Straining to be Anti-Iran

by Paul R. Pillar* – Lobelog

The Trump administration is bending over backward to be, and to sound, hostile and confrontational toward Iran.  This effort to flaunt a role for itself as a dedicated enemy of Iran has roots in the same factors that underlie the more widely established anti-Iranism in the United States, staying ahead of which is clearly an administration objective.  These factors include a troubled history highlighted for Americans by the hostage crisis of 1979-81.

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One million dead* (and that´s if it doesen´t go nuclear)

*Minimum predicted casualties

The batteries of North Korean artillery lie just on the other side of the divided peninsula’s demilitarized zone. There are thousands of them—some hidden, others out in the open. Artillery shells are stored in an elaborate network of tunnels; and though much of the weaponry and ammunition is old, U.S. forces stationed in South Korea have no doubt they would be effective.

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The North Korea-Trump Nightmare

Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

President Trump is scary in many ways, but perhaps the most frightening nightmare is of him blundering into a new Korean war.

It would begin because the present approach of leaning on China to pressure North Korea will likely fail. Trump will grow angry at public snickering at the emptiness of his threats.

At some point, U.S. intelligence will see a North Korean missile prepared for a test launch — and it may then be very tempting for a deeply frustrated rogue president to show his muscle.

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Bannon Down, Pentagon Up, Neocons In?

by Jim Lobe –

The apparent and surprisingly abrupt demise in Steve Bannon’s influence offers a major potential opening for neoconservatives, many of whom opposed Trump’s election precisely because of his association with Bannon and the “America Firsters,” to return to power after so many years of being relegated to the sidelines. Bannon’s decline suggest that he no longer wields the kind of veto power that prevented the nomination of Elliott Abrams as deputy secretary of state. Moreover, the administration’s ongoing failure to fill key posts at the undersecretary, assistant secretary, and deputy assistant secretary levels across the government’s foreign-policy apparatus provides a veritable cornucopia of opportunities for aspiring neocons who didn’t express their opposition to the Trump campaign too loudly.

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Yemen, World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisis

By Baher Kamal

ROME, Apr 19 2017 (IPS) – With 18.8 million people –nearly 7 in 10 inhabitants– in need of humanitarian aid, including 10.3 million requiring immediate assistance, Yemen is now the largest single-nation humanitarian crisis in the world, the United Nations informs while warning that the two-year war is rapidly pushing the country towards “social, economic and institutional collapse.“

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Somerdale to Skarbimierz

James Meek follows Cadbury to Poland

How to explain Poland’s swing against the European Union? How to explain the election of the Catholic fundamentalist, authoritarian, populist, Eurosceptic Law and Justice Party to rule a booming country that has benefited from more than €130 billion in EU investment in its roads, railways and schools, a country where only a few years after EU accession in 2004 hundreds of foreign factories and distribution centres opened, employing hundreds of thousands of people, a country whose citizens have taken advantage of EU freedom of movement to travel, work and study across the continent in their millions? If Britain is straining the EU by leaving, Law and Justice’s Poland is straining it by staying, attacking the EU’s contradictory institutional positions – its promotion of human rights, its secularism and multiculturalism, its belief in state welfare, its embrace of mobile capital – with contradictory positions of its own. The typical Briton is slightly poorer now than before the financial crash, almost a decade ago; that might not be the EU’s fault, but at least there’s something to find a scapegoat for. The typical Pole, by contrast, is half as rich again.

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Why Is British Prime Minister Theresa May Calling for a Snap General Election Now?

By Josh Lowe  – Newsweek

Ever since Theresa May took over from David Cameron as British prime minister last July, pundits have wondered why she didn’t call an early general election.

On Tuesday, May finally decided she would,  announcing that she would seek a snap election on June 8. She needs the backing of two thirds of members of parliament to do so, but can count on her own MPs and, a statement from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggests, those of the opposition. “We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain,” Corbyn said.

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Democracy Loses in Turkey


The best thing that can be said about Turkey’s constitutional referendum is that many voters — 48.7 percent of those casting ballots — opposed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s most outrageous move yet to solidify his autocratic rule. Mr. Erdogan, who had expected to win 60 percent of the vote on Sunday, lost the major cities of Ankara and Istanbul. His legitimacy was further eroded by allegations of voting irregularities from international monitors.

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Has Trump Lost Control Of The Pentagon?

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge 

Via The Saker, [4]

The Pentagon’s more aggressive military approach

Here is a short timeline of the Pentagon taking the presidential commander-in-chief power from Trump.

The ultimatums came on March 1.

On March 1, 2017 the Atlantic’s article “Trump and the Generals” [5]

announced that Trump’s military leaders “increasingly sound like they’re working for a different president altogether.

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Erdogan entrenches himself

Editorial – The Guardian

Narrow victory in a referendum is taken as legitimising the destruction of Turkey’s democratic institutions

It is no exaggeration to say Turkey has entered a daunting and unpredictable new chapter in its political history as a result of last Sunday’s referendum, which narrowly approved the introduction of sweeping constitutional changes granting its president, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, unprecedented and wide-ranging powers. If implemented, these reforms will all but recreate Turkey as a sultanate, almost a century after Ataturk founded the republic on the ruins of the Ottoman empire.

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Making the future possible again

Boaventura de Sousa Santos*

When we look at the past through the eyes of the present, we find huge cemeteries of abandoned futures, struggles that inaugurated new possibilities but were neutralized, silenced, or distorted, futures murdered at birth, or even still-born futures, contingencies that determined the winning choice later ascribed to the course of history. These abandoned futures are also buried bodies, often bodies committed to wrong or useless futures. We worship or execrate them depending on whether the future they aspired to coincides with what we want for ourselves or not.

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Did You Know that the Oceans Have It All?

By Baher Kamal

ROME, Apr 13 2017 (IPS) – Perhaps you are not aware enough of the fact the oceans have it all! What is “all”? Well, oceans have from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth, from the colourless to the shimmering, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet. Who says that?

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US drops largest ever non-nuclear bomb on Isis affiliate in Afghanistan, military says

Spencer Ackerman in New York and Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul –The Guardian

GBU-43/B, known as the ‘mother of all bombs’, dropped for the first time, to target ‘tunnel complex’ used by Islamic State in Khorosan

The US has dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on Afghanistan, the US military said on Thursday.

To target what the military described as a “tunnel complex” used by the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, the US for the first time used what the military colloquially calls the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43/B.

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The Unbearable Cost of Drought in Africa

By Baher Kamal

ROME, Apr 12 2017 (IPS) - Nearly 50 per cent of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is due to natural disasters, with advancing droughts significantly threatening both livelihoods and economic growth, warns the African Union through its ground-breaking extreme weather insurance mechanism designed to help the continent’s countries resist and recover from the ravages of drought.

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Assad vs Regime of Warring Jihadis

by Graham E. Fuller* – Lobelog

How should we understand U.S. President Donald Trump’s cruise missile barrage last week against a Syrian airbase? In one sense, it might be a tactical triumph for his administration: cruise missile attacks are popular with the American public as a form of retaliation, and they diverted attention from domestic political wrangling. It demonstrates for the first time the president’s willingness to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin on a key issue. It also demonstrates presidential “resolve” during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, and it sends a message to North Korea. Finally, it provides a one-time shot across the bow of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. These are useful gains for Trump, as far as they go.

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Hungary’s government wants to shut down its most prominent university. That may be backfiring.

Analysis, By Henry Farrell – The Washington Post

When Hungary’s government passed a law last week which was effectively intended to shut down Budapest’s Central European University, it surely anticipated that there would be a backlash. It probably did not anticipate mass demonstrations, or senior European politicians threatening to suspend Hungary’s membership of the European Union. Here is how Hungary’s government has gotten into this mess.

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On Syria, an Administration in Disagreement With Itself


A weekend of official explanations for President Trump’s airstrikes on a Syrian air base has only deepened the confusion over his intentions, next steps and the legal basis for his unilateral use of force in the middle of that complicated, intractable civil war. The administration will have to do better than this.

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