Archive | September 8th, 2017

Iraq: The Liberation of the Historic City of Tal Afar

NOVANEWS

The Liberation of the Historic Iraqi City of Tal Afar, Occupied by the Islamic State Group

The first images of the liberated Iraqi city of Tal Afar have been heartbreaking, showing the partial destruction of its magnificent citadel, writes Nermeen Al-Mufti in Tal Afar

 

The citadel of the Iraqi city of Tal Afar (Talafer) dating back to the Assyrian period of 700 BCE dominated the city and could be seen from every side, yet this historical structure was destroyed by the Islamic State (IS) group that occupied the city in January 2015.

Tal Afar is located in the Nineveh governorate in the north of Iraq near the Syrian and Turkish borders 63 km west of Mosul and about 360 km north-west of the capital Baghdad. Its population before the IS occupation was almost 450,000, more than 90 per cent of them Turkmen.

When it was taken over by IS in June 2014, about 70 per cent of the population was internally displaced, being forced into camps in different cities in Iraq. Some of the city’s population went to Sinjar, 50 km east of Tal Afar, but in August 2014 Sinjar was also attacked by IS, forcing many to begin another painful journey.

More than 500 Turkmen women and children were kidnapped and hundreds were killed by IS. Many others died, among them children, during the long trek to the camps.

On 20 August, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the beginning of the battle for Tal Afar in a televised statement, warning the IS fighters occupying the city that “we are coming to Tal Afar” – the name of the military operation – and that “either you surrender, or you die.”

The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), Special Operations Forces (ISOF), Federal Police and Hashd (Popular Mobilisation Forces) all took part in the battle for Tal Afar, the Hashd forces being supported by Division 16 of the Turkmen Forces, the Iraqi Air Force and Coalition warplanes.

During the days before Al-Abadi’s announcement, thousands of leaflets were dropped on the city asking people to prepare for the battle, and safe passage was guaranteed to civilians wanting to leave. Some 32,000 civilians were still in the city before the fighting began, including some 2,000 IS fighters and their families.

Many analysts said that the military operations would likely last for months and could be as hard as those in the nearby city of Mosul that had also been occupied by IS. The surrounding landscape would make taking the city more difficult, it was said, and IS had announced that Tal Afar was its temporary capital after the loss of Mosul.

However, on 21 August, Abdel-Amir Yarallah, commander of the Tal Afar operation, said the CTS had seized five villages south-west of the city and had cut roads leading into it. Federal Police and Hashd forces deployed in the village of Tal Al-Housan advanced 19 km west of Tal Afar, where hundreds of militants were killed and tunnels and ammunition discovered.

Abu Ridha, the commander of the Turkmen forces, announced that car bombs had been used by IS forces.

On the third day of the battle, the different Iraqi forces were edging their way towards the Tal Afar Citadel. High-ranking officers announced that IS had lost control of its fighters, and that hundreds had been killed with others fleeing the scene of battle.

On 25 August, the Iraqi flag was raised over the citadel, and on 27 August Tal Afar was declared liberated. The forces then began to make their way to the Al-Eyadhiya township 11 km north-west of Tal Afar, and on 31 August Al-Abadi announced the liberation of the whole of the Nineveh governorate.

Spokesman of the Turkmen Forces Ali Al-Hussaini told Al-Ahram Weekly that Tal Afar and the townships related to it had been liberated rapidly because of the siege of the city, cutting support and provisions for the IS forces. The siege had begun during the Mosul operations, he added, and civilians had begun leaving the area with guaranteed safe passage, meaning that the Iraqi forces had been able to use heavy artillery and air strikes.

According to Yarallah, the Iraqi forces killed about 2,000 militants and more than 50 suicide bombers during the campaign, while destroying 77 car bombs, 71 bobby-trapped buildings and 990 roadside bombs. He said that 115 Iraqi soldiers had been killed and 679 wounded in the battle.

Spokesman for the local Turkmen Rescue Foundation Mahdi Sadoun said in a statement that the historic name of Tal Afar would not be changed to Tal Al-Dhafar (hill of victory) as some had demanded. There are many explanations behind the city’s historic name, among them its literal meaning of “hill of soil” because of the citadel’s dusty colour.

Tal Afar is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world with a history going back 6,000 years. Its character was changed in the last century because of the demographic and Arabisation policies of the former Saddam Hussein regime.

Tal Afar has been the birthplace of many brilliant army officers, among them Said Hammou, assistant Iraqi chief of staff in the 1970s, and it has given the Turkmens many poets and artists, among them poet Felak Oglu and musician Yassin Yahya Oglu.

Images of the destroyed citadel of the city were devastating for all who saw them, and the people of Tal Afar also had other reasons to mourn. Ali Hassan, a policeman who participated in the battle for the city, stopped silently in front of his demolished house and told the Weekly that

“I have not been able to cry even though all my memories of my wife and three children are related to the house.”

Hassan found the main door still standing, but when he opened it he found the interior of the house had been demolished.

“I dreamed that my beloved wife would open the door,” he added, saying that his whole family was now living in the southern Iraqi city of Kerbala.

He said that the people of Tal Afar would come back to rebuild their city and with it their community. Meanwhile, there has been destruction and massive graves have been found of civilians executed by IS.

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The Limelight Defeat of America’s “Assad Must Go” Policy

As the events of war in Syria have emphatically shown, the self-styled Islamic State and the US-supported “moderate” jihadi groups have been defeated, and with it has died down the cornerstone of America’s direct and indirect military intervention i.e., “Assad must go” in Syria. This is evident not only from the way the Syrian army, supported by its Iranian and Russian allies, has rolled back the destroyers of Syria, but also how Assad has started to re-assert his standing as a legitimate ruler of Syria, representing Syria’s interests in major international forums and setting rules of engagement with regard to discussing Syria’s future and the role other countries can play in it.

This assertion came to full limelight in a recent speech that Assad made in the second half of the month of August and outlined his vision for Syria’s post-war reconstruction. Of particular importance were his words with regard to the role some foreign powers have been playing in Syria since the beginning of the so-called “civil war” as he said that he expects those foreign powers, the US and its Arab allies, who have pushed a regime change agenda – an agenda that has caused a lot of destruction and yet failed spectacularly –to abandon their residual links with rebel groups. Until this is done, Assad said further,

“there will be neither security cooperation, nor the opening of embassies.”

Clearly, Assad is setting his terms of engagement with the powers that have sought to oust him in the last five years or so. What is equally evident here is the way Assad himself has set his own position as the ruler at the helm of Syrian affairs, intending to extend his control on the whole of Syria and deciding both its domestic and foreign policies. As such, while Assad was explicit in chiding some foreign powers for their role in Syria, he was equally explicit in setting his country’s future foreign policy orientation towards “the East.” He said, the

“strategic future of Syria must be towards the East.”

Assad’s speech coincided with the defeat of one of the most powerful “rebel groups” in Syria, Ahrar-al-Sham. Not only was this group one of the West’s “moderate elements” but also played an instrumental role in a number of “rebel” victories against government troops during the years 2013-2015. Many in the West pinned high hopes on it, seeing it as a potential player in the future of Syria, especially after its troops joined in the fight against the IS and also agreed to support a political endgame to the Syrian conflict. Its defeat has, as such, turned out to be the last nail in the coffin of America’s “Assad must go” policy. With Ahrar’s fighters now fleeing and joining other group and with Syrian and Russian elements controlling Syria’s geo-political terrain, the West is left with minimum options to enliven the war through some other groups. Therefore, it is not surprising to see some influential policy makers in the US coming to terms with a Syria under Assad’s control.

“Bashar Assad’s government has won the war militarily,” said Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Damascus, who is said to have played an instrumental role in fomenting the crisis in Syria back in 2011-12, adding further that

“I can’t see any prospect of the Syrian opposition being able to compel him to make dramatic concessions in a peace negotiation.”

And while raw material i.e., human element to sustain these groups exit, sources of support for them have dried. The Syrian “rebels” have been frustrated by the way Europe, for instance, has become more interested in stanching the flow of Syrian refugees and stabilizing the country enough to send many of those already in Europe back. Continuation of war, therefore, doesn’t suit Europe.

Persian Gulf is squabbling, and due to that internal rift, flow of support to previously supported groups has shrunk dramatically, adding to the opposition group’s sense of frustration. Therefore, the directions they’re now receiving are markedly different from that of past 2 years.

“The nations who supported us the most … they’re all shifting their position,” told Osama Abu Zaid, an opposition spokesman, to an American newspaper. “We’re being pressured from all sides to draw up a more realistic vision, to accept Assad staying.”

While the US has established a number of military establishments in Kurdish dominated northern parts of Syria, indicating its intentions to prolong its stay in Syria, the speed of the Syrian forces’ recovery of the lost ground and the fact that regional powers, Turkey and Iran, have joined hands to prevent the establishment of Kurdistan show that the US plan is increasingly looking like a pipe dream. The US, realistically speaking, apparently has no source on the ground to sustain itself or influence the final outcome. With direct military intervention out of the question, it is much more than even an uphill task of cobbling together a fresh “rebel force” to be able to challenge the combined forces of Syria and Iran backed militias, including Hezbollah, in the southern and eastern regions of Syria.

What is adding more problems is the fact that the US-backed groups and the US-led coalition have miserably failed to give a positive message to the masses they are supposedly protecting against a “brutal” regime. The so-called “unfortunate” incidents of civilian deaths at the hands of these forces are furthering the distance between these groups and the people who might have supported them in the past. In a latest incident of this nature, the US led coalition fighting the IS militants said on last Friday that its strike had caused at least 61 civilian deaths. Much for the erosion of “popular support” these forces and powers claimed to have in the country!

All in all, it is clear that the ground has been cleared of any possibility of Assad’s exit from Syria. The only hope left for the US to realize its erstwhile agenda is through massive mobilization of Kurdish forces. However, were this to happen, the US would end up unwittingly cementing the Turkish-Iranian and Syrian alliance further and increase the likelihood that the Iranian militias and Assad’s forces, duly supported by Turkey, would start an offensive against the Kurds. In such a scenario, the Americans won’t use troops to defend the Syrian Kurds. There is no appetite for this among the American public, and the Syrian Kurds would be making a terrible mistake thinking the US will come and save them.

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The Limelight Defeat of America’s “Assad Must Go” Policy

In-depth Report: 

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As the events of war in Syria have emphatically shown, the self-styled Islamic State and the US-supported “moderate” jihadi groups have been defeated, and with it has died down the cornerstone of America’s direct and indirect military intervention i.e., “Assad must go” in Syria. This is evident not only from the way the Syrian army, supported by its Iranian and Russian allies, has rolled back the destroyers of Syria, but also how Assad has started to re-assert his standing as a legitimate ruler of Syria, representing Syria’s interests in major international forums and setting rules of engagement with regard to discussing Syria’s future and the role other countries can play in it.

This assertion came to full limelight in a recent speech that Assad made in the second half of the month of August and outlined his vision for Syria’s post-war reconstruction. Of particular importance were his words with regard to the role some foreign powers have been playing in Syria since the beginning of the so-called “civil war” as he said that he expects those foreign powers, the US and its Arab allies, who have pushed a regime change agenda – an agenda that has caused a lot of destruction and yet failed spectacularly –to abandon their residual links with rebel groups. Until this is done, Assad said further,

“there will be neither security cooperation, nor the opening of embassies.”

Clearly, Assad is setting his terms of engagement with the powers that have sought to oust him in the last five years or so. What is equally evident here is the way Assad himself has set his own position as the ruler at the helm of Syrian affairs, intending to extend his control on the whole of Syria and deciding both its domestic and foreign policies. As such, while Assad was explicit in chiding some foreign powers for their role in Syria, he was equally explicit in setting his country’s future foreign policy orientation towards “the East.” He said, the

“strategic future of Syria must be towards the East.”

Assad’s speech coincided with the defeat of one of the most powerful “rebel groups” in Syria, Ahrar-al-Sham. Not only was this group one of the West’s “moderate elements” but also played an instrumental role in a number of “rebel” victories against government troops during the years 2013-2015. Many in the West pinned high hopes on it, seeing it as a potential player in the future of Syria, especially after its troops joined in the fight against the IS and also agreed to support a political endgame to the Syrian conflict. Its defeat has, as such, turned out to be the last nail in the coffin of America’s “Assad must go” policy. With Ahrar’s fighters now fleeing and joining other group and with Syrian and Russian elements controlling Syria’s geo-political terrain, the West is left with minimum options to enliven the war through some other groups. Therefore, it is not surprising to see some influential policy makers in the US coming to terms with a Syria under Assad’s control.

“Bashar Assad’s government has won the war militarily,” said Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Damascus, who is said to have played an instrumental role in fomenting the crisis in Syria back in 2011-12, adding further that

“I can’t see any prospect of the Syrian opposition being able to compel him to make dramatic concessions in a peace negotiation.”

And while raw material i.e., human element to sustain these groups exit, sources of support for them have dried. The Syrian “rebels” have been frustrated by the way Europe, for instance, has become more interested in stanching the flow of Syrian refugees and stabilizing the country enough to send many of those already in Europe back. Continuation of war, therefore, doesn’t suit Europe.

Persian Gulf is squabbling, and due to that internal rift, flow of support to previously supported groups has shrunk dramatically, adding to the opposition group’s sense of frustration. Therefore, the directions they’re now receiving are markedly different from that of past 2 years.

“The nations who supported us the most … they’re all shifting their position,” told Osama Abu Zaid, an opposition spokesman, to an American newspaper. “We’re being pressured from all sides to draw up a more realistic vision, to accept Assad staying.”

While the US has established a number of military establishments in Kurdish dominated northern parts of Syria, indicating its intentions to prolong its stay in Syria, the speed of the Syrian forces’ recovery of the lost ground and the fact that regional powers, Turkey and Iran, have joined hands to prevent the establishment of Kurdistan show that the US plan is increasingly looking like a pipe dream. The US, realistically speaking, apparently has no source on the ground to sustain itself or influence the final outcome. With direct military intervention out of the question, it is much more than even an uphill task of cobbling together a fresh “rebel force” to be able to challenge the combined forces of Syria and Iran backed militias, including Hezbollah, in the southern and eastern regions of Syria.

What is adding more problems is the fact that the US-backed groups and the US-led coalition have miserably failed to give a positive message to the masses they are supposedly protecting against a “brutal” regime. The so-called “unfortunate” incidents of civilian deaths at the hands of these forces are furthering the distance between these groups and the people who might have supported them in the past. In a latest incident of this nature, the US led coalition fighting the IS militants said on last Friday that its strike had caused at least 61 civilian deaths. Much for the erosion of “popular support” these forces and powers claimed to have in the country!

All in all, it is clear that the ground has been cleared of any possibility of Assad’s exit from Syria. The only hope left for the US to realize its erstwhile agenda is through massive mobilization of Kurdish forces. However, were this to happen, the US would end up unwittingly cementing the Turkish-Iranian and Syrian alliance further and increase the likelihood that the Iranian militias and Assad’s forces, duly supported by Turkey, would start an offensive against the Kurds. In such a scenario, the Americans won’t use troops to defend the Syrian Kurds. There is no appetite for this among the American public, and the Syrian Kurds would be making a terrible mistake thinking the US will come and save them.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on The Limelight Defeat of America’s “Assad Must Go” Policy

“Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD): Deterrence Believers Should Cheer the North Korean Bomb

NOVANEWS
 

If the theory of nuclear deterrence holds true – and it is the only argument the supporters of WMD have got – then we should all be cheering the North Korean bomb. The logic of nuclear deterrence is that it is much better that every state has nuclear weapons, because then we can all deter each other. It is demonstrably true that possession of nuclear weapons is not a deterrent to other nations acquiring them. But it is supposed to deter other nations from using them. In which case, surely the more the merrier, so we can all deter each other.

The madness of the argument is self-evident. We are borrowing hundreds of billions we cannot afford for Trident, yet in all the reams of analysis of what to do about North Korea, Trident never gets a mention. It is a system entirely useless even in the one situation in which it was supposed to be effective.

How did we get here? In the 1950s the USA dropped 635,000 tonnes of bombs on North Korea including 35,000 tonnes of napalm. The US killed an estimated 20% of the North Korean population. For comparison, approximately 2% of the UK population was killed during World War II.

That this massive destruction of North Korea resulted in a xenophobic, American-hating state with an obsession with developing powerful weapons systems to ensure national survival, is not exactly surprising. The western media treat the existence of the Kim Jong-un regime as an inexplicable and eccentric manifestation of evil. In fact, it is caused. Unless those causes are addressed the situation can never be resolved. Has any western politician ever referenced the history I have just given in discussing North Korea?

This has so often been my despair. My book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo recounts my frustration whilst Deputy Head of the FCO’s Africa Department, at failing to get the Blair government to pay attention to the massive historical and continuing grievances that underlay the horrific violence in Sierra Leone. Politicians prefer a simplistic world of enemies who are “evil” for no reason. Newspaper editors prefer it even more. It justifies war. The truth is always a great deal more complicated.

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North Korea: “Annihilation”, “Massive Military Response” or Economic Warfare?

NOVANEWS
Washington Contemplates a Total Freeze on Trade with North Korea, as well as Possible Sanctions Directed against China
 

Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” James Mattis confirmed at a Press Conference that the “North Korea threat to the US will be met with ‘massive military response’” while cautioning that “‘We are not looking for the annihilation of North Korea – we have many options.” (emphasis added).

Mattis stated that president Trump “wanted to be briefed on each of the “many military options””:

“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.” 

Annihilation was the objective of the Korean war (1950-53). and “Mad Dog” James Mattis was responsible for the annihilation of Fallujah (Iraq)  in 2004. 

Retired Gen. James Mattis earned the nickname “Mad Dog” for leading U.S. Marines into battle in Fallujah, Iraq, in April 2004. In that assault, members of the Marine Corps, under Mattis’ command, shot at ambulances and aid workers. They cordoned off the city, preventing civilians from escaping. They posed for trophy photos with the people they killed. …

During the siege of Fallujah, which I covered as an unembedded journalist, Marines killed so many civilians that the municipal soccer stadium had to be turned into a graveyard.  (emphasis added)

Fallujah 2004, source CNN

The “Mad Dog” designation of Trump’s defense secretary is not in doubt. According to Felicity Arbuthnot:

The Americans invaded, chillingly: “house to house, room to room”, raining death and destruction on the proud, ancient “City of Mosques.”

One correspondent wrote: “There has been nothing like the attack on Fallujah since the Nazi invasion and occupation of much of the European continent – the shelling and bombing of Warsaw in September 1939, the terror bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940.”

Further: “ …the ‘battle for Fallujah’ was entirely one-sided. US military and technical superiority over the Iraqi resistance (was) as great, if not greater, than the American army’s advantage over their Indian opponents in the 1870s and 1880s.”(1)

Seventy percent of houses and shops were reported destroyed, with those still standing damaged. Iraqi doctor, Ali Fadhil, described a city: “ … completely devastated, destruction everywhere. It looked like a city of ghosts. Falluja used to be a modern city; now there was nothing. We spent the day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the city; I didn’t see a single building that was functioning.”(City of Ghosts, The Guardian, January 11, 2005.)

Annihilation 2.0 with “Mad Dog” Mattis in Charge

Now “Mad Dog” Mattis heads the Pentagon, in charge of both tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, threatening an entire country with a Fallujah inspired “Massive Military Response”.  The same criminal motivations prevail on a much larger scale.

War criminals in high office. Who’s threatening Whom?

North Korea lost 30% of its population as a result of US carpet bombing during the Korean war. Let’s be under no illusions: It was a policy of total annihilation. 

US General Curtis Lemay in the aftermath stated:

“After destroying North Korea’s seventy eight cities and thousands of her villages, and killing countless numbers of her civilians … Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.”

“We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another …”, (see Pyongyang below)

Pyongyang 1953

Economic Warfare

Vice President Pence, however, intimated at the press conference that the immediate objective was to freeze trade with North Korea, namely a policy of total economic isolation. This would be carried out by a sanctions regime of “stopping trade with any nation doing business with North Korea”.

What is now on the US drawing board is to freeze trade with North Korea, 90% of which is with China 

“If carried out, that option could mean a halt to US trade with China, which has supported economic sanctions on North Korea but remains the key economic partner for the rogue nation.”

That statement (CNN, September 3, 2017) borders on ridicule. Sanctions directed against China would immediately backlash against America, leading to the potential disruption of the “Made in China” consumer economy.

Will China heed to Washington’s threats? While Beijing controls 90% of the trade with North Korea, the People’s Republic of China is America’s largest trading partner.

China is not dependent on US  imports. Quite the opposite. America is an import led economy with a weak industrial and manufacturing base, heavily dependent on imports from the PRC.

Imagine what would happen if China following Washington’s threats decided from one day to the next to significantly curtail its “Made in China” commodity exports to the USA.

It would be absolutely devastating, disrupting the consumer economy, an economic and financial chaos.

“Made in China” is the backbone of retail trade in the USA which indelibly sustains household consumption in virtually all major commodity categories from clothing, footwear, hardware, electronics, toys, jewellery, household fixtures, food, TV sets, mobile phones, etc.

Ask the American consumer: The list is long.

“China makes 7 out of every 10 cellphones sold Worldwide, as well as 12 and a half billion pairs of shoes’ (more than 60 percent of total World production). Moreover, China produces over 90% of the World’s computers and 45 percent of shipbuilding capacity” (The Atlantic, August 2013)

Make America Great again: Made in China. Not a good option for the Donald!

Economic Hara-kiri

This kind of economic blackmail on the part of the Trump administration directed against  China will not work. It falls flat.

US sanctions against China would backlash on the USA.  America cannot relinquish its imports of Chinese manufactured goods.

It would be suicide, a self-imposed “economic hara-kiri”.

For further details see Michel ChossudovskyImagine What Would Happen if China Decided to Impose Economic Sanctions on the USA?  August 03, 2017

Deterioration of US- South Korean Relations

Moreover, Trump is also blackmailing South Korea for its failure to fully endorse the US military agenda against Pyongyang, threatening to rescind the US-ROK bilateral  free-trade agreement (KORUS).

ROK president Moon favors dialogue and reconciliation rather than confrontation with Pyongyang, not to mention the restoration of North-South trade and investment established as a result of the 2000 Joint Declaration.

Screenshot NYT, September 3, 2017

President Trump, in a tweet on September 3,  accused South Korea of talking about “appeasement.”

What is significant is that without South Korea’s cooperation, the US will not be in a position to effectively initiate military procedures against the DPRK. Hopefully, peace negotiations (with the support of China, Russia and South Korea) could emerge.

 

 

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What the Media Isn’t Telling You About North Korea’s Missile Tests. The DPRK has No Plans to Nuke the West

NOVANEWS
 

Here’s what the media isn’t telling you about North Korea’s recent missile tests.

Last Monday, the DPRK fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island. The missile landed in the waters beyond the island harming neither people nor property.

The media immediately condemned the test as a “bold and provocative act”  that showed the North’s defiance of UN resolutions and “contempt for its neighbors.” President Trump sharply criticized the missile test saying:

“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”

What the media failed to mention was that,  for the last three weeks, Japan, South Korea and the US have been engaged in large-scale joint-military drills on Hokkaido Island and in South Korea. These needlessly provocative war games are designed to simulate an invasion of North Korea and a “decapitation” operation to remove (Re: Kill)  the regime. North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-unhas asked the US repeatedly to end these military exercises, but the US has stubbornly refused. The US reserves the right to threaten anyone, anytime and anywhere even right on their doorstep. It’s part of what makes the US exceptional. Check out this excerpt from an article at Fox News:

“More than 3,500 American and Japanese troops kicked off a weeks-long joint military exercise Thursday against the backdrop of an increasingly belligerent North Korean regime. The exercise, known as Northern Viper 17, will take place on Hokkaido — Japan’s northern-most main island — and will last until Aug. 28….

“We are improving our readiness not only in the air, but as a logistical support team,” Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “We are in a prime location for contingency purposes and this exercise will only build upon our readiness in the case a real-world scenario occurs.” (US, Japanese troops begin joint military exercise amid North Korea threat”, Fox News)

Monday’s missile test (which flew over Hokkaido Island) was conducted just hours after the war games ended. The message was clear: The North is not going to be publicly humiliated and slapped around without responding. Rather than show weakness, the North demonstrated that it was prepared to defend itself against foreign aggression. In other words, the test was NOT a  “bold and provocative act” (as the media stated) but a modest and well thought-out  response by a country that has experienced 64 years of relentless hectoring, sanctions, demonization and saber rattling by Washington. The North responded because the Washington’s incitements required a response. End of story.

And the same is true of the three short-range ballistic missiles  the North tested last week. (two of which apparently fizzled out shortly after launching.)  These tests were a response to the 3 week-long joint-military drills in South Korea which involved  75,000 combat troops  accompanied by hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, landing craft, heavy artillery, a full naval flotilla and flyovers by squadrons of state of the art fighters and strategic bombers.  Was the North supposed to sit on its hands while this menacing display of brute military force took place right under its nose???

Of course not. Imagine if Russia engaged in a similar operation over the border in Mexico while the Russian fleet conducted “live fire” drills three miles outside of San Francisco Bay. What do you think Trump’s reaction would be?

He’d blow those boats out of the water faster than you could say “Jackie Robinson”, right?

So why the double standard when it comes to North Korea? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

North Korea should be applauded for showing that it won’t be intimidated by the schoolyard bully. Kim knows that any confrontation with the US will end badly for the North, even so, he hasn’t caved in or allowed himself to be pushed around by the blustering, browbeating thugs in the White House. Booyah, Kim.

By the way, Trump’s response to Monday’s missile test was barely covered in the mainstream media, and for good reason. Here’s what happened two days later:

On Wednesday,  a US-led flight-group of  F-35B fighters, F-15 fighters and B-1B bombers conducted military operations over a training range east of Seoul. The B-1B’s, which are low-altitude nuclear bombers, dropped their dummy-bombs on the site and then returned to their home base. The show of force was intended to send a message to Pyongyang that Washington is unhappy with the North’s ballistic missile testing project and is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the North if it fails to heed Washington’s diktats.

So Washington is prepared to nuke the North if they don’t straighten up and do as they are told?

It sure looks that way, but who really knows?  In any event, Kim has no choice but to stand firm. If he shows any sign of weakness, he knows he’s going to end up like Saddam and Gaddafi. And that, of course, is what’s driving the hyperbolic rhetoric; the North wants to avoid the Gaddafi scenario at all cost. (BTW, the reason Kim has threatened to fire missiles at the waters surrounding Guam is because Guam is the home of Anderson Airforce Base which is the point-of-origin for the B-1B nuclear-capable bombers that have been making threatening flyovers on the Korean Peninsula for some time now. The North feels like it has to respond to that existential threat.

Wouldn’t it help if the media mentioned that fact or does it better serve their agenda to make it look like Kim is barking mad by lashing out against the ‘totally innocent’ United States, a country that only seeks to preserve the peace wherever it goes?

Give me a break!

It is so hard to find anything in the media that doesn’t reflect Washington’s bias and hostility. Surprisingly, there was  pretty decent article at CBS News last week written by a former Western intelligence officer with decades of experience in Asia. It’s the only article I’ve found that accurately explains what’s  really going on beyond the propaganda. Check it out:

“Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, North Korea made it clear it was prepared to give the new U.S. administration time to review the policy and come up with something better than President Obama’s.  The only wrinkle was that if the U.S. went full-steam ahead with its annual joint exercises with South Korea (especially if that were accompanied by more talk of “decapitation” and more flights of strategic bombers over the Korean peninsula), the North would react strongly.

In short, the U.S. did, and the North reacted.

Behind-the-scenes contacts went up and down, but couldn’t get traction.  In April, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paraded new missiles as a warning, to no effect.  The regime launched the new systems, one after another.  Still, Washington’s approach didn’t change.” (Analysis: Pyongyang’s view of the North Korea-U.S. crisis”, CBS News)

Okay, so now we know the truth: The North gave it their best shot and came up snakeeyes, mainly because Washington doesn’t want to negotiate, they’d rather twist arms (Russia and China), tighten the embargo and threaten war. That’s Trump’s solution. Here’s more from the same piece:

“On July 4, after North Korea’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch, Kim sent a public signal that the North could put the nuclear and missile programs “on the table” if the U.S. changed its approach.

The U.S. did not, so the North launched another ICBM, very deliberately deeming it a warning to the U.S. that they were to be taken seriously. Still, more B-1 bombers flew over the Peninsula, and the U.N. Security Council passed new sanctions.” (CBS News)

So, the North was ready to do some serious horse-trading, but the US balked. Kim probably heard what a wheeler dealer Trump was and figured they could work something out. But it hasn’t happen.  Trump has turned out to be a bigger bust than Obama, which is pretty bad.  He not only refuses to negotiate but he also delivers bellicose threats almost every day. This isn’t what the North was expecting. They were expecting a   “non interventionist” leader who might be receptive to a trade-off.

The current situation has left Kim with no good options. He can either cave in and terminate his missile program altogether or increase the frequency of the tests and hope that they pave the way for negotiations.   Kim chose the latter.

Did he make a bad choice?

Maybe.

Is it a rational choice?

Yes.

The North is betting that its nuclear weapons programs will be valuable bargaining chits in future negotiations with the United States. The North has no plan to nuke the west coast of the United States.  That’s ridiculous! That doesn’t accomplish anything. What they want is to preserve their regime,  procure security guarantees from Washington,  lift the embargo,  normalize relations with the South,  extricate the US from the political affairs of the peninsula, and (hopefully) end the irritating and endlessly provocative 64 year US occupation. Yankee go home. Please.

Bottom line: The North is ready to deal. They want negotiations. They want to end the war. They want to put this whole nightmare behind them and get on with their lives. But Washington won’t let them because Washington likes the status quo. Washington wants to be a permanent feature in South Korea so it can encircle Russia and China with lethal missile systems and expand its geopolitical grip bringing the world closer to nuclear Armageddon.

That’s what Washington wants, and that’s why the crisis on the peninsula will continue to boil.

Posted in Media, North KoreaComments Off on What the Media Isn’t Telling You About North Korea’s Missile Tests. The DPRK has No Plans to Nuke the West

Trump Springs the Neocon Trap Again: North Korea’s ‘Test’ Is No Act of War

NOVANEWS

Here we go again. There seems to be no end to the escalation of tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies.

 

Yesterday, Pyongyang’s state broadcaster came out declaring what it claims was another ‘successful test’, this time with a hydrogen bomb, which they say could be mounted on to their still as yet nonexistent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Seizing the moment, state news anchor Ri Chun Hee proudly announced that the test was a “perfect success,” and symbolises the country’s final step on the long road to attaining a “state nuclear force.” All very exciting.

Still, there has been no independent verification of the claim, but why let that get in the way of a promising international security crisis?

Kim Jung Un: Looking at shiny objects, pointing, generally looking busy.

North Korea’s alleged ‘test’ is said to have happened just hours after Pyongyang state-run media released images of leader Kim Jong Un ‘inspecting’ (looking, pointing) something which looks like it could be a hydrogen bomb, but no one is really sure.

We’re also told that this was “ready to be placed on top of an ICBM,” however no one has actually seen a real operational ICBM yet. That’s kind of an important detail in this grand plot, but one which is routinely overlooked by legions of western mainstream ‘experts’ on CNN and NBC. So far, the DPRK only has a series of botched tests of their short-range Hwasong-12 rockets (glorified Scud missiles) to show the world. Still, the western media insist that this constitutes a potential threat to the US.

So confident was this mainstream media outlet, that they’ve seemed to have hedged their bets on the authenticity of the DPRK state claims, leaving the offending ‘H Bomb’ in quotes…

This wouldn’t be the first time North Korea exaggerated its WMD credentials. Last January they exaggerated claims of a successful ‘H-bomb’ test. Despite their dodgy record, the western media, and politicians who are fed by defense contracts – are lapping up Pyongyang’s latest pig’s breakfast.

Whatever this latest test was, it’s hardly an act of war.

Meanwhile, South Korea wasted no time retaliating by showing off its new toys purchased out of its US dollar reserve account, launching multiple missiles for the cameras. Seoul insists that it’s ready to activate four Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile batteries. It also carried out a major joint drill (likely pre-planned anyway) with F-15K fighter jets and surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. This posturing by South Korea has excited the western media to no end. Everyone is loving it, because nothing brings eye balls and ratings like a good crisis.

Guardian reporter Justin McCurry confirms:

South Korea has carried out a simulated attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site in a huge show of force in response to Pyongyang’s detonation of what it claims is a hydrogen bomb.

Seoul has also approved the complete deployment of a US anti-missile system in another sign that it intends to address North Korean provocations with reminders of its own military firepower, while keeping the door open to dialogue.”

You can be certain that CNN absolutely loves this latest ‘crisis’ too, wailing this morning:

“South Korea strengthened the deployment of a controversial US-made missile defense system and launched a huge show of military might on Monday in response to North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test.”

Naturally, not a word of condemnation from the western media about South Korea’s real provocations – broadcast in colour around the world.

How Serious is the Threat?

At the time of publishing this piece, members of the UN Security Council are already convening emergency sessions about what to do next. In the final analysis, there will have to be some clear and present threat in order to justify some harsh response from the UNSC.

Can such a rational evaluation be made with so much theatre on both sides?

Washington’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley gave a predictable hawkish speech claiming that,

“He is begging for war.”

Of course Haley is all too eager to oblige.

Once again, western media outlets are treating claims by North Korea’s state-run KCNA media agency as ‘good as gold’ (ratings gold, that is).

For the US, this latest move by North Korea has been PR gold. It’s helped to revive and reenergize the dying conversation of a nuclear standoff between ‘The Good Guys’ and ‘The Bad Guys.’

And to deal with those bad guys, you need tough guys.

Enter US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who swiftly moved in with “tough new sanctions” against the DPRK, warning that “this isn’t the time for just talk.” A novel approach.

Eager to win back some approval points and stop the political hemorrhaging that seems to be draining all of the mojo Trump had when he whipped-up the campaign trail crowds promising to ‘drain the swamp,’ the President took to Twitter, to do what he thinks his base wants, which is to be Kim’s ‘bad cop’.

Kim and The Donald, two iconic frontmen, both being played like a marionette by “the generals” off camera.

Cue Trump… 

“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States,” wrote Trump.

Tough.

“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success. South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Tougher.

Trump also tries to slam the door shut on any chance of bilateral negotiations:

South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!

Toughest.

Of course, Trump’s comments appear to be winding up Pyongyang. A vicious circle of fighting talk. Are there any adults left in the room?

Not to be outdone, here comes a ‘good cop.’ Enter US Defense Secretary James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, who is still earning his nickname meant to resemble an unstable, rabid house pet. After his meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, the Mad Dog, wearing a purple tie (the same colour as Hillary’s revolution), read his military decree on the White House lawn:

“We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them. We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among the allies are ironclad,” said Mattis.

What a relief, he sounds moderate compared to Trump. But wait…

Before exiting the podium, he said:

“We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.”

This is a unique breed of lunatic.

Talking tough, and talking of “options” for “annihilating” a country. Normal people would say this is an idiotic proposition because the fall-out would be much worse than any of Kim apocalyptic sabre rattling. All this looks very familiar. Quite simply, what we are seeing here in Washington is Neoconservativism reasserting itself through one of its flagship planks – the preemptive strike.Above all other military strategies, this is always the most favorable for the Pentagon because it doesn’t require any real justification or accountability for a preemptive action. All that’s required is a sufficient amount of media fear-mongering and political hype about “the threat we all face” and how “we must act” – and then simply fire away and sift through the rubble, reforming the narrative afterwards. In the meantime, the ruling parties can call it a success, and claim that “many lives were saved by this valiant action” etc. It’s clean and straightforward, albeit in the short term, but extremely messy in the long term.

As much as hawks in Washington would love to test out their new toys right now, a conflagration is not likely to happen by the hand of the US in the Pacific Rim. There are too many powerful players in the immediate vicinity (South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Philippines… and Russia, too) and the fall-out from any rash US-led geopolitical pissing contest, ‘surgical’ or kinetic action could be detrimental to all parties. Better to get someone else to start it for them, but that’s not easy either.

There was a time when people had high hopes for Mattis. He was affectionately referred to as the “warrior monk,” with many FOX News pundits drooling over his apparent Sun Tzu prowess, as was rumoured that he has actually read some historical books and was “really smart” and “really wise” – apparently a rarity in Washington military circles these days. But no matter how many books people think he’s read about the Peloponnesian Wars, it’s should be pretty clear by now that Mattis, like his predecessor Ash Carter, is acting as kind of an executive sales rep for the military industrial complex. That’s essentially what the position of Defense Secretary has become in America. It’s a straightforward deal: you’ll keep your job, as long as you do and say what’s required to keep international tensions high at all times. This translates into profits, and shareholder dividends for industry stakeholders. If you’re not with the program, then you’ll have to tender your resignation. Just ask Chuck Hagel.

What Americans should really understand is that “the generals” with whom Trump is so enamored, and who he trusts with all our bombs and silos – have left nothing but a string of military failures in their wake. Between Generals James Mattis and Major General H.R. McMaster, you have a collective 30 plus years and two of the worst military and foreign policy boondoggles in US history, Afghanistan and Iraq, underscored by successive failed “surges.” Add to these, a total defeat in Syria, blowing billions of US taxpayer dollars on a proxy war that’s arguably created a new generation of Islamist extremists (although no one will admit it). Impressive, isn’t it? So why do the media continue to elevate the military brass?

Not every General is a good general. As with any other position or profession, some are good, and some are corrupt, and many are incompetent, or promoted for playing ball. General David Petraeus is a good example of this. The media can’t get enough of him. He was “the architect of the surge” we’re told, which means he was around when Obama-Bush ordered up another 30,000 troops for Iraq in a futile effort to fix what they broke. Still, the media will bend over backwards in an almost worshipful mode whenever his name is mentioned, forgetting that Petraeus was found guilty of the same crime for which half of America wanted Hillary Clinton locked-up. Despite bringing his name and his office into disrepute, Petraeus was rewarded board positions with mega Wall Street firms like KKR, and a perennial seat at Bilderberg.

Men like Mattis, McMaster and Petraeus can, and will run rings around this President who has already signaled his weakness for those chevrons on the shoulder. And,this President will happily defer everything to these men.

Should we be surprised if they keep getting it wrong?

Let’s just pray that they don’t get it wrong with North Korea, too.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on Trump Springs the Neocon Trap Again: North Korea’s ‘Test’ Is No Act of War

The People of North Korea. Vilified Nation, What is the Truth

NOVANEWS

The Western Media Does Not Speak of the People of North Korea. Photos From a Week in the DPRK

Featured image: Children in Pyongyang Orphanage before performing drumming. August 29, 2017.

From August 24-31, I visited the DPRK (North Korea) as part of a very small delegation interested in hearing from North Koreans themselves about their lives, the US sanctions and incessant war manouevres, their history and more. A sample of photos and videos, with more to follow soon.

Posted in North KoreaComments Off on The People of North Korea. Vilified Nation, What is the Truth

The Beggars for War: The US, North Korea and Bankruptcy

NOVANEWS

The statement before members of the United Nations Security Council was both brash and high strung. The US ambassador had clearly decided that firm words were needed to understand the continuing military advances of North Korea. To do so, Nikki Haley, far from the sharpest tool in the US diplomatic toolbox, hit upon what Kim Jong-unwas doing: “begging for war.”[1]

“Enough is enough,” she warned those gathered in the emergency session. “War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited.”

Troubling then, that the United States should be encouraging the circumstances for that war to take place.

Haley’s points suggest the exhaustion of options. They also cast a light on continuing failings.

“Despite our efforts the North Korea nuclear program is more advanced and more dangerous than ever.”

Suggesting, in fact, that US foreign policy has failed to reassure and counter; to contain and hem in.

But to hem in, to contain, to asphyxiate – the conditions, in short that will make Kim beg for conflict – is exactly what is being proposed. The upstart’s wings will be clipped, goes this attitude, and Kim will be potted.

To aid this, the Trump administration is renewing its efforts to enlist China to do its dirty work: bankrupt Pyongyang. A form of forced economic encirclement is proposed. The South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also suggested cutting off North Korea’s access to crude oil and foreign currency sources.

Beijing is hardly thrilled to shrink trade with a state that actually grew last year.

“A temporary or partial ban is possible,” suggested Shi Yinhong, an adviser to the Chinese cabinet, “but the Chinese government will definitely refuse to cut off oil exports completely or permanently to North Korea.”[2]

The method of forcibly starving a country of its oil and other necessaries has a good precedent for encouraging, rather than discouraging war. The United States was very much in the position of provoking conflict when it came to dealing with Japan in 1941. The rhyme of history is a strong one.

In the summer of 1941, prior to his departure for Placentia Bay, US President Franklin D. Rooseveltgave an executive order to freeze all Japanese assets in the United States. This was another measure to add to various embargoes on such items as scrap metals that were already implemented in 1940. Imperial Japan, went the reasoning behind these orders, might duly compose itself, desisting from aggressive measures in China, Indochina and Southeast Asia.

This approach did have its panic-inducing effect suggesting, to such historians as Charles Beard andCharles C. Tansill, the necessary opening of a back door to war. Given Japan’s hunger for US crude and refined petroleum products, the need to seek and obtain licenses to export and pay for each shipment of goods from the United States seemed steep. But supply would still flow.

What Roosevelt had not anticipated was the mischievous ferret under the cocktail cabinet. The agency responsible for granting such licenses fell that summer to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

The disruptive Acheson, against state department advice, withheld approval for licenses to Japan to pay for goods in dollars. This was made more onerous by the fact that the US dollar was Japan’s only medium of international exchange after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The supply effectively dried up, targeting key Japanese vulnerabilities outlined by various studies done by the Economic Control Administration.

A cocksure, hardline Acheson was certain that his actions would not provoke in quite the way it did.

“No rational Japanese,” he confidently surmised, “could believe that an attack on us could result in anything but disaster.”[3]

This amounted to, in the words of financial historian Edward S. Miller, a conscious and dangerous strategy to bankrupt Japan, a change from an initial “patchwork of export restrictions to full-blooded financial warfare”.[4] It was the sort of economic belligerence that had its ultimate realisation in the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7 that year.

There are natural differences between the context of 1941, which saw Japan snaking relentlessly through Asia, and 2017, which sees a contained nuclear armed midget facing a bellicose superpower. What remain are the ingredients of desperation, and the assumption that reason shall prevail between the players.

Historical analogies do offer useful illustrations, even if superficial. The one that stands out here is not only that threats of war can loose their edge of pantomime. (Will you really fire the first shot?) To forcibly cut off a state from its lifelines, to render it an economic invalid, can also be tantamount to a declaration of conflict, a form of begging, in fact, for war.

 

Notes

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on The Beggars for War: The US, North Korea and Bankruptcy

Russia and China Versus the West on North Korea

NOVANEWS

Their positions are world’s apart – evident in Monday’s Security Council meeting on North Korea.

Russia and China urge diplomacy to resolve a deepening crisis. They want tensions defused.

They oppose counterproductive tougher sanctions, threats and saber rattling, encouraging enhanced development of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Above all, they want war on the Korean peninsula avoided. They sensibly proposed a double-freeze.

In return for Washington, South Korea and Japan halting their provocative military exercises Pyongyang believes are rehearsals for war, Russia and China call for suspension of the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya warned that possible confrontation on the Korean peninsula is “high as never before,” peace experiencing a “serious test.”

He urged the international community to act “calmly and in a balanced way” – not “succumb to emotion.”

He criticized North Korea for undermining regional non-proliferation, posing a major threat to world peace – with possible “dire consequences” for its own country.

He urged diplomacy involving all relevant parties to defuse tensions and resolve the deepening crisis.

China’s UN envoy Liu Jieyi said his government won’t allow war and chaos on the Korean peninsula. He called for a dual-track, double-freeze explained above.

“(W)e we strongly urge (North Korea)…stop taking actions that are wrong, deteriorating the situation and not in line with its own interests either and truly return to the track of resolving the issue through dialogue,” he stressed.

Washington, Britain, France and Japan called for tougher sanctions in lieu of responsible diplomacy. After Monday’s meeting, US UN envoy Nikki Haley said she’s preparing a draft resolution, calling for tough new sanctions to be voted on in days.

Separately, Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke by phone. Russia’s leader urged diplomacy over further escalating tensions.

In Washington, Trump approved the sale of billions of dollars of weapons and munitions to South Korea. Moon agreed to permit four more THAAD missile system installations in Seongju – where two others are already deployed.

China and Russia demand removal of existing ones from South Korean territory, calling them a serious threat to their security.

Moscow and Beijing are united for regional peace – adamant about wanting the threat of war eliminated.

Washington remains hardline, rejecting the only ways to reduce tensions on the peninsula and avoid possible war by accident or design.

Dangerously heightened tensions show no signs of easing. Unbending US hostility toward Pyongyang bears responsibility – the way it’s been throughout the DPRK’s history.

Posted in USA, North Korea, RussiaComments Off on Russia and China Versus the West on North Korea

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