Small LinkSwarm this time.
Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category
So I haven’t done a Greek update in a while, since after Greece caved into the inevitable (Newsflash: broke people generally do not have leverage over those lending them money), it was all over but the shouting. Now that Greece and its creditors supposedly have a third bailout deal inked, and Greece settles into its clearly defined misery, let’s take a look at exceptionally bankrupt Greece these days, shall we?
This piece in Foreign Policy Journal is certainly eye-opening:
In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.” [Lengthy discussion of the DIA memo begins at the 8:50 mark.]
Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:
Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.
The deeply puzzling thing about Obama’s Middle East policy is it’s sheer incoherence (except, of course, his unwavering dislike of Israel). His fixation on taking out Bashar Assad (a bad actor, to be sure, but not in the same league as the Iranian Mullahs who back Assad, and who Obama evidently has no qualms negotiating with) makes no strategic sense. In light of the above, he’s evidently funding the Islamic State in Syria, fighting it (in the most desultory manner possible) in Iraq, giving in to Iran on nuclear weapons, alienating allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, and has no discernible policy for a post-Morsi Egypt. Obama’s moves only make sense if he wants to promote a Sunni/Shia civil war, or as Obama’s personal fits of pique where he feels slighted. (Screw Syria for ignoring his red lines. Screw Israel for daring to reelect Netanyahu. Screw Iraq for Bush succeeding.)
The only certainty about Obama’s foreign policy is that future administrations will be dealing with the repercussions from his feckless, aimless foreign policy for decades to come.
(Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
So Turkey has evidently started bombing the Islamic State, but also started bombing the Kurds, our allies against the Islamic State (and Turkey’s restive minority).
But via Jihad Watch comes word that Turkey has secretly been doing deals with the Islamic State on the side as well.
In November, a former ISIS member told Newsweek that the group was essentially given free rein by Turkey’s army.
“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” the fighter said. “ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria.”
But as the alleged arrangements progressed, Turkey allowed the group to establish a major presence within the country — and created a huge problem for itself.
“The longer this has persisted, the more difficult it has become for the Turks to crack down [on ISIS] because there is the risk of a counter strike, of blowback,” Jonathan Schanzer, a former counterterrorism analyst for the US Treasury Department, explained to Business Insider in November.
“You have a lot of people now that are invested in the business of extremism in Turkey,” Schanzer added. “If you start to challenge that, it raises significant questions of whether” the militants, their benefactors, and other war profiteers would tolerate the crackdown.”
“War Nerd” Gary Brecher says not to be fooled by the Islamic State strikes Turkey is actually going after the Kurds, linking to a regional source that claims the overwhelming majority of the airstrikes were against the Kurdish PKK, not the Islamic State.
Nobody much likes the Kurds, especially Erdogan’s AK party. In fact, the AKP hates the Kurds so much that this shared hobby of Kurd-killing has been the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Turkish military and IS. IS fighters have always been able to move easily over the Turkish border, and there are persistent reports that Erdogan’s daughter herself is playing their Florence Nightingale, patching up those rapists’ boo-boos in one of the quasi-secret hospitals along the border.
The AKP’s position is simple: They hate the Kurds, period. Islamic State also hates the Kurds. So Erdogan has to force himself to mouth even the slightest objection to IS, whereas the spittle really flies when he starts ranting against the Kurdish PKK/YPG.
Given what we know of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government (they’re Islamist scumbags) and Turkey historically (they hate and fear the Kurds), Turkey bombing the Kurds while pretending to bomb the Islamic State seems the more likely scenario.
“The past two years have been the most violent and repressive in Egypt’s contemporary history.” True, but by and large the Egyptians themselves don’t seem to mind. Why?
Yet despite this bleak security outlook, Egypt is more politically stable than it’s been in years. Unlike the divided regimes that collapsed in the face of mass protests in January 2011 and June 2013, the Sisi regime is internally unified. And the various state institutions and civil groups that constitute the regime will likely remain tightly aligned for one basic reason: they view the Muslim Brotherhood as a significant threat to their respective interests and thus see the regime’s crackdown on the organization as essential to their own survival.
Lucky for Egypt (and the world) that Morsi and his Muslim Brothers were such idiots. They could have gotten a lot further Islamicising Egypt had they followed Erdogan’s incrementalist model…
The self-inflicted destruction of Greece has been accomplished, but they’re still going to be picking up the pieces for years, if not decades. And there’s no guarantee the heavy manners Germany and the troika are imposing will actually be enough to rescue it.
So, enjoy a random collection of Greek headlines, since I don’t quite have time to pen a piece on The Greater Meaning Of It All:
Many observers are wondering how the left-populist renegades of Greece’s Syriza party, which rose to power in January on the promise of delivering relief from austerity and renewed its mandate with a massive victory in the July 5 referendum, managed to negotiate a bailout deal on Monday that is substantially worse than what was available to Greece before Syriza took office.
That would be because they were idiots who lied to voters about what they could accomplish.
After six months of jerking around European negotiators, Greece’s far left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras finally reaped the fruits of his labors: caving in to austerity measures far worse than the ones Greek voters rejected a week ago in exchange for more loans.
The EU demanded real, demonstrable, non-fake, under-heavy-manners austerity from Greece, rather than the fake kind they were used to pretending to follow:
For those who missed today’s festivities in Brussels, here is the 30,000 foot summary: Europe has given Greece a “choice”: hand over sovereignty to
GermanyEurope or undergo a 5 year Grexit “time out”, which is a polite euphemism for get the hell out.
As noted earlier, here are the 12 conditions laid out as a result of the latest Eurogroup meeting, which are far more draconian than anything presented to Greece yet and which effectively require that Greece cede sovereignty to Europe, this time even without the implementation of a technocratic government.
- Streamlining VAT
- Broadening the tax base
- Sustainability of pension system
- Adopt a code of civil procedure
- Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT – the statistics office
- Full implementation of automatic spending cuts
- Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
- Privatize electricity transmission grid
- Take decisive action on non-performing loans
- Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
- De-Politicize the Greek administration
- Return of the Troika to Athens (the paper calls them the institutions… for now)
Greece must also hand over €50 billion in assets to an escrow fund it can’t control.
Just think: If Tsipras hadn’t been such an ass, Greece could have reached a far-less onerous deal to continue the farce another year or so, and probably before their banks started running out of money.
It seems that Yanis Varoufakis’ ideas about game theory don’t work when one side holds all the cards and the other is dead broke. Who knew?
I came across this comment from a Slashdot thread on programmers leaving Greece (usual online source caveats apply), and thought it was meaty enough to be worth excerpting and highlighting on its own:
Let me tell you what happens when you’re 100% legal and declare everything up to the last penny you get as a software developer. In 2012 I had 100,000 Euros income paid 86,000 Euros spent on taxes (income tax with surprisingly different brackets than last year, “temporary” property tax, “temporary special contribution” 4% on the total turnover, mandatory social security, 55% of your current income tax as downpayment for next year). The year before I made 74,000 Euros and paid “only” 50,000 or thereabouts. In return I got: no schools, no roads, no pension, more taxes, more family members depending on me to live. The more you work the less you make (unless you have an ever-shrinking business). Crazy? That’s the Greek tax brackets for you.
Meanwhile: I have to pay for my own hospital plan because in case I get sick I have to notify the public insurance carrier 15 days in advance of emergency surgery (no kidding!) or 3-4 months before booking an appointment with a doctor. I have to get an additional, expensive pension plan on top of the 350 Euros per month I am currently paying as mandatory social security because there will be no money when I’m 67 years old or have worked 40+ years to get the minimum pension of 700 Euros (nominal; actual payment after taxes and mandatory social security is around 480 Euros). I also need to set aside money to get the kids I’m planning on having to a private school because there are no teachers (not even substitutes) half of the time in the public schools.
If you are wondering why people tax evade you have to first ask the questions: 1. how much does the state take in taxes and 2. what does the state offer for the money it takes from its citizens? If the answers are “most of your money” and “not that much at all” respectively it doesn’t take a genius to see why you get an endemic tax evasion for free.
Anyway. After three years of battling the system I gave up and moved away. My last tax filing in Greece was 2014 for my income in 2013. I am owed a 13,000 Euro tax return since August 10th, 2014. Of course it’s NOT credited. And we’re talking about money I have paid as a tax downpayment to the state since August 2013. They hold my money hostage for 2 years and they won’t give it to me. Also, don’t make the mistake of asking whether there’s an interest rate for those two years. Don’t be silly. There’s not! Adding insult to injury I’m still a Greek tax citizen which means I get to pay taxes for the dividends I’m paid from my company abroad. Don’t be ridiculous, of course they are NOT offset by the money the Greek state owes me! I have so far paid another 40+ thousand Euro taxes in these two years where the Greek state owes me the 13,000 Euro tax return.
I understand all this sounds alien to you. Why so much taxation, why no services in return, why the state isn’t punctual in paying back. Beats me, brothers and sisters. I have concluded that one must be outright insane to try and do business if they’re born in Greece.
And here you have the endpoint of the cradle-to-grave welfare state: benefits are theoretically generous for those on the dole (though good luck navigating the maze of inefficient, corrupt bureaucracy to collect them), while taxes are prohibitively high for those actually work for a living.
This is why implementing fake austerity through higher taxes never works: It drives out the productive, the social compact is irreparably broken, and those living off the state’s largess feel no qualms about wringing every last possible penny from it.