What is wrong with American politicians? Rep. Alcee Hastings @RepHastingsFL thinks war with Iran would be a good idea

Democratic Ex-Dove Proposes War on Iran

Exclusive: The Democrats’ rush to rebrand themselves as super-hawks is perhaps best illustrated by the once-dovish Rep. Alcee Hastings proposing stand-by authorization for the President to attack Iran, reports Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

Rep. Alcee Hastings has sponsored a bill to authorize President Trump to attack Iran. Hastings reintroduced H J Res 10, the “Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution” on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress after President Trump’s election.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida

Hastings’s bill has come as a shock to constituents and people who have followed his career as a 13-term Democratic Member of Congress from South Florida. Miami Beach resident Michael Gruener called Hastings’s bill, “extraordinarily dangerous,” and asked, “Does Hastings even consider to whom he is giving this authorization?”

Fritzie Gaccione, the editor of the South Florida Progressive Bulletin noted that Iran is complying with the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and expressed amazement that Hastings has reintroduced this bill at a moment when the stakes are so high and Trump’s intentions so unclear.

“How can Hastings hand this opportunity to Trump?” she asked. “Trump shouldn’t be trusted with toy soldiers, let alone the American military.”

Speculation by people in South Florida as to why Alcee Hastings has sponsored such a dangerous bill reflect two general themes. One is that he is paying undue attention to the pro-Israel groups who raised 10 percent of his coded campaign contributions for the 2016 election. The other is that, at the age of 80, he seems to be carrying water for the pay-to-play Clinton wing of the Democratic Party as part of some kind of retirement plan.

Alcee Hastings is better known to the public as a federal judge who was impeached for bribery and for a series of ethical lapses as a Congressman than for his legislative record. The 2012 Family Affairs report by the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that Hastings paid his partner, Patricia Williams, $622,000 to serve as his deputy district director from 2007 to 2010, the largest amount paid to a family member by any Member of Congress in the report.

But Hastings sits in one of the 25 safest Democratic seats in the House and does not seem to have ever faced a serious challenge from a Democratic primary opponent or a Republican.

Alcee Hastings’s voting record on war and peace issues has been about average for a Democrat. He voted against the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) on Iraq, and his 79 percent lifetime Peace Action score is the highest among current House members from Florida, although Alan Grayson’s was higher.

Hastings voted against the bill to approve the JCPOA or nuclear agreement with Iran and first introduced his AUMF bill in 2015. With the approval of the JCPOA and Obama’s solid commitment to it, Hastings’s bill seemed like a symbolic act that posed little danger – until now.

In the new Republican-led Congress, with the bombastic and unpredictable Donald Trump in the White House, Hastings’s bill could actually serve as a blank check for war on Iran, and it is carefully worded to be exactly that. It authorizes the open-ended use of force against Iran with no limits on the scale or duration of the war. The only sense in which the bill meets the requirements of the War Powers Act is that it stipulates that it does so. Otherwise it entirely surrenders Congress’s constitutional authority for any decision over war with Iran to the President, requiring only that he report to Congress on the war once every 60 days.

Dangerous Myths    

The wording of Hastings’s bill perpetuates dangerous myths about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program that have been thoroughly investigated and debunked after decades of intense scrutiny by experts, from the U.S. intelligence community to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)

As former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei explained in his book, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, the IAEA has never found any real evidence of nuclear weapons research or development in Iran, any more than in Iraq in 2003, the last time such myths were abused to launch our country into a devastating and disastrous war.

In Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, investigative journalist Gareth Porter meticulously examined the suspected evidence of nuclear weapons activity in Iran. He explored the reality behind every claim and explained how the deep-seated mistrust in U.S.-Iran relations gave rise to misinterpretations of Iran’s scientific research and led Iran to shroud legitimate civilian research in secrecy. This climate of hostility and dangerous worst-case assumptions even led to the assassination of four innocent Iranian scientists by alleged Israeli agents.

The discredited myth of an Iranian “nuclear weapons program” was perpetuated throughout the 2016 election campaign by candidates of both parties, but Hillary Clinton was particularly strident in claiming credit for neutralizing Iran’s imaginary nuclear weapons program.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry also reinforced a false narrative that the “dual-track” approach of Obama’s first term, escalating sanctions and threats of war at the same time as holding diplomatic negotiations, “brought Iran to the table.” This was utterly false. Threats and sanctions served only to undermine diplomacy, strengthen hard-liners on both sides and push Iran into building 20,000 centrifuges to supply its civilian nuclear program with enriched uranium, as documented in Trita Parsi’s book, A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran.

A former hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran who rose to be a senior officer on the Iran desk at the State Department told Parsi that the main obstacle to diplomacy with Iran during Obama’s first term was the U.S. refusal to “take ‘Yes’ for an answer.”

When Brazil and Turkey persuaded Iran to accept the terms of an agreement proposed by the U.S. a few months earlier, the U.S. responded by rejecting its own proposal. By then the main U.S. goal was to ratchet up sanctions at the U.N., which this diplomatic success would have undermined.

Trita Parsi explained that this was only one of many ways in which the two tracks of Obama’s “dual-track” approach were hopelessly at odds with each other. Only once Clinton was replaced by John Kerry at the State Department did serious diplomacy displace brinksmanship and ever-rising tensions.

Next Target for U.S. Aggression?

Statements by President Trump have raised hopes for a new detente with Russia. But there is no firm evidence of a genuine rethink of U.S. war policy, an end to serial U.S. aggression or a new U.S. commitment to peace or the rule of international law.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. March 19, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

Trump and his advisers may hope that some kind of “deal” with Russia could give them the strategic space to continue America’s war policy on other fronts without Russian interference. But this would only grant Russia a temporary reprieve from U.S. aggression as long as U.S. leaders still view “regime change” or mass destruction as the only acceptable outcomes for countries that challenge U.S. dominance.

Students of history, not least 150 million Russians, will remember that another serial aggressor offered Russia a “deal” like that in 1939, and that Russia’s complicity with Germany over Poland only set the stage for the total devastation of Poland, Russia and Germany.

One former U.S. official who has consistently warned of the danger of U.S. aggression against Iran is retired General Wesley Clark. In his 2007 memoir, A Time To Lead, General Clark explained that his fears were rooted in ideas embraced by hawks in Washington since the end of the Cold War. Clark recalls Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz’s response in May 1991 when he congratulated him on his role in the Gulf War.

“We screwed up and left Saddam Hussein in power. The president believes he’ll be overthrown by his own people, but I rather doubt it,” Wolfowitz complained. “But we did learn one thing that’s very important. With the end of the Cold War, we can now use our military with impunity. The Soviets won’t come in to block us. And we’ve got five, maybe 10, years to clean up these old Soviet surrogate regimes like Iraq and Syria before the next superpower emerges to challenge us … We could have a little more time, but no one really knows.”

The view that the end of the Cold War opened the door for a series of U.S.-led wars in the Middle East was widely held among hawkish officials and advisers in the Bush I administration and military-industrial think tanks. During the propaganda push for war on Iraq in 1990, Michael Mandelbaum, the director of East-West studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, crowed to the New York Times, “for the first time in 40 years, we can conduct military operations in the Middle East without worrying about triggering World War III.”

Self-Inflicted Nightmare

As we begin the fifth U.S. administration since 1990, U.S. foreign policy remains trapped in the self-inflicted nightmare that those dangerous assumptions produced. Today, war-wise Americans can quite easily fill in the unasked questions that Wolfowitz’s backward-looking and simplistic analysis failed to ask, let alone answer, in 1991.

Former Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. (DoD photo by Scott Davis, U.S. Army. Wikipedia)

 

What did he mean by “clean up”? What if we couldn’t “clean them all up” in the short historical window he described? What if failed efforts to “clean up these old Soviet surrogate regimes” left only chaos, instability and greater dangers in their place? Which leads to the still largely unasked and unanswered question: how can we actually clean up the violence and chaos that we ourselves have now unleashed on the world?

In 2012, Norwegian General Robert Mood was forced to withdraw a U.N. peacekeeping team from Syria after Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and their Turkish and Arab monarchist allies undermined U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

In 2013, as they unveiled their “Plan B,” for Western military intervention in Syria, General Mood told the BBC, “It is fairly easy to use the military tool, because, when you launch the military tool in classical interventions, something will happen and there will be results. The problem is that the results are almost all the time different than the political results you were aiming for when you decided to launch it. So the other position, arguing that it is not the role of the international community, neither coalitions of the willing nor the U.N. Security Council for that matter, to change governments inside a country, is also a position that should be respected.”

General Wesley Clark played his own deadly role as the supreme commander of NATO’s illegal assault on what was left of the “old Soviet surrogate regime” of Yugoslavia in 1999. Then, ten days after the horrific crimes of September 11, 2001, newly retired General Clark dropped in at the Pentagon to find that the scheme Wolfowitz described to him in 1991 had become the Bush administration’s grand strategy to exploit the war psychosis into which it was plunging the country and the world.

Undersecretary Stephen Cambone’s notes from a meeting amid the ruins of the Pentagon on September 11th include orders from Secretary Rumsfeld to, “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

A former colleague at the Pentagon showed Clark a list of seven countries besides Afghanistan where the U.S. planned to unleash “regime change” wars in the next five years: Iraq; Syria; Lebanon; Libya; Somalia; Sudan; and Iran. The five- to ten-year window of opportunity Wolfowitz described to Clark in 1991 had already passed. But instead of reevaluating a strategy that was illegal, untested and predictably dangerous to begin with, and now well past its sell-by date, the neocons were hell-bent on launching an ill-conceived blitzkrieg across the Middle East and neighboring regions, with no objective analysis of the geopolitical consequences and no concern for the human cost.

Misery and Chaos

Fifteen years later, despite the catastrophic failure of illegal wars that have killed 2 million people and left only misery and chaos in their wake, the leaders of both major U.S. political parties seem determined to pursue this military madness to the bitter end – whatever that end may be and however long the wars may last.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

By framing their wars in terms of vague “threats” to America and by demonizing foreign leaders, our own morally and legally bankrupt leaders and the subservient U.S. corporate media are still trying to obscure the obvious fact that we are the aggressor that has been threatening and attacking country after country in violation of the U.N. Charter and international law since 1999.

So U.S. strategy has inexorably escalated from an unrealistic but limited goal of overthrowing eight relatively defenseless governments in and around the Middle East to risking nuclear war with Russia and/or China. U.S. post-Cold War triumphalism and hopelessly unrealistic military ambitions have revived the danger of World War III that even Paul Wolfowitz celebrated the passing of in 1991.

The U.S. has followed the well-worn path that has stymied aggressors throughout history, as the exceptionalist logic used to justify aggression in the first place demands that we keep doubling down on wars that we have less and less hope of winning, squandering our national resources to spread violence and chaos far and wide across the world.

Russia has demonstrated that it once again has both the military means and the political will to “block” U.S. ambitions, as Wolfowitz put it in 1991. Hence Trump’s vain hopes of a “deal” to buy Russia off. U.S. operations around islands in the South China Sea suggest a gradual escalation of threats and displays of force against China rather than an assault on the Chinese mainland in the near future, although this could quickly spin out of control.

So, more or less by default, Iran has moved back to the top of the U.S.’s “regime change” target list, even though this requires basing a political case for an illegal war on the imaginary danger of non-existent weapons for the second time in 15 years. War against Iran would involve, from the outset, a massive bombing campaign against its military defenses, civilian infrastructure and nuclear facilities, killing tens of thousands of people and likely escalating into an even more catastrophic war than those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Gareth Porter believes that Trump will avoid war on Iran for the same reasons as Bush and Obama, because it would be unwinnable and because Iran has robust defenses that could inflict significant losses on U.S. warships and bases in the Persian Gulf.

On the other hand, Patrick Cockburn, one of the most experienced Western reporters in the Middle East, believes that we will attack Iran in one to two years because, after Trump fails to resolve any of the crises elsewhere in the region, the pressure of his failures will combine with the logic of escalating demonization and threats already under way in Washington to make war on Iran inevitable.

In this light, Rep. Hastings’s bill is a critical brick in a wall that bipartisan hawks in Washington are building to close off any exit from the path to war with Iran. They believe that Obama let Iran slip out of their trap, and they are determined not to let that happen again.

Another brick in this wall is the recycled myth of Iran as the greatest state sponsor of terrorism. This is a glaring contradiction with the U.S. focus on ISIS as the world’s main terrorist threat. The states that have sponsored and fueled the rise of ISIS have been, not Iran, but Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the other Arab monarchies and Turkey, with critical training, weapons and logistical and diplomatic support for what has become ISIS from the U.S., U.K. and France.

Iran can only be a greater state sponsor of terrorism than the U.S. and its allies if Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, the Middle Eastern resistance movements to whom it provides various levels of support, pose more of a terrorist danger to the rest of the world than ISIS. No U.S. official has even tried to make that case, and it is hard to imagine the tortured reasoning it would involve.

Brinksmanship and Military Madness

The U.N. Charter wisely prohibits the threat as well as the use of force in international relations, because the threat of force so predictably leads to its use. And yet, post-Cold War U.S. doctrine quickly embraced the dangerous idea that U.S. “diplomacy” must be backed up by the threat of force.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on March 21, 2016. (Photo credit: AIPAC)

Hillary Clinton has been a strong proponent of this idea since the 1990s and has been undeterred by either its illegality or its catastrophic results. As I wrote in an article on Clinton during the election campaign, this is illegal brinksmanship, not legitimate diplomacy.

It takes a lot of sophisticated propaganda to convince even Americans that a war machine that keeps threatening and attacking other countries represents a “commitment to global security,” as President Obama claimed in his Nobel speech. Convincing the rest of the world is another matter again, and people in other countries are not so easily brainwashed.

Obama’s hugely symbolic election victory and global charm offensive provided cover for continued U.S. aggression for eight more years, but Trump risks giving the game away by discarding the velvet glove and exposing the naked iron fist of U.S. militarism. A U.S. war on Iran could be the final straw.

Cassia Laham is the co-founder of POWIR (People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism) and part of a coalition organizing demonstrations in South Florida against many of President Trump’s policies. Cassia calls Alcee Hastings’s AUMF bill, “a dangerous and desperate attempt to challenge the shift in power in the Middle East and the world.”  She noted that, “Iran has risen up as a pivotal power player countering U.S. and Saudi influence in the region,” and concluded, “if the past is any indicator of the future, the end result of a war with Iran will be a large-scale war, high death tolls and the further weakening of U.S. power.”

Whatever misconceptions, interests or ambitions have prompted Alcee Hastings to threaten 80 million people in Iran with a blank check for unlimited war, they cannot possibly outweigh the massive loss of life and unimaginable misery for which he will be responsible if Congress should pass H J Res 10 and President Trump should act on it. The bill still has no co-sponsors, so let us hope that it can be quarantined as an isolated case of extreme military madness, before it becomes an epidemic and unleashes yet another catastrophic war.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq

 

نصرالله يقطع طريق الحرب الأميركية على إيران

نصرالله يقطع طريق الحرب الأميركية على إيران

روزانا رمّال

بعد دخول حزب الله الأزمة السورية من بابها العريض والمشاركة الميدانية القتالية فيها وتحقيقه مكاسب أمنية جديّة، وبعد دخول إيران الحرب بثقل عسكري واستخباري ولوجستي جنباً الى جنب مع الجيش السوري، لم يعد ممكناً فصل خطاب امين عام حزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله عن مركزية حضوره في هذا الحلف الذي أعلن منذ اقتسام ملف قتال «الإرهاب» في ما بينه بكل الاراضي السورية ان الخطر القومي وتهديد الأمن الحيوي للمحور هو «واحد».

المقاربة الإيرانية والسورية إضافة لحزب الله في مسألة مواجهة الانتكاسات أو تقاسم الأرباح في المنطقة أصبحا وجهة متكاملة ومؤسسة لهيكل المقاومة التي يعتبرها الحلف ضرورة في ديمومة رسالته وحضوره، ففي وقت تتمسك إيران بشعار الراعي للمقاومة والمستضعفين وكل أحرار العالم أمام الطغيان المتجسّد بمنظارها أميركياً و«إسرائيلياً»، باتت مسألة الدعم المباشر مترجمة واقعاً بحضور القوى القادرة على تبيان جدوى الحلف ومغزاه.

تقود إيران في اليمن حرباً غير مباشرة مع السعودية ومن ورائها «إسرائيل»، وقد أكد امين عام حزب الله السيد حسن نصرالله بذكرى مهرجان القادة الشهداء بأنها حرب «إسرائيلية». ضمن هذا المنطلق، يُشرّع حزب الله مسألة دعمه القتال في اليمن وهو ليس قتالاً ضد مجموعات إرهابية مثل داعش أو النصرة ولا يشبه على الإطلاق مسألة قرب الحدود مع لبنان على غرار مدينة القصير السورية وضرورة استباق الحرب قبل أن تصل لبنان، بل إنها ترجمة لواجب ودور تفرضه «إسرائيل» أينما وجِدت أو وجدت خيوط مشاريعها فتخلق «المشروعية».

هذا الحديث يؤكد ان حزب الله لا ينتظر إذناً ولا تمنعه «حدود» عن المشاركة في القتال داخل فلسطين المحتلة على غرار مشاركته في الحرب السورية بثقل، وفي الحرب العراقية واليمنية على شكل خبراء ومتدرّبين، كما أكد نائب الامين العام لحزب الله الشيخ نعيم قاسم لـ«البناء» في وقت سابق.

الأكيد أن حزب الله لن يتأخّر لحظة في المشاركة في أي دور قتالي داخل فلسطين المحتلة، وأنه كان ممكناً أن يتقدم المشهد لو كانت الأمور أسهل ومفتوحة لوجستياً، ولو كان هذا الأمر حاجة لا يستطيع الفلسطينيون تحقيقها. وهنا باب آخر يستدعي استذكار دعم إيران وحزب الله للحركات المقاومة على اختلافها داخل الأراضي المحتلة وخارجها.

«التدخل» «واجب»، حيث أمكن، بالنسبة لحزب الله الذي يشكل عصب هذا المحور، لكن الأهم قدرته على أداء أدوار استثنائية تحت عنوان صفته كحركة مقاومة لا تفتحها أو تشرّعها الصفة الرسمية للدول. لهذا السبب هو يشارك في حروب في اليمن والعراق وسورية من دون أن يشكل هذا توريطاً مباشراً للبنان أو حتى لتلك الحكومات أو الجهات التي شرعت مشاركته كـ»خيار خاص».

يرفع حزب الله مسألة قتال «إسرائيل» أينما وجدت عكس ما يُشاع أو يُطلب منه حصر المهمة في الأراضي اللبنانية، وهو أمر منافٍ للواجب والمقدّسات العقائدية ولروحية الصراع مع «إسرائيل» بالنسبة له.

خطاب نصرالله في ذكرى قادة حزب الله الشهداء جاء فيه ما يقلق «إسرائيل» لدرجة «مهولة» بالشقّ المتعلق في دعوته أو نصيحته للحكومة «الإسرائيلية» بأنه لا يجب عليها فقط إخلاء خزان الأمونيا في حيفا، بل عليها تفكيك مفاعل ديمونا النووي، والسلاح النووي «الإسرائيلي» الذي يشكّل تهديداً لكل المنطقة فيتحوّل عبر معادلة حزب الله هذه تهديداً لـ«إسرائيل» وشدّد عليها بأن المقاومة تفي بما تَعِد.

لكن هذا التهديد ليس تهديداً محصوراً بحسابات الحزب مع «إسرائيل» محلياً ولم يعد يتوقف عند كلمة خارجة عن منظومة أو محور بأكمله. فكلمة نصرالله التي تأتي بمقدمة هذا المحور في حربه مع «إسرائيل» وتوحيد جبهات القتال لكل المحور منذ الحرب السورية في المنطقة كلها هي إشارة شديدة الوضوح الى استحالة اعتبار مسألة الحرب الأميركية على إيران وما تطلقه الإدارة الأميركية من تصعيد كلامي «فُهم» على أنه نيات لحرب على طهران أمراً ممكناً أو بالاستطاعة فصله عن حيثية المحور ونظرته لمسألة الحروب الأميركية «الإسرائيلية». بالتالي حيث تكون «إسرائيل» سيكون هناك حزب الله أو مَن يستدعيه ضمن «الحلف». وهو الأمر نفسه الذي تعتمده واشنطن أو تل أبيب وحلفاؤهما في أي حرب على إيران بما يعنيه استخدام قواعد أميركية في الخليج لضرب إيران أو في تركيا. وهذا كله يبيح استخدام الحلفاء القدرات العسكرية الموحّدة كافة في حروبهم وهو ما تشرّعه العلوم العسكرية والسياسية ضمن ماهية الأحلاف وأدوارها تاريخياً.

وبعد رفع مرتبة تهديد حزب الله لمصاف الدرجة الأولى وفق التقارير الأمنية «الإسرائيلية»، وهو ما أعلنه نصرالله ليليه إيران ثم المقاومة الفلسطينية، فإن تحليل كلمة نصرالله في أجهزة الاستخبارات الأميركية و«الإسرائيلية» معاً سيأخذ بعين الاعتبار تعقيداً دقيقاً، وهو ما أخذه نصرالله على عاتقه بإعلانه استعداده لسحق قدرات «إسرائيل» النووية وغيرها بالكامل. وهو الأمر الذي «تخطّى» عملياً إشكالية ملف إيران «النووي» الذي أصبح يشكّل في هذه الحالة تلويحاً كلامياً وإعلامياً. فلم يصدر أي تهديد عن إيران باستخدام سلاح نووي ضد «إسرائيل» مثل ما ألمح أمين عام حزب الله وتناوله الخطر النووي على «إسرائيل» بشكل معاكس من جهة لبنان.

نصرالله يقطع الطريق على حرب أميركية «إسرائيلية» على إيران ويُبعد توقيت الحرب «الإسرائيلية» عن لبنان.

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Beware of Trump’s Double-game in the Middle East

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43532434234While the Trump administration has been tacitly showing off its willingness to start a new, and a better, phase of relations with Russia, the policy the new administration is chalking out towards the Middle East in general, particularly Iran, is likely to trigger a fresh wave of tension that might make the task of tilling the frozen ground of US-Russia relations a lot harder even for Rex Tillerson.

On the one hand, the Trump administration has been vocal about defeating the Islamic State, and on the other hand, it has decided to uphold and execute the Obama administration’s policy of supplying weapons to the “moderate” Sunni groups, including Kurdish militias, and is also determined to establish ‘safe zones’ with Saudi backing despite Russia’s opposition to this policy. This execution has coincided with the rising tension with Iran, potentially signaling the Trump administration’s renewed push towards inserting the US back into the Middle East.

What this multi-faceted policy indicates is the dual nature of objectives the US is currently pursuing. That is, while it may be wanting to improve relations with Russia, it cannot strategically afford to ‘abandon’ the Middle East, give Iran and Russia a free hand to shape its politics and thus leave its own Arab allies in a political quandary where they might find no other option but to look to Russia, allow China a trade route across the Middle East and into Europe and be forced, subsequent to this, to improve relations with Iran too. This objectives pits the US as much against Russia as Iran.

The Trump administration has clearly outlined Iran as a villain in the region. The last Wednesday statement given by the US National security adviser, Michael Flynn, was not only provocative but also said things that indicate a significant downfall in US-Iran bi-lateral relations.

Accusing the Obama administration of following a lacklustre policy towards Iran, Flynn went on to list the ‘crimes’ Iran has been committing and continues to commit. He attributed to Tehran the responsibility for the attacks in recent months by the Houthis of Yemen against Emirati and Saudi naval vessels and the threats to US and allied vessels transiting the Red Sea. Flynn said, “In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten US friends and allies in the region.” Marking a potential end of the so-called era of lacklustre policies, Flynn said, “the days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”

This policy is, however, not limited to containing Iran’s ballistic missile programme, it goes deep into containing Iran’s regional clout that it has quite successfully projected through its military assistance to Syria against both the IS and the US sponsored “moderate” groups. Flynn’s statement suggests that Trump prioritizes the exit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Hezbollah from the Syrian theatre above anything else. There is little doubt that a storm is gathering. Fresh sanctions on Iran is only a small indication of what is to come in the future.

The policy towards Iran is, therefore, fundamentally different from the policy the Trump administration is probably designing towards Russia (read: Trump administration’s resolve to defeat the IS through joint action). Therefore, the key question here is: is the Trump administration looking for dividing the Russia-Iran relations—and if yes, can it do so?

According to a report carried by the Wall Street Journal

“The Trump administration is exploring ways to break Russia’s military and diplomatic alliance with Iran in a bid to both end the Syrian conflict and bolster the fight against Islamic State, said senior administration, European and Arab officials involved in the policy discussions. The emerging strategy seeks to reconcile President Donald Trump’s seemingly contradictory vows to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and to aggressively challenge the military presence of Iran—one of Moscow’s most critical allies—in the Middle East, these officials say.”

The new “divide and rule” strategy is, therefore, likely to sow fresh seeds of tension in the region. This dualism wouldn’t work to the advantage of the US due potentially to the interlinked nature of Russia’s presence in Syria, which has now been extended to almost 50 years, and the nature of Iran-Syria relations. Iran is key to Russia’s long-term presence in Syria just as Syria is key to Iran’s presence in and reach to Israel’s “under-belly” i.e., Lebanon. Separating Russia from Iran is, therefore, a task that is much harder than tilling the frozen-ground of US-Russia relations. In fact, the dual policy is likely to going to add more snow to the frozen ground.

By trying to strike at the core of Russia-Iran relations, the Trump administration is fundamentally trying to reverse the gains both countries have achieved through joint action in Syria. Whereas Iran has been successful in defeating the Arab countries’ hegemonic agenda, Russia has been successful in projecting itself as a reliable, capable and strong military power—something that the US was unable to achieve during the Obama administrations era.

Russia, on the contrary, has achieved a lot. To say the least, the winning of Aleppo is not just winning of Aleppo or winning of Syria. It really confirms Russia’s ability to operate in the Middle East and reach its strategic objectives without resistance. This success has made Russia an ‘essential partner’ for the Iranians, who see in Russian power, in Putin’s posturing, in what the Russians have been able to deliver in Syria , a strategic depth that’s going to protect them against American pressure.

In this context, reversing what has transpired in the last year or so and what has considerably altered the Middle East’s strategic landscape are the cardinal objective of the Trump administration’s policy of “driving a wedge” between Russia and Iran.

While Russia has already stated its disagreement over Flynn’s Iran-comments, underscoring the importance it attaches to Iran as its prime regional ally, what could potentially sink the ‘Trump-Putin relationship’ is the very conflicting type of importance both Russia and the US attach to Iran. Iran is, therefore, a ploy for the US to re-write its rules of engagement in the Middle East, re-define its relations with Russia and re-insert itself as a “reliable” partner of Arab countries. The steps the Trump administration has taken are only going to flame things up and take the US relations with Russia and Iran back to the square one, leaving no-to-minimum space for real joint action against the Islamic State.

Without Iran’s and Russia’s cooperation, the US cannot hope to defeat the IS, leave alone bring stability to Syria. But then, this is predicated on the assumption that a strong, independent, secure and unified Syria is what the Trump administration wants. However, the key question is: What if that isn’t the case? This being not the case, the logic of co-operation with Russia loses its strength and comes down to nothing but a dead end. Hence, the drive towards “driving a wedge.”

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
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US vs Iran – a war of apples vs oranges

February 07, 2017

This article was written for the Unz Review

One of the most frustrating tasks is to try to debunk the Hollywood myths imprinted on the mind of Americans about warfare in general and about special forces and technology in particular. When last week I wrote my column about the first SNAFUs of the Trump Presidency I pretty much expected that some of the points I made would fall on deaf ears and that indeed did happen. What I propose to do today is to try, yet again, to explain the vast difference between what I would call “the American way of war” as seen in propaganda movies and the reality of warfare.

Let’s begin by the issue of the use of special operation forces and immediately say what they are not: special operation forces are not SWAT or anti-terrorist forces. The US propaganda machine has imprinted on the mind of people in the West that if a force is “elite” and looks “tacti-cool” it is some kind of special force. By that criteria, even some riot cops could be considered as “special forces”. This is, by the way, not only an American sin. The Russians have gone down the exact same ridiculous road and now you have “spetsnaz” forces all over Russia – even the Russian equivalent of the US department of correction which now has “spetsnaz” forces to deal with prison riots! Likewise, the famous anti-terrorist unit “A” (mistakenly called “Alpha” as opposed to the US “Delta”) is exactly that – an anti-terrorist unit and not a military special force. So what are, stricto sensu, special forces? They are a military force which participates to the overall war effort but autonomously and not in direct support of the main/conventional fighting force. Depending on the country and service, special forces can deal with a variety to tasks ranging from providing “advisors” to what Americans call direct action operation such as the recent ill-fated attack on the al-Qaeda compound in Yemen. Just like airborne forces, special forces have often been misused, especially when conventional forces could not be counted on, but that does not mean that SWAT and anti-terrorist forces should be thought of as “special forces”. Special forces are always military forces and they operate in support of military operations.

[Sidebar: some American readers who where miffed by my assertions that US special forces have a terrible real-life record have tried to counter with a logically fallacious argument: what about Russian special forces, are they any better? Examples given where Beslan, Nord-Ost and Budennovsk. There are two problems with this argument: one, none of these events can be considered as “special operations” and, two, even if the Russian special forces have a terrible record, this hardly means that the US special forces’ record is good or, even less so, better. Besides, these three tragedies are totally different. The Budennovsk hospital hostage crisis was, indeed, a total disaster which occurred against the backdrop of another total disaster, the First Chechen war, and which resulted in 130 dead civilians out of a total of about 2000. That is a 93.5% of hostages which survived. Considering that the civilians political authorities were arguably the worst in Russian history and considering that the hostage takers were well over 100 hardened Chechen terrorists, I think that this is not the “disaster” that civilians like to think of. Next, let’s look at Beslan. Here we have well over 1000 hostages when 385 fatalities – much more of a “disaster” indeed. But let’s remember what happened that day: a bomb, apparently one of the biggest one held in the sports hall, blew up which resulted in local civilians (parents) spontaneously storming the school. At this point, the anti-terror forces simply joined in to save as many people as possible and many of them died by shielding the kids with the own bodies. There is simply no way that Beslan can be blamed on Russian anti-terrorist forces. As for Nord-Ost, this is one of the most successful hostage rescue operation in history: about 900 hostages are taken by about 45 terrorists. As a result of the operation, all of the civilians are freed, all of the terrorists are killed and all the anti-terrorist troops survived. Not a single bomb was detonated. However, the tragedy happened after the operation when the medical services simply did not have enough manpower to revive the freed hostages, some of whom even died in buses on the way to medical care. In theory, every single one of these hostages had undergone a full anesthesia (without being intubated) and every single one of them needed to be revived by a medical team. In their worst nightmares the Russian anti-terrorist forces had never expected to deal with such a huge number of civilians needing immediate specialized medical care. The civilian emergency medical response units were completely overwhelmed and did not even know what gas had been used. As a result, 130 hostages died, or about 15% of the hostages. Had the Russians not decided to use gas the most likely casualty figure would have been well over 500 if not more. That is hardly what I would call a failure of the entire operation, including the civilian support. In terms of pure anti-terrorist operation is probably the most successful hostage liberation operation in history. Let me end this sidebar with a simple question: when is the last time that any anti-terrorist force in the West had to deal with a situation involving over 1000 hostages taken by a large number of ruthless military-trained terrorists?]

If one is absolutely determined to assess the Russian record on special operations I would point to the capture of the Ruzyne International Airport in Prague in 1968, the storming of the Tajbeg Palace in Afghanistan in 1979 and, of course, the Russian operation to seize Crimea in 2014. But, again, there is no logical need to prove that Russian can do it well/better to assert that Americans can’t.

Now let’s turn to the issue of a possible war between Iran and the United States.

The dumbest possible thing to evaluate the possible outcomes of a US attack on Iran would be to do compare all the technologies available to both countries and come to some kind of conclusion. For an example of that kind of nonsense, check out this typical article. Generally, the obsession with technology is a typical American pathology which is a direct result of fighting overseas wars against vastly out-gunned enemies. I call that the engineer’s view of war, as opposed to the soldier’s view. That is not to say that technology does not matter, it does, but tactics, operations and strategy matter a whole lot more. For example, while it is true that a modern M1A2 Abrams is vastly superior to an old Soviet T-55, there are circumstances (high mountains, forests) where the T-55, properly engaged, could be a much better tank. Likewise, putatively outdated WWII anti-tank guns can be used with devastating effect on modern APC just as outdated air defense guns can by turned into absolutely terrifying assault fire support vehicles.

US vs Iran – a war of apples vs orangesIn the case of the US attack on Iran, only a total ignoramus would suppose that as soon as the Iranians detect the US attack they would scramble their mostly dated air force to try to achieve air superiority or that they would hope to stop the US attack using their air-defenses. Let me remind everybody here that Hezbollah made exactly zero use of their air defenses (only MANPADS anyway) during the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006 and that did not prevent Hezbollah from inflicting upon the IDF the most crushing defeat in their history. Why?

Because generally the American way of war doesn’t really work. What do I mean by “American way of war”? Using airstrikes and missile attacks to degrade the enemy’s capabilities to such a degree that it forces him to surrender. This was tried against the Serbian military in Kosovo and resulted in an abject failure: the Serbian forces survived the 78 days of massive NATO bombing completely unscathed (a few MBTs and APCs were lost, that’s about it). When that failure became apparent to the NATO commanders they did what the US military always does and turned against the civilian Serbian population in retaliation (same as the Israelis in Lebanon, of course) while offering Milosevic a deal: you surrender and we leave you in power. He accepted and ordered the Serbian military out of Kosovo. This was a spectacular political success for NATO, but in purely military terms, this was a disaster (well-concealed from the western public opinion courtesy of the best propaganda machine in history).

In one case only once did that American way of war really work as advertised: during the first Gulf War. And there is a good reason for that.

During the Cold War US force planners and strategist had developed a number of concepts to prepare for a war in Europe against the Soviet Union. Such concepts included the AirLand Battle doctrine or the Follow-on-Forces Attack (FOFA) which I shall not discuss in detail here, but which all placed a heavy emphasis on long-range reconnaissance-strikes systems and the use of air forces to defeat an assumed Soviet conventional superiority, especially in armor. I believe that these were fundamentally sound doctrines which could have been used effectively in the European theater. By the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, the USA had honed these concepts to quasi-perfection and the US armed forces were well trained in applying them. Saddam Hussein then committed a series of unforgivable mistakes the worst one being to give the USA many months to deploy into the KSA (this blatantly contradicts Soviet military doctrine which tells me that Saddam Hussein did not listen to this Soviet-trained generals or that these generals were afraid to speak up).

Apparently, Saddam Hussein believed that having fought the Iranians during the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988) he was ready to take on the USA. Well, he wasn’t. In fact, the way the Iraqis prepared for a US attack was a dream come true for US force planners and analysts because Saddam gave them the absolutely *perfect* target: large armored formations deployed in a desert with no air cover. The US, who for years had prepared to fight a much more sophisticated Soviet conventional military in the complex central European terrain (“Mischgelende” forests, many villages and town, rapid streams, steep hills and riverbanks, etc.) could simply not believe their luck: the Iraqis deployed in the worst possible manner making them an ideal target, much easier in fact that what was practiced for in US desert trainings. The result was predictable, the USA simply crushed the Iraqis and almost took no casualties.

Guess who observed that from right across the border with rapt attention?

The Iranians, of course.

If anybody seriously believes that the Iranians will prepare for a US attack by trying to out-American the Americans I have a few bridges to sell to them.

What Iranians, and Hezbollah, perfectly understood is that the key to prevail against the USA is to deny them the American way of war and to impose them a type of warfare they absolutely loathe. We can call that the Iranian way of war. Here are a few of its key components:

1) Assume that the American will establish air supremacy in 24 hours or less and deny them any lucrative targets. Sounds simple, but it is not. This requires a number of steps which can take years to implement including, but not limited to, concealing, hardening and deeply burying the most valuable civilian and military assets, creating an highly redundant network of communication and prepare for semi-autonomous operations when communications fail, creating a country-wide system of local civilian-military cooperation aimed at the survivability of essential government services including law and order, have procedures in place to compensate for the disruption of energy distribution and the destruction of key transportation nodes, etc. It might be my Swiss training speaking here, but I would assume that over the past 30 years the Iranians have dug thousands of miles of underground tunnels and command posts which allows the country to literally “go under” for as long as is needed.

2) Develop a number of key advanced technologies such as GPS-spoofing, computer network penetration and disruption, electronic counter-measures warfare, advanced mine warfare, small boat operations and, of course, missile strikes not to deny the US forces any portion of the Iranian territory, but to dramatically increase the risks and costs of US operations. This is were a limited number of advanced air defense systems can make a critical difference, especially if successfully concealed.

3) Engage in “horizontal escalation”: rather than wasting efforts in trying to shoot down US aircraft, use missile strikes to destroy US airfields (and ports) in the region. That is, by the way, official Iranian doctrine. Or strike at US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Target Israel or, even better, the Saudi regime. Force the US Navy to either engage in brown-water or, at most, green-water operations (here the Russian Kilo-class subs will excel) or force them to move back and shut down the Strait of Hormuz (the US Navy hates brown and green water operations, and for good reason, the USN is a blue-water navy par excellence) and the Americans are acutely aware of what happened to the US-built Israeli Sa’ar 5-class corvette when it got hit by Hezbollah fired Chinese-built C-802 missile.

4) Play the time card: time is always against the US military as the expectation is a short, easy war, with as little as casualties as possible and then a quick “out”. The Israelis ran out of steam in 33 days, NATO in 78 – so plan for at least a 12 month long conflict. Western forces have no staying power, let them hope for a “quickie” and then see how they react when it ain’t happening.

5) Use the traditional American sense of superiority and condescension for “sand niggers”or “hajis” and don’t bother trying to intimidate them. Instead, try to use that racist mindset to make them commit crucial strategic mistakes as Iran did when it used fake Iraqi “defectors” who spread disinformation about non-existing Iraqi WMDs to convince the US Neocons to lobby for an attack on Iraq to protect Israel. I find the notion of using US Neocons to make the US get rid of Saddam Hussein and basically hand over Iraq to Iran nothing short of pure genius. This is, of course, why it is never mentioned in western sources 🙂

6) Force the Americans to present you more targets: the more US forces are deployed near Iran, the more targets they offer for Iranian counter-attacks and the more they get politically bogged-down (as shown by the recent Iraqi threat to revoke visas for US servicemen in Iraq in response to Trump temporary visa-ban; the threat is empty, but clearly nobody in the White House or Foggy Bottom ever considered such an option). Basically, being being everywhere CENTCOM forces are hated everywhere.

The above are just a few examples from a long list of things the Iranians can do to respond to a US attack on Iran. We can expect the Iranians to come up with a much longer and far more creative list. By the way, there is nothing new or original in the list I made above, and the Americans are quite aware of it. There is a reason why even though the US has come as close as being hours away from striking at Iran they always backed down at the last second. So we have that endless tug-of-war: the US politicians (who believe their own propaganda) want to strike Iran, while US military specialists (who know better than to believe their own propaganda) constantly try to prevent such an attack. I want to mention Admiral William Fallon here, a true hero and patriot, who bluntly declared about a possible attack on Iran “not on my watch” in direct defiance of his political superiors. I hope that one day his service to his country in a very difficult situation will be finally recognized.

One more thing: Israel and the other regional powers. They are basically the equivalent of the vegetables served in a steak house: decoration. Just as NATO is a pretend force, so is the IDF and all the rest of the locals, including the Saudis, at least compared to Iran and Hezbollah. Yes, sure, they spend a lot of money, purchase expensive systems, but should a war break out, the Americans will be carrying 90%+ of the burden of real warfare, as opposed to politically correct coalition-building. Iran is a very large country with a complex geography, and the only ones who have to kind of power-projection capabilities to strike at Iran other than symbolically are the Americans. Of course, I am quite sure that should the US strike at Iran the Israelis will feel obliged to strike at some putatively nuclear target, return home and declare yet victory of the “invincible Tsahal”. But to the extend that Iran will be meaningfully hurt, it will be by the US, not Israel.

So does that mean that Iran would come unscathed from a US attack? Absolutely not. What I expect the Americans to do is what they have always done: engage in the mass murder of civilians in retaliation for their military failures. I know that this will, yet again, offend some doubleplusgoodthinking patriots, but massacring civilians is an American tradition dating from the very foundation of the United States. Anybody doubting that ought to read the superb book by John Grenier (USAF Ret.) entitled “The First Way of War 1607-1814: American War Making on the Frontier” which explains in exquisite detail how the US anti-civilian terror operations doctrine was developed over the centuries. This is, of course, what the Anglos did during WWII when they engaged in mass bombings of German cities to “break their spirit of resistance”. And this is what they did in Iraq and Serbia and what the Israelis did in Lebanon. And this is exactly what we should expect will happen in Iran. At least, this is the worst case scenario. There are really fundamentally two basic options for a US attack on Iran and I outlined them in my 2007 article about Iranian asymmetrical response options:

Broadly speaking, we see the Neocon Empire has having two options in an attack on Iran:

  1. A short, limited, attack on some Iranian nuclear and government installations. The goals of that kind of attack would be solely political: to appear to have “done something”, give the despondent Americans and Israelis some flags to wave, to “show resolve” and “send a firm message” – the kind of State Department nonsense. If lucky, they could hope to kill some Iranian leaders (although what exactly that would achieve is anyone’s guess). Lastly, it would punish the Iranians for their “bad behavior”.

  2. A more significant military attack, which could not be limited to an air campaign and one which would have to include at least some insertion of ground forces. That would be similar to the strategy outlined in my How they might do it article. The goal of this option would be radically different from the first one: “to punish the Iranian population for its support of ‘the Mullahs’ (as the expression goes in the USA) via the ballot box. This is exactly the same logic which brought the Israelis to hammer all of Lebanon with bombs, missiles and mines – the same logic by which they killed over 500 people in Gaza – the same logic by which the U.S. bombed all of Serbia and Montenegro and the same logic which explains the bizarre embargo of Cuba. The message here is: if you support the bad guys, you will pay for it.

The option I discussed today is the 2nd one, because this is the one which would get most people killed. But make no mistake, since neither one of these options would result in anything remotely resembling a victory (this is a political concept defining an achieved political objective) one would have to conclude that both of these options would result in failure and defeat. Such an attack would also seal the end of the US political role in the Middle-East unless, of course, being a despised elephant in a porcelain store is considered a “role”. But make no mistake, even if the Iranian casualty figures go in the hundred of thousands, or even over a million like in Iraq, the Iranians will not surrender and they will prevail. For one thing, terrorizing civilians has never worked. Genocide can be a much more viable option, but there are too many Iranians to do that and they are too well dug-in in their country to contemplate such an option (sorry, Israelis, even nuking Iran will not result in a “victory” of any kind). The Iranians have been at it for, what, 3000-9000 years (depending on how you count) and they will not be subdued, submitted or defeated with 200 or 70 year old states, or by an AngloZionist Empire in terminal decline.

I suspect that by now quite a few readers will be thoroughly irritated with me. So what better way is there for me to end this discussion than by adding religion to the mix? Yes, let’s do that!

Most Iranian are Shia, that is well known. But what is less well-known is one of the key motto’s of the Shia which, I believe, beautifully expresses one of the key features of the Shia ethos, is: “Every day is Ashura and every land is Karbala”. You can find an explanation of this phrase here. It basically expresses the willingness to die for the truth at any time and in any place. Millions of Iranians, even those not necessarily very pious, have been raised with this determination to fight and resist, at any cost. And now think of Donald Trump or General “Mad Dog” Mattis and try to imagine how hollow and grotesque they and their threats look to their Iranian counterparts.

Should I write an analysis of Chinese response options to a US attack? Nah – let’s just say that if the US doesn’t have what it takes to prevail over Iran, an attack on China would be simply suicidal.

Next week, alas, I will probably have to turn back to the dramatic events in the Ukraine.

The Saker

Trump regime’s close links with anti-Iran terrorist group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

Trump’s favorite Israeli-Saudi-backed terrorists

Trump Cabinet pick paid by ‘cult-like’ Iranian exile group

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An official in U.S. President Donald Trump’s Cabinet and at least one of his advisers gave paid speeches to organizations linked to an Iranian exile group that killed Americans before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, ran donation scams and saw its members set themselves on fire over the arrest of their leader.

Elaine Chao, confirmed this week as Trump’s transportation secretary, received $50,000 in 2015 for a five-minute speech to the political wing of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, previously called a “cult-like” terrorist group by the State Department. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also was paid an unknown sum to talk to the group, known as the MEK.

More than two dozen former U.S. officials, both Republican and Democratic, have spoken before the MEK, including former House Speaker and Trump adviser Newt Gingrich. Some have publicly acknowledged being paid, but others have not.

While nothing would have prohibited the paid speeches, they raise questions about what influence the exiles may have in the new administration.

Already, a group of former U.S. officials, including Giuliani, wrote a letter to Trump last month encouraging him to “establish a dialogue” with the MEK’s political arm. With Trump’s ban on Iranians entering the U.S., his administration’s call this week to put Iran “on notice” and the imposition of new sanctions on Friday, the exile group may find his administration more welcoming than any before.

A potential alliance with the MEK would link the U.S. to a group with a controversial history that has gone against American interests in the past by supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran. After fleeing Iran, the MEK joined forces with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It later exposed details of the clandestine nuclear program run by Iran, which views the MEK as its sworn enemy.

“The Mujahedeen have backed the winning horse. They are going to have some at least entree into the administration,” said Ervand Abrahamian, a professor at the City University of New York who wrote a book on the MEK. “I think it weakens the U.S. because the more they have access to the administration, the more people in Iran are going to be scared of anything the U.S. does.”

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“THE AYATOLLAH MUST GO”

The MEK long has cultivated a roster of former U.S. and European officials to attend its events opposing Iran’s clerically-run government. It pays for the appearance of many.

Standing before a cheering crowd of MEK supporters in Paris in 2015, Giuliani didn’t disappoint.

“The ayatollah must go! Gone! Out! No more!” Giuliani shouted in a speech as American flags waved behind him on giant screens.

“I will not support anyone for president of the United States who isn’t clear on that slogan behind me. What does it say? It says regime change!”

Giuliani has acknowledged being paid for his appearances at MEK events. However, he hasn’t filed a government disclosure form since his failed 2008 Republican presidential bid, so it’s unclear how much the MEK has paid him in total. Giuliani did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment sent through his aides.

As Giuliani spoke in Paris, behind him were a host of other former officials on stage, including Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. A former director of the Peace Corps and a labor secretary under President George W. Bush, Chao gave a much more subdued speech focusing on women’s rights.

“While discrimination against women (has) been outlawed in other countries, Iran has been legalizing it,” Chao said. “While other countries are empowering women, Iran has been penalizing them.”

Chao had a seat of honor at the Paris event next to Maryam Rajavi, the “president-elect” of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political arm of the MEK. She received a $50,000 honorarium from the MEK-associated Alliance for Public Awareness, according to a report she filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Chao received another $17,500 honorarium for a March 2016 speech she gave to the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, which MEK opponents also link to the exile group.

The Department of Transportation said in a statement that Chao has a “strong record of speaking out in support of democracy and women’s rights in the Middle East,” but “has not spoken to MEK events.”

It added that her speeches were delivered alongside bipartisan members of Congress, governors, prime ministers, ambassadors, generals, former FBI Directors and “many other influential voices.”

Gingrich has also spoken to the MEK before, including at a gala in 2016, although it is not clear whether or how much he was paid. Gingrich could not be reached for comment. The White House also had no comment.

The MEK welcomes the incoming Trump government, as “some people within this administration” plan to change American policies toward Iran, said Mohammad Mohaddessin, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of its political arm.

“The core of the policy that we are advocating is to be tough with the Iranian regime, to not ignore its crimes against the Iranian people,” Mohaddessin told the AP.

The U.S. Treasury briefly investigated the MEK’s practice of paying American politicians in 2012, the same year the State Department delisted the group as a foreign terrorist organization. A Treasury spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about the status of that probe.

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“THE KILLING OF TWO AMERICANS, THIS WAS WORK OF MOVEMENT MUJAHEDEEN”

The MEK was formed by radicalized university students in 1965. It embraced both Marxism and the idea of an Islamic government after the violent overthrow of the American-backed shah. Their name, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, means “the People’s Holy Warriors.”

The group at one point successfully infiltrated the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, according to a State Department report. And a series of bombings attributed to the MEK accompanied visits by presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter to Iran, including one to target an American cultural center.

In 1973, MEK assailants wearing motorcycle helmets shot dead U.S. Army Lt. Col. Lewis L. Hawkins, the deputy chief of the U.S. military mission to Tehran, as he walked home from work.

In 1975, gunmen attacked a car carrying two American airmen, killing them. Hours later, American consular officials received a call claiming the attack for the MEK in revenge for Iran executing prisoners.

“This was work of Movement Mujahedeen of Iran,” the caller said, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable.

In the three years that followed, the MEK killed three American employees of defense contractor Rockwell International and a Texaco executive.

“The Mujahedeen are xenophobic,” a once-secret 1981 CIA assessment on the group said. “Anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism provide cornerstones for the policies.”

The MEK, which now describes itself as being “committed to a secular, democratic, non-nuclear republic” in Iran, blames a Marxist splinter faction of the group for killing the Americans.

After joining in the Islamic Revolution and the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the MEK quickly fell out of favor with Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The MEK declared war on Iran in June 1981. Within days, a bomb exploded at the headquarters of the Khomeini-directed Islamic Republican Party in Tehran, killing at least 72 people. Both Iran and the CIA attributed the attack to the MEK, which never claimed responsibility for it.

A series of assassinations and attacks followed as MEK leaders and associates fled to Paris. Later expelled from France, the MEK found haven in Iraq amid its grinding, bloody war with Iran. Heavily armed by dictator Saddam Hussein, MEK forces launched cross-border raids into Iran.

After Iran accepted terms of a United Nations cease-fire in 1988, the MEK sent 7,000 fighters over the border. The attack further alienated the group from average Iranians.

The MEK says it renounced violence in 2001. But the U.S. Army’s official history of the Iraq invasion in 2003 says MEK forces “fought against coalition forces” for the first weeks of the war, something the MEK denies.

Fourteen U.S. soldiers were killed and at least another 60 wounded escorting MEK members on supply missions, according to a RAND Corp. report prepared for the office of the U.S. defense secretary. The MEK itself became a target of violence, and in September 2013 at least 52 members were shot dead.

Thousands of MEK members were ultimately resettled in Albania.

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“CULT-LIKE CHARACTERISTICS”

After siding with Saddam, the MEK’s popularity in Iran plummeted. To boost its ranks, the group increasingly began targeting Iranians applying for visas abroad in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, promising them work, aid in moving to Western countries and even marriage, according to RAND.

“Most of these ‘recruits’ were brought into Iraq illegally and then required to hand over their identity documents for ‘safekeeping,'” RAND said. “Thus, they were effectively trapped.”

The MEK also forced its members to divorce their spouses and separated parents from their children, which the State Department described as “cult-like characteristics.” The MEK dictates how much its members sleep, giving them busy-work tasks and controlling what outside news they consume, according to RAND and Abrahamian, the university professor.

For years, MEK leader Massoud Rajavi, the husband of Maryam Rajavi, hasn’t been seen publicly and is presumed to have died, Abrahamian said. MEK members call him the “Hidden Imam” who will return to Earth as a messiah, Abrahamian said.

When French police arrested Maryam Rajavi in 2003 as part of a terrorism investigation, MEK members responded by lighting themselves on fire in Paris and other European cities. The MEK denies it is a cult.

Over the years, the MEK has been targeted in a series of investigations around the world for running charity scams.

An FBI probe found MEK members hustled travelers arriving to Los Angeles International Airport, asking them to donate after showing them binders of photographs of disaster or torture victims. The money instead went to banks in Belgium, France, Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to “support MEK operations and activities, including terrorist activities,” a 2007 indictment against seven members said.

In Britain, authorities dissolved a charity in 2001 allegedly associated with the MEK that had made an estimated 5 million pounds a year. Its investigation found some donors “were misled into believing they were personally sponsoring individual children when this was not in fact the case.”

In the 2003 raids in France, police found $1.3 million, mostly in $100 bills, at MEK-affiliated properties.

Mohaddessin, the MEK foreign policy chairman, blames the investigations on a concerted misinformation campaign carried out by Iran. The Islamic Republic has imprisoned and executed the group’s members for years.

“These allegations are absolutely false,” Mohaddessin said. “There are many cases that were fabricated by the Iranian regime and their agents.”

Iran also has alleged the MEK receives foreign support. After the assassination of four nuclear scientists, Iran accused Israel of training and equipping MEK fighters who committed the killings. The MEK called the accusation “absolutely false” at the time, while Israel declined to comment.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia increasingly has shown support for the MEK as it faces off with Iran in wars in Syria and Yemen. The kingdom’s state-run television channels have featured MEK events and comments. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the nation’s former intelligence chief, even appeared in July at an MEK rally in Paris.

“I want to topple the regime too,” the prince said to cheers.

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“SKILLED MANIPULATORS OF PUBLIC OPINION”

From protests at the United Nations to their Paris rallies, the MEK has proven over the years to be effective at getting attention.

RAND in 2009 called the group “skilled manipulators of public opinion.” A U.S. diplomatic cable from February of that year released by WikiLeaks described their “extravagantly hospitable, exaggeratedly friendly, culturally-attuned manner.” The cable also mentioned that the MEK had “a history of using intimidation and terrorism for its ends,” which Mohaddessin called an allegation from the Iranian regime.

The MEK’s success in getting former U.S. officials behind them could be seen in a letter dated Jan. 9 sent to Trump just days before his inauguration.

“We repeat the call for the U.S. government to establish a dialogue with Iran’s exile resistance,” read the letter, signed by Giuliani and others.

However, exile groups haven’t always been proven to be reliable American allies in the Middle East. Exiled Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, for instance, heavily lobbied the administration of President George W. Bush to invade by pushing false allegations of weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.

But while the MEK continues to pay former U.S. officials for their time, the family of the American lieutenant colonel killed in 1975 has filed a $35 million federal lawsuit in Colorado against the group and Iran.

The reason for the lawsuit, Lt. Col. Jack Turner’s family says, is simple: “Unlike the U.S. hostages, our father never had the chance to come home.”

Trump: Trumpeting For a War on Iran?

Global Research, February 06, 2017
donald-trump-iran

The Trump Administration’s rhetoric and actions have alarmed the world.  The protests in response to his visa ban have overshadowed and distracted from a darker threat: war with Iran.   Is the fear of the threat greater than the threat itself?  The answer is not clear.

Certainly Americans and non-Americans who took comfort in the fact that we would have a more peaceful world believing that ‘Trump would not start a nuclear war with Russia must now have reason to pause.  The sad and stark reality is that US foreign policy is continuous.    An important part of this continuity is a war that has been waged against Iran for the past 38 years⎯unabated.

The character of this war has changed over time.  From a failed coup which attempted to destroy  the Islamic Republic in its early days (the Nojeh Coup), to aiding Saddam Hossein with intelligence and weapons of mass destruction to kill Iranians during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, helping and promoting the terrorist MEK group, the training and recruiting of the Jundallah terrorist group to launch attacks in Iran, putting Special Forces on the ground in Iran, the imposition of sanctioned terrorism, the lethal Stuxnet cyberattack,  and the list goes on and on, as does the continuity of it.

While President Jimmy Carter initiated the Rapid Deployment Force and put boots on the Ground in the Persian Gulf, virtually every U.S. president since has threatened Iran with military action.  It is hard to remember when the option was not on the table.  However, thus far, every U.S. administration has wisely avoided a head on military confrontation with Iran.

To his credit, although George W. Bush was egged on to engage militarily with Iran, , the 2002 Millennium Challenge, exercises which simulated war, demonstrated America’s inability to win a war with Iran.   The challenge was too daunting.  It is not just Iran‘s formidable defense forces that have to be reckoned with; but the fact that one of Iran’s strengths and deterrents has been its ability to retaliate to any attack by closing down the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passageway off the coast of Iran.  Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35% of the world’s seaborne oil exports go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy.

Faced with this reality, over the years, the United States has taken a multi-prong approach to prepare for an eventual/potential military confrontation with Iran.  These plans have included promoting the false narrative of an imaginary threat from a non-existent nuclear weapon and the falsehood of Iran being engaged in terrorism (when in fact Iran has been subjected to terrorism for decades as illustrated above).   These ‘alternate facts’ have enabled the United States to rally friend and foe against Iran, and to buy itself time to seek alternative routes to the Strait of Hormuz.

Plan B: West Africa and Yemen

In early 2000s, the renowned British think tank Chatham House issued one of the first publications that determined African oil would be a good alternate to Persian Gulf oil in case of oil disruption. This followed an earlier strategy paper for the U.S. to move toward African oil⎯The African White Paper⎯that was on the desk May 31, 2000 of then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of energy giant Halliburton. In 2002, the Israeli-based think tank, IASPS, suggested America push toward African oil.   In an interesting coincidence, in the same year, the Nigerian terror group, Boko Haram, was “founded”.

In 2007, the United States African Command (AFRICOM) helped consolidate this push into the region.  The 2011, a publication titled: “Globalizing West African Oil: US ‘energy security’ and the global economy” outlined ‘US positioning itself to use military force to ensure African oil continued to flow to the United States’.   This was but one strategy to supply oil in addition to or as an alternate to the passage of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

Nigeria and Yemen took on new importance.

In 2012, several alternate routes to Strait of Hormuz were identified which at the time of the report were considered to be limited in capacity and more expensive.   However, collectively, the West African oil and control of Bab Al-Mandeb would diminish the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz in case of war.

In his article for the Strategic Culture Foundation, “The Geopolitics Behind the War in Yemen: The Start of a New Front against Iran” geo-political researcher Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya correctly states: “[T] he US wants to make sure that it could control the Bab Al-Mandeb, the Gulf of Aden, and the Socotra Islands (Yemen). Bab Al-Mandeb it is an important strategic chokepoint for international maritime trade and energy shipments that connect the Persian Gulf via the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea. It is just as important as the Suez Canal for the maritime shipping lanes and trade between Africa, Asia, and Europe.”

War on Iran has never been a first option. The neoconservative think tank, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), argued in its 2004 policy paper “The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action” that the ideal situation was (and continues to be) to have a compliant regime in Tehran.  Instead of direct conflict, the policy paper [a must read] called for the assassination of scientists, introducing a malware, covertly provide Iran plans with a design flaw, sabotage, introduce viruses, etc.  These suggestions were fully and faithfully executed against Iran.

With the policy enacted, much of the world sighed with relief when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA , or the “Iran Nuclear Deal” which restricts Iran’s domestic nuclear power in exchange for the lifting of sanctions on Iran) was signed in the naïve belief that a war with Iran had been alleviated.   Obama’s genius was in his execution of U.S. policies which disarmed and disbanded the antiwar movements.  But the JCPOA was not about improved relations with Iran, it was about undermining it.  As recently as April 2015, as the signing of the JCPOA was drawing near, during a speech at the Army War College Strategy Conference, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work elaborated on how the Pentagon plans to counter the three types of wars supposedly being waged by Iran, Russia, and China.

As previously planned, the purpose of the JCPOA was to pave the way for a compliant regime in Tehran faithful to Washington, failing that, Washington would be better prepared for war for  under the JCPOA, Iran would open itself up to inspections.  In other words, the plan would act as a Trojan horse to provide America with targets and soft spots.  Apparently the plan was not moving forward fast enough to please Obama, or Trump.  In direct violation of international law and concepts of state sovereignty, the Obama administration slammed sanctions on Iran for testing missiles.   Iran’s missile program was and is totally separate from the JCPOA and Iran is within its sovereign rights and within the framework of international law to build conventional missiles.

Trump followed suit. Trump ran on a campaign of changing Washington and his speeches were full of contempt for Obama; ironically, like Obama, candidate Trump continued the tactic of disarming many by calling himself a deal maker, a businessman who would create jobs, and for his rhetoric of non-interference.    But few intellectuals paid attention to his fighting words, and fewer still heeded the advisors he surrounded himself with or they would have noted that Trump considers Islam as the number one enemy, followed by Iran, China, and Russia.

The ideology of those he has picked to serve in his administration reflect the contrarian character of Trump and indicate their support of this continuity in US foreign policy.  Former intelligence chief and Trump’s current National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, stated that the Obama administration willfully allowed the rise of ISIS, yet the newly appointed Pentagon Chief “Mad Dog Mattis” has stated: “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief.”  So the NSC (National Security Council) believes that Obama helped ISIS rise and the Pentagon believes that ISIS helps Iran continue its ‘mischief’.  Is it any wonder that Trump is both confused and confusing?

And is it any wonder that when on January 28th Trump signed an Executive Order calling for a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days the US, UK, France and Australia ran war games drill in the Persian Gulf that simulated a confrontation with Iran⎯ the country that has, itself, been fighting ISIS.   When Iran exercised its right, by international law, to test a missile, the United States lied and accused Iran of breaking the JCPOA. Threats and new sanctions ensued.

Trump, the self-acclaimed dealmaker who took office on the promise of making new jobs, slammed more sanctions on Iran. Sanctions take jobs away from Americans by prohibiting business with Iran, and they also compel Iranians to become fully self-sufficient, breaking the chains of neo-colonialism. What a deal!

Even though Trump has lashed out at friend and foe, Team Trump has realized that when it comes to attacking a formidable enemy, it cannot do it alone.   Although both in his book, Time to Get Tough, and on his campaign trails he has lashed out at Saudi Arabia, in an about face, he has not included Saudis and other Arab state sponsors of terror on his travel ban list.   It would appear that someone whispered in Mr. Trump’s ear that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar are fighting America’s dirty war in Yemen (and in Syria) and killing Yemenis.  In fact, the infamous Erik Prince, founder of the notorious Blackwater who is said to be advising Trump from the shadows, received a $120 million contract from the Obama Administration, and for the past several years has been working with Arab countries, UAE in particular, in the “security” and “training” of militias in the Gulf of Aden, Yemen.

So will there be a not so distant military confrontation with Iran?

Not if sanity prevails.  And with Trump and his generals, that is a big IF While for many years the foundation has been laid and preparations made for a potential military confrontation with Iran, it has always been a last resort; not because the American political elite did not want war, but because they cannot win THIS war. For 8 years, Iran fought not just Iraq, but virtually the whole world.   America and its allies funded Saddam’s war against Iran, gave it intelligence and weaponry, including weapons of mass destruction.  In a period when Iran was reeling from a revolution, its army was in disarray, its population virtually one third of the current population, and its supply of US provided weapons halted Yet Iran prevailed. Various American administrations have come to the realization that while it may take a village to fight Iran, attacking Iran would destroy the global village.

It is time for us to remind Trump that we don’t want to lose our village.

This article was first submitted to the print edition of Worldwide Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) newsletter.  

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich is an independent researcher and writer with a focus on US foreign policy.

US Betrays Iran Deal as Predicted – Edges Closer to War

February 2, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci – LD) – As the world remains mesmerized by the antics of US President Donald Trump, his national security adviser Michael Flynn brazenly linked Iran to Yemeni fighters who attacked a Saudi warship, as well as cited an Iranian missile test as grounds to reverse course on US rapprochement with Tehran, concluding that Iran was “put on notice.”

Flynn would state:

In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten US friends and allies in the region.

Flynn, who was head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) when a memo was published acknowledging the West, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf monarchs sought the rise of what was at the time called a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria – precisely where the Islamic [Salafist] State [principality] now occupies, is surely aware that America’s “friends and allies in the region” include state sponsors of terrorism, including the state sponsors of the Islamic State itself.

As Flynn furiously flipped through the pages of his statement, he was signifying the predictable betrayal of the so-called “Iran deal,” meant before it was even introduced the public – as early as 2009 – to serve as a pretext not for peace, but for war with Iran.

US corporate-financier funded think tank, the Brookings Institution, in a 2009 policy paper titled, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran” (.pdf) would lay out in detail various means of provoking war and regime change against Iran.

In it, Brookings explicitly revealed how a “superb offer” would be given to Iran, only to be intentionally revoked in a manner portraying Iran as ungrateful:

...any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context—both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.

The so-called “Iran deal,” introduced during the administration of US President Barack Obama, represents precisely this “superb offer,” with Flynn’s accusations serving as the “turn down” ahead of the “sorrowful” war and attempted regime change the US had always planned to target Tehran with.

In fact, Flynn would seemingly draw almost verbatim from the ploy described by Brookings in 2009, by stating:

Instead of being thankful to the United States for these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened … As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.

Flynn’s statement is particularly surreal – considering Yemeni fighters are only targeting Saudi warships because Saudi Arabia is currently waging full-scale war on Yemen. Accused on all sides of war crimes, and with the US itself even restricting weapon sales to Riyadh – if only symbolically – in response to Saudi Arabia’s aggression – Flynn still claims that the attack on Saudi Arabia’s warship constitutes justification for putting Iran “on notice.”

Claiming that Iran is “sponsoring terrorism” throughout the region, when it is currently a major member of the coalition fighting the DIA’s “Salafist principality” in both Iraq and Syria is also surreal.

Another prerequisite mentioned in the 2009 Brookings document was the need to move Syria out of the way. It appears that the US’ attempts at regime change in Syria have reached their final conclusion, failing overall, but weakening Syria significantly in the process. War on Iran – a nation taxed greatly in fighting US, European, and Persian Gulf-backed terrorist organization in Syria – may be perceived now as more preferable than before the 2011 conflict began.

Meanwhile, the political climate in the West has been so expertly manipulated that the public is either so distracted with identity politics that they are unaware and unconcerned with the prospect of war with Iran, or so hysterical over “Islam” that any nation perceived as being Muslim is seen as justifiably a target of US military aggression – regardless of how divergent any of these alternate realities are from actual reality.

Flynn’s statement encapsulates a documented conspiracy drafted under President Bush, implemented under President Obama, and finally coming into full fruition under President Trump, once again illustrating the continuity of agenda that transcends party politics, presidencies, and political rhetoric – driven by immense corporate-financier special interests, not the will of the American public.

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