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Questioning the Hawija Offensive

Iraq1947b

Iraq (Aribization map, Twitter source)

 

As of today there have been no reports that the Hawija offensive has actually begun, although last I checked Twitter was clogged with reports of civilians fleeing the area in lieu of the expected three pronged attack.  Iraq is not one of my fortes, but due to my recent personal interest in this area, and the future of Kurdistan as a whole, I've decided to share what I've come to find out regarding the various details and open ended concerns regarding this highly anticipated attack on one of the larger ISIS Iraqi strongholds.

 

Hawija (Kurdish for wild carrot), has been dominated by ISIS forces since June 6th of 2014, from this outpost ISIS has led four large multi-pronged attacks and 300 minor ones.  It sits at the juncture of Kirkuk and Mosul, both oil rich regions and of great importance to local, regional and international players. Recent reports of ISIS barricading the main gates to Hawija suggest that ISIS is switching to a more defensive stance as the attack approaches.  Near the end of September there were reports that an Iraqi airstrike killed the al-Sham governor of Hawija, Abu Nasser Al-Zubai, and 13 of his aids while they were in a tunnel. There are also claims there are no civilians inside Hawija and that all that remain are Iraqis and foreign fighters, but this conflicts with current reports of civilians escaping as well as some ISIS militants pretending to be civilians to stage suicide attacks. ISIS militants that escaped the recent Shargat (Al-Shirquat), offensive and headed towards Hawija were reportedly executed by ISIS.  Peshmerga forces said they are expecting 150K IDPs (internally displaced people), to arrive in already overloaded refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Peshmerga also stated that the citizens of Hawija have been asked to rise up as the offensive begins.

 

The offensive will be coming from three directions and is expected to have both ground and air operations.  From the temporary US coalition airbase in Qayyarah to the North, where several 100 US forces are currently training Iraqi soldiers, airstrikes such as the ones in the Shargat attack will be used to "prep" the battlefields of Hawija.  Let's just hope the US coalition forces utilize a reasonable ISR:CAS ratio and doesn't have any "accidents" like the one in Deir Ezzor this time. 

ISR:CASHawiga GoogleMaps

Screen shot from Twitter & Google Maps

 

The Iraqi army (being led by Wasi al-Asi), and accompanied by the Shia militias of Hashd al-Shaabi (being led by Muhammed Mahdi al-Bayati/Saed Ghalib Yasiri), will presumably be coming from Shirqat in the East and quite possibly from Qayyarah and/or Makhmur in the North.  Peshmerga forces being comprised mostly of PUK, PDK as well as other Kurdish and Sunni brigades being led by Rasoul Omar will be approaching from Kirkuk in the West.  Peshmerga have plans to take both Riaz and Rashad on their way to Hawija where one of their missions is to rescue Pershmerga prisoners believed to be held by ISIS as well as plans to build a bridge on the Tigris river..  After Hawija is secured Peshmerga do have plans to assist in Mosul operations but have what they call "geographic limitations" while Barzani was also quoted saying "We are not extending territories, we're just regaining what was originally ours".

 Link to map

 

This may all seem pretty straightforward until one peers beneath the surface to find innumerable concerns voice from both the Kurdish and Sunni populace in regards to the participation of al-Shaabi as the mostly Sunni populace fears retribution from Shia militias.  Muhammed Khidhr of the local Arab bloc recently said "We can only trust Sunni forces and Peshmerga to be responsible for the towns security."  Following the 2013 crackdown on Sunni protestors sectarian tensions have yet to subside.  The US State Department spokesperson John Kirby when questioned about al-Shaabi's human rights record of violations stated "They [al-Shaabi] have been useful in helping expel Daesh from areas of Iraq, and they  will continue to be useful."  Human Rights Watch has sent a letter of concern to al Abadi and Barzani asking forces "that are implicated in laws of war violations, including the Badr Brigades, the Hezbollah Brigades (Kata'ib Hezbollah), and other groups withing the PMF [Popular Mobilization Force/al-Shaabi], from participating in the planned operations to take Mosul."

 

It seems quite obvious there's a bit of disagreement regarding participation, but this is not the only concern.  Hawija was historically part of Kirkuk and is well known farm land.  Before various bouts of Arabization, and more recently ISIS occupation, it was populated with Kurds, Sunnis and Turkmen.  Peshmerga have stressed that Hawija should be part of Kirkuk province.  Both governments of Iraq and Turkey have expressed fears of a growing Kurdistan, but as we near the Mosul offensive there are both reports that Iraq has accused Turkish forces in Bashiqua of adding to the conflict as well as being approved by the Iraqi government, adding to the confusion.  Erdogan and Turkish professor of international law Mustafa Sitki, claims that Turkey has the right by international law to participate in Mosul operations on grounds of terrorism.  Turkmen in the area of Kirkuk raised concerns regarding a recent visit by HDP leader Selahattin Domitas and considered it proof of a Kurdish conspiracy to erase Turkmen from the area.  Demartis said his visit by was to unite Kurdish parties in an agreement to face existing  challenges and threats.  While Hawija is called the "Kurdish Jerusalem", it is also called the "heart of Iraqi Turkmen".

Historically the Kurds have been back-stabbed 4 times (UK in the 1920's, USSR in the 1940's & US in the 1970's and again in the 90's), not to mention a sloppy Manbij operation recently on the part of US airstrikes as well as overlooking al-Shaabi's war crime record... as if there were no questions about the US vetting process.  With 935,000 barrels of oil a day and recent conflicts over the revenue, with internal contention among some Kurds, with latent fears of Arabization, with local, regional and international players all with their own designs, with contention over the future of Hawija even before the battle has begun, with archeological sites plundered and people persecuted, with all this and more I feel there are reasons to be concerned about Hawija and the upcoming offensives.  Nor can I stand idly by while Turkey puts out maps like this...

OttomanKurdistan

 

 New Developements

Oil fields south of Qayyarah on fire

QayyarahSmoke

 My questions to the Journalist of 'The battle in Iraq that could turn the tide against Islamic State: The fight for Mosul is about to begin' and of  & Editors of the Los Angles Times

Screen Shot 2016 10 12 at 9.28.19 AMScreen Shot 2016 10 12 at 9.28.31 AMScreen Shot 2016 10 12 at 9.28.51 AM

Erdogan's and Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim latest hissy fit

Screen Shot 2016 10 12 at 9.36.52 AM

 

 

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Abe's 'Save Face' Tour 2015

Before I get started, I'd like to send a special thanks to all the readers that have donated (button below), it is sincerely appreciated and very needed, and thank you to all readers as well...

Okinawakamiunten

Abe's "Save Face" Tour 2015

Next week the Prime Minister of Japan will be coming to the U.S. to negotiate Japan's part in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), or is it to "celebrate the 70th anniversary of WWII"?  Shinzo Abe will arrive on April 26th and depart on May 3rd, he is confirmed to be in D.C. from the 27th-30th but is also supposed to appear in Boston, L.A. as well as San Francisco.  It might be safe to assume that Abe will go to Boston first, then D.C., and ending his trip in California... although its hard to find any confirmation on his itinerary outside of the D.C. dates.  Hopefully this piece will raise global awareness and inspire U.S. peaceful public protests regarding a number of issues facing Japan, its relations to the U.S. and abroad.  Abe's U.S. tour is the perfect opportunity as it creates a platform for voices and issues to be heard by Abe, across the U.S. and around the world.  The straw that broke the camel's back was Anthony Blinken's recent Town Hall for the #USAJapan70 anniversary.  On Twitter Blinken was "looking forward" to questions being submitted for him to answer at the Town Hall, one of the questions submitted (which was highlighted by both hosts), was completely ignored by Blinken.  That question (among many others), was regarding Okinawa.

OkinawaBases2

Island History

In order to gain a slightly 'Okinawan' perspective a short review is in order.  To this day there is a dispute as to whether the Japanese are related to the Chinese, as well as the Okinawans to the Japanese.  A recent study of heredity showed that Okinawans do share much in common with the Japanese, and whether the Japanese are related to the Chinese is still being unraveled.  The discovery of the Minatogawa Man on southern Okinawa near Naha has opened up debate as the remains date as far back as 20,000 years.  Aside from these claims and debates of heredity and early human migration, one wouldn't have to look far to find examples of cultural and political differences between Japanese and Okinawans currently.  It is said that Japan came to Okinawa in 7th & 9th centuries, but left until the 17th century with the rise of the Japanese Satsuma-Han.  Before Japan's second arrival, Okinawa was a sovereign nation of islands as well as a trading hub for the South China Seas area.  During that time the Ryukyuan King of Okinawa had pledged loyalty to China, and China respected their domestic affairs and sovereignty, unlike Japan today.  With the Satsuma-Han came sugar cane cultivation and colonization, or what the Okinawans call "Sugar Hell", in 1879 Japan officially annexed Okinawa.  From this point up until the end of WWII, Okinawa remained under Japanese control and domination only to be handed over to the U.S. as a military outpost at the end of WWII.  40-100,000 Okinawan civilians died in  WWII, "many of whom were forced to commit mass suicide by the Imperial Japanese Army."  In this period there are stories of U.S. land purchases using coercion and deception or bulldozers and bayonets.  In 1972 the U.S. handed Okinawa back to Japan but retained the military bases and arranged for Japan to burden some of the costs as well as deal with the diplomacy.  With the end of the Cold War Okinawan hopes were high that relocation of the U.S. forces off Okinawa would surely occur... to this day they have not.  With the coming of the U.S. Pivot to Asia and the South China Seas dispute it seems that Japan and the U.S. have no designs to stop using Okinawa for it's Geo-strategic location in the near future.  You may find it easier to see things from an Okinawan perspective now, and from there you might be able to see that... Okinawa deserves it's sovereignty and it's island back.

Futenma Relocation... to Japan

Currently there are many areas of conflict between Okinawa and the Japan/U.S. occupation, but the main issue is the FRF or Futenma Replacement Facility.  In 1995 there was a highly publicized rape case involving 3 Marines and a 12 year old Okinawan girl, shortly after this the SACO (Special Action Committee on Okinawa), was created and in 1996, Futenma along with 1000's of acres was supposed to be returned to Okinawa.  Well, it's now 2015 and the Futenma Base is still there.  One could blame Japan for buying out Okinawan politicians typically vehemently opposed to relocation or expansion of U.S. forces on Okinawa, one could also blame U.S. Congress and senators like John McCain for stalling plans due to budget constraints and reporting, there is always the U.S. and Japanese Cold War hawks and the current Pivot East, but whomever you choose to place the blame for Futenma, putting it on the Okinawan people is not one of the options.

OkinawaProtest2OkinawaProtest1

Recently Abe met with Takeshi Onaga, the new Governor of Okinawa, to discuss the 20 year old stalled relocation plans... neither Abe or Onaga budged.  Meanwhile the din of dissent is rising with protests, petitions and the new Henoko Fund.  The wife of a famous Japanese actor (who up until his death was an avid supporter of Okianwa), was one of the founders of the new fund.  Okinawa has also garnerd the support of environmentalist activists, scientists, Nobel Prize winners and even Oliver Stone.  Recently Okinawan protestors including Yamashiro Hiroji (Dir. of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center), were arrested by U.S. Military and held by the Nago police for 35 hours.  The relocation spot picked for Futenma is Henoko, home to coral reef environments and the endangered relative of the manatee, the Dugong.  Worthy of note in the peaceful protest department, Okinawa has even used kites in their protests to disturb the U.S. Osprey from landing.

dugongokinawaProtest

73% of the U.S. Military facilities in Japan are taking up 20% of Okinawan land, which only makes up 0.6% of Japan's land mass.  With and est. 53,000 personnel, 43,000 dependents and 5,000 civilian DOD employees, the U.S. presence makes up about 7.2% of Okinawa's nearly 1.4 million inhabitants.  It has also been a weigh station for U.S. forces during conflicts such as Vietnam and the Gulf War, and during these time it was reported that crime on Okinawa (especially rapes), increased as well as exacerbating the "comfort women" sex trade.  With the Henoko construction plan for the Osprey landing pad going out into the bay, drilling will have to be done, permits negotiated, and sand will have to brought in.  Recently a new documentary called 'Sand Wars' came out which brings this last issue from the shadows and into the environmental spotlight.  Consider the accusations made against China for doing the same in the disputed Senkaku Islands, then consider that China's plans are reportedly for a search and rescue facility, as opposed to U.S. foward military base.  Then consider relocating Futenma... to Japan.

Japan, Okinawa and the Trans Pacific Partnership: Sticky Rice

Futenma and the U.S. presence in Okinawa is hardly the only issue to consider before Abe's visit.  If you watched the Town Hall with Blinken (mentioned above), it would not be hard to notice the overall flavor of Blinken's TPP sales pitch.  In fact, one of the main agendas for Abe's visit to D.C. is none other than negotianting the TPP which U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman seems to think is going great.  Aside from all of the negative impacts mentioned before, both Okinawa and Japan have significant issues with the TPP.  Japan is fighting for 50K ton import quota for U.S. rice as opposed to the U.S. demand 175K tons, and Pork is on the menu as well... actual pork that is.  Japan is also fighting for immediate removal of the 2.5% U.S. tariff on Japanese (and other), auto parts imports.  Abe recently said:

"It is impossible to make unnecessary concessions in line with my trip to the United States." 

Hopefully he means Okinawa as well, long after the "Sugar Hell" era, Okinawa's number one agricultural crop is still sugar cane as it is produced by 80% of the local farmers.  Onaga Takao of the Ishigaki City cooperative said:

"The local economy is centered on the production, processing, and sales for sugar cane.  Tourism is also an important source of income.  But if sugar cane production is destroyed, our beautiful scenery of farmland will be destroyed too, which will lead to a rapid decrease in tourists.  In that sense, sugar cane is the treasure of our island."

By making Japan (and Okinawa), the TPP front line barrier to China's growing economy as a "U.S. Pivot East" may put both islands in economic and geo-strategic jeopardy.

Fukushima & Fallout

It wasn't until March 19th of this year that TEPCO finally admitted that one of the Fukushima reactors melted down... four years later.  Reports were done in California in 2014 stating that expected levels would be no more than current rad levels from underwater nuclear testing, not very reassuring really.  There were also reports of a loophole allowing for food from Fukushima to be sold on Britain's shelves.  On March 10th an article stated that Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), found the first evidence of radiation from Fukushima on Canada's Vancouver coast.  That is some pretty unusual timing on TEPCO's announcement especially when you consider that U.S. Ambassador Kennedy had just visited Hiroshima saying that:

"Visiting Hiroshima is a profound reminder that we should continue working toward a world without nuclear weapons"

Kennedy also recently took some heat for commenting on Japan's dolphin hunt that was the topic of the Oscar winning documentary "The Cove".  Her solemn tone (despite no mention of Nagasaki), is in direct opposition to Abe's recent lack of humility and revisionist attitudes regarding WWII and South Korea by saying he may not issue a direct apology regarding Japan's actions.  Although Abe is reportedly avoiding the controversial Yasukuni Shrine visit that the Simon Wiesenthal Center had criticized him for previously in 2013, his lack of reflection is all too aparent.  With all this revising, reposturing, relocating and renegotiating going on it seems Abe has forgotton a solom apology regarding Fukushima to all those in and on the Pacific that are, or will soon be affected.  Abe may soon have the opportunity to make multiple apologies, but the one most lacking is to Okinawa.  Let's see if Abe can take former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's advice on sincerity, and not just with the U.S. Congress.

Screen Shot 2015 04 22 at 7.15.45 AM

Pivot to the Mirror

It has been noted by Blinken that the TPP is not just about economic power in the 21st century, but Geo-strategic power as well.  Okinawa, due to it's location fits that bill for both the U.S. and Japan in their continued prodding and finger pointing at China about the Senkaku Islands while sweeping Henoko, Okinawa under the waves they've created.  In Blinken's 'U.S. Economic Policy in East Asia and the Pacific' he also plainly states:

"The true question at the heart of these conflicts is who controls access to Asia’s abundant energy resources."

It's worth noting that the 2 largest importers of crude oil to Japan are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a couple of old buddies of the U.S. petrol dollar global domination that are also currently leveling Yemen.  Speaking of old buddies, Japan and the U.S. have quite a relationship going on, so much so that the famous Dutch intellectual Karel Van Wolferen wrote a piece last year entitled 'Japan as an American Client State' where he wrote:

"The resulting anti–Chinese predisposition in the region perfectly suited the ‘pivot’, which has been Hillary Clinton’s program to develop greater muscle to curtail China’s influence. The American military, which maintains bases surrounding all of China’s coast, is not prepared to share power in the the Western Pacific, and Japan plays an important part in all this, even extending to current Prime Minister Abe’s reinterpretation of the famous pacifist clause in Japan’ constitution"

But China is not the only U.S. goal for Japan as was recently stated in Bloomberg:

"U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is confident Japan will continue to play an important role in efforts to stop Russian activities in Ukraine, he said Friday.  "Japan has been a very important member of the effort that we’ve put together with the G7 countries and beyond to try to convince Russia to stop,” Blinken said...  Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has sought rapprochement with Putin in a bid to resolve a dispute between Japan and Russia over islands north of Hokkaido that were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II."

Last summer there were large protests in Japan due to Abe's "constitutional changes that would expand Japan's military role and allow overseas deployment. It comes one day after a man set himself on fire in protest against a proposed law."  A little over six months later a video was released that purportedly showed a Japanese hostage being beheaded by ISIS.  One would think these two events should have happened in reverse, but justification for the constitutional changes amounted to finger pointing at "Chinese Expansion" and North Korea's nuclear threats.  Whatever the reason for Abe's revisionism, expansionism, nationalism and militarism, the effects are evident and even a matter a pride.  Japan's new helicopter carrier, the Izumo, entered service in late March shortly after reports of Japan's recession.  The carrier was named after the Izumo province where Japanese myth puts the "entrance to hell".  Considering the classification of the Izumo, one would have to agree...

"Designating it a helicopter destroyer allows Japan to circumvent its constitutional ban on waging offensive war,"

In May of 2013 China began to dispute Japan's sovereignty over Okinawa, then, in October of 2013 Japan denied accusations of interfering with Chinese military exercises in the Pacific...

"The diplomatic row came as Japan today began an annual large-scale military exercise involving its ground, sea and air forces. The exercise, which runs to Nov. 18, will this year be focused on island defense around Kyushu and Okinawa, according to a document issued by the Self-Defense Forces last month."

Pacific Horizon 2015 is scheduled for October 20-28th, an...

"exercise designed to improve 1st MEB's and ESG-3's interoperability and strengthen Navy-Marine Corps relations by conducting an in-stream Maritime Pre positioning Force offload of equipment by providing host country civil-military security assistance, and by conducting infrastructure restoration support." 

The rising militarism in the Pacific is escalating tensions with "exercises", just as many fear the Ukraine conflict is.   Turning towards the Philippines, the recent assassination of Marwan (ending with his finger being handed to the FBI), is another example of increasing tensions in the Pacific.  The “Mamasapano Massacre” has thrown the Philippines in turmoil, but not enough turmoil to stop the Navy Air and Missile Defense Radar agreement with Lockheed Martin.  This U.S. Pivot East is reflected in various nations and conflicts in the Pacific arena, last year Michael Green, Senior Vice President and Japan Chair at CSIS spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. defense pertaining to the Asia Pacific.  He stated:

"Secretary Carter emphasized how important the TPP is to U.S. security interests in the Pacific and he is right. Should negotiations on TPP falter this year, there will be new doubts about the strategic competence and staying power of the U.S. in Asia and the Pacific.  That said, trade is not a substitute for deterrence."

This Pivot East should be a positive turning point in U.S.-Japan foreign policy attitudes going into the 21st century, but the "Pivot East" has yet to turn into a "Pivot to the Mirror".

Public Support for Okinawa

 

There are lots of thing you can do for Okinawa, for one, there are a couple of petitions out there...

Ambassador Kennedy: We need a dialogue, not destruction

Protect Henoko Ocean and its Coral Reefs

You can support the Center for Biological Diversity and the fight for the Dugong.  There is the Global Network against Weapons & Nuclear power in Space that coordinated a letter regarding Okinawa with Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore & Oliver Stone.  There is also the Friends of the Earth Japan, or the Save Life Society.  Other than the Okinawa Times, Japan Focus, Ryukyu Shimpo and Xinhua the blog 'What's Going On In Okinawa' has been a great source of info.  Just today contact information was published on the Okinawa Times for the Henoko Fund, the contact number is 098 (943) 6748.  Even though there has been incredible support already, Okinawa needs and deserves much more.  In honor of Okinawa's tradition of peace, get out there and peacefully protest while Abe is in town, no matter if it's against the TPP, Henoko, Fukushima, U.S.-Japanese militarism, or for Okinawa, there are ample reasons to give Abe the warm U.S. welcome he deserves.  Most of all, please do whatever you can to help very kind people of Okinawa.

 

 

 

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Drones, Troops & Nukes ~ Going Places

PredatorXP2

defensenews.com Predator XP (RQ-1 for Export) Drone - General Atomic - San Diego, CA

As of late some movements have caught my eye, recently I wrote regarding the UK's move to the AIIB , since then Luxembourg, Germany, France and Italy also went skipping down the Silk Road to the AIIB, and the chances of South Korea, Japan, Australia and Canada joining increase every day as the loose deadline approaches at the end of March.  That is of course in addition to the 27 other countries already listed in Wikipedia including Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Philippines, Thailand, and Uzbekistan which is consequently involved in human rights disputes with the World Bank and it's "high standards".  This move has obviously created a signifigant shift in the balance of global power(s), and it would be safe to assume that following such an historic event (as well as preceeding it), there would be various examples of both physical and rhetorical reposturing going on around the globe.  Many view the AIIB move as a very positive turn of economic events, while the White House "advice" against allies joining remains like an eroding sandstone boulder in the middle of a box canyon during a flash flood.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, the day before the UK's announcement Obama made an email pitch for the TPP and named China as the US competitor in the 21st century while making no mention of the UK deal he knew was about to happen, although there is much speculation as to what was discussed.  On that same day CSIS came out with an in depth look at percieved weaknesses of the AIIB in which Yun Sun even claimed...

 "The multilateral (and potentially democratic) decision-making process of the AIIB provides an explanation for diminishing enthusiasm within China about the Bank."

Well, I'm not so sure that is the case.  Further, CSIS seemed to have changed it's stance since then.  Aside from the predictable Chinese rebuttal, the US based dissension with the White House AIIB/China posturing has grown, one of the first western backed think tanks to voice concern was Brookings, as Thomas Wright wrote:

"Looking forward, the United States needs to move beyond obstructionism and figure out a better strategy for dealing with China’s competitive economic diplomacy."

It would seem we are at another historical crossroads, one of many directions... and with any one direction as probable as the next.  At this crossroads is where I see the movements of economic power, as well as Drones, Troops & Nukes.

DRONES

GlobalHawk2HeronUAV

Global Hawk RQ-4 - Northrop Grumman - London                       Heron(Machatz-1) - Israel Aerospace Industries

ASN 209ShadowM2 main

Silver Eagle ASN-209 UAV - ASN Technology Group - China           Shadow  M2 - Textron Systems - Providence, RI U.S.

DARPA, L2 BAI Aerosystems, Orbital Sciences Corporation, EWA Government Systems, Aurora Flight Sciences & Northrop's Information & Technical offices are the drone companies listed for the state of Virginia, where Mark Warner is Senator.  As The Nation and Reuters both pointed out earlier, Warner went with Obama on his recent trip to India (which Obama cut short for Saudi Arabia), to ensure "US" (not sure Northrop is included as it's Headquartered in London), drone companies of not missing out on sales to India to other competitors such as Israel (the leading exporter and has sold to India before), and China who last year sold to Saudi Arabia. The issues back in the U.S. are the regulations of drone exports which Obama has seemed to have loosenedor not.  The official statement regarding the change in the international sales of not just surveillance, but especially armed drones (previously to Britain only), was highlighted by the Washington Post:

 "...the sale of armed drones would be subject to Cold War-era rules establishing a “strong presumption of denial,” meaning that foreign governments would have to make a strong case for acquiring the aircraft.

They also would have to agree to a set of “proper use” principles created by the United States, promising to use the drones for national defense or other situations in which force is permitted by international law. The drones are not to be used “to conduct unlawful surveillance or [for] unlawful force against their domestic populations,” an unclassified summary of the new policy said.

“If you fall back on what our objective is, it’s really more than anything to provide an extra level of scrutiny with respect to these transfers,” the official said.

Foreign governments also will have to accept potential U.S. monitoring of how the drones are used."

Oddly enough, just as Obama loosens regulations on international armed drone sales, he suggests tightening regulations for domestic use back in the US the day after a drone reportedly crashed into the White House .  Also odd that Pakistan has already spearheaded a UN Human Right council resolution against the use of armed drones last year and also odd that the US campaign in Pakistan had significant critics back in 2012.  It would also seem that India's affiliation to China (via BRICS), would play into ensuring the loosening of U.S. regulations to compete in the emerging drone market and at a time of economic power(s) shifting.  The drone companies sure seem happy now, India just being the tip of a potential drone sales iceberg.  Of those out in front are of course Northrop Grumman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with it's ‘Predator XP’ (XP, or export ready version of the RQ-1), and as pointed out in the Nation article above...

" One drone project involves the RQ-11 "Raven" built by AeroVironment Inc, a small U.S. firm, but Northrop Grumman Corp, Textron Systems, a unit of Textron Inc and General Atomics, a privately held firm, are also seeking permission to sell their unmanned systems to India."

For an area with so much drone related conflict, it seems odd that the White House would choose it to be the location to open the champagne bottle for the U.S. drone industry with all the de-regulating/regulating, and at such an historic and volatile moment in geopolitics.

TROOPS

As of late it's been hard not to notice the troop movements in Ukraine and around the Baltic region as the conflict seems to be accelerating despite the relative success of the Minsk Agreements, then again, I may have spoken too soon.  What at first were periodic "reports " of troop movements, have become more frequent actual official announcements from the nations involved.  Beginning with the article on Feb. 18th by the Florida Times Union noting the 3000 Fort Stewart troops headed to train various Baltic NATO allies in Operation Atlantic Resolve which I have aptly renamed Operation Atlantic Dissolve as it neither resolves the situation and further dissolves the possibilities of peace within the region. 

On the 25th of Feb. the Economist reported British PM's intention on sending 75 military trainers not to mention the earlier reports of armored vehicles sent.  BBC reported

"A Ukrainian news agency has reported that 20 British Saxon armored cars have been delivered to Ukraine, with another 55 expected to arrive soon."

About that time reports of rival military exercises were becoming more prevelant and Canada had already sent military trainers to Ukraine as part of Operation Reassurance as was reported by RT back in December.

Saxon

Shortly after that, on the 27th of Feb. DW reported the German reactivation and removal of "supply bottlenecks" for the Bergen tank battalion and co-operation with French, Polish and Dutch armies as well as the incorporation of the Dutch Leopard Tank. 

Leopard

Although this was claimed to be done to assure NATO commitment, it wasn't long after that there was an obvious part in strategy and tone between Germany and NATO as Der Spiegel came out with a scathing review of NATO's Breedlove .

Official reports of the arrival of the US 3rd Infantry Div. came in on the 10th of March, this included 750 troops,  military vehicles and equipment, including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters arrived in the Baltic city of Riga, Latvia to be used in exersises and training in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.  The following day reports of U.S. deliveries of humvees and small drones to Ukraine came out.

 On the 12th of March came rebuttals to the Fox News interview about the Ukraine conflict with retired Major General Robert who said:

"The only way the United States can have any effect in this region and turn the tide is to start killing Russians — killing so many Russians that even Putin's media can't hide the fact that Russians are returning to the motherland in body bags." 

Truly a pitiful expression of exacerbated U.S. military imperialism.  But less than a week later came reports of Germany sending 500 troops for drills in Lithuania as part of the NATO Operation Atlantic Resolve.  Of course between the battle cries of Gen. Robert and the increasing deployment and exercises Russia began voicing it's concern.  This was accompanied by an announcements that Russian peacekeepers were ready to be deployed to the Donbass area as well as the confirmation reports of British military trainers.  About this time Stratfor's George Friedman came out with his "analysis" regarding the U.S. intention to drive a wedge between Germany and Russia... not that their opinion matters much to some, even Brookings is taking hits these days, guess its time to "spread the love" as they say, as well as the troops and the rising threat of war.

NUKES

India isn't just getting the chance to buy U.S. armed drones, during his recent visit Obama also started a new era of Nuclear trade ...

"that will open the door to the sale of U.S. nuclear power plants and nuclear industry support to India, a step that could rejuvenate the American nuclear industry like nothing has in a long time."

It's interesting to note that in the official White House blog post regarding his visit to India, there is no specific mention of either drones or nuclear trade between the two nations.  One would think that with all the raw nerves from many not only regarding the Ukraine conflict, but also the Iran negotiations, that the White House would've have thought these two items surely constituted a "highlight", then again...

Just after the announcement of the arrival of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Russia made the announcement that it had the right to put nuclear arms in the Black Sea region of Crimea Mikhail Ulyanov said:

"I don't know if there are nuclear weapons there now. I don't know about any plans, but in principle Russia can do it,"

I can't blame Russia for wanting to protect itself against the existential threat posed by the intensification of NATO presence, but this echoes the comparison made by Stephen Cohen a while back that this is the most dangerous times in U.S. Russian relations since the Cuban Missile Crisis .

On the 14th of March it was reported by RT that the UK made an "innocent mistake " and had sensitive data including not only UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment, but also a host of 170 other companies including Lockheed.  Doug Madory of Dyn said it was a bad route in Ukraine's Vega Telecom that was the cause of the redirection.  Dan Goodin, Ars Technica Security editor said in his blog:

"Unnecessarily sending the data to Kiev may have made it possible for employees with privileged network access to Ukrainian telecom provider Vega to monitor or tamper with data that wasn't encrypted end-to-end using strong cryptography" 

Not sure about you, but bells are going off about now.  Especially after noticing the data was routed through Frankfurt, Germany and originating from Houston, TX.

redirectedatomic

I would include something in this section regarding the Iran nuclear deal , but then I'd have to include something about the official Pentagon announcement on Israel's Nukes, so I'd rather finish this up on a "lighter" note by pointing out the recent nuclear hack in South Korea.   Although there are no names mentioned, South Korea did accuse North Korea as the malware used was the same as used by the APT as well as other similarities to the recent Sony Hack.  South Korea claimed only "non critical" systems were at risk, but that didn't stop the hackers from putting up a sample of employee information saying that they "need money"... well shoot, that could be just about anybody, including me. 

I don't fancy myself a bringer of doom and gloom, and as I pointed out earlier we are at a crossroads with more than just a couple of possible roads before us.  I'd like to think that the these conflicts and increasing tensions can be resolved diplomatically and without military conflict, and in fact, I have full confidence that they can be resolved without Operation Atlantic Resolve or other such inflammatory reposturing.  Even so, with all this movement going on I know that Tom Engelhardt is not alone, I'm also asking... What's Going On?

Oh, I almost forgot, Nowroze Mubarak and enjoy this Vernal Equinox and may we chose the best way forward.

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Where the TPP and TTIP meet the BRICS of the Silk Road

YellowBrick

   Like most U.S. presidents, Obama has a legacy he wishes to leave behind, and part of that legacy are the economic trade deals known as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).  The fascinating detail that the White House and others have decided that one ocean needs no hyphen or capitalization (Transatlantic), while another does (Trans-Pacific), should spurn all kinds of conspiracy theories and lively discussions.  But, in the much larger global context these trade deals are extensions of the U.S. based economic global hegemony, a hegemony that has recently come into conflict with the two rising economic global players... Russia & China.  With the TPP from the Pacific and the TTIP from the Atlantic, this U.S. led economic hydra (along with the IMF/World Bank, Goldman Sachs/Wall St., London's Gold Exchange, S&P and some others), has over the last couple of years been reacting to the only economic "King of the Mountain" threats to have occurred since the eve of World War II, the making of BRICS Global Investment Bank which has a more global focus (e.g. South America, India and Africa), and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), with infrastructure projects centered in Asia.  The economic title bout of the 21st century has been years in the promoting and is currently being fought in many locations around the globe under the guise of many different names and localized issues, the two most obvious places of this conflict are the historical Geo-strategic "back doors" of Ukraine and Japan.

IMFHydra

RussianBear2

The Transatlantic Head

"This crisis and future U.S. policy toward the region should be viewed through the lens that transatlantic interests are best served by a Ukraine that looks toward Europe and the United States for inspiration and becomes a stable and prosperous country on the border of the European Union and NATO. Tragically, Putin’s Russia will never see Ukraine in this light, but that should not deter transatlantic policy."  Stephen Odell ~ Executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Ford Motor Company, March 23rd 2014, Telegraph

 

A very telling quote from a U.S. industry "leader" regarding the TTIP, the Ukraine conflict (shortly after the Crimean Referendum), and the Atlantism attitudes towards Russia and it's economic relationship with Ukraine and the EU.  Just a glance at the TTIP would show that it is hoped it would bring reduced tariffs and regulations on U.S. imports into the E.U., with the U.S. auto industry taking a hit the possible profits of the TTIP is more than enough incentive for Ford to be slandering Russia.  Another area of industry incentive is the idea that the TTIP could be used as a platform for a new global digital economy, but after the Snowden revelations and the fragile relations due to the NSA snooping, the European Commission is rethinking it's General Data Protection Regulations (GPDR).  Looking a bit deeper into the TTIP reveals secret corporate negotiations, privatization plans, potential for environmental abuse, stripping of safety regulations, international corporate courts, threats to food safety as well as the opaque promises of GDP gains and increases in job opportunities for the EU and the U.S.  In an article by Prof. Dr. Henning Vopel (Dir. of Hambur Inst. of Intl. Economics HWWI), and Dr. Jorn Quitzau (Head of Economic Tren Research at Berenberg), the reservations and criticisms are clearly laid out...

"None the less, critics maintain that history has shown that the harmonization that accompanies free trade agreements typically involves a weakening of standards.  If the weakest or business-friendliest standard (I read the U.S.), of any given country is adopted as the binding standard under the free trade agreement, that could unleash a downward spiral"

 

The E.U. agreements with Ukraine also point to the US/EU intention and underlying incentives of Ukraine being incorporated (figuratively and literally), into the TTIP as part of it's eastern trade front, and in effect a Baltic trade wall separating Russia from Europe and the U.S., that's in addition to the actual wall that some speculate Kiev has in the works.  The TTIP along with the IMF package (which may yet run into road blocks of previous Russian loans), make up some of the main bricks of the economic wall being constructed by this regional head of the western hydra.  Comparing these "Tranatlanticist" interests and the apparent ideologies and attitudes of exclusion represented in the TTIP with the inviting nature of the Silk Road leads one to seriously question both the means and ends of the TTIP.

 

The TTIP is but one of the economic onion layers of the Ukraine conflict and one of many tactics being used by the Ukraine head of western hydra.  NATO and others have created layers upon layers conflicts and escalations making the Ukraine situation harder to resolve due to the nature of the interwoven complexity.

 

In the GABA talk regarding the TTIP with Ulrike Geurot last summer, she framed the current divide in the German Green party...

"If you look in liberal green spectrums... you have now a competition between Freedom and Peace... What tops what, does peace top freedom... or does freedom top peace?" (paraphrasing)

Where does global prosperity fit into all this peace and freedom?  Where does the TTIP fit into this triangle? Echoing the White House, Donald Tusk (one of Obama's main advocates in the EU for the TTIP), recently had this to say:

"We need to advance the negotiations, for sure, and we have to convince public opinion on both side of the Atlantic, TTIP is not only about trade but also jobs, it's about the political security for our population."

In light the conflicts in Ukraine between the TTIP and the BRICS of the New Silk Road, one has to wonder... is "security" double speak for jeopardy?

 

The Trans-Pacific Head

 ChineseDragon3hydra

The TPP is one the economic teeth of the western hydra head that is attacking the Silk Road and forming yet another trade wall (much like the TTIP), except in this case the West is using Japan (one of the nations in TPP negotiations), as a barrier to China.  Previously I hit on how the AIIB and the TPP are seemingly at odds, as evidenced by Obama's preemptive reaction to the UK signing with the AIIB by sending out OFA (Organization for America), emails pushing the TPP... the day before.  Back in 2011 Jagdish Bhagwati pointed to the conflict driven nature of the TPP and China:

"America’s design for Asian trade is inspired by the goal of containing China, and the TPP template effectively excludes it, owing to the non-trade-related conditions imposed by US lobbies. The only way that a Chinese merger with the TPP could gain credibility would be to make all non-trade-related provisions optional. Of course, the US lobbies would have none of it."

He also points to the coercion (fostered by threats of Chinese expansion in the South China Seas), that was a major factor in getting countries to sign on to the TPP.

"Many Asian countries joined the TPP to “keep the US in the region” in the face of Chinese heavy-handedness. They embraced the US in the same way that East Europeans rushed to join NATO and the European Union in the face of the threat, real or imagined, posed by post-Soviet Russia."

As with the TTIP, there is an automotive scent to the TPP due to the focus on U.S.-Japan Bilateral Negotiations on Motor Vehicle Trade and Non-Tariff Measures, just one of many areas of industrial interests.  The main opportunities advertised to the U.S. citizens consists of support for U.S. exports, enforcement of fundamental labor rights, promoting "strong" environmental protection and that it will help small U.S. businesses benefit from Pacific Rim trade.  Even Brookings came out to support the TPP and it's "geopolitical importance".  On the other hand, the opposition to the TPP is enormous and in many ways parallels the TTIP, even if one were just to consider the U.S. led opposition, such as the recent comments by Senator Elizabeth Warren:

"The name may sound a little wonky, but this is a powerful provision that would fundamentally tilt the playing field further in favor of multinational corporations... worse yet, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty."

 Warren isn't alone, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (DM CT), Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), just recently spoke out against the TPP being "fast-tracked". The opposition has bleed into many different areas such as the familiar investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), and how it favors the U.S. by design.  Intellectual property rights are also threatened as was pointed out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation...

"...the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate."

Doctors Without Borders and Health Global Access Project recently spearheaded protests claiming that the TPP is a "Death Pact" with some holding signs that read "Hands Off Our Medicine" as Lauren McCauley of Common Dreams reported back in January.  In fact the list is so long that I don't want to bore you, the Daily Kos recently succinctly summed up many of the points of opposition.

TPP Cons

This is just the Western opposition, as Jagdish pointed out above the TPP is about the U.S. economic containment of China, in fact much like the pleas to reform the IMF quotas, there were also pleas to bring China into the TPP fold... and both would have been constructive in deterring the recent AIIB gold rush or even the needs that spawned it.  It's odd to compare the accusations of failure on this very issue, Daniel Drezner of the Washington Post stated that "So, no contest, the executive branch screwed this up" while also stating that "And hey, what do you know, Congress did that stalling thing."  On the other hand the Wall St. Journal in it's chiding remarks not only blamed Obama and his administration, but also specifically the Republicans for not ratifying the IMF reforms and in effect aiding China.

 

Although the Pacific Rim region is hosting no Ukraine type conflict, there are many other regional factors that make this head of the hydra just as complex as the TTIP/Russian front, and just as much of an existential threat to China.

  • As mentioned above, the South China Seas dispute has been and still is an ongoing issue of regional contention.
  • As with the Ukraine conflict, the historical context of Japan and China that predates both the Sino Japanese Wars and the Boxer Rebellion, none of which should be ignored, even if Japan is now interested in the AIIB.
  • In response to the Snowden revelations and NSA snooping China has increased it's internet restrictions cutting off access to Gmail and forcing people in China to use VPN (virtual private networks), not to mention how a Chinese CEO recently equated Apple Computers to Hitler.
  • Japan's PM Shinzo Abe has brought a new age of Japanese re-militarization to his administration, one that is not so well received by many in Japan.  Just recently Japan unmasked it's "entrance to hell", or the Izumo "Air Craft" Carrier.  Due to the nature of Japan being a U.S. vassal state it would seem reasonable to assume that Abe isn't the only one that deserves the credit for Japan's re-militarization.
  • The U.S. "Pivot East" (as opposed to the EU's), prior to the South China Seas dispute is best represented by the ongoing conflicts about Okinawa, with protests there and also in Japan.  Japan has historically abused the people of this island since WWII as Japan has been "accommodating" the U.S. military "allowing" the various branches to use Okinawa for their very own private landing pad.  This has been to the to the detriment of the environment, disrespect to the people, and a blight to Okinawan sovereignty.  Just as there was no excuse for Nagasaki, there is no excuse for Okinawa (either from Japan or the U.S.), and the continued abuse to both the people and the environment of this beautiful island... I sure hope some folks get out and give PM Abe a real U.S./Okinawan welcome when he shows up with President Xi later this year, let's put an end to the "Pivot East", that should in fact be a "Pivot to the Mirror".

Okinawakamiunten

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okinawa's Hakkaku kite

Where the Two Heads Meet

The Hydra aptly describes the nature of the U.S. led Western conflict with both Russia and China, simultaneously setting up trade barriers such at the TPP & TTIP posing as economic security, re-militarizing, and the all too familiar accusatory tone and attitudes of the White House and State Dept. towards both nations.  There are other similarities...

  • The list of criticisms of both the TPP and the TTIP show many similarities such as  secret courts, environment consequences, internet/tech rights and secret negotiations with corporate ties just to name a few.
  • Both the TPP and TTIP are exclusionary and economically adversarial to China and Russia respectively, this would include the Silk Road, BRICS and the AIIB.
  • Both Ukraine and Japan have been historic "back doors" into Russia and China respectively, as well as the pairs of nations having much historic conflict.
  • Both the current Ukraine conflict and South China Seas dispute represent military confrontations in both areas.
  • The re-militarization in the Ukraine and Baltic regions is reflected in Japan's military developments at home, in Okinawa and elsewhere.  Both have not seen this kind of military presence since WWII>
  • Both China and Russia represent a "threat" to the U.S. economically, militarily, technologically and due to the Snowden revelations the NSA is deeply involved in both nations.

The Imperial U.S. Hydra has many hungry heads, and these are just two that face Russia and China.  AFRICOM, the Middle East, and even once cozy allies (before and after the AIIB migration), are all areas of interest as the Hydra unleashes it's defensive offense.  Hopefully the current back peddling by the White House in regards to the AIIB is a sign that the administration is taking a turn for the better.  Maybe one day this monster can be tamed a bit and used to foster an age of peace and prosperity rather than exclusion and the chances of war.  I have already written how I think U.S. foreign policy should play out with these two nations, one involves William Faulkner's 'The Bear' and disarmament with Russia, the other is the story of the Stone Monkey King and the lack of ethics in U.S. economics in regards to the global marketplace.   Where does this Hydra fit into that triangle of Peace, Freedom & Prosperity... can it fit?

 

In closing I'd wanted to add I lived in Okinawa as a kid, I remember the hibiscus flowers, the huge butterflies, the bridges over the coy ponds, origami, the star sand, sugar cane fields and car flipping typhoons... I also remember Kadena's XXX theaters just outside the gates, the sound of SR-71 Blackbirds & stacked corrugated tin roofs next to the sewage plant.  What the U.S. has done to this island I have few words for.

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  • Written by White Apple
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UK skips down the Silk Road to see AIIB

 
 

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 SilkRoadMap

Slowly the reports started trickling in on Twitter this morning regarding the UK's very recent decision to join China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.  At first just the announcement from gov.uk appeared, then the US rebuttals began coming from Financial Times attacking UK's "constant accomidation" with China, which I thankfully couldn't read due to both their paywall and fear of instant nausea. The gist was readily available soon after with an article from the Guardian entitled 'US anger at Britain joining Chinese-led investment bank AIIB' with the response from the White House national security council:

“Our position on the AIIB remains clear and consistent. The United States and many major global economies all agree there is a pressing need to enhance infrastructure investment around the world. We believe any new multilateral institution should incorporate the high standards of the World Bank and the regional development banks.

“Based on many discussions, we have concerns about whether the AIIB will meet these high standards, particularly related to governance, and environmental and social safeguards … The international community has a stake in seeing the AIIB complement the existing architecture, and to work effectively alongside the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”

 Well, doesn't that just explain everything... the US cites "high standards" of the World Bank, this has got to be one the most hypocritical statements I've ever heard the US administration pump out.  Just recently the World bank was cited for their own internal watchdog not investigating the relation between loans and forced labor in Uzbekistan.  Not long before the ICIJ released leaked reports regarding the World Bank health and education initiative & the forced relocation of the Anuak in Ethiopia.  There are also reports of the World Bank waiting egarly with Canadian and US mining companies to profit off of the financial calamity of Haiti's post 2010 earthquake economy.  Let's not leave the IMF out of the party, aside from the recent and reasonable accusations that the IMF (not Russia), annexed Ukraine by Michael Hudson and others, we can always turn back to the shining example of Bolivia and how it regrets it ever met the IMF.  Or you can read what Noam Chomsky had to say for the hegemonic World Bank IMF in his book Power Systems... I'd paraphrase but I don't want to beat a dead horse.  The fact that the White House National Security Council had the audacity to cite the "high standards" of the World Bank is more than just appalling, it's downright embarrassing.  This is not to say that there aren't serious environmental concerns when it comes to the AIIB projects, but to ignore the human rights and back door deal patterns of the World Bank is just as serious.

3Gorges

Personally I commend the UK on it's Brexit move to the AIIB, it's the best damn thing they've done in a long time.  I also feel it is very necessary to remind the US Administration that when pointing a finger to remember that there are three pointing back at you, and many say one up.  It seems odd that just 2 days ago i received an email from "Obama' regarding the TPP

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 1.01.07 PM

Well, I can't say that naming China as the US competitor in the economic world of the 21st century was the best decision or in our country's best interests.  Many think that Obama's precious TPP legacy is a 'Trade Campaign Built On Four Pinocchios', and I would would add a 5th... viewing China as a Competitor vs a Partner.  Well, I must say, it doesn't look so good for the TPP right now.  This all reminds me of why the BRICS nations made their global investment bank in the first place, the apparent lack of ethics stemming from the Bubble Boys of Wall St. and London's Gold Exchange.  You do know the famous Chinese tale of the Stone Monkey King, it would be the text book I would recommend to the US Administration to base some of their attitudes on China and their "Pivot East".  I am opposed to their current policy actions in Okinawa that not only are an offense to the kind people there and the environment, but is yet another disruption in the fabric of peace on this planet much like the current US actions in Ukraine.  I firmly believe that the reason the official Doomsday clock is at 11:57 is not due to a nuclear deal in Iran, not due to existential threats to Russia (labeled as Russian aggression), but due to the blatent lack of regard that the US has shown not just for it's own nation (as the Snowden revelation & Fergusson show), but to the future of the world as a whole.  Let's not forget that Australia was recently toying with the very same idea (and still is), as the UK, but was convinced by both Kerry and Obama to not sign with AIIB.  Or how about Canada's interest in AIIB?  But beware, any nation caught so much as looking in the wrong direction may end up like Venezuela and be labeled a "threat".  It might also help to have some historical context here as well...

chinese

 

and...

ChinaWall

Just recently I watched Dragon Blade with Jackie Chan and John Cusack, a great movie.  Jackie plays the commander of an elite unit that protects the Silk Road, while throughout the movie there were many conflicts amongst the various nation states.  The overall theme was obvious to me (maybe not so much to the US administration), China realizes that if it wants its dream of the Silk Road to come true, we must have Peace.

ChineseCurrency

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