Wed, 26 Jun 2019 18:03:36 GMT Wed, 26 Jun 2019 18:03:36 GMT Why the State Department Let a Terrorist Cult Gather on its Doorstep Alexander Rubinstein

Watching the Trump administration’s push for war with Iran, news consumers may find it hard to be surprised by the lengths the US government is willing to go to in order to instigate war — or regime change at the very least — against the Islamic Republic. US citizens have been treated to lengthy lectures by the mainstream media, which laments the loss of an unmanned drone and a targeted Japanese oil tanker whose owner disputes Washington’s version of events.

Yet, it isn’t the Trump administration that solidified the US’s relationship with its strangest bedfellow in the battle against the Iranian government. That distinction goes to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Clinton declassified the Mojahedin-e Khalq (People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK) as a terrorist organization in 2012. The Guardian described the move as a result of a “multimillion-dollar campaign.”
The campaign to bury the MEK’s bloody history of bombings and assassinations that killed American businessmen, Iranian politicians and thousands of civilians, and to portray it as a loyal US ally against the Islamic government in Tehran, has seen large sums of money directed at three principal targets: members of Congress, Washington lobby groups and influential former officials.”
The outlet continued:
Three top Washington lobby firms — DLA Piper; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; and DiGenova & Toensing — have been paid a total of nearly $1.5 million over the past year to press the US administration and legislators to support the delisting of the MEK and protection for its members in camps in Iraq.

Two other lobby groups were hired for much smaller amounts. The firms employed former members of Congress to press their ex-colleagues on Capitol Hill to back the unbanning of the MEK.”
Today, years after the group was removed from Washington’s terror list, it enjoys even more access to the halls of power, despite its dismal levels of approval in Iran, the country it claims to represent.

“The MEK has incredible influence in the White House and on the Hill. I frequently see them lobbying members of Congress and attending hearings with matching yellow jackets that say ‘Iranians support regime change,’ Lily Tajaddini, Iran Coordinator at CodePink, told MintPress News.

The group claims to want democracy, but it is abundantly clear that their ideal leader for the future of Iran is Maryam Rajavi, the woman who leads their cult. The contradiction was laid bare last week at a protest held by the group in Washington with chants of “Democracy and freedom, with Maryam Rajavi.”

A recent investigation by The Intercept revealed that the White House used an article by one Heshmat Alavi to justify its illegal withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran Nuclear Deal). The only problem is that Alavi “is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK. This is not and has never been a real person {emphasis added),” according to one former member of the cult, whose story was corroborated by other former members.

As LobeLog reported:
This new scandal…involves a wide political and media class that has become so besotted with an unrealistic anti-Iran agenda that it has left the door open to an unchecked, unverified flow of MEK propaganda throughout American politics and the media. Thanks to these regime-change advocates, a foreign group funded by a foreign government has easily manufactured a false narrative aimed at sending American soldiers to die in a war with Iran that is against US national interests.”
That foreign government is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Even the US government’s own Voice of America outlet reports:
Observers have long been puzzled about how the group [MEK] managed to shell out $25,000 speaker fees to the likes of [former Speaker of the House Newt] Gingrich, [former Governor of New Mexico and US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill] Richardson, [former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard] Dean, former New York Mayor [and President Trump’s lawyer] Rudy Giuliani and others, given its small basis of support within the Iranian diaspora. It’s entirely possible that the Saudis have funded the MEK for years.”
And there is a consensus that Saudi Arabia is financing the group across the axis, with Russia’s SputnikNews reporting:
A former MEK member who oversaw the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of materials explained how the group has stayed financially afloat.

Massoud Khodabandeh explained that three tons of solid gold, a minimum of four suitcases of customized Rolex watches, and fabric that had been used to cover the Muslim holy site of Kaaba in Mecca were among the commodities shipped from Saudi Arabia to MEK operatives in Baghdad as part of the scheme.”
As MintPress News previously reported:
Testimony from a former high-ranking official from the Iranian militant opposition group…has confirmed that the group had been covertly financed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For decades, the Gulf Kingdom…contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in gold and other valuables.”
Several fronts and bigtime backers

The MEK operates through several fronts, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the Organization of Iranian American Communities (OIAC), inter alia.

The former is a “little-known advocacy group determined to install itself as the new government of Iran,” which “continues to build a powerful influence network in Washington and beyond,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The latter is a US-based lobbying group.

NCRI has “been hosting opulent events at the National Press Club and elsewhere, publicizing itself through national and international media, and meeting with dozens of current and former government officials, all with the end goal of toppling the current Iranian government and rising to power in its place,” the watchdog reports. CRP adds:

“The [C]ouncil of [R]esistance either submitted or was quoted in 51 media pieces between December 2018 and May 2019, according to FARA [law requiring registration of foreign lobbyists] filings.”

Meanwhile, some of the biggest names in American politics openly back the group. The ultra-hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton, who has advocated for a pre-emptive strike on Iran, has spoken at their events. National Security Advisor John Bolton promised the group at its 2017 conference in Albania that “before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.” Richardson, Gingrich and Guiliani also gave speeches there.
Among other prominent supporters of the group: former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ); retired General and former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army Jack Keane; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Sen. John Boozman (R-AR); Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC); Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO); Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA); Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA); and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, among many, many more.

Chaos at the State Department

On Friday, some 500 MEK members demonstrated in front of the State Department building in Washington, equipped with stages, two large-screen TVs, and three confetti cannons. In between speeches, demonstrators chanted “Change, change, change / Regime change in Iran!”

They also chanted their support for MEK leader Maryam Rajavi — who is banned from entering the United Kingdom, yet bills herself as a progressive reformer despite her group’s terrorist past. “Rajavi yes / Mullahs no / They are terrorists, they must go!” MEK members chanted.

According to organizers, the MEK members flew in from “40 different states.”

One speaker opened the rally by proclaiming:
In one voice, we declare that the only solution is for the Iranian people to overthrow this regime and create a democratic nation. Our rally is timely, our message is clear. Thousands of Iranians are here to say it loud: ‘We call on the United States to support the Iranian uprisings for regime change.’”
He went on to call for more sanctions and for the designation of Iranian intelligence agencies as terrorist groups. The speaker continued:
With this comes the recognition of an alternative to the Iranian regime. Misses Maryam Rajavi and the NCRI have demonstrated leadership, a significant network, and the organizational capabilities to free Iran. And we support Misses Rajavi and her 10-point plan for a free, democratic, and non-nuclear Iran.

Let’s make sure that we are heard and on social media with the following hashtags: #MarchForRegimeChangeByIranians, #IStandWithMaryamRajavi, and #FreeIran.”

Some people who spoke were not included on the list of speakers, including representatives McClintock and Sherman. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX) also had statements read to the MEK crowd. Later, former US Ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli also spoke.

A handful of counter demonstrators with the anti-war women’s group CodePink showed up to rally against the MEK group. Tajaddini had organized the protest but stayed at a distance, noting:
They target me because I am Iranian. They have yelled sexist slurs at me and make false claims that I am paid by the regime inside of Iran solely because I do not support sanctions or war against Iran.”
Days prior, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin had confronted MEK members as they attempted to lobby Congress. On Friday, MEK had pictures on hand of Benjamin meeting with Iranian officials during her participation in peace delegations printed out in an effort to intimidate her. They surrounded her, pushed her, and called her a terrorist.

Immediately after the State Department security personnel escorted Benjamin from the mob, she told MintPress News:
This is an example of the mentality among these people. They have no respect for democracy.

If it weren’t for the police, they would be hitting us and assaulting like they have done many times. They are a cult and a former terrorist group. They have been legitimized with the support of John Bolton and other people in the administration. They’re hated inside Iran.”
One of the MEK members who was captured on video being pushed away by police for being too aggressive towards Benjamin, told MintPress News that Benjamin and the other members of CodePink “have got money from the Iranian agent to participate here.” The accusation of spying for or being on the payroll of Iran is included in most public testimony of those targeted by the group. The MEK member continued:
We want just change of the regime, nothing more, but they are supporting the Iranian terrorist regime.

I hope that the Iranian terrorist regime [is] overthrown and the people can choose anybody they want to. For example, if they elect Maryam Rajavi.”
Maryam Rajavi is the de-facto leader of the MEK since her husband mysteriously disappeared. Rajavi addressed the protest remotely, on two occasions reminding her supporters that the US is their ally and accusing the Iranian government of having it backwards. She congratulated MEK members for their growing support in Washington and shared her vision of opening up markets in Iran. Despite originally billing itself as a Marxist organization, MEK is now staunchly capitalist — perhaps a necessary condition for alliance with the US According to the group:
The council accepts national capitalism and the bazaar [marketplace], private ownership and enterprise, as well as private investment.”
But it isn’t only about the benjamins, CodePink’s Tajaddini argues:
Many members in Congress and the White House have strong ties to the Israeli and Saudi lobby groups [that] support sanctions and a war with Iran. They also support the MEK because they are then able to say that Iranians support the US-led regime change.”
The Congressional Cult Caucus

Gov. Richardson opened his speech with red meat for the MEK: “We need a new regime. That regime is you, the MEK.” Richardson concluded by leading a chant of “M-E-K!”

Richardson’s interest in the outcome of United States policy in the Middle East isn’t just confined to his support for the MEK, for which he is rewarded generously. He is also involved in a US oil project in the Syrian Golan Heights, which are illegally occupied by Israel, via a company called Genie Energy Ltd. Given the transnational nature of pipelines, Genie Energy stands to benefit from both regime change in Syria and Iran. Other figures on the company’s advisory board include former Vice President Dick Cheney, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, investment banker Jacob Rothschild and former CIA Director James Woosley.

Former Sen. Robert Torricelli, who helped lobby the Clinton state department to drop the MEK from its terrorist list, cheered Rajavi’s sacrifices for the movement.

Rep. Brad Sherman, Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, assured the crowd that the Iranian government “may be on its last leg.” He said that he was sure that Iran’s military was watching the protest remotely. “So Rouhani, this is the future of Iran. Watch it on your video streams,” he said.

Rep. Tom McClintock told the crowd that “the gang of thugs that have appointed themselves the rulers of Iran — their claim on power is illegitimate and the time to topple them is approaching.”

Jack Keane, a retired four-star general and former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, said Iran is “choking” on US sanctions and condemned Iran for its alleged support of Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Syria. He told the MEK to “keep up your fight, keep up your resistance.”

Sharing a bit of what appears to be insider knowledge with the cultists, the general told them “the United States will lead a coalition of nations to keep the shipping lanes open in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. That will unfold in the days ahead.”

Following the rally, the MEK marched to the White House, again calling for regime change.
MEKing history

Virtually every investigation into the so-called “People’s Mujahedeen” — whether by think tanks, NGOs, or the media — concludes that their support inside of Iran is virtually non-existent. The group participated in the revolution against the Shah but was not invited to the table as a new government was being formed. And so they rebelled, engaging in a campaign of terror marked with assassination attempts against Iranian, US and Jordanian officials. They bombed many businesses. Three US military officials were killed; as were three contractors, and that was prior to the revolution. Afterwards, MEK attacks would see as many as 70 high-ranking officials from other political parties killed. Suicide attacks and assassinations continued.

Eventually, the MEK sided with Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war and was responsible for scores of Iranian casualties. This is largely credited as the reason the group is so widely despised in Iran.


In 1989, Maryam and Masoud Rajavi made divorce compulsory to advance the so-called “ideological revolution.” In 1992, the group conducted “near-simultaneous” raids on Iranian embassies in 13 countries. By August 2002, the group started holding press conferences in Washington highlighting the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. The next year, it bombed a UN compound in Iraq, causing the international body to vacate the country.

The RAND Corporation, a US government-funded militarist think tank, was asked by a Marine Corps major-general to provide a “rigorous analysis” of the group. The 133-page report states:
The MeK naturally sought out Iranian dissidents, but it also approached Iranian economic migrants in such countries as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates with false promises of employment, land, aid in applying for asylum in Western countries, and even marriage, to attract them to Iraq. Relatives of members were given free trips to visit the MeK’s camps. Most of these ‘recruits’ were brought into Iraq illegally and then required to hand over their identity documents for ‘safekeeping.’ Thus, they were effectively trapped.

During the more than four decades since its founding, the MeK has become increasingly adept at crafting and promoting its image as a democratic organization that seeks to bring down Iranian tyrants, both secular and religious. This profile has been especially effective in the United States and Europe, where, until recently, the MeK’s extensive fundraising activities have been very successful.”
In the internet era, the cult has managed to keep up with the times. A Channel 4 report found one defector whose job it was to run pro-MEK sockpuppet accounts pretending to be Iranian.

In a possible testament to the group’s effectiveness at manipulating narratives, one media outlet has released what it says is leaked audio of the head of MEK’s cyber unit speaking to a US-based supporter. “We did our best to blame the [Iranian] regime for the [oil tanker] blasts. The Saudis have called Sister Maryam [Rajavi’s] office to follow up on the results,” the MEK official tells him.
One leading NGO — Human Rights Watch — did even more digging into the cultish behavior of the group. It interviewed a number of former members, uncovering one case in which a man was “held in solitary confinement for eight-and-a-half years” for wanting to leave. Two people were killed in interrogations.
The level of devotion expected of members was [on] stark display in 2003 when the French police arrested Maryam Rajavi in Paris. In protest, ten MKO members and sympathizers set themselves on fire in various European cities; two of them subsequently died.”
The rights group also reported “mass divorces” as a result of leadership’s “ideological revolution.” MEK told members it would enhance their “capacity for struggle.” Celibacy is likewise mandatory.
Human rights abuses carried out by [MEK] leaders against dissident members ranged from prolonged incommunicado and solitary confinement to beatings, verbal and psychological abuse, coerced confessions, threats of execution, and torture.”
Today, the MEK is constructing a massive compound in Tirana, Albania. A former head of Albanian military intelligence told Channel 4 he thought they were trying to build “a state within a state.”

An aerial shot of the sprawling MEK compound in Tirana, Albania.

The outlet reported that Albania agreed to allow the camp to be set up in order to earn itself additional support from the United States. The report contains the story of one couple from Canada who say their daughter was kidnapped 20 years ago by the group and who traveled to Albania to find her. The MEK social-media troll said there was “forced public confession about any thoughts about sex,” every night. Another said he was tortured for 45 days. The journalist behind the report was repeatedly harassed by MEK and its Albanian private security on camera.

A separate report, in LobeLog, states:
“One journalist confessed to me he felt afraid in his own country when the MEK, accompanied by hired armed Albanian security personnel, followed him. In a public space, they photographed him and made verbal threats, demanding that he hand over his phone on which he had earlier filmed activity outside the MEK camp gate.”
These horrifying anecdotes are apparently of little concern to former Sen. Torricelli, who lobbied to have the group removed from the US terrorist list. “To those of you in Tirana, thank you for being who you are: the point of the spear in the effort for Iranian freedom,” he told the MEK crowd in D.C. on Friday.

Media downplay the MEK

It appears that the horror stories from MEK compounds from Europe to the Middle East are also of little concern to the D.C. press corps. Multiple journalists tweeted about the events in manners clearly designed to manufacture a pro-war consensus. Reuters’ White House reporter Steve Holland and Eamon Javers, Washington correspondent for CNBC, offered no context on the group, thereby presenting the pro-regime change cultists as ordinary, concerned, Iranian-Americans.
NBC News White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell called the group “pro-democracy protesters seeking Iran regime change.” She eventually deleted the tweet without offering an explanation.

But despite the correspondent’s likely realization of the complete failure in her characterization, the report from NBC News that aired on its local affiliate made no mention of the MEK, yet somehow managed to regurgitate MEK’s inflated claim that it had “thousands” of protesters who attended, when it was clearly far less. The report even concluded with an unsourced claim:
I am told this march and rally was seen in Iran because of live coverage streamed over the internet. Reporting from the White House, Chris Gordon, News 4.”
The report was also tilted “US-Iran Tensions Trigger Protests in DC.” The headline gives the impression that the MEK was protesting in response to recent escalations, when its protest had in fact been long planned to mark the anniversary of a major protest held by the group in Tehran decades ago.

But when CodePink decided to have its own rally out in front of the White House — a feat organized in just three days — calling for an end to sanctions on Sunday, the media virtually ignored it save for a handful of independent reporters.

The MEK’s influence operation in the United States is monied and arguably successful. The cult has the backing of a number of Trump administration officials and allies, current and former members of Congress, and the establishment media. As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. When it comes to the overthrow of a sovereign foreign government, it seems they are made even with those who are not allowed to keep bedfellows.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.]]> Wed, 26 Jun 2019 18:03:36 GMT
US Arms Dealers Getting Rich On Yemen's Misery Daniel McAdams
]]> Wed, 26 Jun 2019 16:33:31 GMT
The Donald’s Latest Iranian Caper – Sh*t-Faced Stupidity David Stockman

This is just wanton sh*t-faced stupidity. We are referring to the Trump Administration’s escalation of sanctions on Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and its foreign minister, and then the Donald’s tweet-storm of bluster, threats and implicit redlines when they didn’t take too kindly to this latest act of aggression by Washington.

That last point can’t be emphasized enough. Iran is zero threat to the American homeland and has never engaged in any hostile action on U.S soil or even threatened the same.

To the contrary, Washington’s massive naval and military arsenal in the middle east is essentially the occupational force of a naked aggressor that has created mayhem through the Persian Gulf and middle eastern region for the past three decades; and has done so in pursuit of the will-o-wisp of oil security and the neocon agenda of demonizing and isolating the Iranian regime.

But as we have demonstrated previously, the best cure for high oil prices is the global market, not the Fifth Fleet. And the demonization of the Iranian regime is based on lies and propaganda ginned up by the Bibi Netanyahu branch of the War Party (that has falsely made Iran an "existential" threat in order to win elections in Israel).

Stated differently, the American people have no dog in the political hunts of Washington’s so-called allies in the region; and will be no worse for the wear economically if Washington were to dispense with its idiotic economic warfare against Iran’s 4 million barrel per day oil industry and allow all exporters in the region to produce and sell every single barrel they can economically extract.

Viewed in the proper context, Iran’s response to the new sanctions and intensified efforts to destroy their economy was readily warranted:
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the new sanctions 'outrageous and stupid.' Mr. Khamenei, while the political leader of Iran, also is one of the world’s leading authorities for Shia Muslims.

'Would any administration with a bit of wisdom [sanction] the highest authority of a country? And not only a political authority, a religious, social, spiritual one, and not the leader of Iran only, the leader of the Islamic revolution all over the world?' Mr. Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television.

He said it was 'obvious' that the US was lying about wanting to negotiate with Iran: 'You want us to negotiate with you again?' Mr. Rouhani said, 'and at the same time you seek to sanction the foreign minister too?'

…Iran also said these sanctions closed the door on diplomacy and threatened global stability, as American officials renewed efforts to build a global alliance against Tehran.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take the Donald long to upchuck what amounted to a dangerous tantrum:
….Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!
Those words are utterly reckless and outrageous. The Donald is carrying water for the neocons, Bibi and the Saudis without really understanding what he is doing and in the process is betraying America First and inching closer to an utterly unnecessary conflagration in the Persian Gulf that will virtually upend the global economy.

Worst of all, as he escalates the confrontation with the Iranian regime, he espouses a pack of lies and distortions that do no remotely comport with the facts. For instance, the following tweet is absolutely neocon baloney:
….The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else. The US has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2000 Americans, and wounded many more…
The truth of the matter is that the Donald is referring to attacks on US forces by the Shiite militias in Iraq during Washington’s misbegotten invasion and occupation of that woebegone nation during the last decades. The Shiite live there, constitute the majority of its electorate, didn’t want America there in the first place, and now actually run the government that Washington placed in power and are totally opposed to Trump’s confrontation with their Shiite compatriots in Iran.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Better still, it is crucial to understand that this entire dangerous escalation is owing to the fact that the Donald got into his thick head that utter nonsense that the Iran nuke deal was some kind of disaster, and from there walked-away from the deal and restarted a brutal economic war against Iran in the guise of sanctions.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The Donald’s action to terminate the Iranian nuclear deal was a complete triumph for the War Party.

It gutted the very idea of America First because Washington’s renewed round of sanctions constitute economic aggression against a country that is no threat to the US homeland whatsoever.

In fact, Iran did not violate any term of the nuke deal, and as we demonstrate below, scrupulously adhered to the letter of it. So the real reasons for Trump’s abandonment of the nuke deal have everything to do with the kind of Imperial interventionism that is the antithesis of America First.

Trump’s action, in fact, is predicated on the decades long neocon-inspired Big Lie that Iran is an aggressive expansionist and terrorism-supporting rogue state which threatens the security of not just the region, but America too.

But that’s flat out poppycock. As we documented last week, the claim that Iran is the expansionist leader of the Shiite Crescent is based on nothing more than the fact that Tehran has an independent foreign policy based on its own interests and confessional affiliations – legitimate relationships that are demonized by virtue of not being approved by Washington.

Likewise, the official charge that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism is not remotely warranted by the facts: The listing is essentially a State Department favor to the Netanyahu branch of the War Party.

The fact is, the Iranian regime with its piddling $14 billion military budget has no means to attack America militarily and has never threatened to do so. Nor has it invaded any other country in the region where it was not invited by a sovereign government host.

As Ron Paul cogently observed:
Is Iran really the aggressive one? When you unilaterally pull out of an agreement that was reducing tensions and boosting trade; when you begin applying sanctions designed to completely destroy another country’s economy; when you position military assets right offshore of that country; when you threaten to destroy that country on a regular basis, calling it a campaign of “maximum pressure,” to me it seems a stretch to play the victim when that country retaliates by shooting a spy plane that is likely looking for the best way to attack.

Even if the US spy plane was not in Iranian airspace – but it increasingly looks like it was – it was just another part of an already-existing US war on Iran. Yes, sanctions are a form of war, not a substitute for war.
The point is Washington’s case is almost entirely bogus. To wit:
Mr. Trump also reiterated his demands Monday at the White House: 'We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons, increased enrichment of uranium, development of ballistic missiles, engagement in and support for terrorism, fueling of foreign conflicts, and belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.'
Let’s see about those "dangerous activities and aspirations".

In fact, Iran has no blue water navy that could effectively operate outside of the Persian Gulf; its longest range warplanes can barely get to Rome without refueling; and its array of mainly defensive medium and intermediate range missiles cannot strike most of NATO, to say nothing of the North American continent.

Likewise, it has presumed to have an independent foreign policy involving Washington proscribed alliances with the sovereign state of Syria, the leading political party of Lebanon (Hezbollah), the ruling authorities in Baghdad and the reining power in the Yemen capital of Sana’a (the Houthis).

All these regimes except the puppet state of Iraq are deemed by Washington to be sources of unsanctioned "regional instability" and Iran’s alliances with them have been capriciously labeled as acts of state sponsored terrorism.

The same goes for Washington’s demarche against Iran’s modest array of short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles. These weapons are palpably instruments of self-defense, but Imperial Washington insists their purpose is aggression – unlike the case of practically every other nation which offers its custom to American arms merchants for like and similar weapons.

For example, Iran’s arch-rival across the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, has more advanced NATO supplied ballistic missiles with even greater range (2,600 km range). So does Israel, Pakistan, India and a half-dozen other nations, which are either Washington allies or have been given a hall-pass in order to bolster US arms exports.

In short, Washington’s escalating war on Iran is an exercise in global hegemony, not territorial self-defense. It is a testament to the manner in which the historic notion of national defense has morphed into Washington’s arrogant claim that it constitutes the "Indispensable Nation" which purportedly stands as mankind’s bulwark against global disorder and chaos among nations.

Likewise, the Shiite theocracy ensconced in Tehran was an unfortunate albatross on the Persian people, but it was no threat to America’s safety and security. The very idea that Tehran is an expansionist power bent on exporting terrorism to the rest of the world is a giant fiction and tissue of lies invented by the Washington War Party and its Bibi Netanyahu branch in order to win political support for their confrontationist policies.

Indeed, the three decade long demonization of Iran has served one overarching purpose. Namely, it enabled both branches of the War Party to conjure up a fearsome enemy, thereby justifying aggressive policies that call for a constant state of war and military mobilization.

When the cold-war officially ended in 1991, in fact, the Cheney/neocon cabal feared the kind of drastic demobilization of the US military-industrial complex that was warranted by the suddenly more pacific strategic environment. In response, they developed an anti-Iranian doctrine that was explicitly described as a way of keeping defense spending at high cold war levels.

And the narrative they developed to this end is one of the more egregious Big Lies ever to come out of the beltway. It puts you in mind of the young boy who killed his parents, and then threw himself on the mercy of the courts on the grounds that he was an orphan!

To wit, during the 1980s the neocons in the Reagan Administration issued their own fatwa again the Islamic Republic of Iran based on its rhetorical hostility to America. Yet that enmity was grounded in Washington’s 25-year support for the tyrannical and illegitimate regime of the Shah, and constituted a founding narrative of the Islamic Republic that was not much different than America’s revolutionary castigation of King George.

That the Iranians had a case is beyond doubt. The open US archives now prove that the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953 and put the utterly unsuited and megalomaniacal Mohammad Reza Shah on the peacock throne to rule as a puppet in behalf of US security and oil interests.

During the subsequent decades the Shah not only massively and baldly plundered the wealth of the Persian nation. With the help of the CIA and US military, he also created a brutal secret police force known as the Savak, which made the East German Stasi look civilized by comparison.

All elements of Iranian society including universities, labor unions, businesses, civic organizations, peasant farmers and many more were subjected to intense surveillance by the Savak agents and paid informants. As one critic described it:
Over the years, Savak became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest, detain, brutally interrogate and torture suspected people indefinitely. Savak operated its own prisons in Tehran, such as Qezel-Qalaeh and Evin facilities and many suspected places throughout the country as well.
Ironically, among his many grandiose follies, the Shah embarked on a massive civilian nuclear power campaign in the 1970s, which envisioned literally paving the Iranian landscape with dozens of nuclear power plants.

He would use Iran’s surging oil revenues after 1973 to buy all the equipment required from Western companies – and also fuel cycle support services such as uranium enrichment – in order to provide his kingdom with cheap power for centuries.

At the time of the Revolution, the first of these plants at Bushehr was nearly complete, but the whole grandiose project was put on hold amidst the turmoil of the new regime and the onset of Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran in September 1980. As a consequence, a $2 billion deposit languished at the French nuclear agency that had originally obtained it from the Shah to fund a ramp-up of its enrichment capacity to supply his planned battery of reactors.

Indeed, in this very context the new Iranian regime proved quite dramatically that it was not hell bent on obtaining nuclear bombs or any other weapons of mass destruction. In the midst of Iraq’s unprovoked invasion of Iran in the early 1980s the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against biological and chemical weapons.

Yet at that very time, Saddam was dropping these horrific weapons on Iranian battle forces – some of them barely armed teenage boys – with the spotting help of CIA tracking satellites and the concurrence of Washington. So from the very beginning, the Iranian posture was wholly contrary to the War Party’s endless blizzard of false charges about its quest for nukes.

However benighted and medieval its religious views, the theocracy which rules Iran does not consist of demented war mongers. In the heat of battle they were willing to sacrifice their own forces rather than violate their religious scruples to counter Saddam’s WMDs.

Then in 1983 the new Iranian regime decided to complete the Bushehr power plant and some additional elements of the Shah’s grand plan. But when they attempted to reactivate the French enrichment services contract and buy necessary power plant equipment from the original German suppliers they were stopped cold by Washington. And when the tried to get their $2 billion deposit back, they were curtly denied that, too.

To make a long story short, the entire subsequent history of off again/on again efforts by the Iranians to purchase dual use equipment and components on the international market, often from black market sources like Pakistan, was in response to Washington’s relentless efforts to block its legitimate rights as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to complete some parts of the Shah’s civilian nuclear project.

Needless to say, it did not take much effort by the neocon “regime change” fanatics which inhabited the national security machinery, especially after the 2000 election, to spin every attempt by Iran to purchase even a lowly pump or pipe fitting as evidence of a secret campaign to get the bomb.

The exaggerations, lies, distortions and fear-mongering which came out of this neocon campaign are downright despicable. Yet they incepted way back in the early 1990s when George H.W. Bush actually did reach out to the newly elected government of Hashemi Rafsanjani to bury the hatchet after it had cooperated in obtaining the release of American prisoners being held in Lebanon in 1989.

Rafsanjani was self-evidently a pragmatist who did not want conflict with the United States and the West; and after the devastation of the eight year war with Iraq was wholly focused on economic reconstruction and even free market reforms of Iran’s faltering economy.

It is one of the great tragedies of history that the neocons managed to squelch even George Bush’s better instincts with respect to rapprochement with Tehran.

The Neocon Big Lie About Iranian Nukes And Terrorism

So the prisoner release opening was short-lived – especially after the top post at the CIA was assumed in 1991 by Robert Gates. As one of the very worst of the unreconstructed cold war apparatchiks, it can be well and truly said that Gates looked peace in the eye and then elected to pervert John Quincy Adams’ wise maxim by searching the globe for monsters to fabricate.

In this case the motivation was especially loathsome. Gates had been Bill Casey’s right hand man during the latter’s rogue tenure at the CIA in the Reagan administration. Among the many untoward projects that Gates shepherded was the Iran-Contra affair that nearly destroyed his career when it blew-up, and for which he blamed the Iranians for its public disclosure.

From his post as deputy national security director in 1989 and then as CIA head Gates pulled out all the stops to get even. Almost single-handedly he killed-off the White House goodwill from the prisoner release, and launched the blatant myth that Iran was both sponsoring terrorism and seeking to obtain nuclear weapons.

Indeed, it was Gates who was the architect of the demonization of Iran that became a staple of War Party propaganda after the 1991. In time that morphed into the utterly false claim that Iran is an aggressive wanna be hegemon that is a fount of terrorism and is dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, among other treacherous purposes.

That giant lie was almost single-handedly fashioned by the neocons and Bibi Netanyahu’s coterie of power-hungry henchman after the mid-1990s. Indeed, the false claim that Iran posses an “existential threat” to Israel is a product of the pure red meat domestic Israeli politics that have kept Bibi in power for much of the last two decades.

But the truth is Iran has only a tiny fraction of Israel’s conventional military capability. And compared to the latter’s 100 odd nukes, Iran has never had a nuclear weaponization program after a small scale research program was ended in 2003.

That is not merely our opinion. It’s been the sober assessment of the nation’s top 17 intelligence agencies in the official National Intelligence Estimates ever since 2007. And now in conjunction with a further study undertaken pursuant to the 2015 nuke deal, the IAEA has also concluded the Iran had no secret program after 2003.

On the political and foreign policy front, Iran is no better or worse than any of the other major powers in the Middle East. In many ways it is far less of a threat to regional peace and stability than the military butchers who now run Egypt on $1.5 billion per year of US aid.

And it is surely no worse than the royal family tyrants who squander the massive oil resources of Saudi Arabia in pursuit of unspeakable opulence and decadence to the detriment of the 30 million citizens which are not part of the regime, and who one day may well reach the point of revolt.

When it comes to the support of terrorism, the Saudis have funded more jihadists and terrorists throughout the region than Iran ever even imagined.

In fact, Iran is a nearly bankrupt country that has no capability whatsoever to threaten the security and safety of the citizens of Spokane WA, Peoria IL or anywhere else in the USA.

Its $460 billion GDP is the size of Indiana’s and its 68,000 man military is only slightly larger than the national guard of Texas.

It is a land of severe mountains and daunting swamps that are not all that conducive to rapid economic progress and advanced industrialization. It has no blue water navy, no missiles with more than a few hundred miles of range, and, we must repeat again, has had no nuclear weapons program for more than a decade.

Moreover, Donald’s incessant charge that the Obama Administration gave away the store during the nuke deal negotiations that led to the JCPA is just blatant nonsense. In fact, the Iranians made huge concessions on nearly every issue that made a difference.

That included deep concessions on the number of permitted centrifuges at Natanz; the dismantlement of the Fordow and Arak nuclear operations; the virtually complete liquidation of its enriched uranium stockpiles; the intrusiveness and scope of the inspections regime; and the provisions with respect to Iran’s so-called "breakout" capacity.

For instance, while every signatory of the non-proliferation treaty has the right to civilian enrichment, Iran agreed to reduce the number of centrifuges by 70% from 20,000 to 6,000.

And its effective spinning capacity was reduced by significantly more. That’s because the permitted Natanz centrifuges now consist exclusively of its most rudimentary, outdated equipment – first-generation IR-1 knockoffs of 1970s European models.

Not only was Iran not be allowed to build or develop newer models, but even those remaining were permitted to enrich uranium to a limit of only 3.75% purity. That is to say, to the generation of fissile material that is not remotely capable of reaching bomb grade concentrations of 90%.

Equally importantly, pursuant to the agreement Iran has eliminated enrichment activity entirely at its Fordow plant – a facility that had been Iran’s one truly advanced, hardened site that could withstand an onslaught of Israeli or US bunker busters.

Instead, Fordow has become a small time underground science lab devoted to medical isotope research and crawling with international inspectors. In effectively decommissioning Fordow and thereby eliminating any capacity to cheat from a secure facility – what Iran got in return was at best a fig leave of salve for its national pride.

The disposition of the reactor at Arak has been even more dispositive. For years, the War Party has falsely waved the bloody shirt of "plutonium" because the civilian nuclear reactor being built there was of Canadian "heavy water" design rather than GE or Westinghouse "light water" design; and, accordingly, when finished it would have generated plutonium as a waste product rather than conventional spent nuclear fuel rods.

In truth, the Iranians couldn’t have bombed a beehive with the Arak plutonium because you need a reprocessing plant to convert it into bomb grade material. Needless to say, Iran never had such a plant – nor any plans to build one, and no prospect for getting the requisite technology and equipment.

But now even that bogeyman no longer exists. Iran removed and destroyed the reactor core of its existing Arak plant in 2016 and filled it with cement, as attested to by international inspectors under the JCPA.

As to its already existing enriched stock piles, including some 20% medical-grade material, 97% has been eliminated as per the agreement. That is, Iran now holds only 300 kilograms of its 10,000 kilogram stockpile in useable or recoverable form. Senator Kirk could store what is left in his wine cellar.

But where the framework agreement decisively shut down the War Party was with respect to its provision for a robust, comprehensive and even prophylactic inspections regime. All of the major provision itemized above are being enforced by continuous IAEA access to existing facilities including its main centrifuge complex at Natanz – along with Fordow, Arak and a half dozen other sites.

Indeed, the real breakthrough in the JCPA lies in Iran’s agreement to what amounts to a cradle-to-grave inspection regime. It encompasses the entire nuclear fuel chain.

That means international inspectors can visit Iran’s uranium mines and milling and fuel preparation operations. This encompasses even its enrichment equipment manufacturing and fabrication plants, including centrifuge rotor and bellows production and storage facilities.

Beyond that, Iran has also been subject to a robust program of IAEA inspections to prevent smuggling of materials into the country to illicit sites outside of the named facilities under the agreement. This encompasses imports of nuclear fuel cycle equipment and materials, including so-called "dual use" items which are essentially civilian imports that can be repurposed to nuclear uses, even peaceful domestic power generation.

In short, not even a Houdini could secretly breakout of the control box established by the JCPA and confront the world with some kind of fait accompli threat to use the bomb.

That’s because what it would take to do so is absurdly implausible. That is, Iran would need to secretly divert thousands of tons of domestically produced or imported uranium and then illicitly mill and upgrade such material at secret fuel preparation plants.

It would also need to secretly construct new, hidden enrichment operations of such massive scale that they could house more than 10,000 new centrifuges. Moreover, they would need to build these massive spinning arrays from millions of component parts smuggled into the country and transported to remote enrichment operations – all undetected by the massive complex of spy satellites overhead and covert US ands Israeli intelligence agency operatives on the ground in Iran.

Finally, it would require the activation from scratch of a weaponization program which has been dormant according to the National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) for more than a decade. And then, that the Iranian regime – after cobbling together one or two bombs without testing them or their launch vehicles – would nevertheless be willing to threaten to use them sight unseen.

So just stop it!

You need to be a raging, certifiable paranoid boob to believe that the Iranians can break out of this framework box based on a secret new capacity to enrich the requisite fissile material and make a bomb.

In the alternative scenario, you have to be a willful know-nothing to think that if it publicly repudiates the agreement, Iran could get a bomb overnight before the international community could take action.

To get enough nuclear material to make a bomb from the output of the 5,000 "old and slow" centrifuges remaining at Natanz would take years, not months. And if subject to an embargo on imported components, as it would be after a unilateral Iranian repudiation of the JCPA, it could not rebuild its now dismantled enrichment capacity rapidly, either.

At the end of the day, in fact, what you really have to believe is that Iran is run by absolutely irrational, suicidal madmen. After all, even if they managed to defy the immensely prohibitive constraints described above and get one or a even a few nuclear bombs, what in the world would they do with them?

Drop them on Tel Aviv? That would absolutely insure Israel’s navy and air force would unleash its 100-plus nukes and thereby incinerate the entire industrial base and major population centers of Iran.

Indeed, the very idea that deterrence would fail even if a future Iranian regime were to defy all the odds, and also defy the fatwa against nuclear weapons issued by their Supreme Leader, amounts to one of the most preposterous Big Lies ever concocted.

There is no plausible or rational basis for believing it outside of the axis-of-evil narrative. So what’s really behind Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPA is nothing more than the immense tissue of lies and unwarranted demonization of Iran that the War Party has fabricated over the last three decades.

Iran Never Wanted the Bomb

At bottom, all the hysteria about the mullahs getting the bomb was based on the wholly theoretically supposition that they wanted civilian enrichment only as a stepping stone to the bomb. Yet the entirety of the US intelligence complex as well as the attestation of George W. Bush himself say it isn’t so.

As we have previously indicated, the blinding truth of that proposition first came in the National Intelligence Estimates of 2007. These NIEs represent a consensus of all 17 US intelligence agencies on salient issues each year, and on the matter of Iran’s nuclear weapons program they could not have been more unequivocal:
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. … We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons. …

Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
Moreover, as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern noted recently, the NIE’s have not changed since then.
An equally important fact ignored by the mainstream media is that the key judgments of that NIE have been revalidated by the intelligence community every year since.
More crucially, there is the matter of "Dubya’s" memoirs. Near the end of his term in office he was under immense pressure to authorize a bombing campaign against Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities.

But once the 2007 NIEs came out, even the "mission accomplished" President in the bomber jacket was caught up short. As McGovern further notes,
Bush lets it all hang out in his memoir, Decision Points. Most revealingly, he complains bitterly that the NIE “tied my hands on the military side” and called its findings “eye-popping.”

A disgruntled Bush writes, “The backlash was immediate…….“I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was. … Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact – and not a good one.”

Spelling out how the Estimate had tied his hands “on the military side,” Bush included this (apparently unedited) kicker: “But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”
So there you have it. How is it possible to believe that the Iranian’s were hell-bent on a nuclear holocaust when they didn’t even have a nuclear weapons program?

And why in the world is the Donald taking America and the world to the edge of a utterly unnecessary war in order to force a better deal when the one he shit-canned was more than serviceable?

The answer to that momentous questions lies with the Bombzie Twins (Pompeo and Bolton) and the malign influence of the Donald’s son-in-law and Bibi Netanyahu toady, Jared Kushner.

Rarely have a small group of fanatics more dangerously and wantonly jeopardized the security, blood and treasure of the American people.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.]]> Wed, 26 Jun 2019 14:16:07 GMT
NY Times Admits it Sends Stories to US Government for Approval Before Publication Ben Norton

The New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.

This confirms what veteran New York Times correspondents like James Risen have said: The American newspaper of record regularly collaborates with the US government, suppressing reporting that top officials don’t want made public.

On June 15, the Times reported that the US government is escalating its cyber attacks on Russia’s power grid. According to the article, “the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively,” as part of a larger “digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.”

In response to the report, Donald Trump attacked the Times on Twitter, calling the article “a virtual act of Treason.”

The New York Times PR office replied to Trump from its official Twitter account, defending the story and noting that it had, in fact, been cleared with the US government before being printed.

“Accusing the press of treason is dangerous,” the Times communications team said. “We described the article to the government before publication.”

“As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns,” the Times added.
Indeed, the Times report on the escalating American cyber attacks against Russia is attributed to “current and former [US] government officials.” The scoop in fact came from these apparatchiks, not from a leak or the dogged investigation of an intrepid reporter.

‘Real’ journalists get approval from ‘national security’ officials

The neoliberal self-declared “Resistance” jumped on Trump’s reckless accusation of treason (the Democratic Coalition, which boasts, “We help run #TheResistance,” responded by calling Trump “Putin’s puppet”). The rest of the corporate media went wild.

But what was entirely overlooked was the most revealing thing in the New York Times’ statement: The newspaper of record was essentially admitting that it has a symbiotic relationship with the US government.

In fact, some prominent American pundits have gone so far as to insist that this symbiotic relationship is precisely what makes someone a journalist.

In May, neoconservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen — a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — declared that WikiLeaks publisher and political prisoner Julian Assange is “not a journalist”; rather, he is a “spy” who “deserves prison.” (Thiessen also once called Assange “the devil.”)

What was the Post columnist’s rationale for revoking Assange’s journalistic credentials?

Unlike "reputable news organizations, Assange did not give the US government an opportunity to review the classified information WikiLeaks was planning to release so they could raise national security objections," Thiessen wrote. “So responsible journalists have nothing to fear.”

In other words, this former US government speechwriter turned corporate media pundit insists that collaborating with the government, and censoring your reporting to protect so-called “national security,” is definitionally what makes you a journalist.

This is the express ideology of the American commentariat.
NY Times editors ‘quite willing to cooperate with the government’

The symbiotic relationship between the US corporate media and the government has been known for some time. American intelligence agencies play the press like a musical instrument, using it it to selectively leak information at opportune moments to push US soft power and advance Washington’s interests.

But rarely is this symbiotic relationship so casually and publicly acknowledged.

In 2018, former New York Times reporter James Risen published a 15,000-word article in The Intercept providing further insight into how this unspoken alliance operates.
Risen detailed how his editors had been “quite willing to cooperate with the government.” In fact, a top CIA official even told Risen that his rule of thumb for approving a covert operation was, “How will this look on the front page of the New York Times?”

There is an “informal arrangement” between the state and the press, Risen explained, where US government officials “regularly engaged in quiet negotiations with the press to try to stop the publication of sensitive national security stories.”

“At the time, I usually went along with these negotiations,” the former New York Times reported said. He recalled an example of a story he was writing on Afghanistan just prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Then-CIA Director George Tenet called Risen personally and asked him to kill the story.

“He told me the disclosure would threaten the safety of the CIA officers in Afghanistan,” Risen said. “I agreed.”

Risen said he later questioned whether or not this was the right decision. “If I had reported the story before 9/11, the CIA would have been angry, but it might have led to a public debate about whether the United States was doing enough to capture or kill bin Laden,” he wrote. “That public debate might have forced the CIA to take the effort to get bin Laden more seriously.”

This dilemma led Risen to reconsider responding to US government requests to censor stories. “And that ultimately set me on a collision course with the editors at the New York Times,” he said.

“After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration began asking the press to kill stories more frequently,” Risen continued. “They did it so often that I became convinced the administration was invoking national security to quash stories that were merely politically embarrassing.”
In the lead-up to the Iraq War, Risen frequently “clashed” with Times editors because he raised questions about the US government’s lies. But his stories “stories raising questions about the intelligence, particularly the administration’s claims of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, were being cut, buried, or held out of the paper altogether.”

The Times’ executive editor Howell Raines “was believed by many at the paper to prefer stories that supported the case for war,” Risen said.

In another anecdote, the former Times journalist recalled a scoop he had uncovered on a botched CIA plot. The Bush administration got wind of it and called him to the White House, where then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ordered the Times to bury the story.

Risen said Rice told him “to forget about the story, destroy my notes, and never make another phone call to discuss the matter with anyone.”

“The Bush administration was successfully convincing the press to hold or kill national security stories,” Risen wrote. And the Barack Obama administration subsequently accelerated the “war on the press.”

CIA media infiltration and manufacturing consent

In their renowned study of US media, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” Edward S. Herman and Chomsky articulated a “propaganda model,” showing how “the media serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them,” through “the selection of right-thinking personnel and by the editors’ and working journalists’ internalization of priorities and definitions of newsworthiness that conform to the institution’s policy.”

But in some cases, the relationship between US intelligence agencies and the corporate media is not just one of mere ideological policing, indirect pressure, or friendship, but rather one of employment.

In the 1950s, the CIA launched a covert operation called Project Mockingbird, in which it surveilled, influenced, and manipulated American journalists and media coverage, explicitly in order to direct public opinion against the Soviet Union, China, and the growing international communist movement.

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, a former Washington Post reporter who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, published a major cover story for Rolling Stone in 1977 titled “The CIA and the Media: How America’s Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up.”

Bernstein obtained CIA documents that revealed that more than 400 American journalists in the previous 25 years had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Bernstein wrote:
Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
Virtually all major US media outlets cooperated with the CIA, Bernstein revealed, including ABC, NBC, the AP, UPI, Reuters, Newsweek, Hearst newspapers, the Miami Herald, the Saturday Evening Post, and the New York Herald‑Tribune.

However, he added, “By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.”

These layers of state manipulation, censorship, and even direct crafting of the news media show that, as much as they claim to be independent, The New York Times and other outlets effectively serve as de facto spokespeople for the government — or at least for the US national security state.

Reprinted with permission from The Grayzone Project.

Support the project here.]]> Wed, 26 Jun 2019 13:40:46 GMT
Politics As Usual: Senate Refuses To Hold Iran War Debate Daniel McAdams
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Trump Seeks 'Coalition Of The Willing' Against Iran Moon of Alabama undefined

After a somewhat quiet weekend the Trump administration yesterday engaged in another push against Iran.

Monday the Treasury Department sanctioned the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It also sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his office! There will be no more Disney Land visits for them.

There is more to come:

The Treasury Secretary will designate Javad Zarif as what? A terrorist? Zarif is quite effective in communicating the Iranian standpoint on Twitter and other social media. Those accounts will now be shut down.

The Trump administration's special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said today that Iran should respond to US diplomacy with diplomacy. Sanctioning Iran's chief diplomat is probably not the way to get there.

All those who get sanctioned by the US will gain in popularity in Iran. These US measures will only unite the people of Iran and strengthen their resolve.

Iran will respond to this new onslaught by asymmetric means of which it has plenty.

On Saturday Trump said that all he wants is that Iran never gets nuclear weapons. But the State Department wants much more. Hook today said that the US would only lift sanctions if a comprehensive deal is made that includes ballistic missile and human rights issues. Iran can not agree to that. But this is not the first time that Pompeo demanded more than Trump himself. Is it Pompeo, not Trump, who is pressing this expanded version to make any deal impossible?

Brian Hook is by the way a loon who does not even understand the meaning of what he himself says:

Those are two good arguments for Iran to never again agree to any deal with the 'non-agreement-capable' United States.

It seems obvious from the above that the Trump administration has no real interest in reasonable negotiations with Iran:

“The administration is not really interested in negotiations now,” said Robert Einhorn, a former senior State Department official who was involved in negotiations with Iranian officials during the Obama administration. “It wants to give sanctions more time to make the Iranians truly desperate, at which point it hopes the negotiations will be about the terms of surrender.”

That is part of the strategy. But the real issue is deeper:

Pro tip: Sanctions against #Iran aren’t to retaliate for the downed drone or to punish tanker attacks or to improve the nuclear deal or to help the Iranian people but to foment revolution against the regime. The strategy is regime change with velvet gloves.

The US now tries to build an international coalition against Iran. Trump invited China and Japan to protect their tankers in the Middle East:

One wonders what the US Central Command and the US Navy will say when that Chinese carrier group arrives in the Gulf region.

Who else will join this?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran.

Pompeo spoke as he left Washington for Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates, .. 
"We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said about Iran.

Pompeo was hastily sent to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Brian Hook is now in Oman and Bolton is in Israel. The US will also pressure Europe and NATO to join a new 'coalition of the willing'. The UK will likely follow any US call as it needs a trade deal to survive after Brexit.

Other countries are best advised to stay out.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.

]]> Tue, 25 Jun 2019 13:21:08 GMT
Is the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program an Illusion? Col. W. Patrick Lang

There is so much rubbish said about the supposed Iranian nuclear weapons program that it is a good idea to "review the bidding" about this.

Iran does have a nuclear power program, but:
"In 2012, sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, reported that Iran was pursuing research that could enable it to produce nuclear weapons, but was not attempting to do so.[15] The senior officers of all of the major American intelligence agencies stated that there was no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any attempt to produce nuclear weapons since 2003.[16] In a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, the United States Intelligence Communityassessed that Iran had ended all "nuclear weapon design and weaponization work" in 2003.[17] U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated in January 2012 that Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, but was not attempting to produce nuclear weapons"  wiki on Iran and weapons of mass destruction.
As you can see from my 2017 post, I have long thought that Iran does not have a nuclear WEAPONS production program and has not had one since 2003 when US occupation of Iraq eliminated the possibility of the survival of some elements of the earlier Iraqi nuclear weapons program eliminated by the UN inspections regime acting on US intelligence (I was involved) after the 1st Gulf War. In 2003 the Ayatollah Khomeini ruled that an Iranian nuclear weapons program could no longer be justified as a deterrent in the absence of an Iraqi program.  He then cancelled authorization for the program.

The IAEA has not found that Iran has a nuclear WEAPONS program.  This is taken by the hawks as PROOF that the IAEA is not inspecting thoroughly enough. On that basis it can never be proven that Iran does not have a nuclear WEAPONS program.

If that is so why is it that the notion persists that Iran does or did have before JCPOA a nuclear WEAPONS program? 

1.  The Israeli terror at the thought that Iran might secretly be constructing the necessary one or two nuclear weapons needed to destroy Israel drives the media IO campaign for maximum means and levels of pressure.  This has been an enormously successful campaign.  It has made the image of an Iranian program vivid and enduring

2.  Iranian cleverness. The Iranian perception seems to have been that if the West, especially the Gringos, wish to believe that there is an Iranian nuclear WEAPONS program, then let us negotiate with them over it. Before JCPOA, there was an immense amount of Iranian money impounded in the US. Now there is less. If Trump had not cancelled US participation in JCPOA, who knows what other benefits might have accrued to Iran.

JCPOA was probably a lot like Qaddafi surrendering his nuclear weapons program to earn good will from GW Bush. Libya's nuclear program consisted of warehouses full of crates that the Libyans treated with superstitious awe.

Is there REALLY an Iranian nuclear WEAPONS program?

Reprinted with permission from SicSemperTyrannis.]]> Mon, 24 Jun 2019 17:05:09 GMT
New Sanctions To Hit Iranian Kids - Pompeo, Bolton Thrilled... Daniel McAdams
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Boxed in by Neocons and the Media, Will Trump Launch Iran War? Ron Paul

President Trump did the smart thing last week by calling off a US airstrike on Iran over the downing of an American spy drone near or within Iranian territorial waters. According to press reports, the president over-ruled virtually all his top advisors – Bolton, Pompeo, and Haspel – who all wanted another undeclared and unauthorized US war in the Middle East.

Is Iran really the aggressive one? When you unilaterally pull out of an agreement that was reducing tensions and boosting trade; when you begin applying sanctions designed to completely destroy another country’s economy; when you position military assets right offshore of that country; when you threaten to destroy that country on a regular basis, calling it a campaign of “maximum pressure,” to me it seems a stretch to play the victim when that country retaliates by shooting a spy plane that is likely looking for the best way to attack.

Even if the US spy plane was not in Iranian airspace – but it increasingly looks like it was – it was just another part of an already-existing US war on Iran. Yes, sanctions are a form of war, not a substitute for war.

The media are also a big part of the problem. The same media that praised Trump as “presidential” when he fired rockets into Syria on what turned out to be false claims that Assad gassed his own people, has been attacking Trump for not bombing Iran. From Left to Right – with one important exception – the major media is all braying for war. Why? They can afford to cheer death and destruction because they will not suffer the agony of war. Networks will benefit by capturing big ratings and big money and new media stars will be born.

President Trump has said he does not want to be the one to start a new war in the Middle East. He seemed to prove that by avoiding the urgings of his closest advisors to attack Iran. It is hard to imagine a president having top advisors who work at cross-purposes to him, planning and plotting their wars – and maybe more – behind his back. Even Trump seems to recognize that his national security advisor is not really serving his administration well. Over the weekend he said in an interview, “John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he'd take on the whole world at one time, okay?”

I think when you have a national security advisor who wants to fight the whole world at once, you have a problem. Does anyone believe we will be more secure after spending a few trillion more dollars and making a few hundred million more enemies? What does “victory” even look like?

President Trump is in a bind and it is of his own making. Iran has shown that it is not willing to take its marching orders from Washington, which means “maximum pressure” from the US will not work. He has two options remaining in that case: risk it all by launching a war or make a gesture toward peace. A war would ruin his presidency – and a lot more. I would urge the president to issue waivers to China, India, Turkey, and the others who wish to continue buying Iranian oil and invite the Iranian leadership to meet at a neutral location. And fire Bolton and Pompeo.]]> Mon, 24 Jun 2019 14:01:52 GMT
VIPS Memo to the President: Is Pompeo’s Agenda the Same As Yours? Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

VIPS says its direct experience with Mike Pompeo leaves them with strong doubt regarding his trustworthiness on issues of consequence to the President and the nation.

DATE: June 21, 2019

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President. 

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Is Pompeo’s Agenda the Same As Yours?

We are concerned that you are about to be mousetrapped into war with Iran. You have said you do not want such a war (no sane person would), and the observations below are based on that premise. In a word, we have serious doubts about Secretary Pompeo; it is clear to us that he has his own agenda, and we know from our own experience with him that his agenda is not always the same as yours.

Pompeo’s behavior betrays a strong desire to respond with military force — perhaps even without your express approval — to Iranian provocations (real or imagined), with no discernible strategic goal other than to curry favor with Israel and Saudi Arabia. He is a neophyte compared to his anti-Iran partner John Bolton, whose decades-long dilettante approach to interpreting intelligence, strong advocacy of the misbegotten war on Iraq (and continued pride in its “success”), and fierce pursuit of his own aggressive agenda are a matter of record. Not so with Pompeo, who has now taken the lead on Iran.

Our direct experience with Pompeo leaves us with strong doubt regarding his trustworthiness on issues of consequence to you and the country, including the issue of alleged Russian hacking into the DNC. The sketchy evidence adduced for that story has now completely crumbled, thanks to some unusual candor from the Department of Justice. We refer to the extraordinary revelation in a recent DOJ Court filing that James Comey never required a final report from the DNC-hired cybersecurity company, CrowdStrike, upon which Comey chose to rely for forensics on alleged Russian “hacking.”

Pompeo could have exposed this key lacuna in mid-2017, if he had done what you asked him to do.

In our Memorandum to you of July 24, 2017 entitled “Was the ‘Russian Hack’ an Inside Job?,” we suggested:
You may wish to ask CIA Director Mike Pompeo what he knows about this.[“This” being the evidence-deprived allegation that “a shadowy entity with the moniker ‘Guccifer 2.0’ hacked the DNC on behalf of Russian intelligence and gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks.”] Our own lengthy intelligence community experience suggests that it is possible that neither former CIA Director John Brennan, nor the cyber-warriors who worked for him, have been completely candid with their new director regarding how this all went down.
Three months later, Director Pompeo invited William Binney, one of VIPS’ two former NSA technical directors, and a co-author of our July 24, 2017 Memorandum, to CIA headquarters to discuss our findings. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney explaining the genesis of the unusual invitation: “You are here because the President told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

But Did Pompeo “Really Want to Know”?

Apparently not. Binney, a widely respected, plain-spoken scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. As we explained in our most recent Memorandum for you Pompeo reacted with disbelief and — now get this — tried to put the burden on Binney to pursue the matter with the FBI and NSA.

As for Pompeo, there is no sign he followed up with anyone, including his own CIA cyber sleuths. Pompeo had been around intelligence long enough to realize the risks entailed in asking intrusive questions of his subordinates in the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which was created by CIA Director John Brennan in 2015. CIA malware and hacking tools are built by the Engineering Development Group, part of that relatively new Directorate. (It is a safe guess that offensive cybertool specialists from that Directorate were among those involved in the reported placing of “implants” or software code into the Russian grid, about which The New York Times claims you were not informed.)

If Pompeo failed to report back to you on the conversation you instructed him to have with Binney, you might ask him about it now (even though the flimsy evidence of Russia hacking the DNC has now evaporated, with Binney vindicated). There were two note-takers present, and there is also a good chance the session was also recorded, should Pompeo have difficulty remembering.

Whose Agenda?

The question is whose agenda Pompeo was pursuing — yours or his own. Binney had the impression Pompeo was simply going through the motions — and disingenuously, at that. If he “really wanted to know about Russian hacking,” he would have acquainted himself with the conclusions that VIPS, with Binney in the lead, had reached in mid-2017.

Had he pursued the matter seriously with Binney, we might not have had to wait until the Justice Department itself put nails in the coffin of Russiagate, CrowdStrike, and Comey. In sum, Pompeo could have prevented two additional years of “everyone knows that the Russians hacked into the DNC.” Why did he not?

Pompeo is said to be a bright fellow — Bolton, too. Recent history, though, shows that an Ivy League pedigree can spell disaster in affairs of state. Think of President Lyndon Johnson’s national security adviser, former Harvard Dean McGeorge Bundy, for example, who sold the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to Congress authorizing war in Vietnam based on what he knew was a lie. Millions dead.

Bundy was to LBJ as John Bolton is to you, and it is a bit tiresome watching Bolton brandish his Yale senior ring at every podium. Think, too, of Princeton’s own Donald Rumsfeld concocting and pushing the fraud about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to “justify” war on Iraq, assuring us all the while that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

That dictum is anathema to William Binney, who has shown uncommon patience answering a thousand evidence-free “What if’s” over the past three years. Binney’s shtick? The principles of physics, applied mathematics, and the scientific method. He is widely recognized for his uncanny ability to use these to excellent advantage in separating the chaff from the wheat. No Ivy pedigree wanted or needed.

Binney describes himself as a “country boy” from western Pennsylvania. He studied at Penn State and became a world renowned mathematician/cryptologist as well as technical director at NSA. Binney’s accomplishments are featured in a documentary on YouTube, “A Good American.”

For the Steering Groups of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.) 

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former US diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS) 

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, US Army (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Sarah Wilton, Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.) and Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)

Ann Wright, US Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former US Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

Reprinted from]]> Sat, 22 Jun 2019 19:33:05 GMT
Did Venezuelan coup leaders pocket $70 million from Citgo’s stolen US assets? Anya Parampil

Former Exxon Lawyer and Venezuela opposition envoy to Washington, Carlos Vecchio, may have overseen a multi-million dollar fraud scheme since his political allies were handed control of his country’s US-based oil accounts.

On June 17, Venezuela’s government claimed that the US Justice Department was opening an investigation into Citgo’s opposition-appointed board of directors. Hours later, the ad-hoc council confirmed it had received a subpoena from US officials.

Citgo appeared to confirm the existence of the US government probe, stating that it “received a subpoena from the Department of Justice, which has been conducting a multi-year investigation into corruption practices in PDVSA.” Citgo is a subsidiary of Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA), the country’s state-owned oil company.

Citgo said it has “pledged full cooperation” with the investigation. It did not specify the nature of the subpoena or whether it concerned illegal activities alleged to have taken place before or after Guaido’s appointees took control of the company.

Citgo’s announcement followed an ominous comment by Venezuela’s Vice Minister of Communications on June 17:

“It is very likely that the United States Department of Justice will open an ad hoc investigation into the fake board of directors that Juan Guaidó appointed to the Citgo company,” Rodriguez proclaimed during a presentation from Venezuela’s presidential palace.

According to Rodriguez, the investigation was sparked by an alleged accounting fraud totaling $70 million. Rodriguez asserted the money, originally meant to cover PDVSA’s 2020 bond payment due in April, was stolen by Guaido’s representative in the US.

“It seems like the person directly involved in having pocketed those $70 million in excesses, due to cooking the books, is Mr. Carlos Vecchio,” charged Rodriguez.

The allegations of theft on a mass scale came just a day after members of Guaidó’s inner circle were exposed for embezzling $125,000 in money intended for humanitarian aid, spending it on expensive hotels and luxury items in Colombia.

Guaidó’s coup administration is not only facing a collapse of its credibility, but now the possibility of serious legal consequences for its brazen conduct.

Asked by The Grayzone about the existence of an investigation into the opposition’s Citgo accounts, the US Department of Justice stated that it “generally does not confirm, deny or otherwise comment on the existence or non-existence of an investigation.”

Stacking Citgo’s board with corporate consultants and pre-Chavez oil executives

The Trump Administration recognized Vecchio as Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington in January, after he was appointed by Guaidó.

Vecchio has since surrounded himself with an entourage of professional opposition activists in Washington DC. They include David Smolansky, a former local official from Vecchio’ Popular Will party who was appointed to PDVSA’s board of directors by the opposition-controlled National Assembly this February.

Vecchio did not reply to questions sent by The Grayzone pertaining to the management of Citgo accounts and where he finds the funding to cover his salary and those of his staff.

“Why doesn’t Guaidó have appointed ministers?” Rodriguez asked, insisting that the US-appointed leader had selected “representatives of Citgo to steal $7 billion.”

“We have information that interests which belong to Citgo are moving to personal accounts,” the government spokesman added.

$7 billion represents the entirety of PDVSA’s US-based assets seized by the US in January when it rolled out unprecedented sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil industry. In conjunction with the Trump Administration’s announcement, Guaidó ordered Venezuela’s legally defunct National Assembly to appoint a new board of directors to PDVSA and Citgo.

Within weeks, Reuters reported the new Citgo board “was arranging its first meeting at the company’s headquarters” in Houston.

“It seems like the US legal system will generally accept the legal fiction that PDVSA, Citgo’s sole shareholder, is controlled by Guaidó rather than by the people in Venezuela who actually control it,” Bloomberg opinion columnist Matt Levine wrote at the time, highlighting the bizarre character of the move.

The Guaidó-appointed board was subsequently stacked with corporate consultants and former PDVSA employees who were forced out of the company under the watch of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Citgo’s new chairwoman, Luisa Palacios, previously served as chief of Latin America Macro and Energy Research at Medley Global Advisors, which bills itself as “the leading macro policy intelligence service for the world’s top hedge funds, investment banks, asset managers and corporations”.

While at MGA, Palacios’ job was to “[provide] primary-sourced intelligence and analysis on economic policy and political risk”. In other words, a woman who just months ago was advising hedge funds and corporations on Latin America energy policy now heads a major Latin American-based energy company.

Palacios has also worked as a strategist for British investment bank Barclays Capital and as a consultant at the World Bank’s Latin America division.

Joining Palacios on Citgo’s opposition-appointed board is financial analyst Andres Elloy Padilla. In an instance of flagrant nepotism, Padilla’s nomination was overseen by his brother, Luis Carlos, who was the Vice President of the Energy and Petroleum Commission of the National Assembly where nominations were decided.

Guaidó’s board also includes Luis Urdaneta, who once served as Citgo’s Chairman before becoming PDVSA’s Vice President in 1994. Urdaneta remained in that role until Hugo Chavez won power in 1998 and moved to fully socialize the company. Urdaneta’s colleague on Citgo’s new team, Angel Olmeta, similarly retired from his position on PDVSA’s board in 1998. While employed with PDVSA, Olmeta oversaw its acquisition of Citgo and went on to serve as the refinery’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

As former oil industry executives who saw their employment end with Chavez’s rise, Urdaneta and Olmeta have much in common with Guaidó’s US envoy, Carlos Vecchio. Vecchio enjoyed a successful career with private petrol, working as a tax lawyer for PDVSA before the rise of Chavez, then moving to ExxonMobil.

As The Grayzone reported, Vecchio led Exxon’s legal fight against the Chavez government and only entered the political arena once Chavez drove his former employer from the country.

As Guaidó’s US ambassador, Vecchio now stands accused of overseeing the embezzlement of $70 million from Citgo’s accounts. He has dismissed the reports, insisting his role as ambassador limits his involvement in Citgo’s affairs.

“I am not a part of PDVSA or Citgo’s board of directors, nor am I interested in being such,” Vecchio tweeted in response to the charges.

“We need to take control of those assets. Bank accounts, we need to protect that.”

While it’s unclear who exactly controls the assets handed over to Guaido earlier this year, Foreign Agent Registration Act filings list Vecchio as the “Foreign Principal” of “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela under President Juan Guaidó” in the US. The DOJ deleted that filing without explanation shortly after its publication.

“We have assets that belong to the republic. I represent the republic and [am] working on that,” Vecchio told Public Radio International in February when asked whether or not it was legal for him to manage Venezuela’s accounts.

“We need to take control of those assets,” he added.

When PRI asked what could “get done without an official embassy”, Vecchio replied without hesitation: “Bank accounts, we need to protect that. Gold reserves, we need to protect that and also public companies or corporations such as Citgo… So that’s what we are doing.”

What precisely Vecchio planned to do with the money was unknown, but his comments have taken on new meaning in light of the alleged fraud inquiry.

By transferring billions in oil assets belonging to the Venezuelan government into the hands of a group of opposition activists with a track record of corruption, the Trump administration has primed the pump for major scandals. Whether the former Exxon lawyer Vecchio and his cohort pocketed the Citgo accounts or “protected” them, as he pledged to do, the pilfering of Venezuela’s wealth through a slow-motion coup has already begun.

Reprinted with permission from The Graystone Project.
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A View From the Frontline of the Drug War RPI Staff picking up a ticket to our Washington DC conference on August 24th! Save now on our early bird rate. You won't regret it!

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Be Thankful for Trump’s Iran Indecision… For Now Kurt Nimmo

We can for now be thankful Trump didn’t kill people and blow things up in Iran Thursday. Even so, the fact he went full-throttle, and then backed off is worrisome. 

It’s been obvious for some time now the president is in the middle of a tug of war between those who want to annihilate Iran and those who advise caution and diplomacy. 

Trump, unfortunately, believes a raft of lies put out by the neocons. He demonstrated that Friday morning with a series of tweets. 
Obama didn’t give Iran $150 billion. That was Iranian money in bankster institutions, frozen in response to the Iranian people kicking out the Shah and taking their country back from the neoliberal cabal. 

Considering the fact the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, installed a corrupt monarch, and piled on suffocating sanctions after he was deposed by the people, it is quite natural millions of Iranians chant “Death to America.” 

It is disturbing Trump views the immiseration of the Iranian people under economic sanctions—in effect, a declaration of war—as a grand accomplishment of his administration, now staffed with neocons responsible for killing at least a million people in Iraq. 

The illegal invasion of Iraq is responsible for ”major problems” in the Middle East cited yet unelaborated by the president. 

It doesn’t matter if Trump’s spy drone flew over Iranian territory or international water in the Persian Gulf. Everybody knows what it was doing there and it really is a sick joke the neocons would scream about international law considering they are among its prime violators. 

Finally, that general was lying. Vastly more than 150 people would have died if Trump’s attack had occurred, not simply during the initial attack but in the inevitable response by Iran and the escalation that would have followed.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Sat, 22 Jun 2019 15:16:01 GMT
June Madness Strikes Washington. Iranians, Russians and Britons Beware! Philip Giraldi

It has been a lively June so far in light of Washington’s apparent zeal to remake the world in its own image. There is considerable buzz among those networking in ex- or current government circles that the White House is preparing to “do something” about Iran. The recent incidents involving alleged attacks on Norwegian and Japanese tankers in the Gulf of Oman were immediately attributed to Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with so little regard for evidence that even the compliant American media was left gasping. In its initial coverage of the story The New York Times inevitably echoed the administration’s claims, but if one went to the readers’ comments on the story fully 90 percent of those bothering to express an opinion decided that the tale was not credible for any number of reasons.

Several commenters brought up the completely phony Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964 that led to the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam, a view that was expressed frequently in readers’ comments both in the mainstream and alternative media. Others recalled instead the fake intelligence linking Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 conspirators as well as the bogus reports of an Iraqi secret nuclear program and huge gliders capable to delivering biological weapons across the Atlantic Ocean.

There were a number of questionable aspects to the Pompeo story, most notably the unlikelihood that Iran would attack a Japanese ship while the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran paying a visit. The attack itself, attributed to Iranian mines, also did not match the damage to the vessels, which was well above the water line, a detail that was noted by the Japanese ship captain among others. Crewmen on the ship also reportedly saw flying objects, which suggests missiles or other projectiles were to blame, fired by almost anyone in the area. And then there is the question of motive: the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates all want a war with Iran while the Iranians are trying to avoid a B-52 attack, so why would they do something that would virtually guarantee a devastating response from Washington?

What is going on with Iran is certainly front-page material but there are two other stories confirming that brain-dead flesh-eating zombies have somehow gained control of the White House. The first comes from David Sanger of The New York Times, who reported last week that the United States had inserted malware into the Russian electrical grid to serve as both a warning and a possible response mechanism should the Kremlin continue with its cyberwarfare ways.

The astonishing thing about the story is the casual way it is presented because, after all, inserting malware into someone’s electrical grid might well be considered an act of war. The White House responded to the story with a tweet from the president claiming that “This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country…” though he did not state that the account was untrue. In fact, if it was actually treason, that would suggest that the news article was accurate in its description of what must be a Top Secret program. But then Trump or one of his advisors realized the omission and a second tweet soon followed: “…..ALSO, NOT TRUE!”

Assuming that Sanger did his job right and the story is actually correct, a number of aspects of it might be considered. First, interfering with a country’s electrical grid, upon which so many elements of infrastructure depend, is extremely reckless behavior, particularly when the activity has been leaked and exposed in a newspaper. Sanger explained the genesis of his story, revealing that he had been working at it for several months. He wrote:
The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.
The Sanger story elaborates:
Since at least 2012, current and former officials say, the United States has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid. But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow. The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to ‘defend forward’ deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it. President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort to warn anybody ‘engaged in cyberoperations against us.’ ‘They don’t fear us,’ he told the Senate a year ago during his confirmation hearings.
If the Sanger tale is true, and it certainly does include a great deal of corroborative information, then the United States has already entered into a tit-for-tat situation with Russia targeting power grids, largely initiated to “make them fear us.” One might suggest that the two countries are already at war. That is in no one’s interest and the signals it sends could lead to a major escalation very rapidly. Interestingly, the article states that President Donald Trump does not know about the program even though it could potentially lead to World War 3. That the piece appeared at all also inevitably makes some readers wonder why Sanger has not been arrested for exposing national security information a la Julian Assange.

The final story dates from early June when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was privately meeting with American Jewish leaders who expressed concern about the possibility that British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn might become prime minister. Corbyn has been targeted by British Jews because he is the first U.K. senior politician to speak sympathetically about the plight of the Palestinians.

Pompeo was asked if Corbyn “is elected, would you be willing to work with us to take on action if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the U.K.?” He replied: “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

There are certain ambiguities in both the question and the response, but it would appear that American Jews want to join with their British counterparts to either bring down or contain a top-level elected politician because he is not sufficiently pro-Israel. The American Secretary of State agrees with them that something must be done, to include quite possibly taking some presumably covert steps to make sure that Corbyn does not become prime minister in the first place. As Pompeo might just be thinking of subverting the institutions of America’s closest ally, it is a huge story that is being largely ignored in the media.

And June is not over yet! The good news is that the United States has not yet invaded Venezuela despite calls by America’s boy-Senator Marco Rubio and the demented Senator Lindsey Graham to do so.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Fri, 21 Jun 2019 15:26:01 GMT
US Credibility Dented in Iran Standoff Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

The US President Donald Trump’s reported decision abruptly to call off military strike against Iran which he’d previously ordered, highlights the growing complexity of the US-Iranian entanglement. 

Indeed, it takes political courage to rationalise amidst such a dangerous situation that discretion is the better part of valour. Trump has been smart enough. But, having said that, there’s going to be downstream consequences. The Trump administration appears paralysed. And Tehran has seized the diplomatic initiative

What prompted Trump’s rethink? Surely, the rethink somewhat legitimises the Iranian assertion that it shot down the American drone which intruded into its air space. (In fact, Iran has since claimed that it recovered the debris of the downed US drone in the country’s southern waters.) The US has a history of lying in such situations. Remember the downing of a scheduled Iranian passenger Airbus A300 flight in 1988 by an SM-2MR surface-to-air missile fired from USS Vincennes killing all 290 people including 66 children on board? 

The US, at the level of Vice-President George HW Bush lied over US culpability, saying, “I will never apologise for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologise-for-America kind of guy.” Only years later in 1996 Washington agreed to pay Iran US$131.8 million in settlement to discontinue a case brought by Iran in the International Court of Justice relating to this incident. 

Therefore, the ‘known unknown’ here is at what point exactly Trump would have realised that this was a US spying mission that went horribly wrong — and constituted a reckless untimely provocation against Iran. Of course, an admission of guilt is not to be expected but Trump apparently decided not to begin a war based on falsehood. 

An expert opinion in the Atlantic details the “unlovely truth” that throughout its history, “America has attacked countries that did not threaten it. To carry out such wars, American leaders have contrived pretexts to justify American aggression. That’s what Donald Trump’s administration—and especially its national security adviser, John Bolton—is doing now with Iran.”

According to the New York Times, Trump’s national security advisers are split about “whether to respond militarily” after Iran shot down the US surveillance drone for intruding into its airspace. Senior administration officials told the daily that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and CIA Director Gina Haspel had favoured a military raid. “But top Pentagon officials cautioned that such an action could result in a spiralling escalation with risks for American forces in the region,” The New York Times added. 

At any rate, Trump’s smartness lies here — in the sense that he understands that a war with Iran is risky, which the US can win only at a high cost and may even destroy his presidency. Second, there are no takers in the international community for a war against Iran. Even the UAE and Saudi Arabia have taken fright. (Tehran has disclosed that the US drone took off from the UAE.) 

France has openly disagreed with the US on the standoff with Iran, reflecting the mood in Europe. Trump would sense that any move against Iran by the US will be a solo act. No doubt, an influential section of American opinion too has begun voicing opposition to any US military strike against Iran. See the video, below, of a PBS interview with Stephen Hadley, former National Security Advisor in the George W Bush administration and Gerard Araud, former French ambassador to Washington. 

What lies ahead? Clearly, Trump has so far seemed to be looking for a way to avoid a potentially serious military crisis with Iran. Nonetheless, the danger of escalation remains. There are hardliners in both countries and it may turn out that they become mutual enablers in going up an escalation ladder. Then, there are always the unattended consequences when two adversaries indulge in brinkmanship while guessing about each other’s intentions.

Fundamentally, Trump’s policy lacks coherence and clarity. Its “maximum pressure” policy has become an end in itself. The policy narrows down to achieving either of two goals — outright Iranian capitulation or implosion of Iranian regime — and neither is a realistic objective. 

Plainly put, what Iran may have achieved in the drone incident is to demonstrate not only its capability but its political will and determination to counter the US’ “economic war” against it. Paradoxically, the US has applied such coercion against Iran by playing havoc with Iran’s economic ties with the rest of the world that the latter has no more option left to it but to escalate the tensions to a point that it is not Iran alone that suffers but the US and its regional allies as well. 

Simply put, the resistance has shifted gear. The Iranian missile strike at the US drone has taken place within two days of Trump formally announcing his candidacy for the 2020 November election. This carefully calibrated act of escalation would have served the purpose of highlighting to Trump that there is a high price to pay for the untold suffering he has imposed on the Iranian people by denying them healthcare and medicines and inflicting severe economic hardships. To be sure, the festive kickoff event in the Amway Center stadium in downtown Orlando on Tuesday has already been drowned out by the sound of war drums.   

Given the above, there is no real substitute for direct US-Iranian diplomatic engagement. But for that to happen, there has to be some sort of gesture by the American side. Tehran will expect at a minimum an easing of sanctions by the Trump administration in terms of, say, giving waivers to third countries to import Iranian oil. 

Surely, the US started the spiral of tensions with the decision last May to leave the Iran nuclear deal and it is the responsibility of the Trump administration to make a gesture. How Trump can manage to do it is the big question. The Trump administration’s aggressive and confused policy towards Iran has dented the US credibility. 

Reprinted with permission from IndianPunchline.]]> Fri, 21 Jun 2019 14:06:49 GMT
Iran Downs US Spy Drone: Who's The Aggressor? Daniel McAdams
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Executive Over-Reach: Pompeo Dismisses Congress In Push for Iran War Daniel McAdams
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From Coup Leaders to Con Artists: Juan Guaidó’s Gang Exposed for Massive Humanitarian Aid Fraud Dan Cohenó-s-gang-exposed-for-massive-humanitarian-aid-fraud/

A new investigation has exposed members of Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó’s inner circle for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars designated for humanitarian aid and spending it on luxury goods and lavish accommodations for themselves. Guaidó had been aware of the fraud for weeks and stubbornly defended his cohorts until a leak from Colombian intelligence forced him to acknowledge the scandal.

The scandal unfolded this February, when Venezuelan opposition figures and their supporters descended upon the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia for what was billed as a Live Aid concert to raise millions of dollars for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans suffering the effects of an economic crisis.

The operation was supposed to have climaxed with a Live Aid concert hosted by billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson while trucks full of US aid blasted across the Venezuelan border. Instead, as Branson gathered his performers on stage for a cringeworthy rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” opposition hooligans set fire to the truckloads of aid with molotov cocktails as they failed to reach the border.

Now, a report by the staunchly anti-Maduro PanAm Post editor-in-chief Orlando Avendaño has revealed a shocking scheme of fraud and embezzlement behind the aid imbroglio. According to Avendaño, Guaidó’s lieutenants embezzled huge sums of money that had been promised to Venezuelan soldiers who deserted their positions and snuck across to the Colombian side at Guaidó’s urging.

The cash that was used to entice desperate soldiers and would-be mercenaries to defect became a slush fund for the US-backed coup leader and his gaggle, who spent it lavishly on hotels, expensive dinners, nightclubs and designer clothes. As Guaidó’s gang lived the high life, he covered for their fraud, keeping his lips sealed until it was exposed through a leak by the Colombian intelligence services.

At a press conference on June 17, Guaidó attempted to downplay his responsibility and redirect public anger back towards Maduro. “The government does not manage [public] resources because we are in the process of transition,” he said. “The dictatorship has begun a process of disinformation.”

But then the defecting Venezuelan soldiers announced plans for a press conference where they pledged to provide even more evidence of fraud.

Constructing an interventionist sham show

It was apparent upon Branson’s announcement of the February 23rd aid concert that the event had little to do with providing relief to hungry Venezuelans. It was a transparent propaganda stunt engineered to destabilize the Maduro government and achieve a long-standing US foreign policy goal.

As Father Sergei San Miguel, a Colombian government-affiliated priest responsible for guiding the deserting Venezuelan soldiers told me in Cúcuta, the successful entrance of the meager amount of supplies into Venezuela was intended to demonstrate Maduro’s loss of sovereignty in front of the global stage and foment an uprising across the country that would finally depose him.

Branson pledged that his event would rustle up 100 million dollars for humanitarian aid. But organizers had omitted how and to whom the funds would be distributed. On February 28th, Venezuela Aid Live organizers announced they had raised just 2.5 million dollars – a tiny fraction of the sum they had promised and likely less than the cost of staging a massive production on one week’s notice.

Richard Branson singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” with performers at his Live Aid concert in Colombia

The weekend of the concert offered a preview of this month’s corruption revelations, with several embarrassing incidents involving Guaidó’s confidantes. Early in the morning of February 23, Popular Will party members Freddy Superlano and his cousin and assistant Carlos José Salinas were found unconscious in a motel in Cúcuta. According to police reports, the two had been drugged with scopolamine and robbed by women, presumably prostitutes, they met in the red-light district. After the women made an early morning dash from the motel room, staff found the two men unconscious and called police. Salinas died shortly after being hospitalized.

Days later, another top Venezuelan opposition figure, Lorent Saleh, was arrested in Cúcuta after he allegedly attempted to sexually abuse two women. He was released after figures close to Guaidó mediated with Colombian authorities. Saleh – a recipient of funds from the US government under the guise of “democracy promotion” – had previously been deported by Colombia to Venezuela after plotting terrorist attacks and assassinations in the latter country.
But the revelations of fraud are a new level of embarrassment for the Guaidó coup operation, and threaten to undercut support both inside Venezuela and from his foreign patrons. The fraud scheme was revealed through leaked receipts and documents obtained by Colombian intelligence as part of an ongoing investigation. The receipts Avendaño published show Guaidó’s representatives blew more than $125,000 on luxury goods and personal expenses, including nearly $40,000 on expenses in April. Avendaño has yet to publish all of the documents he received, so the total that was stolen remains unknown.

One of many hotel receipts obtained by Avendaño showing how Guaido’s representatives spent the aid money

Suckering the soldiers

Popular Will party members Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas are the main subjects of the corruption investigation. Barrera replaced Roberto Marrero as Juan Guaidó’s chief of staff after Marrero was arrested by the Venezuelan government on charges of plotting terrorist attacks. Rojas, for his part, is the regional coordinator of the Popular Will party in the border state of Tachira, and had been denounced for his role in violent destabilization plots by the state’s former governor, Jose Vielma Mora.

For months, Popular Will party parliamentarians Dr. José Manuel Olivares and Gaby Arellano had been tasked with overseeing the aid operations, and according to Avendaño, Olivares was preparing for a collapse in the military’s command and control structure on the border that would allow the opposition to ram the aid trucks through.

Yet Olivares and Arellano were replaced without explanation on direct orders from Guaidó. I reached out to Olivares via Whatsapp for comment, but he declined to respond. However, the two released a statement expressing confidence in the investigation while blaming their disgraced counterparts, Barrera and Rojas.

“We don’t have any responsibility with respect to the soldiers that are in Colombian territory that began to enter on February 23rd through the bridges where we were,” they remarked. “We must highlight that the person in charge of this process of the Venezuelan officers into Colombian territory is the ambassador, Humberto Calderón Berti, and the president’s appointees in Cúcuta: Kevin Rojas and Rossana Barrera.”

While the attempt to push aid trucks across Venezuelan borders was a resounding failure, the desertion by scores of Venezuelan soldiers to Guaidó’s cause was spun as a major success. Soon, Guaidó and his partymates promised, thousands more soldiers would break ranks and Maduro’s government would dissolve. The soldiers had been promised amnesty and stays in hotels, schooling for their children, medical care and employment. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera even offered renewable one-year visas with the possibility of permanent residency.

On February 25th, I spoke to three defector soldiers in Bogotá who expressed optimism that Maduro would soon be ousted and their conditions would improve dramatically. “This country has extended its hand and helps us,” Sergeant Major Jose Luis Suarez told me. “As a Venezuelan soldier, I’m very thankful to Colombia.”

At first, the turncoat soldiers were put up in nine hotels in Cúcuta at $30,000 per night, paid for by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Juan Guaidó’s ad hoc Humanitarian Aid Coalition.

However, just one day after they arrived, representatives from the Coalition for Humanitarian Aid in Cúcuta told soldiers to stop coming across the border because they were in “a complicated situation” with an insufficient budget.

Optimism soon turned to outrage as the benefits the soldiers had been promised failed to materialize. By mid-March, funds for the deserters had completely dried up. The UNHCR attempted to expel a group of soldiers from one shelter, giving each a stipend of 350,000 Colombian pesos ($106), a mat, and a sheet to sleep on.

“We are desperate. We do not want to stay in Colombia, we want to return to Venezuela, but not in the conditions that are being lived now. We do not know what to do,” one deserter complained.

The soldiers’ families paid an especially heavy toll. Several of their wives were pregnant and were denied access to medical attention. One woman was forced to give birth in an emergency room and could not pay for a taxi to leave. The 130 children of the deserters were so poorly fed that twenty percent were assessed to be suffering from malnutrition.

Unable to work, some defectors joined paramilitaries and drug trafficking operations along the Colombian-Venezuelan border and received training in high-powered weapons. Others drank away their misery, descended into violence and cast about for prostitutes.

By the beginning of May, Guaidó’s representatives had cut off all communication with the soldiers. Having sold out in pursuit of promises that turned out to be hollow, the lost army was set to turn on Guaidó’s gaggle.

‘Transparency above all!’

According to Avendaño’s report, the two Popular Will figures appointed to oversee the funds and payment for the lodging of the deserters – Barrera and Rojas – spent 3,000,000 pesos ($915 USD) each night on hotels and nightclubs.

“About a thousand dollars in drinks and meals. Clothing expenses in very expensive stores in Bogotá and in Cúcuta. Vehicle rental reports and hotel payments at surcharge. Silver flowing. A lot of money,” the journalist wrote.

Barrera told the Popular Will leadership in Caracas that the funds were being dispersed among seven hotels that were providing housing for deserters and their families, but only two hotels had actually been paid.

What’s more, Guaidó’s representatives had falsely claimed there were more than 1,450 Venezuelan soldiers in Colombia. According to Avendaño, Colombian intelligence counted only 700. It turned out that Barrera and Rojas had inflated the number in order to embezzle more funds for their luxury spree.

In mid-May, Barrera and Rojas attempted to defraud even more money through a phony charity dinner in a luxurious Bogotá restaurant, falsely claiming the event had been convened to raise money for deserters and their families. Using a fake email account for Guaidó’s “ambassador” in Colombia, Humberto Calderón Berti, the two Popular Will activists invited representatives from foreign embassies, including those of the US and Israel. The dinner was cancelled after Berti’s representatives informed embassies that they were not sponsoring the dinner.

By then, the reckless behavior of Guaidó’s appointees was known throughout the entire Colombian government. Soon after Barrera and Rojas were quietly removed from their positions.

Shortly after Avendaño’s article was published, it became clear to Guaidó that he could no longer shield the con artists he placed in charge of the aid operation. After ordering Berti to ask Colombian authorities for their investigation, he took to Twitter to declare, “Transparency above all!”

Minutes later, Berti announced he would get to the bottom of the case. The coup ambassador tweeted that the investigation was in its final phase, provoking many observers to point out that he and Guaidó had known about the fraud for months and covered it up. Shockingly, Berti confirmed the cover-up, responding that he had personally ordered the investigation two months ago after receiving information from Colombian intelligence.

At a June 17th press conference, Guaidó claimed that he immediately requested an investigation when Berti informed him of the fraud schemes. But according to Avendaño, Guaidó “showed a stubborn defense of both” of his disgraced party lieutenants, using blustery threats to shift blame onto his “embassy” in Colombia. Avendaño attempted to contact Guaidó and his press officer, but received no response.

“They will burn it, I imagine”

While the money intended for defecting soldiers padded the pockets of Popular Will leaders, hundreds of tons of food donated by the USAID and other countries that was stored in Cúcuta wound up rotting. The figure Guaidó had appointed as his liaison to USAID was Venezuelan businessman Miguel Sabal.

Sabal is the president of the Present Future Association, which was founded by Popular Will member Yon Goicoechea after he won $500,000 from the Koch Brothers through the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Back in 2010, Sabal participated in the Mexican Fiesta plot along with Guaidó and others where they received training from the CANVAS regime change group and plotted the assassination of Maduro.

After the February 23 aid operation floundered, Sabal let the food rot in the steaming tropical heat. “Everything [Chilean] President Piñera sent is no longer useful,” a source told Avendaño. “It’s there. They do not know what to do with it [the rotten food] so that a scandal is not created. They will burn it, I imagine.”

When I was in downtown Cúcuta last February, I saw desperation at every turn. Impoverished Venezuelan migrants could be found on street corners begging for money and food. Many had left Venezuela hoping for better conditions in Colombia only to find a situation that was at least as dire. One pregnant woman told me she was considering giving away her baby in order to give it a better life. Rather than hand the aid to the migrants around Cúcuta, Guaidó’s representatives apparently chose to burn it.

For exposing the corruption in Guaidó’s inner circle, Avendaño has received an onslaught of hatred and harassment from opposition figures. The pushback has forced the anti-Maduro journalist into a defensive crouch.

“It has cost me, it has deeply hurt me, to publish something that, I knew, would have immense consequences,” he wrote. “But I would never have forgiven myself that I had known that some traded in the misery of others, and not published it.”

For Guaidó, the fall out is already beginning. Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro – an anti-Maduro fanatic who has transformed the OAS into a playground for Venezuela’s opposition – has called for a full investigation. It is hard to see how an already deflated Guaidó will be able to recover from this massive blow to his credibility as a self-proclaimed reformer. While Guaidó’s support in the streets of Venezuela is rapidly deteriorating, the Trump administration has yet to address the scandal and continues to voice strong support for their man in Caracas.

Reprinted with permission from The Grayzone.

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Cuba Is Feeling John Bolton's Wrath Medea Benjamin

John Bolton hates the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua—calling them the “troika of tyranny” and the “three stooges of socialism”—and is determined to use his time as National Security Advisor to eliminate the vestiges of socialism in our hemisphere. He has openly stated that the 1823 Monroe Doctrine is “alive and well,” conveying that the United States will dictate the terms of governance in the Western Hemisphere, by military force if necessary. Furious that he has been unable to successfully orchestrate a coup in Venezuela, Bolton is now lashing out at Cuba, explicitly punishing the nation for its support of Venezuelan President Maduro. The travel restrictions announced on June 4 represent another page from Bolton’s “regime change” playbook.

The new travel restrictions will severely limit the ability of Americans to travel to Cuba. The restrictions prohibit group educational trips to Cuba, known as “people-to-people” travel, as well as passenger vessels, recreational vessels, and private aircraft. These bans go to the heart of the Cuban economy, which has become increasingly dependent on tourism.

Despite the island’s devastation from Hurricane Irma and increased restrictions from the Trump administration in 2017, Cuba had a record number of visitors in 2018—4.75 million, with the US and Canada being the largest contributors. In just the first four months of 2019, over 250,000 US visitors traveled to Cuba, an increase of 93% from the same months in 2018. Most visitors came from cruise ships, which are included under the new restrictions. Trump’s move will impact an estimated 800,000 cruise passenger bookings, cutting the island out of millions of dollars a year in docking fees and payments for on-shore excursions. It comes at a time of severe economic weakness for Cuba, which is struggling to find enough cash to import basic food and other supplies following a drop in aid from Venezuela.

The Trump administration wants to punish the Cuban government, but the restrictions on “people-to-people travel” will be particularly harmful to Cuba’s private entrepreneurs who have poured their lives’ savings into restaurants and home-based lodgings catering to American travelers, and greatly benefited from Obama-era policies.

While John Bolton insists he wants to spread democracy abroad, his Cuba restrictions violate the freedom of the American people. The United States is the only country that restricts travel to Cuba. Canadians have always traveled freely to the island, as have people from Latin America, Europe and all over the globe. The U.S. also allows Americans to travel to the world’s most repressive countries—from North Korea to Myanmar to Saudi Arabia—but unfairly singles out Cuba.

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America Last: The Real Meaning of the Donald's Deplorable Aggression Against Iran David Stockman

In the present era of 24/7 “breaking news”, the journalistic information intermediated by the internet and the cable networks has largely been reduced to noise, devoid of signal. Or at least any historical context beyond the here and now.

The currently threatened escalation of Washington’s economic war on Iran into an actual shooting war is a fraught case in point. Based on the news coverage since the two oil tankers were damaged yesterday you’d think that a crew of bloody-minded aggressors in Tehran had up and decided out of the blue to attack the whole world via disrupting its 18 million barrel per day oil lifeline through the Straits of Hormuz.

The truth of the matter, however, is just the opposite. The blatant aggressor is Washington and the dangerous confrontation now unfolding is utterly unnecessary.

That’s the foundational reality, and it’s far more important to understand than the momentary disputation about whether the Japanese oil tanker got hit by an Iranian mine or incoming projectile of uncertain origin.

Indeed, the Bombzie Twins, Pompeo and Bolton, have been in such heavy war heat for years that you can virtually bet when the dust settles the following false flags and manufactured pretexts for war per Max Blumenthal will have a Gulf of Oman coda:

Remember the Maine, Operation Northwoods, Gulf of Tonkin, Kuwaiti incubator babies, Saddam’s WMD’s, Qaddafi soldiers’ Viagra spree, Last Messages From Aleppo, Douma, burning aid on Colombia-Venezuela bridge…. and now today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

So whatever deliberate or accidental incident may next materialize on the Persian Gulf waters, the truth is that it will happen because:

the US 5th Fleet naval and air war machine is all over the Gulf and it shouldn’t even be there; and,

Washington has blatantly attacked Iran via crushing economic sanctions designed to close the entire global market to its oil exports and suffocate its domestic economy to the point of collapse – yet Iran is zero threat to the security of the American homeland, and, for that matter, Europe and Asia as well.

That’s right. Iran has no blue water Navy that could even get to the Atlantic and only 18,000 sailors including everyone from admirals to medics; an aging, decrepit fleet of war planes with no long range flight or refueling capabilities; ballistic missiles that mainly have a range of under 800 miles; a very limited air defense based on a Russian supplied S-300 system (not the far more capable S-400); and a land Army of less than 350,000 or approximately the size of that of Myanmar.

Indeed, Iran’s defense budget of less than $15 billion amounts to just 7 days of spending compared to the Pentagon’s $750 billion; and it is actually far less even in nominal terms than Iran’s military budget under the Shah way back in the late 1970’s.

In inflation-adjusted dollars, Iran’s military expenditure today is less than 25% of the level prior to the Revolution. Whatever the foibles of today’s Iranian theocratic state, a thriving military power it is not.

Iran’s Military Budget In US Dollars (millions)

In fact, that’s the real irony. Mostly what comprises the core of Iran air force is left over 40-50 year-old planes that had been purchased from the US under the Shah, and which have been Jerry-rigged with bailing wire and bubble gum to stay aloft and to accommodate some modest avionics and armaments modernizations.

As one analyst further noted, some of its planes were actually gifts from Saddam Hussein!

Much of the IRIAF’s equipment dates back to the Shah era, or is left over from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force, which flew many of its planes to Iran during the 1991 Persian Gulf War to avoid destruction. American-made F-4, F-5 and F-14 fighters dating from the 1970s remain the backbone of the Iranian air force.

So military threat has absolutely nothing to do with it. Washington is knee deep in harms’ way and on the verge of starting a war with Iran solely on account of a misguided notion that the Persian Gulf is an American Lake that needs to be policed by the US Navy; and, more crucially, that Washington has the right to control Iran’s foreign policy and determine what alliances it may and may not have in the region – including whether or not they pass muster with Bibi Netanyahu.

Stated differently, the missions of protecting the oil supply lines and regulating the foreign policy of what amounts to a two-bit economic power is straight out of the playbook of Empire First. As such, it amounts to a foolish policy of putting America’s actual security last.

The fact is, Iran doesn’t even matter in the context of an $80 trillion global economy.

Its GDP of $450 billion (and shrinking fast under Washington’s oil embargo) amounts to just 0.6% of world output. Moreover, that’s well smaller than Argentina ($650 billion), Sweden ($535 billion), Belgium ($500 billion) and Thailand ($455 billion); and really it is not much larger than Austria ($420 billion), Norway ($400 billion) or even Nigeria ($375 billion).

None of these countries can threaten America’s homeland security or even world peace – regardless of whatever mischief might be attributable to their foreign policies. That is, the world doesn’t need an Empire to keep the small fry of the likes of Iran and its economic peers in line.

In the current instance that admonition includes whether Iran chooses to ally with and provide aid to its Shiite confessional brethren in Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah-Lebanon or the Houthis government of northern Yemen.

Every one of these entities are either sovereign governments or major political forces based on popular support, as we detail below, and have every right to invite the assistance of Tehran. To therefore describe them as terrorist proxies for the Iranians is the height of Imperial arrogance.

As to the American Lake rationale, Washington obviously has that upside down. In a world unencumbered by Washington’s pretensions to Empire, Iran would be a beneficent helpmate to the global oil market and economy and the number# 1 source of production stability among the producers in the region.

That’s because unlike Saudi Arabia and the lesser gulf oil kingdoms which can afford to hoard their reserves, Iran is inherently motivated to produce every barrel of oil it can economically extract – given that its 80 million population desperately needs the income.

As is evident in the chart below, during recent times it has produced about 4 million barrels per day – a figure that was sharply reduced during the Obama sanctions period of 2013-2015. But the recovery back to 4 million barrels per day after Iran implemented all of its commitments under the nuke deal has again been reversed owing to the brutal sanctions imposed when Trump withdrew from that agreement entirely on the basis of regional politics, not violations of its terms.

Moreover, it is now about to get worse because most of the temporary exemptions from the oil embargo expired last month when Iran exported roughly 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) and produced a total of 2.4 million bpd, with the balance going into domestic use.

It is now anticipated that exports will be forced down to less than 600,000 barrels per day owing to Washington relentless pressure campaign on every port in the world that dares to accept Iranian tankers, and that total production will drop below 2 million bpd.

It also happens that Iran has about 160 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which puts it right behind Canada (170 billion barrels), Saudi Arabia (266 billion barrels) and Venezuela (300 billion barrels of mostly heavy oil) in the global league tables.

That’s relevant because in a world free of Washington hegemonic impositions, global capital would flow to Iran’s oilfields massively. It therefore has the potential to take production from its ample and drastically underdeveloped reserves to 6 million bpd or even 8 million bpd with sufficient investment and world-class technology.

So even if you accept protection and stabilization of oil production in the Persian Gulf as a legitimate aim of policy, which it is not as explained below, Washington’s economic war on Iran has it ass-backwards. In the great geo-political/economic scheme of things, Iran is the natural force for maximum production owing to the aspirations of its very large and reasonably well-educated population.

To wit, the GDP per capita of Iran is about $5,500 compared to $21,500 per capita in Saudi Arabia. Were Iran to achieve per capita income parity, it would need a GDP of $1.7 trillion, not $450 billion, and that would take a pretty hefty oil and energy investment boom and full throttle production to bring about.

What we are saying is that there is not really need for a policeman in the Persian Gulf in the first place. If Iran were not threatened by Washington it would produce all it could and would have no reason whatsoever to interfere with commerce and shipping through the straits of Hormuz.

But none of the gulf kingdoms can afford to disrupt production for political or military purposes, either. That is to say, without abundant oil revenues to placate their powerless but large populations (50 million people in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait are ruled and plundered by a few thousand princes and their armies of retainers), the princes and royals would all be living in Switzerland, anyway.

At the end of the day, the whole misbegotten notion that oil security in the Persian Gulf requires the presence of the 5th Fleet is a left over canard from the Cold War, which ended 29 years ago. The 1970s theory of Kissinger and his team of hegemonists was that the dying Soviet Union was on the verge of pushing into the Persian Gulf from the north.

Needless to say, it never had the military capacity or economic resources to accomplish that feat, and the now open Soviet archives show that there wasn’t even a paper plan to do so.

Iran Oil Production (000 barrels per day)


So at the root of today’s total unnecessary military clash in the Persian Gulf is the long-standing Washington error that America’s security and economic well-being depends upon keeping an armada there in order to protect the surrounding oilfields and the flow of tankers through the straits of Hormuz.

That doctrine has been wrong from the day it was officially enunciated by one of America’s great economic ignoramuses, Henry Kissinger, at the time of the original oil crisis in 1973. The 46 years since then have proven in spades that it doesn’t matter who controls the oilfields, and that the only effective cure for high oil prices is the free market.

Every tin pot dictatorship – from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Saddam Hussein, to the bloody-minded chieftains of Nigeria, to the purportedly medieval Mullahs and especially the Revolutionary Guards of Iran – has produced oil. And usually all the oil they could because almost always they desperately needed the revenue.

For crying out loud, even the barbaric thugs of ISIS milked every possible drop of petroleum from the tiny, wheezing oilfields scattered around their backwater domain before they were finally driven out. So there is no economic case whatsoever for Imperial Washington’s massive military presence in the middle east or for talking sides among the local powers.

The truth is, there is no such thing as an OPEC cartel – virtually every member produces all they can and cheats whenever possible. The only thing that resembles production control in the global oil market is the fact that the Saudi princes treat their oil reserves not much differently than Exxon.

That is, they attempt to maximize the present value of their 270 billion barrels of reserves. Yet ultimately they are no more clairvoyant at calibrating the best oil price to accomplish that objective at any given time than are the economists employed by Exxon, the DOE or the International Energy Agency.

For instance, during the run-up to the late 2014 collapse of the world oil price, the Saudis overestimated the staying power of China’s temporarily surging call on global supply.

At the same time, they badly underestimated how rapidly and extensively the $100 per barrel marker reached in early 2008 would trigger a flow of investment, technology and cheap debt into alternative sources of supply. That is, the US shale patch, the Canadian tar sands, the tired petroleum provinces of Russia, the deep offshore of Brazil etc. – to say nothing of solar, wind and all the other government subsidized alternative source of BTUs.

Way back when Jimmy Carter was telling us to turn down the thermostats and put on our cardigan sweaters, those of us on the free market side of the so-called energy shortage debate said high oil prices are their own best cure. Now we know for sure.


To wit, the Fifth Fleet and its overt and covert auxiliaries should never have been in the Persian Gulf and it environs. And we mean from the very beginning – going all the way back to the CIA’s coup against Iranian democracy in 1953 that was aimed at protecting the oilfields from nationalization.

But having turned Iran into an enemy, Imperial Washington was just getting started, When 1990 rolled around the American Lake theory got a new lease on life – one that carries down to the stupidity of Washington’s military presence there to this very day.

Once again in the name of “oil security” it plunged the American war machine into the politics and religious fissures of the Persian Gulf; and did so on account of a local small beans conflict between Iraq and Kuwait that had no bearing whatsoever on the safety and security of American citizens.

As US ambassador Glaspie rightly told Saddam Hussein on the eve of his Kuwait invasion, America had no dog in that hunt. After all, Kuwait wasn’t even a proper country: It was merely a bank account sitting on a swath of oilfields surrounding an ancient trading city that had been abandoned by Ibn Saud in the early 20th century.

That’s because the illiterate Bedouin founder of the House of Saud didn’t know what oil was or that it was there; and, in any event, Kuwait had been made a separate protectorate by the British in 1913 for reasons that are lost in the fog of British diplomatic history.

The Folly of the Bush Clan’s Persian Gulf Wars

As it happened, Iraq’s contentious dispute with Kuwait was over its claim that the Emir of Kuwait was “slant drilling” across his own border and into Iraq’s Rumaila field. Yet it was a wholly elastic boundary of no significance whatsoever.

In fact, the dispute over the Rumaila field started in 1960 when an Arab League declaration arbitrarily marked the Iraq–Kuwait border two miles north of the southernmost tip of the Rumaila field.

Yet there was nothing sacred about that demarcation line. Both of the combatants in the 1990 Iraq/Kuwait war were recently minted artifacts of late-stage European imperialism. That Bush the Elder choose to throw American treasure and blood into the breach is, accordingly, one of the stupidest crimes every committed from the Oval Office.

The truth is, it didn’t matter who controlled the southern tip of the Rumaila field – the brutal dictator of Baghdad or the opulent Emir of Kuwait. Not the price of oil, nor the peace of America nor the security of Europe nor the peace of the world depended upon it.

But once again Bush the Elder got persuaded to take the path of war. This time it was by Henry Kissinger’s economically illiterate protégés at the national security council and his Texas oilman Secretary of State. They falsely claimed that the will-o-wisp of “oil security” was at stake, and that 500,000 American troops needed to be planted in the sands of Arabia.

That was a catastrophic error, and not only because the presence of crusader boots on the purportedly sacred soil of Arabia offended the CIA-trained Mujahedeen of Afghanistan, who had become unemployed when the Soviet Union collapsed. It is the factor that lead Washington into the folly of the Iraq war, the drastic intensification of the historic Sunni/Shiite divide that metastasized in Iraq and then spread to the region via ISIS, and the perpetuation of Washington’s massive military presence in the gulf and its environs.

Indeed, when you look at the map above you understand why the whole neocon spiel about the so-called Shiite Crescent is to ludicrous. The right spatial metaphor is encirclement, and Iran is the victim, not the aggressor.

The fact is, the claim that Iran is the expansionist leader of the Shiite Crescent is based on nothing more than the fact that Tehran has an independent foreign policy based on its own interests and confessional affiliations – legitimate relationships that are demonized by virtue of not being approved by Washington.

Likewise, the official charge that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism is not remotely warranted by the facts: The listing is essentially a State Department favor to the Netanyahu branch of the War Party.

We can start with Iran’s long-standing support of Bashir Assad’s government in Syria. That alliance that goes back to his father’s era and is rooted in the historic confessional politics of the Islamic world.

The Assad regime is Alawite, a branch of the Shiite, and despite the regime’s brutality, it has been a bulwark of protection for all of Syria’s minority sects, including Christians, against a majority-Sunni ethnic cleansing. The latter would surely have occurred if the Saudi (and Washington) supported rebels, led by the Nusra Front and ISIS, had succeeded in taking power.

Likewise, the fact that the Baghdad government of the broken state of Iraq – that is, the artificial 1916 concoction of two stripped pants European diplomats (Messrs. Sykes and Picot of the British and French foreign offices, respectively) – -is now aligned with Iran is also a result of confessional politics and geo-economic propinquity.

For all practical purposes the old Iraq is no more. The Kurds of the northeast have declared their independence and seized their own oil. At the same time, the Sunni lands of the Upper Euphrates, which were temporarily lost to the short-lived ISIS caliphate, are now a no man’s land of rubble and broken communities.

Accordingly, what is left of the rump of the Iraqi state is a population that is overwhelmingly Shiite, and which nurses bitter resentments after two decades of violent conflict with the Sunni forces. Why in the world, therefore, would they not ally with their Shiite neighbor?

Likewise, the claim that Iran is now trying to annex Yemen is pure claptrap. The ancient territory of Yemen has been racked by civil war off and on since the early 1970s. And a major driving force of that conflict has been confessional differences between the Sunni south and the Shiite north.

The Houthi tribes – who profess a variant of Shiite Islam – have dominated much of northern and western Yemen for centuries. They generally ruled North Yemen during the long expanse after it was established in 1918 until the two Yemen’s were reunified in 1990.

So when a Washington installed government in Sana’a was overthrown and Yemen disintegrated into warring religious factions, the Houthi took power in northern Yemen, while Sunni tribes aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda held sway in the south.

Needless to say, the Houthis have no Navy, Air Force or regular Army. So they are no threat whatsoever to Saudi Arabia, bristling with $250 billion of advanced weapon bought from America over recent decades.

In fact, the entire GDP of the war-torn and impoverished nation of Yemen is just $27 billion, and much of that lies outside of areas controlled by the Houthis government in Sana’a.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia has the third largest defense budget in the world at $69 billion or 2.5X the entire economy of Yemen, and it is a lethal modern military force trained and equipped with the Pentagon’s best.

In a word, the Houthis are being brutally bombed and droned by Saudi Arabia in what amounts to a genocidal proxy attack on its Iranian rival across the Persian Gulf. So it is the Houthis who are the victims of a vicious aggression that has left more than 10,000 civilians dead and the land plagued with famine, cholera, rubble and economic collapse.

There is no telling which faction in Yemen’s fratricidal civil war is the more barbaric, but the modest aid provided by Iran to its Shiite kinsman in northern Yemen is absolutely not a case of state sponsored terrorism.

Finally, there is the fourth element of the purported Iranian axis – the Hezbollah controlled Shiite communities of southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. Like everything else in the Middle East, Hezbollah is a product of historical European imperialism, Islamic confessional politics and the chronically misguided and counterproductive security policies of Israel.

In the first place, Lebanon was not any more a real country than Iraq was when Sykes and Picot laid their straight-edged rulers on a map. The result was a stew of religious and ethnic divisions – Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Copts, Druse, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds, Armenians, Jews and countless more – that made the fashioning of a viable state virtually impossible.

At length, an alliance of Christians and Sunnis gained control of the country, leaving the 40% Shiite population disenfranchised and economically disadvantaged. But it was the inflow of Palestinian refugees in the 1960s and 1970s that eventually upset the balance of sectarian forces and triggered a civil war that essentially lasted from 1975 until 1990.

It also triggered a catastrophically wrong-headed Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, and a subsequent brutal occupation of mostly Shiite territories for the next eighteen years. The alleged purpose of this invasion was to chase the PLO and Yassir Arafat out of the enclave in southern Lebanon that they had established after being driven out of Jordan in 1970.

Eventually Israel succeeded in sending Arafat packing to north Africa, but in the process created a militant, Shiite-based resistance movement that did not even exist in 1982, and which in due course became the strongest single force in Lebanon’s fractured domestic political arrangements.

After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the then Christian President of the county made abundantly clear that Hezbollah had become a legitimate and respected force within the Lebanese polity, not merely some subversive agent of Tehran:

“For us Lebanese, and I can tell you the majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement.”

So, yes, Hezbollah is an integral component of the so-called Shiite Crescent and its confessional and political alignment with Tehran is entirely plausible. But that arrangement – -however uncomfortable for Israel – does not represent unprovoked Iranian aggression on Israel’s northern border.

Instead, it’s actually the blowback from the stubborn refusal of Israeli governments – especially the rightwing Likud governments of modern times – to deal constructively with the Palestinian question.

In lieu of a two-state solution in the territory of Palestine, therefore, Israeli policy has produced a chronic state of war with the large majority of the population of southern Lebanon represented by Hezbollah.

The latter is surely no agency of peaceful governance and has committed its share of atrocities. But the point at hand is that given the last 35 years of history and Israeli policy, Hezbollah would exist as a menacing force on its northern border even if the theocracy didn’t exist and the Shah or his heir was still on the Peacock Throne.

In short, there is no alliance of terrorism in the Shiite Crescent that threatens American security. That proposition is simply one of the Big Lies that was promulgated by the War Party after 1991; and which has been happily embraced by Imperial Washington since then in order to keep the military/industrial/security complex alive, and to justify its self-appointed role as policeman of the world.

So at the end of the day,the claim that Iran is the expansionist leader of the Shiite Crescent is based on nothing more than the fact that Tehran has an independent foreign policy based on its own interests and confessional affiliations – legitimate relationships that are demonized by virtue of not being approved by the Washington War Party and especially its Bibi Netanyahu branch.

And for this, the Donald shit-canned the only decent thing Obama did in foreign policy arena – the Iranian nuke deal – and has unleashed the beef below to actually bring us to the point of military conflict.

If it happens, the trio of aggressors behind it have already posed for their official portrait.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman’s Contra Corner.]]> Wed, 19 Jun 2019 04:22:35 GMT