Trump’s Trade War And Escalation Of US-China Standoff

South Front

Tensions between the US and China are rising in the economic, diplomatic and military spheres. The economic policy of the administration of US President Donald Trump as well as the US strategy aimed at deterring growing Chinese military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region and Chinese influence around the world in general have led to an open economic and diplomatic conflict between the two states.

Since the start of 2018, the US has imposed a series of tariffs on a wide range of Chinese goods and, according to President Trump, is ready to make further steps in order to defend US national interests.

On January 22, 2018, the US officially announced their decision to impose duties of as much as 30% on solar equipment made abroad, mostly in China. On July 6, the Trump administration kicked off 25% tariffs targeting $34 billion worth of Chinese goods. These tariffs affected water boilers, X-ray machine components, airplane tires and various other industrial parts. China immediately implemented retaliatory tariffs on its $34 billion list of US goods including soybeans, pork and electric vehicles. At that time, Beijing called the situation the “biggest trade war in economic history.” However, the situation continued to develop.

On August 23, the US imposed additional 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese imports targeting such goods as electronic parts, plastics, chemicals, batteries, and railway cars. Beijing retaliated with its own fresh tariffs on $16 billion worth of additional imports from the US including fuel, steel products, cars and medical equipment.

On September 24, Washington imposed 10% tariffs on about $200 billion worth of imports from China, and threatened duties on about $257 billion more if China retaliated against the action. The Chinese Commerce Ministry answered that it had no choice but to retaliate against new US trade tariffs. Beijing hit back announcing 10% tariffs on $60 billion of US imports.

According to the Trump administration the tariffs are needed to protect US businesses, especially industry and intellectual property, and to reduce the trade deficit with China. Since the start of the “trade war”, US and Chinese top officials have held a series of meetings but have found no options to resolve the existing differences.

Furthermore, on September 20, the US sanctioned a Chinese defence agency and its director for purchasing Russian combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missiles. On the same day, sanctions were imposed on 33 Russian individuals and entities. The State Department claimed that its actions weren’t intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of any country, but rather to punish Russia in response to its alleged interference in the US election process. In response, China’s Foreign Ministry said the action was unjustifiable and demanded the US withdraw the penalties or “bear the consequences.”

Thus, the conflict expanded into the military and political field. Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on September 26, President Trump accused China of “attempting to interfere” in the upcoming 2018 election in the US against his administration. Nonetheless, the US president provided no evidence for his claims. Additionally, the Trump administration approved the sale of $330 million of military equipment to Taiwan. This move caused another round of tensions with China.

“We urge the US side … to immediately cancel this deal and cut off military ties with Taiwan to avoid doing serious damage to China-US relations, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and cooperation between the US and China in important areas,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated, commenting on the issue.

The Taiwan issue has been a focal point of US-Chinese tensions since the very start of the Trump presidency. For example, on December 2, 2016, shortly after his election win, Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen by phone discussing politics, economy, and security in the Asia-Pacific region. This was the first time since 1979 that a US President or President-elect had directly spoken to his Taiwanese counterpart. Trump openly declared that his administration would use the Taiwan issue as a bargaining chip to get a better trade deal with Beijing. The idea that China and Taiwan are part of the same country also known as The One-China policy has been the basis of US-China dialogue concerning the island since the 1970s.

The balance of power in Asia Pacific in general and particularly in the South China Sea and East China Sea are also a hot point in US-China relations. The US is actively working to deter the growing Chinese influence on military and diplomatic levels. The US Armed Forces send warships and jets close to Chinese military facilities built on artificial islands, and hold drills near the contested area. The Chinese side is not going to abandon its South China Strategy and responds in a similar manner.

In late September the US sent its nuclear capable B-52 bombers to the South China Sea as well as to the East China Sea.

On September 26, the US consulate in Hong Kong stated that China had denied a request for a port call from the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship the USS Wasp.

On September 30, the Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur had an encounter with a Chinese warship, with the two vessels being as close as 45 yards to each other, according to US Navy officials. The US warship was conducting freedom of navigation operations in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea when the incident occurred.

In early October, the New York Times reported, citing a US official that China had canceled an annual meeting with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis planned for mid-October in Beijing.

The relations between the US and China appear to be tense and preconditions exist which may cause them to worsen in the near future. Currently, there are two main directions in which the current situation might develop: an escalation scenario and a deconfliction scenario.

In case of the escalation scenario, US-Chinese relations would deteriorate rapidly with the Trump administration taking further steps in the framework of its “trade war” against Beijing. If China were able to resist this pressure more or less successfully, the diplomatic and economic pressure imposed would give a boost to the further regionalization of the world. China, Russia and other powers affected would have to contribute additional effort to develop an economic model, which would allow them to counter pressure from the US. This system would actively rely on regional economic ties and trade in national currencies. China, Russia, the EU, Iran, Turkey are already actively working to develop such mechanisms. On September 24, the EU, Russia and China agreed with Iran on a new payment system to trade despite the US sanctions. The joint statement said that they were determined “to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran.”

At the same time, Turkey, China, Russia and India have openly moved to make payments on key contracts, especially in the military industrial cooperation field, in their national currencies as well as boosting their regional cooperation. Thus, the US sanctions policy became a factor undermining the current global economic model guaranteeing its dominance.

If the increase of the US pressure on China were to succeed and Beijing and its key partner Moscow were isolated, this would deepen significantly the economic crisis in China, which is expected by some analysts in the upcoming years. Chinese economic development would be stopped or even thrown back. In turn, the US thanks to its industry and postindustrial sector of the economy would make a leap forward maintaining its economic hegemony.

Nevertheless, this scenario would be possible only if the Chinese-Russian economic, military and diplomatic cooperation were to be undermined as a result of the smart policy pursued by Washington or for some other reason. Symptoms of this US soft power policy designed to undermine Russia-China cooperation can be observed in the Russian and Chinese media sphere. Multiple Russian experts more or less affiliated with the US ideologically or economically, through grants and funding, promote the idea that Russia should limit its allegedly “unprofitable” cooperation with China and even put effort into deterring Chinese economic and diplomatic policy in the region. On the other hand, some Chinese experts promote an idea that Russia is a weak state and should not be seen as an equal partner.

It should be noted that China employing its foreign diplomatic and economic policies does not show any kind of altruism. In fact, it pursues its economic and political goals in the most profitable way. However, this approach is common for any world power defending its national interests. And currently, it’s in Chinese national interests to maintain a mutually beneficial co-operation with Russia and other independent powers.

The de-escalation scenario in US-Chinese relations is possible if the Trump administration were to reshape its policy towards Beijing and strike a new political economic deal with the Chinese leadership. So, Washington would have to lift a part, if not all, of the imposed restrictions and maybe soften its policy on China in some points. China would accept such a deal, but would not abandon its goal to dominate in the Asia-Pacific region and then become a superpower. Thus, Beijing would be using this deal to strengthen its economic and political positions in Eurasia and around the world.

In turn, the Washington establishment would seek to employ a divide and rule approach to undermine ties between Moscow and Beijing. If this approach were to succeed, the US would be able to deal with its key competitors one at a time.

In any of these scenarios, military, diplomatic and economic tensions would grow around the world. The main reason for this is the approach of the Washington establishment, which is steadily undermining the global order established after World War 2. On the other hand, the actions of the Trump administration have their own logic. It seeks to stop the economic development and to limit the influence of their key global and regional competitors, like China, Russia and Iran. In light of the existing mid and long term threats to US dominance, Washington seems to be determined to use the current complicated situation around the world to strengthen the US national economy, in particular its industry, to solve the social and economic problems caused by previous US administrations and to deal with its geopolitical opponents using all existing means and measures.

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UNO : birth of the post-Western world

Thierry Meyssan

Thierry MeyssanPolitical consultant, President-founder of the Réseau Voltaire (Voltaire Network). Latest work in French – Sous nos Yeux. Du 11-Septembre à Donald Trump (Right Before our Eyes. From 9/11 to Donald Trump).

DAMASCUS (SYRIA)
The administration of the UNO had been hoping for a clash between the pro- and anti-Trump factions during the General Assembly. What actually happened was very different. While several States, including France, denounced the methods of the resident of the White House, Russia undertook an analysis of the Western alliance. According to Moscow, most of our current problems are due to the desire of the old colonial powers to conserve their domination of the rest of the world – at whatever the cost. In order to overtake them, a formidable coalition has been born.
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The hearing of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Despite appearances, the procession of the heads of State and government, or Ministers for Foreign Affairs, at the General Assembly of the United Nation was not without purpose. It’s true that most of them, having little to say, addressed their interior public opinions by blaming UNO incompetence and calling for a respect for the law. But many of their interventions went straight to the heart of the matter – how to resolve the disputes between States and guarantee peace?

The first three days were marked by the speech by Donald Trump (United States) and the responses by Emmanuel Macron (France) and Hassan Rohani (Iran). But all these complications were shattered on the fourth day with the intervention by Sergueï Lavrov (Russia), when he presented the map of the post-Western world.

World collapse according to Donald Trump

President Trump, whose speeches are usually extremely disorganised, had on this occasion prepared a finely structured text [1]. Distinguishing himself from his predecessors, he affirmed that he gave privilege to « independence and cooperation », rather than « governance, control and international domination » (in other words, his national interests rather than those of the « American Empire »). He followed by enumerating the readjustments of the system he had set in motion.

- The USA has not declared commercial war on China, but is in the process of re-establishing its balance of payments. Simultaneously, the US is trying to restore an international market founded on free market competition, as demonstrated by their position in the energy sector. The US has become a major exporters of hydrocarbons, and would therefore benefit from high prices, but it opposes the existence of an intergovernmental cartel, the OPEC, and is calling for lower prices.
- It is opposed to the structures and treaties of globalisation (that is to say, from the point of view of the White House, transnational financial imperialism), notably the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and UNRWA. Of course, this is not a claim for torture (which was legitimised by George Bush Jr. in his day) nor crime, nor starving the Palestinians, but the destruction of the organisations which instrumentalise their object in order to achieve other goals.
- Concerning the migrations from Latin America to the United States, and also within the interior of the South American continent itself, the US intends to end them by treating the problem at its roots. For the White House, the problem results from the rules imposed by globalist Treaties, notably NAFTA. President Trump has therefore negotiated a new agreement with Mexico which links exports to respect for the social rights of Mexican workers. He intends to return to the original Monroe doctrine – meaning that the multinationals will no longer be able to interfere in the governing of the continent.

The reference to the Monroe doctrine merits an explanation, since the expression suggests US colonialism at the beginning of the 20th century. Donald Trump is an admirer of the foreign policies of two very controversial personalities, Presidents Andew Jackson (1829-1837) and Richard Nixon (1969-74). The Monroe doctrine (1823) was elaborated during the intervention of a man who at that time was no more than General Jackson in the Spanish colony of Florida. At that time, James Monroe wanted to protect the American continent from European imperialism. It was the « era of good feelings ». He therefore pledged that the United States would not intervene in Europe if Europe stopped intervening in the Americas. It was only three quarters of a century later, notably with Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), that the Monroe doctrine would be used as a screen to hide US imperialism in Latin America.

The defence of the old world by Emmanuel Macron and Hassan Rohani

In a strange inversion of roles, French President Emmanuel Macron presented himself as the European Barack Obama facing up to the US Charles De Gaulle, as played by Donald Trump. Macron symbolically declared war, stating: « Let us sign no more commercial agreements with powers which do not respect the Paris Agreement » (which means no more agreements with the United States) – an odd way to defend multilateralism!

The French President began with Donald Trump’s implicit assessment – the crisis of the current « liberal Westphalian order » [2]. This means the crisis of nation-States who are badly shaken by economic globalisation. But this strategy was only intended to more efficiently oppose the solution proposed by the White House, which he qualified as the « law of the strongest ». He therefore described the French solution, « based around three principles – the first is the respect for sovereignty, the very foundation of our charter; the second is the reinforcement of our regional cooperation; and the third is the implementation of more robust international guarantees ».

But then his speech zoomed off into the stratosphere to end in a lyrical exaltation, during which Emmanuel Macron allowed himself a moment of juvenile hypocrisy reaching to the limits of schizophrenia.

- As an example of « the respect for sovereignty », he called for a refusal to « substitute oneself for the Syrian people » when we decide who will become their leader… while at the same time forbidding President el-Assad to present himself for election by his compatriots.

- Concerning the « reinforcement of regional cooperation », he mentioned the support offered by the African Union to the French anti-terrorist operation in the Sahel. But this operation was in reality only the land-based wing of a larger plan directed by AfriCom, for which the US army supplied the airborne wing. The African Union itself has no real army as such, and acts only to legalise a colonial operation. Similarly, the sums invested for the development of the Sahel – which the French President quoted not in Euros, but in dollars – mixes true African projects with foreign aid for development. The impotence of this endeavour has long been clear to all.

- Concerning « the implementation of more robust international guarantees », he announced the struggle against inequalities which should be addressed by the G7 summit in Biarritz. This was simply a way of affirming, once again, Western leadership over the rest of the world, Russia and China included. He claimed that « the time when a club of rich countries could alone define the balance of the world is long over », and promised to … present a report of the decisions taken by the major Western powers before the next General Assembly. Again, he proclaimed that the « G7 should be the motor » of the struggle against inequality undertaken by the UNO.

Speaking in his turn, Iranian President Cheikh Hassan Rohani described in detail the way in which the White House is destroying, one by one, the principles of international Law [3].

He reminded us that the 5+1 agreement (JCPoA) had been validated by the Security Council, which had called upon numerous institutions for their support (resolution 2231), and that Donald Trump’s USA had withdrawn from the agreement, negating the signature of his predecessor and the principle of the continuity of state. He emphasised that, as attested by twelve consecutive AIEA reports, Iran has conformed and is still conforming to its obligations. He expressed his indignation at President Trump’s call to disobey the UNO resolution and the threat he has addressed against those who respect it.

He finished by recalling a few facts – Iran fought Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and Daesh before the United States (which was at that time supporting them) – one way of emphasising the fact that for a long time, the about-faces by the USA do not correspond to the logic of Law, but to the logic of its own hidden interests.

Sergueï Lavrov presents the post-Western world

This debate, not for or against the United States, but for or against Donald Trump, was organised around two main arguments:
- The White House is destroying the system which has so well benefited the international financial elites (Macron).
- The White House is no longer even pretending to respect international Law (Rohani).

For the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sergueï Lavrov, this debate hides a problem which goes even deeper. « On one hand, we see the reinforcement of the polycentric principles of the world order , (…) the aspiration of the people to preserve their sovereignty and work with models of development which are compatible with their national, cultural and religious identities. On the other, we see the desire of several Western states to preserve their self-proclaimed status as “world leaders” and to hinder the objective and irreversible process of the establishment of multipolarity », he stated [4].

From that point, it is no longer pertinent for Moscow to argue with President Trump, nor even the United States, but with the Westerners in general. Sergueï Lavrov went as far as drawing a parallel with the Munich Agreements of 1938. At that time, France and the United Kingdom signed an alliance with Germany and Italy. It’s true that this event is remembered today in Western Europe as an act of cowardice on the part of France and Britain faced with the demands of the Nazis, but it remains engraved in Russian memory as the decisive step which triggered the Second World War. While Western historians seek to decide who took this decision and who followed the movement, Russian historians note only one thing – that none of the Western Europeans assumed their responsibilities.

Extending his study, Sergueï Lavrov no longer denounced the infringements to the Law, but to international structures. He observed that the Westerners attempt to force the people to enter into military alliances against their will, and threaten certain States who wish to chose their partners themselves. Alluding to the Jeffrey Feltman affair [5], he denounced the attempts to control the administration of the UNO, and force it to assume the role which should be played by the member-States, and finally, to use the General Secretariat to manipulate them.

He noted the desperate nature of these attempts, observing, for example, the inefficiency of fifty years of the US blockade of Cuba. He stigmatised the British desire to judge and condemn without trial by using their rhetoric of « highly probable ».

Sergueï Lavrov concluded by emphasising that all this Western disorder did not prevent the rest of the world from cooperating and developing. He recalled the « Greater Eurasian Partnership », mentioned at the Valdaï Forum in 2016 by President Putin to complete President Xi’s « Belt and Road Initiative ». This vast initiative, which was at first given a chilly reception by China, is now supported by the Collective Security Treaty, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Counter-propositions by Australia, Japan and the European Union were still-born.

While Western representatives have the habit of announcing their projects in advance, and discussing them, Russian diplomats only speak of them when they are already under way and are sure to succeed.

To sum up, the strategy of the containment of Russia and China, dreamed up by British deputy Halford J. Mackinder [6] and clarified by US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzeziński [7], has failed. The world’s centre of gravity is being displaced to the East, not against the Westerners, but by their fault [8].

Drawing the first practical conclusions from these analyses, Syrian Vice-Prime Minister, Walid al-Moallem, demanded on the following day at the tribune of the General Assembly the immediate withdrawal of the occupying troops of the United States, France and Turkey [9].

Translation
Pete Kimberley

[1] “Remarks by Donald Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Donald Trump, Voltaire Network, 25 September 2018.

[2] « Discours d’Emmanuel Macron devant la 73e séance de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies », par Emmanuel Macron, Réseau Voltaire, 25 septembre 2018.

[3] “Remarks by Hassan Rohani to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Hassan Rohani, Voltaire Network, 25 September 2018.

[4] “Remarks by Sergey Lavrov to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Sergey Lavrov, Voltaire Network, 28 September 2018.

[5] “Germany and the UNO against Syria”, “How the administration of the UNO is organising the war”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 28 January 2016 and 5 September 2018.

[6] “The geographical pivot of history”, Halford J. Mackinder, The Geographical Journal, 1904, 23, pp. 421–37.

[7The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzeziński, Basic Books. 1997.

[8] “The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”, by Alfred McCoy, Tom Dispatch (USA) , Voltaire Network, 22 June 2015.

[9] “Remarks by Walid Al-Moualem to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, by Walid Al-Moualem, Voltaire Network, 29 September 2018.

Iran will slap US in face by defeating sanctions: Ayatollah Khamenei

Thu Oct 4, 2018 05:53AM

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says American sanctions are “more fragile than” Iran’s economy, emphasizing that the Iranian nation will “slap the US in the face” by defeating those bans​​​​, once again.

Ayatollah Khamenei made the remarks during a speech to a large gathering of Iran’s Basij volunteer forces and senior military officials at the Azadi Stadium in the capital, Tehran, which has a capacity of 100,000 people.

“Following vast explorations, the enemy has arrived at sanctions [as a solution] to counter the Islamic Republic. It has no other solution but economic sanctions. Other paths in front of it are blocked,” said Ayatollah Khamenei, stressing, however, that “economic sanctions are more fragile than our national economy.”

“Our national economy can defeat sanctions,” said the Leader. “The defeat of sanctions will be America’s defeat, and the US, with this defeat, should once again be slapped in the face by the Iranian nation, God willing.”

“The enemy wants to bring the Iranian nation to the conclusion that there is a dead end, and that there is no solution except kneeling and giving in to the US,” The Leader said, adding that those promoting such a viewpoint at home are traitors to the country.

Ayatollah Khamenei, however, assured that he “will not allow that to happen in the country” with the help of the nation.

The Leader further said the Iranian nation has been blessed with “invincibility,” which is rooted in its 1979 Islamic Revolution, its eight-year Holy Defense of the country against the ex-Iraqi regime’s war in the following years, and in general, its steadfast resistance over the past 40 years in the face of all enemy plots.

“The grandeur and authority of the Islamic Republic and its invincibility are not empty talk or mere slogans. It is a fact that the enemies seek to keep us ignorant of,” stressed the Leader.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei delivers a speech to a large crowd of Iranian Basij volunteer forces at Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran, October 4, 2018. (Photo by khamenei.ir)

Ayatollah Khamenei said US President Donald Trump had recently told some European leaders that Iran’s Islamic establishment would be toppled in 2-3 months, adding that such comments are nothing new.

However, almost 40 years into the Revolution, the Islamic Republic has only grown more powerful, the Leader said. “The enemy of the Iranian nation has failed to gain an understanding of the Revolution and the revolutionary spirit; this wrong analysis has misled it [the enemy] in the course of these years.”

The US’s enmity towards the Iranian nation is not merely due to “Death to America” chants, Ayatollah Khamenei said. “They [the Americans] are afraid of Islamic power and the Revolution’s might.”

Ayatollah Khamenei further advised that “both youths and authorities should convey a message of power to the enemy not a message of weakness.”

The enemy, the Leader said, will retreat if it faces national unity, strength and firm determination, and if domestic rifts are set aside.

Source: Press Tv

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المسرحية الإسرائيلية ضد لبنان: الخلفية والقصد والنتيجة؟

أكتوبر 2, 2018

العميد د. أمين محمد حطيط

في عمل مسرحي سيّئ الإخراج والتمثيل قدّم نتنياهورئيس وزراء العدو الإسرائيلي صوراً ادّعى أنها لمواقع في لبنان يخزّن فيها حزب الله صواريخ عالية الدقة، وتقع في الضاحية الجنوبية لبيروت، وعلى بعد عدة مئات من الأمتار من مطار بيروت الدولي، وحتى يستنفد الوقت المحدّد له على منبر الجمعية العامة للمتحدة أضاف إلى الفصل الأول من المسرحية الهزلية صوراً زعم أنها لمواقع تخزّن فيها إيران عناصر خطيرة من ملفها النووي قرب طهران.

طبعاً المسرحية كما قلت لا تستحق بذاتها النقاش لإظهار زيفها ووهنها وإسقاط أيّ عنصر من العناصر التي قد يتكئ عليها لتقريبها من المشهد المعقول القابل للنقاش، فالصور كما أظهرت بدا أنها التقطت لمكان عام يرتاده الناس بشكل عادي وعلى مدار الساعة ولا يمكن ان يكون له صلة بعملية تخزين صواريخ او شيء سري ذي صلة بعمق أو بعد أو طيف استراتيجي، ولذلك لن نهدر الوقت للرد ّعلى العدو وإظهار كذبه الفضائحي، لكن السؤال الذي لا بدّ من طرحه والاهتمام بمتعلقاته هو لماذا قام العدو بمسرحيته وهو يعرف أنها مثار السخرية والضحك وعصية على التصديق. فخلفية وسبب العرض المسرحي هو المهمّ في هذا النطاق فلماذا؟

قد يسارع البعض للقول بأنّ العدو في عرضه استكمل سياسة الاتهام بتحويل المناطق الآهلة المدنية الى مستودعات عسكرية، وهو اعتمد هذا الأمر في الأمم المتحدة ليبرّر لاحقاً العودة الى تطبيق نظرية الضاحية والاستراتيجية التدميرية التي تستهدف المدنيين وكامل البنى التحتية اللبنانية، خاصة أنه أكد في إعلانه أكثر من مرة انه لن يميّز بين جيش لبناني ومقاومة وشعب لبناني ومؤسسات رسمية وأهلية لبنانية فالكلّ في الحرب المقبلة أهداف لعدوانه، وبالتالي يختصر الموقف هنا بالقول بأنّ العرض هو تمهيد لعدوان لا يقيم وزناً او تمييزاً بين مرفق مدني ومنطقة آهلة وموقع عسكري.

لكننا هنا لن نتأخر في الردّ على هذا الرأي رغم وجاهته ونقول إنّ «إسرائيل» ليست عدواً كباقي البشر الذين لديهم شيء من حسّ إنساني، فـ «إسرائيل» أصلاً لا تنذر ولا تهدّد بل تذهب للقتل والتدمير مباشرة ولنذكر من يريد مثلاً مصداقاً لهذا القول، انّ «إسرائيل» دمّرت الأسطول الجوي المدني اللبناني في العام 1968 دون ان توجه كلمة إنذار او اتهام واحدة للبنان، وانّ «إسرائيل» اجتاحت لبنان في العام 1982 ووصلت الى بيروت دون ان تهدّد بشيء ودون ان تأبه لشيء، بل انها اخترعت مسرحية محاولة قتل سفيرها في لندن وقامت بالعدوان على لبنان. فالقاعدة لدى «إسرائيل» عندما تكون قادرة هي أن تفعل وتترك الآخرين يتحدثون عنها وعن أعمالها، اما إذا هدّدت فإنّ في الأمر كلاماً آخر فما هو.

قبل ان نفصّل في الأمر، لا بدّ من التأكيد هنا على أمر أساسي بأنّ «إسرائيل» وبسبب واقع القوة الدفاعية اللبنانية المشكلة من شعب وجيش ومقاومة، المعادلة التي فرضت معادلة ردع استراتيجي عليها، انّ «إسرائيل» هذه باتت مردوعة في مواجهة لبنان، وغير قادرة على الذهاب ضدّه إلى حرب، فللحرب شروطها الثلاثة وهي غير متحققة في الواقع «الإسرائيلي» الآن، فلا هي تملك القوة القادرة على تحقيق الإنجاز العسكري في ظلّ فقدان الحافزية العسكرية لدى جيشها وفي ظلّ قوة المقاومة بوجهها، ولا هي قادرة على استيعاب ردة فعل العدو على جبهتها الداخلية الواهنة، ولا هي قادرة على التحكم بالبيئة الاستراتيجية والسياسية الدولية لصرف الإنجاز فيها إذا تحقق، وهذه البيئة اليوم عرضة لتوازنات ليست في مصلحة «إسرائيل». لكلّ ذلك فإننا لا نربط مسرحية العدو الهزلية بالاستعداد للعدوان على لبنان وانْ كانت «إسرائيل» تشتهي العدوان على الدوام وتعمل للتحضير له على مدار فرضت عليها واقعاً حرمتها من الاستقلالية والحرية في اتخاذ قرار الحرب وجعلتها مردوعة عنها كما يصف حالها خبراؤها. وبعد هذا نسأل لما المسرحية «الإسرائيلية» اذن؟

انّ «إسرائيل» شاءت وفي ظلّ ظروف محدّدة ومستجدّة وضاغطة تتمثل في إغلاق الأجواء السورية بوجه طيرانها وصواريخها وقنابلها الذكية ما تسبّب بنكبة استراتيجية لها في وقت تتحضر فيه أميركا لاعتماد سياسة لـ «خنق إيران» في 4 تشرين الثاني المقبل مع الخشية «الإسرائيلية» من نجاح أحزمة النجاة التي تحضرها أوروبا وروسيا والصين والهند لإيران، ورداً على الموقف العلمي الاستراتيجي الكبير للعماد عون في الأمم المتحدة وقبلها في مقابلة مع جريدة «لو فيغارو» الفرنسية، شاءت «إسرائيل» ان تذهب الى حروب أخرى بديلة وتعويضية.

ولهذا كانت هذه المسرحية بمثابة التمهيد والانطلاق الى تلك الحروب التي نعتقد انّ «إسرائيل» تقترحها او تشارك فيها ضدّ لبنان وهي ثلاثة حروب غير الحرب النارية القتالية التي فرض عليها العجز عنها، فقد شاءت حرباً نفسية ترهق لبنان مستفيدة من واقع انقسام اللبنانيين حول المقاومة وهي تريد ان تغذي هذا الانقسام وتثير دخاناً في وجه المقاومة ويعيد الجدل حول وجودها واستمراريتها الى الواجهة، جدل يحجب انتصاراتها ويمنعها من الاستثمار في الداخل والإقليم. وهنا وللأسف وجدنا في لبنان من يواكبها لا بل من يتقدّم عليها لخدمتها في مواجهة المقاومة والإساءة اليها والى قوة لبنان الدفاعية.

اما الحرب الثانية التي شاءت «إسرائيل» تسعيرها بمسرحيتها فهي الحرب السياسية التي يعتبر تشكيل الحكومة المتعثر بعض وجوهها كما يشكل استهداف رئيس الجمهورية بشخصه ومواقفه جزءاً آخر منها. فالرئيس كما بات معلوماً اتخذ في رحلته الأخيرة الى الأمم المتحدة من المواقف الاستراتيجية والسياسية والعسكرية العلمية ما أكد على حق لبنان بالمقاومة وأوضح بشكل علمي انّ المقاومة وسلاحها هي نتيجة لسبب متمثل بالاحتلال التي تمارسه «إسرائيل»، وانّ هذا الاحتلال سبب مآسي للبنان والمنطقة، ومنها مسألة اللجوء والنزوح، وانّ معالجة هذه المسائل تبدأ بمعالجة الأصل. ومنطق الرئيس الذي يجسّد المنطق السليم لا يرضي «إسرائيل» المجافية لكلّ منطق والتي لا تؤمن إلا بمنطق القوة العدواني واغتصاب الحقوق، لذلك شاءت ان تساهم في حرب سياسية ضدّ لبنان ورئيسه يرفده ويواكبه أيضاً وللأسف لبنانيون يدّعون زوراً العمل لمصلحة لبنان.

أما الحرب الثالثة فهي الحرب الاقتصادية وهي الأخطر والأدهى، لأنّ لبنان في ظلّ هذه الحرب يعتبر أقلّ مناعة منه في الحروب الأخرى التي ذكرت، ولذلك كان التصويب على مطار بيروت من أجل حصار لبنان وخنقه بالقبض على رئته التي تصله بالعالم، وأيضاً وأيضاً ومن شديد الأسف نجد ان لبنانيين ومنهم مسؤولون رسميون يساهمون ويشاركون «إسرائيل» في حربها وما الذي شهده مطار بيروت مؤخراً من تصرفات لا يبرّرها منطق ولا قانون إلا تأكيد على هذه الشراكة عن قصد أو غير قصد.

إذن هي حروب نفسية وسياسية واقتصادية تريدها «إسرائيل» بدائل عن الحرب النارية القتالية العسكرية ضدّ لبنان، حروب تحوّلت اليها «إسرائيل» بعد ان أدركت عجزها عن الأخرى، وهنا يطرح التحدّي الكبير على اللبنانيين وبالأخصّ منهم المسؤولون فهل يحصّنون لبنان في وجه العدوان «الإسرائيلي» المثلث هذا والذي جاءت المسرحية الهزلية في الأمم المتحدة تمهيداً له، أم ينتفض كلّ لبنان بوجه العدوان البديل ويحمي لبنان؟

في الإجابة السريعة على السؤال نقول إننا نتمنى أن يدافع كلّ اللبنانيين عن وطنهم، ولكننا وللأسف لا نثق بتحقق هذا التمني إلا انّ ثقتنا قائمة في مكان آخر، نثق بأنّ من حرّر لبنان وكانت له المواقف الثابتة خدمة للحق اللبناني سيكون أيضاً هنا وبالمرصاد… وأنه اليوم وفي ظلّ المعادلات الدولية والإقليمية الجديدة سيكون أكثر قدرة على المواجهة وأكثر طمأنينة للانتصار.

أستاذ جامعي ـ باحث استراتيجي

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A Reading in Trump’s Isolationist Speech: Bold and Outright Lies

Nour Rida

The world and media are still busy with the Trump speech at the UN Security Council, which got a ripple of murmurs and giggles before it exploded into a wave of laughter when he made his claims on achieving what no other administration has achieved throughout US history.

About a minute to his speech, Trump said

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

He did not expect the chuckles, as he clearly stated

“didn’t expect the reaction, but that’s okay”.

Then he tried to improvise and turn it into “they laughed with me rather than at me” while speaking to the media afterwards. The reaction in the echoing General Assembly hall came in presence of more than a hundred and thirty heads of state and dozens of other delegations.

During the presidential campaign, Trump often repeated the phrase “The world is laughing at us.” However, during the UN around 35-minute speech, the world was laughing at Trump.

Of course, on the sidelines of the Assembly, the president used his favorite term of “fake news” that has been popularized, to justify the laughter of the audience by saying the speech was supposed to be received in a cheerful manner and was taken out of context, calling the media’s coverage “fake news.”

Trump’s speech requires long pages of critique however a few highlights does the work. The US President was audacious enough to say the following

“I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.”

The Trump administration not only dictates everyone on this planet on how to live and what to do, it also disrespects its neighbors such as Latin America, and extends its disrespect and supremacy overseas and interferes in the affairs of others. It also disrespects American people living inside the borders of the US because of their descent or origin.

The US president is at odds with Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans and anyone but white supremacist inside and outside America. Around April, US relations with Latin America plummeted as President Trump traded spurs with his Mexican counterpart and canceled attendance at a regional summit.

According to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,

“Throughout Latin America, we were at a high water mark in every public opinion poll, [but] perception of America has dramatically dropped. And that is uniquely due to President Trump.”

Washington has been involved in the war in Syria alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries in support of Wahhabi terrorist groups such as ISIS or Daesh. It has been rocketing all sorts of attacks against Iran, claiming to support the Iranian people while crippling them economically in first place. Iran has been a target for Trump before he even made it to office, and no reason seems to be present except for Iran being different and independent. He ruined an internationally accepted deal and showered Iran with avalanches of accusations and criticism at the time Iran had been abiding by its side of the nuclear deal and has never started any aggressive act towards another state actor. Also, before arriving to the love letters part, Trump had threatened North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and calling him a monster over nuclear tensions.

Cynically, if Trump justifies his actions towards North Korea as out of national security concern, he should have destroyed his own nuclear warheads and “bigger button”.

In a tweet back in January, Trump wrote

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Trump also falsely claimed in his speech

“Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.”

But then he called on the more than a hundred and ninety UN nations

“to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela”

and to what he allegedly described as

“support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

Trump’s moments at the speech reinforced his administration’s isolation among allies and foes equally, as his nationalistic policies have created rifts with partners and cast doubt about the credibility of America and the reliability of its commitments around the world.

Of course among all this, Trump focused on his “America first” and “no globalism” ideas, which was reflected in the words of US officials a couple of days before Trump’s speech at the UN. Now it remains a question on whether this “America first” policy will isolate the US especially after the European Union and China statements on Iran one day earlier to his speech.

Some observers have pointed out that Trump’s words are only meant to appease his domestic support base and that essentially, US foreign policy under Trump hasn’t changed much.

“There have been studies that show that substantially when it comes to Asia, not much has really actually changed. In terms of the number of US forces in Asia, its foreign policy makers coming for visits, a lot of the messages have not changed,” said Dr. Hoo Tiang Boon, an expert on US-China relations from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).

“Even though they are pushing the America First policy, they still maintain their alliance and relationship. But in terms of the way of communicating, that is certainly very different. And I think a lot of it is about domestic politics.”

One day before Trump delivered his speech, Europe sounded its willingness to cooperate with Iran and was devising ways around US, Chinese state media was whipping up popular sentiment to fight the trade war Trump started, and the US administration was about to miss the deadline for a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Trump’s game at the UN Assembly hall was not very different from his game during the electoral campaign; it is all about humiliation and name-calling and ongoing lies (according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker list,  since assuming office and before the start of summer, President Donald Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims).

Source: Al-Ahed News

The Pentagon Is Planning a Three-Front ‘Long War’ Against China and Russia

Officials in Washington should be thinking hard before committing Americans to a strategy that will make this increasingly likely and could turn what is still long-war planning into an actual long war with deadly consequences.

Think of it as the most momentous military planning on Earth right now.

Who’s even paying attention, given the eternal changing of the guard at the White House, as well as the latest in tweets, sexual revelations, and investigations of every sort? And yet it increasingly looks as if, thanks to current Pentagon planning, a twenty-first-century version of the Cold War (with dangerous new twists) has begun and hardly anyone has even noticed.

In 2006, when the Department of Defense spelled out its future security role, it saw only one overriding mission: its “Long War” against international terrorism. “With its allies and partners, the United States must be prepared to wage this war in many locations simultaneously and for some years to come,” the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review explained that year.

Twelve years later, the Pentagon has officially announced that that long war is drawing to a close — even though at least seven counterinsurgency conflicts still rage across the Greater Middle East and Africa — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.

“Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity,” claimed Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist while releasing the Pentagon’s $686 billion budget request in January. “It is increasingly apparent that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian values and, in the process, replace the free and open order that has enabled global security and prosperity since World War II.”

Of course, just how committed President Trump is to the preservation of that “free and open order” remains questionable given his determination to scuttle international treaties and ignite a global trade war. Similarly, whether China and Russia truly seek to undermine the existing world order or simply make it less American-centric is a question that deserves close attention, just not today.

The reason is simple enough. The screaming headline you should have seen in any paper (but haven’t) is this: the U.S. military has made up its mind about the future. It has committed itself and the nation to a three-front geopolitical struggle to resist Chinese and Russian advances in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Important as this strategic shift may be, you won’t hear about it from the president, a man lacking the attention span necessary for such long-range strategic thinking and one who views Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping as “frenemies” rather than die-hard adversaries. To fully appreciate the momentous changes occurring in U.S. military planning, it’s necessary to take a deep dive into the world of Pentagon scripture: budget documents and the annual “posture statements” of regional commanders already overseeing the implementation of that just-born three-front strategy.

The New Geopolitical Chessboard

Lithuania NATO US
Abrams battle tanks from the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division on rail cars as they arrive at the Gaiziunai railway station in Lithuania as part of NATO deployment to bolster troop levels on Europe’s eastern front, Feb. 10, 2017. (AP/Mindaugas Kulbis)

This renewed emphasis on China and Russia in U.S. military planning reflects the way top military officials are now reassessing the global strategic equation, a process that began long before Donald Trump entered the White House. Although after 9/11, senior commanders fully embraced the “long war against terror” approach to the world, their enthusiasm for endless counterterror operations leading essentially nowhere in remote and sometimes strategically unimportant places began to wane in recent years as they watched China and Russia modernizing their military forces and using them to intimidate neighbors.

While the long war against terror did fuel a vast, ongoing expansion of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) — now a secretive army of 70,000 nestled inside the larger military establishment — it provided surprisingly little purpose or real work for the military’s “heavy metal” units: the Army’s tank brigades, the Navy’s carrier battle groups, the Air Force’s bomber squadrons, and so forth. Yes, the Air Force in particular has played a major supporting role in recent operations in Iraq and Syria, but the regular military has largely been sidelined there and elsewhere by lightly equipped SOF forces and drones.

Planning for a “real war” against a “peer competitor” (one with forces and weaponry resembling our own) was until recently given far lower priority than the country’s never-ending conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa. This alarmed and even angered those in the regular military whose moment, it seems, has now finally arrived.

“Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding,” the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy declares. “We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order” — a decline officially attributed for the first time not to al-Qaeda and ISIS, but to the aggressive behavior of China and Russia. Iran and North Korea are also identified as major threats, but of a distinctly secondary nature compared to the menace posed by the two great-power competitors.

Unsurprisingly enough, this shift will require not only greater spending on costly, high-tech military hardware but also a redrawing of the global strategic map to favor the regular military. During the long war on terror, geography and boundaries appeared less important, given that terrorist cells seemed capable of operating anyplace where order was breaking down. The U.S. military, convinced that it had to be equally agile, readied itself to deploy (often Special Operations forces) to remote battlefields across the planet, borders be damned.

On the new geopolitical map, however, America faces well-armed adversaries with every intention of protecting their borders, so U.S. forces are now being arrayed along an updated version of an older, more familiar three-front line of confrontation.

In Asia, the U.S. and its key allies (South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia) are to face China across a line extending from the Korean peninsula to the waters of the East and South China Seas and the Indian Ocean. In Europe, the U.S. and its NATO allies will do the same for Russia on a front extending from Scandinavia and the Baltic Republics south to Romania and then east across the Black Sea to the Caucasus. Between these two theaters of contention lies the ever-turbulent Greater Middle East, with the United States and its two crucial allies there, Israel and Saudi Arabia, facing a Russian foothold in Syria and an increasingly assertive Iran, itself drawing closer to China and Russia.

From the Pentagon’s perspective, this is to be the defining strategic global map for the foreseeable future. Expect most upcoming major military investments and initiatives to focus on bolstering U.S. naval, air, and ground strength on its side of these lines, as well as on targeting Sino-Russian vulnerabilities across them.

There’s no better way to appreciate the dynamics of this altered strategic outlook than to dip into the annual “posture statements” of the heads of the Pentagon’s “unified combatant commands,” or combined Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine Corps headquarters, covering the territories surrounding China and Russia: Pacific Command (PACOM), with responsibility for all U.S. forces in Asia; European Command (EUCOM), covering U.S. forces from Scandinavia to the Caucasus; and Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees the Middle East and Central Asia, where so many of the country’s counterterror wars are still underway.

The senior commanders of these meta-organizations are the most powerful U.S. officials in their “areas of responsibility” (AORs), exercising far more clout than any American ambassador stationed in the region (and often local heads of state as well). That makes their statements and the shopping lists of weaponry that invariably go with them of real significance for anyone who wants to grasp the Pentagon’s vision of America’s global military future.

The Indo-Pacific Front

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South Korea and U.S. warships participate in their joint military drill Foal Eagle in South Korea’s West sea, March 17, 2013. (AP/South Korea Navy)

Commanding PACOM is Admiral Harry Harris Jr., a long-time naval aviator. In his annual posture statement, delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 15th, Harris painted a grim picture of America’s strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea, he argued, China was emerging as a formidable threat to America’s vital interests. “The People’s Liberation Army’s rapid evolution into a modern, high-tech fighting force continues to be both impressive and concerning,” he asserted. “PLA capabilities are progressing faster than any other nation in the world, benefitting from robust resourcing and prioritization.”

Most threatening, in his view, is Chinese progress in developing intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and advanced warships. Such missiles, he explained, could strike U.S. bases in Japan or on the island of Guam, while the expanding Chinese navy could challenge the U.S. Navy in seas off China’s coast and someday perhaps America’s command of the western Pacific. “If this [shipbuilding] program continues,” he said, “China will surpass Russia as the world’s second largest navy by 2020, when measured in terms of submarines and frigate-class ships or larger.”

To counter such developments and contain Chinese influence requires, of course, spending yet more taxpayer dollars on advanced weapons systems, especially precision-guided missiles. Admiral Harris called for vastly increasing investment in such weaponry in order to overpower current and future Chinese capabilities and ensure U.S. military dominance of China’s air and sea space. “In order to deter potential adversaries in the Indo-Pacific,” he declared, “we must build a more lethal force by investing in critical capabilities and harnessing innovation.”

His budgetary wish list was impressive. Above all, he spoke with great enthusiasm about new generations of aircraft and missiles — what are called, in Pentagonese, “anti-access/area-denial” systems — capable of striking Chinese IRBM batteries and other weapons systems intended to keep American forces safely away from Chinese territory.

He also hinted that he wouldn’t mind having new nuclear-armed missiles for this purpose — missiles, he suggested, that could be launched from ships and planes and so would skirt the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to which the U.S. is a signatory and which bans land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles. (To give you a feel for the arcane language of Pentagon nuclear cognoscenti, here’s how he put it: “We must continue to expand Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty-compliant theater strike capabilities to effectively counter adversary anti-access/area-denial [A2/AD] capabilities and force preservation tactics.”)

Finally, to further strengthen the U.S. defense line in the region, Harris called for enhanced military ties with various allies and partners, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia. PACOM’s goal, he stated, is to “maintain a network of like-minded allies and partners to cultivate principled security networks, which reinforce the free and open international order.” Ideally, he added, this network will eventually encompass India, further extending the encirclement of China.

The European Theater

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U.S. Army vehicles cross the Polish border in Olszyna, Poland, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 heading for their new base in Zagan. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

A similarly embattled future, even if populated by different actors in a different landscape, was offered by Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of EUCOM, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on March 8th.

For him, Russia is the other China. As he put it in a bone-chilling description, “Russia seeks to change the international order, fracture NATO, and undermine U.S. leadership in order to protect its regime, reassert dominance over its neighbors, and achieve greater influence around the globe… Russia has demonstrated its willingness and capability to intervene in countries along its periphery and to project power — especially in the Middle East.”

This, needless to say, is not the outlook we’re hearing from President Trump, who has long appeared reluctant to criticize Vladimir Putin or paint Russia as a full-fledged adversary. For American military and intelligence officials, however, Russia unquestionably poses the preeminent threat to U.S. security interests in Europe. It is now being spoken of in a fashion that should bring back memories of the Cold War era. “Our highest strategic priority,” Scaparrotti insisted, “is to deter Russia from engaging in further aggression and exercising malign influence over our allies and partners. [To this end,] we are… updating our operational plans to provide military response options to defend our European allies against Russian aggression.”

The cutting edge of EUCOM’s anti-Russian drive is the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), a project President Obama initiated in 2014 following the Russian seizure of Crimea. Originally known as the European Reassurance Initiative, the EDI is intended to bolster U.S. and NATO forces deployed in the “front-line states” — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland — facing Russia on NATO’s “Eastern Front.” According to the Pentagon wish list submitted in February, some $6.5 billion are to be allocated to the EDI in 2019. Most of those funds will be used to stockpile munitions in the front-line states, enhance Air Force basing infrastructure, conduct increased joint military exercises with allied forces, and rotate additional U.S.-based forces into the region. In addition, some $200 million will be devoted to a Pentagon “advise, train, and equip” mission in Ukraine.

Like his counterpart in the Pacific theater, General Scaparrotti also turns out to have an expensive wish list of future weaponry, including advanced planes, missiles, and other high-tech weapons that, he claims, will counter modernizing Russian forces. In addition, recognizing Russia’s proficiency in cyberwarfare, he’s calling for a substantial investment in cyber technology and, like Admiral Harris, he cryptically hinted at the need for increased investment in nuclear forces of a sort that might be “usable” on a future European battlefield.

Between East and West: Central Command

AP_17236735827127.jpgGen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, right, gets a briefing on the USS Nimitz, from Lt. Cmdr. Vern Jensen, the aircraft handling officer for the ship, Aug. 24, 2017. The Nimitz is in the Persian Gulf, and fighter jets are flying off the aircraft to conduct strikes in Iraq and Syria. (AP/Lolita Baldor)

Overseeing a startling range of war-on-terror conflicts in the vast, increasingly unstable region stretching from PACOM’s western boundary to EUCOM’s eastern one is the U.S. Central Command.

For most of its modern history, CENTCOM has been focused on counterterrorism and the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan in particular. Now, however, even as the previous long war continues, the Command is already beginning to position itself for a new Cold War-revisited version of perpetual struggle, a plan — to resurrect a dated term — to contain both China and Russia in the Greater Middle East.

In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, CENTCOM commander Army General Joseph Votel concentrated on the status of U.S. operations against ISIS in Syria and against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but he also affirmed that the containment of China and Russia has become an integral part of CENTCOM’s future strategic mission: “The recently published National Defense Strategy rightly identifies the resurgence of great power competition as our principal national security challenge and we see the effects of that competition throughout the region.”

Through its support of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its efforts to gain influence with other key actors in the region, Russia, Votel claimed, is playing an increasingly conspicuous role in CENTCOM’s AOR. China is also seeking to enhance its geopolitical clout both economically and through a small but growing military presence. Of particular concern, Votel asserted, is the Chinese-managed port at Gwadar in Pakistan on the Indian Ocean and a new Chinese base in Djibouti on the Red Sea, across from Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Such facilities, he claimed, contribute to China’s “military posture and force projection” in CENTCOM’s AOR and are signals of a challenging future for the U.S. military.

Under such circumstances, Votel testified, it is incumbent upon CENTCOM to join PACOM and EUCOM in resisting Chinese and Russian assertiveness. “We have to be prepared to address these threats, not just in the areas in which they reside, but the areas in which they have influence.” Without providing any details, he went on to say, “We have developed… very good plans and processes for how we will do that.”

What that means is unclear at best. But despite Donald Trump’s campaign talk about a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria once ISIS and the Taliban are defeated, it seems increasingly clear that the U.S. military is preparing to station its forces in those (and possibly other) countries across CENTCOM’s region of responsibility indefinitely — fighting terrorism, of course, but also ensuring that there will be a permanent U.S. military presence in areas that could see intensifying geopolitical competition among the major powers.

An Invitation to Disaster

Russia Victory Parade Rehearsal
Russian army soldiers drive their tanks along the Red Square during a general rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade.

In relatively swift fashion, American military leaders have followed up their claim that the U.S. is in a new long war by sketching the outlines of a containment line that would stretch from the Korean Peninsula around Asia across the Middle East into parts of the former Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and finally to the Scandinavian countries. Under their plan, American military forces — reinforced by the armies of trusted allies — should garrison every segment of this line, a grandiose scheme to block hypothetical advances of Chinese and Russian influence that, in its global reach, should stagger the imagination. Much of future history could be shaped by such an outsized effort.

Questions for the future include whether this is either a sound strategic policy or truly sustainable. Attempting to contain China and Russia in such a manner will undoubtedly provoke countermoves, some undoubtedly difficult to resist, including cyber attacks and various kinds of economic warfare.

And if you imagined that a war on terror across huge swaths of the planet represented a significant global overreach for a single power, just wait. Maintaining large and heavily-equipped forces on three extended fronts will also prove exceedingly costly and will certainly conflict with domestic spending priorities and possibly provoke a divisive debate over the reinstatement of the draft.

However, the real question — unasked in Washington at the moment — is: Why pursue such a policy in the first place? Are there not other ways to manage the rise of China and Russia’s provocative behavior? What appears particularly worrisome about this three-front strategy is its immense capacity for confrontation, miscalculation, escalation, and finally actual war rather than simply grandiose war planning.

At multiple points along this globe-spanning line — the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, Syria, the South China Sea, and the East China Sea, to name just a few — forces from the U.S. and China or Russia are already in significant contact, often jostling for position in a potentially hostile manner. At any moment, one of these encounters could provoke a firefight leading to unintended escalation and, in the end, possibly all-out combat. From there, almost anything could happen, even the use of nuclear weapons.

Clearly, officials in Washington should be thinking hard before committing Americans to a strategy that will make this increasingly likely and could turn what is still long-war planning into an actual long war with deadly consequences.

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أين لبنان من العقوبات الأميركية على حزب الله؟

أين لبنان من العقوبات الأميركية على حزب الله؟

سبتمبر 29, 2018

Image result for ‫وفيق إبراهيم‬‎د. وفيق إبراهيم

مشروع العقوبات الأميركية الجديدة على حزب الله الذي حظي بإجماع مجلس النواب الأميركي مترقباً موافقة الشيوخ ليصبح قانوناً نافذاً. هذا المشروع يبدو وكأنه عقوبات على لبنان بكل فئاته ومكوّناته.

بأيّ حال فإنّ التسديد على التفاعلات الداخلية لمؤسسات حزب الله من جهة، وعلاقتها بالقطاعين العام والخاص من جهة ثانية، هي إعلان حرب اقتصادية عميقة على كامل لبنان، بما لا يميّز بين سني ومسيحي ودرزي وشيعي… الجميع تحت مرماها. وهذا يجب أن يستدعي تلقائياً صدور موقف رسمي مجابه لها ربما بحدود الإمكانات اللبنانية المتواضعة مع مواقف من القوى السياسية والاقتصادية والدينية المتنوّعة، ترفض تطبيق ما جاء في مضامينها القريبة والبعيدة.

هذه القرارات لمن يُدققُ في بنودها يكتشف على الفور أنها مشروع دفع لبنان نحو إفلاس قاتل، لكنها لا قدرة لها على عرقلة «جهادية حزب الله المفتوحة»، لأنه أصبح شديد الاندماج بالاقتصاد والاجتماع اللبناني وله ما يحميه في الإقليم من سورية الى العراق فإيران على مستوى الدول والشعوب. وهذا ليس مبالغة وإلا لما استهدفته السياسات الأميركية والإسرائيلية والسعودية والإماراتية بمثل هذه الشراسة والحدّة.

بداية ما هي هذه العقوبات وماذا تحتوي؟

اتسعت مراوحها بحيث تشمل مسؤولين حزبيين. وهذا أمر اعتاد الحزب عليه وكياناته السياسية والاقتصادية وشملت داعميه المتعاونين معه وإعلامه والمعلنين فيه والعاملين والمصارف والمؤسسات الرسمية اللبنانية وشركات البناء ومنع إعطاء التأشيرات الأميركية لكلّ من تشتبه أجهزة الأمن الأميركية به، وقسمي العلاقات الخارجية والامن الخارجي وتلفزيون المنار وراديو النور والمجموعة الإعلامية التي ترعى عشرات المحطات الإقليمية وأموال الزكاة والمؤسسات الاقتصادية الرسمية الخاصة التي يعتبرها الأمن الأميركي متعاملة مع حزب الله ومؤيديه بشكل أو بآخر.

وهنا يُدرك الخبراء فوراً أنّ هذه العقوبات تستهدف لبنان الاقتصادي الاجتماعي بخلفية شديدة السياسة باعتبار أنّ أيّ مسؤول حزبي يتعامل بالضرورة مع واحدة من هذه المؤسسات ما يجعله مستبعَداً آلياً من مجلسي الوزراء والنواب، وإلا فالعقوبات الأميركية تسري على كلّ هذه المؤسسات الدستورية.

فكيف يواصل لبنان إدارة نفسه وعلاقاته بالخارج؟

وعندما تصدر الهيئة الأميركية الراعية للعقوبات حظراً مصرفياً على أسماء معينة بالتعامل والتحويل فيتحوّل مصرف لبنان المركزي الى مؤسسة تُنفذ عقوبات مجلسي الشيوخ والنواب الأميركيين وليس اللبنانيين.

ويبدو أنّ حاكم مصرف لبنان رياض سلامة تبرّع قبل البدء بتنفيذ العقوبات بالإعلان أنّ لبنان مضطر لتنفيذ قوانين تصدرها دولة يتعامل العالم بأسره بعملتها «الدولار» وتتحكّم مصارفها بالعلاقات المصرفية والاقتصادية وحركة تبادل السلع.

لعلّ «الحاكم» هنا أراد استباق البدء بتطبيق العقوبات معلناً عجز مصرف لبنان عن مقاومتها فيرفع عن كاهله مسؤولية ما قد يرشُقُه بها أحد، خصوصاً حين يبدأ مصرف لبنان المركزي بالانبطاح أمام هيمنة الدولار الأميركي وأصحابه.

وينبثق سؤال ثانٍ: لماذا العقوبات الأميركية الآن؟ يجب فوراً ربطها بنتائج حروب الإقليم والحرب الأميركية الجديدة على سورية والتلاعب بالعراق وتسعير القتال في اليمن ومحاولات إنتاج ناتو عربي إسرائيلي بإشراف أميركي؟

لجهة الاقليم تتسارع التراجعات الأميركية في سورية حيث تحاول واشنطن من خلال آخر بؤر الإرهاب ومشروع الكرد في شرق وشمال غرب سورية تعطيل الحلّ السياسي الذي يجب أن يعكس النصر السياسي للدولة المنتصرة عسكرياً مع حلفائها. وهذا ما تحاول واشنطن إجهاضه، وتعمل على ضرب وحدة الدولة العراقية لامتصاص نجاحها في القضاء على الإرهاب وتشجيع السعودية وتحالفاتها على دكّ اليمن.

إنّ مجمل هذه التحركات الأميركية تبقى متواضعة على شراستها أمام مشروع الحرب الاقتصادية الكبرى على إيران ومشروع العقوبات على لبنان، وذلك لأنّ الدولتين السورية والعراقية المستهدفتين لديهما من الإمكانات العسكرية والاقتصادية ما يكفيهما للصمود، كما أنّ اليمن يصمد منذ سنين ثلاث أمام الهمجية السعودية وهذه تراوح مكانها وتتجه للتراجع والانكسار.

لذلك يضع الأميركيون كامل ثقلهم ابتداء من تشرين الثاني المقبل لشنّ أكبر حرب اقتصادية لم يسبق لبلد قبل إيران أن تعرّض لمثلها وبقي صامداً.

والهدف واضح وهو إعادة الإمساك بمحور لبنان سورية العراق وإيران واليمن الذي خسرته السياسات الأميركية المعتمدة على الإرهاب وتركيا وقطر والسعودية و»إسرائيل» لإعادة تحسين مواقعها.

فكيف يمكن لواشنطن أن تربح سياسياً ما خسرته عسكرياً؟ هذه هي الإجابة الكاشفة لأسباب الحروب الاقتصادية الأميركية على إيران وقريباً على لبنان، ودواعي عرقلتها للحلول السياسية في سورية والعراق واليمن. فهي تعتبر أنّ تفتيت إيران الذي قد ينتج من خنقها اقتصادياً وتدمير قوة حزب الله في لبنان كفيلان باسترجاعها كلّ ما خسرته في الميادين.

هذا في إطار نيات المخططين فماذا عن قدرات المستهدفين؟

لجهة حزب الله فأصبح يمتلك بنى اقتصادية مستقلة مدنية الطابع تعمل على خطوط تحالفاته السياسية والعسكرية. هذا بالإضافة الى تحقيقه اندماجاً لبنانياً بشكل أصبح يستحيل معه فك عرى الارتباط. بمعنى أنه لا تتجرأ قوة لبنانية سياسية على مجابهته علناً مع المشروع الأميركي الإسرائيلي السعودي. كما أصبح متعذراً دفع مؤسسات الدولة السياسية والاقتصادية للاندماج في حركة الذين يستهدفونه، فكيف يمكن لمصرف لبنان المركزي مهما بلغت قوة حاكمه سلامة وارتباطات هذا الأخير بخط حزب المستقبل السعودي وبالأميركيين مباشرة، فلن يكون بوسعه تطبيق عقوبات أميركية بمعزل عن موافقة ايّ مجلس وزراء لا بدّ أن يُشكل حزب الله ضامناً أساسياً لاستمراره وبالتالي لاستقرار البلد. وهذا ليس بالفرض والإكراه إنما لما يمثله حزب الله على مستوى الاجتماع اللبناني. ويكفيه ما قاله عنه رئيس الجمهورية ميشال عون الذي أكد على دوره في التصدي للاحتلال الإسرائيلي والإرهاب.

هناك نقطة إضافية تؤكد انّ حزب الله يقاتل من أجل الدفاع عن إيران لأنها دعمته في حروبه ضدّ «إسرائيل» والإرهاب في سورية مع الإقرار بوجود تقاطعات ايديولوجية عميقة ولن يدّخر جهداً في سبيل الذوْد عنها في وجه الحرب الاقتصادية الأميركية، لكنه لن يتأذى من محاصرتها وتخطي أجهزة المخابرات الأميركية والخليجية عندما تعتقد أنّ التضييق الاقتصادي على إيران يؤدّي تلقائياً الى إفلاس حزب الله وانحساره اجتماعياً. فهذا تبسيط لا تقبله حتى «إسرائيل». فرئيس وزرائها نتنياهو أعلن ما يشبه الحرب العسكرية على لبنان والعراق، مشدّداً على نيات كيانه باستهداف حزب الله والحشد الشعبي معتبراً انهما منظمات إيرانية.

ومن الممكن اعتبار هذا التصريح الإسرائيلي نقلاً لحرب أميركية اقتصادية على إيران فاشلة سلفاً الى حروب عسكرية واقتصادية على إيران والعراق ولبنان.

لذلك تدعو هذه الاحتمالات الخطرة الدولة اللبنانية والقوى السياسية للطوائف والمذاهب والمراكز الدينية إلى أخذ عملية استهداف حزب الله على أنه تصويب على الكيان السياسي اللبناني لتوزيعه جوائز ترضية في نزاعات الإقليم فيصبح الندم عديم الجدوى، أما المراهنات على نجاحات أميركية سعودية جديدة لتشكيل حكومة لبنانية بهيمنة من محمد بن سلمان فلا ترقى إلا الى مستوى طفولية سياسية تمارس سياسات تستند الى الأحلام وتستبعد أثر موازنات القوى على بناء المؤسسات الدستورية والسياسية.

أليست هذه الأوهام من أوصل لبنان الى تضخم هائل في الديون والإخفاقات والعجز؟

يجب اذاً استيلاد تضامن لبناني كامل يحمي البلاد من أكثر الاستهدافات التي تتعرّض لها منذ الاستقلال وحتى تاريخه.

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