Friday, February 27, 2015

GOP Platform: War Without End

If the sadists of ISIS are seeking – with their mass executions, child rapes, immolations, and beheadings of Christians – to stampede us into a new war in the Middle East, they are succeeding.

Repeatedly snapping the blood-red cape of terrorist atrocities in our faces has the Yankee bull snorting, pawing the ground, ready to charge again.

“Nearly three-quarters of Republicans now favor sending ground troops into combat against the Islamic State,” says a CBS News poll. The poll was cited in a New York Times story about how the voice of the hawk is ascendant again in the GOP.

In April or May 2015, said a Pentagon briefer last week, the Iraqi Army will march north to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State.

On to Mosul! On to Raqqa!

Yet, who, exactly, will be taking Mosul?

According to Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times, the U.S. general who trained the Iraqi army says Mosul is a mined, booby-trapped city, infested with thousands of suicide fighters.

Any Iraqi army attack this spring would be “doomed.”

Translation: Either US troops lead, or Mosul remains in ISIS’ hands.

Read the entire article

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Destabilization Doctrine: ISIS, Proxies and Patsies

“Islam and the West at War,” reads a recent New York Times headline.

It would certainly seem that way if one were to take at face value the putrid assertions of Western governments that are not particularly known for their honesty or integrity. But astute observers of history and geopolitics can spot a deception when they see one, and the latest theatrical performances being marketed to the masses as real, organic occurrences remind one of a Monty Python sketch.

In the past week we have witnessed a number of expedient events that were designed to legitimize the West’s imperialist foreign policies in the minds of the masses. On Feb. 15 the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) released another highly choreographed and visually striking video allegedly depicting the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. Shortly following the video’s release, the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sissi launched air strikes against ISIS targets in Libya where the execution video was allegedly filmed, although experts are now saying that the production was faked.

ISIS’s continued provocations in the form of carefully crafted, emotionally impactful execution videos (real or faked), such as the recent immolation of a caged Jordanian pilot, cannot possibly be the work of rational actors seeking a military victory in any capacity. The videos only ever work to ISIS’s disadvantage, solidifying the resolve of their current ‘coalition’ opponents as well as creating new enemies upon every release.

Sixty-two countries and groups are presently fighting in the dubious ‘coalition’ against ISIS, most of which have modern militaries with advanced air and ground forces. Why in the world does ISIS continue to entice more countries to join the already over-crowded alliance against them? Why a group that purports to want to establish a ‘state’ which will ostensibly govern millions of people is deliberately seeking more and more enemies and a constant state of war with them beggars belief.

Does ISIS think it can do battle with the whole planet and achieve victory, culminating in world domination? How do people who harbor such ridiculous delusions have the wherewithal and resources at their disposal to organize and recruit thousands of fighters from around the world to an utterly ludicrous cause doomed to sheer failure? How can this be anything but a contrived prank of an operation?

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Monday, February 23, 2015

US “Easing Into” War with Syria Using ISIS Boogeyman

The US is a few “accidental” airstrikes away from total war with SyriaThe US is reportedly working with Turkey to provide militants inside of Syria with radios to call in US airstrikes to help in their “fight against ISIS.” Despite the obvious reality that these militants are in fact fighting alongside ISIS and are primarily fighting the Syrian Arab Army, and that such airstrikes are inevitably going to be called in on Syrian, not ISIS targets, the US is nonetheless attempting to assure the world this is not the case.

The London Telegraph declared in its article, “Moderate Syrian rebels ‘to be given power to call in US air strikes’,” that:
The US is planning to train some 5000 Syrian fighters a year under the plan as part of an effort to strengthen the fractured rebel movement against the government of President Bashar al-Assad and extremist groups. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that the initial training would focus on helping rebels hold ground and resist fighters allied with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
The Telegraph would also report:
Four to six-man units will be equipped with rugged Toyota Hilux vehicles, GPS and radios so they can identify targets for airstrikes.
Even in the Telegraph’s article, it is clear that this plan will inevitably be aimed at the Syrian government and its troops, the only secular force in the region fighting Al Qaeda and its spin-off, ISIS.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

For the West, it’s time to learn from Osama bin Laden

Despair for America’s future security is a difficult sentiment to subdue as events in the Middle East continue unfolding. The U.S. military can neither win wars – hopefully because of political restraint — nor effectively train Arab armies. The leaders of both U.S. political parties refuse to recognize that ISIS, al-Qaeda, and like organizations are indeed — according to 20-years of their own public words and a quick check of the Koran — waging an increasingly popular religious war against the United States, in large part as a response to Washington’s relentless intervention in the Muslim world. The same political leaders and President Obama and his administration have set themselves up as expert Islamic theologians to endlessly assert that the Islamists are madmen and nihilists who have nothing to do with Islam, which is, more than anything else, a signal that they are determined to help the United States commit suicide by refusing to level with Americans and tell them that they are up to their hips in a deadly religious war in which their own government is the enemy’s main motivator.

Since 2002, I have written four books dealing with Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, and the Islamist movement in general. Each of them is primarily based on the words of writings of bin Laden, his lieutenants, and other important Islamist fighters and leaders. One of the goals of each book was to correlate the convergence of the Islamists’ words and deeds; that is, did bin Laden et al. do what they said they were going to do. Each book found a very high correlation between words and deeds; indeed, it seems likely that the United States has never had an enemy that was and is so willing to tell us in advance what he is going to do, why he is going to do it, and what ends he means to attain. Because of this reality, the Islamist enemy is not at all difficult to understand. When Western political leaders speak of what a complex problem we are facing in the war the Islamists are waging, you can be sure they have either not read what the enemy has publicly said and taken it seriously — a repeat of their predecessors’ catastrophic failure to take Mein Kampf seriously — or that for reasons of political necessity, ideology, or, most likely, faulty educations they simply cannot credit the idea that anyone would be willing to fight and die for their faith in the “enlightened” 21st century.

Because the Islamist leaders have detailed their movement’s motivation, and have then proceeded to do what they said they would do, there is no such thing as “unintended consequences” in this war. The impact of every major post-2001 action taken by both sides in this war was perfectly predictable. For the West that means each of its decisions and actions have yielded perfectly predictable negative consequences. Those consequences could be detailed at length, but it is enough to say that the Islamists’ war against the United States and the West is largely motivated by their interventionist policies and actions in the Muslim world, and the U.S. and Western response to the war the Islamists started has been increased intervention undertaken without any intention of winning and with a willingness to curtail civil liberties in the West in the name of internal security  — a response quietly predicted in the speeches and writings of bin Laden.  The West, in essence, has followed to the letter a script written for its demise, one that has been easily available for reading by all Western leaders since late-summer 1996.

While it is quite late in the game it is worth recalling what bin Laden believed was the one factor that could derail the Islamists’ war against the United States, and perhaps their whole agenda. Bin Laden was very clear that the strategy the mujhaedin had to follow to victory could be divided into three parts. First, to cause enough human and especially economic pain to the casualty-averse, legally hamstrung, and radically impatient United States to drive it as far as possible out of the Islamic world. Second, to thereafter focus on destroying the Arab tyrannies and Israel. Third, to settle the scores with the Shia Muslim heretics. Today, driving the United States from the Islamic world is goal that is close to being accomplished; America has lost two wars there, will lose Obama’s re-intervention in Iraq, and anti-U.S.-Government hatred has grown across the region. On the second point, several of the Arab tyrannies, with U.S., UN, and EU help, are gone, and Jordan and Lebanon probably will be the next to go. These Western-aided victories for the Islamists — and the ones to come — have substantially eroded Israel’s security and yielded a steady flow of new fighters and enormous quantities of modern weapons from the tyrants’ emptied arsenals. Third, in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon it appears that a regional Sunni-Shia sectarian war is being kindled. And that fact would be the great and deeply troubling rub for bin Laden if he was still alive.

Read the entire article

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Putin Paranoia

Hopefully, the shaky truce between Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko, brokered in Minsk by Angela Merkel, will hold.

For nothing good, but much evil, could come of broadening and lengthening this war that has cost the lives of 5,400 Ukrainians.

The longer it goes on, the greater the casualties, the more land Ukraine will lose, and the greater the likelihood Kiev will end up an amputated and bankrupt republic, a dependency the size of France on the doorstep of Europe.

Had no truce been achieved, 8,000 Ukrainian troops trapped in the Debaltseve pocket could have been forced to surrender or wiped out, causing a regime crisis in Kiev. U.S. weapons could have begun flowing in, setting the stage for a collision between Russia and the United States.

One understands Russia’s vital interest in retaining its Black Sea naval base in Crimea, and keeping Ukraine out of NATO. And one sees the vital interest of Ukraine in not losing the Donbas.

But what is America’s vital interest here?

Merkel says a great principle is at stake, that in post-Cold War Europe, borders are not to be changed by force.

That is idealistic, but is it realistic?

At the Cold War’s end, Yugoslavia split into seven nations, the USSR into 15. Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, even Slovenia briefly, had to fight to break free. So, too, did the statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in breaking from Georgia, and Transnistria from Moldova.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Minsk Agreement On Ukraine Crisis: Text In Full

Immediate and full ceasefire in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts of Ukraine and its strict fulfilment as of 00.00 midnight (Kiev time) on Feb. 15, 2015.

• Pull-out of all heavy weapons by both sides to equal distance with the aim of creation of a security zone on minimum 50 kilometres apart for artillery of 100mm calibre or more, and a security zone of 70km for MLRS and 140 kilometres for MLRS Tornado-S, Uragan, Smerch and tactical missile systems Tochka U.

– for Ukrainian troops, from actual line of contact;

– for armed formations of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts of Ukraine, from the contact line in accordance with the Minsk memorandum as of Sept. 19, 2014

• The pullout of the above mentioned heavy weapons has to start no later than the second day after the ceasefire and finish within 14 days.

This process will be assisted by OSCE with the support of the Trilateral Contact Group.
• Effective monitoring and verification of ceasefire regime and pullout of heavy weapons by OSCE will be provided from the first day of pullout, using all necessary technical means such as satellites, drones, radio-location systems etc.

• On the first day after the pullout a dialogue is to start on modalities of conducting local elections in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine “On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” and also about the future of these districts based on the above mentioned law.

• Without delays, but no later than 30 days from the date of signing of this document, a resolution has to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, indicating the territory which falls under the special regime in accordance with the law “On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” based in the line set up by the Minsk Memorandum as of Sept. 19, 2014. 

Read the entire announcement

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Ambitions Driving the Ukraine Consensus

Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell inform us on “Meet the Press“ that there is complete Republican and Democratic unity on Ukraine policy. Who can doubt the assertion?

On the Sunday talk shows, all of them, virtually no one argues against American military escalation of the conflict by sending arms to the Kiev government. True, on “Meet the Press” the English journalist Katty Kay uttered a few sentences to counter the combined hawkish barrage of Todd, Mitchell, and David Brooks, and on Fareed Zakaria’s show “GPS”, Stephen Cohen—also one against three—was given 40 seconds  to point out  that Ukraine was a visceral strategic issue for Moscow and not for anyone else. But there’s virtual opinion unanimity: red-blooded American straight-shooters want to stand up and make Putin pay a price for aggression. The only substantial disagreement, it would seem, comes from those lily-livered Europeans, France—the well-known surrender monkeys—and Germany’s Angela Merkel, who speaks so diplomatically in public that differences between her and the administration are difficult to discern.

During the Cold War, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman published a book called Manufacturing Consent describing how the media always slanted the news to favor the right wing in any left-right dispute. I was a cold warrior and am glad that communism, a terrible and murderous social system, is mostly gone. But I didn’t anticipate that the same process of “manufacturing consent” would continue its forward march after the Cold War was won, not by slanting the news against leftist insurgencies in the Third World, but rather by slanting it always in favor of aggressive American meddling, including military intervention, seemingly everywhere. The monopoly capital explanation, favored by Chomsky and Herman, certainly can’t account for it in this instance. Most American corporations gained little from the Iraq war, and probably more would gain than lose from continued detente with Putin’s Russia than a new cold war. So what is the answer?

First let’s narrow the question a bit more. In the narrative now favored by virtually everyone in Washington, Putin is committing aggression against Ukraine, first by annexing Crimea (which, despite its Russian population and longstanding ties to Russia, was “given” by Krushchev to Ukraine one night in 1954) and secondly by giving weapons and other military assistance to anti-Kiev pro-Russian separatists. According to these narratives, the history of Ukraine and Russia begins sometime in February 2014. But in the view of everyone else, in Ukraine, in Russia, and among those lily-livered European appeasers, history starts well before that. One relevant starting point can be found in the first plans to expand NATO up to Russia’s borders. As Steve Walt helpfully reminds us, the very think tank people now assuring us that escalating the conflict by arming the Kiev government will cause Putin to back down are the same people who told us in the 1990s that expanding NATO eastward would cause no difficulties with Russia at all.

It begins also with the longstanding campaign, openly boasted about by the neoconservative Victoria Nuland, the former Cheney aide who remains on John Kerry’s staff, to channel billions of dollars to Ukrainian dissident groups so that Ukraine could freely choose “the European future they deserve.” These moneys were supplemented by unofficial funds (grants from George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy) and open side-taking in Ukraine’s political crisis by American politicians, all leading up the ambiguous and still mysterious revolution/coup d’état of February 2014. Any historically minded person will have some understanding of the depth of Ukraine’s anti-Russian sentiments: it is a land of deep-rooted hatreds, and Ukraine in the 1930s and ’40s, tossed between Stalinism and Hitlerism, was the most blood-soaked place on the planet. In any event, the history didn’t all begin last year—except, apparently, for American decision-makers inside the Beltway.

Read the entire article

Monday, February 9, 2015

Kiev’s Bloody War Is Backfiring

When Ukrainian army officers came to the Ukrainian village of Velikaya Znamenka to tell the men to prepare to be drafted, they weren’t prepared for what happened next. As the commanding officer was speaking, a woman seized the microphone and proceeded to tell him off: "We’re sick of this war! Our husbands and sons aren’t going anywhere!" She then launched into a passionate speech, denouncing the war, and the coup leaders in Kiev, to the cheers of the crowd.

What she did is now a crime in Ukraine: the only reason she wasn’t arrested on the spot is that the villagers wouldn’t have permitted it. But in Ukrainian Transcarpathia, well-known journalist for Ukrainian Channel 112 Ruslan Kotsaba has been arrested and charged with "treason" and "espionage" for making a video in which he declared: "I would rather sit in jail for three to five years than go to the east to kill my Ukrainian brothers. This fear-mongering must be stopped." Kotsaba may sit in jail for twenty-three years, the prescribed term for the charges filed against him.

Kotsaba’s arrest is part of a desperate effort by the Ukrainian government to intimidate the growing antiwar and anti-draft movement, which threatens to upend Kiev’s dreams of conquering the rebellious eastern provinces. Kotsaba’s particular crime, according to prosecutors, was in describing the conflict as a civil war rather than a Russian "invasion." This is a point the authorities cannot tolerate: the same meme being relentlessly broadcast by the Western media – that an indigenous rebellion with substantial support is really a Russian plot to "subvert" Ukraine and reestablish the Warsaw Pact – now has the force of law in Ukraine. Anyone who contradicts it is subject to arrest.

Also subject to arrest, and worse: the thousands who are fleeing the country in order to avoid being conscripted into the military. In a Facebook post that was quickly deleted, Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak wrote: “According to unofficial sources, hostels and motels in border regions of neighboring Romania are completely filled with draft dodgers.” President Petro Poroshenko, the Chocolate Oligarch, is readying a decree imposing possible restrictions on foreign travel for those of draft age – which means anyone from age 25 to 60. Ukrainians may soon be prisoners in their own country – but they aren’t taking it lying down. 

Read the entire article

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What If Putin Doesn’t Back Down?

What if Vladimir Putin really was tough? What if he would prefer to fight to the death rather than see his country humiliated by the West or his regime collapse into chaos—outcomes he likely regards as equivalent. Is this not possible? There is no shortage of American politicians ready to attribute the most vile traits to Putin: Hillary Clinton, far from America’s most extreme rhetorician, likened him to Hitler. It’s not, of course, a remotely legitimate comparison. But if Putin were one-tenth as reckless as he is commonly depicted, what conclusions ought we to draw?

Leading papers of the Anglosphere are now promoting American plans to escalate the fight against Russia and its Ukraine intervention. Former government officials, polishing up their tough-minded credentials in preparation for their next administration job, recommend we begin major weapons shipments to Ukraine. Are trainers and advisers on how to use them included as well? Strobe Talbott in the Washington PostIvo Dalder in the Financial Times, the Washington Post editorial board, other major figures from Clinton-land and the permanent government are all on board for a major roll-out. Their idea is to make Russia pay a higher price in casualties if it continues to intervene on behalf of anti-Kiev rebels in the eastern parts of Ukraine. Mr. Putin “will settle only when the costs of continuing the war are too high” says Dalder. Supplying arms will “raise the costs” to Russia thereby leading to a settlement. Strobe Talbott says the same thing in the Washington Post—”further aggression” must be rendered “so costly” that Putin is deterred. Nowhere in these admonitions is there a suggestion that a negotiated settlement might include a codification of neutral, non-aligned status for Ukraine. The Russian leader who is regularly likened to Hitler is expected apparently to own up to his mistake and allow the country that has countless times served as an invasion route into Russia to be incorporated into NATO.

Here’s a thought experiment—not original to me. I heard it voiced last week at a Washington think tank; it was expressed by a Russian immigrant to America, a man I know to be well informed about the thought processes of Russian leaders. What, so the idea was presented, would happen if the tightening economic sanctions, in conjunction with the collapsing oil prices, really did bring about a crise de régime in Moscow? Faced with hard currency shortages and galloping inflation, would the Putinites say simply, “OK NATO You Win. The Ukraine is Yours”? Or would they contemplate measures that might totally rejuggle the underlying realities?

Take, for instance, the price of oil. It’s low, it’s collapsing. It’s the major source of Russia’s fiscal difficulties. Would it remain low if Israel launched an attack on Iran? The hawkish Israeli foreign minister Avigidor Lieberman was warmly received in Moscow last week. I don’t think Netanyahu would require much in the way of encouragement to launch an attack, and the promise of the backing of one major outside nuclear power might suffice. Or, playing the other side, would the oil price remain depressed if Saudi Arabia’s monarchy—we all know how stable monarchies are—began facing an armed insurgency, potentially targeting its oil rich eastern provinces? Take your pick, the Islamic State or Shi’ites, it’s not hard to find people who need little encouragement to fight the Saudi monarchy. Could Russia accelerate such insurgencies? Surely a desperate enough Russia could try.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

U.S.-Russia Clash in Ukraine?

Among Cold War presidents, from Truman to Bush I, there was an unwritten rule: Do not challenge Moscow in its Central and Eastern Europe sphere of influence.

In crises over Berlin in 1948 and 1961, the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague in 1968, U.S. forces in Europe stayed in their barracks.

We saw the Elbe as Moscow’s red line, and they saw it as ours.

While Reagan sent weapons to anti-Communist rebels in Angola, Nicaragua and Afghanistan, to the heroic Poles of Gdansk he sent only mimeograph machines.

That Cold War caution and prudence may be at an end.

For President Obama is being goaded by Congress and the liberal interventionists in his party to send lethal weaponry to Kiev in its civil war with pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk.

That war has already cost 5,000 lives — soldiers, rebels, civilians. September’s cease-fire in Minsk has broken down. The rebels have lately seized 200 added square miles, and directed artillery fire at Mariupol, a Black Sea port between Donetsk and Luhansk and Crimea.

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