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The business of America is business

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That’s one of the famous quotes from my favourite American President next to Lincoln and Washington – Calvin Coolidge.

It would seem that President Biden believes in that also – sort of. In this case he believes in doing good business with President Putin, to the tune of $10 billion.

WHAT!? You may say? Aren’t there just a ton of sanctions the USA has laid on Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin is winking in this photo from 2021

Well yes, but that doesn’t mean other things aren’t important – like reviving the hopeless 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the JCPOA, of which Russia is a key component, in both the negotiations and the aftermath:

Sure, Biden talked tough about imposing sanctions on Russia and called out Putin for his fiendish actions, but the Russians knew that his words were as hollow as Obama’s meaningless sanctions over Crimea. And the Russians gleefully rubbed Biden’s nose in it. Lavrov boasted publicly that the United States had provided written guarantees that sanctions imposed over Ukraine would have no effect on Russia’s nuclear cooperation with Iran. In other words, the cash influx that the JCPOA promised Putin would be unaffected by whatever happened in Ukraine. No matter how many Ukrainians Putin murdered, Biden was going to make the man he called a war criminal even richer. Half a million dead Syrians could testify that America would keep its word.

When the Iran deal is formalized, Iran will be a Russian nuclear client. Russia’s state-controlled Rosatom energy firm and at least four of its major subsidiaries will receive sanctions waivers to finish nuclear projects in Iran worth more than $10 billion. Iran will also be buying weapons from Moscow worth billions of dollars more. By relieving sanctions on Iranian banks, the restored JCPOA provides Putin with financial channels invulnerable to U.S. financial measures.

Helping Russia make lots of money. Enabling Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

Apparently this is what passes for great US foreign policy nowadays, certainly with Biden’s staff, the bulk of whom are Obama retreads determined to give Obama his third term.

Read the whole thing.



Given that this quote is often used to slam both the USA and Coolidge I think a fuller quote is needed:

After all, the chief business of the American people is business.  They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.  I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of our people will always find these are moving impulses of our life. . .  Wealth is the product of industry, ambition, character and untiring effort.  In all experience, the accumulation of wealth means the multiplication of schools, the increase of knowledge, and dissemination of intelligence, the encouragement of science, the broadening of outlook, the expansion of liberties, the widening of culture.  Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement.  So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it. 

And on a separate occasion:

Great captains of industry who have aroused the wonder of the world by their financial success would not have been captains at all had it not been for the generations of liberal culture in the past and the existence all about them of a society permeated, inspired, and led by the liberal culture of the present.  If it were possible to strike out that factor from present existence, he would find all the value of his great possessions diminish to the vanishing point, and he himself would be but a barbarian among barbarians.

Written by Tom Hunter

April 17, 2022 at 11:14 am

An important election in Iran

In this case the recent election of a new President of Iran, where whoever is chosen by the Council of Guardians and who has the approval of the Ayatollah Kahmenei – the person actually running Iran – goes on to win the general election.

There have been “surprises” in these elections over the years, but that’s usually been when the Ayatollah has not expressed any favouritism for any one of the permitted candidates. This time he did.

The product of this joke of an election system turns out to be probably the biggest piece of shit that has ever crawled into that position., and that’s saying something considering his predecessors.

Ebrahim Raisi

Both of the following articles should be read.


First, a concise piece by historian Dominic Green, who has a biting wit, Iran’s president, a schreibtischtäter:

Raisi is what Hannah Arendt would have called a schreibtischtäter, a ‘desk murderer’: a functionary who orders dirty work while keeping his own hands clean.

In the 1980s, Raisi was a young regional prosecutor. He was part of a four-man ‘death committee’ which ordered the disappearance and killing of thousands of the Islamic revolution’s enemies. You may be shocked to hear human rights’ groups claiming that due process was frequently ignored during this judicial massacre.

He also has not changed over the decades:

… when protests against the clerical dictatorship broke out in 2019, Raisi, as head of the Iranian judiciary, granted blanket impunity to government officials and security forces responsible for unlawfully killing hundreds of men, women and children, and subjecting thousands of protesters to mass arrests and at least a hundred to enforced disappearance, and torture and other ill-treatment’.

Is it any wonder that Raisi won the presidency with the lowest turnout in Iran’s post-1979 history: 48 percent nationally, down from over 70 percent in 2017, with only 28 percent bothering to vote in Tehran. 

Green argues that with this election the JCPOA nuclear deal is more dead than when Trump withdrew the USA from it. Not that that will stop the Biden Administration from trying to re-enter it:

Raisi has already said he won’t meet Biden. He has issued a ‘non-negotiable’ rejection of the American goal of adding Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorism to follow-on negotiations. The Iranian negotiators will use the prospect of Raisi taking office in August to lever more concessions from the desperate Americans. But the election of Raisi in the first place has already confirmed the futility of returning to the Iran Deal.

It is the Supreme Leader, 82-year-old Ayatollah Khameini, who heads the Iranian regime, and the military-industrial complex controlled by the IRGC that is its arms and legs. Raisi is a product of their interdependence and corruption. He may yet inherit Khameini’s throne. This is one reason why the pro-Democratic ‘echo chamber’ is spinning his merits in sequence with the centrifuges.

That last crack is referring to Obama’s point man on the JCPOA, Ben Rhodes, who boasted in an interview with the New York Times Magazine in 2016 about how he had created a media “echo chamber” to help get the deal passed. An article in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine, A stunning profile of Ben Rhodes, the asshole who is the president’s foreign policy guru, noted the famous description by Rhodes of the MSM he manipulated:

Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”


The second article, Ebrahim Raisi, the clerics ruthless enforcer, is longer and goes into more historic detail about his ugly past, including the political games that were going on behind the scenes of the 1988 executions:

The 1988 executions sparked a debate within the regime, just as Khomeini had intended. The supreme leader wanted to separate the true believers from the skeptics. His heir-apparent, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, objected to the killings, and in a secret recording released in 2016, he can be heard chastising Raisi and his fellow executioners.

Shades of Mao and his Cultural Revolution designed to purge the CCP of reactionary elements and purify it. All this history leads to this moment:

By 2016, there were unmistakable public signs that Khamenei was grooming Raisi to succeed him. When it comes to personnel, Khamenei has always displayed a keen eye for talent and loyalty. And Raisi’s promotions all required the personal approval of the supreme leader.

Which helps explain why, this year, the Guardian Council disqualified a high number of presidential candidates — not only did “moderates” get axed, but even the hard-line former speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, was removed from the ballot. As a result, Raisi ran nearly uncontested, with no real competitors. 

So he’s the next Ayatollah. He’s even been given “management” positions that enabled him to build a legacy beyond that of executioner, being placed in charge of huge sums of money via the Astan-e Qods Foundation in Mashhad, which runs the Imam Reza Shrine, visited by millions of pilgrims a year and with $15 billion in assets. 

The article draws the appropriate conclusions that the US will have to confront:

Raisi’s win in a fully rigged election strips the system of its off-ramps. The once-popular reformist notion that the theocracy could liberalize itself through its own constitutional provisions has died — except perhaps abroad among Western leftists. The Republic of Virtue is drowning in corruption and class divisions that are as pronounced as those in the last days of the shah.

The regime has no answers to the myriad problems the nation faces. Even hooking up with China will not save them in the long run as they continue to disconnect further from the Iranian people, whose protests are answered only by brutality because the Ayatollah’s know it also:

A nation that saw massive protests once a decade now sees them more frequently. In the latest nationwide revolts of 2019 and 2020, sparked by a drop in fuel subsidies, even the working classes joined the protests. Iran’s ethnic minorities, who probably make up 50 percent of the country’s population, have also become increasingly vocal in expressing their grievances.

They have the same conclusion on the nuclear deal as well:

These two clerics, who will likely reinforce each other’s hardest impulses, both understand what Washington appears to have missed: The era of arms-control diplomacy has ended. The Islamic republic’s nuclear trajectory will not be impacted by further negotiated restraints.

The US may succeed in getting JCPOA back, but it will make no difference and ultimately what happens to the Iranian nuclear weapons programme is down to the Israelis.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 29, 2021 at 4:00 pm

The Ayatollah Boogaloo

As the combined pressures of US sanctions and Iranian government incompetence steadily increase – including now appearing to have been hit worse by the coronavirus than almost any other nation short of China itself – the question has become how long the Iranian theocracy can last.

Sadly I think the answer is some time yet. While it’s true that there were huge, nation-wide protests in Iran in 2009 and 2019, plus many smaller regional ones, the same could be said of the Soviet Imperial project with riots in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, plus numerous smaller eruptions in places like Poland. But the whole thing still did not collapse for another couple of decades.

One primary difference of course is that the people of Iran are considerably more free than Communist peoples were, on both the streets and with modern information technology. And so when their idiot government of theocrats decides to push propaganda at them – they push back.

Insulting the Little and Great Satans

Here’s a recent example, where the authorities have painted the US and Israeli flags on places like steps and footpaths so that people will walk on them – the ultimate insult in Iranian culture.

Except that the Iranian people are walking around them, as seen in videos in this link.

“Walk On By”

At a mosque in Khuzestan, Iran, a single pair of shoes sits on the American and Israeli flags placed as as a mat for shoes. Everyone else went out of their way to respect the flags — and this is among the pious.
— Mike (@Doranimated) January 16, 2020

In fact the Mullahs got so desperate that they lined up their own sad little bands of supporters for a bit of agit-prop.

This is not a sign of a strong regime.

Meantime, in the wake of these idiots shooting down a Ukranian airliner filled with many Iranians, the Iranian people got very angry and started protesting in ways not seen before.

Which is to say that the protestors began to shout slogans that they would normally be too frightened to utter in public as these videos show:

“Death to the Dictator! Death to the Dictator!” “Sepah (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps) does crimes! The Supreme Leader defends them!” “Khamenei is a murderer! His rule is void and invalid!” “Death to the liar! Death to the Liar!”

And as a couple of the videos show the protestors have begun to encounter members of the security forces who made it clear they weren’t going to simply sweep them off the streets on behalf of the Mullahs.

<= Then this happened!

To a certain extent this Tweet was greeted with a shrug by Iranians. The Iranian regime constantly lies to the people, who understand they are being lied to, including by state media people like “Iran’s State TV Anchor“.

Nobody in Iran takes seriously claims from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Foreign Minister Zarif or President Rouhani, and the people take their cues from first-hand information, not from “official” reports.

Then there was the recent Parliamentary elections. In the West much was made of how the “hardliners” had strengthened their position v the “moderates” and how this was an example of US sanctions were creating “blowback”.

What was not so widely reported was that the reason for this was that election turnout was hopelessly low as Iranians demonstrated their contempt for the system by not voting. There’s not much point boasting about an election when that happens and while the regime knew the turnout would be very low, they pegged it at 40%, while opposition leaders said it was half as great. The opposition was more accurate. The regime had lied. Again.

Put another Qud on the Barbie

It’s also become clear that replacing General Qassem Soleimani is proving to be far more difficult than expected (as I pointed out at the time). Again contrary to initial Western reactions, which held that he was ” an easily replaceable man“:

“Analysts and officials” told the Post that “[Ismail Qaani] lacks the ambition, charisma and strong connections of his predecessor.” Indeed Suleimani’s old outfit is now in such difficult straits that “a struggle may already be underway to clip the Quds Force’s wings.”

And as Parnaz Foroutan, an Iranian journalist whose parents fled the nation in 1983, explained, Soleimani was hardly beloved by the Iranian people anyway, despite the government putting every effort into making it seem like they did – a propaganda effort once again swallowed hook, line and sinker by the likes of the NYT (“Iran is in mourning”).

Elsewhere, the regime is cracking down on violations of Sharia law, for example in Iraq, where celebrations of Valentine’s Day have become popular. Iran is trying to ban cards, chocolates and presents, and the Qom prosecutor’s office threatened to close down businesses that sell Valentine’s symbols and set up a hotline for trade union leaders to report anyone buying stuff for the holiday.

The economy is not in great shape, as this story from The Asia Times noted:

One average salary pays for a small apartment outside the center, utilities, enough calories to keep body and soul together, and bus fare, which is subsidized. Throw in cell phone service, clothing, fruits and vegetables, and one or two meat meals a month, and an Iranian couple will require two average salaries. 

In turn that has led to Iranian family life getting hammered.

The decline in absolute numbers of births is unprecedented outside of wartime, and it should be noted that the number of Iranian women of child-bearing age increased slightly over the same period, so the collapsing birth rate clearly reflects decisions not to have kids.

As a result, over the next two decades Iran is going to face a demographic crisis possibly worse than anywhere else: even worse than Japan and China, but without their strengths.

The same article points out other aspects of government incompetence, with water mis-management the worst of any industrialised nation and 97% of the country facing drought conditions.

And in the wake of Soleimani’s death it’s become clear that a lot of Arab Shiite Muslims are actually not very happy about Iran “leading” them, as explained by Hanin Ghaddar, a Lebanese expat and an analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East policy:

In Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, and inside Iran itself—the countries that fall along the Shia Crescent—the people have realized that the enemy is within. It’s their own governments that have allowed the Iranian regime to take over the state and its institutions…. The Shia Crescent…is finally turning against the Iranian regime and its proxies.

[It] started when the Iraqis—mostly in Shia towns and cities—started to chant “Iran, out out, Iraq free, free,” and when the Lebanese took to the streets with one unifying slogan: “All of you means all of you.” This nightmare became a serious challenge when Iraqi protestors set Iranian consulates on fire and when Lebanese protestors included [Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah among the failed Lebanese political figures, and blamed Hezbollah for Lebanon’s calamities.

In the face of all this the regime has responded the only way it knows how: brutal crack-downs and propaganda cranked up. However the former is creating blowback and the latter – like the sad flag-stomping efforts – show that the Mullahs suffer from the same gross stupidities that have always arisen from a regime that has barely any understanding of the outside world.

On February 9, the Islamic Republic of Iran failed for the third (or maybe the fourth) time to place a rocket in orbit around the earth.

Not only that, but as part of this launch the regime’s Minister of Information, Mohammed-Javad Azari-Jahromi, unveiled what he claimed was a model of an Iranian spacesuit. In reality, it was a twenty-dollar American kids’ costume that had the American flag removed and the regime’s flag stitched in its place. I don’t think the word “farcical” covers it.

Missile launches, the economy, the currency, dozens of people trampled to death during Soleimani’s funeral, water, birth rates, kickback from Shiites around the Arab world….

It’s just one giant and growing clusterfuck by the Mullahs.

And now they’re being hit by the coronavirus, and the Mullahs aren’t coping very well (I know, right?), with so many dead that the huge burial pits are visible from space:

At the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran, the excavation of a new section of the graveyard began as early as Feb. 21, satellite images show, and then rapidly expanded as the virus spread. 

By the end of the month, two large trenches — their lengths totaling 100 yards — were visible at the site from space.

The official toll as of February 28 was 34 deaths.

Oom is a very religious part of the nation and to show how faithful they are they’ve shown videos of pro-regime people urging their children to kiss and lick the shrines. FFS! That link also includes a video selfie of a nurse begging people to stay in their homes because “…since this morning 100 people have died before my eyes”.

Given the nature of the country, its close ties with China and its increasing dependency on them, perhaps this should not be a surprise. I doubt the Iranian Mullahs would have acted to cut flights between Iran and China. Naturally it’s tough to get information out of the regime but opposition groups estimate that over 3,600 people have died from the virus to date, and there’s no sign that it’s peaked yet. The situation is so dire that Iran is asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help for the first time in 60 years.

Following Britain’s loss of the American colonies a friend of Adam Smith asked him if this meant that Britain would be ruined if things went on like this, to which Smith famously replied:

“Be assured young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation”

What he meant by that is that it takes an awful lot of bungling by political leaders to truly destroy a nation.

However, since then various nations have proven that it can be done – most recently Zimbabwe and Venezuela. As well as they’ve survived these last forty years the Islamic Republic of Iran and its thug Mullah leaders are facing an increasingly dangerous series of broad-spectrum failures. They could be the next to breach Smith’s assurance.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 15, 2020 at 11:03 am

A different perspective on Iran

Over the last month I put up a number of OPs on the subject of Iran in the wake of the US killing their top military guy Soleimani:

  1. America “You can’t do anything against us” (آمریکا هیچ غلطی نمی تواند بکن)
  2. USA v Iran: What WON’T Happen.
  3. USA v Iran: What Iran will do.
  4. USA v Iran: What the USA will do
Now over at the Kiwipolitico blog, “Pablo” – aka Paul Buchanan – has linked to two articles he has written for the Australian Institute of International Affairs:
  1. Iran As A Strategic Actor.
  2. The Ideology of Iran.
In both cases Paul brings to bear his qualifications in geopolitics and international relations, plus his experience in the belly of the US military and diplomatic beast and I recommend both of them to be read.
Some key quotes from the first article:

The key strategic concerns of the Iranian state are to ensure the integrity of the nation, preserve the theocratic regime, promote domestic development and economic prosperity, ensure domestic peace and external security and be recognised as a legitimate regional power. 

Iran’s primary external threats come from its western and southern land and sea borders, but cross-national threats emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan are in the mix as well. 

[They have] 523,000 active duty military personnel…., including 350,000 ground troops, 30,000 air force, and 18,000 naval personnel, plus other constabulary and intelligence services) and another 300,000 in reserve.

… it follows the doctrine of plausible deniability by allowing proxies and Quds Forces to undertake decentralised, autonomous operations at the discretion of field commanders.

As a balance, Iran maintains close ties with China, Russia, and Syria as well as Shiite groups throughout the world, and cordial relations with a number of other states, including India.

And from the second:

The ideological element in Iran is twofold: it sees itself as a global defender of Shiia Islam, to include defending against “Crusader” and Sunni Muslim encroachments on traditionally Shiite land and people; and it is anti-imperialist in its rejection of distant (again, Judeo-Christian) great power interference in the Middle East. 

The influence of the ideological element ebbs and flows depending on the level of threat perceived by the regime and the specific policy arena in question. 

Iran wants to demonstrate a nuclear weapons delivery capability so as to deter aggression by its enemies, especially the US and Israel. 

Iran has publicly renounced a first-strike option for its nuclear weapons and has instead spoken of using nuclear weapons only if attacked (unlike the US, which has not renounced the pre-emptive first-strike option). However, the international community fears that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability will precipitate a nuclear arms race with Sunni Arab countries and/or a pre-emptive attack by nuclear-armed Israel.

I don’t agree with some aspects of this, but it’s interesting stuff. Most of all I do not agree with the basic idea that we should treat the Islamic Republic of Iran – a nation that has since its inception explicitly advocated exporting its nutty Shiite Islamic Revolution – as anything less than an enemy of the West, An enemy that should not be fought in an active war with, but an enemy nevertheless.
Like any other nation Iran’s leaders may well want to ensure “the integrity of the nation,….promote domestic development and economic prosperity,…ensure domestic peace” – but just as with the old Communists all of that is subservient to the idea of the Revolution, in this case, a religious one.
To that end Iran is willing to sacrifice much of those other things, including the lives of its own subjects. Ensuring “domestic peace” alone has required a domestic body count that was bad during the 2009 protests against the election and even higher in the 2019 protests (some 1500 deaths by most accounts), let alone over the last forty years – and not counting all those souls rotting in prison and tortured before being released.
My main contention with Paul is that such complex and sophisticated analysis, while necessary, often obfuscates the simple differences between good societies and bad societies and leads to detente with the bad in the hope that it will become less bad over time. So with his his suggestion that the Soleimani killing offers:

….an opportunity to test classic concepts in international relations. Notions of misperception, miscalculation, brinkmanship, bluffing, escalation, and reputation, and how they make for the possibility of war, are all at play in the stand-off.

That’s all true. But I’m reminded that the same sort of analysis was applied to the Cold War, the decades-long struggle between the USA and the USSR, and was held to be the only way forward in living in a world with the USSR. And this basic disagreement can be seen with another quote:

… the “all stick, no carrot” approach adopted by the US under the Trump administration ignores the history of successful diplomacy with Iran and encourages the dominance of hardliners in internal debates about how Iran should engage generally and respond specifically to external events and conditions.

I’m not aware of any diplomacy with Iran that ever bent their ideological trajectory in the direction of behaving better internationally, which is surely what diplomatic “success” should be all about.

In any case I heard precisely that reasoning about the USSR in the 1980’s. US actions would strengthen the power of the hardliners – whereas it actually led to the rise of Gorbachev and his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost that, together with unaffordable military spending and a sheer loss of faith in Communism, eventually broke the USSR, which has improved our world greatly.

It was also the main argument about dealing with Russia that Obama used in 2008/2009; poor old Vlad was just reacting to the frightening warmonger Bush, hence the big “reset” button hit by Hillary. I don’t think any Democrat feels that way about Vlad now. Funny that.

The difference with Iran is that there is not even the closed mechanism of a Politburo and an ideology of earthly materialism to allow the rise of “moderates” in the nation. Their government has cleverly played the “moderate” vs. “hardline” argument in everything from domestic elections to foreign policy. Most of the world continues to fall for it.
It is a sham. There are no moderates in Iran that count; examples include former senior politicians Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who have been under house arrest for years with no trial. The Ayatollah is the Supreme Leader: it’s why the IRGC and proxies such as Hezbollah ultimately report to him rather than the Iranian President, who can only be elected from a list of candidates approved by the Ayatollah and the Council of Guardians in the first place. That Guardian article revealed the sad truth even as it appealed to “President” Rouhani:

While acknowledging Rouhani’s limited ability to intervene in the affairs of the judiciary, which acts independently of his administration, the academics said the president should speak out to protest what they called a “grave miscarriage of justice”. 

When Ayatollah Khamenei dies he will be replaced by someone like him, just as he replaced the murderous thug Ayatollah Khomeini. That process presents only a faint hope for an Iranian Gorbachev to arise: depending on his age the likely conservative successor will maintain the same theocratic ideas for many years to come and push hard for them throughout the Middle East, with their violent proxy terrorist groups like Hisbollah as the stick.
By contrast, as I noted in an OP celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, The People Win, President Reagan had a different take on the matter of dealing with such enemies:

“I’d like to tell you of my theory of the Cold War. Some people think that I am simplistic, but there is a fundamental difference between being simplistic and having simple answers to complex questions. So here’s my strategy on the Cold War:  

We win, they lose.”

Given the tensions of the day Reagan never said that in public. But it was an absolutely necessary idea in order to shake up an establishment that had, like the rest of us, grown used to the notion that Communist nations were forever.
Same with Iran. My take is also simplistic in that the Iranian people will be much better off once the current theocratic regime is destroyed and that the US and other nations should enable that to happen via sanctions and other non-military methods. Just as an aside, after all the gays they’ve publicly hanged from cranes over they years it would be justice to see the same thing happen to a few of the Mullahs and senior IRGC officers.
After Iran, Saudi Arabia and company come next, starting with cracking down on their export of the Wahhabist theology to the West as a way of keeping the fundamentalist knives from their own throats at home.
But with the same ideological objective to be kept at the forefront: we win, they lose.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 9, 2020 at 4:28 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , , ,

USA v Iran: What the USA will do after the killing of Soleimani

The USA will go for containment of Iran
It might not be called by its original name but the old strategy used against the USSR for the first thirty years of the Cold War will also work against Iran. Trump will likely end up with the practical outcome of the theory anyway, as he seems intent on threading the needle between the appeasement of Obama and the interventionism of Bush.

Trump is Jacksonian: President Andrew Jackson’s philosophy of  national security was focused on nationalistic concerns rather than global visions, while striking at any foreigner who attacked or killed Americans, but avoiding wars. Certainly Trump is finding the ME to be the same tar pit it has been for every President since Carter, but several factors have changed in the last decade that means he can more easily break free.


First and foremost, the USA does not need ME oil, unlike the 1970’s. US imports of such had dropped to low levels by the early 2000’s anyway thanks to Canada and Mexico, but the technology of fracking has been a game-changer, turning the USA into an oil producing giant itself. Several years ago an interesting little article on the economics of fracking included the following side note:

Whether America elects another Democrat or a Republican in Nov. 2016, the reality is that America is set to move through energy independence to being a world energy supplier in a five-to-10-year time frame. This will utterly change America’s foreign policy & national security relations.

In short, rather than being an international globalist, an energy independent or exporting America means American presidents can put American interests first.

Sounds like a blueprint for Trump, but future Democrats will be in the same comfortable position. In fact the USA will be a direct energy export competitor with Russia, Iran and the Gulf Arabs.

Second, the flow of US oil is such that even the loss of a major producer like Iran or Venezuela has had little to no effect on the global price, so the US does not have as great a need to intervene in the ME, even diplomatically. Even a small war there no longer has the same massively negative implications for global oil supply as it once would have. Events of the last few years have demonstrated this, as some attack or other has caused oil prices to do little more than spike for a few days.

Third, what these first two factors mean is that the US no longer has to be the “guardian of the Arabian Gulf” to insure the energy supply of the USA & Europe. For example, in the 1980’s the USA felt compelled to intervene in the so-called Gulf Tanker War between Iran and Iraq to keep the Straits of Hormuz open. But now it only has to think about keeping them closed – while the Iranians need it open to smuggle out what oil they can. As with much else about the Iranian military threat, that is a problem of  defense which is much easier to deal with and can be passive, leaving it to Iran to struggle with the risks of escalation.
Fourth, Iran has significant internal economic problems which the US can take advantage of merely through sanctions that require little or no military effort. As with the USSR, the more problems at home the less the Iranians will be able to stir up trouble abroad as they have to placate an increasingly angry population who are more interested in improving their lives than spreading a dingbat messianic revolution. This will take time to topple the Iranian religious government, but it will eventually, and appears to have already begun to do so, judging by the massive protests against the Iranian leaders in 2009 and 2019.
Fifth is Trump’s own attitudes towards the ME. When he describes those nations as shit holes no one doubts that he means it, thus his instincts are against US involvement in a ME war, and that’s reinforced by his understanding of how war weary Americans have become, which was a key factor in his 2016 win and will be again in 2020. The Jacksonian aspect again, both foreign and domestic.

Containment worked well against the USSR, although the USA began to ignore Kennan’s key piece of advice that the military component should be minimal, and began escalating combat against USSR-backed communist movements, culminating in Vietnam. That won’t happen this time because containment will work even better against a nation that is no superpower but merely a regional player to start with and which has no great ideological or religious appeal to outsiders, even other Shiite Muslims.


There are three possible countervailing factors that could weaken containment: Iran getting a nuclear weapon, the China-Russia nexus and the US Democrat Party.

Iran goes nuclear
Containment worked against the USSR as a nuclear power, so Iran getting a nuclear weapon would not change the strategy. Certainly it would provide a much better umbrella than exists now for them to push outward with their proxy forces, but conventional US strikes against such forces were the norm in the Cold War, and would be again. The Iranians don’t yet realise that nuclear weapons are a double-edged sword.

In any case I doubt this will happen before at least 2025 with the typical development timetables of such weapons and their industrial base. If that assumption proves wrong then it’s also highly likely that Trump would strike the facilities – and if the USA didn’t there is a 100% certainty that Israel would, given what they did in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.

China and Russia will try to take advantage of all this.
I’m sure they will. To what end? Both have their own internal demographic and economic weaknesses, which partnering up with a loser like Iran does not improve let alone fix.

China is more dependent on ME oil now than the USA was back in the day. Whatever trouble they can cause the USA by backing Iran could be more than negated by the resulting consequences with the Gulf Petro-states that supply it. China has no interest in upsetting its own oil supplies. As an example, for all the talk of it saving Venezuela and thus controlling that nation’s oil it’s reluctant to invest further in a wrecked environment: they’re actually demanding payment in oil on their loans. The last thing it needs is for the same to happen in the Gulf states or Iran. There is some talk about control of ports but again, to what end? China is more focused on control of European and Pacific ports, giving it a degree of influence in vastly richer areas.

Russia is an even worse spot. For all of Vlad’s flexing the fact remains that Russia has an economy smaller than that of Italy, with big demographic problems, while it desperately tries to hang on to the USSR’s superpower status, including its mistake of trying to have a military bigger than the economy can support. VPP has been tactically smart, with limited military support that allowed Assad to stay in power and which has enabled reaching into Lebanon and perhaps further afield in the ME.

But he’s been strategically dumb. What does “winning” in Syria even mean when you don’t have the resources to re-build the place? A warm-water port on the Med? Resource contracts for VPP’s billionaire pals? Big whoop! What balancing act will Russia perform over the decades-long struggle between Turkey and Syria? Not to mention the one over the Regional Power fight between Turkish Ottoman and Iranian Shiite visions of the ME. What does a partnership with Iran get you when you know they’re religious nutters determined to export their revolution, which will end up causing problems with all those other nations that Russia wants to be on good terms with such as Syria, Lebanon and Iraq? How do you squeeze the US out of its Gulf influence – especially Saudi Arabia – while Iran goes nuclear? About the only positive I can cynically see here for Vlad is that stirring up ME trouble might boost the price of oil, upon which his economy depends.

The US reply to all this should be to clap Putin on the back and wish him and his billionaire cronies the best of luck in managing these ME shit fights. The USSR is dead.

The Democrat Party
Probably the biggest negative factor here in trying to contain Iran. Unlike the Cold War the modern Democrats don’t believe in doing anything to Iran beyond kissy-face. The fact that the Democrats have swerved so wildly over just days, between saying Trump is weak in the ME and accusing him of being a warmonger, shows their complete incoherence on a ME strategy and even on short-term tactics.

But if a Democrat wins in 2020, and almost certainly in 2024, this incoherence will be a problem. Will they simply repeat Obama’s approach to Iran, which was to actually try and build it up as a regional power to counterbalance the likes of Saudi Arabia? Will they do the same with Russian and China, thereby allowing them more room to move in the ME? For all the screaming about Trump-Russia collusion, another “reset” with Russia cannot be discounted, even though this time they won’t be able to repeat the argument from 2008 that poor old Russia was merely a victim reacting against the scary warmongering President Bush.

Nobody would believe military threats from a Democrat now anyway, given their criticism of Trump and the growing revisionist criticism even of Obama’s Libyan actions. So it will have to be appeasement. But in this they will – like Trump – be aided by America’s new-found energy independence.

 “The road to Damascus is a road to peace” – Nancy Pelosi

They also have history here of trying to do back-channel deals with America’s adversaries, from Ted Kennedy’s offers of help to the USSR against Reagan in 1983…

… to Nancy Pelosi reaching out to Assad in 2007

… to John Kerry working with Iran in 2018.

What’s that word again? Collusion?

“You have folks who served in the previous administration who are telling the Iranian leaders today, ‘Just hang on. President Trump will lose in the election in November and we’ll go back to appeasement. America will write you a big check, we’ll underwrite your terror campaign around the world, we’ll give you a clear pathway to a nuclear weapon system. Just wait until the Trump administration is finished.’” – Mike Pompeo, 2019

No, that’s not it:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Written by Tom Hunter

January 15, 2020 at 7:00 pm

USA v Iran: What Iran will do after the killing of Soleimani

Wait! Have I’ve seen this before?

Honestly, what is it with Iranian crowds shouting “Death To America” while their leaders ride around in Chevrolet trucks? The above photo is of Ayatollah Khomeini – sadly not his remains – returning to Tehran in 1979.

But getting back to 2020: what happens next from the Iranians is very easy to predict.

Iran trashes the nuclear deal (JCPOA)
Actually not a prediction now as they announced the other day that it’s dead. But it’s been dead anyway since Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018 and put sanctions back on Iran. And all this was irrelevant since the deal was a joke from the start in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, for which it applied only a ten year window. Why not twenty years? Why not permanently?

That people are still defending this nonsense deal is a mystery given that window of time. Did they think something dramatic would change in Iran over the next ten years? That the fundamental drivers of Iran’s need for nuclear weapons would vanish and that it would not re-start a nuclear weapons program then – assuming it was not cooking away underneath anyhow? I can only put it down to a fading worship of Obama, “statesmanship”, fine phrases issued from sober gentlemen, and Kellogg–Briand Pact fantasies that never die.

A topic for another day, the JCPOA was completely unlike past nuclear agreeements that had seen actual caps and even reductions or total elimination of nuclear weapons, plus complete destruction of the programs that could produce them, as happened in Ukraine, South Africa and Libya. All backed up by actual inspections of all military, scientific and production sites, something most definitely not the case with the JCPOA.

In any case the deal ignored the fundamental factor, which was that the Iranian government observed three nations giving up their nuclear weapon programmes, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine, being attacked anyway: Libya and Iraq by the USA, Ukraine by Russia. All this while a bigger basketcase of a nation, North Korea, remains inviolate – with its nuclear weapons.

Iran will do more of the same
Iran will use its covert armed services, primarily the Quds Force and other elements of the IRGC, to assassinate Americans and their allies, kidnap them, strike military bases and economic targets, sack embassies, and send out militias to crack down on adversaries.

The reason it’s easy to predict these actions is that they’ve been doing all this for decades now anyway. It won’t be a “reaction” or even an escalation in the sense of something new and different.

I do expect an increase in the tempo of such warfare and attempts to attack the US outside of the ME, but for all the face-saving needed by Iran it’s going to be carefully calibrated to avoid the US striking back in a way that really hurts.

Iran knows how weak it is in the context of conventional, symmetrical warfare. And not just in terms of inadequate military hardware and dependence on limited, easily destroyed infrastructure, but also in terms of having an economy to support military efforts.

That economy was already in trouble before the Trump sanctions, and all the billions of dollars unlocked by Obama for Iran in 2015 made no difference – mainly because billions went into an increased public military budget while more vanished into off-the-books covert support for foreign wars. And it will get worse irrespective of the contest with the US. Today Iran has five workers of prime-age (25-64 years) for every citizen over 65 and its pension systems are already bankrupt. By 2050 the ratio will crash to just 1.8 working-age Iranians per retiree, assuming constant low fertility, which has been the status quo for three decades now. But Iran’s economy will crunch long before then even at ratio of 3:1.

Iran’s only hope of maintaining regional hegemony is to expand the Shia presence in Mesopotamia and the Levant, through Shia militias like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the 80,000-strong mercenary militias it supports in Syria, staffed mainly by Afghan and Pakistani Shia. That’s why its regional strategy has long rested on a combination of irregular warfare using those militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with some strategic cover provided by the primary Iranian military, especially their ballistic and cruise missiles. Iran’s leaders think this has worked well to date in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and there’s no reason to change it.

In terms of the wider war against the US, Paul Buchanan at Kiwi Politico argues that the Iranian strategy against the USA is to cause death by a thousand cuts. But the US is simply too powerful for that to work even at the regional level of the ME.

Different day, same Iranian shit

More likely will be a focus on applying those thousand cuts specifically to the Trump administration in 2020 and hoping for another Obama in 2021. The same idea the Confederacy had with Lincoln in 1864: the Iranians shall have a new President to treat with.

It may be that – knowing the war weariness of the US voters – Iran was already trying this with the attacks in Iraq. The prospect of wearing down Trump over an Embassy hostage situation would have had great appeal, given what Iran did to the hapless Jimmy Carter.

However, these are not strategic successes but tactical ones, and they appear to have hit their limits, starting with Iraq, as noted by that hotbed of pro-Trumpism, The Independent in 2017:

But many Iraqis are not happy to see Iran working in their country through local armed groups. This is not just a sectarian issue, either. Many Shias want to see Iran’s influence limited. In addition to historical animosities and theological differences with Iran, most Iraqis – Sunni and Shia alike – are exhausted by decades of conflict, and worry that Iran’s meddling will promote confrontation.

And it has not got better for the Iranians since then:

It is little surprise to see social media videos of Iraqi protesters dancing in the streets of Baghdad last night in jubilation at the news that the man who had butchered hundreds of their brethren was dead. Nor was it surprising to see the celebrations in Idlib, Syria, home to 3 million people, the vast majority of them refugees from Aleppo, Douma, Darayya, Madaya, Homs, Hama, Daraa and every other city and town Soleimani had brutalised, besieged and starved before their forced displacement.

Including Iran itself:

Demonstrators were reportedly heard yelling slogans like “The people are begging, the clerics act like God”. Protests have even been held in Qom, a holy city home to powerful clerics.

There is also anger at Iran’s interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.

Similar things are happening in the Lebanon, where local politicians – as with Assad in Syria – are wary of being too much under the thumb of the Iranians. And the Iranian people themselves are pushing back against their leaders because of domestic failures, witness the huge, nationwide protests late in 2019 as well as smaller protests in the wake of their admission about stupidly and mistakenly shooting down a Ukranian airliner near Tehran Airport and killing 176 people.

Ironically, given that the charge is most often laid against the USA, it is Iran that is suffering from Imperial Overstretch.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 14, 2020 at 7:00 pm

Some brief notes on the US War Powers Act

I was intrigued by the following statement from one of our co-authors here in a thread about recent military actions by President Trump:

Nancy Pelosi wants to restore the legal checks on the President’s power to commit the USA to an armed conflict without the approval of Congress.

The resolution passed by the Democrat controlled House of Representatives…

…calls on the President “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran” unless Congress declares war or enacts “specific statutory authorization” for the use of armed forces.

The vote was 224-194, but the resolution is toothless and legally non-binding unless it is passed by the Senate, and even then it would be vetoed by the President. It’s basically nothing more than the opinion of the House and just another election-year partisan weapon to be used against President Trump.

It’s also simply an extension of the almost equally toothless War Powers Act passed in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War over a veto by then President Nixon. The WPA supposedly bars the president from ordering US armed forces into battle unless:

  • There has been a Congressional declaration of war,
  • Congress has passed a specific statutory authorization of the use of military force,
  • There has been an actual attack on the United States or its forces.

It also calls for the President to consult with Congress before ordering US forces into hostilities, and to report to Congress within 48 hours of so ordering them. If Congress does not authorize military action within 60 days, the WPA says the President must withdraw US forces.

It has been regarded as unconstitutional and effectively ignored by every single President since then as they have all regarded Article II, Section II of the US Constitution as overriding the WPA.

And the US Congress has never challenged that stance in court!

But there’s a good reason for both of those positions. The difference between making war and declaring war.

Making war – The President
The framers of the Constitution had to balance between the extreme of a President acting like a King in waging endless wars solely at his or her discretion, one of the many fears they had of King-like behaviour – while also avoiding the situation of the USA being helpless to defend against attack simply because the Congress had not or could not pass an official declaration of war.

The result was the sort of compromise scattered throughout the rest of the US Constitution, with powers not so much separated between the President and Congress as linked and sequenced between them.

Article II, section II makes it quite clear that the President is the Commander in Chief of the military and all the papers written around this – notably the Federalist papers – make it clear that the President was thus also empowered with the right to judge whether to make war or not in dealing with sudden attacks or threats of attack from foreign forces. This was regarded as a necessary and even vital emergency power and like all other parts of the Constitution it’s specifically not able to be overridden by any mere statute passed by Congress.

Even back in the 18th century it was recognised that such attacks could not be responded to by waiting around for Congress to make an official declaration of war. Taken to its logical conclusion such an argument would mean that the US military could not even legally shoot back while being shot at, which was regarded as insane nonsense even in the age of the musket.

In fact, the Supreme Court held – in the Prize Cases during the Civil War – that when the United States is under attack, the President has not merely the constitutional power but the duty to use whatever force is necessary to repel the attack, regardless of whether Congress has permitted the use of force.

Even before that, US Presidents had sent troops into battle in undeclared wars such as the one against France (the Quasi War, 1798-1800), and the First Barbary War (1801-1805). Declarations of war still happened, but they were for what was regarded as Total War against other nation-states such as Great Britain in 1812 and Mexico in 1846.

But in the 20th century the definitions of what it means for the US to be attacked came to be broadened by Presidents – with little push back from Congress. Harry Truman would send troops into combat in Korea before even asking Congress for permission to do so, let alone asking them to declare war.  Lyndon B. Johnson proposed no time limits in the Gulf of Tonkin resolution during Vietnam. Richard Nixon picked up the baton from Johnson in Vietnam, even as he backed out of the war, and waged secret wars in Cambodia and Laos.

It was against this background – especially that the Vietnam War had lasted for over a decade, with constant increases in the war effort – that the WPA was passed.

But to no great effect. Bill Clinton waged the Kosovo war in 1998/99 without congressional authorization and ignored the WPA time limits. In the two wars in Iraq fought by George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush respectively they did at least get Congressional authorisation, but both were notably broad and the WPA barely referred to.

The peak of Presidential dismissiveness of the WPA came with Obama’s attacks on Libya in 2011, where he didn’t even bother trying to comply with the WPA in any way at all, claiming that it did not apply to his attacks on Libya because those only involved “a US support role” with “limited kinetic action” – truly a phrase for the modern age that meant dropping bombs and cruise missiles on Libya and trying to kill its leader somehow did not legally rise to the level of “hostilities”. And nobody even bothered to argue that Libya presented a threat of any sort to the USA let alone threat of imminent attack.

Declaring war – The Congress
But there is one big check on a President using this power to make war endlessly. The framers left the power to declare war in the hands of Congress, because for wars to be fought money must be allocated and while that’s also one of Congress’s primary tasks – meaning that the power to declare war fits nicely within its overall Constitutional powers and responsibilies – it also means that Congress could limit what a President can do in waging war.

The thing is that they don’t do either, for the very simple reason that it leaves them on the hook for failure and Congress resists being accountable in general, but especially in war.

And they’re also never going to push this to the Supreme Court precisely because of this Constitutional division of war powers between the political branches. Disputes about the use of force are thus political questions which the courts will not address.

All this is why even this latest resolution contained the following additional weasel exception allowing the use of Armed Force at the discretion of the President if this:

“…is necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack upon the United States.”

Well, duh! That makes it basically the same as Article II, section II. There are no legal checks to restore beyond the original ones in the Constitution – which Congress is too frightened to apply.

Robert Caro’s superb history of Lyndon Johnson’s time in the Senate, Master of The Senate, detailed how it had frustrated FDR’s efforts to wage war and prepare for war right up to December 7, 1941 –  and how the resulting shock of getting it all so wrong put the Senate in a box from which it is yet to escape. Decades ago, another historian and Democrat Presidential advisor, Arthur Schlesinger, wrote in his book The Imperial Presidency that the erosion of the authority of Congress has been:

“as much a matter of congressional abdication as presidential usurpation.”

This latest resolution merely demonstrates how true that continues to be.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 11, 2020 at 1:08 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , ,

USA v Iran: What WON’T Happen After Soleimani’s Killing

Qasem Soleimani is Dead And General Motors is Alive

The photo above summarises the cognitive dissonance of the Iranian government. A funeral procession for what’s left of Soleimani after being killed by Americans, with the crowd chanting the usual Death To America stuff – while his remains are carried in a Chevrolet truck.

Unfortunately it’s not been much better in the US and across the West in general. On the one hand the Left have had panic attacks about WWIII and a US draft while also treating Soleimani as a victim – while on the other hand various Right-Wing idiots imagine we’re back in 2003:

Um… NO.

FFS, you can support killing the likes of Soleimani without demanding that Tehran be fire-bombed.

You can also be opposed to the US getting into another useless ME war without making excuses for the murderous bastard, let alone buying into Iranian propaganda and mythologising him as the hero who fought ISIS (“it was General Qassem Soleimani who liberated Mosul from ISIL … and he did it with boots on the ground”).

As Trump-loathing magazine New Statesman pointed out:

But it is a preposterous and grotesque revisionism of history to suggest that the man who harboured al-Qaeda in Iran was some sort of counter-terrorist. The brutality of Soleimani’s policies in Iraq was as responsible for creating the material conditions ISIS needed to flourish as Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq did (Obama doesn’t get off lightly here, either), and his forces carried out acts of unimaginable cruelty against civilians in IS-occupied territory in the process.

As a result of all this you won’t get much of an idea of what the USA and Iran will do next by listening to and watching such hysterical and incoherent reactions, which are the norm from the usual actors, starting with the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamanei:

… a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”

Otherwise known as a day ending in “y”.
Then there’s Trump’s official domestic political opponents – no, not D.C. bureaucrats but the Democrat Party reps.
Joe Biden – “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,”

Cory Booker – “We have a president who has failed to show any larger strategic plan.”
Elizabeth Warren – “this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”
Bernie Sanders  – “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

Yada, yada, yada.

It’s notable that although Elizabeth Warren acknowledged that Soleimani was an evil prick responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, Iraqis and Iranians she backed away from this pretty quickly under attack by the Left wing of the party as she fights Bernie for that segment. However, the domestic fallout is a separate issue and reveals nothing about what Iran and the USA will now do, although you might not know that based on such comments, which have received the bulk of the MSM’s shallow attention.

So what are the possibilities?

It will start a war between the USA and Iran!
Wrong, since the Iranian Islamic Republic has been in a de-facto state of war with the US for forty years now. For the most part the Yanks have tried to pretend that such is not the case, shrugging off all the “Death To The Great Satan” crap and wobbling between confrontation and cooperation in every Presidency from Carter to Trump.

US sailors held hostage by Iran, 2016

It’s true that this is a military escalation by the US – but that’s also been true of Iran who, in just the past year, have attacked shipping in the Persian Gulf, a major Saudi oil field, and shot down an American drone. Upping the ante in Iraq was par for the course.

And then there was the capture of US sailors and boats during Obama’s time, even after all he had done for Iran.

Rather like the truest of True Believing Leftists, for Iran’s leaders it doesn’t matter who the US President is or whether he’s Democrat or Republican. Iran has always regarded itself as being at war with the USA.

The USA and Iran will declare war on eachother!
Wrong and hysterical. Declarations of war by nation-states belong to a past and tradition that ended in the mid-20th century. In the case of the USSR v USA in the Cold War the reason was obviously that nuclear weapons prevented traditional war from reaching a resolution with a winner and loser, and this continues to be the case with contesting nuclear powers. But even wars at the edge of that lengthy contest did not bother with such declarations; a prime example being the Falklands Islands fight between Argentina and Great Britain. Why this should be the case is a question for another time.

In this particular case the US has nothing to gain from formally declaring war, which would mean that a resolution must therefore be obtained as fast as possible. That would mean either a negotiated end that would likely be no different to the status quo, thereby being a waste of time – or the USA conducting a full-scale attack of Iran, which would be a huge waste of lives and resources. And of course a Democrat-led House would never approve of such a declaration for Trump.

If Iran formally declared war on the US, it would be more insane than Japan and Nazi Germany’s declarations of war on the USA in 1941. Two thirds of Iran’s electricity comes from about a dozen power plants, just eight refineries produce 80% of its oil products and 90% of those are exported through just one place, the Port of Kharg. One night of cruise missile and stealth bomber attacks would destroy all of them.

It will escalate into a large-scale, undeclared war!
Wrong and hysterical again, and for the same reasons as the declared war scenario.

It will escalate into an accidental large-scale war
Over at Kiwipolitico, former CIA analyst Paul Buchanan makes this point:

The issue for Tehran is whether it wants to respond in kind or lose face. It cannot afford to lose face. This is how wars start. By error.

miscalculation is at the heart of what is known as the “security dilemma” and a major cause of war…

In a sense this had already happened when Iran tried to repeat the 1979 siege and takeover of a US embassy. They misread Trump’s previous refusals to retaliate for various Iranian attacks in the Gulf in 2019. The attack on the US Embassy in Iraq was a fatal step too far. Paul of course focuses on the killing of Soleimani as being such a miscalculation by Trump.

But I don’t agree about further such escalations because I think the miscalculations can now be clearly seen by the Iranians; whether the escalation is deliberate or accidental it will lead to the same place. They’re going to be very careful from here on.

Paradoxically so will the USA because the last thing Trump wants is to provide the Democrats with a war in an election year. The reactions the other day, together with the sudden re-appearance of protests from groups like ANSWER and CODE PINK, dormant through the Obama years of Libya and drone strikes, will have shown him clearly where that would go. This is aside from his well-known and long-held belief in an almost isolationist America that ignores other people’s wars.

Iran will assassinate a prominent US General or Politician.
Possible but unlikely. They’ve already offered a bounty of $US 80 million for somebody to kill Trump, although the fact that it was backed only by a proposal to get one dollar from each Iranian citizen shows the usual comedic line of Iranian propaganda.

Still, there might be some takers, especially in the USA.

Kathy Griffin’s proposal for Iran’s $80 millon

NEXT UP: What WILL Happen After Soleimani’s Killing

Written by Tom Hunter

January 9, 2020 at 7:00 pm


One of the reasons world order is maintained (sort of) is that the leaders that matter  tend to act with a certain predictability and caution.   While they can push the boundaries (Putin vs the Ukraine) they understand there are no-go lines to be crossed at peril.

President Trump breaks that mold.    He is unpredictable and as Commander in Chief he enjoy unfettered power.   That’s a dangerous combination.   His world view is that of Little America and that doesn’t make for a safer world.   Yes, Iran is a rogue state committed to the destruction of Israel, but going rogue on another rogue and you stand the chance of unleashing forces you can’t control.

Not sure Trump has the whit to understand that but with just ten months to go until the presidential election he sure understands how this is likely to play out domestically with the Democrats caught between a rock and a hard place.

Written by The Veteran

January 6, 2020 at 7:56 pm

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with , , ,

America “You can’t do anything against us" (آمریکا هیچ غلطی نمی تواند بکن)

Yes We Can

It’s not often that a pronouncement from a nation’s leader is so publicly proven wrong so quickly, but that’s what happened with the statement from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, itself a paraphrase of the infamous slogan (also in the title) mouthed by his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini,  in 1979 during the original Iranian attack on a US embassy.

General Qassem Soleimani

Turns out that the Yanks could do something, as they had a Reaper drone cruising around over Baghdad Airport in Iraq.

So when Iran’s No. 1 military guy, General Qassem Soleimani, arrived on a flight from Syria in the early hours of Friday morning and hopped into a car convoy he got hit with four missiles and was killed.

Given Soleimani’s prominence over the last fifteen years in killing Americans using various proxy forces, and generally leading Iran’s military efforts throughout the Middle East as the head of the Quds Force (part of the IRGC, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), it’s surprising to me that he hadn’t been killed earlier.

Quds Force Official Seal

The Quds Force was formed in 1990 for the stated mission of “exporting” the Iranian revolution abroad, and it has since morphed into Iran’s premier “irregular warfare” force.

In 2007, the U.S. Treasury designated the Quds Force as a terrorist entity. In 2011, Obama sanctioned five Iranians from the Quds Force, including Soleimani, who were linked to a plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. In 2019 Trump decided to designate the whole of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

The reason that Presidents Bush and Obama held back from targeting Soleimani – even as they had numerous Islamic Jihadist terrorist leaders killed – was undoubtedly because he was an official part of the Iranian government. Killing such a man is more an action of war than anti-terrorism, and thus raises the stakes considerably in terms of consequences because a nation-state, even one as weak as Iran, is capable of causing far more destruction than any terrorist group.

Soleimani seems to have concluded that himself as he had become very public in the last two or three years. In a recent speech Soleimani openly taunted President Trump:

“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine… We are ready. We are the man of this arena.”

As noted by Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired senior C.I.A. counter-terrorism officer:

“Soleimani was treated like royalty, and was not particularly hard to find,… [he] absolutely felt untouchable, particularly in Iraq. He took selfies of himself on the battlefield and openly taunted the U.S., because he felt safe in doing so.”

Even in earlier days he’d enjoyed poking the eagle, as US General David Petreaus recently recounted:

He sent a message to me through the president of Iraq in late March of 2008, during the battle of Basra, when we were supporting the Iraqi army forces that were battling the Shia militias in Basra that were supported, of course, by Qasem Soleimani and the Quds Force. He sent a message through the president that said, “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qasem Soleimani, control the policy of Iran for Iraq, and also for Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan.” 

And the implication of that was, “If you want to deal with Iran to resolve this situation in Basra, you should deal with me, not with the Iranian diplomats.” And his power only grew from that point in time… I actually told the president to tell Qasem Soleimani to pound sand.

Soleimani wasn’t boasting then and only grew stronger as a result of his successes against the US in Iraq, as pointed out by Doron Itzchakov, an Iran specialist from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies:

“Soleimani leads Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East. His status is no less than that of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif… Soleimani leads Iranian activity in every location that the regime labels as being important to its “strategic depth,” including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen… He is certainly beyond being a military leader. His political involvement is very strong.”

As such, even before being targeted, he was closely watched by both Western and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies and a few journalists; wherever he turned up it was a guarantee that Iran’s resources would follow.

Which is why my curiosity was piqued back on December 14 by the following Twitter thread, listing “a series of 9 unusual and worrying events that have taken place in the last 24 hours“, in Iraq:

1. An attempt to assassinate the son of the political spokesman of Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads Iraq’s largest Shiite political force.

2. Reports that Muqtada al-Sadr, who has provided staunch support to the anti-Iranian protesters, intends to close all his institutions for a period of one year.

3. A Twitter account identified as the unofficial spokesperson for Muqtada al-Sadr posted a tweet saying, “Goodbye,” and its profile picture switched to: “Closed.”

4. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Qods Force of the IRGC, and the nefarious figure who controls Iran’s militias in the Arab world, reportedly returned to Baghdad last night.

5. Convoys of tanks and armored vehicles entered Iraq from Iran today through the Zarbatiya crossing. [the twitter thread has video and photos of this]

Iranian convoy transporting armoured vehicles into Iraq

6. Qais al-Khazali, the militant leader of the Iranian-backed militia, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, has not been seen in public. His Twitter account was suspended/closed, a few days after new US sanctions were imposed.

7. Kuwait issued a warning to its citizens to leave Iraq immediately.

8. Tomorrow universities in Baghdad will be on strike. It’s expected that a larger number of protesters than usual will fill the squares. They will all wear white and call for free and fair elections and for choosing an independent prime minister who is not a politician.

9. Both Iraqi protesters and Muqtada al-Sadr’s people are expressing deep misgivings about the plan to appoint Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani as Iraq’s prime minister.

Muqtada al-Sadr gained fame in post-Saddam Iraq as one of the biggest thorns in the side of the USA. Although never as directly tied to US military casualties as Soleimani, al-Sadr’s Shiite militias had fought against the US, so having him getting offside with Iran should have been a big storyAs the Tweet summarises:

Soleimani is our leader” written under window
by Iran-backed militiamen at U.S. Embassy Baghdad

Connecting the dots, the nightmare scenario of the protesters is that Muqtada al-Sadr’s forces are in retreat, clearing the way for Iranian-backed military forces to storm the squares, crush the protests, and then crown Soleimani’s man as head of the Iraqi government.

Apparently, it is Qassem Soleimani who stands behind the pressure to appoint al-Sudani – over the opposition of high-ranking Shiite elements (Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr).

My question is a simple one: is the United States government doing anything concrete to prevent Qassem Soleimani from doing anything like this? If not, why not?

At the time,before the events of the other day, my answer to that last would have been that the US government was indeed not going to do a damned thing about Soleimani.

Following the precedents set by Bush and Obama, Trump had repeatedly backed off hitting Iran directly, including when he called off a planned missile strike in late June.

Moreover Trump long ago cemented his support from the small but influential Paleocon segment of the GOP by attacking both Bush and Obama about their wars – right Tucker?

But even before the 2016 election Trump was harping on about this. Back in 2011 he claimed that Obama would start a war with Iran to try and win re-election:

Gander meet goose. But those tweets were at least true to Trump’s nationalist instincts, believing that most or even all foreign adventures are a waste of American lives and money.

Maybe that fooled the Iranians into thinking Trump had no redlines at all? It certainly led to the snorting dismissal by the Iranian leader, as well as criticisms from Trump’s domestic opponents, as noted by The Grundian:

“Former US vice-president Joe Biden warned during a Democratic debate on Tuesday night that Islamic State fighters would strike the US as a result of Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of American forces in northern Syria. “‘We have Isis that’s going to come here,’ Biden said. ‘They are going to damage the United States of America. That’s why we got involved in the first place.'”

And this sort of criticism increased a lot when the US embassy was hit by “protesters” on December 30, 2019 in a further escalation from the nine events listed earlier:

Chris Murphy, the junior Democrat Senator from Connecticut and successor to Joe Biden, proved himself entirely worthy of that great honour with the Tweet shown on the left.

But plenty of other Dems snarked out the same message: Benghazi trended rapidly on Twitter.

The Democrat Operatives With Bylines were naturally on-message: WaPo, “Trump threatens Iran after embassy attack, but remains reluctant to get more involved in region”. Another argued that all this was a sign that Iran was “ascendent” in Iraq against a blowhard USA. Plus similar stuff from the NYT, MSNBC, CNN, etc.

Contrast this with the same sources in the wake of Soleimani’s killing.

I don’t recall any Democrat member of Congress or the Senate asking about Obama’s congressional authorisation as he droned some 2800 people, including a US citizen, in his two terms.

Anyway, aside from partisan double standards and political fighting in the USA, the question now is what happens next between Iran and the USA?

Written by Tom Hunter

January 5, 2020 at 1:21 am