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What Will Iran’s ‘Total War’ on the US Look Like?

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 11.01.2020

There is a growing threat of Iran launching ‘total war’ on the US in the case of the US resorting to attacking Iran and targeting its cultural locations. While such an act will in itself amount to war crimes, this will most certainly produce the necessary conditions for Iran to start a war on the US in the region. Soleimani’s funeral and the emotions that have engulfed Iran show that the Iranians are looking to implement Khamenei’s vow of “severe revenge.” The questions, in this context, are: what will Iran’s execution of ‘severe revenge’ look like, what options does Iran have in the region and how this will happen? What appears most likely—and given the nature of asymmetry between the US and Iran—Iran’s preferred option would most likely be a calculated activation of the “Axis of resistance” against the US in Syria, Iraq and even Lebanon. This might also include targeting US military establishments in the region—Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar etc.

America’s scattered military options, whilst it gives the US a military advantage, also give Iran plenty of options for sidestepping US military advantage by striking at the weak points of its various infrastructures in the region. While such an act may also pit these regional states against Iran, these states, as of now, are more interested in preventing hostilities for obvious reason: an Iranian total war will consume the tiny Arab states.

In other words, by following this strategy, Iran will make sure that the war that Trump sees as a quick punitive strike spreads in the region, reaching well within the borders of US allies. What this means is that Iran’s position in the region is qualitatively different from that of Iraq. Iran’s political and military landscape is also altogether different from Iraq and even Syria, making it too complex a country for a punitive strike to cut to size.

On the other hand, by spreading the war in the region and by attacking US infrastructure, even though this will invite strong US reaction, Iran will be able to inflict enough damage on the US to turn the public opinion against Trump who is already facing impeachment in the final year of his first term as US president.

At the same time, however, the threat of Iran resorting to a ‘war in the region’ scenario has already led many Arab officials to coordinate with the US to prevent such a scenario. Whereas the Saudis have hurried to Washington, meeting US foreign and defence secretaries, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani (who belongs to the royal family) were in Tehran and were received by President Hassan Rouhani. The Gulf states are obviously seeking their own assurances from both Iran and the US to avoid a war that engulfs them in its wake. Imagining a straight Iran-US war is, however, difficult, given that the US military establishments are in these very states, and these states have no capacity on their own to defend against an Iranian onslaught.

Targeting US bases in the region also shows that Iran’s objective, at the most, will be to drive the US out of the region. As Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said in his recent speech, a fair response to Soleimani’s assassination will be “ending the American military presence in our region.” The message, in other words, is that all US military personnel in the region….in tiny Arab states…. will be on their toes, watching their backs, full time.

As of now, the US has 5,000 troops in the UAE; 7,000 in Bahrain; above 13,000 in Kuwait; 3,00o in Jordan; 3,000 in Saudi Arabia; 10,000 in Qatar; 5,000 in Iraq; around 1,000 in Syria—all of course well within the range of Iranian missiles, making them an extremely attractive targets for the Iranian forces.

Only in Iraq, about 5,000 US troops could very well be sitting ducks if the Popular Mobilisation Forces were to launch a war of attrition. If history is any guide to the future, it might be unrealistic to completely rule out a replay of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings — the attack on a Marine compound in Beirut on the night of October 23 in which 241 US personnel were killed, forcing Reagan to order the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon.

This strategy would work to Iran’s advantage. Notwithstanding the scale of damage that the US can inflict on Iran by targeting its naval and other military installations, Iran would make sure to spread chaos in the Middle East in ways that make the regional states, apart from the war-weary US public, impress upon the US to deescalate. What might add to this chaos will be a simple blockade of the Strait of Hormuz.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

January 11, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bahrain’s Top Opposition Leader: Six Years of Persecution for Adopting Democracy and Reconciliation

By Sondoss Al Asaad | American Herald tribune | December 28, 2019

Although freedom of expression is a ratified constitutional right; yet it constitutes a heinous crime and poses an existential threat to the Manama regime. For instance, Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of the now-outlawed Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s top opposition political group, who has been held in custody since 2015, enters on Dec 28th his sixth year of arbitrary detention.

Indeed, the persecution of this peaceful leader is related to his commitment to peaceful protest and anti-corruption, marginalization and monopolization of power policies.

Al-Wefaq top leader had been initially serving a 4 years sentence on charges of ”insulting the interior ministry and inciting hatred.”

Prior to the current ongoing uprising, Sheikh Ali Salman had been severely tortured and arrested without trial, in 1994, before being exiled for more than 15 years.

The Bahraini High Court of First Tier acquitted Sheikh Salman on 21 June 2018; however, the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal, on 4 November 2018, and handed him a life sentence after finding him guilty of spying for Qatar ”to transfer confidential information in exchange for financial compensation.”

Al-Wefaq slammed the verdict calling it a ”political revenge.” Sheikh Ali Salman’s co-defendants, former MP and Sheikh Hassan Sultan have also been sentenced to life in prison, while in absentia.

Seen as part of the diplomatic row with Qatar and following Saudi Arabia and other states’ boycott of what they call Doha’s ”extremist policies,” Sheikh Salman’s trial shifted to an intelligence-sharing case, relating to a clipped audio recording of a telephone call with Qatar’s former Prime Minister.

The incomplete clip was made in 2011, as part of mediation between Manama and the opposition, overseen and encouraged by the US, to deal with the political upheaval, i.e. it dates back to several years ago.

The edited clip was thus smeared by the Bahraini government to prolong the imprisonment of Sheikh Salman, merely because he long called for democratic reforms including a constitutional monarchy and elected prime minister.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt accused Qatar of ”supporting terrorist groups and of being too close to Iran,” allegations Doha has vigorously denied.

Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising had erupted in February 2011 but was violently suppressed by Saudi troops.

Ever since the tiny archipelago has been wracked by unrest as the government has stepped up its prosecution campaign against all forms of peaceful opposition demanding reforms, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners and to put an end to the politically-motivated discrimination against the Shiite majority population.

The government has curbed the rights to freedom of association and assembly, outlawed opposition groups, detained thousands of dissents, provoked the citizenship of hundreds and unfairly prosecuted citizens in military courts, accompanied with a wide range of physical, sexual and psychological torture and ill-treatment.

Bahrain hosts the US Navy’s 5th fleet and a UK permanent base. Those two powerful allies; however, have blatantly failed to speak out about the deteriorating human rights status-quo, ongoing crackdown on prisoners of conscience and the politically motivated conviction and unlawful imprisonment of Sheikh Ali Salman and the rest of opposition leaders.

December 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Jordan seeks to restore diplomatic relations with Syria: Minister

Press TV – December 6, 2019

Jordan plans to restore full diplomatic relations with neighboring Syria in a further sign of Arab states embracing President Bashar al-Assad after a UAE diplomat praised him for “wise leadership” this week.

Jordanian Minister of State and Agriculture Samir Habashneh said Thursday he will travel to Syria later this month as part of a nearly 30-strong delegation, Arabic- language Ammon news website reported.

Former Prime Minister Taher al-Masri will head the delegation to restore Amman-Damascus bilateral relations to the level prior to the outbreak of foreign-sponsored Syrian conflict, it said.

Habashneh said Jordan and Syria actually have common areas of interest, stressing that the visit should have taken place much earlier in order to enhance communication between the two countries.

Commenting on a possible meeting with President Assad, he stated that the matter is in the hands of the Syrian side, and that the Jordanian delegates would like to sit for talks with the 54-year-old Syrian leader, senior officials and representatives of the Syrian people.

Jordan’s official Petra news agency, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Sufian Qudah, reported earlier this year that the Amman government had appointed a new chargé d’affaires to its embassy in Damascus.

“It was decided to appoint a Jordanian diplomat at the rank of charge d’affaires in the Jordanian embassy in Damascus,” the Jordanian official said.

He underlined that the “decision has been made in line with Jordan’s stance since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011 to keep the Jordanian embassy in Damascus open.”

Jordanian lawmakers first asked for the improvement of Jordan-Syria ties to the level before the start of the Syrian crisis last year, stressing that the relations are beneficial to both nations, Arabic-language Rai al-Youm newspaper reported last December.

Around the same time, Bahrain announced that work at the kingdom’s embassy “in the Syrian Arab Republic is going on whilst the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Kingdom of Bahrain is carrying out its duties and flights connecting the two countries are operational without interruption.”

It came a day after the United Arab Emirates officially reopened its embassy in Damascus.

Earlier this week, the UAE’s top diplomat in Syria praised President Assad for his “wise leadership”, in one of the strongest expressions of support yet from a country that once backed Damascus’ enemies in the war.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark UAE national day on Dec. 2, UAE charge d’affaires Abdul-Hakim Naimi said he hoped “security and stability prevails throughout the Syrian Arab Republic under the wise leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad.”

“Syria-UAE relations are solid, distinct and strong,” he added, according to a video posted by Russian broadcaster RT.

Arab countries’ restoration of diplomatic ties with Damascus takes place at a time when the Syrian army troops are finalizing their victory against foreign-backed terror groups and restoring peace and stability to the war-torn country.

Earlier this year, Reuters news agency cited sources as saying that Washington had lobbied Persian Gulf states including the UAE to hold off restoring ties with Syria.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

December 6, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Tehran slams Bahrain for hosting ‘provocative’ conference on Gulf maritime security

RT | August 8, 2019

Tehran has hit out at Bahrain for hosting a “provocative” conference on Gulf maritime security and for its rhetoric accusing Iran of attacking tankers. Manama said the July 31 meeting was held to discuss the “current regional situation,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reported.

It was not announced who’d attended the event in Bahrain, but the Guardian reported the UK had called for the meeting with other European countries and Washington. The tiny Gulf monarchy hosts the US Fifth Fleet.

“Bahrain’s government should not become the facilitator of common enemies’ wishes and schemes in the region,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday, in a statement published on his Telegram channel.

“The security of regional countries is inseparable and it is not possible for some to be secure at the cost of others’ insecurity.” he said. “It is expected that regional countries prevent foreigners’ escalatory interventions by exercising prudence and foresight.”

August 8, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

FCO Fails to Condemn Bahrain Embassy Incident

Press TV – July 30, 2019

Four days after Bahraini embassy staff in London allegedly tried to throw a protester off the embassy roof, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has yet to comment on the incident.

There were angry protests outside the Bahraini embassy in London on July 26, prompted by the imminent execution of two activists.

The event climaxed after a protester, one Moosa Abd-Ali, climbed onto the roof of the embassy and was intercepted there by embassy staff who allegedly tried to throw him off the roof.

The event was live streamed and prominently tweeted by British-Iranian journalist, Nargess Moballeghi.

Wider media coverage, notably by the online Independent, identified the protester as “Moosa Mohamed”, and reported that he had unfurled a banner reading: “I am risking my life to save two men about to be executed in the next few hours. Boris Johnson act now!”

Whilst the police eventually stormed the building to save Abd-Ali’s life, however instead of taking action against embassy staff they ended up arresting Abd-Ali for alleged trespass.

Abd-Ali’s dramatic protest proved fruitless as the two activists, Ali al-Arab and Ahmed al-Malali, were executed by the Bahraini authorities the following morning.

Hitherto, the dramatic events at the Bahraini embassy and the alleged attempted murder by embassy staff, has not elicited any reaction from the British government, let alone a condemnation.

This is not the first time that Bahraini embassy staff in London have tried to harm protesters and got away with it. In 2017, Bahraini embassy employees were accused of throwing hot water on demonstrators from a balcony.

The FCO’s failure to admonish Bahrain for this potentially criminal behavior on British soil is entirely in keeping with the British government’s policy of supporting the ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty.

The British government admits to training Bahraini security forces on “command and control” techniques designed to suppress demonstrations.

A 2017 report by the human rights organization “Reprieve” revealed that the FCO had paid for six Bahraini police officers to visit Belfast in August 2015 for “public order” training.

The Guardian reported in August 2016 that the UK’s College of Policing had a contract with Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior to train Bahrain’s police forces.

July 30, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | Leave a comment

Hamas Condemns Bahrain Minister’s Comments on ‘Israel’

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa
Al-Manar | June 28, 2019

A senior member of the Hamas Political Bureau has condemned comments by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa that ‘Israel’ is a “country to stay” in the region which should be recognized.

Mousa Abu Marzook took to Twitter to say that the minister’s call for such recognition by Arab states proved that the goal of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Manama is to destroy Palestinian rights and normalize ties with the Israeli occupation. The Hamas official reiterated his rejection of the workshop.

According to the Bahraini Foreign Minister on Wednesday, the Manama conference could be a “game changer”. Speaking to an Israeli TV channel, Al-Khalifa added that the Manama summit could be like Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to occupied Jerusalem in 1977, which paved the way for the Camp David Accords and normalization of ties between Egypt and the Israeli occupation. He confirmed that his country recognizes the Israeli occupation state’s “right to exist” and that it wants “peace” with Tel Aviv.

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt, Jordan, Morocco to attend US-led Palestinian conference

MEMO | June 11, 2019

Egypt, Jordan and Morocco have informed the Trump administration they will attend a US-led conference in Bahrain this month on proposals for boosting the Palestinian economy as part of a coming US peace plan, US officials said on Tuesday, reports Reuters.

Egypt and Jordan’s participation is considered especially important since historically they have been key players in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and are also the only Arab states to have reached peace agreements with Israel.

However, Palestinian leaders’ decision to boycott the June 25-26 conference has raised doubts about its chances for success. They have shunned a broader diplomatic effort that US President Donald Trump has called the “deal of the century,” which they see as likely to be heavily tilted in favour of Israel and denying them a state of their own.

Despite that, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a chief architect of the long-delayed peace plan, is pressing ahead with arrangements for the Bahrain meeting, where the economic components are expected to be unveiled as the first step in the plan’s rollout.

Acceptance of the invitation to the conference by Jordan and Egypt will bring to the table two countries that border both Israel and Palestinian areas.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have previously confirmed their attendance, a White House official said.

The official declined to say what level of representation the countries would send. US officials have said they were inviting economic and finance ministers, as well as business leaders from the region and around the world.

Global financial bodies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank also plan to be present.

US officials have been vague about the timing for the second phase of their initiative, which would be the release of proposals for resolving the thorny political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With Israel heading for new elections in September after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to meet a deadline to form a government, uncertainty is expected to further delay the full release of the plan.

Most experts are skeptical the Trump administration can succeed where decades of US-backed efforts have failed.

 

June 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Defense Cooperation Agreement Between US, UAE Now in Effect – White House

Sputnik – May 29, 2019

The White House issued a press release Wednesday, revealing that US National Security Advisor John Bolton and United Arab Emirates National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA).

“The DCA will enhance military coordination between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, further advancing an already robust military, political, and economic partnership at a critical time,” reads the statement. “The United States and the United Arab Emirates share a deep interest in promoting prosperity and stability in the region.”

“The DCA will advance that interest by fostering closer collaboration on defense and security matters and supporting efforts by both nations to maintain security in the Gulf region,” it adds.

The US also has defense cooperation agreements with Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.

​The latest agreement comes days after the US Defense Department announced that officials from the US and Estonia signed a five-year document to continue a defense cooperation between the two countries through 2024. According to a release from the defense agency, Estonia joins fellow Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia in the move.

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolton Alleges Iran Maritime Sabotage But Evidence Points Elsewhere

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician swims toward an MH-60S Sea Hawk Helicopter after performing mine response procedures in the Arabian Gulf during Artemis Trident 19, April 9, 2019. Samantha P. Montenegro | Dvids
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | May 29, 2019

On Wednesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton told a group of reporters in Abu Dhabi that “naval mines almost certainly from Iran” had been used to conduct the alleged “sabotage” attack on four commercial vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates’ port of Fujairah earlier this month. “There is no doubt in anybody’s mind in Washington who is responsible for this and I think it’s important that the leadership in Iran know that we know,” Bolton continued, providing no evidence for his claim.

Bolton is currently in Abu Dhabi ahead of an “emergency” summit scheduled for Thursday in Saudi Arabia, where top U.S. and allied Arab officials will “discuss the implications of the tanker attacks, and drone strikes two days later, on oil pumping stations in the kingdom.”

The murkiness that still surrounds what caused this tanker “sabotage,” as well as the very limited extent of the alleged damage, suggests that this poorly executed incident either did not go as planned or that it was a freak accident that has now been manipulated for weeks by the U.S. and its regional allies for political gain. However, Iran is far from being the clear culprit, especially given that three foreign militaries — including the U.S. Navy — concluded a mine warfare naval drill just weeks before the “sabotage” incident occurred. 

MintPress previously reported on the tanker “sabotage” attacks soon after they occurred and noted that neither the UAE or the Saudis had cast blame for the incident on any country and that the damage caused was relatively minor with no casualties. In fact, the incident was so minor that the local government of Fujairah had initially denied that any “sabotage” had taken place and maintained that its port facilities were operating normally.

Only the U.S. had cast blame prior to Bolton’s statements, with the “initial assessment” of a group of U.S. military investigators rapidly concluding that Iran or “proxies sympathetic to or working for Iran” had used explosives to damage the four commercial vessels. Public evidence to support that claim has been minimal and, at times, counter to the official narrative. For instance, one of the Saudi vessels allegedly targeted, Al Marzoqah, was seen floating without any visible damage in post-attack footage taken by Sky News, even though the Saudis had claimed that the vessel had sustained “significant damage.” One U.S. official told the Associated Press that each of the four ships had sustained a 5- to 10-foot hole near or just below the water line, but only one such hole has been observed in just one of the targeted ships.

Iran has consistently denied any involvement in the incident, with Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warning against a “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism by foreigners.”

However, Bolton’s Wednesday statement echoes other recent statements made by U.S. officials that sea mines — either floating mines or limpet mines, which attach magnetically to the targeted ship’s hull — were likely responsible for the relatively minor hull damage allegedly experienced by the four ships. Top U.S. military officials — such as Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff — have attributed the mines to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the Trump administration designated a terrorist organization in early April. Yet, recent events in the Persian Gulf suggest that the sea mines likely responsible for the attack may not have been of Iranian origin.

Why it’s unlikely to be Iran

Before delving into the definite possibility that the mines in question were not of Iranian origin at all, it is worth considering that even if the mine(s) that were allegedly used in the tanker “sabotage” were Iranian, they had not been planted recently by Iranian forces.

First, in the event that these were floating mines, the preparation made for the deployment of mines is often detected well before the mines are even seabound. Placing mines at sea is a massive logistical undertaking involving multiple steps that allow adversaries to detect and disrupt their deployment well in advance.

As Bob O’Donnell, a retired Navy Captain and veteran minesweeper, told Breaking Defense in 2015, the first step involves removing mines from storage facilities, given that “countries will have their mines in ammo dumps somewhere, [but] without any sensors in them. The first step is they take them out of the dumps and take them someplace where they put the sensors in.” As Breaking Defense noted, “the more mines they move, the more people and trucks they need, which makes it more likely someone will let something slip or that U.S. spy satellites will notice suspicious activity.” Then, the mines must be placed in the water, which is usually performed by ships, or aircraft or submarines in the case of specialized mines.

Given this, the lack of satellite images, which would have shown Iran’s military engaged in these types of activities that precede mine deployment, is telling. This is because Iran’s military and its movements are under heavy scrutiny from foreign governments and satellite images of alleged Iranian military or nuclear assets have frequently accompanied official narratives that push for more aggressive policies towards Iran.

For instance, satellite images that purported to show Iran’s “land bridge” from Tehran to the Mediterranean were recently released by a private Israeli company and satellite images of Iran’s nuclear facilities have often accompanied past media reports claiming that such sites have been the site of increased activity or accidents. Furthermore, a considerable part of the basis for the alleged Iranian “threat” to U.S. troops in the region, which has been the foundation for the recent rise in tensions, has also been based on satellite imagery. Those images claimed to show Iran moving missiles onto boats within their own territory. If private companies, the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence often use satellite imagery to back up their claims regarding Iran — particularly its use of military assets — the fact that such images are not present to back these claims of mine deployment is telling.

In addition, a significant portion of the mines in the Persian Gulf that are of Iranian origin are holdovers from conflicts of decades past, such as the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. During that period, Iran mined large swathes of the Persian Gulf and, in April 1988, an American ship — the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts — struck an Iranian sea mine, creating a 15-foot hole in the ship’s hull and nearly sinking it. Notably, this mine — which was considered unsophisticated at the time of that conflict — caused damage much more significant than caused by the mines believed to have been involved in the recent sabotage incident. Furthermore, Iran is unlikely to have sought to lay new mines given that the U.S. has previously warned that attempts to deploy mines in the area would prompt a military response.

This context leaves the following possibility for Iranian involvement in laying the mines: that Iran used small, unmarked boats to covertly lay a small number of mines (between one and four) to target a handful of commercial vessels near the Strait of Hormuz. This claim of “unmarked boats” has been made by several U.S. officials in recent weeks and is notable for the fact that the use of “unmarked boats” in no way insinuates Iranian culpability. In fact, the use of such boats makes it plausible that anyone could have laid the mines. This may explain why claims have also been made that the party responsible was an alleged proxy “either sympathetic to or working for” Iran.

Yet, even then, Iran has little or nothing to gain from this “sabotage” event, especially considering the logistical undertaking it would require to lay just a handful of mines in a busy commercial shipping zone without causing major damage. The only actual consequence of this event — following the U.S. designation of the IRGC, and following Bolton’s subsequent press release that laid a clear foundation for provoking war with Iran — is an increase of U.S. troops in the region and a further increase in the tensions that have caused considerable damage to the Iranian economy and arguably weakened the political standing of the “moderates” who currently govern Iran.

Artemis Trident

Given the increasingly slim evidence for Iran’s involvement in the sabotage, the mines in question could have come from another country’s military. Though such claims would normally be highly speculative, the fact that the Persian Gulf was the site of a major foreign military mine warfare drill just a few weeks before the attack lends credibility to such a possibility.

On April 15, just a week after the U.S. labeled Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization, Bolton received intelligence on the “credible threat” by Iran from his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, when the two met in Washington to discuss their “shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity & other destabilizing actors in the Middle East & around the world.” That same day, thousands of miles away in the Persian Gulf, a major naval drill known as “Artemis Trident” began among the navies of the U.S., the U.K. and France. The focus of that large naval drill, which ended on April 18, was sea mine warfare in the Persian Gulf.

An Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician is hoisted onto a helicopter after performing mine response procedures during Artemis Trident/ Photo | Dvids

“Laying [mines] poses a risk to naval ships as well as merchant shipping vessels,” the U.S. Fifth Fleet said in an announcement, which continued:

As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, the U.S., France, and United Kingdom are dedicated to conducting tactical training to counter the risk of mines in order to support the continued free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation in this critical region.”

Though the militaries involved described the drill as purely defensive in nature, the U.S. contingent included Naval Task Force 52, which — according to the U.S. Navy — “plans and executes mine warfare operations in support of U.S. 5th Fleet operational objectives.” In the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Fifth Fleet has bases both in Bahrain — where Artemis Trident took place — and in Fujairah, where the now infamous “sabotage” incident took place just a few weeks later.

Not long after the U.S., the U.K. and France had concluded Artemis Trident, the U.S. Maritime Administration — a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation — stated that “Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf.” This warning came just days before the “sabotage” incident and just a few weeks after the U.S/U.K./France drill aimed at protecting “merchant shipping vessels” from mines had concluded.

As MintPress previously reported, the U.S. Department of Transportation is currently headed by Elaine Chao, a known Iran-hawk who was paid $50,000 for a five-minute speech to the Iranian exile group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), known to actively seek regime change for Iran. Other top U.S. officials, such as Bolton, have also been paid hefty sums for appearances and speeches at MEK events, where they have openly advocated for the overthrow of the Iranian government.

The naval exercise was one of the first major naval exercises of the Fifth Fleet to take place after the sudden, mysterious death of the fleet’s commander, Admiral Scott Stearney, last December. Stearney was found dead in his home in Bahrain and the death has been labeled an “apparent suicide” and is still being jointly investigated by the Navy and Bahrain, with no new conclusions nearly six months after the fact. Stearney was known for opposing a major escalation with Iran even though he was routinely critical of what he called Iran’s “destabilizing” role in the region.

The presence of foreign, particularly U.S., mine-laying ships and divers in the region close to the same time frame as the “sabotage” incident makes it a definite possibility that the mines in question could have been American, British or French — not Iranian — in origin. In that case, the mines either could have been accidentally left over from that drill or intentionally set after the fact, given that the hardware and specialized naval vessels used in deploying mines were all present at the time of the “sabotage” incident.

While the evidence for this is circumstantial, it is worth pointing out that the same evidence being used to link Iran to the same mines is just as circumstantial and arguably less convincing, given the lack of any benefit derived from this “sabotage” attack from the Iranian point of view.

A poor man’s Gulf of Tonkin?

While it is far from certain where these mines originated or who placed them, it is clear that there is hardly any substantial evidence — based on what is publicly available — that would link the mines directly to Iran or an “Iran-backed proxy.” The small scale of the attack, the alleged use of “unmarked boats,” the timing, and the lack of any strategic or tactical benefit from the attack make the Iranian government and its military an unlikely culprit.

The fact that so much attention is being given to an incident that sunk no ship and caused no injuries or fatalities should make it clear to any thinking person that the fixation on the tanker sabotage is not driven by any real threat and is merely a pretext for Iran hawks in the U.S. and the region to ratchet up tensions — something like a poor man’s Gulf of Tonkin.

Bolton’s statements assigning direct blame for the incident — and the related and equally minor incident of a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline by Yemen’s resistance movement — to Iran a day prior to the Saudi-hosted “emergency” summit on this incident are clearly meant as a signal to governments in the area. Though Bolton claimed that his public statement was directed at the “leadership in Iran,” more likely targets were the governments of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other attendees of the summit who have still failed to follow the U.S.’ lead in blaming Iran for the incident.

It seems more than likely that a major effort will be made on Thursday to develop a consensus blaming Iran for these and potential future incidents in the region, as Bolton and his allies make the case for an even more aggressive Iran policy. Indeed, Bolton noted Wednesday that the goal of the upcoming summit was “to make it clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kind of activities risk a very strong response from the Americans.”

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

May 29, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , | 3 Comments

Palestinian cabinet not consulted on US-led Bahrain summit, PM says

Press TV – May 20, 2019

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says his government has not been consulted about an economic conference that the United States will hold in Bahrain next month.

The White House announced on Sunday that the first part of President Donald Trump’s so-called “peace plan,” which is spearheaded by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, will be unveiled in Bahrain’s capital, Manama.

The US will host the economic conference on June 25 and 26 to purportedly encourage investment in the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

“The cabinet wasn’t consulted about the reported workshop, neither over the content, nor the outcome, nor timing,” Shtayyed told Palestinian ministers in the presence of reporters on Monday.

Relations between the Palestinian Authority and the US took an unprecedented dip in late 2017, when Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital.”

The Trump administration has said that its secret plan, which has been dismissed by Palestinian authorities even before being unveiled, would require compromise by both sides.

‘We don’t trade our political rights’

The Palestinian Authority is facing steep aid cuts. Since being shunned by Palestinians, Trump’s administration has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars to humanitarian organizations.

“The financial crisis the Palestinian Authority is living through today is a result of the financial war that is being launched against us in order to win political concessions,” Shtayyeh said.

“We do not submit to blackmail and we don’t trade our political rights for money,” he added.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. However, Israel insist on maintaining the occupation of Palestinian territories.

‘High treason’

Also reacting to news of the upcoming conference, Bahrain’s main opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, has described the US “deal of the century” as a plan to sell Jerusalem al-Quds and Palestine, slamming it as “high treason,” the Arabic-language Lualua television network reported.

The group criticized the ruling Al Khalifah regime for hosting the conference, saying that is a departure from all national, Islamic and humanitarian principles.

Al-Wefaq further said the Bahraini people are opposed to the “desecration” of their country and efforts for converting it into a “station” to sign a new version of the Balfour Declaration – the document that led to Israel’s creation.

The group noted that the Al Khalifah regime’s move to host the “disastrous project” is no surprise, adding Manama’s recent rapprochement with the Israeli regime comes as it “lacks popular legitimacy” and seeks international support in an attempt to sustain its legitimacy.

Al-Wefaq called on all Bahrains and “free governments” to reject the initiative and stop the “dangerous development” from proceeding.

May 20, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment

Canada Gets Cozy with Repressive Middle East Monarchies

By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice | April 26, 2019

While Justin Trudeau’s government embraces repressive Middle East monarchies, they want us to believe their campaign to oust Venezuela’s government is motivated by support for democracy and human rights.

On a tour of the Middle East last week Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan met his United Arab Emirates counterpart Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi in Abu Dhabi. According to Emirates News Agency, Canadian and UAE officials discussed “cooperation in the military and defence sectors” at a time when the oil rich nation plays a key role in the horrendous violence in Yemen.

The Trudeau government is promoting arm sales to the UAE and other regional monarchies. With support from “15 trade commissioners and representatives from the Government of Ontario, National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Commercial Corporation”, 50 Canadian arms companies flogged their wares at the Abu Dhabi-based International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in February. To help the arms companies move their wares, Commander of the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Darren Garnier, led a Canadian military delegation to IDEX.

During his recent tour Sajjan met King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Jordan. He discussed military cooperation with a monarch known for prosecuting individuals for “extending one’s tongue” (having a big mouth) against the King. At the end of March, Trudeau phoned King Abdullah II.

On April 9 the Canadian and Jordanian armed forces broke ground on a road project along the Jordanian-Syrian border. During a ceremony for the Canadian-funded initiative Commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command, Lieutenant General Michael Rouleau, said: “this important road rehabilitation project is a tangible example of the close relationship between Jordan and Canada. It will help keep the people of Jordan safe by allowing the Jordanian armed forces to deter, monitor and interdict incursions along the northern border with Syria, which will help to enhance security in Jordan and in the region.”

On his Middle East tour Sajjan also met Kuwait’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who is part of a family that has ruled for 250 years. According to the Kuwait News Agency, Canada’s defence minister “stressed deep relations between Kuwait and Canada and pointed out mutual willingness to bolster and consolidate bilateral ties.”

Earlier in the month finance minister Bill Morneau and Parliamentary Secretary Omar Alghabra participated in the inaugural Kuwait and Canada Investment Forum. At the time Alghabra wrote, “let’s celebrate and continue our efforts to grow the relationship between Canada and Kuwait in investments, trade and defence.”

Military ties with Kuwait are important because the Canadian forces have a small base there. In December the Canadian Navy took command of Combined Task Force 150 from their Saudi counterparts. Canada also has a small number of troops in the monarchies of Bahrain, the UAE and Qatar.

Last month Canada’s Ambassador to Qatar Stefanie McCollum boasted of growing relations between the countries, claiming “our values structures are very similar.” In an interview with Al Bawaba the Canadian diplomat also said Ottawa is seeking to deepen business ties with the natural gas rich monarchy and that the two countries are in the final stage of signing a defence cooperation agreement.

Notwithstanding the diplomatic spat last summer, the Trudeau government has mostly continued business as usual with the most powerful and repressive monarchy in the region. Recently foreign minister Chrystia Freeland looked the other way when Saudi student Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi fled Canada — presumably with help from the embassy — to avoid sexual assault charges in Cape Breton. While Freeland told reporters that Global Affairs was investigating the matter, Halifax Chronicle Herald journalist Aaron Beswick’s Access to Information request suggests they didn’t even bother contacting the Saudi embassy concerning the matter.

According to an access request by PhD researcher Anthony Fenton, Freeland phoned new Saudi foreign minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf in January. In briefing notes for the (unannounced) discussion Freeland was encouraged to tell her counterpart (under the headline “points to register” regarding Yemen): “Appreciate the hard work and heavy lifting by the Saudis and encourage ongoing efforts in this regard.”

Despite their devastating war in Yemen and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia continues to receive large shipments of Canadian weaponry. 2018 was a record year for Canadian rifle and armoured vehicle sales to the Saudis. $17.64 million in rifles were exported to the kingdom last year and another $1.896 million worth of guns were delivered in February. In the first month of this year Canada exported $367 million worth of “tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to the Saudis.

As Fenton has documented in detail on his highly informative Twitter handle, armoured vehicles made by Canadian company Streit Group in the UAE have been repeatedly videoed in Yemen. Equipment from three other Canadian armoured vehicle makers – Terradyne, IAG Guardian and General Dynamics – was found with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition used Canadian-made rifles as well.

On Tuesday the Saudis beheaded 37 mostly minority Shiites. Ottawa waited 48 hours — after many other countries criticized the mass execution — to release a “muted” statement. The Trudeau government has stayed mum on the Saudi’s recent effort to derail pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria as well as Riyadh’s funding for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s bid to seize Tripoli by force.

The close and friendly relationships between the Trudeau government and repressive Middle East monarchies demonstrates how little the Liberals care about democracy abroad and illustrates the hypocrisy of Canada’s claims that its efforts to oust Venezuela’s government is all about supporting democracy.

Yves Engler is the author of 10 books, including A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation.

April 27, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli businessmen, officials cancel Bahrain visit amid national outcry

Press TV – April 15, 2019

An Israeli delegation of merchants and officials has canceled its planned participation in a business conference in Bahrain amid growing national outcry over the Persian Gulf kingdom’s warming ties with the Tel Aviv regime following years of clandestine contacts.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Economy Ministry said a planned visit to Bahrain this week by Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen had been “delayed because of political issues.”

A group of around 30 Israeli business executives and regime officials was scheduled to participate in the event, which is organized by the US- based Global Entrepreneurship Network and will run in Manama from April 15 to 18.

At least three Israeli speakers, including the Israel Innovation Authority’s deputy chief, Anya Eldan, were scheduled to speak at the event.

“While we advised the Israeli delegation they would be welcome, they decided this morning not to come due to security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption for the other 180 nations participating,” the organization’s president Jonathan Ortmans told Reuters.

Earlier this month, Bahrain’s most prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim strongly denounced the Manama regime’s decision to host an Israeli delegation in the business conference.

“Hosting and greeting the Zionists at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, is a bold step on a dishonorable path; that of humiliation, capitulation and shamelessness,” he said in a statement carried by the Arabic-language Lua Lua television network.

Sheikh Qassim further underlined that the Israeli regime tops the list of Muslim world’s enemies, and that Manama’s plan to host Israeli delegates was in line with its attempts to compromise and normalize ties with the enemy.

This is a clear sign of the Manama regime’s disregard for Islam and the will of the nation, the top cleric pointed out.

Last month, members of the Bahrain parliament issued a statement, rejecting the visit.

“Parliament stresses its support for the just cause of the brotherly Palestinian people, and it will remain a priority for the Bahraini and Arab people,” the statement read.

It added, “The end of the Israeli occupation and the withdrawal from all Arab land is an absolute necessity for the stability and security of the region and for a fair and comprehensive peace.”

Some street protests were also held in Manama in condemnation of the planned visit.

Russia’s RT Arabic television news network reported on March 4 that Abdullah ibn Muhammad Al ash-Sheikh, the speaker of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly, together with his Emirati and Egyptian counterparts had opposed a paragraph in the final communiqué of the 29th Conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Jordanian capital city of Amman, which demanded an end to efforts aimed at normalizing ties with Israel and condemned all forms of rapprochement with the occupying regime.

The paragraph stated that “one of the most important steps to support Palestinian brethren requires the cessation of all forms of rapprochement and normalization with the Israeli occupiers. Therefore, we call for resilience and steadfastness by blocking all the doors of normalization with Israel.”

On February 17, a report published by Israeli Channel 13 television network said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had held a “secret meeting” with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita last September.

Additionally, the Warsaw conference, a US-sponsored gathering that was held in the Polish capital on February 13-14, brought together Netanyahu and representatives from a number of Arab states, including Oman, Morocco, Saudi Arabic, the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

The Israeli regime also recently re-launched a “virtual embassy” in a bid to “promote dialogue” with the Persian Gulf Arab states.

April 15, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment