September 18, 2018 by intrinsic • Archive, Article • Tags: #Coming Together of the two Koreas, #Missiles of North Korea, #North Korea, #Nuclear weapons of North Korea, #South Korea, #Unification of the two Koreas, #US military in South Korea, #US Sanctions on North Korea, #Violations of UNSC Sanctions, UNSC Sanctions on North Korea • 0 Comments
Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan
It is worth reminding that, though North and South Koreas have never signed a peace treaty after the Korean War in 1953, thereby technically retaining the conflict in their divided peninsula, yet since long the desire for Korean unification existed between the two Koreas. And for that purpose Ministry of Unification exists as an executive department of the South Korean government aimed at promoting Korean reunification. It was first established in 1969 as the National Unification Board. It gained its current status in 1998 and has played a major role in promoting inter-Korean dialogues, exchanges and cooperation. The current minister is Cho Myung-gyun. (1). His North Korean counterpart is Ri Son Gwon.
However, there are obviously certain problems in the desired unification. An article in the TIME magazine dated 26 April 2018 highlights five problems – (a) different political systems; (b) different economies; (c) different social systems; (d) security problem of ensuring the non-proliferation of the huge conventional and nuclear arsenal of North Korea; and (e) the geopolitical problem for US, i.e. “Reunification — or even a formal peace treaty between North and South — would undermine Washington’s argument for its continued military presence” (2) in that region. US maintains about 40,000 troops in Japan and 28,000 in South Korea.
It is obvious that the first four problems, (a) to (d), are exclusively between the two Koreas and, though these are quite difficult, yet these can be solved mutually by the two Koreas, for which both are now showing the commitment – the similarly difficult unification of a Soviet East Germany and West Germany is an example.
However, the abovementioned geopolitical problem for US is the biggest problem, i.e. unification, or even any sort of a peaceful and friendly co-existence of the two Koreas, is not acceptable to US because such an eventuality will remove the ‘geopolitical excuse’ of US to retain its military presence in this region (‘Pivot Asia’ in the US’ military jargon) next door to China.
Keeping in view the longstanding US’ threats and pressures, North Korea had embarked upon developing nuclear weapon and missile technologies to develop a ‘deterrent’ to deter US’ aggressive threats. US responded by increasing its ‘strangulating pressure’ through its sponsored UN sanctions and its Ambassador Nikki Haley went further by demanding, “In addition to full implementation of UN sanctions, —— all countries to break their diplomatic relations with North Korea, to limit military, scientific, technical and commercial cooperation with the regime, to abolish trade with them and to reject all North Korean worker” (3).
Those sanctions did cause problems for the North Korean government, however it managed to survive due its ‘strategic will’, as also because those sanctions were violated, albeit surreptitiously, by a large number of countries. The 05 December 2017 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, Washington provides the details of those violations. Briefly, according to that report a total of 49 countries were found to be complicit in various forms of violations of UNSC sanctions resolutions on North Korea. Thirteen governments were found to be involved in violating military-related cases of sanctions. In the other cases of violations, (namely nonmilitary-related cases, imports of sanctioned goods and minerals from North Korea, and activities associated with the re-flagging of vessels and providing other assistance for shipments), a total of 44 countries (including 5 countries of the military-related violations) were involved. Eighteen countries, including major countries like Germany, France and India were involved in imports of sanctioned goods and minerals from North Korea (4).
It is noteworthy that the poverty-ridden North Korea had suffered a famine during the period 1994-1998, which claimed hundreds of thousands deaths due to hunger-related illness. However, after coming to power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has led his country to ‘sail through’ the economic difficulties despite US/UN sanctions, while also continuing to develop the ‘nuclear deterrent’. That reality has been reported in a report dated 3 June 2018 by South China Morning Post. It asserts, “Although UN sanctions have limited growth, North Korea’s financial health – and the physical health of its people – seem to be stabilising”; and “International observers also report that conditions in North Korea appear stable. David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), made an official trip to North Korea last month, visiting Pyongyang, Sinwon county in South Hwanghae province and Sinuiju city in North Pyongan province. Beasley said signs of hunger and malnourishment in the country had diminished. “What I did not see was starvation. In the 1990s, there was famine and starvation, but I saw none of them,” he said” (5).
And by now reportedly North Korea has nuclear weapons as also nuclear weapon capable missiles which can reach at least the western parts of US. It is this deterrent that even compelled US’ President Donald Trump, who previously use to threat devastation of North Korea, to have a ‘diplomatic’ meeting with the North Korean leader, and limit his ‘anti-North Korea efforts’ to the call for implementing the sanctions against North Korea.
And now the two Koreas have gone a major step ahead for their ‘coming together’ by opening a joint liaison office. According to a DW report dated 14 September 2018, that office has been inaugurated in the northern city of Kaesong jointly by the South Korean Unification Minister and his North Korean counterpart just a week before South Korean leader Moon Jae-in’s scheduled visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. This office has the office facility for the officers of both Koreas and a joint conference room for face-to-face meetings. Opening of this joint liaison office is the latest in a series of historic reconciliation moves, including family reunifications and two previous summits between South Korean Leader Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which have raised hope of thawing the political stalemate between the countries. (6)
In the final analysis, therefore, it appears more probable that the evolving changes towards mutual friendship between the two Koreas is irreversible; rather, it is most likely to grow further. Though their re-unification may not be on the cards in the immediate timeframe, yet their ‘coming together’ for a peaceful friendly co-existence in not too distant a timeframe is clearly foreseen. On its own part, US is most likely to continue its efforts, as long as possible, to obstruct this effort of the two Koreas, so as to retain its ‘military tentacle’ in South Korea on the perceived threat from North Korea – the logic of which is already on the wane.
Tags: #North Korea, #South Korea, UNSC Sanctions on North Korea, #US Sanctions on North Korea, #Violations of UNSC Sanctions, #Unification of the two Koreas, #Coming Together of the two Koreas, #US military in South Korea, #Nuclear weapons of North Korea, #Missiles of North Korea
July 10, 2018 by intrinsic • Article • Tags: Asian countries and Iran sanctions, Effects of US’ sanctions on Iran, EU’s reaction to Iran sanctions, Foreign companies’ losses due to Iran sanctions, sanctions on Iran, US’ new sanctions on Iran, US’ sanctions • 0 Comments
By Brigadier (Retired) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan
On 8 may this year, ignoring the advises of even US’ closest allies, US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled US out of the Iran nuclear Agreement, also threatening Iran with new severe sanctions. And, a week later, according to a report published in The Guardian on 17 May 2018, “In a pre-emptive strike on Tuesday, the US treasury imposed new sanctions on the governor of the Iranian central bank, Valiollah Seif, and the Iraq-based Al-Bilad Islamic Bank – in both cases for allegedly moving millions of dollars to Hezbollah on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.” “The US treasury said the move would cut off Iran’s access to the critical bank network. The US has said it will progressively reintroduce the main sanctions against Iran, starting with the automobile and civil aviation sectors on 6 August. Energy and finance will follow on 4 November”; and “The US has given all firms, not just European ones, between three and six months to wind down their business dealings with Iran, with the timeframe dependent on the nature of the business” (1).
Additionally, in his speech on 21 May 2018, US’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced additional sanctions including 12 Demands from Iran if Iran wanted to avoid being economically ‘crushed’ by US. Those details including12 Demands were published by Joseph Trevithick in The Drive on 21 May 2018. It mentioned: “Pompeo’s comments seemed to suggest there would be additional sanctions on top of the ones that had been in place prior to the JCPOA coming into effect in 2015, but he offered few specifics on what they might entail”; and, “These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are complete, Pompeo said“; “After our sanctions come into full force, [Iran] will be battling to keep its economy alive”; further, “The Secretary of State said the United States would halt these plans if Iran met its demands. Even just a look of those 12 US’ demands clearly show that those demands require Iran to ‘politically capitulate’, which obviously would be absolutely unacceptable to any country – that is why the mentioned report published by The Drive realistically captioned it as, ‘Pompeo’s 12 demands For Iran Read More Like a Declaration of War Rather Than a Path to Peace’. (2)
Iran’s Economy, Exports and Imports
Basically, “The economy of Iran is a mixed and transition economy with a large public sector. Some 60 percent of the economy is centrally planned. It is dominated by oil and gas production, although over 40 industries are directly involved in the Tehran Stock Exchange, one of the best performing exchanges in the world over the past decade. With 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 15 percent of its gas reserves, Iran is considered an “energy superpower“. Iran has fifth highest total estimated value of natural resources, valued at US$27.3 trillion in 2016.” (3)
As for exports, a Trading Economics report updated to 2018 highlights: “Oil and natural gas are Iran’s most important exports, accounting for 82 percent of the country’s export revenues. Other exports include chemicals, plastics, fruits, ceramic products and metals. Iran’s main exports partners are: China (21 percent of total exports), Japan (9.2 percent) and Turkey (9 percent). Others include: South Korea and Italy”. (4)
According to another report of Trading Economic updated to 2018: “Iran main imports are: non-electrical machinery (17 percent of total imports), iron and steel (14 percent), chemicals and related products (11 percent), transport vehicles (9 percent) and electrical machinery, tools and appliances (7 percent). Main import partners are: United Arab Emirates (31 percent of total imports) and China (17 percent). Others include: South Korea, Turkey and Germany”. (5)
Foreign Companies Likely to Be Most Affected by US’ Sanctions
According to the report dated 9 May 2018 in Fortune (an American multinational business magazine headquartered in New York City United States) the six foreign companies doing business with Iran which are likely to be most adversely affected by the US’ sanctions if such sanctions are actually applied as announced so far, are: Plane-makers – Chicago-based Boeing, and France-based Air Bus; US’ General Electric (making parts for Airbus, has also received big parts orders for oil and gas facilities in Iran), and France’s Total ( has a $2 billion deal with China’s CNPC to develop Iran’s South Pars gas field. It’s already spent $90 million to develop the field, and Iran’s state oil company says it won’t be compensated until production begins); car-makers – Germany’s Volkswagen (it has started selling cars to Iran last year), and France’s PSA Group makers of Peugeots and Citroens (also selling to Iran). (6)
About the cost of losses which these US and European companies may suffer due to US’ sanctions, a report in WTOP (a commercial radio station licensed to serve Washington D. C.) mentions, “European and American companies could lose billions of dollars in commercial deals canceled and a major new export market undercut by the U.S. decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran”. (7) Of course to these financial loses should also be added the related job losses.
Effects on Iran’s Economy Indicated So Far
The reports received so far indicate that while the new US’ sanctions are certainly likely to cast adverse effects on Iran’s economy, yet those effects are also not likely to be of the magnitude desired by US – thereby allowing Iran to successfully survive those sanctions, albeit with difficulties, while also drawing anti-US geopolitical advantages at least in the regional context.
A report by DW dated 11 may 2018, captioned ‘How will Iran’s Economy hold up if sanctions return?’ suggests, “Trump’s decision to end the Iran nuclear deal will hit the Iranian economy, although with China and the EU not on board the impact may be less severe than some fear. How Iran’s banking system fares could tell us more”; and, in another opinion, “The sanctions could significantly reduce Iran’s oil revenue, making it hard to have access to its oil revenue in cash and could push Iran to have oil for goods and services deals,” Sara Vakhshouri, the head of Washington-based consultancy SVB Energy, told DW”.
While mentioning the key economic indicators, the DW report does mention certain adverse effects, like Iran’s Rial has fallen by 25 % against the Dollar; and if the announced sanctions are imposed, GDP growth may fall, inflation may rise, Iran’s purchasing power may reduce, etc. On the other hand this DW report also highlights the factors which are likely to mitigate the adverse effects of US’ sanctions. In that context this report emphesises on two major factors:-
“Firstly, because most of Iran’s oil exports — over 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) — goes to Asian countries. The reactions of China, Japan, India and South Korea to these new sanctions will be critical to their impact. China is the world’s largest importer of Iranian crude, at an average of 648,000 bpd, and demand is growing. ————— “Other countries, including China, Russia and India, will need to decide to what extent they comply with US sanctions threats or, alternatively, approach this as an opportunity to further strengthen their commercial positions in Iran,” Justine Walker, head of sanctions policy with trade association UK Finance, told DW”. —— “India, the second largest importer of Iranian oil, is unlikely to be immediately affected by US sanctions”.
“Secondly, because Europe, which went along with the sanctions previously, may not do so again. The bloc could seek a waiver to allow it to continue buying oil from Iran. Historically, Europe and the US have not seen eye-to-eye on Iran and German comments this week appear to indicate that if anything that rift could intensify”. (8)
These two factors of emphasis of the DW report are also supported by the 9 May 2018 publication of the known energy site OIL PRICE.com. It asserts that “the bulk of Iranian exports is shipped to Asian countries – most of whom have already said they will continue importing Iranian oil – while the handful of European nations that received Iran crude will likely continue to do so in the future, once they request, and are granted, sanctions waivers”. To support that argument of the major direction of Iran’s export of oil (crude and condensates) towards Asia, this report also contains a chart courtesy Bloomberg which shows the distribution of that export. This chart shows the export of Iran’s crude and condensates to major customers in k b/d to: China – 648 .080; India – 501 .982; Korea – 313 .646; Turkey – 165 .260; Italy – 154 .813; Japan – 137 .541; UAE – 127 .215; Spain – 113 .941; France – 109 .396; and Greece – 77 .138. (9)
Analysis and Inferences
It is well-known that even the closest allies of US – UK, France, Germany – which are not in any way ‘Iran-supporters’ seriously differ from this ‘extremist’ anti-Iran onslaught launched by Donald Trump, because this onslaught of Donald Trump is certainly likely to cause destability in the region and serious turmoil in the sphere of the international relations. However, at least so far Donald Trump is sticking to this policy. Factually the linchpin reason for that adamant attitude is based on Donald Trump’s religiously-based strategy ‘Pivot Israel’. Since Iran is now the only challenger to Israel’s geopolitical expansion in the region for the formulation of the ‘Greater Israel’, Donald Trump’s current design is either to make Iran so weak economically that Iran ‘politically capitulates’ to US’ dictates, or the severe economic sufferings of Iranian people may create such unrest in their country that may assist US in ‘engineering’ a regime change to bring up a ‘pliant’ government in Iran. Details of those latent aspects are given in my paper ‘Latent Aspects of US’ Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Agreement: Discerned Realities and Analysis’ published last month in Eurasia Review (10) and www.intrinsicoverview.com.
In that context it is worth noting that Donald Trump’s political power-base mostly comprises of the Evangelical Christians, or Evangelical Protestants who constitute a quarter of US’ population and are politically important. (11). And to them are added the Christian Zionists who belong to the Christian Zionism movement within Protestant fundamentalism that sees the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and thus deserving of political, financial and religious support. Christian Zionists work closely with the Israeli government. (12). Donald Trump himself was raised as a Presbyterian (i.e. belonging to Protestant Church) and in the Oval Office, he has surrounded himself with close advisors who share his deep faith. (13). US’ Vice President Mike Pence’s family background was Irish-American Roman Catholic, however he embraced a markedly Evangelical perspective at college and has maintained that faith orientation ever since, including a particularly strong Christian Zionist perspective. (14).
In view of these ‘religious-political realities’ of the current anti-Iran onslaught policy of US under Donald Trump, it appears more likely that at least for quite some time now Donald Trump will stick to this policy – not like his policy turn-around relating to North Korea from a ‘Destroy North Korea’ to ‘Donald Trump – Kim Jong-un dialogue summit.
Increase in serious problems in certain economic aspects for Iran is therefore foreseeable. However, reading the somewhat ‘disapproving’ responses from the concerned Asian countries as also noting the expression of sort of ‘non-support’ of this policy from EU, It is also certain that US will not be able to ‘economically coerce’ Iran to ‘political subjugation’ as desired by the US’ government.
There are certain reports about emerging unrest in certain Iranian cities relating to economic problems. If these reports are true, the US’ new sanctions may further aggravate the situation. However, knowing the psyche and historical background of Iranian nation, it is clear that any attempt by US to manipulate such situation to covertly engineer a massive uprising resulting in the formation of a ‘US’ pliant government’ shall not only fail but also be counter-productive.
Tags: #US’ sanctions #Sanctions on Iran #US’ new sanctions on Iran #Effects of US’ sanctions on Iran #Foreign companies’ losses due to Iran sanctions #EU’s reaction to Iran sanctions #Asian countries and Iran sanctions
(Written on 29 April 2018)
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan has announced to hold Afghanistan’s parliamentary and district councils elections on 20 October 2018, after failing to actualise similar announcements on two previously announced dates.
Incidentally, the situation on ground in Afghanistan is least favourable, and is rather detrimental, for holding elections in the country. Both Taliban and ISIS are opposed to the election by the US-backed Afghanistan government. Though ISIS does not appear to be holding large parts of territory, it has demonstrated its potential of launching deadly attacks even in Kabul. And. As for Taliban, according to the latest survey report published by BBC (1) on 31 January 2018, they threaten 70 % of Afghanistan, leaving just about 30 % in the control of US-backed Afghanistan government. In that context, a look at the following map provided in that BBC Survey Report is worth.
(Map Courtesy the mentioned BBC Survey Report)
It is a well-known fact that all through the 17 years of its military occupation of Afghanistan, US has failed to ‘implant’ its ‘desired’ elected governmental structure in the country through such elections. The currently emerging news relating to this scheduled ‘electoral attempt’ does not appear promising either.
The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) is an independent non-profit policy research and analysis organization, registered as an association in Germany and Afghanistan, and is funded in large part by Scandinavian countries (2). It has been publishing a series of reports relating to the ‘oft-announced and oft-postponed’ elections in Afghanistan. These reports succinctly highlight the serious problems involved in ‘imposing’ such election.
The AAN’s Report no. 6 discusses in detail the serious problems relating to these elections scheduled for 20 October this year (3). Some of the aspects mentioned in the repot are:-
- Because of the inability of holding the elections on the two previously announced dates, the current Lower House of The Parliament is already existing extra-constitutionally after 22 June 2015.
- The snowfall season in Afghanistan is likely to commence towards the end of October. Considering the difficult terrain of the country, if snow falls by 20 October, it will greatly hinder the voter participation in the election. And, according to the ANA report, “Snowfall disenfranchising voters in a politically weak province like Nuristan would be bad enough, but if it occurred in Badakhshan or Hazarajat, with their highly organised and politically and ethnically conscious voters, there could be real trouble”.
- “However, the challenges are so formidable that other diplomats are questioning how realistic it is to expect an election in October, particularly one that is ‘inclusive’, ie where parts of the electorate are not excluded by weather or war.”
- Senior Deputy Minister of Interior Murad Ali Murad gave a security assessment of the polling centres; mentioning that out of the 7355 polling centres, 56.6 % were located in the places which enjoy normal state of security, but the remaining 43.4 % were located in the places which were “either in areas under medium or high threat, or completely outside government control”.
In this ANA’s report the particularly noteworthy are the observations: “The Afghan government is the main party responsible for the mess is now finds itself in. Neither camp in the National Unity Government pushed for electoral reform immediately after they took office, as they had promised”; and “Those actors in the international community who have continued to stress that parliamentary and district elections must be held in 2018 in a largely still unreformed framework are also far from being free of blame. Some appear to be worried more about the appearance of a political process progressing ‘normally’ (despite the three years’ delay already in the parliamentary vote) than about qualitatively reliable elections”.
The latest AAN’s Report no. 7 discusses in detail the deficiencies in the polling centres assessment, despite the regulations for ensuring fair enfranchisement to voters (4). This report highlights, “As yet, the IEC’s polling centre assessment exercise remains deficient. If matters are not clarified, this means the integrity of the forthcoming elections is already in doubt”.
Germany’s media outlet DW has also published a report on 24 April 2018, titled ‘A bloody start to Afghan election process’ (5). It highlights that the devastating attacks on the voter registration centres by ISIS / Taliban, who oppose the elections, is a serious blow even to the commencement of the election process – i.e. registration of voters. It is certainly a serious problem, because according to the data recently released by the US’ government, “56 percent of the country’s 407 districts are under Afghan government control, 30 percent are contested and 14 percent are under insurgent control”.
This report also mentions the warning by the experts that the polling process this time could prove to be deadlier as the anti-government insurgents have increased their clout in Afghanistan.
Incidentally, the still more significant aspect brought forth in this DW report is that majority of Afghans lack trust in the election process in their country. In that context the report mentions the remarks of the persons who talked to DW. Just to mention – one of the Kabul resident remarked, “There is no interest in the elections. People will not vote because they do not trust the process“; the other mentioned, “What did other elections give us? There is no trust in this process”.
The background reason for such lack of trust of Afghan people in the election process of their country can better be understood by going through an extract of this DW report. It mentions, “The last presidential elections in Afghanistan were also accompanied by allegations of widespread fraud, vote rigging and major irregularities, so much so that the IEC failed to determine the number of votes each candidate won in the runoff elections for weeks. The Afghan election saga only ended after the then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited Kabul and crafted a power-sharing deal between the two rivals for the Afghan presidency, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. All these incidents have led many Afghans to believe that their votes do not matter, which experts say could be another major reason for low voter registration numbers”.
These emerging reports of ground realities, reported from inside Afghanistan by the credible information sources, certainly do not bode well about the prospects of the scheduled parliamentary and district councils’ elections. However, the reports also indicate that the IEC is bent upon holding these elections on 20 October this year. The outcome is therefore more likely going to be unfortunate – more political chaos, infighting, bloodshed and a US’ ‘crafted’ election result (as that of 2014), resulting in further destability in Afghanistan; and that too, further stretching to the Presidential elections in the country scheduled after some months, in 2019.