Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Leftist victory in Greece threatens continuation of EU sanctions against Russia

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Developing

See

Julia Smirnova und Boris Kalnóky, “Mit Tspiras hat Russland einen neuen Verbündeten; Die neue griechische Regierung verfügt über bemerkenswert enge Kontakte nach Moskau; Premier Tsipras fordert schon lange ein Ende der Sanktionen, Außenminister Kotzias ist ein Fan von Putins Guru,” Die Welt, 28. Januar 2015.

It appears that, as a result of the election of a leftist government in Greece on Sunday, January 25, Vladimir Putin may now have secured a blocking veto within the 28 members of the EU.

EU countries at present can only adopt economic sanctions by unanimous consent.

Consequently, a Greek veto could block renewal of the sanctions against Russia, which come up for re-authorization between March and September, 2015. This would occur even as Putin continues his illegal occupation of the Crimea and his ongoing military invasion and intervention in the eastern Ukraine, with Russian troops, armor and material.

This latest development demonstrates that Merkel’s and the EU’s austerity demands on Greece were too harsh, producing unexpected and sharply counter-productive consequences.

Even if the sanctions are eventually renewed, the battle within the EU is likely to be limited to re-authorizing existing sanctions, rather than adopting new and harsher sectoral sanctions in response to Puutin’s latest military moves in the Donbas, particularly against Mariupol.

Our current political leaders don’t seem to understand a fundamental truth: Everything is connected. We need leaders of great strategic vision, but have none.

The new Tspiras government, as a party, has been a strong critic of EU santions against Russia. Its top keaders are reported to have close ties to Moscow.

The EU voting requirement urgently calls out for a constitutional change, if Europe is ever to become an effective actor in the world. Yet even if there were support for changing the voting requirements–highly dubious at present– it could take years to adopt and implement any such changes.

Mr. Putin turns out to be a much better chess player than the pacifists and appeasers who lead the West. Many of them, including Barack Obama, don’t seem to have looked at the chessboard in over a month.

Moreover, it seems never to have occurred to them that they need to develop a strategy to take a queen, and even a king.

The Trenchant Observer

Russian-Ukrainian war update: Putin’s perfidy in full view, as war intensifies

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

For a comprehensive overview of the current military situation in the Eastern Ukraine, see

MICHAEL WEISS, JAMES MILLER, “LANDBRIDGE TO CRIMEA: PUTIN IS WINNING THE UKRAINE WAR ON THREE FRONTS,” The Daily Beast, January 26, 2015.

Putin’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, signed an agreement in Berlin with the Ukraine on January 21, 2015, to withdraw heavy armor from the demarcation line agreed in the Minsk Memorandum.

At the same time, Russian troops and armor were moving into the eastern Ukraine and launching a new offensive by the so-called “separatists”, including attacks on Mariupol, the gateway city for the conquest of a land-bridge linking Russia and rebel territory in the Donbas to the Crimea.

Russia’s perfidy at Berlin recalled its perfidy at Geneva on April 17, 2014, when it agreed to halt the takeover of government buildings in the eastern Ukraine, as they intensified.

Both agreements were no more than propaganda ploys. Russia under Putin can never again be trusted. Negotiated agreements are meaningless.

Putin agreed to the Minsk Protocol on September 5, 2014 in an effort to weaken or forestall the EU “stage 3″ sanctions agreed also on September 5, and finally put into force on September 12, 2014.

Putin has repeatedly and brazenly violated the Minsk Protocol, which is at the moment all but a dead-letter.

It could be useful if it were included in a new U.N. Security draft ruesolution which would be put to a vote.

Putin’s military aggresion must be stopped now, and rolled back.

Weapons and training for the Ukraine can help stop further advances by Russian troops and their “separatist” puppets, together with new and much harsher sectoral economic sanctions.

Over time, as these sanctions are intensified — if they are — they can also bring Russia to negotiating a way out of its current occupation of the Crimea, conquered by force in violation of Article 2 paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter.

Whether the pacifists and appeasers who lead the United States and Europe can put aside their illusions and deal effectively to halt the greatest military threat to Europe since 1945 is, at best, an open question.

Whether Barack Obama, who has checked out from leading the foreign policy of the U.S., can find his way back to the office and engage on foreign policy, is also an open question.

The future of NATO, and perhaps eastern Europe, hangs in the balance.

The Trenchant Observer

Negotiating with terrorists: Merkel’s proposal for a broad economic zone with Russia and its friends

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

See

“Ukraine-Krise: Bundesregierung lockt Russland mit Handelszone; Zur Belohnung gäbe es eine Wirtschaftskooperation: Die Bundesregierung hat laut Medienbericht dem russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin eine Handelszone angeboten, um ihn zum Einlenken im Ukraine-Konflikt zu bewegen,” Der Spiegel, 23 Januar 2015 (9:25 Uhr).

How could Vladimir Putin have the slightest respect for Angela Merkel and the EU?

He just signed an agreement with Ukraine in Berlin on January 21 to withdraw heavy weapons from the demarcation line established in the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, reached pursuant to the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

At the same time he was sending additional Russian troops and armor into the eastern Ukraine and launching attacks against the Ukrainian forces in a major offensive. His puppet, Aleksandr Zakharchenko announced he would not talk to Kiev and that the separatists were launching major offensives to liberate all of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of Ukrainian forces, flouting the Berlin agreement, the September 19 memorandum, and the Minsk Protocol itself.

The response of pacifist Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Angela Merkel was to propose to Putin a large duty-free area joining the EU and Putin’s customs union.

The only possible conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing is that Steinmeier and Merkel are not only pacifists and appeasers, but also idiots.

How stupid do the Europeans think they have to be in order to win favor from the mighty aggressor and dictator, Vladimir Putin?

Is it a good idea to negotiate with terrorists?

Is it a good idea to negotiate with aggressors who are at that very moment intensifying their aggression and invasion of the eastern Ukraine?

With these clowns leading Europe, one can expect the sanctions regime against Russia to start falling apart as early as March, and Putin to intensify his invasion of the Donbas and to broaden it further to other regions, including the establishment of a land corridor to the Crimea.

Against clowns like Steinmeier, Merkel and the Europeans, why not?

What is holding him back?

They don’t seem to understand.  Appeasement doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with Putin for the last year. It won’t work with him this coming year. Or ever.

Will European leaders ever get it?

If not, will their peoples ever get it?

If they don’t, why not simply hold a formal ceremony dissolving NATO, and surrendering to Mr. Putin whatever territory he wants?

Forget international law and the United Nations Charter. Forget human rights in the Donbas and Russia, and anywhere else for that matter. Those are things that Steinmeier and Merkel obviously do not believe are worth fighting for.

If Merkel sees it differently, she has but one alternative: fire Steinmeier, appoint a strong foreign minister, and if necessary call elections to decide whether Germany will follow a policy of appeasement or one of containment of Putin and Russia.

Stop talking to the Russians with words.

Speak to them with actions, including great intensification of sectoral economic sanctions against them.

For starters, ban them from using the SWIFT international payments system, and act forcefully to move the venue for the 2018 FIFA World Cup to some country other than Russia.

Appease and surrender, or get real about effective containment of Russia.

The Trenchant Observer

Poroshenko interview in NZZ; agreement to withdraw heavy weapons from Minsk September 19 demarcation line

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Developing

Vladimir Putin acting, through his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, reached an agreement in Berlin this week under which Russian “separatists” in eastern Ukraine would  withdraw heavy weapons from the demarcation line agreed to on September 19 pursuant to the terms of the Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.

Meanwhile Petro Poroshenko stated in an interview with the Neue  Zurchner Zeitung that two tactical battalions of Russian soldiers had moved into the Donbas regiob of the Ukraine, and that according to his intelligence officials some 8,000-9,500 Russian soldiers were inside of Ukrainian territory in the Donbas.

Russia is also reported to have some 500 tanks in the eastern Ukraine.

The day after the agreement, news reports spoke of a sharp increase in the fighting.

See

(1) Christian Weisflog, “Petro Poroschenko im Interview
«Starke Armee ermöglicht politische Lösung»,” Neue Zurchner Zeitung, 20. Januar 2015, 15:13 Uhr.

(2) David Blair, “Russia sends 9,000 troops into Ukraine, says Petro Poroshenko; This deployment of Russian forces would be the biggest since the crisis began,” The Telegraph, January 21, 2015 (6:27PM GMT).

(3) “Ukraine und Russland vereinbaren Abzug schwerer Waffen; Beim Krisentreffen in Berlin haben sich die Außenminister auf die Einhaltung einer Demarkationslinie geeinigt. Frank-Walter Steinmeier sieht ‘wahrnehmbare Fortschritte’,”, Die Zeit, 22. Januar 2015 (Aktualisiert um 03:53 Uhr).

(4) “UKRAINE-KRIEG: Kämpfe laut Nato so intensiv wie vor Friedensabkommen
Seit September haben die Kämpfe nach Angaben der Nato deutlich an Intensität gewonnen. Insgesamt wurden seit April 5.000 Menschen getötet, teilte die OSZE mit, Die Zeit, 22. Januar 2014 (17:29 Uhr).

(5) David M. Herszenhorn, “Ukraine Cedes Donetsk Airport to Rebels as Fighting Continues,” New York Times, January 22, 2015.

Analysis

1. With respect to the Ukraine, Putin has never kept his word or honored his agreements, such as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the Minsk Protocol, or the April 17 Geneva agreement.

2. Deceit and surprise military moves are part of his modus operandi.

3. The January 21 agreement in Berlin may be yet another subterfuge to confuse his opponents while he launches another assault on the Donbas, or broadens the war beyond that region.

4.  The West, including the EU, NATO and the U.S. shouldnow adopt a new round of real, hard sanctions and military decisions ondeploymentson the eastern front.

5.  Putin never backs down in the face of threats.

6.  He and Russia must be contained. Economic sanctionsshould be sharply strengthened. NATO should immediately deploy troops to the eastern front, and suspend or abrogate the 1997 NATO-Russia partnership agreement.

The West faces an existential threat from Putin and Russia.

It is time to wakeup and abandon the pacifism and appeasement demonstrated to date, and to begin to defend the democratic civilization of Europe, the U.S. and other countries.

It is time to take effective action that will lead Russia to end its occupation of the Ukraine.

It is time to uphold the international legal, political, and economic order of the U.N. system, the U.N. Charter norm prohibiting the threat or use of force across international frontiers, and the human rights of the citizens of the Donbas and the Crimea.

The Trenchant Observer

 

Obama absent from Charlie Hebdo march in Paris: Tone-deaf, incompetent Obama administration brings shame on America

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Developing

See

(1) Uwe Schmitt, “Darum fehlte Obama beim Millionenmarsch in Paris; Die ranghöchste Repräsentantin der USA beim Trauermarsch war die Botschafterin. Viele Kritiker der US-Regierung meinen, Präsident oder Vizepräsident hätten in Paris mitmarschieren müssen,” Die Welt, 12. January 2015 (22:14).

(2) Editorial, “Our flag was not there: Obama and America shamefully skip Paris march against terror
The U.S. fails to join the whole world in standing by France,” NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, January 11, 2015, 7:42 PM A A A

(3) Dan Friedman, Adam Edelman, Ginger Ann Otis, “Eric Holder, top U.S. officials no-shows at Paris unity rally; The U.S. attorney general, in Paris for a terrorism summit with French President Francois Hollande, did not join world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the march and rally that drew a million people days after 12 were shot at satirical paper Charlie Hebdo. Others such as Obama and Vice President Biden were also not in attendance,” New York Daily News, January 11, 2015 2:18 PM ( Updated January 12, 2015, 9:50 AM).

(4) Alain Salles et Yves-Michel Riols, Le monde défile à Paris contre la terreur djihadiste,” Le Monde, 12 Janvier 2015
(à 12h53; Mis à jour à 15h31).

There are some moments for a world leader when it is important to stand up and be counted. Such a moment occurred on Sunday in Paris.

Some 44 world leaders attended the massive demonstration of support for the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris, on January 11, 2014, in what was the largest demonstration in France since World War II. On January 7, its leading cartoonists and editors were gunned down at its offices in a massacre that claimed 12 lives.

This was the French equivalent of 9/11.

The number one absentee was Barack Obama.

If ever there was an occasion where the President’s presence and solidarity were needed, this was it.

Obama, sitting atop an incompetent foreign policy team in the White House which micromanages and controls every aspect of the nation’s actions and policies in the world, didn’t see the significance of going.

Or even of sending Vice President Joe Biden to Paris.

Or even of charging outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris, to represent the United States in expressing its condolences and its support.

The highest U.S. official to attend the demonstration was the American ambassador to France.

To be sure, the President delivered a beautiful speech on freedom of expression at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012.

See “Words and Deeds: President Obama delivers eloquent defense of free speech and democracy at U.N. General Assembly (with text and video links),” September 29, 2012.

Obama has spoken many beautiful words on foreign policy issues. But his actions are what will be judged by historians looking at his record.

It is actions that count, not words.

And no amount of self-justifying, after-the-fact explanations can change the facts: Barack Obama was not there.

Nor was Vice-President Joe Biden.

Not did even Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris, represent the administration at the demonstration.

One suspects that some kind of crude political calculation, at whatever level, was behind these decisions to effectively shun the Charlie Hebdo demonstration. Perhaps Obama and his team were afraid of offending someone.

This, after all, was the reason given by the New York Times for not reprinting the cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, despite the fact that without seeing the cartoons it is hard to understand what the whole debate over giving offense is all about. Many other leading newspapers, whether out of fear of giving offense or simply fear itself, similarly decided not to republish the cartoons.

One fact remains: Obama did not go to Paris, or send any other high level representative of his administration to represent the United States at the demonstration on Sunday.

There are two years and eight days until the next president of the United States is to be sworn in, and before there is likely to be any hope for competence in the execution of U.S. foreign policy.

It is going to be a long wait.

The Trenchant Observer

Civilization falters, as Russian aggression stands and Islamic terrorism explodes

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

The Charlie Hebdo massacre by Islamic extremists on January 7 underlines the failure of the West and other civilized countries to win the struggle in Muslim and other societies to control the violent extremists who, wearing jihadism as a cloak, wreak havoc upon the world.

Samuel Huntington’s warning of a “clash of civilizations” has become a reality, though its effects perhaps may yet be abated.

The U.S.and other countries have resorted to drone strikes outside the Afghan theater of dubious validity under international law. They have committed torture, and refused to bring those responsible to account.

Meanwhile, the defense of civilization on other fronts falters, as Russian troops stand astride their booty in a war of aggression, the Crimea, Russian-occupied territory of the Ukraine.

Civilization is falling apart, as the West no longer defends its deepest values. Russia occupies the Crimea and has forces in the eastern Ukraine, while French President Francois Hollande calls for an end to sanctions against Russia, two months before they must be renewed by the European Union.

President Barack Obama has stood by while 200,000 Syrians have been killed, seemingly unmoved by their suffering. The cost of that indifference is high, as suggested by Turkey’s turning away from the West.

What is to be done?

Something tells us we cannot kill all the young Muslims who are drawn to the terrorists’ cause, veiled as it is in Muslim religious belief.

Something tells us we cannot win the war against jihadists by using drones, by secret “black” prisons, by torture, or by simply trying to kill them faster than they are formed. We cannot win a war based on a strategy of cutting off the tentacles of a hydra-headed monster which gains strength from our very efforts to kill it.

Driving from the back seat, Obama has wrecked the world. Or at least failed to act effectively to correct its downward course.

No one has the answers, as few even ask the right questions.

There are no leaders. Civilization falls apart.

The Trenchant Observer

The Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, and the torture trail leading to Abu Gharib

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

See

ANDREW HIGGINS and MAÏA de la BAUME, “Two Brothers Suspected in Killings Were Known to French Intelligence Services,” New York Times, January 8, 2015.

Higgins and de la Baume report on the background of one of the suspects, who appears to have been radicalized by anger over U.S. torture at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq, as follows:

Chérif’s interest in radical Islam, it was said at the 2008 trial, was rooted in his fury over the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, particularly the mistreatment of Muslims held at Abu Ghraib prison.

While there can be no excuse or justification in any sense for the abhorrent acts of terrorism that took place in Paris, there may be an important insight to be gained. Aside from the moral dimension of torture, it appears that debates over its efficacy must now be much more broadly framed.

The Trenchant Observer

Torture is an issue which defines America as a nation

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Draft

We now have the published Executive Suumary of the Senate Select Committee on Inteligence Torture Report. In one of Senator Diane Feinstein’s finest acts of public service, of which there have been many, she demonstrated great courage in rebuffing the efforts of intelligence officials and even the Obama administration itself (as evidenced by John Kerry’s call to her the Friday before the report’s publication) to “delay” publication of the report (until the Republicans took over the Senate and could kill it).

By standing up to defend the Constitution and Rule of Law in the United States, Senator Feinstein offered the nation’s citizens a new “Profile in Courage”–particularly important for the generations that will lead America in the future.

One cannot read the report or even reports of its contents, which reveal new forms of torture such as “rectal feeding”, without experiencing deep disgust and shame over the actions of  the United States.

For over two centuries America had been “the shining city on a hill” that served as a beacon of hope for all those in the world who were subjected to torture and other atrocities, or the fear that selective terror can instill in broader populations.

America has a long and difficult road ahead if it is ever to regain its honor and moral purpose.

Those responsible for the policies and acts of torture under the Bush administration must be brought to justice, as required by the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Americans must examine their own individual responsibility, both moral and political, for the crimes of torture that were committed in their name.

Will that happen?

One day perhaps.

But for Barack Obama, the clock is ticking. He now has less than two years to act to restore the nation’s honor by removing those complicit in torture from high offices in his government, and by moving seriously to prosecute those responsible for the policies and acts of torture committed in the past.

Barack Obama, free from electoral pressures, needs now to think deeply about his place in history.

Will he be the president who evaded his legal obligation to prosecute those responsible for torture, or the president who restored the honor and moral purpose of the nation?

Each path is clear. Which will he take?

What will history have to say about Barack Obama and torture?

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE II—A prayer for the children of Syria

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

First published December 24, 2012
REPRISE published December 25, 2013

Prayer for an Alawite Child

I understand,

Just like me, you want to be happy,
Just like me, you want to be free of pain,
Just like me, you want to be loved,
Just like me, you want to be free from anxiety,
Just like me, you want to be free from fear,
Just like me, you want to know peace.

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you know peace.

Prayer for a Sunni Child

I understand,

Just like me, you want to be happy,
Just like me, you want to be free of pain,
Just like me, you want to be loved,
Just like me, you want to be free from anxiety,
Just like me, you want to be free from fear,
Just like me, you want to know peace.

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you know peace.

Prayer for a Christian Child

I understand,

Just like me, you want to be happy,
Just like me, you want to be free of pain,
Just like me, you want to be loved,
Just like me, you want to be free from anxiety,
Just like me, you want to be free from fear,
Just like me, you want to know peace.

May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you know peace.

And let us say the same prayer for all of the children, of all of the other minorities, of Syria.

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: Christmas reflections—What Obama has taught the American people about Syria

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

First published on December 25, 2013

We owe it to the people of Syria to pause for a moment, on this Christmas Day, and bow our heads in shame for what we, the nations of the civilized world, have not done to protect them.

In this regard, the burden Barack Obama will bear in history not only for his inaction, but also for blocking the actions of others, is enormous.

Since 2011, he has taught the American people that the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity is no longer a matter of grave concern.

He has taught the American people not to act to stop the horrors of Syria, but instead to look the other way.

He has eased any discomfort they might have felt by using the military to make the political argument that using force to halt the atrocities in Syria would be hard.

He has spoken many words about Syria, and offered many explanations of this or that turn in U.S. policy.

In thinking about Obama and what historians will have to say about his policy of inaction toard Syria, however, readers might usefully bear in mind what Theodore Roosevelt had to say when he accepted the 1907 Nobel Peace Prize, about words and deeds:

“International Peace”

We must ever bear in mind that the great end in view is righteousness, justice as between man and man, nation and nation, the chance to lead our lives on a somewhat higher level, with a broader spirit of brotherly goodwill one for another. Peace is generally good in itself, but it is never the highest good unless it comes as the handmaid of righteousness; and it becomes a very evil thing if it serves merely as a mask for cowardice and sloth, or as an instrument to further the ends of despotism or anarchy. We despise and abhor the bully, the brawler, the oppressor, whether in private or public life, but we despise no less the coward and the voluptuary. No man is worth calling a man who will not fight rather than submit to infamy or see those that are dear to him suffer wrong. No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality.

Moreover, and above all, let us remember that words count only when they give expression to deeds, or are to be translated into them (emphasis added). The leaders of the Red Terror2 prattled of peace while they steeped their hands in the blood of the innocent; and many a tyrant has called it peace when he has scourged honest protest into silence. Our words must be judged by our deeds; and in striving for a lofty ideal we must use practical methods; and if we cannot attain all at one leap, we must advance towards it step by step, reasonably content so long as we do actually make some progress in the right direction.

[Footnote] 2. The “Terror” is a term characterizing the conduct of power in revolutionary France by the second committee of Public Safety (September, 1793-July, 1794), sometimes identified as the “Red Terror” to distinguish it from the short-lived “White Terror”, which was an effort by the Royalists in 1795 to destroy the Revolution.

–Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, delivered May 5, 1910.

Whenever President Obama speaks of Syria, let us remember these words from Teddy Roosevelt.

Let us also, on this Christmas Day, at least not forget to think of the people of Syria, and to say a prayer that some leader or leaders in the world will find the courage not to talk of peace, but to act with force to halt the Syrian government’s ongoing commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale.

See also the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

“Syria: As Christmas approaches, the assault on civilization continues,” December 22, 2013.

“60,000 killed in Syria—REPRISE II: The Olympic Games, and the Battle for Aleppo, Begin—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #91 (January 2, 2013),” January 2, 2013.

“The Leopard and the Impala: Putin astutely plays Obama for a chump,” September 12, 2013.

“Moral cowardice in Europe and elsewhere: Bad-faith arguments on Syria by Germany and other countries lacking the courage to act,” September 6, 2013.

“Hommage à Homs: Jacques Prévert, “Barbara” (with English translation); Paul Verlaine, “Ariette III”,” February 25, 2012.

“REPRISE: A prayer for the children of Syria,” December 25, 2013.

The Trenchant Observer