Saturday, June 20, 2015

Today's Links

Robert McNamara on firebombing Japan

1--Carl Icahn: Donald Trump Is Completely Correct That "We Are In A Bubble Like You've Never Seen Before"

2---European Central Bank extends credit on fears of Greek bank collapse, wsws

In his latest blog, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis summed up some of the indices of the social catastrophe this has already produced in Greece. Since 2010, “Wages fell by 37 percent, pensions were reduced by up to 48 percent, state employment diminished by 30 percent,” and “Consumer spending was curtailed by 33 percent,” he wrote.
“Around 1 million families survive today on the meagre pension of a grandfather or a grandmother as the rest of the family members are unemployed in a country where only 9% of the unemployed receive any unemployment benefit. Cutting that one, solitary pension is tantamount to turning a family into the streets.”...

Tsipras’s speech, speaking alongside Putin only days after the EU extended sanctions against Russia for six months, contained an implicit threat. “The economic centre of the planet has shifted. There are new economic forces that are playing a role,” he said. “Russia is one of the most important partners for us.”  Repeal the bill of rights???
4---Iran Woos Oil Companies Ahead of Nuclear Deadline

Speaking of Russia, this week saw movement on two key natural gas projects for the Kremlin. Gazprom announced that it has agreed to build an expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline, which delivers gas to Germany via a pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea. Phase 3 and 4 of the Nord Stream would see 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year heading to Europe. The pipeline has been an important plank in Russia’s effort to bypass Ukraine.

Separately, Russia signed a preliminary deal with the Greek government, pushing forward Russia’s “Turkish Stream” pipeline. The agreement is not binding. And one can’t help but notice the timing. It comes just as Greece is in emergency talks with Europe over its debt, and Russia has even said that it would consider providing financial assistance to the Greek government. The announcement will give Greece added leverage in negotiations, and it also helps Russia push its project forward.

5---War dangers in South China Sea continue to rise

The Obama administration has attempted to portray China’s reclamation and construction as a sinister and threatening challenge to “freedom of navigation.” In reality, they are a belated reaction to the activities of other claimants over the disputed territories and a response to the US military build-up in the region as part of the “pivot” to Asia.
Since the 1980s, Vietnam has constructed numerous facilities and reclaimed land on the 28 islets and reefs that it occupies in the Spratlys, including lighthouses, airstrips, ports and troop barracks. The Philippines has done the same on the 10 islands and reefs it holds. Malaysia, which occupies seven islands and reefs, has an airfield on the largest and stations troops on all them.

While the US refuses to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), it has backed the legal action initiated in 2013 by the Philippines to challenge China’s claims in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. In December 2014, Washington, while posturing as “neutral” in the territorial disputes, issued a State Department report asserting that China’s claims were contrary to international law—laws which the US does not recognise.
China has stated that it will not accept any UN court ruling against its claims and its activities in the South China Sea are at least in part motivated by concerns that the Philippines, backed by the US, could seek to exploit a decision in Manila’s favour to occupy the disputed territories.

The construction of airfields and docking facilities on islands and reefs is also a response to the tactics that the US would employ in a war against China. In the event of conflict, American strategists, as part of their openly discussed “AirSea Battle” plans, advocate the imposition of a naval blockade that prevents Chinese shipping passing through the key sea lanes between the Indian and Pacific Oceans into the South China Sea. If China’s access to oil and other resources from the Middle East and Africa was cut off, its economy would collapse...

Next week, the Philippines military will carry out separate training exercises with both US and Japanese forces near Palawan Island in the South China Sea. Both the operations will involve surveillance aircraft—which Washington specifically threatened to use to fly into the exclusive zone around Chinese-held territory.....

The operations that China will be following most closely, however, is the massive Talisman Sabre exercise that will take place in July in northern Australia involving the US and Australian militaries, along with contingents from New Zealand and Japan. The George Washington aircraft carrier battlegroup arrived in Brisbane this week ahead of the exercise. In total, some 33,000 troops, 21 ships and submarines and over 200 aircraft will carry out what amounts to a rehearsal for a military confrontation with China in the South China Sea by a joint US-Australian task force

6---if the United States does decide to impose tariffs on China, Chen said, American companies operating in China, which account for more than 60 percent of China's exports to the United States, would surely be hurt the most. (China's commerce minister: U.S. has the most to lose in a trade war Washington Post, 2010

7---US-China Diplomatic Negotiations: Military Encirclement and Encroachment, James Petras

Obama’s so-called ‘pivot to Asia’ is best understood as a rapid escalation of military threats and exclusionary trade pacts designed to provoke, isolate, weaken and degrade China and push back its rise to economic supremacy in Asia.
So far the US strategy has failed. Washington’s diplomatic gestures have lacked the necessary economic substance and incentives to its ‘allies’; its much-ballyhooed trade agreements have floundered in the face of far superior and inclusive Chinese initiatives, including its new $100 billion-dollar Infrastructure Investment Bank and its more than $40 billion dollar economic agreements with the government of India.

In the face of its economic failures the Pentagon has opted for flagrant military encroachments on Chinese airspace. Specifically, US warplanes are directed to overfly China’s ongoing construction of military installations on atolls in the South China Sea. The Chinese Foreign Office and Defense Ministry have vigorously protested these violations of its sovereignty. The Obama regime has brashly rejected China’s diplomatic protests and affirmed Washington’s ‘right’ to encroach on Chinese territorial waters.
After a quarter of a century of failing to dominate China via economic penetration by US multi-nationals and through the liberalization of its financial system, Washington has discarded its ‘softer’ diplomatic approach and adopted a ‘proto-war’ stand. This policy uses economic boycotts, military encirclement and encroachment on Chinese maritime, aerial and land sovereignty in the hope of provoking a military response and then evoking a second ‘Pearl Harbor’ as a pretext for a full scale war engulfing its Asian allies (and Australia) in a major war in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s market successes have replaced the US as the dominant economic power in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In the face of this ‘usurpation’ the US has dropped the velvet glove of diplomacy in favor of the iron fist of military provocation and escalation. The US military budget is five times greater than China’s, whereas China’s investments and financing of economic projects throughout Asia, Latin America and the BRIC countries are ten times greater than those of the US.
China’s ‘economic pivot’ will clearly enhance Beijing’s global position over the medium and long-run, if the US’s reckless and short-term military superiority and territorial aggression does not lead to a devastating world war!

In the meantime, China is developing its military capacity to confront the ‘US pivot to war’. China’s leaders have devised a new defensive strategy, boosting its naval capacity and shifting from strictly territorial defense to both defense and offense on land, air and sea. Off shore defense is combined with open sea protection to enhance China’s capability for a strategic deterrent and counter-attack. China’s annual military spending had increased on average ten percent per annum in anticipation of the Pentagon shifting 60% of its fleet to the Pacific over the next five years.

8--Damning survey shows Ukrainians want peace

9--Judaism vs Jewish Identity Politics – Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro and Gilad Atzmon
Watch minute 29 thru 43 Is it all true or not?  I don't know

10--"Thucydides's trap"? China vs US not inevitable

The United States has intervened the South China Sea issue time and again lately. China firmly opposes it and reiterated that the united states is not a party in the South China Sea disputes, which are between China and other claimants and should be handled by those directly involved.
The situation has many people pondering how the two countries can avoid "Thucydides's trap" -- the notion an established power becomes so anxious about the rise of a new power that a struggle leading to war becomes inevitable. And how can they build their new-model relationship featuring peaceful coexistence and common development?

China and the United States should realize that the targeting of this new relationship is a strategic choice by both sides and requires unremitting efforts despite challenges. The sides have more incentives to enhance communication and cooperation than they do differences.
It should be kept in mind that a solid foundation has been established for the formation of the new relationship. In 2014, bilateral trade exceeded 550 billion U.S. dollars. China and the United States are each other's second-largest trading partners.

The number of Chinese traveling to the United States and Americans traveling to China each day adds up to more than 10,000.
The more than 90 dialogue mechanisms existing between China and the United States, with the S&ED and CPE included, have ensured smooth channels for communication, and for dispute settlement to some extent.
Heads of the two states have had several fruitful meetings. Besides their first summit in 2013, Obama paid a visit to China in November 2014. The two leaders have also met on the sidelines of multilateral meetings, such as the eighth summit of the G20 in September 2013 and the third Nuclear Security Summit in March 2014. Their talks touched upon a wide range of issues and face-to-face meetings helped enhance understanding and trust

11--Carter : "there will not be a single state of Iraq."
Carter addressed what would happen if a "multi-sectarian Iraq" -- a country where Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds live together -- is not possible.
"If that government can't do what it's supposed to do, then we will still try to enable local ground forces, if they're willing to partner with us, to keep stability in Iraq," he said. "But there will not be a single state of Iraq."

13--Carter speaks out against partition (then why are they arming ISIS?)

“This type of legislation risks fracturing the government of Iraq,” Carter told Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.). “Directly arming the Kurds or other groups within Iraq is inconsistent with the longstanding U.S. foreign policy of working to maintain a stable, unified Iraq and could be viewed by the government of Iraq as directly interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.”
Carter also said the amendment “fuels false narratives in Iraq and elsewhere in the region that the United States intends to partition the country.”....

At the State Department, spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala said it was U.S. policy that all arms transfers to Iraq “must be coordinated via the sovereign central government.”
The provision pits the new Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi against the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq, with both sides employing high-powered Washington lobbyists to press their interests.
The Iraqi government is represented by the Podesta Group, according to disclosure forms, while the Kurds have retained Squire Patton Boggs, Greenberg Traurig and other firms.

14--Who Is the Biggest Aggressor in the South China Sea?

In 1996, Vietnam occupied 24 features in the Spratly Islands (source).  At that time, according to the same source, China occupied nine. By 2015, according to the United States government, Vietnam occupied 48 features, and China occupied eight.
On May 13, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, David Shear, said this to the Senate Foreign relations Committee: “Vietnam has 48 outposts; the Philippines, 8; China, 8; Malaysia, 5, and Taiwan, 1.”
In the past 20 years, according to the United States, China has not physically occupied additional features. By contrast, Vietnam has doubled its holdings, and much of that activity has occurred recently. The Vietnamese occupations appear to have increased from 30 to 48 in the last six years.
Shear also pointed out that as of his speech, China did not have an airfield as other claimants did. He said:
All of these same claimants have also engaged in construction activity of differing scope and degree. The types of outpost upgrades vary across claimants but broadly are comprised of land reclamation, building construction and extension, and defense emplacements. Between 2009 and 2014, Vietnam was the most active claimant in terms of both outpost upgrades and land reclamation, reclaiming approximately 60 acres. All territorial claimants, with the exception of China and Brunei, have also already built airstrips of varying sizes and functionality on disputed features in the Spratlys.

It appears China has now built an airfield and that this was already visible in April 2015, when the Daily Mail reported that “images showed a paved section of runway 505m by 53m on the northeastern side” of Fiery Cross Reef. Now media pundits are engaged in a debate about how many acres China has


 China’s two-pronged strategy of what I term “incremental assertiveness” in the South China Sea is designed to change facts on the water to strengthen China’s position while simultaneously cementing economic ties with neighboring states to draw them closer into China’s orbit, thereby making them think twice about challenging Beijing (See: “Will China Change its South China Sea Approach in 2015?”). ....

China is also approaching a series of important meetings where it would prefer to have the South China Sea issue not dominate discussions and hamper progress in other areas, beginning with the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Washington, D.C. later this week ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in September

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