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Iran vs Saudi Arabia: it’s game-over

By Ghassan Kadi | The Saker Blog | September 19, 2019

Is the attack on ARAMCO the first of a long war or is it game-over already? It seems like the latter and in more ways than one, the war between Iran and Saudi Arabia has ended before it even started. One single solitary Houthi attack on Aramco has sent Saudi oil exports tumbling down by half; not to mention a 20% hike on the price of crude.

Now, even though the Houthis have declared responsibility for the ARAMCO attack, the Trump administration wants the world to buy the idea that it was Iran who launched the attack, not the Houthis. Thus far, at least Japan seems unconvinced, and so is France.

In reality however, the resolve of Saudi Arabia and its capability to stand up and fight has little to do with the identity of the attacker, and this is because Saudi Arabia has demonstrated that it didn’t take much for it to suffer what it suffered. This begs the question; how many such similar attacks can Saudi Arabia weather before it totally capitulates? Seemingly, not many.

In a previous article, I anticipated such scenarios because the Saudi economy and infrastructure are highly vulnerable. A country that has virtually one major wealth-producing base (ie oil) and just a few desalination plants that pump fresh water into its major cities, is a very soft target indeed. After all, if those handful of vital targets are hit, not only will oil exports stop, but water will stop running in households. But the water desalination plants do not have to suffer a direct hit for them to stop running. They need power to run, and the power comes from fuel, and if the fuel supplies stop, so will they, and so will electricity-generating plants in a nation that cannot survive without air-conditioning.

Up until recently, people of Arabia were used to drought, brackish water and searing heat. They lived in and around oases and adopted a lifestyle that used little water. But, the new generation of Saudis and millions of expats are used to daily showers, potable water and climate control in their households. During wars, people normally go to nature to find food and water. They hunt, they fish, they collect local berries and edible wild plants, they fill jars from running rivers and streams, they grow their own vegetables in their backyards, but in Saudi Arabia, in the kingdom of sand, such alternatives do not exist at all.

Furthermore, with a population that has swelled from a few million in the 1950’s, the current population of Saudi Arabia stands at 33 million, and this includes the millions of expats who work and live there.

The limited supply of brackish water is not enough to get by until any damaged infrastructure is fixed, and it’s not even piped to begin with.

As the nation with the third highest global defence budget, higher than Russia’s, Saudi Arabia continues to import everything from Patriot Missiles all the way down to bullets.

This is in sharp contrast with Iran’s geography, natural assets and demography. Iran is a nation of mountains, valleys and rivers, meadows, thriving agriculture and 70 million citizens who have been taught to be innovative and self-sufficient; courtesy of US-imposed sanctions.

And to say that the ARAMCO target was hit by surprise would be quite absurd and inexcusable given that Saudi Arabia is already in a state of war with Yemen, and especially given that the Yemeni aerial strikes have been escalating in recent months. To make the situation even more embarrassing for the Saudis; the spectre of war with Iran is currently hot on the agenda, so how could key Saudi installations be unprotected?

But here’s the other thing, had it been truly Iran that was responsible for the attack as the Trump administration alleges and wants us to believe, America would then be admitting that Iranian missiles flew from mainland Iran, across the Gulf, managed to dodge American defences and state-of-the-art detection hardware and software, and effectively reached their target on Saudi soil. If this is the scenario Trump wants us to believe, what does this say about the capability of America to engage militarily with Iran? This is a much bigger farce than that of Russia-gate; a claim that Russia can indeed affect the outcome of the presidential elections of the allegedly “greatest and strongest nation on earth”. Do such claims mean that America’s adversaries are extremely organised, smart and strong or that America is in disarray, stupid and weak; or both? Either way, when such claims are perpetrated by none but America itself, they certainly do not put America in a good light.

The weaknesses and vulnerabilities of Saudi Arabia and Big Brother are only matched by the other ally, the UAE. As a matter of fact Houthis spokesperson Yahia Saria gave the Emirates a stern warning if they want to protect their glass skyscrapers. In his address, Saria is perhaps giving a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Arabic proverb which says that if one’s house is made of glass, he should not cast rocks at others. After years of indiscriminate shelling under the watchful and indifferent eyes of the world, after years of ruthlessly trying to starve the Yemenis into submission, why would one expect the Houthis to exercise any mercy towards their aggressors?

But let us face it, Dubai and other thriving metropolises of the UAE are predestined to morph into ghost towns. It is only a question of time before they run out of their current charm and their fake onion skin deep glitter. After all, there is nothing in those fantasy cities that is real, substantial and self-sustaining. If anything, a war with Iran has the potential to fast-track the decay process and leave foreign investors and expats exiting in droves; if not running for their lives.

Ironically, the American/Saudi/UAE alliance, if it is indeed an alliance, accuses Iran of spreading its dominion over the region; and perhaps there is evidence to support this accusation. However, the alliance seems to conveniently forget that it was its own orchestrated invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam that created a power vacuum in Iraq that was soon filled by Iran. And even though the eight-year long and bitter Iran-Iraq war ended up with no winners or losers, the fall of Saddam at the hands of the American/Arab alliance has turned Iran into the virtual winner that the same alliance is now trying to curb. How more ironic can this farcical situation be?

America plays down the strength of Iran’s Army, and Iran does the opposite. This is normal and part-and-parcel of the psychological warfare. In reality however, no one knows for certain what is Iran’s military capability. For this reason, any all-out confrontation with Iran may at least initially sway America to move its vessels out of the Gulf and further away from the reach of short-range Iranian missiles until and if they feel confident to move closer at a later stage. However, Saudi key and vital ground targets cannot be moved, and for Iran to only be able to hit a few that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, can lead to a total Saudi/UAE capitulation.

Whilst no one knows Iran’s real strength, what we do know is that Saudi Arabia has failed abysmally in defeating the much weaker, poorer, underprivileged starving people of Yemen.

America will not commit boots on the ground and, to this effect, has little to lose apart from risking naval vessels. The soft targets will be Saudi and UAE key infrastructures and no Patriot defence systems will be able to intercept all missiles poised to hit them. If the Houthis could do it, it is a given that Iran also can.

I have recently watched the series “The Vietnam War” on Netflix, and I remembered how back then when the truth about that war was exposed, I believed that American hawks would never get away with lying to their people and the rest of the world again, or ever invade another country in the way that they did with Vietnam. In less than two decades however, they moved full throttle into Iraq, and the masses believed their story. Perhaps some things will never change, and after the losses in Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, America seems still determined to fight Iran. This time around, the biggest loser may not end up to be America itself, but its Arab allies; namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the recent attack on ARAMCO is only a prelude to an inevitable outcome, because the writing is already on the wall and it clearly reads: GAME-OVER.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

The Black Swan Is a Drone

By Charles Hugh Smith | of two minds | September 15, 2019

Predictably, the mainstream media is serving up heaping portions of reassurances that the drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities are no big deal and full production will resume shortly. The obvious goal is to placate global markets fearful of an energy disruption that could tip a precarious global economy into recession.

The real impact isn’t on short-term oil prices, it’s on asymmetric warfare: the coordinated drone attack on Saudi oil facilities is a Black Swan event that is reverberating around the world, awakening copycats and exposing the impossibility of defending against low-cost drones of the sort anyone can buy.

(Some published estimates place the total cost of the 10 drones deployed in the strike at $15,000. Highly capable commercially available drones cost around $1,200 each.)

The attack’s success should be a wake-up call to everyone tasked with defending highly flammable critical infrastructure: there really isn’t any reliable defense against a coordinated drone attack, nor is there any reliable way to distinguish between an Amazon drone delivering a package and a drone delivering a bomb.

Whatever authentication protocol that could be required of drones in the future–an ID beacon or equivalent–can be spoofed. For example: bring down an authenticated drone (using nets, etc.), swap out the guidance and payload, and away it goes. Or steal authentication beacons from suppliers, or hack an authenticated drone in flight, land it, swap out the payload–the list of spoofing workaround options is extensive.

This is asymmetric warfare on a new scale: $20,000 of drones can wreak $20 million in damage and financial losses of $200 million–or $2 billion or $20 billion, if global markets are upended.

If it’s impossible to defend against coordinated drone attacks, and impossible to differentiate “good” drones from “bad” drones, then the only reliable defense is to ban drones entirely from wide swaths of territory.

So much for the lightly regulated commercialization of drones.

What sort of light bulbs are going off in the minds of copycats? It doesn’t take much imagination to see the potential for mayhem–and without sacrificing your own life. I won’t elaborate on the possibilities here, but they’re obvious to us all.

The range and payload of low-cost drones is limited. The big drones can fly hundreds of miles and carry hundreds of pounds of weaponry, but these can be targeted by radar and conventional ground-to-air missiles. So-called hobby drones skimming over the rooftops (or deserts or forests) are difficult to shoot down, especially if the attack is coordinated to arrive from multiple directions.

Larger commercially available drones can carry up to 20 KG or 40 pounds–more than enough explosive capacity to take out any number of targets.

Defense and intelligence agencies have no doubt war-gamed the potential for coordinated drone attacks, and the world’s advanced militaries are already exploring the potential for self-organizing “drone hordes” of hundreds or even thousands of drones overwhelming defenders with sheer numbers. The success of the oil facilities attack proves the effectiveness of much smaller scale drone attacks.

Put yourself in the shoes of those tasked with securing hundreds of miles of pipelines carrying oil and natural gas around the world. What’s your defense against drone attacks? A.I.-controlled or remote-operated gun towers every few hundred yards, along thousands of miles of pipelines? Human patrols covering the entire pipeline 24/7? The cost of such defenses would burden the defenders with enormous costs without providing 100% reliable security. (Guards can be bribed, remotely operated guns can be overwhelmed by an initial wave of cheap unarmed hobby drones, etc.)

It’s obvious there are no low-cost, effective defenses of thousands of miles of pipelines. (Recall that the Saudis depend on seawater being piped hundreds of kilometers into the desert to inject into oil wells to maintain production. Taking out these water lines and pumps would cripple production, too.)

The only effective way to limit drone attacks is to ban all drones and institute a shoot-on-sight policy in restricted areas. But that will not negate the potential for coordinated drone strikes or drone attacks on remote facilities.

The mainstream media will be under permanent pressure to downplay the consequences of this attack, but the cat is out of the bag: the Black Swan is a drone. What was “possible” yesterday is now a low-cost proven capability, and the consequences are far from predictable.

This unpredictability alone should unsettle markets, as the risk of future asymmetric warfare drone strikes just increased to a degree that is difficult to measure or hedge.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Over 80 percent of Americans won’t back war over attack on Saudi oil sites: Poll

Press TV – September 19, 2019

Most Americans are opposed to the idea of a new US military conflict over the recent attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, a new poll has found, amid reports that Washington is not ruling out a military response to the attack which slashed the close US ally’s oil output by more than half.

The survey by the Business Insider, released late Wednesday, found that only 13 percent of Americans would want to see a joint military response by the US and Saudi Arabia to the Saturday attack.

Asked what role they think the US should take on in case of a military response by Saudi Arabia, 25 percent of the participants in the survey said “the US should remove itself entirely from the affairs of the region and let Saudi Arabia handle the issue itself.”

Around 25 percent said the US should stay out of the conflict at any price and respond by condemning the attack and hit those responsible with sanctions or diplomatic criticism.

The poll found that 16 percent of Americans believe “the US should offer material support in the form of supplies and intelligence to Saudi Arabia for their military response, but no more,” while 22 percent said they “don’t know” what the US should do.

Only seven percent of those questioned said the US should support the Saudis with “a complete military assistance in whatever form may be required.”

And 6 percent said the US “should engage in air assaults or bombings as part of a Saudi military response but refrain from committing ground forces.”

The attack by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement forced the Saudi state oil company Aramco to halt operations at its al-Khurais and Buqayq facilities, some of the largest refineries in the world, disrupting the production of around 5.7 million barrels per day (5 percent of global demand).

According to data by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), that is more than half the kingdom’s overall output (9.3 million bpd), and more than the total production of most countries—aside from the US and Russia.

The surprise attack has already caused oil prices to jump, forcing both the US and Saudi Arabia to tap into their reserves to calm the market. The shortage is also expected to cause gas prices to jump across the US.

US President Donald Trump and senior officials from his administration have on several occasions accused Iran of having a role in the attack, but they have yet to directly pin it on Tehran.

Trump on Wednesday ordered sanctions against Iran to be “increased substantially,” in what observers argue is a response to such allegations.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has called the attack an “act of war” and alleged that the attacks might have originated from Iran, traveled to Riyadh later in the day to discuss a possible response with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, Saudi officials put on display what they said were remains of the drones and the alleged missiles that were used in the attack, claiming they were Iranian-made. Both Iran and the Yemeni resistance forces have denied the allegations of Tehran’s involvement.

In an official note passed to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents American interests, the Iranian Foreign ministry condemned and rejected the claims and warned that any action taken against the country over the false accusations will be met with an immediate response.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

UAE Joins US-led Maritime Coalition in Middle East

Al-Manar | September 19, 2019

Following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates has joined a US-led naval mission purportedly aimed at protecting shipping lanes in Middle Eastern waterways.

The official Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported the UAE’s decision to become a member of the so-called International Maritime Security Construct on Thursday, a day after Riyadh said it was joining the alliance.

It quoted Salem al-Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as claiming that Abu Dhabi’s accession to the US-led coalition is meant to “to secure the flow of energy supplies to the global economy and contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The United States has been trying to persuade its allies to join the international coalition with the declared aim of providing “security” for merchant shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and other strategic shipping lanes in the Middle East.

Washington moved to set up the coalition after pinning the blame on Tehran for two attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman in May and June. Tehran rejected the claims, saying the attacks seemed more to be false-flag operations meant to exert pressure on Iran.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi — key members of a coalition waging war on Yemen — decided to join the coalition in the wake of the Yemeni army’s massive retaliatory attacks on key Saudi oil facilities.

Saudi Arabia and the US pointed the finger at Tehran again, a claim rejected by Iran and Yemen.

On Wednesday, Saudi Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki claimed that the strikes were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

During a press briefing, Maliki showed off wreckage of drones and missiles, which he claimed proved “Iranian” involvement in weekend attacks on two oil facilities.

At another presser in Sana’a, Yemeni army spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree rejected the claims of Iranian role in the drone raids, which he described as “an outstanding example of the military prowess.”

Saree also sternly warned the UAE against keeping up its acts of aggression against the Yemeni nation.

“To the Emirati regime we say only one operation (of ours) would cost you dearly,” he said. “Today and for the first time we announce that we have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time.”

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump says attacking Iran would be too ‘EASY,’ calls restraint a ‘sign of strength’ as others drum up WAR

RT | September 18, 2019

As American and Saudi Arabian officials blame Iran for attacking Saudi oil refineries, President Donald Trump has remained noncommittal about a US response, calling his prior restraint a “sign of strength.”

Speaking to reporters in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the US president said that he would outline new sanctions on Iran within 48 hours, after announcing them via Twitter earlier in the day. While it would be “very easy” to attack Iran, his reluctance to do so is “a sign of strength,” Trump added.

That statement echoed his reply on Tuesday to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who called Trump’s cancelation of military strikes on Iran in June a “sign of weakness.”

Graham, the former wingman of the hawkish Senator John McCain, has emerged as one of the loudest proponents of retaliatory strikes in recent days, declaring the oil refinery attack an “act of war,” and calling for an “unequivocal” response. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also described the attack as an “act of war,” while Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that America is “locked and loaded” to defend her Saudi allies.

Trump, on the other hand, has been more ambivalent. Stopping short of outright pointing the finger at Iran the president said on Monday that it was “certainly looking” like Iran was behind the attack, adding that “we pretty much already know” Tehran is to blame.

Regarding a response, Trump has boasted of the US military’s readiness to strike, but said that he would “certainly like to avoid” war.

While Trump’s response may seem unduly measured, the president had signaled something of a softer attitude towards Iran in the days before the weekend’s attacks. After saying last week that he would have “no problem,” meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Trump even gave a “we’ll see what happens” when asked if he’d consider lifting sanctions to get Rouhani to the table. The attacks on Saudi oil facilities, however, seem to have put paid to that.

Houthi rebels in Yemen – against whom Saudi Arabia has been waging war since 2015 –  claimed responsibility for the strike, and Iran denies all connection with it. However, Saudi officials claimed at a press conference on Wednesday that it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” and presented the wreckage of Iranian missiles and drones as proof.

Yet the Saudis could not pinpoint a launch site, nor prove that the Houthis did not launch the supposed Iranian projectiles of their own accord. Likewise, Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, asked why the Saudis’ air defenses “failed to thwart the attack.”

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Will the US use Greece to block Russia in the Black Sea?

By Paul Antonopoulos | September 18, 2019

The Trump administration last week made its first major step to create a Greek-centric NATO corridor following United States Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, announcement that his country intends to acquire the strategic port of Alexandroupoli. If Athens is to accept such a proposal, the country would be contributing to a geopolitical escalation. The US is attempting to push Greece, a traditional rival to Turkey, closer to them at a time when Ankara continues to defy NATO by strengthening its relations with Russia.

The port of Alexandroupoli is of particular importance to US policy in not only the Balkans, but especially to Russia. It is also an important energy route as the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is in the region. The port is also important for transportation as it is strategically located close to the Turkish-controlled Dardanelles that connects the Aegean/Mediterranean Seas with the Black Sea, and therefore Russia.

With the acquisition of this port, NATO and US forces may be in the Balkans in only a few hours and can easily stop Russian trade with the world via the Black Sea by blockading the Dardanelles. With Turkey increasingly defying NATO – in which Greece is also a member state of – by improving relations with Russia and buying the S-400, the US can make Greece more aligned with it under the guise of ensuring Greece’s security.

Turkey violates Greece’s maritime and air space on a daily basis, Erdogan makes continued threats to invade the rest of Cyprus. Only weeks ago he made a speech in front of a map that shows Greece’s eastern Mediterranean islands occupied by Turkey, and days ago Turkey removed the inhabited Greek island of Kastellorizo from online maps to claim sovereignty over oil and gas reserves, while continuing threats to flood Greece again with illegal immigrants, among others. Greece undoubtably has an extremely aggressive neighbour.

With Turkey illegally occupying large areas of northern Syria and Cyprus, and illegally intervening in Iraq, Greece must deal with an extremely provocative and expansionist-driven neighbour. With Russia traditionally remaining silent on Turkish provocations towards Greece, it is unlikely that Moscow will stop doing so now that relations are flourishing between the two Black Sea neighbours.

The US are trying to capitalize on Erdogan’s aggression towards Greece by attempting to pivot Athens towards them. If the Greek leadership decide to accept the US offer, it will be a powerful blow towards Turkish expansionism in the Aegean and will create a major security threat for Russia. As Greece is a rival of Turkey, the fact it prioritized creating a powerful navy and air force that could block the Dardanelles if needed, might embolden Greece to take direct actions against Turkey’s continued aggressions and threats.

Despite Greece being an economically ruined country today with a demographic crisis, it still maintains high military standards. This is reflected with Greece having the best pilots in NATO, in which Turkey is also a member of. In maritime matters, Greece has a far superior navy and experience in the Aegean. The Greek Navy has a long tradition and has never been defeated in combat. For this reason, Greece’s navy is one of the most important world naval powers today, at a military and commercial level. Although Turkey’s army makes it one of the largest in the world, it is rendered useless in any war with Greece. Although Greece has a significant maritime border with Turkey, the land border is only 200km long, making it easy to fortify.

With security against Turkey’s continued aggression being a major priority for Greece, the US ambassador is trying to woo the country into allowing the privatization of the port of Alexandroupoli. He stated: “Alexandroupoli is a crucial link to European energy security, regional stability, and economic growth, so it makes sense that the United States and Greece have chosen here to work together to advance our shared security and economic interests.”

With his emphasis on security, it will likely spark huge debates in Athens as it needs security assurances but will also not want to provoke Russia, a country that Greeks see with fraternity when remembering their shared Christian Orthodox faith and Russia’s military and diplomatic role in securing Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Although Russia is unlikely to back one side or another, a US-controlled port in Alexandroupoli can significantly weaken Russia’s Black Sea capabilities.

If comments by the National Defense Minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, of the newly elected neoliberal government is anything to go by, it can be expected that Athens will allow Alexandroupoli to become a US-controlled port. He said that the “use of the port by the US Armed Forces” will be allowed “when there is [certainly] a need” for it, especially as Greece’s current “strategic defense relationship with the US and cooperation” are strengthened, “thereby contributing to regional stability and security.” In direct reference to Turkey, he also said “Greece is ready at any time and moment to defend and safeguard in full its sovereign rights.”

In order to avoid a US naval base on the other side of the Dardanelles, Russia should take a position it has proven to be capable of, and something the US lacks experience in- peacebuilding. If Russia can act as a mediator between Greek and Turkey, it might be enough to avoid Athens pivoting towards the US so that it can ensure its security. Russia has proven in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere that it is willing to serve as a mediator in international affairs. With Moscow currently having amicable relations with Ankara, Russia being viewed positively by the majority of Greeks, being a regional country to both Greece and Turkey, and having its owned vested interests in the region, Russia is in a unique position to be able to mediate mutually to find a lasting peace between Greece and Turkey, and to prevent the US acquiring the port of Alexandroupoli.

Paul Antonopoulos is the director of the Multipolarity research centre.

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 3 Comments

Israel Will Begin Training Ecuadorean Military Units

teleSUR | September 16, 2019

Ecuador’s minister of Defense Oswaldo Jarrin confirmed Thursday that ‘elite’ units of Ecuador’s military will begin training in Israel. Jarrin made the announcement as he hailed a new era of close Israel-Ecuador relations, a turn away from the approach of leftist former President Rafael Correa who cut military ties in 2010, in solidarity with Palestine.

The cooperation will be to ‘modernize’ Ecuador’s armed forces and to take ‘counter-terrorism’ courses, given by Israel’s military. Details also emerged about US$30 million worth of weapons that Ecuador has purchased from Israel in the last year alone.

Israeli officials have told Ecuadorean media that there is now a ‘flourishing relationship’ between the two countries.

Jarrin said this is because there is “now an environment of international cooperation that did not exist before”, in reference to the breakdown in relations that took place under the previous government of Rafael Correa.

During Correa’s period in office, he joined other leftist leaders in the region and formally recognized a Palestinian state and established diplomatic ties. There was also a long period of tension during that time, in 2010, Correa put an end to military cooperation with Israel and stopped the purchase of weapons.

Relations hit their lowest point in 2014, following Israel’s 50-day military campigan against Gaza in which over 1,500 Palestinian were killed. In protest, Ecuador, along with a number of Latin American countries, recalled their ambassador in Israel.

However, under current President Lenin Moreno, there has been a sharp turn in foreign policy. The country has begun a thawing of relations with the U.S. and Israel. The country has also joined in regional attacks on former allies of Ecuador, especially Venezuela, with President Moreno joining the so-called ‘Lima Group’ aimed at isolating Venezuela on the international stage.

Many analysts have also said this rapprochement with U.S. foreign policy interests, along with a new multi-billion-dollar IMF loan, were the driving forces behind Moreno’s decision to hand Julian Assange over to British authorities, where he is currently in prison and faces possible extradition to the U.S. to face charges related to his work exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

World sleepwalking into total nuclear war as callous elites fear no bloodshed – Russian scholar

RT | September 16, 2019

Limiting nuclear arsenals doesn’t make the world safer – not while the elites, who have never seen a big war, complacently believe they never will. This dangerous illusion invites apocalyptic conflict, a renowned scholar believes.

Humankind’s history might be a history of wars, but for several decades there was a sort of lull, with no really big armed conflict affecting leading world powers. That is, in part, thanks to nuclear weapons. Fear of their power kept the Cold War from becoming a hot one and restricted the actual fighting to proxy conflicts.

And that, in turn, has led to a situation where many of those currently in power don’t take the threat of war with the gravity it deserves, says Sergey Karaganov, a researcher of international relations and a dean at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

Complacency breeds danger

“The previous generations had a gut fear of war because their fathers or they themselves experienced World War II. But modern generations think of war very lightly,” he told RT.

This attitude is a major reason why the world now is in fact a more dangerous place than it was at the height of the US-Soviet confrontation, he believes. Some powers believe they are entitled to live in peace and cannot imagine that a smaller conflict elsewhere may escalate into a nuclear Armageddon. Meanwhile old mechanisms meant to prevent such a disaster are rapidly deteriorating, he said.

This year Washington scrapped one of the key Cold War agreements restricting nuclear weapons – the INF Treaty – and indicated that another one – New START – would not be extended beyond 2021. The US changed its nuclear posture and now doesn’t rule out responding with nukes to a cyberattack. The Pentagon’s generals want a larger toolbox of smaller nuclear weapons and are weighing up options on how to use them in regular conflicts.

These days, it’s more complicated than just nukes

That said, those old mechanisms are also failing for purely technological reasons. In the 1970s there was a reasonably clear distinction between strategic weapons and everything else, so ensuring parity was relatively simple. Basically the US and the USSR settled on numbers of missiles, long-range bombers, submarines and warheads they were comfortable with and agreed ways to verify that each party sticks to the limits.

“There are people in our country, as well as in other countries, who are stressing that we should go as we have been going in the 1960s and the ‘70s and the ‘80s. I must say I am very skeptical, because even in the ‘70s and the ‘80s we were basing our analysis on the very, very strange presumption of what was called parity,” Karaganov says.

But the distinction between “nuclear and non-nuclear, conventional and non-conventional” is blurred today. How does one take into the equation, for example, a conventional precision missile that can be fired across the border and take out the other nation’s military headquarters? Or a satellite that can blind an ICBM early warning spacecraft? Or a hypersonic glider? Or a computer virus that can shut down the power grid?

“Now strategic parity is almost impossible to count.”

Stop trying to limit nukes – change the thinking

Karaganov recently co-authored a report on this persistent danger. He admits it doesn’t have all the right answers, but offers some ideas where to begin – and philosophy is at least as important as politics or technicalities.

For example, nations should acknowledge that geopolitical rivalry was not an aberration of the ideologically-divided past but rather a natural order of things. Strong players have great appetites and will use any means to impose their will on weaker ones. Unfair, but such is life.

The next step would be to embrace a new multilateral deterrence arrangement that would include additional players, first and foremost China, and somehow incorporate non-nuclear things like cyber weapons into the calculation.

“The aim of the strategic policy of all responsible nuclear powers should not be doing away or even reducing their nuclear weapons, but strengthening mutual deterrence, and that is a completely different philosophy,” Karaganov suggests.

Essentially, he and his colleagues suggest ditching the old idea of nuclear stability – achieved through the reduction and capping of the two largest superpowers’ arsenals. Instead, any new treaties should focus on transparency – as well as developing protocols to wind down a nuclear conflict once it does start, which is much more likely to happen by accident than by intention.

The result may be somewhat of a Mexican standoff, but the alternative is far more dangerous, the scholars argue. An armed conflict involving nuclear-capable powers has the potential to spiral out of control, with sides trading increasingly serious blows and hoping the other one will chicken out.

A few decades ago the fear of nuclear weapons put a reasonably low cap on such games of nerves, but it is no longer the case and the risks are rising by the year. The solution would be for the great powers to put de-escalation as the paramount goal whenever a clash brews and treat any potential war between them as a doomsday in the making.

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

War is imposed on us by US, we can fight it for 100 years, Taliban tells RT after talks cut off

RT | September 13, 2019

Talks with the Taliban to put an end to the longest of America’s forever wars were killed off by the US last week. The Afghan militant movement is prepared to fight a hundred more years, its chief negotiator told RT.

The peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban were called off by President Donald Trump days ahead of a planned signing of a formal agreement. The draft has even been initialed by both parties and Qatar, which mediated in the talks, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban’s delegation, told RT. As far as the Taliban is concerned, the US decision can be easily reversed and the agreement put into force as agreed, he said.

“We are still committed to the negotiations. Our stance is that there is no solution to the conflict except negotiations and except peace on the table. We hope that Mr. Trump rethinks his announcement and comes back to where we were,” the official said.

Trump cited an attack by the Taliban, which killed a US soldier stationed in Afghanistan, as the reason for the surprise cancellation of the talks. The militants say their attacks were well justified by attacks against them by the US and the Afghan security forces. They see the Americans as a foreign occupying force and themselves as freedom fighters and protectors of the Afghan civilians, who are injured and killed when the US attacks the Taliban, which regularly conducts terrorist attacks.

“The war was imposed on us. It is American soldiers who are in Afghanistan. It’s not our mujahedeen in Washington,” he said. He added that Trump’s justification for stopping talks clashed with statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who appeared on TV the following day and said the US killed “over 1,000 Taliban” over ten prior days, as negotiations were under way.

“Mr. Pompeo admitted that they have killed a thousand Taliban,” Stanikzai pointed out. “If they can kill a thousand of us, why can we not kill one or two of them? This is our right. We have to defend ourselves and defend our people.”

The Taliban representative said the Trump administration proved to be no different to that of Barack Obama, which also held peace talks with the Afghan militants before ending them at the last moment. He questioned Washington’s commitment to resolving the situation and ending what is now a 19-year-long anti-insurgency war that the US apparently cannot win through military force.

“If the American side is not willing to negotiate and they do not want peace on the table, we will be compelled to defend ourselves,” he said.

“We can do it for a hundred years.”

Stanikzai reiterated that only after a formal agreement is signed and US troops are pulled out of Afghanistan would the Taliban be able to settle its differences with other political forces in Afghanistan, including the US-backed government in Kabul.

“We need a practical thing. When it is signed, there will be [a] ceasefire between us and the American forces. We will give safe passage to the American forces,” he said. “When they go out, inter-Afghan talks can start and a comprehensive ceasefire and other domestic issues can be discussed.”

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Bolton Gone: Improved Peace Prospects?

Strategic Culture Foundation | September 13, 2019

The departure of John Bolton as US National Security Adviser is a good step towards decreasing international tensions by the Trump administration. But a lot more is needed from President Donald Trump to indicate a serious pivot to normalizing relations with Russia, Iran and others.

When Trump gave Bolton his marching orders earlier this week, the president said he “strongly disagreed” with his erstwhile security adviser over a range of foreign policy issues. Trump had also expressed frustration with Bolton’s incorrigible militarist tendencies.

There is no doubt Bolton was an odious figure in the White House cabinet. One of our Strategic Culture Foundation authors, Martin Sieff, wrote this excoriating commentary on Bolton’s nefarious record of warmongering dating as far back as the launching of US wars in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, when the mustachioed maverick served then as a chief neocon ideologue in the GW Bush administration.

One wonders why Trump brought such a war hawk into his administration when he appointed Bolton as NSA in April 2018. Perhaps, as another of our writers, Robert Bridge, surmised in a separate commentary this week, Trump was using hardliner Bolton as a foil to deflect opponents from within the Washington establishment who have been trying to undermine the president as “soft on foreign enemies”. A ruse by Trump of keeping “your enemies close”, it is averred.

Bolton certainly did his best to hamper Trump’s seeming attempts at scaling back US foreign military interventions. He opposed the plan to withdraw American troops from Syria. The reckless Bolton also wound up a policy of aggression and regime change against Venezuela, which Trump has latterly seemed to grow wary of as a futile debacle.

In regard to Russia, Bolton carried heaps of Cold War baggage which made Trump’s declared intentions of normalizing relations with Moscow more difficult.

The shameless warmonger Bolton openly advocated for regime change in Iran, which seemed to contradict Trump’s oft-stated position of not seeking regime change in Tehran, despite the president’s own animosity towards Iran.

The former NSA also opposed any attempt by Trump to engage in detente with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Reportedly, it was Bolton who derailed the incipient efforts at opening up dialogue with Pyongyang.

It is also thought that Bolton used his influence to impede Trump’s recent bid to host Taliban leaders at Camp David earlier this month which was aimed at trust-building for a proposed peace deal to withdraw US troops from that country after nearly 18 years of disastrous war.

That said, however, President Trump has not shown himself to be exactly a dovish figure. He has overseen countless sanctions being imposed on Russia, the abandoning of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, and ongoing military support for the anti-Russia regime in Kiev.

Too, it was Trump who ordered the US collapse of the 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran in May 2018 and the re-imposition of harsh sanctions on Tehran. So, it would be misplaced to paint Bolton as the sole malign actor in the White House. Trump is personally responsible for aggravating tensions with Iran, as well as with Russia, Venezuela and others.

Nevertheless, it is to be welcomed that an inveterate war hawk like Bolton no longer has the president’s ear. Perhaps Trump can be freer to act on his instincts as a pragmatic deal-maker. One thing that the president deserves credit for is his unconventional style of engaging with nations and leaders who are designated as foes of America.

Russia this week gave a reserved response to the sacking of Bolton. The Kremlin said it would make assessments of a positive change in US policy based on actions, not mere announcements, such as the firing of Bolton. Time will tell.

It seems significant that immediately after Bolton was relieved of his post, Trump hinted to reporters that he was considering lifting sanctions off Iran if such a move persuaded Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to hold a face-to-face meeting with Trump at the United Nations general assembly in New York later this month.

Iran has repeatedly stated categorically that there will be no talks with Trump unless his administration revokes sanctions and returns to abiding by the nuclear accord. If there is a serious pivot to normal diplomacy by the White House, then what Trump does about sanctions on Iran will be a litmus test.

The same can be said about US sanctions on Russia. If Trump is earnest about a genuine reset in bilateral relations, then he must get rid of the raft of sanctions that Washington has piled on Moscow since the 2014 Ukraine crisis amid the many spurious allegations leveled against Russia.

Bolton banished is but a small step towards a more diplomatically engaged US administration. But it would be unwise to expect the departure of this one figure as being a portent for progress and a more peaceful policy emerging in Washington.

The Washington establishment, the deep state and the bipartisan War Party, with its entrenched Cold War ideology, seems to have an endemic sway over policy which may thwart Trump’s efforts to direct a less belligerent US.

To illustrate the twisted nature of the US establishment, one only had to read the way sections of the American corporate-controlled media lamented the departure of Bolton. The New York Times, which is a dutiful conduit for deep state intelligence and the foreign policy establishment, actually bemoaned the ouster of Bolton, calling him a “voice of restraint”.

The NY Times commented, with approval, on how Bolton “objected to attempts to pursue diplomatic avenues with players considered American enemies. And he angered Trump with a last-minute battle against a peace agreement with the Taliban… whether it was inviting the Taliban to Camp David or cooperating with Russia, he [Bolton] was the national security adviser who said no.”

In another piece this week, the NY Times commented, again approvingly of Bolton: “Mr Bolton strongly opposed detente with Iran, and his unceremonious ouster has reignited concerns among some Republicans [and Democrats] in Congress about the White House’s declining projection of American military power around the world.”

Can you believe it? The so-called US “newspaper of record” is somehow valorizing an out-and-out warmonger in the form of Bolton, and appears to be advocating “projection of American military power around the world”. The latter phrase being but an Orwellian euphemism for imperialism and war.

The sobering conclusion is that Bolton’s departure hardly heralds a new beginning of diplomacy and engagement by Trump, if we assume to give this president the benefit of doubt for good intentions. Bolton may be gone, but there are formidable political forces in the US establishment which will work to ensure Trump’s room for maneuver remains heavily compressed. The Cold War ideology is so ingrained in Washington, it is much bigger than just one man, whether that is the vile personage of Bolton or the more flexible Trump.

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | | 1 Comment

Bolton has left the building – hopefully, so too have his crackpot ideas

By John Wight | RT | September 11, 2019

John Bolton is no longer Donald Trump’s national security adviser and no right thinking person will mourn the departure of this noxious neocon.

Though, as befits the chaos of the Trump White House, there is a dispute over whether Bolton resigned or was fired, for a world laboring under the dead weight of US exceptionalism and the hegemonic posture it gives rise to, this particular dispute is otiose.

What is not in doubt is that, whereas President Trump embraced the credo of ‘America First’, Bolton’s religious attachment to ‘American Military Power First’ had long marked him out as an extremist, even within neocon circles.

Indeed, it is chilling to contemplate that if this warmongering zealot had had his way, Washington would likely have become embroiled in multiple hot wars and military actions across the world – with an ocean of blood being spilled in Latin America, Ukraine, on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East.

Trump’s appointment of Bolton in March 2018 came as damning evidence of the President’s abject surrender to the neocon and liberal interventionist lobby in Washington, all under the pressure of Russiagate.

His campaign pledges, to engage in serious diplomacy with America’s primary designated adversary, Russia, to recognize the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, draw down the US military presence in Afghanistan, talk to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and revisit America’s commitment to NATO – all of this succeeded in pitching the War Party into paroxysms of barely concealed fury and angst.

Trump was besieged on the very day he entered the Oval Office by a Washington establishment that considered his election to have been an act of heresy in the first place. The objective of his liberal interventionist enemies was to box him in and prevent him from being able to act on his foreign policy instincts.

The small fact that those instincts were eminently sound, given the calamitous record of countries and societies that had been reduced to rubble at the behest of his predecessors, this mattered not.

In the fevered minds of the denizens of the War Party, the primary role of the President of the United States is the maintenance of an empire that has been forged in blood and is sustained by destruction in the name of hegemony and unipolarity.

So in the door came mad dog Bolton and out the door went reason and sanity.

The result? In short order, after the President contracted out his foreign policy to Messrs Bolton and Pompeo, the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, pulled out of the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) Treaty with Russia, and withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council.

And even where Trump did assert a measure of control on foreign policy – i.e. in sitting down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi – Bolton succeeded in reducing both summits to glorified photo-ops, convincing his boss to agree to making North Korea’s complete denuclearization an absurd condition of any lifting of crippling US sanctions.

Not satisfied with that, Bolton also did his utmost to effect regime change in Venezuela, attempting to install his own placeman, Juan Guaidó, in Caracas in place of the country’s elected President, Nicolás Maduro. Bolton’s Twitter feed throughout this particular crisis you’d imagine would have belonged to Al Capone if social media had been around in Prohibition-era Chicago.

As to the crisis with Iran, conflict seemed inevitable at various points over the summer, with Bolton known to have urged a military strike against the Islamic Republic in response to the downing of a US drone.

In deciding here to draw back from the brink, Trump demonstrated a rare example of sound leadership and wisdom in the Oval Office.

The casus belli, the proverbial straw which broke the camel’s back, was Bolton’s stern opposition to Trump’s attempt to bring closure to 18 years of US military deployment in Afghanistan – a country that even a blind person can see is destined to be ruled once again by the Taliban.

Looking ahead, Trump is a leader in desperate need of a meaningful breakthrough on foreign policy. His first term has been spent mired in a bitter struggle in Washington with the War Party for the right to shape that foreign policy according to the pledges he was elected on.

Fidelity to those pledges and to his own instincts demands that he now discard forever the notion of appointing another neocon ideologue in the now-vacant position of national security adviser. A fork in the road has been reached and the President has a decision to make.

Does he continue to proceed down the old and chaotic unipolar path of trying to be President of the World in the interests of a bloated military industrial complex?

Or does he embrace the opportunity of being President of the United States in the interests of the American people and a world in desperate need of stability, serious diplomacy and peace?

Returning, finally, to John Bolton, this draft-dodging reprobate. In bidding him farewell, the words of Winston Churchill are irresistible: “He has all of the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

September 12, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | | 2 Comments

Iran’s envoy to UN: Washington is in breach of NPT

Press TV – September 9, 2019

Iran calls the US in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), citing Washington’s refusal to come under a comprehensive nuclear arms control regime and its harboring an intention to resume testing of nuclear weapons.

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-e Ravanchi made the remarks to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.

He cited the latest Nuclear Proliferation Report (NPR), which has found that the United States is disinclined to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The report also outlines how the US “will resume nuclear explosive testing, … including underground nuclear explosive,” the envoy added.

“This policy is in gross violation of its (the US’s) explicit legal obligations under the NPT,” he noted.

“Such irresponsible policies, the latest of which is the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, are detrimental to all international efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and therefore must come to an end,” the ambassador asserted.

The US scrapped the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia last month. Later, the Pentagon announced that it had tested a type of a ground-launched missile that was banned under the deal.

The Iranian official also reminded that Israel, which has the US as its primary and strongest supporter, maintains nuclear weapons that continue to threaten peace and security in the region and beyond.

Copious volumes of evidence have identified the occupying regime as the sole possessor of the non-conventional weapons in the region. Those include The Sunday Times’ historic report of 1986 that first broke the story on tip-off from former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, and former US president Jimmy Carter’s similarly head-turning revelation that the occupying regime was in possession of hundreds of nuclear warheads.

Takht-e Ravanchi finally remarked, “Total elimination of these inhumane weapons is what we owe to ourselves, to our children, to generations to come and to entire humanity,” adding, “Iran stands ready to play its role in pursuing this noble objective.”

September 9, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment