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Iraq & Russia Look To Boost Military Ties While US Threatens Sanctions

Iraq & Russia Look To Boost Military Ties While US Threatens Sanctions

In more continuing fallout over the Jan.3 assassination by drone of the IRGC’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iraq and Russia are preparing for deepening military coordination, reports the AP

Iraq’s Defense Ministry announced Thursday that increased “cooperation and coordination” is being discussed with Moscow amid worsened relations with Washington, which even last month included President Trump issuing brazen threats of “very big” sanctions on Baghdad if American troops are kicked out of the country. 

This week Iraqi army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Othman Al-Ghanimi and Russian Ambassador Maksim Maksimov met to discuss future military cooperation. Crucially, Gen. Ghanimi highlighted Russia’s successful anti-ISIS operations over the past years, especially in Syria where the Russian military has supported Assad since being invited there in 2015.

Iraqi helicopters file image.

On Russia’s role in Iraq, Ghanimi said Moscow had provided “our armed forces with advanced and effective equipment and weapons that had a major role in resolving many battles,” according to the ministry statement.

It’s been long rumored that since late summer Baghdad and Moscow have been in talks to deliver either Russia’s advanced S-400 or S-300 anti-air missile defense systems – a prospect which US officials have condemned. 

Like other areas of the Middle East, as US adventurism heightens pressure for a US withdrawal, Russia appears to be seizing the opportunity to move in. This much was affirmed in AP’s reporting, via at least one anonymous senior official:

A senior Iraqi military intelligence official told The Associated Press that Russia, among other countries, has come forward to offer military support in the wake of fraught US.-Iraq relations following Soleimani’s killing.

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

How the U.S. Regime and Its Allies Enforce Their Smears and Their Other Lies

How the U.S. Regime and Its Allies Enforce Their Smears and Their Other Lies 

Without enforced suppression of truth, there would be no way that the U.S. and its allied regimes could continue hiding the lies that were behind their invasions of Iraq in 2003, and of Syria since 2012, and their coup against Ukraine in 2014, and also of their takeovers and attempted takeovers of other countries that had refused to be bullied by the U.S. regime into complying with its obsessive anti-Russian demands — America’s subterranean continuation of the Cold War, even after Russia had quit the Cold War in 1991.

All of the lies are still being propounded by the U.S. regime and remain fully enforced by suppression of the truth about these matters. That’s being done in all news-media except a few of the non-mainstream ones.

So: this is about an actual Western samizdat — the West’s equivalent to the former Soviet Union’s systematic, and equally pervasive, truth-suppression, to fool the public into thinking that the Government represents them, no matter how much it does not. (The chief trick in this regard is to fool them into thinking that since there is more than one political party, one of them will be “good,” even though the fact may actually be that each of the parties represents simply a different faction of a psychopathically evil aristocracy. After all: each party lied and supported invading Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, and Syria constantly; and no party acknowledges that the 2014 regime-change in Ukraine was a U.S. coup instead of a domestic Ukrainian democratic revolution. On such important matters, they all lie, and in basically the same ways. These lies are bipartisan, even though most of the other political lies are heavily partisan.)

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

“No, No America” – Mass Protests Erupt In Baghdad Demanding U.S. Troops Withdraw

“No, No America” – Mass Protests Erupt In Baghdad Demanding U.S. Troops Withdraw 

Al Jazeera English is reporting that thousands of Iraqi protesters have hit the street in Baghdad after the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for a “million-strong” march to demand the withdraw of U.S. coalition forces from the country. 

NBC News Tehran Bureau Chief & correspondent Ali Arouzi said hundreds of thousands of protesters marched across Baghdad on Friday, demanding U.S. troops leave the country and close all military bases and embassies.  

100’s of thousands protest in Baghdad, calling for all US troops to leave Iraq, close all bases & embassies, if they don’t they will be considered an occupying force. pic.twitter.com/C3CqBqpxyD— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) January 24, 2020

Iraqi Prime Minister Presses U.S. to Discuss Troop Withdrawal

Protestors held signs that read “no, no to America” and “no, no to occupation” amid a sea of nationalism and anti-Americanism erupting across the country’s capital. 

Others were heard on loudspeakers blasting the phrase: “Death to America. Death to Israel.”

The presence of U.S. coalition forces in the country has become a hot subject since President Trump launched a drone attack on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, killing both, earlier this month near Baghdad International Airport.

The Green Zone, the International Zone of Baghdad and home of the U.S. embassy, has been peppered with rocket attacks since the killing of Soleimani. 

Iraq’s parliament voted to expel all foreign troops, including 5,000 U.S. forces from the country, and asked the government to cancel assistance from the U.S.-led coalition that has been working with the Iraqi Army in the eradication of ISIS. 

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

Could ISIS Take Control Over This Large Iraqi Oil Field?

Could ISIS Take Control Over This Large Iraqi Oil Field?

Iraq Oil Field

As always, it’s the fear of sanctions that provides the leverage Trump seeks in this cat-and-mouse game with Iran. And this time, the leverage is over Iraq, which would like to see both American and Iranian forces out of the country, for obvious reasons. 

There is nothing ISIS would love more than this. 

It would also devastate Iraq because the sanctions threatened would include blocking access to Iraq’s U.S.-based account where all the oil revenues are kept. That threat stands if Iraq moves to kick U.S. forces out of the country. 

That would mean victory for Iran (temporarily). Kicking out Iranian forces is not nearly as simple because the line between state and non-state actors is blurred, at best. 

A few weeks ago, a U.S. drawdown of military forces in Iraq was already expected, but that now seems unlikely because of the implications. 

The very military base that Iran attacked following the assassination of General Soleimani was already preparing for a drawdown. 

In addition to the threat of sanctions on oil money, a U.S. withdrawal would likely open the door for an ISIS return.  

What Iraqis Want

There is no consensus on this question, other than the fact that no one wants Iraq to be the proxy battleground between the United States and Iran. 

It’s a fair point, and Iraqis have had a very difficult time enjoying anything close to sovereignty since the fall of Saddam Hussein. 

While the Iraqi parliament has voted for U.S. troops to leave, they do not represent a unified voice. The Sunni elements of parliament did not participate in the vote. Neither did the Iraqi Kurds. 

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

After Missiles Fly, Iraq Becomes the Battleground

After Missiles Fly, Iraq Becomes the Battleground

The future of the U.S.’s involvement in the Middle East is in Iraq. The exchange of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran occurred wholly on Iraqi soil and it has become the site on which that war will continue.

Israel continues to up the ante on Iran, following President Trump’s lead by bombing Shia militias stationed near the Al Bukumai border crossing between Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. and Israel are determined this border crossing remains closed and have demonstrated just how far they are willing to go to prevent the free flow of goods and people across this border. 

The regional allies of Iran are to be kept weak, divided and constantly under harassment. 

Iraq is the battleground because the U.S. lost in Syria. Despite the presence of U.S. troops squatting on Syrian oil fields in Deir Ezzor province or the troops sitting in the desert protecting the Syrian border with Jordan, the Russians, Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds forces continue to reclaim territory previously lost to the Syrian government. 

Now with Turkey redeploying its pet Salafist head-choppers from Idlib to Libya to fight General Haftar’s forces there to legitimize its claim to eastern Mediterannean gas deposits, the restoration of Syria’s territorial integrity west of the Euphrates River is nearly complete.

The defenders of Syria can soon transition into the rebuilders thereof, if allowed. And they didn’t do this alone, they had a silent partner in China the entire time. 

And, if I look at this situation honestly, it was China stepping out from behind the shadows into the light that is your inciting incident for this chapter in Iraq’s story.

China moving in to sign a $10.1 billion deal with the Iraqi government to begin the reconstruction of its ruined oil and gas industry in exchange for oil is of vital importance. 

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

“If The US Does That, It’ll Lose Iraq Forever” – Trump Threatened To Cut Off Baghdad’s Access To Its NY Fed Cash

“If The US Does That, It’ll Lose Iraq Forever” – Trump Threatened To Cut Off Baghdad’s Access To Its NY Fed Cash

After rejecting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s request to begin talks on the withdrawal of American troops, there are now more signs of the eroding ties between the two countries.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to Iraqi officials (yes, Iraq has anonymous sources too), the Trump administration warned Iraq this week that it risks losing access to a critical government bank account if Baghdad kicks out American forces.

We are sure, to Schiff et al., that sounds a lot like ‘quid pro quo’, but how will they balance the need to hammer the president with their neocon/establishment desire to keep boots on the ground, whatever it takes?

The warning regarding the Iraqi central bank account was conveyed to Iraq’s prime minister in a call on Wednesday, according to an official in his office, that also touched on the overall military, political and financial partnership between the two countries.

When Iraq needs hard currency, its central bank can request a shipment of bills that it then distributes into the financial system through banks and currency exchange houses. While the country’s official currency is the dinar, U.S. dollars are commonly used.

“The U.S. Fed basically has a stranglehold on the entire [Iraqi] economy,” said Shwan Taha, chairman of Iraqi investment bank Rabee Securities.

The potential economic and financial fallout is weighing on Iraqi officials

“Whenever you have any amicable divorce, you still have the worry about the children, pets, furniture and plants, some of which are sentimental,” said a senior Iraqi politician.

The New York Fed, which can freeze accounts under U.S. sanctions law or if it has reasonable suspicion the funds could violate U.S. law, said it doesn’t comment on specific account holders, but as WSJ notes, this financial threat isn’t theoretical:

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

Israel Bombs Weapons Depot Run By Iranian Militia

Israel Bombs Weapons Depot Run By Iranian Militia

Tensions continued to climb in the Middle East Thursday evening as reports of another air strike have been confirmed, but this time, it was the Israelis doing the shelling.

According to reports by domestic and western media, the Israeli air force carried out an attack against an Iran-backed militia reportedly headquartered on the border between Syria and Iraq.

Tribal sources in Iraq apparently told reporters that the Israeli shelling targeted trucks and individuals associated with Iranian-backed militias near the Iraqi-Syria border. Artillery and shelling was also reported, though it’s unclear who fired those shots. The weapons are believed to have been destined for Hezbollah.

Sources claimed that the airstrikes were targeting weapons shipments, according to the Washington Post. The Kataib Imam Ali, an Iran-backed militia, was apparently moving weapons, possibly in preparation for a strike against US interests.

Al Mayadeen reported that the strikes targeted ballistic missile warehouses run by the group. The warehouse was situated outside of the city of Al Bukamal

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

Rockets Reportedly Hit Near US Base North Of Baghdad (Again)

Rockets Reportedly Hit Near US Base North Of Baghdad (Again)

Another day, another rocket (alleged) rocket attack on a US airbase in Iraq.

Al-Sumaria reports that rockets hit the Balad Air Base, about 40 miles north of Baghdad, where US troops are stationed.

The source said in an interview with Alsumaria News, “A missile, whose type was not specified, fell this evening, to the Fadlan area of ​​the Dujail district near Balad Air Base,” without giving further details.

Local news also reports no people were harmed.

This is the same base as was hit 5 days ago.

Just hours ago it was  reported  that 90% of American advisors withdraw from Balad Air Force Base in Salah al-Din Governorate, including staff of Lockheed Martin, which specialize in operating F-16s, after recent threats in Iraq.

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As a reminder, contrary to the carefully built narrative that the US and Iran have become nothing short of BFFs, the risk for re-escalation remains huge. As Stratfor noted this week, Iraq, in particular, could present a theater for action, as Iranian-allied Iraqi militias have also been galvanized by the recent U.S. strikes and likely will be keen to seek retribution.

If an attack by those militias kills a U.S. soldier or contractor in Iraq or Syria, the risks of escalation to a direct military exchange between the United States and Iran would again climb. After all, the United States will hold Iran responsible for the actions of some of its allied militias, especially the mostly Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.

As such, contrary to the desires of bullish daytraders, the existence of these triggers for potential escalation and the atmosphere of tension that will linger between the two adversaries keeps the long-term risk of a military confrontation alive, even if their current face-off goes no further.

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

Round one is over – an initial assessment

Round one is over – an initial assessment

Dear friends,

Looks like Round 1 is over.  Let’s begin with a small recap of events:

  • Iran fired a relatively small number of short range missiles at one, possibly two, US bases
  • The IRGC indicated that if Iran is attacked, then so will Israel
  • Trump tweeted “so far, so good”
  • The US reported no casualties

In plain English this means that the strike was intended to be both highly visible AND symbolic (Iran has MANY more missiles, including longer ranged ones, which, if Iran wanted to, could strike every single US base in the Middle-East simultaneously.

So what happened?

I think that Iran wanted to humiliate the US but in a manner which would be under the threshold which would guarantee a US/Israeli counter-strike.

Next, I forced myself to listen to Esper and the Idiot-in-Chief.  Here are the salient points:

  • Esper reiterated that the US does not want war with Iran
  • The US does not want to leave Iraq because, unlike the Iraq MPs, many/most Iraqis want the US to stay
  • The US armed forces are THE BEST in the history of the galaxy
  • Trump will never allow Iran to have nukes
  • Iran appears to be “standing down”
  • Europe needs to ditch the JPCOA
  • NATO needs to get further involved in the Middle-East
  • Iran bad bad bad, USA good good good
  • The US armed forces are THE BEST in this history of the galaxy
  • USA! USA! USA! (etc.)

Okay, to these idiots apparently think that’s it is over.  Or maybe they hope it is?

I can tell you for sure that it ain’t.  The goal of Iran and its allies is to get the USA out of the Middle-East.

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

“We’re Going To War, Bro”: Elite 82nd Airborne In Largest ‘Fast Deployment’ In A Decade

“We’re Going To War, Bro”: Elite 82nd Airborne In Largest ‘Fast Deployment’ In A Decade

“We’re going to war, bro” — declared a young US soldier from the US Army’s celebrated 82nd Airborne Division. He gave reporters a confident two thumbs up as his unit moved out on its largest “fast deployment” in a decade at a moment Iran has promised to inflict a “historic nightmare” on the US in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani. 

Reuters provided a detailed account of the uneasy yet somewhat jovial calm before the storm atmosphere that prevailed on the airport tarmac at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as 600 soldiers and many hundreds more support crew flew out.

While Kuwait is expected to be the first stop for most of the some 3,500 total paratroopers ordered to the region, the final destination is classified, and the Army is concerned over information leaks. For this reason the US Army confiscated the cell phones and any personal communication devices of those deploying on the transport planes. 

82nd Airborne rolled out Sunday, Jan.5. Image source: Spc. Hubert Delany III/U.S. Army via AP

The departing soldiers, with the older generation described by Reuters as more somber and aware of the reality of entering conflict, were keenly aware that war is potentially on the horizon:

The older soldiers, in their 30s and 40s, were visibly more somber, having the experience of seeing comrades come home from past deployments learning to walk on one leg or in flag-draped coffins.

“This is the mission, man,” said Brian Knight, retired Army veteran who has been on five combat deployments to the Middle East…

“They’re answering America’s 911 call,” Knight said. “They’re stoked to go. The president called for the 82nd.”

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

Amphibious Assault Ship Bataan With 2,000 Marines On Board Is Headed Toward Iraq

Amphibious Assault Ship Bataan With 2,000 Marines On Board Is Headed Toward Iraq

The Iraqi parliament voted on Sunday to expel US troops out of the country but so far, it appears that nobody in the US got the memo. In fact quite the contrary.

According to the US Naval Institute, amid rising tensions with Iran, the US Navy is scrapping an exercise with Morocco as it redirects the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit with roughly 2,000 marines on board to the Middle East, a defense official confirmed to USNI News.


#UPDATE: 2,000 US Marines en route to the Middle East onboard USS Bataan Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, USS New York San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock & USS Oak Hill Harper’s Ferry-class dock landing ship

4,000 US troops from 82nd Airborne also being/been deployed https://twitter.com/lucasfoxnews/status/1214217158726705157 …


Members of the 26th MEU and Bataan crew were slated to train with members of the Moroccan military as part of the joint Exercise African Sea Lion. Indeed, the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group had just arrived off the coast of Morocco this week before its new tasking, according to the USNI Fleet tracker. The ARG deployed quietly from the East Coast in December. Now, Bataan and the 26th MEU are moving closer to the Middle East, as shown in the most recent map of naval deployments.

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

Iran, energy and war

Iran, energy and war

The American obsession with Iran is about oil and natural gas. If these two resources had been absent, it is hard to imagine such an intense American focus on the country from the time of a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency-backed coup of Iran’s elected government in 1953 to today. The Foreign Policy magazine piece linked above is based on declassified CIA documents and summarizes the coup this way: “Known as Operation Ajax, the CIA plot was ultimately about oil.”

This should come as no surprise. Iran was an oil power back in 1953 and it remains one today. Iran is presumed to have the third largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest natural gas reserves. Even if the numbers cited are somewhat inflated, Iran’s reserves are not small, and the country is likely to play a large role in world energy markets for many years to come.

The recent escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran because of the U.S. assassination of a prominent, popular and by all accounts highly effective Iranian general will allow the advocates of war to trot out all manner of excuses for such a war: terrorism, regime change, the credibility of the United States, Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons, and the United States’ geostrategic posture vis-à-vis big power rivals such as Russia and China. (Does anyone really know what the last one means?)

What won’t be discussed are the deep historical antagonisms which have developed starting with the 1953 CIA-backed coup. For example, few people remember that the United States supplied economic aid, dual-use (both civilian and military use) technology, training and arms through other countries to Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War.

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

Rabobank: “World War 3? The US Has Crossed A Red Line… But It’s Not The One They Think”

Rabobank: “World War 3? The US Has Crossed A Red Line… But It’s Not The One They Think”

“World War Three!” is trending on social media the day I return to work after two weeks off deliberately not reading any news for once: ironic given my reputation for being bearish about geopolitics. Markets, of course, have failed to react much: Middle-East bourses closed down 2-4% on Sunday, which is not exactly end of the world stuff; WTI futures are up around 3%, again not a real panic; while US 10-year yields were down from 1.94% intraday Thursday to 1.79% as of the Friday close – but the weak US ISM survey (47.2 headline; 46.8 new orders; 45.1 employment) could be to blame for that alone.

You know what? For once the markets are arguably right, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Markets think nothing that happens in the Middle East matters because central banks will have their backs regardlessThat is patent nonsense, even if Ben Bernanke is muttering about not ruling out negative rates and further purchases of “private securities” during the next down-turn. If Iran launched a devastating missile attack on Saudi and UAE oil facilities, and means it this time; or on Tel Aviv and the nuclear reactor at Dimona; if it unleashed a wave of global terrorist attacks and assassinations from sleeper agents – none of those things are made better by a lower cost of borrowing. They aren’t even helped by (not) helicopter money, as Bernanke alludes to. Central banks can and would be funding a lot more defence spending immediately on a helicopter money basis in those scenarios, but much of the world economy would take a hit regardless – most so if the oil complex is hit. Sorry Central banks, but in those kind of scenarios–as Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted to US President Trump right before he then killed Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council head Qassem Suleimani–“You can’t do anything.”

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

2020 Begins With A Bang (Literally)

2020 Begins With A Bang (Literally)

A heck of a lot happened this week

It sure didn’t take long for 2020 to get interesting.

Iran

The biggest development of the new year happened Thursday when the US military assassinated Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful figure after its Supreme Leader, in a surgical drone strike.

This is an extremely serious action; one that Iran is highly likely to respond forcefully against. As the world anxiously awaits what will happen next, #wwwiii suddenly is a top twitter trend.[Update: since this original publication of this article, the US has conducted further airstrikes on Iranian targets located in Iraq, Bagdad’s ‘Green Zone’ which contains the US Embassy has come under attack, and there are unconfirmed reports that US aircraft have hit Iranian targest in Syria.]

Chris has been furiously processing the news flow on this on an hour-by-hour basis in his latest post on the topic here.

If you want to better understand the context behind the current US-Iran tension as well as breaking developments from last night’s bombing and the likely repercussions, read the post and follow Chris’ updatesin its Comments section.

Gold

On Sunday, Chris released this prediction that gold was poised for a big price move. Sure enough, gold closed the week up $40/ounce, certainly helped today by the geopolitical worries escalating between the US and Iran.

The yellow metal is now up nearly $100/oz from a month ago, and over $200/oz from a year ago.

It seems to be finally emerging from its 7-year slumber. Even the long-beaten mining shares are up nicely over the past year.

The start of a new bull market in the precious metals may indeed be upon us.

WTF?! (What The Fed?!)

The first trading day of the year saw the S&P 500 close at an all-time high, suggesting that Fed liquidity was still driving the show as it did for the entirety of 2019.

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

“We Do Not Seek War,” Says President Who Just Started A War

“We Do Not Seek War,” Says President Who Just Started A War

President Trump has been steadfastly assuring the world that the United States government does not wish to start the war it has already started by assassinating Iran’s top general.

“We are a peace-loving nation and my administration remains firmly committed to establishing peace and harmony among the nations in the world,” Trump said in a speech at his luxury Mar-a-Lago getaway on Friday. “We do not seek war, we do not seek nation-building, we do not seek regime change, but as president I will never hesitate to defend the safety of the American people.”

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” the president added.

To be clear, in no way is any part of this a thing. Assassinating a nation’s most senior military official, and then claiming that you do not wish to start a war with that nation, is not a thing.

America is at war with Iran currently. What that war will end up looking like is anyone’s guess right now, but there is no question that a war has been initiated. If any nation had assassinated a top US general via airstrike and then openly admitted to it, the US would immediately be at war with that nation. Without question. An extreme military retaliation would be in the works within minutes of the announcement, and the entire political/media class would fully support that retaliation in whatever form it took.

This may come as a surprise to some Americans, but that same principle holds true for other nations as well.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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