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A Rules-Based Global Order or Rule-less US Global ‘Order’?

By Alastair CROOKE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 31.10.2018

“It has taken the US military/security complex 31 years to get rid of President Reagan’s last nuclear disarmament achievement – the INF Treaty, that President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev achieved in 1987”, writes Reagan’s former Assistant Treasury Secretary:

“Behind the scenes, I had some role in this, and as I remember, what the treaty achieved was to make Europe safe from nuclear attack by Soviet short and intermediate range missiles [the SS20s], and to make the Soviet Union safe from US [Pershing missiles deployed in Europe]. By restricting nuclear weapons to ICBMs, which allowed some warning time, thus guaranteeing retaliation and non-use of nuclear weapons, the INF Treaty was regarded as reducing the risk of an American first-strike on Russia and a [Soviet] first-strike on Europe … Reagan, unlike the crazed neoconservatives, who he fired and prosecuted, saw no point in nuclear war that would destroy all life on earth. The INF Treaty was the beginning, in Reagan’s mind, of the elimination of nuclear weapons from military arsenals. The INF Treaty was chosen as the first start, because it did not substantially threaten the budget of the US military/security complex”.

The Trump Administration however now wants to unilaterally exit the INF. “Speaking to reporters in Nevada, Trump said: “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years and I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out … We’re going to pull out … We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons, and we’re not allowed to”. Asked to clarify, the President said: “Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us, and they say, ‘Let’s all of us get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons,’ but if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable. So we have a tremendous amount of money to play with our military.”

The tell-tale markers are plain: Russia and China are ‘doing’ new weapons (and the US is behind the curve); China’s ‘doing it’ (and is not party to the INF treaty), and ‘we’ have a tremendous amount of money to play with our military (we can win an arms race and the military-industrial complex will be ecstatic).

A (US) diplomat has told the Washington Post that, “the planning [for the withdrawal] is the brainchild of Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, [a career opponent of all arms control treaties on the principle that they potentially might limit America’s options to take unilateral action], has told US allies he believes the INF puts Washington in an “excessively weak position” against Russia “and more importantly China”.

Trump is not a strategist by nature. He prides himself rather, as a negotiator, who knows how to go after, and to seize, US leverage. A wily Bolton has played here into Trump’s obsession with leveraging US strength to do two things: To return the US to having potentially a first strike capability over Russia (i.e. more leverage), through being able to install intermediate missiles (such as Aegis) in Europe, over and up against Russia’s frontiers. And, secondly, because were some military conflict between the US and China to become inevitable, as tensions escalate, the US has concluded that it needs medium range missiles to strike at China’s mainland. And it’s not China only. As Eric Sayers, a CSIS expert, put it: “Deploying conventionally-armed ground-launched intermediate-range missiles may be key to reasserting US military superiority in East Asia.” (i.e. leverage again).

Indeed, last year’s US Nuclear Posture Review already noted that “China likely already has the largest medium and intermediate-range missile force in Asia, and probably the world.” And the US is in the process of encircling China with intermediate missiles initially with Japan’s decision to buy the Aegis system, with Taiwan possibly next. (Bolton is known to support stationing US troops on Taiwanese soil, as further leverage over China).

President Putin sees this plainly: “The Americans keep on indulging in these games as the actual goal of such games is not to catch Russia in violations, and compel it to abide by the treaty; but to invent a pretext to ruin that treaty – part of its belligerent imperial strategy”. Or, in short, to impose a ‘rule-less, US, global order’.

What is happening is that Bolton and Pompeo seem to be precisely taking Trump back to the old 1992 Defence Policy Guidance document, authored by Paul Wolfowitz, which established the doctrine that the US would not allow any competition to its hegemony to emerge. Indeed, Assistant Secretary of State, Wess Mitchell, made this return to Bush era policy, absolutely clear, when in a statement to the US Senate he said:

The starting point of the National Security Strategy is the recognition that America has entered a period of big-power competition, and that past US policies have neither sufficiently grasped the scope of this emerging trend nor adequately equipped our nation to succeed in it. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest US primacy and leadership in the 21st Century. It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers.

And at the Atlantic Council on 18 October, the Secretary made it very plain that Europe will be whipped into line on this neo-Wolfowitz doctrine:

“European and American officials have allowed the growing Russian and Chinese influence in that region to “sneak up on us.” “Western Europeans cannot continue to deepen energy dependence on the same Russia that America defends it against. Or enrich themselves from the same Iran that is building ballistic missiles that threaten Europe,” the assistant secretary emphasized. Adding, “It is not acceptable for US allies in central Europe to support projects like Turkstream 2 and maintain cozy energy deals that make the region more vulnerable to the very Russia that these states joined NATO to protect themselves against.”

Also addressing the Atlantic Council’s October 18 conference, US Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, revealed that Washington plans to stiffen the sanctions regime against Moscow “every month or two” to make it ‘more amenable over Ukraine’.

Plainly, Europe will be expected too, to welcome America’s missiles deployed back into Europe. Some states may welcome this (Poland and the Baltic States), but Europe as a whole will not. It will serve as another powerful reason to rethink European relations with Washington.

The influence of Bolton poses the question of what is Trump’s foreign policy now. Is it still about getting a good deal for America on a case-by-case basis, or is it a Bolton-style make-over for the Middle East (regime change in Iran), and a long cold war fought against Russia and China? US markets have until now thought it is about trade deals and jobs, but perhaps it no longer is.

We have written before about the incremental neocon-isation of Trump’s foreign policy. That is not new. But, the principal difficulty with a neo-Wolfowitzian imperialism, lashed to Trump’s radical, transactional, leveraging of the dollar jurisdiction, of US energy and of the US hold on technology standards and norms, is that by its very nature, it precludes any ‘grand strategic bargain’ from emerging – except in the unlikely event of a wholesale capitulation to the US. And as the US bludgeons non-compliant states, one-by-one, they do react collectively, and asymmetrically, to counter these pressures. The counter current presently is advancing rapidly.

Bolton may have sold Trump on the advantages of exiting the INF as giving him bargaining leverage over Russia and China, but did he also warn him of the dangers? Probably not. Bolton has always perceived treaty limitations to US action simply to be disadvantageous. Yet President Putin has warned that Russia will use its nuclear weapons – if its existence is threatened – and even if it is threatened through conventionally armed missiles. The dangers are clear.

As for an arms race, this is not the Reagan era (of low Federal debt to GDP). As one commentator notes, “no entity on earth (not currently engaged in QE), has as much government debt vulnerable to short-term interest shifts, than the US government. The US Federal Reserves’ “5 more [interest rate] hikes by end 2019”, roughly translates into: “The Fed [interest payments due on US debt may become so large, as to] impose cuts on the US military in 2019”.

Trump loves the leverage Bolton seems to magic out of his NSC ‘black box’, but does the US President appreciate how ephemeral leverage can be? How quickly it can invert? He cannot – Canute like – simply stand on the sea-shore and command the rising tide of US bond interest rates to recede like the tide, or the US stock market, just to levitate, in order to multiply his leverage over China.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Tehran Voices Protest to Denmark Envoy Over Statements on Iran’s Secret Service

Sputnik – 31.10.2018

Earlier, Tehran refuted Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET)’s allegations that Iranian intelligence officers were plotting an assassination of an Iranian separatist group official on the Danish soil.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Denmark’s envoy in Teheran, who lodged a formal protest regarding announcements about an Iranian Secret Service operation in the Nordic state, the ministry’s official representative Bahram Ghasemi said.

“This morning, Denmark’s envoy to Tehran had a meeting with the head of the First Department for Northern Europe, during which the ambassador has heard a protest regarding precipitated political reaction of several Danish politicians and media in connection to the detention of a person with Norwegian and Iranian citizenships on suspicion of plotting a manslaughter in Denmark,” Ghasemi noted.

On Tuesday, Danish media reported, citing the country’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen, that Copenhagen had recalled the Danish ambassador to Iran for consultations following the accusations.

Earlier, Danish police announced the arrest of a Norwegian citizen with an Iranian background in connection with an alleged Iranian Intelligence attack on an individual in Denmark. At the same time, Norwegian police confirmed they were assisting Danish law enforcement on the issue.

Tehran, in its turn, rejected statements made by the head of the PET about the illegal activities of Iranian intelligence services in Denmark.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 2 Comments

US takes leap of faith toward Taliban

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 31, 2018

According to reports, the Taliban disclosed on Tuesday that five former Guantanamo inmates from their leadership hierarchy have joined their political office in Qatar. This dramatic development signals that the talks between the Taliban and the US are getting under way seriously in search of an Afghan settlement.

The five former Guantanamo inmates were top figures in the Taliban regime in the 1990s and close confidantes of late Mullah Omar – former interior minister Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, former army chief Muhammad Fazil, former governor of Balkh and Laghman Noorullah Noori, Taliban’s deputy intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq and Taliban’s communication chief Nabi Omari.

They were released from Guantanamo Bay by the Barack Obama administration after 12 years of incarceration in 2014 in exchange for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held hostage by the Taliban for nearly five years. The five Taliban leaders were shifted from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar where they have been in protective custody of local authorities. If they are indeed joining the Taliban’s political office in Doha, it can only be with the approval of the Qatari authorities and the acquiescence of the US.

The stunning part is that these five Taliban leaders once carried the stigma in the US eyes of having been closely associated with the al-Qaeda. Indeed, Washington had all along anticipated that a time would come when the hardcore Taliban leadership would need to be constructively engaged. That alone explains why the (Afghan) Taliban was thoughtfully excluded from the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Washington took the plea that the Afghan Taliban is an insurgency with control over vast swaths of territory and aspirations to govern the country. It conveniently left the door open to negotiate with them and reconcile them, hopefully, when the time came.

Evidently, the Trump administration assesses that that time has come. The induction of the dreaded 5 Taliban leaders with al-Qaeda links to mainstream peace talks follows the recent visit of the new US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad to Pakistan and Qatar. Khalilzad is a diplomat in a hurry and is raring to negotiate peace even if it involves interlocutors who might have been closely associated with the al-Qaeda in the 1990s.

(Guantanomo Bay detention camp)

Indeed, it shows Khalilzad’s cold realism and pragmatism as a veteran diplomat, while on the other hand also the sense of urgency within the Trump administration that a settlement must be negotiated as quickly as possible.

There is no evidence that the Kabul government has been consulted or is party to this development in Qatar. Khalilzad will be proceeding on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, since Afghan polity is hopelessly fragmented and it must be a bitter pill for the Kabul elite to accept that the five Guantanamo Bay inmates are back in political circulation as top protagonists.

On the contrary, Khalilzad is working in close consultation with Islamabad. The release of the former No 2 in Taliban hierarchy Mullah Baradar by Pakistan last week (at Khalilzad’s instance) synchronizes with the development in Qatar. Clearly, Pakistan is positioning Mullah Baradar also in anticipation of the commencement of the fateful talks in Qatar in a very near future.

(Mullah Baradar)

Time is running out, because Afghanistan is due to hold presidential election in April 2019. The US is intensely conscious that another puppet government elected through a farcical election charade and post-election gerrymandering will lack legitimacy and even spell doom for the country. The sensible thing will be to bring the Taliban to the forecourt and get them involved in the upcoming political contestation.

How that is going to be possible in the limited time ahead remains to be seen. In all respects, a tricky and dangerous transition looms ahead – ominously reminiscent of the UN-sponsored transition in 1992 from communist rule to the Mujahideen, which collapsed in spectacular failure.

Once the Qatar talks begin in right earnest, the last ounce of legitimacy left in the Kabul set-up will drain away. The pressure will increase on filling the power vacuum that will inevitably arise. However, compared to 1992, the good part is that while the Afghan Mujahideen were split into rival groups, with some such as the Jamiat way out of the orbit of Pakistani control, that is not the case with the Taliban. Pakistan is in a position to shepherd them in the right direction.

But Pakistan will expect the US to reciprocate by taking into consideration its sensitivities and interests – especially, the revival of the old full-bodied relationship between the two countries. Read an opinion piece, here, in today’s Dawn newspaper underscoring the criticality of Washington and Islamabad moving in tandem in search of a ‘joint solution’ through the coming 6-month period in order for Khalilzad’s talks to be fruitful and productive.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 7 Comments

Ansarullah rejects US mediation in efforts to resolve Yemen conflict

Press TV – October 31, 2018

The Houthi Ansarullah movement has opposed a US proposal for mediation in efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen, holding Washington responsible for the Saudi-led aggression against Yemen.

Mohammed al-Bakhiiti, a member of Ansarullah’s Political Council, told Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam news network on Wednesday that peace would be restored to Yemen if the US ended its war on the impoverished country.

He also expressed his objection to any solution to the Yemen crisis that ignores the country’s independence and sovereignty.

On Tuesday, American officials called for a ceasefire in Yemen and demanded that the sides to the conflict come to the negotiating table within a month.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US had been watching the conflict “for long enough,” and that he believed Saudi Arabia and the UAE were ready for talks.

“We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can’t say we are going to do it sometime in the future,” he said. “We need to be doing this in the next 30 days.”

Mattis’ call was later echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who urged the coalition to stop airstrikes in Yemen’s populated areas, saying the “time is now for the cessation of hostilities.”

Bakhiti further stressed that Washington’s proposed solution for the Yemen conflict included dividing the country.

Mattis’ plan, supported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is meant to achieve goals that have not been attained during the war on Yemen, he added.

The only solution to the crisis is intra-Yemeni talks and non-interference by foreign parties, the Houthi official said.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a brutal war against Yemen in an attempt to reinstall the country’s former Riyadh-allied regime and crush the Houthis.

The Western-backed war, however, has so far failed to achieve its stated goals, thanks to stiff resistance from Yemeni troops and allied Houthi fighters.

The offensive, coupled with a naval blockade, has destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure and led to famine as well as a cholera outbreak in the import-dependent state. Tens of thousands of people have also lost their lives in the conflict.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Hebron: Seven weeks after the murder of Wael Fatah Ja’aberi by Israeli Forces, family still awaits his body for burial.

International Solidarity Movement | October 28, 2018

Hebron, occupied Palestine – On Monday October 22, the family of Wael Fatah Ja’aberi gathered in Ibn Rush square in downtown Hebron to protest the murder of their son and the decision of Israeli forces not to return his body to their family for more than a month. In September, Ja’aberi was killed in a combined settler and soldier ambush. His body has still not been returned to his family, who have erected an information/communication tent in the main square of downtown Hebron in protest.

A week after the Ja’aberi family erected their protest tent downtown, fathers who lost their sons in similar incidents, gathered in the tent and showed their solidarity.

The Ja’aberi family demanded the body of slain Wael, but is waiting in vain for any answer since September 9, 2018 – the day of the brutal incident.

On Monday evening 9/9/2018, Wael Fatah Ja’aberi, a 37 year old father of two children, was shot down close to his home, near the intersection of the Hebron H1/H2 area division, from the entrance of the illegal settlement Givat Ha’avot, by a settler and a soldier.

According to witnesses, Wael and his 9 year old son were walking from their home to a nearby shop, for which they had to pass the road close to a the entrance of the illegal Israeli settlement Givat Ha’avot .

When they approached the location of the entrance, still 20 meters away from it, a settler together with a soldier ambushed and killed the 37 year old father.

His 9 year old son was lucky to escape and could run back home, in shock of the cruelty he went trough. As it seems, the armed settler fired at Wael and his son, after which a soldier, present at the checkpoint, continued the shooting with several live bullets.

Israeli forces left Ja’abari bleeding to death, without giving or allowing him any kind of medical assistance.

No health care was given or allowed. The Israeli ambulance belongs to Ofer, a paramilitary settler of Kyriat Arba – not a medic.

Video recordings of this fatal incident were posted on the internet. (here, here and here)

The Israeli military claimed afterwards, that it was self defense against a stabbing attack, and did not contact the family. This claim is disputed, however, given Israeli forces’ history of planting knives on murdered Palestinians and given the fact that Ja’abari was walking with his 9 year old child. No footage of the many security cameras on that location has ever been released.

Stealing corpses in the aftermath of a unlawful execution, is a standard procedure of the Occupation. Between 2008 and 2018 Israel held back more then 280 corpses.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside God’s Bunker (extracts)

Hebron, 1994.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 1 Comment