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Eric Margolis

Nuclear Chicken in the Mideast

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To no surprise, nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers have become stalemated.

Iran will not sink “to its knees” to win a nuclear deal with the great powers, said its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after the failure of six months of talks in Vienna.

However, the talks will continue until at least next March. Pity the poor negotiators: besides being excruciatingly boring, dealing with the tough, savvy Iranians is like pulling teeth. The only nationality I ever saw get the better of Iranians in negotiations were Armenians.

The United States has been waging economic and political warfare on the Islamic Republic since 1979. Only Cuba has been pounded longer. Both have suffered hugely.

Of late, Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians have been murdered in broad daylight. Nuclear installations have been sabotaged. The Stuxnet virus allegedly unleashed by the US and Israel against Iran’s centrifuges risked a catastrophic explosion or the release of nuclear contamination. In neighboring, Iraq, some 300 of its former nuclear technicians and scientists have been mysteriously murdered during the US occupation.

Iran’s economy has been very seriously damaged by the US-led boycott and commercial restrictions. Iranians are suffering mounting inflation, shortages of goods, and a collapsing currency. Iranians are fed up being the target of western sanctions.
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No Good War; No Bad Peace

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A full century after World War I we still cannot understand how generals sent so many soldiers to be slaughtered. Ten million soldiers died on all sides; millions more were left maimed or shell shocked. Seven million civilians died. 20 million horses died.

The image we have of hapless soldiers being forced to climb out of their sodden trenches and attack across a hellish no-man’s land pock-marked by water-filled shell holes, deep mud, thickets of barbed wire and rotten bodies is quite accurate for the Western Front. Waiting for them were quick-firing guns, heavy artillery, the greatest killer or all – machine guns – and, later, poison or burning gases, and flamethrowers.

How could the generals of that era have been stupid enough to send waves and waves of their soldiers to almost certain death? Trench warfare in the West quickly became siege warfare in which decisive victories became almost impossible.

Only in the East did the brilliant German generals Hindenburg and Max Hoffman achieve a war of movement in which they destroyed two Russian armies attacking East Prussia. Their triumphant battles at Tannenburg and Masurian Lakes were partly based on Hannibal’s battlefield tactics at Cannae in 216 BC.
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Hong Kong Boiling — But Gently So Far

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Hong Kong is at a gentle boil. As of this writing, tens of thousands of students have been politely demonstrating, calling for the Beijing-appointed chief executive, C.Y. Leung, to resign and be replaced through free elections.

Politics don’t often divert Hong Kong’s manic obsession with business and finance, but the upsurge of youthful discontent has presented China with one of its biggest popular challenges since the 1989 Tiananmen uprising – which China insists never happened.

So far, China’s Communist Party and its tough new boss, Xi Jinping, have stood back and taken no serious action to curb the peaceful demonstrations. Now, however, protest leaders are threatening to seize government buildings unless Beijing drops plans to select Hong Kong’s new government in 2017. This is a direct challenge to Beijing’s national authority.

Considering that Beijing is ruthlessly crushing protests by Uighur Muslims in its strategic westernmost province of Xinjiang, Hong Kong’s demands for true autonomy and self-rule come at a particularly difficult time for the Communist Party which is feting its 65th anniversary of taking over China.
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Syria/Iraq/Afghanistan: As Bad As a Crime, a Blunder

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Having nearly provoked war over Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia, the Obama administration has now launched a full-scale crusade in Iraq and Syria against the evil Saracens of ISIS.

America’s aerial might, including B-1 heavy bombers, is plastering ISIS miscreants. Washington’s Arab allies and rightwing governments in Canada and Australia have joined the fray. The British will be next.

ISIS reserved particular venom for the French, referring to them as “dirty, spiteful” French (the Brits will love this one) whose warplanes joined the bombing crusade.

The new plan seems to be: “Kill’em all and let God sort them out,” a Vietnam-era slogan echoing the original from the Middle Ages.

The real problem is that the White House’s strategy looks like it’s being run by two angry women, Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power. Neither they nor President Barack Obama seems to have any grasp of military or geopolitical strategy. It’s amateur hour driven by a frenzy of alarmist hysteria from politicians and the media.
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NATO vs. ISIS?

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NATO has struck in Iraq. Or, more precisely, two French Rafale warplanes bombed a storage depot in northern Iraq believed to be used by ISIS.

Washington cheered the French attack as the first wave of NATO military operations against the new enemy du jour, ISIS or the Islamic State. French president Francois Hollande, whose abysmal popularity ratings are now lower than Robespierre’s, butcher of the French Revolution, was elated by his show of machismo even if French voters were not.

What the French were really doing, of course, was show-casing their new Rafale fighter. There’s nothing like bombing Arabs to sell military hardware, as Israel has long shown.

Paris has been desperately trying to sell the Rafale, which is a very capable aircraft, to the Gulf Emirates, Saudi Arabia and India. Delhi signed an order for 126 Rafales in 2012 but has yet to implement it.
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