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Venezuela: Radicalizing the revolution

Facing a deep economic crisis, a ruthless oppositionist bloc in the National Assembly, and protesters in the streets, Maduro seems to have handled it correctly and has radicalized the revolution. But he must go further.

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Stephen Hawking: Trump 'is a demagogue'

Professor Hawking claims that Trump “is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator."  The traditional association of a demagogue is one who seeks power by appealing to people’s lowest emotions.  But how about a cold and scientific look at the actual policy proposals and plans?  And does Hillary not appeal to the gender factor as the main reason why people should vote for her? Trump supports American jobs and opposes more endless wars. Hillary supports American corporations and more wars.  So is the method in which Trump seeks to get elected worse than the actual proposals he offers? Are not almost all politicians demagogic as they seek to appeal to the public through populist means? (Obama created false hope in seeking to get elected). Even if migration were to be limited, are countries not entitle to limit migration or must they face sex attacks by Middle East migrants as in Germany? Hawking also argues that “Gone are the days we could stand on our own, against the world. We need to be part of a larger group of nations, both for our security, and our trade." But Britain in the EU means it will be exposed to mass migration from the Middle East which has already been hitting continental Europe, so how does EU improve UK’s security? And trade deals cannot be decided by London but must pass through Brussels, so where is UK’s freedom to make the best deals? Hawking says that staying in the EU “promotes the mobility of people. Students can come here from EU countries to study, and our students can go to other EU universities." But that will be held true even if Britain exits as students can easily be granted study visas.  If UK would gain control over its borders, people could continue to come, the only difference would be that UK can decide if it wants young brains to whom visas can be given, or radical jihadists who will come in without asking.

Kurds: Peshmerga target Mosul in advance on ISIS territory

Why are the Kurds interested in Mosul? It is a multiethnic city with a Sunni majority, the second largest in Iraq, which lies outside Kurdistan.  The Caliphate was declared there by al-Baghdadi. Aziz Ahmad in The Atlantic (No Kurds will Die to Restore Iraqi Unity, May 28) argued that the Peshmerga demand greater financial assistance and arms from the Iraqi government, and autonomy for Sunnis in the Mosul area. The battle for Mosul with US support is, therefore, the battle to fragment Iraq further and strip Baghdad of its power, while turning the once unified country into a series of mini-states within a federation. In March, Iraqi forces made gains in villages to the east of Mosul, around Makhmour, but they failed to take over Mosul. The US has been pressuring the Iraqi army to join forces with Kurdish Peshmerga to retake Mosul. The US estimated that between 20,000-25,000 soldiers would be needed to retake Mosul while Stratfor estimated that as many as 40,000 soldiers would be needed. The key to retaking the city, which is a Sunni hotbed of extremists, would lie in cutting off its support lines. US has placed pressure on the Iraqi government also to allow Turkish soldiers to enter the war against ISIS while Iraq has been worried about Turkish intrusions. However, US has ruled out cooperating with the effective Shiite mobilization units although their fighters are Shiites of Iraq and not foreigners. The recapture of Mosul where 9,000 ISIS fighters are estimated to be living would probably not begin before next year. And doing so would require US pressure on the Iraqi government to divulge power with the latter unlikely to concede easily unless faced by numerous terrorist attacks. For now, the Iraqi government has been withstanding pressure to divide the country. A key test is a coming battle in Fallujah and the success of the joint Shiite-Sunni effort.

Snowden's Leaks an Act of 'Public Service,' Holder Says

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took issue with “the way” Snowden exposed information. But what actually happened to those who worked through the traditional channels and revealed wrongdoings to their superiors? Thomas Drake, a senior NSA person who complained about wrongdoings by the NSA to his superiors, discovered that telling the truth to his superiors will not solve the problem. He was arrested, charged with severe crimes, his superiors lied to a federal judge and withheld information from the court, and he faced financial ruin. He later found a job as a simple worker at an Apple store with his reputation destroyed (The Guardian, “How the Pentagon punished NSA whistleblowers”). John Crane, a Pentagon official whose job was to protect whistleblowers found to his shock that he was eventually prosecuted himself. He was made to resign in 2013. (The Intercept, Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga). According to Mark Hertsgaard, Snowden learned from the mistakes made by Drake and that was what saved him. Hertsgaard told The Intercept: “When people look at Edward Snowden, he’s the most famous. What they don’t realize is just how exceptional he is. He actually got his message out and he lived to tell the tale. … That is highly unusual. In most cases, whistleblowers pay with their lives to save ours.” Next year, results of a new Department of Justice investigation into how the Department of Defense treats whistleblowers will become public. One should be forgiven for not holding his breath, but Holder  should examine how past whistleblowers were treated before suggesting that Snowden “harmed American interests.”  

Israel Parliament Approves Avigdor Liberman as Defense Minister

Lieberman is likely to take on a pragmatic position and collaborate with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.  However, he is far more likely than any other Israeli minister to be flexible on the question of Israeli support for terrorists in Syria, assuming he is assured that special measures will be taken to ensure that South Syria, especially the area close to Israel, won’t be taken over by Hezbollah or Iranian forces. He is likely to be more pragmatic than people realize while at the same time trying to forge better ties with Russia. Obama as a lame duck cannot prevent Israel and Russia from forming closer ties as elections are near. If Trump gets elected, the ties can be strengthened, while if Hillary gets elected, Lieberman and Netanyahu are likely to face intense pressure on a so-called peace process. However, it remains to be seen what Lieberman will do when faced with US pressure, whether he will cave right away or whether he will find a way to maneuver. In the meantime, the fact that Russia will be returning to Israel a tank taken during a June 11, 1982, battle in Syria during which three Israeli soldiers were taken captive is a positive sign, as it would probably not be done without the approval of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In my opinion, Lieberman is willing to be very pragmatic but has zero tolerance for terrorism and wishes to have agreements based on mutual respect. Therefore, a grand bargain with Syria and Hezbollah with Russian supervision is more possible than an agreement with the Palestinians (the latter have not been proven reliable in the past, have continued to carry out terror attacks, and are not a unified stable actor). The path to such a grand bargain lies through small but steady confidence-building measures. Also, the Netanyahu government is far more stable than critics realize and is here to stay. However, US is may be placing pressure on the Israeli court system to pursue criminal investigations against Netanyahu.

Reports: North Korea Is Preparing for Missile Launch

The inter-range ballistic missile launched is the Musudan or BM-25.  It was launched approximately four times this year without success, although it was introduced in 2010. Talks in Japan on June 1 will be held between officials from the United States, South Korea, and Japan. North Korea attempted to launch the missile despite these scheduled talks. The missile developed by North Korea closely resembles the Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile R-27 Zyb (known by NATO as the SS-N-6). The BM-25 can be launched from a mobile position and therefore the location of its launching and preparations for it are nearly impossible to detect.

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