Friday, September 22, 2017

Are We Worried?

"[North Korea has achieved] a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke . . . which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP [electromagnetic pulse] attack, according to strategic goals."
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un

"All we have to do is launch one ballistic missile over your country and conduct an EMP attack and that would be the end of America."
Russian taunt

"It's very politically incorrect to be trying to raise awareness about EMP."
"Nine out of ten Americans could die from starvation, disease and societal collapse, if the blackout lasted a year."
Peter Pry, former staff member, American House Armed Services Committee

"[In Canada there] has never been a single attempt to introduce legislation to protect the [electrical] grid."
"The north is fully exposed."
Anthony Furey, author, Pulse Attack: The real story behind the secret weapon that can destroy North America
Nuclear Attack Bomb Explosion
EMP Pulse attack --
It is fairly well known in scientific circles, in government, throughout intelligence agencies that possession of nuclear weapons means that whoever has them and nurses malign and sinister scenarios of control and destruction could conceive of unleashing a nuclear device to demolish national infrastructure and in the process, destroy countless human lives.There are terrorist groups who have proven through their dedication to conducting atrocities of unimaginable depravity that they would suffer few qualms in unleashing such monumentally destructive devices.

We don't really think of states as prepared to unleash such grotesque means of vanquishing an enemy since most administrations that govern anywhere in the world understand very well that to mount such attacks is to invite return attacks and that whoever begins such a war will not necessarily end it. Aside from the fact that among many who come to governing power, if not all, certain constraints and restrains residing in the human psyche respecting a degree of universal respect for human life would come into focus.

And then there are nations such as North Korea or the Islamic Republic of Iran, both equally focused on the acquisition of the means to destroy other countries' capacity to endure such a massive attack as a feature of the pure unalloyed hatred they have for others in their paranoid minds, resentful of power and command held elsewhere, responding to their own inner urges to usurp command and power for themselves.

For those who may be squeamish about the potential of destroying tens of thousands of lives at one fell swoop, it can be accomplished through other means, by a different type of nuclear attack whereby populations would slowly succumb to death through the long-drawn-out and inevitable consequences of all their civilizing infrastructure upon which modern cities and states are dependent failing; their electrical grid and its connections to service deliveries, from potable water to food, health delivery to energy provisions.

A nuclear bomb detonated 400 km in the atmosphere over a populated area represents a deliberate plan for destruction and extermination. Gamma rays colliding with electrons create a physics dysfunction that immediately disables all electrical connections, from communications to transit, cutting off all electricity-driven mechanics including those operated through batteries or generators. That brief surge of energy in the atmosphere instantly and radically destroys electrical infrastructure.

Everything ... everything that we all rely upon to run and operate and manage daily life becomes void and inoperable. From a vehicle's electronic system to pumps for wells or gas stations, power for factories and supermarkets, refrigeration and computers as Supervising Control and Data Acquisition providing potable water, steering sewage and the distribution of natural gas, are finished, dead, utterly dysfunctional.

The resulting breakdown of all that is relied upon when widespread infrastructure damage occurs wreaks unspeakable horrors on a society struggling to cope with the wholly unexpected and the total annihilation of order, security and vital needs acquisition. The storage of food limps back to the Middle Ages, and spoilage and inaccessibility and shortages spell an utter nightmare along with dwindling clean water access.

There is, evidently, a solution of sorts in defence of the inevitability of this kind of descent into complete disaster. Apart from the hope and expectation that such a scenario would never develop there is the utility of redundancy; spare parts that could be instantly resourced, as well as the construction of special 'cages' to protect against EMP damages, set over vulnerable utilities systems.

Which would require an initial outlay of funding that might beggar the bottom lines of most countries' financial resourcefulness. And perhaps this is the reason that this is a seldom-discussed issue, albeit one that at some future date  may conceivably become an unfortunate reality, like some latter-day end-of-times.
VICE: First thing's first: Is an EMP a real weapon?
Sim Tack (military analyst, Stratror): It's not a work of fiction. It's an actual technology that exists. It's being played with in some capacity, and will potentially play a much greater role in future warfare. With the increasing importance of electronic circuits on the battlefield... There's only more and more reason to create weapons that specifically target networking ability and electronics dependence. 
EMP - Top 5 Dangerous Places to Be When An EMP Takes Place
Commercial jets will fall from the sky across North America. Nuclear power plants will go off-line. Hospitals will become death traps. Battles over food will be fought in the streets. And that's just day one. Welcome to the EMP nightmare.
by Mark Lawrence, Copyright ©

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Vicious Enmity Among Friends

"This whole issue of dissolving the administrative committee has no value. Even if it is dissolved, there must be another kind of committee that can run the daily and civil lives of people in the Gaza Strip."
"When Hamas said it will dissolve the administrative committee, it threw the ball into the Palestinian Authority's yard, in the sense that they have acquiesced to their demands, so now what will the PA do for Hamas? It's a tit for tat, a barter."
"If Abbas cares about the interests of the Palestinian people, Fatah should announce political elections immediately,"
"However, the one who decides the elections is Israel and the U.S. As long as Israel and the United States cannot find the right person to enter elections and win, then we will remain without any elections." 
"If one hundred agreements were made and Oslo still existed, these agreements will amount to nothing."
"Oslo pitted Palestinians against one another. Those who signed the Oslo Accords knew beforehand that this agreement would result in the bloodshed of fellow Palestinians, at the hands of Palestinians."
Abdulsattar Qassem, political science professor, an-Najah University, Nablus
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya (R) and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah meet in Gaza city in 2014 [Reuters]
"Hamas wanted to put the ball in Abbas and Fatah's court before heading to the UN and before meeting Trump so that they remain a key actor in the political equation."
"Abbas and Fatah are expected now to offer something in return."
"Substantial lasting and positive developments can be only realised through an inclusive and participatory political process that neither Fatah nor Hamas are interested in pursuing."
Alaa Tartir, program director, Al-Shabaka Palestinian think-tank,

"What was being asked of Hamas is to completely give up administration of the Strip, which would mean the end of the movement as an organisation and a military movement."
"Based on this, Hamas announced the administrative committee in March … it was Hamas' attempt to create some new negotiating leverage in talks with Fatah."
Belal Shobaki,  Hebron-based political analyst

"These [the issues] include the PA's inability or unwillingness to assume the public burden of Gaza without Hamas relinquishing absolute control, beyond its administrative capacity; Hamas's refusal to soften its grip on Gaza, particularly over security-related issues; and, perhaps most importantly, Israel's systematic and aggressive refusal to allow Palestinian unification."
Aareq Baconi, Hamas expert, policy fellow at Al-Shabaka
A Palestinian man and children walk past graffiti reading "division" in Arabic, in Gaza City, in 2017 [AFP]

Little wonder Israel is none too thrilled of yet another reunification agreement between ruling Fatah represented by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, with its charter stating its reason for existence is the destruction of the State of Israel. Not that Fatah's ambition is any less than that of Hamas; it simply doesn't state it quite as unambiguously; its more circumspect behaviour in appearances at the United Nations to make it appear as though a peace agreement is possible but Israel keeps making it less than possible, belies its at-home incitement to violence and school curricula teaching Palestinian children that the land on which Israel now sits will one day be 'restored' to Palestinians.

Once upon a time the Palestinian Authority made the effort to appear that a democratic-style free election was of interest to them, which they swiftly rued when it became apparent that the result was that Hamas gained huge popular support from the voting public. But the two Palestinian movements, one largely secular the other oppressively religiously orthodox, only have their aspirations to destroy Israel in common, otherwise they detest one another. Hamas amply demonstrated just how much it held Fatah in contempt when it took over Gaza and promptly ousted Fatah, going so far as to toss Fatah members off rooftops.

A vacuum had resulted where Gaza, no longer under the control of the IDF at the orders of then-Israeli President Ariel Sharon who ordered a complete and unilateral evacuation of all Jewish settlers and the Israeli military was left in the hands of the Palestinians. The immediate aftermath was a free-for-all of criminal violence, destruction and threats. Once Hamas moved in it managed to install law and order, taking control of the actions of other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad. But with Gaza restored to the control of Palestinians, Israel began to suffer constant rocket attacks, threats to Israeli border communities. Necessitating several incursions into the Strip by the IDF to quell Hamas violence.

And this is one of the two Palestinian 'authority' groups that Israel should welcome, evidently, according to the interpretations by Palestinian academics who typically ascribe all ills befalling the Palestinian community to the presence of Israel, and not that the presence of Israel -- should it finally be accepted as a Jewish State in the midst of conflicting Muslim states forever at war with one another or within their own states but whom collectively the offensive presence of a state dedicated to the well-being and security of Jews represents an unacceptable foreign incursion -- is a reality.

The shadow government that Hamas put together earlier in the year is to be disbanded. Hamas has bowed to the inevitable; the pressure of sanctions applied strenuously by PA President Mahmoud Abbas stifling the Gaza economy, depriving its people of water and electrical energy, creating misery when he disallowed exit from the Strip for medical attention or family visits, having worked its persuasive magic. In turn, Hamas has invited the PA to "carry out its duties immediately", in Gaza, providing it with all the basic necessities that the West Bank enjoys.

Hamas has been under breaking stress, its relations with Egypt strained after being named a terrorist group there for its links with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood (outlawed in Egypt where it originated, but not in the United States where it has managed to infiltrate even the State Department). Its patronage by the Islamic Republic of Iran after strained relations in reaction go the Syrian conflict appears on the cusp of having its funding from that source restored. But the plight of the Gazan Palestinians living under Hamas rule has not been a happy time; civilian populations used as living shields when Hamas deliberately provoked and targeted Israel, among other issues.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, right, travelled to Cairo last week for reconciliation discussions [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Director of Passia, a think-tank located in East Jerusalem stated that Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's political director and the hard-line Yehya Sinwar, the new Hamas prime minister in Gaza, seemed prepared to break the Fatah impasse to create a release valve for the Strip: "Lift the siege, let people breathe. Electricity, water, salaries, medical -- instead of explosion", stated Mahdi Abdul Hadi. It has been a decade of attempted reconciliations, each one a failure, including the last one in 2014 followed by a new conflict between Hamas and Israel.

When Hamas stated in March its intention to create a permanent governing entity in Gaza, Abbas responded by refusing to pay Gaza's electricity bills; accordingly Israel diminished power to four hours daily during an unusually hot summer. Abbas put a stop to paying salaries for government workers in Gaza, including former Gazan prisoners. Medical border crossings for Gazans were denied, and thousands of workers lost their employment. Untreated sewage roiled Gaza, with international aid workers warning of a crisis and Israeli authorities concerned about the potential of an epidemic, or explosion of violence.

This punishing, coercive treatment by the Palestinian Authority at the authorization of Mahmoud Abbas had its desired effect. Even so, while authority is being restored to the PA for Gaza, Hamas will not disarm and in so doing, retains the upper hand militarily in the Strip, irrespective of Abbas sending in security forces, so the potential for a violent clash between the two remains quite a possibility.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Mother of all Rough Neighbourhoods

The base is here to stay. It involved a significant allocation of resources, in the understanding that this was right and necessary and part of the United States’ assets in Israel."
"It's a message that says Israel is better prepared. It's a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats."
"[Along with other recent improvements to Israel’s air defense program, this] will improve our abilities significantly. It won’t get us to 100 percent, but it will get us much closer to achieving important things during war."
Brig. Gen. Zvi Haimovich, defense division commander

U.S. X-band radar of the type stationed in Israel
U.S. X-band radar of the type stationed in Israel    Missile Defense Agency
"[The base] symbolizes the strong bond that exists between the United States and Israel."
"The United States and Israel have long planned together, exercised together and trained together." "And now, with the opening of this site, these crucial interactions will happen every day."
Maj. Gen. John Gronski, deputy commander, US Army National Guard in Europe
Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, the head of Israel’s Aerial Defense Command, left, and Maj. Gen. John Gronski, head of US Army National Guard in Europe, hold a document marking the establishment of the first American military base in Israel inside the Mashabim Air Base in southern Israel on September 18, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Surrounded by a number of Arab-state neighbours who remain determined to wrench the geography on which Israel has re-established its ancient presence in the Middle East, from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Syria and Iran directing both as proxy militias whose munitions are designed to destroy the presence of a Jewish state in the midst of Arab and Persian Muslim communities, Israel, despite the formidable reputation gained by its fighting forces, needs all the help it can get, and the United States has been for many years a staunch supporter of its right to exist.
For the most part, these are failed states; Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Gaza as a state-in-waiting, eager to move into the geography that Israel's footprint marks as a portion of its original presence in the Middle East. Lebanon's bloody civil war where Sunni and Shia, Druze and Christians battled one another to a bloody pulp, destroying a country that had once been proudly touted as the most peaceful and cosmopolitan in the region, exists in a turmoil of an official state military and an unofficial Hezbollah military answerable to Iran where the 'political arm' of the terrorist group forms part of government.
Syria's disastrous meltdown has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its citizens in a sectarian conflict of brutal barbarity, enabling battle-hardened terrorists to leave Libya and Afghanistan to take up shop in a dismantled Syria and its neighbouring Iraq, where utter destabilization caused by tribal and sectarian hatreds have given birth to the most atrocity-loving of the terrorist Islamofascists, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The sole issue of primary importance on which all of these murderous human outcasts can agree upon is their mutual loathing of Israel.

Iran's irrevocable advances in nuclear weaponry and the ongoing technical advances in ever-more powerful ballistic missiles have a twofold purpose; to enable it to achieve the power and control it aspires to over the entire Middle East, as a Shiite conquest over majority Sunni rule. And to consolidate its position as the ruling power by its connections with other Shiite-majority nations in a hegemonic power play, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen; a Shiite crescent.
The Islamic Republic of Iran's collegial and useful relations with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea in exchanging scientific personnel and breakthroughs in intercontinental ballistic missile technology, able to fly faster, further and more accurately, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, for each to become the newest albeit outlawed members of the international nuclear club represents a direct threat both to the U.S. and to Israel.

It makes practical sense for both these countries, the macro- and the micro-power, to join forces in the inauguration of a partial U.S. military base within an existing Israeli base to serve soldiers operating a critical missile defence system in lock-step with growing Israeli concerns with Iran's long-range missile development. The multilayered system of defences is meant to secure against long-range guided missile attacks from Iran as well as the crude rockets from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, fired into Israel.

The Arrow, part of Israel's multi-tier missile defence system, is designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles potentially incoming from Iran. The Iron Dome defends against the short-range rockets streaming in from Gaza, while David's Sling's purpose is to counter medium-range missiles now in the possession of Hezbollah militants. To remark on Israel's singular and perpetual need to remain vigilant and capable of instant response to ongoing threats is to repeat an understatement of fact that few countries live under such constant threats to their existence.

The Arrow 3 missile defense system that was delivered to the Israeli Air Force on January 18, 2017. (Defense Ministry)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Long Live Kurdistan

"How much progress have we really made if Iraq is so riven by internal divisions that new civil wars erupt -- between Sunni and Shia, between the Kurds and the central government, with ISIL, or its successors taking advantage of the various schisms and weakness of Baghdad at every turn?"
Peggy Mason, former disarmament ambassador, Canada; president, Rideau Institute, Ottawa

"I don't think they're [government of Iraq] going to say, 'Sure, take the oilfields and Kirkuk and go your way."
"It's not going to go peacefully."
General Raymond Thomas, head, US. Special Forces Command 
Marches in support of the vote took place in Irbil, 13 September 2017
Marches in support of the vote took place in Irbil last week   EPA

Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous and historical region where Kurds in their tens of millions have always lived had been bypassed by colonialist powers in apportioning territorial limits and borders to satisfy the demands of Arab Muslims, the majority population in the Middle East. The result has been that in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, the Kurds have been denied statehood, denied recognition of their heritage indigenous status, denied equality and been subject to gross instances of human rights infringements by the majority ethnic groups among whom they live.

In the modern era where Arab states with their defined borders erratically declared official by foreign interlopers whose 19th Century imperialist arrogance saw fit to install, prejudice and discrimination against minorities of ethnic, tribal, and religious groupings have run rife. Kurds, on the other hand, appeared to have few problems accepting others as equals deserving of equal treatment and security. More latterly they have proven themselves on the battlefield when their militias were the only groups capable of confronting the atrocity-laden excesses of Muslim Arab jihadists.

In the regional and international interests of combating the most recent of Islamofascist ideological campaigns for conquest and the installation of a caliphate, the Arab militaries of Iraq and Syria have failed spectacularly to defend their own territories, allowing them to fall to the Islamic State predators. Without the intervention of the West and later Russia, despite support from a hegemony-consolidation-seeking Iran and its proxy militia Hezbollah, it has only been the Kurdish peshmerga that could be relied upon to beat back the incursion of the Islamic State.

NATO-member countries have dispatched their military trainers to give support and training to Iraqi and Kurdish militias. Canada has spent its years of training with the Kurdish fighters. The Kurds have fought courageously for their homeland, their territory, the geographic area that they claim as their own and for which their aspirations to achieve statehood have been focused on. A referendum is on the near horizon where Kurds will vote formally in a democratic initiative for a declaration of independence.

This initiative has alarmed NATO-member Turkey which has fought an 'insurgency' launched by Kurds living in Turkey in their ancestral lands which Turkey continues to claim as its own. Neither Syria, nor Iraq is complacent about the potential for signing over part of their territory to its rightful owners, much less Iran. When Iraq had fallen apart after the removal of Saddam Hussein and the U.S.-led coalition was attempting to guide the country into an equal coalition of Sunni, Shia and Kurd in governing the country, it too failed.

The Kurdish region was the only part of Iraq that was capable of functioning with any degree of progress and normalcy, offering security to its people, and giving shelter to minority groups at deadly risk during the conflicts that erupted between Islamist terrorists, Shiite militias and Sunni minorities, and the threats to Christians and Yazidis and other minority groups were answered by Kurdish shelter, the assurances that living among the Kurds they would be safe.

In the years of turmoil brought on by the rise of ISIL, the Kurds managed to claim areas of Iraq that have been historically theirs through thousands of years of habitation before national borders were drawn. They have also claimed 40 percent of the geography's oil resources, along with Kirkuk; they are, after all, the majority population in those areas. Canada has been providing military training and equipment to Kurdish troops in northern Iraq for the past three years pursuing the common goal of ousting ISIL.

Now Canada sees itself in a quandary; not a new one, since the prospect of an independent Kurdistan was always recognized as a future problem. But the Canadian commandos who proudly wore Kurdish flags on their uniforms have been instructed to remove them, after the U.S. issued its decree to its troops that American special forces remove their Kurdish insignia from U.S. military uniforms, bowing to Turkey's complaints of the closeness to Kurds whom Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers "terrorists".

Middle East map showing Kurdish areas

What the U.S. and Canadian governments see in the near future is a crisis unfolding, with Kurdish patience at an end and their determination to finally rule their own roost paramount for their future, resulting in the potential for civil war after the September 25 referendum results. The U.S. has denied support to the Kurds at this critical time in the evolution of their declaration of independent sovereignty, and Canada appears on the cusp of responding in the very same way; separating themselves from the very group they have most relied on to complete their mission of destroying the power of Islamic State.

Insisting at this point, when Islamic State has been virtually vanquished as far as its territorial ambition is concerned, that unity is required to ensure that the fight succeeds, no longer seems quite valid. Kurdish independence is answering the question that Kurds are asking themselves: "If not now, when?", for 'when' is always far off on the horizon, and Kurds have finally decided to draw it in.

Ironically, it is Israel and Israel alone, at this juncture that is finally giving moral support and recognition of timeliness to Kurdish independence. One semi-outcast struggling for survival supporting another. The enemies of Israel -- Iran, Syria and Turkey -- are all now left with the concern that their turn too will soon arrive when they will be forced to surrender Kurdish ancestral land to the people who claim it as their own.

Their denials reflect the very same rejection that Israel has always faced; a people returning to its roots.

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The Rational Kim Jong Un

"It's really a critical time of crisis on the Korean Peninsula."
"North Korea's missile technology has advanced. They can achieve longer-range now and they can launch a missile anywhere now. They can even place a nuclear warhead -- perhaps they have the technology now."
"These changes are significant and those pose serious threats, not only to East Asia."
"I don't believe Kim Jong Un is interested in actually using nuclear weapons but his ultimate goal is establishing this system of having ICBM and nuclear weapons so he could show them as deterrence."
Ryoichi Oriki, retired, former general heading Japan's self-defence forces

"It is totally unacceptable that North Korea has once again conducted such an outrageous act."
"We have to make North Korea understand that if it continues along this path, it will not have a bright future."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, Japan

"We cannot deny their technological advancements."
"We see the technical maturity of their technologies. They may be able now to have a smaller nuclear warhead which can be mounted on the missile."
"Based on these facts, we understand that North Korea's threat is immediate and at a grave level."
Ryusuke Wakahoi, deputy director, strategic intelligence analysis division, defence ministry, Japan

"We should take what they say quite literally. They want to be accepted as a nuclear weapons state."
"I think they believe acquiring that status will guarantee the survival of the regime."
"The attention that the Trump administration gives to the North Korea issue is, I think, positive."
"What was called the strategic patience by the previous administration of the United States virtually allowed North Korea to do whatever it likes."
Akihiko Tanaka, president, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo

And North Korea is doing whatever Kim Jong Un likes, and what he likes is to witness his name in shrieking block letters in news releases, relishing his reputation as a world leader in surprise events as though the world is waiting on tenterhooks for his next performance. Which, in point of fact, it is. With tenterhooks of acute anxiety, a condition which appears to give huge pleasure to Kim, along with the fact that he has gained 'respect', if only the respect of the unhinged feared.

Those commenting on Kim's exploits in gaming the United States in 'chicken' appear to have an unwarranted belief in the man's state of mind being clear and focused, that he would never be so rash as to go further than just-far-enough in a reckless effort to spur his nemesis to real action in reaction to his own violently perturbing provocations. It's the excitement of his ability to notch up the suspense and the apprehension factor just a bit now and again and wait the instant it takes for reaction to set in that impels him to the game.

People living in Hokkaido have no affection for Kim's game-playing. Instructed to take shelter they did so immediately. Japanese officials may claim they don't feel Kim would be so oblivious to the danger he places North Korea and his own skin under that he would actually aim one of those missiles at Guam but they're not taking any chances, either, that they could be accused of down-playing the danger for their Hokkaido citizens.

Inside a Japanese missile attack drill, as the North Korea threat looms    Still from video

After all, with his usual hyperbolic style, hours before the rocket was sent on its Friday trajectory, the warning went out of the North's threat to sink Japan into the sea. The threat has assumed much greater potency in view of the technological advances in the North's ICBMs and atomic bombs much to the incredulity of Korea-watcher intelligence agencies. If there is any national nervousness from within the international community it certainly goes further than Japan.

The United States has been forewarned that its Pacific coastline is in Kim's crosshairs. That an ICBM capable of reaching that distance is on the horizon is without doubt, nor that a match with a nuclear warhead is steadily advancing in tempo with Kim's boastful declarations. Just as an overflight headed for Guam could go astray and hit Hokkaido, one targeting the U.S. mainland or coastal area could land instead on America's next-door neighbour, so Canada has the right of concern.

While the U.S. has the means to stop a missile at its disposal, Canada does not. A good neighbour of long standing might do the courteous thing and deflect a missile headed toward Canada but certainly not if a succession of such missiles crowded the sky and the U.S. was understandably busy using its antimissile technology to protect its own geography while simultaneously launching its own reactive missiles with perhaps a greater degree of accuracy, leaving the stray missile to hit its unintended target.

Perhaps the world should learn to relax about the inevitable. Tyrants being tyrants insistent on having their way, Kim will succeed in some measure, doubtless, and the United Nations will continue to press for 'diplomatic' overtures which over the course of decades-long efforts have made not one iota of progress with the fanatical Kim dynasty.

North Korea news China latest missile test relations Kim Jong un Beijing Pyongyang
North Korea news: China is frustrated with Kim Jong-un’s regime after its missile tests  Getty/Reuters

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Setting SouthEast Asia Afire

"If the government mishandles the situation ... it could create conditions for radicalizing sections of the Rohingya population that jihadist groups might exploit for their own agendas. To avoid that risk requires a moderated military response, well-crafted political strategy and closer cooperation and intelligence sharing with Myanmar's neighbours and the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] bloc."
International Crisis Group commissioned report on Rohingya situation in Myanmar

"The savage treatment meted out to our Muslim brothers shall not pass without punishment."
"The government of Myanmar shall be made to taste what our Muslim brothers have tasted."
Al-Qaeda statement, SITE Intelligence group

"Unless concerted action led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society -- is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization."
former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

"We are not jihadists. Our status as a recognized ethnic group within Myanmar must be restored."
"As long as our demands are not met, resistance will continue and, if unfulfilled, those demands will be upgraded to another level."
Abdullah, leader, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army [ARSA]

"We have already let the world know that we don't have Rohingya in our country. Bengalis in Rakhine state are not Myanmar citizens and they are just people who come and stay in the country."
Aung Hlaing, Defence Minister, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees settling in Cox’s Baza near the Myanmar border, Bangladesh.
Rohingya refugees settling in Cox’s Bazar near the Myanmar border, Bangladesh. Photograph: Noor Alam for the Guardian
The urging for a political strategy to avoid radicalizing the Rohingya minority in Myanmar warned of what was to come, and more, but like all commissioned reports -- this one by Burma's de facto leader, Suu Kyi herself asked to be carried out -- it was received and set aside. The Rohingya have for years suffered massive discrimination; under military rule their citizenship was revoked. The Burmese majority Buddhists have belied their thoughtfully gentle religion by visiting violence on the Rohingya, despised as an unwanted ethnic and religious group which should return to Bangladesh which itself, though a Muslim country, has no wish to absorb them.

Stateless and violated, hunted and miserable, 400,000 of the one-million-strong Myanmar Rohingha have fled over the border from the country where they have lived for generations to Bangladesh to find the squalid refugee camps there already full, forcing the refugees, desperate for food, shelter and medical attention, to set up flimsy shelters at the sides of roads and beg for food. Bangladesh has its own agenda; to force Myanmar to reabsorb the Rohingya. While in Bangladesh the Rohingya will not be permitted to exit the territory set aside for them.

For several years Aung San Suu Kyi has been non-reactive as both the military and the general Burmese population have wreaked havoc in Rohingya villages in Rakhine state, assaulting and killing the minority Muslims, driving them to desperation. In the years prior to the present situation tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma to cross into Bangladesh. The newest arrivals swell those numbers, numbers for which Bangladesh is unprepared, as a country mired in poverty.

In 2015, 65,000 Rohingya were exiled into Bangladesh in escaping massacres that were carried out, while tens of thousands were placed in concentration camps within Burma. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke of a possible genocide, calling for international intervention, while the UN Security Council received pleas to intervene, and did nothing. The Indonesian Islamic Defenders Front called for volunteers for jihad in Myanmar in defense of the Rohingya. "Real action is needed, not just statements and condemnations", stated President Joko Widodo.

Mohsen Rezaee, a Khomeinist lawmaker, formerly commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran called for a multinational Islamic army, the "Army of the Prophet" to march into Myanmar in rescue of the Rohingya against the brutalities of the Myanmar military and government. When ARSA finally attacked 30 police and army posts several weeks earlier in Rakhine state, killing a dozen Burmese Buddhists, Burmese soldier burned down Rohingya homes, destroying villages and an estimated thousand people were killed.

Myanmar authorities speak of complete justification in setting their military against the Rohingya, distinguishing them all as terrorists and that Myanmar is fighting an existential war, that the carnage inflicted on the Rohingya is only what they deserve, and the nation has a right to defend itself from terrorists. It is pro forma to speak of ARSA as a "terrorist" group, illegal to use the word "Rohingya"; they are to be spoken of as "Bengalis".

Rohingya Muslim refugees cross floodwater in Thyangkhali refugee camp near the Bangladesh town of Ukhia on 17 September 2017.
Bangladesh plans to restrict the movement of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar   AFP

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kurdish Independence Near At Hand

"Members of the Special Operations Task Force will provide their [Iraqi Security Force] partners with advice and assistance in the vicinity of Hawija."
"Canadian Armed Forces personnel are advising its partners on how to best secure their position and prevent effective counter-attacks from Daesh [Islamic State]."
"CAF personnel also advise and assist in the detection, identification and possible prosecution of Daesh targets by our partner, or through coalition resources."
Maj.Alexandre Cadieux, Canadian Armed Forces, Iraq

"This fight is not anywhere near over."
"From a military perspective, we are expecting that there is going to be some kind of insurgency-type scenario that will evolve. And we see some signs of it occurring elsewhere in Iraq."
Brig.Gen.Steven Whalen, Canadian Armed Forces, Iraq
Kurds show their support for the upcoming independence referendum at a rally in Erbil
Kurds show their support for the upcoming independence referendum at a rally in Erbil. Photograph: Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Canada's military speaks of involvement with the Iraqi military. That has included various paramilitary groups, and also the Kurdish peshmerga. But it is with the Kurdish fighting forces, the sole fighting groups that have successfully managed to turn the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the favour of those struggling to remove that abhorrently vicious jihadist group from its geographic base -- that only two years ago was immense, covering large portions of both Iraq and Syria, and threatening to increase its holdings through the momentum of the ISIL growing support from jihadists all over the Islamic world and within Europe -- that momentum has been halted.

Canada's roughly 200 special forces soldiers located in northern Iraq have been supporting the Kurdish peshmerga for the most part in the past several years, although they have also operated with other fighting groups in Iraq. There is a distinct problem inherent in the support of the Iraqi military; their collective skills as a fighting force and their lack of courage leave much to be desired. As for the other fighting groups in Iraq, they are comprised mostly of Shiites, aligned and supported with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iraqi government precipitated in actual fact, the birth of Islamic State, when it spurned the willingness of Iraqi Sunni fighters to join the mostly Shiite-concentrated military. Former Sunni military commanders under Saddam Hussein ended up comprising much of the leadership of Islamic State, and the unwillingness of the Shiite leaders in government to treat their Sunni population with equality led to resentment and finally, connections with ISIL.

Not that sectarian suspicion, hatred and mutual violence doesn't describe business-as-usual in the Middle East.

However, that is not the business-as-usual one recognizes among the Kurds who have supported and sheltered fleeing Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and Sunni Iraqi civilians. And now that the Kurds have finally decided it is long past time to recognize that they have paid their dues to the irreconcilable arrangements historically made on their behalf by European imperialists, and are finally intent on moving ahead to declare Kurdistan fully sovereign, those foreign nations who have depended on their courage and fighting skills to combat ISIL have turned away from Kurdish aspirations.

The combined forces remain together in their common purpose, now surrounding Hawija, the last stronghold of the Islamic State, with its 150,000 people awaiting rescue. It is but nine days to the Kurdish vote for independence. One can only wonder whether Brig.-Gen. Whalen, in speaking of the future of 'insurgency scenarios occurring elsewhere in Iraq', refers to the Kurdish right to self-determination and short-changing it.

Hawija is located in disputed territory, claimed by both the Kurds and the central government in Baghdad. Once the liberation of Hawija becomes fact, another reality will impinge: Kurdish sovereignty, long overdue for a proud and ancient people, too long in thrall to foreign powers and suffering the agonies of persecution and murderous violence in the near past. More than capable of defending themselves now, they must be recognized as a sovereign nation.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

National Hygiene and Safety in a Public Toilet Campaign

"I wouldn't want to visit her. "
"I just didn't look forward to visiting my grandmother for fear of being herded out in the fields to defecate."
Nishua, 16, student, New Delhi

"This is a real problem."
"So many women, especially landless women, face a lot of violence when they go to the bathroom outside."
Jagmati Sangwan, women's rights advocate, India

"I can't think of another time when a national leader  has broached such a sensitive topic so frankly and so publicly."
"Even better, Modi backed up his words with actions."
Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder
Nearly half the population of India, which is embarking on the biggest toilet-building campaign in the nation’s history, still relieve themselves in the open, spreading disease and causing other health problems.  (DANIEL BEREHULAK/NYT)
Nearly half the population of India, which is embarking on the biggest toilet-building campaign in the nation’s history, still relieve themselves in the open, spreading disease and causing other health problems. (DANIEL BEREHULAK/NYT)

According to Indian government officials in New Delhi, $4 billion has been allocated and spent thus far in an effort to proceed with goal of the installing fifty million toilets in the vast country, serving well over a billion people, in areas where public and private toilets simply don't exist, placing women at risk and forcing people to defecate in fields, on railway tracks, or anywhere they happen to squat to answer the call of nature, absent the availability of toilet facilities.

Community latrines have been built, and subsidies provided to people to enable them to install toilets in their homes. Villages which respond to the national trend to turn India from its pathetic position as a nation deficit in the most basic of human needs' provisions, to one that responds to those needs, are recognized by a special "ODF" (Open Defecation Free) designation, honouring their initiative to serve the public.

A film, "Toilet, a Love Story" became the most popularly-viewed movie this summer in India. In the film, a divorce is averted when a young husband responds to his wife's demand that she must have a toilet in their home or their marriage would end. The lack of toilets, both in private homes and public arenas has shamed India, representing a serious public health concern. One which India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has seen fit to seriously address.
According to parameters of the Swachh Bharat Mission, any urban local body can declare its wards ODF only if it is successful in providing public conveniences at 75% of its areas. Also, there should be provision for toilets within 500 metres of slum settlements.
According to parameters of the Swachh Bharat Mission, any urban local body can declare its wards ODF only if it is successful in providing public conveniences at 75% of its areas. Also, there should be provision for toilets within 500 metres of slum settlements. (Arvind Yadav/ HT File Photo)

His decision was that India would embark on a toilet-building spree to end only when 100 million new toilets were installed in the nation of 1.2-billion people. The push to install toilets is so all-consuming and swiftly concentrated on that on occasion workers fail to see they are connected to the sewer system. A new mobile phone app informs people where to find the nearest toilet. "Use your phone when nature calls!", billboards advise.

UNICEF's figures relate that 564 million Indians, representing close to half the population, defecate still out in the open -- in fields, forests, near ponds, along highway medians and on the beach. As a way to spread disease and cause public and personal problems, it rates high. Women living in rural areas endure taunts and sexual assaults while relieving themselves outdoors, so they take care to travel in small groups before dawn, for protection.

Urinary tract infections assail women, particularly in pregnancy when they are unable to urinate or defecate throughout the day, waiting for hours until darkness when they emerge to perform their toilet tasks. Low birth weight in babies has been linked in a recent study with pregnancies, where the mother had no toilet facilities.

World Toilet Day in India
World Toilet Day in India
Is India Really 'Winning Its War' on Open Defecation?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of the Clean India campaign.
Image Credit: Flickr/ Narendra Modi
World Toilet Day in India

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