Archive | October 18th, 2017

China Gains Ground in Global Ranking of Research

Academic research papers from China garner the second most worldwide citations, after those from the United States but ahead of those from the United Kingdom, according to a new study.

The analysis was conducted by Amsterdam-based information and analytics company Elsevier and commissioned by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Citations are the way in which scholars give credit to other researchers and acknowledge their ideas. They indicate how seriously research is taken by other scientists.

Elsevier assessed the performance of the UK’s research base between 2010 and 2014 and compared it with seven other countries: China, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

The analysis found that in 2014, research papers originating in China accounted for 18.1 percent of all citations, a sharp increase from the 11 percent it had in 2010.

In comparison, the UK’s share in 2014 was 10.7 percent, which was slightly down from the 11 percent they garnered in 2010. The US saw its share slip from 39.4 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2014.

In 2014, China accounted for 19.6 percent of the world’s most heavily cited articles, while the UK produced 15.2 percent.

The report said:

“The global research landscape in recent years has become increasingly complex and fluid, and it can only become more so as emerging research nations grow their research bases.”

Authors said the UK and other research-intensive nations are seeing their global shares in key research indicators eroded by emerging countries, “especially by China”.

“As China and other rising research nations succeed in their desire to emulate and even surpass the research performance of countries like the US and the UK, their shares will naturally become larger while the erstwhile powerhouses see theirs shrink,” the report said.

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The Communist Party of China (CPC) at Its 19th National Congress. President Xi’s Battle against Corruption

NOVANEWS

Foreign analysts and media look to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China for clues about China’s future. It is no secret that President Xi Jinping, during his almost five years as China’s senior-most leader, has strengthened the Party’s role in governing China — and foreigners have questions. I’m asked these questions by foreign media and I think it useful to state and examine them.

What is it about the Party, the CPC, and its governing philosophy, that makes Xi so committed to enhancing the Party’s governing power? What are the Party’s positions and policies, organization and governance, vision and challenges? Why has China opted for perpetual CPC leadership? What innovations has Xi brought to the Party’s leadership role in the economy and society? Why has Xi elevated “strict discipline of the Party” to the highest level of national importance, the fourth of his “Four Comprehensives” for governing China? Why is his anti-corruption campaign so relentless?

Answers to these questions lead to a more basic question: How has the Party led China to its remarkable development and modernization? How has the Party adapted to changing conditions, kept up with the times? What can we learn from the Party’s history, its triumphs and tragedies? What is it about the Party’s recent past that it mustnow be rejuvenated?

But can a system with a perpetually ruling party discipline itself, itself establish credible checks-and-balances?

What challenges does the Party face? What does the Party consider its greatest dangers? And what are its enduring ideals, its visions for the future? Under Xi’s core leadership, how might the Party’s role in governing China develop over the next five or ten years?

China requires strong leadership to maintain stability given China’s unique, complex challenges: domestically (slower growth, industrial overcapacity, endemic pollution, imbalanced development, income disparity, social injustice, social service demands) and internationally (regional conflicts, sluggish economies, volatile markets, trade protectionism, ethnic clashes, terrorism, geopolitical rivalries, territorial disputes).

Xi’s unprecedented anti-corruption campaign has won strong public support. His determination to root-out corruption and cut the wasteful and detested perks of officialdom is altering how officials in government, and executives in state-owned enterprises, work and even think.

But some foreign analysts see Xi’s anti-corruption campaign as a weapon of political power, thus reflectingtheir superficial and one-dimensional understanding of China. Befitting the size and complexity of the country, for almost every decision of importance, China’s leaders have multiple motivations or reasons.

For the anti-corruption campaign, I can see ten motivations or reasons.

First, to state the obvious, officials who are manifestly corrupt are brought to justice. To manage China’shuge society, there must be respect for law and judicial impartiality.

Second, by combatting corruption the Party increases public trust, building confidence in the Party’s leadership.

Third, by combatting corruption the Party functions more effectively and efficiently, making decisions for the general good, not biased by personal benefits.

Fourth, corruption distorts markets, so that by reducing corruption, resources are allocated more efficiently.

Fifth, corrupt officials impede economic reform because change threatens their private interests. The removal of corrupt officials facilitates reform.

Sixth, corrupt officialsthwart rule of law for personal interests and prosecuting them strengthens rule of law for the national interest. Rule of law is exceedingly important, the third of Xi’s “Four Comprehensives.”

Seventh, some corrupt officials, in addition to enriching themselves, have non-standard political ambitions that could destabilize the system; their removal helps maintain national unity and political stability, which is essential for China.

Eighth, for China to become a world business center, China must have world-class business ethics and standards.

Ninth, combatting corruption benefits China’s entire society, elevating morality and restoring Chinese civilization as a paragon of ethics and integrity.

Tenth, for China to become a global role model, China must exemplify morality and rectitude.

The CPC is a work in process. For the world to understand the China, it must understand why the Party asserts that its continuing political leadership is optimum for China’s development. One key is the Party’s adaptability, stressing experimentation and testing of new policies.

The benefits of a system with a single leading party include implementing critical policies rapidly and assuring that strategies which require long-term commitment, have long-term commitment – for example, China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”.

The Party’s leadershipis deemed essential for China to continue its current development. Yetto continue to earn its leadership, the Party has a higher obligation to enhance rectitude of governance, standards of living and personal well-being — which includes rule of law, transparency in government, public oversight, institutionalized checks and balances, increasing democracy, various freedoms, and human rights.

Going forward in the ‘new era’, the Party faces challenges – furthering economic reform and transformation, and guiding social development and transition – while at the same time, improving transparency and building institutions that are self-regulating. The Party claims a historic mission. The Party will continue to be judged by the results.

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Making History: China and Russia Are Transforming “Enemies” into “Friends”

NOVANEWS

In the previous articles, the military and economic means by which the United States initially aimed for global hegemony were addressed, detailing how the US became the (declining) superpower it is today. In both analyses I highlighted how the threat of US military power is no longer credible, and how sanctions and the strong-arming behavior of corporate giants and international bodies (IMF, World Bank, BIS, etc) have ceased their effectiveness.

This has made the United States increasingly irrelevant, leaving in the process a vacuum to be filled by emerging powers like China and Russia, which effectively ushers in a new world order based on multipolarity. In this third and final part of the series, I will dive into the specific events that show how the military, economic and diplomatic combination of Iran, Russia and China have forged, by known as well as less-known means, an alternative world order to the unipolar American one.

Russia, China and Iran have in recent years drawn enormous benefit from the declining military and economic power of the United States, further propelled by a general mistrust of Washington’s diplomatic and political abilities, both with Obama and now with Trump. The two previous articles showed that Moscow, Beijing and Tehran, even as they addressed different situations, shared similar interests and came to coordinate their military, economic and diplomatic strategy.

The success of the Euro-Asian triptych is based on the essential principle of transforming enemies into neutral players, neutral players into allies, and further improving relations with allied nations. In order for this project to be realized, economic, military and diplomatic efforts are variously employed, depending on the country and the general regional context. The flexibility shown by Moscow and Beijing in negotiations has delivered historic deals, not only in the energy sector but also in the military sphere and also in education and poverty reduction, as seen in Africa.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Syria are three countries that, when analysed individually, reveal this precise strategy of Russia, China and Iran. Particular attention is focused on the Middle East for several reasons. It is the region where America’s declining military power, unable to achieve its geopolitical objectives in Syria, meets with the progressive loss of Washington’s economic influence, highlighted by the increasingly precarious position of the petrodollar that is about to be challenged by petroyuan deals between Saudi Arabia and China.

From Enemies to Neutrals

The military defeat of Syria’s enemies was mainly due to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) together with Iran (plus Hezbollah) and Russia’s military cooperation, together with Beijing’s diplomatic and economic support. Thanks to the strategy adopted by Putin in Syria, Russia was able to stop the advanced project of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, France, the United Kingdom, Jordan and Israel to dismantle Syria. The Russian Federation gradually entered into the Syrian conflict, and the military results immediately favored the axis of resistance, the US military unable to intervene directly to change the course of events.

The consequences of this choice have led historic allies in the region to doubt Washington’s real commitment to the region and America’s military ability to intervene in a conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and change its course in favour of Riyadh, Doha, Ankara or Tel Aviv. The new Trump administration has showed itself not to live up to the expectations of Saudi regional hegemonic plans, even though the Kingdom agreed to buy up to $110 billion worth of US weapons and commit to further investments in the US.

Riyadh is in an even tighter position than one would ordinarily think. It has to individually support the weight of the petrodollar, which is increasingly shaky thanks to the Chinese desire to eliminate forms of payment in US dollars by switching to the petroyuan. Moreover, Riyadh sees little tangible benefits to the US militarily backing its aggressive anti-Iran policies, even though Trump has shown to different ideas than Obama on the Iran deal. Saudi Arabia shares a common interest with Israel in the region with regard to their shared anger concerning Washington’s diminishing effectiveness in the region.

From the Saudi point of view, everything went downhill within a relatively short period. The defeat in Syria that coincided with the agreement on the nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) between Iran and the 5+1 countries. In both these scenarios, Riyadh feels the profound betrayal of its old North American ally. The Chinese economic pressure on Riyadh to accept yuan payments for oil, coupled with the growing ability of Moscow to effectively intervene in the region, and the renewed diplomatic and political role of Iran thanks to the JCPOA agreement, has left Riyadh on a certain path to destruction. The only solution is a strategic change that could affect the region in a significant manner.

The visit of Saudi King Salman to Moscow to sign trade agreements (an investment fund of over 1 billion dollars has been created) was of symbolic importance. The King’s actions, conducted in person, reflected recognition of Russia’s new dominant role in the Middle East as a result of American intentions to withdraw influence in the region. The need for the Saudi king to appear in person in Moscow also directly concerns the succession to the throne, with Mohammed bin Salman to inherit the keys to the kingdom, in spite of the disasters in Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis caused by the clash with Qatar. In a situation of extreme weakness, especially with oil prices so low, the Saudi monarchy is left with few cards to play and has to initiate a dialogue with Moscow and possibly start some kind of cooperation in various fields related to energy and investment. Initially, the main excuse for the Moscow meeting between Putin and the Saudi king was to coordinate the production and sale of petroleum and gas, a necessity for both countries given falling oil prices over the last 24 months. The first goal achieved by Putin and the Saudi king appears to be a spike in oil prices to acceptable levels, following Washington and Riyadh’s failed strategy to bankrupt Moscow by plunging oil prices.

Secondly, the meeting focused on the acceptance of Riyadh’s defeat in Syria, recognizing Assad as the only legitimate leader of the Syrian Arab Republic.

A lot is developing behind the scenes, and this is evident with Riyadh now recognizing a political solution as the only way to end the conflict, something never mentioned by Saudi state representatives. It will be very difficult for Riyadh to give up the regime-change project, even if the political, diplomatic, military and economic pressure from China and Russia increases. A common faith accompanies Riyadh and Tel Aviv, as shown with both repeatedly trying to persuade Putin to abandon his friendship with Iran and Assad, but without success. The loyalty demonstrated by Moscow to Tehran and Damascus has also had a positive effect on the Saudis, who must recognize that while Putin may have different views on certain issues, he is a man of his word; unlike the United States, where new administrations may sometimes throw friends under the bus, Putin maintains his promises, even under extreme pressure. In this sense, Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran deal is a demonstration of good will to Israel and Saudi Arabia by the new administration.

Saudi Arabia finds itself with very low monetary reserves as a result of the lowered price of oil and involvement in several wars. To add to this is a military defeat in Syria and an even bigger debacle in Yemen. To cap it all off, the United States, its most valuable ally, is increasingly disinterested in the fate of the Saudi monarchy and the kingdom, thanks to increasing energy independence as a result of fracking. Adding to this, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has split as a result of the economic warfare against Qatar, representing another example of Washington not supporting Riyadh to the full extent the monarchy in Saudi Arabia would have been expecting. The reasoning for Riyadh is as simple as it gets. If Washington is not able to support Saudi Arabia militarily, but Riyadh has to bear the burden economically, then the Kingdom is in enormous trouble and needs alternatives like Russia and China. It is unthinkable for Saudi Arabia to continue supporting petrodollar hegemony while Iran becomes a regional leader in the Middle East.

The best way is by negotiating with the main players, and Russia looks like the perfect mediator, as recently announced. China is just waiting for all these disputes to settle down to bring to bear its  economic power to definitively relegate to the past the last forty years of chaos in the region stemming from Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

For Riyadh, even if the attempt to separate Russia and Iran were to fail, it would nevertheless bring about relations that send a clear signal to the West. The purchase of S-400s is a clear demonstration of expanding Russian influence in the Middle East, and Riyadh perhaps has an understandable fear of American retaliation in the event that it starts to change course regarding the sale of oil in currencies other than the dollar.

Moscow has achieved a diplomatic miracle with Saudi Arabia, thanks to the military efforts in Syria, Chinese economic pressure through the issuing of petroyuan, and Iranian diplomatic success, stemming especially from the nuclear energy agreement, which has served to rehabilitate Tehran on the international political scene.

The purchase of advanced Russian weapons systems sends a clear signal and indicates that the Saudi kingdom is ready to assume a more neutral position and has started to knock on the door of the multipolar world, an acknowledgement of Chinese economic power and the military-technological predominance of the Russian Federation.

From Neutral to Friends

In transforming itself into a more neutral country, Riyadh may be attempting to balance American economic and military influence with Russian and Chinese support. The importance for Russia and China in having a neutral country with great spending capacity in the region should also be noted. In the case of Turkey, Russian intervention in Syria, coupled with Turkish aspirations to become a Euro-Asian energy centre, progressively pushed Moscow and Ankara together. As a result of effective diplomatic work following Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet, relations have gradually improved, occurring in parallel to the operational success achieved by the Syrian army and Russian Air Force against Turkish-backed terrorists. The military defeat of Turkey was already clear twelve months ago. In the last three to four months, Erdogan seems to have changed priorities, focusing on the Kurdish issue and on growing relations with Qatar (the political movement of the Muslim Brotherhood is key in both countries and essential to their relationship). In the meantime, Turkey is distancing herself from her NATO allies, gravitating more and more towards the orbit of the “axis of resistance” that consists of Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The Syria peace talks held in Astana laid the foundation for diplomatic efforts by Tehran and Moscow to persuade Ankara to abandon the military option (even though this was already clear once Russia decided to intervene). Instead, Ankara would be encouraged to open up important energy deals between Ankara and Moscow. It seems that Ankara has now decided to become an energy hub, carrying Turkish Stream gas from Russia to Europe as well as gas from Qatar and Iran. It even seems that China has every intention of connecting with the Turkish facilities for the supply of gas and oil, thus increasing Ankara’s role as a central energy-transit hub for the region.

The other aspect that has firmly convinced Erdogan to yield on Syria concerns the Kurdish issue. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), consisting mainly of Kurdish fighters, operate in Syria under the command and on behalf of the US-led international coalition. Ankara has nominated the Kurds of the SDF as an armed extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist group in Turkey. This divergence between Washington and Ankara has continued to grow, even during the Trump administration, contrary to forecasts during the US election period.

With the progressive use of the SDF in Syria by the international coalition headed by the US, Trump and Erdogan’s strategies have ended up clashing. Trump needs to give his domestic audience the impression that the US is devoted to fighting ISIS, even if this means relying on Kurdish soldiers that entails severing relations with Turkey. Erdogan sees this as a matter of national security. The situation has escalated to a point where a few days ago, a diplomatic dispute led to the suspension of the issuing of visas from the respective embassies in Ankara and Washington. Erdogan considers American aid to the Kurds as a betrayal of the worst kind from a NATO ally. A natural reaction to these actions by the US, therefore, was the the agreement between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey to preserve territorial integrity vis-a-vis the Kurdish issue.

The blessing of the Chinese and Russians is evident in this situation. In order to pacify the region, rebuild it and incorporate it into the One Belt One Road project, the Maritime Silk Road, and the North-South Transport Corridor, wars have to stop and diplomacy must prevail. For Ankara, it is a unique opportunity to exit the war in Syria without appearing as one of the defeated factions (hence the Turkish participation in the Astana talks with Russia and Iran). At the same time, Turkey emphasizes the importance of its geographical position as a centre for energy distribution on the Eurasian supercontinent. This is all at the expense of the US, with Turkey breaking free from Washington’s pressure.

Moscow has already removed all sanctions against Turkey, and vice versa, greatly increasing trade with considerable prospects for growth in the coming years. As for weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Russian influence is expanding, thanks to the S-400 systems in the process of being sold to Ankara over the vehement protests of many NATO countries. The S-400 system is a further effort to deter US aggression, but is also the first indication of Ankara’s will to diversify, this time militarily, constituting a pillar of the new multipolar world order.

Ankara, after numerous diplomatic and military failures, has rebuilt its role in the region alongside Iran and Qatar, in a context where its partnership with Moscow and Beijing will guarantee Erdogan a margin of maneuver to progressively disengage from the NATO system that has brought so many problems to the country. A future entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could seal Ankara’s passage into the multipolar world, becoming in the process a fully fledged ally of Moscow and Beijing. In the meantime, it is already possible to say that Moscow and its allies have succeeded in the unlikely task of turning a nation that was on the brink of a direct involvement in Syria in the effort to remove Assad into one of the most important guarantors of Syria’s territorial integrity. Erdogan has agreed to Assad staying in power into the near future, and has even agreed to help fight terrorists in Syria, as evidenced with the recent Turkish military operations in Idlib.

How deep these new friendships between Moscow, Riyadh and Ankara are yet to be tested. Erdogan and the Saudi monarchs have been known not to keep their word. At it stands, this appears to be an economic, political and military masterpiece of the Iranian, Russian and Chinese triad. The war in Syria has almost been won; the terrorist groups supported by the Saudis and Turks have been neutralized; and the conditions for a full Eurasian economic and military integration of Riyadh and Ankara have been set.

Supporting Friends in need.

Ultimately, it is worth pointing out the contribution of Russia, China and Iran to the Syrian government and people. Over the six years of aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic, Iran has never failed to contribute in terms of manpower, equipment and logistical support in the battle against terrorism. Moscow, in the early stages of the conflict, even before intervening directly, took steps to settle the Syrian foreign debt to Russia, and in fact lent money by providing armaments, energy and logistics as a way of actively contributing to the defeat of terrorists in Syria.

The People’s Republic of China has already paved the way for the future of Syria in economic terms, declaring the country an important transit route and a final destination of a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chinese economic power will allow Damascus to rebuild a nation devastated by six years of terrorism and foreign aggression. With Russian military capabilities, Damascus will have all the necessary means to end the conflict and stabilize the country, laying the foundation to prevent any future Western aggression. From a political and diplomatic point of view, the joint actions of Tehran, Beijing and Moscow, together with Damascus, are an integral part of the axis that stretches from Iran to Iraq and Syria and arrives at the Mediterranean, or could even go to Turkey. With the combination of economic, military and political elements, Syria has survived almost unprecedented aggression, emerging as the winner, thus ensuring its ability to determine its future autonomously without external impositions.

Series Conclusions

The path traced by Moscow, Beijing and Tehran is expected to stabilize the Middle East, thanks to the resolution of the Syrian conflict. Some key elements of this global change we are witnessing are: Chinese economic pressure on the Saudis to accept payment for oil in yuan; the eradication of terrorism in Iraq and neighbouring countries, thereby circumventing sanctions imposed on Iran by the US and its allies; and transforming Turkey into a regional energy-distribution centre.

The RPC intervenes economically in a number of regions, particularly in the Middle East, to support Russian military power through money, diplomacy, economic investment (OBOR) and by providing liquidity to allies, as seen with Moscow when it was hit with Western sanctions. For Beijing, the decline in terrorism is a key factor in fostering China’s development of the Silk Road 2.0 infrastructure, allowing Beijing to enter into areas destroyed in the Middle East to offer easy reconstruction plans. At the moment, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Pakistan seem to hold great importance for China’s future strategies.

Russia and China lead organizations such as the BRICS, the UEE, the SCO, and the AIIB. The grand strategy is to support the creation of an alternative to the US dollar-based neoliberal world order and to contain the effects of declining US empire. Nations will increasingly have to choose between two systems: whether the multipolar world order, based on friendship and win-win cooperation, or the unipolar one, based on the America’s declining military and economic power.

Strong Chinese economic support, together with Russian military might as well as Iran’s importance in the Middle Eastern region, are successfully shielding countries like Syria from American military interventions, driving a wedge between old US allies and paving the way for Washington’s planned economic and military isolation in the region. Thus, countries similarly facing US pressure, such as South Korea, Mexico and Venezuela, will increasingly gravitate toward the multipolar world led by Russia and China, accelerating the decline and influence of the United States beyond the Middle East.

The multipolar world order is here to stay. The US is no longer the lone superpower but rather one among two other nuclear-armed powers. The sooner the US realizes this, the better it will be for humanity and for peace around the world.

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Is America Now Fighting on the Side of the Terrorists in Syria?

Thre are two international coalitions fighting against terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq. One of them consists of Russia, Turkey and Iran, and the other one is made of a variety of actors under the leadership of the United States.

Technically, the two coalitions pursue at least one common goal: the destruction of the Islamic State terrorist organisation (banned in Russia). Like Russia, the USA considers the destruction of the terrorist organisation its first priority goal in Syria and Iraq, and Donald Trump outlined this goal clearly in the very beginning of his presidency.

Prior to Trump’s arrival in the White House, Washington’s position was somewhat different: his predecessor, Barack Obama, insisted on the removal of legitimate Syrian President Bashar Assad, whereas the destruction of the Islamic State was a second priority goal for him.

When Trump announced the change of priorities in Syria, many hoped for a possibility to establish practical cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States. In reality, it turned out differently.

Washington was extremely reluctant to communicate with the Russian military. Coordination or joint actions were out of the question, but there were no attempts of direct opposition either. The exception was the cruise missile strike on Shayrat, but it was more likely aimed at the Syrian army and Assad. It did not show a significant negative impact on the actions of the Russian military. The consequent warning and the deployment of new air defence systems proved to be enough for the Americans to abandon their ill-considered actions.

Presently, against the backdrop of the apparent success of joint operations conducted by Syrian and Russian forces against terrorists, a question arises again: is the USA going to help or hinder Russia and Syria in the destruction of ISIL?

The question is not idle. It arose first in connection with the death of Russian General Valery Asapovin Syria. The attack was too precise and too timely; the terrorists would not have been able to do it without assistance from the outside. At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defence drew attention to the suspiciously close and peaceful neighbourhood of US servicemen and terrorists on the Syrian territory.

The Americans declined to comment on the matter, but they launched a thesis about the allegedly unfolding “race” for the right to inflict the last fatal blow on ISIL. The trophy is the right to gain control over the strategically important Syrian-Iraqi border, which is about to fall into the hands of the United States and its clients from the “moderate” Syrian opposition. The Americans claim that Moscow and Damascus make one mistake after another out of indignation, which is obviously nonsense.

As for “mistakes,” a number of questions arises: why do terrorists manage to arrange counterattacks? How do they get together all the necessary forces and means, including weapons and ammunition, transportation, as well as intelligence? Why do these counter-attacks come from the areas of the deployment of American military and pro-American forces?

Without waiting for any clear answers from Washington, the Russian side decided to strike a decisive blow on Jabhat an Nusra terrorist group (banned in Russia), which is responsible for the death of General Asapov. At the same time, military operations against terrorists were intensified in the east of Syria. If the Americans want to take Raqqa and announce their triumph for the world – let them come and do it. However, the Americans are not taking any measures. On the contrary, the USA has cut activities of its Air Force in the area.

The Russian Defence Ministry demanded clarifications from the USA to find out America’s real goals in Syria. Is the destruction of ISIL and other terrorist groups still remains priority number one for Washington or does the USA want to stop Assad’s troops from winning the war with Russia’s support? Does the USA support the restoration of Syria’s territorial integrity? Indeed, what is the USA doing in Syria? The question remains.

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The U.S. Bombed Afghanistan More in September than Any Month Since 2010, but the “Death Toll” Remains Hidden

NOVANEWS

In the war on terror, Trump doubles down on a failed strategy.

On August 21, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Afghanistan strategy. He made clear that the longest war in modern U.S. history had no end in sight, and that the U.S. government would increase its troop contingent by several thousand soldiers.

According to news reports, another 4,000 U.S. soldiers are slated for deployment to Afghanistan. However, Trump himself admitted the true numbers will remain in the dark, saying in his August 21 speech that the number of U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries would not be released by his administration in the future.

Nine days later, it was revealed that, instead of roughly 8,000 troops, as previously believed, at least 11,000 soldiers are currently deployed in Afghanistan. That’s not the only instance of information being withheld from the public: During the last days of Barack Obama‘s presidency, the Pentagon stopped releasing redacted investigations of major civilian casualty events caused by the U.S. military. This included war crimes in Syria, Afghanistan and several other countries where drones are haunting the skies, while special forces units are conducting shadowy operations on the ground.

Trump’s speech also dropped the pretense of “nation-building” that many across the political spectrum had used to justify the Afghanistan war. For him, it’s all about hunting down and killing “terrorists.”

Although the word “terrorist” has become vacuous, a label for everything and everyone, the question remains: Who are the “terrorists” in Afghanistan? Are they al-Qaeda, which has been practically non-existent in the country for years? Are they the leaders of the Taliban, which has grown since the start of the U.S.-led invasion and now controls many parts of the country? Are they the extremists of ISIS, whose presence was enabled by the violence of the U.S.-led war and invasion, too? Are they the brutal warlords and militia fighters who have become a crucial part of Afghanistan’s landscape and, since allying with the United States in 2001, have led parts of the Kabul government?

From an Afghan view, there are other “terrorists”: the drone operators who are remotely killing innocent people on a daily basis, or the Western soldiers who are hunting civilians and collect their body parts like trophies.

For the U.S. government, the answer is chillingly simple. Since 2012, the White House has maintained that every military-aged male in a strike zone is considered as an “enemy combatant.” This means what nearly all Afghan men—including teenagers—are considered “terrorists.” The same is true for Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenites and every other citizen of a country that has the luck to be terrorized by U.S. bombs and rockets, dropped by conventional aircraft or weaponized drones.

“We are all terrorists. If we get hit now, you are going to be called like that too,” a Taliban fighter in Nangarhar province in the east of the country told me when I visited his village in May. Local civilians who were nearby agreed with him.

What he said was true. I often thought how I would be described after getting killed by a drone strike, especially while researching in remote regions that are barely entered by Western journalists. Like most Afghan men, I have a beard and black hair. In today’s world, that’s enough to be called a “terrorist,” a danger to Western civilization.

Since Trump took over the presidency, about 2,000 airstrikes have been conducted by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. On October 12, a U.S. drone strike killed 14 people; Afghan officials claim the victims were ISIS militants but a local member of parliament alleges those killed were civilians. Last month, the U.S. dropped more bombs and missiles on Afghanistan than in any other month since 2010. Most of these strikes hit Nangarhar province, which was also the target of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), also known as the “Mother of All Bombs”, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the Pentagon’s arsenal. According to recent UN data, U.S. strikes in Nangarhar are more likely to result in civilian casualties than strikes anywhere else in the country. But contrary to reports that often describe all victims as “suspected militants” or “terrorists,” many dead are civilians.

Provinces like Nangarhar, where the United States has been fighting its “War on Terror” since 2001, are the places where the U.S. lost this war. While the Taliban control many districts of such provinces, after years of constant occupation, many Afghan locals have developed a hatred toward the American soldiers, like their forefathers did towards the Russians and the British.

While Trump is giving one weird speech after the other, the Afghans in these remote areas live in real dystopia. The so-called government in Kabul, which was installed by the United States in 2001, has no influence here.

Instead, the people’s lives are controlled by Taliban insurgents who are often deeply connected with the local communities. More than 100,000 U.S. soldiers, who were deployed in Afghanistan during the Obama era, were not able to change this reality. It will not be much different under Trump.

It’s not just the mere presence of foreign troops that fuels war, but also what those troops have done and continue to do: carry out air strikes, conduct brutal night raids on civilians’ homes and torture detainees at places like Bagram Air Base—a place so notorious in Afghanistan that, to some, Guantanamo is considered a haven by comparison.

All signs indicate these atrocities will continue in the era of Donald Trump.

The identities of the people who have been murdered by the MOAB are still not known. While the Kabul government supported the attack and later announced that more than 90 ISIS militants have been killed, the White House preferred to stay silent. Too often, similar figures in the past have proven to be bogus. But in the United States, the stories of Afghans are only told when they fit with the interests of the U.S. empire. Otherwise, they remain faceless and invisible—and that’s how Donald Trump wants to keep them.

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North Korea – As Trump Threatens, the Nation Still Struggles with America’s Lethal Legacy

NOVANEWS
 

“Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared’ … More often than not, the United States shares the blame.” (Amnesty International, 1996.)

As the US threatens to decimate North Korea again – if not the entire planet, given Donald Trump’s chillingly casual approach to the use of nuclear weapons – an article (1) has revealed the criminal legacy remaining from America’s last attack, ending sixty four years ago, on a country smaller than Mississippi. (North Korea is a landmass of 120,540 square kilometers, Mississippi is 125,443 square kilometers.)

“Experts say it will take a hundred years to clean up all of the unexploded ordnance”, says Major Jong Il Hyon: “but I think it will take much longer.”

Major Jong has lost five colleagues in the still ongoing ordnance disposal work and “carries a lighter one gave him before he died. He also bears a scar on his left cheek from a bomb disposal mission gone wrong.”

In Hamhung, the country’s second largest city three hundred and seventy mortar rounds were found in an elementary school playground in October last year, with a rusted, lethal round discovered nearby in February this year.

“Bombs, mortars and pieces of live ammunition” are still found in “thousands.” “Virtually all of it is American”, but “over a dozen” countries “fought on the US side and every now and then their bombs will turn up as well.”

In the region this lethal legacy is mirrored in: “Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and even Japan”, with a “huge amount of unexploded ordnance” needed to be disposed of by those courageous enough to risk their lives, daily, doing it.

The scale of the regional horror is near incomprehensible. For example:

“From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions – equal to a planeload of bombs every eight minutes, twenty four hours a day, for nine years …” (2.)

Laos, 1983. An intensive bombing campaign, coupled with artillery battles on land, has left the landscape in some areas of Laos filled with craters. Photo: Titus Peachey

It is thought that possibly a third of the bombs did not explode and over twenty thousand people have been killed by unexploded ordnance since.

Moreover:

“Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War (210 million more bombs than were dropped on Iraq in 1991, 1998 and 2003 combined); up to 80 million did not detonate.”

Less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed, with commensurate deaths and maimings ongoing.

The US is undoubtedly the “Leader of the Free World” in one thing: killing. It is also clearly the undisputed king of overkill and the most murderous of legacies, ensuring its actions will never be forgotten or indeed forgiven by the populations affected. Which of course, is why North Korea is trying to ensure it is powerfully enough armed to deter another attack. Whatever it has or has not achieved in this respect, compared to America’s planet threatening nuclear arsenal, it is utterly insignificant, for all Washington’s undiplomatic, bombastic bluster.

North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson statement regarding North Korea that: “(Trump) has made it clear to me to continue our diplomatic efforts – which we are. As I’ve told others, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops”, is hardly likely to encourage anything but frantic efforts at armed deterrence – whilst still clearing the poisoned legacy from over half a century ago.

Major Jong’s “bomb squad is one of nine … one for each province. His unit alone handled 2,900 left over explosives – including bombs, mortars and live artillery shells, last year.” This year: “they have already disposed of about 1,200.”

North Korea has said that 400,000 bombs were dropped on the capitol, Pyongyang: “roughly one bomb for every resident at the time.” 32,500 tons of napalm was also dropped on the country.

Some bombs are not easily recognizable to the untrained eye, Major Jong pointed out, thus an eleven year old lost his fingers investigating an item he had found. There are a “surprising variety.” He described one as a “butterfly bomb” which had “wing like attachments to disperse small ‘bomblets’ over a wider area.” It was “devised by the Nazis in World War 11. The US revised its design and used them in North Korea”, points out Associated Press.

Aging bombs become even more unstable, rust erodes detonators, thus the slightest movement causes them to explode.

“I’m sure that my daughter’s generation will also suffer from this problem”, said Major Jong: “I want the world to know.”

Historian Charles Armstrong of Columbia University points out that the saturation bombing:

“marked something of a turning point for the United States and was followed by the use of an even heavier version during the Vietnam war.”

He also makes the point, ignored by the blinkered and apparently supremely ignorant new incumbent in the White House that:

“To this day the North Korean Government and media point to the American bombing as a war crime and a major justification for the continued mobilization of the North Korean people – as well as the development of nuclear weapons – in defence against nuclear attacks.”

Has anyone on Capitol Hill heard of “cause and effect”?

Notes

2. http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/secret-war-laos/

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on North Korea – As Trump Threatens, the Nation Still Struggles with America’s Lethal Legacy

Nazi regime Is Hiding the Fact that Its State of the Art F-35 Warplane Was Hit by Syrian S-200 Missile

 NOVANEWS
Israel Is Hiding the Fact that Its State of the Art F-35 Warplane Was Hit by Syrian S-200 Missile
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Featured image: Israeli Air Force F-35 warplanes (Source: South Front)

It looks that the Israeli “demonstration of power” during the recent visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has turned into a total failure.

On October 16, Shoigu arrived Israel for meetings with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The sides were reportedly set to discuss the situation in the region, including Syria, the fight against terrorism as well as military and technical cooperation.

At the same day, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that its warplanes targeted an anti-aircraft battery of the Syrian Air Defense Forces that had launched a missile at Israeli aircraft flying over Lebanon.

Earlier today,an anti-aircraft missile was launched from Syria towards IDF aircraft during a routine flight over Lebanon. No hits confirmed

In response, IDF aircraft targeted the anti-aircraft battery in Syria.

The IDF added that the Syrian missile didn’t hit any Israeli aircraft.

Earlier today,an anti-aircraft missile was launched from Syria towards IDF aircraft during a routine flight over Lebanon. No hits confirmed

“The army targeted the battery with four bombs and, according to the IDF, the battery was damaged to the extent it was no longer operational. The army said the battery targeted was the same that fired at Israeli jets last March, prompting Israel make use of its Arrow anti-missile system for the first time,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on the issue.

The Syrian military confirmed the Israeli strikes and said that they caused “material damage.”

It’s interesting to note that, according to the Syrian Defense Ministry statement, Israeli warplanes violated Syria’s airspace on the border with Lebanon in Baalbek area. The incident took place at 8:51 am local time.

Could the Israeli Air Force intentionally provoke the reaction from the Syrian military in order to justify the strike on the Syrian air defense battery?

Furthermore, some pro-Israeli experts and media activists clearly linked the incident with the visit of the Russian defense minister to Tel Aviv saying that it was a nice demonstration of power to the Russian-Iranian-Syrian alliance.

However, something went wrong.

According to the available information, the Syrian Defense Forces used a S-200 missile against the Israeli warplane. This Soviet-made missile is the most advanced long range anti-aircraft system opearated by the Syrian military. Even in this case, it’s old-fashioned in terms of the modern warfare.

Despite this, the Syrian Defense Ministry said in its statement that government forces responded to the violation of the airspace and “directly hit one of the jets, forcing [Israeli aircraft] to retreat.” This statement contradicts to the Israeli claim that “no hit” was confirmed.

Few hours after the missile incident with Syria, the Israeli media reported that the Israeli Air Force’s F-35 stealth multirole fighter went unserviceable as a result of an alleged bird collision during a training flight.

The incident allegedly took place “two weeks ago” but was publicly reported only on October 16. However, Israeli sources were not able to show a photo of the F-35 warplane after the “bird collision”.

Furthermore, it is not clear if the F-35 can become operational again because its stealth coating was damaged. Thus, according to the Israeli version, the warplane reportedly became no longer operational after the bird collision despite the fact that the F-35 earlier passed the bird strike certification with great results (official info here). The F-35 is the world’s most expensive warplane. The price of developing the F-35 is now about $406.5 billion.

Israel is actively buying the world’s self-proclaimed most advanced fighter paying about $100 million for each plane.

So what did really hit the F-35?

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, SyriaComments Off on Nazi regime Is Hiding the Fact that Its State of the Art F-35 Warplane Was Hit by Syrian S-200 Missile

Will the Kirkuk Campaign Lead to Regime Change in Kurdistan?

NOVANEWS

The Iraqi federal government commenced a military intervention in the Kurdish-occupied oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

This area has long been disputed between the Iraqi central authorities and the Kurdish Regional Government of Northern Iraq, and Article 140 of the post-2003 US-imposed “constitution” decreed that a referendum was supposed to have been held here before 2008. Such a vote never took place due to the country’s dire security situation and misplaced priorities at the time, but the Kurdish-claimed city take part in a different referendum last month when they voted for independence from Iraq. The Kurdish military forces, or Peshmerga, occupied Kirkuk in 2014 after they drove Daesh out of the city, which they had previously conquered after expelling the Iraqi Army shortly beforehand. Baghdad declared the vote illegal, while Erbil said that it gave the Kurds the right to negotiate independence from Iraq, stressing that they wanted to achieve their ends as peacefully as possible.

According to the Iraqi Constitution, the Kurds’ moves are illegal, hence why Prime Minister Abadiasked them several times over the past month to reverse their pro-independence path, allow the return of federal forces to their region, and surrender Kirkuk back to the central government. The Kurds refused to do any of this, which is why the Iraqi Army was ordered to reclaim the disputed city in what was a largely non-violent operation, albeit one which the Kurds described as a “declaration of war”. Right now the situation is very tense, since the federal forces are reluctant to sweep into the formal territory of the Kurdish Regional Government out of fear that this might provoke an all-out civil war, though they nevertheless need to reestablish their presence there if they want to have any hope of stopping the Kurds’ secession.

It’s in this context that it’s relevant to mention that Iraq has most likely coordinated its response with its Turkish and Iranian neighbors, both of whom are confronting their own armed Kurdish separatists as well. None of these three state parties want to create the false impression that they’re waging a “War on the Kurds”, nor do they have any intention of launching a trilateral Arab-Turkish-Iranian occupation of Kurdish territory in Northern Iraq because of how unsustainable this would be from a military perspective. Instead, what they’re seeking to do as a worst-case scenario is carry out a “regime change” in the region by ousting the separatists and replacing them with Baghdad-friendly “federalists” until a new round of elections can be held by the Kurdish Regional Government, one which the pro-independence forces would be barred from participating in unlike the upcoming ones scheduled for 1 November.

It’s very possible that the end result of this prospective effort could see the Barzani family’s political monopoly over Iraqi Kurdistan broken once and for all, which could herald in a completely new era for the region and change many of the international partnerships that were brokered by this powerful clan.

 

Posted in IraqComments Off on Will the Kirkuk Campaign Lead to Regime Change in Kurdistan?

Is It Time for “Food Diplomacy” in Venezuela?

The convincing victory of Venezuela’s governing socialist party in this weekend’s elections provides a convenient opportunity for President Maduro to finally request food aid from his Russian and Chinese partners, both of whom would be more than eager to receive the soft power boost that would come with easing the humanitarian suffering that the US’ Hybrid War and related sanctions have placed on the Venezuelan people.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) came out on top during this weekend’s regional elections, even though its victory predictably produced unsubstantiated allegations of fraud by the opposition. Although there’s a chance of anti-government violence, the average Venezuelan appears exhausted by the unrest that’s shaken their country over the years, hence why the majority of voters chose to support the PSUV in order to preserve peace and stability in the country. This has placed President Maduro in a more solid position than at any other time since the Hybrid War on Venezuela began in earnest in early 2014, which will therefore allow him to push forth his constitutional reform agenda with less resistance than before.

That being said, this also means that he needs to deliver on his promises to improve the living situation for the Venezuelans who have been suffering from a lack of food and other basic commodities, since this has not only contributed to the worsening of Venezuela’s international reputation, but it also provides the opposition with an excellent opportunity to recruit new Color Revolution followers into its ranks. At the same time, however, the Venezuelan government appears reluctant to recognize that this problem does indeed exist in some parts of the country, no doubt over-amplified by the international media for infowar purposes but nevertheless still present to some extent. It’s debatable whether external US economic pressure or internal government mismanagement is more to blame for this, but regardless of the cause, the symptoms need to be addressed, and now is the best time for Maduro to do so.

Trump’s Threats

Trump’s mid-August refusal to rule out a conventional “military option” in the Hybrid War on Venezuela was a godsend to the country’s government because it confirmed what they’d been saying for years, namely that the US is intent on carrying out a regime change in the oil-rich country using whatever possible means at its disposal, including an Iraq-like invasion. It can’t be known for certain whether this is exactly what Trump had in mind or not, but the fact remains that Maduro was able to masterfully make it seem like this was the case, which also had the effect of implying that the opposition’s Color Revolution vanguard was the “tip of the spear” in this campaign. It’s little wonder then that the government won in the last elections, as the implication of voting for an American-linked opposition coalition in light of the US President’s formal threats against their country proved to be too traitorous of a thought for some anti-government Venezuelans.

The intensification of Venezuela’s siege mentality as a result of Trump’s bellicose statement a few months ago, his melodramatic speech at the UN, and the ever-present sanctions allow Maduro to now conveniently shift all the blame for his country’s economic problems onto the US, jettisoning any responsibility for them and opening up a whole new range of options for dealing with the Hybrid War against his country. Whereas in the past he and his government were uncomfortable with recognizing the humanitarian consequences of this asymmetrical conflict because of the fear that this admission could be repackaged into yet another infowar weapon to discredit the authorities and influence the upcoming elections, no such pressure exists now that the PSUV convincingly won the last elections and the US has proven itself without a doubt to have a pressing interest in carrying out a regime change in the country at all costs.

Petro Politics

 The US doesn’t just want to acquire control over the world’s largest oil reserves in the Orinoco River Basin for the sake of it, whether to use for its own needs or to control the flow of this resource to its global Chinese competitor, but because this might be the only option left to save the petrodollar. With the US’ Saudi partner increasingly pivoting towards Russia and China, there’s a very real chance that Riyadh will soon conduct all new energy contracts in local currencies in order to bypass the dollar, which would slash the Achilles’ heel of the US-led global economic system and herald in the biggest worldwide financial change since Washington completely abandoned the gold standard in 1971. It’s not for naught, then, that Russia and China have been stockpiling gold over the past couple of years, as they prudently forecast that this moment might arrive sometime in the near future.

The grand strategic consequences of this would be that the US would finally lose control over the globalization processes that it first helped initiate and eventually harnessed in becoming the sole post-Cold War superpower, thereby enabling China’s Silk Road globalization to replace its Western rival in formalizing the start of the Multipolar World Order. The US is desperate to prevent this from happening, hence why it needs a “backup plan” in guaranteeing that the dollar will still be used for a sizeable percentage of transactions in the international energy marketplace, and this is precisely where Venezuela fits into the equation. If the US’ “Operation Condor 2.0” series of hemispheric regime changes succeeds in toppling the PSUV, then the resultant geopolitical chain reaction would probably lead to the fall of the ALBA-allied Bolivian and Nicaraguan governments soon thereafter, which would evict multipolar influence from the South American heartland and preempt the game-changing construction of the Nicaraguan Canal, respectively.

Furthermore, and of heightened relevance to the petrodollar, it would complete the US’ proxy conquest of Latin America’s energy resources, providing Washington with the chance to pioneer a formidable rival to OPEC in the North American-South American Petroleum Exporting Countries (NASAPEC) structure that the author originally forecast at the end of last year. If all of the Western Hemisphere’s resources were under the US’ control via NASAPEC, then the petrodollar could survive long enough until the “Clash of Civilizations” blueprint for dividing and ruling the Eastern Hemisphere through Hybrid Wars succeeds in toppling the OPEC governments one by one and restoring the dollar as the preferred currency for conducting transactions. This explains why it’s so important for the US to overthrow the Chavismo government in Venezuela, and correspondingly, why Russia and China have an interest in preventing this.

Orinoco heavy oil belt

Russia To The Rescue

Having placed the Hybrid War on Venezuela into its grand geostrategic context, it’s now time to talk about what the country’s Russian and Chinese partners can realistically do to help it withstand this onslaught. There’s no chance that either of them will commit military forces to assist the government, though Moscow will of course seek to leverage its “military diplomacy” in selling more arms and other defensive equipment to help Caracas ward off the US’ threatened “humanitarian intervention”. Ironically, though, a “humanitarian intervention” might just be what’s needed in order to stop the Hybrid War on Venezuela, but it would have to be carried out by Russia and China and in an unconventional manner than what’s commonly understood by this term.

Of these two Great Powers, Russia is thought to have established more influence in Venezuela due to its skillful maneuvers in the financial and energy industries, so it should be presumed that Moscow has the onus in taking the lead in any forthcoming ‘multipolar humanitarian intervention” in Venezuela, though only if it’s asked to do so by Caracas, which is the key point. Up until now, Maduro was reluctant to officially acknowledge the humanitarian consequences of the Hybrid War on Venezuela, but ever since Trump’s track record of aggressive statements about his country over the past couple of months and the PSUV’s victory over the weekend, he now has the “political flexibility” to do so in setting the stage for inviting his Great Power partners to assist in improving the humanitarian situation.

As opposed to the cruise missiles that typically accompany any unipolar “humanitarian intervention”, its multipolar counterpart could see cargo ships of food and other basic commodities instead. After all, the new Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya was proudly telling the Security Council just the other day about his country’s impressive humanitarian operations abroad, particularly in Syria and Yemen, but to which Qatar could also be added when considering Russia’s offer earlier this summer to send food to the blockaded country during Ramadan. Although the latter proposal was politely declined by Doha, the global soft power impact that it had greatly boosted Russia’s reputation in the international Muslim community and paved the way for solidifying its “Ummah Pivot”.

All of this is relevant for Venezuela because it means that Russia, but also China as well, would jump at the first opportunity to relieve the humanitarian suffering that the US is to a large degree responsible for, both because it’s the “right thing to do” but also because of the soft power masterstroke that it would be for enhancing the country’s soft power all across Latin America just like the proposal to Qatar did for the Mideast. Unlike before when Maduro didn’t want to officially recognize this problem because of the risk that it could embolden another Color Revolution wave and sway the upcoming elections, he might change his mind now that his party’s political position is much more secured and even gain populist points by framing the whole “humanitarian operation” as a multipolar response to the US’ Hybrid War on Venezuela.

Russian Rosneft oil company CEO Igor Sechin signs a deal with Venezuela Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino in the presence of President Maduro, July 2016

Russian Rosneft oil company CEO Igor Sechin signs a deal with Venezuela Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino in the presence of President Maduro, July 2016

As a result, the protest-prone and opposition-aligned segments of the population who propelled the anti-government parties to victory in the late-2015 parliamentary elections could be placated so long as they steadily receive food and basic commodities, thereby opening up a valuable window of opportunity for the PSUV to “win them back” to the Chavista fold and dramatically de-escalate the regime change campaign in the country.

Concluding Thoughts

The US’ incessant efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government might finally be reaching a turning point, though not the one that its strategic planners forecasted. Instead of the latest elections resulting in another bout of Color Revolution unrest just like the last two, this time the vote proceeded peacefully and the ruling PSUV produced a convincing victory, thereby freeing President Maduro from the “political constraints” that had previously prevented him from formally recognizing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in parts of the country. Accordingly, given how Trump has unabashedly admitted that he wants to see a regime change in Venezuela, and the CIA hinted as much earlier this summer too, the stage is now set for Maduro to “save face” by blaming everything on the US and finally requesting humanitarian assistance from his Russian and Chinese partners.

These two Great Powers would be more than happy to help their Latin American ally, both for good-hearted humanitarian reasons and also the obvious boost that this would provide to their soft power appeal in the region, but there’s another motivation for all of this too, and it has to do with the multipolar world’s grand strategy to de-dollarize the global energy trade. So long as Venezuela’s people remain content and less susceptible to Color Revolution intrigue, then there’s less of a likelihood that they could inadvertently play into the US’ plans by handing their oil-rich country over to its northern neighbor via opposition proxy, which in that scenario would allow the petrodollar to hang onto life if OPEC leader Saudi Arabia begins de-dollarizing its oil sales as it progressively moves closer to Russia and China.

As crude as it may sound, providing the Hybrid War-victimized population with a full belly and reliable access to basic commodities might be all that’s needed to turn the tide against the regime change movement and stabilize the beleaguered country, which in turn could increase the odds that the multipolar de-dollarization plan would succeed in inflicting a crippling blow to the petrodollar. For these reasons, it’s not inconceivable that Maduro might request humanitarian aid from his Russian and Chinese partners in countering the socio-economic consequences that the US’ asymmetrical war has had on some of the poorer segments of his country’s population. Instead of “classical” or even “military diplomacy”, it might ultimately turn out that “food diplomacy” was all that was needed this entire time to thwart the US’ clandestine Color Revolution campaign.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Is It Time for “Food Diplomacy” in Venezuela?

Masked and Armed with Rifles: Military Security Firms Roam Streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Featured image: Antonsanti Street in Santurce, Puerto Rico (Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo)

It’s the morning of Oct. 7 and a man stops traffic on Antonsanti Street in Santurce, behind the Ciudadela building. He is wearing a helmet, sunglasses, facemask, a vest with ammunition, gloves, plastic straps used for arrests, boots, camouflaged pants with knee pads, a knife and gun. There is a machine gun in his hand. He has no plaque or ID.

He works for a private security firm hired by Nicholas Prouty, the owner of the Ciudadela complex. Prouty turned to that service after Hurricane María, he told the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI in Spanish) last week.

“With a substantial reduction in the number of police officers on the streets [due to the government’s reallocation of resources to protect diesel and supply chains0, and most streets lights not functioning, Ciudadela has taken the necessary steps to make its residents and commercial tenants feel safe,” he said, without revealing the name of the security firm.

Who do you work for?, the CPI asked the armed man who was at Ciudadela.

“We work with the government,” he answered.

Which division?

“It’s a humanitarian mission, we’re helping Puerto Rico,” he said in broken Spanish.

And why the covered face?

“Because if I go with my daughter to eat at Burger King tomorrow and somebody identifies me, they could kill me,” he said.

Two other men dressed in military uniforms standing at another corner of Ciudadela said they worked for a private company, but also refused to reveal the name.

Why do you cover your face?

“Because we want to,” one of them said, pulling the facemask up to his nose to cover himself better. He had a rifle in his hand: a silver shotgun.

(Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo)

The CPI asked Héctor Pesquera, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety, if a special permit was issued to private security companies to carry rifles after Hurricane María made landfall. “We’re dealing with that,” he said as he left a press conference at the Convention Center. When we showed him the photo of the security men in Ciudadela, he said, “they could be military,” and scurried to the back of a room in the San Juan Convention Center where the government of Puerto Rico has set up its Emergency Operations Center (COE in Spanish) after Hurricane María.

Does the federal weapons law allow private security guards to carry long weapons?, the CPI asked Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, head of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Puerto Rico.

“We go by federal law violations and they include long weapons, carrying an automatic rifle and so on, if they do not have the proper license.”

But are there licenses to carry long weapons?

“It depends [on] whether they are military. That is, it is very restricted. I’m surprised that this is happening. I don’t know if they are off-duty police officers, I don’t know, I would have to see the circumstances. A police officer can work in a private security company in their spare time.”

In that case, could they have long weapons?

“I don’t know, it has roused my interest, so I’ll check it out. But I’m surprised that they only have access to long weapons,” Rodríguez replied.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Olga Castellón said Pesquera is processing an executive order that will detail the rules for private security companies. Perhaps that’s what the Secretary of Public Security referred to when he said, “We’re dealing with that.”

Both federal officials agreed that the order should not allow private security guards to carry long weapons. “They would be going very far,” said Rodríguez.

The Puerto Rico Weapons Act says that “you can not…own, use, transfer or import a Semi-Automatic Assault Weapon.” This prohibition does not apply to “people whose license contains the category of target shooting, hunting or who possess an armory license, or for those assault weapons legally existing in the United States.” Or to people “with a gunsmith license, or law enforcement agents who use arms in the call of duty, or the government of Puerto Rico or the United States, or for the use of by armed forces of the Government of the United States or Puerto Rico.” The law bans arms such as shotguns and semiautomatic rifles.

Two members of the United States Air Force consulted by the CPI said that both the shotgun and the machine gun carried by the men of Ciudadela are automatic or semi-automatic weapons, after seeing a photo.

(Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo)

“In terms of firearms, [private security companies] have to be governed by the Puerto Rico Weapons Act and must have a gun holding license. As far as I know, gun licenses granted here are for short guns. Long weapons are used solely and exclusively for the custody of securities transport, armored trucks, and is a special license provided by the government of Puerto Rico. All other armed services have to be with small arms. The only people who could use long weapons are those of the State. I don’t know of any legal authorization to carry long guns in private service in Puerto Rico,” said Adalberto Mercado, vice president of operations for private security company Ranger America.

“The State can provide provisional licenses, but they have to request them and the State has to grant them. If not, they would be carrying illegal weapons inside the territory of Puerto Rico,” Mercado said.

Security firm Academi —known by its former name, Blackwater, which won $21 million contract with the U.S. government to provide security services during the Iraq war in 2003— said that they already have offers from the local and federal government and by the Red Cross to come to Puerto Rico.

“We’re ready to go,” said Paul Donahue, Chief Operating Officer of Constellis, Academi’s parent company, in a phone interview with the CPI. He explained that if the government of Puerto Rico accepts the proposal made by Academi to respond to the government’s offer, they would be providing security services for water transportation. The company already operates in the Caribbean islands of Dominica and St. Martin, where they arrived after Hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall. This company, described as an army of mercenaries by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, has changed its name three times since its founding in 1997 by a former Navy Seal Officer (United States Marine, Air and Land Teams.)

Blackwater also operated in New Orleans after the passing of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There they worked under a federal contract and for millionaires who left the city before the storm passed. They were hired to protect their properties.

On the entry of U.S. security companies into Puerto Rico, Mercado, Ranger America’s vice president of operations, said,

“We have signed service contracts with U.S. security firms that have hired us to in turn provide security to clients they have here in Puerto Rico… I would say there are large numbers (of companies), but we have seen hiring (of U.S. security companies) in the area of communications and in the hotel area. They are companies that we don’t really know about, they have no presence here in Puerto Rico, but they have come and we know they are serving some corporations and multinationals.”

Mercado said Ranger America has been recruiting more employees since the hurricane, to serve retailers, supermarkets, government warehouses, and “more recently,” FEMA. He did not mentioned the names of the companies or agencies that have hired them.

The Whitestone Group, another U.S. security company, posted an ad on the Monster job search site on September 29 seeking “retired officers with gun licenses for immediate response in Puerto Rico.” The ad said salary would be about $2,400 a week plus a per-diem and housing. The ad that indicates the offer says “FEMA-Puerto Rico.”

“I really don’t know the answer,” said Alejandro De La Campa, director of FEMA in Puerto Rico, when the CPI asked if the agency had hired private security companies to work in Puerto Rico and, specifically, The Whitestone Group.

“But we’re going to hire… all the hiring is done through Federal Protective Services, that’s the federal agency that does the hiring; they would be the ones who could answer you. That we’re going to need (private) security across the island, that’s true,” De La Campa said during a quick exit from the COE.

Whitestone Group currently has “several contracts” with the U.S. Departments of Defense, Engineering, Interior and Commerce, as well as with the Army, Armed Forces and Coast Guard. Its first contract with the federal government was with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Treasury Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

People watching the military show behind Ciudadela on that Saturday morning did not seem safer. An elderly woman who was prevented by the man armed with a machine gun from going on Antonsanti Street looked anxious, nervous and frightened. But she still rebuked him through her car window. She asked him to let her pass because she was going to a street that was before where a truck was unloading merchandise. The woman was about to cry. The robot-looking man finally let her in and said, “Thanks for interrupting my work.”

Posted in Puerto RicoComments Off on Masked and Armed with Rifles: Military Security Firms Roam Streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico

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