Putin and Assad Celebrate Peace in Syria—Why Would the West Not Celebrate with Them?
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—Yesterday in Sochi, the Presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran met as part of the Astana Process for peace in Syria, agreeing that, with the ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists finally defeated through the collaboration of the Syrian Army and Russian air power, now the job of reconstructing the nation can and must begin. Putin briefed his partners, Erdogan and Rouhani, on his dramatic and emotional meeting on Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who embraced the Russian President and the Russian military leaders who, in two short years, had saved Syria from the fate intended for his nation by Barack Obama—the fate of Iraq and Libya, which had been bombed back to the stone age and turned over to warring terrorist factions by Bush and Obama. Now, Assad said, there is peace, and the millions of displaced persons can begin returning to their homes and begin the rebuilding process.
Why in the name of God would anyone in the world not cry tears of joy, together with Putin and Assad, that the nightmare of ISIS terror, beheading of children, and suicide bombers, was over?
Helga Zepp-LaRouche today, in her weekly Thursday webcast asked rhetorically: “What do you prefer? Do you prefer wars based on lies? Interventionist wars which have thrown the whole of Southwest Asia into complete chaos? Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya in Northern Africa. Or are you not happy that peace can return?”
Following his meeting with Assad, President Putin and President Trump spoke for nearly 90 minutes, discussing solutions for Syria, Ukraine and North Korea, according to their public reports, and certainly other issues as well.
Back in the U.S., the mass media are reporting essentially none of this. Nor have they reported the phenomenal results of Trump’s visit to Asia, joining forces with Xi Jinping and Putin in ending the division of the world’s leading nations, joining forces to defeat terrorism and build the world through the New Silk Road. They believe the American population is more interested in the sexual peccadilloes of the nation’s macho politicians and Hollywood stars.
But they are mistaken. The population despises the media far more than the character flaws of the American elite. They want jobs. They want an end to the opium epidemic destroying their families. They want to rediscover what the American System was all about under Hamilton, Lincoln, FDR and JFK. They want their children to aspire to be astronauts on Mars.
This is why the Congress and the media don’t want the population to hear what happened during Trump’s Asia visit, about the $300 billion in industrial and infrastructure investments in the U.S. that he organized during that trip, or about what is happening in Syria. The reality of the New Paradigm means that their effort to pacify the population, to accept decay, poverty and drug addiction, will not work any longer.
The population is beginning to recognize where to find the truth behind all the lies. Helga Zepp-LaRouche said today: “I feel very happy, because if you go back to our various websites, and you read what the LaRouche movement, my husband has been saying since the early 1970s, really, in terms of building a just new world economic order: He has published many, many books, articles; we have published an enormous amount of programs for the development of Africa, Latin America, Asia; we conducted hundreds of conferences on five continents, and this is our life’s work which is now coming into being. Because of China’s New Silk Road policies, all of these plans—and you can compare what we said 40 years ago, and sometimes, in the case of my husband even 50 years ago—and now basically the world is moving in this direction.
“So I’m very confident that the remaining questions, like, what is ‘freedom’? what is ‘liberty’? what is ‘happiness’? These questions will also be straightened out. Because the Schiller Institute is called ‘Schiller Institute’ because Schiller was called ‘The Poet of Freedom.’ And if you look at his notion of freedom, it has absolutely nothing to do with the individualist hedonism, what people normally call the ‘values of the West,’ which are the idea that everybody can do absolutely what they please without regard for the common good or the development of future generations.
“Also, the idea of ‘happiness’: It’s not the hedonistic pleasure in the here and now at the expense of the rest of the world; just as long as you feel good. No! The pursuit of happiness which is in the Declaration of Independence, is a notion which comes from Leibniz: It means that every person has the right to develop their potential in the fullest, to contribute to the wellbeing of society, and find your happiness in having such a noble mission.
“So I’m optimistic that the values which have gone awry in the West, that, because of a majority of countries moving in a completely different direction, going back to fundamental values of humanity, that this will also have a very positive effect on the West.”
U.S. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC
Braying Naysayers Try To Degrade China’s Belt and Road and Trump’s Cooperation with China
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—The Huffington Post and Asia Times today publish articles frantically trying to refute reality regarding the Belt and Road and Trump’s historic visit with Xi Jinping.
James Dorsey in the HuffPost rants that the Belt and Road, “China’s economics-centered approach to geopolitics based on the long-standing win-win principle of Chinese policy,” is falling apart, as Pakistan and Nepal have cancelled major dam projects.
“In a rare challenging of Chinese commercial terms that underlie the country’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, Pakistan and Nepal have withdrawn from two dam-building deals. The withdrawal coincides with mounting questions in Pakistan, a crown jewel in Chinese geo-strategic ambition, about what some see as a neo-colonial effort to extract the country’s resources.”
Dorsey gloats that the cancellation of the dam in Pakistan is in part due to the fact that “the government had failed to secure funding from international institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank because of Indian objections that it was in disputed territory.”
Dorsey does quote a Chinese expert, Zhao Gancheng from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, refuting that this spells the doom of the Belt and Road. “It will not be a big surprise if similar problems happen in China’s future overseas projects. And that would not change the big picture. There is a common misinterpretation internationally that the Belt and Road is something China would want to push forwards at all cost. But in fact, all projects are commercial so they have to be justifiable economically, and agreed mutually.”
Meanwhile, Asia Times hack Christopher Scott goes to great lengths to argue that claims that U.S.-China relations are at an all-time high are simply not true, and that Trump’s visit to China, “widely panned in the Western press,” is not at all what the Chinese are reporting in such glowing terms. The “exaltation beaming from Beijing,” he claims, is not reflected in Washington, and not even in the White House itself. Remarkably, he asserts that, “by most accounts, the relationship’s current trajectory is not significantly distinguishable from the trend during the Obama administration. By some accounts it is about to get worse.”
Ignoring the reality of the past weeks, Scott points to a “plethora of evidence to support this pessimistic view,” looking back at various anti-China comments and efforts from within and without the Administration, all before Trump’s trip. Scott uses the argument put out by leaker Josh Rogin some weeks ago, that the “China hawks” are moving in to formulate White House China policy.
STRATEGIC WAR DANGER
Astana Summit—Peace in Syria Is Near
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—The joint declaration issued by the three Presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey at the Astana-format summit yesterday in Sochi, Russia, reaffirms their commitment to continuing their collaboration “with a view to establishing peace and stability in Syria, envisaged by UNSCR 2254.” They expressed satisfaction with the current level of their trilateral cooperation and noted that “over the 11 months since the establishment of the ceasefire regime on December 29, 2016, a breakthrough had been made in bringing closer the elimination of ISIL, Nusra Front and all other terrorist organizations as designated by the UNSC and agreed that Iran, Russia and Turkey will continue cooperation for their ultimate defeat.” They decided that they would continue their coordinated efforts until the reduction of violence in Syria is irreversible.
“The Heads of State reaffirmed their strong commitment to sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of The Syrian Arab Republic and emphasized that under no circumstances the creation of the above-mentioned de-escalation areas and at political initiative to solve the Syrian crisis undermine the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,” they said. They called for “rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” as well as confidence building measures “to create better condition for political process and lasting ceasefire.” They also called on the international community to support the process of de-escalation with humanitarian aid, help in restoring basic infrastructure and other measures.
In remarks after the meeting, Putin placed particular stress on the importance of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which has been postponed, with no set date as yet. “Generally, the idea is to bring together at the negotiating table delegations from various political parties, the domestic and external opposition and ethnic and religious groups. The congress will address key issues on the national agenda for Syria, above all those related to defining the parameters of future statehood, the adoption of a new constitution and, based on that, holding elections under UN oversight,” Putin said. “This will provide an incentive for stepping up efforts to bring about a settlement in Syria within the framework of the Geneva process. To reiterate, Syria’s fate should be decided by the Syrians themselves—both government loyalists and the opposition.” He reported that he had briefed Iranian President Rouhani and Turkey’s President Erdogan on his meeting with Syria’s President Assad on Nov. 20. “We took note of the Syrian leadership’s stated commitment to the principles of settling the political crisis by peaceful means and carrying out a constitutional reform, as well as free, UN-supervised elections.”
Rouhani and Erdogan both fully endorsed the objectives of the National Dialogue Congress, as outlined by Putin. “We hope that this congress will become a new step toward peace and stability in Syria, as well as to free elections in Syria, based on a new Constitution,” Rouhani said. Erdogan also stressed the official Turkish view that there is no place for the Syrian Kurdish group PYD/YPG in this process (the YPG is fully backed by the U.S. as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces). “Nobody should expect us to stay under the same roof with a terrorist organization that is encroaching on national security,” he said. “If we state our commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity, as well as to Syria’s political unity, we cannot see the blood-stained gang that is trying to divide the country as a legitimate player.”
Syrian Opposition Meeting in Riyadh, a Saudi Climb-Down
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—The ongoing meeting of some Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia appears to represent a serious climb-down by the Saudis on the one demand that has driven their involvement in the Syrian war since at least 2013: that President Bashar al-Assad must go as a precondition to any settlement to end the war—and the opposition figures that they have heretofore sponsored are not happy. One sign of this is the mass resignations that hit the High Negotiations Committee (HNC, the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition forces) on Nov. 20, including of HNC leader Riyad Hijab. Hijab, Agence France-Presse reports, did not specify why he was resigning, but said he had faced “attempts to lower the ceiling of the revolution and prolong the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” The overhaul, experts and oppositionists said, will pave the way for a new negotiating delegation that could water down the opposition’s traditional demands, including Assad’s immediate ouster, AFP reports.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir’s own comments to the Riyadh meeting would seem to bear this out. “There is no solution to the crisis without a Syrian consensus that would achieve the demands of the Syrian people on the basis of Geneva 1 and [UN Security Council] resolution 2254,” Jubeir said.
The delegation that comes out of the Riyadh meeting will be going to Geneva for the next round of peace talks on Nov. 28. UN Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura urged the opposition figures gathered for the conference in Riyadh to have the “hard discussions” necessary to reach a “common line.” “A strong unified team is a creative partner in Geneva and we need that, one who can actually explore more than one way to arrive to the goals that we need to have,” he said in opening remarks.
There are still elements of the HNC demanding Assad step down, but negotiations are proceeding to bring the HNC into agreement with the Astana process before the next Geneva meeting.
COLLAPSING WESTERN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
IMF and Brits Put the Squeeze on Zimbabwe: Democracy Means ‘Pay Your Debts, Now’
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—Within hours of the announcement that Emmerson Mnangagwa was named President of Zimbabwe, the International Monetary Fund and Her Majesty’s Government in Great Britain renewed pressure to demand that Harare get going on implementing the “reforms” demanded by the international financial institutions (IFI), typified by the IMF and World Bank.
Gene Leon, IMF mission chief for Zimbabwe, told Reuters late yesterday that the country has to deal with high government spending, an untenable foreign exchange regime, and inadequate reforms. “Immediate action is critical to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level, accelerate structural reforms, and re-engage with the international community to access much needed financial support.” Leon oversees the so-called “Staff Sponsored Program” that was put in place after Zimbabwe agreed to “reengage” with the Fund by paying off its arrears in debt payments. In typical IMF-speak, Leon told Zimbabwe it has to pay back arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank, among other reforms, before the IMF can consider any future financing requests.
Not even waiting for the inauguration of the new President, Britain’s Africa Minister Rory Stewart descended on Harare today, to meet with political and business leaders, as well as human rights groups and NGOs, a U.K. Foreign Office statement said.
Stewart upon his arrival said, “The events of the last few days have given people here real hope that Zimbabwe can be set on a different, more democratic and more prosperous path,” and confirmed that “Britain wants to be a genuine partner for Zimbabweans as they forge a new future.”
Zimbabwean should be cautious to say the least. Stewart’s father, the late Brian Stewart, was number two in Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Services and one of its leading China experts. Rory Stewart himself is personally close to Prince Charles, having been the private tutor of both Prince William and Prince Harry. He served as a senior official of George W. Bush and Tony Blair’s Coalition in their war against Iraq.
City of Baltimore Descending into Hell
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—The city of Baltimore, whose “death zones” were analyzed by EIR in its first issue in January 2006, is descending into even deeper “death and despair” and “chaos,” Zero Hedge’s Tyler Durden writes today. “Deindustrialization coupled with depopulation started in the 1960s stripping the city of economic wealth…. Wealth inequality in the area is some of the widest in the United States with more than 100,000 African Americans with zero dollars to their name, according to JPMorgan. Baltimore is a skeleton of what it once was many decades ago when it had its industries.
“Now, 46,800 homes are vacant, almost 16% of the housing stock, as citizens are either leaving the area or being pushed into multi-family complexes by the city. Neighborhoods are rotting away as the local economy crumbles giving way to a surge in homicides. Baltimore is on track for the worse year ever with a homicide rate the highest in the United States. Baltimore is home to about 615,000 people, but the city has more homicides than New York or Los Angeles, both of which have far larger populations. Earlier this year, Mayor Catherine Pugh called in the Federal Government in hopes to restore order. She was even quoted, ‘violence in the city is out of control.’ ”
There is discussion of imposing martial law, writes Durden. “In a preview of what’s to come, we reported on an incident over the weekend where the police declared martial law according to one citizen, after an entire neighborhood was shut down with the installation of checkpoints. The four- to five-day lockdown started late last week and ended Monday, after a police detective was executed in broad daylight.”
Australian Housing Bubble About To Explode, Warns Bloomberg
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—In a feature today by Australia/New Zealand Economy Editor Chris Bourke, titled “The Party Is Over for Australia’s $5.6 Trillion Housing Frenzy,” Bloomberg reports that panic is setting in, as the estimated value of the country’s housing is four times bigger than the nation’s GDP. “Not even the U.S. and U.K. markets achieved such heights at their peaks a decade ago before prices spiraled lower and dragged their economies with them,” he writes. Bourke reports that the Reserve Bank of Australia has insisted that there is no problem due to supposed strength of the financial system.
This will give even more credence to the investigation taking place in the Parliament into the bail-in bills being proposed—an investigation sparked by the LaRouche friends in the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC) of Australia.
Bourke quotes a Morgan Stanley economist, Daniel Blake, about the housing bubble: “The risk is that it leaves the Australian economy extremely exposed, and a minor shock could become far more significant.” He also asserts that household debt is at a record high, while the population has received no pay increases to support it. “With retail sales looking grim and wage growth near record lows, debt will likely vex policy makers for years,” he writes. The bubble has also squeezed young and medium-income families out of the market, with the lowest level on record for young homeowners.
THE NEW GLOBAL ECONOMIC ORDER
Chilean Election Results Rattle Wall Street, London
Nov. 22 (EIRNS)—In Chile’s Nov. 19 presidential elections, the Wall Street-allied right wing-candidate of the “Let’s Go Chile” (Vamos Chile) coalition, former President Sebastian Pinera, failed to get an outright win or a high-enough plurality to guarantee a victory in the second round Dec. 17. He came away with 36.6%, far below the 45-50% that polls had predicted.
In what London’s Guardian has called a “political earthquake,” Beatriz Sanchez, candidate of the anti-establishment Broad Front, a coalition of leftist, environmentalist and other grassroots organizations, won 20% of the vote, just a bit below the 22.7% garnered by Sen. Alejandro Guillier, candidate of the ruling New Majority coalition of President Michelle Bachelet. Guillier is promising to continue and deepen reforms introduced by Bachelet, including a more aggressive reform of the pension system privatized by military dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1981.
The results have unnerved the City of London and Wall Street’s financial elites—the Santiago stock market crashed by 5.8% the day after the election—and have most certainly set off alarm bells in Argentina and Brazil. Those countries’ monetarist presidents maintain a tenuous hold on power, and were banking that a Pinera win would provide them with another neo-liberal ally in the region. Almost all Western media coverage frets about the uncertainty of the situation, and worries about what will happen to the “investment climate” should Pinera lose.
The Broad Front’s emergence reflects the large degree of political disaffection with the country’s traditional parties. While the Bachelet government had increased the budget for health and education, and proposed moderate reform of the pension system, this was not enough for the Broad Front’s base which is demanding a complete overhaul of the existing neo-liberal economic model, elimination of the Pinochet-era Constitution, and major reforms to guarantee workers’ rights, pensions, wages, healthcare, etc.
Sanchez’s vote did not qualify her to run in the second round, but nonetheless, she is in a position to determine its outcome. The question is whether she will negotiate to obtain enough concessions from Guillier to support him, which many of the more radical Broad Front leaders oppose, arguing that he is too close to the political establishment.
Zimbabwe President-Designate Mnangagwa Makes Forward-Looking Statements
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—On his return to Harare, Zimbabwe’s President-designate Emmerson Mnangagwa made many forward-looking statements with emphasis on the economy and producing jobs. Of interest is the fact that he had held discussions in South Africa with several African leaders, including President Jacob Zuma.
“Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new unfolding democracy,” he said. “I wish also to thank the manner in which our defense forces under the leadership of General [Constantino] Chiwenga have been able to manage this process peacefully. I was in constant contact with the service chiefs throughout and may I also inform you that in my discussions with some Heads of State, including spending today about one and half hours with President Zuma, also the President of Namibia [Hage Geingob], the former President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete, and others, they have hailed the discipline and peacefulness of the people of Zimbabwe. They are saying the way you have managed this process makes SADC [Southern Africa Development Community] proud not only in this continent, but worldwide.”
He made a strong point of saying that the constitutional process was followed despite the fact that “The intention to derail this process was intense, but as is said, the will of the people will always succeed.”
He further called for unity and economic transformation: “I appeal to all genuine, patriotic Zimbabweans to come together, we work together. No one is more important than the other. We are all Zimbabweans. We want to grow our country. We want peace in our country. We want jobs, jobs, jobs! We need also the cooperation of our neighbors in SADC, the cooperation of the continent of Africa, we need the cooperation of our friends outside the continent. That we shall achieve. I am already receiving messages of cooperation and support for us to grow our economy.”
Mnangagwa’s inauguration as President of Zimbabwe will take place Friday, Nov. 24 at the National Sports Stadium.
China and Vatican Swap Great Art for Exhibits
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—China’s Forbidden City and the Vatican Museums are preparing to swap 40 artworks for a simultaneous exhibit next year, according to today’s Global Times. The works from the Vatican include Chinese ceramics and paintings from the Vatican’s “Anima Mundi” ancient Chinese collection. They will be displayed in Beijing and four other cities in China, while the works sent from China will appear at the Pope’s Ethnological Museum, AFP reported on Nov. 21.
As China and the Vatican do not have diplomatic relations, the cultural exchange will build confidence to resolve other outstanding issues.
Nikkei Asian Review Reports on Heightened Japanese Business Interest in Belt and Road
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—Nikkei Asian Review, covering the ongoing visit of 250 top Japanese business leaders to China, reports on the heightened Japanese interest in the Belt and Road following Trump’s historic visit to China this month. “A Japanese business delegation worked to turn China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative into a fount of opportunities in talks here this week, seeking roles in such areas as ports and solar energy,” they report today.
Corporate chiefs and Chinese officials “have had a frank dialogue regarding possibilities for cooperation on Belt and Road, among other matters,” Chairman Shoji Muneoka of the Japan-China Economic Association said Wednesday.
Joint projects are on the table. Nippon Yusen Chairman Yasumi Kudo told the Ministry of Commerce this week that they would like to help run a China-built port in southern Sri Lanka, which has faced problems due to underutilization thus far, and the large debt for the project. “But Nippon Yusen sees the facility as a strong opportunity in the long term,” writes Nikkei.
Also, Marubeni is working with a Chinese manufacturer of solar power modules for the U.A.E. “There are many infrastructure projects in Asia that we can work with Chinese companies on,” Chairman Teruo Asada said.
But Nikkei also reports concern in the Japanese government regarding “what rules will govern the economic sphere that Belt and Road projects are helping to create.”
Leading Japanese economist Daisuke Kotegawa told EIR today that it is urgent that a high-level committee of Chinese and Japanese business and government officials be established to address concerns among some Japanese about working with China, since the cooperation in the economic realm is crucial for future peace and development in the region and internationally. Some Japanese business layers, Kotegawa said, are concerned about two issues: Chinese breeching of intellectual property rights, and strong armed use of government fair trade laws.
Prime Minister Hariri Returns to Lebanon, Reverses Resignation—Saudi-British Ploy Defeated
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)—Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri called an end to the British-Saudi ploy to destabilize Lebanon and the region by provoking a civil war in Lebanon. Following his trip to France, Hariri returned to Lebanon, met with President Michel Aoun, and reversed his announced resignation. Although Hariri denies it, his words show that the Saudis were behind the Nov. 4 resignation, made from Riyadh on Saudi television.
“The period that passed was perhaps like a wake-up call for all of us to look for Lebanon’s interests rather than looking at problems around us,” Hariri said at the Annual Arab Banking Conference in Beirut today, according to Reuters. “The problems around us are important, but Lebanon is more important.”
He declared: “I want to stress that … our main concern is stability, and this is what we’ll be working on.”
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the head of President Aoun’s political party, wrote to the Arab League today stressing Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional crises, according to Lebanon’s official National News Agency.
Hezbollah’s parliamentary group met today, and made a statement that Hariri’s return to Lebanon and his positive statements signaled a possible return to normality.
Hariri said on Nov. 22 that his decision would “lead to a responsible dialogue … that deals with divisive issues and their repercussions on Lebanon’s relations with Arab brothers.”
Hariri also spoke to his Future Movement today, which issued a statement that Hariri’s decision to wait instead of officially resigning from his post was a wise step that would allow for more dialogue.