Tuesday 19th of February 2019

the word today...

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Germany's Rose Monday carnival is well known for its elaborate satirical floats that mock world leaders, and this year didn't disappoint. Donald Trump and Angela Merkel found themselves among the victims of German satire.

Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) events are held across the Rhine region each year. The biggest parades are taking place in Düsseldorf, Mainz, and Cologne.


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passing parade...

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even germany is crook...

It looked like Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats had finally one-upped Chancellor Merkel. But then, just as his party secured key cabinet positions in Germany's potential new government, he messed everything up. And Merkel's position isn't much better.

Admittedly, it has been a few years since Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) have experienced anything close to a political triumph. But the enthusiasm with which the center-left party has embraced chaos just as it looked as though leader Martin Schulz had finally one-upped Chancellor Angela Merkel in the country's endless search for a coalition government has nevertheless been breathtaking. And the upshot on both sides of the aisle is bewildering: Schulz has renounced claims to a cabinet position and appears to be heading for the backbenches while the SPD leadership has so deeply infuriated the base that it's unclear whether they will approve the coalition deal at all.

Meanwhile, Merkel has sold the family silver to stay in power and stirred her erstwhile catatonic party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), into a potentially revolutionary fury.

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erdogan is not happy...

According to Erdogan, Washington's decision to give financial support to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia will affect Ankara's decisions.

"We have 911 kilometers of border with Syria. What is their [US'] connection with the Syrian border? They have already spent 550 million dollars [to help the YPG], but now they want to increase this figure to three billion. You say that you are fighting against Daesh. And how many Daesh members did you destroy? Those who fought against Daesh are now fighting against Turkey. No one has the right to use Daesh as an excuse. It's time to finish this theater with Daesh, it's time to remove the masks," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

In an address to the members of his ruling AK Party, Erdogan stated that a decision by the US to continue to fund the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia will affect Turkey's decisions.

"We are told: 'If we are hit, we will respond.' Those who say this, have never tried an Ottoman fist in their life," the Turkish president added.

The president has slammed Washington, saying that as NATO members, Turkey and the US are equal.

"If you say that the YPG is not a terrorist organization in our opinion if you are attacking a NATO ally, you should stand against it as a member of NATO," he said, adding that the US "wants us to surrender to terrorists."

Earlier this month, Erdogan claimed that US presence in Syria's town of Manbij was aimed against Turkey, Iran and maybe Russia.

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Before Iraqi and Western forces launched an offensive to liberate the city of Mosul last August, my colleague Daniel Davis traveled to northern Iraq to meet with the soldiers and commanders on the front lines. A veteran of the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan, Retired Lieutenant Colonel Davis can smell trouble on the battlefield from a mile away. And after talking with Iraqis, Americans, and soldiers of the Kurdish peshmerga about the upcoming thrust into Iraq’s second largest city, he sensed a looming catastrophe on the horizon—one for which the United States wasn’t prepared.

“From my interviews with senior government officials, military generals, regional experts, [and] displaced persons from increasingly crowded refugee camps,” Davis wrote, “it became clear to me that winning the fight for Mosul for the anti-ISIS side is hardly assured, and even if ISIS is eventually eradicated, the absence of a unifying enemy might release pent up animosities and hatreds among current allies.”

Five months after those words were written, time has proven my colleague right not only in Iraq—which is still in the middle of a political war between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad—but also across the border in Syria. Indeed, as this piece is being written, U.S.-armed Arab fighters of the Free Syrian Army are shooting at U.S.-supported Kurdish fighters of the YPG. Turkey, a NATO ally, is threatening to annihilate the Syrian Democratic Forces, the same unit Washington has relied on as a ground army to clear the Islamic State. The U.S. has now managed to alienate the Turks on the one hand and the Syrian Kurds on the other.

As if Syria wasn’t complicated enough, Turkey’s military operation in Afrin has made the country an unsolvable enigma. And Washington—due in large part to overeagerness and short-term decision-making over realistic, long-term planning—has backed itself into a foreseeable corner and contributed to the problem.

At every stage of the conflict, Washington’s Syria policy has been reactive, influenced by the spur-of-the-moment and expansive ambitions. In more cases than not, those decisions have flooded an already tragic conflict with more weapons or brought the U.S. deeper into a contest of wills fought between the region’s major powers.

When the Syrian regime began shooting peaceful demonstrators in 2011, the clamor for Washington to intervene was deafening. When Assad began using tanks and aircraft to suppress a growing rebel revolt, representatives from the foreign policy establishment leapt onto television and begged the Obama administration to increase America’s “skin in the game.” Bills were drafted authorizing the provision of small arms and anti-tank weapons to rebel forces. Calls for a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone were made and repeated, despite very little comprehension about what such a zone would cost and how taxing it would be to the United States military.

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As far as the US is concerned, the situation is under control like a never ending boil on one's butt. It does not kill you... Read from top...

And by the way: "When the Syrian regime began shooting peaceful demonstrators in 2011" is often mentioned as the start of the war in Syria. Please note that most of the photographs taken then showed IS black flags (before ISIS became a full-blown terrrorist outfit). As well according to some reports, the "demonstrators" were not peaceful and some of them shot at the troops and the police.

The war in Syria started (2009) when Assad refused to let a Saudi pipeline through Syria as demanded by the USA. Thus thereafter, the "spirit of the Arab Spring" was stirred by the Americans (overtly and covertly) to make Assad "go". All this US support for "moderate rebels" resulted in many deaths, many refugees and the creation of a full blown ISIS (Sunni/Wahhabi extremists) who joined with other rebels, Al Qaeda and Al Nusra. The USA does not care about people, only about their troops being there, being like the boil on the butt of other people.

daesh as a US commodity...

The illusion of the eradication of Daesh

by  Thierry Meyssan

The fall of the Caliphate and the scattering of the jihadists of Daesh open a new phase for recycling these troops. Perceived, according to each case, either as fanatical combatants or common psychopaths hiding behind an ideology, they are being courted by the States and multinationals who once employed them indirectly. Thierry Meyssan illustrates the setting for their second chance and issues a warning in face of the complacency shown by the Western powers concerning Daesh’s ideology – which in fact is the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

While all the world’s leaders are wondering about rebuilding Iraq and Syria after the fall of Daesh, there remain many other questions which are far more complex, even though they are not usually raised in public.

At the end of all ideological wars, like the religious wars of the 16th century in Europe or the Second World War in the 20th century, the question is raised about the future of the defeated soldiers. Many of them have committed atrocious crimes, and it does not seem possible to re-integrate them into the society of the victors.

Since the successive falls of Mosul, Rakka, Deir ez-Zor and Boukamal, the Caliphate no longer has its own territory. The end of the Islamic State followed the abandon by the United States of the « Sunnistan » project intended to cut the Silk Road in Iraq and Syria (according to the Robin Wright plan [1]. This was censored by the intervention of President Trump in May 2017). Finally, the jihadists were defeated by the Iraqi and Syrian armies.

For three years, the global anti-Daesh Coalition alternated ineffective bombing raids with the delivery of weapons to the jihadists, as the Iraqi Parliament revealed at length. It only played a decisive role during the battle for Mosul, when it attempted to exterminate the surviving jihadists by completely destroying the city.

In 2015, the Caliphate numbered 240,000 combatants: 
40,000 jihadists, members of Daesh as such. 
80,000 members of the Order of Naqshbandis, ex-soldiers of the Iraqi army fired by Paul Bremer. 
120,000 men from the Sunni tribes of Western Iraq, descendants of the Yemenite combatants.

There is no way of evaluating how many of these were killed in combat, or how many new jihadists were brought in during the war. Whatever the various declarations, we do not know how many they are today, and we can only refer to older numbers for an approximate estimation.

If the 200,000 Iraqis who joined Daesh are now integrated in the Iraqi Sunni population, what can be done about the 40,000 hardened criminals who are the foreign jihadists?

Fighting the Caliphate

For comparison, at the end of the Second World War, while the Wermacht (that is to say the German army) was demobilised without any trouble, what could be done with the SS (the troops of the Nazi movement which was recognised as a criminal organisation by the Nuremberg trials)? They numbered close to 900 000, and there was obviously no question of killing them, or even holding them for trial. Many of them went home to be forgotten. The officers were recuperated en masse by the United States to fight the USSR, either by sabotaging the Soviet economy, or by setting up anti-communist régimes all over the « free world » (sic). Some of them refused the peace and continued the war for two more years – these were the « lone wolves », an expression that is being currently re-used.

The recycling of the SS was organised by the CIA’s first director, Allen Dulles, and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. No-one was aware of this until the US Congress discovered the size and the consequences of this operation. The Church and Nedzi-Pike Commissions, as well as the United States President’s Commission on CIA Activities within the United States, unequivocably established the facts as from 1975. President Jimmy Carter decided to end the programme, while Admiral Stansfield Turner purged the CIA.

International public opinion has retained that for almost thirty years, the United States was a crypto-dictatorship under which hundreds of thousands of citizens were forbidden professional activity, and millions of others were spied on. However, it has completely forgotten that countries as different as Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, South Korea, Guatemala, Iran, the Philippines and Taïwan were governed by cruel dictatorships which relied upon the SS recycled by the CIA [2]. Programmes of mental manipulation, experiments with drugs and torture schools are sometimes mentioned separately, although they make up a coherent ensemble prolonging « Nazi science » (sic).

We therefore need to think about a solution for the jihadist problem in order to avoid reproducing this type of error, and imposing upon our children the consequences of the crimes of Daesh.

Certainly, the current situation is different from that of the Second World War. On one hand, it is easier since the jihadists are far less numerous than were the SS. On the other, it is more complex, because Adolf Hitler was beaten, while the commanders of the jihadists were not.

- 1. We can forget about those who fled alone. They are a problem for the police, little more.

- 2. Others, in groups, are attempting to appropriate new territories of which they will be the bosses, either close to the ex-Caliphate or in their own countries. But they no longer seem to be participating in a global strategy.

About 200 of them have withdrawn to the province of Idleb, controlled by Al-Qaïda. There they are fighting various insurgent groups.

Some of them moved to Africa. They are present in the Sinaï, where they are fighting against the Egypto-Israëli military alliance [3]; in Libya, where they are holding Tripolitania; and in Nigeria, where they confront the Chado-Nigerian alliance.

- 3. Most of Daesh’s jihadists have split into two groups. The United States (via the Kurdish anarchists) and Turkey treat them as professional combatants and offer them a future as mercenaries.

a) The first group was recuperated by Brett McGurk and General Joseph Votel to form half of a Frontier Protection Force stationed in Syria. But since this project was censored by General Jim Mattis, the Force has not been constituted. These men are camped in Kasham, at the exit from the US military base [4].

Last week, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in other words the Syrian Kurdish anarchist party, offered them an amnesty and began to incorporate them into its militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). They were denounced before the Security Council by Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. Since the YPG is officially armed and supervised by the US military, these jihadists are now de facto under the command of the Pentagon, even though they are registered as a Frontier Protection Force.

b) The second group was recycled by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under the flag of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Presented in 2011 by the Atlantist Press as having been created by deserters from the Syrian Arab Army, the FSA was in fact constituted by Libyan combatants from Al-Qaïda under the supervision of the French military [5]. Dispersed twice, it was again reconstituted, and is fighting alongside the Turkish army in Afrin.

The split within the ranks of the jihadists between pro-US and pro-Turks reflects the disintegration of the Turko-US alliance. 
• Brett McGurk was part of the team of John Negroponte and Donald Rumsfeld, who imagined and organised the Islamic Emirate in Iraq (future Daesh) in order to transform the unanimity of the anti-US Resistance into a Sunni-Chiite civil war. 
• At the beginning of his political career, when he was one of the leaders of the Millî Görüş, an Iraqi-German-Turkish Islamist organisation created by Ezzat Ibrahim al-Duri (Grand Master of the Iraqi Order of the Naqshbandis) and Necmettin Erbakan (Turkey), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan supervised the supply of arms to the Chechen jihadists fighting Russia. Very much later, when he was Prime Minister, he helped the jihadists in their struggle against the Syrian Arab Republic, and gave his unreserved support to Daesh [6].

In any case, the distribution of the jihadists seems to be a function of opportunity and ethnic origins. For example, Abdullah Sufuni, the ex-Emir of Aleppo, took the side of the US in revenge for the losses incurred during the Turkish invasion of Iraq. The Caucasian jihadists, on the other hand, took sides with Turkey because they have entertained close relations with Ankara for thirty years.

- 4. Although the Pentagon has abandoned the idea of creating a State to cut the communications route linking the Mediterranean to Iran and China, it has not abandoned Admiral Arthur Cebrowski’s strategy aimed at the destruction of the societies and States of the « non-globalised world » [7]. Some of Daesh’s combatants have thus been recuperated in order to pursue this plan, acting as auxiliary Special Forces.

In this context, the jihadists have been moved by the US armies to the Indian sub-continent, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, to Bangladesh and Myanmar (but not Sri Lanka), as was revealed by Zamir Kabulov, Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan.

The Iranian chief of staff, General Mohammad Baqeri, confirmed that the US Air Force had transferred some of the members of Daesh from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan. Iranian President Sheikh Hassan Rohani, made telephone contact with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to confirm this information. Then, speaking to the Press, he revealed that he had proposed the aid of Iran to Afghanistan in their fight against the pro-US jihadists of Daesh.

According to Pakistani Senator Rehman Malik, India may be organising a collaboration between the jihadists and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the militia of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu party. The goal is to penetrate the Muslim insurgents from Cashmere in order to exterminate them. The RSS, responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, has a long tradition of extreme violence. Rehman Malik is not a simple Senator, he was nominated as head of counter-espionage by Benazir Bhutto, and then became Pakistan’s Minister for the Interior. He has recently launched a procedure for the UNO to bring this affair before the International Criminal Court, and for Narendra Modi to be brought to trial.

The UNO High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, declared last week that the crisis concerning the Rohingyas in Myanmar [8] could lead to a regional conflict. If this were to be the case, the conflict would begin first of all in Bangladesh and Malaysia, where many refugees live.

A few hundred other jihadists returned to Latin America. Mainly from Trinidad and Tobago, they attempted to organise a huge terrorist attack during the carnival of 13 and 14 February, but were arrested five days earlier. The mission of this commando was to revive the Islamist tradition of the Caribean island, on the model of the failed coup d’Etat of July 1990. Then they planned to profit from the disorder created by the Venezuelian extreme-right wing in order to plunge the country into a war comparable to the conflict in Syria.

Fighting the ideology of the Caliphate

If, at the end of the Second World War, the Western powers failed with the reinsertion of the ex-SS, they succeeded in eradicating their ideology almost everywhere - Nazism. This ideology was only kept alive by the SS recycled into the stay-behind networks tasked with sabotaging the Soviet economy, in the Baltic countries and in Ukraine, where it is resurfacing today.

At their creation, the United Nations were above all an international coordination for denazification and the fight against war propaganda. All the member States forbade Nazi symbols and publications. The Nazi party, the NSDAP, was dissolved and war propaganda was censored. Yet no-one, with the exception of the Russian Federation and its allies, seem to be ready to combat the ideology of political Islam nor its party - the Muslim Brotherhood.

As an example, France has at its disposal an institution tasked with representing the Muslims in the country. It has managed to elect two representatives of the Brotherhood and has taken the institution’s presidency from an Algerian administrator and handed it to a member of the Turkish Millî Görüş. Simultaneously, it organised a world Press campaign against Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, currently under investigation in a criminal affair. The idea is to personalise the debate, in order to eliminate this troublesome symbol, but without confronting the Brotherhood’s ideology.

The Society of the Muslim Brothers had already been dissolved at the end of the Second World War, as a result of the political assassinations it had perpetrated in Egypt, and the intelligence it had supplied to Nazi Germany. But nothing was done about their ideology. Worse, the British MI6 took advantage of the incarceration of its principal leaders to reorganise the Brotherhood in its own image. The situation has not changed. After the disastrous episode of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt once again banned the Brotherhood, but President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, intent on pacifying his country, allowed his wife to wear the hijab (the veil has no connection with Islam, and only appeared with the Caliphs of Baghdad).

The Iraqis and the Syrians have just overthrown the Daesh Caliphate, but the battle is long way from being over. Some of the jihadists continue their mission, while their ideology remains unchanged. Once again, it is very difficult for the Western powers to let go of an instrument which is so useful for their strategy.

Thierry Meyssan

Said Hilal Alcharifi


leader of the euphemistic empire...

Peter Ford, former ambassador to Syria (2003-6) speaking at the “Imperialism on Trial” symposium in Derry, Ireland. He describes the weasel words and manipulative language used to redefine old ideas of imperialism as a liberal ideal. “Defending human rights”, he says, is simply a modern construct of the Victorian meme of the “White Man’s Burden” – the mendacious idea that the countries invaded by the British Empire needed and welcomed the invaders as a civilising and educational force.


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More US bullshit...

New sanctions loom in the US-Russia standoff — what does the spat mean for the world, and is there an end to it? We talked to Dr Mathew Burrows, the veteran CIA analyst and former National Intelligence Counselor.

Follow @SophieCo_RT 

Sophie Shevardnadze:Mathew Burrows, the CIA veteran analyst and the former National Intelligence Counselor, welcome to the show, it’s really great to have you on our programme. The world is no longer split in two any more like during the Cold War, and clearly the U.S. isn’t leading the world, like it tried to in the 90s - so should we be bracing ourselves for chaos in this new multilateral reality?

Mathew Burrows: ‘Chaos’ may be a strong word, certainly instability because I don’t think we have achieved some sort of equilibrium. U.S. is trying to find the new role for itself, other powers as well.

SS: Why is it so bad? We’ve had a leaderless world for many centuries before and we were fine…

MB:Well, that leaderless world had quite a few wars in it. And, obviously, I think, our own appetite for conflict is very very low these days and public is more eager to see economic improvement than they are to get into a fight with a neighbour or other powers in the world.  

SS: How volatile is the current state of U.S.-Russian relations? I mean, do you see more sort of stability within this confrontation, or is it teetering on the unpredictable and dangerous?

MB: It’s certainly unpredictable. I would say it’s potentially dangerous if it keeps at this low level of non-cooperation. You know, we’ve had differences before, but we’ve also been able to talk to one another and we also had those channels of communication. At the moment even between non-governmental bodies there seems to be a very low level of communication between the two of us.

SS: Is it as bad as during the Cold-War era? Or even worse in a way?

MB: It’s worse in a sense that there is no communication. I think it’s different. The U.S. really sees its peer competitor as China, so in some way it’s not as concerned (and I don’t share that belief) about Russia, they see Russia as a declining power, and therefore the power that in their minds we shouldn’t have to pay that much attention to. So that is a very dangerous situation.     

SS: Donald Trump, who looked like he could be a blessing for Moscow-Washington relations during his campaign, is now conducting the Russian business in an even more adversarial manner than Barack Obama. Why such a u-turn?

MB: I think he’s hemmed-in. I’m not sure that he has changed his views. I mean, his views were always that we should be trying to cooperate together. But he’s a weakened president. There’s an ongoing investigation as, I’m sure, you know, about whether there was a collusion between his campaign and Russian authorities. So he can’t voice any argument for better relations.       

SS: But I mean, he’s the President of the United States. Who can hem him in? If he wants to have a good relationship with Russia, he should have a good relationship with Russia. Doesn’t his word mean anything? What kind of president is that?

MB: This is the definition of a weakened president. You know, he has Congress which passed sanctions almost unanimously. He couldn’t veto it and so he has to abide by that legislation. He can’t actually voice much sentiment for better relations with Russia without implicating himself in some sort of conspiracy with Russia or collusion with Russia.

SS: Can the Russia investigation, coupled with possible Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S., bring matters to a crisis point - an impeachment trial even?

MB: It depends if the Democratic Party wins both houses because it can impeach in the House of Representatives if it wins the majority after the November elections, it could bring impeachment proceedings. But in order to convict a president and throw him out of office you have to have a trial in the Senate. And it’s not clear if the Democrats can win the Senate. I mean, Bill Clinton was impeached as well but he wasn’t convicted. I think, when it comes to it, a lot of legislators both on the Republican and Democratic side may pull back from going through, particularly with the conviction, not so much the impeachment now, it’s been done against Bill Clinton. So that’s a precedent.   

SS: So the Iran deal, and some progress in Syria, shows Russia and the U.S. can sit down and tackle global problems successfully if the need arises. Is this how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future - sanctions and hostility mixed with pragmatic cooperation?

MB: You know, that is certainly a step in the right direction when you can get more cooperation on different issues. Hopefully, at some point that cooperation improves. There are a lot of issues like arms control where we need to be talking with one another. I hope, it doesn’t stay there at minimal cooperation but moves up to more cooperation. 

SS: The U.S. and Russia managed to deal with the Iran issue together, now we have another nuclear crisis with North Korea. Can the two countries go again - sit down, involve China, get the Koreans to work things out, pull this off one more time here?

MB: It’ll be easier for U.S. to deal with Russia as part of a group of countries along with China, Japan, South Korea and others. It is very difficult at the moment to have those bilateral talks, at least openly. And if you have them behind doors there are so many leaks from this administration that it’s very hard to carry on diplomacy with Russia without that leaking. So, yes, I think, you could see in a broader setting where you have other powers, improvement in the cooperation and that can bring some trust back in the relationship.     

SS: During the John Kerry years, there was hope that this approach of working on some issues while clashing over others will actually lead to a comprehensive mending of the Russia-U.S. relationship. But that hasn’t materialised - why doesn’t Tillerson continue working this line?

MB: Well, there was a sea change and nobody saw this coming. Obviously there are different views on the interpretation. But most Americans believe that there was Russian interference in the election. And they see this as an attack on American values. During the Kerry years and before that during the Clinton years there was more of a willingness in their mind to reset relations after they deteriorated on one issue or the other. Post-Ukraine crisis and particularly now with still the investigation on what happened in the election is going on, it’s very hard for Tillerson or Trump, as we discussed, to make the case to the American public that we should have better relations.      

SS: Despite the hostility, the Americans and the Russians saw eye-to-eye when it came to fighting ISIS - and now the terror state is all but defeated. Should we expect the U.S. to distance itself from problems like Syria and let it play out?

MB: I would say, under the Trump administration there has been more disengagement. Although there’s effort now in the State Department and elsewhere to begin thinking about reconstruction in Syria. In my own mind both Russia and the United States share big interests in Syria. I mean, both of us don’t want to see more instability or terrorism. But there’s a huge disagreement on tactics. The U.S. is not making it a condition any more that Assad leave the office. But nevertheless there’s a strong anti-Assad sentiment. 

SS: Turkey - a NATO member - is currently attacking the Syrian Kurds, who are U.S. allies. Is Washington going to do anything about this or is it going to throw the Kurds, who rely on it, under the bus?

MB: I think, Washington is very concerned about Turkey and where Turkey is heading. Yes, there are efforts to warn Turkey against its attacks. But it’s a NATO member, there’s effort not to alienate further Turkey, there has been tense relations between U.S. and Turkey for some time. So I think, the effort is to handle this in a very low-key manner out of the public eye.       

SS: Does the U.S. even have enough leverage to stop Turkey anyway?

MB:I don’t think we have the leverage… I mean, in the past Turkey was taking unilateral actions that highly displeased Washington. Turkey believes that there’s pretty much a threat. In the case of any country that believes that they face an existential threat from some source, it’s very hard to deter it from carrying out actions to eliminate that threat. 

SS: For decades, you’ve been analysing and predicting world crises for the U.S. government. How do you expect the Turkish intervention to unfold and what consequences will it have?

MB: Hopefully, Turkey doesn’t… It’s warning the U.S. but it tries to avoid hitting U.S. personnel, and also draws backwards on its actual actions against the Kurds. As I say, there’s a difficult negotiation but I don’t think Turkey wants to completely alienate the U.S.   

SS: The Pentagon has recently revealed the new U.S. defense strategy, which says that inter-state strategic competition with Russia and China is a No.1 concern for the U.S. Is terrorism no longer the biggest threat to America?

MB: It isn’t. This is a dramatic switch and obviously terrorism is still a big threat. Any U.S. president doesn’t want to see a repeat of the 9/11 episode. So we’ve been hardening our borders and we continue in the Middle East and elsewhere cooperating with countries who are fighting terrorism and following also the spread of extremism in the U.S. or elsewhere to try to dent any terrorist attacks. But increasingly the U.S. foreign policy elite believes that we’re falling behind China on technology, that they are moving ahead on certain technologies, and despite having problems with how foreign policy is executed under Trump the foreign policy elite, both Republican and Democrat, agree with those statements in the National Defense Strategy.

SS: Is the U.S. in effect abandoning the war on terror and returning to a Cold War-type of thinking? And if so,why?

MB: I don’t think it’s abandoning totally, as I talked earlier. But I do think that it does worry that it’s margin... If you go back to the past 20 years, there was a period in the 90s when U.S. believed it was a unipolar power, so clearly above any power in the world able to take unilateral action. What you’ve seen in the last decade or two is the U.S. seeing China rise very quickly. And there’s worry on the economic side  - China is 6-7 years away from becoming the biggest economic power in market value terms. So that is the concern. I think we’re approaching in an interesting way another Sputnik moment - as you remember in the 50s when U.S. was worrying it was falling behind the Soviet Union in technology development.    

SS: Russia and China are called ‘revisionist powers’ that want to shape the world under their model in the latest U.S. defense strategy. So to me, it sounds that in the American mindset  there’s the American worldview, which is right, and there’s all the rest, which are incorrect or adversary, “revisionist”, and need to be confronted. How can the U.S. exist in a multipolar reality with this type of unipolar mentality?  

MB: Well, that’s a big difficulty. And that’s something I’ve been worried about for years because I think the U.S. is going to remain a great power whatever sort of world order we have. If it continues to play its cards like it did in the 90s believing it was a unipolar power and could do this things unilaterally then, I think, we could be in for a rough ride, because I don’t think other powers, not just China and Russia, don’t want to see a unipolar world with the U.S. as the top power.   

SS: In your book “The Future, Declassified” you say that America has to “take charge and direct the needed changes” in the world. What about all the countries of the world that aren’t excited about the American direction - do you think, they should be forced into following America's lead?

MB: No, I think, what you earlier said about a polycentric world is correct.And if you have a polycentric world it means that the U.S. have to sit down with other powers and players of the world and we can think about how we can work together. We’ve talked about the shared interests. So the effort is about how we work and cooperate in dealing these shared interests. 

SS: I understand that you’re talking about the U.S. adopting a sensible strategic policy and going through with it, but if we try to look at it from a non-American point of view, we see that since the Iraq invasion of 2003, American foreign policy has been impulsive and quite chaotic, focused on its own interests rather than the common one, and has contributed to the mess in the Middle East rather than solving anything. After two decades of this, how can the U.S. regain the trust of the international community in its leadership ability? Because so far, and I repeat, from an outside point of view, it’s not been too good...

MB: I completely understand your view on it. And, I think, many Americans would also share your view that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder and disaster for the U.S. That’s why the popularity of George W. Bush went down in his second term. But Americans look on this as we had good intentions. We were dealing with what we thought was a threat of weapons proliferation. And in Afghanistan we were trying to rebuild the country. The good intentions don’t excuse what happened - the disrupture and disarray that happened in the Middle East. But that is still how a lot of Americans look on that. The rest of the world is focused much more on the disastrous result. The U.S. public and elite think about the intentions and are seeing those as good intentions.

SS: Almost a decade ago, about eight years, you said cybersecurity was a top threat. Now the Pentagon has recently proposed writing a nuclear response to a devastating cyber attack into the U.S. military doctrine. What kind of a hostile action in cyberspace would merit a nuclear attack?

MB: I think, in the Pentagon’s mind it would be disabling of critical infrastructure, for example, like the electric grid or the functioning of financial institutions in the U.S. But even those actions certainly, in my mind, don’t justify a nuclear attack. I’m not actually sure they would trigger one. Most Americans are very scared about what would happen after they trigger a nuclear attack. If that would be particularly against Russia, China or another nuclear power there would be retribution.

SS: Dr Burrows, on this optimistic note thank you very much for this wonderful interview. We were talking to Dr Mathew Burrows, the CIA veteran analyst and the former National Intelligence Counselor about all the major challenges that put our world order to test. That's it for this edition of SophieCo. I'll see you next time.


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telling porkies for non-ending aggression...

Damon Linker chides Americans for the lies we tell ourselves about our unending wars:

The honest and alarming truth that we seem all-too-eager to evade is that America is already at war around the world. Someone desperately needs to pay attention, demand accountability, and keep tabs on the steep monetary, human, and geopolitical costs.

Linker is right that Americans should pay attention to and demand accountability for the endless wars waged in their name, but he also acknowledges that most have no interest in doing so. Another alarming truth is that many Americans seem content to allow perpetual war to continue so long as the steep costs are borne mostly by people in other countries. Those costs tend to be ignored or mentioned only in passing when assessing the damage done, and even when they are acknowledged they are not given much weight in our policy debates. The hundreds of thousands that died because of the 2003 invasion of Iraq have practically been reduced to a footnote in subsequent debates over military intervention.

One reason for this indifference is that many of our leaders tell us other comforting lies about these wars: that they are necessary and waged in self-defense. The reality is that virtually none of the military interventions that the U.S. has carried out in the last thirty years was unavoidable or required for the defense of the United States and its allies. Our wars are usually wars of choice fought for reasons unrelated to defending ourselves or the nations we are obliged by treaty to protect, and they are typically fought in places where the U.S. has no vital interests at stake. 

The U.S. is at war around the world because our government chooses to be at war around the world. For the most part, this was not forced on us, but rather it is something that our leaders and pundits have willingly embraced again and again. Perhaps the biggest lie of all is that the U.S. goes to war reluctantly and grudgingly. In fact, no other government resorts to the use of force in international affairs so often and so casually as ours has in the last twenty-five years. On the rare occasions when the public recoils from this, as they did in the 2006 midterms and again in 2013 at the prospect of attacking Syria, our leaders and pundits shake their heads and warn against the dangers of “retreat” from the world. Of course, the myth of retreat is another lie used to justify the next unnecessary war, and if that doesn’t work then they tell us the lie that the rest of the world supposedly craves and demands U.S. “leadership” in its most destructive form.

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See also: http://www.yourdemocracy.net.au/drupal/node/1947#comment-4703

in the chinese slop...

While America’s attention has been focused on the North Korea crisis, diverted occasionally to developments in the South China Sea, another volatile East Asia confrontation has reemerged. China is adopting a growing number of measures to intimidate Taiwan, including emphasizing that any hopes the Taiwanese people and government have to perpetuate the island’s de facto independence are unrealistic and unacceptable. Hostile actions include a renewed effort to cajole and bribe the small number of nations that still maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei to switch ties to Beijing, extremely explicit warnings that China will use force if necessary to prevent any “separatist” moves by Taiwan, and a sharp increase in the number and scope of military exercises in the Taiwan Strait and other nearby areas.

The military maneuvers are especially unsettling. According to Taiwanese media accounts, China has conducted 16 military drills around Taiwan in 2017, compared to just eight in 2016 and even fewer during the years between 2008 and 2016. Chinese military aircraft engaged in exercises near Taiwan’s northern coast in December. Beijing’s naval and air power war games culminated in January 2018, when a flotilla including China’s only aircraft carrier sailed through the Strait. A senior Chinese official, Liu Junchuan, the liaison head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, boasted that “the contrast in power across the Taiwan Strait will become wider and wider, and we will have a full, overwhelming strategic advantage over Taiwan.”  

Understandably, the Taiwanese are increasingly worried about Beijing’s saber rattling. Officials in Taipei assert that the burgeoning military activity poses an “enormous threat” to Taiwan’s security. The Chinese government responded by telling the Taiwanese that they needed to get used to air force and naval units encircling the island, because those activities were not going to cease.

The mounting tensions between Taipei and Beijing should be attracting more notice. Beijing’s increased assertiveness, if not outright belligerence, is more than a matter of abstract concern to the United States. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act(TRA), which Congress adopted when Jimmy Carter’s administration formally recognized the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and downgraded Washington’s relations with Taipei to informal economic and cultural ties, specified two security concerns. The United States pledged to regard any PRC effort to coerce Taiwan as a grave threat to the peace of East Asia. It also promised to sell “defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.” 

Although the TRA’s commitments are not the same as a U.S. treaty obligation to use military force to defend the island, they are far from trivial. If an armed conflict erupted between the PRC and Taiwan, it is almost certain that the United States would be caught up in the fighting.


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