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Total number of comments: 60 (since 2013-11-28 15:55:15)

Shannon White

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  • Is Trump "Pro-Russian?" How will Russia Fare? Russians want to Know
    • In my opinion, Trump prides himself as a deal-maker. He would likely package recognition of the Crimean annexation in a deal where Russia returns Snowden and promises to cut off ties to the Donetsk region.

  • Bombing Iran: What would Happen if the Hawks got their Way?
    • True. I'll amend my comment:

      "currently heads the largest parliamentary bloc" --> "lead the largest parliamentary bloc after the last parliamentary election, though it was Maliki that ultimately that formed the government".

    • Any attack on Iran would have to be preceded by a leadership change in Iraq. Ayad Allawi, a former PM of Iraqi with American intelligence ties currently heads the largest parliamentary bloc, the Iraqi National List.


      As head of the largest parliamentary bloc it'd be possible to argue that he should be PM; he's Shia, so it'd be possible to argue the Shi'ites should support him; his coalition had Sunni members, so it'd be possible to argue that he's best positioned to bring about reconciliation; he's a former Iraqi PM, so it'd be possible to argue he has the necessary skills; he has previously decried Iranian influence, so it'd be possible to argue he has sufficient anti-Iran credentials.

      He's managed to keep his coalition together, now, for 10 years. Given he has no obvious source of revenue, one could speculate he's still on the CIA payroll, and maintains a large patronage network.


      Clearly, such a move would require massive US covert efforts and even more massive bribes.

      Given that Badr has traditionally gone with the winner, I suspect they could be bought off with particular ministries. But, would they stand still if the US subsequently attacked Iran? The same Iran that has such close ties to Badr? That seems to be a long shot. The Sadr army, however, has traditionally been averse towards any overt cooperation with the US or any collaboration with Allawi. Muqtada al Sadr would have to be assassinated and the organization would have to be violently suppressed. The Sadr army has grass roots support and suppressing it, while at the same time dealing with Daesh would be the major difficulty.

      It would be a risky move, but if successful, it would pave the way for a sustained bombing campaign of Iran. To be successful, Allawi would have to maintain proper lip service in support of US goals, and Allawi would have to use the necessary means to establish firm control of non-Daesh regions.

      The long-term consequences would likely be an ever more violent environment for the people living in the region and an increase in the possibility of another 911-style attack against the US. On the other hand, the US would have more control of world-wide oil production.

  • 5 Surprising Ways Iran is better than Israel
    • ">Tehran did not try to take and hold Iraqi territory in revenge.

      Didn't iran counter attack and seize parts of southern iraq"

      Was that a deliberate or mistaken statement on your part? You omit the first part of the quote. Mr. Cole says "But after the hostilities ended, Tehran did not try to take and hold Iraqi territory in revenge". That is inarguable. But by omitting the first part of the quote you make it look like Mr. Cole was saying something incorrect.

      Yes, Iran counter-attacked and seized some small parts of Iraq, but no, they did not try to hold on to those areas, post-conflict.

      Not that Iran has been a model of adherence to international norms, of course. The last 35 years are a consequence of their seizure of the American embassy and their personnel.

  • Williams Affair: Reagan and Bush Lied about Military Records but Get a Pass
    • I dunno, I always like to give a pass to those who ditched service during the Vietnam war. It was obvious to anyone at the time that the war served no national or moral purpose, that you could die serving no purpose, and finding any excuse to get out of the war was arguably the most moral decision.

      So Bush lied about whether he continued flying over Texas with the National Guard. Did that endanger the nation? Do you think it emboldened the Russian bomber command to consider a surprise nuclear strike on Texas? Did that change YOUR mind about whether to vote for him? Do you really think knowledge of that lie would have changed the mind of any voter? Do you really think that going awol SHOULD have disqualified him for public service?

      Honestly, as it became obvious to any draftee of the the American regime's predilection for aggressive wars of choice, it was only a smart thing to avoid service. And the powers that be in Washington, recognized that forcing people to fight their wars only INCREASED opposition. Hence the switch to the all-volunteer force. The US now has a motivated compliant military. In the days of forced service, the populace had more sympathy for those service people that became casualties. Now, they are more likely to think "they knew what they were getting into".

  • Ironies of Empire: US now Allied with Shiites Trained by Assassinated HIzbullah Leader
    • You'd think the Iraqi government would have learned from Libya. Western governments like the US and France routinely arm non-governmental militias. And just as routinely, at some future time those militias will turn on each other and the government. Of course, US and French officials should be brought to trial for arming these groups - that goes without saying. But it's no excuse for the Iraqi government to allow this arming to occur in the first place. What a mess the US and France created in Libya, and what a mess the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has created.

  • Yemen Civil War? Masses Rally in Capital & South Secedes
    • If the US does not intervene this could be a long protracted civil war between a couple violent forces. If the US does intervene this could be a permanent civil war between fragmented violent forces in a failed state.

  • Whatever Happened to besieged Kurdish City of Kobane, Syria?
    • "Turkey would not help because the YPG" Yeah, Turkey has much "better" relations with Iraqi Kurdistan. According to an article I read in CurrentHistory, link to, Iraqi Kurdistan depends on Turkey for exporting its oil, so Turkey can better exact desired behaviour from the peshmerga. One wonders whether the peshmerga have orders to expel any PKK they find in the Kobane area (pure speculation on my part). And what kind of relationship exists between the YPG and the peshmerga.

  • Iran's Rouhani & Direct Democracy: Wants Referendum to Sidestep Hardliners
    • I dunno, you seem to be blaming the American people. It's not their fault they're being subjected to the best funded propaganda system in history.

      I follow Cenk and the gang at TYT and know they're trying to get a constitutional congress together to introduce spending limits. That seems to be the best hope.

    • I think national referendums in the US would be subject to the same spending laws that subverted democracy in the first place. Referendums would be subject to massive propaganda engines.

      On the other hand, don't mean to be a wet blanket. Might work in the US. What are your thoughts about how this would circumvent the plutocracy?

  • Top 5 Planks of 2016 GOP Platform? Torture, War, Bank Corruption, Paid-For Elections
    • I think that the Democrats have an excellent chance to take back the government if those are the planks the GOP was to run upon. All those planks appeal to relatively narrow interests among the plutocracy. By running a platform that appeals to a broader spectrum of plutocrats, I think the Democrats have it.

  • Why the Founding Fathers thought banning Torture Foundational to the US Constitution
    • I'd be surprised if torture was not already used by the US outside of the so-called GWOT. The drug war has been the typical area of extension. I have no evidence, but there may be an opportunity for an intrepid investigator to make a name for his/herself by looking into that.

  • UN General Assembly Demands Israel Mothball its Nuclear Arsenal
    • Nope, Canada voted with the US link to

      The current Canadian admin is more pro-Israel than any US admin in my memory.

      link to

      This was the funniest/saddest line from the article:

      Canada also stood apart Monday from some major allies, the U.S. included, in refusing to condemn Israeli plans for new settlements in areas claimed by the Palestinians, only saying, "Unilateral actions on either side do not advance the peace process."

      When Israel finally annexes most of the West Bank, and expels non-Jewish inhabitants, they will see cheers from Canada.

      Canada is even introducing a law that will make it illegal to make positive observations of organizations like Hamas, Hezbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

      It's mostly a symptom of Canadian politics, where legislative and executive powers are typically concentrated in a single person (unlike the diffuse power structure of the States), the Prime Minister. The current PM, Stephen Harper, has many opinions but little knowledge of anything outside Canada-US. And he has become captive to the idea of Israel-as-eternal-victim. AKAIK, it has nothing to do with any personal corruption - just personal stupidity

  • Cairo Erupts as Mubarak, Adly Declared Innocent in Deaths of Protesters
    • "There is hardly any precedent for trying a former Head of State in a civilian court for actions carried out or contemplated as Head of State"

      Former leaders convicted for actions taken while they ruled:

      Minister-president of Norway: Vidkun Quisling
      President of Peru: Alberto Fujimori
      Dictator of Argentina: Jorge Rafael Videla
      President of Ecuador: Jamil Mahuad
      President of Dominican Republic: Salvador Jorge Blanco
      PM of Italy: Silvio Berlusconi
      President of Egypt: Mohammed Morsi
      PM of Georgia: Ivane Merabishvili
      PM of Ukraine: Yulia Tymoshenko
      President of South Korea: Chun Doo-hwan
      President of South Korea: Roh Tae-woo

      And that was me hardly trying.

      Like shooting fish in a barrel

  • Iran Leader Khamenei: We are not Opposed to Nuclear Talks, Will Accept Just Deal
    • I read a great WSJ article on the talks: link to i call it great because it actually details the bargaining positions of the various involved parties, that most news outlets omitted.

      And btw, it's nucular not nucearl ;-) But Nuc Earl sounds like a great tv series.

  • Top Five Washington Assumptions on Mideast that Are not True
    • I don't disagree about the morality of giving money to nasty people. But if you remove morality from the equation, well, is it wise to give money to corrupt dictators or ally with ultra-conservative absolute monarchs? In that case, it's debatable. However, maintaining hegemony in the Middle East is important to at least some of those backing the US government. As such, the alternative, disengagement is unlikely a good approach for maintaining hegemony.

      The economies of France and the UK are smaller than those of China or Germany, but France and UK have lots more pull in the Middle East than the latter because of their levels of engagement. What do the citizens of the UK or France gain from that engagement? It'd be difficult to argue that their benefit is anything but negative. However, the powers behind those governments certainly regard Middle East engagement as important.

      The US et al, that desire influence in the Middle East could attempt to do so within some sort of moral framework (whose moral framework, though?). I'd certainly be interested in seeing what that could look like. But I suspect that a truly moral framework would require war crime trials of American officials, reparations and disengagement. And that's no going to happen.

    • As for "The Importance of the Persian Gulf", I disagree. The Persian Gulf is vital to the US. The fact that the US maintains it's hand on the spigot gives it vital influence over Asian and European nations. Alliances with Japan, South Korea, and the Phillipines are predicated on US assurances that oil from the Persian Gulf will continue to flow and that in a dispute with China, the US will always be able to threaten such oil flow. Also, US control over the Persian Gulf gives it influence over world oil prices, vitally important to the US energy giants that own large numbers of US legislators.

      As for "Israel", I disagree. I see no evidence for the US preference for a 2-state solution. The legislative arm of the US government is strongly supportive of Netanyahu, and I suspect the only reason the executive arm still gives lip service to 2-state is to allow authoritarian US Arab allies to maintain close relations with the US. If the US executive indicated it preferred the Israeli policy of gradual take-over, the Jordanian, Gulf, and Egyptian governments would have no choice but to degrade their relations with the US or face street protests.

      As for the "The Presence of U.S. Forces", I disagree. The only thing that gives legitimacy to the US hegemony in the Middle East is it very real demonstrated ability to interfere militarily. The US continues to demonstrate this as they seek to deny oil production capabilities from Daesh (or whatever it's called).

      As for "Arab Allies", I disagree. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States have traditionally been very supportive of US oil policy. While other countries in the region steadily shift to Asia-centric import policies, Gulf States solidly import from the US. For example, while the non-oil exporter Yemen imports very little from the US, the US is first or runs a close second in all the Persian Gulf Arab countries. And let me tell ya, Kuwait is a way more valuable import partner than Yemen. As for Egypt, how has Egypt been non-valuable? The Egyptian officers control the government, and guess where they all got their training? And let's not forget the Suez canal, their part in the isolation of Hamas, and their maintenance of a demilitarized Sinai.

      As for "Terrorism", I agree. US hegemony over the Middle East comes with a price. The US hegemony creates powerful losers, and these losers may blame the visible US presence for their status as losers. And violent attacks on US civilians (i.e. terrorism) are the easiest way to affect US policy. By giving up hegemony, the US would certainly improve the security of its citizens. However, that would also lead to a reduction in US power. It is clear that the US power structure has determined that US citizens would have to become a lot more insecure before it would be worth reducing Middle East hegemony.

  • Why Israel Opposes a Final Nuclear Deal with Iran and What to Do About It
    • A lot of insights in that article. I never really thought about it but Israel is like the gold-digger man or woman that managed to get their wealthy spouse. But their life is filled with constant worry about getting tossed aside.

      Still the conclusion was chilling: to stop Israel from trouncing a deal with Iran, the US would have to let Israel have their way in the Occupied Territories. "any notion of further negotiations with the Palestinians, and the relaxation of economic pressures on Gaza, put into the deep freeze". I suppose that wouldn't be much of a change. Regardless, any future international pressure against the Israeli occupation will likely have to come from the Europeans.

  • Should Iran and the US accept a Good, but not perfect Nuclear Deal?
    • This article is a bit confusing: it indicates that Iran accept a compromise, but when it describes what Iran should accept, it describes no compromises. "a nuclear program in Iran and with Iranian personnel, short of the Bomb". But, Iran has never claimed rights to more than that. In fact, the article says "not require export of its enriched materials...for safe keeping", which is ironic, as Iran has at many points agreed to do that.

      I was a but confused by the segue into Russia's trustworthiness. It did not seem relevant to the compromises Iran must accept.

      Then there's what was not mentioned: what compromises must the US and Europe be willing to accept? None are indicated other than saying the agreement will not be considered "perfect by either Iran or the P5+1".

      I, myself, am worried about the distributed nature of US decision making. The old and new congress will both try to torpedo a deal. There are many laws in-place that require prosecution of firms that do business with Iran. If a foreign firm does business with the US, then it cannot do business with Iran. This agreement cannot do-away with those laws.

      In my opinion, these negotiations are all about the Europeans. The US managed to do the impossible in getting the sluggish Europe to impose stringent trade and banking restrictions on Iran. I assume it's Iran's goal is to get those lifted. Sure, the US will at sometime down the road probably again try to impose extraterritorial penalties on European firms that do business with Iran, but Europe will have the size and legal clout to resist those. Being able to do business with Europe would boost Iran's economy.

      It's my understanding that Obama will use his executive authority to lift some of the sanctions against Iran, but I assume Iran is realistic. Even if Obama can lift some sanctions it also means a future president, i.e. Ted Cruz, will be able to reimpose those sanctions.

  • American Weapons, provided to Syrian rebels, fall into Hands of al-Qaeda
    • Good reply, though i was willing to cut the guy some slack.

      By "spawning" al Qaeda, you could say that the massive 80s US intervention in Afghanistan created an environment that "spawned" al Qaeda. And by saying that the US "supports" al Qaeda he could mean that continuing US intervention throughout the ME creates a "supporting" environment, by continually renewing the pool of those who feel anger to the US. Also, by flooding the region in arms, the US is reducing the cost of second hand market arms, again indirectly "supporting" supposedly al Qaeda linked organizations like the Nusra Front.

      The US provides generous support to repressive, ultra-conservative, authoritarian Persian Gulf nations, and this cannot but "help" al Qaeda.

      On the other hand, the original poster was seeming to imply a direct link between the US and al Qaeda, and that is not supported by any evidence that I have seen.

    • But this was entirely predictable, If the arms aren't seized they'll be sold or bargained.

      At least consolidation of the rebel groups would give Assad someone to negotiate with. In the end, a negotiated settlement is probably the best for the Syrian people. Some sort of power sharing agreement between Assad and a consolidated rebel movement even under al Nusra is better than the alternative: massacre of the losers and their associated clans or endless war. Sure, living under an authoritarian theocratic regime would be terrible. But which would you prefer? Your sister only being able to leave the house covered head to toe, or your sister getting raped by marauding "Men with Guns".

      If the US wants to reduce the harm they do in the region (and I'd be naive to believe that that is their goal) they'd stop pumping arms into the region. Get the security council to bring real sanctions against Syria. Use the carrot of some sort of accommodation wrt to Ukraine to get Russia onside. Reassure Assad that his fate is left to the negotiations. Bring in UN observers.

      But securing oil wells in Iraq is the primary purpose of the US intervention, not peace in Syria.

      Incidently, I looked up al Nusra. Apparently, they've been designated a terrorist group. It mystifies me how this terrorist designation is supposed to be applied. Why do they get the terrorist designation, but other rebel groups in Syria do not? Because they call themselves al Qaeda?

  • US Dilemma in Syria: Moderate Stronghold Falls to al-Qaeda, Fighters desert to Extremists
    • More evidence that the US is not committing much in the way of resources to Syria. But that's not surprising. After all, Iraq is the one with the valuable minerals.

  • Turkey allows Kurdish Peshmerga to Cross to Kobane
    • "Meanwhile, on Tuesday the US subjected ISIL tanks and armored vehicles to aerial bombardment outside Kobane"

      Ramblings. It's odd that there are any ISIL vehicles remaining given US aerial assault capabilities. Possibilities:

      1 the US is allocating a relatively small amount of its air power to the Syrian theatre; or
      2 US aerial assault capabilities are greatly exaggerated; or
      3 ISIL is particularly skilled at concealing armoured vehicles; or
      4 the US is lying about attacking tanks and armoured vehicles, actually attacking infantry forces, because attacking armoured vehicles makes a better press release; or
      5 the US is lying about attacking at all, providing cover for aerial assaults by Persian Gulf countries who would otherwise want to remain anonymous.

      Useless ramblings, of course, but I want to know what's really going on down there.

  • Iraq: Is the Sunni-Shiite Slaughter at Jurf al-Sakhr really a US Victory?
    • Don't get me wrong. The American leadership should be at the ICC charged with crimes against humanity for their wars of aggression, torture regime, state terrorism, grand larceny, etc.

      That being said, if the Americans want to preserve or extend their influence over Middle East oil production, they're definitely taking the correct steps. In the grand scheme, the Americans want compliant controllers of Iraqi oil fields. In the near term it looks like Kurds and Shiites, with American assistance, will be able to capture the oil producing areas. As long as Sunnis remain a threat, the Kurdish and Shiite leadership will continue to rely on American assistance, and remain mostly compliant.

      It seems reasonable to assume that appearing to take the side of Shiites and Kurds will strengthen ISIL in Syria and Sunni Arab parts of Iraq. But, as long as those parts are denied oil revenue, it should be considered a success. It is true that this could result in a long drawn out war killing millions, it could result in expensive terrorist attacks on US mainland. However, those must be balanced against the plus to American credibility when it comes to ensuring compliant controllers of oil production.

      True, in the best of worlds, the US would like to have compliant governments in a stable Syria and Iraq. However, it should still be considered a success if Iraq and Syria are wracked by civil war as long as oil production is under compliant actor control.

  • The end of National Sovereignty in the Middle East? Iraqi Kurdistan sends troops into Syria
    • Sorry, but I think you misunderstood. There was never a question of the UN going into the African War and somehow taking a side. Once the sides wore themselves out, the UN was welcomed. The parties involved agreed to have the UN monitor the withdrawal of foreign troops. Subsequently, UN troops were used to monitor human rights, militias etc. The UN has been relatively successful in protecting civilians from militias and sometimes even taking on militias. They were able to do all this despite having limited air support, less than 25,000 soldiers drawn from a multitude of nations, without heavy equipment. It has been estimated 3,000,000 civilians (!) died in the Great African War.

      Fighting ISIS is a Western obsession. Again, using the lesson of the African War, trying to classify one side as the "bad guys" is naive. Although some parties in the African War were more vicious than others, viciousness knew no side. And MILLIONS died with barely a mention on your nightly news.

      The Syrian and Iraqi conflicts are civil wars. Civil wars are routinely vicious, with civilians being the major victims. There is little new in this conflict. In the last 25 years, there were vicious civil wars in Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied territories all claiming 10s of thousands of lives.

      There was an article in the Dec 2013 Current History called "Can Iraq Avoid a Civil War?" ISIS may have surprised the US admin and press, but it did not surprise experts on the region. ISIS is the culmination of Sunni resentment over being ruled by non-Sunnis. They are vicious, but the vicious tend to do well during civil conflicts.

      Remember the Khmer Rouge? Their viciousness was legendary, and their path to power was paved by foreign (US and Vietnamese) interference.

    • Sorry, hit "Post Comment" a bit early. Just wanted to add that a small UN force successfully oversaw the withdrawal of foreign troops from Congo, and to this day, the UN force has been relatively successful in bringing security to Eastern Congo. Maybe someday the UN can bring peace to the Middle East.

    • I agree. It reminds me of the so-called "Great African War" involving Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, etc and various militias in said countries.

      It would be interesting in using the progress and aftermath of that war as a possible future for the middle east. Congo is still weakly governed, and its resources were widely looted by militias and foreign soldiers.

  • $22 Billion to Fight ISIL in same Year Congress cut $8.7 bn in Food Stamps
    • The United States effectively has no limit on the amount of money that can be given to a congressperson or executive. Essentially, this legalized bribery gives the briber the privilege to demand a piece of the US treasury. In Egypt under Mubarak, it was friends and family of Mubarak that had the loot privileges. In the US, though, loot privileges are spread much wider to whatever corporation or oligarch is willing to spend the money,

      I read an article in Current History a while back which discussed corruption in China. It indicated that, in the absence of bureaucratic transparency, corruption was actually a way to introduce a degree of efficiency into government service delivery. In effect, it allowed those who most demonstrated a need (by spending the most on bribes) to get access to a limited service. I think this has a resonance with the American situation. Although legalized corruption hurts transparency and hurts efficiency via parasitic rent seekers, the market can establish prices to corruption, and more or less function as normal.

      On the other hand, those without the cash to demand a piece of the treasury, like food stamp recipients, will steadily lose access. At a certain point it will be like Egypt under Mubarak where only enough money will be spent on the poor to keep them from revolting. And as Mubarak demonstrated, knowing how much to spend can prove to be a bit problematic.

  • The Arab Political Crisis: It isn't a Matter of Civilization and it isn't Unique
    • Finland was a democracy before and after the war. I'm somewhat familiar with Mannerheim, and as far as I remember, his "dictatorship" was strictly during the war.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "moral equivalence" wrt Hungary and Czech. Equivalence to what?

      I'm not sure what about my statements you dispute either. And as for rascism, well maybe, but the US support of authoritarian regimes seemed to be cross-racial.

    • "What we think of democratic practices were imposed on Western Europe by the US." That's a bit of US boosterism. For 30 years after WWII the only democracies in Western Europe were those that were democracies BEFORE WWII, except for West Germany and Italy. i.e. the democracies of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France, Austria and Luxembourg were not imposed by the US. In fact, countries like Finland and Austria went forward with their democracies under the influence of the Soviet Union (not with Soviet encouragement, however). And, of course, Spain, Portugal and sometimes Greece were authoritarian AND allies of the US. And let's not forget that US allies during that period were far more likely to be authoritarian than democratic. From South Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Latin America, Iran, and Egypt, the US was hardly ever a friend of democracy. And one wonders, if Italy or West Germany had fallen to authoritarian governments in let's say 1965, what action would the US have taken?

  • Coalition Of One: Iran Leads Own Fight Against Islamic State
    • Hmmm, maybe it's not nice to question the qualifications of the guest author. I noticed he's with Radio Free Europe an organization overseen by the US government. Other than that, what are his qualifications?

      I only ask, because his analysis could be taken as a cover for propaganda.

      For example, he calls the US lead anti-ISIL an "alliance", and calls it "40-strong". Alliance is a too strong term to use for this coalition, and implies reciprocal promises, a formal declaration, and a defined purpose, none of which I have seen. And although Kerry has used the number 40, I've only seen 8 mentioned. And the link he included to support his assertion demonstrates that those 8 support the US only to varying degrees. So why does the author make such dubious claims in what is otherwise an informative article?

      Also, to imply that Iran is a coalition of one is a bit strange. At the very least they are in a coalition of 3, including Syria and most importantly IRAQ. If his article was propaganda I might think that his categorization was an attempt to make it look like Iran was isolated.

      And also inline with a propaganda piece, you seek to differentiate between us and them. In this article it's the US and its "alliance" on one side while on the other its Iran and its Iraqi militias. Any mention of Iraqi government members? al-Abadi? Sadr (a powerful but complicated figure due to his independence - neither an ally of Iran or al-Arabi)? Iraqi people's feelings on the matter?

      I know its a fallacy, but I might change my mind about the propaganda nature of this article if I find Recknagel has other credentials beyond RFE.

  • Shiite Militias of Iraq Reject US Return, Threaten to Attack US Forces
    • Surprise? All during the US occupation of Iraq, the Badr brigades (heavily backed by Iran) tacitly backed the Americans, and now just a day or two after Iran was excluded from ISIL talks, Badr is coming out opposed to US interference and opposed to Iranian exclusion.

      On the other hand, I'm surprised it took the Mahdi army this long to express their opposition to US interference.

      The US is using the new civil war in Iraq as an opportunity to expand US military influence in the region. Unless the US can mollify the Iraqi militias, what choices will the US have? Much of that comes down to al-Abadi's government.

      I'm assuming al-Abadi is receiving a lot of pressure from the US to give legitimacy to US involvement. I'm assuming the US is using the carrot of money and military success with the stick of instability and lack of money. If he attempts to say no to the US, though, the US has few recourses to force him to comply. Unless the US has been grooming Iraqi military officers its unlikely they could mount a coup. Would the US encourage Kurdish independence? No, that would lead to a split with important ally Turkey. What about funding a Shiite militia to oppose al-Abadi? I do not know of any militia the US could hope subvert is such a way. What about a Sunni militia, ex the Awakening militias? Possible, but they'd be nothing but spoilers, along the lines of the Nicaraguan contras, with no hope of seizing power. So really, al-Abadi, is currently in a powerful negotiating position with respect to American involvement.

      Given that al-Abadi is in a powerful situation vis-a-vis the Americans, the only question is what kind of danger does he face from the militias? Historically, the Mahdi militia is the only militia that actively opposed US involvement. But it looks like now across the board militias are rejecting a new occupation, i.e. the so-called boots on the ground. Hence, as long as al-Abadi can hide the US face on the conflict, he can likely keep the militias from opposition. And he has a carrot, too. The militias have been getting good press from their successes against ISIL. By fighting alongside US special forces and air force they can continue to get good press.

      But long term, al-Abadi or any other Iraqi leader faces the usual danger of cooperating with American interests. The US is only fighting in Iraq because of oil. As much a possible they want their dependents to be in control of the oil. So, in Iraq, the Americans will seek to instigate government changes, subvert the Iraqi military and militias along the 20th century Latin American lines, and expand their military presence. It will become increasingly difficult for al-Abadi to hide the US face on the conflict. And the US really has no reason to resolve the conflict. At some point al-Abadi will either have to accept the US face and use authoritarian techniques to control the people, or he will have to oppose American involvement and face replacement.

      If I had to make a prediction, I believe the Obama admin can maintain the low profile required to stay involved. But come Spring of 2017, with the change of president the balance will be lost. By Spring 2018, Iraq will be run by an authoritarian.

  • Obama & Cameron find little Enthusiasm at NATO for new Iraq War
    • Hah hah! After American aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ongoing American aggressive acts of war via drones and special forces around the globe and the world is expected to welcome American "assistance" against whomever they please in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. That the American press "misses" the irony is a triumph of propaganda.

      That being said, the foreign policy goal of any American administration is to maintain or increase hegemony over valuable regions. Syria, like Vietnam before it, is not a valuable region, but it lies in an important region. And intervening establishes the precedent that the US gets a say in any change of government in that valuable region. On the other hand, intervening on any large scale in Syria seems pointless since Iraq IS valuable and also provides the US an opportunity to establish the same precedent. Hence, it would be better for the US to limit Syrian intervention to running guns and drone strikes against whomever they please.

      As I said, Iraq IS valuable, and American intervention on a large scale is necessary to prevent any force in Iraq to gain the upper hand. Until, that is, a ruthless faction pledges itself to American puppetdom. Towards that goal, do their best to prevent the Iraqi government to get airplanes, arm the Peshmerga etc.

      As for international support, the US should look towards the GWB admin, and form a coalition of the willing to give them the fig leaf of legitimacy. American client regimes like Honduras, Columbia and Paraguay, insecure Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland and Estonia, and white English speaking nations should do the trick. Japan and the Phillipines should round it out.

  • Obama's budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
    • I remember another Cambodian hypocrisy: The Reagan admin diplomatically supported the unity government that included the genocidal Khmer Rouge in opposition to the Cambodian government installed by Vietnam. They supplied military materials to the OTHER opposition members with the caveat that they could not give their supplies to the Khmer Rouge. We know how that typically works in practice.

      In the long run, the cold war ended, the US, China, and Vietnam lost interest in Cambodia, and the UN stepped in to broker a peace process. The end result is a democracy-in-name-only with a government, the provenance of which is that originally installed by Vietnam.

      If the US took the Reagan approach to Syria, the US would construct a unity government that included ISIL in opposition to the Baath government. They would arm the opposition with the caveat that ISIL not get any, but, in practice, ISIL would get US weaponry. The hope being that the Assad government would be pushed into negotiations with the opposition that would eventually be a unity government that excludes ISIL. Then the US can fund this new democracy-in-name-only to go after ISIL.

      It would be a disaster for the Syrian people, radicalize many and perhaps lead to a 911-type disaster in the US. On the other hand, if successful would lead to an increase in US influence in the region.

      I'm not saying that's a great approach, I'm just saying it's an approach if the goal is an increase in US influence.

      Another solution may be a grand bargain with Russia, where Ukraine is pressured into giving autonomy to the Russian speaking Eastern regions, and Russia cuts off aid to the Baath regime. They could hand over Snowden, as well. That, too, could force Assad into negotiations. This solution has the downside that US influence is not necessarily increased as Russia gets a hand in the settlement, and countries become wary of looking to get their interests underwritten by US support. But getting Snowden would be a feather-in-the-cap for the current US admin.

      Neither solution is moral or ethical. 'Nuff said.

  • Stop Saying 'If X fired Rockets at U.S.': It's Racist, & assumes we're Colonial
    • What if LA was daily taking rocket fire from Tijuana? A Tijuana separated off from Mexico by US occupied territory. A Tijuana where any resident could be picked up at any time and taken away and put in prison without trial indefinitely at the whim of US authorities. A Tijuana, where US colonists have been settling on land confiscated from native Tijuanans, colonists living with the protection of the US military, not subject to Tijuanan law. A Tijuana, where leaving or arriving by boat is prevented by US authorities. A Tijuana, surrounded by barbed wire, where only subsistence supplies are allowed across by the US authorities, except for those brought in via secret tunnels to Mexico. A Tijuana where US air strikes are used to kill leaders, and suspected militants. And finally, a US where politicians/media pontificate about how deserving Tijuanans are of further depredations because of their rocket attacks.

  • Who are Iraq's Sunni Arabs and What did we Do to them?
  • Second Libyan Upheaval, this Time Against Political Islam, Extremist Militias
    • "The Libyans have an open rather than a closed future now... an open future is generally better than a closed one."

      That's a great statement. I always opposed the US invasion of Iraq, but invasion advocates could throw that statement at me. Iraq has an open future now. I'll have to think on that.

  • Bill Nye Science Guy to Debate GOP Rep Gohmert on Gravity
    • On a side thought, I have wondered why religious literalists have not come out against probability. After all, probability does not take into account the Will of god. The reliability of probability is contrary to the existence of an interventionist god.

  • The American Genocide Against Iraq: 4% of Population Dead as result of US sanctions, wars
    • Note that the authors indicated that the excess deaths is between 48,000 and 751,000 with 95% confidence. Also note that that does not mean that actual deaths is just as likely 400,000 as 48,000. It's a "bell curve" distribution, not a uniform distribution.

      I noticed that both their pre-war and wartime death rates were both significantly less than that calculated by the Lancet study.

  • US Protected Iraq at UN from Iranian Charges of Chemical Weapons Use
    • To quote Cenk Uyger, "it gets worse". Not only did the US do all that, but the CIA and State Department also saught to blame Iran for the Halabja attacks that killed upwards of 5,000 Kurdish civilians: link to Presumably, again, this was done to protect their "ally" Iraq from international censure.

  • Kerry signals US Intervention in Syria, but to What End?
    • It could be that the weak and contradictory reactions to previous gas attacks emboldened the regime to use gas again. Likely the regime was not looking to kill as many civilians as the did.

      That being said, I dread US involvement. For every Kosovo there's an Iraq, an Afghanistan, a Haiti, a Somalia, a Palestine, a Nicaragua, an El Salvador.

  • It's not about Democracy: Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid
  • Top 10 Reasons Americans should Dismiss Israel's Netanyahu on Attacking Iran
    • Western media always repeats the same mantra "The Israeli government has never confirmed nor denied that they possess nuclear weapons and will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Except that's not true. PM Olmert, while PM, did, in fact, confirm that Israel possessed nuclear weapons. He later retracted it, but, unless he's stupid or a liar (and he was a bit of both :), what's said is said.

  • Obama should Resist the Clintons & Europe on Syria
    • Hmmm, I didn't even mention the USA, so I'm not sure why you are bringing them into the picture. I guess maybe my oblique "They" may have confused you. And Mr. Cole's article was around the topic of American arming of rebels.

      That being said, I'm advocating that the international community learn from the Latin American successful conflict resolutions and try to apply them to Syria. Latin America is much more peaceful than it was in the 1980s, and I think it would be foolish to ignore how the transition was made.

    • Maybe they could adopt a model from Latin America. In 1992, after a 10 year civil war, the UN brokered a ceasefire in El Salvador. Neither side "won". Part of the peace agreement was a huge reduction in the size of the military, a general disarming of militias and rebels, and UN monitoring of free and fair elections. The UN monitored the agreement for years, and the country never re-entered civil war.

      Around the same time, a similar agreement was brokered successfully in Nicaragua.

      And today, ongoing talks between the Colombian government and rebels focuses on a political settlement rather than on one side destroying the other.

      And think back to 1992. The FMLN and military were fighting dirty up to the day of the ceasefire. It looked impossible. It looked bleak. But it worked.

  • In Race against Carbon Catastrophe, Solar Power is Making Strides
    • If the cost of renewables can be pushed below that of the fossil fuels, then that will create a disincentive to use fossils. At that point, expensive fossil fuel production will cease and cheaper coal and oil production will likely be requiring huge subsidies to stay profitable. At that time, renewable energy funded lobby groups can be relied upon to push for the end to those subsidies as it will be a form of unfair competition that cuts into their profits. Also, at that time, environmental lobby groups will be able to get laws pushed through banning dirty forms of fossil fuel production, as there will be less entrenched political interests backing those forms. Even if those forms of production later become profitable, laws will act as a brake on their use.

      But the key is that renewables need to become cheap and profitable.

  • Are Egyptians voting Ideologically?
    • I always figured the reason they went with the Muslim Brotherhood is to reward the MB for the years of effort they made trying to confront the Mubarak regime, which they did mostly peacefully since the mid-80s. They played the Mubarak election game, putting up with thousands of arrests, and unfair electoral rules. One could argue that it was the complete exclusion of the MB from parliament in 2010 that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

  • Syrian Civil War Kills 160, Spills over onto Lebanon, Turkey; Will US Intervene?
    • I suppose I won't be the first to suggest this, but if the US wanted to intervene, the infringement of the Turkish border would be a good casus belli. Turkey is a NATO member, and NATO members must defend any member state under attack by a non-NATO force. Granted, Turkey must ask for help.

  • Perry talks Crazy about Turkey, but is Par for GOP Course
    • From what I understand, the American system has changed recently to allow unlimited money to support candidates and political positions.

      Sorry to sound apocalyptic, but, in my opinion, allowing unlimited money will fundamentally alter the political landscape of the United States. Discourse will be narrowed to the interests of billionaires. The only MSM public debate will be trivial topics not of interest to billionaires, or debates between billionaires.

      On the bright side, I see real business opportunities in election consulting. With the large amount of money available to influence elections, there are needs for professional campaigners and propagandists to ensure that money is efficiently spent. I predict that by 2015, electioneering companies will be the rising stars of the corporate world, and the last of any independent-minded politicians will be gone.

  • Map of countries US/Israel have bombed or in which US has bases
  • Million-Person Marches and the Army Backs Off
    • Here's a youtube video from Fox:

      link to

      My only point with the video is that the anchor calls the demonstrators, demonstrators, seems to be thoroughly reasonable, and the middle east expert guest seems to be fairly knowledgeable.

      Typically, the "news" part of Fox News is passable. It's the shows hosted by pundits where Fox News gets its reputation for bias.

  • Egypt: Israel's Nukes Destabilizing to Region (Wikileaks)

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