South China Sea: Beijing ‘not frightened to fight a war’ after US move – Tom Phillips in Beijing Wednesday 28 October 2015 03.16 EDT

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China is not afraid of fighting a war against the United States in the South China Sea, a state-run newspaper with links to the Communist party has claimed.

Twenty-four hours after Washington challenged Beijing’s territorial claims in the region by deploying a warship to waters around the disputed Spratly archipelago, the notoriously nationalistic Global Times accused the Pentagon of provoking China.

“In [the] face of the US harassment, Beijing should deal with Washington tactfully and prepare for the worst,” the newspaper argued in an editorial on Wednesday.

“This can convince the White House that China, despite its unwillingness, is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region, and is determined to safeguard its national interests and dignity.”

The People’s Liberation Army Daily, China’s leading military newspaper, used a front-page editorial to accuse the US of sowing chaos in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Cast-iron facts show that time and again the United States recklessly uses force and starts wars, stirring things up where once there was stability, causing the bitterest of harm to those countries directly involved,” the newspaper said, according to Reuters.

Competing claims in the South China Sea.

Tuesday’s manoeuvre, which saw the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sail close to artificial Chinese islands, came after Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping failed to find common ground over the issue during recent talks at the White House.

US defence secretary Ash Carter warned that further “freedom of navigation” operations in the region were planned. “We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits,” he told a congressional hearing.

US defence secretary Ash Carter acknowledges that a US ship did enter disputed waters 

China reacted to Tuesday’s long-anticipated mission by hurling a barrage of accusations at Washington.

“The United States has been very irresponsible,” defense ministry spokesperson Yang Yujun said, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

“We will take any measures necessary to safeguard our security.”


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Tony Blair sorry for Iraq war ‘mistakes’ and admits conflict played role in rise of Isis – Nick Watt Sunday 25 October 2015 06.32 EDT


Former British PM apologises for ‘wrong’ intelligence and mistakes in planning of conflict and admits ‘elements of truth’ in claim war led to rise of Isis

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Tony Blair has apologised for aspects of the Iraq war, sparking claims of attempted “spin” ahead of the Chilcot inquiry findings.

The former UK prime minister used a US television interview – due to be broadcast by CNN Europe on Sunday – to express regret over the failure to plan properly for the aftermath of the toppling in 2003 of Saddam Hussein and the false intelligence used to justify it.

“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” he told CNN. “I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

Asked by host Fareed Zakaria if the Iraq war was “the principal cause” of the rise of Islamic State, he was reported by the Mail on Sunday to have conceded: “I think there are elements of truth in that.”

He added: “Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

Later, a spokeswoman for the former prime minister said: “Tony Blair has always apologised for the intelligence being wrong and for mistakes in planning. He has always also said, and says again here, that he does not however think it was wrong to remove Saddam.

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The End of Pax Americana – By Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson November/December 2015 Issue

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The Obama administration has clearly pulled back from the United States’ recent interventionism in the Middle East, notwithstanding the rise of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and the U.S.-led air war against it. Critics pin the change on the administration’s aversion to U.S. activism in the region, its unwillingness to engage in major combat operations, or President Barack Obama’s alleged ideological preference for diminished global engagement. But the reality is that Washington’s post-9/11 interventions in the region—especially the one in Iraq—were anomalous and shaped false perceptions of a “new normal” of American intervention, both at home and in the region. The administration’s unwillingness to use ground forces in Iraq or Syria constitutes not so much a withdrawal as a correction—an attempt to restore the stability that had endured for several decades thanks to American restraint, not American aggressiveness.

It’s possible to argue that pulling back is less a choice than a necessity. Some realist observers claim that in a time of economic uncertainty and cuts to the U.S. military budget, an expansive U.S. policy in the region has simply become too costly. According to that view, the United States, like the United Kingdom before it, is the victim of its own “imperial overstretch.” Others argue that U.S. policy initiatives, especially the recent negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, have distanced Washington from its traditional Middle Eastern allies; in other words, the United States isn’t pulling back so much as pushing away.

The long period of American primacy in the Middle East is ending.

In actuality, however, the main driver of the U.S. pullback is not what’s happening in Washington but what’s happening in the region. Political and economic developments in the Middle East have reduced the opportunities for effective American intervention to a vanishing point, and policymakers in Washington have been recognizing that and acting accordingly. Given this, the moderate U.S. pullback should be not reversed but rather continued, at least in the absence of a significant threat to core U.S. interests.

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Spy vs. Spy: Inside the Fraying U.S.-Israel Ties – By ADAM ENTOUS Oct. 22, 2015 9:01 p.m. ET

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at a news conference at the White House on Sept. 10, 2010, a time when both countries began to split over the best means to keep Iran from an atomic bomb.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared at a news conference at the White House on Sept. 10, 2010, a time when both countries began to split over the best means to keep Iran from an atomic bomb. PHOTO: JASON REED/REUTERS

The U.S. closely monitored Israel’s military bases and eavesdropped on secret communications in 2012, fearing its longtime ally might try to carry out a strike on Fordow, Iran’s most heavily fortified nuclear facility.

Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site. Worried that Israel might ignite a regional war, the White House sent a second aircraft carrier to the region and readied attack aircraft, a senior U.S. official said, “in case all hell broke loose.”

The two countries, nursing a mutual distrust, each had something to hide. U.S. officials hoped to restrain Israel long enough to advance negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran that the U.S. had launched in secret. U.S. officials saw Israel’s strike preparations as an attempt to usurp American foreign policy.

Instead of talking to each other, the allies kept their intentions secret. To figure out what they weren’t being told, they turned to their spy agencies to fill gaps. They employed deception, not only against Iran, but against each other. After working in concert for nearly a decade to keep Iran from an atomic bomb, the U.S. and Israel split over the best means: diplomacy, covert action or military strikes.

Personal strains between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erupted at their first Oval Office meeting in 2009, and an accumulation of grievances in the years since plunged relations between the two countries into crisis.

This Wall Street Journal account of the souring of U.S.-Israel relations over Iran is based on interviews with nearly two dozen current and former senior U.S. and Israeli officials.

U.S. and Israeli officials say they want to rebuild trust but acknowledge it won’t be easy. Mr. Netanyahu reserves the right to continue covert action against Iran’s nuclear program, said current and former Israeli officials, which could put the spy services of the U.S. and Israel on a collision course.

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The Kissinger Diaries: What He Really Thought About Vietnam – By NIALL FERGUSON October 10, 2015

AP Photo

AP Photo

It has long been assumed that Henry Kissinger “supported” the Vietnam War throughout the 1960s—and that this was one of the reasons Richard Nixon offered him the job of national security adviser. This view is incorrect. As his private papers and diaries make clear, Kissinger realized by 1966 at the latest that the U.S. intervention in defense of South Vietnam was a doomed enterprise and that only a diplomatic solution would end the conflict.

From a very early stage, Kissinger understood the nature of the problem the United States faced. “All history proves that there is no cheap and easy way to defeat guerrilla movements,” he wrote in February 1962. “South Vietnam has been plagued by Communist Viet Cong attacks ever since it became independent in 1954. Their defeat can only be accomplished by adequate military force. … However, merely physical security will not solve the problem. The people of South Vietnam must develop a long-term commitment to their government if they wish to attain political and economic stability.”

But how could that happen if the United States undermined the legitimacy of the South Vietnamese government, as happened in 1963, when the Kennedy administration approved a bloody coup against the government of Ngo Dinh Diem? When the news broke of Diem’s murder, Kissinger denounced U.S. policy as “shameful.” “Conditions in Vietnam will, in my judgment, get worse,” he warned.

In October 1965 Kissinger flew to Saigon at the invitation of the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. An expert on European history and nuclear strategy, Kissinger had never previously been to Vietnam. He knew little if anything about the country’s history and not a word of its language. But he already knew one thing: This was a war that could not be won by military means.

After briefings in Washington before his trip, he jotted down some revealing notes. “Must realize,” he wrote, “that only possible outcome is limited one … in which VC [Viet Cong, the Communist guerrillas] have some kind of role.” Such a compromise solution was the only good option available. Outright victory in South Vietnam was unattainable because “we know nothing about nation-building.”

Stopping in Honolulu on his way to Vietnam, he met with Lieutenant General Paul S. Emrick, the Pacific Command chief of staff. Emrick assured him “that all the soldiers in Vietnam were being trained to be good will ambassadors handing out candy and defending the villages.” Kissinger replied drily that “perhaps the problem was not only friendship but physical security against assassination. Many people in American cities are paying for protection against gangsters. This doesn’t mean that they love the gangsters; it simply proves that the police are not able to protect them.”

The more U.S. military briefings he heard, the more pessimistic Kissinger became. The fact was that “no one could really explain to me how even on the most favorable assumptions about the war in Vietnam the [war] was going to end.” No one really had a plan for pacification. No one really knew how infiltration was happening. His conclusion was as bleak as it was prescient:

I am quite convinced that too much planning in the government and a great deal of military planning assumes that the opponent is stupid and that he will fight the kind of war for which one is best prepared. However … the essence of guerrilla warfare is never to fight the kind of war your opponent expects. Having moved very many large units into Vietnam … we must not become prisoners now of a large-unit mentality. Otherwise I think that we will face the problem of psychological exhaustion.

Perhaps most unnerving of all were the warnings to Kissinger to stick close to the U.S. embassy and other secure installations as “the losses to the terrorist activity in Saigon were much greater than was being announced.” His parents had good reason to pray for his safe return.

At first sight, Saigon looked safe. It was, Kissinger recorded in his diary, just “like Washington in August … though for some reason [the humidity] does not have quite the enervating effect that it does in a heat wave in the United States.” He found the late summer heat “soft and all enveloping … almost as if you could feel the air physically.” The only problem was that the “constant alteration between air conditioned individual offices and the slightly steamy atmosphere outside causes almost everybody to suffer from a cold.” Kissinger went for a swim at the Cercle Sportif, “which is what passes for the exclusive swimming club in Saigon.” It was “like everything else here … run down and somewhat dilapidated,” but it offered a pleasant relief from the heat. He was shocked to hear from a French girl he met at the pool that the magnificent beaches to the north of Saigon were no longer safe because they were being used “as a rest and recuperation area for the Vietcong.”


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Iran’s President: ‘Driving Out The Terrorists’ Is Key To Syria’s Future – Steve Inskeep SEPTEMBER 27, 201510:11 PM ET

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR's Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York. Rouhani reaffirmed Iran's commitment to the nuclear deal and said his country would be willing to discuss Syria's future with the United States — after ISIS is defeated.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York. Rouhani reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal and said his country would be willing to discuss Syria’s future with the United States — after ISIS is defeated. Bryan Thomas for NPR

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prepares to speak with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Saturday in New York. Rouhani reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal and said his country would be willing to discuss Syria’s future with the United States — after ISIS is defeated.

Bryan Thomas for NPR

Here’s the basic difference between the United States, Russia and Iran: The U.S. wants Syrian President Bashar Assad to go. Russia and Iran, Assad’s allies, want him to stay.

Over the weekend, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, met with NPR in New York, where he will be attending the United Nations General Assembly. Through an interpreter, Rouhani argued that, where Syria is concerned, the most important issue for everyone is destroying ISIS.

“Perhaps political reform is needed. However, is that today’s priority? We believe that it’s driving out the terrorists,” he tells NPR.

“The issue of stability and security in the region is of utmost importance for us,” he emphasizes. Americans may not like Syria’s government, he says, but Iran needs to prop it up to avoid a dangerous leadership vacuum. If Assad goes now, Rouhani says, extremists will step in.

So Iran is collaborating with Syria, Russia and Iraq against ISIS. An intelligence-sharing agreement among the four countries was announced by Iraq on Sunday.

“We say between worse and bad, we must choose bad. Or in other words, we choose the lesser of two evils,” he says.


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