Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Revealed: The U.S. military’s 36 code-named operations in Africa

Monday, July 15th, 2019


Nick Turse and Sean D. Naylor

Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. special operations forces saw combat in at least 13 African countries.

“Many of these operations are taking place in countries that the U.S. government does not recognize as combat zones, but in which U.S. troops are nonetheless fighting.”

Many Americans first became aware of U.S. military operations in Africa in October 2017, after the Islamic State ambushed American troops near Tongo Tongo, Niger, killing four U.S. soldiers and wounding two others.

Just after the attack, U.S. Africa Command said U.S. troops were providing “advice and assistance” to local counterparts. Later, it would become clear that those troops — the 11-man Operational Detachment-Alpha Team 3212 — were working out of the town of Oullam with a larger Nigerian force under the umbrella of Operation Juniper Shield, a wide-ranging counterterrorism effort in northwest Africa.

Until poor weather prevented it, that team was supposed to lend support to another group of American commandos who were trying to kill or capture Islamic State leader Doundoun Cheffou as part of Obsidian Nomad II.

Juniper Shield and Obsidian Nomad II were not isolated efforts but part of a panoply of named military operations and activities U.S. forces have been conducting from dozens of bases across the northern tier of Africa. Many of these operations are taking place in countries that the U.S. government does not recognize as combat zones, but in which U.S. troops are nonetheless fighting and, in several cases, taking casualties.

“American commandos were trying to kill or capture Islamic State leader Doundoun Cheffou.”

Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. special operations forces saw combat in at least 13 African countries, according to retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who served at U.S. Africa Command from 2013 to 2015 and then headed Special Operations Command Africa until 2017. Those countries, according to Bolduc, are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia. He added that U.S. troops have been killed or wounded in action in at least six of them: Kenya, Libya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia.

Yahoo News has put together a list of three dozen such operations across the continent.

The code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism. Eight of the named activities, including Obsidian Nomad, are so-called 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows U.S. special operations forces to use certain host-nation military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions.

Used extensively across Africa, 127e programs can be run either by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the secretive organization that controls the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, the Army’s Delta Force and other special mission units, or by “theater special operations forces.” These programs are “specifically designed for us to work with our host nation partners to develop small — anywhere between 80 and 120 personnel — counterterrorism forces that we’re partnered with,” said Bolduc. “They are specially selected partner-nation forces that go through extensive training, with the same equipment we have, to specifically go after counterterrorism targets, especially high-value targets.”

“U.S. troops have been killed or wounded in action in Kenya, Libya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia.”

Using documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, published reports and a Defense Department list of named U.S. military operations that leaked online, Yahoo News put together the following list of 36 operations and activities that are (or were until recently) ongoing in Africa.

Where possible, Yahoo News has also listed the bases that support these operations, relying mostly on information sheets about those locations obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Yahoo News does not claim that this list is comprehensive.

While the Defense Department has acknowledged the names, locations and purposes of some of these operations, others are far lower-profile. Almost all are unknown to the general public:

ARMADA SWEEP: A U.S. Navy electronic surveillance effort conducted from ships off the coast of East Africa, Armada Sweep supports the U.S. drone war in the region.

Bases used: Unknown

ECHO CASEMATE: This operation covers a series of activities in the Central African Republic. It began in 2013 as a support mission for French and African forces deployed to the troubled Central African Republic for peacekeeping purposes and continued as an advise-and-assist mission to those African peacekeeping forces. However, U.S. forces neither accompanied their partners in the field nor formally trained them. The operation also covered the introduction of contractors and Marines to secure the U.S. Embassy in Bangui and the deployment of a small U.S. special operations contingent to assist the U.S. ambassador in missions to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army. In the first days of the operation, the U.S. military airlifted hundreds of Burundian troops, tons of equipment and more than a dozen military vehicles into the Central African Republic, according to Africom. The U.S. military continued transporting French forces in and out of the Central African Republic, and the mission was still underway in early 2018.

Base used: Abeche, Chad

EXILE HUNTER: One of a family of similarly named counterterrorism efforts that U.S. special operations forces have conducted in East Africa. Exile Hunter was a 127e program in which elite U.S. troops trained and equipped an Ethiopian force for counterterrorism missions in Somalia. Bolduc says he shut it down in 2016 because the Ethiopian government was uncomfortable about the force not falling under its command. However, a February 2018 Defense Department list of named operations suggests it had been resurrected.

Bases used: Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

JUKEBOX LOTUS: Operation Jukebox Lotus began as the crisis response to the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, but continued until at least 2018. It gives Africa Command broad authority to conduct a variety of operations in Libya as required and is specific to neither special operations nor counterterrorism.

Bases used: Faya Largeau and N’Djamena, Chad; Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger

JUNCTION RAIN: A maritime security effort in the Gulf of Guinea involving African and U.S. Coast Guard boarding teams operating from U.S. Navy ships or those of African forces. In 2016, the hybrid teams conducted 32 boardings, resulting in $1.2 million in fines levied for more than 50 maritime violations, as well as the recovery of a diesel fuel tanker that had been seized by pirates. Last year, operations with the Senegalese and Cabo Verdean navies resulted in at least 40 boardings — mostly of fishing vessels — and $75,000 in fines handed down for two fishing violations.

Base used: Dakar, Senegal

JUNCTION SERPENT: A surveillance effort in Libya that, as part of the 2016 campaign of airstrikes against Islamic State positions in the Libyan city of Sirte, gave Joint Special Operations Command specific authorities to coordinate assets in order to develop targeting information for the campaign

Bases used: Unknown

JUNIPER MICRON: In 2013, after France launched a military intervention against Islamists in Mali code-named Operation Serval, the U.S. began Operation Juniper Micron, which involved airlifting French soldiers and supplies into that former French colony, flying refueling missions in support of French airpower, and assisting allied African forces. Juniper Micron was ongoing as of October 2018, with plans for it to continue in the future.

Bases used: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Istres-Le Tube Air Base, France; Bamako and Gao, Mali; Air Base 201 (Agadez), Arlit, Dirkou, Madama and Niamey, Niger; Dakar, Senegal

Black Agenda Report for more

How the ‘good guy with a gun’ became a deadly American fantasy

Monday, July 15th, 2019


A drawing of Philip Marlowe, an icon of hard-boiled detective fiction created by author Raymond Chandler. PHOTO/CHRISTO DRUMMKOPF/flickr

At the end of May, it happened again. A mass shooter killed 12 people, this time at a municipal center in Virginia Beach. Employees had been forbidden to carry guns at work, and some lamented that this policy had prevented “good guys” from taking out the shooter.

This trope – “the good guy with a gun” – has become commonplace among gun rights activists.

Where did it come from?

On Dec. 21, 2012 – one week after Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced during a press conference that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Ever since then, in response to each mass shooting, pro-gun pundits, politicians and social media users parrot some version of the slogan, followed by calls to arm the teachers, arm the churchgoers or arm the office workers. And whenever an armed citizen takes out a criminal, conservative media outlets pounce on the story.

But “the good guy with the gun” archetype dates to long before LaPierre’s 2012 press conference.

There’s a reason his words resonated so deeply. He had tapped into a uniquely American archetype, one whose origins I trace back to American pulp crime fiction in my book “Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Decline of Moral Authority.”

Other cultures have their detective fiction. But it was specifically in America that the “good guy with a gun” became a heroic figure and a cultural fantasy.

‘When I fire, there ain’t no guessing’

Beginning in the 1920s, a certain type of protagonist started appearing in American crime fiction. He often wore a trench coat and smoked cigarettes. He didn’t talk much. He was honorable, individualistic – and armed.

The Conversation for more

Weekend Edition

Friday, July 12th, 2019

Akshay Kumar: Canadian citizen/Indian patriot

Friday, July 12th, 2019


Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar is born in India

and holds a Canadian citizenship 

(it’s unclear on what ground he got it)

“Toronto is my home. After I retire from this [film] industry, I’m going to come back here and stay here.”

in 2010, Kumar declared his “dual citizenship

but Indian law allows only children to have dual citizenship

Canada has not seen Kumar in the last seven years

who has been very busy minting money in Bollywood

Kumar was 2018’s 7th highest paid actor in the world

patriotic themed films contributed to his millionaire-being

patriotism also demands intermingling with extremists

Kumar met the mother and father of Hindu extremists Modi

who was interviewed on apolitical topics as his like of mangoes

it was an exercise to portray a monster as a human being

both actors succeeded in improving Modi’s image at elections

Modi is disciplined, has control over anger, a simple person, …

Modi said he’s on a mission

neither Kumar asked nor Modi blurted

the mission is to turn India into a Hindu super power

with Modi as Hindu lord presiding over corporate Modirajya

Indian patriot Kumar didn’t cast his vote in May 2019 elections

tens of questions were raised for the missing patriot-vote

Kumar was furious – this time for real, it was no acting

“… While all these years, I have never needed to prove my love for India to anyone, I find it disappointing that my citizenship issue is constantly dragged into needless controversy, a matter that is personal, legal, non-political, and of no consequence to others.”

“Lastly, I would like to continue contributing in my small way to the causes that I believe in and make India stronger and stronger.”

post retirement Kumar wants to live in Canada

but right now is making India stronger and stronger

why why why but why?

why not make Canada stronger and stronger where you’ll retire?

why not interview Justin Trudeau about the fear enveloping India?

but then he’s an actor with a limited range

these questions are beyond his Hindutva grasp

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

Still Manufacturing Consent: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Friday, July 12th, 2019


Noam Chomsky

Alan MacLeod interviewed Noam Chomsky via Skype on March 13, 2018, for MacLeod’s new book Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. They discussed the origins of the classic work of media criticism (co-authored with Edward Herman) Manufacturing Consent, the role of that book’s “propaganda model” today, Google and Facebook, Donald Trump and Russia, fake news and Syria. This is a lightly edited transcript.

Alan MacLeod: I would first like to ask you about how Manufacturing Consent came about. How did you know Edward Herman? What was the division of labour with the book? What parts did you write and what parts did he write?

Noam Chomsky: Ed wrote the basic framework, the institutional analysis, the corporate structure, the relations to government programs and the fundamental institutional structure of the media—that was basically him. He also did parts on some of the specific studies, like on the coverage comparison of a hundred religious martyrs in Latin America with one Polish priest. He did the comparison of the elections, which was partly drawn from a book that he had already done on demonstration elections. I did all the parts on Vietnam and on the Freedom House attack on the media. Of course, we interacted on all the chapters, but the main division of labor was that.

AM: And what was the reaction to it when it came out? Was it celebrated? Ignored? Attacked?

NC: The reaction was quite interesting. Mostly the journalists and the media did not like it at all, of course. And, interestingly, they did not like the defense of the integrity of journalism: the last part, which investigated Peter Braestrup’s major, two-volume Freedom House attack on the media for having been treacherous, for having lost the Vietnam war, and so on (which turned out to be a total fraud).

I was probably the only person who read the actual document, both of the two volumes. One, the attack on the media, [the other] the documentary basis. Hardly any correlation between them! It was just literally total fraud!

And what the results showed was that the journalists were courageous, honorable; they had integrity, they did their work seriously—but, of course, all within the framework of US government ideology. Like all the coverage of the war, like, say, David Halberstam. It was honest, serious, but, almost without exception, within the framework of the assumption that the United States is making a mistake by trying to save democracy in South Vietnam from Communist aggression. That is the picture. The idea that the United States was carrying out a major war crime by invading another country and destroying the indigenous resistance…. the facts were there, but not the framework of discussion.

And they did not like that. Journalists would much prefer to be regarded as aggressive, independent, thinking for themselves, and if they were treacherous, well, OK, maybe they went overboard attacking the US government—that they much preferred. So as far as the journalists themselves were concerned, aside from a few exceptions, they did not like that picture of journalism as being honest, courageous and with integrity.

There were very few reviews of the book, but there was one critical discussion that I wrote about later, by Nicholas Lehmann [New Republic,  1/9/89], a well-known scholar of journalism, who wrote a review in which he disparaged it, saying, “This doesn’t mean anything.”

For example, he discussed the chapter comparing the assassinations of a hundred religious martyrs in Central America, including an archbishop, American nuns and leading Latin American intellectuals—where there was virtually no coverage—with the coverage of the assassination of one Polish priest, where the assassins were immediately apprehended, tried, sentenced to jail—where there was vast reportage. This was one of our many examples of the way in which “worthy victims” are treated, as compared with “unworthy victims.”

He said, “Well, this doesn’t mean anything, it is just because the media focused on one thing at a time, and they happened to be focusing on Poland, not El Salvador.” So, out of curiosity, I went to the New York Times index, and it turned out there was more coverage of El Salvador than of Poland during that period. But it does not matter, because this is a world of alternative facts. The media commentary is mostly propaganda and ideology. There were a few other critiques rather like that…but in the mainstream, it was basically ignored.

The first book that Ed and I wrote together, Counterrevolutionary Violence, was published by a small publisher that was doing quite well. They published 20,000 copies of it, and were ready to distribute it. The publisher was owned by a big conglomerate, Warner Brothers, now part of Time Warner. One of the Warner executives saw the advertising for the book, and did not like it. He asked to see the book, and when he saw it, he went berserk and ordered them to stop distributing it immediately.

The publisher at first did not agree. They said they would publish a critical volume with contrary views, but that was not enough. To prevent it from being published, in the course of the discussion, he just put the whole publisher out of business, destroying all their stock—not only our book, but all their books.

We brought this to the attention to some civil libertarians at the American Civil Liberties Union. They did not see any problem. It is not government censorship; it is just a corporation deciding to destroy a publisher to prevent them distributing a book.

We immediately started working on an expansion of the book: The Political Economy of Human Rights. The reaction to that was quite interesting. Many things were discussed, but there were two major chapters where we compared two huge atrocities going on at the same time in the same place, in South East Asia: one in Cambodia under Pol Pot; the other in East Timor, after the Indonesian invasion.

They were very similar. Per capita, the East Timor atrocities were worse, as they killed a larger portion of the population; but they were comparable. The fundamental difference between them was that in one case, you could blame it on an official enemy and there was absolutely nothing to do about it—nobody had a proposal as to how to stop it.

In the other case, we were responsible. The United States and its allies were crucially responsible. The US blocked action at the United Nations, provided the arms for Indonesia. The more the atrocities increased, the more the arms flowed. And there was everything you could do about it: You could just call it off.

FAIR for more

Irrepressible storyteller

Friday, July 12th, 2019


Girish Karnad (1938-2019). PHOTO/K. Bhagya Prakash

Exploring mythology and legend, Girish Karnad (1938-2019) confronted contemporary issues by asking uneasy questions about institutions.

The first time I missed Girish Karnad was in Utsav (1984), an adaptation of Mrichhakatika, a 10-act Sanskrit drama penned by Sudraka, an ancient playwright. The film had arrived at the box office riding on the inexorable charms of Rekha. People came in droves. Some raved about Rekha and Anuradha Patel; others of Shashi Kapoor who played Samsthanak in the film. Some could even recall the parts played by Neena Gupta, Amjad Khan and Shekhar Suman. None could recall Karnad.

Therein lay his success. Like Oscar Wilde would have it, Karnad’s aim was to reveal the art and conceal the artist. As the director of Utsav, he chiselled each of his characters with meticulous care. Each character had a story to tell. Each character added to the value of the film. The success of Karnad lay in making the audience talk of his work rather than the man.

The next time I almost missed Girish Karnad was just a year or so later. This time, it was K. Viswanath’s Sur Sangam where he played an ageing classical artist, Pandit Shivshankar Shastri, who wants to pass on his vast knowledge to the next generation. As he waits for the last leaf of the autumn of his life to drop, there steps in the little son of Tulsi (Jayaprada). Shastri’s music is in safe hands. Fine, but why did one almost miss Karnad? Well, this time, he immersed himself completely in the character of the seasoned musician. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could take the viewers’ attention away from his nuanced performance, not even Jayaprada’s beauty and dignified performance. When he performed to Rajan-Sajan Mishra’s playback, one forgot Karnad was merely doing a lip-sync to Mishra’s voice. Incidentally, Karnad, as Jayaprada recalls today, “was very particular about how a scene should shape up. We would rehearse for long. Even in songs where I had a small role, he would ensure I was present at each rehearsal. We practised together. For instance, the first part of the song ‘Sadh re man sur ko sadh re.’” She started singing the song, more than 30 years after it was picturised on Karnad and her. Such was the power of Karnad’s performance.

It is the same ability to slip into the skin of the character that stood Karnad in good stead when he worked with Shyam Benegal in the 1970s. Both Manthan (1976), where he a played a veterinarian who comes to a village to start a milk cooperative scheme, and Nishant (1975), where he played a helpless schoolmaster whose wife (Shabana Azmi) is kidnapped, conveyed a couple of things. First, he could carry a film on his shoulders, as in Manthan. Then, in Nishant, he could hold his own in front of the bigwigs of arthouse cinema, including the likes of Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Mohan Agashe, Anant Nag, Smita Patil and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Either way, here was an actor who was a director’s dream. He understood that cinema was a director’s medium. In fact, because of his ability to give flesh and soul to his characters, many of his directors and producers became recipients of viewers’ love and attention. 

Frontline for more

Salvini ascendant

Thursday, July 11th, 2019


Kiss for Peace: Two Kissing Girls Photobomb Italy’s Salvini Amid LGBT Row PHOTO/Sputnik International

Italy has a new strongman—for many, a new saviour. The effective head of the government in Rome is not the titular Premier, Giuseppe Conte, nor the winner of the last election, Five Stars leader Luigi Di Maio. It is the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini. As if overnight, a hitherto obscure municipal councillor from Milan, long-time militant in the separatist Northern League, has become the most powerful figure in the country. In just five years, a party that was a dilapidated political relic, with 3–4 per cent support in the polls, has become, in his hands, the pivot of Italian—and perhaps European—politics. There is a sense, however, in which the story of this astonishing transformation begins a long way off, not in time but space—in the wars and vast economic disparities that have driven millions of Africans and Asians across the Mediterranean in search of work, freedom and a little well-being, towards an affluent Europe that is ever more ageing, unequal and rancorous.

An otherwise normal February day in 2016 in a holding camp on the Greek-Macedonian border, in the middle of that year’s migrant emergency, offers a sense of this landscape. The hamlet of Idomeni lies among low hills, the jagged Balkans in the distance. Here, the double barbed wire of the government in Skopje attracts less attention than Orbán’s rolls of the same in Hungary, though—matter for guilt for some, merit for others—landing a single country with the consequences of a modern exodus. It is nearly supper-time, and seen from a distance the Greek camp, which holds about ten thousand refugees, is quiet, as if swallowed up in the darkness. But as you get closer, there is a souk and some children dancing to Syrian music. A precinct of despair has become a small village, with vans selling sandwiches outside and taxis hoping to pick up anyone wanting to turn back. In the gathering shadows of the evening, the refugees light fires against the cold, and smoke from the burning wood and plastic thickens the air. The chemical toilets are overflowing; there are queues for showers, clothes hung out on the fencing to dry. A few days ago these families were facing the high seas; their red lifejackets are still in use, as little mattresses for sleeping on. Idomeni is a depository of the rejected: Pakistanis, Iraqis, Ghanaians, Afghanis with no chance of continuing their journey to the countries of their dreams—Austria, Germany, Switzerland. They are not video emblems or avatars in a social network: they have eyes, arms, legs, mouths for eating, teeth for smiling. They are peaceable, curious—if at times a little uncomfortable with reporters: no-one wants to be pitied.

How can anyone not feel shame at the inequalities on display here? Capital moves unimpeded; walls go up against human beings. Life depends on a document and a stamp, fate on a miserable piece of paper; hours are spent queuing for a sandwich, waiting fruitlessly for decisions taken by who knows whom, or why. You have to remind yourself of the obvious to prevent your heart from hardening: there are no deserts in our origins, none of us chooses where we are born, or to whom. The Balkan countries on the route north have already decided to limit the numbers crossing their frontiers. Europe prefers to look the other way—or to exploit the political imaginary that can come from the desperation of others: not to help, but to identify an enemy, to stage a competition in humiliation. Who qualifies as the most disadvantaged in the world? The last of the earth and the next-to-last are pitted against each other, while the most favoured are left secure. Yachts pass half-empty while others squabble over a place on the raft.

In Italy, Salvini has led a revolt on the rafts by the next-to-last. Scarcely aware any longer of who might be above them, they see those below them clutching at the shores of Europe as a threat, for they fear sliding further down themselves. The only social mobility possible in a weary, ageing continent seems to be reversal: children of workers no longer becoming doctors, but simply jobless. With great artistry, the leader of the next-to-last has learnt how to talk to their stomachs—their hearts, too.


The Northern League was founded in 1991, on the eve of the implosion of the three mass parties—the Christian Democrats, Communists and Socialists—that had dominated Italy since the Second World War. It was a merger of Umberto Bossi’s Lombard League, which dated back to the mid-eighties, with other regionalist forces in the affluent north, casting itself as neither right nor left.

New Left Review for more

‘Is white supremacy not a global issue?’ Ocasio-Cortez dissects FBI’s terrorism definition

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

The US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has questioned the FBI over a potential double standard for perpetrators of violent extremism. She said Muslim mass killers tended to be charged with terrorism while massacres by white supremacists were considered only to be hate crimes. ‘Doesn’t it seem that because the perpetrator was Muslim that the designation would say it’s a foreign organisation?’ Ocasio-Cortez asked the assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division Michael McGarrity, to which he responded: ‘That’s not correct.’ Ocasio-Cortez then asked him if white supremacy was not a global issue. ‘It is a global issue,’ the FBI official responded. ‘So why are they not charged with foreign terror?’

The Guardian

Is Donald Trump a fascist? Well, he’s not Mussolini or Hitler just yet – but he’s not far off

Thursday, July 11th, 2019


United States President Donald Trump (left) and Germany’s supreme leader from 1933 to 1945 Adolf Hitler

The US president is just one of a string of populist nationalist leaders taking power across the world. But will his presidency follow the lead of Erdogan in Turkey and veer ever deeper into authoritarianism?

Is Donald Trump a fascist? The question is usually posed as an insult rather than as a serious inquiry. A common response is that “he is not as bad as Hitler”, but this rather dodges the issue. Hitler was one hideous exponent of fascism, which comes in different flavours but he was by no means the only one.

The answer is that fascist leaders and fascism in the 1920s and 1930s were similar in many respects to Trump and Trumpism. But they had additional toxic characteristics, born out of a different era and a historic experience different from the United States.

What are the most important features of fascism? They include ultra-nationalism and authoritarianism; the demonisation and persecution of minorities; a cult of the leader; a demagogic appeal to the “ignored” masses and against a “treacherous” establishment; contempt for parliamentary institutions; disregard for the law while standing on a law and order platform; control of the media and the crushing of criticism; slogans promising everything to everybody; a promotion of force as a means to an end leading to violence, militarism and war.

The list could go on to include less significant traits such as a liking for public displays of strength and popularity at rallies and parades; a liking also for gigantic building projects as the physical embodiment of power.

Hitler and Mussolini ticked all these boxes and Trump ticks most of them, though with some important exceptions. German and Italian fascism was characterised above all else by aggressive and ultimately disastrous wars. Trump, on the contrary, is a genuine “isolationist” who has not started a single war in the two-and-a-half years he has been in the White House.

It is not that Trump abjures force, but he prefers it to be commercial and economic rather than military, and he is deploying it against numerous countries from China to Mexico and Iran. As a strategy this is astute, avoiding the bear traps that American military intervention fell into in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is an approach which weakens the targeted state economically, but it does not produce decisive victories or unconditional surrenders.  

It is a policy more dangerous than it looks: Trump may not want a war, but the same is not true of Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, or his national security adviser John Bolton. And it is even less true of US allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have been pushing Washington towards war with Iran long before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took control in Riyadh in 2015.

Trump’s aversion to military intervention jibes with these other influences, but it is erratic because it depends on the latest tweet from the White House. A weakness, not just of fascist leaders but of all dictatorial regimes, is their exaggerated dependence on the decisions of a single individual with God-like confidence in their own judgement. Nothing can be decided without their fiat and they must never be proved wrong or be seen to fail.

Trump has modes of operating rather than sustained policies that are consequently shallow and confused. One ambassador in Washington confides privately that he has successfully engaged with the most senior officials in the administration, but this was not doing him a lot of good because they had no idea of what was happening. The result of this Louis XIV approach to government is institutionalised muddle: Trump may not want a war in the Middle East but he could very easily blunder into one.

Independent for more

Iran at the center of the Eurasian riddle

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019


Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani walk as they attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State in Bishkek on June 14, 2019. PHOTO/AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko

President Rouhani blasts US leader Donald Trump as ‘a serious threat to regional and world stability’, offers preferential treatment to SCO companies that invest in his country

With the dogs of war on full alert, something extraordinary happened at the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) late last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Virtually unknown across the West, the SCO is the foremost Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. It’s not a Eurasian NATO. It’s not planning any humanitarian imperialist adventures. A single picture in Bishkek tells a quite significant story, as we see China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, India’s Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan aligned with the leaders of four Central Asian “stans”.

These leaders represent the current eight members of the SCO. Then there are four observer states – Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and, crucially, Iran – plus six dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and, crucially, Turkey.

The SCO is bound to significantly expand by 2020, with possible full membership for both Turkey and Iran. It will then feature all major players of Eurasia integration. Considering the current incandescence in the geopolitical chessboard, it’s hardly an accident a crucial protagonist in Bishkek was the ‘observer’ state Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played his cards masterfully. Rouhani speaking directly to Putin, Xi, Modi and Imran, at the same table, is something to be taken very seriously. He blasted the US under Trump as “a serious risk to stability in the region and the world”. Then he diplomatically offered preferential treatment for all companies and entrepreneurs from SCO member nations committed to investing in the Iranian market.

The Trump administration has claimed – without any hard evidence – that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which Washington brands as a “terrorist organization” – was behind the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. As the SCO summit developed, the narrative had already collapsed, as Yutaka Katada, president of Japanese cargo company Kokuka Sangyo, owner of one of the tankers, said: “The crew is saying that it was hit by a flying object.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had accused the White House of “sabotage diplomacy” but that did not derail Rouhani’s actual diplomacy in Bishkek.

Xi was adamant; Beijing will keep developing ties with Tehran “no matter how the situation changes”. Iran is a key node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s clear for the leadership in Tehran that the way forward is full integration into the vast, Eurasia-wide economic ecosystem. European nations that signed the nuclear deal with Tehran – France, Britain and Germany – can’t save Iran economically.

Asia Times for more