Tag Archives: Middle East

Circle of Absurdity: Killing the Extremists We Create, by Danny Sjursen

The US has made countless allies its enemies, and vice versa. Al Qaeda may be the most noteworthy example of the former.From Danny Sjursen at truthdig.com:

The U.S. military remains mired in countless wars in the Greater Middle East. Ironically – and tragically – it tends to combat Islamists that Washington either armed or birthed.

We, Americans, truly are a strange lot. Our government in Washington – ostensibly representative of “We the People” – speaks of peace, but wages endless war, prattles on about “freedom,” but backs absolute monarchs and authoritarian strongmen the world over. A bipartisan array of politicians warns of the evils of radical Islamic (though Islamist is more accurate) terrorism; and yet, truthfully, the US once supported and/or funded those same extremists not too long ago. In some cases, and certain circumstances, it backs them still; until, that is, all those guns are turned on the US military, or those fighters threaten Washington’s (ever shifting) “interests.”

Perhaps, one imagines, there are lessons here: be careful who you arm; be careful where you meddle; today’s “friends” are, all too often, tomorrow’s enemies; and, in the turbulent Middle East, sometimes less is more.

Washington would do well to remember that before its next – and there will be a next – intervention.

Russia, it seems, is once again center stage in the Middle East. Congressmen and Senators – usually neocons or hawkish liberal interventionists – warnthat Russia is “running wild,” or will “win” Syria. In fact, they argue, the US military must stay put in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, indefinitely one presumes, to block potential Russian gains. US troops must also back assorted proxies, even some nefarious characters, in order to deter Russian efforts in the region.

The whole presumption, of course, is flawed and simplistic. We are led to believe geopolitics is a simple zero-sum game, whereby any “gain” for Russia (or Iran) is somehow a “loss” for the United States. Much evil, and plenty of mistakes, stem from such warped assumptions.

To continue reading: Circle of Absurdity: Killing the Extremists We Create

Advertisements

Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia: Top Three Stunning Admissions From the Top U.S. General in the Middle East, by Haaretz

General Joseph Votel demonstrated rare candor before a Congressional committee. From haaretz.com:

Assad has won, Iran deal should stand and Saudis use American weapons without accountability in Yemen: head of U.S. military’s Central Command’s stunning Congressional testimony

The top U.S. general in the Middle East testified before Congress on Tuesday and dropped several bombshells: from signaled support for the Iran nuclear deal, admitting the U.S. does not know what Saudi Arabia does with its bombs in Yemen and that Assad has won the Syrian Civil War.

U.S. Army General Joseph Votel said the Iran agreement, which President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from, has played an important role in addressing Iran’s nuclear program.

“The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel. JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the formal name of the accord reached with Iran in July 2015 in Vienna.

Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the accord between Tehran and six world powers unless Congress and European allies help “fix” it with a follow-up pact. Trump does not like the deal’s limited duration, among other things.

Votel is head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iran. He was speaking to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the same day that Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a series of public rifts over policy, including Iran.

Tillerson had joined Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in pressing a skeptical Trump to stick with the agreement with Iran.

“There would be some concern (in the region), I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA. … Right now, I think it is in our interest” to stay in the deal, Votel said.

When a lawmaker asked whether he agreed with Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford’s position on the deal,Votel said: “Yes, I share their position.”

To continue reading: Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia: Top Three Stunning Admissions From the Top U.S. General in the Middle East

Peace in Our Time? Only if America is “Agreement Capable”, by Tom Luongo

An agreement between the US and North Korea could have long-term consequences far beyond the Far East. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Those who have followed this blog for the past year know that I feel Presidents Trump and Putin are working towards a Middle East Peace Agreement.  Brick by brick, day by day, the foundation for this agreement is being built

Last night’s nigh-historic statement by the South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong is another piece of that foundation.  You can read the entire statement here, but I’ll highlight the important part:

“I told President Trump that in our meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests; he understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.  And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.”

President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”

This is the breakthrough that everyone was waiting for.  Once Trump gets involved in the negotiations, a deal will be made.  That’s his wheelhouse, making deals.  Everyone walks away a winner in their minds.

We can argue about the effectiveness of Trump’s sanctions until we are blue in the face. But the reality is that 1) Koreans no longer want separation and 2) North Korea is not the economic basket case we are constantly told it is in the media.

I remember meeting with Jim Rogers in 2015 at a conference and the two areas of the world he was most bullish on were Kazakhstan and North Korea.

Because North Korea, under Kim Jong-Un, is moving towards a more open society, not a closed one.  The sincere desire for reunification of the Korean peninsula, if only symbolically through a more open border, is the animating principle here.

And that only happens with a North Korea entering the modern world economy.

To continue reading: Peace in Our Time? Only if America is “Agreement Capable”

Youth Unemployment: The Middle East’s Ticking Time-Bomb, by World View

The devil, as they say, finds work for idle hands. From World View by Stratfor, via zerohedge.com:

Highlights

  • With labor markets in the Middle East and North Africa swamped due to a baby boom, countries in the region will continue to face the acute challenge of massive youth unemployment.  
  • Though each state struggles with its own circumstances, most countries will face daunting hurdles as they try to build strong private sectors. 
  • Even if these states do foster more robust private sectors, they may not be able to mitigate the economic hardship when it hits their citizens, due to the uncontrollable nature of the free market. 

Earlier this month, Dubai hosted the World Government Summit, welcoming dignitaries from around the world for talks on global happiness. But amid all the discussions of more contented societies lurked a more pressing issue right on the Emiratis’ doorstep: the prospect that 5 million workers are set to enter the Middle East’s job market each year, even as gainful employment is in short supply. That, at least, was on the mind of Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, who once more exhorted Arab governments to address youth unemployment — and fast. No one was about to disagree. From Morocco to Iran, states and leaders of all sects, political systems and governing systems understand the threat posed by the region’s high youth unemployment.

Although regional leaders agree on the need to increase employment, there is a good reason why youth unemployment remains stubbornly above the global average in the Middle East and North Africa. From building vibrant private sectors to finding the right jobs for youth to chasing technological silver bullets, many states have encountered hurdles in searching for a solution. Even if these countries do foster their private sectors and a technological boom, they will open themselves to market forces that they can scarcely control — a development that would challenge their already-strained social contracts with their people. Countries in the region are not blessed with decades to solve the issue of youth employment, but if they fail to find a resolution soon, the survival of these states will come into question.

To continue reading: Youth Unemployment: The Middle East’s Ticking Time-Bomb

The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock starts ticking, by James M. Dorsey

Everyone wants nuclear reactors, essential for nuclear weapons. From James M. Dorsey at mideastsoccer.blogspot.sg:

The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock is ticking as nations pursue peaceful capabilities that potentially leave the door open to future military options.

Concern about a nuclear arms race is fuelled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by suppliers such as Russia and China to ignore risks involved in weaker controls.

The Trump administration  was mulling loosening controls to facilitate a possible deal with Saudi Arabia as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu prepared, in an address this week to a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, to urge US President Donald J. Trump to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal unless the Islamic republic agrees to further military restrictions and makes additional political concessions.

Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own and fears that the technological clock is working against its long-standing military advantage.

The US has signalled that it may be willing to accede to Saudi demands in a bid to ensure that US companies with Westinghouse in the lead have a stake in the kingdom’s plan to build by 2032 16 reactors that would have 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

In putting forward  demands for parity with Iran by getting the right to controlled enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium, potential building blocks for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia was backing away from a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the United States in which it pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets.

“The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives,” warned nuclear experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in an article Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

While Israeli opinion is divided on how the US should respond to Saudi demands, Messrs Trump and Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear accord has already produced results that would serve Saudi interests.

 

To continue reading: The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock starts ticking

Trump the Deal-maker and the Middle East, by Amir Taheri

An outsider, like President Trump, has little chance of negotiating a Middle East peace. From Amir Taheri at gatestoneinstitute.org:

  • The first reason that so many deal-makers have failed is that peace is never negotiated and is always imposed by the side that wins a war. There is not any instance in history, which is primarily a narrative of countless wars, in which an outsider has imposed peace on unwilling belligerents.
  • The second reason is that outside deal-makers have their interests and agendas which make an already tangled web even more complicated. For example, in the case of American deal-makers, how to win Jewish votes in the US without antagonizing the Arabs who sell us oil and buy our arms?
  • The third reason is that whenever a status quo is at least tolerable for both belligerents, the desire for risking it in the hope of an ill-defined peace is diminished. Many people in the world live with a status quo they don’t regard as ideal.
  • There is one thing that Trump the deal-maker could do. He could ask the Israelis and the Palestinians to work on an agreement, each in their own camp, on what they exactly want, and report to him.

Casting himself as the best friend Israel could hope for, President Donald Trump is promising, some may say threatening, to unveil his grand plan for a peace “deal” to end the so-called “Middle East problem”.

Trump has always fancied himself as a deal-maker; he has even written a book on the subject. It is, therefore, no surprise that he might want to put his skill to use on an issue which has defied numerous deal-makers for six decades.

What are the chances of him succeeding? The short answer is: nil!

To continue reading: Trump the Deal-maker and the Middle East

“We Can’t Continue to Run the World’: Ron Paul’s EXCLUSIVE Interview for Sputnik

Ron Paul talks about President Trump, the Middle East, and gun control. To the extent the mainstream media notice this interview, they might criticize Paul for giving an interview with Russian Sputnik News. Of course, none of those critics would interview Paul if their lives depended on it. From sputniknews.com:

Former Texas Congressman and leading libertarian thinker Dr. Ron Paul has shared his views on President Trump’s job as president after his first year in office, the situation in Syria and the renewed debate on gun control in the wake of the Florida school shooting.

Trump’s Year in Office

Sputnik: Donald Trump has been in office for over a year. What is your general assessment of his job as president?

Ron Paul: Mediocre; probably not worse than the other options. But I don’t think presidents really have much control. I think the deep state – the people behind the scenes and the shadow government, who control the monetary system, who control our foreign policy and the welfare state, and are connected to the media and the military-industrial complex. – I don’t think the presidency is as important as it’s made out to be. But everybody talks about it; it’s a political thing, and they keep churning the issue and directing everybody to ask ‘is Trump a good guy or a bad guy, and are we going to impeach him or what’s going to happen’, rather than [asking] what kind of philosophy do we have: why do we have this philosophy of welfare-warfare, spend money, run up debt and let the central bank print all that money.

They don’t even talk about it; the major parties, including Trump, they sign even more controls on us when it comes to FISA courts and spying on us. In spite of the fact that government officials like the FBI and others actually spy on our own president, he supports this; he passes and signs bills on that. So that really raises questions about ‘does the president really have much to say’, and I think he has much less to say than a lot of people believe. I believe that if he had stuck to his guns and had a different relationship with Russia and started bringing troops home and not aggravating things, he wouldn’t have been tolerated. Something would have happened.

To  continue reading: “We Can’t Continue to Run the World’: Ron Paul’s EXCLUSIVE Interview for Sputnik