Moon Jae-in, the leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election in South Korea, is determined to reassess the controversial deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system since it “did not follow a democratic procedure,” his press team said in a statement seen by Sputnik Korea.
“The THAAD deployment is an issue that must be decided by the next administration based on close discussions with the US and a national consensus, and approached with the best national interest in mind. Since this is an issue of great impact to our national security and comes with great economic costs, it must be ratified by the National Assembly as per the Constitution,” Yoon Kwan-suk, a spokesman for Moon Jae-in said.
The press office also commented on United States President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Seoul should pay for the deployment of a system worth $1 billion.
“The Liberty Korea Party, Bareun Party and the Ministry of National Defense have until now argued that the US will bear the cost of the THAAD operation,” the press office said. “If the reports are true, it is now clear that the decision to deploy the THAAD had a major flaw to begin with.”
The statement urged senior politicians in the former ruling party, as well as high-ranking defense officials, to disclose the details of the deal between Washington and Seoul on THAAD.
On Wednesday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said that components of the THAAD system have been deployed to their intended destination in the North Gyeongsang province. Washington has said that the move comes in response to North Korea’s muscle-flexing, but Jeong Uk-sik, the president of the Peace Network NGO, told Sputnik that THAAD will also be targeted against China.
“Undoubtedly, [Washington] has indicated that the US missile defense system must be alert not only to North Korea, but also China,” he said, citing the testimony made by Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, during a hearing at the House Armed Services Committee.
“Harris’s report clearly shows that US Pacific Command has fostered closer ties with Japan, South Korea and Australia to create a comprehensive missile defense system based on THAAD and the radar deployed to South Korea is one of its links,” the analyst added. “As a result, THAAD and the radar are targeted not only against North Korea, but also China since they are links of a single US missile defense system.”China has been opposed to the THAAD deployment, saying that the move “seriously undermines” strategic security of Beijing and other countries in the region.
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, acted today to confirm his authority as the head of US diplomacy by using a UN Security Council session to make what amounted to a peace offer to North Korea.
After sidelining Nikki Haley at the UN Security Council session today, Tillerson signalled what could be a significant shift in the US approach to the Korean crisis, appearing to offer direct talks with North Korea’s leadership with a promise of an eventual normalisation of relations between the US and North Korea, and holding out the prospect of the eventual denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and of sanctions relief.
The peace offer inevitably came wrapped up with more demands for more sanctions (about which however see below), and with talk of military action remaining an option. However the thrust of Tillerson’s words was clear enough:
Our goal is not regime change. Nor do we desire to threaten the North Korean people or destabilize the Asia Pacific region. Over the years, we have withdrawn our own nuclear weapons from South Korea and offered aid to North Korea as proof of our intent to de-escalate the situation and normalize relations. Since 1995, the United States has provided over $1.3 billion dollars in aid to North Korea, and we look forward to resuming our contributions once the D.P.R.K. begins to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missile technology programs.
… even though the present condition of that country is bleak, the United States believes in a future for North Korea. These first steps toward a more hopeful future will happen most quickly if other stakeholders in this – in the region and the global security join us.
(bold italics added)
As for Tillerson’s demand for further sanctions, on close examination these turn out to be pitched at a level which he appears to think China and Russia might accept
Third, we must increase North Korea’s financial isolation. We must levy new sanctions on D.P.R.K. entities and individuals supporting its weapons and missile programs, and tighten those that are already in place. The United States also would much prefer countries and people in question to own up to their lapses and correct their behavior themselves, but we will not hesitate to sanction third-country entities and individuals supporting the D.P.R.K.’s illegal activities.
We must bring maximum economic pressure by severing trade relationships that directly fund the D.P.R.K.’s nuclear and missile program. I call on the international community to suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers and to impose bans on North Korean imports, especially coal.
(bold italics added)
These demands appear to pitch sanctions at the level of obstructing development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes rather than intending them to bring about the wholesale collapse of North Korea’s economy, something which Tillerson probably realises the Chinese will never agree to.
In passing I should say that whilst the Chinese might be willing to forego imports of coal from North Korea at least for a while, I think it is all but inconceivable that either they or the Russians would suspend the flow of North Korean guest workers to their countries.
Despite his call for total denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula Tillerson probably knows that the degree of suspicion of the US on the part of the North Korean government is so great that it is all but inconceivable that North Korea will ever agree to give up the nuclear weapons it already has. Indeed in his remarks to the UN Security Council Tillerson made it fairly clear that his real objective is not to get North Korea to part with all its nuclear weapons – an objective he probably realises is unachievable – but rather to prevent North Korea from developing its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technology to the point were it can threaten the US mainland:
With each successive detonation and missile test, North Korea pushes Northeast Asia and the world closer to instability and broader conflict.
The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real.
And it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland.
Indeed, the D.P.R.K. has repeatedly claimed it plans to conduct such a strike. Given that rhetoric, the United States cannot idly stand by. Nor can other members of this council who are within striking distance of North Korean missiles.
If so then a deal might be possible.
It is not inconceivable that North Korea might be open to a deal where it obtains the normalisation of its relations with the US and an end or at least an easing of economic sanctions in return for its agreement to forego developing the capability to strike at the US mainland.
Vassily Kashin, a prominent Russian military analyst, recently discussed the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme for Sputnik. He made the point that despite impressive recent advances North Korea is still many years away from achieving the capability to launch a strike against the US mainland, and he suggested that North Korea’s real purpose may be to trade the prospect of it eventually achieving that capability – which may in reality be decades away – against the normalisation of its relations with the US.
Vassily Kashin’s comments are so interesting – especially so coming from an expert – that they deserve to be set out at length:
At the moment, successful testing of these missiles (the sea-based KN-11 Pukkuksong-1, and its ground-based cousin, the KN-15 Pukkuksong-2 – AM) is being carried out,” the expert explained. “Factually, the North Koreans have reached the same level that China was at in the early 1980s, when Beijing was carrying out flight testing of its JL-1,” China’s first submarine-launched missile, “created on the basis of the ground-based DF-21” (a Chinese mobile medium-range ballistic missile).
Kashin recalled that it took China 5-6 years to complete flight testing on the JL-1. “The North Koreans began flight testing on the Pukkuksong-1 in 2014, and it’s possible that they will be ready to deploy them closer to the end of the decade. These missiles have an estimated range of up to 2,000 km, which is comparable to the JL-1 and the DF-21A.”
According to the analyst, a successful deployment of these missiles could be seen as a real achievement for the North Koreans. “Pyongyang will attain the guaranteed ability to strike at targets anywhere in South Korea and Japan, but still would not be able to reach the United States.”
North Korean engineers are believed to have made about a dozen tests of the Pukkuksong-1 and its ground-based variant since October 2014; the latest test is thought to have taken place in February. In August 2016, Pyongyang carried out a successful submarine-launch of the Pukkuksong-1.
According to Kashin, these successes are creating the basis for further progress. However, “the transition to the creation of an intercontinental ballistic missile in general and a solid-fueled-based ICBM in particular will require a qualitative leap in the development of North Korea’s production base and test infrastructure,” he emphasized.North Korea has been engaged in the development of the KN-08, also known as the Rodong-C or Hwasong-13, a road-mobile ICBM is believed to have been under development since the early 2010s. Pyongyang has showed off the missile at parades on several occasions, including the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung in April 2012. However, two suspected tests, which US intelligence said had been carried out in October 2016, were believed to have ended in failure.
Kashin stressed that in order to actually produce such advanced weapons, the North Koreans “will have to learn how to produce solid fuel rocket engines with a large diameter. They will have to experiment with new fuels and new missile casing. An important limitation here will be based on their ability or lack thereof to purchase the necessary equipment abroad or create their own (but apparently, also using foreign components).”
Furthermore, the analyst noted, “in order to be tested, the ICBMs will have to be launched over Japanese territory in the direction of the southern Pacific Ocean. As the Chinese experience in testing its DF-5 ICBMs in the early 1980s shows, testing will require the creation of a whole fleet of specialized vessels equipped with complex measuring equipment and, probably, new warships for their protection and escort.”
“Attempts to conduct such tests will be likely to face a backlash from the US and its allies, including attempts to shoot the missiles down during the first stage of their flight (if the US and Japanese missile defense systems in Japan are ready to do so) or attempts to block the measuring equipment onboard the North Korean vessels.”
According to Kashin, the ICBMs’ testing will also take about 5-6 years. China “deployed its DF-31 ICBMs 15-20 years after deploying the Jl-2 and the DF-21.” In other words, according to the analyst, it will be decades before Pyongyang is actually able to successfully field a true intercontinental ballistic missile.
Faced with these limitations, which Pyongyang must surely be aware of, the analyst noted that there are several possible reasons for them to have rolled out their experimental ICBMs at Saturday’s parade.
“Why did the North Koreans feel the need to draw attention to weapons systems which, even under the most optimistic scenario, cannot be deployed until the second half of the 2030s? It’s possible that from Pyongyang’s point of view, this is a demonstration of its determination and, at the same time, an invitation to talks, which North Korea, despite its isolation, intends to conduct from a perceived position of strength.”
It’s possible, Kashin added, “that these potential missile systems are what North Korea is ready to sacrifice in exchange for a reduction in sanctions pressure. The country’s security is guaranteed by its ability to inflict unacceptable damage to key US allies South Korea and Japan in the event of war.”
Ultimately, in Kashin’s view, Pyongyang “will not abandon their nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles, but could agree not to conduct new tests or develop intercontinental missiles (ranged 5,500 km and up) in exchange for economic and political concessions. This, it’s possible, may very well be Pyongyang’s ideal exchange scenario.”
(bold italics added)
If Vassily Kashin’s analysis is right, then taken together with Tillerson’s comments to the UN Security Council today there may be a basis for a settlement.
The North Koreans might be prepared to give up a planned capability to launch a strike against the US mainland – which may in reality be beyond their reach before 2040 – in return for a normalisation of relations with the US and an easing of sanctions now. If so then that appears sufficiently close to what Tillerson appeared to say today the US wanted to make a deal possible. In that case with hard work and tough bargaining an agreement might be achieved.
The big question is whether these two countries – the US and North Korea – are capable of negotiating with each other in such a way, and have the political will to stay the course during the long years such a negotiation would require.
We are so poorly informed about the political system in North Korea that it is difficult to say with any confidence what are the exact intentions of its government. However if Vassily Kashin is right, it would appear that it is willing to talk. Besides, if there were a desire to talk on the part of the US, the Chinese and Russians would surely put pressure on North Korea to get it to talk. That after all is what the Chinese have been saying they want – direct talks between North Korea and the US – for some time now.
The bigger uncertainty has to be with the US.
It is difficult enough to predict with any confidence what the policy of the Trump administration will be from one day to another, let alone to have any confidence that it can stay the course over the years of tough bargaining that achieving a settlement with North Korea would require. Unfortunately there are always hardliners in Washington who can be relied upon to work to undermine any prospect of an agreement, and it is a certainty that if negotiations between the US and North Korea were ever to get underway they will immediately set to work to undermine them.
Tillerson’s grip on the US foreign policy establishment looks shaky enough as it is. What confidence can there be that either he or someone who thinks like him would be around for long enough to bring negotiations with North Korea to a successful conclusion and to get that settlement accepted in the US, even if that is indeed Tillerson’s objective? What confidence would there be if such a settlement were ever reached that a succeeding administration would abide by it?
The short answer unfortunately is that there can be no confidence about any of these things.
However on the strength of what Rex Tillerson said to the UN Security Council today, and what Vassily Kashin thinks North Korea’s intentions might be, the possibility of a diplomatic settlement might be there.
The job of diplomats is to explore this possibility. It is to be hoped that they are given the opportunity to do so. Past experience unfortunately leaves plenty of room for doubt.
US Marines have returned to Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, the first to be deployed in the war-torn country since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ended its combat mission in 2014.
US General John Nicholson, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, attended a ceremony on Saturday marking the return of the Marines to Helmand, where US forces faced intense fighting until 2014.
About 300 Marines will form part of the so-called Operation Resolute Support, described by NATO as a train, advise, and assist mission consisting of over 13,000 troops.
The Marines were among the first US forces sent to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the US. Several thousand were deployed in Helmand, only for it to slip deeper into a quagmire of instability.
The deployment came one day after the Taliban militant group announced the start of its “spring offensive,” a heightened campaign of bombings, ambush attacks, and other raids that begin as weather conditions improve.
The new deployment is the latest sign of how the NATO military alliance is increasingly being drawn back into fighting in Afghanistan.
The Marines will largely operate from a sprawling installation known during earlier Marine operations as Camp Leatherneck, but will be based in other locations and could engage in combat.
The US has around 8,400 troops in the country with about another 5,000 from NATO allies.
The Pentagon said Wednesday that two US troops were killed in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province during a military operation against the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.
In total, 2,217 American soldiers have died in the country since the invasion in 2001 and another 20,000 have been wounded, according to the Pentagon.
On Monday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Afghanistan as President Donald Trump’s administration looks to craft a new policy in the country.
The change of policy was put on display earlier this month, when Gen. Nicholson ordered a Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb—also known as the Mother of All Bombs— to be dropped on a purported Daesh target in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Afghanistan is still suffering from insecurity and violence years after the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The 2001 military invasion removed the Taliban from power, but their militancy continues to this day.
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, who has this month started to find his feet as the US’s foreign minister, has finally acted to assert his authority over Nikki Haley, the US’s out of control UN ambassador.
It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that Nikki Haley, who is a politician with Presidential ambitions not a diplomat, has been abusing her position as the US’s UN ambassador to grandstand in preparation for what I am sure is an intended Presidential bid.
I have previously discussed Nikki Haley’s behaviour and the exaggerated role she has been allowed to carve out for herself
That doubtless also explains the increasingly undisciplined behaviour of Nikki Haley. Not only is she being allowed to wander around the television studios unchecked, firing off comments which she has clearly not coordinated either with the White House or the State Department, but she is gaining a level of prominence which is completely out of proportion to her supposed role as the US’s UN ambassador. At the moment, instead of being obviously subordinate to Tillerson and McMaster, she appears to be their equal.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Haley, who is a politician not a diplomat, and who was previously governor of South Carolina and was apparently seriously considered by Mitt Romney for his Vice-Presidential running mate, is running what is in effect an election campaign, with her sights ultimately on the White House. Thus the publicity stunts, like the waving of photos of dead children during a UN Security Council session, which annoyed the veteran diplomats present, but which was clearly aimed at the US television audience.
One result of Haley’s undisciplined behaviour is that the administration either finds itself pulled along by her comments, with the result that Haley is in effect making policy for the White House, or officials like McMaster have to find some way of reconciling what she says with the administration’s actual policies, which may be completely different. A perfect example of this was McMaster elaborate explanation during his Fox News interview explaining why despite the obvious differences between the things Haley and Tillerson are saying, on the subject of regime change in Syria they are actually saying the same thing.
WALLACE: The Trump administration seems to be sending mixed signals this weekend. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says that getting rid of Assad is a priority. On the other hand, Secretary of State Tillerson says that first, we have to get rid of ISIS, destroy ISIS, Assad can wait.
So, which is it? How does the president see this playing out in Syria?
MCMASTER: Well, both Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley are right about this. What we really need to do, and what everyone who’s involved in this conflict needs to do is to do everything they can to resolve this civil war, to halt this humanitarian catastrophe, this political catastrophe, not only in Syria, but the catastrophe is affecting the greater Middle East, it’s affecting Europe and it’s a threat to the American people as well.
And so, to do that, what’s required is some kind of a political solution to that very complex problem. And what Ambassador Haley pointed out is it’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime.
Tillerson has now clearly signalled that he has had enough, and his officials have apparently informed Haley, who is technically Tillerson’s subordinate, that she should clear her comments on contentious issues in future with the State Department before she makes them.
This has been confirmed in this article in The New York Times, which reads in part as follows:
The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has often been the first, most outspoken member of the Trump administration to weigh in on key foreign policy issues, on everything from military strikes on Syria to sanctions against Russia and how to approach human rights.
Much of that has come as a surprise to the State Department, and the Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, has often been far from the limelight.
Now, in an apparent attempt to foster greater coherence in American foreign policy, State Department officials are urging her aides to ensure her public remarks are cleared by Washington first.
An email drafted by State Department diplomats urged Ms. Haley’s office to rely on “building blocks” written by the department to prepare her remarks.
Her comments should be “re-cleared with Washington if they are substantively different from the building blocks, or if they are on a high-profile issue such as Syria, Iran, Israel-Palestine, or the D.P.R.K.,” added the email, the text of which was seen by The Times. D.P.R.K. refers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea.
In a further sign that Haley is being brought to heel, Tillerson has signalled that he will personally attend and lead the US delegation at the UN Security Council session at which the North Korean issue will be discussed.
There is a widespread tendency to treat Nikki Haley as a reincarnation of her predecessor, Barack Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power. As someone who has given himself the tedious task of following and comparing the comments of both, I have to say that I disagree.
Samantha Power is in my opinion an ideological fanatic who sincerely believes that the US has a ‘duty’ to intervene all over the world as part of some great liberal crusade to spread ‘democracy’ (as she defines it) everywhere. Nikki Haley by contrast comes across to me as simply a politician on the make.
Regardless of that, Tillerson – one presumes with the President’s agreement – is finally acting to bring to bring Nikki Haley to heel. Not before time I might add.
In blaming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the April 4 chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun, The New York Times and other Western news outlets have made a big deal out of discrepancies in the timing and other details provided by the Syrian and Russian governments.
The Times and the others also have chided anyone who notes that Assad had no logical reason to undertake a sarin attack since his forces were making solid gains and he had just learned that the Trump administration was dropping the longstanding U.S. goal of “regime change” in Syria.
To those of us outside the mainstream media bubble, there seemed to be little or no military advantage to be gained. Instead, Assad would be risking more international intervention, which has ripped his country apart for the past six years. But the Times and other major outlets dismissed our logic by arguing that Assad was simply announcing his impunity in some particularly brutal Arab-sort-of-way.
However, neither the value that the Times and others placed on the Russian-Syrian timing discrepancies nor the strange explanation of Assad’s motive made any sense. After all, if Assad were making some bizarre public declaration of his impunity, why would he then deny that his forces were responsible? Wouldn’t he simply say, “yes, I did it and I don’t care what anyone thinks”? Isn’t that what impunity means: that you do whatever you want knowing that no one can hold you accountable? Instead, Assad has consistently denied ordering the attack.
The gotcha observation about the time element of the bombings fails the logic test, too. Why would Syria and Russia say Syrian warplanes carried out a conventional attack on Khan Sheikhoun around noon if the actual attack occurred around 6 a.m., as it apparently did? There was nothing to be gained for them by having the timing off by six hours, since the point that Syria and Russia were making was that there were indeed airstrikes but that they were conventional bombs that may have unintentionally struck an Al Qaeda depot holding chemical weapons and thus released them. The timing element was immaterial to that point.
What this apparent timing error suggests is confusion, not “spin,” as the Times insists in a tendentious April 27 video by Malachy Browne, Natalie Reneau and Mark Scheffler, entitled “How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike.”
The Syrians and Russians appeared perplexed by what had happened. Their officials understood that a conventional airstrike had been carried out and stated what they believed the time was. The time discrepancy either meant the Syrian air-wing commander had dispatched warplanes earlier than expected or that some other entity carried out the 6 a.m. strike. But the Syrians and the Russians would seem to have no reason to lie about this detail.
Intervention by Air
Another false assumption pervading the Western accounts on this and other chemical incidents in Syria is that only the Syrian government and its Russian allies have control of the skies. That is clearly not true. Various military forces, including those of the U.S. and its allies, as well as Israel and – to some degree – the rebels have air capabilities in Syria.
According to Syrian accounts, the rebels have captured some government helicopters and apparently used one in what United Nations investigators were told by multiple eyewitnesses was a staged chemical-weapons attack in 2014 with the goal of sticking the blame on the Syrian regime.
Further, the U.S. and its allies have been conducting airstrikes across much of Syria in campaigns against Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked terror groups, which have been supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other Sunni-led sheikdoms. Turkey has been active, too, with strikes against Kurdish forces. And Israel has hit repeatedly at Syrian targets to promote what it regards as its interests, including destruction of Iranian weapons believed headed to the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah.
Some – if not all – of these entities had a far stronger motive to create a chemical-weapons incident in Syria on April 4 than the Syrian government did. At the end of March, the Trump administration announced that it was no longer a U.S. priority to overthrow the Assad government, an announcement that upset several of the countries involved in the Syrian conflict, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel.
All of them – having committed resources and prestige to achieve “regime change” in Syria – had motive to overturn President Trump’s pronouncement. (Israel has had “regime change” in Syria at the top of its to-do list since at least the mid-1990s.) How better to keep that hope alive than to stage another chemical-weapons attack and blame it on Assad? (Another sarin attack in August 2013 also now appears to have been a staged incident by Al Qaeda that killed hundreds while almost tricking President Obama into ordering a massive U.S. military strike on government forces.)
Shortly after the incident at Khan Sheikhoun, I was told by an intelligence source that U.S. satellite imagery had picked up what looked like a drone in the vicinity at around the time that the poison gas was released. Despite some technical difficulties in tracking its route, the source said the analysts believed that it may have come from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base in Jordan, used to assist the rebels.
There are also other combinations of factors that should have been carefully evaluated before President Trump jumped to his Assad-did-it conclusion and fired off 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase on April 6, but they weren’t given serious thought in the rush to blame Assad.
For instance, Al Qaeda’s clever propagandists could have again staged a chemical attack on the ground by creating a crater in the road and inserting what was purported to be a chemical-weapons canister. The Times and others have noted that the crater was not visible in earlier satellite images but that observation doesn’t mean the crater had to be created by an aerial bomb; a ground explosion or simple digging could have done the trick – with the crushed canister inserted later.
The canister-in-the-crater story struck MIT’s technology and national security expert Theodore Postol as particularly odd because on-scene photos showed people climbing into the supposedly sarin-saturated crater wearing minimal protection and not keeling over dead. Postol also said the canister appeared to have been crushed rather than exploded.
There is also the possibility that some third party with access to sarin or other powerful chemical weapons could have delivered the poison gas by air – possibly from that drone – with the rebels either coordinating with that delivery before the fact or reacting to the opportunity after the fact.
The hard truth is that intelligence services from a number of countries could fit the bill in terms of producing sarin or some similar substance that could mimic what Syria once had in its arsenal, although those chemical weapons were supposedly destroyed in 2014 as part of an agreement hammered out by Russia and the United States.
And there are plenty of ruthless intelligence operatives on all sides who would have found the deaths of 80 or so people acceptable collateral damage to advance a geopolitical priority. The timing, so close to the Trump administration’s major announcement that Assad no longer had to go, would have represented a logical motive for such a ruse.
The other problem in assessing what has or hasn’t happened in Syria over the past six years is that all sides, but particularly those seeking “regime change,” have deployed sophisticated propaganda operations to the combat zone.
Anti-regime activists – financed and supplied by the West and the Gulf States – understand the emotional value of showing dying children. These propagandists have regular and uncritical access to major Western media outlets, from the hipsters at VICE to the neocons and liberal-interventionists at The New York Times.
In other words, what is still desperately needed in this latest chapter of the Syrian tragedy is some honest broker who could conduct a serious investigation that isn’t contaminated by all the previous propaganda-infused narratives. But the chances of finding that person or group are slim to none.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Chilean dictator Agusto Pinochet (L) and Argentine dictator Rafael Videla (R) | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
U.S. President Donald Trump met with Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Thursday, handing over 931 declassified Department of State records related to Operation Condor.
Operation Condor was a Cold War-era campaign of violence across Latin America that resulted in tens of thousands of activist deaths.
Trump’s release falls in line with former President Barack Obama’s promise to release intelligence documents about human rights abuses committed by the Argentine military dictatorship during the 1970s and 1980s.
Entitled “Secret/Exdis,” the declassified documents provide new insight into U.S. support for human rights abuses in Argentina and neighboring countries. Here’s what the reports divulged.
They describe Operation Condor as a trans-border, multinational effort by Southern Cone secret police services to “track down” and “liquidate” regime opponents, the National Security Archive reports.
They reveal that the orchestrators of Operation Condor considered establishing “field offices” in the United States and Europe.
They provide information about former President Jimmy Carter’s propping up of former dictator Rafael Videla in 1977. It has also been confirmed that Orlando Letelier, chief economist for former Chilean President Salvador Allende, was killed by members of Chile’s intelligence service under the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Moreover, they include details about the censorship of U.S. Buenos Aires embassy human rights officer Tex Harris, who tried making human rights abuses public.
The declassification of other top secret documents is expected to occur before the end of the year. Records of 14 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and DIA, are expected to be included in the release.
In an April 27 letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, all US senators demanded the world body ignore Israeli high crimes, calling truth-telling “anti-Semiti(c).”
“Too often, the UN is exploited as a vehicle for targeting Israel,” they said.
Fact: Much more needs to be done to hold Israel accountable for high crimes of war and against humanity – for decades of ruthlessly persecuting Palestinians, for committing slow-motion genocide, for attacking its neighbors.
The letter quoted neocon US UN envoy Nikki Haley, saying “(i)t is the UN’s anti-Israel bias that is long overdue for change” – an outrageous perversion of truth.
The senators praised the world body “for disavowing” the important Richard Falk/Virginia Tilley report, calling Israel a racist apartheid regime – “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The entire US Senate urged the UN “to improve (its) treatment of Israel…” It demands no world body support for the vital global BDS initiative – or any other actions hostile to Israeli interests.
It wants information about its human rights abuses suppressed. It demands support for US interests. It calls truth-telling anti-Israeli “bias.”
All 100 US senators disgracefully signed the letter. Washington and Israel partner in each other’s high crimes – a ruthless axis of evil threatening humanity.
Last week, Haley accused the world body of holding “Israel-bashing sessions.” Ignoring US wars in multiple theaters, she lied claiming “Iran is using Hezbollah to advance its regional aspirations.”
“They are working together to expand extremist ideologies in the Middle East. That is a threat that should be dominating our discussion at the Security Council.”
Iran threatens no one. Neither does Hezbollah. Haley turned truth on its head. So did Tillerson days earlier, irresponsibly accusing Tehran of “alarming ongoing provocations” to destabilize regional countries.
Iranian UN envoy Gholamali Khoshroo debunked his remarks, calling them “misleading propaganda…”
Last week Washington asked which Middle East countries benefit from regional chaos, “and what are the connections between terrorist groups and these states?”
Israel, of course, benefits most. So does America by its belligerent presence in a part of the world not its own – waging endless wars of aggression, supporting terrorist groups it created, wanting pro-Western puppet rule replacing all sovereign independent governments.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
“Top US General in Afghanistan Sees Russia Sending Weapons to Taliban” was Reuters’ headline over a April 25 story.
Well, that sounds like news! Tell me more, Reuters’ Idrees Ali:
The head of US and international forces in Afghanistan said on Monday he was “not refuting” reports that Russia was providing support, including weapons, to the Taliban…
Asked about reports that Russia was providing a range of help, including weapons, to the Taliban, who control large areas of Afghanistan, [Gen. John] Nicholson replied: “Oh no, I am not refuting that.”
“I am not refuting that”? How does that translate into “General… Sees Russia Sending Weapons to Taliban”? If NASA tells Reuters that they can’t refute speculation that there might be life on Mars, will Reuters run a story headlined “NASA Sees Life on Mars”? That would be a scoop!
Ali writes that Nicholson’s no-comment comments “are among the strongest suggestions yet that Moscow is providing arms to the Taliban.” Maybe next time Reuters could wait for a somewhat stronger suggestion—involving actual evidence, perhaps—before running a story that could inflame the new Cold War.
Roger Waters, the primary composer and lyricist of Pink Floyd during their most prominent years has for decades, used his music to convey a message of peace and humanity. He has typically got it right and occasionally gets it wrong.
One issue he has got totally right is the issue of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israeli war, occupation and economic blockade. For over ten years, Waters has made the issue of Palestinian freedom a central point in his music and accompanying dramatic stage shows.
Waters is part of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement which encourages individuals to boycott Israeli products and tourism. Waters uses his status as a ‘music legend’ to highlight the plight of Palestinians. In 2012 he spoke at the United Nations on the issue. He frequently pens open letters to fellow musicians asking them to refrain from performing in Israel until a meaningful peace settlement is reached.
Waters is a perfect example of how the media-industrial complex punishes individuals who do not fit the tired stereotype of a veteran rock star.
Late last year, a grossly under-reported story explained how American Express ditched a planned sponsorship deal with Waters for his 2017 tour in a move which was said to be worth $4 million.
American Express like any other company has the right to refuse sponsoring any individual or organisation however they see fit. But in doing so, American Express has shown that they are willing to sponsor events of every variety including politically charged music performances by Beyonce.
Why then is American Express put-off by Roger Waters’ embrace of the Palestinian movement?
Are they opposed to Waters’ calls to end the starvation and medical deprivation of Palestinian children?
Are they opposed to Waters’ pleas for justice and democracy for Christians, Muslims and Jews in the region?
Are they appalled by his anti-war message?
Where many celebrities use anodyne political causes to enhance their status, I can see no evidence that Waters has profited from his endorsement of Palestine. Quite the contrary is true. It seems that his message of peace for everyone and hatred for no one has cost him millions.
Waters described the situation in his music industry in the following way,
“My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice (against Israel). There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared shitless.
If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam”.
The fact is that most musicians neither win nor lose the majority of their fan-base because of politics. The fact is that most people buy albums and concert tickets based on the fact that they like the sound of a song or enjoy singing along with the lyrics, even if they’re hardly paying attention to what the lyrics mean.
But for those who do care, the reaction to Waters’ Palestine politics is shocking. If Waters was advocating for genocide, cruelty, hatred or imperialism, I would agree that his concerts should be boycotted. But the fact that he is advocating for precisely the opposite of the aforementioned things makes the position of American Express seem not only extreme, but illogical.
Roger Waters is being punished for free speech on a subject that ought not to be controversial. The fact that some find it controversial demonstrates how low and beastly the nature of modern debates about human rights have become. No innocent people deserve to be suppressed, repressed and occupied, but that is exactly what is happening to the Palestinians and it has been happening for decades.
I personally disagreed with Roger Waters’ statements about Donald Trump and I also disagreed with his characterisation of Leonid Brezhnev on the otherwise stellar 1983 Pink Floyd album The Final Cut. But at no time would I seek to shut down Waters’ free speech or his ability to peacefully perform what millions consider to be important pieces of music in a peaceful and safe environment.
American Express has shamed its own reputation by treating Roger Waters in the way they have done. Roger Waters remains undeterred and will continue to tour his new show across the world.
As someone who has seen Waters perform many times, I highly recommend it, even for those who disagree with his views but enjoy a challenge.
Has President Donald Trump outsourced foreign policy to the generals?
So it would seem. Candidate Trump held out his hand to Vladimir Putin. He rejected further U.S. intervention in Syria other than to smash ISIS.
He spoke of getting out and staying out of the misbegotten Middle East wars into which Presidents Bush II and Obama had plunged the country.
President Trump’s seeming renunciation of an anti-interventionist foreign policy is the great surprise of the first 100 days, and the most ominous. For any new war could vitiate the Trump mandate and consume his presidency.
Trump no longer calls NATO “obsolete,” but moves U.S. troops toward Russia in the Baltic and eastern Balkans. Rex Tillerson, holder of Russia’s Order of Friendship, now warns that the U.S. will not lift sanctions on Russia until she gets out of Ukraine.
If Tillerson is not bluffing, that would rule out any rapprochement in the Trump presidency. For neither Putin, nor any successor, could surrender Crimea and survive.
What happened to the Trump of 2016?
When did Kiev’s claim to Crimea become more crucial to us than a cooperative relationship with a nuclear-armed Russia? In 1991, Bush I and Secretary of State James Baker thought the very idea of Ukraine’s independence was the product of a “suicidal nationalism.”
Where do we think this demonization of Putin and ostracism of Russia is going to lead?
To get Xi Jinping to help with our Pyongyang problem, Trump has dropped all talk of befriending Taiwan, backed off Tillerson’s warning to Beijing to vacate its fortified reefs in the South China Sea, and held out promises of major concessions to Beijing in future trade deals.
“I like (Xi Jinping) and I believe he likes me a lot,” Trump said this week. One recalls FDR admonishing Churchill, “I think I can personally handle Stalin better than … your Foreign Office … Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better.”
FDR did not live to see what a fool Stalin had made of him.
Among the achievements celebrated in Trump’s first 100 days are the 59 cruise missiles launched at the Syrian airfield from which the gas attack on civilians allegedly came, and the dropping of the 22,000-pound MOAB bomb in Afghanistan.
But what did these bombings accomplish?
The War Party seems again ascendant. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are happy campers. In Afghanistan, the U.S. commander is calling for thousands more U.S. troops to assist the 8,500 still there, to stabilize an Afghan regime and army that is steadily losing ground to the Taliban.
Iran is back on the front burner. While Tillerson concedes that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Trump says it is violating “the spirit of the agreement.”
How so? Says Tillerson, Iran is “destabilizing” the region, and threatening U.S. interests in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
But Iran is an ally of Syria and was invited in to help the U.N.-recognized government put down an insurrection that contains elements of al-Qaida and ISIS. It is we, the Turks, Saudis and Gulf Arabs who have been backing the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime.
In Yemen, Houthi rebels overthrew and expelled a Saudi satrap. The bombing, blockading and intervention with troops is being done by Saudi and Sunni Arabs, assisted by the U.S. Navy and Air Force.
It is we and the Saudis who are talking of closing the Yemeni port of Hodeida, which could bring on widespread starvation.
It was not Iran, but the U.S. that invaded Iraq, overthrew the Baghdad regime and occupied the country. It was not Iran that overthrew Col. Gadhafi and created the current disaster in Libya.
Monday, the USS Mahan fired a flare to warn off an Iranian patrol boat, 1,000 meters away. Supposedly, this was a provocation. But Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had a point when he tweeted:
“Breaking: Our Navy operates in — yes, correct — the Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Mexico. Question is what US Navy doing 7,500 miles from home.”
Who is behind the seeming conversion of Trump to hawk?
The generals, Bibi Netanyahu and the neocons, Congressional hawks with Cold War mindsets, the Saudi royal family and the Gulf Arabs — they are winning the battle for the president’s mind.
And their agenda for America?
We are to recognize that our true enemy in the Mideast is not al-Qaida or ISIS, but Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, Assad’s Syria and his patron, Putin. And until Hezbollah is eviscerated, Assad is gone, and Iran is smashed the way we did Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, the flowering of Middle East democracy that we all seek cannot truly begin.
But before President Trump proceeds along the path laid out for him by his generals, brave and patriotic men that they are, he should discover if any of them opposed any of the idiotic wars of the last 15 years, beginning with that greatest of strategic blunders — George Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Copyright 2017 Creators.com.
Baltimore County police – an early adopter of body cameras spending $12.5 million of taxpayer money in the name of transparency – is withholding footage in three police-involved shooting incidents.
County police shot six people in four separate incidents since January, killing two of them, according to the Baltimore Sun, which first broke the story.
Body cameras captured all of the shootings but footage has only been made available in one case. Police said the other cases are still being investigated, or the county prosecutors have told them the footage is evidence in upcoming trials.
“Release could compromise the prosecution and the defendant’s right to fair trials,” Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said in a statement to the Sun.
Armacost said those releases were quick because there were no charges against a suspect.
The missing footage involves three incidents.
In March, two officers investigating a convenience store robbery in Woodlawn shot a vehicle rushing towards them killing a 20-year-old, and injuring two others.
On April 12, police shot a 27-year-old man suspected of breaking into cars in Parkville who police said reached into his waistband.
Nine days later, an officer shot a woman who was a passenger in a stolen car that was being pursued by police.
The department first deployed body cameras last July, with the promise of a gradual rollout through December 2018, after fast-tracking $12.5 million program to equip officers.
The program was accelerated after a series of shootings, including the fatal shooting of Korryn Gaines, 23, and the wounding of her 5-year old son in August 2016 during a standoff in Randallstown. The shooting was not recorded. That led to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and then-police chief Jim Johnson to speed up the program.
Currently about 550 of the county’s 1,900 officers have body cams. More than 1,400 are to have cameras by the end of this September.
Kamenetz wouldn’t comment on the lack of transparency but his spokesperson, Ellen Kobler, said he had been clear from the beginning “that footage from police body cameras has been and will continue to be released without delay as soon as it can be determined that the release of the footage will not compromise an ongoing investigation.”
The police previously released footage from a case in December when an officer shot and wounded a man who had opened the door of his apartment carrying a knife and saying “Time to die! Time to die!”
County prosecutors ruled the shooting justified.
In another incident in January, footage was released of a police officer fatally shooting a man who had threatened his family and who had raised a “powerful scoped rifle” as an officer was talking to him.
Kamenetz then replaced Police Chief Johnson with Terry Sheridan, who had previously been the chief.
Armacost said there had been no change in policy since Sheridan took over.
The ACLU of Maryland called attempts to withhold the footage “concerning.”
“Despite lip service being paid to transparency and accountability, both their policies and in their actions, what we are seeing is the opposite,” said David Rocah, an attorney with the organization. He said the footage means “we don’t simply have to take officer’s word for what happened in particular situation.”
Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, said he’s not in favour of video footage being released to the public before an investigation is closed.
“I think everybody should be cautious about just looking at… one particular piece of what happened,” he told the Sun. “Body camera footage is one piece of information that is captured as it related to an entire incident.”
South Korean women protesting the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is aimed not to defend them against North Korea, but as a threat to Russia and China, analysts told Sputnik.
Namhee Lee, a UCLA Associate Professor of Modern Korean History, said, “many South Koreans think that the deployment of THAAD is actually to deter China and not North Korea.”
Namhee Lee was a signatory of the Women Cross DMZ group’s letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday calling on him to defuse military tensions and start negotiating for peace to prevent war from erupting on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s missiles are short-range SCUDs with a range of 500 km (300 miles), medium-range Rodong 1s with a range of 1,300km (780 miles) whereas THAAD is most effect for long range and high altitude missiles, the professor said.
“THAAD is not effective against the SCUD missile. THAAD is effective against the Rodong 1, but this missile is not developed to aim against South Korea, rather it is aimed against Okinawa,” she said.
As to the question why the US military was deploying THAAD in South Korea, Lee said, “Because it is aimed against China and Russia; to collect information, which is why China and Russia are upset about the deployment of THAAD.”
Namhee Lee noted the X-bend radar that is integrated with a THAAD system is able to detect missiles at a range of 1,000-5,000 km (600 miles to 3,000 miles).
“Many of China’s missiles can be detected by THAAD’s X-bend radar,” she stated.
Deploying THAAD’s radars also posed health hazards for the people of South Korea, the historian explained.
“Many are also afraid for the health and safety of people living nearby, especially from exposure to radiation from the systems’ powerful radar emissions. Especially Seongju residents who feel that the decision to deploy THAAD was made without their input and without independent health assessments,” she also remarked.
Radar emissions coming from THAAD will cause a great deal of harm to people living close by.
“Those who live within the radius of 100 meters would face the danger of losing lives, and those living within the radius of 3.6 km (six miles) would experience dizziness and vomiting,” she noted.
The protest is the last resort for the Koreans to show that they are opposed to the government’s decision to deploy the THAAD system, she observed. … Full article