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The Iran Nuclear Deal: Obligation or Opportunity?

by John Brian Shannon

It’s always helpful to look at a country’s actions over the past 200 years to help understand what its intentions may be here and now, and in the future.

The burgeoning but relatively isolated country of Iran hasn’t militarily attacked another country for over 200 years, and it was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq that militarily attacked Iran in September 1980 — a conflict that finally ended in August 1988 with 1 million casualties and an economic cost of $680 million to $1 trillion dollars — with no clear winner and no benefit to either country.

After all that blood and treasure, no benefit to either country(!) although via the UN-sponsored peace accord and as a penalty to Iraq for starting the war, Iran gained access to the Shatt al-Arab waterway which runs into the Persian Gulf.

Since 2000, Iran has purportedly financed organizations (some listed as terrorist organizations, and others not) throughout the Middle East and most recently in Syria, Iraq, and perhaps Lebanon, in an attempt to exert some control on the various forces operating around their region. (Every country uses various methods to control what happens in its own region, so no news there)

But nothing captures the world’s attention like the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the deal is a bad one for the West and shouldn’t have been signed and wants to walk away from the deal, reserving the right to act unilaterally if he feels the country is a danger to the U.S.A. or its Middle East allies.

Last week, France’s President Emmanuel Macron flew to Washington to meet with the U.S. President to convince him to stay in the deal or to embrace a ‘third way’ which means renegotiating some of the agreement to better suit U.S. concerns.

Iran barely signed the previous agreement… so it will be interesting to see how the U.S. can get everything it wants from a renegotiated deal while still obtaining Iran’s signature to a new agreement. A deal isn’t a deal unless both sides sign on the dotted line.


Why Would the U.S. Care About Iran? (and Syria, for that matter)

From a strategic perspective, there isn’t a country in the world that could be less important to the security of the United States than Iran, and the same goes for Syria.

Neither country has the kind of military that could threaten America, nor could they project their power anywhere near the North American continent.

Unless the United States is actively working for Israel — a country which has an irrational fear of Iran (again, Iran hasn’t invaded any other country for over 200 years) and is willing to spend billions or even another trillion dollars to wage another Iraq War-style conflict against Iran, there’s no reason for the U.S. to have any dealings with Iran whatsoever.

Iran is a regional power at best, and will remain so for approximately the next 30-years as it hasn’t the capacity to be anything else.

If the United States is actively working for Saudi Arabia — a country that views Iran as an unwelcome competitor in the race to dominate the region, the same advice applies. Why should the U.S. spend multi-billions and sacrifice thousands of young soldiers to satisfy the Saudi ambition to be the local hegemon?

It’s not like Iran is withholding oil deliveries. On the contrary, Iranian oil is easily obtainable with a phone call — the country is highly motivated to sell every drop of oil due to high spending on social programmes by the Iranian government that are funded by oil revenue.

And Iran’s crude oil is rated either #2 (sweet) or #3 (semi-sweet) which means it’s in high demand around the world. Global oil producers have already pumped all of their #2 sweet crude out of the ground years ago; only Iran and Venezuela have significant reserves of sweet crude in the 21st-century.

As for oil refineries, they need Iran’s (or Venezuela’s) #2 sweet crude oil to blend with the oil supplied by their producers which is almost always #4 (sour) or #4.75 (very sour) like the Canadian oil sands product.

Most refineries won’t accept sour crude oil unless there is plenty of #2 or #3 sweet crude blended into the sour crude. It’s just too toxic to refine ‘sour’ as it requires a much more stringent maintenance protocol, meaning the refinery needs to shut down and go into ‘maintenance mode’ more often. That downtime represents a significant loss of revenue for oil refineries.

Therefore, as long as Iran continues to ship huge quantities of sweet crude, the United States should be facilitating that oil business instead of trying to curtail it.


The EU View of Iran is a Mature View

Say what you want about the Europeans, but they don’t allow themselves to be used by countries like Israel that have an irrational fear of Iran and want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place and thereby become the regional superpower, or countries like Saudi Arabia that want to use the United States and the EU to keep the Iranians ‘down’ and in their ‘proper’ place and thereby become the regional superpower.

To oversimplify the EU view; As long as Iran’s sweet crude continues to flow (it is) and as long as Iran isn’t actively invading any other country (it isn’t) then there’s no reason to use some imagined breach of the Iranian nuclear deal to launch another trillion dollar war in the Middle East. And, as always, the EU continues to refuse to allow itself to be used by regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In the final analysis, the EU’s position on the Iranian nuclear deal is the most enlightened of all and it is the view the United States should support.

Europe: New Challenges, New Directions

by John Brian Shannon | August 30, 2016

Europe is at a crossroads and it’s time to make some decisions

Very conveniently, however, there are really only 3 problems with Europe.

Map of Europe includes the EU and non-EU nations.

Map of Europe includes the EU and non-EU nations. EU nations that aren’t part of the Eurozone (the euro) are light blue. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I: The trickle-up economy continues to move trillions of dollars out of the bottom 4 quintiles and place it into the hands of the top quintile. This remains a recipe for failure, and the longer it continues the more draconian the solutions will need to be.

In 2016, half the world’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of the 1% — but by 2030, three-quarters of the world’s wealth will be concentrated into the hands of the 1%.

That’s wholly unsustainable. And nobody is even talking about it.

Unless addressed, Record Inequality will become Social Breakdown. And that will be the end of Europe as we know it.

II: Globalization is a truly wonderful thing. It continues to bring cheap goods to consumers since the Arab Oil Embargo in 1974, which caused millions of Americans to buy cheaper, more fuel efficient cars. That was the beginning of it, but the flood of electronics, textiles, and other goods soon followed.

For one such example of this; Each iPhone would retail for over $2000. with some sources asserting each iPhone would cost $3000. if manufactured in the United States.

But globalization has piggy-backed on Record Inequality to the detriment of workers and families in the West and it looks like (however fairly or unfairly) ‘The People’ are sick of globalization.

Declining living standards due to Inequality and Globalization have ‘The People’ thinking that change is necessary.

And change will come. The People always get their way. Maybe not with Perestroika and Glasnost, but the will of the people eventually becomes reality.

III: “You are leaving the American Sector”

We all remember those signs in postwar Europe. But what is actually happening is that America is leaving the American Sector in Europe.

Yes, America has realized that 58% (and growing) of all global trade is happening in the Pacific and the Americans are lowering their commitment to Europe and the Middle East.

Europe should be all grown-up by now, and the Middle East is a rambunctious, late-teenage, regional power. You should try to get along.

Prior to the Brexit referendum, the normal course of events would have been for the U.S. to become the Pacific Power and for the EU to become the Atlantic Power.

However, for that to happen, the EU needed Britain (which is by definition) the world’s seafaring nation and Britain is leaving the EU.

Consequently, history is still happening as the logical course of action post-referendum is for the UK to become the dedicated Atlantic Power, while the EU becomes the dedicated Mediterranean Power.

And that means strong (and fair) linkages with MENA nations and it means a strong invite to join the EU for every single southern European nation.

As 97.1% of Crimeans voted to rejoin Russia, it also means ‘Hands-Off Crimea’ but either Turkey or Ukraine (sans-Crimea) will eventually join the EU. But not both.

Russia won’t allow the EU to have both, so choose the option you prefer and get it done with as little upset as possible. The EU already has too much on its plate — troubles with Russia is the last thing the EU needs — especially in view of decreased American commitment to Europe.

The next 10 years will be a vulnerable time for the EU; Meaning, this is not the time for the EU to go shooting itself in the foot with a Russian gun.

Summary

Europe has only three problems. The ways I’ve outlined are not the only ways to solve them. However, they align with what is already happening.

What I’m saying, is that instead of governments being steered by events European leaders need to steer the thing even if it means continuing on with what was already going to take place anyhow.

Which is:

a) Friendly divorce with Britain.
b) EU lowers Atlantic commitments and ramps up linkages and commitments in the Med and MENA.
c) All southern European nations join the EU.
d) Choose either Ukraine (sans-Crimea) or Turkey and make one of them an EU nation, ASAP.
e) Friendly relations with Russia are imperative — if the present leadership can’t get it done, Fire Them and get new leaders — it’s that important.
f) Friendly relations with the Middle East (stop bombing your neighbours)
g) Address Inequality in no uncertain terms.
h) Stop using the word globalization and seek Win-Win bilateral trade agreements exclusively, where that trade actually benefits both sides — instead of just dumping your goods in other countries and getting the loot. You need (true) Interdependence instead of Globalization.
i) Harmonize EU economic policies around the best existing model in Europe (Norway) where deficits are limited to 4% of GDP, plan for a 3% unemployment rate, free university education for residents, low crime rate, high productivity, very high SPI and UN Happiness Index scores (and those two metrics drive all other positive stats) revenue surpluses directed to a sovereign wealth fund, and so much more.

These are not big challenges compared to the challenges faced by WWI and WWII leaders, and by leaders in the immediate postwar era. These are tiny challenges.

But these challenges will require persistence by leaders who can keep the main objectives in the forefront of their mind, even as (seemingly) everyone else wants to go in different directions.

The question is not; “Does the EU have good leaders?” (Of course it most certainly does or the EU wouldn’t have ever existed, nor would it still remain)

The question is: “Does the EU have the leaders it needs to actually accomplish the remaining goals?”

Related Article:

EU Immigration: Economic Benefit or Social Policy Disaster?

by John Brian Shannon | August 9, 2016

Recent reports about immigration in the EU suggest a real macroeconomic benefit to welcoming millions of refugees and economic migrants into the country

And that’s true. Even poverty-stricken refugees consume goods and services.

If we look at the German example; One million Middle Eastern refugees have been accepted into Germany since 2010 and all of them eat food, pay rent, pay electricity bills, take the bus, buy clothing, go to movies — and in many other ways add revenue to the economy.

If each of those million refugees spend 10 euros per day (equal to their daily food spending) that’s 10 million euros per day. Totalled, their monthly food spend equals 300 million euros in Germany alone.

If we extrapolate the German example further, we see that almost everything in Germany has a sales tax attached to it, and for those that have become employed, they’re paying income tax on their earnings.

Therefore, Germany is earning nearly 1 billion euros per day from their 1 million refugees

Of course, there are the high costs of accepting refugees and some may remain on social welfare programmes for as long as 2 years. German taxpayers pay for that. But after the 2-year mark, it’s all good.

No wonder Chancellor Merkel looks at immigration with such optimism. From an economic standpoint Merkel is 100% right; It really is the best thing for Germany. A brilliant but domestically unpopular policy by one of the greatest Chancellors in German history.

And let’s also recognize that this latest wave of immigrants is additional to the existing German immigrant pool — the first wave of which began in the 1970’s, and that generation are now a cohort of decent, hardworking, and family-oriented people. A benefit to the German economy almost every day since they arrived.

It’s not all Apple strudel and yodeling in Germany, however

Crime is much higher due to those massive levels of immigration. In Germany, girls can’t even attend a women’s music festival without a high probability of being molested by immigrant men. And the same holds true throughout the EU, especially in Sweden (of all places) and in Greece.

So what’s the point? Gain more in taxes so that women must hide in their homes?

That’s a bad deal for half the population, the female half.

Thus far, the lack of leadership on what is expected of new arrivals to the EU is astonishing and breathtaking all at once.

Refugees and economic immigrants from Day 1 of their arrival in Europe, should’ve been handed water bottles and pamphlets (written in their language) describing the rules of European culture, the rights of the person in EU society, the culture of respect for law and order — and not a gloss-over job but a poignant list of laws and societal norms that must be adhered to while travelling or living in Europe.

And printed in bold letters front and back of the pamphlets:

“It’s not your *right* to emigrate to our countries, it’s a *privilege* therefore consider yourselves guests while in our countries.”

Would you allow a guest to your home to wear muddy boots and to walk all over your expensive carpets and furniture? Obviously not.

Then neither should you allow your guests to molest your girls, rob subway passengers, and engage in rioting and looting.

Nor should we allow immigrants (or anyone) to defile EU culture — culture being the mass of our thoughts, brought into the light.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” — Mahatma Gandhi

It’s a very human thing to help people experiencing hardship and fleeing from countries due to conflict or famine there. The fact that we still do this (although not as well as in prior decades) gives hope for humanity.

But it’s been bungled up til now in the EU and it needs to be fixed. ASAP.

Finally, refugees should be given a temporary landed immigrant card (a photo ID) that allows them to stay in the EU for up to 4 years

After that; ‘It’s time to go back home and rebuild your country, with the skills, money and experiences you’ve acquired during your time in the West.’

European countries should now, even at this late stage, attempt to:

1) Educate refugees/economic migrants about European legal and cultural standards, from Day 1 of their arrival.
2) Continue to provide the normal social benefit for each adult, until they find a job.
3) Continue to provide safe housing until reasonable accommodation can be found.
4) Continue to monitor those people to make sure they are finding services, housing, jobs, and are not being targeted by Middle Eastern ‘mafia’ types within their own community.
5) Provide a free airline ticket at the 4-year mark to allow them to return to their home country. If they don’t want to return to Syria (for example) they could exchange their ticket for another of similar value (to Cairo, for example)
6) By accepting and paying for the living expenses of refugees and economic migrants (where they don’t have their own funds) for four years, and by educating them to Western norms, and by helping them to find safe shelter and jobs, etc. it’s truly a privilege for those people to be in Europe, and they should conduct themselves accordingly.
7) If not, they should be deported as soon as they are convicted of any crime (and obviously, their 4-year pass cancelled)

Every day, we teach others how to treat us

If we teach others that it’s acceptable to walk into our homes wearing their muddy boots and to walk all over the carpets and furniture, we deserve everything that we get from those people.

If we (gently) teach them about the rules of our house and provide the support they need, we are teaching them that we’re their benefactors and that we’re people to be respected.

Thus far, we’ve been teaching the refugees the wrong things, and they’ve responded in kind. (Input = Output)

It’s a failure of vision and it’s a failure of leadership. And the experiment with mass immigration flows from the Middle East will end in the failure of some EU member nations.

We’ve already seen blowback from this mishandled affair via the Swiss voting in a 2014 referendum to leave the EU, and Brexit in 2016, with surely more exits to follow.

It’s a problem that won’t go away until EU leaders address the fundamental problems of mass migration, problems which (in the absence of proper guidance) begin on Day 1 of a refugee’s arrival.

Related Articles:


Bonus Graphic: A Snapshot of the European Migrant Crisis in 2015

EU refugee crisis.

Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)Own work, using data and information from these web sites: Eurostat dataset migr_asyappctzm (direct download) Eurostat dataset tps00001 (direct download) FRONTEX Migratory Routes Map This base map by alexrk  | CC BY-SA 2.0