Category: political struggle
Picasso’s Guernica Stands as Lasting Symbol of War in New Show

Picasso’s Guernica Stands as Lasting Symbol of War in New Show

  • A man looks at Spanish artist Pablo Picasso

    A man looks at Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece ”Guernica” at Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum, April 3, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 April 2017
 http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Picassos-Guernica-Stands-as-Lasting-Symbol-of-War-in-New-Show-20170426-0009.html

  

“Picasso’s painting seems to live on, indispensably, as a protest against the lie of collateral damage,” the exhibition’s curator said.

Eighty years after the bloody air raid on the Spanish town of Guernica that drove Pablo Picasso to paint a masterpiece, a new exhibition in Madrid highlights the enduring relevance of his depiction.

Adolf Hitler sent aircraft in support of Francisco Franco’s nationalist forces to strike the Basque town on the afternoon of April 26, 1937, killing as many as 1,600 and wounding hundreds.

The show at the Reina Sofia museum, the painting’s home since 1992, includes newspaper photographs of the destruction which the Spanish artist saw at home in Paris, and drew on in the black-and-white oil painting.

“Guernica” was commissioned for the Spanish pavilion at Paris’s World Fair in 1937.

Rosario Peiro, head of collections at the Reina Sofia, said that while researching she had seen a photograph of an image of “Guernica” on display in the Syrian town of Aleppo.

“It addresses a system of destruction and terror which sadly is very much a part of our lives,” Peiro told Reuters. “It is so hard to fathom, you never really stop thinking about it.”

Versions of the image have been produced at times of conflict in places from Afghanistan to South Carolina, exhibition curator Timothy James Clark said.

South Korea Presidential Frontrunner Pledges to Review Divisive THAAD Deployment

Politics

Get short URL
8125665
https://sputniknews.com/politics/201704291053133974-south-korea-thaad-review/

Moon Jae-in, the leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election in South Korea, is determined to reassess the controversial deployment of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system since it “did not follow a democratic procedure,” his press team said in a statement seen by Sputnik Korea.

“The THAAD deployment is an issue that must be decided by the next administration based on close discussions with the US and a national consensus, and approached with the best national interest in mind. Since this is an issue of great impact to our national security and comes with great economic costs, it must be ratified by the National Assembly as per the Constitution,” Yoon Kwan-suk, a spokesman for Moon Jae-in said.

The press office also commented on United States President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Seoul should pay for the deployment of a system worth $1 billion.

“The Liberty Korea Party, Bareun Party and the Ministry of National Defense have until now argued that the US will bear the cost of the THAAD operation,” the press office said. “If the reports are true, it is now clear that the decision to deploy the THAAD had a major flaw to begin with.”The statement urged senior politicians in the former ruling party, as well as high-ranking defense officials, to disclose the details of the deal between Washington and Seoul on THAAD.

On Wednesday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said that components of the THAAD system have been deployed to their intended destination in the North Gyeongsang province. Washington has said that the move comes in response to North Korea’s muscle-flexing, but Jeong Uk-sik, the president of the Peace Network NGO, told Sputnik that THAAD will also be targeted against China.

“Undoubtedly, [Washington] has indicated that the US missile defense system must be alert not only to North Korea, but also China,” he said, citing the testimony made by Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, during a hearing at the House Armed Services Committee.

“Harris’s report clearly shows that US Pacific Command has fostered closer ties with Japan, South Korea and Australia to create a comprehensive missile defense system based on THAAD and the radar deployed to South Korea is one of its links,” the analyst added. “As a result, THAAD and the radar are targeted not only against North Korea, but also China since they are links of a single US missile defense system.”China has been opposed to the THAAD deployment, saying that the move “seriously undermines” strategic security of Beijing and other countries in the region.

Never miss a story again — sign up to our Telegram channel and we’ll keep you up to speed!

More Against Trump: Huge Climate Change Marches Against President’s Policies
Demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2017, during a demonstration and march.

More Against Trump: Huge Climate Change Marches Against President’s Policies

© AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Environment

Get short URL
528121
https://sputniknews.com/environment/201704291053143178-climate-change-march-against-trump/

People’s Climate Marches are taking place in Washington, DC, and hundreds of other locations around the globe today, one more action in an ongoing series of responses to the environmental policies of US President Donald Trump.

Coinciding with Trump’s 100th day in office, the global event, an offshoot of the 2014 global climate change march — the largest in history — is centered around the march in Washington DC, where some 200,000 marchers have taken to the streets as temperatures hover in the mid-90s.With luminaries including former US Vice President Al Gore, billionaire aerospace leader Richard Branson and Hollywood superstar Leonardo Dicaprio in attendance, the protests are seen as a continuation of the current increase in popular activism in the wake of Trump’s election.

Including heavily attended events such as the Women’s March in January and the March for Science last week — as well as multiple protests at airports to fight the Trump administration’s immigration travel ban — the level of popular activism in response to the policies of Trump’s administration is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented.

In what is considered to be the most divisive US presidency in modern times, Trump’s administration in just its first 100 days has quickly rolled back newly implemented Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding the use of fossil fuels, including coal, and introduced sweeping budget cuts. Trump also approved the hotly-disputed Keystone XL pipeline, which the administration of US President Barack Obama had formerly blocked.

Trump is undoing everything Obama did. He doesn’t realize climate change impacts everyone. It impacts him. Change is inevitable, and only we can solve it — the impact is just changing the way we live,” said a marcher, according to CNN.

Although official tallies are not currently available, police put the number in the hundreds of thousands in Washington, DC, and in cities across the globe, tens of thousands more are said to be participating.

A Painful Anniversary

A Painful Anniversary

– from Zoltan Zigedy is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

Exactly ten years ago this past April 7, I posted an article on Marxism-Leninism Today entitled Tabloid Political Economy: The Coming Depression (for those who missed it, it is reproduced below). It was my first and only attempt at economic prognostication, always a challenging and risky venture. The “Tabloid” in the article’s title was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the headline in the April, 2007 issue of a now defunct supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News. Featured between Virgin Mary Slaps Boy and Jews Invented Pizzoh was the shrill admonition: Surviving the Next Great Depression! It’s Coming This Summer!

It didn’t come in the summer of 2007.
In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued to climb seemingly with no limit, reaching a new peak in the fall of 2007. The pundits continued to extol the virtues of unbridled capitalism.
While the folks at WWN built their case on scant evidence (“Skyrocketing gas prices, escalating war, crashing housing prices, calamitous weather and freefalling stock prices…”), there were many other good reasons to take their prediction seriously, reasons which I offered in my article. Unfortunately, the print edition did not survive to see the collapse that rocked the foundations of the global capitalist economy the following year. Nonetheless, the zany supermarket tabloid proved to be far more prescient than the Nobel laureates, academics, and popular pundits who postured as learned economists yet never saw the collapse coming.
Ten Years On

The global economy never fully recovered from the crash of 2008. Instead, it has stumbled along from one setback to another, with economic growth only marginally topping population growth. When both the enormous loss of wealth from the crash and the obscenely unequal distribution of the wealth recovered since the crash are configured, it is fair to say that the vast majority of the world’s population have seen little or no recovery. In fact, the casualties from the crash continue to pile up.

The US economy is neither healthy nor without serious symptoms. Despite the market euphoria that surprisingly accompanied the Trump election, the Atlanta Federal Reserve has lowered its growth expectations for the first quarter to .5% from an earlier forecast of 3%. Other projections have similarly dropped.
For three months in a row, since January, durable goods orders (excluding volatile transportation orders) have dropped. Industrial production fell .1% in January and was unchanged in February. Factory output dropped .4% in March from February and was only up .8% from a year earlier.
Bank loan growth has slowed.
Retail sales slowed by .3% in February and .2% in March. Inflation, as a measure of consumer demand, dropped .3% in March. Retail stores are closing in unprecedented numbers and retail employment growth has slowed.
Sales of new cars– the principal driver of consumption growth since the crash– has fallen for three straight months. Auto dealers are now offering buyer incentives that are greater than the labor costs of production (labor costs are less than $2500 per car, on average). Incentives account for 10.5% of average sticker price ($31, 435). Yet the average car sits for over 70 days on the lot.
Used car prices were down 8% in February, another sign of declining demand. And auto loan defaults are on the rise.
The US trade gap– the difference between imports and exports– reached a 5-year high in February.
In stark human terms, the US economy is failing working people. Between January 2016 and January 2017, average hourly earnings slipped .1% and the hours of the average workweek dropped .3%. This calculates to a .4% loss in real average earnings for those twelve months.
With reduced earnings, more and more workers are drawing on their retirement savings: 20% of 401(k)s have been reduced through self-loans.
Not surprisingly, household debt in 2016 grew the most in a decade. Unlike in the lead-up to the crash, mortgage debt is growing modestly, still below the explosive growth rate of that time. Instead, the growth in debt is in credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. Auto loan debt has reached $1.2 trillion, while student debt has risen to $1.3 trillion.
Student debt is particularly crippling. There are 42 million outstanding loans. The average student loan debt jumped from $26,300 in 2013 to $30,650 in 2016. Defaults went from 3.6 million in 2015 to 4.2 million in 2016.
And senior citizens are saddled with growing debt as well. In 1998, 30% of people 65 and older were in debt. In 2012, the percentage of seniors in debt reached 43.3. Growing debt comes in the wake of the collapse of net worth since 2005, when it topped $300,000 among those 55 to 64. By 2013, average net worth within that group dropped to $168,900 (even below the net worth of $175,300 reached in 1989).
Talking heads and media “experts” hail the job market. But they seldom delve deeply into its performance. Put simply, capitalists are hiring additional workers, rather than purchasing labor-saving equipment, because labor is cheap and flexible. The failure of organized labor to defend or advance labor’s relative position has served as a disincentive for capitalist investment in new technologies and equipment. They see no need to do so, when labor power can be used on demand, with no restrictions, and at low costs.
That trend is clearly reflected in the most recent period’s historically poor growth in productivity, among the lowest periods of productivity growth since the Second World War. Contrary to the widespread hawking of the idea that most workers are in danger of being replaced by robots, corporations are showing little interest in the introduction of new or old technologies. They are spending very little on equipment. While the technology may be there, capitalists have shown little need for it, given low labor costs.
As Shawn Sprague shows in a recent BLS paper, since 2009 the growth of aggregate hours-worked has grown more quickly than the growth of non-farm business output. This fact demonstrates that US capitalists feel little pressure to “save” labor while restoring profits during the so-called “recovery.” Rather than having existing workers work more hours, they are hiring more workers at low wages and contingently. Profits rebounded nicely because the working class had been slammed by the downturn, rendering the employment costs so low that there was no need to invest in labor-saving equipment.
This harsh truth has been ignored by economists and labor leaders alike because it shows the complete bankruptcy of class collaboration as an approach to social justice for workers.
US capitalists have enjoyed a decade of low labor costs, no pressure to invest retained earnings, and high profits (corporate after-tax profits dipped in 2015, but came back smartly in 2016). By securing labor power at low costs, they have foregone the purchase of labor-saving instruments and achieved modest growth by expanding employment. Today, capital is profoundly afraid that, with reduced unemployment, competition for labor power will drive up the costs of labor and erode profits. The Trump tax change package, favorable to corporations and the repatriation of profits, is one ruling class response to this anticipated problem.
Despite the return of an overheated housing market with escalating prices (lagging new construction is fueling demand), no systemic accumulation crisis comparable to that of 2007-2008 appears on the immediate horizon. Instead, the post-collapse era of stagnation and deteriorating living standards continues for the working class. As the shrinking income and mounting debt of working people erodes aggregate consumption, the possibility of a business cycle contraction grows more and more likely. The long, tepid expansion transferred nearly all its gains to the wealthy few, leaving little but debt or asset cannibalization for the majority. With declining retail sales, especially auto sales, and the growing weight of personal debt, the likelihood of further consumption growth is in doubt.
A business cycle contraction will only further weaken the position of working people, setting them up for a further dose of sacrifice and pain.
Isn’t it time to get off the capitalist roller coaster?
Zoltan Zigedy

 

What We’ve Learned 100 Days In: The Trust Deficit Is the Core Problem

AS BAD AS WE THOUGHT

What We’ve Learned 100 Days In: The Trust Deficit Is the Core Problem

The narcissism and paranoia are issues, but the biggest concern is that Donald Trump trusts no one. This will be his downfall—or maybe ours.
Gail Sheehy

Gail Sheehy

04.28.17 12:10 PM ET

In a world spinning radically out of control, can we trust President Trump to rely on his famous “instincts” as he plays brinksmanship with North Korea?

How much closer does the day of reckoning have to come on charges of collusion with Russia before he needs a war to provide the ultimate distraction?

The fundamental bedrock of human development is the formation of a capacity to trust, absorbed by children between birth and 18 months. Donald Trump has boasted of his total lack of trust: “People are too trusting. I’m a very untrusting guy.” (1990) “Hire the best people, and don’t trust them.” (2007) “The world is a vicious and brutal place. Even your friends are out to get you: they want your job, your money, your wife.” (2007)

His biographers have recorded his world view as saturated with a sense of danger and his need to project total toughness. As we know, his father trained him to be a “killer,” the only alternative to being a “loser.” He has never forgotten the primary lesson he learned from his father and at the military school to which he was sent to toughen him up still further. In Trump’s own words:  “Man is the most vicious of all animals, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.”

Trump described to Michael D’Antonio in his biography, Never Enough, his father “dragging him” around tough neighborhoods in Brooklyn when he collected rents. He always told the boy to stand to one side of the door. Donald asked why: “Because sometimes they shoot right through the door.”

Today, this man lives alone in the White House, without a wife or any friends in whom to confide, which he would never do anyway because that would require admitting vulnerability.

Leon Panetta, former CIA director and Defense chief under Clinton, stated on Fox Business Channel in February 2017: “The coin of the realm for any president is trust–trust of the American people in the credibility of that president.” In the nearly two years that Donald Trump has been in our face almost daily, he has sown mistrust in all of his Republican rivals, alienated the conservative Republican bloc he needs in the House for legislative success, ignored congressional Democrats, and viciously insulted Democratic leaders, calling them liars, clowns, stupid, and incompetent, and condemning Barack Obama as “sick” and Hillary Clinton as “the devil.” When he picks up the phone to speak to leaders of our closest allies, like Australia, he rips apart the comity built over decades. But he never hesitates to congratulate despots, like Turkey’s Erdogan, Egypt’s General Sisi, or Russia’s Putin.

As President, he is systematically shredding trust in the institutions he now commands. Having discredited the entire 17-agency intelligence community as acting like Nazis, he also dismissed the judiciary because of one judge’s Hispanic background and another’s opposition to his travel ban. Even his Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, said it was “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to hear Trump disparage the judiciary. Not content to smear the media on a daily basis, Trump borrowed a phrase used by Lenin and Stalin to brand the media as “enemy of the people.”

By his own words, Trump operates on the assumption that everyone is out to get him. The non-medical definition of paranoia is the tendency toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others. As a man who proclaims his distrust of everyone, it is not surprising that Trump drew closest to him two legendary conspiracy theorists—Stephen Bannon and Gen. Michael Flynn.

And even after he was forced to fire his choice as his top national security advisor after Flynn blatantly lied, Trump’s White House is desperately stonewalling congressional investigators to keep them from getting their hands on documents that may prove Flynn’s paid collusion with Russia on Trump’s behalf. The closer that case comes to a criminal referral to the Justice Department, the closer Trump’s survival instincts will propel him to a wag-the-dog war.

A leader who does not trust his subordinates cannot inspire trust. Though Trump boasts of fierce personal loyalty, he himself is loyal only until he isn’t. Among his anxious aides, only Jared Kushner is safe, deputized as the Trump’s de facto Secretary of State.  Where he succeeds in inspiring trust is by giving his subordinates the courage to lie. The virus of licentiousness has spread from the White House to congressional Republicans, to wit the stunt that exposed Rep. Devin Nunes as unfit to lead the House Intelligence Committee probe into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.

We hear repeatedly that Trump as a manager likes chaos. I asked a deputy White House counsel under Obama, Mike Breen, a decorated former officer in Iraq and expert on foreign policy at the Truman National Security Project, how that style impacts trust. “Trump explicitly or implicitly manages the situation so it’s never possible for his advisers to know where they stand,” Breen says. “It’s the opposite of what you want in a high-functioning organization. “ Trump’s anxious aides must know just how easy it is to fail his loyalty test, or to be the fall guy if a scapegoat is needed. While publicly they may defend him, it is clear to reporters that White House staffers are leaking and leaking constantly. The leaks can only exacerbate Trump’s mistrust, perpetuating a vicious circle.

His failure to trust and to inspire trust is even more dangerous on a global scale. He sees alliances like NATO as suspicious (until he changes his mind); he sees trade agreements like NAFTA as ripping off America (until he changes his mind three or four times in the same week). “This is because Trump’s worldview is that we live in a snake pit where everybody is out for themselves,” observes Breen. He and his co-conspiracy advisor, Bannon, take everything that the left-behind white working class hates about globalization and they turn it into personalized enemies–Muslims, Mexicans, refugees they believe are taking away their jobs. “Those people aren’t like us,” is the alt.right message, “they’re polluting our culture.”

Back as far at August 2016, 50 senior national security officials who have advised Republican presidents during wartime issued a letter starkly rejecting candidate Trump: “We are convinced that he would be a dangerous president and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being. “ They excoriated him as lacking in character and values as well as basic knowledge. What is stunning is the precision of their foresight. They predicted that Trump, “lacking belief in the U.S. Constitution,” would compromise our most precious institutions including “religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.”

In the course of his first hundred days, Trump has appeared to be increasingly out of touch with the reality in which the majority of us live. His pathological propensity to lying is not the worst of it. It’s his monomaniacal attachment to lies as transparent as his March 4 twitterstorm accusing President Obama of putting a tap on his phone. It raises the question, is this president floating in his own alternative reality?

We asked Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, the eminent former professor of psychiatry at Yale University and today at Columbia University: Is Trump an abnormal personality? “Trump creates his own extreme manipulation of reality,” he says. “He insists that his spokesmen defend his false reality as normal. He then expects the rest of society to accept it — despite the lack of any evidence.” This leads to what Lifton calls “malignant normalcy”—in other words, the gradual acceptance by a public inundated with toxic untruths until they pass for normal.

Dr. James F. Gilligan is a psychiatrist and author who has studied the motivations behind violent behavior over his 25 years of work in the American prison systems. “If we psychiatrists who have experience in assessing dangerousness, if we give passive permission to our president to proceed in his delusions, we are shirking our responsibility,” Gilligan says. Today a senior clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU Medical School, Gilligan last week told a town hall meeting at Yale, “ I don’t say Trump is Hitler or Musolinni, but he’s no more normal than Hitler.”

 We don’t have to rely on psychiatrists to see that this president is not consistent in his thinking or reliably attached to reality. We have had vastly more exposure to Donald Trump’s observable behavior, his writing and speaking, than any shrink would have after listening to him for years. So it is up to us, the American public, to call him on it. And some of the most experienced hands in and around the White House are doing so.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley believes that Donald Trump represents a very different subculture from any commander in chief. “He represents the New York building business — where you don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing,” says Brinkley. “In Trump’s world, he must win at all costs. It’s not about character or public service or looking out for your band of brothers.”

The president to whom Trump is most often compared is Richard Nixon. John Dean, the famous White House counsel who testified against his fellow conservative Republican, compared Trump to another notably paranoid president. “Nixon was two personae – in public, he would score passably on the manual’s leadership checklist: he trusted his top aides, Haldeman and Erlichman, and was trusted by his cabinet,” says Dean. “But in private, his deeply paranoid and vengeful dark side came out.”

Asked for the best example, Dean snapped, “He had zero empathy!” Just like Trump. “Nixon let 22,000 more Americans die in Vietnam [after he sabotaged the 1968 Paris Peace Talks], plus who knows how many Cambodians and Laotians and Vietnamese, all to ensure his election.” It took 40 years before Nixon’s worst crime was revealed—treason. That war president was heard on Lyndon Johnson’s tapes scuttling the Vietnam peace talks to derail the reelection campaign of the Democratic candidate. He sent a message to the South Vietnamese negotiators that they should withdraw from the peace talks and wait for Nixon to be elected, who would give them a much better deal.

Sound familiar? Fifty years later, Donald Trump’s go-between with Russian officials, Gen. Flynn, hinted to Putin’s ambassador that Russia could get a much better deal if it didn’t retaliate against Obama’s sanctions and sat tight until Trump was elected. And Trump frequently tweeted about his eagerness to lift those sanctions – until his fantasy bromance with Putin came under federal investigation. Trump’s appetite for vengeance is also matched by Nixon’s with his long “enemies list.” No two modern presidents have had a more serious case of “political hemophilia,” in the phrase of the latest Nixon biographer, John Farrell, by which he means: “Once wounded, these men never stop bleeding.”

To the dismay of even conservative observers, Trump appears totally indifferent to the truth. A Wall Street Journal editorial from March 21 denounced the damage done by “his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods,” concluding, “if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth, most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.” But merely repeating a malignant lie often enough—for five years in the case of his birther smear against the first black president—it sticks with his supporters despite proof to the contrary.

Time magazine gave Trump an opportunity to clarify his refusal to correct the long string of his falsehoods. What the March 23 interview produced instead was an astonishing revelation of the president’s thinking: He states what he wants to be true. If his statement is proven false, he is unfazed and confidently predicts that the facts will catch up with his belief: “I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right.” Even when the top sleuth in the country condemns him as a fabulist, Trump ignores the public rebuke by FBI director James Comey, and brags about his ability to persuade millions that his version of events is the real truth.

“Narcissistic people like Trump want more than anything to love themselves, but desperately want others to love them, too,” wrote professor and chair of the Psychology Department at Northwestern University, Dan P. McAdams, in The Atlantic. “The fundamental goal in life for a narcissist is to promote the greatness of the self, for all to see.”

But what is an extreme narcissistic personality like Trump to do when he fails to win glorification for his first hundred days in office? Trump, from his own writings, has shown massive hypersensitivity to shame or humiliation, “ says Dr. Gilligan, of the NYU Medical School. “Anybody who criticizes him will get a 3 am tweet.” What happens if Trump feels humiliated by being pronounced a “loser” in politics? Does he give in to his “right instincts” and fire off an incendiary tweet to the nuclear-obsessed leader in Pyongyang? Most world leaders have agreed with former South Korean President Park, who last year pronounced Kim Jong-un’s mental state as “uncontrollable.”

As Dr. Gilligan warns, “There is no evidence of sensitivity in Trump’s awareness of other people’s vulnerability.  I think everyone is in danger from this most dangerous of presidents.” When narcissists begin to disappoint those whom they once dazzled, their descent can be especially precipitous. As the biblical book of Proverbs warns: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

Beneath the grandiose behavior of every narcissist lies the pit of fragile self-esteem. What if, deep down, the person Trump trusts least is himself? The humiliation of being widely exposed as a “loser” –unable to bully through the actions he promised to accomplish in his first 100 days—could drive him to prove he is, after all, a “killer.” He has already teed up three choices for starting a war: Syria, Afghanistan, and North Korea. It is up to Congress, backed up by the public, to restrain him.

Reports: US troops deploy along Syria-Turkish border
| April 28, 2017 | 3:07 pm | Analysis, political struggle, Syria | No comments
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/chemical-weapons-team-ready-visit-syria-safety-assured-47078360

The Associated Press
OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu speeches during a ceremony marking the OPCW’s 20th anniversary in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The global chemical weapons watchdog’s ceremony comes just three weeks after dozens of people were killed in a suspected nerve gas attack in Syria. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, POOL)

U.S. armored vehicles are deploying in areas in northern Syria along the tense border with Turkey, a few days after a Turkish airstrike that killed 20 U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, a Syrian war monitor and Kurdish activists said Friday.

Footage posted by Syrian activists online showed a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles driving on a rural road in the village of Darbasiyah, a few hundred meters from the Turkish border. Clashes in the area were reported between Turkish and Kurdish forces Wednesday a day after the Turkish airstrike which also destroyed a Kurdish command headquarters.

The Turkish airstrikes, which also wounded 18 members of the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria were criticized by both the U.S. and Russia. The YPG is a close U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State group but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

Further clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria could potentially undermine the U.S.-led war on the Islamic State group.

A senior Kurdish official, Ilham Ahmad told The Associated Press that American forces began carrying out patrols along the border Thursday along with reconnaissance flights in the area. She said the deployment was in principle temporary, but may become more permanent.

A Kurdish activist in the area, Mustafa Bali, said the deployment is ongoing, adding that it stretches from the Iraqi border to areas past Darbasiyah in the largely Kurdish part of eastern Syria.

“The U.S. role has now become more like a buffer force between us and the Turks on all front lines,” he said. He said U.S. forces will also deploy as a separation force in areas where the Turkish-backed Syrian fighting forces and the Kurdish forces meet.

It is a message of reassurance for the Kurds and almost a “warning message” to the Turks, he said.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, did not dispute that U.S. troops are operating with elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) along the Turkish border, but he would not get into specifics. The SDF is a Kurdish-dominated alliance fighting IS that includes Arab fighters.

“We have U.S. forces that are there throughout the entirety of northern Syria that operate with our Syrian Democratic Force partners,” Davis said. “The border is among the areas where they operate.” He said the U.S. wants the SDF to focus on liberating the IS-held town of Tabqa and the extremist group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, “and not be drawn into conflicts elsewhere.”

Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the deployment seems limited and is aimed to “prevent fighting” between the two sides.

The U.S. has recently shifted from working quietly behind the scenes in Syria’s conflict toward overt displays of U.S. force in an attempt to shape the fight.

Last month, about 200 Marines rolled into northern Syria backed with howitzers, significantly widening America’s footprint in a highly toxic battlefield. The Marines’ deployment came days after another intervention, when dozens of army troops drove outside the town of Manbij, riding Stryker armored vehicles, following an earlier conflagration of fighting between Syrian Kurdish troops and Turkish troops. The U.S. deployment in Manbij intentionally put Americans in the middle of that rivalry, hoping to cool it down.

The SDF retook Manbij from IS control, and Turkey — with its troops nearby — said it won’t allow the town to be under Kurdish control, threatening to move on it. The American presence appears intended to reassure Ankara the Kurds don’t hold the town.

But the new deployment puts U.S. troops directly along the border with Turkey, another flashpoint, and immerses Washington into that increasingly hot fight.

Separately, the chief of the international chemical weapons watchdog said on Friday that he has a team of experts ready and willing to travel to the site of this month’s deadly nerve gas incident in Syria if their safety can be assured.

“We are willing to go to Khan Sheikhoun and we have undertaken some actions,” Ahmet Uzumcu of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told a small group of reporters in The Hague.

Syrian ally Russia has called for an international investigation into the April 4 attack that killed nearly 90 people. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this week expressed regret that the OPCW turned down the Syrian government’s offers to visit the site of the attack and investigate. Russia has rejected Western accusations that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government was behind the attack.

Uzumcu said that the area of the town of Khan Sheikhoun where the incident happened is controlled by opposition rebels, adding that the watchdog experts will “need to strike some deals with them,” such as a temporary ceasefire, to assure the team’s safety before it can deploy.

The OPCW has been extremely cautious about sending investigators to Syria since a team of its experts came under attack there in 2014. Uzumcu said the organization is in daily contact with U.N. authorities over the security situation in Syria.

The Syrian president has categorically rejected accusations that his forces were behind the attack.

Uzumcu is not yet calling the April 4 incident a chemical weapons attack, but he has said that tests by his organization have established beyond doubt that sarin or a similar toxin was used.

Other nations, however, have already labelled it an attack and blamed the Syrian government.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said earlier this week that the attack “bears the signature” of Assad’s government and shows it was responsible.

Uzumcu said his organization is not yet in a position to confirm the French findings.

The OPCW’s team is already gathering evidence from victims and survivors and testing samples outside Syria. Uzumcu said he expects an initial report to be issued in about 10 days. The initial OPCW investigation will not apportion blame — that is left to a separate investigative mechanism made up of OPCW and U.N. experts.

———

Burns reported from Washington, DC. Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

Trump Signals His Intention To Start A War With North Korea
| April 28, 2017 | 3:00 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, DPRK, political struggle | No comments

Trump Signals His Intention To Start A War With North Korea

By saying that the United States could be heading for a major, major conflict with North Korea, Trump sounded like a president who is itching to start a war.


Trump Signals His Intention To Start A War With North Korea

By saying that the United States could be heading for a major, major conflict with North Korea, Trump sounded like a president who is itching to start a war.

During an interview with Reuters, Trump said, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.”

Trump may have thought that this was more typically empty tough talk designed to enhance his negotiating position, but he took it a step beyond and added, “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”

For a president who says he’s not going to telegraph what he is going to do, Trump just did some serious telegraphing. Remember, this is an administration that is attempting to cut 2,300 jobs from the State Department. Diplomacy is not Trump’s priority.

With his domestic policy failing, and his foreign policy non-existant, the last refuge for Trump to save his president is to become a war president. During the campaign, Trump committed to not getting the US into any wars in the Middle East, but he never said anything about North Korea.

Trump is lusting for a conflict with North Korea. The Bush administration tried to out strongman the regime in North Korea, and it was a disaster. President Trump seems to be looking for more than tough talk. He wants to start a war.