Coronavirus Tests China, Temps America

February 21, 2020 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) -Biology has done what malicious US foreign policy aimed at China has failed to do for years; complicate China's relations along its peripheries (and the rest of the world for that matter), particularly in Southeast Asia.

In Thailand, contrary to popular belief, Chinese tourists make up the vast majority of those visiting the Kingdom. Approximately ten times more Chinese tourists arrive in Thailand each year than tourists from all other Western nations combined.  With China's government putting travel bans in place to curb the spread of the recent coronavirus outbreak, Thai resort areas have seen a marked decrease in business.

The Bangkok Post in an article, "Chinese tourists desert Phuket as virus spreads," would note the impact on the southern resort island of Phuket, with locals describing about a 70% decrease in business and the Tourism and Sports Ministry estimating "50 billion baht of lost tourism revenue."

With the first Thai victim of the virus being a taxi driver who likely contracted it from picking up a Chinese tourist, many taxi drivers are now attempting to avoid Chinese fares; which may have a negative impact on Chinese-Thai tourism in the near and intermediate future.

A Weakpoint 

While this disruption is likely to be temporary with tourism, business, and other Chinese-Thai relations bouncing back - the coronavirus outbreak illustrates a weakpoint in China's rise and one that most likely will be exploited by China's adversaries; particularly the United States.

Chinese state media, CGTN, in an article titled, "China says U.S. raising travel advisory 'not a gesture of goodwill'," would report:
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying Friday criticized certain U.S. officials' words and actions amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, noting that their behavior is certainly not a gesture of goodwill as they are neither factual nor appropriate.

U.S. State Department Thursday announced a highest-level warning not to travel to China due to the recent coronavirus outbreak. On the same day, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the spreading coronavirus will accelerate the return of jobs from China to the U.S.
Thus, the US is cynically using the outbreak to enhance its anti-China policies at a time when other nations are extending aid to the Chinese government and the Chinese people.

While the outbreak is most likely an accident prompted by China's breakneck development, industrial-scale agriculture, immense population and the millions of Chinese people who travel within and beyond China's borders, the fact that certain US policy circles have contemplated the use of biological weapons to achieve exactly the same results the coronavirus outbreak is having should be a stark reminder to China and all other nations about the importance of being able to quickly and effectively combat such outbreaks.

Even without the US being behind the outbreak, the US is openly taking advantage of it; yet another illustration of how important it is to first prevent such outbreaks, as well quickly react to them should they happen.

The outbreak will continue into the near future, but in the intermediate future it will subside just like previous outbreaks of similar respiratory viruses (SARS, MERS). Once the outbreak subsides, China and its partners must carefully consider how to avoid a repeat of this event.

China will also have to consider future measures to protect itself from nations like the United States who seek to exploit China at a moment of weakness such as now.

Outbreaks are a part of modern civilization, resulting from overcrowding and the ease of travel allowing an infected person to carry a disease from one part of the world to another in just hours. Past outbreaks of have proven that nations can adapt and overcome them and then bounce back. Improving prevention and refining responses after this recent outbreak will define China and its international relations into the foreseeable future.

Complacency will only invite future accidents and even tempt malicious state actors to spur such accidents when all other methods of confounding their adversaries fail. China has already demonstrated significant resolve, but only time will tell how this most recent outbreak will play out in its entirety, both in terms of a human health crisis and in terms of short and long-term geopolitics.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

US Middle East "Peace Deal" Designed to Perpetuate Conflict

February 19, 2020 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - A deal that is entirely unacceptable to one of its principal parties isn't a deal at all. In the case of the US-proposed "Middle East peace plan" - unsurprisingly endorsed by the US and Israel and few others - everything about it is designed to sabotage peace and perpetuate conflict - perhaps even expand it.

The London Guardian in its article, "Palestinians cut ties with Israel and US after rejecting Trump peace plan," would note what are obvious conditions Palestine could not and should not accept:
The blueprint, endorsed by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state that would exclude Jewish settlements built in occupied territory and remain under near-total Israeli security control.
Demilitarizing Palestine and subjecting it to occupation blatantly illegal under international law and what would undoubtedly be continued Israeli aggression, provocations, and encroachment is akin to unconditional surrender and subjugation - conditions no government could be expected to accept with Palestine being no exception.

An op-ed published by Al Jazeera titled, Trump's Middle East plan may have a silver lining: Trump's plan will not make the Palestinians' lives better, but it could help dismantle the disastrous Oslo order," would aptly describe the deal as:
Basically, Trump's plan promises the Israelis an almost full realisation of the Zionist objectives to establish a Jewish state on all of historic Palestine, while offering the Palestinians "prosperous apartheid", ie life under occupation with more money but no dignity and basic rights.
Of course, promises of money may or may not be fulfilled. A Palestine rendered defenseless and entirely dependent on ill-willed sponsors has no way to ensure such promises are fulfilled.

Thus the "peace plan" is yet another demonstration of Washington's continued malign presence in the Middle East and its absolute disinterest in changing course. The Guardian would also note that several Arab allies of the US would side with Washington's proposal, prioritizing joint belligerence toward Iran rather than solidarity with Palestine.

Helping ease Arab allies of Washington out of their pretend concern for Palestine will - Washington hopes - help them focus entirely on US plans to create a united front against Iran as US power and influence in the region slips. 

Politics and Power, Not Religion 

This disingenuous and counterproductive "peace plan" does however help illustrate that the current, ongoing conflict in the Middle East is not driven by religion, neither Zionist nor Islamic extremism, but rather by politics and in particular - designs to maintain Western hegemony in the region that has existed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Religion and its perversion through extremism is simply used to augment and propel these designs.

Were the conflict purely a matter of religion - Sunni and Shia'a soldiers wouldn't be fighting side-by-side in Syria against US-sponsored terrorists. Arab nations would not be abandoning Palestine in favor of joining the US and Israel in their collective belligerence against Iran. And no nation in the region - save for Israel - would accept the most recent "peace plan" proposed by the US.

Seeing through a "peace plan" intentionally designed to further inflame emotions and deepen divides and understanding the true interests driving regional conflict will help establish common ground rather than erode it. The actual people living in Israel have more in common with ordinary people living in Palestine than with the current circle of special interests dominating the Israeli government.

Ordinary people seek peace and stability - to live out their lives and provide for their families. Tensions and the conflicts they lead to only disrupt ordinary people from achieving this basic desire - whether they are Israelis or Palestinians.

The US proposal illustrates to people on either side of the divide that the US is not an honest broker and that the current process posing as pursuing peace should be dismantled.

Because of this, and just as the US has faded from other areas of the world and even from other areas within the Middle East - the US will fade from prominence regarding the Israeli-Palestinian question - hopefully opening the way for more honest brokers to move in and propose a genuine peace deal that will right injustices and provide for the best interests of ordinary people rather than merely pose as doing so while serving the interests of a malign few.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”. 

Tesla and SpaceX: What America Still Has to Offer

February 16, 2020 (Gunnar Ulson - NEO) - Washington and Wall Street and the collective international order they've built over the decades following the Second World War appear to have run their course.

To adversaries and allies alike, the US has become more of a liability than the global leader it attempts to present itself as. Yet there are still nations around the globe, including those which find themselves the target of Washington and Wall Street's most aggressive machinations, who still desire to work with and benefit from cooperation with the American people at large.

There is no doubt that nations like Russia and China which find themselves the subject of sanctions, trade wars, covert subversion and even covert terrorism and proxy war, still benefit greatly from the ties, trade and cooperation they are still able to maintain with the United States. There is no doubt that if the special interests in Washington and on Wall Street were to fade and an alternative, more collaborative circle of political and economic interests took their place, these benefits would grow immensely for the US and the rest of the world.

But is there any ray of hope that as America's current leadership fades from the global stage, something else (and something better) can take its place?

It appears that the answer may be, yes.

Tesla and SpaceX 

Tesla is an American electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer. Founded by Elon Musk who also serves as the company's CEO, the company has accelerated the otherwise stalled US electric vehicle market into unprecedented territory.

After passing many hurdles, the company has finally broken through into what appears to be sustainable success. In CNN's recent article, "Tesla just proved all its haters wrong. Here's how," it was reported that:
This week, the company reported its first annual profit in 10 years as a public company.

Perhaps more significant for Tesla skeptics: the company generated $1.1 billion of free cash flow last year. That means it is no longer in danger of running through its cash or depending on investors to pump more money into its operations.

The stock has skyrocketed more than 250% over the last eight months, making Tesla the second most valuable automaker in the world by market value, behind only Toyota (TM).
Tesla's meteoric rise has created a mix of reactions within and beyond America. It has inspired the general public with an entirely fresh approach to car design, manufacturing and sales. Coupled with the attractiveness of Tesla's vehicles being entirely electric, existing automakers have little to offer in terms of competition.

London Attack: West's Terrorists Bite the Hand that Feeds (Again)

The latest incident in London was so entirely preventable that it is difficult to describe it as anything less than deliberate.

February 13, 2020 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - In yet another headline-grabbing terror attack - an armed man in south London left several injured - some seriously - with the suspect himself killed at the scene by police.

Entirely predictable was the fact that the suspect named as Sudesh Amman - was a known terrorist - having been previously arrested, tried, and imprisoned for terror-related offenses, only to be inexplicably released early.

The London Telegraph in its article, "Streatham attack knifeman named as Sudesh Amman who had a previous terror conviction," would report regarding his earlier conviction that:
Alexis Boon, then head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said at the time of his conviction that Amman had a “fierce interest in violence and martyrdom”.

He explained: “His fascination with dying in the name of terrorism was clear in a notepad we recovered from his home. Amman had scrawled his ‘life goals’ in the notepad and top of the list, above family activities, was dying a martyr and going to ‘Jannah’ - the afterlife.
Also predictable was the fact that this known terrorist would once again menace the public - being only the most recent example in a string of headline-grabbing terror attacks carried out by similar suspects similarly known to police and intelligence organizations, but otherwise inexplicably allowed to menace the public.

Major terror attacks in France and Belgium were likewise carried out by suspects entirely known to local police and regional intelligence organizations.

Not only are these suspects known to Western authorities, but they are also affiliated with Western-sponsored terrorist organizations most notably Al Qaeda, its various franchises, and the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which have for nearly a decade served as proxies in Western-engineered regime change wars aimed at Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, and beyond.

The latest incident in London was so entirely preventable that it is difficult to describe it as anything less than deliberate.

It is only a matter of time before politicians begin spinning and exploiting the incident - using it to shape policy both foreign and domestic - allowing analysts to better understand why such an entirely preventable act of violence was allowed to unfold nonetheless.

From London to Paris: The West's Self-Perpetuated Terror 

As seen in nearly every terror attack in recent years both in Europe and North America including high-profile incidents like the "Charlie Hebdo shooting" and the Garland, Texas attack, the alleged suspects all have one common thread - they were all already under the watch of security agencies for years, some even imprisoned one or more times for terror-related and/or other violent offenses, some even having traveled overseas to fight alongside Western-backed terrorists in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and beyond.

The Guardian in an article titled, "France passes new surveillance law in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack," admitted then that the French government alone had over 1,400 people under watch, including hundreds of terrorists who have recently returned from fighting alongside Western-backed terrorists in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. 

Among these monitored potential risks were in fact the suspects behind the "Charlie Hebdo shooting."

Slate Magazine would report in their article, "The Details of Paris Suspect Cherif Kouachi’s 2008 Terrorism Conviction," that: 

Kouachi was arrested in January 2005, accused of planning to join jihadists in Iraq. He was said to have fallen under the sway of Farid Benyettou, a young "self-taught preacher" who advocated violence, but had not actually yet traveled to Iraq or committed any acts of terror. Lawyers at the time said he had not received weapons training and "had begun having second thoughts," going so far as to express "relief" that he'd been apprehended.
Kourachi and his brother would be reported to have traveled to the Middle East to receive training from Al Qaeda, then to have fought in Syria in a war backed in part by France, before returning home and carrying out their grisly terror attack, all while being tracked by French intelligence.

If Kouachi previously could be arrested for "association with wrongdoers with the intention of committing a terrorist act," why wasn't he arrested immediately upon his return to France for having subsequently received and employed military training by a terrorist organization?

CNN would report in an article titled, "France tells U.S. Paris suspect trained with al Qaeda in Yemen," that: 

Western intelligence officials are scrambling to learn more about possible travel of the two Paris terror attack suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, with new information suggesting one of the brothers recently spent time in Yemen associating with al Qaeda in that country, U.S. officials briefed on the matter told CNN. Additional information from a French source close to the French security services puts one of the brothers in Syria.
The problem that led up to the "Charlie Hebdo shooting" - or any high-profile attack since - was clearly not a lack of intelligence or surveillance. 

US Policy Vs. Iran: Apex Desperation

February 5, 2020 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - US policy versus Iran has reached new heights of desperation and new lows in terms of undermining international law and norms.

In Washington's losing battle to maintain hegemony in the Middle East at the expense of the actual people and nations that exist there - it has resorted to high-level assassinations, unilateral strikes against targets within sovereign nations against the expressed will of the governments presiding over them, all while exposing what appears to be growing American military, political, and economic impotence.

In sharp contrast, nations like Russia and China have made gains as Washington's flagging fortunes create a power vacuum in the region. Rather than replacing the US as regional hegemons themselves - Moscow and Beijing are extending their multipolar concept into the Middle East - assisting nations in rebuilding themselves after years of US-engineered and led conflict, warding off additional conflict the US is attempting to use to reassert itself in the region, and allowing nations to stand on their own and pursue their own interests independently of the traditional spheres of power established during the age of empires.

US Think Tanks Out of Ideas   

Corporate-funded US policy think tank - the Brookings Institution - and one of its senior fellows Daniel Byman - recently published an article titled, "Is deterrence restored with Iran?," in which several good points are made - but many more revealing aspects of America's increasingly sick and out of touch foreign policy are exposed particularly in regards to Iran.

Byman's writings are important to consider since Byman signed his name alongside several other prominent Brookings fellows upon the institution's 2009 paper, "Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran" (PDF), in which the groundwork for everything that unfolded before and since 2009 regarding US policy toward Iran was laid out in great detail.

The 2009 paper included US plans to undermine Iranian political and social stability through targeting its economy and funding opposition groups and protests - which the US subsequently did. It included plans to fund and arm militants to carry out violence aimed at coercing or overthrowing the Iranian government - which the US also did. It also included plans to covertly provoke war with Iran to serve as a pretext for US-led regime change - which the US is clearly and repeatedly attempting to do.

More interesting still is that the paper also included plans to lure Iran into a peace deal specifically for the US to make claims Tehran failed to honor it and to serve as a pretext for war. It is interesting because not only did the subsequent "Iran Nuclear Deal" fulfill the paper's requirements, the machination unfolded over the terms of two US presidents - Barrack Obama and Donald Trump - serving as a reminder that special interests drive US foreign policy, not America's elected leaders, and that the agendas of these special interests transcend US presidential administrations rather than find themselves subjected to them.

Byman's recent article - one might expect - would be full of revisions and fresh ideas regarding US foreign policy in the Middle East and policy regarding Iran - considering the plans laid out in the 2009 paper have dramatically failed.

Instead it is filled with tired narratives including unfounded accusations that Iran seeks nuclear weapons or is funding "terrorism" across the region rather than reacting to real US-sponsored terrorism in the form of Al Qaeda, its affiliates and the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It is now common knowledge that these terrorist organizations have been openly armed and backed by the US and its allies in their failed bid to overthrow the government of Syria, pressure the government of Iraq, and defeat Houthi fighters in Yemen.

Other tired narratives laid out by Byman include feigning knowledge of Israel's role as a US proxy and that Israeli aggression is used as an intermediary for Washington's regional designs.

If US policymakers are this detached from reality - or at least their explanations to unwitting audiences they are attempting to sell policy to are this detached - the policies they are attempting to sell will be entirely unsustainable. The growing public backlash and increasing lack of cooperation from opposing nations, neutral states, and even long-time US allies is testament to this.