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Middle-East: Is War around the corner to solve all Problems?

Middle-East: Is War around the corner to solve all Problems?

There is always talk about some type of war in the Middle East. But this time things could actually be heating up. On Monday Israel launched operation Northern Shield to destroy tunnels that terrorist group Hezbollah built on its southern border. Haaretz writes;

The Israeli military launched an operation Monday night to destroy cross-border tunnels constructed by Hezbollah, crossing the Lebanon border into Israel.

The military said it has been aware since 2006 that Hezbollah was trying to construct attack tunnels stretching from Lebanon into Israel at several points along the border. Since then, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has spoken of a plan to take over parts of the Galilee, in northern Israel, in a future conflict.

It appears Hezbollah on its end is somewhat anxious, but calm. TRT world notes;

Officially, Hezbollah has remained silent on the operation launched yesterday – a media representative told TRT World that the group was not commenting at present. But an affiliated news outlet yesterday posted close-up images of Israeli personnel photographed from across the border. “The enemy mobilised a force of 12 military vehicles and a number of other drilling and bulldozers”

US National Security Advisor to the President John Bolton released a statement in full support of Israel and issuing a warning to both Hezbollah and Israel.

In a meeting on Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and U.S. secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Prime Minister stated that it will take action against Lebanon if it does stop Hezbollah and Iran. The Times of Israel writes;

Netanyahu was reported to be telling Pompeo that Israel could take military action if Beirut does not clamp down on Hezbollah, amid concerns that Tehran has begun shipping advanced arms directly to the terror group in Lebanon.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

U.S. Aircraft Carrier Heads To Persian Gulf In “Show Of Force” After Iran Ballistic Missile Test

Days after Iran unveiled its first stealth destroyer in a televised ceremony on Saturday which saw the warship launched into operation in the Persian Gulf, and after the US condemned Iran’s test firing a medium-range nuclear capable ballistic missile on Sunday, Pentagon officials have announced the U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf in a show of force against Iran.

US officials told the Wall Street Journal the USS John C. Stennis and support ships will arrive in the Middle East “within days” — which will bring a close what’s been described as the longest period in two decades that a carrier group was absent from the region. Specifically the unnamed officials identified the purpose as to “exhibit a show of force against Iran” at a moment tensions are soaring after Nov. 4 renewed sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector. The White House has vowed that it will work with international allies to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero in continuing economic warfare that could easily spark direct military confrontation.

USS John C. Stennis nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, via Defence Blog

The WSJ reports:

The Stennis is scheduled to remain in the region for about two months, the officials said, spending most of that time in the Persian Gulf. Its presence “certainly provides a deterrence” against any potentially hostile Iranian activity in the region’s waters, one of the officials said.

Responding to the unprecedented sanctions regimen after President Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 JCPOA, Iran’s military leadership has over the past months issued a counter threat of blockading the vital Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, which would strangle global oil shipping. The US carrier presence inches the world closer to witnessing a major flare up in the gulf which could send the price of oil soaring.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran: Rumors of War

Iran: Rumors of War

Photo Source Blondinrikard Fröberg | CC BY 2.0

Consider a conversation between long-time Middle East reporter Reese Erlich and former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, Jr. on the people currently directing the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran. Commenting on National Security Advisor John Bolton’s defense of the invasion of Iraq, Freeman says “The neoconservative group think their good ideas were poorly implemented in Iraq,” and that the lesson of the 2003 invasion that killed upwards of 500,000 people and destabilized an entire region is, “If at first you don’t succeed, do the same thing again somewhere else.”

That “somewhere else” is Iran, and Bolton is one of the leading voices calling for confronting the Teheran regime and squeezing Iran through draconian sanctions “until the pips squeak.” Since sanctions are unlikely to have much effect—they didn’t work on North Korea, have had little effect on Russia and failed to produce regime change in Cuba—the next logical step, Erlich suggests in his new book The Iran Agenda Today: The Real Story Inside Iran And What’s Wrong with U.S. Policy, is a military attack on Iran.

Such an attack would be a leap into darkness, since most Americans—and their government in particular—are virtually clueless about the country we seem bound to go to war with. Throwing a little light on that darkness is a major reason Erlich wrote the book. For over 18 years he has reported on Iran, talking with important government figures and everyday people and writing articles on the country that increasingly looks to be our next little war. Except it will be anything but “little.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pompeo: US/Saudi Partnership ‘Vital’ – American Taxpayers May Disagree!

Pompeo: US/Saudi Partnership ‘Vital’ – American Taxpayers May Disagree!

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has published a bizarre op-ed in the Wall Street Journal claiming that Saudi Arabia has been a guarantor of stability in the Middle East and a bulwark against “expansionist” Iran. Perhaps he forgot about Saudi support for jihadists in Syria and the Saudi destruction of Yemen? Is carrying water for the murderous Saudi kingdom in the Middle East really the best way to demonstrate “American values,” as Pompeo claims? We break down Pompeo’s neocon screed in today’s Liberty Report:

Planet of War: Still Trapped in a Greater Middle Eastern Quagmire, the U.S. Military Prepares for Global Combat

Planet of WarStill Trapped in a Greater Middle Eastern Quagmire, the U.S. Military Prepares for Global Combat

American militarism has gone off the rails — and this middling career officer should have seen it coming. Earlier in this century, the U.S. military not surprisingly focused on counterinsurgency as it faced various indecisive and seemingly unending wars across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa. Back in 2008, when I was still a captain newly returned from Iraq and studying at Fort Knox, Kentucky, our training scenarios generally focused on urban combat and what were called security and stabilization missions. We’d plan to assault some notional city center, destroy the enemy fighters there, and then transition to pacification and “humanitarian” operations.

Of course, no one then asked about the dubious efficacy of “regime change” and “nation building,” the two activities in which our country had been so regularly engaged. That would have been frowned upon. Still, however bloody and wasteful those wars were, they now look like relics from a remarkably simpler time. The U.S. Army knew its mission then (even if it couldn’t accomplish it) and could predict what each of us young officers was about to take another crack at: counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fast forward eight years — during which this author fruitlessly toiled away in Afghanistan and taught at West Point — and the U.S. military ground presence has significantly decreased in the Greater Middle East, even if its wars there remain “infinite.” The U.S. was still bombing, raiding, and “advising” away in several of those old haunts as I entered the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Nonetheless, when I first became involved in the primary staff officer training course for mid-level careerists there in 2016, it soon became apparent to me that something was indeed changing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pompeo’s Albright Moment Arrives

Pompeo’s Albright Moment Arrives

Pompeo’s Albright Moment Arrives

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not a very bright guy. He is, like his boss, a thin-skinned bully with a narrow view of the world focused on US righteousness. With the sanctions going into place on Iran this week he gave an interview with the BBC which laid bare what happens when you scratch Pompeo just a hair beneath the polished surface.

Pompeo will be happy to see the people of Iran starve to achieve his ends. And those ends are purely in service of not only Israel and Saudi Arabia but the military contractors who back him and direct so much of the policy coming out of D.C.

Pompeo: Yeah, we’re going to work to do two things: that things that are sanctioned don’t happen, and things that are permitted to happen are permissible, and can in fact happen. [Speaking of food and medicine flowing unimpeded]

Well, remember, just so you remember, the leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund Qasem Soleimani’s travels around the Middle East with – causing death and destruction. That’s the Iranian Government’s choice on how to use Iranian wealth. If they choose to squander, if the Iranian leadership chooses to spoil it, if they choose to use it in a way that doesn’t benefit the Iranian people, I’m very confident the Iranian people will take a response that tries to fix that themselves as well.

Aside from the fact that Pompeo has no idea how commerce works, this is a horrific statement. We’re going to destroy your economy and if you don’t overthrow your government you will starve.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Israeli Tanks Prepare Imminent Gaza Offensive After “Green Light” For “Major Retaliation”

Commenting on Monday’s flare-up of rocket fire after a prior Israeli commando raid into Gaza territory to assassinate Hamas leaders, the Jerusalem Post observed that Hamas’ retaliation included “the most amount of rockets ever fired into Israel in 24 hours.”

Various international reports have cited over 300 rockets and mortars fired into Israeli, which began with a sustained barrage of about 100 within the first hour of the launches alone. What’s been dubbed as a “revenge” attack on heels of Monday funeral prayers for slain Hamas commanders killed by Israeli special forces were quickly met with widespread airstrikes on the strip, including on a Hamas television broadcast building, and some 70 targets in total across the strip.

Meanwhile there appears preparations for what could be a major war and full Israeli invasion of Gaza underway as tank units have been observed mustering at entry points into Gaza.

Notably after cutting short his Paris trip Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held a lengthy meeting with his defense minister and military leaders to consider a response to the escalating violence and rocket attacks — one of which scored a direct hit Monday on what’s now been identified as an IDF bus in southern Israel, which injured a 19-year old soldier.

The Times of Israel reports that a major ground offensive is increasingly likely, and with more airstrikes to come:

The army was reportedly given a green light from policymakers to pummel terror groups in the Strip if they continued with the barrages, as the terror organizations in the Strip vowed to do.

Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported of the defense and military meeting with Netanyahu: “in the prime minister’s consultation with the heads of the defense establishment, operational decisions were made,” and indicated “the IDF has been given a green light to launch a heavy retaliation.” 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Written in History: The Death of America’s Hyper-Power Fantasy

Written in History: The Death of America’s Hyper-Power Fantasy

Written in History: The Death of America’s Hyper-Power Fantasy

In 1987, Paul Kennedy, a British professor of history at Yale University, unleashed a political and intellectual firestorm with the publication of his great (677-page) book, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” Kennedy produced a magisterial overview of the competition for global power over the past 500 years from 1500 AD to the present.

Kennedy proposed the thesis that any power that achieved, imagined it had achieved or sought to achieve and maintain a dominant hyper-power role of global dominance was doomed to lose it and then rapidly decline in overall power, wealth, prosperity and influence.

Kennedy argued – with a wealth of detail drawn from different nations over his vast period of half a millennium – that the very attempt to achieve and maintain such power forced every nation that attempted it into a ruinous pattern of strategic overstretch.

This demanded every major global empire in their turn to devote ruinously far too many economic resources to unproductive military power and ever more costly global commitments and conflicts.

The more ambitious the commitments, the quicker came military defeat, economic ruin and national collapse, Kennedy documented.

Kennedy published his book however at exactly the wrong moment for its abundantly documented conclusions and arguments to be taken seriously in the United States. The Cold War was just ending. The heroic actions of the Russian people in rejecting communism and leading in the dismantling of the Soviet Union were being misinterpreted as an eternal and lasting victory for the United States and for the forces of free market capitalism and minimum government regulation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Global US Squeeze On Iran Has Started: Europe is Looking For Alternatives

THE GLOBAL US SQUEEZE ON IRAN HAS STARTED: EUROPE IS LOOKING FOR ALTERNATIVES

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Today the harshest and highest level economic and energy sanctions that can be imposed on any country are being imposed unilaterally on Iran. The US establishment will try its best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees and Tehran will do its best to cross the US minefield. Whatever the outcome, Iran will never submit to Washington’s twelve conditions.

Iran is not a fledgeling country ready to collapse at the imposition of the first tight sanctions, nor will Iran allow its oil exports to be frozen without reacting. In fact, US and UN sanctions against Iran date to the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and the fall of the Shah in 1979.

No doubt the Iranian economy will be affected. Nevertheless, Iranian unity today has reached new heights. President Trump has managed to bring reformists and radicals together under the same umbrella!

Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has said to President Hassan Rouhani: “You walk and we stand ahead of you. Don’t respond to Trump’s provocations because he is insolent and not at your level. I shall face him myself”. Rouhani believes “US policy and its new conspiracy will fail”. All responsible figures in the Iranian regime are now united under the leadership of Imam Ali Khamenei against the US policy whose aim is to curb the regime.

Under the previous worldwide sanctions regime, Iran began developing missile technology and precision weapons. Iran has never yielded in support of its allies because these alliances are an integral part of its ideology. Today, Tehran is not standing alone against the US and is waiting to see what course global sanctions will take before reacting. Officials in Tehran, convinced that Trump will win a second term, are preparing for a long siege.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saudi Arabia Answers Pompeo’s Call For Yemen Ceasefire By Ramping Up Airstrikes

The Saudi Air Force has unleashed a massive attack across the Sana’a Governorate over the last 48 hours, reports Middle East-based Al Masdar News citing Yemeni sources on the ground. This appears to be the Saudi response to the U.S. call for a ceasefire “in the next 30 days” announced by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a mere two days ago.

According to the reports from Sana’a, the Saudi Air Force heavily bombarded the capital city and its surroundings, hitting a number of sites that allegedly have a Houthi presence. The string of airstrikes also hit civilian neighborhoods, including the area around Sana’a International Airport — all resulting in an unknown number of casualties. Given the timing it appears the Saudis are ready to unleash as many bombs as possible ahead of a potential US negotiated ceasefire suggested by Pompeo and Mattis; or alternately it could be the Saudis are now quickly escalating the war further to ensure a ceasefire cannot be obtained.

This comes as the Trump administration has released early details of a UN-brokered peace plan aimed at ending the war in Yemen, beginning with a ceasefire within a month along with talks to be held in Sweden.

Past airstrikes on Yemen’s capital of Sana’a via Reuters

Perhaps predictably, The Washington Post blames the rebels for not coming to the negotiating table, something which the Saudi coalition has certainly also refused to do over the past three years of war:

Friday’s assault comes two days after the United States called for a cease-fire and negotiations within 30 days to end the war. The fresh offensive could be designed to pressure the Houthis to come to the negotiating table, which the rebels have so far avoided.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

WikiLeaks’ Legacy of Exposing US-UK Complicity

WikiLeaks’ Legacy of Exposing US-UK Complicity

WikiLeaks is vilified by governments (and increasingly by journalists) for its exposures, including of the U.S.-UK “special relationship” in running a joint foreign policy of deception and violence that serves London and Washington’s elite interests, says Mark Curtis.


Twelve years ago this month, WikiLeaks began publishing government secrets that the world public might otherwise never have known. What it has revealed about state duplicity, human rights abuses and corruption goes beyond anything published in the world’s “mainstream” media.

After over six months of being cut off from outside world, on 14 October 14 Ecuador has partly restored Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s communications with the outside world from its London embassy where the founder has been living for over six years. (Assange, however, later rejected Ecuador’s restrictions imposed on him.)

The treatment – real and threatened – meted out to Assange by the U.S. and UK governments contrasts sharply with the service Wikileaks has done their publics in revealing the nature of elite power, as shown in the following snapshot of Wikileaks’ revelations about British foreign policy in the Middle East.

Conniving with the Saudis

Whitehall’s special relationship with Riyadh is exposed in an extraordinary cable from 2013 highlighting how Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council. Britain initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support.

Hague: ‘World needs pro-American regime’ in Britain. (Chatham House)

The Wikileaks releases also shed details on Whitehall’s fawning relationship with Washington. A 2008 cable, for example, shows then shadow foreign secretary William Hague telling the U.S. embassy that the British “want a pro-American regime. We need it. The world needs it.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall

The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall

Photo Source The White House | CC BY 2.0

The Middle East has a century old tradition of being the political graveyard of American and British political leaders. The list of casualties is long: Lloyd George, Anthony Eden, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Tony Blair and George W Bush. All saw their careers ended or their authority crippled by failure in the region.

Will the same thing happen to Donald Trump as he struggles with the consequences of the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi? I always suspected that Trump might come unstuck because of his exaggerated reliance on a weak state like Saudi Arabia rather than because of his supposed links to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Contrary to the PR company boosterism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and his ambitious projects, Saudi Arabia has oil and money, but is demonstrably ineffective as an independent operator.

The Middle East disasters that toppled so many Western leaders have a certain amount in common. In all cases, the strength of enemies and the feebleness of friends was miscalculated. Lloyd George was forced to resign as prime minister in 1922 because he encouraged the doomed Greek invasion of Anatolia which almost led to a renewed Turkish-British war.

George W Bush and Tony Blair never understood that the occupation of Iraq by American and British ground forces had no support inside Iraq or among its neighbours and was therefore bound to fail. A British military intelligence officer stationed in Basra told me that he could not persuade his superiors of the potentially disastrous fact that “we have no real allies anywhere in Iraq”.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Biggest Winners In The Mediterranean Energy War

The Biggest Winners In The Mediterranean Energy War

offshore

Former Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney once said: “the good lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected states… Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” Europe is surrounded by states with abundant energy resources, but supply from these countries is not always as reliable. Russia, for example, is regularly accused of using energy as a weapon. However, major discoveries of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean could mitigate dependence on Russian gas.

The discovery of a gas field named Tamar near the coast of Israel in 2009 set off a wave of investments in the energy sector. After 9 years, companies are flocking to the region after other discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt. Ever larger finds in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levant Basin such as the Leviathan gas field in 2010 and Zohr in 2015, have the potential to transform the strategic importance of the region.

(Click to enlarge)

Turkey’s energy hub ambitions

Few states in the world are geographically so well positioned as Turkey. The country controls Russia’s only warm water port in the Black Sea and serves as a bridge between east and west. Therefore, during the Cold War Ankara was an indispensable member of NATO. More recently, Turkey has the ambition to become an energy hub for Middle Eastern and Caspian energy. Ankara has had mixed successes in attracting investors and maintaining political stability.

After Israel’s significant discoveries, a U.S. backed initiative presented Turkey as an energy hub. Although a land pipeline is the cheapest option to transport gas from the Mediterranean to Europe, political developments have stalled construction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

War Plans on Iran Mean Trump and Saudis Coordinating Cover-up of Khashoggi Killing

War Plans on Iran Mean Trump and Saudis Coordinating Cover-up of Khashoggi Killing

War Plans on Iran Mean Trump and Saudis Coordinating Cover-up of Khashoggi Killing

Finally, nearly three weeks after what most of the world suspected to be a foul murder, the Saudi regime has officially admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. No sooner had the Saudis issued their latest lie to cover up previous lies, US President Trump was lending White House prestige to the travesty.

Trump said the belated Saudi version of what happened was “credible”. He also welcomed as “good first steps” the Saudi arrest of 18 individuals and sacking of several top officials.

The Saudi “explanation” of Khashoggi’s death stretches credulity to snapping point. They are saying he was killed after a fist-fight broke out in the consulate. The Saudis are also claiming the de facto ruler of the kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), did not know anything about the murder, its planning or aftermath. Recall that MbS asserted in an interview with Bloomberg on October 5 that Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate the same day he arrived.

Now the Crown Prince has been appointed by his father, aging King Salman, to head up a committee to oversee an overhaul of the royal court’s intelligence organization. The former deputy head of intelligence, Ahmed al-Assiri, is one of those senior aides who has been sacked and set to take the rap.

In other words, the heir to the throne, MbS, is being absolved of any responsibility in the scandal. The sacked aides and arrested men, who are believed to include the 15-member team that went to Istanbul to intercept Khashoggi, are being made the scapegoats.

It is customary Saudi treachery at work. There is simply no way that a 15-member team that included top bodyguards of the Crown Prince could have carried out the Khashoggi abduction and killing without the monarch’s knowledge and sanction.

US intelligence intercepts have claimed to show that MbS was indeed involved in the planning of Khashoggi’s doom. It is simply preposterous that the 15-member hit squad went “rogue” and carried out a murder on their own initiative.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Is Negotiating With SWIFT To Disconnect Iran From Network

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that unlike Obama’s 2013 Iran blockade, it would be harder for countries to get waivers on Iran oil sanctions as the US is already working on disconnecting Iran from the SWIFT network and dismissed concerns that oil prices could rise, saying the market had already factored in the output losses.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters in Jerusalem on Sunday at the start of a Middle East trip, Mnuchin said countries would have to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil by more than the roughly 20% level they did from 2013 to 2015 to get waivers. “I would expect that if we do give waivers it will be significantly larger reductions,” said the US Treasury Secretary.

To achieve the US goal of further isolating Iran from the global financial community, Mnuchin said that the U.S. Treasury was already in negotiations with the Belgian-based financial messaging service SWIFT which intermediates the bulk of the world’s cross-border dollar-denominated transactions, on disconnecting Iran from the network. Washington has been pressuring SWIFT to cut Iran from the system as it did in 2012 before the nuclear deal.

Validating European concerns that the US can and will weaponize the dollar at will and use the reserve currency as a global bargaining chip, Mnuchin’s threats confirmed that although the United States does not hold a majority on SWIFT’s board of directors, the Trump administration could impose penalties on SWIFT unless it disconnects from Iran, pressuring it to comply with US demands.

“I can assure you our objective is to make sure that sanctioned transactions do not occur whether it’s through SWIFT or any other mechanism,” he said, “Our focus is to make sure that the sanctions are enforced.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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