U.S. pulls out envoy to Syria, southern strike spreads
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
The United States said on Monday it had pulled its ambassador out of Syria because of threats to his safety, prompting Syria to follow suit in a worsening of ties already tattered by U.S. opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to crush anti-government protests.
The U.S. envoy, Robert Ford, had antagonized Syria’s government with his high-profile support for the demonstrators trying to end 41 years of Assad family rule. Assad supporters attacked the U.S. Embassy and Ford’s convoy in recent months.
Ford left Syria as a government crackdown on protests and a nascent armed insurgency intensified and as more businesses and shops closed in southern Syria in the most sustained strike of the seven-month uprising.
In the latest violence, two people were killed in the central city of Homs, 85 miles north of Damascus, when troops and loyalist militiamen fired at majority Sunni Muslim districts that have been a bastion for protests.
The United States has called for Assad to step down and, along with its European allies, has intensified sanctions on Syria, including against its small but significant oil sector, a central source of foreign currency for the government.
The State Department issued a statement saying Ford “was brought back to Washington as a result of credible threats against his personal safety in Syria.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Ford was expected to return to Syria and demanded the Syrian government provide for his protection and end what she called a “smear campaign of malicious and deceitful propaganda” against him.
“The concern here is that the kinds of falsehoods that are being spread about Ambassador Ford could lead to violence against him, whether it’s by citizens, whether it’s by … thugs of one kind or another,” she said.
Nuland stressed that Ford had not been “withdrawn” — a diplomatically loaded term that could have implied that the envoy would not return and that suggests a diminution in relations between the two countries.
“INCITEMENT” AGAINST ENVOY
U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ford left Damascus on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for the Syrian Embassy in Washington, Roua Sharbaji, said after news of Ford’s return became public Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha had been recalled to Damascus for consultations on Monday.
Unlike in Libya, there appears to be no appetite among Western or Arab governments to consider armed intervention to stop the violence in Syria, one of a host of Arab states to see uprisings against long-time authoritarian rulers this year.
The killings in Homs on Monday bring to at least 10 the number of civilians killed in tank-backed assaults on districts in the central city in the last two days, activists said.
The official Syrian news agency said “terrorist groups” had fired at a taxi carrying university students in Homs on Sunday night, killing a young woman. Security forces arrested several members of other groups and seized automatic weapons, automatic rifles and Molotov cocktails.
A Youtube video shot by activists purportedly showed a young protester dying from a gunshot that hit him while he was dragging a body off a street in al-Khalidiya district. Their comrades are heard shouting “God is greater” as the two bodies lay next to each other on the asphalt.
Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the footage. Most foreign media have been banned from Syria, making it difficult to verify events on the ground.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting “armed terrorist groups” in Homs who have killed civilians, security forces and prominent figures.
They blame the unrest across the country on such groups, which they say have killed 1,100 army and police. The United Nations says the crackdown has killed 3,000 people, including 187 children.
ATTACKS ON U.S. EMBASSY, CONVOY
Ford left Syria following a series of violent incidents that damaged the U.S. Embassy compound and his motorcade but did not cause any casualties.
At the end of September, Assad loyalists threw concrete blocks at his convoy and hit the cars with iron bars as Ford was visiting centrist politician Hassan Abdulazim, according to an account published by the ambassador the next day.
In July, several Assad loyalists broke into the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, tore down signs and tried to break security glass. They also tried to break into Ford’s nearby residence but failed to gain entry.
The Syrian government’s mounting security crackdown has triggered a strike by private businesses in towns across the Hauran Plain, which was the first region where masses publicly turned against Assad.
Anger has grown over the killings of several protesters last week in the towns of Dael and in Ibtaa. The region has seen nightly protests in solidarity with Homs.
“Troops have entered into several towns to end the strike but protesters want to expand it into wider civil disobedience,” said one activist who said army reinforcements had been sent to several towns in the Deraa countryside.
In Deraa city, capital of the agricultural province, businesses across the city were closed for the fourth day. In the town of al-Hirak to the east, the strike picked up steam in the last two days, activists said.
“This strike is intensifying every day as more businesses shut and people become more defiant than ever, angered by the increasing brutality and daily roundups and arrests,” said one Deraa resident who gave his name as Abu Abdullah.
With troops concentrating on urban centers, protests have expanded in rural regions, including some once bedrocks of Sunni support for Assad but now seeing defections from the military and armed resistance.
In an interview with Reuters last month, Ford said Assad was losing support among key constituents and risked plunging Syria into sectarian strife between Sunnis and Alawites by intensifying the military crackdown.
Ford also infuriated Syria’s rulers with his high profile gestures of support for the seven-month-old grassroots protest movement seeking to oust Assad.
He was cheered when he went in July to the anti-Assad hotbed city of Hama, which was later stormed by tanks, ignoring a ban on diplomats traveling outside the Damascus area.
In 1969 Leftwing domestic terrorist William ‘Bill’ Ayers, head of the group known as ‘the Weathermen,’ staged the ‘days of rage’ in Chicago during which acts of violence, mayhem, and destruction of property were conducted as a means by which Progressive extremists would not only protest American capitalism and the Viet Nam War but so disrupt the country that its economic and social system would crumble and be replaced by a Marxist and pacifistic model.
The fact that by definition an anti-war movement along with its promotion of pacifism disavows all violence for any purpose, good or bad, was totally lost on this gang of extremist militants who were more interested in pushing a Marxist, anti-Capitalist agenda than portraying a pacifistic mindset. Despite their many claims of ‘peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience,’ the Weathermen went on a rampage during which they ran wild in the streets wearing helmets, military gear, and wielding baseball bats and other weapons. All symbols of wealth and power were attacked, including parked cars, the apartments and property of the affluent, police officers, and ‘rich’ innocent bystanders.
Ayers called on the Marxist minions to kill their parents. By the end of the melee 400 militants were arrested and 60 victims were injured, some seriously. The group had also caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to property.
By 1970 the Weathermen turned even more violent as they began to blow up buildings with bombs. Bombs were detonated in the U.S. Capitol Building, the Pentagon, and the New York City Police Headquarters, among others. The violence resulted in several deaths, including that of at least 2 police officers. To this day, neither Bill Ayers, nor his wife and co-domestic terrorist Bernadine Dohrn, have ever expressed the slightest hint of remorse for their actions. To the contrary, they have stated more than once that they would do it all over again and are sorry that they did not do even more.
On September 17 of this year yet another ‘day of rage’ is scheduled to occur in New York City on Wall Street, as once again the militant Marxist Progressives attempt to shut down the stock market and bring to ruin several large firms. The major difference between the days of rage of 1969 and the day of rage this September 17 is that today the Leftwing extremists have friends in very high places within the government. And the key players in this year’s display of mayhem have a direct connection with those who staged the first event in 1969.
The usual suspects are involved–the union SEIU, former directors of ACORN, and other Leftist organizations that have come to the forefront of attention since the Presidential election of 2008. But as a special report published in 2003 in the Boston Globe indicates, the Weathermen are still active and do most of their work underground, well out of the public eye. Many believe that Ayers, Dohrn, Kathy Boudin, and other key players in the Weathermen are helping fuel the tensions leading to the various days of rage around the world.
For example, it is known that Ayers, Dohrn, and Jodi Evans of Code Pink form the driving force behind the so-called ‘Peace Flotilla’ that is aimed at breaching Israel’s blockade of Gaza and provoking attacks. It is also curious to note that the flotilla’s activities closely preceded the so-called Arab Spring and days of rage throughout the Middle East as extremists used the ruse of ‘democratic protests’ to oust dictators and usher in their own form of totalitarianism called ‘Sharia Law.’ Ayers is the original purveyor of the ‘days of rage’–the originator and guru of the movement. The fact that these types of events are being staged all over the world, using the same name, is no coincidence.
Further, in spite of the claim that the gathering on Wall Street is to be ‘peaceful,’ one of the event’s organizers stated in a memo to volunteers that they intend to make the event the ‘U.S. Tahrir Square’–referring to the weeks of protests involving hundreds of thousands in Cairo, Egypt:
On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat our one simple demand until Barack Obama capitulates.
…there is a very real danger that if we naively put our cards on the table and rally around the “overthrow of capitalism” or some equally outworn utopian slogan, then our Tahrir moment will quickly fizzle into another inconsequential ultra-lefty spectacle soon forgotten. But if we have the cunning to come up with a deceptively simple Trojan Horse demand…
See you on Wall St. Sept 17. Bring Tent.
Thus, as in 1968 the group intends to be deceptive in hiding its stated goals and tactics.
And that is not all.
Not only do the militants plan to converge on Wall Street but they intend to conduct similar disruptive and potentially violent events on the same day in multiple cities around the world, including Tokyo, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Sidney, and Toronto.
How will the Obama Administration respond to the coordinated, protracted ‘sit ins’ to be staged by Progressives in the nation’s most important financial hub? No one can know for sure. But we do know that Barack Obama and those closest to him have long-standing, close relationships with the key players–SEIU, ACORN, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Jodi Evans, and other Leftwing extremist activists and groups.
Shaken: 10 Economic Disasters Which Threaten To Rip World Financial Markets To Shreds
Yes, things really are that bad. The mainstream media has been really busy downplaying the economic impact of the disaster in Japan and the chaos in the Middle East, but the truth is that these events have huge implications for the global economy. Today our world is more interconnected than ever, so economic pain in one area of the planet is going to have a significant effect on other areas of the globe.
The following are 10 economic disasters which could potentially rip world financial markets to shreds….
#1 War In Libya
Do you think that the “international community” would be intervening in Libya if they did not have a lot of oil? If you actually believe that, you might want to review the last few decades of African history. Millions upon millions of Africans have been slaughtered by incredibly repressive regimes and the “international community” did next to nothing about it.
But Libya is different.
Libya is the largest producer of oil in Africa.
Apparently the revolution in Libya was not going the way it was supposed to, so the U.S. and Europe are stepping in.
Moammar Gadhafi is vowing that this will be a “long war”, but the truth is that his forces don’t stand a chance against NATO.
Initially we were told that NATO would just be setting up a “no fly zone”, but there have already been reports of Libyan tank columns being assaulted and there has even been an air strike on Moammar Gadhafi’s personal compound in Tripoli.
So since when did a “no fly zone” include an attempt to kill a foreign head of state?
Let there be no mistake – the moment that the first Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched the United States declared war on Libya.
Already the Arab League, India, China and Russia have all objected to how this operation is being carried out and they are alarmed about the reports of civilian casualties.
Tensions around the globe are rising once again, and that is not a good thing for the world economy.
On a side note, does anyone recall anyone in the Obama administration even stopping for a moment to consider whether or not they should consult the U.S. Congress before starting another war?
The U.S. Constitution specifically requires the approval of the Congress before we go to war.
But very few people seem to care too much about what the U.S. Constitution says these days.
In any event, the flow of oil out of Libya is likely to be reduced for an extended period of time now, and that is not going to be good for a deeply struggling global economy.
#2 Revolutions In The Middle East
Protests just seem to keep spreading to more countries in the Middle East. On Friday, five Syrian protesters were killed by government forces in the city of Daraa. Subsequently, over the weekend thousands of protesters reportedly stormed government buildings in that city and set them on fire.
Things in the region just seem to get wilder and wilder.
Even in countries where the revolutions are supposed to be “over” there is still a lot of chaos.
Have you seen what has been going on in Egypt lately?
The truth is that all of North Africa and nearly the entire Middle East is aflame with revolutionary fervor.
About the only place where revolution has not broken out is in Saudi Arabia. Of course it probably helps that the United States and Europe don’t really want a revolution in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis have a brutally effective secret police force.
In any event, as long as the chaos in the Middle East continues the price of oil is likely to remain very high, and that is not good news for the world economy.
#3 The Japanese Earthquake And Tsunami
Japan is the third largest economy in the world. When a major disaster happens in that nation it has global implications.
The tsunami that just hit Japan was absolutely unprecedented. Vast stretches of Japan have been more thoroughly destroyed than if they had been bombed by a foreign military power. It really was a nation changing event.
The Japanese economy is going to be crippled for an extended period of time. But it is not just Japan’s economy that has been deeply affected by this tragedy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the recent disaster in Japan has caused supply chain disruptions all over the globe….
A shortage of Japanese-built electronic parts will force GM to close a plant in Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday and cancel shifts at a factory in Eisenach, Germany, on Monday and Tuesday, the company said Friday.
Not only that, GM has also suspended all “nonessential” spending globally as it evaluates the impact of this crisis.
The truth is that there are a whole host of industries that rely on parts from Japan. Supply chains all over the world are going to have to be changed as a result of this crisis. There are going to be some shortages of certain classes of products.
Japan is a nation that imports and exports tremendous quantities of goods. At least for a while both imports and exports will be significantly down, and that is not good news for a world economy that was already having a really hard time recovering from the recent economic downturn.
#4 The Japan Nuclear Crisis
Even if the worst case scenario does not play out, the reality is that the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is going to have a long lasting impact on the global economy.
Already, nuclear power projects all over the world are being rethought. The nuclear power industry was really starting to gain some momentum in many areas of the globe, but now that has totally changed.
But of much greater concern is the potential effect that all of this radiation will have on the Japanese people. Radiation from the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is now showing up in food and tap water in Japan as an article on the website of USA Today recently described….
The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. But the contamination spread to spinach in three other prefectures and to more vegetables — canola and chrysanthemum greens. Tokyo’s tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium.
Hopefully the authorities in Japan will be able to get this situation under control before Tokyo is affected too much. The truth is that Tokyo is one of the most economically important cities on the planet.
But right now there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Tokyo. For example, one very large German real estate fund says that their holdings in Tokyo are now “impossible to value” and they have suspended all customer withdrawals from the fund.
Once again, let us hope that a worst case scenario does not happen. But if we do get to the point where most of the population had to be evacuated from Tokyo for an extended period of time it would be absolutely devastating for the global economy.
#5 The Price Of Oil
Most people believe that the U.S. dollar is the currency of the world, but really it is oil. Without oil, the global economy that we have constructed simply could not function.
That is why it was so alarming when the price of oil went above $100 a barrel earlier this year for the first time since 2008. Virtually everyone agrees that if the price of oil stays high for an extended period of time it will have a highly negative impact on the world economy.
In particular, the U.S. economy is highly, highly dependent on cheap oil. This country is really spread out and we transport goods and services over vast distances. That is why the following facts are so alarming….
*The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is now 75 cents higher than it was a year ago.
*In San Francisco, California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is now $3.97.
*According to the Oil Price Information Service, U.S. drivers spent an average of $347 on gasoline during the month of February, which was 30 percent more than a year earlier.
*According to the U.S. Energy Department, the average U.S. household will spend approximately $700 more on gasoline in 2011 than it did during 2010.
#6 Food Inflation
Many people believe that the rapidly rising price of food has been a major factor in sparking the revolutions that we have seen in Africa and the Middle East. When people cannot feed themselves or their families they tend to lose it.
According to the United Nations, the global price of food hit a new all-time high earlier this year, and the UN is expecting the price of food to continue to go up throughout the rest of this year. Food supplies were already tight around the globe and this is certainly not going to help things.
The price of food has also been going up rapidly inside the United States. Last month the price of food in the United States rose at the fastest rate in 36 years.
American families are really starting to feel their budgets stretched. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the cost of living in the United States hit a brand new all-time record high in the month of February.
What this means is that U.S. families are going to have less discretionary income to spend at the stores and that is bad news for the world economy.
#7 The European Sovereign Debt Crisis
Several European governments have had their debt downgraded in the past several months. Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland are all in big time trouble. Several other European nations are not far behind them.
Right now Germany seems content to bail the “weak sisters” in Europe out, but if that changes at some point it is going to be an absolute nightmare for world financial markets.
#8 The Dying U.S. Dollar
Right now there is a lot of anxiety about the U.S. dollar. Prior to the tsunami, Japan was one of the primary purchasers of U.S. government debt. In fact, Japan was the second-largest foreign buyer of U.S. Treasuries last year.
But now as Japan rebuilds from this nightmare it is not going to have capital to invest overseas. Someone else is going to have to step in and buy up all of the debt that the Japanese were buying.
Not only that, but big bond funds such as PIMCO have announced that they are stepping away from U.S. Treasuries at least for now.
So if Japan is not buying U.S. Treasuries and bond funds such as PIMCO are not buying U.S. Treasuries, then who is going to be buying them?
The U.S. government needs to borrow trillions of dollars this year alone to roll over existing debt and to finance new debt. All of that borrowing has got to come from somewhere.
#9 The U.S. Housing Market
The U.S. housing market could potentially be on the verge of another major crisis. Just consider the following facts….
*In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.
*Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.
*Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months. Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.
*In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure. Today that number has risen to 48 percent.
#10 The Derivatives Bubble
Most Americans do not even understand what derivatives are, but the truth is that they are one of the biggest threats to our financial system. Some experts estimate that the worldwide derivatives bubble is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars. This bubble could burst at any time. Right now we are watching the greatest financial casino in the history of the globe spin around and around and around and everyone is hoping that at some point it doesn’t stop. Today, most money on Wall Street is not made by investing in good business ideas. Rather, most money on Wall Street is now made by making shrewd bets. Unfortunately, at some point the casino is going to come crashing down and the game will be over.
Most people simply do not realize how fragile the global economy is at this point.
The financial crash of 2008 was a devastating blow. The next wave of the economic crisis could be even worse.
So what will the rest of 2011 bring?
Well, nobody knows for sure, but a lot of experts are not optimistic.
David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff and Associates, is warning that the second half of the year could be very rough for the global economy….
“A sharp slowing in global GDP in the second half of the year cannot be ruled out.”
Let us hope that the world economy can hold together and that we can get through the rest of 2011 okay. The last thing we need is a repeat of 2008. The world could use some peace and some time to recover.
But unfortunately, we live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable. With the way that the world has been lately, perhaps we should all just start to expect the unexpected.
But world financial markets do not respond well to instability and unpredictability. In fact, investors tend to start fleeing to safety at the first signs of danger these days.
Most Americans simply have no idea how vulnerable the world financial system is at this point. Nothing really got “fixed” after 2008. If anything, global financial markets are even more fragile than they were back then.
So what do all of you think about the state of the global economy? Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….