Tag Archives: Middle East

One Click Closer to Annihilation, by Philip Geraldi

Is President Trump playing 4-dimensional chess or has he been completely captured by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and his neocon advisors? From Philip Geraldi at unz.com:

Doomsday Clock

The nuclear war doomsday clock maintained on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website has advanced to two minutes before midnight, the closest point to possible atomic apocalypse since the end of the Cold War. In 1995 the clock was at fourteen minutes to midnight, but the opportunity to set it back even further was lost as the United States and its European allies took advantage of a weakened Russia to advance NATO into Eastern Europe, setting the stage for a new cold war, which is now underway.

It is difficult to imagine how the United States might avoid a new war in the Middle East given the recent statements that have come out of Washington, and, given that the Russians are also active in the region, a rapid and massive escalation of something that starts out as a minor incident should not be ruled out.

President Donald Trump set the tone when he harangued the United Nations last Tuesday, warning that the United States would go it alone in defense of its perceived interests, with no regard for international bodies that exist to limit armed conflict and punish those who commit war crimes.

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Speaking to Russians and Trump’s Mad Method, by Tom Luongo

Tom Luongo tries to analyze Trump’s foreign policy. From Luongo at tomluongo.me:

“You know General, sometimes the men don’t know when you’re acting.
It’s not important for them to know. It’s only important for me to know.”
— Patton

The more I observe Donald Trump the more I’m convinced he’s more bark than bite, that his instincts on foreign policy are correct but his method is mad.

I was on Radio Sputnik Moscow recently discussing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly.   They did a very nice write up of the interview which you can read/listen to here. 

And in that interview I touched on a number of things I’ve been writing about currently that I think are very important to remember as events spiral out of control.

President Trump’s and his top administration officials’ behavior in foreign circles have created a lot of chaos.  That’s not news.

And we know that chaos is part of Trump’s method.  He likes to stir the pot and get people, “on tilt.”

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Naked Emperors Don’t Get Much Respect, by Robert Gore

What happens when most of your military infrastructure is suddenly obsolete?

The emperor was the last to realize he was naked. This is not unusual, emperors are the last to find out anything. Who has the fortitude to tell them the truth, especially an upsetting truth? And so it is with the US’s empire, the existence of which most of its citizens, media organs, and officials are unaware or won’t acknowledge. The truth is, the American empire, acknowledged or not, is over. It will be years before that’s accepted by the governing class. They’ll never officially inform their subjects, who are stuck with the tab for its immensely wasteful spending.

Empires are built on military strength. The American empire was no exception. Many Americans still think the US military enjoys the dominance it had back in 1946, a notion Vladimir Putin buried March 1. On that date he announced new weaponry which will render our naval surface fleet, ground forces, worldwide bases, and antiballistic systems obsolete (see here, here, and here). The US military leadership has grudgingly acknowledged many of Putin’s claims.

The unmistakable conclusion: most US military spending is the welfare state with epaulets. It pays for weapons, bases, and personnel whose uselessness would be revealed within half an hour after a non-nuclear war with Russia began. We have no conventional defenses against Russia’s new weaponry.

It’s cold comfort that US land installation, submarine, and airborne nuclear deterrents are still relevant. If Russia or anyone else launched a conventional or nuclear attack against us, we can annihilate the aggressor. The destruction we bore would be matched in kind, but the planet might be rendered uninhabitable.

Fortunately, it can be said with 99 percent certainty that Russia has no desire to launch a war, nuclear or conventional, against the US. That nation wants what many nations and US citizens want: for the US government to leave it alone. Although spending only 10 percent of what the US does on its military and intelligence, Russia now has the muscle to back it up. The Chinese are right behind.

The story doesn’t say what happened to the emperor and his courtiers after the lad revealed his nudity, but we can assume the emperor’s smarter toadies started heading for the exits. Why stay on a vessel that can’t navigate the shoals of reality?

Welfare states—giving money to people who haven’t earned it—so inevitably lead to corruption that they might as well be synonyms. For years the US has bought compliance with its dictates within its confederated empire, picking up the lion’s share of the defense tab. Nations hosting US military bases welcome the jobs and spending just like congressional districts back home.

Even before Putin’s March 1 announcement, asking how non-nuclear bases, domestic and abroad, actually made anyone in the US safer occasioned awkward silence. Russia’s military spending and economy are dwarfed by the US’s and its EU protectorate’s; a Russian invasion of Europe, even with its new weapons, would be suicidal. The chances of Russia or any other nation invading the US are even more remote. Russia has been invaded far more often than it has invaded, and other than securing its own neighborhood, exhibits no desire to launch offensive warfare. Putin stressed the new weapons’ role defensive role.

After the announcement, US bases will be targets, the personnel they house hostages. That includes the mobile bases known as the US surface fleet, from aircraft carriers on down. They have no defense against the Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile, aircraft-launched with a range of 2000 kilometers, capable of reaching Mach 10.

Defending on sea or land against the Russians’ new nuclear powered cruise missiles—which have essentially unlimited range—is possible but problematic, especially if they’re launched in a swarm. Location has become irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if the US outpost is in Germany, Texas, or floating in the middle of the Pacific, they’re all vulnerable.

Poland’s recent proposal for the US to establish a military base there, at Poland’s expense, possibly to be named Fort Trump, is a strong contender for the year’s, perhaps the decade’s, most insane idea. Fort Courage, from the zany F Troop TV show, would be a more appropriate name. It’s one thing to hop on the US military spending gravy train, that’s just venal and corrupt. To install a useless military base and pay for it as well is incalculably stupid. The goal of politics is to get someone else to pay for your stupid ideas, but perhaps they do politics differently in Poland.

If you’re running one of the US’s protectorates, why should you accept the empire’s dictates when it can no longer defend your country? The question has added piquancy in Europe. Setting aside Russia’s new weapons, how would a country that’s botched military engagements in second string nations like Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria defend Europe short of nuclear war? If the answer is that it can’t, where does US leverage come from? The US demands more useless defense spending and presses Europe to curtail or cease profitable trade relations with Russia and Iran, both of which pose a minimal threat to Europe’s safety. Why should Europe comply?

President Trump has questioned the US subsidization of Europe’s defense. How much effort would the US make to defend Macedonia or Latvia? If the answer is not much, or if it can’t actually protect those or any other European country, then subsidies are the only “glue” for the American Empire, European division. It’s unclear if Trump realizes he can’t have his cake and eat it too. He may be happy to see Europe come unglued. Bankruptcy looms; the US has to start cutting spending somewhere.

It should come as no surprise that some countries aren’t toeing the US line, faithfully parroted by the EU. Turkey, straddling Europe and Asia, is edging toward Russia and China, and the goodies promised by their Belt and Road Initiative.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban and Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the League party that shares power there, are seeking better relations with Russia, notwithstanding the US and Europe’s long running demonization of Vladimir Putin. Those two are also challenging received wisdom on the desirability of open borders and unlimited immigration. They and other nationalist leaders are finding an increasingly receptive audience among Europe’s voters.

The two Koreas are also writing their own script, one that diverges from the one the US has written for them since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Among those who favor the status quo, the line is that impoverished albeit nuclear-armed North Korea poses an offensive threat to South Korea, Japan, and the US. Kim Jong Un is singing a beguiling song of denuclearization, rapprochement, trade, and peace, but he’s not to be trusted. Only if he agrees beforehand to the complete subjugation of his country can negotiations proceed.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has other ideas. The people of both Koreas want reconciliation and an end to the war (there’s an armistice but no official peace). Moon appears willing to entertain the possibility that Kim would rather bring his country into the 21st century than launch nuclear strikes. The impetus for negotiations has come from these two leaders and Trump has jumped on the bandwagon, much to the consternation of a motley collection of swamp denizens who profit from current arrangements. Peace may come in spite of their efforts to prevent it.

As the US government continues to spend money for weapons, bases, and personnel our putative enemy can obliterate, defend countries that are under no threat, and intervene in conflicts that promise only interminable stalemate and lost blood and treasure, the question presents itself: are those running the empire and its satrapies stupid, rapaciously corrupt, evil, or all of the above? We’ll take the obvious: all of the above.

Those who have placed their safety in the hands of the US’s would-be emperors can no longer afford to ignore the emperors’ nudity…and insanity. The empire is fraying at the edges and it won’t be long before fraying becomes unraveling. Nobody respects a naked emperor, certainly not one who doesn’t even realize he’s naked.

You Should Be Laughing At Them!

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Why America can’t understand the Middle East, by Marco Carnelos

There are still many in the government and the media who think the US can export its values to the Middle East. From Marco Carnelos at middleeasteye.net:

A recent editorial in the Washington Post, written by columnist David Ignatius, offers a shining example of the United States’ difficulty in understanding today’s world and, most of all, the Arab world.

Ignatius conveys a genuine concern for “The Unintended Consequences of US Disengagement in the Middle East”, quoting worried comments made by a member of the Arab elite allied with the US.

The journalist expresses uneasiness about the fact that “American power and values won’t matter the way they once did”. His position is steeped in the typical intellectual milieu of American exceptionalism, a position based on the hardwired assumption that the condition for an ideal existence and a stable world order are ensured only when American power and values are strong and shared.

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America Bombs, Europe Gets the Refugees. That’s Evil, by Eric Zuesse

The US has mucked up the Middle East, but refugee blowback costs are mostly borne by Europe. From Eric Zuesse at strategic-culture.org:

The US Government (with France and a few other US allies) bombs Libya, Syria, etc.; and the US regime refuses to accept any of the resulting refugees — the burdens from which are now breaking the EU, and the EU is sinking in economic competition against America’s international corporations. America’s corporations remain blithely unscathed by not only the refugees that are breaking up the EU, but also by the EU’s economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, and other allies of governments that the US regime is trying to overthrow in its constant invasions and coups. The US Government makes proclamations such as “Assad must go!” — but by what right is the US Government involved, at all, in determining whom the leaders in Syria will be? Syria never invaded the US In fact, Syria never invaded anywhere (except, maybe, Israel, in order to respond against Israel’s invasions). Furthermore, all polling, even by Western pollsters, shows that Bashar al-Assad would easily win any free and fair election in Syria. The US Government claims to support democracy, but it does the exact opposite whenever they want to get rid of a Government that is determined to protect that nation’s sovereignty over its own national territory, instead of to yield it to the US regime, or to any other foreigners. The US regime has virtually destroyed the United Nations.

The US regime even refuses to provide restitution to Syria for its bombings, and for its arming and training of the jihadists — the fundamentalist Sunni mercenaries recruited from around the world — who are the US regime’s “boots on the ground” trying to overthrow Syria’s Government. Al Qaeda has led the dozens of jihadist groups that have served as the US regime’s “boots on the ground” to overthrow Assad, but Al Qaeda is good enough to serve the purpose, in the US regime’s view of things. The US regime says that there will be no restitution to Syria unless Syria accepts being ruled by ‘rebels’ whose leadership is actually being chosen by the US regime’s chief ally, the fundamentalist-Sunni Saud family, who already own Saudi Arabia, and who (along with the CIA) have been unsuccessfully trying, ever since 1949, to take over the committedly secular, non-sectarian, nation of Syria. In fact, the CIA perpetrated two of the three Syrian coups that were carried out in 1949.

To continue reading: America Bombs, Europe Gets the Refugees. That’s Evil

The Persistent Myth of US Precision Bombing, by Nicolas J.S. Davies

Precise does not always mean precise, and it never means non-destructive. From Nicolas J.S. Davies at consortiumnews.com:

Opinion polls in the United States and the United Kingdom have found that a majority of the public in both countries has a remarkably consistent belief that only about 10,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Estimates of deaths in Iraq actually range from 150,000 to 1.2 million. Part of the reason for the seriously misguided public perception may come from a serious belief in guided weapons, according to what the government tells people about “precision” bombing.  But one must ask how so many people can be killed if these weapons are so “precise,” for instance in one of “the most precise air campaigns in military history,” as a Pentagon spokesman characterized the total destruction last year of Raqqa in Syria.

The dreadful paradox of “precision weapons” is that the more the media and the public are wrongly persuaded of the near-magical qualities of these weapons, the easier it is for U.S. military and civilian leaders to justify using them to destroy entire villages, towns and cities in country after country: Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq; Sangin and Musa Qala in Afghanistan; Sirte in Libya; Kobane and Raqqa in Syria.

An Imprecise History

The skillful use of disinformation about “precision” bombing has been essential to the development of aerial bombardment as a strategic weapon. In a World War II propaganda pamphlet titled the “Ultimate Weapon of Victory”, the U.S. government hailed the B-17 bomber as “… the mightiest bomber ever built… equipped with the incredibly accurate Norden bomb sight, which hits a 25-foot circle from 20,000 feet.“

However, according to the website WW2Weapons, “With less than 50 per-cent cloud coverage an average B-17 Fortress Group could be expected to place 32.4% of its bombs within 1000 feet of the aiming point when aiming visually.”  That could rise to 60 percent if flying at the dangerously low altitude of 11,000 feet in daylight.

The inaccurate B17 “Flying Fortress”

 

The U.K.’s 1941 Butt Report found that only five percent of British bombers were dropping their bombs within five miles of their targets, and that 49 percent of their bombs were falling in “open country.”

In the “Dehousing Paper,” the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser argued that mass aerial bombardment of German cities to “dehouse” and break the morale of the civilian population would be more effective than “precision” bombing aimed at military targets.  British leaders agreed, and adopted this new approach: “area” or “carpet” bombing, with the explicit strategic purpose of “dehousing” Germany’s civilian population.

To continue reading: The Persistent Myth of US Precision Bombing

The Battle For The Iranian Nuclear Deal: China Vs The US, by James Dorsey

An interesting analysis of the Chinese perspective on the Middle East, and China’s role in it. From James Dorsey at middleeastsoccer.blogspot.com:

Conventional wisdom has it that China stands to benefit from the US withdrawal from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran, particularly if major European companies feel that the risk of running afoul of US secondary sanctions is too high.

In doing so, China would draw on lessons learnt from its approach to the sanctions regime against Iran prior to the nuclear deal. China supported the sanctions while proving itself adept at circumventing the restrictions.

However, this time round, as China joins Russia and Europe in trying to salvage the deal, things could prove to be different in ways that may give China second thoughts.

The differences run the gamut from an America that has Donald Trump as its president to a Middle East that is much more combative and assertive and sees its multiple struggles as existential, at least in terms of regime survival.

Fault lines in the Middle East have hardened because of Israel, Saudi and United Arab Emirates assertiveness, emboldened by both a US administration that is more partisan in its Middle East policy, yet at the same time less predictable and less reliable.

Add to this Mr. Trump’s narrow and transactional focus that targets containing Iran, if not toppling its regime; countering militancy, and enhancing business opportunities for American companies and the contours of a potentially perfect storm come into view.

That is even truer if one looks beyond the Gulf and the Levant towards the greater Middle East that stretches across Pakistan into Central Asia as well as China’s overall foreign trade.

China’s trade with the United States stood last year at $636 billion, trade with Iran was in that same period at $37.8 billion or less than five percent of the US volume.

The recent case of ZTE, one of China’s largest IT companies, tells part of the story.

Accused of having violated sanctions, the US Department of Commerce banned American firms from selling parts to ZTE, bringing the company to near bankruptcy. Mr. Trump appears to be willing to help salvage ZTE, but the incident significantly raises the stakes, particularly as China and the United States try to avoid a trade war.

That is but one consideration in China’s calculations. Potentially, other major bumps in saving the nuclear agreement lurk around the corner and could prove to be equally, if not more challenging.

To continue reading: The Battle For The Iranian Nuclear Deal: China Vs The US