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The US risks disaster with North Korea; it must open talks with Kim Jong-un without delay

The alternative to negotiations with North Korea is an uncontrolled nuclear arms race in the north Pacific with an adversary whose capabilities the US has repeatedly and grossly underestimated and which it knows next to nothing about.

Alexander Mercouris

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On 31st July 2017 I wrote an article for The Duran in which I said that the US is overreacting to the North Korean ballistic missile tests

Here is what I wrote in that article

……though the test launches of the Hwasong-14 missile represent an impressive technical achievement – all the more so because the missile is mobile and road launched – the missile appears to be still in its development stage, with its payload apparently small and with great uncertainty as to whether the North Koreans have miniaturised their nuclear warhead technology sufficiently to arm it.  There is therefore still time before the missile enters service and does so in any quantity.

Beyond these questions there remains the overriding fact that even if North Korea does eventually field a number of operational missiles of this sort its nuclear capabilities will still be overwhelmingly dwarfed by those of the US, a fact which because of the immense industrial and technological disparity between the two powers will never change.  What that means is that unless the entire North Korean leadership – including Kim Jong-un – are intent on a bizarre form of suicide, there is no possibility of North Korea launching nuclear armed Hwasong-14 missiles at the US except in self-defence.

The US can therefore afford to take these North Korean missile tests in its stride.  By contrast threatening military action against North Korea – or worse still actually engaging in it – is the one thing that might actually provoke North Korea to strike against the US – or more realistically against one of the US’s allies – of which in all other respects no risk exists.

In the short time since those words were written it has become clear that North Korea’s capabilities have been grossly underestimated.  There are now reports that the Defense Intelligence Agency – the US intelligence agency once headed by General Flynn – has reported to the US National Security Council that North Korea has successfully miniaturised a nuclear warhead and developed a re-entry vehicle for its Hwasong-14 missile.  Supposedly North Korea also now has a stockpile of up to 60 nuclear bombs – far more than previously thought.

If this information is correct then the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme has advanced much faster and much further than anyone – including the Chinese and the Russians – anticipated, further confirming my longstanding point that the perennial claim that the country is a backward economic basket-case simply cannot be true (see below).

However the main contention I made in my article of 31st July 2017 remains true.  Even if North Korea has indeed developed a useable nuclear weapons capability which it is able to launch against the continental US – or against the US’s far flung network of military bases like Guam – sooner than anyone expected, its nuclear weapons capability is still overwhelmingly dwarfed by that of the US and will always be so.

For North Korea to launch an unprovoked attack on the US would therefore be an act of national suicide, both on the part of its people and its leadership, and there is nothing to suggest that North Korea’s leaders are considering it.  On the contrary the consistent explanation the North Koreans give for their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is that it is defensive – intended to deter a US attack upon themselves – and – as I have repeatedly pointed out – that is the only explanation which makes sense.

Here is what I wrote about North Korean intentions on 29th April 2017, during the previous occasion when relations between the US and North Korea seemed to be veering towards crisis

What purpose then does the North Korean nuclear weapons programme have?

An obvious starting point in any discussion of this issue ought to be what the North Korean government itself says.

There is a difficulty here because the political language North Korea uses comes across to a foreign ear as so rhetorically inflated and bombastic that it is sometimes difficult to take it seriously.  However this commentary in Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s Workers Party, explains the motivation behind North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme clearly enough

Recently, the U.S. representative to the UN, faulting the DPRK’s just measure for bolstering the nuclear deterrence, said that it may pose threat to the U.S. and several other countries and that “countries doing bad acts” like the DPRK would not sign the convention on banning nuclear weapons nor would be willing to implement it.

This is a gross distortion of the situation.

The U.S. is deliberately distorting and hyping up the situation in a bid to turn the table in its favor. The aim is to brand the DPRK as a harasser of peace, cover up its true colors as a hideous nuclear criminal and justify its moves for stifling the DPRK.

It has neither qualifications nor rights to fault the DPRK’s measures for bolstering the nuclear deterrence.It is also not entitled to trumpet about the convention on banning the nuclear weapons.

The U.S. is trying to convince the public that the world denuclearization has not been realized because of the DPRK. This is senseless rubbish shunning the historical course of why the DPRK was compelled to opt for having access to nuclear weapons and bolstering them qualitatively and quantitatively and why it became necessary for the world to have the convention on banning nuclear weapons.

It is none other than the U.S. which compelled the DPRK to have access to nuclear weapons and it is again the U.S. which persistently forced the DPRK to bolster them qualitatively and quantitatively.

The DPRK’s nuclear deterrence is not to threaten others but it is a means for self-defence to defend the sovereignty of the country from the U.S. nuclear war provocation in every aspect.

The DPRK will continue to exercise this right with dignity no matter what others may say.

(bold italics added)

In other words North Korea decided to acquire nuclear weapons not out of some fanatical desire to attack the US, or because it wants to use its nuclear weapons to conquer South Korea or to hold the entire world hostage – all of them suicidal acts of no conceivable benefit to itself – but because it feels threatened by the US.

This is both clear and logical and is in line with what is known of the recent historical record.

I repeat all this today especially because so much Western commentary seems to assume the opposite.  Here for example is a commentary which appeared on 9th August 2017 in the London Times, whose owner Rupert Murdoch is known to be close to US President Trump and which may therefore reflect his thinking or that of his advisers

The questions the US intelligence community will be asking are: what are Kim’s intentions? Does he really intend to launch a nuclear ICBM attack on an American city? If so, what does he expect to gain by doing so?

Intentions are always the most difficult part of intelligence analysis. The North Korean leader has publicly warned that he wants to attack the US. But is it just the warning of a seriously insecure, isolated leader or does he really believe the launching of an ICBM will solve his problems and bring the US to its knees?

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words straightforwardly describe North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un as wanting to attack the US and therefore as a crazed fanatic – a sort of real life Captain Ahab figure with nuclear missiles – whose hatred of the US is apparently so extreme that he is busy acquiring nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for no other reason than because he wants to attack the US.  The implication is that unless he is stopped he will actually do so before long.

Nothing Kim Jong-un has ever said or which has been said by any other official of the North Korean government gives any reason for thinking that this is the case.  All the comments they have made – and all the surrounding facts which are known and which provide the context for these comments  – shows on the contrary that Kim Jong-un and North Korea’s other leaders are rational people and that North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme is as they say defensive, and has no other purpose other than to deter a US attack on themselves.

Given that this is so there is no reason to fear an unprovoked North Korean nuclear attack on the US or indeed on any other country – including South Korea – and there is no reason or excuse to go on talking as if there is a real risk of one.

The tragedy is that if direct talks leading to a peace treaty between the US and North Korea had taken place before the mid 2000s – as was in fact promised – they might have borne fruit by now.  In that case we would be looking at a peaceful and stable situation in the Korean Peninsula without North Korea having acquired ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons or feeling the need to do so.

Instead – because of the folly of previous US administrations, most especially of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations – North Korea now possesses both ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, and may have – though this is still disputed – the continental United States within reach.  Needless to say, that will make negotiating with North Korea leading look like a US climbdown.

Not only will that be a humiliation for the US – and one which it will not be able to conceal – but it will also be a disaster for the world’s already tattered nuclear non-proliferation regime, laboriously created by the superpowers in the 1960s, but already honoured increasingly in the breach.

To be clear, the US starting talks with North Korea now – after North Korea has acquired ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons – when the US has previously consistently refused to do so, will serve an object lesson to the whole world and to force the US to the negotiating table is to threaten it with nuclear weapons.

That is a lesson all sorts of people around the world are going to learn.  The high probability is that the result will be that what is left of the world’s nuclear non proliferation regime will collapse.  Deplorable though that prospect is – and to be clear, the uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons is a very bad and dangerous thing – it is the inevitable consequence of the reckless regime change follies the US has indulged in since the end of the Cold War.

There is however nothing now to be done about this, and the US needs to put aside its customary intransigence and fire-eating and counter-productive rhetoric and do what the Chinese are urging it to do, which is sit down and talk with North Korea now.

Apparently the North Koreans have said at a conference in Manila that they are prepared to sit down and talk – though they have reiterated that they will not under any circumstances give up the ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capability which they have so painstakingly acquired – something which should surprise no one.

The alternative is to go on as we have been doing: lurching into an uncontrolled arms race in East Asia that the US knows almost nothing about.

One of the points I have repeatedly hammered home in The Duran about the US’s conflict with North Korea is the US’s catastrophic ignorance of the country.   Here is what I said about this in my article of 29th April 2017

One of the difficulties in discussing North Korea is that knowledge of the so-called ‘hermit kingdom’ is so limited.No Western leader has ever met with Kim Jong-un, and nor at the highest level have the Chinese and Russian leaderships.  There is scarcely any knowledge of the institutional frame-work within which he works.  We do not know who his top advisers are and how he consults them.  We do not know how well-informed he is about the world or even about North Korea itself.  We do not know how intelligent he is, or if there is any institution like a Politburo or a cabinet or a Security Council which he consults.  We do not know what his exact relationship with his top civilian and military officials is.

The West’s extraordinary ignorance of the most basic facts about North Korea is shown by the fact that there is even uncertainty about the identity of the institution or institutions which control North Korea’s secret police……

It is clear however that the North Korean government, however it is organised, is efficient or at least effective, that it is in complete control of the country, and that it both makes decisions regularly and is able to enforce them across the whole country.

Just as we know next to nothing about North Korea’s government, we are similarly profoundly ill-informed about North Korea’s economy.

North Korea’s success in pursuing a ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme shows North Korea must have a significant industrial and technology base, which must encompass fields like advanced chemistry and nuclear physics.  North Korea’s success in making its own smart phones and tablets and in developing its own apparently extensive intranet (the “Kwangmyong“) suggests it must have a reasonably sophisticated computer and IT industry it can draw upon.  Pictures of Pyongyang, which appear from time to time in the Western media, show it to be a highly modern even futuristic city, a significant fact in itself even if Pyongyang is a show-case which is not representative of the whole country.

Nonetheless despite these obvious signs of industrial and technological strength and modernity there remains a widespread view that North Korea is a primitive basket-case of a country, with its people struggling in conditions barely above subsistence.

Frankly that doesn’t seem fully consistent with the known facts.

Lastly, we remain supremely ignorant of North Korea’s actual military capabilities.  Though North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests no-one outside North Korea knows how many nuclear weapons it has, or whether it possesses the means to deliver those nuclear weapons it does have.

The latest report from the US Defense Intelligence Agency, even if it exaggerates North Korean capabilities, highlights the disastrous consequences of this ignorance, and of the bad and arrogant decisions it has led to.

It turns out that North Korea may now have an intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capability bringing even Washington DC within reach that even the Chinese and the Russians thought thought it would not acquire before 2040.  A North Korean nuclear challenge that no-one outside Pyongyang imagined the US would face for another 20 years is already upon us.

At its most basic level, this is a catastrophic failure of intelligence, showing how completely wrong about North Korea at least in this respect the US and most of the rest of the outside world has been.  How do we know if instead of talks there is now an arms race that there won’t be other, possibly still more catastrophic, intelligence failures further down the line?

I will finish by quoting a famous epigram attributed to the Chinese thinker Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you are a fool and will succumb in every battle

In relation to North Korea it is high time the US admitted that it doesn’t know its enemy, and there are times when I wonder whether it even knows itself.

In other words the US has been behaving like a fool, setting itself up for defeat in a conflict involving nuclear weapons where its own national territory may be at risk.  In the interests of the world and itself it is desperately important that it stops doing so.

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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