EMPEROR TRUMP NOW STANDS PARTIALLY NAKED

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A child exposing the nakedness of the emperor by speaking truth to power?

Not these days.

More than half of the United States — not just liberals and the left but also the mainstream media and some Republicans — has been shouting at Emperor Trump for months on end that he has no clothes. These declarations have fallen on deaf ears, for Donald Trump is constitutionally incapable of acknowledging his own flaws.

Also, there are still plenty of people telling Trump what he wants to hear. The president is surrounded by family members, advisors, and careerists who have refused to acknowledge the simple truth that the White House has been occupied for more than three years by a person that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson once called King Moron (oops, I misquote: he actually said a “f**king moron”).

In the last week, however, this picture has begun to change. Three important clothiers of the president have said that maybe the commander-in-chief has been experiencing a wardrobe malfunction all along.

Twitter, Justin Trudeau, and James Mattis all took their turns in the spotlight recently to challenge the American president. Representing three important constituencies — social media, the Pentagon, and the international community — all three in their own way have chipped away at Trump’s power.

True, they have all provided important cover for the naked leader in the past. Also, their statements could have been clearer calls to arms. But now, all three can help precipitate the “run for the exit” moment that will spell Trump’s downfall.

We’ll have to wait until November to be sure, but the president might have effectively lost his reelection bid this month, well before Election Day.

Social Media

Donald Trump once wooed the mainstream media. He chatted up gossip columnists. He pretended over the phone that he was his own publicist, singing the praises of his boss. He so desperately wanted to be on the cover of Time that he created dummy versions of the magazine proclaiming that “Trump is hitting on all fronts” and hung them in at least five of his golf clubs. Throughout, he groused that the media was not sufficiently flattering.

Twitter provided Trump with the ideal solution to his chronic need for attention. He no longer had to rely on the media and instead could communicate directly to his followers. He could simultaneously disparage the mainstream media as “fake news” and dispense his own fake news by tweet.

In the first three years of his presidency, Trump fired off more than 11,000 tweets. Many of them were rambling attacks on his opponents (somehow Trump manages to be rambling in under 280 characters). But some of them were actual policy announcements or served some other tactical purpose.

Twitter wasn’t simply a tool of the presidency. It became the presidency.

According to this New York Times analysis of this incessant Twitterstorm:

Early on, top aides wanted to restrain the president’s Twitter habit, even considering asking the company to impose a 15-minute delay on Mr. Trump’s messages. But 11,390 presidential tweets later, many administration officials and lawmakers embrace his Twitter obsession, flocking to his social media chief with suggestions. Policy meetings are hijacked when Mr. Trump gets an idea for a tweet, drawing in cabinet members and others for wordsmithing. And as a president often at war with his own bureaucracy, he deploys Twitter to break through logjams, overrule, or humiliate recalcitrant advisers and pre-empt his staff.

Twitter has helped Trump. And Trump has helped poison Twitter.

Although the social media giant has had no problem deleting praise for the Islamic State, it hasn’t shown comparable due diligence toward white nationalism. According to an account of a discussion at a Twitter staff meeting, a technical employee explained that “on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda.”

With the compliance of social media platforms, Trump and his coterie of Republican extremists have helped to mainstream otherwise marginal content.

But that tide might be turning. At the end of May, Twitter took the unprecedented step of labeling two of Trump’s tweets, directing readers to accurate sources of information on mail-in balloting and announcing that Trump had violated its policies on glorifying violence. Then, last week, Twitter took down an account that retweeted all of Trump’s utterances, again for violating its policies.

Trump, predictably, went ballistic. He lashed out on Twitter (the man is impervious to irony). He retaliated with an executive order to lift some of the liability protections on social media companies.

It’s not as if Trump is going to abandon his principle mode of communication. This last weekend, after all, he broke his own Twitter record by sending out 200 Tweets in a 24-hour period, including 74 in one hour. By increasing the outflow of his firehose, Trump seems to be daring Twitter to keep up with its labels.

Twitter hasn’t deplatformed Trump, as it has some other darlings of the alt-right. It let slide Trump’s latest Twitter outrage — promoting a conspiracy theory about a Buffalo protestor injured by the police — because the use of a question mark marked it as “speculative” (Really? Really??).

But with its labels, Twitter is finally saying that no one is above the law — the admittedly loose laws of the internet — not even the president of the United States.

Justin Trudeau

In the United States, we are still talking about the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that a cop knelt on George Floyd’s neck, killing him.

In Canada, they’re talking about 21 seconds.

That’s the pause that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to answer a question on Trump’s threat to use the military against those protesting Floyd’s death. Trudeau could have used that time to criticize Trump directly. Instead, after his long pause, he chose to speak of the problems facing people of color in his own country. “There is systemic racism in Canada,” he said.

Trump has never hesitated to lambaste other heads of state. He called Trudeau “two-faced” as well as “very dishonest and weak.” He labeled comments by Emanuel Macron “very, very nasty.” He criticized comments of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen as “nasty and inappropriate.” With comments about friends like these, you can imagine how Trump tongue-lashes his enemies.

For the most part, the international community has quietly tolerated Trump. They’ve delivered tersely worded rebuttals. They’ve made fun of him behind his back. But they haven’t directly or personally criticized him.

Given the power of the United States, it’s unlikely that the leader of an allied country will take the president to task. So, perhaps the best we can hope for is 21 seconds of silence, during which the rest of us can voice the thoughts we think are going through Justin Trudeau’s mind.

Maybe it’s because I worked for a Quaker organization for many years, but I think that sometimes silence can speak volumes.

James Mattis

Former Pentagon chief Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis was one of the more prominent “adults in the room” who were supposed to rein in Trump. He failed. He resigned in December 2018 after disagreeing with Trump’s push to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. When he resigned and later when he published his memoir the following year, Mattis kept his thoughts on Trump to himself.

Last week, Mattis broke his silence with a remarkable statement in The Atlantic criticizing the president’s threatened use of the military against protesters. He said, in part:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.

In all my years as a protester, I have never witnessed someone of Mattis’s background and standing actually side with folks on the street. “The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values — our values as people and our values as a nation,” he said.

It wasn’t just Mattis. Former chair of the joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen wrote a similar condemnation of Trump as did former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan John Allen. It was the journalistic equivalent of D-Day, with the generals landing their forces on Omaha Beach in the hopes of dethroning their adversary several months hence.

Yes, yes, I know: Mattis, Mullen, and Allen are no leftists. You can’t even call them liberals or moderates. Andy Kroll is right to point out in Rolling Stone that these are “the same military leaders who endorsed and defended a policy of forever war that has led to tens of thousands of American deaths, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and Afghans and Syrians and Yemenis and Pakistanis, hundreds of thousands of injuries physical and mental suffered by U.S. service members, and many billions of taxpayer dollars poured into endless conflict.”

Kroll is both right and spectacularly off the mark. After all, Donald Trump similarly dismissed Colin Powell’s endorsement of Joe Biden by linking him to America’s failed wars.

The fact that these old establishment figures have blood on their hands is precisely the point. Noam Chomsky denouncing Donald Trump is not news. Everyone expects the leaders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to criticize the president. I’ve been slamming Trump from day one of his presidency (and many months before), but I doubt my preaching goes very far beyond the choir.

All the attacks on Trump from left and center are what journalists call “dog bites man.” It’s no surprise. But “Mad Dog bites man”? That’s a different story altogether.

The military has been the most trusted institution in U.S. society for decades. According to Gallup, it enjoyed a 73 percent approval rating in 2019 — compared to 38 percent for both the presidency and the Supreme Court, 36 percent for organized religion, and 11 percent for Congress.

People listen to the military. And by people, here I mean folks who voted for Donald Trump, continue to support the president, and are still thinking about voting for him in November.

As importantly, these generals are willing to take enemy fire — from Fox News, from crazy Internet trolls, from the president himself—so that other former Trump enablers might be more willing to stand up and speak their minds.

Immediately after Mattis waded into the debate, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) confessed her concerns about Trump and said that she hasn’t made up her mind about who to support in November. Francis Rooney, a Republican member of Congress from Florida, is now leaning toward Biden. A number of prominent Republicans won’t vote for Trump, but they also are reluctant to say so in public.

This doesn’t exactly constitute a surge. A solid core of the party remains firmly behind the president. The more telegenic version of Trump, Tom Cotton (R-AR), is enjoying a swell of support after The New York Times criticized its own handling of the senator’s incendiary and inaccurate piece, “Send in the Military.” So far, Mattis has not played the role of the journalist Edward R. Murrow taking down the demagogue Joe McCarthy.

But you have to believe that statements from Mattis and others are at least going to introduce an element of doubt into the minds of some true believers. Active duty soldiers and veterans who voted for Trump — he received 61 percent of the veteran vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s 34 percent — might just heed the generals. And the latest polls suggest that both older Americans and white Americans are starting to abandon Trump.

I don’t expect Mitch McConnell or Tom Cotton to denounce Trump. Much of the Republican Party will loyally follow the president into his White House bunker. But thanks to the truth-telling of Mattis and others, everyone else will be laughing all the way to the polls at the emperor stripped bare by his enablers.


By John Feffer
Source: Foreign Policy In Focus

Trump Shares Letter That Calls Peaceful Protesters “Terrorists”

Trump Shares Letter That Calls Peaceful Protesters “Terrorists”

By Staff, Agencies

US President Donald Trump on Thursday shared a letter on Twitter that referred to the peaceful protesters who were forcibly dispersed from a park near the White House on Monday evening as “terrorists.”

The letter from veteran attorney and former Trump lawyer John Dowd appears to be addressed to former Secretary of War James Mattis and rebuts Mattis’ Wednesday statement castigating Trump’s response to the nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“The phony protesters near Lafayette were not peaceful and are not real,” Dowd’s letter claimed, without citing any evidence. “They are terrorists using idle hate filled students to burn and destroy. They were abusing and disrespecting the police when the police were preparing the area for the 1900 curfew.”

Trump’s decision to share the letter and its shocking description of Americans exercising their constitutional rights comes as he continues to lean into his strongman approach to the ongoing demonstrations. On Monday, he declared himself “your President of law and order” as the peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with gas, flash bangs and rubber bullets, apparently so he could visit a nearby church.

He remained at the boarded-up building, brandishing a Bible for the cameras, for only a matter of minutes before returning to the White House.

The letter drew condemnation from the Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit organization.

“Donald Trump just crossed a very serious line that demands swift and forceful condemnation by every Member of Congress,” said the group’s interim executive director, Air Force veteran Jennifer Dane. “Promoting a letter that labels American citizens peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights as ‘terrorists’ is an egregious breach of his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Now more than ever, it is absolutely crucial that Trump be held accountable for his reckless actions.”

The episode followed nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis.

In response to the President’s approach, Mattis released a statement Wednesday cautioning that the US “must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’ “

“At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict – a false conflict – between the military and civilian society,” Mattis wrote.

The President has repeatedly defended his response to the protests and even tweeted later Thursday evening that he didn’t have a problem with the National Guard helicopter that was seen flying low over protesters in Washington on Monday night.

The District of Columbia National Guard is investigating the matter and an inquiry has also been requested by Secretary of War Mark Esper.

“The problem is not the very talented, low-flying helicopter pilots wanting to save our city, the problem is the arsonists, looters, criminals, and anarchists, wanting to destroy it [and our Country]!” Trump tweeted.

The helicopter had a “stated mission” in part to “deter” criminal activity including rioting and looting by keeping a presence overhead, according to a defense official who has direct knowledge of the orders the crew was given. The official declined to be identified because the Washington National Guard is now investigating whether flights were conducted appropriately.

The Lakota UH-72 was also supposed to also deter “unlawful assembly,” provide medical evacuation from the crowd if needed and provide surveillance to command and control for force protection, the official said.

The investigation, the official said, is focusing on how those orders resulted in the low-level flights, which sent debris flying and intimidated civilians, the official said.

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Did Trump just cancel a potential double-war?

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Did Trump just cancel a potential double-war?
Just as Hezbollah destroyed the myth of Israeli impunity, Iran destroyed the myth of US impunity.

At this time of writing, it is too early to declare the danger over, but at least three out of five Iranian tankers have made it safely to Venezuela (confirmation from TeleSur and PressTV). Furthermore, while we should never say “never”, it appears exceedingly unlikely that the US would let three tankers pass only to then try to impede the arrival of the other two. So it ain’t over until its over, but as of right now things look way better than last week.

Besides, this is mostly a symbolic issue. While these 5 tankers will make a difference, it won’t be a huge one, especially considering the devastating consequences which the US sanctions, sabotage and subversion have inflicted on Venezuela.

Still, symbols are important, if only because they create a precedent. In fact, I would argue that the latest climbdown by Trump is no different than all his other climbdowns: Trump has had a very consistent record of threatening fire and brimstone before quietly deflating walking away. And since he did that many times now, we have to wonder whether this strategy is effective or not?

One could argue that this strategy could be described by saying that you put the maximum pressure on the other side in the hope that the bluff will entice the adversary to fold. This could be a semi-credible argument where it not for a very simple but crucial problem: so far the other guys have never folded. In other words, Trump’s bluff has been called over and over again, and each time Trump had to quietly deflate.

Some will say that this only proves that Trump is truly a peace-loving President who, unlike his predecessors, does not want to go to war. But then, what about the cruise missile strikes on Syria? What about the murder of Soleimani?

Truth be told, the kindest thing we can say about this strategy (assuming that it is a strategy to begin with, not the evidence of a total lack of one) is that it is tantamount to yelling “fire!” in a crowded movie theater: the fact that Trump did not set any movie theater ablaze hardly justifies his yelling “fire” in such a dangerous environment. The perfect example of this kind of irresponsible behavior is the murder of General Soleimani which truly brought the US and Iran a millimeter away from a real, full-scale war.

Furthermore, while I salute Trump’s climbing down following the Iranian strikes, I also believe that in doing so he hurt the international image of the US. Why? Think about this: this is the first time ever (if I am not mistaken) that the US was the object of a major military strike coming from another state-actor and did not retaliate. In the past and until this Spring, the US always held the view that if anybody dares to mess with it this would result in very serious consequences. Thus the US upheld a world order in which some where a lot more equal than others. Specifically, “others” had to meekly accept US strikes and shut up whereas Uncle Shmuel could strike left and right and expect no retaliation.

By “accepting” the Iranian counter-strike, Trump did essentially place an “equal” sign between Iran and the US. He probably never understood that, but in the region this was understood by all.

Just as Hezbollah destroyed the myth of Israeli impunity, Iran destroyed the myth of US impunity.

Still, I will always prefer the politician who does not start a war (for whatever reason) to one who would. I also have no doubt whatsoever that Hillary would have started one, or even several, wars. But the fact that Hillary would have been even worse than Trump is hardly a reason to start fawning about Trump’s brilliant “5D chess” genius or peace-loving policies…

Trump reminds of a guy pointing a gun a people in the street only to later say “but it was a toy gun, I never meant to really shoot anybody”. This is definitely better than shooting people with a real gun, but this is hardly a sign of maturity or intelligence.

The other problem with this “strategy” (let’s assume for argument’s sake that this is a strategy of some kind): each time the “indispensable nation” and “sole hyperpower” has to climb down, it increasingly looks like a paper tiger. Not looking like such a paper tiger is probably the mean reason behind Michael Ledeen’s famous wordsEvery ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business“. In a strictly evil and imperialistic sense, Ledeen’s strategy makes a lot more sense than what Trump has been doing.

As Marx famously said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce“. The outcome of what some now call the “Battle of Macuto Bay” is a perfect example of this: if the Bay of Pigs was the “root case” then the disaster in Grenada was the tragedy and the Battle of Macuto Bay the real farce.

Humor can be a devastating weapon and anybody who has studied the late Soviet Union (in the late Brezhnev years and after) knows how the Russian people ridiculed the Soviet leaders with literally thousands of jokes.

A real imperialist would much rather be hated than ridiculed, and while Trump himself probably does not realize that he is the laughingstock of the planet, his aides and deep state bosses most definitely do and that is very, very dangerous.

Why?

Because the pressure to, once again, “ pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall” increases with each climbdown (see my article “Each “Click” Brings Us One Step Closer to the “Bang!” for a fuller discussion of this).

Besides, finding an even smaller and weaker country than Venezuela will be hard (maybe the Island of Saba? or Grenada again? who knows?). And potentially very dangerous.

The other problem is predictability. Any international system requires that its most powerful actors be predictable. In contrast, when a major international actors acts in what appears to be unpredictable, irrational or irresponsible manner, this puts the entire stability of the system at risk.

This, by the way, is also why it is so disastrous that the US has withdrawn from so many international organizations or treaties: the participation in international organizations and treaties indicate that the US is willing to play by the same rules as everybody else. The fact that the US is ditching so many of its former international obligations only shows that the US has gone rogue and is from now on totally unpredictable.

Finally, there are also lessons for Moscow here, the main one being that when confronted with a determined adversary, the Empire tries to bluff, but eventually folds. True, Moscow has to be much more careful than Tehran simply because the consequences of a US-Russian war would be dramatically worse than even a major conflict in the Middle-East. Yet it is also true that over the past years the Russian armed forces did have the time to prepare for such a conflict and that now Russia is ready for pretty much anything the US could try to throw at her, at least in purely military terms.

In contrast to the military posture of Russia, the political environment in Russia has changed for the worse: there is now a potentially very dangerous “hardline” opposition to Putin which I have christened the “6th column”, as opposed to the liberal and pro-western 5th column. What these two “columns” have in common is that they both will categorically oppose pretty much anything and everything Putin does. The 6th column, in particular, has a seething hatred for Putin which is even more rabid than what the liberal 5th column usually express. Check out this excellent video by Ruslan Ostashko, who prefers the term “emo-Marxists” and who very accurately describes these folks. Whether we think of them as 6th-columnists or emo-Marxists does not matter, what matters is that these folks are eager to act like a soundboard for any and all anti-Putin rumors and fakes. While Putin certainly has his flaws, and while the economic policies of the Medvedev, and now Mishustin, government are a far cry from what most Russians would want, it is also true that these two “columns” are objectively doing the bidding of the Empire, which could present a real problem if the current pandemic-induced economic crisis in Russia is not tackled more effectively by the government.

I have always said that Iran, while being much weaker than Russia, has consistently shown much more courage in its dealings with the Empire than Russia. Furthermore, Iran’s policies are primarily dictated by moral and spiritual considerations (like in the case of Iran’s principled stance on occupied Palestine) while Russian policies are much more “pragmatic” (which is really a euphemism for self-serving). But then, Iran is an Islamic Republic whereas Russia still has to develop some kind of unifying and original worldview.

Conclusion:

For all his innumerable negative character traits and other flaws, it remains true that Trump has not launched a major war (so far). Yes, he has brought the world to the brink several times, but so far he has not plunged the world into a major conflict. How much of the credit for this truly should go personally to him is very debatable (maybe cooler heads in the military prevailed, I think of folks like General Mattis who, reportedly, was the one who stopped the US from seriously attacking Syria and settled for a symbolic strike). Some Russian analysts (Andrei Sidorov) even believe that the US is in no condition to fight any war, no matter how small. Furthermore, most (all?) Russian analysts also believe that the US is fully committed to a full-spectrum information and economic war to try to economically strangle both Russia and China. I think that it would be fair to say that nobody in Russia believes that the relationship with Trump’s US can, or will, improve. The tone in China is also changing, especially since the US has now launched a major anti-China strategic PSYOP. In other words, the US is merrily continuing down its current road which leads it to a simultaneous confrontation with not one, or even two, countries, but with a list of countries which seems to grow every day. So while it is true that in this case Trump appears to have canceled two wars, we should not assume that he won’t soon start one, if only to deflect the blame for his total mismanagement of the COVID19 crisis. Should that happen, we can only hope that all the “resistance countries” and movement will provide as much support as possible to whomever the Empire attacks next.

China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

May 22, 2020

China, the World System and Brazilian dystopia

By Fábio Reis Vianna for the Saker Blog

When Admiral Cheng Ho ordered the retreat of his naval fleet around the year 1424, he left, in the words of the anthropologist Abu-Lughod, “a huge power vacuum”. The first great Chinese expansionist project, started during the Ming Dynasty, was prematurely interrupted there.

After impressive naval expeditions that reached territories as far away as the Indian Ocean and the coast of Africa, and in a decision not yet fully clarified by scholars of the subject, China would abruptly give up the first great expansionist project on a global scale.

It would take no more than 70 years for the Europeans to occupy the great void left by the Chinese and actually begin the adventure that gave rise to what we today call world system.

Six centuries later, China led by Xi Jinping finds itself in an unprecedented crisis in its recent successful history as the undisputed leader of the globalization process. The Covid-19 pandemic that abruptly hits the entire planet, for China in particular, was a hard blow that created an imbalance in its model of political and economic stability.

In the first three months of 2020, trade between China and the rest of the world fell by 6.4%, a figure unthinkable by Chinese standards. In particular, trade with the United States, the European Union and Japan declined 18.3%, 10.4% and 8.1% respectively.

Even with the strong decrease of contagion within Chinese territory, there is a great concern to accelerate the reopening of productive activities. The concern with increasing poverty and political destabilization are evident. In his recent visit to Shaanxi province, Xi Jinping made a point of underlining in his speech the importance of the fight against poverty.

In addition to incentives to businesses, investments in infrastructure and financial aid to the population, a series of structural reforms are planned to enable the country to overcome the terrible crisis triggered by Covid-19. An important annual session of the National People’s Congress is scheduled for May 22nd, and more details can be examined there.

Meanwhile, Brazil, one of the countries that in the recent past could be considered one of the most important allies of the Eurasian integration project outside Eurasia, is experiencing the greatest political-economic crisis in its entire history and is sinking deeper and deeper into an unprecedented internal war.

Something that is being discussed internally among the Chinese establishment is precisely the creation of mechanisms to contain the risk of instability that the social tensions arising from economic difficulties could trigger.

Brazil had already been experiencing cascading crises that had accumulated year after year since June 2013, when the country was the target of a destabilization process – or hybrid war – that triggered a series of other more or less orchestrated events (such as the lawfare against specific targets) that culminated in the weakening of institutions that had been strengthened since the enactment of the 1988 Constitution.

To make matters worse, and in contrast to the Chinese stance in seeking to contain internal instability, the country is astonished at the erratic attitudes of President Bolsonaro, under the consenting silence of his military orbits.

Having been chosen to occupy the highest position in the Republic, in all probability during the fateful visit of the then American secretary of defense, James Mattis “Mad Dog”, in August 2018 (two months before the presidential elections), when in a peculiar and closed meeting between the American and the High Command of the Armed Forces the password was given, and Bolsonaro was anointed to the mission to prevent the return of the left and realign Brazil to the satellite condition of the United States.

Everything leads us to believe that the crumbling of the Brazilian institutions has lit a warning signal within the Brazilian Armed Forces, which, in a mixture of sincere concern and sense of opportunity, took advantage of the power vacuum to move forward in the resumption of a protagonism that has been dormant for over 30 years.

Many forget, but the presence of the military – and especially the army – in the Brazilian political tradition dates back to the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, which opened the series of military coups that guided the entire Republican period to this day.

It is worth remembering that the occupation of strategic positions by the military became more visible when the current Minister of Defense, Fernando Azevedo e Silva, strangely, was appointed by the president of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, to the position of special advisor.

Curiously, this has been happening in the month of September 2018 (between the visit of Secretary James Mattis and the election of Bolsonaro), where Dias Toffoli said he would have invited General Azevedo e Silva after requesting a nomination to the then commander of the army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas.

General Villas Bôas is the same man who, in April 2018, wrote on Twitter a veiled threat to the ministers of the Supreme Court if they found the habeas corpus request of former President Lula to be justified. The day after the constitutional remedy was judged, former President Lula would have his arrest ordered by then-judge Sergio Moro.

As a kind of Ayatollah, General Villas Bôas reproduces a classic character of Brazilian politics until the 1950s: the military chief.

At that time, personified by the figure of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, the military chief was a kind of “guardian of morals and good customs” of the nation and justified the political action of the military as holders of an unwritten “moderating power”. In this way, the military attributed themselves to the exercise of the “veto power” of the Republic. In the context of the Cold War, the power of veto was invoked to curb the communist threat.

After more than 60 years, and when many thought that the Brazilian Armed Forces would be totally professionalized and away from politics, we find ourselves led by an Executive Power integrated by no less than 3 thousand military personnel; not to mention the eight ministries occupied by men in uniform.

As in a trench battle, the military had been advancing day after day in the control and tutelage of state organs and institutions of the Republic, but if there was a well articulated strategy of occupation of power, with the arrival of Covid-19 the pieces definitely shuffled.

Today Brazil is moving forward to become the world epicenter of Covid-19, and as the pandemic seems to get out of control, the more the military tries to control the internal systemic chaos.

Moreover, if before Covid-19 there was some cohesion in the Brazilian establishment around the neoliberal reforms carried out by the Ministry of Economy, with the bursting of the health crisis, it is every day more evident the split between business sectors, the big media, the National Congress and the Judiciary, which are now frontally positioned in opposition to the government.

The recent meetings between the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, and the President of the Supreme Court, Dias Toffoli, with the Minister “eminence parda” of the Palácio do Planalto, General Braga Netto, were a subtle attempt at intimidation and framing of two of the most important civil authorities of the Republic by the Bolsonaro government.

At the same time that the basements of the government’s disinformation machine slanders adversaries and agitates the low ranks of the Armed Forces and the military police of the states (its faithful allies), the country sinks in what is certainly the greatest existential crisis in its history.

As if all this were not enough, the rest of the world coexists with the prospect of incurring a public debt only seen, according to the British magazine The Economist, “amid the rubble of 1945”.

Beyond the health crisis itself, the economic consequences of the post-Pandemic will be devastating from the fiscal point of view, because the compulsory closure of industry, offices and various segments of the service sector will certainly bring about a fall in government revenues.

As many analysts have already noted, the world is experiencing the exact moment of transition between what no longer exists and what is yet to be born.

Even before the pandemic, the acceleration of interstate competition is noticeable, which denotes the phenomenon of deconcentration of power that throughout the history of the world system always occurs in periods of decline in the long cycles of international politics.

Something that the Brazilian elites, especially the military elites – psychologically trapped in imaginary enemies such as Chinese communists and “cultural Marxists” – have not yet realized, is the dimension of Brazil’s importance in the geopolitical context of this new century that is beginning.

With the shattering of Bretton Woods institutions and the liberal order hegemonized by the United States, the world draws – and we are all characters – a systemic configuration that has not yet been defined. In process.

As it had happened between about 1550 and 1640, when the world, still dominated by the powerful Spain, saw the movements of contestation to the empire that had built its power in the newly discovered America flourish.

Trapped by the wealth of gold and the medieval system of government that no longer corresponded to reality, the Habsburgs – in their alliance with the papacy – fought so that their hegemony would not disintegrate amid the rise of the newest actors in the system, namely, France, Holland, Sweden and England.

At that time, Europe was swallowed up by an unprecedented escalation of wars stemming from those new realities of power whose new actors, emerging in the northwest of the old continent, were unwilling to submit to Spanish power.

The translation of that scenario was the deepening of the systemic chaos that would be pacified only with the advent of the Treaty of Westphalia. Any resemblance to the present world moment is no mere coincidence, at least for geopolitical scholars.

Going back to the year 2020, it is very likely that some aspects will prove to be clearer and bolder in the post-Pandemic. Technological competition, more visible around 5G, tends to radicalize in many other areas. And the search for natural/energy resources is already a reality and places not only Africa, but South America itself as the target of the new imperialist race that should also deepen.

For now, the Brazilian establishment is a mere spectator of the rapid changes that the world system will see in the coming years.

China, even though it has been severely hit by the Covid-19 meteor, is reinventing itself in its policy of global humanitarian aid to effectively combat the virus and is focusing its action on strengthening the Eurasian integration project; in particular the Belt and Road Initiative – BRI.

Demonstrating impressive resilience, despite the strong retraction in exports to central countries, the Chinese saw an increase of 3.2% with the New Silk Road countries. Although not comparable to previous years, it shows that BRI’s infrastructure projects have not been so strongly affected by the adverse effects of the health crisis.

Nothing more appropriate to the thought and conduct of Confucian cosmology, based beyond mere rambling, in a concrete act, an action.

Thus, the Chinese follow their journey towards the central helm of the world system, consciously absorbing the pillars of Western modernity, but without ever losing the essence of Confucian thought, the Tao-to that always seeks effectiveness beyond mere thought.

Next June marks seven years of uninterrupted political-institutional instability in Latin America’s largest country. May the history of the oldest peoples and the winds of change teach us to guide the helm of our own destiny.


Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws ( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.

White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War

By Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes – NYT

At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting War Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.

The development reflects the influence of Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

It is highly uncertain whether Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many American forces back to the Middle East.

It is also unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plans. On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”

There are sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East.

Some senior American officials said the plans, even at a very preliminary stage, show how dangerous the threat from Iran has become. Others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.

European allies who met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that they worry that tensions between Washington and Tehran could boil over, possibly inadvertently.

More than a half-dozen American national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity. Spokesmen for Shanahan and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.

The size of the force involved has shocked some who have been briefed on them. The 120,000 troops would approach the size of the American force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

But two of the American national security officials said Trump’s announced drawdown in December of American forces in Syria, and the diminished naval presence in the region, appear to have emboldened some leaders in Tehran and convinced the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that the United States has no appetite for a fight with Iran.

Several oil tankers were reportedly attacked or sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, raising fears that shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf could become flash points. “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens,” Mr. Trump said on Monday, asked about the episode.

Emirati officials are investigating the apparent sabotage, and American officials suspect that Iran was involved. Several officials cautioned, however, that there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the reported attacks. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman called it a “regretful incident,” according to a state news agency.

In Brussels, Pompeo met with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, cosignatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, as well as with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. He did not speak to the media, but the European officials said they had urged restraint upon Washington, fearing accidental escalation that could lead to conflict with Iran.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended really on either side,” said Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary.

The Iranian government has not threatened violence recently, but last week, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would walk away from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal it reached with world powers. Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement a year ago, but European nations have urged Iran to stick with the deal and ignore Trump’s provocations.

The high-level review of the Pentagon’s plans was presented during a meeting about broader Iran policy. It was held days after what the Trump administration described, without evidence, as new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilizing proxy groups in Iraq and Syria to attack American forces.

As a precaution, the Pentagon has moved an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile interceptor battery and more naval firepower to the gulf region.

At last week’s meeting, Shanahan gave an overview of the Pentagon’s planning, then turned to General Dunford to detail various force options, officials said. The uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.

Among those attending Thursday’s meeting were Shanahan; Bolton; General Dunford; Gina Haspel, the CIA director; and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

“The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday in an email. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend US personnel and interests in the region.”

The reduction of forces in the Middle East in recent years has been propelled by a new focus on China, Russia and a so-called Great Powers competition. The most recent National Military Strategy — released before Bolton joined the Trump administration — concluded that while the Middle East remains important, and Iran is a threat to American allies, the United States must do more to ensure a rising China does not upend the world order.

As recently as late April, an American intelligence analysis indicated that Iran had no short-term desire to provoke a conflict…

On May 5, Bolton announced the first of new deployments to the Persian Gulf, including bombers and an aircraft carrier.

It is not clear to American intelligence officials what changed Iran’s posture. But intelligence and War Department officials said American sanctions have been working better than originally expected, proving far more crippling to the Iranian economy — especially after a clampdown on all oil exports that was announced last month.

Also in April, the State Department designated the Revolutionary Guards a foreign ‘terrorist’ organization over objections from Pentagon and intelligence officials who feared reprisals from the Iranian military.

While much of the new intelligence appears to have focused on ‘Iran readying its proxy forces’, officials said they believed the most likely cause of a conflict will follow a provocative act, or outright attack, by the Revolutionary Guards’ navy. The Guards’ fleet of small boats has a history of approaching American Navy ships at high speed. Revolutionary Guards commanders have precarious control over their ill-disciplined naval forces.

Part of the updated planning appears to focus on what military action the United States might take if Iran resumes its nuclear fuel production, which has been frozen under the 2015 agreement. It would be difficult for the Trump administration to make a case that the United States was under imminent nuclear peril; Iran shipped 97 percent of its fuel out of the country in 2016, and currently does not have enough to make a bomb.

That could change if Iran resumes enriching uranium. But it would take a year or more to build up a significant quantity of material, and longer to fashion it into a weapon. That would allow, at least in theory, plenty of time for the United States to develop a response — like a further cutoff of oil revenues, covert action or military strikes.

The previous version of the Pentagon’s war plan included a classified subset code-named Nitro Zeus, a cyber operation that called for unplugging Iran’s major cities, its power grid and its military.

The idea was to use cyber weapons to paralyze Iran in the opening hours of any conflict, in hopes that it would obviate the need to drop any bombs or conduct a traditional attack. That plan required extensive presence inside Iran’s networks — called “implants” or “beacons” — that would pave the way for injecting destabilizing malware into Iranian systems.

Two officials said those plans have been constantly updated in recent years.

But even a cyberattack, without dropping bombs, carries significant risk. Iran has built up a major corps of its own, one that successfully attacked financial markets in 2012, a casino in Las Vegas and a range of military targets. American intelligence officials told Congress in January that Iranian hackers are now considered sophisticated operators who are increasingly capable of striking United States targets.

Since Bolton became national security adviser in April 2018, he has intensified the Trump administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran. The animus against Iran’s leaders dates back at least to his days as an official in the George W. Bush administration. Later, as a private citizen, Bolton called for military strikes on Iran, as well as regime change.

The newly updated plans were not the first time during the Trump administration that Bolton has sought military options to strike Iran.

This year, War Department and senior American officials said Bolton sought similar guidance from the Pentagon last year, after militants fired three mortars or rockets into an empty lot on the grounds of the United States Embassy in Baghdad in September.

In response to Bolton’s request, which alarmed Jim Mattis, then the war secretary, the Pentagon offered some general options, including a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility that would have been mostly symbolic.

But Mattis and other military leaders adamantly opposed retaliation for the Baghdad attack, successfully arguing that it was insignificant.

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Pentagon Obsession: China, China, China

Pentagon Obsession: China, China, China

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Strategic Culture) by special agreement with the author)

Chinese nuclear bombers. Chinese hypersonic missiles. Chinese carrier killer missiles. Chinese cyberattacks. Chinese anti-satellite weaponry. Chinese militarization of the South China Sea. Chinese Huawei spying.

So many Chinese “malign intentions”. And we’re not even talking about Russia.

Few people around the world are aware that the Pentagon for the moment is led by a mere “acting” Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan.

That did not prevent “acting” Secretary to shine in the red carpet when presenting the Trump administration’s 2020 Pentagon budget proposal – at $718 billion – to the Senate Armed Services Committee: the top US national security threat is, in his own (repeated) words, “China, China, China”.

“Acting” Shanahan has been in charge since Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis – the original butcher of Fallujah in 2004 – resigned last December. His former employer happened to be Boeing. The Pentagon’s inspector general is still investigating whether Shanahan was in fact acting as a no holds barred Boeing commercial asset whenever he met the Pentagon top brass.

That, of course, fits the classic Beltway “revolving door” pattern. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a Washington-based group, actually filed a complaint around the fact that “acting” Shanahan blasted Lockheed Martin, Boeing’s competitor, in every top-level Pentagon meeting.

Shanahan told the Senate, “China is aggressively modernizing its military, systematically stealing science and technology, and seeking military advantage through a strategy of military-civil fusion.”

That includes Beijing’s development of a nuclear-capable long-range bomber that, according to Shanahan, will put it on the same level as the US and Russia as the only global powers controlling air-, sea- and land-based nuclear weapons.

It’s essential to remember that Mattis and Shanahan are the main authors of the National Defense Strategy adopted by the Trump administration which accuses China of striving for “Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global pre-eminence in the future.”

Now compare it with

Col. Larry Wilkerson’s view; the whole Pentagon show is all about offense while Russia and China are always emphasizing defense.

Fighting the Trojan Horse

Even more enlightening is to directly compare the Pentagon approach with the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces under its chief, Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov.

Gerasimov identified “the US and its allies” as engaged in permanent war of all types, including “preparation for ‘global strike’, ‘multi-domain battle’, [and the] use of the technology of ‘color revolutions’ and ‘soft power’. Their goal is the elimination of the statehood of undesirable countries, undermining their sovereignty, changing the legitimately elected public authorities. Thus it was in Iraq, in Libya and in Ukraine. Now similar actions are observed in Venezuela.”

So there it is, graphically explained: Venezuela, geostrategically, is as important to Moscow as Syria and Ukraine.

Gerasimov also detailed how, “the Pentagon has begun to develop a fundamentally new strategy of warfare, which has been dubbed the ‘Trojan Horse’. Its essence lies in the active use of the ‘protest potential of the fifth column’ in order to destabilize the situation with simultaneous strikes by precision-guided weapons on the most important targets.”

Then the clincher; “The Russian Federation is ready to oppose every one of these strategies. In recent years, military scientists, together with the General Staff, have developed conceptual approaches to neutralize the aggressive actions of potential opponents. The field of research of military strategy is armed struggle, its strategic level. With the emergence of new areas of confrontation in modern conflicts, methods of struggle are increasingly shifting towards the integrated application of political, economic, information and other non-military measures, implemented with the support of military force.”

Call it Russia’s response to Made in USA Hybrid War. With the major incentive of being a value for money operation; after all the Russian General Staff, unlike the Pentagon, is not in the business, for all practical purposes, of stealing trillions of dollars from taxpayers for several decades.

There’s no question the Chinese leadership, not exactly adept at state of the art Hybrid War techniques, is studying the Russian military strategies in excruciating detail.

Of course this is all intrinsically linked to Putin’s leadership. Last month, in Moscow, Rostislav Ishchenko, arguably the top Russian analyst of the Ukraine saga, explained it to me in detail:

“Putin does not ‘take over the elites’ or ‘guide the nation.’ His genius lies in an acute intuitive sense of the strategic needs of the nation (which creates a strong feedback and causes absolute trust of the absolute majority of the people), but most importantly, he is a master of political compromise, understanding the importance of maintaining peace between different social, economic, and political groups within the country, to ensure its stability, prosperity, and international authority. Given that foreign policy is always a continuation of domestic policy, we can clearly trace his desire for compromise in Russian international activity.”

“Putin, Ishchenko added, “does not try to suppress the opponents even in those cases when Russia is unconditionally stronger and the result of the confrontation will clearly be in her favor. Putin understands that both the loser and the winner lose in the confrontation. Therefore, he always offers a compromise for a long time, almost to the last opportunity, even to those who clearly do not deserve it, moving to other solutions only after the opponent has clearly crossed all possible red lines and can pose a threat to the vital interests of Russia. An agreement based on consideration of each other’s interests is always stronger than any short-term ‘victories’, which tomorrow will result in the need to reaffirm their status of the winner again and again. It seems to me that Putin understands this well. Hence the effectiveness of his actions. You can also take a look at his team. These are professionals who adhere to a variety of ideological views (or do not adhere to any). The main thing is that they perform their work qualitatively. The ability to manage such a team is another of its undoubted advantages. After all, these are all ambitious people who are aware of their professionalism and are able to defend their opinion, which is not always the same for everyone. Nevertheless, they work as a single mechanism and achieve really great results.”

Watch out for Yoda’s hordes

To expect the same from the US industrial-military-surveillance complex would be idle.

In fact, “acting” Shanahan’s deputy, Under Secretary David Trachtenberg, doubled down when addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee; he said that Washington will not relinquish its self-attributed right for a nuclear first strike.

In his own words; “A ‘no-first use’ policy would erode US allies’ belief that they are protected.” As if all US allies were begging in unison to be “defended” by US nuclear bombs. In true “war is peace” mode, this Orwellian state of affairs is justified under the Pentagonese notion of “constructive ambiguity”.

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) exhibits a long list of causes that may detonate a US nuclear first strike – including a worryingly vague attack on “allied or partner civilian infrastructure”. Even a clumsy false flag, for instance in the South China Sea, could lead to such a stand off.

All of the above is in fact directly linked to the death of Yoda.

Yoda is of course RAND asset Andrew Marshall, who was the director of the nefarious Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon from 1973 to 2015.

Predictably, scores of Atlanticist think tanks are celebrating Yoda as the winner in devising the new rollback US “strategy” against China.

Yoda did groom scores of analysts across the whole spectrum of the industrial-military-surveilance complex – including think tanks, universities and mainstream media.

So in the end Yoda did body-slam Bismarckian Henry Kissinger – who remains alive, sort of (if Marshall was Yoda, would Kissinger be Darth Vader?) Kissinger always advised containment in relation to China, disguised as what he termed “co-evolution”.

Yoda finished off not only Kissinger but also the Obama administration’s wobbly and ill-defined “pivot to Asia”. Yoda preached hardcore confrontation with China. There’s no question that even beyond the grave, he’ll continue to rule over his warmongering Beltway hordes.

Pepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

SourcePepe Escobar: Empire of Chaos in Hybrid War Overdrive

March 28, 2019

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy, writes Pepe Escobar.

by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with Consortium News ) by special agreement with the author)

Is this the Age of Anxiety? The Age of Stupidity? The Age of Hybrid War? Or all of the above?

As right populism learns to use algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and media convergence, the Empire of Chaos, in parallel, is unleashing all-out hybrid and semiotic war.

Dick Cheney’s Global War on Terror (GWOT) is back, metastasized as a hybrid mongrel.

But GWOT would not be GWOT without a Wild West scarecrow. Enter Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama. On the same day the State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head, the so- called “UN Security Council IS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee” declared Hamza the next al-Qaeda leader.

Since January 2017, Hamza has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the State Department – on par with his deceased Dad, back in the early 2000s. The Beltway intel community “believes” Hamza resides “in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.”

Remember these are the same people who “believed” former Taliban leader Mullah Omar resided in Quetta, Baluchistan, when in fact he was safely ensconced only a few miles away from a massive U.S. military base in Zabul, Afghanistan.

Considering that Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda in Syria, for all practical purposes, was defined as no more than “moderate rebels” by the Beltway intel community, it’s safe to infer that new scarecrow Hamza is also a “moderate”. And yet he’s more dangerous than vanished fake Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi. Talk about a masterful example of culture jamming.

Show Me The Big Picture

A hefty case can be made that the Empire of Chaos currently has no allies; it’s essentially surrounded by an assortment of vassals, puppets and comprador 5thcolumnist elites professing varied degrees of – sometimes reluctant – obedience.

The Trump administration’s foreign policy may be easily deconstructed as a crossover between The Sopranos and late-night comedy – as in the whole episode of designating State Department/CIA regime change, lab experiment Random Dude as President of Venezuela. Legendary cultural critic Walter Benjamin would have called it “the aestheticization of politics,” (turning politics into art), as he did about the Nazis, but this time it’s the Looney Tunes version.

To add to the conceptual confusion, despite countless “an offer you can’t refuse” antics unleashed by psychopaths of the John Bolton and Mike Pompeo variety, there’s this startling nugget. Former Iranian diplomat Amir Moussavi has revealed that Trump himself demanded to visit Tehran, and was duly rebuffed. “Two European states, two Arab countries and one Southeast Asian state” were mediating a series of messages relayed by Trump and his son-in-law Jared “of Arabia” Kushner, according to Moussavi.

Is there a method to this madness? An attempt at a Grand Narrative would go something like this: ISIS/Daesh may have been sidelined – for now; they are not useful anymore, so the U.S. must fight the larger “evil”: Tehran. GWOT has been revived, and though Hamza bin Laden has been designated the new Caliph, GWOT has shifted to Iran.

When we mix this with the recent India-Pakistan scuffle, a wider message emerges. There was absolutely no interest by Prime Minister Imran Kahn, the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani intelligence, ISI, to launch an attack on India in Kashmir. Pakistan was about to run out of money and about to be bolstered by the U.S., via Saudi Arabia with $20 billion and an IMF loan.

At the same time, there were two almost simultaneous terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan – against Iran and against India in mid-February. There’s no smoking gun yet, but these attacks may have been manipulated by a foreign intelligence agency. The Cui Bono riddle is which state would profit immensely from a war between Pakistan and Iran and/or a war between Pakistan and India.

The bottom line: hiding in the shadow of plausible deniability – according to which what we understand as reality is nothing but pure perception – the Empire of Chaos will resort to the chaos of no-holds-barred hybrid war to avoid “losing” the Eurasian heartland.

Show Me How Many Hybrid Plans You Got

What applies to the heartland of course also applies to the backyard.

The case of Venezuela shows that the “all options on the table” scenario has been de facto aborted by Russia, outlined in an astonishing briefing by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and then subsequently detailed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov. (Wikimedia Commons)

Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at a crucial RIC (part of BRICS) summit in China,Lavrov said, “Russia keeps a close eye on brazen US attempts to create an artificial pretext for a military intervention in Venezuela… The actual implementation of these threats is pulling in military equipment and training [US] Special Forces.”

Lavrov explained how Washington was engaged in acquiring mortars and portable air defense systems “in an East European country, and mov(ing) them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is… rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.”

The U.S. attempt at regime change in Venezuela has been so far unsuccessful in several ways. Plan A – a classic color revolution -has miserably failed, in part because of a lack of decent local intelligence. Plan B was a soft version of humanitarian imperialism, with a resuscitation of the nefarious, Libya-tested responsibility to protect (R2P); it also failed, especially when the American tale that the Venezuelan government burnt humanitarian aid trucks at the border with Colombia was a lie, exposed by The New York Times, no less.

Plan C was a classic Hybrid War technique: a cyberattack, replete with a revival of Nitro Zeus, which shut down 80 percent of Venezuela’s electricity.

That plan had already been exposed by WikiLeaks, via a 2010 memo by a U.S.-funded, Belgrade-based color revolution scam that helped train self-proclaimed “President” Random Dude, when he was just known as Juan Guaidó. The leaked memo said that attacking the Venezuelan power grid would be a “watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

But even that was not enough.

That leaves Plan D – which is essentially to try to starve the Venezuelan population to death via viciously lethal additional sanctions. Sanctioned Syria and sanctioned Iran didn’t collapse. Even boasting myriad comprador elites aggregated in the Lima group, exceptionalists may have to come to grips with the fact that deploying the Monroe doctrine essentially to contain China’s influence in the young 21stcentury is no “cakewalk.”

Plan E—for extreme—would be U.S. military action, which Bolton won’t take off the table.

Show Me the Way to the Next War Game

So where do all these myriad weaponizations of chaos theory leave us? Nowhere, if they don’t follow the money. Local comprador elites must be lavishly rewarded, otherwise you’re stuck in hybrid swamp territory. That was the case in Brazil – and that’s why the most sophisticated hybrid war case history so far has been a success.

In 2013, Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks revealed how the NSA was spying on Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and the Dilma Rousseff government beginning in 2010. Afterwards, a complex, rolling judicial-business-political-financial-media coup ended up reaching its two main objectives; in 2016, with the impeachment of Rousseff, and in 2018, with Lula thrown in jail.

Now comes arguably the juiciest piece of the puzzle. Petrobras was supposed to pay $853 million to the U.S. Department of Justice for not going to trial for crimes it was being accused of in America. But then a dodgy deal was struck according to which the fine will be transferred to a Brazilian fund as long as Petrobras commits to relay confidential information about its businesses to the United States government.

Mattis: Wrote on hybrid war in 2005.

Hybrid war against BRICS member Brazil worked like a charm, but trying it against nuclear superpower Russia is a completely different ball game. U.S. analysts, in another case of culture jamming, even accuse Russia itself of deploying hybrid war – a concept actually invented in the U.S. within a counter-terrorism context; applied during the occupation of Iraq and later metastasized across the color revolution spectrum; and featuring, among others, in an article co-authored by former Pentagon head James “Mad Dog” Mattis in 2005 when he was a mere lieutenant general.

At a recent conference about Russia’s military strategy, Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov stressed that the Russian armed forces must increase both their “classic” and “asymmetrical” potential. In the U.S. this is interpreted as subversion/propaganda hybrid war techniques as applied in Ukraine and in the largely debunked Russia-gate. Instead, Russian strategists refer to these techniques as “complex approach” and “new generation war”.

Santa Monica’s RAND Corporation still sticks to good ol’ hot war scenarios. They have been holding “Red on Blue” war games simulations since 1952 – modeling how the proverbial “existential threats” could use asymmetric strategies. The latest Red on Blue was not exactly swell. RAND analyst David Ochmanek famously said that with Blue representing the current U.S. military potential and Red representing Russia-China in a conventional war, “Blue gets its ass handed to it.”

None of this will convince Empire of Chaos functionary Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will continue to refuse a “no first use” nuclear strategy. Aspiring Dr. Strangeloves actually believe the U.S. can start a nuclear war and get away with it.

Talk about the Age of Hybrid Stupidity going out with a bang.

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is “2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

Pussy John Bolton and His Codpiece Mustache: Examining the Freak Show

By Fred Reed

February 18, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –   American government has become a collection of sordid and dangerous clowns. It was not always thus. Until Bush II, those governing were never lunatics. Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Obama, Clinton had their defects, were sometimes corrupt, and could be disagreed with on many grounds. They weren’t crazy. Today’s administration would seem unwholesome in a New York bus station at three in the morning. They are not normal American politicians. 

In particular they seem to be pushing for war with Iran, China, Russia, and Venezuela. And–this is important–their behavior is not a matter of liberals catfighting with conservatives. All former presidents carefully avoided war with the Soviet Union, which carefully avoided war with America. It was Reagan, a conservative and responsible president, who negotiated the INF  treaty, to eliminate short-fuse nuclear weapons from Europe. By contrast, Trump is scrapping it. Pat Buchanan, the most conservative man I have met, strongly opposes aggression against Russia. The problem with the current occupants of the White House is not that they are conservatives, if they are. It is that they are nuts.

Donald the Cockatoo

Start with the head cheese, Donald Trump, profoundly ignorant, narcissistic, a real-estate con man who danced just out of reach of the law. His supporters will explode in fury at this. All politics being herd politics, the population has coalesced into herds fanatically pro-Trump and fanatically anti-Trump. Yet Trump’s past is not a secret. Well-documented biographies describe his behavior in detail, but his supporters don’t read them. The following is a bit long, but worth reading.

From The Making of Donald Trump Johnston, David Cay. (p. 23). Melville House. Kindle Edition.

“I always get even,” Trump writes in the opening line of that chapter. He then launches into an attack on the same woman he had denounced in Colorado. Trump recruited the unnamed woman “from her government job where she was making peanuts,” her career going nowhere. “I decided to make her somebody. I gave her a great job at the Trump Organization, and over time she became powerful in real estate. She bought a beautiful home.

“When Trump was in financial trouble in the early nineties…..”I asked her to make a phone call to an extremely close friend of hers who held a powerful position at a big bank and would have done what she asked. She said, “Donald, I can’t do that.” Instead of accepting  that the woman felt that such a call would be inappropriate, Trump fired her. She started her own business. Trump writes that her business failed. “I was really happy when I found that out,” he says.

“She had turned on me after I did so much to help her. I had asked her to do me a favor in return, and she turned me down flat. She ended up losing her home. Her husband, who was only in it for the money, walked out on her and I was glad. Over the years many people have called me asking for a recommendation for her. I always gave her bad recommendation. I can’t stomach disloyalty. ..and now I go out of my way to make her life miserable.“

All that because (if she exists) she declined to engage in corruption for the Donald. That is your President. A draft dodger, a pampered rich kid, and Ivy brat (Penn, Wharton). This increasingly is a pattern at the top: Ivy, money, no military service.

Pussy John Bolton

A particularly  loathsome sort of politician is one who dodges his country’s wars when of military age, and then wants to send others to die in later wars. This is Pussy John, arch hawk, coward, amoral, bully, willing to kill any number while he prances  martially in Washington. Speaking as one who carried a rifle in Viet Nam, I would like to confine this fierce darling for life in the bottom of a public latrine in Uganda.

Pussy John, an Ivy flower (Yale) wrote in a reunion books that, during the 1969 Vietnam War draft lottery,  

“I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.” In an interview, Bolton explained that he decided to avoid service in Vietnam because “by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that opponents of the Vietnam War had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from.”

This same Pussy John, unwilling to risk his valuable being in a war he could have attended, now wants war with Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Syria, and Afghanistan. In these wars millions would die while he waggled his silly lip broom in the West Wing. His truculence is pathological and dangerous.  

Here is  PJ on Iran: which has not harmed and does not threaten America: “We think the government is under real pressure and it’s our intention to squeeze them very hard,” Bolton said Tuesday in Singapore. “As the British say, ‘squeeze them until the pips squeak’.”

How very brave of him. He apparently feels sadistic delight at starving Venezuelans, inciting civil war, and ruining the lives of millions who have done nothing wrong. Whence the weird hostility of this empty jockstrap, the lack of humanity? Forgot his Midiol? Venezuela of course has done nothing to the US and couldn’t if it wanted to. America under the Freak Show is destroying another country simply because it doesn’t meekly obey. While PJ gloats.

Bush II

Another rich kid and Yalie, none too bright, amoral as the rest, another draft dodger, (he hid in the Air  National Guard.) who got to the White House on daddy’s name recognition. Not having the balls to fight in his own war, he presided over the destruction of Iraq and the killing of hundreds of thousands, for no reason. (Except oil, Israel, and Empire. Collectively, these amount to no reason.) He then had the effrontery to pose on the deck of an aircraft carrier and say, “Mission accomplished.” You know, just like Alexander the Great. Amoral. No empathy. What a man.

The striking pattern of the Ivy League avoiding the war confirmed then, as it does now, that our present rulers regard the rest of America as beings of a lower order. These armchair John Waynes might have called them “deplorables,” though Hillary, another Yalie bowwow hawk, had not yet made the contempt explicit. This was the attitude of Pussy John, Bushy-Bushy  Two, and Cockatoo Don. Compare this with the Falklands War in which Prince Andrew did what a country’s leadership should do, but ours doesn’t..

Wikipedia: “He (Prince Andrew) holds the rank of commander and the honorary rank of Vice Admiral (as of February 2015) in the Royal Navy, in which he served as an active-duty helicopter pilot and instructor and as the captain of a warship. He saw active service during the Falklands War, flying on multiple missions including anti-surface warfare, Exocet missile decoy, and casualty evacuation”

The Brits still have class. Compare Andrew with the contents of the Great Double-Wide on Pennsylvania Avernus.

Gina

A measure of the moral degradation of America: It is the only country that openly and proudly engages in torture. Many countries do it, of course. We admit it, and maintain torture prisons around the globe. Now we have a major government official, Gina Haspel, head of the CIA, a known sadist. “Bloody Gina.” Is this who represents us? Would any other country in the civilized world put a sadist publicly in office?  

Think of Gina waterboarding some guy, or standing around and getting off on it. You don’t torture people unless you like it. The guy is tied down, coughing, choking, screaming, begging, desperate, drowning, and Gina pours…more water. The poor bastard vomits, chokes. Gina adds a little more water….

What kind of woman would do this? Well, Gina’s kind obviously. Does she then run off to her office and lock the door for half an hour? Maybe it starts early. One imagines her as a little girl, playing with her dolls.  Cheerleader Barbie, Nurse Barbie, Klaus Barbie….

Michael Pompeo

Another pathologically aggressive chickenhawk. In a piece in Foreign Affairs he describes Iran as a “rogue state that America must eliminate for the sake of all that is good.  Note that Pompeo presides over a foreign policy seeking to destroy Venezuela’s economy and threatens military invasion, though Venezuela is no danger to the US and is not America’s business; embargoes Cuba, which  in no danger to the US and is not America’s business; seeks to destroy Iran’s economy, though Iran is no danger to the US and none of Americas business; sanctions Europe and meddles in its politics; sanctions Russia, which is not a danger to the United States, in an attempt to destroy its economy, pushes NATO up to Russia’s borders, abandons the INF arms-control treaty and establishes a Space Command which will mean nuclear weapons on hair trigger in orbit, starts another nuclear arms race; wages a trade war against  China intended to prevent its economic progress; sanctions North Korea; continues a seventeen-year policy of killing Afghans for no discernible purpose; wages a war against Syria; bombs Somalis; maintains unwanted occupation forces in Iraq; increasingly puts military forces in Africa; supports regimes with ghastly human-rights records such as Saudi Arabia and Israel; and looks for a war with China in the South China Sea, which is no more America’s business than the Gulf of Mexico is China’s.

But Pompeo is not a loon, oh no, and America is not a rogue state. Perish forfend.

Nikki Haley

A negligible twit–I choose my vowel carefully–but characterized, like Trump, PJ, and Pompeo, by loyalty to Israel and wild combativeness. She seemed less dangerous than just embarrassing. Like the rest of this administration, she threatened war and retribution against any countries that did not obey the United States–not that she would put her own rounded pink sit-down ion the line n a war. That is for deplorables.

“Mad Dog” Mattis

“After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking at a forum in San Diego, he said “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”

Perhaps in air-to-air combat you want someone who regards killing as fun, or in an amphibious assault. But in a position to make policy? Can you image Dwight Eisenhower talking about the fun of squaring a man’s brains across the ground?  

The Upshot

We have until recently never had government as aggressive, reckless, or psychiatrically fascinating as now. Again, it is not a matter of Republicans and Democrats. No administration of any party, stripe, or ideology has ever pushed to aggressively toward war with so many countries. These people are not right in the head.

Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.

He has been published in Playboy, Soldier of Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Harper’s, National Review, Signal, Air&Space, and suchlike. He has worked as a police writer, technology editor, military specialist, and authority on mercenary soldiers. He is by all accounts as looney as a tune. https://fredoneverything.org

Trump Ran Scared to Iraq, to Avert Coup Against Him

Trump Ran Scared to Iraq, to Avert Coup Against Him

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 30.12.2018 |

Trump Ran Scared to Iraq, to Avert Coup Against Him

Donald Trump’s visit this week to US forces in Iraq has to be seen as a highly peculiar move. Following his announcement to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, which caused a split with senior Pentagon figures, it seems that Trump was making a desperate bid to reassure the military establishment. Perhaps even to forestall a feared coup against his presidency.

For nearly two years since his election, President Trump had not visited US troops in any active combat zone, unlike all his predecessors in the White House. His apparent indifference to overseas forces had engendered much consternation from political opponents and the media. In a recent editorial, the New York Times admonished: “Put Down the Golf Clubs, Visit the Troops”.

Recall, too, the US media scorn heaped on Trump when, during his trip to France in November to mark the centennial end of World War One, he declined to pay his respects at an American war cemetery “because it was raining”.

Trump is therefore not the sort of person to put himself in discomfort for others. That’s why it seems all the stranger that on Christmas Night, December 25, the president and his wife Melania left the comfort of the White House, and boarded Air Force One for a 6,000-kilometer overnight flight to Iraq.

The journey to Iraq was variously described in US media as a surprise and “shrouded in secrecy”. So secret indeed that the Iraqi government was not even informed in advance of Trump’s arrival. A hastily proposed meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi did not take place because the Iraqis were only given a couple hours notice when the US president landed.

In total, Trump and his delegation spent only three hours in Iraq and a reported 15 minutes talking to troops at Al-Asad Air Base, near the capital Baghdad. The president then flew back to Washington, making a brief refueling stop in Germany. Talk about a whirlwind spin halfway around the globe – and for what?

What this all suggests is that Trump’s visit was a hasty, ad hoc event that appears to have been done on the spur of the moment, in reaction to the news cycle over the past week.

As the New York Times put it: “The trip, shrouded in secrecy, came… less than a week after Mr Trump disrupted the military status quo and infuriated even some of his political allies by announcing plans to withdraw all troops from Syria and about half from Afghanistan. The president’s decision on Syria led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.”

Mattis’ resignation, followed by that of another senior Pentagon official, Brett McGurk, showed that there was serious pushback from the military establishment to Trump’s pullout order from Syria and Afghanistan.

Not only that but Trump’s political opponents within his own Republican party and the Democrats were given extensive media coverage for their protests against his order.

As CNN reported: “James Mattis’ resignation triggered an outpouring of anxiety and anger”.

Senators were lining up to condemn Trump for losing “the adult in the room” and a “voice of stability”. Mattis was hailed as “a national treasure” and praised for his “moral compass”. The eulogizing hardly squares with Mattis’ record of war crimes committed while serving as a Marines Corp general during the siege of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004, nor his psychopathic humor extolling the “fun of shooting people”.

Not for the first time, Trump was being denounced as a “traitor” by political enemies in Washington and the media. It was reminiscent of the way he was vilified after holding a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki earlier this year. Trump was again accused of “giving a gift to Putin” with his plan to withdraw US troops from Syria.

This time around, however, the political atmosphere was even more seditious.

By ignoring national security advisors and “the generals” over his Syria and Afghanistan announcements, Trump had crossed swords with the military-intelligence establishment. There was also a strong sense that the usual anti-Trump media were seizing on the opportunity to whip up Pentagon dissent against the president by lionizing Mattis as a “great leader” and whose absence would sap morale in the ranks.

The brooding political and military climate in Washington over Trump’s singlehanded decision-making may be the explanation for why the notorious couch-potato president felt compelled to get off his backside and head to Iraq in the middle of the night – on Christmas Night too.

Donning a bomber jacket and sounding jingoistic, Trump seemed to be grandstanding for militarism while in Iraq. “We like winning against terrorists, right,” he crowed to the troops. “We’re no longer the suckers of the world.”

Significantly, Trump added a new dimension to his pullout plan for Syria and Afghanistan. He pledged that US troops were not leaving Iraq – despite nearly 16 years being there after GW Bush first invaded the country in 2003. He also said that American forces would launch strikes into Syria from Iraq in the future, if and when needed. Presumably, this rapid-reaction force applies to all other Middle Eastern countries.

In other words, Trump is not signaling a peaceful scaling back of US militarism in the region, as some of his critics and supporters have perceived. Trump is simply rationalizing American imperialist power, making it leaner and meaner, to be operated out of stronghold bases like Iraq. Notice how the Iraqi government was not consulted on this Neo-colonial plan, which speaks of Washington’s arrogant hegemony, regardless of who resides in the White House.

Trump’s rushed visit to Iraq seems to have been made in an urgent attempt to let the Pentagon and the military-intelligence establishment know that he is not “going soft” on pursuing America’s self-ordained right to wage wars anywhere it wants for the cause of US capitalism.

In the immediate confusion over Trump’s announcement on December 19 of a troop drawdown in Syria and Afghanistan – and the media deification of “Mad Dog” Mattis – a dangerous period fleetingly opened up for his presidency.

Running scared, Trump dashed to Iraq to let the generals know that this president is still a reliable tool for American imperialism.

Photo: Flickr

دلالات الانسحاب الأميركي من شرق سورية

ديسمبر 27, 2018

زياد حافظ

أثار قرار الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب بالانسحاب من سورية بعد إعلانه انتصار الولايات المتحدة على الدولة الإسلامية في بلاد العراق والشام سلسلة من التعليقات تراوحت بين النقد اللاذع والتشكيك المدروس والترحيب الصريح. فالنخب الأميركية منقسمة في كافة الملفّات المطروحة بما فيها العدوان الكوني على سورية التي قادته الولايات المتحدة بمؤازرة بلاد الحرمين وقطر ودولة الإمارات العربية، وطبعاً بترحيب الكيان الصهيوني. وفي سياق الانقسام بين النخب الأميركية هناك ثلاثة محاور تغطّي تلك الانقسامات.

المحور الأول يقوده المحافظون الجدد، والمتدخلّون الليبراليون الذين شنّوا العدوان على سورية منذ الولاية الأولى للرئيس السابق باراك أوباما بقيادة وزيرة الخارجية آنذاك هيلاري كلنتون، والإعلام المهيمن الذي يسيطر عليه بشكل عام ومطبق اللوبي الصهيوني. هذا المحور يندّد بشدّة بالانسحاب غير المدروس و«المتهور الذي سيخلف فراغاً في شرق سورية يستفيد منه الرئيس السوري بشّار الأسد!!! وكل من الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران وروسيا! وبطبيعة الحال هناك اعتراض على القرار الرئاسي من اللوبي الصهيوني ورموزه داخل الكونغرس الأميركي. فينتقد الشيخ المتشدّد عن ولاية فلوريدا مارك روبيو المرشح للحزب الجمهوري الذي هزمه دونالد ترامب وليندسي غراهام شريك الشيخ الراحل جون ماكين قرار الرئيس الأميركي. غير أن رأيهما لا يمثّل بالضرورة رأي الحزب الجمهوري وبالتالي قد يشكّل فقط عنصر إزعاج لترامب دون إمكانية في الظرف الراهن للضغط عليه لتغيير قراره بالانسحاب.

المحور الثاني يشكّك بجدّية القرار وأهميته وتقوده مجموعة من المعلّقين كباتريك لورنس مراسل في صحيفة الإنترناشيونال هيرالد تريبون والكاتب في الشؤون السياسة الخارجية الأميركية. يعتبر لورنس أن القرار غير جدّي خاصة أن العدد المرتقب للقوّات الأميركية للانسحاب من سورية ليس 2000 بل هناك عديد يتراوح بين 4000 و7000 جندي و«مقاول أي مرتزقة من الشركات الأمنية الأميركية. إضافة إلى ذلك، يشير لورنس إلى التحصينات التي أقامتها القوّات الأميركية في مدينة الرقّة تحت السيطرة الاسمية لقوّات سورية الديمقراطية قسد والتي تدلّ على رغبة التخندق في سورية لفترة طويلة كما صرّح وما زال المسؤول الأميركي عن الملفّ السوري جيمس جيفري الذي فوجئ بالمناسبة بقرار الرئيس الأميركي . فقد استبعد المسؤول الأميركي أي انسحاب طالما لم تنسحب الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران وطالما الرئيس الأسد لم يرحل! فهناك تناقض واضح بين قرار الرئيس الأميركي وبعض المسؤولين.

هناك طيف آخر من المشكّكين الذين يعتبرون القرار الرئاسي مزاجياً وقد يغيّر رأيه بعد موجة الاحتجاجات التي بدأت على ذلك القرار من قبل قوى وازنة في الكونغرس الأميركي والإعلام المهيمن والحلفاء كالكيان الصهيوني. إضافة إلى كل ذلك فهناك التباس في مدى الفترة التي ستنسحب القوّات الأميركية. فالمدّة تتراوح بين شهر وثلاثة أشهر والله أعلم!

المحور الثالث يدعم قرار ترامب بدون تحفّظ ويرحّب به. ويضمّ ذلك المحور مجموعة من الضباط والدبلوماسيين السابقين كروبرت فورد السفير الأميركي في سورية وعدد من الشيوخ والمحلّلين الجمهوريين كباتريك بيوكانان وعدد من ضباّط الاستخبارات كراي مكغوفرن وفيليب جيرالدي على سيبل المثال، ومواقع إلكترونية معادية للحرب كموقع انتي وار. كوم و«قمر الاباما . كما أن خبراء مرموقين كستيفن والط الذي شاركه جون ميرشهايمر في كتابة الكتاب عن دور اللوبي الصهيوني في أميركا يعتبر في مقال نشره على موقع مجلّة فورين بوليسي المحافظة والمملوكة من روبرت مردوك أن لا جدوى في البقاء في سورية. لذلك لا يمكن القول إن هناك إجماعاً على التنديد بقرار ترامب وخلافاً لما يُشاع فإن وزير الدفاع الأميركي الذي استقال بعد قرار ترامب لا يمثّل كل البنتاغون.

في رأينا نعتقد أن القرار الرئاسي جدّي ولم يكن مفاجئاً، كما يعتقد الكثيرون. فهو أوضح ذلك خلال حملته الانتخابية ولم يتراجع عن رأيه خلال السنتين الماضيتين من ولايته. كما أن ذلك القرار ليس جديداً ويعكس رغبة المؤسسة الحاكمة بالخروج من المستنقع في المشرق ووسط آسيا والتركيز على شرق آسيا، وذلك منذ أكثر من عشر سنوات. نتذكّر هنا لجنة باكير هاملتون عام 2006 والتي شكّلت توافقاً جمهورياً وديمقراطياً مدعومة من فعّاليات سياسية وفكرية أميركية بضرورة التوقّف عن التورّط المباشر في المنطقة بعد كارثة الاحتلال الأميركي للعراق من منظور أميركي. كما نذكّر أيضاً قرار الرئيس السابق أوباما الشهير بالتوجّه نحو آسيا بعد الانسحاب من العراق والمحاولة للانسحاب من أفغانستان. وتفيد المعلومات الأخيرة أن الرئيس ترامب يبحث جدّياً بتخفيض عدد القوّات في أفغانستان، إن لم يكن الانسحاب مع بقاء بعض القواعد العسكرية، وذلك بعد تصريح قائد القوّات الأميركية في أفغانستان بأنهم ليسوا في موقع الانتصار. ويشكّل ذلك التصريح تحوّلاً نحو الواقعية بأن الانتصار في أفغانستان وهم. من هنا نفهم مغزى التفاوض مع حركة الطالبان في كل من دولة الإمارات وسلطنة عمان.

تمرّد الرئيس الأميركي على مستشاريه في وزارة الدفاع والخارجية مايك بومبيو والأمن القومي جون بولتون دليل على أنه يملك أوراقاً سياسية داخلية، أي داخل المؤسسة الحاكمة، تسمح له بذلك التمرّد . لقد لفتت نظرنا تسمية الرئيس الأميركي لرئيس هيئة الأركان المشتركة الجنرال مارك ميلي قائد القوّات البريّة منذ بضعة أيام وذلك قبل نهاية ولاية رئيس هيئة الأركان الحالي جوزيف دانفورد، أي قبل الخريف عام 2019، الذي أبدى اعتراضه على العديد من قرارات ترامب العسكرية. وهناك تقدير أن دانفورد سيرحل قبل نهاية ولايته. أما رئيس هيئة الأركان المرتقب مارك ميلي فهو مقرّب من ترامب وقريب من أفكار الرئيس الأميركي. من جهة أخرى يبدو أن داخل القيادة العسكرية في البنتاغون انقسام بين القيادة الوسطى المسؤولة عن شرق الأوسط وقيادة أوروبا المسؤولة عن أوروبا والكيان الصهيوني. فالأخيرة تدعم الانسحاب من سورية حيث الجدوى من البقاء غير واضحة على الأقل بينما القيادة الوسطى تعارض ذلك. إضافة إلى ذلك أجرت صحيفة ميليتري تايمز استطلاعاً منذ فترة أظهرت أن حوالي 55 بالمئة من الضبّاط الذين خدموا في المناطق الساخنة كأفغانستان والعراق على سبيل المثال خلال سبع عشرة سنة الماضية لا يحبّذون مهمة بناء أمّة كما يريده المحافظون الجدد أو المتدخّلون الليبراليون. بمعنى آخر أن الانسحاب من سورية يحظى بتأييد أولئك الضبّاط. أضف إلى كل ذلك فإن كلفة التورّط العسكري الأميركي في المنطقة منذ 2001 تجاوز عتبة ستة تريليونات دولار دون مردود سياسي يذكر وفقاً لمات بربل الكاتب في مجلّة اميريكان كونسرفاتيف أي الأميركي المحافظ وهي من المجلاّت المرموقة المحافظة في الولايات المتحدة الخارجة عن نفوذ اللوبي الصهيوني.

بعض المعلومات المتداولة في بعض المواقع الإلكترونية تفيد أن وراء ترشيح دونالد ترامب للرئاسة عدد من القيادات العسكرية التي لا تشاطر رأي منافسته هيلاري كلنتون ولا تريد وجودها في البيت الأبيض. هذا يعني أن ترامب كان يحظى منذ البداية بدعم من بعض القيادات العسكرية الأميركية المتقاعدة أو التي لم تكن في الصفّ الأوّل. هناك توقّع أنه سيتم تبديل القيادات العسكرية التي تقدّمت في عهد الرئيس بوش الإبن والرئيس أوباما بقيادات عسكرية تفكّر بشكل مختلف عن القيادات الحالية والتي تتفهّم الوضع القائم لميزان القوّة في العالم، ولكن قبل أي شيء ليست مُستوعَبة حتى الآن من المجمّع العسكري الصناعي الذي يقود التوجّهات العسكرية في الولايات المتحدة. الأشهر المقبلة ستظهر ما إذا كانت هذه التوقّعات صحيحة أم مبالغاً بها إذا ما استطاع الرئيس الأميركي تجاوز العاصفة التي أثارها قراره بالانسحاب. وفي رأينا الاحتمال جدّي بتجاوزه للعاصفة، فإن الرئيس ترامب قد يكون بدأ هجومه المضاد على الدولة العميقة التي عرقلت العديد من توجّهاته، وذلك بدعم من قاعدة شعبية لم تتأثر بكل الحملات الدعائية وبدعم بعض الجهات داخل المؤسسة الحاكمة. أحد مؤشّرات ذلك الهجوم يكمن في شخصية مَن سيخلف جون ماتيس في وزارة الدفاع. فمن الواضح أن وزير الدفاع المقبل سيكون منسجماً مع تطلّعات ترامب وليس مع أجندات أخرى. هذا قد يعني في المدى المتوسّط أن السياسة الخارجية الأميركية ستأخذ منعطفاً مختلفاً عن السابق وأن الاهتمام الأميركي سيكون تجاه الداخل الأميركي. هذا لا يعني انعزالية جديدة بل اعترافاً بموازين قوّة لم تعد لصالح الولايات المتحدة وأن على الأخيرة إعادة بناء نفسها لتصبح أميركا مرّة أخرى عظيمة .

في ميزان الربح والخسارة يبدو أن الرئيس الأميركي انتصر على مستشاريه من المحافظين الجدد، وعلى اللوبي الصهيوني عبر تجاوزه لرئيس مجلس وزراء الكيان. فالكيان الصهيوني ليس له القوامة على المصالح الأميركية المباشرة كما يعتقد العديد من المحلّلين والمراقبين. إعلام الكيان كان واضحاً بإعلان القرار صفعة لبنيامين نتنياهو.

الرابح في المشرق العربي هو أولاّ الدولة السورية وشعبها وقيادتها وحلفاؤها في محور المقاومة الذين صمدوا في وجه العدوان الكوني، بل عدّلوا في ميزان القوّة الإقليمي والدولي وأجبروا الرئيس الأميركي على التراجع الاستراتيجي. أما الرابح الثاني فهو الرئيس التركي اردوغان الذي هزم سياسياً الطموحات غير الواقعية للأشقاء الأكراد. نأمل أن يأخذ الأشقاء الأكراد العبرة لعدم جدوى الاتكال على الولايات المتحدة، علماً أن درس إقليم كردستان في العراق لم يكن بعيداً في الزمن ولكن للأسف لم يعتبروا. والرابح الثالث على الصعيد الدولي فهو روسيا التي أصبحت الدولة التي لا يمكن تجاوزها في الإقليم.

أما الخاسر الأكبر فهو الكيان الصهيوني الذي سيواجه ارتدادات القرار الأميركي في الداخل وفي الوطن العربي. فالمجاهرة بالورقة الخليجية التطبيعية قد لا تلقى تجاوباً رسمياً عربياً بعد التراجع الأميركي. حتى الآن، المجاهرة بالتطبيع كانت من الجهة الصهيونية دون صدى رسمي من قبل حكومة الرياض أو أبو ظبي رغم وجود دلائل مادية في الدولتين تغذّي المقولة الصهيونية. فزيارة الرئيس السوداني إلى مطار دمشق والإعلان أن إضعاف سورية هو إضعاف لجبهة المقاومة ليس بالتصريح العابر بغض النظر عن التفسيرات التي أعطيت له. لسنا متأكدين أن مسيرة التطبيع ستستمر بالوتيرة نفسها التي شهدناها في الأشهر الماضية. بالمناسبة، تفيد بعض المعلومات أن الهجوم على ولي العهد في بلاد الحرمين في الكونغرس الأميركي والاعلام المهيمن لا يعود لمسؤوليته بجريمة مقتل الصحافي الخاشقجي بل لاستقلاليته في قراراته. والدليل على ذلك هو اتفاق حكومة الرياض مع روسيا على تخفيض الإنتاج النفطي للحفاظ أو لرفع سعر برميل النفط خلافاً لما كان يحثّ عليه الرئيس الأميركي. فالاستقلالية في القرارات النفطية من الممنوعات عند مراكز القرار في الولايات المتحدة. وبغضّ النظر عن دقّة تلك المعلومات فإن النتيجة ستنعكس على محاولات إنهاء الخلافات العربية وخاصة مع سورية. التضامن العربي أصبح ضرورة إقليمية ودولية ملحّة للتوازن مع صعود الدور التركي إذا ما تمّ إضعاف دور بلاد الحرمين. فمحور المقاومة وروسيا لا يحبّذان المساس ببلاد الحرمين إذا ما اتجهت السياسة الأميركية إلى ذبح البقرة الحلوب . فالعامل الأميركي في التوازن والتأثير لم يعد فاعلاً بالفعّالية نفسها، كما كان عليه قبل إعلان القرار بالانسحاب.

الأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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What Can Follow America’s Withdrawal From Syria

December 20, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Just before Trump announced that American troops are to leave Syria “immediately”, many compatriots, friends and analysts were wondering what could be the next event that might change the course of future events in northern and eastern Syria. The first reaction to the news of Trump ordering his troops to leave Syria took many by surprise. That said, we have to wait and see if Trump does not wake up tomorrow changing his mind. The reason behind Trump’s decision to withdraw is not very important and as far as this article is concerned, it is irrelevant. If he wants to believe that he is leaving victoriously, that’s fine, for as long as he does leave. That said, the sudden resignation of Mattis clearly indicates that the former top gun does not see it with the same spectacles. Either way, the withdrawal, if it happens, may end up to be a long and protracted process that could take weeks, months and perhaps years, and the manner in which it happens opens the doors for many possibilities and contingencies.

Before Trump’s decision, there were two serious nagging and unresolved problems in Syria standing in the way of ending the war and the commencement of rebuilding the war-ravaged nation; and they were the ongoing presence of the terrorists in Idlib and the presence of American troops in the North East.

Idlib has been the sink hole of Syria, a place where all terrorists ended up. In any major battles, all the way from the battle of Al-Qusayr in 2013 to the most recent battle of Daraa in 2018, all of which ended up with terrorists defeat, negotiations ended up with militants leaving the areas in secure buses and settling in Idlib. No one really knows how many of them are there at the present moment because the overall figure includes those who were bunkered there from the beginning. The estimates run from as low as 10,000 to a high 100,000. The truth is that we don’t know. The figure could well be outside those estimates; but they have to be huge nonetheless.

Regardless of the number, they are the only terrorists left who answer to Erdogan and/or who can be manipulated by him. If they don’t, they either have to fight to death or leave. But given that all of their supply lines come from Turkey, they don’t have much of a choice but to kowtow to the Sultan. The Sultan is using his loyal “troops” as a trump card for two reasons; first of all to continue to have a de-facto military presence in government-controlled areas in Syria, and secondly and most importantly perhaps, is because he regards the terrorists as his Muslim brothers, and it is his “duty” to protect them.

This was why when Russia and Syria were making preparations to go inside Idlib and clean it up, he told them that he could achieve the same objective with negotiations and that they can leave Idlib for him to deal with. A few months later, Russia and Syria are still waiting for him to come true to his word.

So what is Erdogan exactly trying to do in northern Syria and why are Putin and Assad putting up with him?

Before Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, it was clear that Putin understands Erdogan too well. He knows that Erdogan has an Achilles Heel, two of them in fact; one in each foot. In many previous articles, I have reiterated that Erdogan is incurably both an Islamist and a Turkish nationalist; even though the ideologies are in total contradiction with each other. And even though he is cunning, calculating and prepared to wait for the right moment to act, when it comes to either nationalism or religion, he regresses into a programmed robot that is simply unable to think and act rationally; and Putin has been trying to use this weakness of Erdogan to serve his own objectives.

Erdogan wants to protect Al-Nusra in Idlib, and this is why Putin convinced Assad to leave the Idlib carrot in the hands of Erdogan, not necessarily because he believes that Erdogan will indeed deal with it in the manner that he should, but simply to present to him that Russia regards him like a credible partner.

On the other hand, the simmering tension between Ankara and Washington over the Kurdish issue has been coming to a head for a long time. Ever since America pledged support to Syrian Kurds, Erdogan, in blunt terms, has been clearly saying to his American “allies” that they must choose between Turkey and the Kurds. He has been making serious threats that he will attack Manbij and clean it up from Kurdish militants even if American troops do not leave.

Erdogan’s nationalist Achilles heel has left him in serious discord with his biggest NATO ally.

Given that the nationalist aspect of Erdogan is prepared to risk falling out with NATO and even fighting American troops in Syria just to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state south of his border, he was putting himself in the position of the former Afghani Mujahideen who were fighting their own war, and at the same time, serving another purpose for another group. With this stance, Erdogan presented that he was prepared to fight with America at any level, even militarily; because to him, the Kurdish issue was a redline that he was not prepared to see crossed.

For a while, a fair while in fact, Russia and Syria stood back and watched how the American-Turkish impasse morphed. It seemed that any potential fight would not only serve to prevent the creation of an independent Kurdish state, but would also end up with American withdrawal from Syria, and thus serving the objectives of both Syria and Russia.

And even though in theory it is the role and duty of Syria and her army to liberate the North-East from American presence, this course of action did not only risk a major confrontation with NATO and possible widespread bombing all over the country, but this option will also risk a direct confrontation between America and Russia on Syrian soil.

This was the only reason why Russia and Syria seemed prepared to put the resolution of the Idlib dilemma on hold. This is the only rational reason as to why they did not coerce Erdogan to rush into any quick action there before the problem of American presence has been resolved.

Knowingly or inadvertently, the American withdrawal from Syria, if it happens, will take a huge bargaining chip away from the hand of Erdogan in as far as his relationship with Russia is concerned. Erdogan will no longer be able to say to Russia that if Russia wants him to deal with America’s presence, then Russia must accept the deal with Idlib too.

In short and simple terms, the American withdrawal, if it happens, will take the decision of what happens in Idlib out of Erdogan’s hands.

The above sounds good, good for Syria, but the final outcome of this will depend on a number of factors, the most important of which is who is going to replace the American troops and how soon.

If America leaves behind a mercenary army as some speculate, fighting it will be logistically easier in the sense that it will not open the door for direct confrontation with United States army.

Depending on the pattern of withdrawal, the void generated by the retreating American troops can either be filled by the legal national Syrian Arab Army or by an invading Turkish army. But this depends on the location as well as the time table of withdrawal. If America for example leaves Deir Ezzor now, which is in the east and a couple of hundred kilometers south of Turkey’s border, the void will automatically be filled by the Syrian Army. However, if America leaves a northerly position such as Manbij, Turkey will move in before the Syrian Army will have a chance to do so. And such a scenario can spell more problems for Syria.

The problem here is more of a humanitarian nature than territorial, because sooner or later, Turkey will have to leave Syria. That said, if Turkish troops control any Syrian land, even for a short time, they will most likely declare open season on Syrian Kurds, and given Turkish history in dealing with such situations, this can be brutal.

On the other hand, if Erdogan tries to inflict a Kurdish massacre, then his Idlib carrot will turn into a stick lashing his own hide. For years, he had managed to juggle his contradictions of being a nationalist and an Islamist, but he will finally have to choose between his two alter egos. His nationalist ambition of annihilating Kurdish resistance in Syria can endanger his Muslim brothers in Idlib. His split-personality dilemma is finally coming to a head.

Would the man who was prepared to fight America if America supported a Kurdish state be also prepared to fight Russia if Russia attacked his Islamist brothers in Idlib?

Ideally, the best scenario possible for Syria and Russia, a resolution that will uphold Syria’s sovereignty and integrity all the while avert any Kurdish bloodshed, is for Syria and Russia to immediately fill in any gap created by retreating American forces. Erdogan must be kept out of Syria, and once his hands cannot reach Syrian Kurds any longer, he will no longer be able to have any say in Idlib.

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إسرائيل: اللهم احفظنا من أصدقائنا… ومن «الرئيس المزاجي»

 يحيى دبوق

 السبت 22 كانون الأول 2018

واصلت إسرائيل التعبير عن الصدمة وخيبة الأمل، في أعقاب قرار الرئيس دونالد ترامب سحب القوة العسكرية الأميركية من الأراضي السورية. القرار الذي وُصف بـ«الصفعة» و«الهروب الأميركي» و«المزاجية»، عُدَّ في تل أبيب أيضاً إضاعة فرصة كادت أن تكون وحيدة في مواجهة ما تسميه «تمركز» إيران وحلفائها في سوريا. وإضاعة الفرصة يصطفّ إلى جانب تلمُّس إسرائيل إخفاق كل الخيارات الأخرى للحؤول دون تهديد تعاظم إيران المرشَّح، بحسب التعليقات الإسرائيلية، إلى المزيد من «التمركز» بعد الانسحاب الأميركي.

في التجاذب الإسرائيلي حول قرار الانسحاب إرادتان: الأولى تعمل على التخفيف من وطأة القرار وتقليص تداعياته في وعي الإسرائيليين والأعداء على السواء، عبر أساليب وطرق شتّى قادها من اليوم الأول رئيس حكومة العدو، بنيامين نتنياهو، والثانية نقيضة وأكثر انتشاراً بين المعلقين الإسرائيليين، مع توسع حاد في التعبير عن «الصدمة» والتهجم على نتنياهو نفسه، وربما بما يزيد على مستوى سلبيات الانسحاب وحدوده الفعلية.

أمس، برز في التجاذب تراجع في إرادة تخفيف الوطأة عمّا كان عليه، في مقابل زيادة في التعبير عن «المأزق» وتداعياته السلبية، مع اتهام نتنياهو بالسطحية والفشل والإخفاق في كل ما يتعلق بسياسته الخارجية، التي ركزت على «التقاط الصور» مع زعماء الدول بدل النتائج الصلبة على الأرض. في ذلك، شبّه عدد من المعلقين علاقة ترامب بنتنياهو، تماماً كما هي علاقة بوتين به، في أنها متمأسسة على بناء زائف، وبحسب صحيفة «يديعوت أحرونوت»: أخطأ نتنياهو في تزلفه الزائد لترامب وبوتين، كما أخطأ في الثقة الزائدة لديه في قدرته على إدارتهما، لافتة إلى أن القلق من تصرفات وخطوات الإدارة الأميركية هي التهديد الأول الذي يسبق أي تهديد آخر، و«ما يحصل في واشنطن ينبغي أن يُقلق إسرائيل لا أقل مما يجري في سوريا. وعن هذا قيل: اللهم احفظني من أصدقائي، ومع أعدائي سأتدبر أمري».

في توصيف التهديدات ما بعد تنفيذ القرار الأميركي وردت خشية إسرائيلية، جرى التشديد عليها في تعليقات الإعلام العبري أمس، وأيضاً على لسان عدد من المسؤولين: ما تأثير الانسحاب على الحرب الدائرة بين إسرائيل من جهة وإيران وحلفائها من جهة ثانية، سواء في سوريا و/ أو لبنان، أو في الإقليم بصورة عامة. الإجابات لم تكن متفائلة، بل محذرة ومعبّرة عن مستوى مرتفع جداً من خيبة الأمل والتشاؤم من الآتي في ضوء المستجد الاميركي، وبما يفضي إلى «قلب المعادلات واستيلاد أخرى غير مواتية للمصالح الاسرائيلية». بحسب تعبير عضو لجنة الخارجية والأمن في الكنيست، نحمان شاي، «خروج القوات الأميركية من سوريا سيؤثر على المدى القصير والبعيد بمجمل الشرق الأوسط».

هاجمت افتتاحية «هآرتس» نتنياهو و«انصياعه» التام لترامب

في التعبير عن هذا القلق، هاجمت افتتاحية «هآرتس» أمس نتنياهو وسياسته و«انصياعه» التام لترامب من دون أن يحفظ خط الرجعة: «كلام رئيس الحكومة بنيامين نتنياهو عن أن إسرائيل ستواصل العمل بصورة شديدة جداً ضد المحاولات الإيرانية للتمركز في سوريا، لا يمكن وممنوع أن يغطي ويطمس الصفعة المدوية التي تلقتها سياسته المتملّقة أمام ترامب وإدارته. وضع نتنياهو عن سابق إصرار وعمد كل البيض في سلة رئيس أميركي مزاجي بلا مشاعر ويهتم فقط بمصالحه الخاصة. وها هي إسرائيل تدفع ثمن ذلك».

في «هآرتس» أيضاً تحذير من التداعيات السلبية على خيارات إسرائيل في مواجهة التهديد الإيراني في سوريا، مع توقع الفشل في المواجهة، رغم كل المواقف والتصريحات التي حاولت التخفيف من وطأة القرار الأميركي. تشير الصحيفة إلى أن «ترامب أنهى كل خطط مستشاريه وجنرالاته، الذين كانوا قد أوضحوا خلال الأشهر الماضي، ومن بينهم وزير دفاعه المستقيل جيمس ماتيس، وكذلك مستشاره للأمن القومي جون بولتون، في أن الوجود الأميركي في سوريا مخصص لصدّ الانتشار الإيراني وكبح التأثير الروسي في الشرق الأوسط ولتحصين المكانة الدولية للولايات المتحدة». الواضح، تضيف الصحيفة، أن ترامب مسح كل الخطط الموضوعة من فريقه من خلال تغريدة واحدة، ومسح معها الرهان الإسرائيلي: سحب القوة الأميركية من سوريا.

في «تفاخر» نتنياهو بأنه تلقى من ترامب إخباراً عن نية سحب القوات من سوريا، أشارت القناة العاشرة إلى أن المكالمة الهاتفية بين الجانبين، جاءت بمبادرة من نتنياهو الذي اتصل بترامب وحاول إقناعه بالعدول والتراجع عن قراره، لكن ترامب لم يترك أي هامش للمناورة ووضع نتنياهو أمام قرار نهائي لا رجعة عنه، وأبلغه بصورة حاسمة أنه قرر الخروج من سوريا، وعند هذه النقطة أنهى الحديث الهاتفي معه.

في تأثير الخطوة الأميركية على مواجهة إيران، كادت التعليقات تكون متطابقة، ومن بينها ما ورد على شاشة القناة العاشرة: الانسحاب الأميركي من سوريا حدث محزن لإسرائيل، إذ إن هذا الانسحاب سحب بدوره من يد إسرائيل الورقة الوحيدة التي كانت قد بقيت لها في المعركة التي تخوضها لمواجهة «التمركز» الإيراني، كما التمركز الروسي أيضاً، في الساحة السورية.

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Editor’s Picks: US Senate Corners Trump to Stop Supporting Bin Salman’s Crimes, Yemen War

Local Editor

The US Senate delivered an unusual rebuke of President Donald Trump’s response to the murder of Saudi journo Jamal Khashoggi as well as his support of continued Saudi war in Yemen, and signaled new skepticism from Capitol Hill toward the longtime Middle East ally, bringing analysis pieces dealing with the issue on top of the media platform, of which we brought to you some.

The Washington Post’s Editorial Board considered the resolution a powerful repudiation of both Saudi Arabia and Trump.

According to the Post, it was an important step toward holding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the murder of its contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The senate unanimously approved a resolution that assigns responsibility to bin Salman for the killing and said the regime’s “misleading statements” about the case “have undermined trust and confidence” in Saudi-US relations.

The vote was a powerful repudiation of Trump’s refusal to accept, or act upon, the truth about the crown prince — and it should cause the president to reconsider.

The resolution’s passage came on the heels of a 56-to-41 vote in favor of another resolution ending US support for the Saudi war in Yemen under the War Powers Act. House Republicans have already moved to block consideration of that measure. But if Speaker Paul D. Ryan [R-Wis.] wishes to end his congressional career with a touch of honor, he should schedule a vote next week on the Khashoggi resolution. House members should have the opportunity to show whether they stand with US intelligence professionals who have concluded that Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for this act of wanton brutality — or with a president who would bury the facts in service of [largely phantom] weapons sales. They should have a chance to stand up for the American values, including support for human rights that Trump has repudiated.

The evidence connecting Mohammed bin Salman to the killing is overwhelming. According to The Post’s reporting, the 15-member team sent to Istanbul to attack Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate on Oct. 2 included several of the crown prince’s personal bodyguards. It was headed by another close associate who called a top aide in Riyadh to say that he should “tell your boss” that Mr. Khashoggi was dead. The CIA discovered that the aide, Saud al-Qahtani, and the crown prince exchanged numerous texts during that time period.

Additionally, the Post’s contributor Aaron Blake wrote “The whole Senate just said Trump is wrong.”

Trump and top Cabinet officials have completely obscured and slow-rolled their own intelligence community’s conclusion about the Saudis’ killing of Washington Post Global Opinions columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And on Thursday, every single senator in attendance rebuked them.

Just moments after the Senate passed a resolution calling for an end to US involvement on the Saudi side of the war in Yemen, the GOP-run Senate voted unanimously for Sen. Bob Corker’s, R-Tenn., resolution officially blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s death.

Corker’s resolution says, among other things: “The Senate . . . believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

That’s also what the CIA has concluded, but it’s a conclusion that Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and even Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have taken great pains to undermine. A couple weeks back, the latter two briefed senators, with Pompeo saying there was no “direct reporting” of Mohammed’s culpability and Mattis saying there was no “smoking gun.” Those statements may be technically true, but they ignore the fact that CIA assessments aren’t legal documents but did assess Mohammed’s responsibility with “high confidence.” They created an impossible standard.

Meanwhile, Reuters’ Patricia Zengerle penned a piece entitled US Senate hands Trump historic rebuke on Saudi Arabia.

In a historic move, senators voted 56-41 to end US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s war. The conflict killed tens of thousands of people and spawned what the United Nations calls the world’s most dire human crisis, with the country on the brink of famine.

It was the first time either chamber of Congress had backed a resolution to withdraw US forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act. That law, passed in 1973, limits the president’s ability to commit US forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval.

For his part, Imad Zafar’s Asia Times said the US Senate’s Yemen move is a message to Saudi royals.

The Yemen conflict is the most tragic event of recent times, where thousands of innocent people have lost their lives in the war between Saudi forces backed by the US and the Houthi rebels backed by Iran. The innocent people living in Yemen are caught in the middle of this fight as on the one side there are Houthi armed groups who are Shiite Muslims, while on the other side, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia is bombing them ruthlessly.

According to Amnesty International, because of this war more than 15,000 people have been killed or injured and it has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Perhaps this move from the US Senate will help save the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Yemenis targeted mercilessly by the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi armed groups.

One wonders why it took Jamal Khashoggi’s murder to make the lawmakers realize that the US has been backing Saudi Arabia in killing thousands of civilians in Yemen.

Perhaps this can be seen as a signal to the Saudi kingdom that the US is ready to hold Mohammad bin Salman responsible for Khashoggi’s killing. Anger had been growing in the US over the recent findings of the Central Intelligence Agency that pointed to possible involvement by the crown prince in the killing and Turkey’s claim of a telephonic recording in which the killers were talking to higher Saudi officials about the success of the mission.

Source: Al-Ahed News

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Mattis Tells All Without Any Evidence

By Philip Giraldi
Source

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The insanity runs deep in Washington but it has also briefly surfaced at Simi Valley in California at the Reagan National Defense Forum, which ran through last weekend. United States Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis was the keynote speaker on Saturday. He had a few interesting things to say, the most remarkable of which was the assertion that Russia had again sought to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, which were completed last month.

Mattis, a Marine general who is sometimes considered to be the only adult in the room when the White House national security team meets, claimed that the bilateral relationship between Washington and Moscow had “no doubt” deteriorated still further due to the Russian activity, which he described as the Kremlin “try[ing] again to muck around around in our elections last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines” with Russian President Vladimir Putin making “continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended. We’ll do whatever is necessary to defend them.”

Mattis did not address President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a move which he reportedly supported. The cancellation was reportedly based on what has been described as an act of aggression committed by the Russian military against three Ukrainian naval vessels seeking to transit the Kerch Strait, which is since the annexation of Crimea been completely controlled by Moscow. The Ukrainians were aware of the Russian protocols for transiting through the area and chose to ignore them to create an incident, possibly as part of a plan to disrupt the Trump-Putin discussions. If that is so, they were successful.

Mattis was somewhat taciturn relating to his accusation regarding Moscow’s meddling. He provided absolutely no evidence that Russia had been interfering in the latest election and there have been no suggestions from either federal or state authorities that there were any irregularities involving foreigners. There was, however, considerable concern over possible ballot and voting manipulation at state levels carried out by the major political parties themselves, suggesting that if Mattis is looking for subversion of democratic processes he might start looking a lot closer to home.

The U.S. government has issued a general warning that “Americans should be aware that foreign actors — and Russia in particular — continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord.” Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have reportedly been working with private sector internet social networking companies, to include Twitter and Facebook, to shut down Russian and Iranian accounts in attempt to forestall any interference in either the campaigning or voting processes. Some Russians have even been indicted in absentia based on flimsy evidence but as they are in Russia they cannot be tried. One Russian student, Maria Butina, is still in jail in Virginia based on conflicting and flimsy evidence and it is not clear when she will be able to defend herself in court.

Beyond the general anti-Russia hysteria being encouraged by the media and congress, there are a number of problems with the Mattis assertion. First of all, beyond the fact that no actual evidence has been presented, it is irrational to assume that Russian intelligence services would waste their effort and burn their resources to attempt to accomplish absolutely nothing. Russia was not on the ballot last month and no candidates were running on any platform that would benefit Moscow in the slightest. To get caught “mucking around” would invite more sanctions and justify an increasingly hostile response from Washington, hardly a price that Putin would be willing to pay for little or nothing tangible.

Second, the intense investigations being carried out by the Robert Mueller Special Counsel’s office have to this point developed no information suggesting that Russia did anything in 2016 beyond the low-level probing and manipulating that every major intelligence agency does routinely to get a window into what an adversary is up to. To be sure, several Team Trump associates will likely be going to jail, but their crimes so far have consisted of perjury or tax fraud. Some, like former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen are seeking desperately to find a way to implicate the president in some grander scheme, but if there is anything actually there it has yet to be identified to the public.

Third, based on the evidence produced so far, the only two countries that may have cooperated with either Trump or the Deep State to influence the results of the 2016 election are Israel, which sought Trump intercession at the United Nations, and Britain, which may have engaged in a plot by the British intelligence and security services to conspire with CIA Director John Brennan to elect Hillary Clinton.

So, there we go again. Another vague accusation against Russia to convince the American public that there is a powerful enemy out to get us. And lest there be any shortage of enemies Mattis also mentioned always dangerous Iran, saying “…we cannot deny the threat that Iran poses to all civilized nations.” And, by the way, Mattis in his speech strongly supported an increased “defense” budget to deal with all the threats, saying somewhat obscurely that “Fiscal solvency and strategic solvency can co-exist.” Sure. In the wonderful world of Washington, more money can fix anything.

Yemen is the start of the Saudi regression اليمن سيبقى مصدر الكلمة الفصل

Yemen is the start of the Saudi regression

ديسمبر 5, 2018

Written by Nasser Kandil,

 

What was stated by the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis to stop the war on Yemen was remarkable; he did not send a political call, rather he prepared a practical agenda of thirty days to cease fire and to start the political negotiation without bothering himself the visit to Riyadh And the consult with the Saudi leadership as a strategic partner in the region according to the description of James Mattis and the US President Donald Trump. Mattis’s words which are closer to the military order were intended to Saudi Arabia and UAE to stop the war, while the rest of what was stated was a call to the Yemeni leadership and Ansar Allah in particular to accept the barter of the stopping of the Saudi-Emirati military operations in exchange for stopping the missile bombing of the Saudi areas. It is a call that had a clear response from Ansar Allah by linking every discussion to stop the war with the comprehensive application, at the forefront lifting the siege.
The new balance in Yemen has become clear after the US position, it grants Ansar Allah its status in parallel with Washington which announced its control over the decision of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and those who are with them from the Yemenis. It is clear that Muscat will run the negotiation between the Yemeni and American representatives, and it is clear too that Washington does that after it imposed a tax of normalization on Muscat in exchange for the prize of the negotiating role. Despite the fact that the relationship of Ansar Allah with Iran is not a dependency relationship, but Muscat is aware that the geopolitical equations in the region have made out of the war of Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen an entry to possess superiority elements against Iran in seas, land, crossings, and straits, and that the US talk about the need for Saudi Arabia to confront Iran is not as the outcomes of the war on Yemen. The cessation of the war under American decision is bound to interact with the Yemeni demands and conditions to lift the siege. This means the end of the Saudi role especially regarding the confrontation with Iran.
Practically, Washington does not forget that the conditions of stopping the war will not include the removal of the ballistic missiles from the hands of Ansar Allah and that the illusion of the international supervision is just in media, and that the call for a temporary autonomy of the Yemeni territories will not be accepted by Ansar Allah, and that the way will be open to a provisional government that paves the way for elections. Therefore, the path of the situation in Yemen will not be different from the fate of the situation in Syria where America lost the war on the Syrian independent state and this is enough to announce the victory of Iran. According to the American newspapers and the studies’ centers depended by the American administration in forming its policies, what matters Iran is to have on the borders of Palestine a Syrian fighting capable and independent country and to have on the Gulf waters and the Red Sea a Yemeni country which believes in the national independence that is not under the control of Washington directly or through Saudi mediation. This is known by Washington once it stops the war.
The course of the American sanctions, their coincidence with the practical openness to the Iranian interests, and the course of negotiation by Muscat raise the question about the certainty of Washington of going into a confrontation with Iran, and its confidence that sanctions can adapt Iran, after it became mere a negotiating necessity and after Saudi Arabia has been got out of war affected by its consequences.
Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

اليمن سيبقى مصدر الكلمة الفصل

نوفمبر 10, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– خلال عشرة أيام ماضية تزامن الحديث الأميركي عن وقف النار في اليمن في مهلة أقصاها نهاية الشهر الحالي، مع خطة عسكرية وضعها الأميركيون وقدموا كل مستلزماتها اللوجستية والاستخبارية للجيشين السعودي والإماراتي للسيطرة على مدينة الحديدة ومينائها، لتكون ورقة القوة التي تبرّر الذهاب للتفاوض من موقع مختلف. وخلال الأيام العشرة تلقت مدينة الحديدة وما حولها آلاف الأطنان من المتفجرات، ودمرت فيها المباني والجسور، وقتل فيها المئات من الأبرياء، وأحرقت صوامع الغذاء والمحروقات، وتقدّمت وحدات النخبة في الجيشين السعودي والإماراتي على مجموعة من المحاور وحققت في بعضها تقدماً جدياً. وبدأت الاحتفالات بالنصر في قيادة حلف الحرب على اليمن.

– من الزاوية الاستراتيجية بات قرار السيطرة على اليمن من أضغاث الأحلام وصار السقف تفاوضياً بوضوح في خطة الحرب الأميركية السعودية الإماراتية، ومن الزاوية السياسية الدولية والإقليمية في ظل ما يطال السعودية من مستقبل رسم الدور، في ضوء سقوط الرهان على صفقة القرن بغياب الشريك الفلسطيني الموعود، لا أمل بمواصلة الحرب على اليمن، وهذه الجولة هي آخر الجولات. ويجب مع نهاياتها ترسيم التوازنات قبل الذهاب للمفاوضات، وبعدها سيكون حجم السعودية والإمارات بحجم المنجزات، أو الخيبات، خصوصاً مع الارتباط العضوي بين مواصلة العقوبات على إيران وبين قدرة السعودية على تشكيل ركيزة لرسم توازن خليجي متين بوجه إيران يشكل ركناً من أركان سياسة العقوبات بعدما سقط الرهان على دور إسرائيلي عسكري يستهدف إيران في سورية، وسقط الرهان على صفقة القرن والحلف الخليجي الإسرائيلي المعادي لإيران تحت رايات السلام في فلسطين.

– تدرك القيادة اليمنية كل هذه الحقائق، ولذلك هي تتصرّف على قاعدة أن هذه الجولة ستقول الكلمة الفصل في الكثير من معادلات المنطقة، وخصوصاً في رسم مستقبل الدور السعودي والإماراتي وحدوده، كما في مستقبل التوازنات التي ستحكم المفاوضات المقبلة حول مستقبل اليمن، كما تدرك القيادة اليمنية أهمية الساحل الغربي في هذه المعادلة وفي قلبه مدينة الحديدة ومينائها، لكن القيادة اليمنية تدرك أيضاً حجم ما تمّ حشده من مقدرات لهذه المعركة الفاصلة، وما أعدّ لها من خطط قتل ودمار، لذلك تصرّفت القيادة اليمنية بقلب حار وعقل بارد مع تطورات الأحداث، فشككت بصدق الحديث الأميركي عن وقف الحرب منذ البداية ووضعت شروطها بفك الحصار أولاً، ولذلك أعادت القيادة اليمنية نشر قواتها وترتيب وضعياتها بما يخفف الخسائر في الأيام الأولى للجولة العسكرية في الساحل الغربي، لكنها أعدّت خطط الكمائن والاستدراج والفخاخ ولاحقاً الهجوم المعاكس.

– ليست المرة الأولى التي يختبر فيها اليمنيون جولة مواجهة في الحديدة، رغم أن الجولة السابقة كانت تمريناً بالقياس لضراوة الجولة الراهنة، إلا أنها كانت أيضاً تمريناً لليمنيين لفعالية تكتيكاتهم، وقدراتهم على المناورة الحربية. قبل يومين وبعدما بلغ الهجوم السعودي الإماراتي ذروته وبدأ التقدم البري، بدأت الكمائن اليمنية بالظهور، وبدأت الفخاخ وعمليات الاستدراج إلى نقاط الرمي الصاروخي المركز، وبدأت أرقام القتلى بالمئات بين المهاجمين بالظهور، وبدأت التراجعات العشوائية للمهاجمين هرباً من الموت بالتكرار من محور إلى آخر، وخلال أيام يظهر الهجوم المعاكس الذي يفرض معادلاته الجديدة كما في المرة السابقة.

– وضع اليمنيون خطتهم على ساعة التوقيت التي أعلنها وزير الدفاع الأميركي جيمس ماتيس، بحيث سيجعلون الشهر الذي حدّده بوقف الحرب شهراً إلزامياً لوقف الحرب بالنتائج التي سيحققونها، وليست تلك التي كان يأمل أن يحققها مع حلفائه.

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Pentagon says Riyadh is too important to whip, rolls out $15bn THAAD arms deal instead

RT

Pentagon says Riyadh is too important to whip, rolls out $15bn THAAD arms deal instead
The US rarely has ‘unblemished’ partners so it will pour more defensive weapons into Saudi Arabia despite outrage over Khashoggi and Yemen, Pentagon chief James Mattis admitted as the nation handed the kingdom a big new deal.

The most-recent major US-Saudi arms deal was rolled out on Wednesday. Riyadh is seeking to get THAAD air defense missile systems, and the terms of the purchase were quietly formalized this week, the State Department announced. Under the $15 billion contract, Riyadh will receive 44 THAAD launchers, missiles and related equipment.

The news of a yet another lucrative contract came the very same day Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rushed to defend the kingdom against the mounting anger in the Senate over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the bloody war in Yemen. Speaking at a closed-door briefing, they explained that Saudi Arabia is simply too important to scrap existing bonds.

The Pentagon’s chief called Riyadh “fundamental” to regional and Israeli security, as well as crucial for the US’ own interests.

“We are seldom free to work with unblemished partners,” Mattis bluntly admitted. He went on to argue that the ties with the kingdom “cannot be dismissed” even as Washington condemned Khashoggi’s death.

The officials also came out of their way to shield Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, against the allegations that he might have been in on the plan to kill Khashoggi all along.

“We have no smoking gun the Crown Prince was involved, not the intelligence community or anyone else. There is no smoking gun,”Mattis told reporters. Pompeo agreed with him, claiming there is “no direct reporting” connecting MBS with the order to kill the journalist.

Their statements seemed to run contrary to the CIA. According to media reports, intelligence officials, in fact, have believed “for weeks”that there is no way that Jamal Khashoggi’s murder could have happened without the Crown Prince’s approval.

Earlier, President Donald Trump went even further, suggesting that “maybe” MBS “had knowledge” of Khashoggi’s killing. But that still doesn’t change much. As Trump poignantly explained, it would we “foolish” to ditch the $450 billion of investments the Saudis promised the US. He singled out the $110 billion of existing arms contacts Washington can’t afford to lose, especially to rivals Russia and China. The president also praised the Arab kingdom as the centerpiece in the fight against arch-nemesis, Iran.

Washington’s steadfast defense and loyalty to Saudi Arabia is nothing new. Over the years, numerous rights groups have been begging the White House to stop aiding Riyadh, citing its abysmal track record on human rights. Before the Khashoggi case shocked the world and launched the Saudis in a PR nightmare, there was the dissident Raif Badawi. The creator of the blog ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing the government. Human rights campaigners called on the kingdom’s Western allies, including the US, to pressure it into releasing Badawi. Washington’s efforts to have the dissident freed went little beyond the generic statements of “concern.”

In the case of Khashoggi, the US sanctioned 17 Saudi officials but fell short of targeting the country’s leadership. The criticism of the nation’s ruling royal family is largely absent from the rhetoric coming from the White House. And when it does, it gets sandbagged with praise of the kingdom’s strategic role in the region. The US, nevertheless, stays true to the long-standing tradition of backing its principal ally in the Middle East. It does so despite multiple allegations and reports of human rights abuses by Riyadh.

Similarly, little to no action was taken to address the harrowing reports on the kingdom’s role in the bloody conflict in Yemen. The US-made weapons and military gear is frequently used during the Saudi-led bombing campaign which regularly claims lives of civilians, the rights groups warm. Yet, Riyadh’s status as a close and valuable ally effectively deterred politicians in Washington from attacking the Gulf nation.

Only on Wednesday did the US senators vote to launch debates whether the state should stop supporting the Saudi war in Yemen. Several lawmakers earlier penned a letter urging Trump to investigate the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s death.

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US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 16.11.2018 |

US, Britain Push Yemen Ceasefire as Tactic to Defeat Houthis

At first glance, it may seem like a positive move. The Trump administration and London are both putting pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to implement a ceasefire in Yemen’s atrocious war. Washington and London are also calling for warring sides to enter into peace negotiations within a month.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, as Houthi rebels who took over Yemen at the end of 2014 are saying, the country has been under aggression for the past three years from a Saudi-led coalition supported militarily by the US, Britain and France. The unrelenting war on the poorest country in the Middle East has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades, with over half of the population – some 14 million people – at risk of starvation, according to the UN.

Therefore, the appropriate legal and moral course of action now is not merely a ceasefire or talks. It is for the Western-backed Saudi, Emirati coalition to immediately halt its criminal aggression against Yemen. In short, stop the foreign interference in Yemen’s sovereign affairs.

US Secretary of State James Mattis and Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt appear to be impelled by humanitarian concern for the massive human suffering in Yemen with their recent calls for cessation of hostilities.

But a more nuanced reading of their exhortations suggest that the real concern is to burnish the blood-soaked image of the Saudi coalition that their governments support, and, secondly, to inveigle the Houthis into a negotiations framework that will result in undue foreign influence over Yemen’s politics.

Last week, Washington announced that it was suspending mid-air refueling flights for Saudi and Emirati warplanes that have been pounding Yemen since March 2015, which has resulted in a horrendous death toll among civilians. The indiscriminate killing of the Saudis and Emirati air strikes has been amply documented, albeit downplayed by Western media. The latter keep repeating a figure of 10,000 dead in Yemen – a figure which has bizarrely remained unchanged for at least the past two years. The real death toll from air strikes is unknown but likely to be near 50,000.

American, British and French military support for the murderous operations in Yemen should have stopped months, even years ago, if official humanitarian concerns were genuine.

The question is: why the sudden effort by Washington and London, as well as Paris, to call for a ceasefire and follow-on political talks?

One factor, no doubt, is the barbaric murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by assassins linked to the House of Saud. Turkish authorities believe that Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, his body hacked to pieces and dissolved in industrial-strength acid. Audiotapes obtained by the Turkish authorities have implicated the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder plot against the dissident journalist.

The gruesome details of Khashoggi’s killing and the blatant lies that the Saudi rulers have issued to cover up their barbarity have heaped immense pressure on Washington, London and Paris over their close ties with the House of Saud. Public outrage has demanded that sanctions be imposed on Riyadh, such as cancelling multi-billion-dollar arms deals.

It seems significant that the acute disgrace over the appalling Khashoggi affair and the association of the US, British and French governments with such a despotic Saudi regime has in turn prompted these Western powers to mount a damage-limitation exercise in public relations.

This is where the Yemen war provides an opportunity for the Western powers and their Saudi clients to salvage their tarnished public image.

By pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen, Washington, London and Paris can claim to be “getting tough” with the Saudis for the sake of alleviating “humanitarian suffering”. By appearing to respond to the Western calls for a ceasefire, the Saudis can then also claim they are relenting out of humane concern.

However, such pleas have not stopped Saudi and Emirati-backed militia on the ground besieging the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea, for which 80-90 per cent of the entire population in the country rely on for food and other vital supplies. In other words, the Western-backed Saudi coalition is using starvation tactics to bring the Houthi rebels and the wider Yemeni population to their knees. That is a monstrous war crime.

What Mattis is calling for in terms of ceasefire is for all heavy weapons in Yemen to be put under the control of United Nations peacekeepers. Washington is also demanding that the Houthis rebels withdraw from the country’s border with Saudi Arabia, from where the rebels have mounted missile attacks which have gravely harassed the Saudis, including in the capital Riyadh. The Houthis have struck Saudi territory in response to the air strikes.

So, what the Americans, British and French are striving for is, firstly, a respite from the sordid publicity over the Khashoggi killing. If the “humanitarian appeal” over Yemen succeeds to placate Western public outrage, then these governments will be able to continue business-as-usual selling the Saudi regime lucrative weapons contracts.

Secondly, by drawing the Houthi rebels into “peace negotiations” that will also burnish the Western and Saudi public image, as well as – equally importantly – forcing the rebels into accepting a compromise on their revolutionary government. By entering negotiations with the Saudi-backed remnants of the exiled Yemeni leader Mansour Hadi, the Houthis will inevitably have to accept making concessions and allowing an accommodation with the ousted, discredited regime.

Mansour Hadi, who has been living in exile in Saudi Arabia since the Houthis seized power, was reviled by most Yemenis for his corruption and being a puppet of the Saudis and Americans. His exiled clique is routinely and mendaciously referred to by Western media as the “internationally recognized government of Yemen”.

When he fled the country in ignominy in early 2015, the Houthi rebels had succeeded in spearheading a popular revolt. The rebels profess a branch of Shia Islam, but there was every indication that they had a relatively democratic program for pluralist governance.

The Saudi and American sponsors of the ousted Mansour Hadi reacted to the overthrow of their puppet by launching an air war on Yemen in late March 2015 – a war which has continued unremittingly ever since, with Britain and France also joining the profitable slaughter by suppling warplanes and missiles.

Another lie told by Western media is that the rebels are proxies of Iran, a lie which is used to “justify” the Western-backed criminal war against the country. Iran supports the Houthis diplomatically, but there is no evidence of arms supplies. Even if there was, so what? That wouldn’t justify aerial bombardment of the country and its people.

The devastation inflicted on Yemen and its people has largely been ignored by Western news media. Despite the lack of coverage, the Western public have nevertheless become aware of the horror and their governments’ complicity. Harrowing images of skeletal children dying from starvation and lack of basic medicines have shamed Washington, London and Paris into taking some action, however despicably inadequate and long overdue.

The recent impetus for a ceasefire and talks in Yemen coming from the US and its Western allies is not due to humanitarianism. It’s a cynical PR exercise to whitewash bloodied images – both theirs and that of their Saudi client regime. The Yemen war has been shown to be a sickening charnel house in a futile bid for Western regime change against the Houthi revolution. By forcing the Houthis into negotiations, the Western powers hope to achieve their regime change objective by another tactic – and gain PR capital at the same time.

If Washington, London and Paris were really serious about ending the suffering in Yemen, they would simply demand that the aggression stops immediately, so that the Yemenis are allowed to determine their own political future without foreign interference. But the Western powers will not do that because their interference in Yemen, along with the Saudis, is the very reason why this criminal war of aggression started and grinds on.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The text below is a full version of the anlysis entitled “Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict“, which was originally released by SouthFront on October 10, 2018:

Introduction

In the Department of Defense authored summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, Secretary James Mattis quite succinctly sets out the challenges and goals of the U.S. military in the immediate future. Importantly, he acknowledges that the U.S. had become far too focused on counter-insurgency over the past two decades, but he seems to miss the causation of this mission in the first place. U.S. foreign policy, and its reliance on military intervention to solve all perceived problems, regime change and imperialist adventurism, resulted in the need to occupy nations, or destroy them. This leads to the growth of insurgencies, and the strengthening of long simmering religious radicalism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The U.S. military willfully threw itself headlong into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The United States engaged in unnecessary wars, and when these wars were easily won on the immediate battlefield, the unplanned for occupations lead to guerilla insurgencies that were not so easy for a conventional military to confront. The U.S. Army was not prepared for guerilla warfare in urban areas, nor for the brutal and immoral tactics that their new enemies were willing to engage in. They obviously had not reflected upon the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, nor the nature of their new enemies. As casualties mounted due to roadside IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers hidden amongst civilians, the U.S. military and the defense industry were forced to find ways to protect soldiers and make vehicle less vulnerable to these types of attacks. This resulted in vehicles of every description being armored and new IED resistant vehicles being designed and fielded in large numbers. This in turn, equated to a vast amount of time, effort and money. It also focused both the U.S. military services and the defense industry away from fighting conventional wars against peer adversaries.

After a decade of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq, the U.S. leadership decided to destroy the sovereign nation of Libya, and foment a war in Syria immediately afterward. There is no doubt with the knowledge of historic events today, that the CIA and State Department facilitated a foreign invasion of Syria of Islamist radicals. They funded and armed these groups, provided clandestine training, and facilitated the logistical movement of fighters and weapons into a sovereign nation to cause its disintegration. In these two examples they decided not to occupy these countries, but to destroy all semblance of ordered society and replace it with brutally violent chaos. The U.S. political and military leadership seems to have learned that their past adventurism resulted in costly occupations, yet instead of refraining from using the military option as a tool to alter geopolitical realities they did not like, they merely opted to abandon the responsibility of occupation and reconstruction all together.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Benghazi, Libya. An example of democratic progress and stability in North Africa courtesy of U.S. led “humanitarian intervention”.

While Secretary Mattis describes the “near peer” nations China and Russia as “revisionist powers”, it was not these nations that made the irresponsible and reckless decisions that have weakened the U.S. military establishment, nor aim to revise the ill-conceived and executed catastrophes of their American “peers”. They have reached a state of military and technological parity with, and in many cases a position of superiority vis a vis the United States, because they exercised better judgement over the past two decades, invested their time, talent and treasure in developing powerful conventional and nuclear forces, and refrained from using their national defense assets to punish their perceived adversaries in such a way that more damage was caused to themselves. In many ways, the poor example of the United States and its ill-conceived military expeditions, influenced both Russia and China to advance along different paths. Now, without recognizing and acknowledging the failures of leadership and decision making that have lead the U.S. military to a weakened state, the United States has declared that it is now in a period of strategic competition with the two other strongest kids on the block.

In order to understand how Secretary Mattis has come to such a declaration, we have to look at the U.S. military decisions, actions, mistakes, and failures of leadership at the highest levels that have brought us to this point. A brief analysis of the resultant metamorphosis of the United States military from a robust and balanced conventional fighting force, backed up by a viable nuclear deterrent into a force obsessed with occupation and counterinsurgency must be conducted. This must be followed by a study of how the U.S. military has decided to invest its extensive funding, the weapons systems it has pursued, and how it envisions that it is best suited to protect the national security interests of the state. Finally, a comparison must be conducted of the capabilities of its declared strategic adversaries. A conclusion can then be made regarding the ability of the United States military to successfully engage and defeat these adversaries in a future conflict.

Imperial Expansion, Regime Change and Occupation

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991, a global power vacuum was immediately created. Regardless of the many assurances given to the Gorbachev government (which were finally revealed in the December 2017 National Security Archive releases of official NATO correspondence) that NATO would not expand and that the former Soviet federated states would be included in the established European economic and security apparatus, the United States immediately embarked on a policy of NATO expansion and economic exploitation of post-Soviet territories.

Just scant months earlier, the United States deployed military forces to Saudi Arabia as the backbone of an international coalition to confront and reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in Operation Desert Shield, the greatest deployment of combined military forces on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. By January of 1991, not even a month since the U.S.S.R. ceased to be, Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm, with the invasion of Iraq and Kuwait. The conventional military power utilized by the U.S. was greatly effective, and most combat systems worked extremely well on the battlefield. Air superiority was soon absolute, as the Iraqi Air Force largely left the skies uncontested. The great success of Operation Desert Storm largely gave the military planners of the Pentagon a false sense of superiority, which as we shall see, led to a number of wrong assumptions and poor decisions being made regarding the future development and transformation of the U.S. military.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1A2 Abrams tank platoon advancing during Operation Desert Storm. The armored combat vehicles of the U.S. Army proved very effective against a far inferior opponent in this conflict, yet they proved capable and reliable. Logistical requirements; however, did prove to be a challenge.

The first post-Cold War military “humanitarian intervention” conducted by the U.S. was the Yugoslavian civil conflict interdiction of 1995. Predicated upon escalating ethnic atrocities, the NATO intervention was actually designed to make the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian Republic permanent, and to establish a number of pro-NATO, or pro-U.S.-Atlantic establishment nations on the Balkan periphery of Russia. Slovenia became a NATO member state in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2009, and then Montenegro in 2017. At the same time that a civil war was raging in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the U.S. and its Gulf State allies fomented and aided Islamic insurgencies in the Caucasus Republics of the newly comprised Russian Federation in an attempt to further weaken and encircle it. At the conclusion of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, which included the deployment of U.S. ground forces as part of multiple NATO-led operations including Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States would de facto create the statelet of Kosovo. As many as 43,000 NATO troops were serving as part of these operations at any given time between 1995 and 2002.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Camp Bondsteel in the U.S. sponsored protectorate of Kosovo located in southwestern Serbia. The intervention in Kosovo had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns as usual, but in establishing a permanent military foothold in the Balkans.

As I have described and explained in an earlier analysis entitled “U.S. Army Armored Vehicle Developments in the 21st Century; The Future Combat System gives way to Mobile Protected Firepower”, although the U.S. military leadership was pleased with the performance of its legacy armored vehicles and weapons systems in both Operation Desert Storm and its Operation Joint Endeavor, it was not satisfied with the amount of time required to deploy large combined Arms units via available sealift and airlift capacity. The complex logistics involved in mobilizing and moving heavy armored units does not lend well to rapid deployments, especially over significant distances. Even pre-deployment of heavy armored equipment, either in host countries or loaded in sealift vessels kept on stand-by at forward deployed bases (such as Diego Garcia) or berthed at major seaports of the continental United States, present a whole host of logistical challenges.

The desire to streamline U.S. military logistics, and to create a fighting force that was more rapidly deployable, flexible and yet maintained the highest levels of lethality, and that leveraged advanced information technologies and communications systems led to the genesis of the Future Combat System (FCS). Embracing the FCS concept, the Army set very high deployment goals, which would prove to be unattainable. General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the Army would strive to attain the ability to deploy a combat brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and no less than five divisions in 30 days. Then Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was a vocal supporter of the FCS concept. The U.S. Army would eventually pursue the FCS program, the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. military history with a price tag of approximately $200 billion USD. The program was eventually cancelled in 2009, yet its influence in transforming the U.S. Army have proven substantial, and have had a negative influence on the Army’s ability to fight near peer adversaries in today’s warfighting environment.

The United States military would become a force for invasion and occupation during the Neo-Con era spanning from 2000 to the present. BY 2003, the U.S. was once again invading Iraqi territory, this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By this time the U.S. Army had partially realized some aspects of FCS, mainly in the area of rapidly deploying combat ready forces of the Brigade size. Operation Iraqi Freedom was envisioned as a rapid invasion utilizing highly mobile, self-contained, combined-arms combat teams supported by overwhelming airpower. The Iraqi military was far weaker in 2003 than it had been in 1991. It was a shadow of its former self and had been repeatedly targeted over the intervening decade, especially its air-defense and command and control networks. A combined ground force of approximately 148,000 men was deployed and ready for offensive operations in approximately a month and a half. Ground operations of the invasion lasted from March 20th until May 1st, 2003. The initial victory was impressive, but it soon became quite obvious that there was no realistic and pragmatic plan to occupy the country and render aid to a stable and capable new government.

What followed was a time of crisis for the U.S. military. When the U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators, and a number of organized and ruthless anti-occupation insurgencies formed, some motivated my patriotism, some my tribal and religious factions, and still others by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the soldiers tasked with the occupation of Iraq were woefully unprepared for the task asked of them. U.S. troops deployed to a nation whose minimal civil infrastructure they had just destroyed, were tasked with reconstruction and nation building in a country producing a growing anti-occupation insurgency on many different levels. Convoys and patrols were increasingly the targets of ambushes by insurgents operating along key roadways and within urban centers. Light vehicles and military transports were targeted and destroyed in significant numbers, and the crews had no protection from weapons ranging from small arms and RPGs to extremely powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Bush administration at the time, who had claimed that the U.S. troops would be widely embraced as liberators, began to scramble for ways to reduce the mounting U.S. casualties. The answer was to add armored protection to all existing vehicles, whether they be HMMWVs, or the LMTVs and HEMMTs of the logistics units. Adding armor to logistical support vehicles not meant to see front line combat greatly reduced their fuel efficiency (of great importance in the logistics arm) and was only accomplished at great cost. The U.S. Army only had one armored security vehicle in active service at this time, the M1117, albeit in small numbers. The decision was made to armor the ubiquitous HMMWV and to give it the tasks of armored patrol, internal security and crowd control vehicle. The HMMWV was designed and used quite effectively as a light utility vehicle and had always performed well in such a role; however, it was never intended for the roles it was called upon to perform after 2003.

An Obsession with MRAPs

A number of different armor packages were developed for the HMMWV, mainly to increase the likelihood of crew survivability. The armored Hummer was merely a stopgap until purpose-built armored vehicles could be developed and fielded in greater numbers. Although effective against high caliber small arms, shrapnel and mines, the M1117 was fielded in very limited numbers in 2003 with military police units, mostly in security duties on U.S. military installations. Large orders of the vehicle were placed after the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the number grew from approximately 50 to over 1,800 units in active service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

M1117 at the head of a column of HMMWVs and an LMTV halted along a road in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military enlisted the help of both the U.S. and international defense industry to produce an armored vehicle that could better serve the needs of an army now faced with occupying not only one rebellious nation, but two. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. military would suffer increasing casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of occupation. In the case of Afghanistan, casualties would continue to increase until 2010 before decreasing over consecutive years. Most of these casualties were the result of ambushes with IEDs. Such attacks increased six fold from 2003 to 2007.

The DOD would award billions of dollars in contracts for Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles (MRAP) between 2003 and the present. The total acquisition cost of the various MRAPs ordered and put into service conservatively exceeds $45 billion USD. The U.S. military has no less than seven different types of MRAPs in service as of today, more than any other nation by far. As the U.S. has reduced its active footprint in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sold many of these vehicles to local security forces, and even U.S. domestic police forces, as they are of little use on a contested battlefield where the U.S. military would be fighting a conventional conflict with a powerful adversary. The following list details the main types of MRAPS in use by the U.S. military and costs associated:

M-ATV

The genesis of the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was the desire to gain both the IED level protection of an MRAP and the mobility of a lighter all-terrain vehicle. It was realized early on that the armored M1114 HMMWV variant sacrificed much of its off road performance with the addition of heavy armor plate, yet failed to provide adequate protection. A purpose-built light MRAP was called for. Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the initial $1 billion USD contract to supply the new M-ATV to the U.S. Army, USMC, Air Force and Special Operations Command (which employs special operations elements of all the military services) in mid-2009. The initial contract order grew four fold within a few years, and total M-ATVs produced to date has approached 10,000 units of different variants. The acquisition cost not corrected for inflation likely exceeds $4 billion USD, and additional contracts have been awarded to update and refit all units retained in U.S. service. Many units have since been handed over to allied governments in the Middle East and Europe at far reduced prices. NATO recipients include both Poland and Croatia.  Both the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have made use of the M-ATV in the conflict in Yemen, and have lost a significant number in combat.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Comparative size of the armored HMMWV and the M-ATV. The ubiquitous “Hummer” was never meant to be an armored car, and hundreds were destroyed by IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cougar

The Cougar is a much more robust vehicle than the M-ATV, resembling a heavily armored truck. It comes in a 4 x 4 and larger 6 x 6 version, with several variants based on these two platforms, depending on the intended role. The Cougar was developed by Force Protection, Inc. in 2004. The company was later acquired by General Dynamics in 2011. The Cougar was rushed into service after a very simple and rudimentary testing program in 2004, as the U.S. military wanted thousands of MRAPs for service in Iraq as soon as possible. The Cougar can trace its lineage to earlier South African designed and fielded vehicles, and was also adopted into British and Canadian service as well.

The Cougar was produced in great numbers between 2004 and 2010 for the U.S. military, with further orders filled by the British military, who have fielded the Cougar in at least 4 different variants. A number of Cougars have also be gifted to other NATO countries with contingents serving in Afghanistan. The U.S. military spent approximately $2.5-3.0 billion USD to acquire its Cougars, and additional funds have been spent to upgrade the roughly 20% of the surviving fleet selected to remain in service.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

British Army variants of the 4×4 and 6×6 Cougar (Mastiff and Ridgeback) in a convoy protecting military transports in Afghanistan.

Caiman

Probably the most cost effective MRAP to be developed to meet the requirements of the MRAP Vehicle Program is the Armor Holdings (since acquired by BAE Systems) Caiman. The Caiman initially shared 85% of its construction components with the Stewart & Stevenson/Oshkosh family of military tactical vehicles (FMTV). This family of light to medium trucks have been produced since the early 1980s, with over 74,000 units of varying configuration put into service. This commonality of construction reduced manufacturing, maintenance and inventory carrying costs. The total cost of the Caiman contract (including a later contract to upgrade and improve vehicles to the Multi-Terrain Vehicle standard) amounted to over $1.15 billion USD. The United States sold 1,150 Caiman MRAPs that had been put in surplus status to the U.A.E. to aid in their operations in Yemen.

MaxxPro

Manufactured by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of the Navistar International Corporation, the MaxxPro MRAP is based on a commercial truck chassis and makes use of a bolt-on armor construction as much as possible. This reduces manufacturing cost when compared to welded construction, and allows for easier repair in the field. Approximately 9,000 MaxxPro MRAPs were built for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. At an average per unit cost of $515,000 USD, the Maxxpro cost the United States military over $4.6 billion USD, not counting a number of upgrade contracts. Of the 9,000 units constructed and delivered, the U.S. military services announced in 2013 the intension of keeping only a third of these units in service beyond 2014.

Buffalo MPRC

The largest MRAP in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo was designed as an IED and mine clearance vehicle. Manufactured by Force Protection Inc., it is based on the Casspir MRAP that has been in service with the South African Army for decades. The Buffalo in a 6×6 armored vehicle with a maximum service weight of 25,000 kgs. (56,000 lbs.). After building the first 200 units, the Buffalo was upgraded to the A2 standard in 2009, after which an additional 450 units were produced. Over 750 total Buffalos have been produced in total, with 650 of these in service with the U.S. military at a cost of over $1 billion USD.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Force Protection Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP removing an explosive devise by use of its articulated, hydraulically-operated claw.

The Buffalo’s origins are clearly a response to the dangers posed by a prolonged military occupation in an environment of active guerilla warfare. It was based on a proven design, and has been extremely effective in its intended role. The traditional vehicle for mine clearance or IED disposal would normally be an MBT fitted with mine clearance apparatus. The Buffalo is cheaper to manufacture, maintain and operate than an MBT, and is slightly more flexible in a multitude of environments. It also can accommodate 12 soldiers in addition to a normal crew of two.

Nyala RG-31/33

Manufactured by Land Systems OMC (BAE Land Systems) of South Africa and FNSS of Turkey, the RG-31/33 NyalaMRAP is produced in a 4×4 (RG-31) and 6×6 (RG-33) version to meet the requirements of the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected Vehicle Program. Although used by the U.S. military in the highest numbers (almost 2,000 vehicles), ten other nations use this MRAP to some degree. The USMC ordered 1,385 of the Mark 5E variant, and operate more RG-31s than any other military service. The total cost of RG-31/33 acquisition is easily in excess of $2.7 billion USD.

JLTV

The most ambitious of all of the MRAP programs, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is meant to replace the HMMWV in use by all of the U.S. military branches. Although the design of the new vehicle is meant to allow it to exceed at a number of military tasks, it is at its core a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle. The JLTV is suited to take over the tasks of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, special operations, utility and convoy protection. The JLTV is meant to be flexible enough to perform all of these tasks and its very design allows for the upgrading or downgrading of armor and weapons systems tailored to the task required.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2015 that the total acquisition cost of the JLTV across all services would likely be $53.5 billion USD, with a total of 5,500 units for the UMC and 49,099 for the U.S. Army requested. In 2016, the Department of Defense claimed that the total cost of the program would be reduced due to revised unit costs and corrected “cost estimate methodologies”; however, past experience has proven that the Pentagon is usually quite bad when it comes to managing finances. The procurement timetable proposed has the first JLTVs being delivered beginning in 2018, and not being completed until 2040 for the U.S. Army. The 5,500 units requested by the USMC should be delivered between 2018 and 2022.

The JLTV program clearly embodies the U.S. military’s fixation on its experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with occupation and the resultant insurgencies motivated by inevitable anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments. Invaders are never seen as liberators, but always as subjugators and occupiers. Occupiers are never safe, as the frontline is everywhere. The U.S. military reacted to protect itself by armoring everything. Light utility vehicles and logistics transport of all categories were armored for protection. Only a nation that plans to invade and occupy other countries, and that will find itself always in a hostile environment will require so many MRAPs and armored transports. No other major military in the world has decided to follow this new U.S. model. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the main duty of their armed forces is to fight defensively in defending their own territory. Armies of national defense have no need to prepare themselves to fight a hostile native population.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

A side-by-side comparison of an unarmored HMMWV and an armored JLTV. The new vehicle is twice as heavy as the standard HMMWV.

The JLTV is an armored, all-terrain monster that can carry a payload between 1,600 and 2,300 kgs. (3,500 – 5,100 lbs.), weapons as large as the SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense variant of the Hellfire missile) or the 30mm M230LF automatic cannon, and provide crew survivability in most IED attacks. The DOD has decided to replace both MRAPs and the HMMWV family of utility vehicles with the new JLTV platform. The JLTV is equipped with a 6.6 liter diesel V8 which can generate at least 300 horse power. The vehicle weighs in at between 14,000 and 15,639lbs. depending on the variant. By comparison, the unarmored HMMWV weighed in at 7,700 lbs. fully loaded and made use of a diesel V8 (some models used a turbo diesel) generating a maximum 190 hp. Even considering greater efficiencies achieved through modern internal combustion engine technology, a vehicle that weighs twice as much and requires greater horsepower will lead to higher fuel consumption and require higher levels of maintenance.

Counter Insurgency

Not only did the U.S. military experience with occupation and counterinsurgency shape the armored vehicle procurement projects and design priorities of future armored vehicle acquisitions, but it also resulted in an over-focusing of resources toward a traditionally elite, limited and specialized subset of conventional fighting forces; special operations. All effective modern national defense forces operate a small cadre of special operations units. These units are made up of highly motivated, highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who can perform any number of military tasks, but are specifically focused on asymmetrical, hybrid and very specialized warfare subsets. They complement and enhance conventional fighting forces, and often act as significant force multipliers in any conflict.

Prior to the U.S. wars of occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States operated a robust special operations force comprising of units from all services. The considerable investment in these highly selective forces, the high standards demanded, and the extremely difficult training requirements have always kept these forces small; however this has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. The need for soldiers with a skill set specific to counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to increased focus and demand on special operations. From 2001 to the present, the special operations forces under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have expanded from 42,800 to approximately 63,500 today. Special operations specific funding has grown four fold in the same time period, from $3.1 billion USD to $12.3 billion USD. According to SOCOM, an average of 8,300 special operators are deployed in missions in as many as 149 nations across the globe on a weekly basis, and 70 nations on any given day.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

U.S. Special Operations Command has access to uniquely qualified units from across all branches of the U.S. military.

There is little doubt that the Pentagon’s over-focus on counterinsurgency (the State Department is guilty here as well) has lead to U.S. military adventurism involving it in the internal conflicts of 75% of the countries of the world. Does this clandestine military involvement in the civil or regional strife of most of the planet really have anything to do with U.S. national security? Does it make the U.S. any safer, or is it only creating more enemies? SOCOM has even deployed assets to clandestinely train amongst the civilian population of the United States itself, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

This disproportional over-emphasis on special operations has resulted in an atrophying of more traditional martial structures and establishments. While the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have stayed at the forefront of modern armor and artillery development, and have advanced the related tactics, the United States has fallen far behind. Even the Peoples Liberation Army has made great strides in these conventional warfare realms in comparison to the United States. The United States surely has the economic resources, and the technical capability to close the gap, but the focus of the military needs to be realigned toward conventional warfighting.

Secretary Mattis has obviously recognized the need to focus higher procurement towards conventional forces, as well as fund R&D efforts into better field artillery, rocket artillery, armored fighting vehicles such as the AMPV, and a new main battle tank (MBT). In identifying near peer adversaries as the greatest national security threat, Secretary Mattis realizes that the U.S. must waste no time in closing the technological and quality gap that now exists between the conventional fighting forces of the United States and Russia and China respectively.

A Navy in Disarray

While the ground forces of the United States have suffered from two decades of occupation and counterinsurgency, which has morphed them from a balanced, combined arms conventional fighting force, into a force obsessed with IEDs, insurgents and guerilla warfare, the U.S. Navy seems to have lost any idea of its national security role. After two decades of enjoying uncontested control of the seas and the ability to use aircraft carrier-borne airstrikes to pummel inferior adversaries, none of which possessed a viable navy or air force, nor a modern air defense network or shore-based anti-naval capability, the U.S. Navy has seemed determined to sail further into the realm of irrelevancy in any future conflict. Unless it intends to engage in battle against significantly weaker opponents, the U.S. Navy will not possess an advantage over its two most powerful possible adversaries, Russia and China.

The United States Navy has not engaged in a major naval engagement with a major adversary since the closing days of World War Two. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union largely kept one another at bay, with very close competition leading to significant advancements in naval warfare. They did not engage in any verified hostile actions. Although the U.S. Navy engaged in combat with Libyan military forces in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra, as well as sunk a small force of Iraqi Navy vessels of small displacement at the “Battle of Bubiyan” (not really much of a battle at all and UK Navy helicopters did most of the fighting), these engagements were largely one-sided and no one could ever say that the outcomes were a surprise. Regardless, the U.S. Navy apparently has decided that it is an indomitable force that can go wherever it pleases and no one can stand in its way. Such hubris and arrogance are one of the reasons why it is in such poor shape today. The other reason must surely be attributed to a military industrial complex that has sold the service on an expensive pipe dream of wonder weapons that have failed to live up to their hype. All to the tune of huge profits. The following are the most egregious examples:

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

Based on a flawed concept from the start, of a small surface combatant that could make use of modularity to tailor it to specific tasks as opposed to a traditional multi-purpose design, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was largely doomed for a number of reasons. Two different designs were awarded contracts, the trimaran Independence Class designed by General Dynamics, and the mono-hull Freedom Class designed by Lockheed Martin. The decision to produce two different designs to meet the needs of a single class should have been seen as problematic. Here the Navy accepted the responsibility and costs associated with maintaining two different platforms, with separate maintenance needs and schedules, not to mention two separate training programs for LCS crews.

The concept of the LCS was also divergent in many respects, and quite frankly, too much was expected of a ship that was smaller in size than a conventional frigate. The U.S. Navy expected the vessels to marry significant striking power, with modularity tailored to just about every form of modern naval warfare, and new networking and information technologies that would reduce the required crew to a minimum. What resulted was what those serving in the force would begrudgingly coin the “Little Crappy Ship”. The aluminum and composite (Independence Class) and lightweight steel (Freedom Class) hulls of the ships provide little armored protection, offensive striking power is far from adequate for either surface warfare or fire support for forces deployed inland, the platform has yet to meet anti-submarine requirements, and the reduced crew size has been determined to be unmanageable.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image of the construction of USS Independence LCS-2, clearly illustrates the aluminum structure of the hull. Aluminum offers little armored protection, burns vigorously at high temperature, and led to increased corrosion of steal propulsion components in areas where the dissimilar metals were in close proximity below the waterline.

As a result of its overwhelming failure to meet the expectations of the U.S. Navy or Congressional oversight, the total fleet size of LCS vessels has been reduced from the original 50 planned down to 32. Project cost overruns, a number of high profile system failures, and the smaller fleet size have resulted in a total cost of $12.4 billion USD for the first 26 vessels. The U.S. Congress capped the per-unit cost at $480 million per ship, bringing the theoretical total cost to $15.5 billion USD. All for a ship that has a minimal chance of surviving most modern naval combat scenarios. There is little wonder why the U.S. Navy has decided to start building a multi-purpose frigate, dubbed the FFG(X), to pick up where the LCS has failed.

 DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class

If the LCS was not a huge and unequivocal disappointment, then the much vaunted stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class was a total embarrassment and unmitigated failure.  Envisioned as a high-tech game changer, the DDG-1000 was supposed to make use of powerful new technologies, overwhelming firepower, and massive power generation, all wrapped in stealth that would render it invisible. Although designed as a multi-mission surface combatant, added emphasis was put on naval surface fire support (NSFS) while operating in littoral waters. Due to a number of factors, mostly the exorbitant cost of the program, the Navy is now trying to find a role for the Zumwaltclass vessels.

Originally, the Navy intended to build 32 of these stealth destroyers, yet the exorbitant initial cost plus huge cost overruns led the Navy and the U.S. Congress to reduce the fleet to 24, then 16, then 7, and finally to only 3 vessels. Correspondingly, the cost per vessel increased tremendously, as did the cost of all class-specific systems including weapons systems, power generation and propulsion systems. Cost per vessel stands at over $7.5 billion USD.

The 155mm Mark 51 advanced gun system (AGS) deck guns designed specifically for the DDG 1000s were made to fire guided rounds over a range in excess of 80 nautical miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of just 50 meters (160ft.). Each DDG 1000 is equipped with two AGS on the forward deck. These guns were designed to strike shore targets accurately from coastal waters in support of allied ground forces and amphibious landing forces. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems developed the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for use in the AGS, but due to the now 3 vessel fleet, the per unit cost of each LRLAP had risen to over $800,000 USD. The Navy had already procured 90 rounds before the decision was made to cease purchasing the rounds due to the prohibitive costs.

The DDG-1000 utilizes the same MT-30 Rolls Royce gas turbine engines as the Freedom Class LCS vessels; however, in the case of the destroyers the gas turbine is linked to a massive electrical grid that not only powers the electric motors that propel the vessel, but just about every other system onboard, including the weapons systems. The arrangement is proving problematic, as the first two vessels in class have both experienced main engine failures and damages. The USS Michael Monsoor DDG-1001 suffered damage to the turbine blades of one of its main engines during sea trials in February of this year. The MT-30 engine will have to be replaced at the cost of $20 million USD. The USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 famously broke down during its transit from Maine to San Diego and had to be towed from the Panama Canal to its new home port.

The U.S. Navy is now struggling to find a new niche for the DDG-1000s. Now that its NSFS mission is a non-starter, it is being adapted as a platform to strike inland targets with land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and engage other surface ships with an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) that has yet to be accepted into the service. The DDG-1000s lack a strong anti-air warfare (AAW) capability, and would thus be tied to other fleet components such as the Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51s and Ticonderoga Class CGs which have strong AAW capabilities. In an attempt to utilize the USS Zumwalt, the Navy has added legacy weapons systems, radars and communications antennas to the stealthy superstructure, undoubtedly negating its minimal radar signature. It remains to be seen what munitions will be provided for the two AGS turrets, as no munitions other than the cost prohibitive LRLAP exist.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The latest revision of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class lead vessel’s once smooth and unblemished superstructure is now marred by various external sensory and communications arrays. Two rear deck guns for close-in defense have also been added.

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class

As if the U.S. Navy was not content with wasting $38 billion USD on the failed LCS and DDG-1000 programs, an even more grandiose undertaking was envisioned for the service that would revolutionize the all too important and largely obsolete “super carrier”. It is a widely accepted fact that the U.S. Navy has been obsessed with the aircraft carrier since World War II and the pivotal naval battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This obsession is alive and well to this day, seemingly immune to the realities of modern missile technology, especially in regard to guidance, speed, range, and the advent of armed and semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of increasing lethality.

The U.S. Navy embarked on a program to replace the existing Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently comprising the central component of the aircraft carrier strike groups (ASG), of which the service operates 10 (with the additional CVN-65 Enterprise in reserve), in 2005 with the advanced construction of CVN-78. In 2008 the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding worth approximately $5.1 billion USD to build the first in a series of four such carriers. The goal is to build each carrier in four year periods under the current funding schedule. The Gerald R. Ford Class was supposed to take advantage of a number of new technologies and experience significantly improved efficiencies in aircraft carrier operations over the preceding Nimitz Class.

While the initial cost estimate for CVN-78 was around $10 billion USD (U.S. Congress had caped it at $10.5 billion USD in 2007), the total cost for the vessel has exceeded $13 billion USD as of May of this year when it was revealed that the Advanced Weapons Elevator and a main thrust bearing had suffered damage in sea trials and required repair. The CVN-78 is by far the most expensive warship ever constructed. In a controversial move, it was decided to try and incorporate a number of new, unproven systems in the new design. In retrospect, this decision was bound to result in cost overruns and a more problematic breaking-in period. New systems integrated into the Gerald R. Fordinclude an electro-magnetic launching system (EMALS), advanced aircraft arresting system, advanced weapons elevator system, dual band radar (DBR), and a more powerful nuclear reactor.

There was much discussion in the Navy regarding the wisdom of introducing so many new technologies in a single platform. Many senior officers argued that there were bound to be serious delays in working through both the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems associated with rendering so many new technologies operational. This opinion turned out to be of merit, as the Gerald R. Ford immediately experienced problems with just about all of its new systems. The vessel has experienced two main propulsion malfunctions over the past year, the advanced arresting gear has proven unreliable, and the EMALS (as well as other “critical systems”) has displayed “poor or unknown reliability” according to the Navy Operational and Test Evaluation Force. In early testing, the EMALS was unable to launch F-18 strike aircraft at weights even close to a full combat load. All of these problems or shortcomings were revealed during sea trials and the vessel returned to shipyard in Newport News, Virginian on July 15th, 2018 to undergo extensive repairs and improvements.

In should have been of little surprise to most naval architects, engineers, and naval line officers who have held vessel commands, that the above mentioned problems were inevitable. The big question is why the leadership of the Navy decided upon such a platform at all. What is the point of investing so much money and effort into such a large and advanced vessel, regardless of the unproven nature of many of the critical systems, when aircraft carriers have become so vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles? Of even greater significance, why invest so much in a new carrier and not invest in increasing the range and striking power of the carrier air wing? An aircraft carrier is worthless without a powerful and flexible air wing element.

Carrier Air Wing Vulnerabilities

As much as President Trump and various administration officials and Senators tout the power of the U.S. military, often citing an increasing defense budget as an indicator of strength, efficiency and effectiveness, there is little doubt that U.S. naval aviation has atrophied over decades of misuse, neglect and poor decision making at the highest levels. U.S. naval aviation is arguably in its worse state since the opening days of the Pacific Theatre of operations during the Second World War. Not only is it in disrepair, but it is ill-equipped for a fight against a peer adversary.

Let us address the first issue, the ever shrinking air wing with its shrinking range. In the last decade of Cold War naval competition between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers deployed with nine, or even ten squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that has been reduced to six. Of greater importance, the only aircraft utilized for combat operations is the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet with all of its inherent shortcomings, most importantly its limited operational range of 370 nautical miles (full strike combat weapons load and fuel). The aircraft it replaced, the A-7 Corsair II and A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy and the F-4 Phantom in the USMC, all had much longer operational ranges and all but the A-4 had greater weapons payload capacity. The F/A-18 is a jack of all trades and a master of none. In an attempt to lower costs (although few combat aircraft has ever operated at lower cost than the A-4 Skyhawk) by using one airframes for all roles, the U.S. Navy has put all of its eggs in one basket, and that basket is not up to the task. This is not to say that the F/A-18 Hornet and F-/A-18E/F Super Hornet are poor aircraft. The plane merely cannot do all of the things asked of it as well as many other aircraft. What has resulted, is an aircraft carrier air wing that is less capable in all respects, and cannot compete and excel in a future conflict with a peer adversary.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This image clearly illustrates the ordinance payload capacity of the A-4 Skyhawk. It could carry 9,900lbs. of munitions on 5 external hardpoints. It had an effective combat radius from an aircraft carrier of over 700 miles, and a maximum range of 2,000 miles.

Although the improved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is significantly larger than its predecessor, and gains about 100 nautical miles in range due to larger internal fuel capacity, it still lacks the required range needed to protect its carrier. Not surprisingly, even though there was a better option, the Navy decided to use F/A-18s for aerial refueling duties as well. The S-3 Viking had been kept in service as a carrier borne aerial tanker, having given up its original role as an ASW aircraft, and was superior to the F/A-18 in this respect. Although most S-3s in service still have approximately 12,000 hours of service life left on their airframes, the Navy pushed ahead with their retirement in 2009. With a much greater range than the F/A-18 and a fuel capacity of 16,000 lbs., the S-3 was a better and far cheaper solution. The fact that it was a far cheaper option was probably its downfall. Profit drives the U.S. military industrial complex, not efficiency or performance.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers today are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet and E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The second issue, which is perhaps more damning, is the fact that the F/A-18 squadrons that the Navy relies on to conduct almost all carrier air wing duties including attack/strike missions, air superiority, fleet defense, buddy refueling, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance, are in an alarming state of disrepair. The Navy announced in February of 2017, that two thirds, or 62% of all F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were unserviceable due to maintenance issues. Twenty-seven percent of these aircraft were undergoing major maintenance depot work, not minor or preventive maintenance. Of the 542 total F/A-18 and E/F-18 Hornets, only 170 were mission capable. Fast forward one year and a new and increased defense budget, and the Navy is still a long way from solving the shortfall in available replacement parts just to meet normal maintenance requirements. The decision was also made to take 140 of the oldest single seat Hornets (A/C variants) in the Navy and either cannibalize them for parts or transfer them to USMC squadrons that are experiencing similar maintenance issues. In the case of the USMC, they have been waiting so long for new F-35Bs that their legacy F-18s are falling into disrepair.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Maintenance crews performing repairs on an F/A-18 aboard a carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps must address the maintenance crisis plaguing the services, yet the problem cannot be remedied at this level. Only a reduction in the tempo of deployments, flight operations or the provision of added funding will alleviate the issue which will be determined by the White House and Congress.

Has anyone asked the question, “What good is an advanced, gigantic aircraft carrier with an air wing that is limited in range and capability?” If the U.S. Navy does manage to get the first three Gerald R. Ford Class carriers in service, how many F/A-18E Super Hornets will be mission capable to fly from them? Will the F-35C and F35B Joint Strike Fighters meant to complete the complement of strike and fighter aircraft going to finally be available for deployment? Seeing that the F-35 does not close the “missile gap” that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers in general, is the Navy soliciting the defense industry to produce a carrier-borne aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, to correct this obvious weakness? Russian and Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles can strike U.S. CSGs long before their aircraft can get within range of striking the territories of either of these near peer adversaries. This “missile gap” will not be rectified anytime soon.

The One-Size-Fits-All Fighter Aircraft

After a short review of the Navy’s decision to settle on a single airframe to fill all of the roles of the carrier air wing, it should come of little surprise that the Pentagon would come to a similar decision on a much broader scale. A cursory study of combat aviation history has proven that there is no one-size- fits-all solution to the many combat functions performed by military aviation. It appears that the decision to introduce a multi-role fighter making use of many new technologies and heavily reliant on stealth to be effective in modern aerial warfare for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and USMC was more about making huge profits for the defense industry and providing jobs to American workers than it was about providing the U.S. military with a superior tool.

The story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a cautionary tale of a weapons development program that was ill conceived and soon spiraled out of control.  Perhaps the most controversial and scandalous of any such program, the JSF is the costliest weapons program in world history. Newly revised estimates from the Pentagon put the cost of development and procurement of the 2,056 fighters that the DOD wants at $406.1 billion USD. The total cost to procure these aircraft and maintain them over the 20 year life span of the aircraft exceeds $1.5 trillion USD.

While the F-35A first flew in 2006, the only U.S. military branch to declare the F-35 operation and to use it in combat is the USMC. The F-35 was developed from the outset for export to allied nations, and Israel has used the F-35 for strikes against targets in Syria. It is important to note that Israel has relied heavily on its decades old squadrons of F-15 and F-16 multi-role aircraft to bear the brunt of most combat missions. Approximately 300 units of all versions have been produced so far for both the U.S. military and foreign militaries, yet only Israel and the USMC have declared the aircraft combat ready. A major issue facing the program is the fact that aircraft manufacturing began years before the plane was deemed fit for operational deployment, largely because so many deficiencies have been identified and have had to be rectified. This was the result of concurrency, a procurement process that allowed for production of the aircraft prior to final approval of the design. It was agreed that all deficiencies identified would eventually be addressed and rectified in airframes already manufactured at a later date in order to bring them up to the latest standard.

Not only has the F-35 not attained wide operational status seventeen years after its first flight, but it has pulled an exorbitant amount of funding from existing, combat proven aircraft. What could have been done to maintain and improve existing squadrons of F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F/A-18 Hornets currently in varying states of disrepair and serviceability? The idea of replacing all of these front line aircraft with the F-35 is laughable. What kind of imperial hubris and institutional tunnel vision could have led to such an ill-advised decision?  The answer is the institutionalized corruption and waste of the U.S. military industrial complex. It continues to leave the United States less protected, and sends American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen into combat with increasingly less capable weapons.

Atrophy and Exhaustion

The U.S. military has been engaged in counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan for over seventeen years. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and counterinsurgency operations in a host of nations including, but not limited to Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria, have all taken a toll on the U.S. military. Not only has a great deal of military hardware been destroyed, but a great deal of equipment has been worn out and essentially must be retired from service. More importantly, the constant deployments have undermined the personnel needs of all services, with thousands of men having been killed or physically and psychologically maimed for life. Tens of thousands of the most skilled commissioned and non-commissioned officers have left the services, many of them having served multiple combat deployments.

The fact that 62% of U.S. Navy’s F-18s are not mission capable is not an anomaly. In 2017, approximately 72% of all U.S. Air Force aircraft were not flight worthy. Many of the airframes are quite old, yet well within their engineered service life, but most are in need of maintenance. Both the Navy and Air Force claim that there is not enough money in their respective budgets to procure the needed spare parts to keep these aircraft flying. One would wonder that if this is the case, why tens of billions of dollars are being poured into new aircraft when existing fleets are being left in disrepair. The decisions being made in the upper echelon of the DOD are quite perplexing for the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling to keep weapons and vehicles ready for action.

The U.S. Army finds itself looking for buyers of surplus MRAPs, vehicles of little utility in a major conventional war with a peer adversary, while at the same time lacking spare parts and munitions for armored vehicles and artillery systems. While the Army has made some progress in procuring the first of the 49,099 JLTVs it wants, it is far behind in all other armored vehicle procurement and development programs. BAE has delivered the first batch of 29 AMPVs to the U.S. Army for extensive testing before the decision can be made to start low rate initial production (LRIP). Once the LRIP begins, it is estimated that BAE will be able to produce approximately 262 units annually, unless the company’s main manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is expanded. The initial contract is worth $1.6 billion USD. The Army wants at least 3,000 AMPVs of six different main variants to replace the thousands of M113 armored vehicles still in service. The M113 first saw service in 1962 and a replacement for the venerable vehicle has been required for decades.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made it crystal clear in his National Defense Strategy that the U.S. must rebuild its conventional warfare capabilities. The U.S. Army’s proposed 2019 budget lays bare the new priorities of a service facing a major transition in priorities. Procurement of tracked combat vehicles, as well as artillery rounds, rockets and missiles account for much of this latest budget request. Procurement is up by 18.4% over the previous year, with procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles up 84% over the previous year. Although upgrading of the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer to the M109A7 level is down by 56% compared to 2018, procurement of 155mm artillery rounds is up a whopping 800%.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

The percentage of total procurement directed toward weapons and tracked combat vehicles in the 2019 proposed budget denotes that the U.S. Army recognizes its weakness in conventional warfighting capability.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

This chart clearly shows the desire on the part of the U.S. Army to upgrade and rearm conventional capabilities. 155mm artillery rounds and Army Tactical Missile System upgrades to the M207 MLRS are at the top of the list, followed by MBT upgrades and acquisition of new AMPV vehicles.

As the U.S. Army attempts to rebuild its aged and depleted armored brigade combat teams and conventional and rocket artillery, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are facing their own challenges. The Navy finds itself in a position that is far from enviable, but was very easy to predict. Having dumped $38 billion USD into two failed new classes of warships and a further $13 billion into a new aircraft carrier that will likely not become operational until 2022, the service is currently in the process of realigning its priorities. The service is struggling to procure the new VirginiaClass SSN and Columbia Class SSBNs that are required to ensure the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad well into the foreseeable future. These defensive weapons programs, which are integral to U.S. national security, could have benefitted greatly from the $50 billion wasted on the LCS, DDG-1000 and Gerald R. Ford programs. Russia and China have spent the same time wasted by the U.S. Navy on updating and modernizing their own submarine forces, chiefly their ballistic missile submarines.

Institutional Corruption

If one had to identify the main reason behind the utter failure of the U.S. political establishment and military leadership, both civilian and in uniform, to identify and prioritize weapons programs and procurement that was truly in line with the national defense needs of the country, it would be the institutional corruption of the U.S. military industrial complex. This is not a fault of one party, but is the inevitable outcome of a thoroughly corrupted system that both generates and wastes great wealth at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

Massive defense budgets do not lead to powerful military forces nor sound national defense strategy. The United States is the most glaring example of how a nation’s treasure can be wasted, its citizens robbed for generations, and its political processes undermined by an industry bent on maximizing profitability by encouraging and exacerbating conflict. At this point it is questionable that the United States’ could remain economically viable without war, so much of its GDP is connected in some way to the pursuit of conflict.

There is no doubt that the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in an Orwellian sleight of hand in 1947, just a few years after end of World War II. The military industrial complex grew into a monolith during the war, and the only way to justify the expansion of the complex, was by finding a new enemy to justify the new reality of a massive standing military, something that the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids. This unlawful state of affairs has persisted and expanded into a rotten, bloated edifice of waste. Wasted effort, wasted wealth and the wasted lives of millions of people spanning every corner of the planet. Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform, and millions of civilians of so many nations, have been tossed into the blades of this immoral meat grinder for generations.

President Donald Trump was very proud to announce the largest U.S. military budget in the nation’s history last year. The United States spent (or more accurately, borrowed from generations yet to come) no less than $874.4 billion USD. The declared base budget for 2017 was $523.2 billion USD, yet there are also the Overseas Contingency Operations and Support budgets that have to be considered in determining the total cost. The total DOD annual costs have doubled from 2003 to the present. Yet, what has the DOD really accomplished with so much money and effort? Very little of benefit to the U.S. tax payer for sure, and paradoxically the exorbitant waste of the past fifteen years have left every branch of the U.S. military weaker.

The U.S. Congress has the duty and responsibility of reigning in the military adventurism of the executive branch. They have the sole authority to declare war, but more importantly, the sole authority to approve the budget requests of the military. It is laughable to think that the U.S. Congress will do anything to reign in military spending. The Congress and the Senate are as equally guilty as the Executive in promoting and benefitting from the military industrial complex. Envisioned as a bulwark against executive power, the U.S. Congress has become an integral component of that complex. No Senator or Representative would dare to go against the industry that employs so many constituents within their state, or pass up on the benefits afforded them through the legalized insider-trading exclusive to them, or the lucrative jobs that await them in the defense industry and the many think tanks that promote continued prosecution of war.

Possible Reforms

It would be quite simple for the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the current endemic problems that have rendered it weaker and less prepared for a major conventional conflict with a peer adversary. The greater challenge is transforming the relationship between the federal and state governments back to the constitutionally intended one, and to dissolve the powers of the now allied executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. This would undermine the ability of the military industrial complex to coerce the nation into working against the interests of the states and the citizenry. The military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves it can only exist when power is greatly concentrated in a federal system.

For the sake of argument, if the political will could be found to work against the military industrial complex in the interests of true national defense and fiscal responsibility, the following steps could be taken immediately to rectify the many problems facing the military services of the United States:

The U.S. Army

Abandon the obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation and realign the focus of the Army on the defense of the homeland and a handful of historical allies. Rebuild the Army as a lean and well-equipped conventional fighting force. The most highly trained and experienced cadres of special operations forces should be retained, with other members dispersed to more conventional infantry, airborne and reconnaissance units. Most of these men would be moved to reserve status. Personnel should be cut by at least 25%, the majority retained moved to reserve status, and many overseas bases and operations ceased. The focus should be on defense of the nation’s own territories, while also safeguarding the economic interests and maritime trade lanes that are the lifeblood of any nation.

All legacy systems that have proven capable and efficient on the modern battlefield should be refurbished and upgraded to the most modern standard. The M2 Bradley modernization program should be continued, and the AMPV program given increased priority so that the thousands of M113 vehicles can finally end their 56 year tour of duty. MRAP inventories should be reduced to the very minimum and all surplus units sold off to recoup some of the expense incurred in their procurement and the money directed into offsetting procurement costs of new AMPVs and JLTVs.

The JLTV platform is a modular, easily upgradable light tactical vehicle that can be tailored to fit the mission. Although most units should be the basic utility variant, many will need to be acquired to fill the roles of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, convoy security, and light special operations vehicles. An air-droppable airborne armored fighting vehicle should be developed based on the JLTV. The U.S. airborne forces have lacked any real armored fighting vehicle that can accompany them in parachute operations since the M551 was retired in 1996. An up-armored JLTV equipped with a 30mm autocannon would serve as a good stopgap until a purpose built tracked vehicle could be designed. The venerable and ubiquitous HMMWV should maintain its utility role in all non-combat formations, as well as the basis for the Avenger light anti-aircraft missile system for years to come.

Of greatest importance is the rejuvenation of the armored and mechanized units of the U.S. Army. The M1126 Stryker family of wheeled armored vehicles cannot bear the weight of a conventional conflict with either Russia or China. The M1A2SepV3 MBT upgrade, including the addition of the Trophy APS should be afforded adequate funding, yet the greatest need of the Army is the replacement of the M113 in combat units.  The U.S. Army’s proposed 3,000 unit procurement of AMPVs is a good start.

The artillery arm of the U.S. Army must gain the attention it has lacked since the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the success of Operation Desert Storm. U.S. military planners and the leadership of the DOD must realize the continued importance of both conventional and rocket artillery on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army only operates two self-propelled artillery systems, the M109 Paladin and M270 MLRS. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as both systems are maintained, upgraded and fielded in sufficient number. The M109A7 upgrade program must gain greater funding in the immediate future.

The U.S. Navy

The LCS and DDG-1000 programs are a national disgrace and should be declared as such. The two existing DDG-1000s should be used as test beds for future engineering and weapons systems. The third vessel should be cancelled immediately. As for the LCS, the existing fleet should be used for littoral patrol duties, and all units currently under construction or planned should be cancelled. Enough money has been wasted on these horribly conceived and even more horribly manifested examples of the monumental corruption and waste so integral to the U.S. defense industry.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground). Arguably two of the most monumental failures of warship design in modern history. A cautionary tale of waste and ineptitude.

The FFG(X) program to design a modern yet conventional multi-purpose frigate for the U.S. Navy should be fully embraced. The new frigate should adhere to the traditional naval warfare duties of a frigate and should be designed to sufficiently fulfill a balance of AAW, ASW, and surface warfare missions.  In conjunction, priority should be given to procurement of the new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III. The Arleigh Burke has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy since it entered service. It is a well-designed, balanced, flexible and powerful naval combatant of significant displacement. It puts the LCS and the Zumwalt to shame in every respect, and has existed as a symbol of U.S. Navy power and presence across the length and breadth of the globe since 1991.

It is almost unconscionable that with the richest and most accomplished history of aircraft carrier aviation under its belt, that the U.S. Navy could not come up with a better design for the next generation of CVNs than the Gerald R. Ford Class. Perhaps the namesake of the lead vessel in the class was well chosen, as President Ford was far from a memorable performer; however, the wisdom of the entire program from its very inception must be questioned. The U.S. Navy must outgrow the “super carrier” fixation. There is a future for aircraft carriers, yet on a far different pattern than what the U.S. Navy has operated for the past 50 years.

The greatest area of concern for the U.S. Navy is the weakness of the carrier air wing, a weakness that will not be fundamentally corrected by the introduction of the F-35 in U.S. Navy and USMC service aboard U.S. carriers. A new, longer range fleet defense aircraft akin to a modern F-14 Tomcat must be developed. In addition, a new attack aircraft must be developed with a range that exceeds that of the F-18 Super Hornet by a factor of 100%. It is hard to believe that the F-4 Skyhawk had an operational combat radius exceeding 700 miles (2,000 mile maximum range), twice that of a Super Hornet. Additionally, the S-3 Viking must be re-tasked as a carrier borne aerial tanker, and the many airframes now mothballed, yet with thousands of hours of use left, need to be repurposed to this task. The current carrier air wing as it stands, even with the introduction of the F-35, is of little utility against a peer adversary such as Russia or China.

Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict

S-3 Viking in use as a carrier borne aerial refueling tanker. Even without significant modification, this stout little aircraft can carry 16,000 lbs. of fuel. The US Navy has 108 of these aircraft sitting in storage at a military aircraft storage facility in Arizona.

The United States must acquire both an SSN and SSBN to replace the Los Angeles and Ohio Class vessels that are approaching the end of their service lives. There is no greater defensive role for the U.S. Navy in ensuring the security of the nation than the continued operation of its attack and ballistic missile submarine forces. Both Russia and China understand this, and have greatly modernized their own submarine forces. Much of the success they have achieved in pushing the envelope of submarine design was due to their intense competition with a U.S. Navy submarine force that was always at the cutting edge of sub-surface warfare.

Conclusion

The United States stands at a crossroads in many respects, and the nation’s military equally so. All empires experience a period of over-expansion, military, economic and political over-reach and imbalance. The United States has followed in the wake of the many imperialist endeavors before it, with apparently little lessons having been learned. Imperialism is the inevitable result of power devoid of wisdom and humility. A nation borne out of a revolution against empire and absolutism has itself devolved into a much more dangerous and immoral avatar of its former oppressor. This must change.

While Defense Secretary Mattis clearly acknowledged the need to transform the U.S. military and realign it in a direction more focused on fighting and winning a conventional conflict with the near peer adversaries he identified as Russia and China, one can only hope that he realizes how the U.S. military that he served in for decades, got to the deplorable state that it now finds itself in. The greatest enemy that the U.S. military has fought for the past seventy years is undoubtedly the military industrial complex that it is an integral component of. The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria were never as much of a threat to the U.S. Armed Services as the corrupt military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves as its guardian.

The United States military is in the weakest state of material strength and readiness since the conclusion of the Cold War. The conventional ground forces of the Army have been transformed into a force bent on occupation and counterinsurgency. Its heavy armored formations are in a state of disrepair and material inferiority vis-a-vis its most capable theoretical adversaries. The cornerstone of American power projection and intimidation, the aircraft carrier strike groups, are a sad shadow of their former self. The carrier air wing, the entire reason that an aircraft carrier exists in the first place, has devolved into a tool of increasingly limited utility, with an ever diminishing reach.

The corrupt military industrial system that permeates every facet of American economic, political and even cultural life has sucked the very lifeblood from the nation, eroded its morality, bankrupt its economic future, and stolen a generation of its most patriotic and selfless sons and daughters. While James Mattis acknowledges the challenges facing the national security of the United States, he clearly misattributes the blame and misidentifies the very real adversary. Russia and China are not existential threats to the continued welfare of the American state. James Mattis need only look in the mirror to see the real threat, for he has come to represent the cabal of special interests that enslaves the nation and constitution he has pledged to serve, and holds the remainder of the world equally hostage.

There is very little chance that the reforms mentioned in this analysis will be adopted, or that the United States will move in a direction that brings it back to its inception as a constitutional republic. The interests of the military industrial complex in promoting conflict, and maximizing financial profit will continue to steer the United States military, and the nation as a whole, on an unsustainable and self-destructive path. There is little doubt that if the Deep State pushes the nation to war against Russia or China, and likely an alliance of the two, that the United States military has ever been in a weaker position. Such a conflict would be of no benefit to any of the nations concerned, yet many potential flash points exist that could lead to a conflict, including the South China Sea, Syria or Ukraine. As the United States plays catch-up after decades of military adventurism, China and Russia have spent that same time patiently and judiciously gathering their strength. The scenario of a one-sided victory in favor of the United States is pure fantasy, existing only in the daydreams of the emperor who wears no clothes.

Two Days After US Call for Ceasefire, Saudis Pound Yemen

After US Call for Ceasefire, Saudis Pound Yemen

Airstrikes pound Sanaa Airport, other areas around major cities

By Jason Ditz

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis called for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen. In the course of this, he demanded an end to fighting, and an immediate halt to all airstrikes against populated areas.

Friday in Yemen was much like any other, with Saudi warplanes pounding areas in and around the northern cities of Hodeidah and Sanaa. Heavy airstrikes were reported particularly around Sanaa Airport, which is definitely a civilian-populated area.

Sanaa was mostly hit with airstrikes, while locals reported heavy clashes around Hodeidah, a vital port city that Saudi forces have been massing around all week. In no case is there any indication that a ceasefire is starting.

Saudi and UAE officials have yet to comment on the US call for a ceasefire and peace talks at all. The only response at all from their camp was from Yemeni officials backed by the Saudis, who embraced the idea of peace talks, but similarly showed no signs of stopping fighting in the meantime.

اليمن بداية مسار التراجع السعودي

 

نوفمبر 2, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– كان لافتاً ما أدلى به وزير الدفاع الأميركي جيمس ماتيس حول صيغة لوقف الحرب في اليمن، فهو لم يوجه دعوة سياسية بل أعدّ روزنامة عملية حدّد لها سقفاً بثلاثين يوماً لوقف النار وبدء التفاوض السياسي، من دون أن يكلّف نفسه عناء زيارة الرياض والتشاور مع القيادة السعودية كشريك استراتيجي في المنطقة، وفقاً لوصف سابق لماتيس وللرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب. فكلام ماتيس الأقرب للأمر العسكري موجّه لكل من السعودية والإمارات، بوقف الحرب. والباقي دعوة ومطالب للقيادة اليمنية ولأنصار الله خصوصاً بقبول مقايضة وقف العمليات العسكرية السعودية والإماراتية، مقابل وقف قصف الصواريخ على المناطق السعودية. وهي دعوة لقيت رداً واضحاً من أنصار الله بربط كل بحث بوقف الحرب بأن يكون شاملاً وفي المقدمة يأتي فك الحصار.

– التوازن الجديد في اليمن بات واضحاً بعد الموقف الأميركي، وهو يمنح أنصار الله الموقع المقرر بالتوازي مع واشنطن التي أعلنت وضع يدها على قرار السعودية والإمارات ومَنْ معهما من اليمنيين. وواضح أن مسقط ستدير التفاوض بين الفريقين الأميركي واليمني، والواضح أيضاً أن واشنطن تقوم بذلك بعدما فرضت ضريبة التطبيع على مسقط لقاء جائزة الدور التفاوضي، لكنها تدرك بمعزل عن كون علاقة أنصار الله بإيران ليست علاقة تبعية، أن المعادلات الجيوسياسية في المنطقة جعلت من حرب السعودية والإمارات في اليمن مدخلاً لامتلاك عناصر تفوّق بوجه إيران في البحار واليابسة والممرات والمضائق المائية، وأن الحديث الأميركي عن الحاجة للسعودية في المواجهة مع إيران لا تجد لها ترجمة بمثل ما تقدّمه الحرب على اليمن، ووقف الحرب بقرار أميركي سيجد نفسه ملزماً بالتفاعل مع المطالب والشروط اليمنية بفك الحصار، تعني إحالة الدور السعودي رسمياً إلى التقاعد، خصوصاً في ما تسميه واشنطن بالمواجهة مع إيران.

– عملياً، لا يغيب عن بال واشنطن، ومن دون تنسيق تفاوضي بين أنصار الله وإيران، أن شروط وقف الحرب لن تتضمّن نزع الصواريخ البالستية من أيدي أنصار الله، وأن وهم الإشراف الدولي عليها إعلامي، وأن الدعوة لإدارة ذاتية مؤقتة للمناطق اليمنية لن يقبله أنصار الله، وأن الطريق ستكون مفتوحة نحو حكومة مؤقتة تمهّد لانتخابات، وأن مسار الوضع في اليمن لن يكون مغايراً لمصير الوضع في سورية، حيث خسارة أميركا للحرب على الدولة السورية المستقلة، سيكون كافياً لإعلان انتصار إيران. فما يهمّ إيران وفقاً لما تكتب الصحف الأميركية وتقول مراكز الدراسات التي تعتمدها الإدارة الأميركية في رسم سياساتها، هو أن يكون على حدود فلسطين دولة سورية مقاتلة قادرة ومستقلة، وأن يكون على مياه الخليج والبحر الأحمر دولة يمنية مؤمنة بالاستقلال الوطني، لا تضعها واشنطن تحت إبطها مباشرة أو بالواسطة السعودية. وهذا ما تدرك واشنطن أنه حاصل بمجرد وقف الحرب التي جاءت لمنع حصوله.

– يثير مسار العقوبات الأميركية وتزامنها مع ما يشكل عملياً رسالة انفتاح يمنية هامة على المصالح الإيرانية، وبوابة تفاوض تفتح بواسطة مسقط، التساؤل عن مدى قناعة واشنطن بالذهاب إلى المواجهة مع إيران، ودرجة الثقة بالعقوبات لتطويع إيران، بعدما صارت مجرد ضرورة تفاوضية، حيث حجر الرحى في المواجهة الذي تشكله السعودية يجري إخراجه من الحلبة مضرّجاً بجراحاته؟

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