The US just brokered another peace deal for Israel, this time with Sudan

“At its core, then, the deal looks like a trade where the US and Israel give Sudan financial support in exchange for diplomatic normalization.”

“a joint US-Israeli delegation traveled to Sudan for talks with the government. Two days later, Trump removed the Arab-led North African nation from America’s state sponsors of terrorism list. It’s a move he promised to make once the country paid $335 million to American victims of terror for the country’s harboring of Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

The UAE also played a role in the negotiations, as Sudan asked the country — and the US — for billions in economic aid as part of signing this deal. That makes sense, as the country is desperately in need of cash. Whether the US and UAE start funneling money into Sudan remains to be seen.

A political earthquake in Sudan also made the announcement possible. A protest movement kicked Sudan’s Islamist leaders out of power last year, ushering in a new military-led government that wants to end its global pariah status. Making amends with the US and saying it is no longer hostile to Israel is one way to do just that.”

“more broadly, regional politics in the greater Middle East have changed dramatically in recent years.

Whereas the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once served as a major axis around which Middle East and Arab-government politics rotated, with many countries aligned with the Palestinians against Israel, that’s now changed. What animates the foreign policies of many Middle Eastern countries these days is the Arab-Israel standoff with Iran — which some have dubbed a “cold war.”

With less need to bash Israel and back Palestine, Sudan had more freedom to strike the deal.”

To stop a Chinese invasion, Taiwan has to first fight the stigma of military service

“If Taiwan is to fend off a Chinese invasion, it will need reluctant recruits like Roger Lin to summon the patriotism that inspired older generations but these days doesn’t burn as passionately in the young.

The 21-year-old French-language major regards his upcoming mandatory four-month military service as an unnecessary burden, even as complaints persist that such stints are too short to protect the nation compared with the two to three years that previous generations served.

Weeks of flaring tensions between China and Taiwan, which has been buzzed by dozens of Chinese warplanes in a disquieting show of force, have not emboldened Lin or changed his mind. If China and its much larger military decides to invade, the island’s devastation would be a fait accompli, he said, even with the outside chance the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense.”

“Lin’s fatalism and indifference are somewhat expected among the young. But they come at a perilous moment. Fraught relations between Washington and Beijing are, more so than in any other flashpoint, raising the possibility of war in Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island of 24 million — roughly the size of Maryland — that China has regarded as a breakaway province since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The stakes for Washington are high. Losing a democratic Taiwan to China would probably signal the end of American power in the Pacific, freeing China’s military to project its strength in the region and beyond to the detriment of U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea.

Led by an increasingly nationalistic Xi Jinping, China has in recent weeks flown military sorties deeper into Taiwanese airspace and beefed-up military exercises aimed at invading the disputed territory. The best hope for preventing a conflict that would probably draw in the U.S. is Taiwan’s willingness and ability to deter China’s aggression, experts said.

But the Taiwan government has struggled to instill the same sense of urgency found in other countries with national service requirements such as South Korea, Israel and even Singapore, which faces no immediate threats.”

“Taiwan’s active duty military has shrunk to 165,000 from 275,000 three years ago. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army numbers 2 million.

Under public pressure to move to an all-volunteer army, Taiwan began phasing-out conscription in 2013.”

“a debate within U.S. foreign policy circles over whether to revise its stance toward defending Taiwan. The current policy, known as strategic ambiguity, leaves China and Taiwan guessing if the American military will respond to an attack on the island. The approach is credited with maintaining the peaceful status quo since 1979, when Washington cut official ties with Taipei to launch diplomatic relations with Communist China.

Now, leading voices — including the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard N. Haass — are arguing that a more powerful and hawkish China must be countered with an explicit warning of U.S. force if it were to move against Taiwan.

“Such a policy would lower the chances of Chinese miscalculation, which is the likeliest catalyst for war in the Taiwan Strait,” Haass co-wrote”

“Some experts fear that could undermine Taiwan efforts to rebuild its military: “I worry [it] would potentially confuse this work that Tsai is trying to do and allow people in Taiwan to say: ‘We don’t need to do this military spending. We don’t need to beef-up our military because the U.S. is coming to our aid,’” said Shelley Rigger, a Taiwan expert and political scientist at Davidson College in North Carolina.”

“It’s also unclear whether the U.S. could successfully defend Taiwan given deficiencies in American forces in the region and Chinese weapons designed to thwart the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers.”

““Soldiers get more respect in places such as America, but we still don’t have that climate in Taiwan,” said Lai, who has yet to complete his four-month required service. “Military camp culture isn’t that strong, and our sense of patriotism isn’t as keen.”

His reluctance is partly due to the fact he and many other young Taiwanese don’t believe China would ever strike; they’ve spent their entire lives in peace. Only if the island were actually invaded would Lai volunteer to fight — with our without the U.S.”

US Navy needs to have more than 500 ships by 2045 to have edge against China and Russia

“The Navy wants to double its number of submarines as part of a modernization plan to build more than 500 ships by 2045 to maintain a competitive edge against other naval powers such as China and Russia, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said”

“Esper said the need to modernize the Navy is in part due to China’s own naval modernization and shipbuilding efforts. The Pentagon’s China report released Sept. 1 determined the country aims to have a “world-class” military on par with the United States by 2049. It already has the largest navy in the world at 350 ships. The United States now has 296 deployable battle force ships, according to the Navy.”

“The first priority of that plan is to have a large number of attack submarines, with a target of 70 to 80 submarines overall. This will require the Navy to build at least three next generation Virginia-class submarines every year “as soon as possible,” Esper said. The Navy now has more than 40 operational attack submarines, according to Pentagon documents.”

“Large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers also will be part of the future Navy, still considered the force’s “most visible deterrent,” he said. The Navy is also looking at “light carriers,” such as the USS America amphibious assault ship that can go to sea with vertical takeoff and landing aircraft including the F-35B fighters and the MV-22 Osprey. These light carriers would free up the bigger carriers for more of the “critical high-end fight,” Esper said.”

“Unmanned naval vessels have been discussed in a number of congressional hearings about the future of the Navy and they are included in the Battle Force 2045 plan. Esper said the future force will have between 140 to 240 unmanned and “optionally manned” surface and subsurface vessels that can perform a variety of missions including surveillance, mine-laying and missile strikes.”

“Congressional help will also be necessary to make the plan work. Esper said he wants lawmakers to stop using continuing resolutions to fund the defense budget and allow the military to divest from legacy systems so that the funds can be put towards “higher priorities.” He also said he will request that the Navy have the authority to put any end-of-year budget savings towards shipbuilding instead of the losing money when it is not spent.”

North Korea shows off new, larger ICBM missile during parade

“It wasn’t clear if the monster missile was active or simply a shell, but the unprecedented spectacle less than a month ahead of the U.S. presidential election could raise the specter of coming North Korean weapons tests.

North Korea hasn’t tested an ICBM in almost three years. And the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, conducted three high-wattage meetings with President Trump after the flight of Hwasong-15, a missile believed to be capable of reaching the U.S.

This year, North Korea has taken a hostile posture toward the U.S., airing grievances and declaring its aversion to nuclear negotiations with Washington.

A military display was not unexpected on Saturday, the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party, and Kim didn’t directly criticize the U.S. during the festivities.

But the event stood out for size of the possible new missile, which appeared much larger than the Hwasong-15, and for the parade’s timing in the small hours of Saturday morning local time.

“This was most unusual,” Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told the Daily News. “The amount of electricity they must have spent — in a country that lacks electricity even in the capital city — shows you they went all-out.””

Philippines to deploy maritime militia in South China Sea

“The Philippine Navy is hiring maritime militia forces to patrol and protect fishermen in the South China Sea from intruding Chinese forces.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo told reporters on Tuesday that it is preparing to send over 200 militiamen to the disputed South China Sea.”

“These are our counterparts for Chinese maritime militia,” Bacordo added.
China employs a maritime militia composed of covert fishing trawlers, which support the Chinese coastguard and navy operations in the region. Hundreds of its vessels are reportedly deployed near Philippine-occupied areas.”

“The Philippines has won an international arbitration case against China for its claims in the South China Sea, but China refused to accept the ruling.

On June 9, 2019, a Chinese trawler rammed a Filipino fishing vessel in Reed Bank and abandoned its 22 crew members in cold water, drawing outrage in the Philippines.”

What Trump got right — and wrong — with North Korea, explained by a former intel official

“it tells us is exactly what Kim said at the end of his speech, which is that time is on North Korea’s side, not on America’s side. The parade also demonstrated the ability of North Korea to continue advancing its weapons programs despite international sanctions, despite pressure. It really showed the progress they’re continuing to make in terms of their capabilities.”

“If the North Koreans are not convinced to maintain at least some restraint on weapons testing, regardless of which administration is in office next year, it will basically destroy any chance for diplomacy on favorable terms. It will be very, very difficult to say that we’re containing the threat or having any sort of a negotiation that’s advantageous to us.

Once you get past that point, if you can get North Korea to halt its testing of the more advanced systems, then it becomes possible to talk about having a different type of negotiation with North Korea. But you have to deal with it early and prevent the North Koreans from launching a new provocative test, otherwise you’re just reacting to them — and then you’re in another really, really tough spot.”

“I think we got much closer to war in 1994, in 2010, and in 2015 than we did in 2017. There was a very large gap between the rhetoric and the activity in 2017. And if you say we almost went to war in 2017, then you’re essentially saying the US almost started the war, because there was no sign Kim Jong Un was interested in going to war — he was testing weapons. He wasn’t striking South Korea or sinking ships.”

“We have to be willing to go back to a 2017 level of confrontation. If Kim senses that the US is more afraid of war than he is, then he has the advantage.
North Korea, no matter how many weapons advances it makes, is never going to get to the point where it has the capability to win a war against the United States of America.

As long as you proceed from the premise that Kim is not crazy or suicidal — which of course I don’t proceed from because he’s a rational, cunning, intelligent man who’s really learned a lot about how to deal with the United States and how to lead this country — as long as that’s the basis, then you have to be comfortable with the idea of confronting Kim and convincing him there are military options the United States has and could use.

If we get to a point where we feel sanctions and war can’t work, then that basically puts Kim in the position where he can dictate terms, and I don’t think that’s going to get us where we need to be.”

Fear and loathing (of Donald Trump) in the EU

“Of all the innumerable “horrors,” the diplomat said the worst aspect of Trump is the chaos he brings to the world arena: “The lack of being able to plan, the lack of being able to extrapolate from a normal set of facts and arguments what might be a course of action that the United States might take.

“Even if you don’t like it, it’s useful to have an idea of where they are going,” the diplomat said.

Radosław Sikorski, a former Polish defense minister and longtime foreign minister, called Trump’s first term “an extraordinary saga of bluster and incompetence.”

Now a member of the European Parliament and leader of its delegation for U.S. relations, Sikorski said he expected a second Trump term would feature more of the same, including when it comes to the president’s preference for courting authoritarian leaders over traditional, liberal democratic allies.”

What Trump’s taxes tell us about his foreign entanglements

“Trump has back-slapped the authoritarian leaders of the three main countries cited by the Times’s report: the Philippines, India, and Turkey. It’s less clear now if the bonhomie stems from their diplomatic relationships or because they lead nations that are lucrative for the president.

Turkey is perhaps the best example of this conundrum.

Trump said last year that he was a “big fan of” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but their relationship hit some snags over Ankara’s attacks on US allies in Syria and its unlawful imprisonment of an American pastor.

When US-Turkey ties were low, the Times recalled a few curiosities:

“[In 2018,] a Turkish business group canceled a conference at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel; six months later, when the two countries were on better terms, the rescheduled event was attended by Turkish government officials. Turkish Airlines also chose the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia to host an event [in 2017].”

In other words, countries like Turkey can potentially find ways to Trump’s heart by ensuring money goes into his family’s pocket in hopes of altering US foreign policy. The Trump Organization, then, gives nations an unprecedented extra leverage point to influence an American president.”

“If the president makes decisions based on his private interests, and not the public’s, then he’s subjugating the demands of US foreign policy for the bottom line of his family’s business.”

“That issue becomes more acute when you factor in Trump’s $421 million in debt, much of it owed in the next four years. It’s unclear exactly who he owes that money to, but it’s not unreasonable given the scope of the Trump Organization’s foreign business to assume some of the debt is held by foreign lenders”

China’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2060, explained

“Imagine China — the world’s top emitter of carbon, which in 2019 released nearly double the emissions of the US — with almost zero coal power plants.

Imagine it with zero gasoline-powered cars, and with more than four times the 1,200 gigawatts of solar and wind power capacity installed across the world today.

This could become reality by mid-century if China follows through on President Xi Jinping’s latest commitment to addressing the climate emergency.”

“the target puts China more closely in alignment with the European Union, the UK, and other countries that have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said is required to prevent over 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. In the US, some states and cities have moved in this direction, too. For instance, former governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order in 2018 for California to be carbon neutral by 2045. And Michigan’s governor made the same commitment Wednesday.

Along with the pledge to be carbon neutral by 2060, Xi Jinping also announced that China would submit a stronger set of goals under the Paris agreement and that China would aim to peak carbon emissions before 2030, upping the commitment from “around” 2030.

Meanwhile, in his UNGA remarks, President Trump defended his decision to withdraw the US from the “one-sided” Paris agreement while criticizing China for “rampant pollution.”

Increasingly, China is demonstrating it will use climate as a way to upstage the US, with Xi repeatedly committing to incremental climate action on the international stage in recent years.”

“Besides the geopolitical motivations, China also has a lot to lose from unmitigated climate change, from catastrophic floods like those this summer in the central Yangtze River Basin to worsening heat waves and sea-level rise, which will have a huge impact on coastal cities like Shanghai by 2050.”

“China has yet to publish an official plan for how it would achieve carbon neutrality, but climate researchers have mapped out pathways. The good news: Researchers say it is possible. Some of the key shifts are already underway — toward electric vehicles and renewable energy, for example. But China will be entering uncharted territory when it comes to cleaning up its behemoth steel and cement industries.”

“The next few months will reveal how serious China is about accelerating its decarbonization.”

“China’s announcement may also have ripple effects on other countries as they choose whether to more aggressively tackle climate change, in the absence of US leadership, approaching the next major UN negotiations on climate change (COP 26), which will be held in November 2021.

“For China, who is experiencing economic ramifications of Covid like every other country, to come out and make this kind of bold statement on carbon neutrality could potentially sway the balance of countries who have been taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to their enhanced ambition climate pledges ahead of COP-26,” Hsu said. Here’s hoping it does.”

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained

“One of the world’s longest-standing frozen conflicts has thawed into a hot war, leading to over 350 deaths and potentially encouraging world powers to enter the fray — which could make a lethal situation even worse.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have reignited their 32-year struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous territory of 150,000 people about the size of Delaware. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it’s claimed and governed by ethnic Armenians. The two sides haven’t reached a lasting diplomatic resolution to the dispute since a war that killed 30,000 people or more ended in a 1994 ceasefire, leaving open the possibility of renewed deadly fighting.

That worst-case scenario proved a reality last week after the former Soviet territories accused each other of unprovoked attacks. On September 27, Armenia said Azerbaijan’s military bombed civilian settlements in Nagorno-Karabakh, including the regional capital of Stepanakert. In response, Armenia’s defense ministry claimed it downed two Azerbaijani helicopters and three drones. Azerbaijan didn’t take that lightly, with its defense ministry saying it launched a “counteroffensive” with tanks, war planes, artillery missiles, and drones.

Past skirmishes typically lasted no more than a few days, but this one has only continued and intensified. Stepanakert, a city of over 50,000 people, has experienced heavy artillery fire from Azerbaijan since October 2, while Azerbaijan says Armenia has shelled the country’s second-largest city, Ganja, and other missiles elsewhere — each assault putting civilians in grave danger.”

“Turkey, a NATO member, is only making matters worse. It has fully backed Azerbaijan, with observers alleging it has sent at least 1,000 Syrian fighters to help and providing the country’s forces with weapons and training. That’s provocative, experts say, as it not only fans the flames of war, but also threatens the control and calming influence Russia has had over the conflict.”

“so far Russia, which oversees the sputtering diplomatic process over the area along with France and the United States, has called for restraint alongside its counterparts.”

“Most experts I spoke to fear the fighting won’t end until either Armenia deals Azerbaijan a militarily decisive blow, or Azerbaijan reclaims much or all of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding regions. When I mentioned that concern to Zareh Sinanyan, Armenia’s high commissioner for diaspora affairs, he said bluntly: “That is true.””

“The first person to blame for the current conflict is former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. In 1921, he gave Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, only to turn it into an autonomous region two years later. That change would inevitably prove problematic, as Nagorno-Karabakh’s population was over 90 percent Armenian. On top of this, most Armenians are Christian, while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim; thus, Stalin’s decision effectively turned the territory into a Christian-majority enclave in a Muslim-majority nation.”

“The conflict that erupted last week actually began back in mid-July. During days of border fighting, Armenia killed seven Azerbaijani service members, including a top, popular Army general. “Armenia’s political and military leadership will bear the entire responsibility for the provocation,” Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president, vowed at the time.

Later that month, Turkey joined Azerbaijan for two weeks of military drills featuring armored vehicles, artillery, and mortars. It was billed as an annual exercise, but the message was clear: Azerbaijan was preparing for a real fight and Turkey had its back. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made that point explicitly last Friday.”

“experts note Azerbaijan has been careful not to attack civilian areas in Armenia proper. Doing so might trigger a defense treaty Russia has with Armenia requiring Moscow to come to Yerevan’s defense militarily.”