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US-British-French missile strikes on Syria heighten danger of  catastrophic war

Protesters burned American flags during a protest in Baghdad condemning US-led airstrikes in Syria. Hundreds gathered in Tahrir Square with Syrian and Iraqi flags, to demonstrate their support to the Syrian people.

Barry Grey

IN THE IMMEDIATE aftermath of last weekend’s US-led missile attack on Syria, the preparations for a wider war that could trigger a nuclear catastrophe are being laid.
The recklessness of US policy has only increased. Hardly had the smoke cleared from the carnage left by more than 100 cruise missiles than the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was boasting that the US remained “locked and loaded.” On the “Face the Nation” interview program, Haley said the US troops would remain in Syria and announced that the Trump administration would unveil new sanctions against Russian firms doing business with Damascus.
Russia countered by announcing that it was upgrading Syrian missile defenses.
Numerous media commentaries criticized the so-called “limited” attack by US, British and French naval and air forces as inadequate and demanded a more extensive and sustained military offensive. The New York Times quoted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham as saying, “I fear that when the dust settles, this strike will be seen as a weak military response and Assad will have paid a small price…”
The Washington Post in its lead editorial attacked Trump for again hinting at removing US troops from Syria. It pointed to the huge swath of territory in eastern Syria occupied by US troops and American proxy forces and demanded that Trump “further fortify” the US position on the ground in order to force the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The New York Times’ David Sanger and Ben Hubbard in a front-page article Sunday argued against Pentagon claims that the strikes had seriously damaged Assad’s alleged chemical weapons program. They wrote: “While it is easy to blow up Mr. Assad’s chemical facilities, it is also relatively simple for him to reconstitute them elsewhere, or just turn to a commercially available substance like chlorine to make a poison that any nation is allowed to possess.”
The bases for new provocations and fresh pretexts for military aggression are already being laid. If not another staged chemical attack, the next casus belli for war could well be a terrorist attack or an assault on US troops in the Middle East attributed to Assad.
For more than 25 years the United States has been engaged in continual warfare, justifying each conflict with bogus claims of committed or imminent atrocities by the targeted country: “weapons of mass destruction” against Iraq, a looming massacre of civilians against Libya, and now gas attacks against Syria.
The media campaign in recent weeks against Russia and Syria over alleged poison attacks was an orchestrated operation to provide a suitable pretext for a military attack that was, in fact, planned months ago. The alleged Russian government poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter was followed immediately by the media campaign over the supposed gas attack by the Assad regime on the town of Douma, and then held by US-backed Islamist militias fighting to overthrow the Iranian-and Russian-backed regime.
An utterly corrupt and dishonest Western media promoted the government claims without producing any evidence to substantiate them, while it barely noted the evidence produced by Russia and Syria exposing the claims as fraudulent. The attack launched over the weekend was not a response to a gas attack that allegedly occurred a week before. It was a highly coordinated joint strike involving missiles fired from US, French and British naval and air platforms in the Red Sea, the northern Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. Such an action is not the result of a few days’ planning.
Now, in the aftermath, the international geopolitical situation and the internal political crises of the US and the European powers have only grown more explosive.
In the US, the preparations for a wider war in the Middle East and the political war against Trump waged by sections of the ruling class and the state have merged into a single process.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and the military brass decided to avoid a clash with Russia for now not only out of military considerations, but also political ones. Strikes and rebellions by teachers against the corporatist trade unions are continuing, and the political crisis in Washington is deepening. Sentiment against war is widespread in the working class. Under these conditions, the military has no confidence in Trump’s ability to oversee the actions abroad and at home it deems necessary to overthrow Assad and take on Russia.
The neoconservative pundit Max Boot explicitly connected a major expansion of the war in Syria with the removal of Trump in a Washington Post op-ed piece titled “Airstrikes amidst the scandals.” “Just as Bush had no Iraq plan in the spring of 2003, so today Trump has no Syria plan,” he wrote, adding, “If the United States had a parliamentary government, Congress could pass a motion of ‘no confidence,’ thus allowing Trump to devote 100 percent of his attention to fighting the multiplying charges against him without the distraction of running the government.”
The New York Times published an editorial written just prior to the missile strikes calling on Congress to pass a new authorization for the use of military force. This push for a new legal justification for war shows that the ruling class is preparing for a much more extensive military intervention. It knows that there will be growing opposition and wants to create a legal framework to criminalize antiwar dissent and ban antiwar speech.
In Europe as well, the missile strikes have intensified the internal political and social crisis as well as tensions with America. British Prime Minister Theresa May faces demands for a parliamentary debate on the Syrian attack, with polls showing broad antiwar sentiment and widespread skepticism toward the claims of a chemical attack by Assad. The air strikes have exacerbated popular anger against French President Emmanuel Macron, who faces a wave of rail strikes and escalating student protests.
In Germany, sections of the media are using the strikes, which Chancellor Angela Merkel supported but did not directly join, to demand the full-scale rearmament of Germany and a foreign policy less dependent on the US.
Indicative of the war fever gripping the German ruling class is a commentary published by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung editor Berthold Kohler, who wrote: “The selfish child in the Oval Office forces Germany to finally grow up in regard to foreign policy. It will not happen so quickly that the German Navy gets aircraft carriers and the Luftwaffe cruise missiles. But the willingness of Germany to assume more responsibility in the world in the face of Trumpism…cannot be limited to applauding the French and the British… The fundamental contradiction of German foreign policy of having high moral and humanitarian standards, but only a low readiness to enforce them ‘robustly’ in an emergency, cannot be solved in any way with unarmed reconnaissance flights.”
It would be a fatal error to confuse the tactical decision by the US military to avoid for now a direct clash with Russian forces in Syria with a shift in the strategic orientation of American imperialism toward a wider war in Syria and a military confrontation with Iran and Russia. The circumscribed nature of this weekend’s strikes reflects the awareness within the American military of the potential consequences of any military attack in Syria.
There is no question that if Russian forces had been hit, the result could have been Russian retaliation. But it is only a matter of time before a future military attack triggers a direct conflict between the two largest nuclear powers in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself warned that further Western attacks on Syria would inevitably lead to “chaos in international relations.”
Each such attack underscores how real and present is the danger of a massive war with catastrophic consequences. The world is witnessing an eruption of US and world imperialism that threatens to destroy human civilization. It can be prevented only by the revolutionary mobilization of the international working class to put an end to capitalism. — WSWS

World reacts to strikes on Syria
The decision by the US president, Donald Trump, to launch air strikes on Syria with backing from the UK and France has proved globally divisive, with some countries praising the military action while others condemned it as provocative and unacceptable.
Among the strongest critics of the airstrikes were Russia and Iran, staunch allies of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who both have a military presence on the ground in Syria.

Russia
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denounced the strikes as an “act of aggression” that would exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader said Moscow was calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council over the strikes launched by the US, Britain and France.
Putin added that the attack had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations”.

Iran
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the US-led strikes on Syria a “military crime”. According to state news agency IRNA, Khamenei spoke at a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors from some Islamic countries.
“The attack this morning against Syria is a crime,” Khamenei added later on his Telegram channel. “The American president, the French president and the British prime minister are criminals, they will gain nothing from it.”

Germany
Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the allied strikes in Syria were a “necessary and appropriate” response to what the US and its allies say was a recent chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.
Merkel said Berlin viewed the US, UK and France had taken “responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN security council ... to maintain the effectiveness of the international rejection of chemical weapons use and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations”.
In a response to questions about the strikes, China’s foreign ministry called any military action that bypasses the UN security council a violation of international law.
“We consistently oppose the use of force in international relations, and advocate respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
“China believes that a political solution is the only realistic way out for the Syrian issue,” she added. “China urges all the relevant parties to return to the framework of international law and to resolve the issue through dialogue and consultation.”

European Union
The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said those who rely on chemical warfare must be held to account by the world.
Juncker said the suspected use of poison gas last week in the Syrian city of Douma was as he puts it a “heinous chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime”. He said the world “has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible” for the attack.

Canada
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who this week ruled out his country’s participation in military action in Syria, announced his unequivocal support for the targeted bombings.
“Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people,” he said. Trudeau added that Canada would continue to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that those responsible for the recent attacks “must be brought to justice”.

Israel
Israel, which was recently accused by Iran of carrying out its own airstrikes on military bases in Syria, was among the first to praise the strikes.
“Last year, President Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line.”

Nato
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the actions by the US, France and UK coalition should be supported because they would “reduce the government’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons”.
“Nato has consistently condemned Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons as a clear breach of international norms and agreements,” he said. “The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and those responsible must be held accountable.”

Turkey
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it welcomed the strikes as an “appropriate response”.
Ankara said chemical weapons attacks that indiscriminately target civilians “constitute crimes against humanity” and should not go unpunished.

United Nations
UN secretary- general, António Guterres, said that while the use of chemical weapons was “abhorrent” and “horrendous”, he urged caution in retaliating, expressing concern that any escalation of the violence would only increase the suffering of those living in Syria.
“I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” Guterres said in a statement.

Iraq
The strikes carried out by the US, France and Britain against Syrian military targets could give terrorism an opportunity to expand in the region, the Iraqi foreign ministry said, calling the raids “a very dangerous development”.
“Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent,” it said.

Comment

Protesters burned American flags during a protest in Baghdad condemning US-led airstrikes in Syria. Hundreds gathered in Tahrir Square with Syrian and Iraqi flags, to demonstrate their support to the Syrian people.

Barry Grey

IN THE IMMEDIATE aftermath of last weekend’s US-led missile attack on Syria, the preparations for a wider war that could trigger a nuclear catastrophe are being laid.
The recklessness of US policy has only increased. Hardly had the smoke cleared from the carnage left by more than 100 cruise missiles than the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was boasting that the US remained “locked and loaded.” On the “Face the Nation” interview program, Haley said the US troops would remain in Syria and announced that the Trump administration would unveil new sanctions against Russian firms doing business with Damascus.
Russia countered by announcing that it was upgrading Syrian missile defenses.
Numerous media commentaries criticized the so-called “limited” attack by US, British and French naval and air forces as inadequate and demanded a more extensive and sustained military offensive. The New York Times quoted Republican Senator Lindsey Graham as saying, “I fear that when the dust settles, this strike will be seen as a weak military response and Assad will have paid a small price…”
The Washington Post in its lead editorial attacked Trump for again hinting at removing US troops from Syria. It pointed to the huge swath of territory in eastern Syria occupied by US troops and American proxy forces and demanded that Trump “further fortify” the US position on the ground in order to force the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The New York Times’ David Sanger and Ben Hubbard in a front-page article Sunday argued against Pentagon claims that the strikes had seriously damaged Assad’s alleged chemical weapons program. They wrote: “While it is easy to blow up Mr. Assad’s chemical facilities, it is also relatively simple for him to reconstitute them elsewhere, or just turn to a commercially available substance like chlorine to make a poison that any nation is allowed to possess.”
The bases for new provocations and fresh pretexts for military aggression are already being laid. If not another staged chemical attack, the next casus belli for war could well be a terrorist attack or an assault on US troops in the Middle East attributed to Assad.
For more than 25 years the United States has been engaged in continual warfare, justifying each conflict with bogus claims of committed or imminent atrocities by the targeted country: “weapons of mass destruction” against Iraq, a looming massacre of civilians against Libya, and now gas attacks against Syria.
The media campaign in recent weeks against Russia and Syria over alleged poison attacks was an orchestrated operation to provide a suitable pretext for a military attack that was, in fact, planned months ago. The alleged Russian government poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter was followed immediately by the media campaign over the supposed gas attack by the Assad regime on the town of Douma, and then held by US-backed Islamist militias fighting to overthrow the Iranian-and Russian-backed regime.
An utterly corrupt and dishonest Western media promoted the government claims without producing any evidence to substantiate them, while it barely noted the evidence produced by Russia and Syria exposing the claims as fraudulent. The attack launched over the weekend was not a response to a gas attack that allegedly occurred a week before. It was a highly coordinated joint strike involving missiles fired from US, French and British naval and air platforms in the Red Sea, the northern Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. Such an action is not the result of a few days’ planning.
Now, in the aftermath, the international geopolitical situation and the internal political crises of the US and the European powers have only grown more explosive.
In the US, the preparations for a wider war in the Middle East and the political war against Trump waged by sections of the ruling class and the state have merged into a single process.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and the military brass decided to avoid a clash with Russia for now not only out of military considerations, but also political ones. Strikes and rebellions by teachers against the corporatist trade unions are continuing, and the political crisis in Washington is deepening. Sentiment against war is widespread in the working class. Under these conditions, the military has no confidence in Trump’s ability to oversee the actions abroad and at home it deems necessary to overthrow Assad and take on Russia.
The neoconservative pundit Max Boot explicitly connected a major expansion of the war in Syria with the removal of Trump in a Washington Post op-ed piece titled “Airstrikes amidst the scandals.” “Just as Bush had no Iraq plan in the spring of 2003, so today Trump has no Syria plan,” he wrote, adding, “If the United States had a parliamentary government, Congress could pass a motion of ‘no confidence,’ thus allowing Trump to devote 100 percent of his attention to fighting the multiplying charges against him without the distraction of running the government.”
The New York Times published an editorial written just prior to the missile strikes calling on Congress to pass a new authorization for the use of military force. This push for a new legal justification for war shows that the ruling class is preparing for a much more extensive military intervention. It knows that there will be growing opposition and wants to create a legal framework to criminalize antiwar dissent and ban antiwar speech.
In Europe as well, the missile strikes have intensified the internal political and social crisis as well as tensions with America. British Prime Minister Theresa May faces demands for a parliamentary debate on the Syrian attack, with polls showing broad antiwar sentiment and widespread skepticism toward the claims of a chemical attack by Assad. The air strikes have exacerbated popular anger against French President Emmanuel Macron, who faces a wave of rail strikes and escalating student protests.
In Germany, sections of the media are using the strikes, which Chancellor Angela Merkel supported but did not directly join, to demand the full-scale rearmament of Germany and a foreign policy less dependent on the US.
Indicative of the war fever gripping the German ruling class is a commentary published by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung editor Berthold Kohler, who wrote: “The selfish child in the Oval Office forces Germany to finally grow up in regard to foreign policy. It will not happen so quickly that the German Navy gets aircraft carriers and the Luftwaffe cruise missiles. But the willingness of Germany to assume more responsibility in the world in the face of Trumpism…cannot be limited to applauding the French and the British… The fundamental contradiction of German foreign policy of having high moral and humanitarian standards, but only a low readiness to enforce them ‘robustly’ in an emergency, cannot be solved in any way with unarmed reconnaissance flights.”
It would be a fatal error to confuse the tactical decision by the US military to avoid for now a direct clash with Russian forces in Syria with a shift in the strategic orientation of American imperialism toward a wider war in Syria and a military confrontation with Iran and Russia. The circumscribed nature of this weekend’s strikes reflects the awareness within the American military of the potential consequences of any military attack in Syria.
There is no question that if Russian forces had been hit, the result could have been Russian retaliation. But it is only a matter of time before a future military attack triggers a direct conflict between the two largest nuclear powers in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself warned that further Western attacks on Syria would inevitably lead to “chaos in international relations.”
Each such attack underscores how real and present is the danger of a massive war with catastrophic consequences. The world is witnessing an eruption of US and world imperialism that threatens to destroy human civilization. It can be prevented only by the revolutionary mobilization of the international working class to put an end to capitalism. — WSWS

World reacts to strikes on Syria
The decision by the US president, Donald Trump, to launch air strikes on Syria with backing from the UK and France has proved globally divisive, with some countries praising the military action while others condemned it as provocative and unacceptable.
Among the strongest critics of the airstrikes were Russia and Iran, staunch allies of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who both have a military presence on the ground in Syria.

Russia
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, denounced the strikes as an “act of aggression” that would exacerbate humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader said Moscow was calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council over the strikes launched by the US, Britain and France.
Putin added that the attack had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations”.

Iran
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the US-led strikes on Syria a “military crime”. According to state news agency IRNA, Khamenei spoke at a meeting with Iranian officials and ambassadors from some Islamic countries.
“The attack this morning against Syria is a crime,” Khamenei added later on his Telegram channel. “The American president, the French president and the British prime minister are criminals, they will gain nothing from it.”

Germany
Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the allied strikes in Syria were a “necessary and appropriate” response to what the US and its allies say was a recent chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.
Merkel said Berlin viewed the US, UK and France had taken “responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN security council ... to maintain the effectiveness of the international rejection of chemical weapons use and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations”.
In a response to questions about the strikes, China’s foreign ministry called any military action that bypasses the UN security council a violation of international law.
“We consistently oppose the use of force in international relations, and advocate respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
“China believes that a political solution is the only realistic way out for the Syrian issue,” she added. “China urges all the relevant parties to return to the framework of international law and to resolve the issue through dialogue and consultation.”

European Union
The European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said those who rely on chemical warfare must be held to account by the world.
Juncker said the suspected use of poison gas last week in the Syrian city of Douma was as he puts it a “heinous chemical weapons attack carried out by the Syrian regime”. He said the world “has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible” for the attack.

Canada
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who this week ruled out his country’s participation in military action in Syria, announced his unequivocal support for the targeted bombings.
“Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people,” he said. Trudeau added that Canada would continue to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that those responsible for the recent attacks “must be brought to justice”.

Israel
Israel, which was recently accused by Iran of carrying out its own airstrikes on military bases in Syria, was among the first to praise the strikes.
“Last year, President Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line.”

Nato
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the actions by the US, France and UK coalition should be supported because they would “reduce the government’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons”.
“Nato has consistently condemned Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons as a clear breach of international norms and agreements,” he said. “The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and those responsible must be held accountable.”

Turkey
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it welcomed the strikes as an “appropriate response”.
Ankara said chemical weapons attacks that indiscriminately target civilians “constitute crimes against humanity” and should not go unpunished.

United Nations
UN secretary- general, António Guterres, said that while the use of chemical weapons was “abhorrent” and “horrendous”, he urged caution in retaliating, expressing concern that any escalation of the violence would only increase the suffering of those living in Syria.
“I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” Guterres said in a statement.

Iraq
The strikes carried out by the US, France and Britain against Syrian military targets could give terrorism an opportunity to expand in the region, the Iraqi foreign ministry said, calling the raids “a very dangerous development”.
“Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent,” it said.


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SINCE WORLD WAR II
Japan activates first Marine brigade

The United States fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria in retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. The report said it was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president.

Peter Symonds

THE JAPANESE military activated its first marine unit since end of World War II on 7 April at a base near Sasebo on the southwestern island of Kyushu. The 2,100-strong Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) has been trained by the US Marines Corp as part of the US-led military build-up in the region against China.
After the ceremony, some 1,500 ARDB troops staged a 20-minute public exercise to simulate the recapture of a remote island from invaders. Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defence minister, said that “defence of our islands had become a critical mandate,” given the difficult security situation surrounding Japan.

Tense standoff between China and Japan
Japan’s focus on “island defence” takes place amid the continuing tense standoff between China and Japan in the East China Sea over the uninhabited islets named as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Repeated close encounters involving Japanese and Chinese aircraft and vessels have taken place over the past six years near the islands, which are currently controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
The Japanese government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stoked tensions with China in September 2012 by buying the islets from their private owner, or “nationalising” them. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who came to power in late 2012, further exacerbated the confrontation by declaring he would never negotiate over the sovereignty of the Senkakus.
In 2014, US President Barack Obama upped the ante by declaring that the US would back Japan militarily in the event of a war with China over the disputed islands.
The formation of the Marine brigade is part of the Abe government’s remilitarisation of Japan and the refocusing of its armed forces away from countering Russia to the north towards “island defence” in the south. Japan’s southwestern islands, including Okinawa, which is home to major US military bases, are directly adjacent to the Chinese mainland.
The Japanese military also plans to put troops and long-range, surface-to-ship missiles on some of its southernmost islands. In 2016, it opened a radar station on Yonaguni-shima, from where it can monitor the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, some 150 kilometres to the north, as well as a vast sweep of ocean in the East China Sea.
The radar placement will work in tandem with missile batteries that are being installed on the island of Ishigaki. The Independent earlier this year reported that about 600 troops will be stationed on Ishigaki along with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The anti-ship missiles are likely to have a range of around 150 kilometres, while the surface-to-air missiles may include Patriot batteries targeted against Chinese ballistic missiles.

Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy
Such installations are part of the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy which envisages a massive air and missile attack on China from ships and bases off the Chinese mainland. Japan is part of the so-called first island chain that includes Taiwan and the Philippines, that could form a barrier in the event of war with China, preventing its warships and submarines from entering the wider Pacific Ocean.
The new Marine brigade is not simply defensive in character but could be used during a Japanese war of aggression far from its shores. As well as Marines, the military is acquiring huge helicopter carriers, which could function as aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles.
Activating the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) is another step towards establishing a military force similar to a US Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which is capable of operating far from its home base.
Grant Newsham, a former US Marine colonel who helped train the ARDB troops, told Reuters that Japan had already “demonstrated the ability to put together an ad hoc MEU,” but did not have a permanent unit. “If Japan put its mind to it, within a year or year-and-a-half it could have a reasonable capability,” he added.

Breach of Japan’s post-World War II constitution
The development of an offensive military capacity is a breach of Japan’s post-World War II constitution, under which it renounced the right to wage war or to establish armed forces. Encouraged by Washington, successive Japanese governments have circumvented the constitution by claiming that its Self Defence Forces (SDF) are purely for self-defence.
Abe, however, openly breached the constitution by pushing through so-called collective self-defence legislation in 2015 that permits Japan to join in US-led wars of aggression. He is actively campaigning to refashion the constitution to remove all restraints on the use of the military to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Japanese imperialism.
Since taking office, Abe has made concerted efforts to remilitarize Japan. Last December, the cabinet approved a record-high, draft defence budget of $US46 billion which will include the purchase of two Aegis Ashore anti-ballistic missile batteries and Japan’s first long-range cruise missiles that can be mounted on fighter jets.
While the Japanese defence budget is substantially less than the $177 billion spent by China on its armed forces, Japan can at present rely on its alliance with the United States, whose military spending dwarfs that of any other country. Moreover, Japan has a substantial high-tech industrial base that could be used to rapidly expand its military capabilities.
Amid growing geo-political tensions, fuelled in large measures by Washington’s aggressive policies around the world, Japan, along with Germany and other major powers, are rapidly building up military forces. In this highly tense situation, the danger is that a relatively minor incident in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, on the Korean Peninsula, or at a flashpoint elsewhere in the globe could precipitate a catastrophic conflict.
— WSWS

Comment

The United States fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria in retaliation for this week’s gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. The report said it was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Donald Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president.

Peter Symonds

THE JAPANESE military activated its first marine unit since end of World War II on 7 April at a base near Sasebo on the southwestern island of Kyushu. The 2,100-strong Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) has been trained by the US Marines Corp as part of the US-led military build-up in the region against China.
After the ceremony, some 1,500 ARDB troops staged a 20-minute public exercise to simulate the recapture of a remote island from invaders. Tomohiro Yamamoto, vice defence minister, said that “defence of our islands had become a critical mandate,” given the difficult security situation surrounding Japan.

Tense standoff between China and Japan
Japan’s focus on “island defence” takes place amid the continuing tense standoff between China and Japan in the East China Sea over the uninhabited islets named as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Repeated close encounters involving Japanese and Chinese aircraft and vessels have taken place over the past six years near the islands, which are currently controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
The Japanese government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stoked tensions with China in September 2012 by buying the islets from their private owner, or “nationalising” them. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who came to power in late 2012, further exacerbated the confrontation by declaring he would never negotiate over the sovereignty of the Senkakus.
In 2014, US President Barack Obama upped the ante by declaring that the US would back Japan militarily in the event of a war with China over the disputed islands.
The formation of the Marine brigade is part of the Abe government’s remilitarisation of Japan and the refocusing of its armed forces away from countering Russia to the north towards “island defence” in the south. Japan’s southwestern islands, including Okinawa, which is home to major US military bases, are directly adjacent to the Chinese mainland.
The Japanese military also plans to put troops and long-range, surface-to-ship missiles on some of its southernmost islands. In 2016, it opened a radar station on Yonaguni-shima, from where it can monitor the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, some 150 kilometres to the north, as well as a vast sweep of ocean in the East China Sea.
The radar placement will work in tandem with missile batteries that are being installed on the island of Ishigaki. The Independent earlier this year reported that about 600 troops will be stationed on Ishigaki along with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The anti-ship missiles are likely to have a range of around 150 kilometres, while the surface-to-air missiles may include Patriot batteries targeted against Chinese ballistic missiles.

Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy
Such installations are part of the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle strategy which envisages a massive air and missile attack on China from ships and bases off the Chinese mainland. Japan is part of the so-called first island chain that includes Taiwan and the Philippines, that could form a barrier in the event of war with China, preventing its warships and submarines from entering the wider Pacific Ocean.
The new Marine brigade is not simply defensive in character but could be used during a Japanese war of aggression far from its shores. As well as Marines, the military is acquiring huge helicopter carriers, which could function as aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, Osprey tilt-rotor troop carriers and amphibious assault vehicles.
Activating the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) is another step towards establishing a military force similar to a US Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which is capable of operating far from its home base.
Grant Newsham, a former US Marine colonel who helped train the ARDB troops, told Reuters that Japan had already “demonstrated the ability to put together an ad hoc MEU,” but did not have a permanent unit. “If Japan put its mind to it, within a year or year-and-a-half it could have a reasonable capability,” he added.

Breach of Japan’s post-World War II constitution
The development of an offensive military capacity is a breach of Japan’s post-World War II constitution, under which it renounced the right to wage war or to establish armed forces. Encouraged by Washington, successive Japanese governments have circumvented the constitution by claiming that its Self Defence Forces (SDF) are purely for self-defence.
Abe, however, openly breached the constitution by pushing through so-called collective self-defence legislation in 2015 that permits Japan to join in US-led wars of aggression. He is actively campaigning to refashion the constitution to remove all restraints on the use of the military to prosecute the economic and strategic interests of Japanese imperialism.
Since taking office, Abe has made concerted efforts to remilitarize Japan. Last December, the cabinet approved a record-high, draft defence budget of $US46 billion which will include the purchase of two Aegis Ashore anti-ballistic missile batteries and Japan’s first long-range cruise missiles that can be mounted on fighter jets.
While the Japanese defence budget is substantially less than the $177 billion spent by China on its armed forces, Japan can at present rely on its alliance with the United States, whose military spending dwarfs that of any other country. Moreover, Japan has a substantial high-tech industrial base that could be used to rapidly expand its military capabilities.
Amid growing geo-political tensions, fuelled in large measures by Washington’s aggressive policies around the world, Japan, along with Germany and other major powers, are rapidly building up military forces. In this highly tense situation, the danger is that a relatively minor incident in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, on the Korean Peninsula, or at a flashpoint elsewhere in the globe could precipitate a catastrophic conflict.
— WSWS


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