Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Geopolitical Question

I've pointed out several times over the last year that the Eastern Mediterranean seems to be the centerpoint of collapse in the West - Greece (and to a lesser extent Italy), Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Eqypt, Libya and what's left of Iraq after being destroyed by the longest continuous period of war in U.S. history.

After years of punishing and counterproductive austerity, it seems Greece is finally ready to elect the leftist anti-austerity Syriza party. This could signal a writeoff of Greek debt and an exit from the Euro. Frankly, I'm amazed that something "unfortunate" hasn't happened to Tsiparas (suicide, car crash, etc.). Hopefully that doesn't mean he'll change his stripes once in office.

Greece’s collapse is officially worse than the US Great Depression (Quartz)
After casting his vote, Syriza leader Alexist Tsipras told the BBC that "the vicious circle of austerity is over". He has said his party would restore "dignity" to Greece by rolling back cuts to jobs, pay and pensions which have hurt millions of people across the country.

The possibility of a Syriza victory has sparked fears that Greece could default on its debt and leave the euro - the single currency of 19 EU members.This is despite the fact that Syriza has moderated its stance since the peak of the eurozone crisis, and says it wants Greece to stay a member of the currency.
Now it seems that at the sole of the boot that is the Arabian peninsula, Yemen has fallen into chaos. This is another epicenter of collapse - too many people, too few jobs, too weak a government, and not enough water or food to sustain the whole thing, combined with a quasi-medieval world view and tribal social structure. Somalia, the perennial cautionary tale for Libertarians, is nearby as well.

And in between the march of ISIS and Yemen, is of course, Saudi Arabia, home to most of the world's oil and where the King has died at an almost impossibly bad time. The King was apparently popular, whereas his successor is widely hated (and probably senile to boot). As Naked Capitalism opined, "This is a huge deal, one the CIA and State Department have long dreaded. The old king was loved and the Crown Price is despised."

For years I've heard that the nightmare scenario was a radical Jihadi takeover of Saudi Arabia which would shut down the oil pipeline to the West. Now it seems like after twenty years of hearing that, there is almost a perfect storm to make this happen. Between ISIS in Iraq and the militants in Yemen, it seems like there is a real possibility for Islamic fundamentalists to take over the holy cities and kick out the infidel. Much of the population living under the constant terror of drone strikes and extrajudicial assassination would probably welcome it at this point.

I'm not a military analyst, but John Robb is, and he's got a few posts about this over at his site Global Guerrillas:

Saudi Arabia's Kryptonite

Abdullah is Dead. ISIS has an opportunity to flip the Kingdom. Here's how.

Saudi Arabia Plunges into an Abyss

It seems ISIS is already attacking high-ranking Saudi officials - they killed a general recently at the border, something that nobody seems to have heard about in all the Charlie Hebdo news (coincidence?). The Hebdo massacre itself seems interestingly timed given all of the above as Robb points out. The Yemen branch affiliated with Al-Qaeda appears to be behind the Hebdo massacre.

In a podcast I was listening to last night, someone jokingly suggested that a big attack was coming due to the release of American Sniper - a patriot-porn film of pure, unadulterated military propaganda that is already causing increases in military recruitment and death threats against Muslim Americans. They also suggested that old Clint may have not had the mental faculties at his age to direct this thing given his age and his performance across from the empty chair at the last Republican convention. They wondered whether the Pentagon is the real director behind the scenes and put Clint's name on it to make it more high profile. Probably just idle speculation but fun to think about.

Of course if Saudi Arabia falls to militant Jihadis and the oil wells shut down, this will send the industrialized world, heck the whole world, into a tailspin of chaos that will make the seventies oil embargoes look like a cakewalk by comparison. Forget two dollar gas and get ready for five dollar a gallon gas, at least. Russia, Venezuela and Iran will get their groove back, and there's not enough oil in America's fracked crust to smooth over this ugly scenario.

The Archdruid Report has been sounding uncharacteristically apocalyptic lately. I wonder if this is part of the reason. If it were me, and I were a betting person, I would put this forward as the apocalyptic scenario that leads to the unraveling of the whole industrial experiment. Maybe Ebola will make a comeback to boot. the fact that this is all going down as the world's oligarchs are meeting at Davos is just another bit of irony. From their elite privilege bubble, the clueless and feckless oligarchs are presiding over a collapsing world.


  1. Who do you figure is funding ISIS?

    1. In his article, Robb states, "ISIS proved much more resilient financially than al Qaeda and other non-state groups are. ISIS has many, many more sources of income than donations from sympathisers and oil sales." Robb doesn't say what those sources are, but I'm betting on bitcoin, lol.

      Another commenter to that post wrote this:

      What do you think of the theory that ISIS was partially a creation of the USA/Israel, who are using them as leverage against Syria and Iran? The Western/Jihadist alliance goes back a long way, and this fits that pattern. There's something about this organization that smells funny to me; they seem a little too slick, too well-organized, and too successful to be an organic development. I smell Machiavellian Western/Zionist involvement.

      Who knows?

    2. Strike that - Robb's latest post goes into more detail: "One of the most interesting aspects of ISIS? The diversity of their cash flow. They make money from tariffs to taxes to smuggling to oil production to hostage taking to the plundering of art/antiquities/etc.. "

    3. Would be interesting to know, though, who financed them when they were nobodies with no territory to milk...

  2. Clint indeed has a good reputation in movies, but american sniper kind of surprises me because Clint's been doing fairly pacifist movies for years. I agree maybe they just put his name in it.

    1. It surprises me too - Clint always seemed like a more moderate Republican to me, closer to the old school Goldwater type. He kept his distance from the asylum the party turned into. Unforgiven was specifically a refutation of the "man in the white hat" good guy vs. bad guy genre of Westerns made by people like John Wayne. Clint's films, even the more flag-waving ones, always had a bit more subtlety to them.

      Then he showed up at the Republican convention talking to the empty chair. I wonder what happened?

  3. Senility?

    The last film by him that affected me as Bird, avoid saxophonist charlie parker. Today's doctrinaire Republicans would not make a film about a black guy who took drugs and played jazz music. Even the foilm Million Dollar Baby is about a poor gal of mixedrace.

    Fucking new tech ... Tablets.... I can hit this fucker 5 times out of 5 with an m-14 at 100 yards offhand and wouldnt I love to do it.

  4. For what it is worth my guess is that Saudi Arabia will prove to be a very hard target for outsiders. They have a formidable intel service and lots of paid allies and stooges in every corner of the world. Any problem for the Kingdom would have to come from within from the young and under employed masses of men and perhaps from well placed and disgruntled foreign workers many of whom sit in key positions throughout the Kingdom's infrastructure. My guess is that the KSA pays ISIS and its predecessors for their work against common enemies and that would keep them at bay at least unless there was a revolt from within. I think Yemen is very dangerous for the US empire. Lots of Yemenis actually support a socialist alternative never a good thing for anyone with any real power anywhere. In this case they are talking about a very real and very aggressive socialism that overlooks issues of religion and adopts and builds upon traditional Yemeni culture and tribal tradition while also supporting armed action and class consciousness. This isn't a Euro style socialism for bankers or an U.S. liberal identity politics socialism. This is a robust tribal/working class national liberation and class conscious armed type socialism. The U.S. will act accordingly working with religious groups of all stripes including the so called, and much hated, Al Caida.

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