In this presentation, given at IP Week, Bassam Fattouh discusses the heightened geopolitical risks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the potential impacts, both short-and long-term, on oil and gas markets.
These are the politicians who have been accused of sexual misconduct this year alone. Read the definitive list and their responses to the allegations.
The fight in Afrin has thrown a spotlight on international powers—from Turkey and Russia to Iran and the U.S.—vying for position in Syria. Here’s a rundown of what’s at stake for the competing powers.
Via The Strategic Culture Foundation, In its latest Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the American Pentagon declares at one point in the document that the Cold War is long over. Apart from that fleeting mention, however, one would think from reading the entire review that the Cold War, for Washington, has never been so palpable. It is a fear-laden document, relentlessly portraying the world as fraught with existential danger to US national security. Russia and China, as with two other recent strategic policy papers out of Washington, are again painted as adversaries who must be confronted with ever-greater US military power. The latest NPR asserts that since the last such review in 2010, “America confronts an international security situation that is more complex and demanding than any since the end of the Cold War.” It is clear from reading the 74-page document that Russia and China are the main source of security concern for the Pentagon – albeit the reasons for the concern are far from convincing. Indeed one might say downright alarmist. Washington accuses Russia and China of pursuing nuclear weapons development which is threatening. It accuses Russia in particular of violating arms controls treaties and threatening American allies with its nuclear arsenal. There are several other such unsubstantiated claims made by the Pentagon in the document. Russia and China responded by condemning the aggressive nature of the Pentagon’s latest doctrine, as they have done with regard to two other recent strategic papers published by the Trump administration. It is deplorable that Washington seems to go out of its way to portray the world in such bellicose terms. The corollary of this attitude is the repudiation of diplomacy and multilateralism. Washington, it seems, is a hostage to its own imperative need to generate a world of hostile relations in order to justify its rampant militarism, which is, in turn, fundamental to its capitalist economy. The lamentable, even criminal, danger of this strategy is that it foments unnecessary tensions and animosity in world relations. Russia and China have repeatedly called for normal, multilateral relations. Yet, remorselessly, Washington demonizes the two military powers in ways that are retrograde and reckless. The Pentagon’s latest nuclear doctrine goes even further in its provocations. Based on dubious accusations of Russia’s threatening behavior (“annexation of Crimea”, “aggression in Ukraine”), the Pentagon has declared it will rely more on nuclear force for “deterrence”. That can be taken as a warning that Washington is, in effect, lowering its threshold for deploying nuclear weapons. It overtly states that it will consider use of nuclear weapons to defend American interests and allies from “nuclear and conventional threats”. The language is chilling. It talks about inflicting “incalculable” and “intolerable” costs on “adversaries”. This is nothing short of Washington terrorizing the rest of the world into conforming to its geopolitical demands. Another sinister development is that Washington has now declared that it will be acquiring “low-yield” nuclear weapons. These so-called “mini-nukes” will again lower the threshold for possible deployment of nuclear warheads in the misplaced belief that such deployment will not escalate to strategic weapons. What’s disturbing is that the US is evidently moving toward a policy of greater reliance on nuclear force to underpin its international power objectives. It is also broadening, in a provocative and reckless way, what it considers “aggression” by other adversaries, principally Russia. Taken together, Washington is increasingly setting itself on a more hostile course. Some 57 years ago, in 1961, then US President Dwight Eisenhower gave a farewell address to the nation in which he issued a grave forewarning about the growing control of the “military-industrial complex” over American life. Back then, the American military-industrial complex could disguise its insatiable appetite with the pretext of the Cold War and the “Soviet enemy”. Today, the American federal government spends about $700 billion a year on military – over half its discretionary budget. The US spends more on military than at any time during the Cold War – in constant dollar terms. The US military-industrial complex has become a voracious monster way beyond anything that Eisenhower may have feared. It is no longer a threat merely to American life. It is a threat to the life of the entire planet. Objectively, the US has no foreign enemy endangering its existence; neither Russia nor China. Not even North Korea, despite its anti-American rhetoric, poses a direct threat to the US. The Pentagon – on behalf of the military-industrial complex – is stretching credulity when it depicts the world as a more threatening place. Fingering Russia and China is absurd. In order to try to shore up its scare-mongering with a semblance of credibility, the Pentagon is escalating the rhetoric about nuclear weapons and the need to deploy them. There is no objective justification for this nuclear posturing by the US, only as a way to dramatize alleged national security fears, in order to keep the military-industrial racket going. The despicable danger from this retrograde Cold War strategy is that the US is recklessly pushing the world toward war and possibly nuclear catastrophe. Fortunately, Russia and China have highly developed military defenses to keep American insanity in check. Nevertheless, American belligerence is pushing the world to combustible tensions. The problem is that American rulers have become a rogue state. The American people need to somehow sack their rogue rulers and their military madness, and return the nation to a democratic function. Until then, Russia and the rest of the world must be on guard.
Here's a look at how 'Suits' will change in Season 8 now that Meghan Markle has left the show.
Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review, The latest policy recommendations by the influential Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), one of the most well-respected and listened-to experts in Russia – to say nothing of the entire former Soviet space – is causing quite a stir by waxing nostalgically about the Obama years and even suggesting that Moscow should embrace the American “deep state”. Mr. Kortunov’s Case For Russia’s “Deep State”-Democrat Partnership Mr. Andrey Kortunov is one of the most brilliant minds in Russia and earned his place as the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), and his words accordingly carry much weight for the fact that they set the tone for countless other analysts in the country and even an untold number of policymakers who look to him for guidance. That’s why it caused quite a stir when he published his latest recommendation earlier this week at the famous Valdai Club titled “Russian Approaches to the United States: Algorithm Change Is Overdue”, in which he waxed nostalgically about the Obama years and even suggested that Moscow should embrace the American “deep state”. Director of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey KortunovSo as not to put words in his mouth, the relevant passages are republished in their entirety below: “First, it is better to avoid demonizing the Deep State, which is perceived by many in Moscow as the center of world evil and the stronghold of the pathological haters of Russia. Of course, most of the State Department or the CIA officials, the Congress staff, experts from the main think tanks are not Vladimir Putin’s fans. But these people, at least, have considerable experience of interaction with Moscow and can hardly be considered stubborn paranoids, exalted conspiracy theorists or genetic Russophobes. Deep State consists of rationally thinking professionals, who are always easier to deal with than romantic amateurs are. With all its shortcomings, it is the Deep State that limits Donald Trump’s most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities. Second, it’s time to change the attitude toward the Democratic Party leadership. For some reason (probably because of inertia) the Barack Obama administration is constantly remembered in Russia in the worst possible way, with the two latest presidents constantly juxtaposed. How is Obama bad, and Trump is good? The stubborn facts show otherwise. For example, Obama pursued a consistent policy of rapprochement with Iran, and Trump returned to the most severe pressure on Tehran. Obama followed the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem, and Trump destroyed this consensus. Obama did not resort to direct military action against Bashar Assad, and Trump did not hesitate to give an order to launch missiles against the Syrian Al- Shayrat airbase. Well, who after all created more problems for Russia — Democrats or Republicans?” Mr. Kortunov did indeed talk about other aspects of US-Russian relations, including the need for a bottom-up approach to improving his country’s soft power in America, but none of those proposals are controversial, at least not when compared to what he wrote about above. A diversity of respectful views in any discourse is symptomatic of a healthy democracy, and Russian society is no different in this respect, which is why the dialogue on this topic would be greatly enriched by presenting some counterpoints to Mr. Kortunov’s article. Deciphering The “Deep State” The first is that the US’ military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) are experienced and rational like Mr. Kortunov describes them as, but that they nevertheless bear primary responsibility for the deterioration in US-Russian relations under both the Obama and Trump Presidencies because the bulk of these professional bureaucrats always retain their jobs between leadership transitions in the country. The President is supposed to determine the broad trajectory of their work in consultation with his closest advisors, some of whom are handpicked by him and approved by Congress to lead the relevant institutions of the “deep state” while others are more informal, but the rank-and-file members of the “deep state” are still largely more responsible for the execution of policy in practice than anyone else. Unprecedentedly, many of them oppose President Trump’s stated desire to improve relations with Russia and have worked to unconstitutionally offset his plans, and the pressure that they’ve put on him to this end explains why he’s undertaken decisively anti-Russian policies during his first year in office despite his campaign pledge to do the opposite. Seeing as how most of these “deep state” individuals naturally remained in the same positions that they had during the Obama Administration and would have probably still retained their jobs under Hillary’s Presidency, it’s inaccurate to attribute the deterioration of Russian-American ties to President Trump personally while overlooking the actions of the “deep state” that he’s still trying to reform to the best of his ability. The “deep state” is rational – too rational, it can be argued – because it embraces a Neo-Realist paradigm of International Relations that sometimes correlates with Trump’s own views on certain topics but other times contradicts them like in the case of Russia, and the internal power struggle between Trump and the “deep state” is what’s really to blame for the worsening of bilateral relations, not the “amateur” President’s “romanticism” like Mr. Kortunov insists. For these reasons, it can be argued that Mr. Kortunov’s belief that the “deep state” “can hardly be considered stubborn paranoids, exalted conspiracy theorists or genetic Russophobes” isn’t exactly accurate, since it’s indeed full of “stubborn paranoids” under the dual influence of the neoconservatives’ Neo-Realism and the Obama-Clinton worldview of “militant liberalism”. That said, the “conspiracy theories” that he references are just a “deep state” infowar distraction to deceive the voting masses while the assertion that such a thing as a “genetic Russophobe” exists wrongly implies that an individual’s political views are irreversibly predetermined by their DNA. To flip around Mr. Kortunov’s last comment on the matter, it’s more realistic to assert that “with all his shortcomings, it is Donald Trump that limits the Deep State’s most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities.” Debunking The Dreams Of Democrat Rule Relatedly, Mr. Kortunov’s views on the “deep state” clearly influence his attitude towards the Democrats and specifically the Obama Administration, which he thinks is unfairly “remembered in Russia in the worst possible way” because “the stubborn facts show otherwise” and apparently disprove the prevailing notion that “Obama (is) bad, and Trump is good.” Mr. Kortunov thinks that Obama had pure intentions in signing the nuclear agreement with Iran, though it can cynically be argued that his “deep state” was in fact trying to co-opt the Islamic Republic’s “moderate/reformist” ruling elite in a bid to tip the scales to their favor in the country’s own “deep state” competition for influence with the “conservative/principalist” military-security faction, the failure of which would explain why Trump was tasked with “returning to the most severe pressure on Tehran.” The enduring presence of most of the “deep state’s” personnel between presidential administrations doesn’t preclude the US from pivoting between policies but actually allows such moves to be more smoothly executed, as can be seen from the example of Nixon’s rapprochement with China in spite of Johnson’s antagonism towards it; Bush Sr. “betraying” Iraq even though Reagan aligned with it; Obama signing the nuclear deal against the former Bush Jr. Administration’s wishes; and Trump dismantling his predecessor’s plans. Although the President might set the tone for the overall direction that each respective policy should go in and this sometimes reverses what the previous administration did, it’s ultimately the “deep state” that puts these ideas into practice and is able to maintain a degree of strategic continuity that advances America’s national interests regardless, though the case of Trump’s vision for US-Russia relations also shows that this same “deep state” can also conspire to obstruct the President’s will. Another “stubborn fact” at variance with Mr. Kortunov’s nostalgia for Democrat rule is the practical significance of Obama “following the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem” and Trump “destroying” it since it inaccurately hints that the former was somehow ‘pro-Palestinian’ and that the latter’s announcement tangibly changed something on the ground, neither of which are true because Obama was actually very pro-Israel and Trump’s decision only stands to affect foreign aid recipients who voted against the US and the UN. Looking beyond Obama’s highly publicized personal rivalry with Netanyahu and his populist rhetoric on the Palestinian issue, nothing that he did during his two terms had any influence on Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and unilateral claim to the entirety of the city being its capital; likewise, Trump’s words didn’t change any of this reality either and only resulted in word games being played at the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, neither of which did anything other than attempt to comfort the Palestinians. As for Mr. Kortunov’s juxtaposition of Obama’s refusal to “resort to direct military action against Bashar Assad” with Trump “not hesitating to give an order to launch missiles against the Syrian Al- Shayrat airbase”, he’s totally overlooking the 44th President’s responsibility for the theater-wide “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions and the resultant Hybrid War of Terror on Syria which dealt incomparably more damage to Syria and its democratically elected President’s standing that Trump’s handful of one-off missiles. In addition, Trump only ordered the attack because he was under intense “deep state” pressure to do so after having been caught in a Catch-22 trap where he was forced to “put his money where his mouth is” and respond to the false-flag chemical weapons attack that violated his “red line”, but truthfully speaking, what Mr. Kortunov might really resent is that it only took a few million dollars’ worth of missiles to call President Putin’s bluff in hinting at a military response to the exact same scenario in 2013 that got Obama to back down at the time. To respond to Mr.Kortunov’s rhetorical question of “who after all created more problems for Russia — Democrats or Republicans?”, the reader should be reminded that the Obama Administration presided over or was outright responsible for the “Arab Spring” and its attendant regime changes, the War on Syria, the 2011-12 anti-government unrest in Moscow, EuroMaidan and the Ukrainian Civil War, the anti-Russian sanctions, and the fake news scheme of “Kremlin interference” in order to suppress Russia’s publicly funded international media outlets and harass their employees, among many other examples. In comparison, Trump merely continued most of the policy trajectories that Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first initiated, and even then he’s tried to resist some of the “deep state’s” pressure when it comes to Russia, so as bad as he’s been for Moscow’s interests, one should wonder how much worse Hillary would have been she entered into the Presidency and allowed the “deep state” to do as it pleases. Concluding Thoughts Mr. Kortunov seems to have wanted to spark a serious conversation about how Russia’s “deep state” should respond to the disappointment that it experienced throughout Trump’s first year in office, and if that was his intention, then he remarkably succeeded by controversially reinterpreting the Obama years as something to apparently be nostalgic about and boldly suggesting that his government reconsider its negative attitude to Trump’s “deep state” foes. In the spirit of dialogue that Mr. Kortunov implicitly encouraged by publishing such a provocative piece, it’s only fitting that a rebuttal be presented to challenge his premise that the Democrats and their “deep state” handlers are supposedly more preferable to Russia than Trump is, especially seeing as how he selectively pointed to a few decontextualized examples that were presumably cherry-picked in order to promote his argument. With all due respect to this prestigious gentleman, his entire notion is flat-out wrong and shows that he doesn’t at all understand Trump’s “Kraken”-like leadership and his never-ending struggle to survive the “deep state’s” permanent Clintonian Counter-Revolution that’s being waged in trying to undermine the Second American Revolution that the President is trying to carry out in America’s domestic and foreign affairs. Instead of ignoring the plethora of evidence proving the Obama Administration’s hostility to Russia and its international interests, Mr. Kortunov should have at least made a superficial reference to it because this glaring omission implies a deliberate partiality towards that political faction and the “deep state” in general, which is fine to have in principle but nevertheless casts doubt on how effective his proposals would be in the overall sense of things if they were ever put into practice. Mr. Kortunov is evidently unaware that the same “deep state” that he finds attractive in contrast to Trump had a controlling influence in determining the Obama Administration’s anti-Russian policies that the 44th President’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up implementing with ruinous consequences for Moscow’s grand strategic interests, and that she would have given the “deep state” free rein to do whatever it wanted had she won unlike Trump’s willingness to challenge its most extreme tendencies (though with mixed results). Having said that, pragmatic working relations between Russia and the US’ “deep states” are inevitable because there isn’t any alternative to interacting with any national counterpart’s collection of military, intelligence, and diplomatic figures no matter how much one may disagree with their policies unless ties between the two sides are formally suspended, which isn’t foreseeable but would in any case still allow for the existence of communication backchannels. What Mr. Kortunov is lobbying for is something altogether different because he wants Russian decision makers to reconceptualize the American “deep state” as a ‘positive’, ‘moderating’, and ‘responsible’ force against what he characterizes as Trump’s ”romantic”, “amateurish”, “most exotic and potentially most dangerous foreign policy oddities”, which is ironically a very “romantic” and “exotic” view to have of the US’ most dangerous anti-Russian institutional forces. In all actuality, however, the “deep state” and its Democrat allies are the real reason why Trump hasn’t been able to succeed in his pledge to improve Russian-American relations, and these two problems shouldn’t ever be confused as part of the solution that’s needed to reverse this downward spiral, nor should a tactical partnership with these two actors ever be considered if Moscow hopes to maintain the upper hand in the New Cold War.
Authored by Tom Luongo, Governments created cryptocurrencies... Policy decisions from the most mundane regulations like pet licensure to the big ones like the bank bailouts after the fall of Lehman Bros. pushed the alliance of hard-money advocates and cryptography experts together to form Bitcoin. From its earliest days, Bitcoin advocates understood why they were spending their time developing its infrastructure. They wanted a way out of the system created by what I consider the superstructure of world capital movements. Alex Jones calls it the “Globalists,” others the “Atlanticists” and the alt-right just calls it “The Jews.” None of these are adequate descriptions of who/what this group of international power-brokers, financiers, old money, secret societies, et cetera are. But their over-arching goal is what the modern Marxists rightly identify as the accumulation of nearly unlimited power. Lacking any true moral center or humility, “The System” is nothing more than a giant capital vacuum constantly tugging at us to give up just a little bit more of ourselves to keep them from annoying us further. Gimme Some of that ol’ Time Rent Control In economics we call these types of people rent-seekers. Rent is defined as unearned wealth taken as a fee while giving lesser value or none in return. It is not a like-for-like exchange of value. Taxation is the ultimate form of rent. It’s also theft, but that’s just dispensing with childish euphemisms. The problem with rent-seeking behavior is that it creates perverse incentives within an economy, which, in turn, waste capital. The most obvious example of this is farm subsidies which prop up the price of one crop by paying farmers not to plant another crop. In lobbying to protect the lives of certain constituents (the farmers/agribusiness corp.), politicians trade the lives of other constituents who have less political pull within the government, be that government representative or otherwise. Everyone who profits along the way collects rent as either a direct consequence (the farmers and/or agribusiness) or a bribe (the politicians/bureaucrats). And now everyone who gets paid in support of this policy has a vested interest in maintaining it. From the secretary filing the paperwork and the farmer sitting on his ass to the CEO of Monsanto. This is the essence of perverse incentives and it is a cancer that eats away at the fabric of an economy. Perverse Incentives Create Perverts But, the rot goes far deeper than that. Prices are information. They transmit our desires of the moment into tangible comparisons. So, if you distort the prices of things, you distort not only the value of them but the incentives for entrepreneurs to schedule future production. People respond to incentives the same way always. They do more of that which satisfies their needs. This is why all forms of poverty reduction policy results in more poverty. It sets up the perverse incentive to not work to better yourself. These interventions also consume more capital handing that capital out than it will ever produce in future returns on it. You have to pay everyone up and down the line. To them this is free money. It simply is not as scarce as it should be relative to the effort they expended to acquire it. They will tend to waste it knowing they don’t have to work hard to get more tomorrow. In the process, they bid up the prices for those frivolous things and under-value those things that create real value. And that destroys not only their work ethic, but ultimately their self-worth while keeping capital-starved the engine of real growth which is the pool of real savings, which I’ve discussed in previous posts. Those inflated prices are transmitted through the pricing system in an ever-degrading downward spiral of capital destruction. The political class responds with more interventions, more monetary debasement to prop up prices for their partners-in-rent-seeking. This exacerbates the natural business cycle, misprices the most important commodity in any economy, the money. Money Shrugged It is this mis-pricing of money through the artificial depression of interest rates that is the most pernicious. And the whole modern financial system is based on managing these effects to extract the most rent but not collapse the system, ending the gravy train. The problem is that the amount of capital needed to prop up prices grows exponentially and eventually the whole system collapses. The debt grows to a point where servicing it consumes all the productive capital available and everything just stops. On this point, and a few others, Ayn Rand was absolutely correct. And it is why she is so thoroughly demonized by modern Progressives. Atlas Shrugged, in spite of Rand’s other pathologies, correctly describes this process. Those that see this coming and seek to protect themselves are outliers. Those whose lives are being diminished by all the rent-seeking seek alternate solutions. The productive portion of the economy is forced to run leaner, being under-capitalized. The pressure for something better intensifies and eventually spawns something brilliant. When that innovation is produced gets over-rewarded by an investment community starved of yield on their savings. This is what drives bubbles in new technology. From computers to the internet to cryptocurrencies there is a through-line of tech bubbles that exists alongside the history of this floating-exchange rate monetary system and its problems. It is the biggest rent-seeking operation in the written history of the planet. The Crypto-Boom With each major innovation in communications and computational technology the powerful have co-opted those leaps to create new forms of control to keep the system from crashing. And the technology itself drove efficiencies that pushed the seizure off for a few more years. We’ve reached that moment of collapse in a generational sense. It doesn’t have to happen today or next month or even this year. But, it is happening. Ludwig von Mises called it the “Crack-up Boom,” the final boom before the system crashes and cannot be re-inflated through money printing. And, I’m certain that cryptocurrencies, not necessarily Bitcoin, are the means to break this system as we approach the next monetary crisis. These other advances (computers, the internet) didn’t fix the underlying problem, the money. The perverse incentives created by a monetary system weren’t neutered. In fact, they made it worse. But, cryptocurrencies, properly deployed, cannot be subdued in the same way that gold was. They’re trying (and succeeding) in doing this to Bitcoin now. But, all this will do is further drive development in crypto-platforms towards privacy, security and ease of use. Watching the powerful interests, “The System” strike back against decentralization the way they have in the past three months has been illuminating. It proves me right again that these people are very smart but they aren’t very clever. They know how to stop a political opponent using some variation on the “Nuts and Sluts” technique of public shaming. It’s not working on Donald Trump, because Trump has no shame. They know how to bind down competition through erecting legal barriers-to-entry, expanding rent-seeking and money printing. And, it’s working on Bitcoin. But, it won’t work on cryptocurrencies in general. Bitcoin was produced for nearly nothing. Litecoin cost even less. Now so many of these crypto-businesses are capitalized at levels they expected five years from now. So, even a 50% to 70% haircut from peak prices puts them in a good position to continue development. So, when the next financial crisis hits and the real flood of money into the space occurs, they’ll be ready for the mass movement of capital into it. And at that point we’ll have a real fight on our hands.
It’s not just Bob Corker feuding with Trump. His Democratic wingman Ben Cardin says the rest of the Foreign Relations panel is on board to take on the president.
• Rebellion by leading athletes threatens future funding• British Gymnastics accused of creating a culture of fearBritish Gymnastics is facing a crisis with its biggest stars, including the double Olympic champion Max Whitlock, refusing to sign World Class Performance Programme contracts and being threatened with having their funding withdrawn.An internal power struggle between the performance, commercial and management teams about the content of the contract has led to a rebellion among the athletes. The Guardian understands almost all of the team which won a record seven medals at the Rio Olympics last summer have refused to sign the contract. The entire men’s artistic squad, including Whitlock who became the first Briton to defend a world title successfully last month, have refused to sign. On the women’s side, the Olympic medallist Amy Tinkler and the European champion Ellie Downie have not signed. Continue reading...
Barın Kayaoğlu Security, Middle East With ISIS gone, political realities descend upon the Middle East. So far it is the Kurds that have gotten the short end of the deal. In a closed-door meeting at a Washington think tank in July, I had the opportunity to ask a high-ranking Iraqi Kurdish official whether he worried that Kurds might be overplaying their hands in Iraq and Syria. I wondered whether regional powers couldn’t reverse the results of the September 25 independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kurdish gains against ISIS in Syria. As a historian of the twentieth century, I expressed concern that the Kurds, rather than attaining their century-old dream of a national homeland, could be pushed back by their neighbors and international powers as they were in the 1920s, 1946, 1961, 1975, 1988 and 2003. My interlocutor, whose name frequently came up in recent discussions on the KRG’s independence and Kirkuk, politely dismissed my points and assured me that my worries were unfounded—especially in Iraq. He informed me and the coterie of other Middle East watchers in the room that Iraqi Kurds, now in the 26th year of their autonomy, would peacefully negotiate their independence with the federal government in Baghdad. If things turned violent, Kurds would defend themselves as they always do. Monday, October 16, 2017: The Fifteen-Hour War But on October 16, the Kurds’ famed Peshmerga army (literally “those who face death”) didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t defend Kirkuk, which Iraqi forces had abandoned in the face of the ISIS onslaught three and a half years ago. Around midnight, an Iraqi task force composed of regular army units, the federal police, the Counter-Terrorism Service, and the Hashd al-Shaabi militia (Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU) launched an assault to capture the oil fields, airport and the K-1 airbase west of the city. As one observer on Twitter pointed out, in the wee hours of October 16, it looked like the Iraqis aimed to capture only those areas west of Kirkuk, not the city. Read full article
Ted Galen Carpenter Security, Americas Pressing for a so-called "better" nuclear deal reflects the lack of realism that has plagued overall U.S. foreign policy in recent decades. All signs indicate that President Trump will rescind Washington’s adherence to the nuclear agreement reached between the leading international powers and Iran in 2015. That agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), placed significant restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program—at the very least greatly slowing any quest for a nuclear-weapons capability. Nevertheless, hawks in the United States have excoriated the deal from the very beginning, arguing that Iran was merely buying time and lulling a gullible Obama administration and other governments into complacency while continuing to covertly develop its nuclear capabilities. During the 2016 presidential-election campaign, Trump himself repeatedly blasted the JCPOA as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” Other opponents equated the agreement with Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany at Munich in 1938. The hostility to the JCPOA is merely the latest manifestation of an unhealthy lack of prudence and realism in U.S. foreign policy on so many issues. Washington’s approach is characterized too often by impossible objectives, boorish, ham-handed diplomacy, and an unwillingness to make even the most imperative concessions to achieve success. The reality is that the JCPOA was probably the best deal that the United States and the other signatories could hope to get from any Iranian government. Indeed, it is surprising that Tehran was willing to accept even those restrictions. And despite allegations from opponents that Iran is violating the terms of the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to certify that Tehran is in compliance. Until now, even the Trump administration has had to concede, however grudgingly, that Iran has abided by the JCPOA’s requirements. Admittedly, the president did grouse that the Iranians were violating “the spirit” of the agreement, whatever that meant. Read full article
“This is the problem with women’s rights in Saudi Arabia—it’s always used by the political system as a negotiation card.”
Our first power rankings since the 2015 World Cup mark two years to go until Japan 2019. England lead the chasing pack while Australia and Wales struggleBefore the All Blacks’ record 57-0 victory over South Africa, Steve Hansen felt the need to defend his side’s uneven performances in 2017. The response was emphatic. It used to be the case that the All Blacks peaked at this stage of the World Cup cycle but Hansen is adamant they will improve in the next two years. Twelve months ago they struggled to maintain their remarkable form through the autumn and as they have crammed five matches into their schedule this year, an upset is not out of the question. But if New Zealand’s halos have slipped just a little – on and off the pitch – they remain the standard bearers of world rugby. Continue reading...
The sweltering heat of Saudi Arabian summer will feel like a cool breeze compared to the geopolitical fire that could soon take over the country if ongoing internal power struggles destabilize the Kingdom’s Royal Family and national security in the coming weeks. After his successful elevation to Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has been appointed by King Salman to be in charge during his holiday to Morocco. The King’s holiday comes at a time of relative instability in the Kingdom, as the effects of the removal of former Crown…