Syria Eight Years Later

https://i0.wp.com/www.granma.cu/file/img/2019/03/medium/f0132727.jpg96% of Syrian territory is under the control of the Armed Forces and the national government. One and a half million of those who had to leave the country due to the war, have now returned and begin normal life and the colossal task of reconstruction in a nation devastated by shrapnel, both from the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State and Al Nusra Front, and from the US air force that still continues bombing operations and maintains troops at illegal bases in the Arab state.

That is the situation until this March 15, the eighth anniversary of an externally imposed war.

Preliminary accounts of the injuries caused there indicate that more than 360 000 people have died and several million have been displaced or have had to emigrate. An estimated 1 106 children died in 2018 alone, according to UNICEF data.

A report from the UN agency said: “People believe that the conflict is ending, but many children remain as exposed to danger as at any time in the past eight years”.

Material losses in excess of $400 billion and a reconstruction of the country, which, according to the UN, will need $250 billion, is part of the Arab nation’s landscape today.

But the international community must be aware that there are two wars against Syria: that of the terrorists of the Islamic State and Al Nusra Front, supported by the United States with money and weapons, and the bombing of U.S. planes that continue to cause deaths of hundreds of civilians, mostly children and women, as well as major material destruction.

On the eve of the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the war, units of the Syrian Army discovered and exposed before the world the most varied armaments that have been seized and that have the label of origin of the United States and Israel.

This week also saw the deaths of 50 Syrian civilians in a new massacre by U.S. fighters in the Deir Ezzor region.

In late January, the U.S. Department of Defense admitted that some 1,190 civilians lost their lives in coalition attacks in Syria and Iraq over the past three and a half years; however, human rights bodies report a much higher number.

It is curious that, while Trump talks about the triumph of his forces against the “terrorists”, the only territories where the few remaining pockets are grouped together are located in areas protected by US military and aviation bases, which illegally entered Syrian territory.

And although Trump had recently announced that his troops would leave the Arab nation, the opposite has happened. Even John Bolton, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, told ABC News that “he hoped that the British and French allies would join Washington’s efforts”.

Translation by Internationalist 360°

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Is a War With Iran on the Horizon?

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ICH

The Trump Administration Is Reckless Enough to Turn the Cold War With Iran Into a Hot One

By Bob Dreyfuss

March 12, 2019 “Information Clearing House” – Here’s the foreign policy question of questions in 2019: Are President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all severely weakened at home and with few allies abroad, reckless enough to set off a war with Iran? Could military actions designed to be limited — say, a heightening of the Israeli bombing of Iranian forces inside Syria, or possible U.S. cross-border attacks from Iraq, or a clash between American and Iranian naval ships in the Persian Gulf — trigger a wider war?

Worryingly, the answers are: yes and yes. Even though Western Europe has lined up in opposition to any future conflict with Iran, even though Russia and China would rail against it, even though most Washington foreign policy experts would be horrified by the outbreak of such a war, it could happen.

Despite growing Trump administration tensions with Venezuela and even with North Korea, Iran is the likeliest spot for Washington’s next shooting war. Years of politically charged anti-Iranian vituperation might blow up in the faces of President Trump and his two most hawkish aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, setting off a conflict with potentially catastrophic implications.

Such a war could quickly spread across much of the Middle East, not just to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the region’s two major anti-Iranian powers, but Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the various Persian Gulf states. It might indeed be, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested last year (unconsciously echoing Iran’s former enemy, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein) the “mother of all wars.”

With Bolton and Pompeo, both well-known Iranophobes, in the driver’s seat, few restraints remain on President Trump when it comes to that country. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, President Trump’s former favorite generals who had urged caution, are no longer around. And though the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution last month calling for the United States to return to the nuclear agreement that President Obama signed, there are still a significant number of congressional Democrats who believe that Iran is a major threat to U.S. interests in the region.

During the Obama years, it was de rigueur for Democrats to support the president’s conclusion that Iran was a prime state sponsor of terrorism and should be treated accordingly. And the congressional Democrats now leading the party on foreign policy — Eliot Engel, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, the two ranking Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — were opponents of the 2015 nuclear accord (though all three now claim to havechanged their minds).

Deadly Flashpoints for a Future War

On the roller coaster ride that is Donald Trump’s foreign policy, it’s hard to discern what’s real and what isn’t, what’s rhetoric and what’s not. When it comes to Iran, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo aren’t planning an updated version of the unilateral invasion of Iraq that President George W. Bush launched in the spring of 2003.

Yet by openly calling for the toppling of the government in Tehran, by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and reimposing onerous sanctions to cripple that country’s economy, by encouraging Iranians to rise up in revolt, by overtly supporting various exile groups (and perhaps covertly even terrorists), and by joining with Israel and Saudi Arabia in an informal anti-Iranian alliance, the three of them are clearly attempting to force the collapse of the Iranian regime, which just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

There are three potential flashpoints where limited skirmishes, were they to break out, could quickly escalate into a major shooting war.

The first is in Syria and Lebanon. Iran is deeply involved in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who only recently returned from a visit to Tehran) and closely allied with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite political party with a potent paramilitary arm. Weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu openly boasted that his country’s air force had successfully taken out Iranian targets in Syria. In fact, little noticed here, dozens of such strikes have taken place for more than a year, with mounting Iranian casualties.

Until now, the Iranian leadership has avoided a direct response that would heighten the confrontation with Israel, just as it has avoided unleashing Hezbollah, a well-armed, battle-tested proxy force.  That could, however, change if the hardliners in Iran decided to retaliate. Should this simmering conflict explode, does anyone doubt that President Trump would soon join the fray on Israel’s side or that congressional Democrats would quickly succumb to the administration’s calls to back the Jewish state?

Next, consider Iraq as a possible flashpoint for conflict. In February, a blustery Trump told CBS’s Face the Nation that he intends to keep U.S. forces in Iraq “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is the real problem.” His comments did not exactly go over well with the Iraqi political class, since many of that country’s parties and militias are backed by Iran.

Trump’s declaration followed a Wall Street Journal report late last year that Bolton had asked the Pentagon — over the opposition of various generals and then-Secretary of Defense Mattis — to prepare options for “retaliatory strikes” against Iran. This roughly coincided with a couple of small rocket attacks against Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and the airport in Basra, Iraq’s Persian Gulf port city, neither of which caused any casualties.  Writing in Foreign Affairs, however, Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks, which he called “life-threatening,” adding, “Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxies it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.” No “retaliatory strikes” were launched, but plans do undoubtedly now exist for them and it’s not hard to imagine Bolton and Pompeo persuading Trump to go ahead and use them — with incalculable consequences.

Finally, there’s the Persian Gulf itself. Ever since the George W. Bush years, the U.S. Navy has worried about possible clashes with Iran’s naval forces in those waters and there have been a number of high-profile incidents. The Obama administration tried (but failed) to establish a hotline of sorts that would have linked U.S. and Iranian naval commanders and so made it easier to defuse any such incident, an initiative championed by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, a longtime opponent of war with Iran.

Under Trump, however, all bets are off. Last year, he requested that Mattis prepare plans to blow up Iran’s “fast boats,” small gunboats in the Gulf, reportedly asking, “Why don’t we sink them?” He’s already reinforced the U.S. naval presence there, getting Iran’s attention. Not surprisingly, the Iranian leadership has responded in kind. Earlier this year, President Hassan Rouhaniannounced that his country had developed submarines capable of launching cruise missiles against naval targets.  The Iranians also began a series of Persian Gulf war games and, in late February, test fired one of those sub-launched missiles.

Add in one more thing: in an eerie replay of a key argument George Bush and Dick Cheney used for going to war with Iraq in 2003, in mid-February the right-wing media outlet Washington Times ran an “exclusive” report with this headline: “Iran-Al Qaeda Alliance may provide legal rationale for U.S. military strikes.”

Back in 2002, the Office of Special Plans at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, under the supervision of neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, spent months trying to prove that al-Qaeda and Iraq were in league. The Washington Times piece, citing Trump administration sources, made a similar claim — that Iran is now aiding and abetting al-Qaeda with a “clandestine sanctuary to funnel fighters, money, and weapons across the Middle East.”  It added that the administration is seeking to use this information to establish “a potential legal justification for military strikes against Iran or its proxies.” Needless to say, few are the terrorism experts or Iran specialists who would agree that Iran has anything like an active relationship with al-Qaeda.

Will the Hardliners Triumph in Iran as in Washington?

The Trump administration is, in fact, experiencing increasing difficulty finding allies ready to join a new Coalition of the Willing to confront Iran. The only two charter members so far, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are, however, enthusiastic indeed. Last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu was heard remarking that Israel and its Arab allies want war with Iran.

At a less-than-successful mid-February summit meeting Washington organized in Warsaw, Poland, to recruit world leaders for a future crusade against Iran, Netanyahu was heard to say in Hebrew: “This is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” (He later insisted that the correct translation should have been “combating Iran,” but the damage had already been done.)

That Warsaw summit was explicitly designed to build an anti-Iranian coalition, but many of America’s allies, staunchly opposing Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord, would have nothing to do with it. In an effort to mollify the Europeans, in particular, the United States and Poland awkwardly renamed it: “The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.”

The name change, however, fooled no one. As a result, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo were embarrassed by a series of no-shows: the French, the Germans, and the European Union, among others, flatly declined to send ministerial-level representatives, letting their ambassadors in Warsaw stand in for them.  The many Arab nations not in thrall to Saudi Arabia similarly sent only low-level delegations. Turkey and Russia boycotted altogether, convening a summit of their own in which Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Iran’s Rouhani.

Never the smoothest diplomat, Pence condemned, insulted, and vilified the Europeans for refusing to go along with Washington’s wrecking-ball approach. He began his speech to the conference by saying: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” He then launched a direct attack on Europe’s efforts to preserve that accord by seeking a way around the sanctions Washington had re-imposed: “Sadly, some of our leading European partners… have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions. We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

That blast at the European allies should certainly have brought to mind Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s disparaging comments in early 2003 about Germany and France, in particular, being leaders of the “old Europe.” Few allies then backed Washington’s invasion plans, which, of course, didn’t prevent war. Europe’s reluctance now isn’t likely to prove much of a deterrent either.

But Pence is right that the Europeans have taken steps to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In particular, they’ve created a “special purpose vehicle” known as INSTEX (Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges) designed “to support legitimate trade with Iran,” according to a statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Great Britain. It’s potentially a big deal and, as Pence noted, explicitly designed to circumvent the sanctions Washington imposed on Iran after Trump’s break with the JCPOA.

INSTEX has a political purpose, too. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA was a body blow to President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and other centrists in Tehran who had taken credit for, and pride in, the deal between Iran and the six world powers (the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China) that signed the agreement. That deal had been welcomed in Iran in part because it seemed to ensure that country’s ability to expand its trade to the rest of the world, including its oil exports, free of sanctions.

Even before Trump abandoned the deal, however, Iran was already finding U.S. pressure overwhelming and, for the average Iranian, things hadn’t improved in any significant way. Worse yet, in the past year the economy had taken a nosedive, the currency hadplungedinflation was running rampant, and strikes and street demonstrations had broken out, challenging the government and its clerical leadership. Chants of “Death to the Dictator!” — not heard since the Green Movement’s revolt against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection in 2009 — once again resounded in street demonstrations.

At the end of February, it seemed as if Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo had scored a dangerous victory when Zarif, Iran’s well-known, Western-oriented foreign minister, announced his resignation. Moderates who supported the JCPOA, including Rouhani and Zarif, have been under attack from the country’s hardliners since Trump’s pullout.  As a result, Zarif’s decision was widely assumed to be a worrisome sign that those hardliners had claimed their first victim.

There was even unfounded speculation that, without Zarif, who had worked tirelessly with the Europeans to preserve what was left of the nuclear pact, Iran itself might abandon the accord and resume its nuclear program. And there’s no question that the actions and statements of Bolton, Pompeo, and crew have undermined Iran’s moderates, while emboldening its hardliners, who are making I-told-you-so arguments to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

Despite the internal pressure on Zarif, however, his resignation proved short-lived indeed: Rouhani rejected it, and there was an upsurge of support for him in Iran’s parliament. Even General Qassem Soleimani, a major figure in that country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the commander of the Quds Force, backed him. As it happens, the Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC, is responsible for Iran’s paramilitary and foreign intelligence operations throughout the region, but especially in Iraq and Syria. That role has allowed Soleimani to assume responsibility for much of Iran’s foreign policy in the region, making him a formidable rival to Zarif — a tension that undoubtedly contributed to his brief resignation and it isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon.

According to analysts and commentators, it appears to have been a ploy by Zarif (and perhaps Rouhani, too) to win a vote of political confidence and it appears to have strengthened their hand for the time being.

Still, the Zarif resignation crisis threw into stark relief the deep tensions within Iranian politics and raised a key question: As the Trump administration accelerates its efforts to seek a confrontation, will they find an echo among Iranian hardliners who’d like nothing more than a face-off with the United States?

Maybe that’s exactly what Bolton and Pompeo want.  If so, prepare yourself: another American war unlikely to work out the way anyone in Washington dreams is on the horizon.

Bob Dreyfuss, an investigative journalist and TomDispatch regular, is the founder of TheDreyfussReport.com. He is a contributing editor at the Nation, and he has written for Rolling StoneMother Jones, the American Prospect, the New Republic, and many other magazines. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Bob Dreyfuss

 

FULL PRICE PLUS 50% OR MORE: TRUMP SEEKS FINANCIAL COMPENSATIONS FROM FROM NATIONS HOSTING U.S. TROOPS

South Front

09.03.2019

Full Price Plus 50% Or More: Trump Seeks Financial Compensations From From Nations Hosting U.S. Troops

The Trump administration is drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other nation hosting US troops pay the full price of US soldiers deployed on their soil – plus 50% or more for the privilege of hosting them, according to multiple reports in US media citin various anonymous officials and ‘informed sources’.

According to repots, in some cases, nations hosting US troops could be asked to pay 5 to 6 times as much as they do now under the “Cost Plus 50” formula.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, just stated that because of me NATO has been able to raise far more money than ever before from its members after many years of decline. It’s called burden sharing. Also, more united. Dems & Fake News like to portray the opposite!

41.5K people are talking about this

“Trump has championed the idea for months. His insistence on it almost derailed recent talks with South Korea over the status of 28,000 US troops in the country when he overruled his negotiators with a note to National Security Advisor John Bolton saying, “We want cost plus 50.”

The president’s team sees the move as one way to prod Nato partners into accelerating increases in defence spending – an issue Trump has hammered allies about since taking office. While Trump claims his pressure has led to billions of dollars more in allied defence spending, he’s chafed at what he sees as the slow pace of increases.

“Wealthy, wealthy countries that we’re protecting are all under notice,” Trump said in a speech at the Pentagon on Jan 17. “We cannot be the fools for others.”

Officials caution that the idea is one of many under consideration as the US presses allies to pay more, and it may be toned down. Yet even at this early stage, it has sent shock waves through the departments of Defence and State, where officials fear it will be an especially large affront to stalwart US allies in Asia and Europe already questioning the depth of Trump’s commitment to them,” The Straits Times reported on the issue.

So far, Trump’s idea to raise funds from US allies have faced a large wave of criticism in the mainstream media. The common argument is that this move would demonstrate a lack of “commitment” to US allies in Europe and Asia. On the other hand, this move seems logical in the framework of the Trump-delcared strategy to strengthen the US national industry, including the military industrial complex. The Trump administration is not going to abandon US military infrastructure around the world, but it does not want to pay for it as much as it does.

From the European perspective, all EU nations, which have been for a long time exploiting the US military presence as a political tool to justiy a low-scale military spending, this could be seen as an “unfriendly” move. They get used to the fact that the US takes a military spending burden off their back thus buying their loyality.

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It Is israel (apartheid state), Not Russia, That Interferes in US Political Life

It Is Israel, Not Russia, That Interferes in US Political Life

Paul Craig Roberts — paulcraigroberts.org March 7, 2019

Who Does Congress Represent?

Ilhan Omar is a brave woman.  She has embarrassed the corrupt Democratic Party that, together with the Republicans and many evangelical Christians, have sold out America to Israel.

More and more people have come out in her defense, refusing to be silenced by the criminal state of Israel.  Dr. Paul Kindlon explains what is at stake.

He accuses Congress of Treason if Congress legislates at the Israel Lobby’s insistence the death of the First Amendment.  Enough members of the House and Senate have been purchased by the Israel Lobby that the traitors will sell out the US Constitution for Israel’s interests if they can get away with it.

I Accuse Congress of Treason

Dr. Paul Kindlon

Let us be clear…the U.S. Congressional vote condemning criticism of Israel as a form of anti-Semitism – if it passes – will be an act of treachery of historical proportions. Do not be fooled – this is a move by politicians in the pocket of a foreign power to make censorship legal, ending two-hundred plus years of freedom of speech in our country.

I accuse the Congressional representatives who will vote for this resolution of being un-American and of spitting in the face of the founding fathers. It will truly be a dark day in our nation’s history and those responsible will be condemned and held in utter contempt by posterity.

I accuse the Congressional members who vote for this resolution to be traitors to their country and heritage. Men and women who knowingly, willingly and perversely trample upon our sacred first amendment – that uniquely democratic principle that has inspired so many countries to emulate us in order to enjoy the freedom to speak openly and freely.

I accuse the mainstream, corporate, media of aiding and abetting this crime against American democracy. Of turning its back on professional standards and practice. Presenting straight-forward news and balanced reporting have been abandoned because it makes far less money than providing PR and low-level entertainment. It’s all about the Benjamins and humiliating subservience to a foreign government.

I accuse the mainstream media of going tabloid, desecrating the cherished values of past journalists who stood for honesty and objectivity. Journalists who questioned authority and who did not kow-tow to power the way modern day fake journalists do. Like those perfidious members of Congress with fingers poised over the Yea button, these so – called journalists are traitors, as well.

I also accuse the Israeli government of undermining American democracy and weakening our civic society. For it is Israel – not Russia – that has meddled in our political process through AIPAC for many years. By doing so, Israel has acted in a duplicitous manner violating the trust of Americans who have so generously aided Israel for decades. Millions have fretted over the possibility that one powerful member of our government may be working in the interests of a foreign power, not realizing that literally hundreds of key government officials have been putting the interests of Israel over and above the interests of America and its citizens and are preparing to do so again.

And finally…I accuse the American public of being too passive in the face of such treacherous behavior from politicians and journalists who are bringing America straight down into the muck and mire of lies, greed and hypocrisy. The situation is dire. We know who the guilty parties are among us. The question is: what shall be done to punish those who are venal mercenaries –those politicians and journalists who will sell out their own country for thirty pieces of silver?

https://russia-insider.com/en/i-accuse-congress-treason-if-they-vote-yea-anti-semitism-question/ri26488

See also:

Congress Criticizes Ihlan Omar but Remains Silent About Israel’s Violence Against Palestinians

The obsession with US Congresswoman Ihlan Omar’s criticism of Israeli influence over American politics really is unique. And what makes this debate genuinely immoral is that it focuses on Omar’s words but ignores the killing and oppression of Palestinian civilians by Israel.

The Minnesota Congresswoman has been pilloried over the past few weeks for criticising members of Congress who take money from pro-Israel Political Action Committees (PACs) in exchange for political support for Israeli policies. Omar has also highlighted the ugly tendency for many pro-Israel activists and politicians to have an apparently greater loyalty to Israel, a foreign country, than they do to the United States.

As a journalist for nearly half century, I know it is a reality that PACs donate millions to congressmen and women specifically to influence their votes. So why is Omar’s legitimate criticism of donations by supporters of a foreign country, Israel, denounced viciously by Republicans and Democrats alike as an “an anti-Semitic trope”? This is the quid-pro-quo: literally, “something for something”. Translated from Latin into US politics it comes up as, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.

As I have written before, pro-Israel activists and the Congressmen and women they “buy” with their PAC donations have weaponised anti-Semitism, turning it into a political bludgeon rather than trying to suppress the racist hatred of Jews, although Arabs are Semites, too, by the way.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190307-congress-criticises-ihlan-omars-words-but-remains-silent-about-israels-violence/

And this:

American Jews, including prominent figures like Naomi Klein, have signed an open letter in support of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

The letter states that she has been “falsely accused of antisemitism” and that there was nothing anti-Semitic about calling out the “noxious” role of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in American politics.

It went on to say that “The pro-Israel lobby has played an outsized role in producing nearly unanimous congressional support for Israel.”

The letter finished by saying “We thank Ilhan Omar for having the bravery to shake up the congressional taboo against criticizing Israel. As Jews with a long tradition of social justice and anti-racism, AIPAC does not represent us.” and called on other Jews to sign the letter.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190306-in-open-letter-jewish-americans-come-out-in-support-of-ilhan-omar/

Source

Trump Is Barreling Toward War with Iran, Congress Must Act To Stop

By Tom Udall, Richard J. Durbin**, The Washington Post

Sixteen years after the US invasion of Iraq, we are again barreling toward another unnecessary conflict in the Middle East based on faulty and misleading logic.

The Trump administration’s Iran policy, built on the ashes of the failed Iraq strategy, is pushing us to take military action aimed at regime change in Tehran. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past, and Congress must act urgently to ensure that.

Similar to the George W. Bush administration’s justification for the war in Iraq, the Trump administration has presented the false narratives that Iran is not meeting its obligations under the nuclear deal, and that it is somehow partially responsible for the rise of Daesh [the Arabic acronym for terrorist ‘ISIS/ISIL’ group] in Syria. It’s true that the leaders of Iran are deeply problematic. But if this were enough to justify war, other regimes in the region would also be in the United States’ crosshairs, instead of being recipients of US military aid.

On the heels of the recent Middle East summit in Warsaw, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ‘Israeli’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no effort to hide their intentions. “You can’t achieve stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran,” Pompeo said. “It’s just not possible.” Netanyahu remarked that the participating nations were “sitting down together with ‘Israel’ in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.”

The Trump administration has also been attempting to create a strong link between al-Qaeda and Iran — based on vague suggestions, but no hard evidence. There is speculation that administration officials are considering striking Iranian territory or its proxies, using the al-Qaeda narrative to claim legal authority for military action under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force — the same authorization used to launch the Afghanistan war, now in its 18th year.

Before we embark on another irresponsible and costly war, we have the benefit of hindsight. We must heed the lessons of history, and Congress must exercise its constitutional authority to counter the president’s reckless march toward war with Iran. Congress alone has the authority to declare war — not the president. Congress must make clear to the president that the United States will not enter another conflict in the Middle East without its approval. It is up to Congress to end the growing threat of a national security calamity, return our country to diplomacy and rebuild international trust in US foreign policy.

That’s a tall order. While Iran is no innocent actor, the Trump administration’s policies and pronouncements have only increased tensions in the region. Ever since President Trump churlishly withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, the president has engaged in saber-rattling rhetoric meant to accelerate hostility. Today, the United States stands alone in breach of the agreement, bullying friends and foes alike with threats and sanctions. The lasting damage to our global standing has left us isolated with little opportunity to lead.

Nowhere was this new reality more evident than at the Warsaw summit. The gathering accomplished little of substance but did expose mounting frustrations among the international community with the Trump administration’s unilateral policymaking approach. In a sign of Trump’s waning influence abroad, key members of the Iran nuclear deal — including France, Germany, the European Union, Russia and China — sent junior diplomats or did not participate, despite the attendance of both Pompeo and Vice President Pence.

The administration’s foreign policy apparatus is steered by two committed advocates of virtually unchecked interventionism. First, there is Pompeo, whose belligerent speech after the US withdrawal from the Iran deal was a thinly veiled attempt to set the stage for military action.

Second, there is national security adviser John Bolton, a far-right proponent of regime change who, for years, has been clamoring to go to war with Iran. Their machinations have empowered Trump’s most dangerous instincts even as he attempts to draw down US forces from Afghanistan and Syria. In 2002, President George W. Bush got congressional approval for the Iraq War, but Trump and his cadre of hawkish advisers are now inching us closer to an illegal war without constitutional authority or backing from the UN Security Council.

That’s why we plan to soon reintroduce draft legislation by a bipartisan group of senators that would restrict any funds from being spent on an unconstitutional attack against Iran. Our Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act would rebuke Iran while affirming congressional war powers and preventing the president from dragging us into another needless conflict.

Unless we demand that Congress act immediately and decisively to block the president’s path to war, we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past. Once again, we would all pay the price.

**Tom Udall, a Democrat, represents New Mexico in the US Senate. Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat, represents Illinois in the US Senate.

Sorry Mr. Pence, the Venezuelan Military Aren’t Rubes

Sorry Mr. Pence, the Venezuelan Military Aren’t Rubes

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 04.03.2019

Sorry Mr. Pence, the Venezuelan Military Aren’t Rubes

Jim CAREY

Here’s a message to Vice-President Piss, his freak family, Elliott Abrams and the rest of Washington: the Venezuelan military isn’t f*cking stupid.

Last weekend we saw an attempted coup in Venezuela by the US along with local lunatic/self-proclaimed “President” Juan Guaidó. This time, rather than just burning people alive in Caracas, the opposition started their stunt at the Colombian border.

The intent of this stunt was to highlight how the actual Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro refuses to let in “aid” from the United States. This is the same type of “aid” from the earlier stunt by the Trump regime that even the Red Cross and UN have called bullshit.

The plan this weekend was to give Maduro and ultimatum: either let in the aid, or the US will do something; although it’s still not clear what with even the bloated tumor Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has said he’s not interested in any military operations launched from his country.

We all know that this coup attempt by the US and Guaidó failed because we all saw the anti-Maduro thugs on the Colombia-Venezuela border throw a tantrum when they realized their error. Once these CIA stooges realized the trucks of aid weren’t crossing the border they just decided to burn them and blame it on Maduro (which has also failed).

But why did it fail?

In the weeks leading up to the latest coup, multiple US officials spoke publicly (and privately) to members of the Venezuelan military urging them to turn on the Bolivarian Revolution. For the sake of simplifying this argument, let’s focus in particular on the promises made by the Vice President of the US, Mike Pence.

In his pre-coup address to the Venezuelan people, Pence practically begged the military to help the US overthrow – yet another – elected Latin American government. Pence and others such as Mike Pompeo even went so far as to promise any soldiers who defected a chance to ‘live in peace’ after Washington destroys their country if they would just let all the arms disguised as aid enter.

So why didn’t the soldiers do it?

Because, as I’ve already said, they’re not f*cking stupid. The Bolivarian Revolution was built from the ground up when the people of Venezuela (and Latin America as a whole), tired of the neoliberalism enforced by Washington since the 1970s and 80s rose up. In Venezuela, this came exactly 30 years ago with the riots know and the Caracazo.

Prior to the Caracazo, as many libertarian dumbasses will tell you, Venezuela was, in fact, one of the richest countries on the continent but what the free marketeers leave out is that they had massive amounts of poverty and an immoral wealth gap between the richest and poorest citizens. This poverty, the result of neoliberal privatization schemes, set off a chain of events that later helped spawn Venezuela’s communes and a young military leader who attempted to overthrow the crooked puppet state, Hugo Chavez.

The problem for Pence, Pompeo, Trump, Bolton, Abrams and the lot is that this military leader brought the military up with him as a liberatory force. On top of this, not only did Chávez secure the military’s loyalty because he was a military man himself, but also because, they too, had had enough domination from Wall Street.

This military, which is the same one helping Maduro protect Venezuela remembers this but they also remember other parts of history.

Another big reason the military likely won’t turn is that they know people like Pence are lying when they say anyone who supports Maduro, socialism, or even some forms of liberal democracy will never be allowed to live in peace if the US has their way.

Again, the reason they know this to be true is that they know revolutionary history. The Bolivarian military remembers what happened to other socialist movements around Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia once a US-backed anti-communist was in power. A lot of this history they know is still applicable since much of it was also perpetrated by people like Bolton and Abrams in their previous positions.

The Venezuelan military remembers things like Salvador Allende being fairly elected and then overthrown, or the Contras mass murdering civilians. They know that this type of behavior doesn’t end when the US wins. They know Pinochet threw labor leaders, socialists, and anyone who opposed his trash neoliberalism from helicopters after taking power. They know the Contras and other death squads were bayoneting toddlers to prove a point to scared farmers, often while not even actually engaging whatever force they were ostensibly fighting even a single time.

The Bolivarian Revolution and the “Pink Tide” that swept Latin America in the early 2000s were a response to all of this. The Venezuelan military knows there is no peace as long as there is ANY resistance to US financial tyranny. The US, all their intelligence agencies and their various stooges around the continent may have won some fights in countries like Brazil but this won’t be as easy on Venezuela. The Venezuelan military is part of the Bolivarian revolution, they will not be separated, and like the many of the average Venezuelans opposing US intervention, they know what comes next if Washington gets their way.

geopoliticsalert.com

US Urges ‘Calm’ While Stoking India-Pakistan Conflict

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US Urges ‘Calm’ While Stoking India-Pakistan Conflict

International powers this week anxiously urged India and Pakistan to avoid further escalation of military confrontation. Given the two nations have gone to war on three occasions during the past seven decades and are both nuclear armed, the international concern is palpable.The US has lately joined calls by Russia, China and Europe appealing for restraint, and for the Indian and Pakistani leaderships to negotiate a resolution to avert a catastrophic slide towards conflict.

American President Donald Trump, while in Vietnamese capital Hanoi for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, claimed that the US was mediating to defuse the crisis between India and Pakistan.

“We’ve been in the middle trying to help them both out,” said Trump.

Incongruously, however, the Trump administration has in fact acted in an opposite fashion, to inflame the recent tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both issued statements which “support India’s right to self-defense against terrorism”. The US officials have also laid the blame on Pakistan for sponsoring acts of terrorism by militant groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The northern territory of Kashmir has been the cause of bitter dispute between India and Pakistan ever since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

The massacre of over 40 Indian troops earlier this month on February 14 in the Indian-side of Kashmir has sparked outrage among the wider Indian population demanding revenge. The suicide bomb attack was claimed by Kashmiri militant group Jaish e-Mohammed (JeM). India claimed that Pakistan had a hand in the atrocity through its support for JeM, which the Pakistani authorities denied.

The mounting of air strikes by India this week deep inside Pakistani territory on a militant training camp – purportedly in retaliation for the Kashmir massacre of its troops – represented a dramatic escalation. If India had limited its strikes to Pakistani-controlled Kashmir the retaliation could perhaps have been argued as being proportionate. But the violation of Pakistani territory – some 50 kms west of the historical Line of Control – was arguably an act of war. The last time Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan was in 1971 during the two countries’ third and last war.

Not surprisingly, Pakistani fighter jets have subsequently launched strikes on Indian-controlled Kashmir. There were also further alleged incursions by Indian warplanes, two of which were reportedly shot down by the Pakistani side. Pakistan also lost one of its jets in a shoot-down but the aircraft apparently crashed inside its territory.

Tensions have boiled over further with the capture of an Indian pilot by the Pakistanis who released video footage of him apparently injured with a bloodied face. That led to outcry in New Delhi that Islamabad was in breach of the Geneva Convention concerning treatment of prisoners of war. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to return the Indian pilot as a gesture towards de-escalation.

Nevertheless, the tensions and danger of an all-out war continue to mount. There have been several reports of heavy artillery cross-border exchanges between Indian and Pakistani forces. While both governments say they don’t want a war, the dynamic could explode beyond their control.

The Kashmir dispute is certainly fraught with enormous historical difficulties bestowed by baleful British imperialist legacy of partitioning land and people with such contempt for indigenous rights and traditions, as well as from cynically playing partisan politics for imperial advantage. Washington’s contemporary meddling in Indian-Pakistan affairs has echoes of past British subterfuge.

Pakistan’s relations with Kashmiri militant groups whom India denounces as “terrorist” is only part of a complex equation. Another part of the equation is India’s intensive militarization of the province and its alleged abusive occupation of territory and people who aspire to be part of Pakistan. The region is predominantly Muslim.

If a peaceful resolution is to ever succeed there must be an earnest process of demilitarizing the entire Kashmir area. That onus is primarily on India.

One thing that is certainly not constructive is the simplistic and clumsy way that the United States has intervened recently by pointedly taking the Indian side of the narrative. For senior Trump administration officials to proclaim India’s “right to self-defense” against implied Pakistani-sponsored terrorism is in effect a green light for New Delhi to launch air strikes against its neighbor.

That reckless advocacy by Washington is predictably leading to a spiral of violence which ultimately could result in an all-out war between two nuclear states.

President Trump’s self-congratulatory tone about supposed mediation between India and Pakistan is far off the mark from reality. The Trump administration’s belated words appealing for “restraint” and “calm” are belied by the earlier words from Bolton and Pompeo giving India a license to commit acts of war.

Of course, what would one expect from the American side? The Trump administration is currently in the throes of violating the sovereignty of Venezuela with threats of military invasion against that South American nation. Washington has completely lost its compass on international law and norms of conduct.

There are indeed deeper reasons for why Washington would like to see a conflict between India and Pakistan blow up. Such a confrontation would cause major geopolitical problems for China, which is historically an ally of Pakistan but which has also recently endeavored to build a rapprochement with India. Stoking a confrontation in South Asia would serve Washington’s interest in destabilizing China and Russia’s strategic plans for economic integration of Eurasia.

India and Pakistan’s political leaderships must keep cool heads and think of the bigger global picture. Only recently, India’s Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan were expressing an aspiration for improving ties between the two South Asian states. They must resist playing politics for internal political gains, and they must resist being manipulated by external powers which seek to gain advantage at the expense of Asian divisions. The historical thorn of Kashmir can be resolved if India and Pakistan entered into a genuine and mutual compromise

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