Another Trumpian Moment in Iraq

Donald Trump‘s troop visit infuriates Iraqi lawmakers: ‘The American occupation of Iraq is over‘

PCN Staff Writer

By Philip Issa – Associated Press – Thursday, December 27, 2018

— President ’s surprise trip to may have quieted criticism at home that he had yet to visit troops in a combat zone, but it has infuriated Iraqi politicians who on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Arrogant” and an “a violation of national sovereignty” were but a few examples of the disapproval emanating from following ’s meeting Wednesday with U.S. servicemen and women at the al-Asad Airbase.

Trips by U.S. presidents to conflict zones are typically shrouded in secrecy and subject to strict security measures, and ’s was no exception. Few in or elsewhere knew the U.S. president was in the country until minutes before he left.

But this trip came as curbing foreign influence in Iraqi affairs has become a hot-button political issue, and ’s perceived presidential faux-pas was failing to meet with the prime minister in a break with diplomatic custom for any visiting head of state.

On the ground for only about three hours, the American president told the men and women with the U.S. military that Islamic State forces have been vanquished, and he defended his decision against all advice to withdraw U.S. troops from neighboring Syria, He declared: “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”

The abruptness of his visit left lawmakers in smarting and drawing unfavorable comparisons to the occupation of after the 2003 invasion.

“ needs to know his limits. The American occupation of is over,” said Sabah al-Saidi, the head of one of two main blocs in ’s parliament.

, he said, had slipped into , “as though is a state of the United States.”

While didn’t meet with any officials, he spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi by phone after a “difference in points of view” over arrangements led to a face-to-face encounter between the two leaders getting scrapped, according to the prime minister’s office.

The visit could have unintended consequences for American policy, with officials from both sides of ’s political divide calling for a vote in Parliament to expel U.S. forces from the country.

The president, who kept to the U.S. air base approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of , said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in the country. He said Ain al-Asad could be used for U.S. air strikes inside Syria.

The suggestion ran counter to the current sentiment of Iraqi politics, which favors claiming sovereignty over foreign and domestic policy and staying above the fray in regional conflicts.

“ should not be a platform for the Americans to settle their accounts with either the Russians or the Iranians in the region,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a senior lawmaker in al-Saidi’s Islah bloc in Parliament.

U.S. troops are stationed in as part of the coalition against the Islamic State group. American forces withdrew in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help fight the jihadist group. ’s visit was the first by a U.S. president since Barack Obama met with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a U.S. base outside in 2009.

Still, after defeating IS militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of U.S. forces on Iraqi soil.

Supporters of the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won big in national elections in May, campaigning on a platform to curb U.S. and rival Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. Al-Sadr’s lawmakers now form the core of the Islah bloc, which is headed by al-Saidi in Parliament.

The rival Binaa bloc, commanded by politicians and militia leaders close to Iran, also does not favor the U.S.

Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against IS in northern , promised on Twitter that Parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from , or the militias would force them out by “other means.”

Khazali was jailed by British and U.S. forces from 2007 to 2010 for managing sections of the Shia insurgency against the occupation during those years.

’s visit would be a “great moral boost to the political parties, armed factions, and others who oppose the American presence in ,” Iraqi political analyst Ziad al-Arar said.

Still, the U.S. and developed considerable military and intelligence ties in the war against IS, and they continue to pay off in operations against militants gone into hiding.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi forces called in an airstrike by U.S.-coalition forces to destroy a tunnel used by IS militants in the Atshanah mountains in north . Four militants were killed, according to the coalition.

A hasty departure of U.S. forces would jeopardize such arrangements, said Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa.

Relations between the U.S. and also extend beyond military ties. U.S. companies have considerable interests in ’s petrochemical industry, and American diplomats are often brokers between ’s fractious political elite.

’s Sunni politicians have been largely quiet about the presidential visit, reflecting the ties they have cultivated with the U.S. to counterbalance the might of the country’s Iran-backed and predominantly-Shiite militias.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Abdul-Mahdi accepted ’s invitation to the White House during their call, though the Prime Minister’s office has so far refused to confirm that.

• Associated Press reporters Ahmed Sami and Ali Jabar contributed.

How Babylon the Great and Israel are Preparing for War With Iran

ANALYSIS: How Israel and the US are Preparing for War With Iran

You probably didn’t know this but normalizing relations with Israel is against the Quran and Islamic faith.

At least that’s what Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said to participants in a Quran knowledge competition in Tehran on Monday.

Never mind that the Quran, in chapter 5:21, explicitly says that the Land of Israel has been given to the Jewish people by God as a perpetual covenant, this is what Khamenei really thinks and he’s acting upon it too.

As I wrote at the end of March, Iran is actively preparing for war with Israel and recently held a massive drill named Bayt al-Maqdis” or Beit HaMaqdish in Hebrew.

Bayt al-Maqdis (or Temple in English) was the name the early Muslims gave to Jerusalem.

The Islamic Republic, furthermore, is slowly but steadily turning Syria and Iraq into proxy-states based on the Lebanon model and is feverishly working to improve its missile arsenal.

In Syria, Iran is continuing its entrenchment as was proven by the Israeli air force (IAF) last weekend.

On Saturday morning, IAF warplanes again used Lebanese airspace to bomb an Iranian missile plant in Masyaf which is located in the Hama Province.

The Israeli jets launched brand-new supersonic Rampage missiles at the plant in Masyaf and destroyed not only a number of buildings but also dozens of Iranian ‘Earthquake 2’ missiles which are able to carry a warhead of half a ton.

The Iranians also succeeded to lease a port in the Latakia Province in Syria which is now being used by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps to ship unknown cargo from Iran to Syria via the Mediterranean Sea.

Israeli military experts think it will be a matter of time before Iran will station a part of its naval fleet in the port and will use the vessels, among them cruise-missile equipped submarines, in a future war with Israel.

You might ask what the Israeli army is doing except for launching airstrikes in Syria to counter the growing Iranian threat to the Jewish state.

Israel is aware that a future confrontation with Iran and its terrorist proxies will most likely be a missile war which will be fought on several fronts.

After all, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani last year boasted that Iran is a superpower when it comes to asymmetric warfare and warned the United States not to start a war with the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian army and the IRGC are no match for the IDF or the US army in a conventional war and this is the reason Iran is working to improve its long-range missile arsenal while building facilities for mid-range and short-range missiles in both Lebanon and Syria.

Iran’s Shihab-3 has a reach of roughly 1200 kilometers and the recently tested Khorramshar missile is able to hit targets across Israel from Iran since it has a range of more than 1,800 kilometers.

The prospect of a multi-front missile war with hundreds of projectiles pounding Israel every day has led to intense cooperation between the Israeli military and the US army while the Trump Administration is trying to strangle the Islamist regime in Tehran by means of a heavy sanction regime.

The US Administration last week designated the IRGC – a heavily armed force of 150,000 men- a terrorist organization a move which is considered a declaration of war by Iran.

The decision by President Trump has led to increasing tensions and Iranian threats to the US military in both Iraq and Syria while Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu made clear he was behind the move against the IRGC.

“Thank you for answering another one of my important requests, which serves the interests of our country and the countries of the region,” Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter account.

Trump’s decision came into effect on Monday and has already led to the shut-down of the wildly popular Instagram account of Quds Force commander Soleimani.

Another indication that Israel is working in tandem with the US to contain Iran came in the form of a unique missile defense drill which was held in Israel recently.

The Americans brought their Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to Israel where it was integrated in Israel’s multi-layered missile defense systems such as the Arrow a mid-altitude missile interceptor.

The 230-servicemen strong THAAD force landed on the Nevatim airbase in southern Israel and got short notice to rapidly deploy the system in Israel Maj.Gen. Andrew Rohling the commander of the US army in Germany revealed.

“The ability to rapidly surge combat-ready forces into and across the theater is critical to projecting forces at a moment’s notice to support our allies and partners across the theater,” Rohling said.

Aside from the THAAD system, the US military will also use the Aegis system on navy vessels to help Israel protecting itself in the anticipated missile war.

Yair Ramati, former director of the Israeli Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) says that the Aegis missile interceptor will play an important role in the defense of Israel during such a war.

The two allies will conduct another missile defense drill coming summer when the Israeli military will send a contingent servicemen to Alaska to test the new version of the Arrow 3 which has been developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing in the U.S.

The Arrow 3 is able to score a direct hit at a target which flies at supersonic speed because it has highly precise sensors and an extremely agile interceptor.

The joint drills between the Israeli army and the US military will result in better preparation for “real-life challenges” according to Brig Gen. Ran Kochav of Israel’s missile defense unit.

Another indication the US is seriously taking in account that the current tensions with Iran will boil over and will cause a new armed conflict in the Middle East is the deployment of American F-35 stealth fighter planes to the United Arab Emirates.

An unspecified number of American F-35’s landed at the al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

Too Late to Save US From Bolton

To Avoid an Iraq-Style Disaster Under Trump, Bolton Must Go

President Donald Trump’s instincts on a number of key foreign-policy issues over the past two years have not only been right, but also represent sorely needed policy course-corrections. Yet since his inauguration, some of the president’s closest advisors have consistently steered him away from his better ideas, leaving us to languish in losing wars—and unnecessarily risking getting us into new ones.

For Trump to escape the molasses pit of failed wars, he must replace some key advisors with capable people who are aligned with his views and can implement his vision. The first of those ineffectual advisors who needs to go is John Bolton.

Bolton has long served in government and the Washington think-tank establishment, but his foreign-policy prescriptions have been outright disastrous for the United States.

Most famously, Bolton was one of the leading advocates for invading Iraq in 2003. Yet even after the invasion was proven to be a disastrous move (remember, there were no Al Qaeda forces in Iraq, and ISIS didn’t exist, prior to the invasion Bolton promoted), he still defends this mistake to this day, calling it “fully justified.”

Evidence of his unrepentant views abound. He has called for the bombing of Iran and directly advocated “regime change” operations (as he has or does seek in North Korea, Libya, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela). As Trump routinely reiterated during the 2016 campaign, the invasion of Iraq is a sixteen-year-and-counting disaster—resulting in 4,568 American troops killed and more than 32,000 wounded—repeating the mistake in Iran would be orders of magnitude worse, as Iran is bigger than Iraq, much more populous, and has far more capacity to strike back.

Attacking Iran, however, is wholly unnecessary to preserve American security, as our conventional and nuclear deterrents are more than sufficient to deter them indefinitely. Military strikes against Iran would unequivocally weaken our security and unleash outcomes that could spiral out of anyone’s control.

Because he never learned the failed lessons of the Iraq invasion, Bolton continues to openly, routinely, and emphatically maintain his advocacy for regime change as the primary tool of statecraft. This policy stands in direct contravention for what Trump campaigned on, what got him elected, and what he says he still believes. If he is to get re-elected, then he’s going to have to make changes between now and November 2020.

What Trump has needed from the beginning are advisors who understand his thinking on foreign policy, are aligned with his views, and have the ability to turn the president’s vision into operational reality. Neither the previous nor the current national security advisor have had this ability. There is, however, a Washington, DC-based expert who does.

Douglas Macgregor isn’t a household name, but it’s not because he lacks a hefty resume. He has a Ph.D., has written several books on national security, and is a highly decorated combat soldier. Full disclosure: I’ve known Macgregor since 1990 when I served under him in an Army cavalry squadron. Over those nearly thirty years, I’ve watched as he has been right on one major national-security issue after another.

He was the director of the Kosovo Air Campaign for NATO in the late 1990s. Macgregor advised the Secretary of Defense on operational planning prior to the 2003 Iraq war (but his advice on using the Iraqi army to provide civil security after the war was tragically ignored). He advised against military intervention in Libya in 2011 and has devised a comprehensive new plan to reorganize and modernize the U.S. military.

For all his accomplishments and credentials, however, there are two things that would make Macgregor uniquely appealing as Trump’s next national security advisor.

The first is that he is aligned with Trump’s stated instincts on key foreign-policy subjects. Instead of trying to bend the president to his way of thinking—as both McMaster and Bolton appear to have attempted—Macgregor would be able to turn Trump’s vision into policy reality.

Second, unlike the vast majority of senior officials in Washington, he is not a shameless self-promoter and genuinely desires to see the nation prosper above all. I saw this play out firsthand in 1991 during and after Desert Storm.

The 2nd Squadron, 2nd U.S. Cavalry won the largest tank battle since World War II, known as the Battle of 73 Easting. In this fight, the Squadron defeated a much larger, dug-in tank force. Most of the notoriety for this fight went to former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, who was the commander of the 120-man armored unit (Eagle Troop) that was at the center of that fight.

I was a lieutenant serving under McMaster during that battle and can confirm he fought with great distinction. But he wasn’t the sole reason for the squadron’s battle success, nor possibly, the biggest reason for it. That title more appropriately belongs to Macgregor.

It was Macgregor—then an Army major and the operations officer of the seven-hundred-man squadron—that formulated the attack plan for the entire battle group, had trained the men prior to deployment, and was responsible for deciding how to employ the four company-sized units (Eagle Troop being one of them) at the key moments of the battle.

During the fight, he led from the front—at one point being in front of Eagle Troop’s forward-most scouts, making it hard for us to shoot the enemy—and made sure the entire enemy formation was utterly annihilated before passing the fight to U.S. armored divisions trailing behind.

Yet almost no one knows about Macgregor’s indispensable role in the Battle of 73 Easting. Why? Because he contented himself with allowing the Squadron commander and McMaster to have the public praise. Knowing he did his duty and the squadron had major success was enough for him.

He could provide the same caliber of quality, selfless service to the president.

With simmering foreign-policy challenges in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and South America, it’s important for U.S. national security that Trump’s better instincts get transformed into effective policy. Bolton and status-quo Washington got Iraq wrong. Trump and Macgregor got it right. Trump’s best chance to reap a number of major foreign-policy successes in his second two years may hinge on hiring an advisor like Macgregor.

Daniel L. Davis is a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. The views in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect the views of any organization. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

Image: Reuters

The Nuclear War of Prophecy (Revelation 16)

A U.S. Army convoy winds its way around craters caused by improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan. Fuel convoys have been a prime target of such bombs, pushing the Pentagon toward atomic power for tomorrow’s battlefields. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A New Kind of Nuclear War

The Pentagon pushes for fission for fighting

April 16, 2019

By Mark Thompson Filed under analysis

Whether or not you think the United States’ post-9/11 wars were for oil, there’s no doubt that many troops died trying to get oil to the front lines. The lengthy convoys of fuel trucks required to keep the electrical generators humming 24/7 at remote U.S. outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq were targets for enemies armed with roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. In fact, U.S. troops conducting convoy operations accounted for more than half the U.S. casualties in those countries between 2001 and 2010.

Thinking about sending portable nuclear reactors off to war is kind of like invading a country with no plan for how to get out.

That’s one reason the Pentagon wants to build flyable and truckable nuclear-power plants to generate the power U.S. troops need to wage war deep in hostile territory.

The concept of micro-nuclear power plants on the battlefield is both inspired and insane.  The idea of landing portable nuclear reactors inside a war zone is as outlandish—economically and environmentally—as it sounds.

Yet the Pentagon’s nuclear push didn’t “go critical”—achieve a self-sustaining atomic reaction—on its own. “It is the culmination of a patient, decade-long effort by nuclear lobbyists to interest Defense and its congressional overseers in a costly product—small nuclear reactors—that few in the private sector seem to want,” Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientistswrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in February. “The Pentagon is precisely the savior small nuclear reactor vendors need: deep-pocketed and unbeholden to return-seeking investors.”

Beyond that, the Pentagon’s nuclear advocates argue that battlefield nuclear reactors would improve the environment and help jump-start the nuclear-reactor business, creating thousands of well-paying jobs in the process. That meshes with the U.S. nuclear industry’s push to peddle more civilian reactors abroad, including a meeting with President Trump in February. “He really wanted to hear from us on what our views are on how we win the global nuclear energy technology race,” said J. Clay Sell, head of Maryland-based X-energy, an advanced nuclear-reactor company seeking business in Jordan. (Sell was also President George W. Bush’s deputy energy secretary from 2005 to 2008). The confab was initiated by Jack Keane, a retired Army general whose company has advocated U.S. nuclear development in the Middle East, Bloomberg reported.

Gambling On History: President Trump’s Pentagon Says Nuclear Weapons Save Lives

There, buried deep in the Pentagon’s latest argument for spending $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years readying for nuclear war, is the U.S. military’s bottom line: atomic bombs save lives. It’s one of those head-snapping claims that has enough heft to make some sense. But in the quarter century I’ve been reading the nation’s Nuclear Posture Reviews, never has the claim that such bombs and missiles save lives—the Mother Teresa of weapons, if you will—been made so baldly.

Atomic power is big business. “The nuclear energy industry is a powerful engine for job creation,” the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the industry’s main trade group, says. The industry’s 98 power plants, and businesses that support them, employ nearly half a million workers, according to the NEI.

So it should come as no surprise that the nuclear industry is pulling out all the stops as it sees climate-change concerns giving it a second lease on life, even as renewable energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric) is now producing more power in the United States. The NEI spends about $2 million annually seeking favors from the federal government. Conveniently, the Trump Administration is seeking

the nuclear industry.

The nuclear industry’s push isn’t only in Washington, DC. It’s gaining traction with state legislatures as well, most notably in Pennsylvania, home to Three Mile Island, the site of the most serious nuclear-power plant accident in U.S. history. In the last three years, Exelon, which operates Three Mile Island, has ramped up its lobbying efforts in Pennsylvania, in hopes of boosting taxpayer subsidies.

The Pentagon has had a long-standing romance with nuclear power, dating back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also is exploring renewable energy sources like wind and solar. At Fort Hood in Texas, for example, the Army is drawing about half its power from them. But they’re not ready for prime time, according to the Defense Department. “Renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar can reduce the need for some fuel, but most renewable resources are limited by location, weather, time of year, storage capacity, and constrained by available land area and/or constructability,” the Pentagon’s influential Defense Science Board concluded in a 2016 report.

The Pentagon built its first nuclear power plant in 1957 at Fort Belvoir, 14 miles down the Potomac River from the Pentagon. The Army nuclear generator hasn’t produced power since 1973, yet still remains contaminated with radiation. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In the post-9/11 wars, the number of U.S. service members killed in action has been relatively low compared to earlier conflicts. But the Pentagon has been swapping blood for oil. “The increasing number of convoys required to transport an ever-increasing requirement for fossil fuels is itself a root cause of casualties, both wounded and killed in action,” said a 2009 study by the consulting firm Deloitte. “The use of IEDs and roadside bombs has been an especially effective means to disable friendly fighting forces by disrupting their supply of energy.”

Backers of battlefield nuclear reactors are leveraging this fact to bolster their case that investing billions to develop and deploy reactors is worth it. And the Pentagon is trying to build support for the plan by noting that mini-nukes have heart-warming peaceful uses, too. “A small mobile nuclear reactor would enable a more rapid response during Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations,” it said earlier this year in a “request for information” seeking outside help to develop portable atomic reactors for war zones.

Nuclear Modernization Under Obama and Trump Costly, Mismanaged, Unnecessary

If nuclear deterrence is the goal, a $1 trillion modernization effort isn’t necessary. “[T]he thing about a deterrent capability is it does not matter how old it is,” the Commander of US Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee this past April. “It just matters whether it works…The stuff that we have today will work.”

But, as they say on late-night TV, “But wait, there’s more!” Think of it as atomic alchemy. “It is not just about basing, but warfighting capability enabled by the assured supply of energy,” the 2016 report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board said. According to the report, a battlefield polka-dotted with portable nuclear reactors could pretty much sustain itself. “Supplying liquid fuel and water to military forces is a significant sustainment challenge, as the two commodities typically comprise the majority of mass transported to deployed locations,” the study said. “Yet both fuel and water—and potentially other supplies (e.g., munitions and spare parts)—could be produced close to where it is needed with the necessary industrial technologies that could be powered by nuclear energy.”

That makes military planners salivate. The Pentagon has been talking for decades about lasers and similar weapons that would require mass quantities of electricity. Nuclear power could be the best choice to fuel such futuristic weapons, assuming they’re ever produced. Getting fuel to remote bases is costly—as much as $50 per gallon when delivered by truck and $400 a gallon when delivered by air—which could render battlefield lasers even less likely than physics already does. “Energy intensive capabilities are under development for which there is no parallel development for power sources,” that Defense Science Board report noted ominously. Smart taxpayers might wonder why.

Prodded to act by that 2016 Defense Science Board study, the Pentagon launched “Project Dilithium” in January. (Dilithium is a molecule made up of a pair of lithium atoms, although it is perhaps more commonly known as a key element in a fictitious Star Trek superfuel that propels spaceships via a warp drive—faster than light.)

The Pentagon wants a reactor capable of generating between 1 and 10 megawatts (enough for a base housing at least 1,000 troops for three years without refueling. Weighing no more than 40 tons, it must be “sized for transportability by truck, ship, and C-17 aircraft.” And to avoid the problems posed by water-cooled reactors, it needs to be cooled by “ambient air,” just like the original VW Beetle and its distinctive putt-putt engine.

A graphic from a 2016 Defense Science Board report showing how the U.S. military envisions deploying nuclear reactors to the battlefield. (Graphic: Defense Science Board report, page 37)

Such reactors would “fundamentally change the logistics of forward operating bases, both by making more energy available and by drastically simplifying the complex fuel logistical lines which currently support existing power generators operating mostly on diesel fuel,” the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office said in that January request seeking outside help.

The unit will be “semiautonomous—Not requiring manned control by operators to ensure safe operation,” the Pentagon says. Starting it up should take less than three days, and shutting it down should take no more than a week. Their basic design is as simple as nuclear power gets: as the reactor fuel decays, it generates heat that is then turned into electricity. The Pentagon plans on funding up to three designs before tapping a winner from among them. Other nations—Canada, China, and the United Kingdom—are also exploring such small reactors.

Last fall, the Army climbed aboard the Pentagon’s atomic bandwagon with a report that began with an unusual, standalone quote that sat like a hood ornament atop an M-1 tank. “Unleash us from the tether of fuel,” the study began, quoting one “Gen. James Mattis, former commander of the 1st Marine Division, during the drive to Baghdad, March 2003”—and, coincidentally, you can bet, the sitting defense secretary when the Army published its report (although that, of course, the report did not mention).

The Army report mainlined hype. “The return of nuclear power to the Army and DOD will have a significant impact on the Army, our allies, the international community, commercial power industry, and the nation,” the report said. (Added bonus: militarized nuclear power would lead to “decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.”)

Then the Army overdid it. “A movement towards increased reliance on nuclear power from MNPP [mobile nuclear power plant] development, could spur worldwide jobs in high tech, electric utility, specialized manufacturing, and uranium mining industries,” it said. “Additionally, the academic disciplines relating to nuclear power would be revitalized and once again become a source of professionals for the rest of the world. In sum, the social aspects of nuclear technology development would be deep and wide, and would enhance the economic prosperity of the nation.” Whew!

And one more thing, the Army added: The nation needs nuclear reactors on the battlefield to wage twenty-first century wars. That’s because “fundamental change in the character of warfare” has now replaced “the obsolete peace/war binary.”

Sure, the Army conceded, nuclear power is a mixed bag. “Despite failed construction of two light water reactors (LWR) reactors in South Carolina [after spending $9 billion], and Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric [the company building them], the current political environment for nuclear power is favorable,” the Army report said. “Nuclear power enjoys strong support from both the current administration and Congress.” (So, of course, do deficit reduction and winning wars.)

Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists says the “lobbying push” to build micro-nukes for the U.S. military comes from the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council. The Washington-based trade group says it is “composed of over 80 companies” and “represents the ‘Who’s Who’ of the nuclear energy supply chain community, including key utility movers, technology developers, fuel cycle companies, construction engineers, manufacturers and service providers.”

But nuclear insiders also are playing a critical role. Among the authors of that key Defense Science Board report were some atomic heavyweights, including co-chairman Michael Anastasio, the only person to ever run two of the nation’s nuclear labs (he is the former head of Los Alamos in New Mexico, and Lawrence Livermore in California), and William Madia, who served as director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state. Nuclear power is the labs’ bread and butter, and continued work in the field will keep their workers (more than 10,000 at Los Alamos alone) employed. Frank Bowman, who spent eight years in charge of the Navy’s nuclear-propulsion program, where he oversaw the operation of 100 nuclear reactors aboard U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines, was also on the panel.

New Documents Raise Questions About Increased Nuclear Spending

New documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) discussing the life expectancy of nuclear weapons components show that the uranium cores may have a longer life span than originally thought. This may undermine some justifications for an expansive—and expensive—nuclear modernization plan.

Other members were logistics experts, including Gerald Galloway, a long-time logistics expert at the University of Maryland following a 38-year Army career. “No one’s envisioned bringing them out in combat zones,” he said of the micro-reactors in 2010, “but they could provide energy in theater at large staging areas.” He apparently was out-voted, or had a change of heart, when it came time to draft the Defense Science Board report six years later.

The panel learned firsthand how sensitive fossil-fuel casualties are inside the Pentagon. “Although the Task Force was discouraged from referencing convoy casualty factors which have been estimated in several reports, it is well-known that a significant number of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were associated with resupply logistics—much of which was attributed to fuel and water,” the 2016 report noted. That was a deft use of the passive voice so the panel didn’t have to say just who did the discouraging.

More than half the U.S. casualties between 2001 and 2010 in Afghanistan and Iraq happened during convoy operations (18,700 of 36,000, or 52 percent, according to a 2015 RAND Corporation report). An Army Environmental Policy Institute assessment estimated that there was nearly one U.S. casualty for every 24 fuel resupply missions. “Every 55,702 barrels of fuel burned in Afghanistan by the U.S. military forces corresponded to one casualty,” according to an Army Technology analysis of the study’s findings.

The U.S. military, and those responsible for powering it, say it needs to stop bleeding for oil. “If a better way could be found to generate electricity at remote bases—that’s what most of the fuel is used for—it could greatly reduce the risks to our military,” Andy Erickson of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the world’s first nuclear bombs, noted last fall. He argued that a new kind of “micro-nuclear reactor” under development by Los Alamos and Westinghouse could help reduce the carnage. “The reactor core itself is about the size of the garbage can that you roll down to your curb each week,” he said, offering a new vision of nuclear waste. “By working with an experienced nuclear vendor like Westinghouse to design, build, and test these units, a near-term solution to remote power for the military can be quickly realized.”

There are proliferation risks associated with deploying nuclear reactors amid wars. The 2016 Defense Science Board report suggested that portable nuclear reactors be fueled only with low-enriched uranium that couldn’t be turned into nuclear weapons, although it conceded they would represent “a lucrative target to become a dirty bomb if breached.” The Pentagon’s January 2019 solicitation said that “technology, engineering, and operations must demonstrate minimization of added proliferation risk.” Of course, the U.S. government has been through this before, dating back to President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative. That led to the first nuclear reactors in Iran and Pakistan.

Harnessing nuclear power on the battlefield would require changes in U.S. military training, nuclear regulation and licensing, as well as convincing foreign governments to let them on their soil. “Since the U.S. nuclear industry and its regulators have not yet dealt with a mobile or transportable design, the Army will experience many unique first-time costs in laying the groundwork for regulatory and international approvals and acceptance,” the Army’s fall 2018 report said. “This work will be costly and time-consuming, and require much interagency coordination and support to accomplish.” Piece of yellowcake!

Training soldiers to deploy and operate portable nuclear power plants would be challenging, although the Army said in the report, “this requirement is not anticipated to be as demanding as that of a nuclear weapon.” Any Army port-a-nuke “must prevent the reactor from going critical when it should not, such as during movement/transport.” While such a reactor “is not expected to survive a direct kinetic attack,” the Army said it would be designed “for the protection of personnel who may be adversely affected by the system or threats to the system.”

Outsiders are dubious. “Even a reactor as small as 1 megawatt-electric would contain a large quantity of highly radioactive, long-lived isotopes such as cesium-137—a potential dirty bomb far bigger than the medical radiation sources that have caused much concern among security experts,” the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Lyman warned in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “At best a release of radioactivity would be a costly disruption, and at worst it would cause immediate harm to personnel, render the base unusable for years, and alienate the host country.”

Any radiation leakage would be far more vexing than the cleanup after dumping about 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on Vietnam from 1961 to 1971. “While design simplification and damage-resistant fuel choices help, detailed planning for cleanup and removal of battle-damaged reactors or reactor components will be expensive and pose some technical challenges to resolve,” the Army report said, likely requiring changes to “existing treaties, international agreements, and policies.”

At the end of the day, of course, the big bugaboo is what to do with all that spent, but still dangerous, nuclear fuel. But not to worry: the Army has figured that out, too. “Nuclear fuel is a DOE [Department of Energy] responsibility,” the Army notes. “Issues such as recycling of nuclear fuel or long-term disposal are not DOD’s business.”


Of course, the Energy Department hasn’t figured out what to do with the 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear-reactor fuel created by U.S. commercial reactors over the past half-century. Bottom line: thinking about sending portable nuclear reactors off to war is kind of like invading a country with no plan for how to get out.

Center for Defense Information

The Center for Defense Information at POGO aims to secure far more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost.

Zarif Reminds US of the Iran Nuclear Horn

Zarif reminds European powers Iran can enrich uranium

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a “reminder” Monday to European powers that Tehran is allowed to enrich uranium under its nuclear deal after a senior French diplomat claimed otherwise.

There is no prohibition on the enrichment of uranium by Iran,” Zarif tweeted. His comments were addressed to France, Germany, and Britain who signed up to the landmark 2015 accord with Tehran under which uranium enrichment is curtailed but not banned.

Zarif’s remark follows France’s ambassador to Washington declaring: “It’s false to say that at the expiration of the JCPOA (nuclear deal), Iran will be allowed to enriching uranium.” The claim on Saturday by Gerard Araud has since been deleted from his Twitter account.

Reminder to our E3 partners in #JCPOA: There is NO prohibition on the enrichment of uranium by Iran under #NPT, JCPOA or UNSCR 2231.

Neither now, nor in 2025 or beyond.

Might be useful for European partners to actually read the document they signed on to, and pledged to defend.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 15, 2019

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran can only enrich uranium to 3.67 percent – far below the roughly 90-percent level needed for nuclear weapons. “Might be useful for European partners to actually read the document they signed on to and pledged to defend,” Zarif added Monday.

The European powers have vowed to stand by the historic nuclear deal despite the United States pulling out of the agreement last year and imposing sanctions on Iran.

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog in February reported Tehran has been abiding by the terms of the accord despite Washington’s pullout.

Last Update: Monday, 15 April 2019 KSA 14:39 – GMT 11:39

Antichrist Delivers Speech to Iraqis

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr delivers a speech to his supporters following Friday prayers on September 21, 2018. AFP

Iraq: Muqtada Al Sadr tells Shiite militias ‚Iraqis come first‘ after support for Iran flood victims

Mina AldroubiApril 15, 2019

Iraqi populist Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr condemned the Tehran-backed Shiite militias‘ support towards victims of flash flooding in Iran.

A convoy of 50 vehicles carrying member of the militias, also known as the Hashed Al Shaabi, arrived in western Iranian provinces that were severely affected by the flash flooding, Iranian news agency Tasnim reported on Sunday.

„Iraqis come first,“ Mr Al Sadr said on Twitter, adding that there are many areas in Iraq that are at risk of flooding from torrential rain.

„Since there are those who have provided relief to affected areas in Iran, it is our duty to intensify our efforts to provide relief to our people in Iraq,“ he said.

The Hashed Al Shaabi was formed in 2014 to assist Iraqi forces defeat ISIS but are accused of exploiting its position and human rights breaches.

Mr Al Sadr said relief activities should be kept at a minimum level to the Iraqi army and should be directed towards locally established committees.

He called for assistance from the international community towards Iraq, stressing that the aid “should not be used for political purposes”.

Last week, Iraqi authorities warned of the likelihood of a catastrophic collapse of the country’s largest hydroelectric dam in Mosul due to torrential rainfall.

If the dam fell, it would unleash a wave of water almost 90 metres high, experts said.

Weeks of bad weather have led to floods in Iraq that have displaced hundreds of families and destroyed crops and farmlands.

Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Irj Masjedi, told Iranian news agencies on Saturday that the Hashed Al Shaabi’s forces have been deployed to western Iran to help with flood relief.

“Hundreds of Iraqi militia, including 200 on Friday, have arrived in Iran to help the flood-hit people in Kuzestan and Lorestan provinces in western Iran,” Mr Masjedi said.

The Iraqi aid convoy included 26 trucks of engineering equipment, six ambulances as well as 20 trucks of medical and food supplies.

The militias said in a statement that they have transferred their engineering units and heavy machinery to block the flow of floodwater into Iraq.

It comes as the Union of Muslim Scholars in Iraq also appealed for aid for Iranians impacted by the floods.

The union said it has carried out a campaign to collect $75,000, which will be spent on food and medical supplies for more than 1,000 Iranian families.

Earlier this month, Iraqi authorities announced they will close the Al Sheeb border crossing with Iran to trade and travellers until further notice as the flooding continued.

The shutdown comes after a request from Iran, Iraq’s Border Ports Commission said.

The water has so far destroyed towns and villages and killed more than 70 people since March 31.

The floods were caused by the worst rain in Iran in a decade and the situation was exacerbated by floodwater rushing down from the north.

Last week, Iranian officials ordered scores of villages to be evacuated as the effects of severe flooding spread further across the country, impacting 20 of its 31 provinces.

Updated: April 15, 2019 01:17 PM

US is Stoking the Nuclear Fire (Revelation 16)

US designation of IRGC as terror group risks escalation

The Iranian revolt, however, toppled not only an icon of U.S. power in the Middle East and a monarch, but also created an alternative form of Islamic governance that included a degree of popular sovereignty.

The stakes in the Middle East couldn’t be higher. Suspicion that America’s intent is to change the regime in Tehran, rather than the officially stated U.S. goal of forcing Iran to curb its ballistic-missile program and support for militias in Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, was heightened with last week’s decision to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.

The move marks the first time that America has labeled a branch of a foreign government a terrorist entity, particularly in this case a branch that affects millions of Iranian citizens, among them conscripts for whom the IRGC is an option.

“Today’s unprecedented move to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization demonstrates our commitment to maximize pressure on the Iranian regime until it ceases using terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” tweeted U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The designation effectively blocks Trump’s potential successor from returning to the 2015 international accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear program, complicates any diplomatic effort to resolve differences and changes the rules of engagement in theaters like Syria, where U.S. and Iranian forces operate in close proximity to one another.

“Through this, some U.S. allies are seeking to ensure a U.S.-Iran war or to, at a minimum, trap them in a permanent state of enmity,” said Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, referring to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The designation was likely to embolden advocates in Washington, Saudi Arabia and Israel of a more aggressive covert war against Iran that would seek to stoke unrest among the Islamic Republic’s ethnic minorities, including Baloch, Kurds and Iranians of Arab descent.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel were quick to applaud the U.S. move. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the eve of a hard-fought election, claimed credit for the suggestion to designate the IRGC. The official Saudi news agency asserted that the decision reflects the kingdom’s repeated demands to the international community regarding the necessity of confronting terrorism supported by Iran.

The risk of an accident or unplanned incident spiraling out of control and leading to military confrontation was heightened by Iran’s response, which was to declare the U.S. military in the greater Middle East a terrorist entity.

The U.S. move and the Iranian response potentially put U.S. military personnel in the Gulf as well as elsewhere in the region in harm’s way.

The designation also ruled out potential tacit U.S.-Iranian cooperation on the ground as occurred in Iraq in the fight against Islamic State and in Afghanistan. That cooperation inevitably involved the IRGC.

Beyond geopolitical and military risks, the designation increases economic pressure on Iran because the IRGC is not only an army but also a commercial conglomerate with vast interests in construction, engineering and manufacturing. It remains unclear, however, to what degree the sanctions will affect the IRGC, which is already heavily sanctioned and does much of its business in cash and through front companies.

U.S. policy, even before the IRGC designation, had already raised the specter of a nuclear race in the Middle East. The designation increases the chances that Iran will walk away from the nuclear agreement. Saudi Arabia is already putting in place the building blocks for its own nuclear program in anticipation of Iran abandoning the agreement and returning to its full-fledged, pre-2015 enrichment project.

The IRGC goes to the heart of the Iranian regime. It was formed to protect the regime immediately after the 1979 revolution, at a time when Iran’s new rulers had reason to distrust the military of the toppled shah. Some of the shah’s top military and security commanders discussed crushing the revolution at a dinner on New Year’s Eve 1978, some six weeks before the shah’s regime fell. It was the shah’s refusal to endorse their plan that foiled it. The shah feared that large-scale bloodshed would dim the chances of his exiled son ever returning to Iran as shah.

The IRGC has since developed into a key pillar of Iran’s defense strategy, which seeks to counter perceived covert operations by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel by supporting proxies across the Middle East. This strategy has proven both effective and costly. That cost has been raised by Iran’s failure to address fears that the strategy is an effort to export its revolution and topple the region’s conservative regimes, particularly in the Gulf.

To be sure, the Iranian revolution constituted a serious threat to autocratic rulers. It was a popular revolt like those that occurred more than 30 years later in the Arab world. The Iranian revolt, however, toppled not only an icon of U.S. power in the Middle East and a monarch but also created an alternative form of Islamic governance that included a degree of popular sovereignty.

The revolution unleashed a vicious cycle that saw Gulf states fund the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, in which up to one million people died; Saudi Arabia wage a four-decade, $100 billion campaign to globally propagate ultra-conservative, anti-Shi’ite, anti-Iranian strands of Islam; repeated attempts to stoke ethnic tensions among Iran’s disgruntled minorities, and Iranian countermeasures, including support for proxies across the Middle East and violent attacks against Americans, Israelis, Jews and regime opponents around the world.

“Given that the IRGC is already sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, this step is both gratuitous and provocative. It will also put countries such as Iraq and Lebanon in even more difficult situations as they have no alternative but to deal with the IRGC. It will strengthen calls by pro-Iran groups in Iraq to expel U.S. troops,” said Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at Washington’s Atlantic Council.

This article is reprinted with permission from

The Consequence of Threatening Iran

Iran’s IRGC. Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

Iran: The Consequences Of Blacklisting Of ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ (IRGC) – OpEd

Hassan MahmoudiApril 15, 2019

The announcement of the designation of IRGC as a terror group by trump administration is an important development that makes Iranian officials tremble. The Iranian regime has entered a troubled period that risks considerably changing the international balance of power at the expense of the mullahs’ regime.

In the same way, one of the main levers of the regime’s repressive policy will be undermined politically, militarily and financially. The Supreme Leader of the mullahs, Ali Khamenei, will observe a crushing defeat of the IRGC, which he considers to be the main pillar of the survival of his regime.

During a meeting with members and associates of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and in reaction to the U.S. State Department designating this entity as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei voiced his concerns over growing unrest that could very well lead to an uprising in Iran. The IRGC should remain high alert on the streets in cities and towns.

“The IRGC is an outstanding force in the country. Whether from outside the country, or cities and towns inside the country, the IRGC is on the front lines fighting the enemy,” Khamenei said.

The mullahs’ supreme leader is terrified of escalating social dissent from the scales of the flood disasters and unimaginable increase in the cost of living that could turn into an all-out uprising bringing down the regime in its entirety.

“You look at the price increase of such an item in the market, it is normal for these things to happen. Part of it is unintentional, part from inexperience, and also partly due to the enemy’s evilness. These factors would join hands to suddenly increase the price of goods in the market,” he said.

Khamenei also sought to prop up the moral of IRGC forces, growing terrified of the increasing social hatred and anger.

“Well, we are a population of 80 million. From this 80+ million, some are kids and youth, some are, well, kind of dissidents that oppose the system. But a sufficient number of people are standing strong behind you,” he said.

On the night of the IRGC designation as a terrorist entity, Khamenei, addressing IRGC members and their associates, backed away from his previous bullying about the so-called country’s nuclear energy (read clandestine bomb-making effort) and missile program.

“We have forbidden the atom bomb. But these idiots keep raising the atom bomb issue before they acknowledge that we have said that we do not seek it. It is against our religious basis, against our teachings… Do you think that the clout and the power that the Islamic Republic has mustered has been due to the nuclear bomb? Or is it from our advancement in enriching Uranium? Not at all,” he added.

Engulfed in the whirlpool of controversial comments made after learning the IRGC’s FTO blacklisting, and calling American officials as “Satan” and “stupid”, the mullahs’ supreme leader went on to say, “Now, we keep on calling them stupid and unwise, evil and so on… This won’t solve any problems. The right solution comes when we know what we are doing.”

Meanwhile, Iranians in Mashhad, Damavand, Pars Abad, and other cities protested against corrupt financial institutions affiliated to the regime.

Plundered shareholders of Badr-e Toos in the northwestern city of Mashhad demonstrated in front of the regime provincial governor’ office in this city on Saturday, April 13 demanding their looted money be returned.

They were chanting “Nobody has seen a government so irresponsible” and “I will get my money back, even if I have to die” among other slogans.

In another news, about 200 truckers in the city of Damavand protested against low fuel ration.

And Taxi drivers in the city of Parsabad-e Mogan protested against low fares and the high cost of livings.

In another event on Apr.12,2019 residents of the Sheelang-Abad district in the city of Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran, took to the streets protesting the ruling regime’s inaction and refusal to provide any relief to the needy people in flood-hit areas. These locals are especially angry at the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) for protecting its own facilities at the price of placing residential areas in danger.

In the meantime Members of the “Resistance Units,” a network closely associated to the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), continue targeting icons of the mullahs’ regime across Iran on Apr.13,2019.

Members of Resistance in Kermanshah, western Iran, set fire to a Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Basij base.

On Apr.13, In West Azerbaijan Province, northwest Iran, members of Resistance set fire to an IRGC Basij poster while chanting similar anti-regime slogans.

Members of Resistance in Tehran set fire to a poster of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) containing images of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This action was in solidarity with flood-hit victims across Iran.

Antichrist considers banning video games, citing a decline in society

A woman plays the Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) game on a Samsung Electronics Co Galaxy Note 9. Bloomberg

Iraq is considering banning video games, citing a decline in society

Mina AldroubiApril 14, 2019

Iraq is considering blocking online multiplayer computer games due to an increasing obsession that has triggered fears of violence, crime and a decline in society.

The cultural parliamentary committee submitted on Saturday a draft law that seeks to ban electronic games, in particular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and the Blue Whale that was reported to be an online “suicide game”.

“The committee is concerned about the obsession over these electronic games that ignite violence among children and youth. Its influence has spread rapidly among Iraq’s society,” the head of the committee, Sameaa Gullab, said during a press conference in Baghdad.

The request was submitted based on Article 59 of the constitution, she said.

Iraq’s 2005 constitution enshrines freedom of press and publication unless they “violate public order or morality.”

“We are proposing to parliament to block and ban all games that threaten social security, morality, education and all segments of Iraqi society,” Ms Gullab said.

Iraqi media reported incidents of suicide and divorce related to the games during the last year. In depth reporting by local media on the craze has announced it has led to nearly 40,000 divorces worldwide and more than 20 cases in Iraq.

“This issue requires immediate action by the authorities to ban this negative phenomenon through passing this draft legislation,” she said.

The draft law will now be revised by parliamentary speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi.

Iraq is facing a „youth bulge“, a demographic term applied to countries where the vast majority of the population is young, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Iraq’s young people makes up around 60 per cent of the country’s nearly 40 million population, and 17 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women are unemployed, according to World Bank figures.

PUBG has more than 400 million players across the world. It was developed by South Korean company Blue Hole and is based on a first-person shooter battle for survival format.

The game allegedly inspired an Iraqi teenager, 17, to commit suicide in January, Iraq’s Independent Human Rights Commission said in a statement.

The boy’s family said his death was a “wake up call for the dangers that Iraqi children are being exposed to”.

The development comes after Iraqi populist cleric, Muqtada Al Sadr, called for tighter government control to combat the “addiction”.

“It saddens me to see our youth are brainwashed by PUBG,” Mr Al Sadr said on Twitter.

“Iraq’s society is deteriorating as its youth are occupied by the fighting in PUBG’s battlefields,” he stressed.

Numerous Fatwas have been issued across the county, saying that wasting time on the game is “un-Islamic”.

But teenagers in Baghdad consider playing the game as a way to keep them indoors and away from violence outside.

„I have been playing PUBG for sometime now, I like it because it keeps me at home and away from trouble outside,“ Hassan Ahmed Ali, 21, told The National.

Mr Ali says that parliament needs to consider a substitute for Iraqi youth to „keep us occupied“.

PUBG is banned in Nepal and in the state of Gujarat in India over its association with violence.

Updated: April 14, 2019 06:11 PM

Why We Need to Worry About Bolton (Revelation 16)

John Bolton will become President Trump’s national security adviser in April. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Why conservatives are worried about John Bolton

Bolton’s approach to war is preventive, and I think it’s extremely dangerous.”

By Sean Illing on March 23, 2018 2:50 pmOn Thursday, President Trump announced that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster would be stepping down in April and that John Bolton, an extreme hawk and former ambassador to the UN, would replace him.

Liberals and Democrats do not like Bolton, and for rather obvious reasons. Among other things, he has advocated for preventive war with Iran and North Korea, championed — and still defends — the disastrous war in Iraq, wrote the foreword to a book by Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, two prominent counter-jihadists, and has generally become the most hardline defender of military force on the American right.

But how is Bolton viewed in conservative circles? Is he aligned with mainstream Republicans, or is he too extreme?

I reached out to Tom Nichols, a professor of national security studies at Harvard and the Naval War College and the author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, to find out.

Nichols is a conservative who previously advised Republican Sen. John Heinz (who died in 1991) on defense and security affairs. I wanted to know what he thought of Bolton, and if he’s as worried as people on the left are.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

What was your initial reaction to Bolton’s appointment?

Tom Nichols

I don’t think anyone can be surprised. This is one of the few moves that Trump has been telegraphing for months. I’ve been dreading it, but I figured it was going to happen sooner or later, and not because of who Bolton is or what he believes but because he’s on television a lot, and the president appears to watch a lot of television.

To be clear, what Bolton believes and what the president ran on are diametrically opposed. So it’s not like Trump has found his soulmate in Bolton. At some point, you run out of options and serious people willing to take the job, so, naturally, Trump turns to someone on TV.

Sean Illing

It may strike some readers as odd to hear that Trump’s campaign vision and Bolton’s worldview are diametrically opposed.

Tom Nichols

Bolton’s philosophy is to extinguish all threats to the US by extending military force at will. Trump ran on “America First” and called the Iraq War stupid, whereas Bolton continues to defend the Iraq War and believes that we should stomp out danger wherever we think it will appear. So you’re either an isolationist guy, or you’re an elephant roaming the field stomping on every mouse that scares you, and Bolton is the latter.


Sean Illing

The word neocon is being tossed about a lot, but Bolton isn’t really a neocon because he doesn’t seem to care about promoting democracy abroad; he just wants to use American power to advance American interests, including waging preventative wars.

Tom Nichols

You’ve got it exactly right: Neocons are about using American force not just for interests, but to establish certain values and changes around the world.

I don’t think Bolton is a neocon because he doesn’t seem to care about democracy promotion; he’s an advocate of preventive war, which means acting way in advance to stomp out a perceived threat — that’s significantly different than preemptive war, which is about neutralizing an imminent threat.

Bolton’s approach to war is preventive, and I think it’s extremely dangerous.

Sean Illing

How is Bolton viewed in conservative foreign policy circles?

Tom Nichols

The hard right doesn’t like him because he’s not really an isolationist. The Bush-era people thought highly enough of him to make him UN ambassador, but nothing else. He’s developed this reputation as a master in-fighter, someone who can navigate the bureaucracy. But for a master in-fighter, he sure has been kept out of power for the last 20 years.

As far as I can tell, his reputation is that he’s a brilliant guy, but very strange in his views and more extreme than most conservatives. His threshold for going to war is much, much lower than most people on the right.

Sean Illing

The national security adviser’s job is to ensure that the president hears the views of the entire national security establishment, in order to help him or her make the best decision. An ideologue like Bolton seems like the worst person to have in that role, mostly because he’s likely to filter out facts and views that don’t align with his worldview.

Tom Nichols

In fairness, the NSA is almost always someone with an agenda. We’ve had very few truly honest brokers in this position, in part because the job is so loosely defined. Basically, the NSA position is whatever the president wants it to be. But if part of the job is to be the gatekeeper among all the competing institutional interests around the president, then Bolton is a terrible choice.

Sean Illing

Does Bolton’s appointment make war with North Korea or Iran more likely?

Tom Nichols

I think he’ll want to go to war, but I’m not convinced that he’ll succeed. Washington’s a big place with a pretty strong bureaucracy, and there’s an entire defense department that Bolton won’t control. Also, the Trump White House is chaotic. My biggest fear in the early days of the Trump administration was, “What would happen if all these people were competent? What happens if Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon turn out to be smart and effective?

But they were all swallowed by the chaos of the administration, and got very little done. So I’m not convinced that Bolton is going to magically bring all this coherence to the West Wing. What he will be able to do is snuff out a lot of dissenting voices because of his proximity to the president, and that is certainly a concern.

Sean Illing

I guess the major worry is that nearly all of the so-called “adults in the room” have been purged. Defense Secretary James Mattis is the only man left standing at this point. That might increase Bolton’s influence.

Tom Nichols

Yes, that worries me. But I think a lot depends on who would replace Mattis in the event that he leaves. Historically, when there’s a clash between the defense secretary and the NSA, the defense secretary wins. The NSA is not in anyone’s chain of command, so he can’t start a war or order a strike. He’s merely an adviser to the president, and so his influence is constrained at an institutional level.

So people don’t need to panic right now. There might come a time when we should panic over what Bolton is telling the president, but I think it’s too early for that now. Concerned? Yes. Panicked? No.

Let’s wait and see if Bolton is actually able to accomplish anything.

[Author’s note: Nichols is speaking here in a personal capacity, and not as a representative of the US government or the Naval War College.]