“The Middle East is war-torn and conflict-ridden as a direct result of meddling US imperialism over seven decades since the end of World War Two. Under Trump, the usual American recklessness is going nuclear.”
Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages
June 17, 2019
US media reports have claimed that China is helping to expand Saudi Arabia’s ballistic missile arsenal. The implication from the US media is that Beijing is recklessly stoking tensions in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
China has denied it is involved in supplying the Saudis with ballistic technology. However, various US “experts” are cited by American media claiming that satellite images indicate that alleged ballistic missile sites in Saudi Arabia appear to be sourced from China.
Given the bombed-out credibility of US media, as demonstrated by a myriad of subjects, from alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to hysterical, baseless claims about “Russian meddling” in elections, the watchword here is very much “skepticism” towards American media reports.
What seems immediately incongruous about the purported Chinese ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia is the fact that Beijing has otherwise shown itself to be a stalwart ally of Iran in recent years. China is a major importer of Iranian oil as well as investor in exploring Iran’s vast natural gas reserves. Looking to the future, China and Iran view each other as strategic partners for mutual development. Iran has embraced the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” linking Eurasian economies, and will be a pivotal player in paving the new silk trade routes between Asia and Europe.
After the Trump administration unilaterally trashed the 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran, China has, along with Russia, been a staunch advocate for upholding the treaty. China continues to buy Iranian exports of crude oil despite Washington’s threats of punitive sanctions.
In this geopolitical context, it therefore seems doubtful, if not implausible, that China would put its strategic relationship with Iran at risk by allegedly supplying ballistic missiles to Iran’s archenemy Saudi Arabia. Beijing would be well aware that Tehran would view such a development as a form of treachery, thus jeopardizing the strategic partnership between Iran and China.
It is true that Saudi Arabia is also a major oil exporter to China’s voracious consumer market. All’s fair in business, we may suppose. But for Beijing to start supplying ballistic missiles to the Saudis, especially at such a precarious time for Iran, seems like a conceptual bridge too far.
The other thing is that the Iranians have not publicly expressed any misgivings about the reports alleging China’s support for Saudi missile development. That suggests the reports are baseless, just as the Chinese government has been insisting.
So, what is going on here?
It seems significant that Washington is in the midst of a trade-war showdown with China. The trade war is only part of a bigger geo-strategic confrontation between the waning American empire and re-emerging powers such as China and Russia.
Trump is demanding China make major concessions to benefit the US economy.
It is thus in Washington’s interest to try every dirty trick as a way to undermine China, just as it has done with Russia over any number of slanderous claims.
China being blamed for stoking Middle East tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran would fit the bill for a campaign of media slander.
The irony of this, of course, is that it’s Washington that is the party which is actually inflaming tensions in the region.
The Trump administration is provoking Iran with military threats, baseless accusations about “sponsoring terrorism” and strangling the nation with illegal sanctions, otherwise known as “economic terrorism”.
Not only that, but the Trump administration is piling billions of dollars of weapons into Saudi Arabia in defiance of the US Congress imposing restrictions due to the horror of the Saudi air war in Yemen and atrocious human rights conditions within the kingdom.
Furthermore – and this is astounding in its recklessness – the Trump administration appears to be helping Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons. There are credible reports that President Trump is permitting US nuclear power companies to share sensitive technology with the Saudis that could be used in the future to build weapons of mass destruction. Such a move is in violation of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) forbidding nuclear-armed powers from propagating this weaponry.
(Bear in the mind too that this is the same US administration which has discarded the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia and is set to do likewise with the New START treaty governing intercontinental weapons.)
This is the real scandal about Middle East tensions. The Trump administration is willfully and illegally changing the strategic balance in the region by seemingly paving the way for Saudi Arabia to obtain nuclear weapons. If that transpires, then Iran may have to, by necessity, forego its non-nuclear doctrine and eventually build the bomb as a matter of survival given the existential threat posed by the Wahhabi Saudi regime and its irrational hostility towards Shia Iran.
The recent alignment between Saudi rulers and US historically nuclear-armed Israel – cemented by the Trump White House – is further cause for apprehension in Tehran.
The Trump administration is criminally fueling an arms race and even more conflicts in the Middle East; possibly a cataclysmic war. But, in truth, this has always been the pernicious role of the US in this blighted region. The Middle East is war-torn and conflict-ridden as a direct result of meddling US imperialism over seven decades since the end of World War Two. Under Trump, the usual American recklessness is going nuclear.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
US President Donald Trump has announced he would deploy about 1,500 American troops to the Middle East region for “mostly protective” reasons, amid escalating tensions with Iran.
“We want to have protection in the Middle East. We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump said on Friday as he left the White House for a trip to Japan.
“Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we’ll see what happens,” he said, with providing details what he really meant by “very talented people”.
The Pentagon said only about 900 of the 1500 troops will be newly deployed. It said the other 600 are already in the Middle East region and will be extended.
The US Defense Department added that the deployment approved by the US president includes Patriot missile batteries, reconnaissance planes and troops.
Members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting on Thursday where the Pentagon’s proposals to bolster US military presence in the Middle East were discussed.
A senior Trump administration official earlier on Friday told CNN that Trump has approved the deployment of “additional military resources” to the Persian Gulf.
The US began reinforcing its presence in the Persian Gulf region this month in response to alleged threats from Iran. Tehran has slammed the US move as psychological warfare.
But only on Thursday, Trump said he did not think additional American troops were needed in the Middle East.
“I don’t think we’re going to need them,” he told reporters. “I really don’t. I would certainly send troops if we need them.”
Earlier on Thursday, acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan confirmed that the Pentagon was considering deploying additional American troops to the Middle East.
“What we’re looking at is: Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?” Shanahan said speaking to reporters outside the Pentagon. “It may involve sending additional troops.”
However, Shanahan rejected media reports claiming specific numbers of troops were being considered by the Pentagon, saying: “As soon as there’s a change, I’ll give you an update.”
US officials speaking to various media outlets on Wednesday said the White House would decide whether to approve the plan to send about 5,000 troops to the Middle East while some media outlets reported that up to 10,000 could be deployed.
“I got up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East, and then I read more recently that there was 5,0000,” Shanahan said. “There is no 10,000 and there is no 5,000.”
Trump has resorted to blacklisting the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in the wake of withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and tightening sanctions against Tehran.
Iran has time and again asserted that it is not seeking war but stands ready to defend its interests in the region.
Iran has played down Washington’s belligerent posture, ruling out the possibility of war between the US and Iran.
The US government has approved the deployment of a Patriot missile defence battery and another warship to the Middle East amid increasing tensions between the US and Iran.
The USS Arlington, which transports marines, amphibious vehicles, and rotary aircraft, as well as the Patriot missiles, will join the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which already passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Thursday, and is currently sailing in the Red Sea, according to CNN.
The US says the deployments of military hardware to the region comes in response to “heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations”.
The Patriot missile system is a defence mechanism against aircraft, drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, and is currently deployed in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The Acting Secretary of Defense has approved the movement of USS Arlington (LPD-24) and a Patriot battery to US Central Command (CENTCOM) as part of the command’s original request for forces from earlier this week,” a Pentagon statement said.
USS Arlington is an amphibious transport dock carrying hundreds of Marines [Bebeto Matthews/AP]
Manufactured by Raytheon, the Patriot is used by the US and several allied nations [File: EPA]
Earlier in the week, a US air force bomber task force, including B-52 bombers, also arrived at the US airbase Al Udeid in Qatar, US Central Command said.
“The Department of Defense continues to closely monitor the activities of the Iranian regime, their military and proxies. Due to operational security, we will not discuss timelines or location of forces. The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but we are postured and ready to defend US forces and interests in the region,” the statement added.
The B-52 is a long-range bomber designed and built by Boeing [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]
Iran has dismissed the moves as “psychological warfare” designed to intimidate it.
In an advisory posted on Thursday, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) said that since early May there had been an increased possibility of Iran or its regional proxies taking action against US and partner interests.
These included, MARAD said, oil production infrastructure, after Tehran threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz chokepoint in the Arabian Gulf through which about a fifth of oil consumed globally passes.
“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf,” MARAD said.
“Reporting indicates heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and interests.”
Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated sharply in recent weeks.
The US unilaterally backed out of a 2015 nuclear pact in May 2018, effectively giving countries worldwide a year to stop buying Iranian oil or face US sanctions, which Washington says are aimed at completely choking off Iranian crude exports.
Washington last month blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group.
US officials say they have detected indications that Iran could be preparing a military response.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters news agency, officials say one of the pieces of intelligence indicated Iran had moved missiles on boats, with giving details of the claim.
One of the officials said the particular missile observed was perhaps capable of launching from a small ship.
The officials also noted growing concerns about the threat from Iran-backed militia in Iraq, which have long avoided any confrontation with US troops under the shared goal of defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS).
Rhetoric has grown heated on both sides.
Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad in the city of Isfahan as saying: “Their billion dollar fleet can be destroyed with one missile.
“If they attempt any move, they will … (face) dozens of missiles because at that time (government) officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” he said on Friday.
Thousands of Iranians took part in marches on Friday to support the government’s decision to reduce limits on its nuclear programme. Iran has threatened to go further if other parties to the 2015 deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – fail to shield it from US sanctions.
Iranian TV channels showed protesters marching after Friday prayers in Tehran and said similar marches had been held across Iran.
A new study from Brown University’s Costs of War Project found that the U.S. “War on Terror” has killed half a million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The United States’ so-called War on Terror has killed about half a million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according to a new estimate from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute.
“This update just scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war.” —Neta C. Crawford, The Costs of War Project
“This new body count signals that, far from diminishing, the war is only intensifying,” Stephanie Savell, co-director of the project, pointed out in a piece for Axios. The overall death toll “is an increase of 113,000 over the last count, issued just two years ago.”
The new report (pdf) estimates that since 2001, between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed because of war violence in those three nations—a tally that does not include “the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011, which the U.S. joined in August 2014,” and “indirect deaths,” or those killed by war’s impact on public health, such as limiting access to food, water, hospitals, and electricity.
The “direct deaths” accounted for in the estimate include U.S. military, contractors, and Defense Department employees; national military and police as well as other allied troops; opposition fighters; civilians; journalists; and aid workers. About half of those killed were civilians—between 244,000 and 266,000 across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Up to 204,000 of them were Iraqis.
While the U.S. government has repeatedly underestimated the costs of waging war, since the project launched in 2011, its team has aimed to provide a full account of the “human, economic, and political costs” of post-9/11 U.S. military action in the Middle East, “and to foster better informed public policies.”
Outlining some expressed goals from a handful of House Democrats, Savell wrote for Axios:
Research shows that governments become more careful when civilian deaths from “collateral damage” are reported on. A wave of Democrats now in control of the House plan to push for just that. Representative Ro Khanna says he wants to hold as many as three days of hearings with Trump’s national security team to “justify, for the American people, what our mission is, what the costs are, what the risks are, and why we’re there.” Representative Adam Smith, poised to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, plans to increase oversight of the military, and others led by Representative Barbara Lee hope to end the war in Afghanistan.
Regardless of how Democrats in the House proceed, Neta C. Crawford, a Boston University political science professor who co-directs the Costs of War Project, argued in the report’s conclusion that there is a need to keep the public more informed about the consequences of the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East in order to drive demands for improving U.S. foreign policy.
“This update just scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war,” Crawford wrote. “Too often, legislators, NGOs, and the news media that try to track the consequences of the wars are inhibited by governments determined to paint a rosy picture of perfect execution and progress.”
“The U.S. has made some effort to increase transparency,” she acknowledged, “but there are a number of areas—the number of civilians killed and injured, and the number of U.S. military and veteran suicides, for instance—where greater transparency would lead to greater accountability and could lead to better policy.”
Responding to the report’s findings, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif drew attention to the human and financial consequences, tweeting: “Cost to U.S. taxpayers: 7K dead Americans + $5.6 trillion. Cost to MidEast: Unfathomable.”
Among the more interesting revelations to surface as legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh continues a book tour and gives interviews discussing his newly published autobiography, Reporter: A Memoir,is that he never set out to write it at all, but was actually deeply engaged in writing a massive exposé of Dick Cheney — a project he decided couldn’t ultimately be published in the current climate of aggressive persecution of whistleblowers which became especially intense during the Obama years.
Hersh has pointed out he worries his sources risk exposure while taking on the Cheney book, which ultimately resulted in the famed reporter opting to write an in-depth account of his storied career instead — itself full of previously hidden details connected with major historical events and state secrets.
In a recent wide-ranging interview with the UK Independent, Hersh is finally asked to discuss in-depth some of the controversial investigative stories he’s written on Syria, Russia-US intelligence sharing, and the Osama bin Laden death narrative, which have gotten the Pulitzer Prize winner and five-time Polk Award recipient essentially blacklisted from his regular publication, TheNewYorker magazine, for which he broke stories of monumental importance for decades.
Though few would disagree that Hersh “has single-handedly broken more stories of genuine world-historical significance than any reporter alive (or dead, perhaps)”— as The Nation put it— the man who exposed shocking cover-ups like the My Lai Massacre, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and the truth behind the downing of Korean Air Flight 007, has lately been shunned and even attacked by the American mainstream media especially over his controversial coverage of Syria and the bin Laden raid in 2011.
The Post story begins by acknowledging,“But Sy Hersh now has a problem: He thinks 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue lied about the death of Osama bin Laden, and it seems nearly everyone is mad at him for saying so”— before proceeding to take a sledgehammer to Hersh’s findings while painting him as some kind of conspiracy theorist (Hersh published the bin Laden story for the London Review of Books after his usual New Yorker rejected it).
However, the mainstream pundits piling on against his reporting of late ignore the clearly establish historical pattern when it comes to Hersh: nearly all of the biggest stories of his career were initially met with incredulity and severe push back from both government officials and even his fellow journalists, and yet he’s managed to emerge proven right and ultimately vindicated time and again.
* * *
Here are ten bombshell revelations and fascinating new details to lately come out of both Sy Hersh’s new book, Reporter, as well as interviews he’s given since publication…
1) On a leaked Bush-era intelligence memo outlining the neocon plan to remake the Middle East
(Note: though previously alluded to only anecdotally by General Wesley Clark in his memoir and in a 2007 speech, the below passage from Seymour Hersh is to our knowledge the first time this highly classified memo has been quoted. Hersh’s account appears to corroborate now retired Gen. Clark’s assertion that days after 9/11 a classified memo outlining plans to foster regime change in “7 countries in 5 years” was being circulated among intelligence officials.)
From Reporter: A Memoir pg. 306 — A few months after the invasion of Iraq, during an interview overseas with a general who was director of a foreign intelligence service, I was provided with a copy of a Republican neocon plan for American dominance in the Middle East. The general was an American ally, but one who was very rattled by the Bush/Cheney aggression. I was told that the document leaked to me initially had been obtained by someone in the local CIA station. There was reason to be rattled: The document declared that the war to reshape the Middle East had to begin “with the assault on Iraq. The fundamental reason for this… is that the war will start making the U.S. the hegemon of the Middle East. The correlative reason is to make the region feel in its bones, as it were, the seriousness of American intent and determination.” Victory in Iraq would lead to an ultimatum to Damascus, the “defanging” of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, and other anti-Israeli groups. America’s enemies must understand that “they are fighting for their life: Pax Americana is on its way, which implies their annihilation.” I and the foreign general agreed that America’s neocons were a menace to civilization.
* * *
2) On early regime change plans in Syria
From Reporter: A Memoir pages 306-307 — Donald Rumsfeld was also infected with neocon fantasy. Turkey had refused to permit America’s Fourth Division to join the attack of Iraq from its territory, and the division, with its twenty-five thousand men and women, did not arrive in force inside Iraq until mid-April, when the initial fighting was essentially over. I learned then that Rumsfeld had asked the American military command in Stuttgart, Germany, which had responsibility for monitoring Europe, including Syria and Lebanon, to begin drawing up an operational plan for an invasion of Syria.A young general assigned to the task refused to do so, thereby winning applause from my friends on the inside and risking his career. The plan was seen by those I knew as especially bizarre because Bashar Assad, the ruler of secular Syria, had responded to 9/11 by sharing with the CIA hundreds of his country’s most sensitive intelligence files on the Muslim Brotherhood in Hamburg, where much of the planning for 9/11 was carried out… Rumsfeld eventually came to his senses and back down, I was told…
3) On the Neocon deep state which seized power after 9/11
From Reporter: A Memoir pages 305-306 — I began to comprehend that eight or nine neoconservatives who were political outsiders in the Clinton years had essentially overthrown the government of the United States — with ease. It was stunning to realize how fragile our Constitution was. The intellectual leaders of that group — Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle — had not hidden their ideology and their belief in the power of the executive but depicted themselves in public with a great calmness and a self-assurance that masked their radicalism. I had spent many hours after 9/11 in conversations with Perle that, luckily for me, helped me understand what was coming. (Perle and I had been chatting about policy since the early 1980s, but he broke off relations in 1993 over an article I did for The New Yorker linking him, a fervent supporter of Israel, to a series of meetings with Saudi businessmen in an attempt to land a multibillion-dollar contract from Saudi Arabia. Perle responded by publicly threatening to sue me and characterizing me as a newspaper terrorist. He did not sue.
Meanwhile, Cheney had emerged as a leader of the neocon pack. From 9/11 on he did all he could to undermine congressional oversight. I learned a great deal from the inside about his primacy in the White House, but once again I was limited in what I would write for fear of betraying my sources…
I came to understand that Cheney’s goal was to run his most important military and intelligence operations with as little congressional knowledge, and interference, as possible. I was fascinating and important to learn what I did about Cheney’s constant accumulation of power and authority as vice president, but it was impossible to even begin to verify the information without running the risk that Cheney would learn of my questioning and have a good idea from whom I was getting the information.
4) On Russian meddling in the US election
From the recent Independent interview based on his autobiography — Hersh has vociferously strong opinions on the subject and smells a rat. He states that there is “a great deal of animosity towards Russia. All of that stuff about Russia hacking the election appears to be preposterous.” He has been researching the subject but is not ready to go public… yet.
Hersh quips that the last time he heard the US defense establishment have high confidence, it was regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He points out that the NSA only has moderate confidence in Russian hacking. It is a point that has been made before; there has been no national intelligence estimate in which all 17 US intelligence agencies would have to sign off. “When the intel community wants to say something they say it… High confidence effectively means that they don’t know.”
5) On the Novichok poisoning
From the recent Independent interview — Hersh is also on the record as stating that the official version of the Skripal poisoning does not stand up to scrutiny. He tells me: “The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.” The unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims is suggestive, according to Hersh, of organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions –though this files in the face of the UK government’s position.
Hersh modestly points out that these are just his opinions. Opinions or not, he is scathing on Obama – “a trimmer … articulate [but] … far from a radical … a middleman”. During his Goldsmiths talk, he remarks that liberal critics underestimate Trump at their peril.
He ends the Goldsmiths talk with an anecdote about having lunch with his sources in the wake of 9/11. He vents his anger at the agencies for not sharing information. One of his CIA sources fires back: “Sy you still don’t get it after all these years – the FBI catches bank robbers, the CIA robs banks.” It is a delicious, if cryptic aphorism.
* * *
6) On the Bush-era ‘Redirection’ policy of arming Sunni radicals to counter Shia Iran, which in a 2007 New Yorker article Hersh accurately predicted would set off war in Syria
From the Independent interview: [Hersh] tells me it is “amazing how many times that story has been reprinted”. I ask about his argument that US policy was designed to neutralize the Shia sphere extending from Iran to Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and hence redraw the Sykes-Picot boundaries for the 21st century.
He goes on to say that Bush and Cheney “had it in for Iran”, although he denies the idea that Iran was heavily involved in Iraq: “They were providing intel, collecting intel … The US did many cross-border hunts to kill ops [with] much more aggression than Iran”…
He believes that the Trump administration has no memory of this approach. I’m sure though that the military-industrial complex has a longer memory…
I press him on the RAND and Stratfor reports including one authored by Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz in which they envisage deliberate ethno-sectarian partitioning of Iraq. Hersh ruefully states that: “The day after 9/11 we should have gone to Russia. We did the one thing that George Kennan warned us never to do – to expand NATO too far.”
* * *
7) On the official 9/11 narrative
From the Independent interview: We end up ruminating about 9/11, perhaps because it is another narrative ripe for deconstruction by sceptics. Polling shows that a significant proportion of the American public believes there is more to the truth. These doubts have been reinforced by the declassification of the suppressed 28 pages of the 9/11 commission report last year undermining the version that a group of terrorists acting independently managed to pull off the attacks. The implication is that they may well have been state-sponsored with the Saudis potentially involved.
Hersh tells me: “I don’t necessarily buy the story that Bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. We really don’t have an ending to the story. I’ve known people in the [intelligence] community. We don’t know anything empirical about who did what”. He continues: “The guy was living in a cave. He really didn’t know much English. He was pretty bright and he had a lot of hatred for the US. We respond by attacking the Taliban. Eighteen years later… How’s it going guys?”
8) On the media and the morality of the powerful
From a recent The Intercept interview and book review—If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story. Two hundred and seventy-four pages after the Chicago anecdote, he describes his coverage of a massive slaughter of Iraqi troops and civilians by the U.S. in 1991 after a ceasefire had ended the Persian Gulf War. America’s indifference to this massacre was, Hersh writes, “a reminder of the Vietnam War’s MGR, for Mere Gook Rule: If it’s a murdered or raped gook, there is no crime.” It was also, he adds, a reminder of something else: “I had learned a domestic version of that rule decades earlier” in Chicago.
“Reporter” demonstrates that Hersh has derived three simple lessons from that rule:
The powerful prey mercilessly upon the powerless, up to and including mass murder.
The powerful lie constantly about their predations.
The natural instinct of the media is to let the powerful get away with it.
* * *
9)On the time President Lyndon B. Johnson expressed his displeasure to a reporter over a Vietnam piece by defecating on the ground in front of him
From Reporter: A Memoir pages 201-202 — Tom [Wicker] got into the car and the two of them sped off down a dusty dirt road. No words were spoken. After a moment or two, Johnson once again slammed on the brakes, wheeling to a halt near a stand of trees. Leaving the motor running, he climbed out, walked a few dozen feet toward the trees, stopped, pulled down his pants, and defecated, in full view. The President wiped himself with leaves and grass, pulled up his pants, climbed into the car, turned in around, and sped back to the press gathering. Once there, again the brakes were slammed on, and Tom was motioned out. All of this was done without a word being spoken.
…”I knew then,” Tom told me, “that the son of a bitch was never going to end the war.”
10) On Sy’s “most troublesome article” for which his own family received death threats
From Reporter: A Memoir pages 263-264 — The most troublesome article I did, as someone not on the staff of the newspaper, came in June 1986 and dealt with American signals intelligence showing that General Manuel Antonio Noriega, the dictator who ran Panama, had authorized the assassination of a popular political opponent. At the time, Noriega was actively involved in supplying the Reagan administration with what was said to be intelligence on the spread of communism in Central America. Noriega also permitted American military and intelligence units to operate with impunity, in secret, from bases in Panama, and the Americans, in return, looked the other way while the general dealt openly in drugs and arms. The story was published just as Noriega was giving a speech at Harvard University and created embarrassment for him, and for Harvard, along with a very disturbing telephone threat at home, directed not at me but at my family.
There is in fact a Middle Eastern nation that is in fact in control of a vast, undeclared stockpile of nuclear weapons. This nation does have the capability of deploying those weapons anywhere in the region. It is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and its arsenal has never been inspected by any international agency. But this nation is not Iran. It’s Israel.
Any meaningful political resolution to the turmoil in the Middle East now seems more elusive than ever…
Even in the context of a post-truth geopolitical environment run amok, Russian President Vladimir Putin telling his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over the phone that any further Western strikes against Syria may “lead to chaos in international relations” should at least be seen for what it is; a massive understatement.
According to the Kremlin, Putin and Rouhani agreed that what cynics are calling the F.U.K.U.S. – or France, UK, US – strikes have damaged the chances of achieving any meaningful political resolution in Syria.
That translates into Putin and Rouhani acknowledging that Washington, London and Paris are pulling no punches to be back in the game, directly clashing with the painstaking Astana peace process led by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Significantly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari reminded acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan, also over the phone, about “the necessity to prioritize finding a political solution and that the Syrian people alone should determine their own fate.”
This means essentially that the “4+1” – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – which were at the vanguard of destroying ISIS, or Islamic State, and other crypto-jihadi outfits in Syria, remain in synch. The counter-terror HQ of the “4+1” was in Baghdad. As much as Baghdad may harbor ideological divergences with Damascus, their common strategy is built upon the fight against Salafi-jihadis of all stripes.
Iraq, alongside Lebanon, was one of the very few nations across the Middle East that condemned the US-UK-France strikes. The GCC petrodollar club – led by the House of Saud – predictably supported it, as their agenda never strayed away from regime change.
Moscow, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad are showing a united front even as the alleged chemical attack in Douma – the reason for the strikes – is being forcefully debunked. Additionally, pesky questions remain unanswered on why more than 100 missiles were necessary to destroy only three largely empty state-run scientific centers in Damascus and Homs.
Even after Damascus and Baghdad declared victory, the Salafi-jihadi galaxy may be seriously wounded in both Syria and Iraq, but is not extinct. Turkey is still cultivating some nasty connections.
So the key variable in the Astana process – which involves complex economic and military trade offs – remains Ankara, which has no intention of abandoning its sprawling Syrian ops before subduing the Kurdish YPG all around.
Incidentally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unlike his partners, supported the strikes on Syria. At the same time, Erdogan is itching for the Russian S-400 missile system to be delivered to Turkey as soon as possible, much to the displeasure of NATO.
The real test for the Astana partners will be Idlib – which is already the subject of fierce negotiations. Iran’s special envoy for Syrian affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, is on the record as saying the next war objective is in fact Idlib.
Moscow has prodded Erdogan to deliver the Kurdish canton of Afrin – now run by the Turkish military – to Damascus. There’s no evidence – yet – this will be accepted. Russian forces did leave Afrin before the Turkish offensive. So the Turks, in reciprocity, should abandon their bases across Idlib as well.
The key takeaway is that the US-UK-France troika – not to mention the House of Saud – has absolutely no means to influence these developing facts on the ground.
Iran targeted by financial missiles
If the strikes on Syria have de facto added to the “chaos in international relations” alluded to by Putin, that may be just the opening compared to the main course; the fate of the JCPOA, aka the Iran nuclear deal, to be decided next month.
The European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, ahead of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg, was unequivocal: “The European Union has always made it clear that for us, keeping the agreement in place is vital. It is a strategic interest for the European Union and we will stick to it.”
Pointing to what, for all practical purposes, is a Trump administration May 12 deadline, Mogherini added: “We are doing all we can to work with our American friends to make sure that all parties stay fully committed to the full implementation of the agreement.”
Everyone in Brussels knows Tehran is fully complying with the JCPOA, as stated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 10 successive reports.
Still, France, Britain and Germany are dabbling with the notion of sanctions against Iranian “militias and commanders” fighting on the side of Damascus as a means to appease President Trump. Italy, backed by Austria, is vehemently against it.
The bottom line, as diplomats confirmed to Asia Times, is that Trump’s deadline to “fix” the JCPOA simply won’t be met. What really matters for individual EU nations, as discussed in diplomatic circles, is to increase lucrative business with Iran.
Restricted access to US dollars
All this is happening as Iranian central bank governor Valiollah Seif denounced what amounts to a financial missile strike: “Enemies outside of our borders, in various different guises, are fueling this issue and are going to some effort to make conditions tougher for the people.”
Valiollah was referring to the rial crisis. The Iranian currency was trading at 40,000 to the US dollar in 2017, but has just plunged to 60,000 rials to the dollar. Tehran hastily announced a plan to introduce a currency peg at 42,000 rials.
The widespread view in Tehran is that Wahhabi enemies Riyadh and the Emirates are restricting Tehran’s access to US dollars. Not to mention that some stiff Washington bank financing sanctions remain in effect.
Tehran is facing tough days ahead. Even with the EU remaining committed to the JCPOA, a new batch of Washington sanctions, enthusiastically pursued by John “Bomb Iran” Bolton, could eventually force as many as 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude out of the market.
If Washington withdraws – unilaterally – from the JCPOA, or insists on alterations Tehran deems unacceptable, Plan B is already on: Moscow and Beijing are willing and able to help Tehran reboot its civilian nuclear program.
That was discussed already in January by the Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Mohammad Ahmadian. China is actively considering the possibility of building small nuclear power plants in Iran.
All that points, once again, to the ongoing, massive Eurasia integration project – the cross-pollination of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EEU) – featuring, not by accident, the three key nodes: China, Russia and Iran.
And to add it all up, in this case the European arm of NATO even turned off the “aggression” rhetoric; the dogs of war (“Real Men Go to Tehran”) may bark again, but even that won’t force the EU caravan to desist from doing business with Persia.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone