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Commentary: Global gridlock -- and lockjaw
by Arnaud De Borchgrave
Washington (UPI) Mar 19, 2013

World's largest embassy to be slashed by two-thirds
Baghdad (AFP) March 19, 2013 - The US mission in Iraq -- the biggest in the world -- will slash its numbers by two-thirds by the end of this year from its peak figure of over 16,000, the American ambassador to Baghdad said.

Overall staffing levels at the US's embassy in Baghdad and its consulates in the southern port city of Basra, the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil and the disputed northern city of Kirkuk, will drop to around 5,500, including contractors, by the end of the year.

"A year ago, we were well above 16,000, now we're at 10,500," Ambassador Stephen Beecroft told reporters. "By the end of this year, we'll be at 5,500, including contractors."

"The diplomatic presence is down below a thousand."

The American embassy had swelled in size due to the departure from Iraq of US forces in December 2011, because planners believed the diplomatic mission would have to take on a wide array of responsibilities left by the military.

As time has gone on, however, the embassy has handed over multiple sites to the Iraqi government and reduced the number of diplomats working in Iraq.

All US troops except for a small number under US embassy authority left Iraq at the end of 2011.

Former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft says that the threat of an electronic Pearl Harbor of cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare puts the United States in the most dangerous period of its history since the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Black swans are swarming on all fronts:

-- Republicans and Democrats are making a strong argument on Capitol Hill for those in the world who argue democracy -- U.S. model -- doesn't work.

-- U.S. democracy is in the same perilous state as France's in the 1950s with two unpopular wars that spanned 16 years -- and brought Gen. Charles de Gaulle back to power whose leadership turned a has-been colonial power to a high-tech future.

-- A parlous U.S. economy and the longest war in U.S. history are tailor-made for a strong democratic leader. But the Fourth Estate turned First Estate is an insurmountable barrier. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Bush I are no longer possible in an age when weighty issues, including the future of our planet, are reduced to 140 twittering characters.

-- The United States is telling the world there is nothing wrong with a $17 trillion debt. In fact, U.S. Democrats argue that more debt is the only way forward. The wealthy can pay the freight with more taxes.

-- U.S. infrastructure has fallen behind China's. Bullet trains coupled with airport modernization surged while the United States dropped a couple of trillion dollars on two unnecessary wars.

-- The 2003 Iraq War was "the greatest intelligence failure in living memory," to a "forensic, according to a six-month investigation conducted for BBC Panorama by Britain's Daily Telegraph. Two "highly placed human sources at the very top of Saddam's regime were ... ignored or dismissed" in favor of (1) Ahmed Chalabi, a brilliant con artist wanted for bank fraud in Jordan, lionized by America's neocons, who turned out to be Iran's favorite Iraqi politician and (2) a phony Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball" who stopped in Germany, refused to come to the United States and later confessed he'd made the whole story up of Iraq's nuclear weapons to be reunited with his German girl friend. Cost to United States.: $1 trillion; 4,486 killed in action and 31,928 wounded in action. Cost to Iraq: 122,000 killed.

-- Israeli settlements in the West Bank -- many of them populated by American Jews who haven't lived in Israel -- are there to stay. No Palestinian homeland is possible.

-- "If There Is a Third Intifada, We Want to Be The Ones Who Started It," framed by 12 Palestinian West Bankers, was the cover of the March 17 NY Times Magazine.

-- Hamas leader Salah Bardarwil says a Third Intifada is in the works.

-- Iran, surrounded by six of the world's nine nuclear weapons powers (Israel, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, the U.S. 5th Fleet) is determined to achieve nuclear weapons status. Any U.S. or Israel attempt to stop it militarily would trigger regionwide mayhem.

-- Egypt's Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Iran's Shiite clerical leadership are talking rapprochement.

-- So U.S. President Barack Obama kicked Iran's nuclear can down a treacherous geopolitical highway another 12 months.

-- U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan are moving into uncharted waters eerily reminiscent of what happened to the Soviet Union after ten years of fighting Afghan guerrillas known as the mujahidin. Both Communism and democracy are alien to the Afghan way.

-- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has banned U.S. forces from operating in Wardak province, the strategic gateway to Kabul, accusing them of "murder." Has he discussed a deal with the Taliban leadership?

-- Karzai recently referred to the "Patriotic Afghan Taliban."

-- Does Karzai want history to remember him as the nationalist who accelerated NATO's withdrawal?

-- Is the United States' longest war headed for another Vietnam-type denouement?

-- The idea bruited by the Pentagon to keep 10,000-20,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 strikes some long-term observers as a major geopolitical miscalculation.

-- The United States paid the piper but it can't call the tune.

-- No Afghan settlement is possible without Pakistan whose media is entirely anti-American -- down to the last "news" story and editorial, both electronic and print, that treat outright lies as the factual truth.

-- A.Q. Khan, the popular national hero who stole nuclear secrets to make Pakistan a nuclear power and then sold them to America's self-avowed enemies, along with Jamat Islami and 12 other anti-U.S. parties, have agreed to unite to contest upcoming elections, eradicate corruption and stop the U.S. "aggression of drones."

-- Newly minted U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel knows that his job is to reprogram expeditionary land war thinking to face the robotic and cyberwars of the future. Recently retired U.S. Army four-star, "There is nothing harder than moving the Pentagon in a new direction."

-- The Pentagon's Cyber Command is creating 13 offensive teams by September 2015 to defend the nation against computer attacks from overseas. Better late than never. The Center for Strategic and International Studies issued its findings in the mid-1990s titled: "Cybercrime, Cyberterrorism, Cyberwarfare: Averting an Electronic Waterloo."

-- Russia launched its cyber command in the early 1990s and China in the mid-1990s. Moscow flexed its electronic muscles for the first time by silencing Estonia for several days in 2007.

-- China's electronic intrusions in U.S. business and government infrastructure are almost routine.

-- Internet security firm Mandiant linked China's People's Liberation Army to intrusions in thousands of corporations.

-- Top U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, and former Secretary of State Colin. L. Powell, have been hacked by the same source, using an Internet suffix that may have been a deliberate attempt to try to pin the blame on Russia.

-- America's top intelligence officials testified last week that all sectors of the United States are at risk, from private networks to critical infrastructure.

-- Scowcroft and other knowledgeable experts say an electronic Pearl Harbor is as big a threat as nuclear war was during the Cold War. It could be triggered by a band of electronic buccaneers -- or by another superpower operating through untraceable proxies.

-- The impotence of the world's major powers is demonstrated daily in Syria -- 70,000 killed in a two-year civil war and still counting as Islamist extremists gain influence in the underground resistance to the Assad regime.

-- Al- Qaida and its Associated Movements sees an Arc of Instability from North and West Africa through the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia as promising hunting grounds for 21st-century terrorists.

-- The African Development Bank says that kickbacks, graft and tax evasion have cost sub-Sahara Africa an average of $62.5 billion a year. Illicit outflows in general are estimated at $100 billion a year.

None of forgoing lends itself to tweets.


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Canberra, Australia (UPI) Mar 19, 2013
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