Iran’s Javad Zarif, interview with Al Jazeera

By far, one of the best diplomats in the 21st century. In contrast, the B-Team [John Bolton, Benjamin Netanyahu, Khalifa bin Zayed of UAE, and bin Salman of Saudi Arabia] have no talent or desire for it.

On the Brink of War

by Serban V.C. Enache

Trump’s Neocons, with virtually no opposition from the Democrats, went to the final stage of trade warfare against Iran, by eliminating all wavers for Iranian oil exports into China, Turkey, Italy, India, Japan, Greece, Taiwan, and South Korea. Turkey’s Foreign Minister said that ending wavers for Iranian crude won’t serve regional peace and stability, but will harm the Iranian people; he rejected American unilateralism. Similarly, the Chinese Foreign Minister stated that Iranian-Chinese commerce is lawful and transparent and must be respected.

Mike Pompeo warned non-compliant state actors with trade sanctions. The Trump administration is practicing gunboat diplomacy, perfectly emulating the philosophy and means of the [defunct] British Empire, against the entire world, even its allies [many of whom are de facto US occupied territories, like Western Europe & the Balkans]. For those upstart enthusiasts who claim NATO is an alliance, and not an occupation, I ask them – how many European troops and European military bases are on United States soil? None. I rest my case.

In response to this final stage of commercial aggression, Teheran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. About 20 percent of global crude output destined for foreign markets travels through the Strait, that’s also about one third of seaborne oil. Saudi and US oil exporters are eager to expand production, in order to cover the [geopolitical] shortfall from Iranian and Venezuelan crude, and gain a higher market share as a result. Still, the closing of the Strait of Hormuz would bring about harsh consequences, especially for the Gulf states, and a prolonged conflict might leave countries like UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar extremely vulnerable. The navigable portion of the Strait is only 2 miles wide. Back in 1980-1988, there was the tanker war between [US-sponsored] Iraq and Iran. In the final year of that conflict, the American USS Vincennes shot down Iranian civilian air flight 655, killing all 290 souls on board.

As if in a trans-national orchestrated fashion, after the bombings in Sri Lanka against Christian churches, claimed by ISIS [a servitor faction of Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv], the Saudi government engaged in mass executions, beheading 37 people, one of them a 16-year old boy, whom they crucified to serve as an example. These individuals were condemned for alleged terrorist activities, and they were all Shias [a religious minority in Saudi Arabia and a minority within the Muslim world]. Note: Iran is predominantly a Shia Muslim country. In fact, King Salman, so praised by Trump as a great guy, began his rule a few years ago – not with a general pardon of prisoners [a centuries old custom if not older, applied by new rulers to redress bad blood and wipe the slate clean with a gesture of mercy] but with the largest executions since 1980, beheading 47 and shooting four. These are your tyrannical and murderous regimes, folks, not those in Cuba and Venezuela. If you participate in a protest against the Saudi Government, you get killed. If you criticize Formula 1 in Bahrain [a stooge regime of the Saudis], you have your citizenship revoked. Contrast that state of affairs to Guaido, touring Venezuela, trying to incite the military to rebel against Maduro’s government.

Now, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, several months ago Trump publicly threatened the Saudi King with “you won’t last two weeks without us,” so without a second great power getting involved in that region, divergence from Washington’s instructions that the Saudis might wish to pursue is ruled out – not that they have any desire to come to a peaceful understanding with Teheran.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, a key founder of the US-Iran nuclear agreement, and a most sensible humanist, handed out his resignation two months ago. His gesture came in frustration with the government, after he was excluded from meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was visiting Teheran back in February. Iran’s President, however, Hassan Rouhani rejected Zarif’s resignation, saying that his leave would not serve the country’s interests. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei remained circumspect from the beginning, and his wariness was not misplaced, for Trump, after pulling the US out of the nuclear agreement, was quick to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Iran is left with no other option but to get in gear for a full-on war, since Washington already declared it. Despite all the diplomatic work put in by the Iranian moderates, there’s no understanding to be reached with the Neocons and, no doubt, Netanyahu can’t wait for the war’s arrival. I say this without a shadow of a doubt, the alliance between Christian Zionism, Jewish Zionism, and Wahhabism is the greatest threat to world peace in the 21st century.

The Schizophrenia of Judaism

by Serban V.C. Enache

The following paragraphs are from the book: The Vanishing American Jew, by A.M. Dershowitz, 1997.

“THE GOOD NEWS is that American Jews–as individuals–have never been more secure, more accepted, more affluent, and less victimized by discrimination or anti-Semitism. The bad news is that American Jews–as a people–have never been in greater danger of disappearing through assimilation, intermarriage, and low birthrates. The even worse news is that our very success as individuals contributes to our vulnerability as a people. The even better news is that we can overcome this new threat to the continuity of American Jewish life and emerge with a more positive Judaism for the twenty-first century–a Judaism that is less dependent on our enemies for its continuity, and that rests more securely on the considerable, but largely untapped, strengths of our own heritage.

American Jewish life is in danger of disappearing, just as most American Jews have achieved everything we ever wanted: acceptance, influence, affluence, equality. As the result of skyrocketing rates of intermarriage and assimilation, as well as “the lowest birth rate of any religious or ethnic community in the United States,” the era of enormous Jewish influence on American life may soon be coming to an end. Although Jews make up just over 2 percent of the population of the United States–approximately 5.5 million out of 262 million–many Americans mistakenly believe that we constitute a full 20 percent of the American people, because of our disproportionate visibility, influence, and accomplishments. But our numbers may soon be reduced to the point where our impact on American life will necessarily become marginalized. […]

Jews have faced dangers in the past, but this time we may be unprepared to confront the newest threat to our survival as a people, because its principal cause is our own success as individuals. Our long history of victimization has prepared us to defend against those who would destroy us out of hatred; indeed, our history has forged a Jewish identity far too dependent on persecution and victimization by our enemies. But today’s most serious threats come not from those who would persecute us, but from those who would, without any malice, kill us with kindness–by assimilating us, marrying us, and merging with us out of respect, admiration, and even love. The continuity of the most influential Jewish community in history is at imminent risk, unless we do something dramatic now to confront the quickly changing dangers.

This book is a call to action for all who refuse to accept our demographic demise as inevitable. It is a demand for a new Jewish state of mind capable of challenging the conventional wisdom that Judaism is more adaptive to persecution and discrimination than it is to an open, free, and welcoming society–that Jews paradoxically need enemies in order to survive, that anti-Semitism is what has kept Judaism alive. This age-old perspective on Jewish survival is illustrated by two tragic stories involving respected rabbinical leaders.

The first story takes place in 1812, when Napoleon was battling the czar for control of the Pale of Settlement (the western part of czarist Russia), where millions of Jews were forced to live in crowded poverty and under persecution and discrimination as second-class subjects. A victory for Napoleon held the promise of prosperity, first-class citizenship, freedom of movement, and an end to discrimination and persecution. A victory for the czar would keep the Jews impoverished and miserable. The great Hasidic rabbi Shneur Zalman–the founder of the Lubavitch dynasty–stood up in his synagogue on the first day of Rosh Hashanah to offer a prayer to God asking help for the leader whose victory would be good for the Jews. Everyone expected him to pray for Napoleon. But he prayed for the czar to defeat Napoleon. In explaining his counterintuitive choice, he said: “Should Bonaparte win, the wealth of the Jews will be increased and their [civic] position will be raised. At the same time their hearts will be estranged from our Heavenly Father. Should however our Czar Alexander win, the Jewish hearts will draw nearer to our Heavenly Father, though the poverty of Israel may become greater and his position lower.”

This remarkable story is all too typical of how so many Jewish leaders throughout our history have reasoned about Jewish survival. Without tsuris–troubles–we will cease to be Jewish. We need to be persecuted, impoverished, discriminated against, hated, and victimized in order for us to retain our Jewishness. The “chosen people” must be denied choices if Judaism is to survive. If Jews are given freedom, opportunity, and choice, they will choose to assimilate and disappear.”

Dershowitz goes on to argue that the Jewish identity can and should protect itself in calm, prosperous times via positive self-description and not victimization. The author perpetuates a myth, though, when invoking Herzl’s argument of a Jewish homeland to keep Jews safe. That Jewish homeland was NEVER about peace and security for Jews, it was always about a return to Israel, which implied ethnic cleansing and war with the Arabs [i.e. perpetual danger for Jews, not safety, because safety would make them weak]. They were given options, from Uganda to Madagascar, yet they refused. The Zionists chose the most dangerous piece of land, knowing full well what would happen – as these scenarios were contemplated long and hard [50+ years in advance]. This deranged principle of survival by trial is far older than Hitler’s “Mankind has grown strong in eternal struggles, and it will only perish in eternal peace.” Is it any wonder why critics of Zionism and of the murderous actions of the state of Israel often equate the two with Hitlerist/Nazi philosophy and means?

It seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it, that Jewish people would not convert to Christianity, when the Roman Empire adopted a religion in which their god was a [fellow ethnic] Jew. It would be the most logical thing, the fastest way to avoid institutional discrimination, especially since the Church/es sought to convert [Jews & pagans]. There must be a reason for why the Jews didn’t accept assimilation. Because they believed Judaism is BLOOD, not just faith – divinely promised supremacy of blood & faith. This mythology imprisoned them in a schizophrenic relationship with the Goyim. A people both chosen and cursed by their vengeful, jealous, and exclusivist Yahweh, to be perpetual guides of the world and its eternal victims, to always live apart from the rest of humanity while reproducing the biblical scheme along the way – the captivity in Babylon, the flight from Egypt, and the Book of Esther [the vengeance & slaughter known as Purim].

It’s an ongoing tragedy; in fact, the Abrahamic religions have proven incapable of working toward temporary peace, let alone that ‘dreaded’ goal called ‘eternal peace.’ On the contrary, powerful denominations from all three strands would gladly perform any sacrifice to bring about the Apocalypse, thus fulfilling their own perverse, prophecy of doom. Dershowitz was wrong, though… Jewish affluence and influence, ever more disproportionate to their share of demographics [and IQ scores], did not weaken Judaism in its many faces [especially Zionism], not in the US, nor in Europe. To quote an ancient stoic, the purpose of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself among the ranks of the insane. Sadly, much of the world is, has been, and will continue to be trapped in this mental prison of schizophrenia and supremacism…

Syrian Tariffs Must Fall!

by Serban V.C. Enache

In November of last year, the Naseeb border crossing between Syria and Jordan was reopened, providing Lebanese exporters a land route for their output. Despite this, political quarrels between Damascus and Beirut and high tariffs rendered the border crossing unusable or unprofitable to say the least.

Syria is key for Lebanon’s access to foreign markets. The tiny country is confined between its neighbours: the conflict-weary Syria and the sealed border with a hostile Israel. Thus, border crossings into Syria and then out into other countries are required for land-bound exports. Lebanon’s exports collapsed from a peak of 78 percent of GDP in 2008 to as low as 36 percent in 2017, as the [outside-manufactured] Syrian civil war raged on. Exports by land would be cheaper and faster, a five day trip as opposed to a trip lasting 25 days. According to customs officials, before the Naseeb border crossing was closed, over 250 trucks a day headed out from Lebanon to markets in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and the Gulf. When it closed, that volume dropped to about 300 trucks a month, and that was on a good month, bound only for Syria.

Sadly, the Naseeb crossing’s reopening last year brought with it high transit tariffs, imposed by Syria and Jordan on trucks heading to the Gulf – thus making Lebanese sea-bound exports more appealing via the Suez Canal, despite the longer route, for the Lebanese Government also provides subsidies to merchant ships.

Lebanon’s political leaders are divided between supporters and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad. This month, however, fruitful talks were held. The Syrian Government agreed to lower tariffs on Lebanese products entering Syria, and to reactivate [accords signed in 2010] and establish new agriculture agreements between the two countries. While the announcement comes as good news, the Syrian government has yet to disclose its new tariff rate.

The Future Movement, along with the Lebanese Forces, and the Progressive Socialist Party, strongly reject direct ties with Assad’s regime until a political solution to the conflict is reached. While Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, and the Free Patriotic Movement support direct talks with him in order to establish the return of Syrian refugees and improve the Lebanese economy.

The country’s president, Michel Aoun, visited Moscow last month to have talks with Putin on geopolitical subjects and to discuss bilateral business agreements. Since the end of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon [Assad withdrew remaining troops from Lebanon in 2005], Michel Aoun has been seeking to improve his country’s relationship with Syria. He has treated all Lebanese parties as potential partners, including Hezbollah.

It makes no sense for Assad to reopen the crossing and then to impose punitive tariffs on transit. Either you want to reopen trade or not. Keeping such a high tariff is not good policy, it’s not even in the category of protectionism. I wish to invoke the wisdom of Vattel’s The Law of Nations concerning the matter of trade. Every word Vattel writes conveys precious meaning, which should be put in practice.

“Every nation ought, therefore, not only to countenance trade, as far as it reasonably can, but even to protect and favour it. The care of the public roads,—the safety of travellers,—the establishment of ports, of places of sale, of well-regulated fairs,—all contribute to this end. And where these are attended with expense, the nation, as we have already observed, may, by tolls and other duties equitably proportioned, indemnify itself for its disbursements. […]

Freedom being very favourable to commerce, it is implied in the duties of nations, that they should support it as far as possible, instead of cramping it by unnecessary burdens or restrictions. Wherefore those private privileges and tolls, which obtain in many places, and press so heavily on commerce, are deservedly to be reprobated, unless founded on very important reasons arising from the public good.
Every nation, in virtue of her natural liberty, has a right to trade with those who are willing to correspond with such intentions; and to molest her in the exercise of her right is doing her an injury.

The home trade of a nation is of great use; it furnishes all the citizens with the means of procuring whatever they want, as either necessary, useful, or agreeable: it causes a circulation of money, excites industry, animates labour, and, by affording subsistence to a great number of people, contributes to increase the population and power of the state.

The same reasons shew the use of foreign trade, which is moreover attended with these two advantages:—1. By trading with foreigners, a nation procures such things as neither nature nor art can furnish in the country it occupies. And secondly, if its foreign trade be properly directed, it increases the riches of the nation, and may become the source of wealth and plenty. […]

Nations are obliged to cultivate the home trade,—first, because it is clearly demonstrated from the law of nature, that mankind ought mutually to assist each other, and, as far as in their power, contribute to the perfection and happiness of their fellow-creatures: whence arises, after the introduction of private property, the obligation to resign to others, at a fair price, those things which they have occasion for, and which we do not destine for our own use. Secondly, society being established with the view that each may procure whatever things are necessary to his own perfection and happiness,—and a home trade being the means of obtaining them,—the obligations to carry on and improve this trade are derived from the very compact on which the society was formed. Finally, being advantageous to the nation, it is a duty the people owe to themselves, to make this commerce flourish.

For the same reason, drawn from the welfare of the state, and also to procure for the citizens every thing they want, a nation is obliged to promote and carry on a foreign trade.

[…] from all which it follows, that a nation has a right to procure, at an equitable price, whatever articles it wants, by purchasing them of other nations who have no occasion for them. This is the foundation of the right of commerce between different nations, and, in particular, of the right of buying. We cannot apply the same reasoning to the right of selling such things as we want to part with. Every man and every nation being perfectly at liberty to buy a thing that is to be sold, or not to buy it, and to buy it of one rather than of another,—the law of nature gives to no person whatsoever any kind of right to sell what belongs to him to another who does not wish to buy it; neither has any nation the right of selling her commodities or merchandise to a people who are unwilling to have them.

Let us only observe, that nations, as well as individuals, are obliged to trade together for the common benefit of the human race, because mankind stand in need of each other’s assistance: still however, each nation remains at liberty to consider, in particular cases, whether it be convenient for her to encourage, or permit commerce; and as our duty to ourselves is paramount to our duty to others,—if one nation finds herself in such circumstances, that she thinks foreign commerce dangerous to the state, she may renounce and prohibit it.”

Since Assad reopened the Naseeb crossing, he doesn’t view foreign commerce as a threat. The tariff in my opinion should be slashed to zero for a simple reason: Jordan and Lebanon and Syria are on equal grounds in terms of economic development. It’s a case of comparing apples to apples, rather than oranges to apples [say, the US vs Mexico]. And the cost of maintaining roads and safety can be successfully borne by the Governments involved without such taxes or tolls being levied. Friedrich List, an exponent of the Historical School and a protectionist, did not oppose free trade among nations with comparable levels of development, more so, he supported it.

The punitive Syrian tariffs are hurting Syria and they’re hurting Lebanese farmers and businesses the most. I’ll end this article with this magnificent performance from 2003 by Julia Boutros. Two songs with English subtitles that inflame the soul with hope.

Russo-Turkish Relations

Moving Away From US Hegemony

by Serban V.C. Enache

Yesterday, the heads of state of Russia and Turkey held a joint press conference, which is available here. One of their common points was to get bilateral trade working with just the ruble and the lira. Every sovereign nation ought to conduct trade in her own currency and that of her trade partner, and not conduct trade in a 3rd party currency [like the US dollar or the euro]. The issuer of the 3rd party currency receives an unearned increase in his currency’s value. When the international situation deters [like today, due to the USA’s war mongering], national currency swaps between partner countries is better than relying on a foreign currency with which to do settlement payments – especially if the reserve currency in question belongs to a belligerent actor, who – as we have seen in the case of Venezuela – has the power of freezing those accounts.

Both Russia and Turkey are advancing well in their bilateral trade and tourism, some of the most important deals are the TurkStream gas project, Rusatom aiding Turkey with her nuclear power plants, and the S-400 sealed deal.

Vladimir Putin, asked about the trade situation with Turkey being in Russia’s favor, said that a neutral trade balance is what he wishes. You’ll never hear such a statement from a German head of state or Eurocrat Neoliberal. You will never hear the EU or the Eurozone’s top brass criticize the huge and sustained German financial surpluses against the Periphery countries. They will insist for member state governments to have balanced fiscal statements, but never balanced current accounts. Putin emphasized that the main factor of attractiveness of Russian gas exports is reliability of delivery.

The situation in Syria was raised as well, including the Kurdish question. As the situation stands, the best option – which preserves human life and avoids further conflict – for the Kurds is to accept Syrian unity and relinquish any territorial claims. If we’re to invoke things like patriotism and nationalism, these ideals are incompatible with strife and death. No true patriot or nationalist can accept the blood of civilians, his own or that of the enemy, and pretend he or she is on the side of justice. The only way for sustainable peace, order, and development is through the implementation and observance of Westphalian principles: forgiving and forgetting past transgressions in perpetuity. The realist and moral position for the Kurdish region is to remain part of Syria, with full equality under the law.

The Kemalists are a concern, however, since their aim is to have stronger relations with NATO and get full EU membership. Erdogan saw how Washington treats its allies when they become independent, they tried a coup against him. Washington maintained radio silence during the coup operation, and only came out in public to condemn the coup attempt after it had failed. If you want further proof, Erdogan demanded Gulen from the Americans, so he could be tried in Turkey for his involvement in the coup. Gulen is NOT an American citizen, yet the Americans declined. It’s very clear that Washington tried to oust Erdogan, and Erdogan, since then, has taken measures to diversify geopolitical and economic relations. Erdogan should aim to strike a balance between the laic and religious sections of the population within Turkey, otherwise he risks a civil war of his own. I wrote about Turkey’s financial plight in August last year, and so far, despite the underwhelming results for Erdogan’s party [the AKP] at the recent local elections, he is pursuing a truly sovereign foreign policy and I give credit where credit is due. Turkey is no longer in the Yankee deck.

The only chance for peace in that part of the world is for Eurasia to rise, not just as an ideal, but as a Westphalian reality [a sisterhood of sovereign nation states]. I call it Southwest Asia, not the Middle East, because the latter, since the Sykes-Picot treaty of 1916, has been used as a British imperial term to describe a hot, resource dense, looting ground, and recurrent geopolitical hand grenade in Great Power conflicts [divide & rule].