Iran Hegemony Courtesy of Obama


Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’
Tim Arango
BAGHDAD — Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran.
A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border.
And that’s not even the half of it.
Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership.
When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.
From Day 1, Iran saw something else: a chance to make a client state of Iraq, a former enemy against which it fought a war in the 1980s so brutal, with chemical weapons and trench warfare, that historians look to World War I for analogies. If it succeeded, Iraq would never again pose a threat, and it could serve as a jumping-off point to spread Iranian influence around the region.
In that contest, Iran won, and the United States lost.
Over the past three years, Americans have focused on the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, returning more than 5,000 troops to the country and helping to force the militants out of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.
But Iran never lost sight of its mission: to dominate its neighbor so thoroughly that Iraq could never again endanger it militarily, and to use the country to effectively control a corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean.
“Iranian influence is dominant,” said Hoshyar Zebari, who was ousted last year as finance minister because, he said, Iran distrusted his links to the United States. “It is paramount.”
The country’s dominance over Iraq has heightened sectarian tensions around the region, with Sunni states, and American allies, like Saudi Arabia mobilizing to oppose Iranian expansionism. But Iraq is only part of Iran’s expansion project; it has also used soft and hard power to extend its influence in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, and throughout the region.
Iran is a Shiite state, and Iraq, a Shiite majority country, was ruled by an elite Sunni minority before the American invasion. The roots of the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, going back almost 1,400 years, lie in differences over the rightful leaders of Islam after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. But these days, it is about geopolitics as much as religion, with the divide expressed by different states that are adversaries, led by Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other.
Iran’s influence in Iraq is not just ascendant, but diverse, projecting into military, political, economic and cultural affairs.
At some border posts in the south, Iraqi sovereignty is an afterthought. Busloads of young militia recruits cross into Iran without so much as a document check. They receive military training and are then flown to Syria, where they fight under the command of Iranian officers in defense of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
Passing in the other direction, truck drivers pump Iranian products — food, household goods, illicit drugs — into what has become a vital and captive market.
Iran tips the scales to its favor in every area of commerce. In the city of Najaf, it even picks up the trash, after the provincial council there awarded a municipal contract to a private Iranian company. One member of the council, Zuhair al-Jibouri, resorted to a now-common Iraqi aphorism: “We import apples from Iran so we can give them away to Iranian pilgrims.”
Politically, Iran has a large number of allies in Iraq’s Parliament who can help secure its goals. And its influence over the choice of interior minister, through a militia and political group the Iranians built up in the 1980s to oppose Mr. Hussein, has given it substantial control over that ministry and the federal police.
Perhaps most crucial, Parliament passed a law last year that effectively made the constellation of Shiite militias a permanent fixture of Iraq’s security forces. This ensures Iraqi funding for the groups while effectively maintaining Iran’s control over some of the most powerful units.
Now, with new parliamentary elections on the horizon, Shiite militias have begun organizing themselves politically for a contest that could secure even more dominance for Iran over Iraq’s political system.
To gain advantage on the airwaves, new television channels set up with Iranian money and linked to Shiite militias broadcast news coverage portraying Iran as Iraq’s protector and the United States as a devious interloper.
Partly in an effort to contain Iran, the United States has indicated that it will keep troops behind in Iraq after the battle against the Islamic State. American diplomats have worked to emphasize the government security forces’ role in the fighting, and to shore up a prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, who has seemed more open to the United States than to Iran.
But after the United States’ abrupt withdrawal of troops in 2011, American constancy is still in question here — a broad failure of American foreign policy, with responsibility shared across three administrations.
Iran has been playing a deeper game, parlaying extensive religious ties with Iraq’s Shiite majority and a much wider network of local allies, as it makes the case that it is Iraq’s only reliable defender.
A Road to the Sea
Iran’s great project in eastern Iraq may not look like much: a 15-mile stretch of dusty road, mostly gravel, through desert and scrub near the border in Diyala Province.
But it is an important new leg of Iran’s path through Iraq to Syria, and what it carries — Shiite militiamen, Iranian delegations, trade goods and military supplies — is its most valuable feature.
It is a piece of what analysts and Iranian officials say is Iran’s most pressing ambition: to exploit the chaos of the region to project influence across Iraq and beyond. Eventually, analysts say, Iran could use the corridor, established on the ground through militias under its control, to ship weapons and supplies to proxies in Syria, where Iran is an important backer of Mr. Assad, and to Lebanon and its ally Hezbollah.
At the border to the east is a new crossing built and secured by Iran. Like the relationship between the two countries, it is lopsided.
The checkpoint’s daily traffic includes up to 200 Iranian trucks, carrying fruit and yogurt, concrete and bricks, into Iraq. In the offices of Iraqi border guards, the candies and soda offered to guests come from Iran.
No loaded trucks go the other way.
“Iraq doesn’t have anything to offer Iran,” Vahid Gachi, the Iranian official in charge of the crossing, said in an interview in his office, as lines of tractor-trailers poured into Iraq. “Except for oil, Iraq relies on Iran for everything.”
The border post is also a critical transit point for Iran’s military leaders to send weapons and other supplies to proxies fighting the Islamic State in Iraq.
After the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, swept across Diyala and neighboring areas in 2014, Iran made clearing the province, a diverse area of Sunnis and Shiites, a priority.
It marshaled a huge force of Shiite militias, many trained in Iran and advised on the ground by Iranian officials. After a quick victory, Iranians and their militia allies set about securing their next interests here: marginalizing the province’s Sunni minority and securing a path to Syria. Iran has fought aggressively to keep its ally Mr. Assad in power in order to retain land access to its most important spinoff in the region, Hezbollah, the military and political force that dominates Lebanon and threatens Israel.
A word from Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s powerful spymaster, sent an army of local Iraqi contractors scrambling, lining up trucks and bulldozers to help build the road, free of charge. Militiamen loyal to Iran were ordered to secure the site.
Uday al-Khadran, the Shiite mayor of Khalis District in Diyala, is a member of the Badr Organization, an Iraqi political party and militia established by Tehran in the 1980s to fight against Mr. Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.
On an afternoon earlier this year, he spread a map across his desk and proudly discussed how he helped build the road, which he said was ordered by General Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps responsible for foreign operations. General Suleimani secretly directed Iran’s policy in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in attacks carried out by militias under his control.
“I love Qassim Suleimani more than my children,” he said.
Mr. Khadran said the general’s new road would eventually be a shortcut for religious pilgrims from Iran to reach Samarra, Iraq, the location of an important shrine.
But he also acknowledged the route’s greater strategic significance as part of a corridor secured by Iranian proxies that extends across central and northern Iraq. The connecting series of roads skirts the western city of Mosul and stretches on to Tal Afar, an Islamic State-controlled city where Iranian-backed militias and Iranian advisers have set up a base at an airstrip on the outskirts.
“Diyala is the passage to Syria and Lebanon, and this is very important to Iran,” said Ali al-Daini, the Sunni chairman of the provincial council there.
Closer to Syria, Iranian-allied militias moved west of Mosul as the battle against the Islamic State unfolded there in recent months. The militias captured the town of Baaj, and then proceeded to the Syrian border, putting Iran on the cusp of completing its corridor.
Back east, in Diyala, Mr. Daini said he had been powerless to halt what he described as Iran’s dominance in the province.
When Mr. Daini goes to work, he said, he has to walk by posters of Iran’s revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, outside the council building.
Iran’s militias in the province have been accused of widespread sectarian cleansing, pushing Sunnis from their homes to establish Shiite dominance and create a buffer zone on its border. The Islamic State was beaten in Diyala more than two years ago, but thousands of Sunni families still fill squalid camps, unable to return home.
Now, Diyala has become a showcase for how Iran views Shiite ascendancy as critical to its geopolitical goals.
“Iran is smarter than America,” said Nijat al-Taie, a Sunni member of the provincial council and an outspoken critic of Iran, which she calls the instigator of several assassination attempts against her. “They achieved their goals on the ground. America didn’t protect Iraq. They just toppled the regime and handed the country over to Iran.”
The Business of Influence
The lives of General Suleimani and other senior leaders in Tehran were shaped by the prolonged war with Iraq in the 1980s. The conflict left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, and General Suleimani spent much of the war at the front, swiftly rising in rank as so many officers were killed.
“The Iran-Iraq war was the formative experience for all of Iran’s leaders,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization. “From Suleimani all the way down. It was their ‘never again’ moment.”
A border dispute over the Shatt al Arab waterway that was a factor in the hostilities has still not been resolved, and the legacy of the war’s brutality has influenced the Iranian government ever since, from its pursuit of nuclear weapons to its policy in Iraq.
“This is a permanent scar in their mind,” said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a lawmaker and former national security adviser. “They are obsessed with Baathism, Saddam and the Iran-Iraq war.”
More than anything else, analysts say, it is the scarring legacy of that war that has driven Iranian ambitions to dominate Iraq.
Particularly in southern Iraq, where the population is mostly Shiite, signs of Iranian influence are everywhere.
Iranian-backed militias are the defenders of the Shiite shrines in the cities of Najaf and Karbala that drive trade and tourism. In local councils, Iranian-backed political parties have solid majorities, and campaign materials stress relationships with Shiite saints and Iranian clerics.
If the Iraqi government were stronger, said Mustaq al-Abady, a businessman from just outside Najaf, “then maybe we could open our factories instead of going to Iran.” He said his warehouse was crowded with Iranian imports because his government had done nothing to promote a private sector, police its borders or enforce customs duties.
Raad Fadhil al-Alwani, a merchant in Hilla, another southern city, imports cleaning supplies and floor tiles from Iran. He slaps “Made in Iraq” labels in Arabic on bottles of detergent, but the reality is that he owns a factory in Iran because labor is cheaper there.
“I feel like I am destroying the economy of Iraq,” he said. But he insists that Iraqi politicians, by deferring to Iranian pressure and refusing to support local industry, have made it hard to do anything else.
Najaf attracts millions of Iranian pilgrims each year visiting the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali, the first Shiite imam. Iranian construction workers — many of whom are viewed as Iranian spies by Iraqi officials — have also flocked to the city to renovate the shrine and build hotels.
In Babil Province, according to local officials, militia leaders have taken over a government project to set up security cameras along strategic roads. The project had been granted to a Chinese company before the militias intervened, and now the army and the local police have been sidelined from it, said Muqdad Omran, an Iraqi Army captain in the area.
Iran’s pre-eminence in the Iraqi south has not come without resentment. Iraqi Shiites share a faith with Iran, but they also hold close their other identities as Iraqis and Arabs.
“Iraq belongs to the Arab League, not to Iran,” said Sheikh Fadhil al-Bidayri, a cleric at the religious seminary in Najaf. “Shiites are a majority in Iraq, but a minority in the world. As long as the Iranian government is controlling the Iraqi government, we don’t have a chance.”
In this region where the Islamic State’s military threat has never encroached, Iran’s security concerns are mostly being addressed by economic manipulation, Iraqi officials say. Trade in the south is often financed by Iran with credit, and incentives are offered to Iraqi traders to keep their cash in Iranian banks.
Baghdad’s banks play a role, too, as the financial anchors for Iraqi front companies used by Iran to gain access to dollars that can then finance the country’s broader geopolitical aims, said Entifadh Qanbar, a former aide to the Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, who died in 2015.
“It’s very important for the Iranians to maintain corruption in Iraq,” he said.
The Militias’ Long Arm
For decades, Iran smuggled guns and bomb-making supplies through the vast swamps of southern Iraq. And young men were brought back and forth across the border, from one safe house to another — recruits going to Iran for training, and then back to Iraq to fight. At first the enemy was Mr. Hussein; later, it was the Americans.
Today, agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards openly recruit fighters in the Shiite-majority cities of southern Iraq. Buses filled with recruits easily pass border posts that officials say are essentially controlled by Iran — through its proxies on the Iraqi side, and its own border guards on the other.
While Iran has built up militias to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, it has also mobilized an army of disaffected young Shiite Iraqi men to fight on its behalf in Syria.
Mohammad Kadhim, 31, is one of those foot soldiers for Iran, having served three tours in Syria. The recruiting pitch, he said, is mostly based in faith, to defend Shiite shrines in Syria. But Mr. Kadhim said he and his friends signed up more out of a need for jobs.
“I was just looking for money,” he said. “The majority of the youth I met fighting in Syria do it for the money.”
He signed up with a Revolutionary Guards recruiter in Najaf, and then was bused through southern Iraq and into Iran, where he underwent military training near Tehran.
There, he said, Iranian officers delivered speeches invoking the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the revered seventh-century Shiite figure whose death at the hands of a powerful Sunni army became the event around which Shiite spirituality would revolve. The same enemies of the Shiites who killed the imam are now in Syria and Iraq, the officers told the men.
After traveling to Iran, Mr. Kadhim came home for a break and then was shipped to Syria, where Hezbollah operatives trained him in sniper tactics.
Iran’s emphasis on defending the Shiite faith has led some here to conclude that its ultimate goal is to bring about an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. But there is a persistent sense that it just would not work in Iraq, which has a much larger native Sunni population and tradition, and Iraq’s clerics in Najaf, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the world’s pre-eminent Shiite spiritual leader, oppose the Iranian system.
But Iran is taking steps to translate militia power into political power, much as it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and militia leaders have begun political organizing before next year’s parliamentary elections.
In April, Qais al-Khazali, a Shiite militia leader, delivered a speech to an audience of Iraqi college students, railing against the United States and the nefarious plotting of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Then, a poet who was part of Mr. Khazali’s entourage stood up and began praising General Suleimani.
For the students, that was the last straw. Chants of “Iran out! Iran out!” began. Scuffles broke out between students and Mr. Khazali’s bodyguards, who fired their rifles into the air just outside the building.
“The thing that really provoked us was the poet,” said Mustafa Kamal, a student at the University of al-Qadisiya in Diwaniya, in southern Iraq, who participated in the protest.
Mr. Kamal and his fellow students quickly learned how dangerous it could be to stand up to Iran these days.
First, militiamen began threatening to haul them off. Then media outlets linked to the militias went after them, posting their pictures and calling them Baathists and enemies of Shiites. When a mysterious car appeared near Mr. Kamal’s house, his mother panicked that militiamen were coming for her son.
Then, finally, Mr. Kamal, a law student, and three of his friends received notices from the school saying they had been suspended for a year.
“We thought we had only one hope, the university,” he said. “And then Iran also interfered there.”
Mr. Khazali, whose political and militia organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, is deeply connected with Iran, has been on a speaking tour on campuses across Iraq as part of an effort to organize political support for next year’s national election. This has raised fears that Iran is trying not only to deepen its influence within Iraqi education, but also to transform militias into outright political and social organizations, much as it did with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“It’s another type of Iranian infiltration and the expansion of Iran’s influence,” said Beriwan Khailany, a lawmaker and member of Parliament’s higher-education committee. “Iran wants to control the youth, and to teach them the Iranian beliefs, through Iraqis who are loyal to Iran.”
Political Ascendancy
When a group of Qatari falcon hunters, “including members of the royal family, were kidnapped in 2015 while on safari in the southern deserts of Iraq, Qatar called Iran and its militia allies — not the central government in Baghdad.
For Mr. Abadi, the prime minister, the episode was an embarrassing demonstration of his government’s weakness at the hands of Iran, whose proxy militia Kataibb Hezbollah was believed to be behind the kidnapping.
So when the hostage negotiations were about to end, Mr. Abadi pushed back.
Around noon on a day in April, a government jet from Qatar landed in Baghdad, carrying a delegation of diplomats and 500 million euros stuffed into 23 black boxes.
The hunters were soon on their way home, but the ransom did not go to the Iranian-backed militiamen who had abducted the Qataris; the cash ended up in a central bank vault in Baghdad.
The seizure of the money had been ordered by Mr. Abadi, who was furious at the prospect of militias, and their Iranian and Hezbollah benefactors, being paid so richly right under the Iraqi government’s nose.
“Hundreds of millions to armed groups?” Mr. Abadi said in a public rant. “Is this acceptable?”
In Iraq, the kidnapping episode was seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty and emblematic of Iran’s suffocating power over the Iraqi state.
In a post on Twitter, Mr. Zebari, the former finance minister, who was previously foreign minister, called the episode a “travesty.”
Mr. Zebari knows firsthand the power of Iran over the Iraqi state.
Last year, he said, he was ousted as finance minister because Iran perceived him as being too close to the United States. The account was verified by a member of Parliament who was involved in the removal of Mr. Zebari, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering Iran.
Mr. Zebari, who recounted the events in an interview from his mountainside mansion in northern Iraq, said that when President Barack Obama met with Mr. Abadi last September at the United Nations, the American leader personally lobbied to save Mr. Zebari’s job. Even that was not enough.
Mr. Abadi now finds himself in a difficult position. If he makes any move that can be seen as confrontational toward Iran, or as positioning himself closer to the United States, it could place a cloud over his political future.
“He had two options: to be with the Americans or with the Iranians,” said Izzat Shahbander, a prominent Iraqi Shiite leader who once lived in exile in Iran while Mr. Hussein was in power. “And he chose to be with the Americans.”
Mr. Abadi, who took office in 2014 with the support of both the United States and Iran, has seemed more emboldened to push back against Iranian pressure since President Trump took office.
In addition to seizing the ransom money, he has promoted an ambitious project for an American company to secure the highway from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, which Iran has opposed. He has also begun discussing with the United States the terms of a deal to keep American forces behind after the Islamic State is defeated.
Some are seeing an American troop commitment as a chance to revisit the 2011 withdrawal of United States forces that seemingly opened a door for Iran.
When American officials in Iraq began the slow wind-down of the military mission there, in 2009, some diplomats in Baghdad were cautiously celebrating one achievement: Iran seemed to be on its heels, its influence in the country waning.
“Over the last year, Iran has lost the strategic initiative in Iraq,” one diplomat wrote in a cable, later released by WikiLeaks.
But other cables sent warnings back to Washington that were frequently voiced by Iraqi officials they spoke to: that if the Americans left, then Iran would fill the vacuum.
Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador in Iraq from 2007 to 2009, said that if the United States left again after the Islamic State was defeated, “it would be effectively just giving the Iranians a free rein.”
But many Iraqis say the Iranians already have free rein. And while the Trump administration has indicated that it will pay closer attention to Iraq as a means to counter Iran, the question is whether it is too late.
“Iran is not going to sit silent and do nothing,” said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician who has good relationships with both the Iranians and Americans. “They have many means. Frankly, the Americans can’t do anything.”

Khamenei Encourages the Shia Horn


Khamenei Warns Iraq Against Relying On U.S., Weakening Shi’ite Militia
June 21, 2017 01:43 GMT
RFE/RL
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned Iraq’s leader against weakening Shi’ite paramilitary groups and relying on the United States in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group..
At a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Tehran, Khamenei said the Shi’ite militias were the main forces pushing back against the Sunni extremist group in Iraq, and Baghdad should not trust the United States, Iranian state media reported.
The Shi’ite militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, helped Baghdad defend the country against IS when Iraqi military and police divisions deserted en masse in 2014.
Since then, the Iran-backed militias, estimated to comprise more than 60,000 fighters, have been engaged in the battle to recapture swathes of northern and western Iraq from IS.
But Sunnis in areas freed from IS control have accused the Shi’ite militias of looting, abductions, and murder.
Some Arab leaders in northern Iraq have asked Baghdad to dissolve the Shi’ite militias or expel them from their Sunni-majority provinces — moves that drew objections from Iran’s leader.
“Daesh is retreating from Iraq and that is thanks to the government’s trust in these young devoted forces,” Khamenei said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“The Americans are against Popular Forces because they want Iraq to lose its main source of strength,” he said.
Khamenei accused the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia of creating IS and said he opposed the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq.
“We should remain vigilant of the Americans and not trust them. The Americans and their followers are against Iraq’s independence, unity, and identity,” Khamenei said.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who also met with Abadi on June 20, joined Khamenei in claiming credit for recent gains by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in recapturing IS’s northern stronghold of Mosul.
“The liberation of Mosul is the symbol of the end of terrorism and a victory for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and all the countries of the region that are fighting against terrorism,” Rohani said.
The Iranian leaders’ comments highlight the balancing act faced by Abadi as he strives to hold together a coalition of forces fighting IS in Iraq, including the Iraqi government’s own soldiers, the Shi’ite militias as well as Sunni tribal forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, all backed by U.S. trainers and special forces.
While Iran said its forces deserved credit for gains made against IS, the United States and its anti-IS coalition of Western forces have also claimed credit for helping Iraqi ground forces recapture Ramadi and other cities liberated from IS in the past two years, as well as for the recent gains in Mosul.
Abadi faces a balancing act not only at home but in the broader Persian Gulf region. His meeting with Iran’s leaders came one day after a visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, in what he said was a tour aimed at promoting reconciliation between the region’s Sunnis and Shi’a.
Iraq lies on the fault-line between Shi’ite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world.
Abadi belongs to the Dawa party, a Shi’ite group with close ties to Iran. But analysts say he has managed relations with Iraq’s Sunni minority better than his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, and also improved Baghdad’s ties with Saudi Arabia.
Khamenei told Abadi that Iran was opposed to the referendum on independence scheduled by leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region for September, saying such a separatist move threatens Baghdad’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Iran has its own Kurdish minority in the west of the country.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Making Saudi Arabia Into A Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

arme-puissanteThe Flynn/Trump/Saudi/Russia Plan To Nuclearize the Mideast. Oh, And Jeff Sessions.

By Terion   Friday Jun 09, 2017 · 12:30 PM MST 2017/06/09 · 12:30
Oh, you silly silly naive Americans. You thought the Trump/Russia/Saudi thing was just about oil, stealing elections, ending sanctions, and selling weapons?
Silly rabbits.
You forgot nuclearizing the Mideast and giving jobs at nuclear plants to “young men” in the Mideast who currently have nothing to do but “go out and shoot each other.”
Sound risky? Heck, there’s MONEY to be made, damnit!!

MICHAEL FLYNN, RUSSIA AND A GRAND SCHEME TO BUILD NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS IN SAUDI ARABIA AND THE ARAB WORLD
… an overlooked line in [Flynn’s] financial disclosure form, which he was forced to amend to detail those foreign payments, reveals he was also involved in one of the most audacious … schemes in recent memory: a plan to build scores of U.S. nuclear power plants in the Middle East…
… a concern for Flynn and his partners was the moribund U.S. nuclear industry, which was losing out to Russian and even South Korean contractors in the region.. “We find ourselves…standing on the sidelines and watching the competition pass us by.”
So the genius idea developed by Flynn and Co. was a U.S.-Russian partnership to build and operate plants and export the dangerous spent fuel under strict controls. Flynn’s role would be helping X-Co/Iron Bridge design and implement a vast security network for the entire enterprise…
But the project faced opposition from the Obama administration, Cochran says. “They didn’t want to do it with the Russians and didn’t want to do it while they were negotiating the Iran deal,” he tells Newsweek.
Trump’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, offered an attractive possibility. And when Flynn, who had connections to the Russians, became the candidate’s national security adviser, the ACU team, led by British-American dealmaker Alex Copson, suddenly seemed to have an inside man. Last year, Copson was touting such connections when he tried to buy an unfinished nuclear plant in Alabama in concert with the Russians, telling a Huntsville reporter that “Alabama’s two senators”—both Republicans, and one, Jeff Sessions, then a top Trump campaign adviser—“can help the next administration move this project forward.”
…he alternately likens to launching the U.S. Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after World War II, and the Tennessee Valley Authority which tamed rivers and brought electricity and industrial development to the American South in the 1930s. “It would provide energy and jobs and so forth for countries like Egypt and others in the region,” he says, “so that these young men have got something more useful to do than go out and shoot each other.”

Srsly? These young radicalized men who’ve had their children murdered by Trump, Russia, and Saudi Arabia have nothing better to do than go out and shoot each other… except maybe to work at a nuclear plant. That sounds like a brilliant idea. Let’s have a Marshall Plan not to employ Americans but to give radicalized Muslims access to nuclear waste. America first… or something.
The Flynn, Trump, Saudi Arabia, Russia nexus goes far far beyond what any of us realized.
This was and possibly still is part of their big plan, dirty bombs be damned. These kinds of plans don’t die any more than Republican bills do. It’s waiting there in the shadows, ready for the moment we aren’t watching… because they know Republican Senators like Jeff Sessions would be perfectly fine with this type of insanity. Heck, they pinned Sessions to let Russia run a nuclear plant in his home state, and the only thing that prevented any of this was the investigation of Trump/Russia.
And now we have some liberal geniuses saying we should talk less about Russia and more about other issues? Talking about Russia is the only thing holding these madmen back.
God help all of us if we lose focus.

Hatred Between Persia and the Saudis (Daniel 7/8)

People attend the funeral of the victims who were killed on the June 7 attack at the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum, in Tehran, Iran June 9, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

People attend the funeral of the victims who were killed on the June 7 attack at the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum, in Tehran, Iran June 9, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Thousands mourn Tehran attack victims, chant ‘Death to Saudi’ | Reuters

By Parisa Hafezi | ANKARA
ANKARA Thousands packed Tehran’s streets on Friday to mourn the victims of two suicide bomb and gun attacks, and joined their supreme leader in accusing regional rival Saudi Arabia of involvement in the assaults.
People in the crowds, some crying, chanted “Death to Saudi Arabia” alongside the more customary “Death to America” and slogans against Israel, as they reached out to touch coffins wrapped in flags and covered in flowers.
Bombers and gunmen killed 17 people in Iran’s parliament and near the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, on Wednesday, in rare strikes on the capital that exacerbated regional tensions.
The Sunni Muslim militants of Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Shi’ite Muslim state.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a message read at the funeral, said the raids would increase hatred for Saudi Arabia, the region’s main Sunni power, and America.
“It (the attacks) will not damage our nation’s determination to fight terrorism … but will only increase hatred for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like the Saudis,” Khamenei said. Saudi Arabia has said it was not involved.
MORE ARRESTS
Mourners chanted “God is greatest” and some carried pictures of Khamenei, captioned: “We are ready to sacrifice our blood for you.”
President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist more open to contacts with the West, attended the funeral alongside other clerics and officials. He said the attacks had targeted peace and democracy, but stopped short of blaming foreign powers.
The attacks came at a particularly charged time in the region, days after Riyadh and other Sunni Muslim powers cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing Tehran and militant groups.
The raids were the first claimed by Islamic State inside tightly controlled Iran, one of the powers leading the fight against the militants in Iraq and Syria.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said on Thursday five of the attackers were Iranian nationals recruited by Islamic State who had fought in the militants’ main strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
On Friday, the ministry said 41 suspects had been arrested around the country in connection with the attacks.
“With the help of security forces and families of the suspects, 41 people linked to the attacks and to Daesh (Islamic State) have been arrested in different provinces,” state TV quoted the interior ministry as saying.
“Lots of documents and weaponry have been seized as well.”
Two Sunni militant groups, Jaish al-Adl and Jundallah, have been waging an insurgency in Iran, mostly in remote areas, for almost a decade.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

The Saudi And American Allies (Daniel 7)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. (photo by TIMA via REUTERS)
Author: Arash Karami
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered one of his harshest criticisms of the new US shift in adopting Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iranian stance.

In a speech commemorating the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei said that a number of enemy countries emerged immediately in the first decade following Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 and have remained enemies until today. He urged Iranian officials to not ignore the principle of separating from the “coil of American power.” Khamenei added, “Our enemies are not idle. Until today, they have not been able to knock us back, but the enemy is lurking.”
On US President Donald Trump’s adoption of Saudi Arabia’s positions with respect to Iran and criticism by US officials of Iran’s presidential election during a recent Saudi trip, Khamenei said, “The president of America stands next to a tribal leader and does a sword dance and then criticizes the vote of 40 million people in our election.”
In an indirect attack on President Hassan Rouhani, who had advocated larger negotiations to remove all sanctions on Iran, which would likely require direct US-Iran talks on non-nuclear issues, Khamenei said, “Some know it to be reasonable — and they make a mistake — and say that challenging [the United States] has a price.” He added, “However, compromise also has a price. Consider that the Saudi government — to compromise with the new American president — is required to give more than half of its budget at the service of Americans.” During Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the two sides agreed to a $110 billion arms deal.
Khamenei continued, “If challenging [the United States] is reasonable and in accordance with logic, its cost is lower than compromise.” Despite the moderate candidate’s re-election, Khamenei remained steadfast in his opposition to broader talks with the United States. “When you retreat, then they present new demands until you give in to their demands and the cycle continues,” he said. “Being a revolutionary means to not make your goal to please the enemy. Their goal should be to rely on the people and domestic forces and not submit to any power.”
Khamenei also acknowledged the issue of election violations, which conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi complained about directly to the Guardian Council. Khamenei noted that while the violations did not change the outcome of the election, this should be prevented from happening again during the next election. He asked the candidates to put the partisan hostility and accusations behind themselves now that the election is over.
Khamenei also asked the electorate — whether their candidate won or lost — to compose themselves. Recalling the 2009 election in which the Green Movement leaders called the election fraudulent and brought out street protests, Khamenei said, “We saw what problems 2009 brought for the country.”
In a speech June 3, Rouhani made the case that his administration had been given a mandate with the re-election. “All the votes are to be respected,” Rouhani said. “The minority vote is to be respected, they too have rights. But the method of administration must be in accordance with the majority.”

Saudis One of the Ten Horns (Daniel 7)


In Saudi Arabia, Trump turns Sunni
The Editorial Board | USA TODAY
Change of tone is welcome; favoring an Islam sect over another is not: Our view
President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday came with a much needed change of tone in his descriptions of Islam’s relations with the West.
A candidate who called for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” now, as president, wants to reach out to the Islamic world. In his speech, he called for a partnership with Muslim nations, one “based on shared interests,” to drive out extremism.
Nothing wrong with that, but Trump’s welcome shift in tone only partially obscured a troubling departure on policy. He drew an explicit line between good and evil — and a more implicit line between Saudi Arabia and the Sunni sect of Islam on the one hand, and Iran and the rival Shiite sect on the other.
U.S. support for the Sunni camp was made clear by the fact that Trump made Riyadh his first foreign stop as president, by his willingness to sell the Saudis $110 billion in military equipment, and by his repeated criticisms of Iran during his speech.
Why the United States would want to tilt toward either side in the Sunni-Shiite divide is mystifying. These two sects have been at odds for centuries, with no signs of a detente.
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The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization, is Sunni. The same goes for al-Qaeda, the group founded by Osama bin Laden that brought down the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The bulk of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi citizens. And the Saudi government has long supported an ultra orthodox form of Islam known as Wahhabism, which has been a kind of gateway drug to radical Islam.
To be sure, much of the reason that Sunni extremism dominates the world of terrorism is that it is the much larger of the two predominant sects. But radical Sunnis have been more aggressive than militant Shiites, such as Hezbollah, in attacking Western homelands.
Iran, home to the world’s largest Shiite population, is a nasty theocracy in which ultimate power resides in the hands of an autocratic supreme leader. Yet it does have an elected president who has increasingly come to speak for a population yearning for better ties with the West. Indeed, as Trump arrived in the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia — a nation where women are still not allowed to drive — Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, was re-elected in a landslide.
President Obama rightly saw Iran as a country worth cultivating, and did so with a deal that rolled back sanctions in return for a suspension of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Obama, in a 2009 speech in Egypt, also cited the human rights abuses and lack of economic opportunity that help make Arab nations a breeding ground for extremism.
Trump was notably silent on those issues Sunday, signaling to Sunni leaders that they wouldn’t be called out for repression. Perhaps he calculates that a policy popular with Israeli leaders (who, like Saudi Arabia, were staunchly opposed to efforts to engage Iran) is a good way to keep Jews and evangelical Christians within his base.
Whatever the reason, Trump, like Obama, appears destined to discover that one speech in the heart of the Muslim world, no matter how well received, is hardly sufficient to alter ancient enmities.
USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.
To read more editorials, go to the Opinion front page or sign up for the daily Opinion email newsletter. To respond to this editorial, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.
Originally Published 5:43 p.m. ET May 21, 2017
Updated 49 minutes ago

US and Saudis to Join Horns (Daniel 8:8)

The summit will be one of three forums held during a visit by Trump, who is making Saudi Arabia his first overseas stop since assuming office in January.
Salman told a cabinet meeting in the Red Sea city of Jeddah that the meeting “comes in light of the challenges and sensitive situations that the world is going through”.
According to the official Saudi Press Agency, “he expressed his hope that this historic summit will establish a new partnership in the face of extremism and terrorism and spreading the values of tolerance and coexistence” while enhancing security.
Trump has frequently been accused of fueling Islamophobia but aides described his decision to visit Saudi Arabia as an effort to reset relations with the Muslim world.

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shake hands before lunch at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2017
NICHOLAS KAMM (AFP/File)

Trump’s National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster said in a press briefing on Friday that the US president’s visit to Saudi Arabia “will lead the first steps towards a strong partnership with the Muslim world.”
“We expect our allies to take a strong stand against those who have a perverted interpretation of their religion,” McMaster said.
Along with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), at least 18 other Muslim nations have been invited to the summit, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Niger and Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population.
Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran is not invited.
Trump is to also hold a bilateral summit with Saudi Arabia and talks with the GCC on Saturday.

Saudi King Salman talks to the media during a meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on September 4, 2015
Yuri Gripas (AFP)

Washington and Riyadh have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, has long been a major ally of the US, but the relationship soured over Obama’s initial reluctance getting involved in Syria and other regional problems, as well as the signing of a landmark nuclear accord and lifting of international sanctions against their regional rival, Shiite Iran.
The Saudis have found a more favorable ear in Washington under Trump, who has denounced Iran’s “harmful influence” in the Middle East.
From Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel next to Israel before continuing to the Vatican.

The Smaller Horn Stops Supporting Iran (Daniel 8)

Image result for iranian hegemony
Ynetnews Opinion – Iranian expansion in Middle East is coming to an end
In recent years, we have heard a lot of Iranian arrogance and Israeli concern in light of Iran’s ambition to become a regional power. Up until a while ago, the Islamic Republic seemed to be heading in the right direction. In the past two years, however, despite Iran’s huge investment and the achievements it boasted about, it has been losing fighters and influence. As much as one can talk about the future, Iran’s political horizon appears gloomy.
The Iranians’ hopes were driven by the power void created in the Middle East. After the Soviet state disintegrated, Russia began keeping a low profile in the Middle East and there were no signs indicating that it planned to return. The United States, under the leadership of Barack Obama, turned its back on its Arab allies and signed a nuclear agreement with Iran, which eased the economic pressure that has been increasingly suffocating the country in recent years. And while world powers minded their own business, the “Islamic State” (ISIS) monster appeared, causing old enemies to team up against it. As a result, Iran and its allies turned into legitimate partners in the battle against a group of murderers exporting terrorism across the world.
The world powers’ disappearance coincided with the growing chaos in two key countries of the Fertile Crescent—Iraq and Syria. After the Americans destroyed the old Saddam Hussein regime and left Iraq alone, the government gates were opened to the Iraqi Shiites and the Iranians trying to pull their strings. At the same time, the Arab unrest undermined Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, and the Iranians, which have traditionally helped the Alawite regime, entered that arena as well.
The chaos in Iraq and Syria, and the world powers’ absence, created a challenge for Iran: Would it be able to establish a new Middle Eastern order, which would serve its interests and reflect its ambitions and the evaluation of its power and its networks of influence?
The answer, in short, is no. Iran failed, and now its situation is deteriorating.
The first point of failure was apparent in Iraq. About two years ago, after Haider al-Abadi rose to power, he began working to restrain Iran’s influence and reinforce the presence of its enemy—the US. One of the opposition leaders, Muqtada al-Sadr, who had used to do whatever Iran said, began speaking ill of Tehran too. These two Shiite politicians are refusing to serve Iran’s interests, and as a result of their growing power, the Iranian influence system seems to have suffered a serious blow.
In Syria, the situation is even worse. About a year and a half ago, the Russians returned to the Middle East at Syria’s invitation. Over time, it became clear to experts on Middle Eastern politics that the Russians were here to stay. Entering Syria was a critical step in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s broad plan to restore his country’s status as a world power. In order to establish its power in the Middle East, however, Russia must maintain good diplomatic relations with a variety of forces: Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others. Furthermore, it must maintain channels of dialogue and decide on areas of influence with the US. In other words, it must a compromise in Syria which will reduce Assad’s power or destroy him, along with the power of his Iranian patrons. The importance of creating the new order in Syria will likely become clear soon, once ISI is destroyed and we will be able to talk about the new political order in the Middle East.
Another complication in the Iranian expansion plan is America’s possible return to its old role—the Arabs’ ally and a determined enemy of Iran. US President Donald Trump’s political U-turn will narrow the Iranians’ leeway even more.
ISIS, which imposed chaos on the region in the past, is expected to grow weaker. Along with the world powers’ return to the Middle East’s power struggles, this brings us pretty close to the “old politics” of the Middle East. In this balance of powers, Iran has many enemies—including Shiites—and few partners. Moreover, the world powers will clip Iran’s wings without flinching. It seems, therefore, that if these trends continue, the years of expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East are coming to an end.
Prof. Nimrod Hurvitz and Prof. Dror Ze’evi are members of the Forum for Regional Thinking and lecturers at Ben-Gurion University.

Trump To Empower The Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8)

Exclusive: Saudi Arabia, U.S. in talks on billions in arms sales – U.S. sources

Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington is working to push through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some new, others in the pipeline, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the kingdom this month, people familiar with the talks told Reuters this week.
Saudi Arabia is Trump’s first stop on his maiden international trip, a sign of his intent to reinforce ties with a top regional ally.The United States has been the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighter jets to command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. Trump has vowed to stimulate the U.S. economy by boosting manufacturing jobs.Washington and Riyadh are eager to improve relations strained under President Barack Obama in part because of his championing of a nuclear deal with Saudi foe Iran.Lockheed Martin Co programs in the package include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system with several batteries, the sources said. The THAAD system, like the one being made operational in South Korea, costs about $1 billion. Also being negotiated is a C2BMC software system for battle command and control and communications as well as a package of satellite capabilities, both provided by Lockheed.Combat vehicles made by BAE Systems PLC , including the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M109 artillery vehicle, are also under consideration as part of the Saudi package, people familiar with the talks said. Both vehicles are in the Saudi inventory. British defense company BAE has 29,000 employees in the United States.The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations, which also include previously reported contracts or items under discussion for years. One such deal, an $11.5 billion package of four multi-mission surface combatant ships and accompanying services and spares, was approved by the State Department in 2015. Talks followed to hammer out capabilities, configuration and design for the complex warships but the deal has never gone to final contract.The next step for the ships is likely a letter of agreement between the two countries, the sources said.Versions of the ship used by the U.S. Navy, the Littoral Combat Ship, are built by Bethesda, Maryland-based weapons maker Lockheed Martin and Australia’s Austal Ltd . If a deal goes through, it would be the first sale of a new small surface warship to a foreign power in decades. Any major foreign weapons sale is subject to oversight by Congress. Lawmakers must take into consideration a legal requirement that Israel must maintain its qualitative military edge over its neighbors.Also, more than $1 billion worth of munitions including armor-piercing Penetrator Warheads and Paveway laser-guided bombs made by Raytheon Co are in the package, the sources said. The Obama administration suspended the planned sale because of concerns over the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and civilian casualties.A U.S. administration official said the proposed Raytheon sale was still undergoing interagency review. Representatives for BAE and Raytheon declined to comment on the sales. A Lockheed representative said such sales are government-to-government decisions and the status of any potential discussions can be best addressed by the U.S. government.A representative for the Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment.Shares of both Raytheon and Lockheed closed up 0.9 percent. Both stocks hit session highs following the Reuters report.
FLURRY OF ACTIVITY
One of the people with knowledge of the sales said that as planning for Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia intensified in recent weeks, the arms negotiations also accelerated. Two U.S. officials said a U.S.-Saudi working group met at the White House Monday and Tuesday to negotiate the trip, as well as financing for military equipment sales and stopping terrorist financing.Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi officials met with lawmakers at the Capitol on Thursday, including Senators Bob Corker and Ben Cardin on the foreign relations committee.The Pentagon declined to comment. White House and State Department officials said it was U.S. policy not to comment on proposed U.S. defense sales until they had been formally notified to Congress.The Obama administration had offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons. Most of the Obama-era offers, which are reported to Congress, became formal agreements though some were abandoned or amended.Washington also provides maintenance and training to Saudi security forces. (Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, John Walcott, Warren Strobel, Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and James Dalgleish)

Saudi Arabia About To Become A Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Image result for saudi nuclear weaponsSaudi Arabia to Obtain Arms, Nuclear Technology in McMaster-Orchestrated Deal

Saudi Arabia will obtain a massive weapons arsenal and missile defense system in a deal pushed by H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn, and Dina Powell. Under this deal, which is set to be announced in May, Saudia Arabia will obtain technology to build civilian nuclear reactors.
President Trump has expressed skepticism of this deal despite continued pressure from McMaster, Cohn, and Powell.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who has ties to terrorists, once called President Trump a “disgrace to all America.”
Sources suggest that McMaster, Cohn, and Powell seek the Saudi’s good graces as part of their larger plan to involve the U.S. in another ground war in Syria. “These guys want a ground war,” one person with knowledge about the matter said, “whether that’s in Syria or Iraq doesn’t matter. This is Petraeus’ second war.
Among the big winners in this Saudi arms deal would be former CIA director David Petraeus. Petraeus, who had his security clearance pulled after leaking classified information to his mistress, has nightly calls with McMaster. The nightly calls between Petraus and McMaster are facilitated by the White House situation room.
Sources close to situation room personnel reported that they are tired of “playing secretary” for McMaster, and that “Petraus had his clearance pulled. These calls are probably illegal.”
Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, despite fake news reports about a feud, are against the McMaster-Cohn-Powell plan. Stephen Miller and Wilbur Ross also oppose arming the Saudis. Derek Harvey, Joel Rayburn, and other Petraeus proteges support the arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Former employees from Harvey’s office, who were dismissed in early April, have complained about harassment.
One former employee has obtained legal counsel and is in the process of filing a harassment lawsuit against Harvey.
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Mike Cernovich is the journalist who broke the Susan Rice unmasking scandal and first reported that H.R. McMaster wants a massive U.S.-led ground force in Syria.