Category: America

Two Saudi Oil Tankers Attacked Raising Tensions Between US and Iran

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz May 13, 2019 , 3:35 pm

49 Yehoshafat constructed Tarshish ships to sail to Ophir for gold. But he did not sail because the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” I Kings 22:49 (The Israel Bible™)

Two Saudi Arabian oil tankers were targeted by “sabotage attacks” adding more heat to the regional tensions.

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, announced to the state-run media on Monday morning that two of his nation’s oil tankers were targeted in a “sabotage attack” off the coast of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The site of the attacks is less than 100 miles from the vital Strait of Hormuz shipping channel. The tankers sustained “significant damage.”

He said: “Fortunately, the attack didn’t lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.”

The UAE on Sunday said an alleged sabotage attack targeted four boats, without elaborating or naming suspects. It is believed that one of the vessels was Norwegian.

Reuters reported INTERTANKO, an association of independent tanker owners and operators, saying that it had seen pictures of “at least two ships have holes in their sides due to the impact of a weapon,” and that “trading and shipping sources identified the Saudi vessels as Bahri-owned very large crude carrier (VLCC) tanker Amjad and crude tanker Al Marzoqah.”

The Saudi Foreign Ministry published a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Monday, saying, “this criminal act poses a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime traffic, which reflects negatively on regional and international peace and security.”

Though it is still unknown who was responsible for the attack, the timing raises suspicions that indicate that Iran may be involved. Last week, the U.S. Maritime Administration issued a warning to commercial shipping companies that from the beginning of May there had been, “an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.”

The White House ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4, indicating heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

The statement from the Saudi government on the alleged “sabotage attacks” off the United Arab Emirates port at Fujairah came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the port in Fujairah.

Britain’s Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt warned that such incidents could spark a larger conflict.

“We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended,” Hunt said about the incident.

Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani,  the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, agreed with that assessment. “Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger,” Al Zayani said in a statement.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9807

On The Brink Of An Apocalyptic War With Iran, And Most Americans Don’t Seem To Care

May 7, 2019 by Michael Snyder

This is the closest that the U.S. has been to a war with Iran in decades, and yet most Americans are either clueless or they don’t seem to believe that it could actually happen.  And I certainly don’t think that President Trump wants a war, but he is surrounded by war hawks that have been pushing an extremely aggressive “get tough” policy with Iran.  The Trump administration just canceled the waivers that were allowing other nations to continue purchasing Iranian oil, and the goal of that move is to reduce Iranian exports to zero.  But oil exports are 40 percent of the Iranian economy, and the Iranians understand that this move could absolutely cripple their economy.  The Iranians have threatened to close the straight of Hormuz in retaliation, and that would almost certainly provoke a U.S. military response.  In addition, it is being reported that on Wednesday the Iranians will announce that they are taking steps to restart their nuclear program… 

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to announce small steps to resume his country’s nuclear program. According to the New York Times, that will include conducting research on centrifuges that can make nuclear fuel, and curbing nuclear inspections from observers.

Of course the truth is that the Iranians never fully abandoned their nuclear program in the first place, but that is supposed to be a big secret.

In any event, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have now reached frightening levels.

On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln and four B-52 bombers are being sent to the Middle East as a message to Iran

Four B-52 Stratofortress bombers are being sent to the Mideast to support the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in moves aimed at countering threats from Iran, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.

The B-52s, from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are deploying to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a hub for U.S. air operations in the region, CBS News reported.

Apparently there was some intelligence which indicated that Iran was planning a possible attack on U.S. forces in the region, and Bolton said that these deployments would make it very clear that any assault would be “met with unrelenting force”

The deployments would “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States’ interests, or on those of our allies, will be met with unrelenting force,” he said in a statement. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”

In response, the Iranians accused the U.S. of engaging in a form of “psychological warfare”.

In addition to everything else, CNN is reporting that it appears that the Iranians have been “moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf”, and this has deeply alarmed U.S. officials…

Intelligence showing that Iran is likely moving short-range ballistic missiles aboard boats in the Persian Gulf was one of the critical reasons the US decided to move an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers into the region, according to several US officials with direct knowledge of the situation.

The concerns over the movement of the missiles was one of multiple threads of intelligence from various sources that led the US to believe Iran had a capability and intention to launch strikes against US targets.

If both sides rattle their sabers for a while but nothing ever comes of it, we will be fine.

But if someone goes a little bit too far and the missiles start flying, we could be soon engaged in a conflict that could literally spark World War 3.

While they are certainly no match for the U.S., the truth is that the Iranian military is quite strong, and they possess weapons of immense destructive power.  And in the event of a military conflict with the U.S., the Iranians have already said that they will hit Israel too.

And if Israel gets hit, they will certainly strike back at Iran extremely hard.

The Iranians absolutely hate both the United States and Israel, and recent moves by the Trump administration have pushed the Iranians into a corner.  The following comes from Pat Buchanan

Did President Donald Trump approve of this? For he appears to be going along. He has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions. Last week, he canceled waivers he had given eight nations to let them continue buying Iranian oil.

Purpose: Reduce Iran’s oil exports, 40% of GDP, to zero, to deepen an economic crisis that is already expected to cut Iran’s GDP this year by 6%.

Trump has also designated Iran a terrorist state and the Republican Guard a terrorist organization, the first time we have done that with the armed forces of a foreign nation. We don’t even do that with North Korea.

A cornered animal is extremely dangerous, and at this point the Iranians may feel as if the only option they have left is to lash out.

As a first step, they could potentially close the Strait of Hormuz, and that would instantly create a global oil crisis.  Here is more from Buchanan

Iran has also warned that if we choke off its oil exports that exit the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait could be closed to other nations. As 30% of the world’s oil shipments transit the Strait, closing it could cause a global crash.

In 1973, when President Nixon rescued Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the OPEC Arabs imposed an oil embargo. Gas prices spiked so high Nixon considered taking a train to Florida for Christmas vacation.

Of course a potential war with Iran is not even on the radar for most Americans these days.  Most of us are preoccupied with other things, but if the missiles start flying this will instantly become the top news story on the entire planet.

Wars never start in a vacuum.  In every major war throughout history, there has always been a series of steps that has ultimately resulted in the outbreak of war.

Without a doubt, the U.S. and Iran are moving toward war.  That doesn’t mean that one will happen, and we better hope that it doesn’t, because it would have all sorts of apocalyptic consequences.

So let us hope that cooler heads prevail.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any “cooler heads” among Iranian leadership, and Trump has surrounded himself with war hawks like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

In the end, Trump himself will make the final call on any conflict with Iran, and let us hope that he makes the right one.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9803

United States Deploys USS Abraham Lincoln With Bomber Strike Force To Middle East After Hearing Iran Planned Attack On US Forces In Region

Late Sunday night, the White House made a surprise announcement that the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force were being deployed to the Middle East in response to unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” A statement from National Security Adviser John Bolton said the military deployments were intended “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

by Geoffrey Grider May 5, 2019

The United States is deploying an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East on short notice in response to clear indications that Iran and Iranian proxies were planning an attack on U.S. forces in the region, said a U.S. official.

Well this was quite the surprise tonight. As a very shaky ceasefire is called between Israel and Hamas, the United States makes the stunning announcement that we are sending over the USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber attack squad to the Middle East after threats from Iran.

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps, and this is only a guess, but maybe Netanyahu is planning an all-out assault on Haza in Gaza, not a ceasefire, and President Trump is sending over some pretty substantial backup just in case? Because the timing of sending the Lincoln over is suspicious to say the least. But that’s my guess, let’s see what the next few hours bring.

Aircraft carrier sent to Middle East after indications Iran planned attack on US forces

FROM ABC NEWS: Late Sunday night, the White House made a surprise announcement that the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force were being deployed to the Middle East in response to unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.”

A statement from National Security Adviser John Bolton said the military deployments were intended “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” the statement continued.

A U.S. official told ABC News that the U.S. military deployments were in response to “clear indications” that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were preparing for a possible attack on U.S. forces in the region either on land or at sea.

The official said that the decision to send the forces to the Middle East was made Sunday. “The movement of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to the region was expedited and it was ordered there effective immediately,” said the official.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9789

Iran Threatens to Shutter Straits of Hormuz Shipping Route

By JNS April 29, 2019 , 11:23 am

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. Zechariah 14:1 (The Israel Bible™)

Strait of Hormuz region political map. (Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock.com)

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route, in response to U.S. sanctions on the regime, which he labeled as “hostility,” reported the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“We are not after closing the Strait of Hormuz, but if the hostility of enemies increase, we will be able to do so,” Mohammad Bagheri told the outlet. “Also, if our oil does not go through the strait, other countries’ oil will certainly not cross the strait, too,” he added.

The strait lies between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman as the sole maritime passage from the former to the open ocean.

Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah expressed alarm over Bagheri’s remarks.

“We are looking at these threats with concern, and hoping as always to distance our region from this tension,” he said, reported the Kuwait News Agency.

The Iranian statement was in response to the United States announcing last week that it will not extend waivers to countries over importing Iranian oil as part of its goal to exert maximum pressure on Tehran.

Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China and India were among the countries that received exemptions for importing Iranian petroleum after U.S. sanctions, including those on Iranian oil, that were lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but reimposed last November.

The other recipients—Greece, Italy and Taiwan—have already ended imports of Iranian oil.

The waivers expire on May 2.

“The administration’s decision not to renew oil waivers for any current importer of Iranian oil can be interpreted as a measure of its commitment to its own maximum pressure policy,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “And if the admonition is seeking to not only bring Iran back to the negotiating table but also punish and impede its malign regional activities, then oil, which is the lifeblood of the regime, will have to be targeted in this sort of aggressive fashion.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9777

USS Abraham Lincoln deploys opposite Syria, US envoy to Russia aboard

Apr 25, 2019 @ 10:10 Diane Shalem Iranian threats, Putin-Kim summit, Ukraine, USSS Abraham Lincoln opp Syria

Accompanied by 10 warships, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier on Wednesday, April 24, deployed opposite the Syrian coast in a dramatic show of strength against Russia and Iran. The effect was underlined by the revelation from US Navy sources of the presence on the carrier’s command bridge of none other than US ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman. His message needed no commentary: “When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy cruising the Mediterranean, this is forward-operating diplomacy – nothing else need be said.”

There is no precedent even in the Cold War years between America and Soviet Russia of a US ambassador being planted on a front line against Russian and Iranian forces in the Middle East. The US Navy communique reported that Ambassador Huntsman was inspecting the operations of “9.000 crew and Marines and the 130 warplanes on the decks of the Lincoln and other vessels of the strike group.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources: This show of US military-backed diplomatic muscle was timed for Thursday, April 25, when President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader were about to sit down for their first summit in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, This meeting was seen in Washington as Putin’s challenge of the nuclear negotiation channel set up by President Donald Trump with the North Korean dictator.

The Lincoln’s deployment facing the Syrian coast was also the Trump administration’s answer to the three top Iranians, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who Wednesday threatened America with harsh retribution for the sanctions that were blocking its oil exports.  

Added to this, on Wednesday, Moscow advised Ukrainian separatists supported by Russia in their battle against the central government in Kiev that the red tape would be cleared from the path of any of those fighters who sought Russian citizenship. This was seen in Washington as a half-step towards Russia’s annexation of another part of Ukraine after Crimea. The State Department issued this statement: “Russia, through this highly provocative action, is intensifying its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and national integrity.”

On \Tuesday, April 23, DEBKAfile was first to break the news of the arrival in the Mediterranean of two US carriers and their strike groups – the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS John C. Stennis, and reported that they are operating with the US Sixth Fleet in conjunction with allied navies.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9772

Is there an unprecedented build-up of US naval power in the Middle East?

A massive amount of air power and US naval assets were suddenly in the same place at the same time.

By Seth J. Frantzman

April 24, 2019 14:06

Two US aircraft carrier strike groups operated in the Mediterranean Sea this week. The USS Abraham Lincoln, on its way toward the Persian Gulf from Palma de Mallorca, crossed paths with the USS John C. Stennis which had come from the Gulf and had left the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.
 

A massive amount of airpower and US naval assets were suddenly in the same place at the same time. As if that wasn’t enough, the Stennis had just carried out a joint pass exercise with France’s Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group in the Red Sea. There were other navy ships in the area as well. The guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul, the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, the Royal Danish Navy Frigate HDMS Niels Juel and the French air defense destroyer FS Forbin were in the area, Michael Landmark of Denmark pointed out online. The Defense Post reported the same information, noting that French Rafale aircraft and American F-18s conducted training together. The USS Stennis had already carried out weeks of training with France’s Marine Nationale defense destroyer FS Cassard in January.
 

The De Gaulle is en route to the Indian Ocean as part of its “Clemenceau” annual mission. It left Toulon in early March. The Stennis had left Manama in Bahrain on March 28. The Lincoln had left Norfolk on April 1. The Lincoln is supposed to end up in San Diego when its deployment ends. After the April 15 transit together in the Red Sea, the Stennis moved into the Mediterranean on April 20.

For observers of US naval power, the gather of forces appears important. Lenny Ben-David noted “where are the carriers,” and pointed out that their rendezvous coincides with the first F-35 deployment to the UAE. He noted that the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group was in the Gulf at the same time as the Stennis and Lincoln were moving toward one another. It raised interest from Iran-watchers as well. Babak Taghvaee, who tweets often about military issues in the region, noted that the Stennis has 50 F-18s on board.
 

The presence of the carriers and their strike groups have led to two different narratives. Task & Purpose website asserts that they “send a message to Russia.” Stars and Stripes agreed with that assessment, noting that Naval Forces Europe and Africa commanders Admiral James Foggo met US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr.
 

The US has said that Russia’s “aggressive actions and interventions in Syria, Libya and elsewhere destabilize these areas,” Stripes reported. “It’s crucial that we give our civilian leaders options and ability to negotiate from a position of strategic strength,” Foggo said. The presence of the two carrier groups was aimed at Russia, the report concluded.
 

The Washington Examiner thinks that the presence of all the naval assets is a message to Iran.
 

“The Navy’s current posture gives President Trump significantly added means of deterrence and actions against Iran,” the newspaper reported on April 22. Tom Rogan, the author of the piece, wrote that it wasn’t coincidental. “The US Navy is overstretched, especially in relation to its aircraft carriers and submarines.” Its deployment to the Mediterranean “appears calculated with an anticipated conflict in mind.”
 

The question that the reports raise is whether the current naval power is a message to Iran or Russia and whether indicating that it is really helps send that message. The presence of these large US strike groups isn’t a secret, there are websites that track them and the US is open about its mission and destination. The USS Stennis even has a Twitter account. One issue the US faces is that despite the “messages” being sent to Iran and Russia, both countries likely know that the US isn’t actually going to use these powerful forces for a first strike. Despite the US listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization, the real tensions are in Iraq and Syria.

The US has previously noted that any real clash with Iran’s navy in the Persian Gulf would result in the destruction of that navy very quickly. It isn’t a contest, the US has a massive amount of unprecedented firepower that Iran has no interest in challenging.

Similarly, the US is not going to do anything about Russia’s annexation of Crimea or Russian actions in Libya and Syria. Sailing carriers around and showing off US military might is good for practice and for working closely with NATO allies, but Moscow and Tehran likely know that the message is largely symbolic.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9763

San Francisco, Los Angeles And Seattle: 3 Formerly Beautiful West Coast Cities Have Literally Been Transformed Into Hellholes

April 15, 2019 by Michael Snyder

Once upon a time, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle were three of the most beautiful cities on the entire planet.  I know that this is hard to imagine today, but there was a time when millions of people eagerly moved out to the west coast for a better quality of life.  Sadly, the reverse is true today.  Millions of people are moving away from our major cities on the west coast because of the hellholes that they have become.  A former Seattle police officer that was recently interviewed by a reporter from KOMO News  was very honest about the fact that he would never want to raise a family in Seattle because of the hellhole that it has become.  Every night he saw the worst of Seattle firsthand, and he finally felt forced to quit because city officials would not allow him to effectively do his job.  An explosion of homelessness in our major west coast cities has fueled a wave of crime, drugs and human degradation unlike anything we have seen before, and in many cases our law enforcement officials have their hands tied and are literally being prevented from cleaning up the streets.

Right now, more than half a million people are homeless in the United States.  As the economy gets worse, that number will continue to rise.

Many homeless Americans are law-abiding citizens that have just had a tough break. Everyone gets knocked down in life at some point, and we need to do all that we can to help those law-abiding citizens get back on their feet.

But because of their ultra-liberal policies, some of the major cities on the west coast have become magnets for drug addicts, serial criminals, sex offenders, illegal immigrants and people that have simply heard about all of the “free benefits” that are being offered.  As a result, the streets of those cities have become a showcase for the social decay that is sweeping across our nation.

Let’s start with San Francisco.  According to one report, it is home to more than 28,000 homeless people, and that would make San Francisco the city with the third largest homeless population in the United States.

Others feel like that number is way too low, and the truth is that it is exceedingly difficult to count the homeless.

After all, how are you supposed to accurately count people that don’t want to be counted?

What we do know is that San Francisco is a huge magnet for drug addicts.  The city handed out 5.8 million free syringes in 2018, and that number would seem to suggest a homeless population far in excess of 28,000.

And as all those drug addicts aimlessly wander through the streets, many of them use those streets as their own personal toilets.  Over the past 8 years, more than 118,000 reports of human feces in the streets have been filed with city authorities

Since 2011, there have been at least 118,352 reported instances of human fecal matter on city streets.

New mayor, London Breed, won election by promising to clean things up. However, conditions are the same or worse. Last year, the number of reports spiked to an all-time high at 28,084. In first quarter 2019, the pace continued with 6,676 instances of human waste in the public way.

In addition to endless piles of poop, the drug addicts are also endlessly committing property crimes in order to pay for their drug habits.

Each year, there are more than 6,000 property crimes per 100,000 residents in San Francisco.  That is about four times the rate of property crime that New York City has reported.

Mayor Breed would like to get a lot of these homeless people off of the streets, but finding a place to put them has been problematic.  Residents of one wealthy liberal neighborhood are currently fighting like mad to keep a proposed homeless shelter away from their gated mansions…

A wealthy liberal neighborhood in San Francisco whose residents cast the most votes for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election is fighting against a proposal to build a new homeless shelter near their gated mansions.

Mayor London Breed has sponsored legislation to fast track a homeless shelter that would house 200 people. However, wealthy liberals living in the affected area have set up a GoFundMe to stop the project which has already hit $80,000 of its $100,000 target.

Things are certainly not any better in Los Angeles.

According to the same report mentioned above, L.A. has nearly twice as many homeless people as San Francisco

Los Angeles has the second largest population of people exploring homelessness, according to a new report.

The LA area contains 55,200 homeless people, according to data released by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

The homeless population in L.A. has surged 75 percent in six years, and this has happened during a time when the economy has been relatively stable.

So how bad are things going to become when the economy starts getting really bad?

When I was running for Congress, one of the people that came to help the campaign had spent a lot of time in some of the worst parts of Los Angeles.  He told me about the public drug use, the constant crime and the human degradation that is seemingly everywhere.  This greatly saddened me, because Los Angeles was once a magnificent city.  In fact, at one point in my life I wanted to live there.

But not anymore.  Today, millions of people are leaving California and never looking back because of the utter hellhole the entire state has become.

Further up the coast, the city of Seattle is experiencing similar issues.  Not too long ago, a veteran Seattle reporter named Eric Johnson produced an hour-long documentary entitled “Seattle Is Dying”, and if you have not seen it yet I would strongly recommend taking the time to watch it.

Since it was first released, it has been viewed almost 2 million times on YouTube

In the past two weeks, Seattle Is Dying has garnered 38,000 shares on Facebook and nearly 2 million views on YouTube. The report has clearly resonated with anxious, fearful, and increasingly angry Seattle residents. Exhausted by a decade of rising disorder and property crime—now two-and-a-half times higher than Los Angeles’s and four times higher than New York City’s—Seattle voters may have reached the point of “compassion fatigue.” According to the Seattle Times, 53 percent of Seattle voters now support a “zero-tolerance policy” on homeless encampments; 62 percent believe that the problem is getting worse because the city “wastes money by being inefficient” and “is not accountable for how the money is spent,” and that “too many resources are spent on the wrong approaches to the problem.”

One of the moments in the documentary that really touched me was when a concerned resident described how drug addicts have been leaving needles and human waste in the graveyard near his home.  The homeless have erected tents all around the graveyard, and he can clearly smell urine whenever he walks down the streets.

He would like to fix things, and he is fed up enough that he has decided to run for city council.  But he is facing an uphill battle, because Seattle has been entirely taken over by socialists.  The following comes from Mac Slavo

The entire video is about an hour long, but it is pretty easy to see where Seattle continues to go wrong. A heavy tax burden, regulations that push out businesses, and a power-hungry group of totalitarian sociopaths have been slowly eroding the city. The decay of Western civilization can be seen up and down the entirety of the West coast. Some say it’s by design, others disagree. But the commonality is that all of the cities are being pushed into poverty by illusions and lies of socialists. Calling Seattle anything other than a leftist’s paradise would be inaccurate. The city has all of the laws the socialists want, yet it’s killing itself because of it.

In life, the decisions that we make have consequences, and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle are now experiencing the consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions.

But of course they are far from alone.  All across the country there are thousands of communities where social decay is exceedingly evident, and it is getting worse with each passing year.

If we want to change the trajectory of our future, we have got to start doing things differently.

Because if we keep doing the same things, we are going to keep getting the same results, and our country is going to continue falling apart right in front of our eyes.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9736

China Rising in the Caribbean

by Gordon G. Chang
April 10, 2019 at 5:00 am

About 55 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida on Grand Bahama Island, a Hong Kong-based business is spending about $3 billion on a deep-water container facility, the Freeport Container Port.

  • The concern is that the port will become another debt-trap, like the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka. There are concerns that Hambantota will eventually become a Chinese naval base. Will the Pentagon have to contend with Chinese warships at Freeport?
  • The Chinese military is already in the Caribbean, in Cuba, apparently to collect signals intelligence from the U.S. Washington splashes plenty of cash around the Middle East, for instance, but American policymakers need also to be concerned, urgently, about critical needy locations closer to home.

There’s a “Red Storm Rising” just miles from America’s shores. “In point of fact, the entire hemisphere is on fire,” said Lou Dobbs on his widely watched Fox Business Network show on April 4. “China and Russia are engaging us in almost every quarter in this hemisphere. Russia and China in Venezuela, but China throughout the hemisphere and throughout the Caribbean.”

Throughout the Caribbean, China’s influence is growing fast. Trade and investment have made Beijing a power. Chinese motives are not solely commercial, however, and do not appear benign.

We begin on the island of New Providence, in the Bahamas. The Export-Import Bank of China in 2011 extended a $2.45 billion construction loan for the Baha Mar resort, near the capital of Nassau. The project, troubled from the start, is the largest and most expensive in the Caribbean.

The project’s size is a curiosity, and China’s large commitment to the Caribbean is, from an economic viewpoint, intriguing. As Evan Ellis of the U.S. Army War College points out, China, on a per capita basis, has more equity invested in the Caribbean than in the rest of Latin America. This is noteworthy in that the Caribbean has, in comparison to the rest of that region, far fewer natural resources and only a tiny market for Chinese goods. As Ellis told Roll Call, “It really isn’t about the market or the materials if you look at the amount that they are investing.”

So, what is China’s motivation? Another large Bahamian investment provides a clue.

About 55 miles east of Palm Beach, on Grand Bahama Island, a Hong Kong-based business is spending about $3 billion on a deep-water container facility, the Freeport Container Port.

The commercial rationale is that Freeport will be able to take advantage of traffic from the recently expanded Panama Canal, but the concern is that the port will become another debt-trap, like Hambantota in Sri Lanka. China in December 2017 took control of the port Hambantota, by grabbing 70% of the equity and signing a 99-year lease after that project could not repay high-interest loans extended by China. China’s takeover was inevitable because Hambantota was misconceived from the get-go.

There are concerns that Hambantota will eventually become a Chinese naval base. China’s admirals have long eyed Sri Lanka for its strategic location. In both September and October 2014, the Sri Lankan government allowed a Chinese submarine to dock at the Chinese-funded Colombo International Container Terminal. Will the Pentagon have to contend with Chinese warships at Freeport?

The Chinese military is already in the Caribbean, in Cuba. According to an October 2018 staff report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China maintains physical presences at Soviet-era intelligence facilities at Lourdes, Bejucal, and Santiago de Cuba, apparently to collect signals intelligence from the U.S.

Of these locations, Bejucal, south of Havana, is of special concern. Satellite imagery shows a new radome protecting the radar there, and the installation could well be China’s. China, after all, has been at Bejucal for some time. Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, in 2016 referred publicly to “this Chinese listening station in Bejucal.”

Ellis, in a podcast with Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that Beijing views the Caribbean Sea in much the same way it perceives the South China Sea. This assessment goes a long way toward explaining China’s otherwise unusual focus on the 13 island states and 17 “dependent territories” — what once were known as “colonies” — in the region.

That focus also goes some way to understanding the tirade of Haigang Yin, China’s chargé d’affaires in the Bahamas, last month. Days before U.S. President Donald Trump’s March 22 meeting with five Caribbean leaders — including the Bahamas’ — at Mar-a-Lago, Yin accused the U.S. of attempting to “disintegrate solidarity and cooperation between China and other developing countries.”

Chinese arrogance has now become breathtaking. Despite Beijing’s efforts, Trump met with the Caribbean leaders. Yet Washington’s intensified engagement with the region is still inadequate to meet Chinese challenges. As Fox Business anchor Trish Regan said on her prime-time show on April 5, “Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 had we had such an enemy present in our own hemisphere.”

Up to now, America has mostly left the Caribbean alone. As is often said, the Caribbean is “too democratic and not poor enough” to get U.S. attention. It is, however, correctly called America’s “third border” and “soft underbelly.”

This underbelly is now being remade with Chinese cash. For instance, five countries there — Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Dominican Republic — have joined Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, an infrastructure plan meant to tie global trade routes to China.

As Beijing pushes the initiative in the region, there are concerns that more countries will be “debt trapped,” like Sri Lanka. USAID Administrator Mark Green is right to label Beijing’s loans to Caribbean borrowers “predatory financing.” American warnings, however, do not mean much if the U.S. is not offering alternatives, as Margaret Myers of the Inter-American Dialogue told Roll Call.

After Trump’s Mar-a-Lago meeting with Caribbean leaders, the U.S. promised to send a delegation to the region. Moreover, the State Department has its own plan, labeled “Caribbean 2020.” Despite catchy names, American programs need cash to back them up.

Washington splashes plenty of cash around the Middle East, for instance, but American policymakers need also to be concerned, urgently, about critical, needy locations closer to home.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9733

ANALYSIS: Turkey’s Erdogan is in real trouble

Erdogan, whose party lost Turkey’s internal elections, insists on purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, may find itself eased out of NATO.

Yochanan Visser, 12/04/19 00:08

For the first time since Turkey’s Islamist leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan ascended to power, he’s in trouble at home, while at the same time the tyrant is risking a major confrontation with the United States.

Erdogan’s AKP party lost the March 31 municipal elections to the secular ultra-nationalist MHP party which used to help the AKP party to establish its Islamist regime.

As a result, for the first time in a quarter-century, Turkey’s main population centers such as Istanbul and Ankara will be governed by secular politicians and not by Islamists who take their orders from the Turkish strongman.

This means that Turkey’s economy will be largely controlled by the opposition since the country’s major cities count for more than half of Turkey’s GDP.

Erdogan tried to manipulate the local elections by nominating close allies such as parliament speaker Binali Yildirim and his Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci and turned the local elections into a referendum on his rule.

The move backfired, however.

When polls and surveys showed that the AKP party was trailing, Erdogan did what he is best at: He started to demonize his opponents, blaming foreign governments for Turkey’s ailing economy and using religion to mobilize the masses.

Gaza, Jerusalem, Mecca, and Raqqa were more important topics in Erdogan’s campaign than the improvement of living conditions in villages and cities in Turkey.

The residents of major Turkish cities apparently saw through Erdogan’s manipulations and rhetoric, and voted in the MHP party by a clear majority.

Erdogan now refuses to concede in Istanbul claiming the election there was invalid due to fraud at polling stations and demands a rerun of the voting.

Losing Istanbul and Ankara could have devastating consequences for Erdogan’s rule over Turkey since they form the backbone of his autocratic regime, observers say.

“Erdoğan, seemingly on his way to being a modern sultan, no longer seems invincible,” Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute wrote this week.

The loss in the municipal elections is the result of economic mismanagement by the AKP government which caused the Turkish lira to lose 30 percent of its value last year and the near collapse of Turkey’s economy.

The country has slid into recession where unemployment and inflation are rising all the time.

“The opposition’s revival is good for the people of Turkey, who are suffering under Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, as well as for Western governments, which should no longer view Ankara as a friend and ally,” according to Bandow who added that Turkey should be kicked out of NATO.

The Cato Institute fellow was referring to Erdogan’s decision to purchase the state-of-the-art Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile shield, a decision that drew the ire of the Trump Administration.

The Administration has already decided to stop the delivery of equipment for the F-35 stealth fighter plane to Turkey in order to pressure Erdogan and demand he cancel the deal with Putin’s Russia, but the hot-headed leader refuses to comply.

The S-400 missile shield is considered the world’s most advanced anti-aircraft system and the deal between Russia and Turkey is threatening Israel’s air superiority in the Middle East.

Washington is considering the purchase of the Russian system, a threat to the NATO since the deal would jeopardize the secrecy of its own and NATO weapon technologies and has offered to deliver the rival Patriot missile-shield to Turkey.

Erdogan, however, made clear he would not budge and vowed to go ahead with S-400 purchase while at the same time showing interest in buying the Patriot system on his terms and as an addition to the Russian system.

Congress has now adopted bi-partisan legislation that will scuttle the F-35 deal altogether whenever Ankara decides to go ahead with the purchase of the S-400.

Delivery of the S-400 system and the F-35 to Turkey would expose the weak spots of the American stealth jet to Russia, experts warned.

Tensions between the US and Turkey reached boiling point last week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Erdogan’s regime of “devastating consequences” if the Turks go ahead with their planned invasion of Kurdish-held regions in Syria.

Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu have repeatedly warned a Turkish invasion in what the Kurds call Rojova, the Kurdish autonomous region along the Turkish border in Syria, was about to begin but apparently, Ankara fears the American response to this new aggression against the Syrian Kurds.

Unilateral action in Syria by the Turks would have devastating consequences, State Department Robert Paladino told reporters last week after a meeting between Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo in Washington.

Paladino’s remarks led to a new row between the Erdogan regime and Washington with Çavuşoğlu charging that the United States hasn’t “a clear strategy” Syria.

The U.S. recently decided to leave 200 military advisers in Rojova whose presence is meant to deter the Turks from attacking the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, which together with the US army defeated Islamic State in Syria.

“Increasingly, Ankara is no friend to America or the West,” Bandow wrote and advised NATO to toss Turkey out of the North Atlantic alliance

“Rather than desperately attempting to hold Ankara in NATO, the allies should begin considering how to ease Turkey out,” the former special assistant to President Reagan added.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9730

U.S. sails massive, F-35-laden warship in disputed South China Sea

by Jesse Johnson

Apr 9, 2019

In the latest show of military muscle in the South China Sea, the U.S. has apparently sailed its USS Wasp amphibious assault ship near a strategic reef claimed by Beijing and Manila that lies just 230 km (140 miles) from the Philippine coast.

Filipino fishermen near the site known as the Scarborough Shoal initially spotted what appeared to be the massive U.S. vessel on Tuesday, according to ABS-CBN News. It said planes were seen landing and taking off from the ship, some 5 km (3 miles) away from the fishermen’s boat. A video clip shown by the news network appeared to corroborate their account.

Contacted by The Japan Times, a U.S. military spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the Wasp’s presence near the collection of outcroppings that barely jut out above water at high tide, citing “force protection and security.” However, the spokeswoman did confirm that the Wasp “has been training with Philippine Navy ships in Subic Bay and in international waters of the South China Sea … for several days.”

Scarborough Shoal, which is also claimed by Taiwan, is regarded as a potential powder keg in the strategic waterway. It was seized by Beijing in 2012 after an extended standoff with Manila. China later effectively blockaded the lagoon, which is rich in fish stocks, and routinely dispatches scores of fishing vessels and government-backed “maritime militia” ships to the area to continue its de facto blockade.

The Wasp was taking part in the annual Balikatan U.S.-Philippine military training exercise “that focuses on maritime security and amphibious capabilities, as well as multinational interoperability through military exchanges,” said U.S. Marine Corps Second Lt. Tori Sharpe, a spokeswoman for the exercises, adding that the exercises were “unrelated to current events.”

Still, beyond the location of the exercises, the Wasp’s presence alone in the South China Sea was likely to draw Beijing’s attention since this year’s Balikatan exercise was the first to incorporate the Wasp paired with the U.S. Marines Corps’ cutting-edge F-35B Lightning II stealth aircraft. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the aircraft.

“Together they represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Sharpe said.

China covets Scarborough Shoal for its strategic significance, experts say, as it would be the crowning jewel in a bid to solidify Beijing’s iron grip over the South China Sea. They say building at Scarborough would create a large “strategic triangle” comprising Woody Island in the Paracel Islands to the northwest and its Spratly islet outposts to the south, giving Beijing the ability to police an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea.

The impact of such a strategic triangle — which would bring the entire region under Chinese radar, missile and air coverage — would be tremendous for both the United States’ and Japan’s strategic planning, some experts say, and could be a game-changer in regional power relations.

But any decision by China to forcefully take over the collection of outcroppings for land-reclamation purposes would likely be met with resistance by the U.S., the Philippines and others.

In an effort to push back against China’s behavior near Scarborough, the U.S. Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of the site in January last year as part of its larger “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPs) program in the South China Sea and across the globe.

Washington has lambasted Beijing for its moves in the South China Sea, including the construction of man-made islands, some of which are home to military-grade airfields and advanced weaponry. The U.S. fears the outposts could be used to restrict free movement in the waterway — which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year — and regularly conducts FONOPs in the area.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=9727