Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Korea: A Nobel for Trump?

April 18, 2018

by

ChristopherLee

http://www.foreignpolicy.org.uk

 

For those who said a meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un was straight out of the La La Land handbook of the pursuit of dreams, then maybe a re-read of the script is worth a while.

 

President Trump this morning Tweeted in his own La La manner that his CIA director Mike Pompeo was back in Washington after a trip to North Korea during Easter for a meeting with Kim Jong-un. The idea is to fix a summit meeting between Trump and Kim Jung-un, probably in June.

 

Why would the director CIA be used in this role? Answer: he is Mr Trump’s choice as his next Secretary of State, his foreign minister.

 

The published hope is to get some deal whereby the North Koreans will give up their nuclear weapons programme in return for a treaty officially ending the 1950-1953 war between North Korea supported by China and South Korea supported by a UN force led by the United States. When fighting stopped, an armistice was declared not an official end to the conflict. Under a new agreement, North Korea would expect sanctions against its economy to be lifted.

 

This sounds and is all too simple a way to resolve a 65 year-old strategic conundrum that could even now lead the world into nuclear war. A few months ago Trump and Kim Jong-un were openly insulting each other in some Mediaeval pre-war pageant. Trump was threatening to rain down fire and fury. Kim was telling the world Trump needed a brain fix. Today the two men are clearing the diaries for what would be one of the most significant political summits since Reagan met Gorbachev in 1986.

 

Given this importance, there’s more to it that time clear up a bit of history with a wrong ending and, it goes much wider than Trump doing business his way and Kim Jong-un wanted the status of an international leader with an arsenal of nuclear warheads. It is the story of three, not two ambitions. For Europeans keen to live in a world without black mushroom clouds, then the political tact of Moon Jae-in, the South Korean President should be understood.

 

Mr Moon is the person who has persuaded Kim to at least publicly murmur that getting rid of nuclear weapons is in the deck of negotiations the three leaders are now shuffling. Six months ago when North Korean were doing a missile or warhead test every couple of weeks, such language was unknown never mind expressed. Moon moved on the real politik. While most watched Washington and Pyongyang for signs of coming together, it was Moon who spotted hesitations and repeats of key words in statements and knew when to nudge the discussions into apparently harmless areas of agreement that a meeting might be possible. There is no point in a meeting unless agreement is possible, otherwise it is a major failure of diplomacy.

 

Moon became the arch diplomat in praise of famous men only. He said Trump deserved huge credit for almost everything. Mr Trump was pleased. He said Mr Kim was wise. Mr Kim was pleased. So this week the two Korean leaders meet for the next move towards a summit and the CIA director reports back to the Oval Office that everything looks in good-fix mode. June could be summit month.

 

Or could it? Kim Jong-un is likely to be playing a harder game. Above everything he wants to be treated with respect. He could blow the world in half and would be willing to do so his people in the alleys of South Korea say. Trump could fires someone and pull out of a summit on instinct. Moon could loose his own people in the dangerous political gambit he is playing. But if they pull this June meeting and with it the nuclear agreement and the distinction of affording respect then the most dangerous arc on the globe could become something quite different.

 

And here is something: if the trio hold this together, what’s the betting there’s a joint Nobel Peace Prize. Who would have thought that in January 2017.

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OK Mr Trump Bomb Syria – Then What?

April 12, 2018

Christopher Lee Says – wwwforeignpolicy.org.uk

13 April 2018

Why would President Trump risk starting WWIII because 50 people were killed in a place in Syria most of us had never heard of? The answer is because those men, women and children were killed, apparently, with chemicals.

About every couple of weeks half as many again Syrians – say 75 – are killed when a 500b bomb is dropped on them. Also, the bomb creates more chaos and maims more Syrians. The logical behaviour pattern of war is cock-eyed. Downing Street and the White House declare that the use of chemical weapons in Douma must not go unchallenged.

Chemical weapons kill far fewer than conventional ordnance. The arithmetic of war is unsound this week.

There is too a well-known wonkiness in Trump-speak when maybe emboldened by the consequences of the North Korean affair, he tells Russia and Syrian to look out — the smart missiles are on notice to go.

The rhetoric even winds up America’s allies. The British Prime Minister for example, immediately calls Washington and assures President Trump that she is making sure Britain is right behind him. Alongside rather than behind might be a better reassurance, but never mind. The mood is fine and Mrs May is reassured that the UK and not France is America’s Number One Ally.

More importantly, Mrs May’s reason for seemingly without any strategic military understanding of the consequences proposed by President Trump feels forced into an instant declaration of loyalty to Trump Cause because her single most important ambition is to guarantee special trade status with the USA after March next year. Who would have thought the deaths of 50 in Douma had a Brexit connection?

And then his generals go into the Oval Office and ask him what he plans to do when a miscalculation means one of those American smart missiles kills another 50 Syrians and perhaps does it again and again during the first night’s salvo.

Moreover, what will he do when Russians in an armoured vehicle or a command centre are blown away and Moscow presses the revenge button. And how many letters in his Tweet does he need to explain to even the people of Lake Wobegone Minnesota that rather than pulling out of the Middle East (as he promised two weeks back) America is now in a powerful war that can probably only end in America’s humiliation.

In other words, it’s not the shock’n’awe of the missile strikes but the what-happens-next that matters. Given that the chemical warfare inspectors are going into Syria this weekend an attack is unlikely during the coming 48 hours. Perhaps Trump’s generals can use the time to really get him to answer the question: Okay Mr President we can put 1200 missiles into Syrian by next Friday. But then what would you have us do? Time to Tweet a different crisis Mr Trump?

Could be, the generals might argue with spirit and could be that the Russians are already sending private signals to this end.

Last night, the emergency lines between Russian and American commands were switched on. There are there to avoid miscalculation. They do not always work. Fingers crossed.

 

Syria: Iran holds the answer, not Russia

April 11, 2017

Christopher Lee

London11 April 2017

The White House is confused about Syria. It does not know what it is supposed to think which, is a difficult position for President Trump having ordered the cruise missile strike.

It gives every indication that the President of the United States knows nothing about the Syria Situation and cannot measure up to being a real President – one at whom the buck stops. He can be briefed. But he does not understand power beyond running Trump Property Development.

Here then is a simple briefing for the man who has everything but displays nothing.

The Trump Administration (and it seems the British Foreign Office run by Boris Johnson also) believes that the way to fix Syria is to hammer the Russians and then bring them on board.

Wrong.

The people to be sorted are first the Iranians, then the Saudis. It is true that the Russians appear to be the muscle in President Assad’s punch against the rebels. But the real and long term allies are not the Russians. They could change sides any day. The real war chums are the Iranians.

The Iranians are Shias. Assad through his Alawite family are Shias. Iran is the proxy war fighter of the Middle East. Iran sees the battle with the rebels as a battle with Sunnis – therefore this is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia (Sunni ruled) and Iran.

So how do you fix it?

America has to deal with Iran by saying Assad can stay but must run elections with Iran providing security.

A deal has to be done with Russians to maintain its port, the only constant access it has in Med. That is not difficult. Apart from anything else militarily, satellites can have a permanent watch on the Russians alongside and produce on-the-hour Intelligence of capabilities.

Also, by leaving the Russians in Syrian (they were there anyway) America would be tacitly accept that the theatre map of today is the one to work. A treaty would be produced involving Gulf Council. Syria, Iran, Russia and US and it will reviewed in 2 years.

All sounds simple and of course it is not. It could take another couple of years to fix and the real hope of a solution – a palace revolution in Assad’s own house – has to be hoped for. It is the only chance of a long lasting peace.

There is one simple fact that fed to Mr Trump may give a thought to play with: he believes the sarin attack was bad news. Yes. But every day there is worse. Conventional weapons kill more and maim more than a chemical attack.

Last month the Syrian airforce dropped 495 barrel bombs and killed more Syrians doing so than died in the gas attack. Last year the Syrian airforce delivered 12,958 barrel bombs. Mr President ask why the US (and the rest of us) did nothing.

A Grotesque Trump:Will he take us to war?

November 9, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

9 November 2016

London

Is President Elect Trump as grotesque as he appeared to the rest of the world? So megalomanic that he could press The Button just to prove he could?

Before the pomp and ceremony let is not forget that Trump is still the man who called Hilary Clinton a crook and promised to have her jailed, who called US military losers, who made crude jokes about women, who said Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals.

Is that man also more than half of modern American?

We should answer these questions ourselves because almost all the experts got it so wrong.

When America votes for a President it votes on our behalf because we are tied into every issue faced by the White House. Trump is de facto President Elect of the the lot of us.

So what might he have in mind for us all?

Our first concern is security on its grandest scale. Mr Trump says NATO is a failure against modern security threats and that the majority of member states do not follow the 2pc of GDP defence budget guidelines. He is saying what most US Presidents have said since NATO was formed in April 1949. He is right. If an Alliance territory were to be threatened it would take ten to fourteen days to get a decision on what to do and even then any NATO decision would have to ratified by individual legislatures.

Promises of high ready state for 30 divisions is fine if you have the organisation to make it work and then command it.  NATO does not have that.  Score 1 for Trump.

Vladimir Putin? Mr Trump’s view is that you have to get along with Putin especially in the Middle East.  So watch for an easy photo-call after inauguration day on 20 January next year to say Trump & Putin have a plan to sort the remainder of ISIS. As for the situation in the Baltics? Not many Latvian votes anticipated in 2020 Presidential. Score 1 for Trump.

Big Business? Not surprisingly, Trump’s plans to scrap trade deals unfavourable to the US could have a longer term situation for the rest of the world. He will find that many of the trade deals he dislikes are so tied up that he is not going to get into them apart from a couple of headline incursions but none that will reduce, say, Chinese investments without which many US (and the rest of us) projects would sink.

The fact that stocks throughout the world fell on the news that he had won, can be dismissed.  Anyone with any money should buy all the stock they can today – at rock bottom prices.  By next week they will be where they were so profits all round and even bigger ones on the day after inauguration.

The are two truths to keep in mind: no US president since Lyndon Baines Johnson has made a huge difference to the way in which America is and its relations with its allies. The most important difference most presidents can attempt is the membership of America’s Supreme Court. That is the real guardian of American thought and persuasion and not the incumbent president.

The second truth is a reminder that in spite of headlines about the prospect of Trump’s finger on the nuclear button the Congress (now controlled by Republicans as will be the Supreme Court) can stop a president taking the US to war – and maybe therefore the rest of us.

Here is the warning: Congress has the authority.  The President Elect has just shown us all, including his own Republican Party who did not want him, that Trump does not do authority – other than his own.  A scary time to come especially from pundits who got it so wrong about Trump.

And the most scary question? What sort of America has voted for such a man?

Best go out and by some stock.

 

What Chance Russia & US Going To War Over Syria

October 10, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

New York

8 October 2016

Think about the scenario: Putin needs Assad to win his civil war otherwise Russia will be chased out of Syria. So Putin supports bombing easiest and most telling targets – Aleppo hospitals.

US with help from the UK and France says this Russian tactic amounts to war crimes.  Putin gets mad at that and calls off nuclear warhead agreements.

The next stage? America within the NATO system reinforces that area supporting the Baltic States.  Moscow says that amounts to provocation.  NATO says it amounts to a sensible precaution and shows its Baltic allies as well as Russia that it will not abandon its obligations in the region. In other words: come closer Russia and we will push you back.

The next stage (reached this week)? Russia moves an Iskander ballistic missile battery  with a kilotonage level nuclear warhead capability into Kaliningrad – that is, next to NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.  This, as it is supposed to, raises tensions among NATO states in the region who do not know what next to do and mostly want to do nothing.

Here in New York, to use the diplomatic jargon, Russians and Americans are not nibbling the same canapés.  The negotiations over Syrian peace possibilities are abandoned. Even the never ending margin meetings of low level diplomats are nothing more than individuals reporting back to the Lavrov and Kerry front offices on who is saying what in private.

There was a rare weekend meeting at the UN over the weekend.  The French (one of the five permanent members of the Security Council) tabled a motion to stop the Aleppo bombing and open a humanitarian aid corridor.  It would have gone through if it had not been for Russia.  The Russian delegation had instructions from Moscow to veto any cease fire resolution, whatever the motives. Russia vetoed.

The Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari got up to speak and in protest at the whole farrago the British permanent representative, Matthew Rycroft led a largely Western walk out.  Rycroft turned on the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and told him, thus Putin, that his veto was a death signature on Syrians in Aleppo.  Churkin did not even look uncomfortable.

Talk to diplomats who spend their lives at this level and they talk in whispers, not to be secretive but to reflect the seriousness facing governments seeking the wisdom for solutions rather than the distinctions of triumphalism.

They talk of miscalculation, not in the UN chamber, but on what could become a battlefield.  A Russian or American aircraft shot down when both aircrews fly with instruction not to back off. An artillery commander unsure of his own rules of engagement and so a calamity occurs, such as the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner.

There are two truths whispered in the UN corridors: the Russo-Syrian offensive will succeed without hindrance from the US because no President is likely to commit a military action just as the nation goes to vote and anyway, no Congress would support it.

Secondly, Putin’s shifting of the Iskander launchers into Kaliningrad will frighten most European members of NATO into taking no action.

They say here that Putin can no longer be stopped in his Tsarist ambitions to have the fear driven respect of all the so-called world leaders.

There is a third truth: tsarism, historically, was so very vulnerable to miscalculation. Putin on the edge could turn miscalculation into determination and yes that is when the extra step that Lavrov, Kerry and the Security Council try to avoid will lead to confrontation.  The weaponry of war is this week in place.  The diplomacy appears very fallible.

 

 

 

Christopher Lee

March 26, 2013

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CIA Controls Arms To Syria Rebels. A Very Dangerous Game For Team Obama

23 March 2013

Hear the one about President Obama not wanting to get too involved in the Syria thing? Good. Now try this: hear the one about President Obama being very much involved in the Syria thing like helping to move weapons into the rebels?

Cannot be true?  Why only last week the British Foreign Minister, William Hague who is almost on first names terms with the US Secretary of State John Kerry (Mr Kerry, to Hague) was putting it around that he was sad that an EU arms embargo was stopping right thinking people shifting weapons into rebel hands.

 

Seems Mr Kerry forgot to mention that the CIA has been directly involved in weapons airlifts along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar Saudi Arabia and US-UK fellow NATO ally Turkey.

 

Or maybe Mr Hague is not out of the loop. Some say that the UK call to arms is a political bluff.  They are involved already and want to get deeper into it for fear of being dumped into the second team of Saudi influence makers in the Middle East when the Syrian civil war cools.

 

According to people who know these things in this the Turkish capital, the CIA controlled airlifts started on January 3 last year but progress was slow and Obama did not want this blowing during his election campaign.  

 

That’s one of the reasons why the CIA’s role has been cautious having been told during the first few weeks of 2012 that the US was backing the rebels.  And it could be that the brains behind the US end was David Petraeus, former general, former director the CIA and presumably, former adulterer.

 

The main thrust of the operation was held back until Obama was into his second term because no one could guess what a Mitt Romney Republic Administration may have done.

As soon as the results were declared in November, the full arms transfer got under way. The main co-ordination and take-off/landing point is, so locals say, is the airport known as Esenboga not far from the Turkish capital, Ankara.

 

But if Turkish and Jordanian people are right, the command and control for the American operation is in Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar because that one of the main centres for US logistics in the Middle East.

 

It may be that the CIA is not doing the lifting and carrying of these weapons.

 

Instead, they are fixing people and contacts and making sure the plan flies.  There’s an irony.  It could be that the US is not actually supporting the rebels.  It is in practical terms America is instead supporting the Middle East states such as Saudi Arabia its closest ally in the region after Israel.

The US facilitation has included an important and necessary clandestine operation in Croatia which has become a weapons flea-market.  The American “officials” vet the buyers as well as the sellers and also tell the mostly Arab paymasters who among the rebels is a reliable ally in the future.

Mind you, this arms traffic – estimated to be in the thousands of tones so far –  is not one way.  Russian and Iranians arms people who are not natural allies have it seems become mainstream suppliers to the Syria government forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

 

There is growing pressure from the rebels to increase the flow through Turkey and through Jordan in support of the southern based groups. If there is an obvious reservation it is that providing humanitarian aid is one thing for Jordan and Turkey, acting as arms quartermasters is quite another and could lead them directly into the conflict.

 

The main and continuing concern is who gets the weapons.  The mainstream rebel groups are on side according to CIA officials.  But the headache is how to stop Islamist groups fighting among the rebels getting their hands on new equipment.

Here is one the reason – apart from instinctive duplicity – why the Chinese and Russians say it is wrong to arm the rebels: not everyone is sure who they are and who they represent and who they may represent in future.

Backing one side or the other is historically a risky and often a treacherous business.  But that is exactly the business the CIA and its cousins in this operation are in.