Friends of America

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, held a reception for the “Friends of America” to thank the countries who voted against the UN resolution, condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem.    It was a bit bizarre, as of the 193 members representing almost all of the 7.6 billion inhabitants of our planet, only 9 countries voted against the resolution.   Of these 9 countries,  only 5 have populations over 1 million residents: US,  Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo (See list  at end of this blog).  Some reception!

If Donald Trump is dividing the world into proper civilized countries, and shithole ones, Guatemala probably would fall in the latter.  The State Department’s Travel Advisory states:

Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to crime. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, carjacking, armed robbery, and murder, is common. Gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, and narcotics trafficking, is widespread, particularly in the border regions. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.

This is Level 3 advisory.   The top warning  is Level  4 which advises travelers not to visit the countries and if  intrepid travelers ignore this advice,  the State Department suggests having a will prepared prior to travel.  The only other South American countries with a Level 3 advisory (Reconsider Travel) are Honduras and El Salvador.

Personally,  I have nothing against Honduras and Guatemala. I have been several times to Guatemala, and each visit was fantastic.  The other country, Togo, is in Africa, and has been struggling for years due to low prices for its agricultural exports.  It has an astounding dense population of approximately 8 million residents. I was actually surprised at Togo’s vote, with a 20% Muslim population.

So, Nikki’s party invitees of “No Voters” had one wealthy country (Israel), three countries in economic dire straits (Guatemala, Honduras, and Togo) and 4 tiny island states in the Pacific.  Nauru is one of them, which has a population of 13,000 residents,  whose best asset is it’s seat in the UN and a vote that comes cheap.  See link below on Nauru’s recognition of Russia’s breakaway republics in exchange for aid.

It is our President which is dividing up the world, through his travel bans, cuts in aid and policy decisions, to make the US disliked around the world as never before.  He’s been able to sour relations with our close neighbors, Mexico and Canada.

The invitees to the Haley’s reception included all those who  didn’t vote at all or abstained so the total number of invitees was 64.   I can see why – as the resolution was going to pass anyway, and it really had no effect except to embarrass the US.  So, to be a friend of the US doesn’t take much, just sit at home on the day of the vote.   Still, it was a landslide vote against the US.

Usually, when you tell nation leaders that they must support US policies or else, “We’re taking names” comment by Nikki Haley, it is counter productive.  The recent violence in Pakistan, is directed at Trump’s cut off of military aid.  It’s regrettable as we need them as an ally against terrorism.

We seem to be antagonizing both friends and enemies.  We lost the chance to broker some peace settlement between Palestine and Israel,  with our decision to recognize Jerusalem.  South Korea seems to be making inroads to reducing hostilities with North Korea, after we  exchanged increasingly higher threats with North Korea.  The humanitarian crisis in Yemen seems of little importance to Trump.  It is a Iran-Saudi proxy war, and we’ve sided with the Saudi’s.

The Middle East countries are now more divided into the Sunni and Shi’a factions, and doing less to curb real terrorism.  We may eventually undermine the moderates control in Iran,  by President Rouhani, by imposing new sanctions, and threatening to abandon the nuclear agreement.  In doing so, we discourage any deal with North Korea over their nuclear program.  Meanwhile, the State Department continues to shrink under Secretary  Rex Tillerson, with many of the diplomatic posts unfilled.  Yet I consider him one of the best of the cabinet leaders.  I would include Gen.  Mattis at Defense as well.

I would like to have seen a “Friends of the US” reception with leaders from all the continents of the world.   This would require a major re-think of the America First agenda.  We are “Stronger Together”  the slogan of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN:  How each country voted at the UN

Yes votes: 128 No votes: 9 Abstaining: 38 votes Not voting: 21

Tiny Nauru struts world stage by recognising breakaway republics

I’ve often thought about a service on the internet, similar to “Letgo.com” where countries could bid on the UN representatives’ vote. Maybe “Cash4votes.com” would work.  Of course, the country would first have to let the world know it’s vote is up for sale.

Nikki Haley’s New Best Friends at the UN

Hundreds of Pakistani protesters burn US flags after Trump says he is cutting aid to the country because it ‘does not take terrorism seriously enough’

 

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Terrorism

I’ve been working on a blog on Hezbollah.   It’s a very hot button issue.  Israel  consider Hezbollah as one of the worst terrorist groups.  The US also condemns Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  Other countries do not and in particular Lebanon has been trying to co-exist with the presence of Hezbollah.   The US accuses Iran of supporting Hezbollah.  Hezbollah militia fought against ISIS in Syria in the destruction of Raqqa.   But,  I’m really jumping ahead in this blog.

It is tempting to lump all groups with an extensive cache of arms as terrorist organizations.  I would more likely term such organizations as collectives of angry people who are contemplating acts of violence.   Even in the US, there are organizations which purchase and store arms as they believe they are part of a larger resistance movement their rights as citizens.  It is in fact, their constitutional right to store arms in defense of their home.

On the Wikipedia site,  it is stated no single accepted definition of terrorism.  I’ve provided two links on this subject.  However, Wikipedia provides one “broad” definition as follows:

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror, or fear, to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.  It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence against peacetime targets or in war against non-combatants.  The terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity during the U.S. Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–89) after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings and again after the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in September 2001 and on Bali in October 2002.

The September 2001 is obviously the “9/11” attack on the US by Al-Qaeda, and it was indiscriminate as the action targeted anyone who was in the buildings at the time.  I would include in the definition that terrorist organizations plan violent acts  intended to cause large scale loss of human life.  The broad definition would include both non-state and state organized terrorists.

Further, Wikipedia states their definition is hardly rigorous or universally accepted as follows:

There is no commonly accepted definition of “terrorism”.[7][8] Being a charged term, with the connotation of something “morally wrong”, it is often used, both by governments and non-state groups, to abuse or denounce opposing groups.[9][10][4][11][8] Broad categories of political organisations have been claimed to have been involved in terrorism to further their objectives, including right-wing and left-wing political organisations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.[12] Terrorism-related legislation has been adopted in various states, regarding “terrorism” as a crime.[13][14] There is no universal agreement as to whether or not “terrorism”, in some definition, should be regarded as a war crime.[14][15]

Regardless of how one wishes to define terrorism, the horrific actions of ISIS, Boko Haram and  Al-Shabaab, clearly make them the worst terrorist groups.   All countries repudiate the actions of these organizations.   Similarly, the actions of Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups are repudiated by all countries.  For these groups, the “I know it when I see it” (Potter, 1964, US Supreme Court)  test works well for these groups, but it doesn’t help in many other cases.  This is exactly the point made in the Wikipedia’s summary.

Political groups and individuals within many Arab countries and Iran, may be extremely anti-American, but this can be simply rhetoric and  does not mean they support terrorism.  Further complications come into play when there are groups of extremist groups within a country, and governments for political reasons, are not making a priority to arrest or otherwise destroy extremist groups.  Wealthy individuals may support ISIS or al-Qaeda groups within many countries.  Should the governments be held responsible?  They may allow individuals accused of terrorist activities to live within their country.  Is that mean the country is complicit in terrorism?

Fethullah Gulen has been accused of acts of  terrorism by the Turkish government.   He lives in Pennsylvania and the Turkish government wants him deported to stand trial.  The US has demanded the evidence against Gulen before extraditing him.   He is 76 years old and in fact has denounced terrorism as a violation of his faith as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism.[135] He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.”[136][137] Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.[78]

The extradition of Fethullah  Gulen for terrorism is weak, and the US so far has taken no action, except to request more evidence.

As I was completing this blog,  President Erdogan invoked the terrorist label, on condemning Israel, in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, as follows:

“Israel is a state of occupation and a terror state,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on Dec. 10, vowing that Turkey “will not leave Jerusalem to the consciousness of a child-killer state.”

The west bank and Gaza strip are areas that Israel took by force during the Six Day war in 1967.

During the Syrian civil war,  President Bashir Assad would claim that the US and other European countries were assisting terrorist, as we were training and providing arms to groups against the Assad regime.  However, the US was also fighting against ISIS in Syria,  with the support of Syrian government.    So what were we to Assad – enemy or friend?

When there is a rebellion within a country,  immediately the leader of the country will denounce the rebel groups as traitors, or agents of foreign governments.  This is exactly what the President Gaddafi did in 2011 during the Libyan civil war.  The US  and NATO supported the rebel group with air support.

The Yemen civil war is a clash between the Houthi rebels and the Yemen government.   By their rhetoric and slogans, the Houthi would seem just as radical as Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Written in Arabic on their flag:

“The God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam”

However, the Houthi appear to simply want to take over Yemen, not wreck havoc in the western world.    The Houthi’s gained control in 2014 to 2015, through a coup d’etat.  What sparked the uprising in 2014, was an end to government subsidies on fuel.

The Houthi have committed acts of indiscriminate violence, hence it would be easy to call them terrorists by the broad definition.  Yet the coalition of countries fighting against the Houthi, with air strikes conducted by Saudi Arabia, has acted equally brutal bombing a Doctors without Frontiers hospital (October 13, 2016) and other civilian targets.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began military operations against Ansar Allah on 26 March 2015, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes unlawfully struck hospitals and other facilities run by aid organizations, according to Human Rights Watch.[352] Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facilities in Yemen were attacked four times in three months.[353] On 26 October 2015, HRW documented six Saudi-led airstrikes which bombed a MSF hospital in Haydan district (Sa’dah Governorate), wounding two patients.[352][353][354] An Saudi-led coalition airstrike then hit a MSF mobile clinic on 2 December 2015, in Al Houban district (Taizz). Eight people were wounded, including two MSF staff members, and one other civilian nearby was killed. On 10 January 2016, six people were killed and seven wounded when a hospital in Sa’ada was hit by a projectile.[352][353] MSF said it could not confirm whether the hospital was hit in an air strike by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition, or by a rocket fired from the ground, and at least one other landed nearby.[352][355] On 21 January 2016, an MSF ambulance was hit by an airstrike. Seven people were killed and dozens were wounded.[352][353]
MSF’s director of operations Raquel Ayora said: “The way war is being waged in Yemen is causing enormous suffering and shows that the warring parties do not recognise or respect the protected status of hospitals and medical facilities. We witness the devastating consequences of this on people trapped in conflict zones on a daily basis. Nothing has been spared – not even hospitals, even though medical facilities are explicitly protected by international humanitarian law.”[353]

Iran is accused of supporting the Houthi,  which  Iran denies.   Iran was instrumental in the formation of Hezbollah, which they consider is a group defending the borders of Lebanon and Syria from Israeli aggression.   Yet Iran joined with others in the  war against ISIS.    Both Hezbollah and the Houthi’s are Shi’a organization, so they would never align themselves with ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

Just yesterday,  UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stood in front of parts of a recovered missile from Yemen,  claiming this was hard evidence that Iran had supported Houthi rebels in direct violation of an UN resolutions.  While it was great for the media,  the problem was that it could have been supplied to the Houthi’s before the UN Resolution.   Further, it was apparent to experts, that the missile could not carry a nuclear warhead (a violation of another UN resolution).   There are various links on the internet, and I just posted the one from the NYT.

You see how complicated the label “terrorist organization” has become when it is extended beyond ISIS and Al-Qaeda.   I will explore more the Hezbollah group in a future blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links

Terrorism

Definition of Terrorism

NYT: U.S. Accuses Iran of U.N. Violation, but Evidence Falls Short

Six Day War

Hezbollah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trial of Ahmed Khattala

The trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala is proceeding in Washington, DC.  He is accused of being the mastermind of the attack in Benghazi in September 2012.    Why did it take so long to arrest Khattala and bring him to stand trial in the US?  It is because the FBI  and the Department of Justice wanted to build a  rock solid case against  Khattala and any of his associates involved in the attack on the US diplomatic mission and CIA compound in Benghazi.   They are going after the top dog who planned the attack, and not the many followers.   Excellent!

It really looks like the time was well spent.  The New York Times  reports the prosecution is presenting a strong case against Khattala in federal court.  They must show that Khattala was more than just a leader of a group who hated Americans and Western influence in the country.   They have to show he was part of the attack.

The case relies on the testimony of two  Libyan who provided damaging details about Mr. Khattala before and after the attack.  The really critical details comes from a third Libyan, who befriended Khatttala in 2012, with the objective of collecting damning evidence to be used against Khattala.   It was a very slow process to gain Khattala’s trust.  Any slip up by this informant would have meant certain death for him and likely his family.  He testified on Tuesday, November 7 under the pseudonym of Ali Majrisi.

Khattala slowly opened up to Majrisi on the attack.   Khattala revealed one critical element – he had planned to attack and  kill the American rescue team.  His words, recalled by Majrisi  were, “I intended then to kill everyone there – even those who were at the airport.”    There was no saving the two Americans who died at the diplomatic mission; they died of smoke inhalation approximately 15 minutes after the attack.   The rescue mission would have been directed at saving lives at the CIA mission, in which two Americans died.  The Republicans have been making a case that not enough was done to save lives at Benghazi.  The reality is that the delay at the Benghazi airport was likely a fortuitous event, as many more would have been in harm’s way had a rescue attempt been made.

Majrisi was able to provide the vital evidence to link Khattala to the attack, and also a second leader, Mustafa al-Iman.   Iman appeared on surveillance videotape on the night of the attack.  The attack was well planned.  It was not a spontaneous angry  reaction to a video about the Prophet Mohammed, as originally speculated by National Security Adviser Susan Rice.   The Obama administration quickly backed off from this assertion, but it was later reported that the leaders were able to recruit others for the attack, because of the anger generated by the release of the video.   Hopefully the trial may clarify this issue.

Over the years,  Majrisi was well paid for his services, up to 7 million dollars.   This fact is being used now to discredit Majrisi’s testimony as being financially motivated.  In my opinion, it was  money well worth it, as nothing could be worse than being unable to make a case against Khattala for lack of evidence.  Hopefully both Khattala and Iman will be convicted.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations deserve credit for what appears to be a highly successful investigation.   It is extremely difficult for the FBI or the CIA to conduct an investigation without total cooperation of the Libyan government, or at least the part of the government now controlling Benghazi.  The credit goes to the Department of Justice and the FBI.  During most of this investigation,  Director James Comey was in charge of the FBI, and there was never a single leak to the media.  It would have been devastating to the investigation if Khattala knew he was being spied on.

The Libya witnesses who came forward, provided the real hard evidence and are my heroes.    I am hoping for life sentences for Khattal and Iman.   Up until President Trump took office, the people of Benghazi were extremely grateful for the support of the US, as we helped them in 2011, when Qaddafi was certainly going to bomb their city.   Obama was able to push through UN Resolution 1973, essentially grounding Qaddafi’s air force.  Now,  I think this support is being lost as Trump includes Libya as one of the countries in his travel ban.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

New York Times story

I really hate this headline, as the print version has the headline “Libyan Informant Describes His Role in the Benghazi Suspect’s Capture.”   I believe the trials of Khattala and Iman will provide new details on what was transpiring outside the compounds, for a long time prior to the attacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next Syria

Today’s headlines should be 2″ tall:   ISIL is gone from Iraq!   The  US efforts have paid off.  The war for Raqqa in Syria is underway.

Questions remain for both Iraq and its allies:  How to rebuild Iraq so militants will never again be able to seize a city?   More importantly, how the leaders in Iraq can build unity within the country, which overcomes cultural and religious differences.

When ISIL is defeated in Syria, the same questions will remain.   The human toll for both the civil war within Syria and the war with ISIL will be tragic.

No one believes that this will be the end of jhadists.    ISIL has shown to other extremists a new way to extend their extremist philosophy.    The mode of operation are:  (1)   Develop an army capable of surprise attacks and control of targeted cities (2) Profit in any way possible from the occupation and (3) Recruit others to join the movement.  In Syria, ISIL was operating oil fields and selling the oil.

Libya has the potential to be as bad as Syria.   The big prize is the oil.  We have already seen the violence in the Philippines due to extremists.  Indonesia and Malaysia are likely next targets.   In Africa, the Boko Haram in Nigeria and the al Shabaab  in Kenya and Somalia, are very much along the lines of ISIL.

Countries in central Africa, such as the Sudan and South Sudan have terrorist organization and a high potential to be the next Syria.   From extremists point of view, an ideal target is where they can obtain local support or minimal resistance,  control large regions of the country and profit from their occupation.   The last thing we need in the world, is a terrorist base located in central Africa.

In the next week, I will be posting information on South Sudan, one of the newest and poorest countries in central Africa.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Bob Corker’s Action on Arms Sale is Spot On

Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, moved to block sales of arms to the GCC countries, until there is resolution on the Qatar crisis.   Already the Senate has approved 500 million dollars of arms shipments to the Saudi Arabia.  The Qatar crisis has the potential to escalate once the 10 days expires on the 13 demand letter on Friday. Numerous commentaries on the crisis have appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post, showing a deep understanding of the problems in the region.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT, OpEd, Joost Hiltermann Qatar Punched above its Weight.  Now it is paying the price.

NYT, Senator puts a hold on any future arms sales to Persian Gulf nations over Qatar Feud 

Perhaps the song should be “What’s terrorism got to do with this?”  music by Tina Turner.

 

How to de-escalate the Qatar crisis?

I present this as an open question.  Going forward, there is no doubt that all of the 13 demands will be rejected by Qatar.  Kuwait appears to be the negotiator in this crisis.  I suspect Oman will play a role.

It may be premature to even think how the crisis can be de-escalated.  Perhaps, what should be addressed is how any further measures by Saudi Arabia and allies to economically harm Qatar be avoided.

The US, UK and the Economic Union can all condemn the blockade on the basis of free trade.  They can also condemn the list of demands as an affront to national sovereignty.  The other Arab countries have state owned news media, why should Qatar be denied this right?   The answer is simple- because Al Jazeera has become the largest and most successful.   It has nothing to do with terrorism.

But, would international condemnation  have any effect?   Would action by the UN help?

The US policy began with tweets from Donald Trump,  foolishly taking credit for the Saudi’s action.   Then it seemed to more to neutral, offering assistance in resolving the crisis.  Now,  the policy seems to lean more towards Qatar.

The most immediate crisis is the deportation of thousands of Qataris from the other Arab countries.  The most obvious step would be to delay these deportations.  However, given the inevitable refusal of Qatar to accept any of the demands,  the deportations are likely.

So, what is the path forward?

Stay tuned,

Dave

I note that there are many excellent articles on the Qatar crisis.  I will provide more links in the future.

Qatar Export Problems and What’s Next

Qatar has enormous gas reserves.    Gas requires a market.  When the local market is limited,   producers often have to invest heavily to make their gas marketable worldwide.  Qatar, along with many other countries, have invested in conversion of their gas to liquified natural gas (LNG) for the purpose of export.  These liquification plants (usually called “trains”),, shipment ports and the carriers usually are require billions of dollars to construct.   There has to be ports constructed to safely  receive the LNG.   For safety purposes, the carriers’ offloading buoys are located a long distance from shore.   Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter.   This opens up the world to their gas.

Qatar has contracts with Japan to supply LNG.  The shipping is now more costly  and likey causing delivery delays because these tankers can not refuel in the Persian Gulf.  However, shipments will continue.  Japanese buyers of LNG are hoping to renegotiate the LNG delivery contracts on better terms, to take advantage of Qatar’s situation.

Qatar also supplies the UK.  There was concern last week when two tankers delivering Qatari gas turn around as they entered the Gulf of Aden, but later reports indicate the  Qatari tankers can pass through the Suez canal and supply Europe.

Oil export is a bit tricky.  The very large crude carriers (VLCC) carry nearly a billion barrels of oil.  They generally make multiple loading  (“liftings”) at ports of other  countries to fill their tanker.  However, the rules of the blockade prohibit this-  if a tanker  has a partial load from Qatar, it can not top off its load by lifting at a Saudi port.  Qatar is scrambling to find smaller tankers to lift their crude.

Food is being supplied by an emergency airlift from Turkey.   The US could be doing much more as we have an airbase in Qatar, but I suspect the 100 billion dollars in potential new contracts with the Saudi’s is keeping Trump from taking any action.  Doha is not Berlin.  The stock market in Qatar dropped around 10%, which does not include Qatargas, as it is not a publicly traded  company.   The credit rating of Qatar dropped a notch due to an S+P downgrade.

I have combed the internet, looking for possible ways each side could de-escalate the crisis.   I found nothing that was likely.  The most obvious way to keep the diplomatic/ economic crisis from turning into a humanitarian one, is to stop the deportations,  or at least push back the deadlines.   Qataris were given 2 weeks to leave Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia.    I believe some measures are being done to ensure the families are not broken up.  Amnesty International has come out strongly against these deportation as it makes people on both sides of the conflict, the  real victims of the conflict.  I am certain the Arab countries are now sourcing the labor market, and will be bring in many laborers from Pakistan and the Philippines.   I have not confirmation on this- it’s really just my hunch.   Once deportation begin, it will be difficult to undo through negotiations.

The outsiders, including Russia, France and the US,  plus the non-aligned Arab countries of Kuwait and Oman, all want to help in negotiating a lifting of sanctions.  But, it remains confused at what would satisfy the main actors (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain) in this blockade.   Qatar is not about to “rein in”  Al Jazeera,  in essence, make it less effective a news network.   It is in daily competition with all other news outlets, and given the widespread use of satellite television,  their major competitors are the BBC, CNN and Euronews, at least for the English speaking world.  And they are doing very well. Qatar denies they have any connection with Hamas or any terrorist organizations.

This type of sanctions usually don’t work.  All they will accomplish is to cause hardships for Qatar and the companies and investors doing business with Qatar.   Those who financed Qatar’s rise in the world, were likely rich Persian Gulf investors, buying Qatari bonds, which would be “safe” investments.  They are likely taking a big hit.  The blockade can be lifted easily, but it seems things are at a stalemate.   On the other hand, there are opportunities to escalate the situation.   Qatar could cut the gas supplies to UAE through their pipeline, but this would likely backfire, and Qatar would be the bigger loser.   Other Arab countries would step up their gas supplies to the UAE and the Saudi blockage would gain more unity.   The Arab countries can through controlling the airspace,  effectively ground Qatar Air without much repercussions.  They seem to want to put Qatar Air out of business.   Stopping Qatari  LNG carriers passing through the Suez canal,  would violate international laws,  but  it is still a potential step.  Yemen controls the Gulf of Aden, so this would be the place to extract more economic harm to Qatar.

I have no idea of how this mess can end.    The most recent series of terrorist attacks, in the Philippines and Iran, suggest the Sunni based ISIS is still the number one instigator of secular violence in the world, not tied in anyway to Qatar.   Trump is still going nuts pushing his travel ban, but it is equally likely that the next outside terrorists to land on our shores (there has been very few of them) is equally likely to come from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Belgium, UK or  the Philippines, rather than Libya, Sudan or Syria (countries named in the travel ban).     Actually,  the next terrorists to cause bloodshed in  the US, are more likely to  be US permanent residents or citizens, than agents from any other country.   It is all politics, and getting uglier by the day.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Qatar Crisis – Part 4, The crisis continues to escalate!

It is June 10, 2017 in the US and another day has ended in Qatar.  Things are getting worse. From Saudi Arabia, the strategy is escalation not reconciliation.

Make no mistake about it-  This is not 2014.  This is not a diplomatic rift.  Further, I don’t believe it is really about terrorism, at least the Sunni-based al Qaeda, ISIL, and a host of other groups, which have motivated lone wolf attacks in Europe and the US.

Perhaps the most bizarre part of the daily events was Donald Trump’s tweets early in the crisis where he is actually takes credit for the crisis, siding with the Saudi’s.   The Secretary of State,  Rex Tillerson,  did just the opposite, stating we would work with all parties in reconciliation.  This was almost immediately contradicted by President Trump, who seemed to support Saudi Arabia pressuring Qatar to stop supporting  terrorism.      Russian FM Lavrov has step in as the negotiator of the crisis.

Imagine that, Lavrov and Tillerson with similar position, and Trump seeing this as an extension of his trip and comments that the Middle East countries need to cut funding of extremist groups, allied with Iran. (see links below)  Kuwait is likely will play also role as a negotiator between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  But with so many countries now cutting ties with Qatar, it is escalating every day.

I believe the  Houti attacks in Yemen are still  Saudi Arabia’s  main focus.   They knew exactly how to play Trump in directing his focus to Iran, as the key player.

Right now, Qatar needs food and water, which Turkey has agreed to bring in by air.   Iran also offered assistance, but Qatar smartly declined this assistance.

Syria is unable to supply LNG to UAE, so Shell is making the deliveries.   What’s next?  Saudi Arabia is  trying to economically attack Qatar by restricting access to its air space.  If the other Gulf countries join in,  they could cripple Qatar Air.

The other target is the Al-Jazeera news networks.  In my opinion, it is one of the best at “old fashion” journalism, getting the facts quickly and accurately.   Going lean on commentary and strong on onsite reporting, keeps their reporting honest.  It is not what Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or UAE want.    However, I don’t see how Qatar could ever agree to rein in Al Jazeera.

The Trump administration through  the US Secretary of Defense, General Mattis  finally acknowledged that the Saudi Arabian blockade would make operations in the US airbase in Qatar difficult, and hurt their anti terrorist activities against ISIL    What is at stake is the break up of the GCC and countries having to align themselves only with Saudi Arabia or Iran.  It will lead to more chaos in the area.

Qatar could cut natural gas supplies to UAE, causing enormous electrical shortages.   Nothing good will come of this, as the UAE will then need to retaliate.

Exactly how a deal could be struck to resolve this crisis is uncertain.   Right now,  Qatar is bracing for the worse.  The US has military bases in both Bahrain and Qatar, and strong commercial interests throughout the Persian Gulf, so really we can’t afford to pick sides.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Links:

Trump dumps Qatar Alliance via Twitter and takes credit for Gulf States Cutting Ties (June 6, 2017)

Wikipedia:  Qatar in Crisis

Al Jazeera: Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Latest Updates

Russia urges dialogue in Qatar Crisis

Trump picks sides not diplomacy in Gulf

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Politics

“Let’s round up a posse and bring in this vermin,”  Sheriff Coffee said to Ben Cartwright last night.   By the end of the show, some 40 minutes later, everything was resolved, and the boys went to the Silver Dollar bar to have some beer.  The big  ox, Hoss was buying.

This, of course, was Bonanza, but seemed similarly equal to the Republican debate last night.  I didn’t watch the whole thing, but as far as the “terrorist threat” responses, it sure sounded like cowboy politics.

ISIL is a Middle East problem.  It will only be solved through a cooperative effort.  You can’t send troops into Syria, and expect to battle both ISIL and the Syrian government.  Rand Paul seemed the only one on stage, that wasn’t talking cowboy politics.

I think President Obama’s State of the Union address was perfect in the recognition that ISIL is not a force that can threaten our national existence.   ISIL  may grab a piece of headline news on a particular day, but they are never going to grab a square inch of US land.  Obama was telling ISIL that their efforts and sacrifice are futile, which is very necessary.   North Korea with nuclear weapons- now there is a real threat to us.   Iran with nuclear weapons- another frightening thought.

Through international efforts,  the immediate threat of Iran gaining nuclear weapons has been averted.  The destruction of uranium and centrifuges as part of the nuclear agreement, adds to our national security.  The inspections will continue as part of the agreement.   To pull out of an agreement, when Iran is fulfilling its obligations is totally nuts.

The next president will need to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.  It will require some very skillful diplomacy.   North Korea is likely looking very closely at Iran as more countries are willing to establish diplomatic relations, as the Iranians abandon their nuclear ambitions.  The nuclear deal meant a very rigorous set of inspections- and any deal with North Korea will be just as tough, and snap back provisions will certainly be a part of this.

But cowboy politics means you go it alone, with your mighty six shooter at your side. Your enemy must be obliterated.  You blanket bomb cities in Syria to get rid of the vermin, and then go to the Silver Dollar bar, to have a cold one with Hoss.

Of course,  your meddling has enrage the entire population of the Middle East  against you.  Your winning is really your loss.

Stay tuned,

Dave