Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has proposed the formation of a forum with the participation of Persian Gulf Arab states in order to build a common goal toward overcoming problems.
“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction of erecting realistic regional arrangements. It can perhaps start with a modest regional dialog forum,” he said on Sunday.
Zarif addressed the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top diplomats and defense officials, urging Arab states to work with Iran to address “anxieties” and violence across the region.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week traveled to Oman and Kuwait to try improve ties, his first visit to the Persian Gulf states since taking power in 2013.
“On regional dialog, I’m modest and I’m focusing on the Persian Gulf. We have enough problems in this region so we want to start a dialog with countries we call brothers in Islam,” Zarif said.
“We need to address common problems and perceptions that have given rise to anxieties and the level of violence in the region,” he added, when asked whether Tehran would also consider a region-wide dialog.
Zarif earlier criticized four-decades of well financed “Takfiri” ideology which has its roots in Saudi Arabia and is followed by extremist groups such as Daesh, al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed ties with Iran last January after protesters in Tehran and Mashhad attacked its diplomatic premises following the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Some of Riyadh’s allies followed suit and cut or downgraded their ties with Iran.
It was choosing regional enmity, Zarif said, that had in part spawned such extremist outfits such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front.
“For nearly four decades, a well-financed global proliferation of Takfiri ideology based on division, hatred and rejection, which everybody would agree has nothing to do with Islam, has been sold as promoting a so-called ‘moderate Islam’ to confront an erroneously-framed ‘radical Iran,” he noted.
The other contributors to the rise of such groups were “the endemic problem of foreign occupation and invasion,” and their arming and financing by some states in the region, Zarif added.
‘War not the answer’
Addressing other crises in the Middle East, the top Iranian diplomat said conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain “do not have military solutions,” adding “each requires a political solution, where no genuine actor is excluded.”
As a case in point testifying to “the success of diplomacy over coercion” is the 2015 conclusion of a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, he said.
The accord, he said, held “an important political lesson: All parties concerned defined the problem in a mutually acceptable way so that they could find a solution in a mutually acceptable way.”
Zarif brushed aside new pressure from the United States, declaring that his country is “unmoved by threats” but responds well to respect.
President Donald Trump has adopted a harsh language towards Iran, threatening to “tear up” the nuclear deal, calling Iran “terrorist state number one,” and imposing new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Zarif said, “Iran doesn’t respond well to threats. We don’t respond well to coercion. We don’t respond well to sanctions, but we respond very well to mutual respect. We respond very well to arrangements to reach mutually acceptable scenarios.”
“Iran is unmoved by threats. Everybody tested us for many years — all threats and coercions were imposed on us,” Zarif added.
The minister once again dismissed any suggestions Iran would ever seek to develop nuclear weapons. He mocked “the concept of crippling sanctions,” which he said merely ended with Iran having acquired thousands more centrifuges, used for enriching uranium.
Iran has always said it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Asked how long it would take to make one if it did decide it wanted such weapons, Zarif replied: “We are not going to produce nuclear weapons, period. So it will take forever for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.”
The Munich event discusses such issues as the future of the US-led military alliance of NATO, world order and security, terrorism, extremism, and various regional matters.
The INF Treaty was a major breakthrough to halt and reverse the Cold War-era nuclear arms race in Europe. There are growing signs that the treaty is in jeopardy. A possible US unilateral withdrawal and failure to resolve the compliance dispute could impede efforts to save the arms control regime from being eroded.
On February 16, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), along with Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced the Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty (INF) Preservation Act, legislation that would allow the United States to develop new intermediate-range missiles. Congressmen Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Mike Rogers (R-Alabama) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
Accusations of Russia violating the INF Treaty, not backed up by any evidence, were used as a pretext for introducing the measure. For instance, the New York Times has recently published report saying that Russia «has secretly deployed» a new nuclear-capable intermediate-range cruise missile, the SSC-8, in apparent violation of the 1987 treaty. «This legislation will give President Trump the tools he needs to show our friends and adversaries alike that ‘peace through strength’ is back», said Mike Rogers.
The INF Treaty is a key agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union which put a seal on the Cold War era. It eliminated all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with intermediate ranges, defined as between 500-5,500 kilometers (3000-3400 miles).
If the bill becomes a law, it won’t add to US or NATO security. America has real interest in preserving the treaty in force. It has sound reasons for doing so. One of them is that US NATO allies greatly value the INF and want it to remain effective. A US withdrawal would raise concern on their part.
With no hard evidence of non-compliance produced, the US will be held responsible by international community for ending the treaty. If Washington possessed facts to substantiate the claim that Moscow is in violation of the treaty, it would have been provided them a long time ago.
The bill says the US is to «develop» new systems. But even if a decision were taken to return obsolete Pershing-2s and long-range Tomahawks, it would take time and effort. On its part, Russia can easily increase the range of existing Iskander missiles.
Developing new US systems would impose a new burden on an already stretched defense budget. Funding a new expensive program would draw funds from other accounts, such as new conventional weapons, the upgrade of strategic nuclear forces, the ballistic missile defense (BMD), you name it. Today, the US national debt is about $20 trillion and the clock is ticking.
Even if the provision of the bill is carried out and a new intermediate range system is in place, the US will face a tall order in finding an ally willing to host it and become a target for a pre-emptive strike by Russian armed forces. Such deployments would be viewed as extremely provocative to Moscow.
Even in the 1980s it was a close thing. Those days the plans to deploy INF forces met fierce domestic political and public opposition. A controversial decision would tear NATO apart at the time the US and its European allies don’t see eye to eye on many issues.
The same applies to deployment plans in the Pacific. Japan would worry about deteriorating the relationship with Russia and China. South Korea would fear such a deployment might disrupt its improving relations with China.
The times have changed. Today, Russia possesses cutting edge S-400 aid defense systems capable of countering not only ballistic but also cruise missiles with an operational range of 3,000−3,500 km (1,864-2,174 mi).
The Russian military is gearing up to test the first prototypes of its next-generation S-500 Prometey air and missile defense system. The weapon has no analogues in the world. S-500 is the fifth generation system capable of destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles and spacecraft, hypersonic cruise missiles and airplanes at speeds of higher than Mach 5. Its response time is only 3-4 seconds, just think about it! It can detect and simultaneously attack up to ten ballistic missile warheads out at 600 km flying at speeds of twenty-three thousand feet per second. The system can engage targets at altitudes of about 125 miles, including incoming ballistic missiles in space at ranges as great as 400 miles. Evidently, Russia has the means to counter the threat. It puts into doubt the effectiveness of any future intermediate range weapon the US would develop in accordance with legislation in question.
The end of INF treaty would provoke other states into an arms race the US cannot control.
The bill is introduced at the time the world is facing the most serious and comprehensive crisis in the fifty-year history of nuclear arms control. Since pulling out from the 1972 ABM Treaty, the US has been taking one step after another to undermine the arms control regime that has served as a pillar of international security for dozens of years. Now the US Congress is on the brink of unleashing an arms race with dire consequences for America itself.
Does it all make sense? Russia has recently announced its goal to shift from nuclear to conventional deterrence to make the world safer.
The recent initiative Germany, supported by leading the leading European partners, provides a new chance to address the problems of European security. With so many controversial issues on the agenda, Helsinki-2 would be the right way to launch discussions on creating a security regime from Lisbon to Vladivostok – something Moscow proposed a few years ago.
There are opportunities to seize and turn the tide as arms control is unraveling. Instead, a group of US lawmakers has introduced legislation to quash all hopes for a better world. Never before has the arms control regime been threatened so much. Voting for the bill means shooting yourself in the foot. The US will undermine its own security and create huge problems to overcome.
Hopefully, there will be enough sober-minded members of Congress to prevent the measure from becoming a law.
There are currently three major flash points in the world, where a false step could rapidly lead to escalation and a major war from which human civilization would be the main loser. Those flashpoints are the Middle East, the South China Sea and Ukraine/Crimea. In each of them Australia has made major missteps, invariably at the request of the Americans, and where Australia’s national interest is either non-existent or the opposite of the actions that have been taken.
The recent upsurge in fighting in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, collectively referred to as Donbass, where Ukrainian forces have vastly increased the artillery barrage of civilian areas has sharpened the likelihood of a more serious war breaking out. In these circumstances the responsibility of the media to accurately report what is happening and why is high. Yet, as is so often the case, we are treated to a non-stop barrage of misinformation and outright propaganda.
The reincorporation of Crimea into the Russian Federation in March 2014 is invariably portrayed as the result of an “invasion” and “annexation” and that peace can only be restored with Crimea’s return to Ukraine.
This is not only a rewriting of history; it also ignores the crucial historical background of that region of the world and how that is relevant to the present day. A brief history is in order, if only because it is not something that the mainstream media will ever state, as wedded as they are to a narrative whose sole purpose is the demonization of Russia and of President Putin.
Ukraine itself has only had its modern borders since 1945. Prior to that time part had come under the sway of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and another part had been incorporated into Tsarist Russia in 1667. Following the peasant revolt of 1768/69 there was a partitioning between the Austrian empire and the Russian empire. It has therefore to a greater or lesser extent been a part of the Russian empire for more than 300 years. To give that some perspective, it is a longer period than either the United States or Australia has been a nation state.
Following the Ukrainian War of Independence from 1917-1921 it was absorbed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics where it remained until the break up of the USSR in 1991.
Crimea has had a similarly chequered history. Prior to the Crimean War 1853-56 when Australian troops fought with the British and the Turks against Russia, Crimea had been part of the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great defeated the Ottomans in 1783 and thereafter Crimea was part of Russia. That war was fought on Crimean soil. Prior to the Ottomans, Crimea had for the previous 2000 years been variously parts of the Greek, Roman, Mongol and other empires. Then as now it occupied a strategic position on the Black Sea. The Crimean War had as a primary target the Russian naval base at Sevastopol. Which is further evidence that nothing really changes.
After the Russian Revolution Crimea became an autonomous Republic within the USSR and stayed there until 1954. In that year, following a resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR it was transferred to Ukraine.
There are various theories as to why the transfer was made, one popular version being that it was a symbolic gesture marking the 300th anniversary of Ukraine becoming part of the Tsardom of Russia. The actual reasons do not matter so much as two other factors that were operative.
The first was that as an integral part of the USSR it did not make a great deal of political difference as to which State Crimea was nominally attached. The second factor was that neither the Russian people nor the Crimeans were consulted about the decision.
There things remained until February 2014 when a coup was mounted against the lawful government of Ukraine. The Australian media refuse to acknowledge that it was a coup, and that the coup was organized and paid for ($5 billion dollars) by the Americans, as the chief organizer, then Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland freely acknowledged to a congressional committee.
The Crimeans, as indeed also the residents of the Donbass region, were extremely unhappy with the takeover in Kiev of a frankly fascist government. The people of eastern Ukraine, including Crimea, are overwhelmingly ethnic Russian, speak the Russian language as their first language, intermarry with Russians across the border, and culturally identify with Russia.
A referendum was hastily organized and held on 16 March 2014. The result was that there was an 83% turnout, and 96.77% of those who voted were in favour of being readmitted to the Russian Federation. That result was condemned by the US and Australia, among other nations. The main objections stated were that the vote was held after Russian troops had “invaded” Crimea, and that the Crimeans had no right to hold such a referendum.
In one form or another those objections have been repeated by the western media ever since. An added claim is that the “annexation” of Crimea is further evidence of “Russian aggression” in general and that of Mr Putin in particular.
The facts are rather different. First, let us look at the “invasion” claim. There were already 25,000 Russian troops in Crimea. They were there pursuant to a treaty with the Ukrainian government, mainly associated with the very important Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It will be recalled that that naval base was a major target of the British and allied forces in the Crimean War more than 150 years earlier.
There was absolutely no evidence that the presence of Russian troops prevented the free exercise of the vote by Crimeans in the referendum, except indirectly in that their presence certainly deterred Ukraine from military intervention.
Independent polls conducted after the referendum, for example by the German Gfk polling organisation showed that 82% of those polled supported the referendum result and only 4% opposed it. Other, including American, polling organisations, obtained similar results.
The second major claim is that the referendum was “unlawful” and as such not recognised by the western powers. This is a classic example of western hypocrisy. Western governments are perfectly willing to accept independence referenda when it suits their geopolitical purposes to do so. There are a number of recent examples.
In April 1993 Eritrea held a referendum to establish its independence from Ethiopia. Only Eritreans were able to vote. It passed overwhelmingly. There was no objection from the US or Australia.
On 17 February 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. There was no referendum. Not only did the US not object, they bombed Serbia to encourage the government to accept the result. Australia protested neither the declaration of independence nor the illegal bombing.
The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence on 23 July 2010. The Court noted that previous declarations of independence being declared invalid had to be seen in their specific context. Importantly, the Court noted as a general principle that there was an absence of a general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence under international law.
The important factual difference in Crimea’s case is the long history of the peninsula as a part of Russia; its ethnic and linguistic ties to Russia; and that there was a referendum with the overwhelming majority of citizens voting to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia.
In September 2014 the people of Scotland voted in a referendum of whether or not they would remain a part of the United Kingdom or become a separate sovereign nation. In that case the referendum was narrowly lost although a mooted second referendum following the Brexit vote in the UK may well have a different result.
Again, neither the US nor Australia claimed that the Scots were not entitled to have a referendum, nor that they would refuse to recognise the result.
The final point to be made in this context is that in 1970 the United Nations General Assembly passed by acclamation (i.e. without dissent from either Australia or the United States) a Declaration on Principles of International Law .
In the section of the Resolution regarding “the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” was the following passage:
By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.
What the Crimeans have done is no more nor less than they are entitled to in accordance with this Declaration. It is Australia, the United States and others that condemn Crimea and the Russians who are in breach of their legal and moral obligations.
A further illustration of western hypocrisy over Crimea and the Donbass is the total silence over the ongoing military assault against the civilian population of Donbass. The Minsk 2 Accords, initiated by France and Germany, and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine, contained a number of provisions designed to recognise the legitimate aspirations of the people of Donbass.
The Minsk 2 Accord provided, inter alia, for a ceasefire; a pullback of Ukrainian troops; for the Ukrainian Rada to pass specific laws relating to the governance of Donbass; and to amend the Ukrainian constitution to incorporate decentralization as a key component.
All of these provisions have been ignored and violated. Instead of condemning the Ukrainian violations and failure to carry out its obligations, the US and its allies have continued to blame Russia. Immediately after the US election, Senators McCain and Graham travelled to Kiev and urged Ukraine to keep fighting, promising American support.
There is no evidence that they did so with the support of then President –elect Trump and their authority to do so is unclear. The immediate result of the US Senator’s visit was an upsurge in the bombardment of villages and towns in the Donbass region.
There is an equally stunning silence from the Australian authorities. They seem incapable of understanding history, incapable of recognizing the efforts made by the Russians to create an economic arrangement that would benefit Ukraine through open association with both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union; and of recognizing the grave potential for war posed by the reckless expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.
Instead of recognizing the historical and geopolitical realities, including that Ukraine is now a failed state ruled by neo-fascists, they continue to parrot the tired cliché that the Russians are to blame.
Upon such fatal ignorance are wars often started.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law.
On the surface, the resignation of General Michael Flynn is being sold as a cut-and-dried case of the General getting ahead of his skis by calling the Russian Ambassador to discuss the lifting of sanctions. This was ostensibly then complicated by the General not being honest about his discussions, when queried about it by Vice President Mike Pence. However, as is always the case in these types of affairs, the real story will go untold and General Flynn’s “resignation” will have ramifications far beyond these first headlines.
In reality, the General’s early fall is a signal that the Deep State is not about to permit rapprochement with Russia. This is because any moves to defuse the New Cold War could threaten to undercut Obama’s $1 Trillion, 30 year nuclear arms rearmament program, which has been quietly moving forward for several years.
Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is the military’s counterpart to the CIA, was originally fired by Obama for an intelligence assessment, which disputed information that Obama was being fed by the CIA. In retrospect, this report was rather prescient, since it noted that an infant ISIS was a much bigger threat than Obama was being told, while further advising that it was a mistake for the CIA to be supplying them with arms in their ill-fated effort to bring down Assad in Syria.
This put Flynn in direct conflict with then CIA Director, John Brennan, then Director of National Intelligence, John Clapper, and a whole cadre of Neo-Con Interventionists inside Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Flynn’s timing was also bad, since the War Hawks had only recently overthrown Gaddafi and, in the ecstasy of their “success”, no one, especially Obama, wanted to be told that rain clouds were already gathering over their parade.
When General Flynn reemerged as an advisor to Trump during the campaign, there was no immediate concern within the Deep State, since Trump was not seen as a serious factor. However, as Trump began to talk about rapprochement with Putin’s Russia on the campaign trail, Flynn was identified as one of the driving forces behind this idea and, as a result, the Clinton Campaign opened up a new front to denigrate him as a racist nut-case. This may very well have been true, but it does not, as a consequence, make him wrong in regard to his recognition of the necessity to defuse the New Cold War with Russia.
Flynn’s early departure is a big victory for the Deep State Thugs who are heavily invested in the New Cold War. It is most certainly also a signal to Trump that he can be removed, since MSM talking heads are already spinning stories about the fired DOJ Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, having previously warned the White House that tapped phone calls, between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador, might make the General subject to “blackmail” by the Russians.
Indeed, not-so-subtle threats of impeachment are already being floated, with nuances of the famous question, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” One Neo-Con Flim-flam man has already gone so far as to refer to the “Russian Stench” and demanded to know what is behind this “Russian connection”, which, if anyone gave it any real thought, was essentially a move toward peace.
However, this was apparently just the warm up act for the big guns, since the next up was Thomas Friedman, the influential NY Times op-ed writer, who helped the Bush and Obama Administrations to lie us into several wars. Adopting a stern demeanor, while staring directly into the camera, Friedman demands no less than a full investigation into Trump’s associations with these pesky Russkies, who “undermined our election”, ominously concluding that this was an “event as significant as Pearl Harbor”.
Meanwhile, early rumblings from Moscow are noting that this could be bad news for future relations with the US and could ultimately lead to a deterioration of relations. This is a nice way of saying that they know that our Deep State is undermining the move toward rapprochement, while also sending a subtle message to Trump that they hope he’s not falling for it. Sadly, it may already be too late.
This is the first move to set up Trump for impeachment, with Mike Pence, a Neo-Con, sitting in the catbird seat. Those that celebrate the demise of Flynn and hope for the early fall of Trump should be careful in regard to their wishes. The ultimate result intended in all of this is that there will be no rapprochement with Russia and that the New Cold War might eventually develop into a hot one.
The Empire has struck back. Whether one likes Trump or not, no one should be distracted by the “Russian Connection” Sideshow. This is about the future of a major rearmament program and the Deep State has subtly enlisted the support of the Trump haters on the left to create the conditions for Trump’s early removal.
With many Neo-Cons on the right also poised to feed on the carcass of a guy they couldn’t stop in the primaries, the American People better wake up. This is not a question of left or right. It may very well be a question of survival.
After reading my Asia Times column yesterday, World community sizes up a diminished Trump, a well-meaning warm-hearted friend, an American from New York, wrote to me to explain gently that what we are witnessing in the United States is a mere “tantrum” by a clutch of spooks whose jobs are under threat and their hangers-on in the intelligence services, along with the liberal press having a “parallel tantrum” who cannot believe that they lost the election to Donald Trump. I was in two minds after reading the mail. Should I have called it a “civil war”, after all?
That is, until this morning when I read the transcript of the extraordinary 75-minute press conference in the White House late Thursday night. The press conference was originally called by Trump to announce his new pick for Labour Secretary, but in no time degenerated into a verbal brawl between the President of the United States of America and the White House press corps with former NSA Michael Flynn and Russia ties at the epicenter. It was all so surreal, to say the least.
Not even in the darkest hour of the Vietnam War or in the shameful hours of the Watergate cover-up or the sly escapades of Bill Clinton in the Oval Office would the White House have witnessed anything like this. Perhaps, this becomes an unprecedented event in American political history – the US president openly trading insults with the journalists who cover his presidency in real time.
The good thing for us who are non-Americans, in this extraordinary free-for-all with tooth and claw is that we learn so much about the American political system, how it works, what dissimulation and falsehood it spreads abroad while staking claim to the hogwash of “values”.
Trump tore into the so-called “Deep State” in America and the unscrupulous media, which is serving as its stand-in. He denounced loudly and repeatedly the “illegal leaks” by sources within the military-intelligence apparatus within the establishment to defame his presidency. Funnily, when Trump denounced the media as the mouthpieces of the intelligence agencies – even nailing the flag carriers such as New York Times and Wall Street Journal – there was no dissenting voice, no protest. In fact, the journalists seemed to accept it as a statement of fact. They didn’t show the spunk to refute the accusation even for purposes of record. So much for the Fourth Estate in America and the freedom of the press!
In the process, Trump also blurted out certain remarks on issues of war and peace, which make highly combustible stuff and will make many world chancelleries sit up and worry. They are indeed extremely worrisome.
Referring to a Russian warship apparently on a surveillance mission off the US west coast – something which the US and NATO routinely and incessantly do to Russia – Trump says, “The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water. Everyone in this country’s going to say ‘oh, it’s so great’… If I was just brutal on Russia right now, just brutal, people would say, you would say, ‘Oh, isn’t that wonderful’.”
Then, Trump went on to explain the implications: “We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, a nuclear holocaust would be like no other.”
One shudders at the very thought of it – that a potential nuclear war between the US Russia has been the stuff of a briefing taken by Trump.
Like puss oozing out of a tumor that is fast becoming terminal, the US political system is throwing into the open the cumulative eddies of decades of its interventionist policies – with the military-industrial complex and the intelligence agencies that fattened up on the countless wars and horrific destruction in foreign lands refusing to give up their privileges and make way for an upstart president who walked in from nowhere who, they think, has no business to be running the White House, and on top of it, has the impudence to say that he intends to “drain the swamp”. (A columnist wrote a couple of days ago, Yes, Trump can drain the swamp but he must do THIS first or get eaten by the alligators.)
Look at the extent to which the military-industrial complex and the intelligence establishment in Washington goes to thwart any attempt by Trump to improve US-Russia relations. It’s a sickening scenario that without wars and bloodshed America cannot have a future — that the prospect of detente, peace and co-existence becomes so abhorrent a proposition for the Deep State as to stage an insurrection against the elected head of state.
No, this is more than about swamps. What we see here is nothing else than metastatic cancer. The cancer cells in America’s body polity have broken away to enter the bloodstream and the lymph system. Doctors call it “stage 4” cancer.
The full transcript of Trump’s press conference is here.
One should be quite skeptical about the “leaks” coming from “unnamed officials,” former FBI agent Coleen Rowley has warned since its common practice to spread misinformation through “journalists, who are cozy with the CIA and other top officials.”
The media’s reaction to the so-called “leaks” on alleged connections between Trump’s team and Russia shows that we live in a “very surreal moment,” since the same people who have been calling for prosecutions and even executions of the well-known whistleblowers are now praising as heroes those “unnamed officials” who leak information of questionable authenticity, Coleen Rowley told RT.
“It’s surreal to have called for the death and prosecutions of Manning, and Snowden and Julian Assange and many other whistleblowers. And you had many people piling on, calling them traitors and they were actually very good whistleblowers. And now, when you have other leaks the same people who thought they were traitors are saying they are heroes for giving out this information,” Rowley said.
It is essential to be able to distinguish between a real whistleblower and leaker, since the former are motivated by a desire to do society a service, uncovering wrongdoings of the government, while the latter pursue their own agenda and might even plant completely fabricated information.
“The motivation of the person disclosing the information greatly matters. It’s actually what distinguishes a whistleblower from a leaker and even from someone like Scooter Libby who was planting false information. And these things all got blurred together,” Rowley told RT.
Leaks are powerful tools in information warfare, which is waged to fuel real wars across the globe by a part of the US establishment in cooperation with the powerful military, industrial and surveillance complex, which simply needs to sell their products. The useful misinformation is routinely being spread through “journalists, who are cozy with the CIA and other top officials,” Rowley believes.
“The most pernicious aspect is that this is now information warfare, which is now geared towards… launching more wars. It’s exactly where we were back when Scooter Libby went to the New York Times and planted the false information about the [Saddam Hussein’s] uranium tubes,” Rowley said.
“I think that is the worst aspect of what is going on, and I think it’s accomplished in a lot of different ways. We need to reduce secrecy, but we need to be able to weigh and analyze the real truthful evidence that’s out there. Right now we have leaks, but we still haven’t seen any documents. The public still doesn’t know the full truth of this.”
The situation is quite alarming, since military industry hawks, craving wars have formed an “unholy alliance” with the Democrats, who want revenge for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential elections, Rowley said. Such an alliance harms both international security and the power structure in the US.
“We’re living in this moment when we have a polarized government in Washington DC, extremely polarized. The media has taken sides with the Democrats and actually some of the neo-con warmongers. It’s really an unholy alliance,” Rowley said.
“It’s debatable as to who’s actually in power right now. We’re supposed to have three equal and separate branches, but I think it’s a good question as to whether the executive, as you know would be Trump’s administration, or the legislative along with the deep-state, which includes the media. I don’t know who’s actually in power.”
Israeli defense contractors have generated more than $1 billion in revenues since 2010 for assisting with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the most expensive weapons program in history.
The Israeli Defense Ministry reported Sunday that 2016 was a banner year for F-35 partners. Contracts tied to production of the F-35 shot up 33 percent last year for a total of $258 million in new deals for Israeli companies. Since Israel inked a deal to buy 19 F-35 fighters in 2010, Israeli firms have won more than $1 billion in ‘buy-back contracts.’
“The scope of industrial cooperation between [Lockheed Martin] and Israeli industry, in just the last year, shows the immense potential inherent in this arrangement for the Israeli economy,” Col. Avi Dadon, deputy director of purchasing at the Ministry of Defense, noted.
A bulk of the new revenues stemmed from the F-35 virtual reality helmets. Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins scored a $206 million contract for headgear production.
Like the F-35 project as a whole, the F-35 helmets have faced their share of struggles. The 4.5-pound helmets are reported to cause neck problems for pilots. What’s more, the visor has been seen to pop off the heads of pilots during take-off. Since the helmets are critical for pilots to visualize flight, mission, and target information, this essentially leaves pilots blind. In a separate incident, Tom Briggs of the US Navy described the helmets as being comparable to “looking through a dirty window” due to a green glow in the display area.
Meanwhile, Italian officials have complained recently that Lockheed Martin and the US are not following through on jet maintenance contracts. Guido Crosetto, head of Italy’s aerospace and defense industry association said Washington has not “honored promises” made when Italy joined the list of US allies to buy the F-35s.
Back in 2002, Italy was told that it would receive contracts for maintenance work worth 65 percent of the $1 billion Rome invested to buy 90 joint strike fighters, Italian media outlets reported. Italian firms currently have contracts valued less than 20 percent of its initial investment, the official added. Instead, contracts went to places like the UK, the Netherlands and Australia “because the competition favored large companies,” Crosetto said.
The media has generally presented Trump as being ignorant and nonsensical in his discussion of American policies, and one example is his negative references to NATO as obsolete. The mainstream media is aghast that any political leader of the U.S. could possibly take a negative view of such an allegedly iconic alliance as NATO. A few days before Trump’s inauguration, the New York Times Editorial Board, for example, in an article entitled “Russian Gains When Trump Trashes NAT0,” found it “puzzling indeed for a president-elect to publicly denigrate leaders of his country’s closest allies as well as an alliance that for 70 years has stood firm against Russian expansion.” The Editorial Board of the Washington Post, in its praise for NATO, on the same date as the aforementioned New York Times editorial came out, maintained that “[i]t has greatly magnified U.S. power and global influence, even when its members were underspending on their military forces. Without it, the West would have no effective way to contain Russian neo-imperialism.”
The only question seems to be whether Trump is a total ignoramus or is he, for some malevolent reason, a traitor who puts the interests of Putinist Russia  above those of the United States. But if we take a brief walk down memory lane, we will discover that Trump is actually in very good company in his criticism of NATO, and those NATO critics include luminaries of the foreign policy establishment whom the Washington Post and the New York Times once readily embraced.
When NATO was coming into existence in 1949, it was not only being opposed by those who retained their World War II sympathy for the Soviet Union, such as former Vice President Henry Wallace, and conservative non-interventionists lead by Senator Robert Taft, but also by the most influential columnist and political intellectual of the era, Walter Lippmann. In 1947, Lippmann had written a series of articles called The Cold War that criticized the policy of containment—which called for efforts to prevent the expansion of Communism. The containment policy underpins NATO. And it is the intellectual architect of containment, George F. Kennan, who will be discussed shortly. Interestingly, while Kennan first applied the term “containment” to a foreign policy strategy, Lippmann, although he did not originate the term “Cold War,” made it an integral part of the political lexicon. 
Regarding Lippmann’s thinking on NATO, Lippmann biographer Ronald Steel writes: “Unlike the State Department and Pentagon planners, Lippmann saw no need for a military alliance with Western Europe. ‘I am convinced that the question of war or peace hangs upon the Soviet willingness to engage in a general war, and not on the strength of the local defenses in any particular part of the world,’ he [Lippmann] wrote.” 
Lippmann made a considerable effort to stop the development of NATO. Steel writes: “Lippmann put forth a six-page single spaced document on the German problem for John Foster Dulles to take to the Paris foreign ministers meeting in May 1949. In the memo Lippmann urged the demilitarization and neutralization of Germany, along with the withdrawal of all foreign troops. This plan, he argued, would keep German nationalists in check and remove the need for NATO.” In short, the Red Army’s occupation of central Europe, in Lippmann’s view, only existed because of the existence of Western troops in the vicinity. And if the Western troops were removed, Russia would reciprocate and, in Lippmann’s view, “there would be no more Russian problem today than there had been for a century.” 
Lippmann’s opposition went for naught and the NATO treaty passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin. Lippmann would express his opposition to NATO once again in 1952 when the alliance proposed to add two new members, Greece and Turkey. Lippmann maintained: “A great power like the United States gains no advantage and it loses prestige by offering, indeed peddling, its alliances to all and sundry. An alliance should be hard diplomatic currency, valuable and hard to get, and not inflationary paper from the mimeograph machine in the State Department.”  Once again, Lippmann lost the battle.
In 1958, Lippmann, like many American thinkers at that time, interpreted the launching of the Sputnik satellites as an indication that the Soviet Union was a power equal to that of the Western alliance. Lippmann contended: “The defenders of the existing policy consider themselves great realists who have put aside all wishful thinking. On what calculation, then, in the power relationships of great states, do they lease their expectation that Russia will withdraw from Europe while the United States and Great Britain remain, and are allowed to advance their military frontiers at least to the borders of Poland?” He maintained that “a settlement [with Russia] must be designed not only to protect our own vital interests. It must respect the vital interests of Russia.” 
George F. Kennan, who is widely considered to be the intellectual architect of America’s Cold War “containment” policy toward the Soviet Union in 1946 and 1947, expressed skepticism about the need to create NATO. His biographer John Lewis Gaddis writes that Kennan believed that “[I]f there had to be a military alliance, its members should include only the North Atlantic countries, where there was ‘a community of defense interest firmly rooted in geography and tradition.’ To go further would invite still further demands for protection: there would then be ‘no stopping point in the development of a system of anti-Russian alliances until that system has circled the globe and has embraced all the non-communist countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa.’ By then one of two things would have happened: the alliance would become meaningless like the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, or the United States would have become hopelessly extended, in which case it would have ignored warnings about the increased discrepancy between its resources and its commitments.” Such a situation did, in fact, materialize during the Cold War period as the United States established one alliance after the other in various areas of the globe—CENTO (Central Asia], SEATO (Southeast Asia).
Kennan maintained that the containment strategy he proposed had been excessively militarized by the U.S. government. In a 1996 interview with CNN he had said “[m]y thoughts about containment were of course distorted by the people who understood it and pursued it exclusively as a military concept; and I think that that, as much as any other cause, led to [the] 40 years of unnecessary, fearfully expensive and disoriented process of the Cold War.”
In a 1998 interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Kennan described the U.S. Senate’s decision to ratify NATO’s expansion–which in 1999 would add Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to the alliance—as the “the beginning of a new cold war.” He held that “the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else . . . . We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.”
Kennan said that he “was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe.” It seemed to him that Americans failed to realize that “[o]ur differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.” Kennan warned that this expansion showed “little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history. Of course, there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”
Friedman did not disagree with Kennan and saw this development as having a negative effect on peace in Europe. If everything went well, future historians, he surmised, would say that in spite of this NATO expansion, Russia would continue to move along the path of “democratization and Westernization” because of the powerful impact of “globalization and arms control agreements.” However, “[i]f we are unlucky they will say, as Mr. Kennan predicts, that NATO expansion set up a situation in which NATO now has to either expand all the way to Russia’s border, triggering a new cold war, or stop expanding after these three new countries and create a new dividing line through Europe.”
In his concluding remarks in this article, Friedman wrote that “there is one thing future historians will surely remark upon, and that is the utter poverty of imagination that characterized U.S. foreign policy in the late 1990′s. They will note that one of the seminal events of this century took place between 1989 and 1992 — the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which had the capability, imperial intentions and ideology to truly threaten the entire free world . . . And what was America’s response? It was to expand the NATO cold-war alliance against Russia and bring it closer to Russia’s borders.”
As Putin began to exercise more and more power, Friedman’s views of NATO begin to change. In a 2014 column Friedman wrote that he had “opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War . . . . It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.”  Later that year Friedman, although still acknowledging the negative impact of NATO expansion, began to put greater blame on Putin. Friedman stated that “[b]y expanding NATO at the end of the Cold War, when Russia was weak, we helped to cultivate a politics there that would one day be very receptive to Putin’s message that the West is ganging up on Russia. But, that said, the message is a lie. The West has no intention of bringing Ukraine into NATO. And please raise your hand if you think the European Union plans to invade Russia.”
In placing blame on Putin, Friedman ignored the fact while his American readers would not expect the European Union to invade Russia—and let us grant that Friedman is engaging in hyperbole here, and would mean the U.S. along with the European Union–it is not clear that Russians could be so sanguine. The United States did not feel secure with Soviet missiles being stationed in Cuba in 1962 and quite likely would not feel so today. And, of course, if Friedman were correct here, there never should have been any concern by Russia about having NATO near its borders, and Friedman never should have identified at all with Kennan’s position in 1998. Both Lippmann and Kennan recognized that the U.S. needed to consider the Russian view—and Russia had historical reasons for being worried about strong enemies on its borders since it had been invaded in the past.
Friedman even denied that Putin sought to protect Russia. “By seizing Crimea and stoking up nationalism, Putin was not protecting Russia from NATO,” Friedman asserted. “He was protecting himself from the viruses of E.U. accountability and transparency, which, if they took hold in Ukraine, could spread to Moscow, undermining his kleptocracy.”
Note that by making a distinction between Putin’s government and Russia, Friedman implied that the interests of Putin’s “kleptocracy” ran counter to those of Russia. Now Kennan and Lippmann, in line with the thinking of most Americans, did not believe that the Communist government was good for Russia; nonetheless, Kennan and Lippmann realized that it was in the interest of the United States to respect the interests of the Soviet government of Russia in order to avoid a dangerous conflict.
Finally, all of Friedman’s negative views of NATO disappear when he deals with Trump, as would be expected by a mainstream liberal. “How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office,” Friedman maintained, “who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the U.S. landlord”?
“NATO is not a shopping mall,” Friedman averred; “it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for U.S. companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.”
Friedman’s change of opinion is indicative of the current view of mainstream liberalism. First, there is a definite proclivity to resist anything that Trump proposes—one result of what critics have labeled as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Moreover, there is now a tendency on the part of American liberals to be far more critical of Putin than they were of Soviet Communism. Liberals during the Cold War saw the Soviet planned economic system as being beneficial in some ways. In contrast, liberals find nothing in Putin’s system. In short, Putin’s Russia is widely attacked as a “kleptocracy,” as Friedman put it, and for its institutionalization of traditional values–Christianity, anti-abortion measures, natalism, discrimination against the homosexual life-style, and nationalism—which liberals now lambaste as retrograde and harmful to minorities and women.
Liberals’ views of the Russian internal system have impacted on how they judge Russia’s international threat. Mainstream liberals were far less willing to staunchly oppose the Soviet Union despite the fact that its military power was about on par with that of the United States and it promoted a popular global ideology with supporters throughout the world. Today Russia is much weaker militarily, especially in its conventional forces, and has an ideology with little global appeal. Moreover, the expansion of NATO has made it far more threatening to Russia as it now encroaches on Russia’s borders.
This focus on liberals does not mean that they are now the foremost supporters of NATO, which is also being backed by a number of other factions, including: neoconservatives, unchanged Cold Warriors, conservative hawks, and militarists. But the addition of staunch support from liberals for NATO has made that alliance politically invulnerable because of their dominance of the mainstream media.
The upshot of the reference to notable critics of NATO clearly illustrates that one does not have to be a Russian dupe or an ignoramus to question the existence of NATO. And, for various reasons to which this essay has alluded, the value of NATO deserves to be questioned more now than it was when mainstream luminaries Lippmann and Kennan were doing so. This is one thing for which Trump deserves credit, although he does not make a good case for his position. It is unfortunate that he has been moving away from this position as his appointees for national security positions in his administration have voiced their whole-hearted support for the alliance.
 The Editorial Board, “Russian Gains When Trump Trashes NATO,” New York Times, January 17, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/17/opinion/russia-gains-when-donald-trump-trashes-nato.html
 Editorial Board, “Trump’s Cabinet knows NATO is Important. It’s not clear he agrees.,” Washington Post, January 17, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trumps-cabinet-knows-nato-is-important-its-not-clear-he-agrees/2017/01/17/e767258a-dcd2-11e6-acdf-14da832ae861_story.html?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.f4ec576cdb3c
 The mainstream media implies that Putin exercises absolute control of Russia and thus refers to Putinism as in the past Stalinism was used.
 “Cold War Origins—Genealogy of the term,” Encyclopedia of the New American Nation, http://www.americanforeignrelations.com/A-D/Cold-War-Origins-Genealogy-of-the-term.html
 Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century, with a new introduction by the author (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999), p. 459.
 Steel, p. 460.
 Quoted in Steel, p. 478.
 Steel, p. 459.
 Walter Lippmann, “Mr. Kennan and Reappraisal in Europe,” The Atlantic Monthly, April, 1958 (originally published) accessed from The Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96jan/nato/lipp.htm
 John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan: An American Life (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), p. 333.
 Kennan on the Cold War, An Interview on CNN TV, Transcript, May and June 1996, http://www.johndclare.net/cold_war7_Kennan_interview.htm
 Quoted in Thomas L. Friedman, “Now a Word From X,” New York Times, May 2, 1998, http://www.nytimes.com/1998/05/02/opinion/foreign-affairs-now-a-word-from-x.html
 Quoted in Friedman, “Now a Word From X.”
 Friedman, “Now a Word From X.”
 Friedman, “Now a Word From X.”
 Thomas L. Friedman, “Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us,” New York Times, March 4, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/05/opinion/friedman-why-putin-doesnt-respect-us.html
 Thomas L. Friedman, “Putin and the Pope,” New York Times, October 21, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/22/opinion/thomas-friedman-putin-and-the-pope.html
 Friedman, “Putin and the Pope.”
 Thomas L. Friedman, “Trump? How Could We?,” New York Times, September 27, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/28/opinion/trump-how-could-we.html
 For a discussion of this subject see: Boyd D. Cathey, “Examining the Hatred of Vladimir Putin and Russia,” Unz Review, December 29, 2014, http://www.unz.com/article/examining-the-hatred-of-vladimir-putin-and-russia/
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei warned that the real war against the Islamic Republic is an economic and a cultural one.
“Both the former and new administrations in the United States have been threatening us with wars,” said the Leader reacting to all war rhetoric used by Washington against the Islamic Republic.
Addressing a large group of visiting people from Tabriz, Imam Khamenei said: “They have always said that the military option is on the table,” he said.
“But the real war remains to be an economic one, the imposition of sanctions and denying the people the chance to promote businesses and economic and technological activities in the country,” the Leader said.
His eminence also recalled comments by some European officials warning Iranian authorities that Iran had to go to war in the absence of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Such comments are just plain lies, the Leader said, elaborating on why some insist on threatening Iran with a war option.
“They just want to keep us too much involved with a military war to detract us from the economic war we face,” he said.
“The real war is also a cultural one,” Imam Khamenei added.
Hearts and Minds is a 1974 American documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis.
The film’s title is based on a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson: “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there”.
The movie was chosen as Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 47th Academy Awards presented in 1975.
More than 5,000 rounds of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition were used in two attacks on Islamic State oil tankers in eastern Syria, the US military has confirmed. The US-led coalition previously pledged it would not use the controversial ordnance.
A spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) told Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing DU rounds were used in November 2015, during two air raids against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil tanker convoys in the Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces in eastern Syria.
A-10 ground attack aircraft fired the projectiles from their 30mm rotating cannons, destroying about 500 tanker trucks, according to CENTCOM spokesman Major Josh Jacques.
In March 2015, spokesman for the US-led coalition John Moore had explicitly ruled out the use of the controversial ammunition, saying that “US and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.” The Pentagon explained that armor-piercing DU rounds were not necessary because IS did not have the tanks it was designed to penetrate.
Investigative reporter Samuel Oakford first brought up the use of DU ammunition by the coalition in October 2016, when a US Air Force congressional liaison told Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) that A-10s flying missions over Syria had fired 6,479 rounds of “combat mix” on two occasions. The officer explained that a fifth of the “combat mix” consisted of high-explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds, while the rest were DU armor-piercers.
The first attack took place on November 16, near Al-Bukamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with US planes destroying 116 tanker trucks. The strike took place entirely in Syrian territory. According to CENTCOM, 1,790 rounds of “combat mix” were used during the strike, including 1,490 rounds of DU.November 16
The second attack, on November 22, destroyed 283 oil tankers in the desert between Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah. On this occasion, the A-10s fired 4,530 rounds – of which 3,775 were DU armor-piercers.
Depleted uranium is prized by the US military for exceptional toughness, which enables it to pierce heavy tank armor. However, airborne DU particles can contaminate nearby ground and water and pose a significant risk of toxicity, birth defects and cancer when inhaled or ingested by humans or animals.
The coalition’s promise not to use DU munitions in Iraq was made after an estimated one million rounds were used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Between Iraq and the Balkans, where they were also used in the 1990s, DU rounds have been blamed on a massive increase in cancer and birth defects.
DU is also the prime suspect in the medical condition dubbed the “Gulf War Syndrome” afflicting US veterans of the 1991 conflict and some peacekeepers deployed in the Balkans.
The unexpected missile launch this weekend by North Korea hit a bulls-eye. Its perfect aim, however, owed more to Pyongyang’s mastery of international theatrics than to rocket technology.
Traveling just 310 miles, the intermediate-range Pukguksong-2 missile struck nothing but water in the Sea of Japan. But it fully succeeded, as planned, in grabbing the attention of two of North Korea’s biggest enemies: Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Shinzo Abe of Japan.
Instead of relaxing over dinner at Trump’s $200,000-per-membership Mar-a-Lago club, the two heads of state had to surround themselves with advisers and translators Saturday evening, scrambling to draft a joint statement by the light of their cell phones.
They came up with the usual bluster: Abe denounced the launch as “absolutely intolerable,” and Trump vowed to stand behind Japan, America’s “great ally, 100 percent.”
North Korean Premier Kim Jon Un certainly didn’t win any friends with the launch. China criticized it as a provocation, and Russia declared that the test was in “defiant disregard” of United Nations resolutions. But it gave Kim something to brag about at home and, more important, kept his demands front and center on the world’s stage.
No Good Options?
A Reuters news report summed up the conventional wisdom among U.S. analysts: “Few good options in Trump arsenal to counter defiant North Korea.” In a nutshell, President Obama’s eight-year policy of “strategic patience” — ratcheting up economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure — was a spectacular failure. Leaning on China to make it dictate terms to Pyongyang hasn’t worked either—in part because Beijing doesn’t want to risk triggering a collapse of North Korea’s regime. Tough U.N. resolutions condemning North Korea are worth less than a bowl of steaming kimche.
Then there is the military option. Its many advocates in Washington — including former Secretary of State John Kerry — argue the United States may need to wipe out North Korea’s nuclear and missile launch facilities, or even decapitate its regime, to prevent it from acquiring long-range missiles capable of reaching U.S. soil.
But North Korea’s nuclear facilities are designed to withstand anything short of a nuclear attack, and its conventional forces could quickly leave Seoul a smoldering ruin. How China would react to a preemptive U.S. attack is anyone’s guess. No less an authority than former Secretary of Defense William Perry says that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic, possibly destroying the societies of both Koreas as well as causing large casualties in the U.S. military.”
A Voice of Reason
Perry is one of the few voices of reason who contests the militant groupthink prevalent in Washington. He counsels instead an attempt to engage Pyongyang in diplomacy. That strategy should appeal to the dealmaker who now inhabits the White House.
As Trump said during his campaign, responding to Hillary Clinton’s disparagement of trying to engage with Kim, “What the hell is wrong with speaking? . . . It’s called opening a dialogue.”
Perry participated in the Clinton administration’s successful negotiation of a 1994 deal with North Korea that suspended its plutonium enrichment program. George W. Bush, in his wisdom, scrapped the agreement and made North Korea a charter member of his “axis of evil.”
Watching Presidents Bush and Obama in action, Pyongyang understandably redoubled its nuclear program. “North Korea has decided, based on lessons from Iran, Iraq, and Libya, that its only sure means of survival is to be ‘too nuclear’ to fail,” remarked Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, during a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Or as committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, put it, “What they learned is, you get rid of your WMDs, we take you out.”
That exchange was a rare recognition by Washington insiders that Kim, however, brutish and blustering, is pushing his country’s weapons program for the same reason that other nuclear powers acquired the Bomb: not to commit suicide, but to deter enemies. His regime states unequivocally that “we will not use our weapons on anyone unless they have attacked us.”
As Perry commented in January, “During my discussions and negotiations with members of the North Korean government, I have found that they are not irrational, nor do they have the objective of achieving martyrdom. Their goals, in order of priority, are: preserving the Kim dynasty, gaining international respect and improving their economy.”
Risk to Peace
Those words offer only a small measure of comfort, however. A nuclear-armed North Korea, with its inherently unstable political system, remains a huge risk to peace — all the more so if it prompts revived militarism in South Korea and Japan and unleashes a regional arms race.
The logical response is to try diplomacy, not more military threats, to reduce North Korea’s sense of isolation and paranoia. As China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly pointed out, “the root cause (of) the North Korea nuclear missile issue is the conflicts between North Korea and the United States, as well as between North and South Korea.”
The place to start resolving those conflicts, according to many Korea experts, is with negotiations to end the state of war between North Korea and its adversaries. The Korean War ended in 1953 with a temporary armistice, not a peace treaty. Washington’s failure to negotiate such a treaty tells a deeply insecure Pyongyang that the United States views its regime as illegitimate and ripe for forcible change.
By refusing to consider unconditional normalization of relations with North Korea, President Obama forfeited real opportunities to rein in its nuclear program. Instead, he continued holding huge annual military exercises with South Korea, complete with mock amphibious landings, which sent Pyongyang into “a frenzy of bloodthirsty threats and sabre rattling.”
North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations told a reporter in November that diplomacy remains a viable option: “If (Trump) really gives up the hostile policy towards DPRK, withdrawing all the military equipment from South Korea, including the U.S. troops and coming to conclude the peace treaty, then I think it might be an opportunity to discuss the relations as we did in the 1990s.”
That was a rhetorical opening position, not a final demand, but it pointed to a peaceful way forward. Diplomacy offers no panacea. In particular, nothing will likely put North Korea’s nuclear genie back in its lamp anytime soon.
As Perry observed, “We lost the opportunity to negotiate with a non-nuclear North Korea when we cut off negotiations in 2001, before it had a nuclear arsenal. The most we can reasonably expect today is an agreement that lowers the dangers of that arsenal. The goals would be an agreement with Pyongyang to not export nuclear technology, to conduct no further nuclear testing and to conduct no further ICBM testing. These goals are worth achieving and, if we succeed, could be the basis for a later discussion of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.”
Joe Cirincione, a leading arms control expert, reminds us that “It was the negotiations, not the sanctions, that ultimately stopped Iran’s (nuclear) program.”
President Trump, a harsh critic of the nuclear treaty with Iran, now stands at a critical crossroads with North Korea. Will he heed the increasingly loud demands of interventionists for greater shows of force on the Korean peninsula, or channel candidate Trump and seek talks with Premier Kim? It’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of world peace may rest in part on his decision.