Djibouti: The Land Where Money Talks

As US Secretary of State John Kerry steps off his plane in a historic visit to the small “jostle of black volcanic rock” in the Horn of Africa, known as Djibouti, revelations about the precarious conditions at the U.S. military’s only African base, Camp Lemmonier, seem to have been all but forgotten. A day after his unexpected pit stop in Somalia, Kerry’s official visit to Djibouti on May 6 cements the country’s long time status as a vital US strategic ally and a key partner in counterterrorism operations throughout the region. However, a damning report by the Washington Post revealing the dire conditions surrounding Camp Lemmonier’s air space has cast a dark shadow over Kerry’s stay, and has underlined the Obama administration’s piecemeal efforts to protect US soldiers abroad and set standards for Africa’s leaders.

For the four thousand soldiers who call Camp Lemonnier home, the local air traffic controllers have become more dangerous than the enemies they fight. The strategic airspace, a hub for US warplanes and drones, has suffered over the past five years due to the disdain of the controllers over the US military presence, triggering them to create hazardous conditions and increasing the likelihood of an aviation disaster. In 2012, fears of a catastrophe became a reality when four Special Operations Crew members were thrust to their death after Djiboutian controllers ordered their U-28 spy plane to circle the airport after denying them permission to land.

Despite multiple training programs aimed at increasing safety conditions at the airport, the traffic controllers aggressively resisted and continued their practices of blatantly ignoring American military needs, chewing the narcotic leaf khat, playing video games, or sleeping on the job. In one instance of overt anti-Americanism, an air traffic controller swung a lead pipe at a US Navy Officer and promised to “slit Americans throats” if he ever saw them outside of the base. The hostile practice of forcing US planes to circle in the air until low on fuel is dangerously frequent. Indeed, according to one official at the Federal Aviation Administration, Camp Lemonnier has “the most dangerous airspace […] in the world,” while others have been left wondering how the US military was even operating in such treacherous conditions.

Despite these shocking revelations and the unnecessary risks faced by US soldiers at the hands of a supposedly friendly government supporting the fight against terrorism, the Obama administration has inexplicably failed to criticize Djibouti’s local strongman, Ismail Omar Guelleh (IOG). In fact, despite the many incidents involving US personnel, IOG was received in 2014 at the White House with all the pomp and circumstance of a great world leader; and not only did he walk away with a fresh 20-year long lease for Camp Lemonnier–he also doubled the price paid by Washington ($70 million per year) for using the facilities.

For his part, while boasting a “strategic partnership” with the US, IOG has failed to translate any of the funds provided into benefits for the population and has in fact undermined US interests by tying the knot with China. Indeed, Beijing has been quick to work up an appetite for Djibouti’s snug commercial port, one of Africa’s largest thanks to its position in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. In February 2014, China and Djibouti signed a Security and Defense Agreement under which Djibouti’s port could be used as a hub for the Chinese Navy, an immediate threat to US security interests in the area. Furthermore, the two countries have planned a total of 14 megaprojects worth almost $10 billion, ranging from developing the port’s facilities to constructing railways and two international airports. Meanwhile, as one analyst put it, “the country’s population suffers from hunger, water scarcity, widespread human rights abuses and endemic poverty.”

As Guelleh, who already has “a disproportionate and unaccountable hold over power and wealth” in the country, has been lured in with bags of cash and promises to develop Djibouti’s national business plan, the Obama administration expressed concern that its long-term partner has begun to illustrate undemocratic tendencies as it moves towards a dangerous relationship with Beijing. Indeed, the Middle Kingdom’s influence in Africa has been built on doling out billions to stroke the egos of local strongmen by building massive white elephant projects, which rarely benefit the population. Similarly, the IMF has voiced its reservations at Djibouti’s Chinese fueled development, arguing that the country risks bankruptcy because of the loans’ prohibitively high interest rates.

So there you have it – our country’s most important African ally is knowingly putting American lives at risk everyday, while the country’s president, seduced by Beijing’s lavish megaprojects, seems intent on selling off its future right under the indulgent eyes of Barack Hussein Obama. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Kerry’s hyped up visit didn’t translate into any real warnings for Guelleh and his regime. Not only did the US Secretary of State fail to mention the regime’s human rights abuses, its denial of civil freedoms, the dire safety problems at Camp Lemonnier, and the worrying China connection; but he also went ahead to praise the valuable Djibouti-US relationship, built “on the basis of both mutual respect, but also mutual interest.”

Rather than paying homage to Guelleh and his regime, the US must urge the government not only to increase the safety of its military operations base, but also to ensure that the development aid the country receives trickles down to the population. For a country with a GDP of some $1.7 billion, Djibouti is dependent on the funds provided by US lease agreements. Therefore, had the White House been occupied by a more responsible president, the US would have used its considerable leverage to protect its strategic interests. After all, “money talks, especially in small and underdeveloped states run by authoritarian governments such as Djibouti”; and if the country is to remain a key ally of the US, future collaboration should be made contingent on a Djibouti that respects the strategic interests of its allies and strives towards democratic change not a path of dictatorship.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

China Makes Major Moves To Ban Islam

 

Apparently, China realizes what the West doesn’t – bet you never thought you’d read that here – namely, that Islam is very dangerous. It’s kind of ironic that the oppressive nation sees what free nations don’t: Islam will turn nasty. It always does. Everywhere the religion/political ideology has been given an inch, they’ve taken a mile. Like a rabid dog, once it gets strong enough, it will bite us.

So what is China doing? It’s declaring an all-out war to make sure Islam doesn’t take over and never gains the strength to attack them. So let me simplify it:

– Female head-coverings are banned. Period. 

– Men are discouraged from growing long beards (often poorly grown ones, might I add).

– Even Islamic restaurants are forced to sell cigarettes and drinks. And …

– They must display them prominently. Any business owner who does not follow this order…will lose their business. Gone.

They’re not tolerating Islam at all. That simple. China sees what’s happening to the West. It sees what happened in France, throughout the European world, in Boston, and even in Texas. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! They see it, and they’ve decided to stop any kind of political Islamic plague before it grows out of control.

In other words: China learns. Unlike our inept government, it realizes, ‘Hey, Islam wants destroy us.’ It realizes that Islam is political in nature, not just religious. Don’t get me wrong: communism is terrible, but it’s also what absolves China from the shackling burdens of political correctness. They’d rather survive than be politically correct.

Ah well. Maybe one day, the West will realize that freedom can’t exist for those who want to take your freedom. I mean, that’d kinda be like telling your murderer it’s his right to murder you. Wait… what?

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Russia Signs Huge Arms Deal With China–The Latter Will Be Able To Destroy Any Aircraft Over Taiwan

Russia doesn’t make much, but they make great weapons. China knows this and just signed a whopper of an arms deal with Russia. This should help Putin’s coffers somewhat.

This is not just any arms deal. This is a deal that will allow China unheard-of power over its neighbors.

To put it bluntly, upon delivery of the S-400 missile system, China will be able to shoot down and destroy any aircraft over Taiwan. Obviously, China doesn’t like the fact that the United States supports Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway republic and none of the Americans’ business.

The S-400 was developed to counter American stealth aircraft at long ranges. The radar and tracking system is extremely sophisticated and can target enemy aircraft at the amazing range of 400 kilometers. The command module can track multiple targets at once and utilizes multiple missiles to destroy its prey.

Popular Science puts it this way:

China and Russia, as part of closer strategic ties, have finalized a long-awaited deal for very long range S-400 surface to air missile (SAM) system. The deal is not only the largest Sino-Russian arms deal in over a decade, but S-400 missile defense capabilities would provide China with a quick missile defense upgrade at the moment neighboring states like North Korea acquire more ballistic missiles, and the U.S. and Japan look to buy stealthy anti-ship missiles.

The deal is significant to regional security as well as geopolitics. China’s improved air defense capabilities will greatly complicate any efforts to conduct aerial operations or missile attacks against the Chinese mainland, even with stealthy drones, longer-ranged cruise missiles, or new bombers, all part of the new US “third offset” plan. In wartime, the S-400 could even support Chinese airstrikes by knocking out enemy fighters flying above their own bases and cities. On the strategic level, the S-400 sale would facilitate Sino-Russian cooperation, as well as facilitate other sales and joint projects like submarines and space operations.

China and Russia continue their rapid military build-up and modernization. America’s ICBMs are rusting in their silos. We are on our way to the smallest army since WWII. All the while, threats build and grow around us.

We need new leadership to take us into a safe future and the next American century. What we have now ain’t cutting it.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Chinese Scientists Announce They Have Modified The Human Genome

A group of Chinese scientists recently announced they have done something that has never been done before in the history of the world — they have modified the genomes of human embryos.

The researchers, led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, used a technology called CRISPR to find bad sections of DNA in the embryos, cut them out, and replace them.

To do this, they injected the embryos with the enzyme complex CRISPR/Cas9. The complex can be programmed to target a problematic gene, then bind and splice the DNA at specific locations, replacing or repairing that gene.

The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder. They injected 86 “non-viable” embryos–meaning they could not result in a live birth–then waited 48 hours to allow CRISPR to act and the embryos to grow to about eight cells each.

Seventy-one of the embryos survived, and 54 were genetically tested. Of those 54, only 28 were successfully spliced; and only “a fraction” of those contained the replacement genetic material, prompting the research team to stop their human testing. “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%,” Huang said. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.”

Reactions to the researchers’ experimentation have been mixed. Supporters laud the ability to fix potentially life-threatening genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and Huntington’s disease. Luhan Yang, a postdoctoral scientist at Harvard Medical School, said it may also be possible to install genes that would offer lifelong protection against infection, Alzheimer’s, and possibly even the effects of aging, leading Antonio Regalado to write for the MIT Technology Review that “[s]uch history-making medical advances could be as important to this century as vaccines were to the last.”

Others, though, insist editing the human genome is ethically questionable. There is concern from other scientists that changing the DNA of viable embryos could have unpredictable consequences for future generations, as the genetic changes, known as germline modifications, are heritable–meaning the changes would be passed down to offspring.

Geneticist Dana Carroll of the University of Utah warned, “Germline genome alterations are permanent and heritable, so very, very careful consideration needs to be taken in advance of such applications.”

Others fear this technology could be used down the road to create “designer humans,” with features and characteristics specifically chosen and changed in the embryonic phase of development.

The debate over genetic engineering is one that is sure to continue for some time. Many countries, not including the U.S., have outlawed germline gene editing; and the European Union’s convention on human rights and biomedicine stated that tampering with the gene pool would be a crime against “human dignity” and human rights.

Do you think the ability to modify the human genome is something that should be utilized, or are these scientists trying to “play God”?

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

Look What Happens When You Close A ‘Good Nuclear Deal’ With A Rogue State

More than 20 years ago, on October 21, 1994, President Bill Clinton announced that the United States had reached a Framework Agreement with North Korea on its nuclear program. Clinton assured the American public that it was a “good deal.”

You can watch Clinton’s statement here:

“This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community,” Clinton said.

Sound familiar? Obama used similar language when he announced the Framework Agreement with Iran earlier this month.

We all know what happened with Clinton’s “good” deal. On April 23-25, 2003, during trilateral talks in Beijing, North Korea told the U.S. delegation that it possessed nuclear weapons. This constituted the first time that Pyongyang made such an admission. More than two years later, on October 9, 2006, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test near the village of P’unggye.

Last night, news broke that Chinese nuclear experts have informed their American counterparts they have increased their estimates of North Korea’s nuclear weapons production well beyond most previous U.S. figures. They now suggest Pyongyang can make enough warheads to threaten regional security for the U.S. and its allies.

Wall Street Journal reporters Jeremy Page and Jay Solomon reported that China had informed U.S. nuclear specialists that North Korea will have 40 nuclear warheads by the end of 2016 and potentially over 75 by the end of the decade. North Korean engineers have apparently miniaturized them and can mount them on their KN-08 long-range missiles, which can reach California.

The news has alarmed U.S. lawmakers, who say that it must have implications for the current talks with Iran about its nuclear program. Republican lawmakers said the pending deal with Iran could mirror the 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea.

“We saw how North Korea was able to game this whole process,” Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran had its hands on the same playbook.”

In fact, it goes further than Iran having its hands on the same playbook.

In every meaningful sense, the North Korean nuclear program is an Iranian nuclear program, albeit beyond Iran’s territorial borders. The Iranians pay for the program. The Iranians receive knowledge and technology from the program. The Iranians are on hand to observe every major nuclear and missile test.

But there is more.

Take, for example, the parallels between the deal with North Korea and the current negotiations with Iran. The Agreed Framework with North Korea was negotiated by Wendy Sherman, and the Iran deal is being negotiated by the same Wendy Sherman. The Agreed Framework lasted a decade, and the Iran deal is slated to last a decade. The agreement with North Korea relied on IAEA verification, and the Iran deal relies on IAEA verification.

But now, the North Koreans have a full-blown nuclear arsenal that the Americans didn’t even know about. U.S. officials reportedly expressed surprise when they were briefed on the Chinese information.

Defiant Iranian Statements

Meanwhile, Iran continues to issue defiant statements about the Framework Agreement with the six world powers and the current negotiations about a final agreement.

A top Iranian commander said Iran will never permit inspection of its military sites.

“Not only will we not grant foreigners the permission to inspect our military sites, we will not even give them permission to think about such a subject,” the Fars News Agency quoted Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), as saying on a live television broadcast last Saturday.

“They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams,” he added.

He also said that a harsh response awaits anyone who talks about such inspections.

“Visiting a military base by a foreign inspector would mean the occupation of our land because all our defense secrets are there. Even talking about the subject means national humiliation,” he added.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said that U.S. officials should “stop their silly demands from Iran.”

Fars News reported that Khamenei blasted the US and Europeans and their “puppet regimes’” media hype and allegations that Iran had sought to acquire nuclear weapons, and said: “Today, the most vital threat posed to the world and the region is the US and the Zionist regime which meddle (with other nations’ affairs) and kill people anywhere they deem to be necessary without any control or commitment to conscience or religious principles.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s top adviser for international affairs, demanded again that sanctions imposed on Iran should be immediately lifted when an agreement is signed, not when Iran’s compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) demands is certified.

The IAEA reported earlier that no significant progress had been made in the talks with Iran about access for inspectors to military sites.

During a military parade on Army Day in Iran last Saturday, a truck carrying a massive banner reading “Death to Israel.” was seen. A televised broadcast of the parade was punctuated by repeated cries of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

Warnings to Obama

Dr. Mahmoud Moradkhani, an Iranian expat and a nephew of Ayatollah Khamenei, wrote an open letter to President Obama in which he warned not to trust the Iranian regime. He told Obama that Khamenei is lying in negotiations, practicing the Shia doctrine of taqiyya in which it is permissible for Muslims to lie to the infidel for the advancement of Islam, and asked the President not to pursue his nuclear deal with the regime but to focus on Iran’s expansion policies and abysmal human rights record. Moradkhani is the son of Sheikh Ali Teherani, who married Khamenei’s sister.

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker joined George Schultz and Henry Kissinger in demanding a much better deal with Iran. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he wrote that the current Framework Agreement “needs lots of work.”

“Our P5+1 partners should understand that if we can’t trust Iran to stick to its promises during negotiations, we cannot trust that it won’t resume its nuclear-weapons program after a final deal is reached.

“Only after we have the necessary support from the P5+1 should we resume our discussions with Iran. And then, only after the Iranians have been told in no uncertain terms that we have reasonable specific demands they must meet. Let Iran and the world know what those demands are. If Iran balks at such an arrangement, then it will be that country’s fault that the talks broke down,” Baker wrote.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth