Syria Warns of Nuclear Terrorism

Smoke billows from the site of a reported airstrike on the industrial area of Idlib, in northwestern Syria on February 11. The Syrian and Russian armed forces have continued an assault on Syria’s final jihadi-dominated province, drawing criticism from the West for a mounting civilian death toll. ABDULAZIZ KETAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Syria Warns of ‘Terrorists’ Using Nuclear Weapons as War Worsens at Home

By Tom O’Connor On 2/11/20 at 4:51 PM EST

A senior Syrian official warned world powers of the potential of militant groups gaining access to nuclear weapons as a war at home worsened among both domestic and international forces.

Bassam Sabbagh, Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told an agency gathering on Tuesday that “the issue of nuclear security has emerged during the past decade as an important issue that calls the attention of the international community and that the convening of this conference for the third time reflects the increasing importance of nuclear security as a common global area of concern,” according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

The diplomat argued that criminal or “terrorist” groups could potentially get their hands on and use nuclear or radioactive material to advance their agendas, presenting a major threat to global security, especially as borders are increasingly violated and cyberwarfare becomes increasingly commonplace. He invited foreign delegates to visit Syria and pool their efforts against such risks.

Though a nearly nine-year nationwide civil war has calmed in many parts of the country, it has intensified in the northwest in recent months. Here, failing cease-fires between Russia and Turkey have given way to a government offensive in Idlib, the last province largely under the control of rebels and jihadis battling overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite Moscow’s efforts to prevent direct hostilities between the forces of Ankara and Damascus, recent deadly exchanges threatened to erupt into a wider conflict between neighboring states in the Middle East.

Israel is the only country believed to possess nuclear weapons in the region, though it does not officially acknowledge such a program. The country, however, admitted its role in conducting airstrikes targeting nuclear reactors in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007 and has also been accused of participating jointly with the United States in efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear activities.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in his opening statement on Monday at the ongoing nuclear conference that “nuclear security applies to every country, whether it does or does not have nuclear and other radioactive material.” He added: “Threats to nuclear security know no borders and the IAEA is the focal point for international cooperation to ensure that we can all work together to address and respond to this global challenge.”

The war in Syria has demonstrated a particular tendency to cross international boundaries, with groups coming from across the region and beyond to back multiple, opposing factions. Though nuclear weapons have yet to factor into the conflict, the U.N.’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has recorded multiple uses of chemical warfare, the majority of which it has blamed on the Syrian government.

Syria and its allies have denied such allegations, blaming insurgents for staging such attacks in a bid for international support. Last week, the Russian military warned, without evidence, that members of the Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, would release footage of a fake chemical attack in Idlib, where the Syrian military has recently made gains.

Defying Western sanctions and calls for his ousting, Assad has continued to reassert control over Syria with support from Russia and Iran. His international backers have entered into talks with pro-opposition Turkey in an attempt to find peace, but a deteriorating security situation in Idlib has complicated diplomacy.

This combination of pictures provided by the Israeli army reportedly shows an aerial view of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor during bombardment in 2007. Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Monday that “nuclear security applies to every country, whether it does or does not have nuclear and other radioactive material.” Israeli Army/AFP/Getty Images

The renegade province is home to millions of civilians, much of them displaced from fighting elsewhere in the country, but is also dominated by the former Al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The jihadi coalition has refused calls to disarm and the Syrian military and its allies have continued to launch attacks, recently renewing an assault that has seen strategic towns and sites restored to the government.

Turkish troops also hold positions in Idlib, however, and have been hit by Syrian attacks. Twice Turkish troops were killed by Syrian shelling in the past week, and both times the Turkish armed forces retaliated, claiming to have “neutralized” dozens of Syrian soldiers in retaliation.

As the latest deadly confrontation between Syria and Turkey played out on Tuesday, a Syrian military helicopter over Idlib was also downed over by suspected insurgent surface-to-air fire.

The U.S. has so far largely avoided the hostilities in Idlib. President Donald Trump’s administration has, however, repeatedly accused Syria and Russia of targeting civilians while the U.S. occasionally staged its own operations there, including airstrikes on Al-Qaeda and an October raid in which the leader of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) was killed.

U.S. troops are mostly deployed farther east in Syria, where Trump has tasked them with maintaining control of the country’s oil fields in partnership with the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces.

Babylon the Great Challenges the Iraqi Horn

Image result for us bases iraq

US Announces Three New Bases in Iraq After Iraqis Demand Full Withdrawal

The three sites chosen for the news bases, Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja just eight miles from its border.

January 29th, 2020 By Alan Macleod

Less than a week after millions of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the U.S. military leave for good, the United States announced that is planning to build three new military bases in Iraq, according to military news service Breaking Defense. The three sites chosen – Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja – are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja (the site of the 1988 chemical weapons attack) just eight miles from the border.

The news will come as a shock to the Iraqi parliament, who earlier this month voted overwhelmingly (with some abstentions) to expel American forces from the country. But the U.S. government has flatly refused to leave. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, adding, “We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries… We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.” Earlier this month the U.S. decided to send an extra 3,000 troops to the region.

President Trump responded by threatening sweeping mass punishments against the Iraqi people. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” he said. U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s are thought to have killed over one million people, including over half a million young children. Successive U.N. diplomats in charge of Iraq during the sanctions denounced them as genocide against its people. Trump said his sanctions would make the ones on Iran look tame by comparison.

“If there’s any hostility,” he said, “we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions.” Trump also threatened to commit genocide against the people of Iran, destroying their cultural heritage sites in a move condemned by many and compared to the Taliban’s destruction of the world-renowned Buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan.

Despite the president’s threats, enormous numbers of Iraqis heeded Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for a “million man march” in Baghdad last week. While Time magazine claimed there were only “hundreds” in attendance, drone footage told a very different story. Some estimates put the total at over 2.5 million. And despite Bloomberg Quick Take originally claiming that they were “anti-government demonstrations,” the huge banner on the main stage reading “GET OUT AMERICA”in uppercase English letters suggested otherwise.

Hostilities between the United States and Iran threatened to spiral out of control after the January 3 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani had been invited to Baghdad by Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi for regional peace talks. Abdul-Mahdi asked Trump for permission for Soleimani to enter Iraq. Trump accepted, then used the opportunity to kill the general with a drone strike, something the Iraqi parliament declared a violation of their national sovereignty. In retaliation, the Iranians fired ballistic missiles at U.S.-occupied bases in Iraq, causing pinpoint damage, but no fatalities, as the U.S. was warned of the impending response. The Pentagon has said that dozens of troops have suffered brain injuries as a result, but the president disagrees, claiming they amount to little more than headaches.

The plan to build new bases will be seen in Iran as an attempt to tighten the noose around it more tightly.There are already over 65,000 American military personnel in neighboring countries. The U.S. continues to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan since the invasions launched in the wake of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.

Since 2003, an estimated 2.4 million people have been killed in the U.S. war on Iraq. One of the consequences of the wars in the Middle East was the rise of the Islamic State, which itself has led to further conflict. The U.S. military also operates from a network of bases in Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and many other states in the region.

The move to establish three new U.S. military bases on Iran’s borders will not be a welcome move to those who wish to deescalate tensions, least of all by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, who moved their Doomsday Clock to just 100 seconds to midnight, citing a possible regional nuclear catastrophe as a factor.

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of

The IRGC Will Control Iran

IRGC LIED to President Rouhani over Ukrainian jet crash

By Ryan Fahey For Mailonline 07:10 EST 27 Jan 2020 , updated 09:46 EST 27 Jan 2020

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps lied to President Hassan Rouhani by telling him they had not shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet while they scrambled to cover up the disaster, a new report claims.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the top commander of the IRGC’s aerospace division, suspected that two Iranian anti-aircraft missiles had destroyed a Ukrainian Airlines passenger jet just outside of Tehran almost immediately after it happened.

In a later televised broadcast, Hajizadeh said that on the night of the disaster, he contacted the top brass of the IRGC to tell them what had happened.

He said that he admitted to them ‘it’s highly possible we hit our own plane,’ according to a report from the New York Times published on Sunday.

On January 8, amid rising tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard shot down a Ukrainian Boeing plane as it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 passengers on-board.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a speech on upcoming parliamentary elections, in Tehran last week. When Rouhani finally found out it was Iranian missiles that downed the Ukrainian passenger jet, he threatened to resign if the IRGC refused to announce the news internationally

Head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division Amir Ali Hajizadeh speaks to media during a press conference in Tehran in September last year. Hajizadeh said that he suspected it was Iranian missiles that had downed the plane soon after he learnt of the catastrophe, according to a report

Video appears to show missile hitting Ukrainian plane

Due to the complex political and clerical hierarchy in Iran, the elite IRGC reports solely to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not to the country’s president.

The IRGC made every effort to hide the truth from Rouhani, with the leaders ensuring the truth was kept among themselves and not learned of by anyone, the report alleges.

They set-up a top-secret committee to investigate the cause of the attack, eventually deciding that the missiles had been launched due to ‘human-error’.

In the aftermath of the catastrophe, officials from Rouhani’s government adamantly  denied any Iranian involvement.

Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, called international accusations a ‘big lie’.

The report, which gives a day-by-day chronology of the events after the crash, alleges that by Thursday, government officials were becoming suspicious of the military’s denials.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gives his first Friday sermon after eight years in the Imam Khomeini Musalla, in Tehran, Iran on January 17, 2020. The IRGC kept President Hassan Rouhani in the dark for three days. The Revolutionary Guard report directly to Khamenei, not to the president

Iran admits ‘unintentionally’ shooting down Ukrainian jet

‘Thursday was frantic,’ Rabiei said later in a news conference. ‘The government made back-to-back phone calls and contacted the armed forces asking what happened, and the answer to all the questions was that no missile had been fired.’

According to the New York Times, Rouhani attempted to contact a number of military commanders who blanked his calls.

It wasn’t until Friday – two days later – that the miltary commanders called a meeting to enlighten their president of the truth.

Iran has said it has ‘no plans’ to send the black boxes from downed Ukrainian passenger plane to Kyiv less than 24 hours after stating they would be sent. (Pictured: Black boxes from flight)

The Revolutionary Guard shot down the Ukrainian airlines passenger plane – killing all 176 people on board – when it took off from Tehran on January 8. (Bodies at the crash scene)

Iranians react after Tehran admits shooting down plane by mistake

After Rouhani discovered what had happened, he pushed for the news to be broadcast quickly, which was then resisted by IRGC leaders. 

It took him threatening his resignation for them to give in, according to the New York Times.

On January 11, three days after the crash, Iran announced that they had ‘regrettably’ fired missiles at the jet ‘due to human error’ and killed ‘176 innocent people.’

Babylon the Great Is Out, the Shi’a Horn Is In

See the source image

Iran abandons nuclear limits, Iraq’s parliament votes to expel US troops after strike on general

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – The blowback over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general mounted Sunday asIran announced it will no longer abide by the limits contained in the 2015 nuclear deal and Iraq’s Parliament called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.

The twin developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.

Iranian state television cited a statement by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration saying the country would not observe the deal’s restrictions on fuel enrichment, on the size of its enriched uranium stockpile and on its research and development activities.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran no longer faces any limitations in operations,” a state TV broadcaster said.

In Iraq, meanwhile, lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution calling for an end to the foreign military presence in the country, including the estimated 5,200 U.S. troops stationed to help fight Islamic State extremists. The bill is subject to approval by the Iraqi government but has the backing of the outgoing prime minister.

In yet another sign of rising tensions and threats of retaliation over the deadly airstrike, the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq said it is putting the battle against IS on hold to focus on protecting its own troops and bases.

The string of developments capped a day of mass mourning over Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets in the cities of Ahvaz and Mashhad to walk alongside the casket of Soleimani, who was the architect of Iran’s proxy wars across the Mideast and was blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in suicide bombings and other attacks.

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment on Iran’s announcement.

As for the troop-withdrawal vote in Iraq, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. is awaiting clarification on its legal meaning but was “disappointed” by the move and strongly urged Iraq to reconsider.

“We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together,” Ortagus said.

The leaders of Germany, France and Britain issued a joint statement on Sunday calling on Iran to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal and refrain from conducting or supporting further “violent acts.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson specifically urged Iran to “withdraw all measures” not in line with the 2015 agreement that was intended to stop Tehran from pursuing its atomic weapons program.

Iran insisted that it remains open to negotiations with European partners over its nuclear program. And it did not back off from earlier promises that it wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon.

However, the announcement represents the clearest nuclear proliferation threat yet made by Iran since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. It further raises regional tensions, as Iran’s longtime foe Israel has promised never to allow Iran to produce an atomic bomb.

Iran did not elaborate on what levels it would immediately reach in its program. Tehran has already broken some of the deal’s limits as part of a step-by-step pressure campaign to get sanctions relief. It has increased its production, begun enriching uranium to 5% and restarted enrichment at an underground facility.

While it does not possess uranium enriched to weapons-grade levels of 90%, any push forward narrows the estimated one-year “breakout time” needed for it to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon if it chose to do so.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations watchdog observing Iran’s program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Iran said that its cooperation with the IAEA “will continue as before.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi earlier told journalists that Soleimani’s killing would prompt Iranian officials to take a bigger step away from the nuclear deal.

“In the world of politics, all developments are interconnected,” Mousavi said.

In Iraq, where the airstrike has been denounced as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said that the government has two choices: End the presence of foreign troops or restrict their mission to training Iraqi forces. He called for the first option.

The majority of about 180 legislators present in Parliament voted in favor of the troop-removal resolution. It was backed by most Shiite members of Parliament, who hold a majority of seats. Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal.

Total Ignorance in the White House

Washington Does Not Understand Consequences Of Soleimani’s Killing – OpEd

January 5, 2020 Jonas Dringelis* 0 Comments

By Jonas Dringelis*

The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that Trump had ordered the attack that killed Soleimaniand other military officials at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Iran’s top “shadow commander” was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more, the State Department said.

By ordering the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Trump has demonstrated to Iran’s leaders that he will take “swift, decisive” actions to protect Americans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Iran, meanwhile, warned that “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S. following the strike that killed the leader of the Quds Force.

“Definitely there will be revenge. There will be harsh revenge,” Iranian Ambassador to the U.N. Majid Takht Ravanchi told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday. “Iran will act based on its own choosing, the time, the place…We will decide.”

In his turn, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani promised early Friday to “take revenge for this heinous crime” carried out by the United States. Rouhani also said Iran would “raise the flag” of Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, “in defense of the country’s territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also warned that “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S.

 

The Iranian leadership is signaling that it will probably target US military installations and bases in the Middle East and mobilize its network of militias across the region.

Thus, the head of Iran’s parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, Mojtaba Zul-Nur, said that some 36 US military bases and facilities are within reach of Iran’s defense forces, with the closest being in Bahrain.

As you can see, the situation in the Middle East is changing rapidly.

Everyone understands that US provocation can lead to serious consequences – to war. Since the assassination of Suleymani is not just a political assassination, but an attempt on Tehran’s right to be an independent political player in the region.

Definitely, there will be an answer. It may not be right now, but the Iranian people is proud. Iran could response even tomorrow in Yemen or in Lebanon or in Israel, the U.S. reliable ally.

Furthermore, retaliation can reach all the countries provided their territories to the Americans. Iran could target any country where the U.S. has its military bases and troops.

As far as the position of influential neighbors with nuclear weapons (Pakistan and Russia) is concerned, this fall, Pakistan Senate Deputy Chairman Salim Mandvival said, “I think it is impossible to drive Iran into a corner. Iran obviously has its allies.” He stressed that Pakistan has very good relations with Iran and the Muslim countries of the Middle East cannot fight each other, since such a war will lead to other wars.

The World is waiting for which side Russia will take. The position of Russia is still undefined, but obvious

Iran plans to strike back at the US with fire

Iran’s response to US will be military — Khamenei’s advisor

The United States killed Iran’s top general and architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport on Jan. 2, an attack that threatens to dramatically ratchet up tensions in the region.

(Pictured) President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks on Iran, at his Mar-a-Lago property, on Jan. 3 in Palm Beach, Fla.

The military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader said Sunday that Tehran’s response to the killing by the United States of its most most influential general will “for sure be military.”

In an exclusive interview with CNN in Tehran, the adviser — Maj. Gen. Hossein Dehghan — made the most specific and direct threat yet by a senior Iranian official following the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Dehghan said Iran would retaliate directly against US “military sites.”

Dehghan is a former defense minister and is now the main military adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He told CNN that reprisals would come from Iran itself, not its allied militia in the region.

“It might be argued that there could be proxy operations.We can say America, Mr. Trump, has taken action directly against us — so we take direct action against America.”

The United States has a growing military presence in the region. Thousands of US troops have been deployed to Saudi Arabia, and there are some 5,000 at bases in Iraq. The US also has a major air base in Qatar and a naval presence in Bahrain, as well as troops stationed in Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

In common with other Iranian officials, Dehghan suggested that Iran was in no hurry to retaliate and would choose its targets carefully. “Our reaction will be wise, well considered and in time, with decisive deterrent effect.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had earlier said that Americans would face consequences for killing Soleimani “not only today, but also in the coming years.”

Given the rhetoric of both sides, there is a growing risk of escalation in what has become the most dangerous confrontation between the US and Iran in decades.

Late Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted that “If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!”

The President continued: “They attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!”

Dehghan responded defiantly to Trump’s warning.

“It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions,” he said.

“The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward they should not seek a new cycle.”

In recent months, officials in the Trump administration and even the President himself have floated the possibility of renewed dialogue with Iran. Dehghan dismissed that possibility.

“Look, for several reasons we didn’t want to negotiate with this incumbent US administration. Now, after what happened to Mr. Soleimani there is no point for negotiations or relations. It’s impossible.”

‘Gangster and a gambler’

Dehgahn also responded to Trump’s threat to include Iranian cultural sites among 52 targets the US had selected to strike in the event of Iranian retaliation. The number was chosen to match the number of hostages taken in the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy, Trump said.

Dehghan said the tweets were ridiculous and absurd. “If he says 52 we say 300 — and they are accessible to us,” Dehghan said. “No American military staff, no American political center, no American military base, no American vessel will be safe.

“He doesn’t know international law. He doesn’t recognize UN resolutions either. Basically he is a veritable gangster and a gambler.”

At one point in the interview, Dehghan pulled out a picture of Soleimani and held it up to the camera.

“All Iranians are Qasem Soleimani,” he said, and insisted the Quds force, which Soleimani had led since 2003, would not be weakened by his death. The Quds have been responsible for projecting Iranian influence across the Middle East and beyond and have played a major role in supporting the Assad regime in Syria.

“The person who has replaced him has been cooperating with him for two decades. He has the same manner and method,” Dehghan said.

Iran’s will to defend its interests “has increased a thousand times. We don’t feel anything. We have a logic, the logic of martyrdom.”

As the war of words escalates, Dehghan echoed the comments of other senior Iranian officials that the country was not seeking war.

“Let me tell you one thing: Our leadership has officially announced that we have never been seeking war and we will not be seeking war.”

But his demand that the US not respond to any reprisals by Iran for Soleimani’s killing will surely fall on deaf ears. This cycle of violence accelerated when a US contractor was killed in a rocket attack on a joint US-Iraqi military base on December 29th.

US officials held a pro-Iranian militia responsible for the attack. Its leader was killed along with Soleimani in the US drone strike in Baghdad.

Warren Says the Truth: It’s About Trump’s Impeachment

 

Elizabeth Warren Questions Timing of Iran Attack

Today 3:05pm

Image: via Getty

On Meet the Press on Sunday, Elizabeth Warren pointed out that the timing on Donald Trump’s ordered assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani seems just a tad fishy.

We are not safer because Donald Trump had Soleimani killed,” Warren told host Chuck Todd. “We are much closer to the edge of war. The question is, why now?”

Indeed, why now? What could possibly be happening that might inspire Trump to drastically alter the course of political discussion?

Ah, right.

I think the question people reasonably ask is next week, Donald Trump faces the start, potentially, of an impeachment trial,” Warren said. “Why now? I think people are starting to ask, ‘Why now, did he do this?’”

I’m no foreign policy expert—unlike, it seems, everyone on my Twitter timeline suddenly—but the timing on the Soleimani attack seems pretty obvious, right? Even Todd admitted that this week’s Meet the Press show would have focused on impeachment, had Trump not stoked the fires for a potential World War III. I’m not sure people are asking, “Why now?” as Warren posits, so much as they are saying, “Yes, I know exactly why now.”

In fact, the Republican presidential playbook seems to involve starting wars in the first term to ensure re-election in the second term. It hasn’t worked for every president, but it certainly worked for Ellen Degeneres’s best friend, and it might work for this one, too.

Here’s Why Trump Killed Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani

Here’s why neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, who the US just took out in an airstrike

Grace Panetta

• On Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed that US forces killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad’s airport at the direction of President Donald Trump.

• As the leader of the elite and secretive Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani abetted terrorism and violence throughout the region, including against US troops.

Neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama took action as president to target Soleimani or the Quds Force.

• Former military and intelligence officials have cited the potential for retaliation from Iran against US troops, diplomats, and allied forces in the region as a major reason for not killing Soleimani previously.

• In the immediate aftermath of the strike on Soleimani, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that “harsh retaliation” would be waiting for the US.

On Thursday evening, the Pentagon confirmed that at the direction of President Donald Trump, US forces killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike near Baghdad’s airport, the most drastic step toward conflict with Iran in the 21st century.

Soleimani was for decades one of the most important and highly regarded military figures in Iran, playing a pivotal role in shaping Iranian foreign policy and the politics of the Middle East today.

The killing of the high-level commander, first reported by Iraqi state TV and later confirmed in a Pentagon statement, is the US’s most significant escalation of tensions against Iran yet and is likely to further inflame conflict in the region and provoke severe retaliation.

In the immediate aftermath of the strike on Soleimani, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that “harsh retaliation” would be waiting for the US, while a former military official, Mohsen Rezaee, vowed to “take vigorous revenge on America.”

As the leader of the elite and secretive Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which carries out foreign intelligence operations outside of Iran, Soleimani abetted terrorism and violence throughout the region on several fronts. The Pentagon said he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US service members in Iraq and beyond.

Soleimani’s intelligence work focused on bolstering the influence of Shiite Muslims by helping build up the firepower of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, supporting Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip, and attacking American forces in Iraq, The New York Times reported.

Most recently, Soleimani was best known for taking on the terrorist group ISIS to bolster Bashar Assad’s government in Syria.

Despite the havoc Soleimani wreaked on the Middle East, neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama took action as president to target Soleimani or anyone from the Quds Force.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan who worked as a CIA analyst and Pentagon official on Middle East issues under both Bush and Obama, shed some insight on Friday on why neither administration tried to kill Soleimani.

Slotkin wrote in a Twitter thread that she “participated in countless conversations on how to respond to Qassem Soleimani’s violent campaigns across the region,” adding that the “sophistication of Soleimani’s covert and overt military activities” had “contributed to significant destabilization across the region.”

Previous administrations decided that attacking Soleimani wasn’t worth the risk

Slotkin said that “what always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?”

She added that “the two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means.”

Specifically, Slotkin cited the potential for retaliation from Iran against US troops, diplomats, and allied forces in the region as a major reason, writing that “it is critical that the Administration has thought out the moves and counter-moves this attack will precipitate.”

So far, analysts and experts have predicted that Iran could retaliate against the United States in the form of cyberattacks and targeting US military personnel and diplomats in the region. In the aftermath of the attacks, the US State Department ordered all American citizens in Iraq to leave the country.

But as Iran expert and Carnegie Endowment senior fellow Karim Sadjadpour noted on Friday, Iran’s possible retaliatory actions against the United States could extend to its network of proxies far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East itself. 

Sadjadpour wrote on Twitter that instead of Iran engaging in a direct armed conflict with the US, “what’s more likely is sustained proxy attacks against US interests/allies regionally and even globally,” noting that “Iran has a long history of such attacks in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with mixed success.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command in the Bush administration, in a 2009 article for Foreign Policy recounted his decision not to attack Soleimani’s convoy in Iraq on a night in 2007.

McChrystal said that while “there was good reason” to attack Soleimani over the deaths of US forces by Iranian-placed roadside bombs in Iraq, “to avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately.”

“Despite my initial jealousy of Suleimani’s freedom to get things done quickly, I believe such restraint is a strength of the US political system,” he wrote. “A zealous and action-oriented mindset, if unchecked, can be used as a force for good — but if harnessed to the wrong interests or values, the consequences can be dire.”

US policy toward Iran shifted markedly in the Obama administration, which attempted to improve relations with Iran and ended up negotiating a landmark nuclear deal in 2015. Under the conditions of the deal, it wouldn’t have made sense for the US to take out one of the country’s top officials.

Questions remain surrounding the rationale behind the US’ decision to strike Soleimani now

But Trump, who criticized Obama’s Iran policy for years, took a more aggressive approach toward Iran, withdrawing from the nuclear agreement and significantly inflaming tensions both by antagonizing Iranian officials on Twitter, and the military expanding its presence in the region.

Michael Singh, who was a senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council under Bush and is now the managing director of The Washington Institute, told Insider that Trump’s more adversarial posturing toward Iran and the failures of past policy likely drove the administration to take the drastic step of killing Soleimani.

“Previous administrations concluded that the risks of targeting high-level figures outweighed the prospective benefits,” he said. “The Trump administration — mindful, perhaps, of the unsatisfying results of past US restraint — clearly reached a different conclusion.”

In a Friday Twitter thread, veteran foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, who covers the Middle East and groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda for The New York Times, reported even more details that cast significant doubt on the Pentagon’s claim that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack that would pose a direct threat to American lives and interests.

Citing US intelligence officials briefed on the strike, Callimachi described the purported evidence of Soleimani’s planned moves as “razor-thin,” with one source describing the justification for taking out Soleimani as making an “illogical leap.”

Callimachi also suggested that both the very hasty preparation for and execution of the strike, which the administration carried out without thoroughly briefing Congress, indicated that Trump may have decided to strike Soleimani at this particular moment partly to distract from the impending impeachment trial in the US Senate.

The upcoming trial will receive significant national attention and subject the president to even more scrutiny as it weighs whether to convict Trump on articles of abusing his office and obstructing Congress.

“No one’s trying to downplay Suleimani’s crimes. The question is why now? His whereabouts have been known before. His resume of killing-by-proxy is not a secret,” she wrote, adding that it was, “hard to decouple his killing from the impeachment saga.”

John Haltiwanger contributed to this report.

Trump Wanted to Cross the Redline (Revelation 6:6)

From resort amid palm trees, Trump settled on Iran strike

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press

Posted 4 hours, 30 minutes ago

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — At the midway point of his annual Christmas vacation, President Donald Trump huddled at his Florida club with his top national security advisers. Days earlier, a rocket attack by an Iranian-funded group struck a U.S.-Iraqi base, killing an American contractor and wounding several others.

Trump’s advisers presented him with an array of options for responding, including the most dramatic possible response: taking out Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the man responsible for hundreds of Americans deaths.

Trump immediately wanted to target Soleimani. It was a decision his predecessors had avoided and one that risked inflaming tensions with Tehran. Some advisers voiced concern about the legal justification for a strike without evidence of an imminent attack in the works against Americans. So other options were discussed in the coming days with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, including bombing the base of the group blamed for killing the U.S. contractor.

But Trump remained focused on the option to target Soleimani, a preference that surprised the small circle of aides because the president had long been reluctant to deepen U.S. military engagement around the world. By Thursday, officials believed they had intelligence indicating Soleimani was plotting against Americans, though it’s unclear when that intelligence became known to U.S. officials.

Trump slipped out of a meeting with political advisers that day to give the final go-ahead. His decision to authorize the drone strike has sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East and dramatically escalated tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

It wasn’t the first time that Trump’s lush Mar-a-Lago resort, with its $200,000 annual membership and Atlantic Ocean vistas, had been the backdrop for a momentous national security decision.

In February 2017, Trump huddled on the patio with Japan’s Shinzo Abe, in full view of club members eating dinner, to weigh a response to a North Korean missile test. Two months later, Trump authorized a U.S. missile strike on Syria, then shared chocolate cake with China’s President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Mar-a-Lago for meetings.

Trump spent much of this vacation angry about the attack on the American contractor. He stayed largely out of sight in Florida, emerging only for rounds of golf at his other nearby club and mingling with guests at a New Year’s Eve party.

Wearing a tux, Trump was asked by a reporter if he foresaw a chance of war with Iran. Raising his voice to be heard over the holiday revelers, Trump said he wanted “to have peace.”

“And Iran should want peace more than anybody,” he said. “So I don’t see that happening. No, I don’t think Iran would want that to happen. It would go very quickly.”

He betrayed no indication of the momentous decision he was already weighing. More than a half-dozen administration officials, congressional staffers and advisers close to the White House described Trump’s decision-making. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private deliberations.

After Trump leaped at the option to take out Soleimani, national security officials debated about where the targeted strike should happen if they proceeded. Most did not want to attack Soleimani in Iraq, given the presence of U.S. troops there and the already tenuous situation on the ground. Some argued for the operation to occur when Soleimani was traveling in Lebanon or Syria. But when they learned Soleimani would be traveling to Baghdad on Jan. 2, they decided targeting him at the airport was their best opportunity.

Earlier that day, Trump was meeting with his political advisers about his reelection campaign when he was summoned to give the final go-ahead. Officials believed they had a legal justification and would cite intelligence suggesting that Soleimani was traveling in the Middle East to put final touches on plans for attacks that would have hit U.S. diplomats, soldiers and American facilities in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

U.S. officials have not been more specific about the intelligence. A congressional aide briefed by the administration on Friday said officials offered compelling details about Iran’s intentions and capabilities, but not about the timing of the supposed attacks on Americans.

The deliberations and Trump’s final decision came quickly enough that in the hours before the attack Thursday night (early Friday in Baghdad), contingency plans for a potential Iranian response were still being finalized. The White House communications team was not given a heads-up about the strike, leaving the staff scrambling as news of the explosion spread.

The president told one confidant after the attack that he wanted to deliver a warning to Iran not to mess with American assets. Trump said he was also eager to project global strength and replicate the message he believed he sent last year after approving the raid to kill Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: the U.S. would find its enemies anywhere in the world.

Still, administration officials acknowledged that Soleimani’s killing carried a high risk of Iranian retaliation. The Pentagon is sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the Mideast and some troops are on standby to travel to Beirut if more security is needed at the American Embassy there.

Hundreds of soldiers deployed Saturday from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait. A loading ramp was filled with combat gear and restless soldiers. Some tried to grab a last-minute nap on wooden benches. The wife of a member of the 82nd Airborne who deployed earlier this past week said his departure was so abrupt she didn’t have the chance to say goodbye in person or by phone. “The kids kept going, ‘When’s dad going to be home?’” said April Shumard, 42. “It’s literally thrown me for a loop. And him as well. He’s still in disbelief of where he’s gone. Our heads are spun.”

As Trump addressed the nation Friday for the first time after Soleimani’s killing, he declared that the Iranian general’s “reign of terror was over.”

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” he said.

___

Lee reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Lolita C. Baldor and Zeke Miller in Washington; Sarah Blake Morgan Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

The Shi’a Sickle is Coming (Daniel 8:8)

‘Revenge awaits’: Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei promises retribution for drone strikes

by Spencer Neale  | January 03, 2020 10:09 AM

by Spencer Neale

| January 03, 2020 10:09 AM

Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has promised vengeance after his top general was killed during a drone strike led by U.S. forces in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday.

“With his departure and with God’s power, his work and path will not cease, and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood and the blood of the other martyrs of last night’s incident,” said a statement released by Khamenei.

A drone strike outside the Baghdad International Airport killed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps elite Quds force Gen. Qassem Soleimani, 62, and Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces boss Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, 66, better known as Abu Mahdi al Muhandis to Western forces.

Former CIA official John Maguire once referred to Soleimani as “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today.” He was instrumental in leading insurgents in Northern Iraq and Syria, where he helped support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

“Gen. Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”