Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17, 2019


MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Will IRAN Mean the End of the Trump Presidency?
Will John Bolton Succeed in Derailing the Administration?

Friends,

Most of you will be old enough to remember the 1997 film, “Wag the Dog,” starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman—not my favorite actors by any means, but nevertheless, the movie made a significant and critical point in this age of corrupt FBI and intelligence agencies working in tandem with a major political party to stage a veritable coup d’etat—a “silent coup”—against a sitting president.

Here’s the storyline:

Two weeks prior to his possible re-election, the United States president lands in the middle of a sex scandal. In need of outside help to quell the situation, presidential adviser Winifred Ames (Anne Heche) enlists the expertise of spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro), who decides a distraction is the best course of action. Brean approaches Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to help him fabricate a war in Albania -- and once underway, the duo has the media entirely focused on the war [and not on the scandal].

The greater point here is that today our citizens are almost entirely at the mercy of what the government tells them and what the media reports to them.

Recall the rationale for invading Iraq: those infamous “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) that we were told by George W. Bush and Paul Wolfowitz with absolute certainty existed in large quantities? Recall Colin Powell going to the UN to state unequivocally that we had “proof” that such weapons existed near Bagdad? Remember that very probably some of the “documents” supposedly proving the existence of WMD were forged? Remember that this “information” was used as a pretext for invading Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein (who although a dictator was by Middle East standards, something of a moderate, at least when it came to his country’s large Christian population), and…then, we watched the emergence of a pro-Iranian Shi’a government, far more hostile to “our interests”?

Well, as we later learned there were no WMDs, despite Wolfowitz and company. Yet, by then the severe damage was done. The “regime change” so desired by the globalist Neoconservatives was almost directly opposite of what they promised: instead of a “democracy like the USA,” a pro-Iranian regime emerged—after the deaths and wounding of hundreds of American boys and many thousands of Iraqis, and billions of dollars gone (or in the pockets of arms dealers).

At the heart of that episode was John P. Bolton, consistently and ferociously advocating the imposition of "democracy" on, let’s see, Iraq (failed), Iran (no go), Libya (another failure), Afghanistan (don’t even ask), Syria (Assad, another dictator who is the champion of Christians and religious tolerance, has triumphed against the wishes of Bolton and other Neocons, including the late and very much unlamented John McCain). And these are just a few examples.

Not a good record, to say the least. Yet, President Trump—the champion of America First and not getting this nation into a far-off conflicts, not into quagmires where we have no business being—named Bolton back on April 9, 2018, as his National Security Advisor. And ever since then the irrepressible war hawk has been searching for another war in which to involve American boys and arms (to the benefit of the major arms makers and dealers, whose donating coffers seem to open up at the sound of the guns).

Under another Neocon hawk, Mike Pompeo, as Secretary of State, the even more saber-rattling Elliot Abrams was actually brought into the administration as Special Envoy for Venezuela in January [https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/25/elliott-abrams-envoy-venezuela-1128562]. But, wait, isn’t this the same Elliot Abrams who was an unrelenting and hardcore Never Trumper that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted as his Deputy Secretary of State (February 2017), but was vetoed by President Trump due to Abrams’ staunch opposition during the presidential campaign? [“Trump rejects veteran GOP foreign policy aide Elliot Abrams for State Dept. job,” The Washington Post, February 10, 2018, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-rejects-veteran-gop-foreign-policy-aide-elliott-abrams-for-state-department-job/2017/02/10/52e53ce6-efbd-11e6-9973-c5efb7ccfb0d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8fbd65e95f48]

What gives here? Why does the president let those with a stated agenda directly—and supposedly—opposite to his own into his administration?

Certainly, it has much to do with the loudest voices and most visible talent pool inside the Washington DC Beltway and that many of those globalists, who were former Never Trumpers, strategically attached themselves to Donald Trump after he was victorious, hoping—in some cases successfully—to shape his foreign policy along their internationalist lines. And, also, the fact that during the critical days after the 2016 election many of the Establishment Neocons were able to bend Trump’s ear first, and that a major gap, a major lacuna, in the president’s knowledge was his lack of familiarity with foreign policy. As president, Donald Trump hoped to unify the Republican Party, and, thus, his desire was to bring in various factions, including those who had opposed him (but now offered “support”)…not realizing that such additions could—and would—undermine his announced America First agenda. Lastly, the support of major pro-Israeli pressure groups and personalities, and their bank accounts, certainly is not to be ignored.

Bolton’s entry into the administration was, to use Thomas Jefferson’s famous expression, “a fire bell in the night.” It should have alerted us all that, like in the Reagan years, the battles to be waged would not just be with Democrats, but also with Establishment and Deep State globalists who claim the “conservative” mantle, but whose goals and vision are very much at odds with a president who has very little experience in navigating the snake pit which is Washington DC.  And a president who faced a nearly impenetrable foreign policy swamp and a powerful internationalist establishment which has learned nothing from our national reverses in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria….But who would love to mire us waist-deep in another quagmire in the Persian Gulf. Or, even, as the benighted inheritors of John McCain earnestly wish, a shooting proxy conflict with Russia!

So, as to be expected, Bolton has been at it again, first regarding Venezuela, where the so-called “democratic revolution” of Juan Guaido against the socialist Maduro government has fallen flat, despite Bolton’s attempt to infer that the US was “prepared to send 30,000 troops” to the country. Remember his intentionally visible note pad with that number written in large print for all to see?

And now, it’s Iran’s time in the barrel. Of course, that large nation is no friend of the United States, and it has not been since the Shah (in many ways “our man,” even our puppet) was overthrown in 1979. And, yes, Iran has definite interests in the Middle East; it has supported (successfully) Assad in Syria and has been successful in Lebanon. More significantly, Iran is seen by Israeli Likudnik hawks and their staunch supporters here in the United States (e.g. the powerful AIPAC, etc.) as a threat to Israel (mostly via Iran’s support for Hamas), and it is no secret at all that Israel would love, so to speak, for the US to help it “get its bacon out of the fire” by attacking Iran, or at least roughing it up a bit—and by whatever means necessary.

Thus, the bated breath and frenzy of most Fox News commentators (with the exception of Tucker Carlson), who like Bolton, Pompeo, and Abrams (and the dominant globalists of the GOP) wait anxiously for some, any, “military response” to Iran’s latest “provocations”—although we have no information, no data yet about what these provocations might be. Basically, we are told to “accept on faith” that they exist, and Bolton & co. plan to brief Congress.

But the essential question arises like thunder in a storm: Iran has always been somewhat hostile to us in the Persian Gulf—yet, there have been no attacks, no assaults on any American personnel, no attacks on our vessels or our interests. Indeed, Iran, despite its fundamentalist Shi’a regime, knows fully well that ANY such attack would bring swift retaliation.  So, who, then, is being provocative here?

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal and other media have reported that Bolton’s (and Pompeo’s) headlong push for (another) war has been, apparently, stymied, at least for the time being by Trump himself and that the present situation may be due to mutual “misreading” by both the US and Iran. (cf. “Intelligence Suggests U.S., Iran Misread Each Other, Stoking Tensions,” The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2019, at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-told-aides-he-doesnt-want-war-with-iran-11558036762] In fact, in his administration Donald Trump, despite his virtual lack of knowledge vis-à-vis foreign policy, may be, ironically, the only person who stands in the way of what I once termed “continual war for unobtainable peace.”

For if he lets Bolton and others of that ilk have their way and we do go to war against Iran, that very simply will be the abrogation of the Trump agenda, and very probably the end of the Trump presidency in 2020.

Several articles bring this out in greater detail, and I pass them on to you below. First, there is Pat Buchanan’s very important column of May 17; and I follow that with a background piece on Bolton’s actions by the foreign policy analyst, Whitney Webb; lastly, another Buchanan column, this one from May 6. All three are significant warnings about future—and very reckless—potential American actions which could, most assuredly, destroy the Trump presidency and fully re-empower the globalists who continue to despise, even if concealed down deep, the president as an inept parvenu, but someone they are quite capable of using or manipulating…until he is no longer useful to them.

Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware!

Who Wants This War with Iran?
By Patrick J. Buchanan   Friday - May 17, 2019
Speaking on state TV of the prospect of a war in the Gulf, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei seemed to dismiss the idea. "There won't be any war. ... We don't seek a war, and (the Americans) don't either. They know it's not in their interests."

The ayatollah's analysis — a war is in neither nation's interest — is correct. Consider the consequences of a war with the United States for his own country. Iran's hundreds of swift boats and handful of submarines would be sunk. Its ports would be mined or blockaded. Oil exports and oil revenue would halt. Air fields and missile bases would be bombed. The Iranian economy would crash. Iran would need years to recover. And though Iran's nuclear sites are under constant observation and regular inspection, they would be destroyed.

Tehran knows this, which is why, despite 40 years of hostility, Iran has never sought war with the "Great Satan" and does not want this war to which we seem to be edging closer every day.

What would such a war mean for the United States? It would not bring about "regime change" or bring down Iran's government that survived eight years of ground war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.  If we wish to impose a regime more to our liking in Tehran, we will have to do it the way we did it with Germany and Japan after 1945, or with Iraq in 2003. We would have to invade and occupy Iran.

But in World War II, we had 12 million men under arms. And unlike Iraq in 2003, which is one-third the size and population of Iran, we do not have the hundreds of thousands of troops to call up and send to the Gulf.

Nor would Americans support such an invasion, as President Donald Trump knows from his 2016 campaign. Outside a few precincts, America has no enthusiasm for a new Mideast war, no stomach for any occupation of Iran.
Moreover, war with Iran would involve firefights in the Gulf that would cause at least a temporary shutdown in oil traffic through the Strait of Hormuz — and a worldwide recession.

How would that help the world? Or Trump in 2020?
How many allies would we have in such a war? Spain has pulled its lone frigate out of John Bolton's flotilla headed for the Gulf. Britain, France and Germany are staying with the nuclear pact, continuing to trade with Iran, throwing ice water on our intelligence reports that Iran is preparing to attack us.

Turkey regards Iran as a cultural and economic partner. Russia was a de facto ally in Syria's civil war. China continues to buy Iranian oil. India just hosted Iran's foreign minister.

So, again, Cicero's question: "Cui bono?" – “To whose good?” Who really wants this war? How did we reach this precipice?

A year ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a MacArthurian ultimatum, making 12 demands on the Tehran regime. Iran must abandon all its allies in the Middle East — Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza — pull all forces under Iranian command out of Syria, and then disarm all its Shiite militia in Iraq.

Iran must halt all enrichment of uranium, swear never to produce plutonium, shut down its heavy water reactor, open up its military bases to inspection to prove it never had a secret nuclear program and stop testing missiles. And unless she submits, Iran will be strangled with sanctions.

Pompeo's speech at the Heritage Foundation read like the terms of some conquering Caesar dictating to some defeated tribe in Gaul, though we had yet to fight and win the war, usually a precondition for dictating terms.

Iran's response was to disregard Pompeo's demands. And crushing U.S. sanctions were imposed, to brutal effect.

Yet, as one looks again at the places where Pompeo ordered Iran out — Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza, Syria, Iraq — no vital interest of ours was imperiled by any Iranian presence.

The people who have a problem with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon are the Israelis whose occupations spawned those movements.

As for Yemen, the Houthis overthrew a Saudi puppet.

Syria's Bashar Assad never threatened us, though we armed rebels to overthrow him. In Iraq, Iranian-backed Shiite militia helped us to defend Baghdad from the southerly advance of ISIS, which had taken Mosul.

Who wants us to plunge back into the Middle East, to fight a new and wider war than the ones we fought already this century in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen?

Answer: Pompeo and Bolton, Bibi Netanyahu, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Sunni kings, princes, emirs, sultans and the other assorted Jeffersonian democrats on the south shore of the Persian Gulf.

And lest we forget, the Never-Trumpers and neocons in exile nursing their bruised egos, whose idea of sweet revenge is a U.S. return to the Mideast in a war with Iran, which then brings an end to the Trump presidency.

BOLTON’S VAGUE PRESS RELEASE LAYS FOUNDATION FOR MILITARY ATTACK AGAINST IRAN

By Whitney Webb  May 06th, 2019
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WASHINGTON — In a late Sunday press release, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the deployment of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) and a bomber task force to U.S. Central Command as a “clear and unmistakable message to Iran.” The press release claims that the move was made “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” which were left unspecified.
The statement further claims that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force” and that, while “the United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime,” the Trump administration is “fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”
Last month, in a move that many viewed as a set-up for a war with Iran — which has long been sought by Bolton as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, even prior to their posts in the current administration — the Trump administration labeled the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran as a terrorist organization. Iran’s government subsequently responded in kind, labeling U.S. soldiers of Central Command as terrorists and designating the U.S. government as a state sponsor of terrorism.

While Bolton framed the latest move as a “warning” to Iran, it turns out that the deployment of the Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to U.S. Central Command was actually announced last month with no mention at all of Iran. Indeed, a Navy press release 
published on April 8 stated that “the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, April 1, for a regularly scheduled deployment.” The fleet has already been stationed in the Central Command region since at least April 15, when the U.S. Naval Institute announced that it was anchored off the coast of Spain.
However, the New York Times subsequently clarified that the strike group had been ordered to move from the Mediterranean Sea to the Middle East in relation to Bolton’s announcement. The Times also noted that the validity of the “warnings” of an alleged imminent attack on American or allied assets in the region by Iran or its alleged proxies was unknown because, “as of late Friday, military analysts were not tracking any new, imminent or clearly defined Iranian or Iranian-backed threats against Americans in Iraq or the region.”
As MintPress has previously reported, Bolton has an extensive record of distorting or falsifying intelligence if it serves his political ends. Given that Bolton has long been an advocate for regime change by force in Iran as well as the pre-emptive bombing of Iran, the intelligence on these alleged “warnings” should be heavily scrutinized. Yet, because there is no permanent secretary of defense or secretary of homeland security, Bolton has more control over national security policy and intelligence now than at any time since he became national security advisor last April. As a result, this much-needed scrutiny is unlikely to materialize.
The real danger of Bolton’s announcement is not the framing of the deployment of military assets or the validity of the “threats” it cites, but rather its sweeping vagueness. Indeed, Bolton’s press release states that any attack “whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces” would justify an aggressive U.S. military response. Thus, an attack launched by a “proxy” of Iran on not just assets but “interests” of the U.S. in the region or “interests” of a U.S. ally in the region, would now be sufficient to trigger a U.S. attack on Iran, even if Iran itself was not directly responsible.
Given that the Trump administration has defined Iranian proxies rather loosely to include any Shia-dominated militia in the entire region — including those that have no provable connection to Iran — it is hard to interpret Bolton’s statement as anything other than a set-up for war.
This concern has only been augmented following statements made by Pompeo about Bolton’s recent press release. Pompeo told reporters late Sunday that the deployment of the strike group was “something we’ve been working on for a little while,” continuing:
It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests. The fact that those actions take place, if they do, by some third-party proxy, whether that’s a Shia militia group or the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the Iranians — Iranian leadership — directly accountable for that.”
As MintPress and other outlets have previously noted, even the U.S. government’s own documents admit that the Houthis in Yemen are not a proxy of Iran and that Iran has no direction over their military actions. In addition, Pompeo’s claim that any actions taken by any “Shia militia group” will be blamed on Iran shows that the Trump administration is now building a foundation to attack Iran for actions that include those over which Iran has no control whatsoever.
Furthermore, given the vagueness of the press release, military action may not even be necessary to trigger a response, as the press release says that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” For instance, if Iran makes good on its promise to blockade the Persian Gulf in response to U.S. efforts to place a total embargo on its oil efforts, such a move could now be interpreted as an attack on U.S. interests or those of its regional allies even though it would not expressly involve an offensive attack.
In addition — given that the Trump administration also considers Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, a proxy of Iran — future hostilities between Hamas and Israel, the U.S.’ main ally in the region, could also be interpreted as an “attack” on the U.S. or allied (i.e., Israeli) interests launched by an alleged Iranian proxy. However, in the case of Israel and Hamas, an unnamed U.S. official told the New York Times that the recent strike group deployment was unrelated to the conflict between Hamas and Israel, which saw Israel pound the Gaza Strip with airstrikes over the weekend.
Furthermore, it is also worth considering that the execution of a “false flag” operation attributed to any militia even claiming to be Shia against a target deemed important to U.S. or allied interests could be used to justify war with Iran.
The vagueness of Bolton’s press release, as well as subsequent statements made by Pompeo, clearly show that the war hawks in the Trump administration are laying the foundation for an aggressive military attack against Iran, one that will inevitably lead to war with the Islamic Republic and likely engulf much of the Middle East — and potentially much of the world.
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

 
Is Bolton Steering Trump Into War with Iran?
By Patrick J. Buchanan   Tuesday - May 6, 2019

Last week, it was Venezuela in America's gun sights.  "While a peaceful solution is desirable, military action is possible," thundered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "If that's what is required, that's what the United States will do."  John Bolton tutored Vladimir Putin on the meaning of the Monroe Doctrine: "This is our hemisphere. It's not where the Russians ought to be interfering."

After Venezuela's army decided not to rise up and overthrow Nicholas Maduro, by Sunday night, it was Iran that was in our gun sights. Bolton ordered the USS Abraham Lincoln, its carrier battle group and a bomber force to the Mideast "to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force."

What "attack" was Bolton talking about?

According to Axios, Israel had alerted Bolton that an Iranian strike on U.S. interests in Iraq was imminent. Flying to Finland, Pompeo echoed Bolton's warning:

"We've seen escalatory actions from the Iranians, and ... we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests. ... (If) these actions take place, if they do by some third-party proxy, whether that's a Shia militia group or the Houthis or Hezbollah, we will hold the ... Iranian leadership directly accountable for that."

Taken together, the Bolton-Pompeo threats add up to an ultimatum that any attack by Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, or Iran-backed militias — on Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE or U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria or the Gulf states — will bring a U.S. retaliatory response on Iran itself.

Did President Donald Trump approve of this? For he appears to be going along. He has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions. Last week, he canceled waivers he had given eight nations to let them continue buying Iranian oil. Purpose: Reduce Iran's oil exports, 40% of GDP, to zero, to deepen an economic crisis that is already expected to cut Iran's GDP this year by 6%.

Trump has also designated Iran a terrorist state and the Republican Guard a terrorist organization, the first time we have done that with the armed forces of a foreign nation.  We don't even do that with North Korea.

Iran responded last Tuesday by naming the U.S. a state sponsor of terror and designating U.S. forces in the Middle East as terrorists. Iran has also warned that if we choke off its oil exports that exit the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait could be closed to other nations. As 30% of the world's oil shipments transit the Strait, closing it could cause a global crash.

In 1973, when President Nixon rescued Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the OPEC Arabs imposed an oil embargo. Gas prices spiked so high Nixon considered taking a train to Florida for Christmas vacation. The gas price surge so damaged Nixon's standing with the public that it became a contributing factor in the drive for impeachment.

Today, Trump's approval rating in the Gallup Poll has reached an all-time high, 46%, a level surely related to the astonishing performance of the U.S. economy following Trump's tax cuts and sweeping deregulation.

While a Gulf war with Iran might be popular at the outset, what would it do for the U.S. economy or our ability to exit the forever war of the Middle East, as Trump has pledged to do?

In late April, in an interview with Fox News, Iran's foreign minister identified those he believes truly want a U.S.-Iranian war. Asked if Trump was seeking the confrontation and the "regime change" that Bolton championed before becoming his national security adviser, Mohammad Javad Zarif said no:
"I do not believe President Trump wants to do that. I believe President Trump ran on a campaign promise of not bringing the United States into another war. President Trump himself has said that the U.S. spent $7 trillion in our region ... and the only outcome of that was that we have more terror, we have more insecurity, and we have more instability. People in our region are making the determination that the presence of the United States is inherently destabilizing. I think President Trump agrees with that."

But if it is not Trump pushing for confrontation and war with Iran, who is?

Said Zarif, "I believe 'the B-team' wants to actually push the United States, lure President Trump, into a confrontation that he doesn't want."

And who makes up "the B-team"? Zarif identifies them: Bolton, Benjamin Netanyahu, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Should the B-team succeed in its ambitions — it will be Trump's war, and Trump's presidency will pay the price.

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