Tag Archives: economic warfare

Resuscitating Democracy: the role of Wikileaks

wikileaks ttip

On August 11, 2015 WikiLeaks has launched a campaign to crowd-source a €100,000 reward for Europe’s most wanted secret: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Starting pledges have already been made by a number of high profile activists and luminaries from Europe and the United States….Since it began to face opposition from BRICS countries at the World Trade Organisation, US policy has been to push through a triad of international “trade agreements” outside of the WTO framework, aimed at radically restructuring the economies of negotiating countries, and cutting out the rising economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).

The three treaties, the “Three Big T’s”, aim to create a new international legal regime that will allow transnational corporations to bypass domestic courts, evade environmental protections, police the internet on behalf of the content industry, limit the availability of affordable generic medicines, and drastically curtail each country’s legislative sovereignty.  Two of these super-secret trade deals have already been published in large part by WikiLeaks – the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – defeating unprecedented efforts by negotiating governments to keep them under wraps.

But for Europeans the most significant of these agreements remains shrouded in almost complete secrecy. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is currently under negotiation between the US and the European Union, remains closely guarded by negotiators and big corporations have been given privileged access. The public cannot read it.

Today WikiLeaks is taking steps to ensure that Europeans can finally read the monster trade deal, which has been dubbed an “economic NATO” by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Using the new WikiLeaks pledge system everyone can help raise the bounty for Europe’s most wanted leak. The system was deployed in June to raise a $100,000 bounty for the TTIP’s sister-treaty for the Pacific Rim, the TPP.

The pledge system has been hailed by the New York Times as “a great disrupter”, which gives “millions of citizens… the ability to debate a major piece of public policy,” and which “may be the best shot we have at transforming the [treaty negotiation] process from a back-room deal to an open debate.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said,

“The secrecy of the TTIP casts a shadow on the future of European democracy. Under this cover, special interests are running wild, much as we saw with the recent financial siege against the people of Greece. The TTIP affects the life of every European and draws Europe into long term conflict with Asia. The time for its secrecy to end is now.”

Excerpts from WikiLeaks goes after hyper-secret Euro-American trade pact

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How Iran Copes with Sanctions? eco-friendly

According to the latest figures from the Natural Gas Vehicle Knowledge Base, Iran, with the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, in 2011 became the world leader in natural gas vehicles with some 2.9 million on the road, narrowly edging Pakistan, which is trailed by Argentina, Brazil and India, respectively.  Iran’s reliance on its cleaner fossil fuel seems unlikely to diminish as international sanctions continue to bear down on its nuclear program, which in turn have curbed imports of gasoline; though Iran has large oil reserves, its ability to refine its own gasoline falls well short of its needs.  But for ordinary Iranian motorists, natural gas is less a geopolitical or environmental issue than a pocketbook concern. “This sort of fuel is cheap, and it gets me home every day — that’s what I care about,” said Sasan Ahmadi, a 42-year-old office assistant filling up his Iranian-made Kia Pride at a natural-gas station for his hour commute home.

The government began promoting natural gas about a decade ago, and not just in response to American-led sanctions. A big initial reason was the increasingly thick yellow blankets of smog that often engulf greater Tehran and its 12 million inhabitants. That was a result of rising auto sales by domestic carmakers like Iran Khodro and Saipa, which took off as oil revenue began rising sharply around 15 years ago, enriching tens of millions of Iranians…..

As a means to counter outside economic pressure, natural gas’s usefulness is clear. Because of its inadequate investment in oil refineries, Iran has long been forced to refine a portion of its own crude at refineries in Europe to satisfy rising domestic demand for gasoline. So when the European Union in July barred gasoline sales to the country, natural gas helped to blunt the blow.

Despite the sanctions against Iran, motorists like Mr. Ahmadi can make their commute for the equivalent of less than a penny a mile using the alternative fuel at subsidized prices. Gasoline is more expensive, especially because government subsidies have been reduced, but it is still incredibly cheap by Western standards: less than $1 a gallon….

Excerpt, THOMAS ERDBRINK, Oil-Rich Iran, Natural Gas Turns Wheels, New York Times, Oct. 23, 2012

Financial Sanctions against Iran and the Chinese Loophole

America’s chokehold on Iran’s oil trade is tightening. New sanctions that come into force on June 28th attempt to turn off Iran’s $95 billion-a-year oil trade, and stop the flow of funds into its nuclear programme. The way the rules work shows how controlling the dollar strengthens America’s grip. The way China has responded shows the limits of these efforts.  To check the stream of oil cash America needs to punish those that trade with Iran. One option is to block these countries from its own markets. But America accounts for only 12% of global trade, and by cutting off trade with offending countries it would end up hurting its own exporters. Using the dollar is a more powerful and precise weapon: over 35% of international transactions are in dollars, and many of them do not involve American firms.

Iran has a particular dollar weakness. Most of its oil—around 2.5m barrels a day (b/d) in 2011—is sold to foreigners in exchange for dollars. Previous sanctions have already cut private Iranian banks out of the oil trade, so sales are managed by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). The CBI uses the dollars it receives to maintain the Islamic Republic’s fixed exchange rate.

America’s new sanctions laws, signed in December, target countries that fail to prove a big reduction in their oil trade with the CBI. Any bank that facilitates these trades by dealing with the CBI will be denied access to the American banking system. It would be unable to offer dollar accounts and dollar payments, since these activities rely on links to correspondent American banks. Given the importance of the dollar, customers would go elsewhere.  Unplugging lenders from the banking network is easily done. Indeed, an important international-payments system—the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFThas already kicked out 40 Iranian banks, after pressure from America. From June 28th non-Iranian banks that deal with the CBI could face the same fate.

Soon after the new law was passed, Japan and ten EU countries reduced trade with Iran. Earlier this month seven others, including India, cut Iranian oil imports. These countries are now exempt from sanctions. As a result Iran’s exports have fallen to around 1.5m b/d, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) data.

Other countries have proved harder to influence. China is Iran’s biggest oil customer, accounting for 20% of its sales. It stands to lose a lot by reducing trade. So rather than cutting imports, China has resorted to exploiting loopholes. The sanctions law in America specifically names the CBI, so some trades have been routed via money exchanges in the Gulf instead. The countries are bartering too, with Iranian oil sometimes swapped for shipments of Chinese gold. China has also set up “swap-shop” segregated accounts which it credits when it receives oil, allowing Iran to buy Chinese goods, according to Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a think-tank.

This oil-swapping system is hard to stop. Accurate oil-trade data are collated by monitoring the tracking beacons big tankers must carry in order to prevent collisions. But the Iranian fleet has been flouting safety rules and turning its beacons off since April, according to the IEA, allowing vessels to make clandestine port visits and mid-ocean oil transfers.

Even if it could spot illicit transactions, America might still choose to ignore them. The sanctions are preventing Iran from getting hold of the hard currency it needs to defend its peg, among other things. And confrontation with China could be costly for America. Of the $12 trillion-worth of Treasuries held abroad, China owns over 13%. Excluding China from America’s financial system would wall off a big customer for its own debt.

Financial sanctions: Dollar power, Economist, June 23, 2012, at 75