Overdue Western Media Editorials on Yemen, Biden Pledges $335 Million for Ukraine Military
Next Cold War Roundup 4/1/16
Long overdue editorials from the New York Times, Guardian and widespread western media coverage of the war and suffering in Yemen. Battles continue there and US airstrikes on al Qaeda’s expansion of territory in southern Yemen. VP Biden promised $335 million for Ukraine’s military at a meeting with Pres. Poroshenko in Washington. US troops will soon be based on Russian borders and the Pentagon is preparing for more troop deployment in northern Iraq. Refugees are set to be returned to Turkey as part of EU deal and Amnesty International says Turkey is pushing Syrian refugees back into war zones, media reports of border guards shooting refugees. More information is coming out about how ISIS smuggled oil and antiquities. Sanctions were renewed on Libyan institutions until the UN-appointed unity government is allowed to take charge. EU levied sanctions on current Libyan government leaders.
Yemen: Battles in Midi District, US Airstrikes in
_ Over the past week, troops Saudi coalition troops attempted to cross into the Midi District and were stopped by Houthi forces who killed more than 450, including 50 on Thursday. Saudi state television reported 65 casualties during the past week “with most of the dead being Hadi loyalists.” No Houthi casualties were reported. The attempts to enter the Midi district are part of a “recent coalition-backed offensive that aimed to recapture key territory in northern Hajjah governorate, including Midi port.
_ US has been conducting a campaign of airstrikes against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for several weeks in southern Yemen. There were at least six airstrikes in March as compared to the same number of strikes in the past five months. “The US has conducted four airstrikes in the provinces of Abyan, Shabwa, and Hadramout between March 26-28, according to press reports from Yemen.” There has been a “rapid expansion” of AQAP control in areas in southern Yemen since the Saudi coalition began their war last Spring.
Long Overdue Coverage of Yemen War in US and Western Media
_ The war in Yemen is finally receiving more attention in western media, particularly the immense (now year-long) suffering of the Yemeni people, especially children. Massive protests were held on the anniversary last weekend. It simply can no longer be ignored. Peace talks are set to begin later in April, and a ceasefire is planned for April 10. (Note: The New York Times (NYT) description of the Houthis as “Iranian-backed” is an exaggeration, at best and according to some experts, a gross mischaracterization . The NYT editorial is included here mainly to highlight the increased attention from US media. ) This war began after a UN envoy had nearly completed a peace agreement with a power sharing arrangement between the Houthis and exiled (and resigned) president Hadi. The envoy was then forced out by the Saudis in favor of a military solution by their new defense minister, a young, reckless prince, and both have failed miserably.
Guardian Editorial: “More than 2.4 million people have been forced out of their homes and 6,000 have been killed, half of them civilians. An estimated 80% of the population needs humanitarian assistance. Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children face malnutrition, said Unicef yesterday. Food and electricity shortages are extreme – made worse by the blockade imposed on parts of the country by the Saudi coalition. Both sides have committed war crimes.”
More Money for Ukraine
_ At a side meeting during the Nuclear Security Summit VP Biden told Ukraine’s president that the “United States was moving forward with an additional $335 million in security assistance.”
US Troops on Russian Border
_ “Battle-ready American soldiers will soon be permanently positioned along Russia’s western borders.” This is unprecedented. During the Cold War, US troops were never closer than Germany.
Gen. Breedlove: “By the end of 2017, there will be a continuous presence of three fully equipped Army Brigade Combat Teams (one Armored, one Airborne, one Stryker); one prepositioned set of combat-ready equipment sufficient to support another Armored Brigade Combat Team; as well as division-level enablers in Europe.”
_ The Guardian frames this as “Pentagon to restore Obama’s troop cuts in Europe to address Russian aggression.” They later say “Move aims to reassure European allies of US commitment.” Weren’t these troop cuts in Europe regarded as favorable among the people in Europe? The article also notes other ways in which troop cuts ordered by Pres. Obama were reversed.
_ ISIS claimed responsibility for two attacks in the Russian Republic of Dagestan this week. ISIS “claimed to have detonated ‘two explosive devices’ on two Russian Army vehicles “in the area of Kaspiysk in eastern Dagestan.”
Increase US Troop Numbers in Northern Iraq
_ There were more reports this week about plans for more US troops to be deployed in Iraq: “A key Iraqi offensive sputters, and the Pentagon pushes hard for more U.S. troops.” A Military Times story framed it as necessary because of the failures of Iraqi forces. Taking into account the recent history of controversy, with the Iraqi government saying it would not give permission for US troops on Iraqi territory and a reversal some time later, and with US Congress and former brass (e.g. Petraeus) grilling a CENTCOM commander about the use of US air support for Iraqi Shia militias, and with the US v Russia rivalry, rough relations with Iran, it seems reasonable to assume that it might be more than just a need for support for Iraqi forces. Many pledges were made to the American public about the relaunch of the Iraq war in 2014, and repeated statements about no combat troops were made. Now there are clearly combat troops and plans for more. There has been no new AUMF from Congress even though Iraq War 3.0 will be two years old this summer. In an election year, a new one is unlikely.
_ The Military Times article announced a renaming of the new US military base from ” Fire Base Bell […] to the Kara Soar Counter Fire Complex, a move meant to underscore their support role.”
ISIS Smuggling Operation
_ ISIS ‘Department of Artifacts’ document exposes antiquities looting and smuggling through Turkey
_ “Reports indicate that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are gathering for a major offensive which aims to capture the border-city of Azaz.” There is fighting between SDF and the rebels. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Al Nusra have fortified “the gates of Azaz” and seem to be getting artillery support from the Turkish army which is deployed along the border. These rebels in northern Aleppo occupy a relatively small territory, are separated from their allies in Idlib, and are surrounded on two sides by the YPG and ISIS, and have access to the Turkish border.
_ Gareth Porter: “How Putin’s leverage shaped the Syrian ceasefire”
_ On the eve of the return of refugees to Turkey as part of an EU deal, Amnesty International says Turkey has forced Syrian refugees back across the border to the war zone at a rate of about 100 per day since January, and says Turkey is not a safe place for refugees. There have been reports in the media about Turkish border guards shooting refugees. Russia’s human rights chief said “if confirmed, a very thorough, most likely international investigation will be in order, to bring to justice those guilty of such a crime.”
_ Libya’s unity government, which hasn’t really taken control yet and is temporarily headquartered at a naval base after the current governments refused their entry by air, threatened to report their rivals in the other governments to Interpol on terrorism charges. “The announcement came a day after Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj and six officials arrived quietly by boat in Libya from Tunisia in a power bid.” They reported the names of the “17 alleged problematic figures” on their Facebook page. “Even with international support, Sarraj faces a daunting array of challenges and could struggle to impose his will on the Central Bank, the state-run oil company, and other institutions.”
_ Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, wants the UN Security Council (UNSC) to lift sanctions on Libya’s blacklisted $67 billion sovereign wealth fund “to halt billion-dollar losses caused by ineffective management of frozen assets.” The sanctions were placed on the fund to prevent Gaddafi from “spiriting away the country’s wealth.” Dabbashi wants the Libyan Investment Authority to be able to “engage in fund management.” The UNSC said they would lift sanctions on the fund when the unity government takes control. Sanctions were renewed by the UNSC on Thursday and asked the unity government “to confirm ‘as soon as it exercises sole and effective oversight’ over the LIA, National Oil Corporation and the Central Bank of Libya.“
_ The EU imposed sanctions on three Libyan politicians who oppose the unity government, including the leaders of the two current Libyan governments.
Obama’s Nuclear Legacy
_ “Is That All There Is? Obama’s Disappointing Nuclear Legacy“. In Pres. Obama’s first foreign policy speech, his Prague address, he promised “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” Obama was backed by a huge contingent of former military officers, diplomats, scholars, officials and others. But “he turned to other pressing issues, his Prague pledge to maintain a ‘safe, secure and effective arsenal’ morphed into a $1 trillion plan to replace the entire Cold War nuclear arsenal.”
NATO Fighter Jets Trail Russian Defense Minister’s Plane
_ NATO fighter jets followed the Russian defense minister’s plane as it flew in international airspace over the Baltic Sea as he was traveling to the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad. “Reporters identified the planes as Eurofighter Typhoons, multirole fighters designed for NATO.” Journalists who were on board the minister’s plane captured some footage.
South China Sea
_ Indonesia will deploy “U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to the Natuna islands to ward off ‘thieves’” according to their defense minister. “The military will, or has already, stationed marines, air force special force units, an army battalion, three frigates, a new radar system and drones.” There was an incident in recent weeks when Indonesia detained a Chinese fishing vessel in its “exclusive economic zone which overlaps with the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea” and the Chinese coast guard rammed the boat to help it escape, saying that it was a case of harassment by an armed Indonesia ship.
_ A pending court case at the Hague is expected to be decided this year between the Phillipines and China. Expectations are that the court will decide in favor of the Phillipines and that China may not honor it, which could lead to big problems. This opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal urges the United States to act in advance of the court decision, to “increase its regional military presence in and near the South China Sea” (already happening to some extent) and to interpret a 1951 mutual-defense treaty to cover the Phillipine-held territory in the South China Sea.
_ Jane’s IHS reports that the “Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL) plans to locate the service’s third submarine base on Pulau Natuna Besar, the largest of the Natuna Islands cluster in the South China Sea” and these plans were underway before the recent incident with the Chinese.
_ Singapore’s prime minister said southeast Asian countries don’t want to be squeezed between China and the US, and Malaysia’s defense minister hopes that major powers will not create “a situation that will increase tensions.” Here’s some insight from Peter Lee at China Matters and a BBC explainer.
Badass: US SecDef Ash Carter flying in a V-22 Osprey over the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea. pic.twitter.com/xgMziVuG6X
— Ray Kwong (@raykwong) March 31, 2016
Saudis Gave $1 Million to McCain Foundation
_ “A nonprofit with ties to Senator John McCain received a $1 million donation from the government of Saudi Arabia in 2014, according to documents filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.”
Petraeus Warns Against Brexit
_ Retired general Petraeus and former CIA director David Petraeus said a Brexit would make the world more dangerous and harder to manage. The Telegraph published an op-ed by Petraeus: “Brexit would weaken the West’s war on terror.” He invoked the “special relationship” between the US and UK and followed it with steroidal dose of fearmongering:
” […] our two democracies and our allies around the world confront myriad dangers to our safety and well-being. In Europe, Vladimir Putin seeks to reestablish Russian dominion over his near abroad, while sponsoring forces that aim to fracture European unity. In the Middle East, the collapse of multiple countries has opened the door to control of vast swaths of territory by extremists that are plotting mass murder on the streets of our cities. In cyber space, extremists and criminals seek to recruit would-be jihadists and to attack financial systems, industrial grids, and data of enormous value and sensitivity.”
_ Interestingly, The Telegraph embedded a box quote from former MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, in the Petraeus op-ed: “The truth about Brexit from a national security perspective is that the cost to Britain would be low.” In fact, Dearlove said leaving the EU would improve Britain’s security and Britain “provides more intelligence to Europe than it gets back.” This isn’t the first suggestion that other EU countries should do more surveillance and share more of it. Some of the initial reactions to the Brussels terror attack were very similar.