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[l] at 9/29/20 1:50pm

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Recently, the Indo-Pacific has become a battleground for a confrontation between the two world powers: China and the United States. In fact, other nations in the region, such as India, Japan and Australia, have taken a back seat. Since these countries are PRC’s rivals and USA’s partners, they are often primarily viewed as the United States’ allies, and their own stories and interests are frequently not covered by international media outlets. Only by focusing on each of the nations located in the Indo-Pacific could one help create a more or less accurate portrait of what is happening in the region.

Similarly, efforts made by many countries in this part of the world to counteract PRC’s continuously growing clout should also be publicized. The United States has been portrayed as playing a leading role in the aforementioned confrontation. In the meantime, other regional players, such as India, which also wish to counter China’s ever increasing influence, are depicted by global media outlets as nations that are barely capable of resolving their own issues with the PRC, and that are in desperate need not only in US support but also its leadership.

However, leaders of any normal country understand that it is futile to solely rely on the help of partners, particularly only on a single ally, in all of its conflicts. Politicians in India, China’s main rival in Asia, are also well aware of this.

In the course of modern history, it has been difficult for India and the PRC to establish a healthy relationship as two independent nations. Both of these large countries with their enormous populations and rapidly growing economies were bound to become rivals. Territorial disputes between the two have also played their role. These disagreements, on more than one occasion, have resulted in armed conflicts between India and China. In fact, the most recent flare-up in tensions occurred in May-June 2020 in the disputed area of Aksai Chin-Ladakh, where dozens of servicemen from both sides lost their lives.

Hence, India needs to strengthen its defenses by all means at its disposal, for instance, by pursuing a well-thought-out foreign policy course. As mentioned earlier, the United States, with its considerable military presence in the Indian and Pacific oceans, is viewed as New Delhi’s key strategic partner. India’s collaboration with Russia has also been equally successful. In fact, the Russian Federation has been equipping India’s armed forces with numerous products from its military industrial complex for a number of decades.

In addition to cooperation with these powerful, yet far away nations, such as the United States and Russia, it has also been just as important for India to collaborate in the military sphere with regional players with access to the Indian and Pacific oceans. In fact, Indonesia occupies a prominent place among such countries. It is located along the border of the two oceans, and flanks the strategically important Indo-Pacific corridor, i.e. the Strait of Malacca, whose maritime routes are used by practically all the ships travelling between East Asia and Europe as well as Africa.

Ensuring freedom of navigation in this strait is extremely important for the entire region. Still, a blockade of these shipping lanes during some sort of a crisis will probably affect China the most, since its economy and energy security depend, in large part, on deliveries of fossil fuels from the Middle East, which are transported via the Strait of Malacca. Other industrial powerhouses in East Asia, like Japan and South Korea, also rely on the aforementioned maritime routes used by oil tankers. Still, they can also count on deliveries of fossil fuels from the United States.

Clearly, such a radical step as preventing Chinese vessels from accessing the strait would only be taken in the worst case scenario. Considering how powerful China’s modern naval forces are, the aforementioned move could have unpredictable consequences for the entire region. Still, India, as well as the United States, can not afford to discount this option while developing suitable strategies to ensure their security. In addition, the opposite scenario should also be taken into account. Due to the important role played by the Strait of Malacca in China’s economy and the might of People’s Liberation Army, the PRC could, in theory, also consider the option of taking control of this corridor by military means. Clearly, such a move would also be a radical step that might only be taken in the worst case scenario. Still, the constant presence near the strait of China’s armed forces patrolling disputed ares of the South China Sea (SCS), as well as PRC’s creation of artificial islands in the SCS, where landing strips that could be used by its air force are located, all point to the possibility of the Asian giant making the aforementioned move if necessary.

All in all, it is strategically important for India to have a good relationship with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the three countries that essentially flank the Strait of Malacca.

India and Indonesia have enjoyed friendly relations with each other for quite some time. According to statements made by Indian politicians, these two nations are the ones that ought to join the ranks of the most prominent players during the upcoming Asian Century. It is worth pointing out that Indonesia is also concerned about China’s actions, especially about its aforementioned activities in the South China Sea. It is well known that the PRC is engaged in territorial disputes with many neighboring countries over substantial areas of this sea. The Paracel Islands, which China occupied after an armed conflict with South Vietnam, are located in the SCS. So is the Spratly archipelago, which China, the Philippines and other nations have made claims over. The entire region in the South China Sea that the former Celestial Empire has set its sights on is delineated by the nine-dash line on the map by the PRC and Taiwan. Parts of this territory overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone whose depths may be rich in useful resources. Beijing has justified its claims to this area “on the grounds that its fishermen have long been active there”.

Thus Indonesia is quite appreciative of its cooperation with New Delhi and tries to foster this partnership in every possible way. After all, the two nations share a maritime border and India has one of the most powerful naval forces in the Indian Ocean.

In May 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Indonesia, where he met the leader of this nation, President Joko Widodo. According to a joint statement issued afterwards, the leaders agreed to enhance the two countries’ strategic partnership and welcomed the adoption of the “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between India and Indonesia”. They also “reiterated the importance of achieving” peace and prosperity in this region “where sovereignty, international law, freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development and an open and fair trade and investment system” would be respected.

In summary, India has a powerful military while Indonesia controls majority of sea lanes running along the Strait of Malacca. In addition, both nations share a maritime border. Owing to the good relationship between the two, they could establish a joint security zone stretching along the entire coast of India and encompassing a part of the Strait of Malacca, one of the most important shipping routes in the world. This can have an enormous impact on the power dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. Such partnerships also show that countries other than China and the United States are important regional players and have a say in the future of the Indo-Pacific.

Dmitry Bokarev, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, India, Locations, Politics, Southern Asia]

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[l] at 9/29/20 12:51pm

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Ongoing protests in Thailand appearing very similar to those recently seen in Hong Kong are no coincidence.

They are part of an admitted “Pan-Asian Alliance” that – while claiming to be “pro-democracy” are in reality created by the US government and aimed directly at Beijing.

Thailand has tilted too close to Beijing for Washington’s liking and as a response, has scheduled Thailand for destabilization and if possible, regime change.

Thailand Tilting “Too Close” To China

China is Thailand’s largest and most important trading partner, its largest foreign direct investor, and its largest source of tourism with more Chinese tourists coming to Thailand each year than all Western nations combined.

Thailand is also hosting one of the key routes of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative with construction already ongoing for high-speed rail that will connect China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and eventually Singapore.

Finally and perhaps most upsetting for the US is that Thailand has begun replacing its aging US military hardware through a series of major Thai-Chinese arms deals including the purchasing of main battle tanks, other armored vehicles, naval vessels including up to 3 submarines, and jointly-developed arms programs like the DTI-1 multiple rocket launcher system.

Thailand has also recently replaced some of its US-built Blackhawk helicopters with Russian Mi-17V-5’s.

To counter this, the US has mobilized opposition groups and NGOs it has funded in Thailand for years to now demand the current government step down and the nation’s constitution be rewritten, paving the way for US-backed billionaire-led opposition parties of Thaksin Shinawatra and Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit into power. These are opposition parties that have long served US interests in the past and have explicitly promised to roll back Thai-Chinese relations should they take power again.

US NED Was Behind Hong Kong’s Unrest, and are Behind Thailand’s Now 

The US was indisputably behind the protests in Hong Kong with the political opposition and protest leaders confirmed to be recipients of US government cash via notorious regime change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Many of the protest leaders literally flew to Washington DC or visited the US consulate in Hong Kong to receive aid, directives, and other forms of support.

In Thailand too, virtually every aspect of the protests are funded by the US government.

Worse still is that the US is attempting to stitch these various movements together to form a regional front against Beijing with Thai protest leaders regularly traveling to meet their US-funded counterparts in Hong Kong and Taiwan and vice versa while creating an online army with the help of US-based social media giants to stack public narratives in their favor.

It will be a front that if regime change in any or all of the nations currently targeted by Washington in Asia is successful, will transform the region from a rising global economic power to a dysfunctional warzone not entirely unlike the Middle East.

US Funds Thai Protest Leaders 

The core leadership of Thailand’s protests includes Anon Nampa of the US NED-funded “Thai Lawyers for Human Rights” (TLHR). Anon Nampa leads every major rally, taking the stage and delivering the opposition’s demands to the current government including demands for regime change.

TLHR’s founder had in the past admitted that the organization “receives all its funding from international donors,” in an interview given to the English-language newspaper, Bangkok Post.

TLHR’s US government funding was openly displayed on the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website in 2014.

Its name has since been removed from NED’s website but continues to receive US funding through the NED via the “Union for Civil Liberty” (UCL) of which it is a member.

The UCL is still listed on NED’s current webpage for programs it funds in Thailand. TLHR is listed as a member of UCL on its official website next to other recipients of US NED funding including the Cross Cultural Foundation, the Human Rights Lawyers Association, and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

US Funds Orgs Trying to Rewrite Thailand’s Constitution 

Another of Anon Nampa’s demands is the rewriting of the Thai constitution. These efforts have been spearheaded by an organization called “iLaw” – also funded by the US NED.

Thai-based English-language newspaper The Nation in an article titled, “iLaw launches petition for charter rewrite,” would claim:

The Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), a human rights NGO, has launched a campaign seeking signatures from 50,000 voters to sponsor a motion for a Constitution rewrite. 

The organization’s US government funding is not mentioned in the article, but can easily be found on NED’s official website under the name, “Internet Law Reform Dialogue” (iLaw).On iLaw’s own website under “About Us” it admits:

Between 2009 and  2014 iLaw has received funding support from the Open Society Foundation, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and a one-time support grant from Google.

Between 2015 to present iLaw receives funding from funders as listed below1. Open Society Foundation (OSF)2. Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBF)3. National Endowment for Democracy (NED)4. Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR)5. American Jewish World Servic (AJWS)6. One-time support donation from Google and other independent donors

Other groups working to rewrite Thailand’s constitution include “ConLab” or “Constitution Lab” (on Facebook) who do so in partnership with US government-funded iLaw and which recently held an event at the US Embassy’s “American Corner” at Chiang Mai University.

One can only wonder what the US response would be if Russian or Chinese-funded groups attempted to rewrite the US constitution.

US Even Funds Groups Padding out Rallies with “Poor People” 

Filling up rallies is done not only through the billionaire-led opposition parties of Pheu Thai and Move Forward (previously Future Forward) but also through groups like the “Assembly of the Poor.”

Assembly of the Poor leader Baramee Chaiyarat has recently vowed to bring his supporters to any future mass rallies in Bangkok.

But just like the protest leaders and legal arms of the protests, Assembly of the Poor is also funded by the US government via the NED.

On the NED’s official website an organization called “Thai Poor Act” has been listed for years, receiving millions of Thai Baht in funding. Its funding falls under a section titled, “Supporting Grassroots Engagement in Promoting Democracy,” which is precisely what Assembly of the Poor claims to do.

Evidence proving that Thai Poor Act and Assembly of the Poor are actually the same group turned up on Thai Poor Act’s now disused Facebook page where it published a 2011 documented titled, “Incorporation Contract of Establishment of a Body of Individuals” listing Assembly of the Poor leader Baraemee Chaiyarat as “manager” of Thai Poor Act.

Thai Poor Act’s YouTube channel features only one video, but the video begins with a title stating clearly, “Assembly of the Poor presents…”

Clearly they are the same organization, led by the same individual – Baramee Chaiyarat – and funded by the US government to pad out protests.

US Funds Local Media to Promote Protests 

There are various fake news fronts posing as “independent media” in Thailand also funded by the US government via NED and providing lopsidedly positive coverage for the protests and each of the above mentioned organizations and individuals – never once mentioning their collective US government funding.

This includes Prachatai which receives millions of Thai Baht a year from the US government to advance narratives that divide and destabilize Thailand and promote US interests within Thai borders. It is also an echo chamber for US State Department talking points including US policy regarding the Mekong River, the South China Sea, and other opposition fronts the US backs in the region.

It is listed on the US NED’s official website under the name “Foundation for Community Educational Media,” which also appears at the very bottom of Prachatai’s website.The media front’s “executive director” Chiranuch Premchaiporn is also a “fellow” of the National Endowment for Democracy. 

Building a “Pan-Asian Alliance”

An editorial in the Taipei Times titled, “Young alliance taking on Beijing,” would claim:

A “Milk Tea Alliance” among netizens in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines emerged this spring, trolling China’s increasingly jingoistic online army that lashes out and threatens celebrities, multinationals and anyone else who directly or indirectly challenges Beijing’s “one China” mantra.

Like the Sunflower movement and pro-democracy supporters over the past year or more in Hong Kong, the alliance is self-initiated and spontaneous, interested in greater democracy in their own countries and others, as well as countering Beijing’s cudgel diplomacy, military assertiveness and regional ambitions, even if their own leaders are hesitant to do so.

Whether it is countering the CCP’s historical claims, China’s aggressive dam-building program that threatens those along the lower reaches of the Mekong River or Beijing militarizing the South China Sea, the power of the #MilkTeaAlliance is growing.

It is clearly false to portray this “alliance” as “self-initiated and spontaneous” with the summation of its agenda lifted directly from the US State Department’s daily briefings and each respective opposition group that makes up the “alliance” having verified, documented ties directly to Washington.

The regionwide network of political interference and regime change the US is creating in Asia today is not unlike the network it created and used to carry out the “Arab Spring” in 2011.

Even the New York Times in its article, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” would admit the role of organizations like NED in training, equipping, and funding protests that eventually led to regional death, despair, irreversible economic destruction, and enduring destabilization.

The NYT would admit:

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

It also noted:

The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department.

While the NYT claims this money was spent “promoting democracy” it clearly served as cover for what was in reality a violent campaign of US-backed regime change which culminated in multiple direct US military interventions, the destruction of Libya, and the near destruction of Syria. One thing that never materialized was “democracy.”

Also a product of the “Arab Spring” is US regime change efforts in Yemen and its military support for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war against the country. It has led to what the UN itself has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Considering what US “democracy promotion” has done to North Africa and the Middle East – wider Asia should take serious the threat the US is openly creating and aiming at the region in the form of its “Pan-Asian Alliance” and all the US government-funded opposition fronts that make it up.Just as “democracy” was merely a slogan used to advance US primacy in North Africa and the Middle East during the “Arab Spring,” “democracy” is just a slogan now in Asia used to advance Washington’s real goal of encircling and containing China – thus preserving US primacy in Asia-Pacific.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, Southeast Asia, Thailand]

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[l] at 9/29/20 12:17pm

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In recent days the presidents of arguably the three most important nations in the modern world gave addresses to the 70th annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Style and content of the three addresses could not have been more different. They are highly instructive of the way the three nation’s leaders perceive both their own countries and the role of their respective problems in addressing the major geopolitical issues facing the world today.

The first of the three addresses chronologically were that of United States president Donald Trump. It was also the shortest of the three speeches, totalling barely two pages of printed material. Even making allowances for the fact that Trump is facing an election in a little over a month’s time and clearly had a domestic audience in mind, the speech was remarkable for its focus on specifically American concerns.

This is not an issue unique to Trump but reflects a primarily American preoccupation with defining international issues solely in terms of how they reflect and advance American interests.

Trumps speech did however reflect what is an overwhelming contemporary American concern, and that is the alleged role of China whom Trump perceives as the source of the world’s ills. China makes the first of its 10 appearances in Trump’s short speech in what was the second substantive sentence in his speech when he referred to the “invisible enemy – the China virus.”

This reflected a contemporary American fixation, the blaming of China for the origin of the pandemic currently sweeping the world. As such it was perfectly in tune with Trump’s antipathy to China, his scapegoating of that country, and his total disregard, not for the first time, of truth and evidence.

The World Health Organisation is “virtually controlled by China”; it is the world’s biggest polluter; destroys “vast swathes of coastal reef”; emits “more toxic mercury into the atmosphere than any country”, and its carbon emissions are “nearly twice what the US has, and it’s rising fast.” None of this is true.

The United States’ prosperity he claimed, was “the bedrock of freedom in security all over the world.” “The United States spent $2.5 trillion over the last four years on our military. We have the most powerful military anywhere in the world-and it’s not even close” (presumably referring to the United States’ main military competitors Russia and China.)

Trump even boasted about the totally unlawful execution of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, whom he labelled the world’s “top terrorist”. The United States was “working to end the war in Afghanistan” {no mention of the United States starting that war and causing the huge cost in lives and social fabric of that country) and “America is fulfilling our destiny as peacemaker.”

It is frankly impossible to equate Trump’s rhetoric with the reality of the post- World War II history that has seen the United States involved in almost continuous warfare somewhere in the world, killed millions of mostly civilian populations, and bullied, extorted and threatened any country that sought to oppose America’s lawless global rampage.

All of which was entirely predictable. If the speech contained any surprises it was its silence on Russia. That absence was more than made up by its extraordinary preoccupation with China, who in Trump’s eyes is clearly evil personified.

The speeches by Xi and Putin could not have been in greater contrast. Xi also identified the Covid 19 coronavirus as worthy of major focus. There was however, praise for the World Health Organisation and the joint international effort to combat it. In what was clearly a rebuttal of Trump’s approach, Xi said that “any attempt of politicising the issue or stigmatisation must be rejected.” Even in times of a global pandemic such as the coronavirus, Xi referred to what is his trademark phrase of people everywhere “craving peace, development and a win-win cooperation.”

Xi then set out four ways in which the Covid 19 crisis could be utilised to improving the position of all nations in the world.

First, he urged international cooperation and a rejection of beggar – thy-neighbour approach. Secondly, the coronavirus reminded us that we live in a world of economic globalisation and the challenge is to achieve a full and balanced development that all the people of all countries share.

Thirdly, the virus should prompt the launching of a green revolution that preserves the environment, and that development must be matched by comparable measures of environmental protection and restoration.

In complete contrast to Trump, Xi saw the Paris agreement on climate change as a chart to the transition to a green and low carbon development. Fourthly, the Covid crisis reminded the world that the global governance system needed reform. It should be based, he argued on “extensive consultation, joint cooperation and shared benefits.” Differences between countries were natural, he said, but what was important was “to address them through dialogue and consultation.”

Xi concluded by reminding his audience that China was a country committed to peaceful, open and cooperative development. He concluded by announcing a series of financial commitments aimed at international corporation through multiple organisations aimed at improving the lot of ordinary people through international cooperation and development. The contrast with Trump could not have been greater.

Of the three leaders, Putin gave the longest speech. He largely ignored Covid 19, preferring to focus on wider geopolitical issues, the challenges of which both pre-date Covid-19 and will continue to challenge the world long after Covid-19 ceases to wreak its current havoc. In what may be interpreted as a direct rebuttal of the United States approach to major issues, of which Trump is merely the latest exponent, Putin identified other key issues.

Those principles he said include “the equality of sovereign states, non-interference with their domestic affairs, the right of peoples to determine their own future, non-use of force or the threat of force, and political settlement of disputes.”

Putin did not mention Trump or the United States by name, but the message could not have been clearer. To reinforce the point, he reiterated the importance of the United Nations’ founding principles that were designed to “prevent unilateral actions that may result in a direct military confrontation between major States,……… avoid solutions which would be completely unacceptable to others and act within the framework of international law, rather than a vague, grey area of arbitrariness and illegitimacy.”

The message could not have been clearer, although Putin did not once refer to the United States directly other than in the context of the Russian – United States Strategic Arms Treaty which expires in February 2021. In the context of that forthcoming deadline, Putin expressed the wish that the United States refrain from expanding its medium and long- range missile system in Europe. The fact that the United States had failed to respond to Russian suggestions for discussion and settlement of these issues is a clear indication that the United States is not interested in dialogue, or in scaling down its continuing expansion of its military presence close to Russian borders.

What is most starkly revealed by a comparison of the three United Nations addresses is that the United States has no interest in pursuing multilateral discussions on the basis of mutuality of interest or a desire to reduce global tensions. Trump’s speech spells out as starkly as possible that the United States has a unilateral approach to the resolution of global issues. Other countries are either with them, that is accepting their “leadership” or they are condemned to being an adversary, against whom all United States actions are entitled.

The three speeches encapsulated the difference of approach. It would be unrealistic to expect any fundamental change in the United States approach irrespective of who wins the November election. The more realistic approach by both Xi and Putin is to continue the collaborative efforts, particularly in the Eurasian context and hope that the reality of their military superiority, despite Trumps vainglorious boasting to the contrary, will defer the United States from more ill-advised unilateralism. The symptoms however are not encouraging.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based former Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

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[l] at 9/29/20 7:59am

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Recently, the activities performed by Turkish President Erdogan and his outspoken “neo-Ottoman” policy have been eliciting increasing concern not only in the Middle East, but also in the United States, Europe, and among NATO allies.

The European “partners” are particularly apprehensive about Ankara’s actions and military provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean, which have to do with the arbitrary demarcation of the maritime borders there, and Turkish expansion into Libya. These kinds of actions, aggravated by Ankara’s incessant blackmailing with the threat of immigrants from the Middle East, led to the formation quite a few months ago of a diplomatic front on the part of EU politicians versus Turkey. The head of the largest supranational political party in the EU, the conservative European People’s Party, when speaking at the session of the European Parliament on July 9 expressed the opinion held by a significant number of European politicians, and stated that the European Union should stop all negotiations about admitting Turkey, that these were a historical mistake, and new legal groundwork to serve as the foundation for relations with this country should be developed. On September 15, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell also announced that ties “are at a watershed moment in history, which will go to one side or the other, depending on what happens in the next days,” Reuters reports.

“Turkey is the biggest threat to Europe today,” Britain’s former Minister of Europe Denis MacShane told The Independent. His conclusion is that Ankara threatens not only the territorial integrity of the EU, but almost everything that the European Union holds as its values.

“Under the leadership of President Erdogan, Turkey has become a stray bullet, both overextending its authority in the region and becoming increasingly shut off,” the British newspaper The Times writes, stressing that the Mossad sees a greater threat from Turkey today than it does from Iran.

Erdogan is fragmenting NATO with his stunts in the Eastern Mediterranean, and turning Turkey into a headache for the alliance, states the Al-Monitor website. The New York Times upholds that view, emphasizing that Ankara is becoming more aggressive, ambitious, and authoritarian, with its active participation in the Libyan conflict, and that it has demonstrated assertiveness in terms of energy resources that almost caused an armed conflict with other NATO members, France and Greece.

And Europe is not the only place where the foreign policy course currently taken by Turkey has been called nothing less than foolhardy. According to specialists in Turkish affairs, the actions taken by Ankara all at once in several regional areas of focus deserve this assessment, and one of those areas is the Middle East, where a steady deterioration can be observed in the relations between Turkey and leaders across the Arab world. After conducting three military missions in the northern part of a neighboring Arab republic (Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016-2017, Operation Olive Branch in January-March 2018, and Operation Peace Spring in October last year), its cross-border interventions in Iraq, and a large-scale invasion of Libya, Turkey’s actions in the Middle East have come under increasing criticism in many Arab capitals.

In particular, people in the region have expressed clear disapproval that a pattern of Ankara carving out an external “foothold”, similar to what occurred in Libya, has recently begun to manifest itself in Yemen. This was specifically reported by The Arab Weekly, where Ankara is suspected of planning to become a stand-alone force in the conflict in Yemen to try to counter the policy of its regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. To do this, in a fashion similar to Libya, Ankara found a partner on the inside with an Islamist political and ideological agenda – the Al-Islah party, which is associated with the Islamist organization al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization banned in Russia) – through which it is attempting to gain logistical access to Yemen territory to perhaps subsequently set up a military base. This work is being particularly vigorously carried out by Turkey in the coastal regions of that Arab country – in the provinces of Taiz and Shabwa, which are adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, respectively. In particular, according to reports from some media outlets, recruitment stations and training camps are opening up in Yemen’s Shabwe and Taiz provinces to put together an anti-Saudi coalition composed of pro-Turkish and pro-Qatari militias.

Due to this, the Arab world has already started to build a coalition against Turkey. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Sudan, and Morocco are expressing their willingness to act as a united, anti-Turkish front.

In addition, the Egyptian-Jordanian-Iraqi summit that was held in Jordan at the end of August was also marked by the creation of another Arab bloc geared toward keeping Turkey in check.

Besides European and Arab countries, even India has recently begun to speak out and persistently criticize Ankara. Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations T.S. Tirumurti leveled criticism at the proclamation made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about Kashmir and supporting the Pakistani side in that conflict.

Overt dissatisfaction with Erdogan’s actions has been growing in the United States for a long time. The crisis in US-Turkish relations, whose onset occurred after Ankara purchased Russian S-400 anti-aircraft weapon systems, continues to deepen. For almost two years, members of the American Congress blocked deals concerning the sale of arms to Turkey due to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 weapon systems, with one purchase involving upgrading work on F-16 fighter jets. And Robert Menendez, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen also recently called for imposing new US and EU sanctions on Turkey. One of the candidates in the current US presidential race, Joe Biden, does not shy away from letting his negative attitude toward Erdogan’s policy be heard. If he wins, he is ready to “perk up” the Turkish opposition.

Under these conditions, and given Ankara’s lack of readiness to make certain adjustments to its foreign policy, a further increase should be anticipated in the confrontation between Turkey and a host of countries, and in response to that Ankara will undoubtedly seek a way out of the situation by creating a rebuilt circle of trusting, supportive countries. In this regard, what can be expected is a desire on the part of Turkey to consolidate relations with China, Russia, and Ukraine, with which Ankara has recently been striving to develop its network of contacts and cooperation in various areas of focus, including military cooperation.

Valery Kulikov, a political analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics, Turkey]

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[l] at 9/28/20 11:59pm

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Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, signing a peace agreement with the UAE and Bahrain in Washington in the presence of US President Donald Trump, ecstatically made the demagogic announcement: “This day is a turning point in history. This heralds a new dawn for peace.” And, no less bombastically, the American President stated: “We are here today to change the course of history.”

It is true, though, that the “new dawn for peace” was first marked by two missiles launched from the Palestinian Gaza Strip, followed by a retaliatory strike from Israeli military personnel, and then 13 missiles from the Palestinians; this forced dozens of thousands of panicked Israelis to seek refuge in bomb shelters out of fear.  Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasim declared that the missiles were in response to an attack by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, after successfully signing the peace accords with two Arab countries, proclaimed that the artillery barrage from the Gaza Strip was not something unexpected. But, if Bibi knew full well that there would be an angry reaction from the Palestinians beforehand, he is also well aware that his actions as of late are hardly leading to any kind of equitable solution for the long-standing, complex problem involving the Arabs in Palestine. And, apparently, nobody will have to count on the “political dawn” occurring in the Middle East that Washington spoke about – this is all simple, nickel-and-dime, soapbox oratory.

Incidentally, the Israeli Prime Minster did not have the official authority to sign the peace accords with the United Arab Emirates, reports Arutz Sheva.  According to the media network, only Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabriel Ashkenazi, who stayed back in Israel, had the right to do that, while Benjamin Netanyahu headed off to Washington for the signing ceremony.  It further specified that the deal will be ratified, and then enter into force, only after it receives approval from the Israeli government.

It is worth noting that analyzing the signed agreements reveals the fact that their wording is very vague and abstruse. The agreement between the UAE and Israel urges both countries to continue “their efforts to achieve an equitable, far-reaching, realistic, and long-lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”   The agreement between Bahrain and Israel states that the countries will continue to work towards “achieving an equitable, far-reaching, and long-lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” However, at the same time, the bilateral agreements between the UAE and Israel, and Bahrain and Israel, divulge the details of the cooperation at greater length, emphasizing joint efforts on issues such as “finance and investment, innovation, trade and economic relations, health, science, technology… tourism, cultural events and sports, energy, the environment, and education”.

The Washington accords are a setback for Palestinian leaders, who are demanding that Arab countries refrain from recognizing the Jewish state until they are guaranteed an independent state themselves, which was something that they were offered, and then rejected, in recent US peace proposals.  The Palestinians were also offered about $ 50 billion in an economic stimulus package in the proposal, but they responded by almost completely boycotting relations with the White House. The Palestinians have witnessed a once united front of Arab support, one of the few cards that they still held as leverage against Israel, erode relentlessly since Donald Trump embarked on an aggressive, unconventional approach toward peace in the region.  So far, the push by Donald Trump has led to two peace agreements, with Sudan and Oman also reportedly thinking about opening up diplomatic relations with Israel.  The Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Bahraini government, and others that support its government, will be held accountable for any actions taken by Israel that lead to instability in the Persian Gulf region.

The agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain have led most observers to emphasize the need for a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East that is not only founded on Israel’s complete suspension of its annexation plan, but also on rapprochement between Persian Gulf countries and Israel, thus representing a major change toward a far-reaching settlement. This kind of step might wind up being impossible if the League of Arab States does not become involved in this process. The League of Arab States needs to become a platform where points of view and positions can be debated, and not to trade accusations of treason back and forth, or to initiate media campaigns geared toward finding spurious reports of success on the streets of Arab countries. Collective debate is the only way to put the issue of the lawful rights possessed by Palestinians on the table. The region’s development should stem from the current rapprochement, with each country retaining the right to occupy positions it deems viable in the face of various regional threats, be it Iran’s regional policy, Turkey’s ambitious plan to exercise power in Sunni countries, or other propositions.

Although the UAE and Bahrain agreed to normalize relations only if Benjamin Netanyahu pledges to stop preparing to annex the West Bank, both the Prime Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz declare that they intend to officially annex a significant part of the West Bank at a later time. The current Israeli occupation authorities have ramped up their activities demolishing Palestinian houses on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. These houses are constructed without permission from the Israeli authorities, since no building permits are being issued now. Over the first eight months of 2020, Israel demolished about 500 buildings. The Haaretz newspaper reported on a new initiative put forth by the Israeli government to further step up the pace of demolishing Palestinian homes in West Bank’s Area C. More than 5,000 Palestinians have been displaced over the past five years in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These actions are cruel and absolutely unnecessary, and do nothing except incite outrage and animosity, and hurt the prospects for peace even more.

It is quite understandable that normalizing relations with the Arab world is desirable, but not as a tool to normalize the process of occupation and engaging in conflict with the Palestinians, and at the expense of this particular people.  It can, and should, be used to help pave the way for a definitive solution to a conflict in a region as turbulent as the Middle East has been for many decades. The world wants to savor the moment, and rejoice in the formalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and other Arab states, yet the same very world bewails the consequences of Israel’s unresolved, long-standing conflict with the Palestinians. Frankly speaking, for now the world does not see any particular reason to celebrate the triumph that the “father” of these agreements, Donald Trump, wants to portray.  It would be better if the Americans themselves mobilized their current enthusiasm for peace in the region, and worked on a diplomatic initiative that would bring not just “normalization” but true peace to Israel and all of its neighbors. These kinds of efforts should include, and not replace, an agreement with the Palestinians and an end to the occupation.

Israel can enter into its own bilateral agreements that guarantee both that it is granted recognition and that efforts are coordinated with countries in the region. However, over the longer term ignoring the rights of the Palestinians will prevent rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world, increase the degree of hatred, and keep the conflict going indefinitely. The Middle East can no longer afford that. Making peace means making compromises to help create a better future. This does not mean that a fait accompli should be imposed by taking advantage of preferential conditions, or relying on a global superpower.

But how can different points of view be reconciled that are located at different ends of the spectrum? For example, Benjamin Netanyahu stated: “History has taught us that strength brings security, strength brings allies and ultimately… strength brings peace”. Apparently that is why the Israelis, until recently, have been relying solely on strength, trying to force the Palestinians to accept only the point of view that is advantageous for Israel. But there is another opinion that dictates that “God is not in strength, but in truth”: God is on the side of the one who is right, and not the one who is stronger (Russian proverb), and strength lies in the truth.  Most likely the meaning of this phrase is that the truth is paramount, since Truth is a synonym for the term righteousness. And the question remains – how can these different points of view be compatible?

Victor Mikhin, member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 9/28/20 1:00pm

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates has made himself the global vaccine czar as his foundation spends billions on spreading new vaccines globally. While much attention has been given to the role of Gates behind the corrupt WHO in promoting radical untested coronavirus vaccines, the record of the Gates Foundation pushing an oral polio vaccine across Africa gives more sobering evidence that all Gates says and does is not genuine human charity. The UN has just recently admitted that new cases of infantile paralysis or polio have resulted in Africa from an oral polio vaccine developed with strong support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It mirrors what happened in the USA in the 1950s. This is worth a closer look.

Vaccines that cause polio

The vaccine industry loves to cite development of vaccines in the 1950s as solely responsible for eradicating what was a severe paralytic illness that reached a peak in the USA after World War II and as well, in England, Germany and other European countries. Now, despite the fact that no new cases of “wild polio” virus have been detected in all Africa since 2016, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and their allies in the WHO proclaimed that Gates’ $4 billion ten-year African vaccination campaign using an oral polio vaccine had finally eliminated the dreaded polio. That was at the end of August.

One week later on September 2, WHO was forced to backtrack and admit that new polio outbreaks in Sudan were linked to an ongoing series of new polio cases in Chad and Cameroon. According to the WHO, further polio cases have been registered in more than a dozen African countries including Angola, Congo, Nigeria and Zambia. But the shocking thing is that the outbreaks are all reportedly caused by the Gates-backed oral polio vaccine.

In a revealing comment, a CDC virologist involved with WHO and Gates Foundation in the Africa mass polio vaccination campaign, part of something called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, admits the vaccine is creating significantly more cases of polio paralysis than the deceptively named “wild polio” disease. “We have now created more new emergences of the virus than we have stopped,” virologist Mark Pallansch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is a combined effort of the WHO, UNICEF, the U.S. CDC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International.

Bill Gates was reportedly responsible for driving the campaign to develop the liquid oral polio vaccine and massively administer it to the populations of Africa and Asia despite the near absence of any cases of “wild polio.” According to one of the partners in the Gates polio initiative, from Rotary International, “Gates personally drove the development of a new polio vaccine that is now in the final stages of testing. When the idea was put forward, about the time of the last case of polio to happen in India, many were thinking the vaccine would play no important role in eradication, but Gates insisted.” When someone asked him, why polio, which had all but vanished worldwide, Gates replied, “Polio is a terrible disease.”

That reply seems curious, as there are far more pervasive deadly diseases out there including malaria or chronic diarrhoea due to unsafe water, and poor sanitation across Africa that causes death by dehydration, poor absorption of nutrients or infectious complications. I would argue that both those are also “terrible.” In 2016 chronic diarrhoea was listed by the WHO as the second leading cause of death in children below five worldwide. In Africa it was cause of almost 653,000 deaths, yet Mr. Gates and friends seem to be interested in other things.

The insistence of Gates on pushing massive vaccination of a new oral polio vaccine his foundation backed at a time polio even in poor countries of Asia and Africa is virtually non-existent, should ring alarm bells loudly. If his goal is to help more African children lead healthy lives, simple water treatment projects would save far more lives. Or is there something in the polio vaccine we are not being told of? Is there aluminum as adjuvant that is documented to be a central nervous system paralytic? Or other toxins?

The Gates Foundation spent almost $ 4 billion to develop and administer the oral polio vaccine throughout the poorest countries in the world as of 2018. This despite that WHO stated that the cases of polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan went from about 350,000 per year to 33 in 2018. There hasn’t been a case in the Americas or Western Europe since before the Gates polio project was launched years ago.

Define it away?

Here it gets into some very suspicious linguistic games on the part of WHO, Gates and company. They are trying to cover their deeds by claiming that most of the polio cases are actually something they decided to call acute flaccid paralysis (AFP). That is a debilitating condition with a clinical picture virtually identical to polio. But it keeps the “polio” numbers down. According to the US CDC, there were over 31,500 documented cases of acute flaccid paralysis from just 18 countries in 2017. This is in addition to what they call vaccine-associated polio paralysis (VAPP). Yet from the point of clinical symptoms, vaccine-derived polio, wild polio and acute flaccid paralysis are identical, as is acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a subtype of AFP. With this proliferation of serious medical-sounding names to describe what produces the same medical symptoms, we have huge ground for manipulation.

A paper written by Neetu Vashishi and Jacob Puliyel published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in 2012 wrote about the Gates-CDC-WHO mass oral polio vaccine effort there: “… while India has been polio-free for a year, there has been a huge increase in non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP). In 2011, there were an extra 47,500 new cases of NPAFP. Clinically indistinguishable from polio paralysis but twice as deadly, the incidence of NPAFP was directly proportional to doses of oral polio received. Though this data was collected within the polio surveillance system, it was not investigated…”

The 1950s

Defining away cases of poliomyelitis or Infantile Paralysis as it was called during the epidemic in the USA after World War II, went back to the 1950s, and to since-suppressed deadly scandals involving the first purported polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk. Regarded today as a medical hero, the truth of Salk was anything but heroic.

The upsurge in cases of what were then labelled poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis in the United States began to literally explode around 1946. Relevant to note is that a highly dangerous cumulative toxin, a now-banned insecticide known as DDT, was being promoted by the US government as a “safe” control of mosquitoes and flies said to be the “carriers” of polio virus. What has since been all but erased from the government record is the precise match of the number of cases of children with symptoms of acute polio with the degree of acute DDT spraying, and the equally precise mirrored decline of human polio cases from the late 1940s into the 1950s, after a sharp decline in DDT use.  In 1953, Connecticut physician, Morton S. Biskind argued in public that, “the most obvious explanation for the polio epidemic: central nervous system diseases… such as polio are actually the physiological and symptomatic manifestations of the ongoing government- and industry-sponsored inundation of the world’s populace with central nervous system poisons.”

The Salk polio vaccine was first deployed in 1955, that is two years after the dramatic decline in registered polio cases. That fact was conveniently forgotten as the narrative was promoted that the new vaccine alone was eradicating the feared polio.

Serious evidence was presented by doctors and others to the US Congress that there was a clear connection between the summer polio epidemics to summer-used heavy metal pesticides such as DDT. They were ignored. The promotion of DDT as a harmless insecticide was so pervasive that kids followed behind trucks spraying the streets and swimming pools were sprayed with DDT, believing it harmless. Highly emotional advertising campaigns proclaimed that deadly polio was mysteriously transmitted by insects and that DDT would protect. Farmers were told to repeatedly spray their dairy cows with DDT to ward of the dangerous insects. DDT thus contaminated the milk supply. Use of DDT exploded by the end of the 1940s across the USA. As one person described it, “Concerned parents went further to protect their children. They feared the invisible virus as if it were hunting their children. They turned their homes into sterile zones by constantly spraying insecticides and washing down the walls with disinfectants.” That sounds familiar.

Salk and Rockefeller

The vaccine research of Jonas Salk as well as of his rival, Albert Sabin, was funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later known as the March of Dimes. Salk convinced the US health authorities in 1954 that his polio vaccine contained only inactive virus (IPV), and was absolutely safe. He was able to convince the regulatory authorities that the “expensive and difficult procedures which had been suggested for the detection of possible residual live virus” in his vaccine should be dispensed with. Field trials of the Salk vaccine in 1954 were exposed by the Journal of the American Statistical Association: “…59 per cent of the trial was worthless because of the lack of adequate controls…” That report was ignored by the US Department of Health and the National Foundation proclaimed the Salk vaccine ready to mass distribute in spring of 1955.

Already in 1955 alarming results from the Salk vaccine had emerged. His vaccine, manufactured by Cutter Laboratories, was administered to over four hundred thousand people, mostly school children. Within days, reports of paralysis began surfacing. Within a month, the mass vaccination program against polio had to be suspended. In June of 1956, polio cases began to increase sharply in Chicago in children who had received the Salk vaccine. The National Foundation sent an urgent letter to its members urging them to, “give reassurance that the present Salk vaccine is safe and effective to patients, parents and others in your community who still needlessly doubt it…”

Salk’s vaccine had caused seventy thousand cases of muscle weakness, one hundred and sixty-four cases of severe paralysis and ten deaths. Three fourths of the victims remained permanently paralyzed. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare stepped down and the director of the NIH, resigned. The Cutter incident was quickly downplayed by the Government and vaccinations resumed after 21 days pause, using vaccines from Wyeth Labs. Those too produced cases of paralysis.

Between 1923 and 1953, before the Salk vaccine’s introduction, the polio death rate in the US had declined on its own by 47 percent; England had observed a similar pattern. Following the use of Salk’s vaccine between 1955 and 1963, cases of polio in the US increased—by 50 percent from 1957 to 1958, and by 80 percent between 1958 and 1959. This was concealed by a US Government change in defining polio, much as the WHO and CDC do today in Africa. Diseases that had previously been grouped together under the umbrella of “polio” began to be reported as separate diseases. One of these was aseptic or viral meningitis, an infectious disease that is difficult to distinguish from poliovirus, or transverse myelitis—a rare spinal cord inflammation, or the Guillain-Barré syndrome. Were all these a result of widespread toxins used in the vaccine? The Government and vaccine industry was not interested in knowing or telling.

Finally in 1963 the US Government replaced Salk’s IPV vaccine with an attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV) developed by Albert Sabin. As a live virus vaccine, it, too, was and is capable of giving its recipients polio or polio symptoms. Salk testified before a Senate subcommittee in 1977 that the Sabin oral polio vaccine had caused most of the polio cases in the US since the early 1960s.

Rockefeller eugenics?

The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which funded both Salk and his rival Sabin in development of polio vaccines in the 1950’s, was run by two doctors from the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research– Dr. Henry Kumm who had spent 23 years with the Rockefeller Institute, and Dr. Thomas Rivers.

Henry Kumm went over to the National Foundation in 1951 at the peak of the polio epidemic. In May 1953, Kumm became Director of Polio Research at NFIP. Notably, during World War II Kumm had served as civilian consultant to the Surgeon General of the US Army in Italy, directing field studies for the use of DDT against malarial mosquitoes.

Thomas Rivers was from 1922 head of the infectious disease ward at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, becoming the institute’s director in 1937. As chairman of committees on research and vaccine advisory for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, he oversaw the clinical trials of Jonas Salk’s vaccine by Dr Kumm’s group. It could be said that the National Foundation was a mask for a massive Rockefeller polio vaccine project.

Polio researcher David Oshisky stated, “In truth, polio was never the raging epidemic portrayed in the media, not even at its height in the 1940s and 1950s. Ten times as many children would die in accidents in those years, and three times as many would die of cancer. Polio’s special status was due, in large part, to the efforts of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, better known as the March of Dimes, which employed the latest techniques in advertising, fund raising and motivational research to turn a horrific but relatively uncommon disease in to the most feared affliction of its time. The genius of the National Polio Foundation lay in its ability to single out polio for special attention, making it seem more ominous than other diseases.” That National Foundation was run by Rockefeller doctors. This is very much what the Gates Foundation is doing with its turbo-charged oral polio vaccine in Africa where polio had almost vanished before the mass vaccine campaign of WHO and Gates.

Here the bond of dedication to eugenics and to dangerous vaccines seems to unite both the Rockefellers and Bill Gates, who in many ways is merely the heir and continuation of the deadly eugenics work of the Rockefellers. All this should give pause before regarding the pronouncements of Bill Gates on coronavirus and his favored vaccines as the scientific good truth.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Africa, Columns, Featured, Locations, Society]

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[l] at 9/28/20 12:00pm

JAPAN-G20-SUMMITWhile the UAE-Israel accord was/is historical in its own sense and triggered forces of ‘normalisation’ in the Middle East, this agreement looked a lot like a result of solo flight of the Emirati political elite because of Saudi refusal to follow suit until the resolution of Israel-Palestine conflict and peace agreement. The UAE-Israel accord was then seen as a part of the UAE’s increasing drive towards assuming the leadership role of the ‘Muslim Ummah.’ However, the Bahrain-Israel accord, while not coming out of the blue at all, does underscore that most of the Gulf-Arab countries are already on-board for peace with Israel, charting a new territory of bi-lateral and multilateral relations. Bahrain, by all standards, is a junior Gulf player and its close dependence on Saudi Arabi indicates that the tiny Gulf kingdom would not have taken such a decision without Saudi blessings.

The ruling elite of Bahrain has been closely depending on Saudi Arabi ever since the latter played a pivotal role in saving the former from an Arab Spring uprising almost a decade ago. Since the uprising, the Bahraini rulers have depended on the threat of military force from Saudi Arabia to keep the country’s Shiite majority in check. Bahrain is, therefore, largely regarded around the region as a dependent client of the Saudi royal court.

The Bahrain-Israel accord is, therefore, very much an enactment of a Saudi scripted play. The physical bridge that connects Bahrain with Saudi territory powerfully symbolizes the direct connection between their domestic and foreign policies.

Although the Saudi kingdom is in no rush to normalize its own relations with Israel, it has already taken some concrete steps that indicate what is to follow: a Saudi-Israel normalisation post King Salman era.

There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia, despite the UAE’s own quest for the leadership role, remains the most important Muslim country. Without winning recognition from the Saudis, Israel will remain a half-accepted country. But the Saudis, as it stands, have already opened up their air space for the Israeli flights, meaning thereby that the doors of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries will also open sooner than later.

Indeed, a lot of groundwork in Saudi Arabia is being done to materialize this goal. As reports in the media show, Saudi social and electronic media have recently begun to increasingly host religious scholars urging equal treatment of Jews or others warming up to better relations with Israel — messages that could not be spread without Prince Mohammed’s consent. This is in addition to how even TV series are being used to spread the new normal. Israel is neither portrayed as an enemy, nor is its very existence challenged.

Although the Saudis still continue to link normalisation with the resolution of Israel-Palestine conflict, what needs to be remembered here is the fact that Bahrain, too, had initially rejected Washington’s quest for diplomatic accord with Israel. Indeed, Mike Pompeo’s visit looked a stark failure when Bahrain’s state media reported its continued support for the ‘Palestinian cause.’ Why this stance has quickly vanished into thin air is rooted in the fact that major Arab states, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were supporting the Trump administration’s original ‘peace plan’, which involved annexation of Palestinian territory. It was the fear of another massive Arab uprising that prevented these states from fully endorsing the plan and putting further pressure on the Palestinians to accept the plan. This explains why the Arab League, dominated as it is by the Saudis, refused to condemn the Israel-UAE accord in the first place.

The Saudi elite, as it stands, is already largely pro-normalisation. It was, in fact, two years ago when Prince Mohammad said in an interview that normalisation with Israel could be the key to economic development in the region.

What is even more important and what really shows the political thinking of the current Saudi elite is Prince Mohammad’s vision of the Middle East and his tendency to divide it into two categories. The first category consists of the “triangle of evil,” consisting of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood. The second category consist of a group of ‘moderate Sunni states’, led by Saudia. Israel, as it stands, was/is no longer an ‘evil state’ or even an issue to deal with or a party to a decades-long dispute needing resolution.

What the Bahrain-Israel accord therefore indicates is that normalized relations with Israel is already a new normal in the Middle Eastern political landscape. If the very existence of Israel was an issue until few years ago, the question has already changed fundamentally. For many Gulf-Arab states, therefore, it is only a matter of when and not if they will ever establish direct diplomatic relations with Israel and be able to exchange diplomats as well as state-of-the-art military and technological hardware.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 9/28/20 6:59am

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A month and a half after detonating several tons of ammonium nitrate into the port of Beirut, which caused crushing economic and human losses for the country, the situation in Lebanon is only getting worse.

The only grain storage in Lebanon, located near the port was completely destroyed as a result of this explosion, puts the country on the brink of a food crisis. The destruction of three hospitals in Beirut by the blast wave, as well as the destruction of 17 containers at the port of personal protective equipment (PPE) intended to support Lebanon’s fight against COVID is leading to the situation in the nation sharply deteriorating, amid thousands of victims of the explosion and a growing number of reported COVID-19 cases.

Former Lebanese ambassador to Germany Mustapha Adib was nominated as prime minister of the Arab republic at the end of August as a so-called “compromise” candidacy supported by Emmanuel Macron, who has recently exerted serious pressure on the political elite of the Middle Eastern country, urging it to implement long-overdue reforms, to overcome political and economic crises in Lebanon. With the difficulties that have arisen for Prime Minister Mustafa Adib forming a new government to save the country affected by the crisis, both internal and external pressure is increasing on him so that he can launch a series of reforms as soon as possible to acquire billions of dollars of much needed foreign aid. The September 21st televised speech by President Michel Aoun further highlighted the serious challenges facing the country today and the danger of it nearing chapter nine.

At the same time, Lebanon is becoming an increasingly active platform for confrontation between the United States and Israel with Iran, so involved in Iranian affairs. Noting the active role of Israel and the United States in influencing the domestic political situation in Lebanon due to the activities here of Iran-backed Hezbollah, the head of the Party of Allah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, said earlier that Washington offered him a deal in exchange for breaking ties with Iran and normalizing relations with Israel. According to Nasrallah’s statements, the United States tried to make nice with the leading Lebanese Shiite organization and offered its leadership “money, power and even assistance in political reform across Lebanon” to the benefit of the movement, while putting forward the main provocative condition, which is reaching an agreement between Hezbollah and Israel.

Along with this, it became known that the United States has recently stepped up its actions to establish a direct dialogue between Lebanon and Israel in order to agree on the water borders and dividing the disputed area, considering the current moment to be the most appropriate for this. The Lebanese newspaper Al-akhbar reporting the story noted: “It seems that the ambitions and aspirations of Washington and Tel Aviv for Lebanon are not limited to forming a new government in accordance with Israel’s interests, and have now expanded to Lebanon’s seizure of the supposed oil and gas resources by Tel Aviv, which became the common idea of Washington and Tel Aviv to start direct negotiations between Lebanon and Israel prior to the US elections. ” The Israeli news site Walla reported that the US goal is to kick off direct negotiations between Lebanon and Tel Aviv prior to the US elections in order to secure “a major foreign policy achievement for US President Donald Trump,” while excluding disputes over maritime borders over the past 30 years, there have been no direct political negotiations between the two sides.

Just days ago in Lebanon, a powerful explosion thundered again, as this time the incident occurred in the southern region of the Arab Republic, the Hezbollah armory exploded, as a result of which, according to local media reports, several people were injured. As with the explosion at the Beirut seaport, local media reports reiterate accusations of the possible involvement of Israeli Air Force drones in the explosion, further exacerbating the already difficult situation in the Middle Eastern country. A Hezbollah spokesman told the Arab newspaper The National that the building destroyed by the explosion was “the office of a demining organization.”

These accusations against Israel regarding its involvement in the new explosion are reinforced by the message of the Lebanese army, which shot down on September 10 an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that invaded the airspace of the Arab republic. Although the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the loss of their drone, they shied away from admitting that this was the result of armed forced actions of a neighboring country.

The “accidental fires” in Beirut, which have become especially frequent following recent events in the port of Beirut, involuntarily incline to the quite probable participation of “external forces” in recent emergency situations. So, on September 15, a fire broke out in a shopping center under construction in Beirut. Less than a week earlier, another large fire also occurred on the port territory, after the explosion there, the causes of which are still unclear.

It should be noted that Israel almost daily violates Lebanese airspace, making reconnaissance flights using UAVs, demonstrative incursions on multi-role fighters, inflicting periodic strikes against Iranian targets in Syria from the Lebanese sky. In addition, in recent weeks Israel has begun to actively increase the number of its troops on the border with Lebanon.

In these conditions, attention is drawn to the recent report of the representative of the Lebanese Hezbollah, which was one of the reliable supports of President Bashar al-Assad, about its imminent withdrawal from the territory of the SAR. Yes, behind this step, there may undoubtedly be agreements between Damascus, Moscow, Ankara and Tehran, taking into account the sharp reduction in the recent period of the scale of military clashes in Syria. After Hezbollah withdrawal from the previously occupied regions, they will come under the control of Damascus, which will be a very positive step towards normalizing the situation in the country exhausted by many years of war.

However, at the same time, it cannot be ruled out that the possible withdrawal of Hezbollah from the SAR may be a response to the actions of Israel and the United States not only in relation to Lebanon, but also in the formation of an anti-Iranian regional coalition by Washington after Tel Aviv restored diplomatic relations with a number of Arab states. In particular, with the UAE and Bahrain, Washington’s attempt to expand this coalition by joining other countries in the region, including Lebanon itself.

Under these conditions, the possible return of Hezbollah from the SAR to Lebanon will be a clear demonstration of the organization’s desire to strengthen its positions in Lebanon, “where Hezbollah is one of the popular Shiite parties in the country, advocating the creation of an Islamic state in the image and likeness of Iran and having a militarized a wing actively supported by Tehran.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the media close to Washington and Tel Aviv, as part of the unfolding struggle against Iran, have recently intensified their propaganda against Hezbollah, leading it even to the publication of openly fake information about allegedly “preparing caches in Europe with explosives.” So, in mid-September, Nathan Sayle, the chief officer of the US State Department for the fight against terrorism, clearly fulfilling a state order to discredit Iran, said that Hezbollah had allegedly been secretly transporting ammonium nitrate through Belgium to France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Greece since 2012 “In first-aid kits containing this substance in cold packs.” According to him, the presence of such caches of ammonium nitrate is suspected by the US State Department throughout Europe, especially in Greece, Italy and Spain. However, for all the seriousness of such accusations, the State Department did not take the time to clearly explain why this Iranian organization needed, especially in Greece, Italy and Spain, to prepare hiding places, transporting explosives in first-aid kits?

In these conditions, only one thing is clear today, that it is hardly worth waiting for an improvement in the Lebanon situation and around it in the near future. In this regard, the international community should pay additional attention to this issue in order to avoid aggravating the Lebanese and international crisis here.

Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Lebanon, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 9/27/20 11:59pm

SK634522

The Minister of Justice position is deemed to be extremely important in South Korea because an individual in this post is responsible for overseeing rule of law and security institutions, particularly law enforcement agencies. De facto in this person’s power to undermine any given investigation or to stage a show trial irrespective of whether or not a defendant is actually guilty.

Our left-wing readers probably recall Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn who played a leading role in the case against the Unified Progressive Party (UPP). A UPP lawmaker was accused of “plotting a pro-North Korea rebellion to overthrow the government” of the ROK. Allegedly, “reference was made to the prospect of attacking South Korean infrastructure” during a UPP meeting. And although, subsequently, UPP lawmakers said they had no intention of following through with such plans, the party was eventually dissolved.

After the Candlelight Struggle ended and democrats, led by Moon Jae-in, came to power, it appeared as if the rein of partisan and incompetent Justice Ministers came to an end. However, Moon Jae-in’s decision to appoint Cho Kuk (a favorite of his) to the post in September 2019 almost resulted in yet another Candlelight Revolution. The author would like to remind his readers that, at the time, Cho Kuk was embroiled in a number of scandals involving him as well as members of his family. Allegations against them ranged from illicit business activities to misconduct involving his daughter, a story with an impact on the younger generation. She was accused of “falsifying her academic achievements to get enrolled in prestigious universities and a medical school”. After a two-week internship at a university, his daughter was listed as the lead author on a paper published in a medical journal. The investigations conducted by the media outlets and prosecutors found that Cho Kuk was named as first author on a research paper despite her minimal contribution. The number of demonstrators who either expressed support for or protested against Cho Kuk’s nomination reached a million, and in the end, he was forced to step down so as not to incriminate his superior. Cho Kuk was subsequently charged with abuse of power while the Blue House criticized the move.

In any case, it is high time the author moved onto the main topic of the story: the individual who replaced Cho Kuk. Her name is Choo Mi-ae and, from 2016 to 2018, she was the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Korea. After graduating from Hanyang University (its main campus is in Seoul), she passed the National Bar Examination in 1982, and subsequently, became a judge. Choo Mi-ae worked in this capacity in several district courts around the nation. In 1996, she became a Member of the National Assembly, and then went on to serve 5 more terms in it. As a parliamentarian, Choo Mi-ae earned the nickname of “Choo d’Arc” (comparing her to Joan of Arc) because she took a stand against corruption.

The ROK President Moon Jae-in officially appointed Choo Mi-ae as the Minister of Justice on January 2, 2020. Earlier, she had gone through the National Assembly’s confirmation hearing, however, the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) “refused to adopt a formal hearing report”. Still, the President “can appoint a minister without the National Assembly’s approval, while such a confirmation hearing is mandatory”.

Choo Mi-ae, just as Cho Kuk before her, continued to pursue Moon Jae-in’s reform agenda. She restructured the prosecutor’s office against the wishes of the Chief Prosecutor with the proclaimed aim of fighting corruption at the highest levels. However, it would seem that one of the key lessons to be learnt from the rule by Moon Jae-in and his inner circle is that a dragonslayer can become a dragon. It appears that Choo Mi-ae did not manage to escape such a fate either. At the moment, she is at the center of a fairly unpleasant scandal.

At the time Choo Mi-ae was the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Korea, her son (surnamed Seo) was serving in the Korean Augmentation To the United States Army (or Katusa). In June 2017, her son had a knee problem and managed to receive “more days of leave to be admitted to a hospital”. It has been alleged that Seo “was given favorable treatment in having his leave extended during his compulsory military service”. It has also been claimed that, after a 20-day leave, Choo Mi-ae’s son did not return to the base and failed to inform his superiors about the absence. Choo Mi-ae has been accused of pressuring senior military personnel in the unit where her son served to grant him an extension. Since his absence was classified as leave in the end, it is believed that Choo Mi-ae “peddled influence to earn special favors for her son”.

In the ROK, military service for males (barring some exemptions) is compulsory. In fact, in the context of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, supporters of mandatory conscription believe that young men have a duty to defend their nation. Hence, politicians who try to use their position of power to ensure their offspring receive special treatment while serving in the military face criticism not only from their political opponents but also the public at large.

Choo Mi-ae has also been reminded about her haughty attitude and arrogant statements prior to the scandal. In fact, her behavior on the political arena has been criticized not only by her opponents but also members of the ruling party.

Issues with Choo Mi-ae’s confirmation for the Justice Minister position started last year when she was forced to address claims of preferential treatment for her son. The initial complaint over the special favor allegations was filed in January 2020. According to legal sources, two investigators, including one prosecutor, in charge of the case were “expected to be temporarily reassigned to a different team”.

At the beginning of September, the scandal reached a new level. If allegations against Choo Mi-ae are found to be true, she “may face charges of violating the Anti-Corruption Law”.

At present, the scandal is in full swing, and it would be interesting to see what becomes of it. After all, Moon Jae-in is currently serving the second half of his presidential term, and the conservative party appears to have successfully rebranded itself by doing away with hateful rhetoric and focusing its effort on criticizing real problem areas. In such a climate, the issue of whether or not abuse of power actually took place becomes somewhat irrelevant, as, at the end of the day, before coming to power, Moon Jae-in and Co had also added fuel to high profile scandals and demanded resignations irrespective of whether or not the alleged culprits were proven to be innocent or guilty.

Various media outlets have reported that such “allegations involving former and incumbent justice ministers are damaging the spirit of equality, fairness and justice ― the so-called key values that the Moon Jae-in administration has pledged to pursue since its inauguration”. And a number of experts agree with this assessment. According to Myongji University professor Kim Hyung-joon, “The series of scandals involving high-ranking officials with the Moon administration is showing that the value of justice it has been talking about is not a universal one but applied selectively. The Moon administration has been lenient with its officials while being strict on others.” In addition, Hwang Tae-soon, a political commentator, said “while the Moon government gained power by enlisting public support with its values of fairness after the previous Park Geun-hye administration’s downfall due to influence-peddling and corruption scandals, the recent controversies were no different from those under the previous administration”.

The younger generation cannot possibly be happy with such a state of affairs either. After all, it is embarrassing to see the former and current Ministers of Justice exercising double standards.

There have been increased calls from the opposition for an independent investigation into Choo Mi-ae’s case and for her resignation. They are demanding that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (who the Justice Minister is not on good terms with) and his team take charge of the investigation and ensure Choo Mi-ae’s supporters are not allowed to interfere with it due to their biases.

On September 9, the main opposition party called on President Moon Jae-in to take a stand on the Justice Minister’s case. “The President appears to be condoning this matter, but we ask that he make the decision to swiftly resolve it,” Kim Chong-in, the interim leader of the party said. In accordance with the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act of Korea, it is illegal to trade in influence in processes related to “physical examination for conscripts, assignment to a military unit, appointment or any other matters”. However, “it also identifies seven categories of requests to which the Act does not apply”. “These exceptions have been criticized as vague, lacking clarity and likely creating loopholes for public officials and others”. The Act essentially prohibits improper solicitations to public officials. But due to the aforementioned exceptions, it could be hard to prosecute certain individuals.

Despite ongoing public scrutiny, the Blue House has chosen to remain silent on the issue. And it appears that the leading Democratic Party of Korea continues to view the case against Choo Mi-ae as a politically motivated attack without any facts to back up the allegations.

Still, President Moon Jae-in’s and his party’s approval ratings have dropped amid the latest scandal involving the current Minister of Justice, and it will be interesting to see how this story will end.

Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D. in History, leading research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics, South Korea]

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[l] at 9/27/20 12:30am

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So, on September 16th, after separate votes were taken in both chambers of the Japanese parliament, Yoshihide Suga was approved as the new Prime Minister, replacing Shinzo Abe, who left this post one year ahead of schedule, before the end of his last (and third in a row) three-year term. Previously, we reported about certain noteworthy circumstances that surround the decision made by Shinzo Abe, who led the Japanese government for longer than any of those who preceded him throughout all of the country’s recent (150-year) history.

The fact that Yoshihide Suga is precisely the one most likely to become the successor to Shinzo Abe as the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and consequently (and so far, about what a little below) “almost automatically” become the prime minister, has been discussed in Japan for a long time, keeping in mind the upcoming general parliamentary elections at the end of next year. This extremely important domestic political event will be preceded by the LDP Congress, during which the issue will be resolved concerning whom to entrust to lead the party right before the political battle.

We should remember that 8 years ago, on the eve of similar elections, the LDP leadership took a risk and, as they say, took that same Shinzo Abe and “brought him back from political oblivion”; five years earlier, he had been forced to resign from his position as prime minister after a series of scandals involving a number of the party’s own ministers. Back then, the opinion that predominated was that quite a promising young politician could say goodbye to his career. This means that in the autumn of 2012 the LDP leadership made a very risky move but, as it turned out, “hit the bull’s-eye”.

In this respect, for now there is nothing “automatic” regarding the prospects for the new prime minister to hold on to the position of LDP leader in a year. It is not even possible to make the traditional reference that “everything depends on him”, since the tectonic processes that have developed in recent years in world politics will undoubtedly affect those abovementioned prospects. We will simply make a reference to the coronavirus pandemic factor, and the drop in the main indicators for the world’s third-largest economy which is directly related to that.

Along with that, we should note the fact that both have taken shape in Japan in a much smoother form than can be seen in its Western partners. But the noise arising from some ordinary scandals which involve both ministers and the prime minister himself is reaching the ears of the “electorate”.  Actually, the victim of all this negative impact was Shinzo Abe, and it was not at all due to “ulcerative colitis”, as was officially proclaimed.

But, of course, Yoshihide Suga’s personality traits will play an important role in what will take place in a year at the LDP congress. It would hardly be an exaggeration to call the new prime minister “an almost ideal bureaucratic machine,” and he successfully served as Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Shinzo Abe government for all eight years acting as one.

The Cabinet Secretariat is the government’s main executive agency. Here, the work of the ministries is coordinated, all the relevant information is collected, and decisions are drafted that are submitted for review by the cabinet of ministers. From this it follows that the Chief Cabinet Secretary can only be a person whose political views completely match those held by the current Prime Minister. For Shinzo Abe, Yoshihide Suga was just the right person. There is evidence that it also a mere friendly relationship which forms a bond between both men.

Perhaps the most common word used with regard to the new cabinet of ministers is “continuity”, which is also confirmed by looking at the makeup of the appointees to ministerial posts. Out of 17 ministers, 7 were members of Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, two of whom, Taro Aso and Toshimitsu Motegi, retained their former key posts as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, respectively.

The makeup of the new government includes only two women, and that fact, together with some of the previous (rather careless) statements made by Yoshihide Suga on this touchy topic, could provoke another slew of caustic remarks from the feminists aimed at him.

These aforementioned statements concerned a key problem for modern-day Japan that has been designated by the term “the prospect of a national catastrophe” for several years now, and one that can only be prevented by women. This refers to the sharp drop in Japan’s birth rate occurring while the share of elderly people is increasing. It is worth noting that the various international women’s organizations that have been making frequent visits to Japan recently have also neglected this problem. Along with that, people are asking questions which are causing consternation among public- and private-sector managers. From among those, the principal one is associated with the percentage of women present in both the country’s leadership and management at privately-run companies. That notorious issue called harassment, of course, has not been forgotten.

Several years ago, the government set up a special department to develop measures to (at least) try to keep the impending disaster in check. However, this author has not seen any signs that it is performing any activities. Judging by the abovementioned “careless statements”, the new prime minister will take care of this national problem (and it really bears repeating that it is a key one).

The appointment of Nobuo Kishi, who is Shinzo Abe’s younger brother, to the post of Minister of Defense also signals continuity for the political course taken by the new Japanese government. When he was an infant, Nobuo Kishi was adopted by Shinzo Abe’s maternal relatives, whose ancestral lineage includes penultimate Prime Minister’s grandfather Nobusuke Kishi (he was Prime Minister in the period from 1957-1960).  The new minister of defense has been actively involved in politics since the beginning of the 2000s, when he held various positions in ministries under several prime ministers.

Observers have drawn attention to a certain special preference that Nobuo Kishi has for the Taiwanese area of focus in Japan’s political course. In particular, a photograph is shown from January 12 this year in which he is pictured with the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen.  It is possible that the factor involving a “special attitude” toward Taiwan on the part of Nobuo Kishi played a “concomitant”, rather than the main role, in selecting a candidate for the post of Minister of Defense. The main thing (apparently still) has to do with the factor of close family ties between Nobuo Kisi and the outgoing prime minister.

Nevertheless, experts are inclined to believe that it was the former that was the (secret) reason for the reaction in China to the makeup of the new Japanese government which took the form of several articles in the Global Times; they specifically speculated about preserving Japan’s “steady ties” with China. And also how it was “unnecessary” for it to follow the American “policy of decoupling” from the PRC, which was previously discussed in NEO.

No major changes should be anticipated in relations between Japan and the US and Russia, including the substantive portions of those issues that Tokyo has with Washington and Moscow. On the very next day after S. Abe announced his resignation, in Guam an emergency meeting of the defense ministers from both countries was held, during which the parties confirmed that everything would be all right with the American-Japanese military and political alliance.

As far as the Russian Federation is concerned, nothing particularly new is bound to occur with the so-called “Problem of the northern territories”, which has firmly taken root in the modern political myths espoused by Japan. It is counterproductive for Japan itself, but not one of the country’s political leaders currently in power would dare deny its validity.

And, finally, we should note the unprecedentedly high level of confidence placed by the “electorate” in the new cabinet of ministers immediately after it took shape. A public opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed that 64% of respondents trust the new cabinet headed by Yoshihide Suga. This figure is compared with the 52% that Shinzo Abe garnered after his triumphant return to politics at the end of 2012.

This means that so far everything looks very good with the new prime minister in terms of public confidence. But – and this should be repeated – the abovementioned circumstances surrounding the “global” plan are by no means a guarantee of Yoshihide Suga’s success at the LDP congress in the autumn of 2022. In general, serving a tenure as prime minister for a year or less is a rather strange rule that has governed political life in Japan for the last 150 years. In this respect, Shinzo Abe’s career is a rare exception.

But even if Yoshihide Suga retains his post as leader of the LDP, this will no longer provide him and the party with the aforementioned “automatic behavior” in subsequent general parliamentary elections, the way it was “during the era of Shinzo Abe”.

The thing is that just at the time when there are all these vicissitudes described above within the LDP, a new, significant player has appeared on the Japanese political scene in the form of the Constitutional Democratic Party. To put it more precisely, this is the same CDP, but after it merged with another large opposition party. Yukio Edano, an experienced and influential politician, retained his position as the leader of the “new-old” CDP, and he adheres to fashionable views that are (relatively) leftist.

So, and we should repeat this, the new prime minister headed by the “party and government” will face serious internal political collisions. And this, of course, will be nothing unexpected for the former.

In the upcoming struggle, what might work in Yoshihide Suga’s favor is an extremely important “signal of the sky” in Japan, which should be seen as the fact that he was entrusted to make an announcement about the beginning of a new stage in the country’s history: this is the one counted from the date accession to the throne (in this case, May 1st, 2019) took place for the newest emperor.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Japan, Locations, Politics]

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[l] at 9/26/20 12:30am

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A few days ago John Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared that a cyber attack that has “a significant impact” on the United States or “significantly affects the world” can be “defined as a weapons of mass destruction”. And that is why Hyten emphasized that “a large-scale attack launched from cyber space can be viewed as” a WMD.

However, is it only a “large-scale cyber attack” – out of the many types of information warfare used nowadays – that can be categorized as a WMD?

At humankind’s current stage in history, huge stockpiles of various weaponry have been amassed that are capable of destroying all life on Earth many times over. Despite the wide variety of weaponry, they all have a destructive effect, chiefly on human forces and various facilities, and use various forms of energy as the foundation of the weapons’ effect. That is why it has become common practice to divide up all the equipment used in armed combat, including WMDs, into four groups broken down by the type of effect that is used to destroy human forces and facilities: physical, chemical, biological, and information weapons. To decrease the risk of this kind of weapon being used, to give newly developed weapons a more “humane” look by increasing the selectivity of the targets destroyed, and to reduce collateral damage to untargeted facilities and the environment, people are more frequently putting forth concerted efforts to reduce their reserves of weaponry, and developing non-lethal weapons and other means of exerting an impact on adversaries without resorting to the large-scale mobilization of military force. Over the past few years, the means to wage information warfare have been pointed to more frequently as part of them.

For its part, information warfare can be divided up into two types: technical and psychological information warfare. The main facilities that are targets, and need to be protected from, the former are technical information systems (communication systems, telecommunication systems, radar equipment, etc.) using mathematical software tools (viruses, special programs, jamming communications, etc.)

When psychological information warfare is waged, its targets are the psyches of personnel in the Armed Forces, intelligence services, and populations on the opposing sides, and the systems that form public opinion and underpins the decision-making process. With this, most often “traditional” methods are used as an active tool to influence people’s sentiments, feelings, opinions, and how they assess events that occur. Specifically, this means disinformation, mixing truthful and false information, and highlighting the positive aspects of a certain problem while understating the negative ones. However, “nontraditional” information technologies are used that have a highly potent impact on the mass psyche, and in particular psychotropic weapons.

In terms of the nature of their destructive power, information weapons are certainly unmatched, since they are capable of achieving wartime objectives owing to how they transform people’s behavior and consciousness in ways the attacking side needs, while leaving tangible assets, people, and the environment intact.

There is no doubt that an information weapon can be particularly effective against a country where there is social tension or interethnic, religious, or class conflict. If that does not exist in the country that is under attack, then it is created artificially using the technologies that have already been developed by the West in recent years. In that case, information weapons can cause panic, mass unrest, and massacres in a short time period, destabilize the political situation, and ultimately force a country to capitulate to an aggressor without the widespread use of destructive weapons.

Given what characterizes the destruction caused by information weapons, which fundamentally differs from all other WMDs, and the scale across which it can be employed, it has recently become preferable to all other forms of existing and hypothetical WMDs.

For a long time, television and media outlets were the most powerful levers to exert information-driven influence on people’s consciousness. Unfortunately, very often they are used to “turn off people’s brains” and zombify the population, because it is much easier to control people who have lost the habit of thinking independently. Therefore, Western propaganda is actively using these information tools to implement a policy of McCarthyism and incite Russophobia, and nowadays Sinophobia, Islamophobia, and Iranophobia.

Over the past few decades, owing to the widespread use of the Internet and round-the-clock access to social media networks, including via smartphones, using social media in information warfare is precisely where information weapons are honed until they are as sharp as a razor blade. One result of this is represented by the “color revolutions” instigated by the US and its allies around the world, and whipping up political instability and explosive social tension in countries that are adversaries for Washington. And there are too many specific examples of that, from the so-called “Arab Spring” and “Ukrainian Maidan” to recent attempts made by Washington to overthrow undesirable regimes in Venezuela and Belarus, and influence the election processes in Georgia, Moldova, and other countries, and not only in the former Soviet Union.

The conference held on August 13-16, 2017 in St. Louis (Missouri) by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) entitled “Department of Defense Intelligence Information System (DoDIIS) Worldwide” (“Wireless communications, video conferencing, and managing the development of computer technologies”) served as confirmation that Washington is actively using these weapons as of late. During the work done there, General Vincent Stewart said that the US is preparing for fifth-generation warfare. Specifically, he stated: “All too often we find ourselves fighting warfare in the ways that are not purely kinetic. As opposed to specific platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, fifth-generation war is about the fight for information.” That is why it is not surprising that for Washington the means of communication have become, as the renowned theorist Brzezinski said, “the main instrument in global domination”.

Nowadays, social media intensively captures the minds and governs the actions of millions of the Earth’s inhabitants in various countries. Through social media networks, the absolute majority of which are American in origin, information, or rather propaganda, is “tossed in” that is of interest to the United States. As instructed by the US ruling political elite, information that passes through social media is being censored. Twitter and Facebook block access to social media for alternative information resources that criticize the current US government, and in particular that is happening now, with the content in the publication New Eastern Outlook getting blocked on many American social media. These same social media networks, which artificially inflate Russophobic and Sinophobic accusatory rhetoric, seek to actively influence the electoral processes in many countries of the world themselves, including the United States, and when the Democrats insisted they blocked tweets made by Republican Donald Trump.

There cannot be any doubt that the information space today plays a role in people’s lives that is growing in significance, and has an influence on many facets of our lives and the activities that we perform. In addition, the US is actively trying to use the potential inherent in information space for its own specific purposes, and especially the social media.

However, it should not be forgotten that even though the US invented the nuclear weapon, it could not hold a monopoly on it. And that will definitely occur with social media networks. And the recent strategic war between Washington and Beijing over the social media TikTok and WeChat is vivid proof of this.

Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

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[l] at 9/25/20 1:00pm

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in meetings recently with the Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Workneh Gebeyehu. In a followup to the Russia-Africa summit held back in October 2019 in Sochi, the two discussed the decisions of the first Russia-Africa summit, with an added focus on expanded cooperation with African integration organizations. TASS cited Mr. Lavrov so:

“Special focus was paid to the development of cooperation between Russia and IGAD in the humanitarian sphere and the sphere of education, the aid to African states in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic and overcoming the consequences of locust swarms in East Africa.”

Despite the Russian foreign minister’s straightforward efforts and intentions to grow positive policy in Africa, the western world order busies itself proclaiming everything but good business from Russia. Here are some interesting cases for how bilateral geopolicy from Russia is translated at think tanks and media outlets. Here’s what the detractors had to say Russia’s “real” aims in engaging African officials.

A good example is this story at Oil Price that claims Russia and China are perpetrating a “nuclear takeover” of Africa. The story by Haley Zaremba, who’s an environmentalist. Oil Price thinks an Egyptian nuclear power capacity is unnecessary, but the country cannot grow its power grid on hydropower developed decades ago. Another good reason an energy publication might think this is that Egypt is currently a net oil importer even though the country produces a heck of a lot of crude. Put bluntly, nuclear power capacity in Egypt will erode energy (oil/natural gas) imports and consumption.

The Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies (RUSI) clumps every Russia move in Africa up into a Cold War redux of Soviet-like expansionism ball. In his report, “Russia Takes its Syrian Model of Counterinsurgency to Africa,” Samuel Ramani claims Russia has a strategy of selling counterinsurgency strategy to African nations with “fragile authoritarian regimes.” The author goes on to say Russia’s ambitions in Africa hinge on Syrian this model. So much for what Whitehall and the UK leadership want the people there to believe.

Over in France, once the biggest roleplayer in Colonial Africa, the French Institute of International Relations published a study that contends that the reason more and more African nations are turning to Moscow is to leverage western nations. Not only does the French study claim Russia’s efforts are weak, but the report also says Russia supplies 49% of the military equipment sold on the continent. Nowhere in the study does it mention where the other 51% comes from. Of course, France still has her colonial designs on Africa, like always.

Finally, the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) just published “RUSSIAN FUTURES 2030: The shape of things to come” with a few scenarios for what’s after Vladimir Putin. Basically, the deep dark study rehashes west-east crisis as usual, claiming that whoever leads Russia after Putin will seek to take advantage of a weakened “liberal world order.” The dumb-tank thinking going on in the EU is just funny if you read it. According to one “expert”, the underlying, seething, discontent in Russia may soon explode. Yes, anytime you read a western think tank’s dogma, the wishful thinking and Putin hate just pours out. EUISS makes use of Carnegie Institute fellow Tatiana Stanovaya, who earns a living blowing her horn for Russian discontents like Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Yes, the Yukos Oil mafioso has his fingerprints on anything anti-Putin. But most readers are as tired of reading about Khodorkovsky, Browder, and the rest as I am of finding them mixed up in all the Russophobia.

The problem the western world order is having is an easily understandable one. I expect the Romans had a similar attitude once the empire started to crumble. Mr. Lavrov put it best recently in an interview where he was asked about Russia and China playing by western rules:

“It is time to stop applying Western metrics to our actions and stop trying to be liked by the West at any cost.”

And there you have the new Russia policy. For some time the Kremlin has ceased trying to alter the false narrative coming out of the US State Department and NATO headquarters. The Russians seem set on a course of action rather than words these days. And if Americans, Brits, and European Union nations prefer to take note of security agreements rather than COVID-19 help or energy projects, Russia and Africa are probably the better for it. The former colonists of Africa will probably lose sight of other investments.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, Russia in the World]

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[l] at 9/25/20 12:35pm

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While the actual arena of electoral politics is always domestic, the US has a different case where international geo-politics, too, plays a significant role to the extent that a reference to what a given president/administration is doing or has done overseas to deal with the threats to the US national security becomes the most important point of electoral debate. While this may just simply seem to be the case of how foreign policy impacts domestic politics, threatening to start a war with an avowed enemy just before elections becomes more of a part of electoral politics than just an issue of foreign policy. Indeed, the Trump administration’s decision to unilaterally impose sanctions on Iran, projecting them as ‘UN sanctions’, and its re-deployment of warships in the Persian Gulf indicate how this issue will become a hot topic of political debate at a time when elections are just few weeks away. There is no gainsaying that Trump, in order to boost his political position, may even start a limited war.

On September 18, the US announced that USS Nimitz passed through the Strait of Hormuz with the guided-missile cruisers USS Princeton and USS Philippine Sea and guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett. The statement also said that “The [Carrier Strike Group] will operate [in the Persian Gulf region] and train alongside regional and coalition partners, and provide naval aviation support to Operation Inherent Resolve [in Iraq and Syria].”

This incident, reported widely across the media in Iran as well, comes as a part of the US decision to impose arm embargoes on Iran. The US obviously does not want to just have sanctions on paper; it wants to enforce them them as well, and enforcement would possibly entail US warships attacking and confiscating Iranian cargo ships in international waters — as well as non-Iranian vessels suspected of carrying Iranian good; hence, the most recent deployment.

Indeed, the US has already taken similar actions off the coast of Venezuela where the former seized Iranian vessels. While these vessels were seized in Latin America and did not invite a direct Iranian response, such seizing in the Persian Gulf—particularly in the strait of Hormuz—would possibly invite a direct reaction from Iran (the way Iran responded to the killing of General Soleimani).

While the deployment of US warships can be seen as a part of enforcement mechanism, it also indicates a concerted US effort to virtually impose a naval blockade of Iran, threatening oil shipments as well. It is, therefore, not just a coincidence that a strike group is being deployed in the Persian Gulf after a gap of ten months, during which US-Iran tensions remained high as usual, when the Trump administration wants to enforce the sanctions, create tensions and thus generate a scenario that it can use for political gains.

However, while this appears to the be the scenario that the Trump administration seems to be building, there are strong chances that it can backfire in a significant way, or that it may not work at all.

First of all, given Iran’s substantial missile strike capability, it can inflict serious damage to the US, a scenario that might very well accelerate Trump’s decline at a time when elections are only two months ahead.

Secondly, Iran, sensing the trap here and realizing that a war with the US at this stage will add to Trump’s political position, may very well decide against retaliation and exercise restraint. A restraining Iran will make Trump the aggressor and create political difficulties for him as well.

As such, while Iran has threatened retaliation, it has also toned-down itself. This is particularly evident from the fact that it took no retaliatory step for what has been called and widely reported in the international/US media as an ‘Israeli attack’ on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz.

Exercising restraint appears to be a calculated move given that the Iranian policy makers understand that a Biden presidency will be more amenable than the Trump administration. For instance, Biden’s foreign policy advisor Anthony Blinken recently told CBS News:

“We disagree fundamentally with the approach the administration took on Iran… If Iran comes back into compliance with the deal, then yes, Joe Biden said we would do the same thing, but we would use that as a platform to try to build a stronger and longer deal working with our partners.”

Iran, therefore, has strong reasons to thwart US plans to ignite tensions in the Persian Gulf. However, it may not have any option but to militarily retaliate if the Trump administration, facing a weak political position, imposes a war just as it has imposed sanctions with UN approval.

In other words, while Iran itself may not take an aggressive step in the Gulf, such as attacking the US warships, the US can always manufacture incidents to justify its own offensive. As such, while a war in the Gulf would entail an extremely high risk, the Trump administration, surrounded by hawks as it is, might be willing to take the risk to secure four more years in the White House.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Iran, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 9/25/20 6:59am

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For several months now, information on the events taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean continues to persistently occupy a prominent position in the newscasts. Despite the measures taken by the international community, tension among Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and NATO continues to revolve around this region. Different media outlets occasionally portray the situation as virtually foreshadowing a direct military confrontation between various participants in the regional standoff.

The fact that significant oil and natural gas reserves were discovered off the coasts of Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Cyprus has added a new dimension to long-standing, unresolved conflicts in the region. In particular, this means the unrelenting dispute between Greece and Turkey over who controls the Aegean Sea, the split of Cyprus, and the issue of where maritime boundaries run between Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Libya, and Egypt, as well as between Lebanon and Israel. Countries that have access to the Mediterranean Sea in its eastern portion have all become increasingly adamant in laying claim to disputed, and overlapping, exclusive economic zones, vying to secure their rights to develop any oilfields located within 200 nautical miles from their shores. This is exacerbating political and legal controversy, and causing the discussions to take on harsh tones that often spill over into direct threats of armed standoffs, with the parties at dispute concentrating greater quantities of military equipment in this part of the Mediterranean Sea.

“During the past weeks, we have witnessed an alarming military build-up in the Eastern Mediterranean. All of us are extremely concerned by the very real risk of a direct military confrontation,” said David McAllister, the Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, during a European Parliament plenary session. Speaking out in support of EU members, meaning Greece, Cyprus and France above all others, while at the same time ramping up the criticism he leveled at Turkey, David McAllister urged the parties to immediately deescalate the situation. “[W]e fully support the Council’s clear position of solidarity with our Member States, Greece and Cyprus …  we condemn the Turkish drilling activities in the exclusive economic zones of Greece and Cyprus, and we consider them illegal,” underscored the chair of the parliamentary committee. During a special EU summit, he spoke about the need to raise the issue of imposing sanctions on Turkey.

On September 10, Corsica hosted the summit for countries in Southern Europe (Med7) where France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Malta, and Portugal all participated, following which French President Emmanuel Macron, on behalf of the meeting’s participants, announced their support of Greece and Cyprus in light of the most recent “illegal activities” taken by Turkey in the Mediterranean. The Cypriot newspaper Politis reports that Macron is obviously pushing for the EU to develop an overarching strategy vis-a-vis the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean, since not having one poses a threat to EU members’ sovereignty. These actions taken by the French President are already starting to pay off, since EU officials are making more frequent announcements that they are ready to protect Greece’s and Cyprus’ sovereignty, and are delivering official warnings to Turkey about harsh penalties.

The increase in anti-Turkish sentiment among EU leadership is also evidenced by the announcement made on September 15th by Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who stated that relations between the EU and Turkey are at their “turning point”. However, the head of European diplomacy did urge Ankara not to engage in a confrontation with Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to think about how to improve human rights in its own country, patently indicating the future areas of focus where Europe will escalate the criticism it directs toward Ankara.

NATO leadership is also not showing any apparent desire to give support to Turkey. According to a report from Reuters, on September 17, NATO disclosed an investigation of the maritime incident that occurred between Turkey and France, which almost caused a direct clash between military personnel in these two member countries – despite earlier statements from official spokespersons in Ankara that the North Atlantic Alliance did not find any evidence that a Turkish ship “pursued” a French vessel, as Paris alleged.

Against this backdrop, France is trying to reach an agreement with Greece about bolstering bilateral military cooperation, and elaborating a joint strategy to oppose Turkey. Previously, Athens had announced its plans to strengthen its Navy and Air Force by purchasing warships and fourth-generation Rafale multirole fighter jets from France. Along with that, the Greek Ministry of National Defense is negotiating with the Israeli organization Elbit Maarahot Systems on doing retrofitting and upgrading work on its Air Force Apache helicopters, and installing Spike NLOS missiles on them (Spike is a family that includes one of the best Israeli anti-tank guided missiles). The anticipated price of the deal is several tens of millions of Euro. In addition, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed a program for their military cooperation up to 2021, which will facilitate these countries’ subsequent ability to jointly increase their defense capabilities.

Regarding Israel’s recent actions, what has drawn attention is its recent desire (especially after signing the Abraham Accords on normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan under the auspices of the White House) to play a more active role in this region, to Ankara’s obvious detriment at that. As a result, the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece has taken on the added dimension of the conflicts that exist between Turkey and the Persian Gulf monarchies. Above all else, this is due to Israel’s ambitions to become the region’s energy transport hub and create (and not without Washington’s overt support) an anti-Turkish coalition comprised of France, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Cyprus, Egypt, and the UAE, that will define the area’s political life over the coming decades. At present, this coalition wants to resume work on the oil pipeline project by the Europe Asia Pipeline Co. Ltd. (EAPC), which will facilitate energy security for European consumers, Israeli strategic interests, and using it to deliver oil to Europe from the Persian Gulf will put a damper on Turkey’s aspirations to become an energy transport hub.

In addition, in recent days some events have started to occur in Libya that are clearly not helping deescalate the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean where, due to the upcoming resignation of Fayez al-Sarraj, the leader of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Turkey’s position could seriously suffer. To a certain extent, this could explain the attack committed on September 18, the day negotiations were taking place on resuming Libyan oil exports, on Ahmed Maiteeq, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord, by militants from the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization banned in Russia that is supported by Turkey. The militants tried to use force to get the GNA to reject talks and terminate the agreement.

In response to how anti-Turkish sentiment in the region is apparently mushrooming, Ankara continues to demonstrate that it is determined to regain its former position of leadership among Sunni Muslims, which it possessed for several centuries during the era of the Ottoman Empire, and which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt perceive as a threat to their existence. Also, while Turkey has already been striving to join the European Union for a few decades, recently it would appear that Ankara has gotten rid of the idea. Despite the fact that Turkey was a secular country for a long time, the strong reservations held by Germany and France about letting it into a united Europe remain an insurmountable obstacle, and there is no doubt that the conflicts between Turkey and the EU will continue to intensify.

In these conditions, a situation in the Eastern Mediterranean that is quite complex will persist, and the possibility that it will become further aggravated cannot be ruled out.

Vladimir Odintsov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics, Turkey]

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[l] at 9/25/20 12:59am

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It is now just two months until the presidential elections in the USA. Currently the verdict of the public opinion polls – which is always changing – suggests that Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, has a good chance of winning on November 3.  Those forecasts have led many politicians to speculate that the Democrat candidate may win, and that as president he may revive some of the international agreements the US negotiated in previous administrations, especially the so-called nuclear deal which the USA concluded with Iran back in 2015. Observers have also speculated that the result of the US elections this year may have an effect on the Iranian presidential elections in 2021. As for whether the many various opinions about next year’s elections in Iran prove to be correct – we will just have to wait and see. But one question is on everyone’s minds: whether a victory for Joe Biden would mean the revival of the nuclear deal.

Reader will remember that on May 8, 2018 Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and imposed major economic and financial sanctions on Iran. The US administration announced that it would follow a policy of exerting “maximum pressure” on Iran in order to pressurize its leaders into entering into a new nuclear deal, promoted by Washington. Following the imposition of the sanctions, Iran’s strategy was to wait for a year, and then it began to withdraw from its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) as the deal is formally known. Mike Pompeo, the current US Secretary of State, set out 12 harsh conditions which must be included in the new nuclear deal with Iran.  Perhaps the most important of these was the insistence that Iran change its foreign policy in the region, discontinue its anti-missile program and submit to a number of permanent restrictions on its nuclear activities. It should be noted that the Democrats, who also believe that Iran’s power and influence in the region need to be reined in, are in full agreement with almost all of those conditions. Like the Republicans, they also see Tehran as a challenging and dangerous adversary in Western Asia.

It is rare for a country to undergo a transformation in its macro-economic strategies and foreign policy in a short period of time, and the USA is no exception to this rule. For this reason, the Democrats’ 2020 election manifesto, while raising the issue of reviving the nuclear deal, also emphasizes other restrictions, including the need for talks with Iran on its rocket program and on its status in the region. The Democrats recently published an 80-page 2020 Platform, which clearly sets out the majority of those restrictions as conditions for the renewal of the nuclear deal. The Democrats have also clearly stated that they will never rule out the possibility of sanctions or even a declaration of war against Iran. European countries also support the policy favored by both the Republican and Democratic Parties. But they have a different view on how it should be implemented. Right from the beginning of the nuclear talks with Iran, Europe played the role of a junior partner, and at no stage has it led the process.

Unlike the situation during Donald Trump’s presidency, it is expected that the process of involving Iran in the negotiation of a new deal will be speeded up if Joe Biden wins the election. If that happens it is possible that we will see the formation of a trans-Atlantic coalition against Iran. It seems as if the existing nuclear deal is pretty much over. Even if the Democrats win the elections, it is very unlikely that they will revive it without imposing new conditions. They will only return to the negotiating table if new clauses are added to the nuclear deal. It can thus be assumed that there will be no major difference between Donald Trump’s and Joe Biden’s approaches to the deal. While certain observers in Iran and elsewhere are pinning their hopes on the US elections as a solution to many global problems, the policies followed by both Republican and Democratic politicians suggest that the USA is unlikely to change its long-term strategy.

There remains one important question, which is whether Tehran has any intention of entering into talks at all: the Iranians claim that Washington first needs to change its course and lift all the sanctions imposed on Iran. That is their position at present, but it is possible that in future they may demand that Iran be compensated for all the losses which it has incurred as a result of the unjust American sanctions.  That is a risk that the new US administration, whatever its policy towards Iran, will have to bear in mind.

Tehran, which has managed to stand up to 40 years of pressure, will continue to stick to its uncompromising position concerning peace talks with Washington. Mahmoud Vaezi, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Presidential Administration, has denied that Iran has any plans to negotiate with the USA. “We have no intention to enter into negotiations with the Americans, and we have set out our position very clearly.” Tehran has also stated the USA must accept that its unjustified policy of imposing sanctions on Iran was a mistake.

Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has insisted that the USA has a right to “restore” the UN sanctions, even though it was US President Donald Trump who withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers, which was approved by the UN.  Russia and China, and America’s allies Britain, France and Germany, despite their many differences of opinion, are all united in viewing the USA’s conduct as illegal: a party cannot withdraw from a treaty and then cite the UN resolution approving that treaty as a ground for the reimposition of sanctions.

The Iranians, no strangers to the art of diplomacy, are, in turn, following a “stick and carrot” strategy. On the one hand, Iran is allowing the UN’s nuclear safety authority to inspect one of the two facilities to which it has finally, after a long stand-off, agreed to grant access, while, according to the IAEA’s quarterly report, continuing to increase its reserves of enriched uranium.  The IAEA inspected one of the sites and took samples from the local environment to determine the presence of radioactive materials, as stated in one of the two reports on the samples which were received by Reuters. According to the report, the IAEA inspectors will visit the other facility on a date later this month (September 2020), by prior arrangement with Iran, in order to take further environmental samples.

On the other hand, Iranian state television, citing an unnamed official, has announced that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen, has been charged with a new offence, raising fears that she may have to return to prison again, following her temporary release.  This new charge was announced at a time when Britain and Iran are in talks concerning the return of a sum of £400 million ($530 million) – which was paid to Britain by the late Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, for Chieftain tanks, which were never delivered.

The governments of both Iran and the UK deny that the two issues – the charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the return of the debt – are in any way related. But it is worth noting that in 2016, on the very day that Iran released four US citizens, the USA paid a similar amount to Iran. This spring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had served almost all of her five-year sentence, was temporarily released from prison because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In conclusion, the facts suggest that in choosing its future policy, Tehran will take into account its own interests, as it perceives them, and ignore any threats from the USA or other Western nations. And it is highly unlikely that the new US administration will be able to pressurize the Iranian leadership into doing what it wants.

Victor Mikhin, member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.

 

[Category: Columns, Featured, Iran, Locations, Middle East, Politics]

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[l] at 9/24/20 12:55pm

BRD634322

Can there ever be a secular or even Bolshevik state encompassing much of the Middle East? Who is doing it? Is it the real NATO or the new US and Israeli dominated version, the ‘Arab NATO’ that Secretary Pompeo talks about?

What is happening is the formation of a new nation inside Syria and Iraq, one based not on Wahhabist beliefs as its first incarnation, the ISIS caliphate, but rather Kurdish socialism, long pointed out by Erdogan as a terrorist threat.

Few are aware of the shared roots of the Israeli state and key Kurdish separatist movements.

During Israel’s earliest days, the hardcore Bolsheviks among the Irgun and Stern Gang held sway over the multi-generational ‘embeds’ among not just Arab communities throughout the region but among the Kurds as well.

Kurds have always been politically drawn to Israel, the socialist state that has managed to gain incredible support from the United States while still maintaining extremely cordial relations with the Soviet Union and Russian Federation.

At heart, the Israeli Bolsheviks of the early days and their inheritors, the Likudists under Netanyahu, have worked hand in hand with the PKK inside Turkey, there recognized as a terrorist organization, and inside Iraq as well.

In Iraq, the PKK was the opponent of Saddam, where a tacit agreement was in place allowing the Turkish Army to enter Iraq at any time to destroy Kurdish-PKK capabilities.

That agreement continued under US occupation of Iraq and, to a lesser extent, to this day.

However, Turkey’s capability to operate against what they see as the Kurdish domestic threat is coming to an end.

Erdogan’s huge error here was to believe that Israel and Saudi Arabia would be reliable allies against Syria and Iraq.

Erdogan should remember the 2016 coup attempt, something he seems never to have gained a full understanding of.

A New Nation…of Sorts

The US, aided by Israel and Saudi Arabia, with funding from the UAE and Bahrain, is establishing a new Arab/Kurdish state along the entirety of the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi border.

Driving this state economically is the ‘breadbasket’ of Syria along with Syria’s entire water supply and the vast untapped oil resources of Deir Ezzor province.

Across the border, in Iraq and its semi-independent Kurdish region, the new state will spread south to the Saudi border and extent eastward, not just to Iran but east and south into the Kirkuk oil fields as well.

Since 2017, the US has been building bases across Eastern Syria and now maintains a force of about 12,000, with half contractors and a few hundred Saudi and Israeli ‘nation builders.’

Replacing the old ISIS (banned in Russia) infrastructure, Saudi Arabia is acquiring oil trucks to replace those the Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed, with the first 30 arriving a week ago, delivering the first truckloads of oil to Turkey and returning for more.

Background

The defeat of ISIS, 90% the result of the Syrian Arab Army, Shiite militias in Iraq, Hezbollah and Russian Aerospace Forces, was a major setback for those who would keep the Middle East divided and enslaved.

ISIS was a ‘perfect storm’ of religious ‘phooery’ and cheap street theatre.

Famed CIA ‘fall guy,’ al Qaeda (banned in Russia) was and is much the same, false flag terrorism on demand, with fake terrorist threats delivered ‘on demand’ to any region that is deemed to require military intervention to preserve needed political control.

The West was able to protect ISIS through a ‘rope-a-dope’ bombing campaign while, in actuality, fully supporting ISIS, initially at least, then saving its leadership to be redeployed under a new guise wherever needed.

That new guise is here, wrapped in ‘socialism.’

How it is Being Done

The US began earlier this year by assassinating Arab tribal leaders and their entire families throughout Northern Syria and Deir Ezzor province. Then, one by one, regional sects, both Christian and Muslim, were approached with a ‘Hobbs End’ choice, either ‘join with the Devil’ or see your entire people executed and thrown into mass graves.

Do remember, the people of that region watched thousands of oil trucks empty the oil fields of not just Syria but the Kirkuk field of Iraq, for years. These trucks moved openly, under US air cover, for years, with daily convoys many miles long heading right through the city of Erbil, then to Mosul and from there, through Turkish occupied Iraq.

Those living under occupation inside Syria today have experienced years of duplicity by the US and its “coalition” allies, open support of terrorists which has included not just logistical support but direct military intervention, time and time again, to protect terrorist forces.

Until Russian Aerospace Forces obliterated this obscenity, the oil convoys of ‘ISIS’ were the single largest manmade feature seen on Earth from space, up to 12,000 trucks at a time moving 4 abreast.

What is also seen is the US military presence behind the new ISIS-like oil thievery. When the US announced it was bringing a shipload of Bradley Fighting Vehicles to escort oil trucks into Turkey, the message became clear.

The unique threat to the region comes from various directions. First of all, it should be accepted that the ‘social adhesion’ used to create this new society is gangsterism, bribery, threats of violence and fomenting a feeling of hopelessness among the subject populations of the region.

To accomplish this, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have employed the same basic tools that made Britain the colonial power it became during the 18th century, they play ‘The Great Game,’ and they do it well.

Mix in the Mumbo Jumbo

It seems every player in the region has pulled out their superstition card. For Israel, we have both the imaginary “biblical Israel,” that covered from the Nile to the Euphrates with its temples, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Palmyra, Baalbek and others, “yet to be announced.”

In order to put this plan in motion, Israel has alternatively partnered with the UAE and Bahrain, with Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood and has convinced, we are told, the Saudi royal family that they are secretly Jews.

Similarly, Israel has convinced millions of American Christian Evangelists that until Israel controls the entire Middle East and the temples are built, there will be no Armageddon and ‘rapture.’

So, to millions of Americans, among them the majority of Trump’s supporters, until Israel crushes Islam and unites those of the Middle East allowed to survive, the world can’t be destroyed allowing select Christians to bodily rise into heaven, based on heretical mistranslations of pari-Christian doctrine.

Thus, if American military are, as accused, burning wheat fields in Syria or cutting off water to villages, if these actions were eventually to bring about the “end of the world,” they would be following Pentagon doctrine as interpreted by many.

One of the Pentagon’s top leaders has been General Jerry Boykin. His take on what we are describing is outlined here from a 2013 Mother Jones article:

“Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, a top executive at the influential Family Research Council, has joined the chorus of religious conservatives touting the Syrian conflict as a prelude to Armageddon. On Wednesday, Boykin appeared on Prophetic Perspectives on Current Events, a talk show hosted by dominionist preacher Rick Joyner (see the video above). The pair discussed a passage in Isaiah 17, which predicts Damascus will be reduced to ‘a ruinous heap.’

‘One of the scriptures that has never been fulfilled and has to be fulfilled before this age can end is that Damascus will be destroyed, never inhabited again,’ Joyner explained. ‘What in the world could cause a city to be destroyed and never inhabited again?’ Boykin didn’t hesitate. ‘One of the ways Damascus could be destroyed, never to be re-occupied, would be through a chemical attack,’ he replied. ‘So let’s just take a scenario: The Free Syrian Army takes Damascus and Bashar al-Assad is in a desperate mode now….What would be his final act? Well it may very well be to unload all his chemical weapons on the population center there in Damascus. Destroy the city and destroy it in a way that he just kills maybe millions of people. But the byproduct is that he has residue there that could make Damascus uninhabitable and for a very long time.’

This is not the first time Boykin has embraced the notion that war would obliterate the Syrian capital, paving the way for Jesus’s return. He recently wrote an endorsement for Damascus Countdown, a fictionalized account of the looming biblical conflict by best-selling author Joel Rosenberg. And he has spoken at several of Rosenberg’s annual Epicenter Conferences, which plumb the Middle East’s role in biblical prophesy.”

Conclusion

Bringing about General Boykin’s world as he sees it, views shared by many of the Pentagon’s top officers, will require, for awhile at least, a Kurdish nation state as an Israeli puppet or a Saudi puppet or an American puppet.

In truth, no one knows who is pulling the strings, or if Israel or Saudi Arabia or the United States still exist as nation state entities, though every sign indicates that government functions in each are non-existent.

Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War that has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades and consulted with governments challenged by security issues. He’s a senior editor and chairman of the board of  Veterans Today, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Middle East, Politics, Syria]

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[l] at 9/24/20 12:00pm

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After the current political elite in the United States made waging and preparation for conflicts on various continents the focus of their foreign policy, they are continuously searching for, in an increasingly paranoid manner, new enemies of the United States who they could declare yet another war against and not necessarily a “cold” one.

In order to further such aims, more and more money out of the state budget are allocated not only towards the US military industrial complex but also towards domestic propaganda campaigns. It is easy to understand why this is so. After all, any war incited by those in power invariably starts with hysteria induced by propaganda campaigns aimed at deceiving their target audience at home and abroad, and manipulating them into saying “Yes!” to an upcoming war. This is how these elite circles gain public support for their militant policies. Even in pre-historic times such tactics were used, and more recently, they were employed in Nazi Germany. And nowadays, the current US leadership has again decided to resort to this approach.

By employing various tools of influence, at present, Washington is actively spreading its pre-war propaganda among its allies, particularly within the European Union (currently, many of the EU member states are also part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), led by the United States).

In fact, it has become increasingly difficult to mask the hatred and animosity felt by the US elite circles nowadays towards Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela (and previously, towards the entire Socialist Bloc). The feelings run so deep that these politicians are willing to resolve their issues on the domestic front by militant means and by inciting anti-Russia and anti-China sentiments.

According to USA Today, a new survey, published by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center in 2020, “found a sharp uptick in the number of Americans who see China unfavorably”. “In 2018, just 47% of Americans held unfavorable views of China, but that figure” jumped 26% since then – to 73%. A Pew research associate has said that “China’s standing among the US public began to dip significantly in 2018 when trade rhetoric and the trade war was kind of taking off between the two countries and the downward spiral has continued with the Coronavirus pandemic”.

Interestingly, the poll also showed that “64% of Americans said China had done a bad job handling the pandemic, compared with 31% who said Beijing” had done a good job. It is hard to believe that such viewpoints are objective. After all, they are not based on official data. The PRC managed to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus in the end unlike the United States. In addition, China is currently carrying out phase III trials of its locally developed vaccines, which could be ready for use as early as November. The United Sates is falling behind in the vaccine race in comparison. The anti-China propaganda campaign, initiated by the White House, is preventing the US populace from accessing objective and reliable information. In fact, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (and not the anti-PRC smear campaign), the number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 on a daily basis is on the rise in several US states. And the nation is nearing 200,000 virus-related deaths at present.

Nowadays, anti-China rhetoric is being actively used by US politicians in various spheres. Exaggerating the military threat posed by the PRC is meant to encourage increased military spending by the US. China has also been blamed for unfair trade practices that have had an impact on livelihoods of ordinary Americans. The US leadership has not taken into account the fact that on the international political arena, recently, support for China and its foreign policy projects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (which encompasses the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road) is growing unlike in the United States.

Not long ago, in the face of a growing race-related domestic crisis stemming in part from a failed response by the US leadership, the White House, in order to shift blame onto an external enemy, initiated, with support from the Department of State, the National Security Council and the US Department of Defense, yet another anti-China campaign accusing the PRC government of cultural genocide of Uyghurs.

The current developments are similar to the plot of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”,according to Tony Kevin, an Australian career diplomat. In his article, he says that “Western propaganda that seems aimed at Moscow and Beijing is really intended for the citizens of the so-called Free World”. He also quotes journalist Caitlin Johnstone in his opinion piece:

“There is a slow-motion Third World War underway between the US-centralized power alliance and the nations like China which have resisted being absorbed into it, and that war is being largely facilitated by propaganda. If one doesn’t wish to become a propagandist themselves, one ought to withhold belief from the stories they are told about the terrible, awful things the unabsorbed nations are doing which require extensive sanctions, subversion and interventionism in response.”

Nowadays, such wars are often initially waged with the aid of bellicose rhetoric, sanctions and subversion. And US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his obedient “minions”: US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper; British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab; leader of Britain’s Lab-our Party Keir Starmer, and numerous editors of Western media outlets toing his line are all actively involved in the aforementioned wars.

The fertile ground laid by the White House is actively used nowadays to start preparations for a conflict with Russia and China. General Gustave F. Perna, who served as the head of the United States Army Materiel Command from September 2016 to July 2020, has told reporters that to deter Russia and China, the Army was “building new prepositioned equipment sets for Europe and studying new stockpiles for the Pacific” region. In March 2020, USA’s leading newspaper The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported about a 10-year plan to revamp the US Marine Corps (USMC, one of the eight uniformed services of the United States) to meet the threat posed by China. USNI News, the US Naval Institute’s online news and analysis portal, also wrote about USMC’s new focus on the PRC. According to Charles Brown Jr., who became the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force on August 6, 2020, the United States has to be “prepared to fight through combat attrition rates and risks to the Nation that are more akin to the World War II era”.

Washington has been using its pre-war propaganda campaigns to focus on USA’s “external enemies”. Unfortunately, at present (unlike the days of the Caribbean Crisis), there are few highly respected politicians in the United States capable of taking on the burden of responsibility and stopping the ongoing preparations for war by freeing the minds of ordinary Americans (and other people) of unnecessary worries about possible misfortunes, which could befall them as a result of efforts made by a number of political players to portray themselves in a certain light and to earn additional income from waging wars in the process.

Vladimir Danilov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics, USA in the World]

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[l] at 9/24/20 7:12am

AUST3422

In his recent article, a Canadian analyst Patrick Armstrong took a detailed look at current United States policy toward its European allies. Although he does not mention Australia once in his article, much of what Mr Armstrong has to say about United States policy toward its European “allies” is of direct relevance to Australia.

Driving US foreign policy is the overwhelming principle that the US, and the US alone, has the capacity and the right to make the geopolitical decisions affecting, in this case, Europe and Asia. It goes far beyond the principle that Allied nations act together for their mutual benefit. The United States approach is unique in the world of modern geopolitics. There is only one country whose interests are paramount, and that is the United States itself.

Nominally allied nations are not free to make decisions in their own interests, if those decisions will affect the interests of the United States. This extends to the point that it is not only political pressure or friendly persuasion that is applied to allies. If the nominally independent country seeks to take decisions perceived to be in that countries interests, surely a prime objective of all independent states, and those decisions conflict with the United States’ perception of what it deems to be its vital interests, then there is no hesitation by the United States in imposing sanctions against its erstwhile ally.

These are not the actions of an ally. They are the actions of an imperialist power that has only one definition of the “correct” decisions to be made and actions taken, and that is compliance with American demands.

The word “demands” is used advisedly. There is no scope for independent free will by the erstwhile ally. The proof of that is plain for all to see. The recalcitrant party, whether it is an individual, a company, or a nation state, is immediately hit with sanctions.

The Nord Stream 2 project provides multiple illustrations of the point. The project supplies Russian natural gas to Germany, delivered by a pipeline between the two countries that by geographical necessity has part of its route through the territorial waters of third countries. The most recent country to give its approval for the pipeline to traverse its waters is Denmark.

It is entirely without coincidence that Denmark was recently visited by the United States secretary of state Mike Pompeo in an attempt to dissuade Denmark from allowing the pipeline to traverse its territorial waters. The persuasion evidently failed because Denmark did not resile from its consent. The pipeline is now only weeks from conclusion.

In this writer’s view, the recent events surrounding the Russian dissident politician Alexei Navalny are to be interpreted as a desperate attempt by the United States to persuade Germany to cancel the project.

Mr Navalny took ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. The plane diverted to land him as soon as possible after he became ill and required hospitalisation. He was initially treated by Russian doctors in a Russian hospital. These doctors conducted extensive tests upon Mr Navalny and with what may be seen as excellent foresight, retained those test results although Mr Navalny was later transferred to a Berlin hospital.

It did not take more than a few days for a German military hospital (not the one he was admitted to) to claim the tests revealed Mr Navalny had been infected with Novichok, a Soviet era substance, exposure to infinitesimal quantities of which were fatal.

Mr Navalny, like Sergei and Yulia Skripal in respect of whom identical claims of being exposed to an alleged Russian dosage of Novichok, miraculously survived. The Skripals were disappeared by the British authorities, contrary to international law that they purportedly subscribe to and have not been seen or heard of for well over a year.

Although no Australian politicians have suffered sudden and mysterious illnesses, it could be argued that there has never been any necessity for such a drastic solution. The one Australian politician in recent history to display independence from the United States, the Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, was deposed in a political coup in November 1975. No Australian prime minister since then has shown any inclination to act independent of United States wishes.

This has included eager (and ongoing) participation in United States illegal wars of choice in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The geopolitical consequences for Australia had thus far been relatively small. In 2020 that changed radically.

China had become Australia’s largest trading partner by a very large margin over the past two decades, now accounting for more than a third of Australia’s total exports. China also provided the largest number of foreign students and foreign tourists as well as being the third largest source of foreign investment.

Although it was difficult to pinpoint at the time, the rapid deterioration of the China – Australia relationship in retrospect can probably be traced back to Australia demanding of China an accounting for the alleged outbreak of the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the beginning of this year. Recent evidence suggests that the outbreak takes three different forms and started in different places, including Europe and the United States, at an earlier date in 2019.

There is little doubt that the accusatory tone explicit in the Australian demand from the Chinese was at the instigation of the Americans. Trump has made no secret of his antipathy to China, referring to the outbreak as the “China virus.” Australia thus gained the antipathy of the Chinese for acting as the American mouthpiece, with no conceivable benefit that could be ascertained.

After several increasingly explicit warnings to Australia the Chinese finally took retaliatory action and began prohibiting the import of an increasing number of key Australian exports.

Australia still did not get the message or more likely were too much in the American camp to appreciate the damage that was being done to the China-Australia relationship.

The trade figures rapidly began to demonstrate the damage that was being done by Australia’s incredibly stupid attitude. Exports to China fell by 40% in the month of July over those of a year previously, and the rest of the year will undoubtably exhibit similarly disastrous trade lines. Incredibly, the message has still not penetrated the Australian political mindset. Alternative markets for at least some goods will ultimately be found but in improvement will be neither rapid nor substantial.

It is difficult to overstate the profound stupidity of the Australian government. The reason for the disaster is readily ascertainable. It is the inevitable price that Australia is paying for adherence to United States policy of overt hostility to China. The maxim attributed to the 19th century British statesman Lord Palmerston, that a country has neither friends nor enemies, only interests, is one that has yet to be learned by Australia.

This stupidity is compounded by Australian warships taking part in American “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea. Australia is likely to pay a very high price for its inability to learn from Palmerston’s aphorism of 19th century wisdom.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Asian-Pacific region, Australia, Columns, Economics, Featured, Locations]

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[l] at 9/23/20 11:59pm

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On September 2, 2020, the main opposition force of the Republic of Korea, the conservative United Future Party changed its name. Of the three options proposed to the leadership of the party, the name People’s Power Party (PPP) was chosen.  The new name implies “the power coming from the people, exercised for the people and uniting the people into one whole.”

The name change is the latest in a series of measures to improve the image of the opposition party that was defeated in the April 15 parliamentary elections. It is also an occasion for us to see what has changed about the Conservatives aside from the name and how much they learned from the defeat.

Political parties in Korea change their name either in the electoral process of mergers and disengagement, or when they need to demonstrate a fresh start. In this context, the Conservatives have had to change their name three times in the past three years: after President Park Geun-hye was impeached, Saenuri’s Party became Liberty Korea; then, before the elections on April 15, it united with other right-wing groups and became the United Future Party.

Changing the name of a party signifies a determination to distance yourself from your past. The Conservatives suffered a series of crushing defeats in the 2016 parliamentary elections, the 2017 presidential elections, the 2018 local elections and the 2020 parliamentary elections, where their rivals won an overwhelming majority for the first time.

The April 15 debacle went down for a number of reasons. First, the tone in the party was set by the ultra-right circles, which were increasingly avoided by the public. Their representatives constantly made vulgar statements that lowered the party’s rating, and the program did not meet the today’s zeitgeist in numerous ways.

Second, the Conservatives entered the elections without prominent leaders (and those who stood out were rather questionable) and without a positive political agenda, only demanding a popular trial of President Moon; in addition, the logic of factional struggles forced them to criticize any initiatives put forward by the authorities.

Third, the Conservative Party was perceived as a party very detached from the people, protecting the interests of the privileged establishment and the rich; it also relies only on its traditional base, the so-called Yeongnam region, which includes the North and South Gyeongsang provinces and central cities located there (Daegu, Ulsan, Busan)

After the failure of the elections and the resignation of almost the entire party elite, the leadership of the party was in the hands of 80-year-old Kim Chong-in.  Professional political strategist, Kim is known as the “kingmaker” as he helped the Conservative Saenuri party win the majority in the 2012 general election, and then helped the Democrats win the majority in the 2016 general election. Both victories led to the “accession” of Park Geun Hye and Moon Jae In.

Before the elections he was little listened to, and mainly had to apologize for the mistakes made by his associates.   But on April 28, Kim Chong-in became chairman of the Party’s Interim Steering Committee, replacing the notorious Hwang Kyo Ahn, and on May 22, he finally became the head of the UFP, promising to “put all his efforts into the revival of the party and the country.”

What did Kim start doing? First, he began to change the party agenda, which became more centrist and touches upon the issues that truly concern the South Korean society. Promising to reform, he said the party should abandon politics and “conservative” values. The new party program includes many concepts that were previously associated only with Democrats. These include the idea of unconditional basic income, guaranteeing the labor rights of those who work on online platforms, strengthening the unemployment insurance system, and even trying to limit the time of MPs in parliament to three consecutive terms in an attempt to ensure generational change.

Second, they began to criticize the ruling party not generally and for conservative biased things (the sale of the country to China), but for specific facts and for a specific scandal. Overall, the UFP began to actually deviate from the principle: “whatever the democrats propose, we always vote against.”

Third, conservatives began to admit certain mistakes of the past and spread propaganda to foreign territory. When weeks of heavy rains hit the country hard, Kim proposed a fourth supplementary budget and visited flood ridden South Jeolla province, a traditional stronghold of the ruling party.

Moreover, on May 18, 2020, the anniversary of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, Kim attended a memorial to the victims and paid tribute to the graves of those who died during the movement. He wrote the following in the quest book: “I will do my best for the cause of democracy in step with the spirit of the democratization movement of May 18.”

Moreover, Kim distanced himself from the far-right wing of his party, whose representatives often interpreted the uprising as a rebellion inspired by DPRK agents.

For the Left, this reminded the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who knelt in front of the monument to the Warsaw ghetto uprising during his visit to Poland on December 7, 1970.

Few believed that a political veteran would be able to revive the Conservative Party. However, it took Kim Chong-in under three months to prove them wrong. On August 6, the UFP narrowed the gap with the ruling party to less than 1% (34.8% versus 35.6%), including Seoul, where the liberal ruling party is traditionally strong. At the same time, President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating dropped 1.9 points to 44.5%, while his disapproval rating rose to 51.6%, the results appear to be partly due to public dissatisfaction with the government’s real estate policy.

A week later, the UFP overtook the Democrats with 36.5 percent to their 33.4 percent. For the first time since the outbreak of the candle revolution in October 2016, even worse, a poll showed that the Democratic Party of Korea  is losing support among residents of the southwestern Honam region (North and South Jeolla province, Gwangju city), which has traditionally been considered their base. There the Democrats approval rate fell by 11.5%.

Of course, problems remain: the factional struggle within the party continues, and the representatives of the old school as a whole have not gone anywhere.  Many party higher-ups have expressed concern that the party is losing its conservative identity. Some critics believe that the party’s success is not due to the party’s success, as much as the widespread disappointment in the government.

Even then, the conservatives will still not be able to change the ratio of mandates in parliament, and for now the government can freely push through most of the laws, and the opposition can only respond to this with a boycott, which still fails to show any results. The opportunity to make a name with mass rallies in response to this or that scandal involving the authorities or the ruling party has been eliminated by quarantine measures, against the backdrop of a pandemic, demonstrations are prohibited, and those joining them despite the warning are perceived by society as contributing to the infection.

In addition, there is currently no realistic candidate for the 2022 presidency in the conservative camp.  Kim is getting less than 3%, and therefore the conservatives are actively looking at Attorney General Yoon Seok-youl, who increasingly earns political points thanks to the image of an incorruptible guardian who tries to imprison not only those corrupt officials whom the authorities point him out to, but also those who are related to close circle of the president.   In the meantime, Kim’s term as party chairman expires in April 2021, when elections for heads of municipalities in Seoul, Busan and other cities take place. The outcome of this battle will show how the Conservatives prepared.

In summary: the new political slogan (“People’s Power”) is an important claim of the conservatives to try and follow the path that the democrats have taken during this time, gaining support from the people, criticizing the authorities, putting forward a positive agenda and regaining previously lost positions. The opposition party’s new name reflects a determination to expand its base of support, but the party must prove its new ideals through action.

So as they say, “stay tuned to see what happens next!”

Konstantin Asmolov, Candidate of Historical Sciences, leading science associate of the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East of the RAS, specially for the internet magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Eastern Asia, Featured, Locations, Politics, South Korea]

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[l] at 9/23/20 12:30pm

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It should come as no surprise that there are many Red Herrings flying in the run up to the US presidential elections. Watching the spectrum of news outlets will bring an observer to completely different conclusions about any subject, espeically political, and leave them feeling the news outlets are actually talking about themselves, not their ostensible subjects.

What escapes critical attention is why all this attention is being paid now to what is being labelled a great threat to the American way of life – Antifa, which is proving more an ideology than a group, even in the accounts of the FBI.

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that the bureau views Antifa as “more of an ideology than an organization,” undercutting statements by President Donald Trump and others in his administration that Antifa is leading, organising and funding acts of violence in cities across the country from a national level.

At first impression, it makes Antifa sound pretty serious when the Trump administration declares, as it did back in May, that the United States will be designating Antifa a terrorist organisation. It makes you wonder what evil forces must be lurking in the shadows it casts, perhaps all part of a plan to topple the US or some foreign conspiracy to destroy American democracy.

But the Trump administration failed to mention who exactly Antifa are – the personalities involved, its structure, how it is actually co-ordination nationwide acts of violence. This begs the question: where does free speech end and where do labels begin, in order for some group to be designated a terrorist organisation?

With a few turns of the shovel, it does not take long to conclude that so called right-wingers don’t understand anything, as Antifa has no power. The media spin about it is more a diversion than anything of substance, a proverbial Red Herring, and sooner or later more may be revealed.

Hopefully before it is too late!

The allegations and evidence don’t match the reality, at least as documented in court papers. Those individuals involved in violent acts, at least those arrested under Federal charges, have not been shown to be linked with any organised anti-fascists groups.

Antifa is short for “anti-fascist,” and as a group it stands in opposition to an authoritarian, right-wing government such as came to power in Germany with the Nazis. The US fought against the Nazis, and Mussolini, even though it singularly failed to act against useful right-wing authoritarians such as Franco and Stroessner. Therefore Antifa should not exist in the US, as mainstream American political culture should reflect the same ideology.

But look at the streets of the USA. We see scenes similar to those in the Weimar Republic in the run-up to the Nazi regime coming to power. Some social media supporters, who also are Trump supporters, known as “Diamond & Silk,” describe how Antifa activists have threatened to murder President Trump, and compare this catch-all organisation to the KKK, apparently unconscious of the irony of this given Trump’s open support for certain KKK activists.

Under the circumstances currently unfolding, with never ending protests over the BLM response and the endemic problem of police brutality in America, it can do not good to designate any group as “terrorist” because it doesn’t agree with you, rather than because it is doing anything. Senior Justice Department officials have publicly warned against such a designation, but such warnings seem not to have been taken seriously by Trump and his supporters.

Now rumors are spreading that Antifa started some of the forest fires in the Western United States. These allegations remain without proof, but you name it, Antifa is allegedly involved. Antifa has become a modern day Black Panthers Organisation, the bogeyman for the convenience of the establishment.

In reality, however, lone wolves, white supremacists and other anarchists from “respectable” suburban backgrounds are more likely to turn to lethal methods to get their point across. As the LA Times has reported, at one point the state of Oregon was inundated with false rumours that Antifa would attack small towns, “Consequently,” said University of Oregon political scientist Joseph Lowndes, “100 guys show up with ARs and pistols and everything else to protect the town from an Antifa that never shows up, because it’s not an actual thing.”

Lowndes should know, as he and another researcher have written a book about Race and Class in the Age of Trump, and has documented the changing politics of race and class across a broad range of phenomena, showing how new forms of racialisation work to alter the economic protections of whiteness while promoting some conservatives of colour as models of the neoliberal regime. All the hype around Antifa serves a purpose, one we need to understand, and the sooner the better.

It is easier to blame popular protest movements like BLM and Antifa, and “left-wing activists” in general, even for the fires consuming the western part of the state, said Lowndes. However, when you read up on these organisations you will quickly understand they are getting the blame for much more than they are responsible for, and this is serving a purpose for the blamers.

As Lowndes and his co-author notes, the real causes of the fires are complex, and rooted in climate change. However, “The irrational conspiracy theory is easier and more appealing to believe,” and it fits the proverbial blame game better, as the current administration is not to be held accountable for the protests across the US, or climate change, as according to Trump and his science-bashing minions it is all hype.

Method in Madness

It is not difficult to understand the benefits of fanning the flames, and how playing two ends against the middle can have political payoff, at least in the mind of Trump. It is fast becoming obvious that “President Trump is responsible for the combustible racial climate that he continues to fuel with one inflammatory tweet after another.”

In the weeks leading up to the US elections, we will likely be hearing more frequent allegations, finger pointing and recriminations as to who is to blame for all the social unrest. But blaming one group after another., as other divisive politicians such as Margaret Thatcher have found, will only give people the impression that a large chunk of the population opposes the regime, because anyone could be labelled a potential member of one of these groups at any time.

There needs to be one enemy, whose members most middle-class and aspirant Americans wouldn’t want to know. Antifa can be made to fulfil that function better than, say, BLM, precisely because it doesn’t really exist, and can therefore be presented a sad mysteriously run and controlled subversive group.

There is no “Antifa” organisation. There is no single leader, there is no network. It is just a label of convenience anyone who is opposed to fascism, and protests against it (or in some cases commits violence) uses.

“Antifa”is a wide range of people with different views but a shared distaste for the fascism they see as being manifested by the current administration. They don’t know what they want to see in its place or how to go about getting it, and therefore couldn’t unite in one movement if they wanted to, any more than people who don’t like rap music can’t coalesce to ban it from the airwaves.

Fell harder than he was pushed!

Perhaps one of the most over the top tweets which can be attributed to Trump is one in which he suggests that an elderly man who was hospitalised after being shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo, New York a few months ago was an “Antifa provocateur” who may have been trying to “set up” law enforcement, and he “fell harder than he was pushed.”

The shocking scene of a policeman pushing an elderly man is indeed hard to believe with the naked eye, and could therefore have been a staged event. But even if it were, it makes no difference.

The man fell backwards and started bleeding from his head and ear. The police just left him on the ground, and only at the insistence of a reporter did he receive medical care. Even if the event was set up, it exposed the police for what they were, as it is highly unlikely that this elderly man was the only victim of such behaviour.

It is unfortunate that the 2020 presidential election is like no other in recent years, not only in terms of the purported choices offered by the two main political parties, (no real choice between them) but that the issues are being watered down to “gut level” feelings about things which should not be issues in any developed democracy. Next week we may well hear the Trump is accusing the Democrats of regulating sunshine out of existence, and the Democrats are accusing Trump of inventing Hell.

Time is running out!

Before it is over, some group may be blamed for COVID-19, as there are no holds barred in this election. It has been demonstrated that Trump has deliberately chosen to describe it as the “Chinese virus” by changing the wording in briefing papers written for him. Claiming that Antifa is being run by the Chinese would be a logical next step, and once again further his new friendship with, or rather slavery to, the far more intelligent and capable Kim Jong-un.

Hopefully voters will wake up and focus on the issues and less on the rhetoric, as change is needed. They need to consider what kind of president they want, and how to deal with ethnic and race relations in times of COVID and economic turmoil in order to preserve the fabric of their country.

Unfortunately, the 2020 election won’t help resolve any of these issues. The “established politics” represented by Biden is the past, and even if people hate Trump, his populism has changed the rules. There would never have been a Trump if the past had not been discredited, but no one is offering a new future in which progressive thinking generates a link with the population, rather than enriching the egos and intellects of a few.

The world is sitting on the sidelines and laughing at the US, but “deep down” all know “as goes the US, so goes the world.” The West has no choice but to look to the US for leadership because it is configured that way, just as the Roman Catholic Church would be greatly harmed if it had many brilliant men amongst it, but an incompetent and immoral Pope.

Much of the problem is not the Manchurian Candidates themselves but how the media and political parties are leading the discussion of the issues, often focusing on non-issues than the real ones. But the real issue is the void of leadership and thinking, and that is too scary for anyone in the US to stomach, so it will not be mentioned in its news media.

People’s minds are programmed to think too literally. As a result, they often miss subtle nuances staring them in the face. Imagine the US presidential elections in six weeks – contested results due to postal delays, and buttressed up to a Supreme Court vacacy with at least one controversial appointment as a preelection ringer (if the Republican controlled Senate pulls it off in time), amid a pandemic and wildfires… I don’t recall any TV show or movie, with such a complicated script. do you?

I can’t decide if it’s a drama, comedy, tele-novella, or horror series. By saying the current election is equivalent to the Manchurian Candidate, one might be inclined to think current events must line up exactly like the film, or characters have to act the exact same way. That is why it’s best to watch both films back-to-back (1962, 2014). It breaks the thread of literalism. You can see how it’s the same story with similar results even after characters, the timeline, etc, are all shaken up and elements are switched around.

If nothing changes no matter who is elected, the US will have to convince the rest of the world that this is merely because it is being undermined by Antifa or some other bogeyman. When all these phony political wars – the “War on Terrorism”, the “War on Drugs” were invented, its allies bought that argument. But they don’t anymore, and that is why Antifa will be around whatever the outcome of the US election – it is far more useful to the other side than it will ever be to itself.

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Columns, Featured, Locations, Society, USA in the World]

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[l] at 9/23/20 6:59am

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During the modern stage in the geopolitical rivalry among world powers to gain influence in the Asia-Pacific, where it shows up most vividly is in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean: Australia, China, the United States, and Japan are all trying hard to become chummy with the countries in Oceania, but each of those is pursuing its own objectives. Australia is struggling to keep its dominant position in Oceania by strengthening its position in Melanesia; China is standing for expanding its political, economic, and possibly even military role throughout the region; the United States, whose largest Pacific bases are concentrated in Micronesia, is trying to put up resistance to the Chinese by bolstering its own defense capabilities.

Back in 2019, during his visit to Guam, where the most strategically important American military base in the Pacific Ocean is located, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the start of negotiations on the Compact of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, which Washington intends to use to counter China’s growing influence in Oceania. In this regard, in September 2020 relations with Palau, which is a small country with a population of 18,000 that has a compact of free association with the United States, gained an impetus to develop further in the form of a 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or about 630,000 square kilometers, which is comparable to twice the area occupied by Germany. The Compact of Free Association between the US and Palau was signed in 1986, and this means that for 50 years the American side has borne (and will continue to do so) responsibility for the country’s security, and, stemming from that, was permitted to deploy its military bases there.

For a long time, the United States did not take advantage of that opportunity, but now, against the backdrop of its struggle with China for influence in the Pacific Ocean, the situation has radically changed. At the end of August 2020, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made a visit to Palau in the framework of a tour around the Pacific Ocean, and proclaimed China’s “malign influence” in the area. What is noteworthy is that China, unlike the United States, has invested about $ 1.6 billion in Oceania over the past decade while being a relatively “new” actor in the region, whereas the United States has invested $ 1.19 billion. This fact is already calling into question how “harmful” Chinese influence is: after all, Beijing is not spending money on military bases, but on infrastructure and social projects.

In any case, during the visit by the US Secretary of Defense the Palauan President, Thomas Remengesau, Jr., proposed that Washington could deploy a military base in his country along with the ancillary infrastructure in the form of ports and airfields, and provide assistance patrolling the waters of its enormous EEZ. It is important to note that Palau is still one of four countries throughout Oceania that diplomatically recognizes Taiwan. Among other things, one of the reasons for Palau turning to Washington for help could be the economic problems inflicted on it by suspending air travel during the pandemic, given that the tourism industry is the main source of profit for the Micronesian country.

Despite the fact that the US has ramped up its activities in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean, China not only maintains its interest, but is showing markedly increased interest in cooperating with the island countries throughout Oceania, which hold appeal for Beijing for many reasons. First of all, this means the desire for “true friendship, implementing practical cooperation, and achieving mutually beneficial results,” which was personally stated by the PRC’s General Secretary, Xi Jinping. Second, this means commercial interests, including access to the resources possessed by several states in Oceania: gas, oil, nickel, gold, copper, and many fishery resources. Finally, this means logistics routes, and the vast exclusive economic zones in the southern part of the Pacific; these will permit China to take a more active part in the local fishing grounds there.

While the United States is vigilantly guarding Micronesia from “malign” Chinese influence, China is ratcheting up its presence in the countries throughout both Melanesia (Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, etc.) and Polynesia (Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, etc.). For example, in 2019 Beijing managed to “woo over” a country right in the heart of Polynesia to its side, Kiribati, which used to diplomatically recognize Taiwan. There is no doubt that Kiribati is a unique country, which is located in all four of the Earth’s hemispheres at once, and has both extensive reserves of fish and a gigantic EEZ of 3.5 million square kilometers. At the same time, Kiribati is very active in drawing the world community’s attention to the issue of climate change, since its inhabited atolls are gradually being absorbed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Beijing has responded to the calls for help from the Polynesian state, and is now planning to reclaim the land that the country has lost by raising and reinforcing the atolls that have sunken beneath the water. Moreover, China has extensive experience doing this kind of work in the South China Sea. Beijing also intends to build two massive ports in Kiribati, which, along with the rebuilt atolls, could have a positive impact on the local economy. Chinese projects are expected to help attract fishing companies and tourist cruise liners, and provide Kiribati residents with new jobs. It is fairly hard to call this influence “malign”, especially taking into account the fact that for a long time Australia and the United States paid little attention to the impact that climate change has been having on the countries in Oceania. It is worth noting that China is one of the world leaders in the field of green energy: at the end of last year, China produced roughly one-third of the world’s volume of solar energy, and kept its leading position in terms of its number of wind turbines. This kind of cooperation between China and Kiribati is well-suited to the One Belt, One Road Initiative, and the Oceanic state joined this in January 2020.

In response to Beijing’s plans, some Western experts have started to sound the alarm about the Chinese presence in Kiribati, and are specifically expressing their concerns that Chinese military bases could potentially be deployed in Polynesia and control logistics routes in the center of the Pacific Ocean, as well as around Kiribati itself, which is rich in water and mineral resources. The Polynesian state truly does have an important geostrategic position in the South Pacific due to its proximity to the US military bases in Hawaii and the Marshall Islands, but, on the other hand, all the rumors about the Chinese setting up military bases in Oceania have not yet been confirmed.

In either case, this kind of struggle for influence in Oceania between China and the US for opportunities to gain footholds in the region, and the talk about bolstering the presence of armed forces there, is a significant indication that in the future Oceania will likely become militarized. The ways of implementing these plays adopted by Washington and Beijing also stand in stark contrast to each other: the former is directly proclaiming its intentions to deploy military bases on the islands, while the latter is providing financial assistance where it is needed. Nonetheless, despite these different approaches, both world giants are pursuing the same goal in Oceania, and achieving that means that the struggle between them will be growing more severe.

Petr Konovalov, a political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

[Category: Asian-Pacific region, Columns, Featured, Locations, Politics]

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