Colonization by Bankruptcy: The High-stakes Chess Match for Argentina

abutres

By Ellen Brown

If Argentina were in a high-stakes chess match, the country’s actions this week would be the equivalent of flipping over all the pieces on the board.

David Dayen, Fiscal Times, August 22, 2014

August 27, 2014 “ICH” – Argentina is playing hardball with the vulture funds, which have been trying to force it into an involuntary bankruptcy. The vultures are demanding what amounts to a 600% return on bonds bought for pennies on the dollar, defeating a 2005 settlement in which 92% of creditors agreed to accept a 70% haircut on their bonds. A US court has backed the vulture funds; but last week, Argentina sidestepped its jurisdiction by transferring the trustee for payment from Bank of New York Mellon to its own central bank. That play, if approved by the Argentine Congress, will allow the country to continue making payments under its 2005 settlement, avoiding default on the majority of its bonds.

Argentina is already foreclosed from international capital markets, so it doesn’t have much to lose by thwarting the US court system. Similar bold moves by Ecuador and Iceland have left those countries in substantially better shape than Greece, which went along with the agendas of the international financiers.

The upside for Argentina was captured by President Fernandez in a nationwide speech on August 19th. Struggling to hold back tears, according to Bloomberg, she said:

When it comes to the sovereignty of our country and the conviction that we can no longer be extorted and that we can’t become burdened with debt again, we are emerging as Argentines.

. . . If I signed what they’re trying to make me sign, the bomb wouldn’t explode now but rather there would surely be applause, marvelous headlines in the papers. But we would enter into the infernal cycle of debt which we’ve been subject to for so long.

The Endgame: Patagonia in the Crosshairs

The deeper implications of that infernal debt cycle were explored by Argentine political analyst Adrian Salbuchi in an August 12th article titled “Sovereign Debt for Territory: A New Global Elite Swap Strategy.” Where territories were once captured by military might, he maintains that today they are being annexed by debt. The still-evolving plan is to drive destitute nations into an international bankruptcy court whose decisions would have the force of law throughout the world. The court could then do with whole countries what US bankruptcy courts do with businesses: sell off their assets, including their real estate. Sovereign territories could be acquired as the spoils of bankruptcy without a shot being fired.

Global financiers and interlocking megacorporations are increasingly supplanting governments on the international stage. An international bankruptcy court would be one more institution making that takeover legally binding and enforceable. Governments can say no to the strong-arm tactics of the global bankers’ collection agency, the IMF. An international bankruptcy court would allow creditors to force a nation into bankruptcy, where territories could be involuntarily sold off in the same way that assets of bankrupt corporations are.

For Argentina, says Salbuchi, the likely prize is its very rich Patagonia region, long a favorite settlement target for ex-pats. When Argentina suffered a massive default in 2001, the global press, including Time and The New York Times, went so far as to propose that Patagonia be ceded from the country as a defaulted debt payment mechanism.

The New York Times article followed one published in the Buenos Aires financial newspaper El Cronista Comercial called “Debt for Territory,” which described a proposal by a US consultant to then-president Eduardo Duhalde for swapping public debt for government land. It said:

[T]he idea would be to transform our public debt default into direct equity investment in which creditors can become land owners where they can develop  industrial, agricultural and real estate projects. . . . There could be surprising candidates for this idea: during the Alfonsin Administration, the Japanese studied an investment master plan in Argentine land in order to promote emigration.  The proposal was also considered in Israel.

Salbuchi notes that ceding Patagonia from Argentina was first suggested in 1896 by Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, as a second settlement for that movement.

Another article published in 2002 was one by IMF deputy manager Anne Krueger titled “Should Countries Like Argentina Be Able to Declare Themselves Bankrupt?” It was posted on the IMF website and proposed some “new and creative ideas” on what to do about Argentina. Krueger said, “the lesson is clear: we need better incentives to bring debtors and creditors together before manageable problems turn into full-blown crises,” adding that the IMF believes “this could be done by learning from corporate bankruptcy regimes like Chapter 11 in the US”.

These ideas were developed in greater detail by Ms. Krueger in an IMF essay titled “A New Approach to Debt Restructuring,” and by Harvard professor Richard N. Cooper in a 2002 article titled “Chapter 11 for Countries” published in Foreign Affairs (“mouthpiece of the powerful New York-Based Elite think-tank, Council on Foreign Relations”). Salbuchi writes:

Here, Cooper very matter-of-factly recommends that “only if the debtor nation cannot restore its financial health are its assets liquidated and the proceeds distributed to its creditors – again under the guidance of a (global) court” (!).

In Argentina’s recent tangle with the vulture funds, Ms. Krueger and the mainstream media have come out in apparent defense of Argentina, recommending restraint by the US court. But according to Salbuchi, this does not represent a change in policy. Rather, the concern is that overly heavy-handed treatment may kill the golden goose:

. . . [I] n today’s delicate post-2008 banking system, a new and less controllable sovereign debt crisis could thwart the global elite’s plans for an “orderly transition towards a new global legal architecture” that will allow orderly liquidation of financially-failed states like Argentina. Especially if such debt were to be collateralized by its national territory (what else is left!?)

Breaking Free from the Sovereign Debt Trap

Salbuchi traces Argentina’s debt crisis back to 1955, when President Juan Domingo Perón was ousted in a very bloody US/UK/mega-bank-sponsored military coup:

Perón was hated for his insistence on not indebting Argentina with the mega-bankers: in 1946 he rejected joining the International Monetary Fund (IMF); in 1953 he fully paid off all of Argentina’s sovereign debt. So, once the mega-bankers got rid of him in 1956, they shoved Argentina into the IMF and created the “Paris Club” to engineer decades-worth of sovereign debt for vanquished Argentina, something they’ve been doing until today.

Many countries have been subjected to similar treatment, as John Perkins documents in his blockbuster exposéConfessions of an Economic Hit Man. When the country cannot pay, the IMF sweeps in with refinancing agreements with strings attached, including selling off public assets and slashing public services in order to divert government revenues into foreign debt service.

Even without pressure from economic hit men, however, governments routinely indebt themselves for much more than they can ever hope to repay. Why do they do it? Salbuchi writes:

Here, Western economists, bankers, traders, Ivy League academics and professors, Nobel laureates and the mainstream media have a quick and monolithic reply: because all nations need“investment and investors” if they wish to build highways, power plants, schools, airports, hospitals, raise armies, service infrastructures and a long list of et ceteras . . . .

But more and more people are starting to ask a fundamental common-sense question: why should governments indebt themselves in hard currencies, decades into the future with global mega-bankers, when they could just as well finance these projects and needs far more safely by issuing the proper amounts of their own local sovereign currency instead?

Neoliberal experts shout back that government-created money devalues the currency, inflates the money supply, and destroys economies. But does it? Or is it the debt service on money created privately by banks, along with other forms of “rent” on capital, that create inflation and destroy economies? As Prof. Michael Hudson points out:

These financial claims on wealth – bonds, mortgages and bank loans – are lent out to become somebody else’s debts in an exponentially expanding process.  . . . [E]conomies have been obliged to pay their debts by cutting back new research, development and new physical reinvestment. This is the essence of IMF austerity plans, in which the currency is “stabilized” by further international borrowing on terms that destabilize the economy at large. Such cutbacks in long-term investment also are the product of corporate raids financed by high-interest junk bonds. The debts created by businesses, consumers and national economies cutting back their long-term direct investment leaves these entities even less able to carry their mounting debt burden.

Spiraling debt also results in price inflation, since businesses have to raise their prices to cover the interest and fees on the debt.

From Sovereign Debt to Monetary Sovereignty

For governments to escape this austerity trap, they need to spend not less but more money on the tangible capital formation that increases physical productivity. But where to get the investment money without getting sucked into the debt vortex? Where can Argentina get funding if the country is shut out of international capital markets?

The common-sense response, as Salbuchi observes, is for governments to issue the money they need directly. But “printing money” raises outcries that can be difficult to overcome politically. An alternative that can have virtually the same effect is for nations to borrow money issued by their own publicly-owned banks. Public banks generate credit just as private banks do; but unlike private lenders, they return interest and profits to the economy. Their mandate is to serve the public, and that is where their profits go. Funding through their own government-issued currencies and publicly-owned banks has been successfully pursued by many countries historically, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, China, Russia, Korea and Japan. (For more on this, see The Public Bank Solution.)

Countries do need to be able to buy foreign products that they cannot acquire or produce domestically, and for that they need a form of currency or an international credit line that other nations will accept. But countries are increasingly breaking away from the oil- and weapons-backed US dollar as global reserve currency. To resolve the mutually-destructive currency wars will probably take a new Bretton Woods Accord. But that is another subject for a later article.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 200+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

Fonte: International Clearing House

40 Central Banks Are Betting This Will Be The Next Reserve Currency

Tyler Durden's picture

As we have discussed numerous times, nothing lasts forever – especially reserve currencies – no matter how much one hopes that the status-quo remains so, in the end the exuberant previlege is extorted just one too many times. Headline after headlines shows nations declaring ‘interest’ or direct discussions in diversifying away from the US dollar… and as SCMP reports, Standard Chartered notes that at least 40 central banks have invested in the Yuan and several more are preparing to do so. The trend is occurring across both emerging markets and developed nation central banks diversifiying into ‘other currencies’ and “a great number of central banks are in the process of adding yuan to their portfolios.” Perhaps most ominously, for king dollar, is the former-IMF manager’s warning that “The Yuan may become a de facto reserve currency before it is fully convertible.”

The infamous chart that shows nothing lasts forever…

Nothing lasts forever… (especially in light of China’s recent comments)

 

As The South China Morning Post reports, Jukka Pihlman, Standard Chartered’s Singapore-based global head of central banks and sovereign wealth funds (who formerly worked at the International Monetary Fund advising central banks on asset-management issues), notes that:

 
 

At least 40 central banks have invested in the yuan and several others are preparing to do so, putting the mainland currency on the path to reserve status even before full convertibility

The US dollar remains in charge (for now)…but

 
 

The US dollar is still the world’s most widely held reserve currency, accounting for nearly 33 per cent of global foreign exchange holdings at the end of last year, according to IMF data. That ratio has been declining since 2000, when 55 per cent of the world’s reserves were denominated in US dollars.

 

The IMF does not disclose the percentage of reserves held in yuan, but the emerging market countries’ share of reserves in “other currencies” has increased by almost 400 per cent since 2003, while that of developed nations grew 200 per cent, according to IMF data.

As SCMP goes on to note, the rising popularity of the yuan among central bankers is probably mainly due to Beijing’s extremely favourable treatment of them as it has sought to encourage investment in the yuan.

 
 

For example, central banks enjoy preferential treatment in the qualified foreign institutional investor category, both on the size of the quota and the length of the lock-up period. The QFII quotas given to central banks are not publicly known, but some of those announced by investing central banks are up to 10 times larger than others in the programme and, most importantly, free of any capital controls.

 

“Central banks and sovereign funds have special treatment,” Pihlman said. “They have the ability to invest in a way that any other investor does not have. When it comes to convertibility, there is nothing formally out there, but it is fully convertible.”

As Pihlman explains, things are accelerating…

 
 

Pihlman said “a great number of central banks are in the process of adding [yuan] to their portfolios”.

 

The [yuan] has effectively already become a de facto reserve currency because so many central banks have already invested in it,” he said. “The [yuan] may become a de facto reserve currency before it is fully convertible.”

 

The central banks more likely to add yuan holdings in the future were the ones with “strong trade linkages to China” and those which had relatively large levels of reserves which could consider diversifying more for return-related reasons, he said.

 

The [yuan's] convertibility may be already there for central banks in a way that has got them comfortable to start investing in the currency,” Pihlman said.

We leave it to a former World Bank chief economist, Justin Yifu Lin, to sum it all up…

 
 

“the dominance of the greenback is the root cause of global financial and economic crises,”

It appears the world is beginning to listen

 Fonte: Zero Hedge

Pepe Escobar − “Balé da Energia 2: Síria, Ucrânia e o Oleogasodutostão”

europe-pipelines

26/8/2014, [*] Pepe EscobarRT − Rússia Today

Energy ballet-2: Syria, Ukraine & “Pipelineistan”

Traduzido pelo pessoal da Vila Vudu

Assim como Irã, Rússia, EUA e União Europeia estão envolvidos num sofisticado balé nuclear/de-energia, Síria e Ucrânia são também dois vetores chaves nos jogos de energia, com peso suficiente para determinar grande parte do que acontece a seguir no Novo Grande Jogo na Eurásia.

E essas duas guerras, na Síria e na Ucrânia, também são guerras de energia.

O plano máster do governo Obama para a Síria era “Assad tem de sair”; a mudança de regime geraria uma entidade da Fraternidade Muçulmana apoiada pelos EUA, e uma perna chave do Oleogasodutostão – o gasoduto Irã-Iraque-Síria, de US$ 10 bilhões – estaria amputada para sempre.

Leiam também: “Balé da Energia: Irã, Rússia e o Oleogasodutostão

O próprio emir do Qatar em pessoa tomou a estrada de Damasco em 2009 para negociar um gasoduto Qatar-Síria-Turquia. Mas Bashar al-Assad disse que não; explicou que não tinha interesse algum em pôr em risco os negócios de energia entre Síria e Rússia.

Mesmo assim, prosseguiram as conversas e, lembrando que em 2001, acontecera um entendimento para um projeto rival Irã-Iraque-Síria. Significa que já aparecia escrito na parede – ou nas tubulações (de aço) que chegariam, mais dia menos dia, ao Mediterrâneo Leste. O gás para consumidores europeus potenciais viria, de fato, do campo Pars Sul, no Irã, contíguo ao campo Cúpula Norte, do Qatar; juntos, os dois campos formam o maior campo de gás de todo o planeta.

Não só para o Qatar e para a Turquia, mas especialmente para a Voz do Patrão, era negócio inaceitável; a política oficial dos EUA de “isolar o Irã” estaria em cacos. Pior: a possibilidade estaria aberta para que a União Europeia em seguida se convertesse em consumidora privilegiada de ambos, Rússia e Irã, dos quais passaria a receber nada menos que 45% de seu suprimento de gás. A plena integração energia/comércio da Eurásia – nesse caso envolvendo grande parte da União Europeia, Rússia e Irã – é anátema absoluto para o Império do Caos.

Eis aí o contexto argumentacional que “explica” o desastre intitulado “Assad tem de sair”; uma guerra DE terror, financiada em grande parte por Qatar e Arábia Saudita, com apoio logístico da Turquia, com Ancara, a CIA e a gangue do CCG (Conselho de Cooperação do Golfo) criando uma ponte aérea “secreta” para armar os chamados jihadistas “do bem”, usando para isso aviões cargueiros militares sauditas, qataris e jordanianos, desde 2012.

O mínimo que se pode dizer, é que a volta do chicote no lombo do chicoteador foi espetacular. “Assad tem de sair” deu em nada. E nada menos que o Estado Islâmico (IS), antes conhecido como ISIL, liderado pelo Califa Ibrahim, ergueu a própria cabeçorra. Até as Forças Especiais dos EUA estão embasbacadas ante o poder de luta deles.

O Califato, que engloba partes da Síria e do Iraque está ganhando rios de dinheiro vendendo – ironia mãe de todas as ironias – petróleo e gás a preço de liquidação no mercado negro. São pelo menos US$ 38 milhões de dólares/mês: US$ 8 milhões de um campo de gás capturado na Síria e US$ 30 milhões de, no mínimo, seis campos de petróleo capturados no Iraque.

As Casas de Saud e Thani mostram-se hoje ostensivamente horrorizadas com o Califa e seus degoladores, inclusive os já chamados jihadistas-Beatles. Mas mesmo assim os doadores sauditas e qataris privados, além de outros notáveis do CCG, continuam a fazer chover dinheiro e armas sobre o Califato. O presidente Erdogan na Turquia está hoje também oficialmente horrorizado. Mas a fronteira turco-síria continua escancarada para o ir e vir de todos os jihadistas viajantes.

No pé em que estão as coisas no Oleogasodutostão, a possibilidade de o projeto do gasoduto Qatar-Síria-Turquia decolar é zero. E as coisas não estão mais bem paradas no que tenha a ver com Irã-Iraque-Síria, considerando que dois desses três países estão em guerra civil sem final à vista.

Deem-nos Grad, que a gente frack

No cenário da Ucrânia, o “vilão” é a Rússia, em vez do Irã. E a implicação é muito mais direta sobre interesses dos EUA.

O que realmente interessa no leste da Ucrânia é limpar uma vasta área para o fracking – mediante uma ofensiva com mísseis Grad, o que levou a êxodo em massa de refugiados.

Michael Hudson resumiu muito bem:

Agora, imaginem se aqui nos EUA o presidente Obama e o vice-presidente Biden mandassem tropas para o interior do estado de New York, que se opõe à perfuração para extração de petróleo/gás, e bombardeassem as cidades de Rochester, Buffalo, e se pusessem a bombardear as cidades e a matar todos os que se opõem ao fracking. Pois isso, exatamente, é o que está acontecendo na Ucrânia. E estão fazendo isso com o apoio do Banco Mundial.

A empresa Royal Dutch Shell é a principal interessada em perfurar/extrair xisto betuminoso no leste da Ucrânia; em janeiro, assinou negócio de US$ 10 bilhões.

E há também a Exxon, além da conexão Burisma Holdings. O governador nomeado de Dnepropetrovsk, cidadão israelense-ucraniano, o tenebroso bilionário Igor Kolomoisky – que também mantém sua própria milícia privada – está na cama com ninguém menos que o vice-presidente dos EUA Joe Biden.filho de Joe Biden foi contratado como diretor para negócios de petróleo e gás da Burisma Holdings – exatamente a maior empresa de extração/refino de xisto betuminoso [fracking] na Ucrânia.

Além disso tudo, o Parlamento em Kiev aprovou lei que permitirá que investidores dos EUA e da União Europeia participem – em termos de joint venture – de até 49% da propriedade da tubulação enterrada no trecho ucraniano e das instalações subterrâneas de armazenamento de gás.

A conversa dos “especialistas” de Kiev é previsível: a joint venture trará o tão necessário “investimento”. E porá na prateleira para sempre o gasoduto Ramo Sul, de 2.446 km, planejado para levar o ouro azul da Gazprom pelo subsolo do Mar Negro e entrar na União Europeia na Bulgária, absolutamente sem passar pela Ucrânia. Tradução: o já periclitante orçamento de Kiev encolherá ainda mais, com a redução nas taxas cobradas pela “passagem” do gás.

A União Europeia importa da Rússia quase 30% do gás de que precisa. Metade disso transita hoje pela Ucrânia. Mas em futuro próximo o gasoduto Ramo Norte, pelo subsolo do Mar Báltico entrará em operação, e o Ramo Sul é praticamente certo, tão logo a confusão na Ucrânia seja resolvida. Contornar a Ucrânia é opção mais firme a cada dia.

Compare-se isso ao sonho molhado de Kiev, inflado por Washington, de vir a “controlar” todo o fluxo de gás da Gazprom para a União Europeia e, além do mais, de controlar todo o comércio em dólares norte-americanos. Mais uma vez, voltamos à política básica do Império do Caos – impedir maior integração econômica/de-energia entre Rússia e União Europeia.

Assim sendo, a prioridade de Washington no curto prazo é sabotar o Ramo Sul; não surpreende que o gasoduto esteja suspenso, com a Comissão Europeia obedecendo caninamente a Voz do Patrão. Mas a obediência nesse caso também significa que, por hora, largas porções da União Europeia permanecem reféns da Ucrânia.

É sob essa luz que se tem de examinar a recente intervenção, pelo vice-ministro do Petróleo do Irã, Ali Mejidi, quando declarou entusiasticamente que o eternamente conturbado Nabucco, a ópera do Oleogasodutostão, se algum dia houve tal coisa, estaria outra vez “em cena”.

A ideia do gasoduto Nabucco é levar gás para a União Europeia via Turquia, Bulgária, Romênia, Hungria e Áustria. Sim, mas, gás vindo de onde? O Turcomenistão e o Cazaquistão ficaram, afinal, excluídos. Poderia ser gás do Azerbaijão, mas essa via exige uma fortuna extra em investimentos. A indústria iraquiana não estará, tão cedo, em operação. E o Irã só estará no jogo se assinar algum acordo nuclear até o final de 2014 e se as sanções forem levantas em 2015 (e todos esses “se” são gigantes).

Assim sendo, na Ucrânia, como na Síria, estamos de volta ao começo do jogo, em termos de energia. O país é uma arca de recursos econômicos, que está sendo sugado para dentro do poço do capitalismo de desastre. No fim, é provável que a Gazprom surja como vencedora.

Não está entendendo Síria e Ucrânia? Calma: basta seguir a trilha das guerras da energia.

____________________________________________

[*] Pepe Escobar (1954) é jornalista, brasileiro, vive em São Paulo, Hong Kong e Paris, mas publica exclusivamente em inglês. Mantém coluna (The Roving Eye) no Asia Times Online; é também analista de política de blogs e sites como: Tom Dispatch, Information Clearing HouseRed Voltaire, Counterpunch e outros; é correspondente/ articulista das redes Russia Today,The Real News Network Televison e Al-Jazeera. Seus artigos podem ser lidos, traduzidos para o português pelo Coletivo de Tradutores da Vila Vudu e João Aroldo, no blog redecastorphoto.

Livros:

 Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War,  Nimble Books, 2007.

− Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge,  Nimble Books, 2007.    

 Obama Does Globalistan,  Nimble Books, 2009

 

Fonte: Rede Castor Photo.

Russia’s Humanitarian ‘Invasion’

Russian humanitarian convoy moves to Ukraine
Official Washington’s war-hysteria machine is running at full speed again after Russia unilaterally dispatched a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies to the blockaded Ukrainian city of Luhansk, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern. 

By Ray McGovern

August 24, 2014 “ICH” – “Consortium News” – Before dawn broke in Washington on Saturday, “Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists” – more accurately described as federalists of southeast Ukraine who oppose last February’s coup in Kiev – unloaded desperately needed provisions from some 280 Russian trucks in Luhansk, Ukraine. The West accused those trucks of “invading” Ukraine on Friday, but it was a record short invasion; after delivering their loads of humanitarian supplies, many of the trucks promptly returned to Russia.

I happen to know what a Russian invasion looks like, and this isn’t it. Forty-six years ago, I was ten miles from the border of Czechoslovakia when Russian tanks stormed in to crush the “Prague Spring” experiment in democracy. The attack was brutal.

Once back in Munich, West Germany, where my duties included substantive liaison with Radio Free Europe, I experienced some of the saddest moments of my life listening to radio station after radio station on the Czech side of the border playing Smetana’s patriotic “Ma vlast” (My Homeland) before going silent for more than two decades.

I was not near the frontier between Russia and southeastern Ukraine on Friday as the convoy of some 280 Russian supply trucks started rolling across the border heading toward the federalist-held city of Luhansk, but that “invasion” struck me as more like an attempt to break a siege, a brutal method of warfare that indiscriminately targets all, including civilians, violating the principle of non-combatant immunity.

Michael Walzer, in his War Against Civilians, notes that “more people died in the 900-day siege of Leningrad during WWII than in the infernos of Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki taken together.” So the Russians have some strong feelings about sieges.

There’s also a personal side for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was born in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, eight years after the long siege by the German army ended. It is no doubt a potent part of his consciousness. One elder brother, Viktor, died of diphtheria during the siege of Leningrad.

The Siege of Luhansk

Despite the fury expressed by U.S. and NATO officials about Russia’s unilateral delivery of the supplies after weeks of frustrating negotiations with Ukrainian authorities, there was clearly a humanitarian need. An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team that visited Luhansk on Aug. 21 to make arrangements for the delivery of aid found water and electricity supplies cut off because of damage to essential infrastructure.

The Ukrainian army has been directing artillery fire into the city in an effort to dislodge the ethnic Russian federalists, many of whom had supported elected President Viktor Yanukovych who was ousted in the Feb. 22 coup.

The Red Cross team reported that people in Luhansk do not leave their homes for fear of being caught in the middle of ongoing fighting, with intermittent shelling into residential areas placing civilians at risk. Laurent Corbaz, ICRC head of operations for Europe and Central Asia, reported “an urgent need for essentials like food and medical supplies.”

The ICRC stated that it had “taken all necessary administrative and preparatory steps for the passage of the Russian convoy,” and that, “pending customs checks,” the organization was “therefore ready to deliver the aid to Luhansk … provided assurances of safe passage are respected.”

The “safe passage” requirement, however, was the Catch-22. The Kiev regime and its Western supporters have resisted a ceasefire or a political settlement until the federalists – deemed “terrorists” by Kiev – lay down their arms and surrender.

Accusing the West of repeatedly blocking a “humanitarian armistice,” a Russian Foreign Ministry statement cited both Kiev’s obstructionist diplomacy and “much more intensive bombardment of Luhansk” on Aug. 21, the day after some progress had been made on the ground regarding customs clearance and border control procedures: “In other words, the Ukrainian authorities are bombing the destination [Luhansk] and are using this as a pretext to stop the delivery of humanitarian relief aid.”

‘Decision to Act’

Referring to these “intolerable” delays and “endless artificial demands and pretexts,” the Foreign Ministry said, “The Russian side has decided to act.” And there the statement’s abused, plaintive tone ended sharply – with this implied military threat:

“We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission. … Those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives to their own ambitions and geopolitical designs and are rudely trampling on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian relief convoy.”

Despite all the agreements and understandings that Moscow claims were reached earlier with Ukrainian authorities, Kiev insists it did not give permission for the Russian convoy to cross its border and that the Russians simply violated Ukrainian sovereignty – no matter the exigent circumstances they adduce.

More alarming still, Russia’s “warning” could be construed as the Kremlin claiming the right to use military force within Ukraine itself, in order to protect such humanitarian supply efforts – and perhaps down the road, to protect the anti-coup federalists, as well.

The risk of escalation, accordingly, will grow in direct proportion to the restraint exercised by not only the Ukrainian armed forces but also their militias of neo-fascists who have been dispatched by Kiev as frontline shock troops in eastern Ukraine.

Though many Russian citizens have crossed the border in support of their brethren in eastern Ukraine, Moscow has denied dispatching or controlling these individuals. But now there are Russians openly acknowledged to have been sent by Moscow into Ukraine – even if only “pilots” of “Russian military vehicles painted to look like civilian trucks,” as the White House depicted the humanitarian mission.

Moscow’s move is a difficult one to parry, except for those – and there are many, both in Kiev and in Washington – who would like to see the situation escalate to a wider East-West armed confrontation. One can only hope that, by this stage, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Union realize they have a tiger by the tail.

The coup regime in Kiev knows which side its bread is buttered on, so to speak, and can be expected to heed the advice from the U.S. and the EU if it is expressed forcefully and clearly. Not so the fanatics of the extreme right party Svoboda and the armed “militia” comprised of the Right Sector. Moreover, there are influential neo-fascist officials in key Kiev ministries who dream of cleansing eastern Ukraine of as many ethnic Russians as possible.

Thus, the potential for serious mischief and escalation has grown considerably. Even if Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko wants to restrain his hardliners, he may be hard-pressed to do so. Thus, the U.S. government could be put in the unenviable position of being blamed for provocations – even military attacks on unarmed Russian truck drivers – over which it has little or no control.

Giving Hypocrisy a Bad Name

The White House second-string P.R. team came off the bench on Friday, with the starters on vacation, and it was not a pretty scene. Even if one overlooks the grammatical mistakes, the statement they cobbled together left a lot to be desired.

It began: “Today, in violation of its previous commitments and international law, Russian military vehicles painted to look like civilian trucks forced their way into Ukraine. …

“The Ukrainian government and the international community have repeatedly made clear that this convoy would constitute a humanitarian mission only if expressly agreed to by the Ukrainian government and only if the aid was inspected, escorted and distributed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). We can confirm that the ICRC is not escorting the vehicles and has no role in managing the mission. …

“Russian military vehicles piloted by Russian drivers have unilaterally entered the territory controlled by the separatist forces.”

The White House protested that Kiev had not “expressly agreed” to allow the convoy in without being escorted by the ICRC. Again, the Catch 22 is obvious. Washington has been calling the shots, abetting Kiev’s dawdling as the supply trucks sat at the border for a week while Kiev prevented the kind of ceasefire that the ICRC insists upon before it will escort such a shipment.

The other issue emphasized in the White House statement was inspection of the trucks: “While a small number of these vehicles were inspected by Ukrainian customs officials, most of the vehicles have not been inspected by anyone but Russia.” During a press conference at the UN on Friday, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin took strong exception to that charge, claiming not only that 59 Ukrainian inspectors had been looking through the trucks on the Russian side of the border, but that media representatives had been able to choose for themselves which trucks to examine.

Regardless of this latest geopolitical back-and-forth, it’s clear that Moscow’s decision to send the trucks across the border marked a new stage of the civil war in Ukraine. As Putin prepares to meet with Ukrainian President Poroshenko next week in Minsk – and as NATO leaders prepare for their summit on Sept. 4 to 5 in Wales – the Kremlin has put down a marker: there are limits to the amount of suffering that Russia will let Kiev inflict on the anti-coup federalists and ethnic Russian civilians right across the border.

The Russians’ attitude seems to be that if the relief convoys can be described as an invasion of sovereign territory, so be it. Nor are they alone in the court of public opinion.

On Friday at the UN, Russian Ambassador Churkin strongly objected to comments that, by its behavior, Russia found itself isolated. Churkin claimed that some of the Security Council members were “sensitive to the Russian position – among them China and the countries of Latin America.” (Argentina and Chile are currently serving as non-permanent members of the Security Council.)

The Polemic and Faux Fogh

Charter members of the Fawning Corporate Media are already busily at work, including the current FCM dean, the New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon, who was at it again with a story titled “Russia Moves Artillery Units Into Ukraine, NATO Says.”  Gordon’s “scoop” was all over the radio and TV news; it was picked up by NPR and other usual suspects who disseminate these indiscriminate alarums.

Gordon, who never did find those Weapons of Mass Destruction that he assured us were in Iraq, now writes: “The Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday.”

His main source seems to be NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who famously declared in 2003, “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think; it is something we know.” Cables released by WikiLeaks have further shown the former Danish prime minister to be a tool of Washington.

However, Gordon provided no warning to Times’ readers about Rasmussen’s sorry track record for accuracy. Nor did the Times remind its readers about Gordon’s sorry history of getting sensitive national security stories wrong.

Surely, the propaganda war will be stoked by what happened on Friday. Caveat emptor.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  As an Army officer and CIA analyst, he worked in intelligence for 30 years.  He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Fonte: Information Clearing House

ONU – “Iraqi civilians suffering ‘horrific’ persecution, ethnic cleansing – UN rights chief”

The United Nations human rights chief today condemned the appalling and horrific crimes against humanity being committed daily in Iraq by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated armed groups.

“[ISIL] is systematically targeting men, women and children based on their ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation and is ruthlessly carrying out widespread ethnic and religious cleansing in the areas under its control,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement to the press.

The violations include targeted killings, forced conversions, abductions, trafficking, slavery, sexual abuse, destruction of places of religious and cultural significance, and the besieging of entire communities because of ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliation.

Ms. Pillay said among those directly targeted have been Christians, Yezidi, Shabaks, Turkomen, Kaka’e and Sabaeans.

In Nineveh Governorate, hundreds of mostly Yezidi individuals were reported killed and up to 2,500 kidnapped at the beginning of August. Of those who refused to convert, witnesses report that the men were executed while the women and their children were handed over to ISIL fighters as slaves.

Similarly, in Cotcho village in Southern Sinjar, ISIL killed and abducted hundreds of Yezidis on 15 August. Reports indicate, again, that the male villagers were killed while women and children were taken away to unknown locations.

“UN staff members in Iraq have been receiving harrowing phone calls from besieged civilians who are surviving in terrible conditions, with little or no access to humanitarian aid,” Ms. Pillay said. “One of the women abducted by ISIL managed to call our staff, and told them that her teenage son and daughter were among the many who had been raped and sexually assaulted by IS gunmen. Another said her son had been raped at a checkpoint.”

At least 13,000 members of the Shia Turkmen community in Amirli in Salah al-Din Governorate, among them 10,000 women and children, have been besieged by ISIL since 15 June. Residents are enduring harsh conditions with severe food and water shortages, and a complete absence of medical services – and there are fears of a possible imminent massacre, said Ms. Pillay.

“The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the international community must take all necessary measures and spare no effort to protect members of ethnic and religious communities, who are particularly vulnerable, and to secure their return to their places of origin in safety and dignity,” said the High Commissioner.

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The effect of the ongoing conflict on children is catastrophic, she said. According to interviews by UN human rights monitors with displaced families, ISIL is forcibly recruiting boys aged 15 and above. ISIL has also reportedly been deliberately positioning the boys at the front-line in battle situations, as human shields.

The Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq has also verified reports of a massacre of prisoners and detainees in Mosul’s Badoush Prison on 10 June. According to interviews with 20 survivors and 16 witnesses of the massacre, ISIL gunmen loaded between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners onto trucks and transported them to a nearby uninhabited area, Ms. Pillay said.

There, armed men asked the Sunnis to separate themselves from the others. Around 100 prisoners who joined the Sunni group were suspected by ISIL not to be Sunni and were subjected to individual checks based on how they prayed and their place of origin. Sunni inmates were ordered back on the trucks and left the scene. ISIL gunmen then yelled insults at the remaining prisoners, lined them up in four rows, ordered them to kneel and opened fire. Up to 670 prisoners were reportedly killed.

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“Such cold-blooded, systematic and intentional killings of civilians, after singling them out for their religious affiliation may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Ms. Pillay said.

“I urge the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of these vicious crimes do not enjoy impunity. Any individual committing, or assisting in the commission of international crimes, must be held accountable according to law.”

Fonte: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48551#.U_zRT_ldVBu