Closing Thought–10Oct17

Nowhere To Run!

We all have seen the horrific refugee crisis that the many wars in the Middle East has created….millions upon millions trying to find a spot that they can live without worry about their livelihood or their family.

Even if every war in the Middle East was cease today the refugee crisis would not be abated……

Plagued by heat and dust: Desert dust storms such as here in Kuwait could occur more often in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of climate change. In addition, temperatures on very hot days could rise to 50 degrees Celsius on average in the region (approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. Credit: Molly John, Flickr, Creative Commons

The number of climate refugees could increase dramatically in future. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have calculated that the Middle East and North Africa could become so hot that human habitability is compromised. The goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius, agreed at the recent UN climate summit in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent this scenario. The temperature during summer in the already very hot Middle East and North Africa will increase more than two times faster compared to the average global warming. This means that during hot days temperatures south of the Mediterranean will reach around 46 degrees Celsius (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit) by mid-century. Such extremely hot days will occur five times more often than was the case at the turn of the millennium. In combination with increasing air pollution by windblown desert dust, the environmental conditions could become intolerable and may force people to migrate.

More than 500 million people live in the Middle East and North Africa – a region which is very hot in summer and where is already evident. The number of extremely has doubled since 1970. “In future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy,” says Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and Professor at the Cyprus Institute.

Source: Climate-exodus expected in the Middle East and North Africa

Soon climate change will show the world that it is a problem that should not have been ignored until it was too late.

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Middle East Bets That Went Wrong

As most people will tell you the Middle East has always been a chaotic violent region and that this current situation is just an amplification of those traits.

That is somewhat accurate but the big problems showed up around the time of the Arab Spring…factions within factions within countries made some bad calculations that has lead to a horrific war/civil war……plus the disastrous humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the region.

As uncertainty engulfs a bleeding Near East, besieged by regional and global powers each pursuing its own agenda, dormant ambitions and sensitivities are waking up and finding the current situation suitable to express themselves.

To begin, such dormant ambitions and suppressed sensitivities would have never emerged had it not been for the huge regional disorder and radical change of international balance of power.

It is true that domestic consensus towards ‘national’ identities and boundaries is not guaranteed these days, even in western democracies that values human rights – as the Scots and Catalan nationalists seek to secede from the UK and Spain, respectively, through the ballot box – yet internal instability remains a sure prerequisite to animosities and partition as we witness in Iraq and Syria.

Source: The Near East’s costly wrong bets – Al Arabiya English

There are a wealth of reasons why this region exploded into the violence that has been unmatched in many years.  The problem is that a problem is identified and before a solution can be formulated another problem fires up…..for the time being all that the world can do is try to manage the situation as best they can without things getting worse.

Two of the world’s most powerful and influential countries, Russia and the US, are doing all they can to re-shape the Middle East…..but what will that look like?

On Tuesday, September 12, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu sat with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. According to Russian embassy social-media posts they discussed joint cooperation against Islamic State. This comes on the heels of the Syrian army reaching the city of Deir ez-Zor on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria and breaking a two-and-a-half-year siege. Russia has played a key role in the Syrian army’s successes, which increasingly means that Russian-backed Syrian forces are coming into contact with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). On September 16th the US-led coalition said a Russian airstrike east of the Euphrates river wounded several members of the SDF. As ISIS declines, its vacuum is filled with groups whose agendas are not the same and, in the case of Washington, whose policy remains unclear in eastern Syria. That is leading to greater Iranian influence across Iraq and Syria, and it leaves U.S. allies in the Gulf, Israel and on the ground in Syria wondering what comes next.

Source: Will America and Russia Change the Political Dynamics in the Middle East? | RealClearWorld

Both countries are pouring resources into the region…..and how will this shake out in the end?  The problem is the amount of factions and players in the region.

Forecast: The Syrian Theater

A normal person might think that our continuous war in the Middle East has hit upon a stalemate….the news about Russia, North Korea, health care, protests by athletes, etc…the Middle East is a place of quiet reflection right now.

Nothing could be further from the truth…..civilians are still dying, ISIS is still attacking in various ways, Kurds are demanding independence and so on…..and since this is the region that I focus most of my work on then I need to keep my readers up to date as much as possible…..

Unless you read blogs then you might think that all is well in the Middle East especially Syria…..

This is a report by the Institute for the Study of War……..

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The United States will continue to risk its vital strategic interests in the Middle East unless it changes its policies in Syria and Iraq. President Donald Trump and his administration inherited a weakened U.S. position, with Russia imposing constraints on American freedom of action and options. The Trump administration has taken initial steps to advance U.S. prestige in the region by reassuring America’s traditional allies and acting more firmly against its enemies and adversaries. The tactical tasks of recapturing Mosul and liberating Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) are complete and nearly complete, respectively. Nevertheless, its efforts to define and execute policies that secure America’s vital interests are moving more slowly than those of America’s enemies, adversaries, and spoilers who are more agile than the U.S. These actors include Russia, Iran and its proxies, Turkey, ISIS, al Qaeda, and some Kurdish elements, who are pursuing goals that threaten American objectives and are exploiting the current situation to make strategic gains as the U.S. champions short-term gains and tactical success.

The Trump administration has not yet broken with its predecessor’s approach to the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq. It has prioritized conducting counterterrorism operations against ISIS to recapture ISIS’s territory. American military forces have accelerated this campaign by relying on the most readily available local forces, including Kurdish forces in northern Syria that are aligned with terrorists targeting Turkey. The administration has eschewed a U.S. role in addressing the regional war’s underlying drivers, including the role of the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria and sectarianism in Iraq stoked by Iran. The main effort of the counter-ISIS fight must become preventing the organization from reconstituting and its rivals from inheriting its leadership of the Iraqi and global jihad. ISIS re-emerged from a defeated al Qaeda in Iraq and controlled Iraqi cities only three years after American troops departed in 2011.

Read the full report (PDF).

AS the reader can see….there is more going on than the news media lets us mere mortals onto…..but thanx to my dogged desire to see that the situation in the Middle East remains in the forefront….and that my readers keep abreast of the situations that they will be paying for in the future with cash and blood.

The Votes Are In!

The Votes Are In!

Yesterday the residents of Northeast Iraq, Kurd region, went to the polls to vote for session from the country of Iraq…….and now the final results are in…..well not final for at least 72 hours……

Polls have closed in Iraqi Kurdistan, and while there are a lot of questions about what’s going to happen next, one thing that’s not in serious doubt is the results. With some 78% of voters having gone to referendum, the final figures are still expected with 72 hours.

Early counts show what everyone suspected though, that it’s not going to be close. The first 300,000 votes, admittedly less than 10% of the count, showed 93.4% voting yes. A wide majority was always expected.

Iraqi Kurdistan has long sought independence, as has the rest of Kurdistan, which spans Syria, Turkey, and Iran. The part in Iraq, however, was very clear about having a vote as soon as the ISIS war was over, and they’ve been basically on their way out the door since.

The referendum was just an up and down vote on secession in general, but questions about the specific boundaries, especially after Kurdistan seized substantial new territory in the ISIS war, remain to be resolved.

(antiwar.com)

They just voted for an extension of the chaos in Iraq…..this vote only implies to Iraq but their are Kurds in several other Middle East states…..Turkey, Syria, Iran……what will these set about doing?

AS an example of things to come was a few days before the vote……A few days ahead of the Kurdistan referendum on independence, an ethnic clash took place between a group of Kurds and Turkmens in Kirkuk on Sept. 19. Local police deployed in different parts of the city to prevent the development of the deadly clash.

Other minorities may want their place in the sun….so to speak…..the Assyrians, Chaldean, etc.

The Vote Slowly Creeps Forward

Today is 25 September 2017 and if all goes well the Kurds will vote on referendum to become an independent region/nation.

Here is a paper by a group that I have worked with in the past…..the International Crisis Group…..it is about the risks involved in the vote by the Kurds….

On 25 September, barring a last-minute postponement, the Iraqi Kurdistan region will hold an independence referendum. Voters will be asked whether they want “the Kurdistan region and the Kurdish areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state”. The referendum cannot turn Kurdistan into an independent state, regardless of turnout and outcome, because the vote is merely consultative and legally non-binding. Still, the situation presents serious risks, both if the referendum is held and if the price paid to delay it is too high.

Source: How to Mitigate the Risks of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Referendum | Crisis Group

So far the Kurds are the only ones that see this as a good thing…..even the US has tried to convince the Kurds to wait and be logical….so far they are damn straight going to go for it……even if it means more problems to a region that does not need more problems…..

As the Kurdish independence referendum draws near in Iraq, a war of words is threatening to grow into violence. Some Iraqi paramilitary factions under the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) are increasing their warnings against the vote, and some Kurds are responding with talk of resorting to weapons. Iraq’s parliament voted Sept. 14 to dismiss the governor of Kirkuk province, who favors Kurdish independence, and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) responded by announcing it is ending its partnership with Baghdad.

Reuters reported that the decision to remove the governor, Najmaldin Karim, “comes after Kirkuk — an oil-rich province claimed by both the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq — decided to take part in a referendum set for Sept. 25 on Kurdish independence.”

Meanwhile, Karim is ignoring his ouster. This all could lead to a new spiral of violence even before the country rids itself of the Islamic State (IS).

No one sees this as a successful transition….

The plan to hold an independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan next week has run into a new obstacle:

Iraq’s supreme court has approved a request by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to suspend an independence referendum that the country’s Kurdistan region planned to hold later this month.

The court said Monday the vote will be on hold until it reviews cases regarding the constitutionality of the vote.

The referendum will probably still take place, and the Kurdish parliament endorsed proceeding with the vote on Friday, but the ruling confirms that Baghdad won’t view it as legitimate. The court ruling comes on the heels of warnings from the Iraqi prime minister that Baghdad is prepared to use force if the referendum results in violence. Abadi also raised the prospect that the referendum would serve as an invitation to other governments to meddle in Iraqi affairs:

Source: The Dangers of the Kurdish Referendum | The American Conservative

Only more problems for the US military to solve….and they have not been too good at that aspect here lately…..more blood and death.

There is a couple of things to keep in mind when thinking about the vote……

On Sept. 25, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is expected to hold its long-awaited referendum on independence. While it has generated much nationalist excitement among Kurds in the KRI capital of Irbil and abroad, the central government in Baghdad and the international community have objected to the vote. The United States has mobilized diplomatic capital to persuade Irbil to postpone the vote. Last week, Western diplomats offered an alternative proposal: Postpone the vote and enter into new mediated negotiations with Baghdad. But without ironclad guarantees or a specified timetable, Irbil has rejected those initiatives, continuing to prepare for the referendum.

The referendum was never meant to be a silver bullet, ending negotiations on Kurds’ path to statehood. But recent escalations by all sides have produced a self-fulfilling crisis with the prospect of military conflict, fueled by both Arab and Kurdish nationalism.

Source: 5 things to know about the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan – The Washington Post

As a premonition of things to come I offer up the latest clash….

Iraqi Kurds and Turkmens clashed in Kirkuk on Monday night, a week before the disputed territory votes in a referendum on independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. The clashes prompted local police to deploy around the city to prevent ethnic tensions from escalating. Kirkuk’s extensive Turkmen and Arab populations largely oppose the inclusion of their city in the controversial vote scheduled for Sept. 25.

Like I keep saying….this vote could create more problems than it solves.

 

Yet Another Year In The Middle East

We are closing in on the first year of the Trump admin in the Middle East….and so far it has been NOTHING impressive.  More of doing the same things and Tweeting about it.

He, Trump, was going to put the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the front burner and use his sin-in-law to formulate a success and a treaty that all can live with…..we are still waiting on that miracle of miracles….

There were quite a number of people in the Israeli peace camp who hoped, even believed, in the statements made by US President Donald Trump regarding his intentions to consolidate a large “package deal” between Israel, the Palestinians and all the Arab states. The rapid pace of presidential envoy Jason Greenblatt’s jet-setting between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank also strengthened the perception that the current arch-conservative president might succeed where two liberal presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — failed.

I will admit that there were a few positions he took on the Middle East during his campaign that I can agree with and get behind…..but since his election the positions are used toilet paper…..meaning nothing and discarded…
Then in the Greater Middle East his policies have been nothing to inspire…..most of it is just rehashes of Bush Obama policies….there is so much more he could do……

During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to do a great deal more in the Middle East than his immediate predecessors, but with much less. That is, he would achieve significantly more than Barack Obama at a much smaller sacrifice of blood and treasure than was incurred under George W. Bush. This he would accomplish by defining American interests sharply and pursuing them aggressively, not to say ruthlessly. The result would be a global restoration of American credibility and, as Trump never ceased to remind voters, renewed global respect.

As an act of political “signaling,” Trump’s blunt message was savvy. Many Americans, especially those in his base of supporters, regarded Obama as timid, weak, and more solicitous of enemies than of friends; Bush, they believed, had been strong in some ways but prone to quixotic adventures like building democracy in the Middle East, a putative sin of which Obama had at least been innocent. Trump offered an attractive alternative: a hybrid approach that would combine the best qualities of his predecessors in office while jettisoning their worst inclinations. “America First” meant placing a Bush-style readiness to use military force in support of a leaner, Obama-style agenda that nixed democracy promotion. Unlike Bush, Trump would resist thankless nation-building projects; unlike Obama, he would reward friends and punish enemies.

Source: What America Should Do Next in the Middle East » Mosaic

So far this first year has been nothing but chaos piled on chaos…..that is Trump’s total foreign policy and the Middle East has been the most chaotic of them all.

Iran Awaits!

Trump has made his speech to the UNGA….he pretty much threatened the world that is not siding with the US….North Korea took a hit…..terrorists took a hit….and then there was Iran.

He made it clear that he does not like the nuke deal that the US has with Iran……and he made sure to stress that he would be making a decision on this situation….and soon.

I wrote about the deal and how Iran was complying with the guidelines awhile back…..July 2017 to be exact.

Source: Dammit! Iran! – In Saner Thought

But in case that post is not enough for some…..there has been a reaffirmation that Iran is complying completely to the nuke deal……

Amid expectations that President Trump is going to decertify the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, refusing the admit to Congress that Iran is complying, US Strategic Command chief Gen. John Hyten has affirmed that Iran is fully complying with the terms of the deal.

Gen. Hyten was speaking about the deal at an event for the Hudson Institute, saying Iran’s compliance was not a questionable fact, and insisting that US “concerns” regarding Iran are separate from the nuclear deal.

Hyten said the US and its allies had concerns about Iran developing and testing conventional ballistic missiles. Admitting that this is not a violation of the nuclear deal is significant, as Trump Administration officials have often linked the two issues.

(antiwar.com)

Late yesterday Trump announced that he had finally made his decision on Iran…..

A day after calling the Iran nuclear deal an “embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” in US history, President Trump says he’s made a decision on the future of the deal. But he wouldn’t say what that decision is, ABC News reports. “I have decided,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “I’ll let you know what the decision is.” The Iran nuclear deal was done under President Obama and allows Iran to have limited nuclear development in exchange for easing of sanctions on the country. Gen. John Hyten, the top general in US Strategic Command, says Iran is upholding its part of the bargain. “The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for,” the Hill quotes Hyten as saying Wednesday.

In his own speech to the UN on Wednesday, Hassan Rouhani called Trump’s Tuesday speech to the international body—in which the American president labeled Iran a “murderous regime”—”ignorant, absurd, and hateful,” the Washington Post reports. The Iranian president didn’t mention Trump by name, instead referring to him as a “rogue newcomer to the world of politics.” Rouhani said Iran is seeking peace and won’t be the first to leave the nuclear deal. He later told reporters Iran doesn’t expect the US to back out of the deal either, according to Reuters. “We don’t think Trump will walk out of the deal despite (his) rhetoric and propaganda,” Rouhani said.

It will be of interest to me to hear what his decision is……hopefully there is a real decision and not some ply to change the tone of the coverage….a misdirection.

Decertify?  Seriously?

Does he seriously believe that punishing Iran for complying to the treaty is somehow a good move?

Trump already has a major nuke problem with North Korea……does he propose making it compounded into two major problems?