la grande bouffe

The oligarchs assemble at Davos
Niles Niemuth, WSWS, Jan 21 2020

Hundreds of bankers, corporate executives, celebrities, and heads of state and cabinet members have arrived in Davos, Switzerland, to take part in the 50th annual World Economic Forum (WEF), which begins Tuesday. With the wealth of the world’s billionaires up by 25% in the last year alone, the Davos attendees have much to celebrate. But looking over the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, the oligarchs see themselves beset by a tide of social opposition and resentment. WEF founder Klaus Schwab warned in a statement ahead of the meeting that the world is at a “critical crossroads,” noting:

People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them.

Indeed, the meeting is being held amid a global upsurge of social protests over the past year from Chile and Puerto Rico, Sudan and Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon, to Hong Kong and India, to Pindostan and Mexico. Across the world, protests fueled by growing social and economic inequality are continuing and expected to grow in 2020, including in France, where the year began with mass strikes against Macron’s proposed pension cuts. Ahead of their meeting, the WEF published a global risks report which noted that members ranked “domestic political polarization” in a virtual tie for their number one concern, up from ninth last year. Meanwhile, the annual Edleman Trust Barometer survey found that a majority of people around the world think that capitalism is doing more harm than good. The survey found a global discrediting of all institutions, with governments, the media, business and NGOs all seen by masses of people as unethical and incompetent. Ahead of the event, the British charity Oxfam released its annual report on social inequality, which it declared to be “out of control.” According to Oxfam, the world’s billionaire population alone, just 2,153 people, the number of people which would fit comfortably on a modern cruise ship, control more wealth than the 4.6 billion poorest people in the world. Meanwhile the top 1% collectively has twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people, nearly the entire world’s population. Placing the mind-boggling gap between the rich and poor in perspective, Oxfam notes:

If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.

The conclave in Davos is an opportunity for the capitalist elite to posture as enlightened reformers while cutting backroom deals aimed at funneling ever more wealth from the bottom to the top, in the privacy of the exclusive Alpine resort town and under the close guard of Swiss police snipers and their own personal security retinues. The theme for this year’s meeting is “Stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world,” with a focus on the issue of climate change. Events headlined by teenage activist Greta Thunberg are being given top billing and Britain’s Prince Charles is expected to deliver a talk on “how to save the planet.” The billionaires and millionaires in attendance will be able to show their commitment to combatting global warming by refueling their private jets with “greener” sustainable aviation fuel available at Zurich Airport’s private terminal. Attendees are being encouraged to walk on foot from venue to venue in order to reduce their personal carbon footprint. Trump, who set off for Davos yesterday in his second trip to the WEF, is set to deliver a “special address” today. The red-carpet treatment for Trump, a war criminal who has torn thousands of immigrant children from their families, and who just weeks ago brought the planet to the cusp of WW3, explodes the event’s humanitarian pretenses. NYT reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin commented:

With the stock market at record highs … there is an increasing sense he will be accepted, if not embraced (although some attendees may roll their eyes behind his back) when he arrives on Tuesday… Mr Trump may be the new Davos Man.

The attendees’ warm reception for Trump expresses the embrace of dictatorship and fascistic forces on the part of the financial oligarchy. Feeling themselves surrounded by social opposition, the oligarchs are turning ever more directly to dictatorial forms of rule. As the attendees give moralizing sermons about “sustainability” and praise each other’s philanthropic efforts, in their minds will be the fact that most of the world knows that they, the oligarchs thrmselves, are the cause of the world’s problems. It is they who benefit from wars. It is they who promote the rise of fascism, and who are waging a frontal attack on democratic rights. It is they who are responsible for the poverty and social misery afflicting the world’s working population. The entry into struggle by millions of people all over the world is in fact a recognition of this fact, combined with a determination to oppose it. However, any solution to the crises confronting the overwhelming majority of the world’s people above all requires the expropriation of the financial parasites gathered this week in Switzerland. The seizure of the wealth of little more than 2,000 people under the democratic control of the international working class would lay the basis for providing billions of people with the food, water, education, health care, culture, internet access and housing which are their fundamental social rights. This social necessity of expropriating their ill-begotten wealth is inseparable from the overthrow of the capitalist system and the socialist transformation of society.

Iran says Zarif not attending Davos as its organizers ‘changed its agenda’
Reuters, Jan 21 2020

DUBAI – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will not attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this week because its organizers had “abruptly changed its agenda,” its foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday. Abbas Mousavi told a televised weekly conference:

He was scheduled to attend … but they abruptly changed the schedule and it was not the schedule that we agreed upon. So he will not attend Davos.

Reuters last week reported that Zarif was no longer on the list of nearly 3,000 people due at the event, which is being held under the banner “Stakeholders for a Sustainable and Cohesive World.”

Iran Counters EU Threat Of Snapback Sanctions
Moon of Alabama, Jan 20 2020

Trump wants to destroy the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has threatened the Euro vassals (Germany, Britain, France) with a 25% tariff on their car exports to Pindostan unless they end their role in the JCPoA deal. With their usual gutlessness, they gave in to the blackmail. They triggered the Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the deal. The mechanism foresees two 15 day periods of negotiations and a five-day decision period, after which any of the involved countries can escalate the issues to the UNSC, which would then lead to an automatic reactivation or “snapback” of those UN sanctions against Iran that existed before the nuclear deal was signed. Iran is now countering the European move. Its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that Iran may leave the NNPT if any of the Euro vassals escalates the issue to the UNSC:

Zarif said that Iran is following up the late decision by Euro vassals to trigger the Dispute Resolution Mechanism in the context of the JCPoA, adding that Tehran officially started the discussion on the mechanism on May 8 2018 when Pindostan withdrew from the deal. He underlined that Iran sent three letters dated May 10, Aug 26 and Nov 2018 to Federica Mogherini, announcing in the latter that Iran had officially triggered and ended the dispute resolution mechanism and thus would begin reducing its commitments to the JCPoA. However, Iran gave a seven-month opportunity to the EU before it began reducing its commitments in May 8 2019 which had operational effects two months later, according to Zarif. Iran’s top diplomat said that the country’s five steps in compliance reduction would have no similar follow-ups, but Europeans’ measure to refer the case to the UNSC may be followed by Tehran’s decision to leave the NNPT, as stated in Pres Rouhani’s May 2018 letter to other parties to the deal. He stressed that all the steps are reversible if the European parties to the JCPoA restore their obligations under the deal.

The Europeans certainly do not want Iran to leave the NPT, but as they are cowards and likely to continue to submit themselves to Trump’s blackmail, that is what they will end up with. Britain is the most likely country to move the issue to the UNSC, as it is in urgent need of a trade deal with Pindostan after leaving the EU. Adherence to the NNPT is controlled through safeguard agreements between the individual member countries and the IAEA, which inspects nuclear facilities. If Iran were to leave the NPT, it could still decided to continue its safeguard agreements with the IAEA, and could continue to have its nuclear facilities under inspection. That would increase international confidence that Iran is not up to something nefarious. Leaving the IAEA and ending its inspection role in Iran would then become a separate step the country could still take. Trump would probably like it if Iran would end its NNPT commitments. It would be used to allege that Iran was doing so to build nuclear weapons, even if that were not the case. If Iran were to leave the NNPT it would no longer have any obligation to not build a nuclear weapon. But that does not mean at all that it would start to make nuclear bombs. Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa that prohibits the production or use of any weapon of mass destruction by Iran:

Khamenei has publicly emphasized that position again and again. Khamenei’s fatwa is not his personal decision but a longstanding official policy position of the IRI. During the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein ordered the use of CW against Iranian front lines and cities. 10,000 Iranians died of those, and many more were wounded by them. Back then, the IRI still had CW left over from the Shah’s regime, but it refrained from using them as Ayatollah Khomeini prohibited their use. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to press Iran with other petty measures. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had a personal invitation to speak at the the WEF in Davos, but when Trump announced that he would come to Davos, the planned event with Zarif was modified in a way that led to his cancellation of the event:

Zarif had been scheduled to attend the gathering after receiving a personal invitation, his ministry said. “They changed the original program they had for him, the program that had been agreed upon, and came up with something else,” said spokesman Abbas Mousavi. “Either way, this trip unfortunately will not happen,” he told a news conference in Tehran. … In a tweet published later on Monday, Mousavi suggested that the change in program by the organizers of the Davos forum was “perhaps geared to have only one outcome,” and called Zarif’s absence a “missed opportunity for dialogue.”

It is likely that Trump demanded the WEF to take that step. In another petty measure, the Asian Football Confederation stripped Iranian football teams of their right to host their own international matches:

The Asian Football Confederation has reportedly banned Iran from hosting international matches based on safety fears over the current tensions in the region. Iranian club sides have responded by planning to withdraw from the AFC Asian Champions League. The clubs have said Iran is “safe”, while Iranian media and fans have claimed that politics, rather than security, is behind the AFC’s decision. Iran are one of the top nations in the Asian Champions League, and have some of the best supported clubs in Asia. Iranian clubs had a poor campaign last year, but the year before that, Persepolis reached the final of the competition. They, along with Esteghlal, Sepahan and Shahr Khodro, will withdraw from the competition should the AFC’s fixture ban not be reversed.

Iran suspects that the Toads pushed the ACL to take that step. All this is part of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran. His Special Representative for Iran recently repeated what Trump hopes to achieve:

Brian Hook forgot to ask for pink ponies. There is no chance at all that Iran will ever give up its ‘indelible right’ to nuclear enrichment or the missile program on which its strategic security is based. These unfulfillable demands the Trump administration makes are not designed to reach an agreement but to lead to a deeper conflict.

North Korea won’t be bound by old commitments if Pindostan continues ‘most brutal and inhuman sanctions’ – senior diplomat
RT.com, Jan 21 2020

A North Korean envoy in Geneva has warned that denuclearization is impossible if Pindostan maintains its “hostile policies,” pushing Pyongyang to seek a “new path” from the stalled bilateral talks. Ju Yong-chol, a counsellor at Pyongyang’s mission in Geneva, said at the UN-backed disarmament conference on Tuesday, as quoted by Reuters:

We found no reason to be unilaterally bound any longer by the commitment that the other party fails to honor. Pindostan continues to make unilateral demands and impose the most brutal and inhuman sanctions. If Pindostan persists in such a hostile policy towards the DPRK, there will never be the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The DPRK may be compelled to seek a new path.

Ju made his comments after the expiration of the year-end deadline North Korea gave Faschingstein to change its approach to negotiations. Pyongyang accuses Pindostan of using the talks as a deception tactic. The situation around the Korean Peninsula offered a glimpse of optimism in 2018, when Trump held face-to-face talks with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, but negotiations have since stalled and relations deteriorated further as parties failed to agree on the terms of denuclearization. Pyongyang test-fired several missiles last year, claiming purely defensive purposes.

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