If Russia intensifies its presence in Ukraine, U.S. will face pressure from NATO allies to react.
NATO military exercises have begun in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia as a response to the 40,000 troops Russia has amassed near Ukraine’s eastern border. The sequential deployments of the American 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in these Eastern European countries, totaling around 600 U.S. troops, illustrate President Obama’s attempt to reassure NATO allies against possible threats.
The exercises suggest a skepticism among Russia’s rivals that economic sanctions and diplomatic talks will be sufficient to halt the Russian-driven unrest in Ukrainian cities like Donestk, Kramatorsk, Slaviansk, and Luhansk. Government buildings in numerous Eastern Ukraine cities have been taken over by pro-Russian separatist forces and still “unrecognized” army officials, strongly resembling what Crimea went through before breaking off from Ukraine.
Hungary has turned its back on the European Union and is heading off on its own political and economic path.
Sociologist András Bozóki
Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.
It wasn’t long after Francis Fukuyama published his “end of history” thesis that the war in Yugoslavia definitively wrecked his argument. How could the world be heading inexorably in the direction of market democracy when even the country long considered next in line for membership in the European Community was collapsing into war, nationalist extremism, and ethnic cleansing? History had not ended at all. It had returned with a vengeance.
Yet Fukuyama’s theory about the eventual triumph of Europe’s rational-legal bureaucracy remained deeply buried in the psyche of the architects of European integration. Yugoslavia was simply a dispiriting detour. The countries of East-Central Europe would all eventually tailor their political and economic systems in such a way as to fit into the regional European order. To get into the club, aspiring candidates had to meet a long checklist of reforms that practically remade their countries. The road to Europe, which was such a powerful slogan in East-Central Europe, was assumed to be one-way. Eventually even the warring parties in former Yugoslavia would beat their swords into accession agreements.
The likely perpetrators of the Ghouta sarin attack, Al Nusra, failed to generate the results it sought.
At Truthout, in a piece titled New Data Raise Further Doubt on Official View of August 21 Gas Attack in Syria, Gareth Porter writes about the August 2013 sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
What is now known about the attack makes it highly questionable that only the government side had the capability to carry out the August 21 attack. The exaggerated numbers of sarin patients admitted by hospitals, the dubious data on symptoms from those supposedly most affected, and the new evidence that the attack was much less lethal than believed at first are all consistent with a sarin attack that a determined rebel group such as Al Nusra could have carried out.
Read the article to find out the eye-opening details of the three points mentioned in the second sentence. It’s becoming apparent that Al Nusra’s attempt to frame the Assad regime and lure the West into attacking it has backfired. Seems like what began as the definitive justification to launch an attack on Syria ― the Assad regime’s savagery ― turned into an embodiment of the reason against military intervention: that it would benefit Al Nusra, which has demonstrated the same propensity for war crimes as Assad.
Despite its brutality, corruption, and affiliation with al Qaeda, the Haqqani network is likely to inherit much of Afghanistan should the United States leave.
The Haqqanis, son and father
Yesterday Truthout posted a new article by Anand Gopal titled The Unreported Story of How the Haqqani Network Became America’s Greatest Enemy. Before reading and digesting with the intent to post about it, it might be useful to revisit a post of mine from September 2011 titled Escaping Haqqanistan:
Brutal Haqqani Crime Clan Bedevils U.S. in Afghanistan is the unusually colorful title of a New York Times article by Mark Mazzetti, Scott Shane, and Alissa J. Rubin. They write that the Haqqani network — separate from, but affiliated with, the Taliban — is “the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan” according to “American intelligence and military officials.” It’s effectively a crime syndicate — “the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war” according to Mazzetti, et al. Yet it’s as brutal as a serial killer: this year alone, for instance, the Haqqanis are responsible for the attacks in Kabul on the Intercontinental Hotel and the U.S. embassy.
When the public abandons voting and attempts to veto a policy or even an entire government.
When certain eligible voters, be they representing the majority or the minority, cannot afford to wait for the next election to remove the incumbent leaders or have no trust in plebiscite at all, and betake themselves to mobilize crowds to throttle a policy, to paralyze the administration, or to topple the legitimately elected government boldly, it is not just a threat to this democratic state’s internal stability but may also destabilize the world order if such a “veto-cracy” is becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
The recent emergence of vetocracy in many democratic states is rooted in the long-time irreversible minority position held by certain ethnic, religious, regional or economic interest groups there. When one or more of these groups have realized that it is difficult or almost impossible to access to governmental authority or undo a policy which is not in their favor, they resort to mass rallies or street protests to have their demands heard.
Israel and Iran: It takes one to know one ― or think it knows one.
Negev Nuclear Research Center in Israel
In a story that seems to have gone unremarked upon by other journalist, on March 31 at Inter Press Service, Gareth Porter reported:
The Barack Obama administration appears to have rejected a deal-breaking demand by Israel for an Iranian confession to having had a covert nuclear weapons programme as a condition for completing the comprehensive nuclear agreement.
In fact, though, the Obama administration had “seemed to suggest that some kind of Iranian admission to past nuclear weapons work is a condition for a final agreement.” But, its “rhetoric on resolving IAEA claims of a nuclear weapons programme appears to be less about forcing Iran to confess than responding to pressures from Israel and its supporters in the United States.”
Though discrimination is decreasing, Slovakia is unlikely to elect a Roma president any time soon!
Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.
It wasn’t easy to find Kecerovce. I missed the turnoff on the road leading out of Kosice, the main city in eastern Slovakia. One of the clerks at the gas station where I stopped for directions had never heard of the place, and the other one didn’t know how to get there. I eventually retraced my steps, found the right exit, and drove deep into the Slovak countryside.
Kecerovce is a village of more than 3,000 people, but there isn’t much of a downtown. At the central crossroads, I parked my car in front of the municipal building. Across the road on one side was a pub. On the other side was a small grocery and general store. I did a little exploring and found another pub and a couple churches.
The Slovak government has had a plan on the books for a couple decades to build a nuclear power plant near Kecerovce. Otherwise, the prospects for economic development in the area are bleak. The village is more than 90 percent Roma.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki may not be as bad as Saddam Hussein, but he’s only slightly less worse.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Image Wikimedia Commons
In yet another definitive piece for the New Yorker titled What We Left Behind, Dexter Filkins writes about Iraq today, especially Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who the United States helped install. Many Americans blame Iraqis for killing their fellow citizens simply because they’re of a different sect of Islam. But we need to remember: besides perpetrating a huge amount of the violence ourselves, by invading Iraq the United States effectively freed an evil genie ― excuse any cultural insensitivity the metaphor may conjure up ― out of its bottle. When it subsequently rampaged across the land wreaking death and destruction, the United States took little responsibility for catching it and stuffing it back in.
The best that can be said for the United States is that when it left Iraq, the murderous sectarian strife between the Sunnis and Shiites had lowered in intensity. But Shiites have been protesting against Maliki’s Shiite government and he has responded with a heavy hand that has sparked violence on a scale that harkens back to the worst of when the U.S. was still there.
How an Iranian nuclear-weapons program became accepted wisdom.
Arak nuclear reactor in Iran
More and more men and women are either born with a talent for, or are developing skill in, technical matters, especially computer hardware and software. With those capabilities now widespread, it’s odd that more people don’t take the time to acquaint themselves with the technical issues surrounding Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program. While the issues may be somewhat daunting to non-technical types such as this author ― though certainly not beyond our capacity to understand with a little effort ― they’re easy for the technically gifted. True, they’re on the dry side, but it can’t be any more tedious than trying to figure out how to draw more clicks to an ad.
Russia has come a long way from military operations in which casualties to civilians were of little concern.
“Western experts,” reports Michael Gordon in the New York Times on April 21, see Russia’s military, “disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union,” now “skillfully employing 21st-century tactics” in East Ukraine “that combine cyberwarfare, an energetic information campaign and the use of highly trained special operation troops to seize the initiative from the West.”
Many were initially caught off-guard when “the Russians used a so-called snap military exercise to distract attention and hide their preparations. … specially trained troops, without identifying patches, moved quickly to secure key installations.