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Web Log - "Watching the pot come to a boil"

5-May-16 World View -- Many in Asia oppose an Obama apology for 1945 nuking of Hiroshima

European Commission threatens to fine countries that won't accept migrants

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain will accept thousands of child refugees from European camps


Unaccompanied child refugee last year in 'The Jungle' refugee camp in Calais, France (Getty)
Unaccompanied child refugee last year in 'The Jungle' refugee camp in Calais, France (Getty)

Britain's prime minister David Cameron has made a U-turn in policy, and has announced that the UK will take thousands of unaccompanied children in refugee camps in the EU.

The UK already takes children from refugee camps in Syria and surrounding countries, but under the new policy will also take children who are already in Europe.

Cameron has opposed the change of policy because it would encourage more families to entrust their children to human traffickers to take them to Europe. For that reason, Cameron is restricting the policy to children registered in Greece, Italy or France prior to March 20, the date of the EU-Turkey refugee deal.

According to Cameron:

"I am also talking to Save the Children to see what we can do more, particularly about children who came here before the EU-Turkey deal was signed.

What I don't want us to do is to take steps that will encourage people to make this dangerous journey because otherwise our actions, however well-meaning they will be, could result in more people dying than more people getting a good life."

Local authorities across Britain will be asked to find homes for the children. The exact number of children was not announced, but it's assumed to be around 3,000. Each child will cost £50,000 to resettle. Guardian (London) and Catholic News Service and BBC

European Commission threatens to fine countries that won't accept migrants

The EU-Turkey deal requires Turkey to take back all migrants who travel from Turkey to Greece and are not given asylum. This applies to the thousands of migrants who are already in refugee camps in Greece.

The deal contains a somewhat bizarre "one-for-one" provision that says that, for each Syrian refugee that Greece returns to Turkey, Turkey will select a Syrian refugee from its refugee camps and send that refugee back to the EU. The plan is that these refugees will be distributed to all 28 EU countries under a quota system.

The EU tried a migrant quota system last year that was supposed to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries. Only about 1,100 refugees were resettled under this plan because of stiff opposition from Central European countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

So now the European Commission (EC) is faced with implementing a quota system for the EU-Turkey deal, and their proposal includes a "fairness mechanism" under which each of the 28 member states would be assigned a percentage quota of all asylum seekers in the bloc that it would be expected to handle. The quota would be reflect national population and wealth.

It's clear that the same Central European countries are going to oppose the new quota system, and so the EC is going to permit them to opt out for at least a year, provided that they pay a fine of 250,000 euros ($300,000) for each asylum seeker that they refuse to accept.

"It is blackmailing. It's a dead-end street," according to Hungary's foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said of the proposal: "I'm still wondering if it's a serious proposal, because it sounds like an idea announced during the April Fool's Day."

The EC proposals will be voted by the European Parliament in June. They require a majority vote, which means that they can be enacted over the opposition of the Central Asian countries. VOA and Reuters

Many in Asia oppose an Obama apology for 1945 nuking of Hiroshima

When US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima, Japan, last month, he attended a commemoration that laid a wreath at the altar of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, but specifically refused to apologize for the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. However, he left unanswered the question of whether President Obama would apologize when he visits Hiroshima on May 24.

Speculation apparently ended on Monday afternoon when Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest supposedly told reporters that Obama would not apologize.

When this report is confirmed, that will be the culmination of a debate which pits the editorial boards of the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other mainstream media newspapers, who are demanding that Obama apologize, versus a broad coalition of officials in Asia that oppose any such apology.

An Obama apology would also be politically divisive in the United states, as it would support the Republican view that Obama is "weak," and would aid the nationalist Donald Trump candidacy. Washington Post (10-Apr) and Lowy Institute (Australia) and Nikkei Asia Review

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-May-16 World View -- Many in Asia oppose an Obama apology for 1945 nuking of Hiroshima thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-May-2016) Permanent Link
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4-May-16 World View -- European Commission expected to recommend visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey

Reader question on Iran and Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Reader question on Iran and Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr


Muqtada al-Sadr
Muqtada al-Sadr

My recent article "2-May-16 World View -- Iraq government faces climatic Awakening era political crisis" evoked some reader questions, mostly about the relationship between Muqtada al-Sadr and Iran:

"Hey John, if you're still reading the comments, I'd love to have an answer to a layman's question, and I value your insight. What are the chances that Iraqi Shia al-Sadr is financed by the Iranian Shia, located in Tehran?

This is a very interesting question today (Tuesday), because al-Sadr has apparently shocked his supporters today by making an unannounced visit to Tehran. The visit is apparently embarrassing to both Iran and al-Sadr, since early reports from Iran's media denied that any such visit was taking place.

There's really no great love for Iran among Iraqi Shias. Recall Iraq's last generational crisis war. It was the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988 with Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons on the Kurds and the Iranians. It was a war between Iran and Iraq, not between Sunnis and Shias. Memories of that extremely bloody and brutal war are still fresh and deeply embedded in the minds of both Iraqis and Iranians today.

Al-Sadr himself has been carving out a largely nationalist non-sectarian path, trying to appeal to both Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. In Saturday's protests, his supporters were vocal about their hatred for Iran, so it's unlikely that Iran has been providing much support to al-Sadr.

If Iran has been supporting anyone, it would be the government of prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who depends on Iran for military support in fighting ISIS.

But even if Iran is not supporting al-Sadr, Iran undoubtedly has leverage over al-Sadr. There may also be the involvement of al-Sadr's "boss", the senior cleric al-Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, born in 1930. He grew up during Iraq's last generational Awakening era, so he's seen it all before, and may be acting as a mediator between Iran and the youthful al-Sadr.

(The political chaos in Iraq's generational Awakening era today is very similar to the 1930s Awakening era, as I described in my April 2007 article, "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq".)

At any rate, it's quite possible that when al-Sadr told his followers to retreat on Sunday, he was forced to do so by Iran. And he's visiting Iran today because he's been ordered to.

There may also be a threat of massive violence. Iran, Syria and Russia all have the policy of meeting peaceful protests with massive violence, filling the streets with dead bodies and rivers of blood, bludgeoning, massacring, torturing and mutilating peacefully protesting women and children, rather than allow anyone to peacefully protest against the government. Iraq's government didn't do anything like that on Saturday, but it's possible that Iran is threatening to use its own Revolutionary Guards military to massacre al-Sadr's protesters if they protest again.

The situation is that al-Sadr has called for massive protests after Friday prayers at the end of this week. Iran undoubtedly wants al-Sadr to call them off. But if al-Sadr calls off the protests after going to Tehran, then his protesters will be furious, and may become violent, triggering a violent response. So Friday should be interesting.

Some analysts are saying that Iraq's current Shia-led government is on the verge of collapse, because the Shias are fighting among themselves. According to Kurdish official Muhammad Ahmad, a former member of Iraq's parliament:

"There are historically three factors behind Shiite unity: when they face a common adversary, when they are guided by their supreme religious leaders, when they are told and directed by Iran. At the moment their common enemies are not so powerful and that has left some space for inter-Shiite tensions. I expect it to become even harsher. ...

[The] Sunnis have been left with no real power. At the moment they have no land, they have no wide popular support and consequently their political power is very much weakened. It wouldn’t be all too wrong to say that the Shiites no longer are intimidated by the Sunnis or Kurds. That is why the rivalries within the Shiite block have intensified."

So your question was: "Is al-Sadr financed by Iran?" My guess is that the answer is NO, but al-Sadr is THREATENED by Iran, at a time when Iraq's entire Shia government is threatened by an existential political crisis from within. Asharq Al-Awsat (London) and Press TV (Tehran) and Rudaw (Iraq, Kurdistan)

European Commission expected to recommend visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey

European media are reporting that the European Commission (EC) will back visa-free travel for Turkish citizens when they make their recommendations on Wednesday.

The recommendation would apply to the Schengen Zone, which is a group of 26 European countries that permit visa-free border crossings among them. Last year, because of the flood of migrants entering Europe, some Schengen zone countries imposed border controls under the "emergency situation" terms of the Schengen rules. However, with the closing of the "Balkan Route" for migrants, many of these border controls are being lifted.

If the EC recommendation is adopted, then citizens of Turkey will be able to travel anywhere within the Schengen zone without a visa. The UK, Ireland and Cyprus are not in the Schengen zone, so those countries will continue to impose a visa requirement.

Turkey had demanded that the visa requirement be scrapped as part of the EU-Turkey deal to handle Europe's migrant crisis. Turkey agreed to take back migrants who land in Greece, but agreed only on condition that the EU end the visa requirement by June.

The visa liberalization is extremely controversial in Europe. Turkey is an enormous country of 75 million people, and many Europeans fear that there will be a flood of Turkish citizens coming to Europe to look for work. However, the visa-free agreement will not grant Turks the right to get a job in Europe.

Germany and France have proposed an emergency brake or “snap back mechanism” under which it could halt visa-free travel if large numbers of Turks stay in the EU illegally or if there are a large number of asylum applications by Turks.

The EC's visa liberalization recommendation still requires approval by the EU parliament, where it is expected to meet with considerable opposition. Turkey is required to meet 72 separate conditions by May 4 to earn the visa liberalization.

It's thought that Turkey has met most but not all of the conditions. The failures are in two areas:

The EU-Turkey deal itself has raised human rights concerns, with activists claiming that Turkey is not a safe country to return migrants to.

However, EU officials believe that they have no choice but to approve the visa liberalization anyway, even if Turkey has not met all 72 requirements, because otherwise Turkey will cancel the migrant deal. BBC and Hurriyet (Ankara)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-May-16 World View -- European Commission expected to recommend visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-May-2016) Permanent Link
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3-May-16 World View -- Laos sides with China in South China Sea dispute

Report: Hamas, Israel and Egypt in alliance fighting ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel to open another truck crossing to the Gaza Strip


The Erez crossing (file photo)
The Erez crossing (file photo)

Because of the blockade of the Gaza strip by both Israel and Egypt, most of the food, medicine and other supplies reaching Gaza come through a single checkpoint, the Kerem Shalom crossing, between Israel and southeastern Gaza. Some 600-1000 trucks pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing every day, creating a hazard on some of the local roads.

Israel announced on Monday that it will open a second crossing to commercial traffic, through the Erez terminal on Gaza's northeastern tip. No implementation date has been given, but it's expected that the traffic will then be split between the two crossings.

Israel has imposed harsh restrictions on the kinds of goods that may be imported into Gaza. In particular, building materials like lumber, cement, and iron are restricted because they could be used to build tunnels and bunkers for use in war against Israel. However, officials complain that these restrictions prevent Gaza from rebuilding the homes that were destroyed since the 2014 war. The announcement made no mention of whether any of these restrictions will be lifted.

The announcement appears to be a goodwill gesture to Hamas. Israel halted commercial traffic through Erez in 2000, after the Palestinian intifada began, and only passenger transit has been allowed since. The decision to reopen the Erez crossing was taken in recognition that a truce that ended the 2014 war against Hamas is holding. Jerusalem Post and Reuters

Report: Hamas, Israel and Egypt in alliance fighting ISIS

Israel and Egypt have been in alliance for some time to fight Wilayat Sinai (State of Sinai), Sinai's branch of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). In the past, Egypt has accused Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, of allowing ISIS militants to use Gaza as a safe haven, and to allow them to cross into Sinai through smuggling tunnels. Hamas denies the allegations, saying it has no sympathies to the ISIS, which branded Hamas as infidels in a video two years ago.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that Egypt is pressuring Hamas to control its border and prevent any movement of fighters or couriers between Gaza and Sinai. Egypt has economic leverage on Hamas, as Hamas depends on Egypt in part for its economic survival.

Last week, Hamas deployed over 300 fighters to Gaza’s border with Egypt, to prevent ISIS militants from crossing over the border in either direction.

Being the generally suspicious person that I am, it's not clear to me how this will have any effect. If Hamas is providing a safe haven for ISIS militants and allowing them to cross into Egypt, then Hamas fighters will just let that continue. In fact, the Hamas fighters might actually provide cover for ISIS militants to cross back and forth.

According to Eyad al-Bozom, a Hamas spokesman, "The national security forces redeployed along the borders with Egypt, and it is part of the security plan to fully control the borders and the stability of it, as well as the security of our Egyptian brothers." Washington Post and Jerusalem Post

Laos sides with China in South China Sea dispute

A question that Generational Dynamics seeks to answer is how the countries of Asia will line up for and against China in the South China Sea dispute and the coming Clash of Civilizations world war.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China had reached[2] a four-point consensus with Cambodia, Brunei, and Laos about resolving the South China Sea disputes. In particular, they all acceded to China's demand that the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) not play a part.

It's been clear for some time that Cambodia is firmly in China's camp, but Vietnam was shocked by the announcement, since they always consider Laos to be "brothers."

China has been annexing regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues to use belligerent military operations to enforce its seizures. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Much of China's announcement is just symbolic, since neither Cambodia nor Laos have made any claims in the South China Sea. Brunei does have a conflicting claim, but China's announcement does not say that the three countries accept China's sovereignty. It only says that they've adopted China's bilateral process for resolving the dispute.

China's claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing their claims are groundless and that they would lose.

However, a court is expected to issue a ruling in the next few weeks. The Philippines filed a case with the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea in 2013, challenging China's claims to the entire South China Sea. China has already reacted angrily to the Philippines' action filing the case, and if the court ruling goes against China, as many analysts believe it will, then China is expected to be furious, and may take further military action. China has repeatedly made it clear that it will never compromise in the South China Sea, and that it will take whatever military action is required to support its annexation of the region. The Diplomat and China Foreign Ministry and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-May-16 World View -- Laos sides with China in South China Sea dispute thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-May-2016) Permanent Link
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2-May-16 World View -- Iraq government faces climatic Awakening era political crisis

Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraq's Awakening era

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iraq government faces climatic Awakening era political crisis


A demonstrator holds a picture of Moqtada al-Sadr during a demonstration in Baghdad (Reuters)
A demonstrator holds a picture of Moqtada al-Sadr during a demonstration in Baghdad (Reuters)

Iraq's government in Baghdad is facing a major political crisis after thousands of supporters on Saturday of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the highly-secure "Green Zone" of Baghdad, and then moved on to the Parliament House. The air was festive, according to reports, as protesters took selfies while sitting in the chairs of the most hated politicians.

Under al-Sadr's orders, the protesters retreated from the Parliament House and the Green Zone on Sunday, but did so with a threat that new protests are planned for Friday. Since the "Arab Spring" began in 2011, the largest demonstrations have occurred as people poured out of mosques in the early afternoon after Friday prayers.

The Iraq government is under enormous pressure at the present time. Iraq is fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). There are currently two fronts, in Mosul and Ramadi, and it's thought that ISIS could easily penetrate Baghdad and other cities.

Iraq is also facing the prospect of bankruptcy. The government to pay out nearly $4 billion to 7 million people on the public payroll, including salaries and pensions to the military and to the workers in the bloated public-sector. But after the plunge in oil prices, from which Iraq gets more than 90% of its revenue, it's bringing only about half that amount, $2 billion.

Al-Sadr is accusing the government of prime minister Haider al-Abadi of massive corruption, and is demanding that the al-Abadi fire all his ministers and replace them with a technocrat government.

The political system that was put in place after the 2003 Iraq war set up a quota system, with required numbers of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. The result was that government positions were granted based on patronage, leading to widespread corruption and poor public services. Al-Abadi has tried to end the quota system, but has met with overwhelming political resistance.

Al-Sadr is trying to force the issue by ordering his followers to carry out massive protests, and is threatening to bring down the entire government if changes are not made quickly.

If that happens, it would signal a major change in Iraq's government, and would be a generational Awakening era crisis, an event that settles the generational political conflict by establishing a victory of the younger generation. The climax of America's 1960s Awakening era was the 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon, which also signaled the victory of the generation of kids who grew up after World War II over the WW II survivor generations. Washington Post and Fox News and Washington Post (5-March)

Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraq's Awakening era

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr spent many years in hiding from Saddam Hussein, but after the Iraq war ended, he portrayed himself as an Iraqi nationalist, transcending the divide between Sunnis and Shia. His actions have largely been consistent with that role.

I've written about al-Sadr several times in the past, mostly during the Bush administration. In 2004, in "Al-Sadr's Shi'ite militia turn in weapons", al-Sadr was ordering his militias not to stage an anti-American Shia uprising. The context, throughout the Bush years following the Iraq war, was that the mainstream media, led by the NY Times and NBC News, were constantly predicting and promoting a disaster for the American army in Iraq. In 2004, the mainstream media were predicting a huge anti-American Shia uprising, but al-Sadr fooled them.

At one point in 2004, I wrote the following:

"Meanwhile, it's fun to watch how the mindless Boston Globe reporters cover all this. Tuesday's lead multi-column page one headline was "Shi'ites' uprising grows." That was wishful thinking, and by Wednesday the page one Iraq headline was, "Qaeda arrests called 'lucky' break." Today's headline is "Young marines frustrated by lack of progress." Each day's headline seems so moronic that it could never be topped, but the next day's is even more moronic. I don't know how they manage to do it."

Throughout those years, the mainstream media were predicting an imminent civil war in Iraq, making one dumb prediction after another, and always proven wrong.

In 2007, the mainstream media made complete fools out of themselves over Bush's "surge" announcement, predicting that it would be a complete disaster, and becoming completely humiliated when it worked.

In April, 2007, I wrote "Iraq's Moqtada al-Sadr says attack Americans, not each other". The word "attack" was an exaggeration by the mainstream media, but as a Reuter stories pointed out, al-Sadr was calling for peaceful demonstrations, not violence.

That's essentially what al-Sadr is calling for today, but this time the demonstrations are targeting the al-Abadi government in Baghdad.

Iraq's last generational crisis war was the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988, giving rise to the current generational Awakening era, and the generational conflict between the generations of survivors of that war versus the generations that have grown up after that war. It's that generational conflict that gives rise to the political chaos occurring today.

Iraq's previous generational crisis war was the 1920 Great Iraqi Revolution. That gave rise to political chaos in the 1930s that looked very similar to the kind of chaos that's occurring today.

I wrote about this history in detail in my April 2007 article, "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq", which is well worth reading by those interested in what's going on in Iraq today. Al-Jazeera(9-March)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-May-16 World View -- Iraq government faces climatic Awakening era political crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-May-2016) Permanent Link
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1-May-16 World View -- China makes four demands of Japan to improve relations

Kenya's huge ivory burning event may endanger elephants further

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Kenya's huge ivory burning event may endanger elephants further


Pyres of ivory burn in Nairobi National Park in Kenya on Saturday (AP)
Pyres of ivory burn in Nairobi National Park in Kenya on Saturday (AP)

Kenya set fire on Saturday to 105 metric tons in 11 separate pyres, the tusks of nearly 7,000 elephants. This is 5% of the world's entire stock of ivory. In addition, 1.5 tons of rhino horns were set on fire. Ivory does not readily burn, but the fires are kept going by pumping a combination of kerosene and diesel into the pyres. The fires are expected to burn for several days.

Kenya's entire stock of ivory is being burned. The ivory was mostly collected from poachers and smugglers who had been responsible for killing thousands of elephants to obtain the ivory.

The spectacular ivory-burning show was accompanied by speeches full of wishful thinking by politicians. Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta said the following before lighting the first pile:

"Kenya is poor, but Kenya is a rich country with a heritage given to us by God and we intend to protect it.

I have been told we are making a fundamental mistake in burning this ivory because we are poor. For us as Kenyans, Ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants. ...

Let's do all we can to ensure our elephants are protected. Kenya's natural heritage can't be sold for money. With effective control over the movement of ivory, our elephants will be safe."

In case you're wondering how burning 105 tons of ivory is going to protect Kenya's elephants, it's because burning the ivory "sends a message" to poachers and smugglers that what they're doing is wrong and must be stopped.

This is now the fourth such burning that Kenya has held since 1989, but the poaching has only been increasing. In the 1970s, Africa had about 1.2 million elephants, but now has 400,000 to 450,000.

According to one report I heard, smugglers are not selling off their stocks of ivory. Instead, they're obtaining as much ivory as they can and storing it away, since it will only become more valuable as the number of elephants dwindles. It's not clear to me that these smugglers will stop what they're doing because of some "message" delivered by the burning.

In the excerpt above, Kenyatta said that he's been told that "we are making a fundamental mistake in burning this ivory." He's referring what many analysts are saying, that by burning off 5% of the marginal supply of the world's ivory, the price of ivory is going to skyrocket, with the result that many more elephants will be killed. In fact, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and other countries with large government stocks of ivory are holding on to it in the expectation of selling it at a much higher price.

Many people are saying that instead of burning the ivory, Kenya should have sold it off and given the money to the people whose villages have been attacked by wild elephants as compensation. This would have increased the supply of legal ivory in the world, and would have reduced the price of ivory, thus making poaching much less lucrative. The Star (Kenya) and National Geographic

China makes four demands of Japan to improve relations

Japan's foreign minister Fumio Kishida met with China's Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Saturday, with the intention of easing the enormous hostility between the two countries. The news reports were ambiguous about the outcome, but they seem to suggest that the meeting was pretty hostile.

One news report used an interesting phrase, "taking history as a mirror," that I haven't heard before:

"Li said China is willing, in the spirit of taking the history as a mirror and looking into the future, to make joint efforts with Japan to strengthen political mutual trust and promote bilateral relations back to the track of normal development."

According to China's Foreign Ministry, China made four demands of Japan to improve relations between the two countries:

"1. In the political area, the Japanese side should stick fast to the four political documents including the China-Japan Joint Statement, face up to and reflect upon the history and follow the one-China policy to the letter. No ambiguity or vacillation is allowed when it comes to this important political foundation of the bilateral ties."

The four documents refer to the China-Japan Joint Statement inked in 1972, the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1978, the China-Japan Joint Declaration of 1998, and the joint statement on advancing strategic and mutually-beneficial relations in a comprehensive way signed in 2008.

China is still angry that Japan invaded China prior to and during World War II, using Chinese girls as "comfort women" for the soldiers, and committing the "Nanjing massacre" on December 13, 1937. The Chinese are critical of Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe for recently sending a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The Shrine, which honors Japan's war-dead, also enshrines 14 former Japanese leaders who were responsible Japan's attack on China.

Further, China is demanding that Japan recognize Taiwan as Chinese territory, not a self-governing nation, as Japan sometimes suggests.

"2. In terms of its outlook on China, the Japanese side should translate into concrete actions its consensus with China, that is, the two countries are each other's cooperative partners rather than threats. It should have a more positive and healthy attitude toward the growth of China, and stop spreading or echoing all kinds of "China threat" or "China economic recession" theories."

China is building a huge offensive military arsenal, preparing to launch war against, Japan, its neighbors in the South China Sea, and the United States. But if anyone asks China what they're doing, China accuses them of being warmongers and making threats. Point #2 demands that Japan stop complaining about China's massive military buildup and preparations for war.

"3. In terms of economic exchange, the Japanese side should establish the concept of win-win cooperation, discard the outdated idea that one side cannot do without the other side, or one side depends more on the other side than the other way around. Instead, it should enhance equal-footed and pragmatic cooperation with China in different fields based on mutual benefit."

This is an economic threat. In 2012, China declared economic war on Japan by terminating shipments of rare earth minerals, needed for manufacturing of many of Japan's electronic products. Also, Chinese protesters torched a Panasonic factory and Toyota dealership in China, looted and ransacked Japanese department stores and supermarkets in several Chinese cities. China's National Tourism Administration ordered travel companies to cancel tours to Japan. ( "18-Sep-12 World View -- China declares economic war on Japan, and sends 1,000 boat flotilla")

So when China talks about "win-win," it's a veiled threat that Japan must do as its told, or there may be another economic war.

"4. In terms of regional and international affairs, the two sides should respect each other's legitimate interests and concerns, and have essential communication and coordination in a timely fashion. The Japanese side should cast aside the confrontation mentality and work with China to maintain peace, stability and prosperity of the region."

China's message is this: "We want stability and peace. If you do exactly as you're ordered, then we'll have stability and peace. But if you don't do as you're ordered, then we'll kill you, and get stability and peace that way."

Generational Dynamics predicts that China and Japan are rapidly heading for a generational crisis war, and the time may not be far off. China Foreign Ministry and AP and Xinhua

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-May-16 World View -- China makes four demands of Japan to improve relations thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-May-2016) Permanent Link
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30-Apr-16 World View -- Papua New Guinea Supreme Court bombshell throws Australia's refugee policy into chaos

North Korea nuclear test expected after three botched missile tests

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Papua New Guinea Supreme Court bombshell throws Australia's refugee policy into chaos


Asylum seekers on Manus island detention center (AAP)
Asylum seekers on Manus island detention center (AAP)

A bombshell Supreme Court ruling is invalidating Australia's policy for dealing with refugees. However, the bombshell was not from Australia's Supreme Court. It was from the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The ruling says that Australia's refugee detention center on PNG's Manus Island is inhumane, and must be shut down.

In past years, thousands of refugees from Asia have traveled by boat to Australia, often after paying huge sums to human traffickers, hoping to resettle there. Australia has dealt with the situation, starting in 2001, by setting up two "detention centers," one on PNG's Manus Island and one on Nauru, under agreements reached with both countries. Australia intercepts the boat people while at sea, and redirects them to the detention centers.

These two detention centers have been enormously controversial, with numerous stories of beatings, torture, and sexual abuse at the detention centers. The detention centers were shut down in 2007, but reinstated when the number refugees and asylum seeks surged again into the thousands.

There is not yet any timetable for the closing of the Manus Island center, but Australia is just weeks away from a national election. The entire policy for processing refugees and asylum seekers is now in chaos and is sure to be a major campaign issue.

Lawyers for 850 asylum seekers held at Manus Island said on Friday they planned to seek potentially billions of Australian dollars in compensation. Sydney Morning Herald and Guardian (London) and Reuters

Papua New Guinea repudiates refugee agreement after Supreme Court Ruling

According to a 2013 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Australia and PNG:

"8. Australia may Transfer and Papua New Guinea will accept Transferees from Australia under this MOU. ...

10. Persons to be transferred to Papua New Guinea are those persons who:

  • have travelled irregularly by sea to Australia; or
  • have been intercepted at sea by the Australian authorities in the course of trying to reach Australia by irregular means; and
  • are authorised by Australian law to be transferred to Papua New Guinea; and
  • have undergone a short health, security and identity check in Australia.

11. Papua New Guinea will host a Processing Centre or Processing Centers in Manus Province and may host other Processing Centers in Papua New Guinea for the purposes of this MOU."

However, the PNG Supreme Court has invalidated the agreement with its bombshell decision:

"It was the joint efforts of the Australian and PNG governments that has seen the asylum seekers brought into PNG and kept at the Manus Island Processing Centre against their will. These arrangements were outside the constitutional and legal framework in PNG. ... The forceful bringing into and detention of the asylum seekers on MIPC is unconstitutional and is therefore illegal."

Peter Dutton, Australia's Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, issued a statement saying that it's PNG's problem, not Australia's:

"This is a decision of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. Australia was not a party to the legal proceedings. It does not alter Australia’s border protection policies – they remain unchanged. No one who attempts to travel to Australia illegally by boat will settle in Australia.

The Government will not allow a return to the chaos of the years of the Rudd-Gillard Labor Governments when regional processing was initiated to deal with the overwhelming illegal arrivals of more than 50,000 people. The agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish the Manus Island RPC was negotiated by the Labor Government.

Those in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin. People who have attempted to come illegally by boat and are now in the Manus facility will not be settled in Australia."

However, this announcement by Dutton was unwelcome in PNG, where the PNG prime minister, Peter O’Neill said, "Respecting this ruling, Papua New Guinea will immediately ask the Australian government to make alternative arrangements for the asylum seekers currently held at the regional processing center." Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Guardian (London)

North Korea nuclear test expected after three botched missile tests

North Korea on Thursday launched two intermediate range ballistic missiles, in missile tests that were both apparent failures. They came two weeks after another botched missile test, launched on April 15, the birthday of North Korean founding father Kim Il-sung.

It's believed that North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un rushed the three missile tests in order to show off regime accomplishments prior to the Seventh Party Congress, which convenes on May 6.

Because all three missile tests were botched, it's now thought Kim will order a nuclear test just prior to May 6.

In other news, Kim has ordered a massive crackdown on its people, and has tightened security along its border with China. The regime also has been restricting entry into the capital Pyongyang and has ordered residents not to hold ceremonial occasions such as weddings or funerals. According to one source:

"The North has completely blocked its capital and the border area after declaring a special surveillance period. The regime is conducting random inspections of houses in Pyongyang and ordering visitors, including relatives, to immediately return to their own homes."

Security forces are also inspecting factories and institutes, checking when workers come to and leave work. The harsh new security measures are apparently intended to combat Kim's anxieties that unexpected violence could embarrass him prior to the party congress. Joongang (Seoul) and Yonhap (Seoul) and Korea Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Apr-16 World View -- Papua New Guinea Supreme Court bombshell throws Australia's refugee policy into chaos thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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29-Apr-16 World View -- Syria's air force deliberately targets hospital in Aleppo, killing dozens

Bank of Japan shocks investors with no stimulus, leading to global stock selloff

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria's air force deliberately targets hospital in Aleppo, killing dozens


Aftermath of Syrian airstrike on Aleppo hospital on Thursday (AP)
Aftermath of Syrian airstrike on Aleppo hospital on Thursday (AP)

The air force of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad appears on Thursday to have deliberately targeted a hospital in Aleppo with airstrikes, killing dozens of doctors and children.

According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, "It appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime's appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders. These strikes have killed hundreds of innocent Syrians."

Destroying a hospital is typical of Bashar al-Assad. This is a man who gets obvious pleasure from gouging out people's eyes or pulling out their fingernails, or send missiles into school dormitories to kill children, or dropping barrel bombs laden with metal and chemical weapons on civilian neighborhoods, or using Sarin gas to kill large groups of people. He considers all Sunni Muslims to be cockroaches to be exterminated. Bashar al-Assad is the greatest genocidal monster in today's world, comparable to Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and Stalin from the last century. There is no mass weapon of destruction, nor any gruesome form of torture, that he won't use to satisfy his psychopathy.

The news today is that officials are complaining that the Syria "peace process" is hanging by a thread, in the words of Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria. But these officials are paid to live in a fantasy world of denial. As I've written many times, no one seriously believed that there was any sort of actual peace process going on. And as I've written many times, any movement to peace is impossible with al-Assad in power in Syria, because he's determined to keep dropping barrel bombs with chemical weapons on Sunni civilians until every Sunni in Syria is exterminated.

The reason that Thursday's airstrike on the Aleppo is significant news is that its sheer brutality and savageness makes it clear to even officials in denial that al-Assad has no intention of entering into any peace agreement.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, al-Assad may be making a fundamental error, by not understanding the differences between generational eras.

Syria's last generational crisis war was the civil war that climaxed in 1982 with the massacre at Hama. There was a massive uprising of the 400,000 mostly Sunni citizens of Hama against Syria's president Hafez al-Assad, the current president's father. In February, 1982, al-Assad turned the town to rubble, 40,000 deaths and 100,000 expelled. Hama stands as a defining moment in the Middle East. It is regarded as perhaps the single deadliest act by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East. But once the Hama was destroyed, the anti-government movement against Hafaz al-Assad pretty much ended. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this was a generational crisis war climax, like the nuking of Hiroshima at the climax of World War II, bringing the war to an end.

Now Bashar al-Assad may believe that he's in a similar situation in Aleppo. It's quite possible -- even quite likely -- that al-Assad intends to turn the city of Aleppo to rubble, and then gain a complete victory, as his father did in 1982.

But that kind of climax with that kind of outcome can occur only in a generational Crisis era. Today, Syria is in a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s. And in this generational era, the destruction of Aleppo will bring at most a temporary halt to the fighting, not the total surrender that al-Assad is delusionally hoping for. Al Monitor and CNN and United Nations

Bank of Japan shocks investors with no stimulus, leading to global stock selloff

With Japan's economy in a deep slump, most analysts expected the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to add stimulus to the economy by one form or another of "printing money" -- by increasing its purchase of bonds ("quantitative easing") or by lowering the interest rate, which is already negative, to make it even more negative.

Instead, the BOJ announced on Thursday that it would not add any new stimulus to the economy at all at the present time. This was a shock to investors, who responded by selling off stocks, causing the Tokyo Stock Exchange Nikkei index to plummet 3.6%. This triggered a world wide selloff on Thursday, though generally not as deep as the Nikkei selloff.

The Bank of Japan adopted negative interest rates three months ago, in what was considered a move of desperation. ( "30-Jan-16 World View -- Japan tries negative interest rates as US economy slows") But that move has been ineffective in promoting economic growth, so the BOJ may have decided that another stimulus move wouldn't make any difference. Actually, not adding stimulus did make a difference of a kind that wasn't expected.

Using stimulus over and over to push up the stock market cannot work forever. By the Law of Diminishing Returns, each new injection of stimulus will have a smaller effect that then previous injection.

What this illustrates is the dependence in today's world of stock markets on central banks. No one serious believes any more that the stock market is meaningfully related to a country's economy. The stock markets today are being held up by the central banks -- by the BOJ in Japan, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the Federal Reserve in America.

The Fed raised interest rates by 0.25% in December, and that move is widely thought to have harmed the US economy. Today, just about the only stories important to financial media are the debates over whether the Fed is going to raise rates again, or whether it will reverse the December increase.

As we reported last week, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio has rocket above 24, its highest value in years. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower. Bloomberg and ZeroHedge and Law of Diminishing Returns

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Apr-16 World View -- Syria's air force deliberately targets hospital in Aleppo, killing dozens thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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28-Apr-16 World View -- Austria votes to close border with Italy to slow refugees

Female suicide bomber attacks Bursa in northwestern Turkey

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Female suicide bomber attacks Bursa in northwestern Turkey


Suicide bomber blew herself up near Bursa's 14th century Ottoman Empire Grand Mosque
Suicide bomber blew herself up near Bursa's 14th century Ottoman Empire Grand Mosque

A female suicide bomber blew herself up in the Turkish city of Bursa on Wednesday, wounding 13 people. Reports indicate that the bomber was a 25 year old woman.

Turkey has been suffering from a string of terrorist attacks on large cities, including Ankara and Istanbul. The attacks have been perpetrated both by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and also by the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

As I reported yesterday, the PKK has promised to escalate its war against the government of Turkey. Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu responded that "Turkey will be saved soon from this terrorism problem completely," presumably by military action against the PKK.

However, as yet, no one has claimed credit for Wednesday's suicide attack on Bursa.

Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.

Today, it's a large commercial city, but still is built around the mosques, mausoleums and other sites from its incarnation from its Ottoman ancestry. The bombing took place near Bursa's historic Grand Mosque, built between 1396-99. Daily Sabah (Istanbul) and AFP and Bursa's Grand Mosque

Austria votes to close border with Italy to slow refugees

Austria's Parliament on Wednesday voted a set of harsh regulations to stem the flow of migrants crossing the border from Italy.

According to the law:

It's thought that the Parliament passed the law in response to an overwhelming victory by the far-right Freedom Party in the first round of Austria's presidential elections on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch is denouncing the new laws as "a blow to the rights of asylum seekers."

Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi posted a statement saying:

"The possibility of closing the Brenner Pass is blatantly against European rules, as well as against history, against logic and against the future."

There are large refugee camps in Greece on the border with Macedonia, and in Calais, France, near to entrance to the Euro tunnel to Britain. As migrants enter Italy after crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, we may eventually see a large camp of migrants on Italy's border with Austria. The Local (Austria) and Guardian (London) and France 24 and The Local (Italy) and Breitbart News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Apr-16 World View -- Austria votes to close border with Italy to slow refugees thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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27-Apr-16 World View -- Puerto Rico headed for new financial default on May 1

Violence spreads across Turkey as both Turkey and PKK escalate fight

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Violence spreads across Turkey as both Turkey and PKK escalate fight


The PKK flag hangs as armed PKK militants man a barricade in southeastern Turkey on November 15 2015 (AFP)
The PKK flag hangs as armed PKK militants man a barricade in southeastern Turkey on November 15 2015 (AFP)

Ever since the cease-fire agreement between Turkey and the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down last year in July, the violence on both sides has been escalating. The PKK has conducted terrorist attacks, while the Turkish military has attacked PKK havens in southeast Turkey and northeastern Iraq.

In an interview with the BBC, PKK leader Cemil Bayik blamed Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the surge in fighting, promised to escalate the terrorist attacks on Turkish targets even further:

"He [President Erdogan] wants the Kurds to surrender. If they don't surrender, he wants to kill all Kurds. He says this openly - he doesn't hide it.

The Kurds will defend themselves to the end, so long as this is the Turkish approach - of course the PKK will escalate the war. Not only in Kurdistan, but in the rest of Turkey as well."

We don’t want to divide Turkey. We want to live within the borders of Turkey on our own land freely... The struggle will continue until the Kurds’ innate rights are accepted."

The PKK has been engaged in violence with Turkey's government for three decades. The PKK and Turkey agreed to a cease-fire and a "peace process" in 2013, but that broke down abruptly last year following the July 20 terrorist attack in the city of attack on Suruç killing 33 people, mostly young pro-Kurdish activists. After that, the ceasefire agreement broke down, and Erdogan declared war on the PKK. ( "9-Sep-15 World View -- Turkey slips into chaos as violence spreads across the country")

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu responded to Bayik's interview with the BBC:

"Nobody should doubt it. This fight, which we will carry out until Turkey saves itself from the problem of terrorism, will continue without rupture. Hopefully, as a result of this determined fight, Turkey will be saved soon from this terrorism problem completely.

Unfortunately, the international community cannot give a good account of itself and a hypocritical attitude is still embraced on the issue of terrorism. Tents of a brutal terrorist organization might be erected in European capitals and their rags [flags] might be displayed."

Davutoglu was alluding to a tent set up by PKK supporters in front of the European Council building, just two days after a major terrorist attack on Ankara on March 13, as Davutoglu was visiting Brussels. It was only after the terrorist attack on Brussels on March 22 that Belgian police ordered the tent to be taken down, but then it was set up again elsewhere. Turkish officials were furious that PKK supporters were permitted to publicize their cause just after a terrorist attack.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the US and the EU. However, the Kurds are also a major US ally in Iraq and Syria, fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). The US distinguishes between the PKK versus Kurdish militias fighting ISIS, but Turkey considers all of them to be terrorists, resulting in policy conflicts with the West.

The new statements by Davutoglu and Bayik suggest that the fighting is going to escalate.

As we've been saying since 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major regional war between Arabs and Jews, between Sunnis and Shias, and between various ethnic groups. It seems now that every week brings this prediction a major step closer. BBC and Daily Sabah (Ankara)

Puerto Rico headed for new financial default on May 1

It is now all but certain that Puerto Rico will default on a $422 million debt payment due on May 1.

In January, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) promised that legislative action would be completed by the end of March to resolve Puerto Rico's problems before the May 1 deadline. However, Ryan has failed to accomplish this.

Puerto Rico faces $70 billion in total debt, a 45 percent poverty rate and a shrinking population, all of which threaten to cause its economy to collapse.

In many ways, Puerto Rico has gotten a free ride from Congress for years. Congress granted Puerto Rico investments a "triple-tax free" tax rate. This means that you can invest in Puerto Rico's bonds and earn 10% interest every year, and not have to pay federal, state or municipal tax on the interest you collect. There were other major tax benefits granted exclusively to those investing in Puerto Rico.

The money that investors paid for these bonds has been essentially "free money" to Puerto Rico, since nobody apparently believed that it would ever have to be paid back. As a result, Puerto Rico has felt free to spend huge amounts of money on social programs, with bills that are finally coming due.

Detroit defaulted on its debt several years ago, but it didn't really hurt too many people, because the bankrupt debt was $18 billion, and few ordinary people owned Detroit bonds, as most investors were institutions that hedged their purchases with credit default swaps.

A Puerto Rican debt default is likely to be much more widespread. The triple-tax free 10% interest deal has drawn massive amounts of money from 401k's and other ordinary investment funds. These funds will all lose significant principal in a Puerto Rico default.

Under US law, Puerto Rico does not have Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection that Detroit had. A legislative solution would involve a bankruptcy-like restructuring of Puerto Rico's debt. The Republicans are generally supporting the bondholders, the people who invested in the triple-tax free 10% bonds, who are fiercely resisting any restructuring, claiming that the only reason that they purchased the bonds in the first place was because the law made such restructuring impossible. Or if some kind of bailout is authorized, then Republicans want to impose harsh fiscal discipline on the island.

Democrats generally want to bail out Puerto Rico with few fiscal constraints. However, such a bailout would permit the government to resuming borrowing money and spending it, resulting in a continuing crisis.

One side effect of Puerto Rico's economic crisis is that it's accelerated the migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland U.S. If no legislation is passed by July 1, then Puerto Rico will default on $2 billion in payments due at that time, causing the economy to spiral further into crisis.

Puerto Rico and Greece have in common that there is no solution to their respective financial crises. Reuters and Washington Post and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Apr-16 World View -- Puerto Rico headed for new financial default on May 1 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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26-Apr-16 World View -- Obamacare continues death spiral as Britain's NHS faces strike

Obama administration tries to find money to save Obamacare

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain's NHS facing massive strike from 'junior doctors'


Striking protesters carry signs saying 'Destroy the patriarchy, not the NHS' and 'Victory to the junior doctors' (Press Association)
Striking protesters carry signs saying 'Destroy the patriarchy, not the NHS' and 'Victory to the junior doctors' (Press Association)

As we've been reporting since October, Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is facing an existential crisis, with a huge and accelerating deficit expected to reach 22 billion pounds ($32 billion) by 2020. ( "5-Aug-15 World View -- Britain's National Health Service (NHS) faces existential financial crisis")

Now the NHS is facing a massive strike from "junior doctors," after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he's unwilling to compromise on a contract that would increase working hours. Junior doctors, the backbone of the NHS, whose workday now ends at 7 pm, would have the workday extended to 10 pm. Also, for the first time, their normal working week would include Saturday from 7am to 5pm. The strike is scheduled to last 48 hours, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The system is deeply corrupt, with doctors falsifying records, claiming for work that was never done, or putting in for bogus overtime. Dentistry services are so bad that people are buying "do-it-yourself (DIY) dentistry kits" to take care of their whole families, as was done centuries ago.

Because the NHS bureaucracy is so old and bloated, and because the services are "free," costs can only be controlled by rationing, queuing, reduced quality and artificial cost suppression. UK's doctors earn far less than doctors in other countries, and UK specialists earn about half of what they do in America. As a result, UK's homegrown doctors have left to work in other countries, and NHS has had to import 28% of its doctors from abroad, usually from poorer countries where low UK salaries look attractive.

The junior doctors are demonstrating against the contract for the obvious reasons -- low pay, exhaustion, having little free time to spend with their families. A substantial number are considering leaving Britain to practice medicine in other countries, according to a poll.

However, women's groups are particularly concerned because of the disproportionate impact that the contract will have on women. Men are used to working long hours, but women often have to go home on time to take care of the children. An analysis by the Department of Health agrees that the new contract "impacts disproportionately on women." When the new contract going into effect in August, many women will be forced to quit unless they can find adequate child care, and child care services are extremely expensive.

The far left British Medical Association, which is leading the strike action, has launched a judicial review of the legality of the contract, because it adversely affects women.

However, the Department of Health says that women should stop complaining, because the new contract levels the playing field between men and women, which is what feminists want. According to a Department of Health spokeswoman:

"This contract is a huge step forward for achieving fairness for all trainee doctors. For the first time, junior doctors will be paid and rewarded solely on the basis of their own hard work and achievement. That is ultimately what employers and the BMA [British Medical Association] themselves want and everyone deserves: a level playing field."

Guardian (London) and BBC and Guardian and Daily Mail (London)

Britain's NHS financial crisis is being tied to the 'Brexit' debate

The "Brexit" debate, and the June 23 referendum to decide whether Britain will exit from the European Union, is being tied politically to the NHS financial crisis and the strike by junior doctors.

There are two sides to the story. One side says that if Britain leaves the European Union, then it would help the NHS financially. They argue that leaving the EU would mean that Britain could shut the door to migrants from other European countries, especially Hungary and other east European countries, who come to the UK to receive free medical services. In addition, they say that 50 million pounds per day is being sent to Brussels, and that money could be kept at home to pour into the NHS.

The other side says that if Britain leaves the European Union, then it would hurt the NHS financially. They say that health tourism -- where people travel to the UK to get free medical help -- costs less than 0.1% of the NHS budget. They point out that Norway and Switzerland, who are not in the EU, still must pay similar amounts to fund their cumbersome arrangements with the EU market. Telegraph (London) and BBC and Independent (London)

Obama administration tries to find money to save Obamacare

On the afternoon of October 1, 2013, President Obama stood up at a press conference to launch Obamacare. When a reporter asked why so few people could log on, he answered that millions of people were enrolling for insurance, so the web sites were slow. As it turned out, only six people across the country were able to enroll on that day. How is it possible that Obama and the entire White House were so completely blindsided by the disaster that was already unfolding that they didn't even know what was going on hours after the launch had begun? How many people had to lie? How many people had to commit fraud? How many people had to be silenced or fired? How many layers of management were lied to, to prevent Obama from knowing the size of the disaster, hours after the disaster was already in progress?

To answer these questions, I spent months interviewing a number of people, including contractors, whistleblowers, analysts, and others, and I posted the article "Healthcare.gov -- The greatest software development disaster in history". The reason that healthcare.gov was a disaster was that each of the web sites was a $10-20 million software development project, but the Obama administration funded each web site with something like $200 million. So when a company like CGI Corp. receives $200 million for a $10 million project, the objective is to spend the money. So they hired hundreds of programmers, most of whom were completely incompetent. So they spent the money, but couldn't develop the web site.

As part of that project, I also looked into all the other components of Obamacare -- the exchanges, the co-ops, and the risk corridors. And as I described in the article, all of them were financial disasters. Many have gone bankrupt, and others are staying afloat only because the Obama administration is finding ways to take money from other projects and pour it into the Obamacare black hole.

The Obama administration started by taking a $730 billion Medicare fund and using it to fund Obamacare. Millions of people have been paying for years into the system to create that fund, and Obama threw it into the toilet. The co-ops and exchanges had operated at big losses, thinking that the administration would bail them out, but Congress blocked the administration from taking money from a number of other projects.

The administration is looking for more ways to bail out Obamacare co-ops and exchanges, and reports indicate that they're now planning to use a "reinsurance" mechanism in the enabling legislation that permit Obama to take money from some insurers and give it to others. Using that mechanism is supposed to be illegal, but that hasn't stopped the Obama administration before.

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the country's largest health insurer, has announced that that they are losing so much money on Obamacare exchanges that they will leave the exchanges in at least 22 states where the company sold plans for this year. Not all states have been named, but they include Florida, Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Maryland.

There are 27 million people still uninsured, even though the administration claims that 22 million more people have insurance now than before Obamacare, but that claim is fraudulent. Millions more are effectively uninsured either because they're on Medicaid and can't find a doctor that accepts Medicaid or they're on an Obamacare plan with a deductible of $5,000 to $15,000, and have to pay their own medical expenses anyway, in addition to the premiums.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has done an in-depth study of medical claims in 2014 and 2015, and found that members who newly enrolled in BCBS individual health plans in 2014 and 2015 have higher rates of certain diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, coronary artery disease, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C than individuals who had BCBS individual coverage prior to health care reform.

For example, new enrollees have rates of HIV and Hepatitis C of 41 and 24 per 10,000 respectively, compared to 12 and 10 respectively among those with individual policies prior to Obamacare. Rates of HIV and Hepatitis C for those who receive insurance through their employers were 11 per 10,000 for both conditions.

These figures support the view that many people enroll in Obamacare when they get sick, and then drop out when they get well. Few people see any point in making premium payments if they're going to be effectively uninsured.

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicates that Obamacare costs are 10% higher than the CBO predicted a year ago. What Obamacare and Britain's NHS have in common is that both of them are in financial death spirals that cannot be sustained. Chicago Tribune and Blue Cross Blue Shield and The Beacon and The Hill and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Apr-16 World View -- Obamacare continues death spiral as Britain's NHS faces strike thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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25-Apr-16 World View -- Largest protests in years planned for Cairo Egypt on Monday

Sudan and Tunisia prepare for simultaneous protests in solidarity

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egypt arrests journalists in cafes and homes ahead of Monday protests


Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi with military guard
Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi with military guard

With large protests expected in Cairo on Monday, Egypt's government is conducting a security crackdown. At least 47 arrest warrants have been issued since Thursday, and dozens of citizens have been arrested without notice from cafes and private residences. Security forces threatened the families of people who were not at home at the time of the attempted arrest.

The crackdowns are targeting bloggers and journalists who have been critical of the government of president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, especially the recent agreement with Saudi Arabia that gave up two Red Sea islands in exchange for $22 billion in investments.

Those who are arrested are facing charges of inciting illegal protests, affiliation with a banned organization, attempting to overthrow the regime, promoting false news and information aimed at disturbing public order. Some are accused of "to threatening to use violence against the president of the republic while he is acting within his constitutional authorities." Daily News Egypt and AP

Egypt's al-Sisi warns of 'chaos' in Monday's Sinai Liberation Day protests

Some of the largest protests in years, reminiscent of the protests that brought down Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, are expected on Monday, the anniversary of Sinai Liberation Day, referring to the "liberation" of Sinai from Israel.

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is warning of "chaos" and "destabilization attempts" over the planned demonstrations and protests planned for Monday by opposition political parties and movements. In a nationally televised speech, al-Sisi said:

"I see there are people calling once again for damage to [Egypt's] security and stability. Our responsibility is to protect security and stability, and I promise Egyptians that no one will terrorize them again.

Still there are evil powers that aim to destabilize stability and safety inside Egypt. Over the last three years, we have succeeded in establishing state institutions, such as the parliament, constitution and presidency. The survival of these institutions means the survival of Egypt. ...

Security services ... will confront with extreme rigor any attempt to disturb public order."

Al-Sisi is deploying hundreds of troops to maintain peace, and is warning that a repeat of large past protests will be punished.

Monday is Sinai Liberation Day, commemorating April 25, 1982, when all Israeli forces were withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula, and the land was returned to Egyptian control.

The call for protests was triggered by a historical coincidence. Egypt and Saudi Arabia recently signed a deal to build a bridge over the Red Sea connecting the two countries, and there have already been a day of protests on April 15. ( "16-Apr-16 World View -- Egypt-Saudi deal for Red Sea bridge triggers massive protests in Cairo")

The deal called for Saudi Arabia to invest $22 billion development projects in Egypt. The deal also called for Egypt to give two disputed Red Sea islands, the Sanafir and Tiran islands, to Saudi Arabia. The coincidence of giving up sovereignty in the two islands just days before the celebration of regaining sovereignty from Israel of the Sinai Peninsula triggered a nationalist fury in many Egyptians.

A petition titled "Egypt is not for sale," which calls for a reversal of the decision on the islands and supports the protests, was signed by more than 300 Egyptian novelists, lawyers and activists. However, the anger of the protesters goes far beyond the loss of the two islands. After the 2011 Arab Awakening, Egyptians had hoped and prayed that a new government would not only bring stability to the country, but would also improve human rights, end abuses by security forces, and end government corruption.

None of these hopes has been realized. The number of jihadist terrorist attacks has been increasing, security forces are as brutal and abusive as ever, and protesters say that government corruption is as bad as ever.

With some activists promoting violence, and with the security forces prepared to respond to violence with violence, it's possible that the protests could spiral out of control and even put al-Sisi's presidency in danger. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Egyptian Streets and AP

Sudan and Tunisia prepare for simultaneous protests in solidarity

Tunisian activists have called for protests in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Tunis on Monday, in solidarity with the protests planned for Cairo. According to the statement, "We reject the arrests carried out recently by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi against the Egyptian people in an attempt to thwart the 25 April movement organized by a group of revolutionary forces in Egypt."

Since Egypt has just given two islands to Saudi Arabia, Sudan is hoping that Egypt will concede in another border dispute. The Halayeb and Shalateen Triangle is part of the shared border between Egypt and Sudan. Egypt says that the 8,000 square mile region has fallen within Egypt's borders since 1820, when Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt, put Sudan under his political authority. On the other hand, Sudan says that an 1899 agreement between the two countries grants the region to Sudan. But Egypt points out that a 1909 joint Egyptian-Sudanese map puts the territory inside Egypt. But Sudan points out that Sudan had sovereign control over the region from 1899 to 1958, a period during which Sudan governed the area uninterrupted and without objection.

There have been threats of war over the disputed region, but both sides say that they hope to resolve the dispute through peaceful negotiations. Daily News Egypt and Anadolu (Ankara)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Apr-16 World View -- Largest protests in years planned for Cairo Egypt on Monday thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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24-Apr-16 World View -- Bangladesh in shock after university professor hacked to death

Europe goes on charm offensive with Turkey on migrant deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Europe goes on charm offensive with Turkey on migrant deal


EU and Turkish officials surrounded by hot Muslim chicks at Gaziantep, Turkey, refugee camp on Saturday
EU and Turkish officials surrounded by hot Muslim chicks at Gaziantep, Turkey, refugee camp on Saturday

The EU-Turkey migrant deal is receiving a lot of criticism from human rights groups, who claim that it violates international law to send migrants back to Turkey after they'd risked their lives traveling to Greece.

However, Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu bragged on Saturday that the EU-Turkey deal had been extremely successful, since it had drastically cut the number of migrants traveling from Turkey to Greece.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Commission, agreed, and praised Turkey further:

"Today Turkey is the best example for the whole world for how we should treat refugees.

“No one has a right to lecture Turkey on what it should do, I am really proud that you are my partner and I am absolutely sure that we will succeed… We have no other way! ...

The way I see it, Turkey has made good progress ahead of decisions to be taken this summer provided that Turkey meets all the agreed benchmarks."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also praised Turkey, for issuing work permits to refugees, so that they can earn a living. Merkel also reversed an earlier position, and said that she now favors Turkey's proposals to set up "safe zones" in northern Syria where displaced Syrians can live and receive humanitarian aid.

The charm offensive took place on Saturday during a visit to the Nizip refugee camp in Gaziantep province, southeastern Turkey. Merkel and Tusk led a European delegation to visit the camp, and hold a press conference to sell the EU-Turkey migrant deal to doubters.

However, Davutoglu also made clear that the EU-Turkey deal would be canceled if the EU did not fulfill its side of the deal -- easing visa restrictions, so that Turkish citizens can travel freely through Europe's Schengen zone without a visa:

"We see the visa exemption as an inseparable, fundamental part of the EU-Turkey agreement. Readmission agreement applies only with visa exemption."

There are strong voices of opposition to the visa easing within EU member countries. As part of the EU-Turkey deal, the EU committed to removing the visa restriction by June, and so this could become a major political crisis in the next few weeks.

A number of other problems with the EU-Turkey deal remain to be solved. The EU had promised Greece that EU member countries would send a staff of 2,300 experts -- police, case officers, judges, and language interpreters -- to help process asylum requests, and only a few of the staff have arrived. Also, approved Syrian refugees are to be distributed to the EU member countries, but many EU nations are stalling or refusing to accept more migrants. Anadolu Agency (Turkey) and BBC and AP and Anadolu Agency

Bangladesh in shock after university professor hacked to death

Rezaul Karim Siddique, an English professor at Rajshahi University in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, was hacked to death 50 meters from his home, when he went to catch a bus to campus around 7:30 on Saturday morning. The brutal killing was similar to increasingly frequent killings, mainly of secular or atheist bloggers, or any other media people who they believe pose a threat to their fundamentalist Islamic teachings and lifestyle.

The new killing is particularly shocking because Siddique was a religious Muslim, and had not put forward secular or atheistic opinions.

As we reported just three weeks ago, Bangladesh is spawning a new, younger generation of jihadist terrorists who are highly educated and tech-savvy. Leading these terror groups is Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which has taken responsibility for several hacking deaths.

The ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency posted the following message on its web site:

"Source to Amaq Agency: Islamic State fighters assassinate a university teacher for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh. Amaq Agency"

It's hard to know what to make of this claim, since Bangladesh is geographically very remote from Syria. It's possible that the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) is taking credit for something it didn't do. It's also possible that the murder was perpetrated by ABT or some other jihadist group that was planning to pledge allegiance to ISIS.

However, another news report quotes local police as saying that "Though his murder was initially claimed by Islamist radicals, police later ruled out that possibility. Police said he was murdered as a sequel to personal rivalry." Dhaka Tribune and AP and Amaq Agency (ISIS) and BDNews24 (Dhaka)

FBI offers to help investigate Bangladesh murders

After the murder on April 8 of student activist Nazimuddin Samad, who was hacked and shot to death by three assailants riding motorcycles, the US State Department offered to help, according to spokesman Mark Toner:

"We've offered assistance to the Bangladeshi government, collaboration on the investigations, FBI assistance.

These are horrific attacks. We urge the Bangladeshi authorities to take them very seriously."

In March 2009, the FBI was asked to help investigate an extremely brutal mutilation and massacre of 76 Bangladesh army officers by border guards under their command. ( "(4-March-2009) FBI will aid Bangladesh investigation of border guard officer massacre") In the end, a total of 847 defendants were tried, en masse, and 152 sentenced to hang, with hundreds more facing long jail terms.

Bangladesh's last generational crisis war was the incredibly bloody and brutal 1971 civil war that made the former state of East Pakistan into the independent nation of Bangladesh.

As I wrote in detail in my 2009 article, the war was between two ethnic groups, both Muslim.

One group were the Muslim Biharis ("Urdu-walla" or Urdu speaking) from northern India, a "market-dominant minority," only 12% of t he population, controlling the government and major businesses. The other group were the Bengalis, a poor majority, speaking the Bengali language, working at menial tasks in the employ of the Urdu-speaking minority.

So the 2009 massacre was an echo of the 1971 civil war, with the poor, majority, lower-caste ethnic Bengali border guards massacring the market-dominant minority high-caste Biharis.

Now we have a new series of brutal massacres going on. The news reports do not indicate that ethnicity of the people involved, but (going out on a limb) it would seem likely that a college professor was a Bihari, and the murderers were Bengalis. If news reports provide further information supporting or contradicting this assessment, then I'll report it.

Earlier in this article, I quoted a news story that said, "Police said he was murdered as a sequel to personal rivalry." In other words, it's very likely that Saturday's slaughter was related to the 1971 war between Biharis and Bengalis, rather than a jihadist attack by ISIS, and that ISIS was claiming credit for something they had nothing to do with, making them typical politicians.

The FBI has offered to help with the investigation, but this isn't an Agatha Christie murder mystery that can be solved by clever sleuthing, or even a CSI murder mystery that can be solved by running DNA tests. It's something runs deep in the core of Bangladeshi society, and no real solution exists. VOA and Economist (9-Nov-2013)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Apr-16 World View -- Bangladesh in shock after university professor hacked to death thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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23-Apr-16 World View -- 175 countries sign farcical climate change agreement

S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio rockets to highest value in years

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

175 countries sign farcical climate change agreement


John Kerry and his granddaughter sign the climate change agreement
John Kerry and his granddaughter sign the climate change agreement

175 countries on Friday signed the climate change agreement that was produced a climate change conference in December.

The climate change agreement is total farce for many reasons, including the fact that it's not binding on anyone. The "historic" signing ceremony will be forgotten in a few days, just as December's "historic" climate change conference was forgotten in a few days. There are other things to worry about -- the war in Syria, China's militarization of the South China Sea, Russia's annexation of Crimea, and so forth.

The climate change agreement is more entertainment than anything else. In fact, the main speaker at the signing ceremony: Movie star and entertainer Leonardo DiCaprio. He entertained everyone by making a truly idiotic speech comparing climate change to slavery:

"[Lincoln] was speaking before the U.S. Congress to confront the defining issue of his time: slavery. Remarkably, his words ring as true today when applied to the defining crisis of our time: climate change. ...

After 21 years of debates and conferences, it is time to declare: no more talk, no more excuses, no more 10-year studies, no more allowing the fossil fuel companies to manipulate and dictate the science and policies that affect our future."

Blah, blah, blah, on and on.

Entertainment Weekly and VOA and Guardian

The 'science' of climate change

Just to make things clear, here are some other things wrong with the climate change hysteria:

In his speech, DiCaprio said he was "absolutely terrified" of climate change, but said nothing about being terrified of the far more likely world war. Daily Caller and From Horse Power to Horsepower and The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 and Great Moments in Failed Predictions

President Obama threatens Britain over 'Brexit' referendum

President Obama has moved on to Britain, having completed his task in Saudi Arabia of lecturing the Saudi King that he needs to learn to "share the neighborhood" with Iran. ( "21-Apr-16 World View -- Saudi King Salman snubs Obama - again - as he arrives for Saudi Arabia summit")

In Britain, he discussed the June 23 "Brexit" referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union. Obama made it clear that he wants Brexit to be rejected, and he threatened the government with regard to the question of a possible US-UK trade agreement if Brexit occurs. According to Obama, referring to the pro-Brexit politicians in Britain:

"They are voicing an opinion about what the United States is going to do, I figured you might want to hear from the president of the United States what I think the United States is going to do.

And on that matter, for example, I think it’s fair to say that maybe some point down the line there might be a UK-US trade agreement, but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement done.

The UK is going to be in the back of the queue."

Analysts are undecided as to whether Obama's threat helps the pro-Brexit side or the anti-Brexit side. Guardian (London)

Report: China to build floating nuclear power plants in South China Sea

According to Chinese media, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp is "pushing forward the work" to build floating nuclear power plants in the South China Sea.

China is annexing the entire South China Sea through military means, including regions that have historically belonged to other countries. China has built artificial islands, and is rapidly turning them into large military bases.

However, they need to burn oil or coal for power, and these large military bases are far from home, making transportation costs exorbitant, especially in bad weather. The nuclear power plants would solve the military problem.

Liberal environmentalists rarely criticize China, and are not expected to provide more than perfunctory criticism of this plan, even though an accident could be extremely damaging to the sea life.

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry could not comment on the report, since he said that he hadn't read it. Reuters and Gizmodo

S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio rockets to highest value in years


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 24.11 on April 22, indicating a huge and rapidly growing stock market bubble (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 24.11 on April 22, indicating a huge and rapidly growing stock market bubble (WSJ)

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (April 22) was at an astronomically high 24.11. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is growing quickly, and could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

The rapidly rising P/E ratio is a sure sign of trouble. The last time that the P/E ratio rose above 24 was in April 2008. For the year following, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 50% to the 6000s level in May 2009.

As the stock market was falling, the Federal Reserve began its massive quantitative easing program in December 2008, "printing" new money and pumping it into the banking system, from which it went into the stock market. The P/E ratio fell below 24 again in December 2009.

Since then, the Fed has lowered interest rates almost to zero, and there is talk of negative interest rates, which are already the policy in several other countries, with little effect. ( "11-Mar-16 World View -- In desperation move, European Central Bank further lowers negative interest rates")

If you listen to CNBC or Bloomberg TV, as I do for as long as I can stand it, all they talk about is interest rates set by the Fed and other central banks. No one seriously believes any more that the stock market has any relation to the real economy. As long as the Fed pumps money into the stock market, it will go up; if the Fed stops, then it will go down.

The reason that stock valuations are surging is because earnings (the denominator of the P/E ratio) are plummeting. During the first quarter, earnings have declined 8.9%, with the result that the P/E ratio is pushed up.

The stock market bubble is getting larger and larger, and there's going to be a lot of political pressure for the Fed to pump it even larger, especially from the Obama administration in an election year. But there is no bubble in history that hasn't burst, and this one is no exception. The amount of pain that it will cause will be enormous. Factset Earnings Insight (PDF)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Apr-16 World View -- 175 countries sign farcical climate change agreement thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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22-Apr-16 World View -- Britain debates which migrants can vote in the 'Brexit' referendum

France to launch new Israeli-Palestinian peace process on May 30

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

France to launch new Israeli-Palestinian peace process on May 30


French president François Hollande and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas
French president François Hollande and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas

France will launch a new Israeli-Palestinian peace process on May 30, but without involving the Israelis or the Palestinians.

France will invite ministers from 20 countries to the May 30 conference. The goal of the May 30 meeting was to prepare an international summit in the second half of 2016. In that case, Israel and the Palestinians would finally be invited.

According to France's foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the goal of the May 30 meeting is clear:

"To build a collective commitment of the international community in preparation for paving a diplomatic horizon for peace. It is in everyone’s interest. The guiding principle is also clear and recognized: The two-state solution. I want to return to the guiding principles of this solution, because there is a tendency not to mention them. We are talking about the State of Israel and the state of Palestine living side by side in peace and security, with secure and recognized borders on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem their shared capital."

Here we go again. This is essentially the "Mideast Roadmap to Peace" that was offered by President Bush in 2003. As I wrote in May 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?", the plan would not succeed because Generational Dynamics predicts that Arabs and Jews would be refighting the 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

Since 2003, there have been five Mideast wars: the war between Israelis and Hezbollah, fought largely on Lebanon's soil in 2006; the war between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2008, that led to Hamas control of Gaza; Operation Cast Lead, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza early in 2009; the two wars between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in November, 2012 and July-August 2014.

Beyond that, the Arab Awakening has destabilized countries all around the Mideast, given rise to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), and inflamed the sectarian fault lines between Sunnis and Shias from India to Algeria.

But Ayrault is unfazed by all that:

"I did not say it would be easy. The parties are now far apart, maybe more than ever. We have on one side, in Israel, a government that shows more and more ambivalence to the two-state plan... and on the other side the Palestinians, who are not only divided [on this question], but also must address growing anger from their public. And we also have the situation itself — there is no need to mention there have already been two conflicts in six years. Is there an alternative to the plan we are proposing? The only other option is a fatalistic acceptance of conflict. I reject that approach."

So I guess Ayrault will be Pollyannaish, and leave being fatalistic to people like me. Haaretz (Israel) and Al Ahram (Cairo) and Israel National News

Britain debates which migrants can vote in the 'Brexit' referendum

Europeans who have been following the American primary elections have expressed astonishment and puzzlement over the complexity of America's election laws. However, they might wish to take a look at the UK elections laws for the June 23 referendum that will decide "Brexit," whether Britain will exit from the European Union.

Nominally, British and Irish citizens will be permitted to vote "yes" or "no" in the referendum. But this simple formula is complicated by two issues.

The first issue is migrants from other countries who are living in Britain. The rule is that even if the migrant is not British or Irish citizen, he can still vote in the referendum, provided that he's from one of the Commonwealth countries. When the British Empire broke up after World War II, it was replaced by the British Commonwealth of Nations, consisting mostly of former British colonies. The Queen is still nominally the head of state for the Commonwealth countries.

I listed the 53 countries in the Commonwealth and some of the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth in a 2007 article, "Pakistan is suspended from the British Commonwealth of Nations".

So this rule has quite a few anomalies. A migrant from France or Italy working in Britain would not be eligible to vote in the referendum. But a migrant from Australia, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Kenya, the Bahamas, Uganda or Zambia would be eligible to vote in the referendum. The only two European countries that are in the Commonwealth are Malta and Cyprus, and so migrants from those countries would be eligible to vote.

Obviously, this situation is raising complaints. According to Lord Green, the founder of the campaign group Migration Watch UK:

"Of course we are not opposed to Commonwealth citizens who are also British citizens having a vote. But if they are not yet British or have decided not to become British it is surely wrong that they should be able to."

The total number of Commonwealth migrants potentially eligible to vote in the referendum is 1.3 million, a number large enough to possibly affect the referendum results.

I said that there were two issues, and the second issue has to do with migration in the other direction. According to the "15 year rule," a citizen of Britain who is living and working in another country is eligible to vote in the referendum only if he's lived in Britain at some time in the last 15 years.

The referendum highlights a particular problem for expats living in another EU country. British citizens living in the EU are also EU citizens, and can live and work in other countries, retire there, and receive health care free at the point of use, paid for by Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

Estimates are that there are 1-2 million expats in this category who moved into another EU country more than 15 years ago. They're unable to vote in the referendum, even though a Brexit "yes" vote could leave them in limbo, because they'd lose their EU citizenship. CNBC and Telegraph (London) and Express (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Apr-16 World View -- Britain debates which migrants can vote in the 'Brexit' referendum thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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21-Apr-16 World View -- Saudi King Salman snubs Obama - again - as he arrives for Saudi Arabia summit

President Obama to 'clean up leftover messes' in the Mideast

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi King Salman snubs Obama - again - as he arrives for Saudi Arabia summit


President Obama and Saudi King Salman in the Erga Palace in Riyadh on Wednesday (AP)
President Obama and Saudi King Salman in the Erga Palace in Riyadh on Wednesday (AP)

In May of last year, President Obama invited the leaders of the Arab nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a meeting at Camp David. Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud snubbed Obama by not attending the meeting. ( "15-May-15 World View -- Obama repudiates the Carter doctrine at bizarre GCC meeting")

Now King Salman has snubbed Obama once again, this time in an even more embarrassing manner, as Obama arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday on Air Force One. King Salman was not there to greet him. Instead, a lower-level official greeted him. Saudi state television did not show Obama's arrival live, but did provide live coverage of the arrival of other Gulf nation leaders -- being greeted by King Salman.

Relations have been worsening ever since President Obama took office, especially when Obama appeared to throw Hosni Mubarak under the bus during the 2011 Arab Awakening. (See "21-May-11 News -- Saudi Arabia advances Gulf Cooperation Council, further cuts U.S. ties.")

Last year, Obama referred to Saudi Arabia as a "so-called ally," because of its opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Recently, the Saudis were deeply offended when Obama characterized some of his allies as "free riders." ( "15-Mar-16 World View -- Saudi's Prince Faisal sharply rebukes Obama's 'free riders' accusation")

No one should be surprised at all that the Saudis have snubbed and embarrassed Obama twice in two years. Washington Times and CNN

President Obama to 'clean up leftover messes' in the Mideast

According to a WSJ article that I quoted in July of last year, Obama saw the deal with Iran as a kind of "gateway" to solve all the problems in the Mideast:

"The White House is crafting a Middle East strategy for the remaining 18 months of President Barack Obama’s term that would more forcefully address conflicts in Iraq, Yemen and Syria amid tensions over the conclusion of talks with Iran. ...

[S]enior administration officials said the president is intent on cleaning up leftover messes in the region before leaving office in 2017, including relations with key allies that have been strained by the Iran talks."

And this is no joke. Just last week, US Secretary of State was in Kabul Afghanistan, lecturing government leaders how to run their governments. That was just a couple of days before the massive terrorist explosion in Kabul. ( "12-Apr-16 World View -- Troubles mount for Afghanistan government as US withdrawal looms")

So President Obama has been in office for 7-1/2 years, and he apparently believes that he's been so skillful in governing America that he now feels qualified to lecture leaders of any country in the world on what they're doing wrong.

According to reports, that's what he did on Wednesday in his meetings with King Salman in Saudi Arabia. Reports indicate that Obama raised the following issues:

People always criticize me when I criticize Obama, but if these reports are true, then this is about the dumbest thing I've every seen.

The Saudis see Iran as an existential threat. As we've been pointing out for two years, analysts note that the Saudis feel surround by the "Shia Crescent," with Iran dominating control of four capitals -- Tehran Iran, Damascus Syria, Beirut Lebanon (thanks to the Iran-sponsored terror group Hezbollah), and Sanaa Yemen. A fifth under partial control is Baghdad Iraq. Telling the Saudis to "share the neighborhood" with Iran is absurd and offensive.

From the point of view of the Saudis, every one of Obama's "suggestions" makes the situation much worse. The nuclear deal with Iran has removed sanctions and given Iran hundreds of billions of dollars more money to use in sponsoring wars and terrorist acts. Exiting the war in Yemen would give complete control to the Iran-supported Houthis. Apparently Obama has no grasp of any of this, as shown by the fact that the Saudi king has repeatedly snubbed Obama.

Obama supposedly believes that this trip will soothe Saudi-US relations, but it will probably only make relations worse. The Arab world is furious at Obama. Obama's "free riders" statement alone sparked hundreds of scathing articles against him in the Gulf press. Well, we'll be watching to see which country and which leader Obama will be lecturing to next.

However, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this growing US-Saudi estrangement is exactly consistent with what Generational Dynamics has been predicting for years, as I explained in detail in "15-Jul-15 World View -- Arab views of Iran nuclear deal": In the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the US, India, Russia and Iran would be allies opposing China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sunni Muslim countries. BBC and Washington Post and Bloomberg and Memri

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Apr-16 World View -- Saudi King Salman snubs Obama - again - as he arrives for Saudi Arabia summit thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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20-Apr-16 World View -- Afghan Taliban launches 'Spring Fighting Season' with massive Kabul explosion

Turkey threatens to cancel migrant deal unless visa restrictions are lifted by June

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Afghan Taliban launches 'Spring Fighting Season' with massive Kabul explosion


Aftermath of Tuesday's terror bombing in Kabul Afghanistan
Aftermath of Tuesday's terror bombing in Kabul Afghanistan

Afghanistan's Taliban announced last week the beginning of its "Spring Fighting Season," and launched it on Tuesday with a massive attack on a government security agency on Kabul. The attack combined a suicide car bomb with gunfire, killing 28 people and wounding at least 327.

The attack comes with Afghanistan's government in total chaos, because of the bitter feud between President Ashraf Ghani and the country's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah. Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise trip to Kabul to instruct Ghani, Abdullah, and the other the politicians on how to run their government. ( "12-Apr-16 World View -- Troubles mount for Afghanistan government as US withdrawal looms")

Putting the best face on it, Ghani said the attack "clearly shows the enemy's defeat in face-to-face battle with Afghan security forces." However, those results have clearly been fixed, with the Afghan scoring military successes in the northern part of the vast country, while the Taliban have been gaining ground in Helmand Province.

For American policy and President Obama's administration, there is one major conundrum: Does the US continue its policy of withdrawing forces from Afghanistan, risking a total collapse in security as happened in Iraq? Or does the US reverse policy and add forces to Afghanistan, thus reneging on Obama's previous commitments? AP and Daily Times (Pakistan) and AFP

China tests its DF-41 long-range nuclear missile with multiple warheads

China conducted another flight test of its newest and longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile last week. The flight test of the new road-mobile DF-41 missile took place Tuesday with two multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. This means that a single missile could deliver a nuclear weapon to two separate targets.

As we wrote three weeks ago ( "1-Apr-16 World View -- China close to deploying very long range DF-41 missile"), it's believed that a fully-deployed DF-41 will be able to carry up to 10 MIRVs. A DF-41 can travel over the Pacific Ocean and strike any city in the western US, or travel over the North Pole and strike any city in the eastern US, in each case within about half an hour. China has the manufacturing capacity to produce hundreds of these missiles, and clearly is preparing for war and planning to use them. Washington Free Beacon

Turkey threatens to cancel migrant deal unless visa restrictions are lifted by June

Tensions are increasing quickly over a crucial provision of the EU-Turkey migrant deal, whose purpose is to slow the flow of migrants traveling from Turkey to Greece by means of a provision that permits Greece to return migrants back to Turkey.

In return for the migrant deal, the EU made several commitments to Turkey:

The June deadline for visa-free travel is quickly approaching. On Monday, Turkey's prime minister Ahmed Davutoglu bluntly warned that the migrant deal will be off if visa liberalization is not implemented:

"This is a mutual commitment.

If the EU cannot take the necessary steps required of it then of course it cannot be expected of Turkey to take these steps.

I maintain my belief that, God willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments."

Turkey must meet 72 criteria by May for the visa liberalization to be granted. Davutoglu says that 44 of the criteria have already been met, and the rest will be met by May.

However, a new report by the European Parliament appears to contradict Davutoglu's claim. The report is extremely critical of the situation of basic rights and freedoms in Turkey. It is also heavily critical regarding a number of other significant issues, including the situation in Syria, rule of law, the situation with the armed Kurdish opposition, the negotiations on Cyprus, independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the normalization of relations with Armenia.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the report:

"The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union.

Three million people have been looked after in this country so they don't disturb the Europeans. Is there anything about this in the report?

At a time when our relations with the European Union are in a positive phase regarding the migrants... it is provocative to come out with a report like that."

There's a great deal of opposition in the EU to visa-free travel by Turkish citizens, so this issue is expected to become a crisis next month. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Istanbul) and AFP

Violence surges in Syria as 'peace talks' collapse becomes official

"Moderate" rebel groups opposed to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad have once again said that they will not negotiate on a "political solution" unless al-Assad is to be removed from power. They made this official on Tuesday by pulling out of the Geneva peace talks.

There was supposed to have been a cease-fire since February 27, but firing never actually ceased, and now violence is escalating sharply in several regions, especially around Aleppo, which the Syrian army is attempting to recapture from rebels with the help of massive airstrikes.

Before the Russian military intervened last year, Syria's army was close to defeat for several reasons, but especially because of large numbers of defections and desertions. This situation has not changed, even with al-Assad's own Alawite sect. ( "4-Apr-16 World View -- Syria's Alawites threaten to abandon Bashar al-Assad")

Now that much of Russia's military has withdrawn, there are reports that al-Assad's army is again losing ground in some regions. Al-Qaeda linked militias, the Islamic Party of Turkestan and Jund al-Aqsa, on Monday captured strategic positions in Syria’s central province of Hama. Vice News and ARA News (Syria)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Apr-16 World View -- Afghan Taliban launches 'Spring Fighting Season' with massive Kabul explosion thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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19-Apr-16 World View -- In a new catastrophe, hundreds of migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea

Israel's Netanyahu vows revenge for terrorist bombing in Jerusalem

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel's Netanyahu vows revenge for terrorist bombing in Jerusalem


Two burnt out buses following terrorist explosion in Jerusalem on Monday
Two burnt out buses following terrorist explosion in Jerusalem on Monday

The first Jerusalem terrorist bus bombing in year injured at least 21 people, two seriously, on Monday during rush hour. Police confirmed that a bomb exploded in one bus carrying passengers. It set a car and a second empty bus on fire, injuring more people.

The police did not disclose whether the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber or by a planted device. No terrorist group has claimed responsibility.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed revenge:

"We will find out who placed the bomb, we will reach those who dispatched them and we will also get to those who stand behind them, and settle the account with these terrorists,"

Attacks on Israeli buses by suicide bombers, many of them claimed by Hamas, occurred frequently during the Palestinian intifada between 2000-2005, but have been rare since. The last one was carried out in 2012 in Tel Aviv. Times of Israel and Vice News

Mahmoud Abbas lobbies to revive international interest in Palestinians

For years, the major international news stories were about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, whether it was a war in Gaza, endless rounds of peace talks, or new Israeli settlements in the West Bank. These stories eclipsed almost everything else.

Then the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) came on the scene, beheading people, destroying ancient art, or perpetrating terrorist acts in Europe, and since then, the Palestinian-Israeli issues have all but disappeared from the international news pages, frustrating Palestinian leaders.

In an interview conducted prior to Monday's bombing in Jerusalem, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian issue must be solved, because terrorists use the issue as a cover for their terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere. With regard to Palestinian attacks on Israelis, he blames them on "violence" by the Israelis:

"Of course we notice that the instability of the whole region is having an effect on interest in the Palestinian issue. But the world must not forget us. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be solved first. Many terrorists use the conflict as a cover. They claim that they are supporting our struggle. But this is not true. We condemn their deeds. But if we don't find a solution to the conflict soon, I fear the violence of these terrorists groups will spread and affect us in our territories and in Israel. ...

This is not an intifada. We have to understand why these young people are committing such attacks. This generation experiences the violence and humiliation of the occupation on a daily basis. And they experience how more and more settlers are coming to occupy their land. If Israel stops this, no child will take a knife to attack Israelis."

It's not clear to me what the "this" is that Israel can stop, yielding the result that "no child will take a knife to attack Israelis," but that's completely untrue. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, what we're seeing is that young Palestinians see Mahmoud Abbas and others in his generation as being full of crap, in the same way that young people in America think that everyone in my generation is full of crap. There is nothing that Israel can do to stop the knife attacks, and the only reason that they haven't yet grown into a larger conflict is that 81 year old Abbas has been able to use his influence to control the situation. Once he retires, and someone from a younger generation takes power, things should become much worse.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, I wrote in May 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?" that Generational Dynamics predicts that Arabs and Jews would be refighting the 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Der Spiegel

In a new catastrophe, hundreds of migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea

It's believed that up to 500 migrants died during the night early Monday morning, when their boat capsized in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. There have been various stories about how the human traffickers transferred 200 migrants from one sinking boat into another boat that already contained 350 migrants. The second boat capsized in the middle of the sea, leaving only 41 survivors. The survivors are from Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt. They were taken on a cargo ship to Greece, but according to some reports, they did not want to leave the cargo ship in Greece, because they wanted to go to Italy.

A year ago, I wrote "20-Apr-15 World View -- Europe considers military action in Libya as migrant drownings accelerate", in which I wrote:

"It seems that every three or four days there's a new catastrophe in the Mediterranean Sea, involving migrants traveling by boat from Libya to Italy. On Tuesday, 400 migrants drowned when their boat capsized. On Thursday, 41 more drowned after a shipwreck. And late on Saturday, 700 people may have drowned when a small fishing boat capsized 60 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa."

Those drownings were earth-shattering for European Union policy, as they prompted EU government to take action to stop the drownings, and to stop the uncontrolled flows of refugees across the Mediterranean.

Now that a year has passed, and the problem has not been solved, and has gotten worse. In March 2015, 2,283 migrants made the sea crossing from Libya to Italy. In March 2016, the number of 9,600, more than four times as many.

A year ago, there was talk of EU military action in Libya. Such military action didn't take place because it would have required either a Security Council resolution or an invitation from Libya's non-existent government, neither of which was available.

The rise of ISIS in Libya has made EU military action more urgent. David Cameron's government in Britain has announced that it will send 1,000 troops to Libya as part of an EU force, even if it's opposed by Parliament. Italy, Libya's former colonial power, has said publicly it is willing to send some 5,000 personnel to Libya. Any EU military action would require US intelligence and logistics. BBC and Reuters and Telegraph (London)

China's bond market starts to unravel

I've always liked to point out that as bad as America's economy is, China's is far worse, thanks to huge debt-funded bubbles that could implode at any time, creating a chain reaction of bankruptcies.

During the past ten days, there's been a massive selloff in China of corporate bonds denoted in China's yuan currency. Local issuers have canceled 60.6 billion yuan ($9.4 billion) of bond sales in April alone, while Standard & Poor’s is cutting its assessment of Chinese firms at a pace unseen since 2003.

China's government always responds to every financial problem in the same way: "Print" massive amounts of new money by purchasing debt from companies. But that solution is running out, as seven Chinese companies reneged on bond obligations this year. Three of those were part-owned by China’s government, seen not long ago as a provider of implicit guarantees for bondholders.

Bond yields (interest rates) have been increasing rapidly in the last few days, though still below historical levels. However, increased bond yields mean that new debt is more expensive, making it harder and harder for a Chinese CEO to use his MasterCard to pay his Visa bill. Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Apr-16 World View -- In a new catastrophe, hundreds of migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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18-Apr-16 World View -- Latest Syria 'peace process' collapses, as chemical weapons kill Hezbollah militias

Saudi Arabia ends oil summit negotiations as Iran fails to show up

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Massive earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador are linked by the Ring of Fire


The Ring of Fire (US Geological Survey)
The Ring of Fire (US Geological Survey)

Japan and Ecuador are oceans apart -- in fact they're separated by the entire Pacific Ocean. But in the last week, they have something in common: massive earthquakes.

On Saturday, a magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck southern Japan, after another earthquake struck the same region on Thursday night. Three people were killed and hundreds were injured.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake, six times as powerful as the Japan earthquake, struck Ecuador on Saturday, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands.

What these earthquakes have in common is that they're all on the "Ring of Fire," a long chain of volcanoes and other tectonically active structures that surround the Pacific Ocean. The chain runs up along the western coast of South and North America, crosses over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, runs down the eastern coast of Asia past New Zealand and into the northern coast of Antarctica.

There are more than 450 active and dormant volcanoes located within the Ring of Fire. Approximately 90% of the most powerful volcanic eruptions and about 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes have occurred along the Ring of Fire. Earthsky Communications and BBC and Reuters and Earthsky Communications

Syria chemical weapons accidentally kill Hezbollah militias

According to a diplomatic source quoted in Kuwaiti media, dozens of fighters in Hezbollah militias were killed last week when the Syrian air force warplanes, under the command of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, bombed the Hezbollah fighters with chemical weapons. According to the report, those Hezbollah fighters who survived had chemical burn marks on their bodies. The report does not specify what chemical weapons were used. The regime war planes undoubted had intended to target women and children in Sunni neighborhoods, but accidentally targeted the Hezbollah militias.

According to the diplomatic source:

"It is not the first time that coordination problems have arisen between the military police and the Russian military, Hezbollah and Iran. Incidents like this have happened repeatedly since the Russian forces entered into the conflict.

What happened in Aleppo demonstrates an impending problem in regards to cooperation on the ground and the incident again brings up the issue of attacks on innocent people with unconventional weapons.

The lack of coordination between the supporting forces and Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces is troubling to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was not updated about the incident."

President Obama had once said that a "red line" would be Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons. After al-Assad used Sarin gas and Obama flip-flopped, there was a face-saving measure to get an agreement to remove all of al-Assad's chemical weapons from Syria. Nobody seriously believed that al-Assad wouldn't find a way to retain a secret stockpile of chemical weapons, and that clearly happened. Al-Assad's air force has regularly used barrel bombs indiscriminately dropped on Sunni neighborhoods. The barrel bombs contain explosives, metals and chemical weapons, and are designed to inflict as much pain on civilian neighborhoods as possible. This new report confirms that al-Assad is using chemical weapons freely, every day, and with compute impunity, fully supported by Russia and Iran.

Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly humiliated and made a fool of President Obama, but I suppose that one could enjoy a little Schadenfreude now that al-Assad's chemical weapons have now been used on his own allies. Jerusalem Post and Jewish Press

Latest Syrian 'peace process' appears near collapse

Members of the "moderate" Syrian opposition to the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday that since the Syrian army was not honoring what is supposed to be a cease-fire, then rebel groups should not do so either, and they urged rebels to strike back against the Syrian army. The so-called "cease-fire" was never more than a ruse by the regime and the Russians as a cover to continue fighting and gaining ground, and now even the pretense of a cease-fire is apparently at an end.

I've been writing about various peace plans and peace talks ever since the conflict began in 2011. The following is what I wrote on March 12, 2012:

"It's becoming increasingly apparent to everybody that Bashar al-Assad has made fools of the Arab League, the U.N. and the west in general, by succeeding in killing, mutilating and exterminating thousands of his own innocent Arab civilians under the everybody's noses, and they couldn't do a damn thing about it. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, runs around like a chicken with his head cut off, saying, "This has got to stop! This has got to stop." He's been parroting those words for a year. And Kofi Annan, the virulently anti-American former Secretary-General of the United Nations from Ghana, sounds like an idiot when he travels to Damascus and tells everyone in the West to leave poor Bashar alone, or he'll make things worse for everyone. The U.N. sent their emergency aid chief, Valerie Amos, to Syria to check out Homs, which has been the subject of a full scale army attack on residential neighborhoods for the last few weeks. Al-Assad's troops cleaned up the dead bodies and debris from the portion of Homs that they wanted her to see, and she said how "concerned" she is about what happened to the people. Activists ridiculed her visit and one said, "To tell the truth, we know that Valerie Amos is useless. We have had one year of killing, shooting and bombing and nobody has moved a finger.""

Annan formulated a farcical six-point 'peace plan' which said absolutely nothing, but which al-Assad used as a cover to continue exterminating innocent Sunni women and children with impunity. After Kofi Annan was repeatedly humiliated by Bashar al-Assad, the UN appointed a new Syria peace envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, to replace Kofi Annan. Brahimi wasn't as much of an idiot as Annan was, but he still resigned in disgust in May 2014, after it became clear that al-Assad really had no desire to do anything but exterminate Sunni civilians. After that, Secretary of State John Kerry stumbled around the Mideast, making one idiotic SNL-worthy speech after another.

This year, after the Russians intervened militarily, there have been several new attempts at peace plans. But as I've written several times, these peace plan made absolutely no sense whatsoever for obvious reasons -- Russia and Syria will continue bombing what they claim are terrorist groups, which are pretty much all Sunnis in Syria, and the plan would not apply to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front). In fact, the peace plans have actually worsened the hostilities, since they provided cover for substantially increased bombing and fighting from all groups.

There's a very good reason why one peace plan after another fails. And that's because Bashar al-Assad is a psychopathic genocidal monster whose objective is to exterminate all Sunni Muslims as if they were cockroaches. These are almost his own words. He's repeatedly said he will never step down, and that he will continue to exterminate all "terrorists" -- by which he means all Sunnis. ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria")

The conflict in Syria is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of recent times. According to a recent report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, an independent think tank, about 470,000 Syrians have lost their lives due to the war, directly and indirectly, so far. Around 45 per cent of the country’s population of 23 million have been displaced, 6.4 million internally and more than 5 million abroad. In all, 11.5 per cent of Syria’s population has been killed or injured since the crisis erupted in March 2011. (Paragraph corrected. 19-Apr)

None of this really mattered to the West, as long as the refugees were pouring into neighboring states -- Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey. But now there's a lot of desperation in Europe because of the Syria war, mainly because over a million of those refugees have flooded into Europe. That's why Western government was grasp at almost any hope, no matter how tenuous, that the Syrian war can be resolved with "peace talks" in Geneva. But as long as Bashar al-Assad is in power and able to exterminate Sunni civilians with impunity, then there will never be a solution. Reuters and Indian Express and Huffington Post

Saudi Arabia ends oil summit negotiations as Iran fails to show up

An oil summit in Doha by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was supposed to come to an agreement to limit production of oil, in order to force oil prices to increase. Iran has repeatedly said that it would not limit its own production, as it's only recently had sanctions lifted. The sanctions restricted Iran's oil production.

Oil prices (futures) plunged 5-6% immediately on early trading in Asia on Monday morning, news, from around $40 per barrel to around $38 a barrel.

Oil prices last year fell below $30 per barrel, for two main reasons: reduction in demand from China, and the shale oil production boom in the United States. The fall in prices has caused many shale oil rigs to shut down, and oil prices have been rising for the last nine months. Even so, the world is still producing about 1.25 million barrels of oil per day more than required, and so oil prices may fall sharply again in the next few weeks. Market Watch and Reuters and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Apr-16 World View -- Latest Syria 'peace process' collapses, as chemical weapons kill Hezbollah militias thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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17-Apr-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia threatens economic retaliation if blamed for 9/11 attacks

Cuba's reactionary Raúl Castro tries to hold back the 'restoration of capitalism'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Cuba's reactionary Raúl Castro tries to hold back the 'restoration of capitalism'


Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro

Cuba's president Raúl Castro admitted Saturday that micro, small and medium-sized private companies have proliferated since Cuba's 2010 economic reforms, but warned that this does not in any way imply the "restoration of capitalism." In making this announcement, Castro is trying desperately to hold back the tides of history, an attempt that will surely fail.

In 2010, Cuba's president Fidel Castro announced that Cuba's bureaucracy had become so bloated that the government would lay off 500,000 workers in the public sector. According to the announcement:

"Our state neither can nor should continue to burden companies and productive organizations with services and inflated budgets that weigh down the economy, are counterproductive, create bad habits and distort the behavior of workers."

Those workers would have to form private businesses or work for other people's private businesses. The announcement was effectively the end of socialism for Cuba. (See "16-Sep-10 News -- Cuba's seismic shift has global implications")

Now, over five years later, those 500,000 laid off workers did create numerous private businesses, many of which are succeeding. So Castro's announcement on Saturday is not only anti-historical, but silly.

Karl Marx's theories said that capitalism had built within it the seeds of its own destruction, and that it would also be replaced by the dictatorship of the proletariat, and then by socialism. Not only has that never happened, but the opposite has happened. Whether in East Germany, Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba, socialism has always been imposed over a river of blood and tens of millions of dead bodies of people who had to be killed to create the socialist paradise. As the communists like to say, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

In fact, it's socialism that contains the seeds to its own destruction. In recent times, we've seen a total collapse of socialism in East Germany and Russia, and in China a collapse into "capitalistic socialism," which is actually Fascism.

As I wrote in my 2010 article, one can prove mathematically that socialism must always fail as population grows. If you're a serf lord or a war lord and you control a couple of hundred people, then socialism is easy. You just appoint your son to be chief bureaucrat, and have him monitor all commercial transactions. But as population grows exponentially, the number of transactions that have to be monitored grows exponentially even faster, and so the number of bureaucrats required to enforce socialism grows faster than the population. That's why all the socialist countries in the last century got stuck in the 1950s, and why North Korea today is still stuck in the 1950s.

Cuba was stuck in the 1950s, as was apparent from the fact that all the cars in Cuba were 1950s cars from America. The number of bureaucrats necessary to enforce socialism had grown so large that it was getting out of control. That's why the 2010 announcement was that 500,000 people would be laid off and allowed to create their own private businesses.

In country after country where socialism has been tried, it's been accomplished by means of huge bloody massacres in generational Crisis eras, and in the countries we've mentioned it's collapsed bloodlessly during generational Unraveling eras. Cuba is in a generational Unraveling era today. The only thing holding socialism together today is that Fidel and Raúl Castro are still alive and still running things. But Raúl Castro is 84 years old, and he's promised to retire soon, so socialism will not last much longer in Cuba. Agencia EFE (Madrid) and Cuban News Agency (ACN)

Saudi Arabia threatens economic retaliation if blamed for 9/11 attacks


New York's World Trade Center, prior to the 9/11 attack
New York's World Trade Center, prior to the 9/11 attack

Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell of hundreds of billions of dollars worth of American assets if a bill becomes law that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in U.S. courts for any role in the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The 9/11 Commission Report, published during the Bush administration, found "no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization." That very careful wording leaves open the possibility that some less-than-senior Saudi politicians supported or funded the 9/11 attacks.

However, the final chapter of the report, now known as the mysterious "28 pages," was left out of the public version of the report, for reasons of "national security" that both the Bush and Obama administrations have supported. Activists are claiming that the "28 pages" contain evidence of the guilt of the Saudi government, and they're demanding that they be declassified.

Families of the victims are going further and demanding that Congress pass a bill that would permit them to sue the Saudi government and recover damages for the 9/11 attacks. Congress is now debating such a bill, though it's opposed by the Obama administration.

The Saudis are threatening revenge, saying that if that bill becomes law, then they'll sell of $750 billion in American treasury securities and other US assets. They have threatened to do this quickly, before the US courts could freeze these assets. Selling the assets would, in effect, immunize the Saudis from the lawsuits, or at least from having to pay damages if they lose the lawsuits.

This is just one more thing that's worsening relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Relations have been worsening ever since President Obama took office, especially when Obama appeared to throw Hosni Mubarak under the bus during the 2011 Arab Awakening. (See "21-May-11 News -- Saudi Arabia advances Gulf Cooperation Council, further cuts U.S. ties.")

As I've been writing for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the US, India, Russia and Iran would be allies opposing China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sunni Muslim countries. CNN and The Sun (London) and The 9/11 Commission Report (PDF)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Apr-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia threatens economic retaliation if blamed for 9/11 attacks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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16-Apr-16 World View -- Egypt-Saudi deal for Red Sea bridge triggers massive protests in Cairo

Czech Republic debates adopting the short name 'Czechia'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egypt-Saudi deal for Red Sea bridge triggers massive protests in Cairo


Egyptian protesters hold a sign that says 'Awad sold his land', an old proverb expressing the shame of giving up two islands to Saudi Arabia (VOA)
Egyptian protesters hold a sign that says 'Awad sold his land', an old proverb expressing the shame of giving up two islands to Saudi Arabia (VOA)

Thousands of Egyptians demonstrated in central Cairo on Friday against president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi in the biggest anti-government protests since al-Sisi's coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi.

The trigger for the riots was the joint plan by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to build a bridge across the Red Sea, but the riots were not triggered by the bridge plan itself, but by other terms of the same deal that we described in "10-Apr-16 World View -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia to build a huge bridge where Moses parted the Red Sea"

The part of the deal that's triggering the demonstrations was that a long-standing dispute over two islands in the Strait of Tiran, the Sanafir and Tiran islands, was resolved by Egypt giving up sovereignty and turning the islands over the Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia agreed to invest $22 billion in development projects in Egypt to help its ailing economy, though Saudi Arabia is not offering "free money" this time because Saudi Arabia's economy is also ailing because of collapsing oil prices.

Protesters on Friday chanted, "Awad sold his land!", an allusion to the villagers' taunts in a popular 1960s radio play of a man who sold his plot of farmland — an act that in the past was equated with dishonor in rural Egypt.

Egypt's best known political satirist, self-exiled Bassem Youssef, mimicked the shouts of Egyptian street hawkers selling souvenirs to foreign tourists by tweeting, "Here, here, Pasha, one island for a billion, a pyramid for two and I will throw two statues on top,"

However, the chants by the protesters went beyond the island issue to calling for the downfall of the government. Egyptians had hoped that al-Sisi's presidency would bring an economic upturn, but the economy has continued to worsen. The protests weren't as big as the 2011 protests that brought down Mubarak, but they're similar, and new protests are planned for April 25. The crowds dispersed later in the day, although Egyptian security forces detained about 50 protesters. Al-Ahram (Cairo) and AP and AFP

Migrant traffic from Libya to Italy surges

Only a few hundred migrants entered Europe via Greece this week, but almost 6,000 migrants and refugees have sailed from Libya towards Italy in the past three days in what appears the start of a wave of at least 100,000 and "possibly many, many more" this year, the International Organization for Migration said on Friday.

The Italian Coast Guard has become extremely efficient at saving migrants from drowning, and some people are complaining that it's become so efficient that many more migrants are encouraged to make the trip, thus making Europe's migrant crisis even worse. Reuters

Czech Republic debates adopting the short name 'Czechia'

After years of debate, leaders of the Czech Republic are supporting "Czechia" as the shortened name for the counted. According to President Milos Zeman in 2013, "I use the term Czechia because it’s shorter and not so cold like the term Czech Republic."

Other politicians object to the name for several reasons, including the fact that the new name will be confused with the name "Chechnya," one of Russia's provinces in the Northern Caucasus.

In fact, even without the new name, that's exactly what did happen in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing. The two Boston Marathon bombers had origins in Chechnya, but many bloggers got confused, as I reported in "21-Apr-13 World View -- American bloggers confuse 'Chechnya' with 'Czech Republic'".

In order to allay the confusion at the time, Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovic posted the following message on the web site for the Czech embassy in Washington:

"As many I was deeply shocked by the tragedy that occurred in Boston earlier this month. It was a stark reminder of the fact that any of us could be a victim of senseless violence anywhere at any moment.

As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities - the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.

As the President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman noted in his message to President Obama, the Czech Republic is an active and reliable partner of the United States in the fight against terrorism. We are determined to stand side by side with our allies in this respect, there is no doubt about that."

Now, with regard to adopting the short name Czechia, one opposition MP said: "It is certainly not a good idea. I think that we are known as the Czech Republic, though for some further away its still rather often Czechoslovakia in spite of the fact we are now the Czech Republic." Radio Prague and Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Apr-16 World View -- Egypt-Saudi deal for Red Sea bridge triggers massive protests in Cairo thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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15-Apr-16 World View -- Russians brag about 'aerobatic skills' of Russian pilots buzzing US ship

US Navy conducting joint patrols with Philippines in South China Sea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nigeria's Boko Haram releases 'proof of life' video of abducted Chibok girls


Screen grab from Boko Haram video.  I think that this is the saddest picture that I've ever posted.  (CNN)
Screen grab from Boko Haram video. I think that this is the saddest picture that I've ever posted. (CNN)

This is two-year anniversary of the abduction by Boko Haram of 276 girls from their college dormitory in the village of Chibok in Nigeria. Boko Haram has now released a video of 15 of the girls, shot on Christmas day 2015. The video provides "proof of life" in order for Boko Haram to gain negotiating leverage in its extortion negotiations with the government,

Parents who viewed the video confirmed that they were the Chibok girls. Those who saw their own daughters were relieved that their daughters were alive, but distressed at the circumstances.

It's unlikely that all 276 girls could ever be returned, as it's thought that some have been sold as slaves and others have been used as suicide bombers.

But most of all, the video has caused renewed outrage in Nigeria at the way the government responded to the abduction. For a couple of weeks after the abduction occurred, it seemed that nobody particularly cared, not the government of Nigeria, and not the international community. (See "2-May-14 World View -- New car bombing in Nigeria, while 200 kidnapped girls are still missing") Then an international campaign began, with Michele Obama's participation. But now, two years later, no girls have been recovered, and some people in Nigeria have stated in the past that Nigeria's government was so incompetent at dealing with Boko Haram that it's possible that some government officials are Boko Haram supporters. Other analysts claim that any attempt to rescue the girls could have gotten many of them killed. CNN and AFP

Russians brag about 'aerobatic skills' of Russian pilots buzzing US ship

As we reported yesterday, Russian jet fighters pretended to be attacking the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, buzzing the USS Cook 11 times, at one point within 30 feet of the ship.

According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the US might have shot the Russian jets down:

"We condemn this kind of behavior. It is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement that could have been a shoot-down.

People need to understand that this is serious business and the United States is not going to be intimidated on the high seas ... We are communicating to the Russians how dangerous this is and our hope is that this will never be repeated."

Everyone remembers that Turkey last year shot down a Russian jet under almost similar circumstances, and since then Russian jets no longer violate Turkey's airspace.

In this case, however, Russia's state media bragged about the incident:

"The aerobatics skills of Russian pilots over the US destroyer Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea left the Pentagon and other US official running for cover in Washington over “aggressive close interactions” with Russian fighter jets. ...

Judging by the videos released by the US Navy, the sailors were nonplussed by the Russian aerobatic skills. They gathered on the top deck of the destroyer to watch the Russian pilots. ...

At least on the video no one can be seen running for cover."

The Russians should remember a previous incident: an April 2001 encounter, when the pilots of a Chinese F-8 interceptor were playing games and exhibiting similar "aerobatics skills" to harass a U.S. surveillance aircraft in international waters in the South China Sea. The Chinese were internationally humiliated as total idiots when the Chinese aircraft smashed into the US aircraft. The Chinese aircraft crashed into the sea, and its crew were killed. The U.S. plane made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island, and the idiot Chinese got even by imprisoning the 24 crew members for 10 days. Guardian (London) and Russia Today

US Navy conducting joint patrols with Philippines in South China Sea

The United States on Thursday revealed for the first time that American ships have started conducting joint patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea. At the same time, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the US will be keeping nearly 300 troops, including Air Force commandos armed with combat aircraft and helicopters, in the Philippines through the end of the month. Philippines Defense Minister Voltaire T. Gazmin said wishfully that the U.S. presence "will deter uncalled-for actions by the Chinese."

This is part of the continuing military buildup in the South China Sea, triggered by China's use of its massive military force to confiscate regions that have historically belonged to other nations, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. As we reported yesterday, Japanese warships are visiting ports in Vietnam, while China is deploying warplanes onto Woody Island in the South China Sea. NBC News and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Apr-16 World View -- Russians brag about 'aerobatic skills' of Russian pilots buzzing US ship thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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14-Apr-16 World View -- Japanese warships visit Vietnam, as China moves warplanes into South China Sea

Russian fighter 'strafing runs' at US ship in Baltic Sea called 'showboating'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Japanese warships make historic port call to Vietnam


Japanese ambassador to Vietnam Hiroshi Fukada (1st L, front) inspects a guard of honor on Tuesday at Cam Ranh Bay seaport.
Japanese ambassador to Vietnam Hiroshi Fukada (1st L, front) inspects a guard of honor on Tuesday at Cam Ranh Bay seaport.

Japan on Tuesday sailed two warships, the guided-missile destroyers JS Ariake and JS Setogiri, carrying 500 crew members, into Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay seaport. The visit is considered historic, since it's the first such visit since Japanese occupation of Vietnam ended at the end of World War II.

Cam Ranh Bay opens out into the South China Sea, and the visit by Japanese warships to Vietnam is clearly directed at China, and is an attempt to react to China's belligerence. Japan's constitution permits the military to be used only for self-defense, and these ships are part of the "Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force" (MSDF). But the concept of "self-defense" has recently been reinterpreted by Japan's government to permit "collective self-defense," which would allow the Japanese military to fight in a foreign war in defense of an ally whose defeat could threaten Japan.

A statement by Japan's Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani said that he expected defense collaboration with Vietnam to grow and that Japan would work with other major powers such as the United States to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea. Japan Times and Vietnam Net and The Diplomat

China deploys fighter jets to South China Sea

China plans for military control of the South China Sea has taken a big step forward, according to satellite imagery from April 7. Two Chinese Shenyang J-11 fighter jets have been deployed to Woody Island.

China is claiming the entire South China Sea, and is using its massive military force to confiscate regions that have historically belonged to other nations, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. China is building artificial islands and converting them to military bases with advanced missile and radar systems. ( "23-Feb-16 World View -- China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers")

It's possible that the new deployment of jets was purposely timed to coincide with the port call of the two Japanese warships to Vietnam. Fox News and Sydney Morning Herald

Russian fighter 'strafing runs' at US ship in Baltic Sea called 'showboating'

Russian jets appeared to be attacking the USS Donald Cook, sailing in the Baltic Sea. A U.S. official described the Russian maneuver as "strafing runs" without firing any weapons. The Russian aircraft were unarmed, but swooped in over the deck in the same flight profile that would have been used if an attack was underway. They buzzed the USS Cook 11 times, at one point within 30 feet of the ship.

This appears to be one of the political relations games that Russia's president Vladimir Putin is playing to show how tough he is. The Navy didn't shoot down the Russian planes because they weren't a credible threat according to Capt. Rick Hoffman, and they were visibly unarmed.

According to Hoffman, the Russian "simulated attack" was nothing but showboating:

"Well, we’re not at war with Russia. It would be one thing to be operating and have a threatening attack profile from someone who might not recognize me — that’s not the case here."

You don’t get to kill people just because they’re being annoying. ...

It would be real interesting to see what shows up in the Russian papers in the morning, how they play it. It's not that different from North Korea. He does something and then he plays it domestically however he needs to play it for the purposes of getting his people energized."

When Russian warplanes in Syria repeatedly violated Turkey's airspace last year, the Turks finally shot one down, creating an international incident. However, it's believed that Russian warplanes no longer violate Turkey's airspace. CNN and Navy Times and YouTube

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Apr-16 World View -- Japanese warships visit Vietnam, as China moves warplanes into South China Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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13-Apr-16 World View -- EU migrant crisis moves to Italy as Austria begins closing border

EU threatens to impose travel restrictions on US/Canada visitors

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

EU threatens to impose travel restrictions on US/Canada visitors


An Iraqi Yazidi girl waves from a bus as she and her family leave the Idomeni refugee camp and head for another camp in Greece on Tuesday (AP)
An Iraqi Yazidi girl waves from a bus as she and her family leave the Idomeni refugee camp and head for another camp in Greece on Tuesday (AP)

The European Commission (EC) on Tuesday asked the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to consider imposing travel restrictions on visitors from the United States and Canada. The EC had to make the request, because it was required to do so under European Union regulations.

Most EU citizens can visit the United States with no visa requirements. And US citizens can visit most of Europe with no visa requirements. But the United States requires visas from citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania. Because of this requirement, the EC is required under its own regulations to pursue a reciprocal regime.

Under those regulations, the EC 24 months ago issued a formal notice to the US State Dept. asking that the visa requirements be lifted for those five member states. That notice has now expired, so the EC, under its own regulations, was forced to take the next step on April 12. A similar situation applies to Canada and Brunei.

This issue is caught up in Europe's security problems. The State Dept. isn't likely to agree to reduce any visitor restrictions after the terror attacks on Paris and Brussels. In fact, the US tightened restrictions on all EU countries last year by requiring visas for all all dual EU-Syrian nationals or all EU nationals who recently visited Libya.

If the EU goes ahead with its via restrictions, then starting in October, US citizens would have to obtain visas before traveling to Europe. Many European officials are stridently opposed to imposing the visa requirements, because it would be devastating to Europe's economy, especially after the US retaliated by imposing its own visa restrictions on Europe. eTurbo Travel News and EU Observer and Canadian Broadcasting

EU migrant crisis moves to Italy as Austria begins closing border

Italy's Coast Guard, supported by ships from EU's Frontex organization, rescued 2,154 migrants traveling from Libya on a single day, Tuesday. The were found on 16 rubber dinghies and one boat.

In a typical situation, a dinghy is crammed with 100-200 people in Libya and pushed out into the Mediterranean Sea. The migrants are instructed to watch for an Italian coast guard ship and ask for help. In some cases, the migrants purposely sink the dinghy so that the coast guard ship will be forced to take them aboard.

As expected, the warmer weather is causing an increase in the number migrants who pay human traffickers to cross the Mediterranean to Europe from Libya. Now that the "Balkan Route" from Greece through the Balkans to Germany has been closed, migrants are paying human traffickers to transport them via other routes. Many people think that the hundreds of thousands that have been prevented from taking the Balkan Route will now travel via Libya to Italy.

Meanwhile, there are more than 53,000 migrants are trapped in Greece, many in filthy refugee camps, and the process of returning them to Turkey is floundering. ( "9-Apr-16 World View -- Legal problems and Erdogan's threats may collapse EU-Turkey migrant deal")

Things have been going so slowly in Greece that the European Commission is issuing a threat to Greece to report how it plans to tightenc control of its border, or be shut out of the visa-free Schengen Zone. AP and Kathimerini

Austria begins construction on border controls with Italy

Fearing a massive influx of migrants from Italy, Austria has begun construction work at the Brenner Pass Alpine crossing, the main highway that connects Italy and Austria. Austria will introduce tougher border controls starting on June 1 at the latest. There are no plans right now to build a border fence, but that could change if the stream of migrants becomes large enough.

The Austrian plans are raising objections among EU leaders.

Natasha Bertaud, a spokesman for the European Commission said: "The Commission is very concerned. If these plans were to materialize then we would have to look at them very seriously. The Brenner Pass is essential for the freedom of movement within the European Union."

Alev Korun, member of the Austrian Parliament and spokesman for the Green Alternative party, said: "We are against the militarization of borders and the building of fences on the borders. Nationalistic measures like these only speed up de-solidarization within the EU." Euro News and Independent (London) and Sputnik News (Moscow)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Apr-16 World View -- EU migrant crisis moves to Italy as Austria begins closing border thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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12-Apr-16 World View -- Troubles mount for Afghanistan government as US withdrawal looms

John Kerry instructs Afghanistan officials how to run their government

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

John Kerry instructs Afghanistan officials how to run their government


Unity government leaders President Ashraf Ghani, right, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (Reuters)
Unity government leaders President Ashraf Ghani, right, and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (Reuters)

This is another one of those stories where all I can do is shake my head because after seven years of being in office, President Obama still thinks he's the smartest person in the room -- any room -- or the world, but still has absolutely no clue what's going on in the world. His Secretary of State John Kerry believes that US armed forces are worse than Nazis.

So now John Kerry, who has stumbled from one foreign policy disaster to another, paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Saturday. The nominal purpose of the visit was to head off a political crisis that could damage US withdrawal plans, so he demanded that the government renege on a 2014 agreement to replace the current government in September.

Afghanistan's presidential elections in 2014 resulted in bitter disputes between the two leading candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, including accusations of massive voter fraud on both sides. The US brokered an agreement for a "unity government" of the two candidates, with Ghani becoming president and Abdullah in the newly created post of chief executive.

The text of the agreement called for a "loya jirga" (grand assembly) to be called in September 2016, at the end of two years. The loya jirga would decide the future of the government and amend the constitution -- as such assemblies have done at key points in Afghanistan’s recent history.

So the purpose of Kerry's visit to Afghanistan on Saturday was to tell the Afghan politicians and the Afghan people that they should not hold a loya jirga. He said that, despite the agreement calling for it, the loya jirga was "a goal," not a requirement:

"Let me make this very, very clear, because I brokered the agreement, President Ghani signed it and Chief Executive Abdullah signed it, and I was there to witness the signing, and I had the privilege of joining them in announcing it. There is no end to this agreement at the end of two years or in six months from now. This agreement ends – this is an agreement for a unity government, the duration of which is five years. ...

But we are – in no way does the agreement itself have some particular termination. The constitution has elected a president. The president has agreed to a unity government, and a political agreement was made between Dr. Abdullah and President Ghani for how they would go forward in a unity government. But it is our understanding that that is a mandate for five years and there’s no termination whatsoever in six months."

So there you have it. John Kerry brokered the deal, so he knows what it means better than the Afghan politicians do, since they merely signed it. We'll have to see whether Kerry's visit did the job, or whether it infuriated the opposition so much that it made a loya jirga even more likely.

Kerry also repeated an offer to the Taliban for peace talks, which is laughable. LA Times and Washington Post (29-Mar) and BBC and Dept. of State

Troubles mount for Afghanistan government as US withdrawal looms

The fact that Afghanistan has had no government since 2014 is just one of the country's problems. The economy has been sinking and, perhaps worst of all, the resurgent Taliban are stronger than at any time since they were toppled from power in late 2001.

In October of last year, President Obama reversed himself on the Afghanistan troop withdrawal. Instead of a total withdrawal, he announced that a residual force of 5,500 troops would be left on a continuing basis. This was only the latest of several similar reversals. He was forced into this because many people believe that the Obama's total withdrawal from Iraq squandered the victory won by President Bush via the 2007 "surge," and because Obama's own "surge" strategy in Afghanistan has been a failure, as I predicted in 2009 that it would be, based on a Generational Dynamics comparison of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Analysts give three reasons for the resurgence of the Taliban in 2015:

The viability of Afghan's military is further in doubt as a new report by CNN that desertion is rife, as Afghan soldiers defect to the Taliban. According to one deserter: "I decided to leave the army when my dead and injured comrades lay in our base, and nobody took them to hospital. My army training is very useful now, as I am training Taliban fighters with the same knowledge."

Government troops suffered huge losses in 2015. U.S. officials estimate that 5,500 Afghan security force members died that year alone, far more than the 3,500 Nato lost in its entire decade-long campaign. As the "fighting season" approaches in the summer, the fear is that losses in 2016 will be even greater.

The remaining Nato forces are increasingly being deployed in battle zones to support Afghan forces fighting the Taliban. Afghanistan's government is requesting (perhaps begging) that the US cancel its withdrawal plans, or even to bring in new troops. With President Obama concerned with little else beyond his legacy, this is something that he is unlikely to approve, unless the situation in Afghanistan gets so bad over the summer that he has no choice. That may in fact happen. Reuters and CNN and BBC (5-Jan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Apr-16 World View -- Troubles mount for Afghanistan government as US withdrawal looms thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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11-Apr-16 World View -- Armenia-Azerbaijan ceasefire holds, despite hundreds of 'breaches'

'Horrific' scenes as Macedonian police lob teargas into Idomeni refugee camp

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

'Horrific' scenes as Macedonian police lob teargas into Idomeni refugee camp


An Idomeni camp refugee selling whatever he can (Deutsche Welle)
An Idomeni camp refugee selling whatever he can (Deutsche Welle)

A scene described as "horrific" unfolded on Sunday in Greece along the border with Macedonia. According to reports, five refugees from the Idomeni refugee camp went to the border to negotiate with Macedonian authorities. Thousands of people had come to the Macedonian border because of rumors that the borders were going to be opened.

The Macedonians said that they were following European policy, and asked the refugees to remain peaceful. One of the refugees is quoted as saying:

"We understand, and we want to be peaceful. But behind me there are 10,000 people - refugees who are fleeing war - and they have been here for months now. We want a solution."

Ten minutes later, hundreds of refugees tried to cut the barbed wire and break through the fence. The police responded by firing teargas canisters, stun grenades, and rubber bullets at hundreds of refugees, and kept firing for two hours. The teargas canisters went deep into the Idomeni camp and reached women and children who were not taking part in any protests. The refugees hurled stones at the Macedonian police in retaliation.

There were hundreds of injuries, according to Doctors without Borders, including two hundred with breathing problems, and 30 for wounds caused by plastic bullets.

Problems are mounting for the EU-Turkey migrant deal, including the following:

Deutsche Welle and AFP and Greek Reporter (7-Apr) and Deutsche Welle

Armenia-Azerbaijan ceasefire holds, despite hundreds of 'breaches'

Azerbaijan media reports that the Armenians broke the ceasefire 125 throughout the day on Saturday, at various location in Nagorno-Karabakh (NKB). It also reports that "Azerbaijani armed forces carried out 125 strikes on enemy positions," although those strikes are not characterized as "breaches."

Armenian media said that the cease-fire was "mainly observed," but complained that Azerbaijani forces used "an 82-mm mortar and a 122-mm D-30 howitzer" in norther NKB.

This is the way that the NKB conflict has been going for years, with low-level violence characterized by sporadic mortars and gunfire on both sides, and with both sides reporting breaches, often hundreds per day.

This all changed on April 1, when suddenly the low-level violence escalated into what appeared to be a major war. ( "3-Apr-16 World View -- Armenia-Azerbaijan escalating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens the entire region") A Russian-mediated cease-fire came into effect last week on April 4, and it's most held since then.

Few analysts doubt that Orthodox Christian Russia is on the side of Orthodox Christian Armenia, and not on the side of Azerbaijan, whose Turkic ethnicity matches Russia's enemy Turkey. And there are reports that many Armenians are bewildered why Russia hasn't been supporting them in the war against Azerbaijan, instead of staying neutral.

Russia's prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has been openly critical of the "Turkish factor" in the NKB conflict:

"There is a host of forces that are closely looking into the consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for the situation in the Middle East and on Russia. ... All conflicts at a given time may in one way or another be a factor in political decisions. So I do not rule out that there are factors that are influencing the conflict from abroad. You mentioned the Turkish factor. The Turkish factor probably exists, at least because Turkey has expressed its position."

In fact, Russia has been criticized internationally for selling weapons to both sides in the conflict, something that Medvedev defends: "If we imagine for a minute that Russian Federation gives up this role, we perfectly understand that this place won’t remain empty. They will buy weapons in other countries, and the degree of their deadliness won’t change in any way."

My own view of Russia's motivations is that Russia's president Vladimir Putin fears blowback from a major Armenia-Azerbaijan war. The South Caucasus region is the site of centuries of some of the bloodiest religious wars in history between the Orthodox Christian civilization and the Sunni Muslim civilization, and Generational Dynamics predicts that the region is headed for another such war with absolute certainty. I doubt that Putin has ever heard of Generational Dynamics, but he knows the region's history and he knows intuitively that that any South Caucasus war could spiral throughout the Middle East or Russia, as suggested by Medvedev's statement quoted above. For that reason, Russia is attempting to remain neutral for the time being, rather than risk another extremely bloody war throughout the region, a war that would lead to a world war. However, there are massive generational and historical forces at work here, and no polician either cause or prevent the war that's coming. AzerTag (Azerbaijan) and Pan Armenian and Sputnik News (Moscow)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Apr-16 World View -- Armenia-Azerbaijan ceasefire holds, despite hundreds of 'breaches' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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10-Apr-16 World View -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia to build a huge bridge where Moses parted the Red Sea

Saudi Arabia will no longer provide 'free money' to Egypt

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egypt, Saudi Arabia to build a huge bridge where Moses parted the Red Sea


Map showing the Red Sea, Strait of Tiran, and Gulf of Aqaba
Map showing the Red Sea, Strait of Tiran, and Gulf of Aqaba

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have announced plans to build the King Salman Bridge, named after the current leader of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

The bridge will be an enormous project, 10-20 miles (16-32 km) long, depending on its position, providing a land connection between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The bridge is planned to cross the Strait of Tiran, at the same place where the prophet Moses is said to have parted the Red Sea, in order to bring his people out of slavery into the Promised Land.

Whether the bridge will actually ever be built remains to be seen. The construction project could badly affect tourism at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort on the Red Sea near the Strait of Tiran. Furthermore, environmentalists are complaining that the construction project would damage fragile sea life.

The Strait of Tiran has a more modern significance as well. For many years after Israel's founding, the Suez Canal was closed to Israeli shipping, so ships carrying goods to Israel had to pass through the Strait of Tiran and travel up the Gulf of Aqaba to reach Egypt.

On May 23, 1967, Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced that the United Arab Republic would close the Strait of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba to all ships flying Israel flags or carrying strategic materials. Israel had already warned that any such move would be considered an act of war, and the announcement did launch the 1967 Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel.

As part of the same announcement on Saturday, the countries agreed to settle a long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Sanafir and Tiran islands in the Strait of Tiran. Until now, they had been Egypt's sovereign territory. After the Six-Day War, Israel occupied the two islands from 1967 until the full implementation of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1982. Since then, and continuing to today, there is a US-led "Multinational Force Observers" (MFO). Now that control of the islands is being transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, it remains to be seen whether there will be any effect on the MFO or on Israeli shipping. Egyptian Streets and Arab News and Ynet

Saudi Arabia will no longer provide 'free money' to Egypt

With the Arab world in continuing turmoil since the "Arab Awakening" in 2011, the lengthy visit by Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud to Cairo and Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is being described as historic. Egypt with nearly 93 million citizens is the most populous Arab country, with the largest military in the region, while Saudi Arabia is the leader of the Muslim world and has the region’s largest economy. The two leaders have sign agreements 12 development projects in the Sinai, and other projects totally $22 billion.

When Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were the governing party of Egypt in 2013, Qatar, which joined Turkey in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, gave billions of dollars in aid to Egypt. When Morsi was deposed in an army coup led by Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi on July 3, 2013, Qatar's aid to Egypt ended. After that. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait starting giving aid to Egypt.

As part of this week's joint announcements, Saudi Arabia has said that it will no longer give "free money" to Egypt. Instead, future aid will be given in the form of investments and loans that will have to be repaid.

There are two reasons for this change. One is that with the collapse in oil prices, Saudi Arabia is not able to spend as much, and by making loans and investments, the Saudis diversify their sources of revenue.

The second is that Egypt's economy has been struggling since the ouster of long-time leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and the current president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi has been unable to turn the economy around, or to deal effectively with the entrenched corruption. Arab News and Reuters and Arab News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Apr-16 World View -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia to build a huge bridge where Moses parted the Red Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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9-Apr-16 World View -- Legal problems and Erdogan's threats may collapse EU-Turkey migrant deal

Turkey's Erdogan threatens to terminate the refugee deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

EU-Turkey refugee deal fraught with chaos and legal and political problems


Informative leaflet in four languages to be handed out to migrants in Greece
Informative leaflet in four languages to be handed out to migrants in Greece

Officials in Europe and Turkey are hailing the apparent success of the first week of the implementation of the EU-Turkey refugee deal. The number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey is down to hundreds per day, rather than thousands.

Also this week, two boatloads of refugees from Greece have been shipped back to Turkey -- 54 on Monday, 120 on Friday.

However, some analysts are saying that this is all symbolic, a meaningless show. The reason is technical, but dispositive. All 54 of the migrants returned to Turkey on Monday were Pakistani. Most of the migrants sent on Friday were Pakistani, and others were from Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq. None of these migrants had applied for asylum in Greece because their intention was to continue their journey north to Germany or Sweden, and objective that is now denied to them because the "Balkan Route" has been closed.

Now, the problem with this situation is that it was already perfectly legal for Greece to deport these 174 "illegal migrants," even without the EU-Turkey deal. Under a previous 2002 deal, Greece could have returned them to Turkey. Even without that deal, Greece could have deported them to their home countries. As things stand, Turkey will now deport the 174 to their home countries -- the countries that they'd already fled from at risk of their lives.

There are still more than 3,000 migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos. In view of recent events, almost all of these have submitted asylum applications. Once a migrant has applied for asylum, she cannot be sent back to Turkey until she has been interviewed and had an individual hearing, and then only if her asylum request has been rejected. (The use of the feminine pronouns reflects the fact that most migrants now are women and children.)

This asylum hearing process is an enormous logistical problem. It requires police, case officers, judges, and language interpreters. It can take weeks or months to reach a decision on a single asylum application. Greece itself does not have the resources to implement this process. The European Commission has promised that it would send 2,300 experts from other countries to help with the logistical challenge, but those experts are still nowhere in sight.

The problems don't stop there, and get more complicated when refugees from Syria are involved. There's a "one-for-one" provision in the EU-Turkey deal that, for each Syrian refugee that Greece returns to Turkey, Turkey will select a Syrian refugee from its refugee camps and send that refugee back to the EU. These refugees will be distributed to all 28 EU countries under a quota system. As we described a couple of days ago, it will be almost impossible to get agreement on the quotas. ( "7-Apr-16 World View -- In desperation, EU tries to overhaul its refugee asylum rules")

There may be still more problems. The 174 migrants who have already been sent back to Turkey did not put up any resistance, but with 3,000 migrants to go, that may not last. There have already been riots and confrontations between police and migrants in the Idomeni refugee camp on Greece's border with Macedonia.

To try to head off more problems, an "informative leaflet" will be distributed to refugees and migrants at Idomeni and in the Port of Piraeus, starting on Monday. The leaflet is in four languages -- Arabic, Farsi, Greek and English:

"Make sure that no violent incidents take place among you. There is nothing to be divided. You all share common problems. Hate and violence do not help in any way.

Do not lose your courage, we stand by you, we love you! ...

The port of Piraeus cannot host you anymore and you have nothing to win by remaining here. Additionally, from now on the port of Piraeus will have to service significant volumes of traffic of vehicles and passengers. It is not possible for you to stay at the port of Piraeus anymore. In a few days the port of Piraeus will be emptied (evacuated)."

Whether this leaflet will soothe tempers or worsens them remains to be seen. Daily Sabah (Istanbul) and The Atlantic and Der Spiegel and Greek Reporter

Turkey's Erdogan threatens to terminate the refugee deal

There are legal challenges being raised on both sides of the EU-Turkey refugee deal.

European experts are arguing that Turkey does not meet the minimum requirements to be "Safe Country of Origin." This concept has been debated by the European Commission, but they have been unable to precisely define what it means, or to produce a list of safe countries of origin.

By agreeing to the EU-Turkey deal, the European Commission is deciding by implication that Turkey is a safe country of origin, which means that migrants can be sent back to Turkey, according to EU law. But some human rights organizations are going to challenge that decision in the European Court of Justice, based on the number of times that the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for breaches of human rights. The trial might delay further implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, and if the ECJ rules that Turkey is not a safe country of origin, then the deal may collapse completely.

On the other hand, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is warning that the EU is already in violation of its side of the agreement, and that if further steps aren't taken, then Turkey will terminate the deal.

Erdogan is referring to the following EU commitments:

In a speech on Thursday, Erdogan said:

"There are precise conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, then Turkey will not implement the agreement.

Everything that has been promised [must be put into action by the EU], everything that is specified under the accord.

[Referring to the aid for refugees], some three million people are being fed on our budget. There have been promises [of aid] but nothing has come for the moment.

We have received lots of thanks for our action on the refugees and in the fight against terrorism. But we are not doing this for thanks. Everything should happen in line with what has been promised, what has been set out in the text."

There is a lot of opposition in Europe to approving the visa liberalization, which would allow any Turkish citizen to travel freely around the EU. This must be implemented by June, according to the agreement. There is a lot of opposition in Turkey to taking back any migrants from Greece. It's thought that the only reason that the EU agreed to the deal is because the migrant situation has made them desperate, and the only reason that Turkey agreed to the deal was to get leverage to force the visa liberation and to force further steps to be taken in the accession process (not to mention the six billion euros).

For the time being, European officials are claiming that the worst of the migrant crisis is over. If that's true, then we should know by June, but it's far more likely that the entire deal will collapse by then. EU Law Analysis and Hurriyet (Ankara)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Apr-16 World View -- Legal problems and Erdogan's threats may collapse EU-Turkey migrant deal thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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8-Apr-16 World View -- Putin decrees new Russian National Guard that can shoot or arrest citizens on sight

'Panama Papers' scandal may have triggered Putin's National Guard announcement

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Putin decrees new Russian National Guard that can shoot or arrest citizens on sight


Putin decreed the establishment of a new National Guard on Thursday (Kremlin Press Service)
Putin decreed the establishment of a new National Guard on Thursday (Kremlin Press Service)

In a surprise announcement, Russia's president Vladimir Putin decreed the establishment of a new National Guard force of 200,000 to 400,000 paramilitary security forces with the right to use physical force or firearms on citizens, and the right to enter homes or check documents and vehicles -- all without warning or giving a reason.

The text of the law, as posted on the web site of the State Duma, contains the following:

"Special powers (coercion): Detention, occurrence (penetration) into residential and other premises on land and territory; cordon (blocking) areas of land, premises, buildings and other facilities. ...

The troops of the National Guard have the right to detain for the police persons suspected of committing a crime or administrative offense, as well as to detain in order to establish their identity to the police of other persons, detained for a period of not more than three hours and include office space troops of the National Guard prior to the transfer of police officials, to encroach on protected national Guard troops objects as well as objects and possessions national Guard troops, facilities and property of citizens and organizations regardless of their organizational and legal form and form of property. ...

[In addition, they receive the right] to make a personal inspection of the said persons, inspection of vehicles and the things seized from them documents and items prohibited for storage and use; make inspection of vehicles, water craft (vessels), violated the rules established in the protected national Guard troops objects."

According to a statement by Putin, the National Guard troops are tasked with: "participation, together with Russia’s internal affairs bodies, in enforcement of public order, maintenance of public security and emergency rule, participation in the fight against international terrorism and ensuring the legal regime of counter-terrorism operation, participation in the fight against extremism."

However, many observers are claiming that the new National Guard is Putin's person army designed to give him all the powers of a total dictator. Moscow Times and Interfax (Moscow) (Trans) and Tass (Moscow)

Russia's National Guard thought to be preparation for September elections

At the end of 2011 and in spring 2012, rigged Duma elections triggered mass antigovernment demonstrations in Moscow that had to be controlled violently. Now that new elections are scheduled for September of this year, it's thought that Putin announced the new National Guard in preparation for even larger anti-government protests.

Indeed, Putin's presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday. that "One can assume that, of course, [it will take part] in [suppressing] unauthorized [actions]."

According to Nikolai Petrov, a professor of political science at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia's ruling regime, led by Putin, is at risk of collapse, mainly because its entire foundation has been undermined by the massive fall in international oil prices.

Petrov says that Putin has gained electoral legitimacy by generating nationalist feelings through his invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. Putin's actions in Syria and against Turkey have also roused public response.

But what's changed in Russia is "the internal balance between the ruling élite," because falling oil prices have squeezed Moscow's budget:

"Most importantly, shrinking government coffers have prompted more intense infighting among the ruling clans as each vies for their place in the sun. The problem is that the current system is based on ever-expanding revenues that provide enough for all. There is no functioning mechanism for resolving conflicting interests and redistributing property and incomes among contending groups. Each new situation requires an executive decision, which increases the frequency of conflict among the elite spilling over into the public eye — such as the sharp confrontation last spring between the leadership of the Federal Security Service and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads his own siloviki force. Such clashes strain the system at the seams.

The main goal of these struggles is access to the crisis-stricken budget and the chance to curry favor with senior leaders. Therefore, parliamentary elections in September will be held against a backdrop of increased competition among the elite."

In other words, when oil prices were high and everyone and all the business leaders and regional politicians in the ruling élite had access to unlimited amounts of money, there was little conflict at the top. But September's elections will create candidates with loyalties divided between Putin on one side and the élite business leaders and politicians on the other.

Putin's approval numbers remain at record highs, despite the poor economy and rapid growth of mass poverty. But Putin's creation by surprise decree of the new National Guard gives the impression that Putin believes that the internal threat to his regime is rising rapidly, and that steps must be taken immediately to control the threat. Tass (Moscow) and Moscow Times (22-Jan) and Jamestown

'Panama Papers' scandal may have triggered Putin's National Guard announcement

Vladimir Putin was not mentioned in the massive leak of 11 million documents from a Panama-based law firm known as the "Panama Papers," and TV stations have shrugged off the entire scandal, so it was considered surprising that Putin felt it necessary on Thursday to make special mention of the Panama Papers and to mock them at a forum for journalists in St. Petersburg.

Although Putin wasn't mentioned, some of his associates appeared in documents, implicated them in an alleged $2 billion money-laundering scheme. One of the names appearing in the documents is that of cellist Sergei Roldugin, an old friend of Putin and reportedly a godfather to one of his daughters. Media reports on the Panama Papers have said Roldugin holds hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore assets.

Another danger for Putin is that American officials are examining the the Panama Papers to gather information on individuals who may be helping Russia to bypass sanctions.

Putin responded to the accusations on Thursday:

"Our opponents are above all concerned by the unity and consolidation of the Russian nation, our multinational Russian people. They are attempting to rock us from within, to make us more obedient. ...

I am proud to have people like Sergei [Roldugin] as friends. He has spent nearly all the money he has earned on buying musical instruments abroad and he brought them to Russia.

We always welcome it when somebody does things like that, but he has gone much further. I know that he has spent several months already on efforts to have the instruments registered as property of government-financed institutions."

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny ridiculed Putin's defense of Roldugin, saying that Roldugin's offshore companies reportedly engaged in suspicious commercial contracts that netted him substantial profits.

However, other government officials said that the Panama Papers story was funded by the US Government and by George Soros, to attack Putin personally and to destabilize Russia.

Vladimir Putin's National Guard announcement has surely been in the works for some time, but the fact that the announcement came suddenly, by surprise, suggests that Putin may have felt it necessary to make the announcement earlier than planned. The event that might have triggered that early announcement was the international "Panama Papers" scandal, revealing enormous alleged corruption in Putin's government, which could possibly result in much greater and much early anti-government protests and riots. RFE/RL and Moscow Times and Russia Today and Moscow Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Apr-16 World View -- Putin decrees new Russian National Guard that can shoot or arrest citizens on sight thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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7-Apr-16 World View -- In desperation, EU tries to overhaul its refugee asylum rules

As migrants turn to the Libya route, Germany warns Italy not to wave migrants through

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

In desperation, EU tries to overhaul its refugee asylum rules


Migrant children from Syria pose in front of a Protestant church in Oberhausen, Germany, November 19, 2015 (Reuters)
Migrant children from Syria pose in front of a Protestant church in Oberhausen, Germany, November 19, 2015 (Reuters)

Migrants who arrive in the European Union are required to register and lodge their asylum requests in the country where they first arrive. That country must then evaluate asylum requests, and either allow them to stay in that country or else deport them back to their countries of origin. The rules about registering migrants comes from the Geneva convention, which was adopted by the EU in the "Dublin II" regulation of 2003.

The Dublin system was already under severe pressure before the migration crisis began. EU member states have been forbidden from sending asylum seekers back to Greece since the European court of human rights ruled in 2011 that conditions for refugees in Greece were so bad they were tantamount to "degrading treatment."

In 2015, over one million migrants poured into Europe, a migration of historic proportions. They arrived mostly into Greece and Italy, but those two countries were unable to handle the volume, so the migrants were mostly just waved through to travel north, usually to Germany. Furthermore, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last year in August that Syrian refugees were welcome to stay in Germany, essentially negating the Dublin II regulations, the asylum system collapse completely.

European officials are now desperately trying to reform the asylum system by proposing modifications to the Dublin II regulations, to distribute the burden to all 28 countries in the EU. The European Commission is making two proposals:

Germany and Sweden, which absorbed most of the migrants last year, are in favor reforming the Dublin regulations.

Both proposals involve a "mandatory redistribution" scheme similar to the temporary migrant quota system that was enacted last year, and was an almost total failure. That scheme, proposed last year in September, was supposed to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries. Only about 1,100 refugees have been resettled so far.

Hungary and Slovakia opposed the migrant quota system last September but were outvoted, and they've filed lawsuits at the EU Court of Justice against the quota system. Unsurprisingly, they're now opposing the new mandatory redistribution reforms. The Czech Republic, Poland and Romania have also voiced opposition.

Tomas Prouza, Czech state secretary for European affairs tweeted on Wednesday: "Permanent quotas once again? How long will the EU commission keep riding this dead horse instead of working on things that really help?" AFP and Guardian (London) and EU Observer and EU Dublin II Regulations

As migrants turn to the Libya route, Germany warns Italy not to wave migrants through

On Monday, about 200 Syrian migrants that had arrived in Greece were deported back to Turkey, under the EU-Turkey deal that was signed las month. Under that deal, all "irregular migrants" arriving in Greece after March 20 are to be sent back to Turkey.

However, that entire process has been stalled. The EU-Turkey deal contains a bizarre "one for one" provision that specifies that for every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey, Turkey will select another Syrian refugee from its refugee camps and send that refugee back to the EU, to be settled in some European country. And just as in the case of the mandatory redistribution proposals, there is no agreement on how to distribute the refugees returned from Turkey on the one for one deal.

Another problem is that any migrants arriving in Greece are to be given hearings to determine whether they're qualified to seek asylum. According to one report I heard, the Greek authorities are only able to process about 20 asylum registrations per day -- and that doesn't even include the hearings, which can take weeks.

The situation is complicated even further by the fact that a majority of the asylum-seekers in Europe are women and children, and nearly 10% of the women are pregnant.

The EU-Turkey deal that took effect two weeks ago has slowed the flood of migrants into the Greek islands from thousands per day to hundreds per day. That's because the word has spread that the route from Turkey through Greece and north through the Balkans to Germany is now apparently closed permanently.

The fear is that there will be another million refugees entering Europe in 2016, as happened in 2015. But since the Balkan Route is closed, the migrants and human traffickers will choose other, more dangerous routes.

It's estimated that up to 450,000 people will try to reach Europe this year by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. The EU has been focusing on the route through Turkey and Greece, but the Libya to Italy route has been almost completely ignored, because only 17,500 migrants arrived in Italy from Libya last year. But with the Balkan Route closed, many people expect the route from Libya will be used by hundreds of thousands of migrants, with the flood beginning in the next month as the weather warms.

However, Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maizière warned Italy that its border with Austria, the Brenner Pass, would be closed if Italy simply tried to wave the migrants through to northern countries.

Many European officials are expressing the hope that the worst of the migrant crisis has passed. However, that's what they always say, whether it's Greece's financial crisis or the migrant crisis. The Rube Goldberg EU-Turkey deal has no apparent chance of succeeding, and desperate people will reach their desired destination or die trying.

The reality is that we're in a generational Crisis era in the midst of a massive historic population migration of people from war zones in the Mideast and Africa, and just putting up fences is not going to solve the core problem. No one has predicted the crisis so far, and the fact is that European officials have no idea what's going to happen this year. Express (London) and International Business Times and Daily Mail (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Apr-16 World View -- In desperation, EU tries to overhaul its refugee asylum rules thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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6-Apr-16 World View -- Radical Islamists finding a new home in Bosnia and Balkan states

Syrian jihadists shoot down regime warplane, capture pilot

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syrian jihadists shoot down regime warplane, capture pilot


Ahrar al Sham (al-Nusra) tweet posted after the Syrian warplane was shot down, with a picture of the captured Syrian pilot (Long War Journal)
Ahrar al Sham (al-Nusra) tweet posted after the Syrian warplane was shot down, with a picture of the captured Syrian pilot (Long War Journal)

Syrian regime media are confirming that jihadists have shot down a Syrian warplane with a surface-to-air missile launched by "terrorist organizations," and that the pilot parachuted to the ground. A furious Syrian regime field command is quoted as saying, “In the imminent future, the fires of hell will open on the armed groups in the north, south, east and west [of Aleppo]," adding that "devastating battles" are planned in revenge.

Ahrar al Sham, an al-Qaeda linked group associated with Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) has claimed responsibility, and says that the Syrian pilot is in custody.

As we reported yesterday, militias opposed to the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad achieved a strategic victory by capturing the village of Al Eis and taking control of a portion of the country's vital M5 highway. Tuesday's shootdown of the Syrian warplane apparently occurred during attempts by the Syrian military to recapture the village.

Western governments have been reluctant to provide arms to groups opposed to al-Assad or to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). They have been particularly reluctant to provide anti-air missiles, out of fear that those missiles would fall into the hands of jihadist groups.

This is the second Syrian warplane to be shot down. Syria says that an anti-aircraft missile was also used to shoot down a warplane in western Syria in March.

If it's confirmed that jihadists now have anti-aircraft missiles, it would be a major escalation in jihadist weaponry. However, it's possible that the warplane was brought down by artillery fire. Daily Star (Beirut) and SANA (Damascus) and Long War Journal and Reuters

Radical Islamists finding a new home in Bosnia and Balkan states

A new sanctuary for fighters, planners and recruiters for the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has been established right in the middle of Europe. Some 200-300 Islamist radicals have left Bosnia-Herzegovina to join ISIS or al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq, and as a share of population, more fighters from Bosnia-Herzegovina have joined ISIS than from any other country in Europe except Belgium. There are around a dozen places in Bosnia where Salafists can train radicals, undisturbed by authorities. In fact, the black flag of ISIS is even flown in some remote villages in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

And it can be seen in other Balkan countries besides Bosnia. According to research into six countries in the region -- Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia -- about 877 nationals from the six states have traveled to Syria and Iraq. About 300 are believed to have returned home.

Most Balkan nationals travelled to Syria and Iraq during 2012 and 2013, with the highest numbers coming from Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. The numbers travelling to join jihadi groups declined sharply in 2014, after most states adopted law reforms that criminalize illegally fighting in foreign wars.

The origins of Balkan radicalization can be traced back at least to the Bosnia war of the early 1990s. It was a three-way war, with the Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims] fighting against the Catholic Croatians and the Orthodox Christian Serbs.

We've described many times how the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s triggered a flow of Sunni Muslim jihadists from the Soviet Union to fight the Orthodox Christian invaders, resulting in the formation of al-Qaeda and leading to the 9/11/2001 attacks. (See "12-Sep-15 World View -- Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque, site of huge construction accident, has links to 9/11"),

A related story can be told about the Bosnian war. Saudi Arabians and other Arabs traveled to Bosnia and formed the Mujahideen Battalion in Bosnia in 1992, to fight the Christian Serbs and Croatians. The Mujahideen Battalion grew to hundreds of volunteers by the end of the war. It's believed that the arrival of the Arabs was supported by Bosnian politicians, in order to please wealthy Arab donors.

After the war, hundreds of Mujahideen Battalion members went from Bosnia to Chechnya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Among their alumni were two of the 9/11 hijackers, and the murderer of American hostage Daniel Pearl.

During the Bosnian war, hundreds of Arab volunteers came to join the Mujahideen Battalion. Today, the flow of volunteers has reversed, with Bosnian volunteers traveling to Syria to join ISIS.

According to Aimen Dean, a Saudi Arabian volunteer who went to fight in Bosnia in 1994: "There is a war between the West and Islam. Bosnia gave the modern jihadist movement that narrative. It is the cradle." Der Spiegel (Germany) and Balkan Insight (30-Mar) and BBC (2-Jul-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Apr-16 World View -- Radical Islamists finding a new home in Bosnia and Balkan states thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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5-Apr-16 World View -- Russia declared 'Mission complete' in Syria and withdrew, but the war rages on

Bangladesh's Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) terror group targets 'atheist bloggers'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia declared 'Mission complete' in Syria and withdrew, but the war rages on


Syrian soldiers celebrate their victory against ISIS in Qaryatain, Syria, on Monday. (AP)
Syrian soldiers celebrate their victory against ISIS in Qaryatain, Syria, on Monday. (AP)

A limited cease-fire went into effect in Syria on February 27. Then, on March 15, Russia's president Vladimir Putin announced that most of Russia's forces in Syria would be withdrawn because "the objectives set before the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces have on the whole been achieved."

The cease-fire had been mostly holding, despite some violations. But now it may be collapsing. On Friday, jihadists working with rebel groups scored a new victory over the army of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, by taking over the village of Al Eis 16 miles southwest of Aleppo. According to the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), al-Nusra Front militants deployed three suicide bombers and a number of armored vehicles to breach the government’s defensive lines and take over the village.

The capture of Al Eis is a strategic victory because it controls a section of the M5 highway, a vital artery that serves as the backbone of the country’s road system. The al-Nusra militias were aided by militias from the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), as well as from some so-called "moderate" anti-Assad rebel militias. The three groups have very different objectives, but they have one objective in common: the defeat of Bashar al-Assad.

We might presume that al-Assad's army can pull together enough troops and, with the help of massive bombing by Russian warplanes, can recapture Al Eis. But the point of mentioning this victory by the anti-Assad forces, even if temporary, is that the cease-fire, if it ever existed, is collapsing.

As I wrote several times in February, the "cessation of hostilities" ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria") and cease-fire had absolutely no chance of succeeding for several reasons:

There have been talks of a "political solution" in Syria for over a year, and I always wondered what ISIS and al-Nusra would do when presented with a "political solution," given that they aren't even part of the peace negotiations in Geneva. When I wrote about the Geneva 'proximity talks' in January, I had just heard a BBC analyst who gave an answer to that very question. He said that once a political solution was reached, then all the Sunni jihadists would leave ISIS and al-Nusra, and go home, since the political solution would leave them no more reason to fight, and then ISIS and al-Nusra would dissolve.

As I said at the time, this is the kind of Fantasyland and state of total denial that the politicians live in. The fall of Al Eis is an indication that the war will go on for some time, because none of the major participants in Syria really wants it to end.

In 2003, the American military declared "Mission accomplished!" in Iraq. Now Vladimir Putin has done the same in Syria. I would be very surprised if Russia is really finished in Syria. LA Times and Reuters

Bangladesh's Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) terror group targets 'atheist bloggers'

A significant danger to Bangladesh and to the entire region is the rapid growth of a new generation terror organization, the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which particularly targets tech-savvy college educated intellectual jihadists. It differs significantly from older major militant Islamic fundamentalist groups because its main goal is not fighting or influencing the political-administrative structures in order to implement their Islamic fundamentalist ideology or to carry out spectacular terrorist attack to discredit the state to gain publicity.

Instead, their focus seems to be the eradication of secular or atheist bloggers, or any other media people who they believe pose a threat to their fundamentalist Islamic teachings and lifestyle. The main targets are liberal, independent and secular academic and independent intellectuals, bloggers and cultural personalities.

For example, on May 12, 2015, Ananta Bijoy Das (32), a progressive writer, blogger, editor of science fiction magazine Jukti, and an organizer of Gonojagoron Mancha (People's Resurgence Platform), was hacked to death, using machetes, by four assailants. Earlier, on March 30, 2015, another blogger and online activist Oyasiqur Rahman Babu (27) had been hacked to death in broad daylight in Dhaka city for his allegedly atheist views. In 2013, ABT had issued a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” on the grounds that "All of them are enemy of the Islam."

ABT is distinguished from better known Islamist extremist groups in Bangladesh by its propaganda and indoctrination capabilities. ABT projects its doctrine of jihad through 117 web pages, including Facebook and Twitter handles, and various blogs. Unlike older jihadist groups, ABT is able to adapt quickly to new government security measures, and so presents an enormous danger to Bangladesh and the region. E-International Relations (30-Jan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India) and The Hindu 24-Sep-2015

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Apr-16 World View -- Russia declared 'Mission complete' in Syria and withdrew, but the war rages on thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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4-Apr-16 World View -- Syria's Alawites threaten to abandon Bashar al-Assad

Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict extremely dangerous, despite 'unilateral ceasefire'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict extremely dangerous, despite 'unilateral ceasefire'


Furious Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev announces that the cease-fire will be observed
Furious Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev announces that the cease-fire will be observed

Heavy fighting continued on Sunday for the second day between Azerbaijani and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh (NKB). As I reported yesterday, there is widespread concern that this conflict could spread south into the Mideast and north into the Caucasus.

There were many international calls for a cease-fire. Armenia accused Azerbaijan of starting the renewed fighting. Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev accused Armenia of violating international law, and announced a "unilateral ceasefire":

"We won't abandon our principal position, but at the same time, we observe the ceasefire, and after that we will try to solve the conflict peacefully. At the same time, we will strengthen our army. We are fighting on our territory. If an Armenian soldier doesn't want to die, then let him get off Azeri territory. I have said that many times, and I want to repeat it now."

However, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesman for the Armenian Defence Ministry, said: "The statement by the Azerbaijan side is an information trap and does not amount to a unilateral ceasefire."

The Nagorno-Karabakh military (which holds to the position that it is distinct from the Armenian military) said: "The Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces are ready to meet and discuss a ceasefire proposal in the context of restoring former positions."

In fact, there have been reports of continued fighting by both sides.

As we described in yesterday's report, the NKB conflict is extremely dangerous. There are reports that Turkey is openly supporting Azerbaijan. Russia is remaining nominally neutral, but Armenia is an important Russian ally, while Turkey is an important Russian enemy. It's possible that either Turkey or Russia could intervene militarily, in which case, the conflict would draw other countries in and begin to spiral. AzerTag (Azerbaijan) and Reuter

Syria's Alawites threaten to abandon Bashar al-Assad

In a surprise, a document has emerged by the leaders of Syria's Alawite sect dissociating members of the sect from the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

Al-Assad himself is an Alawite, and the Alawites have been the group in Syria most loyal to him, as al-Assad has conducted his genocidal attempts to exterminate the Sunni majority as if they were cockroaches. But this relationship is at a high cost for the Alawites:

The new document is called a "Declaration of Identity Reform." The document concedes "that we have been, for far too long, defined with the words of others rather than our own," and seeks to remedy this situation by establishing a new and distinct identity.

In interviews with foreign journalists, Alawite leaders said that they "should not be associated with the crimes the regime has committed." The document says that Syria has suffered because of "totalitarian regimes:

"The vicissitudes of the Syrian land tender proof that no true national integration has materialized yet. A national integration was forged before the era of the modern State through the coercion of imperial rule. Later, it became no more than an illusion exhibited by totalitarian regimes. ...

26: The ruling political power, whoever embodies it, does not represent us nor does it shape our identity or preserves our safety and reputation. Nor do we, the Alawites, substantiate it or generate its power. The legitimacy of a regime can only be considered according to the criteria of democracy and fundamental rights."

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, the document declares that Alawism is not a branch of Shia Islam, as has been widely reported in the press for years;

"28: We do not speak, in this Declaration, as religious preachers but as people inspired by religious thought. Doctrinal Islam, Sunni or Shia, in our view, originated in a quest to understand God's message, the religious. It focuses on what comes from God. In contrast, Alawism can be regarded as a quest to understand what God truly is. In Doctrinal Islam, God is behind everything. In Alawism, everything is hidden behind God.

Our differentiation of Alawism from Shiism is not a shift from the latter, nor an evolutionary act. It is a reverence to the primary and original truth.

29: The fact that Alawism and Shiism share some formal religious sources does not make Alawism a branch of Shiism. Since Shiism until today allows for the constructive interpretation of religious texts (Al-Ijtihad) it was merely an obligatory passage for all those who wanted to restore or even revolutionize Muslim thought."

The document also calls for integration with other religions:

"35: Alawism incorporates elements of other monotheist religions, most notably Judaism and Christianity. These elements enrich Alawism and shall not be seen as marks of deviation from Islam but as elements that bear witness to our riches and universality."

Alawite Declaration of Identify Reform (PDF) and Telegraph (London) and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Apr-16 World View -- Syria's Alawites threaten to abandon Bashar al-Assad thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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3-Apr-16 World View -- Armenia-Azerbaijan escalating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens the entire region

New EU-Turkey migrant crisis is developing rapidly

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Armenia vs Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh worst in two decades


Nagorno-Karabakh borders as of May 1994.  They've been frozen since then. (ADST)
Nagorno-Karabakh borders as of May 1994. They've been frozen since then. (ADST)

Centuries old conflicts between Orthodox (Armenian Apostolic) Christians in Armenia and (mostly Shia) Muslims in Azerbaijan boiled over into a bloody war after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. By the time that the war ended in a cease-fire in 1994, the Armenians had annexed several Azerbaijani regions, and were in control of an enclave right in the middle of Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh (NKB). Although both populations had lived in relative peace for decades, more than 600,000 ethnic Azeris and 300,000 ethnic Armenians were forced to flee from the fighting, so that today the enclave has a population of about 100,000 Armenians.

Karabakh is a word of Turkic and Persian origin meaning "black garden", while "Nagorno" is a Russian word meaning "mountain."

When I wrote about this conflict in December, I quoted Azerbaijan sources as saying that Armenian forces had broken the cease-fire 105 times over a single weekend, while Armenian sources were saying that Azerbaijanis had broken the cease-fire 110 times over the same weekend. ( "7-Dec-15 World View -- Azerbaijan faces rising radical Shia Islamist insurgency")

Fears that the low-level conflict might spiral into a larger war were realized on Saturday when the worst violence since 1994 broke out in NKB with tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters for the first time in two decades. 18 Armenian soldiers were killed, and Azerbaijan lost 12 soldiers. There were unconfirmed reports of civilian deaths.

Internationally, NKB is considered part of Azerbaijan's sovereign territory, but its Armenian inhabitants call themselves citizens of the Artsakh Republic. The territory has its own flag, an international airport, police and armed forces, although regular Armenian soldiers serve on the frontline.

Each side said that the other had started the conflict on Saturday.

There is a peculiarity about this situation that's either a coincidence or a conspiracy - take your pick.

Armenia's president Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev each met separately with US vice president Joe Biden as they attended the nuclear summit in Washington on Friday, just before the new hostilities broke out.

Matthew Bryza, the former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, speaking on the BBC, recalled what happened in 2008, when the world was focused on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bryza says that he's always suspected that Russia's president (then prime minister) Vladimir Putin took advantage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to start a war in Georgia by firing at Georgian forces from behind the South Ossetian separatist peacekeepers, resulting in full-scale war after Georgia responded.

Bryza says that this "smells like" the same thing -- Putin snubbed President Obama's invitation to attend this Washington summit. Then the two leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet with Biden, and at that very moment, the violence reaches an unprecedented new level. Bryza says that Putin is very much engaged in the situation, while Obama is ignoring it. Bryza says that this "conspiracy thinking" could be way off, but the US has to become actively engaged. If not, Russia will completely dominate the region. BBC and AFP and AP and The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST)

Russian analysis: Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict could spread throughout the region

Armenia and Azerbaijan are two of the most militarized countries in the world. The main supplier of weaponry to both countries has been Russia. Furthermore, both countries have some of the world's most sophisticated high tech military equipment. The widespread fear of escalation of the violence in Nagorno-Karabakh (NKB) is because both sides possess such high tech military equipment from Russia.

Russia is theoretically neutral between the two countries, but if that was ever true, it certainly stopped being true after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last year, causing a major fault line to open between the two countries. Armenia is a long-time ally of Russia, and Russia has a military base in Armenia. Azerbaijan is ethnically Turkic, and has very close relations with Turkey. Azerbaijan has military treaties with Turkey. Azerbaijani and Turkish Armed Forces regularly conduct joint military exercises, and two are planned in 2016. ( "21-Jan-16 World View -- Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey")

An analysis by Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, divides the four countries into the "senior comrades" -- Russia and Turkey -- and the "junior allies" -- Armenia and Azerbaijan. He says that Russia is in a "delicate position" because it sold weapons to Azerbaijan, as well as to Armenia, "our closest ally in the CSTO," the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

According to Khramchikhin:

In this regard, a new war between Armenia and Azerbaijan can very easily escalate into armed conflict between the "senior comrades" - Russia and Turkey. Besides that, there is also a significant probability of direct military clashes over Syria.

The peculiarity of the situation is that the "senior" allies do not abut with their "younger" allies, but border on the "junior" enemies: Russia with Azerbaijan, and Turkey with Armenia. And there is not a zero probability that military hardware that we sold to Azerbaijan will be used to fight not only against our closest ally, but also against the Russian army.

If Russia and Turkey start a war that will involve and Armenia, in Azerbaijan there is a strong temptation to attack from the north of Karabakh, using the fact that the Armenian Armed Forces are fully engaged on the Turkish front. However, in this case, Azerbaijan itself has a chance to blow from the north of Russia. Moreover, there is a substantial likelihood that Iran will not only sympathize with the Russian-Armenian coalition and directly fight on her side. Then Azerbaijan will get even with Iran, which will make a battle not just to win, but for survival."

Saturday already saw the greatest outbreak of military hostilities since 1994. A further escalation of the conflict could destabilize the entire Mideast, and could also destabilize in the entire South and North Caucasus regions, at a time when Russia already has its hands full in Ukraine and Syria.

Russia may consider the option of deploying Russian troops or CSTO peacekeepers in Armenia proper along the border with Azerbaijan, in order to attempt to stabilize the situation. Jamestown and Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kurier (Moscow, 16-Mar, Trans) and Russia Direct (Moscow)

New EU-Turkey migrant crisis is developing rapidly

Another major crisis is developing rapidly: Greece will be sending migrants back to Turkey starting on Monday, and it's widely believed that Turkey is not ready. Furthermore, many people in Turkey are opposed to receiving the migrants back from Europe. The first group of 750 refugees are scheduled to be returned to Turkey at the beginning of the week. International Business Times and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Apr-16 World View -- Armenia-Azerbaijan escalating conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh threatens the entire region thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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2-Apr-16 World View -- Tensions grow in Israel and West Bank over shooting of disabled Palestinian

N. Korea's Kim Jong-un gains 70 pounds, tells citizens to 'eat roots'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

N. Korea's Kim Jong-un gains 70 pounds, tells citizens to 'eat roots'


Recent picture of Kim Jong-un after gaining 70 pounds (Reuters)
Recent picture of Kim Jong-un after gaining 70 pounds (Reuters)

An editorial in North Korea's state-run media contained this announcement:

"The road to revolution is long and arduous. We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again.

Even if we give up our lives, we should continue to show our loyalty to our leader, Kim Jong Un, until the end of our lives."

The phrase "arduous march" alludes to a 1990s famine. The announcement amounts to a warning that a new famine is approaching.

President Kim Jong-un has not been eating roots, apparently. Recent pictures show that he's put on 70 pounds in the last year.

North Korea has ordered every citizen in the capital to provide around two pounds of rice to the state’s supplies every month, while starving farmers are forced to hand over much of the food they produce to the military. Daily Mail (London) and Fox News

Tensions grow in Israel and West Bank over shooting of disabled Palestinian


Screen grab from video showing Palestinian after being shot in the head
Screen grab from video showing Palestinian after being shot in the head

On March 24, two young Palestinians in Hebron in the West Bank stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier. Nearby soldiers shot the two Palestinians dead.

But a video emerged shortly afterwards, showing that the incident was a lot more complicated. In particular, it shows an Israeli soldier, eleven minutes after the stabbing incident, approaching one of the Palestinians while he was lying on the ground, already disabled, and shooting the disabled assailant in the head, after which blood pours out of his head.

The video went viral. The Israeli soldier was arrested.

There was a chorus of condemnation. Israeli public opinion was against the soldier. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, it did not "represent the values of the Israeli Defense Forces." Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, called it an "extrajudicial execution," and said, "This was a gruesome, immoral, and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation."

After that, two more videos of the same incident have emerged. One of them seems to show Israeli soldiers congratulating each other on the kill, while the other seems to show that the soldier was afraid that disabled Palestinian was wearing a bomb.

Since then, Israeli opinions have started changing in favor of the soldier. Netanyahu met with the father of the Israeli soldier, and said, "In recent months our soldiers have bravely and resolutely stood up in the face of terrorist attacks and murderers who set out to kill them. The soldiers are forced to make decisions in the field, in real time, under stress and conditions of uncertainty. This is not a simple reality and I'm sure that the investigation is taking the entirety of these circumstances into account. I am convinced that the investigation will be professional and fair towards your son."

Military prosecutors say that the evidence showed that the soldier killed the killed Palestinian assailant "deliberately and unnecessarily": "In our opinion, the evidence indicates serious suspicions against the suspect."

However, the initial charge of murder was downgraded to manslaughter. No reason was given, but it likely indicates that the prosecution believes it would have difficulty proving the act was premeditated.

Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian member of Israel's Knesset, was quoted as saying, "Israel has become a place where public executions are carried out with the cheers of the crowd. The price of security and moral deterioration is being paid by both peoples." Times of Israel and LA Times and Ma'an News (West Bank)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Apr-16 World View -- Tensions grow in Israel and West Bank over shooting of disabled Palestinian thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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1-Apr-16 World View -- China close to deploying very long range DF-41 missile

China-US differences sharpen over South China Sea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China close to deploying very long range DF-41 missile


Mobile DF-41 missile
Mobile DF-41 missile

China is in the final phase of testing the world's longest range missile, the DF-41, with an operational range of 14,500 km. It can travel over the Pacific Ocean and strike any city in the western US, or travel over the North Pole and strike any city in the eastern US, in each case within about half an hour.

It's believed that each DF-41 is capable of carrying ten independently targetable nuclear weapons. A typical Chinese Second Artillery Corps (SAC) might have 12 missile launchers capable of launching two DF-41s each, so a single SAC has the capability to target the United States with 120-240 nuclear warheads.

The DF-41 is expected to be deployed by the end of this year.

I'm always somewhat bemused when people make comments that the greatest existential threat to the United States is the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), or even Iran. Either of those threats is minuscule compared to the threat from China.

For years, I've been writing about one Chinese missile system after another, specifically designed to strike American aircraft carriers or American cities. China has the manufacturing capacity to produce hundreds of these missiles, and clearly is preparing for war and planning to use them. Compared to China, ISIS really is junior varsity. South China Morning Post and Express (London) and China Topix

China-US differences sharpen over South China Sea

A meeting between president Barack Obama and China's president Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Thursday is being called "constructive," and it was constructive, if by "constructive" you mean that it provided a forum for sharp disagreements bordering on military threats.

On Wednesday, prior to the meeting, a Dept. of Defense spokesman announced that the US would not recognize an "air defense identification zone" (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, in case China decided to impose one.

The spokesman said that the US expects a ruling from an international court within the next few weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its claims to the entire South China Sea. The fear is that China would react angrily to an adverse ruling, and try to impose an ADIZ in the South China Sea, just as it did in the East China Sea near Japan in 2013. The US refused to recognize that ADIZ either.

If an ADIZ in the South China Sea were recognized, then any foreign aircraft would have to ask permission from China to fly through it. US officials have repeatedly said that the US military would fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.

Xi responded by warning the US that China would not accept violations of its sovereignty in the name of freedom of navigation. Xi is quoted as saying, "The hope is that all parties will correctly view and handle the South China Sea and adopt an objective and impartial attitude ... particularly countries outside this region."

Some $5 trillion in trade passes through the South China Sea on ships each year, including $1.2 trillion of US trade.

China had pledged never to militarize the South China Sea, but has reneged on that promise, suggesting that nothing that China says is to be believed. China has built several artificial islands in the South China Sea and converted them into military bases with military aircraft and advanced radar, the military force that would be used to try to enforce an ADIZ. Reuters and The Hill and South China Morning Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Apr-16 World View -- China close to deploying very long range DF-41 missile thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Apr-2016) Permanent Link
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31-Mar-16 World View -- US military will deploy three brigades to eastern Europe to counter Russia

Libya's Government of National Accord sails into port of Tripoli

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US military will deploy three brigades to eastern Europe to counter Russia


U.S. troops participate in Latvia's Independence Day military parade in Riga on 15-Nov-2015 (Reuters)
U.S. troops participate in Latvia's Independence Day military parade in Riga on 15-Nov-2015 (Reuters)

Starting in February 2107, the US military will deploy three fully manned US combat brigades in eastern Europe, near the border with Russia. Each brigade has about 4,500 soldiers, bringing with them military vehicles and other equipment. The deployment is in response to "an agressive Russia."

In recent years, Russia has invaded Georgia and Ukraine, and occupied and annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, all without invitation or UN Security Council approval.

Because of those actions, Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov lacked credibility when he said:

"Stories are being spread that Russia will send its tanks into the Baltic states, into Sofia or into Budapest. No one intends to do that. There are no such plans, nothing. Russia does not want war. The very idea of it is ridiculous."

The new deployment is meant to calm fears of eastern European nations, some of whom fear that they will be Russia's next target. AP and BBC and Reuters

Libya's Government of National Accord sails into port of Tripoli

This is another one of those bizarre stories that are so common in today's Bizarro world.

On Wednesday, Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived in Tripoli, the capital city of Libya. The government was created by Libya Dialogue, a UN-managed body. The prime minister of the GNA is Fayez Sarraj. He has appointed a 32-member cabinet. The government has been headquartered in a hotel in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, which is right next door.

The existing government in Tripoli has warned Sarraj not to set foot in Libya, or he would be arrested. The Tripoli government even shut down the airport to prevent Sarraj from flying into Tripoli, but Sarraj and seven of his ministers arrived by boat on Wednesday at the port in Tripoli, ready to take over and start governing.

When the 2011 Western military intervention occurred, Libya's long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi predicted that once he was gone there would be chaos, which is certainly true. There has been a lot of retrospective criticism of that intervention, based on revisionist history. What most people have forgotten was that Libya was already in total chaos from the "Arab Spring," as I described recently in "5-Mar-16 World View -- A look back at Libya in 2011 as the West debates another military intervention".

Today there are nearly 2,000 militias running different parts of Libya. There are also two major "national" governments, as well as two major jihadist groups, one al-Qaeda based and one ISIS-based.

The major players are:

So this is the situation into which Fayez Sarraj and the the seven ministers of his Government of National Accord (GNA) sailed on Wednesday.

According to Martin Kobler, the United Nations special representative to Libya:

"I commend the courage, determination and leadership of the Presidency Council under its president Fayez Serraj in moving forward with the implementation of the Libyan political agreement and the aspiration of the overwhelming majority of the Libyan people. The international community stands firmly behind them and is ready to provide the required support and assistance."

Although some factions in both governments favor the GNA, the leaders of both governments oppose the GNA. And of course neither of the two jihadist groups favors the GNA.

As we reported yesterday, Europeans expect hundreds of thousands of migrants from Libya. Some European governments would like to mount a military operation to enter Libya to remove ISIS and find a solution to the migrant problem. However, Western governments do not want to attempt such an operation without either a UN Security Council resolution, opposed by Russia, or an invitation by the Libyan "government," and the latter requires getting the Government of National Accord accepted by everyone, something that currently does not appear to be likely. Al Jazeera and BBC (11-Jan) and United Nations and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Mar-16 World View -- US military will deploy three brigades to eastern Europe to counter Russia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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30-Mar-16 World View -- Europeans expect hundreds of thousands of migrants from Libya

Human traffickers sell routes through Europe for 5000 euros

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Human traffickers sell routes through Europe for 5000 euros


Italian Navy personnel, left, approach a rubber dinghy filled with migrants in the Sicily channel, Mediterranean Sea (AP)
Italian Navy personnel, left, approach a rubber dinghy filled with migrants in the Sicily channel, Mediterranean Sea (AP)

With some 50,000 migrants trapped in Greece, thanks to the closing of the "Balkan route," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is reporting that human traffickers are now offering trips to northern Europe along new routes.

The phone numbers of traffickers are in Facebook. The migrants travel for days hidden below deck on a merchant ship, at the mercy of the weather. The new route leaves from southeast Turkey and reaches Greece without detection by the Nato patrols. From Greece they travel to Albania, and from there they can go north by car, or cross the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

Another alternative route is through Bulgaria. Serbia's border is closed, so refugees go to Romania and the treacherous Carpathian mountains, and travel north along the border with Moldova to Ukraine and Poland.

People traffickers charge 3000-5000 euros to make these trips, which are far more difficult and dangerous than the trip used to be across a few miles of the Aegean Sea, before the Balkan route was closed. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Trans)

Europeans expect hundreds of thousands of migrants from Libya

European officials are predicting that 500,000 to 800,000 migrants will arrive in Europe from Libya this year, now that the trip from Turkey through Greece has been effectively closed.

On March 20, the EU-Turkey deal to send migrants back to Turkey came into effect, and the so-called "Balkan route" north from Greece was closed almost completely. Since then the number of migrants arriving in Greece has been falling sharply, with only 1,000 people arriving in all of last week, while there were 2,000 a day in previous weeks.

At the same time, the number of migrants arriving from Libya has been increasing, albeit slowly so far. There were 13,829 registered arrivals so far this year, compared with 10,075 in the same period in 2015. But numbers are increasing rapidly as Italy's coast guard reported that it had rescued 1,482 migrants off the Libyan coast over the weekend. The stream of migrants is expected to grow quickly within the next month as the weather warms.

Once the migrants are in boats in the Mediterranean Sea, they head for Italy, but they're more likely to be stopped by any of a number of ships in Italy's navy and coast guard, or vessels with the Europe's Sophia and Frontex border control anti-people trafficking operations. A principal objective of these operations is to prevent shipwrecks and avoid disasters like the ones that saw 1,200 people drown over a few days in April last year.

Another difference between last year and this is the significantly expanded role of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Libya. Many in the West would like to launch a military operation into Libya to bring ISIS under control, but there is reluctance to do so. ( "13-Mar-16 World View -- Despite rapid growth of ISIS in Libya, West cannot agree on a strategy")

There are widespread fears that ISIS will use the growing flow of migrants from Libya to Europe to smuggle militants into Europe. Others discount this worry, saying that there are easier and less risky ways to smuggle militants into Europe.

Once migrants arrive in Italy, they are allowed to apply for asylum, a process that can take as long as 18 months. During that period, Italy holds them in "reception centers." There are now 106,000 people in these centers.

There are currently 8,000 people in centers run by the state, 20,000 in local council-run centers, and 78,000 in temporary centers run out of hotels or similar buildings by private entities that receive government funding. Italy has run out of space in its existing centers, and is now searching across the whole country for facilities that can be used for that purpose, to hold perhaps hundreds of thousands more migrants. France 24 and EU Observer and AFP and EurActiv and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Mar-16 World View -- Europeans expect hundreds of thousands of migrants from Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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29-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan's army declares war on Taliban in Punjab province

Lahore Easter attack gives army even greater control of Pakistan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan promises to 'avenge every drop of blood' spilled by terrorists


Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif giving nationwide televised address, promising vengeance
Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif giving nationwide televised address, promising vengeance

Pakistan is again in a state of shock, following Sunday's massive terrorist attack on a children's park in Lahore, killing more than 70 people, including many women and children, and injuring hundreds. Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA, Assembly of Freedom) said that they were targeting Christians on Easter, but most of those killed were Muslim.

Pakistanis are demanding to know why these kinds of attacks keep on happening, and why the government and the army don't put them to a stop. There's widespread suspicion in Pakistan and internationally, and especially in India, that Pakistan's government is supporting these terrorist militias for use in India and Afghanistan, and that now the Pakistani government is reaping what it sowed.

Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif gave a nationwide televised address on Monday:

"I understand that at this moment the entire nation is grieving the loss of innocent lives in Lahore tragedy and what message these terrorists want to convey by hitting soft targets.

It is our legal and constitutional responsibility to protect the state of Pakistan. We will bring those spreading religious hatred and sectarianism to justice. ...

My brothers and sisters, today again I am here to renew my commitment that we will avenge every drop of the blood of our martyred people and we are doing that, and we will not rest until we have accounted for everything to the end.

We will not let them raise their heads again, we will not allow them to play the lives of the people of Pakistan. This is my resolve, this is my government's resolve and this is the resolve of the 200 million people of Pakistan.

God willing, no terrorist can put a dent in our resolve."

It was a great speech, but few believed it, because it's been said so many times before, and nothing is ever solved.

According to Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan ambassador to the US, appearing on the BBC (my transcription):

"Every few years, Pakistani leaders announce that they are now going to crack down on terrorists, but multiple crackdowns later, the fundamental situation hasn't changed. Pakistan since 9/11 has had 8 prime ministers, 3 army chiefs, 7 heads of intelligence. But the problem seems to be that instead of fighting extremism, they always get distracted, either by regional politics, or domestic politics. ...

There are parts of the government that do not want to go after all [terrorist] groups, because they think that these groups also represent Pakistan's interests in the region. For example we understand that the Taliban in Afghanistan have never been the target of Pakistan's operations because they are useful to Pakistan. Similarly, group's like Lashkar-e-Toiba ... which operate in Kashmir and India have been spared.

The problem is that the groups that are spared then end up becoming the protectors of the groups that are being targeted, because as far as these groups are concerned, their ideology is one. All they want is a particular type of Islam ideology."

Sharif's televised address did not convince a lot of people. One Pakistani editorialist described these as "The Darkest of Days" for Pakistan:

"Once again, a not-so-small group of psychotic bigots have seized the narrative. Once again, a minority group has been the all-too-easy-to-hit target and once again the government is left floundering in the bloody wake and blathering platitudes right, left and center. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan were quick to board the bandwagon of dignitaries paying visits to hospitals and chairing meetings to mumble over the latest failure of the state to discharge its statutory duties, in this instance to protect the citizenry. Nothing of substance will come from their threadbare sympathies and calls for the perpetrators to be hunted down wherever they are, are of no more substance today than they were in the past.

The fact is that the perpetrators are all around us, hiding in plain view, and if there was a poll conducted among those protesting outside parliament, it may be found that some at least had sympathies with those who butchered women and children. After all, the persecution of minorities figures large in their list of 10 demands currently awaiting ratification by default as a weak government is unable to do anything much beyond a little light tear-gassing.

In any other country, the Lahore atrocity would be seen as a watershed moment for the government of the day. Not so in Pakistan, where wholesale butchery is standard fare in 2016. ..."

The reference to "those protesting outside parliament" alludes to another part of Sunday's story, where some 10,000 people in Islamabad were protesting the execution of the murderer of a Pakistani official who tried to protect a woman from being executed for blasphemy because she was a Christian. Among the demands of the protesters were the immediate execution of the woman, and that all five million members in Pakistan of the Ahmadi branch of Islam be expelled from the country. The editorialist says that it seems reasonable to believe that many of these protesters were themselves supporters of the terrorists that had committed the massacre on Sunday in Lahore. Pakistan Observer and ITV (London) and Express Tribune (Pakistan)

Pakistan's army launches a military crackdown in Southern Punjab province

In an operation that sounds a little bit like "Round up the usual suspects," Pakistan's army on Monday arrested a number alleged supporters of terror groups in the Southern Punjab district of Punjab province. According to an army PR spokesman: "A number of suspected terrorists and facilitators have been arrested during the five raids which were conducted in Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan after the Lahore suicide explosion." He added that a "huge cache of arms and ammunition" were also recovered.

Lahore is located in northeastern Punjab, but the Southern Punjab district is Pakistan's hotbed of jihadist activity. It's economically one of the poorest regions of Pakistan. The local government is riddled with corruption. And it's crowded with over 7,000 madrassas and seminaries, where young people go to be educated in extremism by militant leaders who operate with impunity.

According to the BBC's Pakistan correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones, there are about 100,000 of these militant leaders, so rounding all of them up is not a simple problem. Express Tribune (Pakistan) and The News (Pakistan)

Lahore Easter attack gives army even greater control of Pakistan

Owen Bennett-Jones, the BBC's correspondent in Pakistan, gave a lengthy analysis of the relations between the government, the army and the Taliban. He says that prime minister Nawaz Sharif is completely controlled by the army, since the army has the ability to force him out of office, as it did in a military coup in 1999 the last time Sharif was prime minister

Bennett-Jones says that the army is using terrorism to take greater and greater control of the government, leaving the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, with less and less power. A major turning point was the December 2014 horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren.

Bennett-Jones was interviewed on the BBC on Monday (my transcription):

"Sharif was kicked out by the army last time he was prime minister. His top priority during this term of government was to get civilians running things, that has totally failed.

The army, after the Peshawar school attack just completely took over in all sorts of domestic areas. They already had control of foreign policy and nuclear policy, they then took over the legal system, they have military courts, and whole areas of domestic policy.

And now there's another encroachment by the area into a civilian area. They're now operating in Punjab, the prime minister's own province. It's part of a trend. The prime minister can only agree with the army. Otherwise he fears they will kick him out.

There are militant groups in Pakistan trying to launch attacks in India, in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, there are groups that are fighting for Islamic State, for Islamic law, and there are some fighting for sectarian reasons.

I think they're targeting in this sweep of southern Punjab Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is a group they're already in confrontation with. Most of the groups the state is not taking on, and many would say indeed is cooperating with, but the army doesn't think it take them all on at once. There are some big groups, they are very strong, they have different objectives, but if they all turned against the state at the same time, the state would have a problem. So they have to pick and choose whom they fight."

Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ) has publicly stated that its goal is the extermination of all Shia Muslims in Pakistan, and has been methodically setting off bombs in order to achieve that goal. An LeJ statement issued in 2011 says:

"Our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia Hazaras, from every city, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue. We will make Pakistan their graveyard-- their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. ... Jihad against the Shia Hazaras has now become our duty. ... We will rest only after hoisting the flag of true Islam on the land of the pure -- Pakistan."

It could be considered somewhat amazing that an internal Pakistani group implementing a plan to exterminate all Shia Muslims in Pakistan could still exist, but according to Bennett-Jones, many of these Taliban-linked organizations are too big to fight.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan's army declares war on Taliban in Punjab province thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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28-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan Taliban branch takes credit for Easter massacre of Christians in Lahore

Thousands protest violently over execution of murderer of blasphemy reformer

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Thousands protest violently over execution of murderer of blasphemy reformer


Mobs of protestors move towards capital, wearing masks to protect themselves from the tear gas. (INP)
Mobs of protestors move towards capital, wearing masks to protect themselves from the tear gas. (INP)

The federal government called in the army on Sunday night to attempt to control around 10,000 people protesting the execution of Mumtaz Qadri in front of Pakistan's parliament building in Islamabad when the protests turned violent turned violent. ( "1-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan unexpectedly executes murderer of liberal politician Salman Taseer")

Mumtaz Qadri was executed by hanging last month, after having been convicted of murdering Salman Taseer, the liberal governor of Punjab province in Pakistan, on January 4, 2011. Qadri was Taseer's bodyguard. To make sure he was dead, Qadri shot him in the chest 28 times. Qadri later said that he had shot Taseer because Taseer had opposed blasphemy laws in general, and for speaking out in favor of Asia Bibia, a Christian lady accused of blasphemy because she was Christian, and sentenced to death.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are absolutely crazy. If someone doesn't like you, he can claim that you said something that offends Islam or Mohammed, and you can be convicted of blasphemy, sometimes without a trial, and executed. The blasphemy laws are widely used without proof, and executions are becoming increasingly common.

At first those protesting the execution of Qadri on Sunday were peaceful. Then the crowd started throwing stones, and riot police used tear gas and batons to disperse them from the high-security zone outside the parliament building. Then the protesters set a metro bus station on fire, and also set containers on fire outside the Parliament House. A fire brigade vehicle dispatched to the scene was also set on fire.

A statement by the terrorist group Sunni Tehreek claimed that the government had turned the protests violent by attacking "Prophet-loving patriots," and vowed that the protests would continue.

The terrorists gave the government a list of ten demands. The list called for immediate execution of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman mentioned above whom Taseer tried to protect. The also demanded that Qadri be officially declared to be a "martyr," and that all five million members in Pakistan of the Ahmadi branch of Islam be expelled from the country. Pakistan Today and AFP and Dawn

Pakistan Taliban branch takes credit for Easter massacre of Christians in Lahore

Another day, another terror attack.

At least 69 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 injured in a suicide bombing attack in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, crowded with Christians celebrating Easter Sunday. The suicide bomber was apparently targeting children, as the explosion took place in a children's playground, near swings and other rides.

Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA, Assembly of Freedom) claimed responsibility. According to a spokesman, "Members of the Christian community who were celebrating Easter today were our prime target. [However,] we didn't want to kill women and children. Our targets were male members of the Christian community."

JuA has long been one of the terrorist groups under the umbrella group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). JuA split off from TTP in the middle of 2014 in a disagreement caused by TTP's plans to hold peace talks with Pakistan's government. JuA has rejoined TTP last year, but has also declared allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

On March 15 of last year, JuA claimed responsibility for suicide bombers at two churches, one Catholic and one Protestant, also in Lahore, killing 15 people and injuring 70.

After last year's attack, some 4,000 Christians later took to the streets in Lahore, many armed with clubs as they smashed vehicles and attacked a city bus. Two people were accused by the mob of being behind the explosions, and were attacked and killed by the mob. There was also rioting in other Pakistan cities, including Islamabad and Karachi. ( "16-Mar-15 World View -- Violent Christian riots follow bombing of two churches in Lahore, Pakistan")

There have been no reports of similar violence this year, but it's no coincidence that Sunday's attacks on Christians occurred almost on the one year anniversary of last year's attacks and subsequent riots. Dawn (Pakistan) and NBC News and Business Standard (India)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan Taliban branch takes credit for Easter massacre of Christians in Lahore thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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27-Mar-16 World View -- Iraqi army fleeing for their lives again

Loss of Palmyra in Syria highlights setbacks for ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Loss of Palmyra in Syria highlights setbacks for ISIS


Ruins of Hadrian’s Gate, Palmyra -- what it used to look like before the ISIS invasion (Getty)
Ruins of Hadrian’s Gate, Palmyra -- what it used to look like before the ISIS invasion (Getty)

Bashar al-Assad's Syrian army, backed by heavy airstrikes by Russia's warplanes, is close to recapturing Palmyra from the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), according to Syrian state media. Russian jets carried out 40 air sorties near Palmyra in the past day, hitting 158 targets and killing over 100 militants.

ISIS invaded and captured in May of last year, and caused worldwide outrage by destruction of monuments and antiquities that were millennia old. Syrian officials claim that many of the destroyed antiquities will be restored.

At the same time, Iraqi forces, aided by airstrikes from American and Turkish warplanes striking ISIS positions, overran a string of ISIS-controlled villages in northern Iraq.

According to Lt. Gen. Abdul-Ghani al-Assadi, commander of Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, ISIS defenses are crumbling and fighters are fleeing:

"They don’t fight. They just send car bombs and then run away. And when we surround them, they either surrender or infiltrate themselves among the civilians.

Their morale is shaken. We listen to them on their communications devices. Their leaders are begging them to fight, but they answer that it is a lost cause. They refuse to obey orders and run away."

According to Col. Steve Warren, the U.S. military’s spokesman in Baghdad:

"As time goes on, as our systems mature, we’re becoming more effective. We’ve become much better at spotting them. Anytime they try to move, we’re able to find and finish them. They can’t move, haven’t won any battles for a long time, and they’ve got difficulty leading because we’re hitting their leaders."

It's not surprising that there's little will to fight among ISIS fighters. Most of them have come from countries around the world, and there's little reason for a jihadist from Indonesia or Algeria to want to give up his life in Iraq or Syria.

ISIS fighters captured Mosul two years ago by entering the town and standing aside to allow the Iraqi army to flee for their lives. Now, operations have begun to recapture the town of Mosul from ISIS, but the operation is not expected to be successful before next year. Washington Post and LA Times and AP and Guardian (London)

Iraqi army fleeing for their lives again

The Iraq ground invasion in 2003 succeeded within about three months, mainly because Saddam Hussein's army really didn't want to fight. After their defeat, there was relatively little direct fighting beyond responding to IEDs and suicide bombers. But as I wrote in 2007 in "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq", the Iraqis never had their heart in fighting the Americans, and al-Qaeda in Iraq had to depend on foreign fighters. But even they were ejected by the Iraqi Sunnis with the help of President George Bush's "surge," which largely stabilized the country.

The victory in Iraq was squandered by the withdrawal of all American forces in 2009, but even so, when the war in Syria began in 2011, it should have ended within a year or so, and I said so at the time.

Both Iraq and Syria are in generational Awakening eras, where there are still plenty of people alive who survived the extremely horrific Syrian civil war and the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, the latter climaxing with the use of chemical weapons by Saddam in 1988. The 1991 Iraq war ended quickly, the 2003 Iraq war ended quickly, and the 2011 Syrian war should have ended quickly, all for the same reasons: a generational Awakening era.

The reason that Syria was anomalous was because of one man, president Bashar al-Assad, who acted as a sociopathic genocidal monster, supported by Russia and Iran, targeting innocent protestor civilians as if they were cockroaches to be exterminated.

Another difference between the Syria war versus the two Iraq wars was that America fulfilled its role as policeman of the world and stopped them. In 1990, Saddam Hussein tried to annex Kuwait, just as Hitler tried to annex territories in 1939. but the first Gulf War forced Saddam to retreat. In 2003, fear of WMDs led to the second Gulf War, that forced Saddam out of office. President Obama could have stopped al-Assad on a couple of occasions, but he refused to do so, referring to the Iraq war as a disaster, despite its successful conclusion. As a result, al-Assad was not stopped, and has created the biggest catastrophe since World War II -- millions of refugees, and the rise of ISIS.

So among these wars that I've been describing, the leader was stopped in two of them, and the leader was allowed to continue with impunity in the third. But what all three have in common was the soldiers have little will to fight, which is what you would expect in a generational Awakening era.

Reports are that we're seeing the same thing happen in Iraq, among Iraqi soldiers who are supposed to be conducting the operations to retake Mosul from ISIS. According to one report, Iraqi soldiers fled in panic over fear of mortar attacks from ISIS. Few stood their ground.

According to another report, an American Marine unit has been sent in to revive the moral of Iraq's 15th Division, many of whose troops had been seen fleeing into the mountains over fear of ISIS. In fact, this is the purpose of Marine firebase that I reported on a few days ago. ( "21-Mar-16 World View -- Pentagon to expand a secret military firebase in Iraq after Marine was killed")

President Obama has said many times that there would never be "any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground." Like many of his campaign promises, his promises of complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan have not been kept. Instead, he's being forced to commit more and more troops to Iraq, and to delay troop withdrawals in other places.

To the contrary, his total withdrawal from Iraq and his unwillingness to stop al-Assad, even after he'd used Sarin gas on his own people, is increasingly teaching Obama a lesson that many people have had to learn in history: "We have to fight them there, so we won't have to fight them here." Independent (London) and Daily Beast

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Mar-16 World View -- Iraqi army fleeing for their lives again thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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26-Mar-16 World View -- Iran and Pakistan attempt to erase 40 years of sectarian hostility

Iran and Pakistan agree to open border crossings and improve trade

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iran and Pakistan agree to open border crossings and improve trade


Posters with portraits of Iran's president Hassan Rouhani in the center, with Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the right, and Pakistan's president Mamnoon Hussain on the left, Islamabad on Friday (Reuters)
Posters with portraits of Iran's president Hassan Rouhani in the center, with Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the right, and Pakistan's president Mamnoon Hussain on the left, Islamabad on Friday (Reuters)

Flush from having economic sanctions lifted, thanks to last year's nuclear deal with the West, Iran is anxious to move as quickly as possble to increase trade ties with regional neighbors. Thus, Iran's president Hassan Rouhani paid a visit on Friday to Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, and met with Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The two agreed on plans to increase plans, and to complete a $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline whose development was halted because of the sanctions. Iran is interested in Pakistani textiles, surgical goods, sports goods and agricultural products.

Pakistan will open two new crossing points on its border with Iran, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday, helping to encourage trade hampered by years of Western sanctions against Tehran. Dunyan News (Pakistan) and Press Tv (Iran)

Iran and Pakistan attempt to erase 40 years of sectarian hostility

Pakistan has always had close ties with Saudi Arabia, and so its ties with Iran have been strained because of the recent hostility between the two countries, especially after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was stormed and firebombed in January. Pakistan has tried to remain neutral in this dispute, and can point to the fact that it's refused to provide military support to the Saudis in their proxy war with Iran in Yemen. Pakistan has diplomatically supported the Saudis in that war, but when called upon by the Saudis to provide troops, they refused, angering the Saudis. ( "18-Jan-16 World View -- Pakistan tries to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran")

However, the hostility between Pakistan and Iran goes far deeper than just a split triggered by the Yemen war.

Following World War II, Iran and Pakistan were generally secular states, with little Sunni-Shia hostility. But this began to change abruptly in the late 1970s.

In Pakistan in 1977, the sectarian government of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown in a bloodless military coup by Sunni General Zia-ul-Haq, who then executed Bhutto two years later.

In 1979, Russia invaded Afghanistan, viewed as a mostly Christian army invading a Muslim country. This energized Zia and allowed him to form militias to fight the Russians. These militias later became the Taliban.

Also in 1979, Iran's Great Islamic Revolution turned the country into an explicitly Shia state.

These three events moved Pakistan and Iran in opposite sectarian directions, and hostility between the two countries has been growing.

In recent years, there have been numerous clashes along their common border. Two branches of the Pakistani Taliban, Jundullah (Soldiers of God) and Jaish-ul-Adl (Army of Justice), have committed themselves to the extermination of all Shias, and have conducted numerous terrorist acts on Iranian soil. Iran has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting these terrorist groups and attacks, an accusation that Pakistan's government denies.

So terrorism was a major theme of Rouhani's visit to Pakistan, as he said:

"It is the will and the resolve of the two countries to firmly combat against extremists and the terrorist groups not to allow them to threaten our shared borders."

This is an interesting statement, because Pakistan has been unable to control terrorist acts against Shias within its own borders, so there's little chance that it can control terrorist attacks against Shias in Iran. To the contrary, in fact, Jaish-ul-Adl leaders may even now be planning an attack in Iran just to derail this new Iran-Pakistan détente.

This appears to be one of those situations where two nations avoid potential war by building up trade, so that any war would be bad for business. But as usual, the opposite will almost certainly turn out to be true. Some incident will cause Iran and Pakistan to renew hostilities, and one of the first hostile acts will be a trade boycott on one side or the other. Trade is never an impediment to war, only an additional weapon of war.

The other in play here is that Iran has very good relations with India, as Hindus and Shia Muslims have been allied against Sunni Muslims in numerous wars as far back as the 680s decade. That alliance surpasses any ephemeral business dealing when it comes to choosing sides.

As I've written many times (see "15-Jul-15 World View -- Arab views of Iran nuclear deal"), Generational Dynamics predicts that in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, the US, India, Russia and Iran will be allies, and China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will be allies. Deutsche Welle and Tasnim News (Iran) and Diplomat (23-Oct-2014) and Dawn (Pakistan, 6-Jul-2012)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Mar-16 World View -- Iran and Pakistan attempt to erase 40 years of sectarian hostility thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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25-Mar-16 World View -- Christianity grows in India despite anti-Christian violence from Hindu activists

Growth of Christianity in India attributed to proselytizing by missionaries

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India's increased violence against Christians blamed on Hindu activism


Hindu nationalist political poster
Hindu nationalist political poster

Mob violence by Hindu nationalists (hindutvas) are being blamed for 30 incidents of violence against Christians in India in the first two months of 2016.

In many of the incidents, police just stand by and allow the violence to continue. For example, police stood idly by on January 29 in the province of Tamil Nadu when a mob of 30 Hindu activists attacked and beat a Catholic priest and three Church officials.

Many people blame the rise of anti-Christian violence on ambiguous attitude of India's government against religious intolerance, especially since the 2014 election of avowed Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi. Constitutionally, India is a secular state that welcomes all religions, in addition to Hinduism, but intolerance to Christianity, Sikhism, Islam and other religions has been growing since Modi's election.

Hindu nationalism is controversial in India because opponents associate it with "Hindutva violence," where the Hindutva movement began in 1923, led by terrorist Veer Savarkar (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar), mostly as a movement against British colonization. (See "'Hindutva' terrorist violence against Muslims shocks Indians" from 2008.) Modi became associated with Hindutva violence in 2002, as Governor of the Gujarat province, when he allegedly looked the other way when a train with Hindutva activists attacked a group of Muslims, triggering sectarian violence that led to hundreds of deaths and displacing more than 150,000 people, mostly Muslim. ( "15-Sep-13 World View -- Hindu nationalist nominated as India's prime minister")

According to Savarkar, Hinduism means people born in the "land of India" (Hindustan), who recognize the land as the holy place of their ancestors. They make up an ethnic entity united by the love for this common homeland and by common blood. The hindutva doctrine defines Muslims, Christians and other "heretical" minority groups as those whose land of origin is elsewhere and who, therefore, cannot love the land of India, thereby providing activists with a rationale for discrimination, or expelling them from India or, in recent years, killing them.

Although Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party have not supported or praised the attacks against Christians, they haven't spoken out against them either, according to David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, a Christian nonprofit organization:

"The central government [of India] has refused to speak out against the atrocities – thus further encouraging radical Hindus to step up their discrimination against Christians. The government's tolerance -- if not promotion -- of discrimination against Christians has led to a marked rise in the number of people within India openly pushing for a completely Hindu India."

Modi's unwillingness to speak out against anti-Christian violence is leading to charges that Modi is implicitly supporting the hindutva violence against Christians, as he allegedly implicitly supported the hindutva violence against Muslims in 2002.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, xenophobia and nationalism are growing in almost all countries around the world, as the survivors of World War II die off. Those survivors learned the lesson of how xenophobia and nationalism lead to the most horrific of wars, but the lessons they learned are almost completely forgotten today, as we go deeper into a generational Crisis era. Fox News and South Asia Terrorism Portal (2001) (SATP - India) and Zee News (India)

Tensions grow between India and America over religious intolerance

Last month, eight American senators and 26 members of the House of Representatives wrote to India's prime minister Narendra Modi expressing "particular concern" over the treatment of Christians, Muslims and Sikhs in India. This was the latest action by US officials targeting Modi's religious intolerance.

In 2005, Modi was denied entry to the United States on grounds that he bore a share of responsibility for the massacre that resulted from Hindutva violence in 2002, when he was Governor of the Gujarat province, as described above. The ban was kept in force until 2014, when Modi was elected prime minister.

If violence by Hindu activists continues to grow, this will continue as a political issue. Economist

Growth of Christianity in India attributed to proselytizing by missionaries

Demographic figures for India show what is apparently a contradiction, when comparing the population of Sikhs with the population of Christians. During the period 1991 to 2011, the fertility rate for Sikh women was 3.9 children per woman, while it was 3.8 children per woman for Christians.

And yet, during that same period, the Sikh population grew at an average rate of 1.2% per year, while the Christian population grew at the rate of 1.9% per year. Based on the relative fertility rates, the population of Sikhs and Christians should have been growing at around the same rate, but the Christian population grew much faster.

The difference is believed to be due to conversions. Sikhs do not proselytize, while Christian missionaries do proselytize, and convert people of other religions to Christianity. By comparing the growth rate of the two populations, and assuming that the differences are due to proselytization, then it's possible to compute that Christian missionaries in India have converted to Christianity 170,000 people of other religions, including Hindu and Muslim religions.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that a large percentage of the converts to Christianity are in the "untouchable" Dalit caste. According to Hinduism, Dalits are outcasts at the bottom of the spiritual scale of human worth, resulting in social stigma, denial of education, bullying and discrimination in housing and jobs.

People who are considered unfit to enter a Hindu temple are converting to a religion where they are welcome.

Apostasy is among the greatest of sins in almost every religion, including Christianity. In Pakistan, apostasy is given as a reason by terrorist groups of mass slaughter of Shia Muslims. Someone converting from Hinduism to Christianity is considered an apostate. If the reports are true that Christian missionaries are converting huge numbers of Hindus to Christianity, then anti-Christian nationalism and violence is very likely to grow among hindutva activists. Indian Express (1-Sep-2015) and Charisma News (Christian)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Mar-16 World View -- Christianity grows in India despite anti-Christian violence from Hindu activists thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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24-Mar-16 World View -- China's coast guard warship rams vessel in Indonesian waters

US and Philippines agree on access to five military bases

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China's coast guard warship rams vessel in Indonesian waters


Indonesians blow up a foreign fishing boat caught illegally fishing in Indonesian waters (EPA)
Indonesians blow up a foreign fishing boat caught illegally fishing in Indonesian waters (EPA)

On Saturday, a large Chinese coast guard warship in Indonesian waters rammed a vessel that was being towed by an Indonesian patrol vessel. The vessel being towed was a Chinese fishing boat that had been illegally fishing in Indonesian waters around the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea. Another large Chinese warship arrived on the scene and forced the Indonesians to release the fishing vessel. However, the 8-member crew of the Chinese vessel had already been arrested, and are still in custody.

The Natuna Islands have always been sovereign Indonesian territory. They are far away from China, but because of the rich fishing grounds, China would like to use its military power to seize the islands from Indonesia. ( "21-Oct-14 World View -- Tensions grow with China over Indonesia's Natuna Islands")

For years, Indonesia has had a "war against illegal fishing" around the Natuna Islands. In recent years, Indonesia has captured and destroyed around 120 fishing ships that have been caught poaching in the country’s territorial waters. These ships have been from several nations besides China.

According to Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti:

"The Chinese government does not want to see its ships being sunk. Although the ship has gone, we did manage to arrest its crew for prosecution. It [China] should have not have behaved in such a way because a national government should not step in to support illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing."

The government says that it will formally protest China's "arrogant" actions.

China is claiming the entire South China Sea, and is using its massive military force to confiscate regions that have historically belonged to other nations, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. China is building artificial islands and converting them to military bases with advanced missile and radar systems. ( "23-Feb-16 World View -- China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers")

China’s Foreign Ministry said that the fishing trawler was carrying out “normal activities” in “traditional Chinese fishing grounds":

"On March 19, after the relevant trawler was attacked and harassed by an armed Indonesian ship, a Chinese coast guard ship went to assist.

The Chinese side immediately demanded the Indonesian side at once release the detained Chinese fishermen and ensure their personal safety."

Indonesia's foreign policy has been devoted "maintaining peace" in the South China Sea by serving as an "honest broker" between China and other disputants. That's why the threat of making a formal protest, if carried out, would be out of character for Indonesia, since the Indonesians are afraid of souring relations with China. However, the prosecution of the fishermen would certainly turn into a major incident.

This ramming incident has clearly shocked the Indonesians. After meeting with Chinese embassy officials, Pudjiastuti was clearly angry:

"We feel interrupted and sabotaged in our efforts. We may take it to the international tribunal of the law of the sea."

In recent years, several south Asian countries, including Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia, have all been growing their naval capabilities in the region, in response to China's military bellicosity in the South China Sea. At the very least, this new incident is likely to trigger an additional naval buildup by Indonesia. Jakarta Post and Reuters and Diplomat

US and Philippines agree on access to five military bases

Two years after the the Philippines agreed in principle to give U.S. ships access to Philippine military bases, the two countries have announced a deal giving access to five bases. The final deal faced activist opposition, a vote by the Philippine Senate, and approval by the Philippine Supreme Court, which was granted in January. ( "28-Apr-14 World View -- Philippines agrees to major return of U.S. military to counter China")

The U.S. had military bases in the Philippines for 94 years, since the early 1900s, following the Spanish-American war, and the bases played a crucial role for America in World War II and the Vietnam war. Subic Bay and Clark became America's largest military bases outside the U.S., but due to a substantial growth of anti-Americanism, The Americans were thrown out in 1991.

The new agreement, which will be valid for ten years, does not allow for permanent US bases as occurred in the past. It allows the U.S. increased military presence in the Philippines rotation of ships and aircraft for humanitarian and maritime security operations, the latter referring to countering China. In addition, the US will provide $50 million in aid, mostly to help the Philippines improve radar and other South China Sea monitoring capabilities.

The five bases are: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.

China's foreign ministry warned that the agreement threatened regional peace and stability: "The U.S.-Philippines cooperation should not target third parties, harm the sovereignty or security interests of other states, or hamper regional peace and stability." Manila Bulletin and VOA and Xinhua

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Mar-16 World View -- China's coast guard warship rams vessel in Indonesian waters thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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23-Mar-16 World View -- Generational view of Tuesday's terror attack in Brussels, Belgium

Gone With The Wind

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Generational Dynamics view of Brussels terror attack


Aftermath of Tuesday's terror attack in Brussels
Aftermath of Tuesday's terror attack in Brussels

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in Brussels, Belgium, that killed 31 people and wounded 230. There were two explosions at the American Airlines terminal of the Brussels airport at around 8 am local time, and another explosion at a nearby Metro station in central Brussels. Brussels is capital city of the European Union, and one attack occurred within sight of the European Commission building, so the symbolic nature of the attack is obvious.

For me, and for regular readers of Generational Dynamics World View, Tuesday's terror attack in Brussels was not a remarkable or unusual event. In fact, looking at the bigger picture, it was just the latest in a string of similar attacks.

Last weekend, there was a major suicide bombing attack in Istanbul Turkey, and this followed a terror attack in Ankara two weeks ago, another one three weeks ago, and another one in October. Egypt has been suffering numerous terror attacks including, most spectacularly, a Russian passenger plane blown out of the sky over Sinai last year. Pakistan has had so many terror attacks that many are too commonplace to report. Six of the world’s 10 deadliest terrorist attacks of 2015 took place in Africa, in faraway places with such strange-sounding names like Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, and Egypt, with smaller attacks in Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Generational Dynamics looks at this situation from a global point of view, instead of just a European or American point of view. And from a global point of view, there are going to be three or four major terror attacks every month, and they'll be scattered around different countries and continents.

And that doesn't even count the countries at war -- like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. As I've written many, many times, there is no Muslim war against the West. There is a major war, or several wars, of Muslims against Muslims. The number of Westerners killed by Muslims is minuscule compared the tsunami of Muslims being killed by other Muslims. As horrific as the attacks in Brussels and other places are, they are collateral damage to the real wars going on -- Muslims against Muslims.

Much of this comes from Syria, as I've written many times before. The amount of damage that Syria's sociopathic Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad has done to the world, with the support and help of Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Seyed Ali Khamenei, is almost beyond belief. By treating peacefully protesting Sunnis as cockroaches to be exterminated, al-Assad has created a conflict like no other seen in decades, with millions of refugees pouring into other countries and Europe.

Thanks to al-Assad, Putin and Khamenei, there are now 30,000 jihadist fighters from 86 countries that have come to Syria, first to join the rebels fighting al-Assad, then to join the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), according to estimates by the left wing Center for American Progress.

Of those 30,000 jihadists from 86 countries, 5,000 are from European countries, and are citizens of European countries, probably having been born in a European country, and so are free to move around Europe as they wish. On a per-capita basis, Belgium has the largest share of its Muslim population leave to fight in Syria than any other Western country.

Now, it's probably not correct to say that these 5,000 people are all jihadists. We know that many people who go to Syria come back because they learn that they don't want to be any part of ISIS or other jihadist group, and don't wish to be suicide bombers or any kind of bomber. But probably at least a few hundred have been sufficiently radicalized that they are willing to conduct terror attacks. There may be more terrorist attacks in Belgium. So some of these people are going to conduct terror attacks, and there's no way to stop it.

About 30,000 Europeans die in traffic accidents each year, far more than have died as victims of terrorist attacks, at least so far. That comparison may not help much in solving the problem, but it might help you understand how to accept the reality of what's going on. Expatica Belgium and Washington Times and Center for American Progress

Gone With The Wind

Listening to Tuesday's broadcast coverage of the Brussel's terror attack, I heard one woman say the following:

"I can hardly wait for all of this to be over, and for things to return to normal, the way they used to be."

She may have been thinking of the 1990s, when there were no existential threats, and there was plenty of money around, thanks to the tech bubble.

Even terrorist acts didn't seem so bad. Ireland's "Provisional IRA" conducted multiple bombing attacks in Ireland and England, killing 1,800 people since the late 1960s into the 1990s. Britain listed the Provisional IRA as a terrorist group, but the U.S. did not. This massive string of terrorist attacks did not generate a fraction of the panic that attacks by al-Qaeda and ISIS have done. In fact, they were referred to by a fairly mild name, "The Troubles."

There's a very good reason why attacks by the Provisional IRA didn't raise anywhere near the same level of panic as ISIS attacks, and the reason isn't because the IRA is Catholic and ISIS is Muslim. That's not the reason.

The reason is that in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the world was still being governed by the GI Generation and Silent Generation, the survivors of World War II. Londoners in particular had suffered the equivalent of 9/11 three times a day for years, as Nazi bombers attacked every day. For these survivors, a car bombing or hotel bombing in London might be a horrific, bloody event, but it's nothing compared to what they lived through in the 1940s. Any WW II survivor still living today might feel the same way about the ISIS attacks -- that they're nothing compared to the Nazi bombing of London.

So the woman who quoted above, saying that she wanted "for things to return to normal, the way they used to be" is dreaming of a time in the past when the Silent Generation was running the world, keeping things under control and in perspective.

But returning to the way things used to be is impossible, because the Silent Generation is gone. The Boomers and Gen-Xers of today don't have a fraction of their wisdom and skills, and their ability to govern the world.

A similar kind of transition occurred because of the American Civil War, and it's described by the title card of the 1939 movie about that transition:

"There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South... Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow... Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave... Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind..."

Those who are wishing for a return to "normal," for a return to the 1990s, should understand that the 1990s world is gone now, nothing more than a dream, a civilization that is gone with the wind. Council on Foreign Relations and Internet Movie Database

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Mar-16 World View -- Generational view of Tuesday's terror attack in Brussels, Belgium thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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22-Mar-16 World View -- EU desperation continues on second day of EU-Turkey refugee deal

Humanitarian agencies condemn the EU-Turkey refugee deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

EU desperation continues on second day of EU-Turkey refugee deal


Moria refugee camp on Greek island of Lesbos (AFP)
Moria refugee camp on Greek island of Lesbos (AFP)

The EU-Turkey refugee deal took effect on Sunday, and so far the outcome has been chaotic. ( "19-Mar-16 World View -- Desperate European Union leaders sign refugee agreement with Turkey")

Since the agreement took effect, over 3,000 new migrants have crossed the Aegean Sea and reached Greece's islands. According to the terms of the deal, each of them must be processed individually. Each must be given an individual hearing before a magistrate in order to determine whether he's eligible for asylum. The asylum process will require interviews with each refugee and inspection of documents. Each refugee will be photographed and fingerprinted. If he's refused asylum, then he will be able to appeal. If he loses the appeal, then he will be sent back to Turkey, and in return, Europe will select, accept and resettle one refugee from Turkey's Syrian refugee camps, up to a maximum of 72,000, a quota that will be exhausted by June.

The European leaders hope that when Syrian refugees in Turkey hear about the EU-Turkey deal, then they'll give up and stop trying to reach Europe. However, as spring approaches and the weather warms, the flow of migrants may not decrease substantially, and may increase.

In order to process all the refugees that arrive on the islands, starting on Sunday, it's estimated that Greece will need 4,000 workers for the asylum process, the appeals process, and the return process, as well as for security and transportation. The asylum process alone will require 200 caseworkers and 400 language interpreters for refugees who can't speak Greek and who have documents in other languages.

So the EU and Turkey are scrambling to find those 4,000 workers from Greece and other countries as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Greece is rapidly building new refugee camps such as the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos pictured above.

From Greece's point of view, the other European countries are forcing Greece to handle the refugee crisis alone, without providing help, as Austria and the Balkan countries have closed their borders. There are 50,000 refugees stranded in Greece, with some 12,000 still camped out in the filthy camp Idomeni on Greece's closed border with Macedonia.

The economic cost of the refugee crisis to Greece last year was over $675 million, and Greece the time is approaching for a new round of the bailout crisis. Greece has to pay 3.8 billion euros in debt servicing between March and June. Even if Greece scrapes up the money to pay that, there's another 2.8 billion euro payment due in July, and there's no way the Greek government can make that payment without more bailout money. Greece's lenders are demanding a reduction in pension payments, but now Greece has a powerful negotiating tool: Give us the bailout money, or stop processing refugees. Kathimerini and International Business Times and ABC News

Humanitarian agencies condemn the EU-Turkey refugee deal

"Life or death, whatever it is, I’m going to go," says Huseyin, a 24-year-old former teacher in Turkey. He's paid a middleman $1,000 to get to Europe, and he's waiting for a call from a smuggler. His objective is to join family members in Spain. "If I have to swim, I’ll swim,” he said. “What do I have to lose?"

The media are full of stories of refugees who have staked their lives on reaching Europe, often to reach family members, and they consider being sent back to Turkey the equivalent of a death sentence.

According the UNHCR, the EU and Greek authorities are rushing into the agreement too quickly. "The Greek state lacks the necessary capacity to assess large numbers of asylum claims and needs to be reinforced."

Already there are reports that Turkish police and coast guard members are becoming increasingly violent with refugees that are trying to cross the Aegean Sea to reach Greece. Some refugees claim that Turkey returning them to Syria, rather than keeping them in refugee camps in Turkey.

Amnesty International has condemned the EU-Turkey deal, saying that it violates both EU human rights legislation and international laws. Last month, Amnesty International released a report that said Turkish security forces had shot and wounded civilians. The report said those injured included children, who were trying to flee Syria by entering Turkey.

However, the EU says that it's fully complying with international laws. "The return of those who do not have the right to international protection will proceed in full compliance with EU and international law."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this has been a mass migration of historic proportions that can be neither caused nor prevented nor predicted by politicians, and it still has a long way to go. Kathimerini and Bloomberg and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Mar-16 World View -- EU desperation continues on second day of EU-Turkey refugee deal thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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21-Mar-16 World View -- Pentagon to expand a secret military firebase in Iraq after Marine killed

Whom to support for President?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

In Greece, banks can charge you for making change


Exchanging a 500-euro note for smaller bills can set you back five euros in Greece
Exchanging a 500-euro note for smaller bills can set you back five euros in Greece

Banks in Greece are collecting a commission of 1.5% when changing 500-euro bills for notes of lower denominations. The charge is 3-5 euros (depending on the bank), while the maximum charge comes to 200-250 euros.

During last year's Greek bank crisis, when people feared that they would lose all their savings, many people withdrew their savings in 500-euro notes, because large notes are easier to store under mattresses. So now they want to cash those 500-euro notes in, but are being charged a commission to do so. The banks say that the administrative cost of supplying their branches around the country with smaller banknotes is unusually high at present with the capital controls still in place. Kathimerini

Pentagon to expand a secret military firebase in Iraq after Marine killed

On Saturday, Sgt. Louis F. Cardin of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, was killed in Iraq by a rocket fired by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) from 15 km away. Several other Marines were wounded. A second rocket fell harmlessly to the ground.

The Pentagon had initially announced Cardin's death as being from "indirect fire," but the death has revealed the existence of a previously secret firebase in Iraq, occupied by a "couple of hundred" Marines living in tents near Makhmour in northern Iraq. ISIS had apparently identified the firebase by observing soldiers moving around. The Pentagon plans to expand the firebase further with Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit to fight ISIS.

A "firebase" is a small remote location designed to use its artillery to support infantry troops at forward locations. The Pentagon says that they had planned to reveal the existence of the firebase later this week.

President Obama has said many times that there would never be "any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground." Like many of his campaign promises, his promises of complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan have not been kept.

Cardin is the second American that has been killed in combat with ISIS in Iraq since the U.S. reentered the country in late 2014. In October of last year Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler was killed by enemy small-arms fire during a raid that freed 70 hostages from ISIS captivity in northern Iraq. Washington Post and CNN and "ABC News

Whom to support for President?

In response to my recent article, "15-Mar-16 World View -- Saudi's Prince Faisal sharply rebukes Obama's 'free riders' accusation", a web site reader has posted a response:

Whom to support for President of the US?? Let's see our choices are:

  • A woman who should be elected just because she's a woman even though she has thrown any and all fellow women under the bus if they've had any involvement with her husband - including rape! Oh and by the way she's being investigated by 100+ FBI agents for a variety of things - things that if any normal person had done they would be in prison for now. A GREAT choice.
  • Another narcissist - one of the most insulting and inflammatory individuals I've ever seen in politics. Any time any one disagrees with him - he responds with personal attacks. He has no coherent policy - but a great slogan. Oh.. and although most Republicans really aren't racist, he actually is. And people love him because he tells it like it is.
  • A loonie but nice old fellow who has never had a real job. Who thinks money grows on trees and the rich ought to just give everything they have to the government. Oh.. and he thinks all our wars are caused by global warming and the solution to our problems is go to deeper into debt. But he does seem to be the most honest and sincere of the candidates - maybe..
  • A fellow who really hasn't been in government long enough to do anything productive - but he sure has figured out how to piss all his colleagues off by his insistence of following his own set of rules and looking out for what's best for him. So much so, that behind the scenes several seem to be saying that they would rather have the opponent win. But hey - it's not like the President of the US has to actually get along with anyone and compromise right? I mean President Obama sure hasn't made that a priority.
  • Another fellow that hasn't had much of a real job, and doesn't show up to vote for the job he currently has either - because he's too busy trying to get a promotion. He looks pretty, talks nice, spends personal money like there's no tomorrow and likes his perks. I'm pretty sure within 48 hours he's going to hang it up anyway and go do something else (likely on a government paycheck) with his life. Ain't America great?
  • A seasoned politician that seems to mostly like the status quo. The status quo that has the citizens so upset they are mostly lining up behind two crazies. He mostly talks nice, has something of a decent record - at least he hasn't totally screwed his state up. Of course he's pretty much in last place.

Yep a great set of choices we have.

It's an exercise for the reader to match up the descriptions with the candidates.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Mar-16 World View -- Pentagon to expand a secret military firebase in Iraq after marine killed thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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20-Mar-16 World View -- Istanbul terrorist attack is the latest in a string of attacks on Turkey

Israel participating in investigation of Istanbul attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Istanbul terrorist attack is the latest in a string of attacks on Turkey


Police secure the shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul after Saturday's bombing (Reuters)
Police secure the shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul after Saturday's bombing (Reuters)

Five people were killed and 39 others were injured in a suicide bomb attack on Saturday in the heart of the business district in Istanbul, Turkey. Among those killed were foreign nationals: three Israeli citizens and one Iranian.

This is only the latest in a series of major terrorist attacks in Turkey's cities in the last few months.

There was a suicide car bombing in Ankara last Sunday that killed 37 people, and another one in Ankara on February 17, killing 30 people. Both of those attacks were claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group from the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in violence with the Turkish government for three decades.

On October 10 of last year, there was a massive terror attack at a 'peace rally' in Ankara that killed 103 people. It was referred to as the worst terrorist massacre in Turkey's history, or as "Turkey's 9/11." In that case, the attack was blamed on the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). ( "13-Oct-15 World View -- Turkey is seen as increasingly unstable after Ankara massacre")

So either TAK or ISIS may be responsible for Saturday's attack in Istanbul, though neither has yet claimed responsibility.

However, Turkish authorities suspect that the suicide bomber was Savas Yildis, a 33 year old terrorist. Authorities have detained Yildis' father and obtained a blood sample in order to verify that Yildis was among those killed in the bombing. Yildis was a suspected ISIS member and is suspected of involvement in two previous attacks in Turkey last year, in the cities of Mersin and Adana. Hurriyet (Turkey) and Times of Israel and Daily Mail (London)

Israel participating in investigation of Istanbul attack

Because three Israelis were killed in the attack, the investigation will attempt to determine whether Israelis were specifically targeted. The Israelis were reportedly part of a group of 14 Israeli tourists on a culinary tour.

Saturday's attack was clearly targeting tourists. If the PKK/TAK was responsible, it would represent a change in tactics. In the past, PKK violence has attacked military targets, so civilian targets are a new tactic. The TAK have warned foreigners about supporting the country's tourism industry which the group says feeds the Erdogan regime.

In December, Israel and Turkey reached an agreement to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries. Turkey broke off diplomatic relations with Israel after the deaths of nine Turkish citizens on May 31, 2010, in a confrontation between Israel's navy and the boat Mavi Marmara in a flotilla headed for Gaza in violation of Israel's Gaza blockade. Since then, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has specified three conditions that Israel would have to fulfill, in order to restore normal relations: Israel would have to apologize, pay monetary compensation to the families of the victims, and lift the blockade of Gaza. December's agreement mentioned only the first two of these three conditions.

The Mavi Marmara incident was a major news story for a long time in 2010, but now with a thousands of people being killed every day in Syria, with millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey attempting to reach Europe, and with hundreds of Turkish citizens being killed in a series of terrorist attacks by the PKK/TAK and ISIS, the Mavi Marmara incident is but a footnote to the events of the 2010s decade.

In the last year, Turkish resorts have become a popular destination for Israeli tourists, especially during the spring vacation. This is especially true now, after the shootdown by Turkey of a Russian warplane on November 25 of last year, sharply reducing the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey. International Business Times and CS Monitor and Debka and Foreign Policy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Mar-16 World View -- Istanbul terrorist attack is the latest in a string of attacks on Turkey thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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19-Mar-16 World View -- Desperate European Union leaders sign refugee agreement with Turkey

EU will start returning migrants to Turkey on Sunday

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

EU will start returning migrants to Turkey on Sunday


Friday in Brussels: The three EU officials look grim.  The only one smiling is the Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, second from the left.  (AFP)
Friday in Brussels: The three EU officials look grim. The only one smiling is the Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, second from the left. (AFP)

Desperate to find a solution to the migrant crisis, the European Union agreed to numerous demands by the government of Turkey and signed an agreement that few believe will actually solve the migrant crisis.

Some of the terms of the agreement are as follows:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the deal will hit the people smugglers' business model hard and send a "clear message" to dissuade would-be migrants to Europe. BBC and Reuters and Hurriyet (Ankara)

UN and others object to EU-Turkey deal on humanitarian grounds

The Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) immediately issued a statement saying:

"Today’s agreement clarifies a number of elements. Importantly, it is explicit that any modalities of implementation of the agreement will respect international and European law. ...

Ultimately, the response must be about addressing the compelling needs of individuals fleeing war and persecution. Refugees need protection, not rejection."

Around 90% of those arriving in the Greek islands say they are fleeing conflict, primarily from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Under international law, each person's case must be heard on an individual basis, not as a group, because they may have very good reasons for seeking protection.

Turkey is not a full member of the Geneva Convention. It does not offer Syrians asylum, only a lesser form of international protection. And other groups like Iraqis and Afghans don't even have that option in Turkey. So while returning Syrians is questionable, returning non-Syrians may be even more problematic.

Many officials on the EU side are objecting strongly to the agreement. Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán has said that it must be possible for a country (Hungary) to opt out of receiving any Syrian refugees. Officials in France and other countries fear strong anti-immigrant backlash if visa-free travel is permitted. The deal could also affect the "Brexit" referendum vote on June 23 over whether Britain should exit the European Union. As a separate issue, Turkey will have to recognize the Greek-Cypriot government in Nicosia, which it has not done to date.

Other officials are concerned that Turkey is becoming an increasingly authoritarian government, as president Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to amass more and more power. Europeans were especially shocked earlier this month when Erdogan's government seized the country's largest opposition newspaper. ( "6-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey's 'shameful day for free press' as government seizes Zaman media")

Some people claim that the EU-Turkey deal may help in the short term, but will have little or no impact on the long term.

There are about 3 million Syrian refugees living in squalid conditions in refugee camps in Turkey. Many of them are determined to reach Europe. If they can't reach Europe via the Greek islands, then they may take other routes, including a boat trip from Libya across the Mediterranean. Whatever international law permits about returning refugees to Turkey, the law is going to be much stricter about returning refugees to Libya.

Another problem is that the agreement really only covers Syrian refugees. There are thousands of refugees from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also traveling through Turkey to Greece, and there are refugees from countries in Africa as well. No solution has been proposed for these refugees. United Nations and AP and BBC

Greece's refugee camp at Idomeni becomes disgusting and explosive

Reports indicate that incidents of violence and fights between groups are increasing in Greece's refugee camp at Idomeni. Idomeni is a small village on the border with Macedonia, where thousands of refugees who had hoped to cross the border into Macedonia and proceed northward to Germany have been blocked.

Conditions have gotten significantly worse in the last few days because of several days of rain, creating six inches of mud, while portable toilets are becoming increasingly foul.

Greece's interior minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis says that the Idomeni camp is a modern version of the Dachau camp operated by the Nazis in Germany. He blamed the problem on the European countries that have closed their borders.

After Friday's refugee between the EU and Turkey was signed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged migrants to leave the Idomeni camp:

"I want to take the opportunity to tell the refugees at Idomeni that they should trust the Greek government and move to other accommodation where the conditions will be significantly better. ... From there, Greece will put asylum procedures in motion or redistribution to other European countries will take place."

Many refugees have risked everything because they wish to reach a specific country, usually Germany. Moving to the "other accomodation" would require applying to asylum and risking remaining in Greece or being sent back to Turkey. Kathimerini and Lawfare Blog and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Mar-16 World View -- Desperate European Union leaders sign refugee agreement with Turkey thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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18-Mar-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia says it will 'end major combat operations' in Yemen

Over 100 civilians killed in Saudi airstrike in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi Arabia says it will 'end major combat operations' in Yemen


Pro-Houthi Yemenis protest Saudi-led airstrikes (AP)
Pro-Houthi Yemenis protest Saudi-led airstrikes (AP)

Saudi Arabia's Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al Assiri announced on Thursday that major combat operations in Yemen are coming to an end, after which the Saudi-led coalition will work on “long-term” plans to bring stability to the country.

It was almost exactly a year ago, on March 26, that Saudi Arabia announced that a 10-country coalition was conducting airstrikes in Yemen.

Up until late 2014, Yemen had been governed by a government closely allied with Saudi Arabia. In late 2014, the Iran-backed Shia Houthi militias from northwest Yemen moved south and took control of the capital city Sanaa, and then continue to move south, capturing portions of the port city of Aden.

At the time, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the US, explained the airstrikes: "We are determined to protect the legitimate government of Yemen. Having Yemen fail cannot be option for us or for our coalition partners."

After a year of war, most observers consider the war to have been a failure. The Houthis are still in control of Sanaa, while other parts of the country have gone back and forth between control of the two sides. Furthermore, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has made strong gains in the last year, and the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) is establishing a presence.

Still, the Saudis claim that they've met most of their objectives. According to Yemeni army spokesperson, Brigadier Samir Al Haj:

"Actually, we are at the threshold of fighting the final battle to free Sanaa and the rest of the northern cities, as well as Taiz.

Most probably, we don’t need major combat operations, and this is a confirmation to the statement of Brigadier Al Assiri. ...

We are just few kilometers away from Sanaa."

It's hard to know what this means, since no analyst I'm aware of believes that the Yemeni army and Saudi airstrikes have a serious hope of recapturing Sanaa.

However, there have been reports in recent weeks of secret talks between the Saudis and Houthis, and it's possible that Al Haj's remarks are related not to a Saudi victory in Sanaa but to a peace agreement, establishing some sort of unified government. Gulf News (Dubai) and Middle East Eye and VOA

Over 100 civilians killed in Saudi airstrike in Yemen

The death toll from three air strikes on Tuesday by the Saudi-led coalition on an outdoor market in Houthi controlled Hajjah province in northwest Yemen has risen to more than 100. Most of the casualties were civilians, including 22 children.

This was one of the most deadly attacks by the Saudi-led coalition. The Saudis insist that they never target civilians, but according to the United nations, more than 6,200 people, half of them civilians, have been killed in Yemen’s conflict since the Saudi-led intervention began. Reuters and CNN and Independent (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Mar-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia says it will 'end major combat operations' in Yemen thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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17-Mar-16 World View -- Taliban reject Pakistan pressure on Afghanistan peace process

Bomb blast in bus in Peshawar Pakistan kills 15

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taliban reject Pakistan pressure on Afghanistan peace process


Afghan soldiers stand guard Tuesday (AP)
Afghan soldiers stand guard Tuesday (AP)

As American and Nato forces withdraw from Afghanistan, an important lynchpin of the "peace process" to bring peace between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban is that the Pakistan can pressure the Taliban to accept a peace deal. The Pakistanis have leverage over the Taliban since the Afghan Taliban depend on safe havens in Pakistan where they can avoid hot pursuit by Afghan security forces.

Pakistani officials met with the Taliban Supreme Council in a secret meeting about two weeks ago, and threatened to expel Afghanistan's Taliban from its bases in Pakistan if they did not join the Afghan peace talks scheduled for early March. Instead, the Taliban rejected the demands.

The reason is that, by this time, Pakistan's threat is pretty much an empty threat. When the Nato and American forces were fully engaged in Afghanistan, the Taliban had nowhere to hide in Afghanistan, and had to flee to Pakistan. (The irony was that the the headquarters of the Afghan Taliban was in Pakistan, while the headquarters of the Pakistan Taliban was in Afghanistan.)

However, as American and Nato forces have been drawn down, the Taliban have been taking control of more and more of Afghanistan. This means that safe havens in Pakistan are not needed as much.

As we reported in December, a Department of Defense assessment found that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating, and this deterioration has continued. The Taliban insurgency has expanded since foreign troops left the country in 2014 and as Afghans have become increasingly fed up with a government seen as weak and corrupt. Afghan army, police personnel and security forces have suffered from heavy casualties, desertions and low morale since then.

In November 2009, President Obama announced the "surge" that would last for 18 months: "I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."

To the surprise of no one, President Obama has been repeatedly forced to extend the 18-month deadline. In the latest version of the withdrawal plan, the US will maintain its current force of 9,800 in the country through 2016, and after that will leave a force of 5,500 troops in place to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism missions.

Currently, U.S. commanders in Afghanistan can strike the Taliban only when its fighters pose a direct threat to U.S. forces or when Afghan troops are in grave danger of being overrun. Gen. John F. Campbell, the outgoing commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, has made a request to broaden authorities to once again permit offensive strikes against the Taliban. The request has apparently been rejected by the White House, exposing what may be a major rift between the military and senior administration officials over the U.S. role in the war in Afghanistan.

For the Taliban, this is particularly bad timing for a "peace process," since the warm weather is coming and the Taliban are about to launch their annual fighting season. According to one senior Taliban official:

"We already have started focusing on the spring offensive, and that's why the majority of the fighters and commanders are going there (Afghanistan)."

The Taliban plan is to gain more territory. Whether the Afghan Taliban will even need their safe havens in Pakistan in the fall remains to be seen. Reuters and Washington Post and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India)

Bomb blast in bus in Peshawar Pakistan kills 15

In Pakistan, terrorist bomb explosions are almost as common as traffic accidents, and Wednesday was no exception. A powerful bomb, detonated by a timing mechanism, exploded in a bus carrying government employees in Peshawar on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people and causing injuries to 25.

Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group allied with the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was to avenge a military court's sentencing of 13 militants to death on March 15.

The bus is normally parked overnight at a petrol station, and that may be when the bomb and timer were inserted. The police didn't inspect the bus before it left on its route because it was privately-owned, and it was the responsibility of the contractor to perform security checks.

Peshawar has seen scores of attacks on civilians as well as law enforcement personnel in the past. The city is also the home to the XI Corps, an administrative corps of the Pakistan Army which manages all military activity in KP and is currently engaged in a full-blown operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan. Pakistan Today and Dawn (Pakistan) and RFE/RL

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Mar-16 World View -- Taliban reject Pakistan pressure on Afghanistan peace process thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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16-Mar-16 World View -- Analysts wonder why Russia announced a partial withdrawal from Syria now

Vladimir Putin may be sick of Syria and sick of Bashar al-Assad

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia announces a surprise partial military withdrawal from Syria


Russian fighter jets in Syria (dpa)
Russian fighter jets in Syria (dpa)

Catching almost everyone by surprise, Russia's president Vladimir Putin issued the following statement on Monday:

"I believe that the objectives set before the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces have on the whole been achieved. I therefore order the Defense Minister to begin the withdrawal of the main part of our task force from the Syrian Arab Republic starting from tomorrow. ...

Meanwhile our bases, the naval one in Tartus and the air one at the Humaymim aerodrome, will operate as before. They should be reliably protected from the ground, from the sea and from the air. This part of our military task force was traditionally stationed in Syria, for many years before, and these days it will have to perform the very important function of monitoring the ceasefire and creating conditions for the peace process."

Russia will keep its two military bases, and will continue to launch air strikes as before. Other reports indicate that Russia will leave its advanced S-400 air missiles would stay in Syria. These missiles have a range of 400 km, which covers a great deal of Turkey, Iraq and Israel. In addition, Russia's warships in the Caspian and Mediterranean seas are expected to remain and be prepared to launch cruise missiles. This means that Russia can re-deploy at any time, if desired. Reuters and Eurasia Review

Opinions vary on why Russia pulled back from Syria now

Putin says "that the objectives set before the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces have on the whole been achieved," but nobody I heard seriously believes that. The major stated objective was to "end terrorism" in Syria, but al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) and the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) are both still active in Syria.

In fact, Russia never really targeted either al-Nusra or ISIS. Since 2011, when Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad began massacring innocent Sunni women and children as if they were cockroaches to be exterminated, Russia has simply joined in the slaughter, flattening entire Sunni villages with missiles and chlorine-laden barrel bombs, leaving the al-Nusra and ISIS free to continue.

There's no question that one of Putin's objectives was a larger influence and military presence in the Mideast, and with two military bases in Syria protected by advanced S-400 missiles, he's certainly met that objective. Another objective was to save Bashar al-Assad's army from defeat, as the army was near collapse before the Russians intervened.

But there were huge downsides for Russia as well, as I described last year in "13-Sep-15 World View -- Russia opens a dangerous new chapter in Syria and the Mideast".

The Russians have no desired to be involved in another quagmire like the one they were in during the 1980s in Afghanistan. The 1980s war was portrayed by Salafists as a Christian country invading a Muslim country. Many Salafists in Saudi Arabia went to fight Russia in Afghanistan, and that led to the rise of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Today, Saudi Salafists portray Russia's intervention into Syria as, once again, a Christian invasion of a Muslim country. This time, many jihadists from Chechnya are receiving training in Syria, and are prepared to use those skills back in Russia, and Putin may believe that a partial withdrawal will slow that trend down.

Another issue is how long the fighting is going to go on. Russia's economy is under severe pressure, and the government is rapidly depleting its foreign reserves because of the collapse in the price of oil. Russia simply cannot afford another military quagmire, even if Putin wanted one.

Furthermore, now that Russia has its bases and missiles in place, Putin may feel that there's no further need to continue fighting. There have been many, many stories in the past few weeks that Putin and the Obama administration are united in pushing the current Geneva peace talks to bring the fighting to an end. As a byproduct, it's hoped that this would bring an end to the tsunami of Syrian refugees flooding into Turkey and the European Union.

This development has has implications with the regimes in both Syria and Iran. According to some reports, neither al-Assad nor the Iranians want to end fighting. Recall that al-Assad started massacring peacefully protesting Sunni civilians in 2011 for reasons that are hard to discern. If al-Assad wanted to massacred Sunni civilians in 2011, then he would want to massacre Sunni civilians today, for the same reason.

Iran is no different. Iranians have not forgotten the brutal treatment they received from Saddam Hussein and the Sunnis in Iraq during the 1980s Iran/Iraq war, and Iran's Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei may well have the same motivations as al-Assad.

Finally, it may be that even Vladimir Putin is sickened and disgusted with supporting the greatest sociopath of the modern era. As I've written many times, Bashar al-Assad is the greatest genocidal monster in today's world, comparable to Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and Stalin from the last century. For years, he's been killing thousands of Syrian civilians every week with complete impunity, using Russian-supplied barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods. And he's used sarin chemical weapons on civilians. He uses the most gruesome forms of torture on a personal, individual scale, as well as on a mass scale. There is no mass weapon of destruction, nor any gruesome form of torture, that he won't use to satisfy his psychopathy.

Putin and Khamenei have enthusiastically aided and supported these horrendous crimes against humanity, but one possibility that we have to consider is that Putin, at least, can take only so much of al-Assad's sickening sociopathy. So that's a possible personal motive of Putin in announcing the partial withdrawal.

However, Syria's army was losing ground before Russia's intervention, and Syria's army may start losing ground again. This is going to make al-Assad and Khamenei very unhappy, and so it's possible that this Russian withdrawal is not only partial but also temporary. Guardian (London) and Deutsche Welle (Berlin) and Debka and American Enterprise Institute

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Mar-16 World View -- Analysts wonder why Russia announced a partial withdrawal from Syria now thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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15-Mar-16 World View -- Saudi's Prince Faisal sharply rebukes Obama's 'free riders' accusation

The World View of President Barack Hussein Obama

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Saudi's Prince Faisal sharply rebukes Obama's 'free riders' accusation


Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud
Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud

Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki bin al-Faisal Al Saud has written an article strongly rebuking President Barack Obama's remarks branding as "free-riders" who "aggravate" him several of America's allies, including Britain, France and Saudi Arabia. The accusations appeared in a lengthy Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg, entitled "The Obama Doctrine - The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world."

According to Faisal:

"No, Mr. Obama. We are not “free riders.” We shared with you our intelligence that prevented deadly terrorist attacks on America.

We initiated the meetings that led to the coalition that is fighting Fahish (ISIS), and we train and fund the Syrian freedom fighters, who fight the biggest terrorist, Bashar Assad and the other terrorists, Al-Nusrah and Fahish (ISIS). We offered boots on the ground to make that coalition more effective in eliminating the terrorists. ...

Your treasury department officials have publicly praised Saudi Arabia’s measures to curtail any financing that might reach terrorists. Our King Salman met with you, last September, and accepted your assurances that the nuclear deal you struck with the Iranian leadership will prevent their acquiring nuclear weapons for the duration of the deal. You noted “the Kingdom’s leadership role in the Arab and Islamic world.” The two of you affirmed the “need, in particular, to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities.”

Now, you throw us a curve ball. You accuse us of fomenting sectarian strife in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. You add insult to injury by telling us to share our world with Iran, a country that you describe as a supporter of terrorism and which you promised our king to counter its “destabilizing activities.”

Could it be that you are petulant about the Kingdom’s efforts to support the Egyptian people when they rose against the Muslim Brothers’ government and you supported it? Or is it the late King Abdullah’s (God rest his soul) bang on the table when he last met you and told you “No more red lines, Mr. President.”

Or is it because you have pivoted to Iran so much that you equate the Kingdom’s 80 years of constant friendship with America to an Iranian leadership that continues to describe America as the biggest enemy, that continues to arm, fund and support sectarian militias in the Arab and Muslim world, that continues to harbor and host Al-Qaeda leaders, that continues to prevent the election of a Lebanese president through Hezbollah, which is identified by your government as a terrorist organization, that continues to kill the Syrian Arab people in league with Bashar Assad?

No, Mr. Obama. We are not the “free riders” that to whom you refer. We lead from the front and we accept our mistakes and rectify them. We will continue to hold the American people as our ally and don’t forget that when the chips were down, and George Herbert Walker Bush sent American soldiers to repel with our troops Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait, soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with soldiers. Mr. Obama, that is who we are."

According to the BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner, Obama's criticism of the Saudis was "an extraordinary thing to say ... the Saudis are really stung by this, and the fact that it's Turki al-Faisal saying this needs to be taken seriously."

The BBC reporters have always been fawning idolaters of Obama, and the easiest way to see this is to look back at the BBC's attitudes towards President George Bush -- BBC reporters openly ridiculing Bush with jokes to make him appear dumb, and even Tony Blair blasting the BBC's anti-Americanism. The contrast between the vitriolicly hateful BBC then and the breathless adoration of Obama today is enormous.

So Gardner chose his words very carefully when he was asked on the BBC World News why Obama had made such a remarkable criticism of the Saudis (my transcription):

"Well, President Obama wants his Middle East legacy to be that he's the guy that made peace with Iran, and brought Iran in from the cold, and in a Middle East context, it's sort of like Nixon reaching out to China. And he sees Saudis as being the stumbling block in this. He's pretty fed up and feels that they are being obstinate. He just wants to put the Saudis and the Iranians in a room and say, guys, make peace, end your rivalry. And that isn't going to happen, because if you look at the map -- Saudi Arabia feels as I mentioned they feel pretty much surrounded actually. If you look at the map, there's Hezbollah, which is the Iranian proxy in Lebanon, and they're also present in Syria, and that's a war where you've got Shia militia loyal to Iran in Iraq, so the Saudi fear is that Iran effectively controls five capitals in the Middle East."

Just to be clear, the five capitals that Gardner refers to are Tehran Iran, Baghdad Iraq, Damascus Syria, Beirut Lebanon, and Sanaa Yemen. The Saudis are surrounded on all sides by Iranian proxies, a concept to which Obama appears to be oblivious.

This is what I mean when I say that President Obama came into office having no clue what's going on in the world, and after seven years still has no clue what's going on in the world. It's almost as if pieces of his mind are missing. He blames the Israeli leadership for preventing him from solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, apparently not even aware that Hamas and Hezbollah are building tunnels and amassing rockets to attack Israel, and he blames the Saudis because the Saudis and Iranians don't get along. It simply boggles the mind that he has no grasp of these things.

Just to be clear for new readers, I wrote in May 2003 in "Mideast Roadmap - Will it bring peace?" that it would never work, because Generational Dynamics predicts that Arabs and Jews would be refighting the 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. I said that President Bush's peace plan would fail, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that I'm pointing out that President Obama's peace plan is failing. However, you would think that twelve years later, after multiple Mideast wars between Israel and Hamas, Israel and Hezbollah, and Fatah and Hamas, that Obama would begin to understand these things, but he's totally oblivious to them. The Atlantic and Arab News and NBC News

The World View of President Barack Hussein Obama

The 22,000 word Atlantic article was apparently originally intended to be more idolatrous praise of President Obama's foreign policy views, but it turned out to unintentionally expose a great deal of ignorance, balanced by arrogance and contemptuousness.

I'll take one of the most important examples, the flip-flop about striking Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime when he killed hundreds of people with Sarin gas, after Obama had said the use of chemical weapons were a "red line" that would demand a response.

Obama says that the American experience in Vietnam influenced him: "So we dropped more ordnance on Cambodia and Laos than on Europe in World War II, and yet, ultimately, Nixon withdrew, Kissinger went to Paris, and all we left behind was chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments that finally, over time, have emerged from that hell."

The story has been told many times. Obama took a walk around the White House lawn, and during the walk he decided to renege on his commitment. He says:

"I'm very proud of this moment. ... The perception was that my credibility was at stake, that America's credibility was at stake. And so for me to press the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically."

So President Obama was mainly worried about politics. But credibility was more than a perception. America's credibility WAS at stake. But the decision to fight in Vietnam left behind "chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments," but it never even occurs to him that his flip-flop on chemical weapons ALSO caused "chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments." The loss of American credibility emboldened the jihadists that were coming from all over the world to fight against al-Assad, and those jihadists formed the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). But it never occurs to him that it was his flip-flopping, and loss of American credibility, that was a major contributor to the formation of ISIS.

Instead, he blames it on the French, the British, and the Saudis, saying: "Free riders aggravate me." It's now been three years since the flip-flop occurred, and Obama apparently has no idea what happened.

Here are some other comments on the Atlantic article.

For CNN, Frida Ghitis wrote a generally laudatory article on Obama's policies, but wrote:

"Syria is a total catastrophe, with nearly half a million dead, millions more displaced, the region destabilized, refugee flows at levels not seen since World War II and a terrorist group continuously surpassing its own level of brutality. No, if Obama wants to talk about his accomplishments, he should steer clear of Syria. ...

Obama clearly thinks highly of himself, as he should. ... In a telling anecdote, Obama is sitting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is lecturing him about the Middle East. He interrupts him to say, "I'm the African-American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don't understand what you're talking about, but I do."

Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson wrote a lengthy point by point critical analysis of the Obama doctrine in the Atlantic, beginning with this:

"It is a criticism I have heard from more than one person who has worked with President Obama: that he regards himself as the smartest person in the room -- any room. Jeffrey Goldberg’s fascinating article reveals that this is a considerable understatement. The president seems to think he is the smartest person in the world, perhaps ever.

Power corrupts in subtle ways. It appears to have made Obama arrogant. As described in Goldberg’s story, he is impatient to the point of rudeness with members of his own administration. His response to Secretary of State John Kerry when he hands him a paper on Syria is: “Oh, another proposal?” “Samantha, enough,” he snaps at [Samantha Powers], the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “I’ve already read your book.” We learn, too, that he “secretly disdains ... the Washington foreign-policy establishment.”"

Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute writes:

"The Obama that emerges from the Atlantic interview is preternaturally icy, contemptuous of both his adversaries and his own staff, thin-skinned, angry, and oddly self-satisfied. That character portrait aside, it would have been nice if the article had shed light on the worldview that governs Obama’s decisions. Rather, it illuminated the fact that he doesn’t have a worldview. Instead, the president of the United States has opinions, and lots of them. And people he really doesn’t like, and lots of them. And countries he thinks don’t count, like those that make up the Sunni Middle East. ...

And seven years into his presidency, Obama clearly also still defines himself as the anti-George W. Bush. One thread that emerges in this portrait of the president is that seven years in, when confronted with a challenge, he still silently asks himself, “What would Bush do?” — and then does the opposite."

As I've written many times, I was fooled by Obama. When Obama was campaigning in 2008 and said incredibly stupid things ("the earth will heal and the tides will recede"), I assumed that those were just silly campaign promises, and that if he won the election he'd become more sensible. But what I didn't fully understand is that, as is the case of many Gen-Xers, his hatred of Boomers and his father's generation is so deep that it trumps everything else, which has led to one major foreign policy disaster after another. To this day, Obama has no idea what's going on in the world, except that Bush is at fault. Prince Faisal's remarks suggest as much.

Obama was going to unify the nation and make the world love America again. He's failed disastrously, because somebody who is so driven by hatred is going to make one stupid decision after another, and allow campaign promises to become irrelevant. This is something that you should think about, Dear Reader, as you decide whom to support for President. The Atlantic and CNN and American Enterprise Institute

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Mar-16 World View -- Saudi's Prince Faisal sharply rebukes Obama's 'free riders' accusation thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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14-Mar-16 World View -- Yet another terrorist bombing in Ankara Turkey kills 34

AQIM takes credit for armed terror attack on Ivory Coast beach resort

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yet another terrorist bombing in Ankara Turkey kills 34


Footage from central Ankara just before and just after the bomb went off
Footage from central Ankara just before and just after the bomb went off

A suicide car bomb exploded in central Ankara in Turkey on Sunday, killing at least 34 people and wounding 125.

Turkey has been reeling from a series of suicide bombing attacks in the last five months. On February 17, 29 were killed in a car bombing targeting the Turkish military in Ankara. A branch of the Kurdish separatist terror party, PKK, took credit. On January 12, a suicide attack blamed on the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) killed eleven German tourists in Istanbul. On October 10, 103 people were killed in twin suicide bombings targeting a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara.

After a massive terror attack in July of last year in the town of Suruç on the border with Syria, Turkey declared war on PKK, ending a ceasefire agreement that had been in effect since 2012. Turkish troops began attacking PKK strongholds in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to defeat the PKK. Now, after several further massive terror attacks on an almost monthly basis, Erdogan is becoming increasingly belligerent.

Two weeks ago, Turkey shut down the main opposition newspaper. ( "6-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey's 'shameful day for free press' as government seizes Zaman media")

That act obviously did nothing to prevent Sunday's terror attack on central Ankara, although it does make it more difficult anyone to know what's going on in Turkey. That was all the more clear on Sunday when the government shut down access to social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

Either the PKK or ISIS is the likely perpetrator. Nobody has claimed credit yet for Sunday's attack, but Turkish officials are suggesting that the bomb was similar to the bomb used in the February 17 attack, for which a branch of the PKK claimed credit. Erdogan issued this statement:

"Our state will never give up its right to self-defense against all kinds of terror threats.

Terror organizations and their pawns are targeting our innocent citizens in the most immoral and heartless way as they lose the fight against our security forces.

Terror attacks - which intend to target the integrity of Turkey, unity and solidarity of our people - do not diminish our will to fight against terror, but further boost it.

[The country's fight against terrorism will] successfully conclude by bringing down terror to its heel."

I doubt that anyone seriously believes that. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Anadolu (Turkey) and Reuters

AQIM takes credit for armed terror attack on Ivory Coast beach resort

Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African branch of al-Qaeda, claimed credit for an attack by armed gunmen at a beach resort in the town of Grand-Bassam in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on Sunday. There were 14 civilians, two special forces, and six assailants killed in the assault and subsequent gunfight when security forces arrived.

Tourists are increasingly under attack by jihadists in Africa. ISIS was responsible for several terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year. AQIM, whose roots are in Algeria, has been focusing on tourist sites in former French colonies. It attacked a hotel in Mali in November, and then a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso in January. Côte d'Ivoire borders both of those countries, and it was feared that AQIM would strike there next, as happened on Sunday.

AQIM had been slowing down its activities until recent months. The escalation of AQIM's operations coincides with the rise of ISIS in Libya, and it's thought that AQIM and ISIS are in competition. CNN and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Mar-16 World View -- Yet another terrorist bombing in Ankara Turkey kills 34 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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13-Mar-16 World View -- Despite rapid growth of ISIS in Libya, West cannot agree on a strategy

Google's AlphaGo computer defeats world champion at game of Go

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Google's AlphaGo computer defeats world champion at game of Go


Final position after black (Lee Se-dol) resigned, and white (AlphaGo) won
Final position after black (Lee Se-dol) resigned, and white (AlphaGo) won

World Go champion Lee Se-dol was forced to resign the third game of a five-game match against Google's AlphaGo computer and software in Seoul on Saturday, handing the victory for the whole match to the computer. As I wrote several weeks ago, this victory by a computer at the game of Go is a significant step on the road to the Singularity, the point in time where computers become more intelligent than humans, with an uncertain future for humanity. ( "28-Jan-16 World View -- China's game of Go beaten by Google's AI software, bringing the Singularity closer")

The reason that this is a very big deal is because artificial intelligence (AI) experts had not expected to reach this milestone for another ten years. This means that those researchers that had estimated that the Singularity would not occur until 2040 or 2050 now have to recalibrate their timelines. My own estimate of 2030, which I originally published in 2005, still stands, and increasingly appears to be the best estimate.

World Go champion Lee Se-dol apologized for losing to the computer, and responded to questions about whether computers are already smarter than humans:

"I don’t know how to start or what to say today, but I think I would have to express my apologies first. I should have shown a better result, a better outcome, and better content in terms of the game played, and I do apologize for not being able to satisfy a lot of people’s expectations. I kind of felt powerless. If I look back on the three games, the first one, even if I were to go back and redo the first game, I think that I would not have been able to win, because I at that time misjudged the capabilities of AlphaGo. The second game, I think, would have been the make or break.

If you look at the beginning of the second game, the game did flow the way that I have intended, and there were a [number of opportunities] which I admittedly missed. Looking at the third match, yes, I do have extensive experience in terms of playing the game of Go, but there was never a case as this as such that I felt this amount of pressure. So I was incapable of overcoming the amount of pressure that I was experiencing.

And lastly, since I lost the third match, there is now a clear winner. However, when it comes to human beings, there is a psychological aspect that one has to also think about. So as I play the fourth and fifth match, I do ask that you continue to show interest and follow what happens. ...

I do apologize for not being able to satisfy people's expectations. Lee Se-dol is the one who lost today, not humanity."

If Lee were able to win at least one of the two remaining games, then it would be significant because it would show that computers still have plenty of room for improvement.

However, even if Lee won both of the two remaining games, it would still be a Pyrrhic victory. Computers have been doubling in power every 18 months or so, and will continue to do so. Software engineers will continue to take advantage of this computer power to write more and more sophisticated brute force algorithms and solve larger and larger pieces of human intelligence, until finally all of human intelligence can be surpassed. Korea Times and Venture Beat and The Verge

Despite rapid growth of ISIS in Libya, West cannot agree on a strategy

Any thought of a Western military action to destroy the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), as has been in the planning stages for several months, has been put on indefinite hold because the two governments in Libya are unable to form a single "unity government," or Government of National Accord (GNA), that would approve the intervention.

This is despite the fact that there are now 5,000 ISIS fighters in Libya, according to Italy's foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni:

"According to our analyses, there are today around 5,000 Daesh fighters in Libya.

They are concentrated particularly in the area of (the city of) Sirte but from there they have the capacity to carry out dangerous incursions (into neighboring states)."

These remarks followed a terrorist attack on Monday on an army barracks and police and national guard posts Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane on the border with Libya. Tunisia is blaming ISIS for the attack, and says that their security forces have killed 43 suspected jihadists since the attack.

According to a United Nations report, the political and security vacuum in Libya is being exploited by ISIS, which has "significantly expanded" the territory it controls. While ISIS has not been able to exploit oil installations in Libya for revenue, many young jihadists from around the world who had been going to Syria to fight are now going to Libya for training in terrorist skills.

Some analysts have advocated, in lieu of a Western military intervention, supplying weapons to non-ISIS militias in Libya that are fighting ISIS. According to one analyst:

"In Libya there are many such forces who oppose ISIS, but these forces and a coalition of convenience can be made, and the Libyan nation can be rebuilt by bringing together these main fighting forces to work together against ISIS."

However, Ibrahim Al Dabashi, Libyan Ambassador to the UN, opposes such a plan:

"I would like to warn against any attempt to bolster the capabilities of Libyan militias based on the assumption that, if equipped, they will fight ISIS in Sirte. ... Such an attempt would [would only lead to] more complications of the Libyan crisis."

The fear is that once the military intervention ended, ISIS could quickly regain control in Sirte, and the militias that had been fighting ISIS would use the weapons to fight each other.

The West's last military intervention in Libya is being widely described today as a disaster. This is the nature of politics. But at the time of the 2011 intervention, a major refugee crisis had already begun in Tunisia and Libya, with hundreds of thousands of people pouring into neighboring countries, and thousands crossing the Mediterranean to Italy. It was this refugee crisis that caused Libyans to demand a no-fly zone, and for the Arab League to do the same, after which the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing a no-fly zone, which turned into the 2011 military intervention. ( "5-Mar-16 World View -- A look back at Libya in 2011 as the West debates another military intervention")

Nobody seems to doubt that ISIS is rapidly getting stronger in Libya, and no analyst that I've seen claims that doing nothing will lead anywhere except to a crisis. But after the 2011 experience, the West is paralyzed. It seems fairly likely that a military intervention will be taken at some point, but only when the crisis becomes so great that it's a full scale emergency, and intervention cannot be avoided. UN Security Council and AFP and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Mar-16 World View -- Despite rapid growth of ISIS in Libya, West cannot agree on a strategy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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12-Mar-16 World View -- Arab League brands Lebanon's Hezbollah a terrorist organization

U.S. blames Iran for cyber attack on a New York dam

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Arab League brands Lebanon's Hezbollah a terrorist organization


Arab League meeting on January 10 (AP)
Arab League meeting on January 10 (AP)

Sectarian tensions in the Mideast took another surge on Friday, when the Arab League in Cairo declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. As we recently reported, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) made the same declaration last week. The GCC is an organization of Arab nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)) on the Arabian Gulf. Friday's decision extends the designation to the Arab League, with 22 members, reaching as far as Morocco and Algeria in northwest Africa.

The Arab League decision was not unanimous, according to a statement issued after the meeting, which said that Lebanon and Iraq had "expressed reservations."

The objections were much stronger than mere reservations. Lebanon, of course, Sunni and Shia power centers, the latter represented by Hezbollah, with large militias well-funded by Iran. And Iraq's government is also well-funded by Iran, and is heavily engaged in a war with the country's Sunni majority, including the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

In fact, the Saudi delegation stormed out of the Arab League meeting when Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari praised Hezbollah, along with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces (PMF):

"PMF and Hezbollah preserved the dignity of the Arabs and whoever accuses them of terrorism they are themselves terrorists."

Syria would undoubtedly have also opposed the Arab League declaration, but Syria was expelled from the League in November 2011.

It had been reported several days ago that Morocco and Algeria didn't support the GCC decision, but there was no indication that they opposed Friday's Arab League decisions.

The GCC and Arab League declarations firmly polarize the entire Mideast along sectarian lives. For years, the Arab world was largely unified on most issues, especially in support of the Palestinians against Israel. But that's no longer true, with the Sunni Arab world is firmly aligned with Saudi Arabia, leaving most of the Shia Arab world aligned with Iran.

Even in the years since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began, there have been political differences, but the Arabs were able to paper them over, or kept secret. Israel's 67 day war with Hamas in Gaza in 2014 caused a temporary breach in Arab relations, but those differences were largely resolved.

But now the Arab world is clearly coming apart along sectarian lines, especially after two events in the last year that have substantially destabilized the entire Mideast. One is Iran's nuclear deal with the West, which is widely regarded in Saudi Arabia as America and the West siding with Iran against the Saudis. And the second was Russia's military intervention in Syria, reinforcing Bashar al-Assad genocidal extermination of Sunnis, and reviving memories of Russia's war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The storming and firebombing of the Saudi embassy in Tehran in early January, causing Saudi Arabia and several Arab countries to terminate relations with Iran, indicates that a point of no return has pretty much been reached.

After the Arab League meeting, Saudi's ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Kattan said that the Gulf states would be taking further measures against Hezbollah:

"We will deal with Hezbollah as we deal with any terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have begun preparing measures it will take against that terrorist party and they will be announced at the right time."

According to reports, the Obama administration has been warning Saudi Arabia not to "overreact" in Lebanon, and risk destabilizing the country. However, after the Obama administration has treated the Saudis largely with contempt for most of the past seven years, it's unlikely that they'll pay any attention.

There are a lot of people who think that somebody is going to wave a magic wand and things will return to the "normal" of ten years ago, but in this generational Crisis era, that's not going to happen. AP and Reuters and Al Manar (Lebanon/Hezbollah)

U.S. blames Iran for cyber attack on a New York dam

A probe by the Justice Department has determined that Iran was responsible for a 2013 cyberattack on the Bowman Avenue Dam, a small structure in Rye Brook, about 20 miles north of New York City. The dam is used for flood control. An indictment is expected in the next few weeks. It wasn’t clear whether the indictment would charge specific people within the Iranian government, or Iran itself.

Reports conflict as to whether the hackers accessed the control system, or only back office systems that are not part of the operational systems of the dam. CNN and AP and Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Mar-16 World View -- Arab League brands Lebanon's Hezbollah a terrorist organization thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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11-Mar-16 World View -- In desperation move, European Central Bank further lowers negative interest rates

North Korea liquidates all commercial projects with South Korea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

North Korea liquidates all commercial projects with South Korea


Cruise ship prepares to dock at the port in the Kumgang Mountain Resort in North Korea (AFP)
Cruise ship prepares to dock at the port in the Kumgang Mountain Resort in North Korea (AFP)

North Korea says it will liquidate all South Korean assets in joint projects that have served over the years the dual purpose of, first, providing foreign currency to North Korea, and second, providing "hope" that the two countries wouldn't restart the 1950s Korean War between the North and the South, which official is still ongoing but ended in an armistice (armed truce) in 1953.

This announcement came after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. In a hard-hitting response, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he was "gravely concerned," and he called on North Korea to "cease destabilizing acts."

North Korea tested a nuclear weapon on January 6, an act condemned by the US, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United Nations. ( "9-Jan-16 World View -- China-North Korea tensions high after nuclear test")

Following the nuclear test, the United States, South Korea and China have all agreed to impose sanctions on North Korea. These have particularly required that all goods sent from other countries to North Korea be subject to inspection -- a requirement that even China has been complying with.

North Korea has responded with almost daily threats of war, including the threat to destroy South Korean capital city Seoul, and has fired short-range ballistic missiles into the ocean several times.

Thursday's announcement marks further deterioration in the relationship of the North and South. The North Koreans have announced that all economic agreements between North and South will now be invalid, and that South Korean assets in the North will be liquidated.

The principal effect will be to the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is a major source of foreign exchange to North Korea.

Kaesong Industrial Complex was built in North Korea in 2004 as a joint venture between the North and South, and was considered a symbol of peaceful cooperation, with over 100 South Korean companies working there, employing some 53,000 North Korean workers. In April 2013, The North Koreans suddenly withdrew their workers from the project, effectively shutting the complex down. Kaesong was a major source of hard currency for the North Koreans, tens of millions of dollars per year, so it wasn't surprising that the complex reopened in September of that year. After international sanctions were imposed in January following the nuclear test, North Korea announced that it was limiting entry to the Kaesong complex, once again shutting it down. According to Thursday's announcement all the South Korean assets will be seized and liquidated, representing several hundred million dollars worth of investment by South Korean companies.

Also affected is the Mount Kumgang resort, another joint project, a mountain resort set up mainly for South Korean tourists to visit the North. It's been closed since 2008, but was occasionally used for reunions of families that were split by the 1950s war. Thursday's announcement effectively brings an end to all economic cooperation between the two Koreas, and any hope of further family reunions.

It's hard to know what to make of all this. North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un is a total loon who has practiced this kind of brinksmanship before with no serious consequences. Still, in this generational Crisis era, it's quite possible that Kim and his advisors might fantasize that if they start a war, then they'll end up governing both the North and South. Unfortunately, this kind of insanity is not uncommon throughout history, and always leads to disaster. Reuters and AP (20-Oct-2015)

In desperation move, European Central Bank further lowers negative interest rates

The European Central Bank (ECB), facing a continuing deflationary spiral that it hasn't been continually unable to control, announced what is being described as a "bazooka," an attempt to flood the banking system with huge new amounts of "printed" money, in an attempt to reverse the deflationary spiral, and raise the inflation rate to the target rate of 2%.

According to the ECB, the 2016 inflation rate is now forecast for 0.1%, versus a previous forecast of 1%. The inflation rate was -0.2% in February 2016, compared with 0.3% in January.

ECB President Mario Draghi on Thursday made several dramatic announcements. One set of announcement had to do with lowering interest rates:

Lower interest rates usually target only banks, so there was another set of announcements having to do with quantitative easing (QE). QE targets other institutions besides banks, by purchasing bonds issued by those entities, so that the entities can use the money for hiring or purchases or investment or construction. Draghi's announcements were:

There were also announcements of targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO II), and expanded versions of previous targeted operations.

According to Draghi:

"While very low or even negative inflation rates are unavoidable over the next few months, as a result of movements in oil prices, it is crucial to avoid second-round effects by securing the return of inflation to levels below, but close to, 2% without undue delay. ...

The risks to the euro area growth outlook remain tilted to the downside. They relate in particular to the heightened uncertainties regarding developments in the global economy, as well as to broader geopolitical risks."

A typical analyst quote I heard was, "Draghi must think that the economy is in very serious trouble to have made this announcement."

In "normal" times, the ECB might announce a change in one interest rate or one QE policy. The fact that Draghi announced reductions in its three key interest rates PLUS an expansion of the quantitative easing program PLUS the inclusion of corporate bonds in the QE program was view as a move of desperation. And indeed, with the euro in a continuing deflationary spiral, the desperation may well be justified. Market Watch and Reuters and Business Insider

ECB tries to target the velocity of money


Velocity of money, 1920 to present (St. Louis Fed Fred Graph #282038)
Velocity of money, 1920 to present (St. Louis Fed Fred Graph #282038)

Most people, including most economists, believe that the inflation rate is determined solely by the amount of money in circulation. But in fact the inflation rate is determined by two factors -- the amount of money in circulation and the velocity of money. You can google "velocity of money" for a full explanation, but it represents how frequently money is actually used to buy things or pay wages.

If a bank lends out a billion dollars, and people just store that money in their matresses or bank accounts, then there won't be any inflation. Money has to be used and reused to generate inflation.

The amount of money in circulation is determined by the central bank. The velocity of money depends on the moods and behaviors of the entire population, and in fact it's a generational variable, in that it varies predictably with the generational cycle.

The above graph shows that the velocity of money has plummeted three times in the last century: During the Great Depression of the 1930s, following World War II in the 1940s, and during the financial crisis of the 2000s.

Thursday's "bazooka" ECB announcement is attempting to change history by pouring so many trillions of euros into the economy that the liquidity will somehow overcome the generational trend in the velocity of money. But it's hard to see how that will change the behaviors and moods of entire generations of people. It's just as likely that people will see the ECB as panicking, and become even more reluctant to spend what little money they have.

Indeed, last week the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) issued a warning that negative interest rates will suffer from the law of diminishing returns, and reach a "tipping point" where they're no longer effective. Many analysts are alarmed by the use of negative interests rates because banks and other financial institutions depend on higher interest rates to make money. Thus lower interest rates undercut the entire business model of financial institutions and introduce instability into the banking systems. There have already been signs of a selloff in bank stocks.

Negative interest rates have been set in central banks in Denmark, the eurozone, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. These moves have had the effect of weakening these currencies internationally, making these countries more competitive internationally, and at the same time strengthening the US dollar, making the US less competitive. There is some fear that the world is on the verge of a "currency war," where a currency devaluation by one country is countered by currency devaluations in other countries, in a tit-for-tat downward spiral.

One thing is certain: The velocity of money has continued to plummet, and there are no signs that this trend will be reversed. As I've been writing for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the world is headed for a global financial crisis and stock market panic and crash. Thursday's ECB announcement pushes the financial system one step closer in that direction. Sydney Morning Herald and CNBC and Bank of International Settlements (BIS)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Mar-16 World View -- In desperation move, European Central Bank further lowers negative interest rates thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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10-Mar-16 World View -- Hackers steal thousands of employee W-2 tax documents from Seagate Inc.

Deep Saudi-Lebanon crisis widens the Mideast's sectarian fault line

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Deep Saudi-Lebanon crisis widens the Mideast's sectarian fault line


Hezbollah supporters in south Lebanon carry Hezbollah and Lebanese flags (Reuters)
Hezbollah supporters in south Lebanon carry Hezbollah and Lebanese flags (Reuters)

On Monday, an official delegation from Lebanon was denied a visa to travel to the Saudi Arabia's ally United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid reports that Saudi Arabian Airlines has ordered a stop in ticket sales to Lebanon.

This is only the latest in a string of increasingly bitter blows to the relationship between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it was cutting $4 billion in aid to the Lebanese army and security forces, a decision that could severely cripple Lebanon's economy at a time when it's already reeling from having to host millions of Syrian refugees, to the point where there is one refugee for every 3 or 4 Lebanese.

The heart of the Saudi dispute with Lebanon is Hezbollah, which is recognized as a Shia terrorist group by the West, funded and supported by Iran and committed to the destruction of Israel, but is also a powerful political force in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Lebanon got along well for years, as long they could agree that Israel was the bad guy. But things started deteriorating in 2011 when Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad started attacking innocent Sunni protesters as if they were cockroaches to be exterminated, and and Hezbollah's militias began fighting in Syria in support of al-Assad's army.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia's relationship with Iran has also been deteriorating rapidly. Iran's nuclear deal with the west, which removed sanctions and freed billions of dollars to be returned to Iran, has infuriated the Saudis, who believe that Iran will use the money to provide further funding to Hezbollah and to fund Saudi Arabia's Houthi enemies in Yemen. Undoubtedly, the new availability of this money to Iran is one of the motivations for ending aid to Lebanon, since presumably Iran will be forced to use some of the freed sanction money to replace the missing Saudi aid money.

In January, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people who had been convicted of terrorism -- 46 alleged Sunni terrorists and one alleged Shia terrorist, Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, a cleric well respected in Iran. The execution triggered mass Shia protests throughout the Mideast and even in Shia communities in India and Pakistan, and the firebombing of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran, and several other Arab countries followed, but Lebanon refused to do so, further infuriating the Saudis.

Then last Wednesday, the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of six Arabian Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia, formally declared Lebanon-based group Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, and began to take steps to blacklist Lebanon, including asking tourists not to visit Lebanon. However, two Sunni Arab states, Algeria and Tunisia, opposed the blacklisting.

The situation has become extremely alarming. With the unprecedented deterioration in the ties between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, Lebanon's prime minister Tammam Salam took the extraordinary step of asking Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah to stop making verbal attacks on the Saudis:

"Hezbollah played a role in resisting Israel before going abroad and interfering in the affairs of other countries [referring to Syria]. I call on Sayyed Nasrallah to stop attacking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ...

I tell the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, that the historic ties between us and them will continue and will remain strong and we are exerting efforts to consolidate them.

We admit that a mistake has happened and has strained the relation between us and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries [referring to the refusal of Lebanon to condemn Iran's firebombing of the Saudi embassy in Tehran]. We have not been successful in implementing the dissociation policy in a proper manner. ,,,

The current government cannot compel any group to do anything and consensus must govern all issues. ...

We will not allow Lebanon's collapse and I don't think that the GCC states do not want the presence of a government in Lebanon although they have the right to address remarks to us.

We cannot unravel the relation we have now in the cabinet [referring to Hezbollah's presence in the cabinet] because that would subject Lebanon to collapse."

The relationship is becoming increasingly toxic. In recent days, Arab coalition spokesman Ahmad Al-Asiri wrote on his Facebook page:

"[Saudi Arabia] respects Lebanon's sovereignty over its territory, but if the need arises, we will target any organization that poses a direct threat to Arab national security, while coordinating [our actions] with the countries in which these organizations are located."

As we've been saying since 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major regional war between Arabs and Jews, between Sunnis and Shias, and between various ethnic groups. It seems now that every week brings this prediction a major step closer. Memri and Al Bawaba (Palestine) and Naharnet (Lebanon)

Hackers steal thousands of employee W-2 tax documents from Seagate Inc.

Seagate Inc. has confirmed that the W-2 tax documents of several thousand current and former employees of the company ended up in the hands of fraudsters after an employee fell victim to a phishing attack.

I read stories like this almost every day. Hackers get into company databases and steal trade secrets or customer credit card information. It could be any kind of information that could be traded for money. I decided to write about this one because I thought that the angle of acquiring W-2 tax form information was interesting.

What almost all of these kinds of hacker attacks have in common is that they begin with a "phishing" or "spear phishing" attack. If you're not familiar with these terms, you really should be.

A phishing attack is less a computer attack than a human on human attack, with the objective of getting you to click on something dangerous. A phishing attack is straightforward: The attacker sends out a million e-mail messages promising money or sex or a wrinkle free face or a cure for cancer or a Hawaiian vacation or reverse brain aging, and all you have to do is click on this link. (I read that list off some of the most recent messages in my spam folder.)

A spear phishing attack is far more sophisticated. The attacker spends several days gathering information about you personally by searching through the internet. They'll check your Facebook page and everything else they can find, to collect a portfolio of information about you. They'll know who you are, they'll know your family, your boss, your coworkers and your job. They'll use that information to carefully craft an e-mail message designed to trick you into thinking it's a real message. "Frank, download the attached report, check it over, and send it to Marty for approval. Thanks." If you're fooled, then the attack has succeeded.

That's the first part of the attack. Once you've clicked on the malicious link, then any of several things can happen:

According to the statement by Seagate:

"The information was sent by an employee who believed the phishing email was a legitimate internal company request. When we learned of the incident, we immediately notified the IRS which is now actively investigating it along with federal law enforcement. At this point we have no information to suggest that employee data has been misused, but caution and vigilance are in order. We deeply regret this mistake and we offer our sincerest apologies to everyone affected."

Since the breach only came to light on March 1, it's likely that the hackers haven't had time yet to do much with the information from thousands of W-2 tax forms. The hackers could sell it to other hackers, who could then use it for identity theft.

Seagate claims it’s in the process of making changes to prevent future incidents. Haha, this is funny. In the recent past, I advised a company to encrypt the social security numbers in their database, and told them how to do it easily, so that if the data is stolen, it would be useless to a hacker. But the harsh reality is that protecting social security numbers doesn't generate any new sales, so most companies ignore all warnings until the data is stolen. Then the company puts out a statement saying that they're in the process of making changes to prevent future incidents. Haha.

As I said, I read stories like this all the time, and those are only a small fraction of the actual corporate breaches, since most companies keep the breach from the press. I know that nobody's going to pay attention to this, but I'll write it anyway: If you have responsibility for a corporate database containing such things as names, addresses, social security numbers, medical information, and so forth, then put other things on hold and immediately launch a project to encrypt each critical data element, even it means losing a few sales. Haha. Security Week and Ars Technica

Bangladesh bank says hackers stole $100M from its New York Fed account

The Bangladesh Central Bank blamed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for a lack of security that made it easy for the unidentified hackers to steal $100 million from its bank account. The money has been traced as far as a casino in the Philippines, before most of it disappeared. New York Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Mar-16 World View -- Hackers steal thousands of employee W-2 tax documents from Seagate Inc. thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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9-Mar-16 World View -- Bizarre EU-Turkey one-for-one refugee deal meets strong opposition

Europe faces two additional major crises: Grexit and Brexit

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bizarre EU-Turkey one-for-one refugee deal meets strong opposition


Gleeful European and Turkish leaders at Brussels meeting (Reuters)
Gleeful European and Turkish leaders at Brussels meeting (Reuters)

Leaders from the European Union and Turkey met long into the night at the Brussels summit on Monday night, but failed to reach any agreement because Turkey and Hungary played hardball, as we reported yesterday.

And yet, they declared victory with a "breakthrough agreement" that would bring the "irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkan route ... to an end."

Apparently, the person who really wanted to be able to announce this "breakthrough" was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, because she is facing three key regional elections this weekend, with polls predicting huge gains for the anti-immigrant AfD party. So she needed a victory on the migration issue. For that reason the "breakthrough" deal is only an outline, and supposedly the details will be worked out in a new Brussels summit meeting on March 17-18. If it collapses at that time, the election will be in the past.

Having a negotiating advantage, Turkey on Monday demanded 6 billion euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, visa-free travel in Europe for Turkish citizens starting in June, and a speed-up of the accession talks for Turkey to become a member of the European Union.

However, Turkey's arch-enemy Greek Cyprus is firmly opposing the speedup of the accession talks. And several EU countries are said to oppose paying any more money to Turkey.

But the big headline-grabbing part of the breakthrough deal was the bizarre one-for-one refugee swap agreement.

Under the plan, all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey would be be sent back to Turkey, where they would be put into a refugee camp. Then, an equal number of Syrian refugees in Turkish refugee camps would be put on a plane to be distributed to EU countries.

Last year, almost a million migrants reached the EU. So, for example, if 5,000 migrants from Turkey arrive in Greece one day, then then security forces would gather them up, and force them onto boats to be sent back to Turkey. What could possibly go wrong with that??

And then 5,000 migrants from Turkey would be piled onto planes to be distributed to EU countries. But Britain won't take them. Hungary and the East European countries won't take them. Opposition has been building in Germany to admitting more migrants.

At any rate, the reason given why this is a "breakthrough" plan is that it will eliminate incentives for migrants to come to Greece by boat.

According to Iverna McGowan, Amnesty International:

"EU and Turkish leaders have sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world's most vulnerable people."

Vincent Cochetel, United Nations Refugee Agency, says:

"An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law."

This breakthrough deal was born of desperation, the fear that the EU is facing an existential crisis because there's no way to get control of the refugee crisis. Hurriyet (Ankara) and BBC and EurActiv and BBC

Europe faces two additional major crises: Grexit and Brexit

The refugee situation isn't the European Union's only existential crisis. The EU is also facing two other major crises: Grexit and Brexit.

"Grexit" refers to the proposal for Greece to exit the euro currency.

As I've been writing for years, the Greece financial crisis has no solution, and all the numerous bailouts have done is "kick the can down the road." The time is now approaching for a new bailout payment crisis. Greece has to pay 3.8 billion euros in debt servicing between March and June. That money isn't readily available, but the Greek government can do what it's done in the past -- confiscate money from banks and take other emergency measures to meet those payments.

But there's another 2.8 billion euro payment due in July, and there's no way that the Greek government can make that payment without more bailout money. For that, it will need the next tranche of the bailout by its "troika" of lenders -- IMF, European Commission, ECB. Inspectors are already returning to Greece to verify that Greece has complied with previous austerity demands required to receive the next tranche. What they're going to find is that Greece has NOT met those requirements, especially with respect to pension payments, which Greece's government does not wish to curtail. Therefore, there's going to have to be a big negotiation with all the parties, and the IMF and Europe are feuding over who is going to bear most of the burden. That's why, once again, Grexit is on the table, and Greece may be forced to leave the euro currency and return to its historic drachma currency.

"Brexit" refers to the proposal for Britain to exit the European Union.

On Thursday, June 23, Britain will hold a referendum to decide whether Britain should remain in the European Union.

Many people are predicting that if Brexit occurs, it will be devastating for both economies -- the British and European. Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, says that "Brexit is biggest domestic risk to financial stability" for Britain." Others claim it will make no difference whatsoever.

People who support Brexit are usually motivated by the migrant issue, and it's not just the issue of migrants from Syria. Many Britons are equally opposed to allowing EU citizens from Poland and other eastern European countries to come to Britain.

Those who support Brexit believe that it will "solve" the migrant problem. Many of those who oppose Brexit claim that it will worsen the migrant problem, because France will no longer be obligated to slow the flow of migrants through Calais to Britain.

With these three major crises -- the refugee crisis, Grexit and Brexit -- we can use the "perfect storm" cliché to say that the European Union is going to have to fight hard in 2016 to stay in existence. Kathimerini and Reuters and Kathimerini and Guardian (London) and BBC and Mirror (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Mar-16 World View -- Bizarre EU-Turkey one-for-one refugee deal meets strong opposition thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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8-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey and Hungary play hardball at EU-Turkey refugee summit

With summer approaching, European politicians may be close to panic

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey and Hungary play hardball at EU-Turkey refugee summit


German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels, on Monday
German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels, on Monday

Monday's summit in Brussels between leaders of the European Union and Turkey ended in failure, after Turkey and Hungary played hardball, dashing the hopes and dreams of the desperate European leaders that Turkey would solve the refugee crisis for them.

Turkey started the ball rolling by making some additional demands:

The issue of EU aid to Turkey was already contentious because Turkey claimed that the three billion euros should have been paid four months ago. EU rejected the claim, saying that the money had been held up because Turkey had not fulfilled its own commitments under the agreement. Turkey justified its new demands for an additional three billion euros because there were many more Syrian refugees in Turkey, with many who are not in designated refugee camps.

The purpose of the one-for-one refugee swap plan was to provide a disincentive for people smugglers. Any Syrian who came to Europe illegally would be sent back to Turkey, while Syrians resettled in Europe would come from legal Turkish refugee camps.

Hungary vetoed the one-for-one refugee swap plan, because it would presumably mean that Syrians from Turkey who resettled in the EU would be distributed among the EU nations, including Hungary. However, how the resettled refugees would be distributed would be subject to negotiation, and Hungary might be able to opt out. Kathimerini and AP

With summer approaching, European politicians may be close to panic

Theoretically there shouldn't be a major problem. The EU has 500 million people so absorbing one or two million refugees really shouldn't be so hard. But the painful lessons of World War II, incorporated into the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which led to the creation of the European Union, are forgotten. In this generational Crisis era, xenophobia and nationalism are rampant in Europe and in many countries around the world, as they were before WW II.

So now the numbers, tiny compared to the size of the entire EU population, seem staggering:

As a result, discussions among European leaders are becoming increasingly toxic. Last week it got to the point where Greece withdrew its ambassador from Austria. Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico in turn warned Greece that if the country didn't move to secure its borders that, "there will be one single hotspot and it will be called Greece." Perhaps, he added, it may be necessary to sacrifice Greece for the sake of Europe's well-being.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has been taking the lead in attempting to set Europe's refugee policy. Last summer she announced that Germany would welcome refugees, but she's been widely condemned for making the refugee problem worse with that statement. Now she's changed her policy completely, to focus on getting an agreement with Turkey to stop the refugee exodus to Europe.

Merkel has opposed the policies of Austria and the Balkan states to close their borders, and she's been warning of the EU's disintegration "into small states" that will be unable to compete in a globalized world, as well as of the possibility that border controls might soon be reintroduced all across Europe. Merkel also wants to prevent Greece from drifting into chaos: "We did not keep Greece in the euro to abandon the country now."

The problem is that Europe's refugee crisis worsens significantly every day, and no one realistically has the vaguest idea how to fix it. BBC and Der Spiegel and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey and Hungary play hardball at EU-Turkey refugee summit thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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7-Mar-16 World View -- EU and Turkey summit in Brussels to discuss refugees, as number of women and children surges

Death of Nancy Reagan reminds us of generational differences

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Number of women and children refugees to Europe surges


Migrants block the railway track at the Greek-Macedonian border (Reuters)
Migrants block the railway track at the Greek-Macedonian border (Reuters)

In January, women and children made up 54% of the arrivals in Greece and Italy, while men made up 46%. Those figures are a significant reversal from just six months earlier, when women and children represented 26% and men 74%.

It's believed that this substantial surge in the number of female refugees is occurring because male refugees who were granted asylum in Europe last year are now telling their wives and families to follow and make the trip themselves. Unfortunately for them, things have changed drastically, borders along the "Balkan route" closed, and thousands of women and children now stranded in Greece on the border with Macedonia. Deutsche Welle

EU and Turkey meet in Brussels for major showdown over refugees

Expect tempers to flare on Monday when officials from EU countries and Turkey meet in Brussels for a summit meeting on the refugee crisis.

The EU Commission has already promised 700 million euros ($769 million) in emergency aid to Turkey. Whether that money will materialize remains to be seen.

With 2,000 migrants continuing to arrive in Greece from Turkey every day, Turkey clearly has by far the better negotiating position. Europe wants Turkey to prevent the vast majority of refugees within Turkey's borders from leaving for Greece. Whether it's even possible for Turkey to slow the flow of refugees, and whether they're will to do so are two questions that also remain to be answered.

The timing of the summit is bad because European officials are in shock over Turkey's shutdown of the country's major opposition newspaper, the largest newspaper in the country. ( "6-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey's 'shameful day for free press' as government seizes Zaman media") European Parliament President Martin Schultz has said the storming and closure of an anti-government newspaper show that "Turkey is in the process of gambling away the historic opportunity for rapprochement with Europe."

There may also be a confrontation at the summit between Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann. Merkel has accused Faymann and the Balkan countries of tipping the EU into crisis by closing their borders, and holds him jointly responsible for the chaos in Greece.

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras has also criticized Faymann for "ruining Europe." Tsipras also has high hopes for financial aid from Europe to provide for new refugee camps for 50,000 or more refugees. It also remains to be seen whether that money will be provided. Deutsche Welle and Kathimerini and BBC

Death of Nancy Reagan reminds us of generational differences

Coverage emphasizes how he was an American first, considering himself a true liberal. He famously had an excellent personal relationship with another Irishman, House Speaker Tip O'Neill, the most important Democrat of the time. Could we imagine President Obama having any remotely cordial relations today with any Republican?

In the 1980s, the Silent Generation, the generation of people who had grown up during the horrors of World War II were running the country. They remembered the bloody battles, massacres, rapes, genocides and atrocities that had occurred, and they remembered the nationalism and xenophobia that had brought them about, and they knew the important of America's role as Policeman of the World. They understood the importance of compromise, truthfulness, ethics and honesty.

In the 1980s, the Republicans and the Democrats cooperated with each other to change the Social Security system to make it a sounder system. After that, they cooperated again to specify new rules to control the budget deficit. Compromise was still possible in 1996, when Democratic President Bill Clinton, saying that "the era of big government is over," cooperated with the Republican congress to eliminate the welfare entitlement. But there isn't a single such issue on which compromise is possible today.

So everything they say about Nancy and Ronald Reagan's kindness, generosity and loving relationship were true, but it's also true that they were a product of their generation, the GI Generation, a generation that still understood how the world worked.

Things started changing around 2000 with the rise of Generation-X, reacting to the excesses of the Boomer generation that grew up after the war. While the Boomers passively accepted the values of the Silent generation, the Gen-Xers, and the Millennials in the generation that followed were openly contemptuous of those values, and considered people in the Silent and GI generations to be full of crap.

We've already had one major national disaster: Generation-Xers who became "financial engineers" in the 1990s, and used their skills to knowingly create trillions of dollars in phony synthetic securities, and knowingly defrauded investors, thinking they were screwing their fathers' generation. People were defrauded of trillions of dollars, causing millions of people to lose their homes and jobs and savings. And worse, President Obama and other Gen-Xers don't even seem to care about this, as not a single one of these criminals has been prosecuted, leaving them with their fraudulent winnings and able to defraud other people.

By contrast, President Bush #1 and President Clinton reacted to the Savings and Loan crisis by prosecuting thousands of bankers. President Bush #2 reacted to the Enron scandal by prosecuting several top managers. But President Obama has prosecuted nobody. Things have changed with the new generation of politicians. That's why, for ten years, I've been writing about the destructiveness and self-destructiveness of Generation-X, and the worst is yet to come.

According to Pepperdine Law Professor Linnea McCord, in her book The Wisdom of Ants:

"Over the past four decades, we have strayed far from the simple and clear ethical standards of the ... ethics-based American Rule of Law. We have forgotten (or never learned) that long-term prosperity, peace, stability, and security require ethical conduct. Unethical conduct leads to economic failure, political instability, social disharmony, and insecurity from internal and external threats. It's not complicated."

If you're in Generation-X and you hate the values of the Silent and GI generations, then you may wish to consider the fact that they weren't born with those values. What you don't understand is that your generational predecessors -- the Lost Generation before WW II and the Gilded Generation before the Civil War -- were exactly like you -- few morals or ethics, but willing to see anyone screwed. They learned bitter lessons in the wars that followed, and most didn't survive. So if you hate the Silent generation, then understand that they got that way because they and their parents were just like you and learned their lessons the hard way. If you're even still alive ten years from now, you'll be just like them.

On Sunday, analysts talking about Nancy Reagan's death wondered why the political climate was so different today than in the 1980s. The Democrats blame the Republicans, and the Republicans blame the Democrats. But it's not the political parties that are to blame. It's the generations of people in them. But don't worry. The people in both political parties are soon going to learn all about the lessons of morals and ethics, in the same way that their great-grandparents did.

But if you end up being just like Ronald and Nancy Reagan, that wouldn't be so bad, would it. AP and The Hill (12-Mar-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Mar-16 World View -- EU and Turkey summit in Brussels to discuss refugees, as number of women and children surges thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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6-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey's 'shameful day for free press' as government seizes Zaman media

Felhullah Gülen: One of the most powerful Muslim clerics in the world

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey's 'shameful day for free press' as government seizes Zaman media


Today's Zaman's last front page prior to government confiscation
Today's Zaman's last front page prior to government confiscation

An angry Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has ordered a government takeover of Turkey's most important opposition media, the Zaman media group, publishers of Turkey's largest newspaper Zaman, its English language version, Today's Zaman, plus the Cihan News Agency and Aksiyon magazine.

After obtaining a court ruling on Friday favorable to the government Turkish police forcibly entered the Zaman building, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who had gathered outside. Later, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters.

The newspaper released its final edition ahead of the raid declaring the takeover a "shameful day for free press" in the country. The newspaper will now be controlled by a government appointed "trustee council," which will presumably take orders from Erdogan. A statement by the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) board said, "The mentality that has been silencing the media through detentions, arrests, Internet bans and heavy fines, now burdens newspapers and TV channels and destroys them via trustee panels."

Zaman is owned by a political enemy of Erdogan, an exiled Muslim cleric Felhullah Gülen. They once were allies but in 1999 Erdogan accused Gülen of trying to overthrow the government Gülen fled to the United States in 1999, and has lived in Pennsylvania since then. Erdogan's government has declared Gülen to be a terrorist and has asked the US government for extradition, but has been refused.

According Human Rights Watch, the raid on Zaman was "nothing but a veiled move by the president to eradicate opposition media and scrutiny of government policies." BBC and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Reuters

Felhullah Gülen: One of the most powerful Muslim clerics in the world

For all the obsessiveness that Americans have about Muslims and especially Muslim clerics, it's surprising that so few people have hear of Felhullah Gülen.

Gülen heads the powerful Hizmet movement, a worldwide network of millions of Muslims in over countries.

The Gülen empire has schools in over 140 countries, the huge Zaman media organization in Turkey (now under direct control of Erdogan's government), a hospital, banks and other financial institutions and hundreds of interfaith and intercultural dialog and charitable institutions around the world. "We are the first movement in the history of mankind that is completely and utterly devoted to charity," says Mustafa Yesil, a Gülen confidant in Istanbul.

Gülen's critics sometimes refer to him as a cult leader. They point to the residences in many countries for schoolchildren and university students, often free of charge, but dictating a strict daily routine of work, prayer and sleep, and a demand that they devote their lives to "Hizmet," or service to Islam.

In his book "Fasildan Fasila," (From Time to Time) Gülen writes that a pupil must be "on the go day and night" and cannot be seen sleeping. "If possible, he sleeps three hours a day, has two hours for other needs, and must devote the rest entirely to hizmet. In essence, he has no personal life, except in a few specific situations."

Within the Muslim community, he's been accused of violating the principles of the Koran. According to Gülen, "My efforts for interfaith dialogue were criticized as softening Muslims' perspectives on Jews and Christians. I have not done anything that I did not believe to be in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed. He was the one who stood for a funeral procession of a Jewish resident of Medina, showing respect for a deceased fellow human being."

Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to crush Gülen's conservative religious movement, which he said has infiltrated the police, judiciary and bureaucracy since his party won power in 2002. Erdogan particularly declared war due to a corruption investigation targeting him, led by police believed to be Gülen followers. Saturday's raid on Gülen's media empire, turning Turkey's leading opposition newspapers into state-sponsored media equivalent to Moscow's Sputnik News or the Tehran Times or China Daily, is a blow to Turkey's free press and to Turkey's relations with the West. There's certain to be blowback, and I doubt that it will end well. AFP and Der Spiegel (8-Aug-2012) and The Atlantic (14-Aug-2013) and Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Mar-16 World View -- Turkey's 'shameful day for free press' as government seizes Zaman media thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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5-Mar-16 World View -- A look back at Libya in 2011 as the West debates another military intervention

Police in Turkey use force to shut down opposition newspaper

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Italy debates military intervention in Libya after ISIS kills Italian hostages


A 14-Mar-2011 picture in the Guardian of Libyan protesters, with the caption, 'Even if Gaddafi does succeed in quelling the Libyan uprising, it will be no more than a temporary setback for the wider Arab revolution.' (Reuters)
A 14-Mar-2011 picture in the Guardian of Libyan protesters, with the caption, 'Even if Gaddafi does succeed in quelling the Libyan uprising, it will be no more than a temporary setback for the wider Arab revolution.' (Reuters)

Two Italian construction workers among four that have been held hostage by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Libya last July, and have been held ever since, were killed on Wednesday in a gunfight. The other two hostages were freed within 48 hours. Local militias claimed credit for freeing the two during a raid.

The death of the two Italian hostages at the hands of ISIS has given added urgency to calls for Italy to intervene militarily in Libya. There have been discussions among Western nations -- the US, Britain, France, and Italy -- to intervene militarily to stop the growth of ISIS in Libya, and to prevent the capture of Libya's oil fields by ISIS. Serious planning has been made on this military intervention since January.

For weeks, there have been increasingly alarmist headlines in Italy about imminent military action in Libya. Britain, France and possibly America have already sent dozens of special forces to Libya, and John Phillips, the US ambassador to Italy, said in an interview, "Italy has made a commitment to provide in the range of 5,000 troops" as part of an international force to stop ISIS. American warplanes have been bombing ISIS targets in Libya. ( "20-Feb-16 World View -- US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya")

A military intervention in Libya is a particularly sensitive subject in Italy because Libya was a former colony of Italy, and there are still many personal and familial ties between the two countries. Furthermore, Italy has for five years been the recipient of a flood of refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean from Libya.

The plans for an international military intervention in Libya were always contingent on approval by a unity government in Libya. There are two governments in Libya, an internationally recognized government in the east, headquartered in Tobruk, and a rebel government in the west, headquartered in Tripoli.

So a full-scale military intervention has not gone ahead because the two governments have refused to approve the military intervention. And indeed, Khalifa Haftar, the head of the government in Tobruk, scored a victory against ISIS in Benghazi this week, and is claiming that his forces can defeat ISIS with no outside military intervention.

Haftar's confidence does not quell the fears of Westerners that before long ISIS is going to achieve a point of no return in taking control of Libya's "oil crescent" in the Sirte basin south of Benghazi, with billions of barrels of oil of estimated reserve. At that point, ISIS will be sufficiently entrenched that it would be much harder to dislodge than it would be now, and it would more easily allow ISIS to use as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on Europe. . AP and Reuters and AFP and Bloomberg and Guardian (14-Mar-2011)

Looking back at the 2011 'Arab Spring' Libya military intervention


The Arab Spring in Sanaa Yemen in 2011 (AFP)
The Arab Spring in Sanaa Yemen in 2011 (AFP)

A web site reader commented on one of my articles by accusing accused America of causing the Syrian and European refugee crisis by its decision to bomb Libya in 2011. It's a bizarre accusation, based on the usual technique of starting by making up facts that fit the agenda.

As it turns out, I'm in a good position to evaluate this claim, since I was writing about the Arab Spring in 2011 almost every day. So I went back to read all the articles I had written in the first months of 2011 to see what happened.

What's clear is that the accusation is completely backwards. It wasn't American bombing of Libya that caused the refugee crisis. The refugee crisis was already in full swing when the bombing began. It was the refugee crisis that brought about the American bombing and the Libyan military intervention in 2011.

This trip back through time turned out to be pretty fascinating, because the events of that time were so incredible. The "Arab Spring" was one of the major generational events since WW II, and it's actually still going on if you count the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Here's a summary of what happened:

The interesting thing is that the accusation that American bombing in Libya caused the refugee crisis is exactly backwards. The refugee crisis had already begun in Tunisia and Libya, with hundreds of thousands of people pouring into neighboring countries, and thousands crossing the Mediterranean to Italy. It was this refugee crisis that caused Libyans to demand a no-fly zone, and for the Arab League to do the same, after which the UN Security Council passed a resolution.

So the refugee crisis created the demand for the no-fly zone, and the bombing by the West. A lot of the motivation for the West to get involved was the fear of a flood of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, and they hoped to stop that. That didn't work.

For those who would like to go into more detail, I've created a lengthy posting on the Generational Dynamics forum with pointers to all the original articles, along with some excerpts from many of them. The posting can be found on the Generational Dynamics forum

Russian media calls Gaddafi's Libya an 'oasis of stability'

The web site reader who posted the comment accusing American bombing in Libya of causing the Syria refugee crisis had anti-American agenda, and was probably a paid Russian internet troll.

The commenter was parroting Russian state media as illustrated by this claim:

"Five years after the brutal murder of Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi, the country that was once an oasis of regional stability now has two competing governments and is actively being colonized by Daesh terrorists as they seek to relocate their headquarters to Libya."

This "oasis of regional stability" had Gaddafi declaring war on peaceful protesters, forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees to flood into neighboring countries and across the Mediterranean. Sputnik News (Moscow)

Police in Turkey use force to shut down opposition newspaper

Freedom of the press in Turkey suffered a major blow on Friday when government forces used force to shut down Zaman, the major opposition newspaper. Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters as they stormed the Zaman offices in Istanbul. There are now more than 30 journalists behind bars in Turkey. BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Mar-16 World View -- A look back at Libya in 2011 as the West debates another military intervention thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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4-Mar-16 World View -- Australia's defense plans stress huge naval buildup targeting China

China threatens Australia with economic retaliation for criticizing it

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Australia's defense plans stress huge naval buildup targeting China


Royal Australian Navy Seaman Steward Ronelle Fitzgerald
Royal Australian Navy Seaman Steward Ronelle Fitzgerald

Australia's government last week released the 2016 Department of Defense White Paper, which has become controversial because it heavily criticizes China's military buildup in the South China Sea and proposes large military spending increases.

Australia's new defense plan emphasizes a major naval buildup over the next 10 years, include twelve long-range submarines, nine new frigates and twelve offshore patrol vessels. In addition, the plan honors existing commitments to acquire 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, Air Force capabilities will be boosted by fifteen P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, twelve EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and seven Triton surveillance drones. Furthermore, the paper stresses the need for Australian forces to be able to operate seamlessly with US forces at sea and in the air.

The emphasis on naval strength has been triggered by China's actions in the South China Sea, where freedom is navigation is vital to the commercial trade of Australia and other countries. The report is specifically critical of China's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea:

"2.77 Australia does not take sides on competing territorial claims in the South China Sea but we are concerned that land reclamation and construction activity by claimants raises tensions in the region. Australia opposes the use of artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes. Australia also opposes the assertion of associated territorial claims and maritime rights which are not in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) .

2.78 Australia has called on all South China Sea claimants to halt land reclamation and construction activities, which involves the dredging of sea floor material for use as landfill in creating artificial structures . Australia has also called on all claimants to exercise self-restraint, take steps to ease tensions and refrain from provocative actions that could increase tension and uncertainty in the region . Australia is particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China’s land reclamation activities."

China responded with heavy criticism of the white paper:

"We are seriously concerned about and dissatisfied with the white paper’s negative statement on issues concerning the South China Sea and the development of China’s military strength.

It is hoped that the Australian side would take a correct and positive view of China’s development and strategic intention, take concrete steps and make joint efforts with China to increase mutual trust and safeguard regional peace, stability and growth.

We definitely do not want to see tensions or arms race in the region. We hope that the Asia-Pacific would be a region where people from all countries enjoy peace, stability, development and prosperity, and that relevant parties would stop the so-called joint military drills and patrols, and cease constant reinforcement of military buildup in the Asia-Pacific."

The naval buildup is in one sense a reaction to several years of former prime minister Julia Gillard's Labor government, which did not consider China to be a military threat, and which substantially cut defense spending. The current prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, whose government produced the new white paper, is making Australia a part of a military buildup that's occurring throughout the Pacific.

Japan has recently reinterpreted the "defense-only" clause of its constitution to permit "collective self-defense," which would permit foreign wars. The Philippines has invited the US Navy back to its Subic Bay naval base after throwing us out in the 1990s. India is about to deploy its first nuclear-armed submarine. Vietnam is preparing for a repeat of its 1979 border war with China. Basically, China is scaring the crap out of everyone in the region, and they're all beefing up their militaries to prepare for war.

The white paper contains the words "rules-based" 57 times, indicating an anxiety over the fact that China is not following the established international rules. Australia is looking to the United States to be the one to enforce the rules:

"2.8 The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power over the next two decades. It will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner through our long-standing alliance, and the active presence of the United States will continue to underpin the stability of our region. The global strategic and economic weight of the United States will be essential to the continued stability of the rules-based global order on which Australia relies for our security and prosperity. The world will continue to look to the United States for leadership in global security affairs and to lead military coalitions that support international security and the rules-based global order. The United States is committed to sustaining and advancing its military superiority in the 21st century, including through its Defense Innovation Initiative."

In other words, Australia expects the United States to continue to be Policeman of the World, even if some American politicians don't. Australia Defense White Paper (PDF) and Sydney Morning Herald and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and Guardian (London) and Lowy Institute (Australia)

China threatens Australia with economic retaliation for criticizing it

Many people believe that China will never go to war with anyone because it's bad for business. If that principle were true there would never be any wars. In fact, the opposite is true, as China showed in September 2012, when China declared economic war on Japan. Chinese media is now hinting at economic reprisals against Australia as retaliation for criticizing China:

"Unsettled by the rapid rise of China, in recent years Australian officials such as foreign and defense ministers have switched from discretion to blatant criticism of China and enhanced coordination with the US and Japan. However, at the same time Canberra walks a fine line by promoting strategic and economic cooperation with China given the latter's sizable market and investment capability. ...

How can these politicians believe that they can benefit enormously from relations with China and meanwhile feel free to castigate China in disputes? ...

[S]uch hypocrisy will amount to nothing but harm to Australia's relationship with China."

However, any suggestion of economic sanctions may be an empty threat because China is highly dependent on business with Australia. Australia is a major supplier of commodities to China, and China has plans to use the large ports and railways of the Australian firm Asciano as a crucial part of its logistics chain in its "One Belt, One Road" initiative. Global Times (Beijing) and Reuters and Asia Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Mar-16 World View -- Australia's defense plans stress huge naval buildup targeting China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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3-Mar-16 World View -- India about to deploy its first nuclear-armed submarine, in challenge to China

Mideast Sunni-Shia split grows as GCC says Hezbollah is terrorist organization

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

India about to deploy its first nuclear-armed submarine, in challenge to China


History of India's Arihant nuclear submarine
History of India's Arihant nuclear submarine

The 6,000-ton 110-meter long nuclear submarine Arihant, developed by India over the past three decades under a secret government program, is ready to become fully operational and could be commissioned in a few weeks, after completing in secret five months of deep sea diving drills and weapons launch tests.

India says that the Arihant is "indigenously built." It's believed that work began in the 1980s with help from the Soviet Union, particularly on the vessel’s miniaturized reactors. A Russian diving support ship -- the RFS Epron that arrived on October 1 -- has been accompanying the Arihant on its deep sea dives and launch tests.

The deployment would complete India’s nuclear triad, which means that it could deliver atomic weapons from land, sea and air. Only the U.S. and Russia are considered full-fledged nuclear triad powers now, with China and India’s capabilities still largely untested. India would become the sixth country to have nuclear-armed submarines in operation, after the US, UK, France, Russia and China.

As we reported six weeks ago ( "27-Jan-16 World View -- India deploying 'submarine killer' planes to counter China's submarines"), India has detected Chinese submarines in the Bay of Bengal, close to India's territorial waters around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Since the islands are largely undefended, India has been concerned that a lightning attack by the Chinese would be successful. With both Chinese and Indian nuclear submarines patrolling the Bay of Bengal, the possibility of dangerous miscalculations is growing. India Times and Bloomberg

China's military takes control of another Philippines fishing ground

Philippine officials report that China's warships are taking over yet another traditional fishing ground of Philippine fishermen in the South China Sea, and are preventing them from fishing there. The new acquisition is Quirino or Jackson Atoll, which has been a rich source of catch for a long time.

According to China's foreign ministry, China is doing the Philippine fishermen a favor:

"According to information from relevant departments in China, at the end of the year 2015, a foreign vessel was grounded near Wufang Jiao of China's Nansha islands. The owner of the vessel tried many times to tow it away but failed. He then decided to abandon the ship and dismantled and took away its main equipment. If the vessel was left aground for a long time, it might cause possible impediment to navigation safety and damage to the marine environment. Therefore, China Rescue and Salvage of Ministry of Transport recently sent salvage ships to tug the grounded vessel out of the shallow water for proper disposal. During the operation, the Chinese side advised fishing boats near the waters to stay away for navigation security and operation safety. The Chinese ships have returned after the operation."

It's unclear whether China's actions are really temporary. China has repeatedly said that it's planning to use its military to take control of the entire South China Sea, including the vast regions that have historically belonged to other countries, so it's unlikely Philippine fishermen are going to be doing much more fishing in this area, if any. Philippine Star and China's Foreign Ministry and The Diplomat

Mideast Sunni-Shia split grows as GCC says Hezbollah is terrorist organization

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Wednesday declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. The GCC is an organization of most.y Sunni Arab nation, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Hezbollah is a Lebanon-based Shia political and militia organization, funded and supported by Iran, recognized as a terrorist organization by the US and other Western countries, and now by the GCC.

Sectarian Sunni versus Shia tensions have been rising continuously since 2011, when Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad began his genocidal attacks on innocent Sunni protesters in Syria.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran took a major step towards increased hostility in January, when Saudi Arabia executed 47 alleged terrorists -- 46 Sunnis and one Shia, Mohammad Baqir Nimr al-Nimr, infuriating Iran and Shias because it implied that Shia terrorism is equivalent to Sunni terrorism. Iranian mobs firebombed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and attacked the consulate in Meshaad. Saudi Arabia and Iran broke diplomatic relations as a result. Other Saudi allies followed suit. ( "18-Jan-16 World View -- Pakistan tries to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran")

According to Wednesday's announcement, the GCC took its actions because of hostile acts being carried out by elements of those militias to recruit young people of GCC member states for carrying out terrorist acts, smuggling of weapons and explosives, and inciting sedition, disorder and violence in a flagrant violation of their sovereignty, security and stability:

"The GCC states consider Hezbollah militias' practices in the Council's states and their terrorist and subversive acts being carried out in Syria, Yemen and Iraq contradict moral and humanitarian values and principles and the international law and pose a threat to Arab national security."

Up until a few months ago, the Gulf states had a good relationship with Hezbollah, especially as long as they could talk about a common enemy, Israel. But Hezbollah's alliance with Bashar al-Assad, attacking Sunni civilians in Syria, has turned them into enemies.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that Saudi Arabia seeks to instigate "strife" between Shias and Sunnis in the region. Arab News and Saudi Press Agency and Al Manar (Lebanon)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Mar-16 World View -- India about to deploy its first nuclear-armed submarine, in challenge to China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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2-Mar-16 World View -- Russian and Syrian war crimes are 'weaponizing' the refugee crisis for Europe

Bulldozers bury the 'Jungle' refugee camp in Calais France

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bulldozers bury the 'Jungle' refugee camp in Calais France


Evicted migrant walks past riot police in 'The Jungle' in Calais (EPA)
Evicted migrant walks past riot police in 'The Jungle' in Calais (EPA)

Two weeks ago, officials in France announced that they would evict about some or all of the 4,000-5,000 migrants living in "The Jungle," the refugee camp in Calais, France's closest point to Britain, where migrants come in the hope of hitching a ride to Britain to seek asylum and take advantage of the welfare benefits.

France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the evictions would be done "progressively, by persuasion and with respect for people's dignity."

So that isn't exactly what happened on Monday and Tuesday when the bulldozers arrived. There have been violent clashes at the site, where French police have been forcibly evicting migrants from their tents and shanties. Migrants retaliated by setting tents on fire and throwing rocks at the police, resulting in several arrests and the use of teargas to disperse the migrants.

According to Cazeneuve on Tuesday:

"The activism of a few No Borders militants, radical and violent, cannot stop it: This operation will go on in the next days, with calm and discipline, and will offer each and every (migrant) a spot as the government promised."

However, it's not always clear where evicted migrants, many of whom are women and children, are supposed to go, or where the government's "spot" can be found.

French authorities say that it wants people to move either into an adjoining compound of converted shipping containers, or to take buses to accommodation centers elsewhere in France. However, many migrants are afraid to take advantage of any "official" refugee accommodations provide by France, because they would be required to register and request asylum in France, which would preclude them from requesting asylum in Britain. CNN and Guardian (London) and Independent (London)

Russian and Syrian war crimes are 'weaponizing' the refugee crisis for Europe

On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Adrian Edwards said:

"Europe is on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis.

The crowded conditions are leading to shortages of food, shelter, water and sanitation. As we all saw yesterday, tensions have been building, fueling violence and playing into the hands of people smugglers."

The accusation that the crisis is "self-induced" is the kind of bizarre thing that one hears from the United Nations, as if Greece, which is going through a major ongoing economic crisis, could ever have predicted that a million migrants would have poured into Greece in the last year. If the UNHCR made such a prediction a year ago, I'd like to see a link to it.

According to the testimony of Nato commander Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the UNHCR should actually be blaming Russia for the continuing refugee crisis. Breedlove says that Russia and Syria's president Bashar al-Assad are "weaponizing" the refugees by using barrel bombs on civilian villages in Syria. According to Breedlove:

"Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve.

I can't find any other reason for [barrel bombs] other than to cause refugees to be on the move and make them someone else's problem."

According to Breedlove, the barrel bombs have no military value except to worsen the refugee crisis.

In January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal, for his massive use of "atrocious acts" and "unconscionable abuses" against civilians. Al-Assad has been continuing his war crimes with attacks on entire civilian villages by regime warplanes and Russian warplanes, indiscriminately dropping barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals and chemical weapons.

Breedlove's comments indicated that the continued perpetration of these war crimes have no military purpose except to flood Europe with refugees.

About 131,000 refugees have reached Europe so far this year, two to three times the 2015 rate. It's expected that the rate will increase even further as the warm spring and summer weather approaches, and there may be well over one million more migrants headed for Europe by the end of the year. This is a pressure cooker waiting to explode. Reuters and LA Times and US Dept. of Defense

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Mar-16 World View -- Russian and Syrian war crimes are 'weaponizing' the refugee crisis for Europe thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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1-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan unexpectedly executes murderer of liberal politician Salman Taseer

Greece turns into a huge refugee camp

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan unexpectedly executes murderer of liberal politician Salman Taseer


Salman Taseer's murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, arrives in court in 2011, where he's showered with rose petals (AP)
Salman Taseer's murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, arrives in court in 2011, where he's showered with rose petals (AP)

Mumtaz Qadri was executed by hanging in Pakistan on Monday, after having been convicted of murdering Salman Taseer, the liberal governor of Punjab province in Pakistan, on January 4, 2011. The execution has provoked widespread protests.

Qadri was Taseer's bodyguard. To make sure he was dead, Qadri shot him in the chest 28 times. Qadri later said that he had shot Taseer because Taseer had opposed blasphemy laws in general, and for speaking out in favor of Asia Bibia, a Christian lady accused of blasphemy because she was Christian, and sentenced to death.

After the murder, Qadri instantly became a national hero to many segments of Pakistan's society. The day after the governor's death, Qadri went to court and dozens of lawyers greeted him with a hero's welcome. They even showered him with rose petals and put a garland around his neck.

As I wrote in 2011, 500 Pakistani religious scholars issued a statement praising Qadri for keeping alive a "tradition of 1,400 years in Islam" which requires the killing of anyone committing an act of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.

Because of Qadri's popularity after the murder, it had been feared that Qadri would never be punished for his crime, so Monday's execution was something of a surprise. There were protests and riots in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, although most rallies were dispersed peacefully.

Blasphemy laws are not unique to Pakistan. As I described in 2012 after Charlie Hebdo magazine published cartoons of Mohammed (one of the reasons given for the attack in 2015), blasphemy laws in Britain and Ireland were in effect into the 1900s, although they were rarely enforced.

They were rarely enforced in Pakistan as well, until the 1980s, when something changed in public attitudes. Thousands of blasphemy cases have been heard since then. BBC and The Nation (Pakistan)

Generational changes of behavior

This kind of rapid massive popular change in attitude is of interest because it's usually generational, and often extremely destructive. In this case, popular opinion accepts the fact that someone can be put to death for merely accidentally saying the wrong thing, and popular opinion can treat even a murderer as a hero.

A comparable thing happened in America when the rising Generation-X generated the financial crisis by creating and selling billions of dollars in fraudulent subprime mortgage backed synthetic securities. Despite the fact that millions of people lost their homes and jobs, not a single person has been criminally prosecuted for these crimes.

More recent examples are the sudden popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in their respective parties, although neither of these men has shown the slightest sign of knowing what's going on in the world. Trump became popular with many young people when he referred to Mexicans as rapists and murderers, and Sanders became popular with young people when he started talking about giving everything away for free.

All of these examples -- treating the murder of Salman Taseer as a hero, defrauding the public and creating the financial crisis, the sudden popularity of Trump and Sanders -- are the kinds of things that happen during a generational Crisis era, when young people start looking for solutions the same way that they look for rock stars.

The survivors of a generational crisis war, like World War II, are well aware of what the world is like. There's massive rape and slaughter, there are millions of refugees, there's massive starvation and growth of disease.

These survivors, the GI generation and the Silent generation, vow to never let anything like that happen again, and as long as they're alive they protect the world from letting it happen again.

But today those generations are almost gone, and the protections are gone as well. Young people are seeing the first signs of the horrors of a crisis war -- atrocities by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), mass kidnappings of girls by Boko Haram, selling the girls into slavery, millions of refugees pouring into Europe, and a continuing financial crisis. Young people, who have no idea why this is happening, are reacting by making mass irrational decisions.

We've already seen one disaster from these kinds of decisions -- the financial crisis. As these mass irrational decisions continue, there will be even worse disasters, including a new world war.

Salman Taseer's son describes what's happened to Pakistan

Mass irrational decisions, like applauding the mass use of blasphemy laws, has also caused disasters in Pakistan -- namely an unending series of bloody terrorist attacks, particularly against Shia Muslims. However, those weren't the only targets. In December 2014, Pakistan suffered a horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren. This attack on an army school changed a lot of minds, and probably was the event that made it possible for Mumtaz Qadri finally to be executed on Monday.

Aatish Taseer, the son of Salman Taseer, was interviewed on the BBC World Service on Monday. He said that Qadri's execution brought him relief but no joy. He described the tumultuous relationship he had with his father, and how it related to the country Pakistan as a whole (my transcription):

"The original reason for the estrangement was very simple - my father was in politics in Pakistan, I was half Indian and it would have been damaging for him to be in touch with me. Later we had a very moving, very important kind of -- we sort of Reunited. and for many years, things were very good between us. And I would come and go from Pakistan. And around the time of the London bombings, we started to have very different opinions about the way that Pakistan was going."

Taseer is referring to the 2005 London subway bombings, perpetrated by children of immigrants who had received training over the internet by al-Qaeda clerics in Pakistan.

"I began to travel for my first book, I really saw on the ground that the situation vis a vis Islam was going to get much worse in Pakistan. My father was a very fierce patriot, and didn't want to believe what I was saying to him. So this is what we fought over. We fought over his defense of Pakistan, and my feeling that an environment was building in that country that would be very very toxic. And I think that the Pakistan that I described in my book was ultimately the Pakistan that killed my father. ...

I think that he came of age at the time of Bhutto, and of a kind of socialist movement, and he imagined he was protected -- it was almost a kind of upper class feeling that he knew this country and nothing could touch him. And that if he could only speak to it in his own way, then he would be all right. And I don't think that he recognized how much this country had changed."

Taseer added that the fallout from the execution of Qadri is yet to come. "Well, don't confuse what the government does with the actual mood on the ground. I don't know if we've even seen the worst of the fallout. ... [Is Pakistan a safe place?] As the Pakistan's High Commissioner said to me, it's safe until it isn't." BBC World Service Newshour

Greece turns into a huge refugee camp

Several thousand migrants continue to pour into Greece every day, and they immediately travel to the border with Macedonia, hoping to take the trip north to Germany. Macedonia is allowing only 300 or so migrants to pass through each day, so the overcrowded refugee camps in Greece are becoming even more overcrowded. Protests are increasing, and on Monday Macedonia's police used teargas on migrants trying to push through the gate blocking the border. This is a disaster waiting to happen. AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Mar-16 World View -- Pakistan unexpectedly executes murderer of liberal politician Salman Taseer thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Mar-2016) Permanent Link
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29-Feb-16 World View -- Surprise victory of reformists in Iran signals bloody power struggle

70,000 refugees may be trapped in Greece within weeks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Surprise victory of reformists in Iran signals bloody power struggle


A protester held up a bloody hands in the protests in Tehran following the 2009 elections (Getty)
A protester held up a bloody hands in the protests in Tehran following the 2009 elections (Getty)

"Tehran is now free" is just one of the gleeful remarks being posted by young people on social media in Iran, after the surprise victory of moderates and reformists in Friday's election for the parliament (majlis) and for the Assembly of Experts. This is the next step in a brutal generational power struggle that I recently described in "6-Feb-16 World View -- As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious".

Across the country as a whole, the conservative "principlists" (who insist on adhering to the "principles" of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution), are doing well as votes are counted, but in Tehran, the reformists have won overwhelmingly.

The reformists, representing the views of the younger generations that grew up after the 1979 revolution, have won all 30 seats representing Tehran in parliament. Nationwide, the vote counting is not yet completed, but indications are that the reformists have won a little less than one-third of all the seats in the 290-seat parliament, far exceeding the 20 seats they have in the outgoing parliament.

The moderates, who hold the same conservative views as the principlists but who favor gradual reforms, appear to be winning more than one-third of the seats nationwide. The moderates and the principlists are in the generations of hardline survivors of the 1979 revolutions, with the principlists being the most hardline of all.

Many people are attributing these victories to the extremely high turnout for the elections, with something like 80% of eligible voters voting. The high turnout, in turn, is being credited to the widespread use of the hugely popular anonymous messaging app Telegram, which the principlists had tried unsuccessfully to get banned.

In the Assembly of Experts, the reformists have won at least two seats away from the most hardline of the principlists. The votes for the rest are still being counted.

It now seems likely that the reformists and the moderates together will hold a small majority in the parliament. If that's true, and if they work together, they can push through some reforms that are bitterly opposed by the principlists, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Iran is in the midst of a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s. In America there was sporadic violence, such as the "long, hot summers" of street violence in the big cities, violence by the "Chicago seven" at the Democratic convention in 1968, bombings by the Weather Underground, and the shootings at Kent State University.

Iran has gone through tumultuous changes since the 1979 revolution, and moderate president Hassan Rouhani is continuing them, according to an unknown female analyst speaking on the BBC:

"Rouhani has done a lot in terms of social reform. Let me go even a little bit further back when I was growing up in the 80s, every morning our bags were searched so that we wouldn't take any kind of pop music tapes to school. That changed in the 90s, when Khatami was elected and the Ministry of Culture started allowing certain musicians to release albums. Ten years ago, when I was in Iran, there were no street bands, but now there are all these street bands all over Tehran and other cities, and I think they are now banning certain contents, instead of the music itself, and this has happened under President Rouhani, the fact that there are musicians openly on the streets. I think it's a sign of huge social progress."

In Iran, the violence following the June 2009 presidential election was bloody and massive. Largely peaceful street protests were met with unrestrained violence by the police and security forces. Dozens were killed, and 4,000 people were jailed. The police particularly targeted journalists and other government critics with widespread torture, beatings, and threats against family members. Many people were jailed for years.

Now, six years later, the generation of young people who were protesting in the Tehran's streets have now gotten older and more powerful enough to take control of all 30 of Tehran's seats in the parliament.

This is not going to go well. There's too much money and power at stake. The young people who are posting messages like "Tehran is now free" on Telegram quickly going to learn that Tehran is not free, and they're going to threaten the power of the old geezer principlists.

The police and the security forces are still under the complete control of the most conservative principlist of all, Ayatollah Khamenei. Just as he didn't tolerate street protests in 2009, he's not going to tolerate any challenges to his power in the weeks and months to come. Tehran Times and RFE/RL and AP and Human Rights Watch (2009) and BBC Newshour Extra - Is Iran Changing?

70,000 refugees may be trapped in Greece within weeks

There are already more than 20,000 refugees trapped in Greece, with the border to Macedonia closed. ( "26-Feb-16 World View -- Threats of retaliation abound as Europe's refugee crisis deepens")

Thousands of refugees continue to arrive in Greece from Turkey every day, According to Greece's immigration minister Yannis Mouzalas, "We estimate that we will have a number of people trapped in our country which will be between 50,000 and 70,000" by the end of March. In the warmer spring and summer weather, that number could grow substantially.

The most immediate crisis was triggered last week when Austria introduced a daily cap of 80 asylum seekers and said it would allow just 3,200 migrants to transit the country per day. This caused a chain reaction of other countries closing their borders. Greece has recalled its ambassador to Austria in protest.

Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann has accused Greece of "behaving like a travel agency," simply allowing the migrants to pass through, without protecting its borders or processing the asylum seekers. According to Faymann, "Last year, Greece took in 11,000 asylum seekers, and we took in 90,000. That can't be allowed to happen again." AFP and AP and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Feb-16 World View -- Surprise victory of reformists in Iran signals bloody power struggle thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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28-Feb-16 World View -- Breitbart says that Fox News is taking 50% hit because of Trump

US debating military response to China's buildup in South China Sea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US debating military response to China's buildup in South China Sea


Satellite image showing construction of possible radar tower facilities in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (Reuters)
Satellite image showing construction of possible radar tower facilities in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (Reuters)

US Navy and Marine Corps leaders have warned that China's rapid military buildup in the Pacific Ocean could force the United States to move ships and forces in response.

China's advances might require the United States to reassess its attack submarine fleet. The Navy has said for years that 48 attack submarines is what it needs to carry out its mission, but that may no longer be enough According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson "That number is really based on analysis from 2006," but with China's recent developments, "that's becoming a more urgent situation." The Navy already wants to have 60 percent of its planned fleet of 308 US warships committed to the Pacific by 2020.

Many concerns have been raised about the vulnerabilities of American aircraft carriers. ( "23-Feb-16 World View -- China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers")

Adm. Harry Harris addressed these concerns in testimony to Congress:

"The DF-21 [anti-ship ballistic missile], which they have developed, and the DF-26 [intermediate range ballistic missile], which they're developing, could pose a threat to our carriers. I think, though, that our carriers are resilient and we have the capability to do what has to be done if it comes to that. ...

"Short of war, I'm aware of the threat. I'll pay attention to the threat, But that is not going to prevent us from flying, sailing or operating wherever international law allows."

Stars and Stripes

Breitbart says that Fox News is taking 50% hit because of Trump

In an article entitled "Trump-Effect: Fox News Channel’s Brand Takes 50% Hit Among Republicans, Breitbart journalism reporter John Nolte says that the Fox News Channel (FNC) "pro-Rubio/GOP Establishment bias" is as manipulative and dishonest as the mainstream media's left-wing bias, and that Republican are losing respect for FNC. According to Nolte:

"My job is to monitor the mainstream media, which is something that eats up about 14 hours of a day that begins at 6 a.m. when the cable morning shows begin. Lying next to me, my good sport of a wife suffers through about an hour of 'Morning Joe,' whatever they call that left-wing garbage fire on CNN, and the rest. Out of habit, before I head to my desk, without really asking I always ask, 'You want me to put it on Fox?' ...

'No,' she replied. 'I’m done with Fox News.' ...

When I asked my wife why she is 'done' with Fox News, her answer was simply, 'They’re just like all the rest.'"

In fact, CNN's president Jeff Zucker claims that it's rapidly closing the gap with FNC, and hopes to surpass it.

But there are very good reasons why it will be impossible for FNC to lose its leadership position anytime in the foreseeable future. An analysis by Ad Week shows that Jeff Zucker is, if not lying, at least shading the truth by "blending ratings" in a way that doesn't make sense.

According to another media analysis at TheWrap:

"Last weekend marked 20 years since Fox News Channel's launch was announced, and CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes is probably quite pleased with the network’s anniversary numbers.

Fox News has now been the No. 1 cable news network for 14 consecutive years after winning the month of January with a dominating performance that included last week’s GOP debate. Fox News’ streak began in Jan. 2002 when it surpassed CNN for the first time.

Ailes’ network beat CNN and MSNBC combined in total day viewers and had the top 14 individual programs in cable news among the key 25-54 age demo. 'The O’Reilly Factor' had its best month since November 2012 and finished as the No. 1 program in cable news, despite double-digit growth from 'The Kelly File.'"

The reasons why FNC cannot be beaten are based on demographics. Consider the following:

I've been following this issue off and on for over ten years, and except for an occasional blip it's always been the case that the number of FNC viewers was about equal to the sum of the numbers of viewers of all the other cable news stations combined. That makes perfect sense. FNC gets 50% of the audience, while all the other stations compete for the other 50%.

I watch all of these stations, on the left and on the right, and there's no question that FNC is much less biased than the others. Why? Because they don't need to be biased.

If CNN started becoming more balanced, say, broadcasting more news critical of the Obama administration, then CNN would lose part of its audience to MSNBC, and vice-versa. But FNC can broadcast a balance of left-wing and right-wing opinions because their viewers have no place else to go. Even if a Republican president takes office in January, FNC can still broadcast some news critical of the president, knowing that all the other stations will be vitriolicly attacking him.

The Trump situation has presented a novel problem for FNC, because it's caused a split among its viewers. The mainstream media stations have no such problem, because they're uniformly against Trump, and they have an opportunity to grab viewers away among people like Nolte's wife, who see FNC as becoming as biased as all the others.

But that bias is only temporary. The Trump situation is going to be resolved in a few weeks, one way or another, and then I expect all the right-wing viewers to go back to FNC, and the left-wing viewers to be divided once again among the hash of left-wing mainstream media news stations. Breitbart BigJournalism and Advertising Week and The Wrap

Al-Jazeera America to go off the air on April 14

Qatar-based al-Jazeera America permanently shut down its web site on Friday, and will go off the air on April 14.

Al-Jazeera began as an Arabic news channel in 1996 targeting 370 million Arabic speaking viewers. In 2006, the company launched Al-Jazeera English, an English language broadcast, targeting the rest of the world, and available as an internet stream. I started watching it almost as soon as it was available because it had the best coverage of Mideast news, and I needed this kind of "inside baseball" understanding of Mideast issues in order to do Generational Dynamics analyses.

Is Al-Jazeera biased? Of course it is. But it's no more biased than the New York Times or NBC News. The BBC was vitriolicly anti-American during the George Bush presidency, but now they're totally in the tank for President Obama.

As I've written in the past, the interesting thing about al-Jazeera's biases is their attitudes towards the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Hamas is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, so al-Jazeera loves Hamas, and hates the Palestinian Authority. In fact, my perception is that al-Jazeera hates the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas even more than it hates Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu.

In August 2013, Al-Jazeera America (AJAM) debuted as a cable television network. They got immediate cable network buy-ins by paying $500 million to Al Gore for his defunct Current TV cable channel. That was a total waste of money that probably doomed AJAM from the start.

I had been looking forward to AJAM, but I was very disappointed when it came on the air. It was practically indistinguishable from CNN and MSNBC and the other left-wing channels. It even had the same formats -- a morning breakfast show, bland news shows during the day, and an evening newscast. Furthermore, it was frustrating, because they blocked the Al-Jazeera English internet stream to the United States so that it couldn't compete. I thought it was crazy. Why would anyone watch AJAM, when they could get exactly the same news on the mainstream news channels?

The only time that AJAM was worth watching was for two hours per day, when they broadcast the al-Jazeera English newshour. I made sure to record those shows, because they contained valuable information that I needed. However, even that was frustrating whenever some event occurred in Washington, and AJAM switched to it, just as CNN, MSNBC, FNC, and all the others switched to it. As I said, I thought that was crazy.

As time went on, AJAM got better and better because they had low ratings and had to cut many of the bland news shows, broadcasting al-Jazeera English programming instead.

AJAM does claim that it had the best quality American journalism and documentaries, and in many ways they are right. But no matter how good they were as journalism, their news programs still all had the same left-wing slant as all the other mainstream channels.

The company hasn't announced what will happen to their cable channel after April 14. I'm hoping that they'll simply broadcast Al-Jazeera English for 24 hours a day. This is a unique offering that only they can provide, just as BBC World News channel has a unique offering that only they can provide. Al-Jazeera and Variety and Al-Jazeera

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Feb-16 World View -- Breitbart says that Fox News is taking 50% hit because of Trump thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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27-Feb-16 World View -- China and Cambodia hold military exercises amid South China Sea tensions

More on China's New Silk Road through the 'Caspian Trade Corridor'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

More on China's New Silk Road through the 'Caspian Trade Corridor'


Map: The Caspian Trade Corridor is part of the New Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe
Map: The Caspian Trade Corridor is part of the New Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe

Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has concluded negotiations to award a construction firm the contract to build a deep water port in the town of Anaklia, a beach resort on the Black Sea.

The Anaklia deep water port is thought to be an important piece of China's "New Silk Road" for transit of commercial goods between Europe and China. Several weeks ago we described in detail the "Caspian Trade Corridor," illustrated in the map shown above. ( "21-Jan-16 World View -- Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey")

The route from China to Europe was tested in December. A train from eastern China traveled first through Kazakhstan. Then the cargo traversed the "Caspian Corridor" when the containers were put on ships and taken across the Caspian Sea to Baku, Azerbaijan. In Baku, the cargo was put back on a train, which traveled on to Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Despite what looks like a complicated route, this ground transportation alternative is much shorter than the sea route that it replaces.

However, the awarding of the contract for the Anaklia port contained a big surprise. Early last year, seven companies submitted proposals to design and build the port, and in June Georgia's government selected two candidates as "preferred applicants." It was expected that Power China, backed by the Chinese government, would win the contract.

The surprise was that the contract was awarded to the other applicant, the Anaklia Development Consortium, backed by funding from Georgian bank TBC. A key figure in the winning consortium appears to be Timur Korchava, a Russian billionaire of Georgian descent. Furthermore, it appears that Korchava was backed by Russian government support.

It's thought that the Russian government has two major objectives in supporting this project. First, Russia would like to force China, as much as possible, to continue transporting goods through Kazakhstan and then through Russia. And second, Russia will use the port to deliver goods to Armenia, where a Russian military base is stationed.

Whatever Russia's motives, it appears that the Russians have snatched victory from the Chinese.

Correction: The Jamestown article (linked below) used as a source for this article has been updated, and now includes the following statement: "The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Timur Korchava was involved with Anaklia Development Consortium. In fact, Mr. Korchava does not and never had any role in Anaklia Development Consortium. We apologize for the error." (Correction inserted. 5-Mar-2016)

Jamestown and Georgia Online (13-Dec-2015-Trans) and Ros Business Consulting (Russia, 13-Dec-2015)

China and Cambodia hold military exercises amid South China Sea tensions

China and Cambodia conducted joint naval exercises for the first time on Friday. Three Chinese navy warships with 737 Chinese sailors took part, along with about 70 Cambodian sailors. Last week, both Chinese and Cambodian officials said that there would be military exchanges, friendly football matches, as well as a joint drill. According to Cambodia’s deputy navy chief Vice Admiral Vann Bunneang, "This will be a big cooperation and joint exercise training in rescue operations. This is to boost readiness for when boats sink and natural disasters occur." Very jolly.

China is the largest donor of military aid to Cambodia, including jeeps, shoulder-fired rockets and helicopters, and help in running a Cambodian defense academy.

Although Cambodian officials bristle at suggestions that they're doing China's bidding, Cambodia has been the region's most reliable ally in disputes involving Taiwan and the South China Sea. Unlike many other southeast Asian countries, where students usually wish to learn English as a foreign language, Cambodian students are learning Mandarin Chinese. At a 2012 meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia vetoed attempts to even discuss the South China Sea issues.

Admiral Tea Vinh, commander of the Royal Cambodian Navy, revealed that Cambodia was in negotiations to buy two 140-metre heavy warships armed with modern weapon systems from China. "The Royal Cambodian Navy needs two warships but communication is in process between the two defence ministries. We will not use them for war – we will only use them to protect our territorial sovereignty. Cambodia should not be looked down on by its neighbors." This is the sort of thing that China always says, although it's not clear to me how Cambodia will "protect [their] territorial sovereignty" without ever going to war.

The ranking Chinese navy officer, Rear Admiral Yu Manjiang, said said that China's visit to Cambodia showed their warm ties and was "like visiting a sibling's home." That reminds me of a 2011 remark by Pakistan's ambassador to China Masood Khan who said that Pakistan's relationship with China was "higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel, sweeter than honey, and dearer than eyesight."

Here in these Generational Dynamics World View articles, we try on a regular basis to discern who will be who's ally in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war. These days, it seems pretty clear that Japan, Philippines, Vietnam and India will be allied with the United States and Russia, while Pakistan and Cambodia will be allied with China. Phnom Penh Post and Radio Free Asia and The Diplomat and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Feb-16 World View -- China and Cambodia hold military exercises amid South China Sea tensions thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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26-Feb-16 World View -- Threats of retaliation abound as Europe's refugee crisis deepens

Tsipras: 'Greece will not become a warehouse for souls'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece facing humanitarian crisis with thousands of refugees on Macedonia border


Refugee mother and child stand next to a large sign welcoming refugees ferried from Lesbos to the Greek port of Piraeus
Refugee mother and child stand next to a large sign welcoming refugees ferried from Lesbos to the Greek port of Piraeus

Since Macedonia closed its border last week to Afghan migrants, about 12,000 people have been stranded in Greece. Migrants had been coming from Turkey, across the Aegean Sea into Greece, and then across the border into Macedonia, on the path north, usually with the intention of reaching Germany or Sweden. But some countries have begun closing their borders to migrants, creating a chain reaction of closed borders that have left thousands stranded in Greece with no way to continue north.

Theoretically, migrants from Syria and Iraq, which are at war, should be allowed to pass through the border to Macedonia, while migrants from other countries are considered "economic migrants," and not eligible for asylum in Europe. However, Macedonia is blocking even them, because of border closures further north.

On Thursday, some 400 migrants from Syria and Iraq left a transit camp provided by Greece, and are heading for the Macedonian border to demand to be allowed through.

Some 4,000 migrants continue to arrive in Greece every day. Authorities said 40 buses were stopped at various points along the country’s main 500-kilometer (310-mile) highway leading north from Athens. Traffic has also been slowed by tractor blockades by farmers protesting bailout measures.

Greek officials are not hesitating that this is a growing catastrophe that is getting worse every day, with no end in sight. It's expected that the flood of refugees will grow larger as warm weather approaches. AP and Bloomberg

Tsipras: 'Greece will not become a warehouse for souls'

Greece's prime minister Alexis Tsipras is threatening retaliation if other EU countries do not do their share in accepting refugees:

"We will not accept turning the country into a permanent warehouse of souls with Europe continuing to function as if nothing is happening.

Greece will not agree to deals (in the EU) if a mandatory allocation of burdens and responsibilities among member countries is not secured."

Tsipras did not specify what "deals" would be in jeopardy. According to Tsipras:

"We will not tolerate that a number of countries will be building fences and walls at the borders without accepting even a single refugee. Greece will demand the mandatory participation of EU countries in the relocation of refugees. ...

"We did and will continue to do everything we can to provide warmth, essential help and security to uprooted, hounded people. We will either be in a union of common rules for all or everyone will do they please: we will not accept the latter."

Greece's migration minister Yannis Mouzalas echoed Tsipras's words: "Greece will not accept becoming Europe’s Lebanon, a warehouse of souls, even if this were to be done with major (EU) funding."

The European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, a Greek politician who formerly served as a Greek foreign minister, emphasized that something must be done quickly:

"In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down.

We all have the responsibility to step up our efforts to apply the agreed European solutions. There is no time for uncoordinated actions. ...

Moving to the pressing situation in our neighborhood: the route along the Western Balkans. The situation is very critical. The possibility of a humanitarian crisis is very real and very near.

We cannot continue to deal through unilateral, bilateral or trilateral actions; the first negative effects and impacts are already visible.

We have a shared responsibility – all of us – towards our neighboring states, both EU and non-EU, but also towards those desperate people.

We cannot continue with the wave-through policy – the European Council was crystal clear on this.

And we cannot put caps on how many asylum seekers we receive. This is simply not according to EU and international rules. I have reminded Member States today, that everyone must respect and apply the rules."

The reason that Avramopoulos specified a "10 day" time limit, is because on Monday, March 7, there is an EU-Turkey summit meeting at which demands will be made on Turkey to reduce the flow of migrants.

On the other hand, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán warned that an uncontrolled migrant influx brought the risk of "terrorism, criminality, anti-Semitism and homophobia." He referred to the alleged New Year's Eve sexual attacks by migrants in Cologne and said, "I have four daughters and I don't want my children to grow up in a world where Cologne could happen." Reuters and European Commission and Kathimerini and Deutsche Welle

Greece recalls ambassador to Austria as refugee crisis worsens

Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Wednesday led a one-day conference in Vienna to make agreements about controlling the influx of refugees along the "Balkan route." Austria and nine other nations -- Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia -- were invited to the conference. The meeting targeted policies related to Greece and Germany, but both of those countries were conspicuously not invited.

According to Kurz:

"We invited all of the countries along the Balkan route that will be affected by our decision. ...

We want to slow the influx. So far, refugees have been brought to Central Europe. Now we simply cannot keep up with the numbers. We have set a limit of 37,500 for this year; that is still a lot compared to other European states."

On Wednesday, Greece issued a formal protest to Austria, and on Thursday, Greece recalled its ambassador to Austria for consultations.

Greece's foreign ministry said that a meeting of Balkan nations was "rooted in the 19th century," referring to the politics of the 1800s, and said that the recall was designed to "safeguard friendly relations between the states and peoples of Greece and Austria."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she is adamantly opposed to further border fences in eastern Europe:

"Do we really want to give up already and close the Greek-Macedonian-Bulgarian border, with all the consequences this would have for Greece and the European Union as a whole and therefore the Schengen area?"

There have been some unconfirmed reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened retaliation against east European nations in the form of vetoing further aid. Deutsche Welle and AFP and The Local - Germany

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Feb-16 World View -- Threats of retaliation abound as Europe's refugee crisis deepens thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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25-Feb-16 World View -- Readers comment: Who would win a war between the US and China?

China sends fighter jets to South China Sea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China sends fighter jets to South China Sea


Chinese Shenyang J-11 jet being deployed to Woody Island
Chinese Shenyang J-11 jet being deployed to Woody Island

China continues to speed up its rapid military buildup in the South China Sea. In recent days, satellite imagery has shown that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is deploying advanced surface-to-air missile systems to Woody Island in the Paracels chain, and also that China appears to be building an advanced high-frequency over-the-horizon radar system.

Now, US administration officials are confirming that satellite images taken on February show that China is deploying Shenyang J-11s (“Flanker”) and Xian JH-7s (“Flounder”) fighter jets on Woody Island.

As usual, China is claiming that the advanced military buildup of missiles, radar, and warplanes is purely "defensive." According to China's state media:

"Non-militarization of the islands in the South China Sea has been a common wish expressed by all parties in this region -- including China. Top Chinese officials did say the recent reclamation of islands and reefs is mainly aimed at providing better services at sea. However, a commitment to non-militarization doesn't mean zero military facilities. The US seems to be interpreting China’s commitments in ways that suit itself."

I'm not even sure what this means, other than it's doubletalk to say that a military buildup isn't a military buildup.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." In 1860, America's southern states started the Civil War, even though they had no chance against the North, which was three times the size. In 1941, Japan started the Pacific war, even though they had no chance against the US, which was five times the size.

Many Chinese believe that the US is too weak or too tied down in the Mideast to fight back. This is insanity, and a disastrous historical mistake. China is following the path of Adolf Hitler, militarizing, annexing other countries' regions, promising "Peace in our time" in one way or another. The Chinese are headed in the same direction as Hitler. Fox News and Shanghaiist

Readers debate a war between the US and China

My recent article, "23-Feb-16 World View -- China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers", generated spirited debate in comments by web site readers over just how vulnerable American aircraft carriers are to China's military.

With regard to China's advanced high-frequency over-the-horizon radar system, "anthonyvop" wrote, "The idea of a 'radar system' giving China control is laughable. I have radar on my boat. Does that mean I have control over Biscayne Bay?" I don't know whether he was joking.

"Nemeshisu" gave a detailed analytical summary of China's military preparations for war with the United States:

"The Chinese have been preparing for the last 30 years or so to get all 'Tsun Tzu' on ourass by making our strengths into weaknesses. The Chinese have:

- An entire army group of hackers, PLA Unit 61398, ready to wage cyber warfare which has routinely hacked into our networks (and crashed them) for decades.

- The demonstrated capability to deliver anti-satellite weapons on target which means they can blind us, cut our communications and collapse our economy.

- They, along with Iran and Russia, have super-cavitating torpedoes. We don't have this tech, nor a defense against it. While our torpedoes travel at about 50 knots, these torpedoes travel at 250 MPH. They don't touch the water as they travel in a cocoon of bubbles and are capable of ripping a carrier in half from the kinetic energy of the impact alone, even if the warhead fails to detonate. You cannot maneuver or deploy countermeasures against these torpedoes.

- They have an anti-ship ballistic weapon, the DF-21. We also don't have this tech nor a defense against it. These ballistic weapons are specifically designed to attack our carriers at stand-off ranges of 1500-2000 miles. Our carriers will not be able to operate in the western Pacific, much less get into range to launch airstrikes when warheads rain down on the battle group with pin point accuracy and at thousands of miles an hour.

- When we deregulated export restrictions on 5 axis milling equipment (thanks conservatives in Congress), the Chinese got the tech to mill silent submarine propellers. Prior to this, their screws were noisy and easily detectable. The first lathes to leave our shores went to China and within a couple of years, they replaced the screws on their entire submarine fleet. If you want to know what they can now do, google "The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced"

- Over the last 35 years, the Chinese acquired from Israel all kinds of advanced weapons technology, from advanced missile systems to tank armor technology and advanced avionics for their shiny new air force. Israel sold this tech that we shared with them on the condition that they not sell it to others, much less to our potential adversary. Such awesome allies them Israelis. I wonder if the conservatives asked Bibi about this last time he was here."

"FederalFarmer" pointed out how vulnerable American aircraft carriers are:

"One mistake that is commonly made is preparing to fight the last war again. The situation we face with China is very different from that we faced with Japan. We need to start now to prepare to fight them.

We can beat China, but we need to stop underestimating them and start preparing to fight them. That means lowering our level of involvement in the Middle East. We need to get out of the INF treaty. We need to build more frigates and destroyers which have both AA and ASW capability. In the initial phases of fighting, we will probably be pushed back to Guam. We need to be able to both defend Guam from missile attack and transport weapons across the Pacific while we play to our strengths and blockade China from a distance.

[An aircraft carrier can be simultaneously attacked] by hundreds of guided missiles fired on several axis of attack including ballistic warheads. A carrier's defenses can be overwhelmed by volume.

In China, we are probably going to be fighting the most dangerous and strongest adversary since Nazi Germany."

"MarchHare" responded that American aircraft carriers may be better off than many people think:

True enough, if you have "hundreds of guided missiles" using hundreds of launchers to fire at every ship from every compass-point at the same time, but that's unlikely, even for China... US Navy Carriers are easily the best-protected, hardest to hit target an enemy will ever face.... Just because China or anyone lobs a missile at it, doesn't mean we won't have a say in whether it hits or not. But I'm not saying the carrier is invulnerable either...

Warships are complicated things... Some have survived insane amounts of damage, while others were lost to relatively mi nor hits by one or two lucky shots... No ship is unsinkable, I won't dispute that... But saying a ship-class is obsolete because it can be sunk is just as stupid a conclusion as saying a ship can't be sunk... War is risk and loss... That's why we have more than just one aircraft carrier in commission... This is (as I pointed out in my original post) a very old story, and some nations have already discovered that listening to know-nothings costs lives...

The British once had a huge carrier force and decided to go-small with "through-deck-cruisers" ski-jumps and Harrier jump-jets... The result was the Falklands which was a close call for Britain... They probably would have lost if a Liberal government was in power or if they had managed to scrap HMS Hermes before Thatcher saved it and rushed it back into commission, but what they had (Two light carriers) was still barely adequate to the job... It was even worse for Argentina, BTW, because they only had one carrier and no combat aircraft ready to deploy from it... Even being relatively close to the Falklands gave them no advantages, and this was 1980, not 1940... Since that time, Britain is now building a new generation of carriers because they realized that, if you don't have a carrier, you don't go to war... period... Right now, there is no substitute for carrier air-power, and a radar set does not change that... If carriers weren't the answer, China wouldn't be building their own fleet of carriers... Remember that..."

Popular Science

Who would win a war between the US and China?

If we want to understand what a war between the US and China would look like, then we have to look at history.

Here's something that I've heard many people say: "If Hitler had won World War II, then everyone in France would be speaking German today." The assumption is that Germany would take control of France and force everyone to speak German. But that doesn't make sense. Germany didn't win the war, but Russia did win the war in eastern Europe, and took control of much of eastern Europe. By the same logic, the people of Poland should be speaking Russian, but they aren't.

Things like cultures, languages and national boundaries are remarkably resilient. That's not to say that they never change, but they almost never change.

Hitler had promised a 1,000 year empire. But he overlooked the generational paradigm. If he had won the war and taken control of France and other countries, then he would have had a mess on his hands during the 1960s generational Awakening era, with massive student riots across the continent. By the generational Unraveling era of the 1990s, his empire would have fallen apart, just as the Soviet empire fell apart. My guess is that if Hitler had one the war, the world today would look pretty much the same as it does now.

So when China launches war against the United States, it will launch hundreds of missiles at American cities and bases. There will be millions of refugees fleeing their homes, and many will die of starvation. "Survivalists" who stock up on food, medicines and water will do the best, at least for a while. Many others will be killed by marauding gangs of thieves and murderers.

But the US will survive and fight back. Of course, American missiles will inflict similar damage on Chinese cities. After several weeks, all the intercontinental missiles will have been expended, and by that time the ground war will have begun. But for China, it won't be a ground war with the US. It will be a war with several of its neighbors.

There are very few countries in the world with recent experience fighting an external war. These include the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and perhaps a couple of others. China has no experience fighting an external war. Even worse, China will almost certainly be fighting an internal civil war at the same time, just as it did during World War II.

So, not only will the war not end overnight, as some people seem to think; it will actually go on for several years, probably around five years. I've estimated that the war will kill around 3-4 billion people worldwide. That will include deaths from nuclear weapons, missiles, disease, famine, and ground war.

After the war ends, there will be about 3-4 billion people still alive to rebuild the world. At the end of every major "world war" in history, there's always been a big international conference with officials from all the nations of the world, who will adopt measures to make sure that no such war ever occurs again. And it doesn't happen again, until it does.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Feb-16 World View -- Readers comment: Who would win a war between the US and China? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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24-Feb-16 World View -- Refugee crisis puts European Union's core principles at risk

Macedonia closes borders to thousands of stranded Afghan migrants in Greece

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Macedonia closes borders to thousands of stranded Afghan migrants in Greece


Razor wire installed by Austria on its border (AFP)
Razor wire installed by Austria on its border (AFP)

Thousands of Afghan migrants were left stranded in Greece on Monday, after Macedonia abruptly closed its borders to Afghan. This was just one of several border closing actions taken by European countries, threatening open borders, one of the core principles of the European Union.

It's only 53 days into the new year, and figures published by the International Organization for Migration showed that 102,547 people had arrived in Greece and another 7,507 in Italy so far this year, even though it's still winter. In 2015, the threshold of 100,000 was not reached until the end of June. This number could double as warm weather arrives, and it's possible that well over a million new refugees will flood into Europe this year.

Since November, European officials are attempting to deal with the refugee crisis by distinguish between refugees from war zones in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, versus economic refugees from other countries. Thus, the Balkan countries have been permitting only migrants from these three countries to pass through their borders to go north to Germany, Sweden, and other European nations where they plan to apply for asylum.

Macedonia was also following this policy until Monday, permitting migrants only from those three countries to cross the border from Greece. However, Macedonia abruptly announced that Afghans would no longer be permitted to cross, and some 12,000 were left trapped on the Greek side of the border on Tuesday.

This situation was triggered by announcement on Friday by Austria that it would introduce a cap of only 80 asylum-seekers per day, and would only let 3,200 migrants pass through to Germany each day. 3,200 migrants per day is still more than one million per year.

Austria's announcement started a chain reaction that led to Macedonia's announcement to close the border to Afghans.

Austria's announcement led Montenegro also to announce that it was closing its borders. Montenegro has not in the past been on the main route used by migrants, but "If the European countries dealing with the consequences of the migrant crisis opt to close their borders, what else is there for a country like Montenegro to do?" asked prime minister Milo Djukanovic at a meeting in London.

Macedonia's announcement triggered riots along the border in Greece. Greek police have been removing hundreds of migrants from a camp at the country's border with Macedonia and putting them on buses bound for Athens, where they will be housed in an army-built camp.

EurActiv and The Local - Austria

Belgium closes border to France after announcement to close Calais 'Jungle'

Belgium is implementing border controls with France, after France's announcement that it would close a portion of its refugee camp in Calais.

Migrants whose goal is to reach Britain usually travel to Calais, the point in France closest to Britain. From there, they hope to hitchhike on the truck traffic traveling through the tunnel to Britain under the English Channel.

France has set up a notorious camp for migrants that has become known as "The Jungle," where they can sleep in tents and receive free hot meals. There are currently about 4,000-5,000 migrants living in the camp, of which 205 are women and 651 are children.

Last week, officials in France announced that they would evict about 1,000 migrants living in southern part of The Jungle.

France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the eviction would be done "progressively, by persuasion and with respect for people's dignity." Evicted residents have been told they must choose between moving into refitted shipping containers set up in the camp or to a migrant accommodation center elsewhere in France. Many migrants are balking at leaving, and are determined to stay.

Belgium officials fear that migrants evicted from the Jungle will simply move on to Belgium hoping to cross the English Channel by boat. Because thousands of migrants entering Belgium is a possibility, officials are imposing border control. According to Belgium's interior minister Jan Jambon, "They're already on their way here." BBC and France 24

Refugee crisis becomes devastating for Europe

According to one analyst, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel didn't show it, but she's furious with Austria for imposing further border controls, because doing so left her alone on the refugee issue.

Merkel is a strong proponent of the principle of open borders, a right that's at the core of the European Union. The Schengen Zone is a group of 26 European countries that permit visa-free border crossings among them. However, one country after another has been imposing border control, under the "emergency situation" terms of the Schengen rules. But with the mass of refugees growing, it's feared that the emergency will last a long time.

East European countries, in some cases with strong cultural memories of being dominated by the Ottoman Empire, have imposed the strong border controls. Greek officials are complaining bitterly, because they end up being responsible for the thousands of migrants that enter Greece each day. There are fears that the entire Schengen Zone system could collapse.

A study by Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation has found that if the Schengen Zone collapses, it will cost the European Union 1.4 trillion euros over the next decade, mainly because the EU's already weak economic growth would be severely impacted by introduction of new import fees and trade restrictions.

Beyond the economic implications, the political implications of the refugee crisis are enormous. There may be two million migrants coming into Greece this year. Migrants who are blocked from taking one route will take another. Many will pay a great deal of money to people smugglers to get them to Germany over back roads that aren't being patrolled. These are problems that the European Union may not be equipped to handle. It's a real question what will be left of the European Union's core principles by the end of 2016. Deutsche Welle and Reuters and VOA and Deutsche Welle

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Feb-16 World View -- Refugee crisis puts European Union's core principles at risk thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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23-Feb-16 World View -- China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers

John Kerry and Russia announce a new Syria peace plan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China building powerful new radar system in South China Sea


Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (2008).  China's military buildup is neutralizing aircraft carriers.
Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (2008). China's military buildup is neutralizing aircraft carriers.

Just days after satellite imagery showed that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is rapidly militarizing the South China Sea by deploying advanced surface-to-air missile systems, new imagery shows that China appears to be building a an advanced radar system potentially giving China control of the entire South China Sea.

China has been annexing regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues to use belligerent military operations to enforce its seizures. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China's claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing their claims are groundless and that they would lose.

The imagery is of Cuarteron Reef in the Spratly island chain. This reef is one of those that China has expanded into an artificial island using land reclamation, for the apparent purpose of building military bases. The advanced missile and radar systems would broaden China's control over the entire region, according to an analyst:

"If it is an HF [high-frequency or over-the-horizon] radar, then it would enormously boost China’s capacity to monitor ships and aircraft in the South China Sea. Cuarteron is the logical place for such an installation because it is the southernmost of China’s features in the Spratlys, meaning that it would be the best place if you wanted early warning radar to give notice of ships or planes coming up from the Strait of Malacca and other areas to the south such as Singapore.

This would be very important in a Chinese anti-access area denial strategy that sought to reduce the ability of the U.S. to operate freely in the South China Sea, including bringing forces up through the South China Sea in case of any future crisis in Northeast Asia."

The US Navy has been challenging China in the South China Sea by conducting "freedom of navigation" air and sea patrols throughout the region, including within 12 miles of China's artificial islands. This has infuriated the Chinese, but US Navy officials argue that to do nothing would be to allow China to prevent any foreign naval vessel from traveling through the South China Sea, which is one of the biggest commercial routes in the world.

US Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin is suggesting that it would be "valuable" if Australia and other nations could join the US in these freedom of navigation patrols. According to Aucoin:

"What we're trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions.

It's up to those countries, but I think it's in our best interests to make sure that those sea lines remain open, I'll leave it at that."

Washington Post and Reuters

Report: China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers

Countries such as China, Iran and Russia have spent years and a great deal of money developing integrated systems of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, surface ships and aircraft whose purpose is to prevent US aircraft carriers from having freedom of movement, whether in the Persian Gulf, the eastern Mediterranean, or the South China Sea.

According to the report from the Center for a New American Security:

"Operating the [aircraft] carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multi-billion dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. An adversary with A2/AD [anti-access/area denial] capabilities would likely launch a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult – if not impossible – to defend against."

In order to avoid risk, a carrier would have to operate so far away from the battlefield that the battlefield would be out of range that the aircraft could travel without refueling. The report concludes that the United States can either "operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges ... or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure," and suggests that the days of the aircraft carrier may be ending. Center for a New American Security and Washington Post

John Kerry and Russia announce a new Syria peace plan

I have to admit I'm totally baffled by what's going on here. Two weeks ago, US Secretary of Defense John Kerry announced a new Syria peace plan, after conferring with the Russians. ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria")

The peace plan made absolutely no sense whatsoever for reasons I gave at the time -- Russia and Syria will continue bombing what they claim are terrorist groups, which are pretty much all Sunnis in Syria, and the plan would not apply to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front). And sure enough, the "cessation of hostilities" collapsed in less than a week. In fact, the peace plan actually worsened the hostilities, since it provided cover for substantially increased bombing and fighting from all groups.

Well, on Monday John Kerry consulted with the Russians and announced a new peace plan -- and it contained exactly the same elements as the old peace plan. What the hell do these people think they're doing?

I listened to the analysts, and I heard only two things mentioned that make this different from the previous peace plan:

A spokesman for the opposition rebels says that they won't stop fighting unless Russia and Syria completely stop bombing. Well, they said that they're going to continue bombing.

In fact, Syria's president Bashar al-Assad responded to Monday's peace announcement by saying that he would respect the truce, except that he reserved the right to attack "terrorists":

"It's about stopping the fire ... but also about preventing the terrorists from using the ceasefire or the cessation of hostilities to improve their position. It's about preventing other countries, especially Turkey, from sending more recruits, more terrorists, more armaments."

In other words, al-Assad has no intention at all of respecting the truce, since he considers all Sunnis to be terrorists, including women and children.

And then there are the YPG Kurds fighting Sunnis north of Aleppo, driving tens of thousands to flee from their homes and head for the border with Turkey. Turkey considers the YPG Kurds, who are allies of al-Assad, to be linked to the PKK Kurds, who are internationally recognized terrorists, and therefore also terrorists. Turkey has been shelling YPG Kurd positions for over a week now, but wasn't a part of Monday's peace agreement announcement. So who's going to be the first to stop fighting: Turkey or the YPG Kurds? The answer is: Neither.

So we have a "cessation of hostilities" which is almost identical to the last one, with the same effect: No one is going to cease hostilities. I have little respect for John Kerry and these politicians, but I can understand how they could do this dance once. But a second time? I'm baffled. CNN and NPR and Foreign Policy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Feb-16 World View -- China's military buildup neutralizes America's aircraft carriers thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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22-Feb-16 World View -- Delhi in crisis as India sends thousands of troops to quash Jat riots

Bomb explosions strike Assad strongholds in Syria as Kerry speaks of 'provisional' peace

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Delhi in crisis as India sends thousands of troops to quash Jat riots


Jat protests cause massive traffic jams blocking highways in Delhi (PTI)
Jat protests cause massive traffic jams blocking highways in Delhi (PTI)

India has deployed almost 10,000 troops in a massive show of force to the province of Haryana on Sunday to quell riots that are creating crisis conditions across Haryana and in the capital city Delhi. Haryana surrounds Delhi on three sides, allowing the Haryana riots to target Delhi's economy. There have already been 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

The riot group are the Jats, a caste or a caste-like ethnic group with a population of 80 million people across India. In Haryana province, they make up 29% of the population. They're rioting because several of the poorer castes by law are given preferential treatment for jobs and education, and so the Jats are unable to get jobs themselves.

This issue has been simmering since the 1990s, when India's Supreme Court ruled that the poorer castes have to be given preferential treatment. Various political candidates have repeatedly made promises to the Jats to improve the situation, but the politicians forget their promises once in office. The Jats claim that they're now doing what they have to do to be heard.

The protesters have damaged equipment that brings water to New Delhi, which is now facing a water crisis. With much of Delhi now without water, the Haryana government has rushed paramilitary and technical team members of the Irrigation Department to restore water delivery.

In addition, the protesters have brought much business in Delhi to a halt by blocking major roads and highways in and out of Delhi, and damaging railway tracks to prevent rail traffic. In other actions, the protesters have burned down homes and vandalized vehicles. India Today and Times of India and Reuters

Jats demand entry into the 'reservation system' for jobs and education

The most prominent lower class in India are the Dalits. But India's government classifies the Jats as "Other Backward Class" or OBC.

Thanks to a 1990s Supreme Court decision, India's government has had to set up a "reservation system" in Haryana that gives preferential treatment to certain poorer castes and classes, so that they can more easily obtain jobs and educations.

The Jats are politically and economically better off than the groups in the existing reservation classes, which is the reason given why they haven't been admitted to the reservation classes. But since the poorer castes are getting preferential treatment, many Jats are unable to get jobs, even if they're better qualified than another candidate who happens to be in the reservation group.

So that's what the protests are about. The Jats want to be added to the reservation group. Currently, 50% of Haryana's population are in the preferential reservation group. Adding the Jats, which comprise 29% of the population, would mean that almost 80% of the population would be given preferential treatment. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that that won't work. Scroll (India) and Times of India

Bomb explosions strike Assad strongholds in Syria as Kerry speaks of 'provisional' peace

When one peace plan collapses, it's good news, because a new peace plan can begin. The peace plan ("cessation of hostilities") that US Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week collapsed just two days ago. On Sunday, Kerry met with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, and then made this announcement to the press:

"We have reached a provisional agreement in principle, on the terms of the cessation of hostilities, that could begin in the coming days. It is not yet done, and I anticipate that our presidents, president Obama and president Putin, may well speak somewhere in the next days or so in order to try to complete this next task."

I really don't know whether I should think that Kerry is a complete fool for running around making these idiotic statements, or whether I should instead feel sorry for Kerry because he's required to run around making these idiotic statements. How many peace agreements has Kerry announced in the past that have collapsed within a few days? I've lost count. How may peace agreements has Kerry announced that have succeeded? I can't recall a single one. What the hell is this guy doing?

At any rate, in the same time frame that Kerry was announcing peace, there were two massive terrorist attacks, each involving multiple explosions, in two separate districts, both government controlled and both highly secure and heavily protected by the army of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

A series of blasts, a car bomb and two suicide bombers, ripped through the Sayyida Zeinab suburb of Damascus, killing at least 83 people and wounding more than 170. This suburb is a Shia stronghold.

Earlier in the day, two car bombs exploded in the Wadi al-Zaha suburb of Homs, killing at least 34 people. This suburb is an Alawite stronghold. Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is a Shia/Alawite.

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has taken credit for both terrorist attacks. ISIS has targeted both districts in the past, to prove that they can strike anywhere in Syria they want. Scotsman and Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Feb-16 World View -- Delhi in crisis as India sends thousands of troops to quash Jat riots thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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21-Feb-16 World View -- Latest Syria peace plan officially fails

Shifting alliances across the Mideast

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Latest Syria peace plan officially fails


Walking through the rubble in Syria (AP)
Walking through the rubble in Syria (AP)

There never was even the slightest chance that this latest peace plan for Syria had any chance of succeeding, as I wrote when it was first announced. ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria")

In fact, as usual, the farcical peace plan did more harm than good, because it provided motivation for the violence to increase.

Russian and Syrian warplanes have increased their pounding of so-called "terrorists" -- by which they mean all Sunni civilians, whom they apparently think of as cockroaches to be exterminated -- using barrel bombs to flatten entire Sunni villages and using missiles on schools and hospitals.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russia's president Vladimir Putin, denied that Russia had bombed hospitals and schools this week, despite numerous reports from all sorts of independent sources, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF), Nato, the US State Dept., and various reporters. According to Peskov, all of these sources are lying in unison to harm Russia. Peskov told the BBC that the only reports he believes are the ones that come from the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.

Now that's a real laugh. Al-Assad is the alleged war criminal, committing genocide on Sunnis by means of missiles, Sarin gas, barrel bombs laced with chlorine gas, and any other mass weapon he can get his hands on. So Peskov doesn't trust the independent sources. He trusts only the alleged war criminal. This is the kind of crap we always get from Russian officials, though I suppose it's only right that the only person they trust is a war criminal, since the Russians are war criminals themselves.

Then there's the Turks. They've chosen this period following the peace agreement to begin shelling Kurdish YPG militia positions in Syria north of Aleppo.

Well, they do have an excuse. There was a huge terrorist attack in Ankara on Wednesday. No one claimed credit for a while, and the two possible perpetrators were thought to be the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Both ISIS and the PKK are considered to be terrorist groups by Turkey, the US, and much of the West.

Then on Friday, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a Kurdish terror group linked to the PKK, took credit for the Ankara bombing. The Turks claim that the YPG militias in northern Syria are linked to the PKK that carries out terrorist attack in Turkey, so the Turks aren't about to stop shelling YPG positions any time soon.

We also heard this week from some of the Sunni Arab nations. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar all said this week that they're ready to send their ground troops into Syria -- to fight ISIS. By the way, that's the reason that everyone gives -- they're fighting ISIS.

It's very hard to grasp the sheer size of the catastrophe that's unfolded in Syria since 2011, when Sunnis started peacefully demonstrating and Bashar al-Assad started exterminating them like cockroaches.

The Syrian civil war has cost an estimated 500,000 lives and made some 11 million people refugees. Millions have ended up in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and almost a million have fled to Europe. For instance, more than 1 million people are considered to be under siege throughout Syria in a war that pits numerous groups against one another.

And al-Assad and Russians keep making it worse -- more and more deaths, more and more refugees, more and more misery. They're acting like they're going to achieve victory in Syria, but they don't have a snowflake's chance in hell of doing so.

Even if they capture more ground, this is a generational Awakening era in Syria, and they will never get the Syrian opposition to surrender. Nor will they get ISIS to surrender. What they will do is increasingly isolate and panic Turkey, which will ally with the Saudis and other Arab states to end up in a full-scale Mideast war, as Generational Dynamics has been predicting for over a decade. Washington Post and CBS News and US State Dept. and Jerusalem Post

Shifting alliances across the Mideast

A web site reader wrote this comment yesterday:

"Mr. Xenakis, for quite some time you have been predicting a split between the U.S. and Turkey which will result in the two countries becoming enemies. Since Turkey and the U.S. are both members of NATO, I could never understand how this could realistically happen until now. The wedge that will irrevocably separate Turkey and the U.S. will be the issue of U.S. support for the Kurds in Syria/YPG/PKK.

Here is a quote from [analyst] Charles Lister [appearing in The Telegraph]: 'It is quite extraordinary that Obama administration policy seems to be favoring a Kurdish militia group that is incontrovertibly linked to the terrorism-designated PKK over and above a fellow Nato ally, Turkey.'"

You say that you could never understand how this change could realistically happen until now, and I have to say that the same is true for me. The bizarre thing about this generational methodology that I use is that it produces analyses and forecasts that often seem not to make sense until they come true, and they always come true, and that's always astonishing. (If you'd like to read more about how generational reasoning works, read this: "9-Nov-15 World View -- Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement").

The quote from Lister is right. Indeed, one can go further. The Obama administration is fighting on two conflicting sides in Syria. The administration is cooperating more and more with al-Assad and Russians, who are allied with the YPG Kurdish militia in Syria. The administration is conducting airstrikes in support of the YPG in eastern Syria, where they're fighting ISIS, and the administration is passively supporting the YPG in Aleppo, where they're a clear enemy of a Nato ally, Turkey.

If this shows nothing else, it shows how President Obama, who is always driven to do the opposite of what President Bush would do, has run into one disaster after another in foreign policy.

However, Dear Reader, perhaps you think I'm being unfair. I came across a piece by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent in which he explains that Obama's policy is not only coherent, but it's been right all along.

The argument is that Turkey has been allowing people to pass through Turkey into Syria, where they can join ISIS. The Obama administration a year ago decided that if Turkey wasn't going to close the border on its side, then he would support the YPG in closing the border from the Syrian.

So much stuff today makes me laugh out loud. So Obama's whole policy in Syria is to close the border with Turkey??? Obama has been unable to close the border with Mexico. Greece can't close the border with Turkey. But Obama's found a way to close the border between Syria and Turkey? Where do these people come up with this stuff?

The fact is that the Turks are under attack from PKK Kurds within Turkey, and they believe that they're under attack from YPG Kurds in northern Syria.

President Obama believes that he can push Turkey as hard as he wants, and Turkey will still be America's ally. But Turkey has other allies, notably the Saudis and other Sunni Arabs. As the web site reader quoted above suggests, when Turkey is forced to choose who its allies are, America won't be one of them. Telegraph (London) and Washington Post and Independent (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Feb-16 World View -- Latest Syria peace plan officially fails thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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20-Feb-16 World View -- US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya

US warplane attack on Libya raises question of ground troops

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya


US warplanes struck ISIS camp in Sabratha (WaPost)
US warplanes struck ISIS camp in Sabratha (WaPost)

US warplanes struck a suspected ISIS training camp in Libya, killing at least 40 people, possibly including Tunisian-born Noureddine Chouchane, a "leading ISIS facilitator." The camp was in Sabratha in far western Libya, near the border with Tunisia.

Chouchane was linked to two major terrorist attacks in Tunisia last year. In March, two gunmen infiltrated security at the well-known Bardo Museum in Tunis, right next door to the parliament building, where they took and killed 22 hostages, with 50 people injured. In June, a gunman disguised as a tourist opened fire at a Tunisian hotel in Sousse, killing 37 people. In both cases, the victims were mostly foreign tourists. The evident intent of the attacks was to damage Tunisia's tourist industry.

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) has been expanding powerfully in Libya, in the chaos that followed the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power. Libya is considered a launchpad for attacks not only on African targets, but also on European targets. According to American officials, the death of Chouchane would represent a blow to ISIS's ability to launch such high-profile attacks. The National (UAE) and Washington Post and CNN

US warplane attack on Libya raises question of ground troops

Friday's attack on the ISIS base by US warplanes comes days after president Barack Obama said that there would be such attacks on ISIS:

"With respect to Libya, I have been clear from the outset that we will go after ISIL wherever it appears, the same way that we went after Al Qaeda wherever they appeared."

However, no one believes that an airstrike on an ISIS camp is going to have much of an effect on the overall situation in Libya. In fact, we've already seen in Syria and Iraq that attacking ISIS with just air power is largely ineffective unless supported by ground troops. Friday's attack will certainly have no effect on the ISIS stronghold in Sirte.

ISIS has continued to grow increasingly powerful in Libya. Since arriving in Libya from Syria, ISIS has set up bases around Sabratha and farther east at Derna and Sirte. Sirte has become its Libya headquarters, with the Pentagon estimating that 5,000-6,000 fighters are now in the country, many from abroad. From Sirte, ISIS has now occupied 240 kilometers of coastline and last month attacked the nearby oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, setting storage tanks on fire.

As we've reported several times, there are plans for a Western military invasion into Libya to attack ISIS. ( "29-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France, Italy continue plans for Libya invasion against ISIS") The invasion, if it occurs, would take place in early March.

The plan was that the invasion would be launched after the signing of a UN-sponsored "peace deal" aimed at creating a unified representative government in Libya, merging the two separate governments now in existence. However, attempts to get agreement from the two governments to merge have fallen apart. Vice News and Sputnik News (Moscow)

Europe plans to expand Operation Sophia into Libyan waters

Wikileaks has released a classified document describing European Union plans to expand the existing Operation Sophia into a ground invasion.

Operation Sophia, named after a baby born on a German frigate to a rescued Somali woman in August, was launched in October of last year as one of the European Union's measures to slow the tidal wave of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. The operation is targeted at human traffickers. Naval patrols board smugglers' boats in international waters, after they've left the Libyan port, remove the migrants, and remove the boat from service. With fewer boats available for smuggling, the flow of migrants is reduced.

Operation Sophia has been somewhat successful in that many of the wooden boats that human traffickers have been using to smuggle refugees have been taken out of service. Wooden boats are now being replaced by rubber dinghies, which smugglers have been importing in quantity from China, transshipping them through Malta.

Operation Sophia is awaiting the right circumstances to transition to a new phase of the project, to move from operating in high seas to operating in Libyan Territorial Waters. Eventually, this would lead to ground troops within Libya.

However, this new phase of Operation Sophia is also being put on hold, because operating with Libyan territorial waters would require the approval of Libya's government, which evidently is not going to be given. Malta Today and International Business Times and Defense World

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Feb-16 World View -- US warplanes strike suspected ISIS training base in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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19-Feb-16 World View -- Russia's attacks on civilian hospitals in Aleppo follow the 'Grozny model'

New terrorist attacks cause further splits in US-Turkey relationship

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Six Turkish soldiers killed in explosion a day after Ankara attack


Turkish security officials say that Russia bombing of civilian hospitals is following the 'Grozny model' used in Grozny, Chechnya(AFP)
Turkish security officials say that Russia bombing of civilian hospitals is following the 'Grozny model' used in Grozny, Chechnya(AFP)

Six soldiers were killed in southeastern Turkey on Thursday by a roadside bombing that hit an armored military vehicle. Like Wednesday's huge attack in Ankara, this appeared to be an attack targeting military personnel. Turkish officials blame both attacks on the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).

The PKK is a separatist group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey since 1984. They've frequently attacked military targets in the past. Turkey's government and the PKK had agreed to a ceasefire three years ago, but it collapsed last year, after a July 20 terrorist attack in the city of attack on Suruç killed 33 people, mostly young pro-Kurdish activists. Erdogan declared war on the PKK, and it appeared that Turkey was slipping into chaos as violence spread across the country.

Since July, there have been months of military operations, curfews, attacks and hundreds of dead and injured, especially in southeast Turkey, which is the heart of the Kurdish separatist movement and home to much of the PKK. CNN

New terrorist attacks cause further splits in US-Turkey relationship

No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's terror attack in Ankara, in which 28 people, at least 20 of them military personnel, were killed, with 60 injured. Many people suspect that it was perpetrated not by the PKK, but by the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The question of responsibility is causing a further split between Turkey and the US. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, blames the attack on the PKK and also on the YPG, the Kurdish militias fighting in Syria. According to Erdogan:

"Even if the leaders of YPG or PKK deny being involved in the attack, there is evidence proving they were behind it."

Erdogan would like to provide that evidence to the US and the west, and finally settle on a joint policy to fight Kurdish terrorism.

Erdogan has for months been saying that the YPG is a terrorist organization with links to the PKK. This presents a problem for US-Turkey relations, since the YPG is the force that the Obama administration is counting on to fight ISIS on the ground in Syria.

However, the YPG militias around Aleppo aren't fighting ISIS, and are nowhere near ISIS. They're fighting so-called "moderate" rebels who, incidentally, are also supposed to be US allies. The YPG militias, backed by massive Russian and Syrian airstrikes that are targeting civilian neighborhoods, schools and hospitals, are creating tens of thousands refugees that are headed for the border with Turkey.

Already, Turkey has set up 8 refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border. Turkey is accusing the YPG militias of being the foot soldiers not in the fight against ISIS, but instead allied with the Bashar al-Assad regime and the Russians with a strategy of forcing tens of thousands of new refugees to enter Turkey, as a kind of weapon of war.

So from Turkey's point of view, there is the PKK's long history of terrorist attacks in Turkey, and there is the YPG's strategy to force tens of thousands more refugees into Turkey, and according to Erdogan, there is the evidence linking the YPG and the PKK to Wednesday's horrific terror attack in Ankara.

Erdogan points out that when the Charlie Hebdo attack occurred in Paris a year ago, there was widespread international sympathy for France, but when Turkey suffers one terrorist attack after another, the West doesn't seem to care, and some even blame Turkey, the victim.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this public attitude towards Turkey is very interesting. Long-time readers know that ten years ago I predicted, based on a generational analysis, that Russia and Iran would become America's allies, and the Sunni Muslim countries would become America's enemies, as everyone is forced to choose sides in the approaching world war. Ten years ago, that prediction seemed preposterous, and today no one is more astonished than I am to watch it come to pass.

What's particularly startling to me is when people reading my articles post comments making Bashar al-Assad into some sort of hero.

Bashar al-Assad is much worse than ISIS. When ISIS tortures someone or forces the people in a village to pay taxes or be killed, the West is horrified. But when al-Assad performs mass torture, or uses barrel bombs to kill everyone in a village, then no one seems to care. When ISIS attacks a school or hospital, everyone is horrified. But al-Assad and the Russians attacked several schools and hospitals in the last week alone, and many more in the past. As I've written several times in the past, al-Assad is the genocidal monster of the modern age.

People ask me how I could say that we could be allies with al-Assad when I call him a genocidal monster. Well, we can see it happening right before our eyes, can't we. And I always point to what happened in World War II. Josef Stalin was responsible for the mass starvation, torture, and mass slaughter of tens of millions of people. Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong were the greatest genocidal monsters of the twentieth century, and yet Stalin was our ally because we had to choose. That's the way the world works, Dear Reader.

So Erdogan would like to see greater support from the US and the West, but Generational Dynamics predicts that that's not the way the world is going. We can expect Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni nations to become further estranged from the US, and we can expect the US to be more closely allied with Iran, the great sponsor of international terrorism, as well as Bashar al-Assad and Russia. Today's Zaman (Istanbul) and BBC and Today's Zaman and Washington Post

Russia's attacks on civilian hospitals in Aleppo follow the 'Grozny model'

The massive attack on the city of Aleppo by Syrian and Russian warplanes pounding civilians with missiles and barrel bombs, in conjunction with ground attacks by YPG militias, is said to be a Russian army tactic known as the "Grozny model."

Turkish security officials say that in Russia's 1990s war with Chechnya, Russian warplanes bombed schools and hospitals in order to create a refugee crisis, and to empty the urban residential areas. Once that was achieved, heavy weapons could be deployed to eradicate opposing forces, entailing widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure.

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the purpose of the "Grozny model" strategy being followed by Russia and al-Assad is to create a de facto Kurdish state in northern Syria along the border with Turkey. This strategy is completely intolerable to Turkey, and even if it succeeded, it would certainly lead to continued war.

However, even without succeeding, this Russian strategy is leading to war. Turkey's tanks have been shelling YPG positions in Syria, as we've reported several times in the last week.

And now there are new reports that hundreds of armed anti-Assad rebels are crossing from Turkey into Syria. News reports don't explain where these rebels are coming from, but the assumption is that they entered Turkey from other parts of Syria. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Guardian (London) and EU Observer and Guardian

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Feb-16 World View -- Russia's attacks on civilian hospitals in Aleppo follow the 'Grozny model' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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18-Feb-16 World View -- Car bomb attack on military in Ankara Turkey kills 28

Erdogan slams US, UN policy, renews demand by Syria 'safe zone'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Car bomb attack on military in Ankara Turkey kills 28


Terror attack in Ankara
Terror attack in Ankara

A car bomb exploded on Wednesday in Ankara, Turkey's capital city, during rush hour at a busy intersection, near vehicles carrying military personnel. The explosion occurred in what was supposed to be a super-secure area in central Ankara that contains Parliament buildings and military headquarters. 28 people were killed and 61 others were injured in the attack.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and there are two possible perpetrators: the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) or the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

According to one analyst, "There's definitely many reasons why Turkish reaction is going to be fierce."

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded angrily:

"Our determination to respond in kind against such attacks against our unity and future from outside and inside is even more strengthened through such attacks. Turkey will not hesitate to use its right to self-defense anytime, anywhere, and in all situations. ...

Turkey's losses in its struggle against terrorism are challenging its patience."

The PKK is a separatist group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey since 1984. They've frequently attacked military targets in the past.

Turkey was shocked last October when ISIS conducted a terrorist attack in Anakra killing 97 people and injuring hundreds more. It was referred to as the worst terrorist massacre in Turkey's history, or as "Turkey's 9/11." ( "13-Oct-15 World View -- Turkey is seen as increasingly unstable after Ankara massacre")

Today's Zaman (Istanbul) and CNN and Reuters

Erdogan slams US, UN policy, renews demand by Syria 'safe zone'

During the last week, as Kurdish militias in the YPG have gotten to within 25 kilometers of Turkey's border, Turkey has been shelling YPG positions. The US administration has been asking Turkey to stop the shelling, but after Wednesday's terror attack in Ankara, nothing like that has any chance of happening. According to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "At the moment, I have difficulty in understanding America, which still hasn’t called or still cannot call the PYD and the YPG as terrorists and which says, ‘Our support for the YPG will continue.'"

Erdogan has for years been demanding help from the US and UN to set up a "buffer zone" or "safe zone," a strip of land in northern Syria along the border with Turkey. As we wrote last week ( "10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border"), Erdogan appears to be taking advantage of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on Turkey's border by setting up refugee camps in Syria, effectively creating a de facto buffer zone.

In response to Wednesday's attack in Ankara, Erdogan said: “Oh America! You did not say ‘yes’ to a ‘no-fly zone.’ Now the Russian planes are running wild over there, and thousands and tens of thousands of victims are dying. Weren’t we coalition forces? Weren’t we supposed to act together?”

On Wednesday, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for Erdogan's idea for a no-fly zone, saying that it would be a sign of good will that could lead to a peace agreement Syria.

Remember when the US and Russia announced a "cessation of hostilities?" It feels like it was months ago, but actually it was only six days ago. ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria") And now, after Wednesday's attack in Ankara, it would seem that the cessation of hostilities idea is gone. Hurriyet (Ankara) and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Feb-16 World View -- Car bomb attack on military in Ankara Turkey kills 28 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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17-Feb-16 World View -- China speeds rapid military buildup in South China Sea

China promises 'Peace in our time' at ASEAN conference

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China speeds rapid military buildup in South China Sea


ASEAN meeting in California on Tuesday (AFP)
ASEAN meeting in California on Tuesday (AFP)

China's preparations for war appear to be speeding up, as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is rapidly militarizing the entire South China Sea, developing a network of military bases across the Paracel and Spratly islands.

New satellite pictures show that dredging operations are creating more and more artificial islands in the Paracels and Spratlys, and that the islands that have already been constructed are being armed to the teeth with such things as anti-submarine warfare helicopters, runways, and fuel bunkers. China's new military buildup appears to be particularly targeting American submarines. With multiple military bases across the entire South China Sea, a helicopter fleet would be unconstrained by fuel range or limited numbers of ship-borne landing berths, creating a continuous and contiguous web of surveillance and response capability. Such a web would also have utility in surface ship and aerial combat strategies in the region.

New satellite imagery shows that within the past week China's military has deployed advanced surface-to-air missile systems and radar systems on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea. This has substantially escalated the level of military tension in the South China Sea, as China prepares for war with its neighbors and with the United States.

The Diplomat and Fox News and Bloomberg

China promises 'Peace in our time' at ASEAN conference

The publication of photos showing China's rapid and aggressive military buildup across the South China Sea comes just as the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was meeting at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California.

A major topic of discussion at the ASEAN summit was China's South China Sea policy. China is following an extremely dangerous policy that almost always leads to a major war, with the most obvious historical example being Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia and Poland.

China is claiming an enormous region as its sovereign territory, and has been annexing regions historically belonging to Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries.

At the summit on Tuesday, President Obama gave the opening speech and said:

"Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means."

This was thought to be a message to China not to continue its military buildup in the South China sea.

In addition, vice-Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet warned China not to fly jet fighters from runways on its new man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea, because that would be destabilizing to the whole region. Aucoin said, “We are unsure where they are taking us. So we are going to sail, fly, operate throughout these waters. ... Like we have been doing for so long,"

The Obama administration is claiming a bit of a moral victory, because the Chinese agreed to sign a joint statement at the end of the summit:

"7. Shared commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS);

8. Shared commitment to maintain peace, security and stability in the region, ensuring maritime security and safety, including the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the seas, and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce as described in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as well as non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities;"

These statements are farcical because China has already said that it will ignore them, despite having committed to them. China has already rejected "legal and diplomatic processes" to settle disputes, and is obviously ignoring the pledges of "non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities."

They say that history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes, and we see China repeating the mistakes of Adolf Hitler. After annexing Czechoslovakia, Hitler thought that the UK was too weak to challenge him.

Nazi Germany was then thoroughly humiliated in defeat in which its entire infrastructure was destroyed, split into four regions controlled by four different countries, not permitted to reunite for almost 50 years, and forced to apologize for its behavior for many decades after that.

Now China is doing pretty much the same thing, annexing other countries' regions, with Obama as the modern day Neville Chamberlain, to whom China is promising "peace in our time." It remains to be seen who will win the war this time. White House and Reuters and White House

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Feb-16 World View -- China speeds rapid military buildup in South China Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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16-Feb-16 World View -- Missile strikes on Syria's hospitals and schools called 'war crimes'

China's massive lending binge: four times as much as forecast

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Missile strikes on Syria's hospitals and schools called 'war crimes'


MSF officials in rubble of Idlib hospital destroyed by airstrike missile on Wednesday (AFP)
MSF officials in rubble of Idlib hospital destroyed by airstrike missile on Wednesday (AFP)

Monday's missile attacks on hospitals and schools in Azaz, killing dozens, are being called "war crimes." The missile attacks appear to have been deliberate. The hospitals were run by Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF).

The U.S. State Department condemned the airstrikes, blaming the Syrian regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad for the attack on Azaz. Azaz, which is north of Aleppo near the border with Turkey, has been under massive attack by Kurdish YPG militias, and by the Syrian and Russian air forces.

Syria's al-Assad regime has a history of frequently deliberately targeting civilians, including schools and hospitals, especially in the Aleppo region:

So deliberate missile attacks by al-Assad on hospitals and schools would be standard operating procedure for al-Assad.

In a separate incident on Monday, four missiles from Russian warplane air strikes struck another Doctors Without Borders hospital, this time in Idlib in northern Syria. CNN and BBC

China to substantially increase military budget as army restructures

China is expected next month to announce another 10% increase in its annual military budget, at a time when China's economy has been slowing, indicating that the military remains a top priority. China has been exponentially increasing its military budget every year for years, as part of its aggressive multi-year military buildup.

There's something new this year -- a major restructuring of the military, ordered by the president Xi Jinping. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is being restructured into five military battle zone commands. The Northern Command will have the Korean Peninsula as its main objective, along with Russia's Far East and Mongolia; the Western Command is geared towards Central Asia and Indian subcontinent; the Southern Command's objective is southeast Asia and South China Sea; the Eastern Command is targeting Taiwan and Western Pacific; and the Central Command acts as general strategic reserve. There is no single command dedicated to Russia.

As part of revamping its cold war-era command structure, the PLA is cutting 300,000 jobs. Reports indicate that this has caused quite a bit of unhappiness in the ranks. According to one one senior Beijing-based Western diplomat, "Where are the 300,000 going to go? There's no information. Are the SOEs [state-owned enterprises] supposed to employ them?"

In the restructuring, the navy is taking on greater importance, for two reasons. First because of increased tensions in the South China Sea, where China has been annexing regions historically belonging to Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries. And second, because Taiwan's elections in January brought to power a government unsympathetic to Beijing. ( "17-Jan-16 World View -- Taiwan's pro-independence party wins historic presidential election")

The Eastern Command in the new command structure appears to be specifically aimed at Taiwan. Beijing's policy is that if Taiwan takes any move whatsoever towards independence, then China will invade Taiwan. China has indicated that it will continue to tolerate Taiwan's current ambiguous relationship with Beijing, but that it's beginning to run out of patience. So the objective of the new Eastern Command may well be to prepare for an invasion of Taiwan. Reuters and Aviation Week and Focus Taiwan

China's massive lending binge: four times as much as forecast

China's banks gave new loans in January for 2.51 trillion yuan ($385.6 billion). This was about four times the lending in December, and also about four times as much as had been forecast by analysts.

As we wrote last week ( "9-Feb-16 World View -- Monday's stock market rout blamed on China's foreign currency selloffs"), China has been selling of US Treasuries and other assets denominated in foreign currencies in a desperate attempt to keep the yuan (renminbi) currency from weakening into a death spiral.

These new figures suggest that these desperation measures also extend to "printing" trillions of new yuan. Normally "printing" currency has the result of weakening (devaluing) the currency, and so it may be that these two measures are meant to offset each other: The debt binge would inject new money into the weakening economy, which the sale of US Treasuries would attempt to hold the line against further yuan devaluation.

January's lending binge has not been this high since the 2009 global financial crisis. At that time, China was applauded for "saving the world" by flooding China with trillions of newly printed yuan in order to allow its economy to continue growing. Bloomberg and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Feb-16 World View -- Missile strikes on Syria's hospitals and schools called 'war crimes' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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15-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey doubles down on shelling Kurds in Syria

John Kerry suggests that al-Assad and the Russians are delusional

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey doubles down on shelling Kurds in Syria


A woman makes her way through the rubble of damaged buildings after Syrian government airstrikes on Friday (Reuters)
A woman makes her way through the rubble of damaged buildings after Syrian government airstrikes on Friday (Reuters)

Turkey continued shelling the positions of Kurdish YPG militia in Syria on Sunday for a second day. YPG militias in Syria continued to move closer to the border with Turkey, and Turkish officials claimed that Turkey was responding to mortar fire from the Kurds in Syria.

The YPG is the military wing of the Kurds in Syria, and has links to the PKK in Turkey, which is considered a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the US. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization as well, and is in bitter disagreement with the US which considers the YPG to be an ally in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

According to Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the shelling will continue until the YPG meets its demands:

"The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area, and will not go close to it again. It will not attempt to shut their corridor ever again. It will not have delusions of using Menagh base to attack the opposition."

A YPG spokesman said that Davutoglu's demands will be ignored.

Davutoglu said that when US Vice President Joe Biden visited Istanbul last month, they agreed on some issues:

According to Davutoglu, "When Biden asked about the latest developments, I told him there has been no development regarding these three fundamental principles."

France is calling for an immediate end to all Syrian, Russian and Turkish violence around Aleppo, including airstrikes and shelling. It seems unlikely that anyone will do as called for.

The United States is pressuring Turkey to end the shelling of the YPG in Syria. Other nations are expressing alarm that the shelling will sink last week's "peace agreement" between the US and Russia. Hurriyet (Ankara) and Al-Jazeera and Anadolu and dpa

Qatar says it will join Saudi Arabia, UAE sending troops to Syria

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have all announced that they would send troops to Syria to fight ISIS if appropriate. There has been talk of a joint troop operation by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

According to last week's peace agreement, a full ceasefire is supposed to begin in a few days, and the nations involved were supposed to start to wind down their hostilities. ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria")

Instead, all the nations involved have been intensifying their hostilities. There are two ways of looking at this.

Some analysts take a Pollyannaish view that everyone is getting one last burst of violence out of their systems so that they can honor the cease fire.

Others take the view that everyone is using the ceasefire agreement as a cover for more violence, and there is no chance at all that the ceasefire will be honored.

We'll see in a few days which of these views is correct. Anadolu and NPR and Al Monitor

John Kerry suggests that al-Assad and the Russians are delusional

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the 2016 Munich Security Conference on Saturday, and chastised Russia and Syria's president Bashar al-Assad by name for using "free-fall bombs" to kill civilians, and suggested that they were delusional for thinking they could win the war:

"And the Security Council Resolution has demanded that “all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians.” That, too, has not happened to date. And indeed, the violence by the regime, as we all know, went up. Free-fall bombs are being used, which are not precise. We all know civilians are being killed. So we hope this week can be a week of change.

Now, some have argued that the reason humanitarian access has been denied and has – and there’s been this bombing is because Assad and his allies, including Russia, might believe that by defying the will of the international community, they can win the war. That is a proposition that is being discussed. If that is what Russia and Assad think, then I believe they would be missing the lessons of the last five years. The Syrians who have rejected Assad have endured four years of shelling, barrel bombs, gas, Scud missiles, chemical attacks, torture; and they may be pushed back here or there, but they are not going to surrender. I don’t believe there’s anybody who believes they will. And the countries that have supported Assad and the countries that have opposed him say they’re both committed to continuing that. That is not a recipe, obviously, for a resolution.

So it is critical for all of us to take advantage of this moment to make this cessation of hostilities work. And one thing I would say is that the more successful people are in standing up Assad, at the same time, the more successful they will be in attracting more jihadis to the fight. That’s the perverse reality of what has happened there."

Very often when Kerry speaks, he's so afraid to offend anyone that his speech becomes completely muddled, sometimes even worthy of being a skit on Saturday Night Live.

But in this speech he was very explicit -- accusing al-Assad of using missiles, Sarin gas, chlorine gas, torture and missiles on civilians -- and suggesting that if al-Assad thinks he can win the war then he must be delusional.

He also makes the point that we've been making for years -- that young jihadists from around the world have come to fight al-Assad resulting in the creation of ISIS, and that they'll continue to come as long as al-Assad keeps attacking innocent Sunnis in Syria. US State Department

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey doubles down on shelling Kurds in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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14-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's military strikes Kurdish positions in Syria, north of Aleppo

Saudi Arabia and Turkey plan joint ground troop incursion into Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey's military strikes Kurdish positions in Syria, north of Aleppo


Turkey's military on the border with Syria in 2015
Turkey's military on the border with Syria in 2015

Turkey's military shelled Kurdish YPG militia targets in northern Syria near the Turkish border on Saturday. The shelling continued for two hours. The attacks were triggered by the YPG capture of Menagh, a former military air base near the town of Azaz. This is today's military escalation du jour following last week's "peace agreement" between the US, Russia, and other international leaders. ( "12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria")

There has been an increasingly bitter disagreement between Turkey and the United States over the role of the YPG in Syria. The YPG have links to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) in Turkey, a separatist group that has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Turkey since 1984. The stated goals of the YPG are to fulfill the PKK's separatist goals in Syria by creating a de facto Kurdish state from west Syria to east Syria and into Iraq, along Syria's northern border with Turkey. Turkey says that the YPG is also a terrorist organization. The United States designates the PKK as a terrorist organization, but says that the YPG are not.

Although the Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims, the Kurdish militias are politically on the far left, and are allied with Russia and the Alawite/Shia government of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The US has supplied arms to the YPG in its fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), after ISIS brutally attacked the Kurds in northern Iraq last year. American support for the YPG in Syria has led to vitriolic attacks by Turkish leaders on America. ( "11-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood'"

Turkey has repeatedly warned that a Kurdish attempt to take control of the area on the Turkish border north of Aleppo, which would be a strategic victory in the YPG goal of a Kurdish state, would be entirely unacceptable to Turkey, and would trigger a Turkish military response. Earlier in the day, a Turkish military source that "PYD/PKK" forces had shelled Turkish targets.

According to Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu:

"Today retaliation was taken under the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area.

We will help our brothers in Aleppo with all means at our disposal. We will take those in need but we will never allow Aleppo to be emptied through an ethnic massacre. ...

Those who say PYD is not a terrorist organization either do not know the region, or have ill intentions.

The terror organization PYD is in cooperation with Russia and Assad, and is attacking Turkmens [in Syria]. If there is a threat against Turkey, we will strike PYD like we did Qandil [PKK's HQ located in Iraq]. ...

"Somebody needs to draw a line against Russia and raise their voice."

US State Dept. spokesman John Kirby responded by saying that the US would continue full support of the YPG in Syria:

" "We have urged Syrian Kurdish and other forces affiliated with the YPG not to take advantage of a confused situation by seizing new territory. ...

Turkey and the YPG share a serious threat of ISIL poised just to the east of the Azaz corridor. We continue to encourage all parties to focus on this common threat, which has not subsided, and to work towards a cessation of hostilities."

There was no statement from Russian officials regarding the attack on the Kurds, but it's pretty certain that Russia will retaliate, possibly even bombing military targets on Turkish soil. This would be a major further escalation. Hurriyet (Istanbul) and Today's Zaman (12-Feb) and Anadolu Agency

Saudi Arabia and Turkey plan joint ground troop incursion into Syria

Saudi Arabia is sending 8 to 10 warplanes to Turkey's Incirlik air base, saying that they will be used in cross-border attacks on ISIS in Syria. (Everyone says that they're only attacking ISIS, no matter who they're attacking.) Incirlik air base is already being used by the U.S.-led coalition with Britain and France in cross-border attacks on ISIS.

In addition, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are discussing plans for a joint operation to deploy ground troops into Syria to fight ISIS on the ground.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said, "There is discussion on whether ground troops are needed against IS. If a decision is taken to send in special units against IS, Saudi Arabia is ready to take part."

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said,

"Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been in favor of a ground operation in the fight against Daesh. We have been saying in all meetings of the [US-led anti-ISIL] coalition that there should be a comprehensive strategy. We have said if such a strategy is put in place, we, as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, can join a ground offensive."

The discussion of Saudi and Turkey ground troops in Syria has drawn sharp criticism from within Turkey itself, from Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP):

"The government is of course required to protect national security and to take deterrent measures in the face of dangers emanating from outside our borders. But if a military operation is being planned in the name of executing or assisting some global projects and a cooperation is forged with Saudi Arabia to that effect, the results could be terrible. It could lead to unimaginably grave consequences.

Turkey will not be a proxy to execute scenarios of violence and atrocity drafted in foreign capitals. Otherwise the outcome could be catastrophic. ...

A ground operation without the approval of Parliament could cost us a homeland."

As I've been writing for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major war between Shias and Sunnis, between Arabs and Jews, and between different ethnic groups. Almost every day there's a new event that moves the Mideast along that path. It may not be very long now. Today's Zaman (Ankara) and Today's Zaman

The death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly on Saturday while on a hunting trip. He was a conservative member of the Court, appointed in 1986 by Ronald Reagan.

There has been hours of wall-to-wall news coverage of the reactions to Scalia's death. As a public service to my readers, I'm providing you with the entire story:

Republicans: Scalia's death is an enormous shock, and a profound loss to the Court and the entire nation.

Democrats: We wish Scalia's family the best.

Republicans: The next president should pick a successor next year.

Democrats: Obama should pick a successor immediately.

That's it. That's the entire content of the news coverage of Scalia's death. Now you can go back to reading about Kanye West and Taylor Swift. Washington Post and E! Online

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's military strikes Kurdish positions in Syria, north of Aleppo thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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13-Feb-16 World View -- Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis

Nato deploys warships to Aegean sea to deter people smugglers

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis


Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) appears to be wagging her finger at Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (AP)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) appears to be wagging her finger at Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (AP)

European Union foreign ministers have given Greece a three-month ultimatum to remedy "deficiencies" in controlling the influx of migrants, most from Turkey. The European Commission is threatening to remove Greece from the Schengen Zone of visa-free travel if Greece fails to remedy the problem by mid-May.

The "deficiencies" found by the European Commission are that Greece failed to properly register and fingerprint migrants when they arrived at the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

The rules about registering migrants comes from the Geneva convention, which was adopted by the EU in the "Dublin II" regulation of 2003. As we reported in August of last year, many migrants are refusing to be fingerprinted when they arrive in Greece, because then they would have to apply for asylum in Greece. If accepted, they could be required to stay in Greece, and if rejected, they could be deported back to their countries of origin. Instead, most migrants prefer to reach the wealthier countries such as Britain or Germany, where they can take advantage of more generous benefits.

When migrants began arriving in Lesbos and other Greek islands last summer, Greece was overwhelmed by something like 3,000 migrants per day. The migrants were stuck on the islands, and Greece was under tremendous pressure from the EU because of the allegedly deplorable conditions for the migrants on the islands. So Greece instituted a ferry service from the islands to Athens, to comply with the EU request.

However, then the migrants traveled from Athens to the border with Macedonia, and started a tsunami of migrants to the north, with most headed for Germany. So readers may recall the drama last year, as one country after another began to close their borders, forcing the flood of migrants to take another route. ( "20-Oct-15 World View -- As winter approaches, thousands of European refugees may be trapped in the cold")

Greece never did comply with EU demands that every migrant be registered and fingerprinted while in Greece, and now the EU is setting a three-month ultimatum.

Removing Greece from the Schengen Zone would be a new financial disaster for Greece, as it would cripple Greece's tourist industry and also make it a lot more difficult for Greece to visit other countries. Furthermore, tens of thousands of migrants would be stranded in Greece, as other countries completely closed their borders.

Greece's financial crisis is in a kind of remission, as it's been out of the headlines for a while. But Greece still owes 200 billion euros in loans and 50% of young people are unemployed. Capital controls on banks are still in place, and Greek people can only withdraw a maximum of 60 euros per day from their bank accounts. So the financial crisis is far from over, and the mixture of the financial crisis and the refugee crisis has the potential to be explosive. AFP and Kathimerini (Athens) and EU Dublin II Regulations

European Union in chaos over the refugee crisis

The refugee crisis has brought the European Union to almost total political chaos. Even though it's still mid-Winter, there are still about 2,000 migrants arriving from Turkey every day, and that number is expected to increase substantially in the warm Spring weather.

The EU has tried one desperate measure after another, such as suspending Schengen Zone rules in several countries and imposing border controls. The most prominent measure was an agreement in November to give $3.2 billion to Turkey in exchange for controlling the flow of migrants to Greece. However, that money hasn't yet been paid, and few people believe it will work anyway.

The EU has also promised to pay Greece one billion euros to set up and operate relocation camps for migrants. Greek officials say that that money will only be enough for six months or so, and anyway, that money hasn't been paid yet either.

So now the EU is saying that the refugee problem is all Greece's fault, and is trying a new desperate measure -- threatening to eject Greece from the Schengen Zone. Few people believe that idea will work either. Business Insider and Kathimerini

Nato deploys warships to Aegean sea to deter people smugglers

One more measure being adopted to try to slow the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece is being taken not by the European Union but by the Northeast Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).

Three Nato warships are arriving in the Aegean Sea to deter people smugglers transporting migrants from Turkey to Greece. Their jobs will not be about "stopping or pushing back refugee boats," according to Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg. Instead, they will be primarily tasked to provide Turkish and Greek coastguards and EU border agency Frontex with information on human trafficking and criminal networks operating in the eastern Mediterranean.

The advantage of using Nato ships is freedom of movement. Greek ships have to stay in Greek territorial waters, and Turkish ships have to stay in Turkish territorial waters. But Nato ships can travel in either.

Theoretically, the Nato ships will not participate in "search and rescue" operations. If they spot a migrant ship in trouble, then they will notify the Greek or Turkish coast guards, and will only take action if it's required immediately to save lives. If refugees are taken on board, then the plan is to return them back to Turkey, something that Turkey has not yet agreed to.

According to Amnesty International, Nato ships MUST carry out immediate search and rescue operations:

"Any NATO ships that witness a boat in distress must provide immediate life-saving assistance. Hundreds of refugees, including many children, have already died this year attempting the treacherous journey across the Aegean.

In no way must NATO forces become yet one more barrier between refugees and the international protection they are legally entitled to.

Intercepting refugees attempting to reach Europe and pushing them back to Turkey – where 2.5 million are already hosted – would be a serious violation of their right to claim asylum, and would fly in the face of international law."

The mission will be performed by Nato's Maritime Command Standing Maritime Group 2, which is under German command, and is comprised of five ships from different allies. Three ships are being deployed immediately, with Denmark and the Netherlands also planning to participate in the mission. BBC and Foreign Policy and NATO Maritime Command and Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Feb-16 World View -- Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria

The vitriolic hatred of Bashar al-Assad

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria


Russia's Sergei Lavrov and America's John Kerry in Munich on Thursday (AFP)
Russia's Sergei Lavrov and America's John Kerry in Munich on Thursday (AFP)

Russia, the United States, and other parties meeting in Munich reached an agreement on the Syria war on Thursday. Not all details are known, but press reports indicate that the following are the terms:

It was just two weeks ago that peace talks began in Geneva. ( "25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva".) Those peace talks collapsed the day after they started, largely because the anti-Assad groups did not want to participate.

So here's the situation:

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees continue to flee from Aleppo, as Russian airstrikes slaughter large numbers of civilians, and as Syria, Iranian and Hezbollah troops continue to encircle the town, preparing for the final siege and mass slaughter. There are half a million civilians living in Aleppo, and Russia says that they're all "terrorists," so the slaughter is going to continue under this farcical "cessation of hostilities."

You'd think that US Secretary of State John Kerry would be embarrassed to be part of this ridiculous farce, but as we've seen over and over and over, there is nothing too farcical to embarrass Kerry. Washington Post and LA Times

Russia launches massive military exercises, apparently targeting Turkey and Syria

Described by one Russian analyst as a "little message" to Turkey, Russia has launched a massive surprise military exercise, involving thousands of troops and hundreds of warplanes across southwestern Russia for large-scale military drills. Up to 8,500 troops, 900 ground weapons, 200 warplanes and about 50 warships will be involved in the drills.

According to the announcement from Russia, the purpose of the exercises is to prepare for an unexpected event in Ukraine. The invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the occupation of Crimea in 2014 were preceded by massive exercises similar to the current one. The present snap exercises involve mass troop movement close to the Ukrainian border.

Instead, Russian military experts believe the present snap exercises are aimed primarily at Turkey and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, if they intervene in the fray. Russia's order to “prepare massive air raids and repel massive air attacks” does not seem to be directly aimed at Ukraine, which has a small outdated air force, incapable of carrying out “massive raids” deep into Russia to destroy strategically important targets.

The present snap exercise strongly resembles a massive combat prewar troop deployment aimed to take on Turkey if it attempts to intervene in Syria to curtail the Russian-led offensive in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces. Jamestown and Rudaw (Kurdish) and CBS

The vitriolic hatred of Bashar al-Assad

Whenever I write about Syria's psychopathic president Bashar al-Assad and his campaign of extermination of against Sunni Muslims, I almost always get comments from al-Assad acolytes and paid Russian internet trolls criticizing me and saying that the United States is the real criminal.

However, one of them gave the game away several days ago when he posted the comment:

"There are no Sunni 'civilians.'"

Another commenter referred to the opposition groups as "roaches."

This epithet is very familiar to me from having studied the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The Hutus were incited to slaughter the Tutsis with "You have to kill the Tutsis, they're cockroaches."

So, when someone says that "there are no Sunni civilians," then he means that all Sunnis are terrorists. And when someone says that they're "cockroaches," he means that they have to be exterminated.

What happened in Rwanda in 1994 is almost impossible for an ordinary human to believe. Prior to the 1990s, Hutus and Tutsis had lived together, intermarried, and had their children play with each other. When the 1994 genocide occurred, a Hutu might pick up a machete, go to the Tutsi home next door, or down the street, murder and dismember the man and children, rape the wife and then murder and dismember her. Almost a million Tutsis were killed.

In her book, World on Fire, Yale law professor Amy Chua describes how, living in the Philippines, her Chinese ancestry gave her family élite privileges not available to indigenous Filipinos. Her family was wealthy, with numerous Filipino servants who slept in the basement "sleeping on mats on a dirt floor [in a] place that stank of sweat and urine," living on less than two dollars a day. When her chauffeur murdered her aunt, the police investigated and found the motive to be "Revenge."

Amy Chua says, "Each time I think of [the chauffer] Nilo Abique -- he was close to six feet and my aunt was four-feet-eleven-inches tall -- I find myself welling up with a hatred and revulsion so intense it is actually consoling."

Amy Chua described what happened in the 1990s in the Bosnian war:

"My aunt's killing was just a pinprick in a world more violent than most of us ever imagined. In America we read about acts of mass slaughter and savagery; at first in faraway places, now coming closer and closer to home. We do not understand what connects these acts. Nor do we understand the role we have played in bringing them about.

In the Serbian concentration camps of the early 1990s, the women prisoners were raped over and over, many times a day, often with broken bottles, often together with their daughters. The men, if they were lucky, were beaten to death as their Serbian guards sang national anthems; if they were not so fortunate, they were castrated or, at gunpoint, forced to castrate their fellow prisoners, sometimes with their own teeth. In all, thousands were tortured and executed."

Compared to this kind of hatred, the "hatred" that Americans talk about today are silly by comparison -- someone who opposes gay marriage is guilty of "hatred."

So you have to wonder what was going on in Rwanda and Bosnia. If you're going to kill someone, then just kill them. What's the point of having one of them castrate the other with his teeth? Where does this level of irrational, psychopathic behavior come from?

Well, it's part of the human DNA. It's not unique to any religion or ethnic group. Under the right circumstances -- particularly during a generational crisis war -- any human being might act that way. I've recently discussed this subject at length with respect to the act of rape as a common act of revenge during war. ( "7-Jan-16 World View -- German 'Code of Conduct' for women shows pendulum swing on gender issues")

We've seen other recent examples of this kind of behavior. Al-Qaeda and ISIS jihadists have been torturing and killing people, especially Shia Muslims, in this way. In Burma (Myanmar), Buddhist death squads have been torturing and massacring ethnic Rohingyas and other Muslims in the most brutal possible way.


Emaciated man showing wounds from repeated beatings by rod-like object.  There are 55,000 photos like this, showing 11,000 corpses from Bashar al-Assad's psychopathic torture.
Emaciated man showing wounds from repeated beatings by rod-like object. There are 55,000 photos like this, showing 11,000 corpses from Bashar al-Assad's psychopathic torture.

So now let's come back to Bashar al-Assad. It's been obvious to me since 2011 that al-Assad wanted to exterminate all Sunnis, because of his level of vitriolic hatred of all Sunnis. This was obvious when he started responding to peaceful protests by massacring entire Sunni villages and when his warplanes were bombing schoolchildren as they slept in the dormitories.

It was even more apparent in 2014 when 50,000 photos emerged of 11,000 men who had been tortured with electrocution, eye-gouging, strangulation, starvation, and beating on prisoners on a massive "industrial strength" scale. They were similar to the images found in Nazi death camps after World War II. ( "22-Jan-14 World View -- Western leaders sickened by Assad's 'industrial strength' torture in Syria")

As I've said in the past, Bashar al-Assad is the greatest genocidal monster in today's world, comparable to Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin. For years, he's been killing thousands of Syrian civilians every week with complete impunity, using Russian-supplied barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods. And he's used sarin chemical weapons on civilians. He uses the most gruesome forms of torture on a personal, individual scale, as well as on a mass scale. There is no mass weapon of destruction, nor any gruesome form of torture, that he won't use to satisfy his psychopathy.

And he's being supported in his genocide and psychopathy by Russia's president Vladimir Putin and Iran's supreme leader Seyed Ali Khamenei, who are guilty of supporting the same psychopath and genocide, making them war criminals.

Syria is in a generational Awakening era, meaning that the Syrian civil war should have completely fizzled out long ago. In a sense it has, because it's less a civil war than a proxy war. But what's kept it going is the intense, vitriolic hatred felt by one person, Bashar al-Assad, and by the willingness of his acolytes, Putin and Khamenei to support him.

And that's how I knew that the peace process 'proximity talks' would never succeed, and how I know that there will not be a ceasefire in Syria, as long as Bashar al-Assad is in power, and can count on the support of his acolytes and the war criminals Putin and Khamenei.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Feb-16 World View -- US and Russia agree to a farcical 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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11-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood'

Pentagon deploying hundreds of troops to Helmand in Afghanistan

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pentagon deploying hundreds of troops to Helmand in Afghanistan


US soldiers in Afghanistan (AFP)
US soldiers in Afghanistan (AFP)

With the Taliban resurgent in Helmand province in Afghanistan, the US will deploy a force described as "battalion strength," probably around 800 troops, to the region to support the Afghan military. US troops have already been involved in combat against the Taliban recently in Helmand, including an hours-long battle last month. But in keeping with Barack Obama’s formal declaration that the US is not engaged in combat, defense officials said the additional troops would not take part in combat.

According to Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan:

"The battalion will bring a small number of trainers to assist with the efforts to re-man, re-equip, and re-train the 215th Corps, but its primary mission will remain force protection. This is not a new force protection mission, but an enhancement of the existing force protection mission to increase the capacity of our current train, advise and assist efforts."

The new deployment will not increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan. The additional forces will be taken from the 9,800 troops already in the country. The advisors and infantry will come from the 10th Mountain Division. Army Times and Guardian (London)

Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood'

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday signaled a major split with the Obama administration by accusing it of adopting a policy that has turned the Mideast into "a sea of blood."

On the same day, Frances outgoing foreign minister Laurent Fabius also blamed President Obama for inaction that's led to numerous setbacks in Syria, and said that he doubted that Obama would follow through on previous promises to back Syria's moderate opposition:

"There are ambiguities including among the actors of the coalition. I'm not going to repeat what I've said before about the main pilot [Barack Obama] of the coalition… but we don't have the feeling that there is a very strong commitment there.

I don't think that the end of Mr. Obama's mandate will push him to act as much as his minister [secretary of state John Kerry] declares."

While Fabius merely blamed Obama for inaction, Erdogan blamed Obama for specific actions -- namely supporting the YPG, the armed wing of the Kurds in Syria. The US has been supporting the YPG as its foot soldiers in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). However, the YPG has ties to the PKK in Turkey, which an internationally recognized separatist terrorist group that has been conducting terror attacks in Turkey for decades. Furthermore, the YPG is allied with Russia, which is now a bitter enemy of Turkey.

Erdogan on Wednesday said that Obama has to make a decision whether his ally is Turkey or the YPG:

"Hey, America. Because you never recognized them as a terrorist group, the region has turned into a sea of blood.

“We have written proof! We tell the Americans, ‘It’s a terror group.’ But the Americans stand up and say, ‘No, we don’t see them as terror groups.' ...

Am I your regional partner or are the terrorists in Kobani [the YPG]? ...

They [US officials] do not say anything to our faces, but they make different statements elsewhere. It is not possible to understand what type of partnership this is."

Erdogan added that it's impossible to trust America at this point.

Erdogan indicated that Turkey would break with American policy and implement its own solution, referring to his proposal to create a safe zone or buffer zone in northern Syria. As we wrote yesterday ( "10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border"), Erdogan appears to be taking advantage of the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on Turkey's border by setting up refugee camps in Syria, effectively creating a de facto buffer zone. CNN and Daily Caller and Vice News and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Feb-16 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan splits further with US, blaming it for a 'sea of blood' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border

Turkey border 'buffer zone' could result in clash with Syrian army

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mass exodus from Aleppo continues amid reports Russians are using cluster bombs


Refugee camp in northern Syria on border with Turkey on Monday (AP)
Refugee camp in northern Syria on border with Turkey on Monday (AP)

Russian warplanes continue to pound civilians, causing tens of thousands more to flee the city.

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that Russian warplanes used cluster bombs in at least 14 attacks across five provinces since January 26. Cluster bombs open in flight and scatter dozens of explosive munitions over wide areas. They're particularly effective in killing large numbers of civilians over a wide area.

The United Nations has warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians could starve if, as feared, forces loyal to the Syrian government encircle Aleppo and submit it to a siege, backed by Russian warplanes. It said that a huge new wave of refugees would be forced to flee from a Russian-backed assault. Independent (London) and Fox News and AP

United Nations demands that Turkey admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees

Thousands more Syrians continue to flee Syrian army forces and Russian warplanes pounding Aleppo, and are joining the tens of thousands already massed on the border with Turkey.

The Red Crescent (the Islamic branch of the International Red Cross) has been overseeing refugee camps in Turkey, as well as aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey, and is now providing eight tent camps and humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria massed on the border with Turkey. They have provided 2,000 tents, as well as blankets, food, water, and hygiene kits.

However, aid groups say that tents on the Syrian side of the border are overcrowded and that food is in short supply. The United Nations is demanding that Turkey open its border to "all civilians who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection as they have done since the start of this crisis."

There are two major reasons why Turkey is reluctant to open its border to tens of thousands more refugees:

Some Turkish columns are calling European Union calls to open the border "a joke":

"It’s almost like a bad joke. At the very moment when EU member states are doing their utmost to close their borders to Syrian refugees, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini is calling on Ankara to admit the tens of thousands of refugees piled up on Turkey’s borders near the town of Kilis, following the recent advances near Aleppo by al-Assad regime forces supported by Russia and Iran.

Mogherini is saying that there is a moral if not legal duty to provide protection to these people. According to her, the EU is also providing funds to ensure that Turkey has “the means, the instruments, and the resources to protect and host the people who are seeking asylum.”

This appears to be no more than a flimsy attempt to retain a moral high ground against Turkey at a time when Europe is reacting deplorably to the refugee crisis and therefore has much to answer for. What Mogherini says also completely disregards what Turkey has been doing for the past four years."

Turkish columnists also note that the EU has promised financial aid for refugees in Turkey, but that the financial aid hasn't materialized. Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Washington Post

Turkey border 'buffer zone' could result in clash with Syrian army

There's another, more strategic reason why Turkey is setting up refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border near Aleppo.

For four years, Turkey has advocated setting up a "buffer zone" on the Syrian side of the border, starting at a time when hundreds of new refugees were entering Turkey each day rather than many thousands. Turkey received no international support for the idea, because of the concern that it would bring Turkey's army into conflict with Syria's army. ( "17-Mar-12 World View -- Turkey once again talks about a 'buffer zone' in Syria")

Now, with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on Turkey's border, Turkey has managed to set up a de facto buffer zone. Turkey considers this even more urgently needed today not only because of the larger mass of refugees, but also because Turkey wants to prevent the hated Kurds from creating a de facto Kurdish state along the entire border, from western Syria all the way west into Iraq.

However, the concerns today about a clash with Syria's army are just as real. Syrian officials are making it clear that they intend to "control the borders" with Turkey.

In an interview, Bouthaina Shaaban, advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said:

"[There would be no letup in an army advance, which aimed] "to liberate cities and villages that were controlled by the terrorists for 3-1/2 years, and also an attempt to liberate the city of Aleppo from the crimes of terrorism.

[We intend] to control our borders with Turkey, because Turkey is the main source of terrorists, and the main crossing for them. ...

We hope that the operation will continue in the north until we control the borders and stop the terrorists who Turkey has since the start of the crisis worked to send to Syria."

This is not something that Turkey would want to see, as it would certainly mean Kurdish control of the entire length of the border between Syria and Turkey.

Perhaps Turkey will back down and let the masses of refugees into Turkey, and allow the Syrian army to take control of the border region. Or, perhaps Syria will back down, and allow Turkey to keep its de facto buffer zone in Syria along the border.

Syrian army forces are already just 25 km from Turkey's border. If neither side backs down, then there will be a clash in the next few weeks.

As long time readers know, Generational Dynamics has predicted for years that the entire Mideast is headed for a major war between Jews and Arabs, between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and among various ethnic groups. Things have been moving very quickly for the last few months, and each new week seems to have some event that brings that prediction closer to fruition. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Feb-16 World View -- Russia and Turkey head for clash on Syria border thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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9-Feb-16 World View -- Monday's stock market rout blamed on China's foreign currency selloffs

Hong Kong experiences worst violence in years

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bangladesh covers up Tibetan art after China threat


Dhaka Art Summit is the biggest art show in Bangladesh with about 300 South Asian artists participating
Dhaka Art Summit is the biggest art show in Bangladesh with about 300 South Asian artists participating

Bangladesh's biggest art show, the Dhaka Arts Summit, was forced to cover up an exhibit by Tibetan artists, due to threats from China's ambassador. The exhibit page homage to 149 Tibetans who had self-immolated (burned themselves to death) to protest China's policies. The exhibit displays five letters written by Tibetan protesters before they burned themselves.

According to the artist:

"They had to be covered because the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh (Ma Mingqiang) found the works offensive, during a visit to the summit on Saturday.

We were told by the curator (Diana Campbell Betancourt) that he exploded as soon as he saw it and asked the works to be removed immediately or face consequences."

The nature of the "consequences" was not explained.

China heavily censors art displays within China, and now is censoring art displays in other countries. AFP and Indian Express

Desperate China official rapidly selling of foreign currency reserves

People used to say that the U.S. was so deeply in debt to China that China could blackmail the U.S. by simply threatening to sell off all the Treasury bonds that it owns. In those days, the U.S. was importing so much from China that China had to buy US Treasuries to help the balance of payments between the two countries.

Those days are long gone now, with the American dollar steadily strengthening and China's economy steadily weakening.

For a number of months, China's economy has been weakening, and the government has had to battle a stock market rout, slowing factory production and falling exports last year, and causing China's renminbi (yuan) currency to weaken. The People's Bank of China (PBoC) central bank has responded by selling its holdings of foreign currencies (dollars, yen, euros) in order to buy up yuan on the international markets, thereby increasing the demand for yuan and preventing it from weakening further. The PBoC fears that there could be an international run on yuan currency, causing a rapid devaluation, and destabilizing China's economy.

So it still came as a surprise that China's foreign currency reserves plunged $99.5 billion in January. In other words, China sold off almost $100 billion in dollars, yen and euros in order to purchase yuan, to prevent a devaluation.

At $3.23 trillion, China still has the world's biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings. But that has declined by $420 billion in just the last six months, and is now at the lowest level since May 2012.

According to one analyst, "While the remaining reserves still represent a substantial war chest, the mathematics around this rapid pace of depletion in recent months is simply unsustainable for any length of time."

That means that the yuan is continuing to lose value, and analysts are expecting the PBoC to devalue the yuan by substantial further amounts in the next few months.

Already, the yuan has declined 1.24% against the dollar so far this year.

In fact, the yuan may be in a vicious deflationary spiral. Forex (foreign exchange) investors see that that the yuan is going to be devalued so they are selling yuan to purchase dollar-denominate assets -- the exact opposite of what the PBoC is doing. Investors selling yuan will cause the yuan to devalue further, causing investors to sell even more.

According to this analyst: “Domestic private investors and global currency traders see a one-way bet against the currency. This has resulted in large-scale private capital outflows since early 2015 as expectations mount that the PBoC will eventually be forced to capitulate once its reserves are sufficiently depleted."

Devaluing a currency makes the country's products cheaper on the international markets, and so makes the country more competitive, increasing exports. That's what China would like.

But there are many emerging market countries, especially China's neighbors in Asia, whose economies depend heavily on trade with China, and so they're devaluing their own currencies in sympathy with China. The concern is that this will be a different kind of vicious cycle, as countries compete with each other to "race to the bottom," with devaluations in one country triggering further devaluations in other countries.

A "race to the bottom" among Asian and emerging market currencies could have a substantial effect on the U.S. economy, since the dollar is expected to strengthen substantially in this scenario, making American goods extremely expensive on world markets. This could dramatically reduce exports, reducing earnings, and causing the stock market to tumble, which is part of the explanation for what happened on Monday. BBC and Bloomberg and International Business Times

Monday's stock market plunge blamed on China and on weak earnings


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 21.41 on February 5, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at 21.41 on February 5, indicating a huge stock market bubble (WSJ)

Monday was another dramatic day on Wall Street, as the day began with a 400+ point drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), with oil prices falling once again below $30 per barrel. By the end of the day, the stock market recovered to "only" a 178 point loss. Analysts are mostly confused about why the stock market has been falling recently, and I frequently see them on tv scratching their heads wondering why such a "small economy" like China's is having such a big effect on Wall Street.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (February 5) was at an astronomically high 21.41. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

If you compare stock price and P/E ratio changes in the last month, there are some interesting observations. Last week, on the morning of February 5, the Dow was at 16417 and the S&P 500 P/E ratio was at 21.40.

A month ago, on the morning of January 8, stock prices were higher, but the P/E ratio was lower. Specifically, the Dow was at 16514, and the P/E ratio was 21.03.

Now that should be impossible. The P/E ratio is, well, a ratio of stock prices to earnings, and so if stock prices fall, then the P/E ratio should fall as well.

But of course, that's not always true, because the earnings may change as well. What's been happening is that fourth quarter (4Q2015) earnings have been coming out in the last month,

In fact, 63% of S&P 500 companies reported results as of Friday morning, and Q4 earnings are on track to decline 4.1%. This is even worse than the 3.7% decline that analysts had been predicting at the beginning of January.

The 4.1% decline in Q4 earnings would be the biggest drop in six years, and it follows a 0.8% decline in Q3. Revenue figures followed the same path, with revenue falling 3.5% in Q4, after falling 4.4% in Q3.

And so, the reason that the P/E ratio increased in the last month, despite the fact that stock prices have fallen, is that earnings have fallen even more.

If earnings decline two quarters in a row, then it's called an "earnings recession." We won't know for several months whether the GDP also fell for two quarters in a row, which would be the definition of an "economic recession."

The stock market has been in a bubble for several years. Although analysts are always claiming that "this time it's different," the fact is that it's never different, and Generational Dynamics is predicting a stock market panic and crash, with the Dow falling to 3000 or lower. USA Today and Barrons and Investors Business Daily

Hong Kong experiences worst violence in years

Dozens of people, including several Hong Kong policemen, were injured in some of the worst Hong Kong violence in years.

With the Lunar New Year celebrations in progress, police were called in to shut down illegal food stalls and food hawkers in the main shopping district. "Pro-democracy" activists had been prepared for the arrival of the police. Around 100 protesters began throwing missiles, including paving stones, bricks, bottles and plant pots at officers. They also set fires and blocked roads, while the police fired warning shots over the crowd. Coconuts Hong Kong

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Feb-16 World View -- Monday's stock market rout blamed on China's foreign currency selloffs thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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8-Feb-16 World View -- Plans continue for Western military deployment into Libya

UAE says it's ready to supply ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Plans continue for Western military deployment into Libya


At Republican Debate, Jeb Bush advocates military intervention into Libya
At Republican Debate, Jeb Bush advocates military intervention into Libya

As we've been reporting since the beginning of January, plans are being made in Washington, London, Paris and Rome for military intervention in Libya in the next few weeks, probably in March, to counter the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). ( "6-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France preparing new Libya military offensive early in 2016")

Reports indicate that the government of Britain's prime minister David Cameron is making preparations for a military intervention in Libya in the next few weeks. "Italians are doing a lot of surveillance, identification of targets for possible bombing by the British and Americans," according to a British analyst.

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said there were “growing signs that the British Government may be preparing to intervene militarily again in Libya," and he's demanding that the Parliament be given a chance to debate any future plans for military intervention in Libya:

"The Prime Minister should report to Parliament on what steps have already been taken – and, in particular, whether UK drones are being used to support armed forces or militias in Libya’s civil war by gathering intelligence for one side or the other.

We need an unequivocal assurance that no decision has been taken to use drones, over which Britain has control or partial control, in support of military operations in Libya. And he must make a clear commitment that MPs will be given the chance to debate in advance any decision to renew British military intervention in Libya."

During Saturday evening's Republican candidate debate, there was one question about Libya asked of two candidates, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson. The question and Bush's answer were (my transcription):

"Question: Governor Bush, Libya is a country in chaos, there is no government. Defense officials said this week that there are now 5,000 ISIS fighters there roughly doubling previous estimates. We know you and others have been critical of the administration's handling of initial airstrikes that you supported. This is a problem you would stand to inherit if you're the next president. Reports this week said the administration is considering new air strikes, possible special operations raids. Would you support renewed airstrikes or any US involvement on the ground?

Bush: I would, and I would do it in concert again with our Arab allies, and with Europe most particularly in this case. This is the lesson learned in history: if you bomb something and not do anything as it relates to deal with the aftermath of this, if you don't have a stable government, you get what we have in Libya, and leading from behind is not an effective policy. We have to lead. Without the United States, nothing seems to work. Europe doesn't seem to have the ability to forward lead in this regard. And so dealing with the caliphate is important because it has now spawned in other areas, there have been 70+ attacks in 17 countries either inspired by ISIS or organized by ISIS, Libya being the most important one now.

We have to deal with the caliphate with building a Sunni army there, but we also have to deal with it in Libya, and I think the United States is ultimately is going to play a significant role in this.

The problem with the Obama administration is that they see this incrementally. They're reluctant. They don't lead. No one knows whether we're serious. And when they do it, they do it in increments that you can barely see. The United States has to lead in a much more aggressive way than we're doing right now."

Ben Carson's response was as follows:

"Carson: I wanna something say about this, because I'm not here just to add beauty to the stage. You know I've been talking about Libya for quite a long time. I think I was the first one to start talking about it. Because we have to have a proactive foreign policy strategy, and of course the next place that ISIS is gonna tack to is Libya. If you wanna expand your caliphate, and increase your influence, then you're gonna wanna go to a place that's strategically located. You go north across the Mediterranean, you're into southern Europe; you go south, you're into Chad and Sudan and Niger, and not to mention the fact you have much more oil than you do in Iraq.

That's the kind of places they're gonna go to. Therefore, we need to be thinking about how to prevent them from tacking over there. They're already sending their fighters there. We need to be consulting with our military experts and asking them, what do they need in order to prevent ISIS from being able to take over Libya. That's gonna have enormous consequences."

A British government spokesman said: "The UK, along with international partners, is supporting the process to form a recognized Libyan government. No decisions have been made about the future deployment of any British military forces to Libya as part of an international coalition force." Independent (London)

UAE says it's ready to supply ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria

United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday joined Saudi Arabia in saying that it was ready to supply ground troops to fight the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Syria, raising the possibility of even greater foreign involvement in the five-year-old civil war.

According to Foreign Affairs minister Anwar Gargas:

"I think that this has been our position throughout ... that a real campaign against Daesh has to include ground elements. ...

We are not talking about a thousand troops but we are talking about troops on the ground that will lead the way, that will train, that will support ... And I think our position remains the same and we will have to see how this progresses. ...

Of course an American leadership in this effort is a pre-requisite."

Saudi Arabia has already announced that it was ready to send ground troops into Syria, though as we reported yesterday, Iran, Syria and Russia responded to Saudi Arabia's announcement by ridiculing the Saudi army.

In related news, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees continue to flee from Aleppo, as Russian airstrikes slaughter large numbers of civilians, and as Syria, Iranian and Hezbollah troops continue to encircle the town, preparing for the final siege and mass slaughter.

Turkey, which is hosting 2.5 million Syrians, says that it's "at capacity," and cannot accept any more Syrian refugees. However, Turkey has set up 8 refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border, and is pouring tents, food and other supplies into the refugee camps. The intent, presumably, is to meet its international obligations to care for refugees, but doing it on Syria's soil, rather than Turkey's. Reuters and Gulf Today (UAE) and USA Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Feb-16 World View -- Plans continue for Western military deployment into Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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7-Feb-16 World View -- Iran, Syria and Russia ridicule Saudi Arabia's army

Europe sends mixed messages to Turkey about new flood of Syrian refugees

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey will keep Syria border closed as Aleppo refugees mass


A boy on a fence watches thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey in the cold and rain (AFP)
A boy on a fence watches thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey in the cold and rain (AFP)

As Syrian regime forces and Russian warplanes continue to pound civilian targets in Aleppo and cut off supply routes, people fleeing Aleppo will not be permitted to cross the border into Turkey, according to Süleyman Tapsiz, the governor of Turkey's Kilis province, which borders Syria. Tapsiz says that 35,000 people are already massed on the border with Turkey, and 70,000 more are expected in the next few days.

"Our doors are not closed, but at the moment there is no need to host such people inside our borders," said Tapciz. Refugees are being directed to refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border, and they're being given food, blankets and tents. AFP and Cihan (Turkey) and Reuters

Europe sends mixed messages to Turkey about new flood of Syrian refugees

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Turkey on Saturday to reopen its border to "Syrians in need for international protection," and allow tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to come to Turkey to seek asylum. Mogherini that "the support that the EU is providing to Turkey, among others, is aimed exactly at guaranteeing" that Turkey can protect and host people that are seeking asylum.

As Syrian regime forces encircle Aleppo with the help of massive Russian warplane airstrikes, it's believed that are remaining in Aleppo because they have no place to go, and that hundred of thousands more civilians would flee north to Turkey if they believed that they could cross the border.

Also on Saturday, another EU official, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, said that Turkey must slow down the flow of refugees from Turkey into Greece, something that Turkey has failed to do, despite a November 29 deal to reduce the flows. According to Hahn:

"This action plan was agreed more than two months ago and we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants, Turkey could do more, I have no doubt."

On November 29, the EU has agreed to give Turkey 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) to keep Syrian refugees on its soil in return for an acceleration of the EU accession talks and speeded-up visa liberalization for Turks visiting Europe.

Europe's message is even more confusing because it's losing control of its own borders. Earlier this week, the EU said Greece had to re-establish full control over its border with Turkey. According to Hungary's foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto: “If Greece is not ready or able to protect the Schengen zone and doesn’t accept any assistance from the EU then we need another defense line, which is obviously Macedonia and Bulgaria.”

The Schengen zone is a group of 25 European countries that permit visa-free border crossings among them. Free travel between countries is considered to be a right that's at the core of European Union. However, the Schengen zone is already in trouble because of the flood of refugees. Six Schengen members, including Germany and four other EU countries, have resorted to reinstating temporary border checks, at least until May. AP and Zaman (Ankara) and Guardian (London)

Syria, Iran and Russia ridicule Saudi Arabia's army

As we reported two days ago, Saudi Arabia announced that it is ready to send ground troops into Syria to fight the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). The announcement was apparently triggered by Russia's massive bombing of Aleppo.

Theoretically, Russian warplanes are fighting ISIS, but in fact they're leaving ISIS completely untouched and are carpet bombing civilians linked to moderate opposition to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The same is also true of Syrian troops and Iranian troops.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia says that they're going to be fighting ISIS, but in fact they're going to be supporting the same groups that the Russians are carpet-bombing.

So even though the Russians, Syrians, Iranians and the Saudis all talk about fighting ISIS, they're actually going to be fighting each other. And if Turkey enters the fray, which is certainly possible, then we'll have a full-scale regional sectarian war in progress, with Russia, Syria and Iran fighting Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Now both Iran and Syria are turning up the nationalistic fury by ridiculing and insulting Saudi Arabia's army.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have already terminated diplomatic relations, as of early January. Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said on Saturday:

"They claim they will send troops (to Syria), but I don't think they will dare do so. They have a classic army and history tells us such armies stand no chance in fighting irregular resistance forces.

This will be like a coup de grace for them. Apparently, they see no other way but this, and if this is the case, then their fate is sealed."

Syria's foreign minister Walid Muallem has warned responded to Saudi Arabia's announced with a warning:

"Any ground intervention on Syrian territory without government authorization would amount to aggression that must be resisted.

Let no one think they can attack Syria or violate its sovereignty because I assure you any aggressor will return to their country in a wooden coffin."

The mocking and ridicule didn't stop there. Maria Zakharova, the spokesman for Russia's foreign ministry, treated the reports with sarcasm: "I’m afraid to ask, have they already defeated everybody in Yemen?" CNN and Russia Today

Turkey confiscates parrots and parakeets on Syria border

Turkey's army has has confiscated 700 parrots and 294 budgerigars (parakeets) on the border with Syria. The border closings have also shut off what was long a thriving illicit trade in goods including fuel, cigarettes, and sugar, as well as rare birds.

According to Mehmet Turan, a bird breeder in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli:

"They were generally bringing Sultan, Love and Paradise parrots. Here in Turkey a Paradise parrot goes for 1,000 lira, but they were bringing them over for 500.

It's the same for lovebirds. We were selling them at 25 lira retail, but they came from Syria at 12.5 to 15."

Reuters

North Korea launches long-range missile, violating Security Council resolution

North Korea on Sunday morning launched a long-range ballistic missile test. North Korea claimed it was a test with the intention to put a satellite into orbit, but it's believed that N. Korea is using the satellite claim as a cover for its test deployment of a long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

North Korea had pre-announced the test, saying that it was planned for some time between February 8 and 25, but then moved the launch date up and abruptly launched the missile.

Japan had been preparing for the launch by deploying land-based missile interceptors on its southwestern islands around Okinawa, with plans to shoot the missile down if it headed for Japanese territory.

There have been no reports of any Japanese launches following the North Korean launch. CNN and Nikkei (Japan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Feb-16 World View -- Iran, Syria and Russia ridicule Saudi Arabia's army thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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6-Feb-16 World View -- As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious

Turkey blocks tens of thousands of Aleppo Syria residents from entering Turkey

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey blocks tens of thousands of Aleppo Syria residents from entering Turkey


Thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey (AFP)
Thousands of Syrians massed on the border with Turkey (AFP)

The 300,000 residents of the city of Aleppo, formerly the commercial hub of Syria, are being used as pawns in a deadly game that will lead inevitably to mass starvation.

As we reported yesterday, Syrian regime troops are encircling Aleppo with the aid of massive Russian airstrikes on civilian neighborhoods. Tens of thousands of Aleppo residents are fleeing the city, heading north, hoping to enter Turkey, and from there to travel on to Europe. However, Turkey has already taken in 2.5 million Syrians since the war began, and is now blocking the border, forcing tens of thousands of refugees to mass on the border.

It's believed to be Russia's strategy to kill as many civilians in Aleppo as possible, so that the rest will flee to Turkey, leaving the city abandoned for the regime to take over. Russia would also gain the advantage of tens of thousands more refugees pouring into Europe.

Turkey apparently plans to try to thwart this strategy by keeping the border closed. Some reports indicate that Turkey is providing food and medicine to the Syrians in Syria, effectively making the northern region of Syria a refugee camp.

Many residents of Aleppo are remaining for now because they know that the border is closed, and they will be prevented from entering Turkey. According to one resident, "If people had guarantees they could enter Turkey, everyone would leave. I would leave." Washington Post and BBC and Military.com

As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious

Iran's nuclear deal with the West has exposed major generational political fault lines within Iran's government. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei was making one demand after another, apparently to torpedo implementation of the agreement.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the Islamic Republic's founders, a former president and now head of Iran's Expediency Council, publicly disagreed with Khamenei's orders and brushed aside Khamenei's new demands. Eventually, Khamenei had to back down and allow the agreement to be implemented. ( "29-Oct-15 World View -- Iran's government splits over implementation of nuclear deal" )

Khamenei is in the generation that fought in the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and is today in the hardest of the hardline Iranian political factions. A feature of these hardliners is that they're using similar tactics to the ones that were successful in 1979, including the very successful taking of American embassy personnel as hostages.

Rafsanjani is in the same generation as Khamenei, and adheres to the same "revolutionary principles," but is considered a "moderate" or "pragmatic" because he combines these principles with a desire to modernize Iran and integrate it with the international community.

The political fault line exposed by the nuclear negotiations still exists and is worsening, with a new election approaching on February 26 to elect a new Majlis (parliament) and Assembly of Experts.

There is now a vicious political battle in progress over which candidates will be permitted to run in the elections.

In December, Iran's hardline watchdog body, the Guardian Council, ruled that thousands of potential candidates, almost every one from the moderate political factions, were to be disqualified from running in the election. The Guardian Council is under the control of Khamenei, and is an unelected body of 12 Islamic jurists and hardline clerics, that can veto election candidates for reasons such as lack of commitment to Islam and the constitution.

Khamenei said, "Those who don't have faith in the clerical establishment, should not be allowed to perform a duty."

The objective of the mass disqualifications seems obvious: To prevent the Majlis from implementing many reform policies favored by Rafsanjani and the current president, Hassan Rouhani. Khamenei's remark about "those who don't have faith in the clerical establishment" was an offensive insult to the moderates, by implying that their support for political reforms might be treasonous and a religious apostasy.

Unsurprisingly, this has created a firestorm in Iran, with many clerics taking offense at the disqualifications. Many pointed out that Khamenei's act was self-defeating:

Ayatollah Kazem Nourmofidi said, "Disqualification of those who believe in the Islamic Republic, Islam and the pillars of our system ... will create a deep rift between real believers of our system and the establishment."

Grand Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheyb, in a letter to the Guardian Council, said: "You have acknowledged the right of only 30 percent of our voters, ignoring rights of others. Don't you think it will create a huge rift between the people and the leadership?"

Even worse, there are concerns that public anger at the Khamenei and the other hardline geezers is going to trigger massive anti-government protests. This happened in the 2009 elections, resulting bloody massacres of peaceful protesters by Khamenei's storm troopers. (From June 2009: "Iran's Khamenei appears desperate, as reports of Tehran massacres grow")

The anxiety over a possible repeat of 2009 seems febrile, as exemplified by this extraordinary directive from the Herasat Office, Iran's domestic intelligence and security forces, entitled: "Issue: Paying workers’ wages in the final days of the year":

"With greeting and respect, you are hereby informed that given that the end of the [Persian calendar] year is approaching and taking note of the instructions handed down by the minister and competent authorities regarding timely payment of workers’ wages and back pay, you must instruct that all wages, bonuses, back pay and overtime pay be paid no later than February 24, 2016 in order to prevent any possible gatherings or sit-ins and their related negative consequences.

You are reminded that given the upcoming elections of the Assembly of Experts and Islamic Assembly (Parliament), this issue must be treated with especial importance and sensitivity in order to prevent any misuse of this matter for publicity in particular in the realm of workers’ protests."

In other words, a lot of Iranians haven't been paid their salaries, and the Khamenei regime is ordering that they be paid the money they're owed by February 24, two days before the election, in the hope of defusing any potential mass protests. Tasnim News (Iran) and Memri and Reuters (21-Jan) and National Council of Resistance of Iran

Iran's historic struggle between Principlists and Reformists

America in the 1960s and 1970s was one generation past the end of World War II, and went through a generational Awakening era, with a "generation gap" that pitted the generations of war survivors (the GI and Silent generations) against those who grew up after the war (the Boomers). The result was "days of rage," street protests, the Summer of Love, the national Democratic convention riots, the Kent State shootings, Watergate, and regime change.

Iran is now in a period one generation past the end of its last crisis war, the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war that climaxed in 1988. Iran is going through a similar "generation gap," pitting the Revolution survivors versus the generations growing up afterwards.

Although there are various splinter groups in Iran's government, they break down into three major categories:

Iran's constitution contains a central contradiction that's caused one political crisis after another: the assumption that elected institutions would function in harmony with the rulings handed down by religious jurists.

Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, assumed that, in a rightly ordered state, God's will (as determined by the clerics) and the people's will (as manifested through elections) would coincide. This happened during the first years of the generational Recovery era following the crisis war. But as young people with no personal memories of the war entered their teen years, anti-government protests began, and had to be violently put down by bloody massacres.

The first major political defeat of the hardliners occurred in the 1997, to replace Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as president, when the victory went to Reformist cleric Muhammad Khatami. There were more reformer victories in the 2000 parliamentary elections, gaining more than two-thirds of the seats.

In the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council disqualified thousands of pro-reform candidates from competing for seats, just as they're still doing in the 2016 parliamentary elections.

With the younger generations of Reformists increasingly moving into positions of power, and as the Principlists die off, the remaining hardliners have been panicking and using the Guardian Council to quash any attempts at political reform, and bloody massacres by the security police to prevent any street protests from becoming effective.

Since then, the moderate Rafsanjani has led the "pragmatists" in their attempt to resolve the constitutional contradiction, by reconciling the injunctions of the Islamic Revolution with the democratic norms espoused by the West. Rafsanjani has had to be careful to reject the Reformists' demands for regime change, so as not to risk being jailed. (Rafsanjani's son Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani was jailed last year for the crime of "inciting unrest" in 2009.)

Both Khamenei and Rafsanjani are founding members of the Islamic Republic; they both fought in the Islamic Revolution; they're in the same generation. But they're bitter political enemies because Rafsanjani wants to implement political reforms that Khamenei dogmatically opposes. The February 26 elections provide the backdrop for a dramatic new battle in their relationship. Eurasia Review and Memri and Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Council on Foreign Relations (August 2004) and BBC (15-Mar-2015)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Feb-16 World View -- As Iran's election approaches, generational conflict becomes vicious thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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5-Feb-16 World View -- Saudi ready to send ground troops into Syria, as regime encircles Aleppo

Turkey denies Russian reports of Syria invasion

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syrian regime encircles Aleppo, causing new flood of refugees


Syrian refugees in the Elbeyli refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey (Anadolu)
Syrian refugees in the Elbeyli refugee camp in Kilis, Turkey (Anadolu)

Syrian regime forces, backed by massive bombing by Russian warplanes, cut a vital commercial supply route between Turkey and Aleppo, Syria's largest city. This route is used to provide food, medicines and other supplies to the more than 2 million people living in Aleppo.

Already, tens of thousands are fleeing from Aleppo. Turkey says that there are already 10,000 refugees at Turkey's "door," stranded at the border crossing to Turkey, and 70,000 more are already on the way. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that about 40,000 people have fled the region in the past few days.

There are fears that regime forces will now move south and encircle and starve Aleppo, as the regime has done in Homs and other cities. In that case, there may be hundreds of thousands attempting to flee and head for Turkey.

These are all new refugees that could enter Turkey and then attempt to reach the Aegean Sea and travel to Europe. Europe has in the past asked for Turkey's help in slowing the flood of refugees reaching Europe, and has promised financial aid for the refugees to encourage them to remain in Turkey.

At an international Syria donors conference held in London on Thursday, countries pledged billions of dollars in aid for fleeing refugees. Germany pledged $2.6 billion in aid, the United Kingdom pledged $1.7 billion and the U.S. pledged about $925 million.

What usually happens with these international aid conferences is that a lot of money is pledged, but the pledges are forgotten once the conference and the opportunity for publicity end. In this case, it's hoped that the pledges will be fulfilled, because it's the only hope of slowing the flood of refugees.

The conference itself was overshadowed by the collapse of the "peace talks" in Geneva, as we reported yesterday, and by today's news of the impending humanitarian disaster in Aleppo. In addition, there's continues to be increasing talk about Western military intervention in Libya in the next few weeks, where ISIS is gaining greater and greater control. The old post-WW II order in the Mideast is collapsing, and it seems that barely a day goes by without something new about the collapse. Deutsche Welle and Bloomberg and Vice News and International Business Times

Saudi Arabia ready to send ground troops into Syria

Saudi Arabia is ready to supply troops for a Western ground operation in Syria. According to Asiri:

"If the leaders of the international coalition unanimously decided to carry out such operations, the kingdom would be ready to participate in these efforts."

Saudi Arabia is part of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, and has carried out more than 190 aerial missions. It's also believed that the Saudis have previously supplied weapons to moderate rebel groups in Syria fighting ISIS. The use of ground troops has been hinted at in the past, but the latest announcement is formal and serious, the sources said.

The announcement came after the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, as well as several similar attacks last year. Nominally, Saudi troops in Syria would be fighting ISIS.

Saudi Arabia is already fighting a war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthis, and that war appears to be stalemated. Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter enemies, and a month ago, the countries broke diplomatic relations with each other. Saudi troops in Syria might well end up fighting Iranian troops. Saudi Press Agency and Reuters

Saudi Arabia sees itself in an existential crisis

Saudi Arabia is facing multiple crises, including a crash in oil prices, its principal source of revenue, and wars in neighboring countries in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir says that Saudi Arabia has been unfairly blamed for the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States, and that in fact it's Saudi Arabia that's under attack by terrorists and by Iran:

"Some try to malign Saudi Arabia by reciting that “15 of the 19” 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. They should know that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, told US interrogators that the initial plan was to have 20 hijackers from different nationalities, but late in the planning Osama Bin Laden directed him to use as many Saudis as possible to give the attack a Saudi face.

This was likely designed to drive a wedge between the Kingdom and the US. If this was Osama Bin Laden’s plan, it almost succeeded, as we saw from the wave of criticism the kingdom experienced after 9/11. ...

“Saudi Arabia has long been a target of terrorism perpetrated by Iranian proxies. ...

“Many countries have known the grief and pain [terrorism] causes. It makes no sense for Saudi Arabia to support or condone those who have as their goal the destruction of Saudi Arabia. It is against our values, our faith and our national character.

That is why the Kingdom has responded with strength, persistence and resolve. To accuse the Kingdom of being lax, much less complicit, when it comes to combating terrorism and its financing is not only irresponsible but also flies against the face of reality."

It's widely believed that even if Saudi's government is not sponsoring terrorism, then some powerful Wahhabi Salafi groups within Saudi Arabia are doing so. Saudi Gazette

Turkey denies Russian reports of Syria invasion

The spokesman for Russia's defense ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, says that Turkey is trying to conceal "illegal" military activity on its border with Syria. Konashenkov's unsupported claim is that Turkey is firing artillery into populated areas in the north of Latakia Province, and is preparing to invade Syria.

According to Konashenkov, "The signs of hidden preparation of Turkish armed forces for activities in the territory of Syria we notice more and more."

However, an unnamed source in the office of Turkey's prime minister told CNN that there are no such plans. "Simply they are diverting attention from their attacks on civilians as a country already invading Syria," the source told CNN. "Turkey has all the rights to take any measures to protect its own security." Russia Today and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Feb-16 World View -- Saudi ready to send ground troops into Syria, as regime encircles Aleppo thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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4-Feb-16 World View -- Syria peace talks collapse as Russia carpet bombs opposition in Aleppo

John Kerry warns of ISIS expansion in Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Syria peace talks collapse as Russia carpet bombs opposition in Aleppo


U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at Wednesday news conference announcing a 'pause' in peace talks (Reuters)
U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at Wednesday news conference announcing a 'pause' in peace talks (Reuters)

The Syria "peace talks" being held in Geneva collapsed on Wednesday, as the opposition walked out because Russian warplanes were saturation bombing opposition fighters in Aleppo, after Russia had promised to stop bombing altogether as a precondition to the talks.

A week ago when I wrote "25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva", I pointed out that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad used the preceding attempts at "peace talks" as a cover to continue his genocidal attempts at extermination of Sunnis in Syria, and that he never had any intention of fulfilling any commitments he made, as all commitments were just stalling maneuvers to give him more time to continues his genocide.

The new "peace talks" never had a chance because the Syria and Russian regimes once again were using it as a cover. The opposition groups did not want to attend at all, but they sent a representative under enormous American pressure, under assurances by Secretary of State John Kerry that the Russians were committed to pause the bombing at the start of the peace talks.

Instead, when the peace talks supposedly began on Monday, Russia not only did not pause the bombing, but actually redoubled the bombing on innocent civilians, thus making a fool of Kerry. According to a report that I heard from al-Jazeera's United Nations correspondent, Kerry tried to phone Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, but Lavrov didn't return his calls.

Syrian regime troops backed by Russian warplanes are now poised to recapture Aleppo from the opposition rebels. This will be a major victory of the opposition forces. Rebel forces are probably entrenched in the town, but that won't be a problem for the Russians who will bomb and flatten entire village, killing as many thousands of innocent women and children as necessary.

It still never ceases to amaze me what a disaster the Syrian, Russian and Iranian regimes have brought about, being entirely to blame for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, triggering the flight of millions of refugees to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe, and creating the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

As the entire Mideast continues to fall apart in different countries, as Europe continues to be flooded with Syrian refugees, and as ISIS affiliations continue to spread around the region, many international leaders have been hoping and praying that the Syrian peace talks would bring relief for all these problems.

The desperate Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy who is shepherding the negotiations, said that the collapse wasn't really a collapse, but just a "pause" until February 25. Still, the air in Geneva, the United Nations and throughout the Mideast is thick with anxiety and desperation, as many people wonder what the next disaster will be to strike the Mideast.

For years, Generational Dynamics has predicted that the entire Mideast is headed for a major war between Jews and Arabs, between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and among various ethnic groups. Reuters and Baltimore Sun and Washington Post

John Kerry warns of ISIS expansion in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday that ISIS is creating a new stronghold in oil-rich Libya:

"As everybody here knows, that country has resources,” Kerry said at a conference of 23 foreign ministers from nations that form the core of a coalition fighting the Islamic State. “The last thing in the world you’d want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars in oil revenue."

As we reported a month ago, reports indicate that the US, Britain, France are preparing a new Libya military offensive around the beginning of March.

Kerry on Tuesday ruled out military intervention in Libya by the United States in the near future, but he said that could change if there were "some turn of events, like weapons of mass destruction ending up in the hands of the wrong people." Washington Post and NBC News and Arab News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Feb-16 World View -- Syria peace talks collapse as Russia carpet bombs opposition in Aleppo thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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3-Feb-16 World View -- US Navy's Freedom of Navigation Ops in South China Sea to grow in scope and complexity

Jordan's King demands more refugee aid from international community

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Jordan's King demands more refugee aid from international community


Jabal Al Hussein Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan. Originally built in 1952 as a refugee camp for Palestinians fleeing conflict from the Arab-Israeli War, it has morphed into a permanent neighborhood in downtown Amman that houses Syrians and Egyptians, along with Palestinians. Many Syrian refugees in Amman live in Jabal Al Hussein Camp because of the affordable rent and to avoid the official refugee camps. (PRI)
Jabal Al Hussein Refugee Camp in Amman, Jordan. Originally built in 1952 as a refugee camp for Palestinians fleeing conflict from the Arab-Israeli War, it has morphed into a permanent neighborhood in downtown Amman that houses Syrians and Egyptians, along with Palestinians. Many Syrian refugees in Amman live in Jabal Al Hussein Camp because of the affordable rent and to avoid the official refugee camps. (PRI)

There are already about 1.4 million people living in Jordan, and more are pouring in every day. According to Jordan's King Abdullah:

"The hospitality of our country has been known for decades. We have looked after waves and waves of refugees. And again what you have to understand, and what is not being spoken about, is not just the 20% of our population, which is Syrian refugees. And, again, reminding everyone in the international community that 90% are outside of the refugee camps. They are in our infrastructure; they are in our schools; they are in our hospitals. Rent in many areas has gone up by 300%. In the northern provinces that you have been, in the northern governorates, in a lot of areas, the Jordanians are in the minority. Rent is up 300%, as I said."

Abdullah says that Jordanian people, especially young people, can no longer find jobs because they're displace by refugees. As more and more refugees pour in, the situation "has gotten to a boiling point. Jordanians are suffering from trying to find jobs; the pressure on the infrastructure for the government; it has hurt us when it comes to the educational system, our healthcare; people, just Jordanians trying to get along with their lives. Sooner or later, I think the dam is going to burst."

Abdullah is traveling to London to attend a donors conference for Syrian refugees. He says that he'll be issuing an ultimatum that he needs more international aid, or he's going to refuse to take in any more Syrian refugees beyond "limited numbers."

Like many Mideast leaders, Abdullah is contemptuous of the whining of European leaders who are complaining about absorbing a couple of million refugees into a population of 500 million, less than half of one percent, as compared to 20% for Jordan. He said that Europeans have been profuse with praise for Jordan. "Those words were all wonderful, but it wasn’t until a trickle hit European shores that then, I think, eyebrows were raised and they began to realise the reality of the challenges that Jordanians have faced."

Abdullah added:

"Whenever the international community has asked for Jordan to fight the good fight, alongside of our colleagues all over the international community, we have never said no. What we are asking now for the first time is, the international community, we have always stood shoulder-to-shoulder by your side; we are now asking for your help, you can’t say no this time around to us."

My guess is that there isn't a snowflake's chance in hell that Abdullah will get the international aid that he wants. The best he can hope for is a few more wonderful words, and promises of aid that will never be fulfilled. Jordan Times and Public Radio International (PRI) and Jordan Times

US Navy's Freedom of Navigation Ops in South China Sea to grow in scope and complexity

For the second time, on Sunday the US Navy has sent an American warship on a "Freedom of Navigation op" (FONOP) into the South China Sea near an island claimed by China as sovereign territory. The Navy did something similar last year in October, in both cases to challenge Chinese claims.

Both FONOPs were made in pursuit of stated US policy. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly said that "The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world."

However, there were significant differences between the two FONOPs, with two different legal rationales.

In October, the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. Subi Reef has been made into an artificial island by the Chinese, and they are now claiming that the artificial island is their sovereign territory. The purpose of October's FONOP was to contest China's claim that it was an "island," rather than a "low-tide elevation."

On Sunday, the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels, which is controlled by China but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. In this case, the legal rationale was to assert the right of innocent passage through territorial waters without having to give advance notice, something that both China and Vietnam demand when foreign vessels transit through territorial waters that they claim. According to the Defense Dept:

"This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas. The excessive claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention."

China's foreign ministry responded as follows:

"According to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, foreign ships for military purposes shall be subject to approval by the Government of the People's Republic of China for entering the territorial sea of the People's Republic of China. The US navy vessel violated the relevant Chinese law and entered China's territorial sea without authorization. The Chinese side conducted surveillance and vocal warnings to the US navy vessel in accordance with the law. We urge the US to respect and abide by the relevant Chinese law, and make more efforts to increase mutual trust between China and the US and safeguard regional peace and stability."

The interesting thing about this statement is that it makes no reference whatsoever to international law, but only to Chinese law. It's as if I declared the street in front of my apartment building to be my sovereign territory, and then threatened anyone who violated "relevant John Xenakis law" by traveling across it. China is claiming the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, even though many parts of it are legally in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of other countries, and have sovereign territory of those other countries. Like Russia, China today is following the example of Adolf Hitler by annexing regions belonging to other countries, and in the case of Hitler, this led to World War II. China and Russia are both contemptuous of internal law, and only reference it when doing so is to their benefit.

Sunday's FONOP had the effect of isolating China from the other two countries claiming the island. All three countries have historically demanded “prior permission or notification” before any innocent passage in their territorial waters. But only China has actually protested and condemned the Wilbur passage.

Instead, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement stating simply that Taiwan abides by both the U.N. Charter and UNCLOS and will not pose any “obstacle” to resolving disputes in the South China Sea. Vietnam also released a statement reiterating its sovereignty over Triton Island but also saying that “Vietnam respects the right of other countries to innocent passage in its territorial waters as per the regulations promulgated in international law.” Importantly, neither country condemned the U.S. operation for failing to obtain permission before the “innocent passage” even though both countries apparently codify that requirement in their domestic laws.

According to Admiral Harry B Harris Jr., the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM):

"I think that as we continue down the path of freedom of navigations, you will see more of them, and you will see them increasing in complexity and scope in areas of challenge."

Harris added that as China continues to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, by 2020 China would effectively control the waters – through which 5 trillion dollars of global trade pass – with only Washington being able to challenge it. The Diplomat and China's Foreign Ministry and Lawfare Blog and The Diplomat

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Feb-16 World View -- US Navy's Freedom of Navigation Ops in South China Sea to grow in scope and complexity thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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2-Feb-16 World View -- France issues ultimatum to Israel as West Bank tensions grow

Israel rejects France's ultimatum to recognize state of Palestine

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

West Bank tensions rise after Palestinian policeman shot dead


Thousands of people filled the streets for the funeral of Amjad Sukkari on Monday (AFP)
Thousands of people filled the streets for the funeral of Amjad Sukkari on Monday (AFP)

Palestinian Authority (PA) police are praising the martyrdom of their colleague, Amjad Sukkari, a 34-year-old policeman who worked as a bodyguard for the Palestinian attorney general, who was shot dead by Israeli troops on Sunday morning after he opened fire on the soldiers at a checkpoint, injuring three.

Thousands of people took to the streets on Monday for Sukkari’s funeral after Israeli forces released his body just a few hours after the shooting. Two of Sukkari’s brothers, both Palestinian police officers, carried the casket from the hospital to the city’s martyrs cemetery as crowds waved flags and chanted “martyr”.

The Palestinian police said in a statement that "with great pride, the members of the Palestinian police eulogize the brave martyrdom of their colleague, Master Sergeant Amjad Sukkari, 'Abu Omar', who committed the operation at V.I.P checkpoint in Beit El."

Palestinian Authority (PA) officials did not participate in the funeral and have refused comment on the matter.

However, officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad publicly endorsed his actions and called them a natural reaction of occupation. According to a Hamas spokesman, "This attack showcases the rejection of security coordination with the occupation, even among members of the PA security forces."

The Hamas statement signals a possible turn of events that could be extremely dangerous.

There is a long-term agreement between PA and Israel to coordinate security. Thus many potential terrorist attacks on Israelis are prevented by the PA security forces. According to an Israel's defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, the PA foils 20% of organized terrorism by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while Israel thwarts the remaining 80%.

Obviously, this kind of security coordination between Hamas and the PA is bitterly opposed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Now, the Palestinian police eulogizing the "brave martyrdom" of their fellow policemen Sukkari suggests that the PA security forces themselves are opposed to any security cooperation with Israel.

A campaign of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians has killed 26 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since the start of October. Israeli forces have killed at least 153 Palestinians, 99 of them assailants according to Israeli authorities.

As we described last year ( "18-Oct-15 World View -- Palestinian 'Oslo Generation' relationship with Israel extremely toxic and explosive"), there has been a significant change in attitudes in the West Bank, especially young people who grew up after the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians. They're reacting to the fact that in 23 years since the accords, there have been no changes to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. They've decided that there's no longer any hope of a two-state solution, and they're looking for a new leader, someone who will "get things done" with the Israelis, using whatever tactics are necessary.

The violence between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank has been growing steadily, and there's a fear that Sunday's attack could trigger a new escalation in violence, this time involving the PA peacekeeping forces themselves. Jerusalem Post and Reuters and Middle East Eye and Jerusalem Post

Israel rejects France's ultimatum to recognize state of Palestine

France said on Friday it intended to make another push at trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and warned that if its efforts failed, it would recognize a Palestinian State. According to France's foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius:

"France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the two-state solution.

[If this attempt fails, then] in this case, we need to face our responsibilities by recognizing the Palestinian state. ...

We see that unfortunately colonization continues and that recently, the Israeli Prime Minister went so far as to reproach the UN Secretary General for encouraging terrorism on the basis that he had reminded of colonization’s illegality and asked that it cease,"

Fabius's last remark referred to remarks by Ban Ki-moon criticizing senior Israeli officials for abandoning the two-state solution, as the current situation was untenable. Ban added that it was "understandable" that Palestinians were resisting Israeli military rule. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded, saying that Ban was "encouraging terrorism."

The Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed France's initiative.

Netanyahu said that Israel did not reject Fabius's proposal for renewed talks, but said that France's ultimatum was "an incentive to the Palestinians to come along and not compromise." He added,

"I assess that there will be a sobering up regarding this matter. In any event, we will make effort so that there is a sobering up here, and our position is very clear: We are prepared to enter direct negotiation without preconditions and without dictated terms."

However, senior Israeli officials reportedly responded off the record with sarcastic remarks, such as: "Will France be calling for an international conference with the Islamic State, too? It has, after all, been conducting terrorist attacks on French territory."

When President George Bush announced his "Roadmap to Mideast Peace" in 2003, I wrote that the Mideast peace plan would not be implemented, because Israelis and Palestinians would be refighting the 1948 genocidal crisis war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. In that article, I said that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leader Ariel Sharon hated each other but, consciously or unconsciously, they were cooperating to prevent an all-out war, because they both survived the bloody 1948 war and didn't want it to happen again.

Since 2006, there have been five Mideast wars, and they've all turned out to be non-crisis wars, with operations dictated by political leaders: the war between Israelis and Hezbollah, fought largely on Lebanon's soil in 2006; the war between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2008, that led to Hamas control of Gaza; Operation Cast Lead, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza early in 2009; the two wars between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in November, 2012 and July-August 2014.

There have been several attempts at Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, including two or three by the Obama administration, and they've always been disastrous failure. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the new French initiative will fare any differently. The only question is: When it fails, how bad will the disaster be? France 24 and Al Arabiya and France 24 and Al Monitor

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Feb-16 World View -- France issues ultimatum to Israel as West Bank tensions grow thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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1-Feb-16 World View -- Damascus terror attack deals a new blow to Syria 'peace talks'

Dozens killed in ISIS attack on a Shia shrine in Damascus Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Dozens killed in ISIS attack on a Shia shrine in Damascus Syria


Aftermath of triple suicide bombing in Damascus on Sunday (SANA)
Aftermath of triple suicide bombing in Damascus on Sunday (SANA)

The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed responsibility for a massive series of suicide bomber attacks on Sunday at the historic Shia Sayyida Zeinab shrine in Syria's capital city Damascus, killing at least 71 people and injuring dozens more.

Two days earlier, a terrorist bombed a Shia mosque in al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia. Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, it was similar to attacks by ISIS. The perpetrator was later identified as a Saudi national.

Iran's Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the Saudi mosque:

"The repetition of terror attacks to mosques and Husseiniyehs in eastern Saudi Arabia indicates the worrying security situation in the region and negligence of security forces in fulfilling their responsibility in maintaining public security against terrorists' attacks."

The Iranian comment, essentially blaming the Saudi government for the bombing attack, reflects the increasing hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia, following the execution by the Saudis of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr after being convicted in court of being a terrorist. ( "4-Jan-16 World View -- Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran as violent Shia protests spread around region")

The tables have turned on Iran with Sunday's attack in Damascus, in the back yard of Iran's ally, Bashar al-Assad. Iran's Foreign Ministry did not issue any statement condemning Bashar al-Assad after the Damascus attack. Instead, Syria's Ambassador Bashar Jaafari blamed the Saudi government and its alleged links to ISIS for the attack.

The area was heavily protected and was supposed to be safe. After the first suicide bomber exploded people gathered around to see what had happened, and then two more suicide bombers exploded. The heavily populated area of southern Damascus is a site of pilgrimage for Shias from Iran, Lebanon and other parts of the Muslim world. The Sayyida Zeinab shrine is one of the holiest in Shia Islam, as it houses graves from the time of the Prophet Mohammed. The area is also the stronghold of several Shia militias.

ISIS and other Sunni jihadists say that Shia Islam is an apostasy, and many Sunni jihadists groups have pledged to exterminate the Shias. More attacks on Shia targets are to be expected. Vice News and Gulf News and Al Manar

Damascus shrine attack deals another blow to the Syria 'peace talks' in Geneva

A week ago, I wrote "25-Jan-16 World View -- Farcical Syria peace process 'proximity talks' to begin this week in Geneva", as the Geneva talks were beginning. The ISIS attack on the historic Damascus shrine deals another blow.

There's a great deal about the Geneva "peace talks" in the last week that can be mocked, but there's also an increasing feeling of anxiety and desperation about what's going on in the Mideast.

On Sunday morning, I heard al-Jazeera's senior political analyst Marwan Bishara say, "The Mideast is falling apart. This is not an exaggeration. The Mideast is falling apart." Almost every analyst and politician who expresses any opinion says that they don't expect much from the peace talks, as there have already been several failures in the past.

The Bashar al-Assad regime and the Iranians are making it clear that they have no intention of conceding anything. With the Russian bombing going on, the al-Assad regime is gaining strength on the ground, though not enough to win. Furthermore, the Iranians refer to the al-Assad opposition as all "terrorists," and suggest that they won't concede anything to terrorists anyway.

This is the attitude that caused ISIS to be formed in the first place. The Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime started massacring and slaughtering innocent Sunni women and children in 2011 when they were peacefully protesting. This triggered one of the most spectacular events of my lifetime -- tens of thousands young Sunni men from countries around the world, from south Asia to Pakistan to the Mideast to northern Africa and up to Russia's Caucasus region, joined by many young men from Europe and even the U.S., traveled to Syria to fight al-Assad, even leading to the creation of ISIS.

So now, the Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime is still calling anyone who disagrees with them "terrorists," and it continues its policy of extermination of all Sunnis. This is exactly the attitude that caused ISIS to be created in the first place. And now the Shia/Alawite al-Assad regime is being joined by the Orthodox Christian Vladimir Putin regime from Russia to further inflame the jihadists. As I've said in the past, the Three Satans of our time are Bashar al-Assad, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and Iran's Seyed Ali Khamenei. These Three Satans are entirely to blame for the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, creating ISIS, and triggering the flight of millions of refugees to Europe.

So coming back to the Geneva meeting, the drama all week was that the al-Assad opposition "rebel" groups are unable to select negotiators to attend the Geneva negotiations. They point out that the Russians are still bombing and slaughtering entire neighborhoods of innocent people, something was supposed to stop before the negotiations began. They say that they're unable to negotiate with someone whose warplanes are trying to kill them. And indeed, the al-Assad regime has no intention of negotiating with them either.

The opposition groups are under tremendous pressure from the Americans and other Westerners to attend the Geneva "peace talks," whether they like it or not.

The "peace talks" are futile for many reasons, and the two attacks on Shia shrines over the weekend illustrate one of the major ones. Iran and al-Assad are not going to end their slaughter of innocent Sunnis, but even if they did and there was a so-called political solution, ISIS and other jihadist groups would still be intent on exterminating Shias and attacking the Shia/Alawite Bashar al-Assad regime.

More and more analysts and politicians are anxiously reaching the same conclusion that Marwan Bishara did -- that the Mideast is actually falling apart. Al-Jazeera and AFP and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Feb-16 World View -- Damascus terror attack deals a new blow to Syria 'peace talks' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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31-Jan-16 World View -- Turkey threatens 'consequences' after Russia violates its airspace again

The English language becomes an issue between Turkey and Russia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey threatens 'consequences' after Russia violates its airspace again


Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their last 'friendly' meeting, on November 16, a week before Russia's warplane was shot down over Turkey (AP)
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their last 'friendly' meeting, on November 16, a week before Russia's warplane was shot down over Turkey (AP)

Russia is denying as "baseless propaganda" a claim by Turkey that Russia has once again violated its airspace, this time with an SU-34 bomber on Friday. According to a statement appearing on the web site of Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

"Yesterday (29 January 2016) at 11.46 hours local time, a SU-34 type Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace.

Before the violation actually took place, Russian plane was warned numerous times by Turkish air radar units, (through appropriate channels) both in English and Russian languages.

Despite several previous explicit statements of warnings by both Turkey and NATO, this new violation is yet another concrete example of Russian escalatory behavior.

We once again explicitly call on Russia, to act responsibly and not to violate Turkish Airspace, which is NATO airspace. We underline that such actions could lead to serious consequences, the responsibility of which will totally rest with the Russian Federation."

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Russia of purposely trying "to escalate the crisis in the region," and added that "If Russia continues to violate Turkey's sovereignty, it will have to face the consequences." Erdogan also pointed out that Turkey is a member of Nato, but did not specify what "the consequences" would be.

This is the latest in a series of increasingly hostile acts between Turkey versus Russia and its ally Syria. In June, 2012, Syrian forces shot down a Turkish air force jet. On September 16, 2013, Turkey scrambled two F-16 jets, and shot down a Syrian Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter, after warning it that it was approaching Turkish airspace.

In October of last year, Turkey threatened Russia if airspace violations are repeated, after Russian warplanes violated Turkey's airspace on two occasions over one weekend. At that time, Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said:

"Turkey's rules of engagement apply to all planes, be they Syrian, Russian or from elsewhere. Turkey's armed forces have very clear instructions. The necessary steps will be taken against whoever violates Turkey's borders, even if it's a bird."

Then on November 24 of last year, two Turkish F-16s were involved in the shooting down of a Russian warplane in Syria near the border with Turkey. According to Turkey's military, the Russian aircraft was warned 10 times in five minutes that it was violating Turkish airspace. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

Russia and Turkey have been bitter enemies for centuries in several generational crisis wars, especially after 1783, when the Russian armies captured Crimea in what was the Ottoman empire's first significant loss of Muslim territory, and then again in the Crimean War of the 1850s.

Since the November 25 shootdown of the Russian warplane, Russia has become increasingly hostile and threatening to Turkey, not only imposing harsh and increasing economic sanctions on Turkey, but also forcing other nations in the regions to choose sides between Turkey and Russia. ( "21-Jan-16 World View -- Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey")

So this new incident of Russia violating Turkey's airspace is not the trivial incident that it might otherwise seem to be. Turkey and Russia seem very close to war as it is, especially since the Russians have continually expressed nothing but contempt for Turkey, implying that Russian warplanes can do what they want.

Turkey, on the other hand, is committed to a highly nationalistic view of responding to any Russian incursion, even one that's harmless. When Davutoglu says that the rules of engagement have been determined, it implies that the next Russian incursion will be met with a missile launched without requiring further permission from the government in Ankara. AP and Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Russia Today and CS Monitor and Daily Sabah (Turkey)

The English language becomes an issue between Turkey and Russia

Saturday's statement by Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes the following sentence:

"Before the violation actually took place, Russian plane was warned numerous times by Turkish air radar units, (through appropriate channels) both in English and Russian languages."

In denying the incident, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Iror Konashenkov denounced the claim that Russian pilots had been warned "in English and Russian" as a story made up by "ignorant propagandists who watched too many Hollywood action movies."

After the Russian warplane shootdown in November of last year, Turkey's military said that the Russian aircraft was warned 10 times in five minutes that it was violating Turkish airspace. Russia denied that any such warnings had been issued.

It emerged later that Russian military pilots are not required to learn English. English is a requirement for civilian flights around the world. For example, if a Russian civilian pilot were landing his plane in Saudi Arabia, in most cases the Russian pilot would not know Arabic and the Saudi air controllers would not speak Russian, and so they would communicate in English as a common language. However, there's no such requirement for military pilots.

According to Russian military media:

"An active military pilot who asked not to be named told the Voennoe.RF [Russian military news] reporter that English language proficiency was not a necessary condition for service in the Russian Airspace Force. "Yet it’s not obligatory", he said having added that there were neither language courses nor interim assessments.

That was also confirmed by other officers and engineers of the Russian Airspace Force. "The main things are good health and general erudition", emphasized one of them."

This gave rise to the possibility that Turkey had, in fact, warned the Russian aircraft 10 times in five minutes, but that the Russian pilots were ignorant of English and didn't understand the warnings.

So Saturday's statement from Turkey emphasized the fact that "the Russian plane was warned numerous times ... both in English and Russian languages." In response, Russia's Defense Ministry mocked the "English and Russian" claim as a story made up by "ignorant propagandists who watched too many Hollywood action movies."

I'm not sure how to interpret the Russian statement since, of course, Hollywood action movies are generally in English. Mil.today (Russia, 21-October-2015) and Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Jan-16 World View -- Turkey threatens 'consequences' after Russia violates its airspace again thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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30-Jan-16 World View -- Japan tries negative interest rates as US economy slows

Mainstream economists are oblivious to the velocity of money

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Japan announces negative interest rates as an act of desperation


Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda (AFP)
Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda (AFP)

In a move widely viewed as an act of desperation, the Bank of Japan on Friday surprised economists by announcing that it will reduce a key interest rate to a negative value, -0.1%. This means that if a Japanese bank wants to "park" its excess reserve cash in the Bank of Japan, then the bank will have to pay the BOJ to do so. It also means that if a bank wants to borrow cash from the BOJ, then the BOJ will pay the bank to do so. It's an upside-down world. Unfortunately, the BOJ won't lend money to ordinary people.

According to the BOJ statement:

"The Introduction of 'Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing (QQE) with a Negative Interest Rate'

  • The Bank will apply a negative interest rate of minus 0.1 percent to current accounts that financial institutions hold at the Bank. It will cut the interest rate further into negative territory if judged as necessary.
  • The Bank will introduce a multiple-tier system which some central banks in Europe (e.g. the Swiss National Bank) have put in place. Specifically, it will adopt a three-tier system in which the outstanding balance of each financial institution's current account at the Bank will be divided into three tiers, to each of which a positive interest rate, a zero interest rate, or a negative interest rate will be applied, respectively."

Many economists were shocked because Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda had insisted only last week that the BOJ would not adopt any new monetary easing policies, especially negative interest rates. The purpose of the "three-tier system" is to reduce the amount of shock, at least at first. This may be temporary because the statement also says, "It will cut the interest rate further into negative territory if judged as necessary."

In addition, the Bank of Japan is continuing its "quantitative easing" (QE) program, and will continue to buy up government bonds worth 80 trillion yen ($660 billion) every year, adding that money to the economy.

The latest data on the Japanese economy shows the reason for the desperation. Household spending in December fell 4.4% from a year ago, and monthly industrial production contracted 1.4%. Official data shows that Japan's inflation rate was just 0.5% in 2015, and appears to be falling. Like most central banks, the BOJ has a target inflation rate of 2%, and that target seems far out of reach. Three months ago, the BOJ projected a 2016 inflation rate of 1.4%, but now has had to lower that projection to 0.8%. CNBC and Bank of Japan (PDF) and Market Watch

Negative interest rates are supposed to improve the economy

The logic behind the negative interest rate is that if a bank has too much money sitting in its reserve accounts, then instead of depositing it in the central bank, they might lend it out to businesses, who will then use it to hire people, pushing up wages, putting more money in people's pockets that they'll spend, pushing up inflation.

Unfortunately, that hasn't worked too well in other countries. In mid-2012, Denmark went to negative interest rates. In 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) and Swiss National Bank (SNB) moved into negative territory and Sweden did the same in early 2015.

In fact, if you add together the GDPs of all the economies whose central banks have negative interest rates, then they add up to 23.1%. In other words, almost 1/4 of the world, measured by GDP, are economies where the central bank pays someone to take their money.

However, it is possible for ordinary investors to take advantage of the negative interest rates by purchasing some government bonds. Some Japanese government bonds, for example, have negative yields that go as low as -0.08%.

At the same time, the ECB and BOJ also have large "quantitative easing" programs, pumping money into banks by buying any bonds that are available.

So all this money is pouring out of the central banks into the regional banks, but there's little or no inflation, and certainly no hyperinflation. That's because the cash is just being hoarded by the banks and other financial institutions, for fear of a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. And if the money isn't being spent, and isn't being used to hire people, then it's as if the money weren't available at all. WSJ Blogs and Reuters and Market Watch

United States GDP figures show a slowing economy

The growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the US economy slowed markedly in the fourth quarter of last year. The economy expanded at a rate of 0.7%, a big drop from 2% in the third quarter, and 3.9% in the second quarter.

Economists gave several reasons for the fizzling American economy:

The reason that banks and consumers are hoarding cash is related to the velocity of money, which is discussed below, and which mainstream economists are apparently totally oblivious to. Market Watch and Guardian (London)

Mainstream economists are oblivious to the velocity of money


Velocity of money, 1920 to present (St. Louis Fed Fred Graph #282038)
Velocity of money, 1920 to present (St. Louis Fed Fred Graph #282038)

Mainstream economists (including those in the so-called "Austrian school") think that inflation is determined by the amount of money in circulation as set by monetary policy -- interest rates and quantitative easing. And you can find thousands of articles in the past decade explaining why continued low interest rates would cause inflation.

But anyone who's taken Economics 1.01 knows that inflation is caused by two factors: the amount of money in circulation times the velocity of money. You can google "velocity of money" for a full explanation, but it represents how frequently money is actually used to buy things or pay wages.

The above graph shows that the velocity of money has plummeted three times in the last century: During the Great Depression of the 1930s, following World War II in the 1940s, and during the financial crisis of the 2000s.

Economists -- and I mean pretty much all economists of all ideologies -- are completely oblivious to the velocity of money. If they think about it at all, then they think that if the central bank prints money, then it will raise not only the money supply but also the velocity of money.

What economists don't understand is that they have no control over the velocity of money. It's a generational variable, just like attitudes towards sex or war. A high velocity of money means that people are willing to spend lavishly, even go into debt. A low velocity of money means that people want to save money prodigiously, or to pay off their debts. These are attitudes that are deeply ingrained in people, just like their attitudes toward sex or war. The government cannot change the velocity of money by either monetary policy or fiscal policy.

And if the government can't control the velocity of money, then the government can't control the inflation rate.

Here's what former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in December:

"I think negative nominal interest rates are something the Fed might consider. We’ve seen it put to work in Europe primarily. But the scope for negative nominal interest rates is fairly limited. You can’t get very negative before people will begin to hoard cash, for example, which pays zero nominal interest rates. Although I’ve been surprised by how negative have been able to get in some European countries, I don’t think that, in the context of the United States, I don’t think that it could really be a central tool because I don’t think that rates can get that negative."

It's pretty clear that Bernanke doesn't understand the velocity of money, or thinks that hoarding money is being caused by low interest rates. The causation goes in the opposite direction. Since 2007, the velocity of money has been decreasing, meaning that people are hoarding their money more, not spending it. This is causing a deflationary spiral, and forcing the Fed to lower interest rates. As the deflationary spiral worsens, the Fed in desperation will resort to negative interest rates, as has happened in Japan. So it's hoarding of money that's causing low interest rates, rather than the other way around.

Ever since 2003, when I started writing regularly about Generational Dynamics, I've repeatedly written that in this generational Crisis era, Generational Dynamics is predicting a deflationary spiral. Mainstream economists, on the other hand, have been predicting that inflation or even hyperinflation would begin "next year" every year since then. Mainstream economists have been dead wrong, and continue to be wrong, while Generational Dynamics is right. The reason is that mainstream economists are oblivious to the velocity of money. Market Watch (15-Dec-2015) and St. Louis Fed

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Jan-16 World View -- Japan tries negative interest rates as US economy slows thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) =eod

(30-Jan-2016) Permanent Link
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29-Jan-16 World View -- US, Britain, France, Italy continue plans for Libya invasion against ISIS

Russia builds military presence in Dagestan after ISIS attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Russia builds military presence in Dagestan after ISIS attack


In Russia's 5,000 year old city of Derbent, the Citadel was built by a Persian shah in the sixth century.
In Russia's 5,000 year old city of Derbent, the Citadel was built by a Persian shah in the sixth century.

Russia is increasing its military presence and conducting large counter-terrorism military exercises in the south of its North Caucasus province of Dagestan in southern Russia.

The military exercises were triggered by a December 29 Islamist insurgency gun attack at the Derbent citadel, a Unesco World Heritage site and big tourist attraction. A group called "warriors of the Caliphate", affiliated with so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), claimed responsibility for the attack.

The insurgents opened fire on a group of tourists accompanied by two border guards from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on the citadel's viewing platform. One border guard was killed, and eleven others were injured.

At least 120 people were killed by insurgents