North Korea is no Longer a Nuclear Threat Korea agreed to give up nuclear weapons, claims China

Mahmood IdreesMarch 28, 2018
BEIJING – China on Wednesday claimed that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to denuclearize the Korean peninsula in a meeting with President Xi Jinping during his “unofficial” to Beijing, reported CNBC.

Ending two days of speculations on the visit, China has confirmed that Kim Jong Un had been in China from Sunday to Wednesday on an unofficial visit, which is his first known foreign trip since taking office in 2011.

Xinhua cited Kim as saying that situation on the Korean Peninsula is starting to get better after the DPRK took steps to defuse tension and sent proposals for peace talks.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearisation on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un said, according to the media outlet.

He said that North Korea was willing to have dialogue with the United States President Donald Drup and South Korea, and hold a summit of the two countries.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” he said.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if south Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” said Kim.

However, Chinese President Xi in his remarks said Kim’s current visit to Bejing fully embodied the great significance that Comrade Chairman and the WPK Central Committee have attached to the relations between the two countries and the two parties. He added friendship of both nations should be passed on continuously and developed better.

Antichrist Establishes Peace Back in Iraq

Under construction Fifteen years after America’s invasion, Iraq is getting back on its feet

The Economist

With Islamic State defeated, a new sense of unity prevails. But it is fragile

With Islamic State defeated, a new sense of unity prevails. But it is fragile

WHISKY is back on the tables in Mosul, one of Iraq’s biggest cities. Until last year, boozing was punishable with 80 lashes. These days a refurbished hotel with a nightclub on the roof, set in a wood that had sheltered the high command of the so-called Islamic State (IS), is fully booked. Shops around the ruins of Mosul’s university have new fronts. Families queue at restaurants on the banks of the Tigris. There is not a niqab, or face-veil, in sight.

The revival of Mosul is a metaphor for Iraq as a whole. When IS captured the city in 2014, Iraq seemed a lost cause. Its armed forces had fled. The government controlled less than half the country and the jihadists stood primed to march into Baghdad. With the collapse of oil prices in 2015, the government was broke. Iraq was a byword for civil war, sectarianism and the implosion of the Arab state order established at the end of the first world war.

Now Iraq, home to nearly 40m people, is righting itself. Its forces have routed the would-be caliphate and regained control of the borders. A wave of victories has turned Iraq’s army into what a UN official calls the Middle East’s “winniest”. Baghdad feels safer than many other Middle Eastern capitals. The government is flush with money as the oil price has doubled since its low in 2016 and production has reached record levels. No wonder 2,000 foreign investors packed hotel ballrooms earlier this year at an Iraq-reconstruction conference in Kuwait.

Remarkably, given its belligerent past and the region’s many conflicts, Iraq enjoys cordial relations with all its neighbours. America and Iran may be bitter rivals, but both give Iraq military and political backing. Gulf states, overcoming decades-long sectarian and security fears, have restored diplomatic relations and want to invest. To cap it all, Iraq remains a rarity—the only Arab state, other than Tunisia, to get rid of its dictator and remain a democracy. Its fourth multiparty election since 2003 will take place on May 12th. In a region of despots, Iraqis talk freely. Media and civic groups are vibrant.

Counting the cost

Some think the war was needed to bring Iraqis to their senses. If so, it was a terrible form of therapy. In the 15 years since America’s invasion of Iraq, some 300,000 Iraqis and 4,400 American soldiers have been killed (see chart). Of the many rounds of strife, none matched the viciousness of the fight against IS. At least 7,000 civilians, 20,000 security personnel and over 23,000 IS fighters were killed, according to a think-tank in Baghdad. Priceless heritage, like Mosul’s old city, was reduced to rubble. About 6m people, most of them Sunnis, lost their homes.

In quick succession, three ideologies tearing the country apart have been tamed. Revanchism by the Sunni Arab minority, who are about 15-20% of the population but have dominated Iraq since Ottoman times, was a cocktail of Saddam Hussein’s brutal Baathist nationalism and even more brutal jihadism. It spawned al-Qaeda in Iraq and IS. But today it seems weaker than ever. “Sunnis finally felt what it meant to be Kurdish or Shia,” says an influential government adviser. “They know they are no longer top dogs.”

Triumphalism by the long-repressed Shia Arab majority, making up about 60% of the population, also turned violently sectarian. But this seems to have lost much of its appeal after 14 years of misrule by Shia religious parties. The Shia south may have most of Iraq’s oil, but it looks as wrecked and neglected as the Sunni north.

And Kurdish nationalism lies in tatters, too. Denied independence in the 1920s, the Kurds are scattered across four countries. In Iraq they have long enjoyed quasi-independence in an enclave in the north-east. But last September Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, overreached by calling a referendum for a fully fledged state, defying Baghdad as well as protests from America and Iran. When he refused to back down, Iraqi forces snatched back the disputed territories that Kurds held beyond their official autonomous region (about 40% of their realm); the Iraqi government also imposed an embargo on foreign flights (now lifted). Kurdish leaders are negotiating a way out of their isolation. But many Kurds seem none too upset, given how autocratic and dirty Mr Barzani’s regime is. “It would have been a Barzanistan, not a Kurdistan,” says a teacher.

Iraq has not looked so united since 1991, when Kurds and Shias rose up against Saddam after his occupying forces were pushed out of Kuwait by an American-led coalition. Many Shia volunteers died delivering Sunnis from the barbarous rule of IS. About 45,000 Sunnis mustered alongside the Shia-led Hashd al-Shaabi, or “popular mobilisation units”. And millions of Sunnis fled the would-be caliphate to seek refuge in Kurdish and Shia cities.

Revenge killings by Shia militias have been rarer than many had feared. “We expected much worse,” says a local councillor in Falluja, a Sunni city recaptured in 2016. The Hashd still display their religious insignia at checkpoints on the highways (softened with plastic flowers), but in Sunni cities the policing is largely local. Hashd barracks are low-key and often mixed. “Half of them are Sunni,” says a Hashd commander in Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, pointing at the dozen men in his mess. A Kurdish politician who supported the referendum expresses relief. “No one threatened me or my job,” says Dara Rashid, a deputy housing minister.

As security improves, barriers within the country are coming down. Many of the checkpoints snarling traffic in central Baghdad have gone. The curfew was lifted in 2015. The Suqur checkpoint separating Baghdad from Anbar province, notorious for delays and maltreatment, still shuts at sundown. But Anbar’s Sunnis no longer need a sponsor to enter Baghdad. For the first time since 2003, your correspondent drove the length of Iraq, from the border with Kuwait to the one with Turkey, without a security escort or special permits.

The calm is drawing Iraqis home. Worldwide it takes five years on average for half of those displaced by conflict to return home after a war, says the UN. In Iraq it has taken three months. “We’ve seen nothing like it in the history of modern warfare,” says Lise Grande, who headed UN operations during the war on IS. Millions returned without compensation, electricity or water. Rather than wait for the government to provide homes, they are repairing the wreckage themselves.

Lecturers at Tikrit University have raised funds from private evening classes, rebuilt their war-battered campus and redesigned the curriculum “to promote peaceful coexistence”, says the dean of Sharia Studies, Anwar Faris Abd. In this staunchly Sunni city, trainee clerics now study Shia as well as Sunni schools of law. In the spirit of reconciliation, half of the university’s 30,000 students are Shia.

Religious minorities feel safer, too. Over 70% of the 100,000 Christians who fled to Kurdistan have returned to their homes on the Nineveh plains, says Romeo Hakari, a Christian parliamentarian in Erbil. Sunnis from Mosul joined Chaldean Catholics to celebrate mass at their church in Bakhdida, whose icons IS used for target practice.

There has been a striking backlash against organised Islam. Mosque attendance is down. Although Sunnis are rebuilding their homes in Falluja, the minarets and domes in the city once known as “the mother of mosques” lie abandoned and ruined. “Only old men go to pray,” explains a 22-year-old worker mixing cement. Designer haircuts and tracksuit tops are the latest male fashion, because IS banned them. “Our imams radicalised us with IS and terror but refuse to admit it,” says a Sunni final-year student at Tikrit University with a bouffant hairdo.

Mistrust of clerics is as keenly felt in the Shia south. The turbaned Iranians gracing Basra’s billboards invite scorn. Cinemas banned since 1991 are reopening. Iraq’s first commercial film in a generation went on release this month. “The Journey” tells of a female suicide-bomber who, just as she is about to blow herself up, questions how she will rip apart the lives of people around her. It pours compassion on perpetrator and victim alike.

Secularism is making inroads even in the holy city of Najaf, the seat of Iraq’s ayatollahs, which has thrived on Shia pilgrimage since the American invasion. The new public library at the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali includes sizeable collections of Marx’s tracts and non-Muslim scriptures. Shia clerics who until recently banned Christmas trees and smashed shop windows displaying love-hearts on Valentine’s Day now let them pass.

Iraq’s dominant religious parties used to flaunt their sectarian loyalties to get out the vote at elections. Now many hide them. An opinion poll last August showed that only 5% of Iraqis would vote for a politician with a sectarian or religious agenda. Yesteryear’s Shia supremacists these days promise to cherish the country’s diversity, and recruit other sects to their ranks.

All this produces strange bedfellows. Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric with a base in the shantytowns of Baghdad and Basra, has allied with communists, whom he once damned as heretics. Iraq’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party, has joined forces with al-Wataniya, an anti-sectarian party led by a former Baathist, Iyad Allawi. As old alignments break apart, the Iraqi National Alliance, which grouped the main Shia parties, has split into its constituent parts. Kurdish and Sunni blocs are fragmenting too. Several religious factions have assumed secular names. “At least five masquerade behind the word ‘civil’,” complains the leader of the Civil Democratic Alliance, a genuinely secular party.

Against this background one worry stands out. Iraq’s politicians are mostly failing to rise to Iraq’s new spirit. If not on the international conference circuit, the government can be found in the Green Zone, the city within a city that the Americans carved out of Baghdad with six-metre-high concrete blast walls. The fortress provides a safe space for foreigners and officials to do business, say its residents. But for many Iraqis it is where officials conspire to siphon off public money.

The main government jobs are still dished out by sect and ethnicity. In healthy democracies the opposition holds the executive to account. In Iraq the government is a big tent. Factions name their own ministers, and they in turn appoint ghost workers to claim salaries. Ports, checkpoints and even refugee camps are seen as sources of cash and divvied out between factions. Appointment is rarely on merit. The head of Najaf’s airport is a cleric. Opinion polls suggest that most Iraqis want new faces, but Iraq’s leaders remain mostly the ones America installed in 2003.

Reasons for disillusion include the slow pace of reconstruction and the lack of jobs. Many Iraqis praise the speed with which the UN helped the displaced get home; they think their own politicians were remiss. Three million children are still out of school. A quarter of Iraqis are poor.

Iraq’s economy has fluctuated as wildly as its geopolitical fortunes. GDP per person collapsed after the war for Kuwait in 1991 and during the American-led invasion of 2003. A gradual recovery was interrupted by the upheaval of 2014 and 2015 (see chart). Economic activity may now be set to take off again. Oil output has risen from a low of 1.3m barrels a day (b/d) in 2003 to 4.4m. Iraq is already OPEC’s second-biggest producer, with output predicted to rise to 7m b/d by 2022. It has amassed over $50bn in reserves, about a quarter of GDP.

There are small signs of government investment: fancy lampposts in Falluja and Mosul, astro-turf pitches in Hilla and a grass verge with fountains along Baghdad’s airport road. But some of the Middle East’s largest factories still lie idle—everything from steel and paper mills to factories that made syringes, textiles and more. Since most sanctions were lifted in 2003 a country that used to make things has come to rely far more on oil. It uses its oil money to finance patronage in the bloated public sector and imports almost everything, including petrol, from its neighbours. Officials pocket commissions and bribes in the process.

As a result, foreign governments are wary of giving aid. “It’s a bottomless pit,” despairs a Gulf minister. The country has an anti-corruption watchdog, the Commission of Integrity, but that too is said to have succumbed to factional profiteering.

Suspicion of foreigners, a relic of the Saddam era, risks lowering the appetite of potential investors. Iraq’s Safwan border crossing lies an hour’s drive away from the Kuwait conference where Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, declared Iraq open for business. It could not be less inviting. Rubble left over from American bombing 15 years ago spills over the pavements. Four sets of officials had to sign and stamp entry papers before your correspondent could bring in his laptop. “We still think foreigners are spies or imperialists bent on plunder,” grumbles an Iraqi fund manager.

Disgruntlement carries great dangers. It is common to hear Iraqis long for a military strongman like Egypt’s general-cum-president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, or a Chinese-style autocrat, to rid Iraq of democracy’s curse. Many even express nostalgia for Saddam, most notably in the south, where his yoke fell heaviest. They recall how, despite UN sanctions, he repaired bombed bridges and power plants within a year of the war of 1991. He somehow kept the hospitals and electricity running, criminals off the streets and the country self-sufficient in rice, sugar and vegetable oil. “Before 2003 the state still cared about art, theatre and the preservation of antiquities,” says a sculptor who works above Basra’s old canal, which now flows black with sewage.

For all the war fatigue, the threat of renewed violence is never far away. Mr Barzani’s humiliated Peshmerga fighters threaten to hit back if their marginalisation continues. “Just as they destabilised Kurdistan, we can destabilise Iraq,” says one of his advisers. He threatens to send fighters to pillage Iran, which he holds ultimately responsible for the Iraqi army’s strike against the Kurds. The Hashd, for their part, are armed and expect to be treated like heroes, not sent home empty-handed.

Abadi in motion
On a map of northern Iraq, a UN official draws five large red boxes, covering most of its main cities. Each, she warns, indicates where IS could resurface. “Many IS fighters shaved their beards, put on dirty sandals and walked out,” says an international observer. In February a squad hiding in the Hamrin mountains north of Tikrit ambushed and killed 27 soldiers. There have been frequent strikes since. The refugee camps are thought to be full of sleeper cells, padlocked behind wire fencing. The rain floods their tents, watering grievances. Just as Egypt’s prisons nurtured Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, and America’s Camp Bucca in Iraq bred Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader, Iraq’s prisons may now be “incubating a new generation of trauma and terror”, says Nada Ibrahim, a Sunni doctor in Baghdad.

Break the curse

Iraq has known, and wasted, other hopeful moments. The overthrow of Saddam was botched by America, which shut Sunnis out of the new order. The respite won by its surge of troops in 2007-08 was botched by Nuri al-Maliki, the then prime minister from Dawa, a Shia Islamist party, who ran a sectarian government. Can Mr Abadi break the cycle?

Iraq holds much promise, given its abundant oil and water and its educated population. And Mr Abadi is remarkably popular among Sunnis even though he, like Mr Maliki, is from Dawa. “We want elections and we want Abadi to win,” cheers a female lawyer in Mosul’s courthouse, surrounded by nodding colleagues.

Yet Mr Abadi has failed to turn his military victory into political gain. Some of his own advisers compare him to Churchill, who led Britain to victory over Nazi Germany only to be voted out of office. Iraq’s leaders seem unlikely to act as Britain’s did, turning from war to social reform; instead they are risking a reversion to civil strife. Confronted with a dispirited population, powerful militias, lurking jihadists and scheming politicians, Iraq’s governing class has yet to show it knows how to win the peace.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline “Moving forward”

More of Obama’s Lies Help the Iran Nuclear Horn

The Obama administration did not act on evidence that Russia was aiding Iran’s nuclear development, instead approving nuclear energy deals favorable to Moscow, according to a new report from The Hill.

Former FBI informant Douglas Campbell, who worked undercover for the agency from 2008 to 2014, told reporters in a videotaped interview how he acquired his information.

While officially working as a consultant for Rosatom, Campbell says that he was privy to the secret plans of Russian nuclear energy policymakers, which included efforts to help Iran’s nuclear program by lending them intelligence, technical advice, and even equipment and materials to run one of Iran’s domestic nuclear facilities.

According to Campbell, Rosatom executives were worried that this nuclear assistance, if exposed, could derail nuclear contracts with American businesses:

“The people I was working with had been briefed by Moscow to keep a very low profile regarding Moscow’s work with Tehran,” Campbell said in an interview. “Moscow was supplying equipment, nuclear equipment, nuclear services to Iran. And Moscow, specifically the leadership in Moscow, were concerned that it would offset the strategy they had here in the United States if the United States understood the close relationship between Moscow and Tehran.”

In spite of Campbell providing evidence of Russia-Iran nuclear cooperation to FBI officials, the Obama administration cleared several deals with the Russian government or its state-owned companies related to nuclear energy, including the now-infamous Uranium One deal, which was potentially facilitated by Russian infusions of cash into the Clinton Foundation.

Campbell told The Hill that the forward progress on these types of deals greatly concerned him:

“I got no feedback. They took the reports and the reports, I assume, went to specific people assigned to analyze the reports and that was the last I heard of it,” he said.

Of course, in 2015, the Obama administration went on to approve the Iran nuclear deal, another potential case of them ignoring the significance of Campbell’s intel. At the time, the agreement was touted as a major step forward in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but we now know that one of the only real “accomplishments” of the deal was giving the Iranians $1.7 billion in cash, some of which eventually ended up in the hands of terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

Check out the original report here, which includes part of the video interview with Campbell.

Why the Iranian Horn Will Not Back Down (Daniel 8:3)

Iran: How New Developments in US Foreign Policy Will Affect the Nuclear Deal

Pooya Stone28 March 2018

by Pooya Stone

With the new developments in US foreign policy and the prospect of the country’s walking away from Iran nuclear deal getting more serious, the question that keeps popping up more than ever is what would be Iran’s approach and what options it would have at its disposal?

Before delving into possible solutions, it should be pointed out that despite Iran’s expectations, it’s now quite clear that the 2015 nuclear deal has actually made the situation more complicated for the Iran, giving rise to different viewpoints within the Iran to deal with the current crisis.

Some suggest sticking to Europe, arguing that Europeans’ interests and independent policies will push them towards standing against the United States.

Meanwhile, head of Iran Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission ‘Alaeddin Boroujerdi’ says “we need to get closer to Russia and China.”

Still there are others who say “we could turn the threat into an opportunity. We’d better resume uranium enrichment activities and adopt a ‘resistance economy’ approach.”

The fact, however, is that none of the suggestions are practical or able to resolve any of Iran’s contradictions.

Although it’s quite natural for Europe to benefit to a great extent from its economic relations with Iran, but Europeans have extremely huge interests in their relations with the United States as well, so much so that it seems quite unlikely for Europe to sacrifice its US ties over having economic relations with Iran.

Since other suggested solutions actually serve more to please Iran’s worried forces and boost their morale, the most obvious point here is the degree of Iran’s fear and its concerns about the issue.

With some of Iran’s experts recommending a ‘Look East’ policy and getting closer to Russia and China – an approach also previously encouraged by Iran leader Ali Khamenei – the question is how practical or effective this solution could be?

If the ‘Look East’ approach was going to help and if Russia and China were willing to offer their unwavering support to Iran after benefiting from decades of political and economic relations, then the Iran would undoubtedly have adopted that policy from the very beginning, thus eliminating the need to sit down at the negotiating table and eventually sign the 2015 nuclear deal. Moreover, the ‘Look East’ policy was also the government’s dominant approach during Ahmadinejad’s presidency, but it failed to resolve much of Iran’s problems.

In a global economy where the United States is qualitatively different from others, the balance of power dictates that the others adjust themselves with US policies.

With the United States walking away from Iran nuclear deal and Trump’s refusal to extend suspension of sanctions, the severity of sanctions would more or less return to the same level as it was prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, in which case no big company –whether it’s European, Russian or Chinese– would dare to take the risk of trading with Iran while fearing of being heavily fined by the United States. So, Russia and China are not able to come to Iran’s rescue.

Likewise, foreign investors will be unwilling to invest in Iran since they believe that the country’s situation is not stable enough, not to mention that they’ll be incapable of dealing with new US sanctions under the present conditions as well.

The Iran meanwhile seeks to take advantage of the gap between the United States and Europe. Europe in turn has to choose between going along with the Iran and respecting its ties with the United States, which after all is the world’s number one economic power. Would it be within Europe’s interests to risk its ties with the United States over having trade relations with Iran in a post nuclear deal era?

The fact is that even now that the nuclear deal is still in place, no foreign company other than France’s Total – which has set special conditions to invest and operate in Iran– has been willing to take the risk of investing in Iran.

As for Iran’s missile program and regional interventions, we see that Europe and the United States are on the same side of the table. So, seeking to take advantage of the gap between Europe and the United States only suggests that the Iran is out of any imaginable solution.

Having said that, although Europe has its eyes on making huge profits out of its trade with Iran, but at the same time it aligns itself more with US policies than the Iran’s as the importance and benefits of having economic and financial relations with the United States for Europe is beyond compare.

But as the last option, it’s still possible that towards the end of Trump’s 120-day deadline, Iran decides to back down from its missile program and regional interventions, thus to gain Europe’s support and preserve the nuclear deal. Could this be considered as a solution?

Well, it’s clear that this means nothing but acceding to second and third JCPOA-like deals, meaning the Iran has to take missile program and regional poisoned chalices. But if that was regarded as a real option, then the Iran would have done that much sooner so as to avoid the current difficult situation.

But taking the new poisoned chalice would have such dangerous repercussions for the Iran that the fear of which has prevented the Iran from taking a step in that direction. If the Iran decides to back down, the first message it sends to Iranian people and the international community would be that the Iran is in a position of absolute weakness.

Likewise, the Iran was in a position of total weakness when it decided to take part in nuclear negotiations, but it could however gain some points out of its backing down and taking the poisoned chalice due to West’s appeasement policy at the time.

Considering the current balance of power reflected in recent international developments (particularly the recent changes in the White House) as well as domestic ones (nationwide protests asking for a Iran change), Iran’s backing down will not only fail to break its deadlock, but will even serve to push it deeper into a crisis that will lead to Iran’s inevitable collapse.