A Lose-Lose Strategy for Iran

The Iran Nuclear Deal was a great milestone in international cooperation with one single goal – Iran should not be able to develop nuclear weapons in for the foreseeable future.   The deal required Iran to limit its stockpile of uranium, to levels determined to be insufficient to develop a nuclear weapon.  It would be subject to the most thorough monitoring of its uranium enrichment.   The monitoring would be done by an international group of experts (IAEA).   In exchange, the US and its allies would lift the harsh sanctions leveled against Iran.

The Iran Nuclear Deal was agreed to by China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, US and the EU.  The sanctions imposed not only created hardships for Iran but for our allies as well.  John Kerry and other negotiators worked diligently to kept the coalition of our allies  together, so the pressure would be on until a verifiable means of keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon was achieved. The Republicans, including Donald Trump, were constantly on the attack against the deal.  Trump vowed to scrap this deal, reimpose sanctions and then renegotiate a new deal, which would fully satisfy the US interests.  The problem of course, was the Iranians were in compliance with the deal and for us to unilaterally pull out would be a breach of international law.   It had been approved by both the US Congress and the UN Security Council.

However,  Trump made it clear that there had to be a new deal, and sanctions against Iran was the only way this was going to happen.   The most important sanction was a refusal to buy any oil from Iran or do any business with Iran.  Further, he anticipated other countries would do the same, and force Iran back to the negotiating table, for the “Trump Iranian Deal.”   Israel and Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf coast countries) would simply like to a US invasion of Iran.  No other signatory countries felt re-imposition of sanctions was necessary, because Iran was living up to its part of the deal.  They refused to re-open the negotiations with the Trump administration because they were living up to their side of the bargain.   They insisted that if the US continued in non-compliance with the JCPOA, they too were no longer bound to the agreement.

Today, July 1, 2019, Iran finally pushed back against the US.  Re Wikipedia:  “On 1 July 2019, Iran announced that it had breached the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Shortly after the announcement the IAEA confirmed that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded the deal’s limit.”   We have no diplomatic recourse.  We lost our place at the negotiating table when we violated the deal and re-imposed sanctions.  The fear was that Iran was not a country to be trusted and they would develop secret uranium enrichment plants out of sight of inspectors.  Just the opposite has happened.  They have breached the agreement in full view of inspectors in retaliation for the US violation of the agreement and our pressuring of other countries to cease doing business with Iran, or we will level sanctions against them.

We have embarked on a horrible lose-lose strategy.   This was not “denuclearization” because Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon.  This was to keep them from doing so, even though many Iranian would like to be a part of the nuclear club.  The deal was good not just for the US but for the rest of the world.   If one believed that the future of Iran was hell bent on assisting terrorist organizations, then this deal was extremely important to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran.   Trump has not had one meeting with Iran since he came to office.  My only hope is that in 2020, with a new president, we can once again, lift the sanctions, and they will return to the deal.  But honestly, if this escalates, all bets are off.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: JCPOA:  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

 

 

Hitting the “Nationalism” button too often

It gets at times pretty scary.  What nationalism means, at least to Trump supporters, is we do what is in our interest.  Actually, the US foreign policy always has put the country’s interest at its top priority.  It’s really the short-sighted policy of Trump when our policy extends to telling  other countries  what to do or we will try to screw them over big time.   I have said about a 100 times, you can’t win a trade war or an arms race, because your enemies will retaliate, a guaranteed lose-lose outcome.  Trump’s nationalist policies have shut out international cooperation of other countries in helping solve problems.   China could have helped us with to denuclearize North Korea, but not any longer.  Most of the time, Trump’s threats are really hot air.   At the last minute, he’ll find a reason not to take immediate action, but still leave this lingering idea that other countries are doing really shameful things.   Sort of like, you’re bad and we’ll get even later.  Very dumb and kind of childish.    And he will always, always claim victory. Saber rattling, blaming others and just plain lying are sad ways to run foreign affairs.

Case in point is our Venezuela policy.  Obviously, Trump was quick to support opposition leader,  Juan Guaido on the wrong assumption that the military would throw their support behind him, Maduro would be history.   He attacked the “Biden-Obama” administration for not taking action against Maduro.   He did not mention that during the 11 years Hugo Chavez was in power, intent on destroying democratic and civil liberties, and establishing a corrupt system of governance,  George Bush could do little to prevent this.   Trump claimed his policies worked in Venezuela, as he pressured the Russians to pull out of Venezuela.   In March 2019, (about a million Trump tweets ago) Russia  responded saying this wasn’t true and they were going to honor their commitments made to Venezuela.    See link in below.

Venezuela is a great example of Russia, China and the US each doing what is in their national interest.  Russia and China have invested heavily in Venezuela, which underlies their support of Maduro.   The US would like to see Maduro gone and restoration of a stability in the country.  The  recent visit by UN Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet did not make headline news.  The Trump administration has cut off all funding for the UN Human Rights Council, calling it a leftist organization.  The ultra conservative National Security Adviser, John Bolton,  has really lead the way against using the UN to resolve crises.

“The destiny of more than 30 million Venezuelans resides in the will and the ability of its leaders to put the people’s human rights above any personal, political or ideological ambition,” Bachelet said… The UN human rights chief plans to set up an office in Venezuela to monitor the ongoing humanitarian crisis there. Michelle Bachelet said the dire situation must not be allowed to “deteriorate any further.”

There isn’t a quick solution to Venezuela.  Bachelet’s visit was definitely a step in the right direction.   It says to Maduro to stop lying to its people.

Perhaps, the next great example of misguided nationalism, comes from Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imported Mexican goods.  Of course, it never happened.  Trump’s version of events is that he pressure Mexico to take action against illegals entering into Mexico by threatening tariffs.  What really happened, is that Mexico offered nothing new, and these “concessions” were made months earlier.   See links.

There are a number of great examples how this overblown nationalism theme has failed.  I’ll leave the Iran drone episode to another blog, and move on to our constant attacks on Germany.    In 2018, Trump took aim at Germany, for their cooperative agreement with Russia to build a second Baltic sea pipeline to supply Germany with natural gas.   Germany was, of course, acting in their national interest.  Trump understood that liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US to the EU could decline once the pipeline is complete.   See my blog:  https://newsandviews.net/2018/08/08/pipeline-dollars-to-russia-are-not-acceptable/

Using natural gas to generate energy is better than using coal,   The EU  needs the Russian gas, is because the existing production from UK and  Norwegian gas fields have been declining for years.  So, Germany and other EU leaders  are doing what is their national interest, and at this point, I guess, will  just ignore Trump’s comments.

It’s fine for a politician to proclaim his love for his country.  But, any real progress in international affairs must be multi-national, and with this, some of our goals would be compromised.  I guess it’s comes down to a choice of achieving some progress with existing international institutions and agreements, or striking out alone, and coming up empty handed.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Russia scoffs at U.S. demand that it pull troops from Venezuela

US will stop funding UN Human Rights Council

As Trade War Spreads to Mexico,  Companies lose a safe harbor

Who won the Mexican Trade War of 2019

The Democratic Candidates for President

My God, there are a lot of them.  I’ve broken them down into 4 groups:  Top dogs (4),  Possible, but not likely  (4),  No chance (15), and don’t vote for these people because they have never held elected office in their lives (2).

Top dogs:  Biden, Harris, Sanders, Warren

Possible, but not likely:  Klobuchar, Booker, Buttigieg and O’Rourke

No chance:  Bennet, Bullock, Castro, Blasio, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Messen, Moulton. O’Rourke, Ryan, Swalwell,

Don’t vote for these people:  Williamson, Yang

I check Williamson’s website, and it shows she really knows her issues.   I just think she should start by being a Senator or Governor, to show us she’s cut out for the job.

I know exactly what you are thinking – where is Oprah?  She publicly said she would not run.  Mark Zuckerberg is also not running.  Some primaries in February will help separate out the true candidates from the rest.  Then,  8 months from now, on March 3, comes a whole slew of primaries.  I think the field will drop to about 8 candidates.

 

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Wikipedia:  Democratic Presidential Primaries

The tanker attacks

Let’s first look at the facts:

On June 13, two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.  The first attack occurred  on the Norwegian tanker,  The Front Altair.   It loaded with the flammable hydrocarbon mixture naphtha from the United Arab Emirates. They  radioed for help as it caught fire. A short time later, the Japanese tanker,  Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was attack and also called for help.  Fortunately, there was only one injury reported.

Tankers have between 8 to 12 separate tanks for holding petroleum products.  They are structured so a fire in one tank does spread to other tanks.   The tankers are being taken to the United Arab Emirates where their cargo will be offloaded.

The attacks occurred in the Gulf of Oman. The US military has stated that the evidence points to Iran. It’s evidence comes from a speedboat which pulled up along side of the Kokuba, and shows one of the crew trying to remove a limpet landmine.   These mine can be attached to the side of a tanker by magnets.   The US claims that members of Iran’s revolutionary guard were on the speedboat and trying to cover up evidence of the attack’s source.

The British have stated they concur with the US, stating there is high certainty the  attack was from Iran.   The United Arab Emirates has stated they feel this was the attack was “state sponsored” but importantly, did not point the finger at Iran.  Saudi Arabia concurs with the US, and urges the US to take decisive action.

For political reasons, it is easy for Saudi Arabia and UAE to side with US, against Iran.   UAE is attempting to buy military equipment from the US.   At the same time,  the US is making it increasingly difficult EU countries to buy Iranian oil.

Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets. He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of a mine attack “false.”   Katada said the crew members also spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby, but didn’t specify whether that was before or after the attacks.

The owners of the Norwegian tanker have not weighed in on this.

Iran has vehemently denied any involvement.   Experts in Middle East politics are puzzled, saying Iran would have nothing to gain from an attack on foreign tankers.  I agree.

If I had to guess who had the most to gain,  I would argue that it would be Saudi Arabia or UAE.  They would benefit from an attack on Iran.  And maybe UAE is wrong and it wasn’t a foreign government responsible for the attack.  If land mines were used, as the US is convinced, attached to the side of the ship, this would spill cargo and certainly put the crew at risk,  but it would not sink a tanker.  There are plenty of groups which would benefit from increase tensions between the US and Iran, and total US support of Saudi Arabia as the powerhouse of the Middle East.

There is developing a huge divide in the Middle East, along Sunni-Shia lines.  A proxy war is rapidly developing in Libya, with Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia on one side (Tobruk government).    Middle East policy seems to go along with what Prince MBS of Saudi Arabia wants.    Remember Iran and Iraq are both Shia, while Saudi Arabia and UAE are Sunni.   By choosing the Sunni group lead by Saudi Arabia,  we will undermine our relations with   Qatar, Turkey and Iraq.

It is in the interest of the US to reduce tensions rather than choose sides.  I go along with the latest Houston Chronicle opinion,  “Oil tanker attacks aren’t worth war with Iran.” See link below:

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Oil-tanker-attacks-aren-t-worth-war-with-Iran-13999257.php

 

 

The real immigration problem

Donald Trump tweeted a video showing 1,000 migrants coming through a chain link fence at the border.  They were all caught, of course.   We are catching a lot more migrants.  This makes sense, because long before Trump became president, we have spent billions making our southern border more secure.  The Customs and Border Patrol  shows a surge in the number of apprehension and inadmissibility at the SW Border.  Last month approximately 90,000  immigrants who have been apprehended.  This number is about 10,000 less than the CBP numbers which include both   apprehensions and inadmissibilities.

Looking at the video clip a second time, it looks like we could have swarmed in and arrested the first few migrants to get through the hole in the fence and the rest would have not entered the US.  At least on that day at that location.   So, a conscious decision was made to make as big arrest as possible.

I am certain walls do impede the flow of migrants.     Trump likes the word “walls” but what really works are fences.  In fact, what the video showed was that a chain link fence worked, because it took time for the migrants to cut a hole in the fence, and this delay allowed immigration enforcement officers (ICE) to get in position to round everyone up.   It certainly looks like night time video surveillance cameras also work.   The end result of spending all this money at the border,  should logically be that fewer of those intending to cross, actually succeed.  Thus the video could be used, not to show a crisis, but how we’ve succeeded in avoiding one.  I’m certain “electronic walls” (detectors, cameras, drones) work also,

The coyotes will always find ways to get people across the border.  That’s their job.  They will look for the areas with the least barriers to cross.  Obviously, the chain link fence was easy to breach, but the group was so big, it was easy for CBP to spot them.   Border security has been beefed up with about 525 more border agents.

Drugs and other  human trafficking come across the border at the ports of entry, not through holes in chain link fencing.   Both Obama and Trump administrations have been increasing funding to deal with illegal drug smuggling.   It’s a huge problem, but it is a separate issue from the migrant inflows.   Trump is always conflating and confusing these issues.

Statistics are interesting because we are presented with a partial picture and misinterpretations or distortions  are common.  The distortions are often purposeful, particularly with commentators attempting to dramatize the problems.

We know how many people,  who attempt to cross out southern border,   get caught.  This is in the Customs and Border Patrol report.  Last month, 90,000 migrants got caught.  What we want to know is how many made  it to the US.   There are no really good numbers, and trying to guess this based on those caught is wrong.   If measures to catch migrants were basically unchanged, then we could assume that the migrants making it across successfully would go up in proportion to the number who are caught.  Of course this is not true.   Even if we knew how many get into the country illegally, there are substantial numbers who get caught later, particularly if they are involved in criminal activities.   About the best we can say, is that the worst of the migrants, run a high chance of being deported later.

On any particular day or month, you just don’t know in the general population of illegal immigrants is increasing or decreasing.  A lot are here, not because they crossed in illegally, but they overstayed their visas.  A substantial number return to their country.   A general estimate of illegal immigrants in the US is 11 million and our population of illegals may be on the decline.

Now on to removal statistics.   We sent 256.000 illegal immigrants back to their country in Fiscal Year 2018 (last full  month is Sept 2018).   I believe Mexicans crossing at the southern border can be quickly deported.  Returning others to their country of origin has become the real immigration problem.  Apprehensions are nearly double from a year ago, with the real surge from Guatemala and not Mexico.  The real problem is we have run out of space to adequately house immigrants.

 

With more than 13,000 migrants in custody—an unprecedented number and more than twice what CBP considers a “crisis level”—McAleenan said, calling the situation an “unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our southwest border.” The overcrowding of CBP facilities have caused the agency to start directly releasing some migrants caught at the border, instead of transferring them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which itself doesn’t have sufficient detention capacity to accept them.  This is the first time in more than a decade that the CBP has had to directly release its detainees and is trying to pick those with the lowest risk, McAleenan said.

Trump hates “catch and release” but he is forced into it because there’s no room at the facilities.  So, we are having a trade war over what?  Beds?  You’ve got to be kidding.   This is what Mexican officials will be telling US leaders in Washington on Wednesday  They will be saying “You invested heavily in law enforcement, and nothing else.  That was the route you took,  You were successful.  Now deal with it.”   Also, that they will retaliate in equal measure to any trade tariffs.

The threat of higher tariffs on Mexico, could not come at a worse time, as the USMCA (or NAFTA II) has not bee ratified by Mexico, Canada nor the US.   What we need most right now, is cooperation between the US, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras on economic development and immigration policy.  The hostile and aggressive actions of Trump will only make the situation worse.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theepochtimes.com/border-patrol-apprehensions-reach-10-year-single-day-record-of-over-4100_2857594.html

Ice report (256,000 removals)  includes CBP apprehensions at the border.   Note of the violations, 57% were for “failure to appear”  which makes sense.  Who would appear at a hearing where they would be deported?  This kind of violation is for the catch and release group.   Initial book-in was 154K from ICE and 243K from CBP in FY 2018 for a total of 397,000  – incredible.

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration

 

 

 

 

 

Trump is not making America great

We are in a trade war.  It raises the price of many items. When prices go up, sales go down,  stores close and people lose jobs.   Both the Chinese and Americans will pay a hefty price.   US farmers are basically on welfare, accepting government handouts   Our relations with many countries, including Canada and Mexico have been severely weakened.  Other countries, not the US, will take the lead in cut carbon emissions and slow the devastating effects of  climate change. We  applaud dictatorships.  We turn our heads as Brazil dismantles the  oversight environmental groups, so President Bolsonaro can step up the destruction of the Amazon rainforest without any internal dissent.   We will soon present to the world a Israel-Palestinian peace plan, which has zero support in Palestine.   It is hope only a political document, aimed at Trump’s re-election.  We have cause serious disruption in the UN negotiations for peace settlement in Libya by siding with General Haftar, (with Egyptian, UAE, Saudi Arabia direct military support and Russia’s support as well).

I correctly predicted this back in August 2015 in my blog:

Ok. I’m in favor of fresh blood, but not that fresh. Donald Trump can sell. He’s been selling his whole life. If you put up a luxury condominium, you have to sell it for top price- and this is what Trump has doing for the last about 30 years. These days, he pushes Trump brand.  All I hear from Trump is marketing. Great marketing and maybe it’s enough for domestic consumption. He isn’t capable of building international cooperative agreements. He’s thinks way too much in terms of power relationships as dividing the world into friends and enemies. This was the great Bush/Cheney failure.

Did I get it right?   Yesterday,  Trump downplayed the missile launches by North Korea as unimportant, while John Bolton, US National Security Adviser stated that they were a direct violation of the UN resolution against North Korea.   In this case Bolton was clearly  right.  Trump leaves Japan with Prime Minister Shinzou Abe not knowing who to believe.

Trump is not the master of negotiations.  It’s all themes.  He is a salesman, and more at home at his rallies.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Predicting the US Presidential Election 2020

Wow this may seem way too early, as we don’t know which one of the 23 announced Democrats will make it to the be their party’s candidate.   However,  there are states which consistently vote for Republicans or Democrats, and this is the basis of political forecasting.   And there is this incredible paradox in forecasting as the forecast itself can alter the actual results.  If the consensus  says that party ‘X’ will win, then supporters of Party “X’ are less motivated to vote, and the supporters of Party ‘Y’ are more motivated, meaning more will vote.   Also the candidates will change their strategy based on which states are leading or lagging in their run.

I sum it up like this: – it is difficult to identify how a population feels about a candidate when the candidates are doing everything in their power to change people’s opinion.

Polls can be so wrong, for a long list of reasons.  Of the eligible voters, 42% did not vote.  Any poll which included the general public, may be representative of the popularity of a candidate, but this isn’t what counts in an election.   In an evenly divided state such as Florida,  obtaining a representative sample in a timely manner is difficult.  The polling  margins in Florida (% difference between candidates) were very small in 2016, so results were significantly affected by sampling errors.   If this stuff interest you, then you have to know the state symbols and the websites.

There are many sites  of which  270towin.com  and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball are the best right now in providing non-partisan forecasts of the US Presidential elections.     In my opinion,  forget any website which says “It looks like a landslide for Candidate ‘X’  or Party ‘X,’      I can’t predict much, but a landslide is out of the question.  We have been a very evenly divided country politically for at least 19 years.

To make a educated guess of who will win the election,  the prognosticators generally subdivide the electoral states into 7 categories (Solid Dem, Likely  Dems, Lean Dems, Toss up,  Lean Rep, Likely Rep and Solid Rep).   There’s a 5 category model with Likely and Lean combined into one category.

There are 5 big toss ups, as follows with the state symbol and electoral votes:   AZ(11), FL(29), WI(10), MI(16), PA(20).   This is the “Consensus view” per the 270toWin website.   The total is 86 votes.   We have in these 5 states something I will call “Hardcore uncertainty.”    The tossup total is 87 (one extra comes from NE),

The biggest prize is Florida, carrying 29 EV, or about a third of the total tossups.  The candidate which wins Florida,  Michigan and Pennsylvania takes 75% of the tossups.

Now, not everyone is agreeing on this tossup category.  Larry Sabato’s Crystal ball from the University of Virginia, considers PA, AZ, WI and NH as tossups, for a total of 46%.    Sabato adds NH but the state only has 4 EV’s.  So, the big prize is Pennsylvania.   In Sabato’s forecast, Florida leans Republican and Michigan leans Democrat,  Net it is a gain of 13 EV’s in favor of Republicans.

As I take a more broad view of the  “solids” in the map,  it seems that evident that Republicans are the majority in  the US heartland with a solid red, from North Dakota and Montana to Oklahoma and Louisiana.   Democrats are solid on the very populous east and west coasts.   Texas was usually considered a solid Republican state, but is now considered in the “likely” group for Republicans.   Our country is not as divided as the maps might seem to present.  It is far mixed up politically with local elections in red states going to Democratic candidates and vice versa.    The third link from Wikipedia has an excellent discussion on “Map Interpretation.:

This forecasting is interesting because everyone sees the same information at the same time.   In fact each political party is very focused on the polling numbers.  and generates their own forecasts to boot.    Again, I come back to the point that whatever the consensus forecast is at any one time, the subsequent actions of the parties acts to drive the statistics in the opposite direction,  reducing the forecast’s accuracy.  For example,  if Democrats believe they can turn Texas or Republicans can turn Michigan, they will race to the state, with a barge of arguments why only their candidate can run the country.  A final point is the hypocrisy in all this is not lost, as each candidate will tell their supporters that they are more interested in issues rather than polling statistics, when their staffs and paid consultants are looking daily at the numbers.

Stay tuned,

Dave

https://www.270towin.com/

http://crystalball.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/2020-president/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_states_and_blue_states

Rebranding: Trump’s mean and egotistical actions

If you buy a hotel, you need to sweep clean any presence of the  prior owner.  The clean sweep goes beyond just the uniforms and paperwork.  Everything should have the name of the new owner.  This is re-branding.

Trump knows branding.  One of Trump’s famous maneuvers was to have his failed Taj Mahal casino  carry only “Trump bottle water” in which he had a royalty.  So, he was still making money as the casino went bankrupt.

A lot of non-partisan social programs have been eliminated because they had Obama’s name on them.  Two examples below:

First example of Trump’s meanness and partisanship (even where it doesn’t exist) was the cancellation of the Let’s move program.  It was started by Michelle Obama,  aimed at combating child obesity and it couldn’t be more spot on.   It promoted healthy diets and exercise for children.  Who could argue with that!   Obviously,  Trump did not have to maintain vegetable gardens at the White House.   But it was a terrible mean streak to end a program with such worthwhile objectives.   See the “Let’s move” website now in the government archives.

The second act of meanness and ego, was the cancellation of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill, simply because this  was proposed during the Obama years.   It was really Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury who made the decision to replace  Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman,  The Treasury Department didn’t outright cancel the Tubman bill, just postponed it to after 2028,  pushing beyond Trump’s presidency.  Andrew Jackson legacy was particularly controversial, particularly on his military action against American Indians.  (see link).   Harriet Tubman was a fantastic choice,  a clear heroine in time of slavery.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Let’s Move    (Eliminated by Donald Trump,  website is no longer maintained.  This is an archive copy, for historical purposes).

Harriet Tubman     (Incredibly brave woman in a country which at that time was  govern by white wealthy men)

Andrew Jackson

Did not believe the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter of the Constitution.   I guess that is why Trump doesn’t want Jackson gone from our currency.

Trail of Tears 

 

 

China Trade Deal

“They broke the deal,”  is Trump’s rallying cry.  And really very dumb, because there was no deal.  There were drafts of critical pieces of a deal.  The Chinese have responded much more quietly, and that is a continued belief that a negotiated trade agreement is reached.

Trump probably has walked away from a hundred deals.  It is what real estate investors do every day.  The price and terms of a deal are not to his liking, he has the right to walk away.

Trump has also talked how he likes to win. That doesn’t make for good diplomacy.   The chief negotiator is Robert Lighthizer, who has been in the thick of trade negotiations many times and successfully crafted agreements.   He is known as a trade hardliner.   I am hopeful he can avoid massive tariff hikes, but he’s definitely running out of time.

The other hardliner is Peter Navarro,   And I am very worried about his influence as it’s all about principle and not compromise.  He could be the number 1 deal breaker.   He looks at what other countries are doing, which puts the US industries in a weaker position,  and argues for aggressive action.   Punishing countries through tariffs can really do major damage to our own economy.  The one industry which will suffer the most, are Trump’s most ardent supporters,  the Midwest farmers through tariffs on soybean exports.  Peter Navarro is a professor of economics, and has written many books, where he can hold the high ground of ideology.  Now, he’s in the trenches.

So, let me for a minute, put myself in Vice Premier Liu He position, China’s top trade negotiator, who arrived in Washington today.  Of course, he will remind Trump that both countries will suffer as a result of intensifying the trade wars.   He will tell Trump that China will retaliate by raising tariffs on a large number of products.   Citrus growers in Florida will feel the impact.   Now, the president is listening, because that’s 29 electoral votes in 2020 and Florida is definitely a swing state.  Texas will also be impacted, and there’s  38 electoral votes.   Vice Premier Liu He, can’t tell Trump that he will lose California – that ship has already sailed.

Trump will be divided, not on how the trade war will affect the economy,  but his chances of being re-elected.   That’s really the sad part of all this.  Trump is thinking  whether he can sway millions of Twitter followers, that China broke the deal, which of course, was still being negotiated.  Of course, a worsening global economy and increased unemployment will definitely speak louder than the Twitter feeds.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake News and Facebook

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes,” A nice quote, but it wasn’t said by Mark Twain.

Thanks to the internet, we have lies spreading at the speed of light.  I don’t use Facebook to obtain news.  It is filled with tabloid junk.  I have never bought a tabloid at a grocery store checkout.

Here are a sample of truly false stories:

https://www.politifact.com/personalities/facebook-posts/statements/by/

This is from Politifact.com.   They don’t identify who made up the lie, as this just gives some individuals the free publicity they are seeking.  Facebook is being responsible by banning a very select group who stream out massive numbers of  false allegations faster at incredible speed, so they can profit from the sale of videos and books.

I support what Mark Zuckerberg is trying to do, by permanently banning the worst of the bloggers from Facebook.   He will be criticized no matter what he does, usually based on the idea of curbing free speech.  However, it’s completely legal and pretty routine as every  media outlet will screen out  advertisers for violation of their policies.   Infowars doesn’t care about the truth – only publicity and fortunately they have been taken to court a number of times as follows (see Wikipedia link):

  • In February 2017, the lawyers of James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, sent Jones a letter demanding an apology and retraction for his role in pushing the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Under Texas law, Jones was given a month to comply or be subject to a libel suit.[141] In March 2017, Jones apologized to Alefantis for promulgating the conspiracy theory and retracted his allegations.[142]
  • In April 2017, the Chobani yogurt company filed a lawsuit against Jones for his article that claims that the company’s factory in Idaho, which employs refugees, was connected to a 2016 child sexual assault and a rise in tuberculosis cases.[143] As a result of the lawsuit, Jones issued an apology and retraction of his allegations in May 2017.[144]
  • In March 2018, Brennan Gilmore, who shared a video he captured of a car hitting anti-racism protesters at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, filed a lawsuit[145] against Jones and six others. According to the lawsuit, Jones said that Gilmore was acting as part of a false flag operation conducted by disgruntled government “deep state” employees in promotion of a coup against President Trump.[146] Gilmore alleges he has been receiving death threats from Jones’ audience.[146]
  • Leonard Pozner, father of a Sandy Hook shooting victim who has been forced to move several times to avoid harassment and death threats accusing him of being a crisis actor, has filed a defamation suit against Jones in Texas.[147]

I feel sorry for these individuals.    They had to go to court and suffer with Infowar’s attack for over a year.  The victims of Jones’ attack  certainly did not deserve this and it looks like all they got was a retraction.     When you  allow Alex Jones to use the Facebook platform to make libelous and hurtful statement about Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you give him the right to attack anyone.   And his history says he will.

I don’t buy into the “slippery slope” idea. I believe Facebook will use a lot of discretion in banning individuals, because they are the beneficiaries of a free flow of new ideas, even some very radical ones.

Facebook is working with fact checkers to block false information, see link below:

How is Facebook addressing false news through third-party fact-checkers?

I’ll end with a great quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

So,  go out buy a real newspaper or reliable internet sources,  support fact checking organizations  and stay away from the tabloid world.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Wikipedia Alex Jones 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/05/03/trump-jr-accuses-facebook-silencing-conservatives-day-after-it-bans-some-far-right-users/?utm_term=.97fc760b8479

No impeachment of Trump

Sometimes Fareed Zakaria gets things so right, there is little for me to add.  Anything extra would simply cloud the issue.

It is right of Congress to remove an elected president who has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”  however 2/3 of the Senate must find the president guilty.    The trial of Bill Clinton in the Senate didn’t come close to this.  The vote for obstruction of justice was 50 guilty votes and 50 votes not guilty votes.  Voting was along party lines.

Trial by impeachment is direct opposite of a legal trial under our judicial system.   Our legal system provides numerous protections to the accused, to ensure a fair trial.   If the protections have not been afforded to the accused, then there can be justice at the appellate level.   Impeachment begins with a deeply partisan jury,  the US Senate.  The Senate is controlled by Republicans, and there is absolutely no doubt of acquittal, if it ever got to this stage.

The “high crimes and misdemeanors” criteria has been discussed many times and it is still controversial what the founders meant by this clause.  However,  the “high” is not used to mean a serious or severe crime, but rather one that is done by a “high official”  in his official capacity.

There’s nothing wrong with investigation, to keep us informed our president.  I know we can do better, in 2020.

Trump will fight back for sure.

Read Fareed Zakaria’s comments:

Impeachment Would Only Increase The “Class Resentment That Feeds Support For Trump”

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Libya, and the Trump Administration

It is now called the “Western Offensive (2019) or “Flood of Dignity Operation”  by General Haftar.  The UN reports states:

Libya: Heavy shelling and civilian deaths ‘blatant violation’ of international law – UN envoy

I know this is not headline news.  I could be commenting on the Mueller report or the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire.

The target is the Mitiga airport, in Tripoli, Libya, which is the only functioning international airport in Libya.  Haftar doesn’t care about the UN resolution with an arms embargo to Libya.  From the UN report:

The use of indiscriminate, explosive weapons in civilian areas constitutes a war crime,” Mr. Salame, who also heads the UN Support Mission (UNSMIL), said in a statement. He extended “with great sadness”, his “deepest condolences” to the victim’s families and wished the injured a speedy recovery. His statement pointed out that as of yesterday, there have been 54 confirmed civilian casualties, including 14 dead and 40 wounded, four of whom were health workers.“Liability for such actions lies not only with the individuals who committed the indiscriminate attacks, but also potentially with those who ordered them”, stressed the Special Representative.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Russia are backing General Haftar.  There is no question these are authoritarian regimes.   Haftar buys the support of local militias with money from the UAE and Saudi’s.  There will be continual civil war, if he comes to power.

France is a bit more complicated.  See Politico link:

France ostensibly supports the U.N.-mediated peace process, led by former Lebanese Culture Minister Ghassan Salamé, a veteran Paris-based political scientist. It has never officially acknowledged providing weaponry, training, intelligence and special forces assistance to Haftar. The death of three undercover French soldiers in a helicopter accident in Libya in 2016 provided a rare recognition of its secret presence in operations against Islamist fighters at the time.

Since the fall of Gaddafi,  the US has strongly supported efforts by the UN to bring together all sides in an unified government. By all accounts, the US is now, more than ever, is backing autocratic government.  It is an enormous step backwards.  Trump embraces autocrats much more than democratically elected leaders.   Haftar promises stability in Libya and control of radical Islamists.  This is the same thing as  Qaddafi.  Only problem is most the stability comes by suppressing their own people.

I think the Financial Times really got it right (see link below).

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Politico, France’s double game in Libya

Trump finds a new strongman in Libya

https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/12/1029031

Libya’s current situation – additional comments

The current situation is fighting continues outside of Tripoli.   Haftar’s army is meeting with strong resistance by the Tripoli government.

Libya’s situation is complex.  You can read about it, or listen to it.

For the latter, I suggest spending just 24 minutes to listen to the  panel discussion on the Libya’s current situation, as moderated by Folly Bah Thibault,  is available in the link below:

Are foreign powers worsening the conflict in Libya?

The UN passed a resolution to block foreign powers from supplying weapons to one side or the other.  Haftar’s way around this, was to insist on military weapons to fight against Islamic extremists, including ISIS.  But of course he wanted military equipment to wage war against the Tripoli government.

The panelists seemed to agree that the foreign powers were worsening the conflict,  Oliver Miles tempered his remarks by saying this was a war among Libyan, not outsiders.  But, Anas El Gomati, I think, got it right, in that the effect of Saudi Arabia and UAE assistance to Haftar, increases his confidence that he can win easier on the battlefield (where he’s used to fighting) than at the negotiating table.   The panelists also firmly said France has been involved in backing Haftar,  not necessarily with military equipment, but with creating a legitimacy for his government.

The next question was great.  Suppose Haftar succeeds, what happens next?   The name Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi did not come up, but could someone reign in Hafter, to make him more “presidential” rather than a military leader.   Anas El Gomati got it 100% right, with his statement:

“He [Haftar} has a 50 year legacy of deception and defection.”

Haftar only has Haftar’s interests in mind.  Gomati characterization of Haftar starts  about 22:00 minutes into the panel discussion.  At the end, Gomati concludes that no one could “reign in” someone who is so dishonest.    He briefly mentions that Haftar “allegedly” worked for the CIA, but it might have been a lot shorter time than the two decades in my blog.   He obviously could boast of his high level Libyan contacts, in working for and against Gaddafi.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Presenter: Folly Bah Thibault

Guests:
Anas El Gomati – director of the Tripoli-based Sadeq Institute
Francesco Galietti – head of political risk consultancy Policy Sonar
Oliver Miles – a former British Ambassador to Libya

General Kalifa Haftar and his successor (Part 3)

 

General Kalifa Haftar, born in Libya  in  1943.  He is now at  center of attention in the Libyan conflict.  He is shown above with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on his visit to Riyadh on March 27, 2019.

This is a short biographical summary of Haftar.    Wikipedia has provided an excellent biography, with extensive internet links as provided at the end of this blog.

Based on education and experience, Kalifa Haftar is a military expert.  He graduated from the Benghazi Military University, and received additional training in Russia and Egypt.  By age 26, he had the right military training to support Gaddafi in the overthrow of King Irdis.  As a commander in Libya’s military,  Haftar supported Gaddafi for 18 years before turning against him, including plotting his downfall.  With the help of the US, Haftar  join the CIA, living in Virginia for two decades.  He is a US citizen and speaks his native Arabic language, plus Russian, Italian, English  and is conversational in French.

I have broken down Haftar’s career into 4 phases:

(1)  1969 – 1987,  Military leader and close ally of Gaddafi,   (~18 years)
(2)  1987-1990,  Prisoner of war in Chad during the “Toyota wars”, where he formed an army to oppose Gaddafi,
(3)  1990 – 2011 Worked for the CIA in Virginia, USA (21 years!)
(4)  2011 – present:  Leader in the first civil war against Gaddafi, then broke with the General National Unity (GNU) agreement and united militia forces against the Tripoli government.

Haftar in 1969 help lead the rebellion that lead to Gaddafi’s overthrow of Libya’s King Irdis.  Libya had been a colony of Italy before the defeat of Benito Mussolini during World War II.  King Irdis had ruled Libya for 18 years from 1951 to 1969.  The country was divided into three provinces,  Cyrenaica,  Tripolitania and Fezzan.  The country was never fully united as Benghazi was the capital of Cyrenaica and Tripoli was the capital of Tripolitania.  As stated in Wikipedia:

This constitutional framework left Libya with a weak central government and strong provincial autonomy.[36] The governments of successive Prime Ministers tried to push through economic policies but found them hampered by the differing provinces.[37] There remained a persistent distrust between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.[25] Benghazi and Tripoli were appointed as joint capital cities, with the country’s parliament moving between the two.[38] The city of Bayda also became a de facto summer capital as Idris moved there.[38]

Haftar  was part of Libya’s contingent in the 1973 attack against  Israel.  Beginning in 1978,  Gaddafi began supplying arms to Chad in support of their civil war (see link).  But he wanted to occupy the northern Chad, as a measure to defend against Libya’s “soft underbelly.”  Wikipedia states:

In 1987, he became a prisoner of war during the war against Chad after being lulled into a trap and captured, then a major embarrassment for Gaddafi and represented a major blow to Gaddafi’s ambitions in Chad. While held prisoner, he and his fellow officers formed a group hoping to overthrow Gaddafi. He was released around 1990 in a deal with the United States government and spent nearly two decades in Langley, Virginia, in the US, gaining U.S. citizenship.[4]

Wikipedia states, “Another possible reason given for Gaddafi’s abandonment of Haftar was the potential that Haftar might return to Libya as a hero and thus pose a threat to Gaddafi’s rule itself.[12]”

I could not find much information on the 21 years Haftar spent at the CIA (1990 to 2011).  This would be from age 47 to 67, around half of his working career.   According to Wikipedia,

“From there, and mostly through his close contacts within the American intelligence community, he consistently supported several attempts to topple and assassinate Gaddafi.[24]”

The arrangement to bring Haftar to the US was likely done under the Reagan administration.   There were plans to support the  300 members  of Haftar’s exiled army against Gaddafi under the refugee act, but that never was completed.   He worked for  the CIA or related intelligence agencies, during the H.W.  Bush, Clinton, W. Bush and Obama administration.

A major turning point in US policy towards Libya came in December 2003, when Gaddafi announced that Libya would destroy all weapons of mass destruction,  This included stockpiles of nuclear materials (yellow cake), biological and chemical  weapons.  I believe Western countries and the US began seeing Gaddafi as much less of a threat, because his autocratic rule brought some stability to the country and could help in the fight against al-Qaeda.  From the Independent:

 In 2004 the British Prime Minister emerged from the tent in Sirte to say how struck he was that Col Gaddafi wanted to make “common cause with us against al-Qaeda, extremists and terrorism.”

Certainly, from 2004 forward,  the US was looking to improve relations with Libya and at the same time, make sure he continue to be in compliance with WMD disarmament agreements.

However,  Haftar returned back to Libya to join the rebellion against Gaddafi.   Now, he is the leader in the second civil war, which is beginning to look more like the Cyreniaca v. Tripolitania during King Irdis’ era.  And Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya) is winning again, yet it is unlikely to really unite the country.  Per Wikipedia:

Haftar has been described as “Libya’s most potent warlord”, having fought “with and against nearly every significant faction” in Libya’s conflicts, and as having a “reputation for unrivaled military experience”

Haftar’s health has been questioned.  According to Wikipedia:  On 12 April 2018, it was reported that Haftar was in a coma after suffering a stroke and was hospitalized under intensive care in Paris.

So, under the scenario of Haftar succeeding, and taking over, who would take over from Haftar.  One  possibility is Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who might see a necessity to re-arm Libya even if it is necessary to violate the WMD accord.

This would go far beyond a reversal of Arab Spring, but a return to conditions before December 2003, the date when Libya agreed to disarm.

What ever the outcome, the major outside players will be Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Russia – all autocracies.   I wish the EU and the US could play a more decisive role in uniting the country.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note the NYT spells Haftar as Hifter.

Wikipedia:  Khalifa Haftar

Guardian:  Khalifia Haltar: Renagade General

The Unravelling,  In a failing state, an anti-Islamist general mounts a divisive campaign.

Disarmament of Libya 

Idris of Libya

Independent: Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi 

 

Libya’s Current Situation (Part 2)

The prior blog provides background, and explains in part why Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would support General Hafter.  I also mention that had traveled to Libya.  I was there during a peaceful period, in mid 2013.  I was staying very near Martyr’s square, and I saw the coffins set up on one side.  Each has a picture of a person who died in the civil war.  They were empty coffins, but this display spoke volumes.  Liberty came at a steep price to Libya.  I am very afraid of what was gained in the short 9 months of 2011, will be lost.

 

 

Haftar captured three key cities:  Gharyon, Surman and Aziziya approximately 20 to 50 miles outside of Tripoli.  He has stated that he intends to take the only functioning airport, Mitigi Airport,  in Tripoli.  He launch an air strike on Mitigi on April 4, 2019.    He has taken control of the principal oil fields.  He now has control of much of the country. See New York Times link. As I stated in the prior blog, he is funded by Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The UN condemned the airstrike as Mitigi airport is not a military base but a civilian airport.  Haftar responded that the intended targets were Russian Mig fighter parked at the airport.    For the immediate future, the war between Haftar and Tripoli will be waged in the air.

Tripoli is the big prize.  But if Haftar sends his forces into Tripoli, it will be extremely bloody.  The first civil war ended without serious fighting within the capital.  Gadaffi was not allow to use his air force to defend his country, as a result of the UN Resolution 1973.  This time is different.  General Haftar  is willing to reduce Tripoli to rubble so that he can rule Libya, which is the only option he has left now anyway, according to an expert on the Libyan conflict (see NYT article).

The UN has called for an immediate ceasefire.  The US has done the same, but this doesn’t seem likely.  The US has evacuated its embassy in Tripoli.  United Nations canceled a long-planned peace conference scheduled for later this month.

Neither General Haftar nor the Tripoli government have a single united military.  Both depend on small militia groups, which have banded together.  The New York Times article points out that the militias attract “thugs and extremists” to defend Tripoli.   According to the New York Times,

All four of the Tripoli militias have profited by extorting protection money from banks and government ministries, according to United Nations experts and an authoritative study by Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

It doesn’t seem there is any outcome to this second civil war that leads to a stable government.  What is amazing to me, is that the oil keeps flowing and being exported.  Apparently, according to the New York Times,  the Tripoli government is still in charge of the lifting of oil (actual pick up by tankers) at the port cities.  But there are payments back to the Tobruk government.  Tripoli is also continuing to pay the salaries of the military under Hafter’s command according to the NYT.

Once Haftar is in command of Tripoli, he will seek recognition from the other countries, as the legitimate government.  This will be necessary to continue the contracts for oil exports.

The best sources of information are the New York Times and Al Jazeera.   I note that the Times spells the General’s name as Kifter while Al Jazeera spells it as Kaftar.   The same spelling differences frequently occur in the spelling of names of cities.

I fear a complete reversal of the Arab Spring in Libya.  It is difficult to see any progress in democracy after the rebellion in Egypt, and I fear Libya is on course to reverse the gains made during Arab Spring.  In my next blog,  I will explore the background of General Kaftar, including his long stint working for the CIA and the fact that he is an American citizen.  It will be interesting.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Link:

Al Jazeera:  Saudi’s gave Libya Hafter military millions of dollars before the attack.

New York Times Tripoli’s Last Civilian Airport Reopens after Militias Mobilizes against Hifter 

New York Times, Thugs and Extremists join the battle for Tripoli