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21-Aug-18 World View -- ISIS claims credit for coordinated attacks across Russia's Chechnya region

Brief generational history of Chechnya

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS claims credit for coordinated attacks across Russia's Chechnya region


Grozny, Chechnya, after massive slaughter and destruction by Russians in 1999
Grozny, Chechnya, after massive slaughter and destruction by Russians in 1999

ISIS is taking credit for a series of coordinated terror attacks on security forces in several suburbs of Grozny, the capital city of Russia's autonomous republic of Chechnya.

In one incident, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a police station, injuring several policemen. The attacker survived and was hospitalized.

In another incident, two men with knives entered a district police department and wounded two policemen and a female bystander with knives. The two assailants were shot dead.

In another incident, two assailants tried to blow up a truck loaded with gas canisters in a suicide mission, but the vehicle failed to explode. The two were shot dead by police.

In yet another incident, an attacker was allegedly shot dead after hitting a traffic policeman with his car. There were also reports of a shoot-out between police officers and attackers in the street, killing one officer.

All of the assailants were teenagers, aged 11-17. Five were shot dead.

Amaq, the public relations agency for the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed credit for the coordinated attack. ISIS frequently claims credit for terror attacks in which it didn't participate, and that appears to be true in this case. However, executing several coordinated attacks at separate locations requires a moderate amount of sophistication, and since the terrorists were all teens, they might have had help from someone.

Chechnya is one of Russia's provinces in the North Caucasus region, which is largely populated by Muslims. Xenophobic tensions between the Christian Orthodox ethnic Russians and the Muslim Caucasians have been growing in recent years.

Ramzan Kadyrov is president of Chechnya. He's bloody and brutal, and will use any means necessary to keep the region stable, and he is also extremely loyal to Russia's president Vladimir Putin. International human rights groups, however, have accused Kadyrov of rampant rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings by his feared security forces.

Kadyrov played down the importance of the terror attacks on Monday, said that extremist propaganda that "confuses the young men" was to blame for the assaults. He said the attacks were staged to "darken" the festivities as Muslims celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday. Tass (Moscow) and RFE/RL and Al Jazeera and AP

Brief generational history of Chechnya

The fact that Monday's coordinated terror attacks were perpetrated by teenagers aged 11-17 is a lot more significant than Chechnya's president Ramzan Kadyrov is saying.

But first, let's briefly look at the terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were ethnic Chechens (from Chechnya), but they were born in Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. What were ethnic Chechens doing in Kyrgyzstan?

Chechnya and Russia had fought numerous wars for centuries, but Russia's dictator Josef Stalin finally decided to adopt a "final solution." In 1944, there was a mass deportation of ethnic Chechens, forced to move from Chechnya to Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan. It was apparently this forced deportation that radicalized the Tsarnaev brothers, and caused them to carry out the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

In August 1957, six years ago this month, ethnic Russians living in Chechnya revolted against the authorities when Moscow allowed the Chechens who had been deported from there in 1944 to return and take back property and power that had passed from that ethnic community to Russians the authorities had moved in to occupy the territory. Of course, the returning Chechens found that their former homes were occupied by ethnic Russians.

Going back to the 1990s, there were two major "Chechen wars" between Russian forces and Chechen separatists. In December 1994, the Russian army was sent into the capital city Grozny to take care of some protesters. They expected the operation to take no more than a day or two. Instead, the Russian army forces were ambushed by Chechen separatist forces. A bloody battle ensued that lasted into February, and although the Russian forces finally won, it was extremely humiliating for the Russians, since tens of thousands of combatants and civilians were killed before it ended.

Russian troops got their revenge in 1999, when they had to respond to a new insurgency of pro-separatist activists. In Russia's 1990s war Chechnya, Russian warplanes bombed schools and hospitals in order to create a refugee crisis, and to empty the urban residential areas. Once that was achieved, heavy weapons could be deployed to eradicate opposing forces, entailing widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure.

This is the same strategy, known as the "Grozny Model," that Putin and Syria's president Bashar al-Assad have been using in Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa and other Syrian battlegrounds, although al-Assad is speeding up the creation and slaughter of refugees by using chemical weapons, including Sarin gas and chlorine gas.

So Monday's terrorist attackers are all teenagers, aged 11-17. Ramzan Kadyrov played down the attack, saying that the attackers were "confused young men," but that's far from the truth. This is a new up-and-coming generation of kids growing up after the Grozny mass slaughter in 1999.

In fact, authorities reportedly identified the 17-year-old attacker as Ali Akhmatkhanov -- a younger brother of Khizir Akhmatkhanov, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his involvement in a terrorist attack in the Chechen city of Gudermes in 2001.

So this is not a generation of confused kids. This is a generation of kids is looking for revenge. It would not be surprising to see more terrorist acts by Chechens in the months to come. Eurasia Review and Global Security and Rand Corp.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Aug-18 World View -- ISIS claims credit for coordinated attacks across Russia's Chechnya region thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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20-Aug-18 World View -- Afghanistan's president Ghani announces ceasefire with Taliban

Taliban says no peace in Afghanistan until foreign 'occupation' withdraws

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Afghanistan's president Ghani announces ceasefire with Taliban


Afghan security forces stand guard in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2018. (EPA)
Afghan security forces stand guard in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Aug. 15, 2018. (EPA)

Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, gave an Independence Day speech on Sunday announcing a ceasefire with the Taliban, on the condition that the Taliban also announce a ceasefire.

The ceasefire is to begin on Monday, the first day of the Eid holiday, and is to end on November 19, which is Mohammed's birthday.

"As we approach Eid-ul-Adha, and to respect the wishes of different segments of Afghan society including religious scholars, political parties, politicians, women and civil society leaders, youth and members of high peace council in all 34 provinces, and to respect the wishes of the religious scholars of the Islamic world that were gathered in the holy mosques and to respect the wishes of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the custodians of the two-holy mosques, the King of Saudi Arabia, we announce a ceasefire that would take effect from tomorrow, Monday, the day of Arafa, till the day of the birth of the prophet (PBUH) i.e., Milad-un-Nabi, provided that the Taliban reciprocate."

President Ghani further added that peace is one of the main demands of the nation. He said it would not be acceptable that there would be ceasefire in part of the country while that conflict would continue in its other parts.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement approving of the ceasefire, and saying "It is time for peace":

"The United States welcomes the announcement by the Afghan government of a ceasefire conditioned on Taliban participation. This plan responds to the clear and continued call of the Afghan people for peace....

There are no obstacles to talks. It is time for peace."

Pakistan's Foreign Office issued a statement saying: "Pakistan fully supports all such efforts that contribute to achieving durable stability and lasting peace in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan deserve it."

It sounds like peace for our time. I hope everyone in Afghanistan can now go home and get a nice quiet sleep. Khaama News (Afghanistan) and Reuters and Dawn (Pakistan)

Taliban says no peace in Afghanistan until foreign 'occupation' withdraws

This was the week that the Taliban surprised government forces and captured the strategic town of Ghazni long before the Afghan army could react. It took almost a whole week to recapture the town, and that was possible only because they were supported by US warplanes that conducted dozens of airstrikes.

Even today, Ghazni is still unsafe, with the roads peppered with unexploded IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and mines.

The Taliban conducted numerous other operations across the country in the last week alone. This is the middle of the annual Taliban fighting season, and the Taliban are in the ascendant, and so it's very unlikely that the Taliban will agree to a three month ceasefire.

The Taliban have said for years that they will never negotiate with the "corrupt regime" -- the Afghan government. They are demanding negotiations with the American military, with the objective of the negotiations to be the full withdrawal of the "occupying forces" -- the US and Nato forces.

On Saturday, just hours before Ghani announced the supposed ceasefire with the Taliban, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada issued a statement repeating all their demands:

"Afghan Mujahid Nation! This year's [Eid holiday] approaches us as our Jihadi struggle against the American occupation is on the threshold of victory due to the help of Allah Almighty. The infidel invading forces have lost all will of combat, their strategy has failed, advanced technology and military equipment rendered useless, sedition and corruption-sowing group defeated and the arrogant American generals have been compelled to bow to the Jihadic greatness of the Afghan nation...

Bringing peace and security is from among the highest priorities of the Islamic Emirate, but peace will remain elusive during an occupation and neither is salvation possible without the establishment of an Islamic authority....

This war that is has been called the longest, costliest and most futile war in American history, plunged the entire region and the world including Afghanistan into insecurity and chaos.

A war that has cost Americans loss of security, prestige and mental wellbeing globally and even inside America itself...

But the Islamic Emirate continues to call America towards understanding and sound logic instead of force and points them towards options that can guarantee the secession and end of this long war, and that lone option is to end the occupation of Afghanistan and nothing more....

The regime based in Kabul and forced upon the Afghan people at the expense of huge American military, financial and human loss has disappointed American officials and they have lost all trust in the regime due to corruption, incompetency, impotence and failure.

The leadership of this corrupt regime has been given to a figure who has spent all his time in power squabbling with officials of his government, battling his chief executive, battling his deputies, battling his cabinet and even battling his governors....

Even now if they show readiness for direct dialogue with the Islamic Emirate by accepting the ground realities of Afghanistan, we will view it as a sound step by America.

Sincere, transparent and result-oriented negotiations are an important part of our policy, But negotiations must be sincere and productive free from any fraud and deception and must revolve around the core issue and not be used for propaganda or misleading the common thinking."

The statement goes on to give additional demands for negotiations with the Americans, and for American withdrawal.

Each time I write an article about the Afghan war, it seems more and more like a Gothic fantasy. Ghani's statement and Akhundzada's are so completely out of touch with one another, that it seems clear that they can only be play-acting. Pompeo's statement that "It's time for peace" seems even more surreal. And the statement from Pakistan's foreign office seems to be mocking and making fun of all of them. Ghani and Pompeo are not stupid men, so there's no chance that they believe anything they're saying.

And we haven't even mentioned ISIS-K, the Afghanistan branch of ISIS, which is not included in the supposed ceasefire.

As I've said, the only thing that makes sense is the larger strategy for the region. If America withdraws, it would destabilize the region, and would be a political disaster for the American administration. The larger picture is that Donald Trump and the military understand that this war cannot be won, but they also understand that war with China and Pakistan is approaching. As war with China and Pakistan approaches, president Trump wants to keep American troops active in Afghanistan, and to continue to maintain several American military bases in Afghanistan, including two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar International Airport. These bases will be valuable in any future war with China. Under these circumstances, having troops in Afghanistan is what matters, whether the Taliban are defeated or not. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Long War Journal and Long War Journal

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Aug-18 World View -- Afghanistan's president Ghani announces ceasefire with Taliban thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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19-Aug-18 World View -- Socialist Venezuela introduces new fantasy currency and new Socialist changes

Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that capitalism has not always existed

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Socialist Venezuela introduces new fantasy currency and new Socialist changes


Maduro holds a new sovereign bolivar note (Reuters)
Maduro holds a new sovereign bolivar note (Reuters)

Venezuela's Socialist president Nicolás Maduro announced a bizarre set of new economic regulations to try to reverse the economic destruction he's inflicted for years. In his Friday night speech he said:

"I want the country to recover and I have the formula. Trust me."

The first part of his "trust me" formula was to devalue the bolivar currency by 96%, and then introduce a new currency, the Bolivar Soberano ("sovereign bolivar") which is pegged to a pseudo-bitcoin-like crypto-currency called the "petro," which is pegged to the price of oil, where oil is produced by Venezuela's collapsing oil industry.

The second part of the formula is that the minimum wage will be increased by 3000%. This means that many business owners will have to lay off employees, substantially increasing unemployment in the country.

The third part of the formula is to increase the corporate tax rate. Businesses that survive the minimum wage increase many not survive higher taxes.

The fourth part of the formula is to remove the subsidy on gasoline. Businesses that depend on transportation costs to receive or deliver goods will be hit hard. Millions of workers who have been buying gasoline at subsidized rates will be hit hard as well. But this is necessary, says Maduro, to prevent fuel smuggling. There will also be new taxes on luxury goods.

Socialist Venezuela's inflation rate is above 40,000%, and the IMF predicts that it will reach one million percent this near. The only way to stop inflation is to produce more goods. If the people need two million loaves of bread to avoid starvation, and if the country's bakeries only produce one million loaves, then one million people will go without bread, irrespective of what currency is being used. Furthermore the price of bread will soar, irrespective of what currency is being used. That's not rocket science. That Economics 1.01. The fact that Maduro and other Socialist politicians in other countries are unable to grasp that simple fact shows how incredibly stupid they are. And the results speak for themselves.

Venezuela's Socialist economy is destroying not only Venezuela, but the entire region, as more than a million migrants have fled starvation and violence in Venezuela and crossed the border into Colombia.

From there, many have continued on, planning to live in Ecuador or Peru. But Ecuador, which has been receiving 4,000 new migrants every day, crossing the border from Colombia, has closed the border, and says that no more Venezuelans will be admitted unless they have a passport. Peru has announced a similar measure to take effect next week.

Socialist Venezuela is becoming one of the top three economic hyperinflation disasters of the last century, along with Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, and 1920s Germany under the Weimar Republic. CNBC and Independent (London) and Reuters

Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that capitalism has not always existed


Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Wonder girl Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new face of the left, apparently thinks that capitalism has just been invented. Here's what she said in an interview:

"Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world."

So let's be clear. Tens of thousands of years ago, when the first cavemen formed a community and started bartering with each other for products and services -- "You make me a wheel, and I'll kill a deer in exchange" -- that was a free capitalist market. So Ocasio-Cortez is an idiot.

There's also a lot of nonsense these days about Sweden and Norway being Socialist countries. No they aren't. They're capitalist countries. Maybe the government pays for some services, like doctors and education, but that's also partially true in the United States, with Medicaid and school scholarships.

Let's review. As I've written many times in the past, Socialism is mathematically impossible as population grows. Socialism may work OK when you have a feudal society of a few hundred people, but the number of regulators grows exponentially faster than the population grows, so by the time you get to, say, a million people, everyone would have to be a regulator. So the Socialist system collapses.

Furthermore, Socialism is much worse than Nazism. Nazism killed tens of millions of people in the last century, but Socialism killed hundreds of millions. There is literally nothing worse than Socialism.

Somebody should tell Ocasio-Cortez that it's Socialism that hasn't been around forever. It was invented in 1848 by Karl Marx, and it's been a disastrous failure every time it's been tried, for the reasons I just gave. Whether Ocasio-Cortez likes it or not (and I'm sure she doesn't), it's mathematically provable that Socialism will always fail.

That's why countries like Cuba, Russia, China, East Germany, Norway, Sweden and others that have tried Socialism have been forced to end it and return to free markets, and a great deal of capitalism.

The only two mostly Socialist countries that I'm aware of in the world today are Venezuela and North Korea. All others are mostly capitalistic. I keep wondering how stupid you have to be to support Socialism, which has a 100% failure record, but we only have to look at Socialist politicians like Kim Jong-un, Nicolás Maduro, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Jeremy Corbyn for the answers. Daily Caller

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Aug-18 World View -- Socialist Venezuela introduces new fantasy currency and new Socialist changes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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18-Aug-18 World View -- New Pentagon military assessment details China's preparations for war

The growing military threat from China

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

New Pentagon military assessment details China's preparations for war


China's Maritime Militia consisting of thousands of fishing vessels are trained by China's military for military action, giving deniability to Beijing (China Defense Blog)
China's Maritime Militia consisting of thousands of fishing vessels are trained by China's military for military action, giving deniability to Beijing (China Defense Blog)

The new edition of the Pentagon's annual report on China documents major advances in a number of areas where China's military is aggressively preparing for war against the United States and its allies.

As we've been reporting for years, China has been developing numerous intercontinental ballistic missile systems that have no military purpose other than to target American cities, American bases, and American aircraft carriers.

According to the new report, these capabilities are now being extended to bombers:

"The PLA (China's "People's Liberation Army") has long been developing air strike capabilities to engage targets as far away from China as possible. Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets. The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike U.S. and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam. Such flights could potentially be used as a strategic signal to regional states, although the PLA has thus far has not been clear what messages such flights communicate beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities."

Whereas a fleet of bombers is of great concern to Americans, China's neighbors are probably more concerned about China's activities in the South China Sea. The report says that China has largely completed its operation to create artificial islands, but continues to build infrastructure on the islands it's created, in order to support possible military operations in the future.

According to the report, China plans "floating nuclear power stations":

"China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute. In 2017, China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations; development reportedly is to begin prior to 2020."

It's well-known that China's activities in the South China Sea were declared illegal in 2016 by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which ruled that all of China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal and in violation of international law. China claims it has the right to violate international law any time, although it laughably invokes international law when it's on their side. AFP and Dept. of Defense (PDF)

China's 'low-intensity coercion' in the South China Sea

The report documents the means by which China uses military threats to enforce its claims to the South China Sea, referring to the techniques as "low-intensity coercion." According to the report:

"China continues to exercise low-intensity coercion to advance its claims in the East and South China Seas. During periods of tension, official statements and state media seek to portray China as reactive. China uses an opportunistically timed progression of incremental but intensifying steps to attempt to increase effective control over disputed areas and avoid escalation to military conflict. China also uses economic incentives and punitive trade policies to deter opposition to China’s actions in the region. In 2017, China extended economic cooperation to the Philippines in exchange for taking steps to shelve territorial and maritime disputes. Conversely, a Chinese survey ship lingered around Benham Rise in the spring after the Philippines refused several requests from China to survey the area. Later in the spring, CCG boats reportedly fired warning shots over Philippine fishing boats near Union Bank. In August 2017, China used PLAN, CCG, and PAFMM ships to patrol around Thitu Island and planted a flag on Sandy Cay, a sandbar within 12 nm of Subi Reef and Thitu Island, possibly in response to Manila’s reported plans to upgrade its runway on Thitu Island. China probably used coercion to pressure Vietnam to suspend joint Vietnam-Spain drilling operations in a disputed oil block in the South China Sea over the summer of 2017."

The South China Sea is international waters according to international law. When American Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOs) are performed by American warships passing through the SCS, they're invariably met with harsh threats and demands to leave.

Ever since Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2006, he's sided with China in the South China Sea, saying essentially that he has no choice since China could crush the Philippines militarily. However, this position has always been contentious domestically. When Duterte first announced this position, I pointed out at the time that polls showed that polls showed an approval rating around 90% for Americans, but only around 50% for Chinese.

Duterte's policy is wearing thin. In the last week, there was an incident where a Philippines plane was flying in the South China Sea, and received a radio warning from the Chinese:

"Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again. Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences!"

This implied threat of an attack by China's military is an example of "low-intensity coercion." In response, Duterte on Friday criticized China for using "nasty words" to its pilots:

"You know very well that we will not attack.... We’re not prepared to go to war with you so why do you have to say those nasty words?"

I think it's safe to say that this whiny pleading by Duterte will not have any effect on the Chinese. ABS-CBN (Philippines)

People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM)

An important part of China's coercion technique is the use of the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM).

The PAFMM is the only government-sanctioned maritime militia in the world. In the past, the vessels in the PAFMM were from companies or ordinary fishermen. What's changed now, according to the report, is that China is building a large state-owned fishing fleet. These are like vigilante boats that harass and block fishing boats from other nations, and perform other functions in conjunction with the PLA. According to the report:

"In the South China Sea, the PAFMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader PRC military doctrine stating confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives. The militia has played significant roles in a number of military campaigns and coercive incidents over the years, including the 2009 harassment of the USNS IMPECCABLE conducting normal operations, the 2012 Scarborough Reef standoff, the 2014 Haiyang Shiyou-981 oil rig standoff, and a large surge of ships in waters near the Senkakus in 2016."

The PAFMM unit operating in the South China Sea is paid salaries independent of any clear commercial fishing responsibilities, and recruited from recently separated veterans.

This appears to be similar to China's practice of establishing large communities of Chinese students or workers in other countries, keeping them under the control of Beijing's international coercive propaganda agency, the "United Front Work Department" (UFWD). As I've described in the past, there is almost a form of mind control involved in these communities, which the Chinese describe as "Magic Weapons." On command from the UFWD, these students and workers demonstrate, complain or riot to implement Chinese policy. China Defense Blog (30-Jun-2016)

China's preparations for war with Taiwan

The report says that "One of the overarching goals of the structural reforms now reshaping the PLA is to construct a military capable of conducting complex joint operations, including those that would be involved in a Taiwan contingency."

The report lists several "courses of action" that China's military could take to invade Taiwan:

If the United States should intervene in the takeover of Taiwan, China would try to delay effective intervention and seek victory in a high-intensity, limited war of short duration.

The growing military threat from China

In a sense there's nothing particularly new in this report, since it's just the next annual iteration of China's preparations for a pre-emptive attack on the United States at a place and time of its choosing, which I've been writing about for well over a decade.

As I've mentioned before, people my age have never understood how it was possible for Adolf Hitler to so thoroughly fooled the British government in 1938. The Nazis were spending enormous amounts of money building an army, navy and air force whose only real purpose was to attack the British Isles, but it was completely ignored by the British public except, famously, for Sir Winston Churchill, who warned of the approaching attack, but was scorned and ridiculed for doing so.

Today, few people want to contemplate the possibility of a pre-emptive attack by China, even though it's just as certain as the Nazi attacks that started World War II. But there are differences today. The Pentagon has been aware for years of the military buildup by the Chinese, and has been producing the annual reports for years as well.

China's activities in the South China Sea have repeated Nazi activities by annexing regions belonging to other nations. These activities have been so blatant and obvious that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of what's going on in the world is aware of it.

But even before the South China Sea became an issue, Taiwan was an issue. China has been preparing for a full-scale invasion of Taiwan at least since the 1990s, and the US has been preparing to defend Taiwan militarily for at least as long.

So the Pentagon and the United States military have been preparing militarily for war with China at least since the 1990s.

The presidency of Donald Trump has brought a new urgency to the danger from China.

As I've written many times, everything that the Trump administration has done in foreign policy since Donald Trump took office makes complete sense to me, because everything he does is consistent with the Generational Dynamics analyses that I've been posting for years. Trump understands these analyses because he was educated by his former principal advisor Steve Bannon, whom I've worked with for years, and who is an expert on both military history and Generational Dynamics. The mainstream press and mainstream analysts are always completely and totally baffled by the administration's foreign policy, which is one of the reasons that few analysts and journalists have any idea of the danger from China.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that there is an approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, pitting the "axis" of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries against the "allies," the US, India, Russia and Iran. Part of it will be a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the bloody the war of 1948-49 that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The war between Jews and Arabs will be part of a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other. The Trump administration is generally aware of all this, even if the mainstream media are not.

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17-Aug-18 World View -- US imposes new North Korea sanctions on Chinese and Russian shipping companies

Profound connection between the sanctions on Turkey and North Korea

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US imposes new North Korea sanctions on Chinese and Russian shipping companies


North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un in a tee shirt, frolicking with his wife Ri Sol-ju and his army generals
North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un in a tee shirt, frolicking with his wife Ri Sol-ju and his army generals

As the weeks and months go by with no progress on North Korean denuclearization, harsh sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the United States continue to be imposed on North Korea. These sanctions were imposed months and years ago, and remain in effect because of North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. However, these sanctions have been weakened in the last couple of months because China, Russia and other countries have clandestine ways to conduct trade with North Korea in violation of the sanctions.

The US on Thursday announced new sanctions targeting shipping and trading firms based in China, Russia and Singapore. These firms have been active in violating the sanctions. According to the announcement issued by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC):

"OFAC designated China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co., Ltd. and its Singapore-based affiliate, SINSMS Pte. Ltd. These companies worked together to facilitate illicit shipments to North Korea using falsified shipping documents, including exports of alcohol, tobacco, and cigarette-related products. The illicit cigarette trade in North Korea reportedly has netted over $1 billion per year for the regime. SINSMS Pte. Ltd. is responsible for exports to North Korea and general trading of items from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Cambodia. Employees at SINSMS Pte. Ltd. also provided information on how to evade shipping restrictions by sending cargo SINSMS Pte. Ltd. to Nampo, North Korea, via Dalian, China.

OFAC also designated Russia-based Profinet Pte Ltd. (Profinet) and its Director General, Russian national Vasili Aleksandrovich Kolchanov. Profinet is a Russian port service agency that provides loading, bunkering, supplying, and departure arrangements for vessels calling at the Russian ports of Nakhodka, Vostochny, Vladivostok, and Slavyanka. Profinet has provided port services on at least six separate occasions to DPRK-flagged vessels, including the sanctioned vessels CHON MYONG 1 and RYE SONG GANG 1, which have carried thousands of metric tons of refined oil products. Profinet continued to offer its bunkering services to DPRK-flagged vessels even after its employees knew of oil-related sanctions on North Korea. Kolchanov was personally involved in North Korea-related deals and interacted directly with North Korean representatives in Russia."

Russia's foreign ministry said that fresh sanctions could undermine the peace process in North Korea. The ministry also said that Washington "is not aware" of how the "utmost pressure" on North Korea is "fraught with danger," without specifying what danger they had in mind. According to the statement:

"The destructive U.S. tactics, pursued beyond the framework of the U.N. Security Council and its 1718 Sanctions Committee (related to North Korea), is only able to undermine the progress, which has been made recently toward the settlement."

Nobody seriously believes that North Korea has discontinued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, short of testing them. And indeed, why should they stop development?

As we recently reported, a United Nations report says that during the last six months, not only has North Korea not stopped development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles but, even worse, North Korea is stepping up plans to sell weapons to other countries, including to the Houthis in Yemen.

As I've been writing for many months, based on Generational Dynamics analyses, is that there is no chance whatsoever that North Korea will give up its nuclear development program now or in the future, after having tortured, starved and brutalized their own population for three decades, under the promise that one day North Korea would be a nuclear power on a peer with the United States.

North Korea has one and only one objective in the charm offensive since the beginning of the year and in Kim's summit meetings with Trump and South Korean leaders: To get the US-led sanctions lifted without having to give up its development of nuclear missiles targeting the United States.

Statements from the North Koreans have expressed increasing hostility toward the United States for not agreeing to lift the sanctions. Last week, North Korea's foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the North has worked to improve relations between the two countries and "make active contributions to peace, security, and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and over the world." The statement added:

"[U.S. officials] are making baseless allegations against us and making desperate attempts at intensifying the international sanctions....

As long as the U.S. denies even the basic decorum for its dialogue partner and clings to the outdated acting script which the previous administrations have all tried and failed, one cannot expect any progress in the implementation of the DPRK-U.S. joint statement including the denuclearization."

The North Koreans have used the phrase "step by step" to describe how they would like the process to go, meaning that they take some step, and then the US takes some step -- removing some of the sanctions.

The North Koreans have demolished two test sites, but it's widely believed that they were no longer needed anyway. Nonetheless, the North Koreans have expressed anger that these meaningless steps were not reciprocated by reducing sanctions.

What the US negotiators have requested from North Korea is a complete list of all their nuclear and missile development and test sites, and to permit the process of United Nations inspections of all these facilities. The North Koreans have flatly refused.

So really nothing has changed since the beginning of the year except that the North Koreans have advanced the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development by another eight months.

The Kim Jong-un administration has said in the past that nothing will stop them from developing an arsenal of nuclear missiles aimed at the United States. The Trump administration has said repeatedly that would not be allowed. This is similar to the ancient theological puzzle of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. At some point there will be an explosion. AP and US Treasury and Reuters

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Profound connection between the sanctions on Turkey and North Korea

On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin doubled down on sanctions against Turkish officials for their refusal to free Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in 2016 on what the US claims are trumped up charges.

"We put sanctions on several of the Cabinet members. We have more that we’re planning to do if they don’t release him quickly."

It's been somewhat startling to see the harsh reaction by the Trump administration over this one particular issue -- the release of pastor Brunson -- when there are so many other disagreements, including other Americans being held hostage, that are not causing a similar reaction.

The reason, as we explained last week, is that in the particular case of Brunson, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a friendly meeting with Donald Trump early in June, and after Trump left that meeting believing that they had made a deal: Trump would convince Israel to release a Turkish citizen, and in return Turkey would release Brunson. The Turkish citizen, Ebru Ozkan, was in fact released, but Brunson was not.

So from the point of view of the Trump administration, this is not an ordinary disagreement. They had a deal, Trump kept his part, Erdogan reneged.

At its core, this is similar to the situation with North Korea. Trump met with North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore, and they had a written agreement for North Korea to denuclearize on a step-by-step basis. Trump did in fact take an important step on the US side by canceling military drills with the South Koreans. So from Trump's point of view, he is performing his part of the deal, and Kim is reneging.

This is a serious matter because these two situations are in lockstep. If Erdogan can renege on a promise, then Kim can do the same, and vice-versa. From Trump's point of view, this is certainly an important factor in the Art of the Deal.

Turkey is in the middle of a currency crisis that began long before the Brunson issue was raised and the sanctions were imposed. Erdogan says that interest rates are evil, and insists on personal control of Turkey's central bank. The result is double-digit inflation, and that the value of the lira has been crashing against the dollar and other currencies, and this has had a knock-on effect on other developing country currencies, as investors rush to the safety of US Treasuries.

Last year, Turkey rushed to support Qatar when it was blockaded by Saudi Arabia, and now Qatar is returning the favor by pledging $15 billion dollars. The lira rallied briefly on the announcement, then began to fall again. Qatar's money will help Turkey buy time, but the core problems with the central bank will have to be fixed quickly. Bloomberg

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Aug-18 World View -- US imposes new North Korea sanctions on Chinese and Russian shipping companies thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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16-Aug-18 World View -- China-Cambodia grow closer militarily, as Hun Sen steals parliamentary election

China's military aid and infrastructure investments bring debt trap to Cambodia

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China-Cambodia grow closer militarily, as Hun Sen steals parliamentary election


New casinos in Sihanoukville, a byproduct of Chinese investment (Bloomberg)
New casinos in Sihanoukville, a byproduct of Chinese investment (Bloomberg)

Nobody is surprised that the Cambodia People's Party (CPP), led by Cambodia's dictator Hun Sen, won the recent national parliamentary election. Still, it's breathtaking that the National Election Committee (NEC) announced on Wednesday that the CPP had a clean sweep, and had won all 125 parliamentary seats up for election.

65 year old Hun Sen came to power in 1985, in the midst of an invasion by Communist Vietnam (1979-89), which followed the "Killing Fields" civil war, where Communist leader Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge to kill some two million civilians.

Cambodia used to have reasonably fair elections. It was an ally of the United States, the European Union and the West in general, helping it on the road to a democracy with fair and free elections. Everything was swell, as long as Hun Sen was the overwhelming victor in elections.

All that changed with 2013 election, when the opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue party (CNRP) came close to winning, with 44% of the vote compared to 48% for the CPP. Rather than risk losing an election, Hun Sen became increasingly authoritarian. Political opponents were jailed or assassinated, and Hun Sen took control of all the media, making the once independent newspapers nothing more than government CPP party organs, and closing all radio stations critical of the government, including Voice of America.

The coup de grâce came last year when the leader of the CNRP, Kem Sokha, was jailed on trumped-up charges of "treason." Then the court, under Hun Sen's control, ordered the complete dissolution of the CNRP, the only viable opposition party. So that explains how Hun Sen's party was able to win all 125 parliamentary seats.

These actions by Hun Sen in the last few years have come under increasing international criticism by human rights organizations, and by pressure from the West, including the United States, Australia and the European Union. The United States has already sanctioned the commander of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, for carrying out “serious acts of human rights abuse against the people of Cambodia.”

The European Union is threatening to go farther, by threatening trade sanctions against Cambodia, particularly by withdrawing the "Everything But Arms" (EBA) trade preferences that Cambodia enjoys with the EU. The EBA grants developing countries such as Cambodia quota free and duty free access to the EU market. In 2017, Cambodia had $6.2 billion in revenue from exports to the EU, and avoided paying $676 million in duties because of the EBA.

That money would have to be paid if the EBA were withdrawn, resulting in high unemployment among Cambodia's 700,000 garment workers, many of whom are heavily indebted. Because withdrawing the EBA would hurt the Cambodian people, rather than Hun Sen and the Cambodian leaders, there is a big reluctance to do it. Reuters and The Conversation and VOA and Al-Jazeera

China's military aid and infrastructure investments bring debt trap to Cambodia

As the West has been increasingly critical of human rights abuses in Cambodia, Cambodia has gotten closer and closer to China, where human rights abuses, including torture, rape, jailings and assassinations are perfectly OK.

In March of this year, hundreds of Cambodian and Chinese soldiers held "Golden Dragon," a 15-day joint military exercise in central Cambodia, involving live-fire rocket launches from helicopters, mock tank battles, and anti-terrorism and emergency relief training.

Last year, Cambodia suspended a planned joint military exercise with the U.S. Army, called Angkor Sentinel, that was to have been held for the eighth year straight. Also canceled was a long-running U.S. Navy program that provided humanitarian assistance in the country. Cambodia said its forces were too busy to join the annual exercise.

Then in June, China pledged $100 million in military grants for training and equipment for the Cambodian military. These grants are, of course, made with no concern for human rights, as would be the case with Western grants.

China is also providing funding for major infrastructure projects, including dams along the Mekong River and hydroelectric plants. In June 2018, a leaked environmental impact assessment report on the proposed Sambor Hydropower Dam project in Cambodia revealed that constructing a dam at the proposed site could "literally kill the [Mekong] River."

Developing hydropower dams is the Cambodian government’s highest energy priority. Currently, the government is aggressively pursuing this goal with the help of Chinese companies, for which a series of dam projects have been granted approvals.

So far, all of Cambodia’s hydropower plants have been developed under 50-year build–operate–transfer contracts. Under these contracts, all revenue accrued will flow to the Chinese companies operating the dams. Only at the conclusion of the contracts will each plant’s ownership and revenue be transferred to the Cambodian government. Before this time, the current hydropower plants are creating very little income for Cambodia.

In fact, this is turning into yet one more example of a China "debt trap" situation, in many ways similar to the situation in Pakistan that I described yesterday, and in other countries as well. China has made huge infrastructure developments in the capital city Phnom Penh, and more so in the Sihanoukville seaport. One resident is quoted as saying:

"Everything has changed in Sihanoukville in just two years. Before it was really quiet here, but not any more with all the Chinese construction. I am worried that it’s very destructive to the environment, all this building.... And what will happen when all the construction is finished and thousands more people come? There will be no Cambodia left in Sihanoukville."

Sihanoukville has given itself over entirely to Chinese investment, with a $1.1 billion investment from China in just the past year. Chinese casino owners have also taken advantage of the nonexistent gambling regulation and lax money-laundering laws to set up an empire that is accessible only to foreigners – because gambling is still illegal for Cambodian locals.

The key complaint for many in Sihanoukville is that even though Chinese investment brings wealth, it is mainly kept within their own community. Chinese residents and visitors buy from Chinese businesses and visit Chinese restaurants and hotels, ensuring the trickle-down effect is minimal.

However, Cambodia has the fastest growing debt in all of Southeast Asia. The debt trap will occur when Cambodia is unable to make the payments on its debt. At that point, China will do as it's done before: Take control of the infrastructure assets it funded, and leave the country with a large enclave of Chinese workers and their families, and enclave that will be there forever. VOA and The Diplomat and East Asia Forum and Asia Nikkei and Reuters

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Aug-18 World View -- China-Cambodia grow closer militarily, as Hun Sen steals parliamentary election thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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15-Aug-18 World View -- Chinese workers in Pakistan injured in terrorist bombing

War of words grows over IMF funding for Pakistan's debt

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Chinese workers in Pakistan injured in terrorist bombing


Result when bus carrying Chinese workers was attacked by a suicide bomber
Result when bus carrying Chinese workers was attacked by a suicide bomber

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed credit for a suicide bombing attack that injured three Chinese workers in Pakistan's Balochistan province, as they were working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It appears that the Chinese workers were specifically targeted. The suicide attack targeted a bus transporting Chinese workers from their work place in the mines to the city of Quetta.

The Chinese workers were working on the Saindak Copper-Gold project in a mountainous area near the border with Iran. This is a joint venture between Pakistan and China to extract gold, copper and silver from the area. The project is managed by a Chinese firm, the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC).

Since the 1990s, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has been waging an armed struggle against the government of Pakistan for equal rights and self-determination for the people of the Baloch ethnic group in Pakistan. It has conducted dozens of terror attacks against government installations, security personnel, military targets, and Pakistani laborers. In May 2017 it began attacking CPEC and Chinese targets, particularly the port at Gwadar. The BLA opposes CPEC, saying that it exploits Balochistan resources that they believe belong to the Baloch people.

Although the exact contractual agreement between Pakistan and China is a secret, it's believed that profits are distributed according to ownership. MCC owns 50% of the mine, Balochistan province owns 35%, and Pakistan's government owns 15%. The BLA claim that CPEC is allowing China and Pakistan to exploit resources that should belong to the Baloch people.

CPEC is a $55-60 billion 20-year project that will supposedly build a network of roads, railways and energy pipelines aiming to connect western Chinese cities, starting from China's easternmost city Kashgar in Xinjiang province, to the sea port in Gwadar on the Indian Ocean in Balochistan province in southern Pakistan. It will have both economic and military components. Power generation, transport, commerce, R&D and the defense of Pakistan all will be increasingly tied to Chinese investment, supplies and interests.

The security of Chinese workers in Pakistan is a big issue. China and Pakistan signed the CPEC agreement in March of last year, making CPEC a target of terror groups including BLA.

Chinese officials say that a major benefit of CPEC to Pakistan is that it employs about 2,000 local Balochistan workers. But Pakistan's ambassador to China Masood Khalid has estimated that there are some 30,000 Chinese working on Pakistan development projects, including CPEC, and that Pakistan's army has deployed 15,000 soldiers to provide security for the Chinese workers.

So China has loaned Pakistan tens of billions of dollars for CPEC, and the salaries of 30,000 Chinese workers and 15,000 soldiers are paid out of that money. But only 2,000 local workers receive any of that money. The BLA objects to these kinds of terms.

Despite all that money being paid for Pakistani army soldiers, the bus carrying Chinese workers was still attacked by a suicide bomber on Saturday.

This has alarmed Chinese officials. A Chinese police delegation arrived in Pakistan's capital city Islamabad on Monday to discuss the matter. Pakistan's interior minister said that Pakistan had left no stone unturned in providing fool proof security to Chinese citizens in Pakistan. “We are committed to fight against terrorism in all of its manifestations." There has not yet been any announcement of what additional steps will be taken to protect Chinese citizens working in Pakistan.

Li Wei, a Chinese counter-intelligence expert, said:

"The province of Balochistan is a region in Pakistan where terrorist activities are relatively intense. Separatist forces there believe that any development activity in their 'territories' violates their interests, and that is the reason why they launch terror attacks."

The solution is to hire more security personnel. One Chinese company has six security personnel escorting a single Chinese employee to ensure his daily safety. The Nation (Pakistan) and Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Global Times (Beijing) and The Nation (24-Aug-2017) and Dawn (Pakistan, 27-Oct-2017)

War of words grows over IMF funding for Pakistan's debt


A currency dealer in Quetta, Pakistan (AFP)
A currency dealer in Quetta, Pakistan (AFP)

As we reported last week, Pakistan is deeply in debt, and has only enough foreign reserves to cover payments for imports until the end of August. Much of Pakistan's financial problems are caused by a Chinese "debt trap," where Pakistan does not have the foreign reserves to make payments on the money that China has loaned to Pakistan for CPEC. ( "7-Aug-18 World View -- Pakistan faces imminent financial crisis threatening China's CPEC")

On Monday, it emerged that China has agreed to guarantee Pakistan's financial backing. This means that China will loan Pakistan additional billions of dollars, making Pakistan even more deeply indebted to China.

The only other possible source of money for Pakistan to stave off financial disaster is a new loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), although Pakistan has not fully repaid its last loan, made in 2013.

Imran Khan, Pakistan's incoming anti-American prime minister, used to criticize Pakistan's government for borrowing from the Washington-based IMF, but now that he's in the government with a pending financial crisis, he's suggested that his attitude may have changed.

However, attitudes in Washington have also changed. It's becoming apparent that China is setting debt traps in one nation after another as it loans tens of billions of dollars to each nation for infrastructure projects in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It's now being recognized that many of these countries are going to come to the IMF for loans when they're unable to pay their debts to China, which means that money from the IMF, which is largely funded by American taxpayers, would be paid to China in the case of each country.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of US senators expressed concern over potential bailout requests to the IMF by countries who have accepted "predatory Chinese infrastructure financing."

This has angered the Chinese, who of course would like to have the IMF bail out their debt trap countries, so that in effect the IMF would be funding China's BRI projects in all the countries.

According to a lengthy analysis in the South China Morning Post:

"Unexpectedly, just five days after Pakistan’s elections, [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo opposed an IMF bailout package to Pakistan. He argued that American taxpayer dollars are part of IMF funding and therefore the US government would not allow a bailout package for Pakistan that could be used to repay Chinese creditors or the government of China. This is the first time the US government has openly made a move that is tantamount to attacking Pakistan-China economic cooperation. ...

Against this backdrop, Pompeo’s recent statement is a major blow to US-Pakistan relations. This does not bode well for peace and stability in Afghanistan because now Pakistan will not be motivated to cooperate with the US government anymore on the Afghan front.

Given that the US is a major power broker in the IMF, its opposition will effectively thwart a bailout package for Pakistan. The country will have to explore other options to secure the funds needed to stimulate its economy. Unfortunately, there are not many countries or funding organisations that can offer Pakistan a generous financial bailout. Thus, Pakistan would be left with no choice but to ask for help from its all-weather friend – China. ...

After the probable refusal of IMF bailout package, Pakistan will be seeking additional loans of US$12 billion from China. ...

Hence, Pakistan will further be pushed towards economic dependence on China. If it is unable to repay Chinese loans, it could end up leasing its assets, such as Gwadar Port, to China. This model has already worked with Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.

The US decision to block the IMF bailout has effectively put Pakistan on the path to becoming a Chinese economic colony. This will certainly not help the US in increasing its influence in South Asia and Indochina, but will rather immensely increase the influence of China in South Asia."

The analysis refers to the Sri Lanka example, where Sri Lanka was unable to make payments on money loaned by China for the Hambantota Seaport. As a result, Sri Lanka was forced to give control of Hambantota to China for 99 years. In addition, there is now a large Chinese enclave surrounding the seaport of thousands of Chinese workers and families that will be there forever.

So the above analysis worries that all of Pakistan is on the path to becoming a "Chinese economic colony." The implied solution is that the US and the IMF should rush to Pakistan's rescue and give them the money to repay their all-weather friend China.

It's actually still possible that the IMF will lend Pakistan the money. Theoretically, the IMF is an indpendent organization, located in Washington, but not controlled in any way by Washington political policy. Theoretically, the IMF should not be swayed in its decision by the way the money will be used -- to repay China.

As I've been writing for the last ten years, Generational Dynamics predicts that there is an approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, pitting the "axis" of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries against the "allies," the US, India, Russia and Iran. Part of it will be a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the bloody the war of 1948-49 that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The war between Jews and Arabs will be part of a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other.

Whether the IMF lends money to Pakistan or not, it is not possible for the US and Pakistan to become "friends" in anything like the sense that China and Pakistan are "all-weather friends." Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Xinhua and South China Morning Post

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Aug-18 World View -- Chinese workers in Pakistan injured in terrorist bombing thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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14-Aug-18 World View -- Taliban attack on Ghazni brings America's Afghanistan strategy into question

Afghan army, backed by US, struggles to regain Ghazni after four days

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Afghan army, backed by US, struggles to regain Ghazni after four days


Afghan troops on patrol around Ghazni City on Sunday (AP)
Afghan troops on patrol around Ghazni City on Sunday (AP)

Afghan army forces have still not fully regained control of Ghazni Proving, four days after they were surprised by an unexpected attack by Taliban militants on Friday. The sophistication and force of this attack has once again brought into question the Nato and American strategy in Afghanistan.

On Friday, Taliban militants conducted a multipronged attack on Ghazni, a city of 270,000 people, and a trading and transit hub strategically located along a major highway in eastern Afghanistan. Afghan government officials say that Taliban militants were hiding in mosques and homes in Ghazni, and were using residents as human shields. They would slip out at night and attack Afghan forces.

As is often the case in Afghanistan, there are suspicions that the Taliban militants had support and help from sympathetic civilian residents of the city. Some Afghans said the assault was not a surprise, and followed months of build-up by militants near checkpoints around the city.

It would not be surprising if a substantial number of civilians supported the Taliban. Many in the civilian population are ethnic Pashtuns, and the Taliban itself consists of radicalized Pashtuns.

The US military was actively involved in supporting the Afghan army. US warplanes delivered two dozen airstrikes, killing more than 140 Taliban fighters, according to the military. U.S. military spokesman Lt. COL Martin O'Donnell downplayed the significance of the situation and summarized it on Monday:

"Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control, and the isolated and disparate Taliban forces remaining in the city do not pose a threat to its collapse as some have claimed. That said, the Taliban's attempts to hide themselves amongst the Afghan populace does pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed by this ineffective attack and the subsequent execution of innocents, destruction of homes and burning of a market."

However, video released by local TV broadcaster Tolo News showed black smoke rising in the air as buildings burn and Taliban fighters roam freely around the city. As of Tuesday morning, the situation in Ghazni is not yet clear. Military Times and ABC News and AP and Tolo News (Afghanistan)

Taliban attack on Ghazni brings America's Afghanistan strategy into question

The assault on Ghazni City comes after another assault on Farah City in the western part of the country in May. ( "16-May-18 World View -- Taliban launches major military operation in Farah province in Afghanistan")

Taliban activists and the American military have dueling narratives about how to interpret these repeated attacks by Taliban militants.

Over the past months, the Taliban have seized several districts across Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks on afghan security forces. This proves, according to the Taliban, that they can attack and take control of districts at any time of their choosing.

However, Afghan officials are claiming that this proves that the Taliban are being defeated because, even though they can attack at will, they are unable to hold group the way they used to as recently as 2016.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. COL Martin O'Donnell said:

"Tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline. The fact remains that the Taliban are unable to seize terrain and unable to match the Afghan security forces or our enablement, retreating once directly and decisively engaged."

Arguably, both sides make good points: The Taliban can attack as often as they want, but they can't hold against the Afghan forces.

The problem is that the second part of that statement is true only if the Afghan forces are backed by Nato military logistics and airpower. The brutal attack on Ghazni suggests that without the Nato military, the Afghan forces apparently cannot defeat the Taliban.

The Nato and Afghan government strategy is to use military force to compel the Taliban to negotiate a peace. As I've described in detail many times in the past, a Generational Dynamics analysis proves that's wrong. The Taliban are ethnic Pashtuns that have been radicalized, and they include new generations of young Pashtuns that have come of age since the bloody Afghan civil war in the early 1990s. These young people are seeking revenge against their former enemies in the Northern Alliance, and even if the Taliban leadership tries to negotiate peace, the younger Pashtuns would not be interested.

That's a summary of the analysis that I've been posting for years, but in the last year the situation has become even worse. As ISIS militants in Syria have lost their caliphate in Raqqa and have continued to lose ground, many ISIS militants have been returning to their home countries, whether in Europe, in Russia or in Afghanistan. They're forming a new terrorist network, ISIS-K, or "ISIS Khorasan" ("Wilayah Khorasan") or ISKP, the South Asian branch of ISIS.

ISIS-K has been conducting its own terror attacks in Afghanistan, sometimes cooperating with the Taliban, and at other times fighting against the Taliban. The Taliban, especially the younger generation militants, have no desire for a negotiated peace with the government, but even if they did, the militants in ISIS-K would not. So the Nato plan for Afghanistan has no chance of succeeding.

As I've written in the past, there seems to be another strategy for the American military in Afghanistan. Donald Trump and the military understand that this war cannot be won, but they also understand that war with China and Pakistan is approaching. As war with China and Pakistan approaches, president Trump wants to keep American troops active in Afghanistan, and to continue to maintain several American military bases in Afghanistan, including two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar International Airport. These bases will be valuable in any future war with China. Under these circumstances, having troops in Afghanistan is what matters, whether the Taliban are defeated or not. Asia Times and Long War Journal and Guardian (London)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Aug-18 World View -- Taliban attack on Ghazni brings America's Afghanistan strategy into question thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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13-Aug-18 World View -- A 'historic' Caspian Sea agreement leaves major issues unresolved

Major issues about commercial exploitation remain unresolved

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

A 'historic' Caspian Sea agreement leaves major issues unresolved


An Iranian family frolicking at the beach in the Caspian Sea port city of Gisum (Getty)
An Iranian family frolicking at the beach in the Caspian Sea port city of Gisum (Getty)

The presidents of five major countries -- the countries bordering the Caspian Sea -- all arrived in the Kazakhstan port city of Aktau on Sunday for a summit meeting to sign what is being called a "historic" agreement on settling the status of the Caspian Sea. The five countries are Russia, Iran, and three former Soviet states, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

The five leaders signed agreements on trade and economic cooperation, cooperation in the transport sector. The leaders also agreed that the surface of the Caspian Sea would be freely available to everyone for activities like travel and fishing.

According to Russia's president Vladimir Putin, the agreement "creates conditions for bringing cooperation between the countries to a qualitatively new level of partnership, for the development of close cooperation on different trajectories." Whatever that means. BBC and Tass (Moscow) and Press TV (Tehran) and Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle

Major issues about commercial exploitation remain unresolved

There are some 50 billion barrels of oil and nearly 9 trillion cubic meters of gas in proven or probable reserves in the Caspian seabed. At today's prices, that's worth several trillion dollars. The problem is how to divide those reserves, and Sunday's "historic" agreement leaves those issues unsettled.

Prior to 1991, there were only two littoral states bordering the Caspian Sea -- the Soviet Union and Iran. When the Soviet Union split up, suddenly there were five littoral states. Starting in 1996, these five countries attempted to reach agreement on how to split up the seabed among themselves. However, they were never able to reach agreement, and apparently that's still true despite Sunday's "historic" agreement.

The problem is that the Caspian Sea is a unique body of water in the world, and so there are no examples to provide guidance. The Caspian Sea in Central Asia is the largest inland body of water in the world. From the point of view of international law, it's neither a sea nor a lake. It can't be a lake because it's too large, and it can't be a sea because it's not connected to any of the world's oceans.

International law provides formulas for dividing up the seabeds of lakes and seas. If the Caspian Sea is a sea, then the size of the region that each country gets depends on the length of the coastline bordering the sea. Under this formula, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan would get the largest shares of the seabed, and so these countries favor it.

But if the Caspian Sea is a lake, then there are five littoral states, and so the seabed would be split up equally among them, giving them each 20% of the seabed. Iran and Turkmenistan favor this formula, because they have the shortest shorelines.

According to news reports, the agreement avoids calling either a sea or a lake, but gives it a special legal status, with an agreement in principle to a special formula for dividing up the seabed among the five countries. However, the formula is apparently close to the "sea" formula. In their closing statements, the leaders of Iran and Turkmenistan said that these issues remained unsettled, and that another summit meeting would be required within a few months.

The agreement apparently permits something that Russia had been opposing -- allowing Turkmenistan to build a "Trans-Caspian Pipeline" (TCP) to permit delivery of its gas to Azerbaijan, where it would be pumped into pipelines leading west to Turkey and Europe. For 20 years, Russia has opposed the TCP, claiming that it poses a potential environmental hazard to the Caspian's unique biosphere. However, this objection is laughable, since Russia's Gazprom has laid several pipelines in the Black Sea, which also has a "unique biosphere." It's believed that Russia simply wants to block competition.

However, Russia and Iran did get their way in one more area. The agreement specifically forbids any but the five Caspian countries from deploying military forces on the Caspian Sea.

Recall that in April I wrote "28-Apr-18 World View -- Kazakhstan to permit America to use Caspian ports to supply military in Afghanistan." Russia and Iran objected to this, claiming that the Nato would use the transit of supplies to Afghanistan as an excuse to deploy American forces in the ports in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and that the ports might turn into American military bases.

However, Kazakhstan committed that only nonmilitary supplies will be permitted to pass through the ports, and Sunday's agreement seals that commitment. According to Kazakhstan's foreign minister:

"Some representatives of Russian media and expert communities do not have a firm grasp of facts on the real situation regarding the transit of US non-military cargo via Kazakhstan.... It is about commercial railway transportation of non-lethal cargo via Kazakhstan to continue the operations to support the Afghan government, which is necessary for the whole international community.... Naturally, any military bases on the Caspian Sea are out of question."

He added that this is not a change to any existing agreements. RFE/RL and Reuters and Bloomberg and SBS (Australia) and Sputnik (Moscow)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Aug-18 World View -- A 'historic' Caspian Sea agreement leaves major issues unresolved thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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12-Aug-18 World View -- Colombia's president Ivan Duque takes office amidst accusations from Venezuela

Brief generational history of Colombia

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Colombia's president Ivan Duque takes office amidst accusations from Venezuela


Venezuelans walk across Simón Bolívar bridge into Cúcuta, Colombia to flee violence from the Socialist government. (National Geographic)
Venezuelans walk across Simón Bolívar bridge into Cúcuta, Colombia to flee violence from the Socialist government. (National Geographic)

A new president took office in Colombia on Tuesday of last week. Right-wing Ivan Duque took office, replacing left-wing Juan Manuel Santos. The inauguration occurred in the midst of a major diplomatic clash between Colombia and Venezuela.

Last weekend on Saturday evening, a live drama unfolded on nationwide TV in Venezuela. Socialist President Nicolás Maduro, was giving a televised speech when suddenly he stopped speaking and looked up at the sky. Two drones armed with explosives detonated near Maduro, who, however, was not hurt. Three hours later, he was on nationwide tv again, saying:

"I am fine, I am alive, and after this attack I'm more determined than ever to follow the path of the revolution. ... I have no doubt that the name Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack."

According to Maduro, Santos acted in coordination with the former president of the Venezuelan Parliament, Julio Borges, who had been in the political opposition to Maduro.

Last year, the Socialist Maduro dissolved the democratically elected parliament and replaced with a "Constituent Assembly" consisting of Maduro's political cronies. Last week, the Constituent Assembly revoked the immunity that Borges had as an opposition lawmaker, and the Supreme Court called for his arrest. However, Borges has apparently fled Venezuela. According to Maduro, Borges had fled to Colombia.

Now Maduro is demanding that Colombia and the United States extradite Borges and other opposition lawmakers that have fled to those countries. These extradition requests have been refused.

On Thursday, the European Union in Brussels issued a statement on the drone attack:

"The latest events have further inflated the tensions in Venezuela. The European Union rejects any form of violence and expects that a comprehensive and transparent investigation of Saturday´s drone attack is conducted to establish the facts, in full respect for the rule of law and for human rights.

In this regard, the EU expects the recognition of the National Assembly's constitutional powers, including the full respect of its prerogatives concerning the parliamentary immunity of its members, in line with established constitutional rights, legislation and procedures.

The EU reiterates its support for a negotiated, democratic and peaceful solution for the multiple crises affecting the country as the only way forward. This needs to encompass a return to constitutional normality restoring democratic process and the rule of law, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, release of all political prisoners, and addressing the pressing humanitarian needs of the population."

This statement infuriated Maduro. According to Maduro , Santos acted in coordination with Borges, "who receives the order, the resources, the logistics, the support and the plan [and] is the one who takes responsibility for the history of assassinating the president."

Maduro condemned the statement by the EU:

"It is truly deplorable the communique of the European Union, they go out to protect the terrorists, in their communiqué they protect the terrorists, in their communique they are not capable of condemning the attack that had as objective to assassinate the president of this country."

Thanks to Socialist policies, Venezuela is suffering the worst economic depression ever recorded in Latin America. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 16.5 percent in 2016 and 12 percent in 2017, and forecasts a 15 percent contraction for 2018. Inflation reached more than 2,600 percent in 2017, the highest in the world by a wide margin, and the IMF forecasts 13,000 percent for 2018.

Thanks to the Socialist policies, Venezuelans are starving, and are unable to feed their kids or obtain medicines to care for them when they're sick. The Socialist government of Venezuela has created a massive refugee problem that's destabilizing the entire region. By some estimates, 35,000 Venezuelan refugees flee across the border into Colombia every day, although many return after acquiring basic items, like food. Some one million are staying in Colombia. About 4,000 migrants enter Ecuador every day, fleeing violence in Venezuela. Brazil has taken in over 41,000 Venezuelans.

Every Socialist government in history has failed, either peacefully or disastrously. Even Cuba has given up Socialism. The only two Socialist governments left are Venezuela and North Korea. However, Venezuela destabilizing the entire region, and with Maduro making threatening accusations like the one last week, it's possible that Venezuela's Socialist government will end with war. AFP and Europa (EU) and Diario Las Americas (Trans) and Al Jazeera

Brief generational history of Colombia

The Trump administration has high hopes for Ivan Duque, because Duque has promised to tackle the drug problem. Last year, president Trump suggested stopping aid to countries that are "pouring" drugs into the US. In Colombia, some 209,000 hectares (516,500 acres) of land are used to grow coca, the principal ingredient used to manufacture cocaine. Colombia is the largest cocaine producer in the world.

Colombia's last generational crisis war was shared with Venezuela. It was called "La Violencia," or the Colombian Revolt, 1948-1959. More than 200,000 persons lost their lives and more than a billion dollars of property damage was done.

As we've written many times in the past, when a generational crisis war is an ethnic or tribal civil war, it really never ends. One side may force the other into submission, but the people on both sides are traumatized by the murders, mutilations, rapes, and torturing that they performed on people who lived in the same cities and even on the same streets, where the mothers exchanged recipes and the children played together. All the survivors continue to feel the lingering horror of the atrocities that were committed on both sides. After the war ends, there is continuing sporadic violence as we've described in many countries, including Syria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Burundi, Congo, and others.

In post-war Colombia, the government confiscated small farms in order to create large farms, but in doing so left large pools of unemployed people.

By the mid-1960s. two Marxist-Leninist guerrilla terrorist groups had formed: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN). Both groups have massive criminal histories, using drug trafficking, violence, bombings, murders, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion as sources of leverage and income. Billions of dollars of income have been derived from the sale of narcotics each year. In the last 50 years, as many as 220,000 people are dead, 25,000 are disappeared, and 5.7 million are displaced.

In December 2016, the government signed a peace agreement with the FARC. The agreement ended much of the violence, but it was highly controversial because it specified that all FARC members would walk free with no punishment for the 50 years of horrific crimes, which infuriated the relatives of the violence by the FARC. Duque made a campaign promise to revise and renegotiate the peacekeeping deal to provide for the relatives of the victims.

Duque has also promised to fix the drug problem:

"We will be effective in the eradication and substitution of illegal crops, accompanied by productive opportunities [for farmers]."

That remains to be seen. Other attempts to reduce coca production have failed. Coca production surged to historically high levels in 2017, and among the reasons is a crop-substitution program tied to Colombia’s peace deal that offered incentives to coca farmers to switch to legal crops. Those incentives were so lucrative that some rural dwellers planted more coca to earn more cash. In addition, Colombia in 2015 banned aerial spraying of coca crops after a determination that the herbicide being used could cause cancer in humans. Duque is committed to be much more aggressive, including a return to using the banned herbicide. Stanford Univ and Insight Crime and Council on Foreign Relations (11-Jan-2017) and Washington Post

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11-Aug-18 World View -- Turkey's lira currency crumbles as Trump turns the screws after Erdogan double-cross

How Erdogan apparently double-crossed Trump

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey's lira currency crumbles as Trump turns the screws after Erdogan double-cross


Presidents Trump and Erdogan shaking hands when they were still friendly (Reuters)
Presidents Trump and Erdogan shaking hands when they were still friendly (Reuters)

Turkey's lira currency has been falling steadily for the last year because of a clearly stated view by Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan that interest rates are "evil," and because he has been controlling Turkey's central bank consistent with that belief.

The lira has already lost 40% of its value in the past month. On Friday, the currency fell another 20%, before settling at being down 14% from Thursday's level.

The result is that any imported item now cost two or three times as many liras as they did a few months ago. The inflation rate is above 15%.

Many economists had been predicting for months that Erdogan's actions would lead to a currency crisis, which is what's happening now. There are concerns that unless Erdogan adopts sensible policies, the result will be a full-scale national economic crisis.

During the campaign for the June 24 elections, Erdogan said the following:

"If my people say continue on this path in the elections, I say I will emerge with victory in the fight against this curse of interest rates. Because my belief is: interest rates are the mother and father of all evil."

In July he appointed his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, to run the central bank, and said, "We will see inflation and interest rates decline in the coming period."

These statements caused concern among investors for two reasons. First, an interest rate decline will cause higher inflation, not lower inflation, and combined with his statement that interest rates are "the mother and father of all evil," it's reasonable to conclude that Erdogan does not have the vaguest clue how economics works.

We've seen this kind of thing in other countries. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro followed and are following policies which have meant economic destruction for their country. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's policy of throwing white farmers off farms and giving the farms to political cronies who know nothing about farms ended up destroying Zimbabwe's economy, and it's unclear whether this policy is still continuing. I've written about many other examples where a clueless idiot leader politician destroys a country's economy and the country itself.

That hasn't happened to Turkey yet, but Erdogan has become so fanatical that it will if he continues the path he's on.

The second reason that investors are concerned is that Erdogan seems determined to control the central bank even though it should be an independent institution, like America's Federal Reserve. So now you have delusional politician, Erdogan, who says that "interest rates are the mother and father of all evil," and is also running the central bank. What could go wrong?

So that's why the lira currency has been falling steadily for a year, and then started falling even more rapidly after the June 24 election, when he was reelected president, along with a constitutional change that gave him almost dictatorial powers. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Business Insider and Deutsche Welle

Trump turns the screws

So there have been an interesting series of statements from both Erdogan and US president Donald Trump in the last couple of days.

On Thursday evening, Erdogan that there was nothing to fear if the lira was falling against the US dollar:

"If they have their dollars, we have our people and God."

However, on Friday morning, Trump tweeted the following:

"I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!"

This caused the lira to start plummeting, ending up the day having lost 14% of its value.

Erdogan apparently went into a panic, because he gave one of his televised national rants where he screams every sentence furiously at the top of his lungs. He said the following:

"If there is anyone who has dollars or gold under their pillows, they should go exchange it for liras at our banks. This is a national, domestic battle.

Some countries have engaged in behavior that protects coup plotters and knows no laws or justice. Relations with countries who behave like this have reached a point beyond salvaging."

Erdogan also warned of “economic war.”

However, there is a greater concern that the falling lira will lead to contagion. A number of banks, especially in Spain and Italy, are holding Turkish government bonds, and they are going down in value with the lira. A bigger concern is that many companies in Turkey have borrowed money in international markets, and the debts are denominated in dollars. A typical company's income would be in lira, while debt payments must be made in dollars. A weakening lira means that companies may default on their loans. CNBC and Hurriyet News (Ankara) and Bloomberg

How Erdogan apparently double-crossed Trump

A lot of people were shocked on Friday morning at the harshness of Trump's tweet when he said that he was doubling Turkey's tariffs on steel and aluminum, and at the same time he apparently mocked Turkey's falling lira currency.

It appears that this highly confrontational statement was retaliation for what Trump saw as a double-cross by Erdogan.

Trump met Erdogan at a Nato meeting early in June. Their discussions were very friendly, and after they ended, Trump thought they had made a deal: Trump would ask Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to release a Turkish citizen, Ebru Ozkan, arrested because of alleged terrorist links to Hamas, and then Turkey would release pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in Turkey on October 2016 on charges of espionage, which the US considers are bogus charges.

So on July 14, Trump called Netanyahu and requested that Ozkan be released, and she was released the next day. But Brunson was not released, and Turkish officials said that no such deal had ever been made. Instead, they began piling more demands that would have to be met in exchange for the release of Brunson, including the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdogan blames for the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016, but without any evidence.

Needless to say, Trump was infuriated, and this led to a first round of sanctions in July, and then Friday's announcement of more sanctions. The Trump administration is now saying that Brunson must be released, to resolve this situation. Furthermore, reports indicate that because Trump believes he was double-crossed, the administration is also requiring that all further conditions and demands from Turkey be put into writing, to avoid future misunderstandings.

Trump is now involved in highly contentious sanctions disputes with Turkey, Russia, Iran and China. Any one of these situations could spiral into something much larger, including an actual war. Also, since the global financial system is currently one huge Ponzi scheme, one of these situations could also trigger a chain reaction leading to a global financial crisis. Washington Post and Hurriyet News (Ankara) and Ynet News (Israel) and Middle East eye

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Aug-18 World View -- Turkey's lira currency crumbles as Trump turns the screws after Erdogan double-cross thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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10-Aug-18 World View -- Discontent with China's president Xi Jinping continues during 'trade war'

China uses increasing violence to suppress criticism

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Discontent with China's president Xi Jinping continues during 'trade war'


China is banning the new film Christopher Robin because it contains the character Winnie the Pooh, which many Chinese online compare to Xi Jinping (Getty)
China is banning the new film Christopher Robin because it contains the character Winnie the Pooh, which many Chinese online compare to Xi Jinping (Getty)

Although Xi Jinping's power and credibility as president of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does not seem to be threatened, there are signs of growing discontent, especially under pressure from the trade war initiated by the Trump administration.

Since coming to power in 2013, Xi Jinping has claimed to be champion of the fight against corruption in the CCP. In line with that fight, Xi has purged many government officials whom he accused of corruption, but it always turned out that the purged officials were not his strongest supporters, and the people who replaced them were all indebted to Xi in some way. Thus the first against corruption for the last five years has appeared more and more to be a purge of Xi's political enemies -- which would itself be the ultimate form of corruption.

Public or online criticism of Xi is de facto a crime in China. A few months ago I told the story of how I repeatedly challenged a Chinese troll to make even the tiniest criticism of Xi, or even to reference an article in Chinese media that has any criticism of Xi. He kept changing the subject, and finally I pointed out that if he did criticize Xi, then he would be thrown into a pit, hung by his thumbs, and have his tongue removed with a pair of pliers. Well, I was being overly dramatic, but he would certainly have risked going to jail.

So it certainly was remarkable in February of this year when a leading commentator and a prominent businessman openly criticized Xi for his plan to amend the constitution so that he could run independent. Li Datong, a former editor for the state-run China Youth Daily, wrote: "If there are no term limits on a country's highest leader, then we are returning to an imperial regime. My generation has lived through Mao. That era is over. How can we possibly go back to it?"

Indeed, I've written about country after country to describe what happens when a leader refuses to relinquish power. We've seen this in Cambodia, Syria, Iran, Cameroon, Congo, and Burundi, among others. In each case, the leader becomes increasing authoritarian and oppressive, ordering peaceful opposition protesters to be slaughtered, tortured, raped or jailed, and shutting down media outlets including newspapers and the internet.

Xi's claim to be the hero in fighting corruption has been badly tarnished by various scandals. The piece of bad news this summer was the discovery that a pharmaceutical company with deep connections to Xi has been responsible for producing substandard vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, and had faked data for its rabies vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese children nationwide have been given the faulty vaccines. Many in China are blaming Xi for this. Japan Times and CBS News and South China Morning Post (6-Mar)

Backlash from the US-China 'trade war'

The greatest damage to Xi's reputation is the "trade war" initiated by the Trump administration. The US announced tariffs on Chinese products, and China retaliated with tariffs on American products. The tit for tat war has shocked many Chinese, and has triggered a major debate in China over Xi's foreign and domestic policy leadership.

Many in China are questioning Xi's absolute refusal to negotiate with the Americans to get the trade dispute resolved. Many fear that China will indeed be much worse off from a full-blown trade war. There's a deeper criticism that Xi is violating the advice of 1980s leader Deng Xiaoping: "Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership." Since taking power, instead of taking this advice, Xi has been increasingly arrogant foreign policy, and his policies are seen as costly, ambitious, risky and confrontational.

Many Chinese also fear that China has become too dependent on stealing American intellectual property, and can't develop it on their own.

Xi has reacted by ordering an extensive campaign to "enhance patriotism" among intellectuals. A key aspect is to strengthen the “political guidance” of intellectuals and bring their “ideological and political identification” in line with goals set out by the party and the nation.

There are even demands that CCP members get back to basics and study Karl Marx's 1848 Communist Manifesto, the tract that predicted the triumph of Socialism. Socialism has a 100% failure rate, and China abandoned any pretense of following the dictates of Communist Manifesto decades ago. Even Cuba in the last few years has almost completely abandoned the Marx's tenets, since it was becoming clear that Socialism was destroying Cuba, as it has destroyed every other place it's been tried. Most CCP members, it turns out, have never read the Communist Manifesto, so ordering them to read it now appears to be a true move of desperation. South China Morning Post and Inside Story (Australia) and Radio Free Asia and South China Morning Post

China uses increasing violence to suppress criticism

As in the other countries I've listed, Cambodia, Syria, Cameroon, and so forth, the CCP in China is using violence increasingly to control groups that don't adhere closely to the party line. Whether it's violent reprisals in Tibet, or violent education camps in Xinjiang, or the threat of a massive military invasion of Taiwan, the CCP have shown themselves increasingly willing to use jailings, torture, rape and murder to force the public into the CCP line.

Two major events occurred about 25 years ago that are the driving forces in CCP policy today. One was the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, where Chinese security thugs killed thousands of peacefully demonstrating college students. The other event was the collapse, in 1991, of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party. These events put the members of the Chinese Communist Party into a high state of anxiety, from which they've never come down. They use massive violence by police thugs to suppress any protests before they can get out of hand and threaten the existence of the CCP. Self-preservation of the CCP is more important the China itself.

China's government used to report the number of "mass incidents that occurred each year. These are incidents where dozens of Chinese citizens protest or get into fistfights with one another. There were hundreds of these protests each year in the 1990s. The number of mass incidents kept growing exponentially, reaching 100,000 in the year 2008. If even one of these "mass incidents" occurred in the United States, it would be international news, but China has hundreds of them every day.

After 2008, China stopped reporting them. However, there was one activist named Lu Yuyu who compiled the data himself from news reports, and published it online. He was arrested and is currently serving time in jail.

China's CCP is frightened of social instability that could lead to a revolution that would threaten the CCP. China's history is filled with huge, massive internal rebellions (civil wars), the most recent of which were the White Lotus Rebellion (1796-1805), the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) and Mao's Communist Revolution (1934-49). China is now overdue for a new massive civil war, and CCP officials fear that any small anti-government protest could spiral into a new rebellion and revolution. Guardian (London) and China Change (6-Jul-2016) and Foreign Affairs (3-Oct-2016) and Hong Kong Free Press

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9-Aug-18 World View -- Italy threatens EU with immigration fight to get budget concessions

Spain becomes the major destination for migrants from Africa

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Italy threatens EU with immigration fight to get budget concessions


Migrants disembark at a beach in Tarifa, southern Spain, after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar (Spiegel)
Migrants disembark at a beach in Tarifa, southern Spain, after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar (Spiegel)

Readers may recall that when Italy held nationwide elections in March, the elections failed to produce a majority party. Two particularly bitter rivals were the left-wing Five Star Movement (M5S) that got 32% of the vote, and the right-wing La Lega (The League) that got 17% of the vote.

Incredibly, these two parties got together and formed a governing coalition. They're far apart on many issues, but they do share similar attitudes on three issues: a nationalistic anti-euro attitude, a xenophobic anti-immigrant attitude, and a complete lack of fiscal discipline. Much to everyone's surprise, they formed a governing coalition based on these three principles.

This new governing coalition announced a list of policy proposals, including a completely delusional list of economic proposals.

Italian debt stands at around €2.3 trillion ($2.7 trillion), or 133% of gross domestic product (GDP), the worst in Europe. The new government does have a way of reducing the debt: spend a lot more money, and drastically reduce taxes. (As I wrote at the time, I wish I could tell you that this is a joke, but it isn't.)

Specifically, the government would like to do the following right away:

As wonderful as these proposals are, they have a serious problem: Implementing them would violate EU rules by pushing Italy's annual deficit above 3% of GDP.

Italy's deputy prime minister and M5S leader Luigi Di Maio has a solution: The EU should change the rules, so that Italy can spend as much as it wants on these social problems. According to Di Maio:

"It is possible to introduce both this measure and a flat tax and to respect European Union deficit limits, because this is a structural reform for Italy. The European Union must listen to us in this phase when we want to protect citizens facing a social emergency."

He added that his request to change the EU deficit limit rules comes with a threat:

"We want to discuss these reforms with the European Union to obtain the margin for maneuver that will allow us to implement those measures. That means doing the same as we did on immigration. There shouldn’t be a clash with the EU, but a frank discussion."

In the case of immigration, the "frank discussion" was accompanied by an order closing all Italian ports to immigrant rescue ships. This forced the EU government in Brussels to adopt new rules for immigrants, giving Italy at least a portion of what it was demanding. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of La Lega, claimed that his government had gotten 70% of what it wanted from the EU.

So Di Maio is demanding that the EU change its deficit rules, or Italy will "do the same as we did on immigration." What that means remains to be seen.

It should be noted that Di Maio's delusional plans and demands are not being met with unanimous agreement even within Italy's government. Prime minister Giuseppe Conte is insisting on a "realistic" budget, and that the new measures will be introduced gradually. Bloomberg and Reuters and Bloomberg and Guardian (London)

Spain becomes the major destination for migrants from Africa

At first, the major route for migrants into Europe was through Turkey into Greece. When the EU closed the so-called "Balkan route" for migrants, and then signed the EU-Turkey migrant deal in 2016, the number of migrants reaching Greece fell sharply.

Then the major route moved westward, with migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Africa. However, in 2017 Italy paid money to Libyan warlords and the Libyan government to prevent migrants from crossing.

So the preferred route to Europe has moved westward again. The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe has fallen drastically from previous years, but now the major route is to cross the strait between Morocco and Spain.

So far in 2018, 27,614 migrants arrived in Spain, 18,475 arrived in Italy, and 16,142 arrived in Greece. Der Spiegel and El País and Euro News and Guardian (London)

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8-Aug-18 World View -- Iran's protesters blame bad economy on Supreme Leader, not on US sanctions

The international demand for regime change in Iran

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US reimposes US sanctions against Iran that ended with 2015 nuclear deal


A mural painting on the wall of the former US embassy in Tehran, where the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis originally occurred (AFP)
A mural painting on the wall of the former US embassy in Tehran, where the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis originally occurred (AFP)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order reimposing economic sanctions that had been eased by the 2015 nuclear deal. The sanctions target Iran's automotive industry, the purchase of commercial aircraft and metals including gold, and the selling of Persian carpets.

Trump tweeted:

"Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!"

The action appears to have thrown the European Union into a new level of chaos.

The sanctions bar any company which does business in Iran from doing business in the US - under far reaching secondary sanctions - and they also forbid any company that does business in the US from doing business with any company that does any business with Iran. This means, for example, that under certain circumstances a bank may have to deny a company doing business with Iran access to its own dollar-based bank accounts. But in that case, the bank could be sued by its own customers.

Trying to cope, the EU has passed so-called "blocking laws" that would make it illegal for banks to withdraw services to companies doing business with Iran or even with other companies that do business with Iran. The laws are designed to limit the potential damage to European companies conducting legitimate business with Iran directly or indirectly.

However, these laws have not been particularly effective. Germany's carmaker Daimler immediately announced a halt to its business activities in Iran. France's oil and gas giant Total has already indicated it intends to shelve a multi-billion dollar investment in Iran. France's automaker Renault, which had an 8% share of Iran's automotive market, announced last week it would comply with the sanctions. Peugeot withdrew in June. More than 100 international companies have also said they would comply.

However, China's auto companies are rushing to fill the gap left by departing European companies. Chinese cars already have a nearly 10% share of Iran's auto market, and a 50% share of auto parts imported into Iran. Iran Khodro, Iran's largest car manufacturer and assembler of foreign cars, recently told its salesmen to promote to customers China’s H30 Cross, made by Dongfeng Fengshen, as a replacement for Renault’s Tondar 90.

Other Chinese car manufacturers present in Iran include Chery and Brilliance, whose H330, assembled in Iran by Saipa, is among the top 10 best-selling cars in the country. China has also lifted monthly oil imports from Iran by 26%. China is the world’s top crude oil buyer and Iran’s biggest customer. RFE/RL and BBC and VOA and Deutsche Welle

Iran's protesters blame bad economy on Supreme Leader, not on US sanctions

Iran's economy is in serious trouble. The rial currency has been plummeting against the dollar since May, when the US announced that sanctions would be imposed on August 7.

Since that time there have been growing street protests in cities across the country. However, they're not anti-American protests, which is something we as Americans have come to expect for decades. Instead, the protests are blaming their own government.

Here's a list of street protesters chants collected by RFE/RL in the last few days:

“Death to high prices and inflation.”
“We don’t want incompetent officials.”
“Not to Gaza, not to Lebanon. May my life be sacrificed for Iran.”
“Death to the dictator.”
“Our enemy is right here. They lie when they say it’s America.”
"Reza Shah, bless your soul.”
“Iranians, shout out your demands.”
"Police forces, support [us], support [us].”
“Death to Hizballah.”
“Iranians die, [but] they don’t accept abjection.”
“Death to Khamenei.”
“Mullahs must get lost.”
“Don’t be scared, we’re all together.”

If you want to understand what's going on, the easiest model to keep in mind is the street protests in America in the 1960s and 1970s. Although the several things were protested, they were mainly anti-war protests against the war in Vietnam.

Logic might indicate that since the North Vietnamese in Hanoi were the enemy, Americans should be on the side of the Americans, not the North Vietnamese. It's true that few Americans were openly on the side of the North Vietnamese (Jane Fonda and John Kerry come to mind), but few Americans were on the side of America either.

It made no difference what the Nixon administration did. The young protesters were opposed to everything. And it made no difference what Hanoi did either. There was nothing that Hanoi could have done to make the young protesters say, "Gee, maybe Nixon is right. I'm going to support him now." Violent street protests in Los Angeles and Detroit, and the 1968 riot at the Democratic convention in Chicago, and the shootings of students at Kent State College in 1970 were blamed on Johnson and Nixon. (Paragraph corrected, 10-Aug)

This is what always happens in a generational Awakening, starting around 20 years after the end of a generational crisis war, in this case World War II. The survivors of the war traumatized by its horrors, and vow to keep it from happening again. The generation that grows up after the war have no personal memory of it, and they turn against the generations of survivors in what's called a "generation gap"

Exactly the same thing is happening in Iran today. The first major anti-government protest began in 1999, about 20 years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Some 10,000 students rioted in Tehran University, chanting anti-government slogans. The police reacted violently, leaving at least 20 people hospitalized and 125 students jailed.

There were sporadic protests every few months after that. The next round of major protests, large enouch to threaten the government occurred after the 2009 presidential election. The violence that followed was bloody and massive. Largely peaceful street protests by hundreds of thousands of mostly young people occurred in Iran’s main cities and provincial capitals, including Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz. They were met with unrestrained violence by the police and security forces. Dozens were killed, and 4,000 people were jailed. The police particularly targeted journalists and other government critics with widespread torture, beatings, and threats against family members.

A new round of protests began in December 2017, and they've been continuing intermittently since then.

Just as there's almost nothing that Hanoi could have done in 1960s America to cause young people to support Richard Nixon, there is nothing that the US can do today that would cause Iran's young people to support the Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei. Every problem will be interpreted through the filter of opposing the current government.

And there are plenty of things to protest against, as you can see from the anti-government chants listed above.

There's a big antiwar factor. Young people want Iran out of Syria. Young people want Iran out of Gaza. Young people want Iran to stop funding Hezbollah. Young people want Israel to be left alone. Young people blame the poor economy on massive military spending abroad. In fact, Iran received tens of billions of dollars when sanctions were lifted in 2015, but ordinary people saw little of it. It mostly benefitted government cronies, and the rest was spent on foreign wars.

That leads to the second major factor: Corruption. According to Transparency International, Iran's government is among the most corrupt in the world. According to its transparency index, Iran has an extremely low score of 30 out of 100. By comparison, the worst performing region in the world is sub-Saharan Africa, with a score of 32, which is a better score than Iran's.

Corruption has become so endemic and so bad in Iran's government that even government officials have been expressing alarm. The reason that Iran is so steeped in corruption can be found in its constitution, which was written by Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 revolution. Khomeini wrote the constitution to give himself and any future Supreme Leader with almost unlimited powers.

Khomeini's constitution is almost completely lacking in the kinds of checks and balances that the US Constitution is full of -- three branches of government, with each branch given specific powers that can be curtailed by other branches of government. Iran has an Assembly of Experts that is supposed to provide oversight to the Supreme Leader, but it never has seriously performed that function. The way the constitution is set up, with no real checks and balances, the only way to succeed in government is to be more corrupt than anyone else. Radio Farda (24-Feb) and Bloomberg and Fox News

The international demand for regime change in Iran

There is a great desire in the West for something called "regime change" in Iran, although it's rarely specified what that means.

Regime change did occur in America in 1974, with the forced resignation of Richard Nixon. The current Supreme Leader is Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, 79 years old, born 1939. Many people are hoping that he'll be replaced soon, although he might live for another 10-15 years. But would that qualify as "regime change"?

Corruption is thoroughly embedded in Iran because corruption is almost demanded by the constitution for survival in government. Real regime change would require a new constitution. Perhaps the Assembly of Experts might form a "Constitutional Convention," like the one in America in 1787, and lock the participants in a room and not let them up until they come up with a new constitution for Iran, filled with checks and balances. However, there's little hope for that. In fact, any real regime change may not come for many years.

For almost 15 years, I've been saying, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that that Iran will be America's ally in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war.

This can be seen by connecting the dots. China is very closely allied with Pakistan, which is very closely allied with the Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia. China and India are bitter enemies, as are Pakistan and India. Russia and India are very closely allied, and India is very closely allied with Iran, as Hindus have been allied with Shia Muslims going back to the Battle of Karbala in 680. So the US is going to be allied with India, Russia and Iran, versus China, Pakistan, and the Sunni Muslim states. Just remember that Russia was our bitter enemy before WW II, was our ally during WW II, and was our bitter enemy after WW II. You can't make judgments from today's fatuous political alignments to how nations will act when they're forced to make hard choices in the context of a generational crisis war. These major decisions are made by the populations, large generations of people, not by a few politicians when a nation and its way of life are threatened.

So that's a brief summary of the geopolitical linkages. But there's another way we know that Iran will be an American ally. Iran's college students have been holding pro-American and pro-Western protests for almost 20 years, starting with the first major protest in 1999. The Iranian regime brutally and violently ended those protests, but they didn't change minds. Today, those college students are 30-40 years old, moving into positions of power. When the time comes and Iranians are forced to choose, they'll decide that they'll have no choice but to side with America and the West. CNBC and Fox News and Slate

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Aug-18 World View -- Iran's protesters blame bad economy on Supreme Leader, not on US sanctions thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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7-Aug-18 World View -- Pakistan faces imminent financial crisis threatening China's CPEC

Pakistan elects anti-American far right religious Imran Khan to be prime minister

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan elects anti-American far right religious Imran Khan to be prime minister


Imran Khan (Getty)
Imran Khan (Getty)

Imran Khan, who will be taking the oath of office as prime minister of Pakistan in a few days, as his political party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (Movement for Justice), seems poised to form a governing coalition, following the July 25 national elections.

Khan, a Pashtun born in 1952, is extremely popular and charismatic. He was one of Pakistan's greatest cricket players of all time. In the 1990s, he was voted as the "Sexiest Man of The Year" by the Australia Magazine Oz.

Khan's views are strongly Islamist, closely associated with Pakistan's religious far right, even to the point of supporting Pakistan's draconian blasphemy law which allows any Pakistani citizen to kill another person with impunity, provided that he first accuses the person he's going to kill of blasphemy. He's anti-American, has promised to distance Pakistan from the United States, has condemned NATO airstrikes on terrorists in Pakistan, and has promised to resolve the Kashmir issue with India in Pakistan's favor. This could be important when the army and intelligence services ask for a favor in return for helping to get him elected. The News (Pakistan) and Washington Post

Pakistan faces imminent financial crisis threatening China's CPEC

Like all politicians, Khan made plenty of campaign promises that he won't be able to fulfill. He promised to create an "Islamic welfare state," with big public spending on health and education. In fact, his campaign speeches were totally delusional.

Imran Khan will not have much time to celebrate his victory, as Pakistan is so short of foreign reserves that it could be forced into bankruptcy within a month, and his "Islamic welfare state" is just a distant dream.

Pakistan and China like to say that they're "all-weather friends," but the reason for Pakistan's enormous mountain of debt is the $52 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which China has been using to force a number of countries into a debt trap.

The goal of the CPEC is to connect China's western Xinjiang province to the Gwadar port in southern Pakistan by means of a collection of highways and railways. The project is to be completed by 2030.

We've described a number of these projects in the past, and they have common elements. China lends tens of billions of dollars to a country to build an infrastructure project. China supplies thousands of workers and their families to do the building. Chinese companies are used to provide equipment and supplies. The country must pay for all these Chinese workers and equipment with money from the loan, which means that most of the money gets sent back to China. The country must still repay the loan, which means that it's paying China twice for the same loan. And the country is left for decades with a large Chinese community of workers and families controled by Beijing's international coercive propaganda agency, the "United Front Work Department" (UFWD).

Pakistan has been borrowing money "like crazy" for the last five years. Imports for energy, machinery, transport equipment and metals have skyrocketed because of CPEC and because of rising oil prices. Meanwhile exports, mainly textiles, have increased only slightly. As a result, the country's foreign currency reserves have declined to about $10.3 billion, enough to cover less than two months of imports. If Pakistan cannot pay for imports, then the entire CPEC project would be in danger.

In June, China granted an emergency loan to Pakistan for $1 billion to cover payments for imports till the end of August.

According to one analyst, Pakistan was unable to turn to Saudi Arabia for a loan because Pakistan had refused in 2016 to join the Saudi-led coalition waging a war in Yemen.

So Pakistan has been forced to turn to its all-weather friend China for one loan after another. This has alarmed even some Pakistani officials, because the country has become so dependent on China.

In the past, Pakistan has borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for emergency funds, and wants to do so again. But there are several issues:

As a private citizen, Imran Khan has criticized the IMF in the past, and has criticized Pakistan's government for borrowing from the IMF. Now that he's going to be prime minister, he may have to change his tune. Dawn (Pakistan) and AFP and Dawn and South China Morning Post and Al Jazeera

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Aug-18 World View -- Pakistan faces imminent financial crisis threatening China's CPEC thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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6-Aug-18 World View -- John Bolton and Marco Rubio describe North Korea strategy, as sanctions are violated

UN report: North Korea nuclear and missile development continues

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

UN report: North Korea nuclear and missile development continues


North Korea foreign minister Ri Yong Ho slammed the Trump administration for refusing to lift sanctions (AFP)
North Korea foreign minister Ri Yong Ho slammed the Trump administration for refusing to lift sanctions (AFP)

A confidential report to the United Nations Security Council says that during the last six months, not only has North Korea not stopped development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles but, even worse, North Korea is stepping up plans to sell weapons to other countries, including to the Houthis in Yemen. Now when we talk about the war in Yemen, instead of the "Iran-backed Houthis," we can refer to the "Iran-backed and North Korea backed Houthis."

According to the report:

"[North Korea] has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018."

North Korea also violated a textile ban by exporting more than $100 million in goods to China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Uruguay within the same time period.

North Korea has also offered "a range of conventional arms, and in some cases ballistic missiles to armed groups in Yemen and Libya," and particularly to the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. There is no report on whether the sales were actually made.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at the ASEAN conference, said in response to the reports:

"If these reports prove accurate, and we have every reason to believe that they are, that would be in violation. I want to remind every nation that has supported these resolutions that this is a serious issue and something we will discuss with Moscow.

[The US expects] all countries to abide to the UN Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea. Any violation that detracts from the world's goal of finally, fully denuclearizing North Korea would be something that America would take very seriously."

Pompeo did not specify what action or retaliation the US would take against every country violating the sanctions, but there have been widespread reports of violations by several countries, and no action has been taken. In particular, Russia has been accused of bringing in thousands of North Korean "guest workers," who act as virtual slaves, and whose salaries are sent back to the North Korean regime.

However, Pompeo's remarks were met with sharp rebukes by the representative of North Korea, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who said that Washington was "raising its voice louder" in anger, despite goodwill measures by North Korea.

North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho slammed the United States for insisting on sanctions, and prioritizing them higher than "confidence-building," which apparently refers to removing sanctions:

"Confidence is not a sentiment to be cultivated overnight. In order to build full confidence between the DPRK [North Korea] and the US, it is essential for both sides to take simultaneous actions and phased steps to do what is possible one after another."

He said that North Korea had done its part with goodwill measures such as the moratorium on nuclear testing and the dismantling of a nuclear site. But instead of reciprocating these goodwill measures, he accused the US of "raising its voice louder" for maintaining sanctions against North Korea, and was "showing the attitude to retreat even from declaring the end of war, a very basic and primary step for providing peace on the Korean peninsula." Declaring an end to the Korean War, which is still theoretically in progress, though under a ceasefire, would require removing American troops from South Korea, a key objective of North Korea. It would also require removing the THAAD missile defense system, a key objective of China. Reuters and Deutsche Welle and Straits Times

John Bolton and Marco Rubio describe administration's North Korea strategy

As I've written many times, everything that the Trump administration has done in foreign policy since Donald Trump took office makes complete sense to me, which is in contrast to Obama's foreign policy, which never made sense. The reason that Trump's foreign policy makes sense is because everything he does is consistent with the Generational Dynamics analyses that I've been posting for years. Trump understands these analyses because he was educated by his former principal advisor Steve Bannon, whom I've worked with for years, and who is an expert on both military history and Generational Dynamics. It's worth mentioning this because the mainstream press and mainstream analysts are always completely and totally baffled by the administration's foreign policy, even though it is consistent and makes complete sense, provided you focus on actions, not PR tweets.

On Sunday, responding to questions about the UN report, national security adviser John Bolton and Senator Marco Rubio described the administration strategy toward North Korea at the present time.

As I've been writing for many months, based on Generational Dynamics analyses, is that there is no chance whatsoever that North Korea will give up its nuclear development program now or in the future, after having tortured, starved and brutalized their own population for three decades, under the promise that one day North Korea would be a nuclear power on a peer with the United States.

North Korea has one and only one objective in the charm offensive since the beginning of the year and in Kim's summit meetings with Trump and South Korean leaders: To get the US-led sanctions lifted without having to give up its development of nuclear missiles targeting the United States.

Saturday's statements by North Korea's foreign minister harshly criticizing the US for not reciprocating North Korea's "goodwill measures" and instead demanding that sanctions be continued is in line with this objective.

During John Bolton's interview on Sunday, he said the following:

"As I've said to you and others before, there's nobody in his administration starry eyed about the prospects of North Korea actually denuclearizing.

But I think what's going on now is that the president is giving Kim Jong-un on a master class on how to hold a door open for somebody. And if the North Koreans can't figure out how to walk through it, even the president's fiercest critics will not be able to say it's because he didn't open it wide enough.

We are going to have to see a performance from the North Koreans. There's no question about it."

This is a very interesting statement, and reflects a strategy that I haven't heard previously from the administration. As I've suggested in the past, North Korea will continue nuclear missile development no matter what the Trump administration does, and since it doesn't make any different what action is taken, the administration should choose actions that when the inevitable nuclear confrontation happens, the North Koreans and the Chinese will be blamed for it, not the United States. This is crucial from the point of view of historians ten or twenty years from now, looking back and saying that it was North Korea, not the United States, that was to blame for what happened. Bolton's remarks on Trump giving "a master class on how to hold a door open for somebody" are exactly in line with that objective.

Senator Marco Rubio, who is on the Senate and Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, was also interviewed on Fox News, and gave additional strategic information:

"Well, I'm about to tell you I hope I'm wrong about, but I do not believe that he is ever going to give up his nuclear arsenal. What I do believe he will do is a series of unilateral concessions that do not undermine his capabilities in the long term. For example, I think he's more than willing to tear apart facilities that are no longer necessary for old missiles because he's got newer ones that work better. I believe he has undisclosed sites that he thinks he can shield from the world. I believe that he believes that even if he gets rid of some of the new enrichment capabilities, he already has existing weapons and existing enriched capabilities that he can hide from the from the world.

And every single time that he does one of these productions he is engendering goodwill internationally, which is ultimately his goal, to undermine international support for sanctions by arguing, "Look at all these things I'm doing, the Americans are not reciprocating," and undermining sanctions at the U.N. and internationally. That's his goal in my opinion."

The interviewer Chris Wallace said: "Isn't Kim succeeding in lowering the temperature, breaking apart the alliance of sanctions, and isn't president Trump being played?"

Rubio responded, "I don't know if the president is being played. I think he's hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. The sanctions remained in place. We haven't changed a single sanction on North Korea."

Once again, this makes complete sense because it's consistent with the Generational Dynamics analyses that I've been posting for months. As I've said in the past, Trump can't prevent a world war, but I'm not going to criticize Trump for taking steps to try to prevent a world war, even if doing so is impossible.

One more related subject that the mainstream media is completely baffled about is the issue of Russia. I must hear reporters ask the same question a dozen times a day: Why is Trump so "nice" to Vladimir Putin and Russia, when he's not so "nice" to China and in fact is conducting a trade war?

Once again, this makes perfect sense, as I've been describing for years. Russia will be our ally in the coming world war, just as the Soviet Union was our ally in World War II, even though it was a bitter enemy before and after World War II. Generational Dynamics predicts that this bit of history will repeat itself, so of course it makes sense for Trump to be "nice" to Russia. This will be of help later.

As for the trade war against China, this is a dangerous game. An American oil embargo against Japan in 1941 led to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor several months later, and this trade war might trigger a similar response from China today. In a sense it doesn't make any difference, since China has been arming itself militarily to pre-emptively attack the United States at a time of its choosing, so the trade war might force China to move up the attack to a time when it will not be as well prepared. However, there's no question that this is a dangerous move.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that there is an approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, pitting the "axis" of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries against the "allies," the US, India, Russia and Iran. Part of it will be a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the bloody the war of 1948-49 that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The war between Jews and Arabs will be part of a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other. Fox News

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Aug-18 World View -- John Bolton and Marco Rubio describe North Korea strategy, as sanctions are violated thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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5-Aug-18 World View -- China mocks America's 'Indo-Pacific' strategy at ASEAN meeting

Concerns grow over China's debt strategy for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China mocks America's 'Indo-Pacific' strategy at ASEAN meeting


Donald Trump meets Vietnam's leader Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi last year (Reuters)
Donald Trump meets Vietnam's leader Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi last year (Reuters)

Neither China nor the United States is a member of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), but both had representatives present, and their competing strategies were the main subjects of discussion. ASEAN has ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

For lexicographers and cartographers, the main news is that Western nations, including Australia and the US, have given a new name to their strategies, referring to the "Indo-Pacific strategy" instead of the old name, "Asia-Pacific strategy."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earlier discussed a plan to invest $113 million in technology, energy and infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region. On Saturday he added:

"As part of our commitment to advancing regional security in the Indo-Pacific, the United States is excited to announce nearly $300 million in new funding to reinforce security cooperation throughout the entire region."

The reason for the change in terminology is to emphasize that the Pacific Ocean and the India Ocean form a combined strategic region. However, the terminology change is annoying to the Chinese, who prefer the China-centric name "Asia-Pacific," while the name "Indo-Pacific" gives more emphasis to China's historic enemy, India.

Chinese media were bitterly scathing in their response to Pompeo's announcements:

"What is the Indo-Pacific strategy? Many complain about its vagueness. Its most innovative part may be the name itself. Washington probably hopes the rest of the world would stop asking questions, tacitly understand Washington's intentions and firmly gather around the US after a few exchanges of glances and together begin to counter China's rising influence....

ASEAN members are not sure what the US Indo-Pacific strategy entails. The US announced only an investment of $113 million, which also includes India. The amount seems only sufficient to build an overpass perhaps in the center of Mumbai. Washington is using a strategic gimmick. It is insincere about pushing forward economic prosperity of Indo-Pacific region....

As a concept, Indo-Pacific strategy generated some media and psychological impact. But this is perhaps the only points it can score. If the US wants more, this strategy will be the abyss that consumes much US resources and its output can hardly match its input.

What's more important, this is not the era where geopolitics rules all. The US has treated China's Belt and Road initiative, which focuses on mutually beneficial cooperation, as strategic expansion, and is trying to prohibit Asia from marching forward through connectivity. Washington's move is against historic tide. Even if it plans to invest 100 times its current amount, the investment will be devoured by the historic trend."

The commentary mentions China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), where China has committed $900 billion (with a "b") to Asian countries, in contrast to America's "paltry" commitment of $133 million (with an "m"). Reuters and Global Times (Beijing) and Asia Times and ASEAN

Concerns grow over China's debt strategy for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

Many ASEAN countries were disappointed at the lack of specifics in Pompeo's promise that "The United States will continue to create the conditions for mutual prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific."

However, many of these countries are quite concerned about the numerous problems associated with BRI, including corruption scandals and concerns about opaque financing, delays and mounting debt problems linked to the loans Beijing has provided to its partner countries.

In the past couple of years, we've seen how these projects work, in countries like Sri Lanka, Kenya, Djibouti, Malaysia and Pakistan:

Malaysia has suspended a $14 billion rail line because of graft and corruption. Pakistan cancelled a $14 billion dam project last year because of excessive debts. Kenya accused China of "neo-colonialism, racism and blatant discrimination." Other countries are extremely anxious about Chinese investments.

The US offer of $113 million plus $300 million is paltry compared to China's offer, but the US offer is aid, not a loan, and it's the local workers who will build the infrastructure project.

That's why, when announcing these aid packages, Pompeo emphasized "partnership, not domination" in Asia, and promised to "create the conditions for mutual prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific." Nikkei and Malay Mail and Washington Examiner

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Aug-18 World View -- China mocks America's 'Indo-Pacific' strategy at ASEAN meeting thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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4-Aug-18 World View -- South Africa announces plans for unpaid confiscation of white-owned farms

Zimbabwe's post-election violence raises concerns about economy

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Zimbabwe's post-election violence raises concerns about economy


Zimbabwe Black Power Farm. Starting in 2000, Zimbabwe's government confiscated thousands of white-owned farms without compensation, leading to economic disaster. (AFP)
Zimbabwe Black Power Farm. Starting in 2000, Zimbabwe's government confiscated thousands of white-owned farms without compensation, leading to economic disaster. (AFP)

Early Friday morning the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) declared incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa the winner of Sunday's presidential election with 50.8% of the vote -- just enough to avoid a run-off against Chamisa, who received 44.3% of the vote.

Chamisa declared the result fraudulent, and urged his supporters to hold peaceful protests, avoiding violence. However, a Chamisa press conference was broken up by government riot police. On Wednesday, the army opened live fire on protesters in the capital city Harare, killing six people.

Whether or not the election was fraudulent, these and other acts of post-election violence by government security and military forces against protesters are raising concerns in the international community that Zimbabwe is not a stable country, and that therefore commercial investments in Zimbabwe are too risky.

Mnangagwa repeatedly made it clear during the campaign that he wanted the election to be fair and free of controversy, specifically so that international investors would help boost Zimbabwe's collapsing economy.

Zimbabwe's disastrous economy is blamed on tribal and racial violence by Mnangagwa's predecessor Robert Mugabe. Mugabe's Shona tribe conducted genocide against the hated Ndebele tribe, killing tens of thousands, and marginalizing them ever since. Then he conducted racial warfare starting in 2000 by confiscating hundreds of farms owned by white farmers, and turning them over to his Shona cronies who didn't know how to run a farm. A lot of the racist confiscation was performed through "land invasions," where a group of Shona tribesmen would invade a white-owned farm, throw the white farmers off the farm, and confiscated through force.

The result was an economic disaster that changed Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of southern Africa into a basket case. The currency collapsed with an inflation rate over 231 million percent, as people were forced into starvation. Mugabe continued his "indigenization" program by confiscating commercial businesses and turned them over to Shona cronies who didn't know how to run businesses.

During this year's election campaign, Mnangagwa actually acknowledged Mugabe's disastrous policies by attempting to woo white farmers with promises to return some of their land.

Mnangagwa conceded that much of the land stolen from white farmers had been given to powerful politicians, soldiers or tribal leaders who knew little or nothing about farming:

"I know of some chiefs who have moved from one farm to another. Then they run it down. Then he leaves that farm and he is issued another one. He runs it down. That time is gone."

However, that speech was given by a politician to wealthy Zimbabweans during election campaign. Why would anyone believe anything that a politician says during an election campaign? At his core, Mnangagwa is a Shona tribesman still at war with Ndebele tribesmen and whites.

Now that Mnangagwa has been declared winner of the presidential election, he has to find a way to get international investors to invest in Zimbabwe. And this will have to be done with actions, not promises. Whether he can do that remains to be seen. Zimbabwe Mail and Deutsche Welle (7-Jul)

South Africa announces plans for unpaid confiscation of white-owned farms

South Africa's president Cyril Ramaphosa, leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC) political party, made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that the ANC would go ahead with aggressive plans to confiscate white-owned farms without compensation:

"The ANC reaffirms its position that the Constitution is a mandate for radical transformation both of society and the economy.

A proper reading of the Constitution on the property clause enables the state to effect expropriation of land with just and equitable compensation and also expropriation without compensation in the public interest.

It has become patently clear that our people want the Constitution to be more explicit about expropriation of land without compensation, as demonstrated in the public hearings. ...

Accordingly, the ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalize a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected.

The intention of this proposed amendment is to promote redress, advance economic development, increase agricultural production and food security."

Blacks claim that farmland was owned by whites during the apartheid era, but since South Africa achieved independence in 1994, blacks own very little farmland, while whites own massively more. In 1994, the ANC promised to expropriate 30% of the white-owned farms "with just and equitable compensation," as provided for in the constitution, and redistribute that land to black farmers.

However, 25 years later, the government has acquired only 7.9% of the white-owned farms, and even those have mostly not been redistributed to blacks. Therefore, there have increasingly belligerent demands within the ANC to take action to confiscate white-owned farms. Furthermore, rather than have the ANC provide "just and equitable compensations," the new constitutional amendment will permit confiscation with no compensation whatsoever.

This is exactly the policy that Zimbabwe followed, and in fact confiscation with no compensation opens the way to the same kinds of "land invasions," where blacks invade a white-owned farm and throw the white farmer out. The result that the value of the South African rand currency has been falling sharply since Ramaphosa's announcement.

Ramaphosa, of course, is just another ordinary politician making a campaign promise in advance of next year's election. Ramaphosa made the completely empty promise to "advance economic development, increase agricultural production and food security," even though he has absolutely no clue how to do that and, in fact, the Zimbabwe experiences indicates that the outcome will be disastrous.

The ANC have been forming committees and holding meetings for over a year on the question of land confiscation without compensation, but they still haven't even come up with a description of how the land confiscation would work. Questions that they've been unable or unwilling to answer include the following:

Even under the most benign circumstances, why would a black farmer with no experience as a farmer do anywhere near as well as a white farmer who has been farming for decades? He won't.

Zimbabwe used to produce enough food to feed itself, and export the rest. After Robert Mugabe's farm confiscation program, Zimbabwe was forced to import food, and Zimbabwe was saved by food from South African farms. After South Africa's farm confiscation program is put into effect, who's going to save South Africa? News24 (South Africa) and CNBC and News24 and Eyewitness News (South Africa) and The South African and News24

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3-Aug-18 World View -- DR Congo has new outbreak of Ebola just as the previous outbreak ends

Reasons for quick containment of last Ebola outbreak

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

DR Congo's last Ebola outbreak officially ended on July 24


Camps for displaced people, North Kivu province, DR Congo (UN)
Camps for displaced people, North Kivu province, DR Congo (UN)

As we reported in May, there was a potentially explosive outbreak of Ebola in the city of Mbandaka, a large heavily populated urban city of about 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an outbreak could spread rapidly. Furthermore, Mbandaka is a port city on the Congo River, creating the potential of transmission along the Congo River to other cities and other countries.

On July 24, the World Health Organization (WHO) was proud to announce that the outbreak had officially ended. The doctors who had been sent to the region had been extremely vigilant, and had been aggressively using "contact tracing" to prevent the virus from spreading. When an Ebola patient is identified, then all that person's contacts and contacts of contacts are tracked down, and are warned to remain indoors for an incubation period of 21 days.

A vaccine had been developed, and suspected victims were treated with the vaccine, to prevent development of the full virus. Teams went to remote villages to vaccinate some 3300 people likely to have been exposed to Ebola. However, it's still not known whether the vaccine actually protected against infection, although it clearly boosted morale.

On July 24, all known contacts had completed their 21 day isolation period, and there were no new cases. There had been 53 cases of Ebola, and 29 deaths.

This was a striking contrast to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, sickening over 28,000 and killing over 11,310. Guardian (24-Jul) and Science Magazine (18-Jul) and World Health Organization (24-Jul)

DR Congo has new outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu province

The last outbreak of Ebola occurred in the far western region of Equateur province which is in in far western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Now the World Health Organization (WHO) is declaring a new outbreak. This one is in North Kivu province, in far eastern DRC, 2,500 km (1,500 miles) from the previous outbreak.

The new outbreak has been spreading rapidly. Already, 20 people have been killed, including four health workers, and four other people have tested positive for the virus.

There are three known strains of the Ebola virus -- the Zaire strain, the Sudan strain, and the Bundibugyo strain. The last outbreak was the Zaire strain, and the vaccine that had been developed was specific to that strain. Which of the three strains is in the new outbreak has not been identified, but the vaccine can be used only with the Zaire strain.

A more dangerous problem, beyond the possible unavailability of a vaccine, is that that that North Kivu province is a war zone for a tribal civil war. Armed groups backed by government forces have been burning down and pillaging villages, torching houses, shutting down schools, hospitals and churches, forcefully recruiting young men, abducting and kidnapping innocent citizens, raping women and girls. This has already driven hundreds of thousands of refugees from North Kivu province of DRC into refugee camps in Uganda. ( "13-Feb-18 World View -- Thousands of DR Congo refugees pour into Uganda to escape tribal violence")

The WHO has been rapidly transferring its people and assets from Equateur province, the site of the previous Ebola outbreak, to the site of current outbreak in North Kivu province. However, it remains to be seen how effective they'll be in this midst of an extremely violent tribal war situation. Guardian (London) and Reuters and World Health Organization

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Reasons for quick containment of last Ebola outbreak

The Ebola outbreak that began in May and ended on July 24 was defeated by the WHO extremely quickly, much more quickly than in the past. There are several reasons for this:

The new outbreak, which takes place in the midst of a tribal civil war, may not be as easy to contain. And if it is, then the next big disease outbreak may be from an unknown pathogen that can't be contained with existing strategies. Vox

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Aug-18 World View -- DR Congo has new outbreak of Ebola just as the previous outbreak ends thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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2-Aug-18 World View -- Report: EU and UK ready to accept 'fudge' to get through Brexit

Opposition grows to the 'fudge' proposal

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Report: EU and UK ready to accept 'fudge' to get through Brexit


An anti-Brexit placard at the Ireland - Northern Ireland border crossing in Killeen (AFP)
An anti-Brexit placard at the Ireland - Northern Ireland border crossing in Killeen (AFP)

Brexit has been a pending disaster ever since the referendum passed on June 23, 2016, and many people in the UK and EU continue to look for ways to make the disaster as small as possible. So now the news is full of talk of a "fudge."

As I explained a few weeks ago, "fudge" is being increasingly used as a stylish, fashionable word for what used to be called "kicking the can down the road."

So in the last couple of days, there are reports that the EU negotiators are ready to agree to a "fudge" based on the so-called "Chequers plan" proposal by UK prime minister Theresa May a month ago.

May was able to twist a lot of arms to get the plan approved by her Tory cabinet at a meeting at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence. But the euphoria didn't last long, as two of her ministers resigned four days later, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Boris Johnson, the foreign minister.

The endless chaos in the UK government caught the attention of the EU negotiators, as officials in both governments increasingly realize the following:

It's become increasingly clear among EU officials in Brussels that May will be unable to navigate an agreement between the "Remainers" and the "Brexiteers," and there is no majority in Commons for any proposal. This would mean that the likelihood of a hard "no deal" Brexit is increasing by the day.

For that reason, EU officials are increasingly willing to "fudge" the negotiations. The plan for future EU-UK ties will not be a formal agreement, but will be an aspirational statement to say as little as possible, to get past the March 29 deadline.

The main condition would be a watertight backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The backstop would require setting up a customs border in the Irish Sea, which separates the Irish Isles from the British Isles. Such measures would in practice keep much of Northern Ireland’s economy under EU legal control, something that Theresa May has said is intolerable.

One senior EU official said:

"The political declaration cannot violate our principles. But with the rest, whatever helps pass a withdrawal bill is fine. You can talk about many things because the backstop is the insurance if all these nice perspectives don't work out."

Besides the backstop, the UK will have to pay the "divorce bill," estimated to be around 39 billion pounds ($50 billion).

Other things, like the complex trading rules, the "common EU-UK rulebook," and court jurisdiction would be left as vague as possible, to be negotiated in the transition period following formal Brexit.

And that's what we used to call "kicking the can down the road." Evening Standard (UK) and Politics (UK) and FT and UK Government Brexit White Paper (PDF, 13-July)

Opposition grows to the 'fudge' proposal

Almost as soon as the report emerged that EU officials might accept a "fudge" of Theresa May's Chequers proposal, opposition grew in both the UK and the EU.

Foreign minister Boris Johnson, a strong Brexiteer, considered the Chequers proposal to be the worst of all worlds. In his resignation letter to Theresa May last month, Johnson wrote the following:

"The British government has spent decades arguing against this or that EU directive, on the grounds that it was too burdensome or ill-thought out. We are now in the ludicrous position of asserting that we must accept huge amounts of precisely such EU law, without changing an iota, because it is essential for our economic health - and when we no longer have any ability to influence these laws as they are made."

Although Johnson is a strong member of the Brexit Leave camp, people in the Remain camp, who never wanted Brexit in the first place, agree with Johnson's opinion of the Chequers proposals.

The Remain camp is now calling it the "blind Brexit." According to Chris Leslie, an MP in the Remain camp:

"A blind Brexit would take the UK to the same place as a no-deal Brexit, but without the clarity. The idea that the fundamental contradictions of the government’s Brexit policy can be more easily resolved after the UK has left the EU is simply ludicrous.

A blind Brexit is being talked about because some see it as a short-term face-saving deal for both the British government and the European Union, both of which are now terrified that concluding with a failure to agree a deal will result in a humiliating no-deal Brexit.

With the EU27 governments and the EU commission wanting to spare Theresa May’s blushes, there is a risk we end up with a fake deal to save face."

Leslie's statement is that it's ludicrous to think that issues that can't be resolved before Brexit, will be more easily resolved after Brexit is true, but he misses the point. The whole point of a "fudge" is to "kick the can down the road," and if that can keep happening over and over, then the issues will never be resolved, and will never have to be resolved.

Readers may recall what happened with Greece's financial crisis. The EU and Greece would have a major crisis meeting every few months, usually running all night, and they would announce a "fudge," a way to postpone the crisis till the next meeting. The problems with Greece's unsustainable debt were never resolved -- it's still unsustainable. But they've found a way to kick the can down the road indefinitely.

So that's the idea behind the Brexit fudge. Leslie is right that there will be no agreement during the transition period, but if the politicians are clever enough, no agreement will every have to be reached, and every problem will be postponed. As the Peanuts character Charlie Brown used to say, no problem is so big that it can't be run away from.

The Remain camp is now calling itself "The People's Vote" because it's focused on a second Brexit referendum on leaving the EU. People in the Leave camp would never agree to that, but as I understand it, even if everyone did agree, a referendum takes a long time to set up, and so it's impossible before the March 29 Brexit deadline.

For that reason, the Remain camp is seeking out its own fudge. They're trying to convince EU leaders, especially from Germany and France, to agree to a postponement of the March 29 day to give enough time for a second referendum. Guardian (London) and Daily Mail (London)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Aug-18 World View -- Report: EU and UK ready to accept 'fudge' to get through Brexit thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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1-Aug-18 World View -- Iran's anti-government protests expand as rial currency plummets

The Grand Bazaar and the prospects for regime change

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran's anti-government protests expand as rial currency plummets


The Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran (OrigIran)
The Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran (OrigIran)

Massive demonstrations that began in December 2017 have been continuing intermittently in cities across Iran since then. On Tuesday, the protests spread to the history central city of Isfahan.

The protests a month ago were triggered by the collapse in the value of Iran's currency, the rial. At the end of 2017, the exchange rate was 42,000 rials to the US dollar. A month ago, the exchange rate had fallen to 90,000 rials to the dollars. One of the chants that protesters used in last months demonstrations was "We don't want the dollar at 100,000 rials!"

Well, on July 29 the exchange rate crossed the 100,000 milestone, and by Monday, the exchange rate was 110,000 rials to the dollar. The rate has been falling since May, when the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal, and announced that US sanctions would be imposed on August 7.

The plunge in the value of the rial means that goods imported into Iran from other countries now cost two times or even three times as much as they used to.

As Americans, we're so used to being blamed for everything in the world, it's startling that the protesters are not blaming America for this increase in prices. Instead, they're blaming their own government.

Protesters blame the government for wasting the tens of billions of dollars that Iran received when sanctions were lifted after the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. From the point of view of protesters, that money simply vanished into thin air, and they blame that on the Iranian government, not the Americans. The protesters blame Iran's massive corruption, especially among the clergy, and the money that's being spent on foreign wars in Syria and Lebanon.

Marchers on Tuesday were seen in video clips chanting "Leave Syria and think about us," and "No to Gaza, No to Lebanon — I give my life to Iran." The latter refers to billions of dollars being given to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to Hamas in Gaza.

Other slogans were much more personal: "Death to the dictator," referring to the Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei. VOA and AP and Arab News

The Grand Bazaar and the prospects for regime change

The frequency of protests in Iran since the beginning of the year has raised hopes in the West that regime change was close at hand.

Earlier this month, there were protests for a very different reason -- water shortages and pollution, and lack of water management. A vast agricultural area in Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran lacks irrigation water. This is a region that was devastated by the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s, and has a largely Arab population, which suffers official discrimination, as opposed to the majority Persian population. About 40% of Iran has been suffering from a serious drought since last year.

There is a great desire in the West for something called "regime change" in Iran, although it's rarely specified what that means. It could mean that Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, gets replaced, but his replacement may be worse. In terms of violent repression, Khamenei actually isn't very different from the Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi) who was deposed by the 1979 revolution.

As we described last month in "Brief generational history of Iran's protests," Tehran's Grand Bazaar has played a pivotal role in protests and regime changes in the past.

Tehran's Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, with origins that go back as far as 1660 BC. It occupies over 8 square miles, and has hundreds of shops. So when there's a widespread protest and strike supported by the shop owners, and suddenly all the shops are closed, it is a significant event.

The Tobacco Revolt of 1890-92 was led by tobacco merchants in the Grand Bazaar, but quickly spread to other merchants. The revolt fizzled because of violence from the Shah. But in 1905, there were new protests, led this time by the sugar merchants in the Grand Bazaar. These protests led to a generational crisis civil war, the Constitutional Revolution, which was a major "regime change" for Iran in that the Shah was then bound by laws defined in the new constitution.

The White Revolution protests in 1962 were begun by a different set of élites -- the clergy, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This was too soon after the Constitutional Revolution to spread widely, and it fizzled quickly.

However, it led to the Great Islamic Revolution in 1979. Once again, the merchants in the Grand Bazaar were among the leaders that brought about a major regime change -- overthrowing the Shah and replacing him with Khomeini.

So now there are new protests by the merchants in the Grand Bazaar, thanks to the plunge in the value of the rial, something that affects them directly. Does that mean that regime change is at hand?

No, it doesn't. If there's some kind of widespread revolt, it will almost certainly fizzle, like the Tobacco Revolt and the White Revolution protests.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, there is a different kind of change at hand, an Awakening era climax similar to the one that forced president Richard Nixon to step down in America in 1974. This will be the climax of the political confrontation between the generations of old geezer survivors of the revolution and the people in the younger generations growing up after the revolution -- the same young people who have been protesting in cities across Iran.

Depending on who is in charge after this change, it's possible that Iran will once again be the ally of the United States, just as it was prior to 1979. Reuters and Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and OrigIran and The Conversation (3-Jul)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Aug-18 World View -- Iran's anti-government protests expand as rial currency plummets thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Aug-2018) Permanent Link
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31-Jul-18 World View -- Attacks on Saudi tankers expose twin Iran military threats to international oil shipments

US considers military options for Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Attacks on Saudi tankers expose twin Iran military threats to international oil shipments


Map of Mideast, highlighting Yemen's Hodeidah seaport, and shipping choke points Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb Strait
Map of Mideast, highlighting Yemen's Hodeidah seaport, and shipping choke points Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb Strait

The US military is looking at options to keep two vital waterways, the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandeb strait, open to commercial shipping.

The increased concern comes about after Saudi Arabia suspended its oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb strait, after a Saudi oil tanker was struck by a missile launched by the Iran-backed Shia Houthis in Yemen.

The missile's warhead only partially detonated, causing a 2-3 meter hole in the hull, but if it had penetrated deeper and reached the 2 million barrels of oil in ship’s hold, it would have caused a massive environmental disaster.

Saudi Arabia immediate suspended all oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb strait. To date, no other exporters have followed suit. A full blockage of the strait would halt shipment to Europe and the United States of about 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products, or result in substantial shipping delays as vessels are rerouted around the southern tip of Africa. The Bab al-Mandeb Strait controls access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal from the Indian Ocean.

Few people doubt that the missiles were provided to the Houthis by Iran. However, Debka is going further and reporting that the attack was orchestrated by a disguised Iranian vessel, the Saviz, a weapons-carrying spy ship, which had been under surveillance by Western naval sources for some time, as it was in a holding pattern in the Bab al-Mandeb strait. Debka's reports are written from Israel's point of view, based on military and intelligence sources that provide valuable insights. However, as usual, I have to warn readers that they definitely do sometimes get some things wrong.

The Houthi attack is related to the Saudi-led offensive on the Port of Hodeidah, which is used by NGOs as the major port for humanitarian supplies for the Yemen population, and is also used by the Houthis for the importation of weapons. The purpose of the offensive is to recaptured the port from the Houthis. The offensive began on June 12, but has been going badly, and has made little progress, except to deepen the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which is considered the world's worst.

The Houthis have targeted Saudi tankers in at least two other attacks this year. According to a Saudi energy consultant, the Saudi announcement about suspending oil shipments was done for security reason, but also has a political dimension, to gain international cooperation in the offensive on Hodeidah:

"Rather than allowing these hostile maneuvers to go unnoticed in the eyes of the world, the Saudi (energy) minister has placed Iran’s subversions of the whole global economy under the spotlight for everyone to see. The capture of the port of Hodeidah will go a long way towards putting an end to these disruptions."

Saudi Arabia transports crude oil from its fields in the east, through the Strait of Hormuz, then through the Bab al-Mandeb strait, through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to Europe and North America. The Saudis have other choices for delivering oil. One possibility is to use the Petroline, and east-west pipeline that can transport crude from fields in the east to the Red Sea port of Yanbu, bypassing both of the narrow straits. It could also charter non-Saudi ships to carry the oil through Bab al-Mandeb, which it already with Asian customers using different routes. Reuters and Debka and CNBC

US considers military options for Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb

Tensions between the US and Iran have been increasing since the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal in May. Since then, Iran's rial currency has been plunging to record lows, in anticipation of the imposition of new US sanctions on August 7. Some of those sanctions may limit Iran's ability to sell its oil, and this has led to tit-for-tat threats between the Trump administration and Iranian officials, including a threat by Iran to take military action to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.

It's now clear that Iran is not just threatening the Strait of Hormuz, but is also threatening Bab al-Mandeb.

There have reports over the weekend that the US military was considering what options can be used to keep both Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb open to commercial traffic, particularly oil tankers.

For example, military studies suggest that an obstruction of Hormuz, by mines, small submarines, “swarming” attacks by boats, and land-based missiles, would be defeated within a few weeks at most by US and allied naval forces. It would also be a casus belli for the US to make a much wider-ranging strike against Iranian military and other targets.

US military officials emphasize that if any military action is taken, it would be carried out by other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and not by US forces. The National (UAE) and CNN and Haaretz and National Interest (28-Jun)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Jul-18 World View -- Attacks on Saudi tankers expose twin Iran military threats to international oil shipments thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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30-Jul-18 World View -- Operation Gukurahundi genocide becomes major Zimbabwe election issue

Robert Mugabe endorses the opposition candidate

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Operation Gukurahundi genocide becomes major Zimbabwe election issue


Operation Gukurahundi grave from 1984 (bulawayo24.com)
Operation Gukurahundi grave from 1984 (bulawayo24.com)

For years, it was forbidden in Zimbabwe to talk about Operation Gukurahundi genocide of the 1980s, and if you did, then you risked being arrested, beaten and tortured by the security forces of president Robert Mugabe, head of the Zanu-PF party, dominated by Mugabe's tribe, the Shona.

But last year Mugabe was ousted and replaced by Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, another Zanu-PF Shona, the man whom Mugabe had fired as vice-president just weeks earlier. After becoming the new president, Mnangagwa said, "The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy."

On Monday there's a new presidential election with 75 year old Mnangagwa facing, as a principal challenger, Nelson Chamisa, head of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), representing the interests of the Ndebele tribe, historic tribal enemies of the Shona tribe. Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF are expected to win, either by popularity or election-rigging, depending on whom you ask.

If Chamisa does better than expected it may be because Mnangagwa was a major architect of Operation Gukurahundi, the bloody genocide of tens of thousands in the Ndebele tribe conducted by the Shona tribe in the 1980s.

Operation Gukurahundi was mostly based on the historical enmity of two tribes -- Mugabe's Shona tribe, and his enemies, the Ndebele tribe. Genocidal warfare occurred between these two tribes in previous generational crisis wars -- the Mfecane war that climaxed in 1828, the Matabele Wars that climaxed in 1897, and the Rhodesia civil war, climaxing in 1979. It was the last war that gave Zimbabwe independence, making Mugabe the President.

Mnangagwa received military training in China in the early 1960s as a teenager. As Mugabe's right-hand man, Mnangagwa is widely blamed for leading the genocide against the Ndebele tribe. "Operation Gukurahundi" (Shona language for "The rain that washes away the chaff (from the last harvest) before the spring rain") was accomplished with the help of the army's 5th Brigade of 3,000 élite Shona troops, which had been trained by North Korea. Tens of thousands from the Ndebele tribe were tortured and slaughtered, under orders from Mugabe and Mnangagwa. Some families were pushed into huts that were set on fire and they either burned to death or were shot dead when they tried to escape.

That wasn't the end of it. Since the 1980s, Mugabe and Mnangagwa have systematically won every election by marginalizing, jailing and torturing opposition politicians, marginalizing the members of the Ndebele tribe, and rigging elections. This has continued to the present time, and few opposition politicians believe that it will end now.

Mnangagwa has refused to apologize for his part in Operation Gukurahundi. According to one opposition politician, "What we need from Mnangagwa is an admission of what happened, an apology and communal reparations for the victims of that time."

Both Mugabe and Mnangagwa for decades worked together on Mugabe's "indigenization" program, which threw out farm and business owners who knew how to run a farm or a business, and replaced them with thugs and cronies from Mugabe's and Mnangagwa's Shona tribe who didn't know how to run a farm or business. Over three decades, Mugabe and Mnangagwa turned Rhodesia, which was a wealthy country and the breadbasket of southern Africa, into today's Zimbabwe, which is an economic basket case. They turned Zimbabwe's stable currency into a worthless hyperinflated currency, with an inflation rate reaching over 231 million percent, so that the only trustworthy currency in Zimbabwe today in the American dollar.

Because of the economic self-destruction, investors have abandoned Zimbabwe. With all of his talk of a "new Zimbabwe," Mnangagwa's principal objective to get international money to flow into Zimbabwe for him to spend. Guardian (London) and Newsday (Zimbabwe) and AP and Reuters and Bulawayo News (Zimbabwe)

Robert Mugabe endorses the opposition candidate

In a bizarre twist on Sunday, ousted president Robert Mugabe unexpectedly gave a speech saying that he could not support the man who had ousted him, Emmerson Mnangagwa. He did not say whom he would vote for, but expressed some support for the main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, the leader of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"I cannot vote for those who tormented me," said Mugabe.

It's hard to believe the enormous irony of that statement. Mugabe is a war criminal, and has tormented, tortured, jailed and slaughtered his tribal and political opponents for decades, and now he's whining because he no longer has sufficiently palatial living quarters. However, this is the kind of self-serving attitude we expect of all politicians at all times in all countries.

Mnangagwa responded with an equally self-serving statement, implying that a vote for the opposition would indicate evil intentions: "It is clear to all that Chamisa has forged a deal with Mugabe, we can no longer believe that his intentions are to transform Zimbabwe and rebuild our nation." BBC and Reuters and The Citizen (South Africa)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Jul-18 World View -- Operation Gukurahundi genocide becomes major Zimbabwe election issue thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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29-Jul-18 World View -- Cambodia's China-backed dictator Hun Sen expected to win fraudulent election on Sunday

Brief generational history of Cambodia

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Cambodia's China-backed dictator Hun Sen expected to win fraudulent election on Sunday


Prime minister Hun Sen signs Paris Peace Accords for Cambodia in 1991; last year he declared the accords to be dead 'ghosts' (AFP)
Prime minister Hun Sen signs Paris Peace Accords for Cambodia in 1991; last year he declared the accords to be dead 'ghosts' (AFP)

Cambodia is holding a supposedly democratic election on Sunday, but there's little doubt which party is going to win: the party is the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), and its leader is China's man, Hun Sen.

China has done everything possible to ensure a Hun Sen victory. As the three-week election campaign began, China announced that it would provide $259 million in loans to fund an infrastructure project in the capital city Phnom Penh. China's ambassador Xiong Bo attended a CPP party rally to support Hun Sen.

China has provided more direct election aid as well. China provided funding for the election in the form of $20 million for equipment, including polling booths, laptops and computers. This month, U.S. security-research firm FireEye said it found evidence of a Chinese hacking team infiltrating computer systems belonging to Cambodia’s election commission, opposition leaders and the media.

There used to be an opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). It came close to winning during the last election in 2013. But then in June 2017, in a local election on the outskirts of Cambodia's Kampong Cham town, it decisively defeated Hun Sen's CPP. CNRP leader Kem Sokha has been jailed on phony charges of treason. Hun Sen arranged for the Supreme Court to declare the CNRP to be illegal. So there's no longer a major opposition party, and party activists have been forced to flee the country.

In the past year, Hun Sen has also destroyed the free press. Hun Sen closed 30 radio states, as well as the Cambodia Daily, one of Cambodia's two independent English-language newspapers. Radio Free Asia was banned, and of its reporters were jailed. The Phnom Penh Post, the last remaining independent newspaper, was sold to a businessman tied to Hun Sen.

Hun Sen has repaid China by making Cambodia an important strategic ally of China. While Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and other countries oppose China's massive illegal annexation and militarization of the South China Sea, Cambodia strongly supports China, especially in international forums like ASEAN. China returns the favor by fully supporting Hun Sen's human rights atrocities -- jailing opposition politicians, shutting independent newspapers, and so forth. There's honor among criminals. Reuters and Bloomberg and Asia Times and The Atlantic

Brief generational history of Cambodia

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Hun Sen is following exactly the same pattern that many other countries have followed after a tribal or ethnic civil war. After the war ends, the leader of the country, usually from the winning tribe or ethnic group, refuses to give up power, and becomes increasingly violent and authoritarian, using as an excuse that peaceful protests or negative news articles can turn into a new civil war. This excuse provides justification for mass slaughter, rape, torture, mass jailings, mutilations, and so forth. I've described this behavior in Bashar al-Assad in Syria, who has gone to the extent of using Sarin gas and barrel bombs packed with explosives and metal and laced with chlorine gas onto civilian neighborhoods and markets in order to kill as many women and children as possible. Other leaders that I've described exhibiting this type of behavior include Paul Biya in Cameroon, Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi, Paul Kagame in Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and Joseph Kabila in DRC.

Cambodian culture dates back to at least 5000 BC. During the period 500 BC to 500 AD, the Khmer people in Cambodia were strongly influenced by Indian culture, via India traders, bureaucrats and priests. When Khmer became a written language in about 300 AD, Indian characters were adapted for its alphabet. Cambodia adopted some Indian gods, but not the caste system of Hinduism. In the 1200s, there was a mass conversion of Cambodians to Theravada Buddhism, a religion that was also adopted by the neighboring Thais. There were several centuries of wars between the Khmer and the Thais, until the French arrived in the 1860s.

Cambodia became a French protectorate in 1863. Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953, and supported the North Vietnamese against the South Vietnamese and the Americans in America's Vietnam war. It's easy to underestimate the horror of what happened next, since in the vitriolic political atmosphere following the Vietnam war, leftists like Jane Fonda vocally denied it was even going on, saying "I will never criticize a Communist government."

And yet, the Buddhist society of the China-backed Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in 1975-79, led by Pol Pot, perpetrated one of the three or four top mass genocides of the 20th century, comparable to the huge genocides of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong.

The Buddhist Cambodian "Killing Fields" genocide, 1975-79, killed something like 1.7 to well over 2 million people, out of a population of 8 million. So around 20% of Cambodia's population were killed, making it possibly the worst genocide, on a percentage basis, of the 20th century. By contrast, the Nazi Holocaust killed around 5 million, which was less than 3% of Germany's population. Pol Pot was trying to imitate Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward in China, which was a genocide that killed millions of people out of some two billion. Mao Zedong and Pol Pot may be comparable in their genocides. In all cases, these millions of people were the subject of almost unimaginable atrocities, including torture and rape.

By January 1979, the Khmer Rouge had so destroyed Cambodia that the country was too weak to fight off an invasion by Vietnamese forces. At the time, many Cambodians welcomed the Vietnamese invasion, because it freed them from the Khmer Rouge. The war between the Vietnamese and Cambodians was extremely bloody, until the Vietnamese finally withdrew in 1989.

In 1991, prime minister Hun Sen signed a peace agreement called the Paris Peace Accords, a document that guaranteed democracy and human rights in Cambodia. However, like other leaders we've described following an ethnic or tribal civil war, Hun Sen has become increasingly authoritative and dictatorial, using as an excuse that unlimited violence is justified to avoid returning to the violence of the civil war.

In October of last year, as Hun Sen was brutally cracking down in preparation for these new elections, he said the following in a speech:

"Don’t imagine you can hold a meeting like the Paris Peace conference again because the Paris Peace agreement is like a ghost."

He told people to stop "dreaming" and harking back to the ideals of the agreement, because the Khmer Rouge were gone now, and so the agreement was useless "unless the Khmer Rouge returns." BBC (14-Sep-2014) and Diplomat (4-Nov-2016) and Phnom Penh Post (12-Dec-2017) and Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Jul-18 World View -- Cambodia's China-backed dictator Hun Sen expected to win fraudulent election on Sunday thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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28-Jul-18 World View -- Saudi Arabia suspends Red Sea oil shipments after Yemen Houthi missile strikes tanker

Saudis renew airstrikes on Houthis in Yemen's Hodeidah seaport

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia suspends Red Sea oil shipments after Yemen Houthi missile strikes tanker


File photo of vessels sailing in Bab al-Mandeb Strait
File photo of vessels sailing in Bab al-Mandeb Strait

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, temporarily suspended all oil shipments through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, which controls access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal from the Indian Ocean.

The announcement was made after Saudi oil tankers were attacked by missiles launched by the Houthis in Yemen. It's believed that the missiles were supplied by Iran. The Iran-backed Shia Houthis, which represent about 15% of Yemen's population, invaded and took control of Yemen's capital city Sanaa in late 2014, driving out the Saudi-supported Sunni government. A war began in March 2015, which the Saudis claimed they would win quickly. However, the war is still going on three years later, with no end in sight.

On Wednesday, the Saudi oil company Saudi Aramco issued the following statement:

"As confirmed a short while ago by the Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, H.E. Khalid Al-Falih, two Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), each with a two million barrels capacity, operated by the Saudi National Shipping Company, Bahri, and transporting Saudi Aramco crude oil were attacked by terrorist Houthi militia this morning in the Red Sea. One of the ships sustained minimal damage. No injuries nor oil spill have been reported.

In the interest of the safety of ships and their crews and to avoid the risk of oil spill, Saudi Aramco has temporarily halted all oil shipments through Bab El-Mandeb with immediate effect. The Company is carefully assessing the situation and will take further action as prudence demands."

Saudi Arabia has been sending 600,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to buyers in Europe and North America.

Saudi Arabia says that the closure is temporary, and there are currently no plans to permanently close the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, but if it were closed then tankers would have to take a much longer trip by traveling around the southern tip of Africa. For example, a voyage from Saudi Arabia to Rotterdam takes about 22 days via the Bab el-Mandeb and Suez Canal, compared with 39 days around Africa, According to one analyst, the announcement had already added $1 to the cost of a barrel of oil on stock markets.

Bab al-Mandeb is a very important shipping lane, and permanent closure would have much greater consequences than just the price of oil. Egypt, Europe and the United States would have to intervene, according to one analyst:

"They have significant interests in protecting the freedom of the seas through the passageway. An international intervention against the Houthis may be just what Saudi Arabia wants."

The Houthis have also claimed that on Thursday they struck Abu Dhabi international airport in United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a drone. However, UAE officials deny that such an attack occurred. Saudi Aramco and Bloomberg and Al-Jazeera and Press TV (Iran)

Saudis renew airstrikes on Houthis in Yemen's Hodeidah seaport

The Saudi-led coalition launched heavy air strikes on Houthi targets in Hodeidah seaport in Yemen on Friday. The Saudis had agreed to stop the airstrikes on July 1, at the request of the United Nations, to give the UN envoy an opportunity to negotiate with both sides and reach a ceasefire.

On June 13, Saudi Arabia and UAE launched a "catastrophic" assault on Port Hodeidah in Yemen, to regain control of it from the Houthis, who had captured it in 2015. The Saudis expressed the hope that the attack on Hodeidah could convince the Houthis to sue for peace in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

However now, six weeks later, the battle for Hodeidah has ground to a halt. The Houthis had been much better prepared for the battle than the Saudis had expected. The Houthis had heavily planted landmines, and positioned snipers everywhere. The Saudis had simply underestimated the Houthis.

The Houthi missile attack on the Saudi oil tankers has changed the scope of the war somewhat, since it's now a more international war than it had been. The Saudi-UAE coalition is using the missile attack as justification to resume the airstrikes on Hodeidah, and by closing the Bab al-Mandeb strait, they may hope to receive additional international support for the war. Al-Jazeera and Reuters and Middle East Eye

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Jul-18 World View -- Saudi Arabia suspends Red Sea oil shipments after Yemen Houthi missile strikes tanker thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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27-Jul-18 World View -- ISIS terror attack kills hundreds of Druze in southern Syria

History of the Druze religion

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS terror attack kills hundreds of Druze in southern Syria


Mourners carry a coffin of one of Wednesday's victims (SANA)
Mourners carry a coffin of one of Wednesday's victims (SANA)

A series of gruesome terror attacks on Wednesday by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in the Druze-majority province of Sweida in southern Syria has killed at least 250 people.

At least 56 militants carried out the attack. The militants went from home to home, stabbing civilians, killing families as they slept, before launching several suicide bombings. ISIS claimed credit for the attacks on its web site.

The attacks targeted the community of 800,000 Druze in Sweida. The Druze religion is a splinter variant off of Shia Islam, and the Druze are considered apostates by extremist jihadists.

The total Druze community in the region consists about one million living in Syria and Lebanon, 104,000 living in Israel, and 40,000 living in Jordan. They're an important political force in both Israel and Lebanon. In Syria, they've stayed neutral in the civil war. They've lived peaceful among the Sunni and Shia Arabs in Syria and Lebanon for over a millennium.

However, ISIS consists mostly of foreign fighters who came to Syria from over 80 countries to fight Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, after al-Assad began committing genocide and ethnic cleansing among innocent Sunni women and children who opposed him politically. The foreign fighters in ISIS have no historic relationship with the Druze, so they were an easy target.

In the early years of Syria's civil war, al-Assad's army provided protection to the Druze. Some Druze are now accusing al-Assad of having withdrawn that protection because the neutral Druze refused to join al-Assad's army.

ISIS has lost a great deal of territory in Syria in the last year. They were driven out of their Caliphate in Raqqa by the Kurdish YPG, backed by the United States. And they were driven out of the region near Damascus by the Syrian army. There are still ISIS pockets in southern and eastern Syria. Some pundits had declared that ISIS had been completely defeated, but Wednesday's massive attack shows that's far from the truth, and additional attacks can be expected. AFP and CNN and Irish Times and Syria Direct and Sana (Damascus)

History of the Druze religion

The Druze came into existence as a secret society, and only announced itself to the world in the early 1000s (11th century). There was a brief period of proselytizing that ended in 1050. Since then it has been impossible to convert to Druze from any other religion. Druze marry inside their religion, with less than 1% marrying people of other religions.

Within Israel, Druze are subject to military draft, unlike Israeli Arabs, who are exempt.

The Druze creed arose from a branch of Shia Islam, but it incorporates concepts from Christianity and Judaism, as well from Greek philosophy and Hindu and Buddhist influences.

Like any other society, they have had their generational crisis wars, during some of which they were victims of genocide, and in others they were perpetrators of genocide, making them no different from anyone else. A particularly bloody generational crisis war occurred in 1860 with the Maronite Christians, which is considered a victory by the Druze, resulting in the deaths of 10,000 Christians. It's only been in recent years that the two groups have attempted to reconcile. Pew Research and Jewish Virtual Library

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Jul-18 World View -- ISIS terror attack kills hundreds of Druze in southern Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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26-Jul-18 World View -- North Korea appears to dismantle its Sohae satellite launch site

North Korea's denuclearization timeline seems to be extending out indefinitely

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

North Korea appears to dismantle its Sohae satellite launch site


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifying to Senate on Wednesday (AP)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifying to Senate on Wednesday (AP)

Analysis of commercial satellite pictures by the 38 North website shows that North Korea has apparently taken a first step in dismantling facilities at its Sohae satellite launch site.

This site has been used in the past to conduct multiple rocket engine tests, including at least two tests of the engines that ended up powering the first stage of its two flight-tested intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

According to 38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez:

"Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North's intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence building measure on the part of North Korea."

The action is being described as a "confidence building measure," following the June 12 summit meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore. It's also being described as a step in fulfilling the promises made by Kim Jong-un to Donald Trump during that summit.

Adam Mount, a defense analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, said that North Korea is giving up little in its actions.

Mount was particularly concerned that North Korea did not even invite foreign journalists to watch the dismantling, to verify that it had actually occurred. Instead, the North did whatever it did in broad daylight knowing that it would be detected and reported by analysts like those at 38 North from commercial satellite pictures that show actions on the ground that might be purposely deceptive.

A South Korean official expressed puzzlement for the same reason: "We need further analysis to figure out why the North didn't turn the dismantlement activities into an event and whether the country is trying to control the speed of the process to maintain a pace it wants."

Furthermore, it's not clear that anything significant was accomplished at all, according to Mount:

"The actions at Sohae are a helpful signal that Pyongyang wants to continue negotiations, but do not in themselves advance nuclear disarmament. North Korea still has not disclosed or offered to dismantle facilities that produce or store nuclear or missile systems, or the means to transport the missiles. So far, the facilities dismantled have been peripheral to these core functions."

Furthermore, according to unnamed US government official referencing assessments by US intelligence agencies, the site "can be reconstituted within months."

U.S. military intelligence has similarly concluded in May that North Korea’s dismantlement of the tunnel network at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site with explosives was also reversible in a matter of "weeks to months." In that case, North Korea invited journalists to watch the dismantlement, but refused to invite experts who could verify what had happened. There was the possibility that the explosions that occurred at the entrance to the tunnels did not damage the insides of the tunnels. 38 North and AP and The Diplomat

North Korea's denuclearization timeline seems to be extending out indefinitely

As I've been writing for many months, there is no chance whatsoever that North Korea will give up its nuclear development program now or in the future, after having tortured, starved and brutalized their own population for three decades, under the promise that one day North Korea would be a nuclear power on a peer with the United States.

North Korea has had only one objective in the charm offensive since the beginning of the year and in Kim's summit meetings with Trump and South Korean leaders: To get the US-led sanctions lifted without having to give up its development of nuclear missiles targeting the United States.

All of the events since the June 12 summit meeting have been in pursuit of that one objective. Other than two reversible actions, nothing has been done to denuclearize or to end ballistic missile development.

Furthermore, gasoline prices being charged in North Korea have been cut in half since March, suggesting that either China or Russia is supplying petroleum products to North Korea that are in violation of sanctions imposed the U.N. Security Council in December. US officials believe that these and other "maximum pressure" sanctions have forced North Korea to come to the negotiating table. However, a sharp drop in prices could indicate either that the sanctions are not being properly implemented, or that North Korea has found ways internally to adapt to them. Either way, they lose their effectiveness.

The US State Dept. on Monday issued a 17-page advisory listing "deceptive practices" used by the North to bypass the sanctions, including the sending of slave trade abroad. It lists 42 countries where North Korean laborers are still being exploited, including Algeria, Angola, China, Equatorial Guinea and Russia, adding that the U.S. is monitoring them to see whether they violate UN Security Council resolutions. Washington has also singled out 239 North Korean companies involved in illegal trade and warned against doing business with them.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Senate foreign relations committee. He confirmed that North Korea is still producing fissile material for nuclear bombs in spite of its pledge to denuclearize. He declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The timeline for North Korea's denuclearization has yet to be specified, but Pompeo said that the US goal was for North Korea’s complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID) by the end of Trump’s current term in office, which runs until January 2021, "more quickly if possible." Pompeo said that no sanctions will be lifted until CVID is completed. Reuters and Chosun (Seoul) and US State Dept. and Guardian (London)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Jul-18 World View -- North Korea appears to dismantle its Sohae satellite launch site thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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25-Jul-18 World View -- Defector in Kazakhstan reveals explosive information about China's 'reeducation centers'

The explosive testimony: thousands of Kazakhs in China's reeducation camps

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Defector in Kazakhstan reveals explosive information about China's 'reeducation centers'


Sayragul Sauytbay, enclosed in a glass cage in courtroom, awaiting trial (AFP)
Sayragul Sauytbay, enclosed in a glass cage in courtroom, awaiting trial (AFP)

A defector from China, who is on trial in Kazakhstan for breaking the law by crossing the border from China, has revealed explosive information about ethnic Kazakhs in China being forced into "reeducation centers."

This information is explosive for three reasons.

First, China has always denied the existence of "reeducation centers," although there have been plenty testimonies and official documents proving their existence. Since 2016, Chinese authorities in the have ensnared tens or hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Xinjiang province, even foreign citizens, into mass internment camps. The program aims to rewire detainees' thinking and reshape their identities. Chinese officials say ideological changes are needed to fight Islamic extremism.

Second, the testimony revealed that China is forcing thousands of ethnic Kazakhs into these reeducation centers. This is polarizing the Kazakh public against China at a time when the Kazakh government is trying to convince China to invest more money in Kazakhstan infrastructure projects.

Third, China is demanding that the defector be returned to China. If she is returned to China, then she would be killed or permanently "disappeared," and the Kazakh "people will say the government cannot protect its own people," according to an activist. If she isn't returned, then the Chinese will be furious, and the investments might be in jeopardy. AFP

The explosive testimony: thousands of Kazakhs in China's reeducation camps

The defector is 41 year old Sayragul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh who is a Chinese citizen. She had been working as a Kindergarten teacher in China for several years. According to her public testimony, she was forced to work in a camp system in Xinjiang region, which is heavily populated by Muslims. Her testimony became explosive when she said:

"In the center where I was, there were more than 2,500 ethnic Kazakhs. And I know that in that region, there were several other similar camps."

According to news reports, everyone in the courtroom gasped when she said this. The exceptions were two men who had arrived from the Chinese embassy to watch the trial, and who remained silent.

She testified that she was arrested and sent to a camp after her husband and children returned to Kazakhstan, which the Chinese authorities consider to be suspicious behavior, even though it had been commonplace for years:

"In 2018, they sent me to work in a political reeducation camp in the mountains. Officially, this is a training center where people study Chinese ideology. But in reality this was a prison."

Unlike Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs had long moved freely between China and Kazakhstan, and there are some 200,000 ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang. However, the freedom to move back and forth disappeared late in 2016 in a crackdown by Chinese authorities, who took the unprecedented step of requiring all Muslims to turn in their passports. This meant that anyone who wanted to travel back to Kazakhstan had to file an official request, and hope for approval.

At the time of the crackdown, Sauytbay's husband and children were in Kazakhstan. According to her testimony, she was not allowed to return to Kazakhstan, but was "tricked" into working in the reeducation center, where she lost contact with her family.

Finally, on April 5 of this year, she used forged documents to illegally cross from China into Kazakhstan in order to reunite with her family. On May 22, she was arrested by the National Security Committee, the successor agency to the Soviet KGB.

Sauytbay testified on July 13:

"I fully accept my guilt and I am willing to endure any punishment. I only ask one thing – that you do not send me to China. A death sentence awaits me there."

Since she has admitted guilt, the government is faced whether to decline to deport her, and anger China, or to hand her over to China, which may trigger anti-government riots and demonstrations in Kazakhstan.

For two decades, Kazakhstan's government has cast itself as a protector of Kazakhs abroad. It now must take a tough stand or lose credibility with the domestic population. At the same time, when China might have expected to gain real influence in Kazakhstan, the court trial is going to make that almost impossible in the near term. The Kazakh people are also extremely suspicious of Russians as well.

As we reported in April, Kazakhstan is already permitting America to use Caspian Sea ports to supply military in Afghanistan, a move opposed by Russia because it changes the balance of power in Central Asia.

With nationalism and xenophobia towards both Chinese and Russians increasing, Kazakhstan may have to seek friends and allies elsewhere, perhaps in the West or in the Muslim world. EurasiaNet and Jamestown

China's 'reeducation centers' are described as torture centers

According to a Congressional report in April of this year, reeducation centers are prisons where torture is standard:

"There are credible media reports that as many as 500,000 to a million people are or have been detained in what are being called “political education centers,” the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today. Thousands are being held for months at a time and subjected to political indoctrination sessions. Many have reportedly been detained for praying, wearing “Islamic” clothing, or having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country. Reports have emerged of the deaths of detainees in these centers, including the death of a well-known Muslim religious scholar who may have been held in such a facility, and there are reports that torture and other human rights abuses are occurring in overcrowded centers secured by guard towers, barbed wire, and high walls.

Survivors of these reeducation camps have described starvation, torture and a system of indoctrination akin to what China saw at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Sauytbay said inmates are required to read ideological literature, memorize the national anthem and study Chinese. Detainees are predominantly Uyghurs and Kazakhs, whose cultural distinctness is taken as a sign of “lack of patriotism.”

Another ethnic Kazakh named Omer has described how he was constantly tortured, including the following:

"There, he and 40 people were locked in a room. I get up every morning and I sing "red songs", they have to learn Chinese and Chinese history, especially how the Communist Party "liberated" Xinjiang. Before eating, you should shout "thank you for the party" and so on, when you are in class, repeat the slogan several times."

The Chinese can be pretty stupid, but it's hard to believe that even they are stupid enough to believe that the above actually works. No wonder the Kazakhs, Uighurs and Tibetans all hate the Chinese, and certainly don't consider them to be "liberators." US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (3-Apr) and Epoch Times (19-Jul)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Jul-18 World View -- Defector in Kazakhstan reveals explosive information about China's 'reeducation centers' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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24-Jul-18 World View -- Australia sends refugees to Taiwan hospitals to keep them from Australian soil

Once secret refugee deal sends refugees to Taiwan's hospital

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Australia sends refugees to Taiwan hospitals to keep them from Australian soil


The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (AP)
The East Lorengau Refugee Transit Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (AP)

The government of Australia recently revealed a previously secret agreement with Taiwan, allowing refugees and asylum seekers in detention but requiring hospitalization to be sent to Taiwan's hospitals, rather than to Australia's hospitals.

On July 19, 2013, then prime minister Kevin Rudd signed an agreement with Papua New Guinea (PNG) called "the regional resettlement agreement." Under this agreement, refugees and asylum seekers arriving by boat without a visa would be sent to Manus Island in PNG, and would have "no chance" of being resettled in Australia as refugees. Another agreement signed with Nauru provided for refugees to be send to refugee centers there as well.

Last week was the five year anniversary of that agreement. It's estimated that there are almost 800 refugees in the male-only facilities in Papua New Guinea and almost 900 men, women and children in Nauru.

The policy has been extremely controversial, and has been opposed by humanitarian organizations, who claim that the refugee centers in PNG and Nauru are filthy and unsafe, with numerous stories of beatings, torture and sexual abuse.

Despite the objections from activists, the policy has been extremely successful in meeting its objectives. While there had previously been tens of thousands of "boat people" per year arriving in Australia, that number has been reduced to almost none, because refugees know that they will be transferred to one of the offshore detention centers. Australian officials claim that thousands of refugees' lives have been saved, since they didn't attempt the risky boat trip with human traffickers.

One of the loopholes in the policy had to do with treating serious illnesses among the refugees. If the refugee or a family member requires hospitalization, then there was no choice but to transfer him to a hospital on Australian soil.

Once on Australian soil, the vast majority have been able to stay indefinitely by preparing applications for High Court injunctions against their return. The court has yet to hear a case, apparently for fear of a ruling that would grant permanent asylum within Australia to a much larger group of asylum seekers. Instead, the government has avoided court cases by granting these refugees bridging visas that permit them to stay without a court case.

However, last month, a 14 year old girl in a Nauru detention center from Iran who had attempted suicide was moved under court order, along with her family, to a psychiatric hospital in Australia. The case was about to be heard in federal court but, just as proceedings commenced, the Australian government agreed to move her and her family to Australia.

The United Nations human rights agency has repeatedly condemned as arbitrary and illegal Australia's indefinite detention of refugees. The longest in detention is an Afghan asylum seeker, who has been held in Australian detention centers continuously since 2009. According to Australian human rights lawyer Alison Battisson

"Australia’s policies are against international law and are inhumane,” she said. “In a modern society this practice is unacceptable. Despite numerous opinions and reports from the UN and other human rights bodies, Australia has consistently failed to address arbitrary detention."

Battison adds: "The Australian government’s lack of response is shameful. It is also insulting to the UN." Catholic Outlook and AP and Guardian (London)

Once secret refugee deal sends refugees to Taiwan's hospital

Last month, it was revealed that in September of last year, Taiwan and Australia had signed a secret deal to send asylum seekers from Nauru to Taiwan for medical treatment.

According to Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu, the refugees will receive medical care, and will return to Nauru after recovering, with all expenses paid by Australia's government:

"We are offering our cutting-edge medical technology to help these poor refugees. They are all part of a deal we made with the Australian government. ...

This is something we in Taiwan should be proud of. We are sharing our medical resources with other countries and these unfortunate people."

Under the agreement, Taiwan Adventist Hospital has received ten refugees so far, starting in January. Australia's Home Affairs Department spokesman said that Taiwan was "consistently ranked as having some of the best hospitals and medical technology in the world."

Australian officials apparently had been talking to several Pacific countries to make this kind of deal. Taiwan was chosen because of its political predicament -- China is a member of the United Nations, but Taiwan is not. Since Taiwan is not a UN member, it is therefore not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, meaning it is not automatically bound to hear asylum applications. Therefore, the refugees cannot claim protection in Taiwan, and can be returned to Nauru. Sydney Morning Herald (22-Jun) and Focus Taiwan (26-Jun) and Lowy Interpreter (Australia)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Jul-18 World View -- Australia sends refugees to Taiwan hospitals to keep them from Australian soil thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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23-Jul-18 World View -- ISIS-K bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, targets returning vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum

ISIS-K claims credit for bomb targeting Uzbek warlord General Dostum

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS-K bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, targets returning vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum


Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghan vice president and Uzbek warlord, arrives in Kabul on Sunday, greeted by hundreds of supporters (Reuters)
Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghan vice president and Uzbek warlord, arrives in Kabul on Sunday, greeted by hundreds of supporters (Reuters)

Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the vice president of Afghanistan, returned to Kabul in a chartered plane on Sunday, after a year in exile in Turkey. Hundreds of his supporters, including high ranking officials, had gathered to welcome him home.

He gave a short speech, and then shortly after his motorcade left the Kabul airport, a terrorist bomb struck at the airport, killing at least 14 people, and injuring dozens.

The reason that he was in exile was because he was accused in 2016 assaulting a political opponent, Ahmad Eshchi, a former governor. Eshchi claimed in 2016:

"I took Gen. Dostum’s hand and greeted him [at the Buzkashi grounds]. From that point, he started abusing me verbally. He told me that he knows what I have done. He told me he knows what my son has done. Who will look for you if I kill you here. I will throw you under the horses and do Buzkashi on you. He called on his bodyguards and told them to grab me and beat me. He [Dostum] lay me on the ground and put his foot on my neck."

He claimed that Dostum ordered his bodyguards to beat him up, and then Dostum threatened to kill him and sexually assaulted him.

Dostum left Afghanistan early in 2017 under pressure from Afghanistan aid donors, including the United States. Dostum denied Eshchi's accusations but, amid international demands that he face justice to show that powerful political leaders were not above the law, he left the country in May last year, saying he needed to seek medical treatment in Turkey. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Australian Broadcasting and Tolo News (2016)

ISIS-K claims credit for bomb targeting Uzbek warlord General Dostum

The Taliban have disavowed any involvement in the bombing, which was almost certainly a failed attempt to assassinate vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum. However, "ISIS Khorasan" (ISIS-K, "Wilayah Khorasan"), the Afghanistan branch of ISIS, took credit for the bombing on the ISIS public relations web site.

In addition to being Afghanistan's current vice president, Dostum is an Uzbek warlord with a very bloody history. During the 1980s invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, Dostum was first an ally of the Soviets, and then switched sides and fought the Soviets. During the very bloody Afghan civil war of the 1990s, Dostum led an Afghan army and switched sides in that war two times.

Every ethnic civil war, certainly including the Afghan civil war, is filled atrocities, including torture, slaughter, rape, sexual assault, and mutilation, as a matter of course. So the description of the "conversation" that Dostum had with Ahmad Eshchi described above is unverified, but is certainly not implausible.

Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, selected Dostum to be his vice presidential running mate in the 2014 presidential election, in order to appeal to ethnic Uzbek voters. Dostum is credited with delivering the ethnic Uzbek vote, and being a big factor in Ghani's victory. The next presidential election will take place in 2019, and it's thought that Ghani will try to rehabilitate Dostum in time for that election.

While in Turkey, Dostum formed an alliance with two other powerful leaders, Atta Mohammad Noor, a major force among ethnic Tajiks and Mohammad Mohaqiq, a leader of the Hazara minority, both of whom joined him in Kabul on Sunday. These three ethnic groups -- Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras -- played major roles in the Northern Alliance that defeated the Taliban with United States support in the Afghan war that followed 9/11/2001.

The Taliban consist almost entirely of radicalized ethnic Pashtuns, which is also the ethnicity of Ghani. So Ghani's choice of Dostum as vice president represents an attempt to appeal to ethnic groups across the entire spectrum.

That brings us back to ISIS-K, the Afghanistan branch of ISIS. ( "18-Jul-18 World View -- Fighting between Taliban and ISIS-K escalates in Afghanistan")

The Taliban and ISIS-K are both jihadist groups, but they have entirely different goals. The Taliban say that their goal is simply to get all foreign troops -- the US-led coalition -- to leave Afghanistan. However, that doesn't explain their frequent terror attacks on Hazaras and other hated ethnic groups that the Pashtuns fought in the 1990s civil war.

ISIS-K have different stated objectives. Theologically, they consider the Taliban to be apostates, because they make alliances with secular governments, such as the government of Afghanistan. ISIS-K, along with ISIS in Syria and Iraq, have stated that their goals are to create the world's greatest Caliphate, eliminating all secular governments.

So that explains the most likely reason why ISIS-K, which contains Uzbeks as well as other ethnic groups, is taking credit for targeting the Uzbek vice president, General Abdul Rashid Dostum. AP and BBC and Toronto Star (1-Feb) and Afghan Bios

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Jul-18 World View -- ISIS-K bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, targets returning vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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22-Jul-18 World View -- Bashar al-Assad declares victory in southern Syria as opponents are bused out

Fears grow that Bashar al-Assad will attack 2.5 million people in Idlib

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bashar al-Assad declares victory in southern Syria as opponents are bused out


Erdogan and Putin have phone call last week to discuss situation in Idlib
Erdogan and Putin have phone call last week to discuss situation in Idlib

The regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is declaring a major victory over the rebel forces in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in southern Syria, in the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra. The Syrian army, backed by barrages of air strikes from Russian warplanes, forced the FSA to accept reconciliation agreements that permitted them to be evacuated in a convoy of 40 busses to camps that had been set up in Idlib and Aleppo provinces in northern Syria. Under the agreement, the FSA fighters gave up their heavy weapons.

About 4,000 people are expected to be evacuated in the next three days. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is urging all parties to provide safe passage for the estimated 140,000 civilians displaced by the Syrian assault.

The Syrian army victory in Daraa and Quneitra appears to have been achieved much more quickly than the victories in Aleppo and Ghouta. In all three cases, the FSA opposition fighters and their families were finally allowed to give up their heavy weapons and be evacuated to Idlib. But in the most recent case, it almost appears to be a scripted event, where both sides fought for a little while, and then the FSA fighters were allowed to evacuate very quickly. Al-Jazeera and Al-Masdar (Damascus) and Anadolu (Turkey) and Al-Monitor

Fears grow that Bashar al-Assad will attack 2.5 million people in Idlib

Some newspaper reports have been claiming that the victory in Daraa and Quneitra means that the war is over. I can't see how that's even remotely possible.

With help from Russia and Iran, Bashar al-Assad is now in control of most of Syria but anti-Assad rebels still control Idlib in the northwest, while a Kurdish-led militia controls the northeast and a large chunk of the east.

In Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa and Quneitra, the war was settled when thousands of FSA fighters and their families were evacuated to Idlib. In all of these cases, there are villages that are now ghost towns because all the inhabitants have been evacuated to Idlib. This was actually the objective of Bashar al-Assad, who was practicing genocide and ethnic cleansing on the opposition, and now that they've left the villages empty, al-Assad can start filling those villages with people from his own Shia/Alawite clan.

But what about Idlib itself? It has 2.5 million people, roughly half of whom were evacuated there from other theatres. Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly said that his army will retake control of Idlib. This automatically means that the war is far from over.

But more important is how one analyst described the situation: There is no Idlib for Idlib.

What that means was in the other regions, FSA fighters could be evacuated to Idlib, but for the coming battle over Idlib, there's no other place to which families can be evacuated. All 2.5 million people are trapped in there.

Turkey is expressing great concern about al-Assad's plans for Idlib. Idlib's northern western border is Turkey, its northern border is the Syrian district of Afrin, which is under Turkey's control, and its eastern border is adjacent to Aleppo.

Panos Moumtzis, the U.N.’s regional humanitarian coordinator said last month:

"We worry about 2.5 million people becoming displaced more and moving towards Turkey. These people have nowhere to go in Syria. We may have not yet seen the worst in Syria."

And that's a matter of great concern to Turkey. Al-Assad will get started with his usual genocide and ethnic cleansing tactics, performed with missiles, barrel bombs, chlorine gas and Sarin gas, all particularly targeting women and children, as well as schools, markets, and hospitals. Hundreds of thousands of people will try to flee across the border into Turkey. Jordan and Israel kept their borders closed to refugees in the recent offensive in Daraa and Quneitra, and Turkey may do the same in the coming offensive in Idlib. At the very least, this will create an enormous humanitarian disaster, and may even lead to war between Syria and Turkey.

During peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, in May 2017, Turkey, Russia and Iran – agreed to establish de-escalation zones in Idlib, and enforce ceasefires. The de-escalation zones turned out to be a joke, since Russia ignored them, and al-Assad just used them as cover further genocidal attacks. As soon as any opposition individual was violent in any way, al-Assad would declare that everyone in the region was a terrorist, to be obliterated.

On July 14, last weekend, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's president Vladimir Putin had a phone call, in which Erdogan is reported to have told Putin that if the al-Assad regime forces advance toward Idlib, then the Astana agreement would dissipate. Whether "dissipate" means that the Turks would withdraw or wage war is not clear. Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Hurriyet (Turkey) and Reuters and Al-Masdar (Damascus)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Jul-18 World View -- Bashar al-Assad declares victory in southern Syria as opponents are bused out thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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21-Jul-18 World View -- The Trump-Putin private meeting was almost certainly about China

Donald Trump threatens to impose tariffs on everything imported from China

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Donald Trump threatens to impose tariffs on everything imported from China


Donald Trump
Donald Trump

In an interview broadcast on Friday, president Donald Trump sharply escalated the rhetoric in the trade war with China, and threatened to impose tariffs on everything imported from China. China responded to the threat with a vitriolic statement calling Trump a "wrecking ball." As I wrote a couple of days ago, the trade war with China will escalate. ( "19-Jul-18 World View -- Trump administration signals that trade war with China will escalate sharply")

On Friday, Trump said that in order to match some of the tariffs that China imposes on US products, he's already announced tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese products. He said in the interview (my transcription):

"I raised 50, and they matched us. I said, you don't match us, you can't match us, because otherwise we're always going to be behind the eight ball....

I'm ready to go to 500."

Tariffs on $500 billion would include all products imported from China.

Trump described how this situation began in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations:

"Look I'm not doing this for politics. I'm doing this to do the right thing for our country. We've been ripped off by China for a long time. And I told that to president Xi. I said how did this ever happen?

And you know what happened? And you know what their answer is? because I deal with the highest echelons of china. One of the great people of China said, "There was never anybody that talked to us in the United States. We would put on a trade barrier, where you couldn't sell cars, or you couldn't sell beef, or you couldn't sell your farm products, nobody would talk to us in the United States.

"So we said that's great. Then we put on another one. We'd put on a tariff on cars, 25%, and you charge us virtually nothing 2 1/2 per cent, but they don't pay it. So we would do this, and nobody would talk. We'd start off at a lower number, we'd raise it, we'd raise it, nobody would every complain, until you came along." Me. And they said, "Now you're doing more than complaining, we don't like what you're doing." They think maybe we're doing too much."

It's widely believed that we're on the verge of a full-blown trade war with China, which was already clear from my article two days ago. CNBC and New York Magazine and Guardian (London)

China's Foreign Ministry gives a vitriolic response to Trump

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying gave her regular press conference on Friday, and said the following in response to a question about trade:

"Third, everyone is watching when the US side behaves like this in international relations, and everyone is hearing and seeing what the US officials are saying and doing. So, we all know what the whole world thinks of the US. It is quite obvious that some people in the US are so obsessed with their conjured-up reality that they simply cannot be waken up. However, by brandishing its wanton and striking indiscriminately while depriving others' right to self-defense, by blocking its own door while demanding others to unconditionally open theirs wider, by overriding others' interests and the international rules to serve its own political needs and selfish interests, the US has really taught us something in a piercing and profound way. I have noted that many US citizens and its allies have spoken out unreservedly. The US is now the biggest wrecking ball to world stability and certainty. Its unilateralism and protectionism pose the greatest threat to the international rules and the world economic order.

I said the other day that knowing someone is intelligence but knowing oneself is real wisdom. Today I want to add that nothing could be more disastrous than chaos. As the No.1 power in today's world, the US should at least think about its responsibility before making relevant policies or saying or doing anything, because it is the "order" of the world that they are expected to promote, not "chaos"."

Hua's most significant statement was: "However, by brandishing its wanton and striking indiscriminately while depriving others' right to self-defense, by blocking its own door while demanding others to unconditionally open theirs wider, by overriding others' interests and the international rules to serve its own political needs and selfish interests, the US has really taught us something in a piercing and profound way."

I believe that the reference to "depriving others' right to self-defense" refers to America's freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, where China's activities were declared illegal in 2016 by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which ruled that all of China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal and in violation of international law. With regard to promoting "chaos," the Chinese must be aware that they've infuriated all their neighbors by their illegal activities.

China's appeal to "international law" is laughable, because China only cares about international law when it favors them. When it doesn't favor them, as in the case of the South China Sea, they claim that they're superior to everyone else, and their law supersedes international law. The same is true in trade. China has repeatedly violated and ignored World Trade Organization rules, but they complain about international law to gain an advantage.

In an interview Friday, Trump's chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested that China will retaliate against individual American companies doing business in China:

"My guess is that if the plot thickens with no progress, they will start going after American companies [operating] in China....

The problem here is Xi. He doesn’t want to move, and they’ve offered the U.S. absolutely ... no options regarding the issue of [intellectual property] theft and forced technology transfer."

China could target individual American companies through new regulations.

Trump is not going to back down. And, based on the vitriolic intensity of Hua Chunying's statement, China is not going to back down either.

As I wrote in my recent article, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the US and China are in a generational Crisis era, in a tit for tat escalation sequence that leads to a full-blown generational crisis war. It's clear from remarks by Trump, Hua and Kudlow that that's exactly where we're headed. Foreign Ministry of China and Axios

The Trump-Putin private meeting was almost certainly about China

Donald Trump and Russia's president Vladimir Putin had a private one on one meeting during their July 16 summit meeting in Helsinki. As usual, the mainstream media, who have absolutely no clue what's going on in the world, have been screaming hysterically, some suggesting that Trump should be tried and convicted of treason, and then executed. Others demanded that the American interpreter who sat in on the meeting should be subpoenaed and forced to testify, something that would trigger enormous international diplomatic issues.

Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would like to schedule a second meeting with Putin in the fall, this time in Washington. This drew further hysterical screaming, along with demands that no such meeting be permitted unless Trump fully describes what happened in the first meeting.

In his CNBC interview on Friday, Trump gave a brief description of his summit meeting with Putin:

"We had a tremendous discussion on many things -- terrorism, Syria, the Middle East overall, Iran, we talked about as an example nuclear proliferation -- to me there's nothing more important than that.

We had a tremendous meeting. I think it was a very good press conference, except for the fake news I think I did very well at the press conference."

As I wrote in my previous article, Trump is very well aware that we're headed for a world war against China. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this war cannot be prevented. Trump is taking whatever steps he can to prevent this war, and I'm not going to criticize Trump for taking steps to prevent a world war, even if the war cannot be prevented.

Vladimir Putin is also well aware that Russia is headed for a war with China. The Russian and Chinese people have hated each other for centuries, especially since Russia, after conquest by Genghis Khan, became a vassal state of the China and the Mongol Empire for centuries. ( "31-Mar-18 World View -- Russia's Far East, Siberia and Vladivostok under threat from China")

So today, both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are aware that their countries are going to be allies in world war launched by China.

When they had their private summit meeting on July 16, it's inconceivable that they didn't discuss this oncoming war, and how they would defend themselves and help defend each other.

That also explains why there's so much secrecy about the meeting. Any mention that Trump and Putin discussed plans for a world war launched by China would cause a massive international uproar. So the subject of the private meeting must be kept secret. But with so much at stake for the United States, Russia, and the rest of the world, it's inconceivable that they didn't discuss this subject when they had the chance. And it will be all to the good for them to have another meeting in the fall, for further discussions on this subject. The Hill

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North Korea denuclearization talks appear to be falling apart

As I've been writing for many months, there is absolutely no possibility whatsoever that North Korea is going to denuclearize, either now or in the future.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley criticized both China and Russia for helping North Korea violate United Nations sanctions as the regime smuggles in more oil than is allowed.

According to Pompeo, "When sanctions are not enforced, the prospects for the successful denuclearization of North Korea are diminished."

It's been nearly six weeks after President Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un, and there are no signs whatsoever, that the North Koreans have any intention of denuclearizing. ABC News

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Jul-18 World View -- The Trump-Putin private meeting was almost certainly about China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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20-Jul-18 World View -- Ireland hiring 1,000 new customs and veterinary inspectors for hard Brexit

Britain's government in chaos as no-deal 'hard Brexit' looms

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain's government in chaos as no-deal 'hard Brexit' looms


Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in House of Commons says that 'the government has sunk in a mire of chaos and division'
Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in House of Commons says that 'the government has sunk in a mire of chaos and division'

Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar says that Ireland will have to hire about 1,000 new customs and veterinary inspectors by 2021 in the case of a "hard Brexit," which is appearing to be more and more likely every day.

As the UK continues to move toward the Brexit cliff-edge on March 29, 2019, it's not possible to discern the current status of the UK-EU negotiations on the subject, because it's in total chaos, and even if you did figure it out, then you'd have to figure it out again a minute later.

Two weeks ago, UK prime minister Theresa May appeared to have achieved stability with something that's now called "the Chequers plan," because she was able to get it approved by her Tory cabinet at a meeting at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence. The proposal specified that a "common rule book" between the EU and the UK would be created. This was to be enough to satisfy the "Remainer" faction of her party, those in the party who never wanted Brexit in the first place but who could live with a set of rules that would make it seem that the UK had never left the EU.

However, it ended up angering the "Leave" or "Brexiteer" faction, who did want the UK to leave the EU, because the common rule book would force the UK would to follow all the same standards and regulations as it had never left the EU. So, even though May's cabinet voted for the Chequers plan, four days later David Davis, the Brexit secretary resigned. That resignation was followed by a second one, by international superstar Boris Johnson.

Then late last week, May was forced to accept four amendments to the Chequers plan, demanded by the Leave faction of the Tories. With so many flip-flops, it looked like the plan was dead. But on Thursday, Theresa May denied claims the trade proposals were "dead in the water" after accepting the four amendments.

So, as of today, it's not clear whether May could get agreement within her own Tory party. If she succeeds, she's have to get agreement of the House of Commons. If she succeeds, she'd have to get agreement from the other 27 nations of the European Union. (An additional issue is that Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn is being seriously accused of anti-Semitism. This is apparently a big story, and it's causing chaos in the Labor party that may spill over into the chaos of the Brexit negotiations.)

There are still other proposals floating around, but the important point is that there is no proposal, including the Chequers proposal, that is likely to get a majority vote. If no proposal can get a majority vote, then when the UK "crashes out of" the EU on March 29, it will be a "no-deal Brexit," otherwise known as a "hard Brexit." Nobody (or almost nobody) wants a hard Brexit, but many analysts now consider that to be the most likely outcome. BBC and Irish Times and BBC (9-Jul)

Ireland border problem continues to be insurmountable

After 16 months of debate since the Brexit referendum passed, there is one particular problem has proven to be unsolvable: The status of the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and the Republic of (Southern) Ireland, which is part of the EU.

Everyone wants a "soft border" between the two regions, but if the UK is no longer in the EU, then any people and goods passing over the border would have to go through customs, have the passports and visas checked, and possibly pay customs duties and fees. No one wants this, but there is no solution to this problem. Solutions that have been proposed include:

None of these has a high probability of succeeding. So that's why Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar is making plans to hire about 1,000 new customs and veterinary inspectors, to prepare Irish seaports and airports for the change of rules in case of a hard Brexit:

"That involves preparing for and hiring veterinary inspectors to carry out sanitary checks on agricultural products and plant-based products coming in from Britain and also customs inspectors.

We estimate we will have to hire about 1,000 customs and veterinary inspectors to prepare our ports and airports for Brexit.

In the unlikely event of a no-deal Brexit next March, of course it will not be possible to have 1,000 people in place for then but we will make contingency arrangements in the event that might arise."

Varadkar also warned that UK planes could be restricted from flying in EU airspace in the event of a no deal Brexit. He said UK could not take back its waters and expect to use EU skies. "You can't have your cake and eat it," he said. RTE (Ireland) and Irish Times and Business Insider (3-Jun)

IMF warns of harsh economic effects of no-deal Brexit

And International Monetary Fund (IMF) analysis of Brexit finds that that EU countries would lose 1.5% of their GDP and more than a million jobs, in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Ireland would be worst hit, losing 4% of its economy, due to its close trade ties with Britain The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg would also be hit hard, with . Germany would also suffering due to industrial supply chains.

The IMF did not estimate the costs to Britain, but an earlier Bank of England analysis put the cost at 1.5-2.0% of the economy, while other estimates put the figure at 4%. Reuters and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Guardian (London)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Jul-18 World View -- Ireland hiring 1,000 new customs and veterinary inspectors for hard Brexit thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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19-Jul-18 World View -- Trump administration signals that trade war with China will escalate sharply

The growing conflict with China

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Trump administration signals that trade war with China will escalate sharply


Larry Kudlow, during Wednesday morning interview (CNBC)
Larry Kudlow, during Wednesday morning interview (CNBC)

Many people see the imposition of tariffs as temporary, and likely to end before any serious problems arise. However, Larry Kudlow, Trump's chief economic adviser, was interviewed on CNBC for half an hour on Wednesday morning, and made it clear that the trade war with China is likely to become a lot more serious.

Kudlow said that deals with Germany and Mexico are coming. He said that "I can report without specifics that we're making good progress [with trade negotiations] in Mexico." However, negotiations with China are not progressing at all.

Kudlow listed the problems in trade with China (my transcription):

"A. The world trading system is broken. The World Trade Organization [WTO] is broken. We just had this discussion at the G7.

B. The biggest culprit is China. And particularly since it entered the WTO, which was about the year 2000 as I recall. China has - they're still labeled an undeveloped third world country - but at WTO that's nonsense. Therefore they're trying to use Most Favored Nation status to have high tariffs, high non-tariff barriers. ...

They do in fact steal our intellectual property left and right. They do in fact have a forced transfer of technology, from the American companies that operate there. It comes from the joint ventures. They do not allow full American ownership.

You open a company on a joint venture basis, in a Chinese province. And because you only own 49%, they own 51% or more, the local party leaders, these are like Mafioso Dons, I'm told -- you have to lay your entire blueprint on the table, including the technology, and they will have their experts take it over. That's wrong."

In the past few weeks, I've seen several businessmen interviewed about opening up a business office in China, being forced to give copies of all their software and intellectual property to the Chinese government, and then having to go out of business because a Chinese business opened up right an office right across the street using the same intellectual property. The American company was simply swindled. And this happens all the time to American countries, as well as European and Canadian countries.

Kudlow said that the situation with China is so bad that he's been forced to change his own position on trade. He was in government as far back as the Reagan administration, and he's always been on record as opposing tariffs, but "I've come to this position, because the problem [with China] is getting worse."

The shocking part of the interview is the description of how intransient the Chinese are during the negotiations that have been going on for months. The interviewer (Jim Kramer) said that he had been assuming all along that there had been progress in the negotiations with China, with give and take on both sides, but Kudlow referred to the "so-called talks" as if they had been nothing more than a charade to the Chinese:

"I went to Beijing with our team, and then when China came to the US, I was involved in those discussions and a dinner, I sat next to Liu He [Xi Jinping's top economic adviser], and his young assistants, And I think they're sincere, so there's hope.

On the other hand, I do not think president Xi [Jinping] at the moment has any intention of following through on the discussions we've made, and I think the president [Trump] is so dissatisfied with China on these so-called talks, that he is keeping the pressure on, and I support that. ...

That stuff has to be fixed. We can't let China steal our technology. Those are our family jewels. What is it that makes America the greatest economy in the world? It is our innovative and inventive use of technology advances. This is Schumpeter's idea of creative destruction writ large. We can't let them do that.

They haven't responded at all. Not one basis point to our request to do something about the theft of intellectual property, and the forced divestiture of our intellectual property."

Kudlow said, "By the way, the whole world agrees with us. I mean Europe agrees with us, Canada, everyone knows this is true." He added that he has many sources in China, and even they agree.

Kudlow concluded by saying that Trump will not back down on this issue:

"Now, for POTUS -- I'm going to defend him here, lock, stock and barrel. We've had Republican and Democratic presidents in the past, make these complaints to China, even take these complaints to the World Trade Organization. But they never follow through. They say it, nothing happens, life goes on, the situation gets worse. This guy, President Trump, has the biggest backbone -- and this something I've admired for him in other places -- he will not let go of this point. Nor, should he, in my opinion."

After the interview, the interviewer Jim Kramer said that he found the interview shocking, because the Chinese are refusing to make any compromises at all. He pointed to the recent case of the Chinese company ZTE where President Trump had gone to a great deal of trouble to keep the company from going bankrupt, based on a personal request by President Xi. Kramer said that Trump must be really furious to have gone to great lengths to do that, and got nothing in return from Xi. CNBC and Reuters

The growing conflict with China

Larry Kudlow's interview on Wednesday was well-planned and well thought out, and laid out major policy objectives of the Trump administration. During the interview, there were often long pauses between sentences as he chose his words carefully. Kudlow could have simply made a general statement that the negotiations with China were on track and "we hope something will come out of them soon."

Instead, in coordination with the White House, he made a careful condemnation of China's trade practices and negotiating attitudes. This was done on purpose, and it's a shot across the bow by the Trump administration at President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party.

We live at a time in history where there's never been more hysterical nonsense in the media, and there's never been more total, abject ignorance about what's going on in the world.

One comment I've heard probably hundreds of times is: "How could Trump give Kim Jong-un prestige by meeting with him in Singapore, without getting a firm commitment in advance to denuclearize?" The question doesn't even make sense. Demanding denuclearization in advance would have been refused. Trump is a master negotiator and deal-maker, and his assessment was that the only way to convince Kim to denuclearize in the future is to build up his prestige in the present, and convince him that the US is not an enemy.

It's worth noting here that, as I've been saying for many, many months, there is no possibility whatsoever that North Korea will denuclearize, now or in the future. But I'm not going to criticize Trump for taking steps to try to prevent World War III, even if preventing World War III is impossible.

A web site reader recently asked me:

"I have to wonder whether you're serious or just pulling my leg. What possible benefit is the ad hoc Trumpist foreign policy to the US or the world at large? We need leverage with the DPRK [North Korea], and the only leverage available is China. Trump's solution: start at a trade war with them, and make it bitter."

Once again, this question makes no sense. The leverage we have against North Korea is the very harsh sanctions that Trump imposed on North Korea, with China's cooperation. China's cooperation was a huge foreign policy decision by China, requiring buy-in from many agencies in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), based on deeply entrenched objectives that won't change because of this trade dispute. In addition, master negotiator Trump gained leverage over Xi by agreeing to his request to save ZTE.

What I've seen repeatedly since Trump has been in office is that his foreign policy is completely consistent with the Generational Dynamics analyses that I've been posting for years -- that we're headed for a world war with China, and Russia will be our ally and China's enemy. Trump understands these analyses through Steve Bannon, who is an expert on both military history and Generational Dynamics. People who become hysterical because of a tweet or a press conference really have no clue what's going on in the world, but what I've seen is that Trump does -- based on actions, not words.

As I said above, Trump is well aware that we're headed for a world war with China, and he's trying to prevent him. Preventing it is impossible, but I'm not going to criticize Trump for trying.

In writing this article, I've described many bottom lines and many red lines. North Korea will not denuclearize. China will not back down from stealing America's intellectual property. And Trump will not back down from the trade dispute. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we're a typical tit for tat escalation sequence that leads to a generational crisis war. The only other choice is appeasement, and that will lead to war as well, possibly even more quickly. Trump is aware of all this, and he's trying to prevent it, but it's the world that's upside down and out of control. Bloomberg

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Jul-18 World View -- Trump administration signals that trade war with China will escalate sharply thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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18-Jul-18 World View -- Fighting between Taliban and ISIS-K escalates in Afghanistan

ISIS-K claims credit for killing 15 Taliban, including commander

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS-K claims credit for killing 15 Taliban, including commander


Afghan Taliban militants (AFP)
Afghan Taliban militants (AFP)

"ISIS Khorasan" (ISIS-K, "Wilayah Khorasan"), the Afghanistan branch of ISIS, is claiming credit for attacking the house of a Taliban commander in the eastern province of Nangarhar of Afghanistan, killing 15 Taliban militants, including the commander, known as Saba Gul or Mohammad Khorasani.

Fighting between the Taliban and ISIS-K has significantly escalated in recent weeks, as they vie for control of the country's east, along the border with Pakistan. In June, ISIS-K claimed the killing of 25 people with a suicide bombing at a gathering of Taliban members and local people in Nangarhar province during the three-day Eid ceasefire.

The Taliban launched offensives in the region late in June, claiming that they had cleared out bases of ISIS-K fighters in nearby villages. Dozens of fighters on both sides were killed, as hundreds of civilians were forced to flee the fighting between the two groups, as the clashes carried on for several days.

One unnamed ISIS fighter was quoted as saying:

"Yes the war between the Afghan Taliban and Islamic State branch in Khorasan has escalated. More attacks and more casualties, but in war there are casualties. [The Taliban] are not able to get firm control over [the areas they recapture] because soon they will be repelled back by the fighters of Islamic State."

The Taliban in the past have been reluctant to publicize their clashes with ISIS, believing it risks exaggerating the power of the group. But that's changing now, as ISIS-K becomes more prominent. An unnamed Taliban source says:

"The Taliban hit ISIS fighters hard and finished their presence in Laghman, while ISIS fighters were also killed in Kunar and Nangarhar. The Taliban will deal with them with an iron hand in future because they are exceeding their activities in the region. ...

ISIS has presented a negative image of Islam and created an environment of fear among the Muslims.

[ISIS attacked the Taliban] under the pretext of Islamic Shariah law and calling Taliban apostates thus creating confusion among the locals and other supporters of Afghan Taliban. In this way they are paving the way for the US and allied forces to create cracks in the unity of the Afghan Taliban, but so far they failed."

The Taliban claim that ISIS fighters are distracting the Taliban from completing their mission -- to defeat the US-led coalition. Reuters and The National (UAE)

Fighting between Taliban and ISIS-K escalates in Afghanistan

The Afghan government estimates that there are as many as 3,000 foreign fighters in ISIS-K in Afghanistan, many of them coming from Pakistan and Uzbekistan. However, accurate estimates are difficult because the Taliban and other militant groups are fluid, and members often move from one group to another.

ISIS-K fighters began appearing in Afghanistan in 2015, when ISIS in Syria and Iraq was considered highly stylish and fashionable among the atrocity-committing set. Many Taliban militants switched allegiance to ISIS because it was a better brand name, newer and more exciting. They were joined by foreign fighters from Uzbekistan and other countries. Starting in 2016, especially as ISIS came under attack in Iraq and Syria, foreign fighters who had gone to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad began to return to other countries, including Afghanistan, to continue the fight.

It's not believed that there was ever much communication between ISIS-K and ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria, as the relationship is more like a shared brand name. To some extent, there is a parallel between Syria and Afghanistan, as local militants in the two countries join al-Qaeda and the Taliban, respectively, while foreign fighters join ISIS.

In both cases, the local and ISIS militants have conflicting objectives. Generally speaking, the local militants have purely local nationalist objectives, while the ISIS militants have the objective of establishing a multinational caliphate.

In Syria, the local militant group is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and they spent years fighting alongside moderate rebels to defeat Bashar al-Assad. ISIS, on the other hand, established a caliphate in Raqqa and took control of as much territory as possible, in Syria and Iraq. Bashar al-Assad and its principal backers in Russia and Iran indirectly supported ISIS by not targeting them, because ISIS was fighting the moderate rebels who were also al-Assad's enemies. It was left to the American forces, backing the Kurds and Iraqis, to finally expel ISIS from Raqqa and Mosul, and that fight is still going on.

In Afghanistan, the situation is similar. The Taliban are radicalized ethnic Pashtuns, fighting against their old enemies from the 1990s civil war, the Northern Alliance of Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras. ISIS-K are foreign fighters and disaffected Taliban fighters who have pledged allegiance to ISIS in the name of the great multinational caliphate fantasy. The Taliban, on the other hand, have set as their primary objective forcing the US-led coalition to withdraw.

In terms of theology, ISIS considers the local nationalists to be apostates, mainly because they make alliances with other ISIS enemies, such as Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. However, ISIS saves its strongest vitriol for the Shia Muslims, as in this statement from January 2016:

"Initiated by a sly Jew, [the Shia] are an apostate sect drowning in worship of the dead, cursing the best companions and wives of the Prophet, spreading doubt on the very basis of the religion (the Koran and the Sunnah), defaming the very honor of the Prophet , and preferring their “twelve” imams to the prophets and even to Allah! ... Thus, the Rafidah [another word for Shias] are mushrik [polytheist] apostates who must be killed wherever they are to be found, until no Rafidi walks on the face of earth, even if the jihad claimants despise such."

In Afghanistan, many analysts believe that ISIS poses a greater threat today than the Taliban. There have been big spikes in terrorist violence in the last few months, and this is attributed to a competition between the two groups.

The strongest fighting force within the Taliban is the Haqqani network, which has been blamed for the most audacious attacks in Kabul. The Haqqani network has historical ties to Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency. VOA (18-Nov-2017) and Washington Post (21-Mar-2018) and The Diplomat (29-Jan-2016) and Military Times

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Jul-18 World View -- Fighting between Taliban and ISIS-K escalates in Afghanistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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17-Jul-18 World View -- Pakistan terrorism grows as July 25 election approaches

'Ghazi Force' takes credit for attack on 11th anniversary of Red Mosque siege

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Second largest terror attack in Pakistan's history occurs at election rally


Facebook picture of Siraj Raisani, Baloch leader who was killed in terrorist attack on Friday
Facebook picture of Siraj Raisani, Baloch leader who was killed in terrorist attack on Friday

About 149 people were killed, including nine children, and hundreds injured at a terror attack on Friday in Mastung, near Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province in southwest Pakistan. This was the second worst terror attack in Pakistan's history, and it occurs as a nationwide general election approaches on July 25.

The attack targeted an election rally for the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP). Among the 149 killed were the BAP candidate and Baloch leader Siraj Raisani.

The worst occurred in 2014, when Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP, Pakistan Taliban) attacked an army school in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 141 people, 132 of them schoolchildren, most of them children of soldiers. ( "17-Dec-14 World View -- Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children") The 2014 attack was such a shock to Pakistan, especially to the army, that the army immediately began a long-term counter-terrorism operation directed at TTP.

The new attack may not have the same effect of shock as the 2014 attack, because of a confluence of events. In the hours after the suicide attack occurred on Friday, the country was riveted by a scene going on at the other end of the country -- the return of the charismatic former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from self-imposed exile in London. Beginning in 1990, Sharif has been prime minister of Pakistan for three non-consecutive terms. But Sharif was charged with corruption early in 2017 because of revelations in the leaked Panama Papers, and he left the country after being forced to step down by the Pakistani Supreme Court. Sharif had been promising to return to Pakistan to defend himself against the charges, and on Friday his plane landed and, in the midst of crowds of thousands of supporters, he was arrested and taken off to jail.

So with all that going on, the terror attack in Balochistan didn't get much media coverage, and so there wasn't the level of public outrage and shock that had followed the 2014 terror attack. This is all the more surprising because there were two more terror attacks last week. On Tuesday, a suicide bombing in Peshawar at a rally for the Awami National Party (ANP) killed 21, including candidate Haroon Bilour. On Friday, a bomb roadside bomb killed four people in the northern town of Bannu.

Terrorist violence in Pakistan has ebbed since the military began counter-terrorism operations against the TTP after the 2014 attack. However, with three attacks in the last week alone, and with the election less than two weeks again, Pakistanis are concerned about a new surge in violence. Dawn (Pakistan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India) and Express Tribune (Pakistan) and BBC and Indian Express

'Ghazi Force' takes credit for attack on 11th anniversary of Red Mosque siege

The terror group "Ghazi Force Lal Masjid," linked to Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP, Pakistan Taliban) claimed credit for the attack. This represents a resurgence of a group linked to a major event that occurred almost exactly eleven years ago.

On July 11, 2007, a spectacular 8-day siege ended after 36 hours in a mosque complex in Islamabad known as the "Red Mosque" or "Lal Masjid." It had all begun the previous January, when dozens of female seminary students studying and living at the madrassas within the mosque complex demanded that the government impose Taliban-style sharia law and arrest the prostitutes in downtown Islamabad. After a while, the female students would come out in black burqas with long bamboo sticks and threaten the prostitutes.

The last straw came when dozens of students kidnapped nine people, including six Chinese women and a Chinese man, leading to protests from China. The result was the siege and bloodbath that ended on July 11. It turned out that the Red Mosque had a huge cache of weapons that apparently had been brought there is the last few months.

The leading cleric for the Red Mosque was Imam Abdul Rashid Ghazi who called for his own death to spark an Islamic revolution. He said that he would rather be martyred than give in to the government, and he was killed during the siege. Ghazi said that he had declared war against Pakistan's government for entering into an alliance with the United States following the 9/11 attacks. The standoff left more than 100 militants dead, along with 11 armed forces personnel. It was a significant turning point in terrorism in Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda leaders quickly demanded revenge, and Ghazi's death has become a global inspiration to other jihadist movements. Six months later, on December 14, 2007, some 40 militant leaders, commanding 40,000 militant fighters, gathered in South Waziristan to form a united front under the banner of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Now, on the tenth anniversary of the Red Mosque siege, the Ghazi Force Lal Masjid has struck again. Dawn (9-July-2017) and Khaama News (Afghanistan)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Jul-18 World View -- Pakistan terrorism grows as July 25 election approaches thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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16-Jul-18 World View -- Socialist Cuba moves to Capitalism, while Socialist Venezuela moves to self-destruction

Private property ownership allowed under Cuba's new constitution

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Cuba's new constitution builds on ending of socialism in 2011


Homes and cars in Cuba are stuck in the 1950s, thanks to Socialism (Getty)
Homes and cars in Cuba are stuck in the 1950s, thanks to Socialism (Getty)

Cuba's new constitution will recognize private property for the first time since the fanatical Fidel Castro abolished private property after the Cuban Communist Revolution of 1959. Cuba's current constitution, adopted in 1976, recognizes four forms of property: state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint-venture property. The new category of private property will permit Cubans to own business-related property.

Despite the insistence that Cuba is still a full-fledged, glorious Socialist state, ever since Fidel Castro stepped down in 2008, the two new leaders that replaced him have been moving Cuba in the direction of capitalism. This is in contrast to Venezuela and North Korea, whose Socialist leaders continue to move their countries toward self-destruction.

In 2010, when Cuba's economy was in shambles, and president Raúl Castro announced the end of the Socialist economy. The government would lay off 500,000 government workers (Socialist bureaucrats) and privatize many businesses.

In particular, Marx's Socialist Principle Of Distribution ("From each according to abilities, to each according to needs") was abandoned at the time, with the announcement: We must reinvigorate the socialist principle of distribution, to pay to each according to the quantity and quality of work provided."

Within two years of the 2010 announcement, the size of the state payroll had been reduced by 20%, and more than 200,000 people had moved into private enterprise. For the first time, Havana was population with street stalls selling everything from pirate DVDs to kitchen implements. The problem, however, was these self-employed small business owners were not permitted to own the street stalls that they had set up. The same was true of other entrepreneurs as well. Guardian (London, 6-Nov-2011) and Granma (Cuba, 20-Apr)

Private property ownership allowed under Cuba's new constitution

Since 2010, the number of self-employed people in areas like tourism and transport has nearly quadrupled to more than 591,000, around 13% of Cuba’s overall workforce.

In April of this year, Raúl Castro stepped down, and Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez became president. In a speech in April, Castro previewed the changes that Díaz-Canel was about to implement:

"We will continue to expand self-employed work – as I have mentioned in different speeches before this parliament – which represents an alternative source of employment within the framework of current law, and far from signifying a process of neoliberal privatization of social property, will allow the state to free itself of managing activities of a non-strategic nature to the country’s development. The experiment with non-agricultural cooperatives will also continue.

Significant results have been achieved in both areas, but also revealed are mistakes in management, control and monitoring, which have led to the emergence of various forms of indiscipline such as tax evasion, in a country where, before these measures were applied, hardly anyone paid taxes; criminal acts and regulatory violations, with the aim of getting rich quick, a problem which was not addressed in a timely manner and resulted in the need to modify various regulations linked to this sector."

This was a preview of the new constitution that was announced by president Mario Díaz-Canel on Saturday. Here is part of the announcement:

"The economic system that it reflects maintains as essential principles the socialist property of all the people on the fundamental means of production and planning as the main component of management, to which is added the recognition of the role of the market and of new forms of ownership, between they are private, in correspondence with the Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Socialist Development Model and the Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution, as a result of the consultation with broad sectors of society. ...

Regarding private property on the land, a special regime is maintained, with limitations on its transmission and the preferential right of the State to its acquisition through its fair price."

So the new constitution allows entrepreneurs to keep their commercial property, but the last clause means that the dictators in the government can still confiscate property at any time. The Conversation (18-Apr) and Granma (Cuba) (Trans) and TelesurTV

Mario Díaz-Canel imposes harsh regulations on the private sector

Castro's speech in April referred to "mistakes in management, control and monitoring." The fear of a quickly growing private marketplace that might threaten the power of the dictatorship has motivated harsh restrictions and regulations. The government froze issuing licenses for some popular business categories last year, and new regulations forbid a single person from holding more than one business license. This has already discouraged badly needed investment in businesses, and has even forced some business owners to close businesses because business licenses had to be returned.

Investment is the reason why the economic changes are being made in the first place. Cuba has decaying road infrastructure, a national housing deficit, food shortages, and public transport problems.

Under the fanatical Fidel Castro, Cuba's economy was a continuing disaster, first propped up by the Soviet Union, and later by Venezuela. Now that Venezuela is an economic disaster, the payments are getting smaller, and Cuba needs money.

Cuban officials want international investors, but no one is willing to invest money in Cuba unless they believe that they can make a profit and take the money out. So really, Cuba's new regulations restricting business may may actually cancel out the advantages of owning private property.

It's also good to remember that returning Cuba to capitalism does not make it a democracy. I've written about many countries that illustrate this. Nazi Germany was a capitalist dictatorship. China today resembles a capitalist dictatorship. For example, Cameroon has a capitalist economy, but the Francophone government still commits daily atrocities on the Anglophone community, including extrajudicial jailings, mass slaughter, rape, torture, and burning down entire villages. Syria has a capitalist economy, but the government of Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad continues full-scale genocide and ethnic cleaning of hated Sunni populations.

Still, Cuba and Venezuela are a study in contrasts. Venezuela is pushing forward with full-scale Socialism, destroying the country, turning it into a military fascist state, starving the population, and driving millions of families into neighboring countries as refugees. Venezuela has become a worldwide poster child for what a disaster Socialism always is, 100% of the time.

Perhaps because Venezuela is such a disaster, Cuba is taking a different path, looking for a way to maintain the dictatorship, but at the same time opening up the economy by abandoning Socialism in order to encourage foreign investments. A dictatorship without Socialism, as in the case of Cuba, isn't as disastrous as a dictatorship with Socialism, as in the case of Venezuela, so at least Cuba is choosing the lesser of two evils. Reuters and Havana Times and AFP

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Jul-18 World View -- Socialist Cuba moves to Capitalism, while Socialist Venezuela moves to self-destruction thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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15-Jul-18 World View -- Israel prepares for war on two fronts, Gaza and Syria

Egypt mediates Israel-Gaza ceasefire in biggest escalation since 2014 war

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egypt mediates Israel-Gaza ceasefire in biggest escalation since 2014 war


A Patriot Missile launched in southern Israel on Friday afternoon hit an incoming Syrian drone as it crossed the border into Israel (Reuters)
A Patriot Missile launched in southern Israel on Friday afternoon hit an incoming Syrian drone as it crossed the border into Israel (Reuters)

Israel and Gaza appear close to full-scale war today for the first time since 2014, despite the announcement that both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza had agreed to a ceasefire mediated by Egypt. However, it's unclear whether the ceasefire is holding.

According to Israel's military (IDF), since Friday afternoon Hamas has launched 200 rockets and mortar shells across the border into Israel, causing property damage and three injuries.

As a precaution, the IDF instructed Israelis living near the Gaza border to remain within a 15-second radius from bomb shelters or safe rooms.

In retaliation, Israeli aircraft on Saturday attacked more than 40 targets in Gaza in the most extensive daytime assault since the 67 day war with Gaza in 2014. The IDF says that targets included urban warfare training facilities, weapon storage warehouse, training compounds, command centers, and offices in Hamas's Battalion headquarters. This was the first time recently that Israel struck targets in the heart of Gaza city. Palestinians said two teens were killed and 14 injured in the Israeli strikes.

Every Friday after midday prayers for several months, Gaza has been holding demonstrations along the border fence with Israel, with the stated objective for Palestinians to exercise their "Right of Return," to regain the lands where their ancestors had lived, prior to the 1947 war between Arabs and Jews that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but activists have also tried to break through the fence, with the intent of attacking Israelis in their homes.

In recent weeks, the protests have been supplemented by incendiary kites and balloons, which float over the border fence and land in forests and farmland, causing massive fires. Israel's army has been baffled by these devices, and has been responding by striking Hamas targets in Gaza. Saturday's attack was the biggest attack since the 2014 full-scale war.

According to an IDF spokesman, the aims of Saturday's operation were to end the large-scale border protests, end the incendiary kites and balloons, and end the rocket and mortar fire. That appears to be a great deal to hope for. Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel and BBC and Reuters

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Israel also prepares for war on Syria border with Iran and Hezbollah

Late on Saturday evening, Israel's army announced that military exercises will be taking place across the country for the next week, starting immediately on Sunday morning. The announcement said that the exercises were "planned in advance," but the abrupt nature of the announcement indicates that imminent concerns.

It's believed that the it may be in response to the following announcement that appeared in the Syrian governments al-Masdar news on Thursday:

"The Syrian Arab Army’s shock troops have moved from the Daraa Governorate to the Al-Quneitra front, following the military’s recent achievements in southwest Syria.

According to the official Facebook of Colonel Nizar Qindi, his elite shock troops from the 9th Division have moved to the Al-Quneitra Governorate, today, after a short deployment in the Daraa Governorate. ...

The 9th Division has operated in the Al-Quneitra Governorate before, but they were later redeployed to the Damascus and Daraa fronts to aid in those offensives.

Also redeploying alongside the 9th Division was the National Defense Forces (NDF) of Al-Sweida, Damascus, and Izraa.

These reinforcements should give the Syrian Arab Army and their allies a major military boost in the Al-Quneitra Governorate, as they make their final preparations for this operation.

In the coming days, the Syrian Army is expected to kickoff their long-awaited Al-Quneitra offensive, as they look to conclude their southwest Syria operations before month’s end."

The National Defense Forces (NDF) referred to in the statement are a collection of militias that the Syrian regime set up in 2012, organized by Iran and Hezbollah.

While Israel's army is struggling to deal with the increasing tensions on the Gaza border, the army is also facing the possibility of a northern war with Iran and Hezbollah along the border with Syria.

It's quite possible that Israel's army is not prepared for a two-front war. This could explain Saturday evening's abrupt announcement of military exercises in cities across Israel.

Syria's Quneitra offensive is expected to begin within the next two days, before or during the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Al-Masdar News (Damascus) and Debka (Israel) and YNet (Israel) and Debka

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Jul-18 World View -- Israel prepares for war on two fronts, Gaza and Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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14-Jul-18 World View -- China's railway contractor in Kenya accused of 'neo-colonialism, racism and blatant discrimination'

Kenya may lose its Mombasa seaport to China because of 'Debt Book Diplomacy'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China's railway contractor in Kenya accused of 'neo-colonialism, racism and blatant discrimination'

Kenyan workers on Kenya railway line begin abused by Chinese masters


Chinese railway contractor punishes workers for refusing to do menial jobs that they were not hired to do (Standard Media, Kenya)
Chinese railway contractor punishes workers for refusing to do menial jobs that they were not hired to do (Standard Media, Kenya)

A series of reports in Kenyan newspapers being described as "explosive" accuse the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), which is responsible for developing and operating Kenya's Special Gauge Railway (SGR), of "neo-colonialism, racism and blatant discrimination" towards Kenya workers. The SGR train is the Madaraka Express, which operates between Kenya's Port of Mombasa and the capital city Nairobi.

Racism is rampant, to the point where the Chinese have apparently set up an apartheid system. At the staff canteen, Kenyans may not sit at the same tables as Chinese. Kenyans may not share the company's staff vans used by the Chinese. All the signs are written in Chinese, apparently with no translations available, to prevent the Kenyans from doing many of the jobs.

Although Kenyan workers have at least civil engineering degrees, the Chinese masters order them to perform only menial tasks, well below their skill levels. If a Kenyan refuses to perform menial work as ordered, he can be physically punished. Furthermore, when a Kenyan and a Chinese employee perform the same job, the Chinese employee's salary is four times as high.

There are 40 Kenyan locomotive drivers employed by the company, but the Chinese do not actually let them drive the train. The Chinese are supposed to be training Kenyans to do the technical jobs, but according to one Kenyan driver who has been working at the company for over a year, "We just sit at the back and watch. There is no actual transfer of skills that is happening here."

Chinese workers blatantly violate the rules -- smoking inside the trains, urinating on the tracks, and other violations that are ignored for the Chinese workers but would immediately get a Kenyan worker fired.

The Chinese contractor CRBC is apparently also guilty of corruption and financial fraud. Some employees have also discovered that the Chinese contractor has been reporting different figures to the Kenya Revenue Authority for tax purposes.

Kenya's government have apparently sided with the Chinese contractor, against the Kenyan workers, blaming the Kenyan workers for having a poor work ethic. According to government spokesman Eric Kiraithe;

"I am not saying any worker should be discriminated and humiliated in the workplace but we must all appreciate that the operation of a modern train is a profession that calls for military standard discipline.

Inward-looking, haki yetu ["our rights" in Swahili] centered personalities have no place in this kind of profession, not now or in the future. They are the first crop of Kenyans employed on this project and the culture they entrench will determine whether in less than 10 years we shall depend on them."

The news reports have caused a major scandal in Kenya. Kenya Railways, the agency mandated to supervise the Chinese operator of the railway project said it was launching an investigation into the claims, giving CRBC 72 hours to submit a report. Kenyans News and Shanghaiist and Standard Media (Kenya) and Nairobi Wire and Standard Media (Kenya)

Kenya may lose its Mombasa seaport to China because of 'Debt Book Diplomacy'

China is building infrastructure projects in many countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China does not build a project in a country for free. It loans the money at harsh terms with high interest rates. Furthermore, it demands that almost all of the work be done by Chinese workers, who get paid out of the money that has been loaned, so most of the money that China loans to the country is returned to China in the form of remittances and payments for services, but the country still has that debt, and has to repay the same money to China again, with interest.

Theoretically, the Chinese workers are supposed to train the local workers, and responsibility for the project is supposed to be turned over to the country within a few years. But as we're seeing in the case of Kenya's SGR, the Chinese masters are forcing the Kenyans into menial jobs, are segregating themselves from the Kenyans, are maintaining all signs in Chinese so that the Kenyans are not being trained.

This is being called "Debt Book Diplomacy" (as opposed to "checkbook diplomacy," which the US used to be accused of). The poster child for how it works is the Port of Hambantota, a Chinese infrastructure project in Sri Lanka, funded with a loan from China, with almost all the labor performed by Chinese workers. Sri Lanka was unable to repay the loan, and the government was forced to give the Port to China. So now Sri Lanka has a large seaport owned by China, and a large Chinese enclave with hundreds of Chinese families, with no benefit to itself and to its own people.

Kenya has been going on a public borrowing binge. Kenya's public debt is over $50 billion, including $4 billion in loans from China for the SGR.

Theoretically, the Madaraka Express, the SGR train that operates between the Port of Mombasa and the capital city Nairobi, is supposed to pay for itself, just like Sri Lanka's Hambantota seaport. The World Bank in 2013 warned Kenya that the railway project was a bad deal, but Kenya went ahead with it anyway.

However, it now emerges that in the first year of operation, the only managed to bring in $10 million in revenues, far short of the fantasy amounts that were originally promised. Furthermore, even that amount is dependent on the government forcing businesses to use the railway, even when it's not the best choice.

According to David Shinn, a former diplomat and a professor of international affairs at George Washington University:

"Keep in mind that this is a loan from a Chinese bank. A Chinese company by contract is required to build the projects on an enormous amount of that loan money that’s going to go straight into the pocket of a Chinese state-owned company. It’s going to have a percentage of Chinese labor.

And most of the material that goes into the project will be manufactured in China. So, Chinese companies are making a profit on that. There are two or three wins for China, you know, [and] one win for Kenya and Ethiopia, being that they get a railway built that no other country is offering to build for them."

Kenya is not able to make its debt payments in these circumstances. Rumors are beginning to spread that Kenya will be forced to give up the Mombasa seaport to the Chinese, just as Sri Lanka was forced to give up the Hambantota seaport. The government is denying these rumors, but has not explained how the debt will be paid. Soko Directory (Kenya) and Standard Media (Kenya) and VOA and Center for Global Development (4-Mar-2018)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Jul-18 World View -- China's railway contractor in Kenya accused of 'neo-colonialism, racism and blatant discrimination' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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13-Jul-18 World View -- Viral video shows Francophone Cameroon soldiers killing women and children

Cameroon continues on path to full-scale civil war

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Viral video shows Francophone Cameroon soldiers killing women and children


Screen shot from video shows soldier pushing blindfolded woman with baby to the ground, just before he shoots both of them dead.
Screen shot from video shows soldier pushing blindfolded woman with baby to the ground, just before he shoots both of them dead.

A horrendously graphic video that has gone viral on social media depicts Cameroon Francophone (French-speaking) government soldiers in uniform blindfolding, shooting and killing two women, as well as the two babies that they're carrying. One of the uniformed men says in French that it is a heavy burden executing people but they don't have another option.

According to Amnesty International:

"The Cameroonian authorities’ initial claim that this shocking video is fake simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. We can provide credible evidence to the contrary. Given the gravity of these horrific acts – the cold blooded and calculated slaughter of women and young children – these hasty and dismissive denials cast serious doubt over whether any investigation will be genuine. It is imperative that a proper, impartial investigation is undertaken and those responsible for these abhorrent acts are brought to justice."

The claim by Cameroon's government that a "proper, impartial investigation" will be conducted is not credible, in light of repeated atrocities by the Francophone government over the last two years.

These government atrocities began in November 2016, when the Francophone (French-speaking) Cameroon government security forces began beating and killing peaceful anti-government demonstrators in the South Cameroons, the Anglophone (English-speaking) regions of Cameroon. The demonstrators were protesting systematic bias, discrimination and marginalization towards Anglophones by the Francophone government. For example, schoolteachers in the Anglophone regions were forbidden from teaching any courses in English.

The Cameroon government, led by the 85 year old president Paul Biya, has stepped up the torture, slaughter and other atrocities continually since then, with numerous videos and reports on social media documenting the atrocities. The level of atrocities ticked up considerably in October, when the Anglophone separatists demanded independence for the Southern Cameroons, calling it Ambazonia.

There have been numerous videos posted on social media showing atrocities committed since then. Another video, posted by the BBC, is a compilation of verified videos from social media accounts showing everything from torture to entire villages being burned down. Africa News and Amnesty International and YouTube - Extrajudicial execution of women and children and YouTube - BBC - Cameroon military atrocities, village burnings

Cameroon continues on path to full-scale crisis civil war

It's increasingly clear that the Francophone government in Cameroon is conducting genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Anglophone people in the Southern Cameroons. Hundreds of thousands of people have had to flee their homes, and tens of thousands have fled across the border into Nigeria. Nigerians who used to conduct business in Southern Cameroons are now abandoning their businesses and returning home in droves.

Cameroon's last generational crisis war was the "UPC Revolt," 1956-1960, which was a bloody civil war by communists attacking the French government in the Cameroun colony. It has now been exactly 58 years since the ending climax of the UPC Revolt. Generational Dynamics research has found that 58 years is the minimum and most common time period from the end of one crisis war till the beginning of the next, since 58 years is exactly the point where the survivors who were traumatized by the war almost all disappear (retire or die), all at once, and are replaced in positions of power by younger generations of people with no personal memory of the atrocities of the previous crisis war, and therefore have no fear of starting a new one.

Because of the flood of Anglophones from Cameroon entering Nigeria, some Nigerian activists are urging Nigeria's government to try to mediate in Cameroon, even though Nigeria has to deal with Boko Haram and bloody fights between farmers and herders that have been widely reported in the news. Abdul Oroh, a lawyer and civil rights activist from Nigeria, summarizes the situation:

"Specifically, the Francophone Cameroon is trying to dominate and super-impose itself on the Anglophone Cameroon. They had two legal systems but there is a policy of assimilation which is threatening to obliterate the Anglophone culture and legal system. One of the lawyers told me that as a lawyer, if you file a case at the Ministry of Justice in Cameroon, unless it us written in French, they won’t treat the case. What you now do is to go and look for somebody who can translate it into French. There is so much anger and bitterness in that country. ...

We were under military rule when we intervened in apartheid South Africa. We were under military rule when we stepped out to restore democracy in Sierra Leone and Liberia. We have been carrying out peace-keeping operations, not just within but even outside Africa. We are talking about our immediate neighbors whose citizens are pouring into our country as refugees on daily basis. These refugees are putting pressures on our lean resources. If we don’t help them to solve that problem, it will continue and could get to a stage when it could even become a threat to our own security too. So, it is not a question of moral right because human lives are involved in this conflict. It is true that we have our own challenges but I am not saying we should deploy our troops there to help one side to defeat the other side. I am saying we should help them to get to talk, negotiate peace and resolve their differences amicably."

Unfortunately, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, attempts to mediate and negotiate will not work. What is happening in Cameroon is the beginnings of a generational crisis civil war. A crisis war is a force of nature that cannot be stopped until it burns itself out, typically after around five years, with an explosive genocidal climax of some kind that horrifies everyone so much that it brings the war to an end. Cameroon is nowhere near that explosive climax at this time. New Telegraph (Nigeria) and AFP and Deutsche Welle and Task and Purpose

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Jul-18 World View -- Viral video shows Francophone Cameroon soldiers killing women and children thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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12-Jul-18 World View -- Haiti blames IMF for fuel price increases triggering riots

Haiti people riot after announcement of fuel price rises during World Cup match

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Haiti people riot after announcement of fuel price rises during World Cup match


People dump trash and raw sewage into canals that run through Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When it rains, the canals overflow and flood poor neighborhoods. (NPR)
People dump trash and raw sewage into canals that run through Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When it rains, the canals overflow and flood poor neighborhoods. (NPR)

On Friday, as Haitians were watching the World Cup game between Brazil and Belgium, Haiti's government announced the end of large subsidies on fuel prices, resulting in dramatic price increases -- 38% for gasoline, 47% for diesel fuel, and 51% for kerosene. The increases were blamed on the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The price increases for fuel appeared to affect everyone. The gasoline prices affected those in the middle or upper classes who own automobiles, the diesel prices affected businesspeople who use diesel fuel for trucks and heavy equipment, and the kerosene price increases hit poor people especially hard, as they burn kerosene to light up their homes, lacking electricity.

Haiti was the poorest country in the world, even before the major earthquake the country suffered in 2010. There was a huge outpouring of international aid after the earthquake, including a large fund organized by former president Bill Clinton, but none of the people seem to have benefited, and almost all the money was apparently lost in corruption.

The government had apparently hoped that by announcing the price increases during Friday's World Cup game, nobody would notice. That turned out to be a major miscalculation. Most Haitians fervently supported Brazil over Belgium in Friday's World Cup game, and were shocked when the game ended in a loss for Brazil. The rioting began five minutes after the game ended. Burning tires blocked major routes in Haiti's capital city Port-au-Prince, and sporadic gunfire could be heard around the city. Store and car windows in the affluent sections of Port-au-Prince were reportedly smashed. Affluent hotels were also targeted. Three people were killed on Friday.

As the rioting became increasingly violent, Haiti's president Jovenel Moïse, accompanied by his wife Martine, appeared in a televised address to the nation on Saturday evening:

"You sent me the message and I got it. I corrected what needed to be corrected.... I asked the Government to reconsider the decision to withdraw subsidies on the prices of petroleum products. The Prime Minister did it. The price of fuel remains what it was before, throughout the national territory. There is no longer an increase in gas prices. ... Now I ask you to stay calm and go home. ... I know that it is to me that you gave the power, but I cannot run alone. I have to have a lot of people around me before making a decision."

The protests didn't end. On Monday, workers went on strike and shut the capital down. Many analysts have stated that the continuing riots are being caused by massive government corruption. According to one NGO analyst:

"Having had over ten deployments to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010, including during their elections, I do not think that the increase in fuel prices is the root cause of this crisis.

They know that sacrifices have to be made to improve their economy, and they have made them in the past. However, after suffering for so long, the Haitian people hate being tricked

Their political candidates promised to address mismanagement and corruption if they were elected. The people expected improvements in government efficiency, and arrests of those accused of corruption, before being targeted for austerity.

However, to have austerity forced on them, without the promised efficiency and arrests, appeared to be too much for the people to bear from a government that promised to be different."

The United States has warned Americans living in Haiti to shelter in place in their homes, to avoid the violence. A marine security detachment of 13 marines has arrived in Haiti to provide security at the US embassy there.

Both the United States and Canada have policies to deport Haitians who fled from the violence following the 2010 earthquake. Activists in Canada is demanding that because of the current violence, deportations back to Haiti should immediately end, and Haiti should be put back on the government list of countries to which migrants may not be returned. AFP (7-July) and Barbados Today and Military.com and Canadian Broadcasting

International Monetary Fund blamed for austerity triggering riots

The fuel price increases announced on Friday were caused by a termination of subsidies as demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for $96 million in loans and grants from the IMF and the World Bank.

When the price increases were announced, Prime Minister Guy Lafontant said, “I ask for your patience because our administration has a vision, a clear program." He defended the price increases because the subsidies make Haiti's fuel prices the lowest in Latin America among the non-petroleum producing nations. Furthermore he claimed that many people regularly crossed the border from neighboring Dominican Republic, where oil prices are 43% higher, to take advantage of the subsidized prices in Haiti, which meant that the subsidies were supporting both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The austerity demands were in an agreement that Haiti signed with the IMF in February. The agreement defines a "Staff-Monitored Program" (SMP), where IMF closely monitors government activities in Haiti in return from the loans and grants. The agreement requires that it is necessary "to eliminate excessive subsidies, including on retail fuel." According to the agreement:

"“Under the SMP, fiscal policy will focus on mobilizing revenues and rationalizing current expenditure, to make room for critical public investment in infrastructure, health, education and social services. This will include measures to improve tax collection and efficiency, and to eliminate excessive subsidies, including on retail fuel. Other reforms will focus on stemming the losses of the public electricity company (EDH), which in recent years have amounted to a sizeable portion of the public deficit, by improving the efficiency of billing, and by reforming contracting practices. Fiscal reforms also aim to increase the transparency of public accounts. These reforms are to be accompanied by a substantial package of mitigating measures to protect the most vulnerable members of society. ...

IMF staff will work closely with the authorities to monitor progress in the implementation of their economic program.."

By Wednesday, relative calm had been restored in Haiti. The president and prime minister are under pressure to resign, and it's not known how the IMF will react, now that the subsidies have been restored. Atlanta Black Star and IMF (27-Feb-2018) and Miami Herald

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11-Jul-18 World View -- Concerns grow that Azerbaijan plans Armenia invasion from Nakhchivan enclave

Tensions grow between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan enclave

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Tensions grow between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan enclave


Azerbaijan.  The disputed enclaves are Nagorno-Karabakh in mid-Azerbaijan, and Nakhchivan (Naxçivan), in the southwest corner of the map, separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory.  Not shown on the map, Turkey has a 10 km border with Nakhchivan. (CIA World Factbook)
Azerbaijan. The disputed enclaves are Nagorno-Karabakh in mid-Azerbaijan, and Nakhchivan (Naxçivan), in the southwest corner of the map, separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. Not shown on the map, Turkey has a 10 km border with Nakhchivan. (CIA World Factbook)

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been rising quickly in the last month, as the result of the movement of Azerbaijan military forces in the enclave of Nakhchivan closer to the border with Armenia.

In recent years, most of the military tension between the two countries has been related to Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Armenian citizens in the midst of Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan were both part of the Soviet Union empire, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, led to a bloody war between the two countries. The war ended in a cease-fire, with the Armenians in control of several Azerbaijani regions, including Nagorno-Karabakh.

In April 2016, the continuing low-level conflict between the two countries spiraled into a major clash, the worst since 1994, with tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters. ( "3-Apr-16 World View -- Armenia-Azerbaijan escalating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens the entire region") Although that clash ended once again in a cease-fire, low-level violence has been almost continuous since then, with each side typically accusing the other of hundreds of cease-fire violations every week.

The new increase in tensions is not in Nagorno-Karabakh, but in Nakhchivan (Naxçivan), an enclave shown in the southwest corner of the above map. Nakhchivan is recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it's separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by part of Armenia.

Both of the enclaves Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhchivan were created by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, but supposedly for similar reasons -- to maintain tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia so that Russia could use its time-tested approach of divide and rule. More important, Stalin wanted to deprive Turkey of a direct land bridge to Azerbaijan and Turkic Central Asia while giving Armenia an external Soviet border to Iran.

Starting in 1993, after Turkey and Azerbaijan closed their borders with Armenia, a railway connecting Kars, in far eastern Turkey, to Central Asia to the Caucasus was proposed. Since October 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway has been transporting goods between Kazakhstan and central Europe, with plans to increase its capacity. Jamestown (12-June) and Vice (8-May-2013) and EurasiaNet (29-June)

Concerns grow that Azerbaijan plans Armenia invasion from Nakhchivan enclave

Some Russian analysts are raising concerns that Azerbaijan is about to invade Armenia from Nakhchivan, based on movements by Azeri troops. If that happens, it would not be long before other countries in the region would begin choosing sides.

During the 1800s, Azerbaijan was a province of Iran, and there's a large Persian population in Azerbaijan, which is particularly heavy in Nakhchivan.

Iran would be able to exert a great deal of control over Nakhchivan if the invasion takes place. Iran controls the only land bridge between Nakhchivan and the rest of Azerbaijan, and so limit the supplies being sent to Nakhchivan. Furthermore, Iran supplies much of the water and electricity to Nakhchivan, and could shut them off if desired. However, Iran might support the invasion in return for concessions from Azerbaijan, particularly ending support for the separatist ethnic Azerbaijanis in northern Iran.

Turkey has close relations with Azerbaijan, because of the latter's large Turkic population. Turkey also has a long, bitter history with Armenia, especially after the slaughter and displacement of millions of Armenians in Turkey during World War I. So Turkey might support an Azeri invasion of Armenia.

However, despite the love-fest between Turkey and Russia in Syria in recent years, Turkey and Russia are bitter historic enemies, with centuries of crisis wars in the southern Caucasus, and that enmity would quickly be revived in the case of a new Caucasus war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

On the other hand, Orthodox (Armenian Apostolic) Christians in Armenia are culturally linked to Russian Orthodox Christians, and so Russia would choose the side of Armenia against Azerbaijan.

In the case of an Azerbaijan attack on Armenia, Armenia could invoke a 1997 mutual defense treaty with Russia, and as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russia's version of Nato for the former members of the Soviet Union, Armenia has the right to request assistance of any kind, including direct military, from the entire bloc or from its individual member countries. Russia has also promised to provide Armenia with air-defense radars and missiles.

Furthermore, the "Armenian-Russian United Group of Forces," formed after April 2016 clash, could enter the war. A Russian analysis provides a vitriolic response to complaints from Turkey and Azerbaijan when this force grouping was formed in 2016:

"For example, it is widely known that the creation of the Armenian-Russian grouping of troops from the very first days was sharply criticized by Turkey and Azerbaijan, whose policies agitated Moscow to abandon this idea and see exclusively "devoted allies" in Ankara and Baku. It seems that considering all the "knives in the back" that the Turks of Russia have stumbled upon (from the shot down planes in Syria, the murders of pilots to the brazen act of terrorism against the Russian ambassador to Karlov in Ankara) from 2015-16, the hypocrisy of the opponents of creating and operating the Armenian- Russian groupings of troops are more than noticeable. As well as the fact that Moscow was not and does not intend to listen to the pharisaic calls of Ankara and Baku."

The statement alludes to Turkey's shooting down of a Russian warplane in Syria in November 2015, and the assassination of a Russian diplomat in Ankara in December 2016. Jamestown and Regnum (Russia, 28-June) (Trans) and EurasiaNet (3-July) and Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Jul-18 World View -- Concerns grow that Azerbaijan plans Armenia invasion from Nakhchivan enclave thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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10-Jul-18 World View -- Israel will close crossing point to Gaza in retaliation for incendiary kites

The incendiary kite attacks began with 'The Great March for Return'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel will close crossing point to Gaza in retaliation for incendiary kites


Gate of Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, whose closure was announced on Monday. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Gate of Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza, whose closure was announced on Monday. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday the close of the Kerem Shalom crossing point between Israel and Gaza. The crossing is located near the Egyptian border and serves as the main entry point for commercial goods and humanitarian aid. The closing will lead to sharp cuts in the flow of commercial goods into Gaza, although humanitarian aid, food and medicine will still be allowed through, approved on an individual basis.

The move is retaliation for a wave of incendiary kites and balloons with firebombs attached that have been launched in recent weeks from Gaza into Israel. Israeli authorities say that the firebombs have set fire to 7,000 acres of forest and farmland in southern Israel.

Netanyahu said that additional steps will be taken to try to stop the kites and balloons:

"About Gaza, I have been telling you for some time that I do not intend to publicize in advance all the steps that we are taking or planning. But the Defense Minister and I agree that we will be heavy-handed with the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip – immediately. In a significant step, today we are closing the Kerem Shalom crossing. There will be additional steps; I will not go into details."

An Israeli army statement announced an additional member to be taken immediately. Gaza’s designated fishing zone will be reduced from nine to six nautical miles off the coast throughout the duration of the season. This is a reversal of a decision to expand the fishing zone. The fishing zone is usually six naval miles wide but was temporarily expanded to nine miles three months ago.

The statement added the following:

"If Hamas continues in this direction, these decisions will continue and will intensify. The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible for what is happening inside the Gaza Strip and coming out of it. Hamas is dragging the population of Gaza into the abyss, and the Israeli Defense Forces will continue to work to preserve Israel's security interests."

A Hamas spokesman said that closing the crossing point was "a new crime against humanity added to the black record of the Israeli occupation against our Palestinian people and our people in the Gaza Strip." He added:

"International and regional silence for the crime of the suffocating siege imposed on the Gaza Strip for (nearly) 12 years has encouraged the Israeli enemy to carry on with its criminal measures that violate human rights and international laws. Therefore, Hamas calls on the international community to act immediately and prevent this crime and its dangerous consequences."

However, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the incendiary kites and balloons deserve even harsher punishment that Israel inflicted on Gaza in Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 war in Gaza which killed 74 Israeli soldiers and thousands of Gaza civilians: "The way Hamas is conducting itself, it could pay a heavier price than it did in Protective Edge. This situation, in which every day our woodlands are being burned every day cannot continue,"

Liberman on Monday also announced that he was designing the Lebanon-based al-Quds television network as a terrorist organization, accusing it of being an arm of Hamas. This will permit Israel to impose economic sanctions on the network. However, a spokesman for the network said, "The decision on the al-Quds channel is another step of terror that joins the other violent decisions Israel has taken against the Palestinian people." World Israel News and Middle East Eye and YNet News (Israel) and Times of Israel

The incendiary kite attacks began with 'The Great March for Return'

The "Great March for Return" began on March 30 of this year, when thousands of Gazans demonstrated near the border fence separating Gaza from Israel and sometimes attempting to break through the fence. The objective was for Palestinians to exercise their "Right of Return," to regain the lands where their ancestors had lived, prior to the 1947 war between Arabs and Jews that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

When the Great March for Return began, Israeli authorities were concerned that if a group of Gaza activists broke through the fence, they would attack Israeli homes. Israel's army retaliated first with tear gas and then with live gunfire. During the first march, 16 Palestinians were killed, and hundreds were wounded.

The demonstrations peaked on May 14, which the Palestinians commemorate as "Naqba Day" or "Catastrophe Day," commemorating the founding, in 1948, of the state of Israel. In addition, May 14 is the day announced by the Trump administration when the official US embassy to Israel will move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

After that, the demonstrations on the Gaza border began to diminish, but there were replaced by a new tactic, the incendiary kites and balloons, which have been in use to this day.

The incendiary kites and balloons appear to have baffled the Israeli military, which has not found a way to deal with them, putting the Netanyahu government under pressure to solve the problem. The announcements on Monday, including closing the Kerem Shalom crossing point between Israel and Gaza, is retaliation for the kites and balloons, but it remains to be seen whether the retaliatory acts will prevent them. Reuters and Israel National News

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9-Jul-18 World View -- India's Kashmir locked down after 3 civilians killed by police

Violence sparked by death of Burhan Wani continues to grow

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India's Kashmir locked down after 3 civilians killed by police


Villagers in Kashmir carry the body of a youth, Faizan Ahmed, 15, during a funeral on June 30, 2018. (AFP)
Villagers in Kashmir carry the body of a youth, Faizan Ahmed, 15, during a funeral on June 30, 2018. (AFP)

A 16-year-old girl was among three people who died in Kashmir on Friday, after security forces opened fire at stone-throwing protesters. India's army says that it's "investigating" the deaths of the three civilians, but says that they had to resort to controlled firing after a patrol unit was attacked by a crowd of nearly 500 people. In a statement, the army that soldiers were injured from terrorist gunfire.

Mobile internet services have been suspended in the entire Kashmir Valley, over fears that of widespread unrest, particularly as July 8 is the two-year anniversary of the death of Burhan Wani, the commander of the Kashmir separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen.

Hizbul Mujahideen is a separatist terror group of Muslims demanding independence for India-governed Kashmir, and that it be permitted to merge with Pakistan-governed Kashmir, so that all of Kashmir is under Pakistan control. Hizbul Mujahideen was formed in 1989, funded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. It's been very popular in Kashmir, with thousands of anti-India protesters as members, and is demanding that Kashmir be separated from India and made part of Pakistan. New Delhi TV and India Times and The Independent (Bangladesh) and Hindustan Times

Violence sparked by death of Burhan Wani continues to grow

The death of Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, triggered a major surge in violence that lasted throughout the summer and then into the fall, resulting in the deaths of 80 people. The violence ebbed only when the cold of winter set in. Then the violence began again in summer 2017, continuing into the winter.

The violence has been greater so far this year. Since January this year, 210 people including 58 civilians, over 104 militants, and 48 security forces personnel have been killed in the Valley in different incidents of violence.

There's also been a change in the membership of the separatist groups in the last two years. In the past, the members of the separatist groups had infiltrated from the Pakistan-governed side of Kashmir, but recently young people from India-government Kashmir have been announcing their joining the militants on social media, with pictures of themselves holding guns.

On May 25 of this year, Shamsul Haq Mengnoo, 25, the younger brother of a police officer, announced on social media that he had joined Hizbul Mujahideen. Shamsul is the fourth highly-educated youth to join militant ranks this year, and the 50th youth to join altogether. On Sunday alone, the anniversary of Wani Burhan's death, over a dozen newly recruited militants posted pictures on social media.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Kashmir is replaying previous generations of violence according to a fairly standard template. India's previous two generational crisis wars were India's 1857 Rebellion, which pitted Hindu nationalists against British colonists, and the 1947 Partition War, one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century, pitting Hindus versus Muslims, following the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan.

Now, as the survivors of the 1947 Partition War have almost all died off, leaving behind younger generations with no fear of repeating past disasters, Kashmir is repeating the violence of 1857 and 1947.

As the weather has warmed in the last few weeks, the violence has been increasing. Generational Dynamics predicts that Kashmir is returning to full-scale war, re-fighting the extremely bloody partition war of 1947. Tribune India and First Post (India) and CNBC (5-July)

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8-Jul-18 World View -- North Korea issues vitriolic anti-US rant, collapsing denuclearization talks

The North Korean demands: total American withdrawal from South Korea

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

North Korea issues vitriolic anti-US rant, collapsing denuclearization talks


Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang after his meetings on Saturday (AFP)
Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang after his meetings on Saturday (AFP)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korean on Friday and Saturday, where he was snubbed by not having a meeting with the child dictator Kim Jong-un.

Pompeo characterized the meeting as "successful," but the North Korean news agency KCNA issued a 1,300 word vitriolic anti-US rant, criticizing the "gangster-like demand for denuclearization," and then contradicting itself by threatening to end its alleged "unshakable will for denuclearization." Here are some excerpts:

"It was, however, so regretful to mention what the U.S. side had shown in its attitude and stand at the first DPRK-U.S. high-level talks held on 6 and 7 July.

The DPRK [North Korea] side, during the talks, put forward the constructive proposals to seek a balanced implementation of all the provisions of the Joint Statement out of its firm willingness to remain faithful to the implementation of the spirit and agreed points of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks. ...

But, the U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization just calling for CVID, declaration and verification, all of which run counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks. ...

The issues the U.S. side insisted on at the talks are all roots of troubles, which the previous administrations also had insisted on to disrupt the dialogue processes, stoke the distrust and increase the danger of war. ...

The first DPRK-U.S. high-level talks this time brought us in a dangerous situation where we may be shaken in our unshakable will for denuclearization, rather than consolidating trust between the DPRK and the U.S.

In the last few months, we displayed maximum patience and watched the U.S. while initiating good-will steps as many as we can.

But, it seems that the U.S. misunderstood our goodwill and patience.

The U.S. is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that the DPRK would be compelled to accept, out of its patience, the demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset. ...

But, if the U.S., being captivated in a fidget, tries to force upon us the old ways claimed by the previous administrations, this will get us nowhere. ...

We still cherish our good faith in President Trump.

The acronym CVID refers to "complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization," which has been the stated objective of the Trump administration from the beginning. KCNA (North Korea) and AP

The North Korean demands: total American withdrawal from South Korea

As I wrote two days ago ( "6-Jul-18 World View -- Sec of State Pompeo visits North Korea amid reports that sanctions will be softened"), the objective of Pompeo's trip was to press Kim to provide a complete list of all nuclear and ballistic missile production sites, and a timetable for shutting them down. Obviously the North Koreans balked at that request.

As I've said in the past, in my opinion the North Koreans have had one and only one objective for these meetings: Use diplomacy to force the Trump administration to lift the sanctions, while continuing nuclear weapons and missile development.

Saturday's KCNA statement is exactly in line with that objective. The North Koreans made the "reasonable" demand that the Korea war be officially ended (as opposed to the current status, officially still at war after an armistice was signed in 1953):

"The U.S. side never mentioned the issue of establishing a peace regime on the Korean peninsula which is essential for defusing tension and preventing a war. It took the position that it would even backtrack on the issue it had agreed on to end the status of war under certain conditions and excuses.

As for the issue of announcing the declaration of the end of war at an early date, it is the first process of defusing tension and establishing a lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula, and at the same time, it constitutes a first factor in creating trust between the DPRK and the U.S. This issue was also stipulated in Panmunjom Declaration as a historical task to terminate the war status on the Korean peninsula which continues for nearly 70 years. President Trump, too, was more enthusiastic about this issue at the DPRK-U.S. summit talks. ...

The U.S. side, during the talks, made a great publicity about suspension of one or two joint military exercises. But suspension of one action called exercises is a highly reversible step which can be resumed anytime at any moment as all of its military force remains intact in its previously-held positions without scraping even a rifle. This is incomparable with the irreversible step taken by the DPRK to explode and dismantle the nuclear test ground."

This is all a demand that the US withdraw all its forces from South Korea before any denuclearization can take place. Related to this are other demands, including removal of the THAAD defensive anti-missile system from South Korea, and removal of American forces from Okinawa. At one time in the past, a North Korean official was quoted as saying that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons after the US gives up its nuclear weapons.

It's true, as the North Koreans claim, that the suspension of the joint military exercises is reversible, but the claim about the exploding and dismantling the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in Mount Mantap is also reversible, and may be completely fraudulent. The North Koreans did not permit nuclear experts to witness the explosions, and so the explosions may only have been a big show to gain negotiating leverage. Furthermore, as we discussed at the time, other parts of Mount Mantap can be used as nuclear test sites, and there may be dozens of other locations in North Korea. This is probably one of the reasons why Pompeo's request for a list of test sites was denied on Saturday.

The purpose of the KCNA statement was to make a "reasonable" request, in order to get the Trump administration to lift the sanctions, with no significant concessions by the North. At the end of the day on Saturday, the sanctions were still in full force.

The future of the denuclearization negotiations

There's no doubt that the denuclearization "negotiations" have now taken a sharp turn.

Recall that Trump canceled the summit negotiations six weeks ago. ( "25-May-18 World View -- North Korea suffers diplomatic defeat as Trump cancels summit")

One of the things that triggered Trump's cancelation was continued criticism of and contempt for Trump in the North Korean media. Since the cancelation, the NK media have been consistently "nice" to Trump and the US.

So Saturday's criticism is extremely significant because it's the first hostile comment in the NK media since the cancellation. In a sense it represents NK's first real counter-response to Trump's cancellation.

One thing that's notable about the KCNA statement on Saturday is that it came a few hours after Pompeo had said the meetings had gone well, so there was no need to make this statement right away. I've said in the past that if Kim tried to really denuclearize, then he'd be shot and killed by his own generals. The denuclearization negotiations must have, at the very least, caused bitter disagreements in NK's leadership, much like what's happening in London with Brexit or in Berlin over the migration issue.

So the statement, when it wasn't even necessary, is a sign that the faction opposing the negotiations has just gained the upper hand. This is probably the real significance of the statement, and it means an end to current track of negotiations.

The South Korean's must have seen this coming, because they've been urging the US to soften its demands on NK. Going along with the South Koreans would have meant making concessions without any denuclearization steps by NK, so it had to be rejected, but now we're facing the inevitable outcome.

There's one more thing that has to be remembered: From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is a generational Crisis era, where nationalism and xenophobia are at historical high points. So it wouldn't take much to reach a tipping point for the North Koreans to abandon the negotiations.

(People always point to the East-West Germany reunification talks in 1991 as examples that could be followed for Korean reunification. But that example is completely irrelevant, since those talks occurred during a generational Unraveling era, where nationalism and xenophobia are at historical lowest points.)

The other thing that's going on, as I pointed out in my article two days ago is that the Chinese are furious about the tariffs that president Trump has been imposing. The Chinese are liars and cheaters and criminals, but like the Nazis, they consider themselves to be the Master Race who have the right to lie and cheat and extort to get whatever they want, because they have such total contempt for the West. The statement that NK issued Saturday may have been encouraged by the Chinese, because of their fury over the tariffs.

I also pointed out that there's an analogy with the sanctions imposed on Japan on July 24, 1941, which infuriated the Japanese and motivated the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7. I can't prove this, of course, but with nationalism and xenophobia at their historic peaks, I have the feeling that a similar dynamic is going on with China and North Korea towards America and the West.

What choices are now available to the Trump administration? Here are some possibilities:

Any of these choices have unpredictable results, because the North Koreans have absolutely no intention of agreeing to denuclearization, and that will have to become clear at some point. Furthermore, with xenophobia and nationalism at historic highs in both China and North Korea, any action might produce a hostile reaction.

It's well to remember that we've only had these negotiations because of a remarkable coincidence: Just as things were heating up to a boil in January, it was time for, of all things, the Olympics games in Seoul. This permitted the North to continue nuclear and ballistic missile development, while putting on a charm offensive that lasted several months. The charm offensive is now completely derailed.

For those who would like a thin reed of hope to grasp onto, let me offer one. In my article "12-Feb-18 World View -- What was Kim Yo-jong thinking as she returned to North Korea from the Olympics?", I speculated that Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, might have been so overtaken with the vibrancy and high standard of living of South Korean society, compared to the deadliness and near starvation as a constant in the North, she might have taken it upon herself to convince her brother to give up his nuclear program, for the good of the North Korean people. In that article, I described how Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin had decided to give up Communism after visiting the United States in September, 1989.

I wrote that article in February, and since that time dozens of top North Korean leaders have visited the South, and have seen for themselves how the NK people have suffered enormously under Communism. Trump himself has frequently pointed out to the North Koreans that they could have a great future if they give up their nuclear program.

So the thin reed of hope that I'm offering is that Kim Jong-un and his generals take the same lesson that Yeltsin took, and decide that, for the good of the North Korean people, it would be best to give up not only the nuclear program, but Communism. Something like that would be truly historic, but don't hold your breath waiting for it. Reuters and The Hill and Fox News

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Jul-18 World View -- North Korea issues vitriolic anti-US rant, collapsing denuclearization talks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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7-Jul-18 World View -- Russia's actions in Sea of Azov raise fears of another invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine's Donbas war continues, as US supplies Javelin anti-tank missiles

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia's actions in Sea of Azov raise fears of another invasion of Ukraine


Ukraine.  In 2014, Russia invaded and occupied Donbas, and invaded and annexed Crimea.  In 2018, Russia completed a bridge over the Kerch Strait, controlling access to the Sea of Azov.
Ukraine. In 2014, Russia invaded and occupied Donbas, and invaded and annexed Crimea. In 2018, Russia completed a bridge over the Kerch Strait, controlling access to the Sea of Azov.

The Russian navy in recent weeks has boosted its presence in the Sea of Azov to approximately 40 ships, giving it the ability to control that body of water and to strike virtually at will along Ukraine's coastline there. This is the latest in a series of Russian threats and acts of harassment direct at crippling Ukraine's economy, and possibly preparing for new military actions.

Ever since 2014, when Russia invaded and occupied eastern Ukraine (Donbas), and then invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, there have been continuing fears that Russia would launch a new invasion and annex another portion of Ukraine.

It's been thought that the most likely target of a new Russian invasion would be the port cities of Mariupol, Berdyansk, and the entire strip of land along the Sea of Azov connecting Russia to Crimea, creating a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, and taking total control of the Sea of Azov.

No such invasion has occurred, but starting in May 2015, Russia began constructing an 11.8 mile bridge across the Kerch Strait, from Russia to Crimea, to allow transport of goods and people between Russia and Crimea, and also to control access to the Sea of Azov. The construction of the bridge immediately had a severe effect on Ukraine's economy. Russia several times closed the Kerch Strait to maritime traffic, trapping commercial vessels docked in Mariupol and Berdyansk seaports. During 2017, freight traffic was reduced 43% and transshipments shrank by 30%, totally $54 million in 2017.

The Kerch Strait bridge officially opened on May 16, a year earlier than initially announced. Many vessels that used to deliver goods to Azov seaports can no longer do so at all because the Russians have deliberately made the passageways under the bridge too small for many vessels. The Russians have all but blocked the Ukrainian seaports on the Sea of Azov, stopping international vessels from shipping goods to and from Ukrainian cities. Russia's security forces stop and search dozens of vessels, and delay them for days. In the four days last week from July 2-5, Russia's security forces detained seven cases. Jamestown and Hromadske (Ukraine) and Eurasia Review and Maritime Bulletin and Jamestown

Ukraine's Donbas war continues, as US supplies Javelin anti-tank missiles


In Kiev, a metal silhouette of a girl with a balloon, dotted with bullet holes, a reminder of the war in Donbas. (Getty)
In Kiev, a metal silhouette of a girl with a balloon, dotted with bullet holes, a reminder of the war in Donbas. (Getty)

The war in Ukraine began in 2014 when Russian troops invaded eastern Ukraine, a region known as the Donbas. The war is entering its fifth year, and with no end in sight. More than 10,000 people have been killed, including 2,800 civilians. Nearly two million people have been internally displaced or put at risk if they remain in their homes.

Because of a fear of a further major Russian military invasion, the Donald Trump administration last year approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missile systems. A $47 million U.S. military-aid package approved last year specified 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers, two of them spares. Ukraine announced on April 30 that they had been delivered.

The missiles are to be used only for defensive purposes. According to a US statement at the time of the sale last year:

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine.

The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements. Ukraine will have no difficulty absorbing this system into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region."

The U.S.-made FGM-148 Javelin is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile that uses infrared guidance to hit armored targets. The guidance system is contrasted to wire-guided anti-tank missiles, which require a shooter to actively guide the weapon until it hits its target. A Javelin shooter can immediately seek cover after firing its shot.

Russia's foreign ministry reacted to the sale by accusing the United States with "fomenting a war." Such statements from Russia are always laughable, since Russia has absolutely no credibility. Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea, lying about it every step of the way, and continually supplied weapons to the forces in the Donbas. In particular, it was a Russian-made Buk missile that shot down the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane in July 2014, killing hundreds of passengers. Washington Post and RFE/RL and Newsweek and Defense News

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Jul-18 World View -- Russia's actions in Sea of Azov raise fears of another invasion of Ukraine thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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6-Jul-18 World View -- Sec of State Pompeo visits North Korea amid reports that sanctions will be softened

Commentary: The US imposes tariffs on Chinese imports

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sec of State Pompeo visits North Korea amid reports that sanctions will be softened


Kim Jong-un makes a big show of taking notes at a factory in this North Korean media photo
Kim Jong-un makes a big show of taking notes at a factory in this North Korean media photo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo headed to North Korea for another meeting with Kim Jong-un on Thursday, amid reports that sanctions will be softened, either by the US or by China.

According to a Japanese report on a meeting last week in Beijing between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and China's president Xi Jinping, Kim asked Xi to help end sanctions targeting North Korea. The report quotes Kim as telling Xi:

"We are feeling great pain due to economic sanctions. Now that we have concluded the US-North Korea summit in success, I want (China) to work toward early lifting of the sanctions."

According to the report, Xi said that he would do his "utmost" to satisfy the request.

However, since the June 12 summit meeting between Kim and president Donald Trump, there has been no evidence that North Korea intends to keep its promise to denuclearize.

At the same time, there were reports last week, based on satellite imagery, that North Korea has been rapidly building new infrastructure at its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, where plutonium for nuclear weapons is produced.

Since China has always been North Korea's main trading partner, China has had to take responsibility for implementing many of the sanctions. However, there have been reports in recent weeks that China has already partially weakened its own enforcement of the sanctions.

Some analysts are claiming that Trump has already given up a lot by agreeing to cancel the joint military drills with South Korea, without getting anything in the return from the North.

The State Dept. on Thursday denied that it has softened its approach to North Korea denuclearization. According to State Department spokesman Heather Nauert:

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our policy toward North Korea has not changed.

We are committed to a denuclearized North Korea and Secretary Pompeo looks forward to continuing his consultations with North Korean leaders to follow up on the commitments made at the Singapore summit."

Many people, including myself, are skeptical that Kim Jong-un has any intention at all of denuclearizing. The purpose of Pompeo's current trip is to get some specific commitments. According to Pompeo, "On this trip I’m seeking to fill in some details on those commitments and continue the momentum toward implementation of what the two leaders promised each other and the world." AFP (1-July) and Reuters and 38 North (26-June) and Joongang Daily (Seoul)

Pompeo's visit will test Trump's negotiating strategy

The reality of the situation is that the negotiations could break down very quickly, and we could very quickly be as close to war as we were in January, before Kim Jong-un's charm offensive at the Seoul Olympics.

As I've said in the past, in my opinion the North Koreans have had one and only one objective: Use diplomacy to force the Trump administration to lift the sanctions, while continuing nuclear weapons and missile development.

North Korea is said to be asking for "staged denuclearization." This means that North Korea and the US alternate in making concessions on a step by step basis, with the US removing each sanction in return for North Korea taking a denuclearization step.

If this is Kim's strategy, it doesn't seem that he's following it. The satellite imagery that shows infrastructure development at the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility cannot be a surprise to Kim. The North would have been aware that the infrastructure changes would be detected by satellite imagery, and it's therefore reasonably to conclude that Kim wanted this development to be made public, perhaps as a warning to the US that unless concessions are made rapidly, the North will continue developing nuclear weapons.

According to reports, Pompeo is going to press Kim to provide a complete list of all nuclear and ballistic missile production sites, and a timetable for shutting them down. If, as expected, Kim refuses to produce such a list, then there might be a major confrontation, or they may kick the can down the road to a later meeting.

Trump said on Thursday,

"I really believe that he sees a different future for North Korea. I hope that’s true. If that’s not true, we’ll go back to the other way."

In other words, the North Korean situation could blow up into a full "crisis" again for the first time in months. The real disaster would be if Trump gives in and reduces sanctions, getting nothing in return. Korea Times and Channel News Asia

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Commentary: The US imposes tariffs on Chinese imports

The US has gone ahead with tariffs on Chinese imports, as of 12:01 am on Friday.

China's statements in response to these tariffs have been getting increasingly angry in tone. The Chinese appear to be infuriated and humiliated by the tariffs, much more strongly that Europe, Canada or Mexico.

If you're looking for a historical analogy, one place where you might start is the sanctions that the US imposed on Japan on July 24, 1941. The sanctions were in retaliation for Japanese occupation of French Indo-China (Vietnam). Four and one-half months later, on December 7, 1941, Japan's bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. History.com

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Jul-18 World View -- Sec of State Pompeo visits North Korea amid reports that sanctions will be softened thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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5-Jul-18 World View -- Al-Assad's attacks on Daraa threaten clashes with Israel and Jordan on Syria's border

Jordan and Israel concerned about infiltration from Iran and Hezbollah

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria and Russia resume full-scale assault on Daraa


Displaced Syrians camp near border with Israel-controlled  Golan Heights (AFP)
Displaced Syrians camp near border with Israel-controlled Golan Heights (AFP)

After a brief lull in the attacks to provide an opening for negotiations, Syria and Russia have resume full-scale attacks on rebel-held areas in Daraa province. As in the attacks on Aleppo and Ghouta, women and children are particularly targeted. Syria's president Bashar al-Assad uses the technique of attacking peaceful protesters and then, when there's some sort of violent revenge attack, uses that as an excuse to call the entire population "terrorists," and then perform genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Daraa has played a special part in Syria's war, and is considered the place where it started. In spring of 2011, two 15-year-old boys posted graffiti in Daraa saying, "Freedom. Down with the regime. Your turn, Doctor," suggesting that al-Assad would suffer the same fate as as leaders in Egypt and Tunisia during the "Arab spring." The word "Doctor" refers to the fact that al-Assad, had been a ophthalmology student when he attended college in London, at a time when his father Hafez al-Assad had been conducting genocide in Syria. This graffiti infuriated al-Assad, who is a psychopathic killer. He ordered the two boys to be tortured and imprisoned, and he launched a furious attack on the people of Daraa. Now he wants to finish up the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Daraa. There's no hope of a negotiated peace in Daraa because al-Assad has every intention of completing the genocide and ethnic cleansing.

That's presumably the reason that al-Assad and the Russians aren't giving the people of Daraa the same choices they gave to the people of Aleppo and Ghouta. In the latter two cases, the rebels were allowed to leave with their weapons and their families and travel to Idlib province. But in the case of Daraa, al-Assad and Russia are demanding that the rebels immediately give up their weapons, and are prohibiting the families from going anywhere. We can expect to see a bloody genocidal attack of monumental proportions.

EU foreign affairs spokesman Maja Kocijancic said on Saturday that the attacks by al-Assad and the Russias are violation of international law:

"Such attacks are clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law that also put at risk any progress in Geneva for the resumption of the political talks under UN mediation."

I assume that Kocijancic must be a comedian in her spare time, because this statement will only bring laughter from al-Assad and the Russians. Over the years, I've documented several attempts at peace talks, and each time, al-Assad has made complete fools of the peace mediators, by making promises and then immediately ignoring them. Al-Assad uses peace talks as a cover for further genocide and ethnic cleansing. Al-Assad is the worst genocidal monster and war criminal so far this century. (I always receive comments from people who say that al-Assad is a nice guy because he supposedly protects Christians. That's like saying Hitler was a nice guy because he protected Christians -- except that he didn't. Al-Assad may protect Christians now because he considers them to be useful idiots, but he wouldn't hesitate to kill all of them if he had no further use for them.)

About 300,000 people in Daraa and in the adjacent Quneitra province have been fleeing their homes and heading to the borders with Jordan and Israel. Both Jordan and Israel have closed their borders to the refugees, but are providing humanitarian aid. More people are moving to the Israeli border because they believe that al-Assad and Russians will not risk a war with Israel by attacking them there. AFP and Arab News and Middle East Online and World Bulletin (Turkey)

Jordan fears repercussions from Syria's military offensive in Daraa

There's a great deal of international pressure on Jordan to allow the Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in Daraa to cross the border into Syria. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch said:

"The abject refusal by Jordanian authorities to allow asylum seekers to seek protection not only goes against their international legal obligations, but against basic human decency. Jordanians themselves are appealing to their government’s basic decency and calling for those in need to be let in."

The European Union is making a similar plea.

However, Jordan estimates that it is already hosting some 1.3 million refugees, and earlier this week said that it is unable to host a new wave of refugees, and so the border will remain closed, although Jordan is providing humanitarian aid.

However, Jordan has several major concerns about the military action in Daraa.

First, closing its border to refugees fleeing violence is a great embarrassment for Jordan, which maintains good relations with all Western powers and human rights organizations.

However, Jordan believes that the world has given up on refugees, and are no longer willing to provide funding for the support of refugees in refugee camps. There is particular concern that earlier this year the Trump administration cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, but there are 193 countries in the United Nations, and those other countries aren't stepping up to fund Palestinian refugees either. The cut in funding is particular hard on Jordan, which hosts more than two million Palestinian refugees, and Jordan's economy is already in serious trouble.

Another concern for Jordan is the lack of security along the border. Jordan has suffered previous terrorist attacks in 2005 and 2016 when jihadists entered Jordan along with waves of refugees.

Jordan is also concerned about a demographic change in Daraa. In particular, Jordan is concerned that al-Assad's ethnic cleansing and genocide will empty the region of its Sunni population, to be replaced by people from Iran and Hezbollah. Jordan Times and Human Rights Watch and Middle East Eye and Jordan Times

Israel concerned about infiltration from Iran and Hezbollah

Like Jordan, Israel is keeping its border closed to the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence from al-Assad and Russia. Syrians are coming to the area because they hope e that the proximity to Israel will protect them and that al-Assad's troops and warplanes will not bomb them there.

Israel has technically been at war with Syria since 1948, and there is a UN peacekeeping force on the border between Syria and Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israel has been working with the peacekeeping force to set up "safe zones" within Syria that will be safe from al-Assad's ground forces and Syria's and Russia's warplanes.

On Friday, the Israeli army announced that it had taken 300 tents and several tons of food, medicine and clothing to the other side overnight, as humanitarian aid for the Syrian refugees. However, Israel will not allow Syrian refugees to cross the border because of the fear that Iranians and Hezbollah will infiltrate.

Debka, an analyst service based on Israeli military and intelligence sources, but which sometimes gets things wrong, is reporting that the US and Israel have begun launching military actions along the border, to counter infiltration by Iran and Hezbollah.

It had been hoped that Iran and Hezbollah would not take part in the Daraa and Quneitra attacks, but Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, "Iran is one of the key powers in the region and it would be absolutely unrealistic to expect it to abandon its interests." Times of Israel and Deutsche Welle and Debka

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Jul-18 World View -- Al-Assad's attacks on Daraa threaten clashes with Israel and Jordan on Syria's border thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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4-Jul-18 World View -- German leaders agree to migrant refugee camps on border with Austria

Egypt refuses to build refugee camps for migrants deported from Europe

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

German leaders agree to migrant refugee camps on border with Austria


 A migrant holds a sarcastic protest sign after failing to enter the EU (Reuters)
A migrant holds a sarcastic protest sign after failing to enter the EU (Reuters)

The government of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to be near collapse on Monday, because of a challenge by the leader of another party in her governing coalition. Horst Seehofer, leader of the Bavarian CSU party, was demanding that Merkel agree to tough new rules regarding migrants -- that migrants crossing the border from Austria into Germany who are registered in another EU country will automatically be rejected and sent back.

Since Seehofer is also Minister of the Interior, he has the power to enforce that rule by himself, without Merkel's permission. But if he had done so, then Merkel would have been forced to fire him, resulting in the withdrawal of the CSU from the governing coalition, and the collapse of Merkel's government.

This situation has resulted in a great deal of anger and shouting in Berlin, according to reports. At one point Seehofer threatened to resign, saying angrily, "I won’t let myself be sacked by a chancellor whom I made chancellor in the first place," referring to the fact that the CSU joined Merkel's governing coalition last year.

However, let's face it, Merkel and Seehofer are both politicians who crave power, and the collapse of Merkel's government would put both of them out of power. So a way had to be found that would save face for both of them, and allow them both to remain in power.

The solution was a fudge, kicking the can down the road in a remarkable manner: Germany will set up migrant refugee camps on the border, and border controls will be set up to stop registered asylum seekers at the border. If there's a bilateral deal with the country of registration, the refugees will be sent back.

But here's the really amazing part: The refugee camps will be deemed to be part of the border and not part of either country, which means that the refugees will not be legally deemed to have crossed the border into Germany. Germany would be allowed to expel them from Germany because they never legally were in Germany.

This deal doesn't solve anything, but supposedly it kicks the can down the road to the Bavarian elections in October, at which time the government may collapse anyway. The deal may not even be legal -- officials in the European Commission have said that they'll be reviewing it.

But we've had so many proposals for refugee camps for migrants in the last few months, and I don't believe any of them have succeeded, so there's no reason to believe that refugee camps on the border between Germany and Austria will succeed either. Austria has already said that it will refuse to take back refugees under any circumstances, and so these new border refugee camps will presumably just become flooded with refugees, until the government is forced to let them all go. Whether Merkel and Seehofer have a solution to that problem remains to be seen.

This proposal could make things worse for the entire European Union in that it may cause a chain reaction of border closings by different countries, essentially bringing the Schengen Zone agreement to an end. Austria, Italy and the Czech Republic have already threatened to introduce controls on their borders in response to the new German plan. Handelsblatt (Germany) and Reuters and Irish Times and Sky News

Egypt refuses to build refugee camps for migrants deported from Europe

It was just a few days ago that a summit of EU leaders came up with a plan for "Regional Disembarkation Platforms." These would be, once again, migrant refugee camps. But this time, they would be located in countries in northern Africa, away from the EU. ( "30-Jun-18 World View -- EU leaders agree on fantasy migration plan after all-night meeting")

The idea is that migrants would be rescued from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, but instead of being taken to Italy or another EU country, they would be taken to a Disembarkation Platforms in northern Africa. Their asylum requests would be processed, and if rejected they would be sent back to the countries of origin.

Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia immediately announced that they would not permit Disembarkation Platforms to be hosted on their soil, and on Tuesday, Egypt announced that it would not permit them in Egypt. Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal said:

"EU reception facilities for migrants in Egypt would violate the laws and constitutions of our country. Our capacities are already utilized today; therefore, it is important that Egypt receives support from Germany and the EU."

The same EU Summit meeting also agreed to set up "Controlled Centers" in EU countries, "on a voluntary basis." Once again, this would just be another name for a migrant refugee camps. France and Austria immediately announced that they would not be willing to host Controlled Centers on their soil.

There have been many proposals in recent weeks, in Europe and the United States, and these proposals all have some kind of refugee camp or refugee prison or refugee detention center as a core proposal. These proposals always result in enormous national and international outrage, as well as political chaos. It remains to be seen if any of them will work. Middle East Monitor and Reuters

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Jul-18 World View -- German leaders agree to migrant refugee camps on border with Austria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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3-Jul-18 World View -- Mexico elects far left president amid skyrocketing murders, crime and corruption

Generational explanation for the violence in Mexico

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mexico elects far left president amid skyrocketing murders, crime and corruption


Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) In Mexico City on Sunday night (AFP)
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) In Mexico City on Sunday night (AFP)

Far left politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), 64 years old, won a landslide victory in Mexico's presidential election on Sunday, with about 53% of the vote -- more than double the total of his nearest rival.

AMLO's victory is being seen as the latest of large populist victories, comparable to the Brexit referendum, Donald Trump's victory, and the right-wing victory in Italy. As the world goes deeper into a generational Crisis era, and the survivors of World War II continue to disappear, the old orders and institutions are disappearing with them, and younger generations are creating a new world order that ignores the lessons of World War II.

AMLO told his supporters:

"I'm very aware of my historical responsibility. I don't want to go into history as a bad president. Now we are going to transform Mexico."

Well that claim would have to be placed in the category of "major fantasy." Mexico is infested with murders, crime and corruption, and no transformation is possible in the near future.

More than 110 politicians have been murdered since September. Last year, a record 25,000 people were murdered, and 13,000 have been killed so far this year. The 112th political candidate to be killed was Fernando Puron, a congressional candidate in the border city of Piedras Negras, who was taking a selfie with a supporter when a gunman shot him in the head from behind.

Corruption is endemic. Outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government and party were mired in a seemingly bottomless series of scandals. AMLO promises to end corruption quickly.

The wave of murders, kidnappings and gang-related violence began during the administration of former president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), who launched the government’s war against drug cartels in 2006. Instead of defeating the drug cartels, however, organized crime, predominantly drug trafficking, exploded into broader criminal activities including theft, extortion, murder and state-level corruption. Despite billions spent and massive cash injections from the U.S., Mexico has become only more dangerous.

AMLO wants massive spending on multi-billion dollar national infrastructure projects, but has not specified where the money will come from in Mexico's already weak economy. When asked he says that he can pay simply by reducing corruption and waste. That's what every politician says, but there's no chance that he will succeed.

Questions are being asked about how well AMLO and Donald Trump will get along, but they spoke on the phone on Monday, and both say they're in agreement on many things. AMLO had campaigned on Mexico leaving NAFTA, but Mexico really needs NAFTA, and so that campaign promise will be renegotiated with Trump. NBC News and AFP and Washington Examiner

Generational explanation for the violence in Mexico

Mexico's last generational crisis war was the Mexican Revolution of 1910-21. Mexico and Turkey are the only two major countries that have gone more than 90 years without a generational crisis war.

The time since the last generational crisis war has a profound effect on the society of a country. After the London subway bombings of 2005, we were able to show from published data that most Mideast suicide bombers overwhelming came from Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia's last crisis war was the Ibn Saud conquest, ending in 1925, and Morocco's was the Rif War, ending in 1927. There appears to be a correlation between the time since the last crisis war and likelihood of suicide bombings and other suicide terrorist acts.

This phenomenon is explained theoretically in yesterday's article "2-Jul-18 World View -- Generational explanation of today's vitriolic divisiveness in America".

As described in the article, a generational crisis war, whether it's World War II or the Mexican Revolution or other, causes a core body of "lessons learned," a set of beliefs that are deeply held by all the survivors of the war. After the war, survivors in different political parties may differ on many policies, but there are deeply held core beliefs that allow them to cooperate on major policies. For example, in America in the 1980s, the Republicans and the Democrats cooperated with each other to change the Social Security system to make it a sounder system. After that, they cooperated again to specify new rules to control the budget deficit. That kind of cooperation became impossible in the 2000s.

Once the survivors of the crisis war die off, then the younger generations take power, but have no common deeply held core beliefs. Previously held core beliefs shatter into fragments. Each group in the population selects from those fragments, and uses them to develop its own set of core beliefs, and makes commitments to those beliefs. When those core beliefs conflict with reality and cause cognitive dissonance -- with a disconfirmation event as described yesterday in Festinger's theory -- each group doubles down on its unrealistic beliefs, and in many cases this means becoming violent.

This theory is still under development, but it does provide a solid theoretical explanation of the increasing violence in Mexico, and why it will continue to grow until the next crisis war, probably a re-fighting of the Mexican Revolution. A generational crisis war unifies a country into a common set of core beliefs. As the decades pass after the crisis war, this body of core beliefs shatters into fragments adopted by different groups, resulting in conflicts that can include violence. The next crisis war unifies the country again.

More on the generational explanation of vitriolic divisiveness in America

In yesterday's article, I described a "regeneracy event" as one that regenerates civic unity in the population for the first time since the end of the previous crisis war. In the American Civil War, it was the Battle of Bull Run. In World War II, it was Pearl Harbor and then the Bataan Death March. When these events occur, people with different political beliefs unite behind the leader to fight to preserve the country and its way of life.

During the days of the Barack Obama administration, I would write that if a regeneracy event occurred, then all the people would drop their political leanings, and become united behind Obama. This was greeted with horror by some commenters, where some people said that he and his friends would never unite behind Obama.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, and I'm hearing from commenters who say that they would never become united behind Trump.

Neither of these claims is realistic. If a nuclear missile landed on California, anyone who refused to defend the country would be branded as a traitor, and would be treated as such.

A regeneracy event is a disconfirmation event in the sense of Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance, as described yesterday. It forces everyone to reevaluate all their deeply held beliefs, and either reject them or double down on them. A few people will double down and become perceived as traitors, but even they will be convinced as the weeks pass. In time, almost everyone will support the president, whether it's Obama or Trump.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Jul-18 World View -- Mexico elects far left president amid skyrocketing murders, crime and corruption thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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2-Jul-18 World View -- Generational explanation of today's vitriolic divisiveness in America

Leon Festinger and Cognitive Dissonance

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Generational explanation of today's vitriolic divisiveness in America


Celebrity Kathy Griffin and her bloody Donald Trump head
Celebrity Kathy Griffin and her bloody Donald Trump head

My father was a Greek immigrant who was a fairly objective observer of American society. When I was a kid, he once told me that in the 1930s there had been so much violence by Communists and the left that he hadn't thought that America would survive. Unfortunately, I didn't ask him what he meant by that, although the comment obviously made an impression on me since I remember it to this day.

The 1930s was America's last generational Crisis era, previous to the current one. In the one before that, the 1860s, America was "engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

So today's vitriolic divisiveness is not unique to today, nor is it unique to America. We're seeing it today in Europe, where the European Union is being torn apart by issues such as Brexit and immigration. It's fairly common in any country during a generational Crisis era.

This week's mass shooting by Jarrod W. Ramos at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, has focused the public on the vitriolic divisiveness. Ramos's motive apparently has nothing to do with politics, although some in the mainstream media are blaming it on various comments by president Donald Trump that could have incited violence, especially his tweets about fake news, or his "punch him in the face" remark during the 2016 campaign.

However, if Ramos was motivated by political incitement at all, it's much more likely to have been the much more recent incitement by Maxine Waters, specifically inciting her supporters to target Trump officials and physically "push back on them!"

There's a "dog whistle" aspect to incitements to violence. If, like Trump or Waters, you say something to incite violence by supporters against opponents, then most people would consider your statement to be a meaningless rant. But just as a dog whistle can only be heard by a dog, your statement could serve as a "dog whistle" that would only be heard by people who are moved to commit actual violence. And the problem with inciting violence is that you can't control the result, since you don't know how many dogs on either side are going to hear that dog whistle and act on it with actual violence. In other words, if Ramos was moved to act by political incitement, it might have been the incitement by Trump during the campaign, or by Maxine Waters during the last few days, or by numerous other people on the left who are calling for various forms of confrontations and violence against Trump supporters.

The mainstream media are pointing to various statements by Trump that could have incited violence in the sense of a "dog whistle":

On the other hand, I've seen far more serious incitements to violence from the left, and I've written about them many times in the last ten years, including the following:

I've been following this trend line since the George Bush administration, and there has been a steady increase in left-wing violence and incitement to violence for about 15 years, during the Bush and Obama administrations, and long before Trump ran for president.

The vitriolic divisiveness occurs on both the left and the right. But violence and incitement to violence are almost entirely on the left-wing side. USA Today and Washington Post and Hollywood Reporter (30-May-2017)

Leon Festinger and Cognitive Dissonance

I've been searching for years for an explanation for the growing vitriolic divisiveness in America today, as well as in other countries, and it suddenly occurred to me that the key to understanding it is a book that I read decades ago.

The 1956 book When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger can be purchased from online booksellers, or is available from https://archive.org/details/pdfy-eDNpDzTy_dR1b0iB as a free PDF. I read this book decades ago, and it made an enormous impression on me. I strongly urge everyone to read it.

First I'll describe the book's methodology and conclusions, and then I'll explain how it applies to America today.

Festinger was interested in religious cults that predict the end of the world on an explicit date, commit themselves fully to it by giving up their families and belongings, and then have to face the world again when the world doesn't end.

This is called "cognitive dissonance," when deeply held beliefs are contradicted by incontrovertible facts.

Festinger found that people in such a situation do not simply give up their beliefs because their beliefs were proved wrong. Instead, they double down on the beliefs, and look for any way to justify them. In the case of end world predictions, the most likely way is to believe that God provided the world with a reprieve provided that the chosen people begin to proselytize the new belief system. From this brief description, you can get an idea of how this applies to the vitriolic divisiveness in America today.

Festinger was aware of a religious sect that was predicting the end of the world on a specific date. Two members of Festinger's team infiltrated the religious sect. The predictions were based on messages from extraterrestrials known as the "Guardians" that one cult member, Mrs. Marian Keech, started receiving. The members of the sect would be rescued by flying saucers and then, four days later, there would be a huge flood drowning everyone left behind. The members of the sect were highly committed to this belief: Many had given up their families and all worldly belongings to join the other sect members in a vigil in a member's home, waiting for the end.

The first disconfirmation came when the flying saucers didn't show up at the predicted time. There were four wrenching days of waiting, as the saucers failed to come at each newly predicted hour, as specified by Mrs. Keech as she continued to receive "messages." The final and biggest disconfirmation came after the four days were up, and the world did not end.

Although the group were a private sect, what they were doing had become known, and they received ridicule through the newspapers, and they received visits by people who believed them and people who ridiculed them. During the four-day wait, a couple of people, the people who had joined most recently, left the group, but everyone else stayed. Here's what happened:

Chaotic though they may seem, the days immediately preceding December 21 [the day that the floods were supposed to appear] were at least loosely organized around a dominant theme -- cataclysm and salvation. By dawn on the 21st, however, this semblance of organization had vanished as the members of the group sought frantically to convince the world of their beliefs. In succeeding days, they also made a series of desperate attempts to erase their rankling dissonance by making prediction after prediction in the hope that one would come true, and they conducted a vain search for guidance from the Guardians."

Another change of behavior was equally familiar in today's politically divided world: Led by Mrs. Keech, the cult members began actively proselytizing. They had previously kept information about the cataclysm secret, "in order to prevent panic." But now they sought out even the most skeptical nonbelievers, in order to convert them. For example, one sarcastic commentator whom Mrs. Keech had repeatedly refused to speak with suddenly was welcomed with open arms. In fact, Mrs. Keech couldn't stop talking, as he recorded the interview, and she answered all his questions in detail.

Another reporter who hosted a program on women's issues asked her to comment, and she spoke at length on what's wrong with education, and how the messages from the Guardians explained how to straighten it out.

Hordes of reporters and visitors came to the house, resulting in an "amiable, manic uproar."

One further trend was noticeable on December 21. As the day wore on, Mrs. Keech began to make more and more of the importance of some recent news items. The morning newspapers contained an article about an earthquake in Nevada that had occurred about five days earlier, pointing out that if the quake had happened in a populated area, the destruction would have been enormous. Mrs. Keech showed the story excitedly to the members of the group, emphasizing the fact that, indeed, cataclysms were happening.... Here, she declared, was evidence for the validity of the prediction. This theme ... grew in importance in response to further disaster news."

The next day, the group put out a press release saying that the Guardians had postponed the cataclysm, "Due to the confusion which has arisen from the prophecy we have decided to unite forces to complete the prophecy." In other words, they were proselytizing in a press release.

Festinger found that when deeply held beliefs are contradicted by incontrovertible facts, the result is not to abandon the beliefs, but to double down on them, with any possible explanation, even bizarre fantastical explanations. This is the result of cognitive dissonance.

Festinger's book lists five conditions that lead to this "cognitive dissonance" response to disconfirmation:

"1. A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.

2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual's commitment to the belief.

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.

4. Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief. ...

5. The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of dis-confirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct."

These are Festinger's five conditions for the disconfirmation of a belief in the end of the world by a religious cult. What has occurred to me is that we can make slight adjustments to these conditions so that they apply to political parties, and explain the divisiveness and left-wing violence in America today. Leon Festinger, When Prophecy Fails and Psychology Today (22-May-2011) and IMDB

The explanation: Commitment, disconfirmation and Cognitive Dissonance

As I've said in the past, the survivors of World War II, the GI Generation and the Silent Generation, did great things -- they created the United Nations, World Bank, Green Revolution, World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, and so forth. They created these organizations and managed them for decades with one purpose in mind: That their children and grandchildren would never have to go through anything so horrible as the Great Depression or World War II.

Throughout their lives, they worked together, even when they were on opposite political sides, to protect America and the world from the excesses that led to the Great Depression and World War II.

In the 1980s, the Republicans and the Democrats cooperated with each other to change the Social Security system to make it a sounder system. After that, they cooperated again to specify new rules to control the budget deficit. And in 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton, saying that "the era of big government is over," cooperated with the Republican congress to eliminate the welfare entitlement.

These politicians had deeply held beliefs that policies must apply the lessons learned from the Great Depression and World War II. Democrats and Republicans differed in some policies, but these differences were minor compared to the shared beliefs of the WW II survivors.

These deeply held beliefs meet Festinger's five conditions, prior to the point where the disconfirmation occurs.

As the generational Crisis era began in 2003, these WW II survivors were rapidly disappearing, replaced by younger generations of people with no shared deeply held beliefs. What deeply held beliefs did they have? This requires more study, but young people do seem to have rearranged themselves into groups, with each group having some deeply held belief. Each of these groups meets Festinger's condition, except for disconfirmation.

There is one major example of disconfirmation of a deeply held belief that we've seen in modern times. Prior to November 8, 2016, almost everyone in the country, Republican or Democrat, believed that Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election.

Democrats were particularly deeply committed to this belief, and supportive of one another in that belief. Many made financial commitments, personal commitments, commitments to live in Washington, and so forth.

The unexpected Trump victory caused a psychological crisis among a minority of Democrats that looked very similar to the crisis that Mrs. Keech and her cult suffered when the world didn't end. There was a doubling down on beliefs and widespread proselytizing in some of the most fantastical claims -- just as fantastical as claims that flying saucers would be coming to save the earth. This explains the demands for impeachment, the demands for a special prosecutor, the calls for violence against Trump and his supporters, and so forth.

What I'm saying is that the concepts and principles that Leon Festinger applied to small religious cults could also be applied to larger political groups and political parties during a generational Crisis era, when there's no unifying experience (like WW II). This is a rich area for research, with results that could explain a great deal that would help America's democracy at times like this. I've only scratched the surface.

Finally, let me remind readers of the "Regeneracy" concept from generational theory. A regeneracy event is one that creates civic unity for the first time since the end of the preceding crisis war. In 1861, the regeneracy event was the Battle of Bull Run. In 1941, it was Pearl Harbor and then the Bataan Death March. It's impossible to predict what the regeneracy event(s) will be this time -- perhaps a major military defeat overseas, or perhaps a North Korean nuclear missile landing in California. But whatever it is, it will unite people in all political parties behind the president, as they fight to preserve the country and its way of life.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Jul-18 World View -- Generational explanation of today's vitriolic divisiveness in America thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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1-Jul-18 World View -- Syria and Russia create humanitarian catastrophe in Daraa

Number displaced by Syrian and Russian bombing in Daara triples to 160,000

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria and Russia create humanitarian catastrophe in Daraa


Displaced Syrians camp near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Saturday (AFP)
Displaced Syrians camp near Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Saturday (AFP)

The assault that began on June 19 of the combination of the army of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and bombs from Russian warplanes is threatening a massive humanitarian disaster greater than the combined sizes of the the humanitarian disasters at Aleppo and Ghouta.

Daraa is supposed to be part of a "de-escalation zone," based on peace talks last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, between Russia, Iran and Turkey. An outcome was that Russia and the US agreed that the US would oversee the ceasefire in Daraa.

Promises and agreements mean nothing to Russia and Syria, and they never intended to honor the ceasefire. The US does usually honor its promises, but in this case has chosen not to intervene, rather than get pulled into yet another war, this time a full-scale war with Syria and Russia.

Bashar al-Assad has already begun the process that he's used in the past in Aleppo and Ghouta. He begins by bombing peaceful protesters, particularly women and children. As soon as someone become violent in revenge, he declares the whole community or ethnic group to be "terrorists," and uses that as an excuse for full-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing. The genocide is performed with missiles, barrel bombs, chlorine gas and Sarin gas, all particularly targeting women and children, as well as schools, markets, and hospitals.

The ethnic cleansing is accomplished by making it impossible for refugees to return to their homes. Last month, Syria's government passed 'Law #10', which makes it almost impossible for refugees to return to their former homes. There are millions of Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Europe and other countries who will not be able to return home, and are effectively stranded in the country they fled to.

The situation in southwestern Syria is perfect for al-Assad. By the time it's over, millions of people will flee their homes, but they'll have nowhere to go, as they'll be blocked by Jordanian and Israeli authorities from going south. The refugees will be amassed on the borders, where al-Assad can kill them like fish in a barrel.

Refugees from Aleppo and Ghouta were able to flee to Idlib province in northwestern Syria. Idlib is in another de-escalation zone, with Turkey having the responsibility to oversee the ceasefire.

Turkey is currently worried that it is facing the worst possible scenario in Idlib. There are currently 2.5 million people living in Idlib, and 1.2 million people from this figure were displaced and took refuge in Idlib. As one analyst put it, "Idlib has no Idlib," which means that when Bashar al-Assad begins genocide and ethnic cleansing in Idlib, then people who try to flee will have no place to go, except possibly north through the border into Turkey. Turkey already hosts millions of Syrian refugees, and is very concerned that it might be forced to open its borders again to millions more. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Guardian (London) and Hurriyet (Ankara)

Number displaced by Syrian and Russian bombing in Daara triples to 160,000

According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the number of people displaced by Syria's army and Russia's warplanes in southern Syria is now at 160,000 -- more than triple what it was on Monday, when the figure was 45,000.

Most are headed south to Jordan, but are trapped at the border, since Jordan has closed the border. A smaller number have gone west and are on the border with Israel-controlled Golan Heights. That border has also been closed by Israel.

Jordan estimates that it is already hosting some 1.3 million refugees, and earlier this week said that it is unable to host a new wave of refugees, and so the border will remain closed. Several thousand Syrians gathered near sealed crossing on Saturday, pleading to no avail to enter Jordan.

However, Jordan's army began delivering humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced Syrians along the border. According to government spokesman Jumana Ghunaimat, "This is in line with Jordan's stance to help our Syrian brothers. These include essential foodstuffs and drinking water."

Israel has transferred several dozen tons of humanitarian aid to refugee encampments in southwestern Syria. According to Israel's army, the humanitarian aid contained some 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, three pallets of medical supplies and 30 tons of clothes and shoes. Israel's defense minister Avigdor Liberman said that Israel was prepared to provide humanitarian assistance, but that “we will not accept any Syrian refugees into our territory.” Times of Israel and Middle East Eye and Anadolu

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Jul-18 World View -- Syria and Russia create humanitarian catastrophe in Daraa thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Jul-2018) Permanent Link
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30-Jun-18 World View -- EU leaders agree on fantasy migration plan after all-night meeting

Italy backs down from threat to veto the agreement over Dublin regulation

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

EU leaders agree on fantasy migration plan after all-night meeting


Angela Merkel speaks with other country leaders at EU Summit on Thursday and Friday (Getty)
Angela Merkel speaks with other country leaders at EU Summit on Thursday and Friday (Getty)

As we reported a week ago, the Europeans were desperately searching for a solution to the migration problem, and they were considering a form of detention center called "Disembarkation Platforms," to be located in northern Africa, where newly arrived migrants could be taken initially for processing of asylum requests.

The promise was that a detailed plan would be worked out during the the major EU Summit meeting held in Brussels the last two days. The leaders met all day Thursday and then long into the night, finally announcing an agreement at 4:30 am. However, the agreement had no more details than the original proposal, and appears to be a fudge.

(Note to lexicographers: I've been seeing the word "fudge" a lot more lately. Besides a chocolate goodie, a fudge is something that's ambiguous, deceitful or a compromise. It seems to have replaced the phrase that was commonly used during Greece's financial crisis: "kicking the can down the road." In either case, they refer to a non-agreement that let's everyone congratulate one another on having reached a deal, and then go home and get some sleep, while postponing the search for a real solution to a later date.)

The new agreement tells almost nothing about how the Disembarkation Platforms would work:

"5. In order to definitively break the business model of the smugglers, thus preventing tragic loss of life, it is necessary to eliminate the incentive to embark on perilous journeys. This requires a new approach based on shared or complementary actions among the Member States to the disembarkation of those who are saved in Search And Rescue operations. In that context, the European Council calls on the Council and the Commission to swiftly explore the concept of regional disembarkation platforms, in close cooperation with relevant third countries as well as UNHCR and IOM. Such platforms should operate distinguishing individual situations, in full respect of international law and without creating a pull factor."

That paragraph contains just over 100 words, and it manages to do so while saying absolutely nothing.

No country has volunteered to host a Disembarkation Platform. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have explicitly refused, and a spokesman for one of the three governments in Libya also refused, and said that he thought the other two governments would refuse as well. One concern that all of these countries have is that a Disembarkation Platform would encourage jihadist attacks.

Even if an African country considered hosting one of these Disembarkation Platforms, there would be international outrage from human rights activists.

The next paragraph of the agreement extends the detention center concept to "Controlled Centers" within the EU itself:

"6. On EU territory, those who are saved, according to international law, should be taken charge of, on the basis of a shared effort, through the transfer in controlled centers set up in Member States, only on a voluntary basis, where rapid and secure processing would allow, with full EU support, to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of international protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply. All the measures in the context of these controlled centres, including relocation and resettlement, will be on a voluntary basis, without prejudice to the Dublin reform."

This paragraph says almost nothing. The one thing that it does say -- twice -- is "on a voluntary basis," which means that no country would have to allow a "Controlled Center" on its soil.

France and Austria, two countries that border Italy, immediately said that they would not be willing to host Controlled Centers on their soil.

France's president Emmanuel Macron said that his reading of the agreement indicated that Controlled Centers would only be set up in "frontline states," which means Italy and Greece, but certainly not France. Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte issued a rebuke, saying that "Macron was tired," and did not understand the agreement, since it said that all EU states could set up the centers, "including France."

One analyst I heard, who obviously liked this deal, painted a picture of dozens of these little Controlled Centers located all across the EU. These people are truly living in Fantasyland. European Council - agreement and Vice News and European Council - Disembarkation Centers

Italy backs down from threat to veto the agreement over Dublin regulation

Italy had threatened to veto the entire agreement unless the "Dublin regulation" was modified. This regulation specifies that the EU country that a migrant enters first is the country that must house the migrant and process his asylum application.

This regulation obviously places almost the entire burden of housing and processing migrants on Italy and Greece. Italy had demanded that the regulation be changed so that other countries would have to take a portion of the migrants entering Italy, but obviously no one wants to agree to that, and in fact, Hungary, Poland and Austria are opposed to any change at all to this regulation. So the agreement is silent on the Dublin regulation.

The rules of the European Council specify that no agreement can be issued unless it's unanimously agreed. Italy had threatened to veto any agreement that didn't modify the Dublin regulation. All Italy got was some vague wording that migration is a European problem, not just an Italian problem. But the agreement was not vetoed, so apparently Italy backed down from its threat. Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte may be rebuked by other Italian leaders for this.

The agreement was also silent on "secondary migration," whereby many migrants that entered Italy went on to settle in Germany. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing a challenge from Horst Seehofer, the leader of another member of her governing coalition. Seehofer wanted the agreement to specify that migrants in Germany who entered the EU in Italy should now be sent back to Italy. This would require a bilateral agreement between Germany and Italy, and obviously Italy will not agree to such a deal. Seehofer has threatened to bring down Merkel's government if he doesn't get his way, and he may do so early next week. However, there have been some reports that Seehofer is softening his position, so he may back down also.

At any rate, the only thing that's certain is that even though all the EU leaders were congratulating themselves and each other for reaching such a fine agreement, nonetheless that agreement is a fantasy. The EU is no closer to solving the migration problem than it was a week ago. AFP and Reuters and Al-Jazeera

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29-Jun-18 World View -- Australia passes foreign influence laws, targeting China

China activists accuse Australia of anti-China racism

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Australia passes foreign influence laws, targeting China


Chinese students in Sydney Australia
Chinese students in Sydney Australia

Australia's parliament on Thursday passed sweeping new foreign influence laws targeting secret attempts by foreign spies to influence Australia's politicians, media, ethnic groups and civil society organizations. Espionage, treason and treachery offences will be expanded, with harsh criminal penalties. The bills also set up a register of foreign lobbyists, forcing anyone working in Australia “on behalf” of a foreign government to publicly reveal themselves.

The laws respond to allegations that foreign countries are trying access classified information about Australia's global alliances and military, as well as economic and energy systems.

Australia's Attorney-General Christian Porter said:

"This sends a strong message to those who would seek to undermine our way of life that Australia is acutely aware of activities against our national security and will continue to take the steps necessary to thwart their activities."

The laws do not mention China, but it's clear that China and Chinese agents are the targets of the laws.

Lawmakers who opposed the laws said that they would criminalize free speech and non-violent protest, and would allow prosecution of journalists for simply possessing classified information, though some amendments were added to the original bill to answer these concerns.

Relations between Australia and China have been in crisis for over a month, after an Australian MP, Andrew Hastie, delivered a speech to parliament accusing a prominent wealthy Australian politician, Dr. Chau Chak-wing, of being linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and of bribing a United Nations official to obtain UN backing for a number of multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure projects. According to Hastie, Chau Chak-wing was a prominent member of Beijing's "United Front Work Department" (UFWD), which is an international Chinese coercive propaganda organization described by Chinese leaders as "Magic Weapons." Sydney Morning Herald and Special Broadcasting Service (Australia) and BBC

China's tech giant Huawei considered a threat to Australia's security

Huawei is the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, behind only Apple and Samsung. It is also the world's largest supplier of wireless and telecommunications networking equipment. It was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineer, and is suspected of developing projects that the PLA could use for identity theft worldwide, and take control of wireless networks worldwide from China.

As I've described previously, in the past I spent several years developing embedded software in C for microprocessors, and so I know personally that the capabilities described above can be implemented and, in fact, can be implemented easily. Furthermore, if the code is written so that the secret functions are only invoked when the device receives a secret 1024-bit code, then it's impossible to detect the functions through testing. And in view of China's illegal actions in the South China Sea and elsewhere, we have to assume that if it can be done easily, then it will have been done.

Australian security agencies are saying that Huawei products are a threat to Australian security. Huawei has been bidding to take a role in as Australia's high-speed internet provider, but has been facing distrust from Australian politicians and security agencies.

At the same time, a new report finds that Huawei is the biggest corporate sponsor of overseas travel for Australian politicians.

Huawei paid for 12 trips by Australian federal politicians to the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, including business class flights, local travel, accommodation and meals since 2010. Politicians who took those trips include Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo and former Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Solomon Islands dropped plans for a billion-dollar internet cable connecting Australia with the Solomon Islands after Australia this month promised hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure Huawei did not build the cable, because of security risks. News.com (Australia) and Reuters

China activists accuse Australia of anti-China racism

Australia has a long history of antipathy towards Chinese in Australia since European settlement, starting with race riots amid the gold rush of the 1850s and '60s. With hundreds of Chinese prospectors injured and evicted from mining sites, the unrest prompted immigration rules that led to the infamous "White Australia" policy, which existed in various forms from 1901 until 1973.

Chinese activists have increasingly been saying that anti-Chinese racism is rising again, and that it's the cause of anxiety about Chinese influence in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Europe, and other countries.

However, there are plenty of reasons for anxiety about China's intention that have absolutely nothing to do with racism. China is conducting well-publicized illegal activities in the South China Sea, building a massive military force with the intention of taking control of the whole region. China is also making military threats against India, Japan and other countries where the government wish to confiscate a portion of the regions they govern.

Equally troubling is China's "United Front Work Department" (UFWD), which is an international Chinese coercive propaganda organization described by Chinese leaders as "Magic Weapons." The UFWD is in contact with over a million Chinese expats in countries around the world, and uses a variety of techniques to coerce them to influence local politicians and media to support China's policies in a variety of areas, including Taiwan policy, criminality in the South China Sea, One Belt One Road, the Dalai Lama, and so forth.

There are 150,000 Chinese students in Australia, and there have been numerous incidents where Chinese students complained to school officials that lectures or course materials made them "feel uncomfortable" because they didn't "show respect" for China. They've complained about materials that describe Taiwan as a country, about a map that shows Indian territory claimed by China as Indian territory. These complaints were accompanied by demands that the materials be changed.

Now imagine any Western country trying the same thing. Imagine an agency in the Trump administration telling American students in universities overseas to complain when the university lectures and course materials contradict American policy as defined by the Trump administration. The international outrage would be enormous, and none of the American student expats would do as they has they had been told anyway.

By Western standards, what China is doing appears to be almost like mind control. It's amazing that an agency like the UFWD exists, and it's amazing that Chinese students around the world do as they're told -- although the latter could be explained by the fact that China can threaten punishment for any student that disobeys orders.

America does have an agency that sends people to countries around the world -- the Peace Corps. "The Peace Corps is a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation."

I've never heard anyone describe the Peace Corps as a "Magic Weapon" or as any kind of weapon. America has the Peace Corps, to help bring peace, and China has the "Magic Weapon Corps" to coercively spread Chinese propaganda.

So if people in Australia, Canada, the US or any other country are anxious about the Chinese, the Chinese have only themselves to blame, and it has nothing to do with racism.

China's policies could have serious consequences for Chinese expats. In World War II, the American government interred Japanese-American citizens but not German-American citizens. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which is that there were too many German-Americans to even think about interring. But the main thing is that there was a great deal of mutual American-Japanese xenophobia prior to the war, and that turned into internment during the war. China's coercive propaganda policies applied to Chinese expats to the point of apparent mind control could, in some future circumstances, lead to the internment of Chinese expats in Australia, Canada or the United States. So the Chinese policies may be "Magic Weapons," but they could have severe consequences for the Chinese themselves. BBC and The Diplomat and Australian Broadcasting and Peace Corps and Australia-China Student Association

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Jun-18 World View -- Australia passes foreign influence laws, targeting China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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28-Jun-18 World View -- Zimbabwe president Mnangagwa blames Grace Mugabe for bomb blast at rally

Zimbabwe elections overshadowed by the country's dark past

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Zimbabwe president Mnangagwa blames Grace Mugabe for bomb blast at rally


Three presidential candidates (L to R): Emmerson Mnangagwa, Joice Mujuru, Nelson Chamisa (Independent-zw)
Three presidential candidates (L to R): Emmerson Mnangagwa, Joice Mujuru, Nelson Chamisa (Independent-zw)

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa is blaming a political group linked to Grace Mugabe, the wife of former president Robert Mugabe, for a bomb explosion that occurred last Saturday (June 23) during a Mnangagwa rally, killing two and injuring dozens. The obvious target was Mnangagwa, but he escaped unharmed.

Fearing a new terror attack on Wednesday, Mnangagwa canceled a rally scheduled for Wednesday, his first campaign rally since the attack on Saturday.

Wednesday's rally took place without him. It was in the city of Hwange, which is an opposition stronghold, like Bulawayo, which is where Saturday's attack occurred.

Although Mnangagwa did not directly accuse Grace Mugabe of being in involved in Saturday's bombing, he accused the Generation 40 (G40) group of Grace Mugabe supporters of being behind the bombing. The G40 group is a group of younger members of Mnangagwa's and Mugabe's Zanu-pf political party. Grace Mugabe is 52 years old, while her husband Robert Mugabe is 94.

A former member of the G40 group, former government minister Jonathan Moyo, said that the explosion "smacks of an inside job."

The implication is that the Mnangagwa election team staged the explosion in order to justify a crackdown on the opposition prior to next month's general elections, scheduled for July 30. It seems unlikely that the bombing was an inside job, however, because of the large number of casualties.

Even so, there's a widespread suspicion that Mnangagwa will use the explosion as an excuse for security crackdowns that will guarantee the election of him and his Zanu-pf party. Under Robert Mugabe, extreme violence was used for decades to keep Zanu-pf in power.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, head of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has directly suffered election related violence under the Mugabe regime. He said on Wednesday:

"It shows you that things can turn ugly, it has been ugly in the past and over the past 38 years we have had disputed elections, violent elections, state-sponsored violence and we are likely to see that ugly feature rearing its head once more.

Zimbabweans are vulnerable ... the electorate is vulnerable, political players like myself are vulnerable. I have scars on account of political violence in the past, so it's something we have budgeted for."

However, Mnangagwa is trying to reassure the international community that Zimbabwe has changed, and that it's once again a good idea for foreign investors to invest in Zimbabwe. In particular, he's promised that the election will be free and fair, and open to international observers. He has invited election observers from the United States, the European Union and elsewhere for the first time in 16 years. Mugabe rejected Western observers, accusing them of bias.

In order to reassure both voters and foreign investors, all 23 president candidates running in the July 30 elections signed a "peace pledge" on Wednesday committing themselves and their political parties to a peaceful campaign ahead of the elections. BBC and Herald (Zimbabwe) and Reuters and Guardian (London) and AP

Zimbabwe elections overshadowed by the country's dark past

During last year's chaos in Zimbabwe's capital city Harare, president Robert Mugabe fired his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, so that Grace Mugabe could succeed him. This triggered a series of events that led to the forced resignation of Mugabe, and his replacement with Mnangagwa as the new president.

There was a great deal of vitriolic hostility between the two men last year, and it was joined by Mugabe's wife Grace Mugabe, who blamed Mnangagwa for her husband's downfall.

However, the vitriol was only recent, since the two men worked closely together since independence in 1981.

They're both in the Shona tribe, and they both are responsible for Operation Gukurahundi, the genocidal war crime that brought in North Korean soldiers to help exterminate tens of thousands of civilians in the hated Ndebele tribe in the early 1980s.

They've both cooperated in turning Zimbabwe into a police state, where anyone who speaks against the government was likely to be arrested, tortured and killed. This is particularly true of the members of the Ndebele tribe that managed to survive Operation Gukurahundi.

They both worked together on Mugabe's "indigenization" program, which threw out farm and business owners who knew how to run a farm or a business, and replaced them with thugs and cronies from Mugabe's and Mnangagwa's Shona tribe who didn't know how to run a farm or business. Over three decades, Mugabe and Mnangagwa turned Rhodesia, which was a wealthy country and the breadbasket of southern Africa, into today's Zimbabwe, which is an economic basket case.

Mnangagwa is now trying to convince foreigners to invest in Zimbabwe again. In order to do that he's going to have convince investors that Operation Gukurahundi and indigenization are in the past, and won't be repeated in the future, so that investors' money will be safe. This is going to be a tough sell for Mnangagwa, since there are still a lot of people in Zimbabwe, especially people in the Nbdele tribe, that believe that there is continuing violent discrimination against people in the Nbdele tribe, and that Mnangagwa will not hesitate to use "indigenization" to confiscate a farm or a business to aware to one of his Shona cronies in return for political favor. The Zimbabawean and Al Jazeera and Independent (Zimbabwe)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Jun-18 World View -- Zimbabwe president Mnangagwa blames Grace Mugabe for bomb blast at rally thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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27-Jun-18 World View -- Tens of thousands fleeing Syrian bombs trapped at closed Jordan border

Israeli missiles strike Iranian cargo plane near Damascus

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Tens of thousands fleeing Syrian bombs trapped at closed Jordan border


Area of Daraa after Syrian bombing (Sky News)
Area of Daraa after Syrian bombing (Sky News)

Daraa province in southwestern Syria is facing a new humanitarian crisis as the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad steps up ground attacks, backed up by airstrikes from Russian warplanes.

Following the usual pattern, al-Assad treats all the people in the region, including ordinary civilians, women and children, as "terrorists," and uses that as a justification for genocide and ethnic cleansing. The attack on Daraa has just begun in the last week, and is targeting 750,000 people in Daraa.

Already, 45,000 people had been forced to leave their homes and flee. Last week, it was reported that tens of thousands fled into Jordan to escape the violence. However, reports in the last few days indicate that Jordan has closed its border, and the Daraa residents are trapped inside Syria as regime forces and Russian warplanes close in.

When Jordan closed the border in 2014, it led to a humanitarian crisis as some 60,000 people were forced into a lawless ad-hoc camp, inaccessible to any medical or humanitarian aid and controlled by exploitative criminal gangs.

Amnesty International has warned Jordan of the "dire consequences" that resulted from the previous closure of the border and said tens of thousands were still stranded in "deplorable" conditions. A spokesman said that Jordan has a duty to open the border:

"Jordan has a duty to protect refugees from Syria fleeing conflict and persecution, and to allow them to enter the country. Closing the border to people in need of protection violates Jordan's international obligations."

Syrian forces are remaining in Daraa province so far, and have not gone farther west into neighboring Quneitra province, which is on the border with Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israel is watching these movements very closely, because the Syrian army could attack targets in Israel from Quneitra, resulting in a larger war. Israel has already made it clear that it will not tolerate Iranian or Hezbollah forces near the Golan border, and has previously targeted Iranian weapons systems and other Iranian targets approaching the border.

The US is receiving some criticism for having apparently set a red line last week, when the US State Dept. announced that if Syria and Russia broke the ceasefire in Daraa, there would be "firm and appropriate measures," and is now backing down by notifying the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that they should not expect any support from the US military. Sky News and Reuters and Washington Post and Independent (London)

Israeli missiles strike Iranian cargo plane near Damascus

Syrian state media says that two Israeli missiles struck targets near Damascus airport early on Tuesday morning. Other sources claime that the missiles an Iranian cargo plane, which was landing at Damascus International Airport.

It's not clear whether they were ground to ground missiles or launched from a warplane. Israel has followed its usual policy of not commenting on foreign news reports.

Debka is reporting that the missiles hit an Iranian air force Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane unloading munitions at Damascus military airport early Tuesday. The explosions caused the plane to burst into flame with a number of unidentified casualties. Debka's reports are written from Israel's point of view, based on military and intelligence sources that provide valuable insights. However, as usual, I have to warn readers that they definitely do get some things wrong. Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA, Damascus) and Al-Jazeera and Debka

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26-Jun-18 World View -- Massive Tehran riots strike deep into Iran government's legitimacy

Brief generational history of Iran's protests

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Massive Tehran riots strike deep into Iran government's legitimacy


Protester in Tehran, Iran, on Monday with banner, 'We Want Democracy!' (Getty)
Protester in Tehran, Iran, on Monday with banner, 'We Want Democracy!' (Getty)

Thousands of Iranians on Monday took to the streets of Tehran, Iran's capital city, to protest rising prices and a sinking economy, with unemployment rates above 24%. Traders at Tehran's Grand Bazaar closed their shops and joined the demonstrators, protesting the sharp fall in Iran's rial currency versus the US dollar.

The prices of imported goods have skyrocketed because of the loss in value of the rial. The official exchange rate is 42,000 rials per US dollar. But in April, the black market exchange rate was 60,000. Just one week ago, the exchange rate was 80,000. On Sunday, it shot up by another 10,000 rials, to an exchange rate of 90,000 rials per US dollar. This kind of increase means that the cost of an imported item has now more than doubled in price, in just a few weeks.

It's apparently Sunday's apparent collapse in the value of the rial that triggered the mass protests on Monday. Shopkeepers joined the protesters chanting "Strike!" and "We don't want the dollar at 100,000 rials!"

In desperation, Iran's central bank plans to set up a "secondary currency market" by next week. The details have yet to be released, but the idea seems to be that new regulations would prevent merchants from raising prices when the value of the rial fall.

Needless to say this is infuriating to merchants and shopkeepers who can see that they're going to be required to pay more for imported goods, but that there will be new regulations forbidding them from charging higher prices for the same items. This is the same kind of thing that has been tried in Venezuela and Zimbabwe with disastrous results.

In late December of last year, there were similar economic protests that spread to some 75 cities and towns, resulting in 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 arrested. NBC News and BBC and Tehran Times and Radio Farda

Tehran demonstrators attack Iran's foreign policy

As happened in December's massive demonstrations, the protests quickly spread from economics to foreign policy and to questioning the competence of the entire government.

In my article on the December protests, I listed about 20 of the protests that were being chanted, many of them quite vicious. One chant that was prominent on Monday that didn't appear in my previous list is "Death to Palestine!"

This is a particularly ironic chant because it cuts into the entire ethos of the Islamic government. The two supreme leaders, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, used a variety of artifices to justify their mass slaughter, torture, rape, and extrajudicial arrests of innocent peaceful protesters, but the main ones have always been to blame Iran's problems on the Big Satan (the United States) and the Little Satan (Israel). As I've been reporting for years, the young generations of Iran are generally pro-Western and pro-American, and this chant makes it clear that they're pro-Israel -- or at least not anti-Israel.

The protesters' objections to Iran's foreign policy ties back again to the economy. Iran is spending enormous amounts of money supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, supporting the Houthis in Yemen, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and supporting Hamas in Gaza. After the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, and Iran received a billions of dollars in released funds, instead of spending the money on the economy, the perception among Iranians is that they wasted the money on Syria, Yemen, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

I particularly have to shake my head at Iran's support for Hamas, using Iranian-supplied weapons to attack Israel. Hamas is a Sunni terrorist group, and they will never accept hegemony from Shia Iran. They're happy to take any free money and weapons supplied by Iran, of course, but it shows the depth the delusions suffered by 78-year-old Khamenei that he thinks he can govern the Sunni Palestinians -- or even more delusional, if he believes that al-Mahdi, the hidden Imam from Shia theology, is about to return and convert the world to Islam, rewarding him for supplying arms to Hamas.

With the Trump administrations imposing new sanctions, the huge stream of money that Iran started receiving in 2015 is now going to be sharply reduced. This is providing the government with the opportunity to blame Iran's economic troubles on the US, when in fact the economy would be in much better shape if the stream of money hadn't been wasted on foreign wars. Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel and Asharq Al-Awsat (Saudi Arabia)

Brief generational history of Iran's protests

One of the many ironies of Monday's protests is that they were led by merchants and shopkeepers in Tehran's Grand Bazaar. Merchants and shopkeepers were strong supporters of Khomeini at the start of the Great Islamic Revolution in 1979, because they were highly critical of the economic policies of the secular but autocratic government of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Not surprisingly, after 40 years of the hardline extremist Sharia law imposed by Khomeini and Khamenei and the resulting economic disaster, two of the chants that could be heard on Monday were "Death to the dictator!" and "Reza Shah, Bless Your Soul!"

But the significance of Monday's protests goes back much farther than that.

During the 1800s, Iran (Persia) was repeatedly humiliated in border clashes with Britain and Russia. So the public had had enough when Iran's government granted a tobacco concession to Britain in 1890. This concession gave granted a monopoly on both the purchase and sale of tobacco within Persia to an English company for a period of fifty years. The tobacco concession struck at the heart of Iran's culture. At this time, nearly everyone in Iran, both men and women, used tobacco products, as they gathered to smoke and drink coffee. The tobacco merchants felt their livelihood threatened, and enlisted the help of other bazaar merchants to organize anti-government protests. In the northern regions of Iran under Russian influence, including today's Azerbaijan, support for the protests was strong because the monopoly had been granted to the British, locking out the Russians.

The result was the Tobacco Revolt (1890-92). The Shah was forced to rescind the tobacco concession, but the protests continued, and dozens of protesters were killed before the protests fizzled. The Tobacco Revolt was a major event in Iranian history, with implications far beyond the income of tobacco merchants.

In the end, the issues raised by the Tobacco Revolt were not about tobacco production, but about the right of the Shah to have the power to grant concessions to other nations without the approval of the people. Muslim countries had had Sharia law for centuries, based on Roman law but merged with the core concepts of Islam. But Sharia law had to do with rules for ordinary people, and placed no restrictions at all on the what the Shah could do.

That's when the people of Iran looked across the Atlantic and saw what America had done in 1789, ratifying the Constitution of the United States, and the related document, the Bill of Rights. Becoming aware of the US Constitution, and of the French Revolution, the people of Iran began to demand their own constitution.

Iran had two generational crisis civil wars during the 1900s, the second one being the Islamic revolution in 1979. But the first one was the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-09.

The Tobacco Revolt provided a template to the public in 1905, when there were protests over an increase in the price of sugar. The government blamed the sugar merchants, and several sugar merchants were beaten and tortured. A leading preacher and radical constitutionalist, Seyyed Jamal al-Din Isfahani attacked the government from the pulpit, leading to public protests, especially from students, merchants and shopkeepers.

By January 1906, the Shah agreed to the public demands, including formation of a house of justice, or consultative assembly. The Shah did not follow up on his promises, leading to a confrontation involving a group of clerics and their students in which a student was killed. This triggered wider protests, with over 12,000 protesters demanding the formation of a majlis, or parliament. The first majlis convened in October 1906 and set about the task of writing a constitution. An ailing Shah decreed the document they produced into law in December 1906, a few days before his death.

The Shah's son became the new Shah in January 1907. He was against the constitution of 1906 ratified during regime of his father. Iran was still under occupation of Russian forces in the north and British forces in the south, and both the Russian and British forces supported the Shah in opposing the constitution and the Majlis. On June 23, 1908, Russia's Cossack Brigade shelled and plundered the parliament building, executing several constitutionalist leaders. The Shah and the Cossack Brigade ruled until July 1909, when pro-Constitution forces marched from Iran's province of Azerbaijan to Tehran, defeating the Cossacks, deposing the Shah, and re-establishing the constitution.

That was the climax of Iran's Constitutional Revolution. So finally, over a century after America's written constitution and the French Revolution and its imposition of law, Iran had officially become a country ruled by law, not by leaders who are above the law.

They say that history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. Just as the Tobacco Revolt was a precursor to the Constitutional Revolution, the protests arising from the White Revolution of 1963 were the precursor to the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

The White Revolution was actually a government program instituted by the Shah. It included land reform, the nationalization of forests, the sale of state-owned enterprises to the private sector, a profit-sharing plan for industrial workers, and the formation of a Literacy Corps to eradicate illiteracy in rural areas. The White Revolution also granted Iranian women the right to vote, increased women’s minimum legal marriage age to 18, and improved women’s legal rights in divorce and child custody matters.

These reforms were opposed Iran’s clergy, in particular Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini led the June 5, 1963 uprising, opposing the Shah and the White Revolution. In the course of this uprising, the authorities quelled resistance among the religious students in a seminary in the city of Qum, and a number of students lost their lives. Khomeini’s activities eventually led to his exile to Iraq in 1964.

The protests of both the Tobacco Revolt and the White Revolution were led by élites. In 1890, the élites were the tobacco merchants. In 1962, it was religious leaders who feared that they would lose their influence and control over sectors of society where they were preeminent. Things like land reform, improving literacy through better education, and granting women additional rights could all be viewed as threatening to the clerics and imams and their areas of traditional authority.

The leader of the insurgents in Iran's 1979 civil war was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had led the anti-government protests in the 1963 White Revolution, and ended up seeing hundreds of his followers killed, after which he was sent into exile by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. When Khomeini made his triumphant return from 16 years of exile to Tehran on February 1, 1979, he was ready for revenge.

Khomeini had already gotten his revenge on the Shah. Although he had been in exile, he was able in 1978-79 to incite widespread anti-Shah uprisings based on discontent with a populist ideology tied to Islamic principles and calls for the overthrow of the Shah. The uprisings forced the Shah's government to collapse and, suffering from cancer, the Shah went into exile and left Iran on January 16, 1979. He lived in Egypt, Morocco, the Bahamas, and Mexico before going to the United States for treatment of lymphatic cancer, where he died.

Thousands of people were killed in Iran's civil war, including thousands who were jailed or executed by Khomeini. Khomeini claims that 60,000 people were killed. Here's a paragraph from the preamble to Khomeini's 1979 constitution:

"After slightly more than a year of continuous and unrelenting struggle, the sapling of the Revolution, watered by the blood of more than 60,000 martyrs and 100,000 wounded and disabled, not to mention billions of tumans' worth of property damage, came to bear fruit amidst the cries of "Independence! Freedom! Islamic government!" This great movement, which attained victory through reliance upon faith, unity, and the decisiveness of its leadership at every critical and sensitive juncture, as well as the self-sacrificing spirit of the people, succeeded in upsetting all the calculations of imperialism and destroying all its connections and institutions, thereby opening a new chapter in the history of all embracing popular revolutions of the world."

However, analysts outside of Iran question the 60,000 figure, and give much lower estimates of 3,000-4,000.

But that wasn't the end of it. Ayatollah Khomeini's bloodthirsty lusts reached a kind of peak in 1988 when he ordered the massacre of tens of thousands of political prisoners and political enemies, especially those in the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK). He issued this decree in July 1988:

"Whoever at any stage continues to belong to the PMOI must be executed. Annihilate the enemies of Islam immediately! ...Those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for PMOI are waging war on God and are condemned to execution…It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God."

That wasn't the end of it either. When students protested in 1999, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered huge, bloody massacres, rapes, torture, and other atrocities. The same happened in 2009, to students protesting the election.

The 1999 protests marked a major turning point in Iran's government, because it was the first time that it was clear that younger generations would not accept the extremist rule of Khamenei, and that the Great Islamic Revolution was a complete failure as an Islamic ideal, and instead was just another cheap, vicious dictatorship, led by an old geezer who has abandoned righteous Shia theology for bloody oppression.

Ever since the Constitutional Revolution, the people of Iran have demanded that their leaders follow the law, as defined in the constitution. Here's one more excerpt from Khomeini's 1979 constitution:

"Islamic Government is designed on a basis of "religious guardianship" as put forward by Imam Khomeini at the height of the intense emotion and strangulation (felt) under the despotic regime. This created a specific motivation and new field of advance for the Muslim people; and opened up the true path for the religious fight of Islam, pressing forward the struggle of the committed Muslim combatants, inside and outside the country. ...

The publication by the [Reza Shah] regime on [January 7, 1978] of the letter which insulted the sacred order of the clergy, and in particular the Imam Khomeini, hastened this movement. It caused the people's anger to explode all over the country. In an effort to control this volcano of popular anger, the regime tried to suppress the protest uprising by bloodshed. This very fact set more blood pulsing through the veins of the Revolution. Continuing revolutionary passion at the time of the seven-day and forty-day commemoration of the martyrs of the Revolution, added on an ever-increasing scale to the vitality and ardor and fervent unity of the movement throughout the country. It continued and extended the people's upheaval in all the country's organizations by a general strike and joining in street demonstrations while actively seeking the downfall of the despotic regime. Widespread co-operation of men and women of all classes, and of religious and political groups, in this struggle, took place in decisive and dramatic fashion In particular women joined openly on all the scenes of this great Holy War, ever more actively and extensively. Such a scene would be a mother with a child in her bosom hastening to the battlefield and facing machine gun fire This large section of society took a main and decisive part in the struggle."

Reading this excerpt from Khomeini's own 1979 constitution makes it clear that he has a great deal to fear. Iran is coming full circle. The students and merchants of today have read the constitution, and are following its prescriptions -- popular anger, uprisings, strikes, street demonstrations, even facing gun fire -- while actively seeking the downfall of this new despotic regime. It's something that Khomeini himself should have predicted. Homa Katouzian and Iran's Constitution

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Jun-18 World View -- Massive Tehran riots strike deep into Iran government's legitimacy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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25-Jun-18 World View -- Concerns grow in Israel over Syrian and Russian assaults on Daraa and Quneitra provinces

Jordan says it can't host a new wave of refugees from Syria

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russian bombers join Syrian military assaulting Daraa province


U.N. peacekeepers patrol Mount Bental, an observation post in the Golan Heights near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, October 23, 2017.  (Reuters)
U.N. peacekeepers patrol Mount Bental, an observation post in the Golan Heights near the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria, October 23, 2017. (Reuters)

As we reported three days ago, the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has begun an assault on the southwestern province Daraa, which is on the border with Jordan.

There's also an expectation that it will soon be followed by another assault, this time on the southwestern province Quneitra, which is on the border with Israel-controlled Golan Heights.

On Saturday overnight, Russian warplanes joined the effort, and began bombing towns in Daraa with dozens of airstrikes. The warplanes had apparently come from the Russian-operated Hmeimim airbase in coastal Syria.

The attacks on Daraa are violations of the "de-escalation zones" agreement, based on last year's peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The peace talks were between Russia, Iran and Turkey, but they always were a big joke, to be used as a cover for Shia/Alawite al-Assad to continue his genocide and ethnic cleansing of Sunni civilians in Syria. The agreement named four de-escalation zones where there were supposed to be ceasefires, but Syria and Russia never had any intention of honoring the ceasefire, and would resume ethnic cleansing as soon as it was convenient to do so.

The ceasefire in each zone would be overseen by one nation, and apparently the US became the overseer for the southwestern zone, because nobody wanted to trust any Syrian, Iranian or Russian forces near the border with Israel.

So now that Syria and Russia have thoroughly violated the other de-escalation zones, it's the turn of the southwestern de-escalation zone. The US State Dept. last week threatened "serious repercussions" for violation of the de-escalation zone, without specifying what those repercussions might be. However, on Sunday, the US sent a message to Syrian rebel factions that they should not expect US military support, and "you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us." Whether that represents a brand new example of the US setting a red line and then refusing to enforce it is up to the perception of the observer. Times of Israel and Al-Arabiya (Riyadh) and Middle East Eye

Jordan says it can't host a new wave of refugees from Syria

Daraa province lies along the border with Jordan and there have already been reports last week that tens of thousands of people are fleeing the violence, running south into Jordan to escape the bombing.

However, Jordan on Sunday said that is unable to host a new wave of Syrian refugees. According to the United Nations, some 650,000 Syrian refugees have registered with them in Jordan since the Syrian war began seven years ago. Jordan itself estimates the actual number is closer to 1.3 million people and says it has spent more than $10 billion hosting them.

Jordan's government spokesman Jumana Ghanimat said on Sunday:

"The large number of Syrians we’re hosting in terms of financial resources and infrastructure does not allow for the reception of a new wave of asylum seekers

Jordan has not and will not abandon its humanitarian role and its commitment to international charters, but it has exceeded its ability to absorb (more refugees). Everyone should cooperate to deal with any new wave of displacement within Syria’s borders."

She added that Jordan would work with “concerned organisations” to find an arrangement for the displaced inside Syria. Middle East Eye and Al-Arabiya (Riyadh)

Concerns grow in Israel over Syrian and Russian assaults on Daraa and Quneitra provinces

Although the full-scale assaults by Syrian and Russian forces on Daraa province have not yet reached Quneitra province, which is on the border with Israel-controlled Golan Heights, it's expected that they will do so soon.

In anticipation of artillery and airstrikes in Quneitra, thousands of Syrians have fled villages to makeshift camps near the border with Israel. It's believed that Syrian artillery will avoid shelling near the border, to avoid provoking a military response by Israel.

There are supposed to be peacekeeping forces inside Syria along the border with Israel. This was set up in 1974 following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) would have 1,250 peacekeepers.

Following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and after a contingent of 22 peacekeepers from the Philippines were kidnapped and held for three days by a group affiliated with Islamic State in 2013, much of the UNDOF contingent moved to the Israeli side of the border, where they've been less effective. With tensions growing on the Syrian side of the border, Israel has requested that they move back to that side, but they are reluctant to do so.

During the last few days, Syrian forces have taken control of an abandoned United Nations peacekeeping post in the no-man’s land between the Israeli and Syrian areas of the Golan Heights. The post, abandoned by UNDOF troops on the Golan, is meant to be free of both Israeli and Syrian troops, according to the cessation of hostilities agreement between the two countries that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War. UNDOF has identified ongoing infrastructure work at the site.

In addition to a renewed military threat from Syrian forces, and possible Iranian or Hezbollah forces embedded within them, there's also the possibility of thousands of Syrian refugees crossing the border into Israel, just as is happening along the border with Jordan. Reuters and Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel and United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Jun-18 World View -- Concerns grow in Israel over Syrian and Russian assaults on Daraa and Quneitra provinces thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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24-Jun-18 World View -- Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy Ahmediat escapes grenade attack at massive rally

New Ethiopia reforms face opposition by hardliners

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy Ahmediat escapes grenade attack at massive rally


Abiy Ahmediat (L) was just finishing speaking to a massive audience (R) when the grenade explosion occurred (Guardian)
Abiy Ahmediat (L) was just finishing speaking to a massive audience (R) when the grenade explosion occurred (Guardian)

Ethiopia's prime minister Abiy Ahmediat barely escaped a grenade attack, just after finishing a speech deliver to tens of thousands of supporters in the capital city Addis Ababa. One of the people at the rally threw the grenade at Abiy, but missed the target.

According to one report, Abiy was saved because another participant in the audience touched the hand of the person throwing the grenade, causing it to fall without reaching the stage.

At least one person died from the explosion, and 155 people were injured, including nine in critical condition.

Abiy was selected to take office in April in order to end growing massive street protests by the Oromo tribe, protesting marginalization inflicted by the governing Tigrays. The Tigrays have been in power for 27 years, but comprise only 6% of the population. The Oromos, who comprise 34% of the population, have suffered discrimination and marginalization.

Mass anti-government protests began in Ethiopia in 2015, beginning in the Oromia region, and then spread to other parts of Ethiopia, especially the Amhara region. The Amharas comprise another 27% of the population, and they joined the protests demanding an end to human rights abuses as well political reforms and greater freedoms. In the government crackdown, hundreds of people were killed, and more than 20,000 others were arrested.

By February of this year, the growing protests seemed to be overwhelming, and prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn abruptly resigned, citing ongoing "unrest and a political crisis." The dominant Tigrays took the desperate step of replacing Hailemariam with the Oromo leader Abiy Ahmediat, 42, in the hope of ending the chaos and bloodshed. BBC and Reuters and AP

New Ethiopia reforms face opposition by hardliners

Since being inaugurated, Abiy has been extremely aggressive in implementing a number of reforms, including the following:

Six people have been arrested following Saturday's grenade attack, but no motive has been identified.

According to Ryan Cummings, a South Africa based security analyst:

"The grenade attack in Addis may be well linked to hardliners who do not want to see dialogue and conciliation with Eritrea. However, it may also be in response to perceived Tigrayan marginalization and/or dissent within the military. Either way, it shows that the reforms are not window dressing."

Any of the reforms listed above might have infuriated some people, especially ethnic Tigrays, who have been in power for 27 years, but are only 6% of the population. For example, replacing key generals would have struck at the heart of the army's control of the population. The economic liberalization, including selling off state-owned assets, could have cost Tigray executives a great deal of money, and led to violent retaliation.

The deal with Eritrea could be particularly troubling, since it calls for an exchange of regions of land. These regions are small compared to the sizes of the two countries, but they're densely populated. This means that many people living in Eritrea will suddenly be living in Ethiopia, and vice-versa. This has many implications -- changing tax collections and administrative rules, and splitting families and neighbors, for example.

As I described in my 2016 Generational history of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopia is a Christian country, and Eritrea is a Muslim countries. Eritrea was an Italian colony in the 1800s, and both were in the late 1930s as "Italian East Africa." Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993, leading to the 1998-2000 border war, which led to the peace agreement that is now being considered for implementation. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Ethiopia is in a generational Awakening era, like America and Europe in the 1960s, or like Iran today, when mass protests are a frequent feature. Mass protests can end temporarily, or cab be suppressed by violence from the security forces, but they return.

The appointment of Oromo leader Abiy Ahmediat has put an end to the massive protests by Oromos, but even with an Oromo leader, protests by Oromos will return.

Abiy vows that the reforms will continue, despite Saturday's explosion. Guardian (London) and Al-Jazeera and Addis (Ababa) Standard and Committee to Protect Journalists

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23-Jun-18 World View -- Desperate European Union considers 'Disembarkation Platforms' for migrants

European Union very badly split on migration as Sunday's summit approaches

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Desperate European Union considers 'Disembarkation Platforms' for migrants


Migrants in the Mediterranean on Thursday (dpa)
Migrants in the Mediterranean on Thursday (dpa)

Both the United States and the European Union are in the midst of total political chaos over the issue of migration, and are desperately looking for ways to slow the potentially massive flood of migrants from Central America and Africa, as we described a couple of days ago.

In America, the administration has been experimenting with abandoning its "catch and release" program and keeping illegal immigrants in detention centers. This continues to be a massively divisive issue, especially related to the question of separating children from their parents. But there has been no clear statement that this will work, especially as courts and detention centers become flooded and overcrowded.

The Council of the European Union is considering a similar idea, though implemented differently. Migrants would be kept in detention centers, but the centers would not be on European Union soil. Instead, they would be in so-called "Disembarkation Platforms" that would be located in non-EU countries.

According to the EU draft document

"1. The European Council reconfirms that a precondition for a functioning EU policy on migration is effective control of the external borders. Since 2015 a number of measures have been put in place to achieve that objective. As a result, the number of detected illegal border crossings into the EU has been brought down by 95% from its peak in October 2015.

2. The European Council is determined to continue and reinforce this policy to prevent a return to the uncontrolled flows of 2015 and to further reduce illegal immigration on all routes. Specifically as regards the Central Mediterranean route, efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya should be further intensified. The EU will continue to stand by Italy in this respect, and will step up its support for the Libyan Coastguard, coastal and Southern communities, humane reception conditions, and voluntary humanitarian returns. ...

4. In order to establish a more predictable framework for dealing with those who nevertheless set out to sea and are rescued in Search And Rescue Operations, the European Council supports the development of the concept of regional disembarkation platforms in close cooperation with UNHCR and IOM. Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys."

Since there is no firm proposal, but only a draft document, possible hosting countries for these disembarkation platforms have not been officially named. However, unnamed EU officials have said that Albania (which is a European country but not a European Union count) and Tunisia have been suggested.

However, in response to a query about whether Albania would be a host, the European Council responded, "No. The regions are not yet identified as we are only talking about possibly exploring this concept."

Tunisia has already rejected a similar proposal when it was made a few months ago. Tunisia's ambassador said:

"The proposal was put to the head of our government a few months ago during a visit to Germany, it was also asked by Italy, and the answer is clear: no!

We have neither the capacity nor the means to organize these detention centers. We are already suffering a lot from what is happening in Libya, which has been the effect of European action."

African countries that might serve as hosts include Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Niger and Morocco. However, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, said that no African country has yet agreed to host migration center. Politico (EU) and European Council Draft Proposal (PDF) and Balkan Insight and Guardian (London)

UPDATE: A leaked plan by the US Navy reveals plans to construct sprawling detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on military bases in California, Alabama and Arizona. Time

European Union very badly split on migration as Sunday's summit approaches

Italy and Malta are refusing to take in 226 migrants on the Mediterranean rescue ship Lifeline, thus precipitating the in a continuing series of crises in Europe on migration. As of Friday evening, the Lifeline is stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean with no place to go.

Italy asked Malta to take in the Lifeline migrants. Malta refused, saying that it was too small a country to handle a large number of migrants. Italy said that Malta's response was "inhumane."

The EU has called for an emergency mini-summit meeting to be held in Brussels tomorrow (Sunday, June 24) to find a way to handle the migration issue, in advance of a major EU summit to be held on June 28-29.

However, Sunday's mini-summit became controversial almost as soon as it was announced. Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte had indicated that he wouldn't be attending, but he agreed to attend after Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to him and apparently begged him to attend.

However, other anti-immigrant states including the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) are staying away from Sunday's meeting.

At a Visegrad meeting in Budapest on Thursday Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that "we don't belong to this migrant-loving group of friends." That's an interesting statement, since it sounds like he's saying, "We don't belong to the European Union."

Even if Italy is represented at the meeting, the country's new far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini has said that Italy will not be pushed around anymore.

Angela Markel is facing the collapse of her governing coalition, and with it her entire government, unless she can come up with an EU agreement within seven days -- and in particular, an agreement with Italy.

The crucial issue is that Merkel's political opponent, Horst Seehofer, is demanding that Germany not take in any more migrants, or, if a new migrant arrives, he be sent back to the first EU country he entered. This is completely unacceptable to Italy, since that the migrants that come from Africa would almost always be sent back to Italy.

Horst Seehofer is not only the leader of the other party in Merkel's governing coalition, he's also Germany's Interior Minister. Seehofer has to power to issue an executive order that rejects refugees at the Germany border, and he's making preparations to issue that order, which is opposed by Merkel.

If Merkel fails to reach an agreement at next week's EU summit, then Seehofer will issue the executive order. That will be in direct conflict with Merkel's policy, so Merkel will have to fire Seehofer as Interior Minister. That will cause the governing coalition to collapse.

Whether or not Merkel's government collapses, the EU will face an existential crisis this summer if, as expected, hundreds of thousands of migrants cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Italy will not permit rescue ships to disembark, meaning that these ships will then head for France, Spain and Holland. In addition, Italy's new government wants to deport half a million undocumented migrants, many of whom are housed in squalid reception centers. More than 600,000 have reached Italy from Libya in the past four years. Euro News and BBC and AFP and Euro Intelligence

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Jun-18 World View -- Desperate European Union considers 'Disembarkation Platforms' for migrants thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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22-Jun-18 World View -- Thousands of Syrians flee into Jordan to escape bombing in Daraa

Fears grow of Syrian army advance into Quneitra province

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Thousands of Syrians flee into Jordan to escape bombing in Daraa


March 2017: Syrian troops advancing overnight in Hama (Al-Masdar)
March 2017: Syrian troops advancing overnight in Hama (Al-Masdar)

The long-awaited assault by the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad on the southwestern province of Daraa appears to have begun on Thursday. According to Syrian state media, the Syrian army "carried out concentrated bombardments on dens and fortified positions of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization and the affiliated groups in the northern and northeastern countryside of Daraa."

Al-Assad considers all the people living in Daraa to be "terrorists," even the women and children. Al-Assad has used an increasingly common way of committing ethnic cleansing and genocide. After brutal attacks on peaceful Sunni protesters in 2011, as soon as even one Sunni activist uses violence to get revenge, al-Assad has declared that millions of Sunnis are all "terrorists," and he uses that as an excuse to conduct ethnic cleansing and genocide. In the past, al-Assad attacked even women and children in Aleppo, Homs and Ghouta with barrel bombs, chlorine and Sarin gas, and now he's turning his attention to Daraa. According to reports, the Syrian army has assembled a large force, including tens of thousands of soldiers and more than 100 tanks.

Daraa province lies along the border with Jordan. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the area, running south into Jordan to escape the bombing. Jordan is already hosting 650,000 refugees from the Syrian war, and is already in economic distress.

So far, the Syrian army has not started a ground offensive, but that could change at any time.

The US State Department quickly denounced the Syrian action, accusing them of violating a previous agreement that Daraa province part of a "de-escalation zone" which is supposed to recognize a ceasefire:

"The United States remains deeply troubled by reports of increasing Syrian regime operations in southwest Syria within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone negotiated between the United States, Jordan, and the Russian Federation last year and reaffirmed between Presidents Trump and Putin in Da Nang, Vietnam in November. Syrian regime military and militia units, according to our reports, have violated the southwest de-escalation zone and initiated airstrikes, artillery, and rocket attacks.

The United States continues to warn both the Russian government and the Assad regime of the serious repercussions of these violations and demands that Russia restrain pro-regime forces from further actions within the southwest de-escalation zone. During their call this weekend, Secretary Pompeo stressed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov the critical nature of mutual adherence to this arrangement and the unacceptable nature of any unilateral activity by the Assad regime or Russia. The United States expects all parties to respect the ceasefire, protect civilian populations, and avoid broadening of the conflict. We remain committed to maintaining the stability of the southwest de-escalation zone and to the ceasefire underpinning it."

The US has threatened "serious repercussions" for violation of the de-escalation zone, without specifying what those repercussions might be. Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA, Damascus) and Arab News and US State Dept. and The National (UAE)

Fears grow of Syrian army advance into Quneitra province

Al-Assad has vowed to recapture all of southwest Syria from the "terrorists," even though it's in a de-escalation zone. The actions taken so far in Daraa province, near the border with Jordan, have not evoked a strong response.

There is a great deal of concern, however, that the Syrian army will advance farther west from Daraa province in Quneitra province. Quneitra province borders the Israel-controlled Golan Heights, which is of much greater concern. From there, the Syrian army could attack targets in Israel, resulting in a larger war.

Israel has already made it clear that it will not tolerate Iranian or Hezbollah forces near the Golan border, and has previously targeted Iranian weapons systems and other Iranian targets approaching the border. Israel's willingness to tolerate Syrian forces near the border is ambiguous.

The pressure on Israel to respond is further complicated by the fact that the situation along the border with Gaza appears to be deteriorating rapidly, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad sending dozens of rockets and burning kites across the border into Israel.

There are also suggestions in Israeli media that soldiers in Syria's army are actually Hezbollah terrorists wearing Syrian uniforms. Whether this is paranoia or actually happening, there is clearly a perception that it's happening, and that's putting pressure on Israel to take military action in Daraa, Gaza or both. Al Masdar News (Damascus) and Israel National News and Debka (Israel)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Jun-18 World View -- Thousands of Syrians flee into Jordan to escape bombing in Daraa thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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21-Jun-18 World View -- Europe and North America overwhelmed by growing migration crisis

The increasing threat of 'unspeakable' violence from MS-13

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Europe and North America overwhelmed by growing migration crisis


From June 2017: Migrants from Africa arrive in Italy on a rescue ship
From June 2017: Migrants from Africa arrive in Italy on a rescue ship

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that nearly 69 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their home in 2017. The number of displaced people has set a new world record each year for the last five years.

Of the 69 million total, 16.2 million were newly displaced in 2017, or more than 44,000 people per day. The High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, said:

"The global figure has gone up again by a couple of million. This is because of protracted conflicts and lack of solutions for those conflicts that continue, continuous pressure on civilians in countries of conflict that pushed them to leave their homes and new or aggravating crises, like the Rohingya crisis."

The Rohingya crisis refers to the genocide and ethnic cleansing occurring in Burma (Myanmar), which has driven 905,000 ethnic Rohingyas from their homes in Rakhine State into refugee camps in Bangladesh. That's the fifth worst refugee crisis in the world today.

In fourth place is Venezuela, with 1.5 million refugees. The Socialist government has almost completely destroyed Venezuela's economy, forcing 1.5 million people from their homes into neighboring countries. More than 600,000 people are newly displaced in neighboring Colombia, with an estimated 3,000 people crossing the border each day in search of basic essentials and new opportunity.

In third place is South Sudan, with 2.1 million refugees, which is the largest refugee crisis in Africa. More than 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes since the start of a brutal civil war in 2013, including 2.1 million people who have been forced to cross into neighboring countries, the majority of them women and children.

In second place is Afghanistan, with 2.5 million refugees, who have been forced to leave the country for Iran, Pakistan or Europe.

In first place, the biggest refugee crisis in the world, is Syria, with 5.6 million refugees, where president Bashar al-Assad uses barrel bombs laced with chlorine gas specifically targeting women and children, and also used Sarin gas to kill large numbers of civilians.

The number of displaced persons has been a record every year for the last five years, and this increasing trend line is expected to continue. CBS News and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Mercy Corps and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2004)

New techniques for ethnic cleansing and genocide

A new technique for committing ethnic cleansing and genocide is becoming increasingly common. The government violently attacks members of an ethnic or religious group, such as when they're peacefully protesting. Then when any members of the ethnic group react with violence to get revenge, then the government starts referring to millions of people in the ethnic group, including women and children, as "terrorists," and starts performing ethnic cleansing, forcing millions of people into neighboring countries. This is currently happening in Syria and Burma (Myanmar), and in Cameroon to a lesser extent.

The growing use of new techniques for committing ethnic cleansing and genocide is part of a global increase in violent wars. In 2004, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that the number of wars in the world was decreasing, and that 2003 had seen the fewest number of armed conflicts in 14 years, except for 1997. But since 2003, we've seen the number of armed conflicts increase, creating record numbers of displaced persons and refugees, overwhelming resources in many countries.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is what happens during a generational Crisis era, which began in 2003. A country enters a generational Crisis era when the survivors of the previous generational crisis war, in this case World War II, all disappear (retire or die). Examination of hundreds of examples throughout history shows that this happens 58 years after the end of the previous crisis war, and 2003 is 58 years after 1945, the end of World War II.

For years I've been writing how nationalism and xenophobia have been growing in Europe, America, and in countries around the world in a generational Crisis era. A related phenomenon is the overwhelming increase in migrants and refugees, which further stokes nationalism and xenophobia.

The same thing happened in the last generational Crisis era, in the 1930s. In July 1938, 32 nations met for a conference to address the problem of hundreds of thousands of German and Austria Jews who were fleeing Nazism, or whom Hitler was expelling. Hitler actually mocked the conference participants in a speech when he said, "I can only hope and expect that the other world which has felt such deep sympathy for these criminals will be generous enough to transform this pity into practical aid. As far as I am concerned we are ready to place our luxury ships at the disposal of these countries for the transportation of these criminals." In the end, Europe, North America and Australia refused to take on refugees, saying that their population "density" had reached a point of "saturation."

After the war, the Europeans signed the 1957 Treaty of Rome where, having suffered the devastation of two world wars and fearing a third, the European survivors saw as a major cause of those world wars the same nationalism and xenophobia that's increasingly prevalent today.

There are some countries today that are successfully hosting large numbers of refugees, according to UNHCR. For the fourth consecutive year in 2017, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 3.5 million people. It was followed by Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.4 million), Lebanon (998,900), Iran (979,400), Germany (970,400), Bangladesh (932,200) and Sudan (906,600).

However, many other countries become overwhelmed by the large number of refugees, and are taking political action to block the arrival of refugees and migrants. This has been true in the United States for years, and it's becoming the policies of an increasing number of "populist" elections in Europe, in countries such as Italy and Hungary.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, these political attempts are futile. Even if some temporary solution could be found, the trend line of increasing migration is going to increase in this generational Crisis era, and any political solution that "solves" the problem this year will be overcome by more wars and new waves of migrants and refugees.

The increasing threat of 'unspeakable' violence from MS-13

Although forced displacement is a global problem, UNHCR is expressing special alarm at the sharp rise in forced displacement in Central America.

More than 294,000 asylum seekers and refugees from the North of Central America were registered globally as of the end of 2017, an increase of 58 per cent from a year earlier. This is sixteen times more people than at the end of 2011.

The vast majority of those fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, are seeking refugee protection either to the north in Belize, Mexico and the United States, or (and increasingly) to the south in Costa Rica and Panama. Many are vulnerable women, or children either unaccompanied by or who have become separated from their families.

Of particular concern are MS-13 gangs in Central America traveling to the United States. A federal task force in Boston announced in January 2016 the dismantling of several local branches of the MS-13 street gang, including 56 gang members, a third of MS-13's Massachusetts membership.

Described by federal officials as being guilty of unspeakable violence and enormous cruelty, the gang targets middle and high schoolers for initiation, officials said, especially Chelsea, East Boston and Everett high schools. The initiation requires the student to commit crimes, and to become a full-fledged member requires the commission of a significant crime, usually the murder of a rival gang member.

According to a Francesca Fontanini, a Mexico-based UNHCR spokesman, refugees from Central America come to escape violence:

"The people who are coming are saying that the level of violence is brutal – they are basically confined to their own houses because there is a lack of freedom. It is very dangerous to go to school, to go to church, to move around. They are living in very traumatized and violent circumstances."

Unfortunately, if they become refugees in the United States, they're targeted by the same MS-13 gangs and the same brutal violence that they had hoped to escape from. UNHCR and Boston Globe (29-Jan-2016) and Boston Globe (29-Jan-2016) and Guardian (London, 22-May) and Institute for Research on Public Policy Policy (Canada)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Jun-18 World View -- Europe and North America overwhelmed by growing migration crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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20-Jun-18 World View -- Saudi coalition claims to have captured airport in Yemen's Hodeidah

United Nations renews its peace plan proposal

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi coalition claims to have captured airport in Yemen's Hodeidah


Tribal Yemeni fighter in town of al-Bayda on May 9 (The National)
Tribal Yemeni fighter in town of al-Bayda on May 9 (The National)

The news agencies of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are reporting that troops from the Saudi-led military coalition have taken control of a large part of the airport in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah on Tuesday, recapturing it from Iran-backed Houthi rebels that have controlled the port since 2015.

This comes a week after the coalition began large-scale ground operations against the port city, supported by air and naval forces, as we described in "15-Jun-18 World View -- Saudi Arabia and UAE launch a 'catastrophic' assault on Port Hodeidah in Yemen."

However, the road that leads from the airport to Hodeidah's city center is heavily populated, and there is still heavy ground fighting going on with the Houthis, with the coalition fighters supported by close air support from Apache helicopter gunships.

Capturing the airport is an important first step for the coalition in recapturing the port city, but a lot more is necessary. Hodeidah is densely population with around 600,000 people, and the Houthis are well entrenched within the population. It's feared that the urban house-to-house fighting will go on for months, just as we've already seen in the fights by Iraqi forces against ISIS in Mosul or the Kurdish YPG forces against ISIS in Raqqa in Syria. Similar urban fighting in Hodeidah could cost the lives of as many as 250,000 people, according to UN estimates.

It's not expected that the Saudi coalition will use the same tactics that Bashar al-Assad used in ejecting opposition rebels from Aleppo and Ghouta in Syria. Al-Assad used barrel bombs laced with chlorine gas specifically targeting women and children, and also used Sarin gas to kill large numbers of civilians. Even with the use of chemical weapons, those battles took several months. The National (UAE) and Reuters

United Nations renews its peace plan proposal

The fear of casualties resulting from the Saudi coalition assault on Hodeidah goes far beyond the possible casualties in the port city itself. NGOs use the port to import badly need humanitarian aid, including food, water and medicines, for 8 million Yeminis, out of a total population of 22 million. Many Yemenis are already on the verge of starvation, and the closure of the port for even a few days could be disastrous.

Somewhat miraculously, the port remained open on Tuesday, and the UN World Food Program was able to unload three ships containing enough food for six million people for one month.

Under Houthi control, NGOs had been able to bring humanitarian supplies through Hodeidah port. However, the Houthis charged NGOs steep license fees to dock their ships, so the port has been a major source of income for the Houthis. Furthermore, the port has been a lifeline for the Houthis war supplies including, allegedly, weapons systems provided by Iran.

For those reasons, losing control of the port would be a major setback for the Houthis, and have a significant negative impact on their war effort.

In the last few weeks, the United Nations had proposed a peace plan where UN peacekeeping forces would take control of the port, so that the fighting between the Saudi coalition and the Houthis could stop. However, the Houthis rejected that peace proposal, since control of the port is essential to their war effort.

The Saudi coalition are now demanding that the Houthis must withdraw completely from Hodeidah and hand over control to the UN.

UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, who has been in Yemen's capital city Sanaa negotiating with the Houthis, hopes to restart talks on a peace plan next month. Assuming that the Saudi coalition have control of the vital parts of Hodeidah, the hope is that the Houthis will yield control of the urban areas, rather than remain entrenched with a resulting bloodbath in urban fighting. Al-Jazeera and The National (UAE) and AFP

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Jun-18 World View -- Saudi coalition claims to have captured airport in Yemen's Hodeidah thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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19-Jun-18 World View -- Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria

Israeli airstrike on Syria-Iraq border kills dozens of Shia militia fighters

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israeli airstrike on Syria-Iraq border kills dozens of Shia militia fighters


Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference in Sochi (AFP)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference in Sochi (AFP)

An airstrike on Iraqi Shia militias on Sunday evening killed dozens of fighters supporting the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The airstrike targeted a position in Syria's Deir az-Zour province, near the border with Iraq.

Syrian media blamed the US-led coalition for the airstrike. According to the report from Syrian media SANA, the fighters were from the regime army, and they were fighting ISIS:

"A military source said in a statement to SANA that the US-led coalition on Sunday targeted one of our military positions in the town of Al-Hiri, southeast of al-Boukamal city, leaving a number of martyrs and wounding other people. ...

The coalition has been targeting the military positions in a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale of the terrorist organizations due to the achievements of the Syrian army.

The field reports confirm that Washington provides Daesh [ISIS] organization with various kinds of support to prevent its collapse and invest it to keep its forces illegally in the Syrian territory and steal the economic resources in the eastern region through its mercenaries of terrorist groups."

By Monday evening, numerous reports have come up describing errors in the SANA report, essentially making it "fake news."

Most important, the US-led coalition had conducted no airstrikes in the region on Sunday evening, and the US military repeatedly denied that the US coalition had anything to do with the airstrike.

Second, there have been reports that the most likely force behind the airstrikes was the Israeli military. Israel is refusing comment, but unnamed Israeli military sources are confirming this off the record.

Israel rarely comments on its airstrikes in Syria, but prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Israel is "already taking action" against Iran in Syria:

"Over the weekend I spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We discussed regional issues and focused -- of course -- on Syria.

I reiterated our guiding principles regarding Syria. First of all, Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria. Second, we will take action -- and are already taking action -- against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria. We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria."

This statement by Netanyahu actually represents a bit of an expansion of previously announced policy. Previous policy indicated that Israeli airstrikes would be focused on southern Syria, along the border with the Israeli-governed Golan Heights. In Sunday's statement, Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will strike pro-Iranian targets anywhere in Syria. That statement clears up some confusion about whether Israel could have been responsible for the Sunday evening airstrike, whose target had been much deeper into Syria than previous Israeli airstrikes.

A final problem with the Sana story is that it wasn't clear about what forces the Israeli airstrikes were targeting. It has emerged that 40-50 militia fighters were killed, a combination of Syrian army forces, Iraqi Hezbollah forces, and Iran-backed members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) umbrella organization, which takes its orders from Iran’s Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. SANA (Damascus) and CNN and Debka (Israel) and Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria

Netanyahu's statement, quoted above, confirms something that's been increasingly clear for at least two years -- that Israel's alliance with Russia is growing, and that Russia is doing nothing to stop Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria.

That Russia's relationship with Israel is getting closer couldn't have been demonstrated more clearly than when Russia openly accepted Jerusalem as Israeli's capital and on June 14 attended a celebration of Russia's Independence Day at a reception being held in Jerusalem.

Russia, Iran and Turkey formed an alliance in 2015 to support al-Assad in Syria's civil war, with each one taking on a different "assignment." But it's always been fairly certain that once these "assignments" were completed, then there would be no one left for them to fight except each other, since they all had different objectives.

Russia's objective was to establish Russian military bases in Syria, and it has accomplished that with naval and air bases. Iran's objective was to establish its own bases in Syria, where they could be used to launch attacks on Israel. Russia does not want Iran to have bases in Syria, and more important, Russia does not want a full-scale war between Iran and Israel.

Iran does have thousands of trainers, advisors, technicians and other support specialists to make the Syrian Army and their Iranian allies. According to one estimate, Iran supervises over 50,000 mercenary forces in Syria, mainly Shias from Afghanistan and Lebanon. As we reported in 2015, al-Assad's army was near collapse, and was saved only through the intervention of Russian bombers and Iranian mercenaries.

As the role of the Iranian mercenaries winds down, Russia is demanding that "all foreign troops" (except themselves) leave Syria. Of course this is nominally directed at the Americans and Turks, but it's also directed at the Iranians. One thing most everyone can agree on, including most European and Middle Eastern nations, is that Iran should get out of Syria. Until that happens, the chances of a war between Israel and Iran in Syria will continue to grow. Al-Monitor and Strategy Page (12-June) and Spectator (UK) and Media Line

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Jun-18 World View -- Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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18-Jun-18 World View -- India cancels ceasefire in Kashmir after one month

Controversial one-sided UN report on Kashmir condemns India



by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India cancels ceasefire in Kashmir after one month


Indian army in Kashmir (PTI)
Indian army in Kashmir (PTI)

India announced on Sunday that it would not renew a month-old unilateral ceasefire in the Indian-controlled portions of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, it will resume military operations against rebels whom it considers to be terrorists or suspected terrorists.

India had halted military operations on May 16, which was the start of the Ramadan, the annual Muslim fasting month. Jammu and Kashmir are Muslim-majority regions, and it was hoped that the ceasefire gesture would bring an end to the violence between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, such an outcome was 100% impossible.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said:

"While the security forces have displayed exemplary restraint during this period, the terrorists have continued with their attacks, on civilians and SFs (security forces), resulting in deaths and injuries.

The security forces are being directed to take all necessary actions as earlier to prevent terrorists from launching attacks and indulging in violence."

The decision not to extend the ceasefire was made on Friday, during a high-level government meeting in New Delhi. The debate was won by the side opposing an extension because anti-government violence continued as usual during the month-long ceasefire, especially the assassination of veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his two security guards on June 14. Bukhari was well-known as editor of the newspaper Rising Kashmir. The Hindu and AFP and Deccan Herald (India) and BBC

Controversial one-sided UN report on Kashmir condemns India

A report by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONCHR) condemns India's actions in Jammu and Kashmir as human rights violations.

The UN report describes the same sequence of events that I've been reporting on for two years. On July 8 2016, Burhan Wani, 22, the leader of anti-Indian separatist organization Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in a gunfight with the Indian Army. This triggered massive anti-Indian protests and clashes with Indian police that killed 36 and left thousands injured.

These clashes continued into the fall, and then resumed again in the Spring of 2017. In all the clashes, Indian police responded with rubber bullets, leaving thousands of protesters wounded or killed or blinded by pellets.

The UN report described these incidents, but is rejected by India amid claims that the report is one-sided, and does not document the activities of Pakistan-supported terrorist groups in Kashmir.

However, the report is not completely silent on these terrorist groups. According to the UN report:

Since the late 1980s, a variety of armed groups has been actively operating in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and there has been documented evidence of these groups committing a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings, killings of civilians and sexual violence. The landscape of armed intervention by groups operating in Indian-Administered Kashmir has shifted over the years. In the 1990s, around a dozen significant armed groups were operating in the region; currently, less than half that number remain active. The main groups today include Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen and Harakat Ul-Mujahidin; they are believed to be based in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen is also part of the United Jihad Council, which began as a coalition of 14 armed groups in 1994, claiming to be fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, that was allegedly formed by Pakistan’s defence establishment. Despite the Government of Pakistan’s assertions of denial of any support to these groups, experts believe that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control in Indian-Administered Kashmir. Three of these armed groups (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harakat Ul-Mujahidin) are listed on the Security Council “ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List” for their activities in Indian-Administered Kashmir among other places."

It's true that the accusations of Pakistan-supported terrorism in Kashmir are far more tentative than the accusations of human rights violations by Indian security forces. But nobody escapes condemnation in this report.

As I described in the past, India's last two generational crisis wars were India's 1857 Rebellion, and the 1947 Partition war that followed the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, India, Pakistan and Kashmir are now in a new generational Crisis era, and headed for another war, re-fighting the 1947 Partition war. No Ramadan ceasefire has any chance of preventing this. UN OHCHR - Kashmir report and New Indian Express and Dawn (Pakistan) and Human Rights Watch

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Jun-18 World View -- India cancels ceasefire in Kashmir after one month thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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17-Jun-18 World View -- Italy's migration policy opens up battle lines within the EU

As Aquarius migrants head for Spain, Spain rescues 900 more migrants from Mediterranean

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

As Aquarius migrants head for Spain, Spain rescues 900 more migrants from Mediterranean


Migrants on the Aquarius (AP)
Migrants on the Aquarius (AP)

Spain's new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, offered to take in 629 migrants who are on board the rescue ship Aquarius, as we described early last week, after both Italy and Malta refused to allow the vessel to dock in their ports.

That was after Italy's new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, had refused to allow the Aquarius to dock at an Italian port to allow the migrants to disembark, which had been the practice for several years.

The NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) were concerned that if the Aquarius had to stay at sea for three or four more days to travel an additional 1,300 km to reach Spain, then the delay would be dangerous to the migrants, many of whom were ill and had come close to drowning when their rubber dinghies sank before the migrants were rescued by the Aquarius.

Nonetheless, the Aquarius began its journey to Valencia, Spain. In order to relieve the suffering on the Aquarius, Maltese and Italian navy ships resupplied the Aquarius with bottles of water, food packages and clothing for the 1,300km voyage. Furthermore, in an ironic twist, two Italian naval and coastguard vessels took on board 400 of the 629 migrants to relieve overcrowding, and now all three boats are expected to arrive in Valencia on Sunday.

Pope Francis had condemned Italy's decision to block the ship from port, denouncing acts that make the Mediterranean into "an anonymous grave." According to the Pope:

"The Aquarius, has been like a slap that has shaken our consciences and has put us on our feet to attend to those who knock at the door of the heart and the collective conscience of peoples and nations. And they call upon people of good will, and above all they call upon the humanitarian and Christian conscience."

The people of Valencia, Spain, are reportedly ready to welcome the migrants with food and shelter. Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia, after meeting with the pope, sent a message to the entire archdiocese of Valencia, said that the pope has thanked the diocese of Valencia for its generation. Cañizares quoted the pope as telling him:

"This is the path, don’t ever abandon it: that of charity; remain steady in charity, in the good example, in the light and the good taste of charity and works of charity. The pope is with you, with the diocese of Valencia."

After the migrants dock in Valencia, they will receive assistance and, eventually, be distributed across Spain.

In addition to the Aquarius, Spain's own vessels are rescuing hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean. Spain’s coast guard rescued 933 migrants and found four dead bodies in the Mediterranean Friday and Saturday. The rescues were from dozens of small dinghies in the Gibraltar strait, and in the Alboran Sea, between northeastern Morocco and southeastern Spain.

Spain's new Socialist government, led by prime minister Pedro Sánchez, has taken up the cause of the migrants' plight to demonstrate its commitment to protecting human rights and respecting international law. He can take that position when only a few hundred migrants are involved, but he may have to change his mind if there are tens or hundreds of thousands. Reuters and Crux Now and AP and Reuters

Italy's migration policy opens up battle lines within the EU

Italy’s new interior minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right anti-immigrant party La Lega, doubled down on Saturday on his policy:

"Italy no longer wants to be an accomplice of human traffickers and contribute to the business of illegal immigration."

He said that in the course of blocking two additional NGO-operated ships flying Dutch flags, the Lifeline and Seefuchs. An NGO worker on one of the vessels posted a tweet referring to Salvini as a "fascist," though the tweet was taken down soon after. Salvini responded, "As a father and as a minister, they can attack and threaten me all they want, but I won’t give up and I’m doing it for everybody’s sake."

In fact, a recent poll shows that Salvini's anti-immigration policy is extremely popular, with 59% of Italians favoring it.

Furthermore, Italy's policies are achieving their goals, in that the number of people leaving Libya for Italy, 22,000 so far this year, is down an enormous 70% from the same period last year. The number that actually reach Italy is down even further, because Libya's coast guard is also performing rescue missions, and returning the migrants they rescue to Libyan soil, where they're put into brutal detention centers.

This is the result of an EU policy adopted last year, led by Italy's government, to revive Libya's coast guard. The Libyan coast guard had fallen into disrepair after the death in 2011 of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. But Italy has worked with officials in Libya to allow the Libyan coast guard to perform a large portion of the sea rescues.

This has created a competition between the NGOs and the Libyan coast guard, when they both arrived at the same scene with migrants in rubber dinghies facing drowning. In one instance, 20 migrants drowned in competition between an NGO and the Libya coast guard, competing to save dozens of migrants.

The result is that among the nine most prominent NGO rescue organizations, three have stopped or suspended their operations over the past year. A spokesman for the Aquarius says, "We will not enter into a battle with the Libyan coast guard, where people are armed." Instead, the Aquarius will stay on the horizon, watching from several miles away. "We had this situation several times, where we had to look completely helpless."

There are basic Generational Dynamics principles at work here. As I've written many times, it's a core principle of Generational Dynamics that, even in a dictatorship, major decisions are made by masses of people, by generations of people. The attitudes of politicians are irrelevant, except insofar as they represent the attitudes of the people.

So in the current situation, it's not Matteo Salvini who is making the decisions to adopt anti-immigrant policies. Salvini's policies have a 59% approval rating, and it's doubtful that he could implement any of them if their approval rating were only 30%. It's the people of Italy who are deciding these policies, first by electing MPs from Salvini's party, and then by approving of his policies.

Most people, even the most hard-hearted Scrooges, would say that they would like to see migrants, especially women and children, sheltered and fed, provided that it didn't cost anything. But the irony is that the humanitarian system that protects migrants, and feeds and shelters them, can get overwhelmed, and the costs become overwhelming as well, and that's the reason why voters turn against that humanitarian system. As Karl Marx might say, the humanitarian system contains the seeds of its own destruction.

The issue of migration is dealing one blow after another to the unity of the European Union. A lot of the motivation for Britain's affirmative vote on the Brexit referendum was to keep migrants out -- although I always like to point out many of the migrants that the British wish to keep out are not Muslims but are Christians from Eastern Europe, just as many Americans wish to keep out Christians from Latin America. Migration is far from being just a religious issue.

Germany's Angela Merkel has been widely condemned for her decision, in 2015, to encourage Syrian refugees to come to Germany. Her decision was based on the founding principles of the European Union and the 1957 Treaty of Rome where, having suffered the devastation of two world wars and fearing a third, the European survivors saw as a major cause of those world wars the same nationalism and xenophobia that's increasingly prevalent today.

Merkel's government may not survive the next two weeks. Merkel is now facing an open revolt from her own interior minister, Horst Seehofer. Seehofer wants Germany to adopt a policy to unilaterally to send back migrants who have registered in other European Union countries, which would amount to a rejection of all migrants into Germany. However, Merkel is standing her ground, saying, "This is a European challenge that also needs a European solution. And I view this issue as decisive for keeping Europe together." The MPs may not agree. Politico (EU) and Guardian (London) and Washington Post and Reuters

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16-Jun-18 World View -- Cameroon condemns scathing Amnesty report on government atrocities

Amnesty report documents increasing violence on both sides

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Cameroon condemns scathing Amnesty report on government atrocities


Cameroon Anglophone separatist
Cameroon Anglophone separatist

Cameroon's public relations (communications) minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary is condemning as "crude lies" an Amnesty International report accusing government security forces of summary killings, arrests and property destruction that amounts to ethnic cleansing.

As I've reported many times, the atrocities described in the report began in November 2016, when the Francophone (French-speaking) Cameroon government security forces began beating and killing peaceful anti-government demonstrators in the South Cameroons, the Anglophone (English-speaking) regions of Cameroon. The demonstrators were protesting systematic bias, discrimination and marginalization towards Anglophones by the Francophone government. For example, schoolteachers in the Anglophone regions were forbidden from teaching any courses in English.

The Cameroon government, led by the 85 year old president Paul Biya, has stepped up the torture, slaughter and other atrocities continually since then, with numerous videos and reports on social media documenting the atrocities. The level of atrocities ticked up considerably in October, when the Anglophone separatists demanded independence for the Southern Cameroons, calling it Ambazonia. This week, there has emerged a new video purporting to show Francophone soldiers forcing Anglophone teenage girls to crawl through mud in front of the Cameroon Protestant College, as the men jeer at the girls and refer to them as Ambazonians.

Last month when Peter Henry Barlerin, the US ambassador to Cameroon, said that "there have been targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family, or the Red Cross, and burning and looting of villages," Biya's spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said, "We do not accept the infantilization of the Cameroonian nation."

So after this week's Amnesty International report, this same spokesman Bakary said:

"[The report] is stuffed with crude lies, hasty deductions (and) slanderous, unacceptable maneuvering, which are part of a strategy of harassment and destabilization of our country in its fight against the terrorist threat."

That's how things are done these days. A country leader starts by massacring, raping, arresting, torturing, and slaughtering peaceful protesters of a particular class or ethnic group, and then when any one of them strikes back, then call them "terrorists" and perform genocide and ethnic cleansing on the whole groups. That's what Bashar al-Assad has been doing in Syria, and that's what Burma's leaders have been doing to the Rohingyas in Burma. If somebody complains, then the leader's trolls say that "no evidence exists" of atrocities. AFP and Bareta News (includes video) and SCBC TV (Ambazonia)

Amnesty report documents increasing violence on both sides

There are increasing reports that the Anglophones are forming their own army called the Ambazonia Defense Forces, with about 1,500 people spread around 20 camps in the Anglophone regions. In most cases, the people are farmers who had been forced to leave their villages, armed with hunting rifles that are made in Nigeria.

The Amnesty report that the government calls "crude lies" is based on interviews with over 150 victims and eye-witnesses. The burning of villages and other ethnic cleansing can be seen in satellite images.

The report documents how Cameroon's Francophone military responded responded to the Anglophone demonstrations:

"Cameroon’s military has responded to these protests with arbitrary arrests, torture, unlawful killings and destruction of property. In one striking incident, satellite images and other photographic evidence obtained by Amnesty International show the complete destruction of the village of Kwakwa, which was burned to the ground by Cameroonian security forces following an operation conducted in December 2017 in connection with the killing of two gendarmes by suspected armed separatists.

In some cases, following these security operations, people were arbitrarily arrested and tortured while detained in illegal detention facilities and in secret. For instance, at least 23 people, including minors, were arrested by the security forces in the village of Dadi on 13 December 2017 and spent three days in incommunicado detention. They told Amnesty International that during this time security forces tortured them to extract “confessions”, to force them to admit having supported the separatists.

Victims described being blindfolded and severely beaten with various objects including sticks, ropes, wires and guns, as well as being electrocuted and burnt with hot water. Some were beaten until they lost consciousness, and Amnesty International documented that at least one person has died in custody."

Ambazonian separatists have been increasingly attacking Cameroon security personally. Between September 2017 and May 2018, at least 44 members of the security forces were killed in attacks at checkpoints, in the streets, or on their duty stations in the Anglophone region.

"Towards the end of 2017, the situation quickly deteriorated. In October, demonstrations organized across the Anglophone regions to celebrate the symbolic independence from the country's French-speaking areas were met with unlawful and excessive and deadly force. Cameroonian security forces shot dead 20 peaceful protesters, by firing indiscriminately on crowds, including from helicopters. Dozens of wounded protesters ran away from hospitals in mid-treatment out of fear of being arrested. Hundreds were arrested, and thousands fled their homes, becoming internally displaced or refugees in Nigeria. ...

Armed separatists have attacked security forces, especially gendarmes and police, killing at least 44 of them between September 2017 and May 2018, in both the North West and South West regions. In one of the most recent attacks, on 1 February 2018, in the locality of Mbingo, in the North West region, two gendarmes manning a checkpoint were stabbed to death by a group of young armed separatists.

Ordinary people have been targeted too. Teachers and students accused of not participating in the boycott have been physically assaulted, and at least 42 schools have been attacked by armed separatists from February 2017 to May 2018 in both the North West and South West regions. ...

In addition, armed separatists have attacked ordinary people – including traditional chiefs - perceived as being informants of the Cameroonian security forces."

Cameroon's last generational crisis war was the "UPC Revolt," 1956-1960, which was a bloody civil war by communists attacking the French government in the Cameroun colony. The outcome was independence in 1961, when the British Cameroons colony and the French Cameroun colony were merged into a single country, and the Anglophones became a disadvantaged and marginalized minority. Today, the Anglophone regions are known as the "Southern Cameroons."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, examination of hundreds of examples throughout history shows that 58 years after the end of a previous generational crisis war, the society or nation enters a generational Crisis era, and a new crisis war can begin, and becomes increasingly likely in each year after that. 58 years is the length of time before the generations that survived the previous crisis war and have personal memories of its atrocities disappear, either retiring or dying. After that, the younger generations are completely in control, and have no fear of another war.

The year 2018 is exactly 58 years after the end of the "UPC Revolt" civil war. That doesn't mean that a new civil war will begin this year, but it does mean that the probability of a new civil war is significantly higher than it was last year. The events in Cameroon in the last nine months show that Cameroon is certainly headed in that direction. Amnesty International and Radio France International

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Jun-18 World View -- Cameroon condemns scathing Amnesty report on government atrocities thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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15-Jun-18 World View -- Saudi Arabia and UAE launch a 'catastrophic' assault on Port Hodeidah in Yemen

Houthis increase missile attacks on Saudi cities

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia and UAE launch a 'catastrophic' assault on Port Hodeidah in Yemen


Fighters in Saudi-led coalition (Reuters)
Fighters in Saudi-led coalition (Reuters)

Large-scale ground operations, supported by the air and naval forces of the Saudi-led coalition, began to move in on Yemen's port city of Hodeidah on Tuesday, with the objective of regaining control of the city from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who captured it in 2015. The war in Yemen has been largely a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) versus Iran since it began in 2015.

The Hodeidah deep sea port on the Red Sea has become a crucial asset to the Houthi's war effort. NGOs use the port to import badly need humanitarian aid, including food, water and medicines, for 8 million Yeminis. The Houthis control these imports, and charge duties that fund their war efforts. Furthermore, the Houthis use the port to import Iranian weapons for the war effort.

The internationally recognized government of Yemen is led by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who has been hiding out in Saudi Arabia because of the war with the Houthis. While the Houthis are backed by Iran, Hadi's government is backed by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to a statement issued by Hadi earlier this week:

"The liberation of Hodeidah port is a turning point in our struggle to recapture Yemen from the militias that hijacked it to serve foreign agendas.

The liberation of the port is the start of the fall of the Houthi militia and will secure marine shipping in Bab al-Mandab strait and cut off the hands of Iran, which has long drowned Yemen in weapons that shed precious Yemeni blood."

The Saudis are hoping that the recapture of Hodeidah will force the Houthis to sue for peace in the proxy war. However, many others aren't so sure, as numerous previous Saudi predictions of an end to the war have turned out to be false.

The great fear is that the urban fighting in Hodeidah will be a new catastrophe, in a repeat of the kinds of assaults that Bashar al-Assad conducted in Syria's cities of Aleppo and Ghouta. In fact, the assault on Hodeidah may have to go on for weeks or months, just like the assaults on Aleppo and Ghouta. According to Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen:

"A military attack or siege on Hodeidah will impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. In a prolonged worst case, we fear that as many as 250,000 people may lose everything - even their lives."

In fact, the ground forces being used by the Saudis have little experience in urban fighting. They consist of Emirati and Sudanese forces, as well as a combination of Yemeni groups -- some loyal to President Abdo Mansour al Hadi, others loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and some advocates of Southern Yemen secession.

The fact that they include militias loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh has some significance. Saleh used to be fighting on the side of the Houthis, and tribes loyal to Saleh were supporting the Houthis. However, the Houthis ambushed and killed Saleh in December of last year, after Saleh, sickened by the massive war deaths, called on both the Houthis and Saudis to end the war, an act that the Houthis called betrayal. So now the tribes formerly supporting Saleh have switched sides from the Houthis to the Saudis, and this may be one of the reasons that the Saudis are hopeful that Hodeidah can be captured quickly.

Since the beginning of the war, the American and British governments have been providing weapons and logistics support to the Saudis, and they continue to do so. However, both governments are pressuring the Saudis to reduce civilian casualties, and are warning the Saudis of the consequences of a potential humanitarian disaster. Middle East Eye and Australian Broadcasting and Brookings and Middle East Eye (12-Jun)

Houthis increase missile attacks on Saudi cities

The war in Yemen sharply escalated three months ago, when the Houthis began attacking Saudi cities with missiles. The missiles have no guidance systems, and the Saudis were able to destroy many of the incoming missiles using defensive American-supplied Patriot missiles, but not all, as there have been some Saudi civilian casualties.

On Saturday, the Houthis fired a "projectile" into Saudi Arabia, killing three civilians. According to a Saudi military spokesman:

"The terrorist Iranian-Houthi militia has targeted civilians with a projectile. ...

The Joint Forces Command of the coalition will strike with an iron fist all those who threaten the safety and security of Saudi nationals, residents and critical capabilities."

The Saudis fear that the Houthis will obtain sophisticated missiles with guidance systems from Iran. This is one of the reasons why they wish to take control of the Hodeidah port.

A Houthi statement warned commercial ships in the Red Sea, one of the world’s most important trade routes, to stay 20 miles from coalition warships or potentially face attack. Reuters and Middle East Eye (9-Jun)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Jun-18 World View -- Saudi Arabia and UAE launch a 'catastrophic' assault on Port Hodeidah in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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14-Jun-18 World View -- After the Kim-Trump summit, US and N. Korea plan denuclearization details

After the summit, North Korea must make the next move

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Media coverage of Kim-Trump summit is bizarre to the point of lunacy


Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump shake hands in Singapore on Tuesday (AP)
Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump shake hands in Singapore on Tuesday (AP)

The vitriolic hatred between the left and the right began in the George W Bush administration and has been growing steadily since then in a worsening trend that shows no sign of leveling off. In the media, it's been clear for years that journalists in general have no idea what's going on in the world, and particularly have no idea what President Donald Trump is doing. For example, one Business Insider news story, apparently written by someone on Mars, says that the summit means that henceforth the world will be ruled by Beijing, not by Washington.

For some reason, everything that Trump says and does makes sense to me. That doesn't mean he doesn't make mistakes, but it still makes sense. And that certainly wasn't true of Obama, who never made any sense to me at all, and the results speak for themselves. I believe that the reason that everything that Trump does makes sense to me is because of Steve Bannon, who is an expert on Generational Dynamics, and who used to be Trump's principal advisor, and is now, according to some reports, an informal advisor.

Very little of the media coverage of the summit makes any sense since everyone seems to be completely baffled by Trump, which is why I make a point of saying that what Trump does makes sense to me. The pundits on the left make bizarre claims that Kim is making a fool of Trump. I remember particularly when Trump canceled the summit a couple of weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi said that Kim was having a "giggle fit" over Trump's naïveté. This woman is so incredibly stupid, she should be locked up in order to protect her from herself. But pundits on the right aren't too much better, since they're equally baffled by Trump, and seem reduced to expressing hope that everything all works out.

So let's take a look at some of the media coverage of the summit, and see if we can figure out what's really going on:

Recall that I've said in the past that the North Koreans have had one and only one objective: Use diplomacy to force the Trump administration to lift the sanctions, while continuing nuclear weapons and missile development.

Kim has completely failed in this objective. They had wanted, at this point, for Trump to be on the defensive, and force him to make a concession, specifically to reduce the sanctions. Trump has defeated that objective in advance by canceling the war games.

The only way that Trump could "lose" this summit, is if he suddenly agreed to remove sanctions. That would be a diplomatic disaster. Washington Post and Business Insider

After the summit, North Korea must make the next move

Remarkably, the ball is now in North Korea's court to make a concession -- to provide the details for how they will denuclearize according to the CVID template -- complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. If Kim can't come through, then the war games will be back on, and the situation will return to square one. Also, Kim would receive extreme paternal disapproval from Trump.

When Trump canceled the summit three weeks ago, the mainstream media were completely baffled, and the left referred to Trump as a senile, inexperienced idiot. I wrote that canceling the summit was a major diplomatic victory for Trump. ( "25-May-18 World View -- North Korea suffers diplomatic defeat as Trump cancels summit")

That turned out to be exactly right, as the North Koreans immediately started suing to get the summit back on track.

Trump's objective is to get the North to denuclearize. As I said, everything Trump does makes sense to me, and everything that Trump has done with respect to this negotiation has been exactly right. If it's possible to get the North to denuclearize, then Trump has done what needs to be done to accomplish that goal.

But the bottom line is that I believe that it's not possible to get North Korea to denuclearize, for reasons I've given repeatedly in the past. Here's a summary:

There are basic Generational Dynamics principles at work here.

First, it's a core principle of Generational Dynamics that, even in a dictatorship, major decisions are made by masses of people, by generations of people. The attitudes of politicians are irrelevant, except insofar as they represent the attitudes of the people. The reason that generational theory works is that population generations are almost completely predictable, irrespective of what politicians want. In this case, it means that decision to denuclearize will be made by the people, not by Kim.

Second, Generational Dynamics tells us that there are many problems that have no solution. By that I do not mean that no politician has yet been clever enough to solve the problem. What I mean is that no solution exists.

The denuclearization of North Korea is such a problem. If there were a solution to this problem, then what Trump is doing would be a solution, but it's not, since no solution exists. The Hankyoreh (Seoul) and Channel News Asia

President Trump says 'Sleep well tonight!'

On Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted the following:

"Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer - sleep well tonight!"

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from a meeting with Hitler and made his famous declaration that has echoed through time:

"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour.

I believe it is peace for our time.

Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."

It later turned out that Hitler was planning war with Britain on the same day that he met with Chamberlain.

To say that President Trump's tweet is eerie would not be an overstatement. I wonder if Trump is unaware of the connection, or if he is aware but wanted to try a little dark humor. Washington Times

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Jun-18 World View -- After the Kim-Trump summit, US and N. Korea plan denuclearization details thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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13-Jun-18 World View -- Vietnam government surprised by widespread anti-China and anti-government protests

Anti-government protests grow in Vietnam along with anti-China protests

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Vietnam government surprised by widespread anti-China and anti-government protests


Anti-China protests in Vietnam.  'Haiyang 981' is the name of the Chinese oil rig in Vietnam's territorial waters (AP)
Anti-China protests in Vietnam. 'Haiyang 981' is the name of the Chinese oil rig in Vietnam's territorial waters (AP)

Protests erupted in cities across Vietnam on Sunday, triggered by a government proposed bill to implement new special economic zones (SEZs) that would allow land to be leased to foreign investors for a 99-year periods. Although the bill did not mention China, the protesters claimed that the bill would allow Chinese enclaves within Vietnam.

Tens of thousands of protesters had occupied buildings in Hanoi, the capital city, and in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city), with large rallies in other cities, including solidarity protests held abroad in Paris and Tokyo.

There's a growing animosity towards China in Vietnam because of China's belligerent actions in the South China Sea. These actions include China's deployment of an oil rig in Vietnam's own territorial waters, in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and then China's use of its vast military power to block Vietnam from exploring for oil in its own territorial waters.

China's actions were declared illegal in 2016 by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which ruled that all of China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal and in violation of international law. But China has ignored international law, and has been doing what the Nazis did -- using military force to annex regions belonging to other countries.

China deployed its oil rig in Vietnamese waters in 2014, and beginning May 11 of that year, Vietnam erupted in anti-China protests, resulting in Chinese businesses and factories being attacked and damaged. The protests were fed by video in the Vietnamese media showing Chinese coast guard ships and Naval vessels attacking Vietnamese fishing vessels in Vietnam's own territorial waters.

With China seizing Vietnamese areas in the South China Sea, the idea that China would have control of Vietnamese land as well has struck a nerve in many Vietnamese people, triggering the protests on Sunday.

The dictatorial Communist government of Vietnam is not normally responsive to public opinion, but in this case were caught by surprise by how widespread the protests on Sunday were. If they had occurred only in Hanoi, the government would have controlled them, but the government was unprepared to try to control protests across the country.

The Communist government is reacting by demanding the social networking systems like Facebook, Twitter and Google provide user identification to the government when demanded. This has provoked additional protests.

China's government is warning Chinese citizens in Vietnam to take safety precautions. Vietnam Express and South China Morning Post (7-Jun) and Diplomat (12-May-2015) and Australian Broadcasting

Anti-government protests grow in Vietnam along with anti-China protests

As I described in 2014 in my Generational History of Vietnam, Vietnam has historically fought many wars against the Chinese. The most important was the Tay-Son rebellion, 1771-1790, the most celebrated military event in Vietnamese history. In its explosive climax in 1789, the Vietnamese troops repelled a much larger Chinese army in a brilliant battle that united the country for the first time.

Although the Tay-Son rebellion united the country at the time, Vietnam is basically two different countries, with two different ethnic origins, where North Vietnam (Vietnamese Kingdom) was originally populated by ethnic Chinese, while South Vietnam (Champa Kingdom) was populated by Polynesian settlers from Indonesia and Malaysia. These ethnic differences resulted in one ethnic crisis civil war after another, the most recent one being America's "Vietnam War" that ended in 1974. From the point of view of Vietnam's history, America was almost completely irrelevant in that war, as it was really a civil war between two different ethnic cultures.

Although Vietnam's civil war ended in 1975, the enmity between the North and South Vietnamese has not disappeared. This was particularly apparent in 2006, when President George Bush visited Vietnam. As his limousine traveled through the streets of Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam, young people lined the streets cheering wildly. Although the Communist government has renamed the city Ho Chi Minh city, many of the residents refuse to use that name and call it by its historic name, Saigon.

Sunday's protests were not just anti-China; they were also anti-government protests demanding greater democracy. Some protestors carried banners reading “Returning Autonomy For [the] People.” Another placard stated the protest was against the National Assembly’s violation of the Constitution. The weekend protests may raise more awareness about land rights issues, especially the confiscation of land by the government. There's also a general suspicion that the Communist government in Hanoi is making deals with China's government in Beijing for its own benefit. Asia Times and Radio Free Asia and BBC (2-Jun)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Jun-18 World View -- Vietnam government surprised by widespread anti-China and anti-government protests thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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12-Jun-18 World View -- Spain's offer to take in Aquarius migrants is rejected as dangerous to migrants

Italy cries victory, portending a growing EU migrant crisis this summer

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Spain's offer to take in Aquarius migrants is rejected as dangerous to migrants


 Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini (center) savors his victory
Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini (center) savors his victory

On Monday, Spain's new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, offered to take in the 629 migrants on board the rescue vessel Aquarius, after both Italy and Malta refused to allow the vessel to dock in their ports.

The Aquarius, which is owned by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, operating under the direction of the Italian Coast Guard, picked up up the 629 migrants in six different rescue operations off Libya's coast on Sunday. The migrants include 123 children and seven pregnant women.

After rescuing the 629 migrants, the Aquarius expected to dock, as usual, at a port on the Italian island of Sicily, where they could make asylum requests. Instead, Matteo Salvini, interior minister in Italy's new anti-immigrant coalition government, ordered that the Aquarius be refused permission to dock at an Italian port, and demanded that the ship dock at Malta, saying "The Good Lord put Malta closer to African shores than Sicily."

However, Malta refused to allow the Aquarius to dock, saying that the migrants were from Libya, and therefore Italy's responsibility.

With the Aquarius running out of food and water, and with a number of migrants requiring medical attention, the ship was stranded in the Mediterranean Sea, about halfway between the islands of Malta and Sicily.

On Monday afternoon, the office of Spain's prime minister Pedro Sánchez issued this statement:

"The Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has given instructions for Spain to comply with its international commitments in matters of humanitarian crises, and has announced that a Spanish port will welcome the Aquarius, in which 600 people have been abandoned to their fate in the Mediterranean. ... It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations."

The offer was extended to dock in either Valencia or Barcelona. Valencia is about 1,300 km from the Aquarius's current location, and so would require two or three days to reach that destination.

However, organizers of the rescue mission, including NGOs SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) are insisting that the Aquarius be permitted to dock in Italy immediately, for two reasons.

First, the conditions on the ship are becoming increasingly desperate, as it's overcrowded and there's a short of blankets, clean clothes, food, and water. A 2-3 day trip in potentially stormy weather would be dangerous to the migrants.

Second, the NGOs would like the ship to dock immediately, so that the ship can continue to pick up the "migrants and refugees that leave Libya in boats every day."

However, as of Monday evening, the Aquarius has received no further instructions, and is still stranded in the same place as on Sunday evening. The Spain Report and Euro News and BBC

Italy cries victory, portending a growing EU migrant crisis this summer

The peak summer migrant season is beginning, which is a huge business where a lot of people are making a lot of money. Human traffickers charge migrants in Libya thousands of dollars each to make the trip to Europe. The fill each rubber dinghy with migrants to overcapacity, and send it out into the Mediterranean Sea. There is no intention that the rubber dinghy reach Europe directly. The dinghy will run out of gas just a few miles out, and then a rescue boat like the Aquarius is expected to rescue the migrants. Sometimes they're rescued, and sometimes they drown. In some cases, it's believed that the human traffickers notify an NGO that a dinghy is coming, and then the NGO gets a kickback for rescuing the migrants.

In past years, Italy has begged the EU for help, as thousands of migrants pour into the country each day. There was supposed to be a plan to distribute migrants to all 28 EU member countries, but many countries refused to accept any migrants at all. In past years, Italy's previous government had threatened to close all its ports to the migrant rescue ships, but they never did it.

So now Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini is taking a hardline stance, saying that he would not allow Italy to become "Europe’s refugee camp." He is threatening to go through with the threat to close all its ports to migrant rescue ships. This risks precipitating a full-blown crisis with the EU.

The EU is still holding meeting on distributing migrants to other countries, but getting nowhere. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said,

"If we are unable to come up with a common response to the migration challenges, the very foundations of the EU will be at stake. Action is really needed."

However, there seems little likelihood that anything can be accomplished. The migration problem has been the main issue that has resulted in the election of new "populist" candidates in Italy and elsewhere. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the increased xenophobia and nationalism resulting from the migration issue is extremely dangerous and destabilizing for the entire European Union. Reuters and Politico (EU) and Guardian (London) and Daily Express (London)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Jun-18 World View -- Spain's offer to take in Aquarius migrants is rejected as dangerous to migrants thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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11-Jun-18 World View -- EU faces new crisis as Italy demands that Malta accept African migrants

Malta refuses to accept migrants, says it 'adheres to all obligations'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

EU faces new crisis as Italy demands that Malta accept African migrants


Rescue vessel carrying migrants (SOS Méditerranée)
Rescue vessel carrying migrants (SOS Méditerranée)

Italy is closing its ports to a migrant rescue ship with 629 migrants, including 123 children and seven pregnant women, and is demanding that the migrants disembark at a port in Malta.

SOS Méditerranée, which runs the Aquarius, picked up the 629 migrants in six different rescue operations off Libya's coast on Sunday. Standard practice in the past has been to dock at a port in Italy, and allow the migrants to be taken in by Italy.

Italy's new policy comes about following the formation of a "populist" government coalition between two parties, the left-wing Five Star Movement (M5S), and the right-wing La Lega (The (Northern) League). The two parties different on many issues, but they formed a coalition based on their shared anti-euro, anti-EU and anti-immigrant policies, as well as lacking any fiscal discipline. Matteo Salvini, the leader of La Lega and now interior minister in Italy's new coalition government, has promised that Italy will deport half a million illegal immigrants living in Italy.

Salvini has said that migrant rescue organizations act like "water taxis," and he has previously accused migrant rescue organizations like SOS Méditerranée of begin in cahoots with human traffickers. According to accusations that have been aired by some officials in the past, rescue organizations coordinate with human traffickers and then take a share of the profits. These accusations have been denied.

On Sunday, Salvini said the following:

"[Italy is saying] no to human trafficking, no to the business of illegal immigration.

Malta takes in nobody. France pushes people back at the border, Spain defends its frontier with weapons.

It is not possible for Malta to say 'no' to every request for help. The Good Lord put Malta closer than Sicily to Africa."

Salvini also says that he is considering legal action against organizations rescuing migrants at sea.

On Saturday, 400 other rescued migrants were disembarked in the Italian ports of Reggio Calabria and Pozzallo, after Malta refused to let them disembark there.

Referring to the authorities in Malta, Salvini said, "God placed Malta closer to Africa than Sicily and it cannot continue saying no to rescue requests. ... If anyone thinks I’ll allow another summer of (migrant) landings, without lifting a finger – that is not what I will be doing as minister of the interior."

However, Leoluca Orlando, the mayor of Palmero, which is the capital city of the Italian island of Sicily, has announced that he will defy the orders coming from Salvini, and will allow the rescue boat to dock at the port of Palmero. BBC and Malta Today and Telegraph (London) and Guardian (London)

Malta refuses to accept migrants, says it 'adheres to all obligations'

On Friday, the government of Malta after Malta reportedly refused a request from the Italian coast guard to assist with some 180 migrants in its capacity as the nearest safe port of call to the boat in distress.

Salvini said:

"The Good Lord put Malta closer to African shores than Sicily, Malta cannot always say ‘no’ to any request to intervene,”

[The vessel] waves as it sails past Malta and then lands in Italy. This is a mockery."

The government of Malta is deflecting any questions about whether it has ever accepted any migrants. In an interview on the BBC World Service, a government official refused to deny that the number of migrants it has taken in is "zero."

Malta's Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia said the following:

"Malta adheres to all its obligations at all times. With regards to Search and Rescue, Malta acts in accordance to the international conventions that apply. Malta will continue to respect these conventions with respect to the Safety of Life at Sea, as happened in this latest case and indeed in each case."

Malta said the rescue operations took place in international waters off Libya and were coordinated by Italy, and therefore, "Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case. Malta will observe prevailing laws."

As of Sunday evening, the rescue vessel Aquarius, with 639 rescued migrants on board, was 27 miles northeast of Malta, in international waters "awaiting orders." Independent (Malta) and Malta Today

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10-Jun-18 World View -- Afghan Taliban launches multiple terror attacks, then declares farcical ceasefire

Special Inspector General issues scathing report on US military in Afghanistan

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taliban launches multiple terror attacks on Afghan security forces


American soldiers in Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (Getty)
American soldiers in Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (Getty)

Afghan terrorists launched multiple coordinated attacks on Afghan security forces on Friday and Saturday. Almost 50 security force members were killed in Kunduz, Herat and Sar-e-Pul provinces.

According to officials, the Afghan National Army launched operations in eight other provinces against insurgents, killing over 80 Taliban and ISIS militants on Friday and Saturday.

The Taliban announced the beginning of its Spring Fighting Season in mid-May, and clashes and attacks have increased noticeably across the country, resulting in a rise in casualties among security and defense force members. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Khaama (Afghanistan)

The Taliban issues a farcical 3-day ceasefire statement

On Saturday, the Taliban issued a farcical statement declaring a 3-day ceasefire. As usual, Afghan and American political and military officials are leaping to the bait, hoping that this is a sign that the Taliban are ready for a "negotiated settlement." Here are some excerpts:

"Directives of the Leader for the Mujahideen during Eid days

In the name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful

In order that our countrymen participate in Eid prayers and other festivities with complete confidence during the joyous days of Eid, the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate must strictly comply with the following directives:

1 – All Mujahideen are directed to cease all offensive operations against the domestic opposition forces during the first, second and third day of Eid however if Mujahideen are attacked, they must defend with their utmost capability.

2 – Foreign occupiers are excluded from the above order. Continue your operations against them and target them wherever and whenever you find an opportunity. ...

5 – The Mujahideen should not participate in civilian congregations where there could be a danger of airstrikes so that our inhumane enemy will not be able to use it as an excuse for their blind bombardments and civilian tragedies."

The phrase "the domestic opposition forces" refers to the Afghan security forces.

So, the Taliban issues this statement declaring a 3-day ceasefire against "the domestic opposition forces" at the same time that it's conducting massive coordinated terror attacks against those same forces.

Furthermore, the "foreign occupiers," referring to the US-led coalition forces, are not included in the ceasefire.

The Taliban have repeatedly said that their objective is to force the US-led coalition forces to leave, after which they would easily defeat "the domestic opposition forces" in many parts of the country. Tolo News (Afghanistan) and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and Long War Journal

Special Inspector General issues scathing report on US military in Afghanistan

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a "lessons learned" report for 2018 on the US experience in trying to implement a stabilization strategy in Afghanistan. The report says that pretty much everything the US forces did in Afghanistan was a failure, and that's a conclusion I agree with.

Before providing excerpts, let me remind long-time readers that I've been writing for almost ten years that a simple Generational Dynamics analysis shows that any sort of victory or stabilization against the Taliban is literally impossible.

As I've explained many times, Afghanistan's last generational crisis war was the extremely bloody Afghan crisis civil war, 1991-96, which mostly pitted the ethnic Pashtuns, who are Sunni Muslims and later formed the Taliban, versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. Now, twenty years later, Afghanistan is in a generational Awakening era, and a new young generation of Pashtuns is coming of age, raised on stories their parents told them about the atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance, and they're looking for revenge.

But you don't have to know anything about generational history to understand what's going on. You just have to understand that there was an extremely bloody, violent civil war in 1991-96, pitting the Pashtuns versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. And you have to know that the Taliban are Pashtuns, and that young Pashtuns are looking for revenge for atrocities committed in the 1990s, and that Nato troops are completely irrelevant.

So even if the Taliban leaders agreed to some settlement, it would not satisfy their sons and daughters, who are not going to be deterred in their search for revenge. That's the way the world works.

The SIGAR report says, in many many words, that the Afghan stabilization operation has been a disaster. Here's a summary of the report's conclusions:

"Between 2001 and 2017, U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed.

The U.S. government overestimated its ability to build and reform government institutions in Afghanistan as part of the stabilization strategy. During the 2009 Afghanistan strategy reviews, President Obama and his civilian and military advisors set in motion a series of events that fostered unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved. They also ensured the U.S. government’s stabilization strategy would not succeed, first with the rapid surge and then the rapid transition. Under immense pressure to quickly stabilize insecure districts, U.S. government agencies spent far too much money, far too quickly, in a country woefully unprepared to absorb it. Money spent was often the metric of success. As a result, programming sometimes exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents.

Every organization and agency that worked on stabilization in Afghanistan suffered from personnel and programming deficits borne from rapid scaling, short tours, and the pressure to make quick progress. Even harder than finding available civilians and soldiers was finding qualified and experienced candidates who were trained and equipped to understand and navigate local political economies.

Stabilization is inherently political, but given DOD’s size and resources the military consistently determined priorities and chose to focus on the most insecure districts first. These areas were often perpetually insecure and had to be cleared of insurgents again and again. Civilian agencies, particularly USAID, were compelled to establish stabilization programs in fiercely contested areas that were not ready for them.

Because the coalition focused on the most insecure areas and rarely provided an enduring sense of security after clearing them, Afghans had little faith their districts would remain in government hands when the coalition eventually withdrew and were often too afraid to serve in local government. Implementing partners struggled to execute projects amid the violence, the coalition had very limited access to and understanding of prioritized communities, and U.S. government agencies were unable to adequately monitor and evaluate the projects that were implemented.

As a result, powerbrokers and predatory government officials with access to coalition projects became kings with patronage to sell, fueling conflicts between and among communities. In turn, Afghans who were marginalized in this competition for access and resources found natural allies in the Taliban, who used that support to divide and conquer communities the coalition was keen to win over."

To anyone who understands the generational analyses of Afghanistan that I've been writing for ten years, none of the SIGAR conclusions are a surprise at all. Stabilization didn't work because stabilization is impossible in Afghanistan for the generational reasons given, and that will continue into the future.

Nonetheless, US military forces said on Friday that the US military fight in Afghanistan will be intensified.

As I've written in the past, there may be a dynamic going on, where the American military makes statements that the public wants to hear, even though they don't contain a word of truth. Donald Trump and the military understand that this war cannot be won, but there's a larger purpose. As war with China and Pakistan approaches, president Trump wants to keep American troops active in Afghanistan, and to continue to maintain several American military bases in Afghanistan, including two air bases in Bagram and Kandahar International Airport. These bases will be valuable in any future war with China. Under these circumstances, having troops in Afghanistan is what matters, whether the Taliban are defeated or not. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and AP

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I love this picture -- from Saturday's G-7 meeting


Picture from Saturday's G-7 meeting in Canada
Picture from Saturday's G-7 meeting in Canada

BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Jun-18 World View -- Afghan Taliban launches multiple terror attacks, then declares farcical ceasefire thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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9-Jun-18 World View -- Argentina faces major financial crisis as IMF loans it $50 billion

Protests grow against new IMF deal in Argentina

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Argentina faces major financial crisis as IMF loans it $50 billion


Protester holds up sign saying '[President] Macri + IMF = Poverty' (AFP)
Protester holds up sign saying '[President] Macri + IMF = Poverty' (AFP)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to lend Argentina's government up to $50 billion over a three year period to help the country stanch a monetary crisis that could end in default. President Mauricio Macri felt he was forced to get help from the IMF, even though most Argentinian people are bitterly angry at the IMF for pulling the plug on a previous bailout. Anti-IMF protests have already begun, demanding that Macri back out of the agreement.

The current crisis was triggered earlier this year, when an interest rate increase by the American Federal Reserve caused the yield (interest rate) on American 10-year Treasury bonds to rise to 3% for the first time since January 2014. This action by the American central bank had a domino effect on the currencies of other countries. Investors that had purchased bonds issued by other countries suddenly had the choice of purchasing American 10-year bonds, normally considered one of the least risky investments in the world, at a higher interest rate than before.

The currencies of so-called "emerging market" countries were the hardest hit, including Turkey, Russia, Brazil and Mexico. But Argentina, with an inflation rate of 21% and a rapidly growing pile of foreign-currency debt, was hit especially hard, with the result that the peso lost 20% of its value against the dollar.

Argentina's economy had been improving since president Mauricio Macri took office in 2015. But in retrospect, Macri made some serious error by going too deeply into debt denominated in dollars. When the Fed raised its interest rates to 3%, it raised the interest due on the money that Argentina had borrowed, and now the country far into debt that it cannot repay, and facing the possible disaster of a default. BBC and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Bloomberg and Guardian (London)

Protests grow against new IMF deal in Argentina

The people of Argentina do not loath the IMF because the IMF is lending them $50 billion. The people of Argentina loath the IMF because the IMF imposes austerity commitment whenever it loans money, and the mention of austerity brings back bitter memories.

In the 1990s, Argentina's peso was pegged to the dollar. In 1998, the country faced a financial crisis, but was unable to devalue the currency without abandoning its peg to the dollar. In 2000, the IMF loaned Argentina billions of dollars, and imposed austerity requirements. When Argentina failed to meet its commitment, the IMF pulled the plug, sending Argentina into a $100 billion default.

The default was a major crisis for Argentina, which most people there blame on the IMF. However, the economy began to stabilize president Néstor Kirchner, who governed from 2003 to 2007. When Kirchner declined to run for another term, his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner ran for president and won. The radical far left Cristina was president from 2007-2015, and undid all the good that her husband had accomplished, by raising public spending, nationalizing companies, and heavily subsidizing everything from utilities to football transmissions on television. (Cristina, by the way, in December 2017 was arrested for allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community center, in order to get favorable terms on Iranian oil.)

President Mauricio Macri is considered to have been fiscally responsible since taking office in 2015, especially after years of unbridled spending. However, he had no choice but to go to the IMF for help, which many Argentinians consider to be loathsome, and that may doom him in next year's elections. Buenos Aires Times and Economist and al-Jazeera (7-Dec-2017) and BBC (15-May)

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8-Jun-18 World View -- Macedonia name issue triggers more huge protests in northern Greece

Protesters in Greece demand that Macedonia's new name be 'erga omnes'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Macedonia name issue triggers more huge protests in northern Greece


Anti-Macedonia rally in northern Greece (Kathimerini)
Anti-Macedonia rally in northern Greece (Kathimerini)

Widespread opposition continues in Greece to agree to change the name of the "Republic of Macedonia" to another name that includes the word "Macedonia." Greeks refer to their northern neighbor as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM), although most of the rest of the world just calls it "Macedonia."

Greece has vetoed attempts by Macedonia to join either Nato or the EU because many Greeks consider "Macedonia" to be pure Greek name, as well as the name of their own province of Macedonia, and they oppose another other country using it as part of their own name. They are especially infuriated by Macedonia's claims that Alexander the Great was Macedonian. They claim that he was Greek because at that time the Kingdom of Macedon was part of Greece.

But now it appears that the governments of the two countries are close to agreeing to a new name. The solutions being discussed are adding a modifier to "Macedonia," to get "New Macedonia" (as in New Zealand) or "Northern Macedonia" (similar to North Korea) or "Upper Macedonia." They're under pressure to reach an agreement in time for an EU summit in late June and a Nato summit in mid-July. Once a name is agreed, the former Yugoslav republic can move forward with plans to join both the EU and Nato.

Tens of thousands of protesters in 23 northern Greek cities held rallies on Wednesday, with slogans such as "Macedonia is Greek," "Respect our history" and "There is only one Macedonia and it is in Greece, where King Phillip and Alexander the Great were born."

However, many politicians in Greece's New Democracy party are opposed to any name change that includes the world "Macedonia," while many politicians in Macedonia's VMRO-EPMNE party are opposed to changing the name of the "Republic of Macedonia" to anything else.

Even assuming that agreement can be reached on a name with "Macedonia" and a modifier, there are disagreements over portions of Macedonia's constitution, and whether allowing Macedonia into the EU would be a tacit agreement by Greece that people living in Greece's province of Macedonia could be under the jurisdiction of the country.

Article 49 of Macedonia's current constitution says the following:

"The republic is interested in the regime and the rights of all persons belonging to the Macedonian people in neighboring countries, as well as Macedonian expats, by assisting in their cultural development and promoting bonds between them."

Macedonia has been asked, as part of any agreement on a new name, to remove this article from the constitution, but so far Macedonia has refused. Reuters and Kathimerini and al-Jazeera and Irish Times and Deutsche Welle

Protesters in Greece demand that Macedonia's new name be 'erga omnes'

The phrase "erga omnes" is a Latin term meaning "in relation to everyone." It has a technical meaning in international law referring to acts that are illegal for any nation, such as genocide, slavery, acts of aggression, and racial discrimination.

This high-powered legal term, erga omnes, is now being referenced to discuss the much more prosaic problem of how to rename "The Republic of Macedonia" in such a way that everyone in the world will be using the same name.

According to some reports, the name most likely to be chosen is Republic of Northern Macedonia (Severna Makedonija), where Severna Makedonija is the Slavic version of the name Northern Macedonia.

The "erga omnes" question is whether the new name will be used by everyone in the world, or whether the new name will be used only by the European Union, Nato and the United Nations, with the rest of the world continuing to use "Republic of Macedonia."

That situation already exists with the country's current name. It's "Republic of Macedonia" to most of the world, but the official name within the United Nations, the EU and Nato is "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM).

So those in Greece who are opposing a settlement on the name are saying that unless an "erga omnes" policy is adopted, then nothing will change, except to replace one unused name (FYROM) with another (such as Severna Makedonija), but everyone will still just call it "Republic of Macedonia."

For these people, if there's any acceptable solution at all, then it has to be an "erga omnes" solution, where the country officially agrees to change its name to "Republic of Northern Macedonia," for the entire world. Kathimerini and Kathimerini and Kathimerini

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7-Jun-18 World View -- Turkey and Greece tensions rise with warplane dogfights over Aegean Sea

Deep millennia-old issues separate Turkey and Greece

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey and Greece tensions rise with warplane dogfights over Aegean Sea


Alexis Tsipris and Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting in Athens last December (AFP)
Alexis Tsipris and Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting in Athens last December (AFP)

On Tuesday, Turkish warplanes held a barrage of flyovers over the Aegean Sea, in some cases flying over Greece's airspace. The flyovers are in revenge for the release of the last four of eight military servicemen into protective custody.

Since the aborted coup attempt on Turkey on July 16, 2016, Turkey has been demanding the extradition of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to northern Greece after the coup. The eight soldiers, including two commanders, four captains and two sergeants, had escaped to Greece on a Sikorsky helicopter and landed in Alexandroupolis. The soldiers denied involvement in the coup, but said that they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

Greece refused to extradite them without an appropriate court hearing, and an extradition trial in Greece requested by Turkey. The detention period expired after 18 months, without Turkey having requested a trial in Greece. In March, the Council of State -- Greece’s highest administrative court -- ruled that the first of the eight men should be freed from detention, although he's barred from leaving Greece, and stays at a secret location with tight security, as his asylum application is ongoing. These rulings have continued, and on Tuesday the last four of the eight military servicemen were similarly freed.

According to a Greek analyst:

"The dilemma for the Greek authorities was that if these people were sent back to Turkey ... a fair trial is not guaranteed. And that was at a time [July, 2016] when the re-instatement of the death penalty was frequently discussed at many levels including [that of] President Erdogan.

So it was impossible for the Greek justice system to send them back. It has nothing to do with their actual guilt or innocence, it was about the right to a fair trial [if] they were sent back to Turkey."

Turkey refers to the eight soldiers as "putschists," and blamed Greece for harboring traitors:

"The release of all the fugitive putschists cannot be explained as a routine administrative decision pertaining to their detention period.

The release of the traitors who plotted a coup in order to overthrow democracy in a neighboring country by a country, which claims to be the cradle of the democracy conforms neither to international law, nor to good neighborly relations."

Turkey retaliated in March by seizing two Greek soldiers, who had crossed the border from Greece into Turkey. The soldiers say they inadvertently strayed across the frontier in bad weather.

In April, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan linked Turkey's seizure of the two Greek soldiers to the fate of the eight Turkish soldiers who had fled after the aborted coup: "It is not fair to be concerned only by the Greek soldiers and not be concerned about the Turkish soldiers." Greek Reporter and Radio France International and Hurriyet (Turkey) and Guardian (London, 12-March)

Deep millennia-old issues separate Turkey and Greece

On December 7-8, 2017, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a state visit to Greece's president Alexis Tsipras in Athens, the first official visit between heads of state since 1952. It appears that no issues were resolved at that meeting, least of all the fate of the Turkish soldiers being held in Greece.

Wars between Greece and Turkey go back millennia, even celebrated in Greek mythology in the story of the Trojan Horse and the fall of Troy. In 1974, the countries fought a war over the island of Cyprus, with the result that the small island is split between a Greek portion and a Turkish portion. Cyprus unification talks are frequently scheduled, but with tensions growing between Greece and Turkey, they are unlikely to succeed.

Besides the issues of Cyprus and the soldiers being held by each side, there has been a growing disagreement over the sovereignty of hundreds of islands in the Aegean Sea. The boundaries between Turkey and Greece, and the disposition of the islets in the Aegean Sea, were settled by the Treaty of Lausanne, signed by both countries on July 24, 1923.

According to Erdogan, Turkey was deceived and cheated when it signed the Treaty of Lausanne, and he would like to renegotiate the treaty. Turkey has expressed the desire to renegotiate the treaty with a series of very belligerent military moves.

In February a Turkish vessel rammed a Greek coastguard ship as both patrolled the waters off the Greek isle of Imia, causing extensive damage. Imia is one of the islands that Erdogan is disputing, claiming that it should have Turkish sovereignty.

Tuesday's flyovers by Turkish warplanes over the Aegean Sea are just the most recent of what are being characterized as "dogfights," where almost on a daily basis Turkish warplanes violate Greek airspace, and the Turkish warplanes are intercepted by Greek warplanes on policing missions. Although deaths are uncommon, a Greek fighter jet crashed in April, killing the pilot.

It's hoped that Turkey-Greece tensions will reduce after Turkey's national elections on June 24. Kathimerini (Athens) and Business Insider and London School of Economics and Anadolu

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6-Jun-18 World View -- In a surprise, Ethiopia accepts peace deal with Eritrea

Ethiopia's new PM lifts state of emergency two months early

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Ethiopia's new PM lifts state of emergency two months early


Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedat (Getty)
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedat (Getty)

Ethiopia on Tuesday lifted a state of emergency two months early. The state of emergency had been imposed in February, in response to riots and demonstrations by millions of people, mostly in Ethiopia's Oromia region. The state of emergency forbids unauthorized demonstrations or the distribution of politically sensitive material, and permits politically motivated arrests without charge.

The government is largely controlled by the ethnic Tigrays, who are a market and government dominant minority, comprising only 6% of the population. They are extremely authoritarian and have succeeded in marginalizing the other ethnic groups, and are said to have informants in villages throughout the country. They have succeeded in marginalizing the Oromo ethnic group, which comprises 34% of Ethiopia's population, and the Amhara ethnic group, which comprises another 27%. Since late 2015, massive anti-government protests in Ethiopia's Oromia region, later spreading to the neighboring Amhara region, left hundreds dead and resulted in tens of thousands of arrests.

In a major break with tradition, the Tigrays in April of this year permitted the selection of Abiy Ahmedat, 42, an Oromo leader, to be prime minister and leader of the governing coalition, in the hope of ending the chaos and bloodshed.

The early termination of the state of emergency is thought to be a positive sign that the situation is stabilizing, and that the reforms being implemented by Abiy are working. It's also being touted as an opportunity for investors to begin once again exploring investment opportunities in Ethiopia.

Since taking office, Abiy has visited major cities across Ethiopia, and appealed to anti-government protesters to give his administration time to work. He has also continued a campaign of releasing jailed dissidents. Officials hope that his reform policies will end the protests permanently.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it's almost impossible that the mass protests will be permanently ended. Ethiopia is in a generational Awakening era, like America and Europe in the 1960s, or like Iran today, when mass protests are a frequent feature. Mass protests can end temporarily, or be suppressed by violence from the security forces, but they return.

Furthermore, whether protests by the Oromos may have temporarily ended, there are reports that violent attacks are still continuing against the ethnic Ahmaras. The Nation (Kenya) and CNBC and Addis (Ababa) Standard and TRT World (Turkey)

In a surprise, Ethiopia accepts peace deal with Eritrea

Just hours after Ethiopia lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, the government took a major surprise step by announcing that it would fully accept the terms of a peace agreement with Eritrea.

In 1998, a border war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia. This was a non-crisis war, with a quality very similar to World War I, where trenches were dug, mines were laid, and bodies of dead soldiers were strewn about. Of the 400,000 men who fought on both sides, 50,000 soldiers died.

A peace deal in 2000 ended the two-year border war, but it was not fully implemented. Tuesday's announcement says that Ethiopia, for the first time, accepts the terms of the 2002 border commission report. The report awarded disputed territories, including the town of Badme, to Eritrea.

The border war had begun in the May 6, 1998, in a battle for control of the border town of Badme. This town is described as nothing but a "humble, dusty market town," with no oil, no diamonds, and no apparent value, exception emotional. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia wanted the town, and at the time the resulting war was described as "two bald men fighting over a comb."

By accepting the agreement, Ethiopia will have to withdraw its occupying forces from all territories awarded to Eritrea, including the flashpoint town, Badme. Ethiopia also called on Eritrea to reciprocate the decision and work toward bringing a lasting peace between the people of the two countries.

As I described in my 2016 Generational history of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopia is a Christian country, and Eritrea is a Muslim countries. Eritrea was an Italian colony in the 1800s, and both were in the late 1930s as "Italian East Africa." Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993, leading to the 1998-2000 border war. It's very unlikely that there will be lasting peace. Addis (Ababa) Standard and BBC and Al-Jazeera and BBC

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Jun-18 World View -- In a surprise, Ethiopia accepts peace deal with Eritrea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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5-Jun-18 World View -- Jordan's government in chaos as PM resigns in face of anti-government protests

Fears grow that Jordan will be the next victim of the 'Arab Spring'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Jordan's government in chaos as PM resigns in face of anti-government protests


Protests in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday (Sky News)
Protests in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday (Sky News)

Anger over a proposed tax law has triggered five days of mass protests in the streets of Amman, the capital city of Jordan, by thousands of protesters, forcing Jordan's prime minister Hani Mulki to hand in his resignation.

The protests were non-violent, but they are exceptional because any protests at all have been rare in Jordan for decades. Nonetheless, 60 people were arrested for breaking the law, and 42 security force members were injured.

Jordan's battered economy comes from an unemployment rate of 18.4%, with a burgeoning population in one of the arid countries in the world.

The wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan that began with the "Arab Spring" in 2011 have been particularly harsh Jordan's economy. According to the United Nations human rights agency (UNHCR), Jordan is hosting 750,000 refugees from these wars. There are 650,000 Syrians, and the others are from Yemen, Iraq and Sudan.

The proposed law would raise taxes on ordinary people by at least 5%, and on businesses by 20-40%. The tax increases are part of an austerity program required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for an IMF loan of $723 million to Jordan in 2016. The tax increases come after five successive fuel price rises, electricity hikes, and the scrapping of bread subsidies.

Jordan’s King Abdullah replaced the departing prime minister Hani Mulki with Omar al-Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, in the hope that al-Razzaz can form a government that will be able to find a magical way to solve all the economics. Petra (Jordan) and Reuters and Al-Jazeera

Fears grow that Jordan will be the next victim of the 'Arab Spring'


Jordan's King Abdullah shakes hands with Iran's president Hassan Rouhani at last month's OIC meeting in Istanbul (hala.jo)
Jordan's King Abdullah shakes hands with Iran's president Hassan Rouhani at last month's OIC meeting in Istanbul (hala.jo)

The current protests were triggered by the proposed tax law that will substantially raise taxes on an already impoverished public.

But a scathing editorial in the Jordan Times describes how the situation in Jordan is far worse than simply the fact that people are extremely poor:

"From the view of the people taking part in the protests: government officials keep get high salaries regardless of the duration of their services, ministers get salaries for life even if they serve for one day, officials get luxury cars with drivers from taxpayers’ money, they do not pay for gasoline and thus are unaware of the burdens people are shouldering, they get to travel a lot to unneeded conferences and they get per diems for doing so, they send their children to expensive private schools, rather than poorly equipped government schools, they receive treatment at private hospitals or abroad as public hospitals are left for the needy, etc. People also complain that the government is not serious in tackling corruption, big and small, and is not doing much to improve basic services and cutting expenses and little is being done to ensure that services are being offered to citizens in a fair manner."

From time immemorial, this kind of situation where peasants and workers need protection from excesses of their élite leaders has led to popular protests, some more serious than others, some leading coups and revolutions.

The "Arab Spring" of 2011, which was triggered by the death of a Tunisian food vendor, resulted in violent protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria and other Arab countries. So far, Jordan has been relatively immune, but there are concerns that it's about to be Jordan's turn. The current crisis could spin out of control and play into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood or the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

Jordan's crisis goes beyond its borders, especially since Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) began their blockade of Qatar in 2016. This sharp split among the Arab nations has had the effect of relegating Jordan to secondary status in the region. Saudi Arabia has stopped providing financial aid to Jordan, and refused to extend a five-year aid package worth $3.6 billion at the beginning of 2017.

The United States also provides $1.3 billion financial aid to Jordan each year, but the Trump administration may halt or reduce that amount as a result of a general review of foreign aid. The review comes atop of a sharp cut in US aid to UNRWA, the UN agency which is exclusively providing services to the roughly 2 million Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants in the Hashemite kingdom, and which has increased the burden on the already very weak Jordanian economy.

Jordan's King Abdullah used to consider Iran to be the mortal foe of the Arab world, so the Arab world was shocked recently when King Abdullah had a very friendly handshake with Iran's president Hassan Rouhani during the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul.

Following last year's Saudi blockade of Qatar, there was a realignment of Mideast countries, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel on one side, and Qatar, Iran and Turkey on the other side. Abdullah's handshake with Rouhani suggests that Jordan is switching sides to the second alignment, as Abdullah desperately looks for financial aid. Jordan Times and Middle East Eye and Israel National News and Middle East Eye

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Jun-18 World View -- Jordan's government in chaos as PM resigns in face of anti-government protests thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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4-Jun-18 World View -- Violence between herders and farmers surges in Nigeria

Nigeria's amnesty program in Niger Delta under fire

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Violence between herders and farmers surges in Nigeria


Boy guarding herd of cattle in Nigeria
Boy guarding herd of cattle in Nigeria

I've written frequently about ethnic violence between farmers and herders in many countries -- Central African Republic, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and even America in the 1800s. The farmers accuse the herders of letting the cattle eat their crops, while the herders accuse the farmers of planting on land that's meant for grazing. If the farmers put up fences, then the herders knock them down.

In Nigeria, the problem has become so serious that it appears that more people have been killed in conflicts between farmers and herders than in the conflict with Boko Haram -- or by the militancy in the Niger Delta in the south of Nigeria.

In the latest incident, in Nigeria's norther state of Zamfara, cattle thieves killed more than 20 people, and burned down their entire village.

The incident was described on the BBC by Mary Harper, the Africa editor (my transcription):

"In Zamfara state, which is in the far north of Nigeria, cattle thieves came on motorbikes into a village. Initially some vigilantes who had been set up by the local community tried to deal with these thieves who come regularly to try to steal their cattle. They managed to chase the cattle thieves away, but then the thieves came back again, and killed lots of the vigilantes, and other villagers, burned their houses down, and made off with many, many heads of cattle."

Several weeks ago, we reported on the killing of two priests because of farmer-herder conflicts in Benue State, in central Nigeria. Harper says that the motives for the violence in northern versus central Nigeria are the same, but it's perceived differently by the public because the farmers in central Nigeria are usually Christian:

"In northern Nigeria, it's a more a conflict between settled farmers and herding communities, or it's a criminals who basically just go into villages and attack nomads, and take their cattle. Cattle are worth a huge amount of money. There's about 80 million heads of cattle in Nigeria -- they're a precious resource.

So in the north, because most people are Muslim, it's more a matter of criminality. But in other parts of Nigeria, especially in the middle region, many of the farmers are Christian, and many of the herders are Muslim, so it's being portrayed by some people as a religious conflict, even though it's actually far more complicated than that."

The violence between farmers and herders in Nigeria appears to getting more and more serious, and with the huge amount of money involved, the government seems helpless to do anything about it. According to Harper:

"The government faces a huge challenge. It faces a big insurgency in the northeast with Islamists, militants, Boko Haram. And then in the south [in the Niger Delta], it has oil-related violence. So security forces are already very badly stretched, but at the more people are being killed in this violence related to cattle and farms, than in either the north with the Islamist insurgency, or the south. And even though they've deployed the military to that region, they seem unable to control it.

And often people say that the people in the government and the army are actually complicit in the problem, they're corrupt, they've become part of the problem, rather than trying to solve it."

The last remark about the complicity of government being part of the problem has been a theme in several of the reports I've written about farmer versus herder violence. In particular, it's been suggested that Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, who is a Fulani and owns large herds of cattle, has been complicit in some of the herder attacks on farmers. BBC and BBC

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Nigeria's amnesty program in Niger Delta under fire

Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta has the capacity to produce over two million barrels of oil per day, but for years militants have attacked national pipeline installations, causing national production to fall.

The militants use a practice known as "oil bunkering." Thieves cut into the pipes, attach spigots, and divert some of the oil for their own uses. The Niger Delta is dotted with illegal refineries that produce crude gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel. Much of the diverted oil spills onto the ground, creating an environmental nightmare, and the reset is used or sold by the militants.

In 2009, Nigeria implemented an unconditional amnesty for militants, known as the Presidential Amnesty Program (PAP) or the Niger Delta Amnesty Program (NDAP). The program provided the militants with an income of about $180 per month, much more than the average worker in Nigeria. Approximately 30,000 people in the Niger Delta signed up for the free monthly income, although only 2,700 weapons were surrendered.

However, the free income program did appear to be cost effective. Before the amnesty, the militants reduced Nigeria's production capacity by 900,000 barrels per day. After the amnesty, the loss was reduced to 200,000 barrels per day.

The amnesty program was supposed to last only five years, but when it was discontinued in 2015, oil bunkering surged again. It was estimated that from January to October 2016, the government lost about $5.8 million in revenue because of the bunkering. So the amnesty program, and the free monthly payments, have been restored. Today, Nigeria's crude oil output is about 2.2 million barrels per day.

The amnesty program is seen by many as a waste of government money, since it gives free money to criminals.

However, Prof. Charles Dokubo, special advisor to president Buhari, insists that the amnesty program must continue:

"The alternative will be too ghastly to contemplate. ...

The fact is that to maintain the existing peace in the region is quite important for our function. If there’s a crisis in the region, then, basically all we are putting in place will not work.

You have oil revenue increasing and the Federal Government has some more money to pay into the amnesty program to also empower our people by training them and giving them the requisite skills to perform well in an economy that is open.

If that is done, for me, I would have achieved all that I want in the program."

However, violence has once again been increasing in the Niger Delta, so some further measures will be required. There's already a heavy Nigerian army presence in the Niger Delta, but the fact that they've been relatively ineffective leads many to believed that they're sharing in the actions of the militants. Vanguard (Nigeria) and Punch (Nigeria) and Forbes and AP (20-Jul-2013)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Jun-18 World View -- Violence between herders and farmers surges in Nigeria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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3-Jun-18 World View -- Europe faces challenges with new governments in Italy, Spain and Catalonia

Italy's markets stabilize as new 'populist' government takes office

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Spain's new government faces an immediate Catalonia problem


Catalonia's new government after swearing-in ceremony in Barcelona. (AP)
Catalonia's new government after swearing-in ceremony in Barcelona. (AP)

There were actually two new Spanish governments sworn in this weekend.

One was Spain's national government in Madrid, where the new Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez was sworn in, after a vote of confidence defeated the conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy.

The other was the Catalonia government in Barcelona. Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia after declaring illegal a referendum on Catalan independence on October 1. Direct rule ended and Catalonia's new government was also sworn in on Saturday.

Catalonia's new president Quim Torra called for talks with Sánchez, to resolve the question of independence for Catalonia. Just minutes after Sánchez was sworn in, Torra said:

"Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, let's talk, let's address this issue, let's take risks, you and us.

"We need to sit down at the same table and negotiate, government to government. This situation we're going through cannot go on for even one more day."

I'm pretty sure this "government to government" stuff will not go over well in Madrid. If such a meeting occurs then it may not go well, since Torra wants Catalonia to be independent, while Sánchez opposes Catalan independence.

Rajoy lost the no-confidence vote that cost him his job because of recent court judgments that revealed a vast kickback scheme with Rajoy's Popular Party. Rajoy tried to skate by and insist that he wasn't involved, but the level of corruption was so great that former Rajoy supporters in the parliament switched sides and supported the no-confidence vote. AP and BBC and AFP and Bloomberg

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Italy's markets stabilize as new 'populist' government takes office

Spain's government crisis is largely internal, and is unlikely to become a crisis in Brussels. That's not true of Italy's governmental crisis, which promises to spread, and cause wider crises.

Italy's plummeting financial markets have mostly recovered and appear to be stabilized as the "populist" government that had appeared to collapse early in the week came to power, though with a different cabinet of ministers.

The "populist" coalition is between the left-wing Five Star Movement (M5S), led by Luigi Di Maio, and the right-wing La Lega (The (Northern) League), led by Matteo Salvini. Although the two parties differ on many issues, and distrust each other greatly, they decided to form a coalition based on their shared anti-euro, anti-EU and anti-immigrant policies, and particularly on the fact that they have no fiscal discipline whatsoever.

Di Maio and Salvini had chosen as finance minister Paolo Savona, who in the past had raised objections to Italy being in the eurozone and euro currency. Fearing a financial disaster, Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, vetoed the selection of Savona, and the proposed government collapsed. Di Maio and Salvini, claimed that Mattarella was catering to the demands of Brussels and Berlin, rather than to the will of the people of Italy.

For a couple of days, Italy's government was in total chaos, and it looked like Mattarella had made a major political blunder. Despite the vitriolic political atmosphere in Rome, the chaos caused heads to cool, and Di Maio, Salvini and Mattarella reached a compromise, where Savona would be given a different job.

So now the European Union and the European Central Bank have to face the reality of dealing with Italy's new government. On the immigrant issue, Salvini wants to deport half a million illegal immigrants living in Italy, and he's being criticized as xenophobic, as are far-right parties in other countries, such as Germany's AfD and the National Front in France.

Economically, Italy is already a disaster, with public debt standing at €2.17 trillion, or 133% of gross domestic product (GDP). This also could cause a major eurozone financial crisis, significantly worse than the one caused by Greece's public debt.

But instead of looking for ways to reduce that debt, Di Maio and Salvini want to increase it by another €125 billion. Right-wing Salvini wants to cut taxes. Left-wing Di Maio wants to substantially increase public spending, including providing a guaranteed minimum income of €780 per month to each person.

So Italy's government has stabilized for now, but few people expect that stability to last long. Bloomberg and Euro News and CNBC and CNN

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Jun-18 World View -- Europe faces challenges with new governments in Italy, Spain and Catalonia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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2-Jun-18 World View -- Israel makes deal with Russia as Syria's al-Assad makes anti-US rant

Israel and Russia reach agreement to keep Iran out of Syria's south

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria's al-Assad makes delusional threats to US military


 Israeli Merkava Mark IV tanks take positions near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (AFP)
Israeli Merkava Mark IV tanks take positions near the Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018. (AFP)

Syria's president Bashar al-Assad on Thursday threatened to expel American forces from Syria:

"This is the first option. If not, we're going to resort to liberating those areas by force. We don't have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans.

This is our land, it's our right, and it's our duty to liberate it. The Americans should leave, somehow they're going to leave. They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn the lesson. Iraq is no exception, and Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore."

American forces in Syria are supporting the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting in Syria's eastern province Deir az-Zour against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

There are actually several reasons why American forces have a legal basis to be in Syria.

First, the US has the right to fight ISIS, which is a terrorist army within Syria's borders. ISIS has been using Syria as a launching pad for terrorist acts against targets in Europe, America, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, among others. ISIS has to be controlled, and al-Assad has an obligation to control it, but has been unwilling or unable to do so.

US-backed SDF forces have already defeated ISIS in their stronghold Raqqa, but ISIS is still a formidable fighting force in Deir az-Zour. Even today, many people believe that ISIS would have a resurgence in Syria if American forces simply withdrew, and al-Assad wants.

A second major reason that justified American and other foreign forces in Syria is that al-Assad has driven millions of refugees into neighboring countries, destabilizing the entire region. Because of al-Assad's genocidal attacks on innocent civilians, there five million that have fled to other countries, with 3.5 million in Turkey, almost one million in Lebanon, another million in Iraq and Jordan, and over a million in Europe.

Syria has an obligation to control its own population and, when it can't, affected nations have a right to respond.

A third reason, related to the last one, as we reported a few days ago, is that Syria has now enacted "Decree #10" which makes it impossible for refugees to return to their homes, even after the war ends, thus making their expulsion from Syria permanent.

This is the same kind of genocide and ethnic cleansing that's being performed by the government of Burma (Myanmar) against the Rohingya Muslims. Starting in 2013, Burma's Buddhist army has conducted genocide and ethnic cleansing, massacring, torturing, raping and mutilating thousands of Rohingyas. Burma's army have driven over 600,000 Rohingyas into neighboring Bangladesh, not only killing, raping and mutilating them, burning down their homes and villages. Furthermore, Burma is continuing the slaughter in order to prevent the community of Rohingyas from returning to their homes in Burma, thus completing the ethnic cleansing.

Al-Assad is doing exactly the same thing with "Decree #10," making it impossible for most Sunni Muslims to return to their homes. This means that the refugees will not be permitted to return home from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and other European countries. Al-Assad has an obligation to provide homes for his own people, and there's no reason why all these other countries should be forced to tolerate his ethnic cleansing.

There's a fourth reason why US forces are justified in Syria: They've been invited into Syria after all. Under the ceasefire "Astana agreement" worked out last year by Turkey, Iran and Russia, and approved by Syria, the US is responsible for maintaining the ceasefire in some of the de-confliction zones defined by the Astana agreement. So the US military has, in fact, been invited into Syria, albeit for a limited reason.

In addition to being the worst genocidal monster so far this century, al-Assad has been repeatedly delusional about the war in Syria that he created. Possibly the most spectacular example occurred in 2016, when al-Assad was using missiles, barrel bombs, chlorine gas, and other weapons on innocent women and children in markets, schools and hospitals, he bragged that the 'liberation' of Aleppo would be a 'historic event' that will end the war in Syria and be remembered long into the future.

Al-Assad has promised to regain control of all of Syria, but after the "easy" battles in Aleppo and Ghouta, his final victory is nowhere in sight, and he may not even succeed in the battles of Daraa in the south and Idlib in the north. The Hill and Washington Times and Russia Today and Independent (London)

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Israel and Russia reach agreement to keep Iran out of Syria's south

According to reports from Saudi and Israeli media, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met in Moscow with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, while President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Syria on the phone.

The reports indicate that they reached agreement that Russia would prevent Iranian and Hezbollah forces from occupying a 40 km buffer zone in southern Syria along Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

Furthermore, Russia gave Israel the "green light" to launch military operations against any threatening target, except positions of the forces of the Syrian regime itself.

Israel has been concerned that Iran and Hezbollah could build up troops and weapons in Syria along the border with the Golan Heights, and launch attacks on Israel from there. Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed concern to the Russians that an Iranian buildup on the border could lead to a war between Israel and Iran, something that Russia does not want. This security issue is apparently the main argument that Israel used to convince Russia to keep the Iranians out of the buffer zone.

However, the agreement is far less than Israel actually wants, which is the forced withdrawal of all Iranian troops and weapons from Syria. In the last few years, Israel has conducted repeated airstrikes on Iranian targets, apparently with the blessing of the Russians, who control the airspace over Syria.

However, a report from Debka, says that there is no agreement between Russia and Israel at all. Debka's reports are written from Israel's point of view, based on military and intelligence sources that provide valuable insights. However, as usual, I have to warn readers that they definitely do get some things wrong.

According to the latest Debka report:

"Contrary to widespread reports, Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah forces were moving into southern Syria on Friday, June 1 opposite the Jordanian and Israeli (Golan) borders. ...

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources stress once against that no agreement exists between Russia and Israel, or Russia and Iran and Syria for Iranian and Hizballah forces to exit southern Syria. It stands to reason that Tehran will never accept a deal to remove its military personnel from the south while Israel is left free to carry on striking Iranian military targets in other parts of Syria. Reports of deals are being pumped out from Russian sources alone."

Prior to the announcement of the Israeli-Russian agreement, Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called on all non-Syrian forces to withdraw from Syria's southern border, as soon as possible. This would include Iranian and Hezbollah forces. Asharq Al-Awsat (Saudi Arabia) and Jerusalem Post and Bloomberg and Debka (Israel) and Jerusalem Post

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Jun-18 World View -- Israel makes deal with Russia as Syria's al-Assad makes anti-US rant thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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1-Jun-18 World View -- Israel hopeful that Egypt's mediation has ended Gaza violence - for now

Egypt mediates a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel hopeful that Egypt's mediation has ended Gaza violence - for now


Hamas rally in Gaza
Hamas rally in Gaza

As another round of Gaza border violence after Friday prayers is possible again today, Israeli officials are hoping that a ceasefire mediated by Egypt will hold.

For weeks, starting on March 30, there would be clash between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army on the border between Gaza and Israel. The clashes peaked on May 14, when 62 Gazans were killed, and hundreds of injured. According to Hamas, 50 of the 62 killed were members of Hamas, while the other 12 were civilians.

The latest burst of violence began on Tuesday evening of this week when, according to Israel's military, 180 Iranian-made rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel, reaching over six miles into Israeli territory. The rocket attack continued through Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning. Seven Israelis were reported wounded by shrapnel in the rocket and mortar attack.

Hamas is the governing authority in Gaza, but it's believed that the rockets and mortars were launched not by Hamas but by another Gaza terror group, Islamic Jihad. It's not clear whether Hamas knew about the attacks in advance.

Israeli warplanes retaliated for the attacks by striking by striking 65 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets throughout Gaza, according to the Israeli military. These targets included a tunnel that traversed Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and penetrated half a mile into Israel. No casualties were reported in Gaza. Israeli forces targeted encampments that appeared to have been vacated in anticipation of attack. AFP and Israel National News (16-May) and Haaretz

Egypt mediates a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

The events on Tuesday and Wednesday were a major escalation of violence, the worst since the 67-day summer war between Israel and Gaza in 2014. United Nations officials expressed concern that the Gaza war would be restarted in full force.

The fighting stopped on both sides on Wednesday morning, thanks to a ceasefire agreement mediated by Egypt. The ceasefire agreement also included a new attempt to reconcile the differences between the two political factions, Hamas in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, led by Mahmoud Abbas. Israeli officials are hoping that the ceasefire will hold, but new demonstrations are planned for next week on Tuesday, June 5.

After the 2014 Gaza War, Egypt brokered a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the PA, to form a "unity government". The new government would contain ministers and MPs from both Hamas and Fatah, and would govern both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The concept of a Palestinian unity government has never been more than a delusional fantasy. After several decades of living separately in the Gaza and the West Bank, they are no longer a single Palestinian people. The two groups are as different as the French and the English.

Hamas has repeatedly refused to relinquish any of its control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas has tried squeezing Hamas economically in several ways, such as by cutting payments to Israel for the electricity that Israel supplies to Gaza. This led to sharp reductions in power in Gaza, less than four hours on many days.

Hamas is facing its worst crisis in years, with a severe cash shortage, living conditions being compared to an "open air prison," and unemployment rate of 40%. Hamas has lost several former allies -- the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria and Iran -- because of the coup in Egypt, and because Mideast wars in Syria and Yemen have dried up resources by former donors.

Hamas became so desperate that last year it agreed to some of the terms of the proposed unity government, including giving the PA some governing authority in Gaza. However, these attempts at reconciliation fizzled as quickly as they started.

However, the core differences are insurmountable without war. Hamas and PA will never reconcile, just as Hamas and Israel will never reconcile. The two-state solution is a fantasy.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Jews and the Arabs will have a major new war, re-fighting the bloody the war of 1948-49 that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The war between Jews and Arabs will be part of a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other. Generational Dynamics predicts that in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, the "axis" of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries will be pitted against the "allies," the US, India, Russia and Iran. Egypt Today and RTE (Ireland) and Washington Post

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Jun-18 World View -- Israel hopeful that Egypt's mediation has ended Gaza violence - for now thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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31-May-18 World View -- Malaysia shocked when 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister

Mahathir promises to reduce Malaysia's debt and China's influence

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Malaysia shocked when 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister


92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad wins election to become prime minister (EPA)
92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad wins election to become prime minister (EPA)

Malaysia and the world were shocked on May 8 when the party 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad won 113 out of a total of 222 seats in the parliament, making Mahathir the new prime minister.

Mahathir defeated the incumbent prime minister Najib Razak, and it's believed that his surprising victory had to do with money. Voters were sickened by a scandal having to do with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), where the government cannot account for how billions of dollars were spent, though Najib denies any wrongdoing. However, six countries, including the United States, are investigating transactions related to the project.

Voters were also increasingly anxious about the country's increasing indebtedness, especially to China. Malaysia's relationship with China dominated the election campaign, as it has in many election campaigns in the past. Malaysians like the money that China invests in infrastructure projects, but are anxious about indebtedness to China and to the growing communities of Chinese workers.

Mahathir was previously prime minister from 1981 to 2003. He was a typical authoritarian leader, jailing and torturing the opposition, shutting down anti-government media, scorning human rights, and sometimes languishing in open anti-Semitism.

According to one story, he was accused of being "an angry man and will burn the whole country with his anger," and he responded:

"Yes, I am a very angry man, you can see how angry I am. I will burn you, I am always burning things."

As we've seen in many other countries, being a bloody, brutal leader doesn't harm his popularity, and may improve it. South China Morning Post (10-May) and Reuters (27-April) and Bloomberg (7-May) and Reuters (23-May)

Mahathir promises to reduce Malaysia's debt and China's influence


Chinese investment projects in Malaysia (SCMP)
Chinese investment projects in Malaysia (SCMP)

In the past few years, Prime Minister Najib Razak vastly expanded the extent of Malaysia's economic engagement with China, particular as a result of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, the country is now $251 billion in debt, and the new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has committed to reducing the debt.

Mahathir is planning harsh cutbacks. At a press briefing just after he was elected, he announced that 17,000 contractual employees would be dismissed, and ministers' salaries would be reduced by 10%.

A particularly sensitive cutback will be to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board, in one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries. Houston-based Ocean Infinity has been hired to search for the plane in the Indian Ocean, under the condition that they will be paid $70 million, but only if they succeed. Mahathir is reviewing that contract, along with many others, for possible cancellation.

Mahathir's first major canceled infrastructure project wasn't a Chinese investment at all. It's a planned high-speed rail link connecting Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur, with Singapore. The price tag is $17 billion. Mahathir told reporters that "It's not beneficial," but in Singapore there are concerns that the hostile relationship between Malaysia and Singapore in the previous Mahathir administration is now returning.

The biggest Chinese infrastructure project under scrutiny is the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL). This is an important part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The rail link will connect several eastern Malaysian ports on the South China Sea to Kuala Lumpur, and then to the Strait of Malacca on the west coast.

Objections to previous Chinese infrastructure investments in Malaysia have focused on the presence of thousands of Chinese workers, heavy dependence on Chinese materials, and limited opportunities for local companies. In order to respond to those objections, and to avoid a repeat of past problems, former prime minister Najib said the link would create 80,000 jobs and the Chinese project operator would be obliged to give at least 70 percent of these to local workers.

The Chinese construction firm is offering to provide a loan of 85% of the $14 billion project value, with a grace period of seven years. However, many Malaysians are familiar with the "debt trap" disaster that occurred in Sri Lanka, and many are calling the ECRL project "the next Sri Lanka." The reference is to the Port of Hambantota, a Chinese infrastructure project in Sri Lanka, funded with a loan from China, with almost all the labor performed by Chinese workers. Sri Lanka was unable to repay the loan, and the government was forced to give the Port to China. So now Sri Lanka has a port owned by China, and a large Chinese enclave, with no benefit to itself and to its own people.

Mahathir would like to cancel the ECRL contract, but is discovering that it's not possible. According to the contract signed with China by the Najib government, Malaysia will have to pay billions of dollars of the loan plus interest, within three months of default. Mahathir hopes at least that costs can be reduced by eliminating some parts of the ECRL infrastructure. Malaysia Insight and CNN and CNBC and Reuters and Bloomberg and The Diplomat

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-May-18 World View -- Malaysia shocked when 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-May-2018) Permanent Link
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30-May-18 World View -- Philippine President Duterte reverses position, says he would go to war with China over South China Sea

China raises 'combat readiness' as US-China relations become increasingly hostile

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Philippine President Duterte reverses position, says he would go to war with China over South China Sea


 Philippine President Duterte warns China over South China Sea development (AP)
Philippine President Duterte warns China over South China Sea development (AP)

Ever since taking office, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has sided with China, refusing to take a position opposing China's illegal activities in the South China Sea. This is particularly ironic for the president of the Philippines, since it was the Philippines that brought the lawsuit in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which ruled that all of China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal and in violation of international law.

As recently as two weeks ago, Duterte was defending his refusal to challenge China's activities in the South China Sea. Duterte said that the court ruling came before he took office, but he had no choice but to support China anyway:

"It did not come during my term. But then again, if I were the President at that time, what could I have done? I can send my Marines there. I can send every policeman there. But what will happen? They will all be massacred."

Duterte's decision was never particularly popular with the Philippines people. Polls show that China's favorable rating is around 54%, while America's approval rating is around 92%. Basically, the people of China and the people of the Philippines hate each other for historical reasons.

But now apparently Duterte has been stung by recent reports that China is basing bombers and cruise missiles on the illegal artificial islands. Furthermore, the Philippines is within range of these bombers and missiles. This has apparently infuriated a lot of people in the Philippines.

So Duterte's Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday announced that Duterte is setting some "red lines" which, if crossed by China, would lead to war:

"What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal].

Another red line is: Nobody can get natural resources there on their own.

That's what the president said. If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war. He said: 'Bahala na.' He will go to war. So those were our red lines."

According to the internet, "Bahala Na!" is a Tagalog expression that perfectly encapsulates the typical Filipino attitude towards life. The oft-used phrase Bahala Na can be translated into English as: Come what may. What happens will happen. Scholars tend to label it as a form of fatalism. Inquirer (Philippines, 21-May) and Philippines Star and Tagalog Language

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China raises 'combat readiness' as US-China relations become increasingly hostile

Two U.S. Navy warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) on Sunday in the South China Sea, near islands occupied by China in the Paracel Islands. This is the location where, as we reported several days ago, China is building barracks capable of housing thousands of soldiers.

According to China's foreign ministry:

"The US Warships' unauthorized entry into China's territorial waters off the [Paracel] Islands again has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, severely undermined China's sovereignty and put in jeopardy the peace, security and sound order in relevant waters. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the relevant act of the US, and strongly urges it to immediately stop such provocation that infringes upon China's sovereignty and threatens China's security. China will continue to take every necessary measure to safeguard its sovereignty and security."

It's laughable for China to reference "international law," when China itself does not recognize international law. As for Chinese law, who care? If China won't recognize international law, then why should we recognize Chinese law?

The "relevant international law" is the Tribunal ruling that all of China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal, which means that Chinese officials are international criminals.

Relations between the US and China in the South China Sea are becoming increasingly hostile. China is building hundreds of buildings on its illegal islands, as we recently reported, allowing thousands of troops to be stationed there.

Shortly before that, China announced that it has begun landing bombers on the artificial islands it created in the South China sea, in preparation for the Battle of the South China Sea. And that announcement came just two weeks after China deployed offensive cruise and surface-to-air missiles in South China Sea.

The US responded by withdrawing an invitation for China to take part in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Drill, because China's activities in the South China Sea "raise tensions and destabilize the region." This was followed by Sunday's FONOP, which was different from previous FONOPs because it used two warships instead of just one.

China's foreign ministry threat, was followed by reports that the U.S. Navy considers that the actions of Chinese warships on Sunday was "safe but unprofessional," because the Chinese ships maneuvered erratically.

In the last two days, there have been additional reports about China's militarization of its illegal islands.

China announced that it has set up an "intelligent microgrid" that will supply electricity to weapons systems on all of China's artificial islands. According to Chinese media:

"The microgrid also aids military personnel and weaponry, analysts said.

Stable electricity underwrites military stations and daily military operations in the South China Sea. Surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, for example, need not depend solely on electric vehicles, said Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator.

The service life of weaponry can be extended by reducing their reliance on self-contained chargers, Song told the Global Times on Monday.

Stable electricity was also critical at armories and arms depots for handling the high temperatures, humidity and salinity of the islands, Song noted."

According another report in Chinese media, China is aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons:

"China is aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons, conducting an average of five tests a month to simulate nuclear blasts, according to a major Chinese weapons research institute.

Its number of simulated tests has in recent years outpaced that of the United States, which conducts them less than once a month on average. ...

Over the past three years, Chinese nuclear scientists have performed more such tests than their American counterparts have in 15 years.

In tunnels deep under mountains in Mianyang, southwestern Sichuan province, where China’s main nuclear design facilities are based, loud blasts from these experiments can be heard more than once a week.

In comparison, between 2003 and 2017, the US fired a total of 150 simulated shots at its Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (Jasper) facility at the Nevada National Security Site."

These new military developments seem to be coming more and more quickly, as if China is rushing to meet a target date to launch a war. I've seen one estimate that the target date is 2020, but it could just as easily be 2019 or 2021. Foreign Ministry of China and AP and Global Times (Beijing) and South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and Sputnik News (Moscow)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-May-18 World View -- Philippine President Duterte reverses position, says he would go to war with China over South China Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-May-2018) Permanent Link
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29-May-18 World View -- Italy's 'populist' government collapses, threatening eurozone exit

Italy's president Mattarella selects a 'technocrat' as prime minister

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Italy's 'populist' government collapses, threatening eurozone exit


Italy's parliament building
Italy's parliament building

Last week, we reported on the formation of a 'populist' coalition between the left-wing Five Star Movement (M5S), led by Luigi Di Maio, and the right-wing La Lega (The (Northern) League), led by Matteo Salvini.

Although the two parties differ on many issues, and distrust each other greatly, they decided to form a coalition based on their shared anti-euro, anti-EU and anti-immigrant policies, and particularly on the fact that they have no fiscal discipline whatsoever.

Di Maio and Salvini chose Giuseppe Conte, an obscure law professor with no political experience, to serve as prime minister, to be confirmed by the parliament.

But they also chose Paolo Savona to be finance minister, someone who at one time in the past raised objections to Italy joining the eurozone. Following constitutional procedure, Conte submitted Savona's name to Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella. Mattarella, who is staunchly pro-Europe, vetoed the choice of Savona, based on his previous statements about the eurozone, even though he says that he no longer believes them. Conte resigned, and the entire proposed government collapsed.

This infuriated Di Maio and Salvini, who claimed that Mattarella was catering to the demands of Brussels and Berlin, rather than to the will of the people of Italy. Di Maio called for the impeachment of Mattarella, something unlikely to be successful under Italy's constitutional system.

Salvini demanded new elections, believing that his Northern League would gain addition seats in parliament. "In a democracy, if we are still in democracy, there's only one thing to do, let the Italians have their say," he said. Deutsche Welle and CNBC and Handelsblatt (Berlin)

Italy's president Mattarella selects a 'technocrat' as prime minister

President Mattarella said he vetoed Savona's appointment as that would have "alarmed markets and investors, Italians and foreigners." He pointed out that the threat of leaving the eurozone was causing investors to increase the bond spread. (This means that investors are losing faith in Italy's ability to repay its debt, and so investors are forcing Italy to pay higher interest rates when it borrows money.)

Indeed, Italy's economy is at crisis levels. Today, Italian debt stands at around €2.17 trillion, or 133% of gross domestic product (GDP). That's worse than Greece's situation when it was being bailed out in 2010. At that time, Greece's debt as "only" 127% of GDP.

The Di Maio-Salvini plan was to simply ignore Italy's crushing debt, and spend a lot more money, give away a lot of free stuff such as a guaranteed income, and reduce taxes.

Even more ominous was a hare-brained plan to issue a new kind of government bond, called a mini-Bot. (Bots are Buoni Ordinari del Tesoro, a common Italian Treasury bill or short-term credit note.) The mini-Bots would be backed by expected tax receipts in the future, meaning that the government would be spending future income before they even had it. Furthermore, the mini-Bots could be used to pay for taxes or other payments to the government, giving the feeling that mini-Bots were a new Italian currency. There would be nothing to prevent stores from accepting mini-Bots as payment, or to prevent brokers from establishing a black market exchange rate between the mini-Bot and the euro.

The mini-Bot proposal means that the Di Maio-Salvini government could, at some time in the future, repudiate its euro-based debt, leave the eurozone, and use the mini-Bots as currency.

This was all apparently too much for president Mattarella, and he vetoed the selection of Paolo Savona as finance minister, causing the entire government to collapse.

In order to stabilize the markets, Mattarella decided to make Carlo Cottarelli the new prime minister. Cottarelli will be a "technocrat," meaning that he won't be implementing any political policies, but will only do the bare minimum to keep the government running, until there can be new elections at the beginning of next year.

Carlo Cottarelli is a former official from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and he is known as "Mr. Scissors" because of his cost-cutting policies. So investors' concerns should be soothed, provided Cottarelli is able to govern. But it's not clear that he can govern. He will receive no support from Di Maio or Salvini, and little or no support in parliament from MPs for the Five-Star Movement or The League. That means that Cottarelli will be unable to get the parliament to pass his proposed budget, and that will cause Cottarelli's government to collapse just as quickly as Conte's government collapsed.

In that case, there will be an emergency election in August or September. If Matteo Salvini is right, then the furious voters will elect even more MPs from the two populist parties, to get revenge for what they see as foreign interference from Brussels or Berlin. The next election will be seen as a referendum on whether Italy should stay in the eurozone, so president Mattarella's move to force the Di Maio-Salvini government to collapse may be what causes Italy to leave the eurozone after all. Sputnik News and Guardian (London) and The Street

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-May-18 World View -- Italy's 'populist' government collapses, threatening eurozone exit thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-May-2018) Permanent Link
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28-May-18 World View -- Dozens killed in English-speaking Cameroon region by French-speaking government police

US Ambassador Peter Barlerin accuses Cameroon government of 'targeted killings'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Dozens killed in English-speaking Cameroon region by French-speaking government police


Youth wearing a T-shirt protesting the 'Francophonization' of Anglophones (Deutsche Welle)
Youth wearing a T-shirt protesting the 'Francophonization' of Anglophones (Deutsche Welle)

Twenty-two people were killed on Friday in the Anglophone (English-speaking) region of Cameroon by army and security forces from the Francophone (French-speaking) government of 85-year-old president Paul Biya, who has been in power for more than 35 years.

This is the latest violence in a growing civil war in the Southern Cameroons, the Anglophone region of Cameroon.

The violence started in November 2016, when peaceful protests began with claims by Anglophone lawyers that the legal and court systems are biased toward Francophones, with many laws passed without even being translated into English. Anglophone teachers joined in, protesting that all courses in the schools had to be taught in French, and that any use of English was forbidden. The Francophone police responded by committing atrocities.

The atrocities by Francophone security forces grew during 2017, and took a particularly dangerous turn on September 22. What always happens in these situations, as I've described in Syria, Cambodia, Burundi, and a number of other countries, is that government officials feel threated by peaceful protests by the opposition, and respond to the peaceful protests with violence and atrocities. This kind of extreme overreaction leaves everyone stunned and shocked at first, but it doesn't have the intended effect of ending the peaceful protests. Instead, more people from the opposition join the peaceful protests, and this leads to more violence and atrocities by the government. Finally, the activists within the peaceful protesters begin to commit their own acts of violence. Once that happens, the government is free to call all the peaceful protesters "terrorists," and then they can use unbridled violence against all of them, including rape, jailings, and torture.

In Cameroon, the violence and atrocities by Biya's government continued throughout 2017, in various forms. Finally, activists formed a secessionist group called the Liberation Movement of Southern Cameroons. On October 1 of last year, and declared independence for the Southern Cameroons, calling it Ambazonia.

The name Ambazonia comes from the Ambas Bay. The bay which is located in southwestern Cameroon is considered as the boundary between Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon. In 1858, British missionary Alfred Saker founded a settlement for freed slaves at the bay which was later renamed Victoria. Britain established the Ambas Bay Protectorate in 1884 with Victoria as its capital.

Biya's Francophone government responded with massive violence, arresting hundreds of people, and using helicopter gunships to fire on innocent civilians and kill them. Hundreds of people have been killed, and hundreds more are missing. This triggered a mass flight of refugees across the border into neighboring Nigeria.

In an apparent attempt at ethnic cleansing, the Francophone army has burned down dozens of Anglophone villages, and burned down houses with people inside. In response, the separatists have been burning down state buildings and institutions, including schools.

So now there's violence on both sides. The atrocities and violence by the Francophone government targeting the peaceful Anglophone protesters radicalized some Anglophone activists into violence and declaring an independent state of Ambazonia. Now the Anglophone government can claim that tens of thousands of "terrorists" have been killed, jailed, tortured, disappeared, or forced to flee into Nigeria. VOA (27-May) and The Citizen (Tanzania) and VOA (23-May)

US Ambassador Peter Barlerin accuses Cameroon government of 'targeted killings'

Peter Henry Barlerin, the US ambassador to Cameroon, said last week:

"April has proven the bloodiest so things are not getting better.

On the side of the government, there have been targeted killings, detentions without access to legal support, family, or the Red Cross, and burning and looting of villages. On the side of the separatists, there have been murders of gendarmes, kidnapping of government officials, and burning of schools. People on both sides of the conflict have engaged in speech that dehumanizes the opposite side."

Barlerin also "suggested to President Biya that he should reflect on his legacy and how he wants to be remembered in the history books."

However Issa Tchiroma Bakary, spokesman for Cameroon's Francophone government, said:

"We do not accept the infantilization of the Cameroonian nation. It is with full knowledge of the facts that they (Cameroonians) put their ballot in the ballot box.

[The Cameroonian people] are sovereign, and not likely to accept any diktat from whatever power."

The minister described Biya as "a man of honor."

There have been some reports that ambassador Barlerin has returned to Washington, but those reports are unconfirmed. Deutsche Welle (18-May) and Journal du Cameroun and Africa News (20-May) and Journal du Cameroun (24-May)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-May-18 World View -- Dozens killed in English-speaking Cameroon region by French-speaking government police thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-May-2018) Permanent Link
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27-May-18 World View -- U.S. threatens 'firm measures' against al-Assad's military action in Deraa, Syria

Syria passes new 'Law #10' to block refugees from returning home after the war

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

U.S. threatens 'firm measures' against al-Assad's military action in Deraa, Syria


A bulldozer clears debris from the streets in Deraa, Syria July 25, 2017 (Reuters)
A bulldozer clears debris from the streets in Deraa, Syria July 25, 2017 (Reuters)

The U.S. State Department is warning the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. will take "firm and appropriate measures," if al-Assad violates a ceasefire deal in the southern province of Deraa.

The U.S. warning was triggered when Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on Deraa, threatening a military offensive. One of the leaflets includes a picture showing lined up bodies, saying, "This is the inevitable fate of anyone who insists on carrying arms."

By means of massive bombing campaigns by Syrian and Russian warplanes, especially targeting women and children in hospitals, schools and markets, including the use of barrel bombs containing chlorine and sometimes Sarin gas, the al-Assad regime has almost completed taking control of the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus. The dropping of leaflets indicates that al-Assad plans next to turn his attention to Deraa.

Deraa is a critical region because it's on the border with Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, so action by Syria and its allies Iran and Hezbollah could spiral into a escalating military clash with Israel. Deraa is a mostly Sunni Arab province under the control of almost a dozen anti-Assad rebel groups, varying in ideology from moderate to jihadist. Some reports indicate that Israel has provided support for rebels and civilians in Deraa, treating them in their hospitals and providing weapons and other aid. The National (Abu Dhabi) and Sputnik (Moscow) and Al Jazeera (Doha)

US State Department warns the Syrian regime of 'firm and appropriate measures'

On Friday evening, State Department spokesman Heather Nauert issued a statement warning of "firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations" in Deraa:

"The United States is concerned by reports of an impending Assad regime operation in southwest Syria within the boundaries of the de-escalation zone negotiated between the United States, Jordan, and the Russian Federation last year and reaffirmed between Presidents Trump and Putin in Da Nang, Vietnam in November. The United States remains committed to maintaining the stability of the southwest de-escalation zone and to the ceasefire underpinning it. We also caution the Syrian regime against any actions that risk broadening the conflict or jeopardize the ceasefire. As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations.

The Presidents of the United States and Russia agreed in Da Nang to de-escalate the conflict. This agreement must be enforced and respected. Russia has declared to the world and to the UNSC that it will “guarantee” ceasefires in its self-declared de-escalation zones. Unfortunately, the Assad regime, with the support of Russia and Iran, has repeatedly violated these de-escalation zones, most recently in its brutal assault on East Ghouta. The Assad regime and its allies continue to prolong the conflict by ignoring their own de-escalation agreements and stonewalling the Geneva process.

Russia is duly responsible as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to use its diplomatic and military advantage over the Assad regime to stop attacks and compel the Assad regime to cease further military offensives. Russia has blocked UN Security Council actions that would have held Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons and possibly saved innocent lives in Syria 11 times so far in this conflict. Six of those vetoes related to the use of chemical weapons, and others were providing humanitarian access and aid, and ceasing attacks against civilians. Russia should live up to its self-professed commitments in accordance with UNSCR 2254 and the southwest ceasefire, embodied in the Da Nang Statement issued by Presidents Trump and Putin."

This would not be the first time that Syrian-backed attacks on a "US-enforced de-escalation zone" in Syria. On February 7, Syrian-backed forces tried to cross the Euphrates River to attack US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir az-Zour in eastern Syria. The result was a disaster for the Syrian forces, as several hundred were killed, and the rest were forced to flee in retreat.

I referred to this incident in yesterday's World View article, since it's emerged that the Syrian-backed forces were actually mercenaries working for the Russian military contractor Wagner Private Military Company (Wagner PMC). Wagner is sometimes called "Vladimir Putin's personal army," referring to the president of Russia, and is often asked to perform Putin's "dirty work," allowing him deniability.

Bashar al-Assad has stated that his objective is to regain control of all of Syria. But anti-Assad rebels still control large contiguous areas of territory in the northwest and southwest. Kurdish and allied Arab militia in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), back by the US hold the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates. RTE (Dublin) and US State Dept. and Debka (Israel) and The National (Abu Dhabi)

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Syria passes new 'Law #10' to block refugees from returning home after the war

On April 2, the Syrian government of the Bashar al-Assad regime passed "Law #10," a complex new property law that requires property holders in Syria to produce documentation to formally prove ownership of their private property within a period of 30 days, or face confiscation.

There are six million internally displaced refugees in Syria, and five million that have fled to other countries, with 3.5 million in Turkey, almost one million in Lebanon, another million in Iraq and Jordan, and over a million in Europe.

The intention has always been that these refugees would return home when the war ended, al-Assad's clear intention is to make that impossible, since their homes will be confiscated unless they can return quickly with the proper documentation, which is obviously impossible for the vast majority.

Even worse, any property owner wishing to register his lands must first obtain approval from state security officials, which means that anyone identified as having had anti-Assad sympathies can be arrested.

Every time I think that this psychopathic monster Bashar al-Assad can't get any worse, he fools me by coming up with something new and horrific beyond belief. Al-Assad has been conducting genocide and ethnic cleansing against Arab Sunnis in Syria, and now he's taking steps to make sure that anyone who fled his violence can't even return home. Al-Assad is the worst genocidal monster and war criminal so far this century, comparable to Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot in the last century.

Lebanon is a country of four million people, and has had its resources enormously strained by a million refugees that officials had hoped would one day go home. Lebanon's prime minister Saad Hariri lambasted the legislation, saying, "This total invention of Decree 10 has no purpose but to prevent these displaced from going back to their country." Daily Star (Lebanon) and AFP and Syria Direct (17-Apr) and Needa (Syria, 5-Apr) and SANA (Damascus, 2-Apr) (Trans)

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-May-18 World View -- U.S. threatens 'firm measures' against al-Assad's military