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What might a DeSantis foreign policy look like? – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on November 22, 2022

DeSantis’ record doesn’t offer much evidence that he has questioned any of the Republican Party’s hawkish positions,

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/11/21/what-might-a-desantis-foreign-policy-look-like/

Written by
Daniel Larison

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has become one of the main challengers to Donald Trump for leadership of the Republican Party in the wake of his landslide reelection victory last week over Democratic candidate Charlie Crist. 

While DeSantis is best known nationally for controversies over Covid and culture war battles, he has a foreign policy record from his years in Congress and even during his tenure as governor that also merits closer scrutiny. If he seeks the Republican nomination for president, as many now expect he will, voters should be aware of the foreign policy worldview that he brings with him. 

Before he left the House for Tallahassee, DeSantis established himself as a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy with an emphasis on attacking U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran and Cuba. His three terms in the House overlapped with Obama’s major initiatives of negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran and restoring normal relations with Cuba, and like the rest of his party DeSantis was hostile to both policies. 

The hardline positions that DeSantis has taken on issues relating to Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela are not surprising given Florida politics, and they have aligned him closely with Florida’s hawkish Sen. Marco Rubio and fellow Iraq war veteran Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

During the original debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), DeSantis was an early and vocal opponent of an agreement with Iran. He co-authored a July 2015 op-ed in Time with Tom Cotton outlining the usual hawkish objections to the deal. Like most critics of the agreement, they misrepresented what it would do and exaggerated the benefits Iran would receive from sanctions relief. The op-ed was long on outrage and short on offering any serious alternative to diplomacy to resolve the nuclear issue. 

DeSantis and Cotton also indulged in rather hysterical threat inflation about Iran, saying, “They will stop at nothing to end our way of life.” 

In addition to the op-ed, DeSantis released statements and spoke on the House floor many times denouncing any agreement with Iran that would allow them to retain any part of their nuclear program. He continued to rail against it after the agreement was implemented. Under Trump, DeSantis was enthusiastic in his support for undermining and leaving the JCPOA and imposing additional sanctions on Iran. On the decision to renege on the nuclear deal, he said that Trump “did the right thing.” 

Going beyond the Trump administration’s stated goals for reimposing sanctions, DeSantis has imagined that the Iranian government could be brought down through more outside pressure. In a Fox News segment, he sketched out his idea of how regime change might happen: “So, I think the more we can connect people and expand social networks there, I do think that this regime’s days are numbered, and the more success we have in choking off the money and opening up the networks means their demise will be met quicker.” 

Judging from his record, it is reasonable to assume that if DeSantis were elected president he would have no interest in negotiating with Iran about anything and would instead be looking for ways to destabilize and topple the government there.

DeSantis had already left the House by the time that Congress made its war powers challenge to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led coalition war on Yemen, but while he was there he was a reliable vote against any restrictions on U.S. weapons going to Saudi Arabia. For example, he voted against a 2016 amendment that would have prevented the transfer of cluster munitions to the Saudis. The vote on that amendment was not strictly along party lines. There were 40 Republicans that voted for limiting the kinds of weapons being transferred to Saudi Arabia after the war had been going on for a year, but DeSantis stuck with most of his party on this question.

On other issues, DeSantis was a cheerleader for Trump’s early hawkish decisions.

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Why US Diplomacy Fails – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on January 20, 2022

https://original.antiwar.com/?p=2012344896

by Daniel Larison

The nuclear deal with Iran is not dead yet, but the prospects for its revival and longer-term survival are bleak. While there are reports of some progress in the latest round of talks in Vienna, the U.S. and its European allies keep insisting that time is running out for the negotiations. The Biden administration has already begun laying the groundwork for its damage control campaign in the event that the talks fail, suggesting that they have already all but given up on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is possible that the talks might still yield something of value, but it is more likely that the most successful nonproliferation agreement in recent history will be consigned to the ash heap because the US cannot make durable, credible diplomatic commitments.

The Iranian government has demanded that the US make a binding “legal pledge” to ensure that a future administration can’t do what the Trump administration did when it reneged on the JCPOA in 2018. The demand is understandable given that the US violated all its commitments when Iran was fully complying with theirs, but the Biden administration isn’t in a position to make such a guarantee. Even if the administration could provide such a formal pledge right now, there would be nothing to stop the next president from tearing up that pledge just as Trump tore up more than one ratified treaty during his term. Biden’s Republican critics have already said that the next administration would throw out any revived agreement. Formal pledges mean nothing to ideologues that despise all diplomatic engagement.

A basic problem with US diplomacy is that there are major political obstacles to concluding almost any agreement with a hostile or pariah state and virtually no political incentives to honor those agreements when they are made. When a president negotiates with these states, he has to burn a tremendous amount of political capital to get an agreement, and his successor can undo all of that effort with the stroke of a pen. Trump’s decision to renege on the nuclear deal is now widely condemned as one of his worst foreign policy moves, but the reality is that he paid no political price for doing it and he encountered remarkably little resistance from Congress or the foreign policy establishment. Even when tensions with Iran brought the US very close to a new unnecessary war, Trump faced almost no backlash against the policy that had taken the US to the brink.

Diplomacy with Iran is further complicated by the fact that the US does not view Iran as an equal or even as a sovereign state, but instead treats it as if it were a disobedient vassal that has to be forced back into submission. Iran is expected to adhere to the restrictions contained in the nuclear deal without exception, but the US and the other major powers are effectively free to flout their obligations without suffering any penalties. The US now disingenuously cites Iran’s reduced compliance since 2019 as justification for keeping in place all the sanctions that spurred Iran to take those actions, and that means that the upfront sanctions relief that could break the current impasse won’t even be considered.

Sanctions advocates like to claim that the economic wars they support facilitate negotiated agreements by using sanctions as “leverage” against targeted states, but in practice their pressure tactics provoke the target governments to engage in more of the unwanted behavior to build up their own “leverage.” Because it is taken for granted that the US never grants sanctions relief first, the US just keeps applying more pressure with predictable counterproductive results. When the additional pressure also fails to deliver the desired outcome, the US begins casting around for any other “option” except the obvious one of lifting sanctions. According to the conventional view in Washington, lifting sanctions amounts to “rewarding” the targeted government, and sanctions advocates believe it is preferable to keep useless sanctions in place rather than make any concession that might resolve the outstanding issue.

Another reason why the US so rarely delivers sanctions relief is that it is much easier politically to demand more sanctions on a targeted government than it is to remove them. That makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for US negotiators to make promises that the other side can believe. If the main thing that the US has to offer is the removal of the sanctions that it imposed, and if it cannot credibly commit to that removal because it is too politically risky at home, that guarantees that US diplomacy won’t succeed. In the rare event when the US does provide sanctions relief, however halting and partial, the targeted government cannot trust that the relief won’t be reversed in a few years when American hardliners come back into power.

US diplomacy is compromised by its heavy reliance on using an economic weapon that achieves nothing except inflicting misery on ordinary people. Because American policymakers are so attached to the idea that the economic weapon gives them leverage, they never want to put the weapon down and instead they keep holding out for the other side to capitulate. Even though a gesture of goodwill and some early sanctions relief would likely lead to a mutually beneficial agreement in most cases, US policymakers would rather watch a good agreement go up in flames than show the slightest flexibility that their domestic critics could denounce as “weakness.” If the talks in Vienna are going to be successful, the Biden administration will have to break with that pattern.

Daniel Larison is a contributing editor and weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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Biden’s efforts to appease Israel on Iran have failed on all fronts – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on December 16, 2021

It’s not the nuclear deal that’s the problem for Tel Aviv, but the very idea that Washington and Tehran would reach any detente at all.

What Israel doesn’t want they won’t get.

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2021/12/12/bidens-efforts-to-appease-israel-on-iran-have-failed-on-all-fronts/

Written by
Trita Parsi

The New York Times Friday published an important analysis of ongoing U.S.-Israeli tensions over Washington’s efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which had succeeded in curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. As helpful as it is in understanding where things stand between Washington and Tel Aviv, however, the article misses a more fundamental takeaway from recent developments: Biden’s immense efforts to appease Israel in hopes of tempering the latter’s opposition to the JCPOA have not only failed but were likely based on faulty assumptions and were thus a mistake from the outset. 

Diverging Israeli and American views on the JCPOA is nothing new. But senior officials on the Biden team thought President Obama could have handled the Israelis better by coordinating more closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and actually heeding some of his hawkish advice. This belief, however, is unfounded.

The fundamental question is this: Are Israel and America’s views on a negotiated settlement with Iran ultimately reconcilable or not? Was there— and is there now — a way to clinch a lasting deal with Iran on its nuclear program that also satisfies Israel? 

The answer lies in understanding that the details of the deal are not the real problem. It’s rather the very idea of Washington and Tehran reaching any agreement that not only prevents Iran from developing a bomb, but also reduces U.S.-Iran tensions and lifts sanctions that have prevented Iran from enhancing its regional power. 

Many of Washington’s partners in the Middle East worry more about a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement and its geopolitical implications — a likely tilt in the regional balance of power in Iran’s favor, especially given the widespread perception the United States is eager to extricate itself from the neighborhood — than Iran’s nuclear advances. “So long as the United States works to contain Iran’s political influence and undermine its economy,” I wrote in Foreign Affairs in February, “the balance of the region will artificially tilt in favor of these states — a tilt that their own power cannot sustain.” 

Indeed, Obama’s fruitless efforts to persuade Washington’s regional partners and their allies in Washington to go along with the JCPOA had demonstrated that no amount of deference or consultation could change their categorical opposition to a deal with Iran. To the great frustration of some former Obama officials who had gone through this experience, the Biden team thought they could square this circle.

In December 2020, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes publicly implored Biden not to repeat this mistake: “I plead with [Biden],” he said on the PodSaveAmerica podcast. “Do not think there is any ounce of good faith that will be coming your way from Bibi Netanyahu, from MBS, and from the Tom Cottons of this world. These people have no interest in a deal. They’ve never had an interest in a deal,” he declared. “How many times do we have to go through this play? This is in the hands of the Biden people to say: ‘We don’t need to listen to these people.’”

But Biden chose to listen to them. Instead of returning to the JCPOA in the first days and weeks of his administration, critical time and effort were spent trying to persuade Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to get onboard with diplomacy. 

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RPI ALERT: Major Israeli Strike on Iran Imminent?

Posted by M. C. on August 7, 2021

https://mailchi.mp/ronpaulinstitute/israeliran?e=4e0de347c8

Dear Friends:

On April 6th, 2017, the Ron Paul Institute received credible information from its network that a US missile attack on Syria by President Trump was imminent. Just a couple of hours after we put out this urgent update, missiles were launched by Trump on Syria under the false pretense that they were retaliation for a Syrian government airstrike on civilians. That claim has since been proven bogus – cooked up by US government spooks and amplified by the media.

We reported it to you in real time, where we were told by a source that the “TLAMs were being loaded.” Sadly, we were right.

We are currently hearing from our sources that Israel may be planning a major “retaliatory” strike on Iran this weekend over the alleged involvement of Iran in the drone attack on a Japanese-owned but Israeli-managed ship, in which a British citizen was killed.

It’s hardly an Iranian attack on Tel Aviv, but the new government in Israel has been ratcheting up the rhetoric for days, recently claiming that it is “ready to attack Iran alone” over the alleged incident.

We are told it may happen over the weekend.

The Israeli defense minister is on the warpath, repeating an endless Netanyahu talking point that Iranian nuclear weapons would be rolled out tomorrow, or in a week, or a few weeks, etc. The Israeli government is tenuously positioned, with recently dethroned Bibi breathing down its neck, so what better way to shore up domestic support – where the “left” parties are as hawkish as the “right” parties – than to launch a big attack on Iran?

That would solve the ongoing problem of US President Biden’s negotiations – even if half-hearted and fruitless –  with the Iranians over the return of the US to its commitment to the JCPOA (“Iran Deal”) the return to which Biden openly campaigned on. 

There is nothing that would excite Israel’s bipartisan “Amen Corner” in the Washington Beltway more than a reckless Israeli attack on Iran (over a minor incident not at all related to Israeli national interests) and an Iranian response, which must come considering the incoming Iranian government is politically obliged to defend the conservative voices of those who recently elected it.

And the pro-Israel fanatics in the Biden Administration seem to be facilitating the escalation. Indeed, our source informs us, this Israeli attack may have some coordinating help from its friends in the Pentagon.

Speaking of Pat Buchanan, once again he has it totally on the mark when he warns of a “Gulf of Tonkin incident” in the Gulf of Oman. Writing in an article Friday, he blows apart this bogus narrative: while the Israelis are hysterically trying to frame this as some kind of existential threat to their existence, in fact, as Buchanan writes, such a frontal assault by the incoming Iranian Administration would make no sense.

Writes Buchanan:  ‘We are confident that Iran conducted this attack,’ said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. ‘We are working with our partners to consider our next steps and consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming.’Iran, however, has repeatedly denied that it ordered the attack.What makes the attack puzzling is its timing, as it occurred just days before the inauguration of the newly elected president of Iran, the ultraconservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi.Query: Would Raisi have ordered a provocative attack on an Israeli-managed vessel, just days before taking office, when his highest priority is a lifting of the ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions imposed on his country by former President Donald Trump? Why?Would Raisi put at risk his principal diplomatic goal, just to get even with Israel for some earlier pinprick strike in the tit-for-tat war in which Iran and Israel have been engaged for years? Again, why? Indeed: why?  We are providing this information to you, again, to let you know how things work inside the Washington war machine. Conflict is always good from the prospective of those who make millions off the rest of us to keep the tension high. High enough to justify more weapons sales but not too high where it all boils over.

This may boil over. Israel has been bombing Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, etc with impunity for years, and even its very friendly ally Russia is getting annoyed by Tel Aviv’s relentless attacks on its neighbors.

So keep an eye open. And, as ever, do NOT trust the mainstream media. Information from our sources may not play out as we have warned. And in fact we would be happy to be wrong, as there is nothing to be gained by Israel, the US, Iran, or any country in the region from a major war.

Our view is that were the US to disengage from the Middle East, Israel would have to face the music that it must find a way to get along with its neighbors – and the Palestinians who are its closest neighbors – and that would be good not only for the neighborhood, but for Israel as well.

The problem is not solely Israel or Palestine or Iran. The problem is, as Americans, is US foreign policy, as a major enabler for conflict for the benefit of special interests.

Pray for peace.
Sincerely yours,

Daniel McAdams
Executive Director
Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity

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Advocates of Economic Sanctions Mirror the Morality of al Qaeda – Stark Realities

Posted by M. C. on March 18, 2021

Like Terrorists, Sanctioning Governments Intentionally Harm Civilians

https://starkrealities.substack.com/p/advocates-of-economic-sanctions-mirror

Brian McGlinchey

Efforts to restore American and Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal—formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—are at an impasse.

President Biden has declared there will be no relaxing of smothering economic sanctions on Iran unless the country first returns to full compliance with the deal. Iran, which began exceeding nuclear enrichment thresholds in response to America’s total withdrawal from the deal under President Trump, wants the United States to begin easing sanctions first.

As that chess game continues, there’s something missing from op-ed pages, network news studios and the House and Senate chambers: a fundamental debate about the morality of economic sanctions.

If we reduce economic sanctions to a general characterization that encompasses both ends and means, we arrive at a truth that is as damning as it is incontrovertible:

Economic sanctions intentionally inflict suffering on civilian populations to force a change in their governments’ policies

If that has a familiar ring, perhaps it’s because “the intentional use of violence against civilians in order to obtain political aims” is one definition of terrorism.

Sanction Architect Bob Menendez, Terrorism Architect Osama bin Laden

That’s not to say “sanctions” and “terrorism” are interchangeable terms. However, both practices center on willfully harming civilians to accomplish political goals.

Like Sanctioning Governments, Terrorists Have Political Objectives

Some resist the fact that al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are principally motivated by political goals. That’s understandable, given establishment media grossly underreports terrorist motivations.

The resulting vacuum is filled with reflexive and false assumptions—for example, that Muslim terrorists are principally motivated by religion—or deliberately misleading government claims, like President George W. Bush’s baseless assertion that al Qaeda terrorists “hate our freedoms.”

Through various written and recorded pronouncements, Osama bin Laden made al Qaeda’s political motivations clear. His aims included the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East, and termination of U.S. support of the region’s dictators and the government of Israel.

The political nature of terrorism was particularly apparent in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The attacks came three days before Spain’s general election, and a video received by Spanish authorities said the attacks were punishment for the country’s participation in the occupation of Iraq.

On election day, the shaken Spanish population gave an upset victory to the Socialist party, and the newly elected prime minister immediately pledged to withdrawal Spanish troops from Iraq.

Those examples focus on al Qaeda and its kin, but terrorists of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities have political aims. An exhaustive study of worldwide suicide bombing by University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape found nearly all such attacks seek “to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.”

Like Terrorists, Sanctioning Governments Intentionally Harm Civilians

In a hearing earlier this month, Senate foreign relations committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has been one of Capitol Hill’s most prolific authors of Iran sanction legislation, praised sanctions as part of “our arsenal of peaceful diplomacy.”

Perhaps it was a Freudian slip that led him to oxymoronically place his supposedly “peaceful” sanctions inside an “arsenal”—in their effect, there’s little difference between imposing economic sanctions and mining Iranian harbors.

Of course, “peaceful” isn’t the favorite adjective of sanction advocates. When boasting about their handiwork, Menendez and others invariably use a far more appropriate descriptor: “crippling.” Barack Obama @BarackObamaVP Biden on Iran: “These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions. Period.”October 12th 2012758 Retweets220 Likes

Officials assure us that sanctions are meant to cripple governments, but any honest observer understands that’s achieved by first crippling the country’s economy.

Since the concept of economic harm is somewhat abstract, it’s easy for Americans to limit their visualization of that harm to a downward slope on a gross domestic product chart, failing to appreciate what economic warfare means to the everyday lives of individual humans.

Occasionally, though, American media provides a window on the harms being visited upon the Iranian people.

Consider a 2019 Los Angeles Times story, “Middle-Class Iranians Resort to Buying Rotting Produce as U.S. Sanctions Take Toll.” Reading the title alone would give most Americans a far better appreciation of sanctions’ real-world impact. The article provides other examples, such as a single mother forced by skyrocketing prices into abandoning her apartment and moving into her mother’s one-bedroom dwelling.

While the U.S. sanctions regime provides exceptions for Iran’s import of food and medicine, other limitations on the flow of Iranian money—and vendors’ and bankers’ fears of accidentally running afoul of U.S. restrictions—often render those exceptions meaningless.

As a result, sanctions can have profound consequences for Iran’s sick. Among other observations, a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch found:

  • Iranian patients with rare diseases were finding it increasingly difficult to access essential, imported medicines
  • A pediatric cancer treatment center was unable to acquire medications deemed essential by the World Health Organization
  • Patients with epidermolysis bullosa—a rare disease that causes blistering— had their supply of a special kind of foam dressing cut off when a European producer ceased business in Iran due to U.S. sanctions. The domestic alternative dressing “often gets attached to the blisters, causing excruciating pain for the patients,” according to an attorney representing a health NGO.

The report also noted Iranians were finding it harder to acquire imported eye drops, “causing suffering for the large number of patients affected by chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.”

Exasperatingly, many of those eye patients are being victimized by the U.S. government for a second time: During the Iran-Iraq War, American intelligence officials provided targeting information to the Iraqi military, fully aware Saddam Hussein’s forces would attack with chemical weapons.

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Joe Biden is already breaking his promise to end the US’ ‘forever wars’ in the Middle East — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on February 20, 2021

In the case of Iraq, there had not been a single suicide bombing and no Islamic terrorist organisations, such as al-Qaeda, had operated in the country before the overthrew of Saddam Hussein.

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/516096-biden-middle-east-forever-war/

By Robert Inlakesh, a political analyst, journalist, and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and currently works with Quds News and Press TV. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47 Prior to his inauguration, President Joe Biden had proclaimed that he wished to end the “forever wars” the US is fighting, just as former president Trump had claimed he would. But once you’re in office, it’s a different story.

NATO has decided to expand its footprint in Iraq, following a rocket attack in the city of Erbil that killed one American contractor and injured six more people. This, as the US State Department has threatened consequences for all those involved.

NATO announced this Thursday that it will boost its Iraq mission from 500 to 4,000 personnel, which, Pentagon spokesperson Jessica McNulty confirmed in an interview with CNN, will mean the US “will contribute its fair share to this important expanded mission” – a clear indication that Biden is ready to continue his career along the warpath. The United States currently has 2,500 troops active in Iraq, following the former Trump administration’s decision to lower troop presence – a policy the Biden administration is now poised to undo.

When in doubt, blame Iran

Despite the fact there has been no confirmation as to who exactly carried out the recent Erbil rocket attack, the US State Department has vowed a response against those involved. The group that claimed the attack, Saraya Awliya Al-Dam, has since been linked by the Western press to Iran. The likes of CNN have even called the group an “Iranian-backed militia”, for which the network provided no evidence and which is a potentially dangerous assertion, as many Americans will have been given the impression that Iran was somehow responsible. Iran has since denied any involvement in the Erbil attack and says it has never backed the Saraya Awliya Al-Dam militia group. 

Following Trump’s ‘targeted assassination’ of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) Chairman Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in January 2020, the Iraqi parliament had voted to expel US forces from the country. Although the expulsion never occurred, US forces did begin to close down military facilities in the east of Iraq and concentrated their troop presence further to the west, in Anbar Province. 

The United States invaded Iraq under the pretence of dispossessing former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of his non-existent “weapons of mass destruction”. Now, almost 17 years and over a million dead Iraqis later, the war is close to the age that is required for enlistment to serve in the US military.

Breeding terrorism

While the US footprint seemingly expands in Iraq, Biden is also set to make his decision on whether he will follow the previous administration’s deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and withdraw the remaining 2,500 troops, or stay in that 20-year-long war. He has until May 1 to do the former or face the backlash of breaking the Trump-era accord. 

The common argument used for staying in Afghanistan is similar to the argument for remaining in Iraq. The US will argue, with the full complicity of its media, that there will be a bloodbath if they leave, due to militant groups gaining the upper hand. But when it comes to the US and its involvement in these wars, the problems in both Iraq and Afghanistan were created almost entirely by its presence.

In the case of Iraq, there had not been a single suicide bombing and no Islamic terrorist organisations, such as al-Qaeda, had operated in the country before the overthrew of Saddam Hussein. 

As for Iranian influence in Iraq, the reason why this was even possible was due to the US having destroyed the country and left space for foreign groups and nations to intervene. The Iranian influence in Iraq, specifically through the aforementioned PMUs (that is, the state-sponsored umbrella organisation for militias), came as a response to Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS) insurgency and occupation of Iraqi lands. Iran stepped in to help build the primary force that defeated IS on the ground inside Iraq. However, despite the fact that the PMUs are part of the Iraqi armed forces, they are portrayed simply as an Iranian proxy group akin to terrorist organisations hostile to US forces.

Twisting the nuclear deal

Along with the demonisation of Iran and its influence in Iraq being used as a partial justification for further action in the country comes the Biden administration’s continued hardball stance when it comes to re-entering the JCPOA/Iran nuclear deal.

Biden has offered to rejoin talks with Iran,on the issue of the JCPOA, dropping Trump-era restrictions such as the tight limitation of movement imposed on Iranian diplomats, but these gestures have not budged any party.

In a meeting this Thursday between US, German, French and UK diplomats, the quartet blamed Iran for the lack of progress on the restoration of the deal. The statement focuses on its reactionary enrichment of uranium, which came in the wake of US and EU non-compliance with the deal, and urged Iran to consider the “consequences of such grave action”

In response to the statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif lambasted the US and E3 partners for what he calls their placing of the onus on Iran over a deal they had violated. Zarif reaffirmed Iran’s position that it would follow action with action, meaning sanctions must first be lifted and the quartet must honour its commitments before Iran will resume honouring the deal.

One of the most effective weapons the US is using to justify its aggressive posture in the Middle East is its propaganda, which works to paint its opposition as near-irredeemable. Even if Biden is going to re-enter the Iran Deal, he has now made it abundantly clear that he is not going to end hostility towards Iran and its allied forces in the region, and has already betrayed his stated goal of favouring a diplomacy-first stance.

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Tony Blinken: the good, the bad, and potentially ugly – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on November 24, 2020

Blinken maintains that the failure of U.S. policy in Syria was that our government did not employ enough force. He stands by the false argument that Biden’s vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a “vote for tough diplomacy.” He was reportedly in favo of the Libyan intervention, which Biden opposed, and he was initially a defender and advocate for U.S. support for the Saudi coalition war on Yemen. In short, Blinken has agreed with some of the biggest foreign policy mistakes that Biden and Obama made, and he has tended to be more of an interventionist than both of them.

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2020/11/23/tony-blinken-the-good-the-bad-and-potentially-ugly/

Written by
Daniel Larison

President-elect Biden has reportedly chosen his longtime foreign policy adviser Antony Blinken as his nominee for Secretary of State. Blinken had previously served as Biden’s national security advisor when Biden was vice president, and he was also deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration. It was always a given that Blinken would be receiving one of the top jobs on Biden’s national security team, and the president-elect is expected to announce his choice for repairing the State Department on Tuesday.

Blinken is a respected, credentialed member of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment, and his record is accordingly mixed. While advocates of restraint will find a few cautiously hopeful notes in his appointment, there are other things that should give us pause.

Like Biden, Blinken has been and remains a strong supporter of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nonproliferation agreement that restricted Iran’s nuclear program that was by most accounts successful until President Trump withdrew from the pact two years ago. Blinken has said that a Biden administration would reenter the deal as the basis for pursuing a follow-on agreement with Iran. He also supports extending the New START treaty with Russia that would cap and reduce our respective nuclear stockpiles, so his appointment is a positive signal that the Biden administration will keep the remaining arms control treaty alive for the next five years. 

Blinken is respected internationally, and he will be in a good position to repair many of the relationships that were fractured by Mike Pompeo’s reckless swaggering. It will be refreshing to have a secretary of state who values the work of the department he will be leading instead of working overtime to wreck it and demoralize its diplomats as Pompeo has done. Insofar as repairing and rejuvenating the State Department will be one of the main tasks for the next secretary, Blinken is eminently qualified to do it.

When it comes to questions of military intervention, Blinken’s record is much less reassuring. According to journalists Robert Wright and Connor Echols, who have created a system for grading Biden’s possible appointees against a standard of progressive realism, Blinken’s support for military restraint has been quite poor. 

Blinken maintains that the failure of U.S. policy in Syria was that our government did not employ enough force. He stands by the false argument that Biden’s vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a “vote for tough diplomacy.” He was reportedly in favo of the Libyan intervention, which Biden opposed, and he was initially a defender and advocate for U.S. support for the Saudi coalition war on Yemen. In short, Blinken has agreed with some of the biggest foreign policy mistakes that Biden and Obama made, and he has tended to be more of an interventionist than both of them.

The war on Yemen is an important example of how Blinken started off with a terrible position, but seems to have learned from that mistake. In 2015, Blinken was defending the Obama administration’s disastrous decision to back the intervention in Yemen. Like many other former Obama officials, Blinken has changed his view of the policy that Obama started. More recently, he was one of many leading former Obama administration officials to sign a letter in 2018 in support of the effort to end U.S. involvement in the war. Biden has pledged to end U.S. support for the Saudi coalition, and together with Blinken’s changed position, it suggests that there is good reason to expect that this will happen early in the new year. Yemen will be the most important early test to determine whether Biden and Blinken can make a clean break with the errors of both the Obama and Trump administrations.

While there are encouraging signs that a Biden administration will undo some of the outgoing administration’s more harmful policies, Biden and Blinken remain wedded to an overly ambitious and costly strategy of primacy, however. When Blinken co-wrote an article with Robert Kagan in early 2019, he dismissed alternative foreign policy visions that called for the United States to scale back its role in the world. They blow off arguments for restraint on the grounds that it would repeat the errors of the 1930s.

On the issue of Syria, Blinken and Kagan asserted that the United States “made the opposite error of doing too little.” That is a disturbingly hard-line interventionist view to hold so many years after the war in Syria began. They called for the “judicious use of force,” but it seems impossible to square that with a belief that Washington should have intervened more forcefully in the Syrian nightmare. If a similar crisis occurs in the coming years, it seems likely that Blinken will be among those urging Biden to use force.

There is no question that having Blinken as secretary of state will be a huge improvement over the current occupant of that office. After four years of demoralization and terrible leadership, the department can begin to recover from the damage that has been done to it. It’s also clear that Blinken was a better choice than some of the others that Biden could have picked. Advocates of restraint may find Blinken to be receptive to some of our arguments on certain issues, but we should also be prepared to hold him accountable if he endorses more misguided interventions in conflicts where the U.S. has no vital interests.   

Written by
Daniel Larison

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Exposing Pompeo’s phony UN snapback stunt in two sentences – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on August 24, 2020

Of course there are two big problems with this approach, the first of which is that while yes, Iran has violated some of the JCPOA’s terms, it has done so only after Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement and reimposed crushing sanctions. And second, in order to trigger the “snapback” mechanism built into the agreement, you have to be a participant in the agreement, which of course, the U.S. ceased to be when Trump exited it in 2018.

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2020/08/21/exposing-pompeos-phony-un-snapback-stunt-in-two-sentences/

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed miserably in his efforts on Thursday to force the United Nations to reimpose its pre-JCPOA sanctions on Iran.

To briefly summarize, the Trump administration and its allies in Washington have been pushing to pile even more sanctions on Iran, and to do that, it hatched a plan to try to get the U.N. to “snapback” its pre-JCPOA sanctions for purportedly violating the nuclear deal’s terms.

Of course there are two big problems with this approach, the first of which is that while yes, Iran has violated some of the JCPOA’s terms, it has done so only after Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement and reimposed crushing sanctions. And second, in order to trigger the “snapback” mechanism built into the agreement, you have to be a participant in the agreement, which of course, the U.S. ceased to be when Trump exited it in 2018.

So the U.N. Security Council has snuffed out this bad faith effort for what it is, as its permanent members have already said they will reject it. What’s more is that Pompeo himself inadvertently revealed the folly of this whole exercise during a press conference on Thursday after notifying the Security Council of the U.S.’s request for snapback.

After a reporter wondered how the U.S. can snapback U.N. sanctions while no longer being part of the deal, an exasperated Pompeo responded, “This — look, just, it’s important to emphasize this,” he said, adding that the U.N. Security Council Resolution endorsing the JCPOA “gave every one of the participant states the right to execute snapback unconditionally.”

And he’s right. U.N. Resolution 2231 states that “the Security Council, within 30 days of receiving a notification by a JCPOA participant State of an issue that the JCPOA participant State believes constitutes significant non-performance of commitments under the JCPOA, shall vote on a draft resolution to continue in effect the terminations of the provisions of previous Security Council resolutions.”

But of course, the United States is no longer “a JCPOA participant state,” a fact that Pompeo himself said back in May, 2018 (emphasis added):

“Two weeks ago, President Trump terminated the United States participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Of course none of these bad faith efforts on Iran and shameless lying should be a surprise. But the question now is how the U.N. will ultimately deal with the U.S. snapback request in an official capacity. Indeed, the International Crisis Group has a suggestion for those at the U.N. who want to preserve the JCPOA: “ignore the U.S. drive to restore terminated sanctions on Iran.” And if that’s indeed the path they take, it may mark the first time in history that the U.N. Security Council has ghosted the U.S.

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With apparently fabricated nuclear documents, Netanyahu pushed the US towards war with Iran | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on May 2, 2020

Graham Fuller, a 27-year veteran of the
CIA who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and
South Asia as well as Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence
Council, offered a similar assessment of the Israeli claim. “If the
Israelis had such a sensitive source in Tehran,” Fuller commented, “they
would not want to risk him.” Fuller concluded that the Israelis’ claim
that they had accurate knowledge of which safes to crack is “dubious,
and the whole thing may be somewhat fabricated.”

In this time of trouble it is comforting to know some things never change.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/04/29/fabricated-nuclear-documents-netanyahu-war-iran/

An investigation of supposed Iranian nuclear documents presented in a dramatically staged Netanyahu press conference indicates they were an Israeli fabrication designed to trigger US military conflict with Iran.

By Gareth Porter

President Donald Trump scrapped the nuclear deal with Iran and continued to risk war with Iran based on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim to have proven definitively that Iran was determined to manufacture nuclear weapons. Netanyahu not only spun Trump but much of the corporate media as well, duping them with the public unveiling of what he claimed was the entire secret Iranian “nuclear archive.”

In early April 2018, Netanyahu briefed Trump privately on the supposed Iranian nuclear archive and secured his promise to leave the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That April 30, Netanyahu took the briefing to the public in a characteristically dramatic live performance in which he claimed Israel’s Mossad intelligence services had stolen Iran’s entire nuclear archive from Tehran. “You may well know that Iran’s leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons…” Netanyahu declared. “Well, tonight, I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied. Big time.”

However, an investigation of the supposed Iranian nuclear documents by The Grayzone reveals them to be the product of an Israeli disinformation operation that helped trigger the most serious threat of war since the conflict with Iran began nearly four decades ago. This investigation found multiple indications that the story of Mossad’s heist of 50,000 pages of secret nuclear files from Tehran was very likely an elaborate fiction and that the documents were fabricated by the Mossad itself.

According to the official Israeli version of events, the Iranians had gathered the nuclear documents from various locations and moved them to what Netanyahu himself described as “a dilapidated warehouse” in southern Tehran. Even assuming that Iran had secret documents demonstrating the development of nuclear weapons, the claim that top secret documents would be held in a nondescript and unguarded warehouse in Central Tehran is so unlikely that it should have raised immediate alarm bells about the story’s legitimacy.

Even more problematic was the claim by a Mossad official to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman that Mossad knew not only in what warehouse its commandos would find the documents but precisely which safes to break into with a blowtorch. The official told Bergman the Mossad team had been guided by an intelligence asset to the few safes in the warehouse contained the binders with the most important documents.  Netanyahu bragged publicly that “very few” Iranians knew the location of the archive; the Mossad official told Bergman “only a handful of people” knew.

But two former senior CIA official, both of whom had served as the agency’s top Middle East analyst, dismissed Netanyahu’s claims as lacking credibility in responses to a query from The Grayzone.

According to Paul Pillar, who was National Intelligence Officer for the region from 2001 to 2005, “Any source on the inside of the Iranian national security apparatus would be extremely valuable in Israeli eyes, and Israeli deliberations about the handling of that source’s information presumably would be biased in favor long-term protection of the source.” The Israeli story of how its spies located the documents “does seem fishy,” Pillar said, especially considering Israel’s obvious effort to derive maximum “political-diplomatic mileage” out of the “supposed revelation” of such a well-placed source.

Graham Fuller, a 27-year veteran of the CIA who served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia as well as Vice-Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, offered a similar assessment of the Israeli claim. “If the Israelis had such a sensitive source in Tehran,” Fuller commented, “they would not want to risk him.” Fuller concluded that the Israelis’ claim that they had accurate knowledge of which safes to crack is “dubious, and the whole thing may be somewhat fabricated.”

No proof of authenticity

Netanyahu’s April 30 slide show presented a series of purported Iranian documents containing sensational revelations that he pointed to as proof of his insistence that Iran had lied about its interest in manufacturing nuclear weapons. The visual aides included a file supposedly dating back to early 2000 or before that detailed various ways to achieve a plan to build five nuclear weapons by mid-2003.

Another document that generated widespread media interest was an alleged report on a discussion among leading Iranian scientists of a purported mid-2003 decision by Iran’s Defense Minister to separate an existing secret nuclear weapons program into overt and covert parts.

Left out of the media coverage of these “nuclear archive” documents was a simple fact that was highly inconvenient to Netanyahu: nothing about them offered a scintilla of evidence that they were genuine. For example, not one contained the official markings of the relevant Iranian agency.

Tariq Rauf, who was head of the Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 2001 to 2011, told The Grayzone that these markings were practically ubiquitous on official Iranian files.

“Iran is a highly bureaucratized system,” Rauf explained. “Hence, one would expect a proper book-keeping system that would record incoming correspondence, with date received, action officer, department, circulation to additional relevant officials, proper letterhead, etc.”

But as Rauf noted, the “nuclear archive” documents that were published by the Washington Post bore no such evidence of Iranian government origin.  Nor did they contain other markings to indicate their creation under the auspices of an Iranian government agency.

What those documents do have in common is the mark of a rubber stamp for a filing system showing numbers for a “record”, a “file” and a “ledger binder” — like the black binders that Netanyahu flashed to the cameras during his slideshow. But these could have easily been created by the Mossad and stamped on to the documents along with the appropriate Persian numbers.

Forensic confirmation of the documents’ authenticity would have required access to the original documents.  But as Netanyahu noted in his April 30, 2018 slide show, the “original Iranian materials” were kept “in a very safe place” – implying that no one would be allowed to have any such access.  Read the rest of this entry »

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A New Definition of Warfare, by Philip Giraldi – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on January 22, 2020

But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent.

It’s absolutely in [your] interests and the people of Great Britain’s interests to join with President Trump, with the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep all of us safe.”

Ever notice how politicians and armies of sanctioned countries stay in pretty good shape while civilians do not?

https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/a-new-definition-of-warfare/


Supporters of Donald Trump often make the point that he has not started any new wars. One might observe that it has not been for lack of trying, as his cruise missile attacks on Syria based on fabricated evidence and his recent assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani have been indisputably acts of war. Trump also has enhanced troop levels both in the Middle East and in Afghanistan while also increasing the frequency and lethality of armed drone attacks worldwide.

Congress has been somewhat unseriously toying around with a tightening of the war powers act of 1973 to make it more difficult for a president to carry out acts of war without any deliberation by or authorization from the legislature. But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been explicit in his explanations that the assertion of “extreme pressure” on countries like Iran and Venezuela is intended to make the people suffer to such an extent that they rise up against their governments and bring about “regime change.” In Pompeo’s twisted reckoning that is how places that Washington disapproves of will again become “normal countries.”

The sanctions can kill. Those imposed by the United States are backed up by the U.S. Treasury which is able to block cash transfers going through the dollar denominated international banking system. Banks that do not comply with America’s imposed rules can themselves be sanctioned, meaning that U.S. sanctions are de facto globally applicable, even if foreign banks and governments do not agree with the policies that drive them. It is well documented how sanctions that have an impact on the importation of medicines have killed thousands of Iranians. In Venezuela, the effect of sanctions has been starvation as food imports have been blocked, forcing a large part of the population to flee the country just to survive.

The latest exercise of United States economic warfare has been directed against Iraq. In the space of one week from December 29th to January 3rd, the American military, which operates out of two major bases in Iraq, killed 25 Iraqi militiamen who were part of the Popular Mobilization Units of the Iraqi Army. The militiamen had most recently been engaged in the successful fight against ISIS. It followed up on that attack by killing Soleimani, Iraqi militia general Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and eight other Iraqis in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport. As the attacks were not approved in any way by the Iraqi government, it was no surprise that rioting followed and the Iraqi Parliament voted to remove all foreign troops from its soil. The decree was signed off on by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, based on the fact that the U.S. military was in Iraq at the invitation of the country’s government and that invitation had just been revoked by parliament.

That Iraq is to say the least unstable is attributable to the ill-advised U.S. invasion of 2003. The persistence of U.S. forces in the country is ostensibly to aid in the fight against ISIS, but the real reason is to serve as a check on Iranian influence in Iraq, which is a strategic demand made by Israel and not responsive to any actual American interest. Indeed, the Iraqi government is probably closer politically to Tehran than to Washington, though the neocon line that the country is dominated by the Iranians is far from true.

Washington’s response to the legitimate Iraqi demand that its troops should be removed consisted of threats. When Prime Minister Mahdi spoke with Pompeo on the phone and asked for discussions and a time table to create a “withdrawal mechanism” the Secretary of State made it clear that there would be no negotiations. A State Department written response entitled “The U.S. Continued Partnership with Iraq” asserted that American troops are in Iraq to serve as a “force for good” in the Middle East and that it is “our right” to maintain “appropriate force posture” in the region.

The Iraqi position also immediately produced presidential threats and tweets about “sanctions like they have never seen,” with the implication that the U.S. was more than willing to wreck the Iraqi economy if it did not get its way. The latest threat to emerge involves blocking Iraq access to its New York federal reserve bank account, where international oil sale revenue is kept, creating a devastating cash crunch in Iraq’s financial system that might indeed destroy the Iraqi economy. If taking steps to ruin a country economically is not considered warfare by other means it is difficult to discern what might fit that description.

After dealing with Iraq, the Trump Administration turned its guns on one of its oldest and closest allies. Great Britain, like most of the other European signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been reluctant to withdraw from the agreement over concern that Iran will as a result decide to develop nuclear weapons. According to the Guardian, a United States representative from the National Security Council named Richard Goldberg, had visited London recently to make clear to the British government that if it does not follow the American lead and withdraw from the JCPOA and reapply sanctions it just might be difficult to work out a trade agreement with Washington post-Brexit. It is a significant threat as part of the pro-Brexit vote clearly was derived from a Trump pledge to make up for some of the anticipated decline in European trade by increasing U.K. access to the U.S. market. Now the quid pro quo is clear: Britain, which normally does in fact follow the Washington lead in foreign policy, will now be expected to be completely on board all of the time and everywhere, particularly in the Middle East.

During his visit, Goldberg told the BBC: “The question for prime minister Johnson is: ‘As you are moving towards Brexit … what are you going to do post-31 January as you come to Washington to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the United States?’ It’s absolutely in [your] interests and the people of Great Britain’s interests to join with President Trump, with the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep all of us safe.”

And there is an interesting back story on Richard Goldberg, a John Bolton protégé anti-Iran hardliner, who threatened the British on behalf of Trump. James Carden, writing at The Nation, posits “Consider the following scenario: A Washington, DC–based, tax-exempt organization that bills itself as a think tank dedicated to the enhancement of a foreign country’s reputation within the United States, funded by billionaires closely aligned with said foreign country, has one of its high-ranking operatives (often referred to as ‘fellows’) embedded within the White House national security staff in order to further the oft-stated agenda of his home organization, which, as it happens, is also paying his salary during his year-long stint there. As it happens, this is exactly what the pro-Israel think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) reportedly achieved in an arrangement brokered by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.”

The FDD senior adviser in question, who was placed on the National Security Council, was Richard Goldberg. FDD is largely funded by Jewish American billionaires including vulture fund capitalist Paul Singer and Home Depot partner Bernard Marcus. Its officers meet regularly with Israeli government officials and the organization is best known for its unrelenting effort to bring about war with Iran. It has relentlessly pushed for a recklessly militaristic U.S. policy directed against Iran and also more generally in the Middle East. It is a reliable mouthpiece for Israel and, inevitably, it has never been required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.

To be sure, Trump also has other neocons advising him on Iran, including David Wurmser, another Bolton associate, who has the president’s ear and is a consultant to the National Security Council. Wurmser has recently submitted a series of memos to the White House advocating a policy of “regime disruption” with the Islamic Republic that will destabilize it and eventually lead to a change of government. He may have played a key role in giving the green light to the assassination of Soleimani.

The good news, if there is any, is that Goldberg resigned on January 3rd, allegedly because the war against Iran was not developing fast enough to suit him and FDD, but he is symptomatic of the many neoconservative hawks who have infiltrated the Trump Administration at secondary and tertiary levels, where much of the development and implementation of policy actually takes place. It also explains that when it comes to Iran and the irrational continuation of a significant U.S. military presence in the Middle East, it is Israel and its Lobby that are steering the ship of state.

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This starving girl was searching for food to eat. A few ...

 

 

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