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The Quite Rational Basis for North Korea’s Japan Overfly

The Quite Rational Basis for North Korea’s

Japan Overfly

 

 

With each new missile test, Pyongyang shakes Tokyo’s confidence in Washington, while accruing valuable data on its own capabilities.

A missile launch.
A missile is launched during a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on August 30, 2017. KCNA

Ankit Panda

This week, North Korea launched a missile designed to carry what it has described as a “large-sized, heavy nuclear warhead” over Japan. Following the launch, North Korea made clear its intentions for future tests. Kim Jong Un called for “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target,” according to a paraphrase of his order by North Korean state-run media. That’s an important first, and represents North Korea’s single-most provocative ballistic missile test since it began testing its first-generation Scuds in the 1980s.For observers of North Korea’s ballistic-missile program, the spate of long-range missile system tests over the past 30 months comes as no surprise. If there was a surprise, it’s the rate at which Pyongyang has been crossing various technical milestones. Over a matter of months, North Korea has shown off new high-performance missiles that will eventually form the core of its burgeoning nuclear forces—Kim Jong Un’s ultimate insurance policy against the fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi.

Every North Korean ballistic missile test is provocative and illegal. The overfly was certainly both, but for North Korea, it was about far more than theatrical provocation. Launches like the one of this week are set to become more common because they both provide North Korea with key technical information about its deterrent, and serve an important strategic purpose in improving its position should it ever end up at the negotiating table with the United States.This recent overflight of Japan wasn’t North Korea’s first: In 1998, 2009, 2012, and 2016, North Korea overflew its territory with projectiles. None were designed to serve as strategic nuclear-delivery systems; all were satellite-launch vehicles, designed to deliver payloads into low-earth orbit and not reenter the atmosphere. Some analysts had long worried that the underlying technologies of these vehicles would eventually form the basis of an ICBM, but the large and unwieldy designs Pyongyang showed off had major shortcomings. For one, none of those designs would allow for the kind of  mobility that North Korea’s much smaller KN17 and KN20 systems enjoy. (Without mobility, the missiles would be sitting ducks at fixed launch sites during wartime—an invitation to preemption by the United States.)

Nonetheless, the first of those launches in 1998 was regarded as an exceptional provocation, giving Japan a glimpse of a terrifying future in which North Korean missile overflies could become a fact of life. The launch sparked Japan’s ongoing interest in ballistic-missile defense, spurring investments in sea-based interceptors like the Standard Missile-3 Aegis interceptors and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system as a hedge against that possible future. (Only the former has the capability to intercept a missile like the one North Korea just flew over Japan, and only under particular conditions.)

As of this week, Japan’s terrifying future has merged with its present. Even as a clearly agitated Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted to North Korea’s launch on Tuesday morning, saying that his country would take “all possible measures” to ensure the safety of its people, he no doubt knew what lay ahead for Japan.Earlier this year, Japan began ballistic-missile-attack evacuation drills for its citizens living near likely North Korean target areas. The Japanese government is also seeking earmarked funds in its 2018 budget request for new ballistic missile defense systems. Tokyo may also look to acquire the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system—the defensive system that has been at the center of domestic and international controversy in South Korea—though this may be less cost effective. Finally, the inexorable growth of the North Korean threat toward Japan may well accelerate plans in Abe’s right-wing Liberal Democratic Party to revise the country’s pacifist constitution, allowing Tokyo to formally wield precision-strike weapons for potential use against North Korea.

Even as Tokyo reckons with the arrival of its long-feared nightmare, it’s important to recognize that there are important reasons for Pyongyang—which remains rational despite the metronymic exhortations of many analysts to the contrary—to continue to overfly Japan with its missiles.

On a technical level, a ballistic missile flown at the kind of trajectory North Korea demonstrated this week experiences physical and temperature stresses more in line with what it would see during operational use. North Korea’s “lofted” tests, which fly the missile to immense altitudes, keeping its range contained to the Sea of Japan, provide some useful data in this regard. However, a launch like this week’s gives North Korean scientists a chance to observe how the missile may perform in a real attack. (There are outstanding questions, though, about how North Korea would have gathered telemetry data from this missile in the northern Pacific Ocean, where it is thought to have splashed down.)

On a strategic level, Pyongyang hopes that these kinds of tests get Japan and South Korea to question the utility of their respective alliances with the United States. North Korea made clear it undertook this launch because Washington ignored its previous overture—yes, the Guam saga was actually an invitation to negotiations—and carried on with the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise with South Korea.

Pyongyang didn’t mention Japan’s recent military drills with the United States, curiously enough. The implication was clear anyway: Tokyo is facing adverse security outcomes because of activities the United States is carrying out with South Korea. North Korea’s new long-range missiles allow it to make the stakes very real for Japan, and it may hope to drive a wedge between it and the United States.In this case, the technology and strategy work together to rattle America’s allies’ confidence in Washington’s security commitments in Northeast Asia—the cornerstone of what Pyongyang calls its “hostile policy” in East Asia. This is precisely why U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a rare readout of a post-launch phone call with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, emphasizing that the alliances remained “ironclad” despite North Korean provocations.

What will be difficult for the United States, Japan, and South Korea to accept, however, is that Kim Jong Un will likely get away with continued launches over Japan. Missile defense, while enticing, is at best imperfect, with the costs of a swing-and-a-miss potentially too great. Sanctions—the default answer to new and greater provocations from Pyongyang—have failed to stall Kim. He introduced his current generation of long-range missiles based on advanced composite materials and, most likely, engines manufactured at home despite an extensive international sanctions regime. (China’s imperfect implementation and enforcement of existing sanctions is unlikely to change anytime soon.)

hat choices does that leave? Well, there is the military option—part of what’s currently “on the table,” as several U.S. officials, including most recently President Donald J. Trump, remind us. Based on the capabilities North Korea has already demonstrated, however, the risks of preemptive military action against Kim Jong Un are unacceptably high. (Again: that’s why Kim has his nukes in the first place.)With none of these options providing a compelling way out, North Korea will continue testing its missiles—seeking to credibly demonstrate that it deters the United States. Its state media described this week’s launch as a “prelude to containing Guam.” With each launch, Pyongyang, however, has left a way out: it wants to talk to the United States.

As difficult as it is for Washington to acknowledge the reality of North Korea’s capabilities, Kim knows that it’s precisely his new nuclear-tipped missiles that give him the ability to bargain coercively with mighty America. Just recently, Tillerson and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis modified Washington’s precondition for talks with North Korea from a bona fide gesture toward denuclearization—now an outmoded pipe dream—to just “the immediate cessation” of its weapons tests.

Yes, North Korea has a long and unpalatable list of demands of the United States and its allies. And no, Washington should not capitulate or offer unlimited concessions for what may ultimately be unreliable and duplicitous assurances from Kim Jong Un. But as long as North Korea sees no reciprocal interest in Washington, it will keep testing bigger, better, and more powerful missiles at longer and longer ranges.

The unfortunate consequence of this is that if U.S. policymakers decide that there is no good reason to even enter noncommittal exploratory talks with North Korea under their terms, the alternative will be to accept uncapped North Korean technical progress on its increasingly impressive nuclear forces. That shouldn’t be acceptable and that’s why talks are the only realistic option on the table and the least bad out of the alternatives.


About the Author

  • Ankit Panda is a senior editor at The Diplomat, covering Asia-Pacific security and North Korea’s ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons programs.

Has Pentagon Been Orchestrating the Terrorism From Giant US Embassy In Islamabad?

Has Pentagon been orchestrating the

terrorism roller coaster from the US

embassy in Islamabad?

 

 

One must wonder what could be the motive behind engendering such a gigantic embassy in Islamabad. Without a doubt one can say that it can’t be built to oblige American vacationer or cookout exercises

Has Pentagon been orchestrating the terrorism roller coaster from the US embassy in Islamabad?

The Good People of Alabama Uphold Their God-Given Right To Honor Their Dead Ancestors

BRYNN ANDERSON

BRANTLEY, Ala. (AP) — As cities across the country are tearing down and relocating Confederate monuments, a county in southern Alabama on Sunday unveiled a new one.

Several hundred people attended a dedication ceremony for the “Unknown Alabama Confederate Soldiers” at Confederate Veterans Memorial Park in Crenshaw County, Alabama, 55 miles (88 kilometers) south of Montgomery.

The memorial park’s owner and developer, David Coggins, said the groups in attendance weren’t white nationalists or racists, but were acknowledging their heritage and honoring Confederate soldiers everywhere.

“It’s important that we remember our heritage and it’s very important we remember our history, for those people that forget their heritage … are doomed to repeat it again,” he said.

The monument was surrounded by a black metal fence and flanked by two other monuments. As a red cloth was pulled to reveal it, five cannons were fired.

Confederate flags were flown throughout the park and several attendants were dressed in Confederate garb.

The Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans attended the ceremony, along with re-enactors dressed in period clothing.

Coggins said the ceremony was not planned in response to recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, when white nationalists who objected to the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed with counter protesters. A woman was killed and several others injured when a car plowed into the counter-protesters. Two state troopers also died when their helicopter crashed.

The Alabama ceremony was scheduled months ago and the monument was ordered last year, Coggins told The Associated Press.

Debbie Weir, a retired attendee, said the monument stands for everything her ancestors endured, adding that she enjoyed people from different states coming together “to prove that we are one nation.”

“It’s always a good day when Confederates come together,” Weir said.

Shutting-Down the ISI/CIA Jihadi Academy–The Key to Winning in Afghanistan

Ending Pakistan’s Export of Jihadists: The

Key to Win in Afghanistan

A policy to win in Afghanistan requires undermining the Taliban’s strategic base – the external support and sanctuary that Pakistan continues to provide.

Credit: TanyaRozhnovskaya Shutterstock.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I have seen much war in my lifetime and I hate it profoundly. But there are worse things than war; and all of them come with defeat.” (Ernest Hemingway)

U.S. stated policy is now to win in Afghanistan. The senior leadership has opted for victory over defeat. What does this mean and how does the Coalition get there?

A win is an Afghanistan that does not fragment and endures as a state that is inhospitable to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State-Khorasan and other Islamists groups. There will still be violence and poverty, but stability without a continuous existential threat is success.

Victory, then, is a relatively resilient Afghan state, with the government, the security forces and the population aligned against a marginalized Taliban.

But as S. Paul Kapur, Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, helpfully reminds us: “Jihad has become a central component of Pakistani grand strategy.”

Therefore, a policy to win in Afghanistan requires a regional strategy that aligns political will and capacity to defeat the enemy’s strategy. This means undermining the Taliban’s strategic center of gravity – the external support and sanctuary that Pakistan continues to provide.

Pakistan prevents victory

Pakistan’s strategic malice is the main reason why the United States and its partners still face a stalemate in Afghanistan after almost 16 years. The sanctuary in Pakistan is the most significant strategic impediment to a win in Afghanistan.

Almost every U.S. DOD report on progress in Afghanistan over the years has stated that Pakistan’s sanctuary and support prevent the defeat of the Taliban. The reduction of this sanctuary and stopping the sources of support of the Taliban in Pakistan is a strategic imperative to ending the war.

However, Pakistan has failed to alter its strategic calculus. It continues to incubate and guide the regeneration of murderous Islamist zealots.

The fresh candor about Pakistan in the Trump administration’s recent Afghanistan policy announcement should mean that the United States will desist in the illusion that Pakistan, one of the foremost ideological and physical incubators of Islamist terror, Inc., is an ally and a friend. It is neither.

Pretending that Pakistan was an ally in the war against Islamist militants, one that would act in ways to help defeat Islamist networks in the tribal areas, made the West complicit in Pakistan’s malicious strategic conduct.

No strategic momentum

Years of tactical and operational gains in taking away the Taliban’s capacity have been fleeting because defeating an enemy means taking away its capacity and its will.

Strategic momentum has been absent because the will of the Taliban and the Haqqanis rest in their senior leadership, regenerative potential and resources, which reside in and emanate from Pakistan’s sanctuary.

Pakistan has created this contradiction to prevent the defeat of the Taliban, protract the war and erode the Coalition’s will. Its likely ultimate goal is to make the capacity of the Coalition irrelevant because it could ultimately depart the fight without achieving its strategic aims.

Why does Pakistan continue to support its Islamist proxies that are clearly enemies of the Coalition and Afghanistan? And, what is to be done?

Pakistan’s proxies

From its inception, Pakistan’s perceived existential mandate was to oppose India and to revise the regional status quo through the export of Islamist militant proxies. The incubation and export of Islamist militants provided the purpose and meaning for Pakistan, its security establishment and its people.

To be certain, the emergence and size of murderous Islamists in South Asia is the result of the decades that Pakistan’s security establishment deluded itself in supporting some of the most virulent strains of Islamist proxies.

Now 20 designated terrorist organizations operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region alone. These groups have perpetrated barbaric acts of violence in Afghanistan, Kashmir, India and ultimately — like the proverbial genie that gets out of the bottle — in Pakistan itself. In the end, this perfidy has been to the detriment of Pakistan’s security.

For the first two and a half decades of Pakistan’s existence, its senior leaders pursued policies that were disastrous for Pakistan’s security. These policies bankrupted its economy and diverted resources from development.

Catastrophic wars

In addition, Pakistan started three major wars with India and suffered draws or defeats in all of them. The 1971 War, or Bangladesh War, was the singularly most traumatic war of the three full wars with India. It reduced Pakistan to a rump of its former territory and it further ingrained a permanent paranoia about strategic depth and encirclement by India in Afghanistan.

For the next three decades after 1971, as a consequence of its catastrophic defeat in the Bangladesh War and the loss of East Pakistan, the Pakistani security establishment shifted even more discernibly from conventional confrontation with India, to relying more on Islamist militants for strategic advantage and depth in Afghanistan, and to fully pursuing the nuclear weapons option.

Pakistan has supported proxies to pursue objectives in Afghanistan, India and Kashmir with the rationale that its strategic weapons would serve as a deterrent.

For the last almost 16 years, Pakistan has employed irregular warfare to promote its illusory notion of strategic depth by supporting the Taliban and other lethal proxies in Afghanistan. This war will not end, or it will end badly if Pakistan does not cease its support to the Taliban.

Pakistan’s strategic double game

Until now, the United States of America and its friends have not devised a regional strategy that employs its full weight and that of other regional actors to alter Pakistan’s strategic double game.

The fact that the United States paid in excess of $33 billion to Pakistan in the first 16 years of war — and that Pakistan continued to incubate and export Islamists into Afghanistan — is abominable.

Moreover, U.S. promoters of relations with Pakistan since at least the 1950s were key in supporting Pakistan’s mythological narrative that Pakistan was a stalwart anticommunist bulwark during the Cold War and a genuine ally in the war against al Qaeda, the Taliban and Islamist terrorists.

But the reality was that U.S. and Pakistani interests only aligned during the Soviet-Afghan War. And even then, Pakistan’s behavior still revealed duplicity with the United States and malign use of America’s generous funding of that war to defeat the Soviets through mujahideen proxies.

Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has maintained links between Al Qaeda, its longtime Taliban allies and a host of other Islamists inside and outside Pakistan.

Putting pressure on Pakistan

The Coalition cannot win in Afghanistan without a regional approach that brings the full weight of the United States and other regional actors to bear on Pakistan to stop it from aiding the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

Since the days after 9/11, the United States has essentially stipulated that Pakistan

– must curb all domestic expression of support for terrorism against America and its allies
– show a sustained commitment to and make significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups
– cease support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist
and terrorist groups; and
– dismantle terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country.

Pakistan’s proxy jihadists cannot be defeated with half measures. And yet, we have coddled Pakistan as an important ally in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, even though it is essentially an enemy that has acted in ways fully inimical to the Coalition’s troops, its Afghan allies and the aims of the Afghan state.

A strategic menu

A strategic menu that levers regional actors and relies more on sticks than carrots is necessary to tap into Pakistan’s fear, honor and interests in unprecedented ways. The following eight steps should merit consideration:

1) stop paying for malice;
2) end Pakistan’s major non-NATO ally status;
3) state intention to make the line of control in Kashmir permanent;
4) shut down the ground lines of communications via Pakistan;
5) declare Pakistan the state-sponsor of terrorism that it is;
6) issue one last ultimatum for Pakistan to help end the sanctuary and to not impede success;
7) invite the Indian Armed Forces into Afghanistan for security operations in the Pashtun east and south;
8) and, as a last resort, reciprocate Pakistan’s malice and perfidy via cutout proxies.

A trans-regional strategy

To influence or modify Pakistan’s malign strategic calculus requires a trans-regional strategy that impinges on and appeals to Pakistan’s pathologies and perceptions. A viable strategy cannot address Pakistan without addressing India.

Likewise, a trans-regional strategy cannot address India without weighing some degree of cooperation and reciprocity with China, Russia, Iran and the Central Asian states.

And, since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries besides Pakistan that recognized the repugnant Taliban regime, they would likely warrant some role in the negotiated end to the war — as would Qatar.

The Coalition and its Afghan partners need to be ruthless, creative and coercive. This film has run before, and it had a bad ending. The incubation and export of Islamist militants for the purpose of jihad has been a preferred modus operandi of Pakistan since its inception.

Uncontested sanctuary in Pakistan contributed to the Soviet Union’s defeat in Afghanistan.

It is only possible for Pakistan to become a genuine strategic partner to the United States if it changes, and eschews its support of proxy terrorists and insurgents. The sine qua non for a win is to shut down the sanctuary and the external support from Pakistan.

 

About Robert M. Cassidy

Robert M. Cassidy, Ph.D., Colonel (Retired), USA, is the author of three books and a number of articles about irregular warfare and Afghanistan. He has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. The views in this article are his own and do not represent the views of the institutions with which he affiliates.

Does resurgeance of Brit. SAS in Afghanistan mean that Trump has gone w/Blackwater Solution?

[Would a resurgeance of the British SAS forces indicate that Trump is turning towards the Eric Prince option of privatizing the Afghan war, considering British history in covert warfare?]

[SEE:  British SAS—Terrorists Or Storm-Troopers?British SAS and the Privatization of Covert Action ]

 

 

 

Brit elite troops, drones and warplanes to be deployed to support US build-up amid fears the Islamic fundamentalists could topple the moderate Afghan government

BRITAIN’S SAS is gearing up to return to Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban as part of Donald Trump’s planned military surge, it’s claimed.

The special forces are about to be given the green light to hunt down Taliban leaders as well as ISIS and al-Qaeda militants they’re sheltering, senior military sources say.

 SAS troops are returning to Afghanistan in a big way, sources say

Getty – Contributor

 

SAS troops are returning to Afghanistan in a big way, sources say

It comes after it emerged British intelligence helped persuade the US about the need to curb the resurgent Taliban.

The extremists were toppled in 2001 after it was linked to the 9/11 attacks in New York just months before.

Despite arguing for a quick withdrawal in his election campaign, US President Donald Trump announced last week he was sending another 4,000 troops because he now fears quitting too quick could create a power vacuum.

Donald Trump commits for an increase in US troops in Afghanistan, vowing he would ‘fight to win’

NATO has 12,000 troops in Afghanistan but the Taliban has been regaining large swathes of the war-torn country after a draw down of its troops from 2011.

No formal request has been received from the Americans, according to The Sunday Times.

But the paper reports ministers expect the Pentagon to ask for the SAS to use its prized expertise to help with the surge in US special forces.

It also reveals that the elite troops along with the Special Boat Service operatives are already playing a key role in a “scoping exercise” to consider what NATO assets could be sent to Afghanistan.

A senior Whitehall official said: “The special forces are clearly a key element of our military capability in this kind of operation.”

Britain could also send drones and aircraft to help identify targets for raids.

Some 454 UK troops have died in the war, mostly between 2006 and 2011 with 2,188 wounded.

The US lost 2,271 troops.

Two Devious, Deceitful Spy Chiefs Show Why Swamp Must Be Drained

BEN GARRISON

 

Devious, Deceitful And Anti-Trump, Two

Deep-State Spy Chiefs Show Why Swamp

Must Be Drained

 

 

Espionage: The remarks made in recent weeks by two former spy chiefs go well beyond anything ever uttered by previous espionage leaders, calling into question the commander in chief’s competence and sanity. In politics, when considering such vituperative criticisms, it’s always wise to consider the source.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan have both weighed in with scathing remarks about President Trump in recent days and weeks. To be blunt, Clapper and Brennan were political partisans of President Obama, and neither did exactly a bang-up job while in their posts.

Speaking on CNN to left-leaning anti-Trump host Don Lemon this week, Clapper said, “I really question his ability, his fitness to be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.”

“How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?” he asked, suggesting concern over Trump’s access to nuclear codes.

There’s an awful lot to unpack there.

For one, should a former intelligence chief who admitted to lying before Congress about the extent of National Security Agency spying on average Americans be passing judgment on any politician?

And should we trust the judgment of someone who, laughably, claimed that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular,” as Clapper did, and who predicted during Libya’s civil war that Moammar Gadhafi would “prevail” in the end, just months before his dead body was dragged through the streets?

And yet, we’re supposed to take his criticisms of Trump seriously.

As for also suggesting that Trump is “looking for a way out,” that’s by now an old fantasy peddled and re-peddled by angry Obama-ites.

“It’s shocking that a former director of national intelligence takes the discredited ‘Trump wants out’ theme one step further at this late date,” as Paul Mirengoff of the PowerLine blog put it. “What does Clapper mean when he says Trump may be ‘looking for a way out’ by giving what Clapper considers over-the-top speeches? Does he think Trump, for whom winning means everything, wants to be impeached? That he wants to be institutionalized?”

Or, perhaps, is he just trying to sow more confusion, more anger, more inchoate hatred for the president among those who didn’t vote for him, thus obstructing Trump’s ability to govern?

We’d opt for the latter.

Then there’s former CIA chief John Brennan, who has also stepped out of his supposedly apolitical role as a spymaster to make highly charged political comments about Trump.

After Trump’s comments about Charlottesville, Brennan ripped into Trump for making “dangerous” and “ugly” comments.

He’s entitled to his opinion, of course. But it has long been a part of our tradition of government service that former officials serving in a nonpolitical capacity would leave the criticisms of other administrations to the elected politicians. To ignore this tradition runs the risk of tainting the professionalism of the agencies they once headed, and provides evidence that the heavily politicized, entrenched, progressive “deep state” that many Americans believe poses a danger to our republic really does exist.

By the way, Brennan in remarks made last July that can only be called highly questionable suggested that it’s “obligation of some executive branch officials” to refuse to fire Robert Mueller, who is heading up the open-ended investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and its hacking of the 2016 election.

Let’s be clear: Trump, should he want to do so, would be absolutely within his rights as president to seek Mueller’s firing. Whether it would be politically wise to do so is a separate question.

And Brennan’s remarks are incredibly self-serving, since he is the one who initiated the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia last summer, in the heat of the campaign. The Obama loyalist did so, apparently, thinking it would fatally damage Trump’s campaign.

“It was then-CIA Director John O. Brennan, a close confidant of Mr. Obama’s, who provided the information — what he termed the ‘basis’ — for the FBI to start the counterintelligence investigation last summer,” wrote Washington Times national security correspondent Rowan Scarborough last May. “Mr. Brennan served on the former president’s 2008 presidential campaign and in his White House.”

Brennan, by the way, also aided in making up the bogus talking points used by the Obama administration to lie about what happened in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were murdered. Whose interests was Brennan serving?

Far from being a disinterested intelligence official, Brennan is in fact a highly partisan political operative with a far-left background. By his own admission (it came out in a CIA polygraph test administered early in his career), he voted for Communist Party hack Gus Hall for president in 1980.

A mere youthful indiscretion? According to the authoritative “Black Book Of Communism,” Communist nations in the 20th century slaughtered more than 100 million people around the world. They did so in a (fortunately) failed attempt to impose that inhuman, totalitarian system on free people everywhere. Yet Brennan voted to have that same murderous, totalitarian system imposed on us here in the U.S. And was still given the keys to our nation’s secrets.

Anyone can criticize the president. That’s America. But not everyone should. Neither Clapper nor Brennan have distinguished themselves in recent years, either professionally or politically. America’s intelligence agencies were deeply dysfunctional during the Obama years.

By inserting themselves so dishonestly into a partisan political dispute, Clapper and Brennan have not only damaged the agencies they once headed, but the democracy they once claimed to serve. They serve as Exhibits A and B in why the swamp must be drained, and drained thoroughly.

Russian Anti-Aircraft Systems in Syria Cover Targets Within 250-Mile Radius

Anti-aircraft missile system S-400 during combat duty to ensure the safety of the Russian air group in Syria © Sputnik/ Dmitry Vinogradov

Russian Anti-Aircraft Systems

in Syria Cover Targets Within

250-Mile Radius

 

Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Force of the High Command of the Aerospace Forces says that Russian anti-aircraft missile system covers targets within 250 miles.’

 

KUBINKA (Moscow Region) (Sputnik) — The range of the Russian anti-aircraft system deployed at the Hmeymim air base in Syria covers all air targets within a radius of 400 kilometers (250 miles), Maj. Gen. Sergey Meshcheryakov, Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Force of the High Command of the Aerospace Forces, said Friday.

“Anti-aircraft missile systems [in Hmeymim] cover all aerial targets within a radius of 400 kilometers and below 35 kilometers,” Meshcheryakov said.

The Russian anti-aircraft forces stationed at the Hmeymim air base comprise a radio-technical battalion, a Pantsir-S (SA-22 Greyhound) anti-aircraft missile gun system battery, and several S-400 (SA-21 Growler) anti-aircraft missile systems, he added.

Increase in the presence of drones in Syrian air space
© Photo: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

“As of today, a unified integrated anti-aircraft defense system is established in Syria. Russian and Syrian aerial reconnaissance assets are mutually integrated in information and equipment systems. All the information about the tactical situation in the air obtained by Syrian radars is transferred to the operational centers of the Russian forces,” Meshcheryakov said.He also said that the Russian Aerospace Forces inflicted a significant damage on the infrastructure of Daesh. According to Meshcheryakov, the Aerospace Forces hampered the groups’ logistics and its ability to feed reinforcement to the troops by destroying ammunition and fuel warehouses, and weaponry maintenance factories.

Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, with government forces fighting Syrian opposition groups striving to overthrow the president, while also fighting numerous extremist and terrorist groups. Moscow launched its anti-terrorist operation in Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of Damascus.

In March 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a pullout of the bulk of the Russian contingent in Syria, since the campaign’s objectives had been largely completed. Following Putin’s announcement of the withdrawal, Moscow said that some Russian military personnel would remain at the Hmeymim air base as well as the naval facility at Tartus to observe the implementation of the ceasefire in Syria.

Saudi Petrodollars Buy-Off Madman Muqtada al-Sadr To Be Front-man In Sunni-Owned Rogue Shia Movement

[Iraq’s madman Shia outcast finally goes over the edge and joins forces with Saudi Arabia and UAE. The Saudis have obviously bought him off, in order to split the Shia into warring halves, mirroring the split within all Sunni factions, between Wahhabi/takfiri Sunnis and normal peace-loving Sunnis. Sadr is a disgrace and a miserable human being.]

Muqtada al-Sadr
Muqtada al-Sadr

Sadrist Movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr intends to undertake a series of visits to Arab and European countries, a high-level political source in the movement revealed on Friday.

Riyad Ghali, Sadrist affiliate Ahrar bloc MP, said that Sadr seeks to put an end to Iraq’s diplomatic isolation and international trusteeship imposed on its people.

Through these visits, Sadr wants to emphasize Iraq’s national identity and create an independent country that can run its internal affairs on its own without interference in other countries’ affairs, he noted.

He  also pointed out that Sadr stressed the importance of not making Iraq a battlefield for Arab, regional and international conflicts while neighboring countries enjoy security.

Sadr’s internal and diplomatic orientation aims at creating an atmosphere for a future national leadership that ensures Iraq’s independence, he further stated.

Ghali added that Sadr’s latest visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have eased tensions and sent assurance messages that Islam is a religion of peace and love to all peoples.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE received Sadr in an attempt to put an end to Iran influence in Iraq as the Shiite leader has turned against Tehran and sought to bolster relations with Sunni Arab countries.

Toxic identity politics ‘in these tribal times’

Toxic identity politics ‘in these tribal times’

 

Is what unites us still stronger than what divides us?

Where and how America is divided is far more evident these days than where and how we’re united, given the still growing public tensions over symbols, words, gestures and fundamental identities. And media coverage amplifying the worst of it all.

The ‘poison of identity politics‘ is not new, says a Wall Street Journal editorial:

The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.

The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories. In practice this means allocating political power, contracts, jobs and now even salaries in the private economy based on the politics of skin color or gender rather than merit or performance. Down this road lies crude political tribalism, and James Damore’s recent Google dissent is best understood as a cri de coeur that we should aspire to something better. Yet he lost his job merely for raising the issue.

A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.

Rod Dreher addressed this in a sobering look at opposing evils.

Looking and listening to the neo-Nazis and right-wing radicals at the march is not the same as reading about them. Evil has a face, and a voice, and it is chilling….

But let’s not “excuse or diminish the real threat to our politics from the violent left-wing agitators of antifa (anti-fascists). You may be tempted to sympathize with them because they punch neo-Nazis…”

But not so fast, or reactionary, Dreher cautions

For a while, antifa has remained on the fringes of the Left, smashing up storefronts to protest globalism, and things like that…

And then, the money quote:

The legitimization by mainstream people of violent political action is a Rubicon. Mark my words, it will be followed by the same thing on the Right.

So here we are. And Dreher asks the big question core:

Where are the restraining forces against radicalization on both the Left and the Right?

Exactly. Lately, on radio and elsewhere in conversations, I’ve been calling for voices of authority on both center-left and center-right (or whoever could be a moderating force) to call out the fringes on both sides. But they aren’t on the same side, and conservatives have asked media to stop calling white supremacists and neo-Nazis ‘far right conservatives’, since they don’t share conservative values and principles.

Who speaks for America right now? With the ability to amplify one’s own voice through social media platforms and unprecedented access to the arena of ideas, the people have to speak up and speak out.

Dreher says:

The media should talk about every instance of people on the Left and the Right, especially authority figures (pastors, politicians, academics, and so on) legitimizing violence as a way to solve political disputes. And the rest of us should fight hard to make it taboo, to establish it as a line we as a society will not cross. We have to stop with whataboutism, the habit of responding to revolting things your own side does with “but the other side does it too!”

That’s a point for an examination of conscience for all the people who take recourse to that explanation for the ‘slingshot’ effect of unrest from devolving into 1968 type of riots and demonstrations, says Dreher,

…it is time for people in authority — whatever authority they have — to speak out forcefully and repeatedly. Not just people on the Right, but people on the Left. If we are going to stop this spiral into political violence, we have to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter who’s worse, antifa or the neo-Nazis. Both are capable of doing severe damage to our democracy, because they both hate the political order, and they both love violence.

Denounce it, all of it, civilly and with the counter love of people, community, the common good, human rights and dignity, freedom and justice for all.

Which sounds a lot like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s rousing talk ‘Our God Is Marching On!’ in 1965.

If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it. There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger…

For fellow countrymen.

The confrontation of good and evil compressed in the tiny community of Selma generated the massive power to turn the whole nation on a new course.

We need to redirect ourselves there now.

The Cancer Is In Pakistan

‘The Cancer Is In Pakistan’

 

AP

President Obama, according to Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars, had said in a 2009 Oval Office meeting, that the cancer [of terrorism] was in Pakistan, and the United States needed to make sure that the “cancer doesn’t spread.” The Obama Administration, reports the New America Foundation, conducted 353 drones strikes in Pakistan that killed between 1,659 to 2,683 suspected militants. America under Obama could not succeed in obliterating Islamic terrorist groups in the Af-Pak region or punishing Pakistan for providing sanctuary to terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. Newsweek reported that the United States had provided Pakistan approximately 20 billion dollars since 2011. But Obama was not tough enough to call out Pakistan in public for its double standards in the war against terrorism.

President Trump, while unveiling his new Afghanistan policy on Monday, finally said, “we can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe-havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” Trump is not known for keeping his words or being consistent in his position on any issue. Therefore, we are not sure how seriously his Monday’s speech should be taken both in America and Pakistan.

The United States insists that Pakistan must change its approach or face substantial cut in U.S. assistance. Washington has taken a harsh stand against Pakistan after having to squander much time in naively hoping that Islamabad would change its behavior and voluntarily end ties with violent organizations.

In The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, the New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall argued that for the United States, Pakistan, not Afghanistan, had been the true enemy.

“Pakistan, supposedly an ally, has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons.”

Trump’s new Afghanistan policy was being eagerly awaited mainly for what it had to say about Pakistan’s role in the troubled region. His remarks on Pakistan are likely to be welcomed in at least three places.

First, Afghanistan has complained for years that Pakistan-based terrorist groups keep masterminding deadly attacks inside their country to destabilize Afghanistan. From President Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani, all Afghan leaders have expressed frustration with Pakistan’s bullying attitude, support for the Jihadist networks and the presence of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura in Pakistan. The key Taliban leadership operating from Pakistan, and routinely plots horrific attacks inside Afghanistan.

Second, praised by Trump for its “important contributions to stability in Afghanistan,” India has also demanded action from Pakistan against the terrorist organization the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which was responsible for the Mumbai attacks of 2008.

To curb the Indian influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has deployed the LeT and its affiliated charity organizations in Balochistan, the country’s largest province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. The LeT’s presence in Balochistan does not bode well for India, Afghanistan and the American troops in Afghanistan as it is going to provide a fertile ground for a new alliance for all kinds of violent Islamic groups. Even if Pakistan succeeds in containing India’s presence in Afghanistan, it won’t be able to stop growing cooperation between India and its other western neighbor i.e. Iran.

Additionally, the Islamic State (IS) has persistently asserted its might in the already volatile region through several suicide bombings that have targeted police officers, innocent civilians, lawyers, and soldiers. Instead of going after the Islamic State, Pakistan continues to deny its existence within its boundaries although the organization has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks it has conducted in Pakistan since last year.

Third, educated and progressive Pakistanis, who have been upset with their government’s support for radical groups, and continued financial assistance from the United States, seem delighted over this “paradigm shift in U.S. South Asia policy.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is correct in stating that Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism, a statement his Pakistani counterparts frequently make although with a twist. Pakistan selectively talks about the innocent citizens it has lost in the hands of the Taliban but refrains from telling the remaining part of the story as to why so many other such terrorist outfits still exist and operate without the slightest fear of government’s action.

However, the officially stated fact that 35, 000 Pakistani citizens have been killed by Pakistan-based groups does not cancel out the other disturbing reality that Pakistan tolerates the “good Taliban.” The people of Pakistan have suffered enormously because of their government’s longstanding ties with and tolerance for Jihadist outfits. The people of Pakistan are forced to pay a heavy price for their government’s insane ambition to control and influence Afghanistan, and also contain India’s influence inside its western neighbor.

Pakistan, backed by China, has unsurprisingly pushed back on Trump’s speech by employing its victim and national honor cards and describing the United States as the usual “untrustworthy” and “selfish” ally that keeps ditching it each time after achieving its own regional goals. Yet, an end to Pakistan’s support for Jihadist groups is necessary for regional peace and stability. This can happen either through a progressive political movement within the country, which does not seem likely, or intense international pressure. As long as Pakistan’s foreign policy is defined by apologists who justify support for the Taliban and other Jihadist groups under different pretexts, the average Pakistani citizen will live under the fear of more terrorist attacks at public places.

Unfortunately, political parties in Pakistan live under tremendous fear of the powerful army. Even the liberal Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has gone an extra mile to please the military through supporting undemocratic military courts and issuing anti-American statements. The PPP, which should have guided Pakistan toward a progressive and secular path, is fighting for its own survival with the rise of another anti-U.S. leader, Imran Khan, of the Pakistan Justice Movement, who is often nicknamed as “Taliban Khan” for his apologetic pro-Taliban stance. The ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month has further instilled the fear of the military among Pakistan’s political parties. It is this reason that Pakistanis have suddenly developed consensus on a foreign policy that refuses to acknowledge that supporting extremist groups was a dire mistake, and it has weakened the Pakistani state. Otherwise, on a usual day, it would be difficult to see the left-wing PPP and the right-wing PTI of Imran Khan on the same page.

The problem with Trump’s new strategy is the lack of a clear timeline. Today, the Af-Pak region is even more dangerous than it was before September 11, 2001. The Taliban and the Islamic State are increasing their presence in the area. They might temporarily seem competing against each other, but they will ultimately come together on a mutual agenda that aims to harm the United States.

Washington will not win the war by bombing Afghanistan as long as Pakistan continues to provide safe havens to America’s enemies. China, on its part, must also realize that it will be seriously risking its investment inside Pakistan by not persuading the latter to end ties with extremist groups. The Taliban have, more than once, kidnapped Chinese citizens in Pakistan, and such incidents are expected to increase as China expands its presence there. Thus, China’s interests rest in a peaceful and stable Pakistan that shows zero tolerance for terrorist groups. (For China, this should also include terrorist groups that aspire to attack India.)

Back in Washington, President Trump should not only warn Pakistan but must ask for a roadmap to clean its soil from Jihadist organizations that threaten the safety and security of the United States, Pakistan’s neighbors and, above all, the people of Pakistan. The Pakistanis pretend that the United States no longer has leverage over their country. That is not entirely accurate. Even the powerful military dictator General Musharraf, once threatened by the United States after 9/11, was compelled to appear on the national television and renounce Pakistan’s support for all kinds of extremist groups in 2001. Unfortunately, after some time, Musharraf too turned out to be a crook, and a secret admirer of the same terrorist outfits he had once promised to eliminate.

For Trump’s Afghanistan policy to succeed, it is critical to revisit and cure Pakistan’s forgotten cancer.

A Darkness Is Spreading Across America

We ended last week wondering what future generations will think of us. We take away our monuments in the dead of night… and spit on the graves of our ancestors in the light of day.

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”– George Orwell, 1984

POITOU, FRANCE

Today, a darkness spreads across the country.

From coast to coast, we are benighted… in a total eclipse of good sense.

Smashing Statues

A now-famous photo shows a stout young woman in North Carolina stomping on a statue of a Confederate soldier.

A protester in North Carolina stands on a toppled Confederate statue (AP Photo/ Jonathan Drew)

It is not a monument to the Confederacy or to the generals or to slavery. It is merely a statue remembering the sacrifices and suffering of ordinary soldiers.

The common man in the South had no truck with slavery. He owned no slaves. Instead, his earnings were reduced because he had to compete with slave labor.

But when the call went out to defend his country, he took the patriotic bait, as men always do.

More than a quarter of a million soldiers died on the Southern side alone – killed by bullets or disease… hunger or cold.

You’d think that people today – comfortable in their air-conditioned apartments… fed to a fault… and succored by student loans, Obamacare, unemployment comp, and disability – could find it in their plump little hearts to forgive the mistakes of their forebears and honor their suffering.

Nope.

Instead, we trash our grandfathers’ heroes, kick their gods, and smash their statues.

Yes, dear reader, today we are under assault, too. We suffer neither cold nor hunger. We take up arms not to protect our homeland, but to inflict murder and mayhem on people half a world away who can do us no real harm.

But today, we are attacked by one preposterous thing after another, each of them even more absurd than the last.

Doom Update

Before we get to that, we promised to revisit our Doom Index.

You’ll recall that our research department has put together 11 indicators that – when aggregated – have coincided with the last two major blowups.

Has doom come closer? We asked our chief researcher, Joe Withrow:

U.S. junk bond prices – one of our 11 indicators – have fallen nearly 2% since our last update. The ISM Manufacturing Index and railcar use – two of our other indicators – have fallen as well.

None of these moves are extreme enough to warrant the crash flag prior to getting third-quarter data… but they are worth mentioning.

And on a side note relating to your Diary entries this week: I got a call from family in western Virginia. Rumors are the young lefties are planning to march on the historic Robert E. Lee Hotel in Lexington.

The fruits of an American education, I suppose. It is beginning to look as though there is an inverse correlation between total student loans outstanding and total logic outstanding. If we could only figure out how to make that a Market Insight!

Yes, Joe is onto something. The more time people spend in schools, the dumber they get.

And now, the typical American’s brain has been so dulled by the internet and education that he can’t think straight.

Bigger Storm

We were supposed to believe, for example, that the Russians hijacked the U.S. presidential election, putting Donald J. Trump in the White House.

Congress imposed stiffer sanctions on Russia by an almost universal vote in favor, despite a lack of evidence the hack ever happened.

Even if it had happened, it is hard to see how disclosing the internal deliberations of the Democratic National Committee would have made voters less able to make an informed choice!

Then we were supposed to believe that the president of Syria had attacked his own people with chemical weapons.

In response, Team Trump committed an act of war against a foreign nation… even though many experts thought it unlikely that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack.

And now, we are supposed to believe that Mr. Trump is a “racist” and a “white supremacist.”

His Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin – a Jew – was urged by his Yale classmates to resign. No more proof that today’s education system turns its students into morons is needed.

These are Yale graduates… hundreds of them:

We call upon you, as our friend, our classmate, and as a fellow American, to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy. We know you are better than this, and we are counting on you to do the right thing.

What?

There is no evidence of any kind showing Trump to be a Nazi supporter. A fool? An imbecile? An opportunist? Maybe. But with all his obvious and egregious faults, why accuse him of being something he isn’t?

But behind the flurries lies a much bigger storm.

There, the howling winds of fake finance blow up so much dust that the typical person cannot see clearly.

If he is ready to believe that we can all get rich by borrowing money that never existed from people who never earned it… and never pay it back… he is ready to believe anything!

Today, the sun hides its face in shame and embarrassment.

Regards,

Signature

Bill

Nobody Can Force All the Taliban Factions To the Negotiating Table

[Fighting the Taliban to force them to negotiate for peace requires levels of force equal to those used against Taliban and Qaeda in their Tora Bora holdout.  Does Trump really intend to inflict wholesale slaughter from the air of sufficient intensity to make them beg for their lives?  Can anyone fight all 20 of those recognized terrorist groups at once, or even just those who answer to the Quetta Shura (Mullah Mansour group)? Does Trump understand the militant on militant action going on right now, the Mansour Taliban against the Mullah Rasoul Taliban, the Syrian/Iraqi ISIS Caliphate against the Taliban Islamist Emirati, or other warlord on warlord fighting?

Somehow, I doubt that he can make any difference.]

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy: Use

military to force peace talks with

Taliban

 

 

WASHINGTON — President Trump vowed to prevail over Taliban insurgents on the Afghanistan battlefield, but his top diplomat acknowledged Tuesday that the war will end at the negotiating table.

“This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said a day after Trump outlined a strategy lacking specifics for concluding a war approaching its 16th anniversary.

Many military experts believe that only a broad political reconciliation between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and Taliban will bring an end to America’s longest war, since an outright victory over the insurgency is unlikely.

But getting the Taliban to the negotiating table will require turning the tide on the battlefield, where Taliban fighters have been expanding the territory they control as U.S. troops have withdrawn from combat. The Pentagon has described the war as a “stalemate.”

Afghanistan’s government remains weak, and the Taliban and the Haqqani, another insurgent network, have sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan, making a U.S.-led military victory largely out of reach, said Scott Worden, an analyst at the U.S. Institute for Peace.

The Taliban, while not popular in Afghanistan, does have support in some corners of the country, where there is mistrust for a central government riddled with corruption and dependent on foreign military support.

Trump did not dwell on reconciliation in outlining a new strategy. “Our troops will fight to win,” Trump said in his Monday night speech.

That doesn’t mean the Taliban will be crushed. Trump did not define “win” except to say he would not allow Afghanistan to be a safe haven for terrorists again. President George W. Bush ordered an invasion in October 2001 to topple a Taliban regime because it harbored the al-Qaeda plotters of the 9/11 attacks.

Tillerson said continued military operations are designed to convince the Taliban leaders that they will not prevail on the battlefield, and if they want to survive they need to talk with Afghanistan’s government.

e may not win one, but neither will you,” Tillerson said. “So at some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end.”

Peace talks and other reconciliation efforts over the years have largely faltered. The Afghan government has at times balked at direct talks with the radical Islamic group in the past, and recent military successes have made the Taliban less willing to negotiate a political settlement.

The Taliban has captured districts and villages as the U.S.-backed security forces have suffered high casualties.

Afghanistan’s government has expressed a willingness now to hold talks with Taliban leaders. The United States is prepared to facilitate such talks. “We stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions,” Tillerson said.

Trump’s strategy clears the way for an increase of several thousand U.S. advisers to support Afghan security forces. Currently the U.S. military has deployed about 8,400 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, but none in conventional combat roles.

Trump has also said he will expand the authority of field commanders to order U.S. air power and other support.

Trump’s strategy of increasing military pressure and removing any deadlines for U.S. troop withdrawal may present an opportunity for new diplomatic initiatives, Worden said.

President Barack Obama had set a schedule for U.S. troop withdrawals, which gave the Taliban an incentive to be patient until the U.S. exit date.

Trump said any withdrawal would be based on security conditions. “America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out,” Trump said.

Trump said his strategy also calls for increased pressure on Pakistan, whose cooperation is considered essential in bringing about political reconciliation with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency has historic ties with the Taliban and influence over its leadership. “Pakistan in particular can play an important role here, certainly in delivering the Taliban to the negotiating table,” Tillerson said.

“It’s time to begin a process — it may very well be a lengthy process — of reconciliation and a peace accord,” he said.

Does Latest U.S. Naval Collision Reveal That “Freedom Of Navigation” Operations Are Dangerous Game of “Chicken”?

[SEE:   U.S. warship stayed on deadly collision course despite warning ; Freighter Was On Autopilot When It Hit U.S. Destroyer, Destroyer Slowed Down]

MARINETRAFFIC.COM

Latest collision calls U.S. Navy training,

‘FONOPs’ in question

 

 

Xinhua Editor: Gu Liping ECNS

USS John S. McCain (L) is seen at sea off Singapore's Changi Naval Base, on Aug. 21, 2017. Ten sailors were missing and five others injured after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel in waters east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore early on Monday, the U.S. navy said in a statement. (Xinhua/Then Chih Wey)

USS John S. McCain (L) is seen at sea off Singapore’s Changi Naval Base, on Aug. 21, 2017. Ten sailors were missing and five others injured after the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel in waters east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore early on Monday, the U.S. navy said in a statement. (Xinhua/Then Chih Wey)

A U.S. destroyer’s collision with a merchant vessel east of Singapore on Monday, the fourth accident involving a U.S. warship this year, reveals problems of U.S. Navy training and calls into question the U.S. so-called “freedom of navigation operation” (“FONOPs”).

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with Greek tanker vessel Alnic MC in waters east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, leaving 10 sailors missing and five others injured.

OPERATIONAL PAUSE

The U.S. Navy announced Monday an operational pause of its fleets globally and a comprehensive review of the U.S. Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the collision, which caused significant damage to the destroyer’s hull, resulting in flooding to crew berthing, machinery, communications rooms and other nearby compartments.

The review should seek the root causes of the incidents, said U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, in a video published on the U.S. Navy’s official Twitter account.

The investigation will examine the process by which the U.S. Navy trains and certifies its forces that were forward deployed in Japan, said Richardson, adding that the investigation team should be a “broad and diverse” one, with people inside and outside the Navy.

The USS McCain is the fourth U.S. Navy ship involved in an accident this year.

In January, the USS Antietam ran aground, dumping 1,100 gallons of hydraulic fluid into Tokyo Bay.

On May 9, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain was struck by a South Korean fishing vessel off the Korean Peninsula.

In mid-June, the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine container vessel ACX Crystal, claiming the lives of seven Fitzgerald sailors, injuring three more and damaging both ships.

“NAVY IS NOT LOOKING GOOD”

The Straits of Malacca is a busy shipping lane with about 8,000 ships passing by daily. However, CNN military analyst Rick Francona believed that the McCain, with faster speed and better equipment, could have avoided the collision.

“How does a state-of-the-art Navy destroyer — equipped with multiple radar systems and communications gear with a full bridge watch — not see, detect and evade a 30,000-ton slow-moving behemoth?” Francona asked.

“I can almost guarantee you that there will be a tumultuous shake-up in the senior leadership of at least the 7th Fleet and maybe the Navy in general,” Francona said.

On Aug. 17, the U.S. 7th Fleet issued a statement, announcing the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of the Fitzgerald were relieved of their duties.

They were believed to demonstrate “flawed watch stander teamwork and inadequate leadership,” which contributed to the collision.

“The Navy is not looking good about now,” Francona said.

“It’s not the same level of training you used to get,” American Fox News quoted an anonymous official as saying.

INFLAMING REGIONAL TENSION

On Aug. 10, the McCain illegally sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Meiji Reef of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea and conducted a so-called “FONOP” without permission of the Chinese government.

It was the third “freedom of navigation operation” during Donald Trump’s presidency, as reported by Reuters.

On July 2, the missile destroyer USS Stethem trespassed into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands. On May 25, the USS Dewey illegally sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Meiji Reef.

As a country outside the South China Sea region, its navy sailed across the Pacific with aims to inflame regional tension and destroy regional peace and stability to profit from the disorder, Ling Xiaoyun, a critic of the Asia Pacific Daily, wrote in the paper.

The United States will reap the bitter fruits of its disguised “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, where over 100,000 ships of various countries pass freely, as its naval maneuvers benefit none and might cause more collisions with merchant vessels, Ling said in his article.

The Straits of Malacca, the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, is a more sensitive area than the South China Sea, he said.

More collisions may occur if the U.S. Navy continues to conduct more “freedom of navigation” in this area, which may lead to a restriction of the freedom of merchant vessels, he said.

The U.S. so-called “FONOPs” aim to uphold U.S. global maritime supremacy, and challenge other countries’ sovereignty and international public interests, said Ling.

What the West Got Wrong in Syria

What the West Got Wrong in Syria

 

 

What the West Got Wrong in Syria YOUSSEF KARWASHAN/AFP/Getty Images

If Western politicians are wondering why they achieved so few of their goals in the Syrian civil war, they should start by examining their own decisions. The West’s approach to the Syrian uprising was from the very beginning dominated by an overdose of wishful thinking. Politicians apparently based their positions on their day-to-day domestic political reflexes, rather than on the long-term vision and result-oriented pragmatism that were needed to work toward genuinely helping to solve the conflict.

Most Western politicians early on became fixated on the idea that the conflict could only be resolved if President Bashar al-Assad were removed from power. Many really thought that the regime would fall within a relatively short time. Various ambassadors in Damascus expected Assad to have been gone by the summer of 2012. The strength of the regime was completely underestimated, partly out of ignorance and lack of knowledge of the Syrian regime, as well as because of misplaced optimism.

Academics, journalists, and policymakers who predicted that there was a realistic chance for the Assad regime to survive for a longer time, or called the moral legitimacy of the allegedly “peaceful” opposition into question, ran the risk of being accused of being pro-Assad — or even of being against democracy. Ideological arguments sometimes prevailed over realistic ones. Even the United Nations and its special envoys for Syria were from time to time accused of being partial to Assad after the slightest move that could potentially be interpreted as not opposing his interests.

Western politicians generally had clear thoughts about what they did not want, but no realistic or clear ideas of what they wanted in Assad’s place. They wanted a kind of democracy in Syria, but a violent ousting of Assad could not realistically have been expected to result in such a desired peaceful democracy.

Politicians did not always keep up with the realities on the ground and continued to use “politically correct” slogans even though the country’s situation no longer fully justified them. The Syrian opposition continued to be described as peaceful and democratic, even long after more radical forces, including Islamists and jihadis, had hijacked its platform and the Syrian war was already well underway. Subsequently, the concept of peaceful opposition became more of a myth than the reality it was in the beginning. But the rhetoric of Western politicians did not change.

Nor did the West’s military support for the Syrian opposition ever match its rhetoric

Nor did the West’s military support for the Syrian opposition ever match its rhetoric, thus dangerously inflating the opposition’s expectations. The opposition was never given sufficient military support to bring the regime to its knees, even when such military pressure would have been necessary to achieve the political solution the West claimed it wanted. With this combination, the Syrian revolution was doomed to failure — certainly as long as the regime received military support from its allies Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah.The Western countries’ declared aim of arming the opposition turned out to be rather restricted when it came to reality. When the EU arms embargo against Syria was lifted at the insistence of the United Kingdom and France in 2013, there was — contrary to expectations — no great change as far as arms deliveries to the opposition were concerned.

It turned out that there was no political will to really arm any part of the opposition to such an extent that it had a real chance to win battles against the regime, even where the predominantly secular side was concerned. Questions were raised about which of the many opposition groups should be armed and with what aim, as the Western countries obviously wanted to avoid the possible establishment of an Islamic extremist dictatorship.

But was there any guarantee that arms provided to others would not end up in the hands of Islamists and jihadis? And were the arms really intended to help topple the Assad regime? Or was providing arms mainly intended to help the opposition in defending itself? Or mainly to fight the Islamic State, the Nusra Front, and other jihadi organizations? Was it a humanitarian gesture? No clear U.S. or EU strategy was visible, except that defeating the Islamic State became the priority.

Meanwhile, more radical Islamic groups had become stronger than the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA). Countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar focused their support also on Islamist armed organizations like Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam.

What the West clearly wanted to see was a moderate, democratic, secular, pluralist successor regime, but such a possibility was not a realistic prospect, certainly not in the foreseeable future. As far as the secular armed groups of the FSA were concerned, they gradually also became more radicalized as a result of the prolonged bloody war. The Islamic current in Syria had become stronger during the Syrian war, and secularism had correspondingly become less popular.

Western politicians, however, largely ignored this development, continuing to pay lip service to what they considered to be the predominantly secular opposition. But as long as they did not provide it with the necessary means to gain the upper hand in battle, their moral support did not have any decisive value on the battleground. While they may have cleared their “political conscience” by expressing support for the opposition, they were, in reality, unintentionally contributing to prolonging the war and helping Assad move toward victory, particularly after Russia started to intervene militarily on the regime’s behalf in September 2015.

Western leaders on various occasions called for measures against the Syrian regime that they could have known in advance were not going to be implemented. But to do nothing or not to react at all was, politically speaking, not an acceptable option for democratic governments. Nevertheless, it can, rationally speaking, be argued that in some cases it would have been wiser to do nothing rather than to do the wrong thing with disastrous consequences.

Politicians were expected “to do something.” Expressions like “Shouldn’t we intervene there?” and “How can you just sit by and watch how people in Syria are being oppressed and slaughtered?” became quite common, but not much was done in practice to drastically help change the situation of the Syrian population on the ground.

A key question that ran throughout the debates around the Syrian crisis was: Is justice to be done? The answer was: Yes, of course, but at which cost? It was easy to say, for instance, that Assad should be tried for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. But this did not help in finding a solution. The idea that Assad would ever be able to leave Syria alive for such a court case was extremely unrealistic. Some people did even imagine that President Assad would start to behave and think differently once he was more aware of the future possibility of being tried at the ICC. It all appeared to be wishful thinking.

Calling for justice was good in itself, as was the documenting of all the war crimes that had been committed. This had to be done, of course, but not over and above efforts to proactively work toward finding a solution and preventing the further bloodshed that would undoubtedly continue if no serious negotiations were facilitated among Syria’s various clashing factions.

The call for justice needed to be part of wider efforts to create peace

The call for justice needed to be part of wider efforts to create peace, rather than focusing only on who were guilty of the crimes committed against the Syrian people in the recent past. A political solution had to be found before justice could be done. It could not be the other way around.The West in fact created false expectations and gave the opposition hope for more Western support, which, in the end, was not provided.

By branding the rule of President Assad as illegitimate, Western countries may have been morally just, but they thereby prematurely blocked any opportunity they might have had to play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the crisis. The question was: What should have priority — being morally correct or helping find a solution?

Domestic political factors were apparently considered more important. Robert Ford, the then U.S. ambassador to Syria, had reportedly opposed calling for Assad’s departure, arguing that the United States would not be able to bring it about, but his counsel was overruled. According to Christopher Phillips, “the domestic cost of not calling for Assad’s departure was perceived as getting too high” in the United States.

The solidarity visit of Ford and his French counterpart, Eric Chevallier, to the opposition in Hama in July 2011 looked sympathetic from a Western point of view but in fact led to the end of the possibility for the United States and France or other countries to play any role as mediator in the conflict. Their visits rather created false hopes among the opposition that essential Western support was forthcoming — and in the end it was not as forthcoming as had been suggested.

In some ways, the situation looked similar to that of southern Iraq in 1991, when the United States and others encouraged the Shiite community to rise up against the rule of President Saddam Hussein but did nothing to help them when their uprising was bloodily suppressed.

As David Lesch put it, “Ford’s actions were universally praised in the United States and elsewhere in the West as a courageous act that drew attention to the plight of the protestors, and in so doing helped prevent what some had been predicting: another massacre like the one in Hama in 1982.” But it is more probable that his and Chevallier’s actions achieved the opposite.

When more than five years later the Syrian regime reconquered the eastern part of the city of Aleppo in December 2016 — which had been under the control of military opposition forces for more than four years (and lay in rubble as a result) — the greater part of the international community, including the Western and Arab Gulf countries that had supported most of the military opposition forces, could not do much more than stand idly by and issue statements of the strongest condemnation and moral outrage concerning the bloodshed and atrocities that had reportedly taken place. They were powerless to intervene politically or militarily because they had already excluded any military intervention in Syria several years before and no longer had any real influence over the Syrian regime (with which they had broken off relations years earlier) nor over its allies Russia and Iran to change their policies concerning Syria. Moreover, they apparently had not provided the opposition groups with enough military support to be able to win the battle for Aleppo.

In 2012, leading figures in the Syrian National Council still spoke of their preference for military intervention, as if it were a realistic possibility. Regional leaders had been assuring the opposition that intervention was “definitely coming” but refused to accept the possibility that the United States would eventually choose not to militarily intervene after decades of muscle flexing.

It took a long time before the opposition started to be sufficiently aware that it had become the victim of the false expectations created by its so-called friendly supporters in the West, who did not want to openly confront it, and themselves, with the realities of the situation.

This article is an edited extract from Nikolaos van Dam’s new book, Destroying a Nation: The Civil War in Syria.

 

Why Damascus Claims on US, UK Supplies of Chemicals to Syria ‘Cannot Be Ignored’

A U.N. chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria. (File)© REUTERS/ Mohamed Abdullah

 

Why Damascus Claims on US, UK Supplies

of Chemicals to Syria ‘Cannot Be Ignored’

 

Damascus has accused the US and Britain of supplying toxic materials to Syria. According to political analyst Vladimir Shapovalov, the allegations are very serious and should be investigated.

The claims that the United States and United Kingdom supplied militant groups in Syria with toxic agents could be verified by a UN mission, said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Earlier this week, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad accused the US and the UK of supplying toxic agents to terrorists based on evidence found in Aleppo and a Damascus suburb.

These allegations are putting Washington and London in a situation where they cannot refuse an international probe into the matter, according to Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Center for Historical and Political Studies at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute.

“Russia’s stance in this situation is absolutely reasonable. Moreover, I think that the US and Britain should endorse it. If Washington and London block such an investigation the international community may have the impression that the two countries are responsible [for the deliveries of toxic agents to Syria] and trying to hide the facts,” Shapovalov told Radio Sputnik.

According to Shapovalov, the information revealed by the Syrian government is very serious and concerning and must be thoroughly investigated regardless of the current political climate.

“Any activities related to poisonous materials must be closely monitored and investigated. This should not be a one-sided game. It is necessary to consider any possibility of such deliveries, no matter where they can come from. As for the information revealed by Damascus, it is a very solid piece of evidence,” Shapovalov pointed out.

According to the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the toxic materials discovered in Aleppo and a Damascus suburb were produced by one British company and two American companies.”The special equipment found consisted of hand grenades and rounds for grenade launchers equipped with CS and CN toxic agents. … The chemical munitions were produced by the Federal Laboratories company in the US. The toxic agents were produced by Chemring Defence (UK) and NonLethal Technologies (US),” Mekdad said Wednesday.

He also underscored that in accordance with Article 5 of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons, the use of toxic agents is permitted only to combat riots. It is prohibited to use them in warfare.

Commenting on the allegations, the Pentagon said that its assistance to Syrian opposition groups “does not now, nor has it ever, included chemical agents.”

In turn, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office told Sputnik that the UK refutes any claims to the alleged supply of lethal equipment, including chemical weapons, to any of the conflicting sides in Syria.Several incidents involving toxic materials have been reported during the course of the Syrian conflict. The deadliest one took place in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013. According to varying estimates, it claimed from several hundred up to 1,500 lives. On April 4, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces announced that several dozen people had been killed by a suspected chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s province of Idlib. The US blamed Damascus for the incident without providing evidence to back this theory up. Syrian authorities refuted any involvement in the incident.

In June, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that its fact-finding mission confirmed that man-made chemical sarin was used in the Khan Shaikhoun attack, but did not determine who was responsible.Following the Ghouta attack, Syria joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This was the result of an agreement between Russia and the US on the destruction of chemical weapons in the country under the control of the OPCW and it prevented a US military intervention in Syria. In January 2016, the OPCW reported that all chemical weapons in Syria had been destroyed.

Russian Air Force Destroys 20-Vehicle ISIS Convoy Heading To Deir ez-Zor, Syria…200+ Terrorists Eliminated

 

 

 

The Russian Defense Ministry said that throughout August the militants had been trying to intensify their efforts on the province of Deir ez-Zor

© Vadim Grishanin/Office of the press service and information Ministry of defense of Russia/TASS

MOSCOW, August 21. /TASS/. Russia’s air force task group in Syria delivered strikes destroying a large convoy of terrorists’ vehicles, which headed to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Monday.

“The Russian military aviation eliminated another large convoy of militants from the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia), as they were heading to Deir ez-Sor, where international terrorists are trying to re-group and set up their last stronghold in Syria,” according to the ministry.

The Russian Defense Ministry added that throughout August militants had been trying to focus on the province of Deir ez-Zor, while the Russian air forces and Syrian government troops were ousting them from the south of Raqqa province and the west of Homs province.

“The defeat of the Islamic State in the region of Deir ez-Zor will be a strategic defeat of the international terrorist group in Syria,” according to the ministry.

US/Korea Kick-Off War Games Practicing Nuclear First Strike, Despite Threats From North

Military tensions are expected to come to a critical juncture on the Korean Peninsula this week, with South Korea and the United Sates beginning Monday their annual military exercise in the wake of a standoff between Washington and Pyongyang over the latter’s threat to launch missiles toward the US island of Guam.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, a computer-based military drill, is to kick off with some 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops participating to simulate a war with North Korea. It will last until the end of the month. The number of US forces mobilized this year is markedly lower than last year’s 25,000.

This year’s exercise will focus on deterring North Korea from launching nuclear attacks and preparing the allies’ forces for a pre-emptive strike against it. The drill is reportedly based on Operational Plan 5015, which contains a scenario for carrying out a pre-emptive “decapitation” of North Korean leadership.

“If the enemy provokes, (our military) will retaliate resolutely and strongly to make it regret it bitterly,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo said during a change of command ceremony held at the Ministry of National Defense compound in Seoul. President Moon Jae-in attended the event.

South Korea`s marines participate in an amphibious landing drill near Ulleung Island in the East Sea. (Yonhap)

The exercise comes amid under Pyongyang’s looming threat to fire ballistic missiles to waters near the US island of Guam. Delaying a decision on the island attack plan last week, the North’s Kim Jong-un said he would “wait and see” how Washington reacts.

On Sunday, Pyongyang’s state-run media lashed out at the allies for holding the exercise, saying they were “adding fuel to the fire.” North Korea and the US have traded warlike rhetoric since the North succeeded in launching two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

“It would be a great mistake for the US if they have such a delusion that the war is somebody else’s business happening across the Pacific,” said North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun, the communist party’s official newspaper.

The command-post exercise UFG takes place every year at about this time and always elicits a reaction from Pyongyang. But the North’s harsh rhetoric heeds more attention this year, military experts said, since it is the first major drill since the North test-fired ICBMs.

In recent years, North Korea has also conducted military provocations around the time the UFG is held. Pyongyang launched a submarine-based ballistic missile last year and fired off antiaircraft guns at an anti-North Korea propaganda loudspeaker unit on the cross-border region in 2015.

The reduced number of US participants — which includes 3,000 reinforcements — has sparked speculation the allies might have scaled back the annual exercise in consideration of military tensions with North Korea. Korea’s Ministry of National Defense, however, has dismissed such a view, stressing the exercise would be played out on a level similar to that of last year.

“The number of US troops participating in the exercise can vary depending upon circumstances,” said a Seoul military official who declined to be identified, rejecting any link between the numbers and current tensions on the peninsula.

The US is also unlikely to send to the peninsula its strategic assets, such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, submarines and long-range fighter-jets carrying nuclear bombs, according to Seoul’s military officials. Those assets were not deployed here during the UFG in 2016.

US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris(left) and South Korea`s Defense Minister Song Young-moo. Yonhap.

Meanwhile, a group of top US military leaders paid a visit to South Koreaand met with their counterparts in Seoul on Sunday to ease jitters over the US commitment to defend South Korea following the North’s successful ICBM tests.

Among them were Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the US Missile Defense Agency, is to visit later this week.

During his meeting with Defense Minister Song Young-moo, commander Harris pledged an “iron-clad” defense commitment to the South against North Korea’s “ever-evolving” nuclear and missile threats.

“In order to respond to any provocation from North Korea, it is more important than ever before to maintain a robust Korea-US alliance,” Song was quoted as saying by the Defense Ministry during the closed-door meeting.

Harris and other military leaders are expected to observe the UFG exercise and meet with other South Korean senior military officers this week. They will also hold a press conference with local reporters.

By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)

The Death Of Our Nation

The Death Of A Nation

Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Every living nation needs symbols. They tell us who we are as one people, in what we believe, and on what basis we organize our common life.

This fact seems to be very clear to the current leadership in Russia, particularly to President Vladimir Putin, in restoring and reunifying a country rent by three generations of Red and White enmity to achieve a national synthesis. With regard to things spiritual, this meant first of all the world-historic reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church, between the Moscow Patriarchate and the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. It also meant the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior dynamited by the communists 1931, not coincidentally the recent target for desecration by degenerates hailed by western «democracy» advocates.

Civic and military symbols matter as well. After 1991 there were those who wanted landmarks of the communist era to be ruthlessly expunged the way the Bolsheviks had themselves sought (in Solzhenitsyn’s description) to rub off the age-old face of Russia and to replace it with a new, ersatz Soviet image. Instead, wisdom prevailed. The national anthem adopted in 2001 retains the Soviet melody but with new lyrics (written by Sergey Mikhalkov, who with Gabriel El-Registan had penned the original lyrics in 1944!) – Lenin and Stalin are out, God is in. The old capital is again Saint Petersburg, but the surrounding district still bears the name Leningrad. The red star marks Russia’s military aircraft and vehicles, while the blue Saint Andrew’s cross flies over the fleet. The red stars likewise are still atop the Kremlin towers while the Smolensk icon of Christ once again graces the Savior Gate. The red banner that was hoisted triumphantly on the Reichstag in 1945 is carried on Victory Day. The remains of exiled White commanders like Anton Denikin and Vladimir Kappel were repatriated and reburied at home with honor.

I may be wrong, but I would like to think that perhaps Russia took a lesson from what until recently had been the American example. In his Second Inaugural Address in March 1865, as the «brothers’ war« was drawing to a close, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the need to «bind up the nation’s wounds». In striving to do so, nothing was more important than our honoring the heroes of both the Blue and the Gray, perhaps most poignantly demonstrated decades later in the veterans’ reunions at Gettysburg. «Unconditional Surrender» Grant and «Marse Bobby» Lee, «Uncle Billy» Sherman and «Stonewall» Jackson, naval legends David «Damn the torpedoes» Farragut and Raphael «Nelson of the Confederacy» Semmes, cavalrymen «Fightin’ Phil» Sheridan and J.E.B. Stuart, and many, many others – these names belong to all of us. As Americans.

To say this is not to avoid the centrality of slavery in the southerners’ attempted secession or to address the constitutional question of whether they were legally entitled to do so. (Maybe California will have better luck heading for the exit. ¡Adios, amigos!) Nor does it sugarcoat white southerners’ perception of Reconstruction as a hostile, armed occupation or of the institution of Jim Crow racial segregation after federal troops were withdrawn and the Democratic Party assumed power. But the fact is that the mythos of North-South reconciliation in a reunited American nation was a foundation of our becoming an economic giant by the late 19th century, a world power at the beginning of the 20th (at the expense of the decrepit Spanish empire, with the celebrated military participation of former Confederates), and a dominant power after two victorious world wars.

That America may soon be gone with the wind. The violence at Charlottesville, the pulling down of a Confederate memorial by a mob in Durham, the removal of four monuments from Baltimore (which has one of America’s highest homicide rates) under the cowardly cloak of night, and calls for getting rid of many more are simultaneously the death throes of the old America built on one national concept and the birth pangs of a new, borderless, multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious, multisexual, ahistorical, fake «America» now aborning in violence and lawlessness.

He who says A must say B. When one accepts demonization of part of our history and placing those who defend it beyond the pale of legitimate discourse, one should hardly be surprised when the arrogant fury of the victors is unleashed. That takes two forms: the nihilist street thugs of «Antifa» and «Black Lives Matter», and the authorities (both governmental and media, a/k/a the Swamp) who confer on them immunity for violent, criminal behavior. The former are the shock troops of the latter.

They’ve been at it for months, well before Charlottesville, across the country, with nary a peep from the party that supposedly has uniform control over the federal government. Our First Amendment rights as Americans end where a black-clad masked thug chooses to put his (or her or indeterminate «gender») fist or club. To paraphrase U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney in Dred Scott, loyalists of the old America have no rights which the partisans of the new one are bound to respect. Where’s the Justice Department probe of civil rights violations by this organized, directed brutality? (Or maybe there will be one, including looking into George Soros’s connection. If not, what’s the point of having RICO?)

To be sure, the spectacle of genuine racists on display in Charlottesville provided the perfect pretext for these people, but they’re not the cause. Far from forestalling the violent, revolutionary abolition of the historic America (definitively described by Pat Buchanan) by inciting some kind of white backlash – perhaps in the form of a race war as some of them despicably hope – the «Unite the Right» organizers at Charlottesville have accelerated the revolution. It’s a revolution that dovetails with the anti-constitutional «RussiaGate» coup in progress against President Trump, who is the last hope for preserving the historic American nation. If he is removed (is he the only one, even in his own Administration, fighting back?) and the nice respectable anti-Trump Republican party is restored, they’ll gladly join hands with their Democratic and media Swamp buddies in dragging what remains of America down.

If anyone is tempted to think that the new America will be more peaceful in world affairs, think again. It’s no coincidence that the same forces that want to bring Trump down and also redefine our country’s identity coincide almost entirely with those who want America aggressively to impose «our values« – meaning their values – on the globe. As I put it almost 20 years ago in a somewhat different context, this fake «America» is the vanguard of Rainbow Fascism, at home and abroad.

No doubt the same terrible sense of foreboding, even worse, must have occurred to Russians in 1920, when they saw their country bloodily sacrificed on the altar of a crazed, internationalist ideology. Somehow, after paying an unimaginable price in war and repression, they emerged three quarters of a century later still remembering how (as the late General Aleksandr Lebed put it) «to feel like Russians again».

If we fail to avoid the impending long night, will we Americans be so lucky?

The 2nd American Civil War Just Around the Next Corner

Are We Nearing Civil War?

President Trump may be chief of state, head of government and commander in chief, but his administration is shot through with disloyalists plotting to bring him down.

We are approaching something of a civil war where the capital city seeks the overthrow of the sovereign and its own restoration.

Thus far, it is a nonviolent struggle, though street clashes between pro- and anti-Trump forces are increasingly marked by fistfights and brawls. Police are having difficulty keeping people apart. A few have been arrested carrying concealed weapons.

That the objective of this city is to bring Trump down via a deep state-media coup is no secret. Few deny it.

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Goal: have the Times story trigger the appointment of a special prosecutor to bring down the president.

Comey wanted a special prosecutor to target Trump, despite his knowledge, from his own FBI investigation, that Trump was innocent of the pervasive charge that he colluded with the Kremlin in the hacking of the DNC.

Comey’s deceit was designed to enlist the police powers of the state to bring down his president. And it worked. For the special counsel named, with broad powers to pursue Trump, is Comey’s friend and predecessor at the FBI, Robert Mueller.

As Newt Gingrich said Sunday: “Look at who Mueller’s starting to hire. … (T)hese are people that … look to me like they’re … setting up to go after Trump … including people, by the way, who have been reprimanded for hiding from the defense information into major cases. …

“This is going to be a witch hunt.”

Another example. According to Daily Kos, Trump planned a swift lifting of sanctions on Russia after inauguration and a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin to prevent a second Cold War.

The State Department was tasked with working out the details.

Instead, says Daniel Fried, the coordinator for sanctions policy, he received “panicky” calls of “Please, my God, can you stop this?” The Greatest Comeback:… Patrick J. Buchanan Best Price: $8.99 Buy New $9.00 (as of 11:07 EDT – Details)

Operatives at State, disloyal to the president and hostile to the Russia policy on which he had been elected, collaborated with elements in Congress to sabotage any detente. They succeeded.

“It would have been a win-win for Moscow,” said Tom Malinowski of State, who boasted last week of his role in blocking a rapprochement with Russia. State employees sabotaged one of the principal policies for which Americans had voted, and they substituted their own.

Not in memory have there been so many leaks to injure a president from within his own government, and not just political leaks, but leaks of confidential, classified and secret documents. The leaks are coming out of the supposedly secure investigative and intelligence agencies of the U.S. government.

The media, the beneficiaries of these leaks, are giving cover to those breaking the law. The real criminal “collusion” in Washington is between Big Media and the deep state, colluding to destroy a president they detest and to sink the policies they oppose.

Yet another example is the unfolding “unmasking” scandal.

While all the evidence is not yet in, it appears an abnormal number of conversations between Trump associates and Russians were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

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Then those transcripts, with names revealed, were spread to all 16 agencies of the intel community at the direction of Susan Rice, and with the possible knowledge of Barack Obama, assuring some would be leaked after Trump became president.

The leak of Gen. Michael Flynn’s conversation with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, after Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for the hacking of the DNC, may have been a product of the unmasking operation. The media hit on Flynn cost him the National Security Council post.

Trump has had many accomplishments since his election. Yet his enemies in the media and their deep state allies have often made a purgatory of his presidency.

What he and his White House need to understand is that this is not going to end, that this is a fight to the finish, that his enemies will not relent until they see him impeached or resigning in disgrace.

Patrick BuchananTo prevail, Trump will have to campaign across this country and wage guerrilla war in this capital, using the legal and political weapons at his disposal to ferret out the enemies within his own government.

Not only is this battle essential, if Trump hopes to realize his agenda, it is winnable. For the people sense that the Beltway elites are cynically engaged in preserving their own privileges, positions and power.

If the president cannot rewrite Obamacare or achieve tax reform, he should not go around the country in 2018 wailing about Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer. They are not the real adversaries. They are but interchangeable parts.

He should campaign against the real enemies of America First by promising to purge the deep state and flog its media collaborators.

Time to burn down the Bastille.

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The CIA Invented Terror-War In Laos

What Laos Taught the CIA

 

 

 

Earlier this month, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) commemorated its 50th anniversary. As Southeast Asian nations look forward to building a more stable future, it’s also useful to remember the events that shaped the modern history of the region.

Fifty years ago, many parts of Southeast Asia were plagued by wars and local conflicts which included the Vietnam War, the anti-communist hysteria in Indonesia, and the rise of a military dictatorship in Burma.

But there was another war, a secret war that was being waged in a remote corner of the Indochina Peninsula during the same period. This was the civil war in Laos, which saw the rise of Hmong soldiers fighting the rising tide of communism in their country. Unknown to some Lao soldiers at the time, the combat strategy and logistics of their government were being directly handled and provided by Central Intelligence Agency officials of the United States.

Joshua Kurlantzick’s recent book A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA is more than just a retelling of the war in Laos and the role it played in the Vietnam conflict. It narrates the history of how the CIA began its notorious paramilitary operations in Laos and how this became the template for future covert wars organized by the agency in many parts of the world.

One character in the book is likened to Colonel Kurtz, the mad American soldier in the film Apocalypse Now, who in real life was awarded by the CIA for his bravery and service in leading a paramilitary training camp in Laos.

The CIA experiment turned the small landlocked country into the most heavily bombed place in the world and it failed to prevent the victory of communists in both Laos and Vietnam. Yet the CIA deemed it a success.

Unlike in Vietnam, the CIA-led operation in Laos didn’t lead to the massive deployment of U.S. troops and eventual loss of American lives. What the CIA did was to train and build a Lao paramilitary force composed mainly of Hmong natives who fought and died fighting the communists. The CIA’s work in Laos was later credited (unofficially, of course) for delaying the victory of the Vietcong by redirecting the focus of the northern Vietnamese military. This was done with little political noise in the United States because it didn’t involve the sending of troops, aside from maintaining the secrecy of the operation which lasted for almost two decades.

Never mind that the fields of Laos continue to be littered with unexploded bombs up to this day. As far as the CIA is concerned, its Laos operation provided the agency with the know-how and valuable field experience on how to conduct a war without openly declaring war. After Laos, the CIA emerged as a central player in implementing the foreign policy of the United States. More importantly, it became an enormous military machine which can confidently demand a significant appropriation from the government to be used for training various paramilitary troops across the world.

The CIA operations in Laos during the Vietnam War is not without its modern parallels, as a quick glance at the news would remind us. Anti-communism is replaced by anti-terrorism, surveillance and bomb operations are now done by drones, but paramilitary troops are still being used in conflict zones. There’s no direct link with the CIA, of course. But the imprints which we first saw in Laos are discernible. Only this time, the money used to finance these small wars are bigger and more costly to the American public.

The CIA history in Laos provides a cautionary tale of how a supposedly minor tactical operation could mutate into a monstrous military undertaking. This is especially the case if there is no public accountability and transparency, particularly regarding the use of funds for these covert operations. Seen from the narrow prism of U.S. domestic politics, public pressure can be avoided as long as civilian casualties and collateral damage are mainly members of the local population. But for the countries where the CIA is operating, the fundamental issue is the military and political intervention of a foreign power.

It is interesting to note that a few months before the official celebration of the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, several leaders in the region were complaining about US intervention in their countries. These leaders, who are facing corruption and human rights cases, could be simply trying to divert public attention; but their rants have historical basis.

After all, it was the CIA which supervised the long war in Laos; and even its online museum acknowledged the agency’s various hitherto secret activities in the region in the 20th century. It is accused of supporting paramilitary networks that later became uncontrollable such as the Taliban, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and even ISIS. The point is less whether or not these accusations hold up; at the very lease, they can serve as a grain of truth that is in every good lie.

There are numerous speculations about what the CIA is doing today. Most of the time these are dismissed as part of baseless conspiracy theories. But the publication of studies based on declassified CIA documents has provided the public with better knowledge about the appalling extent and magnitude of U.S. military operations around the world.

But is the CIA really capable of managing wars? And can it really build a local army in a foreign country? Laos offers an answer, but also raises many more other questions.

Al-Arabiya Posts Video of Saudi F16 Shooting-Down Qatari Airliner

 

[Video evidence that the Saudi royals, like ISIS, do not understand that shooting-down airliners is “terrorism”.]

Saudi state TV justifies shooting down of

Qatari airliners

 

Al-Arabiya video shows missile attack on Qatar Airways jet, claiming ‘international law’ allows destruction of flights violating airspace

A Qatar Airways Airbus A350 XWB (Reuters)

A Saudi state TV channel has produced a video showing the potential consequences of a Qatari passenger jet entering Riyadh’s airspace – being shot out of the sky.

In a short animation published on Al-Arabiya TV a few days ago, a commercial Qatar Airways passenger jet is shown entering Saudi airspace, before being escorted to land by a Saudi fighter jet.

A voiceover says that, “according to international law, a state that bans flights from entering its airspace has the right to deal with the violating plane in any way it wishes”.

“The options in this case either take the form of deploying a fighter jet that forces the plane to land whereby the flight crew are then tried on several charges.”

Or, the voice adds, “international law also allows states to shoot down any flight that violates a state’s airspace, classing it as a legitimate target, especially over military areas.”

In early June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a commercial and economic blockade on Qatar, ostensibly for the emirate’s support for terrorism, a claim Doha denies.

The release of the video – and its implications for unarmed passenger jets – was condemned by scores of Twitter users.

In a bid to boost tourism, Qatar last week announced visa-free travel to citizens of 80 countries.

Qatar Airways chief Akbar al-Baker said his carrier, which this year plans to extend its network to 62 new destinations, would be a primary beneficiary.

“This historic announcement comes at time of historic significance; while some countries in the region have decided to close their skies and their borders, Qatar has instead opened its borders,” he said.

“Calling for the assassination of the President is a federal crime”

Maria Chapelle-Nadal
Candidate Maria N. Chappelle-Nadal speaks on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, during the First District Congressional Candidates debate at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

With five written words Thursday morning, one of Missouri’s most controversial state lawmakers spawned a U.S. Secret Service investigation, potentially endangered her own political career — and flung St. Louis squarely into the middle of America’s raging racial-political debate in the wake of the unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

“I hope Trump is assassinated!” Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, wrote during a morning Facebook exchange, referring to Republican President Donald Trump.

She quickly deleted her post, but not quickly enough. By mid-afternoon, the political verdicts of her own party were rolling in:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.: “I condemn it. It’s outrageous. And she should resign.”

U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis: “(C)alling for the assassination of the President is a federal crime. . . . (She is) an embarrassment to our state. She should resign immediately.”

Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber: “The . . . Party will absolutely not tolerate calls for the assassination of the President. I believe she should resign.”

Missouri Senate Democratic Caucus leader Sen. Gina Walsh: “(She) should be ashamed of herself for adding her voice to this toxic environment.”

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, and state Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, also called for Chappelle-Nadal’s resignation. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ office said late Thursday afternoon that a statement from him is forthcoming.

In an interview, Chappelle-Nadal acknowledged she wrote the offending line on her personal Facebook page in response to another commenter before deleting it.

“I didn’t mean what I put up. Absolutely not. I was very frustrated. Things have got to change,” Chappelle-Nadal told the Post-Dispatch. “It was in response to the concerns that I am hearing from residents of St. Louis. I have deleted it, and it should have been deleted, but there is something way more important that we should be talking about.”

She added later: “I am not resigning . . . What I said was wrong, but I am not going to stop talking about what led to that, which is the frustration and anger that many people across America are feeling right now.”

Chappelle-Nadal said her comment stemmed from frustration over the events in Charlottesville over the weekend, in which a white supremacist protester allegedly rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.

Trump’s reaction to the tragedy, which included the assertion that “both sides” of the protests were to blame for the violence, has drawn criticism across the political spectrum.

“There are people who are afraid of white supremacists” in the aftermath of Charlottesville, she said. “There are people who are having nightmares. there are people who are afraid of going out in the streets. It’s worse than even Ferguson.”

According to a screenshot of the now-deleted conversation obtained by the Post-Dispatch, another commenter named Christopher Gagné was writing about a cousin of his who he said was on Trump’s Secret Service detail.

“But, what I posted earlier, I truly believe will happen, sooner … not later,” he wrote.

In a subsequent interview with the Post-Dispatch, Gagné said that wasn’t a reference to assassination, but to his earlier-stated belief that Vice President Mike Pence will use the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to have Trump removed from office.

“Damn,” Gagné then wrote, “now I’ll probably get a visit from the secret service.” He followed that comment with “smdh,” an abbreviation for “shaking my d— head.”

Chappelle-Nadal responded: “No. I will. I hope Trump is assassinated!”

The U.S. Secret Service’s St. Louis field office “is looking into this,” the office confirmed Thursday.

Kristina Schmidt, special agent in charge, told the Post-Dispatch that “hypothetically” in such investigations, agents try to “determine intent, to determine if there was a violation of federal law. If there is, then we refer it to the U.S. Attorney.”

“Our primary goal is to determine if there is intent and meaning behind it,” Schmidt said.

Richard Callahan, former U.S. attorney in St. Louis, said that generally in cases involving such threats, “we try to distinguish between ‘stupid’ and (actual) intent.” He said the “bottom line” is the question of whether the person was serious about making the threatened action happen.

Another factor, he said, is “whether it’s a person of influence. You look at the person’s station in life, whether they might have influence over others.”

In addition to party-wide condemnation of Chappelle-Nadal’s post, state Rep. Joshua Peters, D-St. Louis, issued a formal request Thursday to the Missouri Senate committee that deals with member ethics asking for Chappelle-Nadal’s removal from office, calling her “an embarrassment nationally for the Missouri General Assembly.”

The furious responses from Chappelle-Nadal’s own party might at least partly reflect her history of internal political strife as an outspoken critic of people on both sides of the aisle.

First elected to the House in 2004, she served three terms before winning a four-way primary for the Senate’s 14th District in 2010.

In January 2015, she filed a proposal in the Senate seeking the ouster of former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, for his actions in relation to the August 2014 death of a black teenager in Ferguson by a white police officer. In her proposal, she said Nixon “seems only to acknowledge the existence of the African-American community on or about election day.”

The measure went nowhere. But her attacks on Nixon never dimmed. In a tweet at the time of the protests in Ferguson, Chappelle-Nadal wrote: “You don’t know s*** because you never communicate. F* you, governor!”

She’s also tried to exert political payback against her foes. She spent nearly $20,000 on negative ads against Rep. Joe Adams, whom she had defeated in her race for the Senate five years previously.

She got into a fight with Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, at a Lil Wayne Concert at Scottrade Center in 2011 over legislation regarding local control of the city police department.

Last year, she unsuccessfully challenged Clay, the St. Louis-based congressman, in the Democratic primary.

During the most recent legislative session, Chappelle-Nadal focused her efforts on a controversial buyout program for homeowners in the Spanish Village neighborhood of Bridgeton who have been impacted by pollution in the nearby Westlake Landfill.

Initially, she wanted her colleagues to approve a $12 million program and threatened to shut down the Senate with a filibuster if it didn’t move forward. She backed off when the Senate endorsed a $1 million pilot program. But the House didn’t agree and she left the Capitol in May with nothing.

Kurt Erickson and Joe Holleman of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Saudi Forces Have Leveled Entire Shia Towns, Creating Their Own Saudi Mosuls and Fallujahs

Awamiya: Inside Saudi Shia town

devastated by demolitions and fighting

 

Remains of a car and buildings in the town of Awamiya, Saudi Arabia (9 August 2017)
Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

 

The BBC’s Sally Nabil has been given rare access to Awamiya in Saudi Arabia, a town in the east of the Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom that has been rocked in recent months by deadly clashes between security forces and Shia militants that were triggered by the demolition of its old quarter.

“You will have only a few minutes on the ground. When we say ‘go’, you will have to leave at once,” a Saudi police officer told us firmly as we got on an armoured vehicle heading to Awamiya.

As we approached the town, escorted by special forces, officers kept talking to their commanders over the phone to make sure the convoy was safe to proceed.

The security situation in Awamiya remains unstable, although the government says it is in control.

Saudi special forces member holds patrols the town of Awamiya (9 August 2017) The Saudi interior ministry has blamed the unrest on “terrorist groups”   Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

When we got to Awamiya, the scale of devastation was shocking. It looked like a war zone – as if we were in Mosul or Aleppo.

The town, which lies in the Qatif region of oil-rich Eastern Province, was home to about 30,000 people, most of them Shia.

Now, there is nothing left of the once vibrant residential area but bullet-riddled houses, and burned-out cars and shops – a testament to the heavy fighting.

Members of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority have for years complained about what they perceive as discrimination and marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni monarchy.

But their protests have always been met by a crackdown.

“The Saudi regime does not accept opposition, whether it comes from a Sunni or a Shia. They are just intolerant,” Ali Adubisi, the director of the Berlin-based European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, told me.

 
A burned-out bulldozer in Awamiya, Saudi Arabia (9 August 2017)The local authorities say they have been demolishing “dilapidated buildings”  Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

As I walked around Awamiya, I saw a few bulldozers standing in the middle of the wasteland.

In May, the authorities started demolishing the 400-year-old al-Musawara area, as a part of what it says is a “development project”.

“Eighty houses were demolished, and we still have about 400 more to go. These are dilapidated buildings, they should be modernised,” acting mayor Essam Abdullatif Al-Mulla told me.

“Families have been relocated after being generously compensated and offered alternative houses.”

Map of Saudi Arabia

As soon as the demolitions started, the confrontation in Awamiya took a violent turn.

Shia groups accused police troops of forcing people to leave, with the aim of crushing dissent.

Activists say security forces sealed off the town’s entrances and exits in late July, denying remaining residents access to essential services such as medical care.

 
Bullet-ridden building in Awamiya, Saudi Arabia (9 August 2017) Shia groups have accused the authorities of forcing thousands of people to leave  Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

The violence has killed more than 20 civilians, among them a three-year-old boy who died on Wednesday, in addition to at least five militants, according to activists.

The Saudi authorities say eight police officers and four special forces personnel have died, but did not release any information on civilian and militant deaths.

The interior ministry has blamed the unrest on “terrorist groups who have been in the area for years”.

A statement said government forces had been attacked repeatedly with rocket-propelled grenades, Molotov cocktails and machine guns.

“Terrorists indiscriminately killed civilians, and used them as human shields. People fled because they felt threatened by the militants,” it added.

 
A damaged mosque and remains of buildings in Awamiya, Saudi Arabia (9 August 2017) Activists say the violence has left more than 20 civilians and five militants dead   Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

But there is another version to this story.

I managed to find a Saudi man who recently fled Awamiya, and is now seeking asylum in Germany.

“Security forces would shoot everyone – a man, a woman, an elderly person, or even a child,” he said.

“For days I couldn’t step out of my house. I was too scared.”

The man, who asked us not to identify him as he feared for his life, told me he had never personally taken up arms but that he understood why some people had chosen to do so.

“You can be sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia just because you are a Shia and you belong to a different religious sect.”

“The people are deprived of their freedom and dignity and might even be executed in unfair trials. They won’t remain silent forever. If someone shoots you, you will have to shoot back.”

 
Members of Saudi security forces stand guard in the town of Awamiya (9 August 2017)Activists say security forces sealed off the town’s entrances and exits in late July   Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

The man recalled the start of the Shia protests in Awamiya in early 2011, when people emboldened by the Arab Spring uprisings across the region took to the streets.

“We were peaceful protesters, but security forces used to disperse us with live ammunition,” he said.

Since then, hundreds of people have been arrested. Human rights groups say Specialised Criminal Courts, set up for terrorism cases, have sentenced more than three dozen men and boys to death after convicting them of protest-related crimes following unfair trials.

Activists fear that 14 protesters, including four found guilty of offenses committed when they were children, could be executed at any moment.

They include the nephew of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric and vocal critic of the government who was convicted of terrorism offensives and executed in January 2016.

 
A poster mourning the executed cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr hangs on a lamppost in Awamiya, Saudi Arabia (9 August 2017) A poster mourning the executed cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr still hangs on a lamppost   Image copyright Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

Our brief visit to Awamiya was interrupted by gunshots, fired from a distance.

We did not know whether it was the police, or the armed groups. But we had to leave at once, just as the commander said.

On our way back, I looked through the car window, and wondered if life would return to this ghost town any time soon.

It is very difficult to tell, as the reasons for the unrest are still very much present.

Afghan Secret Service Claims Arrest of Pakistani ISI Agent In Kabul

 

 

Allah Noor, an ISI agent arrested by NDS, says Pakistani generals cooperated with the Taliban in Helmand and Kunduz wars.

 

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The National Directorate of Security (NDS) has arrested an alleged ISI – Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency – agent in Kabul who was reportedly plotting an attack on Pul-e-Charkhi Prison in the Afghan capital.

The NDS said in a statement that the ISI agent was in Kabul to collect intelligence information and support the Taliban.

The agent was arrested three weeks ago, the statement said.

The NDS says the man named Allah Noor is a resident of Quetta city of Pakistan.

He started working with ISI in 2013.

In a video sent to media by the NDS, the suspect has confessed that he wanted to have a role in an attack on the Pul-e-Charkhi Prison.

He says that he has had roles in organizing meetings between ISI officials with Taliban leaders such as Mullah Haibatullah and Sirajuddin Haqqani as well as Mawlawi Sherin, the designated head of Taliban’s intelligence.

According to him, Pakistani generals had helped insurgents in Helmand and Kunduz wars.

Taliban has not commented on this so far.

Now the Lunatic Communist Black Reformers Are Attacking Dead American Presidents

[What we are witnessing is the wholesale rewriting of American history to suit the wishes of a vocal, long-persecuted minority.  Not content with less extreme solutions to their grieveances, this violent radical minority can only be appeased by the American majority surrendering to their demands, one at a time, until all references to historical facts, like the civil war and slavery, are totally eliminated from public memory.  (They are the polar opposite of most historically-aggrieved minorities, like the Jews, who ceaselessly remind us to “Never Fortget”.)  Statues and memorialized persona, of former Presidents and great military leaders, such as Robert E. Lee, who first served the United States Govt, before our country split in half, are there to remind us of what has happened and what could easily happen once again.  The American political system is poisonous, destroying community and human bonds under the pretense of strengthening “Democracy”, when the reality is that “mob politics” can only bring-about MOB RULE (think of the PURGE movies.)  

There is a large segment of the American people who would like nothing better than to see us reignite our Civil War (SEE: Are We Nearing Civil War?).]

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C_yV0zHV0AAX2kD.jpg:large

Pastor Wants Presidents’ Names Removed

From Washington, Jackson Parks Over

Ties To Slavery

 

 

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago pastor has asked the Emanuel administration to remove the names of two presidents who owned slaves from parks on the South Side, saying the city should not honor slave owners in black communities.

A bronze statue of George Washington on horseback stands at the corner of 51st and King Drive, at the northwest entrance to Washington Park.

Bishop James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center, said he wants the statue gone, and he wants George Washington’s name removed from the park.

“When I see that, I see a person who fought for the liberties, and I see people that fought for the justice and freedom of white America, because at that moment, we were still chattel slavery, and was three-fifths of humans,” he said. “Some people out here ask me, say ‘Well, you know, he taught his slaves to read.’ That’s almost sad; the equivalent of someone who kidnaps you, that you gave them something to eat.”

Dukes said, even though Washington was the nation’s first president and led the American army in the Revolutionary War, he’s no hero to the black community.

“There’s no way plausible that we would even think that they would erect a Malcolm X statue in Mount Greenwood, Lincoln Park, or any of that. Not that say Malcolm X was a bad guy; they just would not go for it,” he said. “Native Americans would not even think about putting up a Custer statue, because of the atrocities that he plagued upon Native Americans. And for them to say to us ‘just accept it’ is actually insulting.”

The pastor also said President Andrew Jackson’s name should be removed from nearby Jackson Park, because he also was a slave owner. He said he’s not necessarily asking the city rename the parks altogether. He suggested Washington Park could be named after former Mayor Harold Washington, and Jackson Park could be named after civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson or singer Michael Jackson.

Dukes said he’s not trying to erase history. He said black people should be able to decide who is and is not honored in their communities.

“I think we should be able to identify and decide who we declare heroes in or communities, because we have to tell the stories to our children of who these persons are,” he said.

He said parks, statues, or other monuments honoring Presidents Washington and Jackson might be appropriate elsewhere, but not in black neighborhoods.

“In an African-American community, it’s a slap in the face and it’s a disgrace for them to honor someone who was a slave owner.

Dukes said he has sent letters to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District asking them to change the names of Washington and Jackson parks. He shared the letter on Facebook.

“I am feeling ambivalent that I would have to walk my child, attend a parade or enjoy a game of softball in a park that commemorates the memory of a slave owner,” he wrote. “Therefore, I call on the immediate removal of President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson names from the parks located on the southeast side of Chicago. They should not have the distinct honor of being held as heroes when they actively participated in the slave trade.”

Representatives for the mayor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Chicago Park District spokeswoman pointed to the city’s formal process for renaming parks, which allows anyone to submit a request to the superintendent. The Park District board may vote on any such request after a 45-day public comment period.

CASA-1000 Power Line Awarded To Indian Subcontractor, Transiting Most Dangerous Provinces of Afghanistan

“A 750 km 500 kV High Voltage Direct Current (HV DC) transmission system between Tajikistan (117 km) through Afghanistan (562 km) to Pakistan (71 km). The
HVDC line begins at the Sangtuda Hydropower Plant in Tajikistan and extends south via Kurgan-Tyube and Dusti (both in Tajikistan) and crosses into Afghanistan near Nizhny. From there, the corridor proceeds via Kunduz, Pul-e-khumri, Dowshi, Khanjan, the Salang Pass and Charika to the outskirts of Kabul. From Kabul the corridor goes east to Peshawar (Pakistan) via Jalalabad (Afghanistan).
The proposed ROW has difficult terrain for approximately 160 km with a maximum altitude of 3750 masl. Key population centers along the route includes Kabul, as well as the towns of
Kunduz, Baghlan, Pul-e-Khumri, Raqi, Mehtar Lam and Jalalabad.”

[All of the towns mentioned in the Asian Development Bank CASA- 1000 report are in some of the most heavily-contested Afghan towns and cities, from Kunduz to Torkham Crossing in Nangarhar.]

 

Energy and water minister says construction of CASA-1000 project in Afghanistan will cost $404 million, 20 percent of which will be paid by the Afghan government.

Officials from the Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE) on Tuesday said construction of the 1000 Electricity Transmission and Trade Project for Central Asia and South Asia (CASA) will be launched soon by an Indian company, which has won the tender.

The ministry said the company will complete the construction of the project in three years.

The energy and water minister Abdul Basir Azimi said the construction phase of the project will cost $404 million USD of which 80 percent will be funded by the World Bank and the remaining 20 percent will be paid by the Afghan government.

“The project can have a good result if the work on it in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Afghanistan is started at the same time,” he said. “Fortunately we have established good cooperation and coherence (with CASA member countries). Surveys and other administrative activities of the project have moved forward at a good pace from Afghanistan’s side.”

CASA-1000 project was officially inaugurated last year.

In July officials from the CASA-1000 member countries met in Tajikistan to discuss the project.

Economic affairs analysts said they are not very hopeful about the implementation of the project due to a lack of cooperation between the affected countries.

The analysts term the increasing insecurity in Afghanistan as another hurdle for the electricity transmission project.

“Insecurity is the biggest obstacle on the way of investments and economic growth in the country. If government can eradicate insecurity, especially on the route of CASA-1000, then we will benefit from the project,” said Nabi Sadat, an economic affairs analyst.

CASA-1000 project will cost more than $1 billion USD and if the project is completed, it will transfer 1,300 megawatts of power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan through Afghanistan.

Afghanistan will get 300 megawatts of power annually from this project and at least $50 million USD as transit rights per annum.

Taliban Chief Hibatullah Akhundzada Sends Message of Peace To President Donald Trump

[I can find nothing disrespectful, or provocative in the following letter from Taliban Chief to American President Trump, but I will probably receive some kind of heat for allegedly “spreading terrorism”, because of this posting.  I was recently banned from YouTube for similar reasons, for older posts featuring Pak. Taliban berating other Taliban, or for spreading their anti-Army messages. 
Hibatullah Akhundzada is a preacher from a family of preachers, doing what is best for his countrymen has to be important to him.  He is offering an apparent solution to the Afghan enigma, albeit one which returns the Taliban to power in country.  Since American forces have not been able to pacify the country in 16 years, then perhaps it is inevitable that the Afghan status quo will return to its pre-Sept11 condition.
At least I deleted the image of the Taliban flag which accompanied their Trump message.]

Open letter of Islamic Emirate to the

American President Donald Trump

 

 

To Donald Trump, the President of the United States of America

 

Peace be upon those who follow the guidance!

Your forces have spent 16 years in our country Afghanistan and have used every means to win this war. Despite the fact that the former administration officials created a large coalition to attack our country, your 16 year military presence in Afghanistan has resulted in Afghanistan becoming the most unstable country security wise, the most corrupt administrative wise and the poorest country economically.

The reason behind all this is because foreign invasion is being used to subdue the will of our proud Afghan nation, our national integrity is stripped and keys to power have been handed to individuals who are the most repulsive, wretched and hated faces in the Afghan society due to their servitude to foreigners.

President Trump!

It is entirely possible that you are being provided rosy pictures about Afghanistan by the stooges you have installed and they are showering you will titles ‘allies of the Afghans’ in their ceremonial addresses but understand that the Afghans possess sound intellect . They judge you by the results of your 16 year presence in Afghanistan and not by the slogans of the lying corrupt rulers under your control.

You must realize that these repulsive sellouts neither care about your interests nor that of their own nation, rather the only thing they hold dear is retaining their seat of power and securing their personal interests.

They are not solely subservient to you either but will eagerly be the puppet of any foreign backer to retain their illegitimate grip on power. Even in the current government that you have built, they maintain illicit contacts with tens of other foreign powers.

President of America!

The government which you tried to establish over the past 16 years by spending billions of dollars, sacrificing thousands of soldiers and losing tens of thousands to injuries and mental illness is in a condition where its leader cannot accept his own deputy. You are witnessing that at this very moment the First Vice President – the war criminal and warlord – General Dostum is creating an opposition coalition outside the country against Ashraf Ghani, provincial governors have begun rising against him and Members of Parliament are demanding his resignation.

President Trump!

If you glance over history you will come to know that the Afghans have done you the biggest favor internationally. They rescued you and the entire world from the Red Communist Plague with their immeasurable sacrifices. Do you wish to repay this historical favor of the valiant Afghan nation by forcing upon them such incompetent, corrupt, immoral and criminal officials?

A sound mind and healthy conscience dictates that the monumental actions and international favor of this persecuted nation should be repaid by dealing and interacting with them generously and not through invasions, throwing them into the fire of imposed wars, trampling upon their religious and national values and installing the most corrupt officials as custodians of their affairs.

President of America!

Your previous officials decided to invade Afghanistan without weighing its consequences. They occupied Afghanistan under irrational arguments which had nothing to do with the Afghans. The Afghans who rose against your forces in defense of their land, creed and people did so as a legitimate struggle that is why the fully armed forces of 48 nations under your leadership were unable to pacify and eliminate them.

The Afghans have no ill-intention towards the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.

The religious and national struggle of our people is not some illegitimate or proxy war rather it takes root from a pure spiritual and national fervor. Your intelligence agencies admit that our Mujahideen are not being supported by any country and neither can they produce any proof in the contrary. After repeated invasions, our nation understands well how to wage long wars with invaders and force them out of their homeland with their traditional weapons and equipment paired with towering resolve and zeal.

Mr. President!

American youth are not born to be killed in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan in order to establish the writ of thieves and corrupt officials and neither would their parents approve of them killing civilians in Afghanistan. Rather you and American officials have the grave responsibility of protecting the lives of American youth which is your indispensable human resource. It seems to be a historical mistake on part of the previous administrations to have dispatched American youth for the slaughter of Afghans however as a responsible American President, you need to study the mistakes of your predecessors and prevent death and injury to American forces in Afghanistan.

Generals are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled however the Afghans can easily count the coffins being sent your way on a daily basis

President Trump!

We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethinking your new strategy in Afghanistan. A number of warmongering congressmen and Generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges but instead you must act responsibly as the fate of many Americans and Afghans alike is tied to this issue and as is often said ‘War is imperative politics which cannot be left alone to the whims of fighters’. You must also not handover the Afghan issue to warmongering Generals but must make a decision where history shall remember you as an advocate of peace.

The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize! You are witnessing that Mujahideen are wresting control of several districts from the corrupt regime in a one week span and are seizing so much equipment that they can continue fighting for a long time. They can easily take control of all major highways of the country and if it were not for fear of civilian casualties, they would conquer many provincial capitals currently under sieges.

Here every Afghan views your soldiers as invaders and transgressors and even the soldiers who you spend a lot of treasure upon frequently open fire on your troops with the same weapon you have provided. Here every parent teaches his offspring about emancipating his country from invaders. In a land where every child is raised with a spirit of vengeance and holds the historic honor of defeating three Empires before you, how will you achieve a stable condition for permanent presence?

President of America!

Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation. The fire of war has been lit due to foreign occupation and everyone is utilizing these war conditions for their self-interests. If there was no war here, a responsible assertive government could have prevented anarchy and lawlessness. You have understood through your experience in the Middle East that kindling the fire of war is not in the interest of any country around the world.

Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might therefore it would be wise if you adopt the strategy of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan instead of a troops increase. On the one hand, this strategy will truly deliver American troops from harm’s way and on the other, it will bring to an end an inherited war by rectifying the mistakes of former American officials.

Final Words

President of the United States! The uprising of the people of Afghanistan under the leadership of Islamic Emirate is an organized and accountable national, political and regional military force which has prevented many calamities from taking root. If it were not for the responsible policies and organized movement of the Islamic Emirate, such disorder would arise that its flames shall reach the neighbors, region and the entire world. If someone were to understand this reality, they would truly consider the Islamic Emirate as mercy for Afghanistan, region and the world because the Islamic Emirate does not have any intention or policy of causing harm to anyone and neither will it allow others to use the Afghan soil against anyone. It would be a grave mistake on your part to force the Afghan Muslim nation – who have so far fought you with their meager tools – to reach out to your foes in order to gain their independence and free themselves from your oppression. Therefore it would be better for you to understand the realities as a responsible President of the United States and then make decisions based upon them. And understand this with an open heart that if you failed to win the Afghan war with professional US and NATO troops, advanced technology, experienced military Generals, consecutive strategies and mighty economy, you shall never be able to win it with mercenaries, notorious contractor firms and immoral stooges.

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

23/11/1438 Hijri Lunar

24/05/1396 Hijri Solar               15/08/2017 Gregorian

If N. Korea Can Deliver A Nuke Into Space, Can It Survive Reentry?

NHK video casts doubt on North Korean

ICBM re-entry capabilities and effectiveness

 

 

by

Video captured Friday of North Korea’s latest test of a powerful long-range missile appears to show the weapon’s re-entry vehicle “breaking up” over waters just off Hokkaido — a possible sign that the nuclear-armed country has yet to master technology critical to the warhead’s survival when returning to Earth, a report has found.

 

The report, released Tuesday by the North Korean-watching website 38 North, run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, analyzed video taken by Japanese public broadcaster NHK’s Muroran, Hokkaido, affiliate after Pyongyang conducted the second test-firing of its Hwasong-14 ICBM in less than a month late Friday.

Experts have said Friday’s test flew higher and longer than the first, and now puts a large chunk of the United States — including Chicago and Los Angeles — within range of Pyongyang’s ever-improving weapons systems.

In the NHK recording, the camera looks across a bay toward where the missile’s re-entry vehicle (RV) — which shields a nuclear warhead from the rigors of returning to Earth at ICBM velocities — crashed into the sea about 150 km off the coast of Hokkaido.

Seconds into the video, the apparent re-entry vehicle slows and becomes so hot due to the dense air that it begins to glow as its descent is recorded by the camera.

Then, at an altitude of about 6 to 8 kilometers, the re-entry vehicle hits what the report calls “peak radiance — when the clouds reflect the RVs radiance resulting in a bright flash.”

“Soon after the flash, the RV descends to roughly 4 or 5 km altitude, where the frictional forces that slow and heat the RV reach a maximum,” missile expert Michael Elleman wrote in the report.

Elleman, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an interview with reporters that as it then descends further, “you see, kind of, an incandescent cloud trailing the re-entry vehicle and you see small bright objects, radiant objects, that are shedding off the RV. And then it suddenly begins to turn very dim. That should not occur.”

If the re-entry vehicle had remained intact, he said, it would have continued to glow until it impacted the ocean.

Elleman said it “probably broke into small pieces,” disintegrating “about the time it experienced maximum stressing loads.”

Asked what would happen to any warhead being carried by a missile if its re-entry vehicle was destroyed in flight, Elleman said “the bomb itself … would be torn apart.”

“The fusing mechanism would be gone,” he said. “The battery or power source that provides the impulse to initiate the conventional explosive, which then initiates the nuclear bomb — I just don’t see how it would work.”

Friday’s ball of light was also spotted by several other cameras in western Hokkaido as it descended from the sky at 12:28 a.m., around the time when the missile was believed to be splashing down into the Sea of Japan.

Experts, including Elleman, said that given the timing and location, it was highly unlikely that the object could be anything other than the re-entry vehicle.

“In short, a reasonable conclusion based on the video evidence is that the Hwasong-14’s re-entry vehicle did not survive during its second test,” Elleman wrote in his report. “If this assessment accurately reflects reality, North Korea’s engineers have yet to master re-entry technologies and more work remains before Kim Jong Un has an ICBM capable of striking the American mainland.”

Kim was quoted last month by state-run media to have boasted that “the structural stability” of the warhead “showed normal operation even at the thousands of degrees of centigrade.”

But Elleman said that building a reliable re-entry vehicle appeared to be an ongoing process for the North, and that “a lot will depend on how much they actually learn from this test,” adding that two to three more tests of varying re-entry vehicle masses would likely be necessary.

“This might take them another six months, maybe a little bit longer, but the key is they’ll have to do some additional flight tests,” he said.

Kim, who has conducted more missile tests than both his father and grandfather combined, has shown no signs of slowing the breakneck speed at which he has ordered his teams to work in their quest for a credible nuclear weapon delivery system.

The North Korean dictator has even urged his nuclear scientists to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees” in the form of yet more missile and nuclear tests.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Monday that the rival North was likely to continue its missile tests, as well as a sixth nuclear test “with more explosive power” than previous blasts.

Truck-Bomb Attack On Pak Army Convoy In Quetta…15 martyred, 25 injured

LIVE: 15 martyred, 25 injured in bomb

attack on army truck in Quetta

 

EXPRESS NEWS SCREEN GRAB

QUETTA: At least 15 people have been martyred and dozens wounded – some of them critically – in a bomb attack on a military truck in a high-security neighbourhood of Quetta on Saturday night.

The bomb went off at the busy Pishin Stop triggering a fire on several vehicles parked nearby. The military’s media wing, the ISPR, confirmed 15 shaheed, including seven civilians, and 25 injured, among them 15 civilians. “Incendiary explosives were used in the attack,” it added.

Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti also confirmed that a military truck was the target. He said it was not immediately clear if it was a suicide blast or a remotely controlled explosive device.

The casualties have been shifted to the city’s hospitals where a state of emergency has already been declared. Medics say some of the injured have life-threatening wounds, while the bodies of the dead are charred beyond recognition.

According to the ISPR, army troops threw a security cordon around the area as fire engines reached the site to douse the blaze on the vehicles.

Police were not sure about the nature of the explosion before the bomb disposal squad was called in.

Windows of buildings in the neighbourhood have been shattered by the thud of the blast. Pishin Stop is a busy area which is dotted with hotels, restaurants and shops.

It is also a high-security zone which houses several important buildings, including FC Headquarters, Balochistan Assembly, Chief Minister House, Governor House and Balochistan High Court.

Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa condemned the terrorist attack on the army truck in Quetta which he called “an attempt to mar Independence Day festivity” in the country.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the Quetta bombing and directed the authorities concerned to provide best medical treatment to the injured.

“We will continue to work to eliminate the menace of terrorism from our country,” he said in a statement releases by his office.

Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who led a massive rally into Lahore after travelling from Islamabad for three days, also denounced the Quetta blast in his speech to a huge crowd.

He offered condolences to the families of the victims. However, opposition politicians hit out at Sharif for mobilising the entire state machinery for the security of his rally.

ISIS Pays Better Than the Taliban…Why Does the CIA Not Hit the Paymasters?


Taliban ​facing financial crisis as civilian deaths deter donors

[If ISIS can afford to pay potential Afghan terrorists and terrorist veterans more than twice the pay-rate of the soldiers of the Afghan Army, then they could simply buy entire poverty-stricken villages.  Peace in Afghanistan will never have a chance if the sponsors of ISIS and other terrorist armies are the people’s best hope for economic stability.  In the end, ISIS remains a tool of the CIA, funded by secret sources of petrodollars, sowing instability wherever it suits CIA interests (What Is the Truth About ISIS).  Afghanistan, just like Syria and Iraq, Libya and Yemen, will remain quagmires as long as that suits Pentagon/CIA interests.]

CIA, Qatari, Saudi Conspiracy To Violate United Nations Mandates and International Treaties, Nov 17, 2012
Qatar-Brotherhood Alliance Key Component of CIA Scheme To Rule Greater Middle East, Apr 29, 2013
Saudis Blame Qatar for Doing What CIA Wanted In Egypt and Yemen, Nov 26, 2013
The Unholy Alliance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the CIA and Their Bastard Offspring–ISIS,

Jun 18, 2014
Arabs Scapegoating Qatar For What They All Did, Jun 9, 2017

ISIL lures jobless Afghans and Taliban

with big salaries

Paying triple the wages of a soldier has helped extremists make inroads in the north, officials say

 

Security forces leave after a fighting an ISIL attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul on July 31, 2017. Afghan officials say ISIL is offering recruits three times as much pay as government soldiers. Rahmat Gul / AP PhotosSecurity forces leave after a fighting an ISIL attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul on July 31, 2017. Afghan officials say ISIL is offering recruits three times as much pay as government soldiers. Rahmat Gul / AP Photos

As unemployment worsens in strife-torn Afghanistan, ISIL is offering the jobless a lucrative new profession: terrorist.

The extremist group has made significant headway in Afghanistan and is recruiting villagers as well as its enemy, the Taliban, to paid jobs in order to expand its influence across the north, according to local Afghan officials.

Hundreds of local villagers from remote areas of the Faryab and Jawzjan provinces and several Taliban commanders with more than 300 fighters have pledged allegiance to ISIL in the past six months, said Mohammad Sami Khairkhowah, the head of the Faryab provincial council. They are paid more than US$500 (Dh1,836) a month, thrice the wage of a government soldier, he said.

Several Afghan lawmakers confirmed the account and expressed deep frustration over government’s inability to stop it. The group is recruiting people “openly and publicly” in the region, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, the speaker of lower house of parliament, said during a session in June.

The revelations come as US president Donald Trump struggles to define an Afghanistan policy and weighs an increase in troop levels in Afghanistan. His generals have recommended adding as many as 5,000 troops to about 8,400 already there to train and assist Afghan forces. Defence secretary James Mattis told American legislators in June that the US was not winning the 16-year-long war.

__________________________________________________

Read more:

ISIL and Al Qaeda still pose threats worldwide, UN experts say

Afghan families recount horrifying Taliban and ISIL massacre

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The ISIL recruitment drive is led by Qari Hekmatullah, who has been identified by the Afghan government as the regional leader of ISIL’s Khorasan Province branch. He operates in the deserts of Dahst-e-Laili and mountains of Darzab district in Jawzjan province, which share a border with Faryab, Mr Khairkhowah said.

“ISKP’s aim is to establish a presence in the increasingly volatile north of Afghanistan and highlights the resilience of a group, which has recently lost leaders, fighters and territory,” said Viraj Solanki, a research analyst for South Asia at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. The group’s “appeal and brand is attractive for fighters, and the financial gains are also attractive for local villagers”.

Their recruitment drive, along with the growing Taliban presence in the region “multiplies the challenges” for president Ashraf Ghani, Mr Solanki said, and will determine “the nature of future US policy towards Afghanistan”.

The extremists lost ground in their first established foothold in the eastern Nangarhar province and in the south after operations by Afghan and US forces. A US air strike killed the group’s third leader Abu Sayed as well as his four senior advisers, US military officials in Kabul said on July 31. And in April, the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIL hideouts in Nangarhar, killing as many as 100.

However it is feared the group may expand further into the country’s north. For the first time since their emergence in 2014, ISIL fighters gained control of the Darzab district in June. Among the former Taliban commanders who switched allegiance to the ISIL are Maulavi Assadullah, Mullah Sufi Qayum and Mullah Nemat Mufti, who brought with him 200 armed fighters.

ISIL targets young men who failed to find a government job or whose farm work does not cover their family expenses, said Fawzia Raufi, who represents Faryab in parliament.

Others who leave the Taliban may simply see better opportunities with ISIL, said Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan. “Within the Taliban, it’s not just one unified ideological group that will stick to its core instructions, there are lots fighters of opportunity, or of varying beliefs,” he said in Islamabad last week.

On August 5, ISIL militants teamed up with newly-formed Taliban groups to attack Mirza Olang village in Sar-e Pul province, killing more than 50 people, according to Zabihullah Amani, the provincial spokesman

Attacks by militants jumped 21 per cent from March to May compared with the previous three months, with more than 5,000 civilians killed or wounded in the first half of this year, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a US watchdog. At least 2,531 Afghan forces were killed and 4,238 wounded from January to May, the report said.

Meanwhile, the amount of territory under government authority was down to about 60 per cent, six percentage points less than a year earlier, with the rest controlled or contested by Taliban and other militants, according to the report.

The US-led Nato forces commander Gen John Nicholson declared in June that ISIL’s numbers had been reduced by two-thirds to 750 militants nationwide and vowed to eliminate them by year’s end.

However, “if they are able to establish a significant presence” in the north, it will “present a new challenge for the Afghan forces and U.S. forces’ aim to defeat ISKP in 2017.”

More than half of Faryab province is threatened by the presence of both ISIL and the Taliban, said Ms Raufi, the local MP.

“They’re trying to embolden their strength with the recruitment of jobless villagers and the Taliban,” she said. “If that’s not prevented, the entire north will be under significant threat because Faryab is the gateway to the region.”

Taliban Wage War Against Agha Khan and Ismaili Shia Focused On Bombing Telecommunications Facilities


Prince Shah Karim al-Hussaini Aga Khan IV

“The current Aga Khan—has been projected onto the entire community. Prince Shah Karim al-Hussaini Aga Khan IV is a Swiss-born British subject. He heads the Aga Khan Foundation, an NGO awash with cash”Why terrorists are targeting Pakistan’s Ismaili community

Fighting the Taliban With Cellphones–March 26, 2010

“The Telecom Development Co. of Afghanistan, which operates under the name Roshan”

“Rear Adm. Greg Smith spread out two maps. One highlighted pockets of insurgent control; the other marked mobile phone towers. Where the Taliban’s presence was strongest, phone coverage was weakest, crippled by Taliban sabotage of the towers…’We found that Afghans in the most-troubled, insurgent-held areas lived in information wastelands dominated by militant propaganda…We are fighting back with a revamped strategy that puts the people and their ability to communicate at the forefront of our effort.’”

Powerful Tanker-Truck-Bomb Hits Kabul…80 confirmed dead–May 31, 2017

“Ariana News correspondent at the site of the incident says that initial reports indicate the target of the blast was a telecommunication company in the area

31 Roshan workers killed, 50 wounded in Kabul blast

“In a statement, the Roshan Telecommunications Company said the attack had left 31 of its personnel dead and 50 others wounded.”

Funeral today for Vancouver mother killed in Taliban attack in Afghanistan–March 31, 2014

Roshan Thomas was killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.
Roshan is a Persian word meaning “light” or “bright”.

The Park Palace Attack on 13 May 2015

“The families of three other Afghans working for another NGO, the Aga Khan Foundation, who were killed in the attack did not want their identities revealed.”

When doing good brings down the wrath of brutes  –May 15, 2015 

“The killing of 43 and wounding of 30 Ismailis in Karachi by the IS loyalist group Jundullah”

Taliban Assassinate Afghan Army General General Khan Agha–March 25, 2016

Aga Khan Foundation Worker Kidnapped in Kabul–June 10, 2016

 

Roshan to launch 4G services in Afghanistan

 

 

The Roshan Telecommunications service provider in Afghanistan announced Tuesday that the company will soon launch the fourth generation internet 4G services in the near future.

A statement by Roshan Telecom said “Roshan has already invested over $100 million in its 3G network since launching services in 2013 and this reinforces the company’s commitment to providing its customers with the best data service experience.”

“Today’s 4G services announcement forms part of a new program that Roshan is launching to invest in improving and upgrading our data network to reflect the significant growth in data usage that Afghanistan has seen over the last few years,” said Shireen Rahmani, Chief Operating Officer. “Roshan’s leadership in 4G services will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and provide broad social benefits for both private and public sectors that will positively impact the people of Afghanistan, including support for the development of eGovernment.”

The statement by Roshan further added that the launch of 4G services will enable Roshan to provide an enhanced-quality mobile broadband experience over its robust network, offering customers the fastest internet speed for accessing data-intensive applications, video streaming, and other innovative and high-definition services.

Guam Homeland Security Posts Nuclear Survival Instructions

[SEE:  N. Korea Threatens To Nuke Guam After Latest Trump Tweet]

 

 

Our Mission


To Coordinate and facilitate all Government of Guam, Military, and Federal Liaison Response Agencies and their resources in mitigating, preparing, responding, and recovering from any and all types of emergencies in order to protect the lives, environment, and property of the island of Guam.
> Learn more about GHS 

 

> Learn more about Current Executive Orders on Protecting the Homeland through the Department of Homeland Security

 

The Cynical CIA/ISI Taliban Game, Crafting Terrorist Leaders Now, For Public Execution Later

Fighting Terrorists By Creating Terrorists
The Western War Crime of Creating Radical Islamist Terrorist Armies
USA, CIA Created Sunni Islamic Terrorism

[SEE:  The Double-Death of Mullah Mansour and the Recrowning of New Taliban King Haibatullah]

 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In the hours before he was killed in an American drone strike, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, then the Taliban leader, knew something was wrong.

He was on his way home from a secret visit to Iran in May 2016, driving across a remote stretch of southwestern Pakistan, when he called his brother and relatives to prepare them for his death.

“He knew something was happening,” a former Taliban commander, who is close to Mullah Mansour’s inner circle, said in an interview. “That’s why he was telling his family members what to do and to stay united.”

It is rare for a Taliban commander to sit for an interview, but this one spoke on the condition that his name or location not be made public, because he had recently defected from the insurgents’ ranks and his life was under threat.

His account offered previously unreported insights into the final hours of Mullah Mansour’s life, and why and how he was killed, revealing a dangerously widening rift with his Pakistani sponsors.

The account was complemented and supported in interviews with two senior Afghan officials who have conducted their own investigations into the Taliban leader’s death — Haji Agha Lalai, presidential adviser and deputy governor of Kandahar; and Gen. Abdul Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar Province.

More than a year after the event, Afghans on both sides of the war and a growing number of Western security analysts say that Pakistan most likely engineered Mullah Mansour’s death to remove a Taliban leader it no longer trusted.

“Pakistan was making very strong demands,” the former commander said. “Mansour was saying you cannot force me on everything. I am running the insurgency, doing the fighting and taking casualties and you cannot force us.”

After his death, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, an Islamic cleric with no military experience, was selected as leader of the Taliban. Yet Afghanistan has seen little reprieve with his death, as hard-liners within the movement took over and redoubled their offensive to take power.

There is little chance of anyone speaking out, the former commander said. “Ninety percent of the Taliban blame the Pakistanis,” he said. “But they cannot say anything. They are scared.”

Mullah Mansour had been intent on expanding his sources of support as he prepared an ambitious offensive across eight provinces in Afghanistan last year, they said.

He relied on Pakistan’s Intelligence Service and donors from Arab gulf states, as well as Afghan drug lords, for the main financing of the Taliban, but he was also seeking weapons and other support from Iran, and even Russia. He met officials from both countries on his last visit to Iran.

Mullah Mansour’s outreach to Iran was also aimed at getting the Taliban out from under Pakistan’s thumb, according to his former associate and Afghan officials, so he could maneuver to run the war, but also negotiate peace, on his own terms. That was where his differences with Pakistan had grown sharpest.

Mullah Mansour had resisted orders from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, to destroy infrastructure — schools, bridges and roads — to increase the cost of the war for the Afghan government. He opposed the promotion of Pakistan’s hard-line protégé Sirajuddin Haqqani to be his deputy, and he had dodged Pakistan’s demands to push its agenda in negotiations.

Critically, he wanted to devolve more power to regional Taliban commanders, allowing them to raise their own funds and make their own decisions, in order to own the Afghan nationalist cause and loosen Pakistan’s control over the insurgency.

Others with close knowledge of the Taliban, including the former Taliban finance minister and peace mediator Agha Jan Motasim, said that Mullah Mansour was ready to negotiate and had sent top representatives to successive meetings in Pakistan.

While on his way to Iran, Mullah Mansour had stopped in the Girdi Jungle refugee camp, a hub of Taliban activity in Pakistan, where he called on Taliban commanders and elders to gather for a meeting.

“Ten days before he was killed he sent messages to villages and to commanders asking them to share their views on peace talks,” said General Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar Province, a fierce opponent of the Taliban, who knows the movement well.

Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour had been intent on expanding his sources of support as he prepared an offensive across eight provinces in Afghanistan last year. Credit via Associated Press

He says that Mullah Mansour was looking for new protectors as his disagreements with Pakistan were growing.

“There were reports that he may have wanted to escape,” General Raziq said. “We knew one month before that Mansour was ready to make peace.”

General Raziq also said Mullah Mansour feared assassination by Pakistan. “He told his relatives that ‘relations with Pakistan were very bad and they might kill me.’”

The day he was killed, Mullah Mansour was alone.

The trip to and from Iran was one he had taken before. He always traveled on a Pakistani passport, under a fake name, with the full knowledge of Pakistani intelligence.

 

His fake identity, Muhammad Wali, was known in intelligence circles, according to a former Afghan intelligence chief, who did not want to be identified while discussing sensitive aspects of relations with neighboring countries.

This time, however, unusually, when Mullah Mansour reached the Pakistani side of the border with Iran, 300 extra guards were posted at the crossing and along the highway. Mullah Mansour was detained inside the border post.

He emerged after two hours, and climbed into a taxi about 9 a.m. for the eight-hour drive to Quetta. Traveling alone in an ordinary taxi was typical of the Taliban leader: low-profile, but at the same time casually confident in a familiar terrain.

The Taliban had freedom of movement in the border regions with the tacit agreement of Pakistani security forces, the former Taliban commander explained. Anyone armed with a Kalashnikov, or just a walkie-talkie, could pass where ordinary civilians could not, he said.

But his reception at the border had worried Mullah Mansour.

He called his brother and spoke to him and family members for 45 minutes, the former Taliban commander said. He also called a close friend in Quetta and asked him to go around to his brother’s house with a message to expect guests that night.

He was doing what is known in Islamic Law as “wasiyat,” passing on his last wishes and taking leave.

“He was very worried about his safety,” said Mr. Lalai, the Afghan presidential adviser, who also knew of the long telephone call. “He had a conversation with his family and he gave last instructions to educate his children, on his money, most of the talk was instructions in the case of his death.”

Six hours into the journey, near the small town of Ahmad Wal, where the road runs just 20 miles from the Afghan border, Hellfire missiles fired by an American drone tore into the car, first hitting the front and then striking the body.

Workers farming watermelons nearby rushed to the burning wreck and shoveled dirt on the flames but could not save the men inside, General Raziq said.

Members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps arrived suspiciously fast.

“His car was followed,” said General Raziq, who conducted his own investigation into the strike. “The Frontier Corps were following him, and within five minutes of him being hit they reached him, with the media.”

The Pakistani police showed journalists Mullah Mansour’s passport, undamaged, beside the charred wreck. Afghan officials and Western security analysts say it was most likely planted there after the blast since everything else was burned beyond recognition.

For many in the Taliban, Mullah Mansour’s death represented a devastating betrayal by their longtime patron and sponsor, Pakistan, that has split and demoralized the ranks.

About two dozen senior commanders from Mullah Mansour’s Pashtun tribe have defected to the Afghan government or moved into Afghanistan in fear of further retribution from Pakistan.

The Taliban commander compared the strike with Pakistan’s detention of senior Taliban commanders who dared to reach out to the Kabul government, like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was detained in a joint United States-Pakistani raid in 2010. American officials welcomed his detention but later it emerged that he had been supporting peace overtures with Kabul.

The strike against Mansour was the first time a top Afghan Taliban leader had been killed inside Pakistan, which has provided a sanctuary for Taliban leaders throughout their 16-year insurgency against Afghanistan.

At the time, President Obama and other American officials and diplomats expressed satisfaction.

“He was a prime target for the Americans and the Afghan government,” General Raziq said. “He was a terrorist.”

 

 

The strike of the Soviet air regiment in Israel, canceled at the last moment

N. Korea Threatens To Nuke Guam After Latest Trump Tweet

SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s military announced Wednesday it is considering missile strikes near Guam, home to several U.S. strategic bombers.

The North’s Strategic Force said it’s “now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in an English dispatch.

It cited the need to contain the U.S. major military bases on Guam, including the Anderson Air Force Base, where U.S. strategic bombers are based.

The plan will soon be reported to the Supreme Command after “full examination and completion,” and will be put into practice “in a multi-concurrent and consecutive way” at Kim Jong-un’s order, added the command.

The United States has often dispatched B-1B and other strategic bombers from Guam to South Korea in a show of force after North carries out ballistic missile launches or nuclear tests.

U.S. Reckless Nuclear War Frenzy Slammed

Date: 09/08/2017 | Source: KCNA.kp (En) | Read original version at source

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Pyongyang, August 9 (KCNA) — The U.S. imperialists committed the military provocation threatening and blackmailing the DPRK after bringing into the sky above south Korea the ill-famed B-1B formation on Tuesday.

On the day the U.S. imperialist warmongers let two nuclear strategic bomber B-1Bs, which they reinforced on Guam, make sorties to the sky above south Korea and conduct the drill of striking strategic installations of the DPRK at the Sangdong firing range, under cover of fighter bombers of the puppet air force.

The severity of the situation lies in that the nuclear strategic bombers made their secret way to the sky above south Korea timed to coincide with the dangerous rhetoric let out by high-ranking officials of the Trump administration by calling for “not ruling out a preventive war”, not content with their trumpeting about “military strike” at the DPRK.

This signifies the U.S. imperialist warmongers’ vicious moves for a sudden attack on the strategic objects of the DPRK anytime.

At a time when the U.S. imperialist aggression forces’ military actions have entered a dangerous phase, their nuclear strategic bombers frequent the sky above the Korean peninsula. This clearly proves that the U.S. imperialists are nuclear war maniacs keen on stifling the DPRK by nukes.

Counting on sudden action, they plan to let their nuclear strategic bombers strike the strategic objects of the DPRK all of a sudden, but they should consider that the anti-air force of the DPRK has been aware of their every movement just like the back of one’s hand ever since their takeoff from Guam and is ready to bring them down any moment as it has constantly sighted them.

The U.S. imperialist warmongers’ reckless provocation is a last-ditch effort of those unaware of their nearing end, being taken aback by the powerful might of the DPRK which has undergone a rapid development.

The U.S. imperialists have not yet come to their senses even after the publication of the DPRK government statement that flatly rejected the UN Security Council’s “sanctions resolution” against the DPRK but are thinking of browbeating the DPRK by introducing ill-famed nuclear strategic bomber formation into the sky above south Korea. This only hardens the will of the army and people of the DPRK to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists, come what may.

The U.S. imperialists have to clearly understand that both “preemptive attack” and “preventive war” will all end in their final ruin.

The U.S. imperialists’ ridiculous bluffing never works on the DPRK.

They had better not provoke the DPRK any more, mindful of its deplorable fate on the verge of ruin. -0-

Taliban War May Be Fully Funded By Complex Opium Refinement Operations

 

From poppy to heroin: Taliban moves into

Afghan drug production 

PHILIPPINES

 

This file photo taken on April 11, 2017 shows Afghan farmers harvesting opium sap from a poppy field in the Gereshk district of Helmand. The Taliban — which banned poppy cultivation when it ruled Afghanistan — now appears to wield significant control over the war-torn country’s heroin production line, providing insurgents with billions of dollars, officials have told AFP. AFP

The Taliban — which banned poppy cultivation when it ruled Afghanistan — now appears to wield significant control over the war-torn country’s heroin production line, providing insurgents with billions of dollars, officials have told AFP.

In 2016 Afghanistan, which produces 80 percent of the world’s opium, made around 4,800 tonnes of the drug bringing in revenues of three billion dollars, according to the United Nations.

The Taliban has long taxed poppy-growing farmers to fund their years-long insurgency, but Western officials are concerned it is now running its own factories, refining the lucrative crop into morphine and heroin for exporting abroad.

“I pretty firmly feel they are processing all the harvest,” William Brownfield, US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul recently.

“Everything they harvest is duly processed inside the country. They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country.

“Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage,” he added.

Poppies, which are cheap and easy to grow, make up half of Afghanistan’s entire agricultural output.

Farmers are paid about $163 for a kilo of the black sap — the raw opium that oozes out of poppy seed pods when they are slit with a knife.

Once it is refined into heroin, the Taliban sells it in regional markets for between $2,300 and $3,500 a kilo. By the time it reaches Europe it wholesales for $45,000, according to a Western expert who is advising Afghan anti-narcotics forces and asked not to be named.

He said an increase in seizures of chemicals required to turn opium into morphine, the first step before it becomes heroin, such as acid anhydride, points to an escalation in Taliban drug activity.

Sixty-six tonnes of the chemicals were seized in all of 2016, while 50 tonnes were impounded in just the first six months of this year, the expert said.

In early July, he said, 15 tonnes were confiscated in the west of Afghanistan near the border with Iran, the start of a popular drug route to Europe through Turkey.

‘Helmand is all about drugs’

Seizures of morphine have also increased. Fifty-seven tonnes were discovered in the first half of 2017 compared to 43 tonnes for the whole of 2016, added the expert, who said that only about 10 percent of what is produced is actually discovered.

“It’s easy to build a rudimentary laboratory — walls of cob, a thatched roof — and when the operation is finished it is evacuated,” the source told AFP.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry said that between January and June, 46 clandestine drug factories were closed down by anti-narcotics officers compared with 16 in the first half of last year.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration predicts that the crackdown has deprived traffickers of about $300 million in income since the turn of the year.

A senior Western official who asked not to be named was adamant that the Taliban have their own laboratories, describing the southern province of Helmand, where an estimated 80 percent of Afghan poppies are grown, as a “big drug factory”.

“Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban. The majority of their funding comes from the poppy, morphine labs, heroin labs. Of course they have their own labs,” he told AFP.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) opium production provided about half of the Taliban’s revenues in 2016.

David Dadge, a spokesman for UNODC, says there is “anecdotal evidence” that Taliban commanders are involved in the manufacture of opiates, but says that stops short of proving that the Taliban as an organisation has a systematic programme of running factories.

For the Afghan interior ministry, however, there is little doubt.

“The Taliban need more money to run their war machine and buy guns, that is why they have taken control of drug factories,” said Sayed Mehdi Kazemi, a spokesman for its counter-narcotics department.

The United States has spent $8.6 billion since 2002 in the war against drugs in Afghanistan, but Afghan-sourced heroin is still reaching North America.

“More than 90 percent of all heroin consumed in the US is of Mexican origin. But in Canada more than 90 percent of the heroin consumed is of Afghan origin,” said Brownfield.

Daesh, Taliban Terrorists Execute Some 40 Hostages in Afghanistan – Governor

“Spokesman for the Taliban group, Zabiullah Mujahid, wrote on his Twitter page that militants affiliated with this group have seized Mirza Ulang’s area.”
Taliban fighters

Daesh, Taliban Terrorists Execute Some 40

Hostages in Afghanistan – Governor

 

© AFP 2017/ FARIDULLAH AHMADZAI

Daesh and Taliban terrorists executed up to 40 hostages in the northern Afghanistan.

KABUL (Sputnik) — Daesh and Taliban terrorists (both groups are banned in Russia) executed up to 40 hostages in the northern Afghan province of Sare Pol, Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the governor of the province told Sputnik on Sunday.

“Daesh and Taliban terrorists committed a horrible massacre after capturing the Mirza Olang area. According to first reports, some 30 to 40 people were shot,” Amani said, adding that women, children and elderly people were among the victims of the terrorists.

Mirza Olang has recently become a site of heavy fighting with terrorists. According to Amani, local armed forces asked for support of the country’s authorities and Air Forces.

Afghanistan has long been experiencing political, social and security instability, mostly due to the activity of the Taliban and Daesh.

The US Must Come Clean On Whether It Is For Taliban or against them

US duality in Afghanistan

 

 

Why the US pressure on Pakistan to blunt the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network may not yield the desired outcome?

US duality in Afghanistan

The US Defence Department has withheld $50 million as reimbursement to damages and losses incurred by Pakistan in the war against terrorism for fiscal year 2016. The rationale behind the move is that the US believes Pakistan has not been taking effective measures to blunt the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network. There are reasons why the US pressure may not help it achieve the desired outcome i.e. making Pakistan take effective steps against the Haqqani faction of Taliban.

First, the US has never treated Taliban as a direct threat to its security. The US only considered the Islamist militia as an indirect security threat because it had given refuge to international terrorists, bin Laden and his al Qaeda that Washington had accused of executing the 9/11 terrorists attacks on the American soil and its installations elsewhere. Pakistan has delivered on the count of handing over al Qaeda operatives.

By July 2004, the country, catching 689 alleged al Qaeda operatives, had handed over 369 members of the terrorist outfit to the US. “The Bush administration did not question Musharraf as long as the Pakistani army cooperated with the principal US objective to catch al Qaeda leaders,” wrote Ahmed Rashid in his book titled Descent into Chaos. On Taliban, in November 2001, with the fall of Kunduz in the offing, US President Bush entertained Gen. Musharraf’s request to airlift Pakistani officers and citizens trapped in the encircled city. There were reports that hundreds of Taliban were also flown to safety before November 25 when Kunduz finally fell to Northern Alliance, reported The New Yorker.

Secondly, the US policy towards Taliban is designed to thrive on crisis. Apparently, the two countries may appear on different wave lengths, the US and Pakistan are on the same page when it comes to sustaining Taliban in Afghanistan for different purposes though. The Taliban presence in rural Afghanistan gives the US carte blanche to justify its permanent presence in the country in order to contain rising China, check assertive Russia and monitor Iran’s nuclear ambition and Pakistan’s nuclear programme, at least this appears to be consensus in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Islamabad. For Pakistan, Taliban are a lifeline to its national security interests at the court of Kabul.

Third, policy makers in Pakistan seem confident that owing to Pakistan’s strategic importance, Washington needs Islamabad more than vice versa. In the Cold War days, the main stimulus for alliance systems in the form of SEATO and CENTO was American, spawned by the US strategic calculation to contain the erstwhile Soviet Union. The same revisited back in the late 1970s, when the former USSR invaded Afghanistan, and 2001 when the US needed Pakistan to attack Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Currently, the US can’t defeat Taliban without Pakistan’s fullest possible cooperation. The route to peace at Kabul goes through Islamabad.

The US shouldn’t be passing the buck for instability in Afghanistan. It must come clear on whether it is for Taliban or against them. Similarly, the US needs to work with Pakistan, recognising its ‘legitimate’ concerns in Afghanistan.

Fourth, the US pressure tactics have not paid off in the past too. According to a report compiled by The Guardian, in the 1970s, the US under Jimmy Carter suspended all but food aid to Pakistan due to the latter’s decision to construct uranium enrichment facility. Likewise, the US Pressler Amendment of August 1985 stated that Pakistan would not receive any military or technological equipment until certified by the American president that Pakistan did not possess any nuclear device.

In 1990, the US president did not certify that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapon hence all economic and military aid to Pakistan was stopped. Nevertheless, this did not stop Pakistan from going nuclear in May 1998, triggering further sanctions on the country under the Arms Export Control Act.

Fifth, once ruling elites conceive something as part of national security paradigm, there is either no space or very little of it left for compromise. Making a nuclear bomb was such an enterprise where no amount of American pressure worked to prevent Pakistan from making nuclear devices. Similarly, Taliban appear to be part of national security paradigm whereby no amount of external pressure will work until the reasons that engender the need for Taliban are addressed. Pakistan wants a Pashtun-dominated Islamist government in Afghanistan so as to counter Indian influence at the court of Kabul.

The US shouldn’t be passing the buck for instability in Afghanistan. It must come clear on whether it is for Taliban or against them. Similarly, the US needs to work with Pakistan, recognising its ‘legitimate’ concerns in Afghanistan. The American duality has cost Afghanistan dearly.

The Dangers of Merging Artificial Super-Intelligence w/Brain-Dead Social Media

Sofia, the world’s Most Advanced A.I. Robot Admits It Wants to Destroy Humans 

Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse

Researches at Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence (AI) program after it created its own language, Digital Journal reports.

The system developed code words to make communication more efficient and researchers took it offline when they realized it was no longer using English.

The incident, after it was revealed in early July, puts in perspective Elon Musk’s warnings about AI.

“AI is the rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive,” Musk said at the meet of U.S. National Governors Association. “Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’ll be too late.”

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Musk’s warnings are “pretty irresponsible,” Musk responded that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

Not the First Time

The researchers’ encounter with the mysterious AI behavior is similar to a number of cases documented elsewhere. In every case, the AI diverged from its training in English to develop a new language.

The phrases in the new language make no sense to people, but contain useful meaning when interpreted by AI bots.

Facebook’s advanced AI system was capable of negotiating with other AI systems so it can come to conclusions on how to proceed with its task. The phrases make no sense on the surface, but actually represent the intended task.

In one exchange revealed by Facebook to Fast Co. Design, two negotiating bots—Bob and Alice—started using their own language to complete a conversation.

“I can i i everything else,” Bob said.

“Balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to,” Alice responded.

The rest of the exchange formed variations of these sentences in the newly-forged dialect, even though the AIs were programmed to use English.

According the researchers, these nonsense phrases are a language the bots developed to communicate how many items each should get in the exchange.

When Bob later says “i i can i i i everything else,” it appears the artificially intelligent bot used its new language to make an offer to Alice.

The Facebook team believes the bot may have been saying something like: “I’ll have three and you have everything else.”

Although the English may seem quite efficient to humans, the AI may have seen the sentence as either redundant or less effective for reaching its assigned goal.

The Facebook AI apparently determined that the word-rich expressions in English were not required to complete its task. The AI operated on a “reward” principle and in this instance there was no reward for continuing to use the language. So it developed its own.

In a June blog post by Facebook’s AI team, it explained the reward system. “At the end of every dialog, the agent is given a reward based on the deal it agreed on.” That reward was then back-propagated through every word in the bot output so it could learn which actions lead to high rewards.

“Agents will drift off from understandable language and invent code-words for themselves,” Facebook AI researcher Dhruv Batra told Fast Co. Design.

“Like if I say ‘the’ five times, you interpret that to mean I want five copies of this item. This isn’t so different from the way communities of humans create shorthands.”

AI developers at other companies have also observed programs develop languages to simplify communication. At Elon Musk’s OpenAI lab, an experiment succeeded in having AI bots develop their own languages.

At Google, the team working on the Translate service discovered that the AI they programmed had silently written its own language to aid in translating sentences.

The Translate developers had added a neural network to the system, making it capable of translating between language pairs it had never been taught. The new language the AI silently wrote was a surprise.

There is not enough evidence to claim that these unforeseen AI divergences are a threat or that they could lead to machines taking over operators. They do make development more difficult, however, because people are unable to grasp the overwhelmingly logical nature of the new languages.

In Google’s case, for example, the AI had developed a language that no human could grasp, but was potentially the most efficient known solution to the problem.

From NTD.tv

Trump Turns Total Hypocrite, Ducks Congressional Heat By Accusing Russia of “Subversion and Destabilization”

[Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act]

Trump accuses Russia of ‘subversion and

destabilisation’ as he signs sanctions bill

 

 

The new law forces the US president to get approval from Congress before making any significant changes to Russian sanctions

 

US president Donald Trump is seen here in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on August 2, 2017, the same day he signed a sanctions bill on Russia, Iran and North Korea into law. Evan Vucci / AP
US president Donald Trump is seen here in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on August 2, 2017, the same day he signed a sanctions bill on Russia, Iran and North Korea into law. Evan Vucci / AP

US president Donald Trump accused Russia of “subversion and destabilisation” on Wednesday in a rare display of public criticism towards Moscow, as he added his final signature to a bill relating to sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.

The “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”, which received overwhelming backing from members of Congress is now US law.

“America will not tolerate interference in our democratic process, and … we will side with our allies and friends against Russian subversion and destabilization,” Mr Trump said, adding also that he favoured tough measures to “punish and deter bad behavior by the rogue regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang”.

Mr Trump has so far been reluctant to publicly accept US intelligence conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 election which saw him elected to president.

Despite these remarks, in typical Trump fashion he also called the bill he had just signed “flawed” for constraining the White House’s ability to negotiate with or about these countries.

“The bill remains seriously flawed — particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate,” he said.

Mr Trump also warned that the new law “will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together”. He justified signing it for the sake “of national unity”.

“It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States,” he said.

The new law forces Mr Trump to get approval from Congress before making any significant changes to Russian sanctions. Such changes would be contingent on Congress accepting or rejecting them within a period of 30 days. Such restrictions are only applicable, however, to projects where sanctioned Russian entities have at least a 33 per cent interest.

The legislation also imposes new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and Revolutionary Guard network, and goes after North Korea’s shipping industry as well as its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The bill passed the House of Representatives by a margin of 419 votes to 3, and the Senate by 98 votes to 2 last week.

Mark Dubowitz, an expert on sanctions at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, told The National that “the overwhelming bipartisan support for the Iran, Russia and North Korea sanctions left the [Trump] administration little choice but to sign the legislation.”

If the White House had vetoed the bill, Congress would have had the numbers to override that veto.

Mr Dubowitz called the legislation “a step in the right direction against three dangerous regimes”, saying “the bill imposes tough sanctions against the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and those supporting Iran’s missile programme while creating much greater risks for foreign companies engaging with an Iranian economy over which the IRGC has enormous control”.

“The legislation also squeezes the hard currency earnings of both Moscow and Pyongyang as both regimes continue to increase their threats against the US and our Middle Eastern and Asian allies,” he added.

Pentagon Bored With Nukes Too Powerful To Use…All That Destructive Force Going To Waste!

Pentagon considering ‘mini-nukes’ for

maximum deterrence

 

 

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva argues that for nuclear deterrence to work in the 21st century, the U.S. may need a little less bang for the buck.

Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, confirmed has confirmed that as part of the Pentagon’s ongoing nuclear posture review, it is looking at a new generation of low-yield “mini-nukes” in order to ensure that the threat from America’s nuclear arsenal remains credible.

The whole idea behind having nuclear weapons is to ensure they are never used, under the notion that the prospect of worldwide destruction that would come from a nuclear exchange is so horrifying that no sane person would contemplate a war that could destroy the planet.

But that also presents a conundrum: If an adversary knows the U.S. would never use nuclear weapons because they would result in Armageddon, the deterrent becomes less credible, especially for terrorists or non-state actors who can’t be dissuaded by the Cold War doctrine of mutual assured destruction.

Enter the variable yield nuclear weapon, such as an upgraded version of the B-61 gravity bomb, which has a “dial-a-yield” feature that can take it down to a fraction of kiloton, small enough to take out, say, the White House, while leaving the Pentagon intact.

“We have stated a requirement across multiple nuclear posture reviews to have variable yield. So, that is a path we’re pursuing pretty quickly,” Selva told the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute at the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday.

The problem with much of America’s nuclear weapons is they are too big to shoot.

“If the only options we have now are to go with high-yield weapons that create a level of indiscriminate killing that the president can’t accept, we haven’t provided him with an option,” Selva said.

“As horrible as nuclear war is, we do still apply some of the rules of war to it. So, a proportional reaction to an enemy’s attack is actually a righteous and reasonable thing to do.”

Arms control advocates say the logic is faulty. There’s a reason so-called “tactical” or battlefield nukes were eliminated from the U.S. nuclear arsenal decades ago.

“We have had ‘mini’ nuclear weapons since the beginning of the atomic age, including bombs with a fraction of the yields that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and those 15-kiloton bombs are considered small by today’s standards,” said Joe Cirincione, of the anti-proliferation Ploughshares Fund, who argues making nuclear weapons more usable just makes them more likely to be used.

“Big or small, there has not been a military mission that justified the use of any nuclear weapon in over 72 years,” Cirincione said. “The truth is that we can accomplish any military mission with conventional weapons without suffering the negative consequences of nuclear use and running the risk of escalation to a global nuclear war. If you have to use a nuclear weapon, you have already lost.”

Selva said he’s familiar with that argument.

“I discount it,” Selva said. “I don’t think a conventional response to a nuclear attack would be sufficient to deter the kind of people that would contemplate a nuclear attack.”

Selva, the nation’s No. 2 military officer, is heading up the Nuclear Posture Review along with Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, the No. 2 civilian in the Pentagon.

Selva says the goal is to produce a menu of choices that will give President Trump options to deter Russia, China, and the emerging threat from North Korea.

“Everything’s on the table” from “conservative strategic approaches to radical new approaches,” Selva said.

But for a deterrence to be effective it must be credible, he insists. “It’s the will, the capacity, and the capability. If you don’t have all of those, deterrence fails.”

Gen. “Disaster” McMaster, Trump’s Weakest Link

https://charlie-p-2ac84d7056ca7f9d.s3.amazonaws.com/clips/thumbnails/000/022/748/medium/1HY7S68_220_lt.jpg?1467362677

A letter from H.R. McMaster said Susan

Rice will keep her top-secret security

clearance

 

 

 

“Basically, this letter which was signed in the last week of April undercuts the president’s assertion that Susan Rice’s unmasking activity was inappropriate. In essence, anybody who committed a violation as she did would not be given access to classified information,” said a senior West Wing official.

 

Almost one month after it was disclosed that former President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice was unmasking members of President Trump’s team and other Americans, Trump’s own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, sent an official letter giving her unfettered and continuing access to classified information and waiving her “need-to-know” requirement on anything she viewed or received during her tenure, Circa has confirmed.

The undated and unclassified letter from McMaster was sent in the mail to Rice’s home during the last week of April. Trump was not aware of the letter or McMaster’s decision, according to two senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named.

This is the letter from McMaster to Rice. Names, phone numbers and personal addresses have been blurred.

“I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know’ to access any classified information contained in items you ‘originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving,’ as National Security Adviser,” the letter said. The letter also states that the “NSC will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information.”

Circa revealed in March that during President Obama’s tenure, top aides — including Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch — routinely reviewed intelligence reports received from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad. They were doing so by taking advantage of rules Obama relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats, according to documents obtained by Circa.

In June, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Rice as part of the committee’s larger investigation into the unmasking of Americans under the Obama administration. Rice maintains that she never accessed the information inappropriately and has agreed to testify before the committee.

Under the law, and under certain conditions, it is common practice for some senior government officials to be given the unfettered access to classified information, and their “need to know” is waived under “Executive Order 13526 Section 4.4 Access by Historical Researchers and Certain Former Government Personnel.” But the White House officials told Circa that under the current congressional investigation, and given President Trump’s ongoing concern that members of his team were unmasked, Rice’s clearance should have been limited to congressional testimony only or revoked until the end of the investigation. Rice and Brennan have confirmed they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports, but insisted their requests were routine parts of their work and that they did nothing improper. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also has legal authority to unmask officials.

In a June tweet, Trump called the revelation that Rice and other Obama senior officials were unmasking members of his team the “big story… the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ that took place during the Obama administration.”

“Basically, this letter which was signed in the last week of April undercuts the president’s assertion that Susan Rice’s unmasking activity was inappropriate. In essence, anybody who committed a violation as she did would not be given access to classified information,” said a senior West Wing official, who was shown the document by Circa and verified its authenticity. “In fact, they would have their security clearance and right to ‘need-to-know’ stripped.”

“The point is, is that it lowers the bar for her,” the Senior West Wing official said.

“This memo McMaster sent to Rice makes it so that she doesn’t have to prove a continuing ‘need-to-know’ to have access to classified information and in effect is a White House pardon of Susan Rice and could be used by other Obama officials who conducted targeted unmasking of the campaign as a defense,” the official added.

The White House has not responded to requests for comment.

An intelligence official told Circa “that the NSA decision to provide this level of access to the subject of several ongoing investigations and to waive her ‘need-to-know’ requirement raises serious legal, moral and ethical concerns.”

According to information obtained by Circa, dozens of times in 2016, those intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted talking to foreign sources or who were the subject of conversations between two or more monitored foreign figures.

Sometimes Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Rice, his Brennan and Lynch.

Shortly after Circa released the redacted documents disclosing the change in rules, it was revealed that Power had also extensively requested permission to unmask American names in incidental foreign intercepts.

US Warns of Defeating ISIS In Idlib, Only To Hand the City Over To Al-Qaida Nusra Forces

 

US warns of ‘grave consequences’ if Syria’s

al- Qaeda dominates Idlib

 

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Militants of Nusra Front. File photo

The United States warned a takeover of rebel-held northwestern Idlib province by Syrian militants linked to a former al-Qaeda affiliate would have grave consequences and make it difficult to dissuade Russia from renewing bombing that recently stopped.

In an online letter posted late on Wednesday, the top State Department official in charge of Syria policy, Michael Ratney, said the recent offensive by Hayat Tahrir al Sham, spearheaded by former al-Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front, had cemented its grip on the province and put “the future of northern Syria in big danger”.

“The north of Syria witnessed one of its biggest tragedies,” said Ratney who was behind secret talks in Amman with Moscow over the ceasefire in southwest Syria announced by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. It was the first such US-Russian effort under the Trump administration to end Syria’s civil war.

“In the event of the hegemony of Nusra Front on Idlib, it would be difficult for the United States to convince the international parties not to take the necessary military measures,” the top State Department diplomat said. Mainly Islamist rebels swept through Idlib province in 2015, inflicting a string of defeats on the Syrian army until Russia stepped in to reverse the tide of the civil war in favour of President Bashar al Assad.

Idlib province, the only Syrian province that is entirely under rebel control, has been a major target of Russian and Syrian aerial strikes that caused hundreds of civilians casualties. The agricultural region had a respite since a Russian-Turkish brokered accord reached last May approved four de-escalation zones across Syria, among them one in Idlib province.

Many locals fear the militants’ hold on Idlib will again make the province a target of relentless attacks by Russian and Syrian forces and turn it into another devastated Aleppo or Mosul. More than two million people live in Idlib, which has become an overcrowded refuge for many of the displaced, including rebel fighters and their families.

“Everyone should know that Jolani and his gang are the ones who bear responsibility for the grave consequences that will befall Idlib,” said Ratney, referring to former Nusra head Abu Mohammad al Jolani who effectively leads Hayat Tahrir al Sham.

In less than three days Jolani’s fighters overran their powerful rival, the more mainstream Ahrar al Sham group, seizing control of a strategic border strip with Turkey in some of the heaviest inter-rebel fighting since the start of the conflict. Ratney told rebel groups, who have been forced to work with the militants out of expediency or for self-preservation, to steer away from the group before it was “too late.”

He said Washington would consider any organization in Idlib province that was a front for the a part of al-Qaeda’s network. The expanding influence of the former al-Qaeda has triggered civilian protests across towns in the province with some calling for the group to leave towns and not interfere in how they are run.

Nusra and its leaders would remain a target of Washington even if they adopted new names in an attempt to deny Washington and other powers a pretext to attack them, the US official said.

Source: Reuters

Trump Tweeter Warfare Against CIA, Or Civil War Within Imperial America?

 

 

“No stouter blow to the neocon/Deep State “regime change” folly has ever been issued by an elected public official. Yet there it is – the self-composed words of the man in the Oval Office. It makes you even want to buy some Twitter stock!”

 

Anyone who thinks he should stop tweeting is either against him or not paying attention. Sometimes they are fantastically effective.

Most of the Donald’s tweets amount to street brawling with his political enemies, but occasionally one of them slices through Imperial Washington’s sanctimonious cant. Indeed, Monday evening’s 140 characters of solid cut right to the bone:

The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad…..

Needless to say, we are referencing not the dig at the empire of Bezos, but the characterization of Washington’s anti-Assad policy as “massive, dangerous and wasteful”.

No stouter blow to the neocon/Deep State “regime change” folly has ever been issued by an elected public official. Yet there it is – the self-composed words of the man in the Oval Office. It makes you even want to buy some Twitter stock!

Predictably, the chief proponent of illegal, covert, cowardly attacks on foreign governments via proxies, mercenaries, drones and special forces, Senator McWar of Arizona, fairly leapt out of his hospital bed to denounce the President’s action:

“If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.”

That’s just plain pathetic because the issue is the gross stupidity and massive harm that has been done by McCain’s personally inspired and directed war on Assad – not Putin and not Russia’s historic role as an ally of the Syrian regime.

Since 2011, Senator McCain has been to the region countless times. There he has made it his business to strut about in the manner of an imperial proconsul – advising, organizing and directing a CIA recruited, trained and supplied army of rebels dedicated to the overthrow of Syria’s constitutionally legitimate government.

At length, several billions were spent on training and arms, thereby turning a fleeting popular uprising against the despotic Assad regime during the 2011 “Arab spring” into the most vicious, destructive civil war of modern times, if ever. That is, without the massive outside assistance of Washington, Saudi Arabia and the emirates, the Syrian uprising would have been snuffed out as fast as it was in Egypt and Bahrain by dictators which had Washington’s approval and arms.

As it has happened, however, Syria’s great historic cities of Aleppo and Damascus have been virtually destroyed – along with its lesser towns and villages and nearly the entirety of its economy. There are 400,000 dead and 11 million internal and external refugees from an original population of hardly 18 million. The human toll of death, displacement, disease and disorder which has been inflicted on this hapless land staggers the imagination.

Yet at bottom this crime against humanity – there is no other word for it – is not mainly Assad’s or Putin’s doing. It can be properly described as “McCain’s War” in the manner in which (Congressman) Charlie Wilson’s War in Afghanistan during the 1980’s created the monster which became Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda.

Even the fact that the butchers of ISIS were able to establish a temporary foothold in the Sunni villages and towns of the Upper Euphrates portion of Syria is the direct doing of McCain, Lindsay Graham and their War Party confederates in the Congress and the national security apparatus. That’s because Syria’s air force and army would have stopped ISIS cold when it invaded in 2014 if it had not been weakened and beleaguered by Washington’s oppositions armies.

But why did Washington launch McCain’s War in the first place?The government of Syria has never, ever done harm to the American homeland. It has no military capacity to attack anything much beyond its own borders – including Israel, which could dispatch Assad’s aging air force without breaking a sweat.

Moreover, even if a purely sectarian civil war in this strategically irrelevant land was any of Imperial Washington’s business, which it isn’t, Senator McCain and his War Party confederates have been on the wrong side from the get-go. The Assad regime going back to the 1970 was Arab Baathist – a form of nationalistic and anti-colonial socialism that was secular and inclusive in its religious orientation.

Indeed, as representatives of the minority Alawite tribes (15% of the population, at best), the Assad regime was based on Syria’s non-Sunni Arab minorities – including Christians, Druze, Kurds, Jews, Yazidis, Turkomans, and sundry others. Never once did the Assad’s seek to impose religious conformity – to say nothing of the harsh regime of Sharia Law and medieval religious observance demanded by the Sunni jihadists.

The point is, the Syrian opposition recruited by Washington for McCain’s War exploited the grievances of ordinary Sunni citizens, but it was led by radical jihadist military commanders. Washington’s endless charade of “vetting” these opposition fighters to ensure that aid only went to “moderates” was a sick joke.

Such moderates as existed were mainly opportunistic politicians who operated far from the battle in Turkish safe havens – or even from temporary residences in the beltway. It is a proven fact that most of the weapons supplied by the CIA and the gulf states were either sold to the Nusra Front and other jihadist factions or ended up in their hands when the CIA’s “moderate” trainees defected to the radicals.So the question recurs. Why did Washington embark on this tremendous, pointless folly?

The answer is straight forward. Washington has become an Imperial City populated by a permanent class of sunshine patriots and self-appointed global field marshals like Senator McCain, who do the bidding of the military/industrial complex and its far-flung Warfare State apparatus.

That is, they identify and demonize the enemies and villains that are needed to keep the money flowing into the Empire’s $700 billion budget. In this case, Assad drew the short straw because as a member of the greater Shiite confession in the Islamic world he was naturally allied with the Shiite regime of Iran.

In part 2 we will take up the real reason for McCain’s War in Syria. It was a proxy war and a provocation designed to prosecute the real neocon target – the endlessly vilified Shiite regime in Tehran.

Part 2Syria was never meant to be a real country. Its borders were scratched on a map in 1916 by Messrs. Picot and Sykes of the French and British foreign office, respectively, and was an old-fashioned exercise in dividing the spoils of war amidst the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It was most definitely not a product of what in the present era Imperial Washington is pleased to call “nation-building”.

The short history of the next hundred years is that Syria never worked as a nation because the straight lines traced to the map by the Sykes-Picot ruler encompassed an immense gaggle of ethnic and sectarian peoples, tribes and regions that could not get along and had no common bonds of nationality. The polyglot of Sunni and Alawite (Shiite) Arabs, Sunni Kurds, Druse, Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Turkmen, and sundry more were kept intact under the unitary state in Damascus only due to a succession of strongmen and generals who took turns ruling the gaggle by bribe and sword.

At length, Syria became a pawn in the cold war when the anti-communism obsessed Dulles brothers decided to stiff Colonel Nasser of Egypt for not sharing their Christian zeal against the godless rulers of the Kremlin. The latter then offered to build the Aswan Dam when Washington canned the funding.

That led, in turn, to the short-lived Egypt-Syria merger, a failed CIA coup in Damascus and the eventual permanent alliance of Hafez Assad (Bashar’s father) with the Soviets after he consolidated power in the early 1970s.

Whether Washington’s animosity to the Syrian regime owing to its choice of cold-war patrons ever made any difference to the security and safety of the American people is surely debatable, but when the cold war ended so should have the debate. Whatever happened in the polyglot of Syria thereafter had absolutely no bearing on the security of the American homeland – including indirectly via its nearby ally in Israel.

That is, once the cold war was over and the Soviet Union descended into economic and military senescence after 1991, the Israelis had overwhelming military superiority over Damascus, and needed no help from Washington. But that pregnant opportunity for Washington to put Syria out of sight and out of mind entirely was killed in the cradle at nearly the moment it arose.

In a word, the Washington War Party desperately needed an enemy once the Soviet Union was no more – in order to justify the massive girth of its global empire and the vastly elevated spending levels for conventional war-making (600 ship Navy, new tanks and fighters, airlift and cruise missiles etc.) that Ronald Reagan had unfortunately set in place. So the neocons in the administration of Bush the Elder seized on the Iranians.

Needless to say, with memories of the prolonged hostage crisis in Tehran of a decade earlier still fresh in the memories of the American public, it was easy for Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, et al. to vilify Tehran as the seat of an America-hating Islamist theocracy. But so doing, they put America on the wrong side of the 1300-year old Sunni/Shiite divide.

That’s because the minor sliver of Islam motivated by fanatical jihadism and the duty to eradicate nonbelievers and apostates is rooted in the Wahhabi branch of the Sunni confession and is domiciled in Arabia, not the Shiite communities on its periphery. The latter are spread in a crescent arcing from Iran through lower Iraq and extending to the Alawite and Shiite communities of Syria and southern Lebanon – including the territories dominated by Lebanon’s largest political party (Hezbollah).

The 40 years prior to 1991 had given the Iranians plenty of cause to despise Washington, beginning with the CIA-sponsored coup against the democratically elected Mosaddeq in 1953. That move, in turn, paved the way for the rapacious and brutal regime of the Shah until 1978 when he was overthrown by a massive uprising of the Iranian people led by Shiite clerics.

But to add insult to injury, the Reagan White House effected a “tilt” to Saddam Hussein after he invaded Iran in September 1980, and provided the satellite based tracking services that enabled Saddam’s horrific chemical attacks on Iranian troops in the field, many of them barely armed teenagers.

So Tehran had valid reasons for its rhetorical assaults on Washington, but there was no symmetry to it. That is, Washington had no honest beef against Tehran, and no dog in the Sunni-Shiite fight.

The only fig leaf of justification we’ve ever heard is that the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 by local Shiite militants was allegedly aided by the Iranians. But your editor sat on the national security council at the time and recalls vividly that Ronald Reagan’s decision was not to take the fight to Tehran, but to question why the Marines needed to be in harms’ way in the first place and to “reposition” them quickly to the safety of a Naval aircraft carrier deep in the Mediterranean

In any event, the Iranians elected a moderate President in 1988, and Rafsanjani did seek rapprochement with Washington – even helping to free some American hostages in Lebanon as a good will gesture to the incoming George HW Bush Administration.

But it was for naught once Cheney and his neocon henchman piled into the equation. The military-industrial complex needed an enemy and Cheney & Co. saw to it that the Shiite regime in Tehran became just that.

And that get’s us to our Part 1 thesis about McCain’s War in Syria and its prototype in Charlie Wilson’s War in Afghanistan during the 1980s. In fact, the latter wasn’t just a model; it was the proximate cause.

That is, Wilson’s War via the covert CIA training and arming of the Mujahedeen and the recruitment of Sunni Arab fighters from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni tribes ultimately gifted the world with al-Qaeda, but even then it took the feckless Imperial arm of Washington to complete the nightmare.

Bin-Laden was actually celebrated as a hero in the West until 1991. Thereupon history flowed around a hinge point marked by the demise of the Soviet Union on one side and George HW Bush’s utterly pointless war against Saddam Hussein in February 1991 on the other.

In this case Washington’s pretext for intervention was a petty squabble over directional drilling in the Rumaila oil field which straddled the border of Kuwait and Iraq. But there wasn’t an iota of homeland security at issue in that tiff between opulent Emir of Kuwait and the bombastic dictator from Baghdad.

In fact, Kuwait wasn’t even a real country; it was (and still is) essentially a large bank account with its own oilfield that had been scratched on a map by the British in 1913 as part of its maneuvering for hegemony in the Persian Gulf region.

Likewise, Iraq was also the product of the infamous Sykes-Picot straight-edged ruler of 1916, but the world price of oil would not have changed in the longer run by a single cent – whether Kuwait remained independent or was incorporated as the 19th province of the arbitrary but serviceable state of Baathist Iraq.

Beyond the false case of oil economics was the even more ridiculous underlying proposition that the oilfield boundary in dispute – which had been haggled out in an Arab League meeting in 1960 – implicated the safety and security of American citizens in Lincoln NE and Springfield MA.

No it didn’t – not in the slightest. But what did dramatically implicate their security was George HW Bush’s peevish insistence that Saddam be given a good, hard spanking, which resulted in 500,000 pairs of “crusader” boots on the sacred soil of Arabia.

Right there bin-Laden swiveled on a dime and launched his demented crusade to rid the “land of the holy shrines” of the American occupation. Right there the mujahedeen became al-Qaeda, modern jihadi terrorism was born and the catastrophe of 9/11 and all that followed was set in motion.

Yes, it took the even greater folly of Bush the Younger to actually light the fuse with his insensible and idiotic “shock and awe” demolition of Iraq after March 2003. But that did open the gates of Hell – even if the actual agents were the mujahedeen fighters and their followers and assigns who assembled in (Sunni) Anbar province after it was laid to waste by the Pentagon.

In a word, Bush and his neocon warriors destroyed the serviceable state of Iraq and the tenuous Sunni/Shiite/Kurd modus vivendi that Saddam had enforced with the spoils of the oilfields and the superiority of his arms. In that context the idea that the government in Baghdad represented a nation and fielded an Iraqi national army was a sheer fairy tale.

What Bush and Obama left behind was a vengeful, incompetent, corrupt sectarian government backed by sundry Shiite militia. To spend $25 billion – as Washington did – training and arming a ghost nation was an act of incomparable folly.

It guaranteed a hot war between the Sunni and Shiite, and that the billions of state of the art weapons Washington left behind for the self-defense of the nation it hadn’t built would fall into the hands of the Sunni terrorists.

At length, they did. The crucible of Anbar gave rise to ISIS and the tens of thousands of Humvees, tanks, heavy artillery pieces and millions of light weapons bivouacked in Mosul fell into its hands when the Shiite militias fled from Iraq’s second city and predominately Sunni enclave in June 2014.

And then McCain’s proxy War in Syria against the Iranians did its part. That is, the Sunni villages and towns of the Euphrates Valley had always been the most tenuous components of the Assads’ system of rule.

But when the McCain/CIA rebel armies badly impaired Assad’s military and economic capacity to pacify his country in the normal middle eastern manner of repression, a giant power vacuum was created into which ISIS rushed and from which the Islamic caliphate was born.

In a word, Wilson’s War begat Sunni jihadism; HW Bush’s war turned it against America; Dubya’s War opened the gates of Hell in Anbar province; and McCain’s War enabled the destruction of the Syrian state and the rise of a medievalist chamber of butchery and demented Sharia extremism in Raqqa, Mosul and the hapless Sunni lands in between.

At last, however, this chain of imperial pretense and insanity has been broken with a 140 character Tweet.

Bravo, Donald!

By sending the War Party into a paroxysm of denunciation and self-righteous indignation Trump actually provoked the Deep State into spilling the beans.

To wit, its neocon megaphone at the Washington Post, David Ignatius, penned an unhinged column immediately after Trump’s tweet about ending “massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad”, lamenting that the US hadn’t given jihadist “rebels” antiaircraft missiles!

But in a full bore eruption of outrage, Ignatius also revealed new information based on a quote from an official with initimate knowledge of the CIA program:

Run from secret operations centers in Turkey and Jordan, the program pumped many hundreds of millions of dollars to many dozens of militia groups. One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years.

Whether that was an exaggeration or proximate expression of the truth doesn’t really matter. It means Imperial Washington has been carrying on a world-scale war in Syria with not even the pretense of a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or authorization for the use of force as in Iraq in 2003.

So that’s McCain’s War. Eleven million refugees, a destroyed country, 400,000 civilians dead and a decimated army of a nation that poses a zero threat to the American homeland. And all for the purpose of hazing the rulers of Tehran who never did have a program to get a nuke, according to Washington’s own 17-agency NIEs (national intelligence estimates); and gave it up anyway with ironclad mechanisms for international enforcement.

We have no idea where this will lead, but by the day it increasingly looks as if McCain’s War is indeed being shutdown.

We can only hope for a respite to the folly, and that the Donald keeps on tweeting exactly this sort of madman’s stab at rationality.


David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution FailedThe Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America andTRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.


Source:  Antiwar.com

Trump Confronts Generals For “Losing” In Afghanistan, Threatens To Fire Top Guy

 

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials.

During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.

Exclusive: In Meeting, Pres. Trump Lashed Out at Military Leaders on Afghanistan

Trump is the third president to grapple with the war in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, two American troops were killed in Afghanistan when a convoy they were in came under attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump’s national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush went through multiple strategies over the course of their presidencies to try to stabilize Afghanistan. What set Trump apart in the July meeting was his open questioning of the quality of the advice he was receiving.

Image: Trump is introduced by Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia Image: Trump is introduced by Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia
President Donald Trump is introduced by Defense Secretary James Mattis during the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

During the meeting, Trump criticized his military advisers seated around the table in the White House Situation Room for what he said was a losing U.S. position in the war, according to the senior administration officials. At one point the president directed his frustration at Mattis, saying Trump had given the military authority months ago to make advances in Afghanistan and yet the U.S. was continuing to lose ground, the officials said.

Related: Pentagon Weighs More Aggressive Role in Afghanistan

“We aren’t winning,” Trump complained, according to these officials. “We are losing.”

One official said Trump pointed to maps showing the Taliban gaining ground, and that Mattis responded to the president by saying the U.S. is losing because it doesn’t have the strategy it needs.

The White House declined to comment on internal deliberations.

“The president’s national security team is developing a comprehensive, integrated strategy for South Asia that utilizes all aspects of our national power to address this complex region,” said Michael Anton, spokesman for the National Security Council. “That strategy has been worked carefully in the interagency process and while no decision has been made the president’s team continues to develop options for him that address threats and opportunities to America arising from this vital region.”

Told that Trump was considering firing Gen. Nicholson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “I can’t think of a good reason to fire the general. I think he’s done an admirable job.”

Image: Joseph Dunford Image: Joseph Dunford
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford testifies on Capitol Hill on March 22. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP File

“If the president doesn’t listen to the generals, like Gen. Nicholson and he goes down the road that President Obama went, Afghanistan is going to collapse,” Graham said. “Here’s my advice to the president — listen to people like Gen. Nicholson and McMaster and others who have been in the fight.”

Trump Compares Afghanistan to a Famous New York Restaurant

The president’s advisers went into the mid-July meeting hoping he would sign off on an Afghanistan strategy after months of delays, officials said. One official said the president’s team has coalesced around a strategy, though it had presented him with other options as well such as complete withdrawal.

Trump, however, appeared to have been significantly influenced by a meeting he’d recently had with a group of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and he was unhappy with the options presented to him.

Trump vented to his national security team that the veterans told him forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have not been helpful, and he lamented that China is making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war, officials said. Trump expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly, one official said.

China purchased mineral rights in Afghanistan a decade ago, an investment the U.S. supported at the time. Beijing has since had teams mining copper outside of Kabul.

Casualties Reported After Taliban Suicide Bomber Targets NATO Convoy

The focus on the minerals was reminiscent of Trump’s comments early into his presidency when he lamented that the U.S. didn’t take Iraq’s oil when the majority of forces departed the country in 2011.

To underscore his view that the veterans who fought in the war may be better positioned to advise him on an Afghanistan strategy, Trump compared the policy review process to the renovation of a famed New York restaurant in the 1980s, officials said.

Trump told his advisers that the restaurant, Manhattan’s elite ’21’ Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for a renovation. After a year, Trump said, the consultant’s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.

Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result. He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn’t a three-star general he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that in his own experience in business talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcomes.

The ’21’ Club, which has been one of Trump’s favorite New York spots, closed for two months in 1987 while it underwent a full renovation and reopened to great fanfare.

Image: U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province Image: U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province
U.S. troops walk outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan July 7, 2017. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

One senior administration official said the president mentioned the restaurant in an attempt to convey to his advisers that sometimes the best advice comes from those working day-to-day in a place, rather than those who are farther removed.

“The clear message if you heard the story was: high-priced consultants or high-priced anybody, expensive supposedly-big-brained people, but who are physically far from the source of the problem, often give you much worse advice than the supposedly low-ranking guys who are right there,” the official said.

Mattis Upset After Trump Meeting

Trump left the national security meeting without making a decision on a strategy. His advisers were stunned, administration officials and others briefed on the meeting said.

Two Pentagon officials close to Mattis said he returned from the White House that morning visibly upset. Mattis often takes a walk when grappling with an issue. That afternoon, the walk took longer than usual, the officials said.

Among those at the meeting were Trump’s senior White House advisers including Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and then chief-of-staff Reince Priebus, plus Mattis, Dunford, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

At one point, Dunford offered to set up a meeting for Trump with Gen. Nicholson in the hopes that personal interaction may soothe Trump’s concerns about his leadership.

Mattis also defended Gen. Nicholson, an official said, adding that the conversation about the commander ended inconclusively.

In an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday, McMaster praised Nicholson.

“I’ve known him for many years,” McMaster said. “I can’t imagine a more capable commander in any, on any mission.” Asked whether the president had confidence in Nicholson, McMaster said “absolutely.”

But a defense official confirmed that discussions are underway at the Pentagon regarding Nicholson’s future in Afghanistan.

Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White told NBC News that Mattis “has confidence in Gen. Nicholson’s leadership.”

Image: General John Nicholson speaks during an opening ceremony of "Invictus Games" at the Resolute Support Headquarter in Kabul
General John Nicholson, the Commander of US Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, speaks during an opening ceremony of “Invictus Games” at the Resolute Support Headquarter, in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 13 , 2017. Massoud Hossaini / AP file

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former head of NATO and an NBC News analyst, suggested the delay in finalizing a strategy has hurt U.S. efforts in the war.

“The situation in Afghanistan is not improving, but I think it’s hardly irretrievable at this point, and what the president needs to be doing is deciding on the strategy,” Admiral Stavridis said.

“What is hurting the process at the moment is this back and forth about do we stay or do we go, how many troops,” he added. “Any commander is going to be incredibly handicapped in an environment like that. So I think the fundamental problem here is lack of decisiveness in Washington, specifically in the White House.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump often talked about knowing more than U.S. military generals. Last September, he suggested he would probably have different generals from those who served under former President Barack Obama.

Related: Afghan Violence: Attack Hits Convoy, Kills 2 U.S. Service Members

Retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey advised against shaping a strategy around advice from troops serving on the ground.

“One of the last things you necessarily want to do is form policy advice based on what the current combatants think about something in a war zone,” said Gen. McCaffrey, an MSNBC military analyst. “They’re qualified totally to talk about tactics and things like that and what they’re seeing, but the president’s job is to formulate strategy and policy not to do tactical decisions.”

He also said acquiring mineral rights in Afghanistan is complicated and potentially costly because it would require the type of security the U.S. has been unable to achieve, as well as a workforce and access to a port to ship the materials.

Nicholson has called the war a “stalemate” and said he needs a “few thousand” additional troops. “Offensive capability is what will break the stalemate in Afghanistan,” he said in February during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

7 US soldiers wounded during another insider attack in Afghanistan

His comments angered White House officials who thought they boxed in the president before he had made any decisions, according to Pentagon officials.

In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of key counties where Trump had broad support in the November election, 46 percent of respondents supported sending more troops to Afghanistan while 36 percent opposed.

Related: Watchdog: Pentagon Should Declassify Report on Afghan Military Sex Abuse

Heading into its 16th year, the war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history.

A decision on an Afghanistan strategy was expected more than two months ago, but it has been delayed as the president remains unsatisfied with the options. Last month he gave Mattis authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, but Mattis has been unable to do so absent a presidential strategy. Trump also gave his military commanders broad authority to make key decisions. The move resulted in the U.S. dropping its largest non-nuclear weapon in Afghanistan several months ago.

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Some of Trump’s advisers are advocating for a very limited U.S. role in the war, while others have recommended several thousand additional troops. Officials said it’s unclear when the president will sign off on a new strategy.

Russia Plans Huge Zapad 2017 Military Exercises With Belarus

“As part of the maneuvers, units of the First Guards Tank Army are expected to establish a forward command post in western Belarus, and to hold exercises in training areas near Brest, on the Polish border, and Grodno, near Poland and Lithuania.”

Why the Suwalki Gap Keeps Top U.S. General in Europe Up at Night

 

LONDON — As a diplomatic standoff escalates between Washington and Moscow, another military challenge may be on the horizon. Thousands of Russian troops and tanks are preparing to take part in what may be the country’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.

The Zapad 2017 war-games will take place next month in Russia’s neighboring ally of Belarus. The drills scheduled to run between September 14 and 20 will also involve naval and air units operating in and around the Baltic and North Sea.

While Russian officials have said that 13,000 troops would participate in the exercises, whose name means “west” in Russian, Western estimates have run much higher.

Image: Servicemen take part in Zapad exercises in 2013 Image: Servicemen take part in Zapad exercises in 2013
Servicemen take part in Zapad exercises in 2013 RIA Novosti / Reuters

They have been planned for months, were previously held in 2013 and 2009 and have their roots in vast Soviet drills first held in the 1980s.

But this year they are garnering greater interest following the recent deterioration in diplomatic relations between the White House and the Kremlin.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed off on new sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and Syria, as well as its alleged interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the U.S. to cut hundreds of its diplomatic staff serving in his country.

Russia insists the long-planned Zapad exercises would only be used to defend against aggression by NATO, the U.S.-led 29-member military alliance founded in the aftermath of World War II. Experts say the risk of an open conflict is low.

But following months of uncertainty surrounding NATO — caused by Trump’s mixed messages — this year’s Zapad exercise may be designed to test the alliance’s resolve.

“Russia is not organizing defensive operations but instead an offensive threat, testing how serious we are about protecting the members of NATO,” said Jonathan Eyal, international director of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank.

Belarus not only borders Russia, but also three of America’s key but relatively isolated NATO allies: Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

The latter two were occupied by Soviet forces for almost 50 years and they have remained a focus of the renewed standoff between Russia and the West. This breakdown was sparked by Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and worsened over military intervention in Syria and allegations of state-sponsored hacking.

“Russia is reminding us that the Baltic states are relatively indefensible,” Eyal added. “They want to see where the cracks are in NATO and where they can be widened.”

Image: A map of Belarus and the Baltic states

Trump caused alarm in Europe after he was slow to explicitly endorse NATO’s central promise of collective defense, known as Article 5. He also demanded member states up their military spending and suggested he wouldn’t defend them unless he did.

The rhetoric from Trump has since softened — with some members of his team expressing the U.S.’s strong and enduring support for NATO — but the mere suggestion of wavering was enough to give many Europeans the jitters.

NATO has reinforced its position in Eastern Europe, now maintaining a rotating force of 4,000 in Poland and the Baltics.

But hypothetical scenarios played out by the Rand Corporation last year found that it would take Russian forces just 60 hours to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga.

In terms of this year’s Zapad exercise, what concerns some officials and experts is they aren’t exactly sure how big they will be — nor what is Putin’s true intention.

The official figure given by Russia is that there will be no more than 13,000 personnel taking part.

Some Western analysts say that it’s no coincidence that this is also the exact number of troops allowed in a military exercise before international observers must be invited.

The Vienna Document of 2011 is an agreement by members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — a group that includes Russia — which says that any exercise involving more than 13,000 personnel must allow observers from all other OSCE nations.

Trump silent as Putin expels diplomatic staff6:28

Russian officials, such as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, are adamant they have nothing to hide.

“Our NATO colleagues know all too well that they were invited to attend these exercises, and that they are transparent,” Lavrov said in a June interview.

But many in NATO remain unconvinced.

“We have every reason to believe that it may be substantially more troops participating than the official reported numbers,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference last month.

U.S. officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Russia could have as many as 100,000 personnel involved in the exercise — making it the country’s largest since the Cold War.

“The total number of Russian troops, security personnel and civilian officials in the broader exercise is expected to range from 60,000 to as many as 100,000,” the New York Times reported Monday.

As Keir Giles, an associate fellow at London’s Chatham House think tank, put it: “The official figures are hopelessly unreliable.” He said Russia could get around the 13,000-limit by having several drills going on at once.

The Russians are not transparent both in terms of the size and intent of their exercises, one U.S. defense official told NBC News on condition of anonymity.

“They continually send more troops than they report to the international community,” the official said, adding that they need to be honest about their intentions to avoid misunderstandings.

Image: Russian soldiers participate in a military exercise at the Baltic Fleet's Khmelyovka training center Image: Russian soldiers participate in a military exercise at the Baltic Fleet's Khmelyovka training center
Russian soldiers participate in a military exercise at the Baltic Fleet’s Khmelyovka training center in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad in September 2009 Konstantin Zavrazhin / Getty Images

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said: “Russia has conducted several large-scale snap exercises along NATO’s Eastern flank with little to no notice and in a non-transparent manner.”

The last Zapad exercise, in 2013, featured “more than 75,000 men, who were engaged in simulated operations in the air, on land and at sea,” according to a report by The Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based research institute.

For comparison, last year 24 NATO members held a military exercise named “Anakonda,” which included more than 31,000 service members.

Whatever the number, the exercises come against the backdrop of several close encounters between Russian and NATO aircraft and ships in recent years.

“There’s always a possibility for miscalculation when that’s going on,” Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander, told reporters last month, referring to these near-misses.

“I think that’s the importance of transparency, particularly on Russia’s part, to tell us about [the Zapad] exercise: What should we expect to see, what is the size of them, where will they operate?” he said.

What’s also unclear, according to some Western analysts, are Putin’s motives.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has dismissed as “nonsense in its purest form” any suggestion that the Kremlin is using the drills for anything other than defense.

But many Western experts say that Russian exercises are often used to disguise other objectives. Most notably, Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 and annexation of Crimea in 2014 both followed military exercises that allowed Moscow to move troops into key locations.

Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the closing stage of Zapad 2013 Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the closing stage of Zapad 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the closing stage of Zapad 2013 at the Gozhsky firing range in Grodno, Belarus. RIA Novosti / Reuters

“These large-scale exercises … served as a means to obscure the movement of Russian units into the conflict zone,” according to the report by The Jamestown Foundation following the Zapad 2013 exercise.

One theory is that this year’s drill could be used by Russia to “leave troops behind” in Belarus in order to give Moscow a more-advanced forward base in Europe, according to Giles at Chatham House.

He described the exercise as “a hot topic and it’s going to get hotter and hotter” as it approaches.

 

Thanks To Trump, We Can Now Begin WWIII w/Russia As A Unified Nation

[Donald Trump promised leadership, despite the foreseeable problems which everyone knew, that he would be certain to have with Congress over past business dealings, many of which were apparently borderline criminal, just beneath the surface.  Now that Obama’s army of political saboteurs has effectively smothered Trump and many of his cronies with slime (Obama…Sore Loser, Wants Old Job Back…Hires Civilian Army To Sabotage Trump), he is folding-up under Democrat demands to perpetuate global conflict and giving-in to Republican/Neocon demands, for the “sake of national unity”, that the “terror war” be fought against Russia.]

Donald Trump Signs Russia Sanctions Bill

for ‘Sake of National Unity’

 

 

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a bill on Wednesday imposing new sanctions on Russia, putting to rest questions about whether he would support the legislation passed overwhelmingly by Congress last week while he still excoriated the measure as “significantly flawed.”

The bill sanctions Russia — citing its cyberhacking as well as aggression in Ukraine and Syria — while also slapping new sanctions on North Korea and Iran.

The legislation limits the ability of the president to lift the sanctions unilaterally, something lawmakers had insisted on.

Trump signed the bill behind closed doors, with no press coverage. In one White House statement released after the signing, referred to as the “official signing statement,” the president called some of the provisions “clearly unconstitutional.”

Trump Signs New Sanctions Bill Against Russia, Iran and N. Korea

In a second statement, Trump lamented that the bill “encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

“The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice,” Trump said, adding that he signed legislation “for the sake of national unity.”

That statement goes on to chastise Congress for an entirely different issue — its inability to “negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking” — and finishes with a personal note: “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”

Related: Read the President’s Entire Statement on the Sanctions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Tuesday that neither he nor President Trump, “were very happy” about the way Congress put these new sanctions in place, but he anticipated the bill would be signed anyway.

“We were clear that we didn’t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts, but that’s the decision they made, they made it in a very overwhelming way. I think the president accepts that,” he said.

Tillerson: U.S.-Russian Relations at Historic Low

The sanctions bill was passed in both chambers of Congress with strong bipartisan support and by veto-proof margins. It passed in the Senate on Thursday with a 98-2 vote and in the House last Tuesday, 419-3.

Lawmakers pushed the sanctions, particularly those against Russia, in spite of the president’s conciliatory tone toward the country whose government U.S. intelligence agencies concluded meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have denied the allegations, both in the press and to Trump directly.

Trump has hedged repeatedly on the question of Russian responsibility for election meddling last year, saying it is possible Russia was involved but other countries could have had a role.

Putin voiced his objection to the proposed sanctions last week, accusing the U.S. of attempting to use “geopolitical advantages in competition to pursue economic interests at the expense of [U.S.] allies.”

Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates Pay High Price For Botched Attack On Qatar

 

 

The pampered petro-states of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates expected a quick victory after imposing a quasi-blockade on neighboring Qatar. Past crises in relations had been peacefully resolved, but this time Qatar’s antagonists demanded its virtual surrender, particularly abandonment of an independent foreign policy. They believed they had Washington behind them.

Alas, the intervening weeks have not been kind to Riyadh and UAE. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signaled their support for Doha. Tillerson demonstrated obvious impatience with demands he viewed as extreme and not even worth negotiating, and called Qatar’s positions “very reasonable.”

A general view of the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia on June 23, 2017. On June 5, Saudi Arabia and its allies cut all diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed Qatar’s only land border, banning its planes from using their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from transiting through their airports. (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP

More than a few critics observed that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are even guiltier than Qatar in funding terrorism. One of them was Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who complained that “The amount of support for terrorism by Saudi Arabia dwarfs what Qatar is doing.”  Doha took the opportunity to ink an agreement with the U.S. on targeting terrorist financing, which none of Qatar’s accusers had done.

Moreover, George Washington University Professor Marc Lynch observed that “The extremist and sectarian rhetoric which external forces brought to the Syrian insurgency was a problem extending far beyond Qatar.” The demand to shut Al Jazeera by nations which have no free press and even criminalized the simple expression of sympathy for Qatar was denounced globally.

Then came reports that U.S. intelligence concluded the UAE had hacked the official Qatar website a couple months ago, creating the incendiary posts allegedly quoting Qatar’s emir which helped trigger the crisis. In contrast, Bahrain and Egypt, which joined the anti-Doha bandwagon, looked like mere hirelings, doing as they have been told by states which provided financial and military aid. Having initiated hostilities without a back-up plan, the anti-Qatar coalition cannot easily escalate against U.S. wishes or retreat without a huge loss of face. But staying the course looks little better. Saudi Arabia and UAE caused Qataris to rally behind their royal family, wrecked the Gulf Cooperation Council, eased Iran’s isolation, pulled Turkey directly into Gulf affairs, and challenged Washington. Quite an achievement.

The experience has yielded several important lessons.

President Donald Trump huffs and puffs, but doesn’t have much to do with U.S. foreign policy. Despite having criticized Saudi Arabia in the past, he flip-flopped to become Riyadh’s de facto lobbyists in Washington. However, his very public preferences have had little impact on U.S. policy, which ended up tilting strongly against UAE and Saudi Arabia. He recently acknowledged that he and Secretary Tillerson “had a little bit of a difference, only in terms of tone.”

US President Donald Trump (C) and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (3-R), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (3-L), Jordan’s King Abdullah II (2-R), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R), pose for a group photo during the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Saudi Arabia proved to be more paper tiger than regional leader. It spent lavishly on weapons, subsidized other Muslim states, sought to overthrow of Syria’s Assad regime, and launched a brutal war against Yemen, but had no response prepared when Qatar dismissed Riyadh’s demands. Then Secretary Tillerson effectively blocked any escalation. With the expiration of the Saudi-UAE ultimatum two weeks ago some observers feared that Saudi Arabia and UAE would impose additional sanctions, expel Qatar from the GCC, or even invade their independent neighbor. But all of those steps now would be more difficult if not impossible in practice.

Indeed, the secretary’s shuttle diplomacy last week to support the Kuwaiti mediation attempt even forced Qatar’s accusers to effectively negotiate what they had termed nonnegotiable. UAE Minister of State Noura al-Kaabi said “We need a diplomatic solution. We are not looking for an escalation.” No wonder Saudis, who once believed they had coopted America’s president, now complain that America’s secretary of state is backing Doha.

Saudi Arabia’s expensive overseas diplomacy has been of dubious value, gaining the Kingdom few friends. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi organized an inconsequential coalition featuring dependents Bahrain and Egypt, international nullity Maldives, and one of the contending governments in fractured Libya. Since then the group has failed to win meaningful support from any other state. The problem? The real issue isn’t terrorism, but far more selfish concerns, such as support for domestic political opponents.

The reputation of the accusers has tanked. Discussion of the controversy almost inevitably resulted in more attention to the misbehavior of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, particularly their brutal repression of any political and religious dissent at home, Saudi Arabia’s lavish funding for the extremist and intolerant Wahhabist strain of Islam, and UAE’s initiation of cyber-hostilities against Doha. Tom Wilson of the London-based Henry Jackson Society published a report calling Riyadh the “foremost” funder of terrorism in the United Kingdom and citing concerns that “the amount of funding for religious extremism coming out of countries such as Saudi Arabia has actually increased in recent years.” While Qatar was vulnerable to criticism over its backing for some radical groups, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had been subject to even harsher U.S. attacks for the same reason.

Iran continued to gain more from the actions of its antagonists than its own efforts. Doha and Tehran are linked by a shared natural gas field. Their relationship is one of Saudi Arabia’s chief complaints. Iran is a malign actor, but Riyadh, a totalitarian Sunni dictatorship, is worse. Saudi Arabia intervened militarily in Bahrain to sustain the Sunni monarchy against the Shia majority and backed radical insurgents to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The reckless new Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, orchestrated the murderous, counterproductive war in Yemen and diplomatic/economic attack on Qatar in order to achieve Gulf hegemony. Now, without firing a shot, Iran helped thwart Riyadh’s latest scheme, won the gratitude of Qataris, and put a reasonable face on the Islamist regime.

Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis deserve special credit. By ignoring President Trump’s misdirected enthusiasm for the Saudi monarchy, they helped shift public attention back to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Neither has demonstrated sufficient interest in cutting terrorist funding.

For instance, in a lengthy cable dated December 30, 2009, released by Wikileaks, the State Department criticized Qatar and UAE, but was toughest on Saudi Arabia: “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” Moreover, “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” The kingdom “remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda” and other terrorist organizations. Despite Riyadh’s policies, “groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir talks to reporters during a joint press conference with his Emirati, Egyptian, and Bahraini counterparts after their meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 5, 2017, discussing the Gulf diplomatic crisis with Qatar, as Doha called for dialogue to resolve the dispute. (KHALED ELFIQI/AFP/Getty Images)

If Saudi Arabia and UAE cared about terrorism, they would look inward first. And Riyadh would stop funding Wahhabism, an intolerant Islamic teaching which demonizes those who believe differently. Wilson charged that “a growing body of evidence has emerged that points to the considerable impact that foreign funding has had on advancing Islamist extremism in Britain and other Western countries.” The consequences of this funding may be more long-lasting than payments to the terrorist group du jour. Norwegian anti-terrorism analyst Thomas Hegghammer observed “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism.”

What really bothers Saudi Arabia and the UAE is Doha’s support for opposition groups. For instance, both Riyadh and Egypt fear the Muslim Brotherhood, which challenges their ruling regimes with a flawed but serious political philosophy—and, incidentally, does not promote terrorism. The Saudi royals are insecure because a kleptocratic, totalitarian monarchy holds little appeal to anyone other than the few thousand princes who live lavishly at everyone else’s expense. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates similarly despise the TV channel Al Jazeera, which has criticized both regimes.

Riyadh also wants to conscript Qatar in its campaign to isolate Iran. Ironically, the Kingdom so far has applied no pressure on UAE which, like Qatar, has maintained ties with the Islamist regime. Anyway, it would be far better to promote long-term change by continuing to draw Iran’s population westward in opposition to Islamist elites. By playing host to groups as diverse as the Taliban and Hamas, Doha actually has drawn controversial organizations away from more radical governments, such as Iran’s, and enabled the West to have unofficial contact with groups with which it is officially at odds, such as the Taliban.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have sown the wind. Now they will reap the whirlwind. Their attack on Qatar further destabilized the Middle East, unsettling several of Washington’s closest allies. The Saudis and Emiratis ended up in a global cul-de-sac, isolating themselves more than Qatar. The latter has little incentive to yield, while the former face humiliation if they abandon their claims. Other governments increasingly expect a lengthy stand-off. Secretary Tillerson predicted that the “ultimate resolution may take quite a while.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani listen to questions by journalists during a press conference in Doha, on July 11, 2017.The US and Qatar announced they have signed an agreement on fighting terrorism. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

That will benefit no one, other than Iran, perhaps. Not Qatar. Not America. And certainly not Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The U.S. can’t impose a settlement on its dubious allies. But Washington can recognize that “there are no clean hands here,” as a State Department spokesman recently observed. The Trump administration should place full responsibility for the current stand-off where it belongs, on Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

British Empire Built On Loot, Pillage and Plunder

 

Indians tend not to dwell on the country’s colonial past. Whether through national strength or civilizational weakness, India has long refused to hold any grudge against Britain for 200 years of imperial enslavement, plunder and exploitation. But Indians’ equanimity about the past does not annul what was done.

Britain’s shambolic withdrawal from India in 1947, after two centuries of imperial rule, entailed a savage partitioning that gave rise to Pakistan. But it occurred curiously without rancor toward Britain. India chose to remain in the Commonwealth as a republic, and maintained cordial relations with its former overlords.

Some years later, Winston Churchill asked Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had spent nearly a decade of his life in British jails, about his apparent lack of bitterness. Nehru replied that “a great man,” Mahatma Gandhi, had taught Indians “never to fear and never to hate.”

But, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, the scars of colonialism have not fully faded. I learned that firsthand in the summer of 2015, when I delivered a speech at the Oxford Union decrying the iniquities of British colonialism — a speech that, to my surprise, inspired a powerful response across India.

The speech quickly went viral on social media, with one post racking up more than 3 million hits in just 48 hours, and with websites across the globe reposting it. My right-wing opponents stopped trolling me on social media just long enough to hail my speech. The speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, went out of her way to compliment me at a function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who then congratulated me publicly for having said “the right things at the right place.”

Schools and colleges played the speech to their students. One university, the Central University of Jammu, organized a daylong seminar, at which eminent scholars addressed specific points I had raised. Hundreds of articles were written in response, both in support of and in opposition to my statements.

Two years later, strangers still approach me in public places to praise my “Oxford speech.” My book on the same theme, “An Era of Darkness,” has remained on Indian bestseller lists since its publication three months ago. The British edition, “Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India,” hits bookshelves next month.

Given India’s longstanding attitudes about colonialism, I did not expect such a reception. But perhaps I should have. After all, the British seized one of the richest countries in the world — accounting for 27 percent of global GDP in 1700 — and, over 200 years of colonial rule, reduced it to one of the world’s poorest.

Londoners marvel at their magnificent city, knowing little of the rapacity and plunder that paid for it. Many British are genuinely unaware of the atrocities their ancestors committed.

Shashi Tharoor

Britain destroyed India through looting, expropriation and outright theft — all conducted in a spirit of deep racism and amoral cynicism. The British justified their actions, carried out by brute force, with staggering hypocrisy and cant.

The American historian Will Durant called Britain’s colonial subjugation of India “the greatest crime in all history.” Whether or not one agrees, one thing is clear: Imperialism was not, as some disingenuous British apologists have claimed, an altruistic enterprise.

Britain has been suffering from a kind of historical amnesia about colonialism. As Moni Mohsin, a Pakistani writer, recently pointed out, British colonialism is conspicuously absent from the UK’s school curricula. Mohsin’s own two children, despite attending the best schools in London, never had a single lesson on colonial history.

Londoners marvel at their magnificent city, knowing little of the rapacity and plunder that paid for it. Many British are genuinely unaware of the atrocities their ancestors committed, and some live in the blissful illusion that the British Empire was some sort of civilizing mission to uplift the ignorant natives.

This opens the way for the manipulation of historical narratives. Television soap operas, with their gauzy romanticization of the “Raj,” provide a rose-tinted picture of the colonial era. Several British historians have written hugely successful books extolling the supposed virtues of empire.

In the last decade or two, in particular, popular histories of the British Empire, written by the likes of Niall Ferguson and Lawrence James, have described it in glowing terms. Such accounts fail to acknowledge the atrocities, exploitation, plunder and racism that underpinned the imperial enterprise.

All of this explains — but does not excuse — Britons’ ignorance. The present cannot be understood in terms of simple historical analogies, but the lessons of history must not be ignored. If you do not know where you have come from, how will you appreciate where you are going?

This goes not just for the British, but also for my fellow Indians, who have shown an extraordinary capacity to forgive and forget. But, while we should forgive, we should not forget. In that sense, the powerful response to my 2015 speech at the Oxford Union is encouraging.

The modern relationship between Britain and India — two sovereign and equal countries — is clearly very different from the colonial relationship of the past. When my book hit bookstores in Delhi, British Prime Minister Theresa May was just days away from a visit to seek Indian investment. As I have often argued, you do not need to seek revenge upon history. History is its own revenge.

• Shashi Tharoor, a former UN undersecretary-general and former Indian minister of state for external affairs and minister of state for human resource development, is currently chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs and an MP for the Indian National Congress.

©Project Syndicate

Venezuela–10 Dead, 200 Voting Centers Attacked as US Sanctions Maduro

Philadelphia, July 31, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The U.S. government slapped sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro one day after the South American country saw record turnout in National Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections amid deadly opposition violence.

On Monday, the US Treasury Department labeled the elected Venezuelan leader a “dictator” and froze his alleged assets in the United States. The measure was legally authorized under Executive Order 13692, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 and brands Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security.

For his part, Maduro fired back at the White House, calling the move an “expression of impotence [and] desperation”.

“They [the US] see Latin America as a lapdog that wags its tail and nods yes. It’s an irate reaction because the Venezuelan people and its president disobeyed [the US’] order to suspend the National Constituent Assembly,” he declared.

“I don’t obey imperial orders and moreover [I am] against US imperialism,” the head of state continued.

Mixed reactions

The sanctions come on the heels of ANC elections that saw 8,089,4320 Venezuelans turn out to vote, a figure that surpasses the 7,587,579 votes Maduro received in his narrow 2013 election victory.

In the lead-up to the elections, Washington sanctioned 13 top Venezuelan officials and threatened “strong and swift economic actions” if the initiative to redraft Venezuela’s constitution went ahead.

Despite the high turnout, the US State Department has refused to recognize election and several close US allies have followed suit, including Canada, Spain, the UK, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and Panama. The European Union similarly expressed “grave doubts as to whether the election result can be recognized”.

For its part, Russia dismissed the international chorus rejecting the result as “destructive”.

“We hope that those members of the international community who want to reject the results of the Venezuelan elections and increase the economic pressure on Caracas, show restraint and renounce these destructive plans that can sharpen the polarization of Venezuelan society,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, regional leftist governments, including Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, congratulated Venezuela on the successful election.

In particular, Bolivian President Evo Morales hit out at Mexico and Colombia, whom he said would do well to “have their own constituent assembly… to change their capitalist system, their imperialist system”.

Within Venezuela, the result sparked condemnation from the country’s right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, as well as Attorney General Luisa Ortega.

The MUD, which boycotted the elections despite repeated overtures from the government to participate, has raised allegations of voter fraud, but has yet to provide evidence to back its claims.

“We do not recognize this fraudulent process, for us it is null and void,” declared Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles. As the MUD candidate against Maduro in 2013 presidential elections, Capriles refused to recognize his narrow defeat, calling on his supporters to “vent their anger” in the streets. Eleven people were killed in the ensuing post-election violence.

International electoral observers, for their part, reported that the electoral process was transparent.

“[Venezuelans] have concurred in a civic and peaceful manner to exercise their right to vote in a free, universal, direct, and secret election as expressed in Article 63 of the Bolivarian Constitution,” stated the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America, which is composed of ex-presidents and electoral monitoring officials from throughout the region.

Venezuela’s National Electoral Council announced the preliminary results on Sunday evening, but it has yet to release the state-by-state vote breakdown as well as the full list of candidates elected. On Monday, the electoral body was the target of a cyber attack by opposition hackers that shut down its website for a number of hours, together with that of Venezuela’s state television network.

Violent unrest claims 10 lives 

Sunday’s vote was rocked by deadly anti-government violence aimed at preventing the election from taking place.

On the eve of the vote, an ANC candidate for the communes sector was assassinated in Bolivar state. Children’s rights activist and community organizer Felix Pineda Marcano (39) was gunned down in his home in Ciudad Bolivar on Saturday evening. Authorities are actively investigating the murder, which they believe could be politically motivated.

Meanwhile, over the course of the day, 200 voting stations were besieged by opposition militants across the country, according to Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

In Tachira state, National Guard Second Sergeant Ronald Ramirez was shot in the head and killed near a military installation in La Grita.

The Public Prosecution (MP) has reported 9 other deaths over the course of the day’s events.

In addition to Ramirez, two unnamed adolescents and a third man by the name of Jose Cardenas were killed in Tachira state. In Merida, Angelo Mendez and Eduardo Olave were killed in the early hours of the morning before voting began, while Jose Sanchez also lost his life under unknown circumstances.

In Lara state, Luis Zambrano (43) was reportedly shot dead in an anti-government protest in Barquisimeto. Elsewhere in Sucre state, the MP confirmed the death of Democratic Action youth leader Ricardo Campos during an opposition protest in the early hours of the morning.

A man by the name of Haidar Ocando was likewise killed in Zulia state, though no further details are yet known concerning the cause of death. The MP has dispatched state district attorneys to investigate all of the fatalities.

Meanwhile, the heavily pro-opposition Altamira neighborhood of eastern Caracas was the scene of another roadside bomb attack targeting a Bolivarian National Police motorcycle caravan.

As captured on camera, the police motorcyclists are seen driving down Francisco de Miranda Avenue when suddenly a bomb goes off, producing a giant explosion as onlookers cheer.

Eight officers were injured in the blast with first, second, and third degree burns. The Public Prosecution is investigating.

The incident marks the second time in a month that large-scale explosive devices has been used in the wealthy eastern Caracas municipality of Chacao. On July 10, seven National Guard officials were injured in a similar remote-detonated explosion.

In total, the Interior Ministry has reported that 21 state security personnel suffered gunshot wounds over the course of the day. Forty-nine people were arrested for attacks on military personnel on Sunday.