Beyond the Cusp

August 31, 2014

The Conflicting Duality that is American Foreign Policy

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American foreign policy is often a result of the struggle to assist people in need or under duress and the American people’s desire to mind their own business. America is often the reluctant warrior when using her vast military might abroad and even when using that might there is a definitive reluctance to unleash her entire might and fury. The problem is that even the measured and restrained use of American military might does not appear to be such as even that is well beyond the capability of any other nation on the planet and often more destructive than the entire forces from the combined forces of an entire region in which it is used. A typical example was the American use of force to take Panamanian strongman and international drug dealer and facilitator General Manuel Antonio Noriega into custody and to stand trial on charges in the United States. The force utilized to bring him to face charges in America were very limited by American standards yet were likely capable of not only overwhelming the Panamanian military but also that of the several surrounding nations if that had become necessary. The troops and forces represented by a single United States battle group attached to a single aircraft carrier and supporting ships which includes a contingent of United States Marines would be capable of conquering most nations on the face of the earth without needing to call for reserves or other reinforcements. The United States was probably the sole power in the history of the human race since the first city states brought civilization into existence and led to the formation of nations which had the capability and the opportunity to literally conquer the entire globe. Had the United States been a colonizing power in the ideals of the great European colonizers such as Spain, England, France, Portugal, and the Dutch; then perhaps the President and Congress would have acted on the suggestions of two of the greatest American Generals from World War II and as General George Patton suggested taken Russia and as General Douglas MacArthur suggested have taken China and as there were more American troops in Germany, Italy, France and England at the end of World War II, the world today might look vastly different with everybody throughout the globe voting for the President of the United States and for their own members to its Congress and there would be no United Nations other than the United Nations of America. That is the upper limit of American power at its zenith at the end of World War II. Every use of American military might since World War II had been but a small contingent of the potential strength America is capable of fielding and since she has done so on only the most dire of occasions, we can only hope we do not need her maximum efforts ever again.

 

On the other hand, and as was witnessed in both World Wars, America is the reluctant warrior and only enters into the fray as a final resort or in response to an actual attack on her people or threat thereof. More often we witness American military might bringing aid to areas struck by the most horrific catastrophes, be they the result of natural catastrophe or the result of human indifference. The American people are mostly of a mind to allow the world to decide on their own policies and to fight their own battles as long as they have no direct effect or bring harm to the Americans themselves. The Americans have often been called isolationists who more often than not withdraw from the rest of the world’s problems only acting by invitation or as a last resort to restore a balance they perceive has been lost. There was a period after World War II where the United States would respond and act to prevent the spread of Communist influence which was being spread by military means and most often against nations which had limited military ability to resist the forces backed by the Soviet Union on their own and without assistance. After the fall of the Soviet Union the United States also retreated from its use of military might throughout the world. This calm was broken by the attacks of September 11, 2001 when terrorists from al-Qaeda struck the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and were prevented from striking a fourth target when the passengers brought United Airlines Flight 93 to the ground in western Pennsylvania. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq followed these events and America once again used a portion of her military might to avenge herself and strike at those they perceived had struck them. Before this vengeance was completed by many American’s ideas of what should have been accomplished and who held the strongest of angers the American military was brought home and once again the United States began to withdraw into her solitude until being required again to answer the call. We saw the other side of American military might in Haiti after the horrendous earthquake and again in Japan after the disastrous trio of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and then the explosive failures of nuclear power reactors as a result of the flooding and force of the tidal waves. These are the more common examples of American use of her military might, that of bringing relief to those in dire need resulting from natural disasters. The United States is unmatched in her ability to provide such aid though a few other nations also spring to mind who are amongst the first to respond when the calamity of natural forces strike and wreak their havoc. The majority of Americans, that so-called silent majority, would be pleased if the world would never require the deployment of American military might except for the hopefully rare natural disaster where such military force is used to relieve the pain and suffering of the victims of the whims of Mother Nature and her forces often unleashed from within the planet herself.

 

The dichotomy the American military is often accused of suffering from is actually a dichotomy found in the American public. Trying to classify the American public is a fool’s effort as it is comprised of individuals as diverse as any population anywhere, partially because they come from almost everywhere originally. The secret of America has been that they take the best from each culture and merge it into the whole of American culture just as they would merge the people from every culture into the American body public. While the customs from the old world, as it is often referred to, would remain within the family at gatherings and at home while each generation would slowly meld into the American ethos while still remembering their roots and knowing that a small part of what they brought was now part of the greater whole and this allowed them to feel at home and a part of a greater whole. This is how the multiethnic American people can unite and believe they are one. It is also why it is near impossible to read the American people as simply being from a single culture and background. Where the British are known for their stiff upper lip, the French for l’amour, and all the other stereotypes can be found among the American peoples because they are not a single, harmonious identity. Instead of their familiar background, the American slowly fits into their new identity such as the western cowboy ethos, the cosmopolitan New Yorker, the proper Bostonian, the unrestrained and experimental Californian, the middle America farmer and almost countless others all of which might describe a few but nothing is that straight forward. The same comes to bear when attempting to figure the American foreign policies. First off is that with every new President the person who shapes foreign policy the most is replaced often with somebody with a completely different point of view. This could not have been more evident than when President Obama followed President Bush and the interventional policies of President Bush were replaced by the regressive retreat which was enacted by President Obama. The other side of the equation is that even though President Obama and President Bush could not have had any more disparate foreign policy goals, one trying to right the grievance from the September 11 attacks and the other trying to reverse everything and retreat from the world and give the United States a smaller and more passive world presence, President Obama had been unable to completely reverse every last iota of the policies of President Bush most evidenced by the inability to close the Guantanamo prison as President Obama likely realized that not everything is controllable, even for the President of the United States.

 

The one sure and unalterable truth about the American foreign policy will change direction, not completely though possibly more radically than can be predicted, every change of the family occupying the White House. Still, there are certain core principles which even a President is obliged to follow; the will of the American people should they ever unite behind a cause or as a reaction to events, especially a perceived assault on the United States or her interests or allies. That is the one power which is capable of taking American foreign policy to its furthest extremes. The other truth is that it is near impossible to predict when or where the American people might demand a President respond. Where a President can resist or even deny the desires and demands of the American public, if their positions are strongly felt the next President will be elected to carry out their exact desires. It is this strange mixture of the whims of the people, the regular changes in the leader of the United States, and most of all, the fact that for the large part the American people have very little if any interest in most foreign policy and could not care or find a reason to follow foreign affairs and largely only care about domestic policies and their own expectations of the government. That means that when it comes to foreign policy decisions and setting the priorities the American people, probably the best regulating control over government ever invented, have little desire to use their regulatory control over the foreign policy of the United States. That means that the only real controlling and limiting influence on American foreign policy is the five hundred and thirty-five members of Congress, the one-hundred Senators and the four-hundred-thirty-five members of the House of Representatives who are mostly concerned with assuring their reelection as many are not capable of honest work. Many of these representatives of the American public are simply walking through their assigned paces, repeating lines fed them by their advisors, and attempting to satisfy those who finance their next campaign as well as attempting to meet any needs any of their constituents may request their assistance with right down to tracking down their errant Social Security check as each voter satisfied could mean another hundred votes the next election and an unsatisfied voter definitely means a few thousand lost voters support simply from viral word of mouth and social media. Mostly though they just read their teleprompters or recite memorized positions which often they have no knowledge or concept of their position beyond what they have been instructed. Yet these are the main and often only people with any power to affect the American foreign policy from simply being the result of some ulterior motives and schemes of the President or that of his handlers and advisors. The people and functionaries who hold the uppermost positions in the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security, the National Security Administration and the military, especially in the Pentagon, have the most direct influence on the President as they also control much of the research ordered by the President’s closest advisors and those who the government assigns the responsibility for crafting and influencing American foreign policy. Is it any wonder that it often appears as those controlling the American foreign policy are clueless or many on opposing pages all talking at once and the resultant output is pure gibberish, gibberish, a decent definition for American foreign policy if ever I heard one.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 26, 2014

ISIS Revealed in Congressional Research Service Report

The news reports have depicted the relative ease with which the former al-Qaeda offshoot and now solo terrorist army ISIS has sliced their way clearing a large swath across the Sunni dominated central regions of Iraq from Mosul southward and now closing in on Baghdad. There have been comparisons between the ease with which ISIS forces have conquered areas which took the United States many long months to clear out and liberate. Some have even spent some time informing the readers that the ISIS troops are the reanimated remnants of those forces that the United States defeated in those very same areas during the surge and in other fighting. The commander of the ISIS forces is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, one of the persons held by United States forces and released in 2009 from the United States Camp Bucca which was located near Umm Qasr in Iraq. In many ways this story of his release is somewhat misleading and because of the date of his release there are those placing the blame on President Obama but because all of the detainees in Camp Bucca were transferred into Iraqi control by an agreement in 2008 others have placed the blame with President George W. Bush. So, what is the truth in this sordid mess? Well, neither of the two Presidents of the United States placed any hard restrictions against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi being released as he was not of any particular importance and did not hold a senior position or command any forces back in 2008 through 2009 so there was no particular reason to detain him over any other detainee. The people who did permit his release were the Iraqis so if anybody must be placed in the limelight for having released the man who has risen into the position of the most feared and potentially dangerous terrorist leader in the world, I guess it would have to be the same man who is now most threatened by his approaching forces, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sometimes the natural order in which events play out do actually hold the guilty to be threatened when the rooster comes home to roost, or the terrorist leads his army to your doorstep.

 

This leads us to the report provided to Congress by their research arm, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on the present situation and probable future ramifications of the perceived threats. According to the June 20 report CRS asserts that, “Several leading representatives of the U.S. intelligence community have stated that ISIS maintains training camps in Iraq and Syria, has the intent to attack the United States and is reportedly recruiting and training individuals to do so.” Their report also quotes al-Baghdadi making a threat quoting his declarations where he stated, “Know, O defender of the Cross, that a proxy war will not help you in the Levant, just as it will not help you in Iraq. Soon, you will be in direct conflict, Allah permitting, against your will.” Back to the CRS report, it further states, “ISIS attempts to assert control over the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, and its June 2014 offensive in northern Iraq underscored the group’s lethality and ability to conduct combat operations and manage partnerships with local groups in multiple areas over large geographic distances.”

 

Retired Army officer and military analyst Robert Maginnis talked about how ISIS has prepared to execute such attacks in Western nations, especially within Europe and the United States stating, “It already has many hundreds of jihadists with Western nation passports. Those battle-proven jihadists will eventually return to their Western homelands to carry on the jihad using the violent ways learned in Syria and Iraq. And now that ISIS controls a giant swath of the Middle East, the Western jihadists have a training platform, financing and a cheerleading state sponsor.” Another pertinent set of comments came from spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby pointed out, “If you look at the map of Iraq, I mean, sort of the central swath going from north of Samarra around Tikrit all the way up to Mosul, that’s ISIS controlled territory, by and large, and we’re seeing them try to solidify those gains and to continue to threaten Baghdad. That’s kind of the general lay down.” In its conclusion, the CRS report stated, “The offensive in northern and central Iraq, led by the Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group ISIS, has raised significant concerns for the United States. These concerns include a possible breakup of Iraq’s political and territorial order and the establishment of a potential base for terrorist attacks in the region or even against the U.S. homeland.”

 

So, what can be concluded from all of these commentaries, reports and other information? The most obvious item is that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has memories of his stay as a guest of the American military at Camp Bucca in Iraq and some of those memories are apparently not the most pleasant. We do not know and likely will never know whether or not he drew any special interest by the CIA and whether he had faced any special handling and questioning. Where the lack of any reported concern or importance being noted thus far we might believe that his detention was no worse or better than any other detainee. Still, al-Baghdadi has a real special hatred for the United States and appears to have special plans for vengeance or simply a strong desire for payback. We also can deduce that he is a person who is driven and knows how to accomplish the goals he sets for himself and those whom he leads and that his troops are highly motivated. As for their level of training, it has been obvious by the assaults made in Iraq and Syria by ISIS that the followers of ISIS are very well trained in explosives and the many forms of terrorist bombing techniques. As for their level of war fighting, we know they had no difficulty defeating the Iraqi military units they faced but reports of those confrontations said more about the lack of motivation and ability by the Iraqi military than they displayed any real abilities of the ISIS terrorist troops. With the dispatch of United States Special Forces trainers, intelligence personnel, logistics oversight and tactical officers, we can hope to see how well the ISIS units perform against determined and motivated military units. Unfortunately for the United States advisors and support personnel being deployed, I have my doubts about the efficiency and abilities of the Iraqi forces. The fact that tens of thousands of Iraqi troops stripped off their uniforms, threw down their weapons and abandoned their heavy weapons along with their armored vehicles and then attempted to blend in with the civilian surroundings does not bode well for the competence of the Iraqis. The cowardice displayed by the Iraqi troops could easily lead one to believe that there was some conspiratorial complicity between the Iraqi troops deployed in the Sunni areas and the ISIS forces which would permit the outright gifting of their equipment and other military assets to ISIS. The slaughtering of so many civilians and presumed troops does place such a theory into doubt and we will never know the truth as dead men tell no tales and those who survived will very likely not desire to present themselves as evidence or witness for fear of retribution from one side or the other.

 

We have also been granted a peek into the measures taken by the forces of ISIS and much of their looting and stealing of cash, gold, silver and other precious items from the banks and stores in Mosul depict well regulated troops who have very good intelligence and have a well figured set of protocols which will maximize their ability to gather funds which can be used to advance their cause and father them more advanced equipment and arms. We are not made aware if ISIS is receiving monetary assistance from the Sunni oil rich nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and others even if such funds were only provided for their efforts in Syria and against Iran and Hezballah. We are aware that they are fanatical and quite willing to murder anybody they meet who they determine are not as religious and devout as they would demand. This was made so very evident by the hundreds if not thousands that they had murdered claiming they had transgressed against Sharia. The one apparent sign of weakness has been the unwillingness or just plain lack of desire on the part of ISIS to tackle the Kurdish militias in the north beyond Mosul and the fact that the Kurdish units were capable of recapturing Kirkuk from ISIS forces. We do know the level of training and proficiency of the Kurdish Peshmarga, and their motivation is almost off the charts high and they have no intention in giving up one inch of the lands they currently hold and may very well prove to be the most proficient troops in fighting against the ISIS terrorists.

 

The other reality we have gained is that ISIS will try to find any means available to attack and injure the United States, both military and civilian targets. Should ISIS take control of a large segment of Iraq then they would have their own area which could act as an actual nation but a nation run by terrorist forces of ISIS much like Lebanon is currently run by Hezballah who have taken control of the government and now also run much of the Lebanese military units. In some ways the fact that Iran is now finding it necessary to fight to save Iraq from the ISIS terrorist military is a special form of payback as it was Iran who financed and assisted al-Qaeda, including the precursors for ISIS when these terrorists were fighting the United States forces during the American efforts in Iraq. So now it looks as if Iranian military forces will be required to fight against the very monster their government created in the efforts to cripple the United States after they overthrew Saddam Hussein. The one fear which should have the majority of Americans watching every deployment of United States military forces is the slow but steady increase of personnel into Iraq. They need to remember that Viet Nam started long before President Johnson escalated the deployment to the massive levels at the climax of the war in Viet Nam with advisors sent to simply train and provide intelligence by President Eisenhower in the late 1950s. The other disaster which at least currently does not appear possible would be the temporary unification between Sunni and Shiites bringing ISIS and Iran troops, including the Iran sponsored terrorists all in one large assault on the West in Europe and the United States. There has been evidence indicating that Iran has plans in place for attacks against the United States and now this evidence that ISIS shares that desire makes one wonder if these two might not simply work together in order to destroy the western nations and their technological advantages. With the United States currently appearing to be in remission, the possibility for these terrorist entities to cooperate increasing their relative strength may not be as impossible as the media would want us to believe. Even if it were the slightest of possibilities, it would be prudent to watch and be prepared should such an alliance be cobbled together, then seeking allies at the last minute would be too little too late. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” a truism stated by Thomas Jefferson.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 26, 2013

A Few Facts Tying Syria to American Change in the Middle East and the World

The efforts originated in Iraq where the idea was to replace an evil dictator and inject democracy and free the people allowing them to live as they chose. That was supposed to be relatively fast and painless transition. Something went terribly wrong as it turned out the United States leadership did not understand some basic premises about the Middle East. The problem that plagued the efforts of the United States in Iraq were a direct result of European decisions made facilitating their rapid exit from the ever growing expense of holding on to colonies especially in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The mistake was countries were formed with the advice from those who were to be placed in power when the Europeans departed and these new leaders each desired to assure they would rule over those who were historically their enemies. This led to borders including different sects, tribes, families and former national interests within each new nation with Europe choosing the rulers who would end up holding power through subjugation often of ancient enemies. This led to growing mistrust of Europeans and constant strife. Iraq was formed containing three distinct groups within its borders; the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds; along with a few smaller groups such as Christians and Jews. When the United States was presumably liberating Iraq it was also setting the tables for retributions of past injustices and ended up facing the dilemma of trying to make sense and peace of the mess which the Europeans had sewn when they hastily departed.

The exact same miscalculation was made by the same people who misjudged the situation and challenges of Iraq when dealing with the Palestinian autonomy when they decided to meddle in the Palestinian elections. Never mind that Mahmoud Abbas pleaded with President Bush and his point person, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, not to include the Hamas terror group in the election process as they would easily defeat any challengers. Never mind that the Israeli leadership unanimously agreed with Mahmoud Abbas and his warning about the imprudence of including the Hamas terror group in the election. Surprisingly, at least if you read the reports in the United States, Hamas won a significant majority of the legislative seats in the newly elected Palestinian Parliament. This caused the situation which exists today where the Palestinian Authority holds on to power in Judea and Samaria, aka West Bank, while Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a quick and violent coup. Mahmoud Abbas, in order to retain any semblance of power, decided to cancel the elections for President of the Palestinian Authority as it was obvious that Hamas would easily win such an election. The two separate leaders of the Palestinian people, Abbas representing a nationalist influence and Hamas representing a theocratic influence, have been in opposition with every attempt to cobble together a ruling coalition agreement eventually collapsing as the two views do not mesh well.

So, was there any hope once the power in the United States changed and the new President, Barack Obama, came in promising a new vision to repair all the previous problems and to change the face that the United States showed the world? In his first term the new American President has most definitely charged through the Middle East and changed the face of the United States and done even more transformational face-work on the Middle East. Where there had been at least the semblance of cooperation forged in Iraq, the precipitous removal of the influence by the United States has allowed a regression in Iraq where the old Sunni-Shia animosities are running rampant and the Kurds have formed their own virtual state in the north severing most of their ties and concerns from the government in Baghdad. The picture in Afghanistan is not much prettier as the United States had begun secretive negotiations with what were termed the better interests of the Taliban. The government of Hamid Karzai was forced to attempt to forge his own agreement with those Taliban who might have been more friendly with his government and not completely defiant. The result has been the Taliban retreating from both negotiations and simply deciding to outwait the United States who has promised to completely leave Afghanistan when they can simply sweep into power either through election or other means. Meanwhile, for some unperceivable reason, sarcasm intended, the Afghans have steadily grown less and less friendly with their American counterparts and many feel betrayed while others prepare to return to their separate factions and Afghanistan is likely to return to the same problems that have plagued the remote lands since before Alexander the Great attempted to force some sense of order by marrying off daughters of his generals to the tribal leaders in order to allow Greek influence to be maintained. There are likely a number of general’s daughters in the United States who are very happy that the United States would never try the same approach.

The next grand step was the great speech of Cairo where the nascent President of the United States, Barack Obama, apologized for the sins of the United States and promised to stand with those who would choose to forge a new and people-empowering future throughout the Middle East. Egyptian President Mubarak pleaded with the American President not to make the speech and implored that he at least not invite the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned group in Egypt since the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Needless to say, the President of the United States insisted that he knew best and was fully aware of what he was doing and that the President of Egypt should calm down and everything would be perfectly wonderful. Within a short period the world began to witness the changes which were birthed that day in Cairo with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East much as Hamas rose to power after the previous Administration had meddled against the strident warnings of those who live in the Middle East. Since then we have witnessed the spread of Middle East democracy through North Africa and now into the heart of the Middle East. As the initial birth pains of democracy have spread around the Middle East it has spawned the birth of new governance which has meant the Muslim Brotherhood just as Egyptian now former President Mubarak has predicted. What has become evident is that there was a difference between the rise of Hamas through George Bush and his Administration’s miscalculations and President Obama and his Administration’s intentional empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood. The rise of Hamas was not the intended result that the Bush Administration sought but it appears that the Obama Administration knew full well that their efforts would result in the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood. That leaves the world with a simple question; will the Muslim Brotherhood allow further free elections or will their rise to power result in simply the replacement of nationalist dictatorial rule with theocratic rule.

After the change in power in Tunisia and Egypt the wave hit a couple of snags in Libya and Syria where the removal of their dictators was not smoothly attained through a couple months of demonstrations as had been the case in Tunisia and Egypt; the changes in these countries took full blown civil wars. This also attracted al-Qaeda and other terror interests to join in the change of power and has spawned what one hopes was an unintended consequence, the arming of terror entities by the efforts of the Europeans and the United States. This has been most evident each time the Egyptians have prevented shipments of arms from Libya terror influences heading to Hamas in Gaza. There has been far less success in preventing the weapons injected into Libya from reaching their counterparts in Syria most often through Turkey. Recently the flow of weapons into the Syrian rebels has shown a marked increase and reports have mentioned that the logistics are being aided by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The reports have also noted one troubling side effect; the arms are not necessarily ending up in the hands of the secular rebel forces and are instead being used to arm the Islamist rebel forces. This begs another question; is the arming of the Islamist rebel forces an oversight or intentional? It actually should not be all that surprising if this is a result of planned program instituted by the Arabist Islamic influences in the United States State Department and Muslim Brotherhood influences throughout various elements in the United States government.

This then may continue to play out much like the falling of dominoes across the Middle East with these same arms being transferred from one targeted country to the next. The current number one candidate for next is very likely Jordan. There will be no ability to prevent arms and Islamist influences from entering Jordan from the north once Syria has fallen, providing such is as inevitable as has been advertised. Where the transformation of the Middle East will finally run out of steam is anybody’s guess. The question which needs to be answered is whether the transformation of the Middle East and the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood will end in the Middle East or spread into Europe starting in the Balkans and Greek Islands. The other question is which influence will prove to be foremost in the Middle East, the Shia centered in Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood mostly in Egypt. Before anybody jumps to a decision, it might be best to reveal who is sided with each side. In the Iranian corner we have the Russians and Chinese while in the Muslim Brotherhood corner we have the United States and the NATO allies in Europe. This brings up another item of recent interest, Cyprus.

The bailout which has been implemented in Cyprus is tantamount to a declaration of financial war between the West and the Russians. The naked aggressive theft of as much as twenty-five-percent from deposits over one-hundred-thousand Euros from the Cypriot banks is a financial assault on the Russian interests who have deposited large quantities of presumably laundered monies with these banks. Whoever thought that was a good idea must have a large vacuous space between their ears. This move will not go unpunished and will possibly lead to a financial war between the Western nations and the Russian alliance of interests. The ramifications from this financial assault will be interesting to watch over the coming months. Also, is gifting Greece with ownership of some of the Cypriot banks really prudent seeing as Greece is not exactly the rock of economic strength. This appears to be a case of the blind leading the blind but it is a case of birds of a feather being flown into ruin together. Next we get to wonder how long before the Euro zone starts to collapse and throw out the weaker nations until only a select few remain and the European Union slowly sinks beyond the horizon and into history. Are we having fun yet?

Beyond the Cusp

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