Bolton Prepares Babylon the Great For War With Iran

John Bolton is trying to steer Trump and the US into another Mideast war. Don’t let him.

I thought neocons were gone, but the most bombastic of them all has Trump’s ear. Let’s learn from Iraq mistakes and avoid a devastating war with Iran.

Michael Morford  |  Opinion contributor 9:41 a.m. MST Mar. 7, 2019

I was surprised to see my commanding general in the conference room that December 2001 day. Almost immediately following 9/11, he had been in Kuwait at Camp Doha overseeing the logistics of the Afghanistan War efforts alongside my direct commander and a small team from our Theater Support Command. Now, a mere two months later, he was back.

I became even more surprised when he sent word to finish the Operations Plan for Central Command, a project we had been developing and honing for several years. This plan was essentially the go-to-war strategy for the United States against Iraq. Although we were only weeks removed from the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, we knew the anti-U.S. terrorists involved were in Afghanistan, not Iraq. We also knew that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.

I wasn’t sure what invading Iraq had to do with our Global War on Terror. It did not seem to be about national security; after all, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been successfully contained for  more than a decade. However, I was just an Army captain. If our two-star commanding general said that’s what we were doing, then that’s what we were doing

We now know the truth behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It had very little if anything to do with the 9/11 attacks and everything to do with the hubris of men. In the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were three of the leading neoconservative architects in the late 1990s. What they cared about was spreading their vision of a new world order. These delusions of grandeur were their personal goals, and they were guiding our nation’s strategic policies.

I heard echoes of that era during the recent Middle East Conference in Warsaw. Remarks by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton sounded eerily similar to the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion. And I have the same uneasy feeling now that I had then.

Bolton was a driving force in 2002, when he was undersecretary of State for arms control. He insisted on access to raw intelligence data before it had been evaluated, and he also insisted that it confirmed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “The end of the story is clear here,” he said in a BBC debate. “And if Saddam Hussein does not cooperate, we have made it clear this is the last chance for him.”

Neocons are back and making same mistakes

These same statements and patterns are in front of our eyes today. One could hear the sound of Bolton’s new war drum in 2007 when he said, “Ultimately, the only thing that will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is regime change in Tehran.”

That clamor has only intensified. “President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid,” Bolton said last July. During the Warsaw event, he released a short video with a not-so-veiled threat to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: “I don’t think you’ll have many more anniversaries to enjoy.”

Until recently, I believed that the neocons had become a footnote in America’s history — that the multiple threats to our national security that arose as a result of failed foreign policy had shown our nation and our leaders the errors of the neocon approach. I was wrong.

But Bolton, the most bombastic of that group, is now whispering in President Donald Trump’s ear, and the United States is heading down a familiar path. In Trump, Bolton has found someone focused not on national security but on dismantling presidential actions that preceded his term. Trump is not interested in the nation of Iran, the Iranian people or any Iranian threat. He merely abhors former President Barack Obama and the  Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iranian nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated.

Bolton is trying to repeat his 2003 role as a worldview maker, and in Trump he has a receptive commander in chief. The difference this time, however, is that there is no 9/11 for political cover. And even more troubling, Iraq is no Iran.

Learn from history, don’t repeat it

In geographic and demographics consideration, Iraq has just more than  40 million citizens; Iran has more than  80 million. Iraq is close to  169,000 square miles, a bit larger than  California. Iran is almost  four times that size. Iraq has struggled with decades of internal sectarian strife between the Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects. In Iran, up to 95 percent of its citizens are Shiite, which translates to minimal internal distraction.

Experts estimate that Iraq’s army, 1 million troops strong during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, was down to about  40 percent of that total, or 400,000, in 2003. Iran now has about  550,000 active military personnel and is armed with newer and better weapons. The U.S. military was fresh and itching for a fight in 2003. Now, after 18 years of war since 9/11, our readiness levels are ill-equipped to handle anything more than a protracted skirmish in a new region. Plus, where the Bush administration developed a coalition of international support for invading Iraq, the Trump administration has spent two years intentionally fracturing our relationships across the world.

From Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War,” decision-makers have been taught that they need “the will of the people” to go to war. Currently, the political and societal environment of Iran meets this requirement. In the United States, there is none.

These differences between Iraq and Iran are not minor; the United States would be fighting not a single house cat but a pride of mountain lions. It is imperative that those in Washington who understand national security thwart this absurd direction in which John Bolton is trying to steer President Trump and America. We should learn from our mistakes, not willingly repeat them.

Michael Morford, a former Army captain, is a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project. He is also president of VertiPrime Aerospace Manufacturing, a service disabled veteran-owned small business. The views expressed here are his own.

The Sixth Seal Will Be On The East (Revelation 6:12)

New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes

Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great Distances

Released: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM

Earthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than previously thought.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists found that last year’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia triggered landslides at distances four times farther—and over an area 20 times larger—than previous research has shown.

“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”

“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”

This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.

This study also supports existing research showing that although earthquakes are less frequent in the East, their damaging effects can extend over a much larger area as compared to the western United States.

The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude. Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.

“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”

It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.

In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2 from an earthquake of similar magnitude.

“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”

The difference between seismic shaking in the East versus the West is due in part to the geologic structure and rock properties that allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening.

Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.

The Inevitable First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

Nuclear war between India, Pakistan ‘most likely’: New York Times

According to the NYT, the next confrontation between the two neighbours might not end “so calmly”.

WASHINGTON: A nuclear war between India and Pakistan is “most likely” and the “relative calm” is not a solution as long as the two neighbours refuse to deal with their core dispute of Kashmir, the New York Times has said in an opinion piece.

In the Thursday write-up, the daily’s Editorial Board said that although the India-Pakistan tensions had diffused for now, their “nuclear arsenals mean unthinkable consequences are always possible”.

The board wrote that “this relative calm is not a solution” and the US needed to get involved in defusing the tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.

“As long as India and Pakistan refuse to deal with their core dispute – the future of Kashmir – they face unpredictable, possibly terrifying, consequences.”

According to the NYT, the next confrontation between the two neighbours might not end “so calmly.”

“With Pakistan’s Army most likely shaken by the Indian raid and unwilling to slide into protracted conflict, Prime Minister Imran Khan returned the pilot to India, in what was seen as a goodwill gesture, called for talks and promised an investigation into the bombing. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi took the opportunity to back off further escalation”, it said.

The next confrontation might not end so calmly,” it added. Tensions between India and Pakistan worsened after a Kashmir suicide bombing on February 14 killed 40 CRPF troopers and was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

India retaliated by bombing the terror group’s biggest training camp in Balakot, Pakistan. Pakistan hit back with its air force the next day.

Islamabad also captured an Indian Air Force pilot after a February 27 dogfight between the two air forces. He was released on March 1 as a “peace gesture” by Pakistan.

The NYT said the US “could help India strengthen its counterterrorism capabilities to prevent future attacks and it could encourage India to modify its approach to those opposing its rule in Kashmir, which the UN and other groups say involves widespread human rights abuses.

“And while it’s good when India and Pakistan decide to walk back from the brink, as they seem to be doing now, the US should be ready to assist if they cannot.”

The article stated that Islamabad and New Delhi were “long among the world’s most antagonistic neighbours” and that it was fortunate they found “the good sense to de-escalate”.

The NYT stated: “The JeM, which seeks independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan, took responsibility (for the Kashmir bombing). While it is on America’s list of terrorist organisations and is formally banned in Pakistan, the group has been protected and armed by the Pakistani intelligence service.”

The NYT said that the situation between India and Pakistan “could have easily escalated, given that the two countries have fought three wars over 70 years, maintain a near-constant state of military readiness along their border and have little formal government-to-government dialogue.

“Adding to the volatility, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is waging a tough re-election campaign in which he has used anti-Pakistan talk to fuel Hindu nationalism,” it said.

The daily said that Pakistan “has never seriously cracked down on militant groups that attack India and the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.

“In recent days, Pakistani authorities said they detained 44 members of various armed groups, including a brother of Masood Azhar, the head of JeM, and planned to seize assets of militants on the UN terrorist list. But Pakistan has rarely followed through on such promises.”

The NYT said that without international pressure, a long-term solution was “unlikely and the threat of nuclear war remained”.

“While the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations aggressively worked to ensure that India-Pakistan confrontations in 1999, 2002 and 2008 did not spiral out of control, the (Donald) Trump administration has done little but issue a few statements urging restraint.

“It’s hard to see a role as a mediator for Trump, who has shifted the US more firmly against Pakistan and towards India, where he has pursued business interests.

“A solution to a conflict that touches so many religious and nationalist nerves must ultimately come from within, through talks among India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir,” it said.

The Iraqi Horn Shall Grow (Daniel 8)

How to Turn Iraq into a Terrorist Playground

On January 25, popular Iraqi Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr submitted a bill to remove U.S. troops from Iraq. Qais al-Khazali, head of the Iranian-backed militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, followed-up on January 28 by threatening that an impending parliamentary vote would oust U.S. forces from the country. Al-Khazali suggested that Iraqis take military action to force out the American troops if such a political initiative were to fail. Washington and Baghdad’s strained relationship took an additional hit over the weekend when President Donald Trump said U.S. troops are in Iraq to watch Iran, increasing Iraqi concerns that Iraq could serve as a battleground between the two.

Sadr and al-Khazali’s calls for the expulsion of U.S. troops are nothing new, but they are exacerbating already tense relations between Baghdad and Washington.  In September, U.S. officials threatened to cut aid to Iraq if the incoming government appointed Iranian-affiliated officials to high-level positions. In November, the Trump administration demanded that Iraq cut off Iranian energy imports as a condition for a limited waiver from secondary sanctions on Iran. Then, in December, Trump made a surprise visit to American military forces but failed to visit Baghdad or meet with lawmakers: a move Iraqi officials considered a snub to Iraq’s sovereignty.

Although security officials in Baghdad recognize the benefits that a small U.S. troop presence affords Iraq’s security and stability, widespread dissatisfaction with Washington among Iraq’s political elite could be the tipping point that pushes U.S. troops out of the country. The Trump administration needs to reevaluate its Iraq policy and commit to a strong bilateral relationship lest U.S. forces are pushed out and prospects for regional instability increase.

There are several reasons why a limited U.S. troop presence in Iraq remains essential. The vast majority of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria has been destroyed, although, as the chiefs of U.S. intelligence agencies recently testified , ISIS is far from defeated. The group can still count on thousands of committed fighters scattered across Iraq and Syria as well as global networks of support. U.S. policymakers would be wise to remember that it was not long ago when many feared ISIS would conquer Baghdad. The crux of Trump’s Middle East strategy, containing Iran, would surely suffer if U.S. forces are expelled from Iraq. For a relatively low cost, U.S. military personnel can track the movement of Iranian proxies through Iraq into Syria and vice versa. The United States also provides critical support through training and assistance to Iraq’s professional security services. Most importantly, the United States helps train and support Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), otherwise known as the “Golden Division” for its professionalism and skill. Were the United States forced to withdraw its small number of forces from Iraq, the Trump administration would lose out on critical intelligence gathering capabilities and the infrastructure required to pursue terrorist cells and even hostile Iranian-backed militias, should they pose a threat to allied and U.S. diplomatic personnel.

Policymakers in the United States might rightfully question if a limited troop deployment in Iraq can offer more than band-aid solutions to Iraq’s deep institutional problems. It is true that the United States does not and in fact never did have the answers or means to solve Iraq’s fundamental problems. Yet a limited troop deployment goes a long way toward achieving mutual U.S.-Iraqi interests. For one, U.S. troops in Iraq, and in Syria for that matter, were never expected to provide the needed muscle to rebuild either country. What they can do is stabilize a volatile region, prevent worse outcomes such as an ISIS revival in Iraq (or a Turkish invasion in Syria), and create the space needed for governments to affect the underlying conditions, which allow groups like ISIS to proliferate. The Iraqi government has a long way to go toward improving those conditions—Iraq’s latest budget  proposal fails to provide sufficiently for reconstruction efforts—but a realistic expectation for Iraq to overcome these challenges should fall in the timeframe of decades, not years. The United States also needs to engage constructively in Iraqi politics, looking for common solutions to complex problems as opposed to conditioning its engagement based on how effectively Baghdad sidelines Iranian-aligned politicians: an unrealistic and unnecessary goal.

Some recent signs of progress further justify the continued American military presence in Iraq. The best indicator of the United States’ small yet significant success is the increased effectiveness of the Counter Terrorism Service. Built with the help of U.S. special forces to hunt terrorist groups and collect intelligence, the CTS was thrust into the heart of major operations to clear ISIS from northern and western Iraq. The CTS’s small size, professionalism, and specialized training allowed it to adapt to new roles and perform exceptionally well despite heavy losses against the Islamic State. Considering the importance of security sector reform in Iraq, and the challenges to reform that remain, the CTS stands as a noteworthy accomplishment and a sign that steady progress is achievable.

Indeed, the fact that Iraq remains capable of holding competitive elections after the devastating war against ISIS, and that relations between Baghdad and Erbil are steadily improving since the 2017 independence referendum, is remarkable considering the centrifugal forces that threatened to splinter the country apart at one time or another. In terms of security, Baghdad, once the epicenter of abhorrent violence during Iraq’s civil war, did not suffer a single car bomb in all of 2018 .

A U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, following on the heels of an impending withdrawal from Syria, would be a major setback for the United States’ interest in regional stability. Failure to assure Iraq’s political leadership of the United States’ reliability as an ally and the utility of the Iraq-U.S. security relationship could bring with it disastrous consequences for Iraq and the broader region.

Christopher H. Brodsky is a research associate focused on Middle East politics and security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Image: Reuters