18 February 2018   Leave a comment

Russia has conducted military exercises and is constructing an airbase on islands in what it calls the Southern Kurils and what the Japanese call the Northern Territories.  The Soviet Union took control of those islands as part of its share of the surrender of Japan in World War II.  The Soviet Union sent its troops onto the islands after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Even though the other Allied powers signed a peace treaty with Japan in 1951, Russia and Japan have never signed a peace treaty and the status of the islands is the dispute that prevents the process.  Japanese Prime Minister made the resolution of the dispute a central campaign platform, but it appears as if the Russians have no intention of negotiating with the Japanese.  The unwillingness places promised Japanese investments in jeopardy but it also reflects a desire to challenge the Japanese-US alliance.  The Russians have been emboldened by the reticence of the US to back the Japanese claims.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave a speech to the Munich Security Conference, an annual event that brings together people from all over the world to discuss the security issues facing the people of the world.  The speech was very specific in its criticism of US policies in the Middle East:

“From supporting Saddam Hussein’s invasion of my country in 1980 to aiding and abetting his use of chemical weapons; from the wars to evict him from Kuwait and then to remove him altogether; from first supporting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, to waging a war to remove them from Afghanistan; from supporting the same brand of extremist terrorists bringing ruin to Syria to dangerously occupying parts of Syria under the guise of fighting the groups they have armed and financed; from Israel’s invasion and subsequent aggressions on Lebanon and its illegal occupation of Palestine to its routine incursions into Syrian airspace; and from the bombing of Yemen with western supplied planes. What have these actions brought the world?

“The U.S. and its local clients in our region are suffering from the natural consequences of their own wrong choices. But they use this and other fora to revive the hysteria on Iran’s foreign policy and obscure its reality. But did Iran force them to make all those wrong choices as some of them ridiculously claim? Are we to blame because we were on the right side of history, fighting Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS, Nusrah and the like, while the U.S. and company were financing, arming and supporting them?”

At the same conference, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu identified Iran as the most serious disrupter of global security:

“….nowhere are Iran’s belligerent ambitions clearer than in Syria. There Iran hopes to complete a contiguous empire, linking Tehran to Tartus, the Caspian to the Mediterranean. For some time I’ve been warning about this development. I’ve made clear in word and deed that Israel has red lines it will enforce. Israel will continue to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. Israel will continue to act to prevent Iran from establishing another terror base from which to threaten Israel. But Iran continues to try to cross those red lines. Last week its brazenness reached new heights, literally new heights. It sent a drone into Israeli territory, violating Israel’s sovereignty, threatening our security. We destroyed that drone and the control center that operated it from Syria, and when our places were fired upon, Israel destroyed Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. Israel will not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck. We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”

The divide is extraordinary and it is hard to imagine a peaceful resolution between Israel and Iran in the future unless the world intervenes to alter the calculations of both.


The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Legarde, is warning that the tax cuts proposed by the US recently will precipitate a “race to the bottom” that will ignite a tax-cutting war among wealthy countries that will ultimately lead to reduced support for impoverished peoples in those countries.  According to Bloomberg:

“What we are beginning to see already and what is of concern is the beginning of a race to the bottom, where many other policy makers around the world are saying: ‘Well, if you’re going to cut tax and you’re going to have sweet deals with your corporates, I’m going to do the same thing,”’ Lagarde said.”

Last October, the IMF issued a report which documented the extent to which economic inequality diminishes economic growth.  The report deserves far greater attention by policy makers.

Posted February 18, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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