Pakistan plunged into political turmoil when its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned shortly after the Supreme Court ousted him from office on Friday following an investigation into allegations of corruption centering on undeclared offshore assets. As Reuters notes, The court disqualified Sharif for not being ‘honest’, a requirement for lawmakers under Pakistan’s constitution, something the US sorely needs to amend as well. The court also ordered a corruption trial against Mr. Sharif, whose family is accused of amassing wealth through corrupt means and purchasing expensive overseas properties with that money. The case against Mr. Sharif centers on four upscale apartments in London, which the opposition party alleges were bought with money made from corruption. Details of the property, held in the name of Mr. Sharif’s children, were disclosed in the huge leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mosack Fonseca last year, known as the “Panama Papers”, detailing the undisclosed offshore holdings of people around the world. The Prime Minister said the apartments belonged to his children, not him, and were acquired as part of a settlement of an old family business deal with a Qatari prince.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 28, 2017.
While tense trade negotiations between the US and Mexico over the price and quota for U. S. imports of Mexican sugar continue (a happy ending appears unlikely, especially after a Mexican sugar company on Friday called on the government to take action against American fructose producers and protect the local industry from US deals), a new protectionist measure involving sugar half way around the globe was unveiled on Monday when China – the world’s biggest importer of the sweet substance – said it will impose significant penalties on sugar imports following lobbying by domestic mills. According to the ruling first described by Reuters, up to a third of China’s annual sugar imports will be impacted by an extra tariff for the next three years on shipments that the government said had “seriously damaged” the domestic industry. The details: China currently allows just over 1.9 million tonnes of imports at a tariff of 15% as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization. All imports above this amount are slapped with a 50% levy. After Monday’s ruling, the total sugar duty will nearly double, with Beijing imposing an additional 45% tax to these imports in the current fiscal year taking the total to 95%. This will fall to 90% next year and 85% a year later, China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement. The ruling exempted 190 smaller countries and regions from the new duty, including smaller producers such as the Philippines, Pakistan and Myanmar.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 22, 2017.
We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U. S. drone strike in Pakistan marks ‘an important milestone.’ So the president of the United States has declared, with that claim duly echoed and implicitly endorsed by media commentary – the New York Times reporting, for example, that Mansour’s death leaves the Taliban leadership ‘shocked’ and ‘shaken.’ But a question remains: A milestone toward what exactly? Toward victory? Peace? Reconciliation? At the very least, toward the prospect of the violence abating? Merely posing the question is to imply that U. S. military efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world serve some larger purpose. Yet for years now that has not been the case. The assassination of Mansour instead joins a long list of previous milestones, turning points, and landmarks briefly heralded as significant achievements only to prove much less than advertised. One imagines that Obama himself understands this perfectly well. Just shy of five years ago, he was urging Americans to ‘take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.’ In Iraq and Afghanistan, the president insisted, ‘the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.’ ‘These long wars,’ he promised, were finally coming to a ‘responsible end.’ We were, that is, finding a way out of Washington’s dead-end conflicts in the Greater Middle East.
The Pentagon thinks it’s killed a Taliban official (Akhtar Mansour) by drone. But what difference does it make to us to kill this man (meaning a positive difference, a gain, a benefit)? Whether or not some outfit in Pakistan applauds this or hates it, what difference does it make to Americans? Why is the U. S. still trying to kill off Taliban or stop them? Why is the U. S. still in Afghanistan 15 years after it went there to get bin Laden? Why did the U. S. start a war with the Taliban anyway? The humongous cost of this killing is already $700 billion. When other costs are factored in, the cost will be 2 or 3 times that, or about $2 trillion. For what? What did we get out of it? What are we supposed to be getting out of this? Hillary Clinton strongly supported the U. S. going more deeply into Afghanistan. Obama approved the surge she supported. He’s had 7 years to end the war and he didn’t. Hillary Clinton is an idiot. An official like her who bases decisions on anecdotes, emotions, images, and biases is an idiot and dangerous to boot. This is Hillary: ‘It’s clear that if I had been president, we would have never diverted our attention from Afghanistan. When I went to Afghanistan the first time and was met by a young soldier from New York, in the 10th Mountain Division who told me that I was welcomed to the forgotten front lines in the war against terror, that just struck me so forcefully.’ For God’s sake, is this how she’ll make decisions if elected? If she had sound instincts in foreign affairs, this kind of emotional basis for forming policy might be negated, but there is no evidence at all that she does. It all points in the opposite direction.
Creating an International Islamist Army: Casey, BCCI, and the Creation of al-Qaeda The other most significant case in which the CIA became a front for sanctioned violence was CIA Director William Casey’s use of the CIA in the 1980s to promote his own plans for Afghanistan. Casey’s Afghan initiatives aroused the concern of the CIA’s professional operatives and analysts, including his deputy directors, Bobby Ray Inman and John McMahon.(35) But this did not deter Casey from making high-level decisions about the Afghan campaign outside regular channels when meeting in secret with foreigners. One man Casey dealt with in this fashion was Agha Hasan Abedi, a close adviser to General Zia of Pakistan and, more important, the head of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI): Abedi helped arrange Casey’s sojourns in Islamabad and met with the CIA director during visits to Washington. Typically, Abedi would stay in a hotel and Casey would go to his suite. The two men, who met intermittently over a three-year period, would spend hours talking about the war in Afghanistan, the Iran-Contra arms trades, Pakistani politics, and the situation in the Persian Gulf. (36) Members of Senator John Kerry’s staff, who investigated this relationship, concluded that Casey in his dealings with Abedi may have been acting not as CIA director but as an adviser to President Reagan, so that his actions were’undocumented, fully deniable, and effectively irretrievable.’ (37)(Casey’s dealings with BCCI may not have been at arm’s length: the weapons pipeline to Afghanistan allegedly involved funding through a BCCI affiliate in Oman, in which Casey’s close friend and business associate Bruce Rappaport had a financial interest. (38)
BERLIN – Containing the scourge of Islamist terror will be impossible without containing the ideology that drives it: Wahhabism, a messianic, jihad-extolling form of Sunni fundamentalism whose international expansion has been bankrolled by oil-rich sheikhdoms, especially Saudi Arabia. That is why the newly announced Saudi-led anti-terror coalition, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, should be viewed with profound skepticism. Wahhabism promotes, among other things, the subjugation of women and the death of ‘infidels.’ It is – to quote US President Barack Obama’s description of what motivated a married couple of Pakistani origin to carry out the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California – a ‘perverted interpretation of Islam,’ and the ideological mother of jihadist terrorism. Its offspring include Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and the Islamic State, all of which blend hostility toward non-Sunnis and anti-modern romanticism into nihilistic rage. Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling Islamist terrorism since the oil-price boom of the 1970s dramatically boosted the country’s wealth. According to a 2013 European Parliament report, some of the $10 billion invested by Saudi Arabia for ‘its Wahhabi agenda’ in South and Southeast Asia was ‘diverted’ to terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The Republican wing of the War Party – and their Democratic doppelgangers – sure are having a field day over the San Bernardino massacre. At last they have a superficially plausible rationale for invading Syria and sticking Uncle Sam’s foot into yet another hopeless Middle Eastern quagmire – and they can cite poll numbers in favor of their half-baked war plans. And yet if we look at the facts of the San Bernardino case, there is absolutely zero evidence that ISIS was in any way involved in masterminding the murder spree of an American citizen and his Pakistani immigrant wife. We have this from no less an authority than the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Not only that, but Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had been planning their terrorist spree long before ISIS became the latest fave rave on the jihadi hit parade. As the New York Times reports: ‘Syed Rizwan Farook, the man at the center of last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., might have plotted an attack as far back as 2012 with one of his longtime friends, senior law enforcement officials said Wednesday. In addition, the F. B. I. revealed Wednesday that Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were discussing jihad and martyrdom online in 2013 before they were married and she came to the United States. ‘The new timeline suggests that the couple were considering violent action before the Islamic State rose to prominence in 2014 and began trying to inspire sympathizers to carry out attacks in the West.’ The jihadi version of Bonnie and Clyde were radicalized ‘quite a long time before their attack,’ Bloomberg News quotes FBI Director James Cromey as saying – and well before the rise of ISIS. Apparently the two were canoodling online well before their marriage, with the topic of discussion being the romance of martyrdom in the service of jihad. So even if we flattened Raqqa, and made it glow in the dark – as Ted Cruz wants to do – this would do exactly nothing to prevent future terrorist attacks. It would make a lot more sense to bomb San Bernardino – which is to say, no sense at all. And of course the same people who want us to occupy Syria in response to the San Bernardino attack are now screaming that the piddling ‘reforms’represented by the USA Freedom Act, which marginally reined in US spying on Americans, were responsible for the inability of law enforcement to nip the murder plot in the bud. Yet the new timeline we’re being presented with contradicts this scenario: Farook and his bride-to-be were planning this well before the Snowden revelations and the passage of the Freedom Act.
ecember 6, 2015 How Uncle Sam Seeded Global Jihad & Cultivates It to This Day ‘For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” – ‘Hosea 8:7 It may be surprising to hear, but it is a plain historical fact that modern international jihad originated as an instrument of US foreign policy. The ‘great menace of our era’ was built up by the CIA to wage a proxy war against the Soviets. A 1973 coup in Afghanistan installed a new secular government that, while not fully communist, was Soviet-leaning. That was a capital offense from the perspective of America’s Cold War national security state, at the time headed by Henry Kissinger. Conveniently for Kissinger, the dirt poor country was sandwiched between two US client states: Pakistan to the east and Iran (then still ruled by the CIA-installed Shah) to the west. Immediately after the coup, the CIA and the clandestine security agencies of Pakistan (ISI) and Iran (SAVAK) began regime change operations in Afghanistan, orchestrating and sponsoringIslamic fundamentalist insurrections and coup attempts. Due to these efforts, as well as the government’s own oppressiveness, a widespread rebellion broke out in Afghanistan in 1978. In July 1979, US President Jimmy Carter, on the advice of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, officially authorized aid to the puritanical Mujahideen rebels, to be delivered through the CIA’s ‘Operation Cyclone.’ This was on top of the unofficial aid that the CIA had already been funneling to Afghan Islamist insurgents for years through Pakistan and Iran. In a 1998 interview, Brzezinski openly admitted that he and Carter thus ‘knowingly increased the probability’ that the Soviets would militarily intervene. And indeed Russia did invade in December 1979, beginning the decade-long Soviet-Afghan War. In the same 1998 interview, Brzezinski boasted: ‘The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.’ Shortly thereafter, the highest cleric of Saudi Arabia (another US client) endorsed a fatwa proclaiming jihad against the atheist Soviets in Afghanistan as an obligation for all Muslims throughout the world. It should be noted that the Saudis have a narrow definition of a true ‘Muslim,’ as they follow Wahhabism, one of the most extreme and intolerant strands of Islam, highly similar to ISIS’s own. Throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia also provided the Afghan Jihad with hundreds of millions of petrodollars in aid and tens of thousands of madrassa-indoctrinated volunteer fighters. The CIA also heavily participated in recruitment for the increasingly international jihad. And this is where Osama bin Laden enters the picture. As political scientist and terrorism expert Eqbal Ahmad said in a 1998 speech:
Back in May, John Cantlie, a journalist held captive by ISIS, laid out the sum of all fears thesis in the group’s English-language online magazine Dabiq. To wit: Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table. The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region. The weapon is then transported overland until it makes it to Libya, where the muj?hid?n move it south to Nigeria. Drug shipments from Colombia bound for Europe pass through West Africa, so moving other types of contraband from East to West is just as possible. The nuke and accompanying mujahideen arrive on the shorelines of South America and are transported through the porous borders of Central America before arriving in Mexico and up to the border with the United States. From there it’s just a quick hop through a smuggling tunnel and hey presto, they’re mingling with another 12 million ‘illegal’ aliens in America with a nuclear bomb in the trunk of their car. Ok, got that?
This post was published at Zero Hedge on 10/07/2015.
Last month, Dalian Wanda, one of the most outward facing corporates in China, bought the organiser of the Ironman triathlons from a US private equity firm for $650 million. Meanwhile, Anbang Insurance, another company with similar global aspirations, looked less likely to succeed in its courtship of the Portuguese authorities in the hope of purchasing the remnants of a troubled financial conglomerate in Lisbon – precisely because the Chinese already have purchased so many assets there. At the same time, Chinese tourists continue to flood destinations like Japan, purchasing luxury goods which have become ever more inexpensive as a result of the steady appreciation of the Chinese currency, with the intention to sell them back home for a tidy profit. It is hard to know what represents prudent diversification and what constitutes capital flight on the part of Chinese groups and wealthy travellers. But for those who track capital outflows from China, the distinction does not much matter. In the four quarters to the end of June, such outflows, (which do not include debt repayment) have totalled more than $500 billion according to data from Citigroup. China’s mountain of foreign reserves, once around $4 trillion, are now down to less than $3.7 trillion and are expected to drop further to $3.3 trillion by the end of the year, Citi calculates. Not long ago, it seems that the world was awash in cheap dollars. Many of those cheap dollars could be traced to the generous monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. But many of them also came from the mainland as Chinese recycled their dollar earnings from the sale of exports abroad. Chinese capital flowed into everything from farms in Africa to ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, to dairies in New Zealand, energy firms in Canada and Treasuries in the US.