World War 3 Cannot be Avoided (Revelation 16)

US-Iranian Conflict: Can A Fourth Gulf War Be Prevented? -By Marwan Bishara

Tensions between the United States and Iran have flared up since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran last year and began ratcheting up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Earlier this month, tensions turned into threats, as Washington refused to extend sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian oil, designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, and began military preparations to deter Iran. 

These measures are pushing the Iranian economy to the brink. Oil exports, which have already dwindled from 2.5 million to less than 1.3 million barrels a day since last year, could drop even further, crippling the state budget. Ordinary Iranians, who are already suffering from the raging inflation (currently at 40 percent) and skyrocketing prices of goods, will likely bear the brunt of Washington’s push to bring Iranian oil exports to zero. And this is only the beginning.

The Iranian leadership has been defiant. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said this “hostile measure” will not be left

“without a response”, while President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has cautioned that Iran could walk away from the nuclear deal and warned against a potential escalation to war.

If the past three Gulf wars of the 1980s (Iraq-Iran), 1991 (US/UN-Iraq) and 2003 (US/UK-Iraq) are anything to go by, a confrontation between the US and Iran would prove far more devastating. So why are Washington and Tehran ignoring the lessons of war, and marching eyes wide shut towards another armed conflict? And can anyone stop them?

Washington’s arrogance

Even before he was elected president, Donald Trump famously branded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the Obama administration “the worst deal ever” and once he took office, he embarked on dismantling it.

In May last year, his administration withdrew from the JCPOA and issued 12 demands to Iran. It was one of those impossible lists, designed to provoke and humiliate.

The US wants Iran to end all its nuclear and missile programmes, withdraw its forces from Syria, stop its “destabilising” policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf, and cease its support for armed groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis in exchange for negotiating a new nuclear deal.

No one would have been more surprised than the US itself if Iran had said yes to any of it. These demands basically constitute total Iranian surrender, not only to the US but also to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s key regional partners and principle drivers behind the new Iran policy.

National Security Advisor of the United States John Bolton made this crystal clear on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session last September, when he said: “If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”

The message was certainly heard loud and clear in Tehran, which has accused the so-called B-team (Bolton, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman and the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Zayed) of pushing Trump to seek regime or war with Iran.

Perhaps it is true that the US president has been ensnared by various warmongers in a vicious campaign against Iran, but the Iranian leadership has been anything but innocent in all of this, with its own A-team (led by Ayatollah Khamenei) pursuing regional hegemony.

Tehran’s arrogance

Instead of taking advantage of the windfall from the nuclear deal and the normalisation of relations with the West to rebuild its economy and country, Tehran has doubled down on its aggressive policies in the region.

Although it has accused the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of causing instability, it has itself chosen to advance its narrow interests with recklessness and indifference to the disastrous consequences.

Over the past few years, Iran has pursued a sectarian strategy that destabilised its neighbours and empowered the likes of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. It has also waged proxy wars against Saudi Arabia, crippling countries like Yemen and Lebanon and used paramilitary groups like the IRGC and its al-Quds Force to undermine opponents across the Arab world.

Its aggressive policies have fuelled a now widely held suspicion that it seeks to “create a new Persian and Shi’ite ’empire’ on Arab land”. Some members of its political elite have even bragged that Iran already rules in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa.

The Iranian strategy of exploiting instability to pursue regional hegemony has backfired. In the hope of curtailing Iran’s Middle Eastern ambitions, many Arab states are now not only siding with the US but are also drawing closer to Iran’s archenemy, Israel.

Religious fanaticism

In addition to economic, diplomatic and strategic tools, Washington and Tehran are also employing religion to justify their policies and rally their supporters at home and abroad.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, has claimed that Trump may have been sent by God to protect Israel from Iran. He, along with Vice President Mike Pence and other evangelicals working with the Trump administration, supports Israel’s religious claims over Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, and invokes biblical texts to explain US policy towards Iran and the region.

No less alarming is Iran’s use of religion and particularly the idea of protecting the oppressed and the downtrodden to pursue its hegemonic policies across the region. The Iranian leadership has also actively sought the sectarianisation of local tensions and conflicts in order to present itself as the “protector” of all Shia communities in the region. It has also employed Shia dogmas and calls to protect holy Shia shrines to recruit fighters for the various militias it supports in Iraq and Syria.

But it is not only the US and Iran who have engaged in religious fanaticism. Israel and Saudi Arabia have done so as well, and so have various non-state actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

They have all assumed their own versions of “manifest destiny”, claiming they were divinely ordained to conquer and occupy and willing to use God’s name in vain in order to advance their narrow political interests.

Arrogance breeds contempt; religious arrogance breeds conflict. So, could this “clash of fanaticism” escalate into a wider confrontation?

The prospect of war

I am not convinced that either Trump or Rouhani wishes for a war. There doesn’t seem to be a decision or a plan to go to war, yet – not today, not tomorrow.

But what about next year? Trump’s 12 demands have left Tehran with no option for an honourable exit and set it on the path towards an economic disaster. Feeling anxious about an implosion from within, it will have to devise a plan to respond.

Meanwhile, the US will continue to strangle it economically, destabilise it politically and undermine it regionally. It will pursue

various containment strategies like “offshore balancing“, but if those fail, military intervention will be a viable option.

Washington’s aggressive approach will likely weaken Iranian pragmatists like Rouhani, and empower hardliners. This will cause Iran to abandon diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis and seek to quit the nuclear deal and perhaps even the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty altogether, rile up its Gulf neighbours, and undermine the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This would inevitably evoke a sharp reaction from Washington, which may lead to war or wars by proxy throughout much of the region.

Foreseeing such developments, the Trump administration is already preparing the public for possible escalation. Like the Bush administration, it is repeating the same false claims that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq – that there are weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat and support for terrorism.

Clearly, some in Washington have forgotten the Iraq debacle, and continue to believe in limited wars and regime change.

Preventing a war

All of this begs the bigger question: Where are the world powers who signed the Iran deal, enshrined it in a UN Security Council resolution, and vowed to defend it? Shouldn’t they stop the ongoing escalation?

Europe may still support the deal but it is clearly spooked by Washington’s aggressive posturing and has not yet activated INSTEX, the alternative trade mechanism to bypass US sanctions.

Russia, an oil exporter, seems indifferent for now, and may even benefit from higher oil prices; India has found alternative suppliers, while Turkey continues to ask for waivers.

China, the biggest importer of Iranian oil, has reduced its oil imports by a quarter since last year. It still maintains business relations with Tehran, just enough to use it as a bargaining chip in the ongoing trade negotiations with Washington.

In short, the world powers have not been successful in saving the nuclear deal, or devising a viable plan to circumvent US sanctions.

They are also failing to curb the US-Iranian escalation to war. If there is any chance of stopping this madness, it may well have to come from the US itself.

The ball is in your court, America. But don’t wait until 2020 to make your voice heard against another mad, sick, stupid war.

The Iranian Islamic Nuclear Bomb (Revelation 16)

The Ayatollah With the Bomb

This entry was posted in National Security and tagged Democrats, Iran, Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea, Nuclear Iran, Nuclear Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

April 23, 2019 6:37 pm

In recent weeks, several Democrats running for president have vowed that, if elected, they would reenter the United States into the nuclear deal with Iran. The accord, they argue, was working to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, until President Trump scrapped it last year, potentially provoking Tehran to withdraw from the agreement as well. The main problem with this argument is the main problem with the deal itself: the accord paves, rather than blocks, Iran’s path toward nuclear weapons.

Forget about Iran cheating or the insufficient inspections for a moment. The regime can produce the world’s most powerful weapons if it simply abides by the deal, under which the key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over the next 12 years. Beginning in 2026, for example, Tehran is free to enrich uranium using advanced centrifuges, which make the enrichment process much more efficient, and to install and operate more of its older models. Then, in 2031, restrictions on the amount and level of enriched uranium that Iran can stockpile disappear. So, in about a decade, the Islamic Republic will have the international community’s blessing to build as large a nuclear program as it wants—while, if the United States re-implements the deal, enjoying relief from sanctions.

In a twisted irony, the deal is itself a ticking time bomb, and cannot be allowed to run its course. Yet the accord has created inertia in some circles in Washington, where many of its supporters seem content touting the deal’s benefits and handing off the problem to tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers. But there is more to their thought process than indifference, or an unrealistic view of what the deal will do, or whatever else motivates their stance. Those presidential candidates who promised to re-join the nuclear deal, and like-minded supporters, have made a choice, whether they know it or not: the cost of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon is not worth the benefits. In other words, it is not worth striking Iranian nuclear facilities, and thereby risking a war, to stop the Islamist theocracy’s march toward the bomb. Which is worse: Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, or going to war, if necessary, to prevent Iran from obtaining them? This is the fundamental choice that underpins many observers‘ views of the nuclear deal, consciously or subconsciously. Understanding this point makes the debate over the deal, and over Iran’s nuclear program more generally, much clearer.

Champions of the nuclear deal, those who describe it as a panacea (for example, Barack Obama), of course recognize that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous. They know that a cruel and oppressive regime, one both anti-American and anti-Semitic, that is willing to stone women and execute homosexuals should not have nuclear weapons, especially when that regime practices a belligerent foreign policy. But their words and actions show that they, if put to a choice between military action and acquiescence, would choose the latter, believing that they can live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

There are many ways to show why this view is wrong, and why Americans should not accept a world where Tehran has nuclear weapons. One way to illustrate the point is to compare the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to global security to the threat that a nuclear-armed North Korea currently poses. Any sane person recognizes that North Korea, a totalitarian state run by a murderous, delusional savage committed to reunifying the Korean peninsula, is a grave threat. In fact, Democrats in Congress who support the Iran nuclear deal have actually chided President Trump for being too nice to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Yet a nuclear-armed Iran would be far more dangerous than a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Iran is an imperial, expansionist power seeking preeminence in the Middle East. The regime exerts heavy influence on four Arab capitals—Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sana’a—supports Palestinian groups, seeks Israel’s destruction, incites the Shi’ite populations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to subvert their governments, and is trying to expand its influence in Afghanistan and beyond. Tehran sends its soldiers across borders and creates proxy forces to do its bidding, competing against similarly powerful countries for regional influence in multiple conflicts that could easily trigger war. If Iran obtained nuclear weapons, other Middle Eastern states—certainly Saudi Arabia—would seek the same capability. Imagine the consequences of a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region. The Islamic Republic is also a theocratic regime, driven in large part by the desire to spread a revolutionary form of Shi’a Islam. And, sanctions aside, Iran is a major player in the global economy, exporting oil and gas. Deterring Iran from using nuclear weapons would be a murkier prospect, not to mention that the United States is not obligated by any treaty to protect its Middle Eastern allies.

North Korea, meanwhile, is not an imperial, expansionist power in the same way, in large part because of geography. To the south, the North Korean leadership sees a more powerful South Korea, which the United States has promised to protect. To the north is China, a purported ally and, more importantly, a far more powerful country. To every other direction: water. And beyond: Japan, which is, again, a stronger country, and one to whose security the United States is unambiguously committed. Pyongyang simply cannot pursue a belligerent foreign policy in the same way as Iran even if it wanted to. Indeed, North Korea is contained by virtue of its location and lack of resources. For these same reasons, it is not involved in a regional competition for supremacy that can devolve into war like Tehran. Moreover, Pyongyang does not try to export an ideology, revolutionary or otherwise. And North Korea has nothing of value to offer the global economy, just the black market. Deterring North Korea is more straightforward, even if the North Korean leadership seems more unpredictable than their Iranian counterparts. Not that the United States should accept a nuclear-armed North Korea—far from it—and obviously North Korea’s nuclear program is, currently, more menacing than Iran’s. But that could very well change in the foreseeable future.

Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is truly a nightmare scenario, one that the United States—regardless of who is in power—should do everything it can to prevent. Unfortunately, and dangerously, most of the Democratic presidential candidates would do the opposite, showing Iran a path to the bomb. Americans, both leaders and citizens, need to appreciate the horror that a nuclear-armed Iran would present to the world. Maybe then more people would support the aggressive posture that is required to deter and counter Iran’s deadly ambitions.

Preparing to Fight for the Straight of Hormuz

IRGC HD Video Shows US Aircraft Carrier in Persian Gulf

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A high definition footage obtained by IRGC naval forces shows the US warshipss being closely monitored in the Persian Gulf waters, south of Iran.

Tasnim News Agency

IRGC naval forces released a high quality video showing a close observation of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

On April 8, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington is designating the IRGC a foreign “terrorist organization”, marking the first time the US has formally labeled another country’s military a terrorist group.

Responding to the move, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council immediately declared the US as a state sponsor of terrorism and US forces in the region terrorists.

The SNSC said it has put CENTCOM on its terror list as a “reciprocal measure” against the US “illegal and unwise” move.

The Islamic Republic of Iran plays a significant and leading role in establishing security in the Persian Gulf.

In remarks in 2016, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that security of the Persian Gulf region comes within the purview of the regional countries alone, and dismissed the US claim of seeking security in the region.

“The Persian Gulf security relates to the countries of the region which have common interests, and not to the US. So, security of the Persian Gulf region should be provided by the countries of this region itself,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei has also called for the enhancement of the Iranian naval forces’ presence in international waters and expanding the Navy’s power in balance with the merit of the Islamic Establishment.

The Horns of Prophecy Align (Daniel 7:7)

Trump admin aiming for major nuclear deal with Russia and China

By Kylie Atwood and Nicole Gaouette, CNN

Updated 7:24 AM EDT, Fri April 26, 2019

Washington(CNN) President Donald Trump has his eyes on a new foreign policy prize: a grand nuclear deal with Russia and China, that he sees as a potential signature foreign policy achievement. However, some arms control experts are concerned the effort could backfire.

The President, who has a penchant for big deals, has hinted publicly a deal is on his agenda, adding a threat if it doesn’t come to pass.

„Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t,“ Trump said, mentioning his decision to pursue a treaty during his January address to the nation. „In which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.“

The White House is conducting intense interagency talks to develop options for the President to pursue such a deal, building off another nuclear pact, the New START Treaty, which expires in 2021, multiple White House officials told CNN.

The President has made clear that he thinks that arms control should include Russia and China and should include all the weapons, all the warheads, all the missiles,“ said a senior White House official. „We have an ambition to give the President options as quickly as possible to give him as much space on the calendar as possible.“

„This is something that no administration has tried,“ the senior official said. „But I would argue no administration has tried what [Trump] tried with North Korea for example.“

Worries about triggering an arms race

But the scale of those ambitions, Trump’s past criticism of New START as a „bad deal“ and the role of national security adviser John Bolton — a longstanding critic of arms control agreements — have some observers concerned that the administration’s true goal might be find a way to exit a second nuclear pact it sees as constraining and outdated.

„The only reason you bring up China is if you have no intention of extending the New START Treaty,“ said Alexandra Bell, senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Bell and other arms control experts worry that before too long, the world’s two largest nuclear powers might shed limits on their nuclear arsenals for the first time in decades.

Administration officials say their aim is to revamp a dusty pact for a new age and increase global security.

„If we can get the deal right, if we can make sure that it fits 2021 and beyond, President Trump has made very clear that if we can get a good solid arms control agreement we ought to get one,“ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress this month. He added that „we need to make sure we’ve got all of the parties that are relevant as a component of this as well,“ Pompeo said. „Other countries besides Russia and China.“

The Trump administration has not set out a timeline for negotiations or even raised the prospect with China and Russia. Pompeo told lawmakers the US was in the „very beginning of conversations about renewing“ the treaty.

New START „covers only a small sub-set of weapons that Russia was comfortable covering,“ said the official.

‚We should eliminate as many of them as possible‘

„What the President wants to look at is, we should bring all of those weapons under control,“ the official said. „We should eliminate as many of them as possible, we should look to eliminate classes of weapons.“

With less than two years left in his first term, Trump would be under the gun to accomplish something that many view as impossible. Administration officials say that’s not a reason not to try, and one pointed out that it took the Obama administration less than two years to negotiate New START.

It’s a comparison that arms control experts say doesn’t hold water. New START was built on decades of negotiations for the original START Treaty, while a pact that includes a new country could require starting from scratch.

Both US and Russian officials have signaled that renewal could be drawn-out and difficult. Trump administration officials question whether Moscow’s development of new nuclear weapons is the kind of step a „responsible stakeholder“ would take.

Russian officials question US compliance with New START.

„The extension of the New START is not a simple technicality that could be resolved in a couple of weeks,“ Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said at an arms control conference this month. „Serious issues must be settled.“

The 2010 New START treaty limits both nations to deploying 1,550 nuclear warheads over 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and bombers. It also allows for 18 on-site inspections every year that allow each side to keep a close eye on the others‘ capabilities.

The treaty is set to expire in 2021, but could be extended for up to five years if both sides agree.

The White House, however, doesn’t see the need to rush into talks on extending New START before going after the bigger deal, which would look to include non-strategic weapons and get rid of certain classes of weapons.

„We don’t have to have a discussion right now about an extension,“ the official said. Instead, „we need to have a discussion about, with everything that Russia and China are developing what does threat reduction to the US look like, and what should a proposal look like to bring them both to the table to try to negotiate a better deal.“

Nuclear experts are wary that getting too close to the renewal deadline will put the treaty in jeopardy. Lynn Rusten, a Vice President at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, says a „prudent way forward“ would be renewing New START and then drawing in the Chinese, and potentially other nuclear-capable countries like the UK and France.

„An overly ambitious approach will be unnecessarily risky,“ says Rusten. „You can have the belt and suspenders, and start to lay the groundwork for a more ambitious agreement. But I don’t think getting rid of the belt and suspenders enhances chances of getting the more ambitious agreement.“

Rusten worries that the closer the deadline gets, the more both sides will try to leverage their position. That posturing, she warns, could lead to a crash and burn.

Bell says that if New START expires, the US will lose access to vital information about the Russian nuclear system. „We give that up, we lose that intelligence that gives us a real time view into their strategic arsenal … then we have to make choices about what we do with our own nuclear weapons based on guessing.“

Bell and others question say the administration’s idea to include China in the treaty raises questions and, in some ways, strains credulity.

Concerns about China’s willingness to engage

First, Beijing has long said that it would not engage in nuclear controls with countries that have much larger stockpiles. China has less than one-tenth the nuclear weapons that Russia and the US have, it has a no first use policy and is believed to store its warheads apart from its missiles.

„China isn’t even in the same ballpark,“ said Bell. „They’re not even playing the same game.“

Unless Beijing agreed to be the junior partner in a broader pact — a highly unlikely scenario — bringing China under the New START’s restraints would present Washington and Moscow with an excruciating choice.

To reach parity, they would either have to have radically reduce their own weapons holdings or let China begin a massive nuclear build up to match US and Russian numbers.

The Chinese embassy did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

European defense officials say there’s value in the idea of drawing China into strategic discussions, but they don’t hold out much hope.

„On the one hand there’s the talk about wanting to include China; on the other hand there’s the realistic expectation that China is not interested in joining that framework,“ one official said. „When you put those two together, the prospects are not terribly optimistic.“

In April, during a meeting with Chinese vice premier Liu He in the Oval Office, Trump said that he thinks Moscow and Beijing will „come along“ on a nuclear deal and said it could happen after the US and China complete trade negotiations.

„I think it’s much better if we all got together and we didn’t make these weapons,“ Trump said. „As you know, China is spending a lot of money on military. So are we. So is Russia. And those three countries, I think, can come together and stop the spending and spend on things that maybe are more productive toward long-term peace.“

Trump Wants WAR with Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images and Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Trump Doesn’t Want a “Better” Deal With Iran

He wants to punish a place he doesn’t like—at any cost.

Fred KaplanApril 25, 20196:58 PM

President Donald Trump is about to squeeze Iran like never before. It’s hard to see where this can lead except to chaos or war. And it’s fairly clear that Trump wants it this way.

When Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed economic sanctions that had been lifted as part of that accord, he issued six-month waivers to eight countries—China, India, Iraq, Turkey, South Korea, Italy, Greece, and Taiwan—allowing them to keep buying Iranian oil. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the waivers would end May 2. After then, any country doing business with the Islamic Republic would be barred from the U.S. banking system, which dominates financial transactions worldwide.

In recent months, some countries, notably China and members of the European Union, have discussed setting up some mechanism to trade with Iran without going through U.S. banks, but this has proved easier said than done. The European countries that were granted waivers have already stopped importing Iranian oil; the others have cut back, albeit reluctantly. After May 2, if Washington really enforces a no-tolerance ban, Iran—which is already hurting economically—will be boxed in.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have said that, in response to this hostile act, they might block the Strait of Hormuz, a body of water with a two-mile-wide shipping lane that transits 20 percent of the world’s oil supply. The idea is that if Iran can’t send its oil through the strait, which borders its territory, nobody else can either. Zarif also has said that Iran might resume enriching uranium—and thus reviving its nuclear program—in response. Either of these moves would likely spark a U.S. military reaction, which may be what Trump wants to happen.

One clear sign that Trump wants Iran boxed in is that he hasn’t offered another choice—he hasn’t said what he wants the Iranian government to do in exchange for dropping his campaign of “maximum pressure.”

Pompeo has said he wants a “better” nuclear accord, but his definition of the word is so over the top that he’s clearly signaling that he doesn’t mean it. In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in May, he laid out 12 conditions that Iran must fulfill for a new deal. They include ending its enrichment of uranium—a ban imposed on no other country in the world. (Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty gives signatories the “inalienable right” to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which includes enriching uranium at low levels. The Iran deal allows enrichment up to 3 percent—way below what’s needed to make a weapon.) Pompeo also demanded that Iran give international inspectors “unqualified access” to “all sites throughout” Iran—a formula for espionage that no country would accept. He said Iran must halt tests and development of ballistic and cruise missiles (a ban on development is impossible to verify); end support for Syria, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in Yemen; disarm its militias in Iraq; drop all threats against Israel; and release all foreign prisoners. All these steps would be welcome, but no nation would surrender so much of its sovereignty to a foreign power, except, possibly, after a total defeat in a war.

More drastic still, Pompeo listed these conditions not as the terms of a new deal but merely as the steps that Iran must take before the United States sits down at the bargaining table. What further concessions, they might ask, would Trump and Pompeo demand after that? In any case, the Iranians have no cause to trust them, given that Trump withdrew from the existing deal, which was negotiated with six other countries, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency has attested many times that Iran is in full compliance.

There are ways to get a better deal with Iran, if that’s what Trump really wanted. He could do what Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton, and Obama did to get better nuclear arms deals with the Kremlin. They negotiated a series of treaties, each one reducing nuclear weapons to lower levels without tearing up some previous accord just because it didn’t go as far as one side or the other might have preferred.

At a Q&A with journalists at Iran’s U.N. mission in New York on Thursday, Javad Zarif likened the Trump administration’s behavior to that of a “gangster.” The Iran nuclear deal, which is enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution, bars impediments to trade with Iran. Trump’s officials aren’t acting like “the world’s policeman,” he said. Rather, they’re demanding that other nations “break the law.”

Sad to say, he’s right, and this is one reason so many countries—especially those that signed the nuclear accord—are bitter about the way Trump is flexing American power.

Yet Javad Zarif took care to draw a distinction between Trump and his administration, noting national security adviser John Bolton is a longtime advocate of regime change in Iran, while Trump has pledged to avoid another stupid, costly war in the Middle East. He also noted that Iran “never left the negotiating table”; only the United States did that, and Tehran stands ready to continue talks.

But this stab at an appeal to Trump’s more restrained impulses is probably based on a false hope. Clearly, Trump has no interest in talking with the Iranians about a new accord. And Pompeo, who sees a big part of his job as saying what Trump wants him to say, reflects that disdain. In his Heritage speech and in others, especially one delivered in July before an audience of Iranian Americans at the Reagan Presidential Library, Pompeo emphasized U.S. solidarity with “the Iranian people” against their oppressive government. He went about as far as a senior U.S. diplomat could go toward advancing a policy of “regime change” without uttering those words.

Trump may well think that this “maximum pressure” will simply bring the Iranian regime to its knees. This is doubtful. But if it does, it is even more unlikely that Western-leaning freedom fighters will replace the toppled mullahs. Tehran is the most literate, pro-Western city in the entire Middle East, outside of Israel, but even its denizens know the history of foreign coups in Iran, and despite their hatred for the medievalists occupying supreme power in their country, they would resist another episode of American meddling. If the mullahs were somehow to be ousted, they would more likely be succeeded by a more anti-Western faction, probably consisting of the most intolerant elements of the military.

Trump’s stepped-up pressure campaign might be justified if Iran posed an urgent, existential threat to the United States, its allies, or its interests—or if Iran’s leaders were poised to break out of the nuclear deal’s restrictions. But it doesn’t, and they aren’t. The other parties to the nuclear deal—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—are sticking to it, seeing no reason to pull out and many reasons to stay in. It prevents Iran from building a nuclear bomb, has already led to the dismantlement of materials with which they might have built a bomb, and contains the tightest verification regimen in the history of arms control accords. Even most Israeli military and intelligence officers favor sticking with the deal. Trump is serving the interests only of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners, who want to keep Iran holed up, and of the region’s Sunni Arab powers, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which want to wage war on Iran. In effect, Trump’s new policy—which forces the world to reimpose the sanctions that he wants—is a declaration of economic war.

Even if Iran doesn’t shut down the Hormuz Strait or resume enriching uranium, the move is likely to contract the global economy, at least somewhat. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said they will redirect some of their oil exports to Iraq and Turkey in order to make up for the cutoff of Iranian supplies. But it’s unclear where this extra oil will come from—they’ve recently cut their output and have not said they’ll pump more—or who will compensate the countries that once got lots of oil from the Arabs but are now getting shortchanged. Oil analysts say that Trump’s policy will squeeze global supplies in a market already facing disruptions and will almost certainly raise gasoline prices, just in time to make summer vacations more costly.

Trump is taking a huge risk, alienating allies, aggravating American consumers, upsetting global markets, and possibly triggering war—all because he doesn’t like Iran and doesn’t like the Iran nuclear deal (or any other deal) that was struck by President Barack Obama. He’s governing by pique, and we may all pay the price in one way or another.

Babylon the Great Practices Nuking Russia

U.S. Air Force B-52 Bombers Practiced a Nuclear Strike on Russia Last Month

The U.S. Air Force in early March 2019 deployed five B-52 bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to the United Kingdom. Some of the eight-engine, long-range planes flew mock nuclear attacks on Russian soil.

A crazy story. 

The U.S. Air Force in early March 2019 deployed five B-52 bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to the United Kingdom. Some of the eight-engine, long-range planes flew mock nuclear attacks on Russian soil.

The American operation mirrors Russia’s own simulated aerial raids. In recent years Russian bombers have stepped up their probes of NATO and allied air space, occasionally following flight profiles matching atomic bombing runs.

Six B-52s arrived at the Royal Air Force base at Fairford starting March 14, 2019. „The deployment of strategic bombers to the U.K. helps exercise RAF Fairford as United States Air Forces in Europe’s forward operating location for bombers,“ the Air Force stated.

„The deployment also includes joint and allied training in the U.S. European Command theater to improve bomber interoperability. Training with joint partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units contributes to our ready and postured forces and enables us to build enduring and strategic relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges.“

The Air Force’s statement fails to mention one of the B-52s‘ other missions — to practice nuclear attacks on Russia.

At least two of the B-52s that deployed to the United Kingdom are nuclear-capable models, identifiable by a special fin that the Air Force added in order to comply with the New START treaty that limits the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear-delivery systems.

But it was one of the non-nuclear-capable B-52s, serial number 60-0024, that initially flew a mock cruise-missile attack on Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on March 14, 2019, according to Steffan Watkins, an independent imagery analyst. Observers can track military flights via their transponders and radio traffic.

„USAF Boeing B-52H 60-0024 … took off from Barksdale AFB [on] 2019-03-14 [at] 01:30 Zulu [time], flew over [Canada] and conducted a mock nuclear cruise missile strike on the Russian Federation, only turning around 60 nautical miles from Russian air space [at] 11:10 Zulu, landing at RAF Fairford [at] 13:32 Zulu,“ Watkins tweeted.

On March 28, five B-52s joined a pair of Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16AMs and a lone two-seat F-16BM for a mission over the Norwegian Sea.

„The deployment is clearly meant to be a signal of the U.S. military’s strategic capabilities to America’s ‚great power‘ competitors, primarily Russia,“ Joseph Trevithick wrote at The War Zone.

„Though the Air Force has regularly sent small detachments of B-52s to the United Kingdom for training exercises throughout Europe over the years, having six of the bombers there at once is the single largest deployment of the [B-52s] to the region since the invasion of Iraq in 2003,“ Trevithick continued, citing Military.com. „During the opening phases of that conflict, 20 B-52s flew strike missions from the United Kingdom.“

Compare the recent American bomber flights to Russia’s own, similar flights. Eleven Russian Su-24 bombers in early 2018 flew a mock attack on a Norwegian radar site, Lt. Gen. Morten Haga Lunde, the director of Norway’s intelligence service, revealed in early February 2019.

Seventeen Russian warplanes in May 2018 buzzed the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan in the Black Sea. And a year earlier in March 2017, nine Russian warplanes conducted another raid targeting a Norwegian military site. Three months later in May 2017, 12 Russian planes simulated attack runs on NATO vessels exercising in Norwegian waters.

NATO and allied warplanes routinely intercept Russian planes conducting mock raids. But Russian fighters did not interfere with the U.S. Air Force’s March 14 mock raid. They, however, did intercept and monitor B-52 60-0024 and presumably other B-52s when they repeated the mock raid on March 20.

Russia swiftly retaliated. On March 29, 2019, two Russian air force Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers flew over the North Sea, heading toward the United Kingdom. RAF fighters rose to intercept.

The dueling mock raids alarmed Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists. „If you missed signs of new Cold War, this should wake you up,“ Kristensen tweeted.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Image: Creative Commons. 

Trump’s Iran Moves Will Take a Dangerous Turn

Trump’s Iran Moves Threaten to Take Dangerous Turn, Zarif Warns

Bloomberg News Apr 24

President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran could take a dangerous turn if he heeds the advice of allies and aides seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

Speaking two days after the U.S. said it will let waivers to a handful of governments still importing Iranian oil expire, exposing them to sanctions, Zarif said Wednesday that he thinks that Trump wants to force Tehran to the negotiating table but is being pushed toward a potential military conflict by some of his advisers and regional allies—a “B Team” of officials that he said includes the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

“President Trump’s aim is to bring us to our knees and talk,” Zarif said at the Asia Society in New York. “But the ‘B-team’ wants regime change at the very least.”

Iran’s leaders have been unified in saying the latest U.S. efforts will fail, despite the hurdles already confronting the Islamic Republic’s economy since Trump withdrew a year ago from a seven-nation agreement meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for ending some economic sanctions.

Oil steadied near a six-month high as an industry report showing a gain in U.S. crude inventories partly offset concern over America’s campaign to halt Iranian crude exports.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it will be “impossible” to slash his nation’s oil exports to zero, while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to “respond” to the U.S. move.

“We can export as much oil as we need and as much as we intend to,” Khamenei said.

Echoing remarks by a senior Iranian military official, who said the Islamic Republic will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if it’s prevented from using it, Zarif said Iran is committed to keeping the waters open so long as no one tries to stop it from using its “lifeline.”

Zarif said that the “B Team’s ” efforts could lead the U.S. into the type of conflict Trump vowed to keep the U.S. out of during his presidential campaign. Playing on an amalgam of names with the letter B in them, he said the “B-Team” includes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bolton, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Accidents are possible,” Zarif said. “I don’t discount the ‘B Team’ plotting an ‘accident’ anywhere in the region, particularly as we get close to an election here.”

Iran would consider negotiations to resolve disputes with the U.S. if held in a context of “mutual respect,” Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.

Photo: Bloomberg

Babylon the Great Lags Behind China and Russia

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) off the coast of California in 2008. US Navy Photo

Official: U.S. Far Behind China, Russia in Modernizing Nuclear Arsenal

John GradyApril 25, 2019 2:45 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – China and Russia had their money on winning asymmetric advantages in conventional and nuclear forces in the last decade, and now the United States is playing catch-up in modernizing its sea, air and land nuclear forces, the Pentagon’s top policy official said Wednesday.

David Trachtenberg, the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary for policy, said the United States put off modernizing the three legs of its nuclear deterrent for almost 20 years, he told USNI News following a presentation at the Brookings Institution.

“In the 2000s, we skipped a generation” in modernizing the triad – ballistic missile submarines, bombers and ballistic missiles. He added that the United Kingdom and France, both nuclear powers and NATO allies, reduced their weapons stockpiles while continuing to modernize their nuclear forces during that same time. The United Kingdom has sea-based ballistic missile submarines; France has both submarines and aircraft capable of delivery of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, North Korea, India and Pakistan established themselves as nuclear powers.

Most of the nation’s nuclear deterrence was built in the 1980s or even earlier,” Trachtenberg said during the presentation. The triad was “aging into obsolescence.”

Trachtenberg said in answer to a question during the forum that the United States is not engaged in a new arms race with Moscow or starting one with China, but “Russia is re-scoping” its nuclear and conventional forces, including using low-yield nuclear weapons to get its way in a confrontation.

During the presentation and follow-up conversation with USNI News, he emphasized that the Pentagon’s move to modifying existing sea-launched cruise and ballistic missiles are designed to “close a gap” that Moscow is exploiting with its positioning of ground-based intermediate range cruise missiles on its borders. The United States has said their deployment violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement between the two.

China was not a party to that treaty and has missiles of that range in its arsenal. The United States has announced is pulling out of the agreement. Whether that move will lead to the United States leaving other arms agreements is unclear.

In answer to an audience question, he said the administration has not yet decided on continuing in the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.

“We’re not attempting to match Russia system for system,” but “to close a gap” that the Kremlin believes gives it a “coercive advantage” in a European crisis. He said the American sea-launched systems “provide a mix and range of capabilities” needed in a changed security environment, do not violate any arms agreement and do not require congressional approval.

Trachtenberg said during the session that Russia’s military doctrine accepts the use of “so-called tactical nuclear weapons and [nuclear-armed] cruise missiles” in resolving a confrontation. As for the United States’ position on “first use” of nuclear weapons, he added it is one of “constructive ambiguity,” the same as the United Kingdom’s announced policy.

He specifically cited “the novel nuclear systems that President [Vladimir] Putin unveiled with great fanfare a couple of months ago” as yet another development designed to throw into question the United States’ commitment to “extended deterrence” to its allies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

“Extended deterrence does not exist in a vacuum.” That includes allies and partners wanting it, believing that it is there for their protection and would be employed if necessary, and a willingness to do their part, he said.

In addition to the nuclear arsenals of the United Kingdom and France to help deter Russian aggression, he cited the deployment of the F-35A Lightning II showing allied commitment to extended deterrence. For some nations, it will be replacing the dual-weapon capable F-15E.

For allies like Japan and Korea, the deterrence centers on their continued belief that the U.S.’s “nuclear umbrella” protects them as well as the American homeland and the placement of sophisticated air and missile defense systems like Patriot and Theater High-Altitude Area Defense on the peninsula and Aegis Ashore on the home islands.

He added Asian allies “may hold different view than our European allies” on the exact meaning of extended deterrence; and even among European allies, views may differ from one nation to another.

Trachtenberg linked the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review as showing the administration’s commitment to extended deterrence and how the United States values allies and partners. The administration also has remained committed to spending 3.5 percent of the Pentagon’s overall budget [or $25 billion annually] on its nuclear weapons programs, a percentage that would grow about 7 percent as costs of Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and new bombers come more into play.

A modernized nuclear triad “is the ultimate guarantor of our security.” Extended deterrence is “more challenging” now – especially with North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

The White House Prepares for War

Iran Sanctions Redux—and Why a Blunt Cudgel Can’t Replace Targeted Tools

While Washington fixates on the Mueller Report and the hordes entering the 2020 presidential race, the Trump administration is making a quiet, seismic shift in US foreign policy that will outlast arguments over tweets and impeachment.

Foreign policy requires a combination of diplomacy, carrots, and sticks—and sanctions, when employed strategically, can be a pretty effective stick. The textbook case is international financial pressure on South Africa that forced an end to apartheid and free elections. More recently, a mind-boggling array of US and European sanctions on Iran forced Tehran to accept a 2015 deal to roll back its nuclear program, under 24/7 international surveillance. Those sanctions would have failed without the cooperation of China, Turkey, and other Iranian trading partners, who sacrificed their short-term economic interests to help pressure Iran. US and international sanctions on what both Presidents Trump and Obama rightly denounced as Iran’s malign activities—terrorism, illicit missiles, and human rights abuses—were never lifted as part of the nuclear deal, and remain in force today.

Sanctions can be an attractive weapon—but they’re not a silver bullet. A nearly 60-year-old unilateral US embargo on Cuba hasn’t brought the Castros down, nor have decades of penalties managed to end the brutal, totalitarian Kim dynasty in North Korea. When wielded clumsily and without international unity needed to make them effective, sanctions are toothless—all bark and no bite.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday the United States is ready to severly punish countries that import Iranian oil, including China and Turkey, who responded defiantly. Oil markets were caught by surprise and prices jumped to six-month highs.

Pompeo is re-imposing sanctions the Obama administration and Congress imposed in 2012 to pressure Iran over its illicit nuclear program. The difference now is that Iran’s nuclear program has been curtailed—as verified more than a dozen times since 2015 by UN International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal last year, stubbornly convinced he could force Iran to accept tougher terms. But Iran—along with Europe, China, and Russia—ignored him and remained in the deal, maintaining surveillance of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for trade.

Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an architect or adviser on some of the toughest sanctions that led to the nuclear deal, thinks Iran “is trying to wait Trump out, convinced that a Democratic president will give massive sanctions relief . . . If Trump is reelected, the regime will have the choice between returning to negotiations or potential economic collapse that could create massive civil unrest.” Administration officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, share the hope that crippling Iran’s economy will stoke uprisings that destabilize or topple its regime.

But what if Iran, Europe, China, and Russia remain in the nuclear deal? What if the UN continues to certify that Iran is in compliance with its nuclear limits? Re-imposing sanctions seems far more likely to galvanize Iranian hardliners’ iron grip on power, and to fuel backlash from our allies and trade partners.

The European Union last year banned European companies from complying with reimposed US sanctions on Iran, and is working on a scheme to allow Europeans to engage in legal commerce with Iran while end-running US banks, explains Adam M. Smith, a former senior Treasury Department official, now an trade lawyer at Gibson Dunn. The world’s two largest banks by capitalization now are Chinese, meaning oil importers could use Chinese banks rather than American ones anyway.

The Trump administration treats sanctions like “an iron fist” instead of a surgical tool, but that doesn’t mean officials will get the results they expect, said Richard Nephew, a former lead sanctions official under both Obama and George W. Bush. Iran will now bargain hard with importers, offering discounts and special terms. Oil markets remain on edge, because replacing Iranian crude with Saudi and Emirati oil doesn’t account for potential shortfalls in Venezuela, Russia, or elsewhere. In March, Iran had an estimated 1.9 million barrels of day in the market, according to Ellen Ward, an energy fellow at the Atlantic Council, far higher than the amount Pompeo says need to be replaced.

Iran may push the envelope on nuclear restrictions, perhaps short of violations, but enough to raise concerns. Iran could also retaliate by boosting terrorists in the Middle East or launching cyber attacks on Saudi, Emirati, or US oil companies.

Further confusing the picture is Trump’s mixing and matching of apples-and-oranges economic tools—from sanctions and export controls to trade and tariffs. Tariffs are wielded tit-for-tat on unfair trade; sanctions take aim at foreign policy goals, and should be removed when the goal is achieved.

Conflating them makes “a big ball of wax” out of otherwise sharp, specific tools, said Gary Hufbauer at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Pressure on Venezuela or North Korea is undermined when Iran and Cuba sanctions don’t have international support or likelihood of success.

Unlike a surgical knife, if you hurl a ball of wax at a target, it doesn’t stick to anything.

Bolton WILL Get His Nuclear Conflict

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a meeting of Foreign Ministers in Istanbul, Turkey on December 13, 2017. Arif Hudaverdi Yaman,AP

Iran’s Zarif: Trump’s Aim Is Talks – Bolton, Saudis and Netanyahu Want Conflict

Iran’s foreign minister further warns if the U.S. tries to prevent Iran from selling oil, it must be prepared ‚for the consequences‘

The Associated Press

Iran’s foreign minister says U.S. President Donald Trump aims „to bring us to our knees to talk“ — but national security adviser John Bolton and U.S. allies in the Mideast want „regime change“ and the „disintegration of Iran.“

Mohammad Javad Zarif said he doubts Trump wants conflict, but what he called „the B team“ of Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi and Abu Dhabi crown princes is trying to push Iran into measures that would be a pretext for „crazy“ and „adventurous“ actions.

He told the Asia Society Wednesday that „it’s not a crisis yet, but it’s a dangerous situation, adding: „Accidents, plotted accidents are possible.“

Zarif warned if the U.S. tries to prevent Iran from selling oil, it must be prepared „for the consequences.“