An Honest General Admits the Goal: Permanent Hegemony

An Honest General Admits the Goal: Permanent Hegemony

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday that the “rise of China” threatens the U.S.’ status as the dominant global military power, warning that the world could be entering an era of “potential international instability.”

“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States essentially was the unchallenged global military, political and economic power. With the rise of China, that is changing and changing fast,” Milley told a graduating ROTC class at Howard University.

“The global order since the end of World War II—and for sure since the end of the Cold War—is under significant stress in areas of vital interest for the United States of America. And we are entering a period of potential international instability,” he said.

Milley’s comments reflect the Biden administration’s foreign policy priority, which is confronting China. President Biden recently said that the US was in competition with China to “win the 21st century.” Biden officials, most notably Secretary of State Antony Blinken, often claim Beijing is a threat to the “international rules-based order.”

As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley is the highest-ranking officer in the military. He is a hold-over from the Trump administration, which also prioritized countering China, especially in the last year.

Milley also said that there are threats to global stability due to new technology, like artificial intelligence, robotics, and hypersonic missiles. “And they are extraordinarily disruptive and potentially decisive in the conduct of war,” he said.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke of how new technology would affect warfare and said, “The way we’ll fight the next major war is going to look very different from the way we fought the last ones.” Austin referred to his time as top military commander in the Middle East as his service in the “old wars.”

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

The U.S. Coast Guard Caught Sailing…Along the Russian Coastline

The U.S. Coast Guard Caught Sailing…Along the Russian Coastline

For the first time since 2008, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter entered the Black Sea amid heightened tensions with Russia. The U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet said the USCGC Hamilton entered the waters on Tuesday.

The Sixth Fleet said the Hamilton made the transit “in support of NATO Allies and partners.” The U.S. frequently sends warships into the Black Sea, but this deployment comes at a sensitive time and is clearly meant to send a message to Russia.

The U.S. and its NATO Allies have been hyping Russian military exercises in the region. The Biden administration has expressed “unwavering” support for Ukraine and shipped military equipment to the country amid a stand-off between Kyiv and Moscow.

Russia took notice of the Hamilton and said its Black Sea fleet was monitoring the vessel. “The Black Sea forces and means have begun monitoring the actions of USCGC Hamilton, which entered the Black Sea on April 27,” Russia’s National Defense Control Center said on Tuesday. Russia’s Black Sea fleet also held live-fire exercises in the region.

Separately, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that U.S. and NATO actions in the region are the region for Moscow’s recent military drills. “The actions of the U.S. and NATO in the European region to increase the combat readiness of troops and strengthen their forward presence is contributing to an increase in military danger,” he said.

NATO forces regularly hold exercises in the Black Sea and are encouraging Ukraine to expand its military presence in the region. In February, Ukraine’s prime minister announced plans for new military bases in the region from NATO headquarters. One will be located on the Black Sea, and the other will be on the Sea of Azov, a waterway between Ukraine and Russia.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

White House Uses Debunked ‘Russian Bounties’ Story To Justify New Sanctions on Moscow

White House Uses Debunked ‘Russian Bounties’ Story To Justify New Sanctions on Moscow

In a major escalation with Moscow, the Biden administration announced on Thursday a series of sanctions against Russian individuals and entities. The White House also said it is expelling 10 Russian diplomats.

In an announcement on the sanctions, the State Department said they were being taken in “response” to a series of alleged Russian actions that the U.S. has never proved Moscow was responsible for.

“Today, we announced actions to hold the Russian Government to account for the SolarWinds intrusion, reports of bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and attempts to interfere in the 2020 US elections,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The claim that Russia paid bounties for U.S. troops in Afghanistan has no basis and was even walked back by Biden administration officials on Thursday. The claim first appeared in a report from The New York Times last June, and since then, just about every U.S. military leader said no intelligence corroborated the report.

Putting the final nail in the coffin of the Russian bounty story, a senior Biden administration official told The Daily Beast on Thursday: “The United States intelligence community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks US and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019 and perhaps earlier.”

The fact that the Russia story has essentially been debunked but is still included in the State Department’s list of grievances with Moscow shows what little credibility the US has with any accusations against the Russian government.

The SolarWinds intrusion is the main incident the U.S. is sanctioning Russia over, but the claim that Moscow was behind the hack is also highly dubious. Announcing the new sanctions, the Treasury Department formally accused Russian Intelligence Services of being behind the hack. Missing from the accusation is any evidence.

Before the Treasury Department’s claim, the only formal accusation from the U.S. came from several intelligence agencies that said in a joint statement that the SolarWinds hack was “likely” Russian in origin. The statement lacked any evidence.

One reason the U.S. claims the SolarWinds hack was done by Russian intelligence was the “sophistication” of the intrusion. But congressional testimony from SolarWinds’ current and former CEO revealed the software firm’s server password “solarwinds123” was publicly available on the internet for years. A cybersecurity expert that used to advise SolarWinds said the hack “could have been done by any attacker, easily.”

The U.S. also cited alleged interference in the 2020 election while announcing the sanctions. Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment that claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign that sought to “denigrate” Biden in the 2020 election. But again, missing from the assessment was any evidence or explanation of how U.S. intelligence reached the conclusion.

The new sanctions came after Biden spoke with Putin on the phone on Tuesday and proposed an in-person meeting. On Wednesday, Russia warned that it would take measures in response to any “unfriendly steps” by the U.S. Kremlin spokesman said new sanctions from the U.S. would mean Biden’s “words” would not “correlate” with his actions, referring to Biden’s call with Putin where he said the U.S. and Russia should work together on things like arms control.

President Biden had earlier imposed sanctions on Russian officials over the jailing of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Biden’s rhetoric has also been incredibly hostile. In an interview last month, Biden agreed that Putin is a “killer” who has “no soul.”

The new U.S. sanctions also come against the backdrop of rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which has led the U.S. to reaffirm its “unwavering” support for Kyiv. The U.S. reportedly canceled a planned deployment of warships to the Black Sea amid the Ukraine stand-off, but the sanctions indicate Biden is keen on escalating with Moscow.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Iran Rejects Nuclear Deal Alternative; Demands Full Return

Iran Rejects Nuclear Deal Alternative; Demands Full Return

A report from Politico on Monday said the Biden administration was ready to offer a proposal to Iran that would give some sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran halting some activity of its civilian nuclear program, such as stopping enriching uranium at 20 percent.

An unnamed Iranian official responded to the report and told Iran’s Press TV on Tuesday that Tehran would only halt 20 percent enrichment if the U.S. lifts all sanctions that have been reimposed since 2018. “Twenty percent uranium enrichment is in line with Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA and will be stopped only if the US lifts all the sanctions,” the official said.

Paragraph 36 of the JCPOA allows the agreement’s participants to suspend commitments if other signatories are out of compliance. Since the U.S. withdrew from the deal in 2018 and is out of compliance, Iran’s nuclear activity outside of the limits of the JCPOA is technically not a violation of the agreement.

“The Biden administration is losing time, and if it fails to lift the sanctions soon, Iran will take the next steps, which will be further reduction of its JCPOA commitments,” the Iranian official told Press TV.

It’s not clear from the Politico report how much sanctions relief the U.S. is willing to offer. Iran is under an enormous amount of sanctions. Some are crippling the economy, and others are more symbolic, which means the Biden administration has a lot of options of sanctions it could lift that would not really give Tehran any relief.

So far, the Biden administration has failed to make a significant effort to return to the JCPOA and rejected Iran’s earlier calls for the two countries to take mutual steps to revive the agreement. Now, the administration says it is seeking talks with Iran, and the U.S. is trying to portray Iran as the difficult party.

The fact is, the U.S. can revive the JCPOA at any time by lifting sanctions. Even the most hardline elements in Iran have said they are willing to return to the limits set by the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions. But President Biden is under domestic pressure not to return to the original deal, and according to the Politico report, the president “appears in no rush to restore the original deal.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Biden Sees China As Primary Geopolitical Threat

Biden Sees China As Primary Geopolitical Threat

President Biden vowed that he would not allow China to become the world’s “leading” country during his first press conference on Thursday. His comments come as U.S.-China tensions are soaring, and the two countries’ relationship is at its lowest point in decades.

“I see stiff competition with China,” Biden said. “China has an overall goal … to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch, because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”

President Biden spoke of his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Biden got to know while both leaders were serving as vice presidents. “I spent hours upon hours with him alone with an interpreter,” Biden said. “He is very, very straightforward. Doesn’t have a democratic with a small ‘D’—bone in his body.”

Using Cold War-style language, Biden framed the situation on the world stage as a battle between democracy and autocracy, and compared Xi to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “He’s one of the guys, like Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function in an ever—an ever-complex world,” he said.

“I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake, not just with China,” Biden told reporters.

While he’s taking a similar approach to China as President Trump, the Biden administration has been able to rally its European allies to take action against China. On Monday, the US, EU, UK, and Canada all announced sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the US’s European and NATO Allies to unite against Beijing in Brussels on Wednesday. The common talking point coming for US officials is that China threatens the US-led “rules-based order,” which means Washington sees Beijing as a threat to US global hegemony, something Biden made clear at his press conference.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Biden White House’s First Meeting With China Blows Up

Biden White House’s First Meeting With China Blows Up

The U.S. and China began the first high-level in-person talks of the Biden administration in Anchorage, Alaska, on Thursday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

As expected, the talks were contentious, and the two sides traded barbs in opening remarks in front of reporters. Blinken set a hostile tone and opened the talks by saying actions by China “threaten” the U.S.-led “rules-based order.”

“We will … discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies,” he said. “Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”

Sullivan then chimed in and said, “Secretary Blinken laid out many of the areas of concern: from economic and military coercion to assaults on basic values that we will discuss with you today and in the days ahead.” Sullivan said the US does “not seek conflict” but will “always stand up for our principles.”

Yang hit back. “The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries,” he said. “It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China.”

But Yang also offered an olive branch and said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping hope the US and China can cooperate. “The way we see the relationship with the United States is as President Xi Jinping has said, that is we hope to see no confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation with the United States,” he said.

According to Reuters, the two sides argued over when to dismiss reporters, and what is usually a few minutes of opening remarks in front of journalists for such high-level meetings lasted for over an hour. A U.S. official speaking with reporters after the exchange accused the Chinese side of “grandstanding.”

Since President Biden came into office, Chinese officials have been calling for better relations with the U.S. after the Trump administration’s hostile China policies left U.S.-China relations at their lowest point in decades. But Biden officials have had nothing but harsh words for China, and in the days leading up to the talks, the US took several measures that guaranteed they would be contentious.

Blinken visited Japan and South Korea with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this week. While meeting with his Japanese and Korean counterparts, Blinken slammed Beijing, accusing China of using “coercion and aggression” in the region. On Wednesday, the U.S. slapped sanctions on 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials.

The Anchorage talks are expected to last through Friday night. Judging by how they started, little progress is expected to be made.

Earlier this month, Blinken named China as the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.” He said China is the “only country” with power that threatens the current “international system,” making it clear that Washington sees Beijing as a threat to U.S. global hegemony.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Russia Recalls Its U.S. Ambassador After President Biden Refers to Vladimir Putin as a ‘Killer’

Russia Recalls Its U.S. Ambassador After President Biden Refers to Vladimir Putin as a ‘Killer’

Russia called its ambassador to the US back to Moscow on Wednesday after an interview of President Biden aired where Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer.”

In the interview, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked President Biden if he believes that Putin is a “killer,” to which Biden responded, “Uh-huh. I do.” Biden said he once told Putin that he believed the Russian leader had no “soul.”

Stephanopoulos and Biden also discussed an assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that claimed Putin sought to hurt Biden in the 2020 election. Biden said Putin will “pay a price” for the allegations made by the ODNI.

Like most US claims of Russian meddling, no evidence has been presented to back up the latest allegations besides the intelligence assessment, and the ODNI report did not explain how the conclusion was reached. Russia dismissed the accusation as “baseless” and said the assessment was likely going to be used as a pretext for sanctions.

Announcing the recall of the US ambassador, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Moscow was hoping for better relations with the US.

“Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov has been invited for consultations in order to figure out what to do and where to move in terms of relations with the United States,” Zakharova said in a statement. “The main thing for us is to find out ways to improve Russia-US relations,” she added.

Also on Wednesday, the US slapped more sanctions on Russia over the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. A report from CNN on Tuesday night said the US is expected to impose more sanctions on Russia next week over the ODNI report on the 2020 election.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Congress Seeks to Block American Re-Entry to the Iran Deal

Congress Seeks to Block American Re-Entry to the Iran Deal

A group of 140 bipartisan members of the House is urging President Biden to seek a more “comprehensive” agreement with Iran, which means the group of lawmakers opposes a revival of the original 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 70 Democrats and 70 Republicans said President Biden “must seek an agreement or set of agreements with Iran that are comprehensive in nature to address the full range of threats that Iran poses to the region.”

“As Democrats and Republicans from across the political spectrum, we are united in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and addressing the wide range of illicit Iranian behavior,” the letter reads. The effort was organized by Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD) and Michael Waltz (R-FL).

Seeking a stronger agreement before the U.S. gives Iran sanctions relief and returns to the JCPOA would be a non-starter for negotiations with Tehran. Iranian officials have been clear that they want the deal that they signed in 2015 and have been working to preserve since the Trump administration withdrew from it in 2018.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers said Biden should use leverage through sanctions to achieve a stronger agreement. “America and our allies must engage Iran through a combination of diplomatic and sanction mechanisms to achieve full compliance of international obligations and a demonstrated commitment by Iran to addressing its malign behavior,” the letter says.

Using sanctions to bring Iran to the negotiating table for a stronger agreement is the strategy the Trump administration tried, known as the “maximum pressure campaign.” While President Biden said he planned to revive the JCPOA, so far, crippling sanctions are still in place, and he continues to pursue the policy of his predecessor.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

NATO Planning to Octuple Presence in Iraq

NATO Planning to Octuple Presence in Iraq

On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance is increasing its military presence in Iraq.

“The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000 and training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions and areas beyond Baghdad,” Stoltenberg said after a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers.

NATO describes its presence in Iraq as a “security training mission.” Stoltenberg said the alliance’s presence “is conditions-based and increases in troop numbers will be incremental.”

The U.S. currently has 2,500 troops in Iraq. According to CNBC, a Pentagon official told reporters this week that the US was “enthusiastic about and welcomes NATO’s increased focus on Iraq.” The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would not disclose if the US is planning to add more forces to Iraq.

The announcement comes after a rocket attack on the US military base in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, that left one contractor dead. While the media is blaming the incident on Iran, the US has yet to attribute blame. With Iran seeking sanctions relief from the new administration, Tehran has no reason to stoke tensions with the US in Iraq.

Also on Thursday, Stoltenberg said no decision has been made on whether or not NATO will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1st, the deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Innocent Man Appeals For Release From Guantanamo Bay

Innocent Man Appeals For Release From Guantanamo Bay

With calls growing for President Biden to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, an inmate of the notorious detention facility appealed to the president for his release in an article for the Independent.

Ahmed Rabbani described the nightmare he has lived since he was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, back in 2002 and sold to the CIA for a bounty. Rabbani was falsely identified as Hassan Ghul, an al-Qaeda member who was eventually captured by the US and later released.

Rabbani said he was captured around the time he learned his wife was pregnant. “President Biden is a man who speaks of the importance of family. I wonder if he can imagine what it would be like to have never touched his own son,” Rabbani wrote. “I have been locked up for his entire childhood, without charges or a trial.”

The 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA torture found that Rabbani was tortured at a CIA black site for 540 days before being sent to Gitmo. “I can confirm that the torture did take place, although I couldn’t have counted the days myself: the days and nights blended into one while I was hung from a bar in a black pit, in agony as my shoulders dislocated,” he said.

Rabbani said he has been on a seven-year hunger strike to protest being held without charges. He is force-fed by guards in Gitmo, something he described in detail back in 2014 in an article published by The Express Tribune.

He wrote: “Twice a day, a team of guards in riot gear barges into my cell to take me to be force-fed. They pin me to the floor and sit on my back causing extreme pain, before hauling me out of the cell to the force-feeding room. There, they strap my head, arms, and legs to a chair and push a tube down my nose and throat into my stomach. Two hours later, they unstrap me and throw me back into to my cell — often pushing my face into the dirty hole, which passes for a toilet in my cell.”

In his appeal to Biden, Rabbani mentioned that the Obama administration failed to fulfill its promise to close Gitmo and urged Biden to let him go home.

“President Biden has the power to do something. I would like justice, obviously, for all the abuse I have suffered, but most importantly, I do not want to go home in a coffin or a body bag. I just want to go home to my family, and to finally—for the first time—hold my son.”

Over 100 human rights organizations recently sent a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Biden has previously pledged to close Gitmo, but so far, his administration hasn’t taken any steps to do so.

There are currently 40 inmates in Gitmo, and the prison costs over $540 million each year to operate. Meaning each prisoner costs about $13 million per year, something Rabbani mentioned.

“The U.S. is currently paying $13.8 million a year just to keep me here, so he could save a lot of money by just letting me go home. I am just a taxi driver from Karachi, a victim of mistaken identity,” Rabbani said.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Iran to Uncle Sam: Your Move

Iran to Uncle Sam: Your Move

On Thursday, Tehran hit back at the U.S. after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran must return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal before the Biden administration does.

“Reality check for @SecBlinken, the US violated JCPOA, blocked food/medicine to Iranians, punished adherence to UNSCR 2231,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“Throughout that sordid mess, Iran abided by JCPOA, only took foreseen remedial measures. Now, who should take 1st step? Never forget Trump’s maximum failure,” Zarif added.

In his comments on Wednesday, Blinken said “it would take some time” for Iran to return to compliance and then for the US to “assess whether it was meeting its obligations.” His statement shows that the Biden administration is in no hurry to lift sanctions.

In an interview with USA Today that was published on Thursday, Iran’s ambassador to the UN said the U.S. “must act quickly” to lift sanctions on Iran and reiterated that Tehran is ready to return to the JCPOA once that happens.

“We have said time and again that if the U.S. decides to go back to its international commitments and lift all the illegal sanctions against Iran, we will go back to the full implementation of JCPOA, which will benefit all sides,” Majid Takht-Ravanchi said.

While on the campaign trail, President Biden said he would work with Iran to revive the JCPOA and restore diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. But so far, no dialogue between the two nations has been reported, and Iran is still under crippling economic sanctions.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Intelligence Agencies Point Finger at Russia for SolarWinds Hack

Intelligence Agencies Point Finger at Russia for SolarWinds Hack

In a rare joint statement, the FBI, NSA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Office of the DNI said the recently discovered hack of the software firm SolarWinds that affected several government agencies was “likely Russian in origin.”

The intelligence agencies offered no evidence to back up the claim that Russia was “likely” responsible. When the hack was first discovered, many in the media and in Congress began accusing Moscow of being involved, despite a lack of evidence. Some senators even likened the hack to a Russian invasion.

While the Russian attribution by the intelligence agencies is not definitive, it comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-Russia relations and will do nothing but stoke tensions. Joe Biden and members of his future administration have vowed to retaliate for the SolarWinds hack through financial sanctions and offensive cyberattacks.

Claims of Russian hacking are nothing new, as the U.S. public has been bombarded by them for years now. But attributing cyber activity is difficult since hackers use tools to disguise their identity and location.

One way the US often attributes cyber activity to Russia is by identifying tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by hackers. Federal agencies often say hackers used TTPs consistent with previous Russian government activity, offering that assessment as the only proof to substantiate claims of Russian hacking.

On December 17th, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency put out an alert that said the actor responsible for the SolarWinds hack likely has “tactics, techniques, and procedures that have not yet been discovered.”

Dave DeCamp is the assistant news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave. This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

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