by Bassam Tawil
February 13, 2015 at 5:00 am
Iran, with its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, has surrounded all the oil fields in the region and is currently busy encircling Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Iran not only reaches now from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, but Iranian Shi’ites have been spreading out through Africa and South America.
By the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office, Iran will not only have nuclear breakout capability, but also the intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads to Europe and North America.
If Iran can finally drive the U.S. out of the Gulf by threatening U.S. assets, it will be free to pursue still further expansion.
If the deal signed with Iran is full of loopholes, it is Obama who will be blamed. Does Obama really want his legacy to be, “The President who was even a bigger fool than Neville Chamberlain”? He will not be seen as “Nixon in China.” He will be seen as the Eid al-Adha lamb.
Recently, foreign ministers from the European Union (EU) have been holding meetings with representatives of the Arab and Muslim world, including Turkey and Qatar, with the intention of forming a “joint task force to fight Islamist terrorism.”
Turkey and Qatar, for example, directly encourage Islamist terrorism, thus there is no way they can be part of a task force to act against it.
In some Islamic thinking, such nonsense, because of its certain lack of ever seeing the light, is merely a prologue to the ultimate war between Gog and Magog (“yagug wamagu”), and heralds the End of Days.
The Arab-Muslim world engages in perpetual internal strife. Iran, for instance, with its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, has surrounded all the oil fields in the region, and is currently busy encircling Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. Iran not only reaches now from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, but Iranian Shi’ites have been spreading out through Africa and South America. Another sign of the End of Days is the United States’ collaboration with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It means the world will eventually pay for America’s looking the other way while the Iranians are building nuclear bombs in their cellars.
These cellars may currently be distant from the shores of the United States, but they are close to all the oil fields in the Middle East. By the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office, Iran will not only have nuclear breakout capability, but also intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads. Its next target will be U.S. assets in the Gulf. If Iran can finally drive the U.S. “Great Satan” out of the Gulf by threatening U.S. assets, it will be free to pursue still further expansion.
These are or will be the victims of America’s determination to drag out the problem of an exploding Middle East. That way, U.S. President Barack Obama can hand the region over to the next president, while forever pretending that the vacuum created by pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East — now being filled by Iran, the Islamic State and other terror groups — had nothing to do with him.
This situation leaves, ironically, the lone voice of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crying in the wilderness. As much as many of us may not like him or the people he represents, he is one of the two world leaders in the West telling the truth, warning of what is to come (Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is the other). This burden of responsibility for his people (how many of us wish our leaders had even a bit of that?) has earned him only the venom of the Obama Administration, who see him as trying to spoil their strategy of leading by procrastination.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration’s policy consists of running after Iran, in order to concede everything it wants, just to be able wave a piece of paper not worth the ink on it, claiming there is “a deal.” Iran, for its part, would probably prefer not to sign anything, and most likely will not. Meanwhile, both sides continue strenuously to claim the opposite.
Western leaders just seem not to be programmed to understand the capabilities of other leaders, and how they, too, negotiate, manipulate and hide behind lies. Obama’s Russian “Reset Button” did not work; his “Al Qaeda is on the run,” did not work; “We shall never let Russia take the Ukraine” did not work; and the unwinnable Israel-Palestinian “Peace Process” did not work.
Obama, in order to wave a piece of paper not worth the ink on it, seems eager to fall victim to bogus promises, worthless treaties and other leaders’ outright lies — only to look an even bigger fool than Britain’s former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. After meeting with Germany’s with Adolf Hitler in 1938, Chamberlain returned to Britain boasting of “peace in our time.” But Chamberlain did not have the luxury of seeing a Chamberlain duped before him. If the deal signed with Iran is full of loopholes, it is Obama who will be blamed. Does Obama really want his legacy to be, “The president who was an even bigger fool than Neville Chamberlain”? He will not be seen as “Nixon in China.” He will be seen as the Eid al-Adha lamb.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
14 Oct 2013
President Barack Obama is demanding a $1.1 trillion “ransom”–or else he will not allow the debt ceiling to be raised. That’s the effective offer on the table from the president and Senate Democrats. They have now refused to pass a “clean” short-term debt ceiling hike unless Republicans agree to reverse the “sequester” spending cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act that were enacted–at Obama’s suggestion–to end the last debt ceiling crisis.
The president, who has invited congressional leaders to conduct talks at the White House Monday afternoon, still continues to insist that he “will not pay a ransom for Congress reopening the government and raising the debt limit.” Yet he and his party are the ones insisting on a “ransom,” now that Republicans appear to be in the mood to compromise after opinion poll results last week showed them losing politically in the showdown.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has claimed that the sequester dispute means that Democrats and Republicans are only $70 billion apart in budget negotiations. That is a blatant lie, as the total value of the sequester over ten years is $1.1 trillion. Democrats do not want a reprieve for one year–they want the entire sequester canceled so that they can continue spending on such priorities as the annual cowboy poetry festival in Nevada.
Last week, President Obama asked the press to “imagine if a Democratic Congress threatened to crash the global economy unless a Republican president agreed to gun background checks or immigration reform.” Now the White House and a Democrat-controlled Senate are threatening exactly that–unless Republicans agree to fork over $1.1 trillion, paid for with new “revenues” (i.e. taxes) on the American people. Ransom, indeed.
by MIKE WHITNEY
President Barack Obama is determined to prevail in his battle with GOP congressional leaders on the debt ceiling issue, but not for the reasons stated in the media. Obama is less concerned with the prospect of higher interest rates and frustrated bondholders than he is with the big Wall Street banks who would be thrust back into crisis if there is no resolution before October 17. Absent a debt ceiling deal, the repurchase market–known as repo–would undergo another deep-freeze as it did in 2008 when Lehman Brothers defaulted triggering a run on the Reserve Primary Fundrepurchase market which had been exposed to Lehman’s short-term debt. The frenzied selloff sparked a widespread panic across global financial markets pushing the system to the brink of collapse and forcing the Federal Reserve to backstop regulated and unregulated financial institutions with more than $11 trillion in loans and other obligations. The same tragedy will play out again, if congress fails lift the ceiling and reinforce the present value of US debt.
Repo is at the heart of the shadow banking system, that opaque off-balance sheet underworld where maturity transformation and other risky banking activities take place beyond the watchful eye of government regulators. It is where banks exchange collateralized securities for short-term loans from investors, mainly large financial institutions. The banks use these loans to fund their other investments boosting their leverage many times over to maximize their profits. The so called congressional reforms, like Dodd Frank, which were ratified after the crisis, have done nothing to change the basic structure of the market or to reign in excessive risk-taking by undercapitalized speculators. The system is as wobbly and crisis-prone ever, as the debt ceiling fiasco suggests. The situation speaks to the impressive power of the bank cartel and their army of lawyers and lobbyists. They own Capital Hill, the White House, and most of the judges in the country. The system remains the same, because that’s the way the like it.
US Treasuries provide the bulk of collateral the banks use in acquiring their short-term funding. If the US defaults on its debt, the value that collateral would fall precipitously leaving much of the banking system either underwater or dangerously undercapitalized. The wholesale funding market would grind to a halt, and interbank lending would slow to a crawl. The financial system would suffer its second major heart attack in less than a decade. This is from American Banker:
As banking policy analyst Karen Shaw Petrou describes it, Treasury obligations are the “water” in the financial system’s plumbing.
“They’re the global reserve currency and they are perceived to be the most secure thing you can own,” said Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics. “That is why it is pledged as collateral. … The very biggest banks fear that a debt ceiling breach breaks the pipes.”….
Rob Toomey, managing director and associate general counsel at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, said institutions are concerned about whether Treasury bonds that default are no longer transferable between market participants.
“Essentially, whatever the size is of the obligation that Treasury is unable to pay, that kind of liquidity would just disappear from the market for whatever time the payment is not made,” Toomey said.”
By some estimates, the amount of liquidity that would be drained from the system immediately following a default would be roughly $600 billion, enough to require emergency action by either the Fed or the US Treasury. Despite post-crisis legislation that forbids future bailouts, the government would surely ride to rescue committing taxpayer revenues once again to save Wall Street.
Keep in mind, the US government does not have to default on its debt to trigger a panic in the credit markets. Changing expectations can easily produce the same result. If the holders of US Treasuries (USTs) begin to doubt that the debt ceiling issue will be resolved, then they’ll sell their bonds prematurely to avoid greater losses. That, in turn, will push up interest rates which will strangle the recovery, slow growth, and throw a wrench in the repo market credit engine. We saw an example of how this works in late May when the Fed announced its decision to scale-back its asset purchase. The fact that the Fed continued to buy the same amount of USTs and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) didn’t stem the selloff. Long-term rates went up anyway. Why? Because expectations changed and the market reset prices. That same phenom could happen now, in fact, it is happening now. The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that “Fidelity Investments, the largest manager of money market funds… had sold all of its holdings of US Treasury bills due to mature towards the end of October as a “precautionary measure.”
This is what happens when people start to doubt that US Treasuries will be liquid cash equivalents in the future. They ditch them. And when they ditch them, rates go up and the economy slips into low gear. (Note: “China and Japan together hold more than $2.4 trillion in U.S. Treasuries” Bloomberg)
Now the media has been trying to soft-peddle the implications of the debt ceiling standoff by saying, “No one thinks that holders of USTs won’t get repaid.”
While this is true, it’s also irrelevant. The reason that USTs are the gold standard of financial assets, is because they are considered risk-free and liquid. That’s it. If you have to wait to get your money, then the asset you purchased is not completely liquid, right?
And if there is some doubt, however small, that you will not be repaid in full, then the asset is not really risk free, right?
This is what the Fidelity flap is all about. It’s about the erosion of confidence in US debt. It’s about that sliver of doubt that has entered the minds of investors and changed their behavior. This is a significant development because it means that people in positions of power are now questioning the stewardship of the present system. And that trend is going to intensify when the Fed begins to reduce its asset purchases later in the year, because winding down QE will precipitate more capital flight, more currency volatility and more emerging market runaway inflation. That’s going to lead to more chin scratching, more grousing and more resistance to US stewardship of the system. None of this bodes well for Washington’s imperial aspirations or for the world’s reserve currency, both of which appear to be living on borrowed time.
The media has done a poor job of explaining what’s really at stake. While, it’s true that higher interest rates would make consumer loans more expensive and put the kibosh on the housing recovery, that’s not what the media cares about. Not really. What they care about is the looming massacre in shadow banking where USTs are used as collateral to secure short-term loans by the banks so they can increase their leverage by many orders of magnitude. In other words, the banks are using USTs to borrow gobs of money from money markets and financial institutions so they can finance their other dodgy investments, derivatives contracts and ancillary casino-type operations. If there’s a default, the banks will have to come up with more capital for their scams that are leveraged at 40 or 50 to 1. This systemwide margin call would trigger a deflationary spiral that would domino through the entire system unless the Fed stepped in and, once again, provided a giant backstop in the form of blank check support. Here’s how Tim Fernholz sums it up over at Daily Finance:
“…Many informed people are worried” (about) “A freeze in the tri-party repo market, akin to the cascade of troubles that followed the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008.”….
In 2008, more than a third of that collateral was mortgage-backed securities. When Lehman went bankrupt, its lenders began a “fire sale” of the securities it used as collateral, which drove down the value of other mortgage-backed securities, which led to more fire sales. This dynamic would eventually lead to a freeze in the repo markets, which, at the time, provided $2.6 trillion in funding to the banks each day…..
Today, most of the collateral in use is U.S. Treasuries and “agency securities” — mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by the U.S. government:
… if the ugly day of a default comes, lenders may simply stop accepting U.S. debt as collateral. That will have the effect of sucking some $600 billion in liquidity out of the banking system. Unable to get funding for Treasurys, securities dealers would be pressured to sell them-or other assets-to find new funding, creating a fire sale dynamic…..
And, of course, this scenario is only about how the Treasurys work in the repo markets. U.S. debt is used as collateral for derivatives swaps and numerous other transactions; if they are suddenly worth less than expected, lenders can be expected to demand more collateral up front, putting even more pressure on the financial system. That’s why pressure is building to raise the ceiling before the world’s largest economy enters a scenario with so much uncertainty.”
Repeat: “That’s why pressure is building to raise the ceiling before the world’s largest economy enters a scenario with so much uncertainty”.
So the Obama team isn’t worried that Joe Homeowner won’t be able to refi his mortgage or that the economy might slip back into recession. They just don’t want to see Wall Street take it in the shorts again. That’s what this is all about, the banks. Because the banks are still up-to-their-eyeballs in red ink. Because they still don’t have enough capital to stay solvent if the wind shifts. Because all the Dodd Frank reforms are pure, unalloyed bullsh** that haven’t fixed a bloody thing. Because the risks of another panic are as great as ever because the system is the same teetering, unregulated cesspit it was before. Because the banks are still financing their sketchy Ponzi operations with OPM (other people’s money), only now, the Fed’s over-bloated balance sheet is being used to prop up this broken, crooked system instead of the trillions of dollars that was extracted from credulous investors on subprime mortgages, liars loans and other, equally-fraudulent debt instruments.
Can you see that?
This is why the media is pushing so hard to end the debt ceiling standoff; to preserve this mountainous stinkpile of larceny, greed and corruption run by a criminal bank Mafia and their political lackeys on Capital Hill. That’s what this is all about.
A former leading U.S. military commander asserted that the administration of President Barack Obama worked to destabilize the regimes of Bahrain and Egypt.
[Ret.] Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the administration’s drive against Bahrain, wracked by a Shi’ite revolt, was led by the intelligence community.
“America thought Bahrain was an easy prey that will serve as key to the collapse of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] regime and lead to giant oil companies controlling oil in the Gulf,” Shelton said.
In an interview on the U.S. network Fox News, Shelton said the administration plot was foiled by Bahraini King Hamad in 2011. He said Hamad agreed to a Saudi-sponsored decision by the GCC to send thousands of troops to Bahrain to help quell the Shi’ite revolt, attributed to Iran.
Shelton, who met Hamad during his assignment to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, said the administration plot harmed relations with both Bahrain as well as neighboring Saudi Arabia. He said Riyad ended any trust in Washington after it was found to have helped the Shi’ites in Bahrain.
The former Joint Chiefs chairman, who served under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, said Egypt stopped a drive by Obama to destabilize Egypt in 2013. Shelton said Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Sisi, a former intelligence chief, also detected a U.S. plot to support the ruling Muslim Brotherhood amid unprecedented unrest. On July 3, Sisi led a coup that overthrew Egypt’s first Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.
“Had Gen. Al Sisi not deposed Morsi, Egypt would have today become another Syria and its military would have been destroyed,” Shelton said.
Shelton, who did not disclose his sources of information, said Arab allies of the United States have moved away from Washington. He cited the new alliance between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Brotherhood.
“I expect calm to be restored in Egypt,” Shelton said. “Gen. Al Sisi has put an end to the new Middle East project.”