Gareth Porter paints a dismal picture. Time and again, President Donald Trump indicates he wants to do the right thing: get out Afghanistan, get out of Syria, get out of South Korea.
Every time, his national security team – the people he appointed – sends him to “the tank” and hotboxes him with all the reasons he’s wrong and why the US needs to “stay the course” in multiple wars and absurd deployments.
If the account of Bob Woodward is to be believed, Trump’s flailing against his own appointees is nothing less than pathetic, that of a pitiable Gulliver roped down by Lilliputians of his own installation. As described by Tom Engelhardt:
‘After all, from National Security Advisor John Bolton (the invasion of Iraq) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (a longtime regime-change advocate) to CIA Director Gina Haspel (black sites and torture), Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis (former Marine general and CENTCOM commander), and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (former Marine general and a commander in Iraq), those adolts [sic] and so many like them remain deeply implicated in the path the country took in those years of geopolitical dreaming. They were especially responsible for the decision to invest in the U.S. military (and little else), as well as in endless wars, in the years before Donald Trump came to power. And worse yet, they seem to have learned absolutely nothing from the process. [ . . . ]
‘In his book, Woodward describes a National Security Council meeting in August 2017, in which the adolts [sic] in the room saved the president from his worst impulses. He describes how an impatient Donald Trump “exploded, most particularly at his generals. You guys have created this situation. It’s been a disaster. You’re the architects of this mess in Afghanistan… You’re smart guys, but I have to tell you, you’re part of the problem. And you haven’t been able to fix it, and you’re making it worse… I was against this from the beginning. He folded his arms. ‘I want to get out… and you’re telling me the answer is to get deeper in.”
‘And indeed almost 16 years later that is exactly what Pompeo, Mattis, former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and the rest of them were telling him. According to Woodward, Mattis, for instance, argued forcefully “that if they pulled out, they would create another ISIS-style upheaval… What happened in Iraq under Obama with the emergence of ISIS will happen under you, Mattis told Trump, in one of his sharpest declarations.’
There’s every indication that Trump’s heart is in the right place but he hasn’t got either the awareness of his own vast Executive authority (for example his ability to withdraw us from entangling treaties, including NATO, with the stroke of a pen!) or the detailed factual knowledge to refute the lies fed to him by his own team. Symptomatic is Trump’s seeming acceptance of the canard that ISIS arose because of “what happened in Iraq under Obama” – supposedly that a “premature” American withdrawal created a “vacuum” – rather than as a foreseen and intended result of the Obama administration’s aim to create a “salafist principality” in the Syria-Iraq border region, as attested to by his own first National Security Adviser, General Mike Flynn, whom Trump shamefully threw to the wolves when things got hot.
Porter nonetheless concludes on an optimistic note: “Trump’s unorthodox approach has already emboldened him to challenge the essential logic of the US military empire more than any previous president. And the final years of his administration will certainly bring further struggles over the issues on which he has jousted repeatedly with those in charge of the empire.”
So maybe we can still hold out hope for the human wrecking ball.
Still, whatever Trump’s sound personal impulses, what have we got to show for it? Let’s look at the score so far:
- The bad news: Under Trump we’ve stayed bogged down in all the messes he inherited. And worse, in Syria he even took direct military action (which his predecessor declined to do) and has set us up for multiple rounds of nuclear chicken with Russia. In Afghanistan, we’ve added troops, not withdrawn them. Our no-questions-asked support for Saudi Arabia’s sickening war against Yemen continues. We’ve given Ukraine lethal weapons, another aggravating action Barack Obama hesitated to take, and given Kiev a green light to open a new front against the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite Trump’s summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin ties with Moscow worsen by the day. Things with China don’t look so rosy either, with a major US Navy “show of force” set for the South China Sea.
- The good news: Though the outcome is still in doubt harsh rhetoric against North Korea’s Kim Jong-un led to the billing and cooing in Singapore.
- The best news: Trump hasn’t started any new wars of his own.
Not yet, anyway.
If Trump plans to launch a spanking new useless conflict of his own (launching at least one war has become something of a presidential prerogative, the Constitution notwithstanding), Iran seems to be the place. The portents are all bad. Despite his long-term optimism Porter notes that by adopting a policy of regime change against Iran urged on him by National Security Adviser John Bolton and financier Sheldon Adelson, Trump “may finally give up his resistance to the multiple permanent US wars.”
Sharp attacks on Iran by Trump and other top US officials, as well as by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, defined last month’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting. Superficially, this resembled Trump’s verbal assaults last year on “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un and North Korea, which eventually set the stage for the Singapore summit, a lowering of tensions on the Korean peninsula, an opening between the two Koreas which could become self-sustaining, and an uncertain path to denuclearization.
However, it is unlikely the current vilification of Tehran will lead to a comparable outcome. All signs indicate that Washington is serious about regime change in Tehran, either via sponsorship of internal unrest that would topple the current government, or by military action a la Iraq 2003. While the former is certainly Washington’s preferred option, the latter cannot be ruled out. This orientation may be considered fundamental to the administration’s current course both because of the composition of Trump’s team and because of the insistence of America’s regional partners, above all Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In pursuing this course, we will continue to see on-and-off confrontation with Russia, stepped up pressures on China, and a divergence of views with America’s European allies, especially on sanctions policy. Iran may be the focus, but this is a full-spectrum global policy long in preparation. In July 2018 it was reported that a few months earlier the US and Israel formed a joint working group focused on internal efforts to encourage protests within Iran and to undermine the country’s government. The point men are Bolton and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat.
Of a piece is Pompeo’s July speech from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, in which he clearly sought to evoke the fall of communism, casting the Ayatollahs in the role of Leonid Brezhnev and company. While Iranian “regime change” is not the publicly stated goal of the Trump Administration’s policy, it is hard to see how US demands on Tehran don’t amount to exactly that, with Pompeo comparing the Iranian “regime” (a term used dozens of times in his speech to imply illegitimacy) to a “mafia.” He asserted that Iran’s behavior is “at root in the revolutionary nature of the regime itself” – suggesting that no real change can be expected and that removal is the only remedy. Pompeo demanded not just a total change in policy from Tehran but a different mode of governance amounting to Iran’s ceasing to be an independent regional power.
Also of note were reports in late 2017 of a Trump-Netanyahu “strategic work plan” to counter Iran following a December 12 White House meeting and, before that in June 2017, the appointment of the “Dark Prince,” “Ayatollah Mike,” the “Undertaker” and convert to (Sunni) Islam Michael D’Andrea to run the CIA’s Iran operation. (One Langley insider’s simple comment on the D’Andrea appointment: “All I can say is that war with Iran is in the cards.”)
In short, this is a coordinated, strategic effort using every lever of national power to achieve its objective. It would be naïve to expect that this does not include the use of covert action, including support for terrorism inside Iran (such as the recent attack on a parade in heavily ethnic Arab Khuzistan), if not directly then via proxies armed and funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States on the pattern of Libya and Syria.
For anyone desperately seeking a parallel between Trump’s harsh rhetoric towards North Korea at last year’s UNGA, which led in time to the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, there is little to indicate that this is simply Trump’s “art of the deal” to achieve a similar outcome with Iran. There are three key distinctions between the two theaters. First, US demands regarding North Korea were focused on its nuclear program, while demands on Iran are comprehensive and are tantamount to demanding that the current government abolish itself. Second, while America’s top partners in northeast Asia, Japan and especially South Korea, welcome a warming to Pyongyang, US partners in the region of Iran, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia, are themselves the engines pushing for a more bellicose policy.
Third, Trump’s national security team is totally committed to the Israel-Saudi line. This was illustrated at the conference held in sync with the UNGA of the group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) at which Bolton and Pompeo both appeared. According to one attendee, the atmosphere was one of cultic surrealism: Iran is responsible for every problem in the broader Middle East if not the whole world, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS; all Sunni terror groups ultimately trace their origin and funding back to Tehran; Tehran was responsible for 9/11; the terrorist MEK is the true representative of the Iranian people and is being groomed to be inserted as a replacement as soon as the “regime” crumbles. The UANI event was eerily reminiscent of the atmosphere in Washington in 2002, only replacing one letter to change Iraq to Iran.
Iran is also central to the confrontation in Syria, from which Trump evidently would like to disengage but has been overruled by his underlings. The US, backed by Britain and France, threatened action against Syria and even Russia if chemical weapons were used “again” in a now-postponed offensive on Idlib province. The standoff dramatically escalated with the Russian introduction of S-300 anti-aircraft systems, now reportedly being delivered, in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian surveillance aircraft and the killing of 15 crewmen as a consequence of an Israeli strike near Russia’s Khmeimim air base ostensibly against Iranian targets. The S-300 deployment creates a flexible, de facto no fly zone against Israel in western Syria and even can neutralize onboard electronic systems within a 250-km radius – effectively including all of Israel.How and when the next confrontation will take place is unclear.
By early November we can expect further tightening of sanctions on number of countries continuing to do business with Iran, especially energy purchases. Among these are China and Turkey, and possibly India. (India is a special case because of Washington policymakers’ efforts to woo New Delhi as the linchpin of the anti-China “Indo-Pacific Quad” along with Japan and Australia.) But the most important targets will be countries of the European Union. Much is being made of a so-called “clearing house,” or Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for conducting business with Iran to avoid the SWIFT system and US sanctions.
The SPV concept is supported by the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, as well as China and Russia. But the SPV or any other mechanism for the Europeans to defy the US is only as good as the weakest link. Simply the suggestion of the mechanism has infuriated Washington, which will seek to peel off one or another of the European participants in the hopes of collapsing their common action. It should also be kept in mind that the US Treasury Department can simply sanction the SPV clearing house itself, applying secondary sanctions to any European companies that interact with it.
Predictions that the Europeans are steeling their jelly-like nerves to defy Washington are laughable. The US treats our supposed allies with contempt because that’s what they deserve. (This is broader than just Iran. For example, Washington is also threatening Europe with secondary sanctions on companies participating in Nord Stream 2 (NS2).) The Europeans, even if they had the will, can’t just pull a SWIFT alternative out of a hat. It would take time, resources, and determination, which they are unlikely to expend once the US seriously starts to threaten them. Finally, it is well known that US intelligence has strong influence over many European politicians (including compromising material on them), as well as control of media, special services, military commands, and think tanks. In short, their ability to behave independently is small.
Russia is supposedly prepared to use its Financial Communications Transfer System (SPFS) based on blockchain technology to protect itself, especially when new, extremely harsh financial sanctions are set to kick in in November, close to the time full anti-Iran sanctions go into effect. It will be interesting to see if they can pull it off. With the knowledge that they are the number one target for US financial sanctions, the Russians have had time to work on protective alternatives, including local currency arrangements that bypass the dollar – and Moscow still doesn’t know how well it will work when the time comes. The most recent round of indictments against the GRU over a bizarre witch’s brew of supposed offenses including election meddling, chemical weapons, doping, and MH17 (with London’s malign hand much in evidence) is just a taste of what is to come, even now including direct threats of war.
To sum up, Iran is the proximate target of a policy that has only one direction (forward) and one speed (fast). But the ultimate target is Russia, with no possible improvement in sight and a state of relations that worsens by the week; this is designed to crush its economy and financial system, render its security posture untenable, and lead to a reinstallation of a puppet government of the sort that existed in the 1990s, pending breaking up Russian into more manageable pieces. Finally, after Iran and Russia are disposed of next in line is China, against which covert action to sabotage the Belt and Road Initiative may already have begun.
There isn’t anything remotely America First about any of this. It’s certainly not what this Deplorable voted for. But with the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad national security team Trump has saddled himself with, what else can we expect? They are in charge. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better – if ever.
Comment: See also:
- Anti-war coalition coordinator: North Korea right, Washington to blame for delay in denuclearization – Trump surrounded by war-mongers
- The US way or no way: Trump treated rest of world as America’s footstool at UNSC
- Love Him or Loathe Him, Donald Trump is on a Mission to End The Wars and Dismantle The Pentagon’s Empire
Israeli genocide and Obama’s support for it exposed by Helen Thomas
The U.K. May Soon Have a Prime Minister Who Cares Deeply for Palestine
As soon the conference began, one thing was clear: Palestine was going to have a significant place in the discussions and resolutions. What was also clear was that there is a segment within the U.K. Labour Party that is deeply Zionist, opposes Corbyn, and works within the party to undermine him.
The 2018 U.K. Labour conference held in Liverpool, September 23-26, will be remembered as a turning point in U.K. relations to the Palestinian issue. Britain, which is rightfully accused for its role in promoting the Zionist takeover of Palestine, now seems prepared to make amends. In his final speech, on the final day of the conference and following many events and votes on the Palestine issue, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn made it clear that a Labour government led by him would hold Israel responsible for its human-rights violations, killing of unarmed protesters, and detention of children. Labour also made it clear it is ready to review the sales of British-made arms to Israel. All of this was achieved in spite of the fact that elements within the Labour Party have been striving to undermine Corbyn’s leadership.
Liverpool — a city with a proud history as a bastion of socialism, workers’ rights and unions — seems a natural choice for the U.K. Labour Party to have its annual conference, particularly with the new wave of socialist momentum given to the party by its leader Jeremy Corbyn. Known mostly as home of the Beatles, Liverpool is also one of England’s most diverse and politically engaged cities. Being a historically important port city means Liverpool’s history is also connected to the slave trade, and in August 2007 the city had opened the International Slave Museum so as not to forget the role it played in this horrendous international crime against humanity.
Liverpool’s diversity is unique among European cities: it is home to the oldest Black African community in the United Kingdom and the oldest Chinese community in all of Europe. After the famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852, over 2 million Irish migrated to the city in a single decade. The nickname “scouser” for people of Liverpool comes from an old Irish stew. Liverpool is home to England’s first mosque, established in 1889; and the Princess Road synagogue, which is one of England’s oldest and most beautiful Jewish synagogues.
During the Thatcher years, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is known to have ordered a “managed decline” to bring Liverpool to ruin, which it succeeded in doing. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that a £1 billion grant from the European Union helped the city to rebuild and regenerate itself, and today it is a beautiful and prosperous town. The EU also helped fund the cleaning of the Mersey River, which was at one point one of the most polluted rivers in Europe; as a result of an £8 billion clean-up of the sewage that once polluted the river, today it is one of the cleanest.
Struggle within U.K. Labour Party
As soon the conference began, one thing was clear: Palestine was going to have a significant place in the discussions and resolutions. What was also clear was that there is still a segment within the U.K. Labour Party that is deeply Zionist, opposes Corbyn, and works within the party to undermine him. In fact, an entire anti-Semitism and holocaust denying campaign against Corbyn was fabricated by Zionist groups.
One meeting I had was with Ben Bradshaw, MP from Exeter, whose record includes supporting the war on Iraq and opposing Jeremy Corbyn as the leader. Bradshaw told me that BDS was too extreme, that we must not compare Israel to apartheid South Africa and that “you cannot impose a single state with an Arab majority on Israel.” He went on to insist that “it will never happen.”
Having been wrong twice already on major issues, it is not surprising Bradshaw is wrong again. It was Israel that had imposed a single state on Palestine and declared it to be exclusive, not the other way around. An Arab majority was inevitable because Palestinians, who love large families, have more children that Israeli Jews. When I asked him which of the three demands of the BDS call he did not agree with — the right of return, ending the occupation of 1967, or the demand for equal rights — he admitted he agreed with all of them. “But” he said, “BDS is too extremist and unbalanced because it doesn’t guarantee Israel’s security.”
A historic vote
On September 25 the conference held a historic vote on Palestine. The excitement in the conference hall was immense and one had to remind oneself that this was not a rally of a Palestine solidarity group but the conference of the U.K. Labour Party, which today is the largest political party in Western Europe. The support for Palestine among members and guests was made evident by the thousands of Palestinian flags held by members and delegates.
The motion that was voted and carried at the conference was unprecedented in its condemnation of Israel and reads as follows:
This aggressive attempt to rewrite history, and erase the victims of the 1948 war, who were expelled or fled from their homes in Palestine.
Developing solidarity with Palestinian refugees, especially young refugees, and [exploring] developing links with UNRWA schools, its training centres, and its local staff serving across the Middle East.
The British government to increase its level of annual assessed contributions to UNRWA, providing much needed reassurance and stability to Palestinian refugees, and to encourage other member states to do the same.
This conference resolves
To call for an independent international investigation into Israel’s use of force against Palestinian demonstrators; a freeze of U.K. government arms sales to Israel; and an immediate unconditional end to the illegal blockade and closure of Gaza.
Two points of weakness
The party and its leader renewed their commitment to two things that on their face may seem like support for the Palestinian cause but in fact are counterproductive. The first is a commitment to the Two-State Solution — or, in other words, a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And the second is recognition of the State of Palestine.
The Two-State Solution is a Zionist idea that has allowed Israel to advance its policies while blaming Palestinians for rejecting peace. History shows that, contrary to popular belief, it was Israel that consistently rejected any compromise that would have led to a partition of Palestine into two states. The November 29, 1947 UN resolution 181 called for a partition of Palestine into two states and was extremely favorable to the Zionist community in Palestine. However, immediately after the resolution was passed, the Zionist militia in Palestine began its campaign of ethnic cleansing and destruction, a campaign that lasted over a year and is now called “The Naqba,” or catastrophe.
In 1967 a second opportunity arose for a two-state solution, this time under conditions even more favorable to Israel. Again, Israel reacted with a massive a operation of forced exile, the destruction of Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, and the building of cities and towns exclusively for Jews, thus destroying any chance for a Palestinian state to be established. It seems that the declarations of support for this so-called solution are a sort of lip service given to Zionists so as not to “go too far,” as it were, and demand equal rights for all people who live in what was once Mandatory Palestine.
The recognition of a Palestinian state is also a form of lip service –recognizing, as it were, a state that does not exist. This creates the illusion that all Palestine needs is recognition of its status as a state rather than recognition that all of Palestine is occupied, that its people live under a violent oppressive regime and that BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — are required to bring about change.
The Hareidi Community stands up
A rare and extremely fruitful collaboration that I experienced during the conference was with the U.K. Haredi, or Ultra-Orthodox, Jewish community. In a statement published before the conference, Shraga Stern, a local Londoner and a member of the Haredi community wrote,
“We believe that the anti-Semitism smear and witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn is a Zionist agenda and has all the footprints leading to that direction. It is being promoted by the Board of Deputies and by the self-made unelected JLC, who are a well-known pro-Israel bodies- and it’s completely cruel and unjustified.”
Leaders of this community came out to stand against false accusations of anti-Semitism in the U.K. in general as well as in the Labour Party. The Haredi community, which makes up over 20 percent of the 265,000 Jewish people who live in the U.K., came out with a clear message refuting the claims that Jewish people in the U.K. fear for their lives. Regardless of any individual’s political leanings, they said, it was clear that Jeremy Corbyn has always been a friend of U.K. Jewish people and is not in the slightest way a racist or anti-Semite, and that Jewish people live well and have no fear of anti-Semitism.
I had the honor of sharing a stage with Rabbi Ahron Cohen, who drove up from Manchester for the final day of the conference, and to stand with Rabbi Beck, who drove up from London to express support. In answer to a question regarding Israel’s right to exist, Rabbi Cohen replied, “what is Israel doing there to begin with?” and he went on to discuss the trouble that was brought on the indigenous communities in Palestine, both Arab and Jew, as a result of the ZIonist occupation of Palestine and the creation of Israel.
Rabbi Beck put it in another way,
“I live in the U.K. over 30 years and I never saw a British soldier. In Israel, every child sees armed soldiers all the time. How can anyone claim that life for Jews in Israel is better or safer than [in] the U.K.?”
The presence of the Haredi community, as well as their unwavering support, was a tremendous boost to Corbyn and to those in the party who know the anti-Semitism charges are false. It was an enormous step for the rabbis of this community — who made the effort to attend the conference, even though it was held during the Jewish High Holidays. It was a real pleasure to stand outside the conference hall on a sunny day in Liverpool with these fine people and to see the tremendous support we were getting from conference attendees as they were leaving the hall.
Even with its shortcomings, one must admit that the conference was an enormous boost to the cause for justice in Palestine. Furthermore, Jeremy Corbyn, who has been attacked by Zionist and neo-liberal groups working in unison, is as unwilling to bend as ever. In fact, one could argue that the U.K. may soon have a prime minister who is a truly a decent and honest man, and a true socialist who also cares deeply for Palestine.
*(Right to Left, Rabbi Beck, Miko Peled, Jack Thomas and another member of the Haredi community at the U.K. Labour conference in Liverpool, England, Sept 26, 2018. Image credit: Miko Peled)
*This article was originally published on the Mintpressnews.