[Pakistani officials will never stop lying about its safe-havens for the Afghan Taliban, and they will never admit the truth about the so-called “Quetta shura”, home-base for the Mullah Mansour branch of the Afghan Taliban.]
Pakistan’s new leader, stung by President Trump’s threat to crack down on his country for harboring terrorists, insisted on Wednesday that Pakistani military forces had uprooted all the sanctuaries used by Islamic extremists along its rugged frontier with Afghanistan.
“We have regained control of the area,” the prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said in an interview with The New York Times. “There are no sanctuaries anymore. There are none at all. I can categorically state that.”
President Trump’s new Executive Order on North Korea sanctions is a unilateral declaration of economic warfare designed to bring the North to its knees through the aggressive use of secondary sanctions against any country that trades with or finances trade with North Korea. Rather than bring North Korea closer to the negotiating table for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, they are likely to hasten war and even the collapse of the regime if effectively enforced. It is unlikely, however, that this severe tightening of the sanctions screw will be successful.
What’s in the New Executive Order
When reading President Trump’s comments on the new Executive Order (EO) imposing new sanctions on North Korea, the author’s initial reaction was that they are, in part, a logical, intelligent next step after the passage of the recent UN Security Council Resolution (2375), which named additional North Korean economic sectors to the international sanctions campaign. Many of the industries targeted such as seafood and textiles have been flagged in recent UN resolutions. To this extent, the new Executive Order appeared to be adding the threat of US asset seizures and denial of access to the US financial system for any entity that violates the caps and bans on trade in those industries. This is an excellent and sensible way to deter sanctions evasion at least by firms with a significant stake in international commerce.
These new measures might increase marginally the effectiveness of the recent UN sanctions, but by how much would be a guess. The President’s lauding of recent actions by the Bank of China to discipline banks under its jurisdiction seemed to indicate that there was useful US-China sanctions cooperation in place, and would seem to indicate a shift from the threat to initiate a global trade war. In some areas where the EO went beyond the UN sanctions, such as new restrictions on ships or aircraft that make stops in North Korea from accessing US ports or airports for 180 days, it is not likely to have much impact. Nor is it a new idea, having been initiated in the ROK and Japan some time ago. Overall, the President’s announcement made it seem as if this was a minor, incremental sanctions effort.
But upon reading the text of the Executive Order, this view is 180 degrees at variance with the truth. The EO includes within it provisions that will allow the US to impose a full trade and financial embargo on North Korea unilaterally through the use of secondary sanctions. Section 1 (a) (iii) of the order permits the Secretary of Treasury to seize the assets or property of any person who “engages in one successful importation from or exportation to of any goods, services or technology.” Section 4 of the EO brings the full power of the US Treasury to bear against any bank that facilitates any trade with North Korea. Financial dealings with essentially any element of the government of North Korea are sanctionable (Section 4 (a) (i)). Facilitating any trade with North Korea is equally sanctionable (Section 4 (a) (ii)). The penalties prescribed are fatal to any bank using the dollar. They can have their assets seized and can be banned from the US financial system (Section 4 (b) (i) and (ii). In short, the United States is asserting the intention and right to ban from the US financial system and the dollar any entity from any country that trades with or finances trade with North Korea.
In combination with the President’s UN speech, we are witnessing the final phases of an effort to use sanctions against North Korea. Sanctions are no longer to be international instruments to coerce North Korea to the negotiating table. They are now unilateral instruments of a US economic war against North Korea in which states and firms will all have to comply or be US targets. This is consistent with the President’s UN speech in which he slammed the door on any hope of a negotiated settlement of this crisis (the subject of a separate article). They are, of course, not in the least consistent with his hymns to national sovereignty in that speech. Based on this EO, sanctions are no longer to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. Their only purpose can be to force the regime to capitulate under crushing economic pain or to create the conditions for regime collapse if it does not capitulate.
And Why It Is Unlikely To Work
It is not impossible for this approach to work. It is possible that the Trump administration has managed to work things out behind the scenes with China to prevent a US-China trade and financial war from emerging from America’s attempt to enforce this EO against key Chinese entities. It is also possible that North Korea might eventually be willing to pursue some diplomatic option, such as trying to negotiate some limit on long-range missile and nuclear testing in return for suspension of some sanctions in the EO. But this latter possibility seems highly unlikely given the recent statement by Kim Jong Un.
We are in new and dangerous territory. Sanctions are no longer the alternative to war. They may well be its prelude:
First, the US will have to make its unilateral embargo stick globally. To do so, it will have to enforce its will and it is not certain it can do so only with secondary sanctions. (China is a master of finding small-scale banks and other entities with no stake in the US financial system to trade where it needs to trade in the face of US secondary sanctions.) There will be a temptation if things get frustrating either to expand the reach of secondary sanctions to whole countries or to enforce an embargo with military means such as a naval “quarantine” or blockade.
Second, the effort may fail at a high humanitarian cost. While this effort may severely reduce the North’s access to foreign exchange and goods through legal means, the North Korean government has funded a great deal of its operations through illegal means such as smuggling, illicit drug dealing, counterfeiting and large scale cyber-crime. It has also shown an annoying capability to adapt to and defeat past sanctions. Black money alone may be enough to keep the regime elites and the nuclear weapons program funded while letting the general population suffer all the shortages, unemployment, hunger and disease that will come from a successful cutoff of global commerce. We could inflict a great deal of suffering on voiceless every day North Koreans before Kim Jong Un and his cronies feel a pinch.
Third, there isn’t enough time to be sure this strategy will work. Crushing even a poor country like North Korea economically is not the work of a couple of weeks; it takes years. The US does not have years. It has months or maybe a year before North Korea reaches its goal of being able to target US cities in the lower 48 states with a thermonuclear weapon. This is very likely the point at which the inner councils of the Trump administration have already decided informally that war is inevitable. Their words increasingly reflect a view that preventive war is a preferable and feasible end state compared to the North Korean acquisition of a nuclear-armed ICBM capability of any size. And, of course, Kim Jong Un will respond somewhere and somehow—whether through cyber-attacks on the US or terrorism directed at Japan or the ROK or with some military action designed to create economic costs that cannot be predicted, but could spark conflict as well.
Moving Further Down the Slippery Slope Toward War
In sum, the new EO is probably the last word on sanctions as a mechanism to resolve the North Korean crisis. It is unlikely to be successful largely because the US does not have the time, the patience or the diplomatic possibilities to make it work. The author concluded after hearing the President’s UN speech that the probability that the North Korean crisis would end in a large war in East Asia is growing by the day. While intended to be an alternative to military conflict, this set of sanctions takes us another step down the road to that war.
The White House says in a statement that the two leaders agreed that such initiatives would help American companies develop materials critical to national security.
In a meeting in New York on Thursday, President Ashraf Ghani and US President Donald Trump agreed that US companies could help develop rare earth minerals in Afghanistan, the White House said in a statement – quoted by Reuters.
“They agreed that such initiatives would help American companies develop materials critical to national security while growing Afghanistan’s economy and creating new jobs in both countries, therefore defraying some of the costs of United States assistance as Afghans become more self-reliant,” the White House said.
The two leaders also expressed their commitment to fully implement the new US policy on South Asia to defeat terrorism, the statement said.
US President Trump met President Ghani appeared in front of media in New York on Thursday.
The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues including the war on terrorism, Afghanistan’s security and the progress made by the Afghan and US forces in the campaign against terrorism.
The US leader offered a warm welcome to the Afghan delegation and reiterated that militaries from the two allies were working hard in the war on terror.
“It is a pleasure to have president Ghani of Afghanistan with us, we are working very well together, we are working very hard, our military is as you know over there right now doing an incredible job; more of leadership than fighting; leading a lot of wonderful Afghan troops who are fighting very hard; we were just discussing that and great progress has been made; so it’s an honor to have your representatives with us,” said Trump.
This comes just weeks after Trump outlined his new war strategy for Afghanistan, a move which was widely welcomed by the government in Kabul.
Under the new strategy, the US has committed to sending in more troops to Afghanistan in order to fight insurgency.
Whatever happened to the imminent outbreak of World War Three? Earlier this month, you may recall, warnings about a “huge” Russian war game were everywhere, sowing alarm across the Western world. This could, we were told repeatedly, be Russia’s biggest military exercise since the end of the Cold War. “Massive” and “vast” were other adjectives used.
Military and media reports built Zapad-2017 – Zapad meaning West in Russian – into an almost unprecedented threat, but two particular claims stood out. Russia’s insistence that around 12,000 troops would take part was dismissed as a subterfuge; in reality, there would be upwards of 100,000.
Then there was intent. Such a major exercise, it was argued, could provide cover for a Russian land grab in Ukraine or even the Baltic States. Its proximity, in time and geography, to the 1 September anniversary of the start of the Second World War – Germany’s assault on Polish troops at Westerplatte – only seemed to lend the warnings extra credibility. With East-West tensions running high, we were on standby for World War Three.
So what happened? Zapad-2017 concluded earlier this week, by which time it had seriously fizzled out, in Western media terms at least. All that made the news was footage of President Vladimir Putin observing the scene through binoculars, and a report that three people had been injured when a Russian helicopter accidentally fired on spectators. The numbers are put, even by Western analysts, at somewhere between 10,000 and 17,000 troops taking part. No one has been invaded.
Putin watches Russia’s military might on display in war games
And the Russians are enjoying a rare last laugh. They point out, with some justification, that their numbers were accurate, there was no dissembling, international borders were respected. All the Russian troops introduced into neighbouring Belarus for the exercise are going home, too. After all the Western accusations that Russia has been waging an information war with the help of “fake news”, who is disseminating “fake news” now, they ask. Is this not further evidence that Western opinion formers are stuck in the rut of Cold War stereotypes? They have a point.
One theory doing the rounds is that, with Zapad-2017, Russia contrived to set a trap which Western analysts and media duly fell into. More likely, I think, is that Russia is simply enjoying the novelty of finding itself on the right side of any information war.
But that leaves the real question – for us – unanswered. How did it come about that the scale and intent of Russia’s Zapad-2017 – its latest in the four-yearly Zapad series of manoeuvres – was so unrealistically hyped in the West to the point of presaging a new world war?
Behind the scenes, accusations are flying, with “the media” – the “irresponsible” media – as usual, in the spotlight. There is an element of truth in that, but only an element. The media does not usually invent, completely invent, what it reports. Especially with military and defence matters, their information comes from somewhere; they may also be given a steer as to interpretation.
In this case, the media – or, more accurately, some headline writers – can be accused of missing some nuance in the information they were given. Russia “could” field as many as 100,000 troops, “could” use the exercise as cover to invade Ukraine, and so on, may slip over into “will”. Possibility becomes certainty. This may be done out of ignorance, for effect, or, in some cases, because it fits an existing political agenda.
But the media is not where the information – or rather, let’s use the old word, “disinformation” – about Russia’s Zapad-2017 originated. Even a cursory look back over advance media reports about these Russian war games shows that they relied on sometimes anonymous, but more often named, sources – sources moreover that could claim some expertise in the matter in hand.
One of these was none other than the Secretary General of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, who warned that Russia “has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours”, citing Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.
Then there was the British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, who said the exercise was “designed to provoke us” and appeared to accept the estimate of 100,000 troops.
Many of the reports also cited political or think tank sources in the Baltic States, Poland or Ukraine, where – for understandable reasons – a view of Russia as a past and potential aggressor prevails. That a particular view is understandable, however, does not make it correct, especially in new or different circumstances.
The same applies to precedent. UK officials defended what some – myself included – would regard as the scaremongering of the UK Defence Secretary and head of Nato, by saying that Russia had a record of understating the numbers involved in military exercises so as to exclude international observers, and it was not unreasonable to suspect them of doing the same again. Something similar applied to the use of manoeuvres as cover for aggression – even though the relationship between Russian exercises and its Georgia and Crimea interventions are at very least contestable.
Vigilance, they insisted, should be the watchword. But vigilance – and being prepared for any eventuality – is rather different, in my book at least, from hyping a supposed threat from a routine Russian military exercise in a way that simply was not warranted by the evidence and served a sharply anti-Russian Western agenda. This was happening, it is also worth noting, even as “non-aligned Sweden” (so described by Nato) was conducting a Nordic area exercise which involved many Nato members, and shortly after Nato itself had held exercises in the Black Sea and before that in and around the western borderlands of Ukraine. Who, it has to be asked here, is threatening whom?
Thanks to an initial analysis by the foreign affairs think tank Chatham House, the facts of Zapad-2017, in summary, would appear to be these. This was an exercise designed to test the new, smaller and more agile configuration of Russian forces and its new electronic and communications capabilities. It was also intended, in part, to show off its modern hardware, for commercial purposes – and, yes, to demonstrate to Nato that Russia remains a force to be reckoned with. In other words, it was an exercise, in concept and purpose, very similar to the sort of exercise that Western forces hold.
“The Trump in Tehran ” in 1977 and the “Hornet” in all the languages of the world has been able to understand what is written in the newspaper that the crazy American President Donald Trump went to Tehran under the Shah to open a nightclub.He drank that night until he fell out of his seat and was accompanied by actor Jack Nicholson “Min this.”
What is important is the discovery of the “Hornet” that caused Trump’s anger not because Iran took over Iraq after his country presented it to America on a silver platter, which in any case does not care about Iraq but is interested in Iraq’s oil and did not get angry because of the threat posed by Iran to the throne of Gulf rulers allies of America To his girlfriend pampered Israel but all his anger was because of the loss of the value of investment in the nightclub in Tehran after the Persian revolution religious cover and called falsely and the end of the Islamic revolution.
KABUL — A huge public works project over the next two years will reshape the center of the Afghan capital to bring nearly all Western embassies, major government ministries, and NATO and US military headquarters within the Green Zone security district
After 16 years of American presence in Kabul, it is a stark acknowledgment that even the city’s central districts have become too difficult to defend from Taliban bombings.
Soon, US Embassy employees in Kabul will no longer need to take a Chinook helicopter to cross the street to a military base less than 100 yards outside the present protection zone.
Instead, the boundaries of the Green Zone will be redrawn to include that base, known as the Kabul City Compound, formerly the headquarters for US Special Operations forces in the capital. The zone is separated from the rest of the city of 5 million by a network of police, military, and private security checkpoints.
The security project is clearly taking place to protect another long-term US investment: Along with an increase in troops to a reported 15,000, from around 11,000 at the moment, the Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan is likely to keep the military in place well into the 2020s.
No one wants to say when any final pullout will take place because the emphasis now is on a conditions-based withdrawal — presumably meaning after the Afghan government can handle the war alone. But President Trump has kept secret the details of those conditions, and how they are defined.
“Until he says what the conditions are, all that means is we’ll be there as long as we want, for whatever reason we want,” said Barnett Rubin, a longtime Afghanistan expert who advised the Obama administration. “And they don’t have to lie to do that because the conditions will never be good enough to say we’re absolutely not needed.”
In practical terms, it means that the US military mission will continue for many more years, despite its unpopularity with the American public. Many military strategists, in the United States and Afghanistan, have already penciled in plans well into the ‘20s, and certainly past any Trump reelection campaign.
At the NATO summit meeting in Warsaw last year, the allies, including the United States, agreed to fund the development of the Afghan security forces until the end of what was termed “the transition decade,” meaning from 2014, when Afghan forces began to take charge of their own security, until 2024.
“I would guess the US has to plan on being inside Afghanistan for a decade or more in order for there to be any type of resolution,” said Bill Roggio, editor of Long War Journal. “It’s definitely past his first term in office, no two ways about it.”
The military recently appointed an American brigadier general to take charge of greatly expanding and fortifying the Green Zone.
In the first stage of the project, expected to take from six months to a year, an expanded Green Zone will be created — covering about 1.86 square miles, up from 0.71 square miles — closing off streets within it to all but official traffic.
Because that will also cut two major arteries through the city, in an area where traffic congestion is already rage-inducing for Afghan drivers, the plans call for building a ring road on the northern side of the Wazir Akbar Khan hill to carry traffic around the new Green Zone. In a final stage, a still bigger Blue Zone will be established, encompassing most of the city center, where severe restrictions on movement will be put in place.
Already, height restriction barriers have been built over roads throughout Kabul to block trucks. Eventually, all trucks seeking to enter Kabul will be routed through a single portal, where they will be X-rayed and searched.