Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gulf Alliances: Regional States Hedge Their Bets

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: RSISPublications@ntu.edu.sg for feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim. 

No. 074/2015 dated 31 March 2015
Gulf Alliances:
Regional States Hedge Their Bets
By James M. Dorsey


The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen designed to prevent Iranian-backed forces from gaining power symbolises the Gulf’s new assertiveness. Potential US-Iranian agreement on resolving the nuclear crisis has fuelled concern among Arab Gulf states about the reliability of the United States as the region’s ultimate security guarantor.


THE CURRENT SAUDI-led intervention in Yemen designed to prevent Iranian-backed forces from gaining power symbolises the Gulf’s new assertiveness. This is unfolding as the various Gulf states seek to hedge their bets with different strategies that complement rather than replace the regional US security umbrella.

Qatar this month signed a military agreement with Turkey which gives the two parties the right to deploy soldiers in each other’s territory. Qatar is the latest Gulf state to seek alliances as a way to enhance security in a world in which a post-nuclear agreement Iran would join Turkey and Israel as the region’s foremost military powers. The agreement is rooted in shared attitudes towards tumultuous developments in the Middle East that potentially threaten long-ruling autocrats and spawned civil wars and spiralling political violence and could rewrite the region’s nation state cartography.

Subtle and not-so-subtle strategic shifts

If invoked in a time of crisis, the likelihood is that tiny Qatar’s alignment with the second largest standing army in NATO would mean that Turkish forces would be sent to aid the Gulf state and recognises that Qatar’s 12,000-man military will never be capable of defending the emirate. The agreement supplements Qatar’s soft power strategy that seeks to embed the Gulf state in the international community through sports, arts, airline connectivity, investment and high-powered mediation of regional disputes in a way that it could call on it in times of emergency.

While the Qatar-Turkey agreement is between governments that are politically aligned on one side of the Middle East and North Africa’s multiple political divides, concern among Gulf states has also sparked subtle shifts that are bringing erstwhile opponents closer together. Qatari and Turkish relations with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt had soured since the military coup in 2013 that toppled Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi because of the two states support for Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

The subtle realignment of alliances prompted by fears that the United States will conclude a deal with Iran that they believe fails to ensure that the Islamic republic will not become a nuclear power was first noticeable in the willingness of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to be more open about their political and security relations with Israel. The two Gulf states refuse to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish state because of its unresolved conflict with the Palestinians but share Israel’s perception of Iran as an existential threat.

“Everything is underground, nothing is public. But our security cooperation with Egypt and the Gulf states is unique. This is the best period of security and diplomatic relations with the Arabs,” said General Amos Gilad, the Israeli defence ministry’s director of policy and political-military relations, during a visit to Singapore last year. Gilad played a key role in forging Israel’s alliance with Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

Unprecedented moves

In unprecedented public moves, Saudi officials reached out to Israel they had long shied away from. Saudi officials, contrary to past practice, refrained in December from commenting on unconfirmed news reports that quoted Saudi oil minister Ali Bin Ibrahim al-Naimi as saying the kingdom would be willing to sell oil to Israel.

Six months earlier former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the US and UK Prince Turki Al Faisal called on Israel to resolve the Palestinian issue as a way of facilitating enhanced Israeli-Saudi relations. Besides opening direct flights between Riyadh and Jerusalem, “commerce, medicine, science, art, and culture between our two peoples would develop,” Turki wrote in the first ever op-ed submitted by a member of the Saudi elite to an Israeli newspaper.

A second indication was a decision last December by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to paper over their differences with Qatar over the Muslim Brotherhood. The three states had nine months earlier withdrawn their ambassadors from the Qatari capital in a failed attempt to force Qatar to break its ties with the Brotherhood and expel Brothers from the country.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as a far greater threat than the Brotherhood, has signalled that its attitude towards the Brotherhood was changing despite its backing for Sisi’s brutal crackdown on the group in Egypt and the kingdom’s banning of the Brothers as terrorists. The moves are part of a Saudi effort to forge a Sunni Muslim alliance against Iran that paved the way for this month’s visit to Riyadh by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A recent conference in Mecca that brought together Muslim clerics to denounce terrorism was hosted by the Muslim World League, a body established by Saudi Arabia but long associated with the Brotherhood. Earlier, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal declared that the kingdom has “no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood”.

Creating opportunity for China

Gulf states’ fears of Iran are likely to create further opportunity for China to strengthen its soft military ties in the region in a balancing act that is designed to ensure that it does not challenge US hegemony in the region. China said this month it had agreed to sell Turkey a US$3.4 billion surface-to-air missile system that could prove difficult to integrate with its NATO allies.

China’s approach could potentially further involve temporary deployment of armed forces for overseas military exercises as well as the deployment of military patrols, peacekeeping forces, military trainers and consultants; also the building of overseas munitions warehouses, joint intelligence facilities, aerospace tracking facilities, earthquake monitoring stations, technical service, military replenishment stops, maintenance bases, and military teaching institutions.
The  nibbling at the fringe of the Middle East’s security architecture is however unlikely to improve regional security as long as it includes policies by states like Saudi Arabia that exacerbate rather than soften sectarian divides and that seek to box in regional powers rather than include them on equitable terms.

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog.
Click HERE to read this commentary online.

Prevention of Terrorism: Relevance of POTA in Malaysia

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: RSISPublications@ntu.edu.sg for feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim. 

No. 075/2015 dated 31 March 2015
Prevention of Terrorism:
Relevance of POTA in Malaysia
By Bilveer Singh


Malaysia’s introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) has aroused controversy. The use of such preventive detention is justified.


Malaysia has introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) to deal with the growing threat of the transnational Islamic State and other forms of terrorism. The move is rooted in the Internal Security Act (ISA) and its predecessors that were enacted to counter the communist insurgency in Malaya, then Malaysia from 1948 to 1989.

Since the end of the communist insurgency in Malaysia there have been calls for the repeal of these draconian laws. Two grounds have been put forward. First, the threat by communism is over and second, it has been abused by authorities to detain political opponents.

Repealing ISA; enacting POTA

While Malaysia decided to repeal the ISA, Singapore defended the continued need for these laws to counter the continued threat posed by terrorism.   

In 2012, Malaysia repealed the Emergency Ordinance and the ISA. A new preventive detention mechanism replaced it, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) which took effect in July 2012. However, SOSMA has proved to be a weak instrument, leading to pressures for a new ISA-type law to be instituted. The POTA is seen as a substitute in view of the rising security threat confronting Malaysia.

Following the passage of the White Paper on ‘Towards Combating the Threat of Islamic State’ on 26 November 2014 in Parliament, the government promised to enact a new law to effect the concerns in the White Paper. The new law, Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was tabled in the current seating of Parliament.

The key provisions of the new law include: detaining suspected terrorists for up to two years with a possibility of a further two years’ extension; electronic monitoring device being attached to the detainee; and the administration of various preventive measures to deradicalise suspects. POTA is to be administered by the Terrorism Prevention Board and not by the Executive.

While there were grounds to repeal the ISA in 2012, by 2015 it became apparent that new preventive detention laws were necessary. A key factor was the severity of the threat posed by supporters of Islamic State in Malaysia, involving some 200 Malaysians who were already fighting in Iraq and Syria. Some have died as suicide bombers and others in combat. The flow of recruits is also continuing.

Pros and cons of POTA

There is public and political support for the government’s move. The new law is not linked to the ISA and politics as it only targets terrorism offences. It is to be administered by a body of judicial experts. It is also seen as the best mechanism to deal with the threat posed by returning combatants, who in addition to gaining weapons skills and combat experience, would also have been ideologically fortified, and developed new networks with extremists and terrorists.

In addition to being different from existing laws that deal with criminals, POTA also involved preventive measures to overcome a dangerous threat. Otherwise, the security forces were left with no option but to act after a crime had been committed, often at great cost to society. It was a mechanism to administer justice with the Executive having no control in the manner it was to be utilised.

ISA’s replacement, SOSMA, was evidently inadequate in managing the new threat of terrorism, best seen in the increasing number of Malaysians fighting in Syria and Iraq, and blatantly posting themselves in the social media. It is also a signal that Malaysia and its government were serious in fighting the threat of terrorism posed by Islamic State and its supporters.

Like the ISA in the past, POTA has come under fire. Critics have argued that POTA is unnecessary as existing laws are sufficient to deal with the threat posed by Islamic State and the rise of Malaysian extremists and terrorists. Just as in the past, there are accusations that the government would politically abuse it and use it against its opponents.  Not surprisingly, many see it as a reincarnation of the former ISA.

Moral of the ISA and POTA

Clearly the Malaysian experience holds some lessons. Once an existing preventive detention mechanism is removed, it is politically difficult to be reinstated. This is because a government’s political opponents will politicise the reinstatement of such laws regardless of the existential threat that is surfacing, as is the case in Malaysia and even Indonesia.

Clearly, without preventive detention laws, trouble makers will gain confidence to threaten national security, as is happening in many Southeast Asian states. Without the ISA and its like, the police will only be able to act when a crime has been committed by which time, massive loss of lives and property would have taken place.

Not only would public security be undermined with serious domestic and international consequences, the image and credibility of the government would also be battered. Hence, the deterrent value of such laws. However, such blunt instruments must be prudently exercised with effective checks and balances to ensure their non-abuse - with the public as the best judge whether abuses have taken place or not.

Bilveer Singh is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Click HERE to read this commentary online.

The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures

The Middle Eastern Balance of Power Matures

Text Size
By George Friedman
Last week, a coalition of predominantly Sunni Arab countries, primarily from the Arabian Peninsula and organized by Saudi Arabia, launched airstrikes in Yemen that have continued into this week. The airstrikes target Yemeni al-Houthis, a Shiite sect supported by Iran, and their Sunni partners, which include the majority of military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. What made the strikes particularly interesting was what was lacking: U.S. aircraft. Although the United States provided intelligence and other support, it was a coalition of Arab states that launched the extended air campaign against the al-Houthis.
Three things make this important. First, it shows the United States' new regional strategy in operation. Washington is moving away from the strategy it has followed since the early 2000s — of being the prime military force in regional conflicts — and is shifting the primary burden of fighting to regional powers while playing a secondary role. Second, after years of buying advanced weaponry, the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are capable of carrying out a fairly sophisticated campaign, at least in Yemen. The campaign began by suppressing enemy air defenses — the al-Houthis had acquired surface-to-air missiles from the Yemeni military — and moved on to attacking al-Houthi command-and-control systems. This means that while the regional powers have long been happy to shift the burden of combat to the United States, they are also able to assume the burden if the United States refuses to engage.
Most important, the attacks on the al-Houthis shine the spotlight on a growing situation in the region: a war between the Sunnis and Shiites. In Iraq and Syria, a full-scale war is underway. A battle rages in Tikrit with the Sunni Islamic State and its allies on one side, and a complex combination of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army, Shiite militias, Sunni Arab tribal groups and Sunni Kurdish forces on the other. In Syria, the battle is between the secular government of President Bashar al Assad — nevertheless dominated by Alawites, a Shiite sect — and Sunni groups. However, Sunnis, Druze and Christians have sided with the regime as well. It is not reasonable to refer to the Syrian opposition as a coalition because there is significant internal hostility. Indeed, there is tension not only between the Shiites and Sunnis, but also within the Shiite and Sunni groups. In Yemen, a local power struggle among warring factions has been branded and elevated into a sectarian conflict for the benefit of the regional players. It is much more complex than simply a Shiite-Sunni war. At the same time, it cannot be understood without the Sunni-Shiite component.

Iran's Strategy and the Saudis' Response

One reason this is so important is that it represents a move by Iran to gain a major sphere of influence in the Arab world. This is not a new strategy. Iran has sought greater influence on the Arabian Peninsula since the rule of the Shah. More recently, it has struggled to create a sphere of influence stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. The survival of the al Assad government in Syria and the success of a pro-Iranian government in Iraq would create that Iranian sphere of influence, given the strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the ability of al Assad's Syria to project its power.
For a while, it appeared that this strategy had been blocked by the near collapse of the al Assad government in 2012 and the creation of an Iraqi government that appeared to be relatively successful and was far from being an Iranian puppet. These developments, coupled with Western sanctions, placed Iran on the defensive, and the idea of an Iranian sphere of influence appeared to have become merely a dream.
However, paradoxically, the rise of the Islamic State has reinvigorated Iranian power in two ways. First, while the propaganda of the Islamic State is horrific and designed to make the group look not only terrifying, but also enormously powerful, the truth is that, although it is not weak, the Islamic State represents merely a fraction of Iraq's Sunni community, and the Sunnis are a minority in Iraq. At the same time, the propaganda has mobilized the Shiite community to resist the Islamic State, allowed Iranian advisers to effectively manage the Shiite militias in Iraq and (to some extent) the Iraqi army, and forced the United States to use its airpower in tandem with Iranian-led ground forces. Given the American strategy of blocking the Islamic State — even if doing so requires cooperation with Iran — while not putting forces on the ground, this means that as the Islamic State's underlying weakness becomes more of a factor, the default winner in Iraq will be Iran.
A somewhat similar situation exists in Syria, though with a different demographic. Iran and Russia have historically supported the al Assad government. The Iranians have been the more important supporters, particularly because they committed their ally, Hezbollah, to the battle. What once appeared to be a lost cause is now far from it. The United States was extremely hostile toward al Assad, but given the current alternatives in Syria, Washington has become at least neutral toward the Syrian government. Al Assad would undoubtedly like to have U.S. neutrality translate into a direct dialogue with Washington. Regardless of the outcome, Iran has the means to maintain its influence in Syria.
When you look at a map and think of the situation in Yemen, you get a sense of why the Saudis and Gulf Cooperation Council countries had to do something. Given what is happening along the northern border of the Arabian Peninsula, the Saudis have to calculate the possibility of an al-Houthi victory establishing a pro-Iranian, Shiite state to its south as well. The Saudis and the Gulf countries would be facing the possibility of a Shiite or Iranian encirclement. These are not the same thing, but they are linked in complex ways. Working in the Saudis' favor is the fact that the al-Houthis are not Shiite proxies like Hezbollah, and Saudi money combined with military operations designed to cut off Iranian supply lines to the al-Houthis could mitigate the threat overall. Either way, the Saudis had to act.
During the Arab Spring, one of the nearly successful attempts to topple a government occurred in Bahrain. The uprising failed primarily because Saudi Arabia intervened and imposed its will on the country. The Saudis showed themselves to be extremely sensitive to the rise of Shiite regimes with close relations with the Iranians on the Arabian Peninsula. The result was unilateral intervention and suppression. Whatever the moral issues, it is clear that the Saudis are frightened by rising Iranian and Shiite power and are willing to use their strength. That is what they have done in Yemen.
In a way, the issue is simple for the Saudis. They represent the center of gravity of the religious Sunni world. As such, they and their allies have embarked on a strategy that is strategically defensive and tactically offensive. Their goal is to block Iranian and Shiite influence, and the means they are implementing is coalition warfare that uses air power to support local forces on the ground. Unless there is a full invasion of Yemen, the Saudis are following the American strategy of the 2000s on a smaller scale.

The U.S. Stance

The American strategy is more complex. As I've written before, the United States has undertaken a strategy focused on maintaining the balance of power. This kind of approach is always messy because the goal is not to support any particular power, but to maintain a balance between multiple powers. Therefore, the United States is providing intelligence and mission planning for the Saudi coalition against the al-Houthis and their Iranian allies. In Iraq, the United States is providing support to Shiites — and by extension, their allies — by bombing Islamic State installations. In Syria, U.S. strategy is so complex that it defies clear explanation. That is the nature of refusing large-scale intervention but being committed to a balance of power. The United States can oppose Iran in one theater and support it in another. The more simplistic models of the Cold War are not relevant here.
All of this is happening at the same time that nuclear negotiations appear to be coming to some sort of closure. The United States is not really concerned about Iran's nuclear weapons. As I have said many times, we have heard since the mid-2000s that Iran was a year or two away from nuclear weapons. Each year, the fateful date was pushed back. Building deliverable nuclear weapons is difficult, and the Iranians have not even carried out a nuclear test, an essential step before a deliverable weapon is created. What was a major issue a few years ago is now part of a constellation of issues where U.S.-Iranian relations interact, support and contradict. Deal or no deal, the United States will bomb the Islamic State, which will help Iran, and support the Saudis in Yemen, which will not.
The real issue now is what it was a few years ago: Iran appears to be building a sphere of influence to the Mediterranean Sea, but this time, that sphere of influence potentially includes Yemen. That, in turn, creates a threat to the Arabian Peninsula from two directions. The Iranians are trying to place a vise around it. The Saudis must react, but the question is whether airstrikes are capable of stopping the al-Houthis. They are a relatively low-cost way to wage war, but they fail frequently. The first question is what the Saudis will do then. The second question is what the Americans will do. The current doctrine requires a balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with the United States tilting back and forth. Under this doctrine — and in this military reality — the United States cannot afford full-scale engagement on the ground in Iraq.

Turkey's Role

Relatively silent but absolutely vital to this tale is Turkey. It has the largest economy in the region and has the largest army, although just how good its army is can be debated. Turkey is watching chaos along its southern border, rising tension in the Caucasus, and conflict across the Black Sea. Of all these, Syria and Iraq and the potential rise of Iranian power is the most disturbing. Turkey has said little about Iran of late, but last week Ankara suddenly criticized Tehran and accused Iran of trying to dominate the region. Turkey frequently says things without doing anything, but the development is still noteworthy.
It should be remembered that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hoped to see Turkey as a regional leader and the leader of the Sunni world. With the Saudis taking an active role and the Turks doing little in Syria or Iraq, the moment is passing Turkey by. Such moments come and go, so history is not changed. But Turkey is still the major Sunni power and the third leg of the regional balance involving Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The evolution of Turkey would be the critical step in the emergence of a regional balance of power, in which local powers, not the United Kingdom or the United States, determine the outcome. The American role, like the British role before it, would not be directly waging war in the region but providing aid designed to stabilize the balance of power. That can be seen in Yemen or Iraq. It is extremely complex and not suited for simplistic or ideological analysis. But it is here, it is unfolding and it will represent the next generation of Middle Eastern dynamics. And if the Iranians put aside their theoretical nuclear weapons and focus on this, that will draw in the Turks and round out the balance of power.

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Cowardly Senators

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Cowardly senators 
Rodel Rodis

2:20 AM | Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

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china reclamation on mabini

China’s reclamation on Mabini Reef.

One threat involves the seizure of territory from our homeland while the other involves the carving of a homeland out of our territory.

These two divergent threats converged on the same day, March 19, when 20 Philippine senators in Manila issued a Mamasapano report which undermined Pres. Aquino’s proposed peace agreement with a Filipino Muslim group seeking to create a Bangsamoro homeland within the Philippines, while in Washington DC, four US senators wrote a letter to the US secretaries of State and Defense to denounce China for its invasive land reclamation activities within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

Remarkably, these US senators are four more than the total number of Philippine senators who have denounced China’s invasion of Philippine territory. Not a single Philippine senator has stood up on the Senate floor to condemn China’s massive land reclamation of Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea growing 11-fold: 28 acres (114,000 square meters) in Burgos Reef (Gaven Reef); 25 acres in Mabini Reef (Johnson Reef) and increasing Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef).

They are not swayed by the fact that, in a nationwide poll conducted by Social Weather Station (SWS) from December 2013 through January 2014, “an overwhelming majority of Filipinos (93 percent) back the government’s efforts to defend the national territory” against China.

That’s right folks, the only senators willing to criticize China for invading Philippine territory are in Washington, DC. In their letter, the four US senators (John McCain, Robert Melendez, Jack Reed and Bob Corker) expressed grave concern about China’s land reclamation and construction in the West Philippine Sea. “While other states have built on existing land masses, China is changing the size, structure and physical attributes of land features themselves. This is a qualitative change that appears designed to alter the status quo in the South China Sea,” they wrote.

“It is our understanding that the majority of this work has been completed in the past twelve months alone, and if current build-rates proceed, China could complete the extent of its planned reclamation in the coming year,” the letter added.

What is China building on these newly created islands?

china island2-3

According to James Hardy, Asia Pacific Editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, a publication specializing in military affairs, “Where it used to have a few small concrete platforms, it now has full islands with helipads, airstrips, harbors and facilities to support large numbers of troops. We can see that this is a methodical, well-planned campaign to create a chain of air and sea capable fortresses across the center of the Spratly Islands chain.”

Threat to national security

The Philippines first learned of China’s massive land reclamation activity when its Philippine Air Force plane noticed significant reclamation activity in the Mabini Reef while searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane in February of 2014. In the span of one year since then, the shoals of Mabini Reef now contain an airstrip and port facilities on 25 acres of land.

Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez posted the Chinese corporation’s designs for the islands on his blog and warned about the dangers posed to Philippine national security and to ASEAN stability if China completes its military installation in Mabini Reef. In an interview on ANC, Golez said:

“You can see this is probably a mile-long airstrip. It’s almost like an airport, …there’s a dock for ships. I understand it can support and resupply frigates. But what is very threatening is that mile-long strip because now they can base their fighters there. I’m looking at, for example, a J-11 fighter jet made in China that has a range of 2000 miles… So it can threaten all our vital military installations including the installations we can make available under EDCA.”

EDCA is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines, which will allow the U.S. military to have access to Philippine bases across the Philippines archipelago for a 10-year term “on a temporary and rotational basis.” The Philippine government views the presence of these U.S. troops as deterrence to China’s territorial ambitions.

Philippine senators have been quick to denounce EDCA for violating the Philippine Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the Philippines. But none of them have denounced China for installing as many as eight military bases on Philippine soil.

Why are these Philippine elected officials so fearful of criticizing China?

Many of these senators fear that they may not be able to visit China. More importantly, these politicians rely on the financial support of Chinese-Filipino (“Chinoy”) taipans. Among the top Chinoy billionaires are Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, Andrew Tan, John Gokongwei, Jr., Tony Tan Caktiong, Ben Chan, Edgar Injap Sia and Ramon Ang. They own the largest corporations in the Philippines from SM to Jollibee.

Many of them have billions of dollars of investments in China such as the Eton Hotel in Shanghai, which is owned by Lucio Tan. Due to their heavy investments in China, these taipans will be very receptive to any “suggestions” from the Chinese government as to which Philippine candidates to support or not support.

China called Aquino’s bluff

In his 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA), Pres. Aquino warned China: “Our message to the world is clear: what is ours is ours. Setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue,” he said.

But apparently, setting foot on Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc), Mabini Reef, Burgos Reef, Kagitingan Reef and other reefs in the West Philippine Sea is not the same as setting foot on Recto Bank.

All the Philippine government has done in response to China’s invasive acts has been to file an arbitration claim before the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) arguing that China, a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), should recognize that the EEZ of each country is 200 nautical miles of the country’s land base belongs to that country.

But China has chosen to ignore the ITLOS claim before the U.N., and the claim will not be decided until April of 2016. In the meantime, China is furiously completing its massive land reclamation of the Philippine shoals in the West Philippine Sea.

What China understands is that under UNCLOS, “islands” carry more significance than “rocks.” Holders of “islands” gain an Exclusive Economic Zone, which confers key rights within 200 nautical miles of the coastline, including exclusive access to energy exploration.

china island1

This is the method to the madness. What were once just rocks protruding in the sea have been transformed by China into islands which they claim to own based on centuries’ old maps and on a “nine dash line map” drawn by a Kuomintang general in 1947.

The Philippines insists these shoals – despite their island transformations – are still just a combination of rocks and “low-tide elevations”, which carry fewer privileges and significance in UNCLOS.

Ph will soon be in China’s EEZ

Professor Richard Heydarian of the International Relations Department at the Ateneo de Manila University believes that China is changing the facts on the ground by reclaiming and occupying disputed waters and land features.

“The way China looks at this is, down the road, they have to face the legal opinion arbitration. And if you look at the recent trends in international arbitration, they give priority and prerogative to the countries who continue to establish and exercise effective and continuous sovereignty. If China will be able to build structures there, and they turn these structures into islands and project into 200 nautical mile economic zone, somehow they’ll be able to argue this legally.”

China stationed two hydrographic ships in Recto Bank in August 2014 and has ignored demands by Pres. Aquino to withdraw its invading ships immediately as Recto Bank is only 80 miles from Palawan well within the 200 mile EEZ of the Philippines. Recto Bank reportedly has 50 billion barrels of oil and 16.612 trillion cubic feet of natural gas underneath it, enough to fuel China’s energy needs for the next century.

The only Philippine military presence near the Recto Bank is a small detachment of Philippine marines stationed on a grounded ship, the Sierra Madre, by Ayungin Reef which is the gateway to the Recto Bank. China has surrounded the Ayungin Reef with at least six ships blocking Philippine Navy access to the Sierra Madre. Employing this “cabbage strategy,” China sees itself occupying the Ayungin within a year.

Once China completes making Chinese “islands” out of the Philippine shoals, China will soon claim that Recto Bank is within its EEZ. After that, China will make the same claim for Palawan and the rest of the Philippines will follow.

By then, the contentious issue of whether Bangsamoro is a homeland within the territory of the Philippines will be moot.

Perhaps by then, one Philippine senator will stand up to denounce China.

(Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 41.334.7800).


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Monday, March 30, 2015

National Geographic Film Highlights CIA’s Secret Human Experimentation

National Geographic Film Highlights CIA’s Secret Human Experimentation

Agency secretly used humans as guinea pigs during Cold War experimentation focusing on mind control

A fascinating National Geographic documentary entitled “CIA Secret Experiments” from 2008 uncovers the CIA’s role in conducting domestic Cold War experiments, where human subjects were used to test the effects of brainwashing, mind control, hypnosis, electroshock therapy and various psychotropic and hallucinogenic drugs.

The documentary also recounts how entire US cities were used as experimental laboratories where citizens were intentionally infected with harmful biological agents.

One of the most troubling aspects of the government’s experimentation was their work into the field of mind control, where scientists, many whom were Nazis brought over to the US through the CIA’s Project Paperclip, developed ways to control human subjects, including the ability to extract information from unwilling subjects using “truth drugs.”

“Mind control is not simply an ‘experiment’ that was developed to beat the USSR,” notes The Vigilant Citizen. “It is actually a system that is more powerful today than it ever was. It is more covert, a lot sophisticated and it is used for all kinds of purposes and, in all kinds of fields, including the military, the entertainment industry and elite underground rings.”
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“We’re Coming for Ya Globalist”

Who almost nuked the USA?
1960s incident could have devastated American south
Who almost nuked the USA?
Since the Oppenheimer first opened Pandora’s Box, the threat of complete human annihilation has loomed over our collective species. This sword of Damocles swings over our head with the silent menace of of the promise of stark oblivion. How many times have we crept unknowingly to the brink and stared into the void? More times than you would imagine possible.

In January of 1961, a B-52 bomber from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base with live nuclear ordinance suffered a catastrophic failure and broke up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. The B52 bomber was flying a routine patrol mission. During an air refueling procedure, the pilots noticed fuel streaming from one of the wings. They attempted to enact emergency procedures by engaging fuel pumps, but the aircraft systems wouldn’t respond. They declared an emergency and began a descent to land. The crew heard a loud bang from below and the plane shuddered and began to roll hard. The crew bailed out as the massive bomber shuddered and began to come apart in the sky. The plane lost a wing cracked in the middle of the fuselage and disintegrated.  At 12:35 a.m. Jan. 24, 1961, the B-52 crashed 12 miles north of the air base in a tobacco field.


Two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs with a payload of 4 megatons each plummeted to the ground. These bombs contained enough nuclear material to trigger an atomic explosion 250 times more powerful than the bombs dropped in Japan. One of the bombs initiated it’s arming sequence, engaged it’s trigger mechanism and fell to earth deploying it’s parachute precisely as designed. Only the failure of one low-voltage switch prevented the bomb from detonating.
The call went out, the Military had a “Broken Arrow” code for an accidental event that involves nuclear weapons, warheads or components, but which does not create the risk of nuclear war.
An elite military bomb squad led by 1st Lt. Jack ReVelle, was scrambled to the site near Nahunta Swamp off Big Daddy’s Road, there among the wreckage they found the bomb precariously hanging from a denuded tree by its parachute. This bomb had mercifully been deactivated by a manual safety lever and was ready to be carted away almost unscathed. After the team checked for radioactive contamination, they deactivated the weapon, and the bomb was carefully removed.

The second bomb was buried deep in the soft mud of the swamp. The ordinance recovery crew toiled for days in the freezing cold to slowly and carefully uncover the sections of the buried bomb. They managed to recover the majority of the bomb, but the secondary mechanism is still down there undergoing radioactive decay.

As of September 2013, the US Department of Defense has officially recognized 32 “Broken Arrow” incidents. There are [many instances of KNOWN nuclear accidents.](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_nuclear_accidents)

Each of these threaten our very existence, whether we are in the blast zone or the accident could be misconstrued as an attack and unleash the power of mutually assured destruction. The powers that be warn of the dire consequences of some terrorist organization acquiring a nuclear weapon or some supposed rogue state deploying one in anger. It’s clear that the most dangerous circumstances are the dangers inherent in simply possessing such weapons. Although the cold war thawed with glastnos, the ominous threat of total global annihilation remains real. As long as fissile weapons are in the inventories of man, we are but a moment away from oblivion whether they are used in anger or by accident.
6 Toxins that Destroy Your Thyroid
Learn the toxins that can destroy your thyroid so you can prepare yourself
6 Toxins that Destroy Your Thyroid   
Some people believe that the thyroid is the “heart” of the endocrine system. As one of the largest endocrine glands, it plays an important role in maintaining energy levels and secreting hormones—among other things. When the thyroid’s working properly, it’s business as usual. Unfortunately, nasty chemicals can play a huge role in problems.
The Dangers of Thyroid Toxins

Toxins are present in our environment, and there’s very little we can do to eliminate all of them. We can, however, limit our exposure to toxic compounds, reducing the likelihood of experiencing issues with our thyroid. Supplementing with iodine is also an important step toward protecting your thyroid from toxic compounds. Learn these 6 toxins that can destroy your thyroid so you can prepare yourself.
1. BPA

As an endocrine disruptor, BPA can affect hormone levels and throw thyroid function out of whack. While there are many studies documenting BPA’s effects on the thyroid in adults and children, a recent one took a different approach. [1] By looking at newborns and their mothers, the study suggested higher levels of BPA cause a decrease in thyroid function in women. All of the baby boys, though, had an increase in thyroid function from the higher levels of BPA. [2] The theory here is that the women—while pregnant—saw a drop in thyroid function and the sons’ thyroids overcompensated. While the trend did not carry over to newborn girls, avoiding BPA while pregnant just makes sense.
 2. Bromine

Bromine is toxic to the thyroid, but with it in everything from pool cleaner to pasta, finding something without the endocrine disruptor can be tricky. [3] Often, even healthy patients can have high levels of the flame-retardant substance in their bodies. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are even finding their way into the breast milk of American women. [4] One common source of bromine is brominated vegetable oil—which is still found in many drinks—so remember, it pays to read those labels!
3. Perchlorate

Studies suggest low thyroid function in mothers is linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children. While BPA—as mentioned in number 1—or any score of nasty toxins could be the cause of an unhealthy thyroid, perchlorate is definitely one of the usual suspects. [5] [6] But while there are numerous studies linking it with thyroid problems, the FDA still approved it for use as an anti-static agent in food packaging, making avoiding it a lot more difficult. [7]
4. Pesticides

When it comes to maintaining a healthy thyroid, avoiding pesticides could also be key. In India, thyroid disorders are on the rise, but there are measures in place to make sure much of the population has sufficient access to iodine, something essential for thyroid function. One recent study suggested this spike is due to pesticide and other chemical exposure, with experts noting almost 60 percent of cases aren’t connected to iodine-deficiency. [8] While the idea of pesticide exposure and thyroid problems is nothing new, maintaining iodine levels and avoiding pesticides could be the perfect combination. [9]
5. PFCs

There’s a report that a higher level of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in the blood could affect thyroid function in women. [10] Used in the manufacturing of lots of common things, PFCs can even be found in pizza boxes and takeout containers; your mattress might even contain them! Even though the use of the chemicals is being phased out in the U.S., imported products could still be a concern. [11] Endocrine disruptors like PFCs take a long time to break down in the body, so this study is disturbing, to say the least.
6. Fluoride

Almost 70 percent of the U.S. water supply is fluoridated to help prevent cavities. Many people don’t know, however, that fluoride was actually prescribed as a remedy for an overactive thyroid during the first half of the 20th century. According to some reports, 2 to 5 mg of fluoride per day over a period of months was all it took to lower thyroid function; this becomes a problem when you realize that’s about the same amount people drinking fluoridated water are exposed to daily. [12]
Some Other Tips to Think About

You want to make sure your thyroid is as healthy as possible, so make sure you’re aware of just what can be dangerous. To protect your health, be sure to eat foods that support thyroid health as much as you can. While your family history can also play a role in endocrine problems, avoiding toxic exposure is a smart way to go.

When it comes to protecting your thyroid, how do you avoid toxins? Tell us about it in the comments.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

This article first appeared at GlobalHealingCenter.com.
Texas Lawmaker Pushes Mandatory Mental Health Screening For Children
Will Give Teachers Authority To Force Student Mental Evaluations
Texas Lawmaker Pushes Mandatory Mental Health Screening For Children   

A Texas lawmaker has introduced draconian legislation that would force parents to have their children undergo mental health screenings at the behest of teachers, under threat of suspension from school.

The bill, introduced by Texas State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), gives school officials the power to diagnose students with psychological problems, and mandate screenings by health professionals.

Parents would then have 30 days to comply with the ruling, or the child will be sent to “an alternative school”.

The bill reads:

    “ …the requirement that the parent or guardian, before the expiration of the 30-day period, to avoid suspension of the student under this section, take the student to the nearest local mental health authority or a physician specializing in psychiatry to receive a mental health screening and a certificate of medical examination for mental illness, as described by Section 533.03522(c), Health and Safety Code, that contains the examining physician’s opinion that the student is not a danger to self or others.”

Worse still, teachers would be required by law to inform the police, as well as local mental health authorities, providing the name and address of the student, as well as information regarding the psychological problem.

    (i) A school counselor or a principal who receives notice
    under. Subsection (b) about a student who subsequently is subject to
    a notice of intent to suspend under Subsection (g) shall:
    (1) provide the student’s name and address and
    information concerning the conduct or statement that led to the
    notice of intent to suspend to:
    (A) the school district police department, if the
    school counselor or principal is employed by a school district and
    the district has a police department;
    (B) the police department of the municipality in
    which the school is located or, if the school is not in a
    municipality, the sheriff of the county in which the school is
    located; and
    (C) the local mental health authority nearest the

The legislation essentially forces teachers to surveil children and act as unqualified quacks for the state. It also opens up the possibility that children who merely act out of turn, or question authority can be declared mentally unstable by unqualified administrators.

Under the legislation, children could be medicated with questionable psychiatric drugs or face losing their education.

Critics, including former Congressman Ron Paul have long warned of the danger of government mandated mental screenings for children. In 2011, Paul introduced the Parental Consent Act, HR 2769, in an effort to prohibit federal funds from being used to establish or implement any universal or mandatory mental health or psychiatric screening program.

As Paul noted at the time “There has been a persistent lobbying effort, funded by pharmaceutical companies, to increase the number of prescriptions to even more children. A universal screening program is the stated goal of these lobbyists.”

The Obama administration, as part of its gun control agenda, has also stealthily pushed for mental screening in schools under a program called ‘Now Is The Time’.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education have been provided millions in funding to essentially open up public schools to the psychopharma industry.

It comes as no real surprise that Texas Rep. Jason Villalba is on board with the move. Other statist legislation he has introduced recently includes a bill to restrict the filming of police officers, and a bill to  eliminate religious exemption for vaccination.


Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.


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Germanwings Crash: Lessons for Low-Cost Carriers

Germanwings Crash: Lessons for Low-Cost Carriers

March 29, 2015

Alessandro Bruno
Germanwings, cc Flickr Andrei Dimofte, modified, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz did not suffer from any illness and there was nothing to indicate terrorism. He was alive until the instant of impact. “Neither he or the captain are classified as terrorists,” said the prosecutor in charge of the investigation of the March 25th crash of the Germanwings Airbus 320, Flight 4U 9525, from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. German police claim to have found evidence described as ‘significant’ in helping to explain Lubitz’s state of mind and his actions in the cabin. According to audio recovered from the voice recorder, the captain had left the cabin only to be denied entry by Lubitz, who could have opened the door (normally in a locked mode) by the flick of a switch on the control panel.

Difficult as it is to accept the conclusions of the investigators of the Germanwings crash, cases of suicide are very rare – but they are possible. In the recent history of civil aviation there are at least three other cases in which the suicidal efforts of one of the pilots have led to the crash of an airliner and the death of everyone on board. The oldest confirmed case goes back to August 21, 1994, when a Royal Air Maroc ATR42 was flown nose-first into the ground near the city of Agadir in Morocco. In 1997, in Singapore, a Boeing 737-300, brand new, was brought down by a co-pilot who was experiencing a difficult period in his life; and in 1999, an Egyptair Boeing 747, headed for Cairo, was deliberately crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Many airlines around the world have issued a new rule which demands that there always be at least two people in the cabin in order to reduce the chances of another pilot carrying out a suicide mission. Doubtlessly, psychological evaluations will likely be intensified, but there is little else they can do other than develop new technologies that interfere with a pilot’s attempt to cause a deliberate and rapid descent.

Nevertheless, one aspect of the industry that will no doubt be examined is the level of stress on air crews imposed by ever more stringent cost control measures, many of which are linked to the industry’s expanding ‘low-cost’ phenomenon.

Airliners and commercial aviation, as difficult as it may be to believe in the wake of an accident that claimed the lives of 150 people, has never been safer according to data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In 2014, deaths from air accidents stood at 641, not including the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that was hit by a missile in Ukraine last July. In 2013, the number was twice as high. These are very low numbers compared to those of road accident victims worldwide – over a million per year. Technology is ever more refined, ensuring greater safety for passengers and air crews. Yet, there are cases of pilots warning that financial pressures are inevitably leading to rules that exceed the boundaries of good practices.

In the case of Germanwings, this is an airline that was founded in 1997, when it was called Eurowings Flug. The Lufthansa Group bought it in 2008, using it as its low-cost subsidiary. Over time, Germanwings has increasingly occupied the heart of Lufthansa’s development strategy. In 2012, the German national airline announced that within three years it would shift all its short and medium haul flight operations to Germanwings, except for those departing from the Munich and Frankfurt hubs. As part of the strategy, Lufthansa airplanes would be transferred to the low cost carrier. Germanwings now has a fleet of 90 airplanes. At the end of 2015, the Germanwings brand will be replaced by Eurowings.

This strategy has resulted in a long series of pilot strikes and other labor disputes at Lufthansa. Germanwings offers worse contractual conditions than Lufthansa, especially with regard to retirement age. An initial three-day national strike was held in April 2014, and a second one was held in September. In 2015, there have been a total of six days of strikes, the last of which lasted four days and ended on 22 March. After the crash was announced, Lufthansa shares lost much altitude, falling 5% around noon.

Lufthansa is hardly unique. Other mainstream airlines have adopted low-cost standards, including Air France (operating through Transavia) and IAG (British Airways-Iberia) with Iberia Express and Vueling. The Germanwings accident, indirectly, brings into question the strategy of large European companies and their plans to shift more operations to low-cost carriers. The problem, it must be stressed, has nothing to do with the safety standards themselves, which are the same for all airlines, regardless of class or category. Indeed, budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair have been shown to maintain excellent safety levels, especially given their very high number of flights.

The problem has more to do with human resources than mechanical ones. There is evidence of a progressive worsening of pilots’ working conditions, which is having negative financial and safety consequences. In the USA, following an air accident in 2014, the Federal Aviation Authority demanded that the maximum working shift be set at nine hours, and for long stretches, the presence of three pilots would be required. Similar precautions have yet to be taken in Europe, where shifts with only two pilots on board regularly exceed eight hours, compromising the safety of the passengers and crew. There is also the growing problem of low wages. In February 2009, a Colgan Air Bombardier Q-400 turboprop crashed into a house in Clarence Centre, NY. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), ruled the accident was caused by the pilots’ “inability to respond properly to the stall warnings.”

This inability was attributed to fatigue and ultimately to low wages. Families of the victims lobbied the US Congress to adopt tougher regulations for regional carriers and enforce rules to improve working conditions for pilots. One of the pilots on that plane was earning little more than minimum wage ($16,000/year) and supplementing her income by moonlighting at a fast food restaurant. Colgan Air has since changed its hiring practices. But, this phenomenon has in no way been eliminated; if anything it has gotten worse thanks to the so called practice of “pay to fly.” Young pilots, still in training, often pay to fly in order to prevent their license from expiring while they wait to be hired. They are required to fly a certain number of hours per year and are willing to offer themselves as “volunteer co-pilots,” or even to work anywhere in the cabin. But it is mainly the safety conditions at work that concern crews. Some pilots speak of having worked shifts of four days, sleeping no more than ten hours. Clearly, flight time limits must be adopted in order to ensure higher levels of safety as financial pressures have led many to fly beyond the limits.

There is no evidence that the Germanwings pilot who crashed his plane into a mountainside was suffering from any particular preoccupation over wages, or that he was moonlighting as a short order cook. But those stresses can lead to mistakes in the cockpit that have the same end result as those of a well-paid though suicidal pilot. Ultimately the Germanwings accident shows that mental stress is a problem. In the case of Lubitz, the problem appears to have been of an intimate nature and hidden from his colleagues and employers; in other cases however, there are identifiable issues and solutions that are to be found in better management and better working conditions.
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Opinion | March 29, 2015
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Obama Doctrine: Legacy or fallacy?

Obama Doctrine: Legacy or fallacy?

March 30, 2015 | Featured, Opinion, PerryScope

By Perry Diaz

Barack-Obama-Nobel-Peace-PrizeIn his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him in December 2009, President Barack Obama said: “I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

“And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.

“But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.

“Still, we are at war, and I’m responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

Obama during his college days at Columbia University.

Obama during his college days at Columbia University.

Reading between the lines, Obama seemed to be uncomfortable – and hesitant – of his new role as the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful country in the history of mankind. As one who manifested a “peacenik” orientation during his college days at Columbia University in the early 1980s, he found his new role as the leader of the free world to be totally in conflict with what he was perceived to believe in: pacifism.

It did not then come as surprise when Obama decided to withdraw all American forces including “boots on the ground,” from Iraq at the end of 2011. And his only reason why he did so was because he made a promise during the 2008 presidential campaign that he would withdraw American troops from Iraq.
ISIS rebels entering Mosul.

ISIS rebels entering Mosul.

Obama ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq when the Iraqi military was hardly a fighting force. When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rebels crossed the border from Syria and attacked Mosul in 2014, the city fell in four days of fighting when Iraqi soldiers threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as the ISIS rebels entered the city. The same scenario was repeated through all the towns and villages that ISIS attacked.

After several months of merciless assault by ISIS against the helpless Iraqis, Obama ordered air strikes against the rebels. However, he refused to send “boots on the ground” to help the Iraqis defend their territory. Many military experts opined that the war couldn’t be won without “boots on the ground.”

And this turned out to be another Obama miscalculation. There is a proverb that says: “If there is a gap, something will fill it.” And true enough; the vacuum that America left in Iraq was filled by Iranian troops fighting side by side with the Iraqis against ISIS. Now, does anybody expect the Iranians to leave Iraq when ISIS is driven out of Iraq? Let me guess. Hell, no!

Putin and World War III
Putin and his generals.

Putin and his generals.

But what’s happening in Iraq is just a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the globe vis-à-vis America’s role as the only superpower that maintains order in the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. It was the dawn of Pax Americana or American Peace.

But Pax Americana is being shattered by the civil war in Ukraine. Indeed, what’s going on in Ukraine could be a precursor to World War III. Right now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is making a lot of noise, threatening to use nuclear missiles against members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) if they interfered with the unrest in Ukraine.

The question is: Is Putin going to use nuclear weapons if World War III erupted? While it might seem that there is some sanity to Putin’s mental state, he might start World War III with conventional weapons. However, should NATO or the United States win a conventional war with Russia, Putin is expected to resort to a “First-Strike” nuclear attack on the U.S. But in today’s nuclear technology, neither America or Russia could succeed in a “First-Strike” attack against each other because it would be almost impossible to seek and destroy the ballistic missile nuclear submarines that are moving stealthily in the high seas, ready to launch their missiles against pre-determined targets. It’s interesting to note that more than half of the U.S.’s nuclear ballistic missiles are launched from “boomers” as the nuclear submarines are called. Although Russia has a lot fewer “boomers” than the U.S., she has enough to cause enumerable nuclear damage to America. In other words, World War III could lead to MAD; that is, Mutually Assured Destruction.

Vision of peace
Oobama's "Breaking the War Mentality"

Oobama’s “Breaking the War Mentality”

And it is because of this that Obama is known to be a strong supporter of nuclear disarmament. While at Columbia University, which was the breeding ground for the anti-war movement, Obama wrote an op-ed, “Breaking the War Mentality,” in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about his vision of a “nuclear free world.”

It was this “vision” that had provided a backdrop for Obama’s foreign policy upon his election in 2008. It was no wonder then that his foreign policy, known as “Obama Doctrine” is guided by the use of diplomacy to accomplish peaceful resolutions to world problems. He believes that there are no military solutions to every problem in the 21st century. But then, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had asked Gen. Colin Powell during the Clinton years, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Touché.

It did not then come as a surprise that Obama has consistently refused to send lethal and defensive weapons to Ukraine. He believes that arming Ukraine would infuriate Putin who had threatened to send arms and Russian troops to Ukraine. But Putin is already doing that; there are Russian troops and heavy weaponry in Ukraine right now. Yet, Obama has turned a blind eye to the Russian “invasion.”

Arms race
Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Hassan Rouhani.

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Hassan Rouhani.

And while Obama is trying to decrease U.S. troop strength and military assets, Russia and China have been increasing their military budgets to overcome America’s military superiority. Indeed, Russia now has more nuclear warheads than the U.S. while China’s growing naval power in the South China Sea is pushing America’s naval presence outside the First Island Chain, which runs from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In addition, China is building at least five artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Once these artificial islands are completed and used for naval and air force bases, China would have — for the first time — military bases outside Chinese territory. Yes, it won’t be long before the South China Sea becomes China’s Lake Beijing.

While America’s military brass is aware of what’s happening in Iraq, Ukraine, and the South China Sea, there is not much they can do to convince Obama to use a different tact in dealing with foreign policy and geopolitical matters. Simply put, accommodating – and appeasing – Russia, China, and Iran would only diminish America’s international image and military primacy. It would be the end of the unipolar world of Pax Americana and the advent of a multipolar world order that would divide the world into spheres of influence among the U.S., Russia, China, and Iran.

Surmise it to say, the Obama Doctrine may have contributed to the creation of this multipolar world order, which begs the question: Is Obama Doctrine a legacy or a fallacy?


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This entry was tagged with: Arms race, Barack Obama, China, Columbia University, Geopolitics, Hassan Rouhani, Iraq, ISIS, Multipolar world order, NATO, Pacifism, Pax Americana, Russia, South China Sea, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, World War III, Xi Jinping
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ten Years Later, U.S. Has Left Iraq with Mass Displacement & Epidemic of Birth Defects, Cancers

Ten Years Later, U.S. Has Left Iraq with Mass Displacement & Epidemic of Birth Defects, Cancers

In part two of our interview, Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail discusses how the U.S. invasion of Iraq has left behind a legacy of cancer and birth defects suspected of being caused by the U.S. military’s extensive use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus. Noting the birth defects in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, Jamail says: "They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to ... What this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II." Jamail has also reported on the refugee crisis of more than one million displaced Iraqis still inside the country, who are struggling to survive without government aid, a majority of them living in Baghdad. Click here to watch part 1 of the interview. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Dahr Jamail, investigative journalist who has just returned from Iraq, one of a handful of unembedded journalists who extensively covered the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, has spent a year reporting from Iraq between 2003 and the 10th anniversary of the war. His most recent stories for Al Jazeera include "Maliki’s Iraq: Rape, Executions and Torture" and "Iraq: War’s Legacy of Cancer." Nermeen?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dahr Jamail, one of the things that you mention in your recent reports is that the death penalty was reinstated in Iraq following the U.S. invasion. It was reinstated in 2005. And now Iraq has among the highest rates of death sentences in the world? Is that right?
DAHR JAMAIL: That’s right. The U.N. special rapporteur covering this topic has called—actually over a year ago, called for the Maliki administration to cease and desist all executions that are planned, because there is no fair—no due process happening in Iraq. There’s no trials happening, basically kangaroo courts for some of those that are going to be executed and on death row. And absolutely, since the death penalty was reinstated, it’s just been a flood of executions, and the current number of known people that the government admits to on death row is 3,000 people. Sometimes we’re seeing as many as 12 to 20 executions on any given day. Non-Iraqi citizens have been executed, including people from Syria and Saudi Arabia. Women are being executed, as well as people who are under the age of 18. So, it’s clearly out of control. Human rights groups like Human Rights Watch, who I spoke with about this, have all called for a cessation of the ongoing executions that are happening, because, really, the Maliki government is just, you know, carrying these things out with impunity, so to speak.
And so, you know, I contacted someone within Iraq’s Ministry of Justice, and the spokesperson who basically said, "Look, we—if something happens in the United States, we see that there’s so much outcry. You know, like the crimes of 9/11, for example, there’s so much outcry, and people want to see people punished." And he said, "Why isn’t it the same for Iraq?" was his justification. And, in fact, he went on so far as to say, "We have a right to do this. And, in fact, I think that in order to bring more comfort to the families of the victims of crimes, we should have public hangings and public executions in Iraq."
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, I wanted to ask you about the issue of depleted uranium. In 2004, a special investigation by Democracy Now! co-host Juan González of the New York Daily News found four of nine soldiers of the 442nd Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard returning from Iraq tested positive for depleted uranium contamination. They were the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the Iraq conflict. One of the people affected was Sergeant Agustin Matos, who was deployed in Iraq with the 442nd Military Police. Speaking on Democracy Now!, he described his health problems.
SGT. AGUSTIN MATOS: I, myself, while I was out there, experienced a couple—a fever one night, unexplained. I was fine during the day, and then it just hit me. It just totally knocked me out. I was in bed. I couldn’t get out. I can’t remember exactly what the fevers were. But also I had—I was urinating blood while I was out there. It wasn’t good. It was just a place not to be when you were sick like that.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Sergeant Agustin Matos. What did you find as you returned to Iraq this last time, Dahr Jamail, about depleted uranium and its effect on Iraqis?
DAHR JAMAIL: Overall, the country has seen a massive increase in cancer rates from the 1991 Gulf War up to present, even according to official Iraqi government statistics. In 1991, for example, there were 40 registered cases of cancer out of 100,000 Iraqis. By 1995, four years after that war, that number had jumped to 800 out of 100,000 Iraqis. And then—by 2005, that number had doubled—
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, I just want to say, as we show—
DAHR JAMAIL: —by 2005, that number had doubled—
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, as we—as you speak, I just want to say we’re going to be showing images, and I want to warn our TV audience. For our radio listeners, if you want to go to the website, you’ll be able to see the kind of images that you captured, Dahr, when you were in Iraq. Go ahead. Keep saying what you were saying.
DAHR JAMAIL: The most recent statistic, I’ll end with, before I get into Fallujah. And what these images are showing is that in 2005 we saw 1,600 Iraqis with cancer out of 100,000, so a massive escalation that continues.
And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.
And so, what this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath of—in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were—that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II. So, Dr. Samira Alani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings. These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to. She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects. And it is ongoing.
And she—lastly, to really give you an idea of the scope of the problem, is that this is happening now at a massive rate. And she said her being the only person cataloging and registering cases, with no help from Baghdad, who is denying that there’s some sort of problem like this in Fallujah—she said that she could probably safely estimate that the number of cases, as high as the rate that she’s seeing, could probably be doubled, because so many people are having their babies at home and just taking care of it. You know, most of these babies are being born dead, and then they’re not reporting it whatsoever. So, this is an ongoing crisis. And the rate has not increased since last year, but it’s not decreased, either. It was still—when I talked to her last year, it was 14 times greater rate of malformations in newborns as compared to the aftermath areas of the nuclear bombings in Japan, and it’s the same when I spoke with her about this one week ago.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dahr Jamail, do you know, has any U.S. government official ever publicly acknowledged that the U.S. used depleted uranium in Iraq? And what does international law say about the use of depleted uranium in wartime?
DAHR JAMAIL: The Pentagon has admitted to using several hundred tons during the '91 Gulf War. It's hard to get official figures from them from this current—the most recent war, where certainly they’ve admitted that it was used, but we—you know, figures range anywhere from another couple of hundred tons upwards to 800 tons. There’s been no official statement, that I’ve seen anyway, from the Pentagon talking about the effects of these weapons either on the Iraqi civilian population or members of the U.S. military who use them, like the person in the clip that you played earlier.
International law is very clear about these types of weapons: Any weapon that is known to have a lasting negative impact on the civilian population in the general area where it is used is technically a banned or a highly restricted weapon. And in this case, these types of weapons should not be allowed to be used. As I reported back in 2004, when it came out that white phosphorus was indeed being used in Fallujah, that’s another restricted weapon where the Geneva Conventions state very clearly that if there are any—a possibility of any civilians in the area where it is going to be used, it is not allowed to be used. So there—the Geneva Conventions are very, very clear about these.
And this brings up a broader point about the war. As we heard in an earlier clip from Michael Moore talking about the illegality of the war, it’s good to hear this brought back into the discourse. Another individual, Robert Jensen, wrote an extremely poignant piece about the illegality of the war for Truthout just yesterday. And I think it’s important that we all remember on the anniversary that this was a war that violated the Geneva Convention. It is a crime against peace, according to the Nuremberg Principles. And all those responsible—Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz—all the architects of the war, if the U.S. was indeed a member of the International Criminal Court, should be handled accordingly. And I think it’s important that we remember the illegality of this and that this continues and that these crimes, started 10 years ago, that were perpetuated against the Iraqi people, that we see now most blatantly in these birth defects of these people in Fallujah, should never have even happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, finally, the issue of internally displaced people in Iraq. You have the Iraqi refugees. How many left the country? How many remain inside? And where are they inside Iraq?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, at the height of the sectarian bloodletting in 2006, 2007, there were over four million refugees, roughly half of them in the country, half of them who had fled the country, largely to Syria and to Jordan. To this day, according to official Iraqi government statistics, there’s 1.1 million internally displaced persons in Iraq. The majority of those are in Baghdad. Most of them have fled from sectarian cleansings of the aforementioned years and from the mixed neighborhoods where they had used to live or the mixed villages, and into oftentimes primarily Sunni areas, seeking refuge.
So, they’re not getting really any help whatsoever from the government. They’re living in horrible situations. And it was really a poignant thing to witness, Amy, because despite these people living in really difficult conditions, oftentimes living amongst giant piles of garbage, you walk in, and as per Iraqi Arab custom, you’re offered a drink, although even in so many of these cases people only had literally a glass of water that they could—they could offer you, despite the fact that they’re living with no government assistance and help, and basically no hope for a future, of "Where are we going to go from here? How is the situation in any way going to improve for us?" when things look so bleak, with a government in gridlock, and it looking like we’re poised for another massive increase in sectarian violence.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Dahr, you were just in Iraq. Repeatedly on television, the corporate networks in the United States: "But the U.S. got rid of Saddam Hussein, who was a tyrant." What is the feeling of people on the ground in Iraq?
DAHR JAMAIL: Stunningly, as bad as things were under Saddam—and we have to keep in mind this perspective of Saddam in the wake of a brutal eight-year war with Iran and then the genocidal sanctions for 13 years, from 1991 up until the beginning of this invasion in March 2003—as bad as it was under Saddam, with the repression and the detentions and the torture and the killings, the overall feeling of Iraqis today, in Baghdad and other places in Iraq where I went this trip, was that things are much worse now. There’s less—far less security. You don’t really know where you can go and what you can do and know that you’re going to have any kind of safety. "Any time that we send our kids out to school now," is what I was told, "we don’t know for sure on any given day that they’re going to come back." And so, the prevailing sentiment is that, yes, it was good initially to have Saddam removed, but people are still concerned with basic things like security, an economy stable enough to be able to have a job to work, to have food and provide something for your family. And these things just no longer exist today in Iraq. So the prevailing sentiment is that it’s far worse now even than it was under Saddam Hussein.
AMY GOODMAN: Dahr, we want to thank you very much for joining us from the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. Dahr Jamail, an investigative journalist, unembedded reporter, extensively covered the war in Iraq. You can see his reports through the 10 years on our website, on our Iraq War timeline.
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