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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Geopolitics: Trump On Collision Course With Putin After Moscow Denies Syria Behind Chemical Attack

Geopolitics: Trump On Collision Course With Putin After Moscow Denies Syria Behind Chemical Attack
In addition, "Is Europe Choosing to Disappear?"
For the first time since his election, president Trump is set for a direct collision course with Vladimir Putin after Russia said on Wednesday it stands by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite widespread popular outrage over a chemical weapons attack which the media was quick to pin on the Syrian president, in a carbon-copy of events from 2013 which nearly launched a US invasion of the middle-eastern nation, when a YouTube clip - subsequently shown to be a hoax - served as proof that Assad had used sarin gas on rebels in a Damascus neighborhood.

As reported yesterday, Western countries including the US accused Assad's armed forces for the chemical attack, which choked scores of people to death in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government air strikes. While Washington said it believed the deaths were caused by sarin nerve gas dropped by Syrian aircraft, Moscow offered an alternative explanation, claiming the poison gas had leaked from a rebel chemical weapons depot struck by Syrian bombs.
The strike, which was launched midday Tuesday, targeted a major rebel ammunition depot east of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Konashenkov said. The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there, he added, pointing out that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.
The same chemical munitions were used by militants in Aleppo, where Russian military experts took samples in late 2016, Konashenkov said. The Defense Ministry has confirmed this information as “fully objective and verified,” Konashenkov added.
According to the statement, Khan Sheikhoun civilians, who recently suffered a chemical attack, displayed identical symptoms to those of Aleppo chemical attack victims.
Naturally, Syrian rebels disagreed: Hasan Haj Ali, rebel commander of the Free Idlib Army rebel group, and quoted by Reuters called the Russian statement a "lie".
"Everyone saw the plane while it was bombing with gas," he told Reuters from northwestern Syria. "Likewise, all the civilians in the area know that there are no military positions there, or places for the manufacture (of weapons). The various factions of the opposition are not capable of producing these substances."
The incident is the first time Washington has accused Assad of using sarin since 2013, when hundreds of people died in an attack on a Damascus suburb. At that time, Washington said Assad had crossed a "red line" set by then-President Barack Obama. Back then Obama threatened an air campaign to topple Assad but called it off at the last minute after the Syrian leader agreed to give up his chemical arsenal under a deal brokered by Moscow, a decision which Trump has long said proved Obama's weakness.
The latest incident, which comes at a very odd time - just days after the White House it will no longer pursue the ouster of Assad, cementing the Syrian leader's resolve not to do anything to infuriate the US administration - means Trump is faced with the same dilemma that faced his predecessor: whether to openly challenge Moscow and risk deep involvement in a Middle East war by seeking to punish Assad for using banned weapons, or compromise and accept the Syrian leader remaining in power at the risk of looking weak.
As reported last night, Trump described Tuesday's incident as "heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime", but also faulted Obama for having failed to enforce the red line four years ago. Obama's spokesman declined to comment. Washington, Paris and London have drawn up a draft U.N. Security Council statement condemning the attack and demanding an investigation. Russia has the power to veto it, as it has done to block all previous resolutions that would harm Assad.
As a result, all eyes will now be on Trump's response.
As Reuters puts it, "Trump's response to a diplomatic confrontation with Moscow will be closely watched at home because of accusations by his political opponents that he is too supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has previously said the United States and Russia should work more closely in Syria to fight against Islamic State."
Should Trump engage, devolving relations between Russia and the US to a level last seen under the Obama administration, it will be interesting to watch the justification provided by the "Russia-hacking" conspiracy theorists.
Aside for US-Russia relations, the chemical attack in Idlib province, one of the last major strongholds of rebels that have fought since 2011 to topple Assad, will complicate diplomatic efforts to end a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven half of Syrians from their homes.
It is worth recalling that "Jihadist groups have a strong presence in Idlib alongside other rebel groups, some of which have received backing from powers including Turkey and the United States". It is in their interest to not only watch the conflict between Russia and the US escalate, but to do everything in their power to create false flag events that achieve this.
Finally, it is worth noting that over the past several months Western countries, including the United States, had been quietly dropping their demands that Assad leave power in any deal to end the war, accepting that the rebels no longer had the capability to topple him by force. The use of banned chemical weapons would make it harder for the international community to sign off on any peace deal that does not remove him, something that Assad - and the rebels - are all aware of. It goes without saying, that the Syrian president had the most to lose from launching a chemical attack just as both the military and diplomatic tide was turning in his favor.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who two months ago shifted his country's policy by saying Assad should be allowed to run for re-election, said on Wednesday that he must go. "This is a barbaric regime that has made it impossible for us to imagine them continuing to be an authority over the people of Syria after this conflict is over."
And now, all eyes on Trump.

Is Europe Choosing To Disappear?

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,
  • A sterile Europe apparently thought that civil liberties could be bargained away in exchange for a temporary peace. Everything became negotiable.
  • As British author Douglas Murray has asked, why were workers not brought in from European countries suffering high unemployment, such as Portugal, Italy, Greece or Spain?
  • A clear-eyed U.S. Congressman, Rep. Steve King, correctly said recently that, "You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies." He instantly drew that white-hot fire reserved for people who tell truths that threaten treasured fantasies (think Giordano Bruno or Galileo).
The new data released by Italy's National Institute for Statistics for 2016 sounds again like a death knell. There has been a new negative record of births: 474,000 compared to 486,000 for 2015, which had already fallen to historic lows. There were 608,000 deaths in 2016. In one year, Italy lost 134,000 people -- the equivalent of a city of the size of Ferrara or Salerno.
The demographic "illusion" is kept only by the influx of immigration (135,000). If one needs an idea of what Italy would be without immigrants, look at Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy's most populated and affluent regions: in 2035 it will have 20% fewer residents.
Italy is sometimes thought of Europe's guinea pig: wherever Italy goes, much of Europe follows it, especially in the central and southern countries. In 1995, Antonio Golini, a professor at La Sapienza University and a former president of the National Institute of Statistics, was contacted by the director-general of Plasmon, Italy's largest producer of baby food. Looking at the declining birth rates, the firm asked him if something could be done to prevent the company from going out of business. Plasmon started to make dietary products for adults.
A year ago, European geographers went in search of "the most desolate place in Europe". They discovered it not in northern and cold Lapland, but in sunny Spain, specifically in the area of Molina de Aragon, two hours from Madrid. Depopulation has not been the consequence of the climate, as in the Russian steppe or northern forests, but of a demographic crisis.
A report by the National Statistical Institute of Spain explained how the Iberian peninsula has become the sick man of Europe: Spain loses 72 inhabitants every day; 20% fewer children are born there than two decades ago. Demographers draw a line where Spain has no future and 30% of the population will be over the age of 65. In some Spanish regions, the fertility rate barely reaches one child per woman. Deaths already exceed births. Even the newspaper El Pais asked, "Are the Spanish people in danger of extinction?". The Spanish government just appointed a "sex czar" to try to figure out how to sustain the shrinking population.
Spain, in 2050, will be a depopulated nation dominated by older people and singles. The country will lose 5.3 million inhabitants: 11% of the current population. By that time, there will be 1.7 million Spanish children fewer than there are today. No children means that, in the long run, there will be no economic growth or prosperity; democracy will become a gerontocracy and Spain will embrace global irrelevance. Alejandro MacarrĂ³n Larumbe, director of the Foundation for Demographic Revival, has provided figures on the number of Spanish provinces that have already seen a loss of population.
The Islamic world has launched a demographic challenge to a sterile Europe. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently exhorted Muslims in Europe to have five children, "because you are the future of Europe". It echoes what the President of Algeria, Houari Boumedienne, said in 1974: "The wombs of our women will give us victory". They dream of conquering Europe through demography instead of terror -- and it seems they are succeeding.
While Italian and Spanish statistics were released, another headline should have captured our attention: "Islam will surpass Christianity" -- to become the world's largest religion in 2070. There is a link not only between Europe's empty cradles and Islam's expansion, but also between Europe's demographic suicide and its passivity facing its many troubles during the last two years: mass immigration, terrorism, intimidation.
No modern, affluent society ever stopped having children before. The influx of Muslim immigrants is a symptom, not a cause of Europe's decline. Members of a healthy continent, who embrace the future in its most elementary form (raising a new generation), would have never have allowed foreign immigrants carving out separate spheres of sharia law in Europe's multicultural enclaves.
As the British author Douglas Murray, has asked, why were workers not brought in from European countries suffering high unemployment, such as Portugal, Italy, Greece or Spain? A sterile Europe apparently thought that civil liberties could be bargained away in exchange for a temporary peace. Everything became negotiable, because everything seemed perishable. An entire continent is filled with aging occupants indulging in childlike illusions of "internationalism", and claiming that all conflicts can be resolved peacefully, non-lethally and diplomatically. Europe's culture is essentially pacifist. It demonizes war, and seeks pleasure and comfort above all else.
Europe's demographic suicide also has serious consequences for the security of a society. During the transition to an elderly-majority state, democracy will be endangered. Welfare redistribution depends on younger workers providing payroll taxes to fund social security. What happens when an elderly majority can vote for itself more and more, at the expense of the dwindling young? National defense will be endangered. Today Europe already refuses to invest in the NATO alliance. Old people's entitlements will take precedence over defense spending. States that will not spend money on defense will be vulnerable to those that do.
A clear-eyed U.S. Congressman, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), correctly said recently that, "You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else's babies." He instantly drew that white-hot fire reserved for people who tell truths that threaten treasured fantasies (think Giordano Bruno or Galileo).
Decline is a choice, not a destiny. There is still time, but not much, for Europeans to choose not to disappear.