How Kerry and Obama Betrayed US

John Kerry’s foreign policy wonderland

Addressing the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, former Secretary of State John Kerry offered a rather rose-tinted history of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

His speech had a simple theme: Where all the world was bright under President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, all is now brutal and dark under President Trump. But this wasn’t an address fit for reality. Take Kerry’s rather astonishing claim that the Obama administration had “eliminated” the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

This will be news to Israel and the Sunni Arab monarchies of the Middle East. After all, the 2015 Iran nuclear accord did nothing to end Iran’s research of ballistic missiles, the key delivery platform for nuclear weapons. Nor did the deal have an open-ended timetable necessary to temper Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s nihilistic ambitions for the long term. Instead, it offered security only for 15 years into the future. And we now know that the Iranians used the time and investment rewards of Obama’s nuclear accord to advance their nuclear weaponization program. As the Biden campaign moves to return the United States to the nuclear accord, we should contemplate for a moment what that return would mean. Because it would mean salvation for Khamenei’s imploding economy and budget-stretched Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran would once again find sanctions relief and billions of dollars to reinvest in its malevolent theological agenda. And its nemesis, Saudi Arabia, as was recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, would find new impetus to develop its own nuclear weapons program. Not exactly a recipe for stability and peace.

Of course, Kerry couldn’t resist but regurgitate the predictable rhetoric that Trump writes “love letters” to dictators while betraying American friends. This silliness misses the nuance in foreign policy. While it’s true that Trump has some rather odd instincts toward certain foreign leaders, it’s also true that America’s allies should be judged on what they do for our alliance rather than what they say. The striking dichotomy between the vacuous rhetoric of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the fastidious friendship of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stands out as an example here. As does the contrast between what various NATO allies contribute to our common defense.

Nor, as he attacked Trump for his Putin affections, did Kerry show any humility over the Obama administration’s record of appeasement toward China and Russia. This bears noting, in that while it’s true American allies sometimes view Trump as a president to be “laughed at,” China and Russia most certainly laughed at the relentless appeasement they earned from team Obama-Biden. On that point, it was always likely that China would prefer a Biden victory over a Trump reelection, and the National Counterintelligence Center confirmed as much earlier this month.

Foreign policy and national security are exigent issues that demand far more attention than they currently receive. Still, the former secretary of state did no service for reality with his trip through the historical looking glass on Tuesday.

The Trump Administration is Handed Another Humiliating Defeat

President Trump. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Bloomberg)

Opinion | The Trump administration suffers a humiliating — and telling — loss on the Middle East – The Washington Post

August 17, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT

TWO DAYS after taking credit for the opening of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the Trump administration suffered a humiliating reverse at the U.N. Security Council that was, in some ways, more telling about the results of its Middle East policies. The United States asked the council to approve an extension of the 13-year-old embargo on arms trade with Iran — something that matters greatly to Israel and U.S. Arab allies, and which most of the democratic world favors. Yet only one member of the 15-member council, the Dominican Republic, sided with Washington. Russia and China opposed the motion, while 11 countries — including Britain, France and Germany — abstained.

The vote could open the way for Iran to obtain Chinese and Russian arms — for example, missiles it could employ against Israel, the UAE or U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf. At the least, it demonstrated how the Trump administration’s attempt to crush Iran’s Islamic regime has instead made it more dangerous, while isolating the United States.

The U.N. defeat was a direct result of President Trump’s repudiation of the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, which was brokered by the Obama administration in collaboration with the European Union, China and Russia. Mr. Trump claimed renewed U.S. sanctions would force a better deal; instead, Iran renewed its enrichment of uranium and launched attacks in the Persian Gulf. Now the arms embargo, which the U.N. resolution ratifying the nuclear pact extended to this October, is also gone. European allies chose not to vote for renewing it, in part because they wish to preserve what remains of the agreement, including U.N. inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Trump administration officials sought to force the support of allies by threatening to invoke another provision of the nuclear deal allowing one of the parties to unilaterally mandate the renewal of the sweeping international sanctions regime that strangled Iran before 2015. But the U.S. right to invoke the provision after withdrawing from the pact is in question: Even Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, an unquestioned hawk on Iran, called it “too cute by half.” Mr. Bolton warns that such a move, which would involve using the U.S. veto to block a Security Council resolution preventing the resumption of sanctions, might not only fail, but result in the undercutting of the veto power.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a prime architect of the failed Iran policy, railed against the Security Council’s vote, while promising unspecified U.S. action to stop Iran from obtaining new weapons. “We can’t allow the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons,” Mr. Pompeo said. “I mean, that’s just nuts.” Agreed. But if Tehran nevertheless succeeds in doing so, it will be due to the gross malfeasance of Mr. Pompeo — and Mr. Trump’s foolish torching of the Obama administration’s legacy.

Iran hits Iraqi army base holding US troops

Two rockets hit Iraqi army base holding US troops ‘just days before PM visits White House’

TWO rockets have hit an army base in Iraq holding US troops.

By REBECCA PERRING

20:06, Sat, Aug 15, 2020 | UPDATED: 22:10, Sat, Aug 15, 2020

Two Katyusha rockets fell in Iraq’s Taji base that hosts US-led coalition troops, the state news agency said on Saturday, citing a military statement. No injuries have been reported. Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, said: “Another rocket attack today on Camp Taji in #Iraq just days before its prime minister is scheduled to visit the White House on August 20.”

It comes after the US embassy in Baghdad was targetted by three rockets in Iraq’s capital earlier this month.

The attacks took place near to the border of Kuwait and just north of the capital.

The missile strikes did not cause any casualties but there was damage to equipment.

Time for Babylon the Great to Snapback

What is the U.S. threat to trigger ‘snapback’ of U.N. sanctions on Iran? | Article [AMP] | Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States on Friday failed in its attempt to extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran, and Washington could now act on a threat to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Tehran.

Here is a look at the events leading to the showdown and an explanation of what could happen next.

WHY IS THE ARMS EMBARGO ON IRAN EXPIRING?

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The United Nations Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Iran in 2007.

The embargo is due to expire in mid-October, as agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal among Iran, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France and the United States that prevents Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for economic sanctions relief. That accord is enshrined in a 2015 Security Council resolution.

In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump quit the accord reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, calling it “the worst deal ever.”

The United States failed on Friday in a bid to extend the arms embargo on Iran at the U.N. Security Council.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE 2015 NUCLEAR DEAL?

Even though the United States has withdrawn from the nuclear deal, Washington has threatened to use a provision in the agreement to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not extend the arms embargo.

While diplomats have predicted that the so-called sanctions snapback process at the Security Council would be messy – with the remaining parties to the nuclear deal opposed to such a move – it could ultimately kill the nuclear deal because Iran would lose a major incentive for limiting its nuclear activities.

After the United States quit the deal, it imposed strong unilateral sanctions. In response, Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday described the next few weeks and months as critical.

WHAT SANCTIONS WOULD SNAP BACK?

A snapback of U.N. sanctions would require Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and ban imports of anything that could contribute to those activities or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

It would reimpose the arms embargo, ban Iran from developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and reimpose targeted sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities. Countries also would be urged to inspect shipments to and from Iran and authorized to seize any banned cargo.

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HOW DOES THE UNITED STATES TRIGGER A SANCTIONS SNAPBACK?

The United States would have to submit a complaint about Iran breaching the nuclear deal to the Security Council.

The council would then have to vote within 30 days on a resolution to continue Iran’s sanctions relief. If such a resolution is not put forward by the deadline, all U.N. sanctions in place before the 2015 nuclear deal would be automatically reimposed.

Some diplomats have said the United States could submit its complaint as early as next week.

CAN THE U.S. EFFORT BE STOPPED?

It was not immediately clear how Russia, China or any other Security Council members might try to stop the United States from triggering a sanctions snapback or if procedurally there is any way they can.

Diplomats have said several countries are likely to argue that the United States legally could not activate a return of U.N. sanctions and therefore they simply would not reimpose the measures on Iran themselves.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Will Dunham)

Provoking the Iranian Horn

Officials of Iran’s regime have repeatedly admitted that Iran’s economic situation is worse now than during the Iran-Iraq war.

Bijan Zanganeh, the Minister of Oil, in September 2019 said: “The current economic situation in the country has become more difficult since the war because during the war we sold oil without any restrictions, the money from the sale of oil went to the banks and we bought whatever we wanted.”

Translating the words of this official, as he said, “we bought whatever we wanted”, are the staggering costs of the war, taken from the pockets of the people. Things like the purchase of TOW and Hawk missiles as well as F-4 and M-60 spare parts, and AIM-9 Sidewinder and of course many other things and war equipment.  In those circumstances, the people were only able to provide their basic goods by coupons. Long queues to buy oil and gas, as well as basic necessities such as chicken, cheese, sugar, were part of people’s daily lives. In those years, in some months of the year, Iran’s oil sales had dropped from a few million barrels per day to 1,000 barrels per day, and the Iranian economy was in a severe recession.

Now after a year the state-run daily Aftab Yazd, while repeating the confessions of the regime’s Minister of Oil, quoting an economic specialist, Morteza Afagheh wrote:

Our current economic and political situation is much worse than it was during the war, because during the war, although there were trade restrictions, we were able to sell oil and import the goods we needed, and the population was not so large. But in the current situation, we are not able to sell oil and we cannot import the required goods in the reserve currency.

“Nor can we import currency from the goods we possibly sell through the banking system. But we have to admit that three decades after the war, we recklessly lost a lot of resources and failed to bring the economy to a point where people are not under so much pressure and below the poverty line under sanctions.” (Aftab Yazd, 6 August 2020)

The question is where the huge oil revenues have gone over the past few decades and on what priority are, they spent. What about other non-oil products? What has happened to fisheries, petrochemicals, forests and mines, and other national resources over all these years?

These are the main questions that no one in Iran will answer because tracking the traces of all these resources, you will land on nowhere else than the so-called Beyt-e-Khamenei (House of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei), and of course, this is a red line.

But such people are not even concerned about Iran and the people’s lives, instead their main concerns are just the security and the existence of this regime. Of course, to find out a way, not to been overthrow:

“We should blame the people who in these three decades, especially in the eighties (Persian calendar equivalent to the 2000s), with their abundant oil revenues, could not take the economic infrastructure to a position where we do not suffer so much now. Now more than 40 percent of the population is below the poverty line and measures must be considered, otherwise socio-political and economic tensions are inevitable.” (Aftab Yazd)

About the illusion of the coupon, the state-run daily Jahan Sanat on 6 August wrote: “Granting a commodity coupon to the poor and needy can be useful in the current difficult and complex situation and provide the poor with a minimum standard of living, but the implementation of this policy requires the allocation of huge financial resources by the government. At the same time, the government has been unable to cover its current costs and is struggling with all kinds of costs, from retirement costs to the payment of workers’ salaries to state-owned and semi-government companies.”

The regime is investing all of its resources on its global terror and supporting its proxy groups from Lebanon’s Hezbollah to Iraq on the Al-Hashd Al-Sha’bi (PMF) and the Houthis in Yemen, and many other places. So, nothing will be left for the people.

Trump Claims the Obvious About Iran

Trump claims Iran preparing ‘sneak assault’ on US troops in Iraq

August 14, 20202 Min Read

President Trump asserted on Twitter Wednesday that Iran was plotting a “sneak assault” on US troops or amenities in Iraq — together with the bottom that was hit in a previous missile strike after the USA killed a high Iranian navy chief.

“Upon data and perception, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak assault on U.S. troops and/or belongings in Iraq. If this occurs, Iran can pay a really heavy value, certainly!” Trump wrote.

The tweet adopted the revelation that the US had deployed Patriot air-defense techniques to an Iraqi navy base as a precaution towards Iranian-backed militia assaults, the web site Center East Eye reported, citing US and Iraqi navy sources.

One battery was deployed to the Ain al-Asad base final week and was being assembled, in line with the report.

The bottom was focused by Iran in January, following a US strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whom the Washington accused of plotting terrorist operations.

The White Home didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Trump’s tweet got here as each nations have been struggling to comprise the coronavirus outbreak.

Iran has 47,593 circumstances and three,036 deaths so far.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned late final month that Iran had rejected gives of US assist to fight the pandemic.

Pompeo additionally ­condemned Iranian Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for promulgating conspiracy theories that the USA was accountable for the outbreak, and identified Iran’s personal misdeeds that he claimed exacerbated the unfold of the virus.

“The U.S. has provided $100M+ in medical assist to different nations—together with Iran—and our scientists are working 24/7 to develop a vaccine. @khamenei_ir has rejected American gives and spends 24/7 concocting conspiracy theories. How does that assist the Iranian individuals?” Pompeo tweeted, ­referring to Khamenei.

US-Iranian relations have been bitter for the reason that Islamic Revolution ­toppled the US-backed shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in 1979 and ushered in an period of ­theocratic rule.

Whereas there was a ­detente with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, relations have deteriorated with Trump’s choice practically two years in the past to desert that multilateral settlement and to reimpose US sanctions, which have have severely crippled the Iranian financial system.

The Next Round of Pestilence (Revelation 6:8)

Flu virus with ‘pandemic potential’ found in China – BBC News

The new flu strain is similar to the swine flu that spread globally in 2009

A new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists.

It emerged recently and is carried by pigs, but can infect humans, they say.

The researchers are concerned that it could mutate further so that it can spread easily from person to person, and trigger a global outbreak.

While it is not an immediate problem, they say, it has “all the hallmarks” of being highly adapted to infect humans and needs close monitoring.

As it’s new, people could have little or no immunity to the virus.

The scientists write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that measures to control the virus in pigs, and the close monitoring of swine industry workers, should be swiftly implemented.

Scientists believe another pandemic will happen during our lifetime

Pandemic threat

A bad new strain of influenza is among the top disease threats that experts are watching for, even as the world attempts to bring to an end the current coronavirus pandemic.

The last pandemic flu the world encountered – the swine flu outbreak of 2009 – was less deadly than initially feared, largely because many older people had some immunity to it, probably because of its similarity to other flu viruses that had circulated years before.

That virus, called A/H1N1pdm09, is now covered by the annual flu vaccine to make sure people are protected.

The new flu strain that has been identified in China is similar to 2009 swine flu, but with some new changes.

These bats in Thailand could carry useful information about human viruses

So far, it hasn’t posed a big threat, but Prof Kin-Chow Chang and colleagues who have been studying it, say it is one to keep an eye on.

How worried should we be?

The virus, which the researchers call G4 EA H1N1, can grow and multiply in the cells that line the human airways.

They found evidence of recent infection in people who worked in abattoirs and the swine industry in China when they looked at data from 2011 to 2018.

Current flu vaccines do not appear to protect against it, although they could be adapted to do so if needed.

Prof Kin-Chow Chang, who works at Nottingham University in the UK, told the BBC: “Right now we are distracted with coronavirus and rightly so. But we must not lose sight of potentially dangerous new viruses.”

While this new virus is not an immediate problem, he says: “We should not ignore it.”

In theory, a flu pandemic could occur at any time, but they are still rare events. Pandemics happen if a new strain emerges that can easily spread from person to person.

Although flu viruses are constantly changing – which is why the flu vaccine also needs to change regularly to keep up – they do not usually go pandemic.

Prof James Wood, head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, said the work “comes as a salutary reminder” that we are constantly at risk of new emergence of pathogens, and that farmed animals, with which humans have greater contact than with wildlife, may act as the source for important pandemic viruses.

A World Health Organization spokeswoman said: “Eurasian avian-like swine influenza virus are known to be circulating in the swine population in Asia and to be able to infect humans sporadically. Twice a year during the influenza vaccine composition meetings, all information on the viruses is reviewed and the need for new candidate vaccine viruses is discussed. We will carefully read the paper to understand what is new.

“It also highlights that we cannot let down our guard on influenza; we need to be vigilant and continue surveillance even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Shi’a Horn Vs Babylon the Great

Shiite military attacks have made it harder to fight ISIS, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said.

Katie Bo WilliamsAugust 12, 2020

Countering the threat from Iran is the U.S. military’s top priority in the Middle East, America’s top commander in the region said Wednesday, blaming rocket attacks from Shiite militia groups in Iraq for hampering U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS in the region.

“As I look at the theater, we remain focused on Iran as our central problem. This headquarters focuses on Iran, executing deterrence activities against Iran, and doing those things,” U.S. Central Command head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said at an U.S. Institute for Peace event.

“The threat against our forces from Shiite militant groups has caused us to put resources that we would otherwise use against ISIS to provide for our own defense and that has lowered our ability to work effectively against them,” McKenzie said.

In March, U.S. forces began pulling back from bases across Iraq, turning them over to Iraqi security partners. At the time, Pentagon officials insisted that the base hand-offs were part of a long-planned consolidation that reflected the success of the anti-ISIS fight — not concerns over the ongoing rocket attacks by Iran-linked proxy militias.

On Wednesday, McKenzie reiterated that justification, saying that Iraqi security forces had improved their ability to fight ISIS and that “the fact that we’re getting smaller is actually a sign of campaign progress.”

But the CENTCOM commander also explicitly linked the withdrawals to the threat from Iran. 

“Over the last seven or eight months, we have had to devote resources to self-protection that we would otherwise devote for the counter-ISIS fight and we’ve had to pull back and our partners have had to pull back,” he said. “At the same time we’ve done things to harden our positions to make it more difficult for Iran to attack us in Iraq — but it has had an effect.”

Rocket attacks have continued to target U.S. military and diplomatic installations in Iraq during the spring and summer, although tensions have ebbed since January, when the United States killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The Trump administration has made constraining Iranian military adventurism in the Middle East a cornerstone of its foreign policy. In 2018, the president withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor, in part over concerns it didn’t go far enough to restrain other bad behavior from Tehran. Critics say Iran is now closer to acquiring a nuclear weapon, while continuing to lash out militarily as it struggles under pressure from withering sanctions applied by the Trump administration.

McKenzie cautioned that a final “defeat” of ISIS is unlikely — because there will always be pockets of fighters enamoured with the ideology — but that the hope is that the United States will eventually be able to hand off the fight to local security forces.

“There’s not going to be a significant victory celebration. There’s not going to be a clear-cut military victory,” McKenzie said.

He also acknowledged that the U.S. military presence in Syria has no clear end in sight.

“I don’t think we’re going to be in Syria forever. I don’t know how long we’re going to be in Syria,” he said. “That’s going to be a political decision, not a military decision.”

But, he added, “As long as we remain, we’re going to work very hard to finish off ISIS.”

Payback is Coming to Babylon the Great

IRGC Chief Vows ‘Harsh Revenge’ for Gen. Soleimani’s Assassination – Politics news – Tasnim News Agency

Tasnim News Agency

“Our enemies should know that nowhere is safe for them,” General Salami said on Thursday, during a ceremony marking the 14th anniversary of Lebanon’s historic victory in the 33-day war of 2006 against Israel.

With the assassination of Hajj Qassem, they (the enemies) created a permanent source of danger and revenge for themselves. Sooner or later, there will be a revenge for his death and certainly it will be harsh,” he added. 

The Iranian General and his companions were assassinated in a US airstrike near Baghdad airport on January 3, as General Soleimani was on an official visit to the Iraqi capital.

In late July, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said Iran will never forget Washington’s assassination of General Soleimani and will definitely deliver a “counterblow” to the United States.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will never forget this issue and will definitely deal the counterblow to the Americans,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Tehran.

“They killed your guest at your own home and unequivocally admitted the atrocity. This is no small matter,” the Leader told the Iraqi premier.

The Plagues and Famine of the Fourth Seal (Revelation 6)

Photo: Reuters

Locusts continue to plague nations on 3 continents

July 31, 2020 — News Tags: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Desert locusts, East Africa, Iran, Iran Nuclear Dispute, Iran-U.S., Israel News, Israel Now, Latin America, locust swarms, Middle East, UN Food & Agriculture Organization, US Sanctions on Iran

Nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America are relentlessly combatting the worst infestation of desert locusts in decades.

Israeli authorities remain vigilant against the threat posed by the pests, while confident that the nation’s advanced technology and preparedness would successfully eradicate any swarms soon after their detection.

In a brief overview starting in Latin America: grains powerhouse Argentina is getting hit by a second swarm of locusts arriving from neighboring Paraguay, Argentina’s Senasa agricultural health inspection agency said earlier this week – putting farmers on notice about possible crop damage. The new swarm is concentrated in the province of Formosa in north-east Argentina, on the Paraguay border. The area is not part of Argentina’s main Pampas grains belt, but it could hurt crops if the low temperatures of the Southern Hemisphere winter do not keep the swarm from spreading too far southward. “The swarm detected in Formosa advanced in a southern direction,” Hector Medina, a coordinator at Senasa, told Reuters, adding that “The wind allowed it to move quickly and is expected to approach Rio Bermejo, so the alert is extended to Chaco province.”

Brazil declared a phytosanitary state of emergency in Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina due to the risk of an outbreak of the Schistocerca cancellata plague caused by the cloud of locusts flying through Argentina, made up of thousands of the species that arrived in the country from May 11 from Paraguay, traveling at a daily speed of up to 150 kilometers per day.

Turning to East Africa, and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has just publicly thanked the government of Canada for a substantial contribution toward helping to battle infestations of crop- and pasture-devouring desert locusts in the region, as well as for having been among the first nations to respond with donations that now amount $1.5 million. Earlier this month, the European Union injected an additional $17 million. Other funding for the effort to contain desert locust and diminish the upsurge’s food security impacts has also been received from the Governments of Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America, the African Development Bank, the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Union, the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the World Bank Group.

The FAO noted that so far, “nearly half a trillion locusts are estimated to have been killed in the Horn of Africa and Yemen in control operations since January and one million tons of crops – enough to feed nearly 7 million people – have been spared from devastation.”

But “despite the success of control operations spanning 500 000 ha (hectares), heavy rains during this spring season created ideal conditions for reproduction and the potential destruction caused by the new-generation swarms which could still provoke a humanitarian crisis as new swarms strike Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen,” said the FAO, adding that “Survey and control operations are in progress in all countries.

Locusts move in swarms of up to 50 million, can travel 90 miles a day, and lay as many as 1,000 eggs per square meter of land. The locust outbreak in East Africa “is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years – for Kenya, in 70 years.

The most recent FAO Desert Locust Watch report determined that spring-bred swarms are shifting north to the summer breeding areas. Even though there has been a notable decline in immature swarms in northwest Kenya due to control operations and migration to Ethiopia, there are still some swarms present in parts of Samburu and in Turkana near the Uganda border. Immature swarms in Ethiopia are mainly present in the Somali region and also, to a lesser degree, in parts of Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions. In Somalia, immature swarms are present on the northern plateau where some of them have started to become mature. Survey and control operations are in progress in the three countries. In Sudan, low numbers of solitarious mature adults are present between Eritrea and North Kordofan while mainly immature adults are present further north in the Nile Valley. Small-scale breeding will start shortly in areas of recent rainfall. So far, there are no reports of swarms arriving from NW Kenya, and intensive surveys are in progress.

The situation remains calm in West Africa. Solitarious adults are present in the summer breeding areas in southern Mauritania, central and northern Niger, and in western and eastern Chad where egg-laying will occur shortly in areas of recent rainfall. While the threat of a swarm invasion continues to decline, it is necessary to maintain strict vigilance, preparedness, and thorough monitoring.

In the Arabian Peninsula, local infestations of solitarious adults are present in the southwest in Saudi Arabia, near Najran. Yemen continues to be of particular cause of concern because of the continuation of good rains and breeding in interior areas where hopper bands and swarms are forming. Survey and control operations are in progress in some areas. The locusts have compounded an already dire hunger situation after five years of war that has also been impacted by coronavirus restrictions, reduced remittances, floods and significant underfunding of this year’s aid response. U.N. warnings in late 2018 of impending famine prompted an aid ramp-up after which the World Food Program fed up to 13 million a month. Resurgent violence in recent weeks between warring parties, despite U.N. peace efforts, is also killing and injuring civilians. In Oman, control operations are in progress against hopper groups and bands that formed on the southern coast near Salalah while solitarious adults are present in adjacent areas of the interior.

Summer breeding is underway along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border. In India, numerous adult groups and swarms are laying eggs over a wide area of Rajasthan between Jodhpur and Churu while hatching and band formation from earlier laying have occurred further south from Phalodi to Gujarat.

Pakistan is especially prone to locust attacks because it is situated on the migratory route of locusts coming from the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Oman. Hopper groups and bands are present in the Nagarparkar area of Pakistan in Tharparkar of southeast Sindh. Adult groups are scattered throughout Cholistan and other parts of Tharparkar that will lay eggs shortly.

Last year, Pakistan suffered its worst attack of locusts since 1993, for which the country was largely unprepared. Officials from the Ministry of Food Security and Research say swarms coming from the Horn of Africa could be 400 times more than those that came last year.

Pakistani authorities warned that immediate steps needed to be taken to thwart huge swarms of desert locusts expected to reach Pakistan later this month from the Horn of Africa.

“The situation today is that, within the next few days or weeks, these swarms from the Horn of Africa, especially from Somalia, may arrive in South West Asia. South West Asia means Iran, Pakistan, India,” Federal Minister For National Food Security And Research, Fakhr Imam told a meeting of the National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) last  Friday (July 24).

According to statements from NLCC, 1051 joint teams of Pakistan army, Agriculture Ministry and Food Department have conducted surveys in over 43,9312.21 square kilometers of the affected areas of the country and carried out fumigation operations in 10,720.49 kilometers of land. Around 8000 military personnel, and 9 aircraft, are taking part in the locust control operations.

Meanwhile, in Iran, the Mehr News Agency headquartered in Tehran and owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization (IIDO), reported that the Islamic Republic’s Embassy’s representative in Pakistan, Somayeh Karimdoost, criticized “problems in bilateral cooperation to cope with the challenge of desert locust attacks, the called for strengthening regional cooperation to deal with desert locust.”

She went on to say that the “swarms have already devastated crops and it is feared that they can cause greater damage,” but that “interference is creating hurdles in the implementation of the bilateral mechanism.”

Karimdoost called on the FAO and the World Food Organization of the United Nations to play a more effective role in assisting countries affected by desert locusts and facilitate cooperation between them. She maintained that “Iran has made every effort to control locust attacks and help its neighbors to prevent the damage caused by this problem,” before going on to level veiled criticism at the United States’ sanctions program against her nation, saying that a continuation of “such coercive behavior” would have “a negative impact on the region especially the neighboring states of Iran” in dealing with the locust challenge.

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Sayyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini previously stated that Washington’s punitive campaign against Tehran, aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions, “significantly reduced the resources allocated to dealing with desert locusts.”

Overall, the most recent FAO update has assessed a decline in Iran’s locust numbers. According to the organization’s GIEWS Country Brief: Iran (Islamic Republic of) 20-July-2020 FOOD SNAPSHOT: there has been a slightly above‑average cereal harvest forecast in 2020, but that further increases in food inflation following currency devaluation are likely over a detrimental effect on household incomes due to COVID‑19 containment measures, combined with economic slowdown and rapid currency devaluation.

Pertaining to the desert locust, the report noted that even though the pest is common in Iran, “breeding conditions in 2020 were particularly favourable due to abundant rains in the country. Seven provinces (Sistan and Baluchistan, Hormozgan, Bushehr, Fars, Khuzestan, Kerman and South Khorasan) in the southern part of the country, stretching from eastern Islamic Republic of Iran on the border with Pakistan to the southwestern border with Iraq, were affected. As of June 2020, seasonal infestations were declining due to control operations and migration to Indo‑Pakistan summer breeding areas. More than 400 000 hectares were treated since January 2020, with almost one‑third of the treatment carried out in May 2020.”

Economic analysis revealed that “In 2019/20 (April‑March), the overall economy contracted by 7%. Growing 3%, agriculture was the only expanding sector and it contributed to about 8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”

Among other findings, “The food and beverages price inflation index in Khordad 1399 (corresponding to 22 May‑21 June 2020) was recorded at 14.9% on a yearly basis, driven by the devaluation of its currency, up from 10.7% in Farvardin 1399 (22 March‑21 April 2020), but below 74.1% in mid‑2019.

The general inflation registered 22.5% in Khordad 1399, up from the 19.8% in April 2020, but below 50.4% in July 2019” – with the GIEWS Country Brief on Iran concluding that “The sanctions severely limit the export earnings.”

The coronavirus pandemic deepened Iran’s fiscal deficit and balance of payments, prompting the government in May to slash four zeros and replace the national currency with the Toman at an equivalency to ﷼ 10,000 Iranian Rial (IRR). “The Central Bank of Iran maintains a dual tier exchange rate system. The fixed rate of IRR 42,000 per US dollar is used to finance the imports of essential goods, such as food and medicine, although reports indicate that in the current fiscal year (starting from 20 March 2020), the practice was discontinued for rice. For other transactions, the current official exchange is IRR 22,2763 per US dollar. As of 13 July 2020, USD 1 was trading for IRR 234,000 on the free market exchange, up from IRR 171,000 on 21 June 2020,” reads the report.

Precautionary measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 in March (although somewhat eased in April) were found to have had “a detrimental effect on the incomes, particularly of casual labourers” when “combined with the economic slowdown and the rapid currency devaluation.” In addition to required physical distancing, quarantine for returnees, bans on gatherings, educational activities, social and religious events; several economic steps were also taken.

COVID‑19 relief and recovery measures declared by presidential decree in March amounted to more than 10% of Iran’s GDP. A moratorium on tax payments for a period of three months (7% of the GDP) was implemented, in addition to the establishment of credit facilities for affected businesses (4.4%) in terms of loans with a 12% rate and a repayment period of two years; additional funding of the health sector (2%) and cash transfers to vulnerable households (0.3%). Three million Iranians in the lower income bracket were qualified to receive payments between IRR 2 million to IRR 6 million in four stages, depending on the size of the household. Other measures included increased support to the unemployment insurance fund (0.3%) and new low interest rate loans to vulnerable families.

In early March 2020, the Central Bank also allocated funds (equivalent to 0.06% of the GDP) to import medicine, while also coordinating an agreement with commercial banks to postpone loan repayments that had been due in February for another three months, and granting temporary penalty waivers for clients with non‑performing loans. The Central Bank also expanded the infrastructure for contactless payment via QR codes and digital wallets to limit exposure to the coronavirus through the circulation of banknotes.