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Total number of comments: 644 (since 2014-07-13 17:53:33)

Nicholas Wibberley

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  • ISIL was ended not by Trump or Obama but by Muslims
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/18/2017 at 6:06 am

      It's an ancient tradition. Non-combatant Roman Emperors would take credit for military successes anywhere in the Empire, even award themselves triumphs. The notion was that since it all happened under their auspices, and they appointed the commanders who fought under imperial eagles, all successes were theirs. Only failure was considered the work of subordinates. It is the Iraqi army that ran away but Trump clears Raqqa. Plus ça change.

  • No, It Wasn't Iran: Top 7 Reasons Baghdad took Kirkuk
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/17/2017 at 6:23 am

      Trump says he will stay out of the clash. Many consider that a bad move, inconsistent with US broader purposes. However, it is consistent with his intention expressed on the campaign trail, an intention most of the world, and I imagine many US citizens, viewed with welcome, if doubting, expectation.

  • Elbaradei: Trump Propaganda on Iran Nuclear Deal like Run-up to Iraq War
    • Trump's maneuverings are not really surprising. Iran's nuclear activities were never really the issue. Europeans, particularly UK, France, Germany, sought to reignite trade with Iran, and putting a damper on the nuclear problem would lift the sanctions that closed those opportunities. Obama wanted to avoid being dragged into a war by Israel which was, or pretended to be, hovering on the brink of attacking Iran.* Quite separately from all that the US wanted regime change in Syria and had been initiating trouble there since 2009 (link to nsnbc.me ). Unfortunately for them the whole thing got so out of hand Russia intervened, Iran and Hezbollah put boots on the ground and the tide turned. This hasn't affected European trade ambitions with Iran but it worries Israel deeply and further threatens US authority in the area. All Trump is doing is take the veil off real US motives behind the JCPOA and try to get Iran back in a box.

      *It's notable that the finesse Obama played on Netanyahu with the nuclear agreement was the same Putin played on him by decommissioning Assad's chemical arsenal.

  • Germany: Immediate Danger of Mideast War if Trump dumps Iran Deal
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/13/2017 at 9:06 am

      Since I penned the above, he appears to have decided to let the AIPAC fox into the Congressional hen house and wash his hands of the whole business.

    • "die unmittelbare Gefahr eines neuen Krieges" etwa mit Israel zurück.

      Israel is where he sees danger looming if Trump/Congress diss the treaty, something Obama was at considerable pains to avoid. As for the wedge in the US/Europe alliance, it was already apparent in Obama's time, the sanctions simply cost Europe too much to be sustainable indefinitely, particularly as they don't work.

      Trump puts me in mind of the renunciation scene in Richard II, Now mark me how I will undo myself...

  • Trump and the Faustian Bargain of Corker and the GOP
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/11/2017 at 4:42 am

      Do you absolve all else? Or is the GOP but the tongue that seals the pact: Ay, take it, and the devil give thee good on't.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/10/2017 at 7:28 am

      The whole thing is preposterously childish. If you are going to throw insults around do so with some wit, it takes the childishness out of it and stings more. Churchill memorably described Attlee as a 'sheep in sheep's clothing'. Another UK one I still recall is Dennis Healey commenting on a run in with Kenneth Clark as 'like being savaged by a dead sheep'. Such insults are redolent of a duel, Corker's a brawl. Why does this matter? Because something with wit would raise a smile with leaders like Macron or Putin (I am not sure May has any smiles in her reticule), whereas Corker's Care Home comment likely produces a head shaking sigh which does US prestige no good. It's one thing to have to contend with Trump but if his opposition is so little different, that becomes another matter.

  • Former US Allies peeling off under Trump: Turkey halts US Visas
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/09/2017 at 7:22 pm

      The other aspect of this is Turkey's geographic position which makes it possible to exploit conflict between the US and Russia. Britain will be able to do that too when she's shot of the constraints of the EU.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/09/2017 at 4:52 am

      International law frowns on arresting embassy employees. Breaking into embassy property would be frowned upon as well. Turkey has alternative 'allies', I don't imagine Erdogan takes the prospect of losing US tourists that seriously, and no doubt a word in the right ear can provide visa exceptions for useful business entities. These things are childish and simply shouldn't get that far but when you eviscerate your Department of State they do become more likely. We can probably expect more of them.

  • Plummeting in Polls, will Trump 'Wag the Dog' with Iran, N. Korea?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/07/2017 at 10:56 am

      As far as Iran is concerned what Trump has indicated is that he may not certify Iran's adherence to the JCPOA. Such certification is not part of the deal itself, it's an entirely US domestic requirement foisted on Obama by Congress, and Trump declining to do so would be being disrespectful to Congress since Iran's adherence has been reliably confirmed by everyone else. Failing to certify would have no immediate effect on the deal. What he would have to do is renounce it, and presumably reinstate the sanctions lifted in consequence of it's progressive implementation by Iran. That would have to pass through Congress and could indeed be done but not automatically as a result of Trump failing to certify Iran's adherence. The other signatories, including Iran, might well decide to adhere to it, in which case their task would be to find ways in which to protect their commercial entities from the the effects of US punitive actions. Considering that would be the UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, the EU itself, all the members of the G77, and probably everyone else bar Israel and a handful of ME depots, that would involve one hell of a face off and saner voices might prevail.

      North Korea is another matter. Attacking Pyongyang is something, I understand, he could initiate off his own bat. Several 'experts' have postulated various scenarios consequent on such an act and none of them is in any way appealing. He wouldn't even earn a place in history because there likely wouldn't be anyone around to write it.

  • Was Ayatollah Khamenei right about Washington? Trump Reneges
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/06/2017 at 7:07 am

      Khamenei has simple wisdom but no special insight, reneging on treaties is as old as treaties. One would go dizzy following the changing partners in European treaties over the years. Nations abandon the Geneva convention and anything else they've agreed as it suits their interests. The JCPOA suited the parties at the time. It still suits all the signatories bar the US under Trump. One can be objective and determine that it does actually suit the US, but that assumes US objectives overlap those of the other nations. But they don't. I don't believe Obama was that concerned about Iranian WMD potential as such, rather he was anxious to avoid military conflict with Iran, something that Israel was chafing the bit to begin. The others were motivated by commerce. Of course one can gild such motives with any amount of idealism but that flies out the window if the motives shift. Khamenei is simply being realistic. Trump's view of the US in the world is 19th century gun boat stuff but the world has moved on since. The British Empire grew in something of a vacuum, as did the US Empire in it's early stages, but that vacuum no longer exists, in large part, oddly enough, because of the political, scientific, commercial, and cultural contributions the US itself has introduced to Mankind. Don't trust anyone, better just keep a sharp eye on their underlying motives.

  • Top 5 signs Donald Trump might be an effing moron
    • Nicholas Wibberley 10/05/2017 at 9:07 am

      Such a thing is an outburst, a moment of unfiltered irritation. We are all subject to such moments and they can linger to haunt us. This is surely an occasion where a calming denial is infinitely preferable to an affirmation creating incalculable mayhem. After all, even Trump doesn't exist simply to feed the media caviar.

  • Kurdish Independence: SecState Tillerson opposes, Sen Schumer Supports
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/30/2017 at 10:27 am

      The United States urges Iraqi Kurdish leaders to accept the alternative, which is a serious and sustained dialogue with the central government, facilitated by the United States and United Nations, and other partners, on all matters of concern, including the future of the Baghdad-Erbil relationship.

      Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly. The Palestinians have been caught in that dark web for decades. Unfortunate as it may be, the US no longer has much credibility as a mediator. I am unaware of a single such issue the US has mediated successfully. Barzani acted precipitously but now so is the Baghdad government, denying airspace and cutting off food and fuel exports cannot be helpful.
      However, until some practical move is made to implement the referendum result, it is only an indication of how Kurdish people feel, and probably not much of a surprise to anyone. I may be mistaken but I sense the hand of Tel Aviv in Barzani's timing and the consequent volatility.
      By the way, there is a very impressive three-parter on the background to all this in IRIN news link to irinnews.org

  • Iraqi Kurdistan defiant in face of Baghdad sanctions, threats
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/30/2017 at 10:15 pm

      The major dystopian novels, We, Brave New World, 1984 all posit worlds in which the masses are constrained in bleak uniformity. It may be inevitable but those of us who resist such a future can still be heard.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/30/2017 at 4:11 am

      Too true! And it includes the freedom to make your own 'mistakes'.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/29/2017 at 12:47 pm

      I don't see how the result of a referendum can be 'abrogated' since it has happened. It disclosed the wishes of the people who voted. Barzani said that “the referendum did not have to be implemented on the second day.” Even if it is never implemented the referendum result stands. Baghdad cannot make it go away any more than yesterday's sunrise. It may not have been the best time to hold a referendum and some Kurds voiced that opinion. However, the world now knows exactly how most of them feel about independence which is progress on it's own. Baghdad must surely have guessed what the result would be but wanted to keep the lid on it. That is doubtless why they are so pissed off, just like Netanyahu with Palestine joining Interpol. What the eye cannot see the heart cannot grieve over.

  • Iraq strikes Back: Kurds under air travel ban, Turkey blocks Oil
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/28/2017 at 9:57 pm

      The interviewees I mentioned also wanted independence but thought the timing was not right for a referendum. There was no way to express that.

    • I understand the actual wording of the referendum was: Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Region to become an independent state? . It's like one of those frustrating drop down menus where none of the options is what you actually want. A 92% 'yes' vote does not necessarily mean 'now, this minute'. I have seen interviews with mostly rural but also other Kurds who appeared to feel strongly that this was simply not the right time. I imagine most people, Kurdish or not, would agree with that. It would be much better, surely, for Baghdad to acknowledge the result as an issue to de dealt with later and kick the can. This is a problem we have in the world today, there's no one to calm these face off situations. Perhaps Putin will have to step in.

  • "Those People:" Trump plays to White nat'lism from N. Korea to NFL
    • His actions viz a viz Kim Jong un and now 'those people' surely indicate a seriously disturbed mind, perhaps not surprising for someone in such a position finding himself in disagreement with the entire world bar Israel, a handful of ME despots, and a domestic minority within a minority. Even his family must be worried. He's dangerous. He really shouldn't be left in the presidency. Can he not be hospitalised as incapacitated and someone appointed to administer in his place until he is deemed to have recovered.

  • Failing dam in Puerto Rico, endangering 70,000, a reminder that Climate Denialism Kills
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/23/2017 at 7:17 am

      It needs be remembered that these major, media hitting events with their death tolls, swathes of damage, and massive exoduses are peak manifestations of an inexorable process, evolving 24/7 and now affecting all life on Earth, and should not be regarded as one off; earlier and later summers some places, stronger hurricanes, changing aquatic patterns, depleting aquifers, higher sea levels, less snow; some not that harmful in isolation but all cumulatively portending a bleak future for which we should be preparing. Moving off fossil fuel is not enough; socio-logistical preparations need to be made or anarchy followed by dystopia will be our future. We are fiddling while the embers glow brighter by the day.

  • Iranian Leader: Trump is "Disturbed," speaks like a Cowboy or Mobster
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/22/2017 at 11:50 am

      All but single-handed Trump has rehabilitated Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran from the isolation ward wherein successive US policy makers have been confining them.

      Trump’s tough talk and sophomoric antics may have had the opposite effect of what he intended, however. Across the board, the world’s other major powers, most of America’s closest allies, and the vast majority of governments at the United Nations this week made clear that they favor the [JCPOA] deal. They are siding with Iran this time.

      link to newyorker.com

      Just like Obama with his 'end of the queue' threat before the Brexit vote, creating enough of a Who the hell does he think he is. Up his! reaction to swing the result from stay to leave.
      As I have commented before, it's the Looking Glass world.

  • The Anti-Bouazizi: Did Russia try to 'flash mob' a Trump Victory?
    • It's a contentious business but the whole process of pre-election campaigning is an exercise in influencing voters. One might counter that by pointing out that most of it is, or should be, local, domestic influence. But is Israeli influence in US elections local? Clearly not, but no one claims it invalidates electoral results. The Presidency of the US is not simply a local matter, the choice directly affects most people on Earth. Is it not understandable that nations would seek to influence, as far as their abilities extend, the outcome of any election anywhere the result of which affects them or their ideology? If one were to invalidate elections upon evidence of external influence there would scarcely be any governments left and democracy would become a completely abstract concept. Perhaps it is. I don't imagine there's a UN resolution against seeking to influence another nation's elections and one can be pretty sure the US would veto it were one ever proposed. et prout vultis ut facient vobis homines...etc. Luke 6:31. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

  • Trump blasts Iran for backing Syria, ignores Russia, Praises Saudis
    • Again we see President Trump driving US allies into practical accord and potential cooperation with Putin/Xi. link to yahoo.com Much more like this and he'll end up on a desert island with Netanyahu as Man Friday.

  • Russia rebuffs Israeli demand for 40 mi. Buffer with Iran in Syria (Haaretz)
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/15/2017 at 12:28 pm

      Add Netanyahu's current legal vulnerability to the mix and one might begin to detect the germination of a resolution to the Palestinian issue.

  • Rice Vindicated: She did Unmask Trump, Bannon-- but they were meeting UAE
    • It wasn't intended a value judgement, but the absence of a coherent US foreign policy is giving rise to irreversible changes in the background to these events; complex political arbitration, trading agreements settled in gold and yuan, plans for transcontinental economic connectivity, some with an empty US chair, others without the US altogether.

    • While all this quasi-prurient tracking of the political past occupies the pages, Russia and China are consolidating themselves in distant areas seemingly abandoned by Trump's two dimensional foreign policy. They are close to devising plans to sort Syria and deal with the DPRK. Meanwhile Israel is hopping about like a cat on the proverbial roof. I wonder how long Tillerson will be able to take it before retiring to the sanity of home and family.

  • What will Iran do if Trump tears up the Nuclear Agreement?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/12/2017 at 11:30 am

      Iran would have nothing to gain by reneging on the JCPOA whatever Trump does, whereas sticking with it they gain international respect, and trite though it may seem they make Netanyahu look like he's been crying, Wolf, something he could well do without right now. Poor man must feel dark forces moving in on him; Assad looks like surviving, Iran is in Syria, and Hezbollah has been gaining valuable live military training in Syria's deserts, mountains and cities. Meanwhile back on the farm the slow tumbrel of Israeli justice can be heard approaching. There's no one to help, his nukes are no use, Trump won't get involved, Putin shrugs his shoulders, and there's only the Saudi princeling who will vanish like a Cheshire cat, not even leaving a smile behind. If Netanyahu falls, the kaleidoscope will be well shaken, no one can bestride the world for Israel and its settlers quite as he does, everything will be turned upside down.

  • On 9/11: How we slighted the real Threat, Climate Change, and Hyped Terrorism
    • It's not that simple to make long-term decisions in a political environment such as the US enjoys where the leaders need periodic majority votes to acquire and retain office. It is far easier to tap into a response to something that has occurred like 9/11 than to something that may, particularly if the recommended response calls for serious lifestyle change, costs present money, and is opposed by powerful lobbies. Putin could get away with it, so could Xi because they have those extra miles of authority and anyway are able to silence opposition in a manner US citizens find distasteful. US leaders are judged less by what they may be seen to have achieved in years to come than by how they respond to what life throws at them now.

      Hurricane Harvey was a revelatory moment in the early presidency of Donald J. Trump. We got a glimpse of Trump without the cultural politics: Trump as he could be. As Hurricane Irma approaches, Congress returns and North Korea shakes its nuclear fist -- this is the Trump the world needs. Competent and disciplined.

      link to edition.cnn.com

      Americans are not on the whole a patient people.

  • Gov. Rick Scott enabled Irma's Fury through Climate Denialism & Should Resign
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/10/2017 at 7:41 am

      Governor Scott's attitude however is not uncommon, it is in fact a consequence of generally accepted liberal capitalism which not only has no respect for the earth, land, seas, air, life, or any part of her including most of humanity, but regards it all as some kind of limitless asset with WASPs the divinely appointed asset strippers. Of course it's sensible to be conscious of carbon in the atmosphere and attempt to lessen it but even that arises from an innate confidence that Nature may still be brought under some control, by Mankind. No wonder the world's 'most powerful man' has established himself the other side of the looking glass, it's where much of humanity has already migrated. Look at the branch above you head, said the Gnat, and there you will see a snap-dragon-fly. Its body is made of plumb-pudding, its wings are holly leaves, and its head is a raisin burning in brandy. It's a world, you recall, where if you wish to advance to a particular destination, you do so by walking in the opposite direction, just like you stop wars by pouring soldiers and weapons into them.

  • What are American Soldiers really still dying for in the Mideast?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/09/2017 at 8:02 am

      There is some strange compulsion controlling much US foreign policy, it's like a child scratching the crust on a healing wound. Don't do it, you say, You will only make it worse. But they do it anyway.

  • Are Muslims allowed to be Sympathetic Victims in US Media, or only Perpetrators?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 09/03/2017 at 6:38 am

      The US public's interest in the Rohingya has not been aroused nor would it suit media to rouse it since it wouldn't increase ratings or put on readers. Once US media was indeed a proud source of world news but today it has abrogated that role and become entertainment, providing glib, two dimensional 24/7 low key emotional pornography. But can one blame the media when US leaders have no interest in the fate of persecuted Arab minorities? Tillerson isn't raising these issues, they might become newsworthy if he did. To a large extent this is a US issue, the world's global police. Just taking the Rohingya, look at Le Monde link to lemonde.fr or Die Welt link to welt.de or the Swedish Aftonbladet link to sok.aftonbladet.se One could go on forever.

  • The Criminals who amplified Harvey: Trump & Cabinet must Resign
    • While all criticism of Trump is obviously justified, I am beginning to suspect that his unpreparedness and general ineptitude in the role of President derives from the fact that he never thought, or even wanted, to win. It seems to me that for entirely business purposes what he wanted was to be, and later to have been, a candidate, to benefit from the pre-election publicity and bask in the post-election stature of having been a presidential candidate. There's a character in Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana who still has a certain respect for having once been such a candidate. This would explain a great deal. The whole thing was a mistake, a gamble against impossible odds that he supposed not to win but did. Doesn't such a scenario join more dots than any other?

  • Is Israel's Netanyahu preparing for War on Iranian Special Ops in Syria?
    • Netanyahu may sense his days are numbered, his cries of victimisation falling increasingly on the ears of those too young to have been chilled by the events of WWII and for whom they have faded into the historical past to rank lower than Hiroshima as a salutary warning for today. Only a few years ago people lost their jobs in academia for suggesting Israel's aggressive absorption of Palestine might provoke anti-Semitism. I never really saw such a connection because I don't believe racists think in causal ways. However, what it has done is overshadow the pathos of victimisation. Netanyahu has surfed this transformation with astonishing dexterity but the old evocations of Western guilt have worn thin and need a lot of gaudy make up and dim light to achieve the same impact today, whereas regular images of Gazan suffering, and occasional heart lifting stories of achievements against all odds are close enough to touch. Palestinians now rank high among the world's more poignant victims and Israel with its IDF and demonic settlers among the oppressors. Although the White House now denies it, Kushner reportedly told Abbas the other day that stopping settlement construction was Impossible as it would topple Netanyahu. link to haaretz.com . Whether the report was true or not, the notion is now out there and providing an opportunity to bypass the quick sands of anti-Semitism and unleash sympathy for Palestinians by focusing blame on Netanyahu and his politics. He is also facing what promises to be an untidy day or two in court link to haaretz.com Call for the Iranian bogeyman!

  • Iraq: Trump slams Iran, but Iran-backed Militias are key to taking Talafar from ISIL
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/28/2017 at 9:36 am

      I defer, but I'd sooner have Assad in the house than his neighbour Netanyahu.

    • Supermarkets and other such places play music selected to encourage customers to buy. Trump is much the same, slamming Iran makes his supporters feel on familiar ground. Demonising Assad used to have a like effect, his name never mentioned without a prefix like 'butcher' or suffix referencing 'gassing his own people'. He is somewhat off the hook now since years of huffing and puffing failed to blow his house down, but Iran plays just as well. Trump's utterances are rarely designed to convey real information, their purpose is to provoke feelings in his base, essentially those that cast a glow on him, letting his supporters go back to sleep feeling all's well with the world.

  • Kushner tells Abbas Israeli Squatter Expansion can't be stopped b/c Netanyahu Gov't would Fall
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/28/2017 at 9:24 am

      So, it's only the continuance of the Netanyahu government that's holding things up. One might have suspected that but it's nice to have it confirmed from so elevated a source. Regime change anyone?

  • Trump Exploits Harvey Victims in Stealth Pardon of Arpaio
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/28/2017 at 5:03 pm

      Let's be fair, it was the guy above who implied the US is evil by insisting that it is not uniquely so. I simply wrote that I don't believe it. Nations being evil is not a concept I entertain, in fact 'evil' is not a word I would employ outside some demonic context. It is true that I think a more coherent relationship between Europeans and Russians would benefit both, and piping Russian gas better by far than fracking fragile American surfaces at incalculable environmental cost to ship it across the Atlantic. But then, we live in a world where South African oranges are sold here in Southern Spain as is Californian celery, a water demanding crop of minimal nutritional value.

    • I don't believe the US is evil. I believe its stranglehold on Europe and its confrontational approach to the rest of the world is unhelpful to put it mildly. To the extent that Trump's exercise of his office encourages others to question their automatic adherence to the US view of the world, opportunities arise for a more cooperative approach to the formidable problems ahead. What happens within the US is its own business

    • The effect of Trump's presidency on the balance of global authority is interesting. It is realigning a whole number of international relationships that have remained largely unchanged since WWII . This is not a bad thing, in fact it could bode well for many of the serious problems our race and planet face, His behaviour and general demeanor together with the uninhibited media and social response are provoking make it unlikely any future US President will be able to turn the clock back. Other countries will simply have seen too much. It may not justify it to the liberal minded but one can see why some leaders muzzle their media.

  • Germany's Merkel: A Selfish & Isolationist America isn't "Great Again"
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/24/2017 at 7:45 am

      As the clip demonstrates the positions of Merkel and Schulz are not that significant on most issues, more like two eyeing the same seat on a moving train. There is, however, a hint of something else, Germany's relation to the US. Merkel disassociates herself from Trump's position on a number of issues as clearly as the diplomatic demands of her position allow whereas Schulz specifically talks of removing all nuclear weapons from German soil. The upper limit for nuclear weapons in our country must be 0. He also says he would resist demands to raise NATO defence spending. Although their positions are far from anti-American, they both hint at a novel degree of independence from the US, and since this is a political campaign one must assume it betokens meaningful electoral support.

  • Trump Pledged to Carpet Bomb ISIL, but Little Lebanon is Taking them On
  • Trump on Barcelona: Recalls US War on Spain, Brutal Occupation of Filipino Muslims
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/19/2017 at 4:37 am

      I may have misinterpreted your concern. I thought it was that Trump had provoked or offended Spain and the Spanish in some way. I am sure many sensitive Americans find much about Trump disgraceful.

    • I live in Spain and I know no one who pays any attention to anything Trump says or would make a connection between his views on Pershing and the atrocity in Barcelona they did. I am not sure his remarks have even been reported anywhere here although, scanning for clues, I see reports of US media reports of the impending dismissal of Bannon El llamado “Rasputin” de la Casa Blanca . Even if I outlined what he said the people I know would likely look blank or shrug their shoulders. His comments may offend some historians though I doubt they would do more than confirm his lumpen ignorance. It is irrational, surely, to be offended by the comments of those who have no idea what they are talking about.

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  • German Politicians think Trump is dangerously close to Neo-Nazis, and they Should know
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/17/2017 at 12:04 pm

      There is a distinct possibility that for a whole variety of reasons Germany will loosen ties with the US. The punitive application of Russian economic sanctions, which hurt German more than US business, was bad enough, but the new tranche is seen as a bald effort to benefit US business, particularly in the energy field, at European expense; it is viewed as unadorned 'US first' Trumpism and makes for a deeper reason to distrust him than his inability to identify Charlottesville for what it was. There are even voices calling for Germany to leave NATO on the grounds that it is out of date and redundant. They too are doubtless trade stirred. I am not denying the validity, significance, or seriousness of the German response to Trump but everyone is aware how 'close allies' can continue to do really evil things without attracting overt opprobrium, so the significant thing may be less the response itself, valid though it is, but the uninhibited expression of it from so important a politician. He is, however, quite right about these militant attacks being widespread. As I am writing this a van has just ploughed into crowds in Barcelona.

  • Bannon must go, but after that, Protesters should listen to Bernie
    • I see how people with genuine grievances, lack of jobs, lack of opportunity and lack of dignity may be, and often have been, roused, I simply wonder how they may be taught. Once a system is established teaching can readily be, and often is, applied to maintain it but I don't see how one would teach change, or where it has ever been done historically. Indeed, even were it possible, it would, surely, have to get into a system both practically and ideologically controlled by those whose interests are essentially a status quo able to enchain thought processes but not fill empty bellies. Oswald Mosley wasn't a fascist just demonised as such, he was actually a fairly enlightened political thinker and dangerous to the system, but then Marx wasn't a Marxist either. Hopefully Trump and the whole preceding election shenanigans will rouse a majority to something more responsible, but for now it looks like it's getting uglier by the day

    • But more importantly, the people with genuine grievances about lack of jobs and lack of opportunity and lack of dignity need to be taught how to get those things in a positive way.

      But taught what, how, by whom? One might wish one could, but one cannot apply Reason to a storm. Plato's Republic was composed to demonstrate that can't be done. Canute rebuked the waves to demonstrate to over flattering courtiers where his authority did not go. There are stages that will have to unfold before society becomes differently adjusted economically. The most dangerous hurdle ahead is possible military takeover. Nobody likes to admit it too openly but ingredients for some kind of military/fascism are visible, as they were in the UK just prior to WWII with Mosley's BUF and blackshirts. Fortunately the more advanced fascism in Europe roused people to an awareness that stamped all that out before it went too far. The situations are not the same, they never are, but from 30,000 feet similarities are identifiable.

  • Top 5 Ways White Terrorism means never having to Say you're Sorry
    • Fortunately not everyone appears committed to such linguistic inexactitudes

      Several Republican senators of the United States have condemned the recent events in the city of Charlottesville as an act of "domestic terrorism and called for investigation in the matter.

      link to sputniknews.com

  • 'Locked & Loaded' Trump's 1960s Cowboyism re: N. Korea & Venezuela
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/12/2017 at 7:04 am

      There is a confrontational element in the American character and Trump possesses it in abundance. The analogy with John Wayne etc. is valid and interesting, but I am not sure it derives from an excess of masculinity, despite Wayne's propensity to put his ladies across his knee and whack them with whatever comes closest to hand. I believe the roots may lie in the Puritan division between good and evil where extenuating circumstances didn't exist. Those black and white movies were rooted in that distinction. My grandmother would wake up in the old Regal cinema and ask me (aged 8) if the character on screen was a good one or a bad one and I could always tell. It would rarely be possible to answer such a question today but a residual response of the quick draw persists, and shootings are occurring all over the US with what I have seen described as metronomic regularity. Is it altogether surprising Trump carries that characteristic with him to the Oval Office? There is no humanities input in Trump's make up, he doesn't think so he acts on instinctive emotional responses unmodified by reason, and Kim Jong-un is a bad, bad guy.

  • Kissinger pushes Iranophobia, fear of 'radical empire' as ISIL declines
    • Iranophobia is neither rational nor irrational, it's a tool deliberately applied to serve current US foreign policy. The US is not yet ready to forgo its exceptionalist perspective on the big wide world and some older adherents, like Kissinger, never will, they'll take it their graves. We should be tolerant, he's like someone attempting to persuade an obstetrician of a virgin birth. Some arguments it's simply pointless to get into.

  • "Fire & Fury" or "Shock and Awe": it is always the start of a Quagmire
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/09/2017 at 12:04 pm

      Quotes from the most recent DOS briefing on the subject:

      …..there is no future where North Korea holds nuclear weapons or the ability to deliver those nuclear weapons to anyone in the region much less in the homeland.

      Well, we have long said that North Korea has a long way to go before the United States would consider having talks with them, negotiations with them.

      They know what they need to do. We’ve been clear on our expectations of that government.

      This attitude will not get anyone anywhere. The US wants North Korea to relinquish all its cards before negotiation starts. That's not negotiation. Kim Jong-un won't. Indeed, why should he; Gaddafi did and ended being dragged from a culvert, beaten, and sodomised with a bayonet before being shot. Saddam also abandoned nuclear weapons and was dragged dishevelled and disorientated from beneath a building and hanged amid a bunch of jeering Iraqi's. Neither makes for a particularly appealing prospect. Therefore all threats to Kim Jong-un would need guaranteed removal, and it's difficult to see how that could be in the present geopolitical situation, Trump or no Trump.

      Besides, as Oliver writes above, without Kim Jong-un's nuclear activities the peninsular might well unite and, despite any (fingers crossed) agreement made with the Chinese, there would soon be US weapons and forces disporting along the 900 mile Chinese border, making the Chinese feel much as the Russians with NATO seeping into Ukraine. If Trump removed the THAAD system from the south and ceased US naval and other provocations in the area, sitting down instead with Putin and Xi Jinping they might come up with something, but that won't happen either. Hunker in a bunker.

  • The Mask Is Off: Trump Is Seeking Pretext for War with Iran
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/08/2017 at 8:58 am

      They are hard line opponents of the relatively liberal regime. It may not be that they actually want to pursue a nuclear program, but they don't like being inhibited from doing so, especially by the US. You are quite right about the JCPOA. Obama claimed credit for it but it was initiated by Europeans and chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The US simply agreed to the final terms like all the others. The US approach to a multitude of foreign policy issues is complicated by this attitude of having to be the boss while every one else must do their bidding. That others no longer click their heels is making for these belligerent threats. Trump's attitudes and behaviour are so dangerous and so absurd that the next US president could find it relatively easy to adopt a more realistic role in the world.

  • As Trump leaves Paris Accord, Wind jobs are fastest growing in US next Decade
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/06/2017 at 3:35 pm

      It is inexorable progress, neither ascent nor descent, simply change. The Iron Age didn't come to an end because Mankind ran out of iron.

  • UN Report: Muslim Youth going to fight in Syria mostly not Motivated by Islam
  • Trump's Worst Nightmare: Mueller's Grand Jury Subpoenas Russia Documents
    • Nicholas Wibberley 08/04/2017 at 12:55 pm

      I hasten to apologise if it seemed I intended any equivalence between the Clinton and Trump investigations, I wouldn't dream of such a thing. I sought only to make a comparison between US and European, specifically UK, responses to ongoing investigations.

    • Presumably Mueller, with so many searchlights on his every move, cannot afford to leave any stone unturned even if there proves nothing to find beneath it. A similar situation arose for James Comey and the Clinton email business where a relentless speculative media driven obsession turned a simple investigation into a snake eating its tail. And Medvedev is quite right, the threat of Trump's removal from office is exactly the sort of thing the saga needs to maintain interest and ratings at fever pitch. Only in America is such an investigation treated as ongoing entertainment. The UK Chilcot enquiry ran 7 years, and only when it was finished and its findings studied did analysts and commentators step in. This conflation of entertainment and reality baffles other nations and unnerves them more than Trump's own actions which, however regrettable, are real and therefore can be dealt with in the real world.

  • Top 5 Great Power Realist Reasons Trump is Wrong on Immigration
    • Perhaps those who elected Trump don't care that much about being a great power. After all it doesn't benefit them to spend uncountable sums turning the ME to rubble while their own lives are daily more fraught. All but indigenous Americans are descended from immigrants but that doesn't mean the doors must stay open forever. How many could pinpoint Russia, China, Libya, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen etc. on a globe, or have ever been harmed by any of their people? How has being a great power helped the average American over the last generation. Perhaps Trump was not elected for what he is but for what he isn't.

  • Shell, terrified of EVs, expects 'low forever' Gasoline Prices; it is too Optimistic
    • I somehow doubt Shell are actually terrified. They are a highly competent outfit whose senior people are interchangeable with similar sized corporations anywhere. They will adapt to changes in demand and are not going to be filing for bankruptcy. They and their ilk will still be running things whatever happens. It is also worth bearing in mind that imagining the world to be as it is now but with vehicles running on EV yields a very narrow view. There are many things happening that are likely to relegate that image to much lower priority. Waters across the planet are rising, no continent is unaffected, the ocean level at Marseille for instance has risen 10 centimetres in 30 years, the littoral parameters of the world's land surfaces are changing in a way that will directly effect some 200 million people and their lives and homes. Simply changing the use of fossil fuel for transportation cannot arrest that in any meaningful way. The melting ice flows of the Arctic are attracting algae which, being dark, absorbs significantly more heat than reflective white surfaces and is increasing the rate at which the residual ice is melting. Another unanticipated consequence is that the land in much of Scandinavia is actually rising faster than the water because the vast ice flows, some well over a kilometre deep, compressed the land but as they melt and their pressure is released the land rises like a cake in the oven. How many more dots do you imagine there may be that mankind's hubris and lack of respect for Nature have not yet to joined up? The US spends trillions on 'security' but that brings to my mind the Japanese invasion of Malaya when no one imagined they would come down from the north so all the guns and defences were on the island of Blakang Mati facing south from Singapore and the whole peninsular was left wide open.

  • Mideast's 'Only Democracy' joins push to Silence Al Jazeera: Netanyahu
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/27/2017 at 11:24 am

      t is worth remembering that Israel's 'negative' actions, even when they are not obviously connected, like metal detectors at Aqsa mosque and shutting down Al Jazeera, are nevertheless cumulative, they all add to the camel's load. Having good trade arrangements with European and far Eastern countries, flying off to Moscow to bend Putin's ear, being invited to public events, don't diminish the load which is increasing daily, and there is nothing any of Israel's trade partners can or will do when the final straw is added. Netanyahu, Lieberman, et al are gamblers and they are not on a winning streak, far from it. The West generally and Israel above all fear the Arab world uniting. In fact, there is a salutary saying that this or that action could even 'unite the Arab world'. My hunch is that when it happens it will be just like the metal detector incident and if they think closing Al-Jazeera will avert it they are pissing gasoline on a smouldering log.

  • Is Trump's Cabinet Collapsing?
    • The Lincoln quote is perceptive and may well have been his own but it also echoes Machiavelli who argued that major change within a state occurs either from the pressure of external forces or from an internal process. The latter is preferable since basically it keeps all the angst at home rather than scattered hither and yon. Trump is awakening chunks of the US electorate and concentrating their attention on issues largely left to drift for far too long. The loss of Tillerson could precipitate 'trouble' in the ME, but it is approaching anyway. Israel could be the biggest loser when the dust settles. The rest of the world will survive, not to worry. Meanwhile:

      They seek one here,
      They seek one there,
      The faithful seek one everywhere.
      Where will they find one?
      Nobody knows of a good dry cleaner for emperor's clothes.

  • Trump: Aid to Syrian Rebels was 'Massive,' 'Dangerous;' slams Post
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/25/2017 at 4:04 pm

      Any rational person sees the way to stop the bloodbath and destruction in Syria is for outsiders to stop pouring weapons into the country. The endlessly demonised Assad has said this again and again, and now it appears the deeply flawed Trump has made a move in that direction. Trump doesn't express himself in facts, as all well know, but his categorization of Obama's training endeavor is spot on. Who can ever forget the Senate testimony of General Lloyd Austin, $500 million for 4 or 5 warriors!?!

  • Screwdriver Attack at Israeli Embassy in Jordan over Aqsa Mosque Tensions
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/25/2017 at 4:31 am

      This whole situation has many roots. One of the strongest, though not the oldest, is the efforts by the West to exploit the sectarian divisions in the Arab world, notably from Sykes Picot on to the present day. Only its unification through some supra-divisional event, possibly connected with the Aqsa mosque, will turn the tide. But it could do so in a moment which is probably why Israel has decided to abandon metal detectors. However, there will almost inevitably come another, particularly as secularist lifestyles advance and the monarchies weaken from the economic effects of falling fuel use. Netanyahu and his kind are not capable of treading carefully when it comes to the religious sensibilities of Muslims since doing so would imply an equality, stripping the Judaic religion of its exclusivity and acknowledging it simply as one among others, and the conviction of religious exclusivity justifies a wealth of questionable actions, vide Phillip II and the rape of South America, and the fate of indigenous Palestinians today.

  • How our Intel Agencies Screwed us by Letting Sessions, Trumpies get away with Russia Scheme
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/22/2017 at 5:17 am

      One might be tempted to wonder if the Intel Agencies are actually steering the ship while everyone else is just carrying trays

  • Trump hands Putin gift, cancels Support for Syrian Rebels
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/20/2017 at 11:08 am

      This sounds a sensible decision, whatever benefit there might have seemed to be ignored the fact that arming rebel groups to fight a common enemy too often results in them turning against you when the immediate task is accomplished. I recall the aftermath in Malaya where the British had supplied communist terrorists groups with weapons and liaison officers against the Japanese only to find them turn against them, often killing the officers, when that war ended. I was a young officer still battling them in 1955 when, not infrequently, we would find original weapons beautifully maintained and still in use against us.

  • Did UAE plant Fake News about Qatar to Fool Trump?
    • The Qatar Air CEO was interviewed recently about the sanctions and expressed the view that some people have climbed a very tall tree and are going to find it difficult to come down without getting hurt. link to aljazeera.com In the same interview he mentions customer loyalty support. I have been using Qatar Air for some ten years and plan to do so again shortly for a trip from Madrid via Doha to Singapore to attend a wedding. The fare will be slightly higher, understandably, but I find myself motivated to stick with them by a sort of defiance and I suspect a number of other customers may feel the same. Add that to similar attitudes to Al Jazeera and you could have quite a formidable level of international support that the instigators of these demands may not have taken into account.

  • Turkey: Erdogan Marks Coup anniversary with more Crackdowns
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/16/2017 at 12:07 pm

      There is no single thing as Democracy. As I wrote elsewhere, most national leaders hide behind the notion that periodic elections at variously free ballot boxes define democracy. This is a convenient illusion because those leaders, once elected then forget the masses in favour of small interest groups, normally financial or commercial, but in some cases even extra-national. Democracy as practised in the US, for instance, does not suit everyone. It's not an issue that benefits from value judgement, it's just a fact. The guy in the video says half the Turkish citizenry oppose Erdogan which is presumably why he is systematically reducing the more notable of their number. The practice is as old as time and a 5th century example is recorded in Herodotus link to perseus.tufts.edu but it is also to be found in several places in Machiavelli's extensive oeuvre. Nothing very radical about it at all.

  • Trump & Macron Consult on Syria Cease Fire in Shadow of Don Jr. Scandal
    • Although unalike in uncountable ways, Macron and Trump are closer politically, that is in relation to democracy, than many might imagine. They both belong to the club of world leaders who believe the right to vote alone defines democracy, whereas, of course, voting is useless without an assiduous press, forceful opposition, the right to demonstrate, negotiate, strike etc. Just look at Turkey with Erdogan. The Macron/Trump similarity lies in the capacity of both of them to sacrifice liberal principles in favour of the interests very small, mainly financial and commercial, minorities and that's the killer.

  • Now they hate Universities: Trumpie anti-Intellectualism infects GOP
    • Nicholas Wibberley 07/13/2017 at 6:33 am

      One problem I have encountered is a curious notion that the only way to learn is to follow some course of instruction with single minded dedication. It's an attitude instilled, I imagine by the educational system, probably because its main objective is to get students through examinations for their CVs and the reputation of the college. I have a friend doing the excellent online Cambridge University Latin course link to cambridge.org. He has made really good progress but he will not step outside the course. He won't explore Latin literature, even simple stuff like Nepos. In some strange way he seems to feel it might contaminate his study. His own schooling may not have given him Latin but it instilled something else I find it quite frightening, like it being dangerous to learn something without being taught it. No one should underestimate the hidden purposes of national education. As for learning other languages, there are innumerable online courses, then you need go to the country and stay a while, read local papers; shopping and love making are also excellent aids.

    • In much of the Western world an oppressive oligarchy manipulates a majority anyway notwithstanding universal education. Besides, what Jefferson wrote was a highly fashionable notion In Europe at the time he wrote it, I imagine from France when he was the US representative, and where so many of the US founding notions derived; Jean-Jack Rousseau (Émile, ou De l’éducation) and others had taken up the the study of education with great seriousness. But those were formative years for the US, and Jefferson's ideas contained significant philosophical and idealistic elements. Furthermore, 'Education' meant something quite different from the curricula of today. Education is simply not producing what Jefferson and Rousseau etc. foresaw it ahould. Instead, if it has a purpose, it is to provide qualifications for future rodents in the commercial rat race that benefits the oppressive oligarchy. A negative impact is questionable but less so perhaps than an absence of any positive impact. Leaving idealism aside, anything that has a positive impact on a nation's people should be leaving them more content in their brief time on this Earth, and feeling more secure; if it doesn't then it is not unreasonable see the impact as negative. The concept of Education needs re-thinking. But that won't happen. The best thing for a young person today might be to acquire basic skills and then follow the nose through the literature of the world, most now accessible on the Internet. Do that with assiduity and I'd bet what is sought will fall like Newton's apple. Those who know how to think, need no teachers Ghandi

  • G19 outmaneuvers climate Rogue Trump, ignores Donald & Ivanka
    • Americans who put Trump in the White House sent America’s strategic strength and diplomatic soft power swirling down the toilet. A bit strong, perhaps. The US place is still very much there but it's a seat at a round table no longer a throne. When another takes his place they will be eagerly welcomed. The world needs the US, just not its hegemonic dreams.

  • With CNN Reporter Attack Video, Trump apes Seedy Dictators
    • Trump is scarcely 'the most powerful man in the world'. That would require him able to accomplish more than anyone else, he is too constrained for the accolade. Being the most powerful man in the world requires acquiescence from others. Earlier post WW II presidents may have possessed the appearance. Now, however, Trump attempts to bestride the international scene with nothing but his military arsenal, his petrodollar, and a basket of sanctions. Meanwhile Xi Jinping is calling in on Putin on his way to the G20, their third get together this year. Ostensibly this is to complete a massive trade deal, but you can bet the bottom dollar US activity in the South China sea and the THAAD installations in South Korea will the main topics. Wilbur Ross Trump's commerce secretary was recently delivering a speech by video to several hundred guests of the German Economic Council. Contributions were limited to 10 minutes but he rabbited on making preposterous demands until at 20 minutes the moderator simply cut the video link. Could that happen to someone holding a key position in the cabinet of the most powerful man on earth?

  • UN: Saudi Bloc attempt to close Al Jazeera is attack on Freedom of Expression
    • U.N. High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein may well be concerned but his concern has no teeth. Anyone who imagines Mohammed bin Salman can be swayed by UNCHR pronouncements, any more than Netanyahu, is deluded. In fact it might be argued that the expression of such concern in the absence of any meaningful follow through is actually counter productive since it may encourage some to imagine that if the UNCHR has taken it up they can relax about it. It also encourages the perpetrators of human rights abuse to cock a snook at the institution itself. There is no room for sweeping denunciations or trenchant criticisms in the dealings of a world whose falsehoods and veracities are separated by so thin a barrier Gibbon.

  • Top 5 things Trump is doing to us Worse than insulting Mika
    • When a president now cannot do things on the world stage a president could do only 27 years ago, that is a sign of deep and worrisome decline. I see less a decline than an adjustment. It is obvious the US cannot rule the world and neocon efforts to do so are like running after an accelerating bus. The alternative which many have not yet grasped is not a world ruled by some other nation but active cooperation between 'superpowers' one of which must assuredly be the US. The transition from a concept of single rule to something more cooperative is the kind of process that could be assisted but not ultimately defied. Trump's decision to take humanitarian and democratic evangelism off the table in his dealings with other nations is a significant contribution since it puts aside US insistence on moral superiority. Trump's manner and behaviour is also serving to encourage relationships between other nations that bypass the US clearing house. I see this as regenerative rather than worrisome, looking perhaps towards broader, non-commercial globalisation based on mutual respect rather than competitive confrontation. Well, I'm a romantic.

  • Syria: Russians alarmed, Washington Befuddled, by White House threats
    • The Russian army has quietly started construction of a new military base in the countryside near Damascus... This will be Moscow’s third base in Syria – the other two have troops, sophisticated weaponry and support systems to bolster the military operation against ISIS – and this new one will help implement the eight-point ‘deconfliction’ program for the border area agreed upon by Russia, the US and Jordan while also working to ensure humanitarian aid reaches besieged villages and towns.

      link to atimes.com

    • The key to all this could well lie in the ...that the late-Monday White House announcement had already deterred Syria from use of poison gas since Trump's main purpose seems to be to bolster support among the faithful. All he has to do now you see is conjure a danger, make a threat and, voila, even the demon Assad is cowed. Meanwhile he gains his popularity boost without upsetting any apple carts, adds an element of lustre to US Intel, and saves 60 million smackeroonies. Not bad for an evening's work.

  • Why it Matters that the World thinks US under Trump is Laughingstock
    • The 37% of Europeans who think relations with the US will deteriorate is particularly interesting, and it's worth bearing in mind that this view reflects European attitudes to a process that is under way, rather than something that will likely occur at some future time. One strong contributory element here is Russian sanctions. Most Europeans are beginning to feel that the problems of Ukraine require a more nuanced, less punitive approach because the present stand-off is not solving the issue while many European commercial interests are suffering for what is increasingly viewed as a US obsession that has become bogged down and is effecting them more negatively than the US. There is also the issue of the Nord Stream pipeline where again Europeans feel sanctions are an attempt deliberately to hinder progress which would offer cheaper Russian gas in order to promote US LNG exports. The situation is dynamic and not just going to sit there. Kites have even been flown suggesting reciprocal sanctions on US LNG exports to Europe.

  • 4 Nations twist Qatar's arm, to close down Aljazeera
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/23/2017 at 6:15 am

      I cannot imagine they will get away with this. Ayman Mohyeldin ducking shellfire day and night as he covered the 2008-2009 Israeli carnage from within Gaza was in my view one of the greatest pieces of journalism in the history of media. Surely its international audience is too large and its global respect too great. It may be Qatari but in a meaningful sense it belongs to us all. I hope its supporters get organised and make that clear to the despots otherwise the world comes under their yoke.

  • In Apocalyptic Vandalism, ISIL blows up 800-year-old Nuri Mosque in Mosul
    • A significant difference between the destruction the Nuri Mosque by Daesh, and the Iraqi National Archives by the US is that the mosque, like the 6th century Buddhas of Bamiyan, was destroyed with malignant deliberation whereas the library was bombed out of sheer ignorance and could well have been avoided had anyone in the command line considered for a moment Iraqi heritage rather than just oil installations. Were Trump to decide to go for Iran we would see unimaginable cultural destruction and the owls would be calling again from the towers of Afrasaid.

  • Putin's End Game in Syria
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/19/2017 at 4:38 am

      Putin agreed to this unprecedented interview because it presented a golden PR opportunity and he's an expert at that kind of thing. In it, inter alia he proposes a statesmanlike solution to the Syrian bloodbath. We can decide each for ourselves whether he means it or not but either way it remains only an aspiration for the reason I mentioned. Obviously he knows that but his proposal has credibility and will go stone skipping, as it has here, and lodge favourably in many minds which is as good a reason as any for undertaking the interview. He's a chess player.

    • Putin's policy aspirations are all very rational, noble even, as suits the image he seeks to project to the global audiences Stone's interview will reach. But they are pie in the sky since there is no way on earth the US would agree to join Iran, Egypt, and Turkey to negotiate in “constructive cooperation”. As for the valuable experience Russian forces have gained in Syria, it would be very odd indeed if that were not so, but there is no suggestion this was in any way a motive for entering the fray. Nor, I imagine, does he intend the triumphs of his involvement to serve in a sales pitch for Russian weaponry. Isn't any nation justified in regarding foreign armed rebels as terrorists and responding to them as such? However, if such a conference were to take place, they should indeed be on hand since they would be required to lay down their arms and surrender.

  • Putin offers Comey Asylum, likens him to Snowden
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/16/2017 at 5:46 am

      Isn't spreading largely false and damning stories par for the course in politics? Two wrongs don't make a right is, of course, a truism but the meaning laid upon it surely depends on the legality or moral validity of what is under consideration. The Israelis employ that defence when confronted with accusations of brutality against Palestinians but it is quite different because brutality, genocide, apartheid, and so on are by broad consensus 'wrong' in the literal sense that they are contrary to conscience, morality, or law regardless of who perpetrates them. But according to what such consensus might a 'cascade of disinformation' directed from Moscow at a US election be 'wrong'? Of course, just because something isn't wrong doesn't necessarily make it right, (the view that it does is one of the most unfortunate contributions to modern behaviour, summed up by the oft voiced claim that this or that action is 'not against the law', and by extension therefore OK to do). Putin's asylum comment was a joke, not maybe a very good one but worth a smile on a dull day; much of the world regards Washington's current obsession with this issue joke worthy. Better perhaps than finding it sad.

  • Why Saudi Extremism, Instability is an Argument for EVs, Wind and Solar Energy
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/15/2017 at 6:39 am

      Bill, I entirely agree with you. Cars normally pass through several hands before they get to the scrap yard, diminishing in value and presumably increasing in pollution potential as they go along. I bought my first car in 1957 and have never bought a new one; you lose money driving them out of the showroom; a fool's game. Doubtless there are those who could afford an electric car and don't buy one but that is a different issue altogether. A prohibitive premium levied on the sale of new non-electric vehicles might see electric ones entering the second hand market more swiftly. The whole thing badly needs some imaginative input. As for solar panels, they should be a facility like street lighting, it makes little sense to have individual households installing them when it could be so much more economically and efficiently done by the community.

    • So much is invested in the carbon fuel way of life that there is potential for confrontation between carbon fuel producers and nations headed urgently towards renewable energy. If there is some broad purpose to Trump's foreign policy manoeuvres it could be a desire to build a powerful US, Russia, Saudi Arabia coalition and coerce or bomb other producers into line. That might explain his sword dance and why he was so eager to mend bridges with Russia. It must be frustrating to be blocked by all these investigations and anti-Russian overkill, particularly as they do Putin no harm locally or internationally, even provide him and Lavrov opportunities to be quizzical and appear super cool.

  • Tillerson-Trump Rumble over Qatar shows White House Divisions
  • UK hung Parliament: Is Trumpism pushing Europe Left?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/09/2017 at 4:13 am

      It wasn't Trump himself, so much as similar socio-economic forces; the conflicting priorities of those who favour globalisation and those who perceive themselves victims of it. And it isn't just globalisation in the modern sense, similar forces were bubbling in the UK before the outbreak of WWII. The war put them on the back burner but they came right off it with the 1945 election of Clement Attlee over Churchill. There were heads shaking in the US and much of the rest of the world then just as there are this morning. Plus, in this case, the perceived arrogance of May, her over confident assumption all she need do is call an election and she'd be handed a bigger majority on bended knee; just like Cameron assuming the British would troop meekly into the Remain queue because 'obviously it was the right thing'. You can't treat the British like that, they don't think like that, they'll respond with two fingers even if they suffer for it.

  • Trump's Ally: Saudi Arabia's drive for Aristocratic Hegemony in the Middle East
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/07/2017 at 6:38 am

      It seems unlikely Trump would be aware of any of this, or indeed endowed with sufficient patience to take it in. There's an interesting piece in the Brookings Institution publication proposing, pretty convincingly, that the $350 billion, wham bang thank you armament deal with Saudi Arabia is another Trump fantasy link to brookings.edu . Assuming this to be true brings again to the fore the question, what exactly was he up to there aside from his inelegant effort at a sword dance. The fixed point is perhaps his extensive demonisation of Iran, repeated again with Netanyahu. Considering his campaign trail insistence he was not intending to get involved in foreign adventures, it could be he left the Saudis confident that if they choose, alone or with others, to have a go at Iran he would regard it as a local matter and leave them to it. That would remove their US ankle monitor and vastly increase their local stature regardless of whether or not they do actually attack Iran. Meanwhile Trump comes home waving 'the biggest arms deal ever'. The next episode will be screened on Sunday at 9 pm.

  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan uninvites Trump as opposed to Humane British Values
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/06/2017 at 10:34 am

      Trump simply hadn't read what the mayor said. That is actually more troubling than his senseless comment. He also completely underestimates the selfless solidarity that comes naturally to Londoners under stress, and which I knew first hand as a child in the blitz. He's in for a tough time when he turns up for his bit of bunting and ride in a carriage. In some ways Trump seems a putative Netanyahu, the same unprincipled single-mindedness, with the main difference that Trump has had less time at it politically, but he's learning. So far the main beneficiary of his ascendency is the media which earned large sums salaciously promoting him and more now self-righteously hounding him. The free media is also almost entirely responsible for parading Sadiq Khan as Muslim, something I would not have given a thought to but for it being so aggressively thrust into one's face. It's an old media trick to insist something isn't true or doesn't matter when nobody thought it was, or did.

  • Did Trump's Climate Disavowal just kill Capitalism?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/03/2017 at 10:09 am

      Trump's back turned on the Paris Accords seems to have stirred a global anti-Trump consensus. The practical potential for such consensus was already with us but until now if has lacked a focus. It is always easier to get disparate groups to unite against rather than for an issue, a phenomenon vividly illustrated by Egyptian unity against Mubarak where his departure having been celebrated with wild enthusiasm and lacking any follow through has led full circle to where it all began. However, this is profoundly different since while there is unity in opposing Trumpism there is also purpose in the Paris Accords. I have a fragile hunch it may it may still turn out for the best.

  • Trump, Paris Accords and the End of the American Century
    • Nicholas Wibberley 06/01/2017 at 9:35 am

      What is here called the American Century has been been slipping from the eye for some time. There has been a lot written about it. It may have accelerated under Obama but that wasn't really his fault, the international effort required to reach the Iran agreement and the Paris accords show how the US unipolar dream is no longer realisable. The US has been continuing at the board when checkmate was inevitable within a number of moves whatever happens. Many were not able to see it, others refused to believe it, some still do. A number thought one last untried gamble might succeed and that's probably where Trump came in but his walk away from Paris drops the final veil.

  • Allies Furious as Trump w/draws from G7 Climate Commitment, May leave Paris Accord
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/28/2017 at 5:56 am

      A supplementary aspect of this is that Trump particularly, but US leaders generally, don't like to be involved in activities that are not their initiative and which they can't be seen to lead. They are not team minded. We see it all the time in the UN, and it was very apparent in the Iran Nuclear deal which was a European initiative but which was presented as an Obama achievement to the extent that Trump can talk about tearing it up. Also, of course, Syria. It's a problem.

      Off topic but a highly readable account of Trump's recent global peregrinations. link to spiegel.de

  • Top 5 Questions about Kushner's back channel to Moscow
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/27/2017 at 6:13 am

      We can only speculate. Here's mine.

      Leak undoubtedly from the security services who seem to have become a fourth arm of government Why would they leak it? They're out to get Trump.

      Kislyak would only reveal the request that way under instructions from Moscow who could hardly have been in the dark about it. Why? Whether they aided his campaign or not he has proved less than useful, and since the growing anti Trump movements are gaining traction and pulling Russia into the mire it's a way to step back from the fray since requesting is one thing and granting quite another. Russia would never anyway have agreed to such a request.

      The request itself could have been more of a gesture. Trump may have thought doing everything to appear buddy buddy with Putin would strengthen his hand when it came to dealing with China which he was going on a lot about at the time.

      Trump may not have expected any quid pro quo, appearing to be that close to Putin would be enough.

      Feeding fake news to media is standard practice in modern political campaigning. Kushner was probably sending such stuff all over, and RT has a significant US following among the less cerebrally inert.

  • Pope to Trump: Climate Change is Real and we have to act in Solidarity
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/25/2017 at 10:52 am

      There is an attitude of mind that I began to notice changing sixty years ago, and over the intervening years it has become almost its direct opposite. In essence it is the principle of economy, it used to be a virtue and now it's almost a joke. One bought things to last and maintained and looked after them. I still wear suits, trousers and a couple of overcoats bought in the 70's. Kids' clothes were handed down from older to younger siblings, socks were darned; when I was first called up into the army in 1955 we were issued needles, thread, and buttons with which to keep our kit mended. We didn't throw away wrapping paper or string; I still can't. If you needed to buy something, you saved for it, you saved for marriage and a home. Things were only discarded after serious consideration and if they could not be put to further use, I suspect that may be the practical origin of the patchwork quilt. Although my childhood was passed in the war and its immediate aftermath, that was not the reason for such economies, people had always been economical, it was natural and in a sense virtuous, waste was sort of sinful, waste not, want not, was the oft repeated mantra. Looking back it seems to me such attitudes of mind and their resulting behaviour patterns need to be reinvigorated, and the concepts of 'want' and 'need' separated again; this is surely not impossible in the era of social media. By the way, even four years ago the UN estimated that a third of the world's food is wasted link to un.org . I really do believe that if we could rediscover the virtues of economy, the rest would follow.

  • Trump on Islam: Neo-Orientalism and anti-Shi'ism
    • On further reflection, it seems to me there could be something brewing behind the curtains here. We have this 'I am not your enemy' speech accompanied by a vast military deal ($350 billion over 10 years with 110 now) the elements of which the KSA cannot possibly need and which would under present economic circumstances seem to represent a level of irresponsible extravagance, all this woven along with aggressive demonisation of Iran, swiftly followed by similar levels of anti-Iran invective in Israel. Could Trump, in exchange for the arms deal, after all he's a deal maker, be winking the offer to let them attack Iran while he turns a blind eye, or even covers their backs? I wouldn't put it passed him.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/22/2017 at 7:11 am

      He could hardly have expounded such truths, even if he was aware of them. More likely he was just trying to appear amiable. He joined a ceremonial sword dance in the same spirit, think of it like his daughter's ditty for Xi Jinping.

  • Trump in Absolute Monarchy during Iran's Election
    • Surely Iranians don't have to be stuck in 1979 to chant ‘Death to America’ and demonize the US. What has the US done to Iran since 1979 to ameliorate Iranian attitudes? The US has consistently interfered in Iran for decades, demonising it, suborning its citizens, funding opposition groups, and threatening it with everything on the table. All that plus surviving memories of the assassination of Mossadegh, the bloody Shah, the Iraq war, sanctions, and unbridled support for Israel as it assassinates their scientists, and persecutes their Arab brethren while gorging on their land. Quite enough surely to justify some corresponding response, Iranians, after all, are not masochists. Correct me if I am wrong, but these Iranian outbursts are periodic and normally confined to certain anniversaries or particularly egregious US provocations, quite unlike the all but ceaseless venom sputtering in their direction from the US. I would suggest that negative Iranian attitudes towards the US are entirely responsive and would be reversible with a meaningful change in US. But such a change is not on the menu as the US particularly does not want a nation with such vibrant human potential and so prestigious a culture to stand up and be counted among the world's great powers; any more than it wants an independent Palestine blocking Israel's sun.

  • Trump calls Special Counsel a "Witch Hunt": But what is his relation to Russia?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/20/2017 at 7:04 am

      There's no reason why the US should regard Russia as an enemy unless as a threat to its global leadership aspiration. I call it an aspiration because it doesn't exist. If it did exist and the US was reacting to what would be rebellion, then in Machiavellian terms that would justify putting it down ruthlessly, but Russia, China, Iran etc. are phantom threats to a phantom dream. I imagine Trump didn't, maybe still doesn't, see Russia as an enemy. From outside the US media firewall this obsessive pursuit of potsherds of Russian influence in this or that aspect of US political life is largely viewed with wry amusement. US global leadership looked real once, but it was a cloud illusion now morphing into something else; while one can hold the old image in the mind's eye for a while as it fades, it cannot be called back.

      It's all very well rejoicing in 'values shared with Israel' but perhaps it's time to take a more realistic look at some of them.

  • GOP not the party of 'Security' as Intel Allies Flee Trump
    • If the media had ignored the incident none of this would have come out, no retirees dragged from their ease to pontificate, no endless speculations from soi-disant experts. Any damage, if there was any, could have been quietly handled in the background. Anyone with eyes half open already knew there was a potential threat from laptops on passenger flights, which had to have come from some source or other. A different order of damage is done to the US image by the media harping on in a transparent effort to further besmirch Trump. It's scarcely a wonder Erdogan et al prefer to keep a tight lid on them. The UK has what's called DSMA (Defence and Security Media Advisory) notices which indicate to editors the reason the government considers certain things best left unreported. The decision is then up to the Editor. It's a peculiarly British way of balancing a free press and the national interest that probably wouldn't work in the US where one imagines Editors scouring such notices for front page material.

  • "Can you believe the World we Live in?" Trump doesn't understand "Classified"
  • Is China Now the Adult in the Room? Xi and Macron Consult
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/15/2017 at 5:55 am

      Leadership of one would be macro dictatorship, two is inevitable confrontation, and more than three dissolves into factions. Three is best, and may be emerging from the mist?

    • You refer to the US 'returning to its leadership role' as if such a role were somehow US property or a divine entitlement. But it isn't. The role was self-awarded, flourished in a vacuum, and is now morphing into something to be shared with others. What distorts the process is the notion that China and Russia, for instance, are somehow bent on acquiring the role for themselves. This is unrealistic and unnecessarily combative when the world is crying out for cooperation. A dispassionate look at the disorder, and ecological and moral decay seeping into our lives from areas where the US seeks to maintain the trappings of that role should be enough to give us pause. There is no reason why Trump, Putin and Xi Jinping, or whoever sits on their seats, should not get together and devise a new age of global order. It wouldn't even be that difficult since initially it would be a question of agreeing what not to do, and only then what to undertake. Of course it would not be perfect, but it could hardly be worse than what we are stuck with today. The underlying reality is that this is occurring as an inexorable process, consider how it has evolved just over the last 50 years. The ancients attributed such a processes to Fate, and the thing about Fate is that while you may cooperate with her, resistance only leaves you battered and bleeding, and consider how much of the world is already in that state.

  • Russians Troll Trump, release Photos of Meeting
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/13/2017 at 7:27 am

      Human Rights is part of Western, and broader, ideology and remains so. I think Tillerson meant that it will no longer necessarily underlie US foreign policy. Since it never really did with any remarkable consistency it's perhaps more like a lady removing her make-up before getting down to business.

    • It is surely disingenuous to expect a Foreign Minister, particularly one with Lavrov's experience, to comment on Comey's firing. Further, the question was loaded since it more or less implied a connection between the firing and the investigation. Defining it as an internal matter is exactly what any experienced minister would do, and what the US always does when much more egregious issues are raised about actions in Israel, Turkey, etc.

      The second response about interference in US politics is sound advice. It cannot be helpful to promote the idea that Russia or any other nation can influence, and by extension determine, the result of the election. Even if Russia was somehow implicated in the release of DOC emails to Wikileaks there was no necessity for the media to make such a breakfast of them since they contained nothing of any great moment, and if the argument is that the purpose was to undermine confidence in US democracy, that it seems to me was done when the result of all those months of campaigning and expenditure of grotesque sums resulted in a choice between two such candidates.

      The comment about ideology is again a diplomatic way of saying that at least they are no longer subject to lectures about human rights and democracy. Tillerson himself the other day said they were giving up that particular ritual flagellation with a feather duster, which must indeed have been a great relief for everyone dealing with the US, making it possible as, Lavrov is quoted, ...to maintain a dialogue not as a means of demonstrating what they can achieve in the area of ideological preferences, but rather as a means of solving particular issues…

  • The Sadism of creeping Dictatorship
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/11/2017 at 10:54 am

      It looks like someone intellectually weak and with a short temper provoked by Comey's confident performance before Congress with its detailed, even colourful, account of his reasoning in the Clinton affair, a performance Trump couldn't match in a month of Sundays. I have faith the American constitution and people are strong enough to counter him move by move at home but his potentially destabilising impact internationally is deeply worrying, with first its threat of further overly assertive military adventures, and beyond that on the global economy where his brand of self-preserving financial finesse could do inestimable damage to whole nations and millions of Western people almost entirely dependant on stable supply infrastructures. It's a bit like watching a child carrying a cup of nitro.

  • Which Middle East Authoritarian Leader is Trump most Like?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/10/2017 at 11:13 am

      Netanyahu? They are all much of a muchness. Better perhaps to ask which is he least like.

      1600 Palestinian prisoners are well into their third week of hunger strike in Israel. Sad how little coverage it gets.

  • Uh, oh: French Left can't bring itself to Vote for Macron
    • Nicholas Wibberley 05/05/2017 at 8:54 am

      Just as was the case with Trump/Clinton, there are potentially influential elements that have little to do with traditional politics. Le Pen is under investigation for misuse of funds intended for paying administrative costs, similar to Fillon except that he supposedly misapplied French government funds which cuts deep, whereas in her case they are EU funds link to mediapart.fr , and 61% of the French view Brussels unfavourably link to ft.com . The media harping on this, and her father's employment of similar funds for the purchase of vintage wine and champagne, is a bit like attacking candidate Trump for minimising his tax burden which Instead of the expected shock horror reaction, evoked something closer to envy from many who would do the same if they had half a chance.

      Another is the anti-establishment sentiment expressed by Olivier Tonneau in the Guardian article.

      A few weeks before the election, something important happened that was largely unnoticed: an opinion poll showed that the main concern of the people was neither unemployment nor immigration, but the reform of state institutions (institutional issues are rarely brought up in polls). There is a deep resentment towards a state they perceive as oppressive, corrupt and violent.

      link to theguardian.com

      To the extent that there could well be Le Pen voters out there who regard their intentions as their own business the polls may have larger margins of error than normal. One thing I would bet on is that if Le pen does win, the public response will echo that of Trump in the US and within 100 days her popularity will fall to unprecedented levels.

  • Dear Marine Le Pen: Only a Fascist would Praise Colonialism . . . Oh Wait
  • For First Time, a US President backs a Fascist France
    • These are your definitions of fascism, fair enough, but others have different definitions, particularly those who have lived under its heel, and respected dictionaries like Merriam Webster.

      A way of organising a country in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of people and in which the people are not allowed to disagree with the government.

      The word itself is a 20th century construct derived from the Latin word fasces, the rods of authority born before Roman high officials

    • Le Pen's platform is scarcely fascist. It is more like France for the French and in that sense it is arguably more a preference for the local over the global, vide Brexit. Generally speaking the US does pretty much all the invading these days but has never itself been subject to invasion and occupation, or even the threat of it. Tides of armies from time immemorial have swept this way and that across the fields of France, pillaging, murdering, destroying. I have lived in the Limousin where most communities, even small villages, possess a well maintained monument to Les Déportés, those who were taken away by the Nazis and often never heard of again. Massive immigration or even the threat of it can awaken dark memories, particularly in rural areas where I understand Le Pen's support is strong. Fascism, first of all, involves dictatorship, and France is nowhere near such a thing. Fascist is a pejorative term, you can call her many uncomplimentary things and you can abjure her platform, as with Trump, but fascist is a word with a significance all its own in much of Europe. There is an unfortunate tendency these days to ignore cultural differences, seeing all the world as either in harmony with the US or alien in some deeply suspect way, that and attendant efforts to regularise the discrepancy is one reason for declining US popularity,and the perceived need to balance that with exhibitions of military might. As Kipling put it, The wildest dreams of Kew, are facts in Kathmandu.

  • ISIL Terror-Trolls French Election, Supporting far Right; Will French Fall for It?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/22/2017 at 9:29 am

      The French, like the English, are hesitant about foreigners collectively but can readily accept them individually. I doubt many entertain a meaningful association between immigration and terrorist acts which are largely a consequence of foreign policy decisions. It is the current level of immigration that is unnerving to many and would be so were there no terrorist acts. The French press uniformly condemns acts like this as have all the candidates in the campaign. To attempt to make political capital out of this act would be massively counterproductive. The French view is that there isn’t a religious problem, there is a problem linked to Islam but it has nothing to do with law-abiding Muslims, only with fundamentalism, and this is an attitude held by the vast majority, unlike the US where, correct me if I'm wrong, it is more of a minority view.

  • The Coming Muslim Century: Bad news for President Bannon
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/20/2017 at 11:17 am

      Christianity has become somewhat like the Roman religion in the period prior to Constantine, that is it has largely lost its true believers although many still subscribe to the formalities, attending baptisms, weddings and funerals with reverential faces, listening quietly to exhortations from the pulpit, and being relieved when the whole thing is over. My hunch is that as the percentage of Muslims rises for the reasons outlined here, it will be further increased by young white converts who will be attracted to the greater spiritual vigour of its rituals, and what will strike them as the absence of hypocrisy among its faithful.

  • As Leftist Turks Protest, Trump congratulates Erdogan on Authoritarian Turn
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/19/2017 at 3:23 am

      You think Turkey's internal political convulsions would be better served if the US provided millions of dollars, or sent in marines and Tomahawks to support one side or the other?

    • It's so much easier to define what democracy is not than what it is. Actions determined by a majority can only be meaningful with broad cultural accord and economic stability, else you get one group seeking to impose its notions on others which do not share them, and that leads to an aggravation of the differences beyond reason, as one sees perhaps in the bizarre intensity with which subjects like abortion, same sex marriage, and even transgender bathrooms can be in heady dispute. Turkey, like Iran and many other nations with traditional agricultural life in some areas and urban concentrations in others, is not suited to too much democracy, and works better with a leader who understands and can balance and accommodate the needs of all within a meaningful uniformity. In some cases this can be achieved by a respected monarchy that has undergone progressive modifications from being absolute to what it is today. The important lesson from history is that a nation's constitution, whatever it may, be needs regular adjustment to ensure it maintains the relationship it had to all citizens when they first brought it into being. Such adaptations are never achieved without a degree of disruption and often bloodshed as was the case in the English Civil war, French Revolution, and the Russian and Chinese revolutions, but if they come about intrinsically, as in those cases, they are far less destructive than when they are extrinsic. Not so long ago it took decades for extrinsic interference, such as Sykes Picot, to show its weaknesses, but today they unfold before our eyes in levels of disturbance and destruction that could never have occurred if left to work through by themselves. Oddly enough Turkey is being left alone and in time its disorders will either settle down or erupt some more which is deeply frustrating for many, but whatever happens will surely be less horrific than a Western alliance invasion.

  • In 3 months, Trump has Charged into 4 Mideast Wars, to no Avail
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/15/2017 at 7:48 am

      It's not just Trump. He may simply represent the unvarnished reality that Man is not a peaceable species. What is conceivable, however, is a degree of fluctuating equilibrium dominated by three spheres of influence. It is the background to Orwell's 1984 and makes sense because a situation where any two are able to combine to out face the third has inherent, though fluctuating, stability. Three can survive like that, whereas two will inevitably face off in a determination to reduce to one which could indeed be Armageddon. If such a arrangement does come about it will not be because people have sat down and decided upon it, but because evolving circumstances will lead inexorably towards it, and I suspect we may be living through precisely such circumstances; the spheres of influence are not yet fully defined but the basic tripartite structure could be forming. It's not a question of the US, Russia, and China, they may simply be like the grain of sand round which the pearl is formed. The alluring prospect of such an evolution is that the human survival instinct could become species rather than group driven.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/14/2017 at 9:03 am

      There's no reason to imagine this will be the end of it. The interviewee in the video talking of underground sites describes them as like 'where Iranians are developing nuclear weapons' and it passes unquestioned.

  • Can we survive simultaneous Trump, Ahmadinejad Presidencies?
    • I confess I somewhat miss Ahmadinejad's colourful Netanyahu challenging appearances at the UN General Assembly, specially that moment when the Israelis and others rose to their feet and waddled from the chamber like a line of penguins.

  • Russia's not Leaving: Syria is about old-Fashioned Sphere of Influence, not Oil
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/12/2017 at 5:39 am

      China would move to cover Russia if the situation looked like getting out of hand, and vice versa. The last thing either wants is to find itself face to face, one to one, with the US.

    • One tends to forget that the US and Russia have been pawing the ground either side of Syria for a long time. Wikileaks has pulled a 1986 memo from the recently declassified CIA documents which puts the present situation into a broader perspective. link to cia.gov . It's revealing how much has remained unchanged over the last 30 years. Trump, however, may break the mould since he appears to have no interest in diplomacy but simply seeks clear decks and peace and quiet to forge one to one trade deals, and while much of the diplomatic world is selecting its cutlery, he just uses he hands.

  • Al-Sadr: Russia, America and al-Assad should all get out of Syria!
    • There is a lot in there makes more sense than anything else on the table.

      “I find it fair that President Bashar al-Assad should tender his resignation and step down from power out of love for beloved Syria, so as to spare it the horrors of war and its domination by terrorists. He should give the reins of power to some popular and effective individuals who can stand against terrorism, so as to save Syrian territory as quickly as possible”.

      I've been reading about Manaf Tlass* who might be someone Assad could be persuaded to hand the reins to until something more lasting comes about. Such a solution could also serve to reduce general loss of face.

      * link to en.wikipedia.org

  • Trump intervenes in the Great Mideast Civil War in Syria
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/07/2017 at 6:22 am

      Comforting to have the spontaneous approval of such paragons of human rights as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. If Trump hoped the attack would serve to turn Syrian supporters of the regime against Assad he probably misjudged by 180 degrees. In a perverse way it could increase the risks to US citizens postulated by the Daesh spokesman on Tuesday by diminishing any semblance of order in favour of free for all. Russia might well respond by upping its provision to Syria of the S-300 defence system. As the dust settles the illegal unilateral nature of the attack will increasingly bother many outsiders, looking as it does so like Iraq all over again. It can't appeal to Congress to be sidelined in an area in which they should have been involved. It could also serve to ratchet up the relationship between China and Russia when Xi Jinping gets home. Not bad for a day's work.

  • Washington's Supreme Hypocrisy on Chemical Weapons and Civilian Deaths
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/06/2017 at 11:23 am

      The fact that hypocrisy, obfuscation, and outright lies abound in these situations surely means that all parties should reserve their accusations until a proper investigation can take place when the facts will no longer be subject to dispute. Taking that view, the most important thing right now must be to launch such an investigation, preferably under UN supervision. Accusations levelled without evidence have a shorter shelf life.

      Jerry Smith, the operations chief of the UN-led team that supervised the removal of Syria’s sarin stockpiles….said the recovery of samples would be pivotal to the investigation of the Idlib strike. “It is one of the most important things now to get biological samples, interviews and environmental samples, ideally from witnesses who can also give statements,” he said.

      link to theguardian.com

  • Has Trump deferred to Russia in Syria?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/03/2017 at 9:20 am

      The US desire to remove Assad has never had anything to do with eliminating Daesh, and attempts to combine them in a common purpose make both tasks all but impossible. One cannot accept that the demonisation of Assad derives solely from the offence his regime's approach to activist political opposition gives to US sensibilities. Suffice it to say that such methods are widely employed and ever have been. Those hostile to a regime, be it commonwealth or dictatorship, invite severe punishment or total elimination. That is and has always been the black and white of it, enshrined in Brutus' post-regicide condemnation of his sons. If a democracy overthrows a dictatorship then it will adopt that approach to any person or group that seeks to re-establish dictatorship, and vice versa for a dictatorship. Ignoring that is hypocritical, look at Egypt, and all those other States where the US turns a blind eye while reserving opprobrium for the Syrian regime. Trump, who lacks a capacity for perspective thought and its associated deceits (otherwise known as diplomacy) appears to see this intuitively. Many more cerebral analysts have reached the conclusion that Assad is more popular than the US etc. would like. To effect those purposes concealed behind the labarum of humanitarianism the US must eliminate Assad and manipulate a consequential election. I much doubt Putin has any particular personal affection for Assad but he works with him because he is the current legitimate president and he has the army. Had the majority of Syrian people really hated him, the population would have abandoned him for the rebel cause and so would the army, and he would be gone. Claiming he has lost his legitimacy is delusional nonsense, there is an age old distinction between an office and the behaviour of its current occupant. That is why Trump still gets up and retires as the US President. Putin's approach to Daesh is commonsense, and so is Trump's if this 'change' is real. In those terms it is perhaps a coincidence that Iran is largely in same line, but were a constitutional change unsympathetic to Iran's interests to be adopted that would become another matter.

  • Mosul: ISIL Deploys Ideological Booby Trap As It Retreats
    • Nicholas Wibberley 04/02/2017 at 7:31 am

      Safeguarding civilian life is considered a necessary guiding moral principle for any army. I would suggest that it has never been a consideration except for practical or PR reasons. Practical as in Wellington's invasion of Southern France when a prime consideration was to avoid alienating the general population as his army pursued Napoleon northwards. Today the like problem is civilian deaths supporting terrorist recruitment and individual acts of mayhem. PR is a relatively modern consideration and certainly didn't feature in WWII when civilian deaths were imposed precisely to bring populations to heel. Hiroshima? Defeated towns and cities were ever given over to rape and pillage, and survivors slaughtered or sold into slavery. Such accounts are part of our heritage, from Jericho, Troy to WWII and Hiroshima, Dubrovnik, and all those civilian deaths today in the Fertile Crescent. No, safeguarding civilian life may be a moral principle, but a 'guiding' one it is not. One may pretend it is, wish it was, or believe it should be. But it isn't.

  • Are Progressives Suffering from Trump Fatigue?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/30/2017 at 7:47 pm

      It may hurt even to entertain such a thought, but it seems to an outsider that Trump is a symptom of a much deeper malaise and if his lumpen activities serve to unite citizens to address that then he will have proved a timely wake-up call for the renewal of founding values.

  • Mosul: "Some" US Responsibility for Civilian deaths; but Iraqi PM lashes out at Critics
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/29/2017 at 6:14 am

      There can also be an area where responsibility is not quite Iraqi and not quite American, as when an Iraqi on the ground calls for US bombardment support from a distant contact point, which is what happened on March 14 when an Iraqi colonel anxious to get on to his objective 600 meters away called for such support to eliminate a machine gunner holding him up from the roof of a building which contained non combatants 26 of who were blasted away.

      link to juancole.com

  • True, Trump hasn't Criticized Putin for Navalny Arrest; but Navalny is more like Trump
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/27/2017 at 6:01 am

      To be fair, there is also 'welcome,' reserved for occasions when countries like Afghanistan or Iraq manage to cobble together a government.

    • ...there is no particular point in demanding that Trump swing around and blindly support Navalny just because he isn’t Putin. Not least perhaps because that sort of thing is what Putin is accused of doing in the US and elsewhere. Does Trump's silence really signal double standards? He may simply be disinterested in Russia's internal politics and consider that whether Medvedev and others are corrupt is not an issue on which the President of the US need have a public opinion since it is of no advantage or disadvantage to the US one way or another. Statements from the DOS seem picked out of a list from 'strongly condemn', through just 'condemn', and 'be concerned', on to 'find unhelpful'. Doubtless the same box which has other things like 'expressing condolences', 'thoughts (or prayers) going out', and 'praying for victims'. I once started to count the occurrence of these in one Press Briefing as the questions swept around the world but gave up when it got well passed twenty.

  • After Trump Massacres in Mosul, Campaign against ISIL Halted
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/26/2017 at 10:28 pm

      You are so right. Again and again, in an almost Newtonion Third Law manner, US actions result in a contrary reaction. The Brexit vote might very well have gone the other way but for Obama's arrogant threat to put the UK at the back of the queue for trade negotion. in Russian demonstrations on Sunday Alexei Navalny the opposition leader was arrested and the US government has called for his immediate release. Putin has a high popularity rating, not only in Russia, and such interference in Russian political life only hardens anti-American attitudes, making it more likely he will be re-elected next year

    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/26/2017 at 6:01 am

      This kind of warfare cultivates a deadening level of casualness. Mediapart had a man in Mosul on March 14 and he filed a detailed report of 26 deaths, mostly members of a family sheltering in their home in the Mahatta quarter of Mosul. Apparently Daesh had installed a man on the roof with a heavy PKC machine gun which was holding up a squad of the 2nd Division of the Iraqi Special Forces. The Iraqis tried to dislodge him but he drove them away. They then called a strike and a F16 bomber appeared followed by two immense explosions. That house was destroyed and the neighbouring one left just a hole. Survivors were evacuated by the Iraqi forces. There's no time to bury his dead they were told by a colonel, Omar Ali. "My men are only 600 meters from the Al-Nuri mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself a Caliph!”. The colonel martèle cette distance comme un mantra. The following day they returned and found seven more dead, including a small girl, with two broken legs and a badly wounded head, crying for her mother.

      link to mediapart.fr

  • Daesh/ISIL encouraging Loner attacks to Mask its Death Spiral
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/25/2017 at 4:14 pm

      The Pentagon was oñly necessary to complete his symbol; Wealth and War, twin sides of the one coin.

    • The Masood attack in London had no military implications at all and never actually threatened [British] national security. Neither did 9/11. Die Geister, die ich rief .

  • The Russian Job: The Plot Thickens
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/23/2017 at 10:48 am

      Devil's Advocate:

      You've got a guy who was lobbying for a Russian business man with ties to Putin eleven years ago and has undertaken various similar tasks since; obviously someone specialising in the sort of PR nation states and multinationals employ to promote or massage their image among US lawmakers and public, the sort of thing many nations do and which Israel has developed to a fine art. Is it so surprising that Manafort would know Trump or, since he did, that Trump would call on his expertise when faced with the unfamiliar demands of handling a presidential campaign?

      As for Putin's billionaire cronies, that's normal these days when the world is more or less run by billionaires who expect to exert influence. Look at those who support AIPAC. Russia, like most ancient nations, tends, after periods of social upheaval, to revert to a more or less familiar ruling structure; Putin a latter day Tsar, Sisi a Pharaoh, and Xi Jinping an Emperor. None have ever been poor, they couldn't do it if they were, nor is running a nation a task for a those of too fastidious financial integrity. Look at poor Obama, clean as a whistle and totally hopeless. I knew a young priest many years ago, Trevor his name, fastidious he was, wore a biretta. He was also a social worker and one day assigned a household about which his department had some concern. There he found a elderly man living alone in a house filled 3 to 4 feet high with old newspapers he had been collecting since the war, through which were only enough passages left to move about his business. Trevor was appalled, he gathered a group of well-wishers from his church and spent the weekend clearing and cleaning the old man's house. He was totally taken aback when he called a week later to find the old man stone dead in his unfamiliar surroundings.

      Is it yet clear that Putin had even the faintest influence on the US election, or that Trump ever sought such a thing?

  • It is Comey who should be Investigated
    • One may split hairs about this 'till the cows come home but she had done things with her communication arrangements which were felt to demand investigation. That's where it started. Until recently such lapses would likely pass unnoticed, or at any rate unregarded, but today with media and public sniffing sniffing all over like basset hounds, it behooves officials to be more careful, at any rate to keep ever in mind the 11th commandment, Thou shalt not get found out.

    • Wasn't Comey in a Catch 22 and whatever he did was going to look wrong to some. One distinction may have been that there was no question Clinton had used an unauthorised mail address and server so that was an unequivocal No No. He'd have been in even deeper water if he'd found serious security leaks later, particularly if he had found them on Weiner's machine after having told Congress all was clear. On the other hand Trump etc. might or might not have been in contact with Russian officials so there was really no reason to tell anyone...yet. Perhaps the answer is for officials in sensitive positions to go by the book in these matters.

  • Trump picks fights with US Allies: Germany, NATO, EU, Britain etc.
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/20/2017 at 5:57 am

      This is pure Machiavelli. I hadn't thought of him in terms of business but you are right. The curious thing is everyone knows this intuitively, just like The Art of War. Elliot said we can't take too much reality. Perhaps civilisation demands drawing a veil over such truths.

    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/19/2017 at 4:00 pm

      US European allies will stick around because the US keeps post-colonial nostalgia in play. Besides, alliances are entirely pragmatic and have nothing to do with affection or friendship, both of which, like any teetering Hollywood marriage, are inversely proportional to the intensity of their protestation.

  • Hawaii Judge: Trump's Muslim Ban 2.0 still Violates the Constitution
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/18/2017 at 8:27 am

      I apologize. It was 45/47 favorable/unfavorable

      Pence: 47%/35%
      Trump: 45%/47%
      GOP: 37%/48%
      Media: 37%/50%
      Dem Party: 36%/52%
      Hillary: 35%/55%
      Congress: 26%/52%

      link to nydailynews.com

      I still find it troubling for social order that he is viewed more favorably than anyone but Pence

    • One of the difficulties here is the effort to maintain utopian ideals at home while bombing peoples to smithereens abroad, and to seek to do so is a deceit which may stifle the truth but cannot alter the facts. It is not a peculiarly American or even modern deceit, it has been fundamental to the justifications for imperial expansion since the arrival of Christianity; Attila and his predecessors hadn't considered it necessary. Three days ago at 4pm in West Mosul 26 civilians lost their lives in a US bombardment pursued in the spirit of, “Advance at all costs”. I intend no value judgement by mentioning this but simply wish to point to the incompatibility of aspiring to one set of standards at home and their opposite abroad. At the DOS press briefing on Thursday, the Acting Spokesperson, Mark Toner, fielding a question on anticipated State Department cost cuts, in one of his less grammatically distinctive utterances, had this to say: ...as the Secretary absorbs that mandate from the President, he does so with the recognition that we’re going to be having less presence in future conflicts around the world, and acknowledges that that will cost less money. If that turns out to be true it could begin to change the perception Trump's supporters have of Arabs which is largely what feeds his efforts here.

    • I read that well over 40 percent support him, many more than oppose him. He railed against the Federal Judge's decision to howls of support. This phenomenon strikes me as more disturbing tnan the issue itself which one may assume is in the hands of the law.

  • Is Russia trying to take back over Libya from NATO, Radicals?
    • Nicholas Wibberley 03/14/2017 at 9:35 am

      It seems likely Russia will move into the Libyan mess since the problems in Syria are similar, similar at least in the sense that they are largely the product of the same historical and current Western imperial shenanigans. That area is a long way from the US and separated from it culturally, linguistically, morally, economically, socially, and in almost every conceivable way ordinary people seek to pursue their ordinary lives. There can be no morally viable reason for the US/West to have left such a swathe of devastation through the area unless one finds it in militarily establishing and maintaining subservient despotic rulers and 'spheres of influence' to guarantee access to natural resources. Establishing such arrangements post WWII was one thing, but maintaining them against popular demands arising from increasing literacy and the attendant urge to evolve socio-politically has proved too much; it completely defeated Obama whose efforts simply made matters worse. Socio-political evolution is never without bloody upheaval but it is able to resolve itself within national boundaries if left to do so. What we face now is a godawful mess which cries out for coherent stabilising intervention; enter Russia, stage right. What needs to be understood, however, is that whatever motives Russia may have are not the same as US motives which are similar in spirit and the absolute conviction of rightness, if not in content, to the evangelical motives of Philip II in 16th century Mexico, or even perhaps the convictions fueling USSR motives in the communist era. While Russia may act defensive/reactionary, as in Ukraine, they do not appear blatantly aggressive despite considerable orchestrated effort to make them look so. They can also be viewed as getting somewhere. As far as this particular area is concerned, Russia has reins on the Syrian regime and has even got the conflicting sides to one table, they are balancing the variable moods and interests of Turkey, and they have meaningful influence in Riyadh and Tel Aviv. If their stabilisation does prove to work in Syria, why not in Libya.

  • Do Syria's Kurds hold the Key to the future of the Middle East?
    • Apparently there exists a line of communication between the Syrian Kurds and Damascus, brokered by Russia, which is facilitating the flow of armoured trucks of supposedly humanitarian aid to the Syrian Kurds. The Kurds, the regime and Russia are all keen to prevent Turkey taking over Raqqa. The Kurds cannot be overly interested in making substantial sacrifices for an Arab town without seeing some benefit to their aspiration for federal entity. At the same time one imagines current US enthusiasm for them isn't likely to extend to aiding the emergence of such an entity after Raqqa, indeed they may reasonably expect to be abandoned by the US once their service is done and this may encourage them to look further to Russia which they know is keen to contain Turkey. It is clear that Russia's influence over the regime is pretty well unbounded and somewhere in there may be a way for the regime and the Syrian Kurds to reach agreement on a degree of federalism acceptable to both. That could make for a formidable alliance and tidy up a lot of this mess.

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