sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, July 16, 2018

Points and Counterpoints

The Trump Doctrine

President Trump characterizes modern great nation-states as rivals more than enemies. Ford, Toyota, Mercedes and Chevrolet are rivals. Chevron, Exxon, Shell and British Petroleum are rivals. That bothers some in the US who would rather attach other labels. I tend to support President Trump's view of things, particularly as it applies to China, Russia, Japan, the EU, etc. Companies can form alliances and so can nations.

For far too long, America has not looked after its own affairs in a responsible way. That is changing and America will by default become more prosperous. MAGA

US-Russia Interests

I have a few points that I'd like to throw out.

Point One - I have no problem with the US indicting Russian intelligence officers for meddling in our election. That's what intelligence officers do the world over. That's what Russia does. Best also acknowledge that we do the same thing to Russia to frame the issue appropriately. The KGB officers are home in Russia and won't be extradited. Barack Obama ordered the CIA to do the very same thing to Israel in an attempt to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Barack an empty suit.

Democrats urged President Trump to cancel the summit, which is why Mueller held the indictment until right before the summit.

Point Two - Crimea wanted to return from Ukraine to Russia. The polls showed 99% wanted to be part of Russia and not Ukraine. Based on that and the need for a warm water Black Sea port, the Russians took it back. It's a tar baby in the US, but it was popular in Russia.

The president claimed ahead of his summit with Putin that the Russian president would not have invaded Crimea had he been in office, calling the globally condemned annexation an “Obama disaster.” Possibly true, but the Russians want Russia to be great again and there you have it.

Point Three - Russia is NOT a communist country. They haven't claimed to be for decades, and Americans still call it that. President Putin is popular and he wins elections. He rules in the same way that EVERY SINGLE RUSSIAN OLIGARCH has back to the beginning of recorded time. Russia is Russia. It's nine time zones long, with huge social and financial problems. The GNP of Russia is smaller than that of Texas, with a similar population. The Russians have NOT used nuclear weapons and run things in their country the way that 'Russians do'. About 33% of all educated Russians in their 30's would like to relocate abroad to the US and Europe. I don't blame them. But it's a problem for Russia.

     Sanctions

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets. 

I'm not opposed to those sanctions, but they could be more clearly targeted. There was a blanket approach when Russians were lumped into the sanction regimen.

North Korea

The slick, wicked, corrupt, lying elite media has mischaracterized almost everything when it comes to the situation in North Korea. Are they stupid, ignorant, malicious, or a bit of each of those things? You be the judge.

     Repatriation of Remains

On 15 July at Panmunjom, a US two-star general held talks with a North Korean two-star general about the program to recover the remains of US soldiers missing during the Korean War.

The US Secretary of State said the two sides agreed to resume field activities. “Today’s talks were productive and cooperative and resulted in firm commitments,” he said.

Working level meetings will begin on Monday, 16 July, to coordinate the next steps for the repatriation of remains, including the transfer of those already collected in North Korea, the Secretary said.

The US-North Korean dialogue continues. Judgments that the talks had collapsed were inaccurate. The remains recovery program was formerly a military-to-military program. The two sides have agreed to resume the program in that channel.

Renewal of this program was a personal commitment by Chairman Kim to the US President at the 12 June summit. It will only be cancelled by a communication between the two heads of state.

     Denuclearization

There are a number of issues that the North Koreans are working on, and if you follow this blog, I've laid a lot of them out. I don't intend to go back and regurgitate a lot of it because there aren't that many people who read this and it's a waste of time. A number of small moves are underway and they will lead to large moves. The Norks are under immense pressure from a number of angles and as with all governments, they want to remain in power and don't want to be hung from light poles in front of the Politburo. They will de-nuke and there will be inspections and verifications. This can't be done in a day, but they're working through it.

Pakistan

On 13 July, a bomb blast killed at least four people at a political rally in Bannu. Pakistani press reports said 39 people were injured. 

The target was Akram Kahn Durrani. Durrani is the candidate of Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) from National Assembly Constituency NA-35. He is running against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan.

This was apparently a roadside bombing. Durrani was not hurt. Imran Khan denounced the attack.

The Islamic State claimed the suicide bombing in Baluchistan. On 13 July, the Islamic State posted to the web its claim of responsibility for the Baluchistan attack that killed more than 149 people.
"After relying on God Almighty, the martyr-brother Abu-Bakr al-Pakistani, may God accept him, dispatched himself toward a polytheist election rally in the area of Dringarh in the city of Mastung in Balochistan wearing his explosive vest, which he detonated in their midst, resulting in the killing of more than 80 polytheists and the injury of dozens. Among the dead was the apostate called Mir Siraj Khan, the apostate Pakistani Intelligence head in Balochistan and a candidate in the polytheist elections. Praise be to God, first and last!"
On 16 July, Pakistani news outlets reported that the death toll from the suicide bombing attack in Mastung, near Quetta, stood at 149 with more than 186 people injured.

The explosion killed Siraj Raisani, who was running for a provincial seat with the newly formed Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), provincial home minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told the press.

The was the third attack against a political rally in a week. In all three, a leading Pakistani politician was the target. In two of the attacks, the politician was killed. The three attacks killed more than 175 people and injured more than 290 people.

     Chinese Reaction

China has invested heavily in Pakistan. The graphic (above) shows the Chinese belt road in red. Success in trade requires a stable political environment in Pakistan that is free of disruption to commerce. China also wants to push their belt road through Afghanistan to Iran. There are security concerns with that leg of the road as well.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomb attack killed at least 10 in Kabul. On 15 July, a suicide bombing attack targeted the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in Kabul City.

Media sources reported that at least 10 people were killed and 15 were injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Comment: News services reported this was the second attack at the Ministry in just over a month. On 11 June, 17 people were killed and 40 injured in a suicide attack. 

Attacks in Farah and Helmand Provinces. On 13/14 July, a Taliban force attempted to overrun Bala Buluk District center in Farah Province for at least the third time this month. In the gun battle, 11 soldiers and policemen were killed. Afghan authorities said nine Taliban were killed and 13 wounded.

In Helmand, a suicide car bomber attacked a joint army and police checkpoint. One policeman was killed, and 11 soldiers were wounded. Taliban groups continue to try to seize and hold district centers as part of this year’s offensive. They also are attacking checkpoints to kill soldiers and policemen as part of the strategy of discrediting the government and of deterring recruitment into the army and police.

Turkey

President Erdogan intends to lift the state of emergency. A spokesman for President Erdogan said that Turkey will lift the state of emergency this coming week. Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told the press in Ankara, "The current state of emergency is coming to an end on the night of July 18. Mr. President has the will... not to extend it." The emergency was declared after the June 2016 coup attempt. Now that Turkey has a presidential system, Erdogan no longer needs the extra authority of the emergency declaration. 

Under the previous parliamentary system of government, the president was primarily a figurehead. Erdogan enhanced his presidential authority by using the emergency declaration. Those powers are included in the normal authority of the Turkish president in the presidential system of government now in effect. What previously were emergency powers are now the new normal.

Syria-Israel

Another Israeli attack. Israel’s military said it had fired a missile at a drone that approached from Syria on 12 July. This was the second drone downed by the Israelis in a week. If a toy flies from Syria into Israeli territory, the Israelis will shoot it down.

Israel did not retaliate for this intrusion. South Front reported that the drone was a Russian version of an Israeli drone manufactured under license. The downing reportedly resulted from a failure of the Israeli-Russian hotline, setup in 2015.

Israeli rockets attacked Iranian positions at Aleppo. Syrian state media said on 15 July that Israeli rockets hit a Syrian military position near Nairab airport on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo.
“The Zionist enemy ... targets one of our military sites north of Nairab airport, causing only material damage,” said Syrian state news agency SANA, quoting a military source.
This is the first time Israeli forces have attacked an Iranian target in the Aleppo area during the Syrian civil war. According to South Front, Israel has adopted a policy of destroying any Iranian equipment anywhere in Syria. This attack gave a demonstration of Israel’s intelligence and tactical reach, which essentially extend to any Syrian military facility west of the Euphrates River valley.

Israel-Gaza Strip

On 14 July, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip launched rocket and mortar attacks against southern Israel through the day and into the night. The Israel Defense Force spokesman said Israel identified about 60 launches of rockets and mortars from Gaza toward Israeli territory, of which about 10 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

Other Israeli open sources reported 200 projectiles were launched at southern Israel.

As a precaution, the military shut down a popular beach in southern Israel and placed limitations on gatherings of large crowds. Israeli police said four of the Palestinian projectiles caused damage.

Israeli forces responded with the largest air operation since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. A military spokesman said the latest Israeli sortie, the third of the day, struck some 40 Hamas targets including tunnels, logistical centers and a Hamas battalion headquarters.

He said the escalation was the result of the sustained Hamas rocket attacks, its inciting of violence along the border and its campaign of launching incendiary kites and balloons that have burned Israeli farmlands and nature reserves.

Palestinian health officials said that two Palestinian teenagers were killed, and 12 others wounded in the attacks. A father and son reportedly died on the morning of 15 July in a brief surge in the fighting. Three Israeli civilians also reportedly were wounded when a rocket hit a residence. 

The flare-up appears to be in response to an incident at the border fence on the night of 13 July. A Palestinian youth was injured at the fence, but an Israeli deputy battalion commander was moderately wounded by a grenade thrown at him by a Palestinian. 

The overwhelming Israeli air operation began on the morning of the 14th as retaliation and it escalated as the Palestinians returned fire. According to Israeli reporting, Hamas, which is in charge in the Gaza Strip, usually disavows the occasional mortar and rocket attack. This time it admitted responsibility and paid the price. Apparently, Arab states were not paying sufficient attention to the Palestinian problem.

Several points are noteworthy. First is the low number of casualties that resulted from a substantial amount of ordnance being launched. The Israelis targeted carefully, degraded infrastructure and avoided civilian casualties. The Palestinians fired blindly.

The second and most important point is that this flare-up is not a precursor to a major ground war in the Gaza Strip. A quick ceasefire that went into place on July 15, supports that judgment.

A final point is that the Israelis recognize the danger of having to fight on two or three fronts simultaneously—Gaza Strip, southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights. They showed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that a flare-up in the Gaza Strip will be dealt with summarily and harshly to eliminate the threat in the south in the event of a crisis in the north and northeast.