TRUMP stopped 10 – minutes short of authorise military attack on Iran in the absence of Secretary of Defence

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An RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, in an undated photo released by the Air Force.Bobbi Zapka / U.S. Air Force/Reuters file

Trump says he was ‘cocked & loaded’ to attack Iran, but called off strikes 10 minutes before||CRIMSON TAZVINZWA|

US President Trump confirmed Friday that he was “cocked and loaded” to strike Iranian targets but deemed the loss of life would be disproportionate to the downing of a U.S. drone.

“On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International waters. We were cocked and loaded to retaliate last night on three different sites,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

The tweets appeared to confirm The New York Times and The Washington Post reports Thursday night that said Trump had approved military strikes on Iranian targets but later backed away.

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U.S. Senate Condemns Deepening Israel-China Ties, Cites ‘Serious Security Concerns’

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A Senate committee promotes legislation expressing concern about Israel allowing a Chinese company to operate the port of Haifa, long a port of call for the Sixth Fleet//Crimson Tazvinzwa

Two years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced during a visit to Singapore a “pivot to Asia,” an amusing echo of the Obama-era pivot that was much maligned and misunderstood. (It was criticized as proof that the Middle East would be abandoned, and for the appearance that it focused more on military cooperation with Asian countries wary of China, rather than a more three-dimensional engagement with the rising powers of the East.) For Israel, the announcement was a rhetorical flourish for a reality that had been evolving over many years.

From its early days as an independent state, Israel courted those members of the United Nations that might be willing to provide political recognition. The Philippines and Burma (today’s Myanmar) were the only Asian nations to provide support in 1947 and 1948, voting for the partition resolution and the admittance of Israel as a UN member, respectively. Burma’s leader, U Nu, was the first foreign leader to visit the state. In the 1950s, Israel helped Singapore develop its security sector, and relations have remained strong over the years, often out of the limelight, because of sensitivities about offending Singapore’s large Muslim-majority neighbor, Malaysia.

India and China, the two Asian powerhouses of today, established discreet relations with Israel in 1950, but it took 40 years to establish full diplomatic relations. Trade was modest in the early years, in the tens of millions of dollars, but today, China is Israel’s second-most-important trading partner, with more than US$17 billion in two-way trade in 2017, and with India around $5 billion. (The US-Israel trade volume, by comparison, was about $35 billion in 2017 and 2018.)

Israel is now a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and China has begun to think of its strategic location as part of the massive Belt and Road Initiative.

In other measures of soft power, Israeli-China and Israeli-India relations are developing depth. There are two Confucius Institutes in Israel, based in the two major universities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. An Israeli non-governmental organization, the Israel Asia Center, is committed to building ties among emerging leaders from China, Taiwan, South Korea and India. Tourist travel from Asia is growing annually by double digits, and the Israeli tourism industry plans expanded hotel capacity to accommodate an anticipated growth in travel from newly mobile Chinese citizens.

Economic relations in a global marketplace may not be the most important metric of power and influence. One could argue that all these examples simply show the power of mutual economic benefit. Israelis are pragmatic, and their location between Europe and Asia provides a distinct opportunity to sustain their economic success by expanding to new markets.

But with the rising Asian powers, it’s worth keeping in mind that the scale of economic interaction can lead to interdependence in some sectors, and that takes on larger political and security dimensions. For now, nearly all analysts would insist that there is no substitute for the security partnership with the US; Israel has been able to develop its high-tech defense sector and its civilian economy, and avoid painful compromises with the Palestinians, thanks to American political protection and support.

And in the past, when forced to choose between meeting US expectations or working with new Asian business partners, Israel has accepted the primacy of its ties to Washington. In the late 1990s and again in 2005, Israel had to publicly rescind lucrative transactions with China when the US objected to the technology transfer of airborne radar systems and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones).

Even now, as trade in defense goods forms a significant part of Israeli exports to India and to China, those transactions are still fraught with political considerations. Israel is wary of China’s arms trade with Iran, and China is unhappy with Israel’s important investments in India’s defense sector, estimated at about $600 million in one recent annual count. So one cannot make the case that Israel has deep relationships of trust with the Asian powers, comparable to its decades of strategic cooperation with Washington.

However, it’s still worth opening our minds to the potential shift. Trade in the billions of dollars takes on political value for politicians and industry leaders. They begin to have a vested interest in keeping those relationships steady. Should US-China relations move in a more adversarial direction, Israel may be faced with some difficult tradeoffs. The dilemmas will sharpen if a post-Trump administration walks back the over-the-top embrace of hardline Israeli positions, creating friction in that key relationship. And rising anti-Semitism in many Western countries will erode Israelis’ trust in the West.

It’s not self-evident that Israel’s pivot to Asia will harm its traditional foreign policy, but it might.

 

 

With Its National Security at Stake, Israel Takes Sides in U.S.-China Trade War

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US National Security Adviser John Bolton: “To Stop Iran’s BOMB, BOMB Iran”

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War With Iran? Count Us Out, Europe Says//Crimson Tazvinzwa

BRUSSELS — With strong memories of the last catastrophic war in Iraq, Europeans are united in opposing what many consider the United States’ effort to provoke Iran into a shooting war. Yet, despite the strains in trans-Atlantic relations in the Trump years, flat-out opposition to Washington remains an uncomfortable place for European nations.

Initially, not even pro-American Britain would go along with the Trump administration, with officials defending a senior British general in the coalition fighting the Islamic State who said that there was no enhanced threat from Iran in Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon has reportedly drawn up a plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East if President Trump decides to take military action against Iran. The New York Times reports the Pentagon presented the proposal on Thursday after National Security Advisor John Bolton requested a revision to an earlier plan. Bolton has long advocated for attacking Iran. According to the Pentagon, far more than 120,000 troops would be needed if a ground invasion was ordered. This comes as tension continues to escalate between the United States and Iran. The United States recently deployed the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the region claiming there was a “credible threat by Iranian regime forces.” Iran has announced it will stop complying with parts of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and resume high-level enrichment of uranium in 60 days if other signatories of the deal do not take action to shield Iran’s oil and banking sectors from U.S. sanctions. The U.S. has attempted to cut Iran off from the global economy, even though Iran has remained in compliance with the nuclear deal. We speak with Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a Middle East Security and Nuclear Policy Specialist at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He served as spokesperson for Iran in its nuclear negotiations with the European Union from 2003 to 2005.

But that brought an American rebuttal, and soon the Europeans, reluctant to confront Washington directly, softened the criticism. Britain officially rowed back, saying that it now agreed with the Americans, while Germany and the Netherlands suspended their troop training in Iraq, citing the American warnings. (Germany subsequently said it was planning to resume the training exercises.)

Window dressing aside, however, there was little doubt about where the Europeans stood on the Iran issue.

“Every single European government believes that the increased threat we’re seeing from Iran now is a reaction to the United States leaving the Iran nuclear agreement and trying to force Iranian capitulation on other issues,” said Kori Schake, a former Pentagon official who is now deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“They believe that the U.S. is the provocateur and they worry that the U.S. is reacting so stridently to predictable Iranian actions in order to provide a pretext for a U.S. attack on Iran,” Ms. Schake said.

European government officials say they believe that Mr. Trump does not want a major war in the Middle East. But they also believe that his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, does.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
It is a far cry from the debate preceding the 2003 Iraq war, which “split Europe in two,” said Tomas Valasek, the director of Carnegie Europe and a former Slovak ambassador to NATO. “This is a case of all European governments saying to Washington that this is insane, we shouldn’t be here, and it’s your fault that we’re actually talking of war.”

For a supporter of the trans-Atlantic relationship, he added, “the last thing you want to do is unify Europe on an anti-American basis, and that’s what Trump” and his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, have done.

 

The Europeans are trapped between President Trump and Tehran,trying to keep decent relations with Washington while committed to supporting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Mr. Trump mocked and then abandoned.

Senior European government officials say they believe that Mr. Trump, as he said on Thursday, does not want a major war in the Middle East. But they also believe that Mr. Bolton does. They often cite a New York Times opinion article by Mr. Bolton in 2015, when he was out of office, entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”

And European officials are baffled by Mr. Trump’s insistence that he simply wants to force Iran into new negotiations. Why, they say, would Tehran, whose supreme leader regards Washington as duplicitous in any event, concede or even value any deal done with the president who just abandoned a nuclear deal so painfully negotiated with the last American president?

“Why would they trust us now after Trump pulled the plug on the last thing they negotiated with Washington?” Ms. Schake said.

The public position of European officials has been to urge “maximum restraint,” as the European foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, put it. That was a riposte to Washington’s stated policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran, including punishing economic sanctions designed to block its international trade, especially in oil, on which the economy depends.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, speaking this week to a government audience. European leaders wonder why President Trump believes the Iranians can be pressured into new talks.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Xi’s China is replacing the U.S. as the dominant military force in Asia

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The American victory over China?

How China is replacing America as Asia’s military titan

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refashioned the People’s Liberation Army into a force that’s rapidly closing the gap on U.S. firepower — and in some vital areas has surpassed it. The American victory over China in a regional war is no longer assured.

For the first time since Portuguese traders reached the Chinese coast five centuries ago, China has the military power to dominate the seas off its coast. The conflict between China and the United States in these waters would be destructive and bloody, particularly a clash over Taiwan, according to serving and retired senior American officers. And despite decades of unrivalled power since the end of the Cold War, there would be no guarantee America would prevail.


ReutersFILE PHOTO: A frontier soldier from the People’s Liberation Army jumps through a ring of fire as part of training in Heihe, Heilongjiang province,

“The U.S. could lose,” said Gary Roughead, co-chair of a bipartisan review of the Trump administration’s defence strategy published in November. “We really are at a significant inflexion point in history.”



President Barack Obamas half-brother, Mark Obama-Ndesandjo; It was the loss of his job that pushed him to a life in China, he decided he needed a fresh start, and this is well before his brother ascended to the presidency.

Roughead is no armchair theorist: A retired admiral, as former Chief of Naval Operations he held the top job in the U.S. Navy until 2011. His alarm reflects a growing view across the American defence establishment. In their report, he and his colleagues issued a dire warning. The United States faces a “national security crisis,” principally arising from growing Chinese and Russian military power. “U.S. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for American interests and American security are severe,” the panel concluded.

It is clear that Xi wants to bring the era of U.S. dominance in Asia to an end. “In the final analysis, it is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia and uphold the security of Asia,” he said in a 2014 speech to foreign leaders on regional security.

China’s Ministry of National Defense, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the Pentagon did not respond to questions for this article or detailed summaries of its findings.

This account of Xi and the PLA – which despite the “army” in its name comprises all military branches – is based on interviews with 17 current and former military officers from China, the United States, Taiwan and Australia. Many would only speak on condition of anonymity. It draws on the accounts of Chinese officials and people with ties to the senior leadership in Beijing who have known Xi Jinping and his family for decades and are familiar with his career as he rose through the party and government bureaucracy. It also relies on Chinese government publications describing Xi’s political thinking, his speeches and official documentaries showcasing his leadership of the military.

In Washington, the world’s pre-eminent military power is mobilizing to respond. After decades of seeking engagement in the expectation that Beijing would become a cooperative partner in world affairs, the United States is treating China as a strategic competitor bent on displacing it as Asia’s dominant force.

Largely in reaction to this challenge, Washington is boosting defence spending, rebuilding its navy and urgently developing new weapons, particularly longer-range conventional missiles. It is expanding military ties with other regional powers, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and India. And it’s conducting an international diplomatic and intelligence campaign to counter China’s cyber-attacks, traditional espionage and intellectual property theft. This campaign includes efforts to contain the global reach of Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE Corp.

The confrontation comes as the administration of President Donald Trump is waging a tariff war aimed at reducing China’s massive trade surplus with the United States. However the trade conflict is resolved, a grave risk is a possibility that the deeper tensions could boil over into an armed clash between Beijing and Washington and its allies in the hotly contested maritime zones off the Chinese coast.