June 28, 2013

Decision to rein in Difa-e-Pakistan Council


Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already warned that the Defence of Pakistan Council is harming Pakistan’s interests at external front

According to well placed reports, it has been decided at a high-level meeting that the Defence of Pakistan Council [Difa-e-Pakistan Council] would not be allowed to hold rallies in major cities of Pakistan as the leaders of the Defence of Pakistan Council are adding to the country’s external problems. This meeting was held at the Presidency. A high-ranking military representative was also present. However, the military representative remained non-committal during the meeting.

Jamat-ud-Dawa, responsible for arranging all the rallies and meetings of the Defence of Pakistan Council, and Jamat's head, Hafiz Saeed, are known for their extremist views. Given this background, Pakistan is facing disturbing situation at the external front.

However, the powers that be do not want to render the Defence of Pakistan Council ineffective even if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already warned that the Defence of Pakistan Council is harming Pakistan’s interests at external front.

Most likely, a terrified civil government will beg the GHQ and request the military leadership to help rein in the Defence of Pakistan Council. The military leadership in turn will claim that the voice of the Defence of Pakistan Council is the voice of the nation.

As a matter of fact, Pakistan Peoples Party, Muslim League (Nawaz), Muttihida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party are the legitimate ‘voices of the nation’, they were voted to power.

Hameed Gul, Hafiz Saeed, Syed Munawar Hassan, Samiul Haq, Sheikh Rasheed, S. M. Zafar and Ijazul Haq cannot claim national representation as most of them met with defeat in the last general elections. But the tragedy is that some state institutions are patronizing this group in order to defame the civilian government.

The Defence of Pakistan Council clearly understands that in the near future there is no place for them in the traditional politics of Pakistan and they cannot sneak into the power corridors through their trained Mujahideen and suicide bombers.

The leadership of the Defence of Pakistan Council also understands that even the military leadership fears an outright puritan revolution in the country and the number of military men associated Hizb-ul-Tahrir like Brig Ali Khan is very small.

That is why we usually come across such articles in right-wing newspapers that there is shortage of peoples like Muhammad bin Qasim in the military echelons of Pakistan. Why the Pakistan military’s overall impression is secular and it does not perform the duty of leading the military of the Muslim countries across the globe?

Brass Tacks, commanded by Zaid Hamid, has published books aimed at instigating the military leadership of Pakistan to launch nuclear attack on India and Israel to establish peace on the planet earth. If this agenda is implemented, Brass Tacks’ literature propagates, Pakistan would become a blue eyed of the Muslim world and the infidels would be forced to bite the dust.

Similarly, the Western educated Imran Khan wants to promote the agenda of extremist religious parties except for the full-implementation on Nifaz-e-Shariat in the country. Imran Khan is aligning with extremist forces in order to defeat the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) – the biggest opposition party in the parliament. Tehrik-e-Insaf, led by Imran Khan, is also seen as a Trojan Horse.

As the civilian governments are failing to come up to the people’s expectations, the extremist ideas are finding a hearing too.

The writer is an investigative journalist, his recent book Punjabi Taliban has been published by Pentagon publishers India. He can be contacted at hussainmujahid@gmail.com

Atal Bihari Vajpayee at his rhetoric best

German Journalist: West-led Armed Opposition in Syria will Fail

TEHRAN (FNA)- German journalist and magazine editor Manuel Ochsenreiter believes that the Western powers along with the regional countries are backing and financing terrorists and insurgents in Syria, because each of them have certain interests linked to the disintegration of the Syrian government and the removal from power of President Bashar Assad.
He also says that these countries are supporting such dangerous groups as Al-Qaeda to destabilize Syria and fight the Syrian army at the expense of the lives of innocent Syrian citizens whose only crime is supporting their government.

"These groups like Al-Qaeda, but also other armed militias that have infiltrated Syria during the course of the past year now fight the proxy war of the big powers. For Ankara, Riyadh, Washington or Doha it is much more convenient and also cheaper to use (or abuse) those insurgents instead of having a conventional war against Damascus. You have always a supply of men and arms. You just have to pay and to give support by means of intelligence, logistics and training," said Ochsenreiter in an interview with Fars News Agency.

Manuel Ochsenreiter is the chief editor of the German monthly magazine ZUERST and contributes to other journals and magazines in Germany, as well. He spent a few weeks in Syria last year and dispatched special reports of the Battle of Damascus and other developments in the war-hit country.

What follows is the text of Fars News Agency's interview with Ochsenreiter with whom we have talked about the situation in Syria, the connection between the Free Syrian Army and the foreign powers and the prospects of unrests in the country.

Q: You have just been to Syria and witnessed the situation on the ground in the crisis-hit country. Why do you think such countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supporting, funding and equipping the insurgents who are intent on disintegrating the Syrian government and removing from power President Bashar al-Assad?

A: I was in Damascus in July 2012 when the so called "Battle of Damascus" raged. Western mass media claimed that the Syrian capital was besieged by tens of thousands of "FSA" fighters and that the city would fall soon. Nothing was true about those reports. There were terrorist activities in some suburbs, but not something like a "siege" or a real "battle". Terrorist fighters were infiltrating the suburbs and some parts of the city and shooting civilians and Syrian security forces. I was with the Syrian army in the neighborhood of Al-Midan where still some "FSA" men were fighting against the army, and I saw fallen "FSA" fighters of non-Syrian origin on the streets.

It is not a secret that the Syrian Arab Republic plays today a sort of "disturbing role" (for certain Arab regimes) in the region. Damascus is an important ally for the much bigger disturbing state in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. For Saudi Arabia and other Sunni monarchies, the so called "Arab Spring" was the big chance to gain a lot of influence by supporting the radical Sunni groups in all the states where these protests against the governments took place (Tunisia, Libya and Egypt). They tried the same plot in Syria but it did not work with peaceful means, so they financed and armed militia and paid mercenaries.

Turkey has its own geopolitical agenda in the region. The "neo-Ottoman dream" is about to become a sort of state reason. It is all about influence in the region and becoming a leading power. Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states are partners of the West (Turkey is NATO-member as we all know) and the West is also strongly against Tehran. So you see, in Syria, the common interests of the West and the Sunni monarchies come together. Syria, the secular state ruled by an Alawite president and a close ally of Russia does not fit in this type of "New Middle East" plan.

Q: There are rumors that Al-Qaeda has been involved in the conflict in Syria and that some of the high-ranking members of the cult have been directing attacks on civilian areas as well as the army bases. It was even reported that the brother of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda commander in Syria was just arrested in Daraa city. What's your viewpoint about the collaboration of Al-Qaeda with the terrorists and insurgents? In what ways does Al-Qaeda benefit from unrest and instability in Syria?

A: These are not just rumors. Groups related to Al-Qaeda have admitted to fighting together with the FSA a "Jihad" against the Syrian government; what means in reality to kidnap and kill civilians, security forces and religious authorities and to place bombs in civilian areas.

These groups like Al-Qaeda, but also other armed militias that have infiltrated Syria during the course of the past year now fight the proxy war of the big powers. For Ankara, Riyadh, Washington or Doha it is much more convenient and also cheaper to use (or abuse) those insurgents instead of having a conventional war against Damascus. You have always a supply of men and arms. You just have to pay and to give support by means of intelligence, logistics and training. These groups like al-Qaeda themselves follow completely different ideological agendas. Maybe they even oppose their financers. For example, for the authorities of al-Qaeda, the West is the "useful idiot" by making them strong; while the Western officials similarly think that the al-Qaeda fighters are the "useful idiots." What comes out at the end is what we have witnessed in countries like Afghanistan, where the West supported radical Sunni militias against the Soviet occupation.

At least we should not forget to mention another important point: insurgents generally do not respect any law in war. They are criminals by definition. They kill, torture, and terrorize the population. Even the worst organized regular army has some instruments and mechanisms to persuade war criminals in their own rows. There are fixed standards on how to treat prisoners of war, how to save the lives and goods of the civilians and how to keep the war outside civilian areas. But none of these mechanisms exist in the groups like the al-Qaeda-linked militias. They are the "bulldozers" of war, and the countries that support those militia gangs keep their "innocence".

Q: It was on the news that Saudi Arabia has dispatched to Syria a large number of dangerous criminals, including murderers and prisoners sentenced to death to take part in terrorist activities against the supporters of President Assad and even ordinary citizens. We have seen on the TV channels footages of Sudanese, Yemeni and Saudi criminals beheading the Syrian people and committing other atrocities. What's your take on that?

A: In the military hospital of Damascus where I visited and interviewed horribly injured Syrian soldiers, a young officer told me, "We fight against the whole world." And these soldiers told me about insurgents who even do not speak the Arabic language. Terrorists from the Caucasus are right now in Syria as well as Sudanese, North Africans, Pakistanis and Afghans.

The strategy of using criminals as insurgents is not very new. In almost all the wars in the past, convicted criminals played a role. For Saudi Arabia, this has a practical benefit. They get rid of their hardcore criminals somewhere far away, the "enemy" civil population in Syria is horrified by the news that brutal murderers and rapists are on the way to their homes, and this might be also a reason that criminals are fighters without any lobby. Nobody in Saudi Arabia cares when they are killed or captured by the Syrian army. No diplomat will try to set them free. So we cannot really wonder when we see now the results of the Syrian civilians and soldiers being brutally massacred, beheaded and tortured.

Q: What do you think about President Assad's speech on Sunday? The opposition figures swiftly reacted to it and said that it included nothing new. British Foreign Secretary also accused President Assad of killing his own people and called his speech hypocritical. This is while President Assad promised reforms in the political structure of the country and called for a public referendum and the formation of parliament in his speech. What's your viewpoint on that?

A: In my opinion, President Assad said what had to be said in this situation. I would not count so much on the reaction of the so-called "opposition" and western politicians. Most probably their declarations were already typed before Assad began his speech. When it comes to hypocrisy, the Western politicians are the real experts. They claim that they want a regime change in Syria for civil and human rights, yet at the same time they support the absolute backward monarchy of Saudi Arabia. So why should we listen to their words?

The Syrian President will be measured by the promises he made in his speech on Sunday. I personally know a lot of Syrians who were very critical of their government before the crisis. I would have considered them as "opposition". They criticized especially the corruption in Syria. Since the war broke out they began to support their government and their army in the fight against the foreign terrorists. Those supporters expect that when the crisis is over, the Syrian government will keep its promises.

Q: The United States has spared no effort to bring together and unite the different opposition fractions and opponents of President Assad, especially in the Doha conference and the Friends of Syria conference in Paris, but it failed to link the Salafist and Jihadi groups to the coalition forces and there seems to be a growing rift among the different opposition groups. What do you think in this regard? Has the United States succeeded in realizing this goal?

A: "Friends of Syria", with whose existence Syria does not need enemies anymore seem to be very chaotic in their policies. Within this construct of "FSA", so many different groups and fractions are fighting and it's extremely hard to bring them together because they will start fighting against each other as soon as the common enemy is out of their sight. Of course it is almost impossible to bring Salafi groups together with civil rights activists because they have a completely different understanding of how a society should be built.

The western powers try to put all these groups together in one frontline; they try to force them to some western democratic games with each other. But at the end, and this seems clear, the brutal guys with the biggest guns will become the leading people and not the well-spoken, sophisticated writers and philosophers who Washington, Paris and London recommend for the leading position. So the US has already failed and any western project to "organize" the "armed opposition" in Syria has to fail. Why? Because those "opposition" fighters have nothing to do with people inside Syria who may have some criticism toward their government and now support their army against the insurgents and terrorists.

Q: What's your viewpoint regarding Israel's role in the fomentation of unrest in Syria? It's said that Israeli arms and ammunitions have been seen in the hands of the terrorists and insurgents. What efforts has Israel made in order to break up Syria as an integral part of the resistance front?

A: Syria is really an old player in the resistance front against Israel, and a well-known supporter of the Lebanese Hezbollah, and the former "homeland" of high-ranking Hamas officials in Damascus like Khalid Mashaal as well as other Palestinian resistance groups and as already mentioned a close ally of Iran. Syria might have been seen by Israel as the key country of the resistance. The strategy might have been that, when Syria falls, the resistance might also fall.

Meanwhile, the strategic situation has changed. Syria refuses to fall and defends itself while radical foreign mercenaries infiltrate Israel's neighborhood from almost all borders. Maybe Tel Aviv tries to support some of the groups with arms and intelligence, and as you said, it's already reported that Israeli weapons were captured in Syria by the security forces.

From the Israeli point of view, the Syrian Arab Republic is an enemy; an enemy with a regular army and with a clear structure and hierarchy. You can make a ceasefire agreement and rely on the other side. But what happens when Syria becomes a failed state? With whom shall they talk then? Who to negotiate with? The negotiations of the Syrian government about a ceasefire with the so called "FSA" show that this cannot be successful as almost every armed militia acts on its own. So in case of a failed state there will be lots of different warlords with their militias. The vacuum of power in the center of the Middle East will be filled by the guys with the biggest guns. Tel Aviv might then make expensive agreements with 99% of the militia leaders, but at least one percent will fire rockets at Israel and send insurgents.

Interview by Kourosh Ziabari

June 27, 2013

US Ospreys and Air Tankers Put Iran in Israel's Reach


The United States plans to give Israel weapons that would enable it to send ground forces against Iranian nuclear facilities that it can’t penetrate from the air.

The deal includes air-refueling aircraft, advanced radars for F-15 fighter jets, and up to eight V-22 Ospreys, an aircraft that can land like a helicopter and carry two dozen special operations forces with their gear over long distances at aircraft speeds.

The Osprey “is the ideal platform for sending Israeli special forces into Iran,” says Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst now at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

The aircraft could help solve Israel’s inability to breach Iran’s uranium enrichment facility buried under a granite mountain at Fordow. It might be impregnable to even the heaviest conventional bunker-busting munitions in the U.S. arsenal, Pollack said. Israeli military planners have been brainstorming how to conduct an effective operation, Pollack said, citing conversations with senior Israeli military officers.

“One of the possibilities is (Israel) would use special forces to assault the Fordow facility and blow it up,” Pollack said.

The weapons deal would be part of a military aid package for Israel that includes $1 billion for up to eight V-22 tilt-rotors; $500 million to retrofit radars into F-15 fighters and another $1 billion for a variety of air-to-ground weapons. Additional details about the U.S.-financed deal were revealed during a visit to Washington by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on June 15.

The State Department said discussions of the arms deal are ongoing.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday had a working dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and will visit with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials through Saturday, discussing broad regional issues and the peace process.

Jonathan Schanzer, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the arms package was part of an Israeli wish list including some items that were not discussed publicly to help it keep amilitary edge over other nations in the region and for possible operations against Iran.

Israel’s air force would be hard-pressed to cause lasting damage to the Iranian nuclear program because it cannot sustain long-term bombardment and has limited bunker-busting capabilities and limited air-refueling capabilities, said Kenneth Katzman, who co-wrote the 2012 report “Israel: Possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities” for the Congressional Research Service.

When he first announced the deal during a visit to Israel in April, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Ospreys would provide Israel with high-speed maritime search-and rescue-capabilities.

Yaalon said the arms sale would send a message to Israel’s chief adversary in the region.

“Without a credible military option, there’s no chance the Iranian regime will realize it has to stop the militarynuclear project,” Yaalon said.

Other parts of the arms package include Boeing’s KC-135 “Stratotanker,” which can refuel Ospreys and other aircraft while airborne and extend the tilt-rotor aircraft’s 426-mile range almost indefinitely. The deal also includes anti-radiation missiles that are used to target air defense systems, and advanced radars for Israel’s fleet of F-15 fighter jets, according to a Defense Department press release.

That equipment would increase Israel’s capabilities against Iran, said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

The refueling equipment would extend the reach of Israeli special forces, which could be used against Iran as they were in Israel’s attack on a Syrian nuclear facility under construction in 2007, Karmon said.

In the 2007 attack, at least one Israeli team was on the ground to provide laser targeting of sophisticated airmunitions, Karmon said. “The same would be done for Iranian sites.”

The Osprey also could be used for search-and-rescue operations if Israeli aircraft involved in a complex airoperation are shot down and pilots endangered, Karmon said.

Michael Rubin, an analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, said senior U.S. and Israeli bombers would do significant damage to Iran’s hardened sites by targeting the entrances, and Israel could use the Ospreys for missions other than Iran’s nuclear sites. Israel may want the ability to send troops to secure chemical facilities in remote regions of Syria or to block Iranian shipments bound for terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula or Lebanon, Rubin said.

“Sudan and Eritrea are floating the idea of building an Iranian naval base or shipping Iranian missiles to the Gaza Strip,” Rubin said, referring to the Palestinian territory controlled by the terrorist group Hamas. “If you wanted to disrupt such missiles in a convoy, you’d do it with an Osprey.”

The arms deal also sends a message to Iran and reassurance to Israel that the United States is serious about standing by the Jewish state, Karmon said.

Katzman said he doesn’t think the arms sale provides Israel with significant new capabilities that Israel did not already have. He said the overall defense package, which also includes advanced F-16 fighter jets for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rivals in the Persian Gulf, is more “a symbolic move to show (American) resolve to Iran,” Katzman said.

Contributing: Barbara Opall-Rome of Defense News

Wishful Thinking behind America's "Pivot to Asia" Foreign Policy


By Peter Baofu, Ph.D.

In response to the rise of China as the new global superpower in the early decades of the 21st century, the U.S. in 2012 officially started a new foreign policy known as the "Pivot to East Asia" (or "Pivot to Asia" in short), whose main objective is to shift its attention to East Asia as the epicenter of world affairs, so as to "strengthen...bilateral security alliances," to "expand...trade and investment," to "forg[e]...a broad-based military presence," and to "advance[e]...democracy and human rights" in the region, among other things.

But there is more wishing thinking than feasible reality in this new American foreign policy, especially in the longer term. Historically, this "Pivot to Asia" foreign policy is built on those by the Clinton and Bush administrations; for example, back in 2005, the Bush administration wanted to shift 60 percent of the U.S. submarines to Asia.

To understand the wishful thinking behind this new American foreign policy (especially in the longer term), consider, for illustration, the following three main false assumptions, namely, (a) enough financial support, (b) enough political support, and (c) enough military support.

(a) 1st False Assumption: Enough Financial Support

The first false assumption behind America's "Pivot to Asia" foreign policy is that the U.S. has enough financial resources to fund this new foreign policy for years or decades to come. However, on the financial side, this new foreign policy is historically ill-timing, due to two major problems.

The first major financial problem is that, because of the protracted financial crisis in the U.S., "cuts to defense spending," as Todd Harrison, a budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, rightly pointed out, "could rise to $900 billion over [the next] 10 years." And Larry Summers, a professor of economics at Harvard University, already warned that "the total amount of debt we owe will continue to grow at a faster rate than the nation's income and the reductions in entitlements"; for instance, "there are estimates that the debt limit might have to be raised by an amount between $730 billion and $1.25 trillion in 2013 and another $1.3 trillion to $2.2 trillion in 2014. Under these circumstances, for the US to increase its GDP would require a combination of tax increases and budget cuts of as much as $3.45 trillion over the next two years-not the 10 year period to cut $4 trillion the Obama administration is proposing," but this requirement will most likely not be met at all, as reported by Robert Lenzner for Forbes on May 12, 2012.


It is thus no wonder that Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Project on Government Oversight, when "asked whether the United States can put together enough money to fund a buildup in Asia, Wheeler says no," and his prediction is this: "It's not going to happen...It's that simple. The military budget is going down," and "the Pentagon, Wheeler says, cannot afford either more ships and planes or what some people believe is a quick-fix solution, namely, greater use of high-tech, remote-warfare drones, other unmanned vehicles, and long-range options. 'It's all too expensive,' he says," as reported by Robert Dreyfuss on December 05, 2012.

And the second major financial problem is that China will overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy by the end of 2016, according to an estimate on the more accurate GDP (PPP) by the IMF. In another estimate by Hu Angang on June 07, 2013, "China's economy will become twice as big as that of the United States and larger than both the US and the EU combined" in about 2 decades. By 2025, according to a report by the OECD, "the combined GDP of China and India will be bigger than that of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada put together," as reported by Josephine Moulds for The Guardian on November 9, 2012. Also, according to a recent report by the World Bank, "on the investment side, China is...projected to become the largest, providing 30% of total [global] investment by 2030," or more precisely, "to become the largest saver by a landslide, accounting for $9 trillion in 2010 dollars by 2030. India ranks the second with its $1.7 trillion," as cited by RT on May 17, 2013. In this light, will the U.S. really have the financial means to compete with China in the longer term, when it is no longer #1, not even #2?

(b) 2nd False Assumption: Enough Political Support

The second false assumption behind America's "Pivot to Asia" foreign policy is that the U.S. has the firm political support, both at home and abroad, of the policy. However, on the political side, this new foreign policy is historically ill-timing, due to two major problems.

The first major political problem is that, as Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Thai political scientist, speaker and Professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, warned on December 10, 2012, "it is...debatable that to what extent the United States can realize the policy when it has been trapped in the quagmire of the Middle East situation for a long time and consumed considerable energy and resources" to focus its attention there.

And the second major political problem is that the allies of the U.S. in the region are fickle in their support. The major false assumption here is that different countries in the region will support the U.S. to counter the rise of China, and good examples include South Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam. But many of these countries have their own interests to pursue, and their stand shifts over time, as the situation changes. Vietnam (or North Vietnam at the time), for example, used to be a firm ally of China against the U.S. during the Vietnam War but quickly shifts its geopolitical focus nowadays to use the U.S. against China. Similarly, the Philippines kicked the U.S. out of its military bases some years ago but now courts the U.S. to return so as to play the U.S. card in its "territorial dispute" with China. Is the U.S. really so innocent as to count on the support of these countries, while it may well be manipulated by them for their own local interests instead, which easily change as the situation changes?

In fact, the more powerful China becomes in the longer term, the more many countries in the region will find it vital to work together with China, instead of joining the U.S. to contain it. A good illustration of this is the example of Australia, which, long considered as a staunch U.S. ally in the region, is now shifting its stand towards China in its "2013 Defence White Paper" released on May 3, 2013, and "one area of surprise is the paper's claim that 'Australia welcomes China's rise,'" and "the report indicates that the Australian government does not believe that it 'must choose' between China and the U.S." and "does not approach China as an adversary," so "this should serve as a reality check for those in Washington who believe that Australia will serve as a key contributor to the Pentagon's future AirSea Battle plans against China," as reported by Wendell Minnick on May 05, 2013.

(c) 3rd False Assumption: Enough Military Support

And the third false assumption behind America's "Pivot to Asia" foreign policy is that the U.S. enjoys its military dominance in a way that China cannot match. However, on the military side, this new foreign policy is historically ill-timing, due to three major problems.

The first major military problem is that the U.S. defense experts have time and again misread and underestimated the Chinese military. In an article titled "Why U.S. Defense Experts often Misread China Military?" published in China Defense Mashup on December 01, 2012, there was a detailed analysis of historical examples of Chinese military development which got Western defense experts by surprise, like the development of aircraft carriers, stealth fighter aircrafts, carrier killers, and many others.

The second major military problem is that the Chinese military has advantages in its own backyard, as Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes recently wrote for The Diplomat on May 20, 2013: "For a variety of reasons-distance from the theater, the consequent need for forward bases and logistics fleets, expensive weaponry, salaries, and pensions-it costs the United States far more than China to stage a unit of combat power at a given place in maritime Asia," and a good illustration is that, "under the pivot to Asia, sixty percent of the U.S. Navy's 72-vessel submarine force now calls the Pacific Ocean home. But 18 of those 72 submarines are Ohio-class ballistic- or cruise-missile boats (14 SSBNs, 4 SSGNs) meant for shore bombardment. That leaves 54 attack submarines (SSNs) suitable for a tilt against the PLA Navy, sixty percent (32-33 submarines) of which will be in the Pacific. That may sound like a lot, but bear in mind that no unit is ready for service all of the time. Routine upkeep, extended overhauls and refueling, crew rest, and training all have claims on a vessel's schedule."

And the third major military problem is that the Chinese military is fast closing both the quantitative and the qualitative gaps with the U.S., as Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes recently wrote for The Diplomat on May 20, 2013: "For one thing, China's surface fleet is quickly catching up. Mariners are cementing core competencies while closing the capability gap....Now,...near-state-of-the-art systems on board some Chinese combatants outrange the anti-ship weaponry sported by U.S. aircraft....At the same time, the PLA Navy has armed its warships to the teeth with a family of Russian- and Chinese-made anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) boasting ranges of 120-130 nautical miles....Thus both the defensive and offensive sides of sea combat are stacking up in China's favor-progressively eroding the tactical advantages of U.S. naval power." And in a recent study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "in the next two decades, China will reach the U.S. in its military capabilities...," with the consequence of "causing U.S. hegemony to gradually weaken with increasing Chinese military capabilities" in East Asia, as reported by Lisa Karpova on April 15, 2013.

Surely, all these examples on the financial, political, and military false assumptions behind America's "Pivot to Asia" foreign policy are illustrative, not exhaustive. But the main point to remember here is that America's "Pivot to Asia" foreign policy in the early 21st century rests on some false assumptions, which therefore make the policy grounded more on wishful thinking than on feasible reality in the longer term, however much the Obama administration (together with the Clinton and Bush administrations) would like both those at home and those in the rest of the world to believe to the contrary.

Peter Baofu

Dr. Peter Baofu is the author of 61 books, all of which provide a visionary challenge to conventional wisdom in the social sciences, the formal sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities, with the aim for a unified theory of everything-together with numerous visions of the mind, nature, society, and culture in future history. For more info about his vision of the Asian century, see his book titled "Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order" (2007). This article was originally published in the Foreign Policy Journal online on June 10, 2013  

Is French Rafale better than Russian Su-35?

Rosneft's Chinese Oil Card

A major business deal in which Rosneft would deliver Russian oil to China for the next 25 years was announced at last week's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. President Vladimir Putin set the value of the deal at $60 billion, while Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin put it at $270 billion, apparently multiplying the $100-per-barrel figure by the total number of barrels to be delivered to China under the agreement. But the real question is: How advantageous is this contract for Russia over the long-term?

Rosneft has now become a powerful player in the energy market, acting as the de facto and autocratic "steward" of all oil in the country's eastern regions. At the same time, Rosneft is fulfilling the state's strategic goal of diversifying oil deliveries. Although Russian leaders and Rosneft managers have made assurances that oil deliveries to China will in no way affect deliveries to the West, Moscow is, in fact, playing the "Chinese energy card" against the West, and primarily against Europe.

Rosneft will help the Kremlin finally realize its dream of selling lots of oil to China and reduce its dependence on energy exports to the West.

The Kremlin is infatuated with the idea of finally being able to reduce the country's dependence on exports to the West. In 2009, it released a document titled "Russia's Energy Strategy Through 2030" that contained the following passage: "The share of liquid hydrocarbon deliveries to Europe should steadily decrease in favor of deliveries to the east. The share of the latter should increase from 6 percent to from 20 percent to 25 percent for oil and from 0 percent to 20 percent for gas. These deliveries should contribute to the development of Russia's eastern territories, reducing the number of people leaving that region."

Rosneft is doing exactly what Yukos wanted to do more than 10 years ago. Before Yukos was  swallowed up by Baikal Finance Group — that is, Rosneft —  in 2004, former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the first person to initiate serious talks with Beijing in the late 1990s regarding the export of oil through new pipelines to China.

The deal with China puts Rosneft in a position to fulfill its chosen mission to become a major global oil corporation. Rosneft used two large loans from China to help acquire Yukos after the company's auction in 2004. Now Rosneft will use part of the anticipated profits from oil shipments to China to pay down its enormous debt from the acquisition of TNK-BP in March.

The current contract calls for Russia to supply China with 365 million tons of oil over 25 years. But there is a possibility that the Russian budget, in the form of state-controlled Rosneft, will not earn as much money from this deal as today's jubilant news releases suggest. Russian oil will be delivered through the Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean pipeline, which was essentially built with Chinese money — a $25 billion loan that the Chinese Development Bank extended to Rosneft and Transneft, the state-controlled pipeline company. When the decree to build the pipeline was signed in 2004, Putin hailed it "breaking a window through to the East." Unofficially, the pipeline was meant to apply pressure on Europe. Construction of the pipeline to China has given impetus to the development of oil deposits in Eastern Siberia, the majority of which are now owned by Rosneft, that had remained untapped for lack of a client in the region.

What's more, China recently received oil from Russia, including deliveries made by a different pipeline built in the early 2000s. That oil was purchased at far below market price — estimated to be about $60 per barrel. Rosneft will now be hard-pressed to fulfill its obligations under the contract signed at the St. Petersburg forum. It must find money to increase the carrying capacity of the pipeline to China as well as enough oil to fill the pipeline, pitting Rosneft in a dispute with Transneft over who will pay those costs. It is very possible that the pipeline expansion will be accomplished at the expense of other oil companies, meaning that Russian consumers will end up footing the bill. To fulfill its export commitments to China, Rosneft has already stopped fulfilling its contractual oil supply obligations to the Omsk Oil Refinery that produces gasoline for Russia's domestic market.

China is in a very strong negotiating position and can obtain significant oil concessions from Russia. On one hand, Rosneft has already exceeded its strategic goals, exporting 15 million tons of oil to China of the more than 18 million tons it exported to the Asian-Pacific region in 2011. At the same time, however, China has been very careful to diversify its oil imports, buying only 10 percent of its oil from Russia, while 90 percent of its imports are from Africa, the Middle East and South America.

Since Russia entered China's oil market far too late, it won't be able to become a major player there. Nor will it be able to dictate its own terms. Of course, that does not stop Moscow from playing its "Chinese oil card" in its relations with the West — even if it does so at the cost of lost markets and profits

Read more: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/rosnefts-chinese-oil-card/482213.html#ixzz2XTe7juEO
The Moscow Times 

China's UAVs Could Challenge Western Dominance

Affordable and Ready for Export: The Aviation Industry Corporation of China-built Wing Loong may be the first effort by a Chinese company to break the West's grip on the international UAV market.http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130625/DEFREG03/306250021/1001/DEFSECT

TAIPEI — Folks wandering past the model of the Pterodactyl UAV at the Paris Air Show last week were probably unaware that this was China’s first unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) on display at an international defense exhibition.

The model, also known as the Wing Loong, could be the first step by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to break the West’s grip on the UAV market by providing affordable and reliable alternatives that also bypass US embargoes, sanctions and regulations. This is particularly the case for African and Middle Eastern countries to which the US is legally constrained from selling arms, or in the case of Israel, refuses to do so.

A report issued by Kimberly Hsu, policy analyst for military and security affairs at the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, “China’s Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Industry,” warns China’s inexpensive and multifunctional unmanned aerial systems are poised to steal the international UAV market away from the US and Israel.

Hsu’s report said that the US and Israel are “the top two UAV exporters worldwide and the only two countries confirmed to have exported strategic-level UAVs, are members of the two principal multilateral regimes that address UAV exports — the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Wassenaar Arrangement.” China is not a member of either and “in the absence of competition from more sophisticated US or Israeli alternatives, China could become a key proliferator to non-members of the MTCR or Wassenaar.”

Ian Easton, research fellow at the Washington-based Project 2049 Institute, said that if one looks forward, “technology trends suggest that the line between UAVs and long-range missiles [is] going to be increasingly blurred.” This raises concerns that China’s large-scale build-up of UAVs as a “major aspect of its reconnaissance-strike complex is going to further threaten already vulnerable air bases and other critical facilities in the region.”

Added to this concern is China’s history of “irresponsible export behavior,” particularly to some of the “most odious international actors on the planet,” including countries that threaten US security interests.

In the past, China has successfully produced and fielded a wide variety of tactical UAVs that operate at low to medium altitudes and in short to medium ranges. According to Hsu, tactical UAV systems constitute about 93 percent of Chinese UAV projects. The rest are devoted to strategic-level systems and UCAVs. However, this is expected to change.

“In the long term, China’s continued interest and progression in strategic-level UAVs appear poised to position China as a leader in the high-end UAV market,” Hsu wrote.

The UCAV model on display at Paris follows the static display of an operational platform at the 2012 China Airshow in Zhuhai. Defense News attended the show and acquired AVIC brochures that indicated it had air-to-ground attack configurations, including “ground target designation” and “ground moving target indication” capabilities.

Maximum payload was only 440 pounds. The Pterodactyl at Zhuhai was exhibited along with four weapons: BA-7 air-to-ground missile, YZ-212 laser-guided bomb, YZ-102A anti-personnel bomb and 50-kilogram LS-6 miniature guided bomb.

One aerospace expert cautions not to be fooled by many of the UAV and UCAV programs China displays at air shows. The Pterodactyl is an impressive platform, “but the extent of Beijing’s overall progress remains unclear, as does the level of sophistication and integration,” said Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

He argues that in the UAV arena, the airframe can often be the least challenging element of the overall system, and often times, due to transparency problems with Chinese authorities, photographs and models of China’s UAVs are often the only information available to outside experts.

However, Easton is convinced that China is poised to become a major proliferator of UAVs. “China is developing advanced unmanned systems, including UAVs for strategic ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and precision-strike miss­ions, under conditions that virtually guarantee that they will have an export advantage over other nations.”

As Hsu points out in her report, one reason China’s UAVs are cheap is that many are developed not by industry but by academic institutions. The multirole, medium-altitude, long-endurance BZK-005, now in service with the Chinese military, was developed by Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The Northwest Polytechnical University, also known as Xi’an ASN Technology Group, is the “most prominent and prolific organization focusing on domestic UAV research and development” and holds about 90 percent of the domestic Chinese UAV market.

“Thus far, it has delivered over 1,500 UAVs” to the Chinese military, Hsu’s report said.

June 26, 2013

Syria: The Faces Behind The Terror

America's efforts to aid the opposition and undermine Assad were run through a foundation operated byAmar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF). Abdulhamid was a visiting Fellow at the Saban Center (2004-2006) before moving on to the Neocon-run National Defense of Democracies. 
by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich
In her extraordinarily bold and direct speech addressed to the Irish Parliament, Clare Daly (TD, Dublin North) called Obama a "war criminal" and "hypocrite of the century".  

In describing the fawned reception of Obama in Ireland akin to pimping and prostituting of that nation,  Ms. Daly hit the nail on the head. Sadly, America dwarfs Ireland and elsewhere in the undignified category of prostitution – the 29 standing ovations from Congress in May 2011 for war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu attests to this tragic fact.
While Daly was quite right in censuring Obama for his criminal policies, including aiding terrorists in Syria, it is worthwhile noting that Obama is merely a willing instrument; the  faces and factors behind his handlers and the policies merit greater scrutiny and exposure.  
Backing and arming the so-called Syrian opposition distracts from the threat posed by Israel and its expansionist agenda by internalizing the enemy in order to weaken the State.    As former Israeli Intelligence Chief, Amos Yaldin  told the audience at the  Israel Policy Forum in February 2013:  "And this military [Syrian], which is a huge threat to Israel, is now also weakening and, in a way, disintegrating.  We still have risk from Syria– a risk of being an AlQaeda country, a Somalia-type country — but from military point of view, each one of these are less dangerous than the Syrian regular army."

Perpetuating adversaries to kill each other is a time-tested tactic – one which was used during the bloody eight year Iran-Iraq war;  a war which according to Leon Wieseltier[i] was a  "distraction" when Israeli boots were on the ground in Southern Lebanon.   In that war,  the United States was providing arms and intelligence to both sides.    When asked what the logic was in aiding both sides in the bloody war, a former official replied: "You had to have been there"[ii].   But why Syria?

The Need for Water

The primary goal of the early Zionist leadership was to control and secure the region's waters.  At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Chaim Weizmann declared that 'it was of vital importance not only to secure all water resources feeding the country, but to control them at the sources – and the development of these waters became the primary aim of the Yishuv as a whole[iii].    This policy remained in place. As Israel's third Prime Minister Levi Eshkol put it, water was "the blood flowing through the arteries of the nation". 

Syrians stare terror in the face

As previously stated (HERE and HERE), the chaos we witness in Syria today has been in the making for years with the aid and backing of Israel-firsters in order to accommodate Israel's agenda – expansion and control of regional water supplies while weakening its adversary/ies.

Israel faced one of its worst droughts in 1990-91.  A second more serious drought in 1998, forced it to turn to water rich Turkey.  Turkey and Israel engaged in serious negotiations starting in May 2000 to import 50 billion cubic meters of fresh water from Turkey using tanker ships, but using tankers was not cost effective for the transport of water.  Alternate plans were suggested.

In September 2000,  the same year that young Bashar-al Assad succeeded his father as President of Syria, a strategy paper entitled "The Geopolitics of Water" by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) opined that "Since extensive water planning proposals will necessitate the establishment of pipelines and energy grids stretching across borders, a political and military structure that can ensure the safety and security of the carriers will be the prerequisite to effective water sharing" ….. "But an effective regional system would require political-military cooperation against Syria".

How to achieve this?

Israeli-Firsters to the rescue

 Media mogul Haim Saban became involved in politics in the mid 1990's with a view to support Israel.  Saban professes that his greatest concern is the "protection" of Israel.   At a conference in Israel, Saban described his method of influencing American politics : 'Make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets'. (Saban penned an opinion piece in The New York Times in support of President Obama in his 2012 re-election bid). 
It was no surprised therefore that in 2002, Saban pledged $13 million to start a research organization at the Brookings Institution called the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  Saban Center would play an important role in propping up Syrian opposition (as it did in fermenting unrest post-2009 Iran elections with their June 2009 publication titled: "Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Towards Iran"[1]).

In 2006,  Time Magazine revealed that that the US had been agitating, funding, and supporting "opposition" in Syria.  According to the Time,  the U.S.  was  "supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists" in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that "these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists."  

It is worthwhile mentioning here that America's support of the so-called  "opposition" which includes criminals, terrorists, and foreign fighters to effect regime change underscores America's stark hypocrisy.   According to 18 USC § 2385 – Advocating overthrow of Government (Cornell Law), advocating the overthrow of the government, 'organizing or help or attempt to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of the government of the United States or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence' bears serious consequences including fines and prison sentence of up to 20 years.

What is most revealing about the abovementioned Time Magazine piece of 2006 is that America's efforts to aid the opposition and undermine Assad were run through a foundation operated by Amar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF).   Abdulhamid was a visiting Fellow at the Saban Center (2004-2006) before moving on to the Neocon-run National Defense of Democracies.
When in  2008, Israel-firster Dennis Ross met with the "opposition" to discuss "Syria in Transition", Saban's fellow – Amar Abdullhamid  was present.   In February 2009, Dennis Ross joined the Obama Administration team.  In April  2009, the US funded, London-based Baraada TV started its anti-Assad propaganda into Syria (The epicenter of the uprisings' was Baraada over water distribution).  Baraada  TV's  chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile groupMovement for Justice and Development headed by Anas al-Abdah who was in attendance at the 2008 meeting with Dennis Ross. 
It came as no surprise that John McCain who was a member of the  Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) formed to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, and a cheerleader for the Libya intervention, the Egyptian opposition to Mubarak, for bombing Iran, and so on…..visited Syrian "opposition" (via Turkey) in order to encourage more bloodshed.  And expectedly, he was de-briefed — not at the White House, but at the Saban Center! 
Soon after McCain's presentation at the Saban Center, the White House disputed UN's account and claimed that that Syria had crossed the 'red line' and used chemical weapons.
It is not the intention of this article to exclude the plethora of other individuals, think tanks, forums, and media pundits who have institutionalized Israel's policies and promoted them as 'America's  interests'; these are too numerous to mention here.   However, a notable other Israel supporter must be named.
The Evangelical Factor

One of the most successful endeavors of propaganda in support of Zionist Israel has been the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian movement. (CUFI)

While various groups in Washington perpetuate and support Israel's aggressive and expansionist policies — at a cost to America, none have the zeal and the zest of the Evangelicals who support Israel to death.   According to the dispensational model, a time of turmoil lies ahead, but believers will be "raptured" away before it begins. This period of tribulation will culminate in the final battle at Armageddon, a valley northwest of Jerusalem. 
The close association between American evangelicals and Israel has been a clear goal of Israeli politicians, especially those in the Likud party. According to Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum of AJC, "the evangelical community is the largest and fastest-growing bloc of pro-Jewish sentiment in this country"[iv].   Israel and Jewish  organizations continue to  rely on the support of Evangelicals to justify Israel's occupation of Arab land even as  Christian Zionists zest for evangelizing Jews remains a point of tension.  

For example, within days of the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon (with a green light from Reagan), full-page ads appeared in leading papers requesting Evangelical support for the invasion[v].  In 1998, when Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, he met with Jerry Falwell and numerous fundamentalist Christians before meeting with President Clinton.  Similarly, as recently as April 2013, Pat Robertson warned that brokering  peace between Israel and Palestine would bring  punishment on America. 
It has been alleged that funds raised in America by right wing Christians was funneled to West Bank settlements.  The mayor of Ariel on the West Bank had estimated that two thirds of all Jewish settlements were funded by Christian Zionists.[vi]

Building for Armageddon?

While Evangelicals (not all) are rupture-ready and encourage Israel's expansionist agenda, Israeli politicians are not yet Armageddon-ready; at least, not yet.

In March 2013, Business Inside revealed that the United States is spending hundreds of millions of dollars building bunkers in Israel due to be completed 900 days from February 13, 2013.     The project called Site 911"will have five levels buried underground and six additional outbuildings on the above grounds, within the perimeter. At about 127,000 square feet, the first three floors will house classrooms, an auditorium, and a laboratory — all wedged behind shock resistant doors — with radiation protection and massive security.  Only one gate will allow workers entrance and exit during the project and that will be guarded by only Israelis".

Each door of the facility will have a detailed description of the mezuzahs written in "in-erasable ink".
This should be heartwarming news to Americans whose taxes are spent on such projects while the bridges at home are crumbling.

The future

The political establishment and the media have pimped out the nation.  The list of conflicts awaiting us is long and bloody.  Syria will not be the last conflict.   This has been a brief and incomplete overview of what drives our nation, and where we are headed, the handlers and the willing instruments (in the words of Clare Daly, pimps and prostitutes).  We continue to sink our head in sand and hope for a hero – for 'something to happen'.   There is only one hope for the future, and the only one power that can alter this destructive path:   "We, The People".

Also see : Why We Must Change The Narrative On Syria

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Master's in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg for Communication. She is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on U.S. foreign policy and the role of lobby groups in influencing US foreign policy.

[1] Chapter 6 reads: "The United States could play multiple roles in facilitating a revolution. By funding and helping organize domestic rivals of the regime, the United States could create an alternative leadership to seize power. As Raymond Tanter of the Iran Policy Committee argues, students and other groups "need covert backing for their demonstrations. They need fax machines. They need Internet access, funds to duplicate materials, and funds to keep vigilantes from beating them up." Beyond this, US-backed media outlets could highlight regime shortcomings and make otherwise obscure critics more prominent. The United States already supports Persian language satellite television (Voice of America Persian) and radio (Radio Farda) that bring unfiltered news to Iranians (in recent years, these have taken the lion's share of overt US funding for promoting democracy in Iran). US economic pressure (and perhaps military pressure as well) can discredit the regime, making the population hungry for a rival leadership……"

[i] Wieseltier, Leon, "Israel meets Iran in Lebanon; The Wrong War", The New Republic, Apr 8, 1985
[ii] Stephen R. Shalom, The United States and Iran-Iraq War,   citing Stephen Engelberg, "Iran and Iraq Got 'Doctored Data, U.S. Officials Say," New York Times, 12 Jan. 1987, pp. A1, A6. 
[iii] Jan Selby, "Water, Power & Politics in the Middle East; The Other Israeli-Palestinian Conflict", Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
[iv] Donald Wagner,  "Evangelicals and Israel: Theological roots of a political alliance", The Christian Century, Nov. 4, 1998).
[v] Donald Wagner,  "Evangelicals and Israel: Theological roots of a political alliance",  ibid
[vi] Colin Shindler, "Likud and the Christian Dispensationalists: A Symbiotic Relationship", Israeli Studies, March 31, 2000

Appadi Podu - Rocking Tamil song

June 23, 2013

Brazil Burning: The Story of an Illusion Gone Sour

By Pepe Escobar

June 21, 2013 "Information Clearing House - Protests in Brazil indicate what goes way, way beyond a cheap bus fare.

When, in late 2010, Dilma Rousseff was elected President after eight years of the impossibly popular Lula, a national narrative was already ingrained, stressing that Brazil was not the "country of the future" anymore; the future had arrived, and this was a global power in the making.

This was a country on overdrive – from securing the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics to a more imposing role as part of the BRICS group of emerging powers.

Not unlike China, Brazil was breathlessly exploiting natural resources – from its hinterland to parts of Africa – while betting heavily on large agribusiness mostly supplying, you guess it, China. 

But above all Brazil fascinated the world by incarnating this political UFO; a benign, inclusive giant, on top of it benefitting from a lavish accumulation of soft power (music, football, beautiful beaches, beautiful women, endless partying). 

The country was finally enjoying the benefits of a quarter of a century of participative democracy – and self-satisfied that for the past ten years Lula's extensive social inclusion policies had lifted arguably 40 million Brazilians to middle class status. Racial discrimination at least had been tackled, with instances of the Brazilian version of affirmative action.

Yet this breakneck capitalist dream masked serious cracks. Locally there may be euphoria for becoming the sixth or seventh world economy, but still social exclusion was far from gone. Brazil remained one the most (deadly) unequal nations in the world, peppered with retrograde landowning oligarchies and some of the most rapacious, arrogant and ignorant elites on the planet – inevitable by-products of ghastly Portuguese colonialism.

Students take part in a demonstration at Praca da Se, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 18, 2013 (AFP Photo / Miguel Schincariol)
And then, once again, corruption raised its Hydra-like head. Here's a first parallel with Turkey. In Brazil as in Turkey, participative democracy was co-opted, ignored or forcefully diluted among an orgy of "mega-projects" generating dubious profits for a select few. In Turkey it revolves around the ruling party AKP's collusion with business interests in the "redevelopment" of Istanbul; in Brazil around public funds for the hosting of the World Cup and the Olympics. 
The new capitalist dream could not mask that the quality of life in Brazil's big cities seemed to be on a downward spiral; and that racism – especially in the police – never went away while the demonization of peasant and Native Brazilian leaders was rampant; after all they were obstructing the way of powerful agribusiness interests and the "mega-projects"craze. 
What can a poor boy do

There's no Turkey Spring – as there's no Brazilian Spring. This isn't Tunisia and Egypt. Both Turkey and Brazil are democracies – although Prime Minister Erdogan has clearly embarked on a polarizing strategy and an authoritarian drive. What links Turkey and Brazil is that irreversible pent-up resentment against institutional politics (and corruption) may be catalyzed by a relatively minor event. 
In Turkey it was the destruction of Gezi park; in Brazil the ten-cent hike in public bus fares was the proverbial straw that broke the (white) elephant's back. In both cases the institutional response was tear gas and rubber bullets. In Turkey the popular backlash spread to a few cities. In Brazil it went nationwide. 
This goes way, way beyond a cheap bus ride - although the public transport scene in Brazil's big cities would star in Dante's ninth circle of hell. A manual worker, a student, a maid usually spend up to four hours a day back-and-forth in appalling conditions. And these are private transport rackets controlled by a small group of businessmen embedded with local politicians, who they obviously own.  

Students protest in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 18, 2013 (AFP Photo / Daniel Guimaraes)
Arguably the nationwide, mostly peaceful protests have scored a victory – as nine cities have decided to cancel the bus fare hike. But that's just the beginning.
The mantra is true; Brazilians pay developed world taxes and in return get sub-Saharan Africa quality of service (no offense to Africa). The notion of "value for money" is non-existent. It gets even worse as the economic miracle is over. That magical "growth" was less than 1% in 2012, and only 0.6% in the first quarter of 2013. The immensely bloated state bureaucracy, the immensely appalling public infrastructure, virtually no investment in education as teachers barely get paid $300 a month, non-stop political corruption scandals, not to mention as many homicides a year as narco-purgatory Mexico – none of this is going away by magic.
Football passion apart – and this is a nation where everyone is either an expert footballer or an experienced coach – the vast majority of the population is very much aware the current Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup are monster FIFA rackets. As a columnist for the Brazilian arm of ESPN has coined it, "the Cup is theirs, but we pay the bills."
Public opinion is very much aware the Feds played hardball to get the "mega-events" to Brazil and then promised rivers of "social" benefits in terms of services and urban development. None of that happened. Thus the collective feeling that"we've been robbed" – all over again, as anyone with a digital made in China calculator can compare this multi-billion dollar orgy of public funds for FIFA with pathetically little investment in health, education, transportation and social welfare. A banner in the Sao Paulo protests said it all; "Your son is ill? Take him to the arena."

A demonstrator holds a Brazilian national flag during a protest turned violent, in downtown Rio de Janeiro on June 17, 2013 (AFP Photo / Christophe Simon)
Remember "Standing Man"

The neo-liberal gospel preached by the Washington consensus only values economic "growth" measured in GDP numbers. This is immensely misleading; it does not take into account everything from rising expectations for more participative democracy to abysmal inequality levels, as well as the despair of those trying to just survive (as in the orgy of expanded credit in Brazil leaving people to pay annual interest rates of over 200% on their credit cards).
So it takes a few uprooted trees in Istanbul and a more expensive shitty bus ride in Sao Paulo to hurl citizens of the"emerging markets" into the streets. No wonder the Brazilian protests left politicians - and "analysts" - perplexed and speechless. After all, once again this was people power – fueled by social media - against the 1%, not that dissimilar from protests in Spain, Portugal and Greece. 
Unlike Erdogan in Turkey – who branded Twitter "a menace" and wants to criminalize social networking - to her credit Rousseff seems to have listened to the digital (and street) noise, saying on Tuesday that Brazil "woke up stronger"because of the protests.
The Brazilian protests are horizontal. Non-partisan; beyond party politics. No clear leaders. It's a sort of Occupy Brazil – with a cross-section of high-school and college students, poor workers who struggle to pay their bus fare, vast swathes of the tax-swamped middle class who cannot afford private health insurance, even homeless people, who after all already live in the streets. Essentially, they want more democracy, less corruption, and to be respected as citizens, getting at least some value for their money in terms of public services. 
The die is cast. Once again, it's people power vs. institutional politics. Remember "Standing Man" in Taksim Square. The time to take a stand is now.
Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.
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