NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the military alliance is concerned about the financial turmoil in Greece, which is a member of the 28-nation group.Stoltenberg called Greece "a staunch ally and a committed ally" on Thursday. He said the Greek government stands by its "commitments in the alliance. This good for Greece and good for NATO."Speaking at a press conference in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, Stoltenberg said NATO was following European Union efforts "very closely" and that a solution to Greece's economic problems would be good for Greece, the EU and NATO.One of the issues that divided Greece and its creditors before talks broke off last week was defense spending. The Greek government had offered to cut 200 million euros ($222 million) annually from its defense budget but lenders demanded twice that amount.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Daily Times- Pakistan
"A greater Kurdistan nation state taken from the four countries where Kurds are minorities is improbable, although greater autonomy is growing within Turkey and Syria if not Iran, and an independent Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming more likely by the day. Kurds who are scoring significant victories over Islamic State (IS) are by far the most effective force fighting IS in both Iraq and Syria. However, they appear intent on keeping all the ground they have taken from the notorious terrorist group for their own national project, endangering the larger cause of keeping these two battered nation states in one piece and raising the prospect of another war patiently waiting at the conclusion of the current one. There is no doubt that the Kurds are the mightiest ground force against IS today. The recent run of victories in Syria illustrates the Kurds’ battlefield capabilities. Six months after winning in Kobani, the Turkish border town where as many as 1,000 IS fighters died, Syrian Kurd fighters took another border town, Tel Abyad, creating a corridor on Syria’s northern border and, far more importantly, cutting off the main supply line to Raqqah, IS’s capital 60 miles due south. But all these efforts of the Kurds are also driven by the desire of achieving nationhood.Reshaping the Middle East.
The Kurds fight so well largely because, in addition to trying to defeat an extremist enemy, they are fighting for something else: a country of their own. The future Kurdistan may be severely buffeted across Arab portions of the Middle East. Neither Syria nor Iraq have effective and powerful central governments, (thanks to NATO/Israel) which have in the past crushed Kurdish nationalist movements. Kurds smell the great opportunity for building an independent Kurdistan now. The Kurds, despite their large numbers — about 30 million worldwide — as well as their shared language, culture and identity, have never had a nation and were divided in four countries in the Sykes-Picot Agreement created after World War I by the UK and France. However, they are getting closer to one nation with every victory in the battlefield. In Iraq, Kurdish forces armed by both Iran and the US have taken perhaps 10,000 square miles from IS since last fall. They also snapped up the disputed city of Kirkuk, rich in oil and cultural significance to the Kurds and Arabs alike, and are preventing Arabs from returning to some villages. Houses are marked “Reserved for Kurds,” and Kurdish checkpoints declare, “No Arabs allowed”.
These acts on the ground are clearly intended to create “facts on the ground”, a political reality that Kurdish leaders will point to as they navigate their relationship with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, to which they are currently bound by oil-revenue contracts, if little else. As valiantly as the Kurds have fought, losing an estimated 1,000 men and women over the last year against IS, they see the conflict in terms of national liberation. Massoud Barzani, who leads the Kurdistan regional government, has repeatedly said Kurds will not fight for the rest of Iraq or for the idea of it. Iraqi Kurds are using US airstrikes and the political vacuum in northern Iraq not only to push back IS but also to recapture disputed territories and oil fields. The Kurds say they will back up Iraqi forces seeking to retake Mosul but will not be the spearhead. Their aim is defensive: to secure their borders with the rest of Iraq, especially those they have expanded since the summer but not to help Baghdad restore the status quo ante.
A future independent Kurdish state faces many political, economic and administrative challenges but its success could be a game changer in the Middle East. However, it is a hard reality as well that the west has not changed its official position towards Iraq, Syria and Turkey and still wants the borders to remain intact, which goes against Kurdish aspirations for independence. So, the Kurdish leadership has to negotiate its relations with the west in the coming time. The Kurds cannot be ignored in the present scenario of domestic upheaval. Political changes throughout the region have made Kurds critical players on many fronts in the Middle East. Kurds have a long history of marginalisation and persecution by many regimes and, particularly in Iraq and Turkey, have repeatedly risen up to seek greater autonomy or complete independence. Now they feel they are getting closer to their ultimate dream of an independent Kurdish state. Kurdish nationalist aspirations, which are at a high at this point in time, could reshape the Middle East"
Interesting. Because the news below directly contradicts much of the positive reporting I had read earlier this morning- About a possible deal and rising stockmarkets
New Greek proposals fall short: EU
Greece sent a new proposal for budget cuts and policy overhauls as part of a request for a new bailout, but it falls short of the demands of the country’s creditors, European officials said Wednesday.
In the new letter sent to the country’s lenders late Tuesday night, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proposes changes on several key parts of measures at the center of a five-month standoff between the two sides over funding Greece desperately needs.
Those include a later start of pension overhauls and exceptions on sales-taxes for certain Greek islands, measures that lenders already rejected when talks broke down last week.
“If Friday’s proposals (from creditors) are the baseline, these measures would significantly increase (the) fiscal gap,” said one official. “And lots of clarifications would be needed on other aspects,” the official added.
A second official said that the proposals from Tsipras are a weakening of the measures that have been discussed and would not be well received by the three institutions that oversee eurozone bailouts — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A third official echoed that assessment.
A senior Greek government official said that the Greek government was not planning to send additional proposals with more concessions on Wednesday.
New Greek proposals fall short: EU
"If Friday's proposals (from creditors) are the baseline, these measures would significantly increase (the) fiscal gap," said one official. "And lots of clarifications would be needed on other aspects," the official added. A second official said that the proposals from Mr Tsipras are a weakening of the measures that have been discussed and would not be well received by the three institutions that oversee eurozone bailouts -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A third official echoed that assessment.A senior Greek government official said that the Greek government was not planning to send additional proposals with more concessions on Wednesday.The letter is the latest in a flurry of drama over the bailout. In the last week, Greece has called a referendum on demands made by creditors and closed its banks to stop a flow of money out of the country. On Tuesday, it became the first developed country to default on the IMF, as the rescue program that has sustained it for five years expired Germany, which has maintained a hard line, views the latest offer as insufficient to resume bailout talks, according to people familiar with the thinking in Berlin. This week's turmoil has changed the circumstances too much, and bailout talks can no longer simply be resumed, they say"
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The plan as laid out by Brookings included this option: Brookings: Deconstructing Syria-Order from Chaos
The latest from Financial Times-
"It could be undertaken in the safest zones first—perhaps in Kurdish areas, for example, and then near the Jordanian border in conjunction with Jordanian forces.
The latest from Financial Times-
Jordan is preparing to set up a security zone in southern Syria to prevent a jihadi victory in the area, carving out the first humanitarian “buffer zone” for rebels and refugees in four years of civil war.
The main aim of the operation will be to create a safe area on Jordan’s border, stretching across the southern Syrian provinces of Deraa and Suwayda, and including the city of Deraa, where the Syrian uprising began in 2011, according to people familiar with the plans.
Though the idea of creating a buffer area has long been circulating among Syria’s neighbours, until now it has received little serious attention.
But Jordan’s hand is being forced by the shifting military situation inside Syria, and concerns that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group known as Isis, could grab territory on its border and threaten the Hashemite state. Jordan has also been involved in the US training of non-jihadi rebels, which it and western governments see as the only moderate alternative to the jihadis.
Assad regime forces are currently under pressure in the city of Deraa, and are likely to withdraw in the coming days before the narrow corridor they control, which currently connects the city to Damascus, is cut off.
The fall of the historic city of Palmyra to Isis has also led to a significant rethinking of the anti-Isis coalition’s plans in regard to Syria. Jihadis are now uncomfortably close to the Jordanian border and are using the area as a crossing point into Iraq. The group has been manoeuvring large military convoys through the area, according to intelligence officials.
People familiar with the situation say that Jordan is also considering a militarised zone that will segregate the buffer area from Syrian regime forces to the North. It will be manned by existing fighters in the anti-Assad rebel southern brigades, reinforced with a brigade of troops currently being trained in Jordan. The Jordanian military — one of the most capable in the Middle East — will provide support.
The plans are backed by key members of the international coalition against Isis, who are expected to provide behind-the-lines military support and advice but it remains unclear whether Washington will sanction the move: many in the Obama administration are hesitant about backing a ground operation in Syria.So, in fact, this will be a NO FLY ZONE- unofficialy
Although an official no-fly zone is unlikely to be established in support of the Jordanian operation, warnings could be sent to the Assad regime that any attempt to strike at the area by air would be met with a response.
It is also unclear how much co-ordination has so far taken place to prepare southern Syria’s existing brigades of rebel fighters for the operation: senior figures in the southern brigades contacted by the FT said they were unaware of the plans. While Jordanian intervention is likely to be welcomed in Deraa, there is also a question over whether forces backed by Amman will be so readily supported in neighbouring Suwayda province, where Druze tribes have an uneasy relationship with anti-Assad forces.
Deconstruct- Also to take or tear apart- as opposed to construct which is to build-verb
- analyze (a text or a linguistic or conceptual system) by deconstruction, typically in order to expose its hidden internal assumptions and contradictions and subvert its apparent significance or unity.
Therefore: Brookings is putting forth the method of destroying Syria. It's very 'humanitarian' of course (completely facetious) The one lone difference is the US is going to publicly acknowledge this plan as "the plan for Syria"
Highlighting interesting bits:
While the Obama administration’s strategy for Iraq requires substantial upgrading in light of recent Islamic State (or ISIL) successes in and around Ramadi in particular, the plan for Syria is in much worse shape. The peace process is dead. (Was there ever a real peace process? ) So are a quarter million Syrians, with another 12 million displaced. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey has just testified to Congress that only some 150 moderate opposition fighters are currently receiving training from the U.S. Department of Defense—at a time when ISIL’s forces may number 30,000Lone Wolf terror attacks? (eyes roll)
(KurdIShIS) and President Bashar al-Assad’s army several tens of thousands as well. Meanwhile, ISIL continues to threaten the region and to inspire lone-wolf terrorist attacks around the globe.
What to do? Counterintuitively, at this stage, the only realistic path forward may be a plan that in effect deconstructs Syria. ( Counterintuitively? not different then what I had expected from the NATO global tyranny/ but definitely NOT what seems right/ natural or correct) A comprehensive, national-level solution is too hard even to specify at this stage, much less effect. Instead, the international community should work to create pockets with more viable security and governance within Syria over time. With initial footholds in place, the strategy could develop further in a type of “ink-spot” campaign that eventually sought to join the various local initiatives into a broader and more integrated effort.Safe, autonomous zones (aka balkanization always the plan)
This approach builds on current U.S. strategy, but with a much less glaring mismatch between means and ends. Requiring ideological purity of opposition fighters would no longer be quite as high of a bar. Training them in the safety of Turkey, Jordan, and other friendly countries would still be the first step, but not a sufficient one.
The idea would be to help moderate elements establish reliable safe zones within Syria once they were able. American, as well as Saudi and Turkish and British and Jordanian and other Arab forces would act in support, not only from the air but eventually on the ground via special forces. The approach would benefit from Syria’s open desert terrain which could allow creation of buffer zones that could be monitored for possible signs of enemy attack. Western forces themselves would remain in more secure positions in general—within the safe zones but back from the front lines—at least until the reliability of such defenses, and also local allied forces, made it practical to deploy and live in more forward locations.
Creation of these sanctuaries would produce autonomous zones that would never again have to face the prospect of rule by either Assad or ISIL. They would also represent areas where humanitarian relief could be supplied, schools reopened, and larger opposition fighting forces recruited, trained, and based. U.N. agencies and NGOs would help to the extent possible; regardless, relief could certainly be provided far more effectively than is the case today.
The end-game for these zones would not have to be determined in advance. The interim goal might be a confederal Syria, with several highly autonomous zones and a modest (eventual) national government. The confederation would likely require support from an international peacekeeping force, if this arrangement could ever be formalized by accord. But in the short term, the ambitions would be lower—to make these zones defensible and governable, to help provide relief for populations within them, and to train and equip more recruits so that the zones could be stabilized and then gradually expanded.Changing the approach (no change, other then a public acknowledgment by the US of having a plan)
This plan would differ from current strategy in three main ways. First, the idea would be plainly stated as the avowed goal of the United States. This could reduce disagreements with other sponsors of the insurgency, and many of the insurgents themselves, since American policy would be based on a more realistic squaring of means with ends. It would also help dispel the lurking suspicion that Washington was content to tolerate the Assad government now as the lesser of two evils. Among other benefits, this could reduce frictions in America’s relationships with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and several other key regional countries.Vetting insurgents will not change- which means KurdIShIS will still be morphing in and out of it's good guy/bad guy drama- "collaboration with extremists will not be a scarlet letter
Second, Syrian insurgents would be vetted on a somewhat different set of criteria. While extremist ideologies would still be seen as disqualifying, past collaboration with extremist elements of the insurgency would not itself be viewed as a scarlet letter—since some of that collaboration could have been a necessary means of surviving on Syria’s complex and challenging battlefield. Third, multilateral support teams, grounded in special forces detachments and air-defense capabilities as needed, would be prepared for deployment into parts of Syria once opposition elements were able to seize and reliably hold strong points.Safest zones perhaps in the ethnically cleansed by the Kurds areas? Why I could never have seen that coming....Facetious again- Saw that one coming for some time now.
This last part would of course be the most challenging, and the actual deployment of any such teams the most fraught. It need not be rushed. It could be undertaken in the safest zones first—perhaps in Kurdish areas, for example, and then near the Jordanian border in conjunction with Jordanian forces. But it’s a necessary part of the effort. Beginning the planning immediately would not only help prove American seriousness about the overall campaign plan, but also allow for coordination with humanitarian and development groups.All this talk of humanitarian concern? Except when the Kurds kill people, call in bombing "all clears" and burn villages to displace. There is no concern for humans then. Why?
The plan would be directed not only against ISIL but in part against Assad as well. In a bow to reality, however, it would not explicitly seek to overthrow him, so much as deny him control of territory that he might still aspire to govern again. The autonomous zones would be liberated with the clear understanding that there was no going back to rule by Assad or a successor. In any case, Assad would not be a military target under this concept, but areas he currently controls (and cruelly bombs) would be. And if Assad delayed too long in accepting a deal for exile, he could inevitably face direct dangers to his rule and even his person.And if Assad doesn't go along with a deal for exile, he will be killed- Wow!
Don’t kick the can
This type of plan may be the only realistic path forward, recognizing battlefield realities, the key interests of various regional actors, and the actual options we have before us. Moreover, while it is not without risks for the United States, the scale of military involvement envisioned is not substantially greater than what we have been doing the last year or so in Afghanistan. President Obama can stay true to his most important pledges—to downsize America’s role in the wars of the Middle East, while doing everything in his power to protect the country from further terrorist attack—with such an approach. He should not view Syria as a problem to hand to his successor, but rather a crisis that demands his attention and a new strategy now.
Past 24 hours:
Monday, June 29, 2015
Is this an indicator of what's to come?
Another thought? Did Fitch downgrade any other banks? The German banks?
Is this an indicator of what's to come?
Another thought? Did Fitch downgrade any other banks? The German banks?
WASHINGTON: Fitch cut its ratings on four major Greek banks to "restricted default" on Monday after the government ordered commercial banks closed for a week and established capital controls.
Fitch said the capital controls, including restrictions on withdrawals by customers, amounted to a restricted default "because the deposit restrictions affect a material part of the banks' senior obligations."
The four banks hit by the downgrade, which were all already rated as CCC or "highly speculative", were National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank.
|The four banks hit by the downgrade, which were all already rated as CCC or "highly speculative", were National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank.|
"The ratings reflect exceptionally high levels of credit risk, because of the imposition of capital controls as well as poor recovery prospects in the event of the default on senior debt obligations," Fitch said.
Fitch meanwhile downgraded the banks' "viability ratings" -- which weigh the banks' intrinsic creditworthiness -- to a bottom-level "f" or "fail".
The downgrade "reflects Fitch's view that these banks have failed and would have defaulted had capital controls not been imposed," because the banks are dependent on the European Central Bank for liquidity and the ECB decided on Sunday not to increase that liquidity due to the Greek government's action.
Europe playing hardball?
Good cop/ bad cop
Is Juncker off his meds? Or is he on too many meds?
Good cop/ bad cop
Is Juncker off his meds? Or is he on too many meds?
Berlin, Paris and Brussels made plain that the 5 July vote will mean either staying in the euro on their tough terms or returning to the drachma.
In what was arguably the biggest speech of his career, the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, appeared before a packed press hall in Brussels against a giant backdrop of the Greek and EU flags.
He was impassioned, bitter and disingenuous in appealing to the Greek people to vote yes to the euro and his bailout terms, arguing that he and the creditors – rather than the Syriza government – had the best interests of Greeks at heart.
Tsipras had lied to his people, deceived and betrayed Europe’s negotiators and distorted the bailout terms that were shredded when the negotiations collapsed and the referendum was called, he said.
“I feel betrayed. The Greek people are very close to my heart. I know their hardship … they have to know the truth,” he said.
“I’d like to ask the Greek people to vote yes … no would mean that Greece is saying no to Europe.”
In a country where an estimated 11,000 people have killed themselves during the hardship wrought by austerity, Juncker offered unfortunate advice. “I say to the Greeks, don’t commit suicide because you’re afraid of dying,” he said.Is Juncker off his rocker? Seriously?
Juncker’s extraordinary performance sounded and looked as if he were already mourning the passing of a Europe to which he has dedicated his long political career. His 45-minute speech was both proprietorial and poignant about his vision, which seems to be giving way to a rawer and rowdier place.
That was clear from the trenchant remarks of Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s vice-chancellor and the head of the country’s Social Democratic party. He coupled the Greek situation with last week’s foul tempers over immigration and said that Europe faces its worst crisis since the EU’s founding treaty was signed in Rome in 1957.
Gabriel was the first leading European politician to voice what many think and say privately about Tsipras – that the Greek leader represents a threat to the European order, that his radicalism is directed at the politics of mainstream Europe and that he wants to force everyone else to rewrite the rules underpinning the single currency.
The unspoken message was that Tsipras is a dangerous man on a mission who has to be stopped.
Standing alongside his boss, Angela Merkel, as if to send a joint nonpartisan national signal from Germany, Gabriel said that if the Greek people vote no on Sunday, they would be voting “against remaining in the euro”.
Unlike Juncker and Hollande, who pleaded with the Greek people to reject Tsipras’s urging of a no vote, the German leaders sounded calmly resigned to the rupture.
For Merkel, it was clear that the single currency’s rulebook was much more important than Greece. In this colossal battle of wills, Tsipras could not be allowed to prevail.