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Red line in the Pacific

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Red line in the Pacific

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?

China is catering to Taiwan’s former clients in the Pacific Basin and Beijing is bringing its own chopsticks. This is far more than just the CCP’s One China Policy. This is a military maneuver to directly threaten America’s maritime superiority.

But, small island nations do not switch allegiances based upon military considerations. After all, they were just caught in the middle between two major powers during World War II. Now it’s a matter of whether the United States will supply their needs or if China will pander to them better.

Small countries of Oceania understand they have no military leverage of their own. Their value to the superpowers on the world stage is strictly a function of their strategic locations.

How many Americans today remember the heroics of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and PT-109 in the Solomon Islands? How many of us are familiar with the furious battles at Guadalcanal or at Tarawa?

In fact, where are those places? Guadalcanal is in the Solomon Islands. Tarawa is in the current day nation of Kiribati.

Both nations have just abandoned Taipei and staked their future on the Chinese dragon from the mainland of Asia. But why?

MILITARY?

No, these small Islands in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia have no pretensions to being players on the world stage when it comes to military confrontations. They realize they are just going to be the battlegrounds where wars are waged by the megapowers.

IDEOLOGY?

So, then do you suppose it’s about capitalism vs communism? Are they siding with socialism over free market principles? This consideration, frankly, doesn’t even have a role in the recent decisions to align with China over Taiwan.

MONEY?

Bingo! That’s it! China basically just offered more stuff and more big bucks than their small island nemesis of Taiwan did or could. China not only has endless streams of funds but they have no democratic process for distributing it. Xi Jinping can give it to whomever he wishes and nobody who hopes to have a future dares say otherwise.

WHY KIRIBATI IS A RED LINE

Perhaps it’s a bit easier logistically to draw a line in the sand with your foot than it is to put a marker on the deep blue sea. But China absolutely must not be allowed to re-establish their satellite tracking station on Tarawa which was dismantled after Kiribati went with Taiwan in 2003.

Look for China to begin construction before politicians in Washington, DC even have time to realize what has happened. Ergo, this article to try to help us get out ahead of the game.

Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is only 617 miles from Tarawa. In fact, RMI is one of the few remaining Taiwan partners at this time and they cannot be snatched away on our watch.

Taiwan still has relations with Tuvalu, Nauru and Palau. Each is important strategically in its own way. But right now the United States needs to concentrate its resources on a potential crisis in Kiribati.

Kiribati straddles both the equator and the International Date Line. Therefore, it is the only country in the world that is in all four hemispheres. Kiritimati Island is due south of Honolulu. Because of the International Date Line, it is exactly 24 hours time difference.

Probably 99% of Americans have never heard of Kiribati. The voice recognition software I’m using cannot even recognize that if I enunciate it properly. The country is pronounced as Kiribas. The island South of Hawaii is Christmas Island. The national capital of Betio sounds like Beso.

SO WHO NEEDS TO DO WHAT NOW?

Unfortunately, the US of A is typically at least a day late and a dollar short. China has poached a very strategic island nation away from our allies in Taiwan, which was only willing to sell them a Boeing 737 which China donated outright.

My compliments to Dr. Rieko Hayakawa, an expert in Pacific geopolitics with a long history of providing substantive assistance to small island nations. She is ensuring that the government of Japan is fully aware of the ramifications of this Chinese power play in the Pacific.

It would help if U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would get his pompous a** and over-inflated ego on the next flight to the overcrowded little tropical island of Tarawa. Indo-Pacific Command plus the U.S. Coast Guard could also make some site visits there with infrastructure enhancement propositions in their pockets or briefcases.

Like I said earlier, the question is what have you done for me lately?

In the meantime, relations with the Marshall Islands need to be kept on a solid basis because we absolutely cannot afford their defection to China. Whatever we can do to bolster Taiwan’s relationship around the world will also be in our own self-interest as it counters Chinese hegemony.

JFK & DJT

Besides being a war hero in the Solomon Islands, our 35th president stared down Russian Dictator Nikita Khrushchev to keep missiles out of Cuba. Now our 45th president may get the chance to do something likewise with Chinese Dictator Xi Jinping to prevent their People’s Liberation Army from militarizing our Pacific neighborhood.

It’s not a matter of putting the pedal to the metal. It’s all about the mettle in the man in the White House. Sorry you don’t still have John Bolton there to give you expert advice but this will be a make-or-break for your next National Security Advisor and possibly for your own administration.

Even many of the Democrats don’t want to go soft on China. This is really not the time or place for political posturing by anyone. From Arctic to Antarctic, from Pacific to Atlantic, China poses an existential threat.

What you either do or fail to do on Tarawa will send a message straight to Beijing. There will be no satellite tracking station permitted in Kiribati to spy on us at Kwajalein. Period. End of statement.

Thin Red Line

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Foreign Affairs

Trump orders Turkey sanctions; US scrambles for Syria exit

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Trump orders Turkey sanctions US scrambles for Syria exit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Targeting Turkey’s economy, President Donald Trump announced sanctions Monday aimed at restraining the Turks’ assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria — an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving U.S. troops out of the way.

The United States also called on Turkey to stop the invasion, and Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence to the region in an attempt to begin negotiations. Pence said Trump spoke directly to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the United States of American wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence,” Pence said.

The Americans were scrambling for Syria’s exits, a move criticized at home and abroad as opening the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State group whose violent takeover of Syrian and Iraq lands five years ago was the reason American forces came in the first place.

Trump said the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops who had been partnering with local Kurdish fighters to battle IS in northern Syria are leaving the country. They will remain in the Middle East, he said, to “monitor the situation” and to prevent a revival of IS — a goal that even Trump’s allies say has become much harder as a result of the U.S. pullout.

The Turks began attacks in Syria last week against the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom the Turks see as terrorists. On Monday, Syrian government troops moved north toward the border region, setting up a potential clash with Turkish-led forces.

Trump said Turkey’s invasion is “precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes,” a reference to reports of Turkish-backed fighters executing Kurdish fighters on the battlefield.

The Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a deal with President Bashar Assad’s government to help them fend off Turkey’s invasion, a move that brings Russian forces deeper into the conflict.

In his sanctions announcement, Trump said he was halting trade negotiations with Turkey and raising steel tariffs. He said he would soon sign an order permitting sanctions to be imposed on current and former Turkish officials.

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Trump said.

American troops consolidated their positions in northern Syria on Monday and prepared to evacuate equipment in advance of a full withdrawal, a U.S. defense official said.

The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said U.S. officials were weighing options for a potential future counter-IS campaign, including the possibility of waging it with a combination of air power and special operations forces based outside of Syria, perhaps in Iraq.

The hurried preparations for a U.S. exit were triggered by Trump’s decision Saturday to expand a limited troop pullout into a complete withdrawal.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he would travel to NATO headquarters in Brussels next week to urge European allies to impose “diplomatic and economic measures” against Turkey — a fellow NATO ally — for what Esper called Ankara’s “egregious” actions.

Esper said Turkey’s incursion had created unacceptable risk to U.S. forces in northern Syria and “we also are at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict.”

The only exception to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria is a group of perhaps 200 troops who will remain at a base called Tanf in southern Syria near the Jordanian border along the strategically important Baghdad-to-Damascus highway. Those troops work with Syrian opposition forces unrelated to the Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria.

Esper said the U.S. withdrawal would be done carefully to protect the troops and to ensure that no U.S. equipment was left behind. He declined to say how long that might take.

In a series of tweets Monday, Trump defended his gamble that pulling U.S. forces out of Syria would not weaken U.S. security and credibility. He took sarcastic swipes at critics who say his Syria withdrawal amounts to a betrayal of the Kurds and plays into the hands of Russia.

“Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte,” he wrote. “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

Trump has dug in on his decision to pull out the troops, believing it fulfills a key campaign promise and will be a winning issue in the 2020 election, according to White House officials.

This has effectively ended a five-year effort to partner with Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to ensure a lasting defeat of the Islamic State group. Hundreds of IS supporters escaped a holding camp amid clashes between invading Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters, and analysts said an IS resurgence seemed more likely, just months after Trump declared the extremists defeated.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, normally a staunch Trump supporter, said he was “gravely concerned” by events in Syria and Trump’s response so far.

Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria “would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS,” he said in a statement. “And such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the United States’ strategic interests.”

However, Trump got quick support from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had lambasted his withdrawal decision last week as “shortsighted,” ″irresponsible” and “unnerving to its core.” On Monday, echoing Trump, Graham said on Fox News Channel that the current situation was Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fault and Turkey would face “crippling sanctions” from the U.S. on its economy.

Pence said the sanctions announced Monday were only the beginning “unless Turkey is willing to embrace a ceasefire, come to the negotiating table and end the violence.”

The Kurds have turned to the Syrian government and Russia for military assistance, further complicating the battlefield.

The prospect of enhancing the Syrian government’s position on the battlefield and inviting Russia to get more directly involved is seen by Trump’s critics as a major mistake. But he tweeted that it shouldn’t matter.

“Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other,” he wrote. “Let them!”

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump is weakening America. ’To be clear, this administration’s chaotic and haphazard approach to policy by tweet is endangering the lives of U.S. troops and civilians,” Menendez said in a statement.

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AP writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this story.

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Foreign Affairs

‘Lady Liberty’ erected above Hong Kong

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Lady Liberty erected above Hong Kong

Several dozen Hong Kong protesters scaled a peak overlooking the city to erect a 3-meter statue they’re saying is their version of “Lady Liberty.” According to Singapore-based news outlet The Straits Times, it overlooks the city to inspire protesters against the increasingly authoritarian government in the city, which is backed by Beijing.

Clashes between protesters and police grew more aggressive over the weekend as the semi-autonomous island off the China coast continues to experience strife between the people and the government. Nearly 2500 protesters have been arrested so far with around 1000 of them being under the age of 18.

This is the latest symbolic call in a long string that is intended to mimic and draw attention from Americans who have the types of freedoms they crave. But so far there has been no significant movement by the government as Beijing grows impatient.

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Foreign Affairs

Russia brokers deal for Kurdish forces, Syria to partner against Turkey

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Russia brokers deal for Kurdish forces Syria to partner against Turkey

Syria as a whole will be Bashar Al-Assad’s once again. That is, at least, what the Syrian President and the Russians are hoping for after Moscow brokered a deal between Assad’s regime and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern Syria.

In the wake of a U.S. withdrawal from the border with Turkey and the subsequent invasion by Turkey 20 miles into Syrian territory, Assad and his long-time rivals are willing to work together against their mutual enemy. It isn’t just Turkey but also their proxies in the Free Syrian Army. The group, which was once supported by the Obama administration to fight Assad’s government, has been the tip of Turkey’s spear so far during the brief conflict with the SDF.

Russia, who has had an ongoing relationship with Assad and once supported the SDF, has renewed those ties and brought the two foes together to fight for a common cause. If it works, the Kurds will likely maintain some autonomy while adhering to a united Syria under Assad. If it fails, Turkey will take control of a stretch of land 20 miles deep and 300 miles wide along the border where they intend to relocate two million refugees.

This isn’t just about relocation, though. The Turkish government believes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which comprises the most powerful militia group within the SDF, is supplying their allies in the Kurdisran Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey and America regard as a terrorist organization.

With Russia inserting itself into the mix, their relationship with Turkey will likely strain even more. But their greater goal of a united Syria under the control of Bashar Al-Assad is worth making Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upset.

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