Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

North Korea Rattles Saber

This looks like Kim rattling his saber to enhance his perceived bargaining position before the summit. But it could also be the whole thing falling apart.

North Korea has said it may pull out of a summit with US President Donald Trump if the US insists it gives up its nuclear weapons.

The highly anticipated meeting between Mr Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is due to take place on 12 June.

But in an angry statement, North Korea’s vice-foreign minister accused the US of making reckless statements and of harbouring sinister intentions.

Islamist Uprising in Israel as US Moves Embassy

Remember that Hamas is still a terrorist organization. They appear to be leveraging their normal process of violence to stoke international outrage against Israel.

At least 52 Palestinians have been killed and 2,400 wounded by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials say, on the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war.

Palestinians have been protesting for weeks but deaths soared on the day the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

Palestinians see this as clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part they claim.

[…]

There have been six weeks of protests at the Gaza border, dubbed the “Great March of Return” and led by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Hamas had always said it would step up the protests before Tuesday, when Palestinians hold their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May 1948.

On Monday, the Israeli military said 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in “violent riots” at 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence.

Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices while the Israeli military used snipers, as black smoke poured from burning tyres.

The health ministry, run by Hamas, said children were among those killed.

Callous Emergency Services Operator Blames Overwork

Wow. The utter lack of compassion for the dead woman is breathtaking.

An emergency services operator has said she is not to blame after she mocked a young mother who died hours after calling the service in acute distress.

Naomi Musenga, 22, called Strasbourg’s ambulance service with severe stomach pain and said: “I’m going to die”.

“You’ll definitely die one day, like everyone else,” the operator replied.

The woman – who wishes to remain anonymous – told French TV on Sunday night that she was under pressure and the emergency services were overworked.

Asked if she regretted what she had said, the operator replied: “In the conditions… let’s say it was inappropriate.

“We are constantly under pressure… I can be two or three hours hanging on my phone, I have no time to get up there’s so much [demand] everywhere,” she said. “We hang up and we pick up.”

[…]

The operator’s lawyer told BFMTV last week said that she would normally field on average 2,000 calls a day.

I hope that last stat was a typo. If not, I call BS.

Trump Promises to Help ZTE

Wha?

US President Donald Trump has said he wants to help save ZTE, one of China’s biggest telecoms companies.

The firm has suspended operations after the commerce department last month banned US companies from selling it components for seven years.

[…]

ZTE pleaded guilty to making illegal shipments to Iran and North Korea.

US commentators say the tone of the tweet is a dramatic shift for Mr Trump, who has consistently accused China of stealing US jobs.

The concession to Beijing comes ahead of high-level trade talks later this week in Washington aimed at resolving an escalating trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

[…]

In March 2017 ZTE admitted to violating US sanctions by illegally shipping American technology to Iran and Korea and was fined $1.1bn (£800m).

The current export ban was imposed last month after the company allegedly failed to comply with its agreement, lying about the punishment of employees involved in skirting the sanctions.

While the story cites the upcoming trade talks as a possible explanation for Trump’s actions, I have to think that the upcoming summit with North Korea is also in play. While ZTE is clearly breaking the rules, there are bigger issues at play.

Trump is one of the few presidents we have seen who works with everything on the table all the time. He’s willing to move things around that are seemingly unrelated in order to find a way to move his agenda forward.

Five IS Leaders Captures with App

Good!

A jubilant President Trump tweeted on Thursday to announce that five of the ‘Most Wanted leaders of ISIS’ have been captured after they were lured from Syria to Iraq with fake Telegram messages.

Iraqi officials used the cell phone of already captured ISIS lieutenant Ismail al-Eithawi to send instructions via the app for the four other leaders to come to Iraq, where they were seized.

The encrypted app was officially named by ISIS as one of its favored mobile messaging services in 2015 and has been regularly used by the terror group for private communication and to spread propaganda.

Summit set with North Korea

Progress.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore, the US president announced Thursday on Twitter.

“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th,” Trump tweeted. “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”
The summit, which has been in the works since Trump accepted Kim’s invitation to meet in March, will be the first ever meeting between a sitting US president and North Korean leader.
US officials had also considered holding the summit at the Korean demilitarized zone or in Mongolia, but ultimately settled on the city-state of Singapore as the location.

Unions are Killing Air France

For those of us who remember Midwest Express, this is a somewhat familiar tale.

Air France’s trade unions are demanding an immediate pay rise of 5.1%. That looks bearable set against profits of €1.5bn ($1.8bn) last year. But a decent-looking performance in 2017 owed much to low oil prices. Its finances are weakening fast. Mr Janaillac had warned of a big drop in profits this year. A series of 14 one-day strikes has already cost Air France at least €300m in recent weeks.

The threat of Air France’s inflated cost base swelling further scares investors, says Daniel Roeska of Bernstein, a research firm. Some Air France pilots may earn two to three times as much as those at Europe’s biggest low-cost carrier, Ryanair. Since 2012 Air France has made much less money than its rivals (see chart). Rising fuel costs, only half of which are hedged, and a squeeze on fares caused by airline overcapacity in Europe threaten to plunge Air France into the red sooner than its peers. A huge debt pile also leaves the group looking vulnerable. Ross Harvey of Davy, an investment firm, says its net debt last year (including leases) was 2.4 times gross operating profits, compared with 0.4 for Ryanair and 0.7 for easyJet and Lufthansa.

Other flag-carriers across Europe have also been squeezed, on short-haul routes by the rise of low-cost outfits and on long-haul routes by carriers from the Middle East and China. But their answer has been to slash costs to return to the black. IAG has forced through big cuts to jobs and pay at British Airways and Iberia of Spain, as has Lufthansa in Germany. Facing intransigent unions, Alan Joyce of Qantas in Australia even grounded his airline until they caved in. All have launched their own low-cost carriers to take the fight to their new rivals.

Unable to make much headway against the unions, Air France’s management chose another track. After cancelling Mr de Juniac’s proposed restructuring, Mr Janaillac launched a plan to cover the airline’s costs by improving service and by lobbying in Brussels against low-cost and Middle Eastern competitors.

The problem is that the market is shifting/has shifted. Most consumers are not willing to pay more for the “extras” in air travel. As a frequent flier, I miss the days of bigger seats, better food, and more room. But the market has spoken. And, frankly, I’m willing to pay a little more for the extras, but not a lot.

The the case of Air France, the market won’t allow them to increase their prices to a level to keep up with the costs that the unions are demanding. Fuel prices will continue to fluctuate, but the labor costs are relatively fixed. Air France is attempting to fight their competitors by asking the government to protect Air France, but that’s not working. Air France’s management have limited options and the unions aren’t willing to recognize that the market won’t allow what they are asking for.

Absent a government bailout, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Air France go bankrupt by the end of next year. Their union issues make them unattractive for acquisition or merger, so their competitors will just wait for them to fold and then pick up the pieces.

Iran Throws Tantrum

This reaction just has me even more confident that Trump made the correct choice.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader chastised President Donald Trump on Wednesday over his decision to pull America out of the 2015 nuclear deal, while lawmakers lit a paper U.S. flag on fire inside parliament, shouting, “Death to America!”

The government backlash reflected broad public anger in Iran over Trump’s decision, which threatens to destroy the landmark agreement. While Iranian officials, including the parliament speaker, say they hope Europe will work with them to preserve the deal, many are pessimistic.

In comments before school teachers, Khamenei told Trump: “You cannot do a damn thing!” The exhortation from Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, follows a pattern of Iranian leaders declaring their nation’s ability to resist foreign pressure or interference.

Khamenei described Trump’s speech as having “over 10 lies,” without elaborating on them. He also said Trump’s remarks threatened both Iran’s people and its theocratic government.

Earlier Wednesday, the lawmakers, including a Shiite cleric, held the flaming flag alight as their colleagues joined their chants. They also burned a piece of paper representing the nuclear deal and stomped on the papers’ ashes.

Pompeo Returning with American Hostages

Great news!

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that three American prisoners released from North Korea were headed home, a sign of potential good will ahead of Trump’s planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In a tweet, Trump said “the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting” were accompanying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his way back from a visit to North Korea.

Trump Pulls Out of Iran Deal

Excellent!

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump plans to follow through on his campaign threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, according to two people familiar with his thinking, dealing a profound blow to U.S. allies and potentially deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.

It wasn’t immediately clear which sanctions that were lifted under the deal might be quickly reimposed, said the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Trump has several options, and a limited move could leave him more room to potentially stay in the deal after all if other members agree to toughen it.

Take notice of the incredible bias in the AP story. Trump is following through on a campaign “threat” instead of a “promise.” He is dealing a “profound blow to U.S. allies” but no mention of our enemies. That’s just the first paragraph!

U.S. should pull out of 2015 Iran agreement

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Trump has until the end of the week, but he’ll be announcing today. Here’s the conclusion:

The 2015 Iran deal is not working. It is not preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is helping Iran by lifting sanctions and opening an economic spigot that Iran’s leaders can use to further their nuclear ambitions. The agreement has not ended Iran’s support of terrorists or tyrannical regimes. The agreement has not softened Iran’s confrontational relationship with the West or its neighbors. For all of these reasons, Trump should withdraw the United States from the agreement.

The deadline for the U.S. to withdraw is Saturday. While several of our allies are lobbying Trump to stay in the deal, the interests of our nation and the world dictate otherwise. The path to a lasting peace with Iran is through a diplomatic solution, but the 2015 agreement that Obama struck has taken us off that path.

 

Iran Threatens U.S. Over Possible Withdrawl

The “historic regret” is making the deal in the first place. Now all that is left is bad options.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that the US will face “historic regret” if Donald Trump scraps the nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Mr Rouhani’s comments come as the US president decides whether to pull out of the deal by a 12 May deadline.

Mr Trump has strongly criticised the agreement, calling it “insane”.

Progress In North Korea

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. You have to give props when props are due. Here you go:

In West Bend last weekend, there was a brat fry for the benefit of veterans of the Korean War. More than 5.7 million Americans served in the Korean War — 33,739 were killed in battle. Another 20,507 died in service during the war and 103,284 were wounded. Today, less than half of the Americans who served in the Korean War are still alive.

Given that it has been almost 65 years since that bloody war ground to a halt in a cease fire agreement, many of those Korean War veterans had likely given up hope of ever seeing the war actually end. Last week, Kim Jong Un, the grandson of North Korean tyrant Kim Il Sung, who launched the bloody war in 1950, shook hands with South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, and then stepped into South Korea to begin a historic summit that may lead to a lasting peace between the sibling nations.

That handshake did not come about by accident. It was the result of a multifaceted foreign policy effort by President Donald Trump. For all of his faults, Trump’s foreign policy has proven to be sophisticated and effective. He has advanced the interests of peace on the Korean peninsula further than any of his predecessors.

The likelihood of a lasting peace, much less the complete denuclearization of North Korea, is still slim. Kim Jong Un is a third generation dictator who is equal parts evil and crazy. His interests are rooted in his own power — not the welfare of the North Korean people or the world. In order for peace to be sustainable, Kim’s self-interest will have to be appeased and Trump will have to twist Ronald Reagan’s famous maxim to, “don’t trust and verify.”

Still, we are closer to peace than we have been for three generations and the world has Trump to thank for that. The secret to Trump’s foreign policy is no secret at all. He has returned to the more muscular foreign policy of “peace through strength” that underpinned the foreign policy of many previous administrations.

The first thing Trump did when entering office was make it clear that the days of American appeasement of North Korea were over. Strong, occasionally reckless, rhetoric sent the message that Trump was not of the same mold as his most recent predecessors.

Then Trump backed up his rhetoric with very stiff sanctions against North Korea. While North Korea is no stranger to sanctions, this time it was different. Through a combination of threats and praise, Trump convinced China to get on board with the sanctions. China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, by far, and ally in the Korean War.

Once the sanctions were in place, Trump extended his potent mix of threats and complimentary gestures to Kim. Trump began working toward high level negotiations and backed it up by sending the soon-tobe Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to meet Kim. In the bast couple of weeks, Kim has committed to cease nuclear tests, dismantle a nuclear facility, met with South Korean President Moon, and indicated that he wants a permanent peace. Trump is tentatively scheduled to meet with Kim next month.

Incidentally, while Pompeo was furthering the peace process in North Korea through diplomacy as the secretary of state nominee, Wisconsin’s Sen. Tammy Baldwin voted against his confirmation saying that she feared Pompeo would not be diplomatic enough.

Underlying the entire process is the fact that nobody doubts that Trump is willing to back up his threats. No doubt the strikes by the United States against chemical weapons facilities in Syria, despite the admonitions of the Russians and Assad, got Kim’s attention. If Trump is willing and able to act with such precision against Syria, there is no doubt that he would be able to strike North Korea. And with China softening its defense of Kim in order to protect its economic interests, Kim is more isolated than ever.

The North Korean problem has been the world’s Gordian Knot for more than half a century. Trump might be about to cut it.

Iran Was Lying

Is anyone shocked by this? Anyone?

(CNN)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has evidence Iranian officials were “brazenly lying” when they said Iran wasn’t pursuing nuclear weapons and that the Islamic republic is keeping an “atomic archive” at a secret compound.

“Tonight, I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied — big time,” Netanyahu said late Monday during an address from the Israel Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv.
Calling it one of the greatest achievements in the history of Israeli intelligence, Netayahu displayed what he said were files that demonstrate Iran planned to continue pursuing a nuclear weapons program despite the 2015 deal it brokered with the international community.
Speaking in English, Netanyahu accused Iran of ramping up efforts to obscure the files in 2015 and moving them to a secret location in Tehran last year.
The files were kept in massive vaults inside an “innocent-looking compound” in Shorabad District, the Prime Minister said. The 100,000 files contain, among other things, blueprints, charts, photos, videos and presentations dealing with nuclear weaponry.
“Iran planned at the highest level to continue work related to nuclear weapons under different guises and using the same personnel,” he said.

More Progress in North Korea

Good news. Again, with all of the requisite caveats about how this probably won’t stick.

Seoul (CNN)North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will shut down his nuclear test site in May and invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States into the country to ensure “transparency” around its closure, South Korea’s presidential office said Sunday.

It is the latest breakthrough on the peninsula ahead of a meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump, who said Saturday that talks could take place within “three to four weeks.”
A senior spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim made the comments during a landmark summit Friday at the demilitarized zone between the two countries, when Kim became the first North Korean leader to step into South Korean territory since fighting ended in the Korean War in 1953.
Kim told Moon during the summit that he had no intention of targeting the US or the South with nuclear weapons, the South Korean President’s office said Sunday.

 

Korean War to Finally End

The Forgotten War, which became the Forgotten Peace, is about to formally end. Thank God.

Ilsan, South Korea (CNN)Leaders of the two Koreas have agreed to end the Korean War, 65 years after hostilities ceased, in a wide-ranging joint announcement struck Friday, that includes working towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

But the announcement, which largely steered clear of specifics regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, faces major hurdles before any peace deal can be reached, which must also involve China and the US, both of whom were participants in the original conflict.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un, signed the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula,” at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), after an historic day of meetings, including a 30-minute private conversation the contents of which are unknown.
In separate speeches they promised a new era for the Korean Peninsula. Addressing the world’s media, Kim said the Koreas “will be reunited as one country.”
Of course, it could all fall apart, but we haven’t made it this far… ever. This is a direct result of Trump’s foreign policy of pressuring China, standing firm (do you think that missile strike in Syria got Kim’s attention?), and openness about the conditions under which North Korea could be welcomed into the international community. Let’s hope we see an actual peace treaty in the coming months – and that Kim abides by it.

Baldwin Votes Against Qualified SOS

Well, there’s an incoherent rationalization.

But Baldwin, D-Madison, said Tuesday the nation needs a secretary of state that is “committed to using American diplomatic leadership to solve problems, protect our national security interests and advance human rights.”

“After meeting with Mr. Pompeo, I don’t have confidence that he shares this commitment and I am concerned that he is inclined to choose military force as a first option over diplomatic solutions to the many challenges we face around the world,” she wrote on Twitter.

So based on a conversation, Baldwin thinks that Pompeo might prefer military action instead of diplomacy in some future unnamed conflict.

Uh huh. That’s not even enough of a fig leaf to cover a toe.

Kim Goes South

We are witnessing history. I sure hope it leads to a lasting peace.

Around 2,000 journalists are gathered at a media center in Ilsan, South Korea to cover the summit.

The room was tense as the journalists massed inside the Kintex Conference Center waited for their first sight of Kim Jong Un.

An audible gasp ran through the room as Kim walked down the steps towards the military demarcation line, followed by a loud cheers and applause from South Koreans in the room as the historic handshake took place and Kim stepped onto the south side.

Californians Move Ahead With Secession Movement

Heh.

Advocates who want California to secede from the rest of the United States were given the green light Monday to begin collecting signatures for their initiative.

California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the ballot proposal had been cleared.

The latest measure would ask voters in 2020 to decide whether to open up a secession discussion. If passed, a second election would be held a year later asking voters to affirm the decision and become an independent country.

Advocates have until mid-October to gather 365,880 signatures of registered voters to get it on the ballot.

I seem to remember from my history books that we fought a bloody war that decided that states can’t secede. The United States is like the mafia. Once you’re in, you can never get out.

But in this case, the rest of the nation might not fight too hard. True, California is an agricultural and economic power that the nation needs, but even an independent California would need a robust trade with the U.S. And given that a full third of the U.S.’s welfare recipients are in California, we could have the benefits of trading with California without the burden of supporting their welfare state.

North Korea Halts Missile Tests

I don’t trust Kim at all, but this is the most progress we’ve seen in many, many years…. like… ever.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he will suspend all missile tests and shut down a nuclear test site with immediate effect.

“From 21 April, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Korean Central News Agency said.

The decision is aimed at pursuing economic growth and peace on the Korean peninsular, state media report.

Mr Kim is due to meet his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in next week.

He is also expected to hold an unprecedented summit with US President Donald Trump by June. If it takes place, it will be the first meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

[…]

A spokesperson for the South Korean president called the North’s move “meaningful progress”.