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Web Log - November, 2020


28-Nov-20 World View -- Australia-China relations become more toxic through boycotts and accusations

China's official list of 14 blunt complaints about Australia's government

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Australia-China relations become more toxic through boycotts and accusations

Australian crayfish are one of the products targeted by China (9News)
Australian crayfish are one of the products targeted by China (9News)

The toxic relationship between the government of Australia and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has become incresingly apparent after a blunt verbal CCP attack on Australia's government, accusing it of "poisoning bilateral relations," at the same time the China is escalating its economic boycotts and blacklisting of imports from Australia.

Commenting on China's action, a CCP official said to Australian officials: "China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy."

On Friday, China announced 107% to 212% tariffs on wine imported from Australia. This is only the latest economic attack by China on Australia. In recent months, China has been blacklisting one Australian product after another, including lobster, cherries, beef, sugar, cotton, barley and timber. Another blacklisted import is coal. More than 50 ships have been anchored off Chinese ports for months waiting to deliver $500 million of Australian ports.

However, the most important commodity that China imports from Australia remains untouched -- the $60 billion worth of iron ore that Australia exports to China annually, and which China desperately needs.

Although these disputes have been simmering for years, China began an extremely agressive series of economic attacks on Australia in April, when Australian officials called for a joint international investigation of the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Australia's announcement was thought to be targeting China, which has repeatedly tried to dodge responsibility for the Wuhan Coronavirus.

Earlier this year, the CCP was blaming the US army for developing the virus and somehow secretly spreading it in China's Wuhan wet markets. Lately, CCP officials have been promoting a bizarre claim that the virus originated elsewhere and arrived in China on frozen food packaging.

So an Australian call for an international investigation on the origins of the virus has brought about the CCP's usual hysterical rantings and threats and demands that everyone shut up and do as China tells them. However, this time, the CCP has backed up its hysterical rantings with the boycott of Australia's products.

The CCP has also been infuriated by Australia's criticisms of China's National Security Law, which has effectively ended the Hong Kong democracy that was supposed to last until at least 2047.

China's bribery and extortion

Bribery and extortion are the CCP's standard foreign policy tools, and China has used these tools for years to force dozens of countries to involuntarily end diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Now China is using the same techniques against a much larger country, Australia.

Australia’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says that China's tactics fail will only damage China's standing abroad.

"The fundamental point is this: when someone tries to coerce you or bully you, threaten you, you can’t take a backward step.

If you do, then all that will do is invite more coercive activity. The best thing that can happen, frankly, is for this episode to come to an end, and for Australia and China to get back to a traditional, businesslike relationship.

Has it won China more influence? No. Has it won China more friends [or] persuaded other countries to be more compliant? No ... if the object of your foreign policy is, among other things, to win friends and increase your influence in the world, how is any of this helpful?"

Turnbull is saying in calm diplomatic terms the same thing that I've been saying for years: That the CCP policies are insane, and always make any situation worse.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, mutual relations between China and Australia have become increasingly hostile for the last few years, and as the populations of both countries are becoming increasingly nationalistic and belligerent in the generational Crisis era, this worsening situation will lead to war.

This is also a good time to respond to the frequently heard statements like, "Countries A and B will never go to war, because trade between the two countries is good, and war will be bad for business." If this were true, there would never have been a war. What actually happens is that trade does not prevent a war. Instead, trade makes the situation worse, because the stronger trading partner uses trade as one more weapon of war, as we're seeing now in the case of China and Australia.

China's official list of 14 blunt complaints about Australia's government

Last week, in another incredibly bizarre CCP move, a sheet of paper containing 14 blunt complaints about Australia's government was leaked to three Australian news agencies. In other words, these were official complaints by the CCP, but instead of notifying Australia's government directly, or instead of posting them on a web site, the Chinese Embassy called up reporters and scheduled meetings, but said nothing at the meetings except to hand over, in each case, the sheet of paper.

The list included complaints about Australia's banning Huawei's 5G routers on national security grounds, complaints about speaking out about the South China Sea, and complaints about "siding with the US" anti-China campaign.

The following is the official list of 14 complaints, as they were printed on the Embassy officials sheet of paper:

In other words, shut up and do as you're told.

National security threat of China's Huawei 5G networks

This is a good time to repeat the situation with China's 5G routers. It is absolutely certain that these routers contain "backdoors" that permit China's military not only to spy on any traffic traveling through them, but also to control them, possibly shutting down entire networks in time of war.

First off, I'm the expert on this subject, not some reporter or politician who majored in sociology or women's studies in college. I spent five years of my career developing board-level operating systems for embedded systems, so I know how easy it would be to install a "backdoor" into a device that would allow the device to be controlled remotely by China's military. Furthermore, an implementation that uses public/private key encryption technology could be designed in such a way that the backdoor could not be detected, even by someone who suspects that the backdoor is there.

I have the skills to do this fairly easily, and there are undoubtedly many Chinese engineers with the same skills. So it would be very easy for Huawei to install undetectable backdoors into all its devices, allowing the devices to be controlled by China's military. Furthermore, in 2017, the CCP passed the National Intelligence Law, which demands that all organizations, including Huawei, "support, cooperate with, and collaborate with" China's military in collecting intelligence, even when doing so is illegal. That makes it certain that Huawei's routers can be controlled remotely by China's military.

So any country or company that has installed Huawei networks and devices can be easily spied on by China's military, and the network can be controlled or shut down by China's military, for example at time of war.


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22-Nov-20 World View -- Afghan 'peace talks' threatened by terrorist rocket attack on Kabul

Conflicting American values in Vietnam and Afghanistan

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Afghan 'peace talks' threatened by terrorist rocket attack on Kabul

Taliban fighters relax after lunch (Washington Post)
Taliban fighters relax after lunch (Washington Post)

A terrorist barrage of dozens of rockets were fired into residential areas of the the heavily fortified Green Zone of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city, killing at least eight civilians and wounding dozens more on Saturday.

The Taliban, which is engaged with the United States in so-called "peace talks" taking place in Doha, Qatar, has denied responsibility for the attack.

On the other hand, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks. ISIS is a terrorist group, imported from Syria, in competition with the Taliban to win the prize as the better terrorists.

This occurs amid the backdrop of negotiations taking place in Doha, Qatar, between representatives of America and the Taliban. For a long time, the Taliban refused to allow the Afghan government of president Ashraf Ghani to send representatives to the negotiations, but they've generously lifted that restriction in the last few months. However, as I understand it, the Taliban and Afghan government do not talk to each other, but only engage in "proximity talks." This hilarious phrase means that the two groups are in separate rooms, and a negotiator trots back and forth between the rooms to further the "talks."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Doha on Saturday, where he met separately with the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators. Presumably, Pompeo served as the proximity talk mediator on this occasion.

According to reports, the talks have not even reached the stage for producing a timeline. The original claim was that the Taliban would end its terrorist violence, but, as I understand it, the current demand is that the Taliban "tone down" the violence. (Believe it or not, that's the phrase used by an analyst on tv.)

So the peace talks are a huge joke, and have never been anything but a huge joke. But they do have one purpose: They provide political cover for the Trump administration to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, which was a campaign promise made by Donald Trump. Trump had claimed that he would get all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2020.

He didn't accomplish that, but he did go ahead with announcement that shocked a lot of people. First, on November 9, he fired his Defense Secretary Mike Esper, apparently because Esper opposed removing any troops from Afghanistan. Trump replaced Esper with an acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who announced on November 17 that 2,000 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by mid-January. That would reduce the troop level from 4,500 to 2,500.

No one seriously believes that the Taliban will adhere to commitments made in a peace deal once the American troops are all withdrawn. The Taliban want Afghanistan to be governed by the Taliban, as it was prior to 9/11/2001, after which US forces declared war on Afghanistan, a war that's still going on. The Taliban want the war to end and want American troops gone, so that they can go back to hardline jihadist policies, such as closing girls' schools, as well as beating, raping and torturing the Hazaras and other ethnic enemies.

So why did ISIS launch Saturday's terrorist attack? Since ISIS and the Taliban are enemies, they presumably wish to sabotage the peace talks, so that the Taliban can't over the whole country. We'll probably know within a few months.

We may also know within a few months whether the American withdrawal will destabilize the relationships among other countries in the region -- China, Pakistan and India. These countries all have an interest in Afghanistan and have benefited from the American presence, and may now feel it necessary to fill the vacuum created if the Americans leave.

Why the Afghan peace agreement must fail

In 2007, president George Bush launched a "surge" policy in the Iraq war which, much to the surprise of many people, actually worked and won the Iraq war.

So in 2009, president Barack Obama decided that what worked in Iraq would also work in Afghanistan. As I wrote at the the time, and have written many times since then, Iraq and Afghanistan are completely different situations, and a "surge" that worked in Iraq would not work in Afghanistan. This prediction has, of course, turned out to be completely correct.

A summary of the reasoning is as follows: Afghanistan's last generational crisis war was an extremely bloody, horrific civil war, in 1991-96. The war was a civil war, fought between the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban are radicalized Pashtuns, and when they need to import foreign fighters, then can import their cousins from the Pashtun tribes in Pakistan.

Indeed, it's much worse than that. The ethnic groups in Afghanistan are COMPLETELY NON-UNITED and loathe each other. Pashtuns still have scores to settle with the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks that formed the Northern Alliance, especially the Shias. These opposing groups have fresh memories of the atrocities, torture, rape, beatings, dismemberments, mutilations, and so forth that the other side performed on their friends, wives and other family members, and they have no desire to be friends or to work together. They'd rather kill each other.

Obama's surge policy failed because it had to. Obama never had any clue what's going on in the world, so his multiple foreign policy failures aren't surprising. In addition, he appointed that idiot John Kerry as Secretary of State, who stumbled from one disaster to another making things worse.

When Trump began running for president, it was clear that he also had no clue what was going on in the world. I once mocked him for knowing nothing about other countries except his golf courses. But then he did something that was completely unexpected and surprising: He hired Steve Bannon as his principal advisor. This is something I never dreamed would happen. I had worked off and on with Bannon over a period of years, and he's an expert on both military history and Generational Dynamics analysis. Even before taking office, Trump was educated for a year on foreign affairs by Bannon.

Even after Bannon left the White House, there was still somebody left who knew what was going on in the world -- John Bolton. Bolton left the White House last year, and as far as I know, Trump no longer has anyone who can credibly inform him about what's going on in the world, beyond the catalog of facts you can find in the CIA World Factbook.

By the way, Joe Biden has been hiding out in his basement for a year, and apparently knows less than nothing about anything. But he thinks that it might be a good idea to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, though he isn't sure.

Conflicting American values in Vietnam

Working on my forthcoming book on Vietnam has given me plenty of time to contemplate how American values contradict each other, and how well-meaning presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon tried to navigate through the conflicting values and were often forced to make bad decisions that led to bad outcomes.

After World Wars I and II, a traumatized, exhausted America feared they would be fighting a third world war, this time against the Communists. This anxiety increased as Communism seemed to be on the march everywhere -- behind the Iron Curtain in eastern Europe, in China, in northern Korea, in northern Vietnam, and even in the United States in the form of a strong American Communist Party (CPUSA). It became the highest priority of American foreign policy to stop Communism before it led to World War III.

But American values went far beyond that. America was committed to democracies, and South Vietnam was a young vibrant democracy which was being invaded by Communist North Vietnam. There was no way that the leaders who had survived World War II would have tolerated just standing by and letting the South Vietnamese democracy die at the hands of the Communists.

But there was another American value that was equally strong. America had been a British colony and had won its independence from a colonial power. America valued its independence, and would not tolerate having another country, even a friendly country, interfere in its affairs.

South Vietnam was a democracy that had just won its independence from a colonial power, France. America was interfering in South Vietnam's affairs to defend it from the Communists, and so was violating another American value -- not interfering in the affairs of another democracy.

It was this contradiction in American values that led to contradictions in American policies that led to issues that could be exploited by the antiwar activists and American Communists, using the contradictions to sabotage the American war effort politically, leading to the final defeat, and the American betrayal of the people of South Vietnam.

Conflicting American values in Afghanistan

It's worthwhile exploring those conflicting American values in Vietnam, because exactly the same conflict exists today in Afghanistan. However, this time the enemy is a vicious Islamist terror regime, rather than communism.

On the one hand, there is a strong American drive to preserve the democracy in Afghanistan, and protect it from the Islamist terror regime.

On the other hand, there is a strong American drive to avoid interfering in the Afghan government. With the Americans negotiating in Doha with the Taliban, almost to the exclusion of the official Afghan government, there are major policy contradictions, as there have been for the last 19 years.

These contradictions are now in full force, as Americans try to decide how aggressively to take control in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, or to let the Kabul government make its own decisions. After almost 20 years in Afghanistan, Trump has decided that Americans can't stay there forever, and that it's time to withdraw completely, and let the Taliban take over if that's what's in the cards.

There's another issue. Many American soldiers fought in Afghanistan, and many people lost fathers, brothers and sons there. The same is true of Nato countries. Was all that lost blood and treasure for nothing? Apparently so.

When is a war winnable?

As I work on my forthcoming book on Vietnam, I've also reached some conclusions about when a war is winnable or not winnable.

These conclusions are based on examination of the following wars: Vietnam War, Iraq war, and Afghanistan war. What these three wars have in common is that they're all guerrilla insurgencies -- internal rebellions against the government. Why were we able to win the Iraq war, while losing the Vietnam and Afghanistan war? This analysis does not apply to wars fought by opposing armies.

The insurgency in Vietnam could not be defeated because it was impossible to distinguish between the insurgents and ordinary civilians. The South Vietnamese government adopted a counter-insurgency strategy that had been successfully used a decade earlier by the UK in its Malay colony. In that case, the civilians were indigenous Malays, while the insurgents were ethnic Chinese. The British were able to segregate the Chinese from the Malay population for a simple reason: They looked different. They could easily be distinguished.

The South Vietnamese government adapted this same strategy into something called "strategic hamlets," where North Vietnamese insurgents would be segregated from civilians. This worked for a while, but it had to fail because it was impossible to tell the difference between an ordinary civilian and a Communist insurgent.

President George Bush's "surge" strategy won the Iraq war because the insurgents were quite distinguishable from Iraqi civilians. The insurgent group "al-Qaeda in Iraq" consisted almost entirely of fighters imported from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria. They were not Iraqis, and the Iraqis hated them. That's why the Iraq war was winnable. (See "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq" from April, 2007.)

The Afghan insurgency was hopeless from the beginning. Yes, we were able to quickly defeat the Afghan army after 9/11/2001, but after the situation turned into an insurgency it could not be won because ordinary civilians were ethnic Pashtuns, and so were the Taliban.

The Afghan war turned into a guerrilla insurgency about 15 years ago, and since then it has been unwinnable. This is the justification for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. Sooner or later, we'll have to lose.

Unfortuately, that conflicts with important American values about protecting young democracies. This political battle will be fierce.


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16-Nov-20 World View -- Ethiopia civil war escalates sharply as Tigray Region attacks Eritrea

Generational history of Ethiopia and Eritrea

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Ethiopia civil war escalates sharply as Tigray Region attacks Eritrea

Map of Horn of Africa showing Tigray Region of Ethiopia (VOA)
Map of Horn of Africa showing Tigray Region of Ethiopia (VOA)

The ethnic civil war in Ethiopia escalated sharply on Saturday when the army of the Tigray ethnic group fired missiles at the airport in Asmara, the capital city of the Eritrea, bringing Eritrea into Ethiopia's civil war.

The Tigray ethnic group occupies the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, with Eritrea on its northern border, and Sudan on its western border. Ethiopia's federal government, headed by prime minister Abiy Ahmediat of the Oromo ethnic tribe, is located in the capital city Addis Ababa in central Ethiopia. For the last few weeks, government forces have been attacking Tigray with missiles and militias. The militias are mostly ethnic Amharas, who are historic enemies of the Tigrays. The Amhara region is directly south of the Tigray region.

Over 20,000 refugees from Tigray have abandoned their homes and belongings and have fled into Sudan to refugee camps along the border to escape the violence. Sudanese officials have said that as the fighting escalates, they expect to see 200,000 refugees.

At the same time, terrorist groups from ISIS and al-Shabaab have been entering Ethiopia from Somalia and, according to Ethiopian officials, plotted to attack various parts of the country, seizing the window of opportunity opened by the conflict in the Tigray region.

Ethiopia is a hotbed of tensions between different ethnic groups. There are already growing clashes between other ethnic groups in other parts of Ethiopia, and there are fears that waves of refugees will cross into Kenya and Somalia, possibly destabilizing the entire region.

The Tigray attack on the airport in Asmara, Eritrea, was something of a surprise, and puzzled analysts since it seems to have no purpose except to provoke a retaliatory attack by Eritrea on Tigray.

However, Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), says that the airport was a "legitimate target," since it was being used by Ethiopian forces. "As long as troops are here fighting, we will take any legitimate military target and we will fire. We will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have," he said

Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmediat, launched military operations in Tigray two weeks ago after he accused local authorities of attacking a military camp in the region and attempting to loot military assets. The TPLF denies the charge and has accused the prime minister of concocting the story to justify deploying the offensive.

On Sunday, the Abiy government rejected any calls for a ceasefire:

"With unwavering commitment we will see this project through to the end ... As a sovereign nation, Ethiopia reaffirms its capability and resolve to manage ... its own rule of law operation without any external intervention. ...

The Federal Government of Ethiopia is asserting its constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law according to the laws of the land."

With Abiy unwilling to consider a ceasefire, with the Tigrays attacking Eritrea, and with tens of thousands of refugees pouring into neighboring countries, observers are concerned that this could escalate into a full-scale war in the Horn of Africa.

The rise of prime minister Abiy Ahmediat

Map of Ethiopia showing internal Regions (Bloomberg)
Map of Ethiopia showing internal Regions (Bloomberg)

Ethiopia's last generational crisis war (1975-1991) was a protracted war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) against the vicious Marxist Derg military government in Addis Ababa, which climaxed in 1991 when they were finally toppled by the TPLF. The Tigrays are only 6% of Ethiopia's population but they dominated Ethiopia's government for decades, following the 1991 victory.

The Oromo ethnic group, of which Abiy is a member, and the Amhara ethnic group are the two largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia. During the generational Awakening era, mass protests by these two groups targeted the Tigray coalition government, resulting in a "velvet coup" that brought Abiy to power as prime minister in 2018. At the same time Ethiopia and Eritria signed a peace deal ending a bitter border dispute between the two countries.

Shortly after that, Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize, which is always laughable these days. The TPLF says that, since then, Abiy's government has systematically persecuted Tigrays since he took office. After Abiy became prime minister in April 2018, several high-ranking TPLF officials were prosecuted for human rights abuses and corruption. The TPLF responded by accusing Abiy of targeting them in a politically motivated campaign.

When Abiy’s government delayed this year’s general elections until 2021, citing Covid-19, the TPLF accused the prime minister of using the pandemic to hold on to power beyond his mandate. The TPLF then unilaterally held regional elections in September. The federal government refused to accept the results, and this led to the federal government's military attack on Tigray.

Abiy apparently expects a quick victory against the Tigrays, but analysts point out that the TPLF remains a fighting force of up to 250,000 battle-hardened troops. Furthermore large elements of the Northern Command leadership of the national Ethiopian army are Tigrays, meaning that Abiy cannot expect full loyalty from the army.

Generational history of Ethiopia and Eritrea

Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa

These two countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea, have been linked since at least the second century AD.

Ethiopia adopted Christianity in the 4th century, and was a tribal society ruled by emperors until the 1800s. However, a split between Ethiopia and Eritrea occurred in the 700s with the rise of Islam and the Arab trade along the Red Sea, and what is now Eritrea became part of the Islamic Empire, and later the Ottoman Empire.

Italy colonized the region in the 1860s, in the so-called Scramble for Africa, so named because after it was discovered in the 1850s that malaria could be controlled with quinine, England, Belgium, France, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Germany all competed with each other to colonize different parts of Africa.

In 1869, the Suez Canal opened, connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, and Italian shipping firms became active. Large stretches of Eritrea's coastline were acquired from the local sultans and transferred to Italian control. By the mid-1880s, the Italian army moved into Eritrea, displacing the Ottomans, and challenging the Ethiopian empire.

In 1889, Menelik II rose to the position of Emperor of Ethiopia. The "Italian-Ethiopian War" (1889-1896) was a generational crisis war for Ethiopia. Menelik inflicted on Italy the most humiliating and bloody defeat ever experienced by a colonial power in Africa. In the outcome, Italy retained Eritrea as a Red Sea colony, populating it with thousands of Italian settlers, developing road and rail transport, but doing little to improve the lives of Eritreans.

Ethiopia gained independence, and by 1914 and the beginning of WW I, all of black Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia were European colonies.

By 1935, Eritrea was a colony of Italy, and Ethiopia had a new emperor, one who had taken the title Haile Selassie, meaning "Might of the Trinity," emphasizing the fact that Ethiopia was a largely Christian country.

In October 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered an invasion of Ethiopia, partly in revenge for Italy's humiliating defeat in 1896. Mussolini announced the establishment of a new Italian empire, including Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, under the name Italian East Africa. Haile Selassie fled the country.

When Mussolini brought Italy into World War II on Hitler's side, in June 1940, Haile Selassie won the cooperation of Britain in launching a counterattack against the Italian forces in Italian East Africa. By 1941, Haile Selassie was once again emperor of Ethiopia. After the war, the United Nations made Eritrea a part of Ethiopia, an autonomous federal province with its own constitution and elected government, something that the Muslims in Eritrea strongly opposed.

From the above description, one can see that although World War II was a generational crisis war for Italy and Britain, with part of the war fought on Ethiopian soil, it was not a crisis war for Ethiopia itself. In fact, with the previous crisis war having climaxed in 1896, this was a generational Unraveling era for Ethiopia. In such an era (like America in the 1990s), there is little appetite for war among the general population, except perhaps for quick police actions. Although Ethiopia and Eritrea changed hands several times during the WW II time period, the fighting was mostly between foreign armies, and did not heavily involve the local population.

In the mid-1950s, the region entered a generational Crisis era, and the fault line between Muslims and Christians began to inflame. In 1958, Eritrea's Muslim leaders formed the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), consisting mainly of students, intellectuals, and urban wage laborers. Low-level warfare continued throughout the 1960s.

In the 1970s, the Eritrean independence movement took another turn with the formation of a powerful Marxist offshoot of the ELF, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). Haile Selassie was toppled in 1974, after which factional warfare began to increase.

This might have led to a full-scale generational crisis war, but there was a major development: In 1977, the USSR allied with the Ethiopian government, took control of Eritrea's Red Sea ports, and provided Ethiopia's government with huge supplies of arms, enough to suppress the EPLF guerrillas.

The guerrilla war fought by Marxist rebels against the well-armed Ethiopian government climaxed in May 1991 with the collapse of Ethiopia's government, coincident with the collapse of the USSR. Eritrea finally declared independence. By that time, there were 500,000 refugees that had fled to refugee camps in Sudan, and they had to be resettled in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In 1998, a new 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 never fully implemented, and a new peace deal was signed in 2018.


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11-Nov-20 World View -- Facing military disaster, Armenia agrees to Russian peace deal with Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh

Ethiopia civil war threatens to destabilize horn of Africa

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Facing military disaster, Armenia agrees to Russian peace deal with Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh

Map of Azerbaijan and Armenia, showing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict region (BBC)
Map of Azerbaijan and Armenia, showing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict region (BBC)

Armenia has agreed to a Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal with Azerbaijan, mediated by Russia, rather than face a complete military debacle. Azerbaijani military forces have achieved a string of victories in capturing cities and villages around Nagorno-Karabakh. On Sunday, Azerbaijani forces captured Shusha (Shushi), the region's second-largest town, and were close to attacking the Nagorno-Karabakh capital city Stepanakert, which is on the main road to Armenia.

Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the deal "incredibly painful both for both me and our people." He added, "The army said that we had to stop, because there are problems for which there are no solution, and the army was out of resources."

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said “This (ceasefire) agreement has historic significance. This agreement constitutes Armenia’s capitulation. This agreement puts an end to the years-long occupation."

Vagram Pogosian, a spokesman for the Armenian government in Nagorno-Karabakh, said "Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that a series of failures still haunt us, and the city of Shushi is completely out of our control. The enemy is on the outskirts of Stepanakert.”

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, "We will stand alongside Azerbaijan. This is a great success, a victory for Azerbaijan. Territories that were under occupation for 30 years are being taken back."

This is the fourth mediated cease-fire agreement on the last three months. The previous ones lasted only a day. There are two things that make this one different. First, there is the lingering threat the Azerbaijani military forces will continue on to Stepanakert and take control of the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region. And second, Russia is deploying its own military forces to separate the two sides and prevent a resumption of fighting.

Nagorno-Karabakh's standard generational pattern

This is actually the next step in a standard generational pattern.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region within Azerbaijan, but which has a mostly Armenian population which governs it. Nagorno-Karabakh ("highland Karabakh") is also called Karabakh by Azerbaijan, and the Republic of Artsakh by Armenia. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, an extremely bloody war broke out. Armenia invaded Azerbaijan and defeated the Azeri defenders of Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people displaced or killed.

The war ended in 1994 because of Russia's mediation, but since then it's proceeded according to a standard generational pattern, with periods of peace alternating with periods of low-level violence that grow worse with each iteration. In typical situations, this process continues until at least 58 years after the end of the war, when the survivors of the war are no longer in power, and a new war breaks out. In this case, a new full-scale war would not be anticipated until at least 2052.

So it remains to be seen how long the new cease-fire will last. Maybe it will last only a day like the last one. Or, maybe it will last a couple of years like the cease-fire negotiated in 2016. But you can be absolutely certain that it will not last.

Joyous celebrations in Baku, Azerbaijan

Al-Jazeera is showing video of the streets of Azerbaijan's capital city Baku filled with overjoyed people, dancing, singing, and shouting (without, incidentally, much sign of masks or social distancing).

Joyous, grinning young girls were launghinbly describing how they will now return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, where their parents were displaced in 1994. They chuckled as they said that it won't be long before all of Nagorno-Karabakh is returned to Azerbaijan, so that they can all return to all of their former homes.

One 52-year-old Azeri is quoted as complaining that the government should not have agreed to the cease-fire. "We were about to gain the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh back. The agreement is very vague I don’t trust Armenia and I don’t trust Russia even more.”

Furious rioting in Yerevan, Armenia

The video from Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia was considerably grimmer. Furious citizens are demanding the resignation of Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his entire government, saying that he betrayed the Armenian people, and asking why Pashinyan waited until now to capitulate, after 1,300 Armenian soldiers have already been killed in the fighting.

Rioting broke out in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, where crowds stormed and ransacked government buildings.

Threat of Russia - Turkey clash

As "historic" as the cease-fire agreement is, there are a number of issues remaining.

Russia is claiming to be the kingmaker that brought about the deal, but Turkey was not part of the deal. Turkey was heavily committed to backing Azerbaijan in the fighting, and have even provided hundreds of Syrian jihadists to fight alongside the Azerbaijani forces, according to a number of reports, paying the jihadists pay ranging from $1,200 to $2,000 per month.

Russia and Turkey are historic enemies that have fought massive wars against each other in previous centuries, and are already supporting opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Libya. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to restore the former glory of the ancient Ottoman Empire, and being shut out of the Nagorno-Karabakh cease-fire deal in favor of Russia is contrary to those glorious plans.

According to some reports, the Russians did not want to commit Russian troops to enforce the ceasefire, but felt that they had to because if the fighting continued, it was likely that Russia and Turkey would soon be at war. Russia is supposed to be an ally of Armenia, and has a military base in Armenia, so an increase in fighting could force Russia to defend Armenia from the Turks.

Russian forces are scheduled to remain for at least five years. Almost 2,000 servicemen, 90 armured personnel carriers, and 380 vehicles and pieces of other hardware were being deployed. Russian media said 20 military planes had taken off for the region and had started arriving in Armenia en route to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russia says that there had been no agreement on deploying any Turkish peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the Turkish military will help staff a joint monitoring center with Russian forces.

The Khojaly Massacre, February 26, 1992

According to Azerbaijan, on February 26, 1992, 613 Azeri civilians were massacred by Armenian soldiers in the town of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh. Some 487 people, including 76 children, were critically injured. According to Azerbaijan, this was genocide.

According to Armenia, Khojaly had been used as an Azeri firebase from which to use multi-rocket launches on residential areas of Stepanakert, purposely killing as many Armenian civilians as possible. Everyone knew that an Armenian military attack on Khojaly was coming, but according to Armenia, the Azeri military purposely blocked civilians from leaving Khojaly, so that the attack would result in a massacre of civilians, which they would call a genocide.

Whichever side is telling the truth, it remains clear that the Azeri people are demanding revenge for the Khojaly massacre.

The future of the Nagorno-Karabakh

This is a standard generational pattern, the next step in a string of alternating periods of war and ceasefire. The last ceasefires each lasted one day, Russia hopes this one will last at least five years.

As is always the case, it will be the people, rather than the politicians, who will decide how long the ceasefire will last.

The people of Azerbaijan, as far as I can tell, want the fighting to resume and continue. They want revenge for the Khojaly Massacre, they want to recapture the rest of Nagorno-Karabakh and drive out all the Armenians, and those whose parents were displaced in the 1991-94 war are demanding to return to those homes.

All of these steps are inevitable, if not right away then in the next few years, and the result will be genocide and ethnic cleansing of Armenians.

Ethiopia civil war threatens to destabilize horn of Africa

This is a completely separate subject, for those who are interested in more than the subject of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. I've written several times in the past about the ethnic situation in Ethiopia, but it's been peaceful for a couple of years, and now new clashes are creating a refugee crisis that can threaten the entire horn of Africa.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who comes from the Oromo tribe, the largest Ethiopia ethnic group, has ordered hundreds of air strikes and an army offensive against the Tigray minority in northern Ethiopia. Already 2,500 Ethiopians have fled into Sudan, and the fear is that a wider civil war would bring hundreds of thousands of refugees into Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya. Even worse, the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea may be renewed The African Union called for a ceasefire, but we know how those things go.

I've written about the civil war between the Tigrays and the Oromos several times in the past, and how Abiy Ahmed got a Nobel "Peace" Prize by ending the civil war. But, as in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, there is a generational pattern that's always followed, with alternating periods of peace and conflict, with the conflict worsening with each iteration. I'm still spending a lot of time on my Vietnam book, but I'll try to write something soon to bring the Ethiopian civil war up to date.


Related Articles - Nagorno-Karabakh:

Related Articles - Ethiopia:

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