THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: TERRORISM

THE 2016 DEMOCRAT PLATFORM’S FOREIGN AND NATIONAL SECURITY POSITIONS: TERRORISM

By

Harry C. Blaney III

This is another text on foreign and national security platform of the Democratic Party with commentary with this post we have covered all but one of the more major issues in the platform. Climate change and environment will be posted shortly.

TEXT OF 2016 DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM

Terrorism

We must defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and their affiliates, and prevent other groups from emerging in their place. Democrats will continue to lead a broad coalition of allies and partners to destroy ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria. We will press those in the region, especially the Gulf countries and local forces on the ground, to carry their weight in prosecuting this fight. We will dismantle the global network of terror, which supplies terrorists with money, arms, and fighters, and stop them from recruiting and inspiring potential radicals. We will improve our intelligence capabilities, with appropriate safeguards here at home, and ensure that the intelligence community and law enforcement is prepared to deal effectively with the threats we face. We will harden our defenses as well as those of our partners against external and homegrown threats. We will secure the homeland, investing more resources to improve mass transit, aviation, infrastructure, and port security. And we will remain a resilient nation, always coming together to stand up to terror.

Democrats will seek an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that is more precise about our efforts to defeat ISIS and that does not involve large-scale combat deployment of American troops.

As we prosecute the fight against terrorism, Democrats will repudiate vile tactics that would do us harm. We reject Donald Trump’s vilification of Muslims. It violates the religious freedom that is the bedrock of our country and feeds into ISIS’ nefarious narrative. It also alienates people and countries who are crucial to defeating terrorism; the vast majority of Muslims believe in a future of peace and tolerance. We reject Donald Trump’s suggestion that our military should engage in war crimes, like torturing prisoners or murdering civilian family members of suspected terrorists. These tactics run counter to American principles, undermine our moral standing, cost innocent lives, and endanger Americans. We also firmly reject Donald Trump’s willingness to mire tens of thousands of our combat troops in another misguided ground war in the Middle East, which would only further embolden ISIS. There is nothing smart or strong about such an approach.

COMMENTARY:

Much of this text on terrorism followers the main elements of the policies and strategy of the present administration. As a general summary of the approach makes much sense and there has been much success in such areas as taking ground from ISIS and in denying money and other resources to ISIS. It has become writ that we expect the states of the region play a more prominent role in the defeat of ISIS.

This today is exemplified by the recent August 24th attack by Turkish forces including planes and tanks against ISIS terrorists along Turkey’s Syrian border in the area of the town of Jarablus. What is unsaid is to what degree this will impact our need to have the Kurdish forces that are key to defeating ISIS, taking on Assad, and also their role of actions against terrorists in Iraq. The press reports that American planes are supporting the Turkish advance but Turkish leaders have made clear they will attack Kurdish force if the advance into territory near Turkey. That makes for a very complex situation. The Jarablus town is only 95 kilometers from the key city of Aleppo. It is understood that Turkish backed Syrian rebels are working in cooperation with the Turkish forces.

Aleppo and success in Iraq may become a key indication of the success or failure of the joint American lead coalition strategy of destroying ISIS but it is also a very complex and difficult terrain both in military and political grounds. There are some six groups in Syria involved with different motives and alliances. Within the city are forces against Assad which are besieged by pro-Assad army forces, Hezbollah fighters, Iranian troops, and Iraqi Shia militia and even it is said Russian “contract soldiers.” The unknowns are first, the possible Russian response, second, the possibility of a clash between Kurd led forces and others allied with them largely supported by the US coalition, and Turkey’s own objective of destroying or limiting the Kurd power in the region near their border.

Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) are also in the fight and are made up of mainly but not solely of Kurd fighters. This mix of anti-Assad groups which have not always compatible goals makes for a high level of uncertainty of the outcome of the current fighting.

In the end, the test of the current American and allied strategy must be a Syria that is secure, a new government of all groups without Assad in control, and where terrorist do not hold large areas. At the moment the Kurdish and other Arab forces against Assad have taken the critical town of Manbij and want to advance further North and West including towards the Jarablus which could create a threat to both Turkey and Syrian rebels made up largely of Kurds if they engage each other and destroy the unity of the moment. Not least is the role North of Aleppo of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which plays a role in the defeat of ISIS and is backed by the anti-Assad coalition.

At this moment with the contending forces now fully engaged are creating an even more complex military and political situation with anti-Assad forces diminished yet still strong with Russian support. But a danger is some of these other anti-Assad forces might engaged with each other in a fight over territory and control of large areas and create still more instability. At this point American diplomacy will be key and the need for some kind of accommodation between forces is necessary to end the conflict and stabilize the region. The key today today is what will the region look like the day after ISIS is essentially defeated in both Syria and Iraq. It clearly will not stop all terrorism.

It is hard to argue with the platform idea of protecting our homeland and that of our allies against acts of terrorism. Here key specifics are missing.

Not least also in an anti-terrorist effort is the war in Iraq against ISIS which is also may be coming to some kind of unknown of conclusion but the goal of an Iraq that is untied between Sunni and Shia and Kurds and this will not happen just by defeating ISIS. This issue will be examined in another post.

The second part of the platform on terrorism reaffirms that this is not a war on Muslims, that Trump’s idea of making unlimited war is wrong, and that the idea of sending large numbers of American troops wold be counterproductive. On these stances I see no problem and are compatible with Obama’s perspective and strategy. But the presidential campaign needs to correct some of the false and dangerous assumptions and strategies by Trump that are dangerous to a true “win” over terrorism and for America’s leadership on this and other issues.

We welcome your comments!

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EUROPE, GREECE & AMERICA AT A CROSSROAD: WE NEED A BROADER VISION!

EUROPE, GREECE & AMERICA AT A CROSSROAD: WE NEED A BROADER VISION!

By

Alan Berlind

It is hard to read the daily press coverage of the Greek financial crisis and the increasingly ugly public bickering between officials of the leftist regime in Athens and the conservative guardians of fiscal responsibility at the European Union without wondering how they can all keep a straight face while pretending that money is all that counts. This is not the space and this blogger not the man for a close and expert examination of the financial arguments put forward by the debtor and creditor. Leaving that to The Economist (April 25) and others, let us take a look at the political game being played on all sides and the very serious consequences of failure to reach a deal that (a) subjects neither Greece nor its current leadership to shame and poverty, that (b) saves face as well for national leaders in Germany, France and elsewhere, that (c) preserves full membership in the Eurogroup as currently constituted, that (d) enhances the position of the EU itself as a major actor on the world stage, and that (e) offers no gifts to either Russia or Turkey. The United States stands to gain from such a result and lose considerably from failure.

There is no question but that Greece has experienced a long run of domestic political turmoil responsible in large part for the economic hole in which it finds itself today, beginning a half-century ago with the military coup d’état of April 21, 1967. It must be added at once, however, that acquiescence followed by more active support in Washington back then and over the succeeding seven years was a welcome gift to those seeking to deal a death blow to democracy in its birthplace. As it had been since the end of WWII, the US was the major source of foreign influence in NATO member Greece, but President Lyndon Johnson slapped the new “government” of colonels on the wrist with a mild reduction in military aid and turned the other way, and successor Richard Nixon, advised by Henry Kissinger, was more than comfortable having a military dictatorship as an ally for another four years. In 1974, however, those colonels, with no apparent objection from their American fans, tried to incorporate independent Cyprus into the Hellenic homeland. Reacting swiftly, the Turks invaded and left more than 30,000 Turkish troops in place, still in place today as a more enlightened US administration works hard to forge agreement among Turkey and the two ethnic Cypriot communities on an independent, non-occupied bi-zonal federation.

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen makes a strong argument for a reasonable compromise between unreasonable senior financial negotiators from Greece, the stressed but combative debtor nation, and other EU and Eurozone nations seemingly bent on punishing a noisy leftist government unable to repay excessive loans. Cohen wrote on April 24: “Despite a brutal fiscal adjustment, the fact remains that Greece’s debt is not repayable …. At some point there must be debt forgiveness; the cost of stupid loans has to be recognized. Or there may be a Greek default. The worst outcome for Europe would be a Greek exit from the euro. Joining the shared currency, for all the nations in it, was an ‘irrevocable’ decision. Once one country goes, the whole edifice wobbles. Markets are not sentimental about probing weakness. The constant question will be, ‘Who’s next?’ “

It is crystal clear that the question of overriding concern in Cohen’s view is the future of Europe rather than the angry, spiteful bickering over who’s to blame mentioned at the start. As he convincingly puts it, Europe today is “a borderless market of more than half a billion people between whom war has become impossible …. a continent where entitlements including universal health care are seen not as socialist indulgence but basic humanity …. it (Europe) has delivered peace above all, prosperity however frayed, and freedom to former inmates of the Soviet imperium. It has also created an awareness of European identity that falls short of European patriotism but is nonetheless a counterweight to the primal nationalism that stained the continent with so much blood”.

Whether it is Greece, the Eurozone, the EU itself or the US that stands to benefit most from a halt in the warfare that has driven the negotiations underground, there is a new light at the end of the tunnel: the recent news from Athens that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reorganized his team so as to remove Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis from the negotiating table without relieving him of his policy responsibilities. It is to be hoped that tempers will no longer override diplomacy at the table and threaten all parties with a result that serves nobody. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

We welcome your comments!

THE DEBATE: THE WAR HAWKS VERSUS OBAMA – THE LESSON OF KOBANI

Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby briefs reporters on the latest developments in the fight against ISIS, Oct. 21, 2014 (Photo: Department of Defense)
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby briefs reporters on the latest developments in the fight against ISIS, Oct. 21, 2014 (Photo: Department of Defense)

By Harry C. Blaney III

There has been a great effort by many commentators (in the media and politicians) about how our strategy to degrade and defeat ISIS (known also as Islamic State) has already failed. Most of these saber rattlers have an ax to grind against the current administration or have a desire to push their own interests, rather than a long-term perspective of what this struggle is in reality and recognition that this is a long game and military action is but one tool.

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THE DEBATE OVER ISIS AND AMERICA’S ROLE: “BOOTS OR SUPPORT”

US Navy F/A - 18 Super Hornet refueling midair after conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq (Photo: Department of Defense)
US Navy F/A – 18 Super Hornet refueling midair after conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq (Photo: Department of Defense)

By Harry C. Blaney III

The Washington Post Editorial in its October 8th edition titled, “A straitjacketed war,” got it largely wrong. They have a long history of advocating a military solution to far too many problems that require more than a knee-jerk, kinetic response. They have criticized President Obama because he “has ruled out such ground personnel despite requests from our military.” They have criticized his “restrictions” on commanders and said they are not compatible with the objectives. On the contrary, they are keeping with our objectives which are not to make this a unilateral fight and endanger our troops unnecessarily, but play a key role with others. This includes Iraqi troops and the new coalition members, specifically Arab nations, in battling ISIS. This is not an easy task.

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Cyprus in the News – but Where?

By: Alan Berlind

The most senior and most important American visitor to Cyprus in half a century, Vice-President Joseph Biden, arrived in the country on May 21. In public statements – and surely in his meetings with Cypriot officials – Biden made absolutely clear the United States’ position concerning the matter of sovereignty and the country’s importance to the United States, both in general terms and with respect to its role as a strategic partner in the future of energy production and distribution. That Biden had by his side a senior U.S. energy official underscored the last point. Continue reading

A CYPRUS SOLUTION

A CYPRUS SOLUTION

by Alan D. Berlind

Forty years after an attempted Greek coup was met with a Turkish invasion that seized some 40% of the Republic of Cyprus and left some 40,000 Turkish troops on the island, there are signs that a reunification may be in the cards, reportedly with active backing from Washington for reasons strategic, political and commercial.  Several other countries have more than a passing interest in a resolution of this long-standing problem, from which the European Union (EU) as a body would also profit.

A brief history is in order, if only because “rethinking national security” must include acknowledging the past along with planning the future.  The Greek coup attempt of 1974 was the work of a Greek military/police regime that had seized power in 1967 with the lame excuse of pre-empting election of a leftist government in Athens.  That takeover had met with minimal disapproval – a cut in military assistance – from the government of President Lyndon Johnson and none from the latter’s successor, Richard Nixon, or his chief foreign policy guru, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.  Nevertheless, the regime was losing strength by 1974, which it hoped to recover by incorporating Cyprus into the Greek state.  Turkey, not about to see the Turkish-Cypriot minority swallowed up by its Aegean enemy, did not wait long to send in the troops.  The British Foreign Secretary at the time, James Callaghan, has written that he tried but could not get Kissinger, by then his counter-part, on the phone to discuss the problem.  The latter, we were to understand, was just too busy with various tasks following Nixon’s resignation in disgrace to devote time to Cyprus.

A proposed settlement, labeled the “Annan Plan” after United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan, was put to a vote in Cyprus in 2004 but was overwhelmingly and vengefully, defeated by Greek-Cypriots comfortable with the fact that Cyprus had already been assured entry into the EU regardless of the outcome, while Turkish-Cypriots voted in favor.  Over the succeeding decade, a determination by leaders of both communities to try again, combined with a perception of hard national interests in several other countries and persistent diplomatic efforts from various quarters, not least among them the current administration in the United States (U.S.), has led to agreement on new negotiations between the two Cypriot communities aimed at the restoration of a single universally-recognized sovereign state, with issues of domestic governance to be agreed between the two parties.

Of those “hard national interests” mentioned above, none is more important than the additional and alternative sources of energy being pursued world-wide and the discovery beneath the waters in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone of potentially massive supplies of natural gas, for either export (sale) by pipeline as is to nearby markets or by container as liquefied natural gas (LNG) further abroad.  Following exploration and findings by the American firm Noble Energy, a tri-partite Memorandum of Understanding has been executed with Total of France and Eni of Italy foreseeing joint exploitation and the establishment of a plant in Cyprus for the production of LNG.  Initial exploration has also revealed the existence of gas beneath waters shared by Cyprus and Israel, opening up the possibility of sales to energy-poor Turkey and an improvement in Israeli-Turkish relations, which have been in a parlous state for five years.

No less important than the resource question, the sine qua non of Turkish EU membership, still being pursued by Ankara, is the end of Turkish occupation of EU-member state Cyprus.  That the Turks understand this was best stated in an interview by Turkish Ambassador to Athens Kerim Uras: “The key to solving the Cyprus problem is natural resources and the key to the candidacy of Turkey to the EU is the solution of the Cyprus problem.”  Of course one cannot rule out Turkish tactical tinkering with the process to the very end as Ankara assesses the benefits of EU accession and weighs the importance of opposition thereto on clearly ethnic grounds within France, Germany, The Netherlands and Scandinavia.  EU membership aside, Greek-Turkish relations in general and disputes over longstanding Aegean issues in particular cannot but be eased by success in the Cyprus negotiations.  Nevertheless, those Aegean issues raise the matter of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed by all EU members and the EU itself (the only non-state party), but  rejected most prominently by Turkey and Israel, the former owing to UNCLOS’ full support of the Greek positions in the Aegean.  (The Israeli position is unrelated.)

On the diplomatic front, the U.S. Department of State has apparently been leading the way, with a recent visit to Nicosia by Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland and another by Secretary John Kerry rumored for this Spring.  Clearly, President Barack Obama has been convinced that a Cyprus settlement would serve the interests of the U.S. and its friends and allies in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond.  Most important, however, has been the apparent determination on both sides of the Cypriot divide and in the capitals of their Greek and Turkish champions to find a mutually acceptable formula for unity.  Leading the way have been Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish-Cypriot opposite number, Dervis Eroglu.  Leaving aside the unhelpful but normal partisan griping on both sides, the level of mutual understanding can be seen in the recent announcement that the chief negotiators will be visiting and conferring with the most interested outside governments this month: the Greek-Cypriot negotiator in Ankara, and his Turkish-Cypriot opposite number in Athens.

An agreement will take time but is in the works, and all interested parties stand to benefit substantially if Cypriots and Turks and Greeks, having learned from the past, succeed in launching a new era of cooperation and progress.

END

NOTHING IS EASY: ISRAEL, TURKEY, RUSSIA, CYPRUS, THE EU (AND US NATIONAL SECURITY)

  The heralded and most welcome rapprochement between American friends and allies Turkey and Israel will need, as is normal, some time before it bears fruit.  As reported from Ankara by the Associated Press on March 24, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been cautious in presenting his agreement with Israeli counterpart Netanyahu to his domestic constituency, along the lines of “actions speak louder than words”.  (At the same time, Netanyahu has been sharply attacked for apologizing for the 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla by his former Foreign Minister Lieberman.)  There is nothing remarkable about a leader protecting himself at home from charges of weakness in dealing with “the enemy”, and Erdogan’s announced intention to visit Gaza and the West Bank in the near future need not upset the substance of the agreement.  Let us hope that is so but not disregard the warning signals in the AP report, worth repeating here in full.

          QUOTE:  Associated Press ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested “normalization” of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations.

Erdogan’s comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.

But in a public address Sunday, Erdogan suggested there would be no quick restoration of ties.

“We have said: ‘an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” he said. “Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry.”

The statement was largely seen as effort to ease concerns of his religious and pro-Palestinian support. Erdogan has won praise both at home and the Arab world for his criticism of Israel and for breaking off ties with the Jewish state over the flotilla raid.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey’s Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.

Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.

During Friday’s conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu said Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into Gaza and the Palestinian territories and this would continue as long as “calm prevailed.”

But Israeli military officials have taken to punishing Gaza residents for breaches of a November truce. Since Thursday, in response to militant rocket fire from the territory, all movement through a civilian crossing between Gaza and Israel was cancelled, except for humanitarian cases. Gaza fishermen had their permitted fishing territory restricted and a commercial goods crossing was shut down, according to Israeli rights group, Gisha.

Netanyahu said Saturday concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile were the motivating factor in restoring ties with Turkey. He said the two countries, which border Syria, needed to communicate with each other over the issue.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said he plans to travel to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “within the month, in April.”  END QUOTE

     Where do the other parties named in the title of this post fit in?  Turkey has occupied some 40% of Cyprus going on 40 years, proclaiming the existence of a “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.  Such an entity has never been recognized by any country in the world, Israel, Russia, all EU members and the US prominent among those that have refused.  In May 2012, Turkish jet fighters challenged an Israeli plane hovering near a gas and oil exploration region off of Cyprus, a challenge based on Turkish defense of the “rights” of the fictional republic.  A year later, Turkey continues to challenge the right of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus to explore for energy resources in its exclusive economic zone, an exercise it has been conducting in cooperation with American, Israeli and other partners.  Moreover, it has been reliably reported that Russia, which currently supplies EU countries with well more than a third of their gas supplies, has been pressuring the Cypriots to let the Russian gas giant “Gazprom” into the bidding as the price of helping Cyprus out of its desperate financial dilemma.  Figures indicate that the exploitation of Cypriot gas by, among others, French and American companies could potentially reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian supplies.

     According to the French newspaper Le Monde of March 23, the Russians have been making another, equally important, proposal to the Cypriots in exchange for Russian financial help: the provision of a naval base for Russian warships.  With continued use of Syrian port facilities out of the question, Russia will be left with no berthing or basing rights in the Mediterranean, leaving Cyprus as the only feasible option.  (This scenario was hinted at, perhaps foreshadowed, in a post of July 23, 2012 headlined “Cyprus, Russia, Syria, America, the EU, Turkey et al”, which reported the docking of two Russian Black Sea Fleet warships in the Cypriot port of Limassol – and not, it must be mentioned, in the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta.)

  NOTHING IS EASY.

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