War agenda behind Trump’s demand to NATO

By Ameen Izzadeen
United States President Donald Trump is a liability to the transatlantic defence cooperation that started with the US entry into World War 1 and evolved into a formal treaty after World War II. The US entry was the decisive factor in the victory of the allies.
Since the end of World War II and throughout the Cold War, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been at the pivot of Europe’s defence to protect itself from the now defunct Soviet Union, though, at the same time, the alliance effectively served the US interest in containing the spread of Communism in Europe.
The organisation came into force in 1949 at a time when European nations were struggling to rebuild their economies and militaries. The end of World War II signalled the beginning of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union occupying much of Eastern Europe. The prevention of Soviet expansion into Europe and elsewhere was the main issue US policy makers confronted. If the economies of these war-ravaged European nations crumbled further, the US feared that the people would embrace communism.
To overcome the issue that was threatening the post-war US hegemony, the then US Secretary of State George Marshall proposed that the US offer billions in aid to Europe. Western European countries accepted the US aid and went on to record a remarkable economic recovery. In the meantime, a series of Soviet-led moves unsettled the US. The key among them was the blockade the Soviets imposed on West Berlin. Amidst fears of a major conflict, the US and its allies organised a massive airlift of supplies to Berlin. After 318 days, during which allied planes carried out 275,000 missions to transport 1.5 million tons of supplies, the Soviets relented and ended the siege, though Germany remained divided till October 1990. This was largely the backdrop that led to the formation of NATO.
Now for the first time in the seven decades since its formation, the alliance faces a threat from within. In what is seen as yet another point of contention between allies, Trump is asking NATO members to pay more for the protection that the US gives them through NATO.
Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has irritated US allies, first by withdrawing from the Paris climate deal and then Iran nuclear pact, then by starting a tariff war with allies including Canada and European Union nations, then by scuttling the G7 meeting in Canada and now by undermining the importance of NATO, a defence alliance which has served the US interest more than the interest of its other members.
But judging from Trump’s statements and tweets, it appears that he believes NATO largely serves Europe’s defence interests. He also believes that the US should stop looking at Russia as a foe. During the presidential campaign, he had said he would be able to get along with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s dismal view of the 29-member NATO probably brings out the business animal in him. He is looking at the alliance in terms of profits and losses. One who benefits more should pay more. This appears to be the logic. He said the alliance was obsolete and costing the US too much money.
“NATO was set up at a different time. NATO was set up when we were a richer country. We’re not a rich country anymore. We’re borrowing, we’re borrowing all of this money…NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO but we’re spending a lot of money. Number one, I think the distribution of costs has to be changed. I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved,” candidate Trump said in 2016, drawing much applause from his ’America first’ supporters.
In deference to Trump’s stance, NATO members, especially Germany, France, Spain and even Belgium, have agreed to increase their defence expenditure to 2 percent of the GDP by 2024. But Trump on Wednesday told the NATO summit in Brussels that Canada and European NATO members — which last year spent on defence 0.55 to 2.6 percent of their GDPs — should increase the defence budget to 4 percent of the GDP – a 650 percent increase in the case of Luxemberg. This is while the US spends only 3.5 percent of its GDP on defence.
He is in Britain today amidst huge public protests before he will travel to Finland for a meeting on Monday with Putin, with whom Trump’s chemistry is bubblier than his chemistry with his European allies such as Germany’s Angela Merkel. He berated Germany, saying it was “totally controlled by Russia” and added in a tweet on Thursday saying, “On top of it all, Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, Billions of Dollars for their Energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia. Not acceptable! All NATO Nations must meet their 2% commitment, and that must ultimately go to 4%!”
Increasing the military expenditure is certainly a crime in a socio-economic sense. If this additional 2 percent Trump is seeking is spent on agriculture research aimed at increasing the world food supplies, health, education and eliminating poverty, the world will be certainly a better place to live in. But the Trump strategy is aimed at boosting the US arms industry. Additional money for defence means, more weapons purchases from US companies and more wars.
In this context, it is in the interest of world peace, we say that NATO should be disbanded now. It should have been dissolved when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were disbanded. The organisation has, since the collapse of the Cold War, intervened in many conflicts: the Balkan conflict that erupted with the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the 1991 Gulf War, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2011 Libyan war, to name a few.
During the last months of President Barack Obama, NATO undertook a massive military buildup in Russia’s neighbourhood. The move exacerbated Russia-NATO relations that had already been strained by Russia’s wars in Georgia and Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea, the US threats to set up missile defence shields in Eastern Europe and NATO’s eastward expansion.
Against the backdrop of policy differences between the US and Europe, moves towards forming an exclusive European defence alliance have gained momentum in recent years. In the past, Germany and France had pushed for an EU defence arrangement but had abandoned their efforts following US objections.
With Trump flirting with Russia, which is said to have helped him to win the presidential election, an EU defence arrangement is in order. Last year, the EU nations formed the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) aimed at close defence cooperation through joint projects.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Indo-Pacific Command a threat to peace in Indian Ocean

By Ameen Izzadeen
On May 31st this year, at a solemn ceremony in Hawaii, the United States military renamed its Pacific Command as the “Indo-Pacific Command”. The move, though significant in many respects, has not generated as much debate as it should have in the South Asian region.
In a tweet to mark the occasion, the US embassy in New Delhi said: “In symbolic nod to India, United States renamed its @PacificCommand the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Looking forward to higher levels of #USIndiaDefence cooperation.”
This week, testifying before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Alaina Teplitz, the ambassador-nominee for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, said the two island nations were important for the wider security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
She noted that both Sri Lanka and the Maldives are positioned astride key shipping lanes that connect the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, the free navigation of which is vital to US economic and security interests. Teplitz said Washington must also be mindful of the economic and commercial opportunities each country afforded, and the importance of working with them to maintain a rules-based international order.
The mentioning of the Indo-Pacific region in her testimony was deliberate. It was an attempt to further popularize or formalise the term ‘Indo-Pacific’, while her call for a rules-based international order is a direct swipe at China, which is being accused by the US and its Asian allies of wrongfully claiming sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea and of building artificial islands for military use in violation of international law.
The Donald Trump administration, which is seen to be opposing everything that was Barack Obama, has fully embraced the term Indo-Pacific, which the Obama administration showed some reluctance to formalise.
After a meeting between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump in the White House in June last year, a joint communiqué described the two leaders as “stewards” for the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. During Trump’s East Asia tour in November last year, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ figured so liberally in statements that it exposed hurried and deliberate efforts to win recognition for the new region. That the term is also being liberally used in political discourses in Japan is no coincidence. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a key architect of the concept.
Last month, addressing the Shangri La Dialogue conference in Singapore, Modi defined the Indo-Pacific region as “a natural region” that stretches from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of America. While emphasising that India’s acceptance of the Indo-Pacific region was not directed against any nation, he said the building of a “stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” was an “important pillar” of India’s partnership with the US.
With the formal announcement of the Indo-Pacific command, the Indian Ocean region is set to become a militarised zone where the big powers will flex their military muscles sooner than later. The new command together with the US Central Command (for Middle East), the African Command and the European Command provides around-the-world connectivity to the US military.
The Indo-Pacific Command is a blow to the Indian Ocean peace zone concept. In the 1970s, Sri Lanka had been in the forefront of global efforts to declare the Indian Ocean as a peace zone and had opposed superpower military presence in the region. Although the Soviet Union was supportive of the Sri Lankan initiative, the US, which had a major military base in the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, ignored Colombo’s call, which was then fully backed by the Non-Aligned Movement.
It is significant to note that India has veered away from its ‘middle-path’ foreign policy and has cooperated with the US in the renaming of the Pacific Command, in keeping with its redefined geostrategic objective of containing a rising China, with whom it has several territorial disputes, the latest being last year’s Doklam crisis on the Bhutan border. India’s new policy is a major shift from its Indira doctrine which was designed to keep the US out of the seas surrounding India. In keeping with the doctrine – named after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – India policed and dominated the South Asian part of the Indian Ocean. Now a combined Indo-US effort will go into the policing of this part of Indian Ocean, where concerns have been raised by India over China’s increasing naval movements including the sighting of nuclear submarines.
The move further consolidates the US strategy of making India the lynchpin in containing China – and India, it appears, cherishes the importance the US gives it. India is now, to all intents and purposes, part of the United States’ Asia Nexus. The partnership takes their defence ties to the next level, two years after they signed a logistics defence pact to allow the militaries of both countries to use each other’s assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.
Besides, India is a key member of a tri-nation defence arrangement, also involving the US and Japan. The three countries conduct annual military exercises on a mega scale. Called ‘Malabar’, this year’s exercise, which took place, significantly, a week after the ‘Indo-Pacific Command’ renaming ceremony, was held in the seas off the Pacific Island of Guam where the US maintains its biggest offshore military base. Also part of this arrangement was Australia. However, of late, Canberra has scaled down its involvement, perhaps in deference to its growing trade and investment ties with China.
In international relations, alliances are important because power is also assessed on the basis of the military alliances a nation makes. However much China catches up with the US in terms of economic power, military parity and advancement in science and technology, it still lags behind in making military alliances with strategically important nations. This is why it remains edged out in the contest for the Indo-Pacific region. Despite growing economic ties with China, most ASEAN countries view China with suspicion and will not abandon the US military protection.
The only South Asian country which China can consider as a strategic ally is Pakistan, although Islamabad also maintains close military relations with Washington. Countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives in South Asia, on the one hand, are much in need of China’s development aid and investments, and, on the other, are wary of getting caught in the cold war between China and the Indo-US military alliance. It is diplomatic tightrope walking for these countries.
China sees the formalisation of the Indo-Pacific Command as part of the US strategy to instigate China and India into a long-term conflict. The Global Times, China’s official English language mouthpiece, sees India as having fallen into a US trap aimed at strengthening Washington’s control of the Indian Ocean.
The Indo-Pacific military command appears to be bellicose and therefore Indian Ocean nations should be wary of the consequences. The Indian Ocean littoral states – members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation – need to meet soon to discuss moves to stop the militarisation of the Indian Ocean. India owes these nations a commitment that it will not allow its Indo-Pacific partnership with the US to threaten the peace of the Indian Ocean.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Harming children: Trump with a millstone around his neck

By Ameen Izzadeen
The United States President Donald Trump has drawn international condemnation for his preposterous and inhuman order to separate children from the families whom his administration describes as “illegal immigrants”. On Wednesday, the President relented under international pressure and disapproval even from First Lady Melania and daughter Ivanka. The international fury, pleas from family members and even sharp criticism from close allies prompted him to sign an executive order promising to “keep families together” in migrant detention centres.
The business tycoon turned President said he had been swayed by images of children who have been taken from parents who are being prosecuted for illegal border-crossing.
“I did not like the sight of families being separated,” he said, but added the administration would continue its “zero tolerance policy” of illegal migration.
Yet his reverse decree does not offer relief to families already separated by the policy. Thousands of children, including babies are sleeping on concrete slabs in tents. Most of the children in these camps along the Mexican border are clueless as to where their parents are. Secret tapes that have recorded the disturbed children’s cries could even move a stone-hearted monster.
If only Trump could close his eyes and reflect on the issue, he would certainly have realised that migration has been a constant feature in human history. Only a moron will deny that since time immemorial, humans have been migrating from place to place to survive. We all are children of migrants. The out-of-Africa theory suggests that two million years ago, Homo erectus, the archaic humans, began to disperse within Africa – and some 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens began moving out of Africa. Within 30,000 years they had spread across Asia, Oceania and Europe. And the process continues.
Trump himself is a grandson of a Bavarian (German) migrant. His grandfather, Friedrich Trump, arrived in New York with a single suitcase in 1885 at the age of 16. He made a fortune in the gold rush in the west and opened hotels that cater to the hard working and hard drinking miners. He later returned to New York and started a small property business. That was the beginning of the Trump story – a story of how a grandson of a Bavarian immigrant became the president of the United States.
Moreover, Trump’s wife is also a migrant from Solvenia. Media reports say there is a wealth of evidence to prove she was an undocumented immigrant.
All Americans, including the native people, are migrants or descendants of migrants. ‘The natives’ are the first to occupy the continent. The Europeans came 15,000 years later. If the early waves of migrations are fair enough, why can’t we treat the present wave of migration – from whichever part of the planet — as a natural phenomenon? Don’t build walls; build bridges between people, Mr. Trump. Please recognise that the right to migrate to a safer place in face of economic marginalisation or political persecution is a human right.
Nation-state borders are man-made barriers created out of the ravenous reluctance to share Mother Earth’s resources with fellow human beings who are in need. This is xenophobia – the fear of the other.
On Easter Sunday this year, Trump in utter disregard for Christian charity, tweeted: “….’Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW….” This week in another tweet, he said, “illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, [are] pour[ing] into and infest[ing] our Country.” Infesting? Isn’t he calling the immigrants animals or insects?
His policy of separating the children from their migrant parents drew criticism from Pope Francis on Wednesday, which was International Refugees day. The Pontiff said he supported the statements made by US Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents “immoral” and “contrary to our Catholic values.”
Even though some 80 percent of Evangelical Christians are known to have supported Trump at the 2016 elections, he needs to remember Jesus Christ’s dire warning that anyone causes harm to children should be thrown into the deepest ocean with a millstone tied around his neck.
We are human beings, but being human means being merciful which in turn is a divine quality. Trump’s policy of harming children is far from being human. The world in a chorus decried his policy as “unacceptable”. The American Academy of Paediatrics called it “child abuse”, Amnesty International said it is “nothing short of torture”, and the United Nations denounced it as “despicable” and an “unconscionable” violation of human rights.
Some compared the Trump policy to the massacre of the ‘native Americans’ by white Europeans; some likened it to the internment of the Japanese during World War II. Others saw a parallel in the Nazi policy. Just as the Nazi Gestapo came for the Jews who were to be sent to concentration camps, Trump’s border guards snatched the children away from their parents, showing no remorse.
Mind you, this is happening in the 21st century – the era of knowledge; the era where science has taken us beyond our galaxy to have a peep at the domains beyond the black holes. And this is happening at a time when a nation’s degree of civilisation is assessed by its commitment to liberty, equality, fraternity and Human Rights.
The US has long lost the moral upper hand to preach human rights. Its constitution may be described as the best man-made political document in human history, but its foreign policy, since it assumed the world’s leadership after World War II, has been a stink. Its commitment to human rights is a farce. Like a rogue state, it has observed International law mainly in the breach. In Central Asia, the US supported dictators despite their horrendous human rights records. In Asia, the US troops killed some three million people in wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1960s and 1970s. More than half a million Iraqi children died due to US-sponsored sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s because the sanctions prevented Iraq from buying life-saving medicines.
The US continues to cheer on Israel as the Zionist state, exercising a culture of impunity, kills unarmed Palestinian protesters. The US even uses its veto power to protect Israel, easily one of the worst human rights violators in the world today.
While the US practises Nazi policies at home, commits war crimes abroad and encourages Israeli human rights violations, it had the cheek to accuse on Tuesday the United Nations Human Rights Council of being a “cesspool of political bias”. US envoy Nikki Haley called the UNHRC a “hypocritical” body that “makes a mockery of human rights”.
Well, in a way, the withdrawal suggests that the US has got out of the kitchen because it cannot stand the heat. Perhaps, it is Good Riddance of Bad Rubbish. Flushed of protectors of human rights violators, the UNHRC will be less putrid. The US might as well leave the UN too, so that there will be justice for the oppressed people like the Palestinians.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Summit of the century: Will there be substance from the showpiece?

By Ameen Izzadeen
Commenting on the meeting between the United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, most analysts said they had to pinch themselves to realise that what they were witnessing was real. As if he was responding to these shocked analysts, the North Korean leader told Trump this was not any fantasy or science fiction. Such was the significance of the believe-it-or-not political event on Tuesday in the Singaporean island of Sentosa, which means peace and tranquillity in Malay.
Yes, what seemed only a few months ago impossible has happened. Just a few months ago, the two leaders were heaping insults on each other.
The Singapore summit is now a landmark in post World War II history, perhaps rivalled only by US president Richard Nixon’s meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1972.
But wait a minute. It is too early to proclaim that peace will dawn soon over the Korean Peninsula, ending 65 years of hostility. The path ahead is paved with many a hurdle. But before that, a little bit of history:
The Korean War that began on June 25, 1950 has not technically ended, though the parties to the war have been observing a truce since July 1953. The war ended with no clear victor, but the moral victory belonged to North Korea. It could have won the war, if the United States had not entered the war in support of the South.
Although North Korea has been portrayed as an evil state by the United States, which itself is being accused of committing war crimes, North Korea’s eternal leader Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the present leader, was a visionary. Within three years after the then cold war politics divided Korea along the 38th parallel in 1948 into the Soviet-and-China backed North and the US-backed South, Kim Il-sung made North Korea a prosperous state through a series of socialist economic reforms. In 1950, North Korea invaded the South with the ambition of uniting the two Koreas and liberating the southern peasants.
With a series of rapid gains, the North Korean troops reached Pusan, the southernmost tip of Korea. The US forces, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who was also overseeing the post-WWII occupation of Japan, held off the North Koreans at Pusan. Meanwhile, manipulating the UN Security Council and misleading the Soviet delegation, the US worked out an international intervention force to enter the war. This turned the tide. In three years of war, the US forces and allied troops almost annihilated North Korea, wiping out 20 percent of its population. But the direct intervention of China at the last stages of the war, helped work out a truce and restore the 38th parallel ceasefire line which has since been the de facto border between the two Koreas.
Since then, the North Koreans have been looking at the US as an enemy, responsible for their misfortunes.
Yet, at the summit, Kim Jong-un, now being honourably referred to as by the US President as ‘Chairman Kim’, told Trump: “It has not been easy to come to this point. For us the past has been holding us back, and old practices and prejudices have been covering our eyes and ears, but we have been able to overcome everything.”
Easier said than done. If a half day’s summit could cut a key from seven decades of animosity to open the door to peace, it will be a world wonder, though some may say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. True, the ice has been broken. But, the question is: Has the thawing process begun?
The Singapore summit is not a kiss-and-make-up affair. Both Trump and Kim are hard nuts. The summit appeared to be a battle of wits – a battle, according to Trump-thrashing US media, Kim has won. Against the backdrop of handshakes, pats on the backs and diplomatic niceties, the air of mutual suspicion and one-upmanship was perceptible to the discerning mind. The looks from the corner of the eyes — especially those which Kim secretly and quickly cast on Trump –and the vaguely worded post-summit communiqués symbolised the undercurrents. Kim has pledged to work for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula while Trump has given security guarantees. There was little or nothing concrete and specific.
The pledges contained in the communiqué are nothing new; similar pledges were made during the six-party talks in 2005, only to be broken even before the ink dried.
Hours after the summit ended, the two sides upped the ante, giving different interpretations. North Korea on Wednesday interpreted what it had agreed in Singapore as a step-by-step denuclearisation process subject to conditions.
Trump Kim
Though, the US side took no decision to immediately lift the economic sanctions on North Korea, the survival of the summit’s momentum depends on concessions each side will make. As far as North Korea is concerned, lifting of the sanctions is a top priority. Now who will make the first move?
By pointing at last month’s dismantling of the nuclear test site facility, North Korea may insist that it has already taken the first step. It may now urge the US to lift at least a few sanctions. But following a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday North Korea would not see any economic sanctions lifted until it had demonstrated “complete denuclearisation”.
The Pompeo comments were in sharp contrast to sentiments expressed by Twitter-happy Trump. Upon returning home, he tweeted, “Just landed — a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
The contents of the tweet indicate that Trump is more concerned about his domestic vote base than international peace. The Singapore summit has raised his stocks among his supporters. They say he has displayed courage to do what other US presidents have shunned to do. He took a similar hardline position at last week’s G7 summit in Canada where he stood by his ‘America first’ policy, despite pressure from his G7 allies to relax tariffs and trade terms.
The Singapore and Canada adventures may help Trump face reelection with confidence in 2020, but his posturing does not make him a man of peace. His Jerusalem move – shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem in breach of international law — was certainly not what a peace-loving leader would do.
North Korea is not naïve to give away its strategic weapons for a few billion dollars or onTrump’s assurance to scrap US war games with South Korea, unless the gains are much more than the losses. The stakes are high. North Korea gets all the respects because of its nukes. It will continue to play hardball with the Trump administration. At the same time, it is desperate to improve its economy.
The US-North Korea summit cannot be seen as rapprochement because it comes at a time when the US-China cold war is seen to be intensifying in the Indo-Pacific region. With China being North Korea’s only trusted ally, Pyongyang is unlikely to move into unchartered waters with the US, abandoning the lifeline China has been offering it.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Argentina’s noble goal for sports boycott of Israel

By Ameen Izzadeen
A golden boot award for Argentina for displaying moral courage and cancelling its final warm-up match against Israel in Jerusalem ahead of June 16 World Cup in Moscow, in what could be construed as chastisement of Israel’s criminal policies in Gaza.
“Values, morals and sport have secured a victory and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game,” Palestinian Football Association chairman Jibril Rajoub, said on Wednesday, as peace loving people all over the world rejoiced with Palestinians in celebrating the achievement of this noble goal.
Argentinian striker Lionel Messi and his teammates are the new champions of freedom and anti-colonialism, for they took a stand against injustice. Fellow striker Gonzalo Higuain said the cancellation of the match was the right thing to do.
Some 39 years ago, it was Sri Lanka which attracted world headlines for taking a courageous stand and refusing to play a match against Israel during the 1979 cricket world cup for International Cricket Conference’s associate members. The tournament was crucial for Sri Lanka, for victory would ensure entry into to the world cup to compete with full members. Despite the walkover conceded to Israel, Sri Lanka won the associate members tournament and went on to beat India in a tournament shocker, in what could be interpreted as a reward for standing up for justice and morality.
Razan al-Najjar Angel of Mercy
Those were the days when Sri Lanka’s foreign policy had a moral content displaying political courage to oppose colonialism or oppression in whatever form or wherever it took place. Insisting that non-alignment should be the theme of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy, veteran diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala in a newspaper article last week lamented that he saw little evidence of it today “when I look at the newspapers and read about foreign policy statements by spokespersons especially with regard to Palestine, the Middle East and to nuclear disarmament.”
Coming back to morality: Notwithstanding regular allegations about corruption in sports, Argentina, like Sri Lanka then, has proved that sport is still made of far superior moral fibre than politics.
But sadly, the stab in the back comes for the oppressed Palestinians from the Arab world itself. While Argentina cancelled the friendly match in deference to Palestinian suffering, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates sent teams to take part in the first leg of the Giro d’Italia cycling race in Israel, in breach of the Arab boycott, in place since 1948.
Morality is in the core of any sport. Sport is rule-based and teaches what is right and wrong. It inculcates values and the virtue of being magnanimous in victory and resilient in defeat. Children are introduced to sports at a tender age. When they take part in pre-school sports meets or play a game of carom or hop-scotch with siblings at home, they learn to play the game according to the rules. No parent or teacher will teach a child how to cheat in a game.
In contrast, politics, in general, is a continuous struggle for power at any cost. There is little or no place for morality in politics.
While immorality is the norm in politics, however, there are exceptions. Yes, politics and sports have come together as an effective mix to fight the wrong. Sri Lanka’s decision in 1979 not to play the game against Israel was a morally correct political decision. So was Argentina’s cancellation of its planned tour to Israel this week.
The high point of this rare blend of moral politics and sports was the 1977 Commonwealth Gleneagles agreement which called for the effective boycott of sporting contacts with South Africa which had adopted the abominable apartheid system upholding the supremacy of the white race. Two years later, Commonwealth leaders meeting in Lusaka adopted a declaration opposing all forms of racism.
These Commonwealth measures, propped up by non-aligned countries’ principled foreign policies in support of freedom struggles worldwide, contributed in no small measure to end institutionalised racism in South Africa and to enable freedom fighter Nelson Mandela to become the president of the country, though he, like today’s Palestinians freedom fighter, carried the oppressor-given label of terrorist.
Like South Africa then, Zionist Israel has been a racist state since its illegal founding in 1948 following a 1947 United Nations resolution adopted at a time when more than two thirds of the world’s countries, mostly Asian and Africa nations, had not become independent or UN members. As recently as Tuesday this week, Israel’s parliament, Knesset, disqualified a private member’s bill that called for all citizens to be treated equally, rejecting the argument the state must recognise the rights of its Arab minority – some 20 percent of the population — as equal to the Jewish majority. Israel treats its Arab citizens as half citizens and practices discriminatory policies, a fact that has been endorsed by the 2004 and 2005 US State Department country reports and Israel’s own Or Commission report in 2000.
When the Non-Aligned bloc was powerful in world politics in the 1970s, Israel remained a pariah state, condemned for its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and for continuing the detestable European legacy of colonising the weak, of course with the unstinted support of the United States, which has chosen to ignore morality in its foreign policy.
But with the Non-Aligned Movement losing its clout following the 1991 demise of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, and with the Arab world embracing Washington, the Palestinians became international orphans, looking up, in a desperate hope for peace, to the US, the very nation which funds, arms and encourages Israel to oppress them with impunity.
If nations had adopted morality as the guiding principle of their foreign policies, the 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar, the angel of mercy who had saved many lives, would not have been killed by an Israeli sniper last week.
Most Non-Aligned countries are cozying up to the US or have conveniently taken up the position that the peace process set in motion by the 1993 Oslo deal between Israel and the Palestinians should be given a chance. Nay, under pressure from the US, they scaled down their morally correct stand against Israel.
With the peace process now virtually dead or being buried by US President Donald Trump’s Zionist-friendly policies such as shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ only international friends are the global justice activists spread around the world. They have launched the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, calling on peace loving people and all those who condemn injustice and oppression – people with a conscience – to penalise Israel for denying the Palestinian people their freedom.
It is encouraging to know that many sports stars and celebrities are supporting the BDS campaign.
If the peace loving people around the world want to do something for the Palestinians, then they must keep the BDS campaign going. It is time to show the red card to Israel; it is time that the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for the boycott of all forms of sports contacts with Israel until it ends its apartheid system and recognises the Palestinian people’s right to freedom.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Trump-Kim summit: Rollercoaster diplomacy vs. inclusive diplomacy

By Ameen Izzadeen
Till it happens, it is a tough call. Given the unpredictability that has now come to characterise the policies of the United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the much-hyped summit is mired in uncertainty till the two leaders meet in Singapore on June 12.
First there was rhetoric or name calling. Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea after the reclusive regime in August last year successfully tested Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles capable of hitting the US territory of Alaska. North Korea hit back, calling Trump mentally deranged. A month later, Trump ridiculed Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacked the US or any of its allies. An angry North Korea responded with a bigger ICBM test, bringing the whole of the US under its range.
In the face of North Korea’s nuclear missile muscle flexing, the Trump administration pushed for tougher United Nations sanctions on North Korea, with even China, North Korea’s closest ally, being forced to endorse them. As the hostilities were seen to be on the rise, the then US secretary of state Rex Tillerson announced the Trump administration was in direct contact with North Korea. In the meantime, South Korea’s behind-the-scenes peace offensive led by President Moon Jae-in began to work, with North agreeing to send athletes and a high-level delegation led by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, to the Winter Olympics in February this year.
Then, in April this year, what President Moon described as “miracle” happened, when the leaders of the two Koreas met on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom, with the North Korean leader favouring the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Against the backdrop of this historic summit, President Trump announced a possible meeting between him and the North Korean leader in what was seen as one of the biggest diplomatic shocks in the post-World War II history. The announcement came against the backdrop of a secret meeting between Mike Pompeo, the then CIA director and now the Secretary of State, and Kim Jong-un.
But after fixing June 12 as the date for the Kim-Trump summit and Singapore as the venue, the Trump administration on May 24, in a show of crude diplomacy, announced the cancellation of the meeting after North Korea reacted angrily to remarks made by Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton. They had given the impression to North Korea that the fate that befell Libya and its leader Muammar Gaddafi would befall North Korea and Kim Jong-un.
Taking the moral high ground, North Korea held a public ceremony to destroy its controversial nuclear site the same day Trump announced the cancellation of the summit.
On Friday, Trump made a dramatic about-face, announcing that the US-North Korea summit would go ahead as scheduled. Re-enter President Moon. Amidst such chaotic public utterings of Trump, in a refined act of delicate diplomacy, the South Korean leader met his North Korean counterpart on May 26 on the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom in an effort to salvage the Korean peninsula’s historic opportunity for peace, reunification of the two Koreas and to end the Cold War era tensions.
As the roller coaster diplomacy, symbolising the capricious nature of the policies of Trump and Kim, kept the world guessing, heightened activity in Washington, Beijing and the capitals of the two Koreas point at a greater possibility of the Singapore summit taking place. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Pompeo met Kim Yong Chol, considered the right hand man of Kim Jong-un, in Washington, to discuss summit-related matters, while Russia dispatched its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to Pyongyang for talks.
One cannot downplay the role of China in the turn of events. Kim Jong-un has in recent months visited China twice for crucial talks with President Xi Jinping, China’s virtual lifetime leader. It is expected that Kim Jong-un may visit China again ahead of the June 12 summit with Trump, and these meetings indicate that the Kim-Trump summit outcome will not undermine China’s national interest. US media have accused Beijing of coaching North Korea and blamed Beijing for giving Kim Jong-un the courage to take Trump head on. True, in terms of power, the US is much bigger than North Korea. In the event of a war, notwithstanding Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons and ICBMs, the United States could wipe out North Korea in a matter of days or weeks, if we were to assume that China would not intervene and South Korea, fearing a million deaths in the first hour itself of such a conflict, would not dissuade the US against such a war. Thus, for Kim Jong-un, ties with Beijing give him the necessary boost to meet Trump on an equal footing.
US media reports say there is as yet no agreement between the two sides on the terms of the summit. At the core of the summit is, however, the issue of the denuclearisation of North Korea. But the US side still does not know whether Kim Jong-un has made a decision to denuclearise.
If North Korea were to wind up its nuclear weapons programme, what will North Korea gain in return from the US? This could be the key question at the summit. Lifting the economic sanctions and promises of economic aid alone may not be enough. North Korea, probably goaded by China, may insist on the withdrawal of the US military from South Korea and other bases in Asia. Not only North Korea, but China and Russia also see the US deployment of Thaad missiles in South Korea as a major military threat and a hostile act.
If there is to be a positive outcome, ironically, it lies in a tested model — the Iran nuclear agreement which Trump has discarded. Under this agreement signed by Iran and six world powers, including the US, Iran’s enriched uranium stockpiles were transferred to Russia. In North Korea’s case, China could be the guarantor of North Korean nuclear assets.
The meeting, if it takes place, therefore, will take place in an atmosphere of mutual distrust. If the Singapore dialogue were to bring results, it is imperative that China, Russia and Japan also come to the negotiating table.
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)

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Trump creates nightmare of a thousand Hiroshimas

By Ameen Izzadeen
With the United States scuttling the Iran nuclear deal and casting doubts on a possible détente with North Korea, the time is ripe once again to turn the world’s attention on nuclear disarmament and give the necessary build-up for the next Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference scheduled to be held in 2020.
Though the NPT is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, its ultimate aim is total nuclear disarmament and the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,” said Albert Einstein, the scientist who was instrumental in the development of atomic bombs, two of which the US dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the last stages of World War II.
The presumption in the oft quoted Einstein quote is that World War III would make society collapse into the Stone Age. But this Einstein quote appears out of touch with the gigantic destructive power of modern nuclear weapons. For instance, the Hydrogen bomb which North Korea tested in January 2016 was one thousand times more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.
According to a LiveScience website report, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki exploded with the yield of 15 kilotons and 20 kilotons of TNT, respectively. In contrast, the first test of a thermonuclear weapon, or hydrogen bomb, in the United States in November 1952 yielded an explosion on the order of 10,000 kilotons of TNT. It is simply madness and criminal to keep such weapons, every one of which can destroy one thousand Hiroshimas.
But for world nuclear powers, such concerns hardly matter, for they are more concerned about enhancing their sheer military power that enables them to dominate and plunder the world.
When they speak about nuclear disarmament, they will wax eloquent about a nuclear free world and hit out at Iran and North Korea, but when it comes to their own nuclear arsenals, they continue their research to modernize their weapons in a game of one-upmanship with other nuclear powers.
We need total disarmament. Agreements on partial disarmament – the likes of which the US and Russia have entered into in the past – are largely a farce.
The five permanent United Nations Security Council members – the US, Russia, Britain, France and China – together with India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons — which, if they were to go off at once, could destroy the planet several times over. The five permanent members set an example by denouncing and destroying nuclear weapons before they preach disarmament.
The US and Russia have placed some 1,800 nuclear weapons on high alert, meaning they could be fired at any time at an enemy target, no sooner the respective commander-in-chief gives the order.
Strangely or deliberately, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is left out of the disarmament debate. Israel is believed to possess more than 300 nuclear weapons and has drawn hardly any flak from the US.
If Israel, a country that has little respect for international law and human rights, can possess nuclear weapons, what is the big fuss about Iran or North Korea going nuclear?
The stock answer most Western analysts give is that North Korea and Iran are maverick states which have little respect for international laws and human rights and therefore they cannot be trusted with weapons that can wipe out humanity. This is hypocrisy.
Given the fact that the only country to use atomic bombs in human history was the US, said to be the world’s greatest democracy, the argument that democratic countries can be trusted with nuclear weapons holds no water. Besides, the US has bypassed international law to invade or attack more than 40 countries since World War II. In comparison, the crimes, which the US accuses Iran and North Korea of committing in violation of international law, pale into insignificance.
Hypocrisy apart, some may argue that partial nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation are certainly better than non-disarmament and proliferation. Therefore, they say enough is enough; no more country should hereafter develop nuclear weapons.
But Trump’s action only encourages proliferation. By withdrawing from the Iran deal, Trump is now forcing Iran to resume its nuclear programme. Iran’s spiritual leader Al Khamenei, who this week compared Trump to Tom in the famous Tom and Jerry cartoon series – for Tom the cat often ends up as a loser — urged European powers to give Iran a guarantee that they would buy Iran’s oil and continue their trade links with Iran despite US sanctions. He warned, otherwise, Iran would resume its nuclear programme. But many believe that in a bid to protect their companies, the European powers could yield to US pressure, for the European Union’s trade volume with the US is 140 times its trade volume with Iran.
Unless the Europeans work out a bypass law similar to ‘the blocking statue’ the EU nations have adopted to circumvent US sanctions on Cuba, Iran’s only option is to follow the North Korean example and develop nuclear weapons, a move that will, unfortunately, have a domino effect to prompt Saudi Arabia to start its nuclear weapons programme.
In another blow to nuclear disarmament moves, Trump’s and his national security advisor John Bolton’s high-handed remarks have put in jeopardy the much anticipated US-North Korea summit on June 12 in Singapore. So much for Trump’s contribution to nonproliferation!
Trump should read what eminent Sri Lankan jurist Chris Weeramanty has said about nuclear weapons. In his dissenting opinion in the famous 1996 ruling on the legality of nuclear weapons, the International Court of Justice judge Weeramantry said:
“My considered opinion is that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever. It violates the fundamental principles of international law, and represents the very negation of the humanitarian concerns which underlie the structure of humanitarian law. It offends conventional law and… It contradicts the fundamental principle of the dignity and worth of the human person on which all law depends. It endangers the human environment in a manner which threatens the entirety of life on the planet.”
(This article first appeared in Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka on May 25, 2018)

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