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 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 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.

Trump Continues to Deny the Plague (Revelation 6:8)

‘Pathetic!’: Trump Blasts COVID Adviser Birx

(Newser) – President Trump isn’t shy about expressing displeasure with Dr. Anthony Fauci, and on Monday he slammed fellow COVID adviser Dr. Deborah Birx for the first time, reports Axios. Trump’s criticism came after Birx issued a dire coronavirus outlook for the US, saying the disease was in a “new phase” and was now more widespread than it was in March or April. The president accused Birx of caving to pressure from Nancy Pelosi, who’d earlier criticized Birx for going along with the president too much and painting too rosy of a picture. “So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics,” Trump wrote. “In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!”

The background on that Pelosi criticism: Last week, Politico reported that in a closed-door meeting, the House speaker told top White House officials that Birx “was the worst” and that the White House was in “horrible hands” with her because Birx was spreading misinformation—or at least allowing Trump to spread it. Pelosi has since repeated similar criticism publicly, including on CNN Monday, when she said: “I don’t have confidence in anyone who stands there while the president says, ‘Swallow Lysol and it’s going to cure your virus.'” On Sunday, Birx defended herself against the Pelosi criticism, again on CNN. “I have never been called Pollyannish, or nonscientific, or non-data driven,” she said. “And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives.”

Thirty Years In The Iraqi Horn (Daniel 8:8)

The U.S. Military Has Now Been Engaged In Iraq For 30 Years

Paul Iddon

Aerospace & Defense

I write mostly about Middle East affairs, politics and history.

August 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Iraq’s infamous invasion of Kuwait. It also marks 30 years since the U.S. military begun its involvement in Iraq. An involvement that has lasted, in one form or another, almost continuously to this day.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein launched his invasion of Kuwait and conquered the tiny oil-rich sheikdom in a highly effective two-day operation. By doing so, he rapidly turned the United States and most of the world against him.

The George H.W. Bush administration promptly established a coalition consisting of 35 countries. It launched Operation Desert Shield, a military build-up in Saudi Arabia primarily aimed at protecting that kingdom from any potential Iraqi attack.

U.S. jets flying over burning oil wells in Kuwait [+]

U.S. Air Force photo

Saddam, likely believing the Americans were bluffing with their threat of military force, refused to withdraw from Kuwait by the deadline set by the United Nations Security Council. Consequently, in January 1991, the U.S. launched Operation Desert Storm, an enormous air campaign against Iraq that rapidly devastated both its armed forces and infrastructure.

Television viewers across the world saw the bombing of Baghdad in real-time. The U.S. military showcased its hi-tech military gear, particularly its stealthy F-117 Nighthawk bombers, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and various precision-guided ‘smart’ bombs.

The Iraqi military stood no chance against this superior firepower and technology.

Following Desert Storm, the U.S. launched a ground campaign called Operation Desert Sabre that lasted a mere 100-hours. U.S.-led armored forces battled the Iraqis in the desert and suffered minuscule losses compared to their Iraqi adversary. Iraqi forces fled Kuwait, after infamously looting it and setting its oil wells on fire, and the war was formally ended by a ceasefire by the end of February.

In the lead-up to the war, Bush had promised a quick and decisive victory, insisting that the Persian Gulf War would be nothing like the costly and demoralizing quagmire the U.S. experienced in Vietnam. In many ways, in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War, the U.S. felt it had gotten over its so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” since it achieved its objectives quickly and suffered few casualties.

However, the removal of Saddam’s forces from Kuwait and the ceasefire did not end the U.S. military’s involvement in Iraq. In many ways, it was merely the beginning.

Iraqi Shiites and Kurds rose against Saddam in March 1991, shortly after the U.S.-Iraq ceasefire. They believed that Bush’s suggestion that Iraqis should take matters into their own hands and overthrow Saddam from power meant that the U.S. military would support their uprising. Instead, it stood by.

Despite gaining much momentum and ground early on, the widespread uprisings were brutally crushed and countless numbers of people were massacred by Saddam’s ruthless forces.

Bush wanted to avoid becoming entangled in any internal conflict in Iraq. However, images of destitute Kurdish refugees fleeing into the mountains under fire from Saddam’s helicopter gunships resulted in widespread public pressure for the U.S. to do something.

After all, Bush had continuously compared Saddam to Hitler in the run-up to and during that war. But when Saddam began slaughtering his victims before the world’s eyes, Bush sought to keep the U.S. on the sidelines.

The U.S. finally did intervene in April 1991, establishing no-fly zones over large swathes of Iraq’s northern Kurdish region and the southern Shiite regions. Operation Provide Comfort saw the U.S. military and its allies Britain and France provide humanitarian aid to the Kurds and helped incubate the autonomous Kurdistan region that exists there today.

Saddam remained in power, presiding over large swathes of a largely destroyed and destitute country subjected to a crippling international embargo that further devastated its economy and left many Iraqis hungry.

The no-fly zones remained in place throughout Bill Clinton’s presidency and U.S., along with British and French, fighter jets often patrolled designated swathes of Iraq’s airspace. While Clinton opted to contain Saddam Hussein his administration also took some limited military action against Iraq throughout the 1990s.

In his first year in power, Clinton launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against Baghdad in retaliation over a suspected Iraqi plot to assassinate former President Bush while he was on a visit to Kuwait to commemorate the coalition’s victory in the Gulf War.

In October 1994, the U.S. also promptly deployed forces to Saudi Arabia in Operation Vigilant Warrior when it looked like Saddam was positioning force for a second invasion of Kuwait — which, of course, never happened.

Tomahawk cruise missile launch from USS LaBoon [+]

U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Wyane W. Edwards

Clinton’s pinpoint strikes often had a questionable impact on reprimanding certain actions of the Iraqi regime. For example, when Saddam briefly sent a large ground contingent to intervene in the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War in 1996, Clinton responded by firing cruise missiles at some remnants of Iraq’s air defense in the south of the country.

The most punitive strikes the U.S. military carried out against Iraq during Clinton’s administration was undoubtedly Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. The four-day bombing campaign aimed to degrade Iraq’s purported capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. It had debatable results.

Clinton was succeeded by President George W. Bush, who ran on a platform of isolationism regarding foreign policy in the 2000 presidential elections. Bush’s worldview, however, changed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Although Saddam’s Iraq had nothing to do with that terrorist atrocity, his regime soon found itself in the Bush administration’s crosshairs.

In March 2003, ditching prior containment efforts, the U.S. outright invaded Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It toppled the Iraqi regime under the pretext of preventing it from developing lethal weapons of mass destruction. It quickly became apparent, however, that Saddam’s prior efforts at developing such weapons had long since ceased before that invasion.

While the Iraqi armed forces promptly crumbled in the face of the coalition’s superior firepower, the U.S. quickly became embroiled in an occupation and conflict against various insurgents. Its early decision to disband the old Iraqi Army proved fatal since it antagonized tens-of-thousands of Iraqis who had military training overnight.

The U.S. also fought the ruthless Al-Qaeda in Iraq group, which sought to exploit Sunni disenchantment with the invasion and that minority’s displacement from power. Some of the bloodiest fighting experienced by U.S. forces during the Iraq War took place in Fallujah in late 2004 against entrenched Al-Qaeda militants. By the time the militants were routed much of that city was reduced to rubble.

Significant elements of Iraq’s Shiite-majority also at times violently opposed the U.S. presence, particularly forces loyal to the rabble-rousing Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Vicious sectarian conflict also consumed Iraq in this period and threatened to completely destroy its society.

U.S. troops in firefight with Iraqi insurgents in [+]

U.S. military photo.

Approximately 4,000 U.S. troops ultimately lost their lives throughout the Iraq War, which lasted from March 2003 until the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011. Tens-of-thousands of Iraqis, many of them civilians, also lost their lives during that period.

The U.S. military achieved some success in building up a new Iraqi government and army and briefly afflicting a series of strategic defeats against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, the Iraq War became widely opposed in the U.S. and viewed by many in retrospective as a costly and shameful blunder.

During the 2008 presidential elections, Barack Obama vowed to bring all U.S. troops home from Iraq. On the other hand, his opponent John McCain once suggested he would support the U.S. military having an open-ended presence in the country that could last up to 100 years. McCain cited long-term U.S. deployments to Germany and South Korea as possible precedents.

All U.S. troops in Iraq withdrew under the terms of a status of forces agreement reached with Baghdad during the Bush administration. For two years and seven months – between December 2011 and August 2014 – the U.S. military had no presence in Iraq, a conspicuously exceptional period in the last 30 years.

That all changed in Obama’s second term in office when the vicious Islamic State (ISIS) group took over one-third of Iraq, including the country’s second city Mosul, in the summer of 2014. ISIS quickly demonstrated its brutality and immense cruelty by subjecting the Yazidi minority of Sinjar to a campaign of genocide and slaughtering up to 1,700 unarmed Shiite Iraqi cadets at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.

The U.S. quickly established a multinational coalition to combat the terrorist group. Then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cited George H.W. Bush’s coalition to force Saddam out of Kuwait as a model for that new anti-ISIS coalition.

Operation Inherent Resolve, which is ongoing, relied heavily on airstrikes to target the group in both Iraq and Syria. Adverse to troop casualties and generally reluctant to have the U.S. become embroiled in Iraq again, Obama continuously vowed early in the campaign that he would avoid putting America ‘boots on the ground’.

Nevertheless, about 5,000 U.S. troops would redeploy to Iraq, mostly to train Iraqi and Kurdish military forces. U.S. special forces also participated in combat. The U.S. suffered minimal casualties, especially compared to the Iraq War.

Tens of thousands of U.S.-led airstrikes supported ground offensives by Iraqi forces, which gradually reclaimed territories and cities captured by ISIS. In 2015, the Iraqis recaptured Tikrit and Ramadi. In 2016, it recaptured Fallujah from the group. In October 2016, Iraqi forces launched the lengthy and ferocious battle to reclaim Mosul.

That urban campaign lasted until July 2017 and saw much of the city’s west side reduced to rubble after months of bitter fighting and hundreds of supporting air and artillery strikes.

U.S. commanders watch High Mobility Artillery [+]

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Ryan Alvis

Even after the complete destruction of its self-styled caliphate, ISIS still retains a dangerous presence in Iraq. The U.S. troop presence in the country has also become increasingly contentious.

In December 2018, Obama’s successor Donald Trump made a surprise visit to U.S. troops stationed at the Al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western Anbar province. He did not meet any Iraqi officials on that unannounced visit. Many officials in Baghdad perceived the stunt as both a snub and a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.

Shortly after that, Trump further inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment in the country when he suggested the U.S. could use Al-Asad to “watch Iran.”

Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militias began increasingly targeting Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops with mortars and rockets. After one such attack killed a U.S. civilian contractor in Kirkuk in December 2019, the U.S. retaliated with a series of airstrikes that killed several members of the militia it suspected of carrying out that attack.

Then, on January 3, 2020, a U.S. drone strike killed Iraqi Shiite militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis alongside Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) extraterritorial Quds Forces, in Baghdad. Iran retaliated with ballistic missiles attacks targeting two U.S. bases, including Al-Asad, a few days later, leaving several U.S. troops with traumatic brain injuries.

Calls in Baghdad for evicting U.S. troops from Iraq once again intensified.

Today, 30 years after U.S. troops began their deployment to Saudi Arabia in response to Saddam’s aggression against Kuwait, the U.S. military retains a troop presence in Iraq and remains active in that country.

If the incumbent President Trump loses this year’s presidential election, then the fifth Iraq handoff will automatically commence. In other words, a Joe Biden administration will become the fifth U.S. administration in a row that inherits a status-quo in which the U.S. military has substantial involvement in Iraq.

It’s unclear how much longer the U.S. military will remain in Iraq. If this history is any indicator, the U.S. military will remain engaged in and with Iraq in one way or another for at least the foreseeable future.

Follow me on Twitter. 

 

I am a journalist/columnist based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan from where I’ve been writing about regional affairs for five years now.

Trump Tries to Stop the Plague (Revelation 6)

Largest Vaccine Trial Yet Gets Underway

About 30K volunteers will receive shots in tests by Moderna for a coronavirus vaccine

John Johnson

In this March 16, 2020, photo, a subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19 at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(Newser) – The early, small-scale testing is over, and now the largest trial to date for a COVID-19 vaccine is underway, reports the AP. This one involves the vaccine made by Moderna, and the first of 30,000 volunteers in the US will begin getting shots on Monday. Half will get the real thing, half a placebo, and researchers will then begin assessing how well it keeps people from contracting the coronavirus around the US. The Moderna vaccine is the first of a handful of candidates to reach this stage—another out of Oxford University begins its large-scale trial in August. Coverage:

• Reality check: Under the best-case scenario, an initial vaccine might be available by the end of the year, but the first one to emerge might be more about reducing the severity of the virus rather than eliminating it, reports Axios. “Maybe it doesn’t prevent you from getting infected, but it prevents you from getting hospitalized, or prevents you from dying,” says a John Hopkins expert. Still, even “that would be huge.”

• Reality check, II: Another issue is that if enough people decide to skip the vaccine—and polls suggest roughly half of Americans are either leaning that way or unsure—that makes it harder for “herd immunity” to emerge, reports the Atlantic. Then there’s the staggering logistics of getting 300 million doses ready for the US, or perhaps 600 million doses if a second dose is needed, as seems likely. “Even when a vaccine is introduced, I think we will have several months of significant infection or at least risk of infection to look forward to,” says Jesse Goodman, former chief scientist at the FDA.

• Side effects: The vaccines that emerge are likely to be “reactogenic,” reports STAT News, meaning they will have side effects including headache, fever, sore arms, fatigue, and chills. For example, one of the early volunteers in the Moderna trial sought medical care after his fever spiked to 103 after his second dose. Medical experts say it’s wise to begin explaining all of this now to Americans.

• Trump message: A separate story at Axios focuses on the political aspect of this for President Trump, predicting that his new strategy will be to focus heavily on vaccines and treatments. “If he … stays on message and offers people a light at the end of the COVID tunnel, he’s gonna be in a lot stronger position to win reelection than I think a lot of people think right now,” one administration official tells the outlet.

• Warp Speed: Moderna is one of a number of companies getting support from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed project to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible, reports CNN. The company said Sunday it received another $472 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority toward that end.

The Delicate Balance of the Shi’a Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Delicate relationship care of Iraq and Iran

For two months he is in office. Earlier this week, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has traveled to a visit to Tehran. As a “turning point” in relations between the two countries, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described the visit. “We are still ready to stand side by side with the Iraqi Nation and for us for stability in Iraq and the Nation as a whole to use,” said Rouhani.

Al-Khadimi said the show of Solidarity. “Iraq will not allow any side a danger for Iran to run out,” he explained. Coined these words were mainly to the killing of the commander of the Iranian Al-Quds brigades, Qassem Soleimani, in January of this year by an American drone. Last weekend, the Iranian had traveled foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Baghdad. There, he went also to that place, to the Soleimani died.

the orchestration of the two visits had a clear message to the Iranian leadership signalled that it has not forgotten the killing Soleimanis. On the other Kadhimi made it clear that the Iraq wool tie such actions of the USA in the future where possible.

Khamenei: “The US is an enemy”

However, the Iraqi head of government of the United States is also dependent. Despite the continued troop withdrawal of the Americans, this will keep your Hand via the government Kadhimis in Washington as an affable and reasonable interlocutor.

The spiritual leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, reminded his host once again to the fact that Soleimani had died on Iraqi territory. “(The Americans) have killed your guests in your home. Then, you have confessed to the crime in the open.”

Though Khamenei is insured, he did not want to interfere in the internal Affairs of Iraq. But at the same time, he called on Kadhimi, a in January, the draft law adopted to implement the expulsion of American forces from Iraq. “The USA is an enemy,” said Khamenei further. “You do not support independent, powerful Iraq”.

Much is likely to depend from an Iranian point of view of the relationship between Iraq and the United States will develop in the coming months. Ways to take on the political and public life in the neighbouring country of influence, has of Iran. He supports several Shiite militia groups, such as Kataib Hezbollah and the Badr organization. In particular, the Badr group, the influence is enormously rich.

“So that Iran will secure a far-reaching military and political influence to prevent that the neighboring state could be a military threat to their country,” writes middle East expert Azadeh Zamirida of the Berlin science and politics Foundation (SWP). “At the same time, Tehran contributes to the creation of own structures in the neighbouring country, inevitably, to hamper the stabilisation of Iraq.”

In recent times, more and more Iraqis turned against this influence. During the protests last fall, they called the religious and political unity of their country – a Signal to Iran, to keep the Iraqi issues out. With discomfort, many Iraqis are watching the foreign policy course of the government in Tehran, how he fight with Saudi Arabia, for example, in the power. Yemen is a cautionary tale of how easily a third-party state to the stage of the power struggle between two foreign actors can be, with disastrous consequences for the population.

Tehran’s new friends in Iraq

This Position has made it increasingly Moqtada Al-Sadr, one of the most influential Shiite leader in Iraq, to own. Although Sadr controlled indirectly via the movement sent deputies around 50 seats in the national Assembly. But since then he’s been known to nationalist positions, diminishes his influence among his followers. During his visit to Baghdad last week Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif refrained from outdoor, accordingly, at a Meeting with Al-Sadr.

If Iran wants to bring his political positions in Iraq for the expression, use it now to another, more radical group, said in an analysis of the political magazine, the Arab Weekly, namely the Al-Fateh Alliance. “Both in terms of the future of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq, such as the ongoing escalation against the Saudi end-Arabia complies with its tough rhetoric, the ideas of Khamenei and the Islamic revolutionary guards”, – stated in the Arab Weekly.

In dealing with the USAspielt the Iraq from an Iranian point of view, a further role: It may help to bypass the US sanctions. In the year 2019, Iran has exported to the state news Agency IRNA, according to goods to the value of nearly nine billion dollars in Iraq. Both countries planned well, these amount to up to 20 billion dollars to expand.

once again, Iraq is to travel of pilgrims to Iran. Their number was decreased in the course of the Corona pandemic, massive- a huge loss for Iran, the information of the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera estimates that every year approximately five billion dollars of the pilgrims deserves.

author: Kersten Knipp

*The contribution of “Delicate relationship care of Iraq and Iran” is published by Deutsche Welle. Contact with the executives here.

America’s Futile Effort to Stop the Shi’a Horn

US bent on destroying Nuclear Deal, opposing Independent Iraq: Iran

Sputnik 8:46 PM | July 22, 2020

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi arrived in Tehran on 20 July and held several talks with Iranian officials on bilateral relations and international issues.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi that the United States is an enemy and doesn’t want an independent Iraq.

Khamenei continued on by saying that Iran will not interfere in the relations between Iraq and America. The supreme leader also said that Iran would strike America in response for the killing of top Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani.

On 20 July, the parties discussed regional security issues and the epidemiological situation caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani stated that Tehran will continue to stand by Iraq in a bid to establish security in the country and in the region.

WHO chief blasts Pompeo over claim that he was ‘Bought by Chinese …

Prior to this, Yahya Al Eshaq, the head of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, said that the two negotiating parties would review ways to strengthen trade to $20 billion over the course of Al-Kadhimi’s visit to the Iranian capital. 

On 5 January, the Iraqi parliament voted to expel all foreign troops from the country, shortly after a US precision strike killed military commander Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad. On 3 January, an airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump on the outskirts of Baghdad killed Soleimani, one of the most prominent military figures in Iran, and several other members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The assassination prompted Tehran to attack US bases in Iraq. About the same day, Iranian forces, expecting a retaliatory strike from the US, mistakenly downed a Ukrainian passenger jet, which fatally crashed with 176 people on board.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left Tehran earlier today to hold talks with Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on the 2015 nuclear deal, bilateral relations, and the crisis in Syria.

Extending an arms embargo against Iran would lead to the dismantling of the JCPOA, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in the course of talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The Iranian minister also highlighted that Moscow has been opposing Washington’s “destructive” and “very dangerous” actions against the JCPOA within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in the United Nations Security Council.

“This lead to the fact that the role of Russia and the role of China in preserving the JCPOA become very prominent, and all the international community is recognising it”, Zarif said.

Lavrov, for his part, stressed that any attempts to make the arms embargo against Iran indefinite are illegitimate, adding that such actions by the United States will not be successful. 

“The UN Security Council did not impose an arms embargo in the full sense of this word against the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Security Council introduced a permissive regime for the supply of certain types of weapons to Iran, this regime is applied for a limited period of time, this period expires in October, and any attempts to somehow take advantage of the current situation, to extend this regime, and then introduce an indefinite arms embargo, have no legal grounds, neither political nor moral”, Lavrov underlined.

Earlier, Lavrov affirmed that chances to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, still exist, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif 

“We view this meeting as an important stage in the joint efforts that the remaining members of the JCPOA are now taking to preserve this most important achievement of multilateral diplomacy. We consider the line that our American colleagues took to completely unravel this important document to be destructive, as has been the case with other documents on non-proliferation. Nevertheless, we are confident that chances for the JCPOA to return to a stable course still remain, at least we, like our Iranian friends, are doing our best to this end”, Lavrov said at the beginning of the meeting.

He added that China and the remaining European members of the deal seem to be willing to preserve the agreement as well.

Iran’s Foreign Minister arrived in Moscow earlier in the day. The last visit of an Iranian minister to Russia was in mid-June. The meeting comes days after the Iranian nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, marked its fifth anniversary on 14 July.

The JCPOA agreement has been in crisis since May 2018, when the United States unilaterally withdrew from it and reintroduced sanctions on Tehran. Now, Washington is seeking to extend the UN arms embargo on the country, which is set to expire in mid-October. Russia and China oppose the move, arguing that the arms embargo is to be lifted five years after the deal’s adoption, under the JCPOA.

Trump Has Created a Shi’a Martyr

‘Commander of Peace’: Iran produces documentary on Qasem Soleimani

The documentary, titled “Commander of Peace,” will be aired next month by state-run IRIB.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has produced a 40-episode documentary on former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani who was killed by a US drone in Baghdad on January 3, along with Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The documentary, titled “Commander of Peace,” will be aired next month by the State-run IRIB. Following Soleimani’s killing, IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif threatened that “The cowardly and craven assassination of commander Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the Americans will lead to the liberation of Jerusalem, by the grace of God.”Soleimani had been close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and urged Iranians to support Khamenei, saying political factions should put aside their differences.

In February, Iranian state TV aired an interview with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in which he described a close relationship with Soleimani, highlighting the key role Soleimani played in helping build up Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal as well as his role in military operations during Hezbollah’s war with Israel in 2006.

Pestilence: the Fourth Seal Continues (Revelation 6)

Florida reports largest, single-day increase in Covid cases | Newser

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida on Sunday reported the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any one state since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to state Department of Health statistics, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases.

California had the previous record of daily positive cases — 11,694, four days ago. New York had 11,571 on April 15.

The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week in Florida, with 514 fatalities. On Sunday, 45 more deaths were reported.

Throughout May and into June, the state reopened much of its economy with some restrictions.

Testing has increased, but the percentage of people testing positive has risen even more dramatically. A month ago, fewer than 5% of tests came up positive on a daily average. Over the past week, the daily average exceeded 19%.

Because of the increase in cases and the positivity rate, doctors have predicted a rise in deaths, saying the mortality rate usually increases two to four weeks later as some of those infected get sicker and eventually die. Health experts are concerned that people are gathering in crowds, and have expressed concern that the Republican National Convention’s nomination party for President Donald Trump will be held in Jacksonville in August.

On Saturday, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, concerning health experts who urge people not to gather in groups. Guests at the park said that people were wearing masks and social distancing, and videos showed near-empty parks.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that even with the rising rates, he still wants the schools to reopen as scheduled next month, saying children have not proven to be vectors for the disease in states and countries where campuses are open. He said while each county will have to come up with procedures, depending on their local infection rate, not opening the schools would exacerbate the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students.

“We know there are huge, huge costs for not providing the availability of in-person schooling,” he said. “The risk of corona, fortunately, for students is incredibly low.”