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PATRICK LAWRENCE: Empire with a Human Face

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Empire with a Human Face

The Biden people are unlikely to speak of a new cold war with China, but they appear likely to wage one all dressed up as a sophisticated trans–Pacific strategy.

A portion of China’s Great Wall at dawn. (Hao Wei, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Those boneheaded Trump people explained their hostile, xenophobic, fated-to-fail policy toward China by telling  the rest of Asia that America stood for “a free and open Indo–Pacific.”

No, no and no, say the big shots President-elect Joe Biden has named to shape and execute his foreign policy. Instead, they mean to tell Asians to line up behind their hostile, xenophobic, fated-to-fail policy toward China in the name of “a secure and prosperous Indo–Pacific.”

Way different.

It is simply remarkable to watch as the party that howled in response to everything the Trump regime attempted on the foreign-policy side adopts one Trump-era strategy after another more or less intact but for the cosmetics.

The sin of those egregious hawks who commandeered the outgoing regime was to conduct the business of empire imperially. This new crew offers what we had better recognize now as nothing more than empire with a human face.

Of all the Biden regime’s failures in the making one can already see in prospect that none will be greater than its insistence that the U.S. must continue to treat China as a predatory competitor and strategic adversary.

As Mike Pompeo failed to enlist Asians in his crusade against the mainland — and our baboon secretary of state has flopped spectacularly, if you have not noticed — so will Antony Blinken, his successor at State, and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s nominee for national security adviser.

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

US Expands Nord Stream 2 Sanctions As Germany Vows Pipeline Completion “Not If, But When”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has long vowed he’ll “do everything” to stop Nord Stream 2, last month indicating the US is building a coalition of countries to fight against it, given Washington sees it as a massive compromise to Russia, giving it leverage over Europe as well as Ukraine.

“From the US point of view, Nord Stream 2 endangers Europe because it makes it dependent on Russian gas and endangers Ukraine – which in my opinion worries many Germans,” Pompeo said weeks ago.

On Tuesday the State Department expanded US sanctions targeting companies working on the Russia to Germany gas pipeline. While sanctions already target the specific European companies and their executives directly at work on the project, they’ve now been extended to include sanctions even on firms upgrading, servicing, or installing equipment on the ships laying the pipeline.

Image via DW/DPA

Here’s the relevant section on the State Department’s updated NS2 sanctions webpage:

“Such activities subject to sanctions pursuant to PEESA (the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act of 2019) or other authorities may include, but are not limited to, providing services or facilities for upgrades or installation of equipment for those vessels, or funding for upgrades or installation of equipment for those vessels.”

There remain some exceptions, however, out of environmental concerns. The State Department says the sanctions “will not apply to persons providing provisions to a relevant vessel if such provisions are intended for the safety and care of the crew aboard the vessel, the protection of human life aboard the vessel, or the maintenance of the vessel to avoid any environmental or other significant damage.”

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

Is War With China Becoming Inevitable?

Is War With China Becoming Inevitable?

Tensions are rising between the U.S. and China, as the list of ideological, political and economic clashes continues to lengthen. And there is a transparent new reality: China seems in no mood to back down.

“The Indians are seeing 60,000 Chinese soldiers on their northern border,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo ominously warned on Friday.

He spelled out what he meant to commentator Larry O’Connor:

“The Chinese have now begun to amass huge forces against India in the north. … They absolutely need the United States to be their ally and partner in this fight.”

Pompeo had just returned from a Tokyo gathering of foreign ministers from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” the group of four democracies — U.S., Japan, Australia, India — whose purpose is to discuss major Indo-Pacific geostrategic issues.

Exactly what kind of “ally and partner” the U.S. is to be “in the fight” between India and China over disputed terrain in the Himalayan Mountains was left unexplained. We have no vital interest in where the Line of Control between the most populous nations on earth should lie that would justify U.S. military involvement with a world power like China.

And the idea that Japan, whose territorial quarrel with China is over the tiny Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, thousands of miles away, would take sides in a Himalayan India-China conflict also seems ludicrous.

Yet, tensions are rising between the U.S. and China, as the list of ideological, political and economic clashes continues to lengthen.

And there is a transparent new reality: China seems in no mood to back down.

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

US believes Russia was behind killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers in Syria

US believes Russia was behind killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers in Syria

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:30 P.M.) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that he believed that the Russian military was behind the killing of dozens of Turkish soldiers during an attack in Idlib earlier this month.

According to statement from Pompeo, he said he believes Russia was likely behind the killing of the Turkish soldiers, which was later blamed on the Syrian Armed Forces.

This attack later resulted in a large-scale retaliatory assault that was carried out by the Turkish military against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Idlib, Aleppo, and Latakia governorates.

Furthermore, Pompeo vowed to provide aid to Turkey after the killing of its soldiers.

“We are looking to provide aid to Turkey after the killing of dozens of its soldiers in Syria,” he added after the announcement of new sanctions against the Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub.

Pompeo Tells Israel It Has “Fundamental Right” To Attack Iranian Targets In The Region

Pompeo Tells Israel It Has “Fundamental Right” To Attack Iranian Targets In The Region

“Our administration’s been very clear,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive Friday interview, published on Sunday. “Israel has the fundamental right to engage in activity that ensures the security of its people. It’s at the very core of what nation-states not only have the right to do, but an obligation to do.”

Immediately after assisting Vice President Mike Pence in negotiating a Syria ceasefire with Turkey in Ankara on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo headed to Israel. He told the Israeli newspaper in the interview that the ceasefire deal with Erdogan “saved lives”. However, with American troops now exiting Syria, the question of potential Iranian expansion and Israel’s security was focus of his statements.

We know this is a corner where Iran has attempted to move weapon systems across into Syria, into Lebanon, that threatens Israel, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure we have the capacity to identify those so that we can, collectively, respond appropriately,” Pompeo explained in the interview.

Prior file image of Pompeo and PM Netanyahu meeting in Israel, via Anadolu Agency

The interview followed a two hour meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen on Friday morning. Netanyahu has long urged Washington to stay the course in Syria, rather than allow Assad and the Syrian Army to retake the country.

“I think the Israeli people should stare at the probably starkest change this administration has made in foreign policy vis-a-vis what the previous administration has done – the toughest sanctions we’ve ever put,” Pompeo continued to The Jerusalem Post.

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

The CIA’s Dark Prince Doesn’t Want War With Iran

The CIA’s Dark Prince Doesn’t Want War With Iran

Tehran

Two comments last week highlight the dangerous security impasse in which Iran and the U.S. find themselves. The first was from Iran’s spiritual leader, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, that maritime security will remain at risk if its oil exports continue to be compromised. The second was from U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, that sanctions may be applied on any country that helps the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 as it makes its way back to Iran through the Mediterranean, having been released by the U.K. overseas territory of Gibraltar.

“Iran’s view is now that the U.S. will not launch the full-scale military attack that was previously expected, that the U.S. is increasingly isolated in its actions against Iran among its allies in Europe and even in the U.K.,” a senior source who works closely with Iran’s Petroleum Ministry told OilPrice.com last week. “At the same time, Iran believes it can lever the U.S. back into a newly renegotiated nuclear deal involving the removal of all sanctions,” he added.

Up until a couple of months or so ago, the U.S. was actively considering a full-scale military operation against Iran and was “98 per cent ready” for such an all-out attack, according to senior political sources in Washington and London spoken to by OilPrice.com last week. “The remaining two percent involved the final movement of men and materiel into attack positions and finalising the technology and software involved,” said one. “At that point, [John] Bolton [U.S. National Security Advisor] was the dominant voice in [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s ear, and this meant moving at least 120,000 troops into position to augment the [U.S.S Abraham Lincoln aircraft] carrier group that was already in place.”

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

Ceasefire On The Rocks? Trump Sanctions Chinese Firm For Importing Iranian Crude

Ceasefire On The Rocks? Trump Sanctions Chinese Firm For Importing Iranian Crude

A huge escalatory step in the US-led economic war on Tehran and its global oil exports, and amid continued trade tensions with Beijing: the US State Department said Monday the US will impose new sanctions against a Chinese company for transporting Iranian crude in contravention of US sanctions. As the WSJ reports

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that Chinese company Zhuhai Zhenrong and one of its executives knowingly violated U.S. law barring the import of Iranian crude oil.

China had previously been part of the so-called waiver program, which had granted eight countries exceptions which allowed temporary imports of Iranian oil, but which expired May 2 of this year.

Crude oil is unloaded at Zhoushan, East China’s Zhejiang province in February 2018. Image source: VCG

The US did not renew the waiver program, known as ‘Significant Reduction Exceptions,’ in what was seen globally as a serious escalation by Washington attempting to bring Europe and other economic partners to heel over continued dealings with Tehran. 

The Chinese company has been identified as Zhuhai Zhengrong Co Ltd, which Pompeo accused of violating US law over its continued Iran crude imports. Notably, its CEO will also be under sanction. 

The WSJ continued:

The company and the executive will be barred from engaging in any foreign exchange, banking or property transactions under U.S. jurisdiction. The company couldn’t be immediately located for comment. Chinese officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo said while addressing reporters in Florida, “We’ve said that we will sanction any sanctionable behavior and we mean it.”

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

Tomgram: Michael Klare, It’s Always the Oil

Tomgram: Michael Klare, It’s Always the Oil

What more did you need to know once Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, claimed by the Taliban, was Iranian-inspired or plotted, one “in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests”? In other words, behind the Sunni extremist insurgents the U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001 lurks the regime of the Shiite fundamentalists in Tehran that many in Washington have been eager to fight since at least the spring of 2003 (when, coincidentally enough, the Bush administration was insisting that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had significant ties to al-Qaeda).

It couldn’t have made more sense once you thought about it. I don’t mean Pompeo’s claim itself, which was little short of idiotic, but what lurked behind it.  I mean the knowledge that, only a week after the 9/11 attacks, Congress had passed an authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, that allowed the president (and any future president, as it turned out) “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

In other words, almost 18 years later, as Pompeo knows, if you can link any country or group you’re eager to go to war with to al-Qaeda, no matter how confected the connection, you can promptly claim authorization to do your damnedest to them. How convenient, then, should you be in the mood to make war on Iran, if that country just happens to be responsible for terror attacks linked to the Taliban (which once did harbor al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden).

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

Ten Minutes to War

Ten Minutes to War

Donald Trump pulled back from igniting a potentially disastrous war in the Persian Gulf on Thursday night with just 10 minutes to spare, but the super-hawks he surrounded himself with will probably try again, writes Joe Lauria.

The commander-in-chief acted like one, if only briefly, on Thursday night when he said he called off air strikes on Iran—and potentially a devastating war in the Persian Gulf—with just ten minutes to spare, because he says a general told him to expect around 150 Iranian civilian deaths.

Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning:

 “On Monday (sic) they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not……..proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!” 

It seems unlikely that a president would have to ask at the last minute about potential civilian casualties, unless the Pentagon has become so callous as to not have figured that into its war planning.  A more likely scenario is that Donald Trump was in an epic struggle with his most hawkish national security advisers—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton—and with himself, and that he could not decide what to do until literally the last ten minutes, using the excuse of civilian deaths to pull back.

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

Pompeo To Present Military “Options” To Trump As Iran Threatens Carriers With “Precision” Ballistic Missiles

Pompeo To Present Military “Options” To Trump As Iran Threatens Carriers With “Precision” Ballistic Missiles

Echoing prior comments from Tehran’s leaders that a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf would set the stage fora “shooting gallery,” the commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned Tuesday that its ballistic missiles are capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with great precision

“These missiles can hit with great precision carriers in the sea… These missiles are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami said in a televised speech, per Reuters.A 2017 Iranian military drill involving missile test on a carrier mock-up in the Persian Gulf.

He also asserted that Iran’s ballistic missile technology had tipped the balance of power in the Middle East in Tehran’s favor, even with an increasing build-up of American forces in the region, including the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group deployed last month. 

As we previously analyzed, it appears Tehran is now waging its own “maximum counter-pressure” campaign against the White House, given its been largely blocked from exporting its vitaltwo million barrels per day, and the US economic blockade sending its economy into a tailspin. Tehran could force Trump to choose among two bad options: see global oil squeezed with soaring prices due to a “tanker war” and military threats in the Strait of Hormuz, or commit US forces to yet another disastrous regime change war in the Middle East. 

Iran appears ready to match threat for threat, as we mentioned: a real war is fast unfolding in the Middle East today, a war where oil tankers and oil delivery to the world (30% of world oil supply goes through the Gulf) are the targetsBrigadier General Hossein Salami 

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

Trump Says Tanker Attack Has “Iran Written All Over It” As Tehran Slams US “False Flag”

Trump Says Tanker Attack Has “Iran Written All Over It” As Tehran Slams US “False Flag”

Iran has slammed what it’s mission to the United Nations said are “unfounded and reckless” claims put forth yesterday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing Iran of conducting the “blatant” attack on two international oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday. Meanwhile President Trump on Friday morning told Fox & Friends that the tanker attacks had “Iran written all over it” and dismissed Iran as “a nation of terror.”

Notably, Iranian officials have accused the US or one of its allies of conducing a false flag operation as part of the “disinformation campaign” to continue its “maximum pressure” which aims at bringing Tehran into the cross hairs of a US-led war.

“The US and its regional allies must stop warmongering and put an end to mischievous plots and false flag operations in the region,” Iran’s mission to the United Nations said.

Issued late Thursday, the statement said further: “Warning, once again, about all of the US coercion, intimidation and malign behavior, Iran expresses concern over suspicious incidents for the oil tankers that occurred today.”

“The US economic war and terrorism against the Iranian people as well as the massive military presence in the region have been and continue to be the main sources of insecurity and instability in the wider Persian Gulf region and the most significant threat to its peace and security,” the statement continued.

Iran’s foreign minister also later described the US accusations as “sabotage diplomacy” following his previous comments posted to Twitter saying “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired” — especially given Iran’s president and the Ayatollah were hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to mediate nuclear deal matters and sanctions relief at the very moment the attack took place

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

Behold the Breathtaking Weakness of the Empire!

Behold the Breathtaking Weakness of the Empire!

The Empire has suffered painful defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq, but one has to admit that these are “tough” countries to crack. The Empire also appears to have lost control of Libya, but that is another complex country which is very hard to control. We also saw all the pathetic huffing and puffing with the DPRK. But, let’s be honest, the US never stood a chance to bully the DPRK into submission, nevermind invading or regime-changing it. Syria was much weaker, but here Russia, Iran and Hezbollah did a world class job of repelling all the AngloZionist attacks, political and military. Besides, I for one will never blame Trump for not listening to Bolton and not triggering WWIII over Syria (yet?)

But Venezuela?!

No Hezbollah or Iran backing Maduro there. And Venezuela is way too far away from Russia to allow her to do what she did in Syria. In fact, Venezuela is in the proverbial “backyard” of the US and is surrounded by hostile puppet regimes. And yet, tonight, it appears that the US puppet Guaidó has failed in his coup attempt.

Moon of Alabama did a great job covering the events of the day, so I will refer you to the excellent article “Venezuela – Random Guyaidó’s New Coup Attempt Turns Out to Be A Dangerous Joke“. I fully concur that today’s coup was both a joke and very dangerous.

Russian readers can also check out this article by Vzgliad which also gives a lot of interesting details, including the fact that Guaidó launched his coup from the Colombian Embassy in Caracas (see here for a machine translation).

But the thing which amazes me most tonight is the truly breathtakingly pathetic weakness of the clowns who launched this latest failed operation: Pompeo and Mr MAGA. Check them out:

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

PATRICK LAWRENCE: The US Moves on Iran’s Oil Market as an Expression of an Irrational Foreign Policy

PATRICK LAWRENCE: The US Moves on Iran’s Oil Market as an Expression of an Irrational Foreign Policy

Patrick Lawrence gauges the backfiring potential of Pompeo’s withdrawal on Thursday of U.S. sanction waivers from eight major importers. 

A Decisive Defeat in Long-Running Battle with Foreign Policy Minders

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement last week that no importer of Iranian oil will henceforth be exempt from U.S. sanctions is as risky as it is misguided. The withdrawal of waivers as of this Thursday effectively gives eight importers dependent on Iranian crude — India, Japan, South Korea, China, Turkey, Taiwan, Italy, and Greece — 10 days’ notice to adjust their petroleum purchases. This is now a full-court press: The intent is to cut off Iran’s access to any oil market anywhere as part of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. “We are going to zero,” Pompeo said as he disclosed the new policy.

Nobody is going to zero. The administration’s move will further damage the Iranian economy, certainly, but few outside the administration think it is possible to isolate Iran as comprehensively as Pompeo seems to expect. Turkey immediately rejected “unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbors,” as Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu put it in a Twitter message. China could do the same, if less bluntly. Other oil importers are likely to consider barter deals, local-currency transactions, and similar “workarounds.” In the immediate neighborhood, Iraq is so far ignoring U.S. demands that it cease purchasing natural gas and electricity from Iran.

Pompeo joining an Iranian diaspora meeting in Dallas, April 15, 2019. (State Department/Ron Przysucha via Flickr)

Pompeo joining an Iranian diaspora meeting in Dallas, April 15, 2019. (State Department/Ron Przysucha via Flickr)

Insights on Overreach

There are a couple of insights to be gleaned from this unusually aggressive case of policy overreach.

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

Trump Kicks the Sanctions Can on Iran Oil

Trump Kicks the Sanctions Can on Iran Oil

Sanctions on Iran have failed. The weakness of the U.S. position in the oil markets is now complete. Donald Trump’s Energy Dominance strategy has failed.

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R – The Eschaton) that no more sanctions waivers will be granted to importers of Iranian oil. Those that do so will face sanctions.

But let’s look at what is actually on the table.  Waivers will be extended to a year from now during a ‘wind-down’ period. But, I thought these past six months were the ‘wind down’ period Don?

I told you these would get extended the minute they were granted. Because three of these countries — India, Turkey and China — are in open revolt over the policy. 

And they have built plenty of infrastructure to get around these sanctions when or if they are ever implemented.

Three of the eight countries granted waivers — Italy, Greece and Taiwan — do not need waiver extensions as they’ve already cut their imports to zero.

No Disruptions

But the main issue here is the extension. It’s clear that Trump and his merry band of neocon handlers are afraid of further disruption of the oil supply and demand, otherwise the extensions wouldn’t have been granted at all.

They talk tough about UAE and Saudi Arabia adding supply but the reality is it isn’t that easy to spin up new supply. And the year-long waiver extension is proof of this. They’ll certainly sell all they can but there are those pesky OPEC quotas to deal with.

No one was willing to go along with the Saudis OPEC+ plan where they and Russia would be pigs more equal than the others this winter, so it’s unlikely that will happen now that Trump has helped them push prices back towards $75 per barrel.

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

Pompeo Demands Moscow “Cease Unconstructive Behavior” In Venezuela

Pompeo Demands Moscow “Cease Unconstructive Behavior” In Venezuela 

As we predicted a number of times before, a proxy war between Russia and the United States appears now heating up in Venezuela — this after over the weekend Russia sent a military transport plane filled with Russian troops commanded by First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Land Forces of Russia Gen. Vasily Tonkoshkurov, which landed in Caracas Saturday. We also reported the major development this morning that new satellite images reveal a major deployment of S-300 air defense missile systems to a key airbase south of Caracas.

Russia’s highly visible deployment of a small troop contingency along with a reported 35 tons of cargo has resulted in a direct and firm response from Washington as on Monday morning the US Secretary of State called on Russia to “cease its unconstructive behavior”.Pompeo has been touring the Middle East over the past days. Image source: Reuters

According to Reuters Pompeo conveyed the message directly via a phone call with his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Spokesman Robert Palladino addressed the phone call in the following statement:

The secretary told Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela.

Palladino added that Pompeo specifically condemned Russian military support for the “illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro.” 

Pompeo had earlier this month vowed to continue to put “unconstrained” pressure on the Maduro regime after it became apparent that all internal coup attempts by the Juan Guaido-led opposition had failed. 

As we reported previously this week’s tensions follows a high-level meeting in Rome last week, during which Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied – thus it appears Russia is taking no chances with its South American ally.

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

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