Background Briefing: May 13, 2019
Bolton’s War Shaping Up in the Gulf
We begin with the reports of sabotage of Saudi and Emirati oil tankers in the Gulf which, while they might be false flag operations, could also be the pretext that John Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo are looking for to start a war with Iran. Clearly Bolton is trying to goad the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp into triggering a small war which could be blamed on Iran, and while Trump may not want a war at the moment, he might benefit from one closer to the 2020 elections. Paul Pillar, a senior fellow at the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University who was National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia at the CIA, joins us to discuss his article at Lobe Log, “Bolton’s War” and assess the risks involved in provoking a small, limited war with Iran in a volatile region that supplies 35% of the world’s oil. We will examine the differences between Trump’s, Bolton’s and Pompeo’s foreign policies and the extent to which a “wag the dog” scenario is underway with Israel and Saudi Arabia urging the U.S. as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once observed, to “fight the Iranians to the last American”. With any military activity in the Gulf likely to cause a precipitous rise in the price of oil, we will look into who would benefit. With Iran under an oil embargo, in a limited war scenario, they would make more money for their oil on the black market, but if the Gulf were to be shut down by a wider conflagration, then Russia would be a big winner.
Trump’s White House Dalliance with a Despot
Then we discuss Trump’s latest dalliance with a despot at the White House today as he greeted the previously-shunned Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. Joining us is Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Princeton University who has an article at Foreign Affairs “Viktor Orban Wants Trump’s Help in the European Elections: America First Meets Hungary First”. We examine today’s photo-op that will greatly benefit Hungary’s practitioner of “soft fascism” who is the poster boy for Steve Bannon’s efforts underway to get far-right parties in Europe elected in the upcoming EU elections in sufficient numbers to paralyze the European Parliament so they won’t cut their subsidies to Hungary which Orban depends on to maintain his kleptocratic hold on power.
Wall Street’s Latest Perversion of Capitalism
Then finally, with the stock market tanking on fears of a trade war with China, we speak with William Cohan, a former senior Wall Street investment banker as well as a New York Times best-selling author. He joins us to discuss the dangers of having a financial fraudster like Trump who is one of Wall Street’s biggest losers, running the economy. We will also examine his article in The New York Times, “When Lenders Push Borrowers Over the Edge” which reveals a perverse incentive for hedge funds to use credit-default swaps as a way to drive companies into bankruptcy in order to reap rewards which is the opposite of why investors traditionally lend money wanting companies to succeed.