Shi’a Drones Hit Near US Base In Northern Iraq

Explosive Drones Hit Near US Base In Northern Iraq

Israeli Minister Says Iran Giving Militants Drone Training Near Esfahan

Sunday, 12 Sep 2021 13:42 

HERZLIYA, Israel, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Israel’s defence minister accused Iran on Sunday of providing foreign militias with drone training at an airbase near the city of Isfahan, a month after Tehran came under global scrutiny over a suspected drone attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off Oman.

Israel has combined military strikes with diplomatic pressure to beat back what it describes as an effort by its arch-foe, whose nuclear negotiations with the West are deadlocked, to beef up regional clout through allied guerrillas.

In what his office described as a new disclosure, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Iran was using Kashan airbase north of Isfahan to train “terror operatives from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in flying Iranian-made UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)”.

Iran was also trying to “transfer know-how that would allow the manufacturing of UAVs in the Gaza Strip,” on Israel’s southern border, Gantz told a conference at Reichman University near Tel Aviv.

His office provided what it said were satellite images showing UAVs on the runways at Kashan. There was no immediate comment from Iran.

A July 29 blast aboard the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime, near the mouth of the Gulf, a key oil shipping route, killed two crew – a Briton and a Romanian.

The U.S. military said explosives experts from the Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier – which deployed to assist the Mercer Street – concluded the explosion was from a drone produced in Iran, which was accused by other world powers in the attack.

From Bush’s to Trump’s Nefarious Lies

President Trump speaks to the press on the White House South Lawn on Tuesday. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

Trump’s Iran policy is rooted in lies — the kind that got us into the Iraq War

Ben Rhodes

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, is author of “The World as It Is.”

May 16 at 6:40 AM

The Iraq War showed us all what happens when exaggerations and lies are weaponized to justify an ideological push for war: In 2002 and 2003, a relentless series of ominous, overblown public statements and bogus intelligence reports were used to justify an invasion — part of a deliberate campaign to make an offensive military action look defensive: “Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation,” President George W. Bush said, “the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war.”

It wasn’t true. Yet Bush made the case that the United States had to attack before Hussein could use weapons of mass destruction that Iraq didn’t really have. Now a similar cycle of deception may be repeating itself with President Trump’s increasingly belligerent posture on Iran.

Trump’s Iran policy has long been rooted in falsehoods. In 2017, his administration refused to certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the Iran nuclear deal — on the premise that Iran wasn’t complying with the terms. That wasn’t true. Earlier that year, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran’s compliance; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported to Congress that “Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations”; and the U.S. intelligence community presented no evidence justifying Trump’s decertification.

Trump’s subsequent decision to withdraw from the JCPOA was no surprise. For years, he had railed against it as the “worst deal ever negotiated” by tossing out a raft of easily debunked assertions: that Iran was given $150 billion under the terms of the deal, a claim The Washington Post’s Fact Checker rated with four Pinocchios; that Iran’s regime was verging on “total collapse” before the deal, implying that somehow the deal lent the regime new life. After pulling out, Trump has continued to dispute his own intelligence community’s assessment that Iran had been complying. Numbed to a president who lies so regularly that it’s become the background noise to our political culture, his reckless exit from a multilateral, U.N. Security Council-endorsed arms-control agreement that wasn’t being violated was treated as just another routine turn of events in Trump’s Washington.

Since then, Trump’s administration has made every effort to manufacture a crisis with Iran. To the dismay of our closest European allies, the administration has repeatedly imposed new sanctions; officially designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization; announced an “Iran Action Group” in the same week as the 65th anniversary of a U.S.-backed coup in Iran; threatened, via a tweeted-out video message from national security adviser John Bolton, that the Iranian regime wouldn’t “have many more anniversaries to enjoy”; and hinted that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al-Qaeda and associated forces could be applied to war with Iran.

This month, the manufactured crisis was escalated. Bolton announced the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region, referencing unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran that could lead to the use of “unrelenting force” by the United States. Days later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that any attacks from Iran or its proxies would be met with a “swift and decisive U.S. response.” The State Department has drawn down some of our personnel in nearby Baghdad, again citing unspecified threats from Iran.

Our allies have contradicted this view: Speaking at the Pentagon this week, a British major general stated, “There’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.”

The ideological agenda behind the administration’s rhetoric and policies is clear. Bolton, in particular, has long advocated regime change and called for war, writing an op-ed in 2015 for the New York Times titled, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Israel and Saudi Arabia — with governments that have cultivated close ties with Trump — favor confrontation with Iran. Based on that history, it’s hard not to conclude that Trump’s administration has pursued a clear strategy: provoke Iran into doing something that gives a pretext for war. And as with Iraq, the administration has used exaggerations and unspecified intelligence reports to lay the predicate that an offensive war against Iran will be defensive. In that context, the closure of the U.S. Consulate in Basra and the Baghdad Embassy drawdown are ominous, removing targets that could feature in an Iranian response to a U.S. attack.

The remaining question involves Trump’s ultimate intentions. He campaigned pledging to end U.S. wars in the Middle East and as recently as his State of the Union address earlier this year, said, “Great nations do not fight endless wars.” But he also clearly revels in undoing the progress of President Barack Obama’s Iran deal and posing as a tough guy on the world stage. He could (and should) pivot back to diplomacy, as he’s attempted to do with North Korea, though his actions to date have only set back the starting point for serious diplomatic efforts. Instead, on his watch, our country has become isolated from our allies, and, unsurprisingly, Iran has signaled that it plans to restart elements of its nuclear program that were rolled back or halted under the JCPOA. Trump could still pull back from the brink, or he could follow the momentum of his own creation into a war that could be a deadly, costly disaster.

We don’t know what he’ll do. But we know Trump is averse to truth, addicted to lies, and that what he says about Iran should be treated with tremendous skepticism. The consequences of a war with Iran — a much larger, more determined and more sophisticated adversary than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — should be urgently aired. And Congress, the branch of government empowered to declare war, should make clear that military action against Iran is not authorized.

It can be tempting, sometimes, to shrug off the false and misleading statements, more than 10,000 and counting, that Trump has habitually proffered while in office. But if we slide into another war based on a fundamentally dishonest premise, Trump’s lies could wind up producing painful and far-reaching consequences.

The Difference Between Iraq and Syria: Bush, Cheney, and Oil

Syria in 2018 is not Iraq in 2003

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Children, affected by a gas attack, breathe through oxygen masks in the Damascus suburb of Saqba on August 21, 2013 [Reuters/Bassam Khabieh]

Last Saturday, when the United States, the UK and France launched strikes on three chemical facilities in Syria, the move was met with disapproval in some quarters. The pre-announced spectacle blew up three buildings and took no lives, but some pronounced it a “dangerous escalation”. Some spoke of its “illegality”. All complained about its disregard for the OPCW investigation.

The action, which lasted less than an hour, was an escalation only if everything that preceded it was normal. By this reckoning, Syria has now returned to its status quo of genocide by the Assad regime.

The action was illegal only if by legality we mean approval by the UN Security Council. But the Security Council is not a neutral adjudicating authority like a court. Its decisions are constrained by the interests of its permanent members. To say an action is “legal”, in this case, would be to say: “Vladimir Putin approved”.

What then of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation?

This depends on what answer is being sought. Because the OPCW’s remit does not include apportioning blame. Untrammelled access for the OPCW would have merely proved what was already known: that a chemical attack took place. It would not have resolved the manufactured controversy over who was responsible (manufactured, because there is only one party in Syria with the means, intention and history of deploying chemical weapons by air).

But had the OPCW confirmed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s responsibility, what consequences should have followed?

Last year, after the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, the UN did respond to the calls for an investigation by creating the UN-OPCW Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) with the authority to identify perpetrators. But once the JIM concluded that al-Assad was responsible for the attack, Russia revoked its authority. And the fact that the UN confirmed the regime’s responsibility for the attack didn’t provoke any calls for accountability from the crowd currently insisting on the sanctity of the legal process.

All calls for “more investigation” sputter into platitudes about a “negotiated settlement” or “UN authorised action” (which, is another way of saying “never”, since Putin is unlikely to grant western powers the authority to act against his interests).

Fetishising a dubious legal process thus becomes a temporising measure that grants the perpetrators of mass crime impunity against the palpable illegality of using chemical weapons. That the case is not made in good faith is obvious from the analogy that often accompanies it.

Should we be trusting the same governments and agencies that lied to us about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?

Is Syria like Iraq?

Considering the ubiquity of the Iraq analogy, it would seem that the old cliche that generals are always fighting the last war also applies to their critics. Syria is Iraq only if facile juxtapositions replace substantive comparisons. Beyond the fact that both countries have been led by Baathist regimes that brought immense misery upon their people, there is no concrete detail in which Syria and Iraq are similar.

In 2003, Iraq was invaded even though there was no imminent humanitarian catastrophe demanding action; in Syria, the regime has been on a rampage since 2011, yet only on two occasions has it been subjected to limited and rather ineffective military strikes on “humanitarian grounds”.

Where in Iraq, the US and Britain had used false pretexts for action, in Syria real and frequent violations have only twice shaken the west out of inaction. Where in Iraq, the alleged possession of WMDs was deemed sufficient grounds for an invasion, their confirmed use in Syria has only belatedly occasioned a response, largely symbolic, lacking shock or awe.

The analogy also seems ignorant of the knowns and unknowns in the case against Iraq. In 2003, despite intense US pressure, international bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and OPCW declined to endorse the administration’s case against Iraq. In Syria, the regime hasn’t denied its possession of chemical weapons and the UN has confirmed their use on at least 34 occasions.

The ‘deep state’ argument

But what of the claim that a “deep state” is trying to mislead us into war, as it did in Iraq?

In 2002, the CIA resisted administration pressure to provide a defensible rationale for invading Iraq. Then Vice President Dick Cheney had to personally visit the CIA’s headquarters in Langley several times to pressure analysts to produce an assessment favourable to the administration’s case. But, in spite of the bullying, the “deep state” (including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy and the State Department) delivered their combined judgment in a caveat-laden National Intelligence Estimate that would only confirm that if left unchecked, Iraq may develop nuclear weapons in a decade.

The Bush administration recognised the inadequacy of the assessment and, in the end, had to rely on two ad hoc operations based in the Pentagon to produce its own politicised intelligence, outside the recalcitrant channels of the “deep state”. French, German and British intelligence also failed to oblige Bush (leading the UK’s then-PM Tony Blair to produce his own politicised “dodgy” dossier).

In Syria, by contrast, US, British, and French intelligence agencies have been unanimous in delivering confident judgments on the regime’s responsibility for the chemical attack. These judgments have been corroborated by Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), journalistic investigations, witness testimonies, human rights organisations, and, of course, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (which confirmed at least 34 instances of the regime’s use of chemical weapons even before Douma).

The case for Iraq never came close to achieving this kind of consensus.

The Halabja massacre

There is, however, an Iraq analogy that is relevant to Syria: It is not 2003, but 1988, when, during Saddam Hussein’s military campaign in the north, nearly 5,000 civilians were killed in a chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja.

The attack followed the town’s capture by the Iranian army, and Iraq immediately blamed it on Iran as a “false flag” operation. US intelligence, which at the time was allied to the Iraqi regime, amplified the claim. But in an ironic twist, once Hussein fell out of western favour after annexing Kuwait, “anti-imperialists” (including, sadly, the late Edward Said) felt obliged to use the “false flag” theory to absolve Hussein in their misguided attempt to forestall an intervention.

Therein lies the lesson: Facile contrarianism is an intellectual dead end that contributes to moral atrophy and reactionary politics. We live in a time of great danger and, due to its scope and consequences, Syria may become the defining conflict of this century.

We can differ on our views about the best course for achieving peace, but we must not allow our conclusions to determine which facts we acknowledge and which we don’t. Let us certainly not distort or bend the truth to satisfy our preconceptions. In these times of universal deceit, it must become a moral duty for all citizens to confront misuses of language and history.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.