No Respite for the Wicked, Pompeo Unleashed

Getting Bolton out didn’t help much. Or any of the other assholes, there’s always an equal replacement.

Tom Luongo is an independent political and economic analyst March 23, 2020

There are few things in this life that make me more sick to my stomach than watching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talking. He truly is one of the evilest men I’ve ever had the displeasure of covering.

Into the insanity of the over-reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pompeo wasted no time ramping up sanctions on firms doing any business with Iran, one of the countries worse-hit by this virus to date.

It’s a seemingly endless refrain, everyday, more sanctions on Chinese, Swiss and South African firms for having the temerity in these deflating times to buy oil from someone Pompeo and his gang of heartless psychopaths disapprove of.

This goes far beyond just the oil industry. Even though I’m well aware that Russia’s crashing the price of oil was itself a hybrid war attack on U.S. capital markets. One that has had, to date, devastating effect.

While Pompeo mouths the words publicly that humanitarian aid is exempted from sanctions on Iran, the U.S. is pursuing immense pressure on companies to not do so anyway while the State Dept. bureaucracy takes its sweet time processing waiver applications.

Pompeo and his ilk only think in terms of civilizational warfare. They have become so subsumed by their big war for the moral high ground to prove American exceptionalism that they have lost any shred of humanity they may have ever had.

Because for Pompeo in times like these to stick to his talking points and for his office to continue excising Iran from the global economy when we’re supposed to be coming together to fight a global pandemic is the height of soullessness.

And it speaks to the much bigger problem that infects all of our political thinking. There comes a moment when politics and gaining political advantage have to take a back seat to doing the right thing.

I’ve actually seen moments of that impulse from the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Will wonders never cease?!

Thinking only in Manichean terms of good vs. evil and dehumanizing your opponents is actually costlier than reversing course right now. Because honey is always better at attracting flies than vinegar.

But, unfortunately, that is not the character of the Trump administration.

It can only think in terms of direct leverage and opportunity to hold onto what they think they’ve achieved. So, until President Trump is no longer consumed with coordinating efforts to control COVID-19 Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are in charge of foreign policy.

They will continue the playbook that has been well established.

Maximum pressure on Iran, hurt China any way they can, hold onto what they have in Syria, stay in Iraq.

To that end Iraqi President Barham Salei nominated Pompeo’s best choice to replace Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi to throw Iraq’s future into complete turmoil. According to Elijah Magnier, Adnan al-Zarfi is a U.S. asset through and through.

And this looks like Pompeo’s Hail Mary to retain U.S. legal presence in Iraq after the Iraqi parliament adopted a measure to demand withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

Airstrikes against U.S. bases in Iraq continue on a near daily basis and there have been reports of U.S. base closures and redeployments at the same time.

This move looks like desperation by Pompeo et.al. to finally separate the Hashd al-Shaabi from Iraq’s official military. So that airstrikes against them can be carried out under the definition of ‘fighting Iranian terrorism.’

As Magnier points out in the article above if al-Zarfi puts a government together the war in Iraq will expand just as the U.S. is losing further control in Syria after Turkish President Erdogan’s disastrous attempt to remake the front in Idlib.

That ended with his effective surrender to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The more I watch these moves by Pompeo the more sympathetic I become to the most sinister theories about COVID-19, its origins and its launch around the world. Read Pepe Escobar’s latest to get an idea of how dark and twisted this tale could be.

Rep.MikePompeo | H.R. 4432, Rep. Mike Pompeo Monsanto Safe a… | Flickr
It is sad that, to me, I see no reason to doubt Pompeo and his ilk in the U.S. government wouldn’t do something like that to spark political and social upheaval in those places most targeted by U.S. hybrid war tactics.

But, at the same time, I can see the other side of it, a vicious strike back by China against its tormentors.

And China’s government does itself, in my mind, no favors threatening to withhold drug precursors and having officials run their mouths giving Americans the excuse they need to validate Trump and Pompeo’s divisive rhetoric.

Remaining on the fence about this issue isn’t my normal style. But everyone is dirty here and the reality may well be this is a natural event terrible people on both sides are exploiting.

And I can only go by what people do rather than what they say to assess the situation. Trump tries to buy exclusive right to a potential COVID-19 vaccine from a German firm and his administration slow-walks aid to Iran.

China sends aid to Iran and Italy by the container full. Is that to salve their conscience over its initial suppression of information about the virus? Good question.

But no one covers themselves in glory by using the confusion and distraction to attempt further regime change and step up war-footing during a public health crisis, manufactured or otherwise.

While Pompeo unctuously talks the talk of compassion and charity, he cannot bring himself to actually walk the walk.

Because he is a despicable, bile-filled man of uncommon depravity. His prosecuting a hybrid war during a public health crisis speaks to no other conclusion about him.

It’s clear to me that nothing has changed at the top of Trump’s administration. I expect COVID-19 will not be a disaster for Trump and the U.S.

It can handle this. But the lack of humanity shown by its diplomatic corps ensures that in the long run the U.S. will be left to fend for itself when the next crisis hits.

 

Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017

The inescapable conclusion is that Trump’s policy is depraved. The US has deliberately made an economic catastrophe much worse in the hope that its Venezuelan allies can seize power through violence as they briefly did in April of 2002. But as it stands today, US puppet leader for Venezuela is in hiding from Maduro’s loyal army haha.*

Images and portrayals of Venezuelans rioting in the streets over high food costs, empty grocery stores, medicine shortages, and overflowing garbage bins are the headlines, and the reporting points to socialism as the cause.

Perversely, Maduro’s government has been widely accused of “using” the economic crisis to “buy” loyalty of the most vulnerable through the direct delivery of food and other basic products. Trump’s goal is clearly to starve the government of funds it uses to allegedly “buy support” (i.e. respond to the crisis). Maduro, like Chavez before him, regularly decries US interference in Latin America.

venezuelanalysis.com/analysis

Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez, a longtime critic of the Venezuelan government, wrote a piece showing that after sanctions Trump introduced in August of 2017 Venezuela’s oil production dropped much faster than analysts had predicted it would. Rodriguez was the economic advisor to former presidential candidate Henri Falcon, who defied US threats to run in Venezuela’s presidential elections that were held in May despite the boycott of other opposition leaders.

Below is the key graph Rodriguez provides.

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Venezuelan and Colombian oil prices (OPEC)

Venezuelan and Colombian oil prices (OPEC)

Venezuelan oil production followed essentially the same pattern as Colombia’s during 2016 and most of 2017 –until August when Trump’s sanctions came into force. A decline in production was driven by the price of oil hitting its lowest point in about a decade at the start of 2016.

But in August of 2017 Trump’s sanctions made it illegal for the Venezuelan government to obtain financing from the US which was devastating for two reasons: all the Venezuelan governments’ outstanding foreign currency bonds are governed under New York state law; and one of the Venezuelan government’s major assets, the state-owned CITGO corporation, is based in Texas.

The sanctions also blocked CITGO from sending profits and dividends back to Venezuela (which had been averaging about $1 billion USD per year since 2015).

The table below shows my estimate of Venezuela’s oil revenues each month since Trump’s sanctions came into force. The price of WTI oil (which approximates the price of Venezuela’s) basically increased linearly since August of 2017 from $50 to about $70 per barrel.

The oil production volumes are taken from the estimates Rodriguez has provided. In the “no sanctions” case show below, it is assumed that Venezuela‘s oil production would have continued to fall at the same rate as in the 12 months before Trump’s sanctions.

Rodriguez cited a “worst case” prediction made by a prominent oil consultant that a 13% decline in production would take place in 2017 followed by a 6% decline in 2018. The “no sanctions” case shown below is close to that “worst case prediction”. It assumes an 11% decline would have taken place.

In reality (i.e. the “sanctions” case) production has fallen by 37% since the sanctions were imposed. The difference in total revenue between the “sanction” and “no sanctions” case over the twelve month period is about $6 billion.

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Venezuelan oil revenues with and without the impact of sanctions (Joe Emersberger)

Venezuelan oil revenues with and without the impact of sanctions (Joe Emersberger)

That sum, $6 billion, is 133 times larger than what the UNHCR has appealed for in aid for Venezuelan migrants. It is also equal to about 6% of Venezuela’s GDP at present. Health care spending in Latin America and the Caribbean averages about 7% of GDP.

Perversely, Maduro’s government has been widely accused of “using” the economic crisis to “buy” loyalty of the most vulnerable through the direct delivery of food and other basic products. Trump’s goal is clearly to starve the government of funds it uses to allegedly “buy support” (i.e. respond to the crisis). 

Rodriguez pulls his punches and heavily qualifies his thesis, but the inescapable conclusion is that Trump’s policy is depraved. The US has deliberately made an economic catastrophe much worse in the hope that its Venezuelan allies can seize power through violence as they briefly did in April of 2002.

Rodriguez is correct to say that the “toxification” of dealing with Venezuela’s government, and the imposition of “reputational costs” on those who do so, is a huge factor in all this. The Western media has indeed demonized Venezuela‘s government for 17 years and has therefore reduced, almost to zero, the legal and moral constraints on the US and its allies.

The priority for decent people whose governments have collaborated with Trump in attacking Venezuela should be to strengthen those constraints. The attacks could easily become even more barbaric.

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”- George Orwell

US ready to starve another 500,000 babies in Iran, like they did in Iraq

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John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the 2015 deal, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.

“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions,” Trump said. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”

In the aftermath of Washington’s pullout, Europeans are seeking ways to protect the interests of their firms doing business in Iran and help them escape the brunt of upcoming US bans.

Senior EU politicians recently threatened that the 28-nation bloc is ready to challenge any move that may harm their businesses in the Iranian market at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The White House has already began a fresh push to put pressure on Iran and Washington’s European allies.

In the past week, it has slapped a new series of sanctions against Iran.

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened the European allies that Washington is prepared to impose sanctions on European companies if their governments refuse to heed Trump’s demand to stop dealing with Iran.


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  • Amy Goodman to Madeline Albright:

    … many say that, although president Bush led this invasion, that president Clinton laid the groundwork with the sanctions and with the previous bombing of Iraq. You were president Clinton’s U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations…. the U.N. sanctions, for example … led to the deaths of more than a half a million children, not to mention more than a million Iraqis.


 

“Today we hope to see how we can with participation of European Troyka, China, Russia, Iran and European Union to use the mechanisms available not to allow undermining of this important document,”Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed.

Lavrov also voiced support for Iran’s right to defend its “legitimate interests” as part of the agreement, which removed nuclear sanctions against Iran in early 2016 in exchange for certain limits on its civilian nuclear activities.

“I would like to point out that Russia and other participants in the deal – China and the European countries – also have their legitimate interests enshrined in this agreement,” he added. “This is why we need to cooperate in protecting our legitimate interests.”

Zarif arrived in Moscow following similar negotiations in China and will later head to Brussels for talks with the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and his counterparts from the three European parties.