sábado, 23 de septiembre de 2017

El caos como estrategia

La guerra más larga emprendida por el Imperio en toda su historia no ha sido contra ninguna de las grandes potencias. Ha sido contra Afghanistán, uno de los países más pobres del mundo. Los EEUU están en Afghanistán desde 2001. ¿Por qué? Para entenderlo se necesita mirar un mapa: lo que importa son los vecinos de ese país: Irán, China y, más al norte, Rusia. La nota que sigue es de Caleb Maupin para el sitio web New Eastern Outlook:

Título: An Empire of Chaos: The Real Reason the US is in Afghanistan

Texto: Donald Trump is sending more troops to Afghanistan, continuing the USA's longest war. CEO Michael Silver, of the American Elements corporation, wrote a short op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, urging for the extraction of the country's mineral resources. Afghanistan remains unstable. Many questions must be asked. The one on many minds is "Why is the USA in Afghanistan?" 

Terrorism? Minerals? Or Something Else? 

The USA has been occupying Afghanistan since 2001. Why? Both supporters and opponents of US Afghan policy give murky answers. Supporters of US efforts say they are in the country to fight terrorism and help the country rebuild and move toward democracy. Opponents of the occupation say the USA is seeking to control its rare minerals such as neodymium, indium, gallium, and lanthanum which are essential in making computer chips. 

These answers are insufficient. As for terrorism, since 2001, the presence and strength of terrorist groups in Afghanistan has vastly increased. Al-Queda, ISIS, various warlords, Jundallah, and many terrorist groups, most of which had minimal presence under the Taliban government, are now all across the country. Even the Taliban itself, the government the USA toppled in the 2001 invasion, has not vanished, and still controls a large portion of the country. If the USA is in Afghanistan to fight terrorism, its efforts have not only completely failed, and but had the opposite of their intended affect. 

So, is it all about the minerals? Is the USA seeking to get control of these vital rare earth elements which are key in making modern computer chips? Well, perhaps this is a factor for seeking to control the country, but its worth noting that in the entire 16 years of the occupation, the USA and its allied Afghan government have never moved forward with any plan for mineral extraction. Michael Silver, the CEO of American Elements wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal on August 30th, essentially begging the US government to go ahead and "help Afghans exploit their mineral riches." 

If the occupation of the country were motivated purely out of desire to plunder the rare earth minerals, wouldn't it have been done by now? 16 years is a long time to put off something, if indeed, it is the entire basis of the military operations. It is also unlikely that a CEO would publicly beg the President to do something, if it was secretly the entire basis for the operation. 

In fact, talk of Afghanistan's mineral resources and the untapped trillions to be made from them, didn't show up in the media until 2010, nine years after the US invaded and toppled the Taliban. It was only long after the invasion that geologists were able to determine that such minerals were even in the country. 

The rare earth minerals and the potential of extracting them, could certainly serve as an incentive for the continued occupation, but are not the primary cause. Neither is fighting terrorism. 

A Strategic Epicenter for Chaos 

A recent article in the New York Times noted the funeral of two CIA officers who had been killed in Afghanistan as the CIA has been moving "to the front lines." According to the New York Times, the two CIA operatives had "advised a small army of Afghan militants," essentially the CIA men were embedded into non-governmental armed groups. According to the NYT piece, this strategy had been used by the Obama administration "who embraced covert operations because of their small footprint and deniability." The article also noted that the factions covertly directed and armed by the CIA "were at times accused by Afghan officials and others as a law unto themselves, running roughshod over civilians and killing innocents." 

While press reports give the impression that the USA is working only with the internationally recognized Afghan government to stabilize the country, the New York Times seems to point out the contrary. So, the question must be asked, as the country remains a mess of violence, with terrorists, drug cartels, and warlords slaughtering each other, which of the many armed groups have CIA agents directing them? The answer cannot be found in the New York Times article, and most likely is not public information. It should seem obvious, however, that covertly directing non-government militias of Afghans to kill other Afghans, is not a strategy for stabilizing a country. 

In the analysis of this writer, the US occupation of Afghanistan is really about one thing: spreading chaos and antagonizing the surrounding countries. 

But why would the USA want to keep Afghanistan unstable? 

Look at a map. Afghanistan is located in central Asia. It is an impoverished, underdeveloped country that is landlocked. It borders the three top opponents of US power on the global stage, Russia, China, and Iran. Since 2001, not only has Afghanistan been a mess of terrorism, drug trafficking, and societal chaos, but this chaos has spilled over into the three neighboring countries. 

Menacing The Russians 

US operations in Afghanistan have almost always been related to Russia. At the time of the Russian Revolution, Central Asia was dominated by the British Empire. The British had largely de-forested Afghanistan, and had already introduced the scourge of heroin. The Bolsheviks happily embraced the government of Habbibula Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan who had stood up to the British, and kept the country neutral in the First World War. In 1919 the Afghan ambassador told Lenin "I proffer you a friendly hand and hope that you will help the whole of the East to free itself from the yoke of European imperialism." 

The Soviet Union saw bringing stability and development to Central Asia as a way to secure itself. In 1920, the Soviet Union famously sponsored the "Baku Conference" or the "Congress of the Peoples of the East" to offer their support to people in Central Asia and the Middle East who sought to break free from Western domination. 

After Afghanistan's 1978 Saur Revolution, the Soviet Union immediately began pouring in aid. The Soviet Union sent soldiers into the Afghan countryside to help establish farms. Literacy campaigns were conducted as well, with Soviet volunteers teaching impoverished Afghans how to read. Democratic Youth Leagues worked to restore the forests, in the hopes that Afghanistan's unique timber could be exported on the world market. 

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which existed from 1978 to 1992 sought to lift the country from poverty with Soviet assistance. Democratic Afghanistan established universities, built hospitals, and tried to modernize the country. Despite their Marxist-Leninist ideology, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party had no illusions that Afghanistan could become a socialist country at that time. They felt it was too poor. Their goal was simply to raise the standard of living with Soviet assistance. 

Brzezinski bragged in an interview that by establishing an Islamist insurgency against the Democratic government, with the help of a young Saudi named Osama Bin Laden, he had "given the USSR its Vietnam." The CIA worked with the Pakistani secret police to enable terrorists in Afghanistan to cultivate heroin. 

The CIA strategy of Islamic terrorism and heroin in Afghanistan mirrored policy in Chechnya, where the USA and Saudi Arabia had already been supporting Islamic extremists who were involved in selling heroin and committing acts of terrorism intended to harm the Soviet government. 

While the Taliban was internationally recognized for its efforts to destroy poppy fields and exterminate traffickers, the 2001 invasion marked a key moment for restoring Afghanistan's position as the world's supplier of heroin. Poppy fields went up like wildfire, and cheap heroin flooded the world market. 

Since the US invaded in 2001, heroin has grown all across Afghanistan. Huge amounts of it are flowing into Russia. Furthermore, the terrorist groups that have long waged a campaign of violence in Chechnya, have cooperated with the terrorists in Afghanistan. Russian-aligned governments in Central Asia face a growing problem of Wahabbi extremism. 

Keeping Afghanistan unstable is certainly causing lots of problems for Russia. 

Drugs and Terrorism Against Iran 

Iran's revolutionary guards are constantly working to stop narcotics from flowing over from the Afghan border. The poppy fields of Afghanistan, now booming and flooding the world drug market since the Taliban was toppled, have destroyed the lives of literally millions of Iranians. A report in 2006 estimated that 8% of adults in Iran are addicted to drugs. Another report suggested that 130,000 Iranians become addicted to drugs every year. 

The majority of the people in Iran are youth, born after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Heroin from Afghanistan is a mechanism used to feed into the cynicism and political confusion of this new generation that did not see Khomeni's rise. The USA works to manipulate the alienation and confusion of young Iranians, much as it did with the artistic and intellectual circles in Eastern Europe in order to foment color revolutions during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The devastation of drugs accompanies satellite TV broadcasts, anti-government movies, and numerous efforts to confuse, demoralize, and manipulate the generation that will soon inherit the helm of Iran's anti-capitalist government. 

Furthermore, Afghanistan borders a region of Iran that has a history of religious differences with the Islamic Republic. The clerics who lead the Iranian government are Shia Muslims, and while Sunnis are allowed to practice their faith, they are not permitted to establish independent Mosques that could foment unrest or work to discredit the Supreme Leader. 

Jundallah, a Sunni terrorist organization based in Afghanistan, has established as its mission; the overthrow of the Shia government in Iran. Jundallah works on the Afghan border, and has bombed and killed people across Iran. It is also involved in the heroin trade. In 2014, it was revealed that a Port Authority Police Officer from the United States had been working inside the Jundallah terrorist group, crossing the border into Iran from Afghanistan. 

Spreading Chaos into China 

The 20th century in China has largely been a story of struggling to break free from foreign domination, drug addiction, and poverty, and restore itself as global power. The first US military intervention in China, in 1900, was against the Boxer Rebellion, a nationalist uprising that lynched drug dealers and sought to promote traditional Chinese culture. Prior to that, the British had waged two "Opium Wars" in which they militarily forced China not to erect tariffs or block the importation of narcotics. 

The Chinese government works relentlessly to make sure that heroin is never imported into the country. The majority of those who receive the death penalty in China are somehow related to drug smuggling. 

China's historically Islamic region, Xianjing, has been the site of anti-government terrorism in recent decades. Not surprisingly, this region also borders Afghanistan. Members of China's Islamic Uiygir minority have sworn allegiance to ISIS and gone to Syria to fight the Baathist government. 

Chinese leaders have expressed deep concern about their Afghan border, and the dangers associated with Afghanistan. 

China, Russia, Iran: Stable Governments Facing Attack 

Why does the US continue to target Iran, Russia, and China? Is it because they are unstable? No. It is because they are stable. 

The Islamic Revolution of Iran involved a mass uprising of the people. The government established in 1979 has nationalized Iran's oil resources and used the proceeds to develop the country, and build up the domestic economy. While the bordering countries of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are quite dangerous, since the end of the war with Iraq, Iran has been one of the safest countries in the region. Life expectancy has increased. The economy is centrally planned. 

Since 1949, China has brought 700 million people out of poverty. It has responded to terrorism and instability in the Autonomous Regions of Xianjing and Tibet by pouring in investment and infrastructure, providing the people with economic opportunity. Before the 1949 revolution, when Republicans said the USA "lost China," it was a very unstable place. Now it is far more stable than ever before, and the second largest economy in the world. 

Russia recovered from the financial and humanitarian disaster following the collapse of the USSR. Starting in 2000 with the rise of Putin, Gazprom and Rosneft, state controlled natural gas and oil companies, have been used to centralize and plan the economy. 

China's Alternative Strategy 

These three Eurasian countries serve as bastions of stability, and more than that, they are competitors with Wall Street. Russia sells oil and natural gas on the international markets. Every barrel of oil sold by Russia, is a barrel of oil that could have been sold by a US or British oil company. Iran is also an oil exporter, and it has recently joined the natural gas trade. 

While China does not have very much domestic oil, it is starting to innovate natural gas extraction, and it produces steel, copper, and aluminum more than any other country on earth. Cell phones produced by Huwai, the state controlled telecommunications manufacturer, are sold across the world. A stable China is also a competitor. 

Michael Silver wrote "The Chinese aren't evil, they are merely smart" in his op-ed, begging the Trump administration to extract Afghan minerals. As the USA sends in anonymous CIA operatives to work inside non-government militias, and conducts drone strikes that often kill civilians, China indeed has a completely different strategy for Afghanistan. 

While China has not conducted any drone strikes in Afghanistan, many voices around the world are deeply impressed with its medical aid programs. China's Red Cross Society has recently opened up its "Belt and Road Fraternity Fund" and is using the money to provide desperately needed surgeries to Afghan children under the age of 14. 

Over 100 children have already traveled over the border in order to be treated in hospitals in the Xianjing Medical University in the Chinese city of Urumqi. China has also worked with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society to establish similar programs to help Afghans by providing much needed medical care. 

China and Iran have laid out a plan for Afghanistan called "Trade and Transport" at the United Nations. They have called for railway to built across Afghanistan in order to give the country port access. The hope is that textile factories and other industries can be established in Afghanistan, providing an alternative to terrorism and drug cartels. 

It is very possible that Michael Silver's pleas of the Trump administration, regarding the rare earth elements, will be ignored. He is correct that "exploiting" the mineral resources may help to stabilize the country, but the forces that push the USA to continue occupying Afghanistan, at great expense, seem to have other goals.

viernes, 22 de septiembre de 2017


La imagen de arriba corresponde a una captura de satélite en el momento en que el ojo del huracán María se encontraba sobre el municipio de Caguas, en Puerto Rico. Así cuenta su paso el diario portorriqueño El Nuevo Día:

Título: Los datos más relevantes del huracán María

Subtítulo: El ciclón pasó por la isla el pasado miércoles causando devastación

Texto: A continuación te revelamos importantes datos numéricos de este fenómeno natural:

- El ojo del huracán María tocó tierra a las 6:15 a.m. por Yabucoa con vientos de 155 millas por hora.

- La presión de este sistema atmosférico al arribar a tierra era de 917 milibares.

- El ciclón solo disminuyó en 10 millas por hora la velocidad de sus vientos al hacer contacto con la Cordillera Central. Además, este efecto de la montaña provocó que “el ojo se cubriera con nubosidad” y perdiera definición.

- María salió en horas del mediodía del miércoles por la zona del barrio Islote, entre Arecibo y Barceloneta.

- María entró y salió de Puerto Rico como un huracán categoría 4. Tenía vientos de 145 millas por hora.

- El huracán dejó una acumulación de hasta 40 pulgadas de lluvia sobre la isla.

- La mayor acumulación de agua registrada fue de 37.9 pulgadas en el municipio de Caguas.

- En Villalba se registraron 27.82 pulgadas de lluvia y en Canóvanas 23.89.

- El menor registro de lluvia en la isla ocurrió en Naguabo con 6.31 pulgadas de lluvia.

- La precipitación provocada por el huracán llevó al Monitor de Sequía de los Estados Unidos a sacar a la isla del listado de áreas con sequía en los Estados Unidos.

- Los registros de vientos más fuertes obtenidos por las estaciones del Servicio Nacional de Meteorología fueron en Culebra, con una ráfaga de 113 millas por hora, y en Arecibo, con una ráfaga de 112 millas por hora.  

- La lluvia reportada provocó que el Acuífero del Sur saliera de la condición crítica en la que se encontraba. Su pozo en peor estado, en el Aguirre en Salinas, aumentó a 20.62 pies. Ahora el sistema se encuentra en nivel de “observación”. Los otros tres pozos principales están en “condición óptima”, según el Servicio Geológico de los Estados Unidos.

- La mayoría de los embalses utilizados para extraer agua potable están en su nivel óptimo. Solo el embalse Toa Baja está en nivel de observación.

jueves, 21 de septiembre de 2017

Cataluña al rojo vivo

El gobierno español encarceló a catorce funcionarios catalanes encargados de llevar a cabo el referéndum del próximo 1 de Octubre sobre la independencia de esa región. Algunos de ellos, como el Secretario General de Economía, Josep María Jové, han sido acusados de sedición. Se suceden las protestas, no sólo en Barcelona sino en varias regiones de España. No parece haber salida política. Así lo cuenta el siguiente editorial del diario La Vanguardia

Título: Llamamiento a la serenidad

Texto: La economía de la Generalitat, intervenida. Más de una docena de altos cargos y funcionarios de la Administración catalana, detenidos por orden del juez. Cuarenta y un registros en oficinas públicas, despachos privados y domicilios. La logística del referéndum del 1 de octubre, muy desbaratada. Inmediatas manifestaciones de protesta en el centro de Barcelona. Tensión, mucha tensión en todos los estratos de la sociedad. Tres partidos catalanes abandonando el hemiciclo del Congreso de los Diputados, en señal de protesta. Actos de apoyo a las instituciones catalanas en Madrid, Valencia y otras ciudades españolas. El Gobierno –que dice cumplir con su deber–, en minoría en el Congreso de los Diputados. Fuerte presión sobre el Partido Socialista. El Partido Nacionalista Vasco, fuerza imprescindible para la aprobación de los presupuestos generales del Estado, confirma su asistencia a una asamblea de parlamentarios favorables al soberanismo. España en todos los noticiarios del mundo, con una imagen poco grata para un país europeo: políticos detenidos, papeletas de votación secuestradas. Incertidumbre ante las jornadas que se avecinan. Este es el paisaje que se podía haber evitado. Estamos ante una crisis de Estado.

Esta grave situación se podía haber evitado. Lo venimos advirtiendo, al menos, desde el 2015. Había caminos para sortearla. La actual situación se podía haber evitado atendiendo al principio de realidad. Los partidos soberanistas debían haber admitido que en las elecciones al Parlament de Catalunya de septiembre del 2015 no superaron el plebiscito que ellos mismos habían planteado. El independentismo no superó el 50% de los votos. No consiguió una mayoría social suficiente para una aceleración histórica. No consiguió la mitad más uno de los votos, pero quedó muy cerca. A lomos de su orgullo –y de sus respectivos cálculos de partido–, Artur Mas y Oriol Junqueras no quisieron admitir la realidad por miedo a la desmovilización y por temor a aparecer como perdedores ante el Gobierno español, que no les ofrecía ninguna alternativa. Optaron entonces por la fuga hacia delante y quedaron en manos de la CUP, previo sacrificio de Mas, que, mal aconsejado, no se atrevió a convocar nuevas elecciones. Un joven partido de extrema izquierda con el ocho por ciento de los votos se convertía así en dueño de la dinámica política catalana, sin tan siquiera esperarlo. Una situación insólita. Insólita pero real.

El Gobierno español también leyó mal septiembre del 2015. El fracaso del plebiscito fue interpretado como un desmayo del soberanismo, sin calibrar correctamente la profundidad de la protesta social y política en Catalunya, expresada con toda rotundidad desde el 2012. Cuando el 48% de los votantes de una sociedad expresa su adhesión a programas de ruptura hay que preocuparse. Y hay que preocuparse todavía más si ese 48% reúne a muchos votantes jóvenes y a los sectores más dinámicos de las clases medias. En septiembre del 2015, Mariano Rajoy se hallaba en vís­peras de unas elecciones generales muy complicadas. Tenía poco margen para moverse y seguramente creyó que la tensión con los soberanistas catalanes podía contribuir a la cohesión del electorado conservador español en un momento de fuerte desgaste, como consecuencia de la crisis económica. Creemos que el Partido Popular se ha convertido en adicto de un peligroso estimulante: la tensión catalana. La tensión catalana ayuda a cohe­sionar a su electorado y, llevada al extremo, desbarata a su principal adversario, el Partido Socialista. El incen­tivo es poderoso, pero toda espiral de la tensión acaba ­estallando. Después de muchos años de acumulación de tensiones, ese momento crítico ha llegado. ¿A quién beneficia ahora?

Poco antes del verano, advertíamos que los actuales gobernantes catalanes podían acabar llevando el autogobierno de Catalunya contra las rocas. Desgraciadamente así está ocurriendo, después de las nefastas sesiones parlamentarias del 6 y 7 de septiembre, en las que la institucionalidad catalana fue violentada y herida. Fue un mal paso. Suele serlo siempre que se pierde el respeto a la ley. Los dirigentes soberanistas inteligentes lo saben. Y algunos se atreven a reconocerlo. La Generalitat se halla intervenida, sin que se haya activado el artículo 155 de la Constitución. Decenas de dirigentes políticos y de altos funcionarios catalanes van a ser procesados. Los pleitos serán interminables. No sabemos qué pasará en las próximas semanas, pero sí podemos intuir que la plena restitución del autogobierno y el indulto de los inhabilitados se convertirán en argumentos centrales en los próximos meses. Se podía haber evitado.

Desde hace cinco años venimos criticando el quietismo del Gobierno español. Mariano Rajoy reiteró ayer que su principal obligación es velar por el cumplimiento de la ley y evitar la celebración de un referéndum de autodeterminación que choca frontalmente con la Constitución. Nunca discutiremos que el deber del Gobierno –de cualquier Gobierno– es hacer cumplir la ley. Ocurre, sin embargo, que la mejor manera de hacer cumplir la ley es propiciar el acuerdo, en caso de conflicto social grave. Ley y política. Con los reglamentos no se solucionan los graves problemas de un país. La situación hoy sería otra si la necesaria exigencia de cumplimiento de la ley hubiese ido acompañada de una sincera oferta de diálogo político. Es posible que en estas horas críticas, las encuestas, en lo que respecta a la opinión pública española, sean claramente favorables al Gobierno. Queremos advertir, sin embargo, que la situación creada va a ensanchar el campo de la protesta en Catalunya. Ya no es una cuestión de independentistas y no independentistas. Muchos ciudadanos ajenos al soberanismo sienten un profundo disgusto en estos momentos. La desafección respecto al Estado crece, por falta de un marco político de encauzamiento y diálogo. Los puentes están rotos. La situación es grave.

La logística del 1-O está prácticamente rota, pero el malestar ciudadano es enorme. Nuestro deber es advertirlo. ¡Cuidado con el cortoplacismo! ¡Cuidado con las miradas cortas! El Estado español y Catalunya se exponen a demasiados riesgos si entramos en un bucle de enfrentamientos. No es el momento de dejarse fascinar por las encuestas de urgencia. No es el momento de dejarse arrastrar por los insensatos que exigen una humillación pública de las instituciones catalanas. No es el momento, en Catalunya, de dejar la política en manos del reclamo emocional de la calle. No es la hora del aventurismo.

Queremos manifestar nuestro pleno respeto a las instituciones catalanas, amparadas por la Constitución y el Estatut, y nuestra adhesión al autogobierno. Y desde ­esta posición pedir serenidad a todos y la apertura ­inmediata de un marco de diálogo.


La siguiente nota es del propio director del diario La Vanguardia, Marius Carol:

Título: ¿Y ahora qué?

Texto: Una vez que la Guardia Civil desactivó la logís­tica del referéndum del 1-O y detuvo a catorce altos cargos, mientras el Estado suspendía en la práctica el autogobierno catalán sin necesidad de pasar por el procedimiento del 155, la gente se hizo una pregunta elemental: ¿Y ahora qué? No es fácil responder a esta cuestión. Lo que parece claro es que será imposible llevar a cabo una consulta con garantías, como reconoció el presidente de Òmnium Cultural ante las operaciones policiales de los últimos días, así que en el soberanismo emergen voces que piden una declaración unilateral de independencia en el Parlament. Hay quienes quieren hacerlo de inmediato y quienes apuestan por proclamarla tras unas elecciones que den una amplia mayoría a una lista única independentista. Todo ello al margen de la Constitución y del Estatut, de donde emanan las instituciones catalanas. Nada nos permite ser demasiado optimistas a aquellos que creemos en una salida negociada, respetuosa con la legalidad.

¿No existe pues ninguna posibilidad de acuerdo? Pocas, pero habría que apurarlas. La historia nos enseña que a menudo las cosas no mejoran hasta que empiezan a empeorar. Si la máxima fuera cierta, lo tendríamos todo a favor para buscar un acuerdo. La semana pasada un alto cargo de la Generalitat y un dirigente del PP cenaron en Madrid y exploraron discretamente líneas de trabajo. Nada que vaya a cambiar la historia, pero es un brote en mitad del campo de batalla. Ciertamente preocupa pensar que las autoridades catalanas se fíen más de la calle que de su capacidad de gestionar la crisis, pero resultaría imprescindible encontrar interlocutores para negociar una solución digna.

Gaziel escribió tras el Sis d’Octubre que “las cosas disparatadas suelen acabar mal”. Sería inteligente no repetir la historia y buscar un marco en el que la política encauzara una situación que desborda a sus actores.

miércoles, 20 de septiembre de 2017

El nuevo Eje del Mal

El discurso del Presidente Donald Trump en la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas tuvo momentos interesantes, como cuando reconoció al estado-nación como entidad soberana para los pueblos del mundo. Pero no se emocionen, chicos; al rato dio una buena dosis de imperialismo explícito cuando volvió a la carga contra los malos del momento: Irán, Corea del Norte y Venezuela (que, notamos como al pasar, son estados-nación). Analiza el discurso Pepe Escobar para el Asia Times:

Título: Unmasked: Trump Doctrine vows carnage for new axis of evil

Subtítulo: North Korea, Iran, Venezuela are targets in “compassionate” America’s war on the “wicked few.” It’s almost as though Washington felt its hegemony threatened

Texto: This was no “deeply philosophical address”. And hardly a show of  “principled realism” – as spun by the White House. President Trump at the UN was “American carnage,” to borrow a phrase previously deployed by his nativist speechwriter Stephen Miller.

One should allow the enormity of what just happened to sink in, slowly. The president of the United States, facing the bloated bureaucracy that passes for the “international community,” threatened to “wipe off the map” the whole of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (25 million people). And may however many millions of South Koreans who perish as collateral damage be damned.

Multiple attempts have been made to connect Trump’s threats to the madman theory cooked up by “Tricky Dicky” Nixon in cahoots with Henry Kissinger, according to which the USSR must always be under the impression the then-US president was crazy enough to, literally, go nuclear. But the DPRK will not be much impressed with this madman remix.

That leaves, on the table, a way more terrifying upgrade of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Trump repeatedly invoked Truman in his speech). Frantic gaming will now be in effect in both Moscow and Beijing: Russia and China have their own stability / connectivity strategy under development to contain Pyongyang.

The Trump Doctrine has finally been enounced and a new axis of evil delineated. The winners are North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. Syria under Assad is a sort of mini-evil, and so is Cuba. Crucially, Ukraine and the South China Sea only got a fleeting mention from Trump, with no blunt accusations against Russia and China. That may reflect at least some degree of realpolitik; without “RC” – the Russia-China strategic partnership at the heart of the BRICS bloc and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) – there’s no possible solution to the Korean Peninsula stand-off.

In this epic battle of the “righteous many” against the “wicked few,” with the US described as a “compassionate nation” that wants “harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife,” it’s a bit of a stretch to have Islamic State – portrayed as being not remotely as “evil” as North Korea or Iran – get only a few paragraphs.

The art of unraveling a deal

According to the Trump Doctrine, Iran is “an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos,” a “murderous regime” profiting from a nuclear deal that is “an embarrassment to the United States.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: “Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times – not the 21st century UN – unworthy of a reply.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov once again stressed full support for the nuclear deal ahead of a P5+1 ministers’ meeting scheduled for Wednesday, when Zarif was due to be seated at the same table as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Under review: compliance with the deal. Tillerson is the only one who wants a renegotiation.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has, in fact, developed an unassailable argument on the nuclear negotiations. He says the deal – which the P5+1 and the IAEA all agree is working – could be used as a model elsewhere. German chancellor Angela Merkel concurs. But, Rouhani says, if the US suddenly decides to unilaterally pull out, how could the North Koreans possibly be convinced it’s worth their while to sit down to negotiate anything with the Americans ?

What the Trump Doctrine is aiming at is, in fact, a favourite old neo-con play, reverting back to the dynamics of the Dick Cheney-driven Washington-Tehran Cold War years.

This script runs as follows: Iran must be isolated (by the West, only now that won’t fly with the Europeans); Iran is “destabilizing” the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, the ideological foundry of all strands of Salafi-jihadism, gets a free pass); and Iran, because it’s developing ballistic that could – allegedly – carry nuclear warheads, is the new North Korea.

That lays the groundwork for Trump to decertify the deal on October 15. Such a dangerous geopolitical outcome would then pit Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi against Tehran, Moscow and Beijing, with European capitals non-aligned. That’s hardly compatible with a “compassionate nation” which wants “harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife.”

Afghanistan comes to South America

The Trump Doctrine, as enounced, privileges the absolute sovereignty of the nation-state. But then there are those pesky “rogue regimes” which must be, well, regime-changed. Enter Venezuela, now on “the brink of total collapse,” and run by a “dictator”; thus, America “cannot stand by and watch.”

No standing by, indeed. On Monday, Trump had dinner in New York with the presidents of Colombia, Peru and Brazil (the last indicted by the country’s Attorney General as the leader of a criminal organization and enjoying an inverted Kim dynasty rating of 95% unpopularity). On the menu: regime change in Venezuela.

Venezuelan “dictator” Maduro happens to be supported by Moscow and, most crucially, Beijing, which buys oil and has invested widely in infrastructure in the country with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht crippled by the Car Wash investigation.

The stakes in Venezuela are extremely high. In early November, Brazilian and American forces will be deployed in a joint military exercise in the Amazon rainforest, at the Tri-Border between Peru, Brazil and Colombia. Call it a rehearsal for regime change in Venezuela. South America could well turn into the new Afghanistan, a consequence that flows from Trump’s assertion that “major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell.”

For all the lofty spin about “sovereignty”, the new axis of evil is all about, once again, regime change.

South America could turn into the new Afghanistan, a consequence that flows from Trump’s assertion that “major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell

Russia-China aim to defuse the nuclear stand-off, then seduce North Korea into sharing in the interpenetration of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), via a new Trans-Korea Railway and investments in DPRK ports. The name of the game is Eurasian integration.

Iran is a key node of BRI. It’s also a future full member of the SCO, it’s connected – via the North-South Transport Corridor – with India and Russia, and is a possible future supplier of natural gas to Europe. The name of the game, once again, is Eurasian integration.

Venezuela, meanwhile, holds the largest unexplored oil reserves on the planet, and is targeted by Beijing as a sort of advanced BRI node in South America.

The Trump Doctrine introduces a new set of problems for Russia-China. Putin and Xi do dream of reenacting a balance of power similar to that of the Concert of Europe, which lasted from 1815 (after Napoleon’s defeat) until the brink of World War I in 1914. That’s when Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia decided that no European nation should be able to emulate the hegemony of France under Napoleon. In sitting as judge and executioner, Trump’s “compassionate” America certainly seems intent on echoing such hegemony.

martes, 19 de septiembre de 2017

Huracanes y maniobras

No sé si han notado que la temporada de huracanes en el Caribe viene por demás movida. Las explicaciones causales al respecto van desde el puro azar hasta una supuesta inversión de los polos magnéticos en curso, si bien nos parece que lo más sensato es adjudicar la tendencia a un aumento de la temperatura superficial de la Tierra (más calor implica más energía, lo cual implica más violencia en la disipación de la misma). En efecto, según dicen los climatólogos, la temperatura media de la Tierra no para de aumentar, al punto que los escenarios a futuro previstos por el Panel Internacional sobre el Cambio Climático (siglas en inglés: IPCC) sugieren un cambio bastante superior al de un grado Centígrado previsto originalmente para fines de este siglo. Algunos autores han comenzado a notar que entre los efectos negativos de estos cambios está la vulnerabilidad de los estados tal como los conocíamos hasta ahora. El hecho no pasa desapercibido en el corazón del Imperio, los EEUU, donde se aprecia una creciente militarización interna como respuesta a los desastres naturales (fundamentalmente tornados y huracanes) que afectan su territorio. La nota que sigue habla de esto; es de Michael T. Klare y apareció en el sitio web TomDispatch:

Título: Beyond Harvey and Irma. Militarizing Homeland Security in the Climate-Change Era 

Texto: Deployed to the Houston area to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, U.S. military forces hadn’t even completed their assignments when they were hurriedly dispatched to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to face Irma, the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had sent members of the state National Guard to devastated Houston, anxiously recalled them while putting in place emergency measures for his own state. A small flotilla of naval vessels, originally sent to waters off Texas, was similarly redirected to the Caribbean, while specialized combat units drawn from as far afield as Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island were rushed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, members of the California National Guard were being mobilized to fight wildfires raging across that state (as across much of the West) during its hottest summer on record.

Think of this as the new face of homeland security: containing the damage to America’s seacoasts, forests, and other vulnerable areas caused by extreme weather events made all the more frequent and destructive thanks to climate change. This is a “war” that won’t have a name -- not yet, not in the Trump era, but it will be no less real for that. “The firepower of the federal government” was being trained on Harvey, as William Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), put it in a blunt expression of this warlike approach. But don’t expect any of the military officials involved in such efforts to identify climate change as the source of their new strategic orientation, not while Commander in Chief Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office refusing to acknowledge the reality of global warming or its role in heightening the intensity of major storms; not while he continues to stock his administration, top to bottom, with climate-change deniers.

Until Trump moved into the White House, however, senior military officers in the Pentagon were speaking openly of the threats posed to American security by climate change and how that phenomenon might alter the very nature of their work.  Though mum’s the word today, since the early years of this century military officials have regularly focused on and discussed such matters, issuing striking warnings about an impending increase in extreme weather events -- hurricanes, incessant rainfalls, protracted heat waves, and droughts -- and ways in which that would mean an ever-expanding domestic role for the military in both disaster response and planning for an extreme future.

That future, of course, is now.  Like other well-informed people, senior military officials are perfectly aware that it’s difficult to attribute any given storm, Harvey and Irma included, to human-caused climate change with 100% confidence. But they also know that hurricanes draw their fierce energy from the heat of tropical waters, and that global warming is raising the temperatures of those waters. It’s making storms like Harvey and Irma, when they do occur, ever more powerful and destructive.  “As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating,” the Department of Defense (DoD) bluntly explained in the Quadrennial Defense Review, a 2014 synopsis of defense policy. This, it added, “may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities” -- just the sort of crisis we’ve been witnessing over these last weeks.

As this statement suggests, any increase in climate-related extreme events striking U.S. territory will inevitably lead to a commensurate rise in American military support for civilian agencies, diverting key assets -- troops and equipment -- from elsewhere. While the Pentagon can certainly devote substantial capabilities to a small number of short-term emergencies, the multiplication and prolongation of such events, now clearly beginning to occur, will require a substantial commitment of forces, which, in time, will mean a major reorientation of U.S. security policy for the climate change era.  This may not be something the White House is prepared to do today, but it may soon find itself with little choice, especially since it seems so intent on crippling all civilian governmental efforts related to climate change.

Mobilizing for Harvey and Irma

When it came to emergency operations in Texas and Florida, the media understandably put its spotlight on moving tales of rescue efforts by ordinary folks.  As a result, the military’s role in these operations was easy to miss, but it took place on a massive scale.  Every branch of the armed services -- the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard -- deployed significant contingents to the Houston area, in some cases sending along the sort of specialized equipment normally used in major combat operations.  The combined response represented an extraordinary commitment of military assets to that desperate, massively flooded region: tens of thousands of National Guard and active-duty troops, thousands of Humvees and other military vehicles, hundreds of helicopters, dozens of cargo planes, and an assortment of naval vessels.  And just as operations in Texas began to wind down, the Pentagon commenced a similarly vast mobilization for Hurricane Irma.

The military’s response to Harvey began with front-line troops: the National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard, and units of the U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), the joint-service force responsible for homeland defense.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott mobilized the entire Texas National Guard, about 10,000 strong, and guard contingents were deployed from other states as well.  The Texas Guard came equipped with its own complement of helicopters, Humvees, and other all-terrain vehicles; the Coast Guard supplied 46 helicopters and dozens of shallow-water vessels, while USNORTHCOM provided 87 helicopters, four C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft, and 100 high-water vehicles.

Still more aircraft were provided by the Air Force, including seven C-17 cargo planes and, in a highly unusual move, an E-3A Sentry airborne warning and control system, or AWACS.  This super-sophisticated aircraft was originally designed to oversee air combat operations in Europe in the event of an all-out war with the Soviet Union.  Instead, this particular AWACS conducted air traffic control and surveillance around Houston, gathering data on flooded areas, and providing “situational awareness” to military units involved in the relief operation.

For its part, the Navy deployed two major surface vessels, the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship, and the USS Oak Hill, a dock landing ship. “These ships,” the Navy reported, “are capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, [and] medium and heavy lift air support.”  Accompanying them were several hundred Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, along with their amphibious assault vehicles and a dozen or so helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

When Irma struck, the Pentagon ordered a similar mobilization of troops and equipment.  The Kearsarge and the Oak Hill, with their embarked Marines and helicopters, were redirected from Houston to waters off Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  At the same time, the Navy dispatched a much larger flotilla, including the USS Abraham Lincoln (the aircraft carrier on which President George W. Bush had his infamous “mission accomplished” moment), the missile destroyer USS Farragut, the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, and the amphibious transport dock USS New York.  Instead of its usual complement of fighter jets, the Abraham Lincoln set sail from its base in Norfolk, Virginia, with heavy-lift helicopters; the Iwo Jima and New York also carried a range of helicopters for relief operations.  Another amphibious vessel, the USS Wasp, was already off the Virgin Islands, providing supplies and evacuating those in need of emergency medical care.

This represents the sort of mobilization you would expect for a small war and is characteristic of how, in the past, the U.S. military has responded to major domestic disasters like hurricanes Katrina (2003) and Sandy (2012).  Such events were once rarities and so weren’t viewed as major impediments to the carrying out of the military’s “normal” function: fighting the nation’s foreign wars.  However, thanks to the way climate change is intensifying the weather, disasters of this magnitude are starting to occur more frequently and on an ever-larger scale.  As a result, the previously peripheral mission of disaster relief is threatening to become a primary one for an already overstretched Pentagon and, as top military officials are aware, the future only holds promise of far more of the same. Think of this as the new face of “war,” American-style.

Redefining Homeland Security

Even if no one else in Donald Trump’s Washington is ready or willing to deal with climate change, the U.S. military will be. It’s already long been preparing in its own fashion to take a pivotal role in responding to a world of recurring natural disasters. This, in turn, will mean that in the coming years climate change will increasingly dominate the domestic national security agenda (whether the Trump administration and those that follow like it, or even admit it) and such domestic emergencies will undoubtedly be militarized. In the process, the very concept of “homeland security” is destined to change.

When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in November 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, its principal missions included preventing further terrorist assaults on the country as well as dealing with drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and other similar issues.  Climate change never entered the equation.  Even though FEMA and the Coast Guard, major components of the DHS, have found themselves dealing with its increasingly disastrous effects, the department’s focus on immigration and terrorism has only intensified in the Trump era.  The president has ensured that this myopic outlook would reign supreme by, among other things, calling for a sharp increase in the number of Border Patrol agents (and greater infusions of funding for border control issues), while working to slash the Coast Guard’s budget.

He has also, of course, ensured that all parts of the government other than the military that might in any way deal with climate change were staffed and run by climate-change deniers. Only at the Department of Defense do senior officials still describe climate change in a more realistic fashion, as an observable reality that will pose new dangers to America’s security and create new operational nightmares.

“Speaking as a soldier,” said former Army Chief of Staff General Gordon Sullivan back in 2007, “we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.” The same, he continued, was true regarding climate change. “If we keep on with business as usual, we will reach a point where some of the worst effects are inevitable.”

General Gordon’s comments were incorporated into a highly influential report that year on “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” released by the CNA Corporation (formerly the Center for Naval Analyses), a federally-funded research center that aids the Navy and Marine Corps.  That report focused with particular concern on the risk of an increase in overseas conflicts from the impact of climate change, particularly if prolonged droughts and growing food scarcity inflame existing ethnic and religious schisms in a range of poor countries (mainly in Africa and the Greater Middle East).  “The U.S. may be drawn more frequently into these situations, either alone or with allies, to help provide stability before conditions worsen and are exploited by extremists,” the report warned.

The same climate effects that could trigger a more embattled world would also, military analysts came to believe, produce increased risk for the United States itself and so generate a greater need for Pentagon involvement at home.  “Extreme weather events and natural disasters, as the U.S. experienced with Hurricane Katrina, may lead to increased missions for a number of U.S. agencies, including state and local governments, the Department of Homeland Security, and our already stretched military,” that CNA report noted a decade ago.  In a prescient comment, it also warned that this could lead to clashing strategic priorities.  “If the frequency of natural disasters increases with climate change, future military and political leaders may face hard choices about where and when to engage.”

With this in mind, a group of officers -- active duty as well as retired -- endeavored to persuade top officials to make climate change a central focus of strategic planning.  (Their collective efforts can be sampled at the website maintained by the Center for Climate and Security, an advocacy group former officers established to promote awareness of the issue.)  These efforts achieved a major breakthrough in 2014, when the Pentagon released a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, a blueprint for Pentagon-wide remedial action in a warming world.  Such an effort was needed, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel explained in his foreword, because climate change was sure to generate more conflict abroad and more emergencies at home. “The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters.” As a consequence, the DoD and its component organizations must begin “integrating climate change considerations into our plans, operations, and training.”

For a time, the armed forces embraced Hagel’s instructions, taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions and better prepare for just such a future.  The various regional combatant commands like NORTHCOM and the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which covers Latin America and the Caribbean, responded with increased training and other preparations for extreme storm events and for sea-level rise in their areas of responsibility, a change reflected in a 2015 DoD report to Congress, “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.”

In the past, such efforts, only beginning, were never allowed to distract the services from their main presumed function: contesting America’s foreign adversaries. Now, as with Harvey and Irma, the military’s domestic responsibilities are on the rise just as the president is assigning them yet more (or more intensified) missions in the never-ending war on terror, including a stepped-up presence in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq and Syria, more intense air campaigns across the Greater Middle East, and a heightened pace of military maneuvers near North Korea.  As shown by a series of deadly collisions involving Navy vessels in the Pacific, this higher tempo of operations has already stretched the military to or even beyond its limits in various conflicts it has proven incapable either of winning or ending.  The result: overworked crews and overstretched resources. With the massive response to Harvey and Irma, it is being pushed yet further.

In short, as the planet continues to heat up, the armed forces and the nation at large face an existential crisis.  On the one hand, President Trump and his generals, including Secretary of Defense Mattis, are once again fully focused on the increased use of military force (and the threat of more of the same) abroad. This includes not only the wars against the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their numerous spin-offs, but also preparations for possible military strikes on North Korea and perhaps even, at some future date, on Chinese installations in the South China Sea.

As global warming intensifies, instability and chaos, including massive flows of refugees, will only grow, undoubtedly inviting yet more military interventions abroad.  Meanwhile, climate change will increase chaos and devastation at home and there, too, it seems that Washington will often see the military as America’s sole reliable response mechanism.  As a result, decisions will have to be made about ending American conflicts abroad and refocusing domestically or that overstretched military will simply swallow even more of the government’s dollars and gain yet more power in Washington.  And yet, whatever else the armed forces might (or might not) be capable of, they are not capable of defeating climate change, which, at its essence, is anything but a military problem. While there are potential solutions to it, those, too, are in no way military.

Despite their reluctance to speak publicly about such environmental matters right now, top officials in the Pentagon are painfully aware of the problem at hand.  They know that global warming, as it progresses, will generate new challenges at home and abroad, potentially stretching their capabilities to the breaking point and leaving this country ever more exposed to the ravages of climate change without offering any solutions to the problem.  As a result, the generals face a fundamental choice.  They can continue to self-censor their sophisticated analysis of climate change and its likely effects, and so remain complicit with the administration’s headlong rush into national catastrophe, or they can speak out forcefully on its threat to homeland security, and the resulting need for a new, largely non-military strategic posture that puts climate action at the top of the nation’s priorities.

lunes, 18 de septiembre de 2017

Golpe en cámara lenta

Golpe, junta; los términos resuenan bien en los oídos latinoamericanos. No tanto en la población del Imperio; por eso impresiona ver esos mismos términos en una nota de opinión del presigioso diario The Boston Globe. La nota es de Stephen Kinzer y salió anteayer; acá va:

Título: America’s slow-motion military coup

Texto: In a democracy, no one should be comforted to hear that generals have imposed discipline on an elected head of state. That was never supposed to happen in the United States. Now it has.

Among the most enduring political images of the 20th century was the military junta. It was a group of grim-faced officers — usually three — who rose to control a state. The junta would tolerate civilian institutions that agreed to remain subservient, but in the end enforced its own will. As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece.

These days the junta system is making a comeback in, of all places, Washington. Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the secretary of defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff; and General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. They do not put on their ribbons to review military parades or dispatch death squads to kill opponents, as members of old-style juntas did. Yet their emergence reflects a new stage in the erosion of our political norms and the militarization of our foreign policy. Another veil is dropping.

Given the president’s ignorance of world affairs, the emergence of a military junta in Washington may seem like welcome relief. After all, its three members are mature adults with global experience — unlike Trump and some of the wacky political operatives who surrounded him when he moved into the White House. Already they have exerted a stabilizing influence. Mattis refuses to join the rush to bomb North Korea, Kelly has imposed a measure of order on the White House staff, and McMaster pointedly distanced himself from Trump’s praise for white nationalists after the violence in Charlottesville.

Being ruled by generals seems preferable to the alternative. It isn’t.

Military officers, like all of us, are products of their background and environment. The three members of Trump’s junta have 119 years of uniformed service between them. They naturally see the world from a military perspective and conceive military solutions to its problems. That leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones.

Trump has made clear that when he must make foreign policy choices, he will defer to “my generals.” Mattis, the new junta’s strongman, is the former head of Central Command, which directs American wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Kelly is also an Iraq veteran. McMaster has commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan almost without interruption since he led a tank company in the 1991 Gulf War.

Military commanders are trained to fight wars, not to decide whether fighting makes strategic sense. They may be able to tell Trump how many troops are necessary to sustain our present mission in Afghanistan, for example, but they are not trained either to ask or answer the larger question of whether the mission serves America’s long-term interest. That is properly the job of diplomats. Unlike soldiers, whose job is to kill people and break things, diplomats are trained to negotiate, defuse conflicts, coolly assess national interest and design policies to advance it. Notwithstanding Mattis’s relative restraint on North Korea, all three members of Trump’s junta promote the confrontational approach that has brought protracted war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, while fueling tension in Europe and East Asia.

Our new junta is different from classic ones like, for example, the “National Council for Peace and Order” that now rules Thailand. First, our junta’s interest is only international relations, not domestic policy. Second, it did not seize power in a coup, but derives its authority from the favor of an elected president. Third and most important, it main goal is not to impose a new order but to enforce an old one.

Last month, President Trump faced a crucial decision about the future of America’s war in Afghanistan. This was a potential turning point. Four years ago Trump tweeted, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan.” If he had followed that impulse and announced that he was bringing American troops home, the political and military elite in Washington would have been stunned. But junta members swung into action. They persuaded Trump to announce that instead of withdrawing, he would do the opposite: reject “rapid exit” from Afghanistan, increase troop strength, and continue “killing terrorists.”

It is no great surprise that Trump has been drawn into the foreign policy mainstream; the same happened to President Obama early in his presidency. More ominous is that Trump has turned much of his power over to generals. Worst of all, many Americans find this reassuring. They are so disgusted by the corruption and shortsightedness of our political class that they turn to soldiers as an alternative. It is a dangerous temptation.

Hasta el final

Se va comprendiendo cuál es la estrategia del Imperio en lo que, en el futuro, va a ser estudiado como La Retirada de Siria. Joder hasta el final, chicos, y si hay petróleo en la zona, ni les cuento. Leemos en el sitio web Moon of Alabama:

Título: Syria Summary - Eliminating ISIS' Remains

Texto: The last Syria Summary was headlined A New Clash Looms in Syria's East. It stated:

Critical oil fields are north and east of Mayadin. The Omar oil field in the east is the biggest one in all Syria. The U.S. wants these under its control to finance its Kurdish and Arab proxies in north-east Syria. The Syrian government needs the oil to rebuild the country. Should the U.S. supported forces try to annex the area we will likely see a direct conflict between them and the Syrian government forces. Would the U.S. and Russia join that fight?

Yesterday a first clash of forces occurred. Syrian government and Russian special forces (red) have crossed the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor to reconnaissance the area for their next large operation. A crossing in force towards the north of Euphrates and east of Deir Ezzor is expected during the next few days. The Russian military had informed the U.S. of its area of operation. Despite that, formerly ISIS aligned tribal forces, now paid by the U.S. under the label SDF, tried to extend their areas north of Deir Ezzor (blue). A "warning shot" was delivered to them in form of a small air attack. Several "SDF" were wounded, the U.S. special forces accompanying and commanding them were not harmed.
The Russia military is asking who, really, those forces are:

Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”

Our last summary noted that these new U.S. proxies Brett McGurk had hired, the 'third force' in the Russian statement, allegedly progressed some 30 kilometers into ISIS country without firing a shot. These forces are evidently ISIS fighters now under a new banner and with U.S. special forces directing them.

South of the river the Syrian government forces consolidate their positions around the two-thirds of Deir Ezzor city now under their control. To avoid unnecessary casualties and damage they push the Islamic State fighters out of the up-build areas instead of immediately surrounding and besieging them. They will be easier to eliminate in the more rural areas still left to them. The campaign south of the Euphrates will continue along the river towards ISIS held areas in the west and east.

A second group of Syrian government forces is coming up from the Jordan-Iraq-Syria border triangle and is progressing along the Syrian Iraqi border towards al-Buqamal/Qaim at the Euphrates. An Iraqi force is working in parallel with them on the Iraqi side of the border.

During the next months three Syrian government forces are likely to meet where the Euphrates crosses into Iraq. One group is now moving north along the Syrian-Iraqi border, one coming from Deir Ezzor on the south side of the river and the one that will soon establish itself north of the Euphrates to move towards the oil-fields further east. Iraqi forces are expected to mirror those moves on their side of the border. In the end of the operations no area in Syria and Iraq will be left under control of the ISIS organization. (Isolated ISIS holdouts east of Homs as well as in Iraq are under siege and will soon be cleared.)

There is no more need for any U.S. intervention to achieve the total defeat of the Islamic State. While the U.S. president had declared that his country has no further interest in Syria but the defeat of ISIS, other forces within the U.S. ruling structure have likely different ideas. We can expect some operations, by "independent" U.S. proxy forces or by "accidental" bombing, to hinder the Syrian and Iraqi government plans.

In the north-west of Syria al-Qaeda is still in control of Idleb governate. Syria, Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed last week to pacify the area by force. Each of them will take control of a "deescalation zone" within Idelb. The announcement of the agreement lacked all details. It is yet unknown who's force will take what part of Idleb and how the coordination of the project will proceed. Leaks of various map outlining designated areas of control are of Turkish origin and unlikely to reflect the real agreed upon lines.

domingo, 17 de septiembre de 2017

Choques en Deir ez Zor

Fuentes rusas anunciaron anteayer que las Fuerzas Armadas de Siria cruzaron el Eufrates a la altura de la localidad de Deir ez Zor, en el noreste de ese país. Aparentemente ya ocurrieron choques con las milicias kurdas del SDF, apoyadas por los EEUU. Así lo cuenta el diario español El Mundo

Título: Fuerzas apoyadas por EEUU sufren un ataque aéreo en el este de Siria

Subtítulo: Fuentes oficiales en Damasco no han confirmado la agresión

Texto: Al menos seis combatientes de las Fuerzas Democráticas Sirias (SDF), una milicia de mayoría kurdorsiria respaldada por Washigton, han resultado heridos por un bombardeo aéreo este sábado. El mando de las SDF ha acusado a las Fuerzas Aéreas de Rusia o Siria del "ataque agresivo", ocurrido a las tres de la madrugada en la localidad de Siná, en el margen este del río Éufrates, muy cerca de la disputada ciudad oriental de Deir Ezzor. 

Fuentes oficiales en Damasco no han confirmado la agresión, considerada un paso adelante más en la escalada de tensión que se está desarrollando en Deir Ezzor. El ejército sirio leal al presidente Bashar Asad, con el respaldo aéreo de Rusia, logró romper el cerco del Estado Islámico sobre Deir Ezzor el cinco de septiembre pasado. Pocos días después, las SDF, impulsadas gracias a los soldados y las armas enviadas por EEUU, lanzaron una ofensiva hacia la misma ciudad por su propia cuenta, desde el noreste. 

Como consecuencia del avance oficialista desde el oeste y el de las SDF desde el este, ambas fuerzas se han colocado en Deir Ezzor a pocos kilómetros la una de la otra. Aunque el Pentágono aseguró la semana pasada de que se ha acordado una línea de "separación física" entre las dos coaliciones, la aparente rivalidad que mantienen ambas en esta zona - la multidimensional guerra siria provoca que en otras, como en la región noroccidental de Afrín, cooperen - hace prever incidentes como el de este sábado.

"Hemos notificado a Damasco y a Moscú que acudimos hacia la orilla del Éufrates, y pueden ver cómo nuestras fuerzas avances. No permitiremos a las fuerzas por Gobierno sirio cruzar a la orilla este" ha advertido este sábado el mando de las SDF. Pese a sus palabras, y lo afirmado por el Pentágono, Asad y Rusia andan por otros derroteros. Moscú ha dicho que las fuerzas gubernamentales ya han cruzado este particular Rubicón, que los acerca a un peligroso choque de trenes con Estados Unidos. 

El periódico sirio Al Watan informó el martes pasado de que las primeras unidades del ejército sirio se habían extendido más allá de la orilla oriental del río mesopotámico, a pueblos cuya autoridad reclamaba las SDF. En una entrevista con el canal Al Manar, un consejero presidencial insistió el viernes en que las fuerzas leales al régimen se reservaban el derecho a atacar. "Sean Fuerzas Democráticas Sirias, Daesh o cualquier otra fuerza extranjera ilegítima [...] combatiremos y trabajaremos en su contra", sentenció. 

EEUU apretó el gatillo la última vez que ocurrió un lance similar. Fue el 18 de junio pasado. Un caza estadounidense derribó un aparato sirio al oeste de la ciudad de Raqqa, poco después de que este descargara sus bombas sobre una posición de las SDF. La coalición anti Estado Islámico, liderada por Washington, declaró en un comunicado posterior que "no se busca combatir al régimen sirio o a las fuerzas pro régimen rusas", pero que "no dudarà en defenderse a sí misma o a sus fuerzas socias de cualquier amenaza".

Las SDF, integradas mayoritariamente por las YPG/J, brazo sirio de la guerrilla kurdoturca PKK, son, desde 2014, la principal fuerza terrestre que EEUU emplea para acabar con la presencia del IS en Siria. Esta decisión le ha costado una bronca continua con Turquía, su socio en la OTAN, en guerra con el PKK. Tampoco las YPG/J son del agrado del presidente Asad, contrario al proyecto autonomista, de inspiración socialista, que los kurdos impulsan en una franja del norte de Siria.

Los gobiernos de Turquía y Siria mantienen en común su oposición a las aspiraciones kurdosirias. Este punto de posible entendimiento se ha hecho notar en la cumbre de Astaná que se ha celebrado en la capital Kazaja durante los últimos días. En la declaración final se ha acordado la creación de un área de reducción de hostilidades en la provincia de Idlib, al norte de la cual está Afrin. De realizarse, existe la posibilidad de una intervención militar turca que podría perjudicar tanto a Al Qaeda, dueña de la capital, como a las SDF.