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

7-May-15 World View -- Greece tries to avoid bankruptcy, as Europe stands firm, for now

Jean-Claude Jüncker warns of Anglo-Saxon threat to eurozone

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece makes one debt payment, wonders if it can make the next


Greece's Port of Piraeus
Greece's Port of Piraeus

Greece's government apparently succeeded in making a 200 million euro interest payment due on Wednesday. It did so by scraping up money wherever it could. In particular, it passed a law on April 25 giving it the right to confiscate cash reserves and bank accounts of all public institutions, including municipalities, provinces, universities and hospitals.

Greece is scheduled to make two additional payments this month, totaling close to one billion euros.

Having confiscated money from public institutions, it's getting pretty clear that the next step will be private businesses and individual residents. In fact, the first step may occur within days, after the government revealed plans to introduce a surcharge on cash withdrawals from bank accounts. The European Central Bank (ECB) will have to approve the measure, but the surcharge is expected to be one euro for every thousand euro transaction.

A senior finance ministry official said, "The surcharge is just one of a grab-bag of measures we are considering if things get tough."

The next "grab-bag" measure is expected to be what are called "capital controls" -- limiting the amount of money that can be transferred to banks outside the country. Many panicking Greek citizens have already completely cleared out their bank accounts, pulling more than 28 billion euros out of banks. Daily Mail (London)

Europeans reject more bailout money for Greece, for now

Positions continue to be very hard on both sides of the negotiations to provide additional bailout money to Greece. Greek officials continue to stall on providing a list of committed reforms that was promised in February. The list would need to address various economic issues, including Greece's bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies. Instead, Greek officials continue to make vague promises about collecting more taxes and ending corruption. As a result, more bailout money is out of the question, for now.

On Tuesday, Greek officials accused the lending institutions -- the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), formerly known as "the Troika" -- of being at fault: "Serious disagreements between the IMF and the EU are creating obstacles and big risks in the negotiations."

This infuriated Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said, "Neither the troika, nor Europe, nor Germany can be blamed for Greece's problems. Greece lived beyond its means for many years."

However, there apparently is a big disagreement within the Troika. The IMF wants the Troika to simply write off a large percentage of Greek debt, while the EC is opposed such debt relief. Kathimerini and ZeroHedge and Bloomberg

Jean-Claude Jüncker warns of Anglo-Saxon threat to eurozone


Jean-Claude Jüncker in 2005, shaking his fist at British prime minister Tony Blair (BBC)
Jean-Claude Jüncker in 2005, shaking his fist at British prime minister Tony Blair (BBC)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Jüncker said that "Grexit" -- meaning Greece exiting the eurozone -- is not an option, because it would be part of an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy. According to Jüncker:

"The world wants to know which way we are going. We should make sure that everyone understands that the economic and monetary union is irreversible, that the euro is a currency that is here to stay, which is not going to be abolished or suspended. ...

Grexit is not an option. If Greece would accept it, if the others would accept it, that the country would exit the zone of security and prosperity constituted by the eurozone, we would be exposed to huge danger, because the Anglo-Saxon world would do everything to try to decompose, at a regular rhythm, by (the) sale, apartment by apartment, of the eurozone."

Long-time readers know that when Jüncker was chairman of the Eurogroup of eurozone financial ministers I used to mock him and make fun of him all the time because of all the ridiculous things he said during the various Greek financial crises. The topper occurred in 2011 when journalists caught him in a complete lie, and he said, When it becomes serious, you have to lie, to explain why he lied. From that point on, we could always assume that everything he said was a lie, since everything was always serious.

I haven't quoted Jüncker for a while, ever since he stopped being Eurogroup chairman, so it's fun to have him back again saying moronic things about an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy to break up the eurozone. EurActiv

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-May-15 World View -- Greece tries to avoid bankruptcy, as Europe stands firm, for now thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-May-2015) Permanent Link
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6-May-15 World View -- In a surprise, Senegal joins a beleaguered Saudi coalition in Yemen

'Saudi troops' landing in Aden were really Yemeni troops

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

In a surprise, Senegal joins a beleaguered Saudi coalition in Yemen


Aftermath of Saudi airstrike on Sanaa airport on Monday (Reuters)
Aftermath of Saudi airstrike on Sanaa airport on Monday (Reuters)

In a surprise announcement, Senegal's foreign minister on Monday said that the country will be send 2,100 troops to Saudi Arabia as part of an international coalition fighting against the Houthis in Yemen.

Since Saudi Arabia has not yet committed ground troops to Yemen, it's not clear what the Senegalese troops will be doing.

According to the foreign minister, "The international coalition is aiming to protect and secure the holy sites of Islam, Medina and Mecca." These two cities in Saudi Arabia are heavily guarded by Saudi troops, and so the implication is that the Senegalese troops will guard the two cities, freeing up the Saudi troops. This would mean that Senegal is stationary guards, rather than the combat troops that the Saudis really need.

The reason that Senegal's announcement was a surprise is that Senegal is on the west coast of Africa, which is many, many worlds away from Yemen, which is east of the east coast of Africa. Furthermore, many young people in Senegal are against sending Senegalese to far-away foreign wars, particularly since the cities of Mecca and Medina do not appear to be threatened by the Houthis in Yemen. However, Senegal depends on aid from Saudi Arabia, and so this is a way to suck up. BBC and Washington Post

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia appear to reconcile over Yemen

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now has a number of countries in its coalition: Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Senegal.

These countries are contributing warplanes to the effort, but none of these countries has agreed to send combat troops to Yemen, and two of the major Sunni Muslim countries, Pakistan and Turkey, are missing from the list.

Saudi Arabia received a particularly harsh blow a month ago, when Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to remain neutral between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Yemen conflict.

As we reported at the time, the repercussions began immediately, beginning with a blistering condemnation by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There are two million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia, and they contribute $4.73 billion per year to Pakistan through remittances, so there have been widespread fears of retaliation directed at Pakistanis working in the Kingdom.

However, Pakistan's top civil and military leadership met with Saudi authorities last week, and the two countries appeared to reconcile. According to the statement, "Saudi Arabia’s next move in the region, including any possible offensive, will materialize only after mutual consultation." What this means is that if the Saudis want Pakistan's help, then they should consult with Pakistan and get mutual agreement before taking any action.

Based on that commitment, Pakistan has reversed its earlier stance of neutrality, and will provide military assistance. According to the statement:

"All the matters between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia over the Yemen war have been settled amicably. ... Without ground operations, no one can establish the government’s writ in the conflict zone. ...

Pakistan cannot remain a bystander if efforts are made to destabilize Saudi Arabia."

However, it's not clear whether Pakistan will provide combat troops, as Pakistan is promising only to provide military assistance, including equipment for fighting in the tribal areas of Yemen.

The only public mention of Pakistani troops was related to the reinstatement of Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who was president at the time of the Houthis' coup. "They also talked about the Pakistani armed forces’ role in Yemen after Hadi is [properly] reinstated," according to the statement. Not mentioned is the fact that reinstatement of Hadi may not occur at all, or not before additional months of fighting. Gulf Times and Foreign Policy

'Saudi troops' landing in Aden were really Yemeni troops

Reports over the weekend said that Saudi troops had landed in the southern port of Aden.

The Saudis now say that those are Yemeni troops who were returning to Yemen from Gulf Arab countries where they had been retrained for combat. According to the Yemen government in exile in Riyadh: "It's a group of the Yemeni forces. We retrained them, and we send them to organize things. We are now training more, and we are sending more." Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-May-15 World View -- In a surprise, Senegal joins a beleaguered Saudi coalition in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-May-2015) Permanent Link
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5-May-15 World View -- China builds Navy designed to overwhelm the US Navy

Philippine fishermen harassed by China's 'cabbage strategy'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China builds Navy designed to overwhelm the US Navy


Members of the Chinese Navy honor guard (Getty)
Members of the Chinese Navy honor guard (Getty)

A new report by the US Office of Naval Intelligence reveals a massive naval building program underway in China, with the objective of overwhelming the US Navy.

The heart of China's current buildup in the PLA(N) (People's Liberation Army (Navy)) is the YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, with a maximum range of 111 miles at a speed of Mach 0.8 and a higher speed range of 24 miles.

In the past, we've described China's DF-21D long-range anti-ship ballistic missile, with the specific capability of attacking and disabling American aircraft carriers. ( "2-Aug-11 World View -- China could defeat U.S. in war over Taiwan") The DF-21D is designed to travel for long distances at high altitudes to the region of the aircraft carrier, and then use heat sensors to detect its current position. China has deployed about a dozen of these missiles, and some (though not all) military analysts believe that an aircraft carrier group could effectively defend against a simultaneous attack of several DF-21Ds.

The YJ-18 presents an aircraft carrier with an entirely different set of problems. The YJ-18 has a much smaller range than the DF-21D, but it's also a lot cheaper to manufacture. As a result, China can produce hundreds of these missiles and then use them for a mass attack on an aircraft carrier. According to one military official: "I’d be more worried about the many dozens of cruise missiles you could have launched at you from nearby submarines and ships than I would about the dozen anti-ship ballistic missiles that might get launched at you."

While America's naval fleet has been declining in size, depending on fewer large vessels, China has been producing larger numbers of smaller, more agile naval weapons and missile systems. According to one expert, "Once again we confront the dilemmas of asymmetric warfare. Missiles of all kinds are far cheaper and easier to build than large surface warships. There is probably no air defense system that can reliably fight off a saturation attack launched at a target as large as a CVN [nuclear-powered aircraft carrier]."

Concerns are growing that it won't be long before China's navy is larger than the American navy, which will be unable to defend itself. Another expert puts it succinctly: "The heart of our navy today is the aircraft carrier, an effective weapon. Almost all of our other surface ships exists to serve it. That works well against third rate navies, but in a fight against a modern naval power, our carrier fleets could not leave port."

As I've been saying for ten years, Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing for a massive pre-emptive missile attack on America's cities, military bases, and aircraft carriers. This might occur next week, next week, next year, or later, This will result in a world war that will pit the West plus Japan plus India plus Russia plus Iran versus China plus Pakistan plus the Sunni Muslim states, with other countries joining in on either side, in a world war that may well last close to a decade. China is preparing for the pre-emptive attack in the belief that they will win the war quickly, which makes Xi Jinping and the Chinese people as stupid as Hitler and the Nazis. History's greatest disasters are brought about by the stupidest people, and this time the stupidest people are Xi Jinping and Chinese, and those who survive will deeply regret their almost unbelievable stupidity, as they go down in history as worse than the Nazis. Office of Naval Intelligence and Free Beacon and Office of Naval Intelligence

Philippine fishermen harassed by China's 'cabbage strategy'

While the Naval Intelligence report on China's Navy describes China's plans for massive attacks on American aircraft carriers with hundreds of low-cost supersonic cruise missiles, Philippine fishermen in the South China Sea are already being targeted by the Chinese using a similar kind of strategy.

Philippine fishermen are being harassed more and more by Chinese vessels in fishing grounds that the Filipinos have been using for centuries.

China has been using what the Chinese general Zhang Zhaozhong several years ago called a “cabbage” strategy: assert a territorial claim and then create new facts on the ground by gradually surrounding the area with multiple layers of security, thus denying access to a rival.

In the case of South China Sea fishing grounds, China is sending massive numbers of fishing vessels and patrol boats into other countries' fishing grounds. Any other country's fishing vessel is harassed by a variety of techniques -- bullhorn warnings, blockades, water cannons, and even violently boarding the ship and dumping its fish cargo overboard. In this way, China expects to take over the entire South China Sea without firing a shot.

China's Foreign Ministry recently responded to accusations that it had illegally used water cannon on Philippine fishing boats. Filipino fishermen said that China’s coast guard boarded their fishing boats and threw away fish catch and fishing gear.

According to the spokesman:

"Official Chinese vessels in waters near the Huangyan island [the Philippines' Scarborough Shoal] carried out their duties and managed the relevant waters according to law.

Recently, many Philippine fishing boats disobeyed China’s administration and gathered illegally in Huangyan Island waters, violating China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.

We demand that the Philippine side increase its education and control of its fishermen, and cease all behavior that violates China’s sovereignty and rights and interests."

What Philippines fishermen are learning is that China will use military force to take anything it wants, and that it will not stop any more than Hitler and the Nazis were stopped from annexing Czechoslovakia and Poland.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, I remember asking my mother why the World War had happened. She answered, "Because some people are selfish and want to take things that don't belong to them." What the Nazis did ended very badly for everyone, and so will what the Chinese are doing. Reuters and Project Syndicate (Nov-2013) and Philippine Star

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-May-15 World View -- China builds Navy designed to overwhelm the US Navy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-May-2015) Permanent Link
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4-May-15 World View -- Saudi Arabia denies reports of Saudi ground troops in Yemen

Jimmy Carter blames Netanyahu for failure of Mideast peace negotiations

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Jimmy Carter blames Netanyahu for failure of Mideast peace negotiations


Jimmy Carter shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank, on Saturday (Reuters)
Jimmy Carter shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank, on Saturday (Reuters)

Former US president Jimmy Carter said that Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want a two-state solution and never did:

"I don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu desires to have the same goal achieved that all American presidents and secretaries of state have advocated, and that is a two-state solution. I think he made that quite clear during the campaign, that as long as he’s in charge, there will be no two-state solution, and therefore no Palestinian state. ...

President Obama follows the policy that every president has followed since I’ve been in politics, that a two-state solution is best. And my conviction is, and I would imagine that many people in America would agree, that Netanyahu does not now, and has not really ever, sincerely believed in a two- state solution with a Palestinian state alongside Israel, both living in peace. ...

The end of occupation and settlement expansion that a two-state outcome implies is, in our view, the best guarantee of Israel’s future security and acceptance by its neighbors,” he said. “To help achieve this goal, we feel it is high time that the countries of Europe take a more proactive role, underpinned by a serious financial commitment to assist in Gaza’s reconstruction."

In 2006, Jimmy Carter's book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" was published. In it, he said, "Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East." In 2002, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Jimmy Carter "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

President George Bush proposed the "Roadmap to Mideast Peace" that advocated a two-state solution, a State of Palestine existing side-by-side with a State of Israel in peace and harmony. However, As I wrote in May 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?", no peace plan can 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. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have tried several times to implement the 2003 peace plan, but have failed every time, less because of opposition by Netanyahu, and more by the fact that the people of the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority, and the people of Gaza, governed by Hamas, hate each other and cannot get along. Jerusalem Post and Nobel Prize

European Union in disarray over big surge in migrants this weekend

Over the weekend, European Union rescue boats rescued almost 6,000 migrants coming from Libya to Italy. At one point, 17 separate rescue missions were taking place simultaneously.

The surge in the weekend's migrants was due to the warm weather and calm seas. It's thought that the flood of migrants will continue to increase over the summer, only leveling off in the fall with the colder weather.

In March, EU border control executive director Fabrice Leggeri said that, "We are told there are between 500,000 and one million migrants ready to leave from Libya. We have to be aware of the risks." This figure has not been independently confirmed, but it's believed that there are at least tens of thousands of migrants in Libya queued up to make a trip to Europe, and that hundreds of thousands of migrants will make their way to Europe by the end of the year.

According to reports, migrant smugglers have adopted an effective new method for transiting migrants from Libya to Europe. The smuggler obtains a simple rubber dinghy, fills it up with migrants so that it's dangerously loaded, and sends the dinghy out into the Mediterranean Sea. The migrants are instructed to wait until they see a boat, and then to slash the rubber on the dinghy so that it sinks. Government and commercial vessels are required by international law to rescue passengers on a sinking boat.

EU is funding an enlarged search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean called Operation Triton. However, there is substantial disagreement in the EU about how arriving migrants are to be distributed among the 28 EU countries. Human rights organizations are demanding that each EU country take a suitable percentage of the migrants, but some countries are refusing to take any at all. UK officials, in particular, are refusing to agree to accept any migrants, for fear of increasing the popularity of the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP), which is advocating complete withdrawal of the UK from the EU. There are similar concerns in France because of the rise of Marine Le Pen's Front National. Guardian and Gulf News and International Business Times (6-Mar)

Saudi Arabia denies reports of Saudi ground troops in Yemen

According to reports from Yemen, there were helicopter gunships hovering overhead, as at least 20 troops from a Saudi-led Arab coalition came ashore Sunday in Yemen's southern port city of Aden. Some officials called it a "reconnaissance" mission directed at the Iran-backed Houthi militias that have taken control of most of Yemen.

Saudi Arabia began conducting a fierce campaign of airstrikes against Houthi targets on March 23, ended it on April 21, and then started it up again on April 22. The Saudis have always said that they planned to follow up the air campaign with a ground invasion. It's thought that Sunday's troop landing is in anticipation of the ground invasion.

The Saudi military spokesman denied that there was any troop landing on Sunday, but he was too clever by half:

"I can assure you that no [coalition] forces disembarked on the ground in Aden today."

Analysts are pointing to his use of "today" as a weasel-word to avoid answering the question. AP and The National (UAE) and Arab News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-May-15 World View -- Saudi Arabia denies reports of Saudi ground troops in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-May-2015) Permanent Link
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3-May-15 World View -- War in Syria turns more and more against al-Assad

Economy falters, surprising economists, while stock market bubble explodes

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

War in Syria turns more and more against al-Assad


Smoke rises from buildings due to heavy clashes between Free Syrian army fighters and Syrian government forces.
Smoke rises from buildings due to heavy clashes between Free Syrian army fighters and Syrian government forces.

As I wrote a month ago in "8-Apr-15 World View -- Bashar al-Assad's Syria army showing signs of collapse", major defeats of al-Assad's army in Idlib and Yarmouk led to reports that the army of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad's is badly fracturing.

In the intervening month, there have been increasing reports that al-Assad's army is in serious trouble and, at the same time, his opposition is becoming more powerful.

The Syrian army has suffered enormous casualty rates. Reports indicate that draft-dodging and desertions are up significantly, that the collapse of the Syrian economy has bankrupted the government, and that members of Assad's inner circle are fighting with one another, to the point where Assad's political security chief was beaten to death.

At the same time, there's been a major realignment of the forces opposing al-Assad. In the past, they have been a disorganized collection of militias, but now they're becoming a lot more organized. The situation was summarized in an al-Jazeera interview of Fawaz Gerges from the London School of Economics (my transcription):

"[The big difference now is] unified command. Fighting under basically one particular leadership. Al-Nusra Front and other radical Islamists like Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham, are the driver. The Free Syrian Army really plays a minor role.

And the most important element is the pivotal support that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are providing. The first time the three regional powers are providing fundamental support. Not just in terms of arms, not only in terms of money, command and control, leadership, and management of the battlefield plans. This is very serious. While the Syrian army - what - is exhausted, overextended, and basically does not have enough manpower to face up to this new coalition. ...

The advent of coming to power of King Salman in Saudi Arabia has brought about a major rapprochement between Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Qatar and Turkey. So, the three states have joined together to deliver a blow to the Assad regime, and they have basically done so. Not only in Idlib and Jisr al-Shegour, a strategic town, bordering on the major government power base."

Gerges refers to Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) as a leading Islamist militia, the official arm of al-Qaeda in Syria, but not the only one. The flood of jihadists that have poured into Syria from countries around the world have benefitted not only the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), but also al-Nusra Front and other Islamist militias.

The other major factor is that the three major Sunni Muslim countries -- Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar -- are now lining up against al-Assad. (Gerges doesn't mention Egypt.)

Gerges makes it clear that even though al-Assad's army is in trouble, it is far from defeated. He says that this group of Islamist militias may defeat al-Assad and then take control of Syria's government, but this kind of outcome might take months or years of additional fighting. Business Insider and New York Times and Jerusalem Post

Economy falters, surprising economists, while stock market bubble explodes


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.98 on May 1 (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.98 on May 1 (WSJ)

Analysts were shocked on when data released on Wednesday showed that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter grew sharply less than they had expected -- 0.2%, rather than the predicted 1%, after rising 2.2% in the last quarter of last year.

As usual, the mainstream economists called it just a blip, nothing to be concerned about, but if they really believed that then they wouldn't have been shocked. The problem is that this has been going on for years, since the 2007 credit crunch. Every time the GDP goes up a bit, as it did in Q4, mainstream economists pull out their macroeconomic models from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and announce that the economy is finally on an upsurge, and that the "Great Recession" is finally ending. So the shock is not that they got it wrong this time, but that they got it wrong time after time after time since 2007.

Long-time readers will recall that I used to repeatedly mock and make fun of mainstream economists. Each quarter I would post the consensus forecasts for growth in that quarter, and then the actual growth figures when they came out. It was a major farce.

I always like to point out that mainstream economists didn't foresee and still can't explain the tech bubble at the end of the 1990s, or why it occurred at that time and not during the PC explosion of the 1980s. They didn't foresee and can't explain the Nasdaq crash in 2000, didn't foresee and can't explain the real estate and credit bubbles of the mid-2000s, didn't foresee and can't explain the credit crunch that began in 2007, didn't foresee and can't explain the global financial crisis, and have gotten wrong almost every forecast since then.

The reason that the tech bubble occurred in the late 1990s is because that's exactly the time when the risk-averse survivors of the 1929 crash and Great Depression all disappeared (retired or died), leaving behind the younger generations with no personal knowledge of the dangers of debt. Generational theory can explain almost everything that's occurred in the last 15 years, but mainstream economists never think of this because they have a brain malfunction that keeps them from understanding even the simplest and most obvious generational explanation of anything. At any rate, if they want to get their forecasts right, then they have to dig out the macroeconomic models from the 1930s, and throw away the models from the 70s-90s, which are irrelevant today.

According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (May 1) was astronomically high, just below 21. This is far above the historical average of 14. Furthermore, it was 18 just a year ago, indicating that the stock market bubble is getting so large it's close to exploding. Generational Dynamics predicts that a panic will occur, and 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.

So we have a continuation of their bizarre situation where the economy is getting weaker (or, at least, not getting stronger), which causes the Fed to pursue policies that pour billions of dollars into the banking system, which finds its way into the stock market bubble and into the pockets of the "top 1%." If you want to know why there are no jobs in Baltimore and elsewhere, this is where you should be looking. Bloomberg

Financial firm analyst told to shut up about over-valued assets

ZeroHedge on Saturday posted an analysis of an economic indicator, the rejection of credit applications. This is a crucial indicator of how the economy is doing, since if businesses are suddenly unable to get credit, then it could lead to a severe recession, just like the credit crunch of 2007.

What I found most interesting about the article was a portion of the comments section. The writer submitted a report to a top manager at a large financial firm, and in response he was essentially told to lie:

"=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:01 | 6053912 Haus-Targaryen

On an aside -- I had to do a report on a couple asset classes in the States over the past few months. I submitted it to my boss in the States on Wednesday of last week. I laid out essentially and irrefutably why the asset classes are horribly over-valued, most of the barometers used to measure their value are horribly bastardized, and why we should avoid them like the plague.

My boss sent me an email Thursday in the US around noon EST -- where he said he did not appreciate me injecting my opinions into the report and I should try again without a biased approach. As an example, he said I should take out the labor force participation rate as it is a biased barometer and should use Federal Unemployment numbers exclusively. He said I should quit comparing the CPI to various food, energy, education and medical care price indexes, as it presents an unfair picture of the USD's purchasing power of these assets and should focus on the CPI instead. He said the Baltic dry index is irrelevant and our clients care more about equity performances, and I should take out the BDI.

Essentially he wants to lie through my teeth to these people. I don't know what to do, except know for a fact that, given this guy is one of the top 5 at a firm literally everyone on here knows -- and he is considered to be a genius in his field -- we are all beyond f--ked.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:11 | 6053919 SWCroaker

Haus, my suggestion: get over it, learn to lie. Just don't ever start believing your own lies.

Surviving in a f'ed up situation sometimes puts the positive aspect of retaining your head above those accrued from a moral fight against the system. Look in history to the example of Sophie Scholl, who (in my armchair quarterback opinion) gave her life in protest, and thereby removed herself from the scene for what could have been 70 years of highly successful subversion and rebellion.

Spitting into the wind isn't all that noble in the end.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:23 | 6053941 Haus-Targaryen

This is essentially what I am doing.

"Yeup, MBS are a great and safe buy. Seriously. It's different this time."

I am documenting this via emails to myself. Noting what egregious bulls--t it is, and how I am being forced to do this and by who. No one will hang this around my neck when this whole thing burns to the ground again.

But I guess I gotta keep doing this kinda crap until I can start making some decisions around here -- assuming we survive the next "correction" -- which I am not sure of.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:28 | 6053950 Skateboarder

Hang in there Haus, and give 'em what they want - you don't need to feel bad. It's all lies in the end anyway. Stay true in your heart, and live for the remaining righteous things in life. In the days of manufactured existence, righteousness is you producing 'unmanufactured' output. Always important to remember that job =/= work. Your work is what defines your contribution and connection to the universe, and it can be entirely within your head.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:13 | 6053925 DontGive

Is this a joke? If not, my 2cents:

Keep the original report. Record/note anything he says about it.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:26 | 6053944 Haus-Targaryen

Not a joke. 100% serious. You and I were sharing a brain wave length on that one. See my response above.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:34 | 6053956 GRDguy

Haus-Targaryen: Yu'all in good company.

"The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the greatest liars; the men [and women] they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth." H.L. Mencken (1880 – 1956)

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:34 | 6053962 corporatewhore

whistleblowers and corporate truth sayers aren't held in high regard in the corporate world. Save your ammo just to protect yourself.

=== Sat, 05/02/2015 - 14:28 | 6053949 Haus-Targaryen

Yeah I know. With good enough documentation, I'll be okay."

This kind of stuff was practically unthinkable prior to the rise of Generation-X in the 2000s, as I wrote in my 2008 article, "The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X."

As readers know, I've frequently quoted "experts" on CNBC claiming that stocks are undervalued, even though stock valuations (the P/E ratio) is astronomically high. It's gotten so common that those guys really have no idea any more whether they're lying or telling the truth.

In the above comments, Haus-Targaryen writes, "Yeah I know. With good enough documentation, I'll be okay." This is very naïve. The comments make it very clear that Gen-Xers do not value the truth, and I know from painful experience and the experience of many others that if you can document the truth, then the Gen-Xers will really screw you. This guy had better keep his mouth shut and do what he's told, or he's going to be spending his days writing a blog. ZeroHedge

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-May-15 World View -- War in Syria turns more and more against al-Assad thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-May-2015) Permanent Link
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2-May-15 World View -- Russia and Vietnam agree to mutual defense cooperation pact to counter China

US requests access to Philippines military bases

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Vietnam buys cruise missiles from Russia to threaten China


Russian media cartoon depicting friendly Russia-Vietnam relations during 1965-75, when Vietnam beat the US in the Vietnam war (RBTH)
Russian media cartoon depicting friendly Russia-Vietnam relations during 1965-75, when Vietnam beat the US in the Vietnam war (RBTH)

Vietnam has purchased 50 (3M-14E Klub) supersonic cruise missiles from Russia, to be used in its fleet of (SSK Kilo-class diesel-electric) submarines.

There are two things about this deal. First, popular wisdom says that China and Russia are allies, but Russia is supplying China's enemy with advanced weapons. And second, the missiles can be used by Vietnam against Chinese ships and Chinese land targets. Vietnam is the first Southeast Asian nation to arm its submarine fleet with a land attack missile.

According to one analyst, the land-attack cruise missiles mark a "massive shift" advancing Vietnam's Navy's capabilities. "They’ve given themselves a much more powerful deterrent that complicates China’s strategic calculations."

As we've been reporting, China has been speeding up its military takeover of the South China Sea, using land reclamation projects to build military bases within territories that have historically belonged to other countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines. Vietnam and the Philippines have agreed to establish a strategic military partnership to counter China's belligerence. Vietnam last year announced that it will be purchasing several warships from India, and now Vietnam is taking another step, purchasing advanced cruise missiles from Russia.

The land-attack weapons are capable of precision strikes at a range of 300 km (190 miles). Beyond China's coastal cities, potential targets are the naval base at Sanya on China's Hainan Island, as well as any of the military bases that China is building on reclaimed land in the South China Sea. Reuters and Diplomat

China accuses Vietnam of 'double-dealing' with Russia, US

According to Chinese state media:

"China doesn't want territorial and maritime antagonism with Vietnam standing in the way of implementing [China's regional initiatives]. Vietnam should be roped into this grand vision.

From the angle of Hanoi, the ruling communist party is unwilling and unable to go to extremes and launch head-on challenge against China over territorial claims. Exercising restraints and giving a timely handshake will ease down the tensions in the South China Sea so that it won't risk a spillover effect affecting economic and political interests. Vietnam desires reconciliation more than China does.

Although led by communist parties, China and Vietnam lack political mutual trust. Both nations have historical animosities, but the major crux of the current distrust rests on the quandary caused by sovereignty-related issues. ...

[With regard to Vietnam's relations with Russia and the US], Hanoi is playing "double-dealer" without anyone who has its back, which might eventually put itself in danger."

China's concept that Vietnam might accept China's wonderful "grand vision" and ignore China's annexation of territories historically belonging to Vietnam is a fantasy of the highest order. People who write to me and give me logical reasons why China's vast military buildup doesn't mean that China is preparing a preemptive missile attack on the US should understand that China's massive state of denial is as bad as that of Washington and Brussels, and leads them to believe that they can easily win a war against anyone, including the US. This is not a rational belief, but an emotional fantasy belief, which is supported by many Chinese media reports that I've quoted over the years.

China clearly dislikes Russia's improved relationships with Vietnam, and accuses Russia of wanting to establish a base in Vietnam, which is probably true. In 2012, China called the relationship "unrighteous," and rebuked Russia for preferring to cooperate with “ill-doers” over nurturing a partnership with China. However, nothing in the Vietnam-Russia relationship is likely to deter China's accelerating military buildup in the South China Sea. Global Times (Beijing) and Jamestown

Russia and Vietnam agree to mutual defense cooperation pact to counter China

During the visit in early April of Russia's prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to Hanoi, the two countries approved a draft military cooperation pact formalizing bilateral defense cooperation. Although China wasn't mentioned directly in the pact, it's clear that China is the target.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is a logical turn of events. Russia and Vietnam have had a close relationship for decades, and it was Russian weapons that helped Vietnam win its war with the United States. On the other hand, Russia and China have centuries of hatreds and crisis wars between them, as do Vietnam and China. In fact, Russia and China were almost at war in the 1960s, while Vietnam and China actually were at war in the late 1970s.

The common wisdom is that Russia and China are natural allies, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It's true that Russia and China are the two countries today that are annexing other country's territories, as Hitler did in the late 1930s, and Russia and China support each other in the United Nations Security Council. But that relationship can be described as: "There's honor among thieves."

Russia recently signed a big energy deal with China to help bolster its economy, which is wracked by low oil prices and Western sanctions. However, many analysts have pointed out that this energy deal was a move of desperation by Russia, which was forced to agree to sell oil and gas to China at the lowest possible prices. So instead of being natural allies, Russia is desperately dependent on China.

Russia points outs that it is not a direct party to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but favors having the disputes adjudicated by the appropriate United Nations maritime courts, something that China rejects because it knows it would lose in court.

Russia's mutual defense agreement with Vietnam appears to be an attempt to counter-balance China's influence in the region, as well as Russia's own extreme economic dependence on China. Jamestown and Vietnam Net and Russia Beyond the Headlines

US requests access to Philippines military bases

The United States has asked for access to eight military bases in the Philippines to rotate troops, aircraft, and ships, to counter China's rapid military buildup in the South China Sea. These include bases in Subic and Clark, from which the Philippines ejected the US in 1992. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-May-15 World View -- Russia and Vietnam agree to mutual defense cooperation pact to counter China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-May-2015) Permanent Link
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1-May-15 World View -- US Navy will escort US-flagged ships through Strait of Hormuz

Iran's ship seizure may be a message to Saudi Arabia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan jails ten militants for Malala Yousafzai attack, but not prime suspect


Malala Yousafzai in Oslo in December 2014 (Reuters)
Malala Yousafzai in Oslo in December 2014 (Reuters)

A Pakistan court has jailed 10 Taliban militants for life for involvement in the attack on Malala Yousafzai. In 2012, Yousafzai was shot in attack by Pakistan's Taliban that raised international outrage. It's thought that the motive for the attack was Yousafzai's activism for girls' education in opposition to the views of the Taliban.

After the attack, Yousafzai was flown to the UK for treatment, where she fully recovered. She then won the Nobel Peace Prize and became an international spokesman for girls' education.

Pakistan was under international pressure to identify Yousafzai's attackers and bring them to justice. Thursday's announcement was apparently intended to satisfy those concerns.

However, instead of satisfying concerns, the announcement raised a number of new questions. The announcement did not say when and where the trial was held, when and where the ten men had been arrested, or how they were linked to the attack on Yousafzai. None of the ten men sentenced to jail participated in the actual shooting, but were allegedly linked in some way to plotting the shooting. The ten men did not include the principal suspects for the crime, nor the prime suspect Ataullah Khan, a 23-year-old militant, who is now suspected of hiding out in Afghanistan.

Many Pakistanis have mixed emotions about Yousafzai, just as they have mixed emotions about the Taliban. According to one analyst, "It may sound completely shocking, but many people are convinced that Malala is some kind of Western agent who was planted to disgrace Pakistan." The result is that many people see Thursday's convictions as a token verdict, a way for the government to say to its international audience that it's taking the terrorism problem seriously, but without taking an action strong enough to upset the Pakistani people. CBS News and BBC and Public Radio International

US Navy will escort US-flagged ships through Strait of Hormuz

In a significant change in the US military posture in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy warships will now accompany US-flagged commercial vessels that pass through the Strait of Hormuz. The follows two incidents in the last week, one on Friday where four Iranian patrol ships harassed a US-flagged cargo vessel, and one on Tuesday where Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) boarded the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged ship and forced it into an Iranian port.

Iran's media have made unsubstantiated claims that the Maersk Tigris is a US-owned ship. In fact, it's actually owned and managed by Hamburg-based Rickmers Ship Management. However, since the ship sails under a Marshall Islands flag, it may be necessary for the US to defend the ship from Iran, under a 1983 defense treaty with the Marshall Islands. Iran is now claiming that the Maersk Tigris will be released when Iran receives restitution for some cargo that was lost in 2005.

According to US officials, the fear is that allowing Iran to continue to harass and board ships could lead to a major confrontation, and the hope is that by accompanying commercial ships, Iran will back down rather than confront.

At any rate, it seems that the new policy would not have made any difference to the Maersk Tigris, since it's not a US-flagged ship. CNN and Reuters

Iran's ship seizure may be a message to Saudi Arabia

The alleged commercial dispute that gave rise to Iran's seizure of the Maersk Tigris was ten years old, giving rise to the question of why Iran chose this particular time for the seizure. In fact, according to an analysis, it may be that this time was chosen as a signal to Saudi Arabia to the West to expect further maritime confrontations in the future.

One of the justifications that the US administration has been giving for making concession after concession after concession to Iran in the nuclear talks is the hope that Iran will completely change personality once the agreement is signed and the sanctions are lifted. In this fantasy, Iran starts cooperating with the West in Syria and helps bring the Houthis to heel in Yemen.

According to the analysis, the seizure of the Tigris is one of a series of signals that the opposite will happen: That once the agreement is signed, and the sanctions are lifted, Iran will be emboldened to adopt a more aggressive regional posture in the coming years — perhaps even rolling back to the pre-1996 era, when Iran and its proxies operated more actively against US interests in the Middle East, culminating in the Khobar Towers bombing against American troops in Saudi Arabia.

The US and Saudi Arabia have been sending their own messages to Iran, by setting up an air and sea blockade around Yemen to prevent Iran from delivering arms and supplies to the Houthis in Yemen. Just last week, a convoy of cargo ships from Iran had attempted to run the blockade, but was forced back by US naval ships. There was also an Iranian attempt to land a supply plane in the airport in Yemen's capital city Sanaa, and that attempt was also repelled. On that very same day, Iran boarded and seized the Maersk Tigris in the Strait of Hormuz.

With Iran provoking naval and aerial confrontations in the Persian Gulf and over and around Yemen, the possibility of an incident that spirals into a larger military confrontation grows every day. Farzin Nadimi, The Washington Institute For Near East Policy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-May-15 World View -- US Navy will escort US-flagged ships through Strait of Hormuz thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-May-2015) Permanent Link
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30-Apr-15 World View -- 20,000 refugees flee violence in Burundi, fearing Hutu-Tutsi war

Generational history of Hutu and Tutsi tribes

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

20,000 refugees flee violence in Burundi, fearing Hutu-Tutsi war


Police clash with anti-Nkurunziza protesters in Burundi's capital city, Bujumbura (AFP)
Police clash with anti-Nkurunziza protesters in Burundi's capital city, Bujumbura (AFP)

Some 20,000 people from Burundi have sought refuge in neighboring Rwanda or Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), potentially destabilizing the region. The violence is being triggered President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in June. His opponents say that this violates the constitution, while Nkurunziza says that his first term doesn't count because he was appointed by the parliament, rather than being directly elected.

The police have been shooting bullets, tear gas and water cannon, and about ten people have been killed in four days of violence between youthful protesters and police. The government has blocked messaging services including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and Tango, and some radio stations have been shut down.

Burundi's last generational crisis war occurred in 1994, when 300,000 people were killed in a civil war between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis.

Most people are familiar with the massive civil war between Hutus and Tutsis that occurred in Rwanda in 1994, killing close to a million people. A war in neighboring Burundi occurred at roughly the same time, though it was overshadowed by the Rwanda war.

Pierre Nkurunziza was a Hutu militia leader in the 1994 war. He was appointed president in 2005 according to the terms of a peace agreement, settling the 1994 civil war, and he ran unopposed and was reelected in 2010.

The 2005 agreement specified a power-sharing arrangement for Burundi's government, with a 60-40 split between Hutus and Tutsis, respectively. With the Hutus in control of the government for ten years, young Tutsis are now protesting Nkurunziza's decision to run for another five-year term. Many people fear a return to an all-out civil war, as in 1994, but Burundi is now in a generational Awakening era, so an all-out civil war is impossible, although periods of brief violence can occur at any time. AP and Radio France International and BBC

Generational history of Hutu and Tutsi tribes


Physical comparison of a Tutsi, Hutu and Twa (Mount Holyoke)
Physical comparison of a Tutsi, Hutu and Twa (Mount Holyoke)

There are numerous histories of the two tribes on the internet, and most of them seem to agree that the first indigenous tribe in what are now Rwanda and Burundi was the pigmy Twa tribe, who lived by hunting and gathering in forests.

It's not known where the Hutus came from, but they displaced the Twa from the 5th to the 11th century, who then moved farther into the forest.

Let me pause here to discuss the word "displaced." The internet histories almost make it seem like the Hutu came in, and the Twa said, "Hi Hutu! We'll just move further into the forest to make room for you!" In a couple of cases, the internet histories claim that all of these tribes lived together peacefully until the white man colonists came in the mid 1800s. This is typical of the worst of the moronic nonsense that you find on the internet.

If the Hutu "displaced" the Twa, it would have been done by a series of bloody, brutal generational crisis wars. And, like all generational crisis wars, they undoubtedly involved massacres, rape, slavery and torture. The Hutu were taller and stronger than the Twa, and they took advantage of their greater weight and strength to smash the Twa and take over their lands. The reason that we don't know about these wars, or about any wars prior to the mid 1800s colonization, is because no records were kept prior to the mid 1800s colonization.

The same story applies to the migration of the Tutsis from southern Ethiopia, starting in the 14th century. Once again, the Tutsis were taller and stronger than the Hutus, and there were undoubtedly a series of bloody, violent generational crisis wars that gave the Tutsis control over the Hutus.

In the history of almost any country, you'll find conflicts between farmers and herders. Farmers would be infuriated when herds of animals (such as cattle or camels) trampled their crops. They'd respond by building fences, and that infuriated the cowboys. There were numerous conflicts between farmers and cowboys in America in the 1800s.

But when the farmers and herders are from two different ethnic groups, then the conflicts over land use become the core triggers that lead from one generational crisis war to the next one. After a particularly bloody war, the survivors vow that nothing like that can ever happen again, so they set up rules to prevent it. In the case of farmers and herders, the farmers agree to set up pathways across their lands for the herders' animals to travel, and the herders agree to follow those pathways and not trample crops. But as decades pass, and younger generations grow up with no personal memory of the preceding crisis war, all the old agreements unravel, and there's a new generational crisis war 60-80 years after the end of the last one.

In the case of the generational crisis war currently going on in the Central African Republic, the Muslims are herders and the Christians are farmers. In the case of the Darfur crisis war, the Sudanese "Arabs" are herders and the "black Africans" are farmers.

In the case of the Hutus and Tutsis, the Hutus are farmers and the Tutsis are herders. In European terms, the Tutsis became the nobility, and the Hutus became the serfs. The relationship was called "ubuhake," which means "to work for access to land." The Tutsi herders controlled the land and the animal pathways. The Hutus were given access to the land and, in return, paid taxes to the Tutsis.

When the German colonists arrived in the late 1800s, they observed that the Tutsis were in charge and that the Hutus worked for the Tutsis, and the Germans implemented institutions to keep it that way. Germany colonized the region as German East Africa, which included today's Rwanda and Burundi. Some histories say that there was a eugenics angle to this, suggesting that the taller, stronger, lighter-skinned Tutsis were "more European" than the Hutus, and that they were therefore the "superior race," deserving of power and influence.

World War I was a generational crisis war for the Hutus and Tutsis, and when it ended, Germany lost control of German East Africa, with control given to Belgium in 1919. The Belgians continued to make the distinction between Tutsi and Hutu the basis of their colonial system. Finally, we have some records of what was going on, and we can see a typical generational Awakening era beginning in the 1930s, with the major event being a large Hutu revolt in 1934 in Ndora, a Rwanda farming community populated mainly by Hutu people.

What almost always happens in a country between generational crisis civil wars is that the two groups become peaceful at the climax of the first crisis war, but starting 15-20 years later, the youth from the first post-war generation start rioting and committing intermittent acts of violence. There follows decades of periods of violence alternating with "peace agreements." Each new period of violence is worse than the previous one.

By the 1960s, the periods of ethnic violence between the Hutus and the Tutsis were becoming chaotic. In July 1962, the two countries Rwanda and Burundi were formed, with Rwanda being a mostly Hutu nation, and Burundi being a mostly Tutsi nation. In December 1963, several hundred Tutsi guerrillas entered southern Rwanda from Burundi. The Rwandans referred to all Tutsis as "cockroaches," and the Rwandan army eliminate the intruders. Within days, some 14,000 Tutsis were massacred in southern Rwanda, in a coordinated campaign described by Bertrand Russell as 'the most horrible and systematic massacre' since the Holocaust.

Violence and peace agreements continued to alternate. In 1993, Rwanda's president Juvénal Habyarimana signed a peace agreement with Tutsi leaders known as the "Arusha accords," having been signed in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Arusha accords were never implemented. On April 6, 1994, a plane crash killed both Burundi's president Cyprien Ntayamira and Rwanda's president Juvénal Habyarimana. It's believed that the plane was shot down by a missile, with the Hutus and Tutsis blaming each other for the missile. That plane crash triggered the massive genocidal war between the Hutus and the Tutsis, killing 300,000 people in Burundi and close to a million people in Rwanda.

In 2005, new "Arusha Accords" were signed, this time by the people of Burundi, to settle the 1994 war. Those accords resulting in the creation of the 60-40 government of Hutus and Tutsis, respectively, and the selection of former Hutu militia leader Pierre Nkurunziza as president for two terms. His recent announcement that he will run for a third term has triggered new violence between Hutus and Tutsis.

Today, there are fears of a major new war between the Hutus and the Tutsis, but that's impossible at this time, because the countries are in a generational Awakening era. There will, of course, be outbreaks of ethnic violence, alternating with peace agreements, but nothing like the massive war that occurred in 1994. Burundi - Conflict Profile and A History of Hutu-Tutsi Conflict and History of Hutu – Tutsi Relations and UPenn - Burundi history History of Rwanda

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Apr-15 World View -- 20,000 refugees flee violence in Burundi, fearing Hutu-Tutsi war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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29-Apr-15 World View -- Iran seizes cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz

Greece's PM Tsipras desperately seeks financial crisis solution

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran seizes cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz


Iranian army troops wearing ghillie camouflage suits in a parade in Tehran (CNN)
Iranian army troops wearing ghillie camouflage suits in a parade in Tehran (CNN)

Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Navy (IRGCN) has been taking actions in the Strait of Hormuz described as "provocative" towards commercial ships under US protection.

In Friday's incident, four Iranian patrol ships surrounded the Maersk Kensington, a US-flagged cargo vessel, in the Strait of Hormuz. The patrol ships harassed the Kensington for a while, and then backed off.

In Tuesday's incident, IRGCN patrol boats fired shots at a commercial cargo vessel passing through the Strait of Hormuz, and then forcibly boarded the ship and directed it to an Iranian port. The vessel was the Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged ship.

In my World View article yesterday on the US defense agreement with Japan, I provided a list of countries with which the US has a mutual defense treaty: Japan, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, the Philippines, the ANZUS agreement with Australia and New Zealand, a special treaty with Iceland, and the NATO agreement with all of Europe.

Well, today I have to add one more to the list: The Marshall Islands. According to the State Department:

"The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a sovereign nation. While the government is free to conduct its own foreign relations, it does so under the terms of the Compact. The United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands, and the Government of the Marshall Islands is obligated to refrain from taking actions that would be incompatible with these security and defense responsibilities. The United States and the Marshall Islands have full diplomatic relations. Marshallese citizens may work and study in the United States without a visa, and they join the U.S. military at a higher rate than any U.S. state."

The Marshall Islands is group of hundreds of islands northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. It hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.

The US Navy is monitoring the situation, but currently plans no further action. The U.S. believes that Iranians will "send the ship on its way," according to an official.

It's not known why Iran seized the Tigris, though press reports give a partial explanation that "the ship owner had some long-standing overdue payments that it had to settle" with an Iranian company.

These incidents come at a time when there are concerns about a possible naval confrontation in the Gulf of Aden between US ships and Iranian warships attempting to supply weapons to Houthis in Yemen.

They also come at a time when the US and the West are close to completing a nuclear agreement with Iran that would result in the lifting of all sanctions, possibly immediately. The US administration has made one concession after another to Iran so that the agreement will be consummated, and it may be that the administration is playing down the recent naval incidents in order to avoid provoking a crisis that might scuttle the nuclear deal. US State Dept. and CNN and Fars (Tehran) and Defense One

Greece's PM Tsipras desperately seeks financial crisis solution

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras telephoned Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday evening, and reports indicate that Tsipras begged for mercy. Without an additional bailout loan, Greece will go bankrupt in about a month. It's believed that going bankrupt will force Greece to leave the eurozone and return to the drachma currency.

On Monday, Tsipras fired his colorful finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who attended Friday's Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers, and was accused of being a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur.

No solution exists for Greece's financial crisis, and yet a way has always been found for the Greeks and the Europeans to postpone the final reckoning, "kicking the can down the road." The Europeans are now desperately looking for one more postponement, but positions have become so hardened that even a temporary solution may be impossible.

Tsipras's far-left Syriza party won January's election by promising that he would not allow any more austerity measures to be imposed on Greece. The Europeans have said that Greece will not get any more bailout money without committing to a list of reforms that address various economic issues, including Greece's bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies.

Putting such a list in writing would violate Tsipras's campaign promises. Not putting it in writing violates Tsipras's promises to the Europeans.

On Tuesday, Tsipras tried a different approach: if the Europeans insisted on further austerity measures, then he would call a referendum to see if the Greek people accept the austerity measures. This appears to be a final desperate gasp, since there isn't enough time for a national referendum, and even if one was held, it wouldn't resolve the impasse with Europe.

So even a temporary kick-the-can solution would require a major climbdown by one side or the other, and it wouldn't buy much time anyway. Reuters and Kathimerini and Deutsche Welle

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Apr-15 World View -- Iran seizes cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Apr-15 World View -- US reaffirms defense of Japan's Senkaku Islands

Japan-U.S. military guidelines will include 'collective self-defense'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US reaffirms defense of Japan's Senkaku Islands


John Kerry and Shinzo Abe in Boston on Sunday
John Kerry and Shinzo Abe in Boston on Sunday

A day before Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe visits president Barack Obama in the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed that a treaty that the United States and Japan signed in 1960 requires the United States to defend the Senkaku Islands from an attack by China.

According to Kerry, "Commitment to Japan's security remains ironclad and covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku islands."

There has been some concern in Asia whether the Obama administration would honor America's defense treaties. This concern increased substantially after Obama's flip-flop on Syria, declaring that use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer," and then backing off once Syria's president Bashar al-Assad killed hundreds of people with Sarin gas.

After World War II, America signed a large number of mutual defense treaties with other countries. These include agreements with Japan, South Korea, Israel, Taiwan, the Philippines, the ANZUS agreement with Australia and New Zealand, a special treaty with Iceland, and the NATO agreement with all of Europe.

Many people have questioned whether the administration would honor these mutual defense treaties during an actual attack. Kerry's statement was meant to reassure the Japanese.

China has been claiming huge territories in the South China Sea and East China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries. Almost no one outside of China believes that China's claims are valid, and China is refusing to submit the claims to the United Nations for adjudication, knowing that it would lose.

In the South China Sea, China is in the midst of a massive military buildup, as we recently described. However, China has moved more cautiously with the Senkakus (called Diaoyu by the Chinese), knowing that a military assault on the Senkakus could provoke a direct military confrontation with the United States. AFP

Japan-U.S. military guidelines will include 'collective self-defense'

Since the end of World War II, Japan and the United States have had mutual defense treaties. However, Japan's constitution after WW II has been a "pacifist" constitution, prohibiting any military action except in response to a direct attack on Japan itself. This meant that the mutual defense treaty was pretty much a one-way affair, in that the U.S. was committed to defending Japan, but Japan could not defend the U.S.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has stated that he wants to remove this restriction from the constitution, but amending the constitution would be a difficult process, and there are many people in Japan who would strongly oppose the change.

So in 2014, Abe made a unilateral political decision to "reinterpret" the self-defense clause of the constitution to allow for what is called "collective self-defense." I discussed this issue in detail in "5-May-14 World View -- Japan debates 'collective self-defense' to protect America and Japan".

Under international law, if a nation's ally is attacked by another country, then the nation may use its armed forces in defense of its ally. This is known as "collective self-defense," and it particularly can be invoked by either of two countries that have a mutual defense agreement, such as the mutual defense agreement signed by Japan and the United States. However, many people in Japan interpret the constitution's self-defense restriction to mean that collective self-defense is prohibited in Japan's constitution. Abe's reinterpretation makes collective self-defense possible.

The new guidelines between Japan and the U.S. will explicitly state that collective self-defense is allowed for both countries. Kyodo News (Japan) and Japan News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Apr-15 World View -- US reaffirms defense of Japan's Senkaku Islands thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Apr-15 World View -- China extends its military buildup with Pakistan

Air strikes, naval shelling and ground fighting escalate in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

The China - Pakistan love story


Xi Jinping and Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday in Islamabad (AP)
Xi Jinping and Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday in Islamabad (AP)

China's president Xi Jinping made a "historic" visit to Pakistan early last week to visit prime minister Nawaz Sharif and to sign strategic military and economic agreements between the two countries.

As the visit began, an essay by Xi appeared in Pakistan's press describing the love affair between the two countries:

"This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother. Over the years, thanks to the nurturing of generations of leaders and people from all sectors of both countries, China-Pakistan friendship has flourished like a tree growing tall and strong. No matter how the circumstances in our two countries, the region and the world change, our bilateral relations have enjoyed sound and steady growth. We have always respected, understood and supported each other on issues concerning our respective core interests. In Pakistan, our relationship is poetically hailed as a friendship “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey.” In China, Pakistan is known as a sincere and reliable friend. Obviously, China-Pakistan friendship is deeply felt in the hearts of our two peoples."

In May 2011, Pakistan's ambassador to China Masood Khan described the relationship between Pakistan and China as "higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel, sweeter than honey, and dearer than eyesight."

It sounds like true love to me. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan)

China extends its military buildup with Pakistan

Following last week's visit by China's president Xi Jinping, China will deliver another 50 JF-17 Thunder aircraft to Pakistan over a period of three years. 60 of these aircraft have already been delivered, making a total of 110. The jets are considered a symbol of friendship between Pakistan and China, because the technology was developed jointly by the two countries.

This comes at a time of an accelerating military buildup by the Chinese and their ally Pakistan. China is annexing other countries' territories in the South China Sea, and is aggressively building military bases in those territories. China is building the Gwadar Port military naval base in Pakistan on the Indian Ocean, where they can launch missile attacks on America's base in Diego Garcia and on American military bases and aircraft carriers in the Mideast. And China agreed last week to build a railroad line from western China, through Pakistan to the Gwadar Port base, to be used for both commerce and military transport. The News (Pakistan) and Want China Times (Taiwan) and Daily Times (Pakistan)

Air strikes, naval shelling and ground fighting escalate in Yemen

It's been just a week since Saudi Arabia announced that it's met its military objectives in Yemen, that "Operation Decisive Storm" was ending, and "Operation Restoration of Hope" was beginning.

On Sunday, the Saudi-led coalition pounded several cities with airstrikes, including the capital city Sanaa. There was heavy street fighting, and relentless artillery, tank and heavy machine gun fire through Taiz, Yemen's third largest city. Naval warships and airstrikes pounded Yemen's second largest city, the port city of Aden.

Iran continues to keep a fleet of warships in the Gulf of Aden, raising concerns that Iran is supplying weapons to the Houthis. Reuters and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Apr-15 World View -- China extends its military buildup with Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Apr-15 World View -- Greece's government will confiscate cash reserves from all public institutions

Vietnam and the Philippines establish a strategic military partnership to counter China

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece's government will confiscate cash reserves from all public institutions


The Hellenic Parliament building, where a decree was adopted to confiscate cash reserves of Greece's public institutions
The Hellenic Parliament building, where a decree was adopted to confiscate cash reserves of Greece's public institutions

After a bitter debate, Greece's parliament on Friday adopted a decree ordering all public institutions to hand over their cash reserves to the central bank.

This means that everything from municipalities and provinces to state universities will have to give up all the spare cash in their bank accounts. 1,400 public institutions will be handing over their reserves.

The money will be used to cover "the state's urgent needs, which amount to three billion euros over the next 15 days." The government estimates the decree will raise some 1.5 billion euros, but local media have put the figure at around 400 million euros.

Mayors, labor unions and college directors have been complaining bitterly about the decree. According to one public sector labor union leader, "It is unjust and unacceptable for the state to manage municipalities' funds." Kathimerini and AFP and Reuters

Greece's people face the future with anxiety and dread

Some individual people can face the future realistically, even when it's obvious that the future is going to be bad.

But when you talk about entire populations of people or generations of people, self-delusion is the rule. The British ignored the Nazis' military buildup. America ignored the real estate bubble in the mid-2000s decade, and they're ignoring China's military buildup today. Actually, "ignored" is the wrong word. In each case, they deluded themselves into believing what was obviously true was not.

Ever since the Greek financial crisis began in the 2010, I've been writing that no solution exists, and that one day Greece will be forced into financial bankruptcy. Honestly, I thought it would have happened before now, but I underestimated the depth and extent of the self-delusion that not only the Greek people but also the European politicians would inflict on themselves and each other. In the course of writing about the Greek crisis over the past five years, some of the unbelievably ridiculous things that I've quoted from European officials have been truly astounding.

But at some point, reality overcomes self-delusion. And it seems to be the case that that point is being reached right now.

Friday's Eurogroup meeting of the eurozone's finance ministers was behind closed doors but was a verbal slugfest, descending into acrimony and name-calling, according to reports. Greece's finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who is an expert on game theory, was accused of being a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to call for calm.

After the meeting, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said flatly that there will be no money given to Greece unless and until Varoufakis produces a list of committed reforms that he promised in February. The list would need to address various economic issues, including Greece's bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies. Varoufakis has repeatedly promised that the list would be provided in a few days, and now the other finance ministers have apparently concluded that he's a charlatan.

The Greek people are watching all this with a mixture of dread, shock and foreboding. Polls indicate that over 70% of them want Greece to remain in the eurozone, but they see it all slipping away. Self-delusion is giving way to reality.

It's not just the name-calling at the Eurogroup. The Greek people have seen news stories that the government will be running out of money in a couple of weeks, and will paying salaries and pensions in IOUs. And now they hear that the government will be confiscating any available cash held by local governments and state organizations.

They fear their savings will be next. Anyone who can move their money out of a Greek bank into a foreign bank is doing so. Undoubtedly, a lot of people's mattresses are also being filled up with their life savings.

According to one communist MP:

"Even if there is a temporary solution it will not solve our problems. Our country produces nothing. Its manufacturing base has been destroyed, it is de-industrialised and agriculturally deserted. What lies ahead is great, great hardship."

When even the communists give up their delusions, you know that reality is really taking hold.

A word of warning. When a population turns from self-delusion to reality, they find someone to blame, and sometimes they do dangerous things, like turn fascist or start a war. We've seen nothing like that in Greece so far, but if things get extremely desperate, then the climate could change quickly. Guardian (London) and Bloomberg and Kathimerini

China speeds up its military takeover of the South China Sea

High-resolution satellite images reveal that in the space of ten weeks, China has built an artificial island on top of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands group, with the apparent intention of building a runway that could support virtually all types of combat and supply aircraft in China’s navy and air force.

This is only one of three massive land reclamation projects that China is pursuing to establish military bases in the South China Sea.

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.

Lacking legal authority, what we're seeing is a frenzied military buildup in the South China Sea with a speed, scale and intensity that have few or no parallels in history outside of wartime. Diplomat

Vietnam and the Philippines establish a strategic military partnership to counter China

The Philippines and Vietnam have had minimal strategic military ties. But the two countries are responding to China's military buildup and belligerence in the South China Sea by establishing a "Strategic Partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam," with the agreement to be signed in May or June. Under the agreement, the two countries will conduct joint naval drills and scientific studies in the South China Sea, defying China's claims. They committed to resolve differences in a "constructive manner without resorting to the threat or use of force." Philippine Star and Council on Foreign Relations

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Apr-15 World View -- Greece's government will confiscate cash reserves from all public institutions thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Apr-15 World View -- Turkey, Armenia hold dueling WW1 centennials over genocide and Gallipoli

The politics of genocide and rape -- in Turkey and elsewhere

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey, Armenia hold dueling WW1 centennials over genocide and Gallipoli


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

There are so many bizarre things going on in the world today, and this one has to be near the top of the list.

For Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, the most important 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 has scheduled a centennial commemoration of the start of the deportations for next month on April 24.

In view of Armenia's genocide commemoration, Turkey has moved its Gallipoli commemoration to April 24 as well, so that the two commemorations compete with one another.

So on Friday there were two dueling centennial commemorations: The Battle of Gallipoli was commemorated in Istanbul, the capital city of Turkey, while the Armenian genocide was commemorated in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. Daily Sabah (Istanbul)

Turkey commemorates the 100th anniversary of Anzac day and the Battle of Gallipoli

"Anzac" is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and April 24 is commemorated every year in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac Day, the first day of the Battle of Gallipoli. Australia had only become an independent nation in 1901, and New Zealand in 1907, so these were very young nations, anxious to prove themselves to the world.

Here's a summary of the Battle of Gallipoli:

350,000 British troops, 25,000 died
79,000 French troops, 10,000 died
74,000 Anzac troops, 10,000 died
400,000 Turkish troops, 86,000 died

The Battle of Gallipoli was pretty much a disaster for all sides, but it's still remembered as a major turning point in the history of Australia and New Zealand. The character of these two nations was forever shaped by this experience. BBC

Turkey debates its role in the Armenian genocide

At the same time that Turkey was fighting the British, Irish, Australians and Kiwis at the Battle of Gallipoli, Turkey, which is a Muslim nation, was also in a war with Russia, which is an Orthodox Christian nation, in the Caucasus region.

Turkey (as the Ottoman Empire) and Russia were previously in a generational crisis war with the Crimean War of the 1850s. That war was extremely bloody and a disaster for Turkey, and so now they were fighting again, and nothing mattered to Turkey at this time than the continued existence of Turkey and its way of life.

Armenians also are Orthodox Christian, and some 2 million of them were living in Turkey at the time of World War I. To the leaders of Turkey at the time, the Armenians living in Turkey were an existential threat to Turkey, and a decision was made to "remove" all the Armenians living in eastern Turkey.

On April 24, 1915, the Young Turks government of Turkey arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water. Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot. In other cases killing squads or "butcher battalions" drowned Armenians in rivers, threw them off cliffs, and burned them alive. The Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.

Turkey generally agrees that many Armenians died at the time, but they claim that the atrocities were not part of any organized plan. Furthermore they point to the fact that some 2.5 million Turkish Muslims also lost their lives during World War I.

As a result, Turkey has always denied that what happened in 1915 was a genocide. However, it's worth noting that this opinion is not unanimous in Turkey, and many Turks believe that they should just concede that a genocide occurred in order to defuse the issue and move on. History.com and Hurriyet (Istanbul) and Der Spiegel (Germany)

The politics of genocide and rape -- in Turkey and elsewhere

As in the case of the word "rape," I'm pretty cynical about the use of the word "genocide."

Some of the bloodiest genocides of the 20th century were perpetrated by Great Socialist or Communist leaders -- Stalin in Ukraine in the Holodomor in the 1930s, Mao Zedong in China's Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, Pol Pot in the Killing Fields of Cambodia in the 1970s -- without a peep from liberals.

This became clear to me in 1975, when far-left liberal feminist Jane Fonda and far-left "anti-war" liberal John Kerry (currently Secretary of State) approved of the massive slaughter of millions of Cambodians by Great Socialist Leader Pol Pot. Fonda and Kerry couldn't have cared less how many people starved or tortured, had their fingernails pulled or eyes gouged out, as long as it was done by a socialist. And this was a decade after college kids were carrying copies of the "Little Red Book of Chairman Mao" while Chairman Mao was massacring tens of millions of people.

The same kind of thing is true of rape. When Bill Clinton was credibly charged in the late 1990s of raping several women, it became clear that ultra-feminist liberal rape victim Susan Estrich couldn't have cared less how many women Clinton had raped. The same was true of his wife, Hillary Clinton. These days, ultra-feminist rape activists couldn't care less how many women were raped by the sleazy Julian Assange, who has been hiding out in the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid facing rape charges.

So I mention all that to make clear how cynical I am about these kinds of charges. They have absolutely no meaning except to be used hypocritically as a political weapon, and generally have no relationship to the truth.

So now let's turn to whether the deaths of a million Armenians in Turkey in 1915 can be classified as "genocide."

First off, the legal definition of genocide can't apply, because genocide wasn't a "crime" until 1948, and the slaughter occurred in 1915. In fact, the word "genocide" didn't even exist in 1915. It was only invented in the 1940s, in reaction to the Nazi Holocaust.

But let's ignore all that, and apply the legal definition of genocide to 1915 Turkey. Here's the first part of the legal definition in the "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide" adopted by the United Nations in 1948:

"Article I

The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.

Article II

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article III

The following acts shall be punishable:

  • Genocide;
  • Conspiracy to commit genocide;
  • Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
  • Attempt to commit genocide;
  • Complicity in genocide.

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."

So, if we apply this definition, then it's clear that the Armenian Genocide was indeed a genocide. The Young Turks government deported millions of Armenians, subjecting them to starvation, exhaustion and death. This easily complies with the UN definition.

However, so do a lot of other things. I point to the Allied firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and the use of nuclear weapons on Japanese cities at the end of World War II as examples of mass slaughter that also clearly fit the UN definition of genocide.

Generational Dynamics has its own definition of genocide that differs slightly (though not significantly) from the United Nations definition. And acts of genocide are crucial in understanding how a society or nation goes from one generational crisis war to the next.

During a generational crisis war, like World War II for America, the value of an individual human life gets smaller and smaller, and the only thing that matters is the survival of the society and its way of life. Every crisis war ends in some variation of what is called "an explosive genocidal climax," where the value of an individual human life is effectively zero, and nothing matters except winning the war at any cost. At that time, the war can end with a mass slaughter that's regretted for decades.

After the war ends, the winners write the history of what happened, and decide which actions (the losers' actions) were genocidal and which were not (the winners' actions). However there is something that the survivors of both the winning and losing side agree on: What happened is so horrible that it must never be permitted to happen again. And I emphasize that both the winners and losers feel the same way about this. And so they create austere rules and institutions to prevent it from happening again.

This leads to a generational Awakening era (like America in the 1960s), where the young post-war generations reject their parents' austere rules and institutions, and the value of an individual human life becomes paramount again. This leads to a generational Unraveling era, like America in the 1990s, where all the austere rules and institutions completely unravel. Finally, the society enters a new generational Crisis era, as America did in the early 2000s. All the survivors from the previous crisis war are gone (retired or dead), and there's no one left who remembers the horrors of the previous genocidal climax, or who vowed never to let it happen again. And then it does happen again. History.com and UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Apr-15 World View -- Turkey, Armenia hold dueling WW1 centennials over genocide and Gallipoli thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Apr-15 World View -- Europe pledges to solve the unsolvable migrant problem

The flood of farmer suicides continues to grow in India

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

The flood of farmer suicides continues to grow in India


Gajendra Singh's suicide note (Indian Express)
Gajendra Singh's suicide note (Indian Express)

On Thursday, a farmer in India's Uttar Pradesh, near Delhi, committed suicide by consuming pesticide. He had suffered crop losses due to bad weather.

Just one day earlier, Gajendra Singh, a farmer, had committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in the middle of a crowded anti-government political rally. The farmer left a suicide note:

"My father has thrown me out of house as my entire crop had been destroyed. I have three children. ... Please tell me, how do I go home.

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan."

The last line means "Hail the soldier, hail the farmer." It's a slogan from the 1960s, when India was facing two simultaneous crises -- war with Pakistan, and a severe shortage of food.

The farmer killed himself in support of the political rally, whose purpose was to protest proposed changes by prime minister Narendra Modi to India's Land Acquisition law. The proposed changes will, in many circumstances, allow the government to take a farmer's land without his consent, without concern for the social impact, and with reduced compensation.

However, the Land Acquisition law is not the principal cause of farmer suicides. The principal cause is the weather.

Whether it's India's historically severe drought in 2012, or the historically high abundance of rainfall and hail so far this year, India's crops depend on the weather. This year, cotton farmers are hit with a double whammy: The crop was good last year, so cotton prices are low, while this year's crops have been adversely affected by the weather. So farmers have a small crop to sell at low prices.

A poor crop means that the farmer cannot repay his debts or feed his family. According to one widow, "He was in so much debt. He wasn't getting any money from cotton. He chose death over distress."

There has been a recent wave of 40 farmer suicides. Over 600 farmers have committed suicide so far this year. There are thousands or tens of thousands of farmer suicides every year. Government data shows 11,772 farmers committed suicide in 2013 across India, which is 44 deaths every day. Indian Express and Economic Times (India) and DNA India and CNN and New Delhi TV

Europe pledges to solve the unsolvable migrant problem

Estimates range from 500,000 to 1 million for the number of migrants who have come from other countries to Libya, waiting for their turn to travel to Europe. Analysts expect around 200,000 of them to reach EU this year. They spend thousands of dollars -- their life savings -- to be put on a rubber dinghy or rickety boat to be allowed to cross the Mediterranean Sea, counting on being saved by someone if the boat gets into trouble as many do.

However, some 1600 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean in the last couple of weeks, and this forced the EU to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday to find a solution.

One outcome of the meeting was that EU leaders pledged 120 million euros annually to redeploy a search and rescue program similar to the "Mare Nostrum" program that that Italy funded on its own until November of last year, and which rescued over 200,000 migrants last year. However, that was the easy decision, especially because there are some restrictions and because it's not clear that all the money will be funded.

On the other hand, there are several problems that were not solved:

Even if the ports could be blocked or all the boats could be confiscated, there would still be a crisis in Libya with hundreds of thousands of migrants waiting to travel to Europe. Even worse, the crisis would turn to violence because the traffickers will do anything to continue extracting thousands of dollars from each migrant.

With warm weather approaching, the height of the migrant season is just beginning. It's safe to assume that Thursdays meeting in Brussels will have done nothing to solve the problem. Middle East Eye and Catholic Online and Bloomberg

Eritrea: The most repressive regime in the world

Even worse than North Korea or Iran, the African state of Eritrea is considered by many to be the most repressive country in the world. And it's also second only to war-torn Syria as the leading country from which EU-bound migrants originate. In fact, all the corpses found during the night after the shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa last week were Eritrean.

Eritrea has one of the poorest human rights records in the world. Anyone can be arrested and tortured at any time on the unsupported charge of criticizing someone in the government, or for attending the wrong religious institution. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has labeled it the "most censored" country in the world. (The next nine are: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China, Burma, and Cuba.)

What is unique about Eritrea is the extent of military repression as practiced through a strictly-enforced conscription regimen and martial culture. Eritrea’s army is about 600,000 strong, which is one tenth of the population of about 6 million. Few countries anywhere, other than North Korea or the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge, have one tenth of their population in the army. Some people are forced to serve in the armed forces until age 50.

Many people are forced to work at government jobs essentially as slaves. The average monthly salary is $12. If someone escapes to Europe as a migrant to earn money, the remittances that the migrant sends back to his family are heavily taxed by the state.

Like many African countries, Eritrea has a "youth bulge" in its population. Many of these young men and women are not satisfied with living in the most repressive nation in the world, and they're willing to make any sacrifice or take any risk to reach Europe and a better life. Thursday's EU meeting in Brussels will have no effect on that. Geopolitical Monitor and Telegraph and Guardian (Nov-2014) and Foreign Policy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Apr-15 World View -- Europe pledges to solve the unsolvable migrant problem thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Apr-15 World View -- Palestinian factions 'unity' talks in crisis, near collapse

ISIS and Yemen force yet another realignment of the Mideast

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Palestinian factions 'unity' talks in crisis, near collapse


Top officials of the Palestinian 'unity government' as of June 2, 2014 (AFP)
Top officials of the Palestinian 'unity government' as of June 2, 2014 (AFP)

A five-day meeting in Gaza between the two major Palestinian factions ended in crisis after just one day on Wednesday, once again bringing into question whether there can ever be a Palestinian "unity government."

The two-state solution to the Mideast crisis that everyone talks about is usually described as a State of Palestine existing side-by-side with a State of Israel in peace and harmony.

As I wrote in May 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?", referring to President George Bush's proposed peace plan, no peace plan can 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 it's no surprise that, once again, unity talks between the two major Palestinian factions that are a prerequisite to a State of Palestine are collapsing.

The Palestinian Authority (PA/Fatah) used to govern both Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank but after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, leading to a bitter war between the two factions, it's been pretty clear that a successful peace treaty between Hamas and Fatah has been even less like likely than a peace treaty between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

On April 23 of last year, the two major Palestinian factions signed a "Palestinian unity agreement," as a prerequisite to forming a State of Palestine. The agreement provided for a series of steps to unify the two factions into a common government, but now, a year later, nothing has changed.

The unity agreement never really had a chance, but whatever chance it had was destroyed by the summer war between Israel and Hamas. The war was a disaster and humiliation for Hamas, which launched thousands of missiles at Israel without a single one ever drawing blood, thanks to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. In the end, Egypt, the PA and Israel imposed a cease-fire on Hamas that met not a single one of Hamas's demands. There were supposed to be follow-on talks to negotiate terms for ending the blockade of Gaza being imposed by both Israel and Egypt, but those talks never started.

This last week, a ministerial delegation from the PA in the West Bank visit Hamas in the Gaza Strip, so that the two groups could negotiate plans for how the unity government was going to pay the salaries of the public employees in Gaza.

There are two sides to the story of what happened next: Hamas claims that the PA delegation went to their hotel rooms and refused to leave. The PA claims that the delegation went to their hotel rooms and were prevented from leaving by Hamas. Either way, they didn't leave their hotel rooms, and the meeting ended in bitter discord within one day, making it appear very likely that the entire unity government concept is near collapse. AFP and Xinhua and Times of Israel

ISIS and Yemen force yet another realignment of the Mideast

Not only did the Gaza war really end the Hamas/Fatah unity government, it split the entire Mideast into two large factions. In a major realignment, Israel plus Egypt plus the Palestinian Authority plus Saudi Arabia were allied, versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey. In addition, Iran has been supplying money and heavy weapons to Hamas.

However, since the end of the Gaza war, two major events have shaken the Mideast and is forcing the old realignment to be replaced by a new realignment. The two events are:

In this sectarian environment, a new realignment has been occurring. Saudi Arabia's new King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is acting as a mediator to restore Saudi ties with Qatar and Turkey, and also to restore ties between Turkey and Egypt.

In fact, a rather startling non-event that occurred on Tuesday is being taken as a sign of renewed friendship between Egypt and Turkey.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a big supporter Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government, the only democratically elected government in Egypt's history. Erdogan broke off relations with Egypt after Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi engineered the coup in July 2013 that ousted Morsi. Since then, Morsi has been kept in jail, and Erdogan has repeatedly stated his solidarity with Morsi, and demanded that he be freed.

On Tuesday, Morsi was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on charges arising from the killing of protesters.

The startling non-event that we referred to above is that Erdogan hasn't said a word. Turkey's Foreign Ministry did issue a statement saying, "The verdict against former President Morsi ... aggravate[s] concerns about the future of democracy in Egypt." But we haven't heard a peep from Erdogan himself.

This is being perceived as an abandonment of Morsi engineered by Saudi King Salman. According to one analyst, “The fact that he [Erdogan] did not say a single word the day Morsi received 20 years [imprisonment]" showed that Erdogan has succumbed to the wishes of his only allies left in the region, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Today's Zaman (Istanbul)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Apr-15 World View -- Palestinian factions 'unity' talks in crisis, near collapse thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Apr-15 World View -- Patriotism and nationalism surge in Saudi Arabia, but not in Iran

Saudi Arabia declares that it's met its military objectives in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia declares that it's met its military objectives in Yemen


A patriotic billboard in Riyadh features an image of soldiers and a portrait of Saudi King Salman (AFP)
A patriotic billboard in Riyadh features an image of soldiers and a portrait of Saudi King Salman (AFP)

Saudi Arabia's military announced on Tuesday that it had met its military objectives in Yemen, and that "Operation Decisive Storm" is over.

They also announced that "Operation Restoration of Hope" is beginning.

It's not clear what the difference is. The Saudi-led coalition began a heavy campaign of air strikes on March 23, and Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, the Saudi military spokesman who announced the change in the name of the operation, did not indicate whether there would be any change to the airstrike campaign.

Asiri said that the military campaign’s objectives had been met as the rebels’ military capabilities had been destroyed. He said that the Houthis no longer pose a danger to civilians, and that the new operation will focus on rebuilding the country while denying the rebels operational movement, protecting civilians, and supporting evacuation and relief operations:

"To implement this we will continue to have our operation. Inside a city like Aden we will continue to protect civilians to prevent these [Houthis] militias from sustaining their operations."

Analysts that I heard suggested that the Saudis were bowing to international pressure in view of the number of civilians being killed by the airstrikes, but that there would never be a resolution of the conflict with the Houthis unless the Saudis launched a ground troop invasion. Daily Star (Beirut) and Arab News

Patriotism and nationalism surge in Saudi Arabia, but not in Iran

According to an NPR story, the Saudi public has become increasing patriotic and nationalistic since the Saudi airstrikes have begun. In addition, the popularity of the new King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud has skyrocketed:

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, says there's unprecedented unity inside the kingdom because Saudi is seen as standing up to Iran:

"We felt humiliated, we felt worried of Iranian expansionism, and we felt somebody must stand against that. And that's why Saudi people are so much now supporting of King Salman, they feel he is the man that made that stand. ...

His popularity skyrocketed, people were talking about him before as a kid, we didn't know much about him. But nowadays, with this patriotic euphoria, he scored big time."

All of this information is anecdotal, but it paints a picture of a Saudi population in sync with the government leadership in pursuing the Yemen war.

From the point of view of generational theory, this is what I refer to as a "war that comes from the people." The Saudi population does not need to be convinced of the necessity of the war in Yemen; they were receptive to it from the moment it happened. That's because Saudi Arabia is deep into a generational Crisis era, as I explained yesterday, which means that patriotism and nationalism are going to be high.

The journalist Khashoggi is quoted as saying that the "unprecedented unity" is occurring BECAUSE Saudi Arabia is seen standing up to Iran.

But from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, that's not the reason at all. Just standing up to an enemy doesn't always unify the country. Americans were unified behind President Roosevelt in World War II, which was a generational crisis war, but not behind Presidents Kennedy or Johnson in the Vietnam war, which was an Awakening era war.

Like America in the 1960s, Iran is in a generational Awakening era today, since only one generation has passed since the end of Iran's Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988.

And so we see quite a different picture in Iran. There have been no reports of carwashes in Iran backing Iran's support of the Houthis in Yemen. There have been no reports of patriotic war songs, or patriotic billboards about Yemen.

There are plenty of reports about statements from Iran government officials. Here's one from a speech by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei from February:

"Whether or not our enemies like it, the Islamic Revolution has been advancing since its beginning, and today we have might in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia, that we did not have from 1978-1991... In the not-so-distant future, we will see the twilight of America and Israel – this is not a slogan... Today we in Iran, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Ansar Allah [i.e. the Houthi movement] in Yemen, the National Defense Force in Syria, [and] the popular forces in Iraq have become much stronger... The great popular army begins to take shape in the world; be certain that this movement is undefeatable."

This is actually a pathetic attempt to relive the erotic days of the 1979 revolution by blaming everything on the United States. It worked then because Iran was in a generational Crisis era. Khamenei's arguments are old and shopworn, and a version of them could have been used (and were used) at any time since the 1980s.

So this is what I refer to as "a war that comes from the politicians." The public mood is completely different, and the public support is almost nonexistent.

Today, Iran is in a generational Awakening era. Just as Americans in the 1960s were sick of hearing about the dangers of Communism, Iranians today are sick of hearing about the evils of the West, which they really don't believe.

The difference is that Iran's population today contain many survivors of the 1980s wars. They remember how bloody the revolution was, and how 1 1/2 million people were killed in the war with Saddam. And of course they remember that they were victimized by Saddam's use of poison gas.

That's why there are no carwashes in Iran exalting Iran's support for the Houthis in Yemen. In fact, that's why Khamenei can't even admit that Iran is participating, since he knows how unpopular that would be. The Iranian people remember the 1980s, and don't want another war.

Here's a brief additional word on some nearby countries. Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are also all in generational Awakening eras, and the public mood is similar.

In Iraq in the 1980s, the Sunnis and Shias were unified behind Saddam to fight Iran in the Iran/Iraq war. Today, the Sunnis are joining up with Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), the Iraq army has a reputation for dropping their weapons and running for their lives, and the Shia militias have had little success.

In Syria, president Bashar al-Assad is using everything from heavy weapons to Sarin gas to chlorine gas to subjugate his people, but instead of fighting, they're running away, and now there are millions of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

In Lebanon, the political situation is so fractured that the country has been unable to elect a president for months. Hezbollah militias are fighting in Syria, but that's because Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is forcing them to, and, ironically, that's because Nasrallah's puppetmasters in Iran are forcing him to do so.

But other countries -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestinian territories (Palestine) -- are deep into a generational crisis era, and those countries are going to drive the coming major sectarian war. NPR and Memri and Gulf News/Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Apr-15 World View -- Patriotism and nationalism surge in Saudi Arabia, but not in Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Apr-15 World View -- US sends warships to Yemen as Saudis face a quagmire

ECB examines a possible 'second currency' for Greece - government IOUs

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia appears headed for a quagmire in Yemen


Huge explosion following airstrike on army weapons depot near Sanaa on Monday (Reuters)
Huge explosion following airstrike on army weapons depot near Sanaa on Monday (Reuters)

A Saudi Arabia airstrike on Monday on a military weapons depot near Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, caused the most powerful explosion of the current Saudi air campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi militias that have overrun much of the country. The explosion was so powerful that shop fronts were shattered and windows were blown out four miles away from the explosion.

The Saudis have been conducting a massive air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen since March 26. Although there's supposed to be a large coalition of nations participating, in actual practice only United Arab Emirates (UAE) has joined the Saudis in the airstrikes. The only other nation participating militarily is Egypt, which is bombarding Houthi targets from the sea with its Navy. The US military is helping out with intelligence and air-to-air refueling, and is sending the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier group to waters off Yemen.

However, the air campaign is receiving a great deal of international criticisms because hundreds of civilians have been killed, and the airstrikes have hit hospitals, schools and a refugee camp. The Houthis have been storing weapons in hospitals, schools and civilian neighborhoods in order to provoke such attacks, and they're adapting to the airstrikes by avoiding being caught in large convoys.

Analysts believe that airstrikes alone are unlikely to settle the war and that sooner or later, a Saudi ground invasion will be required. And if that happens, analysts say that the Saudis would be involved in a bloody quagmire.

As we've been reporting, the Pakistan government has rejected Saudi Arabia's request for military help in Yemen. It turns out that this is a bitter shock to the Saudis, since Saudi Arabia has provided plenty of military aid to Pakistan over the decades.

Many analysts are predicting that Saudi Arabia will back down and negotiate a settlement with the Houthis -- which would be an enormous victory for the Houthis and for their Iranian sponsors. However, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Saudi Arabia is not in the mood for a compromise. Saudi Arabia's last generational crisis war was even earlier than World War II -- it occurred in the 1920s between the Al Sauds tribes and the Wahhabi tribes, when the Al Sauds subdued the Wahhabi tribesmen, leading to the creation of the country Saudi Arabia in 1932. So Saudi Arabia is now deep into a generational crisis era, and the public mood will be sharply opposed to a compromise with the country's arch-enemy, Iran. Daily Star (Beirut) and Lowy Interpreter (Australia) and AFP

US escalates conflict by sending warships to Yemen to confront Iran


The USS Langley, the US Navy's first aircraft carrier, off the coast of Baltimore in 1924. (CNN)
The USS Langley, the US Navy's first aircraft carrier, off the coast of Baltimore in 1924. (CNN)

In an escalation of America's participation in the Yemen war, the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier group is being sent to waters off Yemen to join other American ships prepared to intercept a convoy of Iranian ships suspected of carrying weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen. The Iranian convoy consists of freighters, escorted by warships from the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard forces.

Iran says that Iranian navy ships in the area were there to protect its ships from piracy.

The US Navy said in a statement: "The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe. The United States remains committed to its regional partners and to maintaining security in the maritime environment." NBC News and Washington Times and CNN

ECB examines a possible 'second currency' for Greece - government IOUs

We may know more after the Eurogroup of eurozone finance managers meet in Riga on Thursday (24-Apr), but it now appears likely that Greece is going to run completely out of money in the next two or three weeks, and will be unable to make its debt repayments, and also will be unable to pay its pensions and the salaries due to public sector employees.

The Europeans are unwilling to release to Greece the next bailout payment of 7.2 billion euros until the government of Alexis Tsipras produces its repeatedly delay list of reforms, addressing various economic issues, including the bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies.

So the European Central Bank (ECB) has been studying an alternative scenario, where the Greek government issues IOUs in lieu of cash to pay the pensions and public sector salaries at the end of the month.

However, using the IOUs would have an important drawback: many Greeks would then have to withdraw their bank savings, causing a bank run that would put Greece's banking system into further crisis. Furthermore, the IOUs could not be used to make debt repayments to the institutions that loaned money to Greece.

Yields on Greek bonds have now skyrocketed to the levels of 2012, indicating that the markets are increasingly convinced that Greece is going to go bankrupt, and will be forced to exit the eurozone, and return to its former drachma currency. Reuters and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Apr-15 World View -- US sends warships to Yemen as Saudis face a quagmire thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Apr-15 World View -- Europe considers military action in Libya as migrant drownings accelerate

Debate over whether rescuing migrants just encourages more migrants

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Migrants overwhelm Europe as Mediterranean drownings accelerate


Migrants queue at phone booth on the Island of Lampedusa, Southern Italy, on Thursday (AP)
Migrants queue at phone booth on the Island of Lampedusa, Southern Italy, on Thursday (AP)

It seems that every three or four days there's a new catastrophe in the Mediterranean Sea, involving migrants traveling by boat from Libya to Italy. On Tuesday, 400 migrants drowned when their boat capsized. On Thursday, 41 more drowned after a shipwreck. And late on Saturday, 700 people may have drowned when a small fishing boat capsized 60 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The reason that these numbers are known is because in each of the three cases, there were survivors who could describe what happened. It's suspected that there are other shipwrecks where everyone drowns, and so there may be hundreds more unrecorded drownings. There were about 500 drownings in the first three months of the year, and if the above figures are true, then there have been about 1,100 drownings in the month of April alone.

In October 2013, 400 migrants drowned in two shipwrecks near Italy ( "16-Oct-13 World View -- Sicily declares state of emergency as African migrants flood in").

The drowning of 400 migrants created a political crisis that Italy resolved by implementing a very aggressive search-and-rescue program across the Mediterranean that they called "Mare Nostrum" ("Our Sea"). However, Mare Nostrum was extremely expensive, and Italy demanded that other EU countries contribute.

Last November, Mare Nostrum was replaced with and EU program called Triton. However, Triton is not a search-and-rescue program. It's a low-cost border protection program that operates no more than 30 miles off the Italian coast.

In 2013, fewer than 40,000 migrants per year were making the trip from Libya to Italy. During 2014, when Mare Nostrum was active, the number of migrants attempting the trip increased substantially, and has continued to grow. Currently, over 10,000 migrants attempt the trip each week, and the number of drownings has increased significantly as well.

The major controversy in Europe is whether the hyperbolic increase in the number of migrants was CAUSED by Mare Nostrum, or whether the increase would have happened anyway. Some people point out that the number of migrants has been increasing since Mare Nostrum was replaced by Triton, but this doesn't answer the question, because there's a time lag for any action to have an effect, especially since many migrants probably don't know that Triton is different from Mare Nostrum.

According to an official from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders): "A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean and European policies are responsible." Independent (London) and AFP and BBC

Europe desperately considers military action in Libya

European nations are being accused of "closing their eyes" to the drownings of thousands of migrants. Pope Francis expressed shock at the new drownings. He's previously said that the Mediterranean Sea should not turn into a vast migrant graveyard, and on Sunday he said, "They are men and women like us – our brothers seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, exploited, victims of war." He demanded that Europe "act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring," though the good Pope provided no suggestion on how that might be accomplished.

However, the desire of other countries to help Italy deal with the migrant problem is pretty low. There are several reasons:

With regard to the last point, Victoria Ayling is an MP candidate in the UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), which is anti-immigrant and anti-EU. She said that fewer migrants would attempt the dangerous journey if the UK were not part of the European Union:

"The simple solution is leave the European Union. The reason they’re coming over in those boats is because the system allows it that should they land in any European country, they’re in the system and they can come over to Britain as if they are EU migrants and have access to everything.

The Schengen Convention, signed between countries who are part of the European Union, allows freedom of movement between participating countries.

It is clearly the system that’s encouraging this to happen, risking their lives, poor things, and I don’t blame them for doing this."

So, with the flood of migrants from Africa increasing, what can the Europeans do to "kick the can down the road," so they can pretend to be doing something while the problem is getting worse, and the solution being considered is boots on the ground in Libya to target migrant traffickers.

According to Germany's vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel:

"All European police and border authorities must make every possible effort to fight the criminal trafficking gangs who profit from human misery. We need an international operation against people smugglers.

We must no longer accept that Europe on its outer borders too often means death, not humanity."

The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond added: "We must target the traffickers who are responsible for so many people dying at sea and prevent their innocent victims from being tricked or forced into making these perilous journeys."

Malta's foreign minister Dr. George Vella, in a BBC interview (my transcription) says that military action in Libya is required:

"I personally think that the most important thing to do and urgently is to try somehow to control these human traffickers. This is the most important thing. This is something that will have to be looked at in detachment from the whole political problem that is besieging Libya at the moment.

This is not the division that exists in Libya. This is purely human trafficking, and if there is some way how to get at these people, whom we will stop from making this massacre of people who are looking for better opportunities.

I'm thinking more in terms of either a force or coalition of the willing, or a decision by the United Nations to have boots on the ground, I would say, specifically to target the human traffickers. We know where they are leaving from. There are two or three places along the coast, quite well known, and if that traffic is stopped, at least we'll see less and less fatalities in the Mediterranean."

It's hard to see how this proposal will have any effect on the flood of migrants at all. If two or three places on Libya's coast are blocked, then the traffickers will simply move to a different spot.

And this does nothing to slow the flood of people from Africa and the Mideast who have saved up all their money and are arriving in Libya to purchase a trip to Europe for $1-5,000. The traffickers want that money, and they'll use any trafficking route they can find to get it. And the proposal would also do nothing to reduce the number of drownings.

Still, military action would have the appearance that the European countries are doing something, in a way that would not help UKIP and other anti-immigrant political parties. Guardian (London) and AFP and BuzzFeed and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Apr-15 World View -- Europe considers military action in Libya as migrant drownings accelerate thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Apr-15 World View -- ISIS terror in Afghanistan highlights government chaos

Greece scrapes the bottom of the barrel as bankruptcy talk increases

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS claims responsibility of major terrorist attack in east Afghanistan


Site where a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday (CNN)
Site where a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Saturday (CNN)

A suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in front of the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad in Afghanistan early Saturday. Jalalabad is near the Pakistan border, east of the capital city Kabul. 33 people were killed, and hundreds injured.

"ISIS Wilayat Khorasan," a terrorist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for the act. ISIS refers to "Khorasan" as a province the Islamic State consisting of the existing countries Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS has been recruiting heavily in the region, and concerns are rising that ISIS is gaining a foothold in the region.

In the past, ISIS groups in Afghanistan turned out to be former Taliban groups who were disillusioned with Ayman al-Zawahiri and the other old geezers running al-Qaeda, and were super turned-on by the young, sexy Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the terrorist running ISIS. Whether or not this is true of the "ISIS Wilayat Khorasan," terrorists in the Jalalabad bombing, a Taliban spokesman sent a text message to reporters, "The explosion in Jalalabad doesn't have anything to do with us and we condemn it."

There was another terrorist attack on Saturday, in a nearby town in Nangarhar province. A magnetic bomb was attached to a parked car and then detonated by remote control, killing one person and wounding two others. CNN and and RAWA (Afghanistan)

Afghanistan becomes more ungovernable as US-led coalition withdraws

This new terrorist attacks come as the United Nations says that in the first three months of this year, 655 people were killed and 1,155 were wounded in suicide attacks throughout the country. Concerns are rising that Afghanistan is becoming ungovernable as the United States coalition withdraws its forces.

Everything seems to be going wrong. The economy is bad, and getting worse as the US-led coalition withdraws.

The government was supposed to be holding "peace talks" with the Taliban in March, but that deadline is now in the past.

President Ashraf Ghani had promised to improve relations with Pakistan, and work with Pakistan to affect that terrorism affecting both countries. But so far little has come of the promised rapprochement between the two countries, and indeed, given the history of the two countries, it's doubtful there will be.

There was a national election last year with results that were so disputed, there was no way to determine with certainty which of the two candidates won. So under tremendous pressure from the United States, they formed a sort of co-presidency. Ashraf Ghani was made President and Abdullah Abdullah was made Chief Executive. There have been incessant squabbles and rumors of rifts, and a full cabinet has still not been formed, although several nominees received approval on Saturday after months of delays. However, many analysts believe that the unity government will collapse before long, with warlords and militiamen growing in confidence and acting with impunity. The National (UAE) and Dawn (Pakistan)

Greece scrapes the bottom of the barrel as bankruptcy talk increases

Alexis Tsipras, the far-left prime minister of Greece, had been hopin' and prayin' that Greece's three creditor institutions -- the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission (ECB), the European Central Bank (ECB), formerly known by the now-banned word "troika" -- would cancel a debt repayment or at least delay it for a while. As you already know, Dear Reader, this is what we call "kicking the can down the road."

But IMF chief Christine Lagarde firmly rejected that hope this week:

We never had an advanced economy actually asking for that kind of thing, delayed payment. And I very much hope that this is not the case with Greece. I would certainly, for myself, not support it."

ECB president Mario Draghi was vague, but seemed to be saying that the Europe and the euro could survive a Greek bankruptcy, which would mean leaving the euro currency and returning to the old drachma currency:

"The short-term danger of contagion [from a Greek exit] is difficult to assess, but we have enough buffers in place. And even though they were designed for different circumstances, they are sufficient. But we are entering uncharted waters."

By "contagion," he means that if Greece leaves, then other troubled economies, such as Portugal and Italy, may also have to leave. He's saying that he thinks he's got this covered.

Whether Lagarde's statement is really a firm decision, or just a negotiating stance, remains to be seen, but there's little doubt that Greece is really on the edge of the cliff, about to fall over.

Greece will need to tap from all of its remaining cash reserves, about 2 billion euros, in order to pay salaries and pensions of public sector workers by the end of April. That will leave Greece with no more reserves to pay 1 billion euros due to the IMF in the first half of May, with other payments due following quickly after.

In February, the three institutions 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.

Now, two months have passed. Tsipras and his garrulous finance minister Yanis Varoufakis keep talking evasively, and saying that the list of reforms is just a day or two away, but it never shows up, and people are beginning to think that he's always going to keep talking about reforms but is never going to actually implement any reforms.

So we have Tsipras and the three institutions playing a game of Chicken. In the 1950s, the game of chicken was played with two cars racing at full speed toward each other until one car turned away, making the other car the winner. But, as everyone knows, sometimes neither car turned away, with explosive results. Irish Times and Reuters and Forbes and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Apr-15 World View -- ISIS terror in Afghanistan highlights government chaos thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Apr-15 World View -- Russia's Chechnya becomes biggest contributor of jihadists to ISIS

Chechen youth from Georgia's Pansiki Gorge joining ISIS in droves

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia's Chechnya becomes biggest contributor of jihadists to ISIS


 Umar al-Shishani (center), ISIS's military emir in Syria, is a Kist Chechen from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge (RFERL)
Umar al-Shishani (center), ISIS's military emir in Syria, is a Kist Chechen from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge (RFERL)

For years I've been writing about the very stupid policy of Russia's president Vladimir Putin in sending money and heavy weapons to Syria in support of president Bashar al-Assad's genocidal attack on innocent Sunni women and children. By 2012, reports made it evident that young Sunni men from around the world were traveling to Syria to fight al-Assad, and this included young men from the North Caucasus (Russia's southern provinces). I wrote repeatedly that those young men were going to get terrorism training and return to their home countries, in this case Russia.

Since then, those predictions have been coming true with a vengeance. We've seen al-Assad's genocidal acts, supported by troops and weapons from Russia, bring about the creation of several jihadist groups, most recently the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

Although countries around the world have supplied young jihadists to ISIS, the biggest non-Mideast contributors are not America or European countries. The biggest contributor is Russia. The number of Russian nationals fighting with ISIS has roughly doubled over the past year. Russia's own Federal Security Service (FSB) estimates that 1,700 militants from Russia have joined ISIS, but that figure seems too low to be plausible. Other estimates range from 3,000 to 5,000.

Many of these are runaway teen Chechens who grew up during Russia's wars in Chechnya during the 1990s, saw their relatives and friends killed by the Russian military, and are now seeking an opportunity for revenge. In fact, the Chechnya separatist movement had been waning in influence since the early 2000s, but is rapidly gaining strength again because of the success and glory of ISIS. Now the insurgents from Chechnya and other Caucasian nations have a new opportunity to train and operate with impunity – an opportunity they certainly did not have back home in the Caucasus.

This is all the result of a very stupid policy by Vladimir Putin in supplying weapons to the sociopathic Bashar al-Assad to slaughter innocent Sunnis. Going further, I suppose that if Jonathan Gruber can refer to the "stupidity of the American people" who supported Obamacare, then we can refer to the stupidity of the Russian people who are supporting Putin, who is shaping up to be a total disaster for the Russian people. Jamestown and Bloomberg and RFE/RL and Geopolitical Monitor (Sep 2014)

Chechen youth from Georgia's Pansiki Gorge joining ISIS in droves

Emotions ran high in the Chechen community when it was learned earlier this month that two school children, aged 16 and 18, had run away from their home in Georgia's Pansiki Gorge and had managed to go through airport controls in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital city, to leave for Turkey, after which they are presumed to have crossed into Syria to join the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Angry parents and community elders in Pansiki are demanding an explanation from Georgian authorities how it was possible for minors to board a plane to Turkey unchallenged. Other reports indicate that six people had left Pansiki to join ISIS in Syria between April 6-14.

Georgia's Pansiki Gorge lies on the border with Russia, on the border of the province of Chechnya in Russia, and is populated mostly by Kists, who are ethnic Chechens. Because it's in a difficult to reach geographical location, Georgian authorities have done little to provide security to Pansiki, with the result that it's become practically a free portal for local young radicals and militants to go to Syria or Iraq and join ISIS, and then return. ISIS and its Chechen squadrons have already declared war on Russia and promised to "liberate" the Caucasus.

The Gorge has become a matter of great concern to both Georgia and Russia. It's economically very poor, making it a prime pool for ISIS recruiters to gain adherents.

Georgia's response to these concerns is to pass a new law making it illegal to join or receive training in illegal armed groups in George and abroad, or to recruit others to do so. Passing a law gives the appearance of government action, but many analysts believe that just passing a law will make little difference. (Isn't it already illegal to join illegal armed groups, or to recruit others to do so?)

According to one analyst:

"In Pankisi's case, the valley's crushing poverty and the international demand for Chechen fighters [in Syria, Ukraine, as well as in many other theaters] make for a noxious mix that is difficult to disrupt via legislation."

Al Arabiya and RFE/RL and Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Apr-15 World View -- Russia's Chechnya becomes biggest contributor of jihadists to ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Apr-15 World View -- South African xenophobic violence echoes 1820s Mfecane Zulu massacre

Thousands of immigrants flee xenophobic attacks in South Africa

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Thousands of immigrants flee xenophobic attacks in South Africa


Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, whose careless remark is being blamed for triggering the xenophobic violence
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, whose careless remark is being blamed for triggering the xenophobic violence

Thousands of people, mostly foreigners from Zimbabwe and Malawi, fled for their lives on Tuesday and Wednesday, after mobs with machetes attacked them in the city of Durban. Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, which is the heartland of the Zulu tribe. The anti-immigrant violence has spread to Johannesburg, raising fears of widespread violence spurred by the country's dire economic woes.

It's believed that the attacks were triggered by remarks made by Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, who said in a public speech, "We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries." He has since said his comments were misinterpreted.

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, is home to an estimated 5 million immigrants, from African countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and from further afield, including China and Pakistan. Many own shops or sell wares as informal hawkers on street corners or in markets.

Although tribal tensions have existed continually in South Africa, this is the first major return of xenophobic violence since 2008, when similar xenophobic attacks killed around 60 people. Experts are blaming on the xenophobic violence on the 25% unemployment rate, and many believe that this figure is a great understatement. Unemployment is particularly high among young blacks, around 50%, which provides fertile ground all kinds of violence, particularly anti-immigrant violence.

There had been warnings about the coming violence on social media. One message read:

"Wednesday, Zulu people are coming to town starting from Market [Street] their mission is to kill every foreigner on the road please pass this to all your contacts in case they come people should be on alert."

According to one witness:

"If you look carefully, we as black people are attacking one another. I have never witnessed people attacking whites, or any other race. It is only black people attacking one another, It is clear that black people do not want to see one another progressing."

Jacob Zuma, the Zulu president of South Africa, called the violence a "violation" of South Africa's values:

"No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. We condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms. The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies."

Thousands of people marched in a peace rally through Durban, chanting "Down with xenophobia!" and "A United Africa." However, the march ended in violence, with police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds. There was a similar reaction to a peace march in Johannesburg. Reuters and AFP and CNN and CS Monitor and Euro News

South African xenophobic violence echoes 1820s Mfecane Zulu massacre

Zimbabwe's 91-year-old president Robert Mugabe is being criticized for his silence about South Africa's xenophobic attacks on foreigners, including Zimbabweans. In particular, he's refusing to help these Zimbabweans return to Zimbabwe, for fear that they'll be his political enemies. This comes at a time when Malawi is launching a program to hire six buses to ferry people who voluntarily want to be repatriated to Malawi.

Xenophobic violence in South Africa has deep roots, going back at least two centuries. See my generational history of South Africa in my 2008 article on the xenophobic attacks of that time.

There's a good reason for Mugabe's silence, and his reluctance to bring his own citizens back to Zimbabwe: He's pleased that Zimbabweans in South Africa are being killed, so he doesn't have to have them killed in Zimbabwe.

I've written many times about Syria's president Bashar al-Assad being a genocidal monster, but al-Assad is a pussycat compared to Mugabe. Mugabe is a member of the Shona tribe, and in his 35+ years of rule, he's repeatedly massacred thousands of people in the other major tribe in Zimbabwe, the Ndebele (pronounced "nnn de BELL eh" or "nnn de BEE lee") tribe.

During the 1820s, the Zulu tribe went from obscurity to world renown thanks to one leader, Shaka, and the extremely bloody and brutal war of extermination he led against other tribes in that region. This war was called Mfecane ("the crushing"), and it climaxed in 1828.

Shaka targeted the nearby Xhosa tribe, but many of those crushed by the Zulus in the Mfecane were from the Ndebele tribe, and those who survived were driven into what is now Zimbabwe where they, in turn, massacred the members of the local Shona tribe.

That was almost 200 years ago, but all those old tribal feuds are being revived today.

Mugabe, from the Shona tribe, came to power in 1979. Within a few years, Mugabe sent his army on a "pacification campaign" directed at his Ndebele opponents, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths in 1983 and 1984. The "pacification campaign" was accomplished with the help of Mugabe's 5th Brigade, trained by North Korea, and was called "Operation Gukurahundi" (The rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rain). Mugabe maintained control since then through torture and jailing of political opponents, mostly from the Ndebele tribe.

Since then, many in the Ndebele tribe in Zimbabwe have been fleeing to the "rainbow nation," South Africa, to escape Mugabe's carnage. But in 2008, there were numerous xenophobic attacks against foreigners, including the Ndebele, and today there's a new round of these xenophobic attacks. Many of the targets of these xenophobic attacks are members of the Ndebele tribe, which Mugabe would like to exterminate anyway. So for him, the xenophobic attacks in South Africa are a GOOD thing, as Martha Stewart would say.

During World War II, different political factions wished to side with the British or with the Germans, or stay neutral. But since South Africa was part of the British empire, it fought on the side of the Allies. South Africa's fighting troops were all whites, but blacks served in non-fighting roles like drivers and guard duties.

Now South Africa is once again in a generational Crisis era and, once again, all the old vicious violence from the Mfecane and its aftermath are coming back. South Africa is headed for a new bloody civil war -- not between whites and blacks, but between Zulus and their allies versus Ndebele and Xhosa and their allies. News24 (South Africa) and Malawi News Agency and Zimbabwe Eye

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Apr-15 World View -- South African xenophobic violence echoes 1820s Mfecane Zulu massacre thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Apr-15 World View -- Saudis to Hezbollah: Yemen is none of your business

United Nations is 'deeply shocked' at Europe's failure to save migrants

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudis to Hezbollah: Yemen is none of your business


Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech in January
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech in January

As the conflicts in Syria and Yemen increase the bitterness between the two countries Iran and Saudi Arabia, the conflicts are also increasing the bitterness in Lebanon between the two factions allied with these countries, Hezbollah and the Future Movement, respectively.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, said late last month:

"The real reason the Saudi-led coalition is [attacking Yemen] is that Saudi Arabia has failed. It has lost control over Yemen... and fears that Yemen now belongs to the people. The goal of the coalition is for Saudi Arabia to regain control over Yemen."

Ali Awad Asiri, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, said that Nasrallah "aimed to distort facts and mislead public opinion":

"The speech made by Hezbollah’s General Secretary Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah expressed the confusion experienced by the sides he represents [Iran], and contained a lot of slander and false allegations against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ...

The same side [Iran] supporting Sayyed Nasrallah and directing the Houthis does not want good for Yemen and has been behind obstructing all agreements and pushing the security situation in the country toward escalation and deterioration.

We wish some sides would emulate the wisdom of the kingdom’s leaders."

Lebanon has been unable to elect a president for months because of the differences between the two major political factions, Hezbollah, which is linked to Iran, and Future Movement, which is linked to Saudi Arabia.

Hezbollah and Future Movement have tried to maintain a dialog, and senior officials from both groups met on Tuesday in a round of talks to calm tensions. At the end of the session, they released a statement saying that the two parties discussed "continuing security measures in all Lebanese areas in order to immunize the domestic scene."

By Wednesday it was pretty apparent that, if anything, the meeting had made things worse. On Wednesday, Hezbollah issued a statement saying that Iran cannot be compared to the "backward, ignorant and murderous" Saudi regime, and that Future Movement was supporting "genocide":

"Future Movement leaders and officials, over the past few years, have waged violent attacks against the Islamic Republic of Iran, unleashing a spate of false accusations and unfounded slander, in the service of foreign and Arab agendas. ...

The backward, ignorant, murderous regime that exports terrorists, extremists and aberrant radical ideas... cannot be fairly compared to the Islamic Republic of Iran."

That statement came after Asiri, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, told Hezbollah to mind their own business:

"First of all, I have the right to respond to issues concerning my country and its leaders, especially when you listen to a language that has gone beyond the limits of reasoning.

Secondly, I do not see that Yemen is Hezbollah’s business. Hezbollah is in Lebanon, not in Yemen, which has its statesmen and privacy.

I see that Hezbollah’s intervention in Yemen and its support for the Houthis as reported by the media, and the usage of [Hezbollah’s] media in the ongoing war in Yemen, is unacceptable."

Nasrallah has called for major street protests in Lebanon in Beirut's southern suburbs on Friday (17-Apr). Daily Star (Lebanon, 29-Mar) and Mideast Confidential and Daily Star (15-Apr) and Daily Star (15-Apr)

United Nations is 'deeply shocked' at Europe's failure to save migrants

The day after 400 migrants drowned when their boat traveling from Libya to Italy capsized, Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed shock at Europe's poor search and rescue program:

"I was deeply shocked when hearing the news that another boat, an overcrowded boat capsized in the Mediterranean and where 400 people died. This only demonstrates how important it is to have a robust rescue-at-sea mechanism, in the central Mediterranean.

Unfortunately Mare Nostrum was never replaced by an equivalent capacity to rescue people, and at the same time the legal avenues for those who need protection to be able to come Europe."

Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea") refers to the program set up by Italy in October 2013, when hundreds of migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean attempting to reach Italy. For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called "Mare Nostrum" ("Our Sea") that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. Italy demanded that all of EU share the burden of saving migrants' lives, and in November of last year, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it. But Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning, and the loss of 400 lives earlier this week may be the death knell for Triton in its current form.

However, there's a great deal of opposition to a full-scale search and rescue program, especially in Britain, arguing that such a program simply encourages more migrants to take the trip, since they can be fairly certain of being rescued if there's a problem.

This opposition received a boost this week from an interview with Graham Leese, who is a special advisor to the EU program that oversees Triton:

"My understanding is that the facilitators [migrant traffickers] are often phoning up the Italian authorities in advance and saying that boats are on their way. They are not putting as much fuel in the boats as they usually do because they expect them to be picked up.

A lot of the migrants are interviewed afterwards, and this is what they say, and my professional contacts also say it. We have started to hear about it since Mare Nostrum was launched, when those on the Libyan side became aware that there were more boats being deployed to rescue people."

So the traffickers charge each migrant several thousand dollars, often a lifetime savings, to be put on a boat that is sure to sink, except that the traffickers then call Italian authorities, who send their own boats out to rescue the migrants. One wonders why the Italians can't just pick up the migrants from Libya directly, and pocket the thousand dollar fee themselves.

The Mediterranean is the most dangerous of the four main sea routes used in the world by migrants and refugees. The four routes are:

With regard to the Mediterranean, UNHCR commissioner Guterres says:

"I am here in Lebanon and we know that Syrians are more and more risking their lives to have access to European territories. But for all those in need of protection it is very important to increase the number of resettlement opportunities, humanitarian admission opportunities, to have a more flexible visa policy, to have enhanced family reunification programs, and again I repeat to have an effective mechanism to rescue people at sea in the central Mediterranean."

Ansa Med (Italy) and Telegraph (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Apr-15 World View -- Saudis to Hezbollah: Yemen is none of your business thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Apr-15 World View -- U.S.-China diplomacy over South China Sea turns vitriolic

Illegal immigration falls for US, but surges for Europe

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

U.S.-China diplomacy over South China Sea turns vitriolic


One of China's planned artificial islands in the South China Sea
One of China's planned artificial islands in the South China Sea

China is responding furiously to remarks by president Barack Obama that China has been using its "sheer size and muscle" to bully the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea:

"We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn't mean that they can just be elbowed aside."

China's Foreign Ministry called this "mind-boggling hypocrisy" by Obama, because "everybody can see who has the biggest size and muscle in the world."

This is a sure sign that the Chinese are lying, because nobody is accusing China of bullying the U.S. The accusation is that China is bully the Philippines and Vietnam, an accusation that is sufficiently embarrassing to China that they chose to cover up their embarrassment by accusing the US of hypocrisy.

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.

In the latest developments, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea, in order to attack the Philippines, Vietnam, and other neighboring countries more quickly and violently. US Admiral Harry Harris, soon to take charge of the Pacific Command, told an Australian audience on March 31 that China was rapidly building "a Great Wall" of artificial islands in the South China Sea, totaling "roughly the size of Canberra's Black Mountain Nature Reserve." He said:

"China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.

When one looks at China's pattern of provocative actions towards smaller claimant states, the lack of clarity on its sweeping nine-dash line claim that is inconsistent with international law, and the deep asymmetry between China's capabilities and those of its smaller neighbors – well, it's no surprise that the scope and pace of building man-made islands raises serious questions about Chinese intentions."

According to a statement in Chinese state media:

"As a matter of fact, Washington has long been adopting double standards on this issue, as it chooses to totally ignore the building work by other countries on islands owned by China, while showing "concerns" over China's activities on islands and reefs over which it has indisputable sovereignty.

China has reiterated its adherence to the path of peaceful development and a defensive national defense policy, stressing that the construction work is 'not targeted against any country.'"

No other country in the region is building artificial reefs for military purposes, or indeed has the resources to do so. Not only does China not have "indisputable sovereignty," their sovereignty is challenged by almost everyone outside of China. The United Nations has courts to resolve issues like this, but China is scared and frightened of using those courts because they know they would lose.

This increasingly vitriolic exchange of words is a major escalation in the situation, and a miscalculation by any party could trigger a military confrontation or a wider war.

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. There is no guarantee that the United States will survive the subsequent world war. China Daily and Reuters and Sydney Morning Herald and The Diplomat

400 die as illegal migrants flood into Italy from Libya

A boat packed with 550 migrants, traveling from Libya to Italy on Tuesday, capsized, resulting in 400 deaths, many of them children. The 150 survivors were rescued and brought to a southern Italian port on Tuesday. This adds to the 500 previous migrant deaths so far this year, up from a total of 47 in the same time frame last year.

An enormous 280,000 migrants entered the EU illegally last year, and that number is surging sharply higher this year. In the waters off Sicily, as many as 8,480 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in the four days from Friday to Monday. They were rescued by boats from the Italian Coast Guard, assisted by the European Union's Frontex border control boats, several commercial tugboats, and an Icelandic patrol boat. Aircraft and helicopters operated by the Coast Guard were brought in to help.

In one incident, the Icelandic vessel Tyr, was already carrying 342 migrants from an earlier rescue operation, and was called on to help rescue 250 people aboard a second migrant vessel. After they were transferred to the rescue vessel, a speedboat approached the rescue vessel. Those onboard the speedboat fired several shots into the air, and then sped away with the empty migrant boat. This was the second time this year when the smugglers took back a smuggling vessel.

According to one official, "This is a sign that smugglers in Libya are running short of boats and are more willing to use weapons to recover those used to transport the migrants." Times of Malta and VOA and Independent (Ireland) and Gazzetta Del Sud (Italy)

Illegal immigration from Mexico down sharply, but not for lack of trying

In the first six months of fiscal year 2015 (starting in October 2014), border agents captured 15,647 children traveling without parents crossing America's southern border illegally. That's down 40% from the 28,579 apprehended at the same point in fiscal year 2014. The number of "family units" captured is down 30% from last year.

So the level of illegal immigration is down sharply, but not for lack of trying by the migrants. The reason is that tens of thousands of migrants who are trying to escape the violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are being stopped by Mexican police and deported back to their home countries. In 2014 alone, the United States provided a military aid package of $112 million to Mexico to help modernize and make more efficient Mexico’s border policing and militarization.

US law allows for quick deportation of Mexicans caught illegally trying to cross the border, and this has deterred a much larger wave of migrants from Mexico. But children coming from Central American countries are transferred to social workers at the Health and Human Services Department, which holds them until they can be placed with relatives or foster family sponsors. Some politicians are urging that the law be changed so that Central American migrant children are also quickly deported, but others are resisting this because of the level of violence in Central American countries. International Business Times and Washington Times and Al Jazeera

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Apr-15 World View -- U.S.-China diplomacy over South China Sea turns vitriolic thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Apr-15 World View -- Gaza and Israel prepare for war with each other

Greece denies reports that it's preparing for a default

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Gaza prepares for all-out war with Israel


Hamas tunnel (Memri)
Hamas tunnel (Memri)

While Hamas, the governing group in Gaza, are taking care not to slide into a military escalation against Israel at this time, officials are boasting that workers are working day and night to manufacture rockets and other weapons, and to excavate new tunnels for concealing rocket launchers and mortars, as well as new tunnels for strategic attacks within Israel itself.

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, are recruiting as many teens as possible so they could acquire military skills, train with live ammunition, and practice civil defense and first aid.

According to a Hamas spokesman:

"The history of Hamas and its fighting brigades sets before us a glorious and honorable picture of preparing and producing weapons and excavating through rock to resist the occupier and cause it pain. Today, after many years, this picture has produced the Al-Qassam Army, as you and the world see, with its fighting units that participate today in this impressive display: artillery units, marine units, the elite unit, the tunnel unit, the sniper unit, the armored unit, the infantry unit, and the aerial defense unit. These are not [mere] names and nicknames – they are fighting units that subdued the enemy on Gaza's doorstep, broke its arrogant pretense, and humiliated their opponents on the land, in the sea, and in the air, with the grace of Allah the Almighty."

Memri and BBC

Iran and Qatar give Hamas money and weapons to fight Israel

Three years ago, the massive slaughter of Palestinians and innocent Sunni protesters by Syria's president Bashar al-Assad caused a split between Syria and Hamas, which moved its headquarters from Damascus to Doha, Qatar, and a resulting split between Hamas and Iran.

However, Hamas and Iran are putting aside their differences, and now Iran is once again sending the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, tens of millions of dollars to fund rebuilding its network of tunnels and the manufacturing of new rockets and other weapons. The amount of aid is not as great as provided by Qatar, but is significant.

Israel and Qatar do not officially have diplomatic relations, but Israel is cooperating with Qatar's plan to rebuild 1,000 homes that were destroyed in last summer's Gaza war, as part of a $1 billion aid pledge.

An unnamed official in the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is the governing group in the West Bank and is the nominal head of the "unified" Palestinian government, says that the agreement between Qatar and Israel threatens to marginalize PA:

"The PA fears the political implications hidden in the trenches of the Qatari initiatives and Qatar’s direct communication with Israel, particularly in terms of the proposed long-term bilateral truce between Hamas and Israel and the establishment of an airport and a seaport in Gaza.

Qatari involvement regarding a bilateral truce between Hamas and Israel means stepping around the PA’s role, leadership and position and ignoring Egypt's sponsorship of the Palestinian issue with Israel. [It would result in] the separation of Gaza from the West Bank, the establishment of a separate entity in Gaza with Qatari funding, the marginalization of the powers of the PA and government in the Gaza Strip and the preservation of Hamas’ control on the ground and over the crossings."

This illustrates one of the many reasons why there can never be a successful Palestinian state: Hamas and the Palestinian Authority simply don't get along. Telegraph (London) and Al Monitor and Ynet

Israel prepares for war with Hamas in Gaza

Israel is of course aware of Hamas's activities in Gaza to build tunnels and manufacture rockets and other weapons, and is applying lessons learned from last summer's Gaza war.

Israel is tripling the size of the "Samur" unit, which is designed to fight tunnel warfare. It's been receiving training in destroying weapons hideouts and tunnels.

According to Israeli army General Sami Turgeman made mistakes during last summer's Gaza war by not evacuating Israelis living in homes near the Gaza border:

"I think most of us went into this mistakenly thinking that evacuating residents of the border towns would have been a victory for Hamas."

He said that Israel's military could have been more effective if civilians in border towns had been evacuated, as the army could then have concentrated on the enemy without having to worry about protecting civilians. Jerusalem Post and Israel National News

Greece denies reports that it's preparing for a default

Greece denied on Monday a report by the Financial Times that it was preparing for a debt default if it did not reach a deal with its creditors by the end of the month and said the negotiations were proceeding "swiftly" towards a solution.

A senior EU official said that the conflicting messages from Athens "reflect the divergence of views within the current Greek government rather than an agreed negotiation position and tactics." Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Apr-15 World View -- Gaza and Israel prepare for war with each other thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Apr-15 World View -- Desperate Kenya demands closure of refugee camp after Garissa school attack

Pakistan hits back at UAE over Yemen war military support issue

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Desperate Kenya demands closure of refugee camp after Garissa school attack


Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest in the world
Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest in the world

On April 2, The Somalia terrorist group al-Shabaab massacred over 147 people, mostly Christian students, at Garissa University College in Kenya. That event, according to Kenyan officials themselves, has caused a reaction on Kenya very similar to the effect of the 9/11/2001 attack on America.

Kenya's government has announced two major actions targeting Somalians in particular.

First, Kenya on Wednesday suspended the licenses of major Somali money transfer firms in Nairobi, in an effort to curb the financing of al-Shabaab from remittances sent from Kenya. This suspension has been bitterly criticized not only by Somalis and but also by aid agencies that depend on the money transfer firms to transfer money used for humanitarian and development operations. Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and millions of people depend on remittances from their family members who moved to other countries to find work and send money back. End the remittances will hurt a lot of people, without increasing security.

Second, on Saturday, Kenya's government demanded that the United Nations close the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world, with 300,000 to 600,000 people, mostly Somalis, and move the camp and the residents into Somalia.

According to Deputy President William Ruto:

"We have asked the UNHCR to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall relocate them ourselves. The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change after Garissa.

Kenya is in an emergency situation... Each country has an obligation to look after its people first."

However, it's doubtful that these measures, even if enacted, will reduce the risk of terrorist acts against Kenya. Even the idea of building a 700 km fence along the border separating Kenya from Somalia, something that's being discussed as a measure of desperation, would be unlikely to prevent another attack.

The Dadaab camp was established in 1991 to house refugees from Somalia's civil war. Since then, a whole new generation of children have grown living in the camp. Since they're not allowed to leave the camp, they can't get an education or a job. So the Dadaab camp has become a fertile ground for recruitment by al-Shabaab, and also a place to hide out in preparation for an attack on a Kenyan target. The investigations following the Garissa school attack confirmed that that's happening.

Ironically, there's little evidence that the Garissa attack has increased xenophobic feelings between Muslims and Christians in Kenya. However, these acts directed at ordinary Somalian people are certain to increase mutual xenophobia between Kenyans and Somalis, creating a situation that may lead eventually to war. AFP and Al-Jazeera and The Nairobian and Clapway

Pakistan hits back at UAE over Yemen war military support issue

Tensions are increasing between United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan over the latter's apparent refusal to provide military help in Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi Arabia-led military action against the Houthis in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the end of March made a formal request of Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif to provide military help. After days of debate, Pakistan's parliament voted unanimously to reject the request help the warring factions in Yemen to resolve their differences through dialogue.

UAE's foreign affairs minister Anwar Mohammed Gargash angrily that "The vague and contradictory stands ... are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries." ( "12-Apr-15 World View -- Repercussions start for Pakistan's and Turkey's neutrality in Yemen")

On Sunday, Pakistan hit back at the UAE.

Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan accused UAE of "hurling threats":

"This is not only ironic but a thought-provoking moment that a minister of UAE is hurling threats at Pakistan. The statement of the UAE minister is in stark violation of all diplomatic norms prevalent according to the principals of international relations.

Pakistan is an honored nation and has brotherly emotions for the people of UAE along with Saudi Arabia, but this statement of an Emirati minister is equal to an offense against the ego of Pakistan and its people and is unacceptable.

This is a very interesting statement because it's like a husband asking his wife if she's having an affair, and in response she screams, "You don't love me any more."

Khan's statement expresses how deeply hurt Pakistan is to hear such a thing from the "brotherly" people of UAE, but it doesn't respond to UAE's criticism that Pakistan is willing to accept all kinds of help and support from Saudi Arabia, but when the Arab security is at stake, the Arabs are on their own.

An editorial appearing in a leading UAE newspaper lists many of the ways that Pakistan has benefited by aid from UAE's Pakistan Assistance Program (PAP) which build roads, bridges, 64 water treatment and purification plans, schools, colleges, vocational training institutes, hospitals, clinic and medical institutes.

The editorial says that Pakistan’s refusal to join the Saudi-led operations in Yemen could have serious consequences for its relations with the UAE. Furthermore:

"Pakistan’s decision, if it was made final, not only compromises the security of long-standing allies and friends, but also could undermine its own stability. The success of the operation in Yemen will not only remove the Houthi threat, but will also aim to destroy Al Qaeda’s stronghold there, which would have consequences far beyond the Arabian peninsula.

It might also lead to a situation of mistrust between old friends, Pakistan and the GCC countries, that have co-operated for decades on military and security issues."

This is a very interesting situation because you can see the clash of two opposing themes in many countries of the world:

On the one hand, whether it's Barack Obama in Syria, Angela Merkel in Ukraine, or Pakistan and Turkey in Yemen, there's a fear of "getting involved," and a willingness to appease rather than confront, as in the legendary case of Britain's Neville Chamberlain and Nazi Germany.

On the other hand, there are very strong nationalistic and xenophobic feelings being exhibited in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen, China in the South China Sea, and Russia in Ukraine.

In the end, choosing between appeasement and war is a "Hobson's choice," because in a generational Crisis era, appeasement is not an choice that's available for long. Appeasement in this era appears as weakness, and only encourages further nationalism and belligerence on the part of the countries not practicing appeasement.

In the case of Pakistan, the choice is between a continuing major political embarrassment with UAE and Saudi Arabia, versus military involvement in Yemen. If the best that the Pakistanis can do in response to the request is to whine about "an offense against the ego of Pakistan and its people," then the political choice is not going to be available for long. AFP and The National (UAE)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Apr-15 World View -- Desperate Kenya demands closure of refugee camp after Garissa school attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Apr-15 World View -- Repercussions start for Pakistan's and Turkey's neutrality in Yemen

Holy Fire from Jerusalem's Easter celebration arrives in Athens

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Holy Fire from Jerusalem's Easter celebration arrives in Athens


The Holy Fire from Jerusalem arrives in Athens on Saturday evening
The Holy Fire from Jerusalem arrives in Athens on Saturday evening

The Holy Fire that was lit in Jerusalem on Saturday morning arrived in Athens, Greece, on Saturday evening in time for the midnight Greek Orthodox celebration of Easter. The fire is lit each year on Easter Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, believed to be built on the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. From Jerusalem, the flame is sent to other nations.

The Holy Fire ceremony is possibly the most impressive celebration in all of Christianity, and is performed each year for Orthodox Easter.

On Saturday morning, Orthodox clergymen break the seal of the door to Christ's tomb in Jerusalem and descend into the chamber. After a while, they emerge with lit candles. Believers say that the "Holy Fire" appears spontaneously from the tomb on the day before Easter to show Jesus has not forgotten his followers.

The fire is passed from candle to candle, and is flown to Athens and other cities, so that the Holy Fire can be shared by thousands of worshippers. In Athens, the ceremony begins at 11 pm on Saturday, when practically the entire country is in church. At midnight, the lights are turned off, and everyone's candle is lit with the Holy Fire from the priest's candle, as the priest says, "Christ has risen from the dead and in so doing has trampled on death and to those in the tombs he has given life." Then people head home with their lit candles, and the entire city is lit by the candles with the Holy Fire. The ceremony dates back to the fourth century, and possibly as early as the first century. Greek Reporter and Times of Israel

Pakistan and Turkey refuse to support Saudi Arabia in Yemen

After several days of debate, Pakistan's parliament adopted on Friday a 12-point unanimous resolution, calling on the government to maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict.

The terms of the resolution included the following:

One really has to laugh that grown men could put stuff like this out.

However, this was only an advisory opinion. The final decision will be taken by Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, but he's previously said that any decision would require the backing of the parliament.

On Saturday, Sharif had a 45-minute phone call with Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Although the contents of the phone conversation were not revealed, it's believed that Turkey's views are similar to Pakistan's, and they want to "mediate," not fight. Two days after the Saudi military operation in Yemen began on March 25, Erdogan openly announced Turkey's support, promising logistical and intelligence assistance, and harshly criticizing Iran and Shias in general. Then Erdogan took a couple of trips, first to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital, and then Tehran, Iran's capital. He did a complete U-turn in less than two weeks, and now says that Turkey is categorically against sectarian-driven policies in the region. The News (Pakistan) and Reuters and Hurriyet (Ankara)

Pakistanis fear repercussions from neutrality on Yemen


Children in Yemen war zone (Reuters)
Children in Yemen war zone (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's official position regarding the current neutrality of Pakistan and Turkey is that it won't affect the military operation in Yemen, known as "Operation Decisive Storm." According to Saudi Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, Pakistan's participation in Operation Decisive Storm would be an "addition to the coalition."

However, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is harshly condemning Pakistan and Turkey for their neutral stance. According to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash:

"The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements. ...

This is nothing but another chapter of laggard impartial stand. Tehran seems to be more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Gulf countries. Though our economic and investment assets are inevitable, political support is missing at critical moments.

The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries, and the crisis is a real test for neighbouring countries."

Indeed, Pakistani expatriates living in Saudi Arabia are concerned about repercussions from Pakistan's neutral stance. There are nearly two million Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia, and they contribute $4.73 billion per year to Pakistan through remittances, the highest ever sum from any single country. Some of these Pakistanis are expressing fear that they might face discrimination in Saudi Arabia as a result of Pakistan's stance. Tribune (Pakistan) and Khaleej Times (UAE) and The News (Pakistan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Apr-15 World View -- Repercussions start for Pakistan's and Turkey's neutrality in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Apr-15 World View -- Pakistan reneges on promise to prosecute 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind

Obama to meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan reneges on promise to prosecute 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind


Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel during the 2008 terror attack
Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel during the 2008 terror attack

The government of Pakistan has released on bail Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, the mastermind behind the horrendous 26/11 terrorist attack on a number of hotels in Mumbai, India. The attacks began on November 26, 2008, and lasted three days, killing 166 people, and wounding hundreds more. ( "After Mumbai's '26/11' nightmare finally ends, India - Pakistan relations face crisis" from 2008)

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

Part of the agreement was that Pakistan would track down and prosecute the LeT terrorists who perpetrated the Mumbai attack.

Lakhvi has been kept in prison, but it's been pretty clear for years that Pakistan's government is reluctant to prosecute him, possibly out of fear that ISI officials had foreknowledge of, or were complicit in, the Mumbai attack. Now, a Pakistani high court has ordered the Lakhvi be released on bail, and it's thought that he'll never be prosecuted. Lakhvi is now the leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is a front group for LeT.

The government of India has expressed fury at the release, saying that Pakistan only wants to prosecute Taliban terrorists who attack targets within Pakistan, but gives a free hand to terrorists like LeT that attack targets in India and Afghanistan. India has launched a formal protest, and suggested that additional retaliatory steps will be taken.

Lakhvi came out of court declaring victory and pumping his fist in a defiant gesture. He was taken to a “secret and secure” location by JuD cadres who were in court on Friday. The News (Pakistan) and Mumbai Mirror

Obama to meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro

President Barack Obama and Cuba's president Raul Castro are expected to meet on Saturday at the Summit of the Americas Conference in Panama City. The agenda will be to convince Obama to lift embargoes and sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela.

The opening of relations between the US and Cuba became inevitable in 2010, when Cuba announced the end of its Communist economy. (See "16-Sep-10 News -- Cuba's seismic shift has global implications") Fifty years after the Cuban revolution, all the fanatical survivors of the 1959 war are old or dead, and the younger generations are more anxious to have internet access and new cars than to satisfy the ideological needs of some old Communist geezers.

One thing that's never stated often enough is that communism and socialism have failed every time they've been tried, and have usually ended up in a massive bloodbath.

Every now and then you'll hear some loony left activist saying that communism is superior to capitalism, which is a moronic thing to say, given the catastrophic experiences of Russia, East Germany, China, Cuba, and other countries. Today, the People's Paradise of North Korea, led by that Gift from God, Kim Jong-un, is the only major communist economy left.

There's a very simple mathematical proof that socialism and communism will always fail, except for very small populations. If you have a fiefdom of a few hundred people, then you can have the Lord and maybe an assistant or two set prices and make sure that all transactions follow the rules. But as the population increases exponentially, then the number of transactions increases at a much faster exponential rate, so that after a while the number of bureaucrats enforcing the regulations is almost the entire population.

That's why the economies of all the communist countries were stuck in the 1950s before their version of communism collapsed. In Cuba, there are nostalgic stories about all those 1950s cars that everyone drives, but we can expect those to disappear pretty quickly now. Whether you like it or not, after a while every communist economy collapses, and is replaced by some variations of free markets. Cuban News Agency and VOA

Pakistan adopts a neutral stance in the Yemen war

After several days of debate, Pakistan's parliament has voted a resolution to reject Saudi Arabia's request for military help in fighting the Houthis in Yemen. The resolution, which was unanimously approved, says that Pakistan's role will be as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan reaffirmed that Pakistan will stand with Saudi Arabia if its security was threatened, but said that in this case, the war in Yemen was an internal Yemen affair that did not threaten Saudi security. Dunya News (Pakistan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Apr-15 World View -- Pakistan reneges on promise to prosecute 26/11 Mumbai attack mastermind thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Apr-15 World View -- Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp descends into the 'deepest circle of Hell'

Europe demands list of reforms from Greece after numerous delays

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp descends into the 'deepest circle of Hell'


Scene of destruction in Yarmouk refugee camp (dpa)
Scene of destruction in Yarmouk refugee camp (dpa)

Ever since Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp was captured last week by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), putting ISIS within a few miles of al-Assad's seat of power in Damascus, the camp has turning into what United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling "the deepest circle of Hell."

For the last two years, Yarmouk has been under siege by the army of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, who was afraid that the 18,000 Palestinian refugees living there would side with the jihadists against him. But now that ISIS has invaded and captured Yarmouk, the residents "are pinned down by sniper fire, fearing for their lives, as shelling and aerial attacks escalate," according to Amnesty International.

According to Ban:

"The refugee camp is beginning to resemble a death camp. ... "What is unfolding in Yarmouk is unacceptable. We simply cannot stand by and watch a massacre unfold."

Daily Star (Beirut) and Deutsche-Welle and Daily Times (Pakistan)

Palestinians flip-flop on Syrian action in Yarmouk refugee camp

This situation is posing an intolerable political situation for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). On the one hand, the PLO opposes Bashar al-Assad because he has massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent Arab women and children, and even used Sarin gas against them, for peacefully demonstrating against him

On the other hand, the PLO is demanding that something be done to save the Palestinians. Two days ago Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the PLO executive committee, said: "The Palestinian leadership and the PLO will support any decision taken by the Syrian government regarding al-Yarmouk Camp."

On Thursday, however, the PLO issued a statement repudiating Majdalani's support for a Syrian regime solution, saying, "We refuse to be drawn into any armed campaign, whatever its nature or cover, and we call for resorting to other means to spare the blood of our people and prevent more destruction and displacement for our people of the camp."

That was followed later on Thursday by an announcement by 14 Palestinian factions, led by the same PLO executive, Ahmad Majdalani, saying:

"[The factions support] a security solution that will be carried out in partnership with the Syrian state and will have as its priority maintaining the security of citizens."

The only thing that we can make of all this is that the entire Mideast is spiraling into chaos, with blood running in the streets in several countries. Generational Dynamics predicts that a full-scale generational crisis war will engulf the Mideast, pitting Israelis against Arabs, Sunnis against Shias, various ethnic groups against each other, and even various factions against each other. I've been saying this for year, and it seems that every day brings it significantly closer. SANA (Syria) and Reuters and Al Arabiya

Europe demands list of reforms from Greece after numerous delays

Greece's central bank scraped together 450 million euros, and made the loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was scheduled for Thursday, thus delaying once again the threat of a Greek bankruptcy, which would force Greece to leave the eurozone and return to its traditional drachma currency.

However, Greece's woes are far from over. Greece has to pay another 400 million euros on April 14, then another payment of 900 million euros at the end of the month. Then, during May, Greece will have to pay 2.1 billion euros for salaries and pensions.

Greece's radical left wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras has literally been begging and pleading for money from the IMF and Europeans, but both are pointing out that Tsipras has failed to meet one of his own commitments.

In February, 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. That list has never been provided, and in fact, spending has been increased for "humanitarian needs" among Greeks in poverty.

The next Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers is scheduled for April 24, and the Europeans are demanding that Tsipras provide that list of reforms before that meeting, if he wants to get any more bailout money. Reuters

Iran's demands on sanctions threaten to unravel nuclear deal

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei spoke out for the first time since the nuclear deal was signed last week between Iran and the West. Khamenei called the Obama administration liars, and said that Obama's published fact sheet was not what was agreed. This will not be a surprise to Generational Dynamics readers, as we've reported Khamenei's similar statements in the last few weeks. But apparently it's a big surprise to the reporters at the NY Times and NBC News, who are too young and stupid to check out any facts.

According to Khamenei's statement on Thursday:

“I was never optimistic about negotiating with America, not based on hallucinations, rather based on experience. ... However, I agreed with these particular negotiations. I have supported—with all my existence—and will support the negotiators.”

“I support a deal that would guarantee the Iranian nation's honor and interests.”

“I trust our negotiators—know this—I have no doubts about them, ... but I have serious concerns about the other side. ... An example of this occurred in the last round of negotiations. The White House, approximately two hours after the negotiations, issued a multi-page statement they called ‘fact sheet’ on account of the [framework agreement] which was mostly untrue.”

On sanctions: “All sanctions must be removed when a deal is reached. If sanctions are linked to another process, then the talks are meaningless, because the purpose of the negotiations was to remove sanctions.”

On inspections: “They [inspectors] should not be allowed to penetrate at all into the country's security and defensive boundaries under the pretext of supervision, and the country's military officials are not permitted to allow the foreigners to cross these boundaries at all or stop the country's defensive development under the pretext of supervision and inspection."

“Some criminal countries, who themselves have either used a nuclear weapon against a country, like America, or France who has tested weapons in the ocean, which is illegal and bad for the environment, yet they accuse us of pursuing weapons. Islam and our logic and reason forbid us from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed Khamenei's statement on Thursday, and repeated that Iran has already been the victims of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) at the hands of Iraq's Saddam Hussein:

“The West supported Saddam with aircrafts, missiles, chemical weapons... and we [Iran] were empty handed. ... With determination and faith our nation was victorious.”

“If we wanted to obtain chemicals, which is far easier than obtaining nuclear weapons, surely we would; we are the victims of chemical weapons; however, we did not retaliate and joined the convention banning use and stockpiling of chemical weapons instead; this is a clear indication that our nation does not need such horrible weapons.”

So it appears that John Kerry and Barack Obama were simply lying last week when they said there was an agreement.

There are three major areas of disagreement:

Obama and Kerry have had one foreign policy disaster after another, and they're going to be desperate to save this one, by deferring and yielding on every point possible. A final deal is scheduled for July 1. AEI Iran Tracker

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Apr-15 World View -- Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp descends into the 'deepest circle of Hell' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Apr-15 World View -- Fears of tribal and ethnic violence in Kenya continue

U.S. begins daily aerial refueling for Saudi warplanes in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany fears wave of xenophobia after arson attack on refugee home


Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD)
Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD)

Early Saturday morning, criminals broke into an apartment building in the town of Tröglitz in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany and set the building on fire. The building was being remodeled to accommodate 40 asylum-seekers, starting in May. It's feared that this may signal new xenophobic attacks across the country.

Tröglitz was first established in the 1930s to provide housing for workers at a local coal mine, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the mine closed and some 4,500 jobs disappeared, leaving few work opportunities. This has provided an effective recruiting backdrop for parties like the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), for which some politicians are calling to be banned.

Asylum-seekers have been putting a strain on municipalities across Germany. It's estimated that 250,000 refugees will arrive from Germany this year, an increase of 80,000 over 2013. Many come from Syria and the Balkan states. Deutsche-Welle and Der Spiegel and TheLocal (Germany)

U.S. begins daily aerial refueling for Saudi warplanes in Yemen

For Wednesday's Yemen war escalation du jour, the United States has started aerial refueling for warplanes in the Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes in Yemen. The refueling flights will take place daily. However, all US flights will remain outside Yemen's air space.

On Tuesday, the US announced that it was stepping up intelligence sharing with the Saudi-led coalition and expediting the delivery of precision-guided bombs to the Saudis and their Gulf allies.

Iran has condemned the Saudi-led intervention, and has sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden Wednesday, saying they would protect Iranian shipping from piracy. Daily Star (Beirut)

Fears of tribal and ethnic violence in Kenya continue

About 2500 of Kenya's residents, both Muslims and Christians, marched in the town of Garissa on Tuesday to protest al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group responsible for the slaughter of 148 people, most of them Christian students, last week at Garissa University College. The raid, the deadliest since al-Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Nairobi, in 1998, was at least the fifth massacre by al-Shabaab since it stormed the upmarket Westgate shopping mall less than two years ago.

The protesters were also critical of Kenya's security forces for not doing enough to prevent such a massacre, and then for not responding quickly enough as news of massacre spread. There had been material previously circulating on social media warning about the attacks.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Somalis of Kenyan descent, marched in Eastleigh, a suburb of Nairobi, once again to protest Al-Shabaab.

Initially it was feared that these protests would lead to communal violence between Kenyans and Somalis, but those fears are subsiding now as no such violence has occurred.

Communal violence is not new to Kenya. Following the national elections in December 2007, there was massive violence, particularly in Rift Valley, killing over 1,100 people and leaving over 600,000 homeless.

Communal violence in the northeast regions of Kenya killed hundreds of people last year. Two ethnic groups, the Turkana and the Pokot, have been responsible for the communal violence in the far north of Kenya. For years, the two groups have been fighting over the usual kinds of things -- water resources, land, cattle rustling, and so forth.

But two years ago, a find of 600 million to one billion barrels of oil was discovered in Turkana's land, right next to the Pokot land. This oil has the potential to bring wealth to both tribes, but the Turkana are claiming it for their own, and the Pokot are threatening to kill the Turkana and take over the oil wells. As a result, the two tribes have been locked in a cycle of ever-increasing retaliatory violence, with whole villages burned to the ground and unarmed civilians killed.

Caught in the middle is the Anglo-Irish exploration company, Tullow Oil. According to a spokesman:

"People live off their land, the way they lived hundreds of years ago, in most cases. Here you have big industry and technology coming in with pastoralist communities. There are always going to be challenges. We are not going to agree on everything."

However, the government in Nairobi is saying that the oil wealth doesn't belong to either the Turkana or the Pokot -- that it belongs to the government of Nairobi.

When I wrote about the communal violence that followed the December 2007 election ( "Kenya almost -- but not quite on the brink of genocidal ethnic war"), I pointed out that Kenya's last generational crisis war was the Mau-Mau Rebellion, that climaxed in 1956. By 2008, only 52 years had passed, which is usually not enough time for a new generational crisis war to begin. (Usually, at least 58 years are needed.) Based on that analysis, I concluded that the communal violence at that time would soon fizzled out, which is exactly what happened.

But now 7 more years have passed, and we're 59 years past the climax of the Mau-Mau Rebellion. So Kenya is well past the time when a new generational crisis war can start. So the fears of new communal violence today are well founded, and any occurrence could spiral into a wider war. The Nation (Pakistan) and International Business Times and United Nations and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Apr-15 World View -- Fears of tribal and ethnic violence in Kenya continue thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Apr-15 World View -- Bashar al-Assad's Syria army showing signs of collapse

US speeds up weapons deliveries to militias in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bashar al-Assad's Syria army showing signs of collapse


Al-Assad's warplanes bomb the town of Kasab in Latakia province, after the army loses the town to opposition forces (Anadolu)
Al-Assad's warplanes bomb the town of Kasab in Latakia province, after the army loses the town to opposition forces (Anadolu)

It was just last year that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad was claiming that in 2015 his army would defeat all terrorists and their supporters in Syria, blaming the terrorism on Israel and its allies.

Blaming Israel for the rise of Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) and Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) in Syria would have to be considered at best a fantasy and at worst a delusion. But the promise of victory in 2015 is perhaps the biggest self-delusion of all, and appears less and less likely each week.

A major turning point in the international perception of al-Assad's army occurred a couple of weeks ago when the regime's army suffered a major military setback, and was defeated by Jabhat al-Nusra, which captured Idlib. That was in northern Syria. Al-Assad's army is faring no better in southern Syria, where ISIS captured Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp, putting ISIS within a few miles of al-Assad's seat of power in Damascus.

Al-Assad's reaction to those defeats is to bomb both Idlib and Yarmouk. Bombing these cities will be very effective in killing innocent women and children, but will do very little to stop the advance of al-Nusra and ISIS.

New reports indicate that these two defeats are not flukes, and that al-Assad's army is badly fracturing.

Al-Assad is a member of the Shia Alawite race, which broke away from mainstream Shia Islam in the ninth century. Since many of the forces that al-Assad's army is fighting are Sunnis, al-Assad does not trust Sunnis in his own army, for fear that they'll defect to the other side.

The result is that Alawites form the bulk of al-Assad's army, and are suffering the bulk of casualties, even though they're only a tenth of Syria's population.

The figures are staggering. There were about two million Alawites at the start of the war, with perhaps 250,000 men of fighting age. Today, as many as one-third of these are dead. Over 22,000 al-Assad soldiers and militiamen were killed in 2014 alone, the bulk of them Alawites.

When ordinary Alawite soldiers die in al-Assad's army, their corpses are returned to their homes piled up in plain pickup trucks. They are followed by the "press gangs": military recruiters raid Alawite houses to find replacements, and force them into the army.

The result is that the Alawites are trapped -- hated by the Sunnis for joining the army and killing Sunnis, but unable to escape the clutches of the press gangs.

This explains why al-Assad's army appears to be collapsing. At the beginning, al-Assad promised the Alawites quick victories and rich rewards. Those promises have gone the way of "you can keep your doctor." Today, the Alawites do not wish to be in the army, and probably couldn't care less who's in control of Idlib or Yarmouk. Telegraph (London) and Joshua Landis and Guardian (London)

Why do Awakening era civil wars always fizzle?

I've been criticized for writing in 2011, and repeating several times, that a crisis civil war cannot continue for long in a generational Awakening era, and so Syria's civil war would soon fizzle. The criticism was that this prediction allegedly turned out to be false.

Actually, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the civil war in Syria fizzled some time ago, and so the prediction turned out to be true. Certainly what's going on today cannot seriously be called a civil war, certainly not in the sense of generational theory. On the one hand, you have Bashar al-Assad's fracturing army of Alawites, as described in the story above, surviving only because of massive supplies of weapons from Russia, and troops from Hezbollah and Iran. On the other hand, you have the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) depending on thousands of jihadists from countries around the world, and a weak Free Syrian Army.

But let's dig deeper into this. Why is this not a real civil war, and why did it have to fizzle?

Let's start with what a real civil war would look like from the point of view of generational theory. You would have the Alawites full of hatred for the Sunnis and the Sunnis full of hatred for the Alawites, with each side wishing to exterminate the other. That's what a crisis civil war would look like. The last one occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the previous one occurred roughly 70 years earlier during World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Every generational crisis war ends in what I like to call an "explosive climax," something so horrible that both winners and losers are traumatized by it. In World War II, America and the allies firebombed Dresden and Tokyo, and nuked two Japanese cities. Today, these acts are generally accepted as necessary to have protected American lives, but in the decades after the war, these acts were widely condemned by armchair critics.

However, the "explosive climax" need not be an actual explosion, because it refers to a political explosion. Actually, there were two such explosive climaxes in the region in 1982. The Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon were the site of a massacre of Palestinian refugees in camps 1982. And Syria's last extremely bloody civil war climaxed in the 1982 slaughter of tens of thousands of Syrians in Homa.

Like the actions that ended World War II, these mass slaughters still weigh heavily on the psyches of the survivors of the Syrian and Lebanese civil wars, respectively, of the 1980s. I discussed this fear several times with regard to Lebanon in the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah. I quoted Lebanese President Émile Geamil Lahoud as saying:

"Believe me, what we get from [Israeli bombers] is nothing compared to [what would happen] if there is an internal conflict [a new civil war] in Lebanon. So our thanks comes when we are united, and we are really united, and the national army is doing its work according to the government, and the resistance [Hizbollah] is respected in the whole Arab world from the population point of view. And very highly respected in Lebanon as well."

The Lebanese feared, above all else, a repeat of something like the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila, and considered that to be a worse possibility than Israeli bombers.

So now returning to today's situation in Syria, we have a population of Syrians with no desire for a civil war, who are being propelled by forces beyond their control. The Alawites vividly recall the horrors of what happened in 1982, and have no desire to repeat them. The Sunnis, whose women and children are being bombed every day by al-Assad's warplanes, with bombs supplied by Russia, have responded by creating ISIS and al-Nusra, and recruited jihadists from around the world to fight al-Assad, his Russian weapons, and his Hezbollah and Iranian allies. AP

US speeds up weapons deliveries to militias in Yemen

The war in Yemen escalated by one more step on Tuesday, when the US announced that it was setting up an American coordination center in Saudi Arabia, and would speed up weapons deliveries to anti-Houthi militias in Aden, in south Yemen. According to US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Riyadh:

"Saudi Arabia is sending a strong message to the Houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun Yemen by force.

As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation centre."

Saudi airstrikes so far have failed to stop the Houthis, and officials hope that expedited weapons deliveries will help. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Apr-15 World View -- Bashar al-Assad's Syria army showing signs of collapse thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Apr-15 World View -- Greece confirms that it will pay the IMF on Thursday and avoid bankruptcy

Pakistan parliament debates sending troops to Yemen to support Saudi Arabia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan parliament debates sending troops to Yemen to support Saudi Arabia


Pakistan parliament building
Pakistan parliament building

Pakistan's parliament is debating a request from Saudi Arabia to actively join the coalition fighting the Iran-backed Shia Houthis in Yemen, and to supply combat planes, warships and soldiers to the effort. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have come to each other's aid several times in the last decades, and so it's thought that Pakistan now has a moral obligation to help with something that Saudi Arabia considers a substantial threat to itself. Pakistanis urging rejection of the request point out that Iran and Pakistan share a long border, and say that Iran may retaliate against Pakistan if Pakistan helps Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

Pakistan has strategic relationships with only three countries: China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia. Leaders from both Turkey and Pakistan are meeting with each other and with leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to resolve the conflict diplomatically, and to prevent it from exploding into a larger regional war.

However, as I've been saying for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a war pitting Jews against Arabs, Sunnis against Shias, and different ethnic groups against each other. We have Muslims killing Muslims in large numbers in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and to a lesser extent in Egypt and Lebanon. In the past year, the amount of bloodshed of Muslims killing Muslims seems to have been increasing almost exponentially, and the growing Yemen war continues that trend. The News (Pakistan) and Reuters and McClatchy

Greece confirms that it will pay the IMF on Thursday and avoid bankruptcy

There have been unconfirmed reports that Greece was going into default on Wednesday, and then use the four-day bank holiday leading up to Orthodox Easter on Sunday to convert the country's currency from the euro back to the old drachmas.

But Greece's finance minister Yanis Varoufakis met with Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Sunday and confirmed that Greece will make the scheduled 450 million euro ($494 million) bailout loan interest payment to the IMF on Thursday, and would avoid bankruptcy.

Greece is almost out of cash, and will delay paying pensions and public employee wages in order to make the debt repayment. At the same time, Greece is begging the IMF and the eurozone finance ministers to hurry up and provide the next bailout tranche. Kathimerini and Capital (Greece)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Apr-15 World View -- Greece confirms that it will pay the IMF on Thursday and avoid bankruptcy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Apr-15 World View -- Many countries, but not US, are evacuating their citizens from Yemen

Saudi Arabia razing villages near the border with Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen Houthis arrest Sunnis in Sanaa, as fighting continues in Aden


Pro-Hadi fighters in Aden holding a position during clashes with Houthis on Saturday (AFP)
Pro-Hadi fighters in Aden holding a position during clashes with Houthis on Saturday (AFP)

The Shia/Sunni sectarian divide in Yemen widened on Sunday when Iran-back Shia Houthi militias raided the homes and offices and arrested members of Islah party of Sunni politicians.

However, the main fighting is taking place in Aden, the southern port city to which the internationally recognized president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi fled in February, before leaving the country entirely. The fighting is between Houthi militias that arrived from the north versus Sunni tribes backing Hadi.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia is conducting air strikes on Houthi targets, but strikes on Houthi positions in Aden have so far failed to stop the Houthi advance. Hadi is requesting the Saudi coalition to send in ground troops. VOA and Irish Times

Saudi Arabia razing villages near the border with Yemen

Saudi Arabia is planning to raze 96 deserted villages along the border with Yemen, Ten villages have already been demolished. The purpose is to prevent the empty houses from turning into "a safe haven for traffickers and infiltrators" from Yemen.

The villages were evacuated during a 2009-2010 conflict in which Houthis crossed into Saudi Arabia from their stronghold in northern Yemen. Some 15,000 inhabitants were forced to leave their homes and move 50 km away, where "They are suffering from material hardship and government marginalization," according to one resident.

People still living near the border between the two countries fear that they'll be forced to move as well. However, a Saudi officials denies that any orders have been given to move them, and that, "The inhabitants of all the villages along the southern border region close to Yemen are living normally and enjoying complete security and stability." Middle East Eye and Al Arabiya

Many countries, but not US, are evacuating their citizens from Yemen

With Yemen collapsing further into chaos on a daily basis, many countries are evacuating their citizens from Yemen. Many of these people are foreign workers who came to Yemen to earn money. Here are some examples:

However, many Americans living in Yemen are feeling abandoned after the State Dept. said that it has no plans to help evacuate them. According to a State Department travel advisory issued on Friday:

"The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain severe. There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely. U.S. citizens wishing to depart should do so via commercial transportation options when they become available. Keep vital records and travel documents close at hand; U.S. citizens should be prepared to depart at a moment’s notice. The airports are currently closed, but may open unexpectedly; other unforeseen opportunities to depart may also suddenly arise.

Additionally, some foreign governments may arrange transportation for their nationals and may be willing to offer assistance to others. There is no guarantee that foreign governments will assist U.S. citizens in leaving Yemen. U.S. citizens who choose to seek foreign government assistance in leaving Yemen should only do so if they can safely make their way to the point of embarkation and have received confirmation that there is space available. Even if assured there is space aboard transportation, U.S. citizens should be aware that there is no guarantee that they will be permitted to board the transport, or may have to wait an indefinite period until they can do so. There is also no guarantee of where travelers will go."

Canadian Broadcasting/AP and India.com and The Diplomat and Indian Express and Jordan Times and Daily Sabah (Turkey) and AFP and Bangladesh News and Bangkok Post and Guardian (London) and US State Department

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Apr-15 World View -- Many countries, but not US, are evacuating their citizens from Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Apr-15 World View -- Texts of Iran nuclear deal differ in English and Farsi versions

Kenya's president: terrorists are 'deeply embedded' in Kenya

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS pushes closer to Damascus through Syria's Yarmouk refugee camp


Yarmouk residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid (Reuters)
Yarmouk residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid (Reuters)

Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) militias have taken control of a southern district in Damascus, Syria, and are just a few kilometers from the military headquarters of the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. Al-Assad's army has suffered several recent defeats, especially the major military defeat in Idlib, and so it appears that ISIS may present a real military challenge to the regime in its seat of power. Reports indicate that ISIS is also receiving help from the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), a group with which it often has battles in other places and times.

ISIS's advance into Damascus is through the Yarmouk refugee camp, home to about 18,000 Palestinian refugees. The camp has been under siege from al-Assad's army since 2011, since al-Assad feared that the Palestinian refugees would join the fight against him. In the last couple of years, the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) have entered Yarmouk and fought each other, making Yarmouk increasingly dangerous for the civilians living there. Now the invasion of ISIS has turned Yarmouk into a humanitarian disaster. Aid groups are unable to enter Yarmouk, with the result that the civilians have no food and water, no electricity. Anyone who leaves his home risks getting shot and killed by snipers on the rooftops.

Other reports indicate that al-Assad's forces are trying to fight ISIS by means of "violent shelling by the regime forces using tank shells and ground-to-ground missiles," weapons that are more likely to kill civilians than ISIS.

According to Hanan Ashrawi, international Palestinian activist and executive of the Palestinian Authority (PA/PLO) government, on Saturday:

"Yarmouk is a test, a challenge for the international community. We must not fail. The credibility of the international system itself is at stake.

The current situation in the al-Yarmouk refugee camp is a heartbreaking catastrophe.

Since December 2012, tens of thousands of men, women and children, most of whom are Palestinian refugees, have been forced to flee and have had their lives torn apart by war. The 18,000 residents who remain in Yarmouk are in great danger from extremist groups, including ISIS, that are seeking to take full control of the camp.

We call on all members of the international community, particularly the United Nations, European Union and the United States, to safeguard the innocent people of Yarmouk and ensure that all sides commit to a permanent ceasefire."

And yet, with almost the entire Mideast in flames these days, the women and children in Yarmouk have little hope of receiving any international aid quickly. ARA News (Syria) and AP and Jerusalem Post

Texts of Iran nuclear deal differ in English and Farsi versions

Iran's press has been euphoric and ecstatic over this week's nuclear agreement between Iran and Western negotiators. Many newspapers are devoting entire editions to the agreement. A typical headline is, "Our nation is on the cusp of a great victory."

The American mainstream media, who are overwhelmingly Democratic and always support President Obama no matter what he does, have stayed in line by endorsing the deal, calling it "historic" or "a great victory for Obama's legacy."

However, the more conservative New York Post hired a Farsi expert to compare the Farsi version of the agreement, published by Iran, versus the English version of the agreement, published by the White House, and found some significant differences. Indeed, it's clear from the two text versions that the claims of complete agreement between Iran and the West are simply not true.

To use the old joke, this is actually déjà vu all over again. There was an interim nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the West in November 2013 that had similar problems. The full text of that agreement has never been 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 it appears that we're starting off with the same kinds of lies and deceptions that were part of the 2013 interim agreement.

There's another thing that's bothering me. During his "mission accomplished" televised victory press conference earlier this week after the deal was announced, President Obama referred to a fatwa supposedly issued by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, and that forbids the development of nuclear weapons. The fatwa supposedly says, "the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons."

The problem is that nobody has ever seen this fatwa, because it doesn't exist, according to a number of Iranian and Arab writers that have researched the issue. "18-Mar-14 World View -- Does Iran's anti-nuclear fatwa really exist, as claimed?"

So the question is: Why did Obama refer to this nonexistent fatwa? Is he simply lying because he can always get away with lying? Does he think the reporters in the mainstream media are so stupid that they won't even check it out? Well, if that's what Obama thinks, then Obama is probably right.

At any rate, it's pretty clear that President Obama is willing to say and do anything to get the final deal with Iran ratified by the July 1 deadline. We'll see what he's willing to do as the weeks go by. BBC and New York Post and Memri (17-Mar-2014) and Memri (4-Oct-2013)

Kenya's president: terrorists are 'deeply embedded' in Kenya

Following last week's slaughter of almost 150 Christian college students attending Garissa University College in Kenya ( "3-Apr-15 World View -- Al-Shabaab kills 147 mostly Christian students in Kenya school"), Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Saturday that those behind an attack in which Al-Shabaab fighters killed 148 people at a university were "deeply embedded" in Kenya. He called on Kenyan Muslims to help prevent radicalization:

"Our task of countering terrorism has been made all the more difficult by the fact that the planners and financiers of this brutality are deeply embedded in our communities.

Radicalization that breeds terrorism is not conducted in the bush at night. It occurs in the full glare of day, in [Islamic schools], in homes and in mosques with rogue imams."

On Saturday morning, al-Shabaab warned that there would be more attacks, and that, "Kenyan cities will run red with blood." Al-Jazeera

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Apr-15 World View -- Texts of Iran nuclear deal differ in English and Farsi versions thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Apr-15 World View -- China to sell eight advanced submarines to Pakistan, encircling India

Greece turns to Russia and China, amid reports of imminent default

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China to sell eight advanced submarines to Pakistan, encircling India


Submarine image from Pakistan Defense
Submarine image from Pakistan Defense

The naval arms race between India and Pakistan took a big leap forward this week, as Pakistan signed a deal to acquire eight advanced conventional (non-nuclear) diesel-powered submarines from China. Pakistan's Ministry of Defense said that the eight submarines were being purchased from China to address the force imbalance with India, as India has been expanding its own fleet.

China and Pakistan are "all-weather" friends, and this is a particularly large military sale. Also, as a sign of Pakistan's close relationship with China, this is the first time China has exported its submarines to anyone.

India has been expanding its fleet not just because of Pakistan, but because of China. China has been rapidly expanding its fleet ( "28-Feb-15 World View -- US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US"), and India claims that China has been "encircling" India with naval bases.

The Indians particularly point to the Gwadar Port on the Indian Ocean in Pakistan, which China has been developing. The port serves the dual purpose. On the one hand, it's a military naval base. But it's also a way for China to avoid maritime choke points in the Indian and Pacific oceans by moving Persian Gulf oil and gas over land from Gwadar to China.

China claims to have three principles in selling arms to other countries:

However, Western nations have accused China of repeatedly impairing the stability of the region, such as through the sales of advanced cruise missiles to Pakistan that began in the 1990s. Those accusations will certainly be renewed with China's sale of this submarine fleet to Pakistan.

A few days ago, I reported on Pakistan's close relationship with Saudi Arabia. As I've been saying for about ten years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the world is headed for a new "Clash of Civilizations" world war that will pit the West, India, Russia and Iran versus China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries. Dawn (Pakistan) and Marine Link and Lowy Institute (Australia)

As Russia-Saudi relations deteriorate, Egypt tries a middle road

Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have never been particularly friendly, especially since 1938, when Stalin closed the Soviet embassy in Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic relations were not restored until after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but they haven't been close.

In recent years, the Russians have infuriated the Saudis by providing billions of dollars of weapons to the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

The Saudis have infuriated the Russians by refusing to cut production as the price of oil collapsed, thereby harming Russia's economy.

Russia has accused the Saudis of supplying weapons to the militias fighting against al-Assad in Syria. The Saudis have accused Russia of invading Crimea in order to kill the Crimean Muslim (Tatar) population.

Egypt is a close ally of Saudi Arabia, and the two countries are partners in the joint Arab military intervention in Yemen, against Iran-backed Houthis.

Egypt depends on Saudi Arabia for financial aid, but would also like a close relationship with Russia. Egypt has had a much longer relationship with Russia, with Russian czars supporting Orthodox Christians in Egypt as far back as the 16th century, and the Soviet Union was a key backer of Egypt in the decades after World War II.

Egypt is in a unique situation: Egypt would like to purchase weapons from Russia, funded by $2 billion of Saudi money. However, Russia has not been quick to sign such a deal, and the Saudi media is reminding Egyptians that 2,500 Egyptian soldiers died defending Crimea from the Russians back in the mid-19th century.

So although Egypt would like to have closer relations with Russia, it appears that they will be overshadowed by Egypt's very close relations with Saudi Arabia. Al-Monitor and Washington Post

Greece turns to Russia and China, amid reports of imminent default

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Greece plans to miss its next scheduled bailout loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and will go into default next week on Wednesday (8-Apr). This would be the best time, since banks are scheduled to be closed for the following four days in celebration of Greek Orthodox Easter, which occurs next Sunday. According to this report, currency bills in Greece's traditional drachma currency have already been printed, and Greece's government would use those four days to convert from the euro currency back to the drachma currency.

Other reports suggest that Greece has been turning to Russia and China for bailout funds that would permit it to retain the euro currency. Russia might consider supplying these funds to Greece, in return for Greece's full-throated opposition to EU sanctions against Russia. China might consider supplying the funds as part of a deal to purchase Greece's port of Piraeus, which China's Cosco shipping group would like to buy.

Alternatively, the Europeans may manage, once again, to find a way to "kick the can down the road," and permit Greece to get through the current week's crisis and continue until the next crisis, which is currently scheduled for July. Investment Watch and Economist

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Apr-15 World View -- China to sell eight advanced submarines to Pakistan, encircling India thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Apr-15 World View -- Al-Shabaab kills 147 mostly Christian students in Kenya school

Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing Jesus' and 1960s-style activism

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Al-Shabaab kills 147 mostly Christian students in Kenya school


Kenyan security forces at Garissa University College on Thursday (AFP)
Kenyan security forces at Garissa University College on Thursday (AFP)

The Somalia terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has been out of the news lately because Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has been grabbing all the headlines, has finally grabbed its own headlines on Thursday by killing over 147 people, mostly Christian students, at Garissa University College in Kenya. The students were massacred in their dormitories. Christians were singled out and shot dead. 79 were injured, and 587 were led to safety. Al-Shabaab has retained its loyalty to al-Qaeda, and has not pledged itself to ISIS, as other terror groups have.

Al-Shabaab has targeted Christians in the past. In December, al-Shabaab terrorists killed 36 mainly Christian miners working in a quarry in northern Kenya, near the border with Somalia. The 60 or so workers were asked to recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed declaring oneness with God. Those who couldn't were shot and killed.

This follows a similar incident that occurred on November 22, when Al-Shabaab terrorists forced a bus carrying 60 passengers to stop. They asked the passengers to recite Koranic verses, and those who were unable to do so were lined up and then killed. 28 people were killed, 19 men and 9 women.

The new attack was reminiscent of a 2013 al-Shabaab attack in 2013 at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. That attack lasted for three days, and involved al-Shabaab recruits from a Somali community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That attack brought Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta under a great deal of criticism for doing nothing to stop terrorism.

So on Thursday, Kenyatta announced that he would defy a court order that prevented the recruitment to Kenya's police service. In October 2014, the High Court blocked further police recruitment because of corruption in the selection process. Kenyatta will defy the court order, and is ordering 10,000 new recruits to report to the Kiganjo police training college. Daily Mail (London) and Capital FM (Kenya)

Bill O'Reilly's 'Killing Jesus' and 1960s-style activism

On Sunday, I saw Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Jesus," which presents the "historical Jesus," the life of Jesus as confirmed by contemporary historical sources.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, one thing that comes through strongly in watching this movie is how much Jesus was a 1960s-style activist. Almost every word about love and peace, and every action such as demonstrating against the older generation of Jews, sounded and looked like people from the 1960s. I was also reminded of the 1960s Broadway musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," which also portrays Jesus as a 1960s-style activist.

This is a compliment to Jesus, not a criticism. Jesus accomplished his goals through peaceful activism, as contrasted to Mohammed, who led an army.

One more point: Jesus's ministry occurred during a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s. Mohammed's time occurred during a generational crisis war between Mecca and Medina, like World War II. This difference is reflected in the two holy books. For example, many men are killed during a war, leaving behind many unattached women whose presence can destabilize a society. This fact alone explains why the Koran permits polygamy, while the Bible does not.

The New Testament might be thought of as describing how to live during a generational Awakening era. The Koran might be thought of as describing how to live during a generational Crisis war. This is a generational analysis that, from a secular point of view, explains the difference in tone between the two books.

The movie "Killing Jesus" will be repeated on the Fox News Network at 8pm and 11pm ET this evening (Friday) and again on Sunday. This is appropriate, as this weekend is Easter for Western Christians. As far as I know, the movie will not be repeated next weekend, for Orthodox Christian Easter. Fox News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Apr-15 World View -- Al-Shabaab kills 147 mostly Christian students in Kenya school thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Apr-15 World View -- ISIS captures Yarmouk refugee camp, closes in on collapsing al-Assad

Turkmenistan fears jihadist invasion from Afghanistan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS captures Yarmouk refugee camp, closes in on Damascus


Yarmouk refugee camp, 31-Jan-2014, showing residents queuing up to receive food supplies (AP)
Yarmouk refugee camp, 31-Jan-2014, showing residents queuing up to receive food supplies (AP)

The Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) captured the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria on Wednesday, inflicting another defeat on the army of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime. This comes just after the al-Assad regime suffered a major military setback in Idlib, as I reported a few days ago. According to some reports, the ISIS received some help from the rival jihadist gang, the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front).

Prior to the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Yarmouk refugee camp was home to half a million Palestinian refugees. However, many Palestinians have fled the camp, mainly driven out by a siege from the the army of al-Assad, who accused the Palestinians of joining the militias opposing him. The current population is estimated to be around 18,000.

The capture of Yarmouk gives ISIS a strong foothold on southern Damascus, which is al-Assad's seat of power. Daily Star (Lebanon) and Reuters and AP

Hezbollah trapped by a sense of collapse in al-Assad's army

The Shia Iran-backed Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon is increasingly in a quagmire because of the changing Mideast dynamics.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah condemned the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen against the Houthis, and expressed displeasure at political elements within Lebanon's own government that supported the intervention. But there's little that Hezbollah can do, since it's stretched to the limits in Syria, where it's supposed to be supporting the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, but the latter is facing a growing perception of collapse following the last week's fall of Idlib, and Wednesday's loss of Yarmouk. With the military effectiveness of al-Assad's army possibly near an end, Hezbollah has to select its battles very carefully.

Hezbollah appears to be facing the bitter reality that it's a Shia militia living in a mostly Sunni Mideast, including the country of Lebanon where it shares power with Sunni politicians. In the past, the mantra was that everyone had to get along with everyone, and so Hezbollah could flourish by repeatedly talking about the "resistance," referring to the conflict with Israel. But the war in Syria, and now the war in Yemen, have caused the Sunni-Shia fault line to sharpen considerably, and there's a lot less patience among Sunni governments to put up with an Iran-backed Shia militia (Hezbollah), which they see as an ally of Iran and a threat to their own stability. Daily Star (Lebanon)

Turkmenistan fears jihadist invasion from Afghanistan

There have been fears throughout Central Asia that the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will create a vacuum that will be filled by jihadists.

This has been especially true in Turkmenistan, which shares a 744 km border with Afghanistan, and is particularly vulnerable to jihadists attacking from Afghanistan. In fact, Turkmenistan's government seems genuinely frightened by the prospect of an invasion, so much so that it's violating its own rules of neutrality and asking Russia to provide troops for protection. And this comes as Turkmenistan has already asked Uzbekistan to provide border guards to protect Turkmenistan's border.

Moscow has been strengthening its military presence in Tajikistan, so doing so in Turkmenistan is consistent with Russia's policies, even if it's inconsistent with Turkmenistan's policies. Turkmenistan, like the rest of the world, has been watching Russia's actions in Ukraine and Crimea, and learned that once Russian forces gain a foothold in a country, it's impossible to get them to leave. So Turkmenistan's government must be really scared to make that request of Russia.

What concerns everyone most is the threatened rise of terrorist groups linked to the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Central Asia. ISIS has been recruiting in north Afghanistan, and an ISIS invasion into Turkmenistan could create a large refugee problem that would be destabilizing in Central Asia, and would increase xenophobic ethnic violence in Russia itself. Jamestown/Paul Goble

Palestinian Authority joins International Criminal Court

The Palestinian Authority (PA) became a full member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday, with the stated intention of bring war crimes charges against Israel for actions taken during last summer's Gaza war. The PA joined last year with observer status, and is now a full member.

The Palestinians will have to overcome a number of legal hurdles. First, they must convince the ICC that they have jurisdiction. Second, they would have to prove that Israel's targets during the Gaza war were not legitimate military targets, and that the intention was to cause indiscriminate or disproportionate harm to civilians. This would be difficult to prove, since armed Palestinian militias were launching rockets from within the civilian population.

On the other hand, Israel could make a much more straightforward case that Hamas's firing of rockets and missiles at Israeli communities had the intention of causing indiscriminate or disproportionate harm to civilians, especially since Palestinian military leaders have stated on numerous occasions that they consider Israeli civilians to be legitimate military targets. Arab News and Media Line

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Apr-15 World View -- ISIS captures Yarmouk refugee camp, closes in on collapsing al-Assad thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Apr-15 World View -- As Yemen war intensifies, Pakistan seems close to sending troops

The Mideast and the world continue to head for a major new war

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen crisis continues growth into major war and humanitarian crisis


Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif shakes hands with Saudi King Salman (The Nation)
Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif shakes hands with Saudi King Salman (The Nation)

The Mideast seems to be settling in for another major war, another major humanitarian crisis, another opportunity for gushing statements by politicians.

Saudi Arabian airstrikes hit the Al-Mazraq refugee camp near Sanaa, killing at least 30 people, including women and children. About 1100 families live in the camp, having fled from the fighting in the last few months.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is criticizing the Saudis for the air strikes, and the fighting in general, saying that "Increasing hostilities have led to (the) targeting of schools, health facilities and other social infrastructure. ... There are reports of damage to residential areas in different cities, and in Aden, minors have reportedly taken part in the fighting on all sides."

The Saudis have deployed thousands of soldiers to the border with Yemen. Iran-backed Houthi fighters have been clashing with Saudi soldiers on the border between the two countries. There was heavy gunfire as Saudi helicopters flew overhead.

In southeastern Yemen, Houthis are massively attacking Aden, and have approached the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait that controls access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Egypt's naval ships are shelling Houthi positions to protect the strait.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said:

"The situation in Yemen is extremely alarming, with dozens of civilians killed over the past four days. The country seems to be on the verge of total collapse."

AFP and Reuters and CNN

Pakistan debates Saudi Arabia's call for help

It's increasingly clear that the war in Yemen is turning into a major war. There's supposed to be a ten-country coalition fighting against the Houthis in Yemen, but only three countries have seriously committed forces to fighting the Houthis: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The U.S. supports the efforts with intelligence.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud has asked Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to provide troops from Pakistan's army to aid the Yemen war against the Houthis. Pakistan is officially a sectarian state, but it's 80% Sunni Muslim, and has a history of supporting the Sunnis in the Mideast. Pakistani troops fought in the 1967 Six-Day War between the Arab states and Israel, and the army also came to Saudi Arabia’s aid in 1969 when South Yemen invaded part of the kingdom.

Nawaz Sharif also owes a personal debt of gratitude to the Saudis. When Sharif was prime minister in the late 1990s, he was overthrown in a coup by army general Pervez Musharaff and imprisoned. The Saudis interceded for him, and he went to Saudi Arabia and remained as a guest for several years. Pakistan has also benefitted from its friendship with Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is a poor country, while Saudi Arabia is a wealthy country, and the Saudis have given a great deal of financial and military aid to Pakistan.

So now the Saudis are demanding help in return. According to reports, the Pakistani public is opposed to intervening in Yemen. Pakistan has a long border with Iran, and has tried to maintain cordial relations with Iran, which would not be helped by fighting a proxy war against Iran in Yemen. Internally, Pakistan has suffered thousands of deaths from sectarian terrorist attacks by the Taliban against Shias, and getting involved in a sectarian war in Yemen could exacerbate the sectarian conflict in Pakistan.

Analysts seem to believe that Pakistan has no choice but to yield to King Salman's request. Some reports indicate that several battalions of Pakistani troops are already preparing to travel to Saudi Arabia, or have already arrived.

This is a good time to review Generational Dynamics predictions that I've been posting for ten years:

These predictions seemed unlikely or even fantastical ten years ago, even to me, but today, they're all coming true. These predictions did not come from a crystal ball. They came from an analysis of history using a specific methodology.

Once again, the Generational Dynamics methodology is based on MIT's Systems Dynamics applied to population flows through generations. There is no analyst, politician, web site or journalist with anything close to the predictive success of the Generational Dynamics web site. When I set up my web site in 2003, it was with the specific purpose of providing a place where I could post Generational Dynamics analyses and predictions, so that anyone at any time could look back and see if they turned out to be right or wrong. Now, after 12 years, I can say with confidence that Generational Dynamics has probably turned out to be the most successful predictive and analytical methodology in history, and anyone can look back on the thousands of articles, predictions and analyses that I've posted and judge for themselves. Guardian (London) and The Nation (Pakistan) and Debka (Israel)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Apr-15 World View -- As Yemen war intensifies, Pakistan seems close to sending troops thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Apr-2015) Permanent Link
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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 is 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,"