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In the name of ‘Israel’s security’, retreating US gives it billions more in military aid

By Ramzy Baroud | The Palestine Chronicle | January 21, 2020

Billions of US taxpayers’ dollars will continue to be funnelled into Israel in the next fiscal year, and for many years in the foreseeable future. Republican and Democratic Senators have recently ensured just that, passing a Bill aimed at providing Israel with $3.3 billion in aid every year.

The Bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, was passed on 9 January, only one day after Iran struck US positions in Iraq. Enthusiasm to push the Bill forward was meant to be an assurance to Tel Aviv from Washington that the US is committed to Israel’s security and military superiority in the Middle East.

Despite a palpable sense of war fatigue among all Americans, regardless of their political leaning, their country continues to sink deeper into Middle East conflicts simply because it is unable – or perhaps unwilling — to challenge Israel’s benefactors across the US government. “What’s good for Israel is good for America” continues to be the supreme maxim within Washington’s political elites, despite the fact that such irrational thinking has wrought disasters on the Middle East as a whole, and is finally forcing a hasty and humiliating American retreat.

The latest aid package to Israel will officially put into law a “Memorandum of Understanding” that was reached between the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Barack Obama administration in 2016. At the time, Obama had offered Israel the largest military aid package in US history.

Senator Rubio explained the passing of the recent Bill in terms of the “unprecedented threats” that are supposedly faced by Israel. Coons, meanwhile, said that “the events of the past few days [the US-Iran escalation], were a stark reminder of the importance of US assistance to Israel’s security.”

What is particularly odd about Coons’ statement is the fact that it was not Israel, but US positions in Iraq that were struck by Iranian missiles, and that they were fired in response to the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Yet, the American taxpayers’ funding of Israel’s military adventures continues unabated, despite the rapidly changing political reality in the Middle East, and the shifting US role in the region. This confirms further that the blind US support of Israel is not motivated by a centralised, distinctly American, strategy that aims to serve US interests. Instead, the unconditional – and, often, self-defeating — US government funding of the Israeli war machine is linked largely to domestic American politics and, indeed, the unparalleled power wielded by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

According to the public policy research institute of the United States Congress, the Congressional Research Centre (CRS), between 1946 and 2019 (including the requested funds for 2020) US aid to Israel has exceeded $142 billion. Most of this immense sum of money — over $101 billion — went directly to the Israeli military budget, while over $34 billion and $7 billion went to Israel in terms of economic aid and missile defence funding respectively.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the US no longer possesses a well-defined and centralised strategy in the Middle East; President Donald Trump changes American priorities from one speech or tweet to the next. However, the one consistent key phrase in whatever political agenda happens to be championed by Washington in the region at any particular time is: “Israel’s security”.

This precarious term seems to be linked to every American action pertaining to the Middle East, as it has for decades under every American administration, without exception. Wars have been launched or funded in the name of Israel’s security; human rights have been violated on a massive scale; the five-decade — and counting — military occupation of Palestine, the protracted siege of the impoverished Gaza Strip and much more, have all been carried out, defended and sustained in the name of Israel’s security.

US aid to Israel — the occupying state — continues, while all American aid to the Palestinians — the people under Israeli occupation — has been cut off, including the $300 million annual donation to the UN Agency responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. The Agency has provided education, healthcare and shelter for millions of refugees since 1949, but is now, bizarrely, seen by both Israel and the US as “an obstacle to peace”.

Inexplicably, Israel receives roughly “one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though (it) comprises just .001 percent of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes,” wrote Professor Stephen Zunes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

This massive budget includes much more than the $3.3 billion of annual funding, but the other amounts and perks rarely make headlines. Anywhere between $500 million to $800 million is given to Israel every year as part of a missile defence package; an additional $1 billion benefits Israel in the form of tax-deductible donations, while $500 billion is invested in Israeli bonds.

Then there are the loan guarantees, where the US government assumes the responsibility for billions of dollars that Israel can access as a borrower from international creditors. If Israel defaults on its loans, it is the legal responsibility of the US government to offset the interest on the borrowed money.

Since 1982, Israel has been receiving US aid as a lump sum, as opposed to scheduled payments, as happens with other countries. To fulfil its self-imposed obligations to Israel, the US government borrows the money, and is thus left to pay interest on the loans. “Israel even lends some of this money back through US treasury bills and collects the additional interest,” Zunes explained.

US relations with Israel are not governed by the kind of political wisdom that is predicated on mutual benefit. But they are not entirely irrational either, as the American ruling classes have aligned their interests, their perception of the Middle East and their country’s role in that region with that of Israel, thanks to years of media and official indoctrination.

Despite the fact that the US is retreating from the region, lacking strategy and future vision, lawmakers in Washington are congratulating themselves on passing yet another generous aid package to Israel. They feel proud of their great feat because, in their confused thinking, a ‘secured’ Israel is the only guarantor of US dominance in the Middle East. That is a theory that has been proven false, time and time again.

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Welcome, swamp monsters! How Bush-era warmonger David Wurmser is helping Trump take down Iran

By Robert Bridge | RT | January 20, 2020

Despite Trump’s pledge to ‘drain the swamp’ and reduce the US military’s global footprint, a chief architect of the 2003 Iraq War has the ear of the White House on Iran. What could possibly go wrong?

As Donald Trump’s first term dwindles, it appears his new campaign slogan will be “if you can’t beat the swamp, join it.” That much seems evident not only from the Trump administration’s courting of diehard hawks – gung-ho guys like Elliott Abrams and Mike Pompeo – but by the recent news that David Wurmser was offering counsel to John Bolton, former National Security Advisor to the White House.

It should be briefly recalled that Wurmser contributed heavily to the report that argued Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. That claim was eventually proven to be ‘bad intelligence,’ but not before a whole lot of damage was done.

Wurmser gets another shot  

According to journalist Eli Lake, Wurmser built the case for “regime disruption” against Iran in a series of memos sent to Bolton in May and June 2019, a period when tensions between Tehran and Washington were peaking in the Persian Gulf. Lake, who says he was privy to the memos thanks to a high-level source, provides a glimpse into Wurmser’s hawkish thought processes, revealing he told Bolton that offensive military action against Iran would “rattle the delicate internal balance of forces… which the regime depends for stability and survival.”

On another occasion, after Iran had downed a US drone, Wurmser suggested in a memo (dated June 22) a retaliatory attack “on someone like Soleimani or his top deputies.” Judging by Bolton’s well-known aggressive stance on Iran, however, he probably did not require much convincing from Wurmser to go after Tehran with both guns blazing.

The revelation that Wurmser was feeding Bolton advice sheds a much-needed light – albeit an opaque one – on Trump’s inexplicable decision in early January to “take out” General Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force. That high-risk move, carried out on the territory of Iraq, prompted Tehran to respond days later with calibrated strikes on two US military bases inside of Iraq. Today, the situation remains volatile as rhetoric between the two sides has replaced – at least for the time being – outright violence.

Now the question: what could have compelled Trump to place any trust in Wurmser, whose resume reads like that of a bull in a china shop? One possibility is that Trump had no idea Wurmser was feeding Bolton and other members of his administration what amounted to yet more regime change shenanigans in the Middle East. This seems plausible considering the contradictory messages the White House was sending immediately following Soleimani’s cold-blooded murder.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for example, claimed the US had specific information on “imminent” Iranian attacks “against American facilities, including American embassies [and] military bases.” Trump, meanwhile, didn’t sound any more confident with regards to the “imminent threat” of an Iranian attack when he told Fox News, “probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad.”

Stranger yet, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, perhaps being more forthcoming than is usual for a military man with secrets to protect, admitted “I didn’t see [evidence], with regard to four embassies” being targeted for attack by Iran. Esper eventually came around to saying that he “shared the president’s view” of an imminent attack from Iran.

It seems plausible that the Trump administration could not get its story straight on where the information about Iran and an “imminent attack” had originated, because admitting it had derived from ‘the swamp’ would not have sat well with their voters. That is certainly no small consideration in an election year.

Why court neocons in the first place?

When Trump hired John Bolton as his National Security Advisor in March 2018, he wasn’t just opening the corridors of power to the notorious hawk, as he may have imagined. The US leader opened the door to all of Bolton’s former colleagues and confidants who share Bolton’s dangerous obsession with going to war with Iran. As a side note, it is worth pondering whether Trump was compelled to hire Bolton because he understood he is not at liberty to abandon ‘the swamp’ as it simply wields too much power in Washington.

What is more likely is that Trump overestimated himself, believing that he was smart enough to stay one step ahead of Bolton and his swamp contacts – like the shadowy Washington insider Wurmser, who in 1996 co-authored another report, entitled, ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.’ Drafted specifically for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the paper promoted the idea of preemptive strikes against Iran and Syria.

So why would Trump take on such a risk? Why not bring in some fresh red-blooded conservative policymakers who genuinely want to see US troops extracted from quagmires around the Middle East and North Africa? Why all this talk about ‘draining the swamp’ when the worst of the swamp creatures are awarded such powerful positions? Perhaps Trump imagined that Bolton’s mustachioed scowl would be enough to bring enemies around to the negotiating table – gaining “leverage” before confronting your opponents, as the real estate developer advised in ‘Art of the Deal.’

Whatever the case may be, the US leader seriously underestimates the fact that there are people out there – the John Boltons and David Wurmsers of the world – who are not looking for the ‘deal of the century’. These people have spent their entire careers lobbying for military confrontation and regime change, as General Wesley Clark revealed with the “seven countries in five years” plan. They will pull any trick in the book to get their wars – and all of the lucrative defense contracts that follow.

Although Trump may have squeaked by – so far – without full-blown military confrontation in places like North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, sooner or later he may get a bad roll of the dice. In fact, he may already have gambled wrongly with the warmongers he allowed into his administration, thereby setting Iran and the United States, and possibly the world, on a deadly crash course.  In that case, Trump would have nobody to blame but himself.

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , | 2 Comments

A New Definition of Warfare

Sanctions can be more deadly than bullets

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • January 21, 2020

Supporters of Donald Trump often make the point that he has not started any new wars. One might observe that it has not been for lack of trying, as his cruise missile attacks on Syria based on fabricated evidence and his recent assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani have been indisputably acts of war. Trump also has enhanced troop levels both in the Middle East and in Afghanistan while also increasing the frequency and lethality of armed drone attacks worldwide.

Congress has been somewhat unseriously toying around with a tightening of the war powers act of 1973 to make it more difficult for a president to carry out acts of war without any deliberation by or authorization from the legislature. But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been explicit in his explanations that the assertion of “extreme pressure” on countries like Iran and Venezuela is intended to make the people suffer to such an extent that they rise up against their governments and bring about “regime change.” In Pompeo’s twisted reckoning that is how places that Washington disapproves of will again become “normal countries.”

The sanctions can kill. Those imposed by the United States are backed up by the U.S. Treasury which is able to block cash transfers going through the dollar denominated international banking system. Banks that do not comply with America’s imposed rules can themselves be sanctioned, meaning that U.S. sanctions are de facto globally applicable, even if foreign banks and governments do not agree with the policies that drive them. It is well documented how sanctions that have an impact on the importation of medicines have killed thousands of Iranians. In Venezuela, the effect of sanctions has been starvation as food imports have been blocked, forcing a large part of the population to flee the country just to survive.

The latest exercise of United States economic warfare has been directed against Iraq. In the space of one week from December 29th to January 3rd, the American military, which operates out of two major bases in Iraq, killed 25 Iraqi militiamen who were part of the Popular Mobilization Units of the Iraqi Army. The militiamen had most recently been engaged in the successful fight against ISIS. It followed up on that attack by killing Soleimani, Iraqi militia general Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and eight other Iraqis in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport. As the attacks were not approved in any way by the Iraqi government, it was no surprise that rioting followed and the Iraqi Parliament voted to remove all foreign troops from its soil. The decree was signed off on by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, based on the fact that the U.S. military was in Iraq at the invitation of the country’s government and that invitation had just been revoked by parliament.

That Iraq is to say the least unstable is attributable to the ill-advised U.S. invasion of 2003. The persistence of U.S. forces in the country is ostensibly to aid in the fight against ISIS, but the real reason is to serve as a check on Iranian influence in Iraq, which is a strategic demand made by Israel and not responsive to any actual American interest. Indeed, the Iraqi government is probably closer politically to Tehran than to Washington, though the neocon line that the country is dominated by the Iranians is far from true.

Washington’s response to the legitimate Iraqi demand that its troops should be removed consisted of threats. When Prime Minister Mahdi spoke with Pompeo on the phone and asked for discussions and a time table to create a “withdrawal mechanism” the Secretary of State made it clear that there would be no negotiations. A State Department written response entitled “The U.S. Continued Partnership with Iraq” asserted that American troops are in Iraq to serve as a “force for good” in the Middle East and that it is “our right” to maintain “appropriate force posture” in the region.

The Iraqi position also immediately produced presidential threats and tweets about “sanctions like they have never seen,” with the implication that the U.S. was more than willing to wreck the Iraqi economy if it did not get its way. The latest threat to emerge involves blocking Iraq access to its New York federal reserve bank account, where international oil sale revenue is kept, creating a devastating cash crunch in Iraq’s financial system that might indeed destroy the Iraqi economy. If taking steps to ruin a country economically is not considered warfare by other means it is difficult to discern what might fit that description.

After dealing with Iraq, the Trump Administration turned its guns on one of its oldest and closest allies. Great Britain, like most of the other European signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been reluctant to withdraw from the agreement over concern that Iran will as a result decide to develop nuclear weapons. According to the Guardian, a United States representative from the National Security Council named Richard Goldberg, had visited London recently to make clear to the British government that if it does not follow the American lead and withdraw from the JCPOA and reapply sanctions it just might be difficult to work out a trade agreement with Washington post-Brexit. It is a significant threat as part of the pro-Brexit vote clearly was derived from a Trump pledge to make up for some of the anticipated decline in European trade by increasing U.K. access to the U.S. market. Now the quid pro quo is clear: Britain, which normally does in fact follow the Washington lead in foreign policy, will now be expected to be completely on board all of the time and everywhere, particularly in the Middle East.

During his visit, Goldberg told the BBC: “The question for prime minister Johnson is: ‘As you are moving towards Brexit … what are you going to do post-31 January as you come to Washington to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States?’ It’s absolutely in [your] interests and the people of Great Britain’s interests to join with President Trump, with the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep all of us safe.”

And there is an interesting back story on Richard Goldberg, a John Bolton protégé anti-Iran hardliner, who threatened the British on behalf of Trump. James Carden, writing at The Nation, posits “Consider the following scenario: A Washington, DC–based, tax-exempt organization that bills itself as a think tank dedicated to the enhancement of a foreign country’s reputation within the United States, funded by billionaires closely aligned with said foreign country, has one of its high-ranking operatives (often referred to as ‘fellows’) embedded within the White House national security staff in order to further the oft-stated agenda of his home organization, which, as it happens, is also paying his salary during his year-long stint there. As it happens, this is exactly what the pro-Israel think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) reportedly achieved in an arrangement brokered by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.”

The FDD senior adviser in question, who was placed on the National Security Council, was Richard Goldberg. FDD is largely funded by Jewish American billionaires including vulture fund capitalist Paul Singer and Home Depot partner Bernard Marcus. Its officers meet regularly with Israeli government officials and the organization is best known for its unrelenting effort to bring about war with Iran. It has relentlessly pushed for a recklessly militaristic U.S. policy directed against Iran and also more generally in the Middle East. It is a reliable mouthpiece for Israel and, inevitably, it has never been required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

To be sure, Trump also has other neocons advising him on Iran, including David Wurmser, another Bolton associate, who has the president’s ear and is a consultant to the National Security Council. Wurmser has recently submitted a series of memos to the White House advocating a policy of “regime disruption” with the Islamic Republic that will destabilize it and eventually lead to a change of government. He may have played a key role in giving the green light to the assassination of Soleimani.

The good news, if there is any, is that Goldberg resigned on January 3rd, allegedly because the war against Iran was not developing fast enough to suit him and FDD, but he is symptomatic of the many neoconservative hawks who have infiltrated the Trump Administration at secondary and tertiary levels, where much of the development and implementation of policy actually takes place. It also explains that when it comes to Iran and the irrational continuation of a significant U.S. military presence in the Middle East, it is Israel and its Lobby that are steering the ship of state.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

January 20, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trudeau toes imperial line on Iran

By Yves Engler · January 19, 2020

While the current Liberal government claims to be progressive and in favour of a rules-based international order, promotion of democracy and world peace, its actions regarding Iran demonstrate that the primary drivers of Canadian foreign policy remain US Empire geo-political interests and the rich and powerful.

(This previous article argues this has long been the case.)

While Israeli nationalists and Conservatives demand new measures targeting Iran, the reality is ordinary Canadians will not benefit from war with the 18thmost populous country in the world. The families of Iranian Canadians will certainly not benefit.

Despite election promises to the contrary, Justin Trudeau’s government has continued important components of the previous Conservative government’s ‘low-level war’ against Iran.

Ottawa has no diplomatic relations with Iran, maintains a series of sanctions on the country and lists Tehran as a state sponsor of terrorism. Canadian troops are also stationed on Iran’s border partly to counter its influence and Canada recently gifted $28 million worth of Iranian assets in this country to Americans who lost family members to purported Hamas and Hezbollah attacks decades ago.

The Liberals repeatedly promised to restart diplomatic relations with Iran. Before becoming prime minister Trudeau told the CBC, “I would hope that Canada would be able to reopen its mission [in Tehran].” In May 2016 foreign minister Stéphane Dion said, “Canada’s severing of ties with Iran had no positive consequences for anyone: not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for Israel, and not for global security.” Five months later Trudeau added, “Canada must return to Iran to play a useful role in that region of the world.”

While the Liberals have dialed down the Harper government’s most bombastic rhetoric against Tehran, they have not restarted diplomatic relations or removed that country from Canada’s state sponsor of terrorism list.

The Trudeau government has criticized Iranian human rights abuses while mostly ignoring more flagrant rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies. In January 2018 foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said, “Canada is deeply troubled by the recent deaths and detentions of protesters in Iran” and four months later tweeted, “our government is committed to holding Iran to account for its violations of human and democratic rights.” Two months ago Global Affairs stated, “Iran must ensure that its people enjoy the rights and freedoms they deserve.”

In June 2018 Liberal parliamentarians supported a Conservative MP’s private member’s motion that “strongly condemns the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border.” In effect, the resolution claimed Iran was responsible for Israel killing Palestinians peacefully protesting the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, siege of Gaza and historic theft of their land. The motion also called on Canada to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations” and to make the highly provocative move of listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. A demand B’nai B’rith and the Conservative party have restated in recent days.

Ottawa has continued to present a yearly UN resolution critical of the human rights situation in Iran. In response to Canada targeting it, Iran’s Deputy Representative to the UN, Eshaq Al-e Habib, said in November 2019, “how can a supporter of apartheid in Palestine pose itself as a human rights defender in Iran?”

Similarly, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development participates in the annual “Iran Accountability Week” on Parliament Hill, which showcases individuals such as Foundation for the Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz, who helped kill the Iran nuclear deal and pushed harsh sanctions against any country doing business with Iran. Dubowitz was a senior research fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. In 2015 Global Affairs gave the Munk School’s Digital Public Square $9 million to expand an anti-Iranian initiative.

While they ostensibly backed the “p5+1 nuclear deal” with Iran, the Liberals’ promoted a one-sided view of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the US, France, Germany, Russia and China. Canada put up more than $10 million for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and verify Iran’s implementation of its commitments under the JCPOA. Iran has consistently been in compliance with JCPOA’s strict rules regarding its uranium enrichment. Nonetheless, the Donald Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and re-imposed tough new sanctions on other countries’ companies doing business with Iran.

For their part, the Western European signatories to the agreement have largely failed to stand-up to US pressure by creating the space for their companies to do business with Iran and three days ago the UK, Germany and France delivered a further blow to an agreement on life support. In a January 14 release titled “Canada supports diplomatic efforts established for Iran to return to full implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” Global Affairs expressed “support” for the UK, Germany and France “activating the Dispute Resolution Mechanism” under the JCPOA and “urged Iran to immediately restore its full commitments to the JCPOA.” But, this position amounts to calling on Iran to abide by a deal it receives no benefits from as its economy is crippled by sanctions.

The Liberals also legitimated the illegal US sanctions on Iran when they arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou,at the Vancouver airport 13 months ago.The US claimed Meng’s company defied its illegal sanctions against Iran. But, between when the US judicial system sought her detention and the Trump administration requested Ottawa detain her, Meng traveled to six countries with US extradition treaties. Only Canada arrested her.

At the military level Ottawa also aligned with the US-Saudi-Israeli axis stoking conflict with Iran. An April 2016 Global Affairs memo authorizing Light Armoured Vehicle export permits to the House of Saud noted, “Canada appreciates Saudi Arabia’s role as a regional leader promoting regional stability, as well as countering the threat posed by Iranian regional expansionism.” At the November 2019 Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Al Meinzinger, participated in a panel titled “Watch out Iran!” A year earlier Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance told a parliamentary committee that Iran was “an interested party and, in some cases, a malign agent in Iraq.”

Five hundred Canadian troops are in Iraq partly to counter Iranian influence. Specifically, the Canadian-led NATO Mission Iraq is designed to weaken the influence of the Iranian aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias that helped defeat ISIS.

In the fall Canada seized and sold $28 million worth of Iranian properties in Ottawa and Toronto to compensate individuals in the US who had family members killed in a 2002 Hamas bombing in Israel and others who were held hostage by Hezbollah in 1986 and 1991. The Supreme Court of Canada and federal government sanctioned the seizure under the 2012 Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which lifts immunity for countries labeled “state sponsors of terrorism” to allow individuals to claim their non-diplomatic assets.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi called the seizure “illegal” and in “direct contradiction with international law” while a spokesperson for Iran’s Guardian Council, Abbasali Kadkhodaei, accused Canada of “economic terrorism”. A senior member of Iran’s parliament said the country’s military should confiscate Canadian shipments crossing the Strait of Hormuz.

In a right side up world, the Iranian asset sale would lead to various more legitimate seizures. Relatives of the Lebanese-Canadian el-Akhras family Israel wiped out, including four children aged 1 to 8, in 2006 were certainly at least as worthy of Canadian government-backed compensation. Ditto for Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, a Canadian soldier part of a UN mission, killed by an Israeli fighter jet in Lebanon in 2006. Or Palestinian Canadian Ismail Zayid, who was driven from a West Bank village demolished to make way for the Jewish National Fund’s Canada Park.

There are hundreds of Canadians and countless individuals elsewhere who have been victimized by Israeli, Canadian and US-backed terror more deserving of compensation than the Americans paid with Iranian assets for what Hamas and Hezbollah purportedly did decades ago. Should Israeli, US and Canadian government assets be seized to pay them?

The Trudeau government failed to speak against the asset seizure. It could have undercut this obscenity by delisting Iran as a “state sponsor of terror” or repealing Harper’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. But, it didn’t even keep its promise to restart diplomatic relations with Iran. As such, the Liberals have empowered US-Israeli hawks hurtling towards a major conflict.

While there is much to dislike about the government in Tehran, progressive-minded, peace-loving Canadians should reject Ottawa’s aggressive anti-Iranian policies.

January 19, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is It an Act of War to Designate Iran’s IRGC as a Terrorist Organization?

The Israel Lobby’s Relationship to Trudeau, Trump and NATO

By Prof. Anthony Hall | American Herald Tribune | January 19, 2020

The Israel Lobby in Canada is demanding that the government of Justin Trudeau follow the lead of Netanyahu and Trump, the notorious duo of anti-Iranian warmongers. Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, has been leading the drive to have Canadian law brought into conformity with US and Israeli prototypes of post-9/11 terrorist designations.

At a press conference on January 13 in Canada’s Parliament, the Canadian branch of the US and Israeli-based ADL, demanded that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) be designated as a terrorist organization. Canada has already designated the Quds division of the IRCG as a terrorist group. Iranian General Qassem Suleimani was the leader of the Quds force until he was assassinated on January 2 of this year.

Mr. Mostryn presented the Canadian government with something of an ultimatum with the following comment. “We are asking for the IRGC to be designated as a terrorist group in Canada within the next 30 days. No further delays will be accepted by Canadians on this important public safety issue.”

There is a large body of evidence that demonstrates that Mr. Mostyn does not speak for all Jews in Canada or even for most of them. Certainly, this well paid functionary of the Israel Lobby does not speak for all Canadians when it comes to the issue of Canada’s relations with Iran. After the assassination of General Suleimani, Canadians have added cause to be skeptical about adopting the extravagant language and principles of the Israel Lobby as elevated to pre-eminence following 9/11.

After January 2, Canadian citizens and members of the global community generally are coming to understand better the lethal booby traps attached to pinning the status of “terrorist” on individuals and organizations without any due process whatsoever. The post-9/11 adoption of the principles of pre-emptive warfare promotes the ethos of shoot to kill first, worry later (if at all) about proof, justification and adherence to the older principles of international law. This ethos of kill first, deal with proof later, has essentially eliminated the legal principle that people, whether they be princes or paupers, are innocent until proven guilty.

The Displacement of Well-Founded Principles of International Law with the Pseudo-Laws of the Global War on Terror

The kind of agenda that Mr. Mostyn wants to import into Canada from Israel and the United States undermines the integrity and enforceability of international law. The United Nations and the International Criminal Court at the Hague are basically sidelined as credible organizations. The result is that officials effectively lack the capacity to command accountability from war criminals at the highest level.

The still-misrepresented events of 9/11 ushered in many transformations dramatically for the worse in the global community. These transformations include the negation of much of the juridical inheritance emanating from centuries of evolutionary progress in the community of nations. For the time being this juridical inheritance has been pretty much swept into the garbage bin leaving the world a much more dangerous place. Atrocities like the Israeli treatment of indigenous Palestinians or the extrajudicial Baghdad drone strikes of 2 January 2020 epitomize the subordination of the rule of law to the law of the jungle.

Benjamin Netanyahu has continued the longstanding Israeli practice of trying to push the United States and its supposed allies into invading Iran in order to conduct regime change. That priority was emphasized immediately after 9/11 when the Canadian Zionist neocon, David Frum, wrote the words of a pivotal speech for US President George Bush. Frum had Bush refer to Iran as part of the “axis of evil.” David Frum’ sister, now a Canadian Senator, has continued her brother’s preoccupation. She has long been working with Michael Mostyn and Benjamin Netanyahu “in advocating for the listing of the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist organization.”

Setting Up NATO Soldiers and Iranian Soldiers to Kill Each Other to Advance Israel’s Expansionary Ambitions

The decades-old Israeli push to pressure the United States and its “allies” into war with Iran was renewed in April of 2019. As reported in The Times of Israel, just days before an Israeli general election, Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Donald Trump for increasing his chances of being re-elected. Netanyahu’s thank you was for Trump’s political decision to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization. In a Hebrew language tweet Netanyahu thanked Trump for “acceding to another one of my important requests.”

As Tamar Pileggi reported in The Times of Israel

Trump said his administration’s “unprecedented” designation “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”…. Since taking office, Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

There is cause to be suspicious about the deadline announced for the Trudeau government’s ratification of the B’nai Brith Canada’s demand. To designate the whole armed forces of a foreign country as a “terrorist organization” is basically to declare war on the host country of that military organization. How is it in Canada’s interests or in the interests of the United States for that matter to give way to Israeli pressure pushing North America into a war with Iran?

The issue of time comes up because of recent announcements from the White House that Trump and Pompeo want to see NATO troops, including those of Canada, take over from US troops in Iraq. Trump needs this concession from NATO countries to meet an election promise. He has to have some symbolic bringing of US soldiers home from the Middle East prior to the US presidential election later this year.

Is it the goal of the Israel Lobby to push Canada and other NATO countries into a war posture with Iran after Trump bragged about assassinating “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world.” At the bidding of Trump, the NATO countries are pushed to enter a Middle East after it has been transformed by the criminal drone strike on the Iranian people’s most popular and beloved war hero?

Indeed, the admiration of General Suleimani, a real foe, not a pretend foe, of the Daesh proxy army is not limited to Iran, to the Muslim world or the Middle East. I can think of no military figure in the Western world that commands anything like the degree of respectful recognition that General Suleimani earned even from some that consider themselves enemies of the polities that the Quds force fought to help.

Is the issuing of the 30-day time limit by B’nai Brith Canada based on insider knowledge? Does the Israel Lobby in Canada know that there will soon be an influx of Canadian soldiers to replace US soldiers in Iraq? After the events of January 2, these US soldiers in Iraq and throughout the Middle East have had targets painted on their back by the war mongering of their Israeli-puppet Commander In Chief in the White House.

Is the rush to get the Canadian government to accept the terrorist designation part of a plan to encourage young NATO soldiers to kill young Iranian soldiers if they encounter one another in Iraq? Are we witnessing a plan to assemble NATO fighting forces in Iraq with the view that they would then be in a more strategic position to invade neighboring Iran?


Anthony James Hall has been Editor In Chief of the American Herald Tribune since its inception. Between 1990 and 2018 Dr. Hall was Professor of Globalization Studies and Liberal Education at the University of Lethbridge where he is now Professor Emeritus. The focus of Dr. Hall’s teaching, research, and community service came to highlight the conditions of the colonization of Indigenous peoples in imperial globalization since 1492.

January 19, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes, Wars for Israel, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s the Point of NATO If You Are Not Prepared to Use It Against Iran?

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | January 16, 2020

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance commits all members to participate in the defense of any single member that is attacked. An attack on one is an attack on all. Forged in the early stages of the cold war, the alliance originally included most of the leading non-communist states in Western Europe, as well as Turkey. It was intended to deter any attacks orchestrated by the Soviet Union and was defensive in nature.

Currently NATO is an anachronism as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the desire to continue to play soldier on an international stage has granted it a measure of life support. Indeed, the alliance is regularly auditioning for new members. Its latest addition is Montenegro, which has a military consisting of 2,000 men and women, roughly one brigade. If Montenegro should be attacked, the United States is obligated to come to its assistance.

It would all be something like comic opera featuring the Duke of Plaza Toro but for the fact that there are certain things that NATO does that are not really defensive in nature but are rather destabilizing. Having expanded NATO right up to the border with Russia, which the U.S. promised not to do and then reneged, military exercises staged by the alliance currently occur right next to Russian airspace and coastal waters. To support the incursions, the myth that Moscow is expansionistic (while also seeking to destroy what passes for democracy in the West) is constantly cited. According to the current version, Russian President Vladimir Putin is just waiting to resume control over Ukraine, Georgia, Poland and the Baltic States in an effort to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. This has led to demands from the usual suspects in the U.S. Congress that Georgia and Ukraine be admitted into the alliance, which would really create an existential threat for Russia that it would have to respond to. There have also been some suggestions that Israel might join NATO. A war that no one wants either in the Middle East or in Europe could be the result if the expansion plans bear fruit.

Having nothing to do beyond aggravating the Russians, the alliance has gone along with some of the transnational abominations initially created by virtue of the Global War on Terror initiated by the loosely wrapped American president George W. Bush. The NATO alliance currently has 8,000 service members participating in a training mission in Afghanistan and its key member states have also been parts of the various coalitions that Washington has bribed or coerced into being. NATO was also actively involved in the fiasco that turned Libya into a gangster state. It had previously been the most developed nation in Africa. Currently French and British soldiers are part of the Operation Inherent Resolve (don’t you love the names!) in Syria and NATO itself is part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

NATO will now be doing its part to help defend the United States against terrorist attack. Last Wednesday the alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke with President Donald Trump on the phone in the wake of the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport. The killing was apparently carried out using missiles fired by a U.S. Reaper drone and was justified by the U.S. by claiming that Soleimani was a terrorist due to his affiliation with the listed terrorist Quds Force. It was also asserted that Soleimani was planning an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and would have killed “hundreds” of Americans. Evidence supporting the claims was so flimsy that even some Republicans balked at approving the chain of events.

Nine Iraqis also died in the attack, including the Iraqi General who headed the Kata’Ib Hezbollah Militia, which had been incorporated into the Iraqi Army to fight against the terrorist group ISIS. During the week preceding the execution of Soleimani, the U.S. had staged an air attack that killed 25 Iraqi members of Kata’Ib, the incident that then sparked the rioting at the American Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

Bearing in mind that the alleged thwarted terrorist attacks took place seven thousand miles away from the United States, it is hard to make the case that the U.S. was directly threatened requiring a response from NATO under Article 5. No doubt the Mike Pompeo State Department will claim that its Embassy is sovereign territory and therefor part of the United States. It is a bullshit argument, but it will no doubt be made. The White House has already made a similar sovereignty claim vis-à-vis the two U.S. bases in Iraq that were hit by a barrage of a dozen Iranian missiles a day after the killing of Soleimani. Unlike the case of Soleimani and his party, no one was killed by the Iranian attacks, quite possibly a deliberate mis-targeting to avoid an escalation in the conflict.

In spite of the fact that there was no actual threat and no factual basis for a call to arms, last Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke by phone with President Donald Trump “on developments in the Middle East.” A NATO press release stated that the two men discussed “the situation in the region and NATO’s role.”

According to the press release “The President asked the Secretary General for NATO to become more involved in the Middle East. They agreed that NATO could contribute more to regional stability and the fight against international terrorism.” A tweet by White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere later confirmed that Trump had “emphasized the value of NATO increasing its role in preventing conflict and preserving peace in the Middle East.” Prior to the phone call, Trump had announced that he would ask NATO “to become much more involved in the Middle East process.”

As the Trumpean concept of a peace process is total surrender on the part of the targeted parties, be they Palestinians or Iranians, it will be interesting to see just how the new arrangement works. Sending soldiers into unstable places to do unnecessary things as part of a non-existent strategy will not sit well with many Europeans. It should not sit well with Americans either.

January 16, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Trump Steps Back From the Edge. Neocons Rage Accordingly

By Matthew Ehret | Strategic Culture Foundation | January 15, 2020

Trump’s response to the attack on two US military bases showcase a hopeful about face on a dark age agenda which many thought could lead nowhere but World War III in the immediate days following Soleimani’s murder on January 3.

Immediately after the Iranian counter-attacks occurred on Wednesday morning at the same hour of Soleimani’s assassination, Iran’s Foreign Minister stated: “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” Iran’s retribution was more moderate than many analysts imagined as fore notice was delivered to the Iraqi government 30 minutes before rockets were launched giving American military personnel in the bases ample time to seek shelter.

In Trump’s remarks the following day, the President stated: “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world… ISIS is a natural enemy of Iran. The destruction of ISIS is good for Iran, and we should work together on this and other shared priorities.”

Although Trump’s speech characterized Iran as a “major supporter of terrorism” and Gen. Soleimani as a “top terrorist”, his assertion that a common interest exists between the USA and Iran in the combat of ISIS is a spectacular break from the neocon agenda. This break is also one of many in a long line of internal struggles emanating from the corridors of American power in the days since Soleimani’s murder. This includes the memo written to the Iraq government by William Seely, commanding general of the Iraq Task Force saying: “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” Seely’s memo created a major crisis amongst the radical war hawks like Mark Esper and Mark Milley who raced to deny the memo’s validity.

Recent revelations published in the Wall Street Journal demonstrating the incredible back channel discussion set up by Trump through the Swiss embassy in Tehran in the hours after Solemenei’s murder also play into this “movement of sanity” within the USA.

The Paradox of America Resolved

This contradictory behaviour is undoubtedly not so confusing for leading figures among Eurasia’s intelligentsia who are not ignorant to the battle occurring within America between nationalists who genuinely wish to end “the forever wars” in the Middle East vs those Pax Americanists embedded throughout the neoconservative and neo-liberal establishments who would rather burn the earth than abandon their dark age ideology. Trump’s many calls for positive relations with Russia and China over the past 3 years terrify these groups, and this potential US-Russia-China alliance has represented a real threat which today’s London-steered impeachment debacle, and years of Russia-gating has always aimed to derail.

With the impeachment bill now sitting in the republican-dominated Senate, the neocons loyal to the Military Industrial Complex which Trump has so loudly criticized have major leverage on the President and are using it. If you are thinking “why would any republican ruin their careers by supporting a democrat-driven impeachment bill against a republican leader?” then you haven’t realized that the drive for war with Iran (as well as Russia and China) is not a matter of “practical politics” for our later day fanatics of the evangelical pre-millennial garb like John Hagee or Benny Hinn who sincerely believe it is man’s duty to usher in Armageddon and fulfill their twisted view of prophecy. Nor is it an issue for their Israeli counterparts who believe essentially in the same prophecy with the small exception that the Savior’s arrival amidst the fires of war will be occurring for the first time rather than the 2nd. If you are reading this thinking “certainly no one could be so nuts”, then let this televised prayer led by Rev. John Hagee and Benny Hinn cause you to think twice:

Bill Kristol, a leading figure behind the neocon cult and co-author of the dystopian Project for a New American Century Manifesto has already poured tens of millions of dollars into billboards, commercials and lobbying teams gunning for Trump’s impeachment. Kristol tweeted on October 17, 2019 that “If Trump is not impeached and removed, the corruption will get even worse, the White House even more lawless, the violations of norms even more routine. The case for impeachment isn’t merely retrospective; it’s prophylactic. And it isn’t merely just; it’s urgent.”

The most recent commercial promoting Trump’s impeachment which Kristol’s think tank Republicans for the Rule of Law released raised the argument that since republicans supported Nixon’s impeachment in 1973, republicans should impeach Trump today.

This argument obviously overlooks the problem that while Nixon actually appeared to have committed crimes, nothing even approximating illegal activity has occurred in Trump’s case.

Things are not as black and white as many believed until recently. Iran’s recent military exercises with Russia and China have demonstrated clearly in the minds of saner Americans that no war with Iran is possible without taking Russia and China on as well. Putin’s brilliant maneuvers in the Middle East have led to the destruction of the Anglo-American plot to grow radical Islam as a geopolitical tool first against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and then against nation states more generally since the Soviet Union’s collapse. For this reason, Putin’s enemies throughout the neocon world and British intelligence have never forgiven him. Although China has not brought much military might to bear in the Middle East, the Belt and Road Initiative has provided a gateway to a durable peace which cannot be overlooked, as BRI projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and beyond have given the Middle East a new chance for a future.

The question still remains whether or not Trump can continue to move away from the WWIII agenda and into this positive alliance.

January 15, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , | 19 Comments

How Europe betrayed Iran: By triggering JCPOA dispute mechanism, EU helps Trump finish job of killing the Iran nuclear deal

By Scott Ritter | RT | January 15, 2020

Europe could have saved the Iran nuclear agreement. Instead, it abused the rule of law by inappropriately triggering its dispute mechanism, all but ensuring the agreement’s demise.

Disingenuous diplomacy

On January 5, 2020, Tehran announced that it would no longer comply with its obligations under the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s actions are in response to the withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA, and the re-imposition of economic sanctions by the US which had been lifted when the deal came into force.

In response to the Iranian actions, the governments of France, Germany, and the UK – all parties to the deal, along with the European Union (EU) – invoked provisions within the JCPOA, known as the Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM), in an effort to bring Iran back into compliance.

The triggering of the DRM by the European countries, however, is a disingenuous move designed to provide diplomatic cover for the EU’s own failures when it comes to JCPOA implementation.

Moreover, given the likely outcome of this process, a convening of the UN Security Council where economic sanctions will be re-imposed on Iran by default, the Europeans have all but assured the demise of the JCPOA, with their so-called diplomacy serving as little more than a facilitator of a larger crisis between Iran and the US that, given the heightened tensions between these two nations in the aftermath of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, precipitously increases the prospects for war.

Big powers always had an easy way out of deal

When the JCPOA was finalized in July 2015, the world was given hope that the crisis over Iran’s nuclear enrichment capability, which had been threatening to boil over into war, had been resolved, and diplomacy had prevailed over armed conflict.

The JCPOA codified a number of restrictions on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, including the numbers and types of centrifuges that could be used, where enrichment could take place, what level of enrichment could occur, and how large of a stockpile of enriched nuclear material Iran was allowed to maintain, and an intrusive comprehensive inspection regime designed to verify Iran’s compliance.

These restrictions were designed to ease over time through a series of so-called “sunset clauses,” until all that remained was an enhanced inspection process. In short, the JCPOA legitimized Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes while simultaneously recognizing the concerns of some within the international community regarding the potential for Iran to abuse this enrichment capability for military purposes.

The JCPOA was, in effect, a comprehensive confidence building mechanism intended to build trust between Iran and the international community over time, consistent with the agreement’s preamble, which declared “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”

Prior to the implementation of the JCPOA, Iran had been subjected to stringent economic sanctions levied under the authority of the UN Security Council. In exchange for entering into the agreement, these sanctions were lifted.

However, the deal recognized that disputes could emerge regarding the implementation of the agreement, and put in place a dispute resolution mechanism which, if no satisfactory solution was found to an identified problem, would result in these sanctions being automatically re-imposed.

A key aspect of this mechanism was that if any party to the agreement used its veto in the UN Security Council to block a vote related to nonperformance on the part of any party to the agreement, then the economic sanctions would automatically be reinstated.

Washington sabotages JCPOA

For the first two-plus years of the deal’s existence, from July 2015 through to May 2018, Iran was found to be in full compliance with its commitments.

In May 2018, however, the US precipitously withdrew from the agreement, claiming that the eventual expiration of the “sunset clauses” paved the way for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon, and as such the JCPOA was little more than a facilitator of Iranian nuclear malign intent.

The US began re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran, all of which included so-called secondary sanctions which applied to any nation that violated the US sanctions. Iran rightfully viewed the re-imposition of sanctions by the US as a violation of the deal.

Furthermore, when EU companies began balking on their willingness to do business with Iran out of fear of US secondary sanctions, Iran rightfully found the EU to be in violation of the JCPOA as well.

Iran gave the remaining parties to the JCPOA six months following the US withdrawal to develop the necessary mechanisms needed to sidestep the impact of the US economic sanctions.

By November 2018, however, no such mechanisms had been implemented, and when the US targeted Iran’s economic lifeblood by sanctioning oil sales, Iran responded by invoking its rights under Article 26 and Article 36 of the JCPOA, which allows Iran to “cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA, in whole or in part”, for either the re-imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, or “significant nonperformance” of obligations under the JCPOA, or in this case, both.

Since that time, Iran has been gradually stepping away from the restrictions imposed on it, noting each time that its measures were immediately reversible should the underlying issues be resolved in a manner that complied with the letter and intent of the JCPOA.

Europe’s cowardice

In short, Iran demanded that the EU live up to its obligations to stand up to the US economic sanctions. The EU has consistently failed to do so, resulting in Iran’s gradual backing away from its obligations, leading to the current state of affairs where all of the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA, not including international inspections, which continue unabated, have ceased to be in operation.

When it comes to levying fault for the current state of affairs, there is no “chicken or egg” causality up for debate. Blame lies squarely on both the US for withdrawing from the deal, and the EU for failing to live up to its obligations under the JCPOA regarding economic engagement with Iran.

Iran has long warned the governments of France, Germany, and the UK not to invoke the DRM, noting that the JCPOA does not permit such a move if, as is the case today, Iran is exercising its legal right in response to the illegal and unilateral actions of the US.

There is no realistic expectation that Iran will change its position in this regard. Russia and China have already indicated that Iran is fully within its rights within the JCPOA to back off its obligations regarding restrictions imposed on its nuclear program, citing US and EU non-performance.

By invoking the DRM, the Europeans have, knowingly and wittingly, initiated a process that can only have one outcome, the termination of the JCPOA. In doing so, the EU has breathed life into unfounded US allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons intent, setting up an inevitable clash between the Washington and Tehran that has the real potential of dragging the whole world down with it.

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 15, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Non-commitment probe into Iran by France, Germany & UK ‘groundless,’ only increases tensions around nuclear deal – Russia

RT | January 14, 2020

The European trio’s accusation that Iran violates the key restrictions of the nuclear deal are unjustified, the Russian Foreign Ministry said urging the countries not to increase tensions that could endanger the pact.

Paris, Berlin and London officially reported Iran’s non-compliance with the 2015 agreement to the Joint Commission under the Dispute Resolution Mechanism. This step could potentially lead to the UN Security Council being forced to decide on whether or not to bring back sanctions against Tehran.

“We can’t rule out that the ill-considered actions of the European trio will lead to a new escalation around the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and make the return to the implementation of the ‘nuclear deal’ in its initially agreed format unachievable,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Iran rolled back on its uranium enrichment constraints detailed in the international agreement earlier this month after one of its top military commanders, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in an American drone strike in Iraq.

Tehran’s decision to put its commitments on hold was a response to the actions of the US, which unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reintroduced restrictions against Iran, the ministry reminded. However, the country keeps allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors to its nuclear sites – and “the transparency of the Iranian nuclear program has been one of the key clauses of the nuclear deal.”

Despite vocally rejecting the US campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran, France, Germany and the UK are “either not ready or can’t afford to” work on finding effective ways of bypassing the hurdles to the deal created by Washington.

There are also “serious problems” with implementing the side of the deal on the part of the European trio, the ministry said. When all those issues are settled, “Iran would have no reason to retract from the initially agreed framework of the JCPOA.”

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraqis must resort to resistance if US forces refuse to pull out: Senior Nujaba official

Press TV – January 14, 2020

The deputy secretary general of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Movement says the Iraqi nation must choose the path of resistance in case the parliamentary bill demanding the withdrawal of all US-led foreign military forces from the country is not implemented.

“The Iraqi people must opt for the path of resistance unless the parliament’s decision on the pullout of foreign forces is carried out,” Nasr al-Shammari said in an exclusive interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Tuesday.

He added that the decision to expel foreign forces from Iraq does not need a parliamentary mandate, stating that the US-led military coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh terrorist group entered Iraq at the request of Baghdad government and can be removed by a letter from the government as well.

“The decision concerning the removal of foreign forces from Iraq is the only decision taken away from sectarian fault lines. A person of sound mind cannot accept the presence of a foreign state that imposes its own authority on a sovereign country. If getting foreign forces out of Iraq is a charge, then we consider it as an honor for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren,” Shammari pointed out.

He then noted that all Iraqi resistance factions are united to end the presence of foreign troops in the country, saying, “The United States must respect the sovereignty of states and decisions of peoples, and adhere to them.”

“Iraq will not accept being ruled by any country. Any failure to implement the parliament decision on the withdrawal of foreign forces will give the green light for the start of resistance operations,” Shammari highlighted.

The Nujaba official went on to say that Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, have become more coherent and solid in the wake of the recent US assassination of the second-in-command of PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

“The death of Muhandis does not mean the end of Hashd al-Sha’abi and its role in the region,” Shammari said.

He added that Iraqi resistance groups are indebted to Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

“The resistance against US forces will soon attain its goal of removing foreign troops from the Iraqi soil. The blood of martyrs will finally bring about the demise of the Zionist entity, and the end of its occupation of Arab lands,” Shammari concluded.

Baghdad moving to internationally prosecute US for crimes in Iraq

Meanwhile, a member of the Iraqi Parliamentary Human Rights Committee said the Baghdad government was preparing to prosecute the United States at international courts of law for its crimes in Iraq, noting that the offenses amount to genocide.

“The United States has been committing the most heinous war crimes since 2003 up until now. The invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, the Nisour Square massacre and the emergence of Daesh (Takfiri terrorist group) besides the attack on the leaders of Hashd al-Sha’abi are all crimes classified as genocide,” Ahmed al-Kanani said in a statement on Tuesday.

Kanani added, “All the crimes that America has perpetrated against the Iraqi nation are documented, and that there are bids to prosecute Washington for its crimes against Iraqis before international courts.”

On January 5, Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Late on January 9, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

According to a statement released by the Iraqi premier’s office, Abdul-Mahdi “requested that delegates be sent to Iraq to set the mechanisms to implement the parliament’s decision for the secure withdrawal of (foreign) forces from Iraq” in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The prime minister said Iraq rejects violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military’s violation of Iraqi airspace in the airstrike that assassinated Lt. Gen. Soleimani, Muhandis and their companions.

Abdul-Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” the statement said.

“The prime minister said American forces had entered Iraq and drones are flying in its airspace without permission from Iraqi authorities and this was a violation of the bilateral agreements,” the statement added.

The US State Department bluntly rejected the request the following day.

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump and Congress Double Down on Demonizing Iran

Will the national security nightmare ever end?

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • January 14, 2020

If one seriously seeks to understand how delusional policymakers in Washington are it is only necessary to examine the responses by the president and Congress to the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani. The first response came in the form of a Donald Trump largely incoherent nine-minute self-applauding speech explaining what he had done and why. It was followed by a House of Representatives War Powers non-binding resolution that was all theater and did nothing to limit the president’s unilateral ability to go to war with the Islamic Republic.

It was reported that the Trump speech had been hurriedly written by aides the night before it was given and that it existed in several competing drafts. It was full of out-and-out lies and half truths and intended to reassure the American people that the president was keeping them safe. The opening line might well be regarded as some kind of joke: “As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.” Trump has in fact done more to ensure that Iran will have a nuclear weapon than any other president through his abrupt withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) and his assassination of Soleimani, which together have convinced the Iranian leadership that there is no possibility of a reasonable negotiated solution when dealing with the American president, even when he claims he wants to “talk.”

Trump then went on characteristically to eulogize our brave soldiers on far flung battlefields before lying again, saying “For far too long — all the way back to 1979, to be exact — nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond. Those days are over. Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen.” Lie one is that the “destructive and destabilizing behavior” actually has Made in U.S.A. stamped all over it. Lie two is “leading sponsor of terrorism,” an honor that belongs to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, in that order. And lie three is that Iran “pursued” nuclear weapons. It has never done so.

Trump them boasted that “Last week, we took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives. At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani. As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities.” Trump’s preening was again wrong on every count: Soleimani is no terrorist by any reasonable definition, nor is there any evidence that he threatened American lives. And Trump and his chorus of neocons cannot name a single “atrocity” committed by the man

The president claimed that Soleimani “… viciously wounded and murdered thousands of U.S. troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims,” a particularly absurd charge suggesting that Trump believes that any American soldier who died in Iraq or Afghanistan did so at the hands of the Iranian Major General. By the same logic, the musical chairs series of American generals that have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have murdered hundreds of thousands of people. If Trump wants to start counting fatalities he should perhaps start with David Petraeus.

Piling Ossa on Pelion, Trump declared that Soleimani “… orchestrated the violent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him.” There is no evidence whatsoever to support either assertion and Trump then goes on to ascribe all the problems of the Middle East to Iran, ignoring the roles played by others, most notably Washington, Israel and the Saudis. He also roundly condemned the JCPOA before asserting falsely that “Three months ago, after destroying 100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate, we killed the savage leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi…” In reality, ISIS was defeated by the Syrian Army and its allies Russia and Iran, the very countries that Trump has continued to vilify even as he struts his anti-terrorist credentials. Qassem Soleimani played a major role in the destruction of ISIS.

The only good things in the Trump speech were that it was short and the president did not find it necessary to say a whole lot of good things about Israel. Interestingly, no one in the mainstream media or in the political chattering class made much effort to challenged Trump on the “facts” he cited, though there was some pushback from mostly Democratic congressmen who stated that they could not see any “imminent threat” in the evidence that the Administration produced during a classified briefing. The actual war powers concurrent resolution that passed in the House last Thursday was symptomatic of the unwillingness of the political opposition to take on the illegal and immoral wars in the Middle East themselves – it had no teeth and will not change anything.

The resolution’s subject line “Directing the President pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran” actually is misleading. And the first thing the text does do is slam Iran with the same dubious “facts” employed by Trump, including that “The Government of Iran is a leading state sponsor of terrorism and engages in a range of destabilizing activities across the Middle East. Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was the lead architect of much of Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the world.”

The resolution includes “In matters of imminent armed attacks, the executive branch should indicate to Congress why military action was necessary within a certain window of opportunity, the possible harm that missing the window would cause, and why the action was likely to prevent future disastrous attacks against the United States.” It then goes on to explain that “When the United States uses military force, the American people and members of the United States Armed Forces deserve a credible explanation regarding such use of military force…” because “The War Powers Resolution (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.) requires the President to consult with Congress ‘in every possible instance’ before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities.” It concludes with “Congress has not authorized the President to use military force against Iran.”

It would seem to be a devastating critique of the Trump Art of War but then comes the wiggle room “… Congress hereby directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military, unless Congress has declared war or enacted specific statutory authorization for such use of the Armed Forces; or such use of the Armed Forces is necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its Armed Forces, consistent with the requirements of the War Powers Resolution. Nothing in this section may be construed to prevent the President from using military force against al Qaeda or associated forces…” In other words, all Trump has to do is claim “imminent threat” or that he is attacking “terrorist associated forces” and he is home free no matter what he does, particularly as the resolution itself is non-binding.

The sheer ignorance and arrogance of elites in Washington combined with a colonialist mentality that dismisses Asians and Africans as unthinking “wogs” who will do one’s bidding if they are confronted with punishment is currently on display. It was inevitable that Iraq would demand the departure of U.S. troops after thirty-four Iraqi militiamen were killed by American drone and air strikes, but many in Washington just didn’t get it. Trump threatened, in characteristic fashion, to respond with sanctions, but now Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has made it official in a phone call to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, demanding a plan and timetable for the removal of the American soldiers. The State Department has indicated that it is not prepared to discuss the matter.

Some pundits who should know better have predicted that the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers will not take place because Iraq somehow “needs” the United States. And besides, there will be economic consequences if Iraq does go ahead to insist on an American withdrawal. But sometimes abstractions prove to be more powerful than material incentives. The United States violated Iraqi sovereignty not once but twice and murdered 30 Iraqis in the process. Pompeo can huff and puff all he wants and Trump can mouth his illiteracies, but nothing changes the fact that the United States did things it did not have to do based on a delusional view of the Middle East and will have to pay a price. Minus a presence in Iraq, Syria will be untenable and one might hope that once the U.S. loses its ability to directly confront Iran on the ground the whole house of cards just might collapse, leading to Washington’s gradual departure from the region. That would be good for the region and also for the United States even if Israel and the Saudis, who prefer to have Americans fight and die in their wars, might object.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

January 13, 2020 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , | 3 Comments

Timeline of US-Iran conflict: 1953 through Present

If Americans Knew | Last Updated: January 9, 2020

In the interest of understanding recent events, we have quickly put together a partial timeline of US-Iran relations, beginning in 1953 through the present. This is a quick, somewhat cursory timeline, but we feel it’s important that a general outline become available as soon as possible.

Many thousands of American families are heavily invested in the situation – according to U.S. Central Command, between 60,000 and 70,000 U.S. troops are currently in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

 * 1800s to 1951:  Relations between the US and Iran began in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Initially, while Iran was very wary of British and Russian colonial interests, it viewed the United States as a more trustworthy great power.

During World War II Iran was invaded by Britain and the Soviet Union, both US allies, but relations with the US continued to be positive. This changed in 1953:

 * 1953: UK and US orchestrated a coup to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh.

Mossadegh had denied the British further involvement in Iran’s oil industry. Britain then appealed to the US for help, which eventually led the CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of Mossadegh and restore power to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

The Shah became  known for “his autocratic rule, corruption in his government, the unequal distribution of oil wealth, forced Westernization, and the activities of SAVAK (the secret police) in suppressing dissent and opposition to his rule.”

SAVAK had been formed in 1957 under the guidance of US and Israeli intelligence officers.

Today’s Iranian Supreme Leader was one of those tortured in a Savak prison.

 * In 1979 the Shah was overthrown by a popular revolution. He then traveled to the US, which had supported him.

The rebels eventually converted the form of government from a monarchy to an elected government based on a strict interpretation of Islam: The Islamic Republic of Iran. This was a backlash against the authoritarian Shah’s forced westernization and denigration of the traditional religion (more on the revolution & aftermath here and here and here).

 * The new Iranian government begins its support of Palestinian rights against Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Muslim and Christian inhabitants of what had originally been called Palestine.

 * Iran also supports Hezbollah, armed resistance groups in Lebanon against Israel’s invasions of Lebanon. 

(Israel exploited Americans in its fight against Lebanon.)

Ha’aretz : Iran’s mentoring of Hezbollah’s insurgency of the 1980s and 1990s forced Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon.

 * Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the US – which plays a major role in US Mideast policies – has opposed Iran ever since the new Iranian government was created.

The Oded Yinon plan (“Greater Israel”: The Zionist Plan for the Middle East) provides some information on the Israeli role through the years in destabilizing many countries in the Middle East.

* Since the Shah’s regime had tortured many dissidents, his victims wanted him to return to Iran to face justice, but the US would not extradite him. Iranian students then seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took hostage more than 50 Americans, demanding the extradition of the shah in return for the hostages’ release. Extradition was refused and the hostages were held for 444 days.

 * Washington then froze about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold, and other properties. Most of those were released in 1981 as part of the Reagan release deal.

 * Some assets—Iranian officials say $10 billion, but US officials say much less—remain frozen, pending resolution of legal claims arising from the Revolution. The money that the Obama administration returned to Iran as part of the JCPOA agreement was Iran’s own money.

 * The next year, in September 1980, Iraq launched a war against Iran that lasted until 1988. The death toll was an estimated 1 million for Iran and 250,000-500,000 for Iraq. 

U.S. officials later acknowledged that American arms, technology and intelligence helped Iraq kill Iranians and avert defeat and eventually grow, with much help from the Soviet Union later, into a major regional power.

* The administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous “dual-use” items, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax.

 * In 1988 a US Navy ship shot down a commercial Iranian airliner, killing 290 men, women, and children. The Pentagon at first denied it was involved, and then said it was an accident.

 * in 1992, Netanyahu told the Israeli Knesset that Iran was “three to five years” away from reaching nuclear weapons capability, and that this threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.”

 * In 1996 Israel’s Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress and claimed that Iran was getting “extremely close” to getting nuclear weapons. 

Netanyahu makes this claim again and again in the coming years.

* After the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan and attacked the Taliban. Iran assisted the US in this fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, with Soleimani playing a major role.

Earlier, the U.S. had supported Islamic forces against the Soviet Union, which the Carter administration had drawn into invading Afghanistan.

 * In 2002 Israel began a campaign claiming, falsely, that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.

This campaign has continued and escalated through the years, as documented here.

 • In 2003 the US invaded Iraq based on what turned out to be a false claim that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”

The invasion was promoted by Israel and its partisans. As a result, 5,000 Americans died and approximately 288,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians. The unprovoked invasion and occupation, including the Abu Ghraib atrocities, destabilized the region and fueled the rise of extremism that led to ISIS.

Iran has been in the forefront of fighting ISIS. General Soleimani led this. At times, the US and Iran cooperated in this fight.

 * The US, under the influence of the Israel lobby, supports Israeli actions. Over the years, it labels resistance fighters “terrorists” and condemns Iran’s support of Palestinian rights.

The pro-Israel lobby in the US has long been working against Iran in order to improve Israel’s strategic position. In 2004 AIPAC officials stole US Defense Dept secrets, intending to channel them to the Washington Post to convince Americans that it was time for troops fighting in Iraq to pivot to Iran. (It is not rare for the Post to be used by Israel partisans.)

* In 2007, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad quoted an old saying of Ayatollah Khomeini calling for ‘this occupation regime over Jerusalem” – meaning Israel – to “vanish from the page of time.” (As Juan Cole explains, many mistranslated his words as “wiped off the face of the map.”)

 * Israel and its partisans continue to claim (as they have since 1991) that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. US intelligence find no evidence for the claim.

* Between 2010 and 2012 Israel murdered four young Iranian scientists.

One was the 32 year old deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. He was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Another was a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery.It appears that another had been murdered in 2007. A US Senator, Rick Santorum, called the murders “a wonderful thing.”

* February 2015 Supreme Leader Khamenei condemns ISIS beheading Christians, tweeting: “We don’t forget how much Iranian #Christians have taken pains to render services & some of them have martyred in Saddam’s war against #Iran.” He advised Muslims to help Christians in need while extolling what he said was the Islamic Republic of Iran’s equal treatment of people of different faiths.

* In January 2015 Khamenei publishes “Letter to Western Youth” on his official website. It is major news in Iran. In November he publishes a second one. They  include the statement:

“… The pain of any human being anywhere in the world causes sorrow for a fellow human being. The sight of a child losing his life in the presence of his loved ones, a mother whose joy for her family turns into mourning…… Anyone who has benefited from affection and humanity is affected and disturbed by witnessing these scenes- whether it occurs in France or in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon or Syria…. The issue, however, is that if today’s pain is not used to build a better and safer future, then it will just turn into bitter and fruitless memories…

U.S. media ignore the letters.

  * In July 2015, the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” a detailed, 159-page agreement is reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) aimed at halting Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.

Nevertheless, Iran signs the agreement, giving up many rights in an attempt to diminish US-Israeli sanctions.

 * Both Democrats and Republicans repeat the Israel-promoted false claim that Iran is the top sponsor of “terror.”

Recent events

Much of the following is excerpted from an Al Jazeera timeline, with a number of additions from diverse other sources (sources are provided in embedded links):

 * Trump makes good on an election campaign promise, announcing on May 8, 2018 that the US is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

Trump’s action is influenced by pro-Israel multi-billionaire campaign donors Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus.

Adelson once said he regretted that he had served in the US army instead of in the Israeli military.

 * In response, Iran calls this “unacceptable” and says it will bypass Washington and negotiate with the deal’s other remaining signatories: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

 * May 21 Trump administration makes 12 demands, which Iran rejects.

 * US on August 7 reimposes the first round of sanctions on Iran, originally lifted as part of the nuclear deal. They prohibit trade with a number of business sectors – from aviation and carpets to pistachios and gold.

 * On November 5, the US announces a new round of sanctions, this time specifically targeting the key oil and banking sectors.

2019

 * In March the US Treasury Department, under Israel partisan Steven Mnuchin, blacklisted 25 Iranian businesses and individuals.

[The individual under Mnuchin in charge of US actions regarding Iran is an Israeli citizen.]

Pro-Israel organizations had lobbied for the creation of this branch of the Treasury.

* On April 2, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said: “I can announce today, based on declassified US military reports, that Iran is responsible for the deaths of 608 American service members. This accounts for 17 percent of all deaths of US personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.”

Navy Commander Sean Robertson followed up with an email to media outlets pushing that same line. When author Gareth Porter asked Robertson for further clarification of the origins of that figure, however, Robertson “acknowledged that the Pentagon doesn’t have any study, documentation, or data to provide journalists that would support such a figure.”

 * On April 8, Trump announces he is designating a powerful arm of the Iranian military, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization.

It is the first time Washington has formally labelled another country’s military a “terrorist group.” The designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on the IRGC that will go into effect on April 15.

 * Responding to the move, Iran immediately declares the US a “state sponsor of terrorism” and calls Washington’s forces in the region “terrorist groups.”

* On May 5,  Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton announces the US is sending an aircraft carrier strike group and Air Force bombers to the Middle East “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings”.

 * On May 8, Iran says it is preparing to increase enriched uranium and heavy water production as part of its decision to stop certain commitments made under the nuclear deal. (Iran continues to emphasize that it is NOT developing nuclear weapons, which are banned by a religious edict from its Supreme Leader.)

 * Trump announces new measures against Iran’s steel and mining sectors.

 * On May 12, the United Arab Emirates says four commercial ships off the coast of Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs, “were subjected to sabotage operations”.  

The UAE did not name a suspect and there were no claims of responsibility. Unnamed US officials identified Iran as a prime suspect. But the officials offered no proof to back the claim.

Iranian officials expressed concern, saying the alleged attacks could have been carried out by third parties to stir up conflict between Washington and Tehran during the heightened tensions.

The US’s “maximum pressure” campaign had triggered an economic crisis in Iran.

 * Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are locked in a long-running war with a Saudi-UAE-led military coalition, launch drone attacks on Saudi Arabia on May 14, striking a major oil pipeline and taking it out of service.

 * Two days later, Riyadh, a key US ally, blames Iran for the attack.

 * The US and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of arming the Houthis.

 * Tehran denies the claim.

 * On May 19, a rocket lands near the US embassy in Baghdad. No one is harmed.

It is not clear who is behind the attack, but Trump tweets: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif responds by tweeting that Trump had been “goaded” into “genocidal taunts”.

 * After meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who offers to broker dialogue between Washington and Tehran, Trump says on May 27 the US is “not looking for regime change” in Iran.

* On June 12, Abe arrives in Tehran in a bid to mediate between the US and Iran.

 * Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refuses to meet with him, saying: “I don’t consider Trump as a person worthy of exchanging messages with. I have no response for him and will not answer him.”

 * On June 13, with Abe still in Iran, a Japanese and a Norwegian tanker come under “attack” in the Gulf of Oman, according to the Norwegian maritime authority and the Japanese shipowner.

Iran speaks initially of “accidents” and says it rescued 44 crew. Zarif calls tanker “attacks” during Abe’s visit “suspicious”.

 * On June 17, the Pentagon authorizes the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East.

 * On the same date, Iran says it is 10 days away from surpassing the limits set by the nuclear deal on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

 * Iran says it can reverse the move if the deal’s European signatories step in and make an effort to circumvent US sanctions. 

 * On June 20, Iranian forces shoot down a US military drone.

Both countries confirm the incident but offer diverging accounts about the location of the aircraft.

The US says it was flying above international waters, while Iran says the drone was flying in Iranian airspace.

 * On June 21, Trump says he called off a military strike on Iran the night before, which was intended as retaliation against Tehran for the downing of the unmanned US drone.

Trump says he did so 10 minutes before the planned attack because of potential casualties, saying it was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone”.

Trump says a US strike could have killed 150 people, and signals he is open to talks with Tehran.

 * On June 22, Iran says it is ready to respond firmly to any US threat against it. 

“We will not allow any violation against Iran’s borders. Iran will firmly confront any aggression or threat by America,” Abbas Mousavi, foreign ministry spokesman, says.

 * On the same day, Iran orders the execution of a “defence ministry contractor” convicted of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency,

 * The US vows to impose fresh sanctions, adding that military action was still “on the table.”

 * On June 25, Trump signs an order targeting Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and associates with additional financial sanctions 

“Sanctions imposed through the executive order … will deny the supreme leader and the supreme leader’s office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support,” the US president says.

 * Responding to the announcement, Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, tweets that hawkish politicians close to Trump were thirsty for war rather than diplomacy.

Rouhani dismisses the sanctions as “outrageous and idiotic”, adding that Tehran’s “strategic patience” should not be mistaken for fear.

 * On June 29, the US Air Forces Central Command says in a statement that F-22 Raptor stealth fighters are being deployed in the region “to defend American forces and interests”.

 * On July 1, Iran exceeds the limit on the amount of enriched uranium in its stockpile set out in the nuclear deal.

Zarif says the accumulation of more enriched uranium than permitted under the deal is not a violation of the pact.

 * On July 4, British Royal Marines, police and customs agents in Gibraltar seize a supertanker accused of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

The Grace 1 vessel was boarded on Thursday when it slowed down in a designated area used by shipping agencies to ferry goods to ships in the UK territory along Spain’s southern coast.

 * On July 8, Iran passes the uranium enrichment cap set in the nuclear deal, the second time in a week that it makes good on a promise to reduce compliance with the accord.

 * On July 12, police in Gilbraltar arrest the captain and chief officer of an Iranian tanker that was seized by British forces the previous week.

 * On July 19, the IRGC says its forces have seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules”, the force says in its official website.

 * On July 25, the UK announces the country’s warships will escort all British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, a change in policy that takes place amid rising tensions in the Gulf. 

 * On August 1, the US imposes sanctions on Zarif for acting on behalf of Ali Khamenei.

“Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in a statement.

 * Zarif brushes off the move on Twitter, saying it indicates Washington saw him as a “threat”.

“It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interest outside of Iran,” he says.

 * On August 23, Rouhani inducts a locally built air-defence system into the country’s missile defense network at an unveiling ceremony in Tehran.

Iran began production after the purchase of Russia’s S-300 system was suspended in 2010 due to international sanctions that have barred it from importing many weapons.

Speaking at the ceremony, Rouhani says the mobile surface-to-air system was “better than S-300 and close to [more advanced] S-400”.

 * On August 26, Iran’s top diplomat holds talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron at the sidelines of a G7 summit following a surprise invite to the gathering in Biarritz.

“Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues,” Zarif says. “Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.”

On the same day, Iran says it has sold 2.1m barrels of crude oil on board the tanker that was seized in Gibraltar the previous month, adding that the vessel’s new owner will decide on its next destination.

 * On August 30, the UN says Iran is still exceeding limitations set by its nuclear deal with world powers, increasing its stock of enriched uranium and refining it to a greater purity than allowed in the agreement.

The quarterly report from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency confirms Iran is progressively backing out of the pact in retaliation for the US’s withdrawal from the accord and the subsequent renewal of sanctions that have hit Iranian oil sales.

 * On September 3, the US imposes sanctions on Iran’s civilian space agency and two research organizations, saying they were being used to advance Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

The measures imposed by the US Department of the Treasury target the Iran Space Agency, Iran Space Research Center and the Astronautics Research Institute.

 * On September 4, the US turns up the economic pressure on Iran, blacklisting an oil shipping network that Washington alleges is directed by the IRGC.

The blacklisted group of firms, ships and individuals stands accused by the US Treasury of breaching sanctions by supplying Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

 * The Trump administration, meanwhile, says it will not accommodate a proposal by France to throw a financial lifeline to Tehran.

 * The US offers several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirms.

The Financial Times reports on September 5 that Brian Hook, the State Department point man on Iran, [who spoke at the 2019 AIPAC conference and the American Jewish Committee conference] has sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered “good news” of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as Grace 1, to a country where it could be seized. (Captain Kumar rejected the offer.)

 * On September 7, Iran starts injecting gas into advanced centrifuges to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium and warns time is running out for the nuclear deal’s other signatories to save the landmark pact.

Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi says Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation has started up advanced centrifuges at the enrichment facility in Natanz, the third step by Tehran in scaling back its commitments under the crumbling pact following Washington’s withdrawal.

 * Trump on September 10 announces via Twitter that he has fired Bolton, his national security adviser, saying he has “strongly disagreed” with many of his hawkish positions.

Bolton’s sacking is reportedly linked to a fundamental disagreement over the possible easing of US sanctions on Iran.

 * On September 14, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claim responsibility for drone attacks on two major Saudi Aramco oil facilities:  Abqaiq – the world’s largest oil processing plant – and the Khurais oilfield, in eastern Saudi Arabia. The pre-dawn strikes knock out more than half of crude output from the world’s top exporter.

 * Pompeo swiftly blames Iran, saying it “has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply”.

 * Iran dismisses the “meaningless” US allegations, saying they were meant to justify actions against the country.

 * Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, Trump on September 24 lashes out at Iran and calls countries around the world to tighten the economic noose around it.

“One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran,” he says.

  * Human Rights Watch finds that US sanctions are threatening Iranians’ health.

* In October Trump called the Iraq war “the single worst mistake this country has ever made” and said: “These wars, they never end. And we have to bring our great soldiers back from the never-ending wars.”

 * The US on November 4 imposed new sanctions on the inner circle of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including one of his sons. 

The US Treasury said that the nine people sanctioned included Khamenei’s chief of staff, the head of the judiciary and senior military figures. It said it also blacklisted Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff.

 * Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the sanctions as “a sign of the desperation and inability of this regime in benefiting from a diplomatic and logical approach” to important international issues, according to the official IRNA news agency.

 * Iran on November 6, began the process of injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at the underground Fordow facility.

 * A US-led naval coalition officially launched operations in Bahrain on November 7 to protect shipping in the troubled waters of the Gulf, following a string of attacks that Washington and its allies blamed on Iran.

 * Iran, which denied any responsibility for the mystery attacks, put forward its own proposals for boosting Gulf security that pointedly excluded outside powers.

 * Iran’s state news agency IRNA says air defence forces shot down an “unknown” drone on November 8. 

 * The United States Central Command released a statement later that Friday saying that the downed drone was not one of theirs, and that all military drones were accounted for.

 * Unrest in Iran erupted on November 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300 percent. 

Iranian forces reportedly kill several hundred protestors. Iran denies this.

 * The US on November 22 imposed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi for his role in “widespread censorship”.

 * Addressing thousands of demonstrators in the capital, General Hossein Salami on November 25 accused the US, the United Kingdom, Iraq and Saudi Arabia of stoking unrest in the country.

 * The official news agency IRNA reported on November 27 that Iranian security agents arrested at least eight people linked to the CIA during deadly unrest over petrol price increases.

 * The Pentagon on December 4 denied a report that the US was weighing sending up to 14,000 more troops to the Middle East to confront a perceived threat from Iran.

 * A US Navy warship seized advanced missile parts on December 4 believed to be linked to Iran from a boat it had stopped in the Arabian Sea. 

 * In a rare act of cooperation, Iran and the US on December 7 exchanged prisoners.

Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-born US citizen held in Iran since 2016, was exchanged for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist detained in the US.

 * On December 11, the US Treasury imposed new sanctions on Iran’s biggest airline and its shipping industry, accusing them of transporting lethal aid to Yemen.

 * On December 19, the US announced that it would restrict visas for Iranian officials for their alleged roles in suppressing peaceful protests and imposed sanctions on two Iranian judges. 

The sanctions imposed by the Treasury froze any assets the two judges have in the US, and barred US citizens from dealing with them.

 * On December 27, a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk killed a US contractor and wounded several US service members and Iraqi personnel.

In its statement confirming the attack, the US-led coalition against ISIL (the ISIS group) did not specify who might be responsible, but US officials later blamed Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia, for the attack.

 * Two days later – on December 29 – the US military carried out “defensive strikes” on sites in Iraq and Syria belonging to Kataib Hezbollah that Washington said were in retaliation for the killing of the US contractor. 

* Iraqi security and militia sources said at least 25 fighters were killed and 55 others wounded following the air attacks in Iraq on Sunday.

 * Iran strongly condemned the attacks, with a government spokesman saying: “America has shown its firm support for terrorism and its neglect for the independence and sovereignty of countries and it must accept consequences for its illegal act.”

 * On December 31, enraged members and supporters of pro-Iranian paramilitary groups in Iraq broke into the heavily fortified US embassy compound in Baghdad, smashing a main door and setting parts of its perimeter on fire.

 * On January 2, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said there were “some indications” that Iran or groups it supports “may be planning additional attacks” on US interests in the Middle East. 

 * On January 3, in a predawn air raid at Iraq’s Baghdad airport, the US struck and killed Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or PMF.

According to Iraq’s prime minister, Soleimani had arrived to ease tensions in the region, after Trump had asked the prime minister to help mediate.

Trump notified Israel ahead of time, but did not notify the US Congress. … Israeli security officials had recommended the assassination of Suleimani last year.

Former top US intelligence officials point out that Israel is the country that most benefits from hostilities between Iran and the US. Others, also, feel Israel was connected to why Trump, who had a few months ago opposed Mideast wars, authorized the assassination.

Pompeo said Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack on Americans, but did not supply the evidence for this.

 * The Iraqi prime minister and parliament condemn the attack and demand the US forces leave Iraq.

Trump threatens major sanctions against Iraq if that occurs. (Previous US sanctions against Iraq had cost the lives of a million Iraqis, half of them children.)

* On January 5th, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared that the assassination of Soleimani was a “turning point in the history of the region,” and that the US would receive a “just punishment” for the crime. He specified that the target would not be American citizens, but the military.

*Iran threatens retaliation.

Soleimani had been widely respected throughout Iran; a million mourners turn out. Analysts around the world are concerned that this escalation will result in major violence.

President Trump tweets that if Iran harms any Americans, he will attack Iranian cultural sites.

While Secretary of State Pompeo had claimed the action would make Americans “safer,” on January 4th the government issued a security alert.

*On January 8 more than a dozen missiles hit two US bases in Iraq.

This reportedly marks the first time that today’s Iranian government has directly struck U.S. military or other state targets and acknowledged doing so.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of U.N. Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.”

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment