Archive for the ‘US politics & security’ Category

Trumped up diplomacy in the Middle East

By Richard Falk

In his first overseas trip since moving into the White House, Donald Trump is leaving behind the frustrations, allegations, rumors, and an increasing sense of implosion that seems to be dooming his presidency during its second hundred days.

At the same time, a mixture of curiosity and apprehension awaits this new leader wherever he goes making his visit to the Middle East and Europe momentous occasions for the host governments, wide eyed public, and rapacious media.

We need to remember that in this era of popular autocrats and surging right-wing populists, Trump is a ‘hero of our time.’

Even if all had gone smoothly for the new president in his home country, there should be expressions of deep concern about his travel itinerary.

He visits first the two countries with which the United States has ‘special relationships’ in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Israel. What has long made them ‘special’ are a series of pre-Trump departures from realist and normative foreign policy orientations by successive American presidencies. These departures were motivated by oil geopolitics, arms sales and strategic alliances, hostility to Iran, and a disguised American sweet spot for foreign royalty.

It is has long been obvious that uncritical deference to Israeli priorities has seriously undermined U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which would have benefitted much more from policies designed to encourage peace and stability by refraining from regime-changing interventions, massive arms sales, and a diplomacy of respect for the politics of national self-determination.

Most remarkably, the U.S. Government has for decades winked at the billions of support given by Saudi members of the royal family to Wahabism, that is, to promote fundamentalist Islam, throughout the Muslim world. The first words uttered by Trump on his arrival in Riyadh were that it ‘an honor’ to be visiting.

Then came signed deals adding up to $110 billions in arms sales and the declaration of a common strategic vision, that is, a super-alliance, called an ‘Arab NATO’ in some circles, a dagger aimed at Iran’s heart. Why turn a blind eye toward the Saudi role in fanning the flames of jihadism while ramping up a military threat to relatively passive Iran that reelected Hassan Rouhani as its president, who has consistently championed moderation at home and normalization abroad.

How can we explain this? Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo #415: Trump is not a straight and true leader

Donal Trump is the antithesis of leadership. Walking into the cauldron of the Middle East and denouncing Iran when it had just – almost at the same moment – re-elected as president a man who presided over the deal that de-fanged his country’s nuclear program and whose support is badly needed in fashioning an end to the Syrian war, stabilising Iraq and beheading ISIS was a show of how not to make friends and win people over.

In Saudi Arabia he seemed to act as if enormous amounts of military hardware would be enough to convince its leadership that he was a changed man – as a presidential candidate he had said many harsh words about the country.

I doubt if the Saudi Arabians were so quickly convinced that he is a sophisticated leader capable of untangling the criss-crossing of alliances and interests that bedevil parts of the Middle East.

The lack of loud applause when he gave his “big” speech tells it all.

What is leadership?

First having a blueprint of what one wants to achieve, and that is more than 100+ days in the making. It’s no use trying to say nice things after one is elected. Observers, searching to find the personality and inner convictions of a man who confronts them as the president of the United States, look at the record. After all, for them the stakes are high, and much hangs in the balance.

The day after a big speech or a flying visit the question is, is he more than a guy who can knock the heads together of a municipality to be allowed to buy land to build a golf course or new hotel? Read the rest of this entry »

Trump’s historically catastrophic speech in Riyadh

TFF Live

An intro to TFF PressInfo # 414 A & B

TFF PressInfo # 414 (A): Trump in Riyadh – A Gulf NATO to gang up against Iran and Syria

By Jan Oberg

Today, I am proud to say that NATO has a new home in the Gulf region. And that we have opened a new chapter in our deepening partnership.

NATO S-G, Jens Stoltenberg, in Kuwait on January 24, 2017

The Secretary-General also said this new home’s “potential is enormous”.

President Trump arrived on his first trip abroad to Saudi Arabia on May 19, 2017 and big things are supposed to happen, including Saudi Arabia presenting itself as a innovative, visionary leader of the region.

His visit must be seen in the light of a number of events and trends, and in what follows we do like the military when it scans the horizon for enemies: we look for patterns – not the least Saudi Arabia’s “surprising new military goals” as Forbes’ Ellen Wald appropriately calls them.

Or, as they say – we connect some dots that, invariable, Western mainstream media have no capacity and probably also no interest in connecting.

This pattern consists of at least these events and long-term trends:

1. The broadening of NATO cooperation with Gulf countries – one may even see a Middle Eastern NATO branch emerge.

2. Saudi Arabia’s evident leadership in building a new multi-national army announced a couple of years ago and allegedly having 100.000 troops as a goal. This is an extension of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s and its old to-be-replaced military arm, the Peninsula Shield Force

3. The intensified image in the US under Trump of Iran as a threat and a ‘ganging up’ against it.

4. The war on Syria’s territory with hundreds of foreign conflict participants including NATO country Turkey and allies such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and NATO members such as England and France – all in support of anti-government/regime change and pro-terrorists.

5. The second Cold War – very different from the first – between NATO and Russia which also has a Middle East dimension in that Russia is a vital partner of the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army.

6. The conflict formation that has Israeli as it’s centre – Hezbollah, Iran, Syria (the Golan Heights), etc. If you want to know what Israel wants to use Trump’s visit for it’s clear from this analysis: More confrontation with Iran and cooperation with Saudi Arabia, also concerning Syria.

7. NATO’s obvious crisis – the new Cold War around Ukraine; its second largest military member, Turkey, working closely with arch enemy Russia, ongoing trans-Atlantic conflicts about burden sharing etc.

This will suffice as an illustration of the complex web of inter-connected issues. There are surely more and we can’t go through them all in this short article.

By way of introduction it should be mentioned that NATO has, as alliance, been engaged in the Middle East for a long time – through the Mediterranean Dialogue begun in 1994 and “elevated” to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative ten years later in 2004.

What’s going on now is, however, on a quite different scale.

The US-Saudi Arabia arms deal

The US and Saudi Arabia are to sign a huge – yet another – arms deal, valued at US$ 110 billion and, over a ten-year period perhaps mounting to as much as US$ 300 billion. It’s been facilitated by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner in a rather unconventional way.

Given that Saudi Arabia is the world 3rd largest military spender – i.e. directly after the US and China and, thus, bigger than Russia – this project must be seen in the realm of irrational militarism outside any domain of policies for peace in the Middle East.

And it’s important to keep proportions and priorities clear in these affairs. OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) spent more than $135bn (£90bn) in 2015 – i.e. the world’s richest countries give about half of the value of this single arms deal to help poor countries manage and eradicate poverty.

It is a clear example of the vested interests of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC) that threatens the very survival of humanity and is way beyond democratic control. Western mainstream media’s very subdued coverage of this – extreme – dimension of US foreign policy in general makes them complicit and justifies their inclusion in the MIMAC concept.

It goes without saying that this deal is marketed to the world as promoting stability, security and peace and as an important element in the global War On Terror. Given all the other weapons that have been pumped into the Middle East region the last 4-5 decades and all the countries that have been more or less turned into ruins – it’s quite obvious why, as usual, there is no intellectual connection between this deal and the said goals.

For NATO and the mantras, media and marketing is everything.

Russia Today has done a rather decent piece of research on this (see below). Among other things, it makes clear that the deal includes weapons that have little, if anything, to do with fighting terrorism. One of them is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system from Lockheed Martin that the US is also stuffing down the throat of South Korea.

To be able to win war, not to prevent them.

If for a moment one applies some kind of security political logics to this deal, it’s obvious that this build-up is directed – in the longer term perspective and with Israeli support, one must assume – against Iran and Syria. Israel’s official view is expressed here – official because otherwise this minister would have been fired for such statements.

The military expenditure “correlation of forces”

Military expenditures is not the only measure of military might. Neither is it an indicator of who would win a war; contemporary history is full of examples of big spenders losing wars when attacking countries with smaller military budgets.

That said, if you do a search on “world military expenditures” you’ll get a sense of who is willing and able to invest in the military and, also, a rough measure of both proportional allocation to the military sector and, above a certain level, an index of on dimension of militarism.

There are indexes by SIPRI and by the IISS and others – and here are the rough ‘correlation of forces’ pertaining to the countries we talk about here:

• Saudi Arabia is the 3rd or 4th largest military spender on earth after the US, China and perhaps Russia.

• Saudi Arabia spends about between US$ 64 and 82 billion annually (depending on source you consult), growing 20% per year and that is the extremely high 10 % of its GDP. Read the rest of this entry »

What if the US did not have any weapons?

By Jan Oberg

It’s soon 16 years ago when the invasion of Afghanistan took place – October 7, 2001 or 10/7, a date no one remembers like 9/11.

And Afghanistan had nothing to do with the terrible attack on September 11, but had to be punished anyhow. Out of proportion, no proportionality.

Now there are discussions about increasing the troop level again. What if someone reasonable intellectual asked the questions: What is it we are doing wrong?

So, I ask for heuristic – provocative – purpose: What would be left of US foreign policy if that country did not have weapons?

And I offer a short answer.

Iran will remain committed to the nuclear deal

By Jan Oberg

I had the pleasure and honour to comment on Iran’s defence minister’s view on the Middle East, nuclear weapons, terrorism and more

And here is the original video on YouTube

US ‘deep state’ sold out counter-terrorism to keep itself in business

By Gareth Porter

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman outraged many readers when he wrote an opinion piece on 12 April calling on President Trump to “back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria”. The reason he gave for that recommendation was not that US wars in the Middle East are inevitably self-defeating and endless, but that it would reduce the “pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah”.

The whole war on terrorism has been, in effect, a bait-and-switch operation from the beginning

That suggestion that the US sell out its interest in counter-terrorism in the Middle East to gain some advantage in power competition with its adversaries was rightly attacked as cynical.

But, in fact, the national security bureaucracies of the US – which many have come to call the “Deep State” – have been selling out their interests in counter-terrorism in order to pursue various adventures in the region ever since George W Bush declared a “Global War on Terrorism” in late 2001.

Continue reading the original here…

French election demonstrates Europe’s strength

By Jonathan Power

The result of the first round of the French presidential election has given the Euro-pessimists a knock over the head. About time too.

The European Union is not going to face break up. Big crises come but they also go. The Euro currency crisis was not dealt with as well as it should have been – austerity was the policy of the long way round – but it passed.

The great immigration crisis has been contained and the number of would-be refugees has fallen sharply.

The British say they are leaving, but how the biggest political paradox of my lifetime will be squared remains to be seen – a parliament with a majority of its members in favour of staying in Europe but with a government trying to get out as fast as it can with the support of most MPs of the two largest parties.

Moreover, there is another quite counterproductive consequence of Brexit – pushing Scotland to break from the United Kingdom. Leaving big, grand, Europe to become a truncated little England makes no sense at all. When the penny finally drops I expect the UK to reverse course on Brexit – or to disintegrate.

With or without Britain the EU will remain the world’s best example of political unity. Peoples who have fought each other for thousands of years no longer do. No other part of the planet is so Read the rest of this entry »

TFF Live: US bombing Syria – How could they be so sure?

By Jan Oberg

With this sad event we introduce TFF Live on Facebook.

You’ll find the original on Jan Oberg’s public page here and that is where you can best comment on it and share it (only if you are at Facebook).

Or comment below here.

Meanwhile – around the world

By Johan Galtung

Starting with EU at 60, making small states (Luxembourg!) big by being members of something bigger, but making bigger, even imperial, states smaller by being “members”. The Netherlands is small: Wilders suffered a humiliating defeat. But the UK is big with imperial past: old, rural people voted Brexit out of EU anonymity, but into what? Master in their own house? With problems with Ireland and the Celtic fringe–Scotland, Wales–even threatening UK survival? Can Anglo-America, UK even more under USA, compensate for that? They may want back; the obvious EU strategy being to adjust to many Brexit points.

France is also big and imperial. But Le Pen-Front National will not defeat a majority seeing EU as a French creation (Monnet, Schuman) and the Communauté Française as carried by the mystique of the French language anyhow. Frexit would make France smaller. France will stay.

Germany and Italy were imperial: Hitler once ruled the biggest Europe ever, Mussolini some of Africa. But they were defeated and defined as illegitimate, not “civilizzatrice“. Italy’s apology for the 1911 warfare may have model character. They will both stay in the EU.

UK outside and France inside are now paying the heavy immigration price for devastation wrought by their empires; with no EU solidarity.

The EU will survive, two- or multi-speed with the euro as common, not single currency. Strengthened by having no US Trojan horse, UK, controlling EU foreign-defense policy. Weakened into irrelevance by the neoliberalism of their constitution. See Alan Johnson “Why Brexit is essential for Britain” NYT 29 Mar 2017, a view from the left.

Russia–czarist, Bolshevik, Putin Orthodox Christian–and China–nationalist, Mao communist, Xi Shi Youming Buddhist, his Zhengding friend (NYT 25-26 Mar 2017): unforgivably big in area and population, well above the 27 EU members. The USA is no. 3 on both, giving a total rank of 6; China 5, Russia 10. EU is in that Big League.

China, economic growth at 6,5%, is still a world growth engine, and SCO benefits from India and Pakistan membership. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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