"He Wants To Change The Subject": Trump Advisor On Twitter War With Iran

Tension between the United States and Iran escalated Monday after President Donald Trump appeared to threaten military action in a bellicose tweet and Iranian officials vowed to resist any attempt to destabilize their country.

The president issued his warning in an all-caps, late-night tweet to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, renewing speculation about a direct confrontation between the Trump administration and its chief adversary in the Middle East.

"NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE," Trump told the Iranian leader. ". . . BE CAUTIOUS!"

The president's threat came after Rouhani said earlier Sunday that war with Iran would be "the mother of all wars" and suggested that Tehran might flex its military might in Middle Eastern waterways that are crucial to global commerce.

6luvpeekThe most recent war of words comes several weeks after Trump set aside the concerns of America's closest allies and pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran on May 8, deeming the pact "an embarrassment" (Reuters)

Trump's message exposed the disjointed nature of his administration's strategy on Iran, as officials across the government continue to put economic and political pressure on Tehran despite the president's sudden hint at a military strike.

Despite putting Iran "on notice" in the earliest days of Trump's presidency, U.S. officials have shunned military moves that might bring an unwanted escalation and instead have opposed the international Iran nuclear deal and embraced a growing web of sanctions.

That indirect approach has so far failed to halt Iran's ballistic missile program or check its support for proxy groups across the Middle East.

"There's a huge gap between the objectives that have been laid out and the means the administration has so far been willing to employ," said former envoy Dennis Ross, who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents on the Middle East. "At some point, either you revise the objectives or you embrace new means."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump on Monday afternoon, tweeting that Iran was "UNIMPRESSED" by the president's threat.

"The world heard even harsher bluster a few months ago. And Iranians have heard them -albeit more civilized ones-for 40 yrs. We've been around for millennia," he said.

White House officials said Trump's message to Iranian leaders was in keeping with his tough stance.

"The president's been, I think, pretty strong since Day One in his language towards Iran," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday. "He's going to continue to focus on the safety and security of [the] American people."

National security adviser John Bolton suggested in a statement issued Monday that Trump's tweet might have been planned or at least contemplated for a while.

dq1r962gThe president's threat came after Rouhani said earlier Sunday that war with Iran would be "the mother of all wars" and suggested that Tehran might flex its military might in Middle Eastern waterways that are crucial to global commerce

"I spoke to the president over the last several days, and President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before," said Bolton, who has advocated regime change in Iran in the past.

Trump's tweet followed a familiar pattern: When mired in an especially negative situation, change the subject.

So a week after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was heavily criticized by Democratic and Republican leaders, and after waffling over his faith in U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump took to Twitter to issue an all-caps bulletin to Iran.

"There's nothing going on here except he wants to change the subject," said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.

The adviser noted that Iran's leaders have uttered similar "mother of all wars" taunts over the years and that little has substantively changed in recent days to indicate a real escalation of tensions.

Asked Monday if he had any concerns about stoking tensions with Iran, Trump told reporters, "None at all."

The most recent war of words comes several weeks after Trump set aside the concerns of America's closest allies and pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran on May 8, deeming the pact "an embarrassment."

donald trump kim jong un reutersDonald Trump's tough language and threats appear to mirror his approach to North Korea and the leader he ridiculed last year as "Little Rocket Man." After a string of menacing statements, Trump and leader Kim Jong Un sat down for a high-profile summit in June (File Photo)

Since then, teams of U.S. officials have fanned out across Europe and Asia, warning companies to stop importing Iranian oil and to sever other types of business ties with Iran.

The Trump administration is also seeking to exact new financial costs on Iran, imposing sanctions on top officials and individuals associated with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

A fresh round of sanctions targeting the Iranian automotive industry and key metals will go into effect Aug. 4, the State Department has said. Sanctions targeting Iran's energy and banking sectors are due to be instated Nov. 4.

f8hriqo4Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump on Monday afternoon, tweeting that Iran was "UNIMPRESSED" by the president's threat (AFP)

The United States is also intensifying efforts to reach Iranians directly. Speaking to Iranian Americans in California on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government would expand broadcasts in Farsi and take steps to bypass Internet censorship in Iran.

Mark Dubowitz, who heads the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the administration's harsh rhetoric together with economic measures had yielded some results, including reductions in Iran's ballistic missile tests and harassment of foreign ships.

"What the president is trying to do with this tweet is what he's succeeded in doing in the last year and a half, signaling to the Iranians: 'Don't test me; don't close the Strait of Hormuz; don't interfere with international shipping,' " Dubowitz said. " 'I will order Secretary Mattis to sink your ships.' "

But in the absence of a direct challenge from Tehran, few administration officials have supported pushing back militarily against Iran, even in places where groups trained and armed by Iran have directly challenged U.S. objectives, such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

While the United States has acted several times to halt direct threats against its forces in Syria, Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have consistently opposed risking another costly Middle Eastern conflict as they seek to reorient the military toward threats from Russia and China.

penbji3cSpeaking to Iranian Americans in California on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US government would expand broadcasts in Farsi and take steps to bypass Internet censorship in Iran

Instead, they have advocated an indirect approach to countering Iran's destabilizing activities, building up partner forces in Syria and Iraq and seeking to interdict weapons smuggled to Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Trump's tough language and threats appear to mirror his approach to North Korea and the leader he ridiculed last year as "Little Rocket Man." After a string of menacing statements, Trump and leader Kim Jong Un sat down for a high-profile summit in June.

But Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned that those tactics may not succeed with Iran.

"Iranian officials tend to be more prideful. Unless [supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei is facing significant economic distress and existential angst, I suspect he will avoid negotiations with the United States during the Trump era," he said. "The depth of mutual mistrust and contempt is too great."

Jarrett Blanc, who worked on Iran issues at the State Department during the Obama administration, said Trump's threats did not appear to be connected to a larger plan building a case for war, similar to what occurred with Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003.

"I don't think Donald Trump has decided, in the way George W. Bush and Cheney decided with Iraq, that 'I'm going to go to war, and I'm going to build up this narrative and escalatory spiral to get me there,' " he said.

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  • Published in World

World Refugee Day: End Wars to Halt Refugee Crisis

Until this fact is recognized by EU governments, the flow of refugees will continue, raising political tension and contributing to the tragic loss of lives of innocent people, whose only hope is merely to survive.

Europe is facing the most significant refugee crisis since World War II. All attempts at resolving the issue have failed, mostly because they have ignored the root causes of the problem.

RELATED: LGBT Refugees, Undocumented More Vulnerable Under Trump

On June 11, Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, blocked the Aquarius rescue ship, carrying 629 refugees and economic migrants, from docking at its ports.

A statement by Doctors without Borders (MSF) stated that the boat was carrying 123 unaccompanied minors and seven pregnant women.

"From now on, Italy begins to say NO to the traffic of human beings, NO to the business of illegal immigration," said Salvini, who also heads the far-right League Party.

The number of refugees was repeated in news broadcasts time and again, as a mere statistic. In reality, it is 629 precious lives at stake, each with a compelling reason why she/he has undertaken the deadly journey.

While the cruelty of refusing entry to a boat laden with desperate refugees is obvious, it has to be viewed within a larger narrative pertaining to the rapidly changing political landscape in Europe and the crises under way in the Middle East and North Africa.

Italy's new government, a coalition of the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement and the far-right League party, seems intent on stopping the flow of refugees into the country, as promised on the campaign trail. 

However, if politicians continue to ignore the root causes of the problem, the refugee crisis will not go away on its own.

RELATED: Refugees and the Crime Against Peace

The disturbing truth is this: Europe is accountable for much of the mayhem under way in the Middle East. Right-wing pundits may wish to omit that part of the debate altogether, but facts will not simply disappear when ignored.

European politicians should honestly confront the question: what are the reasons that lead millions of people to leave their homes? And fashion equally honest and humane solutions.

In 2017, an uprising-turned-civil-war in Syria led to the exodus of millions of Syrian refugees.

Ahmed is a 55-year old Syrian refugee, who fled the country with his wife and two children. His reason for leaving was no other than the grinding, deadly war.

He told the U.N. Refugees Agency: “I was born in Homs and I wanted to live there until the end, but this vicious war left us no other choice but to leave all behind. For the sake of my children’s future we had to take the risk.”

"I had to pay the smuggler eight thousand U.S. dollars for each member of my family. I’ve never done anything illegal in my whole life, but there was no other solution.”

RELATED: The Refugee Crisis in the Americas

Saving his family meant breaking the rules; millions would do the same thing if confronted with the same grim dilemma. In fact, millions have.

African immigrants are often blamed for ‘taking advantage’ of the porous Libyan coastline to ‘sneak’ into Europe. Yet, many of those refugees had lived peacefully in Libya and were forced to flee following the NATO-led war on that country in March 2011.

“I’m originally from Nigeria and I had been living in Libya for five years when the war broke out,” wrote Hakim Bello in the Guardian.

“I had a good life: I was working as a tailor and I earned enough to send money home to loved ones. But after the fighting started, people like us – black people – became very vulnerable. If you went out for something to eat, a gang would stop you and ask if you supported them. They might be rebels, they might be government, you didn’t know.”

The security mayhem in Libya led not only to the persecution of many Libyans, but also millions of African workers, like Bello, as well. Many of those workers could neither go home nor stay in Libya. They, too, joined the dangerous mass escapes to Europe.

War-torn Afghanistan has served as the tragic model of the same story.

Ajmal Sadiqi escaped Afghanistan, which has been in a constant state of war for many years, a war that took a much deadlier turn since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Sadiqi told CNN that the vast majority of those who joined him on his journey from Afghanistan, through other countries to Turkey, Greece and other EU countries, died along the way. But, like many in his situation, he had few alternatives.

"Afghanistan has been at war for 50 years and things are never going to change," he said.

"Here, I have nothing, but I feel safe. I can walk on the street without being afraid."

Alas, that sense of safety is, perhaps, temporary. Many in Europe are refusing to examine their own responsibility in creating or feeding conflicts around the world, while perceiving the refugees as a threat.

Despite the obvious correlation between western-sustained wars and the EU’s refugee crisis, no moral awakening is yet to be realized. Worse still, France and Italy are now involved in exploiting the current warring factions in Libya for their own interests.

Syria is not an entirely different story. There, too, the EU is hardly innocent.

The Syria war has resulted in a massive influx of refugees, most of whom are hosted by neighboring Middle Eastern countries, but many have sailed the sea to seek safety in Europe.

RELATED: Families Under Siege: The Hidden Costs of the Refugee Crisis

“All of Europe has a responsibility to stop people from drowning. It’s partly due to their actions in Africa that people have had to leave their homes,” said Bello.

“Countries such as Britain, France, Belgium and Germany think they are far away and not responsible, but they all took part in colonizing Africa. NATO took part in the war in Libya. They’re all part of the problem.”

Expectedly, Italy’s Salvini and other like-minded politicians refuse to frame the crisis that way.

They use whichever discourse needed to guarantee votes, while ignoring the obvious fact that, without military interventions, economic exploitation and political meddling, a refugee crisis - at least one of this magnitude - could exist in the first place.

Until this fact is recognized by EU governments, the flow of refugees will continue, raising political tension and contributing to the tragic loss of lives of innocent people, whose only hope is merely to survive.

(Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer contributed to this article.)

- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.  

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NATO was never a defensive alliance, and its behavior since 1991 shows it

Throughout the Cold War, NATO was advertised as a defensive alliance. That was not really the case then, and certainly hasn’t been since, with NATO engaging in interventions and regime change from Bosnia to Libya.

Though the alliance’s founding document was signed in April 1949, it wasn’t until a year later that the foreign ministers of the 12 member countries sat down in London to give shape to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. On May 18, 1950, led by US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, they signed a communique establishing the permanent structures of NATO.

“This business of building for peace is a very grim business, and it has to be worked for day in and day out,” British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin said after the meeting.

How much NATO was really into “building peace” became clear in 1954, after the death of Stalin, when the Soviet Union’s new leader Nikita Khrushchev asked to join the alliance. Not only did NATO say no, the alliance invited West Germany to join. The date chosen for the occasion was symbolic: May 9, the tenth anniversary of Nazi capitulation in the Second World War.

@starsandstripes Security experts say Germany's military is virtually undeployable. For example, none of its submarines are operational and only four of its 128 Eurofighter jets are combat-ready. https://www.stripes.com/news/as-germany-prepares-for-nato-crisis-response-role-its-military-readiness-is-abysmal-1.527253 

The USSR saw this as an open provocation, and responded by establishing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, also known as the Warsaw Pact.

After the Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991, NATO not only remained in existence but expanded its membership and mission, usurping the role of the UN by openly intervening in Yugoslavia. The alliance’s first military action was in Bosnia (1994-95), followed by an all-out war against the remnant Yugoslavia (1999) and the subsequent occupation of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

 
© Reuters

NATO has also taken part in the US war in Afghanistan since 2001. The alliance did not officially join the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, though many members chose to join George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing.”

The most overt NATO military action since 1999 was the 2011 intervention in Libya. It unfolded in much the same fashion as the mission creep in Bosnia, only much faster. Within hours of the UN Security Council authorizing the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya on March 19, the US, France, UK and Canada began airstrikes.

NATO officially took over the war on March 31, flying 26,500 sorties during Operation Unified Protector until the death of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi in October.

Drive to the East

Though US Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “not one inch eastward” if Germany reunified, the alliance did just that. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were officially admitted into NATO even as alliance warplanes were bombing Yugoslavia in April 1999.

Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia joined in 2002. The last former Warsaw Pact country, Albania, joined in 2009. The alliance has also expanded to include the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, as well as the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, bringing NATO to Russia’s doorstep.

As if that wasn’t enough, NATO pushed further, into Georgia and Ukraine. Believing NATO had his back, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili attacked Russian peacekeepers in the disputed region of South Ossetia in 2008. His NATO-trained military was disarmed in six days. NATO has continued to flirt with Georgia since, though the current government in Tbilisi doesn’t appear eager for another war with Russia.

@NATO_MARCO Four NATO ships conducting a port call in Poti, Georgia  https://civil.ge/archives/241621

The phantom menace

The most recent escalation of tensions with Russia began in 2014, after the US-backed regime that took over Ukraine in a February 2014 coup. Alliance troops have since set up bases in the far west of the country, and have been providing weapons, supplies and training to Kiev’s military and neo-Nazi militias to “counter Russian aggression.”

Under the guise of “deterring Russia,” NATO has also established permanent military bases in the Baltic States, Romania and Poland, and conducted a series of massive military drills right on the Russian border. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has condemned the troop buildup, saying in February that Washington is using an “imaginary Russian threat” to ensure its dominance in Europe.

The alliance’s first secretary general (1952-57), Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, reportedly once said NATO’s purpose was to “keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.”

NATO’s behavior since the 1990s shows not only that it has become an aggressive, expansionist body, but one serving the foreign policy priorities of the US first and foremost. With Europe now contemplating breaking from Washington over Iran, its leaders would do well to keep Ismay’s words in mind.

@Ruptly Tusk on Trump: 'friends like that, who needs enemies?'

 
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Putin: New US national security strategy is offensive & aggressive, Russia must take note

Washington's new national security strategy is "aggressive," Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, adding that Moscow will take the US stance into consideration.

Both the US and NATO have been "accelerating build-up of infrastructure in Europe," the Russian leader said Friday. Referring to the "defense strategy recently put out" by Washington, Putin said it was "definitely offensive... speaking in diplomatic language."

 
US tanks arrive at an air base in Romania

"And if we switch to military language, then its character is definitely aggressive," the president added, speaking at a Russian Defense Ministry meeting.

With NATO's build-up in Europe, the US has violated the 1987 treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, Putin pointed out.

"Formally," America's missile-defense launchers now based in Poland are meant to counter threats, he said. "The point is, and specialists know about it very well, those launchers are all-purpose. They can also be used with existing sea-launched cruise missiles with the flight range of up to 2,500 km [1,550 miles]. And in this case, these missiles are no longer sea-launched missiles, they can be easily moved to land," Putin added.

Russia's Defense Ministry "should take into account" Western military strategies, Putin said, adding that "Russia has a sovereign right and all possibilities to adequately and in due time react to such potential threats."

READ MORE: US to spend $214mn on Europe air bases on pretext of 'Russian aggression'

There are efforts to disrupt strategic parity through deployment of global anti-missile defense system and other strike systems "equatable to nuclear weapons," the Russian leader told military officials. At the moment, Russia's strategic nuclear forces are a reliable deterrent to such a military build-up, he added. However, it is necessary to develop them further, Putin said. "I'm talking about missile systems fit to steadily counter not only existing, but also future ABMs."

  • Published in World

2017 ‘didn’t look good’ but 2018 will bring more wars, famine & extremism – NGO

Violence and pockets of fighting in Syria and Iraq, near-famine in Yemen, and Islamic extremists steadily gaining ground in Afghanistan will make humanitarian crises around the world much worse next year than they were in 2017, an NGO predicts.

The ‘Humanitarian Overview: An Analysis of Key Crises into 2018’ by Geneva-based think tank ACAPS looks at major trends that will shape the face of the world next year. It specifically focuses on countries going through deteriorating or ongoing crises, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen, Venezuela, among others.

 
Internally displaced people wait to collect food aid, Somalia. File photo. © Ismail Taxta

Aross these countries, food security, displacement, health, and protection are expected to be the most pressing humanitarian needs in 2018,” the researchers said. “Most humanitarian crises in this report are driven by conflict, with a spread in violence and shifts in tactics this year in several countries.

“If 2017 did not look good, predictions for 2018 are no better: violence and insecurity are likely to deteriorate in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and Syria next year,” ACAPS Director Lars Peter Nissen wrote in the report.

Islamic extremism will also continue to cause violence and conflict in various hotspots across the globe, the study said. In Afghanistan, where there is no let-up in 16-year war against the Taliban, “the security situation is likely to continue to deteriorate in 2018 leading to greater health, food security, and protection needs.”

The Islamic group is gaining ground over rural areas, particularly in the north and south of the country, as well as in territories used for opium poppy cultivation, which rose by 67 percent compared to 2016, with the production of opium rising by 87 percent.

Despite the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in its main redoubts in Iraq, the terrorist group is expected to continue fighting against the government, “shifting toward the use of non-traditional conflict strategies and improvised attacks.”

In neighboring Syria, there will be pockets of insecurity, especially in Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, and Deir-ez-Zor provinces, the study predicts. The report noted that “the Astana agreements [brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran] over de-escalation zones have been a major political development in 2017, contributing to the perception of an improving security situation in Syria.”

@ACAPSproject The #HumanitarianOverview2018 report is now out: an analysis of key crises into 2018 with likely developments and corresponding #humanitarian needs. Download it here: http://humanitarianoverview.acaps.org and please share it!

Next year is likely to be “decisive for the Syria conflict,” as any real or perceived progress in establishing de-escalation zones would change perceptions of the conflict. “This would likely affect third country policies on refugees, and potentially prompt more spontaneous returns,” ACASP said.

In Yemen, ravaged by civil war and the Saudi-led intervention, “civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting.” ACASP says that over 3.3 million Yemenis have been displaced since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, and 17 million people are estimated to be food-insecure. The conflict has also prompted aid agencies to fight “one of the worst cholera outbreaks in history affecting more than 910,000 people.”

Despite all efforts, the cholera outbreak is likely to continue due to lack of infrastructure and health systems. “Continuation of the import blockade is likely to deteriorate the situation even further,” it said, adding, “food insecurity is likely to get worse, and most conflict affected areas, particularly the south and west coast, are likely to fall into famine if food access does not improve.”

 
  • Published in World

Threat to the world

Trump is testing all kinds of experimental actions in an attempt to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, not to mention the likely catastrophic consequences of this.

In an unspoken argument, nonagenarian and brilliant US expert Noam Chomsky affirmed, a few months before the presidential elections of his country, that if Donald Trump were elected, the world would be more than ever led to a Third World War.

The chauvinistic interests of great power that sponsored the assumption of the controversial personage have been willing to play until the last card to take U.S. to the top of the world dominion, even to the detriment of its allies, no matter the consequences that derive from this.

Thus, in a double standard policy, he says he hopes to foster a dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but torpedoes any action that would lead to a detente in the peninsula.

The policy of sanctions and perennial threat of aggression have failed with a small nation, but with a great scientific development that has allowed it to have the nuclear weapon and the continuation of a program that, although it is not broadly known, will try to take North Korean spaceships to space, even to the Moon.

Both Russia and China have opposed the continuous punishment of Pyongyang from an international policy aggravated by the stubbornness of an empire that does not want to acknowledge that a small country be willing to face its power.

Thus, United States, I mean Trump, is testing all kinds of experimental actions trying to destroy that socialist nation, no matter the likely catastrophic consequences that could derive from this, even the damage to China and Russia, which have stated they won’t stand idly by and do nothing before such aggressive US action.

In this context, a few hours ago, the president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of the Russian Federation, Konstantín Kosachev, denounced Washington’s war rhetoric against Pyongyang, stressed that Moscow would not allow U.S. to carry out experiments near its borders, and warned that Democratic Korea would not stand idly by before a possible military aggression from United States and its allies, which would be “very bad” for the entire world.

“The North Korean leaders will do everything possible to protect themselves from a foreign interference”. Should Pyongyang makes use of “the possibilities it has”, all this would end very badly, not only for the region, but for the entire world as well, including U.S., he reiterated.

The Russian official considers that Washington feels “somewhat more comfortable” in the crisis on the Korean peninsula, because it is at a “significant geographical distance”, so it can “afford to conduct experiments”, but Russia, which shares borders with the Korean peninsula, cannot allow U.S. and other countries that occupy radical positions here, experiment with North Korea in this way”.

In his opinion, Washington and its allies are largely responsible for the rise in the Korean crisis, which solution is definitely not military, and added that as long as U.S. and other countries remain “openly talking about the possibility of an intervention and overthrow of the regime that exists” in North Korea, Pyongyang “will continue developing its nuclear program”.

USELESS SANCTIONS

The crisis on the Korean peninsula was approached last week at UN Security Council, where Russia remarked again its opposition to new sanctions against Democratic Korea and that a military option was inadmissible, in response to the United States, which had announced it would present a resolution in that extent.

China joined Russian statements, claiming that military means are not an option before the DPRK, and “it has always firmly opposed chaos and conflict on the Korean peninsula. From that point of view, military response should not be an option”.

Pyongyang, for its part, has dismissed Washington’s threats, as well as the international pressures and sanctions against it, claiming that the more blockades it receives from the United States and its allies, the faster it will advance in its nuclear program.

Likewise, Moscow-based news agency Sputnik reported that Russia showed U.S. the red line regarding Democratic Korea, at the same time that another Moscow outlet, Nerzavisimaya Gazeta, considered that the military might of its country would not allow Donald Trump “to cross the nuclear threshold and begin a war against North Korea”.

In that context, in a comment from US news agency AP, it is inferred the imminence of an attack against Pyongyang, and it recalls that one of the main questions in the global political scenario is whether Donald Trump will repeat in North Korea the actions of former American President Harry Truman, who made the infamous decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945.

On the other hand, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, pointed out during the Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, that many people have termed the use of military options (against North Korea) “unimaginable”.

"I would probably change that statement a bit and say it would be horrible and it would cause (a large number) of deaths we have never seen in our lives. What I mean is that anyone born after World War II has never seen a loss of lives as big as the one that could happen, if a conflict on the Korean peninsula starts”, he assured.

But despite admitting how horrible a war is, the top officer stated the possibility that there are very few options to avoid the beginning of a nuclear conflict.

THE MOST VALID OPTION

Sputnik also brings up the road map presented by Moscow to de-escalate the conflict, plan that foresees the reduction of mutual and gradual threats and acts of provocations between both parties to strengthen peace in the region.

According to Igor Morgulov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, the initiative has been developed “in coordination with China, a nation concerned about the events on the Korean peninsula”. In addition, the peaceful solution of tensions is also backed up by Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea, since a nuclear conflict in the Korean peninsula would affect the South Korean population too.

This denies those claims from American military that Russia was not going to interfere in an aggression against North Korea, because the zone of radioactive contamination would not reach U.S., but both Koreas, Japan, and large areas of China and Russia’s Far East.

And if Washington thinks that Beijing and Moscow will swallow a nuclear cloud in silence, that’s probably a big mistake for Trump, as it has been confirmed by Russian analysts, who consider that “If Washington were certain that Beijing and especially Moscow would remain neutral” in case of an attack of the American country against North Korea, then the country of Kim Jong-un would have ceased to exist for a long time".

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

‘It is up to US to avert catastrophe of 'declared war' on North Korea’

It is unprecedented at the UN that the president of the US threatened to murder 25 million people in the small country of North Korea; now it is up to the US to prevent a catastrophe, says Korea Peace Network member Dr. Simone Chun.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho claimed Donald Trump “declared war on Pyongyang” after making inflammatory comments on Twitter.

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he told reporters in New York on Monday.

READ MORE: ‘US declared war first’: N. Korea says it has right to shoot down strategic bombers

RT: Do you think North Korea genuinely believes President Trump has declared war on their country or is it some kind of a deliberate overstatement?

 
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump. © Carlos Barria

Dr. Simone Chun: This is the first time that a president of the US, the most powerful leader in the free world, declared a war and basically threatened to murder 25 million people in a small country such as North Korea. It is unprecedented, especially at the UN… When any leader or country is threatened, they have two options – to surrender or to resist. The North Korean response is standard and understandable: they said they are going to defend their country. There is nothing unusual. But I think the most important thing that we have to remember is that American public opinion, close to 70 percent, both Republicans and Democrats oppose any preemptive strike against North Korea. This is very strong condemnation and criticism of Donald Trump’s persistent threat to North Korea. We should really emphasize this. North Korea [gave] a standard and legitimate response.

RT: North Korea says their largest ever hydrogen bomb could be tested over the Pacific as a response to the US. Do you think that could actually happen?

SC: I don’t think it will happen if the US agreed or accepted the proposal that is on the table; the “double freeze” supported by China and Russia. I think there is still room for diplomatic solutions. I think North Korea will be willing to accept that…The US has been very… resistant to accept the proposal. Donald Trump, when he was running for president said he was willing to implement a new policy, he criticized Obama’s hard-line policy and even proposed “hamburger diplomacy” with North Korea. Tomorrow, if President Trump agrees and supports the proposal that China, Russia, and many other leaders support, I think we could avoid this catastrophic, disastrous outcome. It is up to the US to prevent and avert catastrophic consequences.

‘People try to move money away from risky assets in case of unfortunate escalation’

RT: How serious, do you think, is this latest statement from North Korea?

 
© Yuriko Nakao 
Craig Erlam: It just shows the tensions are escalating. We go a few days without hearing any comments on the issue. We hope that it is starting to fade away; we hope that tensions are starting to de-escalate. But inevitably we just keep getting fresh comments either from North Korea or from Donald Trump himself. We could see from the market’s reaction today that they are still far from immune to this commentary because of what it could potentially lead to. Thankfully, it hasn’t yet gone any further. So far, we have missile tests and military drills from the US and South Korea, for example. But fortunately, it hasn’t escalated any further. The concern today is the use of the rhetoric “declared war” is worrying people a lot. Hopefully, it will start to get defused. The problem is when you look at both sides, who is going to back down first in this war of words and I don’t see either side showing any willingness to do so.

RT: People seem to think this is just rhetoric at the moment. There is always a risk of miscalculation, isn’t there?

CE: Absolutely. And this is one of the things with the market. The markets are always going to respond carefully, but they are also going to respond early because if you got your money in the market, the longer it takes you to respond to the threat, the more money you stand to potentially lose. People do tend toward caution. That is what we’ve seen [hours after the announcement by North Korea]. We saw money moving away from the risky assets or pulling out of equities. Not on a huge level but on a minor level, moving into typically safe haven assets... Again, people are just moving their money toward safety because if anything does unfortunately and surprisingly escalate, then you would expect to see these safer haven assets, such as gold, benefit in the short term.

  • Published in World

New Investigation Exposes US Support for 2009 Honduras Coup

U.S. officials were more concerned with maintaining military power in Honduras than overturning the coup, the investigation reveals.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CEPR, reveals key details involving U.S. officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

RELATED: Honduran General Election Campaigning Kicks Off

The investigation, published by The Intercept, was based on military intelligence documents and interviews with Honduran and U.S. officials. It focuses on the Pentagon and the United States Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, and their interests in ensuring the success of the coup against Zelaya by the country's military.

Here’s what CEPR found:

- A top U.S. military official met with Honduran coup plotters a day prior to the coup, demonstrating that they knew about the forthcoming ouster. 
- A Honduran military official’s warning to the U.S. ambassador was met with “indifference.”
- A retired U.S. general provided assistance to Honduran military leaders advocating for the coup, according to interviewed sources, confirming previous allegations.
- U.S. military officials were guided by an “obsessive concern” with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region as opposed to domestic Honduran issues. 

Overall, what the investigation demonstrates is that the Pentagon's main interest was to maintain close relations with close Honduran military allies, rather than overturning the coup.

“This is a story that reveals much about how foreign policy works in general, not just in Honduras,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston said in a statement.

“The investigation shows the often hidden roles that various actors within the U.S. foreign policy establishment play in determining and carrying out policy. What’s clear is that personal relationships matter just as much as any official policy position announced in Washington.”

RELATED: Honduras Marks 8 Years Since US-Backed Coup Against Zelaya

Prior to his removal, Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding, nationwide poll on whether to include a fourth ballot box in the forthcoming elections to usher in a National Constituent Assembly for the rewriting of the country’s constitution. The effort was intended to democratize the country’s laws, which have traditionally favored the Honduran elite. 

Zelaya had also begun forging ties with progressive Latin American governments — like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia — while joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.

On June 28, 2009, high ranking army officials received orders issued by the Supreme Court to detain Zelaya and transferred him, by force, to Costa Rica.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that plunged into rampant violence following the coup. Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

  • Published in World
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