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Trump goes weak in his knees and ends up attacking Syria

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap] suspected chemical attack occurs in Syria killing 72 people including 11 children. More than 550 people get injured in the attack. ‘Beautiful babies were slaughtered. That is unacceptable’ says Trump. Immediately, he launches an attack on Syria as some sort of a protest against the regime using chemical weapons and as a protest against the innocent children getting killed. So what effect did the Tomahawk missiles have?

This killed many people including nine civilians and four children. What about the four children who died due to the missiles? Who will lament for these beautiful babies who have died? First of all, how did Trump conclude that Assad was the perpetrator in this chemical attack? Not a shred of evidence has been provided to either the American people or the Congress. Yet everyone seems to be happy about Trump’s attack on Syria. They are convinced that it was Assad without any concrete evidence for the same. As for the attack, there are three possibilities.

Scenario 1

Assad did not carry out the attack. He had zero motive for that. Even in order for any crime to be committed, a motive has to be there. Assad was gaining in the war. He took back a lot of territory from the rebels. Added to that, very importantly, the US, for the first time since the start of the war, had declared that removing Assad was no longer a goal. So why would he want to risk everything by launching a chemical weapons attack? He had all the reasons to avoid using chemical weapons.

What if this attack had been a ‘false flag attack’ done by the rebels? UN’s senior official Del Ponte has mentioned in the past that the rebels have used Sarin in the past. The rebels had all the motive to commit such an attack. They were losing the war. For the first time since the war had started, Russia and America had started speaking in one voice saying that the staying of Assad was acceptable to them. All that they had to do was to carry out a false flag attack and let Assad take the blame. If Assad had to commit this, either he had to be most stupid person or he had to be taking Ganja when he took such a decision. Neither is he stupid nor is there any evidence for the latter too.

Scenario 2

That was scenario 1. Now let’s look at scenario 2. Just because the rebels are in possession of the chemical weapons does not mean that Assad could not have carried out the attack. What if Assad had carried out those attacks? There are contradictions in Russia’s and Assad’s claims. Russia initially said that Syrian aircraft carried out the raid. However they claimed that the chemicals were part of a terrorist (meaning rebel groups) stockpile that hit the ground during the course of the attack. Later on Assad went on air claiming that the attack did not take place at all and he doubted whether the video was genuine. On one hand, Russia is saying that the attack did take place but the stockpile got released and that was the reason for the attack. On the other hand, Assad has gone on record saying that the attack never took place. Clearly, Russia and Syria are contradicting each other. There is more to it than meets the eye.

Scenario 3

What if both the scenarios were false? Not many have discussed a third scenario. What if some officer in Assad’s regime, disgruntled with Assad or America, or for any other reason, carried out the attack without getting Assad’s nod? In this scenario, Assad would be forced to deny the attack because admitting to the attacks would mean admitting to having chemical weapons. It would also mean that he does not have full control over his army. Also, one notable point is that the vehemence with which Assad denied any responsibility for the bombing attack in Aleppo did not match the somewhat mute denial of any responsibility towards the chemical attack.

Did Trump even think about these possible scenarios? Everyone is talking about the motives of Assad. But no one is talking about the motives of Trump in launching the tomahawk missiles. Why did Trump do that? That Trump was moved by the videos/pictures of the children dying a slow and painful could be true. No doubts the pictures.videos were horrifying and would have moved any human being. But surely, he would not have taken a decision to attack another country based on these pictures. Without a proper investigation by a neutral agency like the UN or the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), when the situation is so complicated as was pointed above, how could he do that?

Clearly, there seems to be two motivations. One was his tendency to react impulsively and immediately to any slights/insults. That could be seen from his twitter attacks to each and every comment/remark which he considered as an insult. He was somehow convinced, mainly by the war-mongering Washington establishment, that it was Assad who did it. Just after a few days after he (the US) declared indirectly that Assad can stay, how can Assad do this to him? He (Trump) will be the one ending up with egg on his face.

Secondly and equally importantly, Trump went weak in his knees. Allegations about his campaign team having connections with Russia were filling up the media. Michael Flynn had to leave. There were allegations against Jeff Sessions. Investigations were going on left, right and centre over Trump’s alleged connections with Russia. How could he get away from all these? Pat came the idea. He used the Syria bombing as a pivot from the Russia connections. It seems to have had its effect.

So what about the subsequent bombing that happened in Aleppo a few days after the chemical attack? Around 126 people were killed including around 70 children. This attack, in all probability, was carried out by the rebels. This convoy was carrying around 5000 people, including civilians and several hundred pro-government fighters. This was part of an agreement between the government and the insurgents. It was a cowardly attack because it was done against fleeing civilians. Around 70 children died. Yet Ivanka Trump did not cry out “Oh Daddy, it is horrible. You’ve gotta do something!!!” Donald Trump did not give out any statements lamenting about beautiful babies dying. While all in the mainstream media went gaga about the Trump administration’s strikes on Syria, hardly anyone mentioned the second bomb attack on the civilians. That is because it was the rebels groups who are believed to have done it and not Assad.

Let’s have a look at a schedule of the CNN programs

07.00 – 09.00 – A special program on Trump’s connections with Russia

09.00 – 11.00 – A special program on Russia’s special connections with Trump

11.00 – 13.00 – Don Lemon’s interview with US Political Analysts on Trump propaganda machine and Russia

13.00-15.00 – Kate Bolduan special program on ‘How Russia meddled in the US elections’

15.00-17.00 – Jake Tapper anchors – ‘Did Russia influence the US elections’

17.00-19.00 – Anderson Cooper hosts the special episode ‘Trump’s business interests in Russia’

19.00-23.00 – A Fareed Zakaria special – ‘How Trump’s close relations with Putin is dangerous to America’

From 23.00 – Repeat of the same cycle

Penultimately, Trump had the vision to see that a better relationship with Russia could have made things better for the US. Sadly, he lacked the courage to implement it……..

Until clear evidence emerges about the chemical attack, one should remember what is happening in Syria is not a fight between The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. What is happening is a fight between The Bad, The Uglier and the Ugliest. Neither For a Fistful of Dollars or maybe even For a Few Dollars More will this writer say that Syria should get into the hands of The Uglier (al Qaeda) or The Ugliest (ISIS) !

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author

Harish Venugopalan is a Research Assistant with the Observer Research Foundation. He has done his Masters in International Relations from the Dublin City University (DCU) in 2011-2012. His current research interest is ‘Conflict Management in Africa’.

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Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them

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Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich*

In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have been forced out of their home countries by extreme poverty and gang violence. While initial expectations were that the Lopez Obrador administration would be more welcoming to migrants, policies have slowly mirrored those of his predecessor, and do not seem to have deterred refugees. COVID-19 led to a decrease in refugees arriving in Mexico, and many shelters in Mexico closed or have limited capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Now that the COVID-19 situation has changed, arrivals could increase again to the levels seen in late 2018 or 2019, with overcrowded refugee centers lacking in medical care as potential grounds for serious COVID-19 outbreaks.

Mexico increasingly shares a similar view as the US on this migration issue, seeking ways to detain or deport migrants rather than supporting or protecting them. For instance, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute has been conducting raids on freight trains to find and detain migrants. Public opinion likely shapes these policies. In the US, support for allowing migrants into the country appeared to increase slightly from 2018 to 2019, but no significant majority emerges. Meanwhile, Mexican public opinion increasingly exhibits anti-immigrant sentiments, declining considerably since 2018, with a 2019 Washington Post poll showing that 55% supported deporting Central Americans rather than providing temporary residence and a 2019 El Financiero poll finding 63% supportive of closing to border to curb migration.

New Data Shows the Mexican Public Unwelcoming

To gauge Mexican public opinion on refugees, we conducted an original web survey June 24-26 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. We asked 625 respondents to evaluate the statement “Mexico should accept refugees fleeing from Central America” on a five-point Likert scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. For visual clarity, we combined disagree and agree categories in the figure below.

Overall, a plurality (43.84%) opposed accepting refugees, with less than a third (30.08%) supportive. Broken down by party affiliation, we see similar results, with the largest opposition from the main conservative party PAN (52.90%) and lowest in the ruling party MORENA (41.58%). Broken down by gender, we find women slightly more supportive compared to men (32.60% vs. 27.04%), consistent with findings elsewhere and perhaps acknowledgment that women and children historically comprise a disproportionate amount of refugees. Regression analysis again finds PAN supporters to be less supportive than other respondents, although this distinction declines once controlling for gender, age, education and income, of which only age corresponded with a statistically significant decline in support. It is common for older individuals to oppose immigration due to generational changes in attitude, so this finding is not unexpected.

We also asked the question “On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being very negative and 10 very positive, how do you feel about the following countries?” Among countries listed were the sources of the Central American refugees, the three Northern Triangle countries. All three received similar average scores (Guatemala: 4.33, Honduras: 4.05, El Salvador: 4.01), higher than Venezuela (3.25), but lower than the two other countries rated (US: 7.71, China: 7.26) Yet, even after controlling for general views of the Central American countries, we find the public generally unsupportive of accepting refugees.

How Should Mexico Address the Refugee Crisis?

Towards the end of the Obama administration, aid and other efforts directed at resolving the push factors for migration in Central America, including decreasing violence and limiting corruption, appeared to have some success at reducing migration north. President Trump’s policies largely did not improve the situation, and President Biden has begun to reverse those policies and re-implement measures successful under Obama.

As discussed in a meeting between the Lopez Obrador administration and US Vice President Kamala Harris, Mexico could adopt similar aid policies, and decreasing the flow of migrants may make the Mexican public respond more positively to accepting migrants. Lopez Obrador committed to increased economic cooperation with Central America days into his term, with pledges of aid as well, but these efforts remain underdeveloped. Threats to cut aid expedite deportations only risks worsening the refugee crisis, while doing little to improve public opinion.

Increasingly, the number of family units from Guatemala and Honduras seeking asylum in Mexico, or the United States, represents a mass exodus from Central America’s Northern Triangle to flee insecurity. Combating issues such as extreme poverty and violence in Central American countries producing the mass exodus of refugees could alleviate the impact of the refugee crisis on Mexico. By alleviating the impact of the refugee crisis, refugees seeking asylum will be able to navigate immigration processes easier thus decreasing tension surrounding the influx of refugees.

Likewise, identifying the public’s security and economic concerns surrounding refugees and crafting a response should reduce opposition. A spokesperson for Vice President Harris stated that border enforcement was on the agenda during meetings with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the Mexican foreign minister reportedly stated that border security was not to be addressed at the meeting. Other than deporting migrants at a higher rate than the US, Mexico also signed an agreement with the US in June pledging money to improve opportunities for work in the Northern Triangle. Nonetheless, questions about whether this agreement will bring meaningful change remain pertinent in the light of a worsening crisis.

Our survey research shows little public interest in accepting refugees. Public sentiment is unlikely to change unless the Lopez Obrador administration finds ways to both build sympathy for the plights of refugees and address public concerns about a refugee crisis with no perceived end in sight. For example, research in the US finds public support for refugees is often higher when the emphasis is on women and children, and the Lopez Obrador administration could attempt to frame the crisis as helping specifically these groups who historically comprise most refugees. Likewise, coordinating efforts with the US and other countries may help portray to the public that the burden of refugee resettlement is being equitably shared rather than disproportionately placed on Mexico.

Facing a complex situation affecting multiple governments requires coordinated efforts and considerable resources to reach a long-term solution. Until then, the Central American refugee crisis will continue and public backlash in Mexico likely increase.

Isabel Eliassen is a 2021 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University. She triple majored in International Affairs, Chinese, and Linguistics.

Alianna Casas is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University, majoring in Business Economics, Political Science, and a participant in the Joint Undergraduate/Master’s Program in Applied Economics.

Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Western Kentucky University and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL). His research focuses on public opinion and electoral politics.

Funding for this survey was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.

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