WATCH THE REPLAY: WikiLeaks Editor Kristinn Hrafnsson, Michael Isikoff, Pepe Escobar, As’ad AbuKhalil on CN Live!

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, journalists Michael Isikoff and Pepe Escobar, political scientist As’ad AbuKhalil and author George Szamuely on Episode 2 of CNLive! 

Hrafnsson joined CNLive! to speak on the latest about imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, including CNN’s recent hit piece; Isikoff discussed his Yahoo! News series on Seth Rich; Escobar gave keen insights into the major scandal engulfing Brazil as well as his observations of Italy after his recent trip there; AbuKhalil dissected Middle East politics and war and Szamuely commented on the lot with hosts Elizabeth Vos and Joe Lauria on CN Live!  Download and listen to the podcast.

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The Missing Three-Letter Word in the Iran Crisis

Michael T. Klare offers an overview of oil’s enduring sway in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

By Michael T. Klare 
TomDispatch.com

It’s always the oil. While President Donald Trump was hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Japan, brushing off a recent UN report about the prince’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia and the Middle East, pleading with foreign leaders to support “Sentinel.” The aim of that administration plan: to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Both Trump and Pompeo insisted that their efforts were driven by concern over Iranian misbehavior in the region and the need to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. Neither, however, mentioned one inconvenient three-letter word — O-I-L — that lay behind their Iranian maneuvering (as it has impelled every other American incursion in the Middle East since World War II).

Now, it’s true that the United States no longer relies on imported petroleum for a large share of its energy needs. Thanks to the fracking revolution, the country now gets the bulk of its oil — approximately 75 percent  — from domestic sources. (In 2008, that share had been closer to 35 percent.)  Key allies in NATO and rivals like China, however, continue to depend on Middle Eastern oil for a significant proportion of their energy needs. As it happens, the world economy — of which the U.S. is the leading beneficiary (despite Trump’s self-destructive trade wars) —relies on an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to keep energy prices low. By continuing to serve as the principal overseer of that flow, Washington enjoys striking geopolitical advantages that its foreign policy elites would no more abandon than they would their country’s nuclear supremacy.

This logic was spelled out clearly by President Barack Obama in a September 2013 address to the UN General Assembly in which he declared that “the United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests” in the Middle East. He then pointed out that, while the U.S. was steadily reducing its reliance on imported oil, “the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.” Accordingly, he concluded, “We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.”

To some Americans, that dictum — and its continued embrace by Trump and Pompeo — may seem anachronistic. True, Washington fought wars in the Middle East when the American economy was still deeply vulnerable to any disruption in the flow of imported oil. In 1990, this was the key reason President George H.W. Bush gave for his decision to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of that land. “Our country now imports nearly half the oil it consumes and could face a major threat to its economic independence,” he told a nationwide TV audience. But talk of oil soon disappeared from his comments about what became Washington’s first (but hardly last) Gulf War after his statement provoked widespread public outrage. (“No Blood for Oil” became a widely used protest sign then.) His son, the second President Bush, never even mentioned that three-letter word when announcing his 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yet, as Obama’s UN speech made clear, oil remained, and still remains, at the center of U.S. foreign policy. A quick review of global energy trends helps explain why this has continued to be so.

The World’s Undiminished Reliance on Petroleum

Despite all that’s been said about climate change and oil’s role in causing it — and about the enormous progress being made in bringing solar and wind power online — we remain trapped in a remarkably oil-dependent world. To grasp this reality, all you have to do is read the most recent edition of oil giant BP’s “Statistical Review of World Energy,” published this June. In 2018, according to that report, oil still accounted for by far the largest share of world energy consumption, as it has every year for decades. All told, 33.6 percent of world energy consumption last year was made up of oil, 27.2 percent of coal (itself a global disgrace), 23.9 percent of natural gas, 6.8 percent of hydro-electricity, 4.4 percent of nuclear power, and a mere 4 percent of renewables.

Most energy analysts believe that the global reliance on petroleum as a share of world energy use will decline in the coming decades, as more governments impose restrictions on carbon emissions and as consumers, especially in the developed world, switch from oil-powered to electric vehicles. But such declines are unlikely to prevail in every region of the globe and total oil consumption may not even decline. According to projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its New Policies Scenario (which assumes significant but not drastic government efforts to curb carbon emissions globally), Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are likely to experience a substantially increased demand for petroleum in the years to come, which, grimly enough, means global oil consumption will continue to rise.

Concluding that the increased demand for oil in Asia, in particular, will outweigh reduced demand elsewhere, the IEA calculated in its 2017 World Energy Outlook” that oil will remain the world’s dominant source of energy in 2040, accounting for an estimated 27.5 percent of total global energy consumption. That will indeed be a smaller share than in 2018, but because global energy consumption as a whole is expected to grow substantially during those decades, net oil production could still rise — from an estimated 100 million barrels a day in 2018 to about 105 million barrels in 2040.

Of course, no one, including the IEA’s experts, can be sure how future extreme manifestations of global warming like the severe heat waves recently tormenting Europe and South Asia could change such projections. It’s possible that growing public outrage could lead to far tougher restrictions on carbon emissions between now and 2040. Unexpected developments in the field of alternative energy production could also play a role in changing those projections. In other words, oil’s continuing dominance could still be curbed in ways that are now unpredictable.

In the meantime, from a geopolitical perspective, a profound shift is taking place in the worldwide demand for petroleum. In 2000, according to the IEA, older industrialized nations — most of them members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — accounted for about two-thirds of global oil consumption; only about a third went to countries in the developing world. By 2040, the IEA’s experts believe that ratio will be reversed, with the OECD consuming about one-third of the world’s oil and non-OECD nations the rest. More dramatic yet is the growing centrality of the Asia-Pacific region to the global flow of petroleum. In 2000, that region accounted for only 28 — of world consumption; in 2040, its share is expected to stand at 44 —, thanks to the growth of China, India, and other Asian countries, whose newly affluent consumers are already buying cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other oil-powered products.

Where will Asia get its oil? Among energy experts, there is little doubt on this matter. Lacking significant reserves of their own, the major Asian consumers will turn to the one place with sufficient capacity to satisfy their rising needs: the Persian Gulf. According to BP, in 2018, Japan already obtained 87 percent of its oil imports from the Middle East, India 64 percent, and China 44 percent. Most analysts assume these percentages will only grow in the years to come, as production in other areas declines.

This will, in turn, lend even greater strategic importance to the Persian Gulf region, which now possesses more than 60 percent of the world’s untapped petroleum reserves, and to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passageway through which approximately one-third of the world’s seaborne oil passes daily. Bordered by Iran, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, the Strait is perhaps the most significant — and contested — geostrategic location on the planet today.

Controlling the Spigot

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the same year that militant Shiite fundamentalists overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, U.S. policymakers concluded that America’s access to Gulf oil supplies was at risk and a U.S. military presence was needed to guarantee such access. As President Jimmy Carter would say in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 23, 1980:

“The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two thirds of the world’s exportable oil… The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow… Let our position be absolutely clear: an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

To lend muscle to what would soon be dubbed the “Carter Doctrine,” the president created a new U.S. military organization, the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), and obtained basing facilities for it in the Gulf region. Ronald Reagan, who succeeded Carter as president in 1981, made the RDJTF into a full-scale “geographic combatant command,” dubbed Central Command, or CENTCOM, which continues to be tasked with ensuring American access to the Gulf today (as well as overseeing the country’s never-ending wars in the Greater Middle East). Reagan was the first president to activate the Carter Doctrine in 1987 when he ordered Navy warships to escort Kuwaiti tankers, reflagged with the stars and stripes, as they traveled through the Strait of Hormuz. From time to time, such vessels had been coming under fire from Iranian gunboats, part of an ongoing Tanker War,” itself part of the Iran-Iraq War of those years. The Iranian attacks on those tankers were meant to punish Sunni Arab countries for backing Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein in that conflict.  The American response, dubbed Operation Earnest Will, offered an early model of what Pompeo is seeking to establish today with his Sentinel program.

Operation Earnest Will was followed two years later by a massive implementation of the Carter Doctrine in Bush’s 1990 decision to push Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Although he spoke of the need to protect U.S. access to Persian Gulf oil fields, it was evident that ensuring a safe flow of oil imports wasn’t the only motive for such military involvement. Equally important then (and far more so now): the geopolitical advantage controlling the world’s major oil spigot gave Washington.

When ordering U.S. forces into combat in the Gulf, American presidents have always insisted that they were acting in the interests of the entire West. In advocating for the “reflagging” mission of 1987, for instance, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger argued (as he would later recall in his memoir Fighting for Peace), “The main thing was for us to protect the right of innocent, nonbelligerent and extremely important commerce to move freely in international open waters — and, by our offering protection, to avoid conceding the mission to the Soviets.” Though rarely so openly acknowledged, the same principle has undergirded Washington’s strategy in the region ever since: the United States alone must be the ultimate guarantor of unimpeded oil commerce in the Persian Gulf.

Look closely and you can find this principle lurking in every fundamental statement of U.S. policy related to that region and among the Washington elite more generally. My own personal favorite, when it comes to pithiness, is a sentence in a report on the geopolitics of energy issued in 2000 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank well-populated with former government officials (several of whom contributed to the report): “As the world’s only superpower, [the United States] must accept its special responsibilities for preserving access to [the] worldwide energy supply.” You can’t get much more explicit than that.

Of course, along with this “special responsibility” comes a geopolitical advantage: by providing this service, the United States cements its status as the world’s sole superpower and places every other oil-importing nation — and the world at large — in a condition of dependence on its continued performance of this vital function.

Originally, the key dependents in this strategic equation were Europe and Japan, which, in return for assured access to Middle Eastern oil, were expected to subordinate themselves to Washington. Remember, for example, how they helped pay for Bush the elder’s Iraq War (dubbed Operation Desert Storm). Today, however, many of those countries, deeply concerned with the effects of climate change, are seeking to lessen oil’s role in their national fuel mixes. As a result, in 2019, the countries potentially most at the mercy of Washington when it comes to access to Gulf oil are economically fast-expanding China and India, whose oil needs are only likely to grow. That, in turn, will further enhance the geopolitical advantage Washington enjoyed as long as it remains the principal guardian of the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. How it may seek to exploit this advantage remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that all parties involved, including the Chinese, are well aware of this asymmetric equation, which could give the phrase “trade war” a far deeper and more ominous meaning.

The Iranian Challenge and the Specter of War

From Washington’s perspective, the principal challenger to America’s privileged status in the Gulf is Iran. By reason of geography, that country possesses a potentially commanding position along the northern Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, as the Reagan administration learned in 1987-1988 when it threatened American oil dominance there. About this reality President Reagan couldn’t have been clearer. “Mark this point well: the use of the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf will not be dictated by the Iranians,” he declared in 1987 — and Washington’s approach to the situation has never changed.

In more recent times, in response to U.S. and Israeli threats to bomb their nuclear facilities or, as the Trump administration has done, impose economic sanctions on their country, the Iranians have threatened on numerous occasions to block the Strait of Hormuz to oil traffic, squeeze global energy supplies, and precipitate an international crisis. In 2011, for example, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that, should the West impose sanctions on Iranian oil, “not even one drop of oil can flow through the Strait of Hormuz.” In response, U.S. officials have vowed ever since to let no such thing happen, just as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did in response to Rahimi at that time. “We have made very clear,” he said, “that the United States will not tolerate blocking of the Strait of Hormuz.” That, he added, was a “red line for us.”

It remains so today. Hence, the present ongoing crisis in the Gulf, with fierce U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales and threatening Iranian gestures toward the regional oil flow in response. “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one,” said Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, in July 2018. And attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz on June 13th could conceivably have been an expression of just that policy, if —as claimed by the U.S. — they were indeed carried out by members of the Revolutionary Guards. Any future attacks are only likely to spur U.S. military action against Iran in accordance with the Carter Doctrine. As Pentagon spokesperson Bill Urban put it in response to Jafari’s statement, “We stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

As things stand today, any Iranian move in the Strait of Hormuz that can be portrayed as a threat to the “free flow of commerce” (that is, the oil trade) represents the most likely trigger for direct U.S. military action. Yes, Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its support for radical Shiite movements throughout the Middle East will be cited as evidence of its leadership’s malevolence, but its true threat will be to American dominance of the oil lanes, a danger Washington will treat as the offense of all offenses to be overcome at any cost.

If the United States goes to war with Iran, you are unlikely to hear the word “oil” uttered by top Trump administration officials, but make no mistake: that three-letter word lies at the root of the present crisis, not to speak of the world’s long-term fate.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. His most recent book is The Race for What’s Left.” His next book, All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change (Metropolitan Books) will be published in November.

This article is fromTomDispatch.com.




Generals, Ambassadors, Security Experts, Church Leaders, Female Nobel Peace Laureates All Say ‘No War on Iran’

Ann Wright says the people and groups now calling on Washington to re-engage diplomatically with Iran are speaking up at a time of maximum urgency.

By Ann Wright
OpEdNews.com

With tensions increasing in the Persian Gulf two groups of prominent American citizens  — national security experts and religious leaders — are speaking out against a U.S. war on Iran.

Two women who are Nobel Peace Laureates, including one from Iran and one from the U.S., are doing the same.

If President Donald Trump listens to any of them he will get a very different perspective from that of his in-house national security officials Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton and the White House’s resident religious leader Vice-President Mike Pence.

There is no doubt where Pompeo, Bolton and Pence stand on Iran. On July 8 all three spoke in bellicose words and tones about the threat to the United States from Iran to the convention of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) headed by mega-evangelical preacher John Hagee. 

For Pence, it was the longest foreign policy address of his term as vice president.  “Let me be clear,” he said, “Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve … we hope for the best, but the United States of America and our military are prepared to protect our interests and protect our personnel and our citizens in the region … and we will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Pompeo who in March 2019 said that God may have sent Trump to save Israel from Iran, continued his lambasting of Iran at the conference as did Bolton.

Top Brass Write Open Letter

On May 29, 2019, 76 U.S. military generals, admirals, ambassadors and national security experts wrote an open letter to Trump:

“We write to you to express our deep concern with the current escalation with Iran in the Arabian Gulf…  A war with Iran, either by choice or miscalculation, would produce dramatic repercussions in an already destabilized Middle East and drag the United States into another armed conflict at immense financial, human, and geopolitical cost…. As President and Commander-in-Chief, you have considerable power at your disposal to immediately reduce the dangerous levels of regional tension.  

“Crisis de-escalation measures should be established with the Iranian leadership at the senior levels of government as a prelude to exploratory diplomacy on matters of mutual concern. The protection of U.S. national interests in the Middle East and the safety of our friends and allies requires thoughtful statesmanship and aggressive diplomacy rather than unnecessary armed conflict.

“As national security professionals with extensive careers in the U.S. armed forces and diplomatic service, we have witnessed first-hand how quickly disputes can spiral out of control.  The lack of direct communication between U.S. and Iranian political and military leaders during a time of heightened rhetoric only increases the possibility of a miscalculation resulting in unintended military conflict.  Washington and Tehran are talking past each other and taking actions the other views as dangerously provocative at best and the beginning of forceful action at worst.”

Faith Leaders’ Statement

On July 9, at a press conference on Capitol Hill at the United Methodist Building, six religious leaders led by Jim Wallis of Sojourners announced that 200 American church leaders had signed an extensive statement and “a clear and emphatic NO to a war with Iran. Diplomacy is the effective and necessary alternative to what would be a disastrous and indefensible war.’

In “Back From The Brink,” those faith leaders call for diplomacy, not war, with Iran. They wrote that “a United States war with Iran would be an unmitigated disaster, morally and religiously indefensible.” They called on U.S. faith leaders “to rise up, and…demand that our political leaders seek real diplomatic and humanitarian solutions to the current crisis and refrain from military confrontation with Iran.”  

Wallis and the others also called on Iran to “repudiate terrorism and not increase uranium enrichment.” They said that a war would have disastrous human and environmental consequences, would be strategically unnecessary, and would lead to regional destabilization, increased terrorism, and unsustainable financial burdens. They pointed to the toll of the war in Iraq. “Since the start of the war in Iraq, the cost of wars in the Middle East has been almost $6 trillion and 500,000 lives lost.”

Reminding political leaders of the “failed policies of the past,” the religious leaders called preventing another costly and unjust U.S. war in the Middle East, a moral imperative.”

The statement called for three steps to prevent war- a different approach.

No. 1.    The United States should offer to return immediately to the Iran nuclear deal and use the resulting discussions with Iran to engage in an effective diplomatic process for enhancing regional security, including calling on the  United Nations and governments in Europe to create a new forum for diplomacy with Iran that could help restore the positive momentum created by the Iran deal and address the roots of the current confrontation, some of which were not covered in the agreement.

No. 2.    The United States should end its policy of harsh and punitive trade sanctions against the Iranian people. Some targeted sanctions may be appropriate to counter Iranian support for armed militancy and weapons proliferation in the region, but these measures should be multilateral in nature and targeted against Iranian officials, not against the entire economy or the general population.

No. 3.    If necessary, establish safeguards for commercial shipping in the Gulf. The international naval patrols that have helped to stem piracy off the coast of Somalia may provide a model. This would require agreement from multiple countries and a willingness by the United States to cooperate with other states in coordinated operations.

Women Nobel Peace Laureates Pen Op-Ed

In a July 8, 2019, op-ed  in The New York Times, “Here’s How to Stop War With Iran,” Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi, from Iran, and Jody Williams, from the United States, provided a comprehensive analysis of the U.S.-Iran standoff.

They wrote:

“Iran wants its economic sanctions lifted. The United States wants an assurance that Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons. It is time to talk…The Trump administration’s maximum-pressure policy has brought us to the cliff of an armed confrontation and further inflamed the Gulf region. Although Tehran is far from producing a nuclear weapon, a failed agreement with Washington could lead it to pursue its nuclear program more aggressively. This could set a dangerous global precedent, potentially leading to unregulated proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

They continued:

“Iran wants its economic sanctions lifted. The United States wants, at the minimum, an assurance that Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons. Wisdom dictates that the United States and Iran commit to an agreement that addresses these mutual concerns.  On Wednesday, President Rouhani had made it clear that Tehran’s measures were fully reversible: ‘All of our actions can be returned to the previous condition within one hour.’ His statement indicates a willingness to negotiate.  Such openings offer a unique opportunity in conflict resolution and must be invested in immediately through expert and wise diplomatic engagement. The United States can reciprocate by committing to dialogue. Pursuing maximum pressure will only lead to greater ‘malign behavior’ on the part of Iran in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.”

Writing of the unintended consequences of U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign, Obadi and Williams said that:

“Inside Iran, intensified conflict with the United States will further embolden Tehran’s harsh stance on human rights defenders, labeling them terrorists and collaborators ….Tehran has already sentenced the human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to 38 years and six months in prison and 148 lashes after two unfair trials. Narges Mohammadi, the vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for her efforts to advance human rights in Iran…. These activists have endured repression for demanding the respect of their fundamental human rights. As tensions with the United States increase, Tehran tightens the screws on human rights defenders to not appear soft on those they accuse of conspiring with the United States and promoting ‘Western ideals.’ ”

They emphasize that:

“A military confrontation would not only endanger those struggling for freedom and democracy but also further damage the Iranian economy, which is already reeling under American sanctions…. Iranians are deeply affected by a currency that has lost 60 percent of its value since the sanctions were reinstated, and concurrent rising unemployment and living costs. The price of food has skyrocketed, making meat and vegetables unaffordable to ordinary people. Meanwhile those closest to the regime profit from the corruption that is fueled by the sanctions.”

Speaking of regional consequences, they write “Beyond Iran’s borders, a United States-Iran conflict will engulf Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria and set the already polarized Persian Gulf region on an even more dangerous trajectory.  Of all the countries in the region, Yemen, which faces the most dire humanitarian crisis, continues to be the battlefield between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi- and American-backed coalition. An escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran is endangering the Yemen peace process and could affect the opening of Red Sea ports and improving aid flows into Yemen.”

Finally they described the effect on the U.S. of another U.S. war:

“The costs are also high for Americans. For years, Iran has been preparing to attack American forces in the Middle East as part of its self-defense strategy. Tehran possesses an agile and sophisticated missile force and is well equipped to challenge American interests and its allies in the region. Ordinary citizens of Iran, Yemen and the United States­ — most of whom are women and children — would pay the highest cost of this avoidable conflict.”

Ebadi and Williams speak for those of us who want dialogue, not war ending their comments with “It is time to bring sanity back to Washington and Tehran and commit to a citizen-centered, maximum-diplomacy approach that protects the fragile equilibrium between our countries.

The call for peace in the region has never been more pressing, the stakes never so high.

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 is from OpEdNews.com.  

 




WATCH THE REPLAY: Nils Melzer, Aaron Mate’, Mike Gravel on CN Live! Premiere

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer; journalist Aaron Maté and former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Mike Gravel were among the guests for the premier edition of CN Live! Watch the replay at this updated and now permanent link.

On the premiere episode of CN Live!, Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel,  inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, joined us from Geneva to discuss his work on the condition of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.  Journalist Aaron Maté spoke to us from New York about his latest article, “CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims“.  Former U.S. Senator and Democratic primary contender Mike Gravel, and Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, joined the program from California to discuss the race to the White House. 

Francis Boyle, international law professor at the University of Illinois, picked apart the intelligence and political machinations behind the arrest of financier Jeffery Epstein on sex trafficking charges; and author and scholar George Szamuely joined hosts Joe Lauria and Elizabeth Vos from Budapest to dissect the latest news on Assange and WikiLeaks.

Watch the replay of CN Live! on our Facebook page, on Periscope and right here on Consortium News at this permanent link:




Scenario Fulfillment: Why Should We Believe US on Location of Drone Shot Down By Iran?

Ann Wright recalls that a U.S. military warship shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 and Washington insisted afterwards that it was correct in doing so. 

By Ann Wright
Code Pink

The Iranian military shot down a U.S. spy drone last week, bringing the two countries to the brink of war.

Iran said the drone was over Iranian airspace, as the country’s foreign minister detailed in a tweet. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S. says the drone, a $22 million RQ-4A Global Hawk, was in international airspace.  

But why should one believe the U.S. with its history of lying?  

Remember back to 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, when the USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser, shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with all 290 people on board including 66 children.  The regularly scheduled passenger flight was over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on the routine flight path shortly after taking off from Bandar Abbas heading on the 28-minute flight to Dubai.  Its transponder was signaling it was a civilian aircraft.

The U.S. warship was in Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning shots from Iranian speedboats that were guarding Iranian waterways.

Yet, the U.S. maintained that it was correct in shooting down a civilian aircraft that it said the crew thought was a military aircraft.  It took years before the U.S. offered recompense through the International Court of Justice. 

When a group of us were on a citizens’ peace delegation to Iran in February we visited the Tehran Peace Museum. We knew from previous trips that the wound of the destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 was still raw.  This time we presented the director of the peace museum with a book made by a member of our delegation with the names of all of those killed on Flight 655, along with our apologies.

Scenario Fulfillment

In a 2000 BBC documentary titled “The Other Lockerbie,” and in an M.I.T. study  of the Flight 655 shoot-down, U.S. government officials stated in a written answer that they believed the shoot down of Iran Air 655 may have been caused by a simultaneous psychological condition among the 18 bridge crew of Vincennes, called “scenario fulfillment,” which is said to occur when people are under pressure. U.S. officials said that in such a situation, the crew will carry out a training scenario, believing it to be reality while ignoring sensory information that contradicts the scenario. In the case of this incident, the training scenario was an attack by a lone military aircraft when in fact, in reality, the aircraft was a civilian passenger plane on a regularly scheduled flight.

Let’s hope Bolton and Pompeo’s “scenario fulfillment” does not lead the White House to further military confrontation, much less an attack on Iran.

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 Code Pink.




JOHN KIRIAKOU: Adam Schiff—The Left Wing of the Hawk

Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is as big a hawk as any member of the Trump administration, says John Kirikaou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

Neoliberal, fake progressive Rep. Adam Schiff (D-C) showed his true colors yet again last week. He said in response to President Donald Trump’s saber-rattling and threats to attack Iran that,

Iran is a thoroughly malign actor, a cause of deep instability in the region, a profound contributor to the violence and misery in Yemen, and one of the most dangerous regimes in the world. Through the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and its proxies, it is also a state sponsor of terror. The threat it poses is real.”

That certainly wasn’t the position of the Obama Administration. Schiff instead has decided to jump into the Trump foreign policy with both feet. He’s made similar threatening statements about Venezuela and China, too.

Let’s look at this one issue at a time. First, Schiff is the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. That’s the committee that’s supposed to oversee the CIA and other intelligence services, but which acts more as a clubhouse for CIA cheerleaders.

Schiff has watched Trump tear up the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA; he’s watched the U.S. send additional troops to the Middle East to step up pressure on Teheran; he’s watched war-lovers John Bolton, national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, promise in public to violate international law by attacking Iran. Schiff has also watched a naked U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela.

And what is his response? It’s to tell us, “I’ve read classified documents. If you’ve seen what I’ve seen you would want to attack Iran too. You would want to overthrow Venezuela too. Just take my word for it.” Thanks, but no thanks. I know from first-hand experience how much the CIA lies. I don’t believe a word they say.

Second, Schiff has indeed maintained just as hard a line on Venezuela as he has on Iran. Just two months ago, he called President Nicolas Maduro an “authoritarian” and a disastrous dictator,” and said he, Schiff, “stands with the opposition in calling for free and fair elections and the restoration of democracy. Maduro must refrain from escalating the situation through violence, which will only further the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

What the esteemed chairman decided to utterly ignore was the fact that Venezuela hadfree and fair elections that the opposition boycotted in order to try to delegitimize them; Venezuela already is a functioning democracy; and it was actually the Trump Administration and the self-appointed “president,” Juan Guaidó, who resorted to violence by initiating a coup attempt against Maduro that failed. Schiff is either dangerously misinformed here or he’s a tool of Bolton’s foreign policy.

Dangerous China

Third, Schiff is as staunchly anti-China as any Republican hawk. In a recent on-the-record talk before the Council on Foreign Relations, he said,

China’s a very dangerous and influential part of that (antidemocratic) trend. It’s certainly true that, you know, Russia has been undermining democracies in Europe and elsewhere. But China has been undermining democracy in a very different way. China’s been undermining democracy in a—in a powerful, technological way, with the promulgation of these so-called safe cities and the safe-city technology where CCTV cameras are ubiquitous. And Chinese citizens now are facially recognized by the software in these cameras. That ties into a database that includes information about their social scores, their credit history, their use of social media. It is big brother come to life. And this is obviously not only a grave threat to the freedom and privacy of the Chinese people and their ability to associate or communicate their freedom, but it also—to the degree that China is now exporting this technology to other authoritarian countries—allows them to perpetuate their autocratic rule. And this, under the masquerade of safety and security.”

The funny thing is that Schiff never bothered to mention that it is actually the UK that is the most surveilled country in the world, with London having more CCTV cameras than any city, anywhere, in any period of human history. He never brought up the fact that China, in its entire history, has never promoted an imperialist foreign policy, like the U.S. and U.K. It doesn’t invade other countries, like the U.S. and U.K. It doesn’t interfere in foreign elections, like the U.S., U.K., Russia, and others. But the position does say a lot about Schiff. It says that he doesn’t care about facts, relying instead on pseudo-patriotic stereotypes. Remember, this guy is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

If there was any doubt at all that Schiff is in the grip of the military-industrial complex, one doesn’t have to rely just on his stated positions on Iran, Venezuela, and China to make the situation any clearer. Just take a look at his donors. The defense contractors love him. Northrop Grumman ($16,217), SAIC ($11,005), Lockheed Martin ($10,298), Boeing ($10,208), Honeywell ($10,025), Raytheon ($7,040), and General Dynamics ($7,038) are all among his major donors.

The sad truth, though, is that we’re stuck with him. Schiff represents Hollywood, California in the House. He usually runs unopposed, and when he does have opposition, he wins with more than 75 percent every time. Another sad truth is that this is the Democratic Party of 2019. Its leadership is neoliberal. It’s interventionist. It ensures that, come election time, none of us has a real choice.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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PATRICK LAWRENCE: Accelerating Imperial Decline

Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran is driven by desperation rather than a reasoned understanding of a world in historically significant flux. That can lead only to a continuing succession of failures.

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

The kinetic events of the past week in Washington, Tehran, and the Persian Gulf were nothing if not revealing. President Donald Trump proved the keeper of the peace, warmongers all around him, when he aborted an airborne attack on Iran Thursday evening. The Iranians continue to act with admirable restraint in the face of incessant provocations.

More such provocations are sure to come. Trump announced over the weekend that he will impose yet another layer of “major new sanctions” against Iran on Monday. After a minor cyber-attack against an Iranian intelligence agency last week, the Pentagon has developed a list of Iranian entities it is considering for a more extensive cyber-war campaign.

But there are more fundamental truths to derive from the swift escalation of Washington’s hostilities toward Tehran. They come to four. Taken together, they offer a snapshot of an imperial power in accelerating decline.

Paralyzed Elites

First, Trump’s determination to avoid pointless new wars of adventure has divided Washington to an extent that is unprecedented at least as far back as the Vietnam debacle. In addition to hawkish factions within the administration and the national security apparatus, an apparent majority on Capitol Hill — liberals as well as Republicans — favors war as the principal instrument of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

This strongly suggests that Washington’s foreign policy elites are effectively paralyzed — that is, incapable of meeting a new century’s realities with new thinking. Trump’s authorization of last week’s cyberattack and his subsequent promise of new sanctions appear to be attempts to appease the swelling ranks of warmongers pressuring him to approve a military confrontation with Iran. It is to Trump’s credit that he has so far held out against those many who stand against him. It is not clear how long he will be able to do so. There is informed speculation that Trump never approved of the attack he canceled at the last minute Thursday night.

Crumbling Credibility

Second, Washington’s ability to impose a self-serving narrative on global events is in the latter stages of collapse. Winning broad acceptance of officially approved accounts of U.S. actions and intentions has been essential to the effective execution of American foreign policy at least since the Cold War’s onset in the late 1940s. This is a dwindling asset, as the cases of Ukraine, Syria, and now Iran attest.

Washington’s account of events in the Persian Gulf since two cargo vessels were attacked two weeks ago met open resistance within 24 hours, notably from Germany, the European Union, and Japan — all among America’s longstanding allies. The significance here cannot be overstated. If the U.S. can no longer control accepted narratives, its global alliances will progressively weaken. This process is already evident, notably in the increasing tension between Washington and its trans-Atlantic allies.

Desperation Phase

Third, in the twilight years of its long preeminence, the U.S. has entered what is best described as its desperation phase. Having no need of imaginative thinking or policy innovation for more than seven decades, Washington finds itself incapable of either. Instead, it assumes a perennial posture of resistance as a new, multipolar, and historically inevitable world order emerges. In a word, America now acts as spoiler wherever this new order is emergent.

This is evident in a variety of contexts. High among these are Western Europe’s densely woven interdependence with Russia, which elaborates continuously despite America’s objections, and the universally shared desire to achieve a lasting peace in Northeast Asia. In the case of Iran, Washington resists the Islamic Republic’s undeniable place as a regional power, incessantly painting a nation dedicated to regional security as a sponsor of terror that is intent — for reasons never explained — on destabilizing its own neighborhood.

A foreign policy that rests on desperation rather than a reasoned understanding of a world in historically significant flux can lead only to a continuing succession of failures. Should Trump’s many adversaries in Washington prevail in instigating a military confrontation with Iran, the current crisis in the Persian Gulf will take its place among these. The outcome here may be evident in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.

Isolation

Finally, there is the question of Washington’s increasing isolation. During the postwar decades the U.S. was “alone in the world” — the phrase of the Italian journalist Luigi Barzini — by virtue of its unchallenged dominance. For better or worse, America led. This has turned upside down since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: The U.S. is now ever more alone because it repeatedly flinches from the 21st century, effectively refusing to accept that the 20th has passed. 

There has yet to be an open breach between the U.S. and its postwar allies. But it is not difficult to imagine that one lies out in the middle distance — an eventuality that was unthinkable even a decade or so ago. The now-evident trans-Atlantic rift worsened steadily after the Obama administration force-marched the Continent to conform to the sanctions it imposed on Russia after the U.S.–cultivated coup in Ukraine five years ago. Trump widened it very dramatically when he withdrew last year from the 2015 accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs.

It is lost on no one in Europe that the current crisis in the Persian Gulf is the direct outcome —and maybe the intended outcome — of that reckless decision. Should Washington’s hawkish factions persist in their transparent efforts to provoke a military conflict with Iran, the risk of a break straight down the middle of the Western alliance will draw all the nearer.

The U.S. remains beyond question the world’s most powerful nation, as is frequently remarked. But hard power is losing its agency: This is among the principal features of our new century. It is important now to distinguish between strong nations and the merely powerful. Most of what the U.S. does abroad has come to demonstrate the opposite of its intent. America is emerging as a powerful but weak nation, its leadership divided and unable to rethink its global position.  And a loss of strength is the very essence of a nation in decline.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutistHis web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. 

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VIPS Memo to the President: Is Pompeo’s Iran Agenda the Same As Yours?

UPDATED: VIPS says its direct experience with Mike Pompeo leaves them with strong doubt regarding his trustworthiness on issues of consequence to the President and the nation.

DATE: June 21, 2019

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President. 

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Is Pompeo’s Iran Agenda the Same As Yours?

After the close call yesterday when you called off the planned military strike on Iran, we remain concerned that you are about to be mousetrapped into war with Iran. You have said you do not want such a war (no sane person would), and our comments below are based on that premise. There are troubling signs that Secretary Pompeo is not likely to jettison his more warlike approach, More importantly, we know from personal experience with Pompeo’s dismissive attitude to instructions from you that his agenda can deviate from yours on issues of major consequence. 

Pompeo’s behavior betrays a strong desire to resort to  military action — perhaps even without your approval — to Iranian provocations (real or imagined), with no discernible strategic goal other than to advance the interests of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He is a neophyte compared to his anti-Iran partner John Bolton, whose dilettante approach to interpreting intelligence, strong advocacy of the misbegotten war on Iraq (and continued pride in his role in promoting it), and fierce pursuit of his own aggressive agenda are a matter of a decades-long record. You may not be fully aware of our experience with Pompeo, who has now taken the lead on Iran.

That experience leaves us with strong doubt regarding his trustworthiness on issues of consequence to you and the country, including the contentious issue of alleged Russian hacking into the DNC. The sketchy “evidence” behind that story has now crumbled, thanks to some unusual candor from the Department of Justice. We refer to the extraordinary revelation in a recent Department of Justice court filing that former FBI Director James Comey never required a final forensic report from the DNC-hired cybersecurity company, CrowdStrike.

Comey, of course, has admitted to the fact that, amid accusations from the late Sen. John McCain and others that the Russians had committed “an act of war,” the FBI did not follow best practices and insist on direct access to the DNC computers, preferring to rely on CrowdStrike reporting. What was not known until the DOJ revelation is that CrowdStrike never gave Comey a final report on its forensic findings regarding alleged “Russian hacking.” Mainstream media have suppressed this story so far; we reported it several days ago.

The point here is that Pompeo could have exposed the lies about Russian hacking of the DNC, had he done what you asked him to do almost two years ago when he was director of the CIA.

In our Memorandum to you of July 24, 2017 entitled “Was the ‘Russian Hack’ an Inside Job?,” we suggested:

“You may wish to ask CIA Director Mike Pompeo what he knows about this.[“This” being the evidence-deprived allegation that “a shadowy entity with the moniker ‘Guccifer 2.0’ hacked the DNC on behalf of Russian intelligence and gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks.”] Our own lengthy intelligence community experience suggests that it is possible that neither former CIA Director John Brennan, nor the cyber-warriors who worked for him, have been completely candid with their new director regarding how this all went down.”

Three months later, Director Pompeo invited William Binney, one of VIPS’ two former NSA technical directors (and a co-author of our July 24, 2017 Memorandum), to CIA headquarters to discuss our findings. Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney on October 24, 2017 by explaining the genesis of the unusual invitation: “You are here because the President told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

But Did Pompeo ‘Really Want to Know’?

Apparently not. Binney, a widely respected, plain-spoken scientist with more than three decades of experience at NSA, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. As we explained in our most recent Memorandum to you, Pompeo reacted with disbelief and — now get this — tried to put the burden on Binney to pursue the matter with the FBI and NSA.

As for Pompeo himself, there is no sign he followed up by pursuing Binney’s stark observation with anyone, including his own CIA cyber sleuths. Pompeo had been around intelligence long enough to realize the risks entailed in asking intrusive questions of intelligence officers—in this case, subordinates in the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which was created by CIA Director John Brennan in 2015. CIA malware and hacking tools are built by the Engineering Development Group, part of that relatively new Directorate. (It is a safe guess that offensive cybertool specialists from that Directorate were among those involved in the reported placing of “implants” or software code into the Russian grid, about which The New York Times claims you were not informed.)

If Pompeo failed to report back to you on the conversation you instructed him to have with Binney, you might ask him about it now (even though the flimsy evidence of Russia hacking the DNC has now evaporated, with Binney vindicated). There were two note-takers present at the October 24, 2017 meeting at CIA headquarters. There is also a good chance the session was also recorded. You might ask Pompeo about that. 

Whose Agenda?

The question is whose agenda Pompeo was pursuing — yours or his own. Binney had the impression Pompeo was simply going through the motions — and disingenuously, at that. If he “really wanted to know about Russian hacking,” he would have acquainted himself with the conclusions that VIPS, with Binney in the lead, had reached in mid-2017, and which apparently caught your eye.

Had he pursued the matter seriously with Binney, we might not have had to wait until the Justice Department itself put nails in the coffin of Russiagate, CrowdStrike, and Comey. In sum, Pompeo could have prevented two additional years of “everyone knows that the Russians hacked into the DNC.” Why did he not?

Pompeo is said to be a bright fellow — Bolton, too–with impeccable academic  credentials. The history of the past six decades, though, shows that an Ivy League pedigree can spell disaster in affairs of state. Think, for example, of President Lyndon Johnson’s national security adviser, former Harvard Dean McGeorge Bundy, for example, who sold the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to Congress to authorize the Vietnam war based on what he knew was a lie. Millions dead.

Bundy was to LBJ as John Bolton is to you, and it is a bit tiresome watching Bolton brandish his Yale senior ring at every podium. Think, too, of Princeton’s own Donald Rumsfeld concocting and pushing the fraud about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to “justify” war on Iraq, assuring us all the while that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Millions dead.

Rumsfeld’s dictum is anathema to William Binney, who has shown uncommon patience answering a thousand evidence-free “What if’s” over the past three years. Binney’s shtick? The principles of physics, applied mathematics, and the scientific method. He is widely recognized for his uncanny ability to use these to excellent advantage in separating the chaff from wheat. No Ivy pedigree wanted or needed.

Binney describes himself as a “country boy” from western Pennsylvania. He studied at Penn State and became a world renowned mathematician/cryptologist as well as a technical director at NSA. Binney’s accomplishments are featured in a documentary on YouTube, “A Good American.” You may wish to talk to him person-to-person.

Cooked Intelligence

Some of us served as long ago as the Vietnam War. We are painfully aware of how Gen. William Westmoreland and other top military officers lied about the “progress” the Army was making, and succeeded in forcing their superiors in Washington to suppress our conclusions as all-source analysts that the war was a fool’s errand and one we would inevitably lose. Millions dead.

Four decades later, on February 5, 2003, six weeks before the attack on Iraq, we warned President Bush that there was no reliable intelligence to justify war on Iraq. 

Five years later, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, releasing the bipartisan conclusions of the committee’s investigation, said this:

In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.  As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

Intelligence on the Middle East has still been spotty — and sometimes “fixed” for political purposes. Four years ago, a U.S. congressional report said Central Command painted too rosy a picture of the fight against Islamic State in 2014 and 2015 compared with the reality on the ground and grimmer assessments by other analysts.

Intelligence analysts at CENTCOM claimed their commanders imposed a “false narrative” on analysts, intentionally rewrote and suppressed intelligence products, and engaged in “delay tactics” to undermine intelligence provided by the Defense Intelligence Agency. In July 2015, fifty CENTCOM analysts signed a complaint to the Pentagon’s Inspector General that their intelligence reports were being manipulated by their superiors. The CENTCOM analysts were joined by intelligence analysts working for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

We offer this as a caution. As difficult as this is for us to say, the intelligence you get from CENTCOM should not be accepted reflexively as gospel truth, especially in periods of high tension. The experience of the Tonkin Gulf alone should give us caution. Unclear and misinterpreted intelligence can be as much a problem as politicization in key conflict areas.

Frequent problems with intelligence and Cheney-style hyperbole help explain why CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon in early 2007 blurted out that “an attack on Iran “ will not happen on my watch,” as Bush kept sending additional carrier groups into the Persian Gulf. Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs, warned at the time that some Bush advisers secretly wanted an excuse to attack Iran. “They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” she told Newsweek. Deja vu. A National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 concluded unanimously that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 and had not resumed such work.

We believe your final decision yesterday was the right one — given the so-called “fog of war” and against the background of a long list of intelligence mistakes, not to mention “cooking” shenanigans. We seldom quote media commentators, but we think Tucker Carlson had it right yesterday evening: “The very people — in some cases, literally the same people who lured us into the Iraq quagmire 16 years ago — are demanding a new war — this one with Iran. Carlson described you as “skeptical.” We believe ample skepticism is warranted.

We are at your disposal, should you wish to discuss any of this with us.

For the Steering Groups of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.) 

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS) 

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Sarah Wilton, Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve (ret.) and Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War




Ten Minutes to War

Donald Trump pulled back from igniting a potentially disastrous war in the Persian Gulf on Thursday night with just 10 minutes to spare, but the super-hawks he surrounded himself with will probably try again, writes Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

The commander-in-chief acted like one, if only briefly, on Thursday night when he said he called off air strikes on Iran—and potentially a devastating war in the Persian Gulf—with just ten minutes to spare, because he says a general told him to expect around 150 Iranian civilian deaths.

Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning:

 “On Monday (sic) they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not……..proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!” 

It seems unlikely that a president would have to ask at the last minute about potential civilian casualties, unless the Pentagon has become so callous as to not have figured that into its war planning.  A more likely scenario is that Donald Trump was in an epic struggle with his most hawkish national security advisers—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton—and with himself, and that he could not decide what to do until literally the last ten minutes, using the excuse of civilian deaths to pull back.

Trump’s inner struggle on Iran has played out in public, mostly on Twitter. He has been sending seriously mixed signals to Iran: on the one hand he has told Iran he wants to negotiate with them to replace the nuclear deal he unwisely pulled out of last year and on the other hand he’s gone as far as threatening what amounts to genocide.

If Trump is engaged in a good-cop, bad-cop strategy with Iran, with Pompeo and Bolton playing very convincing bad cops, then Trump is a disaster as a good cop. He has been essentially playing good-cop, bad-cop with himself.  We’ve got three bad cops here, Pompeo, Bolton and half of Trump, and one good cop, the other half of Trump.

If he were really committed to the anti-interventionist rhetoric of his campaign, which many of his followers still believe in, he would not have appointed Pompeo and Bolton to begin with, unless under extreme pressure from someone like Sheldon Adelson, the fanatically pro-Israel casino magnet and major Republican donor who once suggested the U.S. drop a nuclear bomb in the Iranian desert as a warning.  Pompeo, and especially Bolton, have demonstrated that they are trying to run U.S. policy on Iran on their own, managing, manipulating or attempting an end run around Trump. 

At the top of Bolton’s agenda has been his 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 Teheran 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 increased 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 Teheran) that it would indeed increase nuclear enrichment. On the same day, Bolton announced the carrier strike group was headed to the Gulf.  On June 10, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had made good on its threat to accelerate enrichment. 

This has been followed by several suspicious attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf, the most serious occurring last week on Japanese tankers while the Japanese prime minister was sitting with Iranian officials in Teheran trying to defuse the situation.  The incident that ultimately led to Thursday’s close call with disaster was sparked by Iran shooting down a U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone. Iran says it was in Iranian airspace. The U.S. says it was over international waters.  A U.S. air strike on Iran would almost surely invite retaliation by Teheran, risking the spread of a catastrophic war engulfing the Arab states on the opposite shores of the Gulf.

This would not be Saddam Hussein’s troops running away from advancing U.S. forces. The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards warned Friday that U.S. military bases and the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier were within range of Iranian missiles.

In the Delegate’s Lounge at United Nations headquarters in New York several years ago I had a one-on-one conversation with Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, who was then Teheran’s ambassador to the UN. I confided in him that I thought the U.S. was being the aggressor but I asked him, for the sake of his country and the region and to avoid a devastating conflict, whether Iran might make the very difficult decision to give in to Washington.

“We would rather fight and die than give in,” Zarif told me.

Instead of standing up to Bolton and Pompeo, who this week tried to peddle the ludicrous tale that Shi’ite Iran supports Sunni extremist al-Qaeda (while fighting it in Syria and just as the Bush administration tried to falsely tie al-Qaeda to Saddam), Trump instead runs to Fox News to whisper to the interviewer, as if they were alone, about the “military-industrial complex” being real and how much his advisers, presumably Pompeo and Bolton, “like war.” 

He needs to tell them that. Last minute excuses about civilian deaths probably won’t work next time Pompeo and Bolton set Trump up for disaster. 

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 .




7 Reasons to Doubt US Version of Gulf-of-Oman Incident

Given Pompeo’s regime-change agenda for Iran, Caitlin Johnstone pours cold water over his version of events. 

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

In a move that surprised exactly zero people, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has wasted no time  scrambling to blame Iran for damage done to two sea vessels in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, citing exactly zero evidence.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high-degree of sophistication,” Pompeo told the press in a statement.

“The United States will defend its forces, interests, and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability. And we call upon all nations threatened by Iran’s provocative acts to join us in that endeavor,” Pompeo concluded before hastily shambling off, taking exactly zero questions.

Here are seven reasons to be extremely skeptical of everything Pompeo said:

No. 1: Pompeo is a known liar, especially when it comes to Iran.

Pompeo has a well-established history of circulating blatant lies about Iran. He recently told an audience at Texas A&M University that when he was leading the CIA, “We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses.”

No. 2: The US empire is known to use lies and false flags to start wars.

The U.S.-centralized power alliance has an extensive and well-documented history of advancing preexisting military agendas using lies, false flags and psyops to make targeted governments appear to be the aggressors. This is such a well-established pattern that “Gulf of Tonkin” briefly trended on Twitter after the Gulf of Oman incident. Any number of government agencies could have been involved from any number of the nations in this alliance, including the U.S., the U.K., Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Israel.

No. 3: John Bolton has openly endorsed lying to advance military agendas.

wrote an article about this last month because the Trump administration had already begun rapidly escalating against Iran in ways that happen to align perfectly with the longtime agendas of Trump’s psychopathic Iran hawk National security adviser. At that time people were so aware of the possibility that Bolton might involve himself in staging yet another Middle Eastern war based on lies that The Onion was already spoofing it.

On a December 2010 episode of Fox News’ Freedom Watch,” Bolton and the show’s host Andrew Napolitano were debating about recent WikiLeaks publications, and naturally the subject of government secrecy came up.

“Now I want to make the case for secrecy in government when it comes to the conduct of national security affairs, and possibly for deception where that’s appropriate,” Bolton said. “You know Winston Churchill said during World War Two that in wartime truth is so important it should be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.”

“Do you really believe that?” asked an incredulous Napolitano.

“Absolutely,” Bolton replied.

“You would lie in order to preserve the truth?”

“If I had to say something I knew was false to protect American national security, I would do it,” Bolton answered.

This would be the same John Bolton who has been paid exorbitant speaking fees by the pro-regime change MEK terror cult, promising the cult in a 2017 speech that they’d be celebrating regime change in Tehran together before 2019. This would also be the same John Bolton who once threatened to murder an OPCW official’s children if he didn’t stop getting in the way of his Iraq war agenda.

No. 4: Using false flags to start a war with Iran is already an established idea in the DC swamp.

Back in 2012 at a forum for the Washington Institute of Near East Policy think tank, the group’s Director of Research Patrick Clawson openly talked about the possibility of using a false flag to provoke a war with Iran, citing the various ways the U.S. has done exactly that with its previous wars.

“I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough, and it’s very hard for me to see how the United States president can get us to war with Iran,” Clawson began.

“Which leads me to conclude that if in fact compromise is not coming, that the traditional way that America gets to war is what would be best for U.S. interests,” Clawson added. “Some people might think that Mr. Roosevelt wanted to get us into the war… you may recall we had to wait for Pearl Harbor. Some people might think that Mr. Wilson wanted to get us into World War One; you may recall we had to wait for the Lusitania episode. Some people might think that Mr. Johnson wanted to get us into Vietnam; you may recall we had to wait for the Gulf of Tonkin episode. We didn’t go to war with Spain until the USS Maine exploded. And may I point out that Mr. Lincoln did not feel that he could call out the Army until Fort Sumter was attacked, which is why he ordered the commander at Fort Sumter to do exactly that thing which the South Carolinians said would cause an attack.”

“So if, in fact, the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war,” Clawson continued. “One can combine other means of pressure with sanctions. I mentioned that explosion on August 17th. We could step up the pressure. I mean look people, Iranian submarines periodically go down. Some day, one of them might not come up. Who would know why? [Smattering of sociopathic laughter from the crowd.] We can do a variety of things, if we wish to increase the pressure (I’m not advocating that) but I’m just suggesting that this is not an either/or proposition  —  just sanctions have to succeed or other things. We are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians. We could get nastier at that.”

No. 5: The US State Department has already been running psyops to manipulate the public Iran narrative.

State Department officials admitted to congressional staff at a closed-door meeting on Monday that a $1.5 million troll farm had gone “beyond the scope of its mandate” by aggressively smearing American critics of the Trump administration’s Iran policy as propagandists for the Iranian government, according to a new report from The Independent. That “mandate” had reportedly consisted of “countering propaganda from Iran,” also known as conducting anti-Iran propaganda.

“Critics in Washington have gone further, saying that the programme resembled the type of troll farms used by autocratic regimes abroad,” says The Independent.

“One woman behind the harassment campaign, a longtime Iranian-American activist, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Department over the years to promote ‘freedom of expression and free access to information,’” the report reads.

No. 6: The Gulf of Oman narrative makes no sense.

One of the ships damaged in the attacks was Japanese-owned, and the other was bound for Japan. This happened just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran attempting to negotiate a de-escalation between the U.S. and Iran with Trump’s blessing, and just after Iran had released a prisoner accused of conducting espionage for the U.S. in what many took to be a gesture of good faith.

Iran has been conducting itself with remarkable restraint in the face of relentless sanctions and provocations from the U.S. and its allies. It wouldn’t make much sense for it to suddenly abandon that restraint with attacks on sea vessels, then rescue their crew, then deny perpetrating the attacks, during a time of diplomatic exchanges and while trying to preserve the nuclear deal with Europe. If Tehran did perpetrate the attacks in order to send a strong message to the Americans, it would have been a very mixed message sent in a very weird way with very odd timing.

No. 7: Even if Iran did perpetrate the attack, Pompeo would still be lying.

Pompeo’s statement uses the words “unprovoked” twice and “Iran’s provocative acts” once, explicitly claiming that the U.S. empire was just minding its own business leaving Iran alone when it was attacked out of the blue by a violent aggressor. Sometimes the things put out by the U.S. State Department feel like they’re conducting experiments on us, just to test the limits of our stupidity.

As noted in this article by Moon of Alabama and this discussion on the Ron Paul Liberty Report, the U.S. has been provoking Iran with extremely aggressive and steadily tightening sanctions, which means that even if Tehran is behind the attacks, it would not be the aggressor and the attacks would most certainly not have been “unprovoked.” Economic sanctions are an act of war; if China were to do to America’s economy what America is doing to Iran’s, the U.S. would be in a hot war with China immediately. It could technically be possible that Iran is pushing back on U.S. aggressions and provocations, albeit in a strange and neoconservatively convenient fashion.

Either way, we have seen exactly zero evidence supporting Pompeo’s claims, so anyone you see hastening to blame Iran for the Gulf of Oman incident is either a war whore or a slobbering moron, or both. Knowing what we know about the U.S.-centralized empire and its pre-existing regime change agenda against Iran, there is no reason to believe Pompeo and many reasons not to.

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