Diplomacy For Peace Or Preparations For War?

Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

After a series of high-level meetings between officials from Seoul and Pyongyang, the proposal for a face-to-face meeting between the American and North Korean leaders appeared before President Trump, who without much hesitation accepted, upsetting the last 50 years of relations between the countries.

Donald Trump tweeted:

“Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”

In the blink of an eye, fifty years of international relations were overturned in a tweet.

Skillful South Korean diplomacy had also been working towards this end for months. The meetings at the Olympics between Korean diplomats, and in general the good relations between the two countries, have facilitated a thawing of tensions, leading to dialogue that has come after months of insults and threats being thrown between Washington and Pyongyang.

The next move in the White House saw the dismissal of Rex Tillerson, with Mike Pompeo replacing him as Secretary of State. And National Security Advisor H.R McMaster was shown the door in what looks like a big shake-up within the White House, with two central matters looming in the coming months and years for the Trump presidency. The American president is focused on creating his legacy, seeking to eclipse that of his predecessors by achieving a peace agreement and trying to avoid a foreign country. The backdrop for these events is a weak American foreign policy exacerbated by the absence of strategic military planning, and a president who has the constant need to give the impression of being strong, in control, esteemed by his colleagues, and not in conflict with a portion of Washington’s security establishment.

Trump’s intention to seek political agreements with his opponents is offset by his inflammatory “fire and fury” statements and his shameful speech to the United Nations threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea (as the Americans already did in the Korean War during the 1950s). In line with this schizophrenic attitude, Tillerson has been removed from office to send two very important messages to Pyongyang and Tehran. If diplomacy fails, the military option remains on the table.

This military threat, however, is unrealistic if not unattainable, and its consequences unforeseeable. It is strongly opposed by many in Washington as well as by its allies and enemies. Trump, however, loves employing bombastic rhetoric and brinkmanship to reinforce the idea that even the unthinkable may be thinkable. Given the image that he has built in recent months, this madman strategy seems to dovetail with the strategic intentions of the White House.

The idea is to present Pyongyang with two options: a diplomatic opening and relative trust in negotiations, but at the same time leaving open the option of war if diplomacy fails. Kim for his part is certainly more rational and grounded in his actions than Trump. His father tried negotiating with Washington a couple of decades ago, only to see the United States allowing it to fail, thus forcing Kim Jong-un to embrace the only possible solution left to him to ensure survival of his country, namely nuclear weapons as a deterrent. While the sanctions and international isolation visited on the DPRK have played a role in bringing Pyongyang to the negotiating table, the acquisition of a credible nuclear deterrent has served to reassure Kim Jong-un, while also strengthening his negotiating hand vis-a-vis Washington.

As evidence of this theory, the proposal for a face-to-face meeting was put to the United States by South Korea, with Kim presumably assenting, even if Pyongyang has yet to respond. But the move is shrewd, showcasing the diplomatic skills of the North Koreans. If Washington were to sabotage the meeting, the blame would fall entirely on the United States, with Pyongyang being left off the hook as they are yet to accept.

There are big question marks over the topic of discussion and over what agreements can be reached in the first meeting.

Certain hypotheses can be made, and other requests can already be excluded.

For example, it is practically impossible for the peninsula to find itself free from the American presence. The United States is stationed in Korea especially to contain China and increase pressure around Russia, placing ABM systems that threaten the Sino-Russian nuclear deterrent. For the US the issue is much more than simply opposing a country like Pyongyang. The THAAD system is in fact directed at China and Russia, while it has little operational effectiveness against any missiles launched from North Korea.

The other hypothesis, currently unattainable, concerns the dismantling of Korean nuclear weapons. The request is impossible without an all-encompassing agreement that would see the the US relinquishing its presence on the peninsula. The argument plays in North Korea’s favor, because here is Pyongyang contemplating the abandonment of its nuclear weapons, while Washington refused to entertain any thought of abandoning its military position on the peninsula.

Realistically, an intense dialogue could put a halt to provocative exercises by South Korea and the United States, as well as halt Pyongyang’s testing of new nuclear-capable missiles. This would then open the way for a continuation of direct negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang while also allowing for the inclusion of other regional actors, namely, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

It would effectively be a return to the six-party negotiations, which for over a decade attempted to accommodate the concerns of all the parties in an effort to reach a peace deal.

Trump and Kim’s unpredictability could bring new twists and turns that further buck the norms and conventions governing international relations. This scenario is certainly dangerous, but it is also full of possibilities. The personalities of these two leaders could be what will ultimately make the difference.

Caught On Camera: Israel Targets Civilians With A Chemical Weapon Drone

For the first time, Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV released new dramatic footage showing Israeli forces using a weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) against a Hamas rally in the Gaza Strip, according to the Times of Israel.

The short video clip published by Al-Mayadeen shows a weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) targeting demonstrations in the southern Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The UAV is seen flying through the skies above hundreds of protestors, while operators of the aircraft drop chemical weapons into the crowd. The Times of Israel states that the UAV released tear gas, formally known as a lachrymator agent, which causes severe eye and respiratory pain, skin inflammation, bleeding, and even blindness.

The intense footage could provide us with the early knowledge that governments are willing to use high-tech military technology against civilians in a non-combat environment…

Israeli Border Police Deputy Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, the government official behind the deployment of the weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), told Hadashot TV news that the tear gas drone provides security forces with an extended range to hurl chemical weapons at protestors.

“Beyond the fact that this equipment neutralizes any danger to the troops, it enables reaching places that until now we could not get to,” Shabtai told Hadashot TV news.

The weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) “can carry up to six canisters at a time, and drop them individually, as clusters, or all at the same time,” said the Times of Israel.

The Israeli-based online newspaper did not provide the manufacture’s name of the UAV, but it is rumored that ISPRA Ltd in Herzelya, Israel, is the developer of the drone, dubbed Cyclone Riot Control Drone System.

ISPRA’s Anti Riot Drone provides law enforcement units with an extremely large range mode of work, enabling them to react against rioters and demonstrators at an early stage of the event, at a distance while avoiding direct confrontation with rioters. This unique and innovative solution, developed by Ispra, allows law enforcement units to react when a barrier or obstacle is separating between the parties. With several drones, a continuous presence over the rioters can be maintained, dispersing non-lethal ammunition and providing commanders with real-time video image of the situation on the ground.  

Developers of ISPRA present a short informational video of how the chemical weapon drone works.

The Times of Israel adds that Israeli officials are preparing for months of border protests, which will lead to a large demonstration on May 15. According to an Israeli TV report, Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization, has budgeted $10 million to fund the upcoming protests.

“We want to frighten the Israelis with the images of massive crowds of people who peaceably gather and sit close to the border,” Hamas spokesman Ahmed Abu Retaima recently told Bloomberg.

Retaima added, “We are working to bring out more than 100,000 people for the march.”

Meanwhile, Sputnik news agency states that Israel did not sign the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which enables the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to legally deploy chemical weapons such as tear gas against civilians.

“The use of tear gas in quelling civil disturbances is legal; however, the use of tear gas in warfare was banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, to which Israel was not a signatory, but has acceded.”

Israel’s decision blend high-tech drone technology coupled with chemical weapons against civilians paints a turbulent outlook for spring uprisings in the region. Nevertheless, please do not mention this technology to the countless militarized police forces across the United States; otherwise, this dystopian technology is coming to a town near you.

The Death Of Democracy

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com,

Anyone who thinks democracy doesn’t matter may be in for a rude shock later this year, when we know the result of America’s mid-term elections. The Deep State is on course to take control of Congress. If this happens, it will be the next step in a global trend of side-lining democracy in the West, driven in large part by American foreign policy. It has led to governments everywhere increasing control over their people, in an inversion of democratic principles.

It affects us all. Since the Twin Towers tragedy, American foreign policy has taken the lead in extending personal surveillance to every nation in the formerly free world. It has forced banks to divulge their customers’ private affairs in the name of preventing terrorism, crime and tax evasion. Governments that resist these moves have been destabilised, and independent agencies, such as the SWIFT banking system, have been forced to implement America’s foreign policy.

All countries have been made to go along with America’s imperatives, admittedly often willingly. Swiss banking confidentiality no longer exists, and over one hundred countries automatically swap financial information on their citizens and their businesses. The Americans routinely spy on their allies, as Mrs Merkel found out in 2015.

The erosion of democracy in America is a problem that was anticipated in its founding constitution. The rights enshrined in it are there to protect the individual from the Federal Government, yet the Federal Government chips away at those rights, as the founding fathers doubtless feared it would. The right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment, always a contentious issue, was framed by James Madison so that a local militia would be able to repel a standing [Federal] army. Americans still have the right to bear arms, due to the efforts of the National Rifle Association, but as the Bundy family discovered in Nevada, don’t expect the Federal government to respect your constitutional rights.

Few people think of freedom in these terms today, but a further erosion of democracy is an urgent issue facing American voters in November. It appears that a large number of former and current military and intelligence operatives are seeking nomination as Democrats for the 2018 mid-term elections. And if the Democrats succeed in getting a majority in the House of Representatives, which is the current prediction, they could comprise as much as half of the new members, in effect controlling Congress by holding the balance of power.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified 102 seats as “competitive” in its red-to-blue campaign programme. Eighty of these seats are vulnerable Republicans, and 22 are seats where the incumbent is retiring. 57 of the 221 candidates standing for the Democratic nomination in these 102 districts are current or past agents of the military-intelligence complex. And of those 102 districts, 44 have one of these candidates, 11 have two, and one has three. Furthermore, there are indications that the financial backers of the Democratic Party are supporting this influx of intelligence operatives, and that they are well-funded.

Why should we worry?

These candidates either represent or have strong links with the military-intelligence complex. This complex, the Deep State, has already regained a high degree of influence over the White House following the last Presidential election, to the point where it now appears to have gained control over foreign policy.

It also dictates homeland security. Unsatisfied with the degree of control it has over the White House, the Deep State now appears to be seeking to control Congress as well, by having politicians in its pocket on both sides of the House, thereby holding the balance of votes.

While the military-intelligence complex has had a tight grip on America’s foreign policy for some time, this is a new development. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the leading candidates for the Presidency, the CIA appears to have been managing the democratic process for decades, so that their preferred candidate wins. First, there was Papa Bush, ex-Director of the CIA. He was followed by Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas, where it has been alleged the CIA used Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport as a drop point for secret operations. Whether this was true or not, Clinton was followed by Bush Junior, when 9/11 became the justification for the second Iraq invasion. And there can be little doubt Obama quickly toed the CIA line with the appointment of a compliant Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Following Obama, who was little more than a puppet president, Hillary was the anointed one, but then the voters rebelled and elected The Donald instead.

There can be no doubt that the chaos in the White House since Trump’s victory has reflected a fight behind the scenes for control of foreign policy, homeland security and military spending. It has been about the CIA’s ultimately successful attempts to ensure Trump backtracked on relevant electoral promises and complies with its own agenda. So far, Trump has backed down on Russia, North Korea, Iran and on military spending, suggesting he is well on the way to becoming the Deep State’s lackey. It now seems the CIA wants to control the balance of power in Congress.

This should be deeply troubling for Americans looking to draw a line under the erosion of their democracy. The US is already on its way to becoming a hidden dictatorship, where even the President is a captive of an unelected secret agency pursuing its own belligerent agenda. America’s allies should also be worried about taking direction from America’s intelligence community, no longer pursuing a balanced diplomatic itinerary, but one of geopolitical warmongering.

Seeking to control Congress is a logical extension of pre-existing Deep State policies. We have gone from the invention of weapons of mass destruction as an excuse to topple Saddam Hussein, to false-flag operations and other wars in the Middle East and Eurasia. And how much of the current anti-Russia rhetoric is concocted by American intelligence agencies, we may never know, but given the intelligence services’ stock in trade is disinformation and propaganda, it is hard to believe indisputable facts are involved.

There can be little doubt that moving missile systems towards Russia’s borders in the years after the collapse of the old Soviet Union has ensured America would continue to be seen by the Russians as an aggressor. The better, more democratic course, would have been to open borders to trade and cultural influence. And who knows, the need for a nationalistic strong man may not have arisen and Putin, if he continued in power in these altered circumstances, might be behaving very differently. But that would have meant the intelligence-military complex would have no purpose, beyond America’s diminishing domestic security.

Money is the root of this evil

For a long time, the senior operators at the top of the CIA must have felt that they are the masters of the human race. Regimes came and went at the CIA’s behest, but the CIA carried on regardless. To maintain this power, at a time when China and Russia are emerging as the powerhouses of Asia, requires more money, and lots of it. Money to bribe and subsidise foreign states: China is now the greatest source of funds for the world’s independent regimes. Money for technology and hardware: Russia’s military technology and missile capability is now potentially more advanced than America’s.

Therefore, the Deep State has a looming funding problem if it is to keep up with Russia and China on its accustomed terms. Government military funding is by means of the discretionary spending allocation that is set by Congress through the annual appropriations process. As well as that, there’s a classified amount allocated for the main intelligence departments, including the CIA. Taken together, Department of Defense and Overseas Contingency Operations, which includes funding wars on foreign soil, are budgeted at $886bn for 2019, a minor increase over 2018.

These amounts will have to be increased significantly for 2020, if the Deep State is to pursue its objectives. President Trump is now onside, but Congress will need to be compliant in order to ensure the funds required will be available. That appears to be the explanation why the Deep State is seeking to take control of Capitol Hill.

This will take the geopolitical conflict with China and Russia to a new level. Their own intelligence services will almost certainly be fully aware of the American Deep State’s congressional manoeuvres. It might explain the timing of Russia’s pre-emptive announcement, that it has missiles capable of delivering a punch at Mach 20. It might also explain China’s recent announcement of its intention to increase military spending, even though the timing is likely to have been set by the recent National Peoples’ Congress.

If the US military-intelligence complex manages to pack out Congress, it will be the killer blow for any democracy remaining in America. It will clear the field for a secret state organisation, which has shown little or no regard for human life and the rule of law, to accelerate its warlike agenda. It will have unfettered access to the national finances to accelerate its programme of global aggression, and damn the consequences for anyone else.

The stakes could hardly be higher.