Sunday, May 26, 2019

Globe Trying to Goad Trump Into War

It's what got me off the sidelines after six months; however, it appears to be nothing more than a good cop-bad cop routine by a paper tiger. 

Oddly, I am in a way hoping they succeed. It will hasten the end of the EUSraeli Empire under which we live and which has become intolerable.

"Rogue nations make a wager: They can handle the president" by David E. Sanger and Edward Wong New York Times, May 11, 2019

They are calling it news analysis, another word for lying war propaganda.

WASHINGTON — Three nations that have long defined themselves as bitter adversaries of the United States — North Korea, Iran and Venezuela — decided this past week they could take on President Trump.

Each one is betting that Trump is neither as savvy a negotiator nor as ready to use military force as he claims. Each also poses a drastically different challenge to a president who has little experience in handling international crises, has struggled to find the right balance of diplomacy and coercion, and has not always been consistent in defining his foreign policy.

The rising tensions with all three serve as reminders that Trump’s constant talk about taking care of problems that he has accused his predecessors of aggravating, or failing to confront, is difficult to convert into real-world solutions — as events of recent days have shown.

The confrontation with Iran appears to be the most volatile at the moment, with tensions escalating by the day. On Friday, the Pentagon said it was sending another naval ship and Patriot missile interceptor battery to the Middle East, in addition to an earlier dispatch of a carrier group and bombers, because of potential threats from Iran or allied Arab militias.

That standoff has been brewing since Trump moved a year ago to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Tehran announced a partial withdrawal of its own in the past week, threatening to resume nuclear fuel production unless Europe acts to undercut US sanctions that have devastated Iran’s oil revenue.

The announcement put European leaders in the unenviable position of choosing between Iran or Trump, whom they blame for destroying a deal that, in their view, was successfully containing the country’s nuclear threat.

What nuclear threat? 

The Iranians were not and are not building a bomb, and the IAEA has certified it more than 14 times now per the agreement.

It's that sort of sleight of hand and subtle inference and distortion that has totally discredited AmeriKa's War Pre$$.

When North Korean officials determined they were not getting what they wanted from Trump after two summits, they began firing short-range ballistic missiles. The two tests over the past week seemed to signal that if the president does not return to the negotiating table, his personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un, could revert to old hostilities, but Trump appears so invested in making his signature diplomacy a success that he told Politico that he did not “consider that a breach of trust at all” — although he had said the previous day that “nobody’s happy” about the tests.

I don't know about you, but I am so glad Trump has cooled off that entire situation -- although the fact is, Russia and China have given the North Koreans security guarantees so that much like Obama and Iran (American corporations brought influence to bear as everyone else was rushing in), Trump is tagging along.

And in Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro remains in power despite US efforts to lure military officers to the opposition. Trump is irate that the strategies devised by his national security adviser, John Bolton, and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have failed to oust the Venezuelan leader, aides say.

Blogs were right then. They reported it more than a week before the Times did.

Related: Pompeo, Bolton Doing Great Job

Bad cops.

Trump’s problems with all three countries reveal a common pattern: taking an aggressive, maximalist position without a clear plan to carry it through, followed by a fundamental lack of consensus in the administration about whether the United States should be more interventionist or less.

Haven't we been enough?

We owe people apologies.

The president’s own views are hardly set in stone. White House officials say this keeps enemies off balance, but it has the same effect among allies and within his administration.

As the policies on North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela have failed to produce the outcomes he wants, Trump could end up blaming Bolton and Pompeo — both hawks who advocate aggressive postures that have less appeal to the president.

Against the recommendations of top Pentagon and intelligence officials, Bolton and Pompeo pushed Trump last month to designate an arm of the Iranian military as a terrorist group, the first time the United States had done so against a part of another government. The Pentagon and intelligence officials had warned that Iran might retaliate against US troops or operatives in the region.

Their worries may be playing out now: Last weekend, military and intelligence officials said they had determined that Iran or its partner militias were possibly planning violence against US troops in the region. The secret analysis prompted the Trump administration to speed up the movement of an aircraft carrier strike group and bombers to the Persian Gulf.

They really think we are going to buy this again after 2003 and Iraq?

Meanwhile, Pompeo has been crashing parties from Baghdad to Brussels, and it went over as well as Pence's earlier visit (at least he was passionate)!

And now they have evacuated the embassy.

And shredding a nuclear-containment deal that was reached through a yearslong negotiation process by professional diplomats has lead to this past week’s reaction by Iran: a reawakening of its nuclear ambitions.


And Iraq had a nuclear bomb, too. 


President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement Wednesday that Iran would leave part of the 2015 nuclear deal, despite the urging of European nations to ignore Trump’s provocations and stick with the agreement, means Tehran could eventually restart a program to develop a nuclear weapon.

Sanctions imposed by Washington after its withdrawal from the nuclear deal have helped cripple Iran’s economy and curbed its financing for Arab militias, but its nuclear aims remain undeterred.

Is there anyone in the world that believes the liars anymore?

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has said the United States has failed to show it is a “reliable partner” because of Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 deal and other agreements.

North Korea has also struggled to negotiate with Trump. After a failed effort in Hanoi in February to get Trump to lift US sanctions against North Korea, Kim fired his negotiators, but Kim has one big advantage. In the absence of careful groundwork by US diplomats, North Korea never had to agree to freeze its nuclear and missile production before entering into talks. That means Kim has added to his arsenal over the past year, making it ever more difficult for Trump to achieve his stated goal of ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons, and in any case, the country’s 30 to 60 nuclear warheads give it considerable leverage.

Has he, NYT? 

Any evidence to back ups the inference?

Yeah, whatever happens or may have happened, just use it to confirm or support a point or idea just mentioned.

It's what we call war propaganda.


"South Korea said Friday that it would provide $8 million in humanitarian aid to help North Korea’s malnourished children and pregnant women, as the North faces severe drought and a food crisis caused by its worst harvest in a decade. South Korea made it clear Friday that it did not regard the current stalemate in talks over the North’s nuclear program as a reason to deny the aid......"

Also see:

"South Korea vowed Monday to move quickly on plans to provide $8 million worth of medical and nutritional aid for North Korean children through United Nations agencies while it also considers sending broader food aid to the country, which says it is suffering its worst drought in decades. Lee Sang-min, spokesman for Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said the government will discuss its plans with the World Food Program and the United Nations Children’s Fund, through which the aid would be provided, so it reaches North Korean children and pregnant women quickly. South Korea is also trying to build public and political support for providing wider food aid to North Korea, either directly or through the WFP. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed hopes that aid will help revive diplomacy and engagement with North Korea. UN food agencies said earlier this month that about 10 million people were facing ‘‘severe food shortages’’ after one of North Korea’s worst harvests in a decade. North Korean state media are urging farmers to do their best with what they have......"

I suppose it is not hard to win a war when the other side is starving to death.

That may explain why the Iranians are threatening to resume production, too.

“The Iranians didn’t then and don’t now have nuclear weapons,” said William J. Burns, a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, who began back-channel talks with Iran in 2013.

Burns acknowledged that relying solely on pressure from sanctions to rein in Kim did not work in the Obama years, and said Trump was right to engage diplomatically with Kim, but he said the lack of structured diplomacy meant North Korea was no closer to embracing denuclearization now than it was at the end of the Obama administration.....

Why should they? 

They saw what happened to Hussein and Gaddafi.


The next day it was the Washington ComPost's turn to egg him on:

"Applying ‘maximum pressure,’ Trump faces burgeoning crises overseas" by Paul Sonne and John Hudson Washington Post, May 12, 2019

President Trump ran for office vowing to extricate the United States from entanglements abroad, but his administration now finds itself juggling three national security crises overseas — with Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea — while confronting China over a possible trade war.

Are they really crises, our manufactured events amplified by a mouthpiece media?

The situation, partly a function of uncontrollable events, is also the result of Trump’s ‘‘go big or go home’’ approach to foreign affairs, which has led his administration to apply ‘‘maximum pressure’’ to multiple nations simultaneously, rather than prioritize or take incremental steps.

Yeah, sure. The war planners and their media mouthpieces would sure like you to think that.

The maximalist tactics at times have raised the prospect of big breakthroughs, ones that Trump hopes to take to the campaign trail for his re-election, particularly when it comes to North Korea.

If he wants to get reelected, he better not start any more wars.

At the same time, it has brought what former policymakers describe as a greater risk of crises and miscalculations, as well as possible distractions from the primary goal of the administration’s national security strategy: countering Russia and China.

Yeah, let's get the big show on the road, 'eh?

‘‘The president’s apparent tendency to brinkmanship brings with it a degree of danger — and it’s even more dangerous when it’s combined with a pattern of bluffing,’’ said James Dobbins, a former top diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Rand Corporation.

You calling him?

Whether Trump is willing to pursue military action, which he and his aides have referenced in public remarks, is a looming question. He has long been a vocal skeptic of American military force abroad and at times has expressed concern about the more hawkish impulses of his national security adviser, John Bolton. Strategy experts cite the risk of overextending US rhetoric in conflicts with possible military outcomes if the president isn’t willing to back words with actions.

‘‘It’s kind of like the not terribly capable bully, who likes pushing people around and teasing them, but when push comes to shove, is nervous to actually get into a bar fight,’’ said Mara Karlin, a Pentagon strategist during the Obama administration and a professor at Johns Hopkins University.

This past week, Trump extended an olive branch to Iran, saying ‘‘I’d like to see them call me,’’ even as his top aides lambasted the country and the US military said it would respond to any attack on American interests with unrelenting force.

A senior administration official defended the efficacy and rationale of the administration’s approach. ‘‘The United States is responding to legitimate threats against America and our allies and partners with highly effective maximum pressure campaigns,’’ the official said.

The possibility that Trump’s resolve could be tested has increased in recent days.

The difficult decision is to not go to war. That would be a profile on courage in this hyper-militarized state in which we live.

In Asia, progress in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un showed signs of backsliding, as the United States seized a North Korean vessel allegedly used for evading sanctions and suspended efforts to recover remains of American military personnel killed during the Korean War.

That act of war has been minimized by my pre$$, and the patient of other world leaders is astounding. 

Had someone seized a U.S. vessel, the bombing would begin within hours.

Pyongyang, for its part, carried out new short-range missile tests, raising the possibility of a return to intercontinental ballistic missile testing it suspended after talks with Trump.

So what? 

They were within their rights to carry out a short range missile test.

In South America, top administration officials suggested the possibility of military action against Venezuela after a failed insurrection by the US-backed opposition took officials in Washington off guard. The US military sent a hospital ship to the nation’s coast in between preparing for contingencies should Nicolás Maduro’s government fall.

Go ahead and invade. It'll be AmeriKa's 21st-century Vietnam.

Perhaps the most concerning developments arose out of the Middle East. A year after Trump pulled out of the Iranian nuclear accord, Tehran announced that it would stop complying with some elements of the agreement, promising to enrich uranium to a higher level than allowed under the treaty. The decision once again raising the threat of nuclear proliferation in one of the most unstable parts of the world.

It is still far below weapons grade material.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon dispatched a carrier strike group, a bomber force, and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East after receiving intelligence suggesting that Iran could be preparing an attack against US troops or interests in the region.

Then get 'em out of there, and what is all this costing taxpayers?

As the crises with North Korea, Venezuela and Iran unfold, one risk is that the Trump administration will lose focus on a national security strategy that calls for concentrating primarily on countering Russia and China.....

I'm sure Russia will fall flat on their face coming to their defense, too (that's all the sickening American media has on the guy so they become juvenile junior high schoolers in their glee as Trump sits by the phone and waits for Iran to call), as the "BBC, a propaganda arm of the British government, is hoping to mine the Russian leader’s fame — or infamy — with a comedy series presented by a digital effigy of Putin, who cackles in a trailer for the program."

"Somewhere Vladimir Putin is smiling, but buying politicians one by one is expensive — and not particularly effective unless the Russians can also impact the election itself. So they have had to revert to their tried and true methods — methods well-honed during the 2016 US election. Even for those Americans who don’t care a whit about who gets to occupy any of those 751 European Parliament seats in Brussels, there are lessons to be learned from this election — lessons about what the United States can expect in 2020 and lessons from the Europeans about countering disinformation campaigns....."

Speaking of disinformation: Russia seized Crimea in 2014

Hey, what is another New York Times lie anyway?

At least we will have the support of Italy and Hungary.


Yes, "the corporate newspaper of record is openly taunting Trump to pressure him to wage war on North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela,"as well as promoting this false flag fakery to make the case:

"UAE says 4 ships targeted by ‘sabotage’ off its coast" by Jon Gambrell Associated Press, May 12, 2019

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that four commercial ships off its eastern coast ‘‘were subjected to sabotage operations,’’ just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati port.

Emirati officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reported incident comes as the United States has warned ships that ‘‘Iran or its proxies’’ could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

Tensions have risen in the year since President Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating the incident ‘‘in cooperation with local and international bodies.’’ It said there were ‘‘no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels’’ and ‘‘no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.’’


The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment on the incident. Emirati officials declined to elaborate while their investigation is ongoing.

Earlier Sunday, Lebanon’s pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting ‘‘Gulf sources,’’ falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah’s port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the reports, citing Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.

The Associated Press, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the reports about an explosion at the port to be unsubstantiated.....

Like most of what I read in my pre$$.


So what's next, another USS Liberty?

"Saudis say oil pipeline attacked by drones, apparently from Yemen" by Sudarsan Raghavan Washington Post, May 14, 2019

WASHINGTON — Armed drones, allegedly dispatched by Yemeni rebels, struck two oil-pumping stations in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, spiking tensions in the region and potentially disrupting international efforts to end the civil war in Yemen.

Who is trying to end the war?

In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi news agency, the kingdom’s energy minister said the attack unfolded early Tuesday morning and targeted the facilities of state-owned oil giant Aramco. It came two days after four oil tankers, including two Saudi-owned ones, were damaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in what Emirati officials described as acts of sabotage.

Shortly before Tuesday’s attacks, Yemen’s Houthi rebels declared on their television station that they had launched at least seven drone attacks on significant targets in neighboring Saudi Arabia, but the rebels did not identify the targets or the time of the attacks.

The Saudi energy minister, Khalid Al Falih, condemned the Yemeni rebels and described the attack as ‘‘cowardly.’’ He added that ‘‘this act of terrorism and sabotage in addition to recent acts in the Arabian Gulf do not only target the kingdom but also the security of world oil supplies and the global economy.’’


Tuesday’s attack was the latest addition to growing tensions in a region vital to global energy production, where strategic shipping lanes carry oil and gas to the West and to Asia.

The conflict in Yemen is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies are increasingly at odds with Iran following the Americans’ withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and subsequent tightening of US sanctions against Iran. In retaliation, Tehran declared last week that it would restart enriching uranium at higher levels if the international powers do not negotiate fresh terms for the deal.

In Tuesday’s attack, Al Falih was quick to cite a possible Iranian role: ‘‘These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran,’’ he said.

Except most of the terrorists -- including ISIS™-- are supplied and supported by the Sunni sheikdoms.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, leads a regional coalition of Sunni Muslim nations that is fighting the northern Shiite Houthi rebels who are aligned with Iran’s Shiite theocracy. The coalition’s stated goal is to restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government to power, but the four-year-old conflict is as much as an attempt by the kingdom and its allies to prevent the spread of Iranian influence.

The United States is backing the Saudi coalition with intelligence and logistical support, as well as billions of dollars in weapons sales. The United Nations has described the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation and tens of thousands of civilians have died, as the world’s most severe. Congress has voted to withdraw American support to the coalition this year, but President Trump vetoed the measure.

There is also the world's worst cholera epidemic there. Why they failed to mention it is beyond me.

Tuesday’s attack also came amid unconfirmed reports that Houthi rebels were starting to unilaterally withdraw from the strategic Yemeni port of Hodeidah, a key condition of a December cease-fire that the UN and international community see as a first step toward ending the war. It’s unclear what impact Tuesday’s attacks and any possible retaliation by the coalition will have on the withdrawal.

Thus we get the false flag mischief!

The oil-pumping stations targeted Tuesday are more than 500 miles from Saudi Arabia’s southern border with Yemen. The attack caused fire and minor damage to one of the pumping stations, said Al Falih. The stations are connected to a pipeline that runs from the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea.....


"White House reviews military plans against Iran, in echoes of Iraq War" by Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes New York Times, May 14, 2019

WASHINGTON — At a meeting of President Trump’s top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack US forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.

The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser.

It does not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said.

The development reflects the influence of Bolton, one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.

It is highly uncertain whether Trump, who has sought to disentangle the United States from Afghanistan and Syria, ultimately would send so many US forces back to the Middle East.

Well, they made him back down on the Syrian and Afghan withdrawals.

It is also unclear whether the president has been briefed on the number of troops or other details in the plans.

On Monday, asked if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens.”

Doesn't exactly reassure me.

On Tuesday, Trump rejected the New York Times report that his administration is planning for war with Iran, but there are sharp divisions in the administration over how to respond to Iran at a time when tensions are rising about Iran’s nuclear policy and its intentions in the Middle East. 


Some senior US officials said the plans, even at a very preliminary stage, show how dangerous the threat from Iran has become. Others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.


European allies who met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that they worry that tensions between Washington and Tehran could boil over, possibly inadvertently.

Some are praying they do, and it won't be inadvertent!

More than a half-dozen US national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them with the Times on the condition of anonymity. Spokesmen for Shanahan and General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.

The size of the force involved has shocked some who have been briefed on them. The 120,000 troops would approach the size of the US force that invaded Iraq in 2003.

Deploying such a robust air, land, and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict.

Yeah, right, we are going to entangled -- as if the psychopaths in control of US foreign policy are trying to avoid it! 


It also would reverse years of retrenching by the US military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

Except he sent them back in back in by 2014.

But two of the US national security officials said Trump’s announced drawdown in December of American forces in Syria, and the diminished naval presence in the region, appear to have emboldened some leaders in Tehran and convinced the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that the United States has no appetite for a fight with Iran.

Look at the New York Times trying to goad this guy!

Several oil tankers were attacked or sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, raising fears that shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf could become flashpoints.

Like the Gulf of Tonkin.

Emirati officials are investigating the apparent sabotage, and US officials suspect that Iran was involved. Several officials cautioned, however, that there is not yet any definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the attacks. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman called it a “regretful incident,” according to a state news agency.


We don't need no stinking' evidence!

The high-level review of the Pentagon’s plans was presented during a meeting about broader Iran policy.

It was held days after what the Trump administration described, without evidence, as new intelligence indicating that Iran was mobilizing proxy groups in Iraq and Syria to attack US forces.

Why would Iran do something so stupid?

As a precaution, the Pentagon has moved an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, a Patriot missile interceptor battery, and more naval firepower to the Gulf region.

At last week’s meeting, Shanahan gave an overview of the Pentagon’s planning, then turned to Dunford to detail various force options, officials said. The uppermost option called for deploying 120,000 troops, which would take weeks or months to complete.

Among those attending Thursday’s meeting were Shanahan; Bolton; Dunford; Gina Haspel, the CIA director; and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.

As recently as late April, a US intelligence analysis indicated that Iran had no short-term desire to provoke a conflict, but new intelligence reports, including intercepts, imagery, and other information, have since indicated that Iran was building up its proxy forces’ readiness to fight and was preparing them to attack US forces in the region.....

Grain of salt, wastebasket.


Now it is the Globe's turn:

"Trump foreign policy: erratic, cautious, ineffective" by Scot Lehigh Globe Columnist, May 14, 2019

After two and a half years of Donald Trump, foreign leaders appear to have a read on the unpredictable American president and his international modus operandi: He’s much more bark than bite, a president whose bluff can be called without particular fear of the consequences.

So you are calling him?

Certainly Trump’s blustery warnings are at deep odds with his own noninterventionist foreign policy instincts. He is both suspicious of multilateral relationships and cautious about using US military power. As a result, he is more inclined than any recent president to leave the world to do as it will.

Example A: North Korea

If North Korea doesn’t fear this president militarily, neither does Iran. Having honored the terms of the multination nuclear deal for more than a year after the Trump administration pulled out, Iran has announced that it will resume stockpiling enriched uranium and may enrich to a higher level if other nations don’t help relieve the pinch of US sanctions. Iran obviously wouldn’t have declared those intentions if it believed Trump was likely to respond militarily, now or later.

Now, let’s be clear: It’s encouraging that Trump has been more prudent than his own rhetoric and his hawkish second-wave advisers gave reason to expect. We saw another example of that caution after The New York Times reported that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, pursuant to an order from National Security Adviser John Bolton, had developed plans to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event of an Iranian attack. On Tuesday, however, Trump more or less dismissed the idea, saying the administration wasn’t planning for that and “hopefully, we’re not going to have to plan for that.” That’s similar to what happened with Venezuela: Trump’s foreign policy team repeatedly suggested the United States might intervene military, but Trump himself showed little interest in such a course.

Who would have thought that the fate of peace in the world lies in the hands of Donald Trump?

Yes, pray for the President so that he may have the will to hold off the neocon war mongers!

Trump, who reportedly has told associates that if Bolton had his way, the United States would already be at war in multiple places, is right to be wary of his hawkish national security adviser. That said, a president who eschews productive if imperfect multilateral efforts doesn’t have much by way of muscle once potential adversaries recognize his reluctance to back tough talk with action.

The sanctions have sure gotten people in line, though.

Certainly stern admonitions and renewed US sanctions haven’t brought Iran to its nuclear knees. Nor has the (previously scheduled) movement of a carrier group to the Persian Gulf. Iran’s leaders haven’t been prompted to pick up the phone and call, as the American president says he’d like them to.

Why should they call him? 

He will just renege on the deal anyway.

If the good news is that Trump’s foreign policy thus far has erred on the side of caution, not confrontation, the bad news is that he isn’t accomplishing much as he tries to deal with admittedly difficult problems. If only this president could learn from failure, he might come to see that his various foreign-policy frustrations argue for the wisdom of a more robust multilateral approach....



"Iran crisis or ‘circus’? A weary Middle East wonders" by Declan Walsh New York Times, May 16, 2019

CAIRO — The drums of war are sounding across the Middle East, driven by the Trump administration as well as by disputed attacks on Saudi Arabian tankers and an oil pipeline, but Rohile Gharaibeh, a prominent Jordanian politician and newspaper columnist, has watched it all with a mixture of disdain and weary exasperation.

“A circus,” Gharaibeh said in a phone interview, describing recent events as little more than a spectacle with multiple foreign actors on the stage. “It’s no more than shenanigans to apply more pressure on Iran.”

As the Trump administration squares up against Iran, with what many see as alarming echoes of the buildup to the Iraq War in 2003, people across the Arab world are trying to figure out how worried they should be. In interviews, writers, businessmen, and exiles expressed fear of a potentially dire war between the United States and Iran that for many has been brewing since the 1979 embassy siege in Tehran, but they have also grown accustomed to an American president who often favors bluster over diplomacy as a tool of negotiation, yet ultimately backs down.

They just don't stop trying to goad him, do they?

“If we were to believe everything Trump has said for the past three years, there would have been war with China, North Korea, and Mexico,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic. “The guy’s a joke, he’s not serious. We don’t know if these threats are something to believe in, or just another of his many stunts.”

In Lebanon, Rami G. Khouri, an academic at the American University in Beirut, spoke from his apartment terrace, which looks out over the Mediterranean. “I’m watching for American missiles to come over the horizon,” he said wryly.

In the Qatari capital of Doha, a businessman, Farhad Sayed, had just finished suhoor, his last meal before starting the daily Ramadan fast at dawn. “This may lead to something small,” he said sarcastically.

Yet, beneath the jokes and skepticism lie a festering worry that the escalating showdown could prove the exception to the rule, the moment when President Trump’s tactics accidentally tip the United States — and the Middle East — into an unwanted war.

Yeah, right, we "stumbled into" another misbegotten and "mistaken" war, yuh-huh.

Those tensions are already being felt in parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Early Thursday, huge explosions rocked the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition carried out a wave of airstrikes against targets linked to the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels who control most of northern Yemen.

The airstrikes came two days after the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack on the oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main rival in the region and, with the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the principal supporter of the Trump administration’s ramped-up stance against Iran.

It's pretty clear they control US foreign policy.

Yemen’s Health Ministry said that six people had been killed in Thursday’s airstrikes, among them four children. Houthi officials distributed graphic pictures of bleeding, dust-covered children lying on hospital beds.

At least the Houthis withdrew.

In an editorial published Thursday, Arab News, the main Saudi English language newspaper, said the next strikes should target Tehran.

“Our point of view is that they must be hit hard,” said the newspaper, which often reflects the official Saudi position. “While war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling.”

That's where my print copy stopped meddling. 

The web version added this:

Trump’s approach to Iran, crafted primarily by his hawkish national security adviser, John R. Bolton, is “the only thing he’s gotten 100 percent right,” said Mohammed Alyahya, the editor-in-chief of Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned news channel based in Dubai.

“The Iranians wanted to wait Trump out,” Alyahya said, but when the president reimposed suffocating oil sanctions, “they realized they couldn’t wait. That’s why we are seeing this frenzy of activity in the Gulf.”

“What’s really sickening is seeing people who are advocates for Iran in the West making excuses,” he added, noting Iranian support for President Bashar Assad in Syria. “Some of the things you hear from Trump critics would make a Syrian who lost his family cringe.”

The last thing I want to do is fight a war for the Saudis. They are the Middle East's Italy!

Back to print?

Bruce Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency official now at the Brookings Institution, said Saudi Arabia’s apparent appetite for confrontation with Iran stood in stark contrast to its former leadership.

No such thing.

The previous ruler, King Abdullah, was strongly averse to open conflict, even to the point of obfuscating Iranian responsibility for the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel. (The United States ultimately concluded that Iran was responsible.), but under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi ruler while his aging father sits on the throne, “they like the confrontation,” Riedel said.

In an ominous portent, he said, an animated video appeared online last year depicting the crown prince — often referred to by his initials, MBS — leading a Saudi invasion of Iran. “If that video is any insight into MBS’ thinking, we should all be very worried,” Riedel added.

Uncompromising statements from the White House, and the sudden profusion of incidents like Sunday’s mysterious attack on two Saudi oil tankers, have stoked fears in some quarters that Trump and his aides are trying to gin up a case for war, much as the Bush administration did before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Who helped them do that, NYT?

At the same time, many Arabs feel there is a need to counter Iranian expansionism. Through alliances with local armed groups, or by smuggling weapons and money, Tehran has steadily extended its footprint across the region for the past 15 years. Its arc of influence runs through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen.

“Iran has created the atmosphere for this warmongering,” said Monalisa Freiha, an editor at an-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon, but, she added, she had little faith that Trump’s approach would prove a successful counter to Iranian aggression.

“I don’t see a calculated war on the horizon,” she said. “But miscalculation is possible at any time.”


"Reports: Iran quadruples production of enriched uranium" by Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell Associated Press, May 20, 2019

TEHRAN — Iran quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the United States over Tehran’s atomic program, nuclear officials said Monday, just after President Trump and Iran’s foreign minister traded threats and taunts on Twitter.

Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon, but by increasing production, Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations set by the accord. Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a Middle East already on edge. The Trump administration has deployed bombers and an aircraft carrier to the region over still-unspecified threats from Iran.

Already this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers were damaged in a sabotage attack; Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia; and US diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.

Like what the U.S. did to them in 1988?

Yeah, "Iran is famous for exporting terrorism and fomenting conflict through proxies, so it’s not beyond them to send out false flags....." or so says a a former Globe political reporter who was a senior communications official in the US State Department from 2013 to 2017!

Talk about pot hollering kettle.

A rocket landed Sunday near the US Embassy in the Green Zone of Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, days after nonessential US staff were ordered to evacuate from diplomatic posts in the country. No one was reported injured. Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul told The Associated Press that the rocket was believed to have been fired from eastern Baghdad, an area home to Iran-backed Shiite militias, but while Trump’s approach of flattery and threats has become a hallmark of his foreign policy, the risks have only grown in dealing with Iran, where mistrust between Tehran and Washington stretch back four decades. While both Washington and Tehran say they don’t seek war, many worry any miscalculation could spiral out of control.

The mistrust stretches back longer than that. 

Anyone remember Operation Ajax?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif soon responded by tweeting that Trump had been ‘‘goaded’’ into ‘‘genocidal taunts.’’ Zarif referenced both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan as two historical leaders that Persia outlasted.

Even the Iranians can see what is going on!

‘‘Iranians have stood tall for a millennia while aggressors all gone,’’ he wrote. ‘‘Try respect — it works!’’

Zarif also used the hashtag #NeverThreatenAnIranian.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told journalists in Geneva that Iran should not doubt the US resolve, warning that ‘‘if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate.’’

‘‘We want the situation to deescalate because this is a part of the world where things can get triggered accidentally,’’ Hunt said.

Oh, look, a Brit slinging BS.

Meanwhile, Oman’s minister of state for foreign affairs made a previously unannounced visit Monday to Tehran.

In Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s military intercepted two missiles fired by the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. The missiles were intercepted over the city of Taif and the Red Sea port city of Jiddah, the Saudi-owned satellite channel Al-Arabiya reported, citing witnesses. The Saudi Embassy in Washington later confirmed the interceptions.

Did you see the video?

Hundreds of rockets, mortar rounds, and ballistic missiles have been fired into the kingdom by the rebels since a Saudi-led coalition declared war on the Houthis in March 2015 to support Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel denied that the rebels had any involvement with this round of rocket fire.

Between the two targeted cities is Mecca, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray toward five times a day. Many religious pilgrims are in the city for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.


"Pompeo’s Iran Intelligence Briefing Fails to Reassure Democrats" by Daniel Flatley and Steven T. Dennis Bloomberg News, May 21, 2019

Democrats were still clamoring for answers about US intentions in Iran, even after a closed-door briefing from Trump administration officials about heightened tensions in the region.

What, they didn't get answers from Brennan?

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other intelligence officials spoke with House Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol Tuesday, followed by a separate briefing for senators.

Democrats leaving the briefings characterized them as too-little-too-late and contended that any military action in Iran would require explicit congressional approval.

Will they actually applies the War Powers Act, or back down like usual?

The private sessions came at the request of lawmakers seeking more information on recent US movement in the region, including a carrier strike group deployment and the withdrawal of some diplomatic staff from the Baghdad embassy.

Shanahan characterized the US strategy as defensive and promised to be more responsive to concerns from Congress.

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation,” Shanahan told reporters after the briefing. “We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, it’s not about war.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who generally supports President Trump but had previously complained lawmakers weren’t being briefed adequately on Iran, said that General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has “done a very good job communicating directly and indirectly to the Iranians of the price they will pay” if they attack US military forces.

Democrats said the White House’s hesitation to share information with Congress, which has the constitutional authority to declare war, casts doubt on US intentions in an unstable region that continues to be one of the world’s most complex geopolitical challenges.

Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Iraq, said he was alarmed that White House officials including National Security Adviser John Bolton appear to be pushing for military action in Iran, even if President Trump would prefer to keep his campaign pledge to avoid costly foreign conflicts. Gallego compared current tensions to the run-up to US military action in Iraq in 2003.

“I truly believe that the intel is being misinterpreted and misrepresented by Secretary Pompeo, by Bolton, and other people that do want us to go to war in Iran as a repeat to Iraq,” Gallego said as he left the briefing.

House Foreign Affairs chairman Eliot Engel said there’s widespread concern among Democrats that the administration is rushing into an armed conflict. He said there was nothing new in the intelligence briefing, and said he was concerned about how long it took for Trump administration officials to explain their actions to lawmakers.....

Impeach then, right?


"Bomb-laden drone from Yemen rebels targets Saudi airport" by Jon Gambrell Associated Press, May 21, 2019

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi airport and military base with a bomb-laden drone Tuesday, an assault acknowledged by the kingdom as Middle East tensions remained high between Tehran and Washington. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Will the false flags ever end?

The attack on the Saudi city of Najran came after Iran announced it has quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity, though still at a level far lower than needed for atomic weapons, a year after the United States withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Underlining the tensions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seeking expanded executive powers to better deal with ‘‘economic war’’ triggered by the Trump administration’s renewal and escalation of sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

‘‘A person or a nation might be under pressure, but the Iranian nation will not bow to bullies,’’ Rouhani vowed in a televised speech Tuesday night.

By increasing production, Iran soon will exceed the stockpile limitations set by the nuclear accord. Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to put forth new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a Middle East already on edge. The United States has deployed bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf over still-unspecified threats from Iran, which is the biggest rival in the region to US-allied Saudi Arabia.

Before a briefing on the situation to Congress, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan suggested the US military response to Iranian threats has already had an effect. He said US military moves have given Iran ‘‘time to recalculate,’’ and as a result the potential for attacks on Americans is ‘‘on hold,’’ although the threat has not gone away.

In the drone attack, the Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel said they targeted the airport in Najran with a Qasef-2K drone, striking an ‘‘arms depot.’’ Najran, 525 miles southwest of Riyadh, lies on the Saudi-Yemen border and has repeatedly been targeted by the Houthis.

A statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki as saying the Houthis ‘‘had tried to target’’ a civilian site in Najran, without elaborating.

Al-Maliki warned there would be a ‘‘strong deterrent’’ to such attacks and described the Houthis as the ‘‘terrorist militias of Iran.’’ Similar Houthi attacks have sparked Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen, which have been widely criticized internationally for killing civilians. Civilian airports across the Middle East often host military bases.

The New York Times reported last year that American intelligence analysts were based in Najran, assisting the Saudis and a deployment of US Army Green Berets on the border. Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were ‘‘no US personnel involved nor present at Najran’’ at the time of the attack.

Last week, the Houthis launched a coordinated drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.

Earlier this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers were sabotaged, and US diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran.

In its nuclear program announcement Monday night, Iranian officials stressed that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67 percent limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon.

You need about 90% enrichment for a bomb.

Iran said it had told the International Atomic Energy Agency of the development. The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog did not respond to a request for comment. Tehran long has insisted it does not seek nuclear weapons, though the West fears its program could allow it to build them.

President Trump, who campaigned on a promise to pull the US from the Iran deal, has alternated tough talk with more conciliatory statements — a strategy he says is aimed at keeping Iran guessing at the administration’s intentions. Trump also has said he hopes Iran calls him and engages in negotiations, but while Trump’s approach of flattery and threats has become a hallmark of his foreign policy, the risks have only grown in dealing with Iran, where mistrust between Tehran and Washington goes back four decades. While both sides say they don’t seek war, many worry any miscalculation could spiral out of control. A Trump tweet Monday warning Iran would face its ‘‘official end’’ if it threatened the United States drew sharp rebuke from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter, who used the hashtag #NeverThreatenAnIranian.

In Iran, it remains unclear what powers Rouhani seeks. In Iran’s 1980s war with Iraq, a wartime supreme council was able to bypass other branches to make decisions regarding the economy and the war.

U.S. played both sides in that one.

‘‘Today, we need such powers,’’ Rouhani said, according to IRNA. He added that country ‘‘is united that we should resist the US and the sanctions.’’

Meanwhile, former defense secretary Jim Mattis told an audience in the United Arab Emirates on Monday night that America ‘‘needs to engage more in the world and intervene militarily less.’’ While ‘‘Iran’s behavior must change,’’ he urged Washington not to engage in unilateral action and that American ‘‘military must work to buy time for diplomats to work their magic.’’

‘‘I will assure you no nation will be more honest with you than America,’’ the retired Marine Corps general said, according to a report in the state-linked newspaper The National. ‘‘America will frustrate you at times because of its form of government, but the UAE and America will always find their way back to common ground; on that I have no doubt.’’

Mattis abruptly resigned in December after clashing with Trump over withdrawing troops in Syria. He spoke at a previously unannounced speech before a Ramadan lecture series in honor of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.


"US officials: Plan may send up to 10,000 troops to Mideast" by Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burns Associated Press, May 22, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, US officials said Wednesday.

The officials said no final decision has been made, and it’s not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces. Officials said the move is not in response to any new threat from Iran, but is aimed at reinforcing security in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran.

So all this hullabaloo has been a smokescreen to send more troops?

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced.

Thursday morning’s meeting comes as tensions with Iran continue to simmer, and it wasn’t clear if a decision would be made during the session. Any move to deploy more forces to the Middle East would signal a shift for President Trump, who has repeatedly emphasized the need to reduce America’s troop presence in the region.

US officials have provided few details about possible Iranian threats, but indicated they initially involved missiles loaded onto small Iranian boats. This week officials said the missiles have been taken off the boats near Iran’s shore, but other maritime threats continue.

Sending more troops could also raise questions on Capitol Hill. During back-to-back closed briefings for the House and Senate on Tuesday, defense leaders told congressional officials the United States doesn’t want to go to war with Iran and wants to deescalate the situation.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers the United States is seeking to deter, not provoke, Iran, even while accusing Tehran of threatening US interests in the Mideast. Shanahan told reporters, ‘‘Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.’’

These guys are such goddamn liars!

Many in Congress are skeptical of the administration’s approach to Iran, questioning whether it is responding to significant new Iranian threats or escalating a situation that could lead to war.

Some are sure hoping!

CNN first reported that the Pentagon will brief the White House on a plan that could send thousands of additional US troops to the Middle East.

Air Force Colonel Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.....

But Democratic Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a former CIA officer, did.


Going to have to destabilize Pakistan to do it (does that ever smell like CIA trying to block China's One Road).

"Iran’s foreign minister responds to Trump’s threats amid tensions with US" by Kathy Gannon and Amir Vahdat Associated Press, May 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD — Iran’s foreign minister lashed out at President Trump on Friday during a critically timed visit to Pakistan amid a simmering crisis between Tehran and Washington and ahead of next week’s emergency Arab League meeting called by Saudi Arabia over the region’s tensions.

The remarks by Mohammad Javad Zarif were the latest in a war of words between him and Trump. The Iranian diplomat on Friday assailed the American president for his tweet earlier this week warning Iran not to threaten the US again or it would face its ‘‘official end.’’

Let's all hope it stays that way.

‘‘Iran will see the end of Trump, but he will never see the end of Iran,’’ Zarif was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars new agency as saying during a visit to Islamabad.

Tensions have ratcheted up recently in the Mideast as the White House earlier this month sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the region over a still-unexplained threat it perceived from Iran. On Friday officials said that Trump had decided to deploy about 1,500 additional US troops to the Middle East to provide protection for American service members already there.

They buried that nugget within this article!


"Batali was arraigned as the New York Times reported that Harvey Weinstein and board members of his former film studio, the Weinstein Company, had reached a tentative $44 million agreement to settle lawsuits brought by the New York State attorney general and by women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. Batali and Weinstein are two of a small number of men implicated in the #MeToo movement who have faced criminal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting women."

He must have had a good lawyer to ri$e up after the fall.

The purpose of Zarif’s visit to Pakistan, where he held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and also Prime Minister Imran Khan, was not made public, but there has been speculation that Iran is looking to Islamabad and its close relationship with the Saudis to help de-escalate the situation. In a statement following meetings with Zarif, Khan said ‘‘Pakistan was prepared to use its friendly relations in the region to help lower tensions among brotherly countries and promote peace and stability in the region. . . . War is not a solution to any problem.’’

Good luck with that. 

According to my pre$$, the Saudis are the ones driving this.

Separately, the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Zarif in Islamabad as warning of anarchy if world powers don’t unite to stop what he called US aggression — Iran’s official parlance for Washington’s pressure on Tehran.

Yeah, the US is never aggressive.

The crisis takes root in the steady unraveling of the nuclear deal, intended to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The accord promised economic incentives in exchange for restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year, and subsequently re-imposed and escalated US sanctions on Tehran — sending Iran’s economy into freefall.

Khamenei’s criticism of Zarif signaled a hard-line tilt in how the Islamic Republic will react going forward amid Trump’s maximalist pressure campaign.

Iran declared earlier this month that the remaining signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia — have two months to develop a plan to shield Iran from American sanctions.

On Monday, Iran announced it had quadrupled its production capacity of low-enriched uranium, making it likely that Tehran will soon exceed the stockpile limitations set by the nuclear accord, which would escalate the situation further.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia said Yemen’s Iran-aligned rebels again targeted an airport near its southern border with a bomb-carrying drone. The Saudi military said it intercepted the drone, while the rebel Houthis said it struck a Patriot missile battery at the airport.

Pakistan was quick to condemn the attacks and promised Saudi Arabia, a staunch ally, its full support. With neighboring Iran, Pakistan walks a fine line. Islamabad has little leverage with Washington, although relations between the two have improved since Pakistan expressed readiness to help move talks between the Afghan Taliban and Washington forward.....

Whatever happened to those peace talks (not that I take peace talk in a war pre$$ seriously)?


Thankfully, the US has India’s Watchman to put out any fire.

"Trump to sidestep Congress to clear arms deals benefiting Saudi Arabia, UAE" by Karoun Demirjian Washington Post, May 24, 2019

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified lawmakers Friday that President Trump is invoking his emergency authority to sidestep Congress and complete 22 arms deals that would benefit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries, despite lawmakers’ objections to the transactions.

Both Republicans and Democrats urged the Trump administration this week not to take the rare step of exploiting a legal window to push through deals, worth about $8 billion, according to congressional aides, that lawmakers have blocked from being finalized.

Pompeo’s notification letters effectively give the Trump administration a green light to conclude the sale and transfer of bombs, missile systems, semiautomatic rifles, drones, repair and maintenance services to aid the Saudi air fleet, and a controversial sale of precision-guided munitions that lawmakers fear Saudi Arabia may use against civilians in Yemen’s civil war.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey — the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who had been blocking the precision-guided munitions sale — said in a statement Friday that Trump had ‘‘failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia.’’

Lawmakers have frequently questioned the Trump administration’s approach to national security policy and its track record on human rights. In particular, Trump and Congress have long been at odds over his unapologetic embrace of Saudi leaders.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate voted to end US support for the Saudi-led military coalition operating in Yemen, a move that Trump vetoed, with the support of most of the GOP, but many key Republican lawmakers who balked at curtailing US engagement through a war powers resolution have still advocated halting nondefensive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies until the country does more to improve the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

‘‘There is no new ‘emergency’ reason to sell bombs to the Saudis to drop in Yemen, and doing so only perpetuates the humanitarian crisis there,’’ said Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and one of Congress’ chief advocates for extricating the United States from the Yemen conflict. ‘‘This sets an incredibly dangerous precedent. . . . If we don’t stand up to this abuse of authority, we will permanently box ourselves out of deciding who we should sell weapons to,’’ but it is not clear how lawmakers will try to reassert control over the arms deals or challenge Trump’s authority to assume emergency authority over them. Democrats are hoping that Risch will agree to expedite legislation through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that could stop the contracts before parts and weapons are sent abroad. Barring that, they may try to use funding measures to block completion of the sales by prohibiting federal funds from being used to transfer the weapons.

Lawmakers anticipated that the Trump administration might try to push arms deals benefiting Saudi Arabia through in light of increased tensions with Iran

Is that what all this was about? Ramming through an arms sale?

Earlier this week, Pompeo, acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford, briefed all House and Senate lawmakers on the intelligence behind the administration’s latest moves in the Persian Gulf, arguing they were necessary to respond to latest intelligence showing an increased threat.

Republicans largely endorsed their actions as prudent, while Democrats accused the officials of spinning the evidence to justify a march toward war, expressing consternation that the administration would not consult Congress before taking military action.

Yet the breadth of the Trump administration’s Friday decision, which benefits many more countries than just Iran’s regional rivals like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will probably upset members of both parties, according to congressional aides.

Democratic congressional aides pointed to one transaction in particular — a deal to support manufacturing and production of F-18 combat jets — as particularly disturbing, as Saudi Arabia does not use the F-18; it only helps make them for countries like Israel, India, and South Korea.....


"Iran slams US after Middle East troop buildup is announced" by Palko Karasz New York Times, May 25, 2019

LONDON — Iranian officials lashed out at the United States on Saturday after the Trump administration said it would allow the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan and deploy about 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter Iran.

“If they commit the slightest stupidity, we will send these ships to the bottom of the sea along with their crew and planes using two missiles or two new secret weapons,” General Morteza Qorbani, an adviser to Iran’s military command, told the semiofficial news agency Mizan on Saturday.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also told the state news agency IRNA that the move to send troops to the Middle East was “extremely dangerous and it threatens international peace and security.”

“This should be addressed,” Zarif added.

The pending arms deal had drawn sharp criticism from US lawmakers angry over civilian deaths from the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen. Analysts said that officials in Tehran were likely to see it as a further deterioration in relations between the two countries, already worsening since President Trump’s decision last year to leave the Iran nuclear deal.

In response to that decision, rather than exiting the deal, which is still supported by European nations, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran this month announced a series of small steps to resume nuclear production restricted under the agreement. The White House then announced additional sanctions on Iran’s steel, aluminum, iron, and copper sectors, accounting for 10 percent of the country’s exports.

The US troop increase is far less than the 20,000 forces that United States commanders in the region had sought. It includes 600 troops whose deployments will be extended, alongside 900 being newly sent to the Middle East.

Under White House plans revised after pressure from hard-liners led by John Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, if Iran were to accelerate work on nuclear weapons, defense officials envision sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

Still, Trump — who has been keen to disengage from conflict zones in the Middle East — was seen as unlikely to boost troops by more than 100,000, and Iran tends to exaggerate its successes when it comes to state-of-the art weaponry, according to experts.

Yeah, let's call their bluff!

Amid what many say are echoes of the buildup to the Iraq War in 2003, calls have intensified for Trump to walk away from the prospect of conflict with Iran. Trapped between the United States and trying to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive, European allies have also voiced opposition to a conflict.

And a few days ago, Trump himself sought to put the brakes on open confrontation, telling the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he did not want to go to war with Iran.

The latest surge in tensions comes just more than a week after some small signs of de-escalation. US officials presented evidence that Iran had been removing missiles from small boats, which had been seen as a potential threat to US naval ships in the Persian Gulf and nearby waters, but on Friday, Defense Department officials accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of attacking four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.


They need a New Pearl Harbor again:

"Trump arrives for ceremonial visit to Japan, but Iran and North Korea also loom" by Simon Denyer and Ashley Parker Washington Post, May 25, 2019

TOKYO —  On Saturday, President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said North Korea had clearly violated UN Security Council resolutions by testing short-range ballistic missiles this month. Bolton also said North Korea had not responded to attempts by the United States and South Korea to restart talks after the breakdown of a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in February.

Trump later appeared to contradict Bolton, tweeting, ‘‘North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,’’ but more sensitive could be the issue of Iran, after Trump announced Friday that he would be sending an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East to counter what the administration says are increased threats from Tehran.

Japan has long-standing diplomatic and cultural ties with Iran and opposed the US decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated under the administration of President Barack Obama. On Saturday, Japanese news media said that a plan was being drawn up for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Iran in June to meet President Hassan Rouhani in an attempt to mediate and that this was something Abe would discuss with Trump.

Abe, who first visited Iran with his father in 1983, has maintained close ties with the Iranian leadership since becoming prime minister. The two countries signed an investment agreement in 2016 and are celebrating 90 years of diplomatic engagement this year.

Btw, the Japanese were also provoked into war by U.S. sanctions.

Bolton declined to comment Saturday when asked about possible Japanese mediation. He repeated US accusations that ‘‘Iran and its proxies’’ were behind violent attacks in recent weeks, including on oil tankers and pipelines, adding that the administration is ‘‘very concerned about this level of very dangerous behavior by the Iranian regime.’’

‘‘The way to preserve peace, the way to prevent Iran from taking belligerent steps, is to have a strong American presence in the region,’’ Bolton said.

Bilateral issues are also on the agenda.....


They rolled out the red carpet for him.

"Why are we so fixated on Iran?" by Stephen Kinzer May 24, 2019

The Lobby!

DURING HIS PRESIDENTIAL campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly denounced America’s “forever war” in the greater Middle East. As his principal advisers on world affairs, however, he has chosen some of the most relentless militarists ever to sit at the hand of an American president. How fully he accepts their advice will determine whether the United States launches war against Iran.

Sometimes Trump seems ready to pounce on the Iranians. “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly,” he warned in mid-May. Just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton were licking their fangs, however, Trump took a different tack: “What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me.” A few days later it was back to threats: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”

A perplexing question lies behind America’s renewed march toward war with Iran: how did our hostility become so intense? Iran has been an adversary for decades, but it has done nothing to justify the wild overreaction that is now reaching a new peak. Is the United States still seeking revenge for the overthrow of our Shah in 1979 and the searing hostage crisis that followed? Are we racing to the brink of war because Israel and Saudi Arabia are pushing us? Can we simply not tolerate a mid-sized regional power that refuses to do our bidding?

Whatever the reason, confrontation between the United States and Iran has become a permanent feature of world politics. In recent weeks it has escalated dramatically. The United States has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran and deployed warships and fleets of B-52 bombers near its borders. Never has war between these two countries seemed so terrifyingly close.

Yet this crisis is entirely manufactured. It has little to do with Iran’s behavior, which is no more provocative today than it was a year or a decade ago. Instead it is the product of fevered tempers in Washington. Warnings about new and dangerous threats are based not on Iran’s actions, but rather on the bizarre fixation that might be called Iran Derangement Syndrome. Before warmongers can begin the military conflict they evidently crave, however, they must win a domestic battle. It is not for public support or Congressional approval, neither of which they consider important. Their real battle is for the mind of President Trump.

American allies are desperately trying to push Trump off the warpath. When Pompeo visited Brussels to demand that the European Union support his policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, the EU foreign policy chief replied tartly that a wiser policy would be “maximum restraint.” After US officials warned that Iran is preparing new attacks in the Middle East, the British general who is deputy commander of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS scoffed and said, “No, there has been no increased threat.” Spain pulled its warship out of the flotilla that is being deployed to the Persian Gulf, arguing that it never signed on to the anti-Iran project. “When I see that there is a deviation from the agreement,” the Spanish defense minister explained, “I feel it is better to suspend it temporarily.”

All parties to this intensifying crisis agree that one result is likely to be great human suffering in Iran. Some find it awful that the United States is intentionally inflicting harm on millions of ordinary Iranians. Others cheer, hoping that misery will lead to rebellion. Even those who relish the thought of mass unemployment in Iran and are delighted by the prospect of Iranian children dying for lack of medicine, however, should recognize the strategic damage the United States would do to itself by launching a war against Iran. American forces could win short-term victory, but the real winners would be Russia and China.

One of Russia’s key foreign policy objectives is to drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies. War with Iran would do more to promote that breach than anything Vladimir Putin could do on his own.

Looks like we are doing it for them, but after NATO attacks the Russians they will be sidelined.

As for China, it has not fought a single war during the decades when the United States has wreaked bloody havoc across Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. An American attack on Iran would make the Chinese model — project power by peaceful means rather than war — seem far preferable to the American one. It would be a rich geopolitical gift to Moscow and Beijing.

The Chinese are readying their population for the offensive by showing them war movie propaganda.

If President Trump is seriously looking for an off-ramp on the road to war, it is available. Under the right conditions, Iranian leaders might respond to his invitation to “call me.” That would require the United States to retreat from its over-the-top demand that the Islamic Republic effectively liquidate itself and kneel before American power. Instead we should offer proposals that could be the basis for serious negotiation.

Iran and the United States have caused each other great harm over the last 40 years. Both have squandered opportunities for reconciliation. Yet Iran’s central strategic goal — crushing the head-chopping death cults that have metastasized across the Middle East — is more in line with American interests than are the strategic goals of our so-called allies in that region. In Iran, more than anywhere else in the world, Trump has the chance to fulfill his campaign promise to break with the paradigm of Mideast conflict. He can do it by abandoning maximalist demands and allowing reason to outweigh the emotional drive to war.


Btw, where are the Palestinians in all this?


"Members of both parties criticized President Trump’s handling of North Korea on Sunday after the president tweeted that he has ‘‘confidence’’ in Kim Jong Un and quoted North Korean state-run media’s assessment that former vice president Joe Biden is a ‘‘low IQ individual.’’ Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, a military veteran who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cited the Memorial Day holiday in taking issue with Trump’s message. ‘‘It’s Memorial Day Weekend and you’re taking a shot at Biden while praising a dictator,’’ Kinzinger tweeted. ‘‘This is just plain wrong.’’ Another Republican, Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, said she ‘‘certainly wouldn’t trust’’ Kim. Ernst, who is also a veteran and serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she was disturbed by North Korea’s recent missile test and by Trump’s reaction. ‘‘I think Japan does have reason to be concerned, and I am concerned as well,’’ she said on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’ The issue arose after Trump, who is on a state visit to Japan, tweeted that North Korea’s recent missile tests were not of concern, contradicting a recent statement by national security adviser John Bolton. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the president’s comments. In an appearance on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press,’’ Sanders was asked by Chuck Todd whether Americans should ‘‘be concerned that the president of United States is essentially siding with a murderous, authoritarian dictator over a former vice president in the United States.’’

What a loaded question that is, and the same could be said for the Saudi Arabian ally, Chuck!

Yeah, “hopefully, politicians can do something to fix the system that’s broken.” 

They could begin by not starting any more wars!

"Trump opens Tokyo visit with a tweet sure to unnerve the Japanese" by Annie Karni and Katie Rogers New York Times, May 26, 2019

TOKYO — President Trump kicked off the first full day of a state visit to Japan on Sunday by playing down North Korea’s recent tests of short-range ballistic missiles, undercutting declarations by both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the president’s own national security adviser that the launches violated United Nations resolutions.

As he opened a four-day visit that will focus on security, diplomacy and trade — and is filled with flourishes designed to please Trump and highlight the close ties between the two leaders — the president appeared to risk ratcheting up Japanese anxiety that any nuclear agreement with North Korea could neglect their concerns.

On Saturday, John R. Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, also told reporters in Tokyo that the North Korean missile tests violated UN Security Council resolutions.

“I think the prime minister and president are going to talk about making sure the integrity of the Security Council resolutions are maintained,” Bolton said, referring to meetings between Abe and Trump scheduled for Monday.


This is a guy who is notorious for saying the U.N. could lose ten floors and it wouldn't matter!

Apparently, it is nothing but a tool to be used when necessary and discarded otherwise!

What an asshole!

Bolton also expressed support for the idea of a summit between Abe and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, which the Japanese leader has said he would pursue without preconditions, but the North Korean leader has so far expressed no interest in a meeting with Abe.

Trump’s remarks Sunday were not the first time he has appeared to undercut Bolton, who often briefs reporters on the administration’s hard-line stances on geopolitical powder kegs like Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, only to find the president walking back his assertions soon after. The two men in recent weeks have also clashed on the administration’s handling of Iran and policy in the Middle East.

“I’m the one who tempers him,” Trump said this month when reporters asked whether he and his national security adviser were aligned on international affairs.

Is that supposed to put me at ease?

Trump, despite the advice of some of his top aides, has banked on the notion that his personal rapport with Kim, one of the world’s most brutal dictators, can get him a nuclear disarmament deal that has eluded past presidents. While North Korea has continued to abide by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests, it has again started making provocative moves like the missile tests this month.

In his tweet Sunday, Trump seemed to take delight in North Korea’s scathing response to a comment last week by former Vice President Joe Biden — the Democratic presidential candidate the president is most concerned about — that branded Kim a “tyrant.”

Trump said he had smiled when the North Koreans “called Swampman Joe Bidan a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?” Trump misspelled Biden’s name in the tweet, though it was corrected in a later message.

For his part, Abe has bet on maintaining a close relationship with the American president in order to mitigate the North Korean danger and ward off a threat from the Trump administration to impose stiff auto tariffs.

If the president’s soft stance on Kim rattled Abe, it did not show when the two leaders met Sunday. As the pair began their round of golf at a country club in Chiba Prefecture, they posed for a smiling selfie that was posted on Abe’s Twitter account.

The local media has covered the visit breathlessly, reserving special interest for a trophy that Trump planned to present at a sumo tournament Sunday evening. The object, 4 feet tall and weighing 60 pounds, is being called the President’s Cup.....


"Iraq offers to mediate in crisis between its allies Iran, US" by Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Nasser Karimi Associated Press, May 26, 2019

BAGHDAD — Iraq offered Sunday to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.

Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed al-Hakim, made the offer during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

‘‘We are trying to help and to be mediators,’’ said Hakim, adding that Baghdad ‘‘will work to reach a satisfactory solution’’ while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.

In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran. The United States also plans to send 900 troops in addition to the 600 already in the Mideast, who will extend their stay.

The crisis stems from President Trump’s withdrawal last year of America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return for lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently reimposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.

Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the United States says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both US regional bases and Israel.

Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran ‘‘did not violate the nuclear deal’’ and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the US pullout.

Been certified about 14 times, too.

Speaking about the rising tensions with the United States, Zarif said Iran will be able to ‘‘face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.’’ He also urged for a nonaggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.

Shi’ite-majority Iraq has been trying to maintain a fine line as allies in Tehran and Washington descended into verbal vitriol. The country also lies on the fault line between Shi’ite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world, led by powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and has long been a battlefield in which the Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional supremacy played out.

The mediation offer by Hakim echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad al-Halbousi, the Iraqi Parliament speaker. Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.

Iranians make up the bulk of millions of Shi’ites from around the world who come to Iraq every year to visit its many Shi’ite shrines and holy places and their purchasing power has slumped after Trump reimposed the sanctions.

‘‘The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,’’ Hakim said.

So who is driving and benefits from the Sunni-Shiite schism?

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested the Islamic Republic could hold a referendum over its nuclear program. The official IRNA news agency said Rouhani, who was last week publicly chastised by the country’s supreme leader, made the suggestion in a meeting with editors of major Iranian news outlets on Saturday evening.

Rouhani said he had previously suggested a referendum to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2004, when Rouhani was a senior nuclear negotiator for Iran.

At the time, Khamenei approved of the idea and though there was no referendum, such a vote ‘‘can be a solution at any time,’’ Rouhani was quoted as saying.

A referendum could provide political cover for the Iranian government if it chooses to increase its enrichment of uranium, prohibited under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Earlier last week, Iran said it quadrupled its uranium enrichment production capacity, though Iranian officials stressed that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67 percent limit set under the deal, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon.

Is there any Middle East power that does have a nuclear weapon, and how did they get it?

Rouhani’s remarks could also be seen as a defense of his stance following the rare public chastising by the supreme leader.

Khamenei last week named Rouhani and Zarif — relative moderates within Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy who had struck the nuclear deal — as failing to implement his orders over the accord, saying it had ‘‘numerous ambiguities and structural weaknesses’’ that could damage Iran.

Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran, did not immediately respond to Rouhani’s proposal of a referendum. The Islamic Republic has seen only three referendums since it was established in 1979 — one on regime change from monarchy to Islamic republic and two on its constitution and its amendments.

Also in Tehran, acting commander of the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said any negotiations with the United States would be fruitless. General Ali Fadavi said it would be like having ‘‘negotiations with Satan.’’

I can't imagine why they would feel that way.