Category Archives: Iraq

Iranian War Veteran Gives Advice to Trump

Dear President Trump,

In a recent Tweet, you claimed that “Iranians never won a war, but never lost a negotiation.” As a world citizen and a veteran of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, I have firsthand experience with the bitterness of war, and I have a few suggestions and responses for you.

First, I would advise you against using the words win and winning to describe war, especially from a US perspective. American history is filled with bitter experiences of losing wars. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and even the engagement in Yemen—none of these horrifying interventions has ever reached their goals.

You should recognize that the first step in any combat is understanding your adversary. As an experienced Iranian war veteran, I strongly suggest you study the culture and history of an old civilization like Iran. Iranians, those you label as living in a “terrorist nation,” are proud that in the past 250 years we have never initiated a war. We are proud that we have never invaded, intruded and oppressed other nations, neither in our neighborhood nor even in response to our foes. 

Nonetheless, there is a delicacy in the sophisticated culture of Iran that separates us from you and your hawkish #Bteam—Bolton, Bin Salman and Bibi Netanyahu. The major difference is the view we each have toward war. For us, war is not an option; we never choose to go to war; we only respond to war.

In 1915, during WWI, Rais Ali Delvary, a young man from a tiny village near the Persian Gulf, gathered a group together to defend the country from the British invaders. They stopped the intruders who violated Iran’s neutrality during the war. Rais Ali’s slogan at the time is still applicable today. “We are in this war not to win over the invaders’ capital and assets; we are in this war to save our capital and assets from loss.” That is how we define losing and winning in a war. Rais Ali and his people won that war, as his disciples did almost a century later, and will do it again if they have to.

Mr. President, Iran has never initiated a war. Iran has never seized other nations’ resources to gain wealth and benefit for itself but Iran, of course, has and will vigorously defend its belongings, resources, life, and identity. Iran has done that throughout its four thousand years of history and will do it again if necessary. Rais Ali and his team did it in 1915. People in my generation did it in 1980-88 when the whole world stood behind Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain and helped him throughout those terrible eight years of war. We Iranians sacrificed everything to defend our nation.

Under the world’s watch, Saddam Hussain dropped bombs and used chemical weapons on civilians. In the end, he was not able to seize even an inch of our homeland. Iranians became one body in defense of our homes and families.

We lost hundreds of thousands of precious lives. To this day, Iranians, despite our differences, are all proud of the eight years we spent defending our country. Losing so many lives was a terrible tragedy and the nation still mourns the lives lost during those eight years. However, we stood firm and saved our homeland. Iran is still Iran; we did not lose an inch of terrain.

Mr. President, in our lexicon, the one who starts a war is the only loser. The one who plans to steal the happiness, life, and wellbeing of others is the real loser.  

War is not our business, but negotiations and diplomacy are. War is not our purpose. Peace is our mission. Peace is our philosophy in life, and you are right, diplomacy is our art.

Iran has proven its mastery in the art of diplomacy. Diplomacy, forbearance and patience are inclinations that cannot be achieved by billions of dollars of weapons. The United States’ allies in the region, including Saudi’s Bin-Salman and Israel’s Bibi Netanhayu, can testify to that. They have spent many billions of dollars in arms sales but have not been able to dominate Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Just be aware, Mr. President, that your friends on the #Bteam are pushing you into the same quagmire they created with Iraq. In desperation, they have now tied the hands of our master of diplomacy, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, by imposing sanctions on him. They should have learned their lesson by now—they might be able to ties the hands of our master chess players, but we will find other ways to move the pawns and horses. And a final word of advice: Don’t play checkers with the grandmasters of chess.

Sincerely,

Habib Ahmadzadeh

• First published by Common Dreams

Survivor 2020, and some Ghosts from Recent Elections Past

Gore Vidal once remarked that the United States has only one political party with two right wings.  At the risk of betraying my own political bias:  I couldn’t agree more!  Still, maybe 2020 will be different?

The ultra-marathon-up to the next election has already begun in the Summer of 2019 with the Democratic Party debates.  MSNBC, a kind of Fox News for liberals network, hosted the first round, fielding twenty candidates, split evenly over two nights.  Most of the presidential contestants in this “high concept game show” format were treated as bunting, or so many doodles in the margins of a Big Pharma script, more to be seen than heard..  As boutique diversity merges into statistical redundancy, the DNC theory seems to be: the more contestants, the more emphatic shall be the “win” of the eventual “winner.”  But, wasn’t that the Republican formula in 2015/16?

No matter how the contest is set up, upsets are always possible–or, even desirable.  For example, witness Hillary Clinton’s nomination over Bernie Sanders — “Oops!” — only four years ago.  Then, lo and beholden to all the bankers who’ve bailed him out, Donald Trump “burned,” so to speak, Clinton in the general election, which he only lost by a whopping 3 million votes — and Clinton wasn’t all that popular to begin with!  Just ask Bernie Sanders, or Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Indeed, contrary to conventional expectations, upsets were the order of the day during the last quadrennial election cycle.  God forbid that we should be allowed to elect a Socialist-sounding Jew from Vermont! Hillary Clinton, and her big bank backers, certainly did not want that; so, why not hand the country off to a Reality TV show host like the big bank beholden Trump, instead? Was that the sound of our one political party rubbing its two right wings together?

Because American politics have become so like sports by other means, it is worth reiterating that the 2020 DNC strategy has not only copied the 2016 Republican playbook:  they have actually expanded upon it by simply adding more players.  Recall that the Republican side of the post-Obama campaign began with a baker’s dozen of contestants with “unelectability” literally tattooed on their foreheads — including that tweety faux-pachyderm, Trump.  Given the “surprising” results of 2016, it is notable that Team Trump chose not to challenge Barack Obama in 2012, despite Trump’s weirdly well-publicized “birther” campaign against Obama, which foreshadowed both Big Media’s free press pass for all things Trump, as well as the aura of illegitimacy that has framed the Presidency ever since…Trump was “elected“?  One wonders how far an illegitimate fruit can fall from an illegitimate tree?

Indeed, Trump’s strange election eerily echoes the hollow resonance of the most bizarre quadrennial in recent history, when George Bush the Second rode a single Supreme Court vote into the Oval Office, in 2000. However, before delving into that doozy, its follow-up, in 2004, deserves special mention.

There once was an anti-war candidate named Howard Dean (from Vermont, of all places!) whose front-runner status got Debbie Wasserman-Schultzed, as it were, by Presidential campaign veteran Dick Gephardt, in Iowa.  Before the Gephardt take-down, Dean had been riding high on his opposition to the occupation of Iraq, which was clearly going very badly.  Dean’s potential nomination meant that the anarchy in Iraq — a direct result of the illegal American-led invasion — would factor prominently in the general election. In the event, the anti-war buck was preemptively stopped in Iowa, allowing the Iraq war hawk John Kerry a “surprise” win. From Iowa, Kerry cruised to the nomination, only to play second fiddle to his Skull-and-Bones Yale fraternity mate, the incumbent Bush, and a disastrous war policy had been saved.

Later, Howard Dean was given a participation award in the form of the DNC Chairmanship.  Since then, the former anti-war candidate has swiveled full circle to become a cranky Yankee who has vilified 2020’s anti-war star, Tulsi Gabbard.  Put another way:  Howard Dean was eaten by the one party political machine, only to be regurgitated in a more palatable form — if not rocking the War Party’s boat is anyone’s idea of a more palatable form.

Now, back in 2000, nothing very military was going on.  The one party political apparatus had coughed up two equally unappealing Junior fur balls:  Al Gore and George W. Bush.  Incidentally, Bush would have never gotten his day in Supreme Court if Gore had won his home state, Tennessee.  In fact, well before Dan Rather “called” Florida for Gore on election night, “dirty tricks” in South Carolina had pushed Bush — in a tight race — past Senator and Vietnam War veteran John McCain.  McCain was later given a participation trophy for services rendered:  the Republican nomination in 2008, where he was soundly squashed by the relatively unknown upstart Barack Obushma — I mean, Obama — who had himself “upset” Hillary Clinton (of all the usual suspects!) for the Democratic side of the one party nomination in 2008.

Ironically enough, both Obama and Trump have an “upset” of Hillary Clinton in common.  That Obama and Trump share two sides of the same big bank coin:  is this insight becoming increasingly more obvious?  For example, despite 8 years of the “Change”-ling Obama, America is still making Afghanistan a “Great Game” again under Trump, as if Bush the Second’s war-mad regime were still ghosting about in office 18 years later, like it never left.  And the War Party rolls on…

However, before the War Party got really rolling, in 2001, there was Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader, who remains the most interesting figure in the scandalous 2000 election.  In 2000, Nader scooped all mainstream media pundits by correctly identifying his major party opponents as “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” Nevertheless, unlike our current “Fake News” President, Nader was not granted a free press pass for “bucking the System.”

And not only that.  Nader’s campaign was seen as so threatening to the one-party-with-two-faces that he was physically denied access to the sites of nationally televised debates between TweedleBush and TweedleGore1, for fear of Nader’s potentially “disruptive” influence.  Pointing out the obviousness of duopoly:  how “disruptive,” indeed!

Meanwhile, back in 2019, the “Survivor 2020” program seems hell-bent on appearing to include everyone — even if you’re Andrew Yang and your mic’s not turned on.  “Technical glitches, folks; just technical glitches.  We’ll get everyone a Universal Basic Income right after these words from our sponsors!”  Of course, it’s a game predicated on extinction, the last contestant standing.  No one wants to go home a dinosaur, having voted a dinosaur in office.  Next thing you know, extinction’s your next door neighbor!

Not to beat a dead horse race, but to rest my case, I recall a certain debate between status quo Auntie Hillary and Grandpa Donny-boy Trump, in 2016, at Washington University in St. Louis, where Hillary, wearing an irradiant shade of white, accused an obviously lurching Trump of being a “puppet.”  In true Trump form, the Donald shot back:  “No, you’re the puppet!”  Each political actor then accused the other of being “the puppet” in a seemingly spontaneous exchange of pointless, puppet blows.  Which was an uncanny moment of Truth for both of these foremost Liars vying for the Presidential Throne; each recognized the “Other’s” puppet status, quite equally — and for All to see!

In case there are any questions about the Duopoly:  See Gore Vidal…

  1. See: John Hagelin vs the Federal Election Commission, decided on June 10, 2005.

It is not the Non-existent Iranian Bomb; it is the Other Existing Bombs

United States (US) demands that Iran promise to halt pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile developments distract from the real intent of the US actions. Knowing that the Islamic Republic is not pursuing nuclear weapons and will react aggressively to sanctions, the US ploy deters other nations from establishing more friendly relations with Iran and from changing their perspectives on the causes of the Middle East crises.

Adherence by all nations to the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had potential to stimulate extensive political, economic, and social engagements of the international community with Iran, Investments leading to long lasting attachments, friendships, and alliances would initiate a revitalized, prosperous, and stronger Iran. A new perspective of Iran could yield a revised perspective of a violent, unstable, and disturbed Middle East. Israel and Saudi Arabia would finally receive attention as participants in bringing chaos to the Arab region. Economies committed to Iran’s progress and allied with its interests could bring pressure on Israel and Saudi Arabia to change their destructive behaviors.

Because the demands on Iran can be approached in a less provocative and insinuating manner, the demands are meant to provoke and insinuate. Assuredly, the US wants Iran to eschew nuclear and ballistic weapons, but the provocative approach indicates other purposes — completely alienate Iran, destroy its military capability, and bring Tehran to collapse and submission. Accomplishing the far-reaching goals will not affect the average American, lessen US defense needs, or diminish the continuous battering of the helpless faces of the Middle East. The strategy mostly pleases Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have engineered it, share major responsibillty for the Middle East turmoil, and are using mighty America to subdue the princpal antagonist to their malicious activities. During the 2016 presidential campaign, contender Donald Trump said, Many nations, including allies, ripped off the US.” President Donald Trump has verified that statement.

Noting the history of US promises to leaders of other nations – give up your aggressive attitudes and you will benefit ─ the US promises make the Ayatollah skeptical. The US reneged on the JPOAC, sent Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to the World Court and eventual death (although his compromises allowed the Dayton Accords that ended the Yugoslavian conflict), directly assisted NATO in the overthrow of subdued Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, pulverized Iraq after sanctions could not drive that nation to total ruin, rejected Iranian pledge of  $560 million worth of assistance to Afghanistan at the Tokyo donors’ conference in January 2002, and, according to the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Dobbins, disregarded Iran’s “decisive role in persuading the Northern Alliance delegation to compromise its demands of wanting 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government.”

Tehran senses it is in a lose-lose situation.  Regardless of its decisions and directions,the centuries old Persian lands will be pulverized.

If the US honestly wants to have Iran promise never to pursue nuclear and ballistic missile weapons, it would approach the issues with a question, “What will it take for you (Iran) never to pursue these weapons?” Assuredly, the response would include provisions that require the US to no longer assist the despotic Saudi Kingdom in its oppression of minorities and opposition, in its export of terrorists, and in its slaughter of the Houthis, and the response would propose that the US eliminate financial, military and cooperative support to Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands, oppressive conditions imposed on Palestinians, and daily killings of Palestinian people, and combat Israel’s expansionist plans.

The correct question soliciting a formative response and leading to decisive US actions resolves two situations and benefits the US — fear of Iran developing weapons of mass destruction is relieved and the Middle East is pointed in a direction that achieves justice, peace, and stability for its peoples.

Despite the August 2018 report from the U.S. Department of State’s Iran Action group, which “chronicle  iran’s destructive activities,” and consists of everything from most minor to most major, from unsubstantiated to retaliatory, from the present time to before the discovery of dirt, (July 22, 1980 – Bethesda, MD, United States: An Iranian operative assassinated a former Iranian diplomat-in-exile, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a vocal critic of then-Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.) Iranians will not rebel in sufficient numbers against their own repressive state until they note the end of hypocritical support by western powers of other repressive states. Halting international terrorism, ameliorating the Middle East violence, and preventing any one nation from establishing hegemony in the Arab world starts with President Trump sending Secretary Pompeo to confront Israel and Saudi Arabia, two nations whose records of injustice, aggression, oppression, and violation of human rights exceed that of the oppressive Iran regime.

Otherwise, it will occur on a Sunday morning; always occurs in the early hours on the day of rest. It will come with a roar greater than the sum of all shrieks and screams ever uttered by humankind, rip across fields and cities and burn through the flesh of a part of the world’s population.

An Honorable Course in Iran: End Sanctions, Resume Dialogue

Last week, Elham Pourtaher, an Iranian graduate student at the State University of New York in Albany, wrote about how U.S. policies cause suffering and trauma far beyond U.S. borders. Her diabetic father, for example, is in danger of losing access to medicines because sanctions against Iranian banks make it nearly impossible to pay for imported goods, including medicine and food. Shortages could lead to thousands of deaths. Pourtaher described “the collective sense of fear caused by the increased sanctions.”

President Trump expressed concern that 150 people could be killed if U.S. airstrikes against Iran had been carried out last week. We must ask how many people could die because of economic warfare against Iran.

The economic war cripples Iran’s economy and afflicts the most vulnerable Iranian people—the sick, the poor, the elderly and the children.

In more than seventy visits to Iraq from 1991 to 2003, Voices in the Wilderness, a team of peace activists I was part of, reported on deteriorating conditions as people struggled to find desperately needed goods, including medicines and medical relief supplies. By 1996, U.N. officials reported that the economic sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.

Wasting away from curable diseases, thousands of children who entered pediatrics wards never left. In Baghdad, Mosul, Babylon, Amara, Nasiriyah, and Basra, we visited wards that became death row for infants. Those children were by no means criminal. They couldn’t possibly have been held accountable for the actions of Saddam Hussein and the ruthless dictatorship ruling Iraq. Their plight seldom appeared in U.S. news reports about Iraq. But they were brutally and lethally punished, ostensibly because Iraq might possess weapons of mass destruction.

By the end of 2002, most Iraqis I knew dreaded a new round of military attacks and invasion. People I’d regarded as having nerves of steel said, “Believe me, Kathy, I am so scared,” or asked, “How can I possibly protect my children?”

On February 5, 2003, colleagues and I huddled over a shortwave radio on the balcony of Baghdad’s Al-Fanar hotel, straining to hear Colin Powell as he presented evidence that he said proved beyond a doubt that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction. After the 2003 bombing and invasion, evidence of Colin Powell’s allegations simply couldn’t be found. Now, Iraq is a broken, battered, and traumatized country.

Why should the United States now be punishing Iran?

In its last quarterly report, issued May 31, the International Atomic Energy Agency again verified Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called nuke deal, even though the United States has reneged on it. Noted analyst Professor Juan Cole emphasizes that Iran’s theocratic government adheres to Islamic teachings, which forbid stockpiling or use of weapons that afflict mass casualties on civilian populations. This surely includes nuclear weapons.

The greatest outlier in terms of possessing nuclear weapons is the United States which, in an alarming new development, has granted seven permits for the transfer of sensitive nuclear information by U.S. businesses to the Saudi government. So far, the Saudi government has not shown readiness to abide by safeguards which would prevent it from diverting or misusing nuclear materials to assemble nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia already has sophisticated ballistic missile delivery systems. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated on national TV that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, so will Saudi Arabia.

In 2016, the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over a ten-year period. Even though the official Israeli position is neither to confirm nor deny the existence of its nuclear weapons program, it is now estimated that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of at least eighty warheads. However, Israel still is not a state party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The double standards in foreign policy maintained by the United States—one standard for U.S allies Israel and Saudi Arabia and a different standard for Iran—undermine any progress in ending wars and the potential for new wars in the Middle East.

Rather than punish Iran, the United States should immediately return to the Iran nuclear agreement and support proposals regularly advanced at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty conferences for a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East.

The U.S. government claims it is threatened by Iran. Yet, according to David Stockman writing in Antiwar.com, the United States surrounds Iran with forty-five U.S. bases, and Iran’s defense budget of less than $15 billion amounts to just seven days of money spent by the Pentagon.

The United States, which claims Iran is supporting terrorism, continues to enable Saudi Arabia’s aerial terrorism as it regularly bombs civilians in Yemen. On June 24th, a ship bound for Saudi Arabia departed from Wilmington, North Carolina carrying bombs, grenades, cartridges and defense-related aircraft.  The United States also supplies weapons to Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and other countries which actively participate in the Saudi-led Coalition making war against Yemen. The Saudi government directly supports the military government in Sudan, which recently killed at least 100 peaceful protesters who were part of Sudan’s Democratic Uprising.

Rather than planning cyber attacks and new means of aggression, the United States should heed calls for dialogue and negotiation, relying on Albert Camus’s conclusion to his profound anti-war essay following World War II: “The only honorable course will be to stake everything on the formidable gamble, that words are more powerful than munitions.”

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive at www.progressive.org

As Conflict With Iran Escalates, Path To Peace Can Be Found

The recent escalation of conflict between the United States and Iran threatens another US military quagmire that would create crisis and chaos in Iran, the region and perhaps globally as well as costing the US trillions of dollars. The US needs to change course — a deeply wrong course it has been on regarding Iran since the 1950s, escalating since Iran declared its independence in their 1979 Revolution. There is a path out of this situation, but it requires leadership from President Trump, which will only come if the people of the United States mobilize to demand it.

Peace Delegation to Iran at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, February 2019. Photograph from CODE PINK.

The Trump Story Of Last Minute Decision Not To Attack Iran, Doubted

The story repeated in the corporate media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC News, and others is that President Trump called off a military attack on Iran at the last moment because he was told that 150 Iranians could be killed. It is evident this was the story being pushed by the White House. Initially, the story was that Trump stopped the bombing with ten minutes to spare, while the planes were already in the air. On Sunday, the story changed to Trump was asked for a decision by the Pentagon a half hour before the attack and said ‘no’ to the attack because he was told about civilian casualties.

This story is being doubted by many. Even on FOX News, two of its leading broadcasters, Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace, said Trump’s story of stopping the attack at the last moment, “does not hold water” and “something is wrong here.” They talked with former military officials and said it was highly unlikely that the president would not have been told of the likely casualties from the possible military scenarios.

Did President Trump really think the US could drop bombs on Iran and not kill people? Trump broke the record for bombs dropped in Afghanistan when in 2018 he dropped more than 5,200 bombs. The UN found that in 2019, the US and its allies were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan. In 2017, President Trump loosened the rules on drone strikes causing a significant escalation in drone strikes. The US and its allies dropped more than 20,000 bombs in 2017 in Syria, reducing cities to literal rubble. With this record, how can anyone believe Trump was worried about a potential 150 deaths in Iran?

And, bombs are not the only way President Trump kills people. Economic coercive measures (aka sanctions) in Venezuela put in place by President Trump in August 2017 have resulted in 40,000 deaths. In Iran, Trump has escalated sanctions to choke the economy and create hardship for the Iranian people. Sanctions are as deadly as war but are worse because people find them to be more palatable than bombs.

If it was not a concern for the death of civilians, why did Trump not bomb Iran in response to the drone being shot down?

Iranian Surface to Air Missile Defense System on display in 2012 at an Iranian military parade (Ata Kenare, AFP-Getty Images)

Iran Shows it can Defend Itself Against a US Military Attack

One concern about the destruction of the US drone is whether it was over Iranian airspace when it was destroyed. Iran maintains that it was in their airspace. The US claims it was in international air space, but the US lacks credibility when it makes such claims. Perhaps one reason Trump has not acted is he knows Iran was within its rights.

Iran reports that they did not shoot down the drone until after giving several warnings to the United States.  Major General Hossein Salami of the Revolutionary Guard said:

The downing of the US drone had an explicit, decisive and clear message that defenders of the Islamic Iran’s borders will show decisive and knockout reactions to aggression against this territory by any alien.

According to Reuters, Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, said that a manned US Boeing P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane was also in Iranian airspace at the same time as the drone. Iran decided not to shoot it down because there were 35 people on board. Hajizadeh said the US “plane also entered our airspace and we could have shot it down, but we did not.”

Reuters also reported that Iran received a message from the United States through Oman that a military strike was imminent and that Trump was against any war with Iran but wanted to talk to Iran about various issues. Iran responded:

We made it clear that the leader is against any talks, but the message will be conveyed to him to make a decision … However, we told the Omani official that any attack against Iran will have regional and international consequences.

Iran shot down the drone with a Surface to Air Missile that was an Iranian-produced defense system. This illustrates that a military conflict with the Islamic Republic would be very challenging for the United States. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reports that Iran has the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East. Tehran views missile defense as vital against Washington’s aggression. The missile attack on the US drone shows Iran has aerial defense capability.

Military Times reports how difficult war with Iran would be, writing:

Iranian coastal defenses would likely render the entire Persian Gulf off-limits to U.S. Navy warships. Iran’s advanced surface-to-air missile defenses would be a significant threat to U.S. pilots. And Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles put U.S military installations across the U.S. Central Command region at risk. The cost in U.S. casualties could be high.

The big problem for the United States is it simply does not have the military power to keep the Strait of Hormuz open, 30% of the world’s oil supply transits the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, stated reality clearly:

If the Islamic Republic of Iran were determined to prevent export of oil from the Persian Gulf, that determination would be realized in full and announced in public, in view of the power of the country and its Armed Forces.

Pepe Escobar explains the Iranian border of the Persian Gulf is lined up with anti-ship missiles and Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with precision. He explains that blocking the Strait would dramatically increase oil prices and detonate “the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market; and that would collapse the world banking system, crushing the world’s $80 trillion GDP and causing an unprecedented depression.”

Iran’s allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan are ready for joint operations in response to a US military war against Iran.  According to Eliajah J.Magnier, they are prepared and on alert at the highest level. Joint operations will begin from the moment they are necessary. According to sources, Iran’s allies will open fire against already agreed on objectives in an organized, orchestrated, synchronized and graduated response, anticipating a war that may last many months. The US will face war on many fronts very quickly.

The US lacks international support for a military attack on Iran. Russia, China, the European Union, and other major powers have called for de-escalation. A military attack on Iran would lead to a quagmire that could take a decade or more and end in defeat for the United States, destruction in Iran and chaos in the region. The US has spent more than $7 trillion since the beginning of the Iraq War and Iran is larger in geography and population as well as having a better military. The United States cannot afford another $7+ trillion dollar war for another decade. It would be an economic and military disaster that would further isolate the United States.

Peace Delegation to Iran visits the Tehran Peace Museum 2019 (Photograph from Popular Resistance)

Iran in Context and a Path Out of the US-Created Debacle

In our conversation on the Clearing the FOG podcast, which will air Monday, June 24, conflict resolution expert, Patrick Hiller, explained how sometimes to resolve a conflict, the conflict must be heightened. The US conflict with Iran is escalating in dangerous ways where perhaps both sides can see that the path to war will produce no winners and could be the greatest foreign policy error in US history.

President Trump can be the hero as the US heads into 2020 presidential elections but it will require him to stop listening to National Security Advisor, John Bolton and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who both want war with Iran. Their advice is the opposite of President Trump’s criticism of war during his last campaign. They have teamed up to undermine Trump’s negotiations with North Korea, prevent the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, led him into a failed coup in Venezuela and now to the brink of war with Iran. Trump would be wise to replace both Bolton and Pompeo.

The idiocy of Pompeo was shown this week when he claimed Iran’s actions “should be understood in the context of 40 years of unprovoked aggression.” Is Pompeo really that ignorant of history?

Popular Resistance has often reported on the US overthrow of the democratically-elected government of  Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in August 1953. The CIA has confirmed its role in this coup as has the US State Department. This coup ended Iran’s brief experience with a secular democracy. If that democracy had been allowed to flourish, the story of the Middle East would have been very different than the war, chaos and brutal governments we have seen since that time. Mossadegh was followed by the US puppet, the Shah, who brutally ruled the country until the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

After the Iranian Revolution, the US encouraged and supported the eight-year Iraq War against Iran with money, naval assistance, and weapons. The US provided Iraq with the ingredients for chemical weapons as well as intelligence on where to use them. More than one million people were killed and more than 80,000 were injured by chemical weapons in the war.

The US also killed 290 Iranians, including 66 children, when a US missile shot down a commercial Iranian airliner in July 1988. The US has never apologized for this mass killing of civilians. The US has imposed aggressive economic sanctions against Iran since they declared their independence and has consistently escalated those sanctions in an attempt to destroy their economy. And, the US has spent millions of dollars to build opposition inside Iran to the Iranian government as well as working with the opposition, MEK,  secretly trained by the US military, which is branded a terrorist group by Iran (and used to be designated a terrorist group by the US).

The US has imposed economic sanctions since 1980 when the US broke diplomatic relations with Iran. President Carter put in place sanctions including freezing $12 billion in Iranian assets and banning imports of Iranian oil. The economic war and the illegal unilateral coercive measures have been escalated by every president, including by President Trump when he violated the carefully negotiated nuclear agreement. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif painstakingly negotiated the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal between China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, and the European Union for more than a decade. Instead of abiding by the agreement, the US violated it and escalated sanctions against Iran.

The US is also fomenting rebellion. The Trump administration has been seeking regime change through various actions including violence. Trump created a Mission Center in the CIA focused on regime change in Iran and spends millions of dollars to encourage opposition in Iran, working to manipulate protests to support a US agenda.

The path out of this mess is for President Trump to lead. He needs to acknowledge this history and the mistakes of his advisors, Bolton and Pompeo, rejoin the nuclear agreement, abide by it by lifting the illegal US sanctions and promise to abide by international law.  It will take positive actions by the United States to make up for decades of aggressive abuses against Iran to bring Iran to the table of diplomacy.

If these steps are taken, a positive relationship based on mutual respect can be developed between the US and Iran. It is the job of the peace movement and all those who seek stability and justice in the world to work toward this outcome.

The War Hoax Redux

The Trump administration has a problem: How to start another war – this time with Iran – without having a justifiable reason for one.  No doubt members of Trump’s team, led by the war-thirsty and perdurable John Bolton, are working hard to solve this urgent problem.  If they can’t find a justification, they may have to create one.  Or perhaps they will find what they have already created.  Whatever the solution, Americans should feel confident that their leaders, together with their Israeli and Saudi bedfellows, are not sitting on their hands.  Crazy people do crazy things.

After the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it slowly became apparent what alternative media and war critics had insisted was the case before and during these wars: That the U.S. government had achieved a propaganda coup by tightly controlling the media access to the truth and by getting the mainstream media (MSM) to do their bidding.  This ex post facto revelation was, of course, not prime time or front page news, but was reported bit-by-bit by critics or was buried deep within the news reports.  While some of the truth arrived, it did so obliquely, and corporate media devotees went back to their gullible and comforting sleep.

Yet once again Americans are being played for fools by the government and MSM.  The open secret, the insider’s fact, is that the U.S. plans to attack Iran if they can seduce enough Americans that they are threatened.  The Trump people know this, the corporate media shills know it, for the Bush-Clinton-Obama scenario, written years ago, is to act as if it weren’t so, to act as if a peaceful solution were being seriously considered. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. all learned better.  The U.S. never seeks a peaceful solution.

As in 1991 and 2003, the MSM play along with Trump, who repeatedly says, or has his spokespeople say, that the decision hasn’t been made and that the U.S. wants peace. Within a few hours this is contradicted and confusion and uncertainty reign, as planned. Chaos is the name of the game. But everyone in the know knows the decision to attack has been made at some level, especially once the propaganda dummies are all in place.  But they pretend, while the media wait with baited breath as they anticipate their countdown to the dramatic moment when they report the incident that will “compel” the U.S. to attack.

The corporate media, however, always avoid the key question: How will the U.S. justify its fait accompli and what is its goal?  This question is too disturbing to broach, for it suggests that the fix is in, the show is rigged, something is rotten in the symbiotic relationship between a government intent on war and a media in that government’s service.

What could, in the eyes of the American people, justify a war against Iran, assuming the Trump administration even cares about justification?   Will Iran attack Israel?  No. Will Iran attack the United States?  No.  Of course, not, not least because it can’t, even if it wished to do so, which it clearly doesn’t.  Any such Iranian attack – absurd as such a suggestion is – would give the Trump administration ample justification for a war.

So what is the administration to do now that the news from so many quarters – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – is so bad?  What, if they are intent on a war with Iran, are they going to do about the absence of a cause for war?  It seems that they are in a dilemma.

“Seem” is the key word.  Logically speaking, if there is a war plan, if there is a Bolton/Pompeo/Israeli scenario, then the gun on the wall in the first act of this deadly play, must go off in the final act, no matter how long it takes.  The audience is being primed by the administration and their media mouthpieces to expect a “smoking gun.”  But what might it be?

“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” George W. Bush said at a staged pseudo-event on October 7, 2002 as he set Americans up for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  It was all predictable,  blatant deception.  And the media played along with such an absurdity.  Iraq obviously had no nuclear weapons or the slightest capability to deliver even a firecracker on the U.S.

Now Iran is the Nuclear devil.  Now Iran must be stopped.  Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Iran has been and will be accused of developing nuclear weapons.  Saddam was said to have had them; Iran only developing them, yet both lies need no evidence, just rhetoric.

Nevertheless, it might be claimed that secret “evidence” must be withheld on “national security” grounds or for fear of endangering Iranian informers or their families.  Thus a preemptive attack could be justified on the grounds of preventing another “Ground Zero” (a misnomer when applied to the World Trade Center site, but conveniently evocative for stirring nuclear fears).

The American people, still severely shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001, would surely be alarmed by such a “threat,” especially if it were linked to terrorism (on the high seas? In the air?), which has been the modus operandi of one administration after another.  Aren’t we at war with terror?    But it is a strategy – linking nuclear fears with terrorist fears – that the Trump administration may be hoping will cover its lack of evidence with emotional blackmail.  But it is a strategy that may not work, since, for some very odd reason, people may prefer facts to fictions.  I emphasize “may.”

Perhaps Trump’s neo-con henchmen’s  best option, therefore, is to promote or create a Tonkin Gulf incident, “unprovoked aggression against American forces,” as Lyndon Johnson put it when he lied to the world in order to get the war he wanted after JFK had been disposed of by the CIA.  It worked in 1964, so it might work again, especially with the help of our special “ally” in the region – Israel.  And today’s attackers won’t be aggressors, they will be terrorists, which seals the deal.  Bombs away!

It’s hard to say with certainty what justification the Trump war-crazies will settle on, but time is running out for them.  The news is bad from every corner, so something must be done.

Many years of secret American/Israeli planning for an attack upon Iran can’t be wasted.

The stage is set.  The charade continues.  The MSM keep preparing us for the “smoking gun.”  Something’s got to give, and propaganda geniuses are working overtime on delivering us an Oscar-winning justification.

Don’t buy it.

Especially since you’ve heard this before, and I’ve written it.  With a few minor changes and the substitution of Iran for Iraq, this column was published on the morning before George W’s infamous  (the 16 words about uranium from Niger) State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003,  fifty-one days before the invasion of Iraq, and one week before Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations.

Shocked and surprised should be words eliminated from our vocabularies.

The End of Irony: an Irony Opener

Given all the hysterical saber-rattling over Iran recently, one wonders if old Uncle Sam’s simply having another spastic episode with his Pent’agonal cane?  Mixed into the usual cacophony of paranoid ramblings, one hears ominous mumblings linking Iran, al-Quaeda, and the Nine-One-One…

Never Forget!—to re-package and re-purpose 9/11, as that original franchise continues to spawn spin-offs, recycling moth-balled characters like the angry war muppet John Bolton, and the Grinch-esque Elliot Abrams, to hawk the latest possible installments in the series.  As the most recent “pilot” in Venezuela continues to “bomb”, so to speak, one further wonders if the Iranian saber-rattle is not a kind of death-rattle, instead?  Is Uncle Sam OK?  Did he spring one leak too many, or accidentally “Stuxnet” himself?  Probably not, given the ongoing lethality of his War Machine, and the fiat money press that keeps old Uncle Sam’s cane a tap-tap-tapping.

However, before the “shock and awe” of the 9/11 event, things looked significantly different.  Afghanistan was remote and irrelevant; Iraq had become an occasional blip on a “no-fly zone” radar screen; while Libya and Syria, like Yemen and Somalia, were rarely to be seen.  But 9/11 changed everything.  Suddenly, the Death Star was in business again—and the Empire struck back.  Indeed, all bets were off by the time that Saddam Hussein’s statue fell, and that son-of-a-Skull-and-Bones Bush landed on an aircraft carrier (the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, coincidentally) to show pony an uncertain “Mission Accomplished”.  That “accomplishment” bleeds on into the present day.  By the shores of Tripoli, or Guantanamo Bay, all roads to Kabul, Baghdad, Damascus, and Tehran lead, inexorably, back to the fateful 9/11.

You know what they say:  if you’ve seen the South Tower strike once, then you’ve probably seen it a thousand times.  By day’s end, the “Mission Impossible” that 9/11 certainly was had become a cliche, like the soon-to-be minted “War on Terror” that the new brand image was used to sell.  Most major media opinion-shapers quickly fell in line with the new ad campaign, and its unequivocal claim that “9/11=War on Terror”.

One of the more peculiar fellers-in-line at that time was PBS and Time magazine essayist Roger Rosenblatt.  Fresh off the catastrophe, Herr Rosenblatt penned an essay entitled “The Age of Irony Comes to an End”, published in the September 24, 2001 issue of Time.

In this piece, Rosenblatt radically personalizes 9/11.  According to our credulous essayist, an “oh-so-cool” tribe of “believe-in-nothing” ironists—a tribe that had made Rosenblatt feel like a “slobbering bumpkin” for as long as the Trade Towers had stood—got fed their unfree lunch by the overwhelming “reality” of the 9/11 attacks.  The intellectuals, the hipsters, the “wise guys quoting Marx”:  all of these nefarious ironist-types were finally exposed for the shady frauds that Rosenblatt had always felt them to be.  Indeed, from Mr Rosenblatt’s 9/11-vindicated perch, you would have thought that those jumbo jets had slammed into the Irony—I mean, Ivory—Towers, instead…

However, beyond Roger Rosenblatt’s personal vendetta against irony and ironists, his odd coupling of irony and 9/11 provides an ironic key for opening an uncanny door into the American Psyche and its “War on Terror” thing.  Specifically, take the term “ground zero”, the signature metaphor to arise from the wreck of the World Trade Center Towers.

The first mention of “ground zero” in relation to the 9/11 event occurred at 11:55 a.m. (EST), by a Fox News affiliated correspondent.  The use of this label quickly spread to other major media outlets, and has persisted to this day.  The term itself, “ground zero”, originally refers to the blast points, or hypocenters, of the nuclear bomb detonations over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945.

Now, taking their cues from today’s cultural obsession with “Terrorism”, future historians will likely view these twin atomic bombings as terrorist attacks of the first—and worst—order of magnitude.  The reason is obvious.  Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain the two “greatest” single event mass murders in the history of the human species.  Moreover, it was entirely well-known to the small cabal of U.S. policymakers who authorized the atomic strikes that the effect would be an indiscriminate massacre of civilians, Japanese and Korean alike.

In the case of Hiroshima, it is also worth noting another telling, mordant irony.  Of the 70 to 80,000 thousand human beings who were more or less vaporized by the initial blast, 12 of those were American POWs holed up at the Chugoku Prison HQ, a little over a stone’s throw from the original Ground Zero.  The United States Government kept this particular fact a secret for over 30 years, not even notifying the families of the POWs of their fates—as if such an admission would have tarnished the image of the first atomic bombing as just, legitimate, or necessary. Perhaps our Leaders then were just a tribe of “believe-in-nothing” ironists?  Maybe they still are?

In a very real sense, the atomic bomb blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki initiated a new age of terror.  On the booster side, Uncle Sam emerged as an unparalleled superpower, wielding his loud mushroom cloud, in case there were any doubts.  The Soviet Union, of course, became a viable sidekick for several decades, until History got bored and kicked the “Rooskies” aside.  On the flip side, our use of “The Bomb” created an indelible image of our own potential annihilation, and this image accounts for the resonance of the “ground zero” metaphor in relation to the 9/11 attacks.  It is as if, in the back of the American Psyche, there is this fear that some nefarious “They” could do unto us what we once did unto Them.

Hiroshima remains the American template for the ultimate terrorist attack; 9/11, ironically or not, echoed this template.

In the early run-up to Iraq-Attack-Two, back in September of 2002, Condoleeza Rice, then National Security Adviser, made this point precisely (if unwittingly) when she said, concerning the dubiously re-discovered possibility of Saddam Hussein possessing the dreaded WMD:  “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”.

Aye, aye, Condi: Indeed we don’t!

The Western Media is Key to Syria Deception

By any reckoning, the claim made this week by al-Qaeda-linked fighters that they were targeted with chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Idlib province – their final holdout in Syria – should have been treated by the western media with a high degree of scepticism.

That the US and other western governments enthusiastically picked up those claims should not have made them any more credible.

Scepticism was all the more warranted from the media given that no physical evidence has yet been produced to corroborate the jihadists’ claims. And the media should have been warier still given that the Syrian government was already poised to defeat these al-Qaeda groups without resort to chemical weapons – and without provoking the predictable ire (yet again) of the west.

But most of all scepticism was required because these latest claims arrive just as we have learnt that the last supposed major chemical attack – which took place in April 2018 and was, as ever, blamed by all western sources on Syria’s president, Bashar Assad – was very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by those very al-Qaeda groups now claiming the Syrian government has attacked them once again.

Addicted to incompetence

Most astounding in this week’s coverage of the claims made by al-Qaeda groups is the fact that the western media continues to refuse to learn any lessons, develop any critical distance from the sources it relies on, even as those sources are shown to have repeatedly deceived it.

This was true after the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and it is now even more true after the the international community’s monitoring body on chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was exposed this month as deeply dishonest.

It is bad enough that our governments and our expert institutions deceive and lie to us. But it is even worse that we have a corporate media addicted – at the most charitable interpretation – to its own incompetence. The evidence demonstrating that grows stronger by the day.

Unprovoked attack

In March the OPCW produced a report into a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly carried out in Douma in April last year. Several dozen civilians, many of them children, died apparently as a result of that attack.

The OPCW report concluded that there were “reasonable grounds” for believing a toxic form of chlorine had been used as a chemical weapon in Douma, and that the most likely method of delivery were two cylinders dropped from the air.

This as good as confirmed claims made by al-Qaeda groups, backed by western states, that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian military. Using dry technical language, the OPCW joined the US and Europe in pointing the finger squarely at Assad.

It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion not only because of the west’s overarching regime-change ambitions in Syria.

In response to the alleged Douma attack a year ago, the US fired a volley of Cruise missiles at Syrian army and government positions before there had been any investigation of who was responsible.

Those missiles were already a war crime – an unprovoked attack on another sovereign country. But without the OPCW’s implicit blessing, the US would have been deprived of even its flimsy, humanitarian pretext for launching the missiles.

Leaked document

Undoubtedly the OPCW was under huge political pressure to arrive at the “right” conclusion. But as a scientific body carrying out a forensic investigation surely it would not simply doctor the data.

Nonetheless, it seems that may well be precisely what it did. This month the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – a group of academics who have grown increasingly sceptical of the western narratives told about Syria – published an internal, leaked OPCW document.

A few days later the OPCW reluctantly confirmed that the document was genuine, and that it would identify and deal with those responsible for the leak.

The document was an assessment overseen by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW expert, of the engineering data gathered by the OPCW’s fact-finding mission that attended the scene of the Douma attack. Its findings fly in the face of the OPCW’s published report.

Erased from the record

The leaked document is deeply troubling for two reasons.

First, the assessment, based on the available technical data, contradicts the conclusion of the final OPCW report that the two chemical cylinders were dropped from the air and crashed through building roofs. It argues instead that the cylinders were more likely placed at the locations they were found.

If that is right, the most probable explanation is that the cylinders were put there by al-Qaeda groups – presumably in a last desperate effort to persuade the west to intervene and to prevent the jihadists being driven out of Douma.

But even more shocking is the fact that the expert assessment based on the data collected by the OPCW team is entirely unaddressed in the OPCW’s final report.

It is not that the final report discounts or rebuts the findings of its own experts. It simply ignores those findings; it pretends they don’t exist. The report blacks them out, erases them from the official record. In short, it perpetrates a massive deception.

Experts ignored

All of this would be headline news if we had a responsible media that cared about the truth and about keeping its readers informed.

We now know both that the US attacked Syria on entirely bogus grounds, and that the OPCW – one of the international community’s most respected and authoritative bodies – has been caught redhanded in an outrageous deception with grave geopolitical implications. (In fact, it is not the first time the OPCW has been caught doing this, as I have previously explained here.)

The fact that the OPCW ignored its own expert and its own team’s technical findings when they proved politically indigestible casts a dark shadow over all the OPCW’s work in Syria, and beyond. If it was prepared to perpetrate a deception on this occasion, why should we assume it did not do so on other occasions when it proved politically expedient?

Active combatants

The OPCW’s reports into other possible chemical attacks – assisting western efforts to implicate Assad – are now equally tainted. That is especially so given that in those other cases the OPCW violated its own procedures by drawing prejudicial conclusions without its experts being on the ground, at the site of the alleged attacks. Instead it received samples and photos via al-Qaeda groups, who could easily have tampered with the evidence.

And yet there has been not a peep from the corporate media about this exposure of the OPCW’s dishonesty, apart from commentary pieces from the only two maverick mainstream journalists in the UK – Peter Hitchens, a conservative but independent-minded columnist for the Mail on Sunday, and veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk, of the little-read Independent newspaper (more on his special involvement in Douma in a moment).

Just as the OPCW blanked the findings of its technical experts to avoid political discomfort, the media have chosen to stay silent on this new, politically sensitive information.

They have preferred to prop up the discredited narrative that our governments have been acting to protect the human rights of ordinary Syrians rather than the reality that they have been active combatants in the war, helping to destabilise a country in ways that have caused huge suffering and death in Syria.

Systematic failure

This isn’t a one-off failure. It’s part of a series of failures by the corporate media in its coverage of Douma.

They ignored very obvious grounds for caution at the time of the alleged attack. Award-winning reporter Robert Fisk was among the first journalists to enter Douma shortly after those events. He and a few independent reporters communicated eye-witness testimony that flatly contradicted the joint narrative promoted by al-Qaeda groups and western governments that Assad had bombed Douma with chemical weapons.

The corporate media also mocked a subsequent press conference at which many of the supposed victims of that alleged chemical attack made appearances to show that they were unharmed and spoke of how they had been coerced into play-acting their roles.

And now the western media has compounded that failure – revealing its systematic nature – by ignoring the leaked OPCW document too.

But it gets worse, far worse.

Al-Qaeda propaganda

This week the same al-Qaeda groups that were present in Douma – and may have staged that lethal attack – claimed that the Syrian government had again launched chemical weapons against them, this time on their final holdout in Idlib.

A responsible media, a media interested in the facts, in evidence, in truth-telling, in holding the powerful to account, would be duty bound to frame this latest, unsubstantiated claim in the context of the new doubts raised about the OPCW report into last year’s chemical attack blamed on Assad.

Given that the technical data suggest that al-Qaeda groups, and the White Helmets who work closely with them, were responsible for staging the attack – even possibly of murdering civilians to make the attack look more persuasive – the corporate media had a professional and moral obligation to raise the matter of the leaked document.

It is vital context as anyone tries to weigh up whether the latest al-Qaeda claims are likely to be true. To deprive readers of this information, this essential context would be to take a side, to propagandise on behalf not only of western governments but of al-Qaeda too.

And that is exactly what the corporate media have just done. All of them.

Media worthy of Stalin

It is clear how grave their dereliction of the most basic journalistic duty is if we consider the Guardian’s uncritical coverage of jihadist claims about the latest alleged chemical attack.

Like most other media, the Guardian article included two strange allusions – one by France, the other by the US – to the deception perpetrated by the OPCW in its recent Douma report. The Guardian reported these allusions even though it has never before uttered a word anywhere in its pages about that deception.

In other words, the corporate media are so committed to propagandising on behalf of the western powers that they have reported the denials of official wrongdoing even though they have never reported the actual wrongdoing. It is hard to imagine the Soviet media under Stalin behaving in such a craven and dishonest fashion.

The corporate media have given France and the US a platform to reject accusations against the OPCW that the media themselves have never publicly raised.

Doubts about OPCW

The following is a brief statement (unintelligible without the forgoing context) from France, reported by the Guardian in relation to the latest claim that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons this week: “We have full confidence in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

But no one, except bloggers and academics ignored by the media and state authorities, has ever raised doubts about the OPCW. Why would the Guardian think these French comments worthy of reporting unless there were reasons to doubt the OPCW? And if there are such reasons for doubt, why has the Guardian not thought to make them public, to report them to its readers?

The US state department similarly came to the aid of the OPCW. In the same Guardian report, a US official was quoted saying that the OPCW was facing “a continuing disinformation campaign” from Syria and Russia, and that the campaign was designed “to create the false narrative that others [rather than Assad] are to blame for chemical weapons attacks”.

So Washington too was rejecting accusations against the OPCW that have never been reported by the state-corporate media.

Interestingly, in the case of US officials, they claim that Syria and Russia are behind the “disinformation campaign” against the OPCW, even though the OPCW has admitted that the leaked document discrediting its work is genuine and written by one of its experts.

The OPCW is discredited, of course, only because it sought to conceal evidence contained in the leaked document that might have exonerated Assad of last year’s chemical attack. It is hard to see how Syria or Russia can be blamed for this.

Colluding in deception

But more astounding still, while US and French officials have at least acknowledged that there are doubts about the OPCW’s role in Syria, even if they unjustifiably reject such doubts, the corporate media have simply ignored those doubts as though they don’t exist.

The continuing media blackout on the leaked OPCW document cannot be viewed as accidental. It has been systematic across the media.

That blackout has remained resolutely in place even after the OPCW admitted the leaked document discrediting it was genuine and even after western countries began alluding to the leaked document themselves.

The corporate media is actively colluding both in the original deception perpetrated by al-Qaeda groups and the western powers, and in the subsequent dishonesty of the OPCW. They have worked together to deceive western publics.

The question is, why are the media so obviously incompetent? Why are they so eager to keep themselves and their readers in the dark? Why are they so willing to advance credulous narratives on behalf of western governments that have been repeatedly shown to have lied to them?

Iran the real target

The reason is that the corporate media are not what they claim. They are not a watchdog on power, or a fourth estate.

The media are actually the public relations wing of a handful of giant corporations – and states – that are pursuing two key goals in the Middle East.

First, they want to control its oil. Helping al-Qaeda in Syria – including in its propaganda war – against the Assad government serves a broader western agenda. The US and NATO bloc are ultimately gunning for the leadership of Iran, the one major oil producer in the region not under the US imperial thumb.

Powerful Shia groups in the region – Assad in Syria, Hezbullah in Lebanon, and Iraqi leaders elevated by our invasion of that country in 2003 – are allies or potential allies of Iran. If they are in play, the US empire’s room for manoeuvre in taking on Iran is limited. Remove these smaller players and Iran stands isolated and vulnerable.

That is why Russia stepped in several years ago to save Assad, in a bid to stop the dominoes falling and the US engineering a third world war centred on the Middle East.

Second, with the Middle East awash with oil money, western corporations have a chance to sell more of the lucrative weapons that get used in overt and covert wars like the one raging in Syria for the past eight years.

What better profit-generator for these corporations than wasteful and pointless wars against manufactured bogeymen like Assad?

Like a death cult

From the outside, this looks and sounds like a conspiracy. But actually it is something worse – and far more difficult to overcome.

The corporations that run our media and our governments have simply conflated in their own minds – and ours – the idea that their narrow corporate interests are synonymous with “western interests”.

The false narratives they generate are there to serve a system of power, as I have explained in previous blogs. That system’s worldview and values are enforced by a charmed circle that includes politicians, military generals, scientists, journalists and others operating as if brainwashed by some kind of death cult. They see the world through a single prism: the system’s need to hold on to power. Everything else – truth, evidence, justice, human rights, love, compassion – must take a back seat.

It is this same system that paradoxically is determined to preserve itself even if it means destroying the planet, ravaging our economies, and starting and maintaining endlessly destructive wars. It is a system that will drag us all into the abyss, unless we stop it.

The New Politics of Starvation

President Donald Trump’s use of the most vicious aspects of economic warfare prompt another examination of the politics of starvation.

After George W. Bush’s administration, Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump lessened Bush’s aggressive war policies and leaned to economic warfare. Sounds harmless when compared to exploding bombs, but it is not — economic warfare can crush an adversary without firing a shot. Gone to its extreme, economic warfare has the force of a neutron bomb; it disables the nation’s infrastructure and debilitates its population. Isolation from the international financial system, material embargos, and other sanctions reduce living standards and bring populations close to starvation The most serious aspects of economic warfare are major crimes and a form of terrorism.

Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and Iraq endured the most punishing sanctions from the United States. Results of sanctions against these countries, models for the effects of sanctions, show that sanctions have rarely accomplished their stated purposes and their intentions may be for other reasons — stalling economic progress, weakening challenges to antagonistic actions, advancing dominance, and promoting regime change.

Iran

Disturbed with the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and infuriated by the hostage taking of 52 of U.S. embassy personnel by extreme Islamic students and militants, President Jimmy Carter froze several billions of dollars in Iranian bank deposits, gold and other properties, and followed with a 1980 embargo on trade with and travel to Iran. These punitive actions accomplished nothing for the United States, strengthened the Ayatollah’s Authority and hardened the student demands for releasing the captured embassy officials.

President Reagan, who partially owed his climb into the executive office to the hostage crisis, showed contempt for Iran’s resolution of the problem. Driven by the unproven assertion that Iran was involved in the 1983 bombing of a marine barracks in Beirut, and favoring Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war, the U.S. president imposed additional sanctions on the Islamic Republic. and, in 1987, banned all imports from Iran.

Duriing the Clinton administration, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) penalized all foreign companies that provided investments over $20 million for the development of petroleum resources.

Iran’s entrance into the atomic age provoked a series of new sanctions. Economic warfare soon reached full scale by subduing Iran’s earnings from its most precious resource and export – oil. The U.S. Congress passed unilateral sanctions that targeted Iran’s energy and banking sectors. Sanctions did not halt Iran’s nuclear activities, or prevent it from signing contracts with foreign firms to develop its energy resources. Exports slowly grew to an estimated $82 billion in 2012, with liberated Iraq and independent China filling the gap as trading partners.

Nevertheless, economic warfare affected Iran’s industries and welfare. In October 2012, Iran’s currency, the rial, fell to a record low against the US dollar, losing about 80 per cent of its value in one year. Lack of spare parts and inability to replace planes affected aviation safety. Real growth rate in GDP, at a steady six per cent a year during the first decade of the twenty first century, fell to two per cent in 2011-2012. One report, citing officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, concluded that gasoline imports in the Shah’s former kingdom declined from 130,000 barrels a day in 2009 to 50,000 barrels a day in 2011. Machinery wears, and the  costs and time for repairs rapidly increased. A nation of educated professionals, who depended upon access to foreign technology and scientific cooperation, had their access to knowledge severely curtailed.

In a October 5, 2012 report to the UN General Assembly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon summarized effects of sanctions on Iran’s population.

The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine,

The embargoes have also hampered humanitarian operations, as the imposed restrictions on Iran’s banking system have halted the imports of medicines needed for treating diseases like cancer and heart and respiratory conditions.

The Obama administration eventually eased restrictions on the sale of medicines to Iran, and, after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which Iran halted and downsized its uranium enrichment, the UN lifted sanctions. In a following year, Iran GDP increased 15 percent.

On May 8, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. and U.S. sanctions came into effect again in November 2018. President Trump articulated his plan for renewed sanctions as, “to bring Iran’s oil exports to ‘zero’ and remove a main source of revenue for the regime.” Trump imposed the ultimate harm afforded by economic warfare — starve the people and have them revolt against the regime.

That has not happened nor is predicted to occur. World Bank statistics indicate a severe slowing of the economy and steady rise of inflation.

As shown in the charts, oil production, and GDP growth dropped monotonically and severely. Currency value suffered an initial shock and had some recovery. Inflation was up 40%, especially in food (up 60%) — a suffering economy, a suffering people, and no political gain for the U.S.

Cuba

Immediately after the 1960 Cuban revolution, the United States imposed an embargo against Cuba. Fifty plus years of sanctions have not succeeded in accomplishing the purposes for which the United States proposed the sanctions — compensation to U.S. firms nationalized by Cuba and the overthrow of the Castro regime. The only result of the embargo has been deprivation of the Cuban people.

Although the United Nations General Assembly on November 2, 1995, voted 117 to 3 to recommend an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba, President Clinton, on March 12, 1996, signed into law the misnamed Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act. This Act imposed penalties on foreign companies doing business in Cuba, permitted U.S. citizens to sue foreign investors who make use of American-owned property seized by the Cuban government, and denied foreign investors in Cuba’s industry to enter the U.S.

The World Health Organization (WHO) complimented pre-90’s Cuba for its public health system, which had been credited with eliminating hunger and malnutrition and wiping out infectious diseases. A tightened embargo reinforced Cuba’s suffering after Russia withdrew subsidies. and, soon, Cuba of the mid-90’s portrayed another image. The American Association for World Health and the American Public Health Association ascertained that the embargo caused significant deterioration in Cuba’s food production and health care:

  • Cuba was banned from purchasing nearly 1/2 of new drugs on the market.
  • Physicians had access to only 890 medications, down from 1,300 in 1989.
  • Deterioration of water supply increased water borne diseases.
  • Daily caloric intake dropped by 33% between 1989 and 1993.

In 2000, the Clinton administration finally allowed Cuba to have some relief from an aggressive economic warfare. The administration allowed the sale of agriculture and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian purposes. According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba reached $380 million in 2004. However, after hitting a peak of $710 million in 2008, U.S. food sales to Cuba declined over 50 percent by the year 2011. Reasons for the decline were largely economic – lack of foreign currency and better financial terms being offered by other countries.

Representatives of a dozen leading U.S. business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, signed a letter in December urging Barack Obama to scrap the embargo. The letter pegs the cost to the U.S. economy at $1.2 billion per year. The CPF’s estimates are much higher: up to $4.84 billion annually in lost sales and exports. The Cuban government estimates the loss to Cuba at about $685 million annually. Thus the blockade costs the United States up to $4.155 billion more a year than it costs Cuba.1

After a period of harsh policy toward Cuba under President George W. Bush, President Obama announced in late 2014 that Washington and Havana would begin normalizing relations. To that end, the Obama administration achieved three pillars of normalization: 1) the removal of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which allowed Cuba to access international finance; 2) the reestablishment of diplomatic relations; and 3) relaxed restrictions on travel and trade through executive action. The embargo remained in place.

In 2017, the Trump administration reversed some of the changes made under President Obama, but the vast majority remained U.S. policy. Despite some tighter trade sanctions and limitations on authorized travel, there are still legal pathways for Americans to export and travel to Cuba. On the list of  new sanctions is allowing Americans to sue foreign companies in Cuba that are profiting from or using properties that were seized during the Cuban revolution.

Havana — The Cuban government announced Friday it is launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velazquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods.

Díaz blamed the hardening of the U.S. trade embargo by the Trump administration. Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidized fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.2

Another suffering economy, suffering people, and no political gain for the U.S.

North Korea

The proud and impoverished nation of North Korea has been continually subjected to sanctions, threats of economic sanctions, and hastily withdrawn sanctions. The media is peppered with the words: “U.S. Lifts sanctions,” “U.S. recommends sanctions,” “South Korea wary of sanctions.” It’s difficult to know if North Korea is being sanctioned or being forced into being sanctioned. After its 2006 claim of conducting a nuclear test, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic Korea) leaders responded to intended sanctions by labeling them as “a declaration of war.”

The DPRK has,suffered from economic warfare, which includes restrictions on trade and financial transactions. Export of sensitive dual-use items (items that have both military and non-military uses) have, at times, been prohibited.  During March 2012, the politics of starvation entered the situation; angered by an intended North Korea missile test, the U.S. suspended food aid to the “hermit kingdom.”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has suspended planned food aid to North Korea as Pyongyang vows to push ahead with a plan to launch a long-range missile in defiance of international warnings, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday.

Under President Obama, sanctions increased as a policy of “strategic patience;” the US waited for North Korea to change its bad behavior before engaging with the state. As a result, trade between North Korea and China increased and sanctions did not encourage Kim Jong-An to discuss de-nuclearization.

On September 21, 2017, President Donald Trump, as part of his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, allowed severing from its financial system and/or freezing assets of companies, businesses, organizations, and individuals who traded in goods, services, or technology with North Korea.

U.S. negotiations with North Korea have a built-in error; they request de-nuclearization in exchange for improved relations and reduction in sanctions. Not considered is that North Korea’s development of a nuclear arsenal was a response to its regard of U.S. actions in the Korean peninsula as a direct threat to its regime and the developments had no relation to sanctions. Therefore, the DPRK will not trade de-nuclearization for relief of sanctions, and that approach is a non-starter.

Sanctions, intended to collapse the North Korea regime, have not halted its development of nuclear weapons and guided missile delivery systems. They have collapsed the economy and harmed the North Korean people; starvation during droughts have occurred. Although some international assistance has been provided to North Korea, the intensive economic warfare waged against the “hermit kingdom” has exacerbated its problems, without any apparent benefit to its principal antagonist, the United States.

Iraq

If Iraq were Pompeii, then the US would be Mt. Vesuvius.

The sanctions against Iraq began August 6, 1990, four days after Hussein invaded Kuwait, and featured a near-total financial and trade embargo. Resultant suffering has been outlined in a UN Report on the Current Humanitarian Situation in Iraq, submitted to the Security Council, March 1999.  Due to the length of the report, only significant features are mentioned.

Before the Iraq War

  • before 1991 Iraq’s social and economic indicators were generally above the regional and developing country averages.
  • Up to 1990, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) cited Iraq as having one of the highest per capita food availability indicators in the region.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prior to 1991, health care reached approximately 97% of the urban population and 78% of rural residents. A major reduction of young child mortality took place from 1960 to 1990; with the infant mortality rate at 65 per 1,000 live births in 1989 (1991 Human Development Report average for developing countries was 76 per 1,000 live births). UNICEF indicates that a national welfare system assisted orphans and children with disabilities and supported the poorest families.
  • Before 1991, southern and central Iraq had well developed water and sanitation systems, composed with two hundred water treatment plants (“wtp’s”) for urban areas and 1200 compact wtp’s to serve rural areas, as well as an extensive distribution network. WHO estimates that 90% of the population had access to an abundant quantity of safe drinking water.

From Sanctions After the Gulf War

  • Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that Iraqi GDP may have fallen by nearly 67% in 1991, and the nation had “experienced a shift from relative affluence to massive poverty” and had infant mortality rates that were “among the highest in the world.”
  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated the maternal mortality rate increased from 50/100,000 live births in 1989 to 117/100,000 in 1997. The under-five child mortality rate increased from 30.2/1000 live births to 97.2/1000 during the same period. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) calculates that the infant mortality rate rose from 64/1000 births in 1990 to 129/1000 in 1995 (the Human Development Report set the average infant mortality rate for Least Developed Countries at 109/1000). Low birth weight babies (less than 2.5 kg) rose from 4% in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births in 1997, due mainly to maternal malnutrition.
  • Calorie intake fell from a pre-war 3120 to 1093 calories per capita/per day in 1994-95. The prevalence of malnutrition in Iraqi children under five almost doubled from 1991 to 1996 (from 12% to 23%). Acute malnutrition in Center/South rose from 3% to 11% for the same age bracket.
  • The World Food Program (WFP) estimated that access to potable water decreased to 50% of the 1990 level in urban areas and 33% in rural areas.
  • School enrollment for all ages (6-23) declined to 53%. According to a field survey conducted in 1993, as quoted by UNESCO, in Central and Southern governorates, 83% of school buildings needed rehabilitation, with 8613 out of 10,334 schools having suffered serious damages. The same source indicated that some schools with a planned capacity of 700 pupils actually have 4500 enrolled in them. Substantive progress in reducing adult and female illiteracy ceased and regressed to mid-1980 levels. More families are forced to rely on children to secure household incomes. Figures provided by UNESCO indicate that drop-outs in elementary schools increased from 95,692 in 1990 to 131,658 in 1999.

Sanctions, and its toll on the Iraqi people, continued until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Excerpts from Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, Joy Gordon. Harvard University Press, 2010, describe the extent of irrational economic warfare conducted by the United states against a defenseless Iraq.

While the United States consistently justified its policies in terms of preventing Iraq from developing weapons or threatening its neighbors, the U.S. policy went well beyond any rational concern with security. There was an elaborate architecture of policies that found a dozen other ways to simply do gratuitous harm that had not the least relation to the threat Iraq might have posed to its neighbors or to anyone else.

For thirteen years the United States unilaterally prevented Iraq from importing nearly everything related to electricity, telecommunications, and transportation, blocked much of what was needed for agriculture and housing construction, and even prohibited some equipment and materials necessary for health care and food preparation.

As the criticism grew, there is no sign that anyone in the U.S. administration, and only a tiny handful within Congress, actually took it to heart– actually questioned the sanity and legality of reducing an entire civilization to a preindustrial state, of bankrupting an entire nation for the purpose of containing one tyrannical man.

On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes. Commentator Lesley Stahl asked, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?” Madeleine Albright replied, “we think the price is worth it.”  Is that an expected response from a normal human being?

The U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq accomplished what sanctions failed to accomplish —  push Iraq to total ruin. A question, “Why war, if had sanctions, or why sanctions if need to go to war?”

Conclusion

As shown, sanctions never accomplished their stated purposes and gravely harmed populations. The economic warfare had equivalents to military war. The country that took the offensive became the aggressor, as in any war, and the destruction to the defending state was equally brutal. In the one-sided engagement, the civilian population of the defending nation suffered greatly and the aggressor country suffered few losses. The economic wars never achieved the results that the offended party desired, and no peace treaties were signed. The struggles remained an open issue.

A limited form of economic warfare may, at times, have a legitimate purpose. A complete economic war, that invades all aspects of a country’s life and continues until it debilitates the population, cannot be accepted. In a military campaign, atrocities and human rights violations are often committed. Although no shots are fired and battlefields are not identifiable, economic warfare cannot camouflage its atrocities and disguise its human rights violations.

  1. Dollars and Sense, 2009, The Costs of the Embargo, by Margot Pepper
  2. From CBS News, May 11, 2019.

The Treasury Department and Moves Towards War on Iran

As Patrick Cockburn has observed in a recent Counterpunch column, “At the end of the day, the US Treasury is a more powerful instrument of foreign policy than the Pentagon for all its aircraft carriers and drones.” He refers, of course, to the success of U.S. sanctions on Iran and secondary sanctions on any corporations conducting trade with Iran. These have cut Iranian oil exports in half. They are, in fact, a form of undeclared warfare designed to inflict pain on the Iranian people, such that they rise up against the mullahs and topple the regime.

Cockburn notes that the European Union, while earnestly striving to sustain the Iran Deal by developing normal trade relations with Japan, has been thwarted by the U.S. Treasury Department.  The U.S. is demanding in effect that all nations including China and Russia join with it in torturing Iran until it capitulates to U.S. demands and U.S.-Israeli-Saudi plans for a reconfigured Middle East.

The arrogance of Trump, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as they bark their demands, not only to the Iranians but to everyone, disgusts the world. It invites angry protests, from the European Commission to the Chinese foreign ministry. It is a clear violation of the principles of free trade and the sovereign rights of nations. It is the ultimate U.S. attack, because its target is the entire world.

If you are a foe and you trade with Iran, we punish you.

If you are a friend and you trade with Iran, we punish you.

All must obey the U.S.A. as it strives to hurt Iran. All must become complicit in the deliberate destruction of the Iranian economy, while the U.S. openly advertises plans to send 120,000 troops to the region to intimidate Iran.

Trump’s almost equally moronic presidential predecessor George W. Bush once declared, “You’re either for us, or against us.” He referred to the original War on Terror as waged mostly in Afghanistan, which received general approval from governments world-wide. (The Iraq War was another matter; even key allies were not “for” the U.S. and were briefly vilified as “enemies.”)

The current administration says, “You’re either on board our project of regime change in Iran, and willing to forgo lucrative investment opportunities in that country, or you’re against us. And if you’re against us, we will not allow you to operate in the U.S. marketplace or finance your operations using U.S. banks.”

In the history of U.S. arrogance, this is a peak. I struggle to find any historical parallel, in which a country not only announced its intention to destroy a regime—by organizing an international economic boycott enforced through its banks—but demanded universal compliance in its efforts.

It is not only damaging economically. It is insulting. As the world becomes increasingly multipolar, and the U.S. position in it steadily declines, it throws down the gauntlet. Pompeo’s gate-crashing appearance at the last EU meet (on Iran) says it all. The uninvited and un-respected U.S. Secretary of State barged uninvited into a meeting to demand from an unsympathetic audience cooperation in its regime-change effort. All he achieved apparently was to convince the Europeans that the U.S. is pushing to another Iraq-style war based on lies. (Surely any European diplomat is aware of the character of John Bolton, and is appalled that the moron-president would choose such a thug as his national security advisor.)

The mustachioed monster lusts for war on Iran, with probable backing from Apocalypse Mike, the bible-toting secretary of state, and Boeing exec turned acting war secretary Patrick Shanahan. Can Trump, despite his declared opposition to overseas military adventures, resist their arguments for war?

The media is widely reporting that statements from top-ranking British officers in Iraq and elsewhere that there has been no acceleration of a threat from Iran, contradicting Bolton’s sensationalistic claims. Their “unusual” statements contradicting U.S. State Department bullshit indicate a high level of tension even between the U.S. and U.K. on the Iran question. This suggests the threat of a U.S. strike is receding; you wouldn’t think they’d proceed without even London’s support. But on the other hand the U.S. is evacuating non-essential personnel from Iraq, suggesting it wants to whisk them out of harm’s way before some immanent action in that country.

There is a madman in power, who controls both the Pentagon and the Treasury Department. He is pressing less for war than for capitulation under economic torture. But he does not understand the Shiite passion for self-sacrifice. The Iranian people are not so stupid as to think that, whatever pocketbook misery the U.S. inflicts on their country, they are better off submitting (again) to U.S. imperialism. The Iranian people have positive feelings for the people of this country, in part due to the history of academic exchanges: the Iranian Foreign Minister studied at San Francisco State University and University of Denver. But they view the U.S. government with contempt (as we all should).

So as Trump tightens the screws, and the Europeans prove incapable of holding up their end of the deal due to U.S. sabotage, the Iranians will stubbornly hold out, praying for regime change in the U.S. while the murderous Netanyahu and Prince MsB trade high-fives about how swimmingly this is all going.