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Will advances in groundwater science force a paradigm shift in sea level rise attribution?

By Jim Steele | Landscapes and Cycles | March 4, 2018

A better accounting of natural groundwater discharge is needed to constrain the range of contributions to sea level rise. The greater the contribution from groundwater discharge, the smaller the adjustments used to amplify contributions from meltwater and thermal expansion.

In a 2002 paper, what is frequently referred to as “Munk’s enigma”, Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s senior researcher bemoaned the fact researchers could not fully account for the causes of sea level rise. He lamented, “the historic rise started too early, has too linear a trend, and is too large.” Early IPCC analyses noted about 25% of estimated sea level rise was unaccounted for. Accordingly, in 2012, an international team of prominent sea level researchers published, Twentieth-Century Global-Mean Sea Level Rise: Is the Whole Greater than the Sum of the Parts? (henceforth Gregory 2012). They hoped to balance struggling sea level budgets by re-analyzing and adjusting estimates of the contributions from melting glaciers and ice caps, thermal expansion, and the effects of dam building and groundwater extraction. However, a natural contribution from any imbalance in groundwater re-charge vs discharge was never considered. Yet the volume of freshwater stored as groundwater, is second only to Antarctica’s frozen supply, and 3 to 8 times greater than Greenland’s.

At the risk of oversimplifying, the effects of groundwater storage can be differentiated between shallow-aquifer effects that modulate global sea level on year to year and decade to decade timeframes, versus deep aquifer effects that modulate sea level trends over centuries and millennia.

Researchers are increasingly aware of natural shallow groundwater dynamics. As noted by Reager (2016) in A Decade of Sea Level Rise Slowed by Climate-Driven Hydrology, researchers had determined the seasonal delay in the return of precipitation to the oceans causes sea levels to oscillate by 17 ± 4 mm [~0.7 inches] per year. Reager (2016) also argued decadal increases in terrestrial water storage driven by climate events such as La Nina, had reduced sea level rise by 0.71 mm/year. Likewise, Cazenave 2014 had published according to altimetry data, sea level had decelerated from 3.5 mm/yr in the 1990s to 2.5mm/yr during 2003-2011, and that deceleration could be explained by increased terrestrial water storage, and the pause in ocean warming reported by Argo data.

Improved observational data suggest during more frequent La Nina years a greater proportion of precipitation falls on the land globally and when routed through more slowly discharging aquifers, sea level rise decelerates. During periods of more frequent El Niños, more rain falls back onto the oceans, and sea level rise accelerates. In contrast to La Nina induced shallow-aquifer effects, deep aquifers have been filled with meltwater from the last Ice Age, and that water is slowly and steadily seeping back into the oceans today.

Munk’s “Too Linear Trend” Enigma and Deep Groundwater Discharge

Hydrologists concerned with sustainable groundwater supplies and drinking water contamination, have been in the forefront of analyzing the volume and ages of the world’s groundwater, providing greater insight into deep aquifer effects. Gleeson (2015) determined, “total groundwater volume in the upper 2 km of continental crust is approximately 22.6 million cubic kilometers, twice as much as earlier estimates. If all 22.6 million cubic kilometers of freshwater stored underground reached the oceans, sea level would rise 204 feet (62,430 millimeters). Via various isotope analyses and flow models, Jasechko (2017) estimated that between 42-85% of all groundwater stored in the upper 1 kilometer of the earth’s crust is water that had infiltrated the ground more than 11,000 years ago, during last Ice Age.

Clearly the earth’s groundwater has yet to reach an equilibrium with modern sea levels. With deep aquifer discharge primarily regulated by geological pore spaces (in addition to pressure heads), the slow and steady discharge of these older waters affects sea level rise on century and millennial timeframes. And, although freshwater discharge from deep aquifers may be locally insignificant relative to river runoff, deep aquifer discharge when integrated across the globe could account for the missing contribution to the sea level rise budgets.

Unfortunately, quantifying the groundwater discharge contribution to sea level rise is extremely difficult, suffering from a low signal to noise problem. That difficulty is why natural groundwater contributions are often ignored or brushed aside as insignificant. Although GRACE satellite monitoring of gravity changes offers great promise for detecting changes in terrestrial groundwater storage, GRACE cannot accurately separate the relatively small discharge of deep aquifers from large annual changes in shallow groundwater. In periods of heavy rains, groundwater increases will mask deep aquifer discharge. And during a drought, any deep groundwater discharge will likely be attributed to the lack of rain.

However, estimates of groundwater re-charge via isotope analyses can provide critical information regards rates of groundwater re-charge and discharge.

Using the abnormal levels of tritium released during nuclear testing in the 1950s, plus carbon­14 dating, researchers have categorized the time since groundwater had last left the surface into 25, 50, 75 and 100-year old age classes. As expected, the youngest water is concentrated in the shallowest aquifer layers and the proportion of young water decreases with depth. The estimated volume of 25-year-old or younger groundwater suggests global groundwater is currently recharging at a rate that would reduce sea level by 21 mm/year (0.8 inches/year). Water cycle researchers (i.e. Dai and Trenberth) have made the dubious assumption that the amount of water transported via precipitation to the land from the ocean is balanced each year by river runoff. But if the tritium derived estimates are valid, balancing water cycle and sea level budgets becomes more enigmatic. Clearly a significant amount of precipitation does not return for decades and centuries.

Intriguingly, comparing the smaller volume of ground water aged 50 to 100-years-old versus the volume of water 50-years-old and younger suggests 2 possible scenarios. Either ground water recharge has increased in recent decades, or if recharge rates averaged over 50 years have remained steady, then as groundwater ages a significant portion seeps back to the ocean at rates approaching 1.7 mm/year, a rate that is very similar to 20th century IPCC estimates of sea level rise.

Groundwater discharge must balance recharge or else it directly alters global sea levels. When less than 21 mm/year seeps back to the ocean, then natural groundwater storage lowers sea level. When discharge is greater than 21 mm/year, then groundwater discharge is raising sea level. Without accounting for recharge vs discharge, the much smaller estimates of all the other factors contributing to sea level rise are simply not well constrained.

Higher rates of discharge could account for the enigmatic missing sea level contributions reported by the IPCC and other researchers (i.e. Gregory 2012). More problematic, if discharge proves to significantly exceed recharge, then estimates of contributions from other sources such as melting ice and thermal expansion may be too high. What is certain, the current estimates of contributions to sea level from melting ice and thermal expansion only range from 1.5 to 2.0 mm/year, and those factors by themselves cannot offset the tritium estimated 21 mm/year of groundwater recharge. So, what is missing in our current water cycle budgets?

The Importance of Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD)

The recharge-discharge imbalance can be reconciled if water cycle budgets included the difficult-to-measure rates of prolific submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). Freshwater springs bubbling up from coastal sea floors have long been observed. To reliably replenish drinking water, Roman fisherman mapped their occurrences throughout the Mediterranean. Moosdorf (2017) has reviewed the locations and many human uses of fresh submarine groundwater discharge around the world.

Recent ecological studies have measured local submarine groundwater seepages to determine contributions of solutes and nutrients to coastal ecosystems. But those sparse SGD measurements cannot yet be reliably integrated into a global estimate. Rodell (2015) notes that most water cycle budgets have ignored SGD due to its uncertainty, so Rodell’s water cycle budget included a rate of SGD equivalent to 6.5 millimeters/year (~0.25 inch/yr) of sea level rise. However, that estimate is still insufficient to balance current recharge estimates.

However, with improving techniques, researchers recently estimated total submarine groundwater (saline and fresh water combined) discharges suggesting a rate 3 to 4 times greater than the observed global river runoff, or a volume equivalent to 331 mm/year (13 inches) of sea level rise. Nonetheless more than 90% of that submarine discharge is saline sea water, most of which is likely recirculated sea water, and not likely to affect sea level. Only the fraction of entrained freshwater would raise sea level. To balance the 21 mm/year ground water recharge, between 6 and 7% of total SGD must be freshwater and that amount is very likely. Local estimates of the freshwater fraction of submarine discharge range from 1 to 35%, and on average just less than 10%. If fresh submarine groundwater discharge approaches just 7% of the total SGD, it would not only balance current groundwater recharge, but would steadily raise sea level by an additional 2 mm/year, even if there was no ocean warming and no melting glaciers. 

A Sea Level Rise “Base-flow” and Paleo-climate Conundrums

Hydrologists seek to quantify the aquifer contributions to river flow, otherwise known as the “base flow”. During the rainy season or the season of melting snow, any groundwater contribution is masked by heavy surface runoff and shallow aquifer effects. However, during extended periods of drought hydrologists assume the low river flow that persists must be largely attributed to supplies from deeper aquifers. Streams that dry up during a drought are usually supported by small shallow aquifers, while reduced but persistent river and stream flows must be maintained by large aquifers. Using a similar conceptual approach, we can estimate a possible “base flow” contribution to sea level.

When the continental ice sheets began to melt as the earth transitioned from its Ice Age maximum to our present warm interglacial, sea level began to rise from depths ~130 meters lower than today (see graph below). Melting continental ice sheets drove much higher rates of sea level rise than seen today, ranging from 10 to 40+ mm/year. Approximately 6,000 years ago, a consensus suggests the last of the continental ice sheets had melted completely, the earth’s montane glaciers had disappeared, and Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets had shrunk to their minimums. The earth then entered a long-term 5000-year cooling trend dubbed the Neoglaciation. Although sea level models forced only by growing glaciers and cooling ocean temperatures would project falling sea levels, proxy evidence enigmatically suggests global sea level continued to rise. Albeit at reduced rates, global sea level continued to rise another 4 meters (Figure 1 below). Although there is some debate regards any continued contribution from Antarctica and “ocean siphoning”, according to Lambeck 2014 about 3 meters of sea level were added between 6.7–4.2 thousand years ago. That continued sea level rise could be explained by aquifer discharge, suggesting a minimal “base flow” of ~1.2 mm/year from groundwater discharge.

Similarly, during the Little Ice Age between 1300 and 1850 AD, montane glaciers as well as Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, grew and reached their largest extent in the last 7,000 years. Ocean temperatures cooled by about 1 degree. Yet inexplicably, most researchers estimate global sea level never dropped significantly. They report sea levels were “stable” during the Little Ice Age, fluctuating only by tenths of a millimeter. That stability contrasts greatly with the recent rising trend, that has led some to attribute the current rise to increasing CO2 concentrations. However Little Ice Age stability defies the physics of cooling temperatures and increasing water storage in growing glaciers that should have caused a significant sea level fall. However, that seeming paradox is consistent with a scenario in which a “base flow” from groundwater discharge would offset any transfer of waters to growing Little Ice Age glaciers.

Once the growth of Little Ice Age glaciers stopped, and groundwater base flow was no longer offset, we would expect sea levels to rise as witnessed during the 19th and 20th centuries. Such a scenario would also explain Munk’s enigma that sea level rise had started too early, before temperatures had risen significantly from any CO2-driven warming.

Interestingly, assuming a ballpark figure of a 1.2 mm/year groundwater base flow, unbalanced groundwater discharge could also explain the much higher sea levels estimated for the previous warm interglacial, the Eemian. Researchers estimate sea levels ~115,000 years ago were about 6 to 9 meters higher than today. That interglacial has also been estimated to have spanned 15,000 years before continental glaciation resumed. Compared to our present interglacial span of 11,700 years, an extra 3,300 years of groundwater discharge before being offset by resumed glacier growth, could account for 4 meters of the Eemian’s higher sea level. 

Recent glacier meltwater contribution to sea level is likely overestimated?

In addition to a groundwater base flow driving the current steady rise in sea level, meltwater from retreating Little Ice Age glaciers undoubtedly contributed as well. But by how much? Researchers have estimated there was greater glacial retreat (and thus a greater flux of meltwater) in the early 1900s compared to now. So, current glacier retreat is unlikely to cause any acceleration of recent sea level rise. Furthermore, we cannot assume glacier meltwater rapidly enters the oceans. A large proportion of meltwater likely enters the ground, so it may take several hundred years for Little Ice Age glacier meltwater to affect sea level.

How fast can groundwater reach the ocean? Groundwater measured in the Great Plains’ Ogallala Aquifer can flow at a higher-than-average seepage rate of ~300 mm (~1 foot) in a day, or about the length of a football field in a year. For such “fast” moving groundwater to travel 1000 kilometers (620 miles) to the sea, it would require over 10,000 years! Most ground water travels much slower. The great weight of the continental glaciers during our last ice age, applied such great pressure that it forced meltwater to into the ground at much greater rates than currently observed recharge. And that Ice Age meltwater is still slowly moving through aquifers like the Ogallala.

(However, its release to the ocean has been sped up by human pumping. Recent estimates suggest that globally, human groundwater extraction currently exceeds rates of water capture from dam building, so that groundwater depletion is now accelerating sea level rise.)

How much of the current meltwater can we expect to transit to the ocean via a slow groundwater route? That’s a tough question to answer. However, thirteen percent of the earth’s ice-free land surface is covered by endorheic basins as illustrated by the gray areas shown in the illustration below. Endorheic basins have no direct outlets to the ocean. Water entering endorheic basins only return to the sea via evaporation, or by the extremely slow route of groundwater discharge. Any precipitation or glacial meltwater flowing into an endorheic basin could require centuries to thousands of years to flow back to the oceans.

For example, in 2010-2011, researchers reported that a La Nina event had caused global sea level to fall by the equivalent of 7mm/year (~0.3 inches/year). That dramatic drop happened despite concurrent extensive ice melt in Greenland and despite any base flow contribution. As described by Fasullo (2013), GRACE satellite observations detected increased groundwater storage caused by higher rates of rainwater falling on endorheic basins, primarily in Australia. Although satellite observations suggested much of the rainwater remained in the Australian basin, sea level resumed its unabated rise as groundwater base flow contribution would predict.

To balance their sea level budgets, researchers assert melting glaciers have added ~0.8 mm/year to recent sea level rise. The 20th century retreat of most glaciers is undeniable, but we cannot simply assume all 20th century glacier meltwater immediately reached the oceans. The greatest concentration of ice, outside of Greenland and Antarctica, resides in the regions north of India and Pakistan, in the Himalaya and Karakoram glaciers. Most melt water flowing northward enters the extensive Asian endorheic basins. Likewise, some of the Sierra Nevada meltwater flows into Nevada’s Great Basin, and some Andes meltwater flows into the endorheic basins of the Altiplano and Lake Titicaca as well as the Atacama Desert. It is very likely much of the current glacial meltwater will then take decades to millennia to reach the ocean and has yet to impact modern sea levels. If the glacial melt water contribution to sea level is overestimated, then, the unaccountedfor contribution to sea level rise becomes much larger than initially thought.

Accurate Attribution of Groundwater Discharge and Recharge Will Constrain Sea Level Contributions

Using a combination of GRACE gravity data that measured changes in ocean mass, altimetry data that measured changes in ocean volume and Argo data that measured heat content, Cazenave (2008) used 2 different methods and both estimated the contribution from increased ocean heat to be about 0.3 to 0.37 mm/year. Jevrejeva (2008) calculated a similar heat contribution. Other researchers suggest thermal expansion contributes 1.2 to 1.5 mm/year (i.e. Chambers 2016). Such large discrepancies reveal contributing factors to sea level rise are not yet reliably constrained.

One of the great uncertainties in sea level research are glacial isostatic adjustments.

Researchers have subjectively adopted various Glacio-isotatic adjustment models with recommended adjustments ranging from 1 to 2 mm/year. For example, although GRACE gravity estimates had not detected any added water mass to the oceans, Cazenave (2008) added a 2 mm/year adjustment, as illustrated from her Figure 1 below. Other researchers only added a 1 mm/yr adjustment.

In the Gregory (2012) paper Twentieth-Century Global-Mean Sea Level Rise: Is the Whole Greater than the Sum of the Parts? researchers suggested the sea level budget could be balanced and the IPCC’s unaccounted for contribution to sea level rise could be explained by making 5 assumptions:

  • Assume the contribution from glacier melting was greater than previously estimated.

But greater melting rates were documented for the 30s and 40s, and the likelihood that some glacier meltwater is still trapped as groundwater, suggests the glacier meltwater contribution has been overestimated.

  • Assume an increased contribution from thermal expansion.

But ARGO data suggests the contribution from thermal expansion has been decreasing and plateauing.

  • Assume Greenland positively contributed to sea level throughout the entire 20th century.

Greenland has undoubtedly contributed to episodes of accelerating and decelerating sea level changes, but the greatest rate of Greenland warming occurred during the 1920s and 30s. Previous researchers suggested Greenland glaciers have oscillated during the 20th century but had been stable from the 60s to 1990s. Although there was increased surface melt in the 21st century, culminating in 2012, that melt rate has since declined. And according to the Danish Meteorological Institute, Greenland gained about 50 billion tons of ice in 2017 which should have lowered sea level in 2017. Clearly Greenland cannot explain the enigmatic steady 20th century sea level rise.

  • Assume reservoir water storage balanced groundwater extraction.

But net contributions from groundwater extraction vs water impoundments and other landscape changes are still being debated. For the period 2002–2014 landscape changes have been estimated to have reduced sea level by −0.40 mm/year versus IPCC estimates of contributing 0.38 mm/year from 1993–2010 to sea level rise.

  • Assume the remaining unaccounted contribution to sea level rise is small enough to be attributed to melting in Antarctica.

Debatably, Antarctic melting is too often used as the catch-all fudge factor to explain the unexplainable. Furthermore, there is no consensus within the Antarctic research community if there have been any human effects on Antarctica’s ice balance. Regions that are losing ice are balanced by regions that are gaining ice. Claims of net ice loss have been countered by claims of net ice gain such as NASA 2015. Additionally, unadjusted GRACE gravity data has suggested no lost ice mass and all estimates of ice gains or loss depend on which Glacial Isostatic Adjustments modelers choose to use. We cannot dismiss the possibility that unaccounted for groundwater discharge has been mistakenly attributed to hypothetical Antarctic melting?

A better accounting of natural groundwater discharge is needed to constrain the range of contributions to sea level rise suggested by researchers such as Gregory 2012. The greater the contribution from groundwater discharge, the smaller the adjustments used to amplify contributions from meltwater and thermal expansion. Until a more complete accounting is determined, we can only appreciate Munk’s earnest concern. How can we predict future sea level rise if we don’t fully understand the present or the past?

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Rebuttals to Ten Typical False Claims by Climate Alarmists

Ice Cap | March 2, 2018

Below are a series of rebuttals of typical climate alarmists’ claims such as those made in the recently released Fourth National Climate Assessment Report. The authors of these rebuttals are all recognized experts in the relevant scientific fields. The rebuttals demonstrate the falsity of EPA’s claims merely by citing the most credible empirical data on the topic. For each alarmist claim, a summary of the relevant rebuttal is provided along with a link to the full text of the rebuttal which includes the names and the credentials of the authors of each rebuttal.

Claim #1: Heat waves are increasing at an alarming rate and heat kills
Claim #2: Global warming is causing more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes.
Claim #3: Global warming is causing more and stronger tornadoes
Claim #4: Global warming is increasing the magnitude and frequency of droughts and floods.
Claim #5: Global Warming has increased U.S. Wildfires
Claim #6: Global warming is causing snow to disappear
Claim #7: Global warming is resulting in rising sea levels as seen in both tide gauge and satellite technology
Claim #8: Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland ice loss is accelerating due to global warming
Claim #9: Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification, which is catastrophically harming marine life
Claim #10: Carbon pollution is a health hazard

Claim #1: Heat Waves are Increasing at an Alarming Rate and Heat Kills

Summary of Rebuttal

There has been no detectable long-term increase in heat waves in the United States or elsewhere in the world. Most all-time record highs here in the U.S. happened many years ago, long before mankind was using much fossil fuel. Thirty-eight states set their all-time record highs before 1960 (23 in the 1930s!). Here in the United States, the number of 100F, 95F and 90F days per year has been steadily declining since the 1930s. The Environmental Protection Agency Heat Wave Index confirms the 1930s as the hottest decade.

James Hansen, while at NASA in 1999, said about the U.S. temperature record “In the U.S. the warmest decade was the 1930s and the warmest year was 1934”. When NASA was challenged on the declining heat records in the U.S, the reply was that the U.S. is just 2% of the world. However, all 8 continents recorded their all-time record highs before 1980. Interestingly while the media gives a great deal of coverage to even minor heat waves to support the case that man-made global warming is occurring, the media tends to ignore deadly cold waves. But in actual fact worldwide cold kills 20 times as many people as heat. This is documented in the “Excess Winter Mortality” which shows that the number of deaths in the 4 coldest winter months is much higher than the other 8 months of the year. The USA death rate in January and February is more than 1000 deaths per day greater than in it is July and August.

Clearly, there is no problem with increased heat waves due to climate change.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_AC – Heat Waves

Claim #2: Global Warming Is Causing More Hurricanes and Stronger Hurricanes

Summary of Rebuttal

There has been no detectable long-term trend in the number and intensity of hurricane activity globally. The activity does vary year to year and over multidecadal periods as ocean cycles including El Nino/La Nina, multidecadal cycles in the Pacific (PDO) and Atlantic (AMO) favor some basins over others.

The trend in landfalling storms in the United States has been flat to down since the 1850s. Before the active hurricane season in the United States in 2017, there had been a lull of 4324 days (almost 12 years) in major hurricane landfalls, the longest lull since the 1860s. Harvey was the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas since Ike in 2008 and the first Category 4 hurricane in Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. There has been a downtrend in Texas of both hurricanes and major hurricanes. Texas is an area where Gulf Tropical Storms and hurricanes often stall for days, and 6 of the heaviest tropical rainfall events for the U.S. have occurred in Texas. Harvey’s rains were comparable to many of these events. Claudette in 1979 had an unofficial rainfall total greater than in Harvey.

In Florida, where Irma hit as a category 4 on the Keys, it came after a record 4339 days (just short of 12 years) without a landfalling hurricane. The previous record lull was in the 1860s (8 years). There has been no trend in hurricane intensity or landfalling frequency since at least 1900.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_AC – Hurricanes

Claim #3: Global Warming Is Causing More and Stronger Tornadoes

Summary of Rebuttal

Tornadoes are failing to follow “global warming” predictions. Big tornadoes have seen a decline in frequency since the 1950s. The years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 all saw below average to near record low tornado counts in the U.S. since records began in 1954. 2017 to date has rebounded only to the long-term mean.

This lull followed a very active and deadly strong La Nina of 2010/11, which like the strong La Nina of 1973/74 produced record setting and very deadly outbreaks of tornadoes. Population growth and expansion outside urban areas have exposed more people to the tornadoes that once roamed through open fields. Tornado detection has improved with the addition of NEXRAD, the growth of the trained spotter networks, storm chasers armed with cellular data and imagery and the proliferation of cell phone cameras and social media. This shows up most in the weak EF0 tornado count but for storms from moderate EF1 to strong EF 3+ intensity, the trend has been flat to down despite improved detection.

For Rebuttal and Author Credentials See: EF_RRT_AC – Tornadoes

Claim #4: Global warming Is Increasing the Magnitude and Frequency of Droughts and Floods

Summary of Rebuttal

Our use of fossil fuels to power our civilization is not causing droughts or floods. NOAA found there is no evidence that floods and droughts are increasing because of climate change. The number, extend or severity of these events does increase dramatically for a brief period of years at some locations from time to time but then conditions return to more normal. This is simply the long-established constant variation of weather resulting from a confluence of natural factors. In testimony before Congress Professor Roger Pielke, Jr. said: “It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally. Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century.”

“The good news is U.S. flood damage is sharply down over 70 years,” Roger Pielke Jr. said. “Remember, disasters can happen any time…”. But it is also good to understand long-term trends based on data, not hype.”

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_AC – Droughts and Floods

Claim #5: Global Warming Has Increased U.S. Wildfires

Summary of Rebuttal

Wildfires are in the news almost every late summer and fall. The
National Interagency Fire Center has recorded the number of fires and acreage affected since 1985. This data show the number of fires trending down slightly, though the acreage burned had increased before leveling off over the last 20 years. The NWS tracks the number of days where conditions are conducive to wildfires when they issue red-flag warnings. It is little changed. 2017 was an active fire year in the U.S. but my no means a record. The U.S. had 64,610 fires, the 7th most since in 11 years and the most since 2012. The 9,574, 533 acres burned was the 4th most in 11 years and most since 2015. The fires burned in the Northwest including Montana with a very dry summer then the action shifted south seasonally with the seasonal start of the wind events like Diablo in northern California and Santa Ana to the south.

Fires spread to northern California in October with an episode of the dry Diablo wind that blows from the east and then in December as strong and persistent Santa Ana winds and dry air triggered a round of large fires in Ventura County. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection the 2017 California wildfire season was the most destructive one on record with a total of 8,987 fires that burned 1,241,158 acres. It included five of the 20 most destructive wildland-urban interface fires in the state’s history.

When it comes to considering the number of deaths and structures destroyed, the seven-fold increase in population in California from 1930 to 2017 must be noted. Not only does this increase in population mean more people and home structures in the path of fires, but it also means more fires. Lightning and campfires caused most historic fires; today most are the result of power lines igniting trees. The power lines have increased proportionately with the population, so it can be reasoned that most of the damage from wild fires in California is a result of increased population not Global Warming. The increased danger is also greatly aggravated by poor government forest management choices.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_AC – Wildfires

Claim #6: Global Warming Is Causing Snow to Disappear

Summary of Rebuttal

This is one claim that has been repeated for decades even as nature showed very much the opposite trend with unprecedented snows even to the big coastal cities. Every time they repeated the claim, it seems nature upped the ante more.

Alarmists have eventually evolved to crediting warming with producing greater snowfall, because of increased moisture but the snow events in recent years have usually occurred in colder winters with high snow water equivalent ratios in frigid arctic air.

Snowcover in the Northern Hemisphere, North America, and Eurasia has been increasing since the 1960s in the fall and winter but declining in the spring and summer. However, as NOAA advised might be the case, snowcover measurement methodology changes at the turn of this century may be responsible for part of the warm season differences.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_CA – Snow

Claim #7: Global warming is resulting in rising sea levels as Seen in Both Tide Gauge and Satellite Technology

Summary of Rebuttal

This claim is demonstrably false. It really hinges on this statement: “Tide gauges and satellites agree with the model projections.” The models project a rapid acceleration of sea level rise over the next 30 to 70 years. However, while the models may project acceleration, the tide gauges clearly do not.

All data from tide gauges in areas where land is not rising or sinking show instead a steady linear and unchanging sea level rate of rise from 4 up to 6 inches/century, with variations due to gravitational factors. It is true that where the land is sinking as it is in the Tidewater area of Virginia and the Mississippi Delta region, sea levels will appear to rise faster but no changes in production would change that.

The implication that measured, validated, and verified Tide Gauge data support this conclusion remains simply false. All such references rely on “semi-empirical” information, which merges, concatenates, combines, and joins, actual tide gauge data with various models of the reference author’s choosing. Nowhere on this planet can a tide gauge be found, that shows even half of the claimed 3.3 mm Sea level rise rate in Tectonically Inert” coastal zones. These are areas that lie between regions of geological uplift and subsidence. They are essentially neutral with respect to vertical land motion, and tide gauges located therein show between 1 mm/yr (3.9 inches/century) and 1.5 mm/yr (6 inches/century rise). The great Swedish Oceanographer, Nils-Axel Mörner, has commented on this extensively, and his latest papers confirm this ‘inconvenient truth.’

Further, alarmist claims that “Satellites agree with the model projection” are false. Satellite technology was introduced to provide more objective measurement of the sea level rise because properly adjusted tide gauge data was not fitting Alarmists’ claims. However, the new satellite and radar altimeter data lacked the resolution to accurately measure sea levels down to the mm level. Moreover, the raw data from this technology also conflicted with Alarmists’ claims. As a result, adjustments to this data were also made – most notably a Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA). GIA assumes that basically all land is rebounding from long ago glaciations and oceanic basins are deepening. The assumption is that this rebounding is masking the true sea level rise. Alarmists continue to proclaim that their models project a rapid acceleration of sea level rise over the next 30 to 70 years, when those same models have failed to even come close to accurately measuring the past 25 years.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_CA – Sea Level

Claim #8: Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland Ice Loss Is Accelerating Due to Global Warming

Summary of Rebuttal

Satellite and surface temperature records and sea surface temperatures show that both the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are cooling, not warming and glacial ice is increasing, not melting. Satellite and surface temperature measurements of the southern polar area show no warming over the past 37 years. Growth of the Antarctic ice sheets means sea level rise is not being caused by melting of polar ice and, in fact, is slightly lowering the rate of rise. Satellite Antarctic temperature records show 0.02C/decade cooling since 1979. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been getting sharply colder since 2006. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, reaching all-time highs. Surface temperatures at 13 stations show the Antarctic Peninsula has been sharply cooling since 2000. The Arctic includes the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, Iceland, and part of Siberia and northern Alaska. Because of the absence of any land mass in the Arctic Ocean, most of area lacks glaciers, which require a land mass. Thus, most of the Arctic contains only floating sea ice. Greenland, Iceland, northern Alaska, and northern Siberia contain the only glaciers in the general Arctic region. Arctic temperature records show that the 1920s and 1930s were warmer than 2000. Records of historic fluctuations of Arctic sea ice go back only to the first satellite images in 1979. That happens to coincide with the end of the 1945–1977 global cold period and the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice. During the warm period from 1978 until recently, the extent of sea ice has diminished, but increased in the past several years. The Greenland ice sheet has also grown recently.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_AC – Arctic, Antarctic,Greenland 123117

Claim #9: Rising Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations Are Causing Ocean Acidification, which Is Catastrophically Harming Marine Life

Summary of Rebuttal

As the air’s content rises in response to ever-increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, more and more carbon dioxide is expected to dissolve into the surface waters of the world’s oceans, which dissolution is projected to cause a 0.3 to 0.7 pH unit decline in the planet’s oceanic waters by the year 2300. A potential pH reduction of this magnitude has provoked concern and led to predictions that, if it occurs, marine life will be severely harmed—with some species potentially driven to extinction—as they experience negative impacts in growth, development, fertility and survival. This ocean acidification hypothesis, as it has come to be known, has gained great momentum in recent years, because it offers a second independent reason to regulate fossil fuel emissions in addition to that provided by concerns over traditional global warming. For even if the models are proven to be wrong with respect to their predictions of atmospheric warming, extreme weather, glacial melt, sea level rise, or any other attendant catastrophe, those who seek to regulate and reduce CO2 emissions have a fall-back position, claiming that no matter what happens to the climate, the nations of the Earth must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions because of projected direct negative impacts on marine organisms via ocean acidification.

The ocean chemistry aspect of the ocean acidification hypothesis is rather straightforward, but it is not as solid as it is often claimed to be. For one thing, the work of a number of respected scientists suggests that the drop in oceanic pH will not be nearly as great as the IPCC and others predict. And, as with all phenomena involving living organisms, the introduction of life into the analysis greatly complicates things. When a number of interrelated biological phenomena are considered, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to draw such sweeping negative conclusions about the reaction of marine organisms to ocean acidification. Quite to the contrary, when life is considered, ocean acidification is often found to be a non-problem, or even a benefit. And in this regard, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the robustness of multiple marine plant and animal species to ocean acidification—when they are properly performed under realistic experimental conditions.

Detailed Rebuttal and Author: EF_RRT_CA – Ocean pH

Claim #10: Carbon Pollution Is a Health Hazard<

Summary of Rebuttal

The term “carbon pollution” is a deliberate, ambiguous, disingenuous term, designed to mislead people into thinking carbon dioxide is pollution. It is used by the environmentalists to confuse the environmental impacts of CO2 emissions with the impact of the emissions of unwanted waste products of combustion. The burning of carbon-based fuels (fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – and biofuels and biomass) converts the carbon in the fuels to carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an odorless invisible gas that is plant food and it is essential to life on the planet. Because the burning of the fuel is never 100% efficient, trace amounts of pollutants including unburnt carbon are produced in the form of fine particulates (soot), hydrocarbon gases and carbon monoxide. In addition, trace amounts of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and other pollutant constituents can be produced. In the US, all mobile and industrial stationary combustion sources must have emission control systems that remove the particulates and gaseous pollutants so that the emissions are in compliance with EPA’s emission standards. The ambient air pollutant concentrations have been decreasing for decades and are going to keep decreasing for the foreseeable future because of existing non-GHG-related regulations.

Detailed Rebuttal and Authors: EF_RRT_AC – Health

This material is derived from the Fifth Supplement to Petition for Reconsideration of the Climate Endangerment Finding filed with the USEPA on February 9 by the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC).

February 20, 2018 CHECC Press Release

Electricity Consumers File New Study in Their Call for EPA to Reopen its Endangerment Finding

Key Points:

o Just Released, new research findings demonstrate that Ten Frequent Climate Alarmists’ Claims have each been Rebutted by true experts in each Field by simply citing the most relevant and credible empirical data.

o The new results invalidate 10 very frequent Alarmist Claims in recent years, and thereby also invalidate the so-called “lines of evidence” on which EPA claimed to base its 2009 CO2 Endangerment Finding.

o If the Endangerment Finding is not vacated, whether the current administration likes it or not, it is certain that electric utility, automotive and many other industries will face ongoing EPA CO2 regulation.

This scientifically illiterate basis for regulation will raise U.S. energy prices thereby reducing economic growth, jobs and national security.

February 20, 2018

On February 9, 2018, The Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) submitted a fifth Supplement to their Petition to provide additional new highly relevant and credible information. It relates to variables other than temperature describing the Earth’s Climate System. With each of EPA’s three Lines of Evidence purporting to support their 2009 Endangerment Finding already shown in the CHECC petition and its first 2 Supplements to be invalid, EPA has no proof whatsoever that CO2 has had a statistically significant impact on global temperatures.

The Council’s original Petition and First Supplement to Petition demonstrated that the Endangerment Finding is nothing more than assumptions that have each been disproved by the most relevant empirical evidence from the real world. The original Petition was substantially based on a major peer-reviewed 2016 scientific paper by James Wallace, John Christy and Joseph D’Aleo (Wallace 2016) that analyzed the best available temperature data sets and “failed to find that the steadily rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a statistically significant impact on any of the 13 critically important tropical and global temperature time series data sets analyzed.” The full text of Wallace 2016 may be found here”>here.

First Supplement to Petition was substantially based on a new April 2017 peer reviewed scientific paper, also from the same authors (Wallace 2017A). Wallace 2017A can be found here. Wallace 2017A concluded that once impacts of natural factors such as solar, volcanic and ENSO activity are accounted for, there is no “natural factor adjusted” warming remaining to be attributed to rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

The Second Supplement to the Petition relied on a third new major peer reviewed scientific paper from James Wallace, Joseph D’Aleo and Craig Idso, published in June 2017 (Wallace 2017B). Wallace 2017B analyzes the GAST data issued by U.S. agencies NASA and NOAA, as well as British group Hadley CRU. (Wallace 2017B can be found here) In this research report past changes in the previously reported historical data are quantified. It was found that each new version of GAST has nearly always exhibited a steeper warming linear trend over its entire history. And, this result was nearly always accomplished by each entity systematically removing the previously existing cyclical temperature pattern. This was true for all three entities providing GAST data measurement, NOAA, NASA and Hadley CRU.
The Second Supplement to Petition states: Adjustments that impart an ever-steeper upward trend in the data by removing the natural cyclical temperature patterns present in the data deprive the GAST products from NOAA, NASA and Hadley CRU of the credibility required for policymaking or climate modeling, particularly when they are relied on to drive trillions of dollars in expenditures.

The invalidation of the adjusted GAST data knocked yet another essential pillar out from under the lines of evidence that are the claimed foundation of the Endangerment Finding. As the Second Supplement to Petition stated: It is therefore inescapable that if the official GAST data from NOAA, NASA and Hadley CRU are invalid, then both the “basic physical understanding” of climate and the climate models will also be invalid. The scientific invalidity of the Endangerment Finding becomes more blindingly obvious and undeniable with each day’s accumulation of reliable empirical data -and, the willingness of more scientists to come forward with such new evidence. (See here.) Perhaps recognizing this fact, Climate Alarmist have over time gone from focusing on Global Warming, to Climate Change to simply fear of Carbon. Thus, this research sought to determine the credibility of Ten (10) very frequently cited Climate Alarmists Claims. Above are Rebuttals to each of these ten typical climate alarmists’ claims. The rebuttal authors are all recognized experts on their topic and each rebuttal demonstrates the claim fallacy by merely citing the most credible empirical data.

The Conclusion of the Fifth Supplement

The invalidation of the three lines of evidence upon which EPA attributes global warming to human GHG emissions breaks the causal link between human GHG emissions and global warming. This in turn necessarily breaks the causal chain between human GHG emissions and the alleged knock-on effects of global warming, such as loss of Arctic ice, increased sea level, and increased heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.

Nevertheless, these alleged downstream effects are constantly cited to whip up alarm and create demands for ever tighter regulation of GHG emissions involving all fossil fuels, not just coal. EPA explicitly relied on predicted increases in such events to justify the Endangerment Finding. But there is no evidence to support such Alarmist Claims, and copious empirical evidence that refutes them. The enormous cost and essentially limitless scope of the government’s regulatory authority over GHG emissions cannot lawfully rest upon a collection of scary stories that are conclusively disproven by readily available empirical data.

The scientific invalidity of the Endangerment Finding becomes more blindingly obvious and undeniable with each day’s accumulation of reliable empirical data. It is time for an honest and rigorous scientific re-evaluation of the 2009 CO2 Endangerment Finding. The nation has been taken down a tragically foolish path of pointless GHG/CO2 regulations and wasteful mal-investments to “solve” a problem which does not actually exist. Our leaders must summon the courage to acknowledge the truth and act accordingly.

The legal criteria for reconsidering the Endangerment Finding are clearly present in this case. The scientific foundation of the Endangerment Finding has been invalidated. The parade of horrible calamities that the Endangerment Finding predicts and that a vast program of regulation seeks to prevent have been comprehensively and conclusively refuted by empirical data. The Petition for Reconsideration should be granted.

The Council brought its Petition because the Obama-era greenhouse gas regulations threaten, as President Obama himself conceded, to make the price of electricity “skyrocket.” But clearly CO2 regulation does not just raise electricity prices, it raises all fossil fuel prices. America can have, and must have, the lowest possible energy costs in order to attain and maintain its energy, economic and national security.

Media Contacts:

Harry W. MacDougald
Caldwell Propst & DeLoach LLP
Two Ravinia Drive, Suite 1600
Atlanta, Georgia 30346
(404) 843-1956

Francis Menton
Law Office of Francis Menton
85 Broad Street, 18th floor
New York, New York 10004
(212) 627-1796

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

Moscow to Leave the ECHR: Pursuing a ‘Russia First’ Policy

More than 20 ECHR judges have been elected without Russia’s input. Why should the RF respect their rulings?

By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 04.03.2018

Russia is leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the Russian media reported on March 1 that ending its cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) was yet another option under consideration. The idea is in the air. The withdrawal may be imminent.

The Russian Federation (Russian Federation) joined the Council of Europe (CE) in 1996 and ratified the ECHR in 1998. The ECHR established the European Court of Human Rights in 1959. These mechanisms to protect human rights are binding on all 47 CE member states.

After Crimea became part of Russia in 2014, Russia’s voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) were suspended. Moscow responded in 2017 by reducing its payments to that organization by one-third, a decision that will not be reversed until its delegation has its voting rights back. Russia is one of the largest donors to the CE with an annual membership fee amounting to €33 million ($37.5 million), or about 7% of the Council’s overall budget.

In 2016, the PACE was not invited to monitor Russia’s parliamentary elections. Obviously this was a sign of a deteriorating relationship. In late 2017, the RF warned it could withdraw from the PACE altogether if its right to vote was not restored. More than 20 ECHR judges have been elected without Russia’s input. Why should the RF respect their rulings? Top CE officials are also elected without Moscow’s vote. Why should it trust them? Is it legitimate to hold such elections without Russia? Certainly not. Then why should the RF comply with rules that were established without its input or with court verdicts that are obviously politicized? And why should it pay? Would anyone buy a movie ticket knowing in advance that he would never see the film? So many questions! And the answers are all “no.”

In 2015 the RF adopted a law asserting its right to ignore rulings from the ECHR if those conflict with Russian law. It’s an open secret that the RF is deeply disappointed with the institutions of the CE: the PACE and the ECHR. The PACE’s anti-Russian tilt is obvious. Anyone who observes the organization’s activities will remember how Pedro Agramunt, the president of the Parliamentary Assembly,  was stripped of his powers and forced to resign last year. This happened after he joined Russian lawmakers on a trip to Syria, which included a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The CE has openly interfered in the RF’s internal affairs by insisting on the right of Aleksei Navalny, an opposition politician, to take part in the 2018 presidential election. Navalny is not allowed to run because anyone with a criminal conviction is barred from seeking elected office in Russia.

In 2017, the Court ruled that the ban on “gay propaganda” is illegal, because it breaches Article 10 of the ECHR, which protects the right to freedom of expression and information. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Does this mean that Russia has no right to protect its children from pride marches, promiscuous propaganda, and indecent behavior? If that’s not flagrant meddling into internal affairs, then what is?

The institutions of the CE could and should be reformed to guarantee that everyone is equal and the organization is not biased. No PACE member should be denied voting rights and no resolutions should be adopted with only a minority of votes. Finger pointing should be abandoned. That is not what the PACE was created for. Its mission is to serve as a platform for exchanging views and ideas.

And the Court should stop being used as a tool of the CE for propaganda and political purposes. The Court should provide its independent opinion, but without any further binding rulings. National law should prevail.

Russia refuses to contribute to this organization in which it has no voice and rightly so. Remember “No taxation without representation”? No doubt Americans are sympathetic toward Russia’s stance.

If the RF pulls out from the ECHR and the ECHR, it will also terminate its membership in the CE. The Council represents approximately 820 million people. The population of the RF, a country rich in resources, with a huge military and economy, exceeds 144 million. Without Russia the CE would no longer qualify as a truly pan-European institution. The RF is large enough that the idea of European discourse without Moscow is meaningless.

As a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Moscow does not need the podium of the PACE to make its views known. But will the CE enjoy the same clout without Russia? The RF can easily do without the Council, but the organization’s clout will diminish. It’s time for CE leaders to reconsider their organization’s mission.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

The ‘Human Rights’ War on Syria

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | March 4, 2018

The perfidious role of ‘human rights’ organizations in the war on Syria has been exposed again with the Amnesty International report on Syria for 2017/18, followed by an equally tendentious article in the Melbourne Age newspaper by Claire Mallinson, Amnesty’s national director for Australia.

In the name of human rights these organizations have actually worsened the crisis in Syria. They have never dealt honestly with its primary cause, the determination of the US and its allies seven years ago to destroy the government in Damascus, as part of a bigger plan to destroy the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah strategic axis across the Middle East. Democracy, human rights and the best interests of the Syrian people were never on the agenda of these governments. They were cold-blooded and remorseless in what they wanted and the means by which they sought to get it.

By calling violent armed groups ‘rebels’ and ‘the opposition’, these ‘human rights’ organizations conceal their true nature. By calling the Syrian government a ‘regime’, instead of the legitimate government of Syria, representing Syria at the UN and representing the interests of the Syrian people, they seek to demean it. By accusing it of carrying out indiscriminate attacks on its own civilian population, on the basis of what they are being told by their tainted sources, they seek to demonize it. By accusing it of carrying out chemical weapons attacks, without having any proof, they perpetuate the lies and fabrications of the armed groups and the governments that support them.

Behind the mask of ‘human rights’ these organizations are promoting the war agenda of western and regional governments. Some are worse than others. Human Rights Watch might as well be a formal annex of the US State Department, but they all play the same duplicitous game.

East Aleppo is the template for what we are seeing now in the outrage over East Ghouta, the district on the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of thousands of people are being held hostage by takfiri armed groups. Aleppo was infiltrated by these groups in 2012 and the eastern sector of the city gradually taken over, as the army was already too hard-pressed on other fronts to stop this happening. Until then Aleppo, a commercial, multi-religious and multi-ethnic city, had managed to stay out of the war but now it was sucked right in. There was nil support in Aleppo for the takfiris but they had the guns and they were ready to kill to get their way. Advancing on government held positions, they devastated the old centre of the city with their attacks. Digging tunnels, they blew up some of its most famous buildings. Art, architecture, history, meant nothing to them. They destroyed the square minaret of the Umayyad mosque and their attacks led to the destruction of the ancient library in the mosque and the massive destruction of the Aleppo souk, one of the oldest and most colourful markets in the world.

In the districts they controlled they ruled by terror, massacre and murder and the institution of the most repressive sharia laws. Under the secular Syrian government, women and men have the same rights before the law, under the takfiris women have no rights that are not granted to them by men. They sought the extirpation of all those they did not regard as true Muslims (Shia and Alawi amongst others): one of their earliest acts was the kidnapping of two orthodox Christian prelates, never seen alive again. It was these armed groups and the foreign governments behind them that were responsible for the dire situation in #East Aleppo, yet it was the Syrian government, the ‘regime’ as they chose to call it, that was blamed by the media and ‘human rights’ organizations. The White Helmets, embedded with these groups, and funded by the same governments which had armed and financed them, were used as the main propaganda prop. Their staged rescues filled the pages of the corporate media. They were effectively canonised by George Clooney, the documentary on their bogus bravery and sham rescues winning an Oscar award, unfortunately not for bad acting, which should have been the prize.

As the Syrian military, with Russian air support, began to squeeze these groups in East Aleppo, the propaganda was turned up accordingly. The ‘siege’ of East Aleppo was no more a siege than the ‘siege’ of East Ghouta. The people trapped in East Aleppo were being held hostage, as are the people in East Ghouta, by some of the most violent groups on the face of the earth. These trapped civilians were their trump card. Those who tried to leave, they killed, just as the takfiris are killing civilians trying to get out of East Ghouta. Having negotiated the peaceful removal of the takfiris from East Aleppo, along with their families and camp followers, the fall-back position of the media and the ‘human rights’ organizations was to accuse the Syrian government of their forcible displacement. They made no mention of the captive Syrian soldiers whom the takfiris paused to massacre before they left. They made no mention of the civilians killed by the takfiris as they were trying to escape and no mention of the dancing in the streets, literally, by the people of Aleppo, and the honking of car horns in jubilation, as these killers were sent on their way. This just didn’t fit in with the narrative the media and these organizations had been spinning.

The takfiris fight among themselves over territory, power and money but their ideology is the same, based on the destruction of the secular state and society and the imposition of a harsh pseudo-Islamic regime in which women would be reduced to the status of cattle and all Shia and Alawi extirpated. It is they who target civilians deliberately. In Adra, at the Northern end of Ghouta, they slaughtered dozens of men, women and children in 2013, beheading some and pushing others into a bread oven. In 2015, in Douma, they put men and women into cages as hostages, to deter possible advances by the Syrian army. They are shelling the centre of Damascus every day, killing civilians, including many children, including some recently mortared in their classroom.

In its report on Syria for 2017/18 Amnesty International (AI) continues its misleading narrative on the fate of East Aleppo and east Ghouta. Those who support it financially should perhaps be considering where they could put their money and their good intentions to better use. AI refers to districts in east Ghouta controlled or ‘contested’ by unspecified ‘armed opposition groups’ and repeats the canard that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaikhun in April last year. (Bear in mind the recent statement of US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis that the US had no evidence of the Syrian government using sarin, the agent allegedly fired into Khan Shaikhun.) AI has no proof of this, so why would it state this as fact, except to do more propaganda damage to the Syrian government?

AI refers to 400,000 people ‘besieged’ in East Ghouta by the Syrian military, when the true state of affairs is that their districts have been infiltrated and that they are being held hostage by extremely violent armed groups. They are besieged from within by these groups, penned in and unable to leave except at the risk of being killed by their captors. The Syrian army is not imposing a siege, it is trying to break it. The Syrian government is accused of depriving these people of access to medical care and basic necessities, when it is one or another of these armed groups, over the years, that has caused the breakdown of efforts to set up humanitarian corridors. Even now the Syrian government is waiting with medical care, buses and accommodation but those civilians who try to leave are being shot at and killed, as they were in East Aleppo.

AI’s references to ‘forced displacement’ from East Aleppo, and the way the ‘armed groups’ there were ‘compelled’ to surrender and negotiate a deal that ended the ‘unlawful siege’ are a grotesque distortion of reality. What was unlawful about the situation in East Aleppo was the presence of the armed groups, what was unlawful was the money and weapons being provided to them by outside governments, in breach of international law, what was unlawful was their killing of civilians and the restriction of their free movement (out of East Aleppo), what was lawful was the finally successful attempt of the government of Syria to break the hold of these groups.

Following the release of the AI report on Syria, Claire Mallinson, the national director of AI for Australia, charged into print under the heading of ‘Australians Need to Act on Syrian Monstrosities’ (the Melbourne Age, March 1, 2018). Her reading audience would already have been won over as the Australian media has not reported the war in Syria at all but simply pumped out the same propaganda appearing in the US or British press. Others watching Syria closely over the years know what these ‘monstrosities’ are, and they are not the same as Ms Mallinson’s.

These monstrosities begin with the conspiracy, of the US, Britain, France and their regional Middle Eastern allies, to destroy the Syrian government, and thus strike a deadly blow at the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah strategic alliance, whatever the cost to the Syrian people and whatever their aspirations. They move on to the use by these governments of takfiri proxies to do their dirty work in Syria, following the refusal of Russia and China to allow the UN Security Council to be used as the fig leaf for an air war. These governments armed and financed these groups. They did not care who they were, where they came from and what they believed as long as they were prepared to pick up a gun and bring Syria to its knees. These are the master criminals in Syria.

The monstrosities include a media picking up where it had left off in Iraq. It had peddled the lies there, it had peddled them in Libya, it peddled them again in Syria and it is still peddling them. They include the illegal presence of the US in Syria, its killing of Syrian civilians and its attacks on the legitimate armed forces of the Syrian government and people, attacks in which Australian aircraft have shamefully taken part and which have taken scores of lives of Syrian soldiers.

All of this has led to the grand monstrosity, the large-scale destruction of Syria, involving the loss of life of perhaps 400,000 people and the flight of millions of others beyond Syria’s borders. But now the same governments and the same media that brought you this war, and the same ‘human rights’ organizations that have supported it with their one-sided moralising and unbalanced reports, are expressing their outrage at the suffering in East Ghouta, as if this had nothing to do with them.

The monstrosities in the eyes of the Syrian people, if not in the eyes of Ms Mallinson, are on a par with, if not worse than, the genocidal decade of sanctions which preceded the attack on Iraq in 2003 and the crimes which followed this attack, committed by the same governments that are responsible for the onslaught on Syria. The suffering in East Ghouta is terrible and outrage is justified, but it is the causes that need to be identified and they do not include the efforts of the Syrian government and army to defend the country against attack fomented from without.

Ms Mallinson’s monstrosities are of a different order. They include the chemical weapons ‘reportedly’ being used ‘again’ by the Syrian government against its own people. This smear has been played out time and time again by ‘activists’ knowing that the media and ‘human rights’ organizations will snap it up. There is no proof of any chemical weapon attack ever being carried out by the Syrian military, as against abundant evidence of such attacks planned and carried out by the takfiris over the years, including the attack around Damascus in August, 2013.

Ms Mallinson refers to a UN report that Syria is developing chemical weapons ‘with the help of North Korea’, neatly tying in the two demonized targets of the US government. This is another canard, originating in Washington and designed again to smear the Syrian government and to set it up for whatever might come next.

What she does not say is that this ‘report’ remains unpublished, that the authors are unknown, that what we know of it comes from an account in the New York Times, which sold the lies on Iraq and has promoted the war on Syria from the beginning. The detail it gives of the material allegedly coming from North Korea indicates that it could have no possible connection with chemical weapons, which Syria does not have anyway, having given them all up under international supervision. Given the completely tendentious nature of this account, why would Ms Mallinson want to raise it except to further blacken the name of the Syrian government?

She refers to the ‘warring sides’ in East Ghouta as if both are legitimate when only one is, the government of Syria. The other is a collective of extremely violent armed groups sponsored by outside governments, in breach of international law. The presence of US and ‘coalition’ forces in Syria is a standing violation of international law and their killing of Syrian soldiers and civilians a gross aggravated violation of that law. The only legitimate armed forces in Syria are the Syrian army, which has lost tens of thousands of young men defending the country, and those forces the government has invited in, from Russian air power to Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces.

Ms Mallinson’s monstrosities include the hundreds of thousands of ‘ordinary men, women and children’ she says are at risk of annihilation by the Syrian army’s ‘siege’ of East Ghouta. In fact, the central source of the risk to the people of East Ghouta is not the Syrian government but the armed groups holding them hostage. The ‘siege’ is not of the people but of these groups. The Syrian military is trying to break their grip, as any army would in any comparable situation. Ms Mallinson accuses ‘the Russian-backed Syrian regime’ of breaking the ceasefire, ignoring the evidence that the takfiris are breaking it and killing civilians attempting to escape their grip. Only in the past few days they shot at a family trying to leave, killing the parents and shooting at the children even after they reached a Syrian army checkpoint. They are pouring shells into the centre of Damascus every day. There are no references in her account to the ‘American-backed’ or ‘Saudi-backed’ armed groups that have created this hell on earth, as she refers to it.

Finally, she appeals to the Australian government, as it assumes its seat on the UN Human Rights Council, to ‘show leadership’ in bringing these ‘abominations’ to an end. The problem here is that the Australian government is part of the problem. It fully supports US policy in Syria and has taken part in armed action in Syria, in violation of international law. In September, 2016, its aircraft joined a US-led air attack near Deir al Zor which killed perhaps 100 Syrian soldiers and allowed the Islamic State to regain lost positions. Australia did not apologise for its participation in this outrage, only repeating the US line that the attack was a mistake, which clearly it was not. When the Australian delegate did take his seat on the UN Human Rights Council, he merely echoed US policy, by attacking the Syrian ‘regime’ and its Russian backer.

If Australia does have a role in Syria, a moral role, a legal role, an independent role, it should not be as a sounding chamber for the US. It should distance itself from the illegal actions of the US and the violence of the takfiris against the Syrian people, their government and their army. It should be supporting the attempts of the government in Damascus to restore its authority over the whole of Syria and not supporting the attempts of the US and behind it, Israel, to break it up. It should support the Syrian people, not the actions of governments which have devastated their country.

It should define policy on the basis of the causes of the situation in Syria, not how they are being misrepresented in the media, by ‘activists’ embedded with the takfiri groups, by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, by the White Helmets and by deluded or willfully dishonest ‘human rights’ organizations playing politics, not serving truth, justice and the interests of humanity. This would be a credible role for Australia, an independent role, but it is not one the government is going to adopt.

Everyone should be concerned at the loss of life in East Ghouta. Ms Mallinson does not have a mortgage on morality and empathy with human suffering. How does anyone think Syrians feel about this, Syrians shelled in the heart of Damascus every day, Syrians who have lost fathers, brothers and sons in this conflict, Syrians whose relatives are trapped in East Ghouta or have been killed by the armed gangs holding the whole region with a knife to its throat? Does anyone outside seriously think Syrians want to live under their rule? Syrians know what they want, without equivocation, the purging of these gangs from their midst, whatever it takes. They fully support their army and their government. It is their interests Australians, or anyone else of good faith, should be supporting, not the highly politicized interests of Amnesty International.

Outrage is going to solve nothing: it only serves as the pretext for taking the war to a new level of destruction. The roots of this violence are clear: the decision of outside powers to destroy the Syrian government, their support for violent armed groups committed to an ideology destructive of every value these governments are supposed to represent and their refusal to allow the war to end. For the violence to end these are the roots that need to be acknowledged and torn out.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More Korean War is “Worth it?” To Whom?

By Thomas L. Knapp | The Garrison Center | March 3, 2018

Speaking to CNN on the possibility of resuming hostilities in the nearly 70-year-old Korean War (in uneasy ceasefire since 1953), US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says “all the damage … would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security.”

Worth it, Senator Graham? To whom?

The last period of open war on the Korean peninsula cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.5 million lives, including nearly a million soldiers on both sides (36,516 of them American) and 2.5 million civilians in the North and South.

What did the American taxpayer get in return for three years of fighting, tens of thousands of Americans dead, and nearly $700 billion (in 2008 dollars)?

Well, that taxpayer’s government got to decide who’s in charge of part of the Korean peninsula, which, last time I checked, is not a US state or territory.

And that taxpayer’s government got the opportunity to spend hundreds of billions of dollars more of that taxpayer’s money to garrison the North-South border along the 38th Parallel for 65 years. That excludes the off-peninsula costs of the US “security umbrella” covering other Pacific Rim nations.

And that taxpayer’s government got a convenient bugaboo to scare the bejabbers out of that taxpayer with any time peace threatened to break out.

Stability? Well, sure, if what we’re talking about is guaranteeing that the welfare checks continue to reliably arrive in the American military industrial complex’s mailboxes. But apart from that, continued saber-rattling on either side of some of the most militarized acreage on Earth — the so-called “Demilitarized Zone” — is pretty much the definition of instability.

National security? Not so much, if for no other reason than that North Korea never has represented and does not now represent a credible military threat to the United States. If it ever does come to represent such a threat, it will be because the US continues, at the urging of demagogues like Lindsey Graham, to involve itself in the affairs of people thousands of miles away who do not welcome such involvement.

So far, the Korean War hasn’t delivered any benefit of note to the American people, especially in the areas of “stability” or “national security.”

America’s long misadventure on the Korean peninsula has only been worth it to US “defense” contractors and the politicians they own. Yes, Senator Graham, I’m looking at you.

The sooner the US government notifies the South Korean government that America is going home, the better.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 3 Comments

There Is No Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela, Says UN Expert

Alfred de Zayas: Sanctions and economic warfare aggravate the smuggling of medicines and food on the border with Colombia | Photo: AVN
teleSUR | February 20, 2018

The American lawyer and historian, Alfred de Zayas, an expert in the field of human rights, warned about the use of the term humanitarian crisis to intervene in Venezuela and overthrow the current government.

Alfred de Zayas, the independent expert of the United Nations (UN) on the Promotion of an International Democratic and Equitable Order, concluded after his visit to Venezuela that this country does not suffer a humanitarian crisis, unlike countries in Africa or Asia where there are wars and famine.

“I have compared the statistics of Venezuela with that of other countries and there is no humanitarian crisis, of course there is scarcity, anxiety and shortages but who has worked for decades for the United Nations and knows the situation of countries in Asia, Africa and some of America, knows that the situation in Venezuela is not a humanitarian crisis,” Zayas said in an interview for teleSUR.

The independent expert arrived in Venezuela on November 27 and held meetings with government officials, victims of human rights violations and the violence of the so-called guarimbas (violent protests by the opposition) in order to learn about the political, economic and social situation of the country.

He explained that although many think that the country is on the verge of disaster, as media outlets do, “Venezuela suffers an economic war, a financial blockade, suffers a high level of smuggling and, of course, needs international solidarity to solve these problems.”

He also believes that the international community should work in solidarity with Venezuela to lift the sanctions, “because these are the ones that worsen the shortage of food and medicine, it is unbearable to think that having a malaria crisis in the Venezuelan Amazon, Colombia has blocked the sale of medicines and Venezuela had to obtain it in India.”

The expert affirms that the current discourse of humanitarian crisis on the part of US spokespersons, besides being invalid, only pursues the change of regime in Venezuela, “since 1999, a series of States want regime change in Venezuela , that desire to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution and to repeal all the social laws adopted in the mandates of (Hugo) Chávez and (Nicolás) Maduro.”

Zayas denounced the invisibility of his visit to Venezuela in the dominant media, which in his opinion are not interested in disseminating a complete picture of the situation in this country.

The expert told teleSUR that the normal thing, being a senior official of the United Nations, secretary of the Human Rights Committee and head of the complaints department of the UN High Commissioner, is that when he pronounces on a subject, in general, media such as BBC and The New York Times collect and publish their statements.

However, “in the case of Venezuela both CNN and the BBC have ignored me, it is as if my visit to Venezuela had not taken place, as if I had not visited it”, which qualifies as public manipulation, adding that only teleSUR and Sputnik has interviewed him.

The American historian also noted that certain organizations called “non-governmental but whose loyalties are doubtful”, do not want independent experts, “they want experts to come to the country to condemn, that’s why when they name and know me internationally, they said that I was not the relevant rapporteur to talk about Venezuela.”

The United Nations office received letters of complaint from abroad about Zayas’ visit to Venezuela, in which the points he had to investigate were required, “I considered that an interference with my independence, I am the rapporteur, I determine my program I know what information is relevant to my report, but I do not want the report to be dictated to me and some non-governmental organizations suggested me in an uncourteous way with insulting letters, saying what I had to do when I was Venezuela.”

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Amnesty International Winks at Trump’s Economic Attack on Venezuelans

By Joe Emersberger | CounterPunch | March 2, 2018

Amnesty International told me that it “does not take a position on the current application” of U.S. economic sanctions that Trump’s administration imposed on Venezuela in August “but rather emphasizes the urgent need to address the serious crisis of the right to health and food which Venezuela is facing. In terms of human rights, it is the Venezuelan state’s responsibility to resolve this.”  Amnesty’s full reply to three questions I asked them by email can be read here.

The expression that “silence gives consent” applies perfectly to Amnesty’s stance which tacitly endorses Trump’s aggression against the Venezuelan people. To make this even more obvious, Amnesty also refused to condemn remarks by Rex Tillerson and Marco Rubio that encourage a military coup in Venezuela. Asked to comment on those remarks Amnesty replied that it ”believes that a responsible discussion on the current state of human rights in Venezuela should not be focused on statements made by parties outside the country and context”.

In the middle of an already grave economic crisis, the sanctions will cost Venezuela’s government billions of dollars this year. Its $64 billion USD in outstanding foreign currency bonds are all governed by New York Law, but the sanctions have outlawed Venezuela from borrowing or selling assets in the U.S. financial system. Debt restructuring is therefore made impossible and it blocks the government from rolling over its bonds (offsetting principal costs by issuing new debt). The sanctions also block CITGO, a U.S. based company owned the by the Venezuelan government, from sending its profits or dividends (which have totaled about $2.5 billion USD since 2015) back to Venezuela.

U.S. sanctions, which are illegal under of chapter 4 article 19 of the OAS Charter, are a direct assault on the Venezuelan peoples’ “right to health and food”.  There is no avoiding this conclusion even if you believe the worst that has been said about Venezuela’s government. You’ll find it extremely hard to learn from the international media, but sanctions are not supported by most Venezuelans according to the same opposition-aligned pollster (Datanalisis) that the media has cited ad nauseam about Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s approval rating.

According to Datanalisis, about 45% of the population received cash bonuses the government paid out over the past three months. Another opposition source – a group of Venezuelan academics who produce the annual ENCOVI surveys – claim that 87% of households have received direct food handouts from the government.  The ENCOVI study is especially dubious as Jacob Wilson has explained, and its 87% figure is probably a wild exaggeration, but even if an accurate estimate is closer to 50%, the depravity of Trump’s sanctions and Amnesty’s refusal to denounce them should be clear from statistics produced by opposition sources.

Decent people were outraged by the sanctions that the U.S. and its allies imposed on Iraq during the 1990s – a country that really was ruled by a dictator.  They should be even more outraged that the same gang of states that devastated Iraq has been able to target a democracy thanks to a propaganda system in which big NGOs like Amnesty play an important part.

Incidentally, the impact of the U.S. sanctions dwarfs any offers of humanitarian aid that have been made. That hasn’t stopped headlines like “Why won’t the country accept aid?”, and articles that invariably fail to explore what has been offered and how it compares to billions of dollars lost due to illegally imposed U.S. sanctions. The annual program expenditures of groups like Caritas ($4 million) and the Pan American Development Foundation ($81 million) are a drop in the ocean compared to the impact of the sanctions.

I was disgusted but not surprised by Amnesty’s tacit support for Trump’s aggression against Venezuela for several reasons.

In 2010, Amnesty put out a statement claiming that there was only one TV broadcaster in Venezuela that had not been shut down by the government – an absolutely preposterous claim. Could the world renowned organization not afford to pay somebody to watch some Venezuelan TV or do any basic research?

Amnesty refused to recognize Chelsea Manning as a Prisoner of Conscience on ridiculous grounds, but has given that designation to Leopoldo Lopez – a man involved with four different attempts to violently overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected government. One of them, in April of 2002, was briefly successful.

When the US government (helped by its trusty allies Canada and France) overthrew Haiti’s democratically elected president in 2004 and installed a dictatorship that ruled with tremendous brutality for two years, Amnesty’s response was seriously marred by political cowardice and double standards. About the kindest thing you could say about Amnesty’s work in Haiti, and in general, is that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been even worse. For example, it took HRW years longer than Amnesty to make any serious contribution to the fight to hold the UN mission in Haiti accountable for killing 10,000 Haitians by bringing cholera in to the country in 2010. The key facts were well known by at least 2011 (as you can see from this petition) years before Amnesty took any significant action in 2015.

Norman Finkelstein’s latest book “Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom” has a chapter devoted to thoroughly dissecting Amnesty’s reports on Israel’s savage “Protective Edge” assault on Gaza in 2014. Finkelstein wrote “By supplying Israel with pretexts for atrocities that were among the most heinous it committed during Protective Edge, Amnesty conveniently eased the burden of Israeli hasbara [propagandists]”.

In an email exchange I had with Amnesty regarding Syria in 2012, Amnesty defended a position which told Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most brutal and backward government on earth, to merely be careful about which rebels it armed in Syria. At the same time, Amnesty called for an arms embargo on almost entirely defenseless Palestinians.

Amnesty has repeatedly showed that it is not willing or able to denounce the brutality of the U.S. government or its allies to anywhere near the extent that it should. One can have a long discussion about why that’s the case, but an appalling track record has been well established.  People who live in United States, or in countries like Canada which regularly provide political cover for U.S. crimes abroad, will have to work around and even against NGOs like Amnesty International to prevent their governments from continuing to destroy one country after another.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

As US Forces Struggle to Hold Territory in Somalia, Peacekeepers Continue Exodus

Sputnik – March 3, 2018

A US senator has revealed that Washington is struggling with its mission to break militant group al-Shabab’s hold on Somalia.

Some 500 US troops are working with the Somali military and other African partners to eradicate al-Shabab from their strongholds in Somalia. “Our doctrine is…to disrupt, clear, hold. We’re finding it difficult to hold,” Jack Reed, top ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services committee, told Defense One in a story published Friday. “We have specialized units who are very good at disrupting al-Shabab together with our special operators, but we’re certainly not at the ‘clear and hold phase,’ we’re at the phase of disrupting al-Shabab, keeping them off balance.”

A quarter-century since 18 US service members died after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Mogadishu, long-term stability in Somalia seems as distant a hope as it did then, Reed said. The US pulled its troops from the humanitarian mission launched in the country in 1992 shortly after the deadly 1993 incident, and only returned officially in 2013.

But today, despite a US presence that was substantially boosted in 2017, when the number of troops were doubled to the Pentagon’s current declared 500 and commanders were given more freedom to call in airstrikes, the Somali government is struggling to hold territory from what AFRICOM estimates as 3,000 to 6,000 al-Shabab fighters and a few hundred Daesh soldiers.

US troops are officially in Somalia to provide direct assistance to local armed forces, through train and equip and advise and assist missions. But US airstrikes, which have grown much more numerous with US President Donald Trump’s loosening of restrictions, have clear and deadly consequences, most recently on February 26, when a US strike killed two al-Shabab militants and wounded one, according to AFRICOM.

But it’s not enough. “In terms of building a stable entity, a country that can take care of its own forces, that’s a long way off,” Reed told Defense One. Al-Shabab still executes suicide and other attacks daily, and faces little resistance outside the capital, where Reed said the federal government influence is nearly nil.

And US partners in the region are growing tired. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has “pulled back a bit, they’re more located on forward-operating-bases, they’re not going out a lot,” Reed said, having been burned by a series of fatal encounters with militants. AMISOM is also withdrawing troops with the aim of handing over all responsibility to Somalia’s army by 2020 — though the AMISOM heads of state are unhappy about that. The leaders of East African nations contributing some 20,000 troops to the AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia warned the UN that the planned drawdown would “reverse gains.”

The heads of state of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia issued a statement from their Friday meeting in Kampala with Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed that the time frames and troop levels envisioned by the UN Security Council’s drawdown resolution were “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by AMISOM,” the Independent reported.

Some 1,000 troops were withdrawn last year, and 1,000 more are scheduled to leave the country by October, according to the Independent. Meanwhile, three Burundian troops were the most recent to lose their lives when they were ambushed by al-Shabaab Friday.

If the drawdown continues as planned, the US will not fill the void, Reed said.

“We train some specialized units, but I think the notion of going in, like what was done in Afghanistan, to try to train a national army that will fully replace — I don’t think that’s on the table,” he said. “That has to be done, but maybe it could be done by somebody else, maybe we could participate in doing it, but taking that on as we did in Afghanistan or as we did in Iraq?”

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear genie pops out of Saudi bottle

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 3, 2018

The United States invaded and destroyed Iraq in 2003 on the false ground that Saddam Hussein secretly nurtured a nuclear program, but fifteen years later, Washington is actively discussing how to cater to Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions. It is a sign of our times that the nuclear genie is out of the Saudi bottle and the US may have to get used to the idea.

Saudi Arabia has opened bids from foreign companies to build two nuclear reactors. Riyadh wants eventually to install up to 17.6 gigawatts of atomic capacity by 2032 – or up to 17 reactors. Tens of billions of dollars worth business is involved. Companies from the US, France, Russia, China and South Korea have shown interest – including Westinghouse. There is pressure on the Trump administration to restart talks with Riyadh on a civil nuclear cooperation pact so that Westinghouse can pick up the lucrative business. The nuclear commerce with Saudi Arabia fits in with President Trump’s America First, as it could create thousands of jobs in the US economy.

But there is a serious catch. The Saudis will not accept any restrictions on uranium enrichment technology. Washington’s policy, on the other hand, is to sign a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact – known as a 123 agreement – that blocks steps in fuel production with potential bomb-making uses. Now, Riyadh maintains that it is not interested in diverting nuclear technology to military use, but it wants nonetheless to tap its own uranium resources for “self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel”. Indeed, Saudis have a point here. It is Saudi Arabia’s prerogative to have access to nuclear enrichment technology – like any NPT member country.

But then, Saudi Arabia happens to be a Muslim country in the Middle East and the West so far ensured that there is nothing like an “islamic bomb”. What happens if some day, a gust of Arab Spring blows through the Arabian Peninsula and an authentic Islamic regime takes shape there? Again, the Saudis already have a past history of funding Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear weapon program. The two countries are close allies. General Raheel Sharif, former Pakistani army chief, heads the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance, which was formed last year. Pakistan’s present army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa is frequently in and out of Saudi Arabia. In February, following Bajwa’s last hushed visit, Pakistan announced the deployment of a few thousand troops to Saudi Arabia under a bilateral security cooperation agreement for unspecified purposes.

Conceivably, Saudis intend to develop nuclear weapons some day. The Saudi compulsions are similar to Pakistan’s – nuclear weapons provide deterrent capability. Lest it be forgotten, Saudi Arabia already has a “delivery system” – missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Its armed forces even have a designated Saudi Strategic Missile Force, which handles long-range missiles. Actually, these missiles don’t make sense unless they’re armed with nuclear weapons. What makes all this a combustible mix is that the present Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a hot head, as the bloody war in Yemen testifies. The rift with Qatar underscores that MbS is bent on establishing Saudi hegemony in the region.

Logically speaking, the US could offer to Saudi Arabia something like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral agreement of July 2015 that restricts Iran’s nuclear program. The Saudis cannot complain because they had previously complained that the JCPOA was a generous deal for Iran – except that it means:

  • No indigenous reprocessing, with all spent reactor fuel to be shipped out of the country;
  • Severe restrictions on any uranium enrichment, in terms of both the level of enrichment and the amount of material enriched;
  • A highly intrusive IAEA inspection regime, in which international inspectors have continual and full access to nuclear facilities, including the right to inspect military bases or other places if they had any reason to suspect nuclear-related activities.

Of course, it entails the Trump administration admitting that JCPOA was a brilliant achievement in nuclear non-proliferation. That will be not only  a bitter pill to swallow for President Trump but his (and Israel’s) entire strategy to reimpose sanctions against Iran would unravel.

The alternative will be to give Saudi Arabia a free hand to acquire mastery over the nuclear fuel cycle but the US Congress is almost certain to shoot it down. On the other hand, if the US and Saudi Arabia cannot agree on a 123 agreement, Westinghouse loses the multi-billion dollar business. Russia’s Rosatem has already sought a contract to construct 2 nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia. In the prevailing new Cold War climate with the Trump administration castigating Russia as a “revisionist power” and an “existentialist threat”, a coordinated effort by the international community to circumscribe Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions (on the lines that the Obama administration could mobilise) is too much to expect today. Which, in turn, creates space for Saudi Arabia to outmaneuver the Trump administration. Riyadh is aware of it. (Asharq Al-Awsat )

This is going to be one hell of a trapeze act for the Trump administration. If Trump destroys the JCPOA in these circumstances, and Iran retaliates by resuming uranium reprocessing, this becomes an entirely new ball game. Other Middle Eastern countries are watching – Turkey and Egypt, in particular. And they would be wondering, ‘If Saudi Arabia can have reprocessing technology, why not us?’ Israel’s “nuclear superiority” is steadily getting eroded, too. Read a fascinating piece Coming soon – a Nuclear Middle East.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 2 Comments

South Korea ‘to send high-level delegation to North’

Press TV – March 4, 2018

South Korea has announced a decision to send a high-level political delegation to the North, raising hopes for a diplomatic solution to the decades-long conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean presidential office announced on Sunday that a special 10-member government delegation was to visit North Korea on Monday.

“The special delegates will have extensive discussions over issues including creating conditions for North-US talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and improving inter-Korea ties,” Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan told reporters.

The 10-member group comprises five top delegates, including top national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and intelligence chief Suh Hoon. It will fly to the North’s capital, Pyongyang, on Monday afternoon before returning on Tuesday, Yoon said.

The delegation will then fly to the US to brief officials in Washington, he added.

The move comes just weeks after the North’s leader Kim Jong-un sent a delegation to the South that included his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong.

During her stay, Kim Yo-jong personally delivered to South Korean President Moon Jae-in an invitation from her brother for a summit meeting in Pyongyang.

Peace advocate

President Moon, 65, who hails from the Democratic Party, rose to power last year vowing to ameliorate the broken ties between the two Koreas.

Last week, Moon advised US leaders to stop setting preconditions to hold talks with North Korea and make greater efforts for peace and stability. Washington needs to “lower the threshold for talks” with Pyongyang, he said.

On Saturday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Pyongyang called on the US to drop any precondition for talks.

“The US is taking preposterous action by continuing to trumpet an insistence that it will not have dialog unless a right condition is met,” the unnamed spokesman was quoted as saying by the state-run KCNA news agency.

The US, which has imposed many sanctions on Pyongyang, has said that North Korea should denuclearize in order for negotiations to begin.

Late last month, the US imposed the “toughest ever” sanctions on North Korea.

The sanctions were imposed shortly after athletes from the North and South marched together in a show of unity at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which ended February 25.

North Korea, for its part, says its nuclear arsenal is a deterrent against potential US aggression.

The US has substantial military presence in the region and has repeatedly threatened the North with military action.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment