Iran Tensions Are Reason to Revoke ‘9/11 AUMF’

A House committee voted Tuesday to end the emergency war powers that Congress gave the presidency after 9/11. Inder Comar says it’s urgent to complete that repeal process.     

By Inder Comar
Special to Consortium News

To any defender of democracy and the rule of law, the threat at hand is plainly existential. A U.S. war with Iran would destroy countless lives and likely constitute an international crime. And it would herald a new phase of America’s wars in which any pretense of peace is abandoned and a militarized economy, society and culture is the open and avowed goal of the state and its political system.

To prevent this, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, must be repealed or struck down, as soon as possible. On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted for the repeal in a move led by Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF in 2001. 

War powers possess a heavy gravity: the more they are used, the more they tend to aggrandize power from other places. Using the 2001 AUMF as the basis for an attack on Iran is likely, as it would further the aims of the war bureaucracy to take such powers entirely out of the hands of Congress. Under the executive, the war powers can be further centralized, refined, and made permanent — the framework of an imperial system of governance where a Caesar is chosen every four years; not to maintain global peace, but to perpetually advance a forever war.

On Sept. 18, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the AUMF, which is terse, consisting of 60 words:

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

The authority to use force under the so-called 9/11 AUMF is unilateral and not subject to further review. Critically, the joint resolution by Congress provides the president with sole authority to use force as “he determines” — a sweeping grant of war-making that is unprecedented in constitutional law, without any demarcating boundary as to territory or time.

Constitution Subverted  

The Constitution vests Congress with the authority to start a war under Article I.  And it grants the executive the ability to prosecute that war under Article II, subject to the limits sent by Congress. The framers plainly intended this division of power. (See “The Federalist Papers No. 69,” by Alexander Hamilton.)

The 9/11 AUMF switched these default operating conditions. Now, under a sprawling “counter-terrorism” aegis the executive has sole discretion to commence a new war. War, not peace, is the default. Then the burden shifts to Congress to stop a new military action, with a two-thirds, veto proof majority. The war powers were re-written and switched. And for 18 years, no one has cared.

Yemen provides a crystal clear example of this in action. As recently as December 2018, the executive has cited “counter-terrorism” as giving it authority for involvement in Yemen (in addition to citing generic Article II authority).

In order to restrain the executive, Congress found itself in the awkward position of having to pass a resolution (S.J. 7) to forbid the executive from participation in a war zone that was never authorized. On April 16, President Donald Trump vetoed the resolution, and on May 2, Congress failed to override the veto with a two-thirds majority. Throughout the debate regarding Yemen, the entire political class seemed to blindly accept the absurdity that it was incumbent upon Congress to stop a military operation that had never been authorized with a two-thirds, veto-proof majority.

An attack on Iran premised on the 9/11 AUMF would be unconstitutional under domestic law, and an act of aggression under international law.

The 9/11 AUMF is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers. But even if it could be narrowly interpreted, there is no way that a military authorization designed to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, passed almost 18 years ago, provides any legitimate basis for an attack against Iran — a separate sovereign nation that has no connection to Al-Qaeda terrorists or the 9/11 attacks. Osama bin-Laden is long dead. How long will 9/11 be milked and exploited by corrupt leaders and enabling bureaucrats as an excuse for a forever war?

Crimes of Aggression

International law is also worth discussing. An attack on Iran without authorization from the United Nations Security Council, and not in self-defense, would constitute an act of aggression, in violation of the Nuremberg principles laid down in 1946 by the Nuremberg Tribunal. Iran poses no military threat to the United States, so self-defense is not a legal grounds for an attack. And the U.N. Security Council is unlikely to authorize U.S. military action against Iran.

Thus, as with the invasion of Iraq, a military attack against Iran could very well be a textbook case of the crime of aggression, the supreme crime under international law. Further aggression would cause regional and great powers to see America as dangerous — a rogue imperial power heavily armed with civilization-ending nuclear weapons. It would mark the end of the current international order and give birth to a volatile interregnum or even a new order of outright war between the major powers.

Wars lasting 30 or a hundred years were supposed to be artifacts of the Middle Ages. Yet America’s forever war has now lasted almost 20, and is already the longest war in American history. It is clear that elites enjoy the power they have been given to wage war as a default mechanism of international politics. This power must now end. The unconstitutionality of the 9/11 AUMF is glaringly obvious. Congress did not have the authority to hand over its war powers to the executive in 2001. Now, either Congress or the courts must recognize what has happened, and put a stop to a rabid Executive.

Americans must reject a war with Iran, end their forever war, and enact a foreign policy that is committed to international law and human rights. They should prosecute their leaders who have committed grave international offences, including for past torture and aggression in places like Iraq. The first step is to repeal or revoke the 9/11 AUMF.

Inder Comar is the executive director of Just Atonement Inc., a legal non-profit dedicated to defending democracy and building peace and sustainability. His public law expertise involves the crime of aggression, the legality of the Iraq War, and international human rights. He holds his JD from the New York University School of Law, and an MA and BAs from Stanford University. His Twitter handle is @InderComar.




The Pathology of John Bolton

John Bolton has been saying for years he wants the Iranian government overthrown, and now he’s made his move. But this time he may have gone too far, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

I knew John Bolton and interacted with him on a nearly daily basis with my colleagues in the press corps at United Nations headquarters in New York when Bolton was the United States ambassador there from August 2005 to December 2006.

Most diplomats, officials, and journalists were shocked that Bolton (evading confirmation with a recess appointment) had actually become the U.S. representative, given his long, public disdain for the UN. But that turned out to be the point. It’s been the strategy of Republican administrations to appoint the fiercest critic to head an agency or institution in order to weaken it, perhaps even fatally.

Bolton’s most infamous quote about the UN followed him into the building. In 1994 he had said: “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

But a more telling comment in that same 1994 conference was when he said that no matter what the UN decides the U.S. will do whatever it wants:

Bolton sees such frank admissions as signs of strength, not alarm.

He is a humorless man, who at the UN at least, seemed to always think he was the smartest person in the room. He once gave a lecture in 2006 at the U.S. mission to UN correspondents, replete with a chalk board, on how nuclear enrichment worked. His aim, of course, was to convince us that Iran was close to a bomb, even though a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate being prepared at the time said Tehran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

I thought I’d challenge him one day at the press stakeout outside the Security Council chamber, where Bolton often stopped to lecture journalists on what they should write. “If the United States and Britain had not overthrown a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 would the United States be today faced with a revolutionary government enriching uranium?’ I asked him.

“That’s an interesting question,” he told me, “but for another time and another place.” It was a time and a place, of course, that never came.

More Than an Ideology

Bolton possesses an abiding self-righteousness rooted in what seems a sincere belief in the myth of American greatness, mixed with deep personal failings hidden from public view.

He seemed perpetually angry and it wasn’t clear whether it was over some personal or diplomatic feud. He seems to take personally nations standing up to America, binding his sense of personal power with that of the United States.

It is more than an ideology. It’s fanaticism. Bolton believes America is exceptional and indispensible and superior to all other nations and isn’t afraid to say so. He’d have been better off perhaps in the McKinley administration, before the days of PR-sugarcoating of imperial aggression. He’s not your typical passive-aggressive government official. He’s aggressive-aggressive.

And now Bolton is ordering 120,000 troops to get ready and an aircraft carrier to steam towards Iran.

Bolton’s all too willing to make his bullying personal on behalf of the state. He implicitly threatened the children of José Bustani, who Vice President Dick Cheney wanted out of his job as head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons because Bustani had gotten Iraq to agree to join the chemical weapons protocol, thereby making it harder for the U.S. to invade Iraq.

After Bolton’s failed 2005 confirmation hearings, Tony Blinken, the then staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The New Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins:

“We saw a pattern of Mr. Bolton trying to manipulate intelligence to justify his views. If it had happened once, maybe. But it came up multiple times, and always it was the same underlying issue: he would stake out a position, and then, if the intelligence didn’t support it, he would try to exaggerate the intelligence and marginalize the officials who had produced it.”

Bolton is no fan of democracy if things don’t go his way. He is a vociferous instigator of the so-far failed U.S. coup in Venezuela and of course Bolton organized the “Brooks Brothers riot” that disrupted the recounting of votes in Florida in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

What is alarming about the above video is not so much that he justifies lying, but the example he gives: lying to cover up military plans like the invasion of Normandy. This is a common ruling class tactic in the U.S. to portray disobedient leaders ripe for overthrow as Hitler. Saddam was Hitler, Milosevic was Hitler, Noriega was Hitler and Hillary Clinton called Putin Hitler. It is a false revival of U.S. glory from World War II to paint foreign adventures as moral crusades, rather than naked aggression in pursuit of profits and power.

Bolton is the distillation of the pathology of American power. He is unique only in the purity of this pathology.

Regime Change for Iran 

The U.S. national security adviser has been saying for years he wants the Iranian government overthrown, and now he’s made his move. But this time John Bolton may have flown too high.

He was chosen for his post by a president with limited understanding of international affairs—if real estate is not involved—and one who loves to be sucked up to. Trump is Bolton’s perfect cover.

But hubris may have finally bested Bolton. He had never before maneuvered himself into such a position of power, though he’d left a trail of chaos at lower levels of government. Sitting opposite the Resolute desk on a daily basis has presented a chance to implement his plans.

At the top of that agenda has been Bolton’s stated aim for years: to bomb and topple the Iranian government.

Thus Bolton was the driving force to get a carrier strike force sent to the Persian Gulf and, according to The New York Times, on May 14it was he who “ordered” a Pentagon plan to prepare 120,000 U.S. troops for the Gulf. These were to be deployed “if Iran attacked American forces or accelerated its work on nuclear weapons.”

Two months after Bolton was appointed national security adviser, in June 2018, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the six-nation deal that has seen Tehran curtail its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relaxation of U.S. and international sanctions.

At the time of Bolton’s appointment in April 2018, Tom Countryman, who had been undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, as had Bolton, predicted to The Intercept that if Iran resumed enrichment after the U.S. left the deal, it “would be the kind of excuse that a person like Bolton would look to to create a military provocation or direct attack on Iran.”

In response to ever tightening sanctions, Iran said on May 5 (May 6 in Tehran) that it would indeed restart partial nuclear enrichment. On the same day, Bolton announced the carrier strike group was headed to the Gulf.

Bolton Faces Resistance

If this were a normally functioning White House, in which imperial moves are normally made, a president would order military action, and not a national security adviser. “I don’t think Trump is smart enough to realize what Bolton and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo are doing to him,” former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel told RT’s Afshin Rattansi this week. “They have manipulated him. When you get the national security adviser who claims that he ordered an aircraft carrier flotilla to go into the Persian Gulf, we’ve never seen that. In the days of Henry Kissinger, who really brought sway, he never ordered this, and if it was ordered it was done behind closed doors.”

Bolton claimed he acted on intelligence that Iran was poised to attack U.S. interests close to Iran. The intelligence alleged Iran was fitting missiles on fishing boats in the Gulf. Imagine a government targeted by the most powerful military force in history wanting to defend itself in its own waters. Bolton also said Iran was threatening Western interests in Iraq, which led eventually to non-essential U.S. diplomatic staff leaving Baghdad and Erbil.

It is the typical provocation of a bully: threaten someone with a cruise missile and the moment they pick up a knife in self-defense you attack, conveniently leaving the initial threat out of the story. It then becomes: “Iran picked up a knife. We have to blow them away with cruise missiles.”

But this time the bully is being challenged. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, resisted the U.S. on Iran when she met Pompeo in Brussels on May 13.

“It’s always better to talk, rather than not to, and especially when tensions arise… Mike Pompeo heard that very clearly today from us,” said Mogherini. “We are living in a crucial, delicate moment where the most relevant attitude to take – the most responsible attitude to take – is and we believe should be, that of maximum restraint and avoiding any escalation on the military side.”

The New York Times that day reported: “Privately, several European officials described Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo as pushing an unsuspecting Mr. Trump through a series of steps that could put the United States on a course to war before the president realizes it.”

British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika then said on May 14: “There has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.” Ghika was rebuked by U.S. Central Command, whose spokesman said, “Recent comments from OIR’s Deputy Commander run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”

A day later it was Trump himself, however, who was said to be resisting Bolton. On May 15 The Washington Post reported:

“President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.”

The Times reported the next day:

“President Trump has told his acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, according to several administration officials, in a message to his hawkish aides that an intensifying American pressure campaign against the clerical-led government in Tehran must not escalate into open conflict.”

Then it was the Democrats who stood up to Bolton. On Tuesday Pompeo and Shanahan briefed senators and representatives behind closed doors on Capitol Hill regarding the administration’s case for confronting Iran.

“Are they (Iran) reacting to us, or are we doing these things in reaction to them? That is a major question I have, that I still have,” Sen. Angus King told reporters after the briefing. “What we view as defensive, they view as provocative. Or vice versa.”

Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego told reporters after the briefing: “I believe there is a certain level of escalation of both sides that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The feedback loop tells us they’re escalating for war, but they could just be escalating because we’re escalating.”

Pompeo told a radio interviewer after the briefing that the U.S. had still not determined who attacked two Saudi, a Norwegian and an Emirati oil tanker in the Gulf last week, which bore the hallmarks of a provocation. Pompeo said “it seems like it’s quite possible that Iran was behind” the attacks.

Bolton was conspicuously absent from the closed-door briefing.

It’s Up to Trump

Trump has pinballed all over the place on Iran. He called the Times and Post stories about him resisting Bolton “fake news.”

“The Fake News Media is hurting our Country with its fraudulent and highly inaccurate coverage of Iran. It is scattershot, poorly sourced (made up), and DANGEROUS. At least Iran doesn’t know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing!” Trump tweeted on May 17.

Then he threatened what could be construed as genocide against Iran. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” he tweeted on Sunday. 

But also last Sunday he told Fox News that the “military-industrial complex” is real and “they do like war” and they “went nuts” when he said he wanted to withdraw troops from Syria. Trump said he didn’t want war with Iran.

On Monday he implied that the crisis has been drummed up to get Iran to negotiate.

“The Fake News put out a typically false statement, without any knowledge that the United States was trying to set up a negotiation with Iran. This is a false report….”

John Bolton must be stopped before he gets his war. It is beyond troubling  that the man we have to count on to do it is Donald Trump.

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 joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .




A ‘Just Transition’ from Fossil Fuels

All agree that there are no jobs on a dead planet, writes Linda Flood. But the road to fewer emissions is full of opinions.

By Linda Flood
in Stockholm
Inter Press Service

The trade unions’ solution for a greener world is new jobs with good working conditions. The critics argue that there’s not enough time. ”We can either protect industrial jobs in the global north or save the climate,” says political scientist Tadzio Müller. 

Politicians, businesses, and unions all agree: there are no jobs on a dead planet. But the road to fewer emissions is full of opinions.

While the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is expected to reach record levels this year, the work towards a “just transition” continues. The aim is to secure workers’ interests when countries and employers convert to more climate-friendly ways of doing business.

“It is extremely urgent and I’m worried. But if employers, governments, and big financial interests had been more interested in the carbonization two decades ago we would have been in a great position,” says Samantha Smith. She’s the director of the Just Transition Centre, created three years ago by the International Trade Union Confederation, the ITUC, to bring more attention to the matter and to gather unions, organizations, businesses, and countries in a social dialogue.

The UN climate change conference COP 24 took place in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland, and “just transition” was high on the agenda.

The concept of “just transition” was first used by union activists in the U.S. in the 1980s. It took until 2013 for the United Nations’ agency ILO to create guidelines for “a Just Transition towards environmentally-sustainable economies and societies for all.” The Paris Agreement of 2015 also includes mentions of “just transition.” Through the Paris Agreement, governments commit to making sure that workers continue to have fair conditions during the climate adaption.

Fifty three countries, including Sweden, signed the “The Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration,” which states that the countries must consider workers’ perspectives while shifting to climate friendly policies.

In Sweden, issues on this matter are being discussed regularly at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, LO, and Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, among others. Sida recently donated 1,5 million euros to the organization Bankwatch, to support the transition towards a coal free Eastern Europe.

Samantha Smith points out that every sector in every country will be affected in order to stay within the target of 1.5 °C warming above preindustrial levels that the report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends to avert the worst risks of heat waves, droughts and floods in areas of current human habitation.

“We wanted to start with rich countries because they have the wealth and capacity. In some poor countries you have a number of issues going on at the same time, one is recognizing basic labor rights which is also human rights.”

Tadzio Müller, political scientist and senior advisor on climate justice for the leftist foundation Rosa Luxembourg, says he supports workers’ interests. “I am absolutely for giving workers every social protection that we can manage. I would even argue that a universal guaranteed income would be a great way to transition in heavy industrial regions, like western Germany or the north of France. I don’t oppose just transition, but the fact is that the function of ‘just transition’ has been to slow down ambitious climate action.”

Müller adds: “If Sweden, Germany and Great Britain want to do their bit to save the climate they have to shut down old industrial infrastructure within the next 10-15 years so that the rest of the world can still emit some carbon emissions.”

Müller is critical of the trade union movement. “We have to be honest that it was, at least in part, the same industrial trade unions that called for a just transition that were fighting against ambitious climate politics and policies to save jobs,” he says. He mentions Germany’s mining unions as an example.

Samantha Smith at the Just Transition Centre says to her critics: “What is your alternative? Especially in a democracy, like for example Germany. How are you going to shut down coal mines if local government and all the people working in the mines don’t agree to it?”

She points out that it’s better to do something than nothing.” And it’s better to do something that will support social justice and strengthen the labor movement and democracy to get down emissions.”

These are the 25 biggest carbon emitters in the world. These companies produced a fifth of the global carbon emissions, according to a review by Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri.

1. Coal India
2. PJSC Gazprom
3. Exxon Mobil Corporation
4. Cummins Inc.
5. Thyssenkrupp AG
6. Rosneft OAO
7. Royal Dutch Shell
8. China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation
9. China Shenhua Energy
10. Rio Tinto
11. Petrochina Company Limited
12. BHP Billiton
13. Petróleo Brasileiro SA – Petrobras
14. Korea Electric Power Corp
15. BP
16. Total
17. Valero Energy Corporation
18. Chevron Corporation
19. Toyota Motor Corporation
20. Wistron Corp
21. United Technologies Corporation
22. Peabody Energy Corporation
23. YTL Corp
24. Phillips 66
25. Volkswagen AG

Linda Flood is a reporter for Arbetet Global.

Translation by Cecilia Uder. 

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global.

 




How the West’s War in Libya Spurred Terrorism in 14 Countries

The first to suffer was Syria and since then the gruesome effects have been spreading in the region and beyond, to Africans and Europeans, writes Mark Curtis.  

By Mark Curtis
British Foreign Policy Declassified

Eight years on from NATO’s war in Libya in 2011, as the country enters a new phase in its conflict, I have taken stock of the number of countries to which terrorism has spread as a direct product of that war. The number is at least 14. The legacy of the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — pursued by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama — has been gruesomely felt by Europeans and Africans. Yet holding these leaders accountable for their decision to go to war is as distant as ever.

The 2011 conflict, in which NATO worked alongside Islamist forces on the ground to remove Gaddafi, produced an ungoverned space in Libya and a country awash with weapons, ideal for terrorist groups to thrive. But it was Syria that suffered first.

After civil war broke out there in early 2011, at the same time as in Libya, the latter became a facilitation and training hub for around 3,000 fighters on their way to Syria, many of whom joined Al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State-affiliated Katibat al-Battar al-Libi (KBL), which was founded by militants from Libya.

In Libya itself, a rebranding of existing Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the north-eastern area of Derna produced Islamic State’s first official branch in the country in mid-2014, incorporating members of the KBL. During 2015, IS Libya conducted car bombings and beheadings and established territorial control and governance over parts of Derna and Benghazi in the east and Sabratha in the west. It also became the sole governing body in the north-central city of Sirte, with as many as 5,000 fighters occupying the city.

By late 2016, IS in Libya was forced out of these areas, largely due to U.S. air strikes, but withdrew to the desert areas south of Sirte, continuing low-level attacks. In the last two years, the group has re-emerged as a formidable insurgent force and is again waging high-profile attacks on state institutions and conducting regular hit-and-run operations in the southwestern desert. Last September, UN Special Representative to Libya Ghassan Salame told the UN Security Council that the IS “presence and operations in Libya are only spreading.”

Terror in Europe

After the fall of Gaddafi, IS Libya established training camps near Sabratha, which are linked to a series of terrorist attacks and plots. “Most of the blood spilled in Europe in the more spectacular attacks, using guns and bombs, really all began at the time when Katibat al-Battar went back to Libya,” Cameron Colquhoun, a former counterterrorism analyst for Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, told The New York Times. “That is where the threat trajectory to Europe began – when these men returned to Libya and had breathing space.”

Salman Abedi, who blew up 22 people at a pop concert in Manchester in 2017, met with members of the Katibat al-Battar al-Libi, a faction of IS, several times in Sabratha, where he was probably trained. Other members of the KBL were Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the 2015 Paris attacks on the Bataclan nightclub and sports stadium, which killed 130 people, and the militants involved in the Verviers plot to attack Belgium in 2015. The perpetrator of the 2016 Berlin truck attack, which left 12 people dead, also had contacts with Libyans linked to IS. So too in Italy, where terrorist activity has been linked to IS Libya, with several individuals based in Italy involved in the attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis in 2015, which killed 22 people.

Libya’s Neighbors

Tunisia suffered its deadliest terrorist attack in 2015 when a 23-year-old Tunisian armed with a machine gun mowed down 38 tourists, mainly Britons, at a beach hotel in the resort of Port El Kantaoui. The perpetrator was reportedly an adherent of IS and, like Salman Abedi, had been trained in the camp complex at Sabratha from where the attack was staged.

Libya’s eastern neighbor, Egypt, has also been struck by terrorism emanating from the country. IS officials in Libya have been linked to, and may have directed, the activities of Wilayat Sinai, the terrorist group formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has carried out several deadly attacks in Egypt. After the fall of Gaddafi, the Western Desert became a corridor for the smuggling of weapons and operatives on their way to the Sinai. Egypt conducted air strikes against militant camps in Libya in 2015, 2016 and again in 2017, the latter following the killing of 29 Coptic Christians near Cairo

Into the Sahel

But Libya has also become a hub for jihadist networks stretching south into the Sahel, the geographical transition zone in Africa between the Sahara desertto the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south. 

Libya’s 2011 uprising opened a flow of weapons into northern Mali, which helped revive an ethno-tribal conflict that had been brewing since the 1960s. By 2012, local allies of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had taken control of day-to-day governance in the northern Mali towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. After France intervened in Mali, the ongoing lack of governance in Libya precipitated several groups to relocate their operational centers to Libya, including both AQIM and its offshoot, Al-Mourabitoun, from where these groups could acquire weapons more easily.

With Libya as its rear base, Al-Mourabitoun under its leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar was behind the attack on the Amenas hydrocarbon complex in eastern Algeria in January 2013, which left 40 foreign workers dead; the gun attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali in November 2015, which killed 22 people; and for the attack on Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which killed 20 people in January 2016. Al-Mourabitoun has also attacked a military academy and French-owned uranium mine in Niger.

Disastrous Foreign Policy

The fall-out from Libya spreads even wider, however. By 2016, U.S. officials reported signs that Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadists, responsible for numerous gruesome attacks and kidnappings, were sending fighters to join IS in Libya, and that there was increased cooperation between the two groups. The International Crisis Group notes that it was the arrival of weapons and expertise from Libya and the Sahel that enabled Boko Haram to fashion the insurgency that plagues north-western Nigeria today. There have even been claims that Boko Haram answers to IS commanders in Libya.

In addition to these 14 countries, fighters from several other states have joined IS militants in Libya in recent years. Indeed, it is estimated that almost 80 percent of IS membership in Libya is non-Libyan, including from countries such as Kenya, Chad, Senegal and Sudan. These foreign fighters are potentially available to return to their own countries after receiving training.

The true extent of the fall-out from the Libya war is remarkable: it has spurred terrorism in Europe, Syria, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Islamic State, although now nearly defeated in Syria and Iraq, is far from dead. Indeed, while Western leaders seek to defeat terrorism militarily in some places, their disastrous foreign policy choices have stimulated it in others.

Mark Curtis is an historian and analyst of U.K. foreign policy and international development and the author of six books, the latest being an updated edition of “Secret Affairs: Britain’s CollU.S. ion with Radical Islam.”




THE ANGRY ARAB: Iran’s Military Options

As’ad AbuKhalil weighs Iran’s position at a dangerous point in U.S. relations, but says the prospects of war are not as high as Gulf regimes and Israel want them to be. 

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

The crisis in Iranian-U.S. relations has reached a dangerous point, and Israel and its Gulf allies are hoping for a major U.S.-Iranian war.  The Iranian regime clearly has limited options available to it since it is tied by the nuclear agreement, while reaping diminishing rewards from it with the reimposition of U.S. sanctions. But it has some options, nevertheless, especially in the event of military confrontation. 

Its enemies have been operating on the assumption that the sanctions would either drive the regime to surrender or will lead to a popular revolution, which would end the Islamic regime. Neither of the two scenarios are likely in the foreseeable future, and the regime — if it faces a threat to its survival — will fight ruthlessly (and the Iranian regime has more of a popular base than the Syrian regime).  But the prospects of war are not as high as Gulf regimes and Israel want them to be.

The Trump administration came on an agenda of exclusive focus on domestic politics, and President Donald Trump has long opposed U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. He criticized President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq early on, when many Democrats were marching to that beat.

Trump comes from a traditional Republican isolationist foreign policy although his administration is staffed with an odd mix of neo-conservatives and interventionist conservatives. (National Security Advisor John Bolton bristles at the suggestion that he is a neo-conservative because it implies he was once a Democrat, which he never was). 

But Trump’s appointments in foreign policy and defense can’t be read as an indication of his foreign policy agenda or “doctrine” because he alienated so many members of the Republican foreign policy establishment that he couldn’t hire from the traditional Republican rolodex, and he seems to put personal loyalty and flattery way ahead of any ideological litmus test.

Trump’s Intentions Unclear

It has not been clear what exactly Trump wants from Iran.  Even in the Middle East: he started his campaign by calling for a “neutral” U.S. stance toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, and yet exhibited from the White House the most pro-Israeli bias ever seen in the Oval Office (continuing the pattern of every U.S. president becoming more pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian than his predecessor, with the exception of the team of President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker). 

On Iran, Trump simply railed against the Iran nuclear deal without offering any specific criticisms (it is doubtful that he read the agreement or even listened to a detailed briefing).  Just like the health care issue, Trump is less concerned about substance and public policy and more about his own brand name and legacy, and the desire to dismantle what is perceived — rightly or wrongly — as the achievements of the Obama administration.

Iran has been aware of the Israeli plotting in all this; of its eagerness to provoke Iranian forces in Syria into a confrontation. And consistently, the Iranian regime has resisted Israeli provocations but maintained its presence in Syria.  It has continued to supply Hizbullah and Iraq Hashd militias with support and financing (despite the exaggerated reports by The Washington Post’s Liz Sly and other Western correspondents who seem to talk exclusively to foes of Iran and Hizbullah in the Middle East). 

Iran is also aware that some factions in the Trump administration are aligned with Israeli-Saudi plans for a major military confrontation with Iran.

Unthinkable Notion

But the notion that the U.S. would go to war against Iran is rather unthinkable. The war against Iraq, an exhausted country, suffering from two successive major wars and from crippling U.S.-imposed sanctions, resulted in the debacle that spawned a variety of terrorist organizations. A war against Iran would cost (in human and financial terms) far more than the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran does indeed have supporters, allies, and clients throughout the region who would come to its defense in the case of a major war.  There can’t be a limited war against Iran.

The Iranian regime is also split along ideological lines. President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif had promised prosperity and stability if talks with the U.S. proceeded and if a nuclear agreement were reached.

But the Rouhani-Zarif team, which prides itself on its knowledge and familiarity with Western thinking, made major mistakes in its negotiations with the team of President Barack Obama.  It should have known that an agreement with a president in his last two years would not necessarily last if he is replaced by a president from the other party (in other words, they presumed that a Democrat would succeed Trump and would stick to the agreement).  But the Iranian negotiators — who, incidentally, are far more skilled and shrewd than the negotiators for the Palestinian Authority, from Oslo until the last round of negotiations — failed in two major ways.

No. 1) They didn’t reach an official treaty, which would have required ratification by the U.S. Senate (which would have been unlikely under Obama).

No. 2) They didn’t include in the agreement a clause that would specifically reward Iran (or punish the U.S.) if Washington unilaterally decided to violate the agreement, which had the international juridical support of the UN Security Council.

The Rouhani-Zarif team always clashed with a hardline team in Iran, which did not put faith in talks with the U.S. The Supreme leader identified with the hardline team yet wound up going along with the plan by Rouhani-Zarif. 

Tehran Must Be Frustrated

Tehran, today, must be frustrated: While it clings to the deal and adheres to its terms, the Europeans have failed to engineer an alternative financial mechanism to allow Iran to buy and sell on the international market.  U.S. sanctions have become more effective, and U.S. global bullying has intimidated countries and corporations from doing business with Iran.

There was reason to expect this might happen. The Republican Party made its position on the agreement quite clear when it invited a foreign leader, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, to list a litany of complaints before the U.S. Congress (where the Democrats were too afraid of the Israeli lobby to register disapproval and the Obama White House typically too meek to respond).

The hardline faction in Iran — whatever that means — does not seem to have an alternative to talks with the U.S.  Recent interviews with Zarif in the U.S. were intended to articulate a new policy of Iran, in which the government expresses willingness to talk to the administration. 

Zarif counters skeptics in Iran by distinguishing between Trump and what he calls “Team B” (Bolton and company).  And if Iran wants to preserve the deal and has no alternative plan, talks with the Trump administration may become inevitable. 

Trump is not a stickler for issues or policy details but he prefers to have his name and personal imprint on any international agreement.  The administration added to its list of demands for denuclearization an insistence that talks with Iran would cover No. 1) ballistic missiles; No. 2) regional issues; No. 3) Iran’s support for groups classified as terrorist groups (which now includes the Revolutionary Guards — i.e. the U.S. would like Iran to stop supporting its own armed forces). 

The Obama administration already tried to put all those on the agenda in the last negotiations and Tehran adamantly refused. The Supreme Leader just last week indicated his government’s refusal to discuss those issues as well, which may be a signal that the Supreme Leader could be open to a new round of negotiations with the Trump administration but strictly over nuclear issues. 

What happened last week may indicate the Iranian course of action in the event of military assault on its forces.  It could easily strike at targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE before striking at targets in Israel because their responses will be less severe and they are far more easily intimidated.  

Just a few years ago, when an official UAE envoy met with a Hizbullah leader and sent messages about Hizbullah behavior in the region, he received a stern message about possible war scenarios that would include targets in the UAE, which left that envoy ashen-faced (I learned this from a well-placed source).   

Saudi and UAE media seemed less eager for war than they were two weeks ago (with the exception of the English-language Arab News, which is directed to a Western audience).  The attacks on the ships and the oil installation may have been sufficient to scare the two regimes. The prospects for war are not high, but if Israel and Saudi Arabia get their way with an American war, its ramifications would destabilize the entire regional order, an order which is highly beneficial to U.S. interests. For that—and given his own proclivities, Trump may think twice.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil




The Struggle Is the Meaning

Craig Murray mulls the depressing series of events over the past few weeks involving Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador and the U.S.

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

There is no conceivable interest of the ordinary people of the Western world being served by the crazed decision of their governments to firmly take the Sunni side in the Sunni/Shia tensions of the Islamic world, and to do so in a fashion which deliberately exacerbates points of armed conflict across the Middle East.

It is even more extraordinary that, in doing so, the West is deliberately forwarding the interests of two nations that have philosophies that are entirely antithetical to the supposed tenets of Western philosophy. Those states are Saudi Arabia, an unrepentant despotism, which promotes and finances a theocratic ideology directly responsible for the major terrorist attacks on the West, and Israel, which is now an openly apartheid state. The USA/Saudi/Israel alliance is underpinned by the identification of a common enemy in Iran and other Shia communities.

Of course the patent absurdities of the alliance point directly to the fact that the real motive is entirely different; this is all about the financial ties of the 1 percent and the permanent interest of the military industrial complex and their financiers in stoking the flames of war.

Which is an opportune moment to mention — as I have several times over the years — that if I had to recommend one single book to illuminate your view of the world it would be “Imperialism” by J A Hobson. His brilliant perception that empire had been a net disbenefit to the ordinary people of both the colonial power and the colonized, with the advantages reaped purely by the military, financial, armaments and political classes, and his groundbreaking methods of proving his thesis, is one of the great works of human thought. Vladimir Lenin plagiarised Hobson extensively.

You can indeed find in Hobson a reflection of the anti-Semitism that was regrettably common in his time. It is a problem in many of the great books of the past. The 19th century novelist Anthony Trollope is notably anti-Semitic, but when John Major as prime minister repeatedly told of his love for Trollope, there was none of the manufactured outrage we saw over Jeremy Corbyn’s recommendation of Hobson. In reading literature of the past there are inevitably notes that jar with the mores of these times, but they do not invalidate all the other qualities, once noted and appropriately analysed. I confess to being with John Major as a serious fan of Trollope. “The Way We Live Now” is a great book, whose dark anti-semitic undertones are not necessary to its critique of rampant capitalism.

Improbable Narrative

To return to Iran, I have no confidence whatsoever that apparent limpet mine attacks on shipping are Iranian in origin – in fact the narrative seems to me distinctly improbable. We have the intelligence community frantically signaling that U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is making up his intelligence assessment of enhanced Iranian military activity. Jeremy Hunt has just put out a quite ludicrous advisory against dual nationals traveling to Iran. My wife Nadira was recently in Iran together with several dual nationals filming a comedy feature film. They met with nothing but friendship and cooperation from Iranian officialdom.

However, I remain hopeful that President Donald Trump can outplay Bolton and prevent any immediate escalation. However bad his domestic agenda, one thing to be said in Trump’s favor is that, unlike every American president since Jimmy Carter, he has not fed the military industrial complex by starting a needless war. I have no doubt whatsoever that Hillary Clinton would have started one by now. Trump, a monumentally flawed individual, is the only thing that today stands between the world and a Middle East conflagration that would make the last three decades seem like peace. That is hardly a comforting thought.

Nor is it comforting that Chelsea Manning is once again in jail, in terrible conditions, for refusing to testify against Julian Assange, himself in Belmarsh maximum security prison. These two heroes showed us more truth than the world’s professional journalists combined ever have or ever will.

The American “justice” system is shown up yet again for the farce that it is. What value should be placed on testimony physically coerced from Chelsea Manning, who has already spent a lengthy prison sentence for her actions in leaking the truth about U.S. military aggression? Either Chelsea provides damning testimony against Julian, or Chelsea gets tortured. That the world stands by and watches — and that the cowards of the mainstream media line up to applaud — I find rather hard to take.

Two other actions are worth noting here. The United States violated the embassy of Venezuela, against the will of its government and in stark contravention of the Vienna Convention, to break in and seize materials and individuals, based on the farce of recognizing the impotent U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó as the legitimate government able to give permission. If any government wishes to recognize me as president of the United States, I happily give them my gracious permission to trash the U.S. embassy in their country.Ec

There is no doubt that Guaidó, with the entire world watching, attempted to launch a military coup in Venezuela, and failed dismally. He has since addressed rallies in which his supporters have been numbered in scores. In the vast majority of countries around the world, specifically including the United States of America, Guaidó would have been arrested and executed for his military coup attempt. President Nicolás Maduro has the power to do it. The fact Guaidó and his violent antics are tolerated gives the lie to that false picture of Venezuela as authoritarian dictatorship which the mainstream media daily present to us.

Ecuador the CIA Puppet

Finally, in a country which the CIA has succeeded in reducing to puppet government status, Ecuador has, entirely illegally, compounded its illegal refoulement of a political refugee by handing over all of Julian Assange’s personal effects to the United States of America, on no legal basis whatsoever.

I had some difficulty in writing this post because the chain of these and other events over this past few weeks has been so thoroughly depressing, and can easily lead to a feeling of helplessness. On a brighter note, Part 2 of my interview with Alex Salmond is now out.

Here are three cheerful thoughts (on that interview). Firstly you can declare your determination to work to destroy the United Kingdom, as I do here, and if you have a nice gentle voice and friendly personality nobody gets upset. Secondly, Part 1 had over 122,000 views on Facebook alone, plus those who watched on Russia Today TV and those who saw it on YouTube. When you compare that to the audiences of 7,000 for the flagship Nine news on the BBC’s new anti-Scottish propaganda channel “BBC Scotland,” that is pretty impressive. My third thought is this. I think the lesson of my life as revealed over the two interviews, is that no matter what the state throws at you, it is essential to continue to struggle for social justice. The struggle is in itself a good. Which is something I first learnt from Jean Paul Sartre’s “Iron in the Soul” trilogy when I was 15. 

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. This article first appeared on his website.




Leaked Document Pokes More Holes in Establishment Syria Narrative

Caitlin Johnstone looks at the latest revelation about a chemical attack in Douma last April that was pinned on Damascus.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

“It is hard to overstate the significance of this revelation,” tweets former British MP George Galloway of a new report by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM). “The war-machine has now been caught red-handed in a staged chemical weapons attack for the purposes of deceiving our democracies into what could have turned into a full-scale war amongst the great-powers.”

“An important #Douma #Syria ‘Assad chemical weapon attack’ development and yet more evidence to suggest the ‘attack’ was staged, as it’s now revealed that @OPCW suppressed expert engineers report that found the cylinders were likely not dropped from the air,” tweets former Scotland Yard detective and counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge.

“The engineering assessment confirms our earlier conclusion,” the excellent Moon of Alabama blog writes. “The whole scene as depicted by ‘rebels’ and propaganda organs was staged. The more than 34 dead on the scene were murdered elsewhere under unknown circumstances.”

 

The report has grabbed the attention of those who’ve expressed skepticism of establishment Syria narratives because it casts serious doubts on the official story we’ve been told to believe about an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria, in April of last year. A document titled “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident” has been leaked to the WGSPM which reveals that an engineering sub-team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission in Douma came to conclusions which differ wildly from the OPCW’s official findings on the Douma incident, yet we the public were never permitted to see this assessment.

The assessment’s findings, which you can locate on pages five through eight of the document, put forward multiple hypothetical scenarios in which two gas cylinders could have wound up in the locations (Location 2 and Location 4) where they were found. The assessment concludes that “The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft. In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”

The assessment says more thoroughly and technically what I argued in an article last year, that the physics of the air-dropped cylinder narrative make no sense whatsoever. This is a problem, because the reason we were given for the U.S., U.K. and France launching airstrikes on Syrian government targets in April of 2018 was that two cylinders full of poison gas had been dropped from aircraft by the Syrian air force and killed dozens of civilians.

The assessment is signed by Ian Henderson, who the WGSPM were able to verify as a longtime OPCW-trained inspection team leader. The OPCW reportedly denied that Henderson was involved in its Douma fact-finding mission, but the WGSPM counters that “This statement is false. The engineering sub-team could not have been carrying out studies in Douma at Locations 2 and 4 unless they had been notified by OPCW to the Syrian National Authority (the body that oversees compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention) as FFM inspectors: it is unlikely that Henderson arrived on a tourist visa.”

Just as interesting as this new report has been the response of the usual establishment Syria narrative managers to it, or rather the lack thereof. NATO narrative management firm Bellingcat, which normally jumps all over these kinds of revelations in an attempt to discredit them, has been maintaining radio silence as of this writing. Its founder, Eliot Higgins, has had nothing to say on the matter other than to retweet a pathetic rebuttal by his mini-me Scott Lucas and take a few childish jabs at me for highlighting this fact.

Scott Lucas’ Facebook post on the WGSPM report remains as of this writing the only attempt from the Syria narrative management machine to address it, and it boils down to nothing more than assertions that the report contradicts the official OPCW narrative (duh) and that the WGSPM are conspiracy theorists. Lucas may have thought it a good idea to author this post believing that he had a more substantial argument than he actually had, but it was pointed out shortly after publication that his claim about Henderson refusing to consider other possible scenarios in his assessment is directly contradicted by the words that are in the assessment, and Lucas was forced to make a hasty revision.

There will be other counter-narratives released by the Syria narrative management machine, to be sure, but the fact that this report has been out for the better part of the day with nary a peep from that lot reveals a great deal about the difficulties they’re having with this one.

We are being lied to about Syria. Anyone who believes unproven assertions about governments targeted for toppling by the US-centralized empire has failed to learn the lessons of history. The Syrian government had literally nothing to gain strategically from using chemical weapons in Douma, a battle it had already won, and knew full well that doing so would provoke an attack from the empire. Douma was occupied by the Al Qaeda-linked Jaysh Al-Islam, who had at that point nothing to lose and everything to gain by staging a false flag attack in a last-ditch attempt to get NATO powers to function as its air force.

If you still believe at this point that the Syrian government dropped poison gas on Douma last year, then I’ve got some Iraqi WMDs to sell you.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitteror her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” This article was re-published with permission.




Target Iran!

Francis Boyle positions sabre-rattling at Iran squarely inside the catastrophic saga of U.S. imperialism.   

 By Francis Boyle

The author delivered this speech at the Perdana Global Peace Forum 2006 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on June 22, 2006. That year the U.S. had deployed aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and tensions then, as now, were high. 

Little has changed in the imperialist tendencies of American foreign policy since the founding of the United States of America in 1789. The fledgling United States opened the 19th century by stealing the continent of North America from the Indians, while in the process ethnically cleansing them and then finally deporting the pitiful few survivors by means of death marches (à la Bataan) to Bantustans, which in America we call reservations, as in instance of America’s “Manifest Destiny” to rule the world.

Then, the imperial government of the United States opened the 20th century by stealing a colonial empire from Spain — in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, then inflicting a near-genocidal war against the Filipino people. While at the same time, purporting to annex, the kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the native Hawaiian people to near-genocidal conditions from which they still suffer today. All in the name of securing America’s so-called place in the sun.

And today at the dawn of the 21st century, the world witnesses the effort by the imperial government of the United States of America to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples, surrounding central Asia and the Persian Gulf under the pretext of fighting a war against international terrorism or eliminating weapons of mass destruction or promoting democracy, which is total nonsense.

The imperialist foreign policy of the United States of America since its foundation, has been predicated upon racism, aggression, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, war crimes and outright genocide. At the dawn of the third millennium of humankind’s parlous existence, nothing has changed about the operational dynamics of American imperial policy. And we see this today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and what appears to be an illegal attack upon Iran.

Now the assigned topic today is “The Middle East Agenda: Oil, Dollar Hegemony and Islam.” So, I’m only going to limit my comments to that subject. We have to begin the story with the Arab oil embargo in 1973.

As you know in 1967, Israel launched an illegal war of aggression against the surrounding Arab states, stole their land and ethnically cleansed their people. But eventually Egypt offered a peace treaty to Israel, which Israel rejected and the Egyptians and the Arab states decided then to use force to recover their lands. Israel almost collapsed, the United States and Europe came to its support by providing weapons and in reaction the Arab states imposed an oil embargo on the United States and Europe, and brought their economies to their knees.

Whereupon, then U.S Secretary of State Henry Kissinger threatened them and said: “This will never happen again, and if you do, we will prevent it.” And it was not just a threat. The United States government then, at that time, planned, prepared and conspired, to steal the oil of the Persian Gulf. They did not have the military capability to do this at that time, to carry out the Kissinger threat, which was also then repeated by the Ford administration, and the Carter administration under [Secretary of Defense] Harold Brown and [National Security Advisor] Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Arrival of U.S. Central Command

So they put into planning an interventionary force, designed expressly for the purpose of stealing Arab oil fields, and that was called the Rapid Deployment Force. And it took 10 years of training, planning, positioning, and supply to build that interventionary force of that capability and eventually it was called the U.S. Central Command.

The purpose of the U.S. Central Command is to steal and control and dominate the oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. And that’s exactly what the U.S. Central Command proceeded to do in the Bush Sr. war against Iraq, their first military expedition.

And as we know, that war exterminated probably 200,000 Iraqis. Half of them innocent civilians. Simply wiped out in a bombing campaign and a military expedition of unprecedented dimensions. But remember, it took 15 years for the Pentagon and three different administrations both Republicans and Democrats to get the capability to do this. And then, when that genocide or conflict was over, what happened?

The United States carved Iraq up into three pieces with their air force, the so-called no-fly zones, a zone for the Kurds in the North, a zone for the Shi’ah in the South, and the Sunni in the middle. Why? To destroy Iraq as an effectively viable state.
In his book, “Clash of Civilizations,” Samuel Huntington from Harvard, who advised the Pentagon and the State Department, pointed out that the only Arab state with the capability to lead the Arab world and challenge the United States and Israel was Iraq. And so, Iraq had to be destroyed, to maintain the domination of the United States and its proxy, Israel. And remember after 1973, whatever it was before then, Israel is nothing more than a catspaw of the United States. They do what America tells them to do! Otherwise Israel is nothing more than a failed state.

In addition then, to destroying Iraq as a state, carving it up into three pieces, was the decision to debilitate and destroy the Iraqi people. And so, they continued the genocidal economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, that my colleagues, Denis Halliday, Hans Von Sponeck, so courageously resisted and finally resigned from the United Nations as a matter of principle, calling them by what they really were: genocide. The United States and Britain maliciously and criminally imposed genocidal sanctions on the people of Iraq, that killed approximately 1.5 million Iraqis, all of whom were innocent civilians.

Albright: 500,000 Dead Children ‘Worth It’ 

And when U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright (later secretary of state) was asked about the 500,000 dead children, she said that she thought the price was worth it. Now, I could have taken that statement to the International Court of Justice, and filed it against the United States as evidence of genocidal intent against the people of Iraq in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. And indeed, I offered to do so to the then president of Iraq, but for whatever reasons he decided against doing that.

So, 1.5 million Iraqis died as the result of these genocidal sanctions. And then came Sept. 11. And we know for a fact that the second Bush administration knew that a major terrorist attack was going to be launched on the United States. And they let it happen anyway deliberately and on purpose. Why? They wanted a pretext for war. And not just one war but for a long war which they are talking about today.

Afghanistan Invasion Plotted Since 1997 

Indeed, from my research, the war plans drawn up by the Pentagon for the war against Afghanistan were formulated as early as 1997. Enormous military forces fielded by that same U.S. Central Command, were already in and around and surrounding the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean before Sept. 11. This war had been long-planned against Afghanistan. And armed, equipped, supplied, trained and war-gamed and ready to go. They just needed the pretext and that was Sept. 11. Why? The United States wanted access to the oil and natural gas of Central Asia.

That had been a Pentagon objective since at least before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. And the 9/11 attack gave them the pretext to make this major grab for the oil and gas of Central Asia. And they are there today with their bases, with their troops, in the surrounding countries in Central Asia. We don’t even have an estimate of the Muslims in  Afghanistan who were killed in the air bombardment: 20,000 or 25,000; maybe more. And tens of thousands of others starved to death and still suffering today.

But that, as we know from all the records was only the first step in the process. They wanted to finish the job in Iraq. And so immediately after Sept. 11, Bush ordered [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld to update and operationalize the plans for attacking and invading Iraq. It had nothing at all to do with weapons of mass destruction. We in the peace movement in America had been saying that all along. The United Nations had determined there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. These were lies designed to scaremonger the American people and Congress into supporting an illegal war of aggression, a Nuremberg crime against peace, against Iraq. And they told whatever lies and broke what international laws they had to break in order to attack Iraq.

And today the estimate, again we don’t know. Perhaps 200,000 people in Iraq had been killed outright by the United States and Britain, their allies in Iraq. And again, most of them civilians.

Clearly if you add up what United States government has done to Iraq from August of 1990, when it imposed the genocidal economic embargo until today, the United States and Britain have inflicted outright genocide on the Muslim and Christian people of Iraq and they are predominately Muslim as we know.

Dominate Oil and Gas of Persian Gulf

Now comes the third step in the Pentagon’s pre-existing plan, to control and dominate the oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. It sounds a bit like the plan that Hitler and the Nazis had in the 1930s. Does it not? First go into Austria, then go into Czechoslovakia, then go into Poland. So first Afghanistan, then Iraq, and now Iran. Iran is going to be the next victim of these outright criminals unless you and I can stop them.

Right now [in 2006] there are three aircraft carrier task forces in the Persian Gulf. And whenever they had put three aircraft carrier task forcesover there, it’s always to prepare for an attack. And according to Seymour Hersh, the award winning journalist, it will probably be an aerial bombardment, along the lines of what they did to Yugoslavia in 1999.

As you remember there, 78 days of aerial bombardmentby the United States and NATO with no authorization from the UN Security Council. Clearly illegal. Killing again, we don’t know the exact number outright; four-to-five thousand innocent civilians. And targeting civilian infrastructure, all up and down, from which the people still suffer today. The use of depleted uranium ammunitions, with consequent outbreaks of cancer are documented today.
So this is what, is being planned right now as we speak; an attack upon Iran. Using jet fighter aircraft, fighter bombers, on these three aircraft carrier task forces, using cruise missiles on submarines. Of course, Israel will be involved and have a role to play, doing exactly what the Americans tell them to do. In addition, it appears that if they attack Iran, they will also attack Syria. Yesterday, if you heard President Bush’s press conference in Vienna, he threatened Syria, right? There’s no other word for it. He threatened Syria.

Take Out Syria as Favor to Israel 

These neoconservatives want to take out Syria as a favor to Israel. Remember, many of them are affiliated personally and professionally with the Likhud Party in Israel and Ariel Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut, the man who exterminated 20,000 thousand Arabs in Lebanon, most of them were Muslims. And in addition, slaughtered 2,000 completely innocent Palestinian women, children and old men at Sabra and Shatila.

Ariel Sharon, the man who went to Haram Al-Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam, where Muhammad, (Peace Be Upon Him) ascended into heaven, and desecrated the Haram on Sept. 28th, 2000, and deliberately provoked the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and has inflicted death and destruction on the Palestinian people since then. Close to 3700 Palestinians since then alone have been killed….most of them shot down like dogs in the street, and what has the Muslim world done about this?

My Palestinian friends tell me that they are worried that the government of Malaysia might recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations with Israel. I certainly hope this is not true. We must treat the criminal apartheid regime in Israel, the same way the world treated the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa.

If the United States attacks Iran, it will probably attack Syria with the Israeli air force and they will attack Lebanon to take out the Islamic resistance movement in southern Lebanon; Hezbollah that defended the legitimate rights of Lebanon and the Lebanese people and expelled the invading longstanding occupying Israeli army that had the full support of the United States government for over 20 years.

So they could attack Iran, Syria, Southern Lebanon and inflict yet another round of ethnic cleansing on the suffering Palestinian people. Remember Sharon and Likhud believe that Jordan is Palestine. And they want to drive as many Palestinians as possible out of their homes and into Jordan.

So if the United States as reported by Hersh and other reliable sources, goes ahead and attacks Iran, we could see warfare erupt all the way from Egypt to the border with India. This whole area convulsed in warfare. And who will be the primary victims of this war? Muslims.

Disregard for Muslim Life

The United States could not care less about Muslim life. Look at the demonization and victimization of Muslims that we have seen inflicted by the United States and its surrogate, Israel. Look at Guantanamo, where 600 Muslim men have been treated like dogs in a kennel. Pretty much the way the Nazis treated the Jews. Look at Abu Ghraib and the sadism and sexual exploitation and perversion of Muslims by their American captors. And the same thing has been done in Baghran in Afghanistan.

And when Professor Sharif Bassiouni, the U.N. special rapporteur, filed the report with the Security Council against U.S. practices in Afghanistan, the Americans had Kofi Annan [then UN secretary-general] fire him. Just as they had Kofi Annan fire Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, when she protested what was going on down in Guantanamo.
The United States could not care less about Muslim life. And the same is true for the genocidal apartheid regime in Israel. They would be happy to use nuclear weapons against Iran. They would be happy to break the taboo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki against Muslims in Iran. It would create no problem at all for them.

Indeed, I went to school with these neoconservatives at the University of Chicago. [Paul] Wolfowitz was there, [Ahmed] Chalabi, [Zalmay] Khalilzad, [Abram] Shulsky, all the rest of them. I went through the exact same program. Their mentor was Professor Leo Strauss. And who was his teacher in Germany and his sponsor? Professor Carl Schmitt, who went on to  become the most notorious Nazi law professor of his day, justifying every atrocity that the Nazis inflicted oneveryone.

We must understand that these neoconservatives are in fact neo-Nazis. They have espoused the Nazi doctrine of Schmitt and Strauss and Machiavelli and Nietzsche, the “superman.” They are the supermen, and the Muslims are the scum of the earth.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Now, I do not believe the United States will initially start bombing Iran with nuclear weapons. But if things get out of control they are fully prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons. And here in our materials, you have the Pentagon’s Joint Publication 3-12, which you can get on the internet…. just do a Google search and read it. And you will see there, dated March 15, 2005; nuclear, tactical nuclear weaponshave been fully integrated into United States conventional forces.

So if Iran were to defend itself, human wave attacks, whatever, they will be happy to use nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons against Iran. Remember, these neo-Nazis, neocons want to break the taboo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They want to use tactical nuclear weapons, to be able to say to the rest of the world, you do what we tell you to do or else look what we did to the Iranians!

It’s a very serious situation. And this could even get further out of control. Remember that before Bush invaded Iraq, President Vladimir Putin of Russia said that if he invades Iraq he could set off World War Three. Well, I interpreted that as an implicit threat. Even the famous American news broadcaster Walter Cronkite said that if Bush invaded Iraq he could set off World War Three. Two weeks ago we had the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; China, Russia and Iran. So again, if Bush were to attack Iran, he very well could set off a Third World War, a nuclear war.

Francis Boyle is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Among his many books is “Destroying World Order.”




Venezuela Embassy Protection Collective Defies ‘No Trespass’ Order

Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright describe the collective’s encounter Tuesday with D.C. police, who refrained from evacuating the embassy. 

By Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright
Codepink

An extraordinary set of events has been unfolding at the Venezuela embassy in Washington, D.C., since April 11, when the Embassy Protection Collective began living at the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela to protect it from an illegal takeover by Venezuela’s opposition. The actions of the police have added a new level of drama.

Since the cutting off of electricity, food and water inside the embassy has not been enough to force the collective to leave, late Tuesday afternoon, the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police handed out a trespassing notice that was printed without letterhead or signature from any U.S. official.

The notice said that the Trump administration recognizes Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the head of the government of Venezuela and that the Guaidó-appointed ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, and his appointed ambassador to the Organization of American States, Gustavo Tarre, were to determine who is allowed into the embassy. Those not authorized by the ambassadors were to be considered trespassers. Those inside the building were “requested” to depart the building.

The notice appeared to have been written by the Guaidó faction, but was posted and read by D.C. police as if it were a document from the U.S. government.

The police taped the notice to the doors all around the embassy, which is located in Georgetown,  and later called in the fire department to cut the lock and chain that had been on the front door of the embassy since diplomatic relations were broken between Venezuela and the United States on Jan. 23.

Supporters Gather

Adding to the drama, supporters of both sides began to gather. The pro-Guaidó forces, who had erected tents around the perimeter of the embassy and had set up a long-term encampment to oppose the collective inside the building, were ordered to take down their encampment. It seemed as though this was part of moving them from outside the embassy to the inside.

Two hours later, some members of the collective inside the embassy voluntarily left to reduce the load on food and water, and four members refused to obey what they considered an illegal order to vacate the premises. The crowd waited in anticipation of the police going inside and physically removing, and arresting, the remaining collective members. The pro-Guaidó forces were jubilant, crying “tic-toc, tic-toc” as they were counting down the minutes before their victory.

In a remarkable turn of events, however, instead of arresting the collective members who remained inside, a lengthy discussions ensued between them, their lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and the D.C. police. The discussion focused on the reason collective members were in the embassy in the first place — trying to stop the Trump administration from violating the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Facilities by turning over the diplomatic premises to a coup government.  

Collective members reminded police officers that following illegal orders does not protect them from being charged with criminal actions.  

After two hours, instead of arresting the collective, police turned around, locked the door behind them, posted guards and said they would ask their superiors how to handle the situation. The crowd was stunned that the State Department and D.C. police, after having over a month to organize the eviction, had begun this operation without a full plan to include arrests warrants in case the collective members did not vacate the building voluntarily.

Kevin Zeese’s Statement 

Kevin Zeese, a collective member, wrote a statement concerning the status of the collective and the embassy:

“This is the 34th day of our living in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. We are prepared to stay another 34 days, or however long is needed to resolve the embassy dispute in a peaceful way consistent with international law… Before doing so, we reiterate that our collective is one of independent people and organizations not affiliated with any government. While we are all US citizens, we are not agents of the United States. While we are here with permission of the Venezuelan government, we are not their agents or representatives…  The exit from the embassy that best resolves issues to the benefit of the United States and Venezuela is a mutual Protecting Power Agreement. The United States wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in Caracas. Venezuela wants a Protecting Power for its embassy in DC… The Embassy Protectors will not barricade ourselves, or hide in the embassy in the event of an unlawful entry by police. We will gather together and peacefully assert our rights to remain in the building and uphold international law… Any order to vacate based on a request by coup conspirators that lack governing authority will not be a lawful order. The coup has failed multiple times in Venezuela. The elected government is recognized by the Venezuelan courts under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations under international law. An order by the US-appointed coup plotters would not be legal…Such an entry would put embassies around the world and in the United States at risk. We are concerned about US embassies and personnel around the world if the Vienna Convention is violated at this embassy. It would set a dangerous precedent that would likely be used against US embassies….If an illegal eviction and unlawful arrests are made, we will hold all decision-makers in the chain of command and all officers who enforce unlawful orders accountable….There is no need for the United States and Venezuela to be enemies. Resolving this embassy dispute diplomatically should lead to negotiations over other issues between the nations.”

Collective members anticipate that the Trump administration will go to court to request an official U.S.-government order to remove them.

National Lawyers Guild’s Statement 

Members of the National Lawyers Guild wrote a statement challenging the Trump administration’s handing over of diplomatic facilities to unlawful persons:

“The undersigned write to condemn the violations of law which are occurring at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C. and to demand immediate action be taken. Prior to April 25, 2019, a group of peace activists were invited to the Embassy by the government of Venezuela – recognized as such by the United Nations – and continue to be lawfully on the premises.

Nonetheless, the United States government, through various law enforcement agencies, have condoned and protected violent opponents in support of an attempted siege of the Embassy. In so doing, the U.S. government is creating a dangerous precedent for diplomatic relations with all nations. These actions are not only illegal, but they put embassies around the world at risk. The contempt shown by the Trump Administration for these principles and for international law puts at risk the entire system of diplomatic relations which could have a reverberating effect in nations throughout the world.

The undersigned demand that the United States immediately cease its ongoing state-sponsored assault and illegal intervention in Venezuela and against its government, which continues to be recognized by the United Nations and the majority of the world. We demand that local and federal law enforcement immediately refrain from exposing the peaceful invitees and their supporters inside and outside the Embassy to harm in violation of their fundamental human rights.”

As this saga over the Venezuela embassy continues to unfold, history will record this as a key turning point in U.S.-Venezuelan relations, U.S. violation of a key tenet of international law and most of all, as a heroic example of US citizens doing everything in their power — including going without food, water and electricity and facing daily assaults by the opposition — to try to stop a U.S.-orchestrated coup.

Medea Benjamin, a member of the Embassy Protection Collective, is cofounder of CODEPINK Women for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic,” “Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection,” and “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.”

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a colonel.   She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to President George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. She is co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

This article first appeared on  Codepink. 

 

 




Pretexts for an Attack on Iran

Ray McGovern probes the step-up in U.S. belligerence towards a country posing the same non-existent strategic threat as Iraq. 

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

An Iraq-War redux is now in full play, with leading roles played by some of the same protagonists — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, for example, who says he still thinks attacking Iraq was a good idea. Co-starring is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The New York Times on Tuesday played its accustomed role in stoking the fires, front-paging a report that, at Bolton’s request, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has come up with an updated plan to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons. The Times headline writer, at least, thought it appropriate to point to echoes from the past: “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War.”

By midday, Trump had denied the Times report, branding it “fake news.” Keep them guessing, seems to be the name of the game.

Following the Iraq playbook, Bolton and Pompeo are conjuring up dubious intelligence from Israel to “justify” attacking — this time — Iran. (For belligerent Bolton, this was entirely predictable.) All this is clear.

What is not clear, to Americans and foreigners alike, is why Trump would allow Bolton and Pompeo to use the same specious charges — terrorism and nuclear weapons — to provoke war with a country that poses just as much strategic threat to the U.S. as Iraq did — that is to say, none. The corporate media, with a two-decade memory-loss and a distinct pro-Israel bias, offers little help toward understanding.

Before discussing the main, but unspoken-in-polite-circles, impulse behind the present step-up in threats to Iran, let’s clear some underbrush by addressing the two limping-but-still-preferred, ostensible rationales, neither of which can bear close scrutiny:

No. 1: It isn’t because Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. We of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity shot down that canard a year and a half ago. In a Memorandum for President Trump, we said:

The depiction of Iran as ‘the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism’ is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool in the past, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years.”

No. 2. It isn’t because Iran is building a nuclear weapon. A November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded unanimously that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had not resumed any such work. That judgment has been re-affirmed by the Intelligence Community annually since then.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, imposed strict, new, verifiable restrictions on Iranian nuclear-related activities and was agreed to in July 2015 by Iran, the U.S., Russia, China, France, the U.K., Germany and the European Union.

Even the Trump administration has acknowledged that Iran has been abiding by the agreement’s provisions. Nevertheless, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, four weeks after John Bolton became his national security adviser.

‘We Prefer No Outcome’

Fair WarningWhat follows may come as a shock to those malnourished on the drivel in mainstream media: The “WHY,” quite simply, is Israel. It is impossible to understand U.S. Middle East policy without realizing the overwhelming influence of Israel on it and on opinion makers. (A personal experience drove home how strong the public appetite is for the straight story, after I gave a half-hour video interview to independent videographer Regis Tremblay three years ago. He titled it “The Inside Scoop on the Middle East & Israel,” put it on YouTube and it got an unusually high number of views.)

Syria is an illustrative case in point, since Israel has always sought to secure its position in the Middle East by enlisting U.S. support to curb and dominate its neighbors. An episode I recounted in that interview speaks volumes about Israeli objectives in the region as a whole, not only in Syria. And it includes an uncommonly frank admission/exposition of Israeli objectives straight from the mouths of senior Israeli officials. It is the kind of case-study, empirical approach much to be preferred to indulging in ponderous pronouncements or, worse still, so-called “intelligence assessments.”

It has long been clear that Israeli leaders have powerful incentives to get Washington more deeply engaged in yet another war in the area. This Israeli priority has become crystal clear in many ways. Reporter Jodi Rudoren, writing from Jerusalem, had an important article in TheNew York Times on Sept. 6, 2013, in which she addressed Israel’s motivation in a particularly candid way. Her article, titled “Israel Backs Limited Strike against Syria,” noted that the Israelis have argued, quietly, that the best outcome for Syria’s civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome.

Rudoren wrote:

For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“‘This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,’ said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. ‘Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.’”

If this is the way Israel’s current leaders look at the carnage in Syria, they seem to believe that deeper U.S. involvement, including military action, is likely to ensure that there is no early resolution of the conflict especially when Syrian government forces seem to be getting the upper hand. The longer Sunni and Shia are at each other’s throats in Syria and in the wider region, the safer Israel calculates it will be.

The fact that Syria’s main ally is Iran, with whom it has a mutual defense treaty, also plays a role in Israeli calculations. And since Iranian military support has not been enough to destroy those challenging Bashar al-Assad, Israel can highlight that in an attempt to humiliate Iran as an ally.

Today the geography has shifted from Syria to Iran: What’s playing out in the Persian Gulf area is a function of the politically-dictated obsequiousness of American presidents to the policies and actions of Israel’s leaders. This bipartisan phenomenon was obvious enough under recent presidents like Clinton and Obama; but under Bush II and Trump, it went on steroids, including a born-again, fundamentalist religious aspect.

One need hardly mention the political power of the Israel lobby and the lucrative campaign donations from the likes of Sheldon Adelson. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is riding high, at least for the now, Israeli influence is particularly strong in the lead-up to U.S. elections, and Trump has been acquitted of colluding with Russia.

The stars seem aligned for very strong “retaliatory strikes” for terrorist acts blamed on Iran. 

Tonkin — er, I Mean Persian Gulf

Over the weekend, four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz. Last evening The Wall Street Journal was the first to report an “initial U.S. assessment” that Iran likely was behind the attacks, and quoted a “U.S. official” to the effect that if confirmed, this would inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf.The attacks came as the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier, bombers and an antimissile battery to the Gulf — supposedly to deter what the Trump administration said is the possibility of Iranian aggression.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, with whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting a bloody war for the past four years, launched a drone attack on a Saudi east-west pipeline that carries crude to the Red Sea. This is not the first such attack; a Houthi spokesman said the attack was a response to Saudi “aggression” and “genocide” in Yemen. The Saudis shut down the pipeline for repair.

Thus the dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz increase apace with U.S.-Iran recriminations. This, too, is not new.

Tension in the Strait was very much on Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen’s mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the U.S. and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:

Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. We are not talking to Iran. So we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations.”

Now the potential for an incident has increased markedly. Adm. Mullen was primarily concerned about the various sides — Iran, the U.S., Israel — making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, “unintended consequences.”

With Pompeo and Bolton on the loose, the world may be well advised to worry even more about “intended consequences” from a false flag attack. The Israelis are masters at this. The tactic has been in the U.S. clandestine toolkit for a long time, as well. In recent days, the Pentagon has reported tracking “anomalous naval activity” in the Persian Gulf, including loading small sailing vessels with missiles and other military hardware.

Cheney: Down to the Sea in Boats

In July 2008, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the vice president’s office in the wake of a January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.

Hersh wrote:

There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of, that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation.

Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January 2008] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. Youknow, we’re into it.”

Preparing the (Propaganda) Battlefield

One of Washington’s favorite ways to blacken Iran and its leaders is to blame it for killing U.S. troops in Iraq. Iran was accused, inter alia, of supplying the most lethal improvised explosive devices, but sycophants like Gen. David Petraeus wanted to score points by blaming the Iranians for still more actions.

On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that Gen. David Petraeus would be giving a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” that would provide detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.”

Petraeus’s staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala, Iraq, would be displayed and then destroyed. But there was a small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran.

This embarrassing episode went virtually unreported in Western media – like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no corporate media to hear it crash. A fiasco is only a fiasco if folks find out about it. The Iraqis did announce that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate U.S. claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.”

With his windsock full of neoconservative anti-Iran rhetoric, Petreaus, as CIA director, nevertheless persisted — and came up with even more imaginative allegations of Iranian perfidy. Think back, for example, to October 2011 and the outlandish White House spy feature at the time: the Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. And hold your nose.

More recently, the Pentagon announced it has upped its estimate of how many U.S. troops Iran killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. The revised death tally would mean that Iran is responsible for 17 percent of all U.S. troops killed in Iraq.

Who Will Restrain the ‘Crazies’?

Pompeo stopped off in Brussels on Monday to discuss Iran with EU leaders, skipping what would have been the first day of a two-day trip to Russia. Pompeo did not speak to the news media in Brussels, but European foreign ministers said that they had urged “restraint.”

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told reporters: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident, with an escalation that is unintended, really on either side.” British Army Major General Christopher Ghika was rebuked by U.S. Central Command for saying Tuesday: “There has been no increased threat from Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.” Central Command spokesperson Captain Bill Urban said Ghika’s remarks “run counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian backed forces in the region.”

Although there is growing resentment at the many serious problems tied to Trump’s pulling the U.S. out of the Iran deal, and there is the EU’s growing pique at heavyweights like Pompeo crashing their gatherings uninvited, I agree with Pepe Escobar’s bottom line, that “it’s politically naïve to believe the Europeans will suddenly grow a backbone.”

There remains a fleeting hope that cooler heads in the U.S. military might summon the courage to talk some sense into Trump, in the process making it clear that they will take orders from neither Pompeo nor from National Security Advisor John Bolton. But the generals and admirals of today are far more likely in the end to salute and “follow orders.”

There is a somewhat less forlorn hope that Russia will give Pompeo a strong warning in Sochi — a shot across the bow, so to speak. The last thing Russia, China, Turkey and other countries want is an attack on Iran. Strategic realities have greatly changed since the two wars on Iraq.

In 1992, still in the afterglow of Desert Storm (the first Gulf War), former Gen. Wesley Clark asked then Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz about major lessons to be drawn from the Desert Storm attack on Iraq in 1991. Without hesitation, Wolfowitz answered, “We can do these things and the Russians won’t stop us.” That was still true for the second attack on Iraq in 2003.

But much has changed since then: In 2014, the Russians stopped NATO expansion to include Ukraine, after the Western-sponsored coup in Kiev; and in the years that followed, Moscow thwarted attempts by the U.S., Israel, and others to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

No doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin would like to “stop us” before the Bolton/Pompeo team finds an “Iranian” casus belli. Initial reporting from Sochi, where Pompeo met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday indicates there was no meeting of the minds on Iran. Both Pompeo and Lavrov described their talks as “frank” — diplomat-speak for acrimonious.

Pompeo was probably treated to much stronger warnings in private during the Sochi talks with Lavrov and Putin. Either or both may even have put into play the potent China card, now that Russia and China have a relationship just short of a military alliance — a momentous alteration of what the Soviets used to call the “correlation of forces.”

In my mind’s eye, I can even see Putin warning, “If you attack Iran, you may wish to be prepared for trouble elsewhere, including in the South China Sea. Besides, the strategic balance is quite different from conditions existing each time you attacked Iraq. We strongly advise you not to start hostilities with Iran — under any pretext. If you do, we are ready this time.”

And, of course, Putin could also pick up the phone and simply call Trump.

There is no guarantee, however, that tough talk from Russia could stick an iron rod into the wheels of the juggernaut now rolling downhill to war on Iran. But, failing that kind of strong intervention and disincentive, an attack on Iran seems all but assured. Were we to be advising President Trump today, we VIPS would not alter a word in the recommendation at the very end of the Memorandum for President George W. Bush we sent him on the afternoon of Feb. 5, 2003, after Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council earlier that day:

No one has a corner on the truth; nor do we harbor illusions that our analysis is irrefutable or undeniable [as Powell had claimed his was]. But after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and presidential briefer and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.