From Bush’s to Trump’s Nefarious Lies

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

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

Ben Rhodes

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

May 16 at 6:40 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World War 3 Cannot be Avoided (Revelation 16)

US-Iranian Conflict: Can A Fourth Gulf War Be Prevented? -By Marwan Bishara

Tensions between the United States and Iran have flared up since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran last year and began ratcheting up sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Earlier this month, tensions turned into threats, as Washington refused to extend sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian oil, designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, and began military preparations to deter Iran. 

These measures are pushing the Iranian economy to the brink. Oil exports, which have already dwindled from 2.5 million to less than 1.3 million barrels a day since last year, could drop even further, crippling the state budget. Ordinary Iranians, who are already suffering from the raging inflation (currently at 40 percent) and skyrocketing prices of goods, will likely bear the brunt of Washington’s push to bring Iranian oil exports to zero. And this is only the beginning.

The Iranian leadership has been defiant. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said this “hostile measure” will not be left

“without a response”, while President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to disrupt oil shipments from Gulf countries. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has cautioned that Iran could walk away from the nuclear deal and warned against a potential escalation to war.

If the past three Gulf wars of the 1980s (Iraq-Iran), 1991 (US/UN-Iraq) and 2003 (US/UK-Iraq) are anything to go by, a confrontation between the US and Iran would prove far more devastating. So why are Washington and Tehran ignoring the lessons of war, and marching eyes wide shut towards another armed conflict? And can anyone stop them?

Washington’s arrogance

Even before he was elected president, Donald Trump famously branded the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the Obama administration “the worst deal ever” and once he took office, he embarked on dismantling it.

In May last year, his administration withdrew from the JCPOA and issued 12 demands to Iran. It was one of those impossible lists, designed to provoke and humiliate.

The US wants Iran to end all its nuclear and missile programmes, withdraw its forces from Syria, stop its “destabilising” policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf, and cease its support for armed groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis in exchange for negotiating a new nuclear deal.

No one would have been more surprised than the US itself if Iran had said yes to any of it. These demands basically constitute total Iranian surrender, not only to the US but also to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s key regional partners and principle drivers behind the new Iran policy.

National Security Advisor of the United States John Bolton made this crystal clear on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session last September, when he said: “If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to pay.”

The message was certainly heard loud and clear in Tehran, which has accused the so-called B-team (Bolton, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman and the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Zayed) of pushing Trump to seek regime or war with Iran.

Perhaps it is true that the US president has been ensnared by various warmongers in a vicious campaign against Iran, but the Iranian leadership has been anything but innocent in all of this, with its own A-team (led by Ayatollah Khamenei) pursuing regional hegemony.

Tehran’s arrogance

Instead of taking advantage of the windfall from the nuclear deal and the normalisation of relations with the West to rebuild its economy and country, Tehran has doubled down on its aggressive policies in the region.

Although it has accused the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of causing instability, it has itself chosen to advance its narrow interests with recklessness and indifference to the disastrous consequences.

Over the past few years, Iran has pursued a sectarian strategy that destabilised its neighbours and empowered the likes of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. It has also waged proxy wars against Saudi Arabia, crippling countries like Yemen and Lebanon and used paramilitary groups like the IRGC and its al-Quds Force to undermine opponents across the Arab world.

Its aggressive policies have fuelled a now widely held suspicion that it seeks to “create a new Persian and Shi’ite ’empire’ on Arab land”. Some members of its political elite have even bragged that Iran already rules in four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa.

The Iranian strategy of exploiting instability to pursue regional hegemony has backfired. In the hope of curtailing Iran’s Middle Eastern ambitions, many Arab states are now not only siding with the US but are also drawing closer to Iran’s archenemy, Israel.

Religious fanaticism

In addition to economic, diplomatic and strategic tools, Washington and Tehran are also employing religion to justify their policies and rally their supporters at home and abroad.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, has claimed that Trump may have been sent by God to protect Israel from Iran. He, along with Vice President Mike Pence and other evangelicals working with the Trump administration, supports Israel’s religious claims over Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine, and invokes biblical texts to explain US policy towards Iran and the region.

No less alarming is Iran’s use of religion and particularly the idea of protecting the oppressed and the downtrodden to pursue its hegemonic policies across the region. The Iranian leadership has also actively sought the sectarianisation of local tensions and conflicts in order to present itself as the “protector” of all Shia communities in the region. It has also employed Shia dogmas and calls to protect holy Shia shrines to recruit fighters for the various militias it supports in Iraq and Syria.

But it is not only the US and Iran who have engaged in religious fanaticism. Israel and Saudi Arabia have done so as well, and so have various non-state actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

They have all assumed their own versions of “manifest destiny”, claiming they were divinely ordained to conquer and occupy and willing to use God’s name in vain in order to advance their narrow political interests.

Arrogance breeds contempt; religious arrogance breeds conflict. So, could this “clash of fanaticism” escalate into a wider confrontation?

The prospect of war

I am not convinced that either Trump or Rouhani wishes for a war. There doesn’t seem to be a decision or a plan to go to war, yet – not today, not tomorrow.

But what about next year? Trump’s 12 demands have left Tehran with no option for an honourable exit and set it on the path towards an economic disaster. Feeling anxious about an implosion from within, it will have to devise a plan to respond.

Meanwhile, the US will continue to strangle it economically, destabilise it politically and undermine it regionally. It will pursue

various containment strategies like “offshore balancing“, but if those fail, military intervention will be a viable option.

Washington’s aggressive approach will likely weaken Iranian pragmatists like Rouhani, and empower hardliners. This will cause Iran to abandon diplomatic efforts to contain the crisis and seek to quit the nuclear deal and perhaps even the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty altogether, rile up its Gulf neighbours, and undermine the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This would inevitably evoke a sharp reaction from Washington, which may lead to war or wars by proxy throughout much of the region.

Foreseeing such developments, the Trump administration is already preparing the public for possible escalation. Like the Bush administration, it is repeating the same false claims that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq – that there are weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat and support for terrorism.

Clearly, some in Washington have forgotten the Iraq debacle, and continue to believe in limited wars and regime change.

Preventing a war

All of this begs the bigger question: Where are the world powers who signed the Iran deal, enshrined it in a UN Security Council resolution, and vowed to defend it? Shouldn’t they stop the ongoing escalation?

Europe may still support the deal but it is clearly spooked by Washington’s aggressive posturing and has not yet activated INSTEX, the alternative trade mechanism to bypass US sanctions.

Russia, an oil exporter, seems indifferent for now, and may even benefit from higher oil prices; India has found alternative suppliers, while Turkey continues to ask for waivers.

China, the biggest importer of Iranian oil, has reduced its oil imports by a quarter since last year. It still maintains business relations with Tehran, just enough to use it as a bargaining chip in the ongoing trade negotiations with Washington.

In short, the world powers have not been successful in saving the nuclear deal, or devising a viable plan to circumvent US sanctions.

They are also failing to curb the US-Iranian escalation to war. If there is any chance of stopping this madness, it may well have to come from the US itself.

The ball is in your court, America. But don’t wait until 2020 to make your voice heard against another mad, sick, stupid war.

The Iranian Islamic Nuclear Bomb (Revelation 16)

The Ayatollah With the Bomb

This entry was posted in National Security and tagged Democrats, Iran, Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea, Nuclear Iran, Nuclear Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

April 23, 2019 6:37 pm

In recent weeks, several Democrats running for president have vowed that, if elected, they would reenter the United States into the nuclear deal with Iran. The accord, they argue, was working to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, until President Trump scrapped it last year, potentially provoking Tehran to withdraw from the agreement as well. The main problem with this argument is the main problem with the deal itself: the accord paves, rather than blocks, Iran’s path toward nuclear weapons.

Forget about Iran cheating or the insufficient inspections for a moment. The regime can produce the world’s most powerful weapons if it simply abides by the deal, under which the key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over the next 12 years. Beginning in 2026, for example, Tehran is free to enrich uranium using advanced centrifuges, which make the enrichment process much more efficient, and to install and operate more of its older models. Then, in 2031, restrictions on the amount and level of enriched uranium that Iran can stockpile disappear. So, in about a decade, the Islamic Republic will have the international community’s blessing to build as large a nuclear program as it wants—while, if the United States re-implements the deal, enjoying relief from sanctions.

In a twisted irony, the deal is itself a ticking time bomb, and cannot be allowed to run its course. Yet the accord has created inertia in some circles in Washington, where many of its supporters seem content touting the deal’s benefits and handing off the problem to tomorrow’s leaders and thinkers. But there is more to their thought process than indifference, or an unrealistic view of what the deal will do, or whatever else motivates their stance. Those presidential candidates who promised to re-join the nuclear deal, and like-minded supporters, have made a choice, whether they know it or not: the cost of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon is not worth the benefits. In other words, it is not worth striking Iranian nuclear facilities, and thereby risking a war, to stop the Islamist theocracy’s march toward the bomb. Which is worse: Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, or going to war, if necessary, to prevent Iran from obtaining them? This is the fundamental choice that underpins many observers‘ views of the nuclear deal, consciously or subconsciously. Understanding this point makes the debate over the deal, and over Iran’s nuclear program more generally, much clearer.

Champions of the nuclear deal, those who describe it as a panacea (for example, Barack Obama), of course recognize that a nuclear-armed Iran would be dangerous. They know that a cruel and oppressive regime, one both anti-American and anti-Semitic, that is willing to stone women and execute homosexuals should not have nuclear weapons, especially when that regime practices a belligerent foreign policy. But their words and actions show that they, if put to a choice between military action and acquiescence, would choose the latter, believing that they can live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

There are many ways to show why this view is wrong, and why Americans should not accept a world where Tehran has nuclear weapons. One way to illustrate the point is to compare the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to global security to the threat that a nuclear-armed North Korea currently poses. Any sane person recognizes that North Korea, a totalitarian state run by a murderous, delusional savage committed to reunifying the Korean peninsula, is a grave threat. In fact, Democrats in Congress who support the Iran nuclear deal have actually chided President Trump for being too nice to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Yet a nuclear-armed Iran would be far more dangerous than a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Iran is an imperial, expansionist power seeking preeminence in the Middle East. The regime exerts heavy influence on four Arab capitals—Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Sana’a—supports Palestinian groups, seeks Israel’s destruction, incites the Shi’ite populations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to subvert their governments, and is trying to expand its influence in Afghanistan and beyond. Tehran sends its soldiers across borders and creates proxy forces to do its bidding, competing against similarly powerful countries for regional influence in multiple conflicts that could easily trigger war. If Iran obtained nuclear weapons, other Middle Eastern states—certainly Saudi Arabia—would seek the same capability. Imagine the consequences of a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region. The Islamic Republic is also a theocratic regime, driven in large part by the desire to spread a revolutionary form of Shi’a Islam. And, sanctions aside, Iran is a major player in the global economy, exporting oil and gas. Deterring Iran from using nuclear weapons would be a murkier prospect, not to mention that the United States is not obligated by any treaty to protect its Middle Eastern allies.

North Korea, meanwhile, is not an imperial, expansionist power in the same way, in large part because of geography. To the south, the North Korean leadership sees a more powerful South Korea, which the United States has promised to protect. To the north is China, a purported ally and, more importantly, a far more powerful country. To every other direction: water. And beyond: Japan, which is, again, a stronger country, and one to whose security the United States is unambiguously committed. Pyongyang simply cannot pursue a belligerent foreign policy in the same way as Iran even if it wanted to. Indeed, North Korea is contained by virtue of its location and lack of resources. For these same reasons, it is not involved in a regional competition for supremacy that can devolve into war like Tehran. Moreover, Pyongyang does not try to export an ideology, revolutionary or otherwise. And North Korea has nothing of value to offer the global economy, just the black market. Deterring North Korea is more straightforward, even if the North Korean leadership seems more unpredictable than their Iranian counterparts. Not that the United States should accept a nuclear-armed North Korea—far from it—and obviously North Korea’s nuclear program is, currently, more menacing than Iran’s. But that could very well change in the foreseeable future.

Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is truly a nightmare scenario, one that the United States—regardless of who is in power—should do everything it can to prevent. Unfortunately, and dangerously, most of the Democratic presidential candidates would do the opposite, showing Iran a path to the bomb. Americans, both leaders and citizens, need to appreciate the horror that a nuclear-armed Iran would present to the world. Maybe then more people would support the aggressive posture that is required to deter and counter Iran’s deadly ambitions.

Preparing to Fight for the Straight of Hormuz

IRGC HD Video Shows US Aircraft Carrier in Persian Gulf

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A high definition footage obtained by IRGC naval forces shows the US warshipss being closely monitored in the Persian Gulf waters, south of Iran.

Tasnim News Agency

IRGC naval forces released a high quality video showing a close observation of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

On April 8, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington is designating the IRGC a foreign “terrorist organization”, marking the first time the US has formally labeled another country’s military a terrorist group.

Responding to the move, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council immediately declared the US as a state sponsor of terrorism and US forces in the region terrorists.

The SNSC said it has put CENTCOM on its terror list as a “reciprocal measure” against the US “illegal and unwise” move.

The Islamic Republic of Iran plays a significant and leading role in establishing security in the Persian Gulf.

In remarks in 2016, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined that security of the Persian Gulf region comes within the purview of the regional countries alone, and dismissed the US claim of seeking security in the region.

“The Persian Gulf security relates to the countries of the region which have common interests, and not to the US. So, security of the Persian Gulf region should be provided by the countries of this region itself,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei has also called for the enhancement of the Iranian naval forces’ presence in international waters and expanding the Navy’s power in balance with the merit of the Islamic Establishment.

Trump Wants WAR with Iran

U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images and Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

Trump Doesn’t Want a “Better” Deal With Iran

He wants to punish a place he doesn’t like—at any cost.

Fred KaplanApril 25, 20196:58 PM

President Donald Trump is about to squeeze Iran like never before. It’s hard to see where this can lead except to chaos or war. And it’s fairly clear that Trump wants it this way.

When Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed economic sanctions that had been lifted as part of that accord, he issued six-month waivers to eight countries—China, India, Iraq, Turkey, South Korea, Italy, Greece, and Taiwan—allowing them to keep buying Iranian oil. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the waivers would end May 2. After then, any country doing business with the Islamic Republic would be barred from the U.S. banking system, which dominates financial transactions worldwide.

In recent months, some countries, notably China and members of the European Union, have discussed setting up some mechanism to trade with Iran without going through U.S. banks, but this has proved easier said than done. The European countries that were granted waivers have already stopped importing Iranian oil; the others have cut back, albeit reluctantly. After May 2, if Washington really enforces a no-tolerance ban, Iran—which is already hurting economically—will be boxed in.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have said that, in response to this hostile act, they might block the Strait of Hormuz, a body of water with a two-mile-wide shipping lane that transits 20 percent of the world’s oil supply. The idea is that if Iran can’t send its oil through the strait, which borders its territory, nobody else can either. Zarif also has said that Iran might resume enriching uranium—and thus reviving its nuclear program—in response. Either of these moves would likely spark a U.S. military reaction, which may be what Trump wants to happen.

One clear sign that Trump wants Iran boxed in is that he hasn’t offered another choice—he hasn’t said what he wants the Iranian government to do in exchange for dropping his campaign of “maximum pressure.”

Pompeo has said he wants a “better” nuclear accord, but his definition of the word is so over the top that he’s clearly signaling that he doesn’t mean it. In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in May, he laid out 12 conditions that Iran must fulfill for a new deal. They include ending its enrichment of uranium—a ban imposed on no other country in the world. (Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty gives signatories the “inalienable right” to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which includes enriching uranium at low levels. The Iran deal allows enrichment up to 3 percent—way below what’s needed to make a weapon.) Pompeo also demanded that Iran give international inspectors “unqualified access” to “all sites throughout” Iran—a formula for espionage that no country would accept. He said Iran must halt tests and development of ballistic and cruise missiles (a ban on development is impossible to verify); end support for Syria, Hezbollah, and the Houthis in Yemen; disarm its militias in Iraq; drop all threats against Israel; and release all foreign prisoners. All these steps would be welcome, but no nation would surrender so much of its sovereignty to a foreign power, except, possibly, after a total defeat in a war.

More drastic still, Pompeo listed these conditions not as the terms of a new deal but merely as the steps that Iran must take before the United States sits down at the bargaining table. What further concessions, they might ask, would Trump and Pompeo demand after that? In any case, the Iranians have no cause to trust them, given that Trump withdrew from the existing deal, which was negotiated with six other countries, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency has attested many times that Iran is in full compliance.

There are ways to get a better deal with Iran, if that’s what Trump really wanted. He could do what Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, the two Bushes, Clinton, and Obama did to get better nuclear arms deals with the Kremlin. They negotiated a series of treaties, each one reducing nuclear weapons to lower levels without tearing up some previous accord just because it didn’t go as far as one side or the other might have preferred.

At a Q&A with journalists at Iran’s U.N. mission in New York on Thursday, Javad Zarif likened the Trump administration’s behavior to that of a “gangster.” The Iran nuclear deal, which is enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution, bars impediments to trade with Iran. Trump’s officials aren’t acting like “the world’s policeman,” he said. Rather, they’re demanding that other nations “break the law.”

Sad to say, he’s right, and this is one reason so many countries—especially those that signed the nuclear accord—are bitter about the way Trump is flexing American power.

Yet Javad Zarif took care to draw a distinction between Trump and his administration, noting national security adviser John Bolton is a longtime advocate of regime change in Iran, while Trump has pledged to avoid another stupid, costly war in the Middle East. He also noted that Iran “never left the negotiating table”; only the United States did that, and Tehran stands ready to continue talks.

But this stab at an appeal to Trump’s more restrained impulses is probably based on a false hope. Clearly, Trump has no interest in talking with the Iranians about a new accord. And Pompeo, who sees a big part of his job as saying what Trump wants him to say, reflects that disdain. In his Heritage speech and in others, especially one delivered in July before an audience of Iranian Americans at the Reagan Presidential Library, Pompeo emphasized U.S. solidarity with “the Iranian people” against their oppressive government. He went about as far as a senior U.S. diplomat could go toward advancing a policy of “regime change” without uttering those words.

Trump may well think that this “maximum pressure” will simply bring the Iranian regime to its knees. This is doubtful. But if it does, it is even more unlikely that Western-leaning freedom fighters will replace the toppled mullahs. Tehran is the most literate, pro-Western city in the entire Middle East, outside of Israel, but even its denizens know the history of foreign coups in Iran, and despite their hatred for the medievalists occupying supreme power in their country, they would resist another episode of American meddling. If the mullahs were somehow to be ousted, they would more likely be succeeded by a more anti-Western faction, probably consisting of the most intolerant elements of the military.

Trump’s stepped-up pressure campaign might be justified if Iran posed an urgent, existential threat to the United States, its allies, or its interests—or if Iran’s leaders were poised to break out of the nuclear deal’s restrictions. But it doesn’t, and they aren’t. The other parties to the nuclear deal—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—are sticking to it, seeing no reason to pull out and many reasons to stay in. It prevents Iran from building a nuclear bomb, has already led to the dismantlement of materials with which they might have built a bomb, and contains the tightest verification regimen in the history of arms control accords. Even most Israeli military and intelligence officers favor sticking with the deal. Trump is serving the interests only of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners, who want to keep Iran holed up, and of the region’s Sunni Arab powers, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which want to wage war on Iran. In effect, Trump’s new policy—which forces the world to reimpose the sanctions that he wants—is a declaration of economic war.

Even if Iran doesn’t shut down the Hormuz Strait or resume enriching uranium, the move is likely to contract the global economy, at least somewhat. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have said they will redirect some of their oil exports to Iraq and Turkey in order to make up for the cutoff of Iranian supplies. But it’s unclear where this extra oil will come from—they’ve recently cut their output and have not said they’ll pump more—or who will compensate the countries that once got lots of oil from the Arabs but are now getting shortchanged. Oil analysts say that Trump’s policy will squeeze global supplies in a market already facing disruptions and will almost certainly raise gasoline prices, just in time to make summer vacations more costly.

Trump is taking a huge risk, alienating allies, aggravating American consumers, upsetting global markets, and possibly triggering war—all because he doesn’t like Iran and doesn’t like the Iran nuclear deal (or any other deal) that was struck by President Barack Obama. He’s governing by pique, and we may all pay the price in one way or another.

Trump’s Iran Moves Will Take a Dangerous Turn

Trump’s Iran Moves Threaten to Take Dangerous Turn, Zarif Warns

Bloomberg News Apr 24

President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran could take a dangerous turn if he heeds the advice of allies and aides seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

Speaking two days after the U.S. said it will let waivers to a handful of governments still importing Iranian oil expire, exposing them to sanctions, Zarif said Wednesday that he thinks that Trump wants to force Tehran to the negotiating table but is being pushed toward a potential military conflict by some of his advisers and regional allies—a “B Team” of officials that he said includes the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and National Security Advisor John Bolton.

“President Trump’s aim is to bring us to our knees and talk,” Zarif said at the Asia Society in New York. “But the ‘B-team’ wants regime change at the very least.”

Iran’s leaders have been unified in saying the latest U.S. efforts will fail, despite the hurdles already confronting the Islamic Republic’s economy since Trump withdrew a year ago from a seven-nation agreement meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for ending some economic sanctions.

Oil steadied near a six-month high as an industry report showing a gain in U.S. crude inventories partly offset concern over America’s campaign to halt Iranian crude exports.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it will be “impossible” to slash his nation’s oil exports to zero, while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to “respond” to the U.S. move.

“We can export as much oil as we need and as much as we intend to,” Khamenei said.

Echoing remarks by a senior Iranian military official, who said the Islamic Republic will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if it’s prevented from using it, Zarif said Iran is committed to keeping the waters open so long as no one tries to stop it from using its “lifeline.”

Zarif said that the “B Team’s ” efforts could lead the U.S. into the type of conflict Trump vowed to keep the U.S. out of during his presidential campaign. Playing on an amalgam of names with the letter B in them, he said the “B-Team” includes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Bolton, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Accidents are possible,” Zarif said. “I don’t discount the ‘B Team’ plotting an ‘accident’ anywhere in the region, particularly as we get close to an election here.”

Iran would consider negotiations to resolve disputes with the U.S. if held in a context of “mutual respect,” Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.

Photo: Bloomberg

Latest Trump Administration Move on Iran WILL Backfire

Image result for trump iranExperts Warn Latest Trump Administration Move on Iran Could Backfire

President Donald Trump’s decision Monday to end six-month waivers from U.S. sanctions for five countries that have continued buying Iranian oil — the latest turn of the screw in his Administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran — was met with predictable outrage from Tehran.

But some U.S. State Department, Defense and intelligence officials and outside experts warn that the move could backfire by causing ripple effects in countries like China, Turkey and Iraq.

In response to the sanctions, Greece, Italy and, Taiwan had stopped buying Iranian oil, but China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey have continued to import Iranian oil. The economic pressure has reduced Iranian oil exports from more than 2.5 million barrels a day to less than 1 million, discouraged foreign investment, and sent the value of Iran’s currency plummeting and inflation soaring.

Announcing the move in a press briefing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision to end the waivers was “dramatically escalating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well-supplied global oil markets”.

The Administration’s objective, Pompeo said, include prompt Iran to renegotiate the international agreement halting its pursuit of nuclear weapons, halt its ballistic missile tests, and end its support for terrorist groups, which U.S. officials say include Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Palestinian Hamas, Houthi militias in Yemen, and authoritarian regimes in Syria and Venezuela.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move, and Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said his country and others would ensure that “the global oil market does not go out of balance.”

Some U.S. and foreign officials and outside experts, however, argue that the escalating attack on Iran’s economy is unlikely to prompt Iran to halt its support for terrorist organizations; force the country’s clerical rulers to renegotiate the deal halting their efforts to develop nuclear weapons; weaken its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite Quds Force; or turn everyday Iranians against the Islamic regime.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” says Aaron David Miller, a Mideast expert and vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “And what is the Trump Administration strategy toward Iran? Even if it’s regime change or forcing Iran to retrench in the region, this recent move will accomplish neither goal. It might ultimately goad Iran to give the Administration a pretext for military action. But how would this change the balance to America’s advantage?”

Instead, said two U.S. officials who spoke only to the condition of anonymity to criticize the Administration’s Iran policy, the Administration has not given much thought to the likely effects of its Iran policy on oil markets or on the nations, especially China, India, Turkey and Iraq, that now will be sanctioned if they continue to import oil from Iran.

“The Administration has launched a fairly significant initiative without doing the necessary groundwork with the countries that will be most affected,” Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at Washington’s Brookings Institution, tells TIME.

Iraq, which remains unstable, host to some remnants of ISIS, and divided on ethnic and religious lines 16 years after the U.S. invasion, is especially vulnerable because imports of Iranian natural gas and electricity are critical to its economy, she says.

Worse, says Maloney, the Administration had signaled since November that the exemptions for buying Iranian oil cut would be made gradually until it abruptly announced they will end on May 2.

Nor, says Maloney, does the Administration appear to have given much thought to how Iran might respond to the latest turn of the screw, which she says are likely to include efforts to disrupt global oil markets when demand reaches its peak this summer.

In a tweet, President Trump said: “Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up the Oil Flow difference in our now Full Sanctions on Iranian oil.”

The two U.S. intelligence officials on Monday dismissed Iran’s threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, but said Tehran could retaliate by disrupting Iraqi oil exports or launching cyberattacks on oil and gas production and export facilities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, or even U.S. or European oil companies, which could send oil prices upward during the vacation season in the U.S. and Western Europe.

The officials said the 2012 Shamoon virus attacks on Qatar’s RasGas and on the Saudi oil company Aramco — an attack then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date” — were traced to Iran.

Oil prices rose about 3 percent at midday on Monday, but remained far below their October high of $86 a barrel for the benchmark Brent crude.

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Trump Intent on Pushing Iran Into War (Revelation 6:6)

Trump administration announces all countries importing Iranian oil will be subject to US sanctions

By Devan Cole and Kylie Atwood, CNN

Updated 11:44 AM EDT, Mon April 22, 2019

Washington (CNN) The Trump administration announced Monday that all countries that continue to import Iranian oil will be subject to US sanctions.

In a statement, the White House said President Donald Trump „has decided not to reissue“ waivers regarding sanctions against countries importing Iranian oil when the waivers expire „in early May.“ The exact deadline is May 2.

This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,“ the statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders read.

The development was first reported by The Washington Post.

Speaking Monday at a press conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said „the goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it had used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.“

Noting that oil is „the regime’s No. 1 source of cash,“ Pompeo said that prior to the implementation of US sanctions, Iran was generating „as much as $50 billion annually,“ from oil exports, but that the department estimates the sanctions have „denied the regime well north of $10 million.“

„How long we remain there — at zero — depends solely on the Islamic Republic (of) Iran’s senior leaders,“ he added.

„We have made our demands very clear to the ayatollah and his cronies: end your pursuit of nuclear weapons, stop testing and proliferating ballistic missiles, stop sponsoring and committing terrorism, halt the arbitrary detention of US citizens. Our pressure is aimed at ending these and others and it will continue to accelerate until Iran is willing to address them at the negotiating table,“ Pompeo said.

Countries that continue to import Iranian oil in large amounts include India, China, South Korea, Japan and Turkey. Ahead of today’s announcement South Korean officials told CNN that they had struggled with the US demand because their oil refineries are specifically setup to process crude oil from Iran.

Pompeo also said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to „ensure an appropriate supply (of oil) for the markets“ in order to make up for the loss of Iranian oil in the global market.

„I can confirm that each of those suppliers are working directly with Iran’s former customers to make the transition away from Iranian crude less disruptive,“ he said.

After the announcement from the US, Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih said the country will coordinate with other oil producers „to ensure the availability of enough oil supplies for consumers and to ensure global oil markets are not knocked off balance.“

The US will also aid the dearth in supply, Pompeo said. The US produced 1.6 million more barrels of oil in 2018 than in 2017, and is on track to increase production in 2019 as well.

But given the ongoing crises in both Venezuela and Libya, which are two major oil supplying countries, there are fears that the US decision will make the oil market more unstable

When asked about the spike in oil process on Monday — as Brent crude prices surged more than 3% to the highest price seen all year — and if the US expects that spike to level out, the State Department would not give a direct answer.

Francis Fannon, the Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, explained that „it is hard to conflate“ the Trump administration’s announcement with other factors such as OPEC planning to curtail production. „There’s lots of reasons in terms of what effects oil markets.“

The announcement comes nearly one year after Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been the most vocal proponent of Trump’s actions against Iran, praised the move Monday.

„The decision of President Trump and the American administration is of great importance to increase the pressure on the terror regime of Iran,“ Netanyahu said in a statement. „We stand by the determination of the United States against the Iranian aggression and this is the right way to stop it.“

Not everyone is in full support of the Trump administration’s muscular posture towards Iran and some worry that the administration is trying to incite a revolution to overthrow the Iranian regime.

On Monday Pompeo said that the US has „not supported any outside group“ — such as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, known as the MEK. The Trump administration is supporting the Iranian people, he added.

However, last week Pompeo did not issue a firm denial when he was asked if the Trump administration was seeking a military confrontation with Iran, within the contours of the Authorization to Use Military Force legislation. Instead, he left the door slightly ajar.

„The United States and President Trump will act lawfully. He’ll act within his authorities,“ Pompeo said. „Article 2 gives broad powers, the AUMF gives a set of broad powers, but they are — we understand them.“

CNN’s Betsy Klein, Oren Liebermann and Sarah El Sirgany contributed to this report.

Babylon the Great Rejects Nuclear Reason

Sergei Fedyunin / TASS

U.S. Ignored Russia’s Nuclear War Prevention Pact – Reports

The Moscow TimesApril 19, 2019

Russia sent the United States a draft joint declaration on how to prevent nuclear war, only to never hear back from Washington, the Kommersant business daily reported on Friday.

The U.S. and Russia are suspending the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty this summer. The only U.S.-Russia arms control pact limiting deployed nuclear weapons — the New START — expires in February 2021.

“Nuclear war cannot be won and it must never be unleashed,” Kommersant quoted Russia’s draft joint declaration, which was sent to the U.S. in October 2018, as stating.

Similar declarations have been adopted between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly suggested a revival of the nuclear war avoidance pact ahead of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton’s visit to Russia in October 2018.

Andrea Kalan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, told the publication that Washington adheres to arms control systems with partners “that honor their commitments responsibly.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the U.S. of routinely ignoring Russia’s inroads on Friday.

Russia’s proposals to the U.S. included “strategic security and stability, cooperation in the fight against cybercrime, and so on,” Peskov said.

“All these Russian initiatives and proposals were in effect left unanswered,” he was quoted as saying to reporters by Kommersant.

Trump Team Is Preparing for War Against Iran

National Security Advisor John Bolton. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Opinion: Trump Team Is Setting Up America for War Against Iran

EditorApril 19, 2019

By Barbi S. Appelquist

Just last week, the Trump Administration formally designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. This is the first time that the U.S. government has made that designation on a part of a foreign government, therefore setting the stage for potential escalation with Iran. After all, the president already set us on the path to war by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Before the negotiations began, Iran was dangerously close to a nuclear weapon. U.S. allies were seriously considering military strikes that could have ignited a full-scale war in the Middle East. Instead, the Obama Administration brought together an international coalition to impose crushing sanctions on Iran, jump-starting negotiations that ultimately succeeded in shutting down Iran’s dangerous nuclear activities, without a shot fired.

We know the deal is working because Iran submitted to intrusive, around the clock monitoring of its sensitive nuclear facilities—the most comprehensive verification and monitoring regime ever negotiated. Trump’s violation of the deal puts all this at risk. Iran is complying for now—U.S. and Israeli intel assessments agree on this point, as do the international nuclear inspectors on the ground in Iran—but without the economic incentives they were promised, it seems only a matter of time before they resume their dangerous program.

The Trump Administration claims the goal of their Iran strategy is a better, more comprehensive deal with Iran. That’s simply not credible.

For one, Trump Administration officials are lying about Iran’s nuclear activities. There are troubling echoes of Iraq WMDs in their claims about Iran’s nuclear activities. John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, served as the top State Department Arms Control official for President George W. Bush and promoted the false claims that Iraq had WMDs to justify the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.

Bolton is now claiming that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. There is no evidence to support his claims. In fact, U.S. intelligence assessments directly contradict his assertion. Both CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently testified before Congress that Iran is complying with the restrictions of the nuclear deal.

But Bolton may be less interested in the truth about Iran’s nuclear program and more interested in starting an Iran war. Bolton is well-known for advocating military action against Iran. He’s made no secret of these views, penning an infamous op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Bolton also recently requested that the Pentagon prepare options for military strikes on Iran.

Bolton’s views are not the only indication that the administration’s goal is a military confrontation. Shortly after the U.S. withdrawal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out 12 demands that Iran must meet before the United States will negotiate. But these demands are so extreme that they are clearly not a serious opening offer for negotiations. Indeed, if Iran complied, there would be no need for negotiations because the demands boil down to Iran completely eliminating all its dangerous behavior, before the Trump administration will negotiate.

In a recent interview, Secretary Pompeo admitted, “their behavior has not changed materially.” In other words, the strategy isn’t working. It’s not changing Iran’s behavior or getting them back to the negotiating table. But the administration isn’t changing course. So, if diplomacy isn’t the goal, what are they hoping to achieve?

All signs point to this: The Trump Administration isn’t looking to solve the Iranian threat through diplomacy. They’re looking to provoke Iran into restarting its nuclear program or take other extreme steps that could spark a military conflict.

This isn’t just foolish. It’s dangerous and irresponsible. A war with Iran, a country five times the size of Iraq, would take years, cost millions of dollars. And worst, it will cost American lives. Not to defend our country or protect U.S. allies, but because the Trump Administration is afraid of diplomacy.

Diplomacy is one of our greatest strengths. American trustworthiness, our commitment to our allies, our economic power—all of these are assets that enable us to achieve our goals through diplomacy without putting American lives at risk.

By violating our commitment to an international diplomatic agreement, Trump is setting us up for an impossible choice: an Iranian bomb or another unnecessary war in the Middle East.

It’s not too late to prevent an Iranian bomb through diplomacy. Congress, and presidential candidates in particular, can defuse the crisis by reinforcing that Americans support diplomacy and will resort to military action only as the last possible option.

The nuclear deal is working to block Iran’s paths to the bomb and prevent war. It’s good for our security and the security of our allies.

Barbi S. Appelquist is an attorney and a political partner of Truman National Security Project. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Pepperdine University and a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of Law, and she served as the Co-Director of the California Veterans and Military Families for the 2016 Hillary Clinton Campaign for President. 

Opinion: Trump Team Is Setting Up America for War Against Iran was last modified: April 20th, 2019 by Editor