A Tale of Two Elections

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but in the end the results were predictable. The first of the two elections, Iraq, did have an element of suspense and surprise following the electoral win of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Saairun Alliance winning 54 seats in Parliament. While a good showing for Sadr it was not enough to secure a majority, 165 seats, in Parliament. This has left the door opened to a wide range of maneuvers to secure power that are taking place now. The next election to be discussed was the Turkish election, while there were attempts to make it appear to be an actual free and open election it lacks the drama of Iraq and was more predictable. Following President Erdogan’s call for snap elections there was much said and written that through his recent attempts to subvert Turkey’s democracy that he had opened a window for the opposition to consolidate and remove his power. This of course presupposed the existence of a democratic government in Turkey. Like Iraq the winner, the AK Party did not win a clear majority and will assume power with the help of the ultra-right wing MHP. Unlike Iraq however the AKP will not be controlled by its alliance with MHP and in fact has moved closer to an inescapable one-party dictatorship.
The results of the Iraq election are still not clear and may not be for some time. With the world, and donors, watching the Iraqi government made a valid attempt to run an open election. In the end however old habits die hard, if at all. The Fatah Party, an alliance of Shia militia under Iranian control had secured the second most sets, 47, and under the direction of the IRGC Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani have proceeded to work to build a Coalition that will be, if not under control of Tehran, very friendly to Iran. The use of electronic voting was intended to streamline the process and discourage vote fraud. Following the elections many of the losing parties cried foul and demanded a manual recount. With the Council of Representatives took it upon themselves to call for a recount, even though they had no legal authority to do so, it became apparent that regardless of the legitimate will of the people who voted the decision will be made by the power elites, many of whom would loss power if the results were sustained.
With the acquisition of the courts the recount will be done, even though after a period of time it is not yet determined when and how long it will take. What has been determined is the results will be questioned and never fully accepted. At the outset parliament had set conditions that would not recognize Peshmerga or IDP votes from the Kurdish region, this however was overturned by the courts. Other conditions however have gone forward including percentage reduction in results from polling stations as the failure to address the presence of PMF at polling stations used to discourage voter participation. The loss of paper ballots in a fire in Baghdad as well as attacks on election commission sites in disputed territories has made any results now invalid. With all of this the results must be accepted as reported in the beginning and the fact that Iran will be in charge of the Iraqi government must be accepted by Iraq as well. This of course does not hold true for the rest of the world. Donor nations may decide or be shown that the election does not in fact reflect the Iraqi demographic and world powers need not support an Iraqi military that is under the control of a foreign power and operating to the detriment of the population. Before all this however a final count must be given, and the government formed. The only other alternative is to have a new election which comes with its own set of problems.
Turkey is another story. Forgetting the AKP accidentally released the results days before the election, the activities of the government have made the election and the results illegitimate. Many of the opposition candidates are in jail as well as reporters that could cover the election for the opposition. News papers and other media outlets have been shut and polling stations moved out of reach for many, particularly in the Kurdish region. There is no surprise that Erdogan won a majority what is surprising is that the HDP won enough to be seated. This of course may well be temporary given the history of Kurdish victories. While it is not yet a rump parliament Erdogan has very little to fear in his march to complete one man control Turkey. His rule will not be disputed and we see that regardless of the existing problems all parties accepted the results.
Between the two elections the Iraqi results are the most likely to be a true reflection of popular sentiment. A rejection of the current power elites and a call for change. Regardless in the intervening time the will of the people has been subordinated to the will of the elites. The recount will, without a doubt, strengthen the Shia/Iranian parties and the government will be formed that will continue to ignore the people and the constitution. There will be strong opposition voices but they will be heard as background noise to the Iranian masters. The current upheaval in Iran however could cause major problems in Baghdad. Without money and guidance from Tehran chaos may ensue. This last will likely not be immediate but is worth a mention.
The impact of Turkey’s election however will be more immediate and likely deadly. With little to stand in the way Turkey can continue to its military adventures in Syria and Iraq and expand them without fear of internal interference. The continued crackdown on internal enemies will likewise continue unabated. This slide away from any form of democracy constitutes a greater threat to the region then the confusion in Iraq at least as far as the west should be concerned. Turkey is a NATO country and as such its actions reflect on the alliance as a whole. While there is little the other nations can do to influence the internal operations of a dictatorship there is no longer any reason to pretend it is anything but. The run up to this election should have indicated to all the type of country Turkey has become.
In Iraq the actions of the government prior to the election, to include the illegal attack on Kirkuk, as the actions following the election, attempts to disenfranchise minority populations are also good indicators to the rest of the world the direction Iraq is taking. Like many other countries in the world Iraq is, on paper, a constitutional republic. Unlike other countries the Iraqi government does not seem to see any reason to read or follow its constitution. Again there is little the world can do to impose any external control on the government in Baghdad. The one area that some leverage could be derived is in the will of the people. Iraq has shown in this past election both the peoples desire to have a say in the government and the aftermath has shown the elites have no intention in giving it to them. The US leads the call for a one Iraq but forgets its own past. The American colonist had been strong in their determination to remain part of England, only asking to be given the full rights of Englishmen. When it became apparent that they would never be treated as full citizens of the British Empire they declared and fought for those rights an independent nation. Today in Iraq we also see that a large minority does not have the full rights of Iraqi citizenship and the world must come to recognize this. If the election shows the west anything it is that the west has lost Iraq, it is time to allow what is going to happen, happen and support those who will find their own way to freedom.
As has been said by many, elections have consequences, its time to accept those consequences and react properly to them.

Advertisements

The New Art of the Diplomatic Deal

Trump and Kim

When I read “Art of the Deal” years ago I was impressed by the pragmatism but did see some parts that to me as a young man starting out in business did not make sense. I have continued to read Trumps books, “Art of the Comeback” etc., and they now make sense. I also remember a scene in the movie “Patton” in which, after defeating Rommel, Patton yells out “ I read your book.” Today we don’t read books but get our information from TV or the web, at least that’s how it appears listening to politicians and pundits. If you see Trump as an enemy I suggest you follow Sun Tzu and “Know your enemy as you know yourself,” read his books and study his back ground.
The most recent political blowback on Trump has been his pulling out of negotiations with North Korea, with the talking heads and opposition politicians trumpeting how Kim has played us and that it was never going to work etc. Many of those who are saying these things went to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard or got there degree in political science from Georgetown and so forth. Had they gone to Harvard Business School or Wharton they may understand how Trump will handle negotiations. It would also have helped if any of them had bothered to read his books.
What we are seeing, playing out in the open is the give and take of true negotiations. These types of negotiations used to go on in government and between governments after the lights went out, at cocktail parties and behind closed doors. Today there are no negotiations just posturing for the cameras and picking positions based on ideology and the latest poll. Little thought is given today on the impact of decisions for the future if that future goes beyond the next news cycle. Business cannot run that way and neither should government. A politicians legacy should not be decided on just getting a deal but getting the right deal.
The other difference here is that Trump is use to moving fast while government moves glacially, if at all. There will be a summit with North Korea, just don’t know when. The stage has been set and Trump maneuvered China to our side which has blocked North Korea. This is a beginning and will play out. It will take time and more back and forth, but it will end. Its time for those who report the news and work in government to catch up with the new paradigm or get out of the way. The cost of failure is to great and should not be the subject of a sound bit.

Trump MBA: The Art of Negotiating 101

thEJ8RXWMH

While everyone is concentrating on the recent interview of an overaged porn star trying to extend her 15 minutes of fame, while writing a cheap crime story, the president has again improved the US position in the world. With the announcement that President Trump was going to impose a tariff on steel and aluminum, the economic experts went nuts. Tariffs are counterproductive, tariffs will cost more jobs then they save, this will start an all-out trade war with the rest of the world, etcetera. The problem is that we have been taught over the years to only see the close in results on a narrow timeline. We have lost the ability to see a larger picture over an extended period. In other words, we have lost the ability to think and reason out situations.
Much of this has been the result of politicians learning to respond to news cycles in the past and to the present day 24/7 news coverage. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have learned to be circumspect in any statement and not take a firm position. The exceptions are those who demand ideological purity. Then along comes Donald J. Trump, a complete amateur in the field who speaks his mind and is willing to change position as needed to accomplish a needed end. Add to this the fact that he accomplished the impossible by defeating the anointed one for the presidency causing the news media to declare all out war. We need now return the American people to the point where they can think and reason.
Trump is a negotiator and as anyone who has negotiated knows, the first thing to do is set up the conditions of the negotiation. In the case of the tariffs it appears that the initial conditions were just that, setting the stage. Since the declaration of the tariffs the President has exempted counties such as Canada and Mexico and has begun trade negotiation with several others. One such negotiation was with South Korea which has now agreed to reduce the amount of steel exported and to double the number of US manufactured cars to be sold in the country. While South Korea is the third largest exporter of steel to the US we have also begun to negotiate with China which has now come to the table.
We must also look to the claims of the tariffs on US production and employment, which the talking heads scream will be negatively impacted. To begin most steel used in the US is domestically produced. Of what is imported 26% comes from Canada and Mexico which we have said is already exempted from the tariffs. South Korea accounts for an additional 10% of imports. To find the rest we see Brazil contributes 14%, which now brings us to 50% of all imports. The rest of the worlds top ten contributes another 27% and the balance of the world adds 23%. All this imported steel represents around 25% of all steel used in the US. Domestic with US mills are running at about 75% capacity. This means US mills can cover the loss of imported steel. The problem is not in the amount of steel however it’s the cost. All of this is not to confuse the issue but to point out that this issue, unlike what many are claiming, is complicated and needs thought, not emotion to reason out.
Because of several factors US manufactured steel is more expensive then imported steel, tariffs are designed to compensate for the difference. Which leaves two potentials, products that use steel will increase in price or the price of those products must come down. There is also the probability of US steel manufactures finding ways to reduce the cost of steel, which likely would cost jobs as efficiencies increase. The Trump administration has cut several cumbersome regulations and passed a tax bill that gives both corporations and most Americans additional income therefore we can look to market equilibrium containing pricing.
What have we learned, first that we should not react to actions without thinking about them in the long term. Second many negotiations begin without the intent that they will meet all the initial demands. Which brings us to the conclusion that nothing is black and white. That all things are negotiable if both side understand the rules and that obviously both sides don’t always understand the rules. There will be an impact on US markets, but it will not be the end of the world.

Syrian Kurds, Turks and Kawa the Blacksmith

Kawa

The recent actions of Turkish forces and their allies have shown their racist intent by treating the people of Afrin as barbarians of old treated those they conquered. Looting, murder and rape are the order of the day. The west has seen a fair share of this type of barbarity. The Spanish conquistadors, Manifest Destiny and the destruction of indigenous people as the US pushed west, any war in Europe, and the rape of Nanking. History has not been kind to the perpetrators of these acts, and they will judge the Turks more harshly, in modern times this should not have been allowed but given the history of the region it should have been expected and stopped. The Turkish Government must be held fully accountable for this tragedy and brought to justice. As a member of NATO Turkey must be held to a higher standard.
The Turks have claimed the purpose of their attack on Afrin is part of the war on terrorism since the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military the YPG controlled Afrin. It is Turkey’s claim that the PYD is wholly part of the Turkish Kurdish group known as the PKK, which has been fighting Turkey for almost 40 years. While the two groups can be considered affiliated politically they are not one monolithic Kurdish movement as the Turks would believe. The PYD and the PKK may believe in the same basic concepts, but they have shown they will apply them differently. The PKK has been in direct conflict with the Turkish military inside of Turkey while the PYD/YPG has never attacked Turkey or its military. Non-the-less Turkey holds to the fantasy that they are one in the same and hopes if they say it often enough the world will believe. The west does not believe and have armed trained and fought with the Syrian Kurds against ISIS since the beginning.
In a widely distributed photo a of statue seen being torn down and defaced, is a statue of Kawa. Kawa has been identified as a Kurdish hero. Kawa is a mythological figure in Kurdish culture. A blacksmith who helped the people of an ancient Mesopotamian kingdom overthrow a cruel king and restore peace and prosperity. This was the beginning of a new day for the Kurds, Newroz in Kurdish, and Newroz is the Kurdish celebration of the new year on March 21th. Kawa is held up as a symbol to the Kurds that fighting for your rights you can overcome adversity.
The attack on Kawa’s statue not only indicates the level of destruction the Turks put Kurds through, but the level of hatred. This is an attack on the Kurdish culture which fits into Turkish history. Following the end of the Ottoman empire and during the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic, Kurdish identity came under attack. For most of the 20th century the Kurdish language was outlawed in Turkey, no books, newspapers, music or celebrations of Kurdish holidays were allowed. Recently these Turkish Jim Crow laws were removed, and Kurdish culture allowed to come into the light. This was a short-lived movement and once again all things Kurd are falling under Turkish censorship. In a country that claims to be democratic one in every three Kurdish politicians are in jail. This includes members of Parliament who have their immunity voted away and charged with supporting terrorism.
The Kurds have proven themselves to be a strong ally of the US and have shed blood for us. They have established the closest thing to a democratic government we have seen in the region. Turkey, once a democratic ally and strongly secular is sliding into a one-man dictatorship basing itself on a desire to reestablish the Ottoman empire, or at least restore lost territory.
Turkey must be brought back to its democratic roots or censured by the west and removed from NATO. Turkey has relied too much and for too long on the blind belief that they must be held in NATO at any cost. The reality is in the new paradigm of the Middle East the Kurds must be protected and allowed to continue their march toward democracy. The world must once again believe that the US will protect its friends. For some parts of Kurdish culture, the road forward is longer then for others, if however, we do not help we will only have one more enemy in the region rather then a strong friend and ally.

The coming of Bolton

 

With the announcement that John Bolton is going to replace H.R. McMaster as the National Security Advisor a rash of reporting has come out condemning the former UN Ambassador as a hot head and a war monger. His early rejection of the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) as bad for the world and his pronouncement that the US has a legitimate right to attack North Korean to end its ability to threaten the world with nuclear war. In an article in the Atlantic his statement on North Korea was called a radical idea and that it risks the “most destructive war in living memory.” These types of melodramatic declarations do nothing to help an informed decision. I would say the most destructive war in living memory was World War II. It must be pointed out that WWII began because democracies failed to confront dictatorships in a timely manner.
When the Obama administration was making its argument for the Iran deal the president told the nation there were two options, diplomacy or war. There of course many options in any scenario, and presenting only the extremes is a treacherous path to take. Let us look at a potential third alternative, diplomacy with the threat of war. We have tried diplomacy with North Korea for over 25 years we no success. If Kim Jung-un is of the opinion that it will always be diplomacy followed by sanction relief, followed by jettisoning what ever agreement you came to and carrying on your nuclear program until next time, diplomacy will not work.
In the case of Iran we negotiated away all leverage and financed Iran’s terrorist proxies. Kim can see the results of the JCPOA and how toothless the enforcement provisions are. Why then should North Korea negotiate in earnest? Presently the answer is John Bolton. With Bolton advising the president and Mike Pompeo at State, both hawks, the North Korean calculus must change. Hawk by the way does not mean go to war over everything but stand firm on principles and work for the best but never shy away from a credible threat of war. This is what Bolton brings to the table, not a crazy man but a firm man. If he can bring fear to the other side so be it. I suggest reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps Bolton can chair EXCOMM.

“THE MEMO”

Memo

The release of the memo from the House Intelligence Committee is coming.  To start I have no idea what is in “The Memo.” Like all of you I know its four pages long and is an executive summary of the committee hearings on the investigation of alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election and collusion by the Trump campaign. Some say it is devastating and will expose corruption and criminal activity in the highest reaches of the FBI and the Obama administration writ large. Others say it is cherry pick information without context designed to destroy the FBI and attack the news media. The Democrats on committee wrote their own memo which is not going to be released with the majority memo. It will however be released to the House members for review, so we can be sure it will be leaked.
What facts do we then have to guess what is in the memo, none. We can only infer from actions taken and what has been leaked as well as rumors, what we may see in the memo. Many on both sides of the aisle are concerned it will contain classified information. I hope this is not the case and that it will be a summation like the report released by the Intelligence Community detailing what they knew of Russian activities in the 2016 election. While based on classified information it was a summation with sources and methods redacted.
What we do know is it will cause a major debate across the country. It will not likely destroy the FBI as an institution but will cause a shakeup in senior management. Will it cause a disruption of the ongoing special investigation by Robert Mueller, we don’t know but suspect it will have an impact based on the reaction the news of the release has caused on the left. Will it have context, probable not, it’s a summation of a year long investigation.
What is the one thing we know? After going to the committee vault and reviewing the memo, as well its hoped at least some of the underlying documents, FBI Director Wray retuned to the FBI and the next day Deputy Director McCabe was gone. Beyond the memo is talk of a devastating report from the FBI’s own Inspector General on the handling of the Clinton email investigation. This all follows on the heals of revelations of two FBI agents text messages who were involved in both the Clinton and the current Mueller investigation, being biased against Trump and pro Hillary. While it is OK for people to have opinions, it is not OK for investigators to text about attempts to direct the outcome of their investigation to a foregone conclusion.
The questions to be answered by this memo should be, was the FBI weaponized by the Obama administration, did the bias of the investigators influence their ability to conduct the investigation. Has the investigation into Russian interference been tainted to the point that it must be ended? The last question, is the memo based on political bias and should it be disregarded.
When you read this memo, it should be with some skepticism since it is coming from only one side, but it should be read without prejudice. It will likely contain enough truth to decide if the actors named have hurt the country. It will be bad for the nation if the FBI was politicized but it will not have been the first time. During the red scare of the ‘50s and the civil rights movement of the ‘60s the FBI was weaponized against our citizens. These revelations will not destroy the nation but hopefully make it stronger.
So PLEASE THINK when the memo comes out. Use your sense of reason and not emotion.

Congress Do Your Job

capitol

As the countdown to a government shutdown continues the politicians seem more interested in assigning blame then getting to an answer that would keep the government running. What this all comes down to is whether or not it is more important to keep thousands of government employees at their jobs providing service to America or in making political points. On the other side we have a debate on whether it is more important to approve a short term stop gap measure or put thousands of people out of work to demand a full budget. In other words, politics as usual.
I heard the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tell a press conference that the Democratic representatives held together against what she said was a bad Republican bill, of course there was nothing in the bill that the democrats objected to other then it did not have everything they wanted in it. I think it is time that the people told their representatives that we are less concerned with party loyalty then having the people we hire, do their jobs. While the Republicans can get a bit of a pass this time, they did exactly the same thing in the last shutdown period.
I personally believe we do need to address those immigrants who were brought over as children and know no other home then the United States. Some will say they had time to get US citizenship, but many did not know they were illegal till adulthood. But this can be fixed without holding the government hostage.
Its time to remind the congress that they have one major job assigned to them by the constitution, pass a budget, ONE JOB. It is time they did it.