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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East

The Peaceable President Trump

One of the hundreds of drumbeats against Trump becoming President was that he would get the USA into a war.

Whether it was because of a Giant Toddler TantrumTM (the uncontrolled anger trope, see McCain, John, 2008) or because he’s a Colossal MoronTM (see Bush, George, 2004). And it need hardly be said that he was too stupid and unstable to craft any peace treaties.

Well, as has been the case with most criticisms of him…

The president, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed released a joint statement Thursday, after the three spoke “and agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.”  The statement said that the “diplomatic breakthrough” was at “the request of President Trump,” and that Israel will “suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.”

With this peace agreement, the UAE officially recognises Israel and promises to “fully normalise” all relations — including economic relations, direct flights to Israel and so forth. Combining UAE money with Israeli biotechnology, agricultural technology and computer technology will be very beneficial to both sides. Other Gulf states like Bahrain and Oman will likely follow at some point as it’s long been known that they were in an open-secret alliance with Israel and Saudi Arabia against the Shi’a Islamists of Iran. And Saudi will be along as well, although they have more intense domestic Islamic opposition that is only slowly being worn down.

But…, but…., I was told by the Best And The Brightest that Donald Trump was likely to start a yyyuuuge war, as well as being such an incompetent reactionary isolationist that alliances would be wrecked and peace plans shelved and… Well, there were no end to the disasters that would unfold under this brutal, callous, selfish, racist, xenophobic [insert insult of choice] and stupid man.

The whole thing about peace between Israel and “The Arabs” has effectively been a moot point since the 1978 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, since Egypt was the primary military threat, even more so than Syria. All the rest has been optics weaponised by pro-Palestinian groups to beat Israel over the head as being the source of ME unrest. Only once the Palestinian problem had been resolved in their favour could there be peace: that was the line. And it’s true that even here part of the deal was that in exchange for normalised relations, Israel agreed to suspend its West Bank annexation plans.

For the moment.

In reality the Palestinian issue only mattered where Arab nations could use it to hopefully beat Israel instead of constantly losing actual wars against her. And once those nations began to give up on the Palestinians – especially when the Gulf states saw how they sided with Saddam Hussein in 1990 – this sort of thing was inevitable.

Live by the optics. Die by the optics.

“Trump has been bad for the Western Alliance nations. He has fundamentally weakened the Alliances. Biden will get them working again.”

Naturally some people have their panties in a twist about Trump “taking credit” for something that had been in the works for a while. Here’s former Obama Deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes – last seen dismissing journalists as 27 year olds who know nothing (Foreign Policy Magazine), just after he’d manipulated them into his proudly described “echo chamber” over the Iran deal and then slapping them in the face by boasting about how he’d screwed them:

This agreement enshrines what has been the emerging status quo in the region for a long time (including the total exclusion of Palestinians). Dressed up as an election eve achievement from two leaders who want Trump to win.

Shorter Rhodes: Waaaahhhh. My buddies in Iran will be even more isolated. Not only that but the day was supposed to have been a Biden-Harris news day, and instead everyone is talking about a major Trump foreign policy success.

But what really burns the likes of Rhodes is that the paradigms of he and his fellow Progressives can’t explain this success. After all, it if it was so easy how come Hillary, Kerry and Obama couldn’t get it done? Moreover this peace deal didn’t involve sending billions of dollars to Iranian terrorists who love killing Jews and Americans.

BTW – I loved this quote from the Foreign Policy magazine article link:

Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of politics — I have voted for Obama twice…. But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little schmuck.

And of course one can always go full conspiracy theory:

“In late 2015, international dealmaker and current cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation George Nader convened a secret meeting aboard a massive luxury yacht in the Red Sea. Nader pitched to several Middle Eastern leaders a plan for a new pro-US, pro-Israel alliance of Arab nations that would fundamentally alter the geopolitics of the Middle East while marginalising Iran, Syria and Turkey.

To succeed, the plan would need a highly placed American politician willing to drop sanctions on Russia so that Vladimir Putin would in turn agree to end his support for Iran. The gathered leaders agreed their perfect American partner was Donald Trump, who had benefited immensely from his Saudi, Emirati and Russian dealings for many years, and who had, months earlier, become the only US presidential candidate to argue for a unilateral end to Russian sanctions.”

Meantime I’ll just leave this out here.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 16, 2020 at 2:24 pm

A Wedding to Remember

I doubt the groom will ever forget their wedding anniversary date now.

Because it’s the 21st century the Beirut explosion was captured live in High Definition video by countless numbers of people using their smart phones, and then uploaded to the Internet to be seen by the whole world within minutes.

Those videos have been extraordinary and enabled people to better feel what past such events must have been like. The most famous os which is probably the Halifax explosion, where a WWI ammunition ship caught fire and exploded in the harbour of Halifax, Canada, killing about 2000 people. It has been estimated as 2.9 kiloton explosion, equivalent to a small tactical nuclear weapon. Apparently when news of the Hiroshima bomb came in 1945 it was referred to as being equivalent to “seven Halifax explosions”, a standard which that event would instantly replace.

Looking at the Wikipedia list of such events it would appear that there have been a lot of others in history. I knew of the Port Chicago, USS Mount Hood and Texas City disasters, but others such as several Liberty ships hit during WWII, the Bombay explosion and the RAF Bedenham explosion, were unknown to me.

SS John Burke exploding after being hit by a Kamikaze, December, 1944.

I’ll leave this with the one video I think most accurately captures the effects of the shock wave in Beirut. Quite incredible to see roofs being lifted off multi-story apartment buildings.

The bride and groom escaped and will have their day of bliss but based on past events I cannot believe the death toll will not climb into the hundreds, not to mention all the eye injuries from people watching through their windows, which was a big part of the Halifax injury toll.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 7, 2020 at 11:48 am

Posted in Middle East

Tagged with

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

Posted in China, Middle East, USA

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

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

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

Die MSM, Die – The Saintly Terrorist

If you were under any doubts as to the degradation, uselessness and sheer assholery of the US MSM then today’s Washington Post effort to write an obituary for the terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the latest example.

Yes! Really

The thing is that they had actually produced an accurate headline the first time up, where he was described factually as the “terrorist in chief” of ISIS.

And then they changed it to the above. Incredible. I would love to know what the discussions were behind the scenes on this change. Was the first too judgmental? Too “othering”? Too colonialist? Too redolent of White Privilege and Western European superiority? Too much of a deviation from “One Man’s Terrorist is Another Man’s Freedom Fighter“? Too positive for Trump?

FFS – this piece of human garbage was the religious, philosophical and political inspiration and leader of ISIS, a group of Islamic Jihadists that gleefully terrorised a good chunk of the Middle East for several years by killing men, woman and children in the most brutal ways they could find. Who can forget the shit they “advertised” across the Internet, with men in Orange jumpsuits paraded before the cameras before a mass head slicing routine. Or the Jordanian fighter pilot they captured who was put in a cage and burned alive. Not to mention the untold thousands of Christians, Yazidis and Muslims they slaughtered to build their “Caliphate”.

And yet the hatred for Trump, the President of the US who demanded that Baghdadi be found and who ordered the raid on him, is so great, so visceral, so unhinged, that even a supposed sober and mainstream media publication like the WaPo could not help trying to cleanse Baghdadi in order to prevent Trump getting the same win treatment that Obama did with Osama Bin Laden’s killing.

About the only good thing to come out the WaPo’s fantastically stupid coverage is the stream of Twitter responses they got. Here’s my favourites:

And my absolute fave….

Apparently the WaPo is still shameable – slightly – because after getting humiliated on Twitter they changed the title for a third time.

Too late fucktards. Hours too late. We know how you think because you showed us.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 28, 2019 at 5:54 am

Not Seen in the New York Times

Here’s an interesting story from the Times of London.

All about a world leader quietly intervening behind the scenes and actually preventing an all out war in the Middle East.  The western leader showed remarkable diplomatic skill and statesmanship in persuading Saudi Arabia and its Sunni friend UAE from invading Shia Qatar..

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, Kuwait’s emir, who has acted as mediator, praised Mr XXXXX’s efforts at a September 7 press conference. “Thank God, what’s important is that we stopped any military action,” he said.

You’ve got to hand it to those suave smooth talking French statesmen, don’t you?

Well, not today because the western leader in question was that presidential boorish bastard Donald Trump.

How long before the media and the Republicans wake up to the fact that Trump is a hell of a lot smarter than they are and a sight more competent?

The NYT, CNN, MSNBC, WAPO et al would have been going nonstop ape shit for days if this triumph had been pulled off by Obama.  So far, I’ve not seen a word apart from the NYT calling the effort a failure.

Somehow, I think the London Times has more credibility that the New York Times..

Written by adolffinkensen

September 21, 2017 at 12:34 am

Posted in New Zealand

Tagged with ,