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Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”

By T.J. Coles | CounterPunch | March 20, 2019

The US is formally committed to dominating the world by the year 2020. With President Trump’s new Space Directive-4, the production of laser-armed fighter jets as possible precursors to space weapons, and the possibility of nuclear warheads being put into orbit, the clock is ticking…

Back in 1997, the now-re-established US Space Command announced its commitment to “full spectrum dominance.” The Vision for 2020 explains that “full spectrum dominance” means military control over land, sea, air, and space (the so-called fourth dimension of warfare) “to protect US interests and investment.” “Protect” means guarantee operational freedom. “US interest and investment” means corporate profits.

The glossy brochure explains that, in the past, the Army evolved to protect US settlers who stole land from Native Americans in the genocidal birth of the nation. Like the Vision for 2020, a report by the National Defense University acknowledges that by the 19th century, the Navy had evolved to protect the US’s newly-formulated “grand strategy.” In addition to supposedly protecting citizens and the constitution, “The overriding principle was, and remains, the protection of American territory … and our economic well-being.” By the 20th century, the Air Force had been established, in the words of the Air Force Study Strategy Guide, to protect “vital interests,” including: “commerce; secure energy supplies; [and] freedom of action.” In the 21stcentury, these pillars of power are bolstered by the Cyber Command and the coming Space Force.

The use of the Army, Navy, and Air Force—the three dimensions of power—means that the US is already close to achieving “full spectrum dominance.” Brown University’s Cost of War project documents current US military involvement in 80 countries—or 40% of the world’s nations. This includes 65 so-called counterterrorism training operations and 40 military bases (though others think the number of bases is much higher). By this measure, “full spectrum dominance” is nearly half way complete. But the map leaves out US and NATO bases, training programs, and operations in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine.

As the US expands its space operations—the fourth dimension of warfare—the race towards “full spectrum dominance” quickens. Space has long been militarized in the sense that the US uses satellites to guide missiles and aircraft. But the new doctrine seeks to weaponize space by, for instance, blurring the boundaries between high-altitude military aircraft and space itself. Today’s space power will be harnessed by the US to ensure dominance over the satellite infrastructure that allows for the modern world of internet, e-commerce, GPS, telecommunications, surveillance, and war-fighting.

Since the 1950s, the United Nations has introduced various treaties to prohibit the militarization and weaponization of space—the most famous being the Outer Space Treaty (1967). These treaties aim to preserve space as a commons for all humanity. The creation of the US Space Force is a blatant violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of those treaties. In more recent decades, successive US governments have unilaterally rejected treaties to reinforce and expand the existing space-for-peace agreements. In 2002, the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972), allowing it to expand its long-range missile systems. In 2008, China and Russia submitted to the UN Conference on Disarmament the proposed Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects. This would have preserved the space-as-a-commons principle and answered US claims that “enemies” would use space as a battleground against US satellites.

But peace is not the goal. The goal is “full spectrum dominance,” so the US rejected the offer. China and Russia introduced the proposed the treaty again in 2014—and again the US rejected it. Earlier this year, the US withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Last month, President Trump sent an unclassified memo on the new Space Directive-4 to the Vice President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, NASA, and the Secretaries of Defense and State.

The document makes for chilling and vital reading. It recommends legislating for the training of US forces “to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces.” Crucially, this doctrine includes “peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict.” As well as integrating space forces with the intelligence community, the memo recommends establishing a Chief of Staff of the Space Force, who will to join the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The memo also says that US space operations will abide by “international law.” But given that the US has rejected anti-space weapons treaties, it is barely constrained by international law.

In late-2017, Space.com reported on a $26.3m Department of Defense contract with Lockheed Martin to build lasers for fighter jets under the Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments program. The report says that the lasers will be ready by 2021. The article links to Doug Graham, the Vice President of Missile Systems and Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. In the original link Graham reveals that the Air Force laser “is an example of how Lockheed Martin is using a variety of innovative technologies to transform laser devices into integrated weapon systems.”

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) states in a projection out to the year 2050: “Economies are becoming increasingly dependent upon space-based systems … By 2050, space-based weapon systems may also be deployed, which could include nuclear weapons.” But this is extremely reckless. Discussing technologies, including the artificial intelligence on which weapons systems are increasingly based, another MoD projection warns of “the potential for disastrous outcomes, planned and unplanned … Various doomsday scenarios arising in relation to these and other areas of development present the possibility of catastrophic impacts, ultimately including the end of the world, or at least of humanity.”

“Full spectrum dominance” is not only a danger to the world, it is a danger to US citizens who would also suffer the consequences, if and when something goes wrong with their leaders’ complicated space weapons.

Dr. T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research.

March 20, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | | Leave a comment

Israel, Greece to Build Radar on Crete Amid Rapprochement– Reports

Sputnik – March 19, 2019

The Long Horizon marine radar system will be built by Israel and Greece in eastern Crete, the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports. The enhanced coverage of the radar will allow both countries to monitor the Eastern Mediterranean basin. The daily has not disclosed the cost of the project, saying only that it is “not insignificant,” especially taking into account Greece’s reduced military budget.

According to the outlet, Athens and Tel Aviv have been drifting together recently, boosting their military ties among other things. Greece has recently agreed with Israel to share know-how for its navy, which has begun to develop. According to the outlet, 40 Israeli probationers will be carried by a Greek transporter from Haifa to Crete, without any stops in Cyprus, by the end of the month. The Israelis will join the Greek forces during upcoming drills and then return to Haifa after a stop in Milos and Rhodes.

On the other hand, Athens has been open to the possibility of bolstering its arms gaps with the help of Israel, as Kathimerini noted. Among other things, Greece has rented seven drones from Israel for search and rescue operations.

Israel’s Haaretz reports that Cyprus also shares the Israeli interests in the region. The list of common interests includes a stance on the situation in Syria and Lebanon as well as uneasy relations with Turkey.

Apart from military and political cooperation, which is to be confirmed during an upcoming trilateral Greek-Israeli-Cypriot summit with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three countries are developing a major economic project — the undersea East Med pipeline, designed to deliver natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and Cyprus. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades are expected to sign the grand deal, agreed upon in 2018, within the month, as the Greek media earlier reported.

The 2,000-kilometre underwater pipeline is intended to have a capacity of 12 billion cubic metres of gas annually, delivering fuel from Israel’s Leviathan, named one of the largest young gas reserves in the world, and the Aphrodite offshore gas fields. Additionally, the venture was boosted in February when it was announced that large gas deposits had been discovered in Cyprus.

The line, which is almost twice as long as Russia’s Turk Stream pipeline, is estimated to cost $8 billion and is said to be the world’s deepest underwater gas pipeline. Egypt, the only Muslim nation besides Jordan that has a peace treaty with Israel, is also seeking to export its newly discovered gas reserves, and has expressed interest in joining the project.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

AIPAC Is Coming to Town – Again!

And the Israelis are having an election

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review  • March 19, 2019

The Trump Administration has delivered yet another concession to Israel’s embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of parliamentary elections: the Israeli military occupation of much of the Palestinian West Bank and of the Golan Heights will no longer be referred to in official U.S. government documents as an occupation. America’s so-called Ambassador to Israel is a former Trump lawyer named David Friedman who is more involved in serving Israel than the United States. He personally supports the view that the illegal Jewish settlements are legitimately part of Israel, choosing to ignore their growth even though it has long been U.S. policy to oppose them. He has also long sought to change the State Department’s language on the Israeli control of the West Bank and Golan Heights, being particularly concerned about the expression “occupied,” which has legal implications. Now he appears to have won that fight, to the delight of the Netanyahu government.

And the expunging of “occupied” might be only the first of many gifts intended to bolster Netanyahu’s chances. Senator Lindsey Graham, who also boasts of his close ties to the Israeli Prime Minister, intends to initiate legislative action to go one step further and compel the United States to actually recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory that was annexed after fighting in 1967, but which has not been recognized as part of Israel by any other country or international body. If a vote on the bill is pushed forward and goes as expected virtually unanimously as the subject before congress is Israel, it would hugely benefit Bibi. Some sources are also predicting that recognition of the Golan Heights could easily lead to U.S. government recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over much of the West Bank.

Israel’s election is scheduled for April 9th, so there is still plenty of time for additional mischief. There have even been suggestions in the Israeli media that Netanyahu just might escalate fighting with any one or more of a number of its neighbors to enhance his wartime leader credentials. That Gaza will be pummeled is a certainty and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria is probably also in the gun-sights. An uncorroborated report last week out of Israel claimed that Hezbollah is operating a “terror cell” in Syria close to the border with Israel. It would serve as a pretext for a bit of military action and America’s own congress-critters would immediately be jumping up and down expressing their support for Israel’s right to “defend itself.” The big prize for Netanyahu would, of course, be success at getting the United States to attack Iran and one can bet that Mossad is cranking up “false flag” plans to bring about such an eventuality while also making it look like the Mullahs were at fault.

Netanyahu, bedeviled by corruption charges against him, is otherwise sinking into his usual pre-election mode, which is to outflank nearly everyone on the intransigent right of Israeli politics. He has entered into a coalition with the openly racist Kahanist party Otzma Yehudit, which most Israelis consider to be close to a Jewish version of fascism as it advocates, among other policies, the forceful expulsion of all Arabs.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also looking for a boost through his attendance at the annual American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) summit, which is being held in Washington from March 24-26. The theme of the conference is, unfortunately, “Connected for Good,” which is clearly a boast by AIPAC rather than an admission of the shameful reality that has been delivered to the American people by a groveling and subservient congress and White House. Co-opting the United States is what it is all about, with the promotional material promising an “UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE : The AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest gathering of America’s pro-Israel community. The conference is a celebration of the U.S.-Israel partnership and the premier opportunity for every attendee to lobby their Congressional office to advance the U.S.-Israel relationship. The Policy Conference is also a rich educational experience and inspirational booster shot. Attendees will hear keynote speeches by American and Israeli leaders, attend intimate educational sessions, and be wowed by moving stories of U.S.-Israel partnerships, Israeli heroism, and groundbreaking Israeli innovations that are changing our world.”

AIPAC is a seriously threatening organization with income of more than $100 million per annum, nearly 400 employees, 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and a “vast pool of donors.” It clearly includes a lot of smart and savvy folks who know a lot about what is going on in the Middle East, but its panels will not include a single word about shooting unarmed protesters, declaring Israel to be a “nation state for Jews alone,” its own acceptance of laws attacking freedom of speech, or its use of Jewish donated money to corrupt the American political system encouraging “allegiance to a foreign country” on the part of U.S. citizens. Bibi will undoubtedly pick up on AIPAC’s cozy theme of inclusiveness by taking the opportunity to burnish his credentials as the leader who can continue to deliver on unlimited and uncritical support from the United States. He will almost certainly meet with President Donald Trump and the two will undoubtedly mention the terrible wave of anti-Semitism that is sweeping the globe, justifying still more ethnic cleansing of the diminishing number of Arabs living in Greater Israel and the bombing of Iran.

Other leading American politicians who will be at AIPAC in supporting rolls include the slimy Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the despicable former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. It will also include numerous other congressmen, administration officials and the usual scumbags who gravitate to these events, including pardoned criminal Elliott Abrams and unindicted felon Senator Robert Menendez. Abrams, who believes that Jews and gentiles should not intermarry, is currently engaged in destroying Venezuela and just might be otherwise occupied.

A number of the “American” government attendees at the event are actually Israeli citizens. Sigal Mandelker, a committed Zionist who holds the perpetually Jewish position of Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the United States Department of Treasury, is an Israeli by birth and it is widely believed that a number of Jewish congressmen and government officials who will be attending the AIPAC conference have dual citizenship. On the conference website’s roster of attendees, it is amusing to see the official photos in which the U.S. legislators and officials are standing in front of the American flag, seemingly disinterested in the irony that what AIPAC is doing is destructive of democracy in America and a sell-out to Israeli interests, undermining those of the United States.

Netanyahu’s most serious opposition in the election appears to be a centrist coalition headed by former Israeli Defense Force chief General Benny Gantz, who has spoken of his pride in killing 1,364 “terrorists” in Gaza, and former Finance Minister Yair Lapid. It is the principal challenge to incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election hopes. Israeli courts have also meanwhile banned several Arab parties while allowing extreme right-wing Jewish parties to appear on the ballot.

Whatever the outcome, the United States will be on the receiving end of what Israel decides to do post-election as Trump and company as well as the Democrats in opposition also have an election coming up next year and will want to receive the Israeli seal of approval. And AIPAC will be right there to make sure that Israel in return gets everything that it so richly deserves. Goodnight America.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

March 19, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

British RAF servicing Saudi jets bombing civilians in Yemen – UK armed forces minister

RT | March 18, 2019

Britain is providing “engineering support” for UK-supplied aircraft operated by the Royal Saudi Air Force, responsible for killing innocent people in Yemen, a British government minister has revealed.

Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster was responding to a question in parliament from Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, on military personnel seconded to BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia, when he admitted that the RAF have provided engineering and “generic training” to the Saudi Air Force involved in the bombing of Yemen.

“RAF personnel on secondment to BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia have provided routine engineering support for UK-supplied aircraft operated by the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), including aircraft engaged in military operations in Yemen.”

Lancaster insisted UK personnel were not involved in the loading of weapons for operational sorties, in response to Russell-Moyle’s claim that the “British support keeps Saudi’s air war going.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade has branded the revelation “shocking but not surprising,” arguing that UK military personnel “should not be servicing Saudi jets or supporting the Saudi armed forces.”

It’s not just the UK that has been widely criticised for being party to the Saudi-led coalition’s bombardment of Yemen.

In December, the US Pentagon revealed that they were having to claw back $331 million of taxpayer-subsidized money gifted to Saudi Arabia and the UAE over a three-year period, when it ‘accidentally’ refueled their aircraft for free during their war on Yemen.

In November, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry accused the UK government of having “blood on its hands” after admitting that the RAF had trained over a hundred Saudi pilots in the past ten years.

Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have relentlessly bombed Yemen since 2015 in an effort to oust the Houthi rebels controlling the capital city of Sanaa.

They have reportedly targeted hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, leading to a massive cholera outbreak, and upwards of 60,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict since 2016 – with a further 85,000 estimated dead from famine and malnutrition.

Half of Yemen’s population relies on food aid to survive, placing them in immediate danger of starving to death after coalition forces blockaded the port city of Hodeidah last year.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Artificial Morality

By Robert Koehler | CounterPunch | March 15, 2019

Artificial Intelligence is one thing. Artificial morality is another. It may sound something like this:

“First, we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.”

The words are those of Microsoft president Brad Smith, writing on a corporate blogsite last fall in defense of the company’s new contract with the U.S. Army, worth $479 million, to make augmented reality headsets for use in combat. The headsets, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, are a way to “increase lethality” when the military engages the enemy, according to a Defense Department official. Microsoft’s involvement in this program set off a wave of outrage among the company’s employees, with more than a hundred of them signing a letter to the company’s top executives demanding that the contract be canceled.

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”

Wow, words of conscience and hope. The deeper story in all this is ordinary people exercising their power to shape the future and refusing to increase its lethality.

With this contract, the letter goes on, Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development. . . . The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

This revolt was what Smith was responding to when he said he believed in a “strong defense,” implying that moral clichés rather than money are what drive the decisions of large corporations, or at least this particular large corporation. Somehow his words, which he attempted to convey as reflective and deeply considered, are not convincing — not when juxtaposed with a defense contract worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Smith goes on, acknowledging that no institution, including the military, is perfect, but pointing out that “one thing is clear. Millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars,” cherry-picking such lauded oldies as the Civil War and World War II, where America’s enhanced lethality freed slaves and liberated Europe.

Fascinatingly, the tone of his blog post is not arrogant toward the employees — do what you’re told or you’re fired — but, rather, softly placating, seeming to indicate that the power here isn’t concentrated at the upper levels of management. Microsoft is flexible: “As is always the case, if our employees want to work on a different project or team — for whatever reason — we want them to know we support talent mobility.”

The employees who signed the letter demanded cancellation of the Defense contract. Smith offered their personal consciences an out: Come on, join another team if you don’t want to cross the line and work on weapons development. Microsoft honors employees of multiple moral persuasions!

Artificial Intelligence is a high-tech phenomenon that requires highly complex thinking. Artificial morality hides behind the nearest cliché in servitude to money.

What I see here is moral awakening scrambling for sociopolitical traction: Employees are standing for something larger than sheer personal interests, in the process pushing the Big Tech brass to think beyond their need for an endless flow of capital, consequences be damned.

This is happening across the country. A movement is percolating: Tech won’t build it!

“Across the technology industry,” the New York Times reported in October, “rank-and-file employees are demanding greater insight into how their companies are deploying the technology that they built. At Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, as well as at tech start-ups, engineers and technologists are increasingly asking whether the products they are working on are being used for surveillance in places like China or for military projects in the United States or elsewhere.

“That’s a change from the past, when Silicon Valley workers typically developed products with little questioning about the social costs.”

What if moral thinking — not in books and philosophical tracts, but in the real world, both corporate and political — were as large and complex as technical thinking? It could no longer hide behind the cliché of the just war (and surely the next one we’re preparing for will be just), but would have to evaluate war itself — all wars, including the ones of the past 70 years or so, in the fullness of their costs and consequences — as well as look ahead to the kind of future we could create, depending on what decisions we make today. Complex moral thinking doesn’t ignore the need to survive, financially and otherwise, in the present moment, but it stays calm in the face of that need and sees survival as a collective, not a competitive, enterprise.

Moral complexity is called peace. There is no such thing as simplistic peace.

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Spectre of Afghan quagmire haunts US

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 15, 2019

The Afghan national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib, while on a visit to Washington, tore into the US’ peace talks with Taliban in remarks to the American media on Thursday. Mohib alleged that US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad is keeping the Afghan govt in Kabul in the dark about the negotiations with the Taliban and that he’s plotting to replace President Ashraf Ghani.

Mohib alleged that Pakistan is dictating the trajectory of the US-Taliban negotiations and warned that there can be no peace until Islamabad ended its support for ‘non-state actors’.

The charges are indeed very serious and it is unlikely that Mohib spoke without Ghani’s approval. Mohib is Ghani’s hand-picked security aide, the fountainhead of Afghan intelligence and is wired into the Washington Beltway, where he previously served as ambassador. The US state department called in Mohib and apparently gave him a dressing down.

That there is friction between Khalilzad and Ghani has been known for sometime. Basically, there is much resistance among the Afghan elite to the US strategy to take Pakistan’s help to engage Taliban in direct negotiations and chalk out a settlement that mainstreams the insurgents.

Things have lately reached a point of no return, now that the crucial next phase of negotiations at Doha is due where the agenda includes intra-Afghan dialogue and ceasefire leading to an interim power-sharing arrangement in Kabul replacing the Ghani government.

Meanwhile, there are interest groups within the Afghan elite who either fear retrenchment or simply do not accept reconciliation with the Taliban. There is indeed widespread resentment among Afghans toward Pakistan’s blatant projection of power into their country through decades. In sum, a coalescing of anti-Taliban, anti-Pakistan sentiments is taking place.

Ghani himself has never hidden his antipathy toward Islamabad for its interference in Afghan affairs and of late has been reaching out to these anti-Taliban, anti-Pakistan groups within the Afghan elite. He feels annoyed that Washington is not insisting on the Taliban holding talks with the Afghan govt, but has instead harmonised with the Pakistani-Russian idea of an ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ where the Afghan govt can only be a participant like myriad other Afghan groups — and not as the Taliban’s principal interlocutor.

Having said that, Ghani would also know that Khalilzad who enjoys the backing of the US foreign and security establishment, is by no means a pushover. In principle, the US can withdraw support from Ghani and make a horrible example of him but in the current fluidity, that will open a Pandora’s box and may trigger events over which Washington will have no control. With such a big US and NATO military deployment in Afghanistan, it is out of the question that the Trump administration would make any precipitate moves which might create a power vacuum in Kabul.

On the other hand, President Trump wants the troop withdrawal to begin, which was also his campaign pledge in the 2016 election. Fundamentally, the Americans may have underestimated the strong undercurrents of Afghan nationalism. Ghani suspects that the Pakistani game plan is to ultimately create conditions for an outright Taliban takeover in Kabul. There have been ample signals that he is digging in.

Suffice to say, the spectre of an Afghan quagmire is haunting the Americans. An orderly American / NATO withdrawal is possible only on the basis of a settlement with the Taliban. But Ghani and his camp insist on an ‘Afghan-led’ , ‘Afghan-controlled’ peace process — that is, direct talks between the government and the Taliban. The US’ capacity to leverage Ghani is steadily diminishing.

There are hardline militia factions who stoutly oppose any power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban and are horrified at the prospect of Pakistani hegemony over Afghanistan. They may opt for a trial of strength through force. In the circumstances, there is always the danger of a coup and usurpation of power, which of course no one wants to talk about.

The role of regional powers will be crucial in the coming period. Pakistan and Russia have a special role to play here. Both countries harbour an adversarial mindset vis-a-vis Ghani. Clearly, Pakistan and Russia are increasingly moving in tandem to create conditions for a transition in Kabul that maximises their influence. Russia has pockets of influence among the anti-Pakistani Afghan factions — for instance, former president Hamid Karzai or former NSC Hanif Atmar and erstwhile Northern Alliance leaders and so on — which can work favourably for the advancement of Pakistani interests.

Equally, Russia hopes to gain out of its links to the Taliban, which Pakistan has helped to promote, in a future regime in Kabul. Of course, both Russia and Pakistan have troubled relations with the US and will be beneficiaries of any diminution of American prestige and influence in the region. It will be an understatement to say that in the New Cold War conditions, Moscow wouldn’t mind if the US and NATO are forced to exit from the Hindu Kush in disgrace and defeat.

March 15, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Iranian official rejects US secretary of state’s ‘fabricated’ allegations

Press TV – March 14, 2019

A senior Iranian official has dismissed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent claims about Iran’s regional role as “fabricated,” saying the United States practices fear-mongering in order to sell more arms to the countries in the region.

“Certain US officials, influenced by the Zionist lobby, have been making utmost efforts to intoxicate the atmosphere against Iran,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday.

In a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, Pompeo expressed concerns over what he called Iran’s “destructive and disruptive activities” across the Middle East region.

Qassemi said US officials were making up allegations against Iran in order to sustain an appearance of crisis in West Asia and thus increase American arms sales to the region.

The Iranian official also censured remarks made by Pompeo in the CERAWeek conference — an annual US oil and gas industry forum — regarding relations between the Islamic Republic and Iraq.

Addressing the conference in Houston on Tuesday, Pompeo had said, “Iran uses its energy exports to exert undue influence all across the Middle East, most particularly today on Iraq.”

Qassemi said Pompeo was angered by the close relations between Iran and Iraq.

“The relations between Iran and Iraq have been established totally based on the will of the two countries’ leaders and nations and [have been] based on mutual respect and trust and shared interests,” he said, adding that neither of the two countries was seeking to impose its will on the other.

On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Iraq at the head of a high-ranking delegation. The state visit featured several meetings between President Rouhani and Iraq’s top leadership, and the signing of memorandums of understanding for the expansion of bilateral ties in various fields, including the energy sector.

On Wednesday, President Rouhani traveled to the Iraqi city of Najaf to meet with senior religious leaders there, including most prominently with Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Rouhani was the first Iranian president ever to meet with Ayatollah Sistani, signifying the depth of bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad.

Qassemi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, pointed to the deep-rooted relations between Iran and Iraq and said the two countries had stood by each other during “tough times.”

Earlier, US President Donald Trump had made an unannounced and very brief trip to Iraq in the dark of the night and landed at a military base where he only met US soldiers and no Iraqi officials before he left the country.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

John McCain’s Disastrous Militaristic Legacy

By James Bovard | FFF | March 13, 2019

When Sen. John McCain passed away in August, he was lauded far and wide for his long career of public service. Rep. John Lewis, the famous civil-rights activist, hailed McCain as a “warrior for peace.” In reality, McCain embodied a toxic mix of moralism and militarism that worked out disastrously for America and the world.

In his funeral eulogies, McCain was portrayed as a hero and a visionary. But early in his congressional career, he barely avoided indictment as part of the Keating Five Savings and Loan bribery scandal that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. McCain repaired his image by becoming a champion of campaign-finance reform and new restrictions on political contributions. In 2002, Congress enacted the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which proved more effective at suppressing criticism than at reforming political life. The McCain-Feingold Act authorized harsh penalties for private citizens who accused their rulers of abusing their power. It prohibited most issue ads by private groups on television or radio in the months before a presidential or congressional election. In 2003, the Supreme Court (by a 5-4 margin) upheld the new law in response to activities with “a significant risk of actual and apparent corruption.” Justice Antonin Scalia noted in a dissent to the decision upholding the law, that the McCain-Feingold act “cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government.” But that was fine with McCain, since he declared that if he had the power, he would outlaw all negative political ads. He declared, “I detest the negative advertising. I think it is one of the worst things that has ever happened in American politics.” Banning negative ads but not political lies was McCain’s notion of a level playing field.

When he was awarded the Liberty Medal in October 2017 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Senator McCain declared, “We live in a land made of ideals…. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world.” He warned that it would be “unpatriotic” to “abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe.” But idealism has fared better in political speeches than in the lives of American soldiers or supposed foreign beneficiaries.

McCain served 25 years as the chairman of the International Republican Institute, a federally funded entity that intervenes in foreign elections to promote pro-American candidates. McCain often spoke as if the institute was the incarnation of America at its best. In 1997, McCain declared, “When we provide the democratic opposition in Albania with 12 Jeep Cherokees and they win an election, I’m incredibly proud.” However, the Institute was involved in violent attempts to overthrow governments in Venezuela and Haiti and was condemned for meddling in many other places. As long as pro-American candidates snared the most votes by hook or by crook, McCain had no complaints.

During the 1990s, McCain “slowly moved toward the idealist camp and became one of his party’s foremost advocates for the use of force abroad,” the Boston Globe noted. In his 2000 presidential campaign, he pledged a “rogue state rollback,” which sounded like “fill-in-the-blank” declarations of war against any regime of which the United States disapproved. He was defeated in the Republican primaries by George W. Bush, who sounded reasonable and moderate in comparison. However, after 9/11 Bush adopted McCain’s bellicose vision and promised to “rid the world of evil.”

Iraq

McCain was one of the foremost advocates for attacking Iraq and served as honorary co-chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. In 2002, he declared that invading that nation would be “fairly easy” and that “we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time.” Two months after the fall of Baghdad, McCain proclaimed that the war was “fully vindicated.” After the war became a debacle, he declared in 2008 that it was “fine with me” to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for “a hundred years.”

McCain believed Americans should idealize military interventions regardless of the political machinations that preceded them. When Bush created a pseudo-independent commission in 2004 to exonerate him for the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he selected McCain as one of the nine members. On the day his appointment was announced, McCain publicly declared, “The president of the United States, I believe, would not manipulate any kind of information for political gain or otherwise.” McCain’s boundless endorsement of the current president ignored the legendary presidential deceits that trademarked the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War of 1898, the First World War, and the Vietnam War.

McCain sanctified a commission (which had no subpoena power) that was a crock from the get-go. As Sen. Robert Byrd scoffed, “This commission is 100 percent under the thumb of the White House. Who created the panel’s charter? The president. Who chooses the panel members? The president. To whom does the panel report? The president. Whom shall the panel advise and assist? The president. Who is in charge of determining what classified reports the panel may see? The president. Who gets to decide whether the Congress may see the panel’s report? The president.” Predictably, the commission concluded that Bush was not to blame for starting the Iraq War on false pretenses.

McCain loved to strut on foreign trips where American reporters were sure to hail him as a visiting savior. He was ridiculed as “the new Baghdad Bob” who took a “magic carpet ride” after he visited a Baghdad market in 2007 and claimed, “Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today.” McCain touted his visit: “We stopped at a local market, where we spent well over an hour, shopping and talking with the local people, getting their views and ideas about different issues of the day.” Rep. (now Vice President) Mike Pence, who accompanied McCain, ludicrously asserted that the scene was “just like any open-air market in Indiana in the summertime.” At the time of his market visit, McCain was wearing a flak jacket, accompanied by 100 U.S. troops, and protected overhead by attack helicopters. Prior to McCain’s arrival, U.S. troops cleared almost everyone else at the scene. After he departed, Iraqi merchants bitterly scoffed at his claims that the market was safe. One shop owner growled, “They paralyzed the market when they came. This was only for the media. This will not change anything.”

But the American media lapped it up and the charade did nothing to prevent McCain from securing the Republican presidential nomination the following year. The shining moment of his campaign was his proclamation, “We are all Georgians now!” in response to a border clash that the Republic of Georgia commenced against the Russian Federation. McCain’s bellicosity against Russia never died. He also proclaimed during that campaign, “I know how to win wars. And if I’m elected president, I will turn around the war in Afghanistan, just as we have turned around the war in Iraq, with a comprehensive strategy for victory.” McCain never explained how he learned how to win wars (not a lesson taught in North Vietnamese prisons) or why he advocated bombing more than a dozen nations throughout his congressional career.

Syria and Libya

Perhaps the only lesson McCain learned from the Iraq War was that the American media would unquestioningly glorify him for demanding foreign intervention. In 2011, he was outspoken demanding U.S. bombing of Libya — widely considered the biggest foreign-policy blunder of the Obama administration. In April 2011, he visited rebels in Benghazi and labeled them heroes. Yet, as a Wikileaks disclosure revealed, he had sung a different tune two years earlier when he visited Tripoli. Meeting with officials of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, McCain “pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress” regarding a Libyan request for U.S. military equipment, according to a confidential U.S. embassy cable. After the United States helped topple the Qaddafi regime, chaos erupted and four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed in Benghazi. A few years later, slave markets were operating in the nation that McCain and Obama had so proudly liberated.

McCain returned to the Middle East for an encore visit with Syrian rebels in 2013, whom he then ceaselessly championed as a moderate alternative to the regime of Bashar Assad. Under pressure from McCain and others, the Obama administration provided massive military aid to anti-Assad forces, but much of the weaponry ended up in the hands of terrorist groups. The absurdity of U.S. policy became undeniable when Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels openly battled CIA-backed rebels. That did not deter McCain from endless pious preening, such as his early 2017 tweet: “On 6th anniversary of Syrian civil war, Assad & Russia cont. to commit genocide — when will the world wake up to the slaughter in Syria?” Since McCain had used the word “genocide,” that meant the U.S. government was morally obliged to topple the Assad regime — even though Libya showed the catastrophic results of intervention. A year later, McCain wailed, “For seven long years, the United States has sat idly by in the face of genocide. We seem to have become immune to images of devastation and brutality coming out of Syria every day. Two successive U.S. administrations have failed to do anything meaningful to stop the slaughter and enabled Assad’s reign of terror to thrive.” Actually, the U.S. government had dropped tens of thousands of bombs and missiles on Syria, despite not having a dog in that fight. Donald Trump twice sent cruise missile barrages against the Assad government after unproven allegations were made that the government had used chemical weapons. (The al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups fighting Assad were also frequently accused of using chemical weapons.)

Most of the media ignored McCain’s role in making the Syrian conflict longer and bloodier than it otherwise would have been. That is no surprise, since American politicians across the board are perennially absolved by the ideals they invoke when championing foreign wars. But the moral bonus points are void beyond the national borders. Idealistic pretenses can spur vast resentment because “the American judges himself by the way he feels, whereas the foreigner judges him by what he does,” as Irving Babbitt explained after World War One.

There are plenty of nasty dictators in the world but U.S. government efforts have dismally failed to spread democracy this century. John McCain was in the forefront of prominent Americans who had “learned nothing and forgotten nothing” from recent U.S. pratfalls. Instead, he continued talking as if foreign interventions could be a deft blend of Jesus and General Sherman, righteously burning a swath through Georgia.

America cannot afford an idealism that consists of little more than combining bombing and wishful thinking. We should not forget the Americans, Iraqis, Syrians, and Libyans who died in part because of policies McCain championed. The most valuable lesson from McCain’s career is to reject the folly of militarized idealism.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Trump cuts will leave military aid to Israel untouched

MEMO | March 13, 2019

Trump administration spending cuts will not impact military aid to Israel, reported Globes.

The 2020 budget proposal that the White House has sent to Congress includes the full $3.3 billion aid in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the MOU in his last year of office.

In the Trump administration’s budget document, the relevant clause in the section “Department of State and Other International Programmes” states: “The Budget fully supports the US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding and includes $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing grant assistance to bolster Israel’s capacity to defend itself against threats in the region and maintain its qualitative military edge.”

As reported by Globes, “the aid package to Israel includes aid for Israel’s rocket and missile defence programme.”

“In previous years, this aid was granted separately, subject to approval by Congress. Congress tended to raise the originally proposed amount substantially following intense lobbying by the Israeli government and Israeli defence companies,” Globes added.

The current memorandum also “stresses that aid for the rocket and missiles program will be part of general military aid to Israel and that Israel may not ask Congress to increase it.”

March 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , | 5 Comments

Will Trump’s Hawks Dare to Risk Israel?

By Alastair CROOKE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 11.03.2019

It was the eleventh, and perhaps the most important meeting between President Putin and PM Netanyahu on 27 February, writes the well-informed journalist, Elijah Magnier: “The Israeli visitor heard clearly from his host that Moscow has no leverage to ask Iran to leave – or, to stop the flow of weapons to Damascus … Moscow [also] informed Tel Aviv about Damascus’s determination to respond to any future bombing; and that Russia doesn’t see itself concerned [i.e. a party to such conflict] ”.

This last sentence requires some further unpacking. What is going on here is the mounting of the next phase of the Chinese-Russian strategy for containing the US policy of seeding hybrid disorder – and of pouring acid in to the region’s ‘open wounds’. Neither China nor Russia wish to enter into a war with the US. President Putin has warned on several occasions that were Russia to be pushed to the brink, it would have no choice but to react – and that the possible consequences go beyond contemplation.

In short, America’s recent wars have clearly demonstrated their political limitations. Yes, they are militarily highly destructive, but they have not yielded their anticipated political dividends; or rather, the political dividends have manifested more as an erosion of US credibility, and of its appeal as a ‘model’ for the world to mimic. There is now no ‘New’ Middle East that is emerging anywhere that casts itself in the American mold.

Trump’s foreign policy-makers are not old-style ‘liberal’ interventionists, seeking to slay the region’s tyrannical monsters’, and promising to implant American values: that wing of US neo-conservatism – perhaps unsurprisingly – has assimilated itself to the Democratic Party and to those European leaders desirous of striking (a supposedly morally ‘virtuous’) pose in contra-distinction to Trump’s (supposedly amoral) transactional approach.

Bolton et al however, are of the neoconservative school that believes that if you have power, you use it, or lose it. They simply do not trouble themselves with all those frills of promising democracy or freedom (and like Carl Schmitt, they see ethics as a matter for theologians, and not a concern for them). And if the US cannot, any longer, directly impose certain political outcomes (on their terms) on the world as it used to, then the priority must be to use all means to ensure that no political rival can emerge to challenge the US. In other words, instability and bleeding open-wounds become the potent tools to disrupt rival power-blocks from accumulating wider political weight and standing. (In other words, if you cannot ‘make’ politics, at least disrupt others’ attempts so to do.)

So, how does this play out in President Putin’s messaging to Netanyahu? Well, firstly this meeting occurred almost immediately following President Assad’s visit to Tehran. This latter summit took place in the context of increasing pressures on Syria (from the US and the EU) to try to undo the Syrian success in liberating its land (obviously with much help from its friends). The explicit aim being to hold future Syrian reconstruction hostage to the political reconfiguring of Syria – in the manner of America and Europe’s choosing.

The earlier Tehran summit took place, too, against the back drop of a crystallising mindset for confrontation with Iran in Washington.

The Tehran summit firstly adopted the principle that Iran represented Syria’s strategic depth; and concomitantly, Syria is Iran’s strategic depth.

The second item on the agenda was how to devise a scaffolding of deterrence for the northern tier of the Middle East that might contain Mr Bolton’s impulse to disrupt this sub-region, and attempt to weaken it. And through weakening it, weaken Russia and China (the latter having a major stake in terms of security of energy supply and of the viability of an Asian trading sphere).

President Putin simply outlined the principles of the putative containment plan to Netanyahu; but the Israelis had already got the message from others (from Sayyed Nasrallah and from leaks from Damascus). Its essentials are that Russia intends to stand above any regional military confrontations (i.e. try not get pulled in, as a party to it). Moscow wants to keep ‘doors open’. The S300 air defence system is installed in Syria (and is ready), but Moscow, it seems, will preserve constructive ambiguity about its rules for engagement for these highly sophisticated missiles.

At the same time, Syria and Iran have made plain that there will henceforth be a response to any Israeli air attack on “significant strategic” Syrian defences. Initially, it seems, that Syria likely would respond by launching its missiles into occupied Golan; but were Israel to escalate further, these missiles would be targeted on strategic military targets in the depth of Israel. And if Israel escalated yet further in response, then the option would exist for Iranian and Hizbullah’s missiles to be activated too.

And just to tie the pieces together, Iran is saying that its advisers effectively are everywhere in Syria where Syrian forces are. Which is to say that any attack affecting Syrian forces may be construed by Iran as an attack on Iranian personnel.

What is being constructed here is a complex, differentiated deterrence, with ‘constructive ambivalence’ at all levels. At one level, Russia deploys full ambiguity over the rules of engagement for its S300s in Syria. At another level, Syria maintains some undefined ambiguity (contingent on the degree of Israeli escalation) over the geographic siting of its response (Golan only; or the extent of Israel); and Iran and Hizbullah maintain ambiguity over their possible engagement too (by saying their advisors can be everywhere in Syria).

Netanyahu returned from his meeting with Putin saying that Israel’s policy of attacking Iranian forces in Syria was unchanged (he says this every time) – despite Putin having made it plain that Russia is not able to enforce an Iranian departure on the Syrian government. It was – and is – Syria’s right to choose its own strategic partners. The Israeli PM has however now been formally forewarned that such attacks will be met with a possible reaction that will badly disconcert his public (i.e. missiles landing in the depth of Israel). He knows too, that the existing Syrian air defence systems, (even absent S300 support), are operating with a very high degree of effectiveness (whatever Israeli commentators may claim). Netanyahu knows that Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ and ‘David’s Sling’ missile defences are not highly rated by the US military.

Will Netanyahu risk further significant attacks on Syrian strategic infrastructure? Elijah Magnier quotes well-informed sources saying: “It all depends on the direction the Israeli elections will take. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu estimates his chances are high enough to win a second term, then he will not venture any time soon into a new confrontation with Syria and its allies. The date of the next battle will be postponed. But, if he believes he will lose the election, then the possibility of his initiating a battle becomes very high. A serious battle between Israel on one hand, and Syria and Iran on the other hand, would be sufficient enough to postpone the elections. Netanyahu doesn’t have many choices: either he wins the election and postpones the corruption court case against him; or, he goes to jail”.

This thesis may sound compelling, but the calculus on which it rests may prove to be too narrow. It is clear that the differentiated deterrence ploy, outlined by Putin – though framed in terms of Syria – has a wider purpose. The present language used by the US and Europe signal plainly enough that they are largely finished with military operations in Syria. But, in parallel to the disavowal of further military operations in Syria, we have also seen a consolidation of the US Administration mindset towards some sort of confrontation with Iran.

Whereas Netanyahu was always vociferous in calling for confrontation with Iran, he is not known in Israel as a military risk taker (calling for ‘mowing the Palestinian grass’ carries no political risk in domestic Israeli politics). And too, the Israeli military and security establishment have never relished the prospect of outright war with Iran, unless conducted with the US fully in the lead. (It would always be highly risky for any Israeli PM to launch a possibly existential war across the region, without having a sound consensus within the Israeli security establishment.)

Yet Mr Bolton too, has long advocated ‘bomb Iran’ (i.e. in his NYT op-ed of March 2015). Until recently, it was always assumed that it was Netanyahu who was trying to coat-trail the Americans into leading a ‘war’ with Iran. Is it sure that these roles have not become reversed? That it is now John Bolton, Mike Pence and Pompeo who are seeking not all-out war, but to put maximum hybrid pressures on Iran – through sanctions, through fomenting anti-Iranian insurgencies amongst ethnic minorities in Iran, and through Israel regularly poking at Iran militarily, in the hope that Iran will overreact, and fall into Mr Bolton’s trap for ‘having Iran just where he wants it’?

This is the point of the deterrence package – it is all about ‘containing’ the US. The initiative is constructed, as it were, with all its deliberately ambivalent linkages between actors, to signal that any US attempts to foster chaos in the Greater Levant or in Iran, beyond a certain undefined point, now risks embroiling its protégé, Israel, in a much wider regional war – and with unforeseeable consequence. It is a question not so much whether Netanyahu ‘will risk it’, but will Bolton dare ‘risk Israel’?

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 4 Comments

Arms Sales to Middle East Have Increased Dramatically: US Top Exporter

Al-Manar | February 11, 2019

Arms flows to the Middle East have increased by 87 percent over the past five years and now account for more than a third of the global trade, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Sunday.

The defense think-tank’s annual survey showed that Saudi Arabia became the world’s top arms importer in 2014-18, with an increase of 192 percent over the preceding five years. Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq also ranked in the top 10 list of global arms buyers. Sipri measures the volume of deliveries of arms, not the dollar value of deals. The volume of deliveries to each country tends to fluctuate, so it presents data in five-year periods that offer a more stable indication of trends.

The new report shows how the United States and European nations sell jets, jeeps and other gear that is used in controversial wars in Yemen and beyond, SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman told Middle East Eye.

“Weapons from the US, the UK and France are in high demand in the Gulf, where conflicts and tensions are rife. Russia, France and Germany dramatically increased their arms sales to Egypt in the past five years,” Wezeman said.

The growth in Middle Eastern imports was in part driven by the need to replace military gear that was deployed and destroyed in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya, he said, adding that it was also driven by political tensions and a regional arms race.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and ‘Israel’ are readying for a potential conflict with Iran, the 12-page report said. Also, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others have been involved in a diplomatic crisis with Qatar since 2017.

In 2014-18, Saudi Arabia received 94 combat jets fitted with cruise missiles and other guided weapons from the US and Britain.

Over the next five years, it is set to get 98 more jets, 83 tanks and defensive missile systems from the US, 737 armored vehicles from Canada, five frigates from Spain, and Ukrainian short-range ballistic missiles.

In 2014-18, the UAE received missile defense systems, short-range ballistic missiles and about 1,700 armored personnel carriers from the US as well as three Corvettes from France, the report says.

Qatari weapons imports increased by 225 percent over the period, including German tanks, French combat aircraft and Chinese short-range ballistic missiles. It is set to receive 93 combat aircraft from the US, France and Britain and four frigates from Italy.

Iran, which is under a UN arms embargo, accounted for just 0.9 percent of Middle Eastern imports.

For Wezeman, “the gap is widening” between Iran and its foes across the Gulf, which have obtained more advanced weapons.

US remains top arms seller

The US has retained its position as the world’s top arms seller. Its exports grew by 29 percent over the past five years, with more than half of its shipments (52 percent) going to customers in the Middle East.

British sales grew by 5.9 percent over the same period. A total of 59 percent of UK arms deliveries went to the Middle East – most of it combat aircraft destined for Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Arming governments in the turbulent Middle East is increasingly controversial in the West, said Patrick Wilcken, an arms control specialist with Amnesty International, a UK-based rights watchdog.

He pointed to cases where sales are merited – such as re-tooling Iraq’s army after it lost much of its hardware and territory in the ISIL group’s attack in 2014.

Still, Western arms more often end up being used in human rights abuses, he said, pointing to Egypt’s crackdown on political opponents, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

He blasted the “hypocrisy” of Western governments not following their own rules by continuing to supply authoritarian leaders who commit wartime abuses or violations against their own people.

In addition, “a critical problem for the region is the emergence of armed groups like ISIL”, Wilcken told MEE.

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

If US sanctions Turkey, can India be far behind?

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | March 9, 2019

Turkish-American relations are at a crossroads. Unlike the past history of their troubled relationship which saw hiccups but the two NATO allies moved on eventually, this time around, they are barreling toward a clash.

From an Indian perspective, it is of interest that the clash is over the Turkish decision to buy the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia, which violates the US’ sanctions regime against Russia known as the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

In September last year, Washington invoked CAATSA for the first time and sanctioned China over its purchase of Russian military jets and surface-to-air missiles — 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles. Will it be Turkey’s turn now? And if Turkey gets sanctioned, can India be far behind?

The US had explicitly warned India against going ahead with the S-400 Triumf deal with Russia. But India went ahead, nonetheless, last October. (The deal is estimated to be worth at least $5.4 billion.) But while Delhi went about its decision tactfully, Ankara is openly defiant. The Turkish President Recep Erdogan stated on Wednesday in a TV interview,

“We signed a deal with Russia for the purchase of S-400, and will start co-production. It’s done. There can never be a turning back. This would not be ethical, it would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat. Later, we may perhaps go for the S-500s as well, after the S-400.”

The US probably never ever heard such spiteful words from a key NATO ally. Erdogan also warned that the U.S. should not try to “discipline” Turkey through trade measures. If it did, he emphasised, Turkey has its own measures prepared. One of the trade measures he alluded to is the US’ intention to exclude Turkey from the generalised system of preferences (GSP).

Interestingly, while notifying the US Congress last week regarding his intention to remove the GSP benefits to them in trade, President Trump bracketed India with Turkey. India downplayed Trump’s move, saying the GSP benefits are only marginally affecting India’s exports to the US. But Erdogan apparently plans to retaliate.

The Pentagon has sharply reacted to Erdogan’s remarks, warning Turkey of “grave consequence in terms of our military relationship.” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior US general for operations in Europe and NATO’s top officer, warned in congressional testimony on Tuesday that Turkey’s pursuit of the S-400 deal would jeopardise American plans to sell to Ankara the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for both policy and security reasons.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony. According to a Reuter report, he hinted at concerns that Turkey’s using both the S-400s and the F-35 could provide Russia with valuable information on how to defeat the tech-heavy jet slated to become a signature fighter for NATO countries and their partners.

However, Turkey is not backing down. The Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has disclosed that the S-400 missile system will reach Turkey in July and deployment will go ahead as planned in October. The space for diplomatic manoeuvring is shrinking and, clearly, the chances for imposition of US sanctions against Turkey under CAATSA are increasing.

Of course, if Washington imposes sanctions against its key NATO ally, it is going to be highly problematic to exempt India from similar punitive measures for committing the very same offence. Interestingly, like Erdogan, Modi is also getting a very bad press in the US lately. They are the kind of ultra-nationalists that the US regards as hindrances to its regional strategies.

The Turks harbour the suspicion that the failed coup in July 2016, which was masterminded by the Turkish Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen living in Pennsylvania in exile for the past two decades, had covert American support.

Last week, incidentally, US First Lady Melania Trump visited a pre-kindergarten class in Oklahoma, which Ankara believes is linked to supporters of Gulen. Turks believe that the White House was taunting Erdogan.

President Trump’s detractors in the US and in Europe used to berate him for empathising with “strong men” like Erdogan or Vladimir Putin. But as it turns out, the US finds such world leaders irksome in their zeal to uphold strategic autonomy in their foreign and security policies. The US media has been highly critical of Modi too in the recent months.

But US attempts to undermine these nationalist leaderships have run into headwinds since leaders like Erdogan and Putin happen to enjoy mass support in their respective countries. For sure, Washington will be keenly watching the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary election in India in April-May where Modi is seeking a renewed mandate.

As for India, what emerges at the end of the 5-year term of the Modi government is that under his watch India’s relations with the US have been pragmatic and based on limited common interests — shared notions of countering the rise of China and Islamism — and that too, without undermining India’s strategic autonomy. The US seems disappointed that Modi failed to fulfil their high expectations of him as a strategic partner. A sense of frustration is palpable among the US’ lobbyists in India as well.

At any rate, the Modi government continues to negotiate big weapons deals with Russia, disregarding the CAATSA. Last week, PM Modi inaugurated a massive Russian-Indian joint venture, which will reportedly produce about 7,50,000 AK-203 rifles, the most recent version of the famous AK-47 rifles for the use of the Indian armed forces as the standard assault rifle for decades to come. Again, on Friday, Delhi inked a defence deal worth over $3 billion with Moscow for the lease  of a nuclear-powered attack submarine from Russia. It cannot be lost on Washington that the Modi government expedited these mega deals with Russia even as its term in office is ending, while US arms vendors have been kept waiting.

All in all, the S-400 which is one of the world’s most advanced AMB systems, is fast acquiring the reputation of a Russian “geopolitical missile” targeted at the US. If the US proceeds with sanctions against Turkey on account of the S-400 deal, it will have deleterious downstream impact on many geo-strategic templates.

The very cohesion of the NATO and the alliance’s overall effectiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East could be affected. Similarly, the US also eyes India as a potentially big customer for American weaponry and will be shooting at its own feet if it were to sanction India. Suffice to say, paradoxically, any US sanctions may only increase Turkey or India’s dependence on Russia for sourcing advanced weaponry, which of course would defeat the very purpose of the CAATSA.

March 9, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment