Why Obama’s assurance of ‘no boots on the ground’ isn’t so reassuring

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A U.S. Marine on patrol. (Rebecca Sell/For The Washington Post)

Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, was an Obama administration appointee at the Defense Department from 2009 to 2011. She is married to an Army Special Forces officer.

Each time I hear President Obama assure us that there will be “no boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria, I think of my husband’s Army boots, lying in a heap in the corner of the downstairs study. They’re covered in fine dust from his latest Middle East deployment, one that came nail-bitingly close to being extended by an unplanned stint in Iraq.

In the end, he wasn’t sent back to Iraq. He came home in July, though a last-minute change in assignments left most of his civilian clothes stranded in some Army transport netherworld. Deprived of his sneakers and sandals, he wore his Army boots pretty much everywhere this summer, even on playground outings with the kids. Watching grass stains from the local park gradually displace nine months of Kuwaiti dust gave me more happiness than I can say.

Even so, I can’t help feeling queasy every time I hear the president pledge that there will be “no boots on the ground” in America’s newest war. I wonder what that pledge really means — and just why we’re supposed to find it reassuring. It’s a pledge that seems to have everything to do with politics and little to do with the imperatives of strategy or security.

Here’s what “no boots on the ground” apparently doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that no U.S. troops will be sent to Iraq or Syria. Reportedly there are already 1,600 U.S. military personnel in Iraq. True, they’re present in an “advisory” role, not in a combat role — but surely one lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that combat has a habit of finding its way to noncombat personnel. Enemy snipers and IEDs don’t much care about a soldier’s mission or occupational specialty, and you can bet that fighters of the self-proclaimed Islamic State would be content with the heads of a few American advisers.

It’s also hard to know what publicly reported troop numbers really mean. When the Pentagon issues a Boots on the Ground report (known colloquially as a “BOG report”), it often excludes military personnel on “temporary duty” in combat areas, even though temporary duty may mean an assignment spanning five or six months. Similarly, Special Operations personnel assigned to work under CIA auspices are often left out of the BOG numbers. This makes it hard to know just who’s being counted when officials say there are 1,600 military personnel in Iraq.

“No boots on the ground” also ignores the many nonmilitary American boots (and shoes and sandals) present in Iraq and Syria. Our Baghdad embassy personnel presumably wear some kind of footwear, as do thousands more civilians working as U.S. government contractors in Iraq. In both Iraq and Syria, scores of American civilians also work for nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian aid groups.

The Pentagon keeps careful count of dead and wounded U.S. troops, but the government doesn’t systematically track dead or injured civilians or contractors (many of whom, of course, are U.S. military veterans). Though few Americans know it, there were often more contractors working for the U.S. government on the ground than there were U.S. troops at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and some estimates suggest that there were as many U.S.-employed contractors who died in those conflicts as there were U.S. troops killed.

Cynics might even suspect that this heavy reliance on contractors was part of an effort to keep those BOG numbers down while outsourcing military risk. After all, no one likes high BOG numbers — the very acronym is suggestive of that most dreaded military outcome, the “quagmire.”

If “no boots on the ground” means playing games with numbers and offloading military risk onto U.S. government civilians and contractors, we should take little solace in presidential reassurances.

And we should feel even less comfort if “no boots on the ground” ends up putting vulnerable local civilians at risk. Remember Kosovo? President Bill Clinton’s refusal in 1999 to put U.S. troops on the ground forced us to rely solely on airstrikes to prevent Serbian ethnic cleansing. To further minimize any risk to U.S. military personnel, we mainly flew sorties at a safe 15,000 feet above the ground. This worked out well for us: Aside from two Americans killed in a helicopter accident in Albania, there were no U.S. fatalities in the 78-day air campaign. It worked out less well for some of the civilians we were trying to protect; in several cases, for instance, NATO pilots mistook convoys of refugees for troop transports, causing scores of civilian deaths.

The primary goal of the current U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq isn’t civilian protection, but Obama has suggested that this is at least a secondary motivation. In his speech this past week to the U.N. General Assembly, for instance, he asserted that the Islamic State “has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. . . . Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded. . . . The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

It’s hard to argue with the importance of dismantling a “network of death,” but no matter how careful we are, U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq will also end up killing some innocent civilians. Without eyes and ears on the ground, we’re more likely to make tragic targeting mistakes. We have to hope we’ll do more good than harm, but it’s hard to feel confident of that.

Numerous respected military and defense leaders — from Army Gen. Martin Dempsey , current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to retired defense secretary Robert Gates — have argued in recent weeks that ground troops will probably be required if our strategy is to be effective. So far, events seem to be proving them right: In Iraq, seven weeks of airstrikes have done little to push Islamic State fighters out of the territories they control, despite close U.S. coordination with Iraqi army units. In Syria, we have no similar local force with which to coordinate, creating a risk that U.S. airstrikes will increase the chaos without fundamentally reducing the threat to local civilians — or, in the longer term, to the United States.And that’s most worrisome of all — the possibility that our insistence on “no boots on the ground” also offloads present risks onto the future. Relying on airstrikes alone may merely prolong a bloody and inconclusive conflict, or strengthen other actors who are just as brutal as Islamic State fighters, from the regime of Bashar al-Assad to the al-Qaeda-linked rebels of Jabhat al-Nusra.Insisting that we’ll never commit U.S. troops to this fight plays right into every jihadist narrative, reinforcing America’s image as an arrogant but cowardly nation — happy to drop bombs from a distance but unwilling to risk the lives of our troops. Each time we reinforce that narrative, we give jihadist recruiting another big boost.

 

For a decade, we’ve relied on drone strikes as a top counterterrorism tool in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, but a few thousand dead terrorism suspects later, it’s far from clear that we’ve made ourselves safer. If anything, the global jihadist movement appears to have gained strength. As a former Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, recently noted: “In 2004, there were 21 total Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 18 countries. Today, there are 41 Islamic terrorist groups spread out in 24 countries.” Ultimately, our efforts to destroy the Islamic State from afar may similarly spark the creation of even more jihadist groups.

“I will not commit you . . . to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama told troops at Central Command headquarters this month. I appreciate his desire to do right by America’s military personnel: My husband’s boots, like those of so many other members of the armed forces, have already gathered too much dust in too many dangerous places, over too many years. Right now, I want those boots to stay exactly where they are: here, at home.

But I don’t want to trade the safety of U.S. troops today for the safety of our children tomorrow. If Obama’s promise of “no boots on the ground” means we’ll be fighting a war of half-measures — a war that won’t achieve our objectives and that may increase the long-term threat — I’m not sure, in the end, that it’s a promise I want him to keep.

Who Downed Russia’s Metrojet Flight 9268?

 

IS THERE ANOTHER HAND BESIDES ISIS BEHIND THIS CRIME ?

 

Was it ISIS – or somebody else?

Kolavia-Flight-400x240First they said the downing of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 was most likely due to Russia’s “notorious” regional airlines, which supposedly are rickety and unreliable. The Egyptian government denied that terrorism is even a possibility, with Egyptian despot Abdel Fatah al-Sisi proclaiming:

When there is propaganda that it crashed because of Isis, this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt. Believe me, the situation in Sinai – especially in this limited area – is under our full control.

However, it soon came out that the person in charge of Sharm el-Sheikh airport, where the Russia plane had landed before taking off again, had been “replaced” – oh, but notbecause of anything to do with the downing of the Russian passenger plane! As the Egyptian authorities put it:

Adel Mahgoub, chairman of the state company that runs Egypt’s civilian airports, says airport chief Abdel-Wahab Ali has been ‘promoted’ to become his assistant. He said the move late Wednesday had nothing to do with media skepticism surrounding the airport’s security. Mahgoub said Ali is being replaced by Emad el-Balasi, a pilot.

Laughable, albeit in a sinister way, and yet more evidence that something wasn’t quite right: after all, everyone knows the Egyptian government does not have the Sinai, over which the plane disintegrated in mid air, under its “full control.” ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the crash hours after it occurred, is all over that peninsula.

Still, the denials poured in, mostly from US government officials such as Director of National Intelligence James “Liar-liar-pants-on-fire” Clapper, who said ISIS involvement was “unlikely.” Then they told us it couldn’t have been ISIS because they supposedly don’t have surface-to-air missiles that can reach the height attained by the downed plane. Yet that wasn’t very convincing either, because a) How do they know what ISIS has in its arsenal?, and b) couldn’t ISIS or some other group have smuggleda bomb on board?

The better part of a week after the crash, we have this:

Days after authorities dismissed claims that ISIS brought down a Russian passenger jet, a U.S. intelligence analysis now suggests that the terror group or its affiliates planted a bomb on the plane.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said his government believes there is a ‘significant possibility’ that an explosive device caused the crash. And a Middle East source briefed on intelligence matters also said it appears likely someone placed a bomb aboard the aircraft.

According to numerous news reports, intercepts of “internal communications” of the Islamic State/ISIS group provided evidence that it wasn’t an accident but a terrorist act. Those intercepts must have been available to US and UK government sources early on, yet these same officials said they had no “direct evidence,” as Clapper put it, of terrorist involvement. Why is that? And furthermore: why the general unwillingness of Western governments and media to jump to their usual conclusion when any air disaster occurs, and attribute it to terrorism?

The answer is simple: they didn’t want to arouse any sympathy for the Russians. Russia, as we all know, is The Enemy – considered even worse, in some circles, than the jihadists.  Indeed, there’s a whole section of opinion-makers devoted to the idea that  we must help Islamist crazies in Syria, including al-Qaeda’s affiliate, known as al-Nusra, precisely in order to stop the Evil Putin from extending Russian influence into the region.

In a broader sense, the reluctance to acknowledge that this was indeed a terrorist act is rooted in a refusal to acknowledge the commonality of interests that exists between Putin’s Russia and the West. The downing of the Metrojet is just the latest atrocity carried out by the head-choppers against the Russian people: this includes not only the Beslan school massacre, in which over 700 children were taken hostage by Chechen Islamists, but also the five apartment bombings that took place in 1999.

The real extent of Western hostility to Russia, and the unwillingness to realize that Russia has been a major terrorist target, is underscored by the shameful propaganda pushed by the late Alexander Litvinenko, and endorsed by Sen. John McCain, which claims that the bombings were an “inside job” carried out by the Russian FSB – a version of “trutherism” that, if uttered in the US in relation to the 9/11 attacks, is routinely (and rightly) dismissed as sheer crankery. But where the Russians are concerned it’s not only allowable, it’s the default. A particularly egregious example is Russophobic hack Michael D. Weiss, who, days before the downing of the Russian passenger plane, solemnly informed us that Putin was “sending jihadists to join ISIS.” Boy oh boy, talk about ingratitude!

This downright creepy unwillingness to express any sympathy or sense of solidarity with the Russian people ought to clue us in to something we knew all along: that the whole “war on terrorism” gambit is as phony as a three-dollar bill. If US government officials were actually concerned about the threat of terrorist violence directed at innocent civilians, they would partner up with Russia in a joint effort to eradicate the threat: that this isn’t happening in Syria, or anywhere else, is all too evident. Not to mention our canoodling with “moderate” Chechen terrorists, openly encouraging them to carry on their war with Putin’s Russia. Our “war on terrorism” is simply a pretext for spying on the American people, and most of the rest of the world, and cementing the power of the State on the home front, not to mention fattening up an already grotesquely obese “defense” budget.

With the belated admission that the downing of the Russian passenger jet was an act of terrorism, we are beginning to hear that this a tremendous blow to Putin’s prestigeat home – something no one would dare utter about Obama’s or Cameron’s “prestige” if the Metrojet had been an American or British passenger plane. They say it’s “blowback” due to Russia’s actions in Syria, with the clear implication that it’s deserved. And yet, according to US officials and the usual suspects, the Russiansaren’t hitting ISIS so much as they’re smiting the “moderate” Islamist head-choppers – the “Syrian rebels,” as they’re known — who are being funded, armed, and encouraged by the West.

If that’s true, then what kind of blowback are we talking about – and from which direction is it coming? Given this, isn’t it entirely possible that Metrojet Flight 9268 was downed by US-aided –and-supported “moderates,” who moderately decided to get back at Putin?

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert andDavid Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Putin Blew the Whistle on Who Grew ISIS in 2014 (Video)

RUSSIA INSIDER
Mon, Oct 26, 2015

Putin Blew the Whistle on Who Grew ISIS in 2014 (Video)
But he can’t figure out if US did it out of stupidity or malice

This short video showing Vladimir Putin answering a question on ISIS from a US journalist was filmed at the Valdai International Discussion Club in late 2014. While millions of patriotic Americans still believe the simple narrative of ‘Russia is bad, USA is good’, Putin’s explosive comments blow that mindset right out of the water- and they also clearly explain why the Russian President has just decided to send in his military to support Assad’s fight against the Islamic State. After telling the audience that (unlike Obama’s view of him) he does not consider the USA a threat to Russia, Putin begins responding to a question about the ISIS problem.

The President begins: “Well who on earth armed them? Who armed the Syrians who were fighting with Assad? Who created the necessary political climate that facilitated this situation? Who pushed for the delivery of arms to the region?”

Yes, you guessed it: he’s talking about the USA.

Putin: US Neocons Created and Keep Supporting ISIS

Putin continues:

“Do you really not understand who is fighting in Syria? They are mercenaries, mostly. Do you understand they are paid money? Mercenaries fight for whichever side pays more. So they arm them and pay them a certain amount. I even know what these amounts are.” He explains how this insane foreign policy has backfired on the United States: the mercenaries don’t give back the arms, and when they find out they can earn more money fighting for ISIS, they swap sides- taking the USA’s weapons with them, and occupying the oil fields.But who is buying the oil from these terrorists, Putin asks, and why are sanctions not applied to those who purchase it?

“Do you think the USA doesn’t know who is buying the oil?” Putin asks his audience defiantly. “Is it not their allies that are buying oil from ISIS?” Putin then points out that the USA certainly has the power to persuade their allies to stop buying oil from the mercenaries who have deflected to the Islamic State. But, he suggests (here’s where it gets interesting) “they do not wish to influence them.”

Putin claims that in those areas of Syria where ISIS are extracting oil and paying mercenaries great rates of pay, more and more Syrian ‘rebels’ (anti-Assad fighters who were supposed to be on our side) are joining the Islamic State. “So you support them, arm them, and tomorrow they join ISIS. Can they not think a step ahead?” he says scathingly about US foreign policy. “I consider this absolutely unprofessional politics. We must support civilized, democratic opposition in Syria. We don’t stand for this kind of politics of the USA. We think it is wrong.”

If this is true- and concrete evidence suggests it is- Putin’s tirade is very difficult to argue with. Sure, the Russian President has a hell of a lot to answer for, but who is the real terrorist in this situation? Could it be that the USA was also behind the Ukrainian coup all along, supported by its minions in the corporate press who sought to lay the blame on Russia’s doorstep? After all, it was Putin, not Obama, who extended an olive branch to the American people by writing an op-ed in the New York Times in 2013 calling for peace and co-operation between the two powers.

Putin’s comments back up what many have been saying about ISIS and its strong connection to the USA since the start of this crisis. Please share this video to raise awareness of which war-mongering superpower is really to blame for the majority of the misery in this world. You might also like to check out Putin’s United Nations meeting speech late last month, where he talks more about these themes and asks the USA and its allies with reference to Syria: “Now do you realize what you have done?”

Transcript:

“Another threat that President Obama mentioned was ISIS. Well who on earth armed them?

Who armed the Syrians that are fighting Assad?

Who created the necessary political/informational climate that facilitated this situation?

Who pushed the delivery of arms to the area?

Do you really not understand as to who is fighting in Syria?

They are mercenaries mostly.

Do you understand they are paid money?

Mercenaries fight for whichever side pays more.

So they arm them and pay them a certain amount

I even know what these amounts are.

So they fight, they have the arms, you cannot get them to return the weapons of course, at the end..

Then they discover elsewhere pays a little more..

Then they occupy the oil fields wherever; in Iraq, in Syria.

They start extracting the oil-and this oil is purchased by somebody.

Where are the sanctions on the parties purchasing this oil?

Do you believe the US does not know who is buying it? Is it not their allies that are buying the oil from ISIS?

Do you not think that US has the power to influence their allies? Or is the point that they indeed do not wish to influence them?

Then why bomb ISIS?

In areas where they started extracting oil and paying mercenaries more, in those areas the rebels from ‘civilised’ Syrian opposition forces immediately joined ISIS because they are paid more.

I consider this absolutely unprofessional politics. It is not grounded in facts , in the real world.

We must support civilized democratic opposition in Syria.

So you support, arm them and then tomorrow they join ISIS.

Can they [USA] not think a step ahead?

We cannot stand for this kind of politics of the US. We consider it wrong. It harms all parties, including you [USA].”

Putin: US Neocons Created and Keep Supporting ISIS

RT NEWS – 2 April, 2015

16:10

China protests, 2 US jet fighters make emergency landing at Taiwan air base

China protested on Thursday after two American jet fighters landed at an air base in Taiwan, for the first time in 30 years, AFP said. Two US F-18 fighter jets made an emergency landing at an air force base in the southern city of Tainan on Wednesday. One of the planes had developed a mechanical failure, according to US authorities. “We require the US to abide by the ‘One-China Policy’ and the three joint communiqués between China and the US, and to prudently deal with the relevant issue,” Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said in Beijing.

15:06

Bahraini rights activist Rajab arrested – family

Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been arrested again and could face new charges as he appeals an earlier conviction, AP reported, citing family members. Defense lawyer Jalila al-Sayed confirmed Rajab’s arrest on Thursday. The activist’s wife, Sumaya Rajab, says the arrest was linked to comments Rajab made on Twitter about the treatment of inmates held at Jaw Prison, where unrest broke out last month. Rajab had been free on bail as he appeals a six-month jail sentence for insulting government ministries on Twitter.

14:21

Ukraine president signs law to ban films ‘glorifying’ Russian military, law enforcers

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed amendments to laws to ban films, audio or video products ‘glorifying’ Russian armed forces and law enforcement agencies. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament), passed a law in February banning films about Russia’s military and law enforcers. The legislation prohibits the screening of such films and series in Ukraine.

13:59

Second black box found from Alps plane crash

The second black box from the Germanwings plane that crashed in the French Alps last week has been found after a nine-day search, AFP reported, citing French police. Authorities are hoping to unearth more clues about the disaster. The first voice recorder suggested that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately locked the plane on a collision course with the mountains, according to investigators.

13:18

Palestinians, Syrian rebels retake control of Damascus refugee camp from ISIS

Palestinian fighters and Syrian rebels retook control of large parts of a refugee camp in Damascus on Thursday. It had been seized by the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), AFP reported. A number of armed factions in the Yarmuk camp in south Damascus “were able to regain control over all of the areas that IS had taken over,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The jihadists overran the camp on Wednesday.

12:46

Planes to fly from Yemen to Moscow with evacuated Russian nationals

Two Russian planes are preparing to fly to Moscow with evacuated Russian nationals on board, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said on Thursday. “Two Russian planes are at Sanaa’s airport now. One of them has been loaded, there are 167 people aboard. In the next few minutes, it will take off through Cairo [to Moscow],” TASS quoted him as saying. The second plane will carry at least 150 people. At least three aircraft of Russia’s Defense Ministry will help evacuate Russian citizens from Yemen, a military-diplomatic source told TASS on Thursday. Clashes have intensified in Yemen between Shia rebels and the Arab military coalition.

10:30

Turkey detains 4 Russian citizens for trying to cross Syrian border illegally

Turkish police have detained four Russian citizens in the southeastern city of Gaziantep after they attempted to cross the border into Syria illegally, the Anadolu news agency reported. Gaziantep officials said the group was planning to enter the conflict zone in Syria. The suspects will reportedly be deported after questioning.

09:36

Heavy fighting between Houthi militants, gunmen in Yemen’s Aden Crater district

Houthi fighters and their allies battled gunmen in Aden’s Crater district on Thursday, Reuters reported. The clashes broke out in the heart of the southern Yemeni port city which is the last major foothold of forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Residents saw hundreds of Houthi and allied fighters in Crater, backed by tanks and armored vehicles. It was the first time fighting on the ground had reached so deeply into central Aden, after a week of airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition aimed at stemming the Houthi advances.

09:05

Plane flying from Cairo to Sanaa, Yemen, to evacuate Russian citizens

A Russian plane sent to evacuate Russian citizens from Yemen left Cairo Thursday for the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Sputnik reported, citing a source at Sanaa’s airport. Russian nationals are gathering in the airport waiting for the plane’s arrival, according to the source. The plane that was sent to evacuate them was earlier turned away by the Saudi-led Arab coalition. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Riyadh has guaranteed that it will let through to Sanaa two planes to evacuate 150 Russian citizens, TASS said.

08:43

Suicide bomber kills 16, wounds 40 in E. Afghanistan

A suicide bomber attacked an anti-corruption demonstration in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing 16 people and wounding 40, AP said. The explosion in the eastern city of Khost wounded a local member of parliament, Hamayun Hamayoon, according to a governor’s spokesman. Earlier on Thursday, the police chief of a restive district in the country’s south was killed by a roadside bomb.

08:03

10 Egyptian troops killed in Sinai attacks

Two militant ambushes in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula have killed 10 soldiers, according to Egyptian security officials. The attacks also wounded 11 soldiers and several civilians, AP reported. Egypt battles a growing insurgency in the northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.

07:32

Al-Qaeda militants storm prison in SE Yemen, free 300 inmates

Al-Qaeda militants stormed a prison in southeastern Yemen’s Hadramawt province on Thursday. They freed more than 300 prisoners, AFP reported, citing a security official. Khalid Batarfi, a senior Al-Qaeda figure who had been held for more than four years, was among the escapees.

03:28

​Israeli approve Palestinian neighborhood construction in E. Jerusalem

The East Jerusalem municipality has approved a plan to construct 2,200 units of housing, a commercial center and a school for Palestinians, Xinhua reports. The new neighborhood, called Arab al-Sawahra, under the plan would see the development of about 370 acres of land. The move hailed by Arab residents would mark the largest construction project for Palestinian families in East Jerusalem since the 1967 Mideast War.

00:13

9 UK nationals detained in Turkey trying to cross to Syria

Nine British nationals have been arrested by Turkey’s authorities after they tried to illegally cross the border into Syria, the army announced. The arrests took place in the Hatay region of southern Turkey. No more information has been offered. The UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the reports and are on standby to offer consular assistance.

RT NEWS – 24 MARCH, 2015

24 March, 2015

21:03

Russian FM visits Cuba, calls to end blockade

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Cuba has called to end the illegal trade and financial embargo imposed on Cuba. Lavrov also said the two countries are planning to cooperate closely in energetics, transport and civil infrastructure, biotechnologies, healthcare, and civil aviation. According to Lavrov, Russian companies are interested in investing in the Caribbean country’s development. Cuba is the first stop of the Russian foreign minister’s tour of Latin America. The official is to visit Colombia, Nicaragua and Guatemala later this week.

15:52

Tunisia museum reopening delayed, security boosted

Tunisia’s national museum has delayed its reopening on Tuesday, officials said, as security was boosted around the site of last week’s jihadist massacre that killed 21 people, AFP said. “The Interior Ministry says that for security reasons we cannot receive a large number of visitors,” the museum’s representative, Hanene Srarfi, said. Several events had been planned for Tuesday to protest against the attack.

15:14

US & allies launch 14 airstrikes against ISIS

The US and its allies staged 14 airstrikes on Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) targets in Syria and Iraq, Reuters reported. The strikes were conducted between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, the Combined Joint Task Force said. Five Islamic State fighting positions, four tactical units, a checkpoint and a vehicle were hit near the Syrian city of Kobani, the statement claimed. In Iraq, eight strikes near Bayji, Fallujah, Mosul, Sinjar and Tal Afar hit tactical units, vehicles, storage facilities and other targets.

14:32

‘Normandy 4’ meeting on Ukraine due in Paris on Wednesday – Kiev

Authorities in Kiev have confirmed that a meeting of political directors in the Normandy format will be held in Paris on Wednesday. Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France will discuss the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements. Ukraine will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Vadim Pristaiko, RIA Novosti reported.

13:43

Canada expands anti-ISIS mission into Syria

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expanding the country’s military mission against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants into Syria, Bloomberg said. Harper is reportedly seeking approval from lawmakers for a one-year extension of the current mission and authorization to expand attacks into Syria. The mission has been focused so far on airstrikes in Iraq. Harper’s Conservative Party has a legislative majority.

13:17

UEFA elects Platini for 3rd term as president

UEFA on Tuesday elected Michel Platini unopposed for a third straight term as president of European football’s governing body. The French football legend promised to run the world’s most powerful continental federation with more “democracy,” AFP reported. He also offered more cooperation with the heads of other confederations.

12:51

Tunisia again closes airspace to western Libya

Tunisia has again closed its airspace for flights from western Libya, Reuters reported. The move comes days after it allowed Libyan planes from Tripoli back for the first time in around six months. “We’ve suspended temporarily again Libya flights for security reasons,” a Transport Ministry official said on Tuesday, without elaborating. Militants killed 20 foreign tourists in an attack on the national museum in Tunis last week.

12:23

Houthis take Yemen town 100km north of Aden – reports

Houthi fighters and allied army units captured the town of Kirsh, about 100km north of Yemen’s second city of Aden, on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The capture followed heavy fighting with forces loyal to President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local officials and residents said. The area lies about a 40-minute drive to the north of a major airbase, al-Anad, which remains in the hands of Hadi, who is based in Aden.

11:59

US-led coalition begins surveillance flights over ISIS-held Tikrit

The US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has begun surveillance flights over the extremist-held city of Tikrit, AP reported. Intelligence is being sent to Iraqi forces fighting to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown, a senior official said Tuesday. The flights, which began Saturday, mark the first time the coalition has been involved in the offensive. Up to now it largely has been supported by Iranian advisers including Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force.

11:29

Yemen Shiite militia kills 5 protesters in Taez

Shiite Houthi militiamen opened fire on Tuesday at demonstrators in the strategic Yemeni city of Taez, killing five protesters and wounding 80 others, AFP reported, citing a local official and medics. The gunmen attacked the demonstrators as they gathered for a third consecutive day to protest the militia’s arrival in Taez. Houthis have sent thousands of troops south from the capital Sanaa, which they control.

10:41

Iraq’s request to US-led coalition for Tikrit airstrikes ‘imminent’ – report

Iraq’s request to the US-led coalition for airstrikes in the campaign to retake Tikrit from ISIS insurgents is “imminent,” Reuters quoted a senior Western diplomat as saying Tuesday. The coalition has so far not taken part in the campaign. If it accepts the request, the move would see by far the biggest collaboration between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed paramilitaries and the US and its allies.

09:56

30 people killed in central Yemen as Shiite rebels advance south

At least 30 people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in central Yemen, AFP reported, citing tribal sources. Meanwhile, Shiite rebels backed by forces loyal to the ousted president are advancing into southern Yemen, AP reported. The rebels and soldiers from an army battalion loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh have taken over the governor’s office in the southern regional capital of al-Dhalea, according to eyewitnesses. Rebel forces reportedly clashed with militias loyal to current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in the southern city of Aden.

07:24

US drone kills 9 Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan

A US drone strike killed at least nine Pakistani militants in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province early Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing intelligence officials. The strike, part of a drone campaign against Pakistani militants in Afghanistan, was near the site of fierce fighting on the Pakistani side of the border in recent days. Fighter jets have been pounding positions in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region. The military says it has killed scores of militants, and at least seven soldiers have also been killed.

07:11

Gunmen attack vehicles on highway in E. Afghanistan, kill at least 13

Gunmen in eastern Afghanistan attacked passing vehicles on a highway during a midnight assault Tuesday, killing at least 13 people, AP reported. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Wardak province’s Sayad Abad district, where Taliban fighters hold a great deal of territory. The gunmen opened fire on three separate vehicles in the attack, including a bus traveling from Kabul. Several recent attacks have also targeted buses in the country.

05:30

​5 injured in shooting near university in Tennessee

Five people have been injured in a shooting near the Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Two of the injured were taken to hospital via medical helicopter. Local Clarksville police are still searching for the gunman, while the incident took place at around 9pm local time. It is not known if the shooting was connected at all to the university, though Austin Peay State did issue a statement, saying, “Although there does not appear to be a danger to the university community, please take precautions to ensure your safety,” according to Reuters.

04:49

13 dead in Afghanistan after militants attack passenger bus – report

At least 13 people were killed and two others injured after gunmen shot at a passenger bus in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak province, Xinhua News Agency cited an official source as saying. Police are investigating the incident.

04:47

Over half of Vanuatu’s population affected by Cyclone Pam – UN

More than 165,000 people living on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu have been touched by Cyclone Pam, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. The body also confirmed that the death toll has risen to 16. “Around 166,000 people, more than half of Vanuatu’s population, have been affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam on 22 islands,” the UN office said. OCHA warned that “food stocks and water reserves are being exhausted and will not last more than a couple of weeks across the affected islands.” It added that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of homes have been damaged by the storm and “around 65,000 people are in need of temporary emergency shelter.” Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 13, with the damage categorized as catastrophic. Houses, roads and bridges were destroyed as the wind speeds reached 300 kph (186 mph).

White House: President Obama will sign Russia sanctions bill, likely by week’s end

obama-sign-sanctions-russia.si

U.S. president Barack Obama

RT –  December 16, 2014

New Russian sanctions bill to be signed by end of week – White House

A new bill imposing further sanctions on Russia is to be signed by US President Barack Obama by the end of the week, a White House spokesman told a news briefing Tuesday.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama is expected to sign new legislation this week despite preliminary concerns about its content. “I would anticipate that it would get done before the end of the week,” he said.

However, he said that the bill has provided a degree of flexibility required by the president.

The new sanctions come amid concerns over the stability of the Russian ruble, which nosedived Tuesday following a decline in oil prices and previous rounds of sanctions imposed by both the US and the EU.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Chomsky to RT: US and its NATO intervention force may spark nuclear war

     Home /     News / Chomsky to RT: US and its NATO intervention force may spark nuclear war Published time: November 07, 2014 13:20 Get short URL US linguist, philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky (AFP Photo DDP / Sascha Schuermann) GERMANY OUT US linguist, philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky (AFP Photo DDP / Sascha Schuermann) GERMANY OUT


US linguist, philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky (AFP Photo DDP / Sascha Schuermann) GERMANY OUT 

Published November 7, 2014

How dangerous is the current confrontation between Russia and the West? Noam Chomsky believes that NATO expansion and US quest for hegemony has put the world in a situation so unstable where any accidental interaction could result in a nuclear war.

‘New NATO aims to control the world’

The “new NATO” that emerged after the Soviet Union collapsed is basically a US-run intervention force, with a completely different mission as compared to the original, Chomsky tells RT’s Sophie&Co.

“In fact, one might ask why NATO even continued to exist,” he said. “The official justification for NATO was that its purpose was to defend Western Europe from Russian hordes who might attack Western Europe.”

With no more “Russian threat”, the natural conclusion in the 90s would be to disband the alliance, but instead the opposite happened – against all agreements NATO expanded all the way towards the Russian borders.

“Its mission changed. The official mission of NATO became to control the international, the global energy system, pipelines. That means, to control the world.”

‘World ominously close to nuclear war’

In the worst case scenario the current international instability, especially with tensions between US and Russia resembling a new cold war, could result in a nuclear war, in which all parties that initiate it would be eliminated.

“And it’s come ominously close several times in the past, dramatically close. And it could happen again, but not planned, but just by the accidental interactions that take place,” Chomsky said. “There have been many cases, not that serious, but pretty close, where human intervention with a few-minutes choice has prevented a nuclear war. You can’t guarantee that’s going to continue.”

 

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“It may not be a high probability each time, but when you play a game like that, with low probability risks of disaster over and over again, you’re going to lose. And now, especially in the crisis over Ukraine, and so-called missile-defense systems near the borders of Russia, it’s a threatening situation.”

‘West can’t isolate Russia, will drive it to the East’

With its efforts to isolate Russia through confrontation and sanctions, the West instead pushes Moscow closer to the East, towards closer relations with China.

“Current Western policies are driving Russia towards closer interaction with the Chinese-based system. In this interaction Russia is actually the weaker partner, so it’s making concessions, but the US is openly creating a system of power, which could significantly diminish US domination in the world.”

“There is a Trans-Pacific Partnership, so-called, a huge commercial treaty, designed to incorporate the Asian countries, not China, but the other Asian countries, crucially not China,” Chomsky said. “But that’s the plan and it’s the kind of economic counterpart to the military pivot to Asia, and the sanctions on Russia are helping to create a counter-course based on Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or an extension of it, which would include Russia, and may begin to move across Eurasia, the whole Eurasian region.”

Reuters / Jorge Dan

Reuters / Jorge Dan

The peak of American power in history was around 1945, Chomsky says, when the United States owned half of the world’s wealth and American leaders were designing and organizing a world system that would benefit the US corporate system.

“The origins of multi-national corporations began to develop at that time… And there were detailed plans for assigning to every part of the world, what was called, a function within the global system,” he says, although adding that plan began to collapse very quickly.

“In 1949 there was a serious blow to the US global hegemony – China’s independence,” he said. “There’s a name for that in US history and Western history. It is called ‘the loss of China’. Just think about this phrase for a minute. I can only lose what I own. And the assumption, the tacit assumption is – we own China, we own the world.”

‘US-led anti-ISIS coalition meaningless, apart from being illegal’

US actions in the Middle East region, including the invasion in Iraq, have created the circumstances, under which ISIS emerged, Chomsky believes. “What happened is the US basically hit Iraq with a kind of sledgehammer,” instituting a governmental structure, which was sectarian in nature.

“All of this came together to create sectarian conflicts, which had not existed before… That has since expanded, and now it’s tearing the whole region apart. Syria is one element of it.”

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Reuters / Majed Jaber

READ MORE: US knocks down ballistic, cruise missile targets in complex Aegis system test

“It may not be a high probability each time, but when you play a game like that, with low probability risks of disaster over and over again, you’re going to lose. And now, especially in the crisis over Ukraine, and so-called missile-defense systems near the borders of Russia, it’s a threatening situation.”

‘West can’t isolate Russia, will drive it to the East’

With its efforts to isolate Russia through confrontation and sanctions, the West instead pushes Moscow closer to the East, towards closer relations with China.

“Current Western policies are driving Russia towards closer interaction with the Chinese-based system. In this interaction Russia is actually the weaker partner, so it’s making concessions, but the US is openly creating a system of power, which could significantly diminish US domination in the world.”

“There is a Trans-Pacific Partnership, so-called, a huge commercial treaty, designed to incorporate the Asian countries, not China, but the other Asian countries, crucially not China,” Chomsky said. “But that’s the plan and it’s the kind of economic counterpart to the military pivot to Asia, and the sanctions on Russia are helping to create a counter-course based on Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or an extension of it, which would include Russia, and may begin to move across Eurasia, the whole Eurasian region.”

Reuters / Jorge Dan

Reuters / Jorge Dan

The peak of American power in history was around 1945, Chomsky says, when the United States owned half of the world’s wealth and American leaders were designing and organizing a world system that would benefit the US corporate system.

“The origins of multi-national corporations began to develop at that time… And there were detailed plans for assigning to every part of the world, what was called, a function within the global system,” he says, although adding that plan began to collapse very quickly.

READ MORE: US-backed TPP to be ineffective without Russia, China – Putin

“In 1949 there was a serious blow to the US global hegemony – China’s independence,” he said. “There’s a name for that in US history and Western history. It is called ‘the loss of China’. Just think about this phrase for a minute. I can only lose what I own. And the assumption, the tacit assumption is – we own China, we own the world.”

‘US-led anti-ISIS coalition meaningless, apart from being illegal’

US actions in the Middle East region, including the invasion in Iraq, have created the circumstances, under which ISIS emerged, Chomsky believes. “What happened is the US basically hit Iraq with a kind of sledgehammer,” instituting a governmental structure, which was sectarian in nature.

“All of this came together to create sectarian conflicts, which had not existed before… That has since expanded, and now it’s tearing the whole region apart. Syria is one element of it.”

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And to solve the mess, the US again decided to act against the international law, building an anti-ISIS coalition that is “meaningless, apart from being illegal.”

“A law-abiding state would go to the Security Council, ask for a declaration by the Security Council of a threat to peace, and request the Security Council to organize direct response to it. And that could be done. The US could then participate in it, but so could Iran,” which is a major military force and would probably wipe out ISIS in no time, if it was allowed to join the fight on the ground, Chomsky believes.

‘States are very resistant to interference with their powers’

The US is far and away the technologically most advanced country in the world, so the spying is “more extensive in the United States.” Although Edward Snowden made a major contribution by exposing NSA methods to the world, there’s a long way to go, Chomsky said.

“States are very resistant to interference with their powers… It hasn’t stopped, now in fact it’s expanding. It’s a real major attack on human rights,” he said. “But it’s duplicated in China, Britain, Russia, no doubt, other countries.”

“The major threat is if it becomes sort of passively accepted, because of the fact that it’s not stopped, this is just going to go on, go on to the point where there are literally tiny drones, fly-size drones, that can be on the ceiling of your living room, listening to what you’re saying and sending it back to the central government office. There are no limits to this.”

“There has to be a citizen reaction, which would put an end to this practice.”