The Syrian National News Agency headlined on February 26th, “Gold deal between United States and Daesh” (Daesh is ISIS) and reported that,
Information from local sources said that US army helicopters have already transported the gold bullions under cover of darkness on Sunday [February 24th], before transporting them to the United States.
The sources said that tens of tons that Daesh had been keeping in their last hotbed in al-Baghouz area in Deir Ezzor countryside have been handed to the Americans, adding up to other tons of gold that Americans have found in other hideouts for Daesh, making the total amount of gold taken by the Americans to the US around 50 tons, leaving only scraps for the SDF [Kurdish] militias that serve them [the U.S. operation].
Recently, sources said that the area where Daesh leaders and members have barricaded themselves in, contains around 40 tons of gold and tens of millions of dollars.
Allegedly, “US occupation forces in the Syrian al-Jazeera area made a deal with Daesh terrorists, by which Washington gets tens of tons of gold that the terror organization had stolen, in exchange for providing safe passage for the terrorists and their leaders from the areas in Deir Ezzor where they are located.”
ISIS was financing its operations largely by the theft of oil from the oil wells in the Deir Ezzor area, Syria’s oil-producing region, and they transported and sold this stolen oil via their allied forces, through Turkey, which was one of those U.S. allies trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government and install a Sunni fundamentalist regime that would be ruled from Riyadh (i.e., controlled by the Saud family). This gold is the property of the Syrian Government, which owns all that oil and the oil wells, which ISIS had captured (stolen), and then sold. Thus, this gold is from sale of that stolen black-market oil, which was Syria’s property.
The U.S. Government claims to be anti-ISIS, but actually didn’t even once bomb ISIS in Syria until Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, and the U.S. had actually been secretly arming ISIS there so as to help ISIS and especially Al Qaeda (and the U.S. was strongly protecting Al Qaeda in Syria) to overthrow Syria’s secular and non-sectarian Government. Thus, whereas Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, America (having become embarrassed) started bombing ISIS in Syria on 16 November 2015. The U.S. Government’s excuse was “This is our first strike against tanker trucks, and to minimize risks to civilians, we conducted a leaflet drop prior to the strike.” They pretended it was out of compassion — not in order to extend for as long as possible ISIS’s success in taking over territory in Syria. (And, under Trump, on the night of 2 March 2019, the U.S. rained down upon ISIS in northeast Syria the excruciating and internationally banned white phosphorous to burn ISIS and its hostages alive, which Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had routinely done to burn alive the residents in Donetsk and other parts of eastern former Ukraine where voters had voted more than 90% for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama’s coup in Ukraine had replaced. It was a way to eliminate some of the most-undesired voters — people who must never again be voting in a Ukrainian national election, not even if that region subsequently does become conquered by the post-coup, U.S.-imposed, regime. The land there is wanted; its residents certainly are not wanted by the Obama-imposed regime.) America’s line was: Russia just isn’t as ‘compassionate’ as America. Zero Hedge aptly headlined “’Get Out Of Your Trucks And Run Away’: US Gives ISIS 45 Minute Warning On Oil Tanker Strikes”. Nobody exceeds the United States Government in sheer hypocrisy.
The U.S. Government evidently thinks that the public are fools, idiots. America’s allies seem to be constantly amazed at how successful that approach turns out to be.
Indeed, on 28 November 2012, Syria News headlined “Emir of Qatar & Prime Minister of Turkey Steal Syrian Oil Machinery in Broad Daylight” and presented video allegedly showing it (but unfortunately providing no authentication of the date and locale of that video).
Jihadists were recruited from throughout the world to fight against Syria’s secular Government. Whereas ISIS was funded mainly by black-market sales of oil from conquered areas, the Al-Qaeda-led groups were mainly funded by the Sauds and other Arab royal families and their retinues, the rest of their aristocracy. On 13 December 2013, BBC headlined “Guide to the Syrian rebels” and opened “There are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.” Except in the Kurdish areas in Syria’s northeast, almost all of those fighters were being led by Al Qaeda’s Syrian Branch, al-Nusra. Britain’s Center on Religion & Politics headlined on 21 December 2015, “Ideology and Objectives of the Syrian Rebellion” and reported: “If ISIS is defeated, there are at least 65,000 fighters belonging to other Salafi-jihadi groups ready to take its place.” Almost all of those 65,000 were trained and are led by Syria’s Al Qaeda (Nusra), which was protected by the U.S.
In September 2016 a UK official “FINAL REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON COMBATING TERRORIST AND FOREIGN FIGHTER TRAVEL” asserted that, “Over 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to the battlefield to enlist with Islamist terrorist groups, including at least 4,500 Westerners. More than 250 individuals from the United States have also joined.” Even just 25,000 (that official lowest estimate) was a sizable U.S. proxy-army of religious fanatics to overthrow Syria’s Government.
On 26 November 2015, the first of Russia’s videos of Russia’s bombing ISIS oil trucks headed into Turkey was bannered at a U.S. military website “Russia Airstrike on ISIS Oil Tankers”, and exactly a month later, on 26 December 2015, Britain’s Daily Express headlined “WATCH: Russian fighter jets smash ISIS oil tankers after spotting 12,000 at Turkish border”. This article, reporting around twelve thousand ISIS oil-tanker trucks heading into Turkey, opened: “The latest video, released by the Russian defence ministry, shows the tankers bunched together as they make their way along the road. They are then blasted by the fighter jet.” The U.S. military had nothing comparable to offer to its ‘news’-media. Britain’s Financial Times headlined on 14 October 2015, ”Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists”. Only America’s allies were involved in this commerce with ISIS — no nation that supported Syria’s Government was participating in this black market of stolen Syrian goods. So, it’s now clear that a lot of that stolen oil was sold for gold as Syria’s enemy-nations’ means of buying that oil from ISIS. They’d purchase it from ISIS, but not from Syria’s Government, the actual owner.
On 30 November 2015 Israel’s business-news daily Globes News Service bannered “Israel has become the main buyer for oil from ISIS controlled territory, report”, and reported:
An estimated 20,000-40,000 barrels of oil are produced daily in ISIS controlled territory generating $1-1.5 million daily profit for the terrorist organization. The oil is extracted from Dir A-Zur in Syria and two fields in Iraq and transported to the Kurdish city of Zakhu in a triangle of land near the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Israeli and Turkish mediators come to the city and when prices are agreed, the oil is smuggled to the Turkish city of Silop marked as originating from Kurdish regions of Iraq and sold for $15-18 per barrel (WTI and Brent Crude currently sell for $41 and $45 per barrel) to the Israeli mediator, a man in his 50s with dual Greek-Israeli citizenship known as Dr. Farid. He transports the oil via several Turkish ports and then onto other ports, with Israel among the main destinations.
After all, Israel too wants to overthrow Syria’s secular, non-sectarian Government, which would be replaced by rulers selected by the Saud family, who are the U.S. Government’s main international ally.
On 9 November 2014, when Turkey was still a crucial U.S. ally trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government (and this was before the failed 15 July 2016 U.S.-backed coup-attempt to overthrow and replace Turkey’s Government so as to impose an outright U.S. stooge), Turkey was perhaps ISIS’s most crucial international backer. Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s leader, had received no diploma beyond k-12, and all of that schooling was in Sunni schools and based on the Quran. (He pretended, however, to have a university diploma.) On 15 July 2015, AWD News headlined “Turkish President’s daughter heads a covert medical corps to help ISIS injured members”. On 2 December 2015, a Russian news-site headlined “Defense Ministry: Erdogan and his family are involved in the illegal supply of oil”; so, the Erdogan family itself was religiously committed to ISIS’s fighters against Syria, and they were key to the success of the U.S. operation against Syrians — theft from Syrians. The great investigative journalist Christof Lehmann, who was personally acquainted with many of the leading political figures in Africa and the Middle East, headlined on 22 June 2014, “U.S. Embassy in Ankara Headquarter for ISIS War on Iraq – Hariri Insider”, and he reported that the NATO-front the Atlantic Council had held a meeting in Turkey during 22-23 of November 2013 at which high officials of the U.S. and allied governments agreed that they were going to take over Syria’s oil, and that they even were threatening Iraq’s Government for its not complying with their demands to cooperate on overthrowing Syria’s Government. So, behind the scenes, this conquest of Syria was the clear aim by the U.S. and all of its allies.
The U.S. had done the same thing when it took over Ukraine by a brutal coup in February 2014: It grabbed the gold. Iskra News in Russian reported, on 7 March 2014, that “At 2 a.m. this morning … an unmarked transport plane was on the runway at Borosipol Airport” near Kiev in the west, and that, “According to airport staff, before the plane came to the airport, four trucks and two Volkswagen minibuses arrived, all the truck license plates missing.” This was as translated by Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research headlining on 14 March, “Ukraine’s Gold Reserves Secretly Flown Out and Confiscated by the New York Federal Reserve?” in which he noted that, when asked, “A spokesman for the New York Fed said simply, ‘Any inquiry regarding gold accounts should be directed to the account holder.’” The load was said to be “more than 40 heavy boxes.” Chossudovsky noted that, “The National Bank of Ukraine (Central Bank) estimated Ukraine’s gold reserves in February to be worth $1.8 billion dollars.” It was allegedly 36 tons. The U.S., according to Victoria Nuland (Obama’s detail-person overseeing the coup) had invested around $5 billion in the coup. Was her installed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk cleaning out the nation’s gold reserves in order to strip the nation so that the nation’s steep indebtedness for Russian gas would never be repaid to Russia’s oligarchs? Or was he doing it as a payoff for Nuland’s having installed him? Or both? In any case: Russia was being squeezed by this fascist Ukrainian-American ploy.
On 14 November 2014, a Russian youtube headlined “In Ukraine, there is no more gold and currency reserves” and reported that there is “virtually no gold. There is a small amount of gold bars, but it’s just 1%” of before the coup. Four days later, Zero Hedge bannered “Ukraine Admits Its Gold Is Gone: ‘There Is Almost No Gold Left In The Central Bank Vault’”. From actually 42.3 tons just before the coup, it was now far less than one ton.
The Syria operation was about oil, gold, and guns. However, most of America’s support was to Al-Qaeda-led jihadists, not to ISIS-jihadists. As the great independent investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva reported on 2 July 2017:
“In December of last year while reporting on the battle of Aleppo as a correspondent for Bulgarian media I found and filmed 9 underground warehouses full of heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin. They were used by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria designated as a terrorist organization by the UN).”
The U.S. had acquired weapons from around the world, and shipped them (and Gaytandzhieva’s report even displayed the transit-documents) through a network of its embassies, into Syria, for Nusra-led forces inside Syria. Almost certainly, the U.S. Government’s central command center for the entire arms-smuggling operation was the world’s largest embassy, which is America’s embassy in Baghdad.
Furthermore, On 8 March 2013, Richard Spenser of Britain’s Telegraph reported that Croatia’s Jutarnji List newspaper had reported that “3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November. … The airlift of dated but effective Yugoslav-made weapons meets key concerns of the West, and especially Turkey and the United States, who want the rebels to be better armed to drive out the Assad regime.”
Also, a September 2014 study by Conflict Armaments Research (CAR), titled “Islamic State Weapons in Iraq and Syria”, reported that not only east-European, but even U.S.-made, weapons were being “captured from Islamic State forces” by Kurds who were working for the Americans, and that this was very puzzling and disturbing to those Kurds, who were risking their lives to fight against those jihadists.
In December 2017, CAR headlined “Weapons of the Islamic State” and reported that “this materiel was rapidly captured by IS forces, only to be deployed by the group against international coalition forces.” The assumption made there was that the transfer of weapons to ISIS was all unintentional.
That report ignored contrary evidence, which I summed up on 2 September 2017 headlining “Russian TV Reports U.S. Secretly Backing ISIS in Syria”, and reporting there also from the Turkish Government an admission that the U.S. was working with Turkey to funnel surviving members of Iraq’s ISIS into the Deir Ezzor part of Syria to help defeat Syria’s Government in that crucial oil-producing region. Moreover, at least one member of the ‘rebels’ that the U.S. was training at Al Tanf on Syria’s Jordanian border had quit because his American trainers were secretly diverting some of their weapons to ISIS. Furthermore: why hadn’t the U.S. bombed Syrian ISIS before Russia entered the Syrian war on 30 September 2015? America talked lots about its supposed effort against ISIS, but why did U.S. wait till 16 November 2015 before taking action, “’Get Out Of Your Trucks And Run Away’: US Gives ISIS 45 Minute Warning On Oil Tanker Strikes”?
So, regardless of whether the U.S. Government uses jihadists as its proxy-forces, or uses fascists as its proxy-forces, it grabs the gold — and grabs the oil, and takes whatever else it can.
This is today’s form of imperialism. Grab what you can, and run. And call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption’. And the imperial regime’s allies watch in amazement, as they take their respective cuts of the loot. That’s the deal, and they call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption around the world’. That’s the way it works. International gangland. That’s the reality, while most of the public think it’s instead really “fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption around the world.” For example, as RT reported on Sunday, March 3rd, about John Bolton’s effort at regime-change in Venezuela, Bolton said: “I’d like to see as broad a coalition as we can put together to replace Maduro, to replace the whole corrupt regime,’ Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper.” Trump’s regime wants to bring clean and democratic government to the poor Venezuelans, just like Bush’s did to the Iraqis, and Obama’s did to the Libyans and to the Syrians and to the Ukrainians. And Trump, who pretends to oppose Obama’s regime-change policies, alternately expands them and shrinks them. Though he’s slightly different from Obama on domestic policies, he never, as the U.S. President, condemn’s any of his predecessors’ many coups and invasions, all of which were disasters for everybody except America’s and allies’ billionaires. They’re all in on the take.
The American public were suckered into destroying Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2011-now, and so many other countries, and still haven’t learned anything, other than to keep trusting the allegations of this lying and psychopathically vicious and super-aggressive Government and of its stenographic ‘news’-media. When is enough finally enough? Never? If not never, then when? Or do most people never learn? Or maybe they don’t really care. Perhaps that’s the problem.
On March 4th, the Jerusalem Post bannered “IRAN AND TURKEY MEDIA PUSH CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT US, ISIS: Claims pushed by Syrian regime media assert that US gave ISIS safe passage out of Baghuz in return for gold, a conspiracy picked up in Tehran and Ankara”, and simply assumed that it’s false — but provided no evidence to back their speculation up — and they closed by asserting “The conspiracies, which are manufactured in Damascus, are disseminated to Iraq and Turkey, both of whom oppose US policy in eastern Syria.” Why do people even subscribe to such ‘news’-sources as that? The key facts are hidden, the speculation that’s based on their own prejudices replaces whatever facts exist. Do the subscribers, to that, simply want to be deceived? Are most people that stupid?
Back on 21 December 2018, one of the U.S. regime’s top ‘news’-media, the Washington Post, had headlined “Retreating ISIS army smuggled a fortune in cash and gold out of Iraq and Syria” and reported that “the Islamic State is sitting on a mountain of stolen cash and gold that its leaders stashed away to finance terrorist operations.” So, it’s not as if there hadn’t been prior reason to believe that some day some of the gold would be found after America’s defeat in Syria. Maybe they just hadn’t expected this to happen quite so soon. But the regime will find ways to hoodwink its public, in the future, just as it has in the past. Unless the public wises-up (if that’s even possible).
Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org
America’s Deep-seated and Almost Universal Bigotry
On May 12th, Politico headlined “‘A dream ticket’: Black lawmakers pitch Biden-Harris to beat Trump”, and reported that:
The Congressional Black Caucus may have found an answer to its Joe Biden dilemma: Vice President Kamala Harris.
Some black lawmakers are agonizing over whether to back Biden or two members of the close-knit caucus — Sens. Harris and Cory Booker — who are also vying for the White House, according to interviews with a dozen CBC members.
But with the former vice president jumping out to a huge, if early, lead in the polls, several CBC members are warming to the idea of a Biden-Harris ticket to take on President Donald Trump.
“That would be a dream ticket for me, a dream ticket!” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). “If she is not the nominee, that would be a dream ticket for this country.”
Harris is everything the 76-year-old Biden is not. The freshman senator from California is younger, a woman and a person of color. …
America’s billionaires — who love it when the public are so obsessed with “Blacks versus Whites” or “women versus men” or other such distinctions amongst the public — hire politicians and ‘news’-media that play up to those distinctions instead of to themselves versus the public, because this way the public will accept those billionaires’ controlling the government — as they do.
Blacks are just as bigoted as Whites, and women are just as bigoted as men — and that goes also for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and every other distinction within the public — every other rage by the public, that’s being redirected away from the billionaires (who virtually own the government) to being instead against some mass of the public who DON’T control the government, and who AREN’T the cause of this country’s massive economic inequalities of opportunity, and who DON’T benefit from extending the American empire by bombs (or otherwise) to Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Libya, and Syria, and Iran, and Venezuela, and Ukraine, and Russia, etcetera.
Therefore: the first question that should be asked of every Democratic Presidential candidate isn’t (like it is) “man or woman?” or “Black or White?” or “Muslim or Christian?” or anything like that, but instead: Did you vote for the invasion of Iraq, and of Libya, and for economic sanctions (which are the first step toward declaring a nation officially as being an ‘enemy’ and thus the first step toward war) against Iran, and Syria, and Venezuela, and Russia?
Those international hostilities are just great for the billionaires’ corporations, such as Lockheed Martin, but they bring billions to the billionaires and nothing but increased taxes and death and disabilty to the public and to our soldiers — and vastly worse to the people who live in the tragic lands where we are sanctioning or invading, or doing regime-change by means of coups. So: they hire the distractors.
This isn’t to say that Trump isn’t a racist, but it’s about how the billionaires’ Democratic Party agents who are in Congress deal with this in such a way that the racist distractionism is on both sides and drowns-out any authentic progressivism (that being what the billionaires of both Parties fear). Part of progressivism is an opposition to regime-change wars — international dictatorship (including not only invasions but also the earlier stages: economic sanctions, and coups). The U.S. violates international law whenever it does those, and it does the vast majority of the ones that are done. The U.S. is thus the last nation in the world that should be pontificating to other countries. Whenever the U.S. Government does it, we should all be ashamed of it.
So: the billionaires need the distractionaires.
The Congressional Black Caucus, according to Fact Check, as posted in 2008 and never since revised, “has never had a white member in its 36-year history” (and, today, that would be never in its 47-year history), so that if for example Bernie Sanders or Pete Buttigieg or maybe even the warmongering Joe Biden himself, were to apply to join and then be turned down by them, and this were to become public, then the resultant bad publicity for that Caucus would likely reduce, instead of increase, that candidate’s standing with black voters. Consequently, he probably won’t even apply to join.
In any case, being a member of a victimized group doesn’t mean that one is less bigoted than other groups are. And who is to say that Americans weren’t bigoted against Iraqis when we did to them the catastrophe that we did?
A More Nakedly Aggressive United States
Of all the instability and unrest the US has been accused of fomenting over the last three years, no other example comes close to the lengths the US has gone to in its unilateral attempt at isolating Iran. Long accused by Russia and other major powers as the leading cause of instability in the Middle East, the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the US forms part of a wider more troubling trend. This has included the US ratcheting up tensions with both friends and foes alike such as the escalating trade war with China, calls for regime change in Venezuela and the estrangement of its allies across both the European Union and NATO.
The last bit, regarding the US’s growing differences with the EU’s major powers such as France and Germany is also to a large extent directly linked with its hardline stance on Iran. This is evident in the clearly divergent stances both the US and EU have taken regarding Iran’s Nuclear program. President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year had brought about considerable shock and dismay amidst European powers that had spent years negotiating the agreement with Iran alongside the US. Signed back in 2015, the JCPOA had set a historic precedent in international diplomacy, garnering support from China and Russia as well as the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU. Based on years of painstaking negotiations it was widely hailed as presenting a successful model for Nuclear Arms Control and non-proliferation.
In fact, a number of experts had hailed the JCPOA as being even better than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in a number of ways. Its emphasis on monitoring other research and attempts at nuclear weaponisation beyond the involvement of nuclear materials was a major step in further expanding the role and scope of the IAEA’s monitoring mechanisms. These same mechanisms which based on the consensus of world powers have been successful in both monitoring and limiting Iran’s attainment of Nuclear weapons capability. The only exception has been the United States, and particularly the Trump White House that has made it a policy imperative to undo the years of work put in by both former US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
President Obama had even quite recently publicly lamented how reneging on the JCPOA not only undermined the United States credibility as a negotiating partner, but also dismantled a whole non-proliferation mechanism that was to prove crucial in addressing the growing threat from North Korea as well. As apparent in the failure of the recent talks between the US and North Korea in Vietnam, the US’s seriousness and commitment to the non-proliferation regime has been openly questioned as it continues to prioritize its own geo-political imperatives. Its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran, which is flirting dangerously with yet another large-scale military conflict involving US armed forces, threatens to undo the last decades’ painstaking rollback of US troop deployments throughout the Middle East.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US’s unilateralism and more maximalist approach was never in question considering its series of interventions particularly in the Middle East. There was however a semblance of unity and International leadership which either under the aegis of the UN or NATO still more or less carried the garb of a multi-lateral consensus. That instead of simply employing naked aggression as accused of by its adversaries, the US was justified by its ideology and the success of its international diplomacy. This perhaps was best and most positively evident in the JCPOA, which had brought all the world’s major powers into a concerted agreement on one of the world’s most pressing issues, namely Nuclear Proliferation.
However, as the Trump administration beats its war drums to the tune of nothing short of a regime change in Iran, there is most definitely a marked difference in how the US has previously built its cases for military intervention in the Middle East. In the absence of any international support from its partners, or in the lack of any overarching ideal based on non-Proliferation or plain old human freedoms (à la Iraq), the recent case for the US military intervention in Iran appears outright indolent if not unjustified as has mostly been the case with US hegemony over the last few years.
The crisis in Venezuela and its strategic significance
Venezuela’s economy – in a country that has better oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Iran – began with the OPEC oil price crisis, when Chavez was still alive, until the heavy fall in oil prices in 2013.
The social spending of Venezuelan “Bolivarianism” was very high and a country living on oil permanently needs stable and growing markets. This is inconceivable with the current dislocation of strategic roles within OPEC and in the context of the struggle between Iranian Sunnis and Shiites.
Saudi Arabia will decrease production as soon as prices fall – and this will be the rule for everyone.
With Maduro, the primary choice for oil – i.e. Venezuela’s true economic policy -has remained in the wake of Bolivarianism. Oil resources, however, have fallen to less than half of those recorded during the Chavista boom and inflation has quickly grown to such a point that it is currently the largest in the world. It reminds us of the Weimar Republic and for the same reasons. The State of Caracas prints money with the same criterion with which newspapers in crisis print more copies.
At the beginning of the Chavista era, the inflation rate was already 29.5%. In 2005, when the oil market was still bullish, the inflation rate dropped to 14.4% instead.
Eight years after the former city bus driver in Caracas, namely Chavez, had risen to power, food prices in the capital city were nine times higher than at the beginning of Chavez’ new Bolivarian regime, while salaries had decreased by 40%.
The full nationalization of the oil company PVDSA was the first step that Chavez made down to the road for total economic disaster.
Currently the oil companies operating in the Orinoco Basin – which is one of the largest in the world – do no longer make the necessary investment to make extraction possible, and nowadays oil extraction has leveled off at merely one million barrels a day.
Certainly, we need to consider the US sanctions on exports, but extraction could still halve down to half a million by the end of 2019.
Companies such as Malaysia’s Petronas and even the Russian Lukoil already left Venezuela in 2014. The Iranian company Petropars did the same in early 2015 and PetroVietnam in late 2015. Finally Exxon and Conoco had to leave quickly under the threat of Venezuela carrying out a punitive nationalization, with both companies’ related and immediate starting of formal proceedings before the international courts.
Moreover, there is no legal framework – not even in Venezuela-delimiting possible operations, in the case of ongoing confiscations of foreign capitalists’ assets or of nationalizations. Hence those who remain, paying bribes left and right, obviously do not extract the amount of oil they could. This also applies to the Venezuelan non-oil economic sector.
Even PDVSA – the always open coffer of Bolivarianism – has reduced its oil production from 5 million barrels a day to the current one million barrels a day. Later, with the embargo imposed by the United States, this trend will continue.
The national oil company has long been heavily indebted with China and Russia, as well as with other countries, such as Iran.
China has already requested the quick and full payment of its credits. China is not used to the structural inefficiency of Latin American countries.
It is a process that China has started also with Brazil.
Furthermore, Russia has already granted a rescheduling of its Venezuelan debt, which is already three billion and seven hundred million US dollars.
Obviously, from a strategic viewpoint, Russia is interested in maintaining its own area of influence in a Latin American continent that, after Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil, is fully siding with President Trump’s policies.
Hence, where possible, it is subject to Russian specific pressures.
As can be easily imagined, Venezuela’s weight in the OPEC area is now less than minimal- and this creates further difficulties.
But the entire oil producers’ organisation, whose relations of its Sunni area with Trump’s America are currently very strong, has now a fixed rule we have already clarified: cutting production when the oil barrel prices decrease – exactly the opposite of what Venezuela currently would like to do.
Moreover, Venezuela keeps on exporting only 800,000 oil barrels a dayto the United States.
Here not only geopolitics, but also the first global commodity, namely oil, has a role to play in this respect.
For the United States, buying oil from Venezuela means trying to counter Russia’s weight – although with increasing difficulty.
The United States clearly sees how Russia and China still support Venezuelan Chavism – also to recover their huge credits. Hence a geopolitical rather than economic clash between opposing blocks emerges in the country with the largest oil and gas reserves in the world.
Inter alia, with shale oil and gas the United States is becoming a net oil exporter. Hence it is ever less interested in the fate of the countries that were once powerful suppliers, but are currently only tired competitors.
Even the deep crisis of Madurism could favour the US oil and natural gas export market. Hence there is not much desire in the USA to solve the Venezuelan crisis, but only the desire to prevent Venezuela from choosing Russia, Iran, China or even the crazy and silly European Union.
Moreover, the United States has an extreme need for high oil barrel prices, so as to recover the extraction costs which are still higher than the traditional ones.
Hence, paradoxically, a regional production crisis near the US territory could even be good for the United States in the medium term.
Therefore, apart from the usual creation of petrodollars, the United States is entirely in favour of an increase in the oil barrel price- and hence indirectly in favour of tension in Venezuela.
The United States does no longer even need Venezuelan oil – as was the case in the past.
There is no more room for Venezuela to even export its oil to the Caribbean at the usual low prices – a clear sign of an old and now impossible local hegemony.
Hence, as is currently the case, the Hezbollah – currently guarding also Maduro – set in, while the Cuban intelligence services have defined a precise program for opposing Guaido’s possible “counter-revolution” and also the Russian contractors of the Wagner group are present, in force, in the Venezuelan territory to defend the wells and the other nerve centres of the former Chavista regime and, currently of Maduro’s regime, for which Russia has no esteem.
The relationship between Hezbollah and Chavez was very complex – and it is still so currently with Maduro.
At the beginning of Guaidò’s campaign against Maduro, the members of the Lebanese militia – that was Imam Khomeini’s “eye – hoisted a poster with Chavez’ and Maduro’s faces alongside that of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Shiite militia.
Furthermore, the Hezbollah were the first to advertise and make public the US hidden presence in favour of Guaidò in Venezuela.
The reason for this particular relationship between the pro-Iranian Lebanese Shiites and the “Bolivarian” regime is simple and concrete: right from the start, Chavez and Maduro gave carte blanche for the laundering of Hezbollah’s secret funds in Venezuela, especially through drug trafficking activities.
Furthermore, the Lebanese group operating in Venezuela collected essential data on international crime, which was useful exactly for Hezbollah to find its place into the global cycles for money laundering and acquisition of illegal funds.
Even Cuba – which, despite the all-too-touted “liberalization” of the post-Castro regime, kept on serving as air passage of drugs to the United States – used the Venezuelan “Bolivarians” for money laundering activities, as well as a basis for the operational shift of South American drugs to the ever more drug-addicted United States.
Some Hezbollah’s people also have important positions in Maduro’s government.
Just think about Tarek el Assaimi, the 28thVice-President of Venezuela and later Oil Minister, who currently “covers” many of the Lebanese from Hezbollah that very easily acquire a Venezuelan passport.
El Assaimi has also been reported to the US Drug Administration since 2017.
Why does Iran need Venezuela?
Firstly, to avoid US trade restrictions. Iran sees the US support for Guaidò as a direct threat to its interests in Latin America, which are manifold and very widespread.
Coincidentally, the Venezuelan gold – that was said to have so far been exported to Turkey for security reasons -is currently heading for Iran.
Cuba’s drug system has been essential to maintain Castro’s regime as early as the time of Ochoa, who had supported the Medellin cartel in the cocaine shipments to the United States. At the time, however, the proceeds were in the banks of Noriega, the President of Panama who laundered 80% of Cuban illegal cash flows.
Now the system works in favour of Venezuela, which no longer has the financial controls that were previously unavoidable in a fully pro-American country like Panama.
Certainly, for Cuba, the Medellin cartel’s drug transfer to the United States was also a purely political operation to plague the American society and make it powerless and unproductive.
It has largely already succeeded to reach this goal.
After Noriega’s fall, that network has largely moved to Venezuela and is currently operating at full capacity and in full swing.
Meanwhile, the Cuban intelligence services were directly connected to the Colombian FARC and later to the Venezuelan security forces, formerly regional leaders of drug trafficking at the time.
As is the case today, since then the Cuban secret services have trained the Bolivarian intelligence services. In fact, at the time, the former eliminated most of the Venezuelan opposition to Chavez.
Indeed, after the Cuban training, Chavez’ intelligence services established the Cartel de los Soles(the “Cartel of the Suns”) and in fact the name comes from the “sun” insignia of Venezuelan generals.
Currently, it is precisely corruption and the illegal drug trafficking led by Maduro’s generals to directly support the regime and to strengthen and fund the fight against Guaidò’s forces.
The Venezuelan narcomilitaries know all too well that, if they lose power, they will soon be judged by some US or international court.
This kleptocracy removes from Venezuela’s coffers an officially declared sum worth around 70 billion US dollars, but some Latin American security services speak of about 300 billion US dollars taken away for paying bribes inside the kleptocratic regime in Venezuela.
Hence an inflation triggered and maintained only by the criminal kleptocracy of those who also organize a highly lucrative drug trafficking, even within the regime and the whole country.
Furthermore the controls on money and prices, introduced by Chavez in February 2003, quickly turned Venezuela into a Mafia-State.
At the time of the founder of “Bolivarianism”, the illegal system created by those price controls, was even larger than it currently is.
It should be remembered that in 2002 a military coup ousted Chavez from office for 48 hours only.
With a view to avoiding the return of the military, Chavez delegated most of the State functions to criminal gangs – and also to the very inefficient Armed Forces.
The illegal gangs were mainly two, namely the Colectivos and the Pranes.
The Colectivos took power mainly in the suburbs of Caracas.
Currently, despite having been supported and often created by the government, the Colectivos are not answerable to anyone – much less to the opposition.
The democratization of kleptocracy.
They live mainly on extortion and drug dealing.
Currently, however, they have been essential to repress Guaidò’s insurgency and make some areas of Caracas support Maduro again.
The Pranes are instead criminal gangs operating within the Venezuelan prison system.
However, they have also expanded outside prisons, in collaboration with the so-called megabandas.
The “peace zones”, reached after a long negotiation between criminal gangs and what remains of the police, are just eight in Venezuela.
Nowadays, the most widespread illegal activities among criminal gangs are those relating to the smuggling of subsidized fuel to Brazil and Colombia.
There is an ever more limited market for this fuel in the countries of arrival and an increasing number of buyers in Venezuela, which experiences the paradox of being a huge oil producer, but with empty pumps for its citizens.
Other key sectors, left in the hands of the bandas, are the smuggling of food and pharmaceutical products. This was the reason why the Red Cross aid could not work at the beginning of the crisis.
In Caracas people die very easily: 89 murders per 100,000 people a day.
In 2017 there were 26,616 murders – over 5,535 of which carried out by the security forces, while the others were carried out by the gangs of the Operativos para la Liberacion del Pueblo.
A network created exactly by Maduro.
Furthermore, as already seen, Venezuela is the favorite base for the Colombian narcocrime, while the hungry e Venezuelan proletariat is pushed right out of the cities of Bolivarianism towards Colombia, where the Venezuelan poor people become members of the “cartels” or victims of them.
In just one year, the last for which we have complete statistics, namely 2017-2018, at least one million Venezuelans fled to Colombia alone, with a rate of at least 37,000 citizens of the Bolivarian State who crossed the border with the territory of Bogotà everyday.
Panama, which now has no interest in the survival of Maduro’s “Socialist” regime, also included 37 “big shots” from the current Venezuelan regime into a “high-risk list” for money laundering, including Maduro himself, as can be easily imagined.
That list also included Diosdado Cabello, the No. 2 of Venezuela’s regime and Party, as well as other figures, well known to the Venezuelan public, such as Gustavo Gonzales Peres, the former Head of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service.
Panama is also part of the “Lima group”, an organization of 14 Latin American countries in the region, which is above all opposed to maintaining the Maduro system in Latin America.
Even the European Union – with its well-known quick decision-making in foreign policy – imposed personal sanctions on figures such as Interior Minister Nestor Revarol, the President of the Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, and even the Head of the External Intelligence Service, Gustavo Gonzales Lopez and, finally, to the aforementioned No. 2 of the regime’s Party, Diosdado Cabello.
They can no longer travel to EU countries and their bank funds deposited there will be frozen.
The appeal for a general upheaval that interim President Juan Guaidò had announced on the morning of April 30th – together with the recently-released military Leopoldo Lopez, and with a military group from La Carlota air base – seems to have failed. In a country like Venezuela, the “Arab Spring” model does not work at all.
US intelligence services’ greater intellectual imagination would be needed.
Meanwhile Lopez has recently taken refuge at the headquarters of the Spanish embassy in Caracas, while the Spanish government has declared it will never release Lopez to the Maduro government.
25 other rebel military applied for asylum at the Brazilian embassy, but it should be noted that Lopez had previously addressed to the diplomatic offices of Chile, although he declared – after being accepted by the Spanish diplomacy in Venezuela – he had never asked for political asylum.
Nevertheless many Venezuelans have anyway agreed to take to the streets, where two other young people have recently died, thus rising to 55 the number of victims of Maduro’s repression since the beginning of this year.
Meanwhile, the opposition denounced a toll of other 74 severely injured people, followed by 168 arrests, including at least a dozen journalists.
Meanwhile Guaidò goes from one hiding place to another, but he was seen by the crowd on May 1stwhen he called for a strike of all Venezuelan workers in the short term.
Maduro responded to Guaidò’s call to strike only the day after, but it was a clearly recorded TV broadcast.
Shortly afterwards, in his official capacity as Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton – an old heir to the neocon foreign policy – informed the international media that Defense Minister Valentin Padrino Lopez, Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno and the Director of the DG for Military Counterintelligence, Ivan Hernandez Dala, had negotiated directly with the USA to oust Maduro.
Instillation of suspicions in Maduro’s elite, or also truth? Hence evident psychological war or US indecision between the choice of staging a coup inside Maduro’s Party, with some US trusted elements, or the reaffirmation of US trust in Juan Guaidò?
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State and former CIA Director, also stated that Maduro was already on a plane to Cuba, immediately after the May 1st demonstrations, but that Russia harshly ordered him to stay in Venezuela.
Could the reason underlying the US support to Guaidò’s attempted coup – which is now not matched by the same support it had gained at the beginning of the insurgency – beoil, as usual?
With the oil barrel price around 50-60 US dollars, the price of Venezuelan oil is still acceptable, but we are talking about heavy hydrocarbons, which need successive and obviously expensive further refining.
Exxon-Mobil is still trying to acquire the Essequibo extraction area, where sovereignty over it is still being discussed between Venezuela and Guyana.
In Venezuela, there are still 15 billion barrels a day of not extracted oil, in addition to as many as 42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
It should be considered that Venezuela is still the second country – if not the first, depending on explorations- in terms of oil and gas reserves available.
The USA, however, is mainly exploiting its national basins and is selling natural gas and oil, by sea, even to some European countries.
Hence, currently for the United States the issue of Venezuelan oil and gas is not to acquire them – although the oil barrel production cost in Venezuela is still lower than the shale oil and gas of the US Permian basin – but above all to prevent those oil and gas reserves from being used by China and the Russian Federation.
In fact, in the years of the sharp drop in the oil barrel price, until 2016, Maduro chose to assign as much as 49.9% of a PVDSA subsidiary, namely CITGO, to Russian Rosneft – in exchange for a loan against the transfer of the company shares to the tune of 1.5 billion dollars directly to the Venezuelan State.
Also Russia, however, is a net exporter, and Goodness knows how powerful that country is in terms of oil and gas, with a primary focus of its markets on the EU.
In this case, however, for Russia the Venezuelan oil could be a strong way to put pressure on the United States – exactly due to the lower price of the Venezuelan crude oil – with a view to reducing the negative impact of the US (and EU) sanctions on Russia for the Ukrainian issue.
Hence, by spending a relatively little sum, namely 1.5 billion US dollars, Russia became the true arbiter of Venezuelan oil to use it as a leverage over the United States – indeed, really for purposes of blackmail against the United States.
In fact, it is by no mere coincidence that, in February 2018, a group of US investors of unclear complexion tried to buy back the Russian shareholding of CITGO, asking the Venezuelan government to accept payment to them of the remaining Russian loan and also asking Rosneft to transfer the remaining amount of the loan already granted in Venezuela to the new CITGO.
Needless to say, the offer was declined.
As always happens in these cases, the United States is also operating with economic pressures and embargoes.
It is imposing a further embargo for Petroleos de Venezuela SA, namely the whole PDVSA, which legally began in early January 2019.
This means that the proceeds from Venezuelan oil will be very limited, as if Venezuela were an economic hostage.
With a view to favouring – even among the elites of the “Maduro system” – the shift to the US camp, instead of remaining within the sphere of Russian economic control (and of Iranian control for the non-oil criminal economy).
President Trump’s desire to invade Venezuela is now well-known to the international public, at least based on his statements of June 2018, when, at a meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump expressed that clear desire to the then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, former President of Exxon-Mobil, and also to the then National Security Adviser, General MacMaster.
It should be clarified that neither of the two advisors was favourable to the operation.
In late 2018,Maduro – increasingly under pressure as a result of the international economic crisis and of the huge internal crisis, particularly heavy for the oil-dependent countries – gave to the companies of the strong Russian mining sector access to the Venezuelan gold mines – those that had created the myth of Eldorado in Spain in the seventeenth century.
In Venezuela there are also mineral reserves of nickel, diamonds, iron, bauxite and aluminum.
Clearly, however, Latin America’s new strategic and political positioning – especially after Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil – is fully in favour of the United States and, specifically, of President Trump, while the assets in favour of the Russian Federation are diminishing.
This means that Russia, along with its traditional allies, such as China, will keep Venezuela very close, especially for geopolitical purposes and ever less for strictly economic ones.
While the real strategic variable will soon be China. Will it accept to participate in Russia’s very interested support for Maduro’s regime, taking what remains of the Venezuelan economy, or will it accept the US proposal of taking a large part of Venezuela after breaking China’s ties with Russia, at least in Latin America?
European Union and World Bank Support to Help Enhance Georgia’s Innovation Ecosystem
The European Union (EU) and the World Bank launched today the Increasing Institutional Capacity for Innovation (IICI) project, at an...
Business in Need of Cyber Rules
For more than 20 years, countries have been struggling to introduce a set of rules of conduct and liability requirements...
Suppressed OPCW Finding: War-Crime Likely Perpetrated by U.S. Against Syria on 14 April 2018
On May 13th, Tim Hayward of the Working Group on Syria made public on his website an utterly damning document...
World Bank Group Releases Little Data Book on Gender
The World Bank Group today released the Little Data Book on Gender 2019 to provide an easily accessible entry point...
Chinese purchases of Iranian oil raise tantalizing questions
A fully loaded Chinese oil tanker ploughing its way eastwards from two Iranian oil terminals raises questions of how far...
Governance reform could see African economies benefit to tune of £23bn
The latest edition of PwC’s bimonthly Global Economy Watch has found that African economies could receive a windfall of £23bn...
Marriott International Debuts JW Marriott Hotel in Qufu, Birthplace of Confucius
JW Marriott announced the opening of the new JW Marriott Hotel Qufu in Shandong province, China. Owned by Shandong Luneng,...
East Asia2 days ago
US-China Global Rivalry and BRI
Tech News3 days ago
We need to lead technology, not let technology lead us
South Asia3 days ago
RSS: Grim Reality under the Secular Veil of India
Americas2 days ago
America’s Deep-seated and Almost Universal Bigotry
Europe2 days ago
Any signs of a chill between France and Germany?
Eastern Europe3 days ago
Quality of Life in Latvia is not a priority
Russia2 days ago
It Is Crucial to Watch Changes among the Russian Elites
EU Politics2 days ago
EU and Tunisia work to strengthen their Privileged Partnership