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Foreign Policy, Lord Palmerston, and Appendectomies

By , September 17, 2014 8:08 pm
As British foreign secretary and prime minister in the early nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston oversaw a period of great change. (Photo: Hulton Archive)

As British foreign secretary and prime minister in the early nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston oversaw a period of great change. (Photo: Hulton Archive)

Thinking about U.S. foreign policy these days brings to mind a line from songwriter/comedian Tom Lehrer: if you are feeling like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis you have good reason.

1)  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is creating a Rapid Reaction Force to challenge Russian “aggression” in Ukraine, and the U.S., the European Union, and Russia are lobbing sanctions at each other that have thrown Europe back into a recession. Russian planes are buzzing U.S. and Canadian warships in the Black Sea.

2)  The U.S. is bombing Iraq and Syria in an effort to halt the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while at the same time supporting insurgents trying to overthrow the Assad regime in Damascus, the pool from which ISIL was created.

3)  After 13 years of war, Afghanistan is the verge of a civil war over the last presidential election, while the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on the Afghan military and civil authorities.

4)  Libya has essentially dissolved as a country, but not without supplying insurgents in central Africa and Nigeria with greatly enhanced firepower.

5)  The U.S. encouraged the Japanese government to bypass Article 9 of Japan’s peace constitution that restricted deploying its military outside of Japan. Washington also committed the U.S. to support Tokyo in the event of a clash with China over the ownership of a handful of islands in the East China Sea. American, Japanese and Chinese warships and military aircraft have been playing chicken with one another in the East and South China seas.

What is going on? Did some Greek open a box she shouldn’t have? Is the Obama administration—take your choice—incompetent? Trying to wind down two of America’s longest wars? Giving liberal cover to a neo-conservative strategy to re-institute a new cold war? Following an agenda?

How about all of them?

There certainly has been incompetence. The 2009 surge into Afghanistan did nothing but kill a lot of people, and the Libya intervention substituted Chaos Theory for diplomacy.

It is also true that old wars are winding down. In 2008 there were 110,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 182,000 in Iraq. By the end of 2014 there will be no U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and—at this time—only a handful in Iraq.

Cover for the neo-cons? The Obama administration did help engineer the coup in Ukraine, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland—who oversaw the action and handpicked the interim coup president—was Dick Cheney’s principle foreign policy advisor.

And the U.S. certainly has an agenda, which may best be summed up by 19th century British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Henry Lord Palmerston—England’s hammer of empire, who oversaw the Opium Wars with China and the Crimean War with Russia: “We have no eternal allies and we have no eternal enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow.”

What are our “interests” in Ukraine?

Certainly not spreading democracy. We supported a coup against a corrupt, but legally elected oligarch, and replaced him with another oligarch in an election that excluded half the country.

There are, in fact, multiple currents at play. During the Cold War disagreements about foreign policy among the ruling elites were suppressed by the overarching need to defeat what was perceived as a real threat to capitalism, the socialist world. “Politics stops at the water’s edge” was the watchword back then. But once that threat evaporated with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, those disagreements were free to come pouring out. Democrats and Republicans now openly sabotage one another’s policies in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, and different wings of both parties battle over using the American military.

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t common ground.

One shared interest is pushing NATO east, something the U.S. has been doing since the U.S. double-crossed Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. Gorbachev agreed to pull 380,000 Soviet troops out of East Germany provided NATO did not fill the vacuum. “Not one inch east,” U.S. Secretary of State James Baker promised. Now, virtually every Warsaw Pact country is a member of NATO.

There is also general agreement—underlined at the recent Alliance meetings in Wales—to expand NATO into a worldwide military alliance, although that creates a certain dilemma for Washington. Currently the U.S. foots 75 percent of NATO’s bill, but is finding that increasingly hard to do, given the enormous costs of the Afghan and Iraq wars, the pivot to Asia, and the expanding war in Iraq and Syria.

The Ukraine crisis has served as the perfect excuse to dragoon other members of NATO into increasing their contributions, though that won’t be a slam-dunk. Most of Europe is in recession, and while the NATO ministers are all for becoming global policemen, their constituents are less enthusiastic. European publics turned sharply against the Afghan War, and most polls show strong opposition to any more “out of area” deployments or increased military spending at the expense of social services.

One strong current at work these days are the neoconservatives, whose goals are not to just break Ukraine away from Russia, but go for regime change in Moscow. They also lobby for overthrowing the Assad regime in Syria, and for war with Iran. They are overwhelmingly Republicans, but include Democrats.

Allied to the neocons in policy—if not politics—are the liberal interventionists, most of whom are Democrats. The interventionists led the charge on Libya and also lobbied for bombing Assad. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Samantha Powers may not have the same politics on all issues as the neoconservatives, but in places like the Ukraine they share common ground.

A leading “interest” in Ukraine is challenging Russia’s designation as the world’s top energy exporter and throttling its oil and gas industry. With Siberian fields almost tapped out, Russia is developing offshore and Arctic sources, and the sanctions are aimed at blocking Moscow from getting the technology it needs to do that. The sanctions are also aimed at the South Stream pipeline, which, when completed, will run from the Caspian basin, across the Black Sea, to Europe. South Stream will eventually supply Europe with 15 percent of its gas and generate $ 20 billion in yearly revenue for Moscow. The U.S. and Turkey have been trying to derail South Stream for over a decade.

There are minor currents and back eddies as well.

Eastern Ukraine has large shale deposits that Chevron has been sniffing around, and—if you like conspiracies—one of U.S. Vice-president Joe Biden’s kids, Hunter,is on the board of Burisma Holdings, the Ukraine group exploring the country’s energy potentials. Joe Biden has been particularly hawkish on the Ukraine, comparing it to the Munich appeasement with Nazi Germany in 1938.

But the overriding “interest” of American foreign policy—regardless of the different currents—is to marginalize competition. Russia’s economy is no competition for Washington’s, but Moscow is a major supplier of energy to China. The two countries recently inked a $ 400 billion pipeline deal.

China’s economy is on the verge of passing the U.S. as the world’s largest, and it has already replaced the U.S. as the leading trade partner for most of the world. It is also the globe’s number one consumer of oil and gas.

This latter fact is a sensitive one, particularly given growing tensions between the U.S. and China. Some 80 percent of Beijing’s energy arrives by seas currently controlled by the U.S. Sixth and Seventh fleets.

Russian supplies, however, travel mostly by train and pipelines, and are, thus, out of the U.S. Navy’s reach. China is also negotiating with Iran over energy, and once again, those energy supplies would mostly move through pipelines.

To understand U.S. interests in the Ukraine involves tracking all of these currents, some of which may run at cross purposes. Obama’s push to damage the Russian energy industry is not popular with the American oil company ExxonMobil. He wants to push NATO east, but there is no indication he is seeking regime change in Moscow, and he has even tried to reduce some of the sturm und drang around the crisis. The neoconservatives, on the other hand, want to arm Ukraine and put Putin’s head on a stake.

Of course the “interests” the Obama administration is pursuing in Ukraine are not the “interests” of the majority of Americans—or Ukrainians, for that matter. They are the “interests” of the neo-cons, energy companies, arms manufacturers, and international financial organizations like the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank. In short, the interests of the 1 percent over the 99 percent.

Up until ISIL started cutting American journalists heads off, U.S. polls reflected overwhelming exhaustion with foreign wars. The Center for Public Integrity found 65 percent of Americans would choose to cut military spending. But Americans are also easily stampeded by bombast: The “Russians are coming” (while it was the West that marched east). “Chinese cyber warriors are going to crash our national power grid”(except we don’t have a national power grid and the only countries that have engaged in cyber war are the U.S. and Israel). “And the turbans are going to get you in your bed” (even if U.S. intelligence agencies say the ISIL has not threatened the U.S.).

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the U.S. has spent almost $ 70 million an hour on security and around $ 62 million on domestic needs. Since 9/11 some 23 Americans have died as result of “Muslim terror plots” in the U.S., while the number of those killed by right-wing extremists is 34.

The reality is the U.S. cannot do much about climate change, growing economic inequality, infrastructure deterioration, and the slow motion collapse of our education system without confronting the $ 1 trillion it spends annually on military and defense related items, or the $ 4 to $ 6 trillion that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will eventually cost us.

With the U.S. about to begin an open-ended air war in Iraq and Syria (to join those in progress in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia) the cost of fighting an almost non-existent “terrorist” threat to the U.S. is about to sharply escalate. In whose interest is that?

Increasingly, what is in the interest of the few is incompatible with the interest of the many.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Sydney Church Targeted By ISIS Threats

By , September 17, 2014 8:06 pm

Sydney Church Targeted By ISIS Threats

Posted 2014-09-18 02:11 GMT

Our Lady of Lebanon church at Harris Park, Sydney (photo: News Limited).Church-goers in Sydney’s west have been left shaken after a stranger shouted death threats from a car bearing the Islamic State flag.

The car drove past Our Lady of Lebanon Church at Harris Park on Tuesday and witnesses claim it had a flag similar to those brandished by Islamic State jihadists hanging out the window.

A priest from the church told AAP the people in the car threatened to “kill the Christians” and slaughter their children. “They were strong words and people were scared of what they saw,” he said.

Witnesses told police there was a small triangular flag placed out the window with Arabic words similar to “there is only one god and Muhammad is the prophet”.

Rosehill police Inspector Brian Jackson confirmed “some threats were made in regard to some people” near the church.

Maronite Catholic parish priest Monsignor Shora Maree contacted police ahead of the church’s 7pm mass on Wednesday night.

Officers were sent down to patrol the Harris Park church while hundreds took part in mass inside.

It’s understood detectives are looking into who is behind the threats.

Assyrian International News Agency

The Tao of North Korea

By , September 17, 2014 2:25 pm
north-korea-south-korea-kaesong-industrial-complex-reunification-engagement

North Korea and South Korea are more alike than this famous satellite photo would have you believe. (Photo: NASA / Flickr)

You’ve seen those nighttime satellite pictures of the Korean peninsula. The northern half is dark, while the southern half is a thousand points of light. You might think: hat’s off to those thrifty North Koreans who are helping save the planet by conserving electricity!

But of course, that’s not the message you’re supposed to take away with you. The nighttime map is supposed to be a visual representation of what we intuitively feel to be the political, economic, and social reality of this divided land. The people of North Korea live a benighted existence in a totalitarian environment, where the entire population experiences the “lights out” of a labor camp or a detention facility. The people of South Korea, meanwhile, are just like us, staying up all night to eat, drink, dance, and party. The North is Gulag style, while the South is Gangnam Style.

The reality of the Korean peninsula is, of course, vastly more complicated than these either-or contrasts. Stop thinking of the peninsula as two completely distinct halves, with barbed wire running down the middle. At the very least, think of Korea as the Taoist yin-yang symbol: two cupped apostrophes, one black and one white and each containing a dot of the other’s color. There’s a little yin in yang and a little yang in yin.

Yin and Yang

The part of North Korea that resides in the south is, of course, the population that fled: the defectors. There are now around 25,000 North Koreans living in the South. It’s a diverse community of successful restaurateurs, would-be rappers, and young graduate students, as well as the silent majority who are just scraping by, disappointed by life in a country where they often feel like second-class citizens. Some are so disappointed that they even contemplate defecting back to the North.

Meanwhile, up north, is an island of South Korean-style capitalism known as the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Located in the historic city of Kaesong, just a few miles north of the DMZ, the complex features over 100 South Korean companies employing more than 50,000 North Korean workers. The factories produce textiles, kitchenware, and electronics that are sold in South Korea and a few other markets. The zone is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

The Kaesong complex is the only remaining fruit of the engagement policies that transfixed the two Koreas—and the attention of the world—at the turn of the millennium.

At that time, South Korean leader Kim Dae Jung, followed by his successor Roh Moo-Hyun, met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to work out a vision of détente that extended from confidence-building measures in the security sphere and reunions of families divided by the Korean War to joint tourism projects and accelerated economic cooperation. Kaesong was supposed to be the first of many initiatives designed to gradually knit together the two halves of the peninsula.

A Deal Deferred

The engagement policies of Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun—both of whom have since passed away—produced significant backlash in both north and south. Facing an uncertain security environment in the region and getting very little out of negotiations with the United States, Kim Jong Il embraced a “military-first” approach that prioritized the country’s nascent nuclear program and more developed missile program. Conservative sentiment in the south, on the other hand, propelled two hardliners into the presidency—first, a former powerhouse from Hyundai and now the daughter of South Korea’s most famous authoritarian leader, Park Chung Hee.

Relations between North and South sank to new lows. After North Korean guards shot and killed a South Korean tourist at a mountain resort in 2008, Hyundai shut down the venture that had brought more than a million South Koreans by boat to the spectacular Kumgang Mountains in the north. In 2010, South Korea accused North Korea of torpedoing its Cheonan warship. Also that year, the two sides exchanged artillery fire at the Yeonpyeong Islands near the disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea.

The Kaesong complex eventually fell victim to the worsening climate of relations. In 2013, work there was suspended for five months as North Korea pulled out its workers amid complaints over international sanctions and military exercises. Several rounds of negotiations finally led to its reopening. Despite such hiccups in production, the complex has had steady growth, from about $ 15 million in 2005 to nearly $ 470 million in 2012.

But all is not well with this capitalist oasis. In the past, particularly during the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, U.S. trade unions and hawkish opponents of anything North Korean criticized the working conditions and pay of the workers at Kaesong. Although it’s true that the North Korean government skims a rather hefty amount from the salaries of the workers there, average North Koreans covet the Kaesong jobs. The compensation and working conditions are not great compared to manufacturing jobs in many parts of the world—but they are a great improvement over factories elsewhere in the North.

Despite trade union concerns, the FTA—which went into effect in 2012—has not extended any benefits to Kaesong. The United States—along with the EU and Turkey—relies on a panel to determine if any products from Kaesong are eligible under the FTA. So far, the panel has nixed every product. Meanwhile, the steadily increasing wages at Kaesong have made the complex less competitive with low-wage manufacturing in Southeast Asia. And that cancels out the raison d’être of the enterprise, for Kaesong was to provide small and medium-sized enterprises in South Korea an edge over their Asian competitors.

Dollar Diplomacy

With the potential waning of South Korean interest, North Korea wants to induce other countries into investing in Kaesong. In June, the first non-Korean company, the German textile firm Groz-Beckert, opened an office in the zone. The Russian government, no doubt worried about the impact of U.S. and European sanctions on trade with the West, recently sent a trade delegation to Kaesong with an eye to invest.

Kaesong might also have some competition elsewhere inside North Korea. The free trade zone in Rason has been pulling in Chinese and Russian investors for a couple decades. In 2011, with great fanfare North Korea announced two island zones—Hwanggumpyong and Wiwha—in the river dividing China and North Korea. But the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek, reportedly the chief promoter of economic cooperation between the two countries, has apparently put a damper on these development plans.

North Korea has also announced plans for 14 Special Economic Zones throughout the country. For these to take off, however, North Korea will have to find some new source of investment, and that’s not easy with the United States heading up a global regime of economic sanctions against the country.

One possibility is Japan. Negotiations between Tokyo and Pyongyang have started up again over abductees. If North Korea can produce more information about the dozen people it has admitted to abducting from Japan—Tokyo actually has a much larger list of 883 people that it suspects might have been abducted—then trade and investment may well start rolling again. Otherwise, international sanctions and a credit rating that can’t get very much lower make North Korea an unlikely place to send capital.

It would be misleading, however, to suggest that South Korea and capitalism are just a discrete dot of yin in the North Korean yang. For some years now, South Korean TV shows and films have been a popular, though illicit, pastime for North Koreans—not to mention music, comic books, and hairstyles. And capitalism, in the form of private enterprise and markets, has sprung up all around the country, offering an alternative livelihood for a new class of entrepreneurs.

Then there’s the transformation taking place at the elite level. Swiss businessman Felix Abt spent seven years North Korea managing a pharmaceutical company and setting up the Pyongyang Business School. In his recent book, he describes how capitalism has influenced the North Korean elite. A new young subset of bureaucrats is receiving the equivalent of MBAs. A software venture produced a top-selling iPhone game for the German market. The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology has taken up where Abt’s business school left off. Choson Exchange runs seminars on tech start-ups and other entrepreneurial activities around the country.

The North Korean government hasn’t quite embraced the philosophy of the Chinese of the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping famously said that it doesn’t matter whether the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice. Some people in the North Korean government still see the world in black and white. But the country is clearly changing, even if most of that change is invisible to outsiders.

Golden Arches

Americans, for the most part, don’t know about the Kaesong Industrial Complex. They know even less about the spread of capitalist thinking that Abt describes in his book or that Choson Exchange is encouraging on the ground. If North Korea wants to turn around its image in the West, it needs to do something dramatic and symbolic. Giving up its nuclear program or closing its labor camps could certainly do the trick, but those are likely to be the last changes the country embraces, not the first ones.

Several years ago, I recommended that if North Korea really wanted to change the way the world thinks of the country, it would build a McDonalds in Pyongyang.

I don’t believe in Thomas Friedman’s discredited theory that countries that have Golden Arches don’t go to war with one another. Nor do I like Big Macs or the company’s low-wage policies. Ultimately I’d love to see McDonald’s go the way of Horn & Hardart (once the world’s largest restaurant chain).

But if the prime objective at this point is to break the ice between Washington and Pyongyang and change U.S. perceptions of North Korea, I can’t think of a better cultural ambassador than Ronald McDonald.

McDonald’s is, for most Americans, the first truly visible sign of transformation. “Gee,” they say, “the place can’t be all bad if you can get a Happy Meal there.” Thus did Americans reason when the Golden Arches showed up in Moscow and Beijing. A Singaporean firm has already set up a popular burger franchise in North Korea, so the demand is there.

The North Korean government has been holding three Americans—Kenneth Bae, Matthew Miller, and Jeffrey Fowle—and has so far turned up its nose at the emissaries that Washington has proposed for negotiating their release. The Obama administration is no doubt considering former ambassadors, former governors, or former presidents for the job. A much more interesting choice would be Don Thompson, the CEO of McDonald’s. In addition to negotiating the release of the Americans, Thompson could break ground on a new franchise in downtown Pyongyang.

Kaesong is a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. McDonald’s could be a symbol of a new, non-military relationship between the United States and North Korea. There are problems, of course, in putting these economic models at the center of a rapprochement strategy—just as there were problems 20 years ago with using the light-water reactor of the Agreed Framework as the primary means of building peace between Washington and Pyongyang. But the goal today, as in the 1990s, should be to avoid a war in the region, so I’d rather be sending French fries to North Korea than drones.

It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell. North and South Korea could unite in a similar fashion, through a sudden tearing down of barriers. But more likely is what is already happening: a Taoist reunification in which the dots of yin and yang grow a little bigger and a little bigger until the two countries wake up one day and discover, to their amazement, that they’ve become, if not indistinguishable from one another, then at least as complementary and thoroughly intermingled as a pair of nested apostrophes.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Kurdish Forces on the Move Towards Mosul

By , September 17, 2014 2:23 pm

Kurdish Forces on the Move Towards Mosul

Posted 2014-09-17 19:20 GMT

Kurdish forces are on the move to Mosul, pushing Islamic State forces out of the Irbil region.LOS ANGELES — The Islamic State had destroyed a bridge that linked the two cities back in August, hoping to prevent opposition forces from advancing on Mosul, but the Peshmerga forces found a roundabout way through mountainous terrain to attack the terrorist forces.

The battle between 1,000 Pershmerga and 100 Islamic State fighters began with artillery and mortar fire, and the United States played a crucial role in the operation, using airstrikes to shatter Islamic State positions. The U.S. military reported that there were two U.S. airstrikes that took place northwest of Irbil, targeting armored vehicles and fighting positions.

“At least two jets were flying the entire time that we were there,” said CNN producer John Fiegener, who was embedded with the Peshmerga.

Kurdish forces estimated that they killed between 20 and 30 fighters from the Islamic State. Between six or seven members of the Kurdish force were killed in explosions, and the Peshmerga did not reveal if they had captured any fighters from the Islamic State.

Even with overwelming firepower against them, the Islamic State attempted one of its dastardly acts of terror, attempting to drive a tanker vehicle laden with explosives at the attacking forces.

“ISIS had a tanker full of explosives that they tried to drive into the Peshmerga,” Fiegener says. It caused a “really huge explosion,” followed by a “very large cloud of dust.”

Assyrian International News Agency

A Simpler Solution to Climate Change

By , September 17, 2014 8:43 am
naomi-klein-this-changes-everything

Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”

Even if climate science is complicated, author Naomi Klein wants you to know that finding a solution to global warming is easy.

In her powerful new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, the Canadian globalization expert drills through the noisy climate debate and finds that humanity has no choice but to ditch its fossil fuel-driven global economy for a local model powered by renewable energy.

Out with oil, gas, and coal. In with wind, sun, small-scale hydro, and other things that don’t make the climate problem worse. Period.

Throughout the book, Klein sticks to her promise to stay out of the scientific weeds. And she doesn’t force readers to bone up on complicated programs — like the Clean Development Mechanism and REDD+ — that are currently failing to reduce the carbon that factories, cars, trucks, and massive farms are belching into the atmosphere.

For Klein, only “a mass movement capable of taking on powerful polluters” can end the madness of increasingly toxic fossil fuel extraction. Without broad-based mobilization, revamping the economy to veer off today’s course toward cataclysmic floods, fires, and drought may prove impossible.

Official efforts to slow global warming, she explains, took “what began as a straightforward debate about shifting away from fossil fuels and put it through a jargon generator so convoluted that the entire climate issue would seem too complex and arcane for non-experts to understand.”

That “jargon generator” also obscures the fact that most climate efforts cling to the lie that everyone can win in this struggle — from ExxonMobil and Shell to the polar bears and caribou.

Doesn’t that sound absurd? But this delusion triggered market-friendly “solutions” likecarbon trading.

That arrangement, often called “cap and trade,” lets companies keep on polluting in exchange for paying off someone else to refrain from, say, chopping down a forest on a remote island. Not only does selling the right to pollute not work, it can disrupt low-carbon lifestyles that are doing the least to stoke climate change.

The fact is that climate-altering carbon emissions are still climbing after 25 years of global climate negotiations. They attained record levels in 2013 despite rapid growth in the generation of electricity from wind and solar power.

“The failure of this polite strategy is beyond debate,” Klein declares. Yet politicians, bureaucrats, and billionaires won’t let go of it.

Klein’s fly-on-the-wall view of a “geoengineering” conference is one of the book’s most chilling passages. For the uninitiated, that’s the “science” of manipulating the weather by tampering with clouds or the ocean. Geoengineers want to “hack the planet” because they believe human beings can reverse the warming effects of all that excess carbon by, say, simulating volcanic eruptions.

She dismisses this “geoclique” (Klein sometimes coins her own jargon) as “crammed with overconfident men prone to complimenting each other on their fearsome brainpower.” And she rejects that notion that Richard Branson — who promised to spend $ 3 billion fighting climate change and wound up investing less than $ 300 million — or any other “green billionaire” will save the day.

Klein has more faith in the people on the frontlines of the new climate movement, and meets up with them everywhere from Greece to Montana. Many of these folks who are defending their homelands from increasingly extreme forms of drilling, mining, and burning will participate in what’s certain to prove the biggest climate demonstration to date in New York City.

While Klein does call for overhauling the entire global economy — no minor challenge — and rejects most market-based climate fixes, she doesn’t shoot down all financial responses to climate change.

“There is plenty of room to make a profit in a zero-carbon economy,” she says. The solutions Klein favors would reduce inequality and make the economy generally more equitable. She also embraces efforts to get institutions and individuals to divest from their oil, gas, and coal holdings while investing in more sustainable energy options.

But, Klein warns: “The profit motive is not going to be the midwife for that great transformation.” Instead, it will take millions or even billions of people working together.

Are you ready?

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Foreign Policy In Focus

ISIL Launches Offensive Against Kurd Region in North Syria

By , September 17, 2014 8:41 am

ISIL Launches Offensive Against Kurd Region in North Syria

Posted 2014-09-17 02:08 GMT

An offensive by the ISIL terrorists is underway against the Kurdish enclave of Kobane near Syria’s northern border.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told dpa on Tuesday that the Takfiris attacked the enclave, located just south of the country’s border with Turkey in Aleppo province.

Reports said women and children were evacuating villages near the frontlines for safety.

Meanwhile, videos were posted online showing Kurdish fighters engaged in clashes with the Takfiri terrorists in the region.

On Monday, the militants bombed the southern part of Kobane city with heavy artillery.

The militants have reportedly installed 122 mm cannons in the town of Serrin in southern Kobane enclave in an attempt to target Tel Seifi village, where the Kurdish forces are stationed.

According to a 2013 estimate, the city of Kobane, also called Ayn al-Arab, is inhabited by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Armenians.

The Takfiri terrorists currently control stretches of land in Syria and Iraq.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011 with ISIL Takfiri terrorists currently controlling parts of it mostly in the east.

The Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — are reportedly supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

More than 191,000 people have been killed in over three years of fighting in the war-ravaged country, says the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), calling the figure a probable “underestimate of the real total number of people killed.”

Assyrian International News Agency

People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn’t Complain About Violations of the INF Treaty

By , September 17, 2014 3:02 am
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty in 1987. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia)

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty in 1987. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia)

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in order to halt the arms race in missiles with which the United States and NATO could strike the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union could strike Europe. Recently, the United States had been complaining that Russia was in violation of the treaty. Then in late July the United States went on the record with that accusation and, as Greg Thielmann reports at Arms Control NOW, accused Russia of testing an intermediate-range cruise missile.

The Russia action at issue could conceivably have been a technical violation, such as the use of a ground-launched cruise missile launcher for a sea-launched cruise missile flight-test, or a flight-test range overage, infringing on the 500 km range limit for treaty-permitted systems. The military significance of such actions would be less weighty than a blatant step toward development of a system similar to [those banned in the treaty].

But if the United States is trying to catch Russia in violation on a technicality, two can play this game. Turns out that the United States may be in violation as well. Thielmann again:

Whatever the nature of the Russian actions prompting the U.S. charge, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s August 1 response included three “serious concerns” of its own about the “liberties” taken by the United States in applying the terms of the treaty:

U.S. use in missile defense tests of target missiles, “which have similar characteristics to intermediate-range missiles;”

U.S. use of armed drones, which are “covered by the definition of ground-launched cruise missiles in the Treaty;” and

U.S. intention to deploy in Poland and Romania Mk-41 launch systems, which “can be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles.” [Also part of missile defense.]

Thielmann explains that

U.S. use of intermediate-range target missiles in ballistic missile defense testing is probably the least serious of Moscow’s stated concerns. These target missiles have never been “flight-tested or deployed for weapons delivery,”

But …

The second charge is somewhat more difficult to dismiss, particularly as the range-payload and utilization of armed drones (“unmanned combat aerial vehicles”) is increasing rapidly. Even though such drones do not seem to be optimized for nuclear-delivery missions, evolving drone technology could soon reach the point where the … payload criterion for nuclear-weapons delivery capability is met.

Also …

Drones are consistent with the INF Treaty’s basic definition “cruise missile:” “an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path.”

However …

… it is not “launched” from a ground-launched cruise missile launcher as defined by the treaty, but “takes off” and returns like a manned aircraft. Such aircraft are not limited by the INF treaty. It is thus a stretch to equate the two categories, an equation that cannot be justified by the letter of the treaty.

But …

The third issue raised by Moscow—the U.S. intention to deploy Mk-41 launchers for SM-3 missile defense interceptors in Romania and Poland, which Moscow labels “quite notorious”—may not be as spurious as it appears at first glance.

Thus …

…  it would seem that the Russians have a prima facie case to make that the deployments of these launchers to bases for U.S. SM-3 interceptors in Romania and Poland would also provide NATO with a potential ground-launched cruise missile capability that is prohibited under the INF Treaty.

This is not to say that the United States should refrain from pointing out Russian violations of treaties. To the contrary, the United States itself should not be developing and deploying systems that either outright violate outright or skirt violating treaties. Especially if they’re as ineffective money pits such as missile defense.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Australian Military Advisers in Iraq Will Be Armed and Able to Return Fire

By , September 17, 2014 2:59 am

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaking at a press conference in Arnhem Land (photo: Jack Tran/Newspix/REX/Jack Tran/Newspix/REX).Australian troops sent to Iraq in a military advisory role will be armed and entitled to respond if fired upon, Tony Abbott has said, in an acknowledgement of the possibility of combat.

But the prime minister reaffirmed that he did not have “any intention” of having troops on the ground in a fighting capacity, after a top US general said American troops might directly join Iraqi forces against Islamic State (Isis).

Abbott plans to break away from his Northern Territory visit on Thursday in order to farewell Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel heading to the Middle East in anticipation of participation in US-led airstrikes in Iraq.

The prime minister, who is spending a week with Indigenous communities in Arnhem Land, said it was “highly likely” that he would “interrupt the trip for a few hours tomorrow to farewell some of our air capability to the Middle East” before returning on Friday.

The send-off is likely to occur at the Amberley RAAF base in south-east Queensland, where personnel fly F/A-18F Super Hornet combat aircraft, Fairfax Media reported.

Australia is deploying to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) up to eight Super Hornet combat aircraft — which are capable of conducting air strikes — along with an early warning and control aircraft and an aerial refuelling aircraft.

About 600 ADF members are being sent to the region, including 400 air personnel and 200 special forces personnel who will advise Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Both Abbott and the US president, Barack Obama, have previously ruled out having combat troops on the ground in Iraq.

But the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, told the armed services committee on Tuesday: “If we reach the point where I believe our [military] advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president.”

Abbott said on Wednesday he still had no intentions of having combat troops on the ground.

Australia anticipated a role in air combat operations inside Iraq, he said, but the 200-strong special forces contingent would act as military advisers to the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga.

“Our troops will certainly be armed and if they’re fired upon they’ll be entitled to respond,” he said.

“But the whole point of military advisers is to have them with the headquarters of the units that you are working with. Normally battalion headquarters, which is where I imagine most of our military advisers will be based … are not themselves involved in combat operations. They’re directing combat operations, they’re oversighting combat operations, they’re planning combat operations, but they are not usually conducting combat operations themselves.”

Asked whether the Australian troops would go out, Abbott said: “If we have military advisers with the headquarters of Iraqi security forces and with Peshmerga forces, obviously they’ll be moving around with those unit headquarters, but the point I stress is that there is no intention for Australia to conduct independent combat operations inside Iraq.

“There is no intention that Australia will have combat forces on the ground. We are making available special forces for the purposes of being military advisers to Iraqi and Peshmerga units and military advisers do not themselves normally engage in actual combat.”

The leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, raised fresh concerns about “mission creep”.

Dempsey’s testimony raised the prospect that Australia was following the US into an “open-ended war” that would include boots on the ground, Milne said.

“The prime minister, as he is farewelling the troops, should be honest enough with them to say that he has followed the US blindly into this new war in the Middle East,” she said.

“He should tell the troops that he has no idea how long this deployment will go on … nor will he be able to tell them what success would look like such that there would be an exit strategy.”

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, said Labor supported “degrading [Isis] from its ability to commit genocidal and violent acts on parts of the population”.

“We want to see an Iraqi national government secure and stable,” he said.

“Our motivation in terms of our support has been to promote a humanitarian intervention. There will come a point where intervention achieves that aim. In terms of sending ground combat units to Iraq, Labor doesn’t support that.”

Shorten said he had “not yet” been invited to join Abbott at the send-off for Australian personnel on Thursday but he hoped to attend.

“I think it’s important that Australia’s defence men and women recognise that all Australians are supportive of their professionalism and the efforts they make on behalf of Australia, so if invited I will certainly attend,” Shorten said.

The ADF announced on Wednesday it had completed its fourth air shipment of arms to northern Iraq. These weapons are intended for use by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in combat against Isis.

The RAAF C-17A Globemaster flew from Albania to the city of Erbil on Tuesday and completed the mission “without incident”, the ADF statement said.

“The delivery of small arms ammunition was first inspected and cleared by Iraqi officials in Baghdad,” it said.

“Australia’s contribution in Iraq continues to be coordinated with the government of the Republic of Iraq, regional countries and our international partners. Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster aircraft remain available to assist with further tasks.”

Assyrian International News Agency

Lebanon Likely to Play Defense Role in ISIS Fight

By , September 16, 2014 9:17 pm

Lebanese soldiers on armored vehicles leave the town of Arsal, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 (photo: Daily Star/Nidal Solh).Beirut — Lebanon’s contribution to the global coalition against ISIS will likely center on closing the porous border with Syria and cracking down on cells within the country, analysts said.

The country’s role is likely to primarily be defensive ahead of more, expected assaults on the northeastern town of Arsal near the Syrian border, they said.

Still, Hezbollah’s involvement in the fight within Syria alongside the regime of President Bashar Assad is likely to complicate efforts to combat ISIS.

” ISIS is a regional theater and any country in the region has a role to play, especially in terms of building a consensus to fight the jihadist group in Syria,” said Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst with the Delma Institute who has written extensively about the rebellion in his home country. “Lebanon is relevant for two reasons, because it is a neighboring country and because dealing with sectarian tensions in the two countries is essential in the fight against ISIS and jihadist groups in general.”

“You can’t fight ISIS without addressing what makes it popular in some circles,” he added.

The U.S. announced this month the launch of a global coalition to combat ISIS, an Al-Qaeda splinter group that now controls vast swaths of land in Iraq and Syria and has declared a caliphate in those areas.

Militants loyal to ISIS as well as the Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, briefly overran Arsal last month, sweeping through Lebanese Army positions and taking soldiers hostage.

The Lebanese campaign prompted a raft of pledges of military assistance to help the Army combat ISIS, but the country’s role in the global war against the group is likely to remain internal and defensive.

Elias Farhat, a retired general and military strategist, said Lebanon’s role would likely be focused on securing its interior — Lebanon and Hezbollah have already been fighting Syrian rebels for over a year.

In addition, he said, it is premature to ask what role Lebanon could play in such a coalition if the mission of the campaign against ISIS and the mechanism with which it will be conducted remains “very vague” and regional powers have already shown reluctance to be a part of the effort.

Moreover, the U.S. does not need to use air bases in Lebanon to conduct airstrikes against ISIS — its bases in the Gulf, Turkey’s Incirlik, near the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are all sufficient to carry out strikes throughout the region.

Farhat said Lebanon and Hezbollah were already engaged in the fight against Syrian rebels — the Army is deployed in the Northern Bekaa and outskirts of Arsal to block the entry of militants, and Hezbollah has been engaged against the militants in the Qalamoun region and west of the city of Homs.

Hezbollah “is not waiting for an international coalition,” the retired general added.

Internally, the Lebanese Army is preparing itself for a renewed assault on Arsal and deploying on the outskirts of the town ahead of the winter months, when militants camped in the mountainous suburbs of the town are likely to seek refuge from the harsh winter, he said.

Rather than play an offensive role against ISIS, Farhat said the Army’s primary role would therefore be to defend the interior.

” Hezbollah is taking care of the external element in Qalamoun,” he added, referring to the mountain range where the party continues to fight Syrian rebels.

Farhat said the Army’s defensive posture is necessary due to a rocky balance of power that he said favors ISIS, with its ability to procure weapons, communicate with other militants and train to fight. In addition, many of its fighters are committed and willing to die for the cause, even to conduct suicide operations.

” ISIS is an advanced army, not just a terrorist organization with sleeper cells,” he said.

Farhat said the solution to strengthen the Army’s hand in its fight against ISIS is to arm it, but he decried what he said were repeated delays in providing the Army with quality weapons. He pointed to Western states arming the Kurdish peshmerga fighting against ISIS swiftly, saying it was evidence that Western powers are not serious about arming the Lebanese military.

But Hezbollah’s involvement in the war complicates Lebanon’s role in the fight against ISIS.

Hassan of the Delma Institute said Hezbollah’s “ambivalent position” on the U.S.-led war on ISIS poses a potential problem if the campaign is used to push a political settlement in Syria.

Hezbollah is suspicious of the U.S. effort, saying that it believes the U.S. campaign only aims at curbing the influence of ISIS, rather than destroying the group.

“The hope was that part of the American strategy on ISIS will involve seizing the regional consensus on ISIS to pursue a political settlement in Syria that ensures all regional countries are fully onboard with the plan,” he said. “But the strategy seems to focus on military action with no clarity on the endgame, and that is a recipe for failure.”

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a fellow in the Middle East Forum who has extensively studied Syrian rebel groups, agreed that Hezbollah may well end up shouldering the majority of Lebanon’s fighting against ISIS incursions, given how well the party is armed.

But he said Hezbollah’s role in Syria may harm Lebanon’s contribution to the anti- ISIS war effort.

” Hezbollah has tried to bolster its image as an organization against extremism but at this stage the group’s reputation is too tarnished by the perception it is a Shiite sectarian proxy force implementing Iran’s interests,” he said.

Assyrian International News Agency

75% of Assyrians Return to Their Town in North Iraq

By , September 16, 2014 3:35 pm

Alqosh, Iraq (AINA) — More than 75% of the residents of Alqosh, an Assyrian town 37 miles north of Mosul, have returned to their town after fleeing from the threat of ISIS on August 7. On September 12 the residents celebrated the festival Mar Qardakh, the patron saint of Alqosh, at the Saint Qardakh the Martyr Church. The Holy Mass was led by Bishop Michael Muqadissi of the Alqosh Archdiocese and was attended by hundreds of people from the town. After the mass, the people walked around the Church in a procession lead by children and deacons.

Improvements in security in the Nineveh Plain has allowed the residents of Alqosh to return. Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with the aid of U.S. airstrikes, have recaptured several villages in the Nineveh Plain and are pushing toward Mosul.

Life in Alqosh is slowly returning to normal, but the economy has been disrupted. Civil service employees have not received their salaries for the last three months.

In terms of services, Alqosh did not experience interruptions in water or electricity, unlike other towns and villages nearer to Mosul, whose water and electric service was cut off by ISIS. A number of doctors and dentists also returned and began seeing patients in their private clinics. Stores, pharmacies and markets are open.

Faez Juhoory, District Director of Alqosh, who never left the town, said that most Alqosh families have returned to the town after the restoration of security, thanks to the Kurdish forces stationed south of the district.

Mr. Juhoory confirmed that basic municipal services are at the same level as before. A group of Alqosh youth, in the early days after the people fled, took on the task of keeping the town clean and watering trees and seedlings, using the municipality’s equipment. After the return of some of the municipal employees and contractors, only those who worked were paid daily wages. Funds were donated by the sons of Alqosh in the Diaspora.

After fleeing Alqosh, most families took refuge in the Assyrian city of Noohadra (Dohuk), which is further north, and the villages and towns surrounding it, and others traveled to Turkey.

Assyrian International News Agency