23 October 2016

The Great Scorpene Leak: Prospects For India’s Submarine Programmes – Analysis

By Sarosh Bana* 
OCTOBER 21, 2016

India’s submarine construction programme has been jeopardised by a major data leak of its French-designed Scorpene submarines. The future of its new generation submarines under the Project 75 (India) contract has also been thrown into doubt.

India’s submarine construction programme has been given unwelcome exposure by the wide-ranging data leak of its French-origin Scorpene submarines by The Australian newspaper. It has also raised questions about the Indian Navy’s Project 75 (India) for the construction of six new generation stealth diesel-electric submarines.

The 22,400 leaked pages, hosted on the New South Wales paper’s website on 24 and 25 August 2016, detailed the combat capabilities of the Scorpene 2000 SSK diesel-electric hunter/killer submarines. Six of these vessels are being built under the Indian Navy’s Project 75’S 2005 Transfer of Technology agreement between DCNS, the French contractor in naval defence, and the Mumbai-based state-owned shipyard Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL). The first of this series, construction on which began at the MDL Yard in December 2006, was to have been launched in September 2016 but is now delayed, its commissioning scheduled a year after its launch, with subsequent boats to be delivered at intervals of nine months.
Scorpene Programme Behind Schedule

Afghan Money Exchanger Approved For Release From Guantánamo – OpEd

OCTOBER 20, 2016

From November 2013 until last month, reviews —Periodic Review Boards — took place for 64 Guantánamo prisoners who had been assessed as “too dangerous to release” or eligible for prosecution by the previous review process, conducted by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after first taking office in January 2009.

The PRBs — consisting of representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — have so far delivered 57 decisions, approving 34 men for release, while upholding the ongoing imprisonment of 25 others. Five decisions have yet to be taken in the process, which is similar to parole, although with one obvious difference— none of the men at Guantánamo have been tried or convicted. Like parole, however, the PRBs require them to show remorse, and to demonstrate that they would establish peaceful and constructive lives if released.

The success rate in the PRBs to date — 58% — confirms that the decisions in 2009 demonstrated unnecessary caution on the part of the officials who made up the Guantánamo Review Task Force. For further details, see the definitive Periodic Review Board list that I wrote for the Close Guantánamo website that I established in January 2012 with the US attorney Tom Wilner.
Haji Wali Mohammed approved for release

How Sri Lanka Demonstrates the Limits of the UN System

October 20, 2016

In recent years, the island nation of Sri Lanka has received considerable attention from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. Country-specific council resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka annually from 2012 to 2014. These resolutions dealt broadly with alleged wartime abuses, reconciliation and ongoing human-rights violations under the administration of the increasingly authoritarian Mahinda Rajapaksa, who ruled the island nation from 2005 to January 2015. Rajapaksa rejected all three of those resolutions and used developments at the council to drum up domestic political support.

Rajapaksa was ousted in January 2015 and the new government, led by Maithripala Sirisena, promised to rebalance Colombo’s foreign policy and implement a wide-ranging reform agenda. With this in mind, Sri Lanka cosponsored another UN Human Rights Council resolution in October 2015 that laid out a strong transitional justice agenda, including a truth commission and an accountability mechanism to address allegations of wartime abuses committed, by both Sri Lankan government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers, during the country’s twenty-six-year civil war that ended in May 2009.

Colombo’s compliance with this most recent resolution will be reviewed in detail in March 2017, during the council’s thirty-fourth session. However, even if Sri Lanka were to make significant progress in the coming months, the bottom line is that the country’s transitional justice process will go beyond March 2017, even under the best of circumstances.

There are legitimate worries that, if Sri Lanka falls off the council’s formal agenda, then Colombo may be even less inclined to follow through on its previous commitments. After all, these are difficult, controversial issues; so, sustained international engagement and concomitant diplomatic pressure look more important than ever.

Duterte’s pivot

Is the Philippines, until now a staunch American ally, falling into the Chinese camp?
Oct 22nd 2016

EVEN in a year of extraordinary reversals, few would have expected it. In July China reacted with fury when an international tribunal upheld a complaint from the Philippines and rubbished China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. This week it is rolling out the red carpet for the mercurial Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. He is being feted in a four-day state visit, with 400-odd businessmen in tow. Rub your eyes: America’s strongest ally in South-East Asia appears to be plopping like a ripe mango into China’s hands.

Consider what Mr Duterte, in power since June, has said in recent weeks. He has branded Barack Obama a “son of a whore” for criticising his “kill them all” war on drug dealers and addicts, which has claimed thousands of lives, many of them innocent. He has demanded an end to joint naval patrols and to America’s assistance in the southern jungles of Mindanao, where American special forces advise Filipino troops fighting against Abu Sayyaf, a violent group linked to al-Qaeda. And he has questioned whether America would honour its treaty obligation to come to the Philippines’ aid if the archipelago were attacked.
In this section

What that means for the American “pivot” to Asia scarcely bears thinking about. But do the eyes deceive? American officials—from Admiral Harry Harris, commander in the Pacific, down—insist that all is dandy. Joint naval patrols continue, as does co-operation in Mindanao; and America still has five bases on Philippine soil. The close working relationship with Filipino counterparts, the Americans insist, is as strong as ever. The Filipinos, for their part, report no change of orders from the new chief.

After Announcing ‘Separation From US,’ Philippines President Embraces China – Analysis

By Murray Hiebert*
OCTOBER 21, 2016

Duterte’s belligerence towards the US alters strategic environment, but China may not budge on South China Sea.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited China for four days beginning October 18 in a strategic bet that he can patch up contentious relations with Beijing, seek economic aid while loosening longstanding ties with the United States. The results of the trip, during which he announced his “separation from the US,” will be closely monitored for signs of how serious the new president is about orienting the Philippines toward China and away from the United States, which would have an outsized impact on regional geopolitical dynamics and US efforts to rein in China’s ambitions in the South China Sea.

Relations between Manila and Beijing unraveled in 2012 when China seized fish-rich Scarborough Shoal, roughly 125 miles off the Philippine coast in the South China Sea. China’s move prompted the Philippines to bring a case against Beijing to an international arbitral tribunal in The Hague, causing China to react angrily. Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino signed a defense cooperation agreement with the United States in 2014 giving the US military increased access to five bases and providing the Philippines increased aid and training for maritime domain awareness. Stepped up engagement with Manila was a key plank in President Barack Obama’s rebalance to Asia.

Since taking office in June, the 71-year-old former mayor of Davao City has launched a bloody campaign against drugs, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,500 people. When the US government criticized his tactics, Duterte fought back with an outburst of profanities and told Washington to “go to hell.” He reminded the United States of massacres that took place in his home province of Mindanao in the early 1900s and raised questions about whether Washington could be relied on to help the Philippines if it were attacked.

China May Be Rising, But America Is Not in Retreat

October 20, 2016

SEEN IN historical perspective, a Western-dominated world represents a recent phenomenon. Not until the fifteenth century did the gap between the West and the rest start widening dramatically, with the Industrial Revolution, which followed much later, serving as the critical accelerator. For centuries before that, the centers of cultural splendor, wealth and scientific achievement lay in the East. Asia accounted for nearly 60 percent of global economic output as recently as 1700. Its position declined steadily thereafter, but started regaining ground in 1980. China’s remarkable post-1978 economic resurgence, along with rapid growth in South and East Asia, ranks among the most significant changes in the international system in the last three decades. This does not necessarily betoken the West’s marginalization. Still, the change in Asia’s relative standing has ended the long era of unrivaled Western preponderance—and the trend will persist.

In the near term, the United States will continue to possess the world’s largest economy, and by an overwhelming margin: a $17.95 trillion GDP in 2015, according to the World Bank. China, its putative challenger for global primacy, registered a second-place GDP of $10.87 trillion. Japan occupied third place with $4.12 trillion—less than one-fourth of the American economy. The disparity favoring the United States becomes starker still in the military realm. Its 2015 defense budget totaled $596 billion; China’s, the world’s second largest, was $141 billion. The same picture—American preeminence—comes into relief if one turns to venture-capital investment (the global share of the United States is 70 percent), social-media use (about 60 percent) or spending on research and development (about 25 percent). While American foreign policy raises hackles in many parts of the world, attitudes toward the United States remain positive in several respects. In Asia and elsewhere, America still retains considerable appeal as a place to live. The allure of its culture and lifestyle in other countries is readily apparent (if not always aesthetically pleasing), and its universities remain peerless in quality and reputation, attracting thousands of students (975,000 over the last two years) annually from across the world. The American model of liberal democracy does not lack for critics, at home and abroad, and its failings have occasioned much comment lately, but its worldwide influence remains undeniable nevertheless. It does not face a challenge from an alternative political model with global appeal, whether Chinese, Russian or Japanese. In short, America leads in the fuzzier, soft forms of power as well.

China: 10 Pieces of Advice for America's Next President on Asia's Rising Superpower

October 20, 2016

Every American president seems to get sucked into the Middle Eastern wormhole. They start out promising to change the world, revamp America’s foreign policy, and address future challenges. Then they launch another Middle Eastern war and offer a new peace initiative involving Israel. Frustration inevitably and disaster sometimes ensues, and in no time a new president is taking office amid worsening international problems.

The U.S. faces only one potential peer competitor. Europe as a Weltmacht remains but a Eurocrat’s dream. Russia is a declining power worried about international respect and border security. India is on an upward track, but remains well short of great power status. Although Brazil, Nigeria, Indonesia, and other countries have enormous potential, they are far from having global impact. Only China has the look of a likely superpower.

And even the latter’s success is not certain. The People’s Republic of China suffers from ruinous demography,faces growing economic challenges, and is undergoing a mysterious yetbrutal political struggle. How well the country navigates these rough waters will determine whether and when it fulfills its potential by combining the world’s largest population, economy, and military.

How the U.S.-China relationship develops today will have an important impact on the PRC’s development. Assume away Beijing’s threats and China’s ambitions might grow. Treat the PRC like an enemy and it is more likely to become one. This century will look far different if these two great nations find ways to cooperate when in agreement and resolve their differences when not.

What should the next president do?

Exclusive: Iran steps up weapons supply to Yemen's Houthis via Oman - officials

Oct 20, 2016 

An armed man loyal to the Houthi movement holds his weapon as he gathers to protest against the Saudi-backed exiled government deciding to cut off the Yemeni central bank from the outside world, in the capital Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 

Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war.

The increased pace of transfers in recent months, which officials said include missiles and small arms, could exacerbate a security headache for the United States, which last week struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Much of the recent smuggling activity has been through Oman, which neighbors Yemen, including via overland routes that take advantage of porous borders between the two countries, the officials said.

That raises a further quandary for Washington, which views the tiny Gulf state as a strategic interlocutor and ally in the conflict-ridden region. A senior U.S. administration official said that Washington had informed Oman of its concerns, without specifying when.

"We have been concerned about the recent flow of weapons from Iran into Yemen and have conveyed those concerns to those who maintain relations with the Houthis, including the Omani government," the official told Reuters.

Putting The Battle For Mosul In Context – Analysis

By Samuel Helfont*
OCTOBER 21, 2016

(FPRI) — It has been over two years since the Islamic State sacked the Iraqi city of Mosul and captured much of the Sunni Arab regions in northern and western Iraq. The country remains mired in military conflict and political instability. This week Iraqi forces, with the backing of the American led coalition, are currently fighting to re-take Mosul. They hope that doing so will deliver a serious blow to the Islamic State. However, this battle, while extremely important, will not put an end to the crisis in Iraq or the threat of the Islamic State. To understand why, one must put the battle into its larger political context. In this post, I will try do just that and then attempt to provide a brief look ahead at the short, medium, and long term repercussions for the crisis in Iraq.

Iraq is currently divided into three distinct regions: Iraq proper, which is governed by Baghdad; the Kurdish autonomous zone; and the areas controlled by the Islamic State. Militarily, the Iraqi Armed Forces, with significant aid from popular mobilization forces (al-hashd al-sha‘bi), Kurdish Peshmerga, and American-led coalition forces, have been advancing steadily on the Islamic State’s positions. The Islamic State has been losing territory for over a year, and because of coalition air superiority, has not been able to mass forces for a counter-attack since the Spring of 2015. This success has often come at a steep price. While there has been some token Sunni Arab participation in the popular mobilization forces, they are dominated by sectarian, often Iranian-backed, Shi‘i militias. As these forces advance into Sunni Arab territory, they have clashed with the local populations. Human Rights Watch has “documented summary killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and the destruction of homes” by elements of the popular mobilization forces.[1]

Social Component Of Counterterrorism: The Need Of The Hour – Analysis

By N Manoharan and Anumeha Singh*
OCTOBER 21, 2016

Thanks to Harinder Bains, Ahmad Rahami, the suspect in the New York and New Jersey blasts was recently apprehended by the police. Bains is neither an intelligence agent nor a security official but a common man, who spotted Rahami sleeping in the doorway of his bar in Linden, New Jersey. He could have moved on ignoring the threat bearer, but took the risk to do his duty as a citizen. There was a similar incident in India as well recently, when some school children managed to alert the security forces on sighting 5-6 persons in Pathan suits carrying weapons and backpacks near the Uran Naval Base.

This brings to the fore the important aspect of the common public as an ally in countering terrorism. It is not possible for the state forces to be present everywhere. If ‘eternal vigilance’ is identified as a crucial component of any counter-terrorism strategy, involvement of the civil society is crucial. Without the eyes, ears and intuition of the general public, it is difficult to identify terrorists who are anonymous and blend seamlessly into the environment in which they live and operate, especially in the urban landscape.

The need for a vigilant public has become even more critical in India as the phenomenon of urban terrorism, characterised by its diabolical, constant, deadly, unpredictable and transnational nature, has taken firm roots. Urban areas, with a large and densely populated terrain hold significant advantages for terrorists. Unlike in rural areas, inhabitants in cities and towns are more heterogeneous, giving them more space for anonymity. Cities and towns are the nerve centres of a country, and it is here that targets are most varied and abundant – public areas and modes of transport, commercial centres, and people or centres of symbolic and strategic importance such as government buildings and officials, corporate heavyweights, and foreign nationals and embassies – ensuring a more widespread impact of a destructive act.

Reasons Behind Rising Tensions Between Egypt And Saudi Arabia – Analysis

By Seyyed Reza Ghazvini Ghorabi* 
OCTOBER 20, 2016

Relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been characterized with serious ups and downs during the past week. Media outlets have been reporting new developments in these relations on an almost daily basis, the result of which is expected to be less cordiality in the two countries’ relations.

It was just last week when Egypt voted positive for a United Nations resolution proposed by Russia on the situation in Syria. This measure actually amounted to adding fuel to the fire of relations between Cairo and Riyadh, which had already seen enough tension during recent weeks. The first reaction to the measure taken by Egypt in this regard was shown by Saudi Arabia’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Abdullah al-Moallemi. While indirectly criticizing Cairo, al-Moallemi expressed regret that positions taken on Syria by Malaysia and Senegal were closer to Saudi Arabia’s position on this issue than that of Egypt. It was then that Saudi Arabia started to make new decisions, which smacked of vengeance in order to revenge Egypt’s measure.
Saudi Arabia cuts oil exports to Egypt

Less than 24 hours after Egypt voted positive for Russia’s UN resolution on Syria at the Security Council, Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company, Aramco, announced that it had reached a decision to halt oil exports to Egypt for the month of October. According to a five-year contract, which has been estimated to be worth 23 billion dollars, Saudi Arabia has been committed to exporting 700,000 tonnes of oil derivatives to Egypt.

Are Turkey and Iraq Headed for War in Mosul?

October 20, 2016

The operation to liberate Mosul has launched, and U.S., Iraqi government, Kurdish Peshmerga, Yezidi, Christian and local Sunni forces are on the move. Their effort faces many challenges. One of the most important is the dispute between Ankara and Baghdad over the presence of Turkish troops at Bashiqa northeast of Mosul. Unless addressed quickly, there is danger of a war within a war that could damage the prospects for retaking and stabilizing Mosul.

Baghdad and Ankara agree on the goal of removing ISIS but not on much else. Based on conversations I had during my visit last week to Turkey and Kurdistan, the disagreement has five key elements.

First, the interlinked civil wars in Syria and Iraq are the product of a regional geopolitical struggle in which Turkey and Iran are key players who exploit the ethnic and sectarian fault lines of their neighbors. Despite improved cooperation between Iran and Turkey on bilateral issues — including the role of Kurds in Syria — they compete for influence in Iraq and Syria. From Ankara’s perspective, the disagreement with Baghdad on Turkey’s presence in Bashiqa is not so much between Turkey and Iraq as it is between Turkey and the Shiite-dominated Iran-leaning government in Baghdad. Further, Ankara maintains that the Iraqi government’s legitimacy is eroded by years of civil war and sectarian policies that persecuted Iraq’s Sunnis and Sunni Turkomen and alienated its Kurds.

The threat from Russia

Oct 22nd 2016
Source Link

How to contain Vladimir Putin’s deadly, dysfunctional empire

FOUR years ago Mitt Romney, then a Republican candidate, said that Russia was America’s “number-one geopolitical foe”. Barack Obama, among others, mocked this hilarious gaffe: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the cold war’s been over for 20 years,” scoffed the president. How times change. With Russia hacking the American election, presiding over mass slaughter in Syria, annexing Crimea and talking casually about using nuclear weapons, Mr Romney’s view has become conventional wisdom. Almost the only American to dissent from it is today’s Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters. “Impudent behaviour” might have “nuclear consequences”, warns Dmitry Kiselev, Mr Putin’s propagandist-in-chief—who goes on to cite Mr Putin’s words that “If a fight is inevitable, you have to strike first.”
In this section

In fact, Russia is not about to go to war with America. Much of its language is no more than bluster. But it does pose a threat to stability and order. And the first step to answering that threat is to understand that Russian belligerence is not a sign of resurgence, but of a chronic, debilitating weakness.

Vlad the invader

Russia Is Moving Ahead With Missile Program That Violates Treaty, U.S. Officials Say

OCT. 19, 2016

Russia appears to be moving ahead with a program to produce a ground-launched cruise missile despite the Obama administration’s protests that the weapon violates a landmark arms control agreement, according to American officials and lawmakers.

The concern goes beyond those raised by the United States in July 2014, when the Obama administration said that Russia had violated the 1987 treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces by conducting flight tests of the missile.

The I.N.F. accord, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, bans the two nations from testing, producing and possessing ground-launched ballistic or cruise missiles that are capable of flying 300 to 3,400 miles.

American officials are now expressing concerns that Russia is producing more missiles than are needed to sustain a flight-test program, spurring fears that the Kremlin is moving to build a force that could ultimately be deployed.

Information about the Russian program was provided by American officials on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified intelligence assessments.

Two prominent Republican lawmakers have also sent a letter to the White House asserting a deepening violation by Russia, but without providing details.

“The I.N.F. Treaty is the only arms control treaty that succeeded in eliminating a class of nuclear arms,” wrote Representatives Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, and Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “It has become apparent to us that the situation regarding Russia’s violation has worsened and Russia is now in material breach of the treaty.”

Central Banking And Bitcoin: Not Yet A Threat – Analysis

By Dirk Niepelt*
OCTOBER 21, 2016

The blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is attracting growing interest. This column argues that if transactions facilitated by this technology become pervasive, it will have implications for the conduct (and success) of central bank monetary policy. Central banks should embrace the technologies that underpin cryptocurrencies, or risk being cut out from intermediation and surveillance and also risk payment service providers moving to other currency areas with an institutional environment that is more appealing for buyers and sellers.

While excitement about Bitcoin appears to have subsided, the blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is attracting growing interest (e.g. Oliver Wyman 2016). Central banks have joined the FinTechs and bricks-and-mortar financial institutions in paying attention (Economist 2016). Not a week passes without a monetary authority declaring interest in the technology, and in opportunities to employ it. What are the likely implications of this for central banks and the monetary system?

Internet-based technology has made it cheap to collect information and to network. This has empowered the sharing economy and allows FinTechs to seize intermediation business from banks. The banks, reputationally damaged by the financial crisis, are degraded and may become utilities as a result. But both FinTechs and ‘sharing economy’ businesses manage information centrally – they serve as middle-men – exactly as traditional financial institutions do.

The Chemistry Of Syrian Lies And US Credulity Revealed – OpEd

By Adam Garfinkle* 
OCTOBER 21, 2016
(FPRI) — There are times when a person has to pinch himself to make sure he’s not dreaming. This happens when one’s sense of reality fails to jive with that of seemingly everyone else. I pinched hard back in September/October 2013 during the denouement to the Syrian “Red Line” fiasco—specifically, the part that involved the Russian-induced deal that supposedly removed and destroyed all of Syria’s chemical weapons. I knew the Syrian declaration was false and that some chemical munitions would remain—probably more recent and usable stocks and some munitions already weaponized.

As the days and then the weeks and months passed, I was certain that many others would go into English- or Western-language print, or otherwise join me, in supporting my view. To the best of my knowledge, at the time and since, not a single U.S. news source did so. On October 3, 2013, The Economist expressed some doubts about the veracity of the Syrian regime’s declaration. Both Amy Smithson and Gwyn Winfield, chemical weapons experts, reasoned at the time that the Syrian regime had incentives to distort its declaration, but neither charged the regime with lying once the disclosure was handed over. Days later, when a belated Syrian revelation of four additional sites raised concern about the veracity of the declaration among government experts, the press was mainly mute.

Only in the Israeli press at the time were doubts expressed.[1] And only in the Israeli press was Ambassador Samantha Power’s early October tweet reported: “Must keep pressure on regime so it doesn’t hide CW capability.”

Donald Trump Sows Confusion Over NATO – OpEd

By Fedja Buric*
OCTOBER 21, 2016

Last Thursday, the Serbian weekly Nedeljnik published a bombshell statement by Donald Trump in which the Republican nominee reportedly apologized to Serbia for the 1999 bombing campaign of the country conducted by the then President Bill Clinton, the husband of Trump’s nemesis.

Like everything else in this strange election season, the story quickly took on a carnivalesque character: the Trump campaign issued an immediate denial that its candidate had ever given such an interview and shortly thereafter, Nedeljnik issued an embarrassing retraction suggesting it had been duped by a Serbian expat with links to Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice Presidential pick and the current governor of Indiana.

The extent to which Trump’s candidacy has completely turned the tradition of American foreign policy on its head was made clear by the fact that initially, no one in the Republican or the Democratic establishment questioned the veracity of the statement.

After all, this is a candidate who had said things that were much more jarring: that the US should target families of suspected terrorists, that it should engage in medieval acts of torture, that it should impose a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US, and that it should look up to the authoritarianism of the Russian President Vladimir Putin as a role model of effective leadership.

Given that the Nedeljnik flap came in the midst of an avalanche of accusations of sexual assault levied against the Republican nominee by several women, and in the aftermath of the leak of the 2005 tape on which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, no wonder that the story petered out even before it had been proven false.

Washington’s Global Economic Wars – OpEd

OCTOBER 21, 2016

During most of the past two decades Washington has aggressively launched military and economic wars against at least nine countries, either directly or through its military aid to regional allies and proxies. US air and ground troops have bombed or invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

More recently Washington has escalated its global economic war against major economic rivals as well as against weaker countries. The US no longer confines its aggressive impulses to peripheral economic countries in the Middle East, Latin America and Southern Asia: It has declared trade wars against world powers in Asia, Eastern and Central Europe and the Gulf states.

The targets of the US economic aggression include economic powerhouses like Russia, China, Germany, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Cuba and the Donbas region of Ukraine.

There is an increasingly thinner distinction between military and economic warfare, as the US has frequently moved from one to the other, particularly when economic aggression has not resulted in ‘regime change’ – as in the case of the sanctions campaign against Iraq leading up to the devastating invasion and destruction.

Rigged – OpEd

OCTOBER 21, 2016

The 2016 Republican presidential primary was rigged. It wasn’t rigged by the Republicans, the Democrats, Russians, space aliens, or voters. It was rigged by the owners of television networks who believed that giving one candidate far more coverage than others was good for their ratings. The CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves said of this decision: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Justifying that choice based on polling gets the chronology backwards, ignores Moonves’ actual motivation, and avoids the problem, which is that there ought to be fair coverage for all qualified candidates (and a democratic way to determine who is qualified).

The 2016 Democratic presidential primary was rigged. It wasn’t rigged by bankers, misogynists, Russians, Republicans, or computer hackers. It was rigged by the Democratic National Committee and its co-conspirators in the media, many of whom have helpfully confessed (in case it wasn’t obvious) in emails leaked from the DNC and from John Podesta. The DNC chose Hillary Clinton and worked hard to make sure that she “won.” Nobody has produced a hint of evidence as to who leaked the emails that added unnecessary confirmation of this rigging, but they should be thanked for informing us, whoever they are.

The FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of email was as rigged as the non-prosecution of the CEO of Wells Fargo. The U.S. political system is bought and paid for. Without millions of dollars to funnel to television networks for advertising, any candidate is rigged right out of participating. This rigging of the system is not fixed by someone like Donald Trump pretending for a while that he won’t take bribes, that he’ll spend only his own money, because most people don’t have that kind of money to spend. This rigging is not fixed by making someone like Hillary Clinton take her bribes through her family foundation or requiring that her political action committees remain theoretically separate from the campaign they are collaborating hand-in-glove with, because money buys power.

Aggression Or Diplomacy: US Security Bases In Argentina – Analysis

By Vincent Lofaso* 
OCTOBER 20, 2016

On May 18, 2016, the Argentine government and the U.S military reached an agreement, which granted the United States permission to build two new bases in theTierra del Fuego region and on the triple border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. While many officials are asserting that the Tierra del Fuego base would be used mainly for scientific work, the U.S. strategy actually has two main objectives. First, Washington is creating National Security Bases (NSB) for defense and strategic purposes. Secondly, the United States is establishing stations for joint military exercises, which are providing security resources and conducting training operations not only for Argentina, but for the rest of Latin America as well. However, the installation of these bases is inherently controversial. The head of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Ernesto Samper has called for the U.S. military bases to “leave the continent.”[i] Instead, Samper is seeking improved U.S-Latin American relations through diplomacy and dialogue, but building military strategic bases is nothing new to U.S. foreign policy. 

As noted by Aliana Navarez, a writer for Pulsamerica, “US bases installed in Central America and the Caribbean, added to those in Colombia, Peru, Chile and Paraguay, plus NATO in the Falklands and the British detachment in [South] Georgia Islands, all host multiple benefits to North America and its local allies.”[ii] For example, in 2009, the Colombian government and the U.S military signed the 2009 Defense Cooperation Agreement to build land bases in Tolemaida and Larandia, as well as sea bases in Cartagena and Bahia Malaga. Opposition to this agreement was immediately raised in South America, even though the United States claimed that their purpose was to facilitate anti-drug operations in the area. In Colombia, the United States has continued to cooperate with the Santos Administration on bilateral security issues related to the recently-ended Colombian armed conflict with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC) and Ejercito de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army – ELN).

America's Very Own Mexican Standoff

October 20, 2016

A U.S. PRESIDENTIAL candidate publicly claimed that Mexico is a land of criminals, drug traffickers and rapists; rather than being forced to withdraw, he was rewarded with his party’s nomination. Is it any wonder that for generations, Mexican policymakers saw fit to define themselves in opposition to Washington? After the Mexican-American War, when the latter dispossessed the former of its vast lands north of the Rio Grande, bilateral relations historically were cool and formalistic, overlain by Mexico’s skepticism of the United States and an acute sense of sovereignty. Family and economic ties kept the relationship vibrant at local and regional levels, but the state of the official relationship was well captured by former president Porfirio Díaz, who reportedly lamented, “Poor Mexico [is] so far from God [and] so close to the United States.”

For their part, U.S. officials generally saw Mexico as a corrupt, barely democratic backwater pursuing a foreign-policy agenda contrary to Washington’s aims, particularly in Latin America and in international forums. The nation was considered to be a source of regional financial instability, ideological ferment and lawlessness, where the United States periodically felt it necessary to intervene, at times militarily, to protect its own interests.

Of course, both visions were caricatures at best—willful misrepresentations at worst. But they more or less defined the bilateral relationship until leaders in both countries came to their senses and realized that, if they were to be competitive in a rapidly globalizing world, they would need to cooperate. For Washington, that meant recognizing that it could more effectively pursue its economic and security interests by befriending, rather than antagonizing, the country sharing its two-thousand-mile southern border.

IT WAS Mexico, after the wreckage of the 1980s’ peso crisis, which first suggested a fundamentally new approach. The keystone of the effort was proposing a new economic relationship with the United States that, along with Canada, eventually became the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Give Intelligence Analysts Back Their Voices!

Derek Grossman
October 20, 2016

Giving Intelligence Analysts Their Voices Back: The Case for Analyst Perspectives

“Speak truth to power” — the sacred and deep cultural oath of the CIA and broader intelligence community — reminds intelligence analysts of their responsibility to provide unvarnished, non-politicized assessments to policymakers. And yet, these days speak truth to power may ring hollow for many analysts, not because organizations and leaders in the U.S. system politicize intelligence, but rather because the onerous coordination and review process has too often resulted in watered-down and less impactful analysis. Unlike in the academic community where a diversity of views based on the same evidence is encouraged, the intelligence community actively admonishes against it in favor of a review process meant to build a consensus, even if one does not exist. The end product of this bureaucratic process, known as “the corporate product,” purposefully masks analytic disagreement in favor of presenting a united “analytic line” to the policymaker.

Indeed, the corporate product has been around for ages. However, it was reinvigorated in the 1980s by then-Deputy Director of the CIA Robert M. Gates, who in 1992 as Director of Central Intelligence told a CIA audience that “they must discard the academic mindset that says their work is their own, and they must take into account the views of others during the coordination process.” Scholar Richard Betts would later accurately observe that “intelligence products are supposed to represent the best judgments of whole organizations, not single authors.” Now considered standard practice throughout the intelligence community, the corporate product is designed to avoid “confusing” policymakers with too many disparate views. Moreover, rigorous peer and management review is believed to strengthen analysis. So why change anything?

Whether we realize it or not, many policymakers are formidable analysts themselves. In many cases, they have their own deep expertise. Moreover, they have access to much of the same raw reporting and finished analysis offered by intelligence agencies as well as policy materials that are not always shared with intelligence analysts. Therefore, policymakers are typically perceptive enough to understand that different viewpoints indeed exist, and that some are more strongly supported by the available information than others.

Major Russian naval deployment to intensify Aleppo assault: NATO diplomat

October 20,2016

Major Russian naval deployment to intensify Aleppo assault: NATO diplomat

Russian warships off the coast of Norway are carrying fighter bombers that are likely to reinforce a final assault on the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo in two weeks, a senior NATO diplomat said on Wednesday, citing Western intelligence.

The fleet passed by the Norwegian city of Bergen on Wednesday, the diplomat said, while Russian media has said it will move through the English Channel, past Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea to the Syrian coast.

“They are deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

“This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there,” the diplomat said.

Photos of the vessels have been released by the Norwegian military, taken on Monday. A Norwegian newspaper quoted the head of the Norwegian military intelligence service saying the ships involved “will probably play a role in the deciding battle for Aleppo”.

Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with an air campaign against the Western rebels in the devastated eastern part of Aleppo, has said the deployment will target Islamic State militants in Syria.

Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange And US Presidential Elections – OpEd

OCTOBER 21, 2016

In all disproportion to size and physical heft, WikiLeaks has managed to throw bombs of digital worth into various political processes with marked effect. While its critics and detractors deny and attempt to dispel its influence, the authorities are still concerned. So concerned, in fact, that they have attempted, over the years, to curb the reach and access to the website, and its chief publisher, Julian Assange.

Within these asymmetrical power relations between the publishing outfit and state actors lies Assange, assiduously engaged in activities that have already proven historical in value. They, in the main, have taken place without molestation from the Ecuadorean authorities who front as hosts for him in the London compound.

Hardly having the warmest set of relations with Washington, Ecuador has generally kept the issues it might have with Assange at arm’s length. It was not a state of affairs that would last. Assange has been particularly hot in the current US presidential campaign, with the release of email exchanges connected with the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s own emails and the latest Podesta files.

On Saturday, WikiLeaks released the contents of three speeches made by the Democratic nominee for the White House to Goldman Sachs. Clinton was handsomely remunerated, a point that should permanently disable any notion about partiality in the context of regulating Wall Street and its more resilient demons.

Ever since the Clinton campaign started springing more leaks than a refugee vessel, its frazzled managers have been attempting to guard the content of those deliveries with fanatical, if misplaced dedication. Inconsistencies and worries have been flagged, all of these available in email exchanges from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Satellite images show why the liberation of Mosul could come at a high cost

Rick Noack
October 19, 2016

Three days after the battle for Mosul was launched on Monday, efforts by Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers to retake the major city were slowed Wednesday by remotely detonated bombs, concrete barriers and booby traps. "It’s going to be a tough fight and a difficult fight,“ President Obama acknowledged Tuesday, as more signs of resistance emerged from the Islamic State stronghold.

Mosul is the largest city in northern Iraq, and more than 1 million residents are believed to remain there, amplifying fears of a humanitarian disaster in case of a prolonged battle in which Islamic State fighters might use civilians as human shields.

"Every minute passes like a year,” a father of three trapped in Mosul was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

But the battle for the city could last for months, as did the liberation of the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS, in central Iraq. The most intense fighting there occurred between November 2015 and January 2016.

Residents paid a heavy toll for the liberation of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. According to a satellite imagery-analysis by several U.N. agencies, nearly 2,000 buildings, streets or bridges, among other structures, were destroyed between July 2014 and end of January 2016, when most fighting had ended.

Trump Sides With Putin Over US Intelligence on Hacking Charges

Michael Crowley
October 20, 2016

Trump sides with Putin over U.S. intelligence

Donald Trump angrily insisted on Wednesday night that he is not Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.”

But at a minimum, in recent months he has often sounded like the Russian president’s lawyer—defending Putin against a variety of specific charges, from political killings to the 2014 downing of a passenger jet over Ukraine, despite the weight of intelligence, legal findings and expert opinion.

Wednesday, for instance, Trump dismissed Hillary Clinton’s assertion that Russia was behind the recent hacking of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails.

“She has no idea whether it’s Russia or China or anybody else,” Trump retorted. “Our country has no idea.”

As Clinton tried to explain that the Russian role is the finding of 17 military and civilian intelligence agencies, Trump cut her off: “I doubt it.”

On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint statement saying that the U.S. intelligence community “is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” That finding has also been relayed directly to Trump in the classified national security briefings he receives as a major party nominee.