Geopolitical Commentary

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Saudi Arabia
The Burkan (Volcano) 1 missile was launched
towards Riyadh, but was destroyed 180kms/111
miles south of Riyadh.
President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia has been an unqualified success as the Arab nations in the Middle East look to American leadership as key to beating back the Persians/Iranians/Shiia. Barack Obama favored Iran, obviously, and Iran had incremental success throughout the Middle East during his presidency. 
Look to the proxy war in Yemen as a bellwether. The Houthi rebellion is backed by, funded by, and equipped by Iran. In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Saudi-led coalition said it intercepted a Houthi-launched ballistic missile and destroyed it above an unpopulated area in a place called Al-Rin. (Missile attacks have become fewer, but the Houthis still have missiles to launch.)

“Coalition Air Forces retaliated immediately, hitting the sites of the missile’s launching pads,” said the SPA report.

Conditions in Yemen are worsening because of the war and its destruction of national infrastructure. Official sources reported the number of deaths from cholera is now 315. That number will be much higher before this conflict is brought under control.
 There is no significant change in the situation, except for the worsening cholera epidemic.
The Saudis look to the US to help them bring stability to the area. The situation and the fragmentation of Yemen may have gone too far for that scenario to play out anytime soon.
Protesters demanding President Maduro step down and hold elections staged street demonstrations across the country on 20 May to mark the 50th day of protests. Protests turned violent in Caracas when demonstrators and police clashed in a mix of tear gas and exploding Molotov cocktails. One government supporter was stabbed and set on fire. One opposition supporter also was killed.
Since the demonstrations began, 48 Venezuelans have died in clashes, nearly one every day. More than 900 have been injured. Expect the demonstrations to become more violent. 
Venezuela, one of the most prosperous nations in South America with vast national resources, has been turned into a trash heap by the socialists who bungled everything that they touched…as is the way with ever nation that tries to make central government control work. “Food” is one thing that Venezuela should never lack. The place is as rich in agriculture as it is in oil. But they’re still starving.
North Korea
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed that the missile North Korea launched on the morning of 21 May was a Pukguksong (Polaris) 2, land-based version of the submarine-launched ballistic missile, Pukguksong-1. What follows is in distilled version of the article:

“Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the Democratic PRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, supervised a test-fire of the ground-to-ground medium-to-long range strategic ballistic missile Pukguksong-2.” 
“The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 was aimed to finally verify all the technical indexes of the weapon system and thoroughly examine its adaptability under various battle conditions, before its deployment at military units for action….” 
“Saying with pride that the missile’s rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action.” 
“Now that its tactical and technical data met the requirements of the Party, this type of missile should be rapidly mass-produced in a serial way to arm the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Force, he said.”
Map shows the launch trajectory in February and May 21
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that the missile flew about 560kms (350 miles) from a launch site in Pukchang towards the Sea of Japan. 
This Pukguksong-2 missile was launched from the same location as that on 12 February, which was the first successful launch of this missile model. It also was the first ballistic missile test of 2017.
Kim’s remarks indicate that this launch was a pre-production test. North Korea has a missile that its leaders trust. Considering the failures of the other medium range ballistic missile test launches in the past two years, the Pukguksong-2 would seem to be their likely replacement. 
If so, the replacement program would indicate that, for all of this year, the North Koreans have boasted about the strength of their missile capability to cover their lack of a reliable medium range ballistic missile. They will remain in that window of vulnerability until the Musudan’s and other less capable missiles are replaced.
Politically, for South Korean President Moon, the two launches so soon after his election seem to convey North Korea’s rejection of his public overtures for a reduction in tension. They do not necessarily rule out contacts, but they mean that South Korea is the party that must compromise by accepting North Korea as a nuclear armed state with ballistic missile delivery systems.
Deputy North Korean Ambassador to the UN Kim In Ryong said that North Korea welcomes the idea of US talks, but “what is important is not words, but actions,” and that the US needs to back off its hostile policy toward North Korea for the talks to have any value.
 “Ending US hostile policy” means that the US must: 
  • Acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear armed state; 
  • Must terminate annual war exercises with the South Koreans; 
  • Must withdraw US soldiers from Korea; 
  • Must end naval and aircraft deployments; 
  • Must stop its reconnaissance flights along the North Korean periphery; 
  • Must apologize for the Korean War;
  • Must not interfere when North Korea invades South Korea.
Ending the US hostile policy and all the measures that North Korea finds offensive are the pre-conditions for the privilege of North Korea agreeing to talks. When the North’s condition for talks is “ending US hostile policy”, the North Koreans are deliberately proposing a condition that they know is unacceptable to the US. That phrase means they are not serious about talks because they do not want them.
The signal is that the Norks have reached an agreement with China and China will continue its policies as before. It doesn’t bode well.

The US response to the situation is very dependent on what the South Korean politicians want. At the moment, it’s still a march toward inevitable war. I don’t know what will trigger the war, but it’s difficult to see a scenario where the North doesn’t start one on their terms and at a place and time of their choosing. That doesn’t mean that war is imminent. It simply means that they will continue to be bad actors and one day a line will be crossed.
Over the weekend, multiple Taliban forces executed the largest wave of attacks this year. They attacked at least six provinces including Kabul. At least 64 policemen died and at least 25 were wounded.
In Kabul, gunmen attacked a guesthouse, killing a German woman and beheading an Afghan guard. They also kidnapped a Finnish woman who worked at the Swedish-run guesthouse.
In Nangarhar Province on the 18th, a policeman shot and killed five of his colleagues as they slept at an outpost. This will ring a bell of familiarity with any US service personnel who served with Afghan troops in-country. It was always useful to keep guns trained in both your allies and on the enemy in Afghanistan.
In eastern Kapisa Province on 19 May, five Afghan policemen were killed in a gun fight with the Taliban. 
In Logar Province, a roadside bombing killed 11 people on the 19th as they were traveling to a wedding. The victims were family members.
In Zabul Province, a Taliban group shot and killed 20 police officers at multiple checkpoints on 20 May. At least 10 others were injured in ambushes.
In Ghazni Province, Taliban fighters launched a coordinated, three-pronged attack on districts in Ghazni overnight on 20 May. One Talib drove a Humvee packed with explosives into the entrance of a district governor’s compound during the assault. The objective of this attack was the seizure of a district headquarters. The Taliban failed to take that objective, but two policemen died.
In Zabul on the 21st, a Taliban group attacked multiple security outposts and killed at least 20 Afghan policemen, according to the provincial governor, Bismillah Afghanmal. Fifteen policemen were wounded.
This was a concentrated effort to terrorize the police and to undermine confidence in the local symbols of the national government. These attacks were the first major wave of attacks since the Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive on 28 April. In one sense, the attacks failed because the Taliban gained no ground that they could hold. In another sense, the attacks demonstrated their ability to coordinate attacks over broad areas.
Elections in Iran
President Hassan Rouhani was elected decisively to a second term as president. He obtained 23 million of the 41 million votes cast or 57% of the popular vote. Rouhani is considered to be a ‘reformer’ in the Iranian political context. The Iranian sense of reform does not signify opposition to the Iranian theocracy. It does signify widespread support for a more relaxed interpretation and application of the restrictive rules of the theocracy
Iranians indicated they want more freedom of expression, a relaxation of the dress code and other restrictions on women, greater economic prosperity and release of prisoners accused of violating harsh religious strictures.
Several analysts suggested that the vote for moderation reflected the impact and influence of modern information systems. They cited television, the internet, freer permission to travel, the spread of higher education and the growth and spread of more secular values, especially in the cities. 
The strong urban turnout for Rouhani, however, means that the conservative people in the countryside risk underrepresentation in a reformist administration. The electoral system has no mechanism for correcting that imbalance. That is one of the guidance tasks of the conservative clerisy, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
There is no reporting that the election outcome means that Iranians voted for a change in foreign policy. Foreign policy issues were not central to the election campaign. 
The Russian media judged that Rouhani’s election ensures continuity and predictability in Iranian foreign policy.

8 thoughts on “Geopolitical Commentary

  1. Thanks for the update, but what about the new Saudi ORB OF POWER? I'm surprised you didn't cover that development.

  2. They've been worshiping that meteorite for the last 1,400 years… But I'd be thrilled if the Saudis were able to figure out a way to use the new "orb of power" to de-nut Iran.

  3. Now we have the huge arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Who gets the arms when the Royal family loses control?

  4. During the Iranian Revolution, we took back some equipment (Kidd Class Destroyers) under construction and disabled the F-14's so that they couldn't use the Phoenix Radar System. There are contingencies in place for that happening that the US has used for the last 40+ years.

  5. Good update, thanks! And I'm wondering if there should be a zero added to that cholera death toll. Re NORKs, I don't see us pulling out of South Korea, nor stopping FON and other exercises in that area.

  6. There may be several thousand dead from cholera, but that hasn't been reported in the media and my speculation would be spurious. I agree with you though, once cholera gets a twist on an area, it's difficult to stop.

    It's business as usual in South Korea. I thought that China might put an end to the foolishness, but they're apparently not going to do that.

  7. The Norks demands remind me of the University of California Los Angeles black student demands. Money must have been involved in the demands, too..
    And the Chinese can not be trusted. Are we surprised?

    We should either get out of Afghanistan or go in with the intention of breaking things and killing people. Getting out is the safer, less costly option.

    With Iran, then Russia approves their support of world terrorism. Just great.

    Thanks for the update. God bless.

  8. The only way to solve a terrorism problem is the solution adopted by the Mongols — and the Russians in Chechnya. They relocated all of the Chechens. The Mongols simply killed all who created problems for the empire. In a free society, there are limits. That's true in Afghanistan as well. I'm not a fan of our continued presence in Afghanistan, but it's a very complicated problem. If we leave, we must be content with it becoming a terror factory.

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