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UK High Court to rule if clinic can carry out gender reassignment on children as concerns over methods mount

RT | January 6, 2020

The High Court in London is to start hearing proceedings in a case against the UK’s only NHS ‘gender identity development service’ treating children, amid growing concerns about the clinic’s methods.

This week, the court will hear a case brought by the mother of a 15-year-old patient at the Tavistock Clinic in Leeds – identified only as “Mrs. A” – and Sue Evans, who worked there as a mental health nurse between 2003 and 2007. Both accuse the state-sponsored child gender reassignment center of providing an “inaccurate and potentially misleading” picture about the risks of such life-changing treatment to their young patients and their parents.

Gender reassignment should not be ‘general approach’

The plaintiffs argue that such medical intervention cannot be performed with only a child’s consent, claiming that the clinic’s patients cannot fully comprehend the consequences of such life-changing decisions.

“We are essentially seeking to say that the provision at the Tavistock for young people up to the age of 18 is illegal because there isn’t valid consent,” said Paul Conrathe, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs. Such treatment should not be delivered “as a matter of general approach,” but instead should require a court order in each case, he told the Guardian.

The Tavistock Clinic’s methods have already attracted controversy, particularly due to the criticism of its Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) by former employees, who accuse it of “over-diagnosing” children with gender dysphoria to subject them to what some are calling risky and experimental treatment.

Children might be ‘over-diagnosed’

As many as 35 psychologists have resigned from GIDS over the last three years, with some of them raising concerns about the clinic’s practices. “Our fears are that young people are being over-diagnosed and then over-medicalized,” one of them told Sky News in mid-December.

“We are extremely concerned about the consequences for young people… For those of us who previously worked in the service, we fear that we have had front row seats to a medical scandal.”

The clinic generally treats children and teenagers under the age of 18. At least half of them are subjected to therapy that can have severe adverse health effects, according to the Telegraph.

First, they are prescribed hormone-blockers that halt puberty and could generally slow normal physical development to supposedly give children “time to consider” if they really want to go through the transition process. The next stage is hormone therapy, which leads to irreversible changes in the human body and eventually makes those taking hormones infertile while interfering with normal hormone production. Finally, when patients reach the age of 18, they can go through gender reassignment surgery.

The number of children going through GIDS has risen by a whopping 30 times over the last decade, from 77 patients a year in 2008 to almost 3,000 in 2018, according to the Tavistock Clinic’s own figures.

Yet, psychologists who used to work at the clinic warn that the center may be too eager to force a certain agenda, instead of really dealing with the problems its patients have. “At the moment, there’s only one pathway through the service, which is a medical pathway, not a psychological one,” one of them told Sky News.
Pushing an agenda?

Medical specialists, who have left the clinic, added that psychologists working there were kept under constant pressure because of fear of being called “transphobic.”

“I didn’t feel able to voice my concerns, or when I did I was often shut down by other affirmative clinicians,” one of them told Sky. “Looking back there are young people who I now wouldn’t necessarily put on medication.”

The GIDS, which is controlled by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, brushed off concerns voiced by its former employees by saying that it supports every young person on a case-by-case basis, as well as allows its specialists to discuss any case and “to engage openly and supportively with patients and parents.”

The issues, however, may not be limited to just one clinic across the UK. In late December, the Times reported that the number of children referred to a gender reassignment clinic in Glasgow, Scotland has soared recently, with referrals of patients aged between four and 10 skyrocketing by 80 percent in just over one year.

Trina Budge, co-founder of local NGO, expressed alarm that children in Scotland might not receive sufficient support before being presented with the surgical option.

“Very vulnerable children who may be confused about their sexuality, be autistic, suffered trauma or have other co-morbid mental health conditions are at risk of being sent down an irreversible and experimental medical pathway, when psychological support and talking therapy may be more appropriate,” she said.

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Deception | | Leave a comment

US denies Iran’s FM Zarif visa to address Security Council in violation of UN treaty – reports

RT | January 7, 2020

Washington has reportedly refused to issue a visa to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, even though, as the host of the United Nations headquarters, the US is obliged to allow foreign officials into the country.

According to multiple diplomatic sources, the visa request was filed several weeks ago, before the latest escalation, and would give the top Iranian diplomat a stage to speak out following last Thursday’s drone strike assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Soleimani, along with senior Iraqi militia leaders.

The murder of Soleimani, who played a key role in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Syria and Iraq, has drawn outrage across Iran and Iraq, with Tehran vowing to avenge the assassination, which it called “an act of international terrorism.” Washington, meanwhile, insists that Soleimani was the mastermind behind a spate of attacks on American personnel, including at the US Embassy, and says he was plotting new assaults.

This wouldn’t be the first time Washington abused its status as the host of the UN headquarters, refusing to issue visas for nearly a dozen members of the Russian delegation to a summit in New York last year.

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 3 Comments

Is the Chairman of the JCS freaking out (answer: he should and he is!)

The Saker | January 6, 2020



January 6, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | 5 Comments

Israel army chief censor in talks to join notorious spyware firm NSO

MEMO | January 6, 2020

The Israeli military chief censor is in talks to join notorious Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group, which has been embroiled in a number of scandals over the use of its software to target human rights activists and political dissidents.

According to Globes, Brigadier General Ariella Ben Avraham is “negotiating” to join NSO Group as soon as possible; currently scheduled to be discharged from the military in June, Ben Avraham has “asked to bring her release forward”. The role “will apparently focus on regulation and media.”

Founded in 2010, NSO “has developed a range of cyber intelligence products”, reported Globes, with the company’s lead product, Pegasus, “described as a surveillance tool, and the company says that it is devised to help governments and espionage organizations prevent terrorist acts”.

However, as Globes noted, NSO Group has been embroiled in a number of scandals where their “software has allegedly been used to spy on journalists and opponents of unsavoury regimes”.

Just last month, the Guardian revealed that the mobile phones of at least two dozen Pakistani government officials were allegedly targeted in 2019 with technology owned by NSO Group.

Last October, Facebook – as the owner of WhatsApp – filed a lawsuit against NGO, accusing the company of “unauthorised access and abuse” of its services.

The lawsuit claimed intended targets included “attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials.”

Globes reported that a Tel Aviv court is currently “hearing a lawsuit against NSO seeking to find the company liable for spying on opponents of the regime in Saudi Arabia.”

“The court dismissed NSO’s petition to dismiss the claim,” the report added, and also dismissed NSO’s request “to bar publication of the legal proceedings against it.”

The court will thus hear “the question of the company’s responsibility for the use of its products.”


Israel tech ‘facilitating press freedom abuses around the world’

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

General Soleimani ‘martyr of Quds’: Hamas chief Haniyeh

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh addresses a massive crowd of mourners during a funeral procession for General Qassem Soleimani in Tehran January 6, 2020. (Photo by
Press TV – January 6, 2020

General Qassem Soleimani is a “martyr of Quds” for he devoted his life to supporting the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israel and his assassination by the United States is in many ways similar to crimes committed by the Israeli regime, says Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.

General Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), was assassinated in a US strike in Baghdad on Friday, alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s pro-government Hashd al-Sha’abi forces.

A huge sea of mourners, streaming from all the adjoining streets, descended on the iconic Engelab Square in central Tehran early Monday morning and rallied to Azadi Tower in the capital’s west as they chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei led the prayers over the general’s coffin and the remains of his companions at Tehran University, his voice cracking several times with emotion which caused the massive crowd to weep.

Speaking at the funeral procession in Tehran on Monday, Haniyeh condemned the US strike, which was personally authorized by President Donald Trump.

“We have come to Iran to condole with Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian government and nation,” Haniyeh said.

“He [Gen. Soleimani] was the commander of the IRGC Quds Force and he is a martyr of Quds,” the Hamas official said.

Haniyeh also sent condolences to General Soleimani’s family and described him as one of the “flag-bearers of resistance against Zionist and American plots.”

Haniyeh said he was in Iran “to express our true and sincere feelings about a dear brother and a martyred commander – a commander who made many sacrifices for Palestine and the resistance until he achieved the position he has today.”

‘A crime similar to Zionist atrocities in Palestine’

Haniyeh said this “brutal crime” by the Americans is representative of the “criminal mentality” that is at work in the occupied Palestinian lands.

“The criminal mentality that led to Commander Soleimani’s assassination and martyrdom is the same mentality that drives the minds of the Zionist regime’s thugs, the same mentality and policy that assassinates and kills Palestinians every day,” he said.

He said Hamas owes its current prowess to General Soleimani’s wisdom. The Palestinian resistance, he said, won’t back away from combating Israel and the fight will continue “until we purge all enemies from the noble Quds.”

New Quds Force chief pledges vengeance

Brigadier General Esmail Qaani, who was named the new Quds commander by the Leader on Friday, said in a statement that Iran will no doubt avenge the assassination.

“Steps will be definitely taken” to avenge General Soleimani’s blood, which Qaani said has set in motion a series of steps that will lead to America’s expulsion from the region.

US ‘elimination’ from region only acceptable retribution

Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Division, echoed the remarks and said the only possible revenge for General Soleimani’s blood would be the total “elimination” of America from the region.

Launching a few missiles, destroying a base or even Trump’s death will not sufficiently avenge the blood of such a martyr, General Hajizadeh asserted, adding “the oppressed nations of the region will have to be rid of America’s evil.”

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2019: The Year the Neocons Failed

By Tom Luongo | Strategic Culture Foundation | January 5, 2020

When things are as crazy as they are right now, it’s hard to see just how much progress has been made. 2019 had in it a number of watershed moments in geopolitics which signal just how close to radical change in the game board we are.

The neoconservatives within the Trump administration went for broke in 2019 and came a cropper every time. There’s no war with Iran. Nordstream 2 will be completed. Russia and Ukraine are on the path to solving their conflict. Iran is still selling oil. Turkey is still run by a madman. Israeli politics is more fractious than Spain’s. And Bashar al-Assad is still in charge in a slowly-rebuilding Syria.

The problem with these folks is they are relentless and still placed everywhere within the permanent bureaucracy of the U.S. government and Congress itself.

And President Trump has only been partially successful in fending them off from pulling off policy mistakes from which there is no turning back.

We are downstream from the neocon/Israeli push to withdraw the U.S. from the JCPOA, or Iran Nuclear Deal. That one event has dominated the geopolitical landscape for going on two years now. Trump thought he was gaining leverage over both Europe and Iran by withdrawing from the deal, when he actually unleashed a political and diplomatic quagmire.

The pull of the AIPAC crowd surrounding him, specifically Sheldon Adelson, Jared Kushner and Rudy Guiliani, put Trump on a path to confrontation with Iran which could only end in war, their desired outcome.

Trump, to his credit, has resisted this but only just barely. His refusal to go to war after Iran shot down a Global Hawk drone in June led to the firing of arch-neocon John Bolton as National Security Adviser and the subsequent impeachment fiasco we’re seeing today.

Trump, for his part, is reforming the NSC – National Security Council—by stripping it of more than two-thirds of its staff, to limit is ability to set policy outside of his purview. This will be reported by the MSM as him arrogating dictatorial powers and becoming insulated from reality.

It seems Trump is finally realizing that in Washington personnel is policy. Robert C. O’Brien is not John Bolton. It’s a good start. And if Trump wins a second term in November there may be hope that we’ll see foreign policy that is less schizophrenic and, frankly, dangerous.

Make no mistake, Trump not going to war overtly with Iran in June was a win. A small win, but a win, nonetheless.

But since that day it has been one non-stop neocon assault on his presidency and any kind of peace in the Middle East. I’m still of the opinion, tenuously so, that Trump wants to do the right thing in, at least, minimizing U.S. meddling in the region.

But the neocons are still dominant. They infest the NSC, the CIA, the State Dept. as well as major European governments and intelligence agencies. And it’s clear that Trump is fighting a rear-guard battle against them. They dominate the information flow to him.

I’m not absolving Trump of his mistakes by saying this. It’s clear he needs to be better at seeing through the misleading, if not outright false, data put in front of him about what’s happening on the ground in places like Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

But what’s also clear is that the neocons will not stop until they get a war with Iran. Theirs is an ideology of subjugation and permanent revolution. These people are the descendants of Trotsky and all that implies.

Israel has stepped up its aggression against Syria and Iraq while simultaneously backing down to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Airstrikes to the west get bolder and more aggressive, sometimes with the U.S.’s help while the mere threat of retaliation by Hezbollah sees IDF forces disappear from the earth for a week.

Israeli Prime Minister (for now) Benjamin Netanyahu will do anything to keep the U.S. engaged in Syria and Iraq. He and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are on the same page and it seems every time Pompeo shows up to talk with Bibi some escalation happens a week later.

The latest is this attack on the K1 base near Kirkuk which killed ‘an American contractor.’ That’s code for non-strategic personnel, most likely someone working the Iraqi oil fields there. The base was under the control of Iraqi PMU forces and likely attacked by either the local Kurds or ISIS.

The U.S. response was to bomb five PMU bases in Syria and Iraq nowhere near Kirkuk, all supporting the Iraqi government’s order to open up the Al Qaim/Al-Bukamai border crossing with Syria, which both the U.S. and Israel are vehemently opposed to.

It looks to me that Pompeo and Netanyahu cooked up yet another ‘incident’ to force President Trump into a confrontation with Iran by escalating tensions now in Iraq.

The result of the U.S. response was assaults on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad which brought in 100 marines and Apache helicopters to disperse the crowd.

And then Trump talks literally out of both sides of his mouth on Twitter.

Everything that happens in the Middle East that the U.S. and Israel doesn’t like is Iran’s fault. There can be no nuance for Iraqi people rising up organically against U.S. airstrikes taking out dozens of Iraqi patriots who liberated most of Iraq from ISIS and Al-Qaeda on the thinnest of pretexts.

Iraq is not going to rise up against Iran over this. If Trump has been advised that this is possible that is coming straight from a national security infrastructure intent on convincing him of staying it the Middle East forever. But Trump has shown no inclination to take this farther.

He’ll threaten fire and brimstone but that’s about it. And for this reason, the neocons are losing ground in the long run. What’s clear to me is that Trump lacks the political will to hold the line completely. He goes along with economic sanctions and tariffs in lieu of putting troops on the ground.

But at some point, he’s going to have to take a decisive stand and stop playing a game of attrition. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is slow-walking the impeachment articles to gain more leverage over him and force him from office with Republican support. For now, there is no appetite for this. But into this vacuum of power where Trump’s future rests on the votes of 17 Republican Senators, all rampant neocons, the worst legislation imaginable will come forth. This is how the NDAA got passed with additional sanctions on European allies working on Russian energy projects.

This is how Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will push the even worse DASKA through Congress now that he’s secured the vote of the Foreign Relations Committee. If Trump doesn’t toe the neocon line while the impeachment threat hangs over his neck, then, all of a sudden, conviction in the Senate will be the talk of the town.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Trump keeps bringing in record money to fund his re-election. As long as Iran can keep a hold over its more militant factions and not escalate the situation in Iraq then all of these neocon provocations will peter out along with impeachment.

These moves by the neocons are desperation plays to retain control over U.S. foreign policy which the electorate is growing more tired of by the day. 2019 was the year they failed to secure victory. Most of 2020 will be dominated with them putting up one, last desperate offensive.

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Middle East Will Become a Graveyard for US’: Pyongyang Apprehensively Eyes Iran Crisis

Sputnik – January 6, 2020

Following the US assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has taken measure of the international situation, which is expected to excercise new caution. However, North Korean dailies noted Washington’s course was destined for disaster.

North Korean cultural publication Arirang Meari put the issue in no uncertain terms, saying on Sunday that the “Middle East will become a graveyard for the US.”

“Global military experts recently analyzed that the US is being bogged down in a war in the Middle East,” Meari wrote, according to the South Korean-based Yonhap News Agency. “Even pro-American countries have been passively answering the US’s request for sending troops on account of their internal politics and economic challenges, driving the US into despair.”

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the DPRK’s state-run news outlet, noted on Monday that Moscow and Beijing had taken strong stances against the US drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad early Friday morning.

“China and Russia emphasized that they not only object to abuse of military power in international relations but also cannot tolerate adventurous military acts,” KCNA wrote, according to Yonhap, describing a Saturday phone call between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, noting they “expressed concerns over regional situations being worsened by the US’ illegal acts.”

Kim ‘Pressured Psychologically’ by Soleimani Killing

However, despite the rhetoric, experts have noted the episode is likely to shake Pyongyang’s leaders.

Yang Moo Jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, told the Korea Herald that as a result of the Baghdad airstrike, DPRK leader Kim Jong Un “will be pressured psychologically.”

Former South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se Hyun said during a television appearance on Sunday the DPRK would be even more careful than before about revealing Kim’s precise whereabouts.

Andrei Lankov, a Russian scholar and expert on Korean affairs, noted in NK News on Sunday that Soleimani’s assassination showed US President Donald Trump was willing to take greater risks than North Korean strategists had previously believed, casting the “fire and fury” rhetoric of his presidency’s earlier years in a much starker light.

“As time went by, more and more observers were inclined to see the 2017 as a simple bluff, and it became widely accepted that Donald Trump did not have the guts to deliver on his threats of a military operation in a highly unstable part of the world,” Lankov wrote. “But last week’s killing of General Soleimani demonstrated that the world has underestimated Trump’s desire to take risks (or, perhaps, overestimated his ability to make rational decisions).”

“No doubt the North Koreans have taken note, and, most likely, see it as a warning sign.

Soleimani’s death reminded them that excessively risky behavior might result in a US drone quietly approaching some targets in Pyongyang suburbs,” Lankov added.

A Cautious But Steadfast Approach in 2020

As 2019 drew to a close, so did Pyongyang’s patience for negotiations with Washington, which after 18 months of talks had failed to yield significant results beyond a June 12, 2018, promise from Trump at his first summit with Kim in Singapore. In his New Year’s address, given several days before Soleimani’s killing, Kim had already taken a more cautious tone than in December, when North Korean publications promised a return to bellicose posturing.

Kim had previously promised a “Christmas gift” to Washington, which analysts widely predicted would be Pyongyang’s first long-range ballistic missile test since its self-imposed moratorium in 2017. However, no such “present” was delivered. Instead, Kim noted Washington’s delaying tactics were designed to prolong the harmful effects of economic sanctions on the DPRK, advising North Koreans to buckle their belts more tightly, since relief seemed unlikely anytime soon.

“If the US fails to keep the promises it made before the world, if it misjudges the patience of our people and continues to use sanctions and pressure against our republic, then we’ll have no choice except to seek a new path to secure the sovereignty and interests of our country,” Kim said on January 1.

Similar Struggles in Iran, DPRK

Like Pyongyang, Tehran has been engaged in a prolonged struggle to forge an independent path from Washington amid attempts to frustrate its ability to ensure its self-defense. Both countries have been subjected to strangling economic sanctions in an effort to force them into compliance, but unlike Iran, the DPRK has nuclear weapons as well as means of delivering them.

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in August 2018

Iranian leaders have long been accused by Washington of pursuing an atomic bomb and not merely nuclear power and medical research, as they have claimed. Tehran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015 to lower those sanctions in exchange for accepting tight constraints on the volume of nuclear fuel it could possess, but Trump reimposed them in 2018, accusing Iran of secretly pursuing a nuclear bomb – a conclusion not shared by other signatories to the agreement.

As a consequence, Tehran has slowly stepped back from the commitments it made in the 2015 deal, announcing on Sunday it would scrap the last ones it still followed.

The two countries’ experiences negotiating with Washington have long informed each other, and in the face of intransigence and doubletalk by the Trump administration, experts like Lankov have predicted US belligerence toward Iran, despite its obedience to the 2015 deal, was likely only to embolden those who hold hard-line positions in Pyongyang, opposing negotiations and concessions to Washington.

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 3 Comments

US-Led Coalition Tells Baghdad It Will ‘Move Out’ of Iraq – Official Letter

Sputnik – 06.01.2020

In a Monday letter to Iraqi military leaders, the US-led coalition in Iraq announced it was preparing to “move out” of the country out of respect for Iraqi sovereignty.

Following approval of a non-binding resolution by Iraq’s parliament calling for US forces to leave the country, US military commanders announced they were drawing up preparatory plans for their departure. A Pentagon spokesperson could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the letter to Reuters.

“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” the letter says, according to Reuters. US forces will re-position themselves over the coming days and weeks in preparation for the move, the letter states.

“In due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR [Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve] will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” states the letter, addressed to Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir and signed by US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William H. Seely III.

​The lawmakers’ request comes on the heels of a January 3 drone strike at Baghdad International Airport in which US forces killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani as well as the leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The two commanders helped lead the fight against Daesh in the 2014-17 Iraqi Civil War that saw the terrorist group expelled from the country. At its height, Daesh controlled significant amounts of northern Iraq, including its third-largest city of Mosul, and was advancing on Baghdad.

“In order to conduct this task, coalition forces are required to take certain measures to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner,” the letter continues. “During this time, there will be an increase in helicopter travel in and around the International Zone (IZ) of Baghdad. This increased traffic will include CH-47, UH-60 and AH-64 security escort helicopters. Coalition forces will take appropriate measures to minimize and mitigate the disturbance to the public. In addition, we will conduct these operations during house of darkness to help alleviate any perception that we may be bringing more Coalition forces into the IZ.”

“As we begin implementing this next phase of operations, I want to reiterate the value of our friendship and partnership. We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”

Contradictory Statements

The news comes after US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo snubbed the idea of leaving Iraq, where US forces have been stationed since the March 2003 invasion that overthrew Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

“We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” Trump said on Sunday. “We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”

“The prime minister is the acting prime minister,” Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday, speaking of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. “He’s under enormous threats from the very Iranian leadership that it is that we are pushing back against. We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there.”

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 2 Comments

A Terrorist Attack Against Eurasian Integration

By Federico Pieraccini | Strategic Culture Foundation | January 6, 2020

The murder of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, in the early hours of January 3 by US forces, only highlights the extent to which US strategy in the Middle East has failed. It is likely to provoke reactions that do not benefit US interests in the region.

To understand the significance of this event, it is necessary to quickly reconstruct the developments in Iraq. The US has occupied Iraq for 17 years, following its invasion of the country in 2003. During this time, Baghdad and Tehran have re-established ties by sustaining an important dialogue on post-war reconstruction as well as by acknowledging the importance of the Shia population in Iraq.

Within two decades, Iraq and Iran have gone from declaring war with each other to cooperating on the so-called Shia Crescent, favoring cooperation and the commercial and military development of the quartet composed of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Such ties, following recent victories over international terrorism, have been further consolidated, leading to current and planned overland connections between this quartet.

Local movements and organizations have been calling for US troops to leave Iraqi territory with increasing vigor and force in recent months. Washington has accused Tehran of inciting associated protests.

At the same time, groups of dubious origin, that have sought to equate the Iranian presence with the American one, have been calling for the withdrawal of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) that are linked to Iran from Iraq. The protests from such groups appear to be sponsored and funded by Saudi Arabia.

With mutual accusations flying around, the US hit a pro-Iranian faction known as Kataib Hezbollah on December 29. This episode sparked a series of reactions in Iraq that ended up enveloping the US embassy in Baghdad, which was besieged for days by demonstrators angry about ongoing airstrikes by US forces.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, blamed this volatile situation on Iran, warning that Tehran would be held responsible for any escalation of the situation involving the embassy.

In the early hours of January 3, 2020, another tangle was added to the Gordian Knot that is the Middle East. Qasem Soleimani was assassinated when his convoy was attacked by a drone near Baghdad International Airport. The most effective opponents of ISIS and Wahabi jihadism in general was thus eliminated by the US in a terrorist act carried out in a foreign country in a civilian area (near Baghdad International Airport). The champagne would have no doubt been flowing immediately upon receiving this news in the US Congress, the Israeli Knesset, Riyadh royal palace and in Idlib among al Nusra and al Qaeda militants.

It remains to be seen what the reasons were behind Trump’s decision to okay the assassination of such an influential and important leader. Certainly the need to demonstrate to his base (and his Israeli and Saudi financiers) plays into his anti-Iranian crusade. But there are other reasons that better explain Trump’s actions that are more related to the influence of the US in the region; the geopolitical chess game in the Middle East transcends any single leader or any drone attack.

In Syria, for example, the situation is extremely favorable to the government in Damascus, with it only being a matter of time before the country is again under the control of the central government. General Soleimani and Iran have played a central role in ridding the country of the scourge of terrorism, a scourge directed and financed by the US and her regional allies.

In Iraq, the political situation is less favorable to the US now than it was back in 2006. Whatever progress in relations between Baghdad and Tehran has also been due to General Soleimani, who, together with the PMUs and the Iraqi army, freed the country from ISIS (which was created and nurtured by Western and Saudi intelligence, as revealed by Wikileaks).

It would seem that the US sanctions against Iran have not really had the intended effect, instead only serving to consolidate the country’s stance against imperialism. The US, as a result, is experiencing a crisis in the region, effectively being driven out of the Middle East, rather than leaving intentionally.

In this extraordinary and unprecedented situation, the Russians and Chinese are offering themselves variously as military, political and economic guarantors of the emerging Eurasian mega-project (the recent naval exercises between Beijing, Moscow and Tehran serving as a tangible example of this commitment). Naturally, it is in their interests to avoid any extended regional conflict that may only serve to throw a monkey wrench into their vast Eurasian mega-project.

Putin and Xi Jinping face tough days ahead, trying to council Iran in avoiding an excessive response that would give Washington the perfect excuse for a war against Iran.

The prospects of a region without terrorism, with a reinvigorated Shia Crescent, led by Iran at the regional level and accompanied by China and Russia at the economic (Belt and Road Initiative) and military level, offer little hope to Riyadh, Tel Aviv and Washington of being able to influence events in the region and this is likely going to be the top argument that Putin and Xi Jinping will use to try to deter any Iranian overt response.

Deciding to kill the leader of the Quds Force in Iraq proves only one thing: that the options available to Trump and his regional allies are rapidly shrinking, and that the regional trends over the next decade appear irreversible. Their only hope is for Tehran and her allies to lash out at the latest provocation, thereby justifying the regional war that would only serve to benefit Washington by slowing down regional unification under Iranian leadership.

We must remember that whenever the US finds itself in a situation where it cannot control a country or a region, its tendency is to create chaos and ultimately destroy it.

By killing General Soleimani, the US hopes to wreak havoc in the region so as to slow down or altogether scupper any prospect of integration. Fortunately, China, Russia and Iran are well aware that any conflict would not be in any of their own interests.

No drone-launched missiles will be enough to save the US from decades of foreign-policy errors and their associated horrors; nor will they be enough to extinguish the memory of a hero’s tireless struggle against imperialism and terrorism.

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Middle East Strategic “Balance” Shredded

By Alastair Crooke | Strategic Culture Foundation | January 6, 2020

President Trump was understood to not want a Mid-East war that might blight his rosy re-election prospects (so long as the US stock market stays inflated, and the economy doesn’t tank). Pat Buchanan, the three-times US Presidential candidate, warned Trump that if there is a potential landmine on Trump’s road to reelection, it may be found in the Middle and Near East: “Not infrequently, foreign policy has proven decisive in presidential years”. Plus Iran was not seeking any major confrontation; Hizbullah wasn’t; Iraq wasn’t; and the Israeli Security Establishment wasn’t.

In fact, the strategic balance – though sorely tested – had been hanging together. Just to be clear: Iran and Israel both had been keeping – just – within the parameters of unspoken ‘red lines’ – despite the inflated rhetoric. And both were practicing ‘strategic patience’. So the strategic balance seemed more or less sustainable: until its upending with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the head of the PMU, Al-Muhandis, ordered by Trump.

Israel has not – despite its lurid language – been landing strategic blows on Iran in Syria. It has not been killing Iranians there (apart from seven killed at T4 airport in eastern Syria last year). It did not target the head of the Iranian air force, some ten days ago, as some reports have suggested (he was not even in Iraq at the time). Most of the Israeli air attacks have been on depots in the early hours, when no personnel were present. It has been a campaign more of a regular, small slicing away at Iranian logistics. It was not strategic damage.

And Iran, after sending clear ‘messages’ to Gulf States of its willingness to inflict pain on parties to its economic siege, plainly had been calibrating this push-back carefully; Iran still had its eye to global diplomacy (to wit: the joint Iranian naval exercises with Russia and China in the Persian Gulf) – whilst countering politically, America’s ‘new’ tactic of inciting ‘colour’ protests across Lebanon and Iraq (and trying to bust Syria financially, by stealing its energy revenues).

Here is the point: The US was no longer content with mere sanctions on Iran. It has been covertly escalating across the board: orchestrating protests in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in Iran itself; mounting a major cyber offensive on Iran; and a ‘messaging’ operation aimed at turning genuine popular frustration with regional mis-governance and corruption, into a weapon aimed at weakening revolutionary Iran.

The US was having some success with turning protest messaging against Iran – until, that is – its killing and wounding of so many Iraqi security force members last week (Ketaib Hizbullah is a part of Iraq’s armed forces).

Escalation of maximum-pressure was one thing (Iran was confident of weathering that); but assassinating such a senior official on his state duties, was quite something else. We have not observed a state assassinating a most senior official of another state before.

And the manner of its doing, was unprecedented too. Soleimani was officially visiting Iraq. He arrived openly as a VIP guest from Syria, and was met on the tarmac by an equally senior Iraqi official, Al-Muhandis, who was assassinated also, (together with seven others). It was all open. General Soleimani regularly used his mobile phone as he argued that as a senior state official, if he were to be assassinated by another state, it would only be as an act of war.

This act, performed at the international airport of Baghdad, constitutes not just the sundering of red lines, but a humiliation inflicted on Iraq – its government and people. It will upend Iraq’s strategic positioning. The erstwhile Iraqi attempt at balancing between Washington and Iran will be swept away by Trump’s hubristic trampling on the country’s sovereignty. It may well mark the beginning of the end of the US presence in Iraq (and therefore Syria, too), and ultimately, of America’s footprint in the Middle East.

Trump may earn easy plaudits now for his “We’re America, Bitch!”, as one senior White House official defined the Trump foreign policy doctrine; but the doubts – and unforeseen consequences soon may come home to roost.

Why did he do it? If no one really wanted ‘war’, why did Trump escalate and smash up all the crockery? He has had an easy run (so far) towards re-election, so why play the always unpredictable ‘wild card’ of a yet another Mid-East conflict?

Was it that he wanted to show ‘no Benghazi’; no US embassy siege ‘on my watch’ – unlike Obama’s handling of that situation? Was he persuaded that these assassinations would play well to his constituency (Israeli and Evangelical)? Or was he offered this option baldly by the Netanyahu faction in Washington? Maybe.

Some in Israel are worried about a three or four front war reaching Israel. Senior Israeli officials recently have been speculating about the likelihood of regional conflict occurring within the coming months. Israel’s PM however, is fighting for his political life, and has requested immunity from prosecution on three indictments – pleading that this was his legal right, and that it was needed for him to “continue to lead Israel” for the sake of its future. Effectively, Netanyahu has nothing to lose from escalating tensions with Iran — but much to gain.

Opposition Israeli political and military leaders have warned that the PM needs ‘war’ with Iran — effectively to underscore the country’s ‘need’ for his continued leadership. And for technical reasons in the Israeli parliament, his plea is unlikely to be settled before the March general elections. Netanyahu thus may still have some time to wind up the case for his continued tenure of the premiership.

One prime factor in the Israeli caution towards Iran rests not so much on the waywardness of Netanyahu, but on the inconstancy of President Trump: Can it be guaranteed that the US will back Israel unreservedly — were it to again to become enmeshed in a Mid-East war? The Israeli and Gulf answer seemingly is ‘no’. The import of this assessment is significant. Trump now is seen by some in Israel – and by some insiders in Washington – as a threat to Israel’s future security vis à vis Iran. Was Trump aware of this? Was this act a gamble to guarantee no slippage in that vital constituency in the lead up to the US elections? We do not know.

So we arrive at three final questions: How far will Iran absorb this new escalation? Will Iran confine its retaliation to within Iraq? Or will the US cross another ‘red line’ by striking inside Iran itself, in any subsequent tit for tat?

Is it deliberate (or is it political autism) that makes Secretary Pompeo term all the Iraqi Hash’d a-Sha’abi forces – whether or not part of official Iraqi forces – as “Iran-led”? The term seems to be used as a laissez-passer to attack all the many Hash’d a-Sha’abi units on the grounds that, being “Iran-linked”, they therefore count as ‘terrorist forces’. This formulation gives rise to the false sequitur that all other Iraqis would somehow approve of the killings. This would be laughable, if it were not so serious. The Hash’d forces led the war against ISIS and are esteemed by the vast majority of Iraqis. And Soleimani was on the ground at the front line, with those Iraqi forces.

These forces are not Iranian ‘proxies’. They are Iraqi nationalists who share a common Shi’a identity with their co-religionists in Iran, and across the region. They share a common zeitgeist, they see politics similarly, but they are no puppets (we write from direct experience).

But what this formulation does do is to invite a widening conflict: Many Iraqis will be outraged by the US attacks on fellow Iraqis and will revenge them. Pompeo (falsely) will then blame Iran. Is that Pompeo’s purpose: casus belli?

But where is the off-ramp? Iran will respond… Is this affair simply set to escalate from limited military exchanges … and from thence, to escalate until what? We understand that this was not addressed in Washington before the President’s decision was made. There are no real US channels of communication (other than low level) with Iran; nor is there a plan for the next days. Nor an obvious exit. Is Trump relying on gut instinct again?

January 6, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Iran holds all the cards in coming Middle East conflict with US – unless Trump is ready to drop a tactical NUKE

By Scott Ritter | RT | January 6, 2020

Iran has promised retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Suleimani. Donald Trump said this will lead to a disproportionate response from the US. One side can deliver on its threats, the other can’t, unless it goes nuclear.

Iran means business

“Our reaction,” Iranian general Hossein Dehghan said at the weekend, “will be wise, well considered and, in time, with decisive deterrent effect.”

Dehghan also noted that Iran was not seeking a wider confrontation with the US.

“It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions. The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted.”

Dehghan is no run-of-the-mill former Iranian general officer, but was one of the major decision makers within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during the Iran-Iraq War, and later went on to command the IRGC Air Force, before eventually being appointed Iran’s minister of defense. After stepping down from that position, Dehghan became a special advisor to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ali Khamenei.

His words must be viewed as representing those of Khamenei himself.

Iran’s three likely targets

A closer assessment of Dehghan’s statement, when considered in the context of the vote by the Iraqi Parliament this Sunday to remove all foreign troops from Iraq, provides clarity as to what the US and the Middle East can expect from Tehran.

First and foremost, the response will not be carried out by proxy.

The attack will be military in nature. Assaults on the oil and gas infrastructure of America’s Gulf Arab allies, similar in nature to the drone attacks on Saudi oil production facilities last May, are not in the works. The same holds true for shipping transiting the strategic Strait of Hormuz, as well as US diplomatic facilities in the region.

Likewise, Iran must respect the will of the Iraqi Parliament regarding the operation of foreign troops on its soil, which means that the response will most probably not be conducted against US military forces currently stationed in Iraq.

This does not mean US troops and facilities in Iraq will be immune to attack; Khaitab Hezbollah, the Iraqi militia whose leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was killed in the same attack that took Qassem Suleimani’s life, have pledged their own retaliatory attacks separate from those promised by Iran.

There are a host of viable US military targets in the Persian Gulf region that are of high enough stature as to qualify as “an equal blow” in the eyes of Tehran.

Three come to mind; the concentration of US forces based in Kuwait, the headquarters of the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, and the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Of these three, only one, Al Udeid Air Base, has a direct connection to the Suleimani assassination; the drones that fired the missiles that killed Suleimani were operated from there. Al Udeid is host to critical US command and control facilities, as well as the bulk of the American combat aircraft operating in the region. It is well within the range of Iranian ballistic missiles and armed drones, which could be expected to operate in concert with one another to defeat air defenses and then saturate the base with precision strikes which could destroy hundreds of millions of dollars of aircraft and equipment, and potentially kill and wound hundreds of US service members.

Trump’s all tweets, no capacity

President Trump has promised that the US will not tolerate any attack against its personnel or facilities. “If they do anything,” he told reporters, referring to Iran, “there will be major retaliation.”

Earlier, Trump had tweeted a very explicit warning, telling Iran that he had already designated some 52 sites inside Iran, “some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” for destruction. “[T]hose targets,” Trump declared, “and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

Trump’s threat, however, rings hollow. First, his tweet constitutes de facto evidence of a war crime (Section 5.16.2 of the US Department of Defense Law of War Manual prohibits threats to destroy cultural objects for the express purpose of deterring enemy operations), and as such would likely not be implemented by US military commanders for whom niceties such as the law of war, which forbids the execution of an unlawful order, are serious business.

Of more relevance, however, is the fact that Trump has been down this road before, when he threatened massive military retaliation against Iran for shooting down an unarmed drone over the Strait of Hormuz last May. At that time, he was informed by his military commanders that the US lacked the military wherewithal to counter what was expected to be a full-spectrum response by Iran if the US were to attack targets inside Iran.

In short, Iran was able to inflict massive harm on US and allied targets in the Middle East region, and there was nothing the US could do to prevent this outcome.

Little has changed since May that would alter the military balance of power between the US and Iran. If Iran were to strike a US facility such as the Al Udeid Air Base, and Trump were to order a response, then Iran would most likely unleash the totality of its military capability, and those of its regional proxies, to devastate the military and economic capabilities of those targeted. These strikes would most likely include oil production facilities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, in addition to US military facilities and diplomatic missions.

Seen in this light, Trump’s threats of retaliation appear to be little more than words that cannot be backed up by reality.

Pushing the red button for Fordow

However, there was a second significant development in the region on Sunday, in addition to the vote by the Iraqi Parliament to cut ties with the US military.

The Iranian government announced that it was ending all restrictions on the enrichment of uranium, in effect nullifying the Iran nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA), which the US withdrew from in May 2018. While Iran has stated that these measures were reversible if the US returned to the agreement, the newly unconstrained enrichment capability puts Iran well inside the one year “breakout” window (i.e. the time needed by Iran to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear device) of one year that underpinned the prime purpose of the JCPOA.

In doing so, Iran has inadvertently opened itself up to a preemptive nuclear attack by the US.

The centrifuges that could be used by Iran to produce enriched uranium capable of being used in a fissile device are housed in a hardened underground facility located near the town of Fordow. No conventional munition currently in the US arsenal can destroy Fordow.

Only a modified B-61 nuclear bomb can do the job.

Trump has hinted that any future war with Iran would not be a drawn-out affair. And while the law of war might curtail his commanders from executing any retaliation that includes cultural sites, it does not prohibit the US from using a nuclear weapon against a known nuclear facility deemed to pose a threat to national security.

This is the worst-case scenario of any tit-for-tat retaliation between Iran and the US, and it is not as far-fetched as one might believe.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

January 6, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

Why I Don’t Trust Trump on Iran

By Ron Paul | January 6, 2020

President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told us the US had to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani last week because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. I don’t believe them.

Why not? Because Trump and the neocons – like Pompeo – have been lying about Iran for the past three years in an effort to whip up enough support for a US attack. From the phony justification to get out of the Iran nuclear deal, to blaming Yemen on Iran, to blaming Iran for an attack on Saudi oil facilities, the US Administration has fed us a steady stream of lies for three years because they are obsessed with Iran.

And before Trump’s obsession with attacking Iran, the past four US Administrations lied ceaselessly to bring about wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Serbia, Somalia, and the list goes on.

At some point, when we’ve been lied to constantly and consistently for decades about a “threat” that we must “take out” with a military attack, there comes a time where we must assume they are lying until they provide rock solid, irrefutable proof. Thus far they have provided nothing. So I don’t believe them.

President Trump has warned that his administration has already targeted 52 sites important to Iran and Iranian culture and the US will attack them if Iran retaliates for the assassination of Gen. Soleimani. Because Iran has no capacity to attack the United States, Iran’s retaliation if it comes will likely come against US troops or US government officials stationed or visiting the Middle East. I have a very easy solution for President Trump that will save the lives of American servicemembers and other US officials: just come home. There is absolutely no reason for US troops to be stationed throughout the Middle East to face increased risk of death for nothing.

In our Ron Paul Liberty Report program last week we observed that the US attack on a senior Iranian military officer on Iraqi soil – over the objection of the Iraq government – would serve to finally unite the Iraqi factions against the United States. And so it has: on Sunday the Iraqi parliament voted to expel US troops from Iraqi soil. It may have been a non-binding resolution, but there is no mistaking the sentiment. US troops are not wanted and they are increasingly in danger. So why not listen to the Iraqi parliament?

Bring our troops home, close the US Embassy in Baghdad – a symbol of our aggression – and let the people of the Middle East solve their own problems. Maintain a strong defense to protect the United States, but end this neocon pipe-dream of ruling the world from the barrel of a gun. It does not work. It makes us poorer and more vulnerable to attack. It makes the elites of Washington rich while leaving working and middle class America with the bill. It engenders hatred and a desire for revenge among those who have fallen victim to US interventionist foreign policy. And it results in millions of innocents being killed overseas.

There is no benefit to the United States to trying to run the world. Such a foreign policy brings only bankruptcy – moral and financial. Tell Congress and the Administration that for America’s sake we demand the return of US troops from the Middle East!

Copyright © 2019 by Ron Paul Institute

January 6, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 4 Comments