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51  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Breitbart: McMaster on: August 07, 2017, 07:03:11 PM
Caveat lector, it is Breitbart:

http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/08/06/mcmaster-worked-think-tank-backed-soros-funded-group-helped-obama-sell-iran-nuclear-deal/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=daily&utm_content=links&utm_campaign=20170807

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/08/06/liberal-anti-trump-media-group-goes-embattled-gen-mcmaster/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=daily&utm_content=links&utm_campaign=20170807
52  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW threatens to sue CA over excess of voters over citizens on: August 07, 2017, 06:52:06 PM
http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-warns-california-clean-voter-registration-lists-face-federal-lawsuit/
53  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Is the Army beginning to turn? on: August 07, 2017, 06:46:54 PM
    By itself, the theft of arms from Fort Paramacay won't be the downfall of the Venezuelan government.
    The incident does indicate, however, that parts of the military could be turning against Maduro.
    The possibility of a coup isn't the only threat to the government. Steady military defiance could weaken it against the opposition and complicate its efforts to rewrite the constitution.
    But the Maduro government won't go down without a bitter fight.

Something big happened at Venezuela's Fort Paramacay military base early Aug. 6, but the only clear thing about the event is that it's significant. Piecing together information from the Venezuelan government and independent media reports, we can gather that around 5 a.m. local time a group of people entered Fort Paramacay in Valencia. It's unknown how the individuals gained access to the base, but according to government reports they made their way to the armory and stole more than 90 AK-103 rifles and four rocket-propelled grenades. Security forces responded, and two of the intruders were killed in a shootout. Eight people, whom the government accused of being involved, were presented to the press later the same day.

At first it was unclear whether the event actually took place or whether it was merely a government public relations stunt. (All initial reports came from the embattled, increasingly authoritarian administration of President Nicolas Maduro.) However, as the day wore on, it became clear that a theft did occur at Fort Paramacay, and the central question became: What does it mean?

The obvious threat at the top of Venezuelan security planners' minds is the possibility that the stolen weapons will be used against loyalist forces. But by itself this wouldn't be enough to truly threaten the government's hold on power. Widespread military disloyalty, however, would. It's unclear how the group got into the base, but government reports say a first lieutenant at the base colluded with the raiders. And if this means broader dissent within parts of the military, the Venezuelan government is in trouble.

It's a critical time for the Maduro government. Already-rough conditions in Venezuela are rapidly deteriorating even further. The government could soon default, the United States is mulling sanctions on the country's oil sector, and at current rates, inflation could reach 4,000 percent year on year by 2020. As inflation worsens, an increasing number of military members and their families will experience food shortages and economic difficulty. Higher-ranking officials in the armed forces are insulated from the economic crisis, but thousands of lower-ranking members and their families are not. This decline in their standard of living raises the risk that they might openly defy the government, which would undermine the its ability to rule without taking popular opinion or its political opponents into account.

And it couldn't be a worse time for the Venezuelan government. Maduro's loyalists are trying to plan a National Constituent Assembly meeting to rewrite the constitution in their favor and to delay elections — partly in the hope that oil prices will rise and provide the economy (and therefore the government) a needed boost. And the government is counting on the military's support. If enough members of the military become disillusioned, the possibility of a coup cannot be ruled out. However, that's not the only threat posed by a disloyal military. Instead of a sudden coup, groups of military dissenters lacking the ability to remove the government outright could begin a lengthy process of attrition, either through attacks or acts of defiance.

The Maduro government has shown that it intends to cling to power however it can, despite low approval ratings. But it has been able to do so this long only because of the military. Over the past year and a half, the government has successfully fended off an attempt to hold a recall referendum against the president and has virtually ignored the demands of the opposition-controlled congress. It has also pushed forward on a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and effectively turn Venezuela into a one-party state. But without the support of the military, Maduro will be unable to make progress with the assembly without risking rebellion. Put simply: The Venezuelan government needs a critical mass of loyalty from the military to survive.

Still, even if members of the military turn on Maduro and his government, the government will not abandon the constituent assembly without a fight. Challenges from the military will be met with force by parts of the military that remain loyal. And if enough dissidents pit themselves against the government, there could be a prolonged and possibly violent standoff. It's important to recognize that military dissidents would not necessarily be guided by or aligned with the political opposition, and their disloyalty could create a tangle of politically motivated violence that would have to be unraveled before the country's substantial economic problems could even begin to be addressed.
54  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Is the Army beginning to turn? on: August 07, 2017, 06:46:16 PM
    By itself, the theft of arms from Fort Paramacay won't be the downfall of the Venezuelan government.
    The incident does indicate, however, that parts of the military could be turning against Maduro.
    The possibility of a coup isn't the only threat to the government. Steady military defiance could weaken it against the opposition and complicate its efforts to rewrite the constitution.
    But the Maduro government won't go down without a bitter fight.

Something big happened at Venezuela's Fort Paramacay military base early Aug. 6, but the only clear thing about the event is that it's significant. Piecing together information from the Venezuelan government and independent media reports, we can gather that around 5 a.m. local time a group of people entered Fort Paramacay in Valencia. It's unknown how the individuals gained access to the base, but according to government reports they made their way to the armory and stole more than 90 AK-103 rifles and four rocket-propelled grenades. Security forces responded, and two of the intruders were killed in a shootout. Eight people, whom the government accused of being involved, were presented to the press later the same day.

At first it was unclear whether the event actually took place or whether it was merely a government public relations stunt. (All initial reports came from the embattled, increasingly authoritarian administration of President Nicolas Maduro.) However, as the day wore on, it became clear that a theft did occur at Fort Paramacay, and the central question became: What does it mean?

The obvious threat at the top of Venezuelan security planners' minds is the possibility that the stolen weapons will be used against loyalist forces. But by itself this wouldn't be enough to truly threaten the government's hold on power. Widespread military disloyalty, however, would. It's unclear how the group got into the base, but government reports say a first lieutenant at the base colluded with the raiders. And if this means broader dissent within parts of the military, the Venezuelan government is in trouble.

It's a critical time for the Maduro government. Already-rough conditions in Venezuela are rapidly deteriorating even further. The government could soon default, the United States is mulling sanctions on the country's oil sector, and at current rates, inflation could reach 4,000 percent year on year by 2020. As inflation worsens, an increasing number of military members and their families will experience food shortages and economic difficulty. Higher-ranking officials in the armed forces are insulated from the economic crisis, but thousands of lower-ranking members and their families are not. This decline in their standard of living raises the risk that they might openly defy the government, which would undermine the its ability to rule without taking popular opinion or its political opponents into account.

And it couldn't be a worse time for the Venezuelan government. Maduro's loyalists are trying to plan a National Constituent Assembly meeting to rewrite the constitution in their favor and to delay elections — partly in the hope that oil prices will rise and provide the economy (and therefore the government) a needed boost. And the government is counting on the military's support. If enough members of the military become disillusioned, the possibility of a coup cannot be ruled out. However, that's not the only threat posed by a disloyal military. Instead of a sudden coup, groups of military dissenters lacking the ability to remove the government outright could begin a lengthy process of attrition, either through attacks or acts of defiance.

The Maduro government has shown that it intends to cling to power however it can, despite low approval ratings. But it has been able to do so this long only because of the military. Over the past year and a half, the government has successfully fended off an attempt to hold a recall referendum against the president and has virtually ignored the demands of the opposition-controlled congress. It has also pushed forward on a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and effectively turn Venezuela into a one-party state. But without the support of the military, Maduro will be unable to make progress with the assembly without risking rebellion. Put simply: The Venezuelan government needs a critical mass of loyalty from the military to survive.

Still, even if members of the military turn on Maduro and his government, the government will not abandon the constituent assembly without a fight. Challenges from the military will be met with force by parts of the military that remain loyal. And if enough dissidents pit themselves against the government, there could be a prolonged and possibly violent standoff. It's important to recognize that military dissidents would not necessarily be guided by or aligned with the political opposition, and their disloyalty could create a tangle of politically motivated violence that would have to be unraveled before the country's substantial economic problems could even begin to be addressed.
55  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McMaster on Israel on: August 07, 2017, 02:00:15 PM
https://www.conservativereview.com/articles/official-mcmaster-calls-israel-illegitimate-occupying-power
56  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Asesinato del campeon Europa on: August 07, 2017, 01:53:01 PM
https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/246344-fuertes-imagenes-asesinato-campeon-europa-lucha
57  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Court says Pot OR Guns, not both on: August 07, 2017, 10:33:08 AM
http://fortune.com/2016/09/01/medical-marijuana-gun/
58  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lena Dunham on: August 07, 2017, 10:06:49 AM
http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/04/lena-dunham-and-our-self-enforcing-police-state/
59  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Popular Mechanics: Risk of extended blackouts on: August 07, 2017, 10:03:08 AM
http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a7984/us-woefully-unprepared-for-a-blackout-like-indias-analysis-11413652/?src=soc_fcbk
60  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ/O'Grady: The Guns of Venezuela on: August 07, 2017, 09:58:40 AM
The Guns of Venezuela
Castro is calling the shots in Caracas. Sanctions have to be aimed at him.
Cuban President Raúl Castro with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5.
Cuban President Raúl Castro with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5. Photo: carlos garcia rawlins/Reuters
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Aug. 6, 2017 4:56 p.m. ET
183 COMMENTS

In a video posted on the internet Sunday morning, former Venezuelan National Guard captain Juan Caguaripano, along with some 20 others, announced an uprising against the government of Nicolás Maduro to restore constitutional order. The rebels reportedly appropriated some 120 rifles, ammunition and grenades from the armory at Fort Paramacay in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state. There were unconfirmed claims of similar raids at several other military installations including in Táchira.

The Cuba-controlled military regime put tanks in the streets and unleashed a hunt for the fleeing soldiers. It claims it put down the rebellion and it instructed all television to broadcast only news of calm. But Venezuelans were stirred by the rebels’ message. There were reports of civilians gathering in the streets to sing the national anthem in support of the uprising.

Note to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Venezuelans want to throw off the yoke of Cuban repression. They need your help.

Unfortunately Mr. Tillerson so far seems to be taking the bad advice of his State Department “experts.”

The same bureaucrats, it should be noted, ran Barack Obama’s Latin America policy. Those years gave us a rapprochement with Havana that culminated with the 44th president doing “the wave” with Raúl Castro at a baseball game in 2016. Team Obama also pushed for Colombia’s surrender to the drug-trafficking terrorist group FARC in a so-called peace deal last year. And it supported “dialogue” last year to restore free, fair and transparent elections in Venezuela. The result, in every case, was disaster.

Any U.S.-led international strategy to liberate Venezuela must begin with the explicit recognition that Cuba is calling the shots in Caracas, and that Havana’s control of the oil nation is part of its wider regional strategy.

Slapping Mr. Maduro’s wrist with sanctions, as the Trump administration did last week, won’t change Castro’s behavior. He cares only about his cut-rate Venezuelan oil and his take of profits from drug trafficking. To affect things in Venezuela, the U.S. has to press Cuba.

Burning Cuban flags, when they can be had, is now practically a national pastime in Venezuela because Venezuelans understand the link between their suffering and Havana. The Castro infiltration began over a decade ago when Fidel sent thousands of Cuban agents, designated as teachers and medical personnel, to spread propaganda and establish communist cells in the barrios.

As I noted in this column last week, since 2005 Cuba has controlled Venezuela’s citizen-identification and passport offices, keeping files on every “enemy” of the state—a k a political opponents. The Venezuelan military and National Guard answer to Cuban generals. The Venezuelan armed forces are part of a giant drug-trafficking operation working with the FARC, which is the hemisphere’s largest cartel and also has longstanding ties to Cuba.

These are the tactical realities of the Cuba-Venezuela-Colombia nexus. The broader strategic threat to U.S. interests, including Cuba’s cozy relationship with Middle East terrorists, cannot be ignored.

Elisabeth Burgos is the Venezuelan ex-wife of the French Marxist Regis Debray. She was born in Valencia, joined the Castro cause as a young woman, and worked for its ideals on the South American continent.

Ms. Burgos eventually broke free of the intellectual bonds of communism and has lived in Paris for many years. In a recent telephone interview—posted on the Venezuelan website Prodavinci—she warned of the risks of the “Cuban project” for the region. “Wherever the Cubans have been, everything ends in tragedy,” she told Venezuelan journalist Hugo Prieto. “Surely we have no idea what forces we face,” Mr. Prieto observed—reflecting as a Venezuelan on the words of Ms. Burgos—because, as she said, there is “a lot of naiveté, a lot of ignorance, about the apparatus that has fallen on [Venezuelans]: Castroism.”

Cuban control of citizens is as important as control of the military. In Cuba this is the job of the Interior Ministry. For that level of control in Venezuela, Ms. Burgos said, Mr. Maduro must rely on an “elite of exceptional experts” Castro grooms at home.

Cuba, Ms. Burgos said, is not “simply a dictatorship.” For the regime it is a “historical political project” aiming for “the establishment of a Cuban-type regime throughout Latin America.” She noted that along with Venezuela the Cubans have taken Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and are now going after Colombia. “The FARC, turned into a political party and with all the money of [the narcotics business], in an election can buy all the votes that it wants.”

Mr. Tillerson is forewarned. Castro won’t stop until someone stops him. To get results, any U.S.-led sanctions have to hit the resources that Havana relies on to maintain the repression.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.
61  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ/O'Grady: The Guns of Venezuela on: August 07, 2017, 09:57:56 AM
The Guns of Venezuela
Castro is calling the shots in Caracas. Sanctions have to be aimed at him.
Cuban President Raúl Castro with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5.
Cuban President Raúl Castro with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5. Photo: carlos garcia rawlins/Reuters
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Aug. 6, 2017 4:56 p.m. ET
183 COMMENTS

In a video posted on the internet Sunday morning, former Venezuelan National Guard captain Juan Caguaripano, along with some 20 others, announced an uprising against the government of Nicolás Maduro to restore constitutional order. The rebels reportedly appropriated some 120 rifles, ammunition and grenades from the armory at Fort Paramacay in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state. There were unconfirmed claims of similar raids at several other military installations including in Táchira.

The Cuba-controlled military regime put tanks in the streets and unleashed a hunt for the fleeing soldiers. It claims it put down the rebellion and it instructed all television to broadcast only news of calm. But Venezuelans were stirred by the rebels’ message. There were reports of civilians gathering in the streets to sing the national anthem in support of the uprising.

Note to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Venezuelans want to throw off the yoke of Cuban repression. They need your help.

Unfortunately Mr. Tillerson so far seems to be taking the bad advice of his State Department “experts.”

The same bureaucrats, it should be noted, ran Barack Obama’s Latin America policy. Those years gave us a rapprochement with Havana that culminated with the 44th president doing “the wave” with Raúl Castro at a baseball game in 2016. Team Obama also pushed for Colombia’s surrender to the drug-trafficking terrorist group FARC in a so-called peace deal last year. And it supported “dialogue” last year to restore free, fair and transparent elections in Venezuela. The result, in every case, was disaster.

Any U.S.-led international strategy to liberate Venezuela must begin with the explicit recognition that Cuba is calling the shots in Caracas, and that Havana’s control of the oil nation is part of its wider regional strategy.

Slapping Mr. Maduro’s wrist with sanctions, as the Trump administration did last week, won’t change Castro’s behavior. He cares only about his cut-rate Venezuelan oil and his take of profits from drug trafficking. To affect things in Venezuela, the U.S. has to press Cuba.

Burning Cuban flags, when they can be had, is now practically a national pastime in Venezuela because Venezuelans understand the link between their suffering and Havana. The Castro infiltration began over a decade ago when Fidel sent thousands of Cuban agents, designated as teachers and medical personnel, to spread propaganda and establish communist cells in the barrios.

As I noted in this column last week, since 2005 Cuba has controlled Venezuela’s citizen-identification and passport offices, keeping files on every “enemy” of the state—a k a political opponents. The Venezuelan military and National Guard answer to Cuban generals. The Venezuelan armed forces are part of a giant drug-trafficking operation working with the FARC, which is the hemisphere’s largest cartel and also has longstanding ties to Cuba.

These are the tactical realities of the Cuba-Venezuela-Colombia nexus. The broader strategic threat to U.S. interests, including Cuba’s cozy relationship with Middle East terrorists, cannot be ignored.

Elisabeth Burgos is the Venezuelan ex-wife of the French Marxist Regis Debray. She was born in Valencia, joined the Castro cause as a young woman, and worked for its ideals on the South American continent.

Ms. Burgos eventually broke free of the intellectual bonds of communism and has lived in Paris for many years. In a recent telephone interview—posted on the Venezuelan website Prodavinci—she warned of the risks of the “Cuban project” for the region. “Wherever the Cubans have been, everything ends in tragedy,” she told Venezuelan journalist Hugo Prieto. “Surely we have no idea what forces we face,” Mr. Prieto observed—reflecting as a Venezuelan on the words of Ms. Burgos—because, as she said, there is “a lot of naiveté, a lot of ignorance, about the apparatus that has fallen on [Venezuelans]: Castroism.”

Cuban control of citizens is as important as control of the military. In Cuba this is the job of the Interior Ministry. For that level of control in Venezuela, Ms. Burgos said, Mr. Maduro must rely on an “elite of exceptional experts” Castro grooms at home.

Cuba, Ms. Burgos said, is not “simply a dictatorship.” For the regime it is a “historical political project” aiming for “the establishment of a Cuban-type regime throughout Latin America.” She noted that along with Venezuela the Cubans have taken Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and are now going after Colombia. “The FARC, turned into a political party and with all the money of [the narcotics business], in an election can buy all the votes that it wants.”

Mr. Tillerson is forewarned. Castro won’t stop until someone stops him. To get results, any U.S.-led sanctions have to hit the resources that Havana relies on to maintain the repression.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.
62  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kill the Filibuster on: August 07, 2017, 09:54:21 AM
https://www.wsj.com/articles/kill-the-filibuster-before-its-too-late-1502052097
63  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Russian conspiracy, Comey, related matters on: August 07, 2017, 09:25:09 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/aug/6/donald-trump-fights-robert-mueller-in-public-relat/?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTkRRM09EWmxOR1kyTkRReSIsInQiOiJjQWJcL3V5elVGd3NENkF3K1c0eEkzNG5qVnFPMnc3Nmg5bnF1TG91MStjYnIxbHFBV1d0SEhYaG1UaElsQ1NIekpleDIzenQ4ZU9Zd1FmQzhOSjJMUWdvb09MZWFSZERIMjBsQlwvWHJSM252Q1RTSDh1eWNvTVZtVmJ1bld6NkNhIn0%3D
64  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Planned Parenthood teaching preschoolers gender fluidity on: August 06, 2017, 12:48:27 PM
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/08/04/planned-parenthood-wants-to-preschoolers-to-know-gender-and-sex-arent-same.html
65  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McMaster-- WTF?!? on: August 06, 2017, 01:14:45 AM
http://pamelageller.com/2017/08/mcmaster-cair-terror-blocked-hirsi-ali.html/

http://pamelageller.com/2017/08/mcmaster-israel-illegitimate.html/

66  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strasssel lays it out on: August 05, 2017, 09:01:14 PM
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-scandal-that-matters-1501801333

 Imran Awan was arrested at Dulles International Airport July 24, while attempting to board a flight to Pakistan. For more than a decade the congressional staffer had worked under top House Democrats, and he had just been accused by the FBI of bank fraud.

It was a dramatic moment in a saga that started in February, when Capitol Police confirmed an investigation into Mr. Awan and his family on separate accusations of government theft. The details are tantalizing: The family all worked for top Democrats, were paid huge sums, and had access to sensitive congressional data, even while having ties to Pakistan.

The media largely has ignored the affair, the ho-hum coverage summed up by a New York Times piece suggesting it may be nothing more than an “overblown Washington story, typical of midsummer.” But even without evidence of espionage or blackmail, this ought to be an enormous scandal.

Because based on what we already know, the Awan story is—at the very least—a tale of massive government incompetence that seemingly allowed a family of accused swindlers to bilk federal taxpayers out of millions and even put national secrets at risk. In a more accountable world, House Democrats would be forced to step down.

Mr. Awan, 37, began working for House Democrats as an IT staffer in 2004. By the next year, he was working for future Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Over time he would add his wife, two brothers, a brother’s wife and a friend to the payroll—and at handsome sums. One brother, Jamal, hired in 2014 reportedly at age 20, was paid $160,000. That’s in line with what a chief of staff makes—about four times the average Capitol Hill staffer. No Democrat appears to have investigated these huge numbers or been asked to account for them.

According to an analysis by the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak, who has owned this story, the family has collected $5 million since 2003 and “appeared at one time or another on an estimated 80 House Democrats’ payrolls.” Yet Mr. Rosiak interviewed House staffers who claim most of the family were “ghost” employees and didn’t come to work. Only in government does nobody notice when staffers fail to show up.

The family was plenty busy elsewhere. A litany of court documents accuse them of bankruptcy fraud, life-insurance fraud, tax fraud and extortion. Abid Awan, a brother, ran up more than $1 million in debts on a failed car dealership he somehow operated while supposedly working full time on the Hill. One document ties the family to a loan from a man stripped of his Maryland medical license after false billing. Capitol Police are investigating allegations of procurement fraud and theft. The brothers filed false financial-disclosure forms, with Imran Awan claiming his wife had no income, even as she worked as a fellow House IT staffer.

This is glaringly shady stuff, in no way “typical,” yet nobody noticed. Federal contractors are subject to security standards, but individual congressional offices have giant leeway over their hiring—and apparently no quality control. If a private firm had such shoddy employee oversight, it’d be sued into oblivion.

The most recent FBI affidavit accuses Imran Awan of defrauding the Congressional Federal Credit Union by lying about the use of his rental properties to get a $165,000 home-equity loan—which he immediately wrapped into a $283,000 wire transfer to Pakistan. At one point, when the credit union asked Mr. Awan (who was pretending to be his wife on the phone) why he wanted to send money to Pakistan, he replied, “funeral arrangements.”

Told this was not an acceptable reason, Mr. Awan went to “look online for an acceptable reason” and responded “buying property.” The bright bulbs at the credit union approved the transfer. His wife was already in Pakistan. The FBI stopped her at the airport in March, and despite finding $12,400 in undeclared cash (in excess of the legal limit), they let her go. Seriously.

Imran Awan has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud. The law office representing him issued a statement casting the investigation as “part of a frenzy of anti-Muslim bigotry in the literal heart of our democracy.” It calls the accusations “utterly unsupported, outlandish, and slanderous.”

Yes, it is weird that Ms. Wasserman Schultz continued to shield Imran Awan to the end. Yes, the amounts of money, and the ties to Pakistan, are strange. Yes, it is alarming that emails show Imran Awan knew Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s iPad password, and that the family might have had wider access to the accounts of lawmakers on the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees.

Yet even if this never adds up to a spy thriller, it outranks most of the media’s other obsessions. The government, under the inattentive care of Democrats, may have been bilked for ages by a man the FBI has alleged to be a fraudster. That’s the same government Democrats say is qualified to run your health care, reform your children’s schools, and protect the environment. They should explain this first.

Write to kim@wsj.com.
67  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USMC: All Male Units are better than Mixed Gender on: August 05, 2017, 08:48:48 PM
https://qz.com/499618/the-us-marines-tested-all-male-squads-against-mixed-gender-ones-and-the-men-came-out-ahead/
68  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: August 05, 2017, 06:57:16 PM
segundo post del dia

Mexico: Lawmakers Propose Reforms to Piece Together a Fractured Congress
(Stratfor)
Connections

    Regions & Countries

    Themes

Mexico's ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) proposed reforms to federal legislation that could lead to a coalition government by 2018. The purpose of legalizing a coalition government is to overcome logistical challenges posed by Mexico's political fragmentation. Since the 1990s, Mexico's political landscape splintered as several competing parties gained seats at the expense of the PRI. The PRI, which once held virtually all major elected offices in Mexico, now jostles with the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the more leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) for power in Congress . Meanwhile, former Federal District Head of Government Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, formed his own party, the National Regeneration Movement, for the 2018 presidential campaign, which threatens to further divide Congress.

Such a fragmented political scene is a potential recipe for a legislative impasse in Congress. Heavy gridlock because of poilitcal divisions has hindered the latter half of President Enrique Pena Nieto's term. Introducing a coalition government that enables opposition parties to hold politically influential Cabinet posts may provide the government with a tool to reduce legislative obstruction from the opposition and pass legislation more easily.

The political reforms, proposed by PRI legislator Manlio Fabio Beltrones, would enable the president to incorporate legislative blocs into a formal coalition. According to the proposal, the president could choose whether to invite legislative blocs into a coalition after putting the coalition up to a congressional vote. The proposed coalition also would have to represent a majority of congressmen. The potential election of Lopez Obrador (who has never held a legislative, governor, or Cabinet position) is another possible reason that PRI is attempting to facilitate a coalition government. Successfully forming a coalition government with Lopez Obrador would allow opposition parties to more directly influence his political agenda.

But the proposed legislative changes, which come less than a year before Mexico's 2018 presidential election, may not make it through Congress. To approve legislation, PRI will have to convince legislators from PAN and PRD that forming a coalition government is in their interest. Time is running out to negotiate, discuss and approve such laws before the 2018 presidential and legislative campaign season heats up. Meanwhile, it's far from certain that the legislation necessary to formalize the creation of a coalition government will make it through Congress in time for the next president to use it.
69  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Fentanyl is a game changer on: August 05, 2017, 06:54:21 PM
Aug 3, 2017 | 08:00 GMT
Mexico's Cartels Find Another Game Changer in Fentanyl
By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Scott Stewart
Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are shown at a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General.
(DREW ANGERER/Getty Images)


In my July 13 On Security column about the Mexican government's anti-cartel policy, I discussed how the dynamics of the cocaine trade affected the historical trajectory of Mexican organized crime. In short, cocaine provided cartels with unprecedented quantities of cash that they then parlayed into power. Starting in the 1980s, Mexican criminal organizations began fighting over the immense profit pool produced by the lucrative trade in powder, and this infighting has continued in one form or another to this day.

But cocaine was merely the first of several drugs that were game changers for Mexican organized crime groups. The latest of them, fentanyl (and related synthetic opioids), is the most profitable yet, and is rapidly becoming the deadliest drug for users north of the border.

Disruptive Drugs

Mexican criminals have been incredibly flexible and adaptive in terms of the drugs they supply to the massive illegal narcotics market in the United States. Much of this flexibility naturally comes in response to consumer demand for certain types of drugs. But enforcement and interdiction also heavily influence the activities of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. Increased disruption of Caribbean cocaine-trafficking routes, for example, led Colombian cartels to rely more heavily on Mexican groups to move their product over land into the United States. This change transformed the Mexicans into a critical link in the cocaine supply chain and allowed figures such as Gulf cartel leader Juan Garcia Abrego to demand larger profit cuts.

Methamphetamine is another good example of Mexican cartels recognizing and seizing business opportunities created by market forces and enforcement activity. U.S. law enforcement action targeting industrial-scale methamphetamine labs in California's Central Valley, and state and federal legislation such as the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, made it increasingly difficult to manufacture methamphetamine in the United States. Mexican criminal organizations, especially several Sinaloa cartel affiliates, recognized the opportunity presented by these developments and dramatically expanded their methamphetamine production in response. They also improved the quality and purity of the drug, compared to the product made by smaller operations in the United States. As a result, methamphetamine for sale on American streets became better, cheaper and more widely available.

Sinaloa cartel lieutenant Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel even became known as the "king of crystal" due to the large quantities of methamphetamine his organization produced. Unlike cocaine, which they had to purchase from Colombian producers or, more expensively, Central American middlemen, Mexican cartels could produce methamphetamine from relatively inexpensive dual-use precursor chemicals. So, though the cartels had been making good money in the cocaine trade, methamphetamine was even more profitable, since the cartels could control the lion's share of the profit pool. And groups that had strong connections to Chinese chemical providers and could oversee the flow of chemicals through Mexico's ports had a competitive advantage. Indeed, the rise of Tierra Caliente organized crime groups such as La Familia Michoacana, the Knights Templar and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion occurred largely because they controlled Mexico's ports and the methamphetamine trade.
Areas of cartel influence in Mexico.

Fentanyl: Low Costs, Big Profits

Lately, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has cracked down on pill mills prescribing opiates in the United States. As a result, people addicted to opiates have turned to alternatives such as Mexican black tar heroin. Mexican growers have planted record amounts of opium poppies in recent years, and the large influx of Mexican heroin to the United States has filled the coffers of growers and traffickers. Mexican heroin was strong, plentiful and inexpensive. And Mexican organizations also pioneered new distribution methods, even delivering heroin to the homes of users. One no longer had to travel into inner cities to obtain the drug, and heroin use expanded in all strata of society.

However, poppy cultivation is limited by geography. In Mexico, poppies grow best along the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain chain, on ridges above the 1,000-meter mark (3,280 feet) where the air is dry. So, there is a finite amount of space where opium poppies can be planted, and these locations are not difficult for the Mexican government to find and eradicate. Mexico has a relatively gentle climate and poppy growers ordinarily can manage two harvests of opium gum a year, but heroin production is nevertheless limited. It takes about three months for an opium poppy to mature and produce opium gum.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opiates, on the other hand, are not bound by geography or growing cycles. Fentanyl can be produced anywhere a laboratory can be set up, such as a warehouse in an industrial park, a home in a residential area or a clandestine lab in the mountains. It can be synthesized as long as there is access to the required precursor chemicals, which are almost exclusively imported from China. Fentanyl is also relatively inexpensive to produce — the DEA estimates it costs about $3,300 to produce 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). It is also very potent, so a little goes a long way. According to the DEA, fentanyl is some 50 times more potent than heroin — and carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. This makes the drug a smuggler's dream due to its compact nature. Smuggling 1 kilogram of fentanyl into the United States is, from a dosage standpoint, essentially the same as smuggling in 50 kilograms of heroin, and 1 kilogram of carfentanil is roughly the equivalent of 5,000 kilograms of heroin.

Due to fentanyl's strength, 1 kilogram can fetch more than $1 million on the retail drug market, making fentanyl the most profitable drug the Mexican cartels are trafficking. Fentanyl's inexpensive nature is why drug dealers have attempted to pass it off as various more expensive narcotics, such as "China White" heroin for example, or pressed it into pills to mimic pharmaceutical opiates such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. The potency of fentanyl, carfentanil and other derivatives also seriously increases the risk overdose. Dealers processing the drugs for sale on the street often struggle to accurately dispense the very small doses required — and small mistakes in dosage can be deadly. In fentanyl, a deadly dose is measured in milligrams — one thousandth of a gram. In carfentanil, a deadly dose is in micrograms — one millionth of a gram. When dealing with such microscopic amounts placed into a medium purporting to be heroin or a pharmaceutical pill, it isn't hard to see why miscalculations are made and why so many users are overdosing.

Lucrative Ports

Fentanyl is also relatively easy to synthesize; the chemists who work in Mexico's more complex methamphetamine labs have little problem manufacturing it. And given America's appetite for opioids, fentanyl is poised to become the latest in a line of drugs offering a competitive advantage to the organizations that produce them. As in the methamphetamine trade, those that control Mexico's ports are in the best position to benefit from the fentanyl trade: The same networks that produce and smuggle methamphetamine precursors can be used to bring fentanyl precursors into the country.

All Mexican cartels are able to smuggle some finished fentanyl from China and some quantity of the drug's precursors, but as fentanyl's popularity grows, the organizations that control the ports and have close ties to Chinese chemical providers will be able to produce the largest quantities with the most consistency. In terms of the current cartel landscape, this means that Tierra Caliente-based organized crime groups are the largest beneficiaries of the fentanyl trade — much as they have benefited the most from the methamphetamine trade. Indeed, synthetic drugs have largely fueled the rapid growth of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

The Mexican navy assumed security responsibility for Mexico's ports in June, but the ports are rife with corruption and it is going to be a tall task for the navy to put a substantial dent in the flow of precursor chemicals and other contraband. Thus the ports will continue to be valuable possessions.

As with the fighting we have seen over lucrative smuggling corridors on the border, it is likely that other organizations will attempt to challenge the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's control of Pacific coast ports such as Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas, as well as Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. With the amount of money at stake, any challenge is likely to be met with force and could result in significant intercartel violence. And of course, such potential for violence is of major concern to the many legitimate businesses that use Mexican ports for shipping.
70  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Fentanyl is a game changer on: August 05, 2017, 06:52:42 PM
Aug 3, 2017 | 08:00 GMT
Mexico's Cartels Find Another Game Changer in Fentanyl
By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Scott Stewart
Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are shown at a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General.
(DREW ANGERER/Getty Images)

In my July 13 On Security column about the Mexican government's anti-cartel policy, I discussed how the dynamics of the cocaine trade affected the historical trajectory of Mexican organized crime. In short, cocaine provided cartels with unprecedented quantities of cash that they then parlayed into power. Starting in the 1980s, Mexican criminal organizations began fighting over the immense profit pool produced by the lucrative trade in powder, and this infighting has continued in one form or another to this day.

But cocaine was merely the first of several drugs that were game changers for Mexican organized crime groups. The latest of them, fentanyl (and related synthetic opioids), is the most profitable yet, and is rapidly becoming the deadliest drug for users north of the border.

Disruptive Drugs

Mexican criminals have been incredibly flexible and adaptive in terms of the drugs they supply to the massive illegal narcotics market in the United States. Much of this flexibility naturally comes in response to consumer demand for certain types of drugs. But enforcement and interdiction also heavily influence the activities of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. Increased disruption of Caribbean cocaine-trafficking routes, for example, led Colombian cartels to rely more heavily on Mexican groups to move their product over land into the United States. This change transformed the Mexicans into a critical link in the cocaine supply chain and allowed figures such as Gulf cartel leader Juan Garcia Abrego to demand larger profit cuts.

Methamphetamine is another good example of Mexican cartels recognizing and seizing business opportunities created by market forces and enforcement activity. U.S. law enforcement action targeting industrial-scale methamphetamine labs in California's Central Valley, and state and federal legislation such as the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, made it increasingly difficult to manufacture methamphetamine in the United States. Mexican criminal organizations, especially several Sinaloa cartel affiliates, recognized the opportunity presented by these developments and dramatically expanded their methamphetamine production in response. They also improved the quality and purity of the drug, compared to the product made by smaller operations in the United States. As a result, methamphetamine for sale on American streets became better, cheaper and more widely available.

Sinaloa cartel lieutenant Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel even became known as the "king of crystal" due to the large quantities of methamphetamine his organization produced. Unlike cocaine, which they had to purchase from Colombian producers or, more expensively, Central American middlemen, Mexican cartels could produce methamphetamine from relatively inexpensive dual-use precursor chemicals. So, though the cartels had been making good money in the cocaine trade, methamphetamine was even more profitable, since the cartels could control the lion's share of the profit pool. And groups that had strong connections to Chinese chemical providers and could oversee the flow of chemicals through Mexico's ports had a competitive advantage. Indeed, the rise of Tierra Caliente organized crime groups such as La Familia Michoacana, the Knights Templar and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion occurred largely because they controlled Mexico's ports and the methamphetamine trade.
Areas of cartel influence in Mexico.

Fentanyl: Low Costs, Big Profits

Lately, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has cracked down on pill mills prescribing opiates in the United States. As a result, people addicted to opiates have turned to alternatives such as Mexican black tar heroin. Mexican growers have planted record amounts of opium poppies in recent years, and the large influx of Mexican heroin to the United States has filled the coffers of growers and traffickers. Mexican heroin was strong, plentiful and inexpensive. And Mexican organizations also pioneered new distribution methods, even delivering heroin to the homes of users. One no longer had to travel into inner cities to obtain the drug, and heroin use expanded in all strata of society.

However, poppy cultivation is limited by geography. In Mexico, poppies grow best along the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain chain, on ridges above the 1,000-meter mark (3,280 feet) where the air is dry. So, there is a finite amount of space where opium poppies can be planted, and these locations are not difficult for the Mexican government to find and eradicate. Mexico has a relatively gentle climate and poppy growers ordinarily can manage two harvests of opium gum a year, but heroin production is nevertheless limited. It takes about three months for an opium poppy to mature and produce opium gum.

Fentanyl and other synthetic opiates, on the other hand, are not bound by geography or growing cycles. Fentanyl can be produced anywhere a laboratory can be set up, such as a warehouse in an industrial park, a home in a residential area or a clandestine lab in the mountains. It can be synthesized as long as there is access to the required precursor chemicals, which are almost exclusively imported from China. Fentanyl is also relatively inexpensive to produce — the DEA estimates it costs about $3,300 to produce 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). It is also very potent, so a little goes a long way. According to the DEA, fentanyl is some 50 times more potent than heroin — and carfentanil is 100 times stronger than fentanyl. This makes the drug a smuggler's dream due to its compact nature. Smuggling 1 kilogram of fentanyl into the United States is, from a dosage standpoint, essentially the same as smuggling in 50 kilograms of heroin, and 1 kilogram of carfentanil is roughly the equivalent of 5,000 kilograms of heroin.

Due to fentanyl's strength, 1 kilogram can fetch more than $1 million on the retail drug market, making fentanyl the most profitable drug the Mexican cartels are trafficking. Fentanyl's inexpensive nature is why drug dealers have attempted to pass it off as various more expensive narcotics, such as "China White" heroin for example, or pressed it into pills to mimic pharmaceutical opiates such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. The potency of fentanyl, carfentanil and other derivatives also seriously increases the risk overdose. Dealers processing the drugs for sale on the street often struggle to accurately dispense the very small doses required — and small mistakes in dosage can be deadly. In fentanyl, a deadly dose is measured in milligrams — one thousandth of a gram. In carfentanil, a deadly dose is in micrograms — one millionth of a gram. When dealing with such microscopic amounts placed into a medium purporting to be heroin or a pharmaceutical pill, it isn't hard to see why miscalculations are made and why so many users are overdosing.

Lucrative Ports

Fentanyl is also relatively easy to synthesize; the chemists who work in Mexico's more complex methamphetamine labs have little problem manufacturing it. And given America's appetite for opioids, fentanyl is poised to become the latest in a line of drugs offering a competitive advantage to the organizations that produce them. As in the methamphetamine trade, those that control Mexico's ports are in the best position to benefit from the fentanyl trade: The same networks that produce and smuggle methamphetamine precursors can be used to bring fentanyl precursors into the country.

All Mexican cartels are able to smuggle some finished fentanyl from China and some quantity of the drug's precursors, but as fentanyl's popularity grows, the organizations that control the ports and have close ties to Chinese chemical providers will be able to produce the largest quantities with the most consistency. In terms of the current cartel landscape, this means that Tierra Caliente-based organized crime groups are the largest beneficiaries of the fentanyl trade — much as they have benefited the most from the methamphetamine trade. Indeed, synthetic drugs have largely fueled the rapid growth of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

The Mexican navy assumed security responsibility for Mexico's ports in June, but the ports are rife with corruption and it is going to be a tall task for the navy to put a substantial dent in the flow of precursor chemicals and other contraband. Thus the ports will continue to be valuable possessions.

As with the fighting we have seen over lucrative smuggling corridors on the border, it is likely that other organizations will attempt to challenge the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion's control of Pacific coast ports such as Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas, as well as Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. With the amount of money at stake, any challenge is likely to be met with force and could result in significant intercartel violence. And of course, such potential for violence is of major concern to the many legitimate businesses that use Mexican ports for shipping.
71  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media, Ministry of Truth Issues on: August 05, 2017, 05:04:59 PM
second request:  I need this to shut someone the F up.


Need a citation for the NYT fake newsing a few days ago that DOJ was starting an investigation into anti-white discrimination but it turned out to be anti-Asian discrimination
72  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Rambling Rumination: Odin's Eye on: August 05, 2017, 05:02:18 PM
http://www.sfgate.com/raiders/article/Legendary-Raider-Jim-Plunkett-my-life-sucks-11736524.php
73  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fired on his first day on: August 05, 2017, 04:35:55 PM
https://pistol-forum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=18516&d=1501345480
74  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Changing Ryan's Privates on: August 05, 2017, 04:33:50 PM
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2725601-paulie-malignaggi-tells-conor-mcgregor-to-post-full-video-from-sparring-session?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=mma

https://scontent-lga3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/20294134_1544062402281222_5572175229840374916_n.jpg?oh=f15a7e3352b98bc9e4cb3b91a3d460d1&oe=59F13F1B

75  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Media collusion with DOJ to squash tarmac story on: August 05, 2017, 01:38:33 PM
http://therightscoop.com/breaking-fbi-email-dump-reveals-collusion-between-media-and-doj-to-squash-2016-lynch-clinton-meeting/#ixzz4ooNXPXxM
76  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Trump Transition/Administration on: August 05, 2017, 01:25:09 PM
relevant to Susan Rice's security clearance from McMaster

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/former-intel-officials-call-for-revocation-of-clintons-security-privileges/
77  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in France: Rocket Launcher found on: August 05, 2017, 01:16:38 PM
http://pamelageller.com/2017/08/rocketlauncher-quran-school.html/
78  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McMaster fires Counter-Jihad Advisor on: August 05, 2017, 01:13:54 PM
http://pamelageller.com/2017/08/mcmaster-fires-top-counter-jihad.html/
79  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian money to various Reps on: August 05, 2017, 01:11:14 PM
https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/03/tangled-web-connects-russian-oligarch-money-gop-campaigns
80  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Has France found and African Solution for Africa? on: August 05, 2017, 01:03:17 PM
 Has France Found an African Solution to an African Problem?
Chad's president Idriss Deby Itno (2nd L) speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron (C) as they gather with President of Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kabore (front L), Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (rear L), Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou (front R) and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (rear R) for a meeting during the G5 Sahel summit in Bamako, July 2.
(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)


The days of the French colonial empire may be long gone, but Paris' involvement in the unstable region of the Sahel is not. French forces have been offering support for countries in the region — notably Group of 5 (G5) members Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Niger and Mauritania — for years. But as French concerns about the overmilitarization of the Sahel have grown, Paris seeks to find another solution in the form of the G5 Sahel Force. Made up of African troops from the G5 states, this counterterrorism and counter-trafficking entity may eventually play a critical role in stabilizing the Sahel region.

As recently as Aug. 2, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly visited the Sahel states of Chad, Niger and Mali to engage with soldiers and speak with leaders. The subtext for Parly's trip was a desire to reaffirm French support for the Sahel Force. France and its allies are hoping that the entity will one day offer regional security using local forces, enabling Paris and other Western nations to lessen their involvement in the Sahel.

The Long Struggle

Africa's Sahel region is most commonly associated with a handful of countries stretching across the sub-Saharan portion of the continent, including the G5. These nations are prone to several forms of state weakness, including a lack of resources and investment, poverty, corrupt and ineffectual armed forces and an inability to assert control over vast territories. Thus, the region has historically been a hotbed for terrorism, political instability and the trafficking of arms, drugs and humans. As a result, Western nations — particularly France, a former Sahel colonizer — have often stepped in to help stabilize the area. The French military, for example, has been conducting counterterrorism operations there under the auspices of Operation Barkhane since 2013, when Paris intervened to prevent Mali's collapse amid an assault from Tuareg and Islamic militant forces.

France has been fairly successful as the region's security guarantor, pulling its diplomatic and security weight to aid Mali and shore up other relatively weak regional allies such as Niger. But recently, Paris has sought to lessen its defense burden in the Sahel by increasingly offloading onto African and European allies. (The U.S., for its part, is already involved in the region, engaging in special operations, drone operations and logistical support.) All European states are ultimately threatened by the problems of the Sahel, given that its relative proximity to the Mediterranean Sea provides a thin barrier for transnational issues. It is therefore understandable that France would expect these nations — especially Germany — to increase their contributions.

One key component of this redistribution of resources has been the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM), designed to advise and train the Malian military. As noted, Mali has been at the epicenter of the region's terrorism problem, and since 2013, the EUTM has been critical in building up the Malian armed forces following a coup and decades of corruption. Training missions such as the EUTM have been particularly useful in encouraging involvement from European countries — including Germany — that are more reticent about exercising hard power overseas.

The EUTM mission and Operation Barkhane are successes in many respects. But the overall picture of Sahel security in the coming years is one that will heavily feature French forces, simply because of the limited capacity of regional governments and militaries. From Mauritania to Niger, countries on the continent continue to struggle with border security: On July 12, the Mauritanian minister of defense declared the country's border with Algeria closed and its immediate area a military zone, with the Mauritanian armed forces considering all individuals in the zone to be legitimate targets. The decision was no doubt the result of increased drug trafficking and terrorist group operations in the area.

And the degradation of the security environment in recent months and years is not exclusive to Mauritania's remote north. Other zones, such as the tri-border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, have seen increases in terrorist activity: militants have attacked wayward government outposts to steal provisions, wreak havoc on locals and sometimes kidnap the few Westerners left in the vast space. Thus, the local authorities of formerly stable zones are now under additional pressure to address the metastasizing threat.

An African Solution

The reality is that France cannot significantly reduce its security burdens in the Sahel right now. The former colonial power has instead been attempting to broaden the scope of its strategy. French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed concern about France's strategy in the region becoming overly militarized in recent years, to the detriment of longer-term state building. Since May 2017, Macron's administration has accelerated efforts to get the G5 Sahel Force up and running. Designed to tackle the more transnational nature of terrorism and crime, the standing force has been touted as "An African solution for African problems" (a term no doubt used to drum up international support). But as with everything in the instability-plagued region, the launch of the G5 Sahel Force has been marked by almost equal parts success and setbacks.

There are countless examples of African forces struggling to make progress without being totally dependent on the financial and logistical support of the United Nations, the European Union and other global powers. For instance, the standby forces of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States both faced serious difficulties in their efforts to become productive and autonomous. The G5 Sahel Force is almost certainly headed in the same direction.

On June 5, the European Union committed $56 million to the force following a visit to Mali by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. France has also ponied up, reportedly providing an initial $9 million along with 70 tactical vehicles, in addition to $228 million in regional development aid over the next five years. As Macron put it, France's real contribution will be "advice, material and combat." Moreover, Berlin is expected to host an international donors conference in September to partially fund the G5 Sahel Force.

In spite of these initial and prospective gains, the financial viability of the force is still in question. Reportedly, each G5 Sahel member state will contribute $10 million each, bringing in another $50 million. But Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita recently noted that current levels of funding were nowhere near the estimated $500 million annual budget that he sees as necessary to fund the 5,000-member force.

A "two steps forward, one step back" dynamic was further on display at the United Nations on June 21, when the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that backed the Sahel Force. U.S. objections to additional U.N. spending obligations forced France to water down the resolution's text. (The Trump administration has sought to cut its international commitments, including in the realm of peacekeeping.) The version of the resolution that ultimately passed states only that the U.N. Security Council "welcomes the deployment" of the force; it does not commit the international organization to any funding.

Putting the Sahel Force Into Action

Nevertheless, Macron is pushing hard to have the G5 Sahel Force up and running by October, so that it can "prove itself" on the ground. Some facts about the entity have already been revealed: For example, it will be headquartered in Sevare in northern Mali and will reportedly focus on three critical border regions: the West Zone (Mali-Mauritania), the Center Zone (Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger), and the East Zone (Niger-Chad). This follows the emphasis on cross-border security challenges implemented by the Multinational Joint Task Force, which was designed to address the threat posed by the Boko Haram insurgency. And in a broader sense, the regional focus continues a trend of Sahel states pooling their resources. In one such recent instance, Mali, Chad and Niger signed an agreement in May allowing the three countries to expedite potential terrorist or criminal suspects, exchange judicial records and obtain information about travelers.

However, the exact number and composition of the Sahel Force remain uncertain. It will reportedly be composed of battalions of 750 soldiers from each country, although this would tally up to a 3,750-member force, well short of the oft-cited 5,000-member figure. Moreover, it has been stated that these soldiers will operate under their own respective flags rather than being part of a supranational group. This could prove problematic if political leaders become unwilling to spread various burdens across the broader force. Chadian President Idriss Deby recently complained that his country's armed forces — a key French ally and the region's most capable military — are "overstretched" in their struggle to combat terrorism. The G5 request for more troop contributions comes amid Chad's continued financial difficulties in the wake of falling crude oil exports prices. Deby is likely hoping to drum up more financial support from Western allies, namely France.

Overall, it remains to be seen how much interoperability can truly be achieved by the five nation, seven battalion Sahel Force — and how heavily the entity will rely on France. There have been joint African military operations in the past, such as Mali and Burkina Faso's Operation Panga, which focused on rooting out militants in the Fhero Forest. But while that operation was hailed as a success because militants were killed and captured, materiel was seized and intelligence was gained, it relied heavily on the French military as its backbone. France's Operation Barkhane furnished soldiers, tactical vehicles, fighter jets and drones.

One thing is clear: Along with limited help from other international actors, the French military is instrumental in holding the Sahel region together. Getting the G5 Sahel Force up and running is a big step forward in finding regional solutions for regional problems. But even in the best case scenario, France is still many years away from being able to significantly reduce its security burden in the Sahel.
81  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Iran making a play on: August 05, 2017, 12:58:05 PM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/05/world/asia/iran-afghanistan-taliban.html?emc=edit_ta_20170805&nl=top-stories&nlid=49641193&ref=cta&_r=0
82  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / stratfor: China ready to work w US at UN? Russia to act as spoiler? on: August 05, 2017, 11:18:05 AM
China May Finally Be Ready to Work With the United States on North Korea
On July 28, however, North Korea tested its second ICBM, ratcheting up pressure on China to act.
(JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)


The United States and China appear to have reached accord over a draft U.N. resolution on fresh sanctions against North Korea. Anonymous diplomatic sources say that the United States aims to hold a vote Aug. 5. This has been the U.S. and Chinese approach for some time — to first engage in bilateral dialogue before formally proposing sanctions measures to the broader U.N. Security Council.

Washington handed over a new draft sanctions resolution to China shortly after an emergency July 5 U.N. Security Council meeting in reaction to North Korea's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test. The United States insisted that it wanted to avoid the watered-down sanctions leveled in the past, a specific allusion to China's pattern of playing defense in the United Nations to ensure that sanctions do not go too far in destabilizing North Korea.

Shortly after the July 5 meeting, China's U.N. Ambassador Liu Jiey cautioned against rushing the measures and said an improvement of the situation might reduce the urgency, specifically noting his desire for further North Korean tests to be prevented by diplomatic means. On July 28, however, North Korea tested its second ICBM, ratcheting up pressure on China to act. The following week, the U.S. announced it would launch new investigations into Chinese trade practices — a sign that it will no longer allow hoped-for cooperation to limit it from firm action. The investigation could allow the U.S. administration to eventually unleash a slate of retaliatory trade measures against China — a prospect very much on Beijing's mind as it decides how to proceed regarding North Korea.

According to anonymous U.N. diplomats, the U.S.-proposed sanctions would stop countries from increasing the number of North Korean workers they accept and from engaging in new joint ventures with the country. They would also ban coal, iron, seafood and lead exports with the goal of reducing North Korea's export income by a third. In the bilateral talks ahead of the most recent June 2 U.N. sanctions on North Korea, China balked at broader proposals and instead agreed only to limited measures on individual entities. In early 2017, however, Beijing took some limited steps in terms of banning coal and cutting some humanitarian programs as well as a moderate curb of oil exports.

To come into force, the resolution would need the approval of nine U.N. Security Council member states. It would also have to avoid a veto from permanent members. The veto is the biggest worry for the United States, given that Russia has the power to block the resolution. Moscow shows every sign that it is willing to act as a spoiler in the U.S. strategy to contain the North Korean threat, questioning the assessment that North Korea test-fired ICBMs and stepping in with fuel exports to North Korea. The question now becomes whether Russia will pull the trigger on a veto, or whether it will allow the U.N. measures to proceed with the intention of undercutting them in practice — as it has done before. Moscow's incentive to act as a spoiler has only become greater since new U.S. sanctions on Russia were signed into law Aug. 2. The raft of measures also included enhanced sanctions on North Korea, with provisions specifically aimed at targeting Russian energy shipments to the North — something Russia is increasingly doing under the radar in case further sanctions are implemented. Russia's new ambassador to the U.N. met with his Chinese counterpart Aug. 3 and cautioned that a bilateral agreement between the United States and China was by no means universal.

Russian pushback on sanctions could, however, work to China's advantage by giving the country what it wants but can't actually work toward. With the United States showing every sign of stepping up trade pressure and sanctions targeting Chinese entities doing business with North Korea, Beijing has every reason to cooperate on U.N. sanctions. During the closed-door talks between China and the United States, China worked closely with Moscow as well, and the ball is now in Russia's court.
83  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: August 05, 2017, 11:11:11 AM
Interesting notion , , ,
84  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Akita on: August 05, 2017, 12:28:27 AM
This is moving along very nicely.  Today I received the first of the final version of the knives.  cool cool cool
85  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / How much to budget for Burning Man? on: August 05, 2017, 12:27:28 AM
http://time.com/money/4867493/burning-man-how-much-it-costs/
86  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mueller asks WH for Flynn documents re Turkish money on: August 05, 2017, 12:20:58 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/us/politics/robert-mueller-michael-flynn-turkey.html?emc=edit_na_20170804&nl=breaking-news&nlid=49641193&ref=cta&_r=0
87  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media, Ministry of Truth Issues on: August 04, 2017, 04:25:30 PM
Need a citation for the NYT fake newsing a few days ago that DOJ was starting an investigation into anti-white discrimination but it turned out to be anti-Asian discrimination.
88  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / High Tech Helmet being tested on: August 04, 2017, 01:33:27 PM
http://nypost.com/2017/08/02/special-forces-test-out-boba-fett-combat-helmet/
89  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WaPo: History's greatest mass murder: China and Mao on: August 04, 2017, 10:31:30 AM
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/08/03/giving-historys-greatest-mass-murderer-his-due/?utm_term=.4f71cbd9799b
90  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tucker, Krauthammer, & Turley on: August 03, 2017, 10:04:53 PM
Some serious conversation here

00:00-12:05

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMotHFkwPds
91  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: August 03, 2017, 10:01:15 PM
Common practice for her position, but given her history, this is more than a little generous.
92  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Recess appointments blocked on: August 03, 2017, 09:59:54 PM
http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/345261-senate-blocks-trump-from-making-recess-appointments-over-break?rnd=1501804525
93  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sophisticated Aussie plot has big lessons for US on: August 03, 2017, 07:09:13 PM
https://www.investigativeproject.org/6449/sophisticated-australian-airplane-bombing-plot
94  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRO: In defense of McMaster on: August 03, 2017, 06:42:30 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450135/h-r-mcmaster-national-security-council-no-islamist-conspiracy-theory?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Monday%20through%20Friday%202017-08-03&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives
95  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCarthy: Why doesn't Trump unmask the unmaskers? on: August 03, 2017, 06:39:55 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450113/obama-administration-unmasking-trump-should-declassify?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NR%20Daily%20Monday%20through%20Friday%202017-08-03&utm_term=NR5PM%20Actives
96  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Big Chinese Missile Test on: August 03, 2017, 06:23:37 PM
China apparently responded to news of plans to complete the placement of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea with a large live-fire exercise on July 31. On the day before China's military parade on Aug. 1, the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force launched 20 ballistic and cruise missiles at targets simulating a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile site, along with mock-up airstrips and bases, reports indicate. The drill used Chinese DF-26C and DF-16A ballistic missiles as well as CJ-10 cruise missiles.
 
Ballistic and cruise missiles are central to China's military strategy, especially in the Western Pacific, where Beijing faces powerful militaries, such as those of the United States and Japan. Continued exercises employing components of the country's missile arsenal are necessary for China to become adept at using its extended-range weapons.
 
Two observations make the July 31 exercise particularly noteworthy. First, the size of the missile launch is important. It is exceedingly rare for China to test this many missiles in live-fire games during a single exercise. These weapons are costly and China only has a limited number, meaning that Beijing won't expend them needlessly.
 
Second, the exercise comes amid considerable friction with the United States over trade, the South China Sea and especially North Korea. Indeed, the partial deployment by the United States of a THAAD anti-missile battery in South Korea prompted vehement protests from Beijing. Therefore, it is likely that the Chinese were trying to send a message of resolve, especially when the scope and size of the exercise are taken into account.
97  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JW on all this on: August 03, 2017, 05:10:21 PM
https://www.facebook.com/JudicialWatch/videos/10155193344301943/

28 minutes
98  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GeoFut: Towards a Geopolitics of the Arctic on: August 03, 2017, 04:59:41 PM
Toward a Geopolitics of the Arctic
Aug 3, 2017

 
Summary

In the fourth century B.C., Aristotle used evidence and reason to argue that the world was a sphere. More than a millennium later, explorers like Christopher Columbus set sail on the assumption that Aristotle and other Greeks from his time were right, and that the distance involved would not prohibit travel from Europe to India. The New World was discovered and the slow decline of the European epoch began. Yet humanity, despite all its technological and scientific innovation, still has not been able to interact with the Earth as if it were a simple sphere. The North and South poles are covered in ice, and for most of human history, traversing these harsh geographies was an impossibility.

Today we know that some basic facts of the Earth are changing, and that its limitations on human travel are being eliminated. It won’t be the seamless process some have made it out to be, but over the course of the next century, as ice in the Arctic melts, humans will be less constrained in their ability to travel through the North. Maritime trade routes that traverse the Arctic Ocean are already being used and will be used more frequently. Some of these routes can reduce the distance between countries in Northwestern Europe and Asia by almost 40 percent, or between East Coast U.S. ports and Asian ports by almost 20 percent. This will improve the bottom line of many companies as well as trade-oriented nations and will reshape global trade patterns. It may even attract new population centers to the Arctic coast, especially if the promise of national resource wealth in the Arctic is even half as extensive as advertised.

There are precedents for the opening of new trade routes changing global geopolitics. When European powers found a way around the Mediterranean and the Ottoman Empire’s grip over its trade routes, it set in motion a reordering of the balance of power across the world. The construction of the Panama Canal was an integral part of the rise of a global hegemon in North America, because it meant the U.S. could move its naval forces from the Atlantic to the Pacific at will.

The opening of the Arctic – a process that will take at least multiple decades, if not until the end of the century – should not be thought of in this same vein. There will no doubt be ramifications of geopolitical import, but most of those ramifications will alter current geopolitical realities rather than create new ones. This piece, therefore, will attempt to accomplish two goals. First, it will integrate the Arctic region into GPF’s model of the world. In so doing, it will define the balance of power in the Arctic and how Arctic nations interact with the rest of the world. Second, it will give a preliminary and balanced account of the ways in which developments in the Arctic will change the world, while carefully avoiding the slip into hyperbole that has afflicted much of the analysis of this part of the world in recent years.

Integrating the Arctic Into Theories of Geopolitics

The Arctic Ocean is the world’s smallest and shallowest ocean. Water covers almost 71 percent of the Earth’s surface; the Arctic Ocean makes up just 3.9 percent of that total. The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean by far, with an area of over 60 million square miles (160 million square kilometers). The area of the Arctic Ocean is not even a tenth of that size.

It’s not just that the Arctic is small. No other ocean in the world is surrounded by landmasses the way the Arctic is. The distance between the U.S. and Japan across the Pacific Ocean is roughly 4,000 miles. The distance between the U.S. and continental Europe is roughly 3,600 miles. By comparison, the Arctic countries are right on top of each other. For example, the U.S. and Russia sit roughly 60 miles apart from each other at the Bering Strait. The International Hydrographic Organization may well classify the Arctic as an ocean, but in geopolitical terms, it has little in common with the world’s major oceans.

The closest analogue in the world for thinking about the geopolitics of the Arctic is not its fellow oceans, but another large body of water surrounded by countries of different continents: the Mediterranean Sea. This comparison isn’t perfect: The Arctic Ocean is about five times as large as the Mediterranean Sea, and the center of the Mediterranean is not a hunk of impassable ice. Many Mediterranean countries also share land borders, and there are much fewer of them to start with. Despite the deficiencies, the comparison gives us a more realistic picture of the Arctic. More important, it helps define the Arctic not as a moat separating vast continents but as a potential seascape over which the region’s strongest powers may eventually compete.
 
(click to enlarge)

The Mediterranean has been a center of global conflict for millennia, while the Arctic has been exceptional for the adverse. This will remain the case for decades to come but not indefinitely. There is a scientific consensus that the current rate of melting will mean that some of the Arctic’s maritime routes will be open during the summer by the 2030s. But even if these projections are correct, it will only be if the Arctic Ocean becomes traversable at most, if not all, times of the year that we can expect to see conflict there. The more ice that melts, the more apt the comparison to the Mediterranean becomes, and the history of competition between Mediterranean powers is bloody.

Even so, there is another way in which the comparison to the Mediterranean helps conceptualize the Arctic’s geopolitical position in the world. The authors of the three most influential theories of global geopolitics in the 20th century were Alfred Thayer Mahan, Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman. These three thinkers had profoundly different ideas about the main source of global power in the international system. Mahan’s focus was on sea power; he believed that whichever country controlled the world’s oceans would in turn dominate global power. Mackinder developed a different thesis based on control of the heartland, which he defined as much of the land that would end up being controlled by the Soviet Union after World War II. Spykman came after Mahan and Mackinder, and though his views were more akin to those of Mackinder, he significantly modified the heartland theory. Spykman posited that what he called the “rimland” was the real key to global power. It was the areas surrounding the “heartland” – places that also had access to the sea – that were most important in understanding geopolitics.
 
(click to enlarge)

Despite the conceptual differences in these theories, all three have one thing in common: They did not consider the potential importance of the Arctic Ocean. This omission makes more sense for Mahan, who passed away in 1914, well before the potential of the Arctic Ocean as a viable maritime trade route was understood. But Spykman lived until 1943 and Mackinder until 1947. They lived through a time when the Allies sent Russia supplies and munitions to fight off the Central Powers via the Barents Sea. In 1917, Britain, France and the U.S. shipped 2.5 million tons of cargo to Russia along this route. In 1932, a Soviet ice breaker made the first ever transit of the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic in one season, and U.S. media were entranced with the Arctic’s potential.

Broadly speaking, it was Mahan whose theory proved most successful in predicting what was to come. The Cold War set up a battle royal between a heartland power and a sea power, and the United States emerged not only victorious but also as the only global hegemon in history to control the world’s most important oceans. As the map above shows, for Mahan’s purposes the Mediterranean was not one of those oceans. The importance of sea power was the way it could isolate a potential power in the heartland or the rimland. As we will explore in the next section, this is the appropriate way to think about the importance – or lack thereof – of the potential opening of Arctic trade routes. For these fathers of 20th-century geopolitics, the Arctic was inaccessible. For 21st-century students of geopolitics, we might simply say that the Arctic Ocean is containable.

Balance of Power in the Arctic

With the theoretical construct laid out, the next step is to look at a map.
 
(click to enlarge)

There are a few definitions of what constitutes the Arctic, so we must begin by defining what it is. One potential definition comes from the Arctic Council, which is made up of eight countries, all of which hold territory above the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 32 minutes north latitude). But not all of these countries are Arctic littoral states. Only five main countries border the Arctic Ocean: the U.S., Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway and Russia. Some consider Iceland a littoral Arctic country as well, and for the purposes of this article, its inclusion is reasonable. So when GPF writes about the Arctic region, we are talking about the six countries that border the Arctic Ocean, as well as the seascape itself.

Russia and Canada are the most important countries in the Arctic. Russia holds the most Arctic territory by far. Accounting for the 200-nautical-mile limit that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea grants Russia the right to claim, Russia occupies approximately 40 percent of the Arctic’s territory. More important, the two major sea routes that permit ships to traverse the Arctic run along the Russian and Canadian coasts: the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. The Northern Sea Route is a more reliable maritime trade route than the Northwest Passage, which the Arctic Institute noted last year was impossible to traverse even at the peak of summer because of ice conditions. Russia and Canada also have the largest naval fleets equipped to deal with the Arctic’s harsh climate. Russia has over 40 icebreakers in its fleet, while Canada has 15. By comparison, the United States has only two functional ice breakers, and though it could build more, it would take 5-10 years.
 
(click to enlarge)

It is tempting to say that Russia already dominates the Arctic – that its power there exceeds even that of the United States. Certainly, thinking like that is part of the reason for the sensationalist reporting about Russia’s military modernization campaigns and its increased deployment of military assets in its territory in the region. It is true both that Russia is seeking to modernize its military forces and that it has dispatched forces in greater numbers to the Arctic, though the size and abilities of those forces still pale in comparison to what Russia had stationed in the area during the Cold War. More important, however, this type of view of Russian behavior in the Arctic misreads the geopolitical reality of the situation. The West tends to view the Arctic as a potential source of Russian strength; in reality, it is more of a Russian vulnerability.
 
(click to enlarge)

The map at the beginning of this section shows the Arctic region from above. What immediately jumps out is that Russia’s vast holdings of territory in the Arctic do not help it deal with one of its fundamental strategic weaknesses: its lack of access to the world’s oceans. Russia cannot exit the Arctic to get to the Pacific without passing the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait, both of which are off the coast of Alaska. The U.S. may not have many ice breakers, but the rest of its navy is without peer and could easily shut down this shipping lane if it deemed it in its national interest to do so. To exit the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic, Russia would have to traverse the waters between Iceland and Greenland, or between Iceland and the United Kingdom. These are larger openings than the Bering Strait by far – about 200 and 500 miles, respectively – but they are still eminently susceptible to a blockade from anti-Russian forces.

Russia’s position in the Arctic, then, is something of a trap. If the U.S. so chose, it could block traffic coming into and out of the Arctic, and there is little Russia could do to retaliate. Furthermore, increased accessibility to the Arctic opens the Russian heartland to a vulnerability it has never had to face before. The core of Russian strategy in Europe has been to establish buffer zones between Moscow and the North European Plain. This strategy is based in part on the idea that Russia has not had to worry about a potential threat to its long Arctic coastline, the Arctic being impossible for its enemies to traverse. If Arctic ice melts enough to allow trade in the Arctic Ocean year-round, that also means that enemy naval forces would have more room to operate. This explains why Russia has assumed such a defensive posture in the region.
It also explains why Russia has, from a diplomatic perspective, been relatively cooperative in the region. The United States is the only country among the Arctic nations that has not signed on to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides a legal framework for how much maritime territory a country can claim. The U.S. has a long history of avoiding the strings attached to multilateral treaties and institutions. On the one hand, the U.S. wants freedom of navigation in global trade routes and provides that security with its navy. On the other hand, the U.S. does not want to open its own forces to potential retaliation by international bureaucracies.

Its aversion to international agreements doesn’t mean the U.S. is an aggressive player in the Arctic. By and large, Arctic nations have exhibited an exceptional level of cooperation and willingness to compromise in settling disputes. This makes some sense because the value of the Arctic is not in holding strategic territory so much as it is in establishing viable maritime trade routes, with the attendant economic benefits that come to countries located in key chokepoints. Another value of the Arctic is its vast resource potential, and conflict only prevents that kind of development from taking place. Finally, there is no country for which control of the entire Arctic region is a part of the national ethos. The relative uninhabitability of the region plays at least a small part in why disagreements have thus far been consigned to negotiations and to courts.
 
(click to enlarge)

Russia is the largest power in the Arctic, but it cannot control the Arctic and does not seek to. Canada, Norway and Denmark/Greenland all have significant interests in the region, but none of these interests would be advanced by military conflict. As for the U.S., which has claims to the Arctic by virtue of Alaska, its main interest is in making sure that any maritime trade routes that are opened as a result of technological innovation or climate change have the same status as maritime trade routes in the rest of the world. The U.S. cannot dictate what happens in the Arctic, but it doesn’t need to. The U.S. and its allies can control what goes in and out, effectively undermining any Russian advantage in terms of territory or available ice breakers.

Cold Water

This piece takes a necessarily high-altitude view of developments in the Arctic. Still, before concluding, it is worth also laying out some of the potential opportunities within the Arctic as well as its limitations. The potential benefits lie mainly in two areas: reducing the distance required on certain key trade routes, and developing oil and gas in the region.

Let’s begin with the issue of distance. It is true that there are many trade routes that the Arctic could shorten. The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that distance is not the only factor in determining cost. The cost of fuel and the cost of outfitting ships to survive in the Arctic’s harsh climate also affect the bottom line.
 
(click to enlarge)

In 2013, when oil prices were still high (Brent crude prices were around $108 per barrel for the year), 71 ships used the Northern Sea Route, carrying a total of 1.35 million metric tons of cargo. Last year, when Brent crude prices averaged around $46 for the year, only 19 ships used the route, with a decrease in cargo volume of 84.1 percent. Unless prices unexpectedly jump significantly, the economics of using Arctic maritime trade routes even if the ice is melting won’t be justified.

In addition, outfitting ships for the Arctic is costly, and the modifications needed to operate in the Arctic and in some of the narrower chokepoints in the region limit the size of ships. For instance, just to get permission to enter the Northern Sea Route, a ship must be equipped with a reinforced double hull and meet several technical requirements, as per the Arctic Institute. Also affecting the bottom line is that the capacity of ships operating in the Arctic is no more than a third the size of ships that can operate in open water. Even by 2035, the Arctic Institute projects that the economics of ice-reinforced vessels will still make it cheaper to use traditional shipping routes.
A 2016 study by the Arctic Institute looked at this issue in detail and concluded that “sea ice will continue to be an integral part of the Arctic Ocean for decades to come and the shipping lanes will be covered in ice throughout most of the year.” Even with Arctic ice continuing to melt, there is the problem of the variability of ice conditions, which remain unpredictable at best. One of the most important elements in the shipping industry is time scheduling, and the Arctic’s waters pose fundamental problems in attempting to run any kind of normal shipping schedule.

The other major potential benefit of the Arctic lies in its vast potential energy resources. The emphasis, however, is on the word “potential.” A U.S. Geological Survey report released in 2008 is the source of every optimistic data point for potential natural resources in the Arctic. That report suggested that the Arctic held about 10 percent of the world’s existing conventional resources, or 240 billion proven barrels of oil and oil equivalent natural gas. In addition, the study estimated that the Arctic could contain 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, 17 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, making up 13 percent, 30 percent and 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon resources, respectively.

Of course, that report was mainly focused on estimates and was written at a time when today’s low oil prices were unthinkable to most. As recently as 2013, oil prices were averaging above $100 a barrel. That is an important benchmark. The Arctic Institute reports that the break-even price for oil on many projects in the Arctic region is about $100 a barrel. Russia in particular has been banking on oil to support its economy and was expecting higher oil prices to last. But the shale revolution in the U.S., the oversupply of the market and the consequent reduction in oil prices have not only decreased the financial incentive for shipping companies to use the Arctic trading routes, but they have also made developing many of the energy resources available in the Arctic a less attractive prospect. This is not a permanent state of affairs; new technology could significantly lower the cost of production in the Arctic, for example. But in the short to medium term, GPF does not expect higher oil prices, and that limits the efficacy of natural resource extraction in the Arctic even if some of the estimates from the USGS on proven reserves are accurate.

Future analyses will delve into some of these issues with more depth. For now, the important takeaway is that Arctic trade routes can reduce distance, but that does not mean they are economical to use, and most estimates of ice melting and the cost benefits of shipping via the Arctic don’t envision a scenario in which the Arctic is a feasible or logical trading route in the next two decades at least. As for the Arctic’s oil and gas reserves, they are doubtless formidable in their size, but they are also expensive to access. The combination of low oil prices and a glut in the market make them irrelevant in the near term.

The Arctic region is changing. These changes have the potential to alter global trade routes and may lead to increased competition in the region, and there is no reason to expect that competition to be entirely nonviolent. Moreover, it will take a century or more – not decades – for these developments to occur. Even if projections on ice melting in the Arctic are too conservative and the region’s maritime trade routes open themselves up to greater degrees of trade, the geography of the Arctic Ocean is such that it will not have a transformative effect on global geopolitics. The Arctic Ocean is a less consequential version of the Mediterranean Sea, and access to it can be controlled by the United States. Understanding developments in the Arctic requires recognizing what is changing and what isn’t.
99  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GeoFut: Al-Tanf Crossing on: August 03, 2017, 01:32:11 PM
•   Syria: We need to better understand the level of cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in Syria. Despite the increase in tensions between the two countries over sanctions, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar has reported on a potential agreement for the U.S.-backed Syrian groups that control the al-Tanf border crossing to hand it over to Russian-backed Syrian forces.
100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GeoFut: Georgia on: August 03, 2017, 01:30:39 PM
•   Russia: Roughly 400 Russian troops held a military drill in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia. This follows several moves we are watching in the Caucasus and tracks with our Aug. 3 Reality Check. How far in advance was this drill scheduled? Is it part of the general trend we are seeing of Russia making moves here, or is it just a regularly scheduled program?
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