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Euro Continues to Drop on Expectations of More Easing

By , December 18, 2014 5:18 am

1,200 eurosThere are expectations of more easing early in the coming year, and that is sending the euro lower today. Expectations that the ECB will have to take more steps to support the eurozone economy are being priced into the market right now.

Years of austerity are taking their toll in the eurozone. While the austerity measures are meant to help eurozone countries get back on track with their balance sheets, the reality is that it has been slowing down the eurozone economy. As a result, the European Central Bank has had to participate in easing measures in an effort to stimulate the economy. These measures weaken the euro against its counterparts.

However, even with the weakening euro, there hasn’t been a lot of success for the eurozone economy. It continues to see difficulties in recovery, and the ECB is expected to try fresh measures next year. The addition of Lithuania isn’t expected to be a lot of help to the eurozone economy, and meanwhile there are concerns about the ability of Germany and France to shore up the rest of the eurozone.

At 11:30 GMT EUR/USD is down to 1.2327 from the open at 1.2342. EUR/GBP is down to 0.7876 form the open at 0.7926. EUR/JPY is down to 146.1200 from the open at 146.4890.

If you have any questions, comments or opinions regarding the Euro, feel free to post them using the commentary form below.

Forex News

Erdogan’s Regime Becoming More Dictatorship Than Democracy

By , December 17, 2014 1:42 pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to transform his regime into a one-man dictatorship reminiscent of strong-man regimes in the Arab world and far less like a European democracy.

In which direction is Turkey’s government headed — to be more in the mold of European democracies such as England, Germany or Italy, or more like the dictatorships of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Libya’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi or Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir? The oft-repeated Erdogan quote that analysts cite again and again bears repeating — that democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination.

Sunday’s raids on the Zaman daily and Samanyolu television marked an escalation in Erdogan’s battle with former Islamist ally Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish cleric.

Erdogan’s ruling AK Party as well as large parts of the bureaucracy were penetrated by Gulen’s Hizmet movement.

Erdogan, a Sunni Islamist who, along with Qatar, supports the Muslim Brotherhood regionally — including Hamas — is moving to the next phase. Whereas ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi tried to move too fast, Erdogan has been smartly taking over the country at a slow pace since he became prime minister in 2003.

Since the Gezi Park protests last summer, it seems that Erdogan has become less patient. And the war in Syria has also revealed where Erdogan’s heart lies: seeking President Bashar Assad’s downfall at the hands of the Islamist-dominated opposition and refusing to play a significant role in the US-led campaign against Islamic State.

“Turkey has been on the road to an authoritarian regime for several years as infringements on human rights have gradually increased,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar- Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post.

The longer Erdogan rules, “he becomes more power hungry and his authoritarian personality becomes clearer,” said Inbar, adding, “Nowadays, he arrests even Islamist journalists that are critical of his policies.”

“Turkey never had a political system with checks and balances able to constrain attempts to consolidate power around one politician,” notes Inbar, adding that in recent years, “Erdogan has weakened further the few constitutional constraints against ‘Putinization’ of the Turkish political system.”

Prof. Henri Barkey of Lehigh University and a former member of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff dealing with Middle East issues, told the Post that “Turkey’s democratic past has always been checkered.”

“You had military-backed or influenced governments that made a mockery of justice and the freedom of the press. The big difference between then and today is that power seems to be concentrating in the hands of one person and not an institution like the military,” explained Barkey.

“The other difference, of course, is that the AKP came to power with a promise to bring more democracy and it did, but now it has reversed itself and gone back to the country’s ‘factory settings’ so to speak.”

Yet, asserts Barkey, it is too soon to name the regime a dictatorship.

As to the quest to join the EU, this is “dead for the foreseeable future.”

And asked about moving closer to the Arab world, Barkey observes that Erdogan’s government has poor relations with almost every single Arab country except for Qatar.

Erdogan is depending on Turkey’s historical strategic regional role and its strong economy to lead the region, he says.

Asked if Erdogan is going full-out Islamist, losing any liberal pretensions in his quest for power, Barkey says it depends how you define Islamist.

Surely the Turkish president is influenced by Islam and wants to shape the state in that image, “but Islamists have such negative connotations,” he said, noting that it depends how one defines the term.

The term Islamist is used to describe Islamic State, al-Qaida, and others, so Barkey prefers not to use it in this context.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

By Pushing for More Sanctions, U.S. Hardliners Play Into Hands of Iranian Hardliners

By , December 4, 2014 12:50 am
Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

Republican lawmakers such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seek further sanctions against Iran. (Photo: Jeffrey Richardson / U.S. Navy / Flick Commons)

“Buoyed by the failure of the US and five other powers to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program,” writes Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service, “pro-Israel and Republican hawks are calling for Washington to ramp up economic pressure on Tehran even while talks continue, and to give Congress a veto on any final accord.” But, he continues,

Most Iran specialists here believe that any new sanctions legislation will likely sabotage the talks, fracture the P5+1, and thus undermine the international sanctions regime against Iran, strengthen hard-liners in Tehran who oppose accommodation and favour accelerating the nuclear programme.

In the Wall Street Journal, Kareem Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace writes that not only would more U.S. sanctions

… threaten the unity among Washington’s negotiating partners (the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany). They also risk tainting U.S. standing among the Iranian people and precipitating an escalation that could result in military conflict.

Why? Because

Iranian calculations are driven in part by the view that President Barack Obama is averse to conflict and that Washington, not Tehran, would be blamed for abrogating the joint agreement reached last November.


Additional U.S. sanctions are less likely to produce greater concessions than they are to encourage Tehran to recommence its nuclear activities and curtail its already limited [sic] cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association.

Furthermore, while

… the global embargo on Iran’s economy has remained largely intact. … it’s unclear whether the European Union, Russia, and Asia would continue to forsake commercial and strategic ties with Iran to placate the U.S. in the event of a diplomatic breakdown.

In fact

Today, China, Russia, and even many European allies believe that Iran is too critical to regional stability to be shunned and that President Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are reasonable leaders who should be engaged and strengthened, not sanctioned and weakened.

“The worst scenario for U.S. interests,” Sadjadpour writes, “is one in which Congress overwhelmingly passes new sanctions, Iran resumes its nuclear activities, and international unity unravels. Such an outcome would force the United States to revisit the possibility of another military conflict in the Middle East.”

More U.S. sanctions would not only discourage the cooperation of Iran, but that of China, Russia, and Europe. In other words, it’s a self-defeating ploy designed to play to the domestic political cheap seats (not to mention the luxury suites).

Foreign Policy In Focus

More Jihadist Training Camps Identified in Iraq and Syria

By , November 23, 2014 8:14 am

Most recently, another jihadist training camp has been identified in Syria, in the province of Latakia. It is operated by Jamaat Jund al Qawkaz (Caucasus), a group composed of Circassians, Chechens, Dagestanis, and other Caucasian ethnic groups. The group is independent and probably small, but is more than likely affiliated with the Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, and the Caucasus Emirate. It might also be affiliated to Junud al Sham, a predominantly Chechen group led by Muslim Shishani, a specially designated global terrorist. While Jamaat Jund al Qawkaz has officially taken an anti-fitna stance, the group has promoted Al Nusrah propaganda, according to Aymenn al Tamimi. Video has also been uploaded to YouTube showing the Jamaat Jund al Qawkaz unit in training.

In addition to the four camps identified above, more evidence has emerged about another training camp identified by The Long War Journal two months ago. Photos were recently disseminated on Twitter showing a training camp that was run by Abu Yusuf al Turki. As The Long War Journal reported on Sept. 23, online jihadists described al Turki as a commander in the Al Nusrah Front who trained fighters how to become snipers. Al Turki was killed in initial US airstrikes in Syria against the so-called Khorasan Group, a name used by the US government to describe al Qaeda veterans embedded within Al Nusrah. After al Turki was confirmed killed, supporters released a video of his training camp, which is located in or near Aleppo.

Jihadist camps in Iraq and Syria

Since the beginning of 2012, a total of 46 camps have been identified as being operational at some point in time, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Information on the camps has been obtained from jihadist videos, news accounts, and US military press releases that note airstrikes against the training facilities. It is unclear if all of the training camps are currently operational. In addition, this analysis is compiled using publicly-available evidence. It is likely that some training camps are not advertised.

Of those cam

Assyrian International News Agency

More Than a Battle, Kobani Is a Publicity War

By , November 20, 2014 11:50 am

[unable to retrieve full-text content]SURUC, Turkey — Two months after the United States began bombing militants attacking Kobani in northern Syria, the fate of the obscure border town has become the defining battle of the broader contest with the Islamic State — to solidify, or roll back, its borders and ambitions.
Assyrian International News Agency

More Humiliation: China Furious At “Disrespectful” Nicorette-Chewing Obama

By , November 13, 2014 7:05 am






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More Humiliation: China Furious At “Disrespectful” Nicorette-Chewing Obama

By , November 13, 2014 1:39 am

More Humiliation: China Furious At “Disrespectful” Nicorette-Chewing Obama
By: Zerohedge on: 13.11.2014 [06:52 ] (62 reads)

More Humiliation: China Furious At “Disrespectful” Nicorette-Chewing Obama

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/12/2014 17:40 -0500

“The chew seen around the world,” as President Obama chomped on Nicorette gum during the recent APEC summit ceremonies, has sparked outrage in China, describing his behavior as “rude” and “inappropriate.”

Not the first time…


Which all explains this…

While we are sure Khin Khin Win, wife of Myanmar President Thein Sein, is a wonderfully entertaining host, we suspect President Obama was not expecting – once again – to be relegated to the ‘old wives club’…

Source: @MarkKnoller

And here is Medvedev holding hands with Xi… (en) RSS feed for articles and news

For Unemployed Young Men, the Islamic State Provides More Than Just Jobs and Purpose

By , November 10, 2014 6:45 am
A government building in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr)

A government building in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr)

It’s often written that the Islamic State fills a need for young men adrift on the stagnant sea of the Middle-Eastern ― and world ― economy. It not only provides a paying job (and purpose in life), it offers a benefit that may be central to recruiting.

On October 28, Frontline ran a useful overview of the Islamic State titled The Rise of ISIS. It shows how the Islamic State developed as a reaction to oppression of the Sunnis by Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia government in Iraq. Or, shall we say, in the time-dishonored tradition of many revolutions, an over-reaction ― a descent into an orgy of revenge that threatens the new government itself.

On October 13 I had posted: Islamic State Offers Beheading as a Perk to Recruits, in which I wrote:

… a team at Politico magazine writes that while “these shocking actions have challenged average sensibilities and consciences, this violence has also led to assumptions about the motives for beheadings, and the group’s strategy as a whole, that are simply not true.” In fact, “The common misperception is that these beheadings are meant only to intimidate the West.”

To the contrary, the team members write:

… beheadings are a deliberate strategy—one successfully employed in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIL’s predecessor organization, with the beheading of American Nick Berg—to improve recruitment efforts and build military strength to fight its enemies in Iraq and Syria.

… In a word, publicity: They increase the group’s profile as the biggest challenger to the supposed greatest enemy of Islam. This allows ISIL to draw from a significantly larger pool of recruits, many with strong anti-American sentiment, which ISIL desperately needs to fight local battles as the group tries to carve out a de facto state. Yes, the beheadings are meant to challenge and intimidate the Western public, but that is only a secondary benefit for ISIL, whose focus remains on defeating enemies in immediate proximity.

Continuing with that earlier post:

At the Daily Beast, Dean Obeidallah writes:

I wish the media would give more coverage to ISIS’ crimes against Muslims. The publicity would hurt the group’s cause tremendously, and it could also make the case to my fellow Americas [sic] that this fight is not Islam versus the West. Rather, it’s everyone who doesn’t want to live under ISIS’ brutal dictatorship versus ISIS.

Frontline’s The Rise of ISIS is replete with mass shootings that recall nothing less than the Nazi in World War II. At one point a Western voice (maybe Filkins) says of members of the Islamic State: “They are not Muslims and they are barely human beings.” Later Filkins call the Islamic State a  “psychosis” and, most damning:

“Killing is as important to ISIS as securing the Caliphate.”

As I wrote in my earlier post:

The Islamic State is like a gangbanger’s Pleasure Island, where torturing and killing are not only permitted, but encouraged. But, as I’ve previously noted, there’s a kind of planned obsolescence to this strategy. In other words, this death cult seems to have a death wish. Or as the Politico magazine team writes: “Ironically, the publicity ISIL is gaining from beheadings may have also planted the seeds of its own destruction.”

Foreign Policy In Focus

Obama Approves Sending Up to 1,500 More US Troops to Iraq

By , November 7, 2014 4:00 pm

Obama Approves Sending Up to 1,500 More US Troops to Iraq

Posted 2014-11-07 21:21 GMT

WASHINGTON — President Obama has approved sending up to 1,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, more than doubling the number being deployed to help Iraqi forces fight the Islamic State.

The president also requested an additional $ 5.6 billion on Friday for the war against the Islamic State, in part to cover the additional deployments.

The decisions reflect a deepening U.S. involvement in the region, though the White House again stressed that U.S. personnel “will not be in combat,” but rather training, advising and assisting Iraqi forces near Baghdad and Irbil.

Currently, there are about 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq.

The White House troop request comes with a $ 3.7 billion price tag. Of that, $ 3.2 billion will go to the Department of Defense while $ 500 million will go to the State Department.

CENTCOM Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel were at the White House on Friday briefing a bipartisan congressional group invited by the president.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey hinted at the announcement during an Oct. 30 briefing at the Pentagon.

The increased number of troops will allow the U.S. to spread its forces to additional locations across Iraq.

Fox News’ Justin Fishel and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.

Assyrian International News Agency

Putin Just Made the Most Important Speech of His Career. The West Should Listen More Closely

By , October 30, 2014 12:13 am

Putin Just Made the Most Important Speech of His Career. The West Should Listen More Closely
By: Alexander Mercouris on: 29.10.2014 [12:31 ] (388 reads)

Putin Just Made the Most Important Speech of His Career. The West Should Listen More Closely

What he really wants are stability, rules, and a global balance of power – traditional conservative ideas. He thinks the rest of the world needs to rein-in out-of-control US global activism.

opinion 4 hours ago
Alexander Mercouris |

He showed his true colors – as a traditional, old-school, European conservative

Last Friday, Vladimir Putin delivered the single most important speech on foreign policy since he became President of Russia in 2000. Mikhail Gorbachev said he thought it was the best, and most significant speech Putin has ever made.

In it he charted a clear course for Russia, defining its place in international affairs and setting out the principles and objectives of its foreign policy.

The response of the western political and media elite has been pitifully inadequate. The speech has attracted surprisingly little attention. The emphasis has been not on what Putin said about Russia or international relations in general but on what he specifically said about the US.

Western commentary wrongly but overwhelmingly treats the speech as simply a critique of US foreign policy (a “diatribe”) with Putin hypocritically condemning a US foreign policy he feels is targeted against him. Behind this is the assumption that the speech is Putin’s defiant response to the US sanctions policy imposed on Russia since the start of the Ukrainian crisis even though the actual speech barely touches on this question.

Putin did have a lot to say about US foreign policy and what he said was very critical. However to focus purely on that part of the speech is to fail to do it justice and to ignore its very coherent intellectual framework.

Putin came across a very different person from the aggressive expansionist and nationalist demagogue and gambler of western commentary. It is also different from the Putin some other people want him to be. Anyone looking to Putin to lead some great crusade against the US is on the evidence of this speech going to be disappointed. As some have noticed, what he actually wants from the US is not conflict but cooperation.

Putin’s vision of the international system is a profoundly conservative one – a fact he actually admitted himself after the speech in answer to a question. Running like a thread throughout the speech is a typical conservative’s yearning for stability and mistrust of change, a wish for a predictable rule based system in which the sovereign rights of nations are respected and in which change when it happens is contained and managed and never encouraged.

Since Putin’s concern is for stability, an aspect of his vision, which would be instantly familiar to an old style European conservative but which is totally alien to a modern western liberal, is that it is totally value neutral. Where westerners today habitually divide nations into democracies and dictatorships and decide their attitudes to them on that basis, Putin treats them all the same, considering their domestic arrangements to be something for them to worry about.

Underpinning everything is a belief in the need for an orderly system preserved by a balance of power. For Putin, the USSR’s greatest contribution was precisely in that by providing a counter weight to the US it secured international stability. Much of the speech is a lament for the loss of the counterweight provided by the USSR.

The part of the speech that criticises US foreign policy draws on these assumptions: the US became intoxicated by the unexpected position it achieved as a result of the USSR’s collapse and rather than acting to preserve the stability of the international system went instead on a rampage through a sequence of violent unilateral actions designed to reshape the world according to its image and interests and in order to perpetuate its dominance.

In the process order and stability have been thrown away and the result is violence and chaos. Putin recites the list: Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan (where he traces the story back to US support for jihadism against the Soviet army in the 1980s), Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, pointing out that none of these places is better off than it was before the US began to take an interest in them.

In a striking phrase that may cause offence in the US Putin compares the US to a nouveaux riche fecklessly squandering away the windfall.

The speech also shows where Putin wants to position Russia. In another striking phrase Putin says that he wants Russia to assume leadership of nothing save possibly the defence of international law.

Running like a thread through the speech is a deep commitment to international law interpreted in the most conservative way on the basis of legal documents, treaty texts and Court decisions. The creative efforts of (as Putin would put it) self-interested western reinterpretation of international law (such as R2P) are spurned as rationalisations for violating it.

By contrast Putin’s response to Western criticism of his Crimean policy is to defend it in the most traditional way by citing the UN Charter and the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on Kosovo.

Putin’s training as a lawyer is an aspect of his background that few in the west are aware of. Judging from his words, it is at least as formative as was his service in the KGB.

This is a vision of Russia as the sheet anchor of the international system, acting together with its allies China and the other BRICS states to restrain the US where possible, rescuing the US from its follies whilst upholding international law, world order and stability.

It is a vision European statesmen of the nineteenth century would have instantly recognised but which political leaders in the US and Europe today barely understand, which is one reason why his speech is little understood.

It is a vision that is very popular in Russia, a country with a history of turmoil where order and stability are highly prized. It is also arguably a vision that corresponds with Russia’s interests. As an emerging economy Russia needs a stable and orderly international environment to allow space for its economy to develop.

Importantly throughout the speech Putin made it repeatedly clear that economic development remains for Russia an overriding priority and that the government would take no retaliatory action that might get in the way.

It is also a vision that is likely to be very popular around the world outside the Western camp, where governments and people have become increasingly wary of western interference in their affairs.

In the west, and in the US especially, it will inevitably be seen as a challenge. (en) RSS feed for articles and news