provide hotel services for security guards who are between jobs. We have bunk beds in cabins, the kind of accommodation they were used to during their military careers. Plus two chefs, a gym on deck and the ever essential WiFi."

It's believed that there are currently 31 floating armories at the present time. Many are in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, but they might be in international waters anywhere.

There's nothing illegal about them, but they're unregulated, and the vessels that were converted have special security features. Pirates or terrorist groups could seize the weapons, hijack the weapons, or blow them up. A recent statement by the government of India says that it stood "exposed and seriously threatened due to the presence of largely unregulated floating armories with large amounts of undeclared weapons and ammunition." BBC and Oxford Research Group and Full Report (PDF)

Stock market continues parabolic climb with high volatility


Dow bounces back
Dow bounces back

As I've written several times recently, the extreme volatility of the stock market is very dangerous, because it indicates that the stock market is being used as a gambling parlor completely unrelated to the company stock shares underlying the market. As we reported ten days ago, the Bank of International Settlements has taken the same view. ( "8-Dec-14 World View -- Bank of International Settlements warns of 'fragile' and 'sensitive' markets")

The drunken euphoria that I heard from analysts today, after the parabolic 421 point surge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is a sign of just how dangerous the situation. They don't seem to realize that if the Dow can go up 421 points in one day, then it can just as easily go down 421 points in one day. And with the S&P 500 price/earnings ratio at around the astronomically high 19, well above the historical level of 14, it's only a matter of time before the stock market bubble bursts.

And that's exactly the kind of situation that triggers a panic. These swings are getting wider and wider, just as they did prior to the 1929 crash.

The stock market fell 90% following the 1929 panic, but that didn't happen all in one day. It fell 13% on Black Monday, and then another 12% the next day, but then it gained back 17% on the next two days, so by the end of the week, people were wondering whether it would recover completely. But it kept relentlessly falling, and only bottomed out in the summer of 1932, despite repeated interventions by the Fed, and repeated claims by President Herbert Hoover that "Prosperity is just around the corner."

It shouldn't be called the "Crash of 1929," since the stock stock market didn't really crash in 1929. It should be called the "Panic of 1929" since, after all this time, the day that America remembers is the day of the panic, October 28, 1929. That's how it will happen again. These wild swings will keep increasing, until one day these computerized trading computers ("algos," as they're now called) will take over and produce some sort of "flash crash," and a lot of people will lose a lot of money. That will be the panic that everyone remembers. Then the stock market will partially recover, and people will cross their fingers, but the worst will be yet to come. Detroit News / AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Dec-14 World View -- Floating weapons armories present new terrorist threats thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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18-Dec-14 World View -- Cuba's shift is similar to E. Germany, Hungary, Poland, others

US officials say that North Korea is responsible for Sony hack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US officials say that North Korea is responsible for Sony hack


Screen shot from the Sony Pictures movie 'Annie', which hackers stole and made available on the internet
Screen shot from the Sony Pictures movie 'Annie', which hackers stole and made available on the internet

As I wrote two weeks ago, Sony Pictures suffered a serious hacker attack that's so widespread and destructive that Sony Pictures may not survive. ( "6-Dec-14 World View -- Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers")

US officials are now saying on background that US intelligence and the FBI have pulled out all the stops to track down the hackers, and they've pieced together the evidence that North Korea ordered the attack, although the individual or group behind the attack were not in North Korea. Analysts have been speculating what the U.S. can do in retaliation.

However, I haven't yet heard mentioned by these analysts what is possibly a more significant point. Sony Pictures may be an American corporation, but it's a subsidiary of a Japanese corporation, Sony Inc. It will not be missed by the people of Japan that North Korea has launched a major attack on a Japanese company, and their retaliation may be a lot more serious. ABC News and AP

Cuba's shift is similar to E. Germany, Hungary, Poland, others

On Wednesday, US president Barack Obama and Cuba's president Raul Castro simultaneously announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, for the first time since the Cuban Revolution of 1960 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Although politicians are crowing about this and taking credit, it has nothing to do with politicians, but with generational changes in Cuba itself.

This wasn't even the most important change in Cuba. The major change occurred in 2010, when Cuba announced the end of its Communist economy. (See "16-Sep-10 News -- Cuba's seismic shift has global implications") Wednesday's restoration of relations was just the next step in a process that Cuba is still undergoing.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the 2010 announcement was an "Awakening climax," which means that a generational conflict has been settled. The announcement occurred 50 years after the end of Cuba's last generational crisis war, the Cuban Revolution.

All countries follow a similar pattern following the end of a generational crisis war:

For many countries (not Cuba), the last crisis war was World War II, which ended in 1945. Here are some examples of Awakening climaxes following WW II:

Here are some additional examples of Awakening climaxes that illustrate different possibilities:

Really, none of this should be surprising. Fidel Castro ruled for decades by demanding that the Cuban people suffer because of the evil United States. Now Fidel and his brother Raul are in their 80s, and they're simply too old and tired to continue to drive the anti-US fervor, especially because the younger Cubans couldn't care less about the Revolution. And so, Raul agreed to renewing diplomatic relations with the US.

In many ways, Iran is similar to Cuba. Iran's last generational crisis war was the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution, followed by the Iran/Iraq war that ended in 1988. Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been trying to maintain revolutionary fervor by citing threats from the evil United States, just like Cuba. If Iran follows the usual pattern for an Awakening climax, then the hardline Iranian regime will collapse 40-50 years later, or within 2008-2018, which would be within the next four years. [Correction: Sorry, but apparently I can't add. This computation is all wrong. 1988+40 = 2028, not 2008. So the time range should be 2028-2038.](Paragraph modified. 18-Dec)

Havana Times and Miami Herald/AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Dec-14 World View -- Cuba's shift is similar to E. Germany, Hungary, Poland, others thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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17-Dec-14 World View -- Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children

Russia's crisis deepens as ruble falls another 11%

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany's anti-Islam demonstrations become too large to ignore


PEGIDA demonstrators in Dresden on Monday (Reuters)
PEGIDA demonstrators in Dresden on Monday (Reuters)

For each Monday in the past nine weeks, supporters of the explicitly anti-Islam far right Pegida movement have been protesting in cities like Dresden and Düsseldorf. (The phrase "far right" has different meanings in Europe and America.) The demonstrations have been growing in size from a few dozen to start to the 10,000 who demonstrated in Dresden. Germany's government ignored them at first, but the rapid growth of the demonstrations is forcing it to deal with them. Germany's justice minister Heiko Maas said that the protests were "an embarrassment for Germany" and that the country was experiencing a new "level of escalation of agitation against immigrants and refugees."

Pegida is an acronym for "Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," which translates to "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamification of the West." Much of the discontent comes from the fact that Germany has accepted a record number of refugees this year, especially from Syria, and has also witnessed the rise of Salafist movements in German cities with heavy populations of immigrants.

Many of the complaints are about the economy. One elderly man shouted: "I'm a pensioner. I only get a small pension but I have to pay for all these people (asylum seekers). No-one asked me!" However, a woman said, "I am not right wing, I'm not a Nazi. I am just worried for my country, for my granddaughter." Deutsche Welle and BBC and Getty and Pegida facebook page

Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children

Terrorists from Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP, Pakistan Taliban) attacked an army school in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 141 people, 132 of them schoolchildren, most of them children of soldiers. The attack, which is being described as the worst in years, is being described as revenge for the army's operations against the TTP in Pakistan's tribal area.

During the last few years, the Taliban have splintered into three branches -- the Afghanistan Taliban, targeting US and Nato forces, the Pakistan Taliban, and the Punjabi Taliban, attacking Indian targets. According to analyst reports I've heard, the army has good relations the first and third of these, but has lost control of the Pakistani Taliban.

Many Pakistani people believe that the Taliban are good people, defending their religion, and some even believe that the terrorist attacks are being perpetrated by Iran or the U.S. to discredit the Taliban. Tuesday's attack is thought to be so horrific that it will wash away these attitudes and change minds once and for all. Others point to the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008 that took place just a couple of blocks from the government buildings. That was also a horrific bombing, and it was thought that this attack would change mind permanently, but instead, old attitudes took hold as soon as the initial shock wore off.

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif ran his election campaign with a promise to end TTP attacks by negotiating with the TTP. As we've described many times, these negotiations always were a farce, and were treated with contempt by the TTP. Tuesday's attack should end those attempts once and for all though, although it has been noted that when Sharif condemned Tuesday's attack, he referred only to "terrorists," and not to the Taliban.

Pakistan's major opposition politician is Imran Khan, the former cricket superstar turned anti-American politician. He's been even more supportive of the Taliban, calling for an end to American drone strikes against the Taliban, and calling for the resignation of Nawaz Sharif for allowing the drone strikes.

At the very least, this attack has infuriated the army, who are now promising blood revenge against the perpetrators. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan)

Pakistan and Australia move from denial to shock

One of the characteristics of a generational Crisis era is the enormous state of denial about many things. Just one illustration of this in the US was the real estate bubble of the mid 2000s decade. Even though I wrote repeatedly about this bubble, starting in 2004, mainstream economists were ridiculously clueless about this, and didn't even begin to talk about the bubble until around 2009, when the real estate crisis was in full flower.

Pakistan's population have clearly been in denial about the danger of the Taliban, despite major terrorist attacks every few days. Some of the attacks have targeted Sufi or Shia Muslims, but most of them have been political, attacking the government or the army by massacring civilians. Tuesday's senseless attack on hundreds of schoolchildren in Peshawar has transformed the denial to shock.

The terrorist attack in Sydney on Monday and Tuesday has had a similar effect on the people of Australia. Australia is a peaceful, open, generous, multi-cultured and inclusive country with strict gun control laws, so Australia's sense of denial took the form of believing that a terror attack would not occur there.

Now Australians are waking up to the fact that dozens of young Australian men have gone to Syria to become jihadists.

The biggest political battle will probably be over gun control. After a 1996 gun massacre, strict gun control laws were imposed, and over a million guns were destroyed in two buybacks since then. Now it's being revealed that the number of guns is back to pre-1996 levels, thanks mainly to gun smuggling operations.

When a country's population moves from denial to shock during a generational Crisis era, then results can be very dangerous, because nationalist forces may be triggered that leads to further shocks, and then to a war. India Times and Daily Telegraph (Sydney) and Sydney Morning Herald

Russia's crisis deepens as ruble falls another 11%

Russia's desperate move yesterday, raising interest rates to 17%, seems to have backfired. The value of the ruble plunged another 11% against the dollar on Tuesday. It's now fallen 20% this week, and fallen more than 50% since the beginning of the year.

It may be that the currency crisis is now being driven by sheer panic, as Russia has several hundred billion dollars saved up in reserves. According to one analyst I heard, Russia could get revenge against the west by bailing out Russian government debts denominated in dollars, but let the corporate debts denominated in dollars simply default. Since most of the holders of Russian dollar-denominated debt are European banks and American investors, Russia could make the currency crisis the West's problem. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Dec-14 World View -- Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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16-Dec-14 World View -- Desperate Russia raises interest rates to 17%, as ruble and oil prices collapse

China: 300 Chinese citizens join ISIS in Iraq and Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China: 300 Chinese citizens join ISIS in Iraq and Syria


ISIS fighters (AFP)
ISIS fighters (AFP)

As we've reported in the past, young men from Asia are flocking to Syria and Iraq to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). ( "6-Oct-14 World View -- ISIS influence spreads in Asia, as Pakistan Taliban pledges support") Young jihadists throughout Asia, including China, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Australia, have been drawn by the youthful ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi to Syria to join the jihad.

The horrific terrorist attack in Sydney on Sunday and Monday have reminded Australian authorities that some 60 young men from Australia have gone to Syria to join ISIS.

China rarely releases similar figures about Chinese citizens, but did so on Monday, when state media reported that some 300 Chinese people are fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to the report, these are Uighurs who have joined the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and traveled through Turkey to Syria, where they join the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). Chinese media blame "ambiguous policies" by Turkey's government that allow easy access to Turkey through southeastern Turkey's Sanliurfa Province, and then to join ISIS:

"The fact that these extremists can easily enter Turkey and later travel to Syria and Iraq to join IS is a direct consequence of the Turkish government's ambiguous policies."

Turkey's embassy in Beijing called the claims "ridiculous," saying that they only issue passports to Turkish citizens. They blamed the governments of China and other Asian countries:

"The illegal issuance of passports and visas and customs loopholes in some Southeast Asian countries have allowed extremists to travel to Turkey and then go on to join the jihadists. If there weren't so many illegal passports and visas available, there would not be so many members of ETIM in Syria and Iraq."

Reuters and Global Times (Beijing)

Desperate Russia raises interest rates to 17%, as ruble and oil prices collapse

A desperate Russian central bank raised interest rates to 17% from 10.5% early Tuesday morning to halt the collapse of the ruble currency. On Monday, the ruble fell 10% in one day against the dollar, for a total of 49% fall this year, resulting in rampant inflation.

Prices of West Texas Intermediate oil took another plunge on Monday to less than $56 per barrel. It was just a few months ago that it was priced at over $100 per barrel.

Russia's economy appears to be spiraling out of control, in the same way that Greece's economy did a couple of years ago. The reasons for Russia's crisis are:

Reuters and Nasdaq

Russia builds a road connecting Dagestan to Georgia

Russia is rushing at breakneck speed to complete a road connecting Dagestan, its province in the North Caucasus, across the Caucasus mountain ridge to Georgia. The road construction is raising alarm in Georgia, as it will allow Russia to invade Georgia rapidly. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, and occupied two Georgian provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The road would also establish a land corridor with Armenia, Russia’s ally in the South Caucasus, and cut off the Caspian and the Central Asian region, which is rich in energy resources, from international markets. The highway is expected to be completed by March 2015. Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Dec-14 World View -- Desperate Russia raises interest rates to 17%, as ruble and oil prices collapse thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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15-Dec-14 World View -- Lynchings of 43 students revive the Mexican Revolution fault lines

Oil production to increase despite, or because of, crashing prices

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Lynchings of 43 students revive the Mexican Revolution


Wanted poster for Pancho Villa - March 9, 1916.  He was wanted in Columbus, New Mexico, for killing American citizens in Mexico
Wanted poster for Pancho Villa - March 9, 1916. He was wanted in Columbus, New Mexico, for killing American citizens in Mexico

On September 26, a group of 43 students in a rural teachers' college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, in southern Mexico all disappeared, while traveling to the town of Iguala for an anti-government demonstration. At first it was believed that criminals from drug cartels had abducted and killed the students. But later it turned out that José Luis Abarca, the former mayor of Iguala, working hand in hand with the police and the drug traffickers, ordered the lynchings. The 43 students were believed to be burned and dumped, though only the remains of one have been found. Abarca was later arrested by federal officers and charged with murder.

These atrocities led to violent mass protests in Mexico City last month. They are inflaming the fault lines of the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s. Mexico's last crisis war was the Mexican Revolution, running from 1910-1922, so Mexico is deep into a generational Crisis era, and overdue for a new crisis war, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics.

Mexico is like other Latin American countries in that the major fault lines are between the indigenous peoples ("Amerindians") and the indigenous descendants of French and Spanish invaders. The indigenous peoples in Mexico are the Mayans in the south and the Aztecs and Comancheros in the north. The French and Spanish descendants generally live in the center, around Mexico City. During the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s, Pancho Villa (from the north) was the leader, along with Emiliano Zapata, of the indigenous rebel insurgency groups in the south.

Ayotzinapa is in a region populated mostly by indigenous Mayan descendants. The students were called "normalistas" because they went to a "normal" college, one of those that were set up in the 1920s, following the Mexican Revolution, to help the poor indigenous people.

José Luis Abarca was born nearby in Arcelia, Guerrero. He started out poor but got into the gold business and, as a member of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), became mayor of Iguala in June 2012, despite having no political experience. He and his wife María de los Ángeles had ruled as "the Imperial Couple." Three of María's brothers were drug traffickers, but had been killed or captured.

The atrocities and massive corruption are pushing all the buttons of the indigenous activists. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Mexico is headed for a new war, refighting the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s along the fault line separating the people of European ancestry versus the indigenous peoples. This war may spread into southwestern United States, as there are Aztec descendants in the Aztlán movement who claim that the southwest really belongs to them, and was their ancestral homeland. Reuters and Vice News and Yucatan Times

Oil production to increase despite, or because of, crashing prices

Oil prices have been plunging due to increased supply from US shale production (fracking), and due to falling demand caused by a slowing world economy. The oil importing countries (Indonesia, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan) are benefiting enormously from the plunge in oil prices, while it's a disaster for several oil exporting countries -- Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria. Saudi Arabia has announced it will try to increase oil production, presumably in the hope of putting the US fracking industry out of business.

An analysis by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) that may shed some light on what's going on. Even though the price of oil is plummeting, US fracking production is going to continue increasing, though perhaps slightly less rapidly than has been previously predicted.


Oil production in 2014.  WTI is West Texas Intermediate (EIA)
Oil production in 2014. WTI is West Texas Intermediate (EIA)

The graph on the left shows that drilling permits have been holding steady, while the number of rigs has fallen slightly. The graph on the right shows that oil production continues to increase, despite the fall in oil prices.

The existing wells are backed by hedge funds and junk bonds that are now in distress because of the fall in prices. As a result, production in the existing wells will actually be increased as much as physically possible, to generate revenue at low oil prices to meet margin calls for these junk bonds.

It occurs to me that the Saudis may be in a similar situation. They may also have shaky investments backing up their oil wells, and so they too would have to keep production as high as possible to make their own margin calls.

This is a good illustration of how deflation feeds on itself, and how some deflation causes more deflation, almost as if were caused by a deflationary attitude. By the law of supply and demand, falling prices normally should cause production to decrease. But the current situation we're in, a highly leverage debt bubble, is an anomalous situation. Falling oil prices are causing production to increase, not because of the oil market, but because of the debt market, resulting in a deflationary spiral. Businesses desperately increase production and sales in the hope of making up for lost earnings, in order to meet their debt margin calls, but the increased supply simply causes prices to fall even faster, resulting in more deflation.

This is a dangerous situation because, as the price of oil continues to fall, one or more of these funds may go bankrupt, and that may cause a chain reaction of multiple bankruptcies. US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Investment Watch/Wolf Richter

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Dec-14 World View -- Lynchings of 43 students revive the Mexican Revolution fault lines thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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14-Dec-14 World View -- The GCC honeymoon: Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement

Pragmatic attitudes towards Israel and Iran

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Gulf Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement


Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)
Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) has succeeded in getting through its summit meeting last week, apparently in relative harmony. (See "21-Nov-14 World View -- Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December")

It's being called a "historic turning point" for the GCC, with potentially far-reaching consequences, because the GCC members have stopped quibbling with each other, and have unified against their common enemies.

As I've written several times in the last few months, the Gaza war has brought about a major Mideast realignment, splitting the GCC members apart. Egypt was the catalyst for this split, at two points. First, when Egypt's army ousted democratically elected Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government, and replaced him with former army general Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, who proceeded with a very bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim Brotherhood supporters Turkey and Qatar turned vehemently against al-Sisi, while Saudi Arabia supported him.

Second, when the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas began this summer, al-Sisi supported Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and turned against Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Iran supported Hamas against Israel. This created a de facto realignment of the Mideast, with Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus Iran.

The newfound friendly Arab consanguinity

The reasons being given for this newfound friendly Arab consanguinity is that a unified GCC stance is necessary "to stop ... attempts led by neighboring countries to intervene in Arab affairs." The two countries referenced are:

According to the final communiqué issued by the summit:

"On Egypt, the Supreme Council reiterated its firm position in support