In Transaqua, A Dream Is Becoming Reality for Africa
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)—Decades-long efforts by the Transaqua authors and by the Schiller Institute have achieved a success, as Powerchina, the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and Nigerian authorities on Dec. 13 signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a water transfer project from the Congo Basin to Lake Chad. The project follows exactly the layout of Transaqua, the Italian project for a waterway from the Congo basin to the Lake Chad basin; it is aimed at replenishing Lake Chad and creating a Central Africa transport, energy, and agriculture infrastructure.
With this, the New Silk Road has reached Lake Chad!
According to a statement issued by the LCBC, the deal involves the initial stages of the Transaqua canal. Powerchina, the report says, will study the feasibility of “an African infrastructure project by opening a new corridor of development linking West and Central Africa, through:
“1. Potentially transferring 50 billion cubic meters annually to the Lake Chad through a series of dams in D.R.C., Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
“2. Potential to generate up to 15-25 billion kWh of hydroelectricity through the mass movement of the water by gravity.
“3. Potential to develop a series of irrigated areas for crops, or livestock over an area of 50,000 to 70,000 square km in the Sahel zone in Chad, northeast Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Niger.
“4. Creating an expanded economic zone by providing new infrastructure platforms of development in agriculture, industries, transportation, and electrical production, affecting up to 12 African nations.”
The statement continues, “The core idea is to increase the water quantity in the Lake Chad, improvement of water flow conditions, alleviate poverty within the basin through socio-economic activities, meet the energy needs of towns surrounding the two Congo, and to conduct an in-depth environmental impact assessment.”
Previous to the deal, detailed Terms of Reference and methodology for a feasibility study had been provided to the LCBC by a team of the Italian Bonifica engineering firm, led by engineers Marcello Vichi and Andrea Mangano, authors of the original Transaqua idea more than 35 years ago. LCBC Executive Secretary Abdullahi Sanusi Imran had acknowledged, in a communication to the Italians, that the Transaqua concept “is much more appropriate for the situation of the Lake Chad than all other alternative solutions.” Both Vichi and Mangano had presented the idea at an EIR seminar in Frankfurt last March 23, with the participation of LCBC representative Mohammed Bila.
With Powerchina, a most powerful partner enters the constellation of forces. Powerchina is the Chinese state-owned company that built the Three Gorges Project, the largest hydropower project in the world.
In remarks reported by Nigerian media, the Vice-President of Powerchina, Mr. Tian Hailua, “explained that with the transfer of water to the lake, there is the potential to develop a series of irrigated areas for crops and livestock of over an area of 50,000 to 70,000 sq km in the basin.”
Although the volume of water transfer specified is half of the volume of the original Transaqua project to refill Lake Chad, it is expected that the Powerchina study will explore the feasibility of building a system of dams and waterways which can be extended southwards in the Democratic Republic of Congo, involving all the right-bank tributaries of the Congo River. In this way, the project will not only be a simple water transfer but also a major transport infrastructure connecting all nations of Central Africa.
“To be complete, the feasibility study should explore from the beginning the complete length of the water-transfer project,” Transaqua author Marcello Vichi stated, “even if the canal, obviously, should necessarily start from the north, in Central African territory, to proceed southwards as much as allowed by the available funds and by national will. The longer the canal, the bigger will be the water volume to be poured into the lake.
- Editor’s Note: EIR Daily Alert will skip the issue for Monday Jan. 2, 2017.
U.S. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC
Obama Defense Bill—ABM and Space Weapon Escalations
Dec. 25 (EIRNS)—According to a report in the Los Angeles Times Dec. 24, the 2017 defense authorization bill signed by Obama Friday, Dec. 23, made two changes to the language governing missile defense that could seriously increase tensions with Russia and China. Number one, it struck the word “limited” from language describing the mission of the country’s homeland missile defense system. Secondly, it calls for the Pentagon to start “research, development, test and evaluation” of space-based systems for missile defense, says the Los Angeles Times.
Together, the provisions signal that the U.S. will seek to use advanced technology to defeat not only a small-scale attack on the homeland, as the present system does, but also large-scale nuclear attacks—i.e., a Russian or Chinese attack. That could further unsettle the decades-old balance of power among the major nuclear states.
The changes were sneaked in by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), (with very little debate) who says he was inspired by Reagan’s SDI proposal of the 1980s, without mentioning that Reagan’s original proposal included cooperation with the Soviet Union in order to “make nuclear weapons obsolete.”
While members of the Obama Administration had expressed some concern about the changes as the bill was working its way through the legislative process, the Los Angeles Times notes: “In a four-page signing statement, the President criticized various aspects of the bill, including the structure of a cyber-security command and limits on administrative leave for employees, but said nothing about the changes in nuclear defense policy.”
The monstrous bill also contains many other provisions, including the infamous one that allows the provision of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons to Syrian armed opposition groups and increases U.S. military aid to Ukraine to $350 million from 2016’s $300 million.
U.S. and Europe Continue De Facto Protection of the Gülenists
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)—The United States and Europeans continue to ignore Turkey’s and Russia’s concerns about the Fethullah Gülenists whom Turkey has accused of being behind the July 15 coup attempt and the Dec. 19 assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov. TASS reports that it has been told by a unnamed U.S. State Department official that no investigation has been opened against Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, over the assassination.
On Dec. 21, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that according to investigators, an organization linked to Gülen, was connected with the killer.
Nonetheless the U.S. official told TASS: “It was a tragedy, and it’s being jointly investigated by Russia and Turkey. That’s the only investigation into that assassination that I’m aware of. There is no investigation here in the United States into that, nor would it be appropriate to do that. I’ve seen President Erdogan’s comments about the potential role of influence from the Gülenist network. I can’t speak for that because we are not party to this investigation and to the information that the investigators are gleaning,” he said.
“We have said definitively [that] any suggestion that the United States was in any way involved or encouraging or inciting or knowledgeable of this plan or plot to assassinate the Russian Ambassador is absolutely ludicrous and false,” he said.
Meanwhile the Dutch government declared the Turkish religious affairs attaché in The Hague, Yusuf Acar, persona non grata, accusing him of gathering intelligence on the Gülen movement. Although he has been recalled to Ankara, he denies the charges.
STRATEGIC WAR DANGER
Russian Defense Minister Shoigu: The Chain of Color Revolutions Is Broken in Syria
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)—Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in his remarks to the Dec. 22 Defense Ministry Board meeting, said that the Russian military intervention prevented the breakup of Syria. “The breakup of the Syrian state was prevented, the chain of ‘color revolutions’ circulating in the Middle East and Africa was interrupted and the process of political settlement and reconciliation of warring parties was launched,” Shoigu said. “Some 1,074 settlements with around 3 million citizens have joined the ceasefire regime and 9,000 militants have laid down arms.” The operation “inflicted significant damage to the international terrorist organizations in Syria and their spread in the region was stopped, their financial support and provision with resources were disturbed.”
Shoigu said more than 12,000 sq km of territory and some 500 settlements have been liberated from militants in Syria. “Since the start of the operation Russia’s aircraft made 18,800 sorties, delivering 71,000 strikes against the terrorists’ infrastructure. At the same time, 725 training camps, 405 plants and workshops for manufacturing ammunition, 1,500 pieces of military hardware of terrorists, 35,000 militants, including 204 field commanders, have been destroyed,” he said. Besides, during the operation 408 tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, 57 multiple rocket launchers and 418 homemade multiple rocket launcher systems, 410 mortars and more than 28,000 pieces of small arms were seized from Syria’s armed groups.
UN Envoy Welcomes Russian-Turkish-Iranian Initiative on Syria
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)—UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, during remarks to journalists in Geneva, yesterday, praised the agreement between Turkey and Russia that paved the way for the evacuation from Aleppo, and welcomed the joint initiative by the Russia, Turkey and Iran for talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, ahead of UN peace talks that de Mistura has convened in Geneva from Feb. 8.
“That is why we have been welcoming the Astana initiative,” he said, according to Reuters. “We will welcome any other initiative in that direction so we can wrap it up as we always hoped with some type of totally inclusive international engagement.”
Turkish Daily Analysis, Putin Now Calls the Shots in Middle East
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)—In an editorial “American Regret, Russian Advance,” in Hurriyet Daily News, chief editor Murat Yetkin wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin has the most influence in the Middle East and the new U.S. administration should work with him.
Yetkin wrote this while commenting on a Fox TV interview on Dec. 21 with retired Gen. Raymond Odierno, who said that because of the “passive” strategy of President Barack Obama against terrorism, Russia had gained leadership in the Middle East. Odierno also said that it was “time for” America “to lead from the front, be aggressive at bringing nations together, be aggressive in our own policies and bring the capabilities of our government together to take action” and “reassert leadership.”
Yetkin then made clear who is now taking leadership: “Now it is a fact that nothing that Russia doesn’t want is possible in the Syrian theater. It is Russian President Vladimir Putin who decided to keep the plans of pursuing an initiative with Iran and Turkey despite the assassination of his ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov, by a Turkish police officer under heavy suspicion of being manipulated by Gülen’s secret network. It was Putin who convinced Erdogan to drop the top demand that Bashar al-Assad step down, and it was Putin who convinced al-Assad to welcome the Moscow agreement which NATO member Turkey is also part of.
“And it should be noted that without Putin’s (and al-Assad’s) consent, it would not be possible for Turkish army to conduct a full-scale military operation to take the Syrian town of al-Bab from ISIL [Islamic State] hands and also prevent it from being taken by the PYD/PKK [Democratic Union Party/Kurdistan Worker’s Party].
“It is for sure that Obama has lost Erdogan. But it is not true that the U.S. and NATO have lost Turkey. The course of events from now will depend on the actions to be taken by Trump. If Trump takes the advice of Odierno, decides to bring nations together starting with Turkey and its 910 km border with Syria, as well as neighboring Russia and Ukraine across the Black Sea, he could simply start by ending cooperation with the PKK in Syria. Opening up an investigation against Gülen, not even extraditing him, would be the cherry on the top of the cake to win Turkey back.
“On the Russian advance, one has to examine the expression on the face of Putin before the coffin of Karlov at the Moscow funeral ceremony on Dec. 22. He is biding his time to act in a patient fury.
“It’s not just Trump; Erdogan will also have lessons to draw from that expression and exercise caution.”
We report this Turkish assessment at length because it is coherent and clearly indicates the direction of future strategic events in that region; unusual for an “inside” media analysis.
COLLAPSING WESTERN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
After Monte dei Paschi Nationalization Decision, Unicredit under Pressure
Dec. 23 (EIRNS)—Following Italy’s official decision to nationalize Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank—and its likely intension to bail out others as well—financial media in Europe have not yet been able to find out how the MPS bailout is structured. Nor has there been any comment on it from the European Central Bank or the European Commission.
The government is clearly making liquidity and capitalization available to a number of banks simultaneously, with only MPS being nationalized now. The terms of that nationalization are not yet disclosed. But at least, “large depositors” will be bailed in—confiscated—to some extent. “Large depositors”, including small and medium businesses, are a sizeable chunk of the roughly 40,000 junior bondholders of MPS.
Immediately, Unicredit—the largest Italian bank—announced a layoff of 11% of its workforce, closure of a quarter of its branches, and an attempt to raise €13 billion new capital in January. The contagion has moved to that, and obviously other banks. A “bondholders’ run” from other banks must be watched for.
Bloomberg published an estimate today, based on observing the amount of capital Unicredit is trying to raise as a ratio of the bad loans on its books, that the big Italian banks need about $55 billion of the new capital which MPS has just failed to raise. It further estimates that they will have difficulty raising even $20 billion of that. Therefore the government’s $21 billion bailout fund, which already pushed its sovereign debt/GDP ratio to 133%, is at least $10-15 billion too small. And this assumes that it all could be used in a nice orderly way for recapitalization, and not to provide liquidity loans to the banks as it is already doing.
In Germany, Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan made a public statement that the bank will not need a German government bailout in order to pay the $7 billion in fines/homeowner credits imposed on it by the U.S. Department of Justice for mortgage fraud. That fine, announced Dec. 22, was dramatically reduced from $14 billion.
THE NEW GLOBAL ECONOMIC ORDER
Facing Global Uncertainty, China To Strengthen Belt and Road
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)—The year 2017 will be a year of consolidation for the Belt and Road, in the face of the rapid changes in the political environment, with the Brexit, the Trump election, and the Italian referendum. A Belt and Road Summit which will pull together the leaders of the BRI countries, and the BRICS Summit to be held in Xiamen, in China’s Fujian province, will be the mainstays of the consolidation.
“Holding the two summits comes at the right time, when both the trend of anti-globalization among developed economies and calls for greater globalization in the developing countries still exist,” Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. “China’s ‘going-out’ strategy has been confronted with grave difficulties as the anti-globalization sentiment permeating developed countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Italy has thwarted economic recovery worldwide,” Ni said.
Su Ge, president of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times, “China will play a positive role in coordinating multilateral [discussion] on global governance via the two high-level forums.”
“The summit in Xiamen is seen by many as a milestone for BRICS cooperation as its members strive for strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive global growth,” Zhu Jiejin, deputy director with the Center for BRICS Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University, was quoted by Xinhua as saying. “The summit will provide some member states within the BRICS bloc with an opportunity to turn to China when Western countries cannot be relied on,” Ni said.
SCIENCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Argentine Scientists Draw a Line in the Sand Against Macri Government
Dec. 24 (EIRNS)—After occupying the main hall of the Science and Technology Ministry in Buenos Aires for five days, and vowing to stay there through Christmas, young scientists of the National Science and Technology Research Council (Conicet) and their allies in the state sector, forced neo-Con President Mauricio Macri to back down, and reinstate grants for 343 scientists who had been denied funding.
In addition, Conicet agreed to create another 107 “extraordinary grants” for candidates who had been recommended to receive grants but who were told there was no money because Macri had slashed the 2017 science budget by 32%. The deal is good only for a year.
The nationwide protest, which included seven cities in which Conicet has facilities, put squarely on the table the fundamental issue that the development of the national science and technology sector is integral to national economic development. It is widely recognized, too, that the solution is a temporary one. It has been rejected by the Cordoba branch of Conicet, whose personnel made the correct point: “We are defending the national science system, not just 500 scholarships; [we are defending] Argentine science.” Over the past week, some of Argentina’s most prestigious scientists have made the same point.
Science Minister Luis Baranao, who had initially refused to meet with the protesters and insists Argentina “doesn’t need many scientists,” met with Macri on Dec. 23—Baranao’s resignation had been rumored—and then met with the scientists to offer the government’s compromise solution. Cadena 3 reports that protesters refused Baranao’s offer to secure them jobs in the private sector, and extracted a commitment from him that they will instead be guaranteed transfer to other state-run institutions, universities and research entities.
Protesters’ signs seen during the week of nationwide protest, included messages such as “I want to serve my country through science.”
Nuclear Falls Below 7% in Germany’s National Energy Mix
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)—The eight nuclear power plants that are still in operation in Germany, in 2016 provided only 6.9% to the national energy mix, as against 7.6% in 2015. In stark contrast to official propaganda about the “era of renewables,” wind and solar provided no more than 12.6%—an increase by only 0.2% over 2015 in spite of all the substantial subsidies organized for them by the government. The base load of energy supply in Germany still comes from oil (34%), coal (23.6) and gas (22.7).
The question of where Germany is to get its power from, if the government succeeds in turning all nuclear power off by 2022, and the “polluting fossils” off by 2040-50, has not been answered, as it cannot be. Wind and solar simply won’t do it. The German government, which is acting against the interests of Germany, is under the direct influence of the Chancellor’s chief climate-protection guru, John Schellnhuber, whom the British Empire Queen personally knighted as a Commander of British Empire during a 2004 visit to Germany.