Friday, November 10, 2017

Saudi Saber Rattling

"Saudi Arabia charges Iran with ‘act of war,’ raising threat of military clash" by David D. Kirkpatrick New York Times   November 07, 2017

SANA, Yemen — Saudi Arabia charged Monday that Iran had committed “a blatant act of military aggression” by providing its Yemeni allies with a missile fired at the Saudi capital over the weekend, raising the threat of a direct military clash between the two regional heavyweights.

The accusations represent a new peak in tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran at a time when they are already fighting proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as battles for political power in Iraq and Lebanon.

The Saudi statement said the missile could be considered an “act of war” against the kingdom and triggered its right to self-defense under international law.

It claimed that the rocket, which was fired from Yemen and intercepted en route to Riyadh, the capital, had originated in Iran.

Only one problem: the missile was designed and built in Yemen.

The Saudis said that “experts in military technology” had examined the debris of the missile, as well as one launched in July, and “confirmed the role of Iran’s regime in manufacturing these missiles and smuggling them to the Houthi militias in Yemen for the purpose of attacking the kingdom.” 

Then you guys are liars.

US officials have previously accused Iran of arming its Yemeni allies, the Houthis. But Saudi Arabia’s claims could not be independently verified.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United States and the United Arab Emirates, have enforced a sea and air blockade around Yemen since the outbreak of the current war there, so it was also unclear how Iran could have provided large weapons like ballistic missiles.

Why let logistics like that interfere with the bulls**t war propaganda?

The top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran called the accusation “baseless.”

“These missiles were produced by the Yemenis and their military industry,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari told the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.

Pretty bad when the "enemy" is the one telling the truth in your newspaper, huh?

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accused Saudi Arabia of “wars of aggression, regional bullying, destabilizing behavior & risky provocations,” in a statement on Twitter. Saudi Arabia “bombs Yemen to smithereens, killing 1000s of innocents including babies, spreads cholera and famine, but of course blames Iran,” Zarif said.

The Saudi claim was the second time in three days that the kingdom and its allies have accused Iran of trying to destabilize the region. On Saturday, hours before the missile was intercepted, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his post in protest of Iranian interference in Lebanon through its client, Hezbollah.

That happened over the weekend.

Hariri tendered his resignation via a televised statement from Saudi Arabia and has not yet returned to Beirut, leading to the widespread assumption in Lebanon that he was pressured to resign by the Saudis, his political patrons.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said over the weekend that the Saudis had all but kidnapped Hariri. Nasrallah urged Hariri to return to Beirut for power-sharing talks “if he is allowed to come back.”

“It was definitely a Saudi decision that was imposed on him,” Nasrallah said. “It was not his will to step down.”

Saudi Arabia also said on Monday that it would “temporarily” close Yemen’s land, sea, and air ports of entry in response to the missile firing, in order to tighten inspections and stop any weapons shipments. It pledged to provide for “the continuation of the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and crews.”

However, the United Nations said that two aid flights scheduled for Monday had not been allowed to depart for Yemen.

“We’re trying to see whether we can get our normal access restored,” Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman, said at a daily briefing. “We underscored to all parties the need for regular humanitarian access.”

The United Nations considers Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, one of the world’s biggest humanitarian emergencies. Roughly 17 million people — 60 percent of the population — need food assistance, and 7 million are at risk of famine. Nearly 900,000 Yemenis have been sickened by cholera.

 That is the future of war, and yet it only intermittently gets waved in your face, unlike Syrian children, etc.


"UN, aid groups warn of ‘starvation and death’ in Yemen" Associated Press  November 10, 2017

SANAA, Yemen — The United Nations and more than 20 aid groups said Thursday that the Saudi-led coalition’s tightening of a blockade on war-torn Yemen could bring millions of people closer to ‘‘starvation and death.’’

The UN’s humanitarian chief warned a day earlier that unless the coalition lifts its blockade, Yemen will face ‘‘the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims.’’

Gifted to them by western and allied war crimes.

The coalition closed all ports and halted aid shipments after Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile over the weekend that was intercepted near Riyadh. Saudi Arabia blamed the strike on Iran, which supports the Houthis but has denied arming them.

The United States has also accused Iran of supplying ballistic missiles to the Houthis, charges denied by the rebels, who insist they produced the missile used Saturday on their own. 

Still lying after all these years!

The coalition, which is allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government, has been at war with the rebels since March 2015. The Houthis control most of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

About two-thirds of Yemen’s population relies on imported supplies, said the aid groups, which include CARE, Save the Children, and Islamic Relief. Over 20 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 7 million facing ‘‘famine-like’’ conditions, they said. Food supplies are expected to run out within six weeks while vaccines will last only a month.

They urged an ‘‘immediate opening’’ of all air and seaports.

‘‘If I have to compare Yemen to a person, I would say that this person is very sick, this person is very weakened, and is being drip-fed, so if you want to keep the patient alive, we need to reactivate drip-feeding as soon as possible,’’ said Robert Mardini, the Middle East director for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The blockade has already led to a fuel crisis in Sanaa, where hundreds of cars lined the roads Wednesday after the Houthis ordered the closure of fuel stations.

The rebels said they closed the stations after merchants refused to fix prices. The price of fuel has risen by 50 percent since the coalition tightened the blockade.

Yemeni officials also said those who need to be hospitalized abroad cannot leave the country.


Related1.25 million face starvation in wartorn South Sudan

Also see:

"International court opens probe into Burundi deadly violence" Associated Press  November 10, 2017

THE HAGUE — International Criminal Court judges have authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes in Burundi including murder, rape, and torture, announcing the decision Thursday shortly after the East African nation became the first to formally quit the court.

Not to minimize the brutality in Burundi, but when is the ICC going to start charging western war criminals?

Judges said evidence provided by prosecutors offers ‘‘a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation’’ into crimes committed since April 26, 2015, allegedly by ‘‘state agents and other groups implementing state policies.’’

Burundi descended into violence that left hundreds dead in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term, which he ultimately won.

The crimes allegedly were committed by Burundi’s national police force, intelligence service, units of the country’s army, and members of the youth wing of the ruling party, known as the Imbonerakure.....


I can't remember the last time I looked in on Burundi.


"Saudi king receives Lebanese leader" Associated Press  November 06, 2017

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister, who unexpectedly resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, met with Saudi King Salman on Monday as speculation continued to swirl over his surprising move.

The official Saudi Press Agency carried photos of the two meeting at a Riyadh palace but there was no indication when Saad Hariri would return to Lebanon. The pictures appeared aimed at dispelling rumors that the prime minister was being held in Saudi Arabia against his will.

The resignation threw Lebanon’s fragile government into disarray. President Michel Aoun, who must accept the resignation for it to be valid, said Saturday that he would await Hariri’s return to consider the matter.

It is not clear when or if Hariri will return. In a sign of the uncertainty the country now faces, powerful Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said after meeting Aoun that it is ‘‘too early’’ to consider Hariri’s resignation.

Hariri stunned the Lebanese with his resignation on Saturday, and the haltingly delivered statement from the kingdom fueled speculations. In the speech, he accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of holding Lebanon hostage.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, Hariri’s top political rival, speculated on Sunday that Saudi Arabia had forced Hariri to resign amid the deepening Saudi-Iran rivalry.


"Lebanese prime minister who resigned from Saudi Arabia visits UAE" Associated Press  November 07, 2017

BEIRUT — In a new twist in the saga of Lebanon’s prime minister who resigned over the weekend from Saudi Arabia, Saad Hariri’s office said he visited the United Arab Emirates briefly on Tuesday for a meeting with a top official before returning to the kingdom.

Much is unknown about Hariri’s unexpected resignation, which stunned the Lebanese, threw its government into disarray, and prompted a frenzy of speculation.

One of the rumors is that Hariri has been under house arrest in Saudi Arabia, or in some way forced to do the Saudis’ bidding. His brief visit to the UAE could appear to dispel that, except that the Gulf federation is a close Saudi ally — the two countries have been spearheading a war in Yemen since 2015 against the country’s Shiite Iran-backed rebels.

Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan met Hariri and tweeted a photo, saying they discussed ‘‘brotherly ties’’ and the situation in Lebanon, without elaborating. Hariri’s office also said the two discussed the situation in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday sent its harshest threat to the Lebanese government, dominated by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, accusing it of declaring war against the kingdom through support that Hezbollah allegedly provides to Yemen’s rebels. Both Hezbollah and the Houthis, as Yemen’s Shiite rebels are known, have denied any role by the Lebanese group in the war in the Arabian Peninsula country.

In Lebanon, President Michel Aoun held consultations Tuesday with leading politicians over the crisis. Aoun has not called for consultations with parliamentary blocs on forming a new Cabinet, saying he will wait until Hariri returns home so that he can hear from him about why he resigned.


"Iran’s president accuses Saudis of meddling in Lebanon" by Sarah El Deeb Associated Press  November 08, 2017

BEIRUT — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani criticized Saudi Arabia on Wednesday over what he called ‘‘unprecedented’’ interference in Lebanese affairs, adding his voice to those who suspect the Gulf kingdom forced Lebanon’s prime minister to resign.

Rouhani’s remarks followed a phone call to his Lebanese counterpart the previous day, in which the Iranian president pledged support for Lebanon’s stability following the resignation of Saudi-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The surprise resignation, announced on TV from Saudi Arabia, threw the Lebanese government into disarray and dragged Lebanon back into the increasingly tense regional rivalry between Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran. Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Hariri’s resignation will not be considered until he hears from him directly.

Rouhani’s official website quoted the Iranian president as saying ‘‘there is no case in history that a country forces another one’s authority to resign only to interfere (in) their internal affairs.’’

‘‘You are making mistake if you think Iran is not your friend and the US and Israel are your friends,’’ Rouhani said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

The Saudis don't know that they are last on the list after USrael has dispatched all the other Arab and Muslim regimes.

Why do you think they were framed for 9/11 with the secret 28-page Sword of Damocles hanging over their head?

In his announcement Saturday, Hariri accused Iran of meddling in Arab affairs and the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah of holding Lebanon hostage. Hezbollah has members in the Lebanese unity government that Hariri formed last year.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile accused Hezbollah of declaring war on the kingdom through its alleged support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels, while Iranian officials called the resignation a ‘‘plot’’ by the United States, Israel, and the Saudis to foment tensions in Lebanon and the region.

It is Plan B after the loss in Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s increasingly powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stepped up its confrontation with Iran. The two camps support rival sides in countries across the region, as well as in the wars in Yemen and Syria. 

Fine, he and his can go doing the fighting. Leave us out of it.

In his call to Aoun late Tuesday, Rouhani said the Lebanese people will overcome ‘‘this sedition’’ and ‘‘will not allow Lebanon to become a battlefield for foreign powers.’’ 

That is what it has become.

Washington has said it had no prior indication that Hariri would resign, and pledged to continue supporting the Lebanese government. 

Like anyone would believe anything coming out of Washington.

‘‘The United States strongly supports the legitimate institutions in the Lebanese state,’’ State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday. She added that Washington still considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The United States has recently imposed new sanctions on the Shiite group, including a bounty on two of Hezbollah’s senior military commanders. 

The U.S. put a bounty out on someone's head?

On Wednesday, the United States said it had provided an additional $42.9 million in military assistance to Lebanon. The United States has given the Lebanese military more than $1 billion in aid since 2006, viewing it as a counterbalance to Hezbollah and an ally against extremist groups.

The Lebanese military ‘‘has done an excellent job’’ combatting Islamic State militants and other terrorists, US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard said during a meeting with Lebanese officials Wednesday.

The bizarre circumstances surrounding Hariri’s resignation left Lebanese politicians grappling to find a way out of a political deadlock.

An official in Aoun’s office said Wednesday that Hariri is still considered the prime minister. Parliament speaker Nabih Berri said the government is still intact, given the manner in which Hariri resigned. Aoun has had no contact with Hariri since the prime minister left for Saudi Arabia last Friday.

In his speech, Hariri said he feared for his life, but security officials have said they had no indication there were threats against the prime minister.

In his absence, Lebanon has been awash with speculation the 47-year old prime minister may be held against his will in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials have denied Hariri is under house arrest. On Tuesday, Hariri traveled to the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally, in an apparent attempt to dispel claims of his detention.

European Union ambassadors issued a statement reiterating their support for Lebanon and urging all sides to ‘‘pursue constructive dialogue to build on’’ the government’s work of the past year and prepare for next year’s parliamentary elections. The vote has been postponed several times since 2009.

Also Wednesday, Aoun met with World Bank officials who reiterated their support for the Lebanese government. Regional Director Saroj Kumar Jha said the World Bank’s support for Lebanon’s infrastructure, health, education, and development has exceeded $2 billion.

They always seem to be at the bottom of the wars, yeah.


"Lebanon leader’s party calls for his return from Saudi Arabia" by Philip Issa Associated Press  November 09, 2017

BEIRUT — The political party of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned under mysterious circumstances five days ago while in Saudi Arabia, demanded on Thursday that he return from the kingdom immediately in a statement that seemed to imply he was being held against his will.

Even close associates in his party, the Saudi-aligned Future Movement, have said they don’t know why he resigned.

His resignation remains shrouded in mystery. In his televised statement, he said Lebanon had been taken hostage by Hezbollah — even though he formed a coalition government with the group, which has a substantial representation in Parliament, less than one year ago.

No, it is pretty clear now.

Hezbollah’s leader and one of Lebanon’s most powerful figures, Hassan Nasrallah, has speculated openly that Hariri was being held against his will in the kingdom and even said that it appeared as if Saudi Arabia forced the resignation.


The Future Movement statement suggested the party was moving toward the same conclusion.

Even the Saudi-supported political party he is part of is admitting it!!

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is visiting the UAE, declined to discuss Hariri’s resignation, saying only that he hopes Lebanon will have a new government soon. He was set to travel to Saudi Arabia later Thursday to discuss the situation in Lebanon and other issues.

Ah, Macron getting his marching orders (same as the British).

Hezbollah fighters are aligned against Saudi-backed rebels in the civil war in neighboring Syria.....



"Despite its fall, the group’s media apparatus has remained active and its fighters are likely to keep up their insurgency from desert areas. Washington is wary of increasing Iran influence in the area....."

That is what this is all about. 

That's why the new Saudi king just cleared out the cabinet:

"Saudi Arabia says corruption detainees will face trial" Associated Press  November 06, 2017

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s newly established anticorruption committee overseeing the arrests of top princes and officials said Monday that evidence of widespread corruption has been uncovered among ‘‘influential officials and senior executives’’ and that trials will soon be held.

It was the first tacit government acknowledgement of the seniority of those under investigation.

Skeptics of the sweep say it is punishing select figures in the country, some of whom were potential rivals or possible critics of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who heads the anticorruption committee that was formed late Saturday shortly before the arrests.

King Salman, meanwhile, conducted state business as usual, swearing in new officials to take over from a powerful prince and former minister believed to be detained in the large-scale sweep.....


I know they are calling him the Crown Prince, but he is the one calling the shits and purging political opponents under the cover of corruption.

"Saudi Arabia corruption probe widens corruption" Associated Press  November 09, 2017

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday that it has detained 201 people as part of a sweeping probe, estimating that at least $100 billion has been misused through embezzlement and corruption in past decades.

Critics and observers say the purge that has targeted top princes, officials, military officers, and businessmen is a power grab by the crown prince to sideline potential rivals and critics.

Among those detained are billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and two of the late King Abdullah’s sons, including Prince Miteb. Prince Miteb was once a contender for the throne and was believed to be opposed to the king’s 32-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, becoming successor as crown prince.

The crown prince is leading the probe as the head of a newly formed anticorruption committee.

The government has declined to name the individuals being questioned, saying it is respecting their privacy during this phase of the process.....



"US stocks made modest gains and set more records Monday as upheaval in oil-rich Saudi Arabia sent crude prices to two-year highs. Chip makers and media companies climbed on deal reports, while phone and household goods companies sank. US crude oil reached its highest price since mid-2015 after dozens of Saudi princes and senior officials and businessmen were arrested as part of a purported corruption investigation. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil, and investors wondered if the tumult could constrict oil supplies and drive prices higher....." 

What would a hot war do?


"Allies want strategy to prevent revival of Islamic State" by Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press  November 06, 2017

HELSINKI — As the Islamic State loses its remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is facing a many questions from NATO allies and partners about what the next steps will be in the region to preserve peace and ensure the militants don’t rise again.

Heading into a week of meetings with Nordic countries and allies across Europe, Mattis must begin to articulate what has been a murky American policy on how the future of Syria unfolds.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Finland, Mattis said the main question from US allies is: what comes next? And he said the key is to get the peace process on track.

‘‘We’re trying to get this into the diplomatic mode so we can get things sorted out,’’ said Mattis, who will meet with NATO defense ministers later this week. ‘‘and make certain [that] minorities — whoever they are — are not just subject to more of what we’ve seen’’ under Syrian President Bashar Assad until now.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in late October repeated Washington’s call for Assad to surrender control, looking past recent battlefield gains by his Russian-backed forces to insist that ‘‘the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.’’

Tillerson made the comments after meeting with the UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who later announced plans to resume UN-mediated peace talks Nov. 28. It will be the eighth such round under his mediation in Geneva since early 2016.

Mattis said intelligence assessments two to three months ago made it clear that the Islamic State was ‘‘going down.’’ He said information based on the number of ISIS fighters taken prisoner and the number who were getting wounded or were deserting the group made it clear that ‘‘the whole bottom was dropping out,’’ but while he said the effort now is to get the diplomatic process shifted to Geneva and the United Nations, he offered few details that suggest the effort is moving forward.

In addition to the diplomatic efforts, Mattis said the United States is still working to resolve conflicts with Russia in the increasingly crowded skies over the Iraq and Syria border, where a lot of the fighting has shifted.

On Friday, Assad’s military announced the capture of the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour, while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed victory in retaking the town of Qaim on the border, the militants’ last significant urban area in Iraq.

Focus has now turned to Boukamal, the last urban center for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops —backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias — and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the strategic border town.

The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Boukamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River, and now from across the border with Iraq.

Mattis said that as forces close in, the fighting is getting ‘‘much more complex,’’ and there is a lot of effort on settling air space issues with the Russians.

He also declined to say whether the United States will begin to take back weapons provided to Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG.

Do you think they will give them back?

The United States has argued that the YPG has been the most effective fighting group in the battle to oust ISIS from Raqqa, but Turkey opposed the arming effort because it believes the YPG is linked to a militant group in Turkey.

The United States has pledged to carefully monitor the weapons, to ensure that they don’t make their way to the hands of insurgents in Turkey, known as the PKK.

Washington also considers the PKK a terrorist organization, and has vowed it would never provide weapons to that group. 

Just as they would never arm "Al-CIA-Duh" or ISIS™.

Turkish officials have said that Mattis reassured them by letter that arms given to the Syrian Kurds would be taken back and that the United States would provide Turkey with a regular list of arms given to the fighters.

While in Finland, Mattis will attend a meeting of a dozen northern European nations, which are primarily concerned about threats from Russia.

‘‘They are focused on the north,’’ said Mattis, adding that he plans to listen to their thoughts on the region and determine how the United States can help, including what types of training America could provide.


Not only are the Saudis going to lead the attack on Iran, Russia is going to be made war on at the same time.

"Facing Russian threat, NATO boosts operations for the first time since Cold War" by Michael Birnbaum Washington Post  November 09, 2017

BRUSSELS — As tensions with Russia loom over Europe, NATO defense ministers decided Wednesday to expand the alliance’s operations for the first time since the Cold War, sharpen its focus on cyber operations, and boost their powers to respond to Kremlin aggression.

The moves came as tensions with Russia remain the highest they have been in the nearly three decades since the end of the Cold War. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed fellow defense ministers Wednesday morning about Russian violations of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, underlining the nuclear risk that is a worst-case consequence of the bitter back-and-forth.

Defense ministers approved plans that would bolster their ability to keep an eye on Russian submarines in the Atlantic Ocean, where crucial undersea communications are at risk of being cut. They committed to establishing a command dedicated to sweeping away barriers preventing their forces from being deployed quickly across Europe in the event of war. And they said that cyber weapons would now have as big a role in NATO planning as ordinary guns and tanks.

But it is the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, blah, blah, blah, who are the hackers.

The efforts seek to revamp a war-fighting structure that atrophied in the peacetime years after the end of the Cold War.

What f***ing peacetime years? 

As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed they were in Yugoslavia and they have never stopped marching east since. They are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc, etc. Those places are nowhere near the North Atlantic, but you know!

The holes that opened in NATO’s defense came as the alliance shifted in the years following the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. Until Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, NATO had turned into an alliance focused on limited deployments and operations far from its own territory. Now, with a conflict in eastern Ukraine still burning alongside NATO borders, leaders have returned to planning for a conventional war with Russia.

At least they have given you a heads-up. 

Btw, Russia didn't annex Crimea. The Crimeans held a vote and voted to join Russia after the Obama-coup in Ukraine. 

But hey, what is another distortion/lie from the newspaper anyway?

NATO commanders worry that even though their militaries are significantly stronger than those under the command of the Kremlin, Russia’s ability to rush its troops across its own territory give it a formidable practical advantage.

It's called the home-field advantage. 

Good luck invading them. The last two guys to do that, well, didn't work out too good for their armies.

US tanks were held up for hours over the summer as they waited for border clearance in Central Europe on the way to a military exercise. In some countries, requests to move troops and equipment need to be submitted up to 30 days in advance.

‘‘We are now much more focused on moving heavy equipment across Europe,’’ Stoltenberg said.....

What for?


Also see:

"The chief editor of a Kremlin-funded satellite TV channel says the network will accede to a US demand to register as a foreign agent but also intends to challenge the order in court....."

That is so Amurkns don't get the other side of the story regarding the war, and when does AIPAC have to register as a foreign agent anyway?

RelatedPolish government asks citizens to multiply like rabbits

They need the troops.

"Trump added troops in Afghanistan. But NATO is still short of meeting its goal" by Dan Lamothe Washington Post  November 09, 2017

BRUSSELS — Senior US defense officials pressed their case Thursday for fellow members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to contribute more troops to the Afghanistan war effort, but the response fell short of what top coalition commanders say they need — a persistent problem last year when there were hundreds of vacancies.

Send them yourself.

Some of those troops are devoted to the NATO mission that trains Afghan forces, known as Resolute Support, while others are assigned to a separate US counterterrorism mission called Freedom’s Sentinel.

Army General John W. Nicholson Jr., the top US commander in Afghanistan, told reporters in Brussels that the entire ‘‘uplift’’ in US troops approved by Trump has arrived. That puts the total number of American troops in the country at about 14,500, but there remains an unresolved debate about why other NATO nations are not able to fill minimum requirements set forth by coalition commanders in Afghanistan and approved by the alliance. Nicholson has urged NATO for months to fully support what is known as the Combined Joint Statement of Requirement, a detailed breakdown of what is needed in the war effort, but the allies are still short of doing so. 

I think they are sick of endless wars based on lies for no good reason, or at least their people are.

US Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the supreme allied commander of NATO, said that the military alliance will fill Nicholson’s troop requirement ‘‘substantially, in a very satisfactory way in my mind.’’ He also acknowledged there are shortfalls, but declined to say what percentage of the jobs will remain vacant.

The general is delusional in my mind.

The continued shortfall comes despite Trump taking a pointed approach to NATO this year, saying that its members must increase their defense spending. Several have done so.

They defied Trump?

The shortfall also comes despite months of pressing by Nicholson. In 2017, about 20 percent of the jobs required in the NATO training mission were vacant, ‘‘the lowest level of capability that we’ve ever had in the 16 years’’ since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said. Nicholson said that he is now looking for a minimum of about 15,800 troops for the Resolute Support training mission, counting Americans. 

Meaning the next one is right around the corner!

‘‘This is the minimum manning requirement for the mission,’’ Nicholson said. ‘‘So, I’ve only been at 80 percent of that minimum number, and that’s why we’ve had a higher level of risk.’’

Nicholson said that many nations offering additional troops in Brussels this week still have to go through their own approval processes at home, making it difficult to determine how many additional troops will be going to Afghanistan. The process, he said, is ‘‘still playing out.’’

The additional NATO troops will primarily be devoted to advising Afghan police and commandos, overseeing schools to train them and building the Afghan air force. There is a potential that contractors could fill some of the shortfall, Nicholson said, but he added that he prefers not to do so.

Because it was the idea of Bannon and Eric Prince?

Scaparrotti, asked if a shortfall in NATO troops would require additional Americans in Afghanistan, said that he ‘‘wouldn’t look at it that way.”’ The United States has contributed troops to both the NATO mission and the US counterterrorism mission based on Nicholson’s stated needs, and made other requests from the allies.

‘‘It’s a bit different in that respect in terms of what we ask them to do, and I think the nations have responded well,’’ Scaparrotti said.


And once your boots are on the ground:

"Suicide bomber hits local TV in Kabul; at least 2 killed" Associated Press  November 08, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber and another attacker struck a local TV station in Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least two guards in an attack claimed by the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said a male and a female security guard at Shamshad TV were killed in the attack, in addition to both attackers, who were killed by security forces. He said police rescued some of the TV staff as the attack was unfolding, but he did not elaborate.

I'm told ‘‘the attackers had military uniforms on.’’

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied involvement in the attack. The Aamaq news outlet said the Islamic State group was behind the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant postings....

Meaning this is all bull crap! It's either a false flag or a complete fiction!


It does take the attention off of the civilian casualties in last weekend's airstrikes, though.


"Trump to Japan: Protect yourself by buying US arms" by Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis New York Times  November 06, 2017

TOKYO — President Trump said Monday that Japan could protect itself from a nuclear-armed North Korea by buying billions of dollars of US military equipment, drawing an explicit link between trade and security as he began a complex, politically charged tour of Asia.

This as calls for gun control go out at home because of mass shootings.

By turns generous and challenging, Trump saluted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as among his best friends in the club of world leaders, but he railed against what he said were chronic trade imbalances with Japan. And he implicitly acknowledged his disappointment that Abe did not shoot down missiles that North Korea recently fired over Japan.

“He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,” Trump said, standing alongside Abe at the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. “The prime minister of Japan is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should.”

“It’s a lot of jobs for us and a lot of safety for Japan,” the president added.

That's what all the hot air and rhetoric is for. 

There isn't going to be a war, folks. 

Why would they want to remove the justification for buying billions in weapons?

Trump steered clear of the inflammatory statements about North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, that he has used in the past. But he defended his use of such confrontational language, suggesting that the reluctance of his predecessors to make such statements had emboldened Kim.

“Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong, but look what’s happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years,” Trump said. “Look where we are right now.”

The president refused to rule out eventual military action against North Korea and declared that the United States “will not stand” for Pyongyang menacing America or its allies. He called the recent launches of missiles over Japanese territory ‘‘a threat to the civilized world and international peace and stability.’’ 

It will be at a time and place of our choosing.

Trump was to depart Tokyo for Seoul on Tuesday morning, the second stop of his 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia.

He is scheduled to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday for what the Chinese Foreign Ministry says is Trump’s first visit to the Chinese capital. The Chinese are calling it “a state visit plus,” promising grand pageantry in the Great Hall of the People and the ancient roofed pavilions of the Forbidden City.

Trump’s remarks in Tokyo came on a day of high pomp and plain-spoken politics, which showcased both the president’s fitful adjustment to the rituals of statecraft and his determination to keeping pounding at the hot-button issues that vaulted him into the White House.

Before midday, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko welcomed Trump and his wife, Melania, at the Imperial residence.

The president was formally received by Abe on a red carpet at Akasaka Palace, a neo-Baroque building that resembles Buckingham Palace. The two men inspected an honor guard, glittering in gold braid, their rifles fixed with bayonets.

Trump must have loved it.

Earlier, however, Trump used a breakfast meeting of Japanese and American business executives to deliver a scathing critique of the trade relationship between the two countries. Japan, he said, bought virtually no cars from the United States while exporting millions of vehicles into the US market.

“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over,” Trump said, disregarding the fact that Japanese carmakers have built huge assembly plants in the United States. “That’s not too much to ask,” he continued. “Is that rude to ask?”

In somewhat gentler terms, Trump told Abe that the United States was seeking a new kind of trade relationship.

Though he praised the Japanese economy, the president added, “I don’t know if it’s as good as ours. I think not, OK?” he said, shooting Abe a glance. “And we’re going to try to keep it that way, and you’ll be second.”

Abe reacted mildly to reports in the Japanese media — which Trump implicitly confirmed during the news conference — that Trump was dismayed by Japan’s decision not to shoot down missiles North Korea fired over Japanese territory in August and September. The missiles flew over the island of Hokkaido before landing harmlessly in the sea.

In conversations with other Asian leaders, a senior US official said, Trump asked why a country of “samurai warriors” did not shoot down the missiles, which the North Koreans launched in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

He insulted the Japanese?

Trump did not directly address the issue Monday.

Japan had tracked the missiles North Korea fired over Japan, Abe said, and would have shot them down if they had posed a threat to Japanese citizens.

Japan’s US-made missile defense systems would have enabled it to shoot down the missile that flew over Hokkaido on Aug. 29, [but] since North Korea has so far conducted only missile tests — as opposed to launching missiles armed with live warheads — Japan does not have the legal right to intercept them.....

Hey, look, a government that follows international law!


Also see:

Trump urges North Korea’s Kim to ‘make a deal’

"Mr. Trump also reprised his role as the American defense industry’s chief salesman. “South Korea will be ordering billions of dollars of that equipment, which, frankly, for them makes a lot of sense,” he said. “And for us, it means jobs.”

And if Kim Jong-un is gone?

Sure changed his tone overnight:

Trump says North Korea is ‘a hell no person deserves’

Or was it just the different narratives of Wapo and NYT in conflict?

"Diplomatic niceties for Trump in Beijing before tough talks" by Jonathan Lemire Associated Press  November 09, 2017

BEIJING — China poured on the pomp and pageantry for Trump’s arrival. The president and first lady Melania Trump were greeted at the airport by dozens of children who waved US and Chinese flags and jumped up and down. The couple spent the first hours of their visit on a private tour of the Forbidden City, Beijing’s ancient imperial palace. It’s usually teeming with tourists but was closed to the public for the presidential visit.

The Trumps walked alongside Xi and his wife through the historic site and admired artifacts from centuries past. Trump posed for photos and, with a wave of his hand, joked to Xi about the reporters watching. And he laughed and clapped along during an outdoor opera featuring colorful costumes, martial arts, and atonal music.

Trump said afterward he’s ‘‘having a great time’’ in China. The president is expected to showcase a round of business deals signed Wednesday by Chinese and US companies that the two sides say are valued at $9 billion.

They are moving ahead together.

Among them: a pledge by China’s biggest online retailer to buy $1.2 billion of American beef and pork. Such contract signings are a fixture of visits by foreign leaders to China and are aimed at blunting criticism of Beijing’s trade practices.

It’s ‘‘a way of distracting from the fact that there’s been no progress in China on structural reform, market access, or the big issues that the president has tried to make progress on with regard to China,’’ said Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump has made narrowing the multibillion-dollar trade deficit with China a priority for his administration — and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday the deals were a step in the right direction.

‘‘Achieving fair and reciprocal treatment for the companies is a shared objective,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Today’s signings are a good example of how we can productively build up our bilateral trade.’’

China’s trade surplus with the United States in October widened by 12.2 percent from a year earlier, to $26.6 billion, according to Chinese customs data released Wednesday. The total surplus with the United States for the first 10 months of the year rose to $223 billion.....


RelatedCommerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ‘lied’ about his wealth to make richest Americans list, says Forbes magazine


I can't talk about Manafort case, but "federal prosecutors are looking into the role played by Carl C. Icahn (right), the billionaire investor, in advising the Trump administration on regulatory issues that had the potential to affect the finances of a company he owns. Icahn stepped down as an unpaid adviser to President Trump in August, after scrutiny from members of Congress about whether he was influencing regulations on ethanol to benefit his financial investments......"

"Trump, aiming to coax Xi, bets on flattery" by Mark Landler, Julie Hirschfeld David and Jane Perlez New York Times   November 10, 2017

BEIJING — President Trump heaped praise on President Xi Jinping of China on Thursday, blaming Trump’s own predecessors for China’s widening trade surplus with the United States and saying he was confident that Xi could defuse the threat from North Korea.

Trump’s warm words, on a state visit to China replete with ceremony but short of tangible results, showed a president doubling down on his gamble that by cultivating a personal connection with Xi, he can push the Chinese leader to take meaningful steps on North Korea and trade.

In public, Trump projected an air of deference to China that was almost unheard of for a visiting US president. He said he could not blame the Chinese for taking advantage of weak US trade policy.

Behind closed doors, US officials insisted, Trump forcefully confronted Xi about the chronic trade imbalances between the two countries. He also pressed China to take tougher measures toward North Korea, including a suspension of oil shipments.

In neither case did the Chinese make significant concessions, nor did Trump express dissatisfaction with their response.

It was a remarkable moment in the story of China’s rise and the United States’ response to it, with Trump’s performance suggesting a tipping point in great-power politics. By concluding that the United States can better achieve its goals by flattering a Chinese leader than by challenging him, Trump seemed to signal a reversal of roles: The United States may now need China’s help more than the other way around.

For the war against Russia, because if they are on the other side.... we lose.

Trump marveled at the reception Xi had given him, from a full-dress military parade in Tiananmen Square to a sunset tour of the Forbidden City. He congratulated him on consolidating power at a recent Communist Party congress.

I'll bet that had Republicans sh**ting bricks.

Xi, for his part, did not return Trump’s personal praise, seeming to treat him like any other US leader.

“I told the president that the Pacific is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States,” Xi said, after reciting his well-worn line that the two countries could peacefully coexist if they respected each other’s different political systems.

Trump administration officials said that the leaders’ exchanges had had a harder edge behind the scenes. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that Trump had, in effect, used flattery to appeal to Xi to do more to isolate North Korea.

“Our president has been very clear with President Xi that he takes the view that, ‘You are a very powerful neighbor of theirs, you account for 90-plus percent of their economic activity, you’re a strong man,’” Tillerson said, channeling Trump. “’You can, I’m sure, solve this for me.’”

Tillerson dismissed Trump’s contention that trade deficits were the United States’ fault as “a little bit of tongue in cheek” in the midst of a much tougher discussion. During their meeting, he said, Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, ticked off the long history of trade imbalances, and warned they could not be allowed to continue.

The one tangible gain from Trump’s trip — $250 billion worth of business agreements between US and Chinese companies — was viewed as a token of Chinese good will. Many of the deals are preliminary and will take years to come to fruition. They broke no new ground in areas such as technology, where the United States is losing market access.

Tillerson himself played down the significance of any progress that was made in trade talks.

Still, Chinese analysts said the deals underscored Xi’s desire to give Trump a victory. “OK relations with Trump’s America is very important for both Xi’s glory and his strategy,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University.....

Is that the spin they are giving it?


It's on to Vietnam next, right?

"Typhoon Damrey caused extensive damage ahead of this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which will be attended by leaders from around the world....."  

"The toxic haze blanketing New Delhi was so severe on Tuesday that politicians announced plans to close schools, flights were delayed, and the chief minister of Delhi state said the city had “become a gas chamber.” The situation is adding to a growing health crisis in the region. The thick, acrid fog is not new to Delhi, where it settles around this time every year, covering the capital in vehicle emissions and smoke from the burning of crops in neighboring states and from fireworks from Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. But in recent years, the problem appears to have worsened....."

Syria joins Paris climate accord, leaving only US opposed

"Sri Lanka says it will investigate alleged torture of Tamils" Associated Press  November 10, 2017

NEW DELHI — Sri Lanka said it will investigate allegations by more than 50 ethnic Tamils that they were abducted and tortured by police or army soldiers long after the end of the island nation’s civil war.

An Associated Press investigation published Wednesday offered detailed testimony from 20 of the men, along with photos of injuries they said were sustained when they were raped, branded, or beaten repeatedly in custody.

The men, now seeking political asylum in Europe, said their captors accused them of working to revive the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which battled Sri Lankan government forces for decades until their defeat in 2009.

The Sri Lankan government has said repeatedly, however, that the rebel group is no longer a threat.

In a letter, the Sinhalese-dominated government said it ‘‘strongly condemns any act of torture’’ and would ensure that any such allegations are ‘‘investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’’

It urged those with evidence of abuse to come forward and report it.



10 arrests in French, Swiss raids over suspected attack plot

They were also seeking asylum.

Furlough for Greek extremist serving life fuels outrage

He was part of an extreme left-wing group.

Prosecutors: German nurse may have killed over 100 patients


Catalan lawmakers testify in separatist rebellion probe

Catalonia strike is muted but protesters block roads, trains

Cruise ships to be blocked from Venice lagoon

BroadwayHD to stream shows from London’s West End

Zimbabwe’s ousted vice president flees after death threats

He doesn't want to be struck down like in Boston.

Argentine prosecutor says colleague’s death was murder

The overthrow is part of the South American sphere of WWIII.

Top Indonesia court overturns discriminatory religious law

As Israel goes in the opposite direction:

Jerusalem protests look to preserve ultra-Orthodox lifestyle

It is a "desperate attempt by members of a vocal minority, seen as a drag on the country’s economy, trying to preserve a lifestyle that is rapidly changing around them."

How naive!