Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Obama’s ISIS strategy revealed – follow behind Russia (and Iran)

September 29, 2015

A vacuum in leadership will be one way in which Barack Obama’s 2 terms are remembered. But in Syria and concerning ISIS, US “strategy” has been of avoidance, if not quite of denial, of the issues.

And the vacuum provides Putin (and therefore Iran and even Assad) the chance to set the agenda. Of course a strategy implies having a picture of what is to be achieved and the available paths to lead to achieving that picture. I suspect Obama and Kerry are not even very clear of the end-scenario to be targeted.

Since 9/11, the entire US Middle East “policy” (if it could be called a policy) has been of short-term actions without any clear picture of what is to be achieved subsequently. From removing the Taliban (temporarily) from power in Afghanistan, to the removal of Saddam Hussein without a vision of a subsequent Iraq, support of a “democratic” Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt followed by support to the Egyptian army, and the removal of Gaddafi which helped create and arm ISIS and now the attempt to remove Assad without an end-game, US policy, I think, has consisted of ad hoc actions without any coherent, underlying strategy.

NYT:

For the second time this month, Russia moved to expand its political and military influence in the Syria conflict and left the United States scrambling, this time by reaching an understanding, announced on Sunday, with Iraq, Syria and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State.

Like Russia’s earlier move to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad by deploying warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria, the intelligence-sharing arrangement was sealed without notice to the United States. American officials knew that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad, but they were clearly surprised when the Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command announced the intelligence sharing accord on Sunday.

It was another sign that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was moving ahead with a sharply different tack from that of the Obama administration in battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by assembling a rival coalition that includes Iran and the Syrian government. ……….

Russia’s moves are raising difficult questions for the Obama administration, which remains deeply conflicted about American military involvement in the Syria conflict. Ensuring that the Russian military and the United States-led coalition, which is carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State, “deconflict” and avoid running into each other is only part of the problem: The Obama administration and the Kremlin do not appear to agree even on the main reason for the conflict.

American officials, who have long cast Mr. Assad as the primary source of instability in Syria, assert that the Syrian leader’s brutal crackdown provided an opening for jihadist groups and that the crisis cannot be resolved until a political transition is negotiated that requires him to leave power. But Russian officials see the Syrian government as a bulwark against further gains by groups like Islamic State and Nusra Front and sometimes suggest that the defeat of the Islamic State should come before a negotiated solution for the Syrian conflict. ……..

Just as with the Taliban, a short-term military win is of little value if the political climate still leaves them with physical space to move in and ideological air to breathe. ISIS will not disappear until they are

  1. defeated first militarily,
  2. and are given no physical space to occupy,
  3. and a political climate exists which gives them no air to breathe.

But then, what do I know?

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Politicians and pseudoscience

January 14, 2015

I hadn’t realised just how far Obama and McCain were prepared to go in accepting pseudoscience when chasing votes and political power.

Washington Post Fact Checker:

“We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.” –Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Rally, April 21, 2008.

“It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise among children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.” –John McCain, Texas town hall meeting, February 29, 2008.

There is no proven link between vaccinations and autism just as there is no proven link between man-made carbon dioxide emissions and global warming.

Obama and the UN recycle 25 year old alarmist propoganda

September 24, 2014

At the UN summit on climate change Obama has been recycling the same alarmist propaganda that was coming out of the UN 25 years ago.

Reblogged from Real Science:

September 23rd, 2014

Dire warning on climate

President Obama on Tuesday delivered a call to arms against climate change at the United Nations, telling 125 leaders that they are “the last generation” with the power to prevent a global catastrophe.

Dire warning on climate | TheHill

Obama’s teleprompter is recycling identical UN propaganda from 25 years ago.

June 30, 1989

GRIM FORECAST

A senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of “eco-refugees,” threatening political chaos, said Brown, director of the New York office of the U.N. Environment Program. He said governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control

San Jose Mercury News (CA) Mercury News: Search Results

Twenty five years of screeching while global warming has been absent for at least the last 18!! Twenty five years of proposing an ineffective solution to the wrong problem. Twenty five years of proposing actions which have no measurable objectives.

From threats to bomb Assad, Obama bombs Assad’s enemies a year later

September 23, 2014

What a difference a year makes.

In September last year Barack Obama and John Kerry were drawing red lines in the sand and threatening to bomb Bashar al-Assad. They never did.

And Obama – with his coalition against evil – is now bombing Assad’s enemies in Syria.

NYT:

The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa and along the porous Iraq border.

American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State. American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.

The strikes are a major turning point in President Obama’s war against the Islamic State and open up a risky new stage of the American military campaign. Until now, the administration had bombed Islamic State targets only in Iraq, and had suggested it would be weeks if not months before the start of a bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the strikes, American officials said, although the Arab governments were not expected to announce their participation until later Tuesday. The new coalition’s makeup is significant because the United States was able to recruit Sunni governments to take action against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State. The operation also unites the squabbling states of the Persian Gulf. ….. 

Assad will surely spin this as support for his regime. That may not be the primary intention of the air strikes but he will surely be strengthened by the attacks on the most potent of his many enemies

I think ISIS does need eradicating but it needs to be by the Sunni Muslim world in the first instance. I cannot help but wonder which of Obama’s moving red lines was crossed now by ISIS which was not crossed earlier by Assad. The difference of course is that bombing ISIS is – politically – almost risk-free for the US President. Vladimir Putin will not protest and neither will Netanyahu. Even Iran will be quite happy with this attack on Sunni extremists opposed to Assad. Even the EU will support – though the position of the EU is largely irrelevant for the US. But air strikes alone will not eradicate ISIS or bring much greater order to the chaos in Iraq and Syria.There is a real risk of the chaos being extended – geographically and in time – but Obama’s final term has not long left to run.

The entropy of the chaos increases.

Barack Obama will be remembered not  as a leader with any clear principles but merely as the first black President of the US and for whom principles were always subordinated to his fear of risks. Courage will not be associated with his terms in office.

“Yes. We can” will become “Well, I tried..”.

Parsing Obama’s SOTU on climate matters: A paean to shale gas

January 29, 2014

Obama’s SOTU address will be spun in many different ways but I felt it was a remarkable paean to gas. Climate change is undeniable but he took care not to call it global warming. Not a lot of alarmism as he praised the effects of using gas. He avoided mentioning the words “fracking” or “shale”. It was all “natural” gas. He tried to give some credit to solar energy but only as an afterthought. Besides, his implication was that gas is not really a fossil fuel!

The entire section is just GAS! Gas! Gas! 

Extracts from Obama’s speech in blue. My comments in red.

“Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy.  The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.

Yes. Entirely due to fracking and shale gas and shale oil. The effect of renewables has been negligible.

One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.  Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas.  I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.  My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities.  

A tribute to shale fracking – without saying so.

And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.

Except if there is shale gas to be found.

It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too.  Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. 

Really! Pounding a solar panel into place!!!!! And not one of those homes gives up its connection to the grid.

Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

Like shale gas – which as we all know – cannot be called fossil energy.

And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume.  When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars.  In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

And while he was speaking it was 17°F with light snow in Washington and fossil fuels were heating the city.

Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet.  Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. 

True and entirely due to the use of gas.

But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. 

Forget that we had less storms in 2013 than ever before. And Califiornia’s drought is due to climate change. Schwarzenegger said so and he should know.

That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. 

The EPA will be my palace police. And of course if we reduce carbon (dioxide) emissions all droughts and storms and ice melting will miraculously cease!!

The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way.  But the debate is settled.  Climate change is a fact. 

Oh my!. Climate change is settled – ( He never said it was global warming)!

And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

Meaningless rhetoric. Just how his children’s children will get to look him in the eye is a little unclear. When was the last time you looked into the eyes of a grandparent and blamed them or praised them for the state of the world?

Keeping score in the great Syria chess game

September 24, 2013

It is not possible to say who won or who lost. The Great “Game” will take a long time to reach a conclusion. All that can be done is to see who’s winning and who’s losing.

David Cameron is losing and may have lost. He took a slap in the face from the House of Commons. If he had managed the vote in his favour, the US strike on Syria would have taken place almost immediately. Whether the strike would have achieved much will never be known but Obama would have “walked” his “talk”. Milliband seemed to be winning since he had defeated Cameron but it is becoming clear that he had played his trump far too soon and allowed Putin to make his play. And Milliband can be credited for letting down the US and the special relationship. Tony Blair lost. He showed up as a “rabid dog” revelling in going to war (to try and justify his bad judgements during the Iraq war). And nobody took him very seriously.

Barack Obama is losing. He has confirmed his reputation as a ditherer and that he is risk-averse to the point of being  seen as being ruled by his fears. He has effectively shifted the balance of power in going to war from the Presidency towards Congress. This power given up will be difficult to regain. Without the backing of the UK he was forced to look for ways to extricate himself from his “red line” box.

John Kerry was point-man for Obama and was – for a time – the potential scape-goat. But he has repositioned himself and may even take away some credit for the Russian play. His throw-away line about “no strike if Syria gave up their chemical weapons” is now being spun as an intentional statement.

Francois Hollande is losing. His support for Obama was not enough to allow the US to carry out a strike on Syria. The value of French support – compared to the UK support which was not forthcoming – was diminished. And then to make matters worse his Parliamentarians made it quite clear that they did not support his position even though they were not required to vote. Having supported a strike he was not quite adroit enough to claim any credit for the alternate diplomatic path that resulted. Getting Freedom Fries reverting to be French Fries was his only consolation.

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov are winning. The diplomatic path is now their creation. Suddenly Russia is the peace-maker in the face of US war-mongering! Not only was the US strike on their ally delayed indefinitely, it is now Assad’s Syria – and not the various opposition groups – which is required to engage with the international community. Any opposition forces who seem to be coming in the way of inspecting or securing control of the chemical weapons can now be attacked by Assad with the full support of the international community. Russia can continue supplying Syria with conventional weapons.

The Syrian Opposition groups (including Al Qaida) are losing the civil war. Assad can now get more weapons replacements than they can. Al Qaida need a weakened Assad to create a winning position and they need a prolonged civil war to achieve dominance among the opposition groups. Both objectives would have been assisted by a US strike.

Bashar al-Assad is winning. He does not really need chemical weapons which cannot effectively be used anyway. Any US strike on his forces is postponed indefinitely. With no prospect of any no-fly zone being declared his air-force could be decisive in the civil war. The supply of conventional weapons from Russia is assured. His claim that rebels and terrorists were responsible for the use of Sarin is backed up by Russia and the UN weapons inspectors have no option but to investigate this (and they are on their way back to Syria).

Iran is winning. President Hassan Rohani is on a roll. First Hizbollah – at Iran’s bidding – helped to keep the Syrian opposition groups at bay when they seemed to be gaining ground. Then he supported the Russian diplomatic initiative. That was followed by an interview  on NBC  and an op-ed in the Washington Post to assure the US and the world that Iran had no intention of developing WMD of any kind including nuclear weapons. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, sent Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jews worldwide via Twitter and caught the Israelis off-guard. Now Rohani is on his way to address the UN General Assembly. Willy-nilly they are now a part of the diplomatic path for Syria and cannot just be ignored. That engagement allows the Iranian charm offensive to proceed as well on other fronts.

Israel is both winning and losing. It was Israeli intelligence intercepts – not US  – which led to Obama’s threatened strike. A strike by the US was definitely preferred by the Israelis though their objective was to maximise turbulence for as long as possible in Syria.  To be able to get the US to threaten a strike as they wished based on selective intelligence was a coup. Not to have the strike consummated was a setback. If the Iran/Russia influence grows and Assad is more secure than before, then these are also setbacks.

Turkey is losing. The Islamic government was perhaps the strongest supporter of a strike on Assad. Their dislike of Assad is so strong that they would even have supported a strike by Israel. But Turkey’s subservience to and support for all groups Islamic ( Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) is now becoming an embarrassment for Europe. Their application to join the EU is – I think – already lost.

The Great Game has a long way to run. It has been running for a thousand years and there are many more twists and turns to come. Many pieces will be lost and won by all the parties and there may never be a check-mate and a clear winner in this game. Having a clear winner always requires having a clear loser. Having a clear loser in the Middle East is not always a good thing.

And so a stalemate is probably the closest there is to a win-win.

US now has no option but to attack Syria – but to what end other than “feeling good”?

August 31, 2013

A “feel-good” strike?

After Kerry’s speech yesterday, it is no longer possible for the US not to carry out a strike (else Kerry will have no option but to resign). The UN inspectors left Syria today. Their analyses will take at least two weeks and the US cannot – after Kerry’s assertions yesterday – wait for that. President Obama is due in Sweden next Wednesday on his way to the G20 meeting in Saint Petersburg.

So an attack will surely take place between now and then. Probably tonight. It will be “limited” and targeted according to Obama. It will be in retaliation against those who killed 1429 people by using a nerve agent. The strike will certainly bring comfort to the Syrian rebels (including Al Qaida) and raise their hopes of a deepening intervention. If the strike is limited it is unlikely to be decisive in toppling Assad. It may weaken him. Right now Assad’s forces seem to have the upper hand. So a weakened Assad is likely to lead to the civil war being prolonged – whoever comes out on top.

So what would the objectives of the strike be? And how would success be measured?

It will not get rid of all chemical weapons. It may give pause for thought to future users of chemical weapons but it will only be a limited deterrent to future users (since previous users have not faced any repercussions). If the strike kills more than 1429 people or a significant number of “innocent civilians”, it will be difficult to claim any success.  if the numbers killed are small and the material destruction is limited, it will also provide – paradoxically – succour to Assad in that he has weathered the US-led storm. The only real success would be if the numbers killed are very small but the material destruction is so high that it may prevent Assad or his officers from being so quick to use such weapons again.

Certainly the US and its allies will “feel better”. Anybody killed in the strike will not. Assad will not but his opposition will.

But the risk with a “feel-good” strike is that it will not make the war any shorter and will only lead to further intervention and the risk of strengthening Al Qaida.

A box of his own

August 30, 2013

The Ghosts of Iraq are still stalking the British House of Commons and David Cameron – much to his own dismay – is not as ruthless or as devious as Tony Blair. His Syria dossier was not as sexed-up as Blair’s Iraq dossier.

But President Obama’s dilemma in Syria is a box entirely of his own making.

Red line box

Déjà vu! For Iraq read Syria

August 28, 2013

Déjà vu!

Some kind of military action by the US and its allies – probably missile and drone attacks – is imminent  against Syria and Assad. To what end is uncertain. To destroy stocks of chemical weapons could be an objective but any action would probably only cause more release of the toxins involved. To destroy or help destroy Assad’s regime is possible but unlikely since the alternative would probably be Al Qaida. To assassinate Assad runs the same risk. To kill some of Assad’s military or his supporters just as a “punitive” strike could be an objective but adding to the killing to stop the killing seems a little dubious. To demonstrate a self-righteous “moral” position to the world with the least damaging consequences possible would seem to the main objective. To prevent any future use of chemical weapons by any country could be an objective thought it is difficult to see how many “bad guys” would need to be killed or how much property would need to be destroyed to create a valid deterrent.

For Iraq read Syria. For Bush, Blair, Chirac  (my failing memory) and Howard read Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Rudd. Even though each of the current four leaders is from the opposing party to that of his predecessor. For WMD read “chemical or nerve gas”. Statements by the politicians show that they are absolutely “certain” that Assad was responsible. Evidence is not forthcoming. As it was not for Iraq. And it does not inspire any confidence that to justify the Iraq invasion, “evidence” was made-up by the intelligence services to satisfy their political masters.

That upto some 300 people have been killed seems very likely though there is some doubt as to the number. The main evidence seems to be video footage. That some form of chemical or nerve agent was used seems probable. And traces of such agents are detectable years after the event, though some politicians (Obama and Kerry for example) would like us to believe that the evidence may be destroyed and therefore  time is of the essence just to preserve the evidence. Though it is likely that someone within the Assad regime was probably responsible it is not at all impossible that one of the many “rebel” groups was responsible. Some of the rebel groups – along with Assad’s supporters – have exhibited their barbaric and cannibalistic tendencies.

But I am afraid that military actions will be carried out – again – without any more serious objective than to demonstrate “moral superiority” and to fulfill domestic agendas.  Even though such actions – in themselves – undermine the very moral superiority that is being touted. Some more people – some quite innocent – will of course be killed. They will just be collateral damage and the the sacrifice in a war of moral superiority. That Tony Blair on-board a luxurious yacht somewhere supports immediate strikes against Syria only adds to my feeling that it would be ill-advised. His thirst for blood is apparently not yet satisfied. Obama needs to show that he can actually be decisive – if only for history. Cameron needs a war – any war – before the next General Election and Spain over Gibraltar does not quite fit the bill.  Argentina over the Falklands is better but too far away and already done. Hollande needs to show that he does really exist – as he did in Mali. Rudd would love to be seen at the “big table” and he could see this as a way for grabbing some of Abbot’s supporters for the election in less than 2 weeks.

The chaos in Iraq and the daily loss of life that is occurring there is a direct consequence of the Iraq invasion (and how much worse would it have been under Saddam?). The adventure in Libya to satisfy the European desire for demonstrating their moral superiority will have consequences for many many years to come. Of course the Middle East today (like the Balkans a few years ago) provides proof positive of the barbarism that lies so close to the surface of many human “societies”. And the interventions by moral “police” has always dragged the police down to the level of the criminal societies they are ostensibly trying to put down. The intervention in Kosovo has succeeded after a fashion. But it is hard to come to to the same conclusion for Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya.

To add Syria to the list seems irresponsible.

The only way to address Syria – in my opinion – is to ostracise the entire country. Shun them. Close the borders. isolate them. No weapons – to anybody. No goods, no services to enter the country. Nobody and nothing enters. Only refugees may leave. Send the country to Coventry. Go back in a few months and when the killing stops – help the survivors pick up the pieces. But don’t intervene to add to the killing in the hope of stopping the killing.

US and Russia engage in the “disappointment” wars

August 8, 2013

“Disappointed” is the new in-word in diplomatic relations particularly between the US and Russia.

Everybody seems to be disappointed with everybody else.

With this amount of “disappointment” clearly going around there is a real risk of a “depression” setting in.

But at least its better than a “cold” war and a long, long way from a fire-fight”

” Very disappointed”. “Seriously disappointed”. “Deeply disappointed”

The diplomatic winner is the one who can express greater disappointment than the other.

  1. It’s Time to Admit Obama is a Disappointment 
  2. Despite ‘disappointment,’ Obama will travel to Russia
  3. Barack Obama ‘disappointed’ with Russia over Edward Snowden and ‘Cold War mentality’ 
  4.  Russia “disappointed” bilateral talks with US cancelled 
  5.  U.S. ‘deeply disappointed’ at Russian opposition leader conviction 
  6.  US disappointed by Russian court verdict in Magnitsky case 
  7. U.S. Government ‘Disappointed’ Hong Kong Let Snowden Leave 
  8. U.S. ‘very disappointed’ by Russian ban on U.S. meat
  9. Putin ‘Disappointed’ by Crushing Hockey Defeat to U.S. 
  10. Moscow Disappointed by EU Ending Syria Arms Embargo – Putin 
  11. U.N. chief “disappointed” by Assad’s speech on Syria crisis
  12. Parents disappointed in Russian adoption ban 
  13. Russia disappointed with US refusal to extradite Viktor Bout 
  14. Russia “disappointed” with UN Syria draft  
  15. US ‘disappointed’ that Britain not to extradite hacker
  16. EU, U.S. Disappointed by Ukrainian Ex-Minister’s Trial 
  17. Pussy Riot members jailed; Obama disappointed 
  18. US expresses “deep disappointment” over Hungary’s transfer of Azeri murderer
  19. Palestinians disappointed with Obama
  20. Netanyahu expresses ‘disappointment’ with Abbas’ UN speech

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