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U.S. Escalates Threat Against Iran After Russia U.N. Veto

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | February 27, 2018

The United States has escalated international tensions with Iran, threatening unilateral action against the Islamic Republic on Monday after Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council motion to call out Tehran for allowing weapons to fall into the hands of Yemen’s Houthi group.

If Russia is going to continue to cover for Iran then the U.S. and our partners need to take action on our own. If we’re not going to get action on the council then we have to take our own actions,” said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley during a visit to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

Haley did not specify what type of action she meant, however the Russian veto was a big blow to the United States which has been lobbying for months to hold Iran accountable at the U.N. – while also threatening to withhold waivers on U.S. sanctions unless the “terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” are fixed.

“Obviously this vote isn’t going to make the decision on the nuclear deal. What I can say is it doesn’t help,” Haley said. “That just validated a lot of what we already thought which is Iran gets a pass for its dangerous and illegal behavior.”

President Trump warned European allies in January that they would need to commit to fixing the nuclear deal by May 12.

President Donald Trump warned European allies last month that they had to commit by mid-May to work with Washington to improve the pact. Britain drafted the failed U.N. resolution in consultation with the United States and France.

The initial draft text – to renew the annual mandate of a targeted sanctions regime related to Yemen – wanted to include a condemnation of Iran for violating an arms embargo on Houthi leaders and include a council commitment to take action over it.Reuters

Russia has questioned the findings of January U.N. report which concluded that Iran supplied the Houthi group with weapons in a proxy war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces and Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in what appears to be another attempted regime change in the region.

In mid-January, Yemeni Houthi rebels claimed to have struck targets inside Saudi Arabia after launching two ballistic missiles, according to Houthi military media. Some pro-Houthi sources also reported the destruction of a Saudi military base in Najran, which lies in southwest Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia disputed that the missiles hit their targets, with Saudi state TV Ekhbariya reporting that Saudi missile defense has intercepted one near Jizan Regional Airport, a busy transport hub in southern Saudi Arabia, though it is unclear what happened to the reported second missile.

Following Monday’s Security Council vote, Iran’s mission to the U.N. accused the United States and Britain of abusing council privileges to “advance their political agenda and put the blame of all that happens in Yemen on Iran.”

Iran, meanwhile, has grown frustrated with what they’re getting out of the nuclear deal – with deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi telling a London audience last Thursday that they would likely pull out of the nuclear deal before the May 12 deadline if western banks don’t start doing business with them.

Most of it is because of this atmosphere of uncertainty which President Trump has created around JCPOA, which prevents all big companies and banks to work with Iran, it’s a fact, and it’s a violation lead by the United States. -Abbas Araghchi

Araghchi also criticized President Trump for his increasing rhetoric over the nuclear deal:

You know, every time President Trump makes a public statement against JCPOA saying it’s a bad deal, it’s the worst deal ever, I am going to fix it, I am going to change it, all these statements, public statements are a violation of the deal. Violation of the letter of the deal, not a sprit, the letter. If you just see paragraph 28 it clearly says that all JCPOA participants should refrain from anything which undermines successful implementation of JCPOA, including in their public statements of silly officials.

“If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the (deal) continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us,” Araqchi told an audience at the London-based think tank Chatham House. “That’s a fact.”

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Social media bow to pressure and censor dissident voices

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | February 27, 2018

Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, accused of enabling US President Donald Trump’s rise to power through “Russian meddling,” are facing pressure to de-platform heretics. This has raised fears for the safety of free speech in the US.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this past weekend, media crusader James O’Keefe headlined an hour-long panel on social media censorship, arguing that it targeted mostly conservatives.

“They really make sure you don’t see any differing views,” O’Keefe said at the panel.

Last week, the blogging platform Medium deleted a number of accounts, including those of Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer, described by The Hill as “prominent far-right figures.” The purge took place after Medium replaced a commitment to free speech in its terms of service in favor of fighting “online hate, abuse, harassment, and disinformation.”

Though Medium would not comment on individual account bans, it is notable that Cernovich’s account was deleted after he was named in a Newsweek article that blamed the “alt-right,” overseas social media bots and “Russians” for the ouster of Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) over sexual misconduct. Newsweek retracted the story after criticism that it could not be substantiated.

A number of YouTube creators have complained that the video platform has demonetized basically anything that isn’t deemed “family friendly,” including political dissent. Another crackdown followed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, after the top-ranking video on the site featured accusations that some of the students were “crisis actors.”

Yet if YouTube simply censored any videos even referring to conspiracy theories, that would surely present a new problem.  After all, wouldn’t it also undermine efforts to debunk them?

Conservative critics accuse the social media giants of being run by Democrats. There is certainly evidence pointing in that direction, from the involvement of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) CEO Eric Schmidt with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Obama presidency, to Twitter’s admission it censored the hashtags about WikiLeaks’ publication of revealing emails from Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta in the run-up to the November 2016 vote. Those emails also revealed the commitment of several Facebook executives to get Clinton elected.

After Clinton lost to Trump, however, the three social media giants found themselves in the crosshairs of Congress. Many Republicans joined the chorus of Democrats accusing the social networks of enabling alleged “Russian” activity.

“You created these platforms… and now they’re being misused,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) told the executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter during a hearing in October 2017. “And you have to be the ones who do something about it — or we will.”

So far, “doing something” seems to consist mostly of purging “Russian bots,” as identified by the either the social media companies themselves or an alliance of Democrats and neo-conservatives ousted from power by Trump, and now seeing Russians behind every hashtag.

Censorious actions also include what activists call “de-platforming” of people singled out for unacceptable or offensive opinions by the ad-hoc online mobs. For example, after the Florida school shooting angry Twitterati have successfully badgered a number of businesses into canceling discounts they previously offered to members of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Amazon also found itself under pressure to drop the “NRA TV” channel from its platform.

In a recent interview, former Google engineer James Damore speculated that the climate at social media companies have an atmosphere which resembles college campuses. Such locations which have also seen crackdowns on freedom of expression in recent times.

“It was very much like a college campus,” Damore told the Washington Examiner. “And they tried to make it like a college campus where you would live at Google essentially, where they have all your food and all the amenities, and once you start living there you aren’t able to disconnect, and so you feel like my words were a threat against your family. That was part of the fervor, I think.”

Damore was purged from Mountain View over a memo in which he questioned the company’s  practices when it came to diversity.

While the social media companies may hope the lawmakers would be appeased by an occasional purge of unpopular voices, another danger is headed their way: the legacy media, is aiming to recapture its hold on audiences.

On Monday, CNN president Jeff Zucker addressed the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. His thrust was that government should look into Google and Facebook “monopolies” if journalism is to survive.

“In a Google and Facebook world, monetization of digital and mobile continues to be more difficult than we would have expected or liked,” Zucker said, according to Variety. “I think we need help from the advertising world and from the technology world to find new ways to monetize digital content, otherwise good journalism will go away.”

Tempting as it would be to quip about CNN’s tenuous relationship with “good journalism.” At this time, doing so would be self-defeating as the chances are it would get one quicklybe a short-cut to getting purged from Google, Twitter or Facebook.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 4 Comments

YouTube is Now ThemTube: Time to Flee the Failed Platform

corbettreport | February 26, 2018

Hey, did I mention that YouTube is involved in all-out warfare against independent news sources? Oh, I have? Multiple times? Well, here it is again. If you only get my info from ThemTube, please do check out the ThemTube alternatives out there.

SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=26227

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Hillary Clinton’s election blame game zeros in on Facebook

RT | February 27, 2018

Hillary Clinton has a new target to blame for her losing the 2016 presidential election and, surprisingly, this time it’s not the Russians. According to the Democrat, Facebook is behind her failure to win the White House.

The crux of the argument is that Facebook charged the Trump campaign team less for advertising on the platform and therefore seemed to favor his candidacy. However, this is exactly how Facebook – a commercial enterprise – works: the more impressions, clicks, interactions, shares and comments a post generates, the less Facebook relatively charges the advertiser to reach people. And this is where the Trump campaign succeeded.

Simply put, team Hillary was not as social media savvy as team Trump and was therefore charged more for advertising on the platform. Former Facebook advertising staffer Antonio García Martínez explained it all in a February 23 article for Wired entitled ‘How Trump Conquered Facebook – Without Russian Ads.’

“During the run-up to the election, the Trump and Clinton campaigns bid ruthlessly for the same online real estate in front of the same swing-state voters,” Martinez writes. “But because Trump used provocative content to stoke social-media buzz, and he was better able to drive likes, comments, and shares than Clinton, his bids received a boost from Facebook’s click model, effectively winning him more media for less money.”

Following publication of the Wired piece, Trump campaign advisor Brad Parscale tweeted to corroborate. He maintained that, due to Facebook’s cost effectiveness metrics, Trump posts were highly successful on the platform compared to Clinton’s.

According to Facebook, Cost Per 1,000 Impressions or CPM is “a common metric used by the online advertising industry to gauge the cost-effectiveness of an ad campaign. It’s often used to compare performance among different ad publishers and campaigns.”

Parscale’s message was then retweeted by Tech Crunch contributor Kim-Mai Cutler‏, and her tweet in turn was picked up and shared by Clinton herself, with the former presidential hopeful apparently calling for an overhaul of social media in election periods without elaborating on her own campaign’s use of such platforms.

Facebook is the latest in a growing string of who and what Clinton says derailed her chances of winning the presidency. In her post-election book ‘What Happened,’ the former candidate outlined diverse issues she felt negatively impacted her run, including the FBI investigation of her email server, supposed Russian election interference, and her fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders – for challenging her nomination.

READ MORE:

Everyone’s fault but hers: Media reviews Hillary Clinton’s ‘What Happened’

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

YouTube Is Using Artificial Intelligence To Delete Channels & To Handle Subsequent Appeals

By Richie Allen | February 25, 2018

Hello,

Thank you for your account suspension appeal. We have decided to keep your account suspended based on our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service. Please visit http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines for more information.

Sincerely,
The YouTube Team

Short and sweet from Google. I wrote to them (using their appeal form) last Thursday evening, asking for an explanation for the deletion of my channel. I was polite but firm and asked for a contact, a name, someone who I could speak with, just for the record mind as I know their subscriber interaction is run by AI now. Stop and think about that for a minute. A machine decided to delete the channel. I am then reduced to appealing to the same machine to have my intellectual property restored to me. We’re now living Blade Runner, Judge Dredd, Demolition Man and any other sci-fi flick about a dystopian future. Google denies this of course. The corporation admits using AI to scour videos for harmful content, but claims that decisions on banning channels are made by a person. I don’t believe them. My second strike was issued for an interview I did with Michael Rivero back in August 2015. Michael was telling me why he DID NOT believe that the shooting of two journalists in Virginia was a false flag attack. The interview was harmless. I immediately appealed (you can appeal community strikes). I pressed SUBMIT to send the appeal and was promptly emailed by Google to say that the appeal was rejected! That took seconds, it was like the email came back from them at the very second I submitted the appeal.

There could not have been any human involvement, it was so instantaneous. I am certain that nobody reviewed my appeal. It was undoubtedly a program. Just before writing this, I wrote to Google again, to challenge the above response. This time I was a little less cordial and reminded them/it, whatever the fuck it is, that I have legal remedies at my disposal. I insisted that the channel be restored and asked for the name and department of the person who a) took the decision to delete the channel and b) the name of the person who handled the appeal. They will not be able to provide me with any name of course. Maybe it’s HAL or Ed-209 or T-1000…….

I’m not going to flog a dead horse in terms of banging on and on about this. I won’t be boring the shite out of you constantly about Google, I promise. I just wanted to let you know that I had received a response of sorts from them. Anyway, enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Speak tomorrow. Sunday View can be heard on the homepage. It wasn’t a bad show today, there are some interesting stories in there.

Richie is the host of The Richie Allen Show and has enjoyed a long, and varied, broadcasting career.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

US State Dept pledges $40mn of military funds for ‘information wars’

RT | February 27, 2018

The Pentagon will pump millions into a State Department center created to fight propaganda and disinformation campaigns waged by foreign nations, as it wants to be “on the offensive” and respond “aggressively” to attacks.

The State Department announced on Monday that it had signed a memorandum with the US Department of Defense to transfer $40 million to the State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), so it could up its game in countering malicious content online.

Part of these funds will be distributed between various civil rights groups, creators of media content, non-governmental organizations, as well as state-funded and private research entities. The grants would be awarded to those presenting the best ways to combat propaganda and disinformation. An Information Access Fund, to be set up for this purpose, will “support public and private partners working to expose and counter propaganda and disinformation from foreign nations.”

According to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, the funds earmarked by the Pentagon for what is slated to become a large-scale campaign are “critical” to ensure that Washington will “continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation.”

Goldstein hinted that protection from such attacks may become only one of many facets of the initiative, adding: “It is not merely a defensive posture that we should take, we also need to be on the offensive.”

The money has been transferred into State Department coffers after the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested the transfer of $40 million from the Department of Defense last year. The allocation of up to $60 million from the US defense budget to counter disinformation campaigns run by the foreign states, namely China, North Korea and Russia, was authorized by the Pentagon defense bill signed by Barack Obama as far back as in December 2016. The bill widened the scope of the center’s activities, which had previously focused exclusively on battling terrorist propaganda, and envisaged $60 million in funding from the Pentagon both for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. However, it was not before August last year when Tillerson asked for the funds to be unlocked, prompting speculation about him being reluctant to “anger” Moscow as “Russiagate” was gaining momentum.

At the first stage of the initiative, the State Department said it plans to distribute “an initial $5 million in grants” from the newly established fund, which would play “a key part” in the State Department’s co-operation with civil society, content providers and NGOs. In addition, the GEC will work on several “pilot projects,” details of which have not been revealed.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Dems Ignore Trump’s Nuclear Recklessness With Russia, Because Of Course They Fucking Do

By Caitlyn Johnstone | Rogue Journalist | February 26, 2018

Political commentary throughout 2016 was filled with scary sound bytes by partisan opponents of the Republican party warning how dangerous and horrifying it would be if Donald Trump ever gained access to the nuclear codes. Here’s a March 2016 column from USA Today titled “Trump’s nuclear views are terrifying”. Here’s another March 2016 article from CNN titled “President Trump: A 6-year-old with nuclear weapons?” Here’s an August 2016 article from the Chicago Tribune titled “The terrifying prospect of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons”. Here’s an October 2016 article from Business Insider about how former nuclear launch officers had said Trump can’t be trusted with the launch codes. Here’s a November 2016 Bloomberg article titled “Two Words to End All Consideration of Voting for Trump: Nuclear Holocaust”.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Over and over and over again I encountered Democrats on social media in 2016 telling me I needed to support Hillary Clinton because Trump was going to get everyone nuked in a fit of stupid impulsiveness if elected, their fears stoked by partisan media reporting like the above day after day. Everyone lost their minds over Joe Scarborough’s claim on MSNBC that he knew someone who’d heard candidate Trump asking a foreign policy expert why nuclear weapons can’t be used, a claim Scarborough never substantiated. Trump’s political opponents made very, very sure that the American people were afraid that they and their loved ones would die in a nuclear holocaust if he was elected.

Isn’t it surprising, then, that these people are all completely ignoring this administration’s insane, world-threatening nuclear escalations against Russia?

Of course it fucking isn’t.

A couple of great articles have come out recently about the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review and other omnicidal cold war escalations with the only other nuclear superpower on the planet. The first is Anti-Media‘s “How Donald Trump’s Policies Have Brought Us to the Brink of World War 3“, and the second is titled “Normalizing Nukes, Pentagon-Style” by Rejan Menon and Tom Engelhart for Antiwar.com. Both provide good insight into the dangers inherent in further blurring the lines between when nuclear weapons use is and is not acceptable, and the completely illogical rationale for doing so. I think it’s wonderful that both of these essays have been written, and I think it’s very telling that such insightful takes on this issue of unparalleled importance are relegated to small alternative media outlets.

How aware would you say the average rank-and-file Democrat is that Trump has controversial views on immigration? How about the fact that he said “shit hole countries”? Or the fact that that he says offensive things on Twitter? I think it’s fair to say that due to the frenetic coverage these issues receive from Democrat-allied mainstream media, a very large percentage of registered Democrats are aware of them.

How about the fact that this administration is imperiling the life of every organism on earth with needless escalations against a nuclear superpower? How often do you see 2018 Joe Scarborough talking about that on MSNBC?

Nuclear holocaust is the worst thing that can possibly happen. There are many, many things to hate and criticize the current president for, but the fact that he has overseen steady escalations which increase the likelihood of nuclear holocaust is far and away the most urgently worthy of condemnation. If you were going to attack this president on one thing, this would be it. But Trump’s ostensible political opponents ignore it, because they ignore all despicable acts of warmongering.

And because Russia.

Democrats have been collaborating with Republicans to inflate the already staggering US military budget and exacerbate the new cold war, as well as expand Trump’s Orwellian spying powers and expand his unconstitutional war powers. Propaganda has been used to keep rank-and-file Democrats fixated on the more cosmetically awful aspects of this administration, as well as entirely fictional aspects like the baseless Russiagate conspiracy theories, while hiding its most horrific aspects from the spotlight. Fear Russia, fear Trump’s tweets, but pay no attention to the steadily mounting nuclear tensions behind the curtain.

The US-centralized empire is making an omnicidal gamble with its Russiagate vanity project as it attempts to maneuver Russia off the world stage to prevent the rise of any rival superpowers, already having killed Russians in Syria, expanded NATO, kept troops along Russia’s border, established a permanent military presence in Syria with the goal of effecting regime change, forced Russian outlets to register as foreign agents, and allowed the sale of arms to Ukraine. Hot proxy conflicts and increasingly unclear lines could lead at any time to an inflammation in Syria, Ukraine or elsewhere which leads to a nuclear warhead being set off in the chaos and confusion, setting mutually assured destruction into motion and killing everything.

But sure, let’s talk about Trump’s fucking tweets instead.

The Democratic party does not resist Trump. Not in any meaningful way. If the most dangerous things about this administration are to be resisted, real resistance is going to have to come from ordinary human beings standing up and demanding change, and the Democratic party exists to prevent that from happening. The Democratic party exists to co-opt grassroots movements and divert their energy back towards the machine.

It is not Democrats versus Republicans. It is humanity versus the machine. Redraw the battle lines and fight the real war.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | | 1 Comment

US Warns Iraq Against Buying Russian S-400 Air Defenses

By Marko Marjanović | Russia Insider | February 26, 2018

Iraq is interested in getting the Russian S-400 air defenses. Earlier this week an Iraqi delegation traveled to Moscow to discuss buying it. The Russian defense industry has confirmed Iraqi interest and the Russian ambassador to Baghdad confirms Russia would be happy to sell.

So albeit nothing concrete has happened yet the US is already warning Iraq not to go through with the purchase (27min, 52s):

During a press briefing State Department’s Heather Nauert has explained the US has informed Baghdad getting Russian air defenses would go against America’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 which imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia — which would mean Iraq would be facing US sanctions for doing business with Russia.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about Iraq. It’s getting – you’ve described the terrible things that Russia is doing in Syria, whether Russia’s activity in Iraq would be deny – benign. Iraq recently received Russian tanks, T-90 tanks, and it’s reportedly considering the purchase of the S-400 air defense system. What is your comment on that and would those transactions make Iraq susceptible to CAATSA sanctions?

MS NAUERT: Well, first of all, we are communicating with governments all around the world, such as Iraq and others, about the CAATSA law, and making those governments aware of how they could run afoul of the CAATSA law and the potential repercussions as a result. So we made it clear to all of those – all of – many of the countries that we work with – information about our new law. So let me – I just want to be clear about that.
Secondly, I don’t know if this deal that you speak of is a done deal or not, so I’m not going to get ahead of what that may be, but I can just tell you that we make it clear with our partners and allies.

QUESTION: So it sounds like, from what you’re saying, if this S-400 deal were to go ahead and be concluded, they could be in violation of CAATSA?MS NAUERT: Look, that’s a hypothetical, but we have made it clear to countries around the world this is our law, this is what will cause your country, your government to run afoul of the law, and countries then need to make a choice.

Iraq has traditionally got its arms imports from Moscow and has recently concluded a $4.7 billion weapons deal with Russia that included purchases of T-90 tanks and BMP-3 vehicles. Before the unexpected rise of ISIS in 2014 Baghdad was in talks to purchase the Russian S-300 air defenses.

China and India, as well as traditional US clients Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar have already ordered the missiles or are interested in doing so.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Blundering Into Iran

Time to tell Israel and Saudi Arabia to fight their own wars

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • February 27, 2018

[This article is an edited and expanded version of a memorandum that I prepared for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity which has been released separately on Consortium News ].

The deluge of recent reporting regarding possible conflict with nuclear armed North Korea has somewhat obscured consideration of the much higher probability that Israel or even Saudi Arabia will take steps that will lead to a war with Iran that will inevitably draw the United States in. Israel is particularly inclined to move aggressively, with potentially serious consequences for the U.S., in the wake of the recent incident involving an alleged Iranian drone and the shooting down of an Israeli aircraft. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been repeatedly warning about the alleged threat along his northern border and has pledged that Israel will not be in any way restrained if there are any hostile moves directed against it. The Israeli Transportation Minister Ysrael Katz has warned that Lebanon will be blasted back into the “stone age.”

There is also considerable anti-Iran rhetoric currently coming from sources in the United States, which might well be designed to prepare the American people for a transition from a cold war type situation to a new hot war involving U.S. forces. The growing hostility towards Iran is coming out of both the Donald Trump Administration and from the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is warning that the “time to act is now” to thwart Iran’s allegedly aggressive regional ambitions while U.S. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley sees a “wake-up” call in the recent shooting incident involving Syria and Israel. The hostility emanating from Washington is increasing in spite of the fact that the developments in the region impact on vital U.S. national interests, nor is Iran anything like an existential threat to the United States that would mandate sustained military action.

Iran’s alleged desire to stitch together a sphere of influence consisting of an arc of allied nations and proxy forces running from its western borders to the Mediterranean Sea has been frequently cited as justification for a more assertive policy against Tehran, but that concern is certainly greatly exaggerated. Iran, with a population of more than 80 million, is, to be sure, a major regional power but militarily, economically and politically it is highly vulnerable. Its economy is struggling and there is a small but growing protest movement regarding the choices being made for government spending.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is well armed and trained, but much of its “boots on the ground” force consists of militiamen of variable quality. Its Air Force is a “shadow” of what existed under the Shah and is significantly outgunned by its rivals in the Persian Gulf, not to mention Israel. Its navy is only “green water” capable in that it consists largely of smaller vessels responsible for coastal defense supplemented by swarms of Revolutionary Guard speedboats.

When Napoleon had conquered much of continental Europe and was contemplating invading Britain in 1804 it was widely believed that England was helpless before him. But Admiral Earl St Vincent was nonplussed. He said at the time: “I do not say the French can’t come, I only say they can’t come by sea.” In a similar fashion, Iran’s apparent threat to its neighbors is in reality decisively limited by its inability to project power across the water or through the air against other states in the region that have marked superiority in both respects.

And the concern over a possibly developing “Shi’ite land bridge,” also referred to as an “arc” or “crescent,” is likewise overstated for political reasons to make the threat more credible. It ignores the reality that Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon all have strong national identities and religiously mixed populations. They are influenced and sometimes more than that by Iran, but they are not puppet states and never will be. Even Lebanon’s Hezbollah, often cited as Iran’s fifth column in that country, is not considered a reliable proxy.

Majority Shi’a Iraq, for example, is generally considered to be very friendly to Iran but it has to deal with considerable Kurdish and Sunni minorities in its governance and in the direction of its foreign policy. It will not do Iran’s bidding on a number of key issues, including its relationship with Washington, and would be unwilling to become a proxy in Tehran’s conflicts with Israel and Saudi Arabia as such a move would be extremely unpopular. Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi, the highest-ranking Sunni in the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi government, has, for example, recently called for the demobilization of the Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces or militias that have been fighting ISIS because they “have their own political aspirations, their own [political] agendas. … They are very dangerous to the future of Iraq.”

A seemingly legitimate major concern driving much of the perception of an Iranian threat is the possibility that Tehran will develop a nuclear weapon somewhere down the road. Such a development is quite plausible if only from a defensive point of view as Iran has been repeatedly threatened by nuclear armed Israel and the United States, but the current Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action provides the best response to the possible proliferation problem. The U.N. inspections regime is rigorous and Iran is reported to be in compliance with the agreement. If the plan survives the attacks by the White House, there is every reason to believe that Iran will be unable to take the necessary precursor steps leading to a nuclear weapons program while the inspections continue. And it will be further limited in its options after the agreement expires in nine years because it will not be able to accumulate the necessary highly enriched uranium stocks to proceed if it should ever make the political and economic decisions to go ahead with such a program.

The recent incident involving the shoot-down of a drone alleged to be of Iranian provenance followed by the downing of an Israeli fighter by a Syrian air defense missile resulted in a sharp response from Tel Aviv, though reportedly mitigated by a warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin that anything more provocative might inadvertently involve Russia in the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accordingly moderated his response but his government is clearly contemplating a more robust intervention to counter what he calls a developing Iranian presence in Syria. It is important to recall that Netanyahu’s prime objective in Syria and Lebanon is to have both nations in turmoil so they cannot threaten Israel. With that in mind, it is wise to be skeptical about Israeli claims regarding Iranian intentions to build bases and construct missiles in Syria. Those claims made by Israel’s Mossad have not been confirmed by any western intelligence service, not even by America’s totally corrupted and subservient CIA.

Netanyahu is also facing a trial on corruption charges and it would not be wildly off target to suggest that he might welcome a small war to change the narrative, just as Bill Clinton did when he launched cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan to deflect congressional and media criticism of his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. Unfortunately, if Netanyahu does wind up being charged and going to prison his successor will likely be even more hardline.

It must be understood that the mounting Iran hysteria evident in the U.S. media and as reflected in Beltway groupthink has largely been generated by allies in the region, most notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, who nurture their own aspirations for regional political and military supremacy. There are no actual American vital interests at stake and it is past time to pause and take a step backwards to consider what those interests actually are in a region that has seen nothing but U.S. missteps since 2003. Countering an assumed Iranian threat that is no threat at all and triggering a catastrophic war would be a major mistake that would lead to a breakdown in the current political alignment of the entire Middle East. And it would be costly for the United States. Iran is not militarily formidable, but its ability to fight on the defensive against U.S. Naval and air forces is likely to be considerable, producing high casualty levels on both sides. How would the U.S. public respond if an aircraft carrier were to be sunk by a barrage of Iranian shore-to-ship missiles? And Tehran would also be able to unleash terrorist resources throughout the region, particularly endangering U.S. military and diplomats based there as well as American travelers and businesses. The terror threat might easily extend beyond the Middle East, into Europe and also within the United States while the dollar costs of a major new conflict and its aftermath could also break the bank, literally. Promoting a robust U.S. role in “regime change” for Iran as a viable military option to support objectives largely fabricated by allies would be a phony war fought for bad reasons. It is not commensurate with the threat that the Mullahs actually pose, which is minimal, and is just not worth the price either in dollars or lives.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

Australia sees opportunity in China’s rise

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 27, 2018

From an Indian perspective, the visit to the United States by the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his meeting with President Donald Trump on February 23 turns out to be a reality check on the power dynamic in the Asia-Pacific. Australia is torn between two vital partners – the US in the security sphere and China in the economic sphere. The dilemma is acute insofar as Turnbull has voiced opinions on threat perceptions regarding China, which are contrary to the Trump administration’s assessment and, yet, the US and Australia are key allies.

A month ago, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pointedly distanced her country from the US’ assessment of China (and Russia) being a strategic threat. The US National Security Strategy issued in January said, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea… It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.”

Bishop refused to share that assessment, saying, “We have a different perspective on Russia and China clearly — we do not see Russia or China posing a military threat to Australia, we continue to work closely with China in fact we undertake military exercises with China as well as with other countries in the region and we will continue to do so.”

Turnbull openly endorsed Bishop’s remarks. In his words, “Apart from North Korea, there is no country in the region that shows any hostile intent towards Australia,” Mr Turnbull said, “We don’t see threats from our neighbours in the region, but, nonetheless, every country must always plan ahead and you need to build the capabilities to defend yourself, not just today, but in 10 years or 20 years, hence.”Turnbull reverted to the topic as he was embarking on the visit to the US last week. In remarks to Sky News, Turnbull said:

  • A threat, technically, is a combination of capability and intent. China has enormous capability of course, it’s growing as the country becomes more prosperous and economically stronger. But we do not see any hostile intent from China.
  • We don’t see the region through what is frankly an out-of-date Cold War prism. Neither, by the way, does Donald Trump. President Trump has a long experience in this part of the world as a businessman. He understands the significance, the economic significance of China’s rise and its opportunity.

Indeed, the joint statement issued after Turnbull’s meeting with Trump in the White House contains no reference to China or the disputes in the South China Sea. (Nor on ‘Quad’!) It doesn’t mention ‘freedom of navigation’, either. At the joint press conference with Turnbull, Trump said he’d “love” to have Australia back the US effort to assert the right to maritime freedom in South China Sea – “We’d love to have Australia involved and I think Australia wants us to stay involved.”

But Turnbull was unmoved. He made no commitments about Australia joining the US naval display. On the other hand, he emphasized the economic opportunities from China’s rise. Turnbull had hopes of persuading Trump to take a fresh look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but Trump repeated his distaste of the trade pact. Trump said, “The TPP was a very bad deal for the United States, it would have cost us a tremendous amount of jobs, it would have been bad.”

Equally, in the run-up to Turnbull’s visit, there was speculation that a possible economic front comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia could be in the making to “answer Chinese and Russian infrastructure-building efforts” in the Asia-Pacific. But it turned out to be mere drum-beating. (Reuters / Bloomberg) The Trump administration is focused single-mindedly on America First and has no interest in doing the diplomatic heavy lifting to push back at China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Clearly, one substantive outcome of Turnbull’s visit has been in the launch of an Australia-US Strategic Partnership on Energy in the Indo-Pacific. This must be seen against the backdrop of the US gearing up to export LNG to the Asian market, especially China. While on the one hand runaway gas demand in China is transforming the outlook for LNG in Asia and could see a return to the seller’s market in 2018, on the other hand, Australia’s rapidly growing LNG exports are already finding a ready market. A joint press release in Washington spelt out the “core principles” and outlined a “work plan” for the proposed US-Australia energy partnership. (here)

China would be quietly pleased with the outcome of the Trump-Turnbull meeting in Washington. An editorial in the government newspaper China Daily noted, “if Turnbull is now choosing to look at China through a more objective prism that would obviously help build more trust between the two countries, which will only usher in a more cordial atmosphere for relations to deepen and grow. Yet the Australian government still needs to match words with deeds… In its most recent foreign policy white paper, Australia proposes that it can act as an honest broker between China and the US.”

The Global Times in an editorial, also commended that Turnbull’s remarks “show positive signs for the Sino-Australian relationship.”

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | 5 Comments

UK has spent $2.4bn on bombing Iraq, Syria: Official data

Press TV – February 27, 2018

The British government has spent over $2.44 billion (£1.7bn) to carry out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the year the US and its allies formed a so-called coalition to allegedly counter terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the two Arab countries, according to official data.

The larger chunk of the money, around $2 billion (£1.5bn), has gone into flying the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets as well as Reaper attack and surveillance drones for more than 42,000 hours.

The figures, revealed on Monday in response to a Freedom of Information requests by anti-war group Drone Wars UK, seemed to be a fraction of what London has spent over the course of its unauthorized intervention dubbed Operation Shader.

The British air force has also dropped over 3,500 units of various munitions in over 1,700 airstrikes on Syrian and Iraqi targets at a cost of around $375 million (£267mn) over the past three and a half years.

That includes Paveway IV laser-guided bombs that cost an estimated $98,000 (£70,000) apiece for the older version and $140,000 (£100,000) for the enhanced ones.

RAF pilots have also fired no less than 8 Storm Shadow cruise missiles that are said to cost around $1,100,000 (£800,000) per unit, the activist group said.

The costs would grow if besides fuel, which is included in official figures, undisclosed data such as crew payments, aircraft maintenance and capital data are also included.

Drone Wars UK estimates that it costs the RAF $112,000 (£80,000) to keep the multi-role Typhoons airborne for an hour, while the figure drops to $49,000 (£35,000) and ($4,900) £3,500 for Tornado and Reaper aircraft respectively.

However large, the numbers are still a fraction of what the US-led coalition has collectively spent during the campaign, which has seen 105,000 bombs and missiles used in some 29,000 airstrikes. Drone Wars said the military campaign has cost around $10.5 billion (£8 bn).

The sheer number of US-led airstrikes since 2014 has alarmed rights activists about the possible civilian casualties.

While the US has only admitted to killing 841 civilians in the strikes, Drone Wars UK said it had recorded over 6,000 civilian deaths as a result of the military campaign. Neither Syria nor the United Nations have authorized the attacks.

The coalition forces have on many occasions air-dropped weapons and equipment for terrorists while targeting Syrian and Iraqi government forces who fight them.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , | 1 Comment