If there was a striking theme in the Trump Asian trip, it was a clearly less muscular policy towards China. U.S. naval patrols to reinforce freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea were always provocative and appear to have ceased.
The U.S. has also withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership now been led by Japan and clearly a trade bulwark against China. It was also opposed by many in the U.S. who considered it a corporate boondoggle.
A deal was signed for the sale of 300 Boeing planes. Yet this mega $37 billion order actually encapsulates mostly old deals. The total goods trade with China in 2016 was $578.6 billion of which U.S. exports totaled $115.8 billion, leaving a massive deficit. The order then is not insignificant but delivery schedules for the 260 narrow and 40-wide bodied planes is stretched through 2020 as was agreed in 2013, and have less impact on a yearly basis.
While the president has been on his trip, another conference arguably of greater importance to the human race has been ongoing in Germany. The climate change 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ran Nov 6-17 at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. Approximately 19,000 participants, plus many journalists and other interested people attended.
It has been two years since the Paris Climate Accord, yet as the UN World Meteorological Organization’s flagship Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released October 30, 2017 revealed, average world CO2 levels surged to a modern new high of 403.3 ppm in 2016. The Paris Agreement called for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an endeavor that has little chance of success because it turns out emissions are not being reduced enough to achieve this target. Participating countries have to do more to reduce emissions than is presently required of them, and their emission targets have to be revised. So reports the UN Environment Program in its latest (Oct 31, 2017) Emissions Gap Report.
Consequently, at COP23 local and regional leaders have responded and signed the Bonn-Fiji Commitment for faster climate action to help deliver the Paris Accords. Such efforts are increasingly urgent. The challenge for the Conference attendees, both state and non-state participants, including many automobile companies is to cut back on fossil fuel use. Hence their interest in electric cars for example.
Particularly unusual are the numbers representing countries for they are related in part to their fears for the future. In first place is Cote d’Ivoire with 492 followed by Guinea (355), Democratic Republic of Congo (340), Congo (308), Morocco (253) and Germany (230) comprising the top six. Despite the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, the US is there with 48 participants.
There were demonstrations outside meeting venues, exhorting participants to be firmer in their recommendations because of the emissions gap. No global warming deniers among them; these were notable only in their absence.
The deniers may not have been there but it does not stop them from commenting or writing articles. Some common elements are apparent in their efforts — readers please note. First, don’t expect to find any primary sources, links, references. (They are not offered for a simple reason: they do not support denial; instead the facts are the opposite in that observed data is conclusive about global warming). What one finds are references to other deniers and allied think tanks, not infrequently receiving funding from fossil fuel vested interests.
Among the climate change deniers, there are those epitomized by Donald Trump who once famously claimed it was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to destroy American manufacturing. His fellow travelers include a Texas Congressman who professes to believe it is caused by clouds. Scott Pruitt, the EPA head claims there is no concrete evidence despite mountains of it collected by departments in his own agency. These people are either influenced by the fossil fuel industry — as in Texas — or by voter constituencies often relying on jobs in coal, oil and gas.
The deniers of warming are always keen to point out Antarctica which underwent an hiatus of sorts. That is now ending as noted in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic. A Delaware-sized iceberg broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf. And dramatic satellite photos show how a 225 square mile chunk of ice breaks off from the Pine Island ice shelf, which supports a massive glacier. A second rift is forming already.
A second subset in the genre consists of those who may be unsure of global warming but are certain it is not through human action. There is, however, undeniable proof in delta13C negation.
So what can one say to deniers? It’s best to keep it short and simple.
- Increasing CO2 levels are the main cause of climate change.
2. Just about every major international scientific academy endorses it, including the US National Academy of Sciences.
- Measurement of delta13C, a carbon isotope, presents ‘smoking gun’ evidence of human agency. This is because carbon in CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels has a unique signature through increasingly negative delta13C. Plants have less of the 13C isotope of carbon than that in the atmosphere so that the burning of fossil fuels reduces the isotope in the atmosphere. It is measured as negative delta13C. The more negative the delta13C, as atmospheric CO2 increases, the higher the proportion of carbon from fossil fuels. Since 1980, delta13C has been on a consistent negative slope from -7.5 per mil to a -8.3 per mil in 2012 imputing human hands. Before the Industrial Revolution, it was -6.5 per mil. Put another way, our fingerprints are all over this crime scene.
The Paris Accord now embraces every country except the US which signed under Obama but was withdrawn by Trump. At COP23, there are over 25,000 people with delegates from almost all countries, world leaders including the UN Secretary General, climate scientists, corporate representatives, NGOs, etc. One has to ask President Trump and the deniers, can all these distinguished persons, and all the evidence, be wrong? If not, how beholden are they to the fossil fuel lobby?
Nancy Pelosi and her dual approaches
In her remarks, the United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asserted that Trump’s border wall campaign has nothing to do with border security. She said it’s one of the US President’s plans for energizing his conservative base, and in this way, he aims to distract the country from the various scandals dogging his administration.
“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants a debate on the wall. And he’s having some difficulty with it,” Pelosi said during a press briefing at the Capitol.
“He keeps increasing the amount of money; increasing the amount of beds; increasing the obstacles to finding a solution — because I don’t think he really wants a solution,” Pelosi said. “I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems,” She added.
Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, noted that they disagree with Trump over building a physical border wall, which according to them, would be expensive and ineffective.
“Democrats and the president both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it … Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” said Schumer in answer to Trump’s recent remarks.
On the other hand, Pelosi is among those who are seriously standing against Trump’s impeachment. This dual approach taken by Pelosi towards the White House, and the fact that the House speaker and other Democrat leaders have argued against the serious consideration of Trump’s impeachment, may lead to conflicts inside the Democratic Party in the future.
“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we’ll just have to see how it comes,” Said Pelosi.
However, Pelosi’s remarks were not unprecedented! When Pelosi was the House Minority Leader in the years between 2016 and 2018, she opposed the idea of impeaching Trump. Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she has a conservative approach towards Trump. This is while with a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, Democrats can initiate impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. The fact that some Democrat leaders have opposed Nancy Pelosi’s Minority leadership in the US House of Representatives is rooted in the same reason. In any case, it seems that Pelosi prefers scenarios such as “making a political deal with Trump” to “Confrontation with the President”. Nancy Pelosi argues that Democrats’ direct confrontation with Trump, and in particular the impeachment of the President of the United States, will lead to the anger of some American citizens, and the Democrats will be accused of posing a blow to the American political and social equations. However, it seems that some Democrats do not agree with Nancy Pelosi’s opinion! Politicians such as Bernie Sanders believe that Trump is not politically negotiable. They believe that any compromise reached between Democrats and Trump will hold a bad result for them in the US 2020 presidential election.
At any rate, there’s plenty at stake: Amid this crisis, Trump has come with the idea of declaring a national emergency at the border, a move that could free up wall funding without the Congress approval.
“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” said Trump.
The US government shutdown, which is resulted from the disagreements over border wall funding, is still ongoing. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for new wall construction; Pelosi and the Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security measures, but have opposed construction of any new physical barriers. In spite of this, Trump has previously claimed that he’s ready to hold the shutdown for months and even years! If Pelosi surrenders in the face of Trump’s demands, she would be regarded as a defeated figure inside the US political circles.
First published in our partner MNA
Trump is mocking Biden
News sources in the United States announced that Joe Biden, the U.S. former Vice-President (from 2009 to 2017), and a prominent figure in the Democratic Party will soon announce his run for the president in 2020. Biden has previously said that he’s “the most qualified person in the country” for being president.
Biden mentioned these words in a controversial interview which has attracted the attention of many American analysts. However, Biden’s final decision for participating in the presidential campaigns wasn’t clear. Eventually, a number of Biden’s followers, including his brother Frank Biden, announced his final decision to run for the general elections. Polls conducted in the United States indicate that Biden is currently more popular than other potential candidates of the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections.
Meanwhile, Biden is probably to face rivals such as Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, and even Hillary Clinton. During the 2016 presidential competitions, Biden was also scheduled to attend the in-party election competitions, but he changed his mind due to his son’s death and Hillary Clinton’s insistence on attending the presidential campaign. Biden’s remarks, however, show that he’s greatly interested in defeating Trump in the 2020 election.
However, we shouldn’t forget that Biden can’t really count on the current polls conducted among Democrat supporters! We can all remember that during the 2008 presidential elections and inside the Democratic Party, Obama had far less chance of reaching the final round of the elections than those like Hillary Clinton. But his successful speeches in states like Iowa and South Carolina led to Clinton’s final defeat and Obama’s victory.
Hence, the success of Biden’s rival candidates in states like Iowa and New Hampshire (where American in-party elections begin with them) can completely change the equations, and that won’t be to Biden’s advantage.
Accordingly, Trump’s position on Biden’s participation in the presidential competitions are noteworthy. In a phone interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, Trump called Joe Biden “weak”. He also claimed that he’s not worried about a potential challenge from the former vice president in the 2020 presidential race; “You know, a lot of people say Biden’s doing OK, but he was always a 1-percenter. He was a 1 percent guy. He ran two or three times, he never got above 1%, and then, Obama came along and took him off the trash heap, and he became the vice president. He’s weak. So, we’ll see what happens with him.”
Trump’s words came on the same day that Biden had told some top Democrats that he was definitely running for president. “If I’m walking, I’m running,” said Biden.
Trump’s literature on Biden’s presence in the U.S. presidential race, reflects the U.S. President’s dissatisfaction and anger with the country’s former Vice President and his candidacy. Obviously, Trump preferred figures such as Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren to be his potential rivals in the next general elections.
However, Trump knows well that Biden can challenge his position at the White House by maneuvering again on issues such as public medical health insurance plan. On the other hand, Trump attempts to turn the game into an emotional rivalry through using ugly words against Biden, and this is very much like Trump’s populist personality and approach. However, Biden now has his main focus on Democrats’ inner-party race, and he doesn’t consider direct competition with Trump until he has won his victory in the competition.
First published in our partner Tehran Times
John Bolton’s Hawkish Flight
The American edition of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), citing former and currently serving politicians who wished not to be named, reported a few days ago that the US National Security Council (NSC), led by presidential adviser John Bolton, turned to the Pentagon last autumn with a request to devise several variants of striking Iran.
The reason for such a request was a mortar attack carried out in September 2018 by a pro-Iranian group against the diplomatic quarter of Baghdad, where the US embassy is located. Two days later, a similar attack was reported to have occurred in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where the American consulate is based. No casualties or damage were reported. However, former deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel described the shelling as an “act of hostilities” and made it clear that the United States should have responded with a “similar act.”
As a result, the US national security team held a series of meetings to discuss how the American side should respond. After that, Mr. Bolton urged the Pentagon to provide options for attacking Iran.
Officials neither confirmed nor denied the WSJ reports. NSC press secretary Garrett Marquis did not provide a clear answer to the question of whether the Council had been considering a military strike against Iran. “We are considering a full range of measures to ensure security and guarantee our interests,” he said.
It should be noted here that the general staffs of the armed forces of any self-respecting country plan variants of both offensive and defensive operations against a potential adversary in advance. This work is carried out with a constant analysis of the changes taking place in the camp of the enemy, and in their own country. Therefore, undoubtedly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (US General Staff) has in its secret vaults a variety of options for a war with Iran – the main potential opponent of the United States, as Washington has called it on more than one occasion.
Another matter is the case of John Bolton, when his personal request, even through the channels of the National Security Council, was carried out, according to observers, bypassing President Trump. Such a request took the Pentagon by surprise and put defense department officials who were used to everything “in a shock.” However, the request was accepted for consideration.
According to the WSJ, the Pentagon provided a complete layout proposing some general options for the operation, including a cross-border air strike on an Iranian military facility, which would be mostly symbolic. But the then Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other senior military officials strongly opposed retaliatory actions, arguing that the damage from the shelling of the US diplomatic missions was insignificant. And this basically logical viewpoint eventually prevailed.
But how will acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, act?
Any blow on Iran may lead to a full-blown armed conflict. Hypothetically, considering the possibility of an airstrike on an Iranian military facility, it will undoubtedly trigger a return missile strike by the Iranian armed forces on any US military base in the Middle East. The Iranian missile forces have every potential to do so. And this means a war.
Is the United States ready for such a scenario?
It has to be pointed out that even massive missile and air strikes against Iran will not force Tehran to surrender. As in any war, the winner must march over the conquered territory. This calls for a ground operation.
Is the United States ready for this?
As the Field Service Regulations the US Army recommends, in order to achieve the goal of an offensive in the direction of the main blow it is necessary to create at least 6-fold superiority over the defensive forces and facilities. The question arises whether the US Armed Forces are capable of building such a superiority at least in one direction of the Iranian theater of war?
The number of regular armed forces of Iran ranges, according to various sources, between 540 and 900 thousand. The defense doctrine of the IRI puts a major emphasis on the Basij Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps resistance forces, a paramilitary, irregular militia and a reserve force of the regular armed forces whose main task is to participate in the defense of the country’s territory. The main combat units of “Basij” are “Ashura” battalions, which consist of men, and “Al-Zohra” female battalions, numbering an average of 400 each. Currently, 2500 such battalions are formed in Iran, consisting of 1 million volunteers, well trained both militarily and ideologically. In total, Iran’s “Basij” system embraces more than 12 million Iranians.
Is it possible for the United States and their allies to outnumber, if not 6-fold, then at least by 2-fold, the regular and irregular forces of Iran in the Iranian theater of military operations on the ground (without using nuclear weapons)? The answer is clear – no. And the Pentagon is fully aware of this.
For this reason, the likelihood that the United States will venture into an armed conflict with Iran is small.
John Bolton’s actions can be described as dangerous amid the current situation in the top echelons of power in the United States, which is controversial, to put it mildly. The opposition Democrats are exerting a serious and effective pressure on President Trump, while the State Department (and other as significant structures) is trying, as journalists say, to prevent the president’s “reckless” decisions from being put into effect.
In turn, US National Security Advisor John Bolton is making the most of the current state of affairs putting an end to internal strategic debates and discussions that could reveal the controversies within the Donald Trump administration. Mr. Bolton does not want to hear conflicting points of view, hates leaks, and wants to control the entire flow of information that is sent to the US President. This is a sure way towards excessive consolidation of power in the hands of one individual. Moreover, sometimes he acts without notifying President Trump, like in the recent case in which he appeals to the Pentagon.
John Bolton is one of the irreconcilable hardliners on the issue of Iran. Having assumed his current position, Bolton stepped up the administration’s policy of isolating and exerting pressure on Iran, thereby demonstrating his hostile attitude toward Iranian leaders, which dates back to the days when he served as an official for the administration of George W. Bush. As a private individual, he called for military strikes on Iran, as well as a change of regime. In March 2015 – three and a half months before the signing of a nuclear deal, when it became clear to everyone that the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) was ready and its authors were busy putting the final touches to it, – Mr. Bolton published an article in The New York Times under a provocative headline “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”. From the very beginning, John Bolton was against the JCPOA and fully backed President Trump in his efforts to pull out of the nuclear deal.
Bolton summed up his political credo in one phrase: “There is no such thing as the UN. There is the international community that can be headed by the world’s only superpower, which is the United States of America. ” This he says despite the fact that in 2005-2006, he was the US representative to the UN.
Defense department officials, The New York Times writes, express growing concerns that John Bolton may indeed provoke a serious conflict with Tehran at a time when President Trump is losing influence in the Middle East.
Concern is being voiced not only by US military and politicians but throughout the world. After all, the main danger lies in the unpredictability of actions of President Trump and his hawkish employees, like John Bolton.
first published in our partner International Affairs
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