Friday, February 1, 2019

Today's Links

I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the “Endless Wars” of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end. We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace...Trump

  Trump again promises withdrawal but no US troops have yet left 


1--Denuclearization: Will It Survive John Bolton?

e Trump administration is looking askance at what may be a legitimate Russian effort to break the current disarmament deadlock between the United States and North Korea.  According to The Washington Post, Russia made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall to advance negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  Moscow offered North Korea a nuclear power plant in return for the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Russia would operate the nuclear plant and transfer all byproducts and waste back to Russia so that North Korea could not exploit the plant to build nuclear weapons.

The idea of trading off a nuclear power plant for a dismantling of nuclear weaponry is not a new one. President Bill Clinton negotiated an arms control agreement with North Korea in 1994, promising Pyongyang two light-water reactors in return for a nuclear freeze.  Construction on the site for the reactors began in the 1990s, but the Pentagon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission blocked delivery of the reactors.  As a result, North Korea eventually walked away from the agreement in the first years of the Bush administration.

In any event, U.S. officials are already dismissing the Russian idea as mere opportunism.  The United States blocked previous Russian efforts to play a role in the denuclearization process, particularly during the George W. Bush administration when John Bolton was undersecretary of state for arms control.  As the current national security adviser, Bolton can be expected to block any role for Russia in the disarmament scheme.

2---U.S. Wants Its Western Allies To Establish Safe-Zone In Northeastern Syria


The U.S. is working to form a new coalition that could establish a safe-zone along the Syrian-Turkish border east of the Euphrates River, the Wall Street Journal reported on January 31 citing U.S. officials.
According to the officials, the U.S. wants some of its Western allies, including the UK, France and Australia, to lead the new coalition. However, the negotiations are still ongoing as they are yet to agree.

The safe zone would include a 32km deep pocket along the Turkish border inside Syria from the Euphrates River to the border with Iraq. The Wall Street Journal said that Washington is willing to support the zone by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance using drones and other equipment, along with rapid reaction forces if needed. It could also provide logistical support including evacuating casualties.

The U.S. believes that such a safe zone would address Turkey fears while protecting Kurdish forces controlling northeastern Syria. It will also allow President Donald Trump to fulfill his promise to withdraw all American troops from the war-torn country.
Local observers doubt that this new plan would work as Turkey could simply reject it, especially if Kurdish forces are allowed to maintain a presence within the proposed safe-zone.

3--Europe 'at gunpoint' as US decides to quit missile treaty


4--Immigrants in US subjected to nasal force-feeding at ICE detention center


“What’s difficult for people to understand is that the conditions in immigration facilities are such they bring people to this point. It’s psychologically very challenging. Sometimes it’s physically challenging.

“I think people underestimate how bad it is to be held indefinitely in a place where you don’t get enough food, where you’re constantly berated, where people place obstacles in your way and play games with you. And the worst thing is never knowing when it’s going to end. It’s pretty bad, when it’s day in and day out.”

Vega said that there had not really been much of a change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration, in terms of conditions inside the detention facilities. “I would say that many people feel this is not new,” she continued. “In these facilities, going back ten years, people have noticed these conditions. Even though there are supposedly standards that guide how these places are run.

“I have encountered people in detention who went to a port of entry and applied for asylum. I met one individual who was detained and never given parole. In the El Paso area we’re seeing 100 percent denial rates on parole. We encounter asylum seekers who are not a flight risk, who are not a threat to the community, but they’re not released.”

5--US “Worldwide Threat Assessment” takes aim at China

Amid a bipartisan escalation of US pressure on China, the US “intelligence community” published Tuesday its annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment,” ahead of testimony by US intelligence officials before the Senate Intelligence Committee that day.

While the media have largely focused on differences between the assessment provided in the document and the statements of the White House, in reality the threat assessment reflects a bipartisan escalation of US efforts to block the economic, military and technological development of Russia and China, with particular emphasis on China...
The assessment declares, “For 2019 and beyond, the innovations that drive military and economic competitiveness will increasingly originate outside the United States, as the overall US lead in science and technology (S&T) shrinks; the capability gap between commercial and military technologies evaporates; and foreign actors increase their efforts to acquire top talent, companies, data, and intellectual property via licit and illicit means. Many foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, view strong indigenous science and technology capabilities as key to their country’s sovereignty, economic outlook, and national power.”

The report points to the critical role of artificial intelligence technology in this “strategic competition,” declaring, “The global race to develop artificial intelligence (AI)—systems that imitate aspects of human cognition— is likely to accelerate the development of highly capable, application-specific AI systems with national security implications.”

It goes on to state that “Foreign production and adoption of advanced communication technologies, such as fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, most likely will challenge US competitiveness and data security, while advances in quantum computing foreshadow challenges to current methods of protecting data and transactions. US data will increasingly flow across foreign-produced equipment and foreign-controlled networks, raising the risk of foreign access and denial of service.”

The report alleges that “China and Russia are expanding cooperation with each other and through international bodies to shape global rules and standards to their benefit and present a counterweight to the United States and other Western countries.”

The two countries will “present a wide variety of economic, political, counterintelligence, military, and diplomatic challenges to the United States and its allies. We anticipate that they will collaborate to counter US objectives.”

It warns, “We assess that China’s leaders will try to extend the country’s global economic, political, and military reach while using China’s military capabilities and overseas infrastructure and energy investments under the Belt and Road Initiative to diminish US influence.”
It further warns that “Successful implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative could facilitate PLA [People’s Liberation Army] access to dozens of additional ports and airports and significantly expand China’s penetration of the economies and political systems of participating countries.”...

The report, and the response to it, make clear that the US ruling elite is intent on responding to the decline of its global military and economic hegemony by escalating its economic, geopolitical, and military conflict with Russia and China by all means at its disposal.

6--US escalates threats against Venezuela

US officials have made no secret that control over Venezuelan oil, and its denial to Russia and China, which both have major investments in PDVSA, are the driving force of the coup. In a Fox News interview on Monday, Bolton declared that if Washington’s regime change operation succeeds, “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”...

The government is not able, however, to make any appeal to the Venezuelan working class, which is overwhelmingly opposed to imperialist intervention, but has grown increasingly hostile to the Maduro government, which has imposed the full burden of the country’s deep economic crisis on workers while carrying out repressive measures against strikes and protests. 

7--Class, not Brexit, is Britain’s great divide

The worst-hit areas are mainly, but not exclusively, areas that voted for Brexit—a fact highlighted by both sides of the raging conflict between the Remain and Leave factions of the ruling class—usually framed in the reactionary terms of a need for stiffer immigration controls
They are also overwhelmingly Labour Party-controlled authorities, with Labour councils seeing an average fall of 28 percent, compared to 19 percent for Tory authorities—an average decrease of £115 per household in Tory areas and more than £500 in Labour councils. A new funding formula will direct yet more funding to the Tory shires...

In every working-class neighbourhood, people’s lives are being torn apart. Local authority spending has fallen by half nationally since 2010, contributing to more than 1 million public sector job losses; the privatisation and gutting of social care; tragic evidence of homelessness and drug addiction on every major street; the closure of libraries, parks, swimming pools and youth clubs; public transport gutted and fares hiked to unaffordable levels; crumbling roads and infrastructure; and overflowing household bins.
With rising poverty and an aging population, nearly half of Britain’s cities now spend more than half of their budget on social care. Barnsley spends 62 percent on looking after its vulnerable adults and children....

The government is now planning further cuts to corporation tax—from its extraordinarily low rate of 19 percent, to just 17 percent. It stood at 28 percent in 2010. Those companies deigning to pay their taxes—Amazon’s UK tax bill fell to just £4.6 million last year on a turnover of £2 billion—will hand over £12 billion less by 2022. This comes on top of the £16.5 billion a year they have already saved since 2010 as a result of corporate tax cuts. The annual shortfall in the National Health Service budget is £20 billion.

To this must be added an estimated £1.7 billion annually in company tax avoidance. Fully 25 percent of FTSE 100 companies avoided taxation by locating subsidiaries to tax havens recognised by the UK—increasing to 98 percent of such companies if a stricter US definition is applied. In 2016, four of the top 10 FTSE companies paid no corporation tax at all
The result is that United Nations special rapporteur Professor Philip Alston issued a report last November stating that austerity policies have left 14 million people in poverty, including 4.5 million children—with this situation “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.

8--Ankara expects counterparts to define their YPG strategy

If there is no sign of clarification any time soon, Turkey may take unilateral initiatives to deal with the problem, despite the significant risks involved. But they do not outweigh Turkey's concerns over the presence and strengthening of the YPG positions along its border.
Turkey is trying to find a diplomatic solution to the problem in its discussions with the American and Russian officials while strengthening its military deployment on its border with Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the Adana agreement, which was signed between Turkish and Syrian officials in 1998 to prevent Syrian harboring of the PKK. But the realities in Syria are very different in 2019 following a civil war that has devastated the country and weakened the regime.

Ankara thinks that Washington is gaining time by delaying the implementation of the Manbij deal. Disagreements between different U.S. agencies and institutions, about how to deal with the withdrawal from Syria and how to engage with the YPG, may be real but these disagreements and confusions may also be exaggerated to keep the issue unsettled with Turkey.

Jeffrey's efforts to harmonize policies with Turkish officials are promising, but Ankara is still concerned whether these efforts may be spoiled by the unexpected moves of some other institutions/officials. The damaged trust between Turkish and American officials, due to the U.S.' broken promises on the YPG is still a matter that slows down cooperation between the two countries.
Moscow is also trying to prevent the deal between Turkey and the U.S. over the YPG in attempting to demonstrate that regime forces are willing to fill the vacuum that will be left by American withdrawal.

The backbone of any deal with Russia and the U.S. depends on how they will engage with this terrorist organization in the future. None of the actors offer a clear guideline and road map on the issue. This is a concern for Turkey because all the actors, including the Syrian regime, are trying to keep their options open with the YPG.

The PKK and YPG's presence in the region is the most significant obstacle for Turkey to formulate a more constructive strategy for the Kurds in the region. The normalization and reintegration of Turkey's relations with the region are contingent on its holistic Kurdish strategy

The YPG and PKK are the most critical obstacles against the normalization of relations between Turkey and the Kurds in the entire region. Turkey's counterparts in Syria have regularly advised Turkey to focus first on other issues such as dealing with Daesh, dealing with the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), al-Nusra Front or other problems. So far the status of the YPG has always been postponed to another stage of talks. For Turkey, it is the moment where any other significant political move cannot be made without clarifying its counterparts' strategies about the YPG 

9--archive 2018--Poll: 72 percent say traditional outlets 'report news they know to be fake, false, or purposely misleading


Trust in media at its nadir


10--US Withdrawal, Safe Zones, Sanctions, Idlib, ISIS & Israel


The eventual outcome, a return of Syrian security forces to the North East, is, in the view of this analyst, nailed on. The only question is when and under which conditions. The Kurds, reckoning on the Turks’ lack of appetite for a contested incursion and US dithering, are attempting to squeeze the last concession out of Damascus in terms of incorporation of the YPG into the Syrian security forces and some measures of local self-government, as well as use of the Kurdish language. Damascus, however, appears to hold the whip hand, conscious that as time goes on Trump will look as powerless over withdrawal as he does over the Mexican Wall if he does not act ‘and will if necessary call the Kurds’ bluff.


Putin and Erdogan also discussed Idlib, although the way forward here is less clear. Even the Turks cannot deny that in what is, to all intents and purposes, a Turkish and Western protectorate, the extreme jihadist Al Qaida-linked Tahrir Ash Sham (HTS) has run amok and now controls virtually the entirety of the area. This is the opposite of what was supposed to happen under the terms of the Russo-Turkish Sochi agreement which brought the September crisis to an end. Under Sochi the Turks were supposed to bring HTS to heel. Putin seemed to hint that military preparations would now move ahead for the Syrian government with Russian support to advance on Idlib, with Turkish acquiescence. The seamlines are already hot....

Currently the Geneva process is in baulk over US, French and British blocking of a slate of candidates for inclusion in the Constitutional Committee which is supposed to come up eventually with a new constitution which will pave the way for UN-supervised elections with the participation, as the Western powers and Turkey would have it, of millions of Assad-hating refugees.
This mirage might appear harmless. However it is constantly cited by the Western powers to justify their conduct of war on Syria by other means than the military methods which are now all but exhausted.
How have the EU and the US responded to the prospect of normalisation in Syria? With more sanctions of course

11--GILETS JAUNES: Civilians in Police Crosshairs as Macron Adopts Totalitarian State-Practices to Suppress Dissent

Effectively the Gilets Jaunes have exposed Macron and his government for what it is. Macron is the President who was elected by the globalists, the capitalists and the ruling elite to protect their interests. A book recently published, authored by Francois-Xavier Bourmand, entitled “Emmanuel Macron the Banker who would be King” has investigated the corporatocracy who ensured Macron’s election win in order to expand their interests globally and to convert France from Republic into Plutocracy at the expense of the “dispensables”, the “little people”.

If indeed Macron’s coterie in government are pushing for confrontation between the people and the security forces and introducing increasingly repressive measures to up the pressure on the protestors rather than trying to defuse matters, it is really ten minutes before midnight in France. The insanity of Macron supporting the “uprising” in Venezuela while sanctioning vicious reprisals against his own people at home is glaringly obvious to all but Macron and his backers. That is because Macron is doing his job and his job is to manufacture the conditions in which the privileged, wealthy ruling elite can thrive and further their globalist ambitions which includes military adventurism and resource theft from target nations that include Venezuela and Syria.

Violence will escalate in France because it is state-sanctioned. Unless the police wake up to their manipulation by the state and join forces with the GJs there is a risk of a serious confrontation in the very near future. However, as historian Diana Johstone has said: “for all the lamented decline in the school system, the French people today are as well-educated and reasonable as any population can be expected to be. If they are incapable of democracy, then democracy is impossible.”. There is still hope that the wave of discontent generated by the GJs may still bring down the globalist power structure and replace it with something more allied to the principles of the Republic of France.

12--U.S. wants Western allies to police Syria buffer zone – WSJ 

The United States has asked its Western allies to create and possibly enforce a buffer zone in northern Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials.
The countries approached have yet to agree, potentially slowing a planned U.S. withdrawal announced by President Donald Trump, the newspaper said.

The blueprint is designed to avert a resurgence of Islamic State (ISIS) in the region and possible clashes between NATO ally Turkey and Kurdish forces that are helping the United States defeat the extreme Islamist group, the Journal said.
A European diplomat confirmed to the newspaper that U.S. officials are in talks with their European counterparts about the buffer zone, but there had been no official response because the negotiations were ongoing.

Ilham Ahmed, a senior Kurdish official who represents the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said ISIS still presents a danger and has set up sleeper cells in the region.
The buffer zone would encapsulate a 20-mile deep pocket along the Turkish border inside Syria, which would stretch from the River Euphrates to the border with Iraq, U.S. officials said, according to the newspaper.

The United States would offer support via intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance using drones and other equipment, along with rapid reaction forces if needed. It could also provide logistical support including evacuating casualties, the Wall Street Journal said, citing the plan.
General Joe Dunford, head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned from Brussels, Belgium last week where he met senior European leaders. Dunford has also been involved in persuading them that the plan will work, the newspaper reported.

13--Senate Rebukes Trump Over Troop Withdrawals From Syria and Afghanistan


The Senate, in a bipartisan rebuke to President Trump’s foreign policy, voted overwhelmingly to advance legislation drafted by the majority leader to express strong opposition to the president’s withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

The 68-to-23 vote to cut off debate ensures that the amendment, written by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and backed by virtually every Senate Republican, will be added to a broader bipartisan Middle East policy bill expected to easily pass the Senate next week.
The vote was the second time in two months that a Republican-led Senate had rebuked Mr. Trump on foreign policy. In December, 56 senators voted to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in what was the strongest show of bipartisan defiance against Mr. Trump’s defense of the kingdom over the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi....


The bills prohibit the use of military funds to reduce the number of active-duty troops serving in Syria below 1,500 and below 22,000 in South Korea, unless the defense secretary, the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence submit assurances to Congress that the withdrawals would not undermine the nation’s security and that allied nations had been consulted, among other stipulations.






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