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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda [AP]
|Turkish fighter jets have hit a convoy belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria, according to a local media report quoting a statement from the Turkish military.A report on Turkey’s Todays Zaman website said that Turkish F-16s struck a number of ISIL vehicles “after militants opened fire on a military outpost” on the Turkey-Syria border on Wednesday.
Broadcaster NTV said Turkish troops opened fire on the ISIL positions after a mortar shell fired from Syria landed in Turkish territory during clashes between ISIL and the Free Syrian Army.
The broadcaster said a pickup truck, a lorry and a bus were destroyed in the Turkish retaliation, but there were no reports of casualties.
Contradicting Todays Zaman, NTV said the attack occured on Tuesday evening,
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said the report, if true, would represent “a considerable and significant escalation” in tensions between Ankara and such groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish media have cited a two-day escalation in hostilities between the sides, but until now the Turkish military had only retaliated with tanks and artillery fire, our correspondent noted.
“These are fighters who on many occasions Turkey has turned a blind eye to,” said McNaught. “…Turkey is now fighting against the people [who] they have allowed to pass into Syria.”
With China increasingly in the news involving some new diplomatic or geopolitical escalation, a new territorial claim, the launch of a brand new aircraft carrier, or just general chatter of military tensions surrounding the aspirational reserve currency superpower, it is time for yet another update of the complete “military and security developments involving the people’s republic of China”, courtesy of the annual report to Congress discussing precisely this issue.
The only Org Chart that matters:
China Sovereignty Claims:
Chinese Ground Forces:
Chinese ground force distribution map:
Chinese airforce distribution map:
China Taiwan Strait and SRBM Coverage:
China Conventional Strike Capabilities:
Chinese Missile balance:
China Precision Strike capabilities:
Chinese ICBM reach capabilities:
The full report link – pdf.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the US stood united with South Korea against the North [AP]
|The United States is to deploy more troops and heavy tanks in South Korea as part of a military rebalance at a time of raised tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Forty M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, 800 soldiers and 40 Bradley fighting vehicles from the 1st US Cavalry Division will be sent on deployment in February, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying that the new troops and materiel would be deployed in North Gyeonggi Province, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
The deployment comes at a time of raised tensions on the peninsula after the North’s young leader, Kim Jong-Un, executed his powerful uncle last month, the biggest upheaval inside the ruling dynasty for years.
The North under Jong-Un has continued to develop nuclear weapons and test missiles in defiance of UN resolutions.
Commenting on the deployment, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said: “The United States and the Republic of Korea stand very firmly united, without an inch of daylight between us, not a sliver of daylight, on the subject of opposition to North Korea’s destabilising nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and proliferation activities.
Army Colonel Steve Warren said: “This addition is part of the rebalance to the Pacific. It’s been long planned and is part of our enduring commitment to security on the Korean peninsula.
“This gives the commanders in Korea an additional capacity: two companies of tanks, two companies of Bradleys.”
The US has 28,000 troops based in South Korea, which has remained technically at war with Communist North Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean conflict ended in stalemate.
A Pentagon spokesman said the additional equipment would be left behind after the nine-month deployment to be used by follow-on rotations of US forces.
Barack Obama, the US president, announced a strategic rebalancing of priorities toward the Pacific in late 2011 while winding down US commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have long held that Africa is a crucial region of the world in the near future because there is no more incremental debt capacity at any level: sovereign, household, financial or corporate – in any other region. As we noted previously:
without the ability to create debt out of thin air, be it on a secured or unsecured basis, the ability to “create” growth, at least in the current Keynesian paradigm, goes away with it. Yet there is one place where there is untapped credit creation potential, if not on an unsecured (i.e., future cash flow discounting), then certainly on a secured (hard asset collateral) basis. The place is Africa, and according to some estimates the continent, Africa can create between $5 and $10 trillion in secured debt, using its extensive untapped resources as first-lien collateral.
Africa is precisely where the smart money (and those who quietly run the above mentioned “power echelons”), namely China and Goldman Sachs, have refocused all their attention in the past year precisely because they both realize that Africa is the last and only bastion of untapped credit growth and capacity.
Africa in geographical perspective…
So it is perhaps unsurprising that China’s current arch-enemy Japan – and its apparently bottomless well of printed money – are taking aim also…
Submitted by Shannon Tiezzi, via The Diplomat,
As tensions between China and Japan multiply, there is an increasing battle for influence in other states. For example, in his recent article in The Diplomat, Jin Kai noted China and Japan’s global media war. There has also been an upswing in more traditional diplomatic wrangling, with Japan seeking to increase its influence in ASEAN as an attempt to reduce China’s sway in the region. With both China and Japan seeking to assert their leadership over the Asia-Pacific, it makes sense that both countries would woo ASEAN. It’s a bit more surprisingly to see China-Japan diplomatic competition supposedly pop up in Africa.
Recently, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both visited the African continent. Abe left on January 9 for a week-long tour of the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, Wang was in Africa from January 7 to January 11, visiting Ethiopia, Djibouti, Ghana, and Senegal. Given the current chill in China-Japan relations (and the tendency for both countries to snipe at each other in the media), the two trips quickly morphed into a sign of ‘competition’ over Africa.
Both countries rejected the idea that they were competing. When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked to comment on the idea that Wang Yi’s visit to Africa “is directed against Japan,” she responded that anyone harboring this idea “is not so acquainted with the past and present of China-Africa relations.” Indeed, as Hua pointed out, it’s traditional for Chinese Foreign Ministers to visit Africa as their first overseas trip of the new year. Hua praised China “sincere and selfless help” for Africa, and warned that trying to stir up a rivalry in Africa is “a wrong decision which is doomed to fail.” This comment was likely directed at Japan, but could just as easily apply to the United States and other countries seeking to increase their influence in Africa.
Japan also denied that Abe’s visit to Africa had anything to do with China. Hiroshige Seko, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying that competing against China is “not our intention at all.” Seko added, “As far as the African nations are concerned, they are important regardless of China.” African countries are important to Japan for the same reason they are to China — a wealth of natural resources as well as ample opportunity for foreign investment. The New York Times pointed out that increasing ties with Africa is just one aspect of Abe’s diplomatic strategy, all of which is designed to support “Abenomics.”
In a speech in Ethiopia, Abe reaffirmed Africa’s importance. “A considerable number of Japanese believe that Africa is the hope for Japan,” he said. His speech focused almost entirely on the potential for a positive relationship between Africans and Japanese companies — including how Japanese management strategies can benefit African people. “When Japanese companies that value each and every individual come to Africa, a win-win relationship in the truest sense can emerge,” Abe said. By contrast, his vision of the Japanese government’s role in Africa seemed like an afterthought. Abe did discuss his wish for more cooperation with the African Union, and offered to increase Japans’ assistance and loans to the continent, but he spent far less time on this point than on extolling the virtues of Japanese businesses.
Japan’s strategy, in other words, is economically focused. It’s clear that Abe’s pursuit of a relationship with Africa is closely connected with Japanese businesses. China, on the other hand, constantly emphasizes the “friendship” between its government and those of African nations. Though Chinese companies do big business in China, Beijing almost never alludes to this fact in its official remarks. When joint projects (such as roads or government buildings) are brought up, these projects are always a sign of China’s friendship towards Africa.
Accordingly, in his speeches Wang Yi focused on the government-to-government relationships between China and African nations. In Senegal, Wang called for both countries “to firmly support each other’s core interest[s] and major concerns.” In Ghana, he spoke about the need “to promote practical cooperation through strengthening traditional friendship.” China’s relationships with African countries are focused not just on business opportunities (although of course that’s an important aspect) but also on gaining African diplomatic support for China’s policies.
Whereas Abe seems content to have Japanese businesses make profits, China is actively pursuing soft power on the continent. This is nothing new for China. A 2013 study by Gustavo Flores-Macías and Sarah Kreps of Cornell University found that, since the mid-1990s, China has been quite successful at parlaying its trade relationships in Africa and Latin America into tangible foreign policy support. Japan doesn’t seem to be seeking this sort of influence (at least, not yet). Instead, Abe is more openly concerned with increasing economic interactions. While China and Japan may look like they’re competing in Africa, the two countries are actually playing different games.
The Philippine armed forces says it needs at least six more frigates to effectively patrol its waters [AP]
|The Philippines has said it wants to acquire two more navy ships from the US to boost its maritime protection amid military threats from China, according to the country’s military chief.
“Within the last year, we realised that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory,” armed forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista told the Philippines’ ANC television on Wednesday.
The new acquisitions fall under the $40m in military assistance pledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the country in December 2013.
But Bautista said the country needs about six more frigates to effectively guard its coastline.
“In fact, we are bidding now for two frigates, hopefully we will be able to acquire them in (a) couple of years,” he said.
The Philippines is a long-time US military ally and has already received two refurbished ships in the past two years.
These boats now patrol the South China Sea where, in 2012, the flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first US acquisition, confronted Chinese ships on Scarborough Shoal, a small outcrop just off the coast of the country’s main island of Luzon.
The Chinese eventually gained control of the outcrop after Manila backed down. And the Filipino government sought UN arbitration to settle the dispute, a move which China rejected.
The Philippines has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
Bautista said the Gregorio del Pilar, as well as another frigate that arrived last year, have been deployed to protect the country’s waters.
“There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak,” he said, but declined to say where they were in the disputed waters.
China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea, including waters near the cost of its neighbours.
And it recently declared an “air defence identification zone” over the East China Sea, where it is engaged in a dispute with Japan.
Kerry has warned China against imposing a similar air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.
Last week China also announced a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to obtain permits for activities in most of the South China Sea, triggering outrage in Manila.
With Islamic extremists raising their ominous-looking flags over Falluja and Ramadi again, it’s not looking too good in Iraq (or the rest of the Middle East). Sure, Mark Firoe notes, Iraqi government forces may take back some territory they lost, but it’s never a good sign when you have to shell your own country to maintain order. Confused at the proxy-wars, terrorists, statists, and just who the US is friends with? Have no fear, the following brief clip will explain it all…
Hayashi’s letter was an apparent response to an earlier op-ed by Chinese ambassador to London [AP]
|The diplomatic bickering between Japan and China has descended into name-calling in the British press, with claim and counter-claim by the countries’ ambassadors invoking the fictional evil wizard of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort.
In an opinion piece published in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on Monday, Tokyo’s envoy to London, Keiichi Hayashi, compared Beijing to the villain of JK Rowling’s multi-million selling books.
“East Asia is now at a crossroads. There are two paths open to China,” Hayashi wrote.
“One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side.”
Hayashi’s letter was an apparent response to an earlier op-ed – also invoking Voldemort – published by the paper on January 1 by Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to London.
In the letter, Liu harshly criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honours Japanese war dead, including men convicted of serious war crimes in the wake of Japan’s 1945 World War II defeat.
On Monday, Abe said he wanted to explain to leaders in China and South Korea why he visited a controversial shrine.
He expressed his hope that the leaders could meet to diffuse tension over longstanding territorial disputes and historical issues.
The shinto shrine is seen by China and other Asian nations as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past.
“If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul,” the Chinese envoy wrote.
In the Harry Potter series, a horcrux is a receptacle in which evil characters store fragments of their souls to enable them to achieve immortality.
Primed for the Globalization Death Blow
All In At Dow Casino (Yes, again)
I will be the first to admit, that exactly five years ago near the depths of the post-Lehman collapse, I would have said that the probability of new stock market highs in five years was zero. Yet here we are, new stock market highs, new highs in margin debt, new highs in risky loans, new housing bubbles, new IPO speculation, new highs in global debt levels, new high in billionaires. It’s unbelievable. After the 1929 crash my grandparents’ generation never touched debt or stocks again in their entire lifetime. All of which means that this current generation didn’t learn one thing from 2008. Therefore what comes next will teach these amoral dumbfucks a lesson that they will never, ever, ever, forget.
In a recent Brookings Institution essay entitled “The Rhyme of History: Lessons of the Great War,” historian Margaret Macmillan argues that there are strong and haunting parallels between today’s geopolitical landscape and Europe of 1914. Pivoting off the well-know Mark Twain adage that history does not repeat itself, but does rhyme, Macmillan suggests that the one-hundredth anniversary of World War I encourages us to reflect on the “valuable warnings” of the past. The actual and potential conflicts in the year ahead are many, and some of the same structural forces that lead to the Great War a century ago will be prevalent in 2014.
Macmillan is an eminent historian (her book, Paris 1919 is a must-read), but analogies between 1914 Europe and the world today should not be drawn hastily. World War I continues to preoccupy scholars and pundits alike, in part because it was so destructive, and in part because there is still no consensus on why exactly it occurred. With the centennial of the conflict approaching, we can expect to see 1914 references made a great deal — particularly with respect to the power transition that is currently in progress in the Pacific — but we should remain duly skeptical of this tempting parallel. Many of the conditions that were present in antebellum Europe do indeed prevail today. Whether these forces actually raise the risk of war is far from established, however, and the expectation that they do may itself increase the chance of conflict.
In her Brookings essay, Macmillan identifies several conditions that were present in Europe before the Great War that, she argues, also raise the risk of conflict today. The first of these conditions is globalization and its unintended consequences. In both 1914 and at present, there existed the common assumption that the world was becoming too interconnected to resort to war — conflict would be prohibitively costly. But, Macmillan points out, a hundred years ago as now, those who preached interdependence often ignored the fact that globalization can lead to job loss, foster intense localism and nativism, and provide a breeding ground for radical ideologies and movements (including those that employ terrorism). Globalization, Macmillan warns us, can also heighten interstate rivalries.
Related to this is a second trend — rising nationalism and sectarianism. Once trapped in interstate rivalries, leaders may seize upon nationalism and bitter historical enmity to appeal to their publics. In 1914, the predominant antagonisms were the Anglo-German and Russo-German rivalries; today they include Sino-American and Sino-Japanese competition. Third, Macmillan reminds us that tightly-knit defensive alliances may encourage conflict or cause it to spread. In 1914, Germany saw itself as inextricably bound to Austria, as France did to Russia. Today, she warns, the United States could easily be drawn into war in either the Middle East or East Asia by its alliance ties.
Finally, Macmillan warns that “World Policemen” may be forced into retirement, leaving a vacuum of instability and uncertainty. By the early 20th century, the British clearly could not sustain the demands and costs of their empire. Likewise, Macmillan avers, the United States will not be able to preserve hegemony indefinitely. Even if it its reach is primarily confined to Asia, the most obvious challenge to U.S. influence will come from a rising China, and crises or conflicts may break out unless the dominant powers can establish a stable international order.
Macmillan is hardly the first to point to these conditions as potential precursors to conflict. With respect to China’s rise, analysts have argued frequently that Washington and Beijing’s national security interests put the two countries on a collision course. Some have gone so far as to insist that this clash is inevitable. But in her comparison of the international conditions that preceded the Great War and those that prevail today, Macmillan fails to address one truly crucial question: Why did the forces of globalization, nationalism, interlocking alliances, and power transition combine to produce war in 1914 specifically?
The prevailing patterns that Macmillan identifies as historical rhymes may all be thought of as permissive conditions to conflict: these forces may have helped to pave the way to the Great War’s onset, but none alone was the immediate cause of war in 1914. Moreover, these forces were almost certainly present in Europe prior to that fateful year. Why, then, did they not combine to produce a major war when Austria annexed Bosnia in 1908? Why did they not stoke the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 and produce global conflagration then? If we are to accept that any specific set of conditions caused the First World War in 1914, we must also be able to explain why those forces did not produce war earlier or later, or why conflict could not have been avoided altogether despite their prevalence.
Indeed, in the copious literature on World War I, scholars have attempted to dissect these important counterfactuals. Some argue that the structural conditions that Macmillan identifies really did make a European conflict inevitable — interlocking alliances, the Anglo-German power transition, nationalism, and other factors meant that war would have occurred in 1915 or 1916 if it did not in 1914. But other analysts insist that the Great War was the immediate result of assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. If he had not been killed in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 — or if he had been shot and lived — the great powers might have avoided war, not just in that year, but in perpetuity. If an idiosyncratic event like the Archduke’s assassination is the key to explaining the war, however, it is not clear how much credence we should give to other underlying factors. Macmillan’s background conditions for conflict may be insufficient to bring about a war, and indeed, may not even be necessary. And if this is true, then the parallels that can be drawn between the onset of the First World War and geopolitics today may be impoverished at best.
So is this a simple warning that decision makers should approach historical analogies with caution? It is that, but also more. Among the many causes of the First World War that international relations scholars have identified was the widespread belief in European capitals that a great power conflict was highly likely. Combined with prevailing military technologies and strategies of the time, this assumption led statesmen to think that they would be advantaged if they struck first, rather than waiting for an adversary attack that was sure to come in due course. By overemphasizing historical parallels, we risk convincing ourselves that conflict is imminent, when in fact it remains eminently avoidable. If we were to combine Macmillan’s warnings about economic interdependence, nationalism, alliances, and power transitions, for example, it would be tempting to flag the next fracas over the Senkakus/Diaoyus, where all of these forces are clearly present, as the new Sarajevo. Combined with great power military strategies that may be escalatory, conflict anticipation via analogy could produce disastrous results indeed.
With the one-hundredth anniversary of the First World War fast upon us, and a power transition manifestly under way, Macmillan’s essay will certainly not be the last analysis to draw connections between 1914 and present-day geopolitics. Indeed, there is surely value in paying heed to the similarities and differences between the two eras. By listening anxiously for historical rhymes that portend major conflict, however, we risk deafness to the multitude of factors that make the challenges of the present day unique, and soluble far short of war. A rhyme, after all, is a correspondence of sound, but not of meaning.
Here’s to wishing the world a 2014 that is considerably more peaceful than the centennial it will mark.