Trump Hints NATO Should Take US Place in Middle East; Lies About Iran and Slaps on More Humiliating Sanctions

UPDATED: Trump will not escalate the crisis with Iran but talked tough, while inviting NATO to take over at least part of U.S. role in the region.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Following Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes on two US military bases in Iraq on Wednesday, President Donald Trump imposed unspecified new sanctions on Iran but told Tehran that the US is “ready to embrace peace for all who seek it.”

In a televised address from the White House on Wednesday, Trump did not say the U.S. would further escalate military action against Iran following Iran’s ballistic missile strikes, which the Iranian foreign minister said concluded Iran’s response to the U.S. killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Trump reported that there were no deaths or injuries and minimal property damage from the Iranian missile strikes over night. “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world,” Trump said.

Iran’s accurate missile attack demonstrated its capabilities, without causing damage that would have tempted Trump to further respond.  Cooler heads prevailed on both sides of the conflict, with the prospect of a disastrous major war that would put millions of lives and the world economy at risk staring them both in the face.

While the Iranian response may not have satisfied an Iranian population enraged over the murder of a revered military leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the ultimate revenge would be the expulsion of U.S. troops from the Middle East. 

Trump has said on more than one occasion that he would like to voluntarily do that–a move that has been met with strong bi-partisan opposition, committed as it is to American military intervention in the region. 

In his address, Trump implied that the U.S. has little reason to remain in Middle East because the U.S. was now the number one producer of oil and gas.

He said:

“Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process. Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.”

These remarks will need clarification over the coming days, though with Trump, it’s possible they will never be remarked on again, leaving uncertainty about his intentions.  One interpretation is that since the U.S. no longed needed Middle East energy the heavy presence of U.S. forces in the region was also no longer needed and that he would ask other NATO nations to share the military involvement.

Despite this, the U.S. has refused to withdraw its troops from Iraq, despite an Iraqi parliament resolution demanding they leave. Trump’s intentions to withdraw from Syria were met by bi-partisan condemnation, so he has kept them, ironically, to control Syria’s oil.

Lies and Distortions

Trump’s remarks were filled with distortions and outright lies, which form the premise for much of America’s misguided foreign policy, especially in the Middle East.  He once again said, “Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism,” when any neutral observation would show that U.S. ally Saudi Arabia by far holds that title.  The vast majority of major terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, are Sunni, not Shia. 

Almost everything he said about Suleimani was false. “Last week, we took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives,” he said. “At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world’s top terrorist.”

After the mid-1970s congressional investigations into intelligence agency abuses, including a U.S. government assassination program, “political assassinations” were banned by executive order, signed by President Gerald Ford, and then strengthened by Jimmy Carter. 

But Ronald Reagan’s lawyers made an exception for “terrorists,” though their targeted killing was still “political assassination.” Debated since 2007, the Trump administration last April designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a “terrorist organization,” even though it is part of a national military, not non-state actors, as terrorists are.

Thus Trump falsely argues the U.S. “legally” assassinated a “terrorist leader.”

‘Hundreds of Americans’

Once the mainstream media, practically overnight, come up with a phrase planted by a government official, it is repeated across the board incessantly until it comes to be accepted as “truth.” Such was the case of Suleimani having “killed hundreds of Americans,” as though he strangled American women and children in a Midwest town with his bare hands. 

In fact Suleimani trained militia in Iraq that resisted an occupying army as the people of any occupied nation would do. He was a military man, not a terrorist, that engaged in acts of war, a war begun without legitimate cause by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The targets of his trained militia were military, not civilian. 

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Another lie that Trump continuously repeats is that the five nation plus Iran nuclear deal approved by the Obama administration lead the U.S. to “give” Iran billions of dollars. 

Trump said:

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the United States, they chanted ‘death to America.’ In fact, they chanted ‘death to America’ the day the agreement was signed. Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.”

In fact, the money Iran was “given” was actually Iran’s assets that had been frozen in the U.S. under earlier sanctions. Iran’s military actions in Syria have been against real terrorist groups, and the war in Yemen was started by Saudi Arabia, with U.S. approval (during the negotiations over the nuclear deal, which the Saudis opposed.) The Houthi in Yemen have been driven into alliance with Iran, an alliance which did not exist before the Saudi attack.

Humiliating Iran

Iran’s response was less than what many analysts had been anticipating. No American official apparently has been targeted for assassination and the Iranian missile strikes seemed to purposely avoid killing U.S. personnel. But rather than call it a day, given Iran’s symbolic retaliation, Trump dug his heel in by gratuitously announcing new sanctions. 

“The US will impose new punishing sanctions on Iranian regime and they will remain until Iran changes its behavior,” Trump said. “Iran’s campaign of mayhem and murder will not be tolerated.” 

American hubris was on display over the course of these events, further humiliating not only Iran but also Iraq in their own countries, further undermining support for the U.S. in the region. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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27 comments for “Trump Hints NATO Should Take US Place in Middle East; Lies About Iran and Slaps on More Humiliating Sanctions

  1. January 9, 2020 at 14:25

    Sewing seeds of division
    in this psychotic prison
    we have built the walls
    that wound our empty souls
    that keep us in the dark
    digging deeper in the hole
    Sewing seeds of fear
    as they push the ending near
    Selling death and war
    Prostitues that whore
    all the weapons you will need
    to make the children bleed.
    Planting distractions
    Inciting reactions
    Diverting attention
    from your murderous intention.
    Let us fight amongst ourselves
    who would cross the great divide
    to listen to the enemy
    on the ‘other’ side
    Everybody knows
    that money rules the show
    We pretend we have control
    and choose the status quo
    It’s insane and we’re to blame
    which only proves the more we know
    the more we stay the same.?

  2. Guy
    January 9, 2020 at 12:05

    It is very plain to see that the US administration ,run by neocon zionists ,deep state MIC shareholders etc , does not want peace .
    Peace would mean the military machinery would have to be scaled down and that would be a severe blow to the US economy .
    Outside of the arms industry ,the US is no longer a manufacturer of it’s own needs and with 23 trillion in debt and climbing ,the present situation is unsustainable .The lies , innuendo and propaganda may have reached it’s limits with this last round on criminal actions in the assassination of Qassem Soleimani .Hopefully many more US citizens will start to realize what a sham their government is .

    • January 10, 2020 at 21:59

      Several good points made above by Mr. Guy in his comment above. I would add that the support for U.S. global hegemony is completely bi-partisan and that corporate militarist Dems are just as eager to continue warring in the MEast to preserve the petro-dollar (including regime change operations in the western hemisphere) as their Repug compatriots on the other side of the aisle.

      To achieve peace — in “American Imperial” mind-set terms now — means perpetual war to serve a status quo which promotes our “interests” to defeat those around the world who resist: Peace, by definition would then be victory in that war when and if resistance ceases. But, of course, it will never cease. “Peace,” in this sense is realized in the ultimate Orwellian expression “War is Peace.”

      So what then, given the $trillion plus per year spending on militarism, which, for decades, has been sucking the domestic sector dry? Here, for our rulers and their toadies, perpetual war is preferable to thinking about what could replace it . . . No thought is being seriously put forward on how to de-escalate an absurdly aggressive American global presence, de-funding aggressive warring, or replacing an aggressive U.S. “global control” paradigm that can never be achieved with a co-operative model to work with other nations of the world on the two outstanding existential threats to our existence on the planet: potential Nuclear war and human caused global warming.

      As Mr. Guy says . . . “Hopefully many more US citizens will start to realize what a sham their government is.”

  3. Hide Behind
    January 9, 2020 at 12:02

    Trump is playing a very strong political game, one that will get him reelected come fall, that is the game simple as that.
    He will have Articles of impeachment filed against him, but not be removed; he satisfied all three of his base supporters, Domestic Christian Zionist, Jewish Israelis, gave both political parties warhawks a victory smackdown of Iran, and his China trade deal has economy humming keeping American consumers happy.
    As for his impeachment lets look at that cluster—-, and Nancy Pelost, the woman who stopped the impeachment of Bush/Cheney, the two greatest war criminals to of ever held public office in US History.
    A purely self serving political move that gave her as much political power in Congress as her familys connections control over California until today.
    She knows it will fail, but it will further weaken the Democrats powers making them look only to her as mastrr, a la Hillary Clinton’s Clintonistas.
    She is even held in more esteem within Israel and their AIPAC allies in US than all Republicans combined.
    One cannot point to any other person as to why Democrats vote for every increase of military budget than through her office, no one.
    Trump will become even more powerfull politicly, but what is not being spoken of is that Congress failure to impeach will vastly increase the Powers of the Executive Branch, Office of Presidency.
    OK, we in US are sheep, we graze where told to, when our guard dogs bark of danger we run amuck in fear, and herd up in presumed safety when dogs quit barking, and go back to grazing,
    What is ongoing outside our pastures is not to worry about, the dogs are happy, we are happy, life is good.
    Our orange colored dog barked and Iran’s miniature mutts yipped and ran with tail between legs,
    And those in the political buisness returned back to their usual refrains,”nothing here, nothing there, we got it under control, just go back doing whatever you were doing”;
    And we.americans are doing just that.

    • sadra
      January 10, 2020 at 17:14

      You really think it’s a smart sign to accuse other countries?
      The US economic war with Iran has eroded the people of this country, while the Middle East countries must decide for themselves neither foreign nor American.
      Netanyahu’s puppet is trumpet.

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    January 9, 2020 at 10:35

    ALL foreign troops should leave the Middle East…ALL.The West has caused more than enough havoc.

  5. John Drake
    January 8, 2020 at 23:21

    For once Trump didn’t seem to listen to Fox and Friends. The man/child as he has been called must have gotten a stern warning that he had blundered into a lose/lose situation. As Kissinger once said to Nixon:” Well sir I am just trying to keep you from being an international pariah.”(He had wanted to bomb the dikes around Ha Noi.
    And by not carrying through with his threats he may now have the neo-cons pissed off at him. I suspect Bolton is in a frenzy. Trump may start getting sort of lonely-too bad.

  6. jared
    January 8, 2020 at 22:06

    The administration has every intention of war with Iran – that is the objective here. Everythis said today was complete B/S.

    As perfectly noted in artical posted at Zerohedge, Rand Paul is quoted as stating that “only insane would beleive that killing Sulimani would avert war with Iran”.

    This is all about war and has been. Economic blockade is an act of war. Iran has been hoping for more reasonable actors to intervene – not happening. They want war and there will be war just matter of timing.

  7. Gregory Herr
    January 8, 2020 at 21:51

    An extraordinarily well-thought-through and executed response from Tehran. They were prompt (which I think was important), they must have given us a “heads up” and exhibited technical proficiency for there to be no casualties (which was crucial), and they explicitly stated their wish for no further escalation and for peace. They gave a boxed-in Trump a way out in about the only way it could have been done.

    As long as we’re feeling lucky, what are the odds of the Pentagon bringing the boys home?

  8. Brewer
    January 8, 2020 at 20:43

    “The US will impose new punishing sanctions on Iranian regime and they will remain until Iran changes its behavior,” – the US is “ready to embrace peace for all” (who do and think according to our dictates).
    That ain’t “peace” it is subjection but wait:

    “And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.”

    What is that doing in there? Hmmmmm. Looks like Yankees once again declaring victory and going home.

    I’d say game set and match to Iran/Iraq/Russia.

  9. V
    January 8, 2020 at 19:20

    People need to get over the delusion that POTUS is the Commander-In-Chief. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trump may be standing down, but what about the MIC/Deep State/Shadow Gov/Pentagon (pick your descriptor)? Trump is a useful idiot for the hawks because he is so effective as Distractor-In-Chief.

    • Savvas
      January 9, 2020 at 01:11

      ??? I don’t think this is any different than any other country’s foreign policy. The US was able to do this with Trump much better than ever before. Even the impeachment process by the Democrats is simply a way to have trump step down quickly if any of the US agenda (Trade, Foreign Policy etc.) goes seriously wrong. What a better way to get an ‘out of jail’ card from the global Community than blaming an ‘arrogant president.’

    • January 9, 2020 at 06:26

      Let’s hope that Iran’s display of bluster doesn’t serve to embolden the US and other imperial predators in the Middle East. It may have been better to do nothing rather than fire missiles in a pure show of theater for domestic consumption. It’s easy to be sceptical as to whether Iran’s response will deter future provocations that will lead to further escalations.

    • michael
      January 9, 2020 at 06:28

      Agreed. ” The MIC/Deep State/Shadow Gov/Pentagon” plus Congress, DNC and Israel, will not allow withdrawal of troops, no matter what America (and Trump) want. The CIA will build up ISIS again if America pulls out. Unlike the uninvited US, Iran and many Shiia states may need to invite Russia in. Maybe that was behind the shoutout to NATO; Israel and Saudi Arabia are playing Trump and are the major headaches in the region.
      I had not linked Obama’s nuclear treaty with Iran to Obama’s war supporting genocide in Yemen (to assuage the Saudis’ hurt feeling about the Iran treaty? Really?) My opinion of Obama, already low, just dropped. People get so worked up over the killing of a Khashoggi or a Soleimani, but care nothing for the 500,000 Iraqi toddlers Bill Clinton killed with sanctions (as Pepe reminds us in his article) or the millions of desperately poor Yemeni who Obama tossed to the bloodlust of our ‘allies’. The people in the region have long memories, and revenge is a dish best served cold.

  10. January 8, 2020 at 17:41

    Why is this assassination not compared to the brutal murder of Kashoggi? Both were
    Lured by government assets and brutally murdered

    • Piotr Berman
      January 9, 2020 at 03:24

      It is hard to compare. The prize of shamelessness definitely goes to USA. Who else can even debate if a secretly formed “finding” of the head of a state is a valid reason to kill a person. And disregards the integrity of a country to do so. Boris Johnson now lauded Trump’s action, leading to disputes if he is a poodle or a lapdog, but even he would not claim the right to kill people in that fashion. So “rule based world order” has one rule: what the government of USA wants. Life is so needlessly complicated with multiple rules.

      There are some logical dangers in this approach. Good is what the government of USA wants. When that government declares that it wants to be evil, evil becomes good. Lesser minds around the world may start exploding, but those impervious to logic can remain and rule.

    • AnneR
      January 9, 2020 at 07:17

      Peter, my perception is: the assassination of General Soleimani was and is viewed as fundamentally OK, righteous, by *all* of the DC political, MICC, corporate-capitalist-imperialist crowd, because a) *we* did it; b) and because *we* the planet’s exceptionalist arbiters have determined that Soleimani and the IRGC are “terrorists” that go around slaughtering all and sundry and form a threat to “Israel” (Occupied Palestine).

      Note that the Demrats – aside from one or two like Sanders (not as if he has a really clean bill on warmongering) – didn’t condemn this assassination for what it really was, only that Congress hadn’t given the thumbs up. When it comes to killing peoples in West Asia, Africa and East Asia, devastating their homes, lives and livelihoods, there is no really existing difference between either so-called party. Both are gung-ho water-carriers for the MICC and the forceful, murderous imposition of *our* planetary dominion.

    • rosemerry
      January 9, 2020 at 13:39

      Oh please. Kashoggi is put up almost daily as some sort of a hero-just a WaPo journalist from KSA. How ludicrous to even mention him compared to a person who has served his nation for decades, fought real terrorists, lived in imminent danger all his life and finally got assassinated by violent explosives.

    January 8, 2020 at 17:20

    We have a Rogue President for our Rogue State—–“War is a racket–The few profit–The many pay ” S. Butler—

  12. January 8, 2020 at 16:13

    If EU should accept on two conditions: 1. the US gets out; 2. the US lifts the sanctions on Iran.

  13. bobzz
    January 8, 2020 at 15:50

    Pompeo says we had and “imminent” threat. Here is what “imminent” means in double talk:

    Bethlehem doctrine—no evidence of imminent attack necessary. An attack may be deemed “imminent” according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no detais of it or when it might occur.

    neocon/zionist doctrine unacceptable elsewhere.

    This is why Pompeo and the rest are completely untrustworthy.

    • Yonatan
      January 8, 2020 at 17:53

      Bethlemem (Netanyahu’s goto guy) was brought in by Jack Straw in the UK after the existing legal officers concluded the invasion of Iraq was not legally justified. He gave the coat of whitewash that recycled Israel’s demands as independent assessments by the UK and US. The Bethlehem Doctrine is now embedded into the legal systems of Israel, the US and UK. No surprises there!

    • Charlene Richards
      January 8, 2020 at 21:41

      I think Trump is untrustworthy for one top reason:

      He is a liar. Just like Hillary Rodham Clinton (“you mean…did I wipe the server with a cloth?!”).

      He claims to be a “Christian”. Yet he obviously, in one of the most vile ways, assassinates the top military commander of Iran, as this commander is en route to negotiate peace between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Trump HAD to be aware of this.

      As Jesus TAUGHT, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”?

      I seriously doubt he DID consider such a thing. I also seriously doubt he had his “pastor” (who on Earth might THAT be?!) in a conference or prayer session prior to making such a grave decision.

      He obviously did not think through his responsibilities to the security of the American people. Did he not care or realize that his actions would cause possibly another ten years of “blowback”, long after he would be out of office? One year of pain on Americans for every person he ordered slain in the attack.

      After these reckless and cruel murderous actions putting the entire planet in dire jeopardy, I find these actions to be indefensible and criminal in their nature.

      But mostly they are NOT those of a Christian, which Trump falsely claims to be.

      I will be voting for the anti-war candidate in November. This can never be Trump. In spite of his 2016 promises he cannot be trusted. And if there is not a clear anti-war candidate like Sanders or Gabbard to vote for, I will sit out the first election of my life.

      Voting for the lesser of two evils is over for me. Lesson learned.

    • Piotr Berman
      January 9, 2020 at 03:32

      It seems that some native speakers are confused about imminent or immanent. When queried by contumely reporters, Pompeo declared that it was not necessarily a matter of days or weeks, but that no one familiar with the entirety of the intelligence doubted that the danger was imminent. That opens a possibility that all of them were lexically challenged. In any case, the degree of mental confusion exhibited by “all people familiar with the entirety of the intelligence” makes it doubtful if they could make any reliable conclusions.

  14. Drew Hunkins
    January 8, 2020 at 12:39

    Trump’s going to stand down. But let’s not forget that the crushing unilateral sanctions — illegal according to international law — which he intends to ramp up once again, are acts of war in and of themselves. They’ve devastated the common Iranian working folks, who only make up about 95% of the population.

    So we once again have Washington face-to-face with a Tehran that desperately wants peace, but is pressured by a population that’s suffering serious economic hardship.

    Let’s never forget that there were hardcore hardliners in Washington last night praying for all out war on the Islamic Republic. Things are just as tense now as as they ever were but with harsher sanctions on the way.

    The lies and distortions Trump fed the American people this morning about the much revered Soleimani, who was instrumental in waging successful battles against ISIS, Al Qaeda, Daesh in Iraq and Syria, were deplorable and depraved nonsense.

  15. Jill
    January 8, 2020 at 12:22

    Sanctions are military action. People die from those. NATO is run by the US. This isn’t really de-escalation. Trump had the chance to walk away, get our troops out of Iraq as required by law and truly make peace. There needs to be pressure on the US to do these things NOW.

    NATO should not be there at all. No war, no war through sanctions.

    • Realist
      January 9, 2020 at 01:13

      NATO has no business in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia or anywhere in Asia or Northern Africa. It’s founding charter was to act as a deterrent to Soviet expansion or adventurism in the North Atlantic regions of Europe and North America. Since the Soviet Union has been no more since 1991, any justification for NATO’s continuation is long gone.

      NATO was most definitely never meant nor authorized to be Washington’s globe-trotting foreign legion enabling its absolute hegemony across the planet. It was also never meant to be an expanded source of funding for America’s military adventurism, which Trump incessantly carps upon when he rags on most of Europe for not ponying up more dollars to be squandered by the Pentagon and the MIC.

      Europe needs to snap out of this self-destructive hypnotic state the warmongers in Washington have imposed upon them. Let the true believers in war with Russia, like Poland, Ukraine and the Baltics, make their play alone, without the rest of the NATO street gang recruited by Washington, a piss-poor “leader of the pack” if there ever was one, jeopardizing everyone’s future for no good reason. Maybe they will learn a necessary lesson the hard way and the foolishness will stop. Maybe Poland especially will have its memory jogged on how picking gratuitous fights with far greater powers can lead to being partitioned and losing all sovereignty for a couple hundred years. Maybe they will learn it’s absolutely stupid to disrupt peace and stability when you are already sitting pretty and stand only to lose what you have. All those countries ought to try reading some real history rather than listening to the siren songs of Washington. I’ve lived all across America since the day of my birth 72 years ago, and no city, township or village ever had its streets paved with gold. Just to let you yokels know.

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