Japanese revanchist militarism danger

Peter Symonds

New Japanese government marks dangerous turn to militarism

The return of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power in last Sunday’s election in Japan marks a sea change not only in Japanese, but also in international politics. The nationalism and militarism that pervaded the election campaign signal the determination of the Japanese ruling class to reassert its interests in Asia and globally by every means, including military force.

LDP leader Shinzo Abe, who will be installed next week as prime minister, has already signalled a hard line response in the territorial dispute with Beijing over the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Speaking to Japan’s national broadcaster NHK, Abe declared that the Senkakus were part of “Japan’s inherent territory” and warned that “our objective is to stop the challenge” from China.

During the election campaign, the LDP advocated the building of permanent structures on the uninhabited islands—a move that would dramatically worsen relations with China. A tense situation already exists in the East China Sea after the present Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government “nationalised” the islets in September. Last week, the Japanese military scrambled fighter jets to intercept a Chinese maritime surveillance plane that entered the airspace around the islands.

The governments in both Japan and China have resorted to whipping up nationalism as the global economic crisis has increasingly impacted their economies, fuelling widespread public disaffection and anger over deteriorating living standards. Beijing responded to the “nationalisation” of the Senkakus by giving the green light for anti-Japanese protests that had an openly racist character.

US sought use of British bases for war against Iran

Peter Symonds

Like the US-led illegal invasion of Iraq, the Obama administration is preparing to launch a war of aggression against Iran. This was the chief crime for which Nazi leaders were tried and convicted at Nuremberg following World War II.

The British-based Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that American diplomats have been lobbying Britain for the use of its military bases on Cyprus as well as US bases on the British territories of Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for war on Iran.

The US request points to a massive military buildup against Iran. The Pentagon has already stationed two aircraft carrier battle groups in or near the Persian Gulf, along with additional minesweepers and a specialised floating base that could be used to launch special forces operations inside Iran. A squadron of advanced F-22 fighters has also been moved to the region.

Access to the bases on Cyprus, Ascension Island and Diego Garcia would significantly boost the ability of the US air force to wage round-the-clock strikes against Iran.

The British government has, to date, rebuffed the Pentagon, significantly pointing out that an unprovoked US attack on Iran could be illegal under international law, as Tehran did not currently represent “a clear and present threat”.

US drone attacks escalate inside Pakistan

Peter Symonds

The US is intensifying its drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, as the Pakistani army prepares a major military operation against Islamist militants in North Waziristan.

The latest attack on Friday involved missile strikes from CIA-controlled drones on three separate locations in North Waziristan. According to unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials, 18 “suspected militants” were killed. As in previous attacks, most casualties would undoubtedly have been civilians, including women and children.

The Associated Press reported that the strikes came just minutes apart on mud brick compounds located several kilometres from each other in the Shawal Valley. The area is mountainous and heavily forested, and serves as a crossing point into Afghanistan for insurgent groups opposed to the US-led occupation.

Citing local tribesmen, the Pakistani newspaper, The News, reported: “The people who helped retrieve the bodies from the debris of the collapsed buildings said all the bodies had been burnt and torn into pieces. They said the bodies were beyond recognition.” Some 14 injured people were taken to local health facilities, where doctors reported that most were in a critical condition.

The drone attacks, in blatant violation of Pakistani sovereignty, came less than 24 hours after Islamabad had issued a formal protest to an unnamed senior American diplomat over attacks earlier in the week. A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman described the drone strikes as “illegal and unproductive” during a press briefing last Friday.

Washington simply ignored the protest—the eighth in the 12 months—as the Pakistani government and military give their tacit approval to the drone strikes. The formal protests are a threadbare attempt by the government to placate widespread public anger, especially in the FATA region, over the relentless US attacks.

Afghan war crimes report suppressed

Peter Symonds

Human skeletons and items of clothing are seen in a mass grave un-
covered in northern Balkh Province in January. Construction workers
digging a car park found at least 10 human skulls. (Photo: Reuters)

The attempted suppression of an Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) report on atrocities and war crimes committed by Afghan governments and warlords from 1978 to 2001 is devastating exposure of the US puppet regime in Kabul.

The AIHRC, an organisation set up by the Kabul regime itself, has documented the criminal record of the warlords who run the regime and the powers that backed them, above all the United States.

The 800-page report, entitled “Conflict Mapping in Afghanistan Since 1978,” was prepared over a six-year period from 2005 by a team of 40 researchers working with international legal and forensic experts. It found evidence of 180 mass graves, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, rape, and the destruction of towns and villages. Commissioner Ahmad Nader Nadery reported that the report tallied a million killed—not all through war crimes—and another 1.3 million disabled.

The report catalogues the crimes committed by all sides in the wars that raged in Afghanistan, including the 1978–1992 Soviet-backed regime and the CIA-backed traditionalist mujahedin militias that fought it, overthrew it, and then divided Afghanistan between themselves.

It details the brutal civil war that followed the fall of the Soviet-backed regime, as Islamist warlords whom Washington had hailed as “freedom fighters” battled for power and control of resources, including the lucrative Afghan opium trade. Atrocities and human rights abuses continued under the Taliban—who were formed with Pakistani backing and tacit US support—as well as their rival northern warlords.

Unsurprisingly, current Afghan officials named as responsible for atrocities objected to the release of the report, only portions of which were leaked to the media.

Clinton stirs tensions with China ahead of ASEAN summit

Peter Symonds

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton holding her umbrella
receives a bouquet of flowers upon arrival in Manila Tuesday.

An Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial summit that begins today in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh will be dominated by tensions deliberately stirred up by the Obama administration as part of its concerted drive to undermine China’s political and strategic influence throughout the region.

On the eve of the meeting, the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers held emergency talks in Phnom Penh yesterday after a dispute over a group of islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, erupted again this week. Tokyo summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a formal protest yesterday after three Chinese fishery patrol vessels cruised near the Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

“It is clear that the Senkaku islands are inherently Japanese territory from a historical point of view and in terms of international law,” Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura told the media. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin responded in kind, declaring that Japan had no grounds for complaint. The Chinese vessels, he said, were “performing patrolling operations in waters administered by China.”

A major diplomatic row between the two countries blew up in 2010 when the Japanese coast guard detained the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel after an alleged collision. At the time, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fuelled tensions by declaring that the US would be obliged to come to the aid of its ally, Japan, in the event of any conflict. The five small uninhabited rocky outcrops are strategically located between the Japanese island of Okinawa and Taiwan, and the surrounding waters are thought to contain significant energy reserves.

The latest dispute did not emerge accidentally. On Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda provocatively suggested that his government was considering purchasing the Senkaku islands from their private Japanese owner. Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, a right-wing nationalist, launched a fund in April to buy the islands. Not surprisingly, Beijing reacted angrily to Noda’s remarks, with the foreign ministry issuing a statement declaring that China would not allow the islands to be purchased by anyone.

US-Philippine military exercises directed against China

Peter Symonds

U.S. and Philippine marine forces are preparing for the annual Balikatan Exercises ("Shoulder-to-Shoulder") to hold combat drills at an oil rig in the Spratly Islands, Province of Palawan - West Philippines Sea (South China Sea). [This is] a potentially oil- and gas-rich chain of islands, shoals, coral outcrops and sand bars being disputed by China and the Philippines, along with Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. The Spratlys have long been feared as Asia's next potential flashpoint for conflict.

The South China Sea oil field distribution

Joint US-Philippine military exercises are currently underway that can only heighten tensions with China over disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea and in the Indo-Pacific region more broadly.

Yesterday, 4,500 US Marines and 2,500 Philippine troops staged an amphibious landing drill at Ulugan Bay on Palawan Island to simulate the recapture of an island from “militants.” Despite denials by American and Philippine officials, the exercise was pointedly aimed at China, which contests the sovereignty of waters and islands in the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, adjacent to Palawan Island.

The South China Sea is rich in gas and oil reserves, leading to disputes over energy exploration and drilling in its waters. Last weekend, US and Philippine special forces troops took part in a simulated assault to retake an offshore oil rig from “militants” off northern Palawan.

The drills are part of annual US-Philippine Balikatan ("Shoulder-to-Shoulder") military exercises, which began last week and are due to conclude today. The confrontational character of the exercise is underlined not only by their location and type, but also by the involvement of troops from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia.

President Barack Obama declared last November that the US would focus on the Indo-Pacific region as its top strategic priority, announcing the greater use of military bases in northern Australia, including the stationing of US Marines near Darwin. Since mid-2009, the Obama administration has been engaged in an aggressive drive to strengthen alliances and strategic partnerships with countries throughout Asia in a bid to undermine Chinese influence.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted at an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in 2010 that the US had “a national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Clinton’s comments signalled US backing for ASEAN nations to more vigorously press their territorial claims against China, and have resulted in the Philippines, in particular, taking a more aggressive stance.

NATO prepares troop withdrawal from Afghan quagmire

Peter Symonds

Photo: Still smouldering oil tankers, after a convoy of some 25 trucks carrying oil for Nato forces in Afghanistan was attacked by suspected Islamic militants on the outskirts of Islamabad, October 2010; a congressional investigation found that some of the $14bn annual cost of running Nato supply lines leaks into the hands of the Taliban. (EPA/W Khan)

The meeting of NATO defence and foreign ministers this week in Brussels was dominated by a sense of desperation and crisis over the worsening military quagmire in Afghanistan. The US is escalating military operations in an effort to shore up the detested Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, even as the US and its allies prepare to withdraw the bulk of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

The vulnerability of the US-led occupation was driven home last Sunday by co-ordinated, high-profile attacks against NATO and Afghan government targets in Kabul. While NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu praised the response of the Afghan security forces, nothing could hide the fact that a handful of Taliban fighters penetrated the highest security areas of the capital, held Afghan police and troops at bay for 18 hours and were only defeated with the support of US helicopter gunships.

Speaking in Brussels alongside Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged last weekend’s attack in Kabul. She nevertheless intoned the mantra: “The transition is on track, the Afghans are increasingly standing up for their own security and future, and NATO remains united in our support.”

In reality, the US strategy in Afghanistan is in tatters. Under the guise of its bogus “war on terror,” American imperialism invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to transform it into a client state and base of operations to further its ambitions in Central Asia. After more than a decade of war, large areas of the country, especially in the south and east, are controlled by anti-occupation militias, including the Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Obama uses nuclear summit to issue new threats against North Korea and Iran

Peter Symonds

"The greatest threat to peace is not Iran or North Korea, but the reckless militarism of US imperialism, which has intensified under the Obama administration."

US President Obama has used his trip to this week’s nuclear security summit in South Korea to repeat his belligerent threats against Iran and North Korea and reiterate his administration’s determination to play the dominant role in the Asian region. While the summit is supposedly about nuclear disarmament and peace, Obama is utilising it as a platform to prepare new wars of aggression in the Middle East and Asia.

Speaking at Hankuk University yesterday, Obama again warned Iran that “time is short” to resolve the confrontation over its nuclear programs diplomatically. Both the US and Israel have repeatedly threatened to take military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if Tehran does not bow to Washington’s demands. The Pentagon has already built up its military presence in the Persian Gulf and now has two aircraft carriers in the region.

Obama claimed that the US had offered “to help Iran develop nuclear energy peacefully.” He continued: “But time and again Iran has refused, instead taking the path of denial, deceit and deception.”

In reality, Washington is preparing to launch an unprovoked military attack on Iran on the basis of deceit and deception. It has provided no evidence that Iran is building or is seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran has repeatedly declared that it does not intend to construct a nuclear device. At the same time, the US has collaborated with Israel in carrying out terrorist attacks within Iran, including the assassination of at least four Iranian nuclear scientists.

The hypocrisy of Obama’s stance is underlined by Washington’s strategic alliances and partnerships with Israel, India and Pakistan—all of which have a nuclear arsenal in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The dangers from these quarters will not be discussed at the nuclear summit in South Korea, which is supposedly focussed on preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear material.

US war game foreshadows Israeli attack on Iran

Peter Symonds

Israeli soldiers watch as a missile is launched from the Iron
Dome defense system. A US war simulation of a possible
scenario where Israel launched pre-emptive strikes against
Iran's nuclear facilities would likely draw America into the
conflict and cost hundreds of lives, a report said on 3/20/12.

Details of a recent Pentagon war game, leaked yesterday in the New York Times, underscore the advanced character and recklessness of the Obama administration’s preparations for war against Iran. Nominally premised on an attack by Israel on Iran, the conclusion from the exercise was that “the strike would lead to a wider regional war which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead.”

The two-week war game was carried out by US Central Command to test communication and coordination between its headquarters in Tampa, Florida and US forces in the Persian Gulf.

“When the exercise had concluded earlier this month, according to the [American] officials, [US Central Command head] General Mattis told aides that an Israeli first-strike would likely have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there,” the Times stated.

The article ominously noted that a similar “Internal Look” exercise had been used in December 2002, by Central Command head General Tommy Franks, “to test the readiness of his units for the coming invasion of Iraq.” Just three months later, in March 2003, US President George Bush unleashed the illegal US-led war of aggression that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and devastated much of the country.

Likewise, the latest “Internal Look” exercise is far from being purely hypothetical. It took place amid a spate of top-level political and military discussions between the US and Israel over Iran. Both countries have repeatedly threatened military action. Last week President Obama issued another warning to Tehran that “the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.”

Obama menaces Iran with military threat

Peter Symonds

The US and British threats are not about “democracy in Syria” or Iran’s nuclear programs but are aimed at refashioning the Middle East in line with the economic and strategic interests of the US and its allies.

US President Obama issued another menacing threat to Iran during a joint press conference at the White House with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday. He warned that the Iranian regime needed “to seize this opportunity of negotiations with the P5 plus 1 to avert even worse consequences for Iran in the future.”

Obama underlined the threat by adding: “Because the international community has applied so many sanctions, because we have employed so many of the options that are available to us to persuade Iran to take a different course, the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.”

The P5+1—the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany—last week accepted an Iranian proposal to reopen negotiations, but no apparent agreement has been reached on the date or the terms of any discussions. Obama’s comments are clearly aimed at bullying Iran to make major concessions prior to and during any talks.

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