Tag Archives: nuclear weapons

One miscalculation or mistake away from war

Wars often begin with a miscalculation or mistake after prolonged periods of posturing and saber rattling. We will be told that we have to save face or appear weak, especially by people like Sen. John McCain. So we will stumble into war.

Two events in recent days — the shooting down by a US F-18 of a Syrian Su-22 and the use of ballistic missiles by Iran against ISIS targets — are evidence of a scramble in eastern Syria that’s been gathering pace since the beginning of the year.

CNN reports, Syrian conflict moves into new and dangerous territory:

It’s the first time the United States has shot down a Syrian military aircraft, and at least the fifth occasion it has targeted regime and pro-regime forces since the Trump administration took office.

On Tuesday, a US fighter jet shot down a pro-Syrian regime drone in the country’s southeast, US officials told CNN.

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A lot of forces with competing aims are at close quarters in eastern Syria. The United States is aggressively backing a Syrian rebel alliance — the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — as they fight their way into Raqqa, ISIS’ administrative capital for the past three years. Hundreds of US military advisors are close to the front-lines, supported by intense coalition airstrikes.

The Syrian army and its allies (largely Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese Shia militia), however, are also closing in on Raqqa. Last week the Syrian military reached areas controlled by the SDF. It was almost inevitable that at some point these opposing alliances would butt heads. So when the Syrian air force bombed SDF positions Sunday, the US came to the aid of its partners on the ground — and the Syrians have one fewer Su-22.

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Will brinksmanship lead to a renewed Korean war?

North Korea has yet another anniversary on Tuesday, the founding of its military, and the world appears to be on edge today in anticipation that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon on Tuesday and Donald Trump, who opted for a brinksmanship foreign policy, will be forced to respond with a military strike as he said he would in order to to save face and to demonstrate ‘resolve” — renewing the Korean war, with massive civilian casualties as a predictable consequence.

There are some troubling headlines today. President Trump to host unusual meeting with UN Security Council:

President Trump will host members of the United Nations Security Council at the White House Monday, a highly unusual meeting made even more startling because of his harsh criticism of the international institution during the campaign and since taking office.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is serving this month as the President of the Security Council, a role that rotates each month among the five permanent members: the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia.

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Haley will be attending before the group returns to New York for scheduled Security Council meetings on Tuesday.

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Trump’s phantom ‘armada’ leads to mockery and distrust in South Korea

The Trump White House and the Pentagon were either deliberately deceiving the American people last week, or they were so incompetent that they just didn’t know what they were doing. It’s likely a combination of both. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker reports, Donald Trump, North Korea, and the case of the phantom armada:

Some degree of delusion always has to be factored in with Donald Trump: when he referred to “the aircraft carriers” and, in another interview, with Fox Business, said that “we are sending an armada, very powerful,” he was widely understood to be referring to a single aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, and its support ships. In fairness, the Vinson would have been powerful and provocative enough—if it had, in fact, been speeding toward the Korean Peninsula, or the Sea of Japan, or even just the Pacific Ocean, which it was not. It was in the Indian Ocean, headed in the opposite direction, for exercises with what might be described as the Australian Armada. Just when you think you see the contours of Trump’s phantom menace, he comes up with a Phantom Fleet.

[T]he movements of a carrier group can’t be so hard to conceal, except, perhaps, from the people in charge of America’s foreign policy. Trump wasn’t alone on this one; it’s not a case of him just causing trouble with his phone and Twitter account, rambling about bad hombres. As the timeline makes clear, it’s even worse. (The Wall Street Journal and the Times have good versions.) On April 9th, three days before Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview, the Navy had said that it had ordered the Vinson “to sail north”; H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, reiterated that news on the same day, framing it as a response to North Korea’s own provocative moves. Secretary of Defense James Mattis followed that up on April 11th by saying that the Indian Ocean exercises were off, and said that the Vinson was “just on her way up there.” That was false. The next day, the Navy said again that the Vinson had been “ordered north”; it added that the effects of that deployment on “other previously scheduled activities are still being assessed during the transit.” The Pentagon is now trying to sell that last bit as a quiet correction of Mattis, which the press mysteriously missed—but that is, simply put, ridiculous. For one thing, there’s the phrase “during the transit,” which assumes that transit had begun. Or is the idea that the Vinson was on its way to the Sea of Japan, in the sense that we are all on our way from cradle to grave, or that Trump is in transit from the Oval Office to choosing items for the gift shop in his Presidential library? A lot can happen in between.

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North Korea – U.S. tensions could spin out of control this weekend unless cooler heads prevail

Things may get very real very fast on the Korean peninsula this weekend. The hermit kingdom of North Korea is about to celebrate a birthday bash on Saturday, with a nuclear test for the candle on the birthday cake. A U.S. Navy strike group is patrolling off the coast of North Korea to snuff out their birthday candle should they try to light it. If this scenario plays out, we are going to need a lot more than Team America: World Police.

The Los Angeles Times has a good introduction in North Korea says it’s ready for war, but Pyongyang remains a city of orderly calm:

North Korea is expected to test a missile or nuclear weapon as early as Saturday — the 105th birthday of the country’s late founder Kim Il Sung — and anxiety is mounting.

President Trump has moved a Navy strike group to the Korean peninsula. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to travel to South Korea on Saturday. Japan has issued a warning over North Korea’s suspected chemical weapons capabilities, with officials in Tokyo discussing how to evacuate the country’s 60,000 citizens from North Korea.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned Friday morning of “storm clouds” gathering over the Korean peninsula, saying that “tit-for-tat threats between the United States and North Korea with daggers drawn has created a dangerous situation worthy of our vigilance.”

In Pyongyang, vice minister Han Song Ryol accused the United States of fomenting the trouble and vowed, “We will go to war if they choose.’’

NBC News reports, U.S. May Launch Strike if North Korea Reaches for Nuclear Trigger:

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

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Trump embraces the ‘Madman in The White House’ foreign policy of Richard Nixon

This week Trump’s National Security Advisor, retired Lt. Gen.Michael Flynn, took a break from his regular stint on Russia Television (RT) to announce that the Trump administration is putting Iran “on notice” for a recent ballistic missile test.

“On notice” is not a diplomatic term of art, and no one knows what it means. Team Trump puts Iran ‘on notice,’ won’t explain what that means:

The trouble is, no one seems able to say what “on notice” means in the context of U.S. foreign policy. Sure, we remember Stephen Colbert’s “on notice” board, but when it comes to the White House, it remains an unexplained mystery.

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Note, among those who are confused is CentCom. “We saw the statement as well,” a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which runs operations in the Middle East, told The Guardian. “This is still at the policy level, and we are waiting for something to come down the line. We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region.”

So, the rookie White House is making vague pronouncements about the Middle East, while the amateur president tweets recklessly and his administration says nothing to the military personnel who need a heads-up about such things.

Stephen Colbert is sick of Donald Trump stealing his act, so he brought out the “On Notice” board and put the President on notice.

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Donald Trump’s rhetoric embraces ‘Putin’s Real Long Game’

James Bruno, a former U.S. diplomat, writes at the Political Animal blog, Tinker. Tailor. Mogul. Spy?

Putin-Trump-KissThe United States has just endured a carefully planned, well-orchestrated assault against its democratic form of government in the form of a grand cyber-theft of information and targeted release of that information. After a thorough scrub of available intelligence, seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies concluded unanimously that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

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But if Russia’s role in the 2016 election is basically undisputed, we’re still left with a separate, more troubling question for which there isn’t yet a clear answer: Could Donald Trump actually be a Russian intel asset?

The U.S. intelligence chiefs steered clear of this hot potato conjecture. Supporting the case in favor is Trump’s bizarre screeds against the U.S. intelligence community and his equally head-scratching and consistent praise of Vladimir Putin even as his nominees to head the CIA and Defense Department describe Moscow as a threat. “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” former acting CIA Director Michael Morell wrote in the New York Times. An “unwitting agent” or “asset” in spy parlance is an individual who serves the interests of a foreign government without fully realizing it, or, what Lenin liked to call, a “useful idiot.” A “witting” asset is one who knows fully what he is doing.

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