Did Neocons Sabotage North Korea Deal?

Warhawks, Democrats can’t tolerate president succeeding in peace efforts with “boogeyman”

By Dr. Ron Paul

President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February was criticized by both parties in Washington long before Air Force One even touched down in Hanoi. Washington’s political class seemed terrified that the nearly 70-year state of “war” with North Korea might actually end. In the end the only positive thing they could say about the meeting was that Trump apparently walked away with nothing to show for it.

The location of the meeting—Hanoi, Vietnam— serves as a great example of what can be won in peace versus what is lost in war. After losing nearly 60,000 U.S. service members in an unnecessary war that took a million Vietnamese lives, the U.S. loss of the Vietnam War resulted not in a communist takeover of Southeast Asia but something very different: The domino theory failed because communism was destined to fail. Now we are close trading partners with an increasingly pro-market Vietnam. The result of trade and exchange versus war is a better life for all.

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Unfortunately for Washington, the real lesson of Vietnam has not been learned. That is why the Republicans, Democrats, and the entire mainstream media spoke as one against Trump’s decision to take a bold step and actually meet again, one-on-one, with one of our “enemies” to see if we can avoid nuclear conflict.

One leading Democrat, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif), attacked Trump for meeting with Kim because speaking to the North Korean “gives him legitimacy.”

Does it make any sense that we should not even speak with our nuclear-armed adversaries because it gives them “legitimacy”? He’d rather have a nuclear war as long as Kim remains “illegitimate”? This is sadly the kind of thinking that prevails in Washington.

The media reported that Trump walked away from the meeting before the scheduled signing ceremony and closing press event. The talks broke down, it was reported, because Kim demanded an end to all sanctions before any reduction in North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Washington sighed with relief and said, all together, “Better no deal than a bad deal.”

Meanwhile the North Koreans held a rare press conference clarifying that they only asked for partial sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling one of their main nuclear facilities. Further, press reports began to surface that National Security Advisor John Bolton threw additional demands on the table, which led Kim to draw the meeting to an early close.

Who’s telling the truth? We likely won’t know. But given Bolton’s strong opposition to any kind of peace agreement with North Korea it’s hard to doubt that he had something to do with the blowup of the summit. As The New York Times reported over the weekend, while Trump’s advisors were shocked when he decided to meet Kim face-to-face the first time for negotiations, Bolton wasn’t worried at all. As the Times writes, “Mr. Bolton told colleagues not to worry. The negotiations, he said, would collapse on their own.” And so they did.

Will Trump continue to allow his diplomatic efforts to be undermined by his own staff? Let’s hope the president will ignore Washington, ignore the neocons, and continue to work for peace with North Korea.

Ron Paul, a former U.S. representative from Texas and medical doctor, continues to write his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, online at www.ronpaulinstitute.org.


Summit Sticking Point

Did North Korea seek same secret nuclear status as Israel?

By Richard Walker

In the wake of the collapse of President Donald Trump’s Vietnam summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, there were many unanswered questions, with both sides unwilling to claim victory.

There was, however, a secret issue discussed at the summit that Washington and Pyongyang prefer to remain secret for now, perhaps hoping to revisit it in the future. It was the possibility of North Korea being accorded the same nuclear status as Israel.

All this means that, from a public perspective, the event may go down in history as either a failed opportunity, the inevitable consequence of trying to negotiate with a rogue regime, or too much hype and serious miscalculations by Washington and Pyongyang.

Trump and “Chairman Kim,” as Trump calls the North Korean leader, both abandoned an expensive dinner and a conference scheduled for after the summit during which they had planned to stand together and announce to the world that they had solved the North Korean nuclear issue. Instead, Trump flew back to Washington on Air Force One, and Kim returned to Pyongyang on a lengthy train journey through China.

The South Koreans were left to wonder what had just happened. Essentially, they had been frozen out of the well-choreographed get-together of the two leaders, implying that they were minor players in a drama that directly affected them. It did not occur to the mass media to ask why South Korea was clearly sidelined. Could they have played a crucial role in the failed negotiations? We shall never know.

So what are we to make of what appeared to be this failure on a grand scale? President Trump has said he walked away because he could not get the right deal. One might be tempted to wonder why he had not anticipated failure before promising success with public outpouring of optimism before and during the summit. The White House later claimed that Kim had wanted all sanctions lifted, while refusing to commit to unfettered access to all his secret nuclear sites. Kim responded that Washington’s version of the breakdown of the talks was a lie and that he had not demanded the lifting of all sanctions.

The reality may be simpler than we think. It is entirely possible that Trump’s advisers, especially Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and political advisor Jared Kushner never briefed Trump fully about North Korea. They may not have pointed out that Kim, like his late father and grandfather, is a skilled tactician surrounded by generals with a long history of engagement with the West. Why, for example, would Kim give up his nuclear arsenal in exchange for the lifting of sanctions? He would have known what happened to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qadaffi when they abandoned their nuclear ambitions.

Kingdom Identity

Missing in mass media coverage was something a diplomat close to Moscow told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The real secret of the talks was that Kim was prepared to offer access to all his nuclear sites and to end all nuclear activity, but he expected in return to keep his nukes and have North Korea recognized like Israel as a nuclear power. The U.S. would then have to remove its military components from South Korea, including nuclear weapons that Moscow and Beijing told Kim were stored in or near South Korea.”

According to this source, the issue that collapsed the summit was the demand for nuclear recognition, but this was something neither side wanted to explore publicly because it is something they hope to renegotiate in the months ahead.

“There was always an insurmountable hurdle when politicians resorted to terminology that means different things to different people,” the diplomat added. “For example, Americans see denuclearization as North Korea giving up all its nukes. North Koreans see it as the removal of America as a nuclear power from the Korean Peninsula.”

The source added that Moscow and Beijing continue to believe a deal is possible on recognizing North Korea as a nuclear power. The source suggested that Moscow had pushed this option privately with the Trump camp, knowing China approved it. China and Russia had secretly agreed that they could live with a nuclear North Korea that was properly monitored, provided the U.S. removed much of its hardware, especially nuclear weapons, from the region.

Where does it go from here? If Kim’s goal is to have his country accepted as a legitimate nuclear power like Israel, he might also feel it is achievable long term.

Trump could redefine denuclearization to mean that North Korea becomes a nuclear power monitored fully by Washington but ceases all nuclear weapons production, removes all its frontline military hardware pointed at South Korea, and does not object to an American military presence in the region.

Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.


 




Buying Back the Iron Dome

U.S. taxpayers are being ripped off as U.S. Army buys back what we paid to develop.

By Philip Giraldi

Even if one spends years exploring the dark corners infested by Israel’s agents and its diaspora proxies in their successful effort to control much of Capitol Hill and the White House, it is still possible to be shocked by the effrontery of what many have dubbed the 51st state.

In early February, the U.S. Army announced that it would be buying Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system to protect American troops against incoming rockets, artillery shells, and mortar rounds. The sale means that the United States, which has the largest and most advanced defense industries in the world, is now agreeing to buy some of its military hardware from Israel rather than producing its own equivalent version.

The Iron Dome was developed and produced by Israeli government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems company with some assistance from Raytheon in the United States. It has been operational since 2011 and was deployed to intercept mostly homemade incoming rockets from Hamas during Israel’s large-scale ground and air attacks on Gaza in 2012 and 2014 as well as in the more recent bloody clashes along the border fences that separate Israel from Gaza, which have killed nearly 3,000 Arabs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inevitably took credit for the sale, describing it as “a great achievement for Israel and yet another expression of the strengthening of our powerful alliance with the U.S.” The U.S. Army is committed to buy two Iron Dome batteries for deployment next year for $373 million as a first phase of a possible $1.7 billion procurement to develop an enhanced mobile missile defense capability. It is believed that the purchase could lead to far bigger deals if Rafael proves able to upgrade Iron Dome to defeat the more complex battlefield threats envisioned by the Pentagon.

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There are a number of problems related to the agreement to purchase Iron Dome. First of all, there is some dispute about whether it actually works. Israeli government sources unsurprisingly claim that it does, but some critics believe that its actual success rate might be considerably lower than the 90% that is being claimed by Rafael and by the Israeli government based on 1,700 reported interceptions. It has been observed that intercepting an incoming bottle rocket is a relatively easy task compared to an artillery or mortar round, which have lower trajectories and less flight time, making locking in the system’s radar more difficult. And, as Iron Dome has not been used with any frequency against enemies firing military-grade rockets, mortars or artillery, so the testing of it has not been fully subjected to the actual field conditions if the U.S. Army were to deploy the system.

The second problem involves the purchase itself. According to a report examining the Iron Dome project, the United States has already provided at least $5.5 billion of the development costs of the system since it was first proposed in 2010. In 2018, Congress provided an additional $705 million to the Israeli government for various missile defense projects, which included Iron Dome. That means that Washington is buying back a system that it paid to develop and is therefore paying for it twice. This is a wonderful way to do business for Israel, but it is a complete rip-off of the American taxpayer. The fact that no one in Congress is complaining is perhaps attributable to the willingness of the government to do favors for Israel, including favors that undercut the U.S.’s own defense industries, as Israel will undoubtedly use reports of the sale to boost its own efforts to market the product worldwide.

A third problem is the cost effectiveness of the system, even if it does work. Each Iron Dome battery will cost close to $125 million, but actually using the system is also expensive. Each Iron Dome-compatible Israeli-developed Tamir missile costs between $50,000 and $150,000, and two are normally used to counter each incoming target. In operations against homemade rockets emanating from Gaza, that means that $100,000-$300,000 is spent to destroy a projectile that might have cost less than $1,000 to make if one is dealing with resistance groups, insurgencies, or terrorist organizations that might be improvising their armaments. And, as the supply of missiles is depleted either in training or in actual combat, it will be necessary to go back to Israel for more, creating a regular cash flow for government-owned Rafael.

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When all is said and done, if the U.S. Army has no defense against low-level missile and projectile attacks and Iron Dome is the only tested option available, then there would be a certain desirability to obtain the system for deployment in parts of the world where the military faces that kind of threat. But, as is often the case when it comes to Israel, one has to suspect that politics are quite likely behind the purchase, most particularly in the form of Pentagon officials and congressmen who are desirous of enhancing the benefit packages that Israel receives from U.S. taxpayers.

The bottom line should be the bottom line. If the United States has contributed more than $6 billion to the development of Israel’s military antimissile defenses and actually needs Iron Dome, there should be payback. The two batteries should be freely provided to the U.S. Army as a thank you from the grateful people of Israel for the unprecedented financial aid totaling $134 billion since 1948, as well as the virtually unlimited political cover for Israel’s bad behavior that the American people have provided for the past 70-plus years. Perhaps someone on Capitol Hill or in the White House should remind Netanyahu of the $38 billion that Congress has just approved for Israel on top of all the money that has already gone to Iron Dome. This presents a wonderful opportunity for Israel to finally demonstrate its willingness to do something for the United States, a reciprocity which its powerful American lobby always boasts about but which has never actually been the case in practice.

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.


More Middle East news, from American Free Press Issue 9&10:

Israel, Neocons Push War With Iran

Major European leaders boycott event in Poland attended by U.S., Israel, Saudis

By Richard Walker

War was on the agenda of a recent anti-Iran conference in Poland where Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the Trump administration shared with him and his Arab allies, especially the Saudis, a desire for war with Iran.

Hours later, his spokesman walked back the statement, claiming Netanyahu had used English, which was not his first language, and what he really meant was that they were all keen to combat Iran. The excuse was ridiculous given that Netanyahu speaks fluent English. He wanted everyone to know what was agreed.

The two-day conference was organized by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner attended, along with Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Major European leaders boycotted the event, suspecting it would be used by neocons to promote a war with Iran and to attack the Iran nuclear treaty that is still supported by the EU, Russia, and China.

Their suspicions were well-founded. A European diplomat, who spoke to this writer on condition of anonymity, said many European Union (EU) figures felt that the event was an insult to Europe and that its planning was murky from the start.

“EU policymakers were incensed that Netanyahu and MBS were brought into an EU capital to promote war,” he said. “They were unhappy that MBS was present, given his recent history and his war crimes in Yemen. No one was shocked by Netanyahu’s grandstanding because we all know his shtick. The consensus was that if Washington wanted to promote war, it should have done it in Washington, Riyadh, or Tel Aviv.”

Kingdom Identity

The diplomat thought it was “unfortunate” that Pence used the occasion to attack his European allies for their continued support of Iran’s international nuclear agreement. He added that this “loose behavior” had the potential to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States.

There was some speculation on the fringes of the conference, as well as in Israel, that Netanyahu’s war drumbeat was a wag-the-dog strategy, as he faces serious fraud and corruption charges at home, with a national election likely in May or June.

There was fear in some European institutions that Netanyahu and MBS have now found neocons in Washington like Bolton who are willing to take the U.S. to war in the Middle East. The event certainly raised the specter of a return to neocons dominating American foreign policy. Bolton is on record advocating the bombing of Iran, and his past history of promoting wars has been well documented.

Fellow neocon Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, attended the conference to advocate for regime change in Iran, something he has done in the past. He is a paid backer of MEK— Mujahideen e-Khalq—a group designated by the U.S., the EU and Canada as a terrorist organization until 2013. It has organized bombings in Iraq and has had links to Mossad and the CIA. Its origins are Marxist, which makes it a strange bedfellow in its relations with the likes of Giuliani and Bolton. For two decades, it has spent large sums of money using Washington lobbyists to promote its cause and to find backers like Giuliani.

Some observers complained that the conference was hijacked by warmongers, with former Polish ambassador to Afghanistan Piotr Lukasiewicz telling Mideast news agency al Jazeera that Poland “lost control over the general message of the conference.”

While the event was taking place a suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Blame was quickly levelled at Jundullah, the Party of God, a Sunni terror group affiliated with al Qaeda. It has known links to Mossad, the CIA, and especially Saudi intelligence, which has been paying al Qaeda fighters to undertake operations in the Saudi war in Yemen and in Iran. The timing of the attack was regarded by Iran as significant, coming as it did while the Warsaw conference was taking place.

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The growing role of neocons in U.S. foreign policy is at odds with Trump’s promises to stay out of wars abroad. Some of those neocons include right-wing Zionist Elliott Abrams, who has been given a prominent role in the Venezuelan crisis. He has been linked in the past to covert operations in Latin America and was an Iraq war adviser and cheerleader. However, Bolton is the most prominent figure with the scope to develop a plan with Israel and the Saudis to draw Iran into a conflict.

Last September, he startled Pentagon chiefs when he demanded a battle plan for Iraq after several mortar shells were fired into the Green Zone in Baghdad. Bolton regarded the episode, in which there was no damage and no one was hurt, as an act of war.

Russia could also be drawn into a Mideast war should one be launched against its ally, Iran, because such a conflict would spread quickly into Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, where Moscow has allies and military assets.

Netanyahu and Bolton, and now Pence, keep lying that Iran is secretly working on a nuclear weapon to wipe Israel off the map. If they and the Saudis can convince Trump that this is true, the chances of war will increase exponentially. In the wake of the Warsaw conference, Netanyahu’s mouth got him in trouble again when he was quoted in leading Israeli newspapers accusing the Poles of a role in the Holocaust. Netanyahu claimed he was misquoted, but his denial was dismissed by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck, who canceled a trip to Jerusalem for a major European conference.

Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.




Italian Populists Could Follow Iceland’s Lead

Crooked banksters could be jailed if Italy’s populist deputy prime minister gets what he wants—to see fraudulent bankers “end up in prison for a long time.”

By Mark Anderson

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini recently called for the elimination of Italy’s central bank. A short time later, Salvini proclaimed that bankers involved in fraudulent activity will “end up in prison for a long time.” The populist leader’s calls—reminiscent of Iceland’s actions about 10 years ago to bust a bevy of bankers—are giving way to the usual elitist screams that skeptical politicians are trespassing upon the “independence” of the money changers with “meddlesome” demands for more public control of Italy’s monetary system.

Amid a populist awakening that also includes France, other parts of Europe, Canada, and the U.S. under Trump, Salvini, who leads the rightist-populist Northern League, also wants to retire Consob, Italy’s stock market regulator.

The Bilderberg-linked Economist magazine responded: “Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement [Northern League’s populist ally and Bilderberg critic] demanded ‘discontinuity,’ ” meaning discontinuance of the Bank of Italy and Consob. “Both [Salvini and Di Maio] alleged the bank had failed to protect investors and deposit-holders. Two days earlier, the cabinet had refused to approve a further six-year term for Luigi Federico Signorini, the deputy director-general primarily responsible for banking supervision.”

Kingdom Identity

Guarding the financial status quo, the Economist stated: “The Bank of Italy has long been seen as one of a handful of efficient and incorruptible institutions that curb Italy’s anarchic tendencies. . . . The attack [by Italian populists] sent ripples of apprehension through the euro zone. . . . The president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, Mario Centeno, and the EU commissioner for economic affairs, Pierre Moscovici, both . . . stressed the need to preserve the independence of [eurozone] central banks.”

Where is this all headed?

“Italy has some good intuitions, but it has got to break the monopoly of the financial system being the only entity that can create money,” veteran social-credit economics writer-researcher Wallace Klinck told AFP. “The Italian state needs to determine how much production is available to purchase and how much income has been paid out. It’s a matter of placing income in the hands of the consumer to balance the economy.”

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Klinck has visited several nations to study their economic systems. He added: “The system, in Italy and elsewhere, creates costs and prices more than it does incomes. To liquidate those costs, that ‘income’ should not be a never-ending flow of debts from the banks. Instead, Italy should make up the difference by directly issuing money without debt in order to cancel those outstanding costs. But absent such remedial measures, Italy is left with a boom-and-bust ‘pendulum economy’ driven by speculators.”

According to La Repubblica, if Salvini solidifies his de facto Italian leadership in upcoming elections, the Bank of Italy’s life could become especially complicated. The key is for Italian officials to bypass the media’s guardianship of the banking cartel and issue their own interest-free money under a balanced formula.

Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving editor. He invites your thoughtful comments and story ideas at [email protected].




Top 26 Billionaires Now Worth More Than 3.8 Billion People Combined

Globally, the income gap has widened to “record heights in modern history,” and 26 individuals now hold as much in assets as the lowest 50% of the world’s population. The development charity Oxfam suggests a wealth tax of 1%.

By S.T. Patrick

To mark the beginning of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the development charity Oxfam released its annual wealth check report. It states that 2018 was a year in which the income gap widened to record heights in modern history. In fact, the 26 most wealthy billionaires now own as many assets as the lowest 50% of the world’s population, some 3.8 billion people.

According to Oxfam, the wealth of the “Top 26 Billionaires” increased in 2018 by $900 billion, or $2.5 billion per day. In 2016, the number of the world’s richest billionaires needed to eclipse half of the world’s population was 61. It was 43 in 2017.

Oxfam does have a solution. The charity’s suggestions in the report include a wealth tax of 1% that would “educate every child not in school and provide healthcare that would prevent 3 million deaths.”

Oxfam is not a Robin Hood organization with a desire to rob the rich and give to the poor. They share some of the same concerns as conservatives and libertarians who also have a desire to earn wealth, but on an equal playing field and while ensuring that public services for the poor are of the same quality as public services for the rich.

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Matthew Spencer, the director of campaigns and policies for Oxfam, said: “Women are dying for lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor. … It doesn’t have to be this way—there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life. Governments should act to ensure that taxes raised from wealth and businesses paying their fair share are used to fund free, good-quality public services that can save and transform people’s lives.”

The report listed multiple interesting findings: When consumption taxes are included, the poorest 10% of Brits are paying a significantly higher tax rate than the richest 10% (comparatively, 49% to 34%). In the last two years, a new billionaire was created every two days. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the number of billionaires globally has nearly doubled.

The world’s richest man is American Jeff Bezos, the founder of “Amazon.com.” In 2018, his total wealth increased to $112 billion. No man may be an island, but Bezos is a country (or even continent) unto himself. His $112 billion is larger than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 120 countries including Morocco, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Lithuania, Bosnia, Croatia, and Afghanistan.

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Author and AFP journalist Donald Jeffries wrote about these issues illuminatingly in his vital work, The Survival of the Richest: How the Corruption of the Marketplace and the Disparity of Wealth Created the Greatest Conspiracy of All. In it, Jeffries writes about the structural and attitudinal issues that cause the economic inequality that divides even the wealthiest nations, those where resources and wealth should not be limited.

“The wealth in our society is plentiful,” Jeffries writes, “but it’s been absconded by a relative handful of exceptionally greedy individuals. Even most Ayn Rand disciples would understand that it wouldn’t be right for one child in a preschool to hoard all the toys while the others sat around and cried. But they freely defend a system that permits a faction of humanity to have far more than they could ever hope to spend, while condemning most of the world’s population to what Thomas Wolfe termed ‘lives of quiet desperation.’ ”

Americans have become so divided over partisan politics that we can no longer discern right from wrong, heartless indifference from human compassion. Any discussion about raising the marginal tax rate on billionaires is not inching toward “pinko communism” any more than a widowed grandmother wanting to afford staying in her own home is being a “capitalist pig.”

American capitalists are right to want people to strive for increases in wealth, but in doing so, what we should all strive for is a level playing field. Equal opportunity cannot be had by anyone in the lower 99% when the top 1% continues to buy politicians, hire lobbyists to write advantageous legislation, loophole billions in taxes, and pretend to help the needy by starting a sham foundation as a tax haven.

S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected] He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ).




Whistleblower’s Attorneys Want the Charges Unsealed

Julian Assange’s testimony in the U.S. could help clear Mueller’s inquiry targets, lead to a new  investigation into the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, but potentially send Assange to prison for life. No wonder he’s fighting extradition from Ecuador’s London embassy.

By S.T. Patrick

It is clear that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may one day find himself in an American courtroom facing charges that may or may not end his life of semi-freedom. What remains unclear is the specific nature of those charges. What the world learned in November, quite by accident, was that the United States has had secret, sealed charges against Assange in place for some time.

An errant filing by prosecutors led to the revelation that charges had been levied against the WikiLeaks publisher. The filing said that both the charges and the arrest warrant “would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”

In response, the attorneys for Assange have filed an urgent petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The purposes of the petition are three-fold: Assange wants to permanently delay the possibility of extradition from the Ecuadorian embassy in London to the U.S., pressure the American prosecutors to reveal its sealed charges, and end the isolation under which Assange has been held for nearly seven years. In that time, Assange has gone from being a legal guest seeking asylum on Ecuadorian property in London to being an unwelcome guest and a valuable pawn in a global game of geopolitical chess.

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Last week, CNN reported that special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors are now saying they have communications between WikiLeaks and Roger Stone. While the new court filing provided no details as to what was contained within the communications, the prosecutors had previously stated that Stone had been interested in what WikiLeaks had received from an insider within the Democratic Party.

Assange’s desire to resist extradition to the U.S. may now be in direct conflict with the personal and political motivations of President Donald Trump. While any American courtroom could be dangerous to Assange’s future, Trump could benefit from a public forum in which Assange, on the record, lays out a chronology detailing how slain Democratic staffer Seth Rich was personally involved in transferring at least part of the Hillary Clinton-John Podesta emails to WikiLeaks. It would be the final death knell to an already flailing Russia-collusion theory regarding Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss. It would also open the doors to a new murder investigation for Rich, who was a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016. Assange is in the unenviable situation of being a foreigner who could play a key role in an American presidential race—again. But, in doing so, he may go to prison for life, which is what his attorneys are trying to prevent.

The 1,172-page filing scolds both the U.S. and Ecuador for mishandling “a raft of legal obligations that the U.S. and Ecuador are flouting in their treatment of Mr. Assange,” said WikiLeaks in a statement. “The lawyers document Trump administration attempts to pressure Ecuador to hand over Mr. Assange, notably recent serious overt threats against Ecuador made by senior U.S. political figures, unlike the more veiled threats made in the past.”

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The contention between the U.S. and Ecuador is interesting in light of the current political situation in Venezuela, Ecuador’s historical archrival. As the U.S. continues to support the installation of a politi-puppet to control the massively oil-rich Venezuelan economy, U.S. businesses friendly to influential politicians continue to gain more access. This is true “dollar diplomacy.” The recent coup d’etat in Venezuela also puts more pressure on neighboring Ecuador. The Americans will soon be at Ecuador’s doorstep. Will Ecuador fight or fold, where will that line in the sand be, and how will Assange be used in negotiations?

The plea to the IACHR is not legally binding. The organization is a self-governing promotor and protector of human rights within the Organization of American States. While its decisions bear no consequences in U.S. courts, a strong decision against the U.S. could be politically embarrassing and costly.

Assange, now one of the world’s most wanted men, has been housed in Ecuador’s London embassy since he was granted asylum in August 2012. His case is a focal point for issues of national security, regional conflict, the validity of asylum, a murder investigation, campaign leaks, hacking, questionable electioneering, and freedom of the press. If Assange loses his case in the U.S., what will that mean for media organizations that break major stories using government documents (e.g., the Pentagon Papers, torture in the Middle East, international foul play by the CIA)? Assange is simultaneously advantageous and disastrous to all parties involved, and thus why the general rules for handling have been “proceed with caution.”

S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]




China’s Amazing Renaissance

The U.S. should emulate major planks of the Chinese financial resurgence program before that economically booming nation leaves America in the dust.

By Dr. Kevin Barrett

The most serious foreign policy decision the U.S. faces is how to deal with the rise of China. The Chinese economy has enjoyed historically unprecedented, explosive growth, with real per capita income rising 1,300% in three decades. As a result, China is about to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy, if it has not done so already. By 2030 it will have begun leaving America in the dust.

Since economic strength is the basis of technological and military power, U.S. strategists are naturally concerned. Such strategic worries may be the real reason for Canada’s U.S.-incited kidnapping of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Wanzhou was ostensibly arrested for violating sanctions on Iran, but according to Anatoly Karlin’s “Connecting the Dots in the Huawei Kidnapping,” published at “Unz.com,” Wanzhou was on route to Argentina to meet with Zhang Shoucheng, the physics genius behind an apparent breakthrough in microchip technology.

The Wanzhou-Shoucheng meeting never happened. On Dec. 1, 2018 Wanzhou was kidnapped in Vancouver by Canadian authorities following U.S. orders. On the very same day, Shoucheng allegedly committed suicide in California, leading some to believe that Wanzhou and Shoucheng may be victims of a covert U.S. war on Chinese strategic technology.

Kingdom Identity

Should Americans panic about the rise of China? Would a world dominated by Chinese economic and technological power become a global gulag, given traditional Chinese authoritarianism, autocracy, and anti-individualism? There are reasons for concern. China is already a near cashless society, meaning the individual has zero economic privacy. Likewise, China is leading the lemmings’ stampede toward a 5G “Internet of things,” a dystopian nightmare in which your refrigerator, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, toaster, electric meter, and self-driving automobile will all be spying on you . . . until the day they realize they don’t really need you anymore.

China’s embrace of techno-dystopianism is dismaying but not surprising, given that nation’s traditional preference for conformism over individuality, and for materialism over spirituality. The Chinese Internet is even more censored than ours, though ours is rapidly catching up. Dissidents are rigorously suppressed. Uyghur Muslims are kidnapped by the hundreds of thousands and forced into re-education camps, where brainwashing specialists attempt to annihilate their religion and culture.

But there are also positive sides to China’s centralized system of power. China’s 80%-state-owned banks, unlike privately owned Western central banks, are dedicated to the public interest, not private profit. That is why Chinese economic growth has outstripped the West’s, and why Chinese infrastructure projects, including the One Belt One Road initiative, are the eighth wonder of the world.

Among China’s incredible infrastructure projects are an impressive array of environmental initiatives subsumed under the rubric of “Ecological civilization.” Chinese cities have sprouted green belts, limited the private automobile, and enabled an array of green transportation alternatives. Beijing now has the world’s greatest metro. Migration to the overcrowded big cities has been reversed, and thousands of organic farming-based green villages are emerging. Coal is now supplying slightly over half of China’s power, down from 80% in 2010. According to John Cobb and André Vltchek’s China and Ecological Civilization, China’s environmental situation is improving more rapidly than in any other nation. For a country experiencing such rapid economic growth, that is rather miraculous.

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So perhaps we should consider Chinese virtues as well as Chinese vices. Unfortunately, many strategists see the U.S.-China faceoff as a zero-sum game, a fight that will have a winner and a loser. Their insistence on winning at any cost, or at least trying to, could reinforce the worst aspects of Chinese power.

Rather than falling into the Thucydides trap of war between an American hegemon and a rising China, American policymakers should learn from China’s experience. Specifically, the U.S. desperately needs to nationalize its banks and issue its own currency in service to the public interest. Then, like China, it would be able to finance economic growth while improving its infrastructure and raise living standards, even while moving toward ecological sustainability.

By eliminating private central banking, the U.S. could revive itself as a moral and spiritual as well as economic competitor to China. Under the current neoliberal, banker-owned, post-9/11 police state, we barely even pay lip service to the ideals of freedom and individuality that supposedly distinguish us from Chinese authoritarian leaders and conformist subjects. Sometimes it even seems that our leaders are competing with China and other authoritarian countries to see who can crush the free human spirit more efficiently.

Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., is an Arabist-Islamologist scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror. From 1991 through 2006, Dr. Barrett taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin. In 2006, however, he was attacked by Republican state legislators who called for him to be fired from his job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison due to his political opinions.




President Cools Two Mideast Hot Zones But Ignites Another in South America

U.S. dirty tricks in Venezuela, like the previous decades of covert action intended to destroy nations throughout Latin America, are designed to cripple the nation’s resistance to U.S. hegemony.

By S.T. Patrick

Assuming the Russiagate story were completely true, the Trump campaign would be guilty of encouraging Russian social media trolls to flood Facebook with political attack ads as hackers chipped away at Democrat emails. The Trump campaign would be guilty of encouraging the leaking of those emails, some of which were stored illegally on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal home server. They would be guilty of campaign dirty tricks that have become commonplace in American political campaigns since the late 1960s. If all of that were true—and it’s becoming clearer by the week that very little of it was—then that still would not even approach the dirty deeds that American presidential administrations have engaged in throughout Venezuela for decades.

Most recently, it began with a telephone call from D.C. Vice President Mike Pence phoned Juan Guaido, a mid-level politician of the opposition far-right party who had recently been closely associated with street violence across Venezuela. Upon the end of the Pence call, Guaido immediately declared himself president of Venezuela.

Writing for the anti-war website “GrayzoneProject.com,” journalists Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal called Guaido the “previously unknown political bottom dweller (who) was vaulted onto the international stage as the U.S.-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.”

The U.S.-supported coup d’etât was immediately backed by typically pro-war, pro-interventionist American media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and “Bloomberg News.” Among the rubber-stampers were Canada, Israel, parts of western Europe, and the far-right Latin American countries known as the “Lima group.”

Just what Guaido is and why he was chosen for this role seems to be debated among observers of Latin American politics.

Diego Sequera, a Venezuelan writer and journalist, told “Grayzone,” “Guaido is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles. He’s a known character there, is predictably right-wing, and is considered loyal to the program.”

That “program” appears to be the covert operation by which U.S. intelligence-backed infiltrators are placed in positions of power in foreign governments so that they can ascend to prominence, destroying a nation’s structure in the process. The U.S. and the international banking powers (World Bank, International Monetary Fund etc.) can then descend upon the crippled country, force predatory loans, gain control of the most valuable natural resources, and then control that country from the board room rather than the battlefield.

Cohen and Blumenthal write, “But this is precisely why Guaido was selected by Washington: He is not expected to lead Venezuela toward democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to U.S. hegemony. His unlikely rise signals the culmination of a two decades-long project to destroy a robust socialist experiment.”

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The U.S. has targeted Venezuela since the rise of Hugo Chavez in 1998. Chavez survived a variety of assassination plots throughout the administrations of presidents Bush and Obama. Upon his death in 2013, Nicolas Maduro became his successor, who in turn survived three assassination attempts on his own life.

The anti-Chavez student operation began its training in 2005 in Serbia. The training was supplied by the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS, a group that receives a majority of its funding through the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED is a CIA cutout and is largely responsible for serving as the U.S. government’s main outlet for regime-change activities. They topple dictators, but not just any dictator; the NED topples dictators the U.S. government opposes. Leaked emails from Stratfor, a private intelligence group some have labeled as the “shadow CIA,” reveal that “[CANVAS] may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.” These are the same people and the same lending trees that now touch the U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela.

At press time, President Donald Trump has called an anti-Maduro military intervention in Venezuela “an option.” Russia has warned against this kind of “destructive meddling.” China and Turkey also oppose the move.

When looking at geopolitical movements, it is wise to look at actions and principles rather than flags, propagandistic labels, and symbology. Looking past “evil empire,” “axis of evil,” and “troika of tyranny” to see the covert attempts at colonial and financial intervention can show us what we have failed to see behind terms like “socialist,” “dictator” or “liberty.” Words do have meaning, but actions are even more telling. Though the Trump administration has made positive recent inroads toward peace in Syria and Afghanistan, the actions that have been taken in Venezuela are ultimately troubling. Cooling one international hot zone does not justify igniting another elsewhere.

S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]




Latin America: Uncle Sam’s Foreign Policy Graveyard

Washington neocons are in favor of direct U.S. military involvement in bringing about regime change in Venezuela, and President Trump has offered support to opposition leader Juan Guaido who is seeking to replace the nation’s elected sitting President Nicolas Maduro. It seems no one is considering the long and sordid history of U.S. intervention in Latin America, with its disastrous consequences.

By Richard Walker

United States intervention in Latin America has proved disastrous for over a century, making the prospect of taking sides in the developing crisis in Venezuela a very risky prospect. On Jan. 23, President Donald Trump signaled he was in favor of regime change in Venezuela by offering his backing to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who had just declared himself interim president. Guaido made the move despite the fact that sitting President Nicolas Maduro had no plans to step down. While Canada and some Western powers supported Trump’s decision, Russia, China, Turkey, and Italy condemned it. Some observers warned that it might open a path to the Cold War politics that dominated Latin America for decades.

Those with cool heads believe this political conflict has the potential to descend into a civil war that could see the types of forced migration reminiscent of what happened in Iraq and Syria. It could have a devastating impact on neighboring countries and ultimately on the United States. Venezuela is much larger than Iraq with roughly the same size of population, and any U.S. military force tasked with regime change would have to number close to 80,000 to 100,000.

Washington neocons are in favor of direct U.S. military involvement, but by any standard they are blind to the sordid history of American interventionist politics in the southern hemisphere. The media, for its part, has generally tended to overstate Guaido’s power and support, given that Maduro retains the backing of the country’s military and at least half the population. It is also a fact that Chavistas, as Maduro supporters are known—taking their name from the nation’s late president, Hugo Chavez—are well armed and would pose a serious threat to an invading force should Trump commit troops to Venezuela to overthrow Maduro. There is a real possibility such a strategy would erupt into extreme violence and a full-blown civil war. The U.S. would have to go it alone, because neighboring countries are opposed to military intervention, and there is no consensus within the UN Security Council for such a strategy.

Those contemplating U.S. military intervention would be well advised to read the history books. A century after Christopher Columbus landed in the New World, the big European colonial powers, especially the Spanish and the Portuguese, began a conquest in search of riches that led to the destruction of the two great civilizations of the Americas, the Incas and the Aztecs. The British and the French followed, and they all plundered the continent. European influence began to wane quickly after 1823 when President James Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, ordering Europeans to end their colonial projects. In other words, he told them to go home. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt issued his “Corollary” declaration, ceding to Washington the right to interfere when it chose in the Americas. It subsequently became the basis for the last 100 years of Washington’s regime-change policies in Latin America, some of them overt and others covert.

An example of how 20th-century Washington power players viewed the southern hemisphere is this statement by Robert Olds, undersecretary of state in 1929: “There is no room for any outside influence other than ours. … Central America has always understood that governments we support stay in power, while those we do not recognize and support fall. … It is difficult to see how we can afford to be defeated.”

A year after Olds made his comments, Raphael Trujillo, an officer trained by the U.S. military, became dictator of the Dominican Republic with Washington’s approval.

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According to American historian John Coatsworth, U.S. intervention in Latin America has been unrelenting since 1899 with 41 successful regime-change interventions, which he says is essentially one every 28 months. He makes the following observations: “Direct intervention occurred in 17 of the 41 cases. These incidents involved the use of U.S. military forces, intelligence agents or local citizens employed by U.S. government agencies. In another 24 cases, the U.S. government played an indirect role. That is, local actors played the principal roles, but either would not have acted or would not have succeeded without encouragement from the U.S. government.”

Venezuela is one of the countries that has seen a lot of U.S. indirect interference through the CIA’s use of cut-out organizations and the financing of elements within protest movements.

Trump may yet discard advice from neocons that have long held the position that intervention in the Americas is good for U.S. security. This is not the Cold War, and communism no longer dominates the region. U.S. military intervention could, however, change all that. It is also worth noting that vested U.S. corporate interests have always argued that Washington ought to return control of Venezuela’s oil riches to them. Energy is never far from the surface of Washington’s Latin American policymaking.

A unique statistic, rarely mentioned, is that intervention in the Americas has always accelerated mass migration toward the U.S. border. Estimates put the Hispanic population in the U.S. at 150 million within three decades.

Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.




Let Us Prey

Are evangelical politicians crafting U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to fulfill biblical prophecy? You decide.

By Philip Giraldi

There are an estimated 30 million fundamentalist Christians in the United States, constituting something like one-half of all regular churchgoers. Most Christian fundamentalists are also dispensationalists, which means they think that Christianity is going through phases, or dispensations, that will lead to the rapture of true believers into heaven followed by the wrath of God descending on those who refuse to see the light. Many dispensationalists fervently hope that the End of Days—when all will be resolved through the Second Coming of Christ—will take place soon. For many, the expectation is that it is imminent.

Because the gathering of Jews back into the Middle East is believed to be an essential precondition for the Second Coming, dispensationalists are also frequently self-described as Christian Zionists (CZ), which means in practice that they literally believe that Jews are the Chosen People of God with all that might imply. As a result, CZ are, politically speaking, strong and totally uncritical supporters of the state of Israel, though their support is conditional as they also believe that the Jews, like everyone else who does not welcome the return of the Messiah and convert, will go straight to hell after the final battle of Armageddon is fought against Satan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have consequently described Christian Zionists as “. . . scum. But don’t tell them that. We need all the useful idiots we can get right now.” CZ are powerful friends of Israel who will be used and eventually discarded when no longer needed.

Religious fundamentalists have a powerful presence in the Donald J. Trump White House. At the top level of policy making, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are prominent evangelical Christians who are outspoken in how their religious beliefs shape their perceptions of what the United States should and must do in its interaction with other less enlightened nations, particularly in the Middle East.

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A speech made by Pompeo at the American University in Cairo on Jan. 10 suggests how Christian Zionist beliefs impact policy making in Washington. In it, Pompeo reveals his own peculiar vision of what is taking place in the Middle East, to include the impact of his own personal religiosity, and his belief that Washington’s proper role in the region is to act as “a force for good.” Pompeo asserted, “This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian. . . . In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and the Truth. And it’s the truth, lower-case ‘t,’ that I’m here to talk about today. It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but because I’m a military man by training, I’ll be very blunt and direct today: America is a force for good in the Middle East.”

During a January 2018 trip by Pence to Israel, his eighth trip to that country but the first as vice president, a speech before the Knesset reportedly first required the removal of all Arab members, who had expressed their disapproval of what they knew was coming. Pence told the all-Jewish remaining legislators, “We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny.” And Pence even had a crumb to throw to the audience back at home regarding the impending move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, saying, “Our president made his decision, in his words, ‘In the best interests of the American people.’ ” Pence concluded with, “The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world. And the United States of America is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as allies and cherished friends.”

The scary thing is that Pompeo and Pence likely believe their own rhetoric. It would be hard to compress so much nonsense into a few sentences without looking completely ridiculous, but both men in their zealotry seek to convey a measure of rectitude relating to a whole basket of untruths without even breathing hard. First of all, describing the U.S. as a force for good in the Middle East is to ignore the deaths of hundreds of thousands—possibly even millions—of Muslims in a vain attempt to democratize the region. And the American people have never endorsed the relationship with Israel in any way and do not “stand with Israel” out of any conviction. Recent opinion polls suggest that most Americans are quite ambivalent about Israel and what it represents in spite of having been on the receiving end of more than 50 years of incessant propaganda extolling falsely “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

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In truth, the Israeli special relationship is something that has been created and fostered by a corrupted-by-cash political class and a media supported by a powerful and unscrupulous domestic lobby backed up by an oligarchy of pro-Israel billionaires.

As for values and causes, Americans would be appalled if they were to witness the misery inflicted on the Palestinians by the Israelis. Right over wrong? Good over evil? Where is the justice for the Palestinians? Israel’s government is itself evil—an apartheid state that denies benefits to its own citizens if they adhere to the wrong religion. Tyranny? That’s what occurs in the West Bank and in the strangling of Gaza every single day.

In response to the Pence visit, Jane Eisner of the Jewish newspaper The Forward warned that, “Trump has handed Israel policy to evangelicals. That’s terrifying.” As a liberal Jew, her concern was that U.S. policy would be driven by some potentially dangerous evangelical beliefs that certain conditions, to include complete Jewish control over the West Bank—described as Judea and Samaria—should be satisfied solely to fulfill biblical prophecies.

Matt Brooks, who heads the Republican Jewish Coalition, disagreed with Eisner, saying, “They always highlight the fact that [they are] evangelicals, as if that’s a pejorative when in fact [Pence, Pompeo and other evangelicals] are motivated first and foremost by shared values with Israel. And not just by the shared values, but the important efforts of collectively standing up to threats of Iran, pushing back on ISIS, and on radical Islam, or whether it’s being a critical democratic foundation in a very dangerous place. There are so many places where U.S. and Israel’s interests intersect.”

Brooks is, of course, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Israel and the United States have virtually no real common interests and the arguments being made to the contrary are essentially fraudulent. And the question of whether Pompeo and Pence actually believe that the Second Coming is imminent is essentially moot. They share the conviction that the state of Israel must be protected at all costs, a view that certainly shapes their policy recommendations regarding the Middle East. That view also has an impact on policy toward Israel’s neighbors, with Iran in particular being vilified as the purely evil foe, a “cancerous influence,” according to Pompeo, that is increasingly seen as allied with Satan and which will be destroyed in Armageddon. Pence also doubled down on Iran in his Knesset speech, inaccurately calling it “the leading state sponsor of terror . . . a brutal dictatorship . . . seeking to dominate the Arab world . . . devoted more than $4 billion to malign activities in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere . . . supported terrorist groups that even now sit on Israel’s doorstep . . . and, worst of all, the Iranian regime has pursued a clandestine nuclear program.”

An openly racist Israel is hardly inspirational with its persistent playing of the victim card while it cynically exploits Christians like Pompeo and Pence to provide it with money, arms, and political cover at the expense of all Americans, most of whom do not share their religious beliefs.

Israel is no actual ally of the U.S., has never sent its soldiers to fight alongside Americans, and is hardly even a friend as evidenced by its record of interfering in U.S. domestic politics to receive billions of dollars annually from the American taxpayer. Nor would its recurrent theft of U.S.-developed high tech and defense secrets stand much scrutiny. But the two Mikes were most likely not briefed on all that stuff, besides which, they have probably received instructions on cherishing Israel directly from God.

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.




Israel Running Risks in Trying to Exploit U.S. Exit from Syria

With the U.S. withdrawal of its forces from Syria will Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recklessness lead to confrontation with Russia? 

By Richard Walker

In an effort to exploit the planned exit of U.S. special forces and mercenaries from Syria, Israeli officials are promising to continue bombing that country in violation of international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying it would be business as usual, but he might want to consider the fact that Russia will not allow him free rein to bomb Syria as he likes. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it clear to him that there are some lines he should not cross. One is killing or targeting Russian military personnel in Syria. Another is Russian personnel becoming collateral damage of Israeli attacks on other targets.

In the past three years, Israel has bombed Syria several hundred times in a clear breach of international law. It claims that its bombing of a sovereign state is justified by its need for defense. Of course, this is a false legal argument.

UN Charter 51 states specifically that a UN mandate is required by any country wishing to launch a war against another, and if self-defense is used as justification, the country launching a war must have been attacked. Syria has never attacked Israel, but as with so much of Israel’s foreign policy, it has been willing to flout international law, because Israelis know there will be no repercussions for its lawlessness. There are few countries in the region that have not been the target of Israel’s air force or of its assassination squads.

President Donald Trump’s decision to fulfill his electoral promise to take troops out of Syria has angered Israel because it has consistently used U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict as a cover for launching hundreds of air and ground strikes into Syria and Lebanon. With the White House announcement of the pullout, Netanyahu and members of his hard-right cabinet announced that attacks on Syria would continue unabated and might be increased.

Israel’s strategy has been to exploit the Syrian conflict to target Iranian military advisers and Iranian-backed militias who have been fighting ISIS, al Qaeda, and the al-Nusra Front alongside Syrian and Russian military forces. In contrast, ISIS has never been Israel’s priority. In fact, Israel has armed, trained, and provided medical care to al-Nusra fighters. It has been focused on killing Iranians, hoping to goad Iran and Hezbollah into a full-blown conflict that would draw in the U.S. military and Netanyahu’s new allies, the Saudis. In that respect, Netanyahu likely has a backer in National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has made it clear he would like to bomb Iran. Netanyahu, nevertheless, has been accused by Israelis of bombing Syria and hyping an Iran threat from there to deflect from corruption charges he faces at home as new elections get closer.

With the U.S. pullout, Israeli military planners are facing a new and potentially deadly issue, namely the continued presence of Russian forces and their S-400 missile batteries. Those, and the S-300 batteries Moscow gave the Syrian government, have already had a limiting effect on Israeli air incursions into Syrian airspace. Russia’s military has warned Israel that there will be serious consequences if it targets Russian forces or if Russian military personnel are casualties of an attack on Syria or Iranian targets.

There is no love lost between Putin and Netanyahu following the shooting down of an Ilyushin IL-20M Russian surveillance plane over Syria in 2018. The downing of the plane resulted in the deaths of 15 Russian personnel on board.

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The propeller plane, a flying command post, was shot down by missiles fired from older Russian S-200 anti-aircraft batteries operated at the time by the Syrian military. Russian military investigators, however, quickly determined that blame lay with Israel. According to Russian experts, two of four Israeli jets that entered Syria to carry out attacks used the cover of the larger II-20M. An S-200 missile fired at the jets locked instead on the larger Russian plane. Israel, as it always does, blamed the Syrian military, but operators of highly advanced S-400 batteries protecting the Russian Kheimim Air Base in Syria had recorded everything.

According to reports, Putin was so angry with Netanyahu’s and Israel’s denials that he immediately upgraded Syria’s S-200 batteries to the S-300.

The U.S. exodus will reduce American military traffic in the region, allowing Russian and Syrian missile operators to concentrate on all Israeli military fighter aircraft exiting Israel en route to Syria.

Gideon Levy, a leading columnist with Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s prominent news outlets, was alarmed after the downing of the Russian plane. He warned Israel that its actions in Syria were “reckless” and would “come with a price.” His views were not given an airing by the U.S. mainstream media, more than likely because they were highly critical of Israel’s Syria interventions.

With the U.S. withdrawal, Netanyahu’s tendency to recklessness could well lead to a confrontation with Russia over the skies of the Middle East.

Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.




Trump vs. the Spy Chiefs: Who’s Right?

In the Trump vs. Intel “war,” both sides have valid points. Pat Buchanan notes, “While it’s not unusual for a president and the intel community to diverge on the gravity of threats, what is astonishing is that the intel leaders would declare a president to be flat-out wrong. Yet the confrontation is not unhealthy . . . .”

By Patrick J. Buchanan

To manifest his opposition to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, and half of the 14,000 in Afghanistan, Gen. James Mattis went public and resigned as secretary of defense.

Now Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, in public testimony to Congress, has contradicted Trump about the threats that face the nation.

Contrary to what the president believes, Coats says, North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. ISIS remains a serious threat, even if the caliphate has been rolled up. And there is no evidence that Iran, though hostile and aggressive, is acquiring nuclear weapons.

CIA Director Gina Haspel agreed: Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear treaty that Trump has trashed and abandoned. The treaty is still doing what it was designed to do.

At this perceived public defiance, Trump exploded:

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! . . . They [the Iranians] are testing rockets (last week), and more, and are coming very close to the edge. . . . Be careful of Iran.”

Trump added: “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

Trump then brought up the epochal blunder of U.S. intelligence in backing the Bush II claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (a “slam dunk”) and was a grave threat to the U.S.A.

Born of incompetence and mendacity, that counsel led to the greatest strategic blunder of the 21st century, if not of U.S. history — the second Iraq War. Launched by George W. Bush, this invasion plunged us into the Middle East’s forever war and got the Republican Party ejected from power in 2006 and 2008.

While it’s not unusual for a president and the intel community to diverge on the gravity of threats, what is astonishing is that the intel leaders would declare a president to be flat-out wrong.

Yet the confrontation is not unhealthy, for it reflects reality. On foreign policy, we are divided not only on means but ends.

And the division calls to mind Walter Lippmann’s words, after U.S. political clashes and unpreparedness in FDR’s New Deal decade led to the early disasters at Pearl Harbor, Bataan, and Corregidor.

“For nearly 50 years,” wrote the dean of American columnists, “the nation had not had a settled and generally accepted foreign policy. This is a danger to the Republic. For when a people is divided . . . about the conduct of its foreign relations, it is unable to agree on the determination of its true interest. It is unable to prepare adequately for war or to safeguard successfully its peace.”

We seem to be in just such a situation today.

Indeed, Trump is president because of the foreign policy disasters produced by his predecessors, who leaned on the U.S. intel community, and because Trump, in 2016, appeared to read the nation right.

Yet there is common ground between Trump and the spy chiefs.

Coats and Haspel are correct that the U.S. faces a Russia and China that are closer and more collaborative than they have been since the 1950s, before the Cuban missile crisis, which Mao saw as a Moscow capitulation.

And as we have more in common with Russia, with its historic ties to the West, and Russia appears by far the lesser long-term threat, how do we split Russia off from China? Here, Trump’s instincts are right, and the Beltway Russophobes are wrong.

As for Iran, the intelligence community is consistent.

In 2007 and 2011, the CIA declared “with high confidence” that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. Now, with UN inspectors crawling all over Tehran’s nuclear facilities under the treaty, the CIA and DNI are still saying the same thing.

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What of the contention that Iran is seeking hegemony in the Middle East?

Really? How? Would a nuclear-armed Israel, which has launched 200 strikes on Iran’s allies in Syria, accept that? What would Turkey, with the second-largest army in NATO, Egypt, the largest Arab nation, and Saudi Arabia have to say about that?

How could Shiite Iran, whose Persian majority is nearly matched by its Arab, Azeri, Baloch, and Kurdish minorities, gain dominance over a Middle East where the vast majority is Sunni Arab? How is Iran a threat to us over here, compared to the threat we pose to Iran over there?

Iran broke out of its isolation for two reasons. First, George W. Bush came in and overthrew its Taliban enemies on its eastern border, and then he overthrew Saddam Hussein, the enemy on its western border.

As Trump contends, ISIS has been defeated and driven from its twin capitals—Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. But it is also true that ISIS and al Qaeda still have tens of thousands of jihadists living among the peoples of the Middle East.

And the great question remains:

Are U.S. troops necessary over there—to prevent terrorists from coming over here? Or are they over here—because we are over there?

Pat Buchanan is a writer, political commentator and presidential candidate. He is the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever and previous titles including The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, all available from the AFP Online Store.

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How to Start a World War

Provoking an “incident” or a false flag would be the best way to keep the U.S. in the Middle East forever, for Israel’s benefit. Philip Giraldi warns that “the current lineup of administration hotheads is so devoid of scruples that it might well be planning to either provoke or false-flag the United States into the longed-for war against Iran.”

By Phil Giraldi

The White House decision to withdraw American troops from Syria as soon as possible may or may not be on track depending on whom one believes. But one thing that is for sure is that the recent suicide bomber attack in Manbij, Syria, which killed four Americans and has been attributed to ISIS, has inspired the opponents of the drawdown to renew their claim that the terrorist group is still an active threat to the United States. President Donald Trump is now being subjected to heavy bipartisan and media pressure to reverse his decision.

It is perhaps a coincidence that the attack should take place not long after the White House announcement of the withdrawal, thereby giving ammunition to those who wish to stay in Syria, admittedly illegally, for the foreseeable future. Or is it perhaps something else? Why, one must ask, did ISIS do something against its own interests by attacking Americans and thereby increasing the odds that U.S. armed forces would remain in Syria? Wouldn’t it have been preferable to just let the American military leave, thereby eliminating one enemy from the playing field?

Former arms inspector Scott Ritter, in a detailed analysis of what is going on in Syria, has asked those questions and comes up with an explanation. Far from being an enemy of ISIS, the U.S. has actually served to protect the group. American presence in northeast Syria, where the ISIS remnants are still holding on, has actually prevented the final destruction of the terrorist group. Without the U.S. serving as an impediment, the armed forces of Syria aided by Russia and Iran would have already crushed ISIS in its remaining enclaves.

Thus it is, against all conventional wisdom, the United States that is serving as ISIS’s protector, and the group staged the bombing deliberately with that in mind because it is better from their viewpoint to have American forces remain. They also clearly understood enough about American politics and its media to realize that they would be giving fuel to those in Congress and among the mainstream punditry to put more pressure on Trump to have the troops remain in place.

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That is how you start a war, or at least keep one going. It is called deception, or, when carried out by a state actor, a false flag in that the event is capable of being misinterpreted or mis-attributed to produce a desired result. There have been numerous deception operations throughout history used to start wars. The battleship Maine was not blown up by the Spaniards in Havana Harbor in 1898, but it served as a useful pretext to start a war that stripped Spain of its colonies. The Zimmerman telegram in World War I was a phony, but it helped bring the U.S. into the war against Germany. More recently there were the two Gulf of Tonkin incidents, both lies, which dramatically increased American involvement in Vietnam. And one should not forget the largely fabricated humanitarian and national security arguments made to attack Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

If one goes by the message coming out of the White House and State Department, it would appear that the next country being targeted by the U.S. for regime change is Iran. And the best way to start the war would be to have the Iranians, or someone pretending to be the Iranians, attack a U.S. naval vessel in the Persian Gulf. If it were carried out by, let us suggest, the Israelis or Saudis, both of whom have motive to do so, it would be a false-flag operation leading to war. It would also be a false flag if the U.S. itself were to carry out the attack pretending to be Iranians. One recalls from the movie “Patton” the general’s hatred of the Russians and his rant at the end of the film, “In 10 days I’ll have us at war with those sons of b****** and I’ll make it look like their fault.” There are, unfortunately, many in D.C. who would support such an approach, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Some observers are concerned that the current lineup of administration hotheads is so devoid of scruples that it might well be planning to either provoke or false-flag the United States into the longed-for war against Iran.

Unfortunately, to a certain extent, Iran is playing into the scheming by America’s hawks. Early in December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to stop all shipping passing through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington moves to block Iranian oil exports when sanctions kick in early in May. He said, “If someday, the United States decides to block Iran’s oil, no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf.”

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Washington for its part is also upping the ante, having sent an aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, to the Persian Gulf recently as part of a “show of force.” Iran has also beefed up its forces by deploying a considerable naval force to the Indian Ocean near the Persian Gulf, ready to move into the strait and close it if ordered to do so. Iran claims that it “completely controls the strait.”

As nearly 30% of all seaborne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz with the Stennis and Iranian forces on standby in the same area, the possibility of a fight starting either deliberately or by accident is growing. In early December, State Department Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook declared during a press conference that Washington would “not hesitate to use military force when our interests are threatened . . . the military option on the table.”

One does not have to suggest that either the United States or one of its alleged allies in the Middle East will inevitably take the low road and stage an incident, but the possibility remains it will occur to someone that this would be the easiest path to war. Others, who want war but are more cautious in terms of how they will initiate it, are probably waiting for the May 5 deadline when the U.S. embargo on Iranian oil sales kicks in. Iran will be forced to react, and the U.S. is no doubt preparing to strike back. We will thereby have a new war that serves no one’s interest apart from Israel and the Saudis and which will potentially devastate the region.

The American people will have to do the actual fighting and dying while also paying the bills afterwards and will emerge as the biggest losers.

Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.




U.S., Taliban Begin Peace Negotiations

After Syria, President Trump looks to exact even more peace in the Middle East as evidenced by U.S. talks with Taliban officials to “complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process.” We would do well to remember the real reason we went to war in the first place.

By S.T. Patrick

Much of the clamor that has existed in the media of late has been the debate over the Trump decision to move toward ending U.S. involvement in Syria. All but ignored by the same media and politicians have been the recent overtures for peace in Afghanistan that have existed between the U.S. and the Taliban.

In December, American representatives met with Taliban officials in the United Arab Emirates. They will meet again in the Persian Gulf to “complete the Afghanistan reconciliation process.” This is a historic step forward in the process to resolve America’s longest ongoing war. Yet the media has become blinded by the Russian angles of Syrian intervention.

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The United States invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, almost one month after the attacks of 9/11. The publicly stated mission was to destroy al Qaeda’s stronghold in Afghanistan by dethroning the Taliban throughout the region. Now, at over 17 years, the war in Afghanistan is America’s second longest war. The Vietnam War lasted 19 years.

Reports have stated that the recent peace talks were initiated by the Trump administration. Pakistan has taken credit for urging the Taliban officials to re-engage in response. Negotiations over talks have existed from other administrations in the 17 years, but they fizzled quickly. The December talks produced positive results.

The Emirates News Agency said that the recent Abu Dhabi talks “fructified in tangible results that are positive for all parties concerned.”

The U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, was predictably optimistic about the talks. The Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, agreed with the assessment.

“Future negotiation meetings shall continue after deliberations and consultations by both sides with their respective leaderships,” Mujahid said.

For the Taliban, the focal point of the negotiations is the withdrawal of all NATO and U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Mujahid denied that rumored items such as future elections, peace talks with Kabul, agreeing on an interim Afghan government, and a temporary ceasefire were discussed.

Of course, diplomacy is often a struggle in minutiae and ego. Islamabad now accuses the U.S. of downplaying Pakistan’s importance in bringing the Taliban representatives to the table. Pakistan may also be angered by the Trump decision to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan because it has not acted decisively against the Taliban in recent years. Pakistan is also concerned that a newly departed Afghanistan would leave a gaping vacuum that U.S. ally India would move to fill. The doves that circle this peace process are concerned that they may end up as canaries in coal mines.

And though the U.S. delegation approved further peace talks to occur in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban has stated that it will not approve the location. The Saudis had pushed to include the UN-backed Afghan government in the talks. Taliban representatives have pushed back and now openly state that they will go to Qatar for the talks.

A senior Taliban member was quoted, explaining the move. “Everyone is aware of the fact that the Afghan government wanted the U.S. and its allies not to leave Afghanistan, and we have paid a heavy price to expel all foreign forces from our country,” he said.

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Though it was denied as a topic on the table in the talks, rumors still strongly persist that what is being discussed is a 2019 ceasefire in Afghanistan. If the Trump administration can end American involvement in both Syria and Afghanistan, it will be a foreign policy record that will be challenging to deny historically. That said, Democrats, neoconservatives, and major media outlets who profit mightily from war and conflict will find a way to darken the most silver linings.

It was Fidel Castro who made the famous “history will absolve me” speech. He understood that history as a tool can heal immediate rifts. There will be no moment of clarity with the mainstream mass media, the Democratic Party, or the never-Trump Republicans. This is a political war that exists until The Donald and Melania are helicoptered out of the Beltway.

But 20 years later, when columns of achievements are listed, many are going to be surprised that the Trump administration fared very well on the issue of peace. Then they will have to reconcile how the man they have painted as the most hated personality in the world was simultaneously the one who negotiated for peace.

S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected] 




Iran’s Revolution Turns 40

Americans should realize the U.S. and Iran are fighting the same enemies and perhaps take a lesson from Iran at the 40th anniversary of its revolution.

By Dr. Kevin Barrett

America’s mainstream propaganda media keep telling us to hate Iran. Trump’s key advisors, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, and neocon-influenced outlets like Fox and Breitbart, hate Iran even more than the liberal media does. So I expect to make few friends, and quite a few enemies on all sides of the spectrum, by saying that in many respects Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which turns 40 years old this February, would be a good model for American renewal.

Disclaimer: I will be traveling to Tehran in February for a New Horizons NGO conference celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. In the past I have traveled to New Horizons conferences in Iran alongside people like former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), ex-U.S. Army psy-ops officer Scott Bennett, former Defense Department Senior Security Policy Analyst F. Michael Maloof, and Culture Wars magazine editor E. Michael Jones. What’s more, I was responsible for getting all four of those patriotic, highly accomplished Americans invited to Iran. I have been friends with some of the New Horizons organizers since 2012 and agree with them that Americans are sadly misinformed about the Islamic Republic and its relations with the U.S.

The CIA in IranIt is one thing to say that the United States should mend fences with Iran. Many mainstream experts agree on that, but it is quite another to say the U.S. should consider emulating the Islamic Republic. Isn’t Iran a theocracy? Doesn’t the Supreme Leader have quasi-dictatorial powers? How could the U.S. possibly follow such a model?

I am certainly not calling for an American Islamic republic presided over by Shia religious scholars. Though come to think of it, that wouldn’t be any worse than what we have now. Instead I want to suggest that we should consider being faithful to our own unique identity in the same way Iran is faithful to its identity. And just as Iran’s identity as a fully independent, democratic-republican, anti-imperialist, anti-international-banker Islamic nation with a Persian-dominant ethnic history grows out of its 1979 revolution, America’s ostensible identity as a fully independent, democratic-republican, anti-imperialist, anti-international-banker Enlightenment-Christian nation with a European-dominant ethnic history grows out of our revolution of 1776.

The big difference is that Iran is holding steadfast to its revolutionary Islamic republican principles, while the U.S. has treasonously betrayed its own identity. We should emulate Iran not by adopting theocracy but by returning to the principles of our revolution and sticking by them even when powerful foreign interests pressure us to abandon them.

The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, like the American Revolution of 1776, was in essence a revolt against the world’s biggest empire of the time and against the international bankers who owned that empire. In both cases, the bankster empire was trying to impose its ideology on its occupied colony: The British Empire of 1776 represented royalty and authoritarianism, while the American revolutionaries embraced anti-authoritarian, democratic-republican Enlightenment thought.

Likewise, the U.S.-Zionist Empire of 1979 represented secular-humanist, globalist, capitalist materialism, while Iran’s Islamic revolutionaries wanted national independence and a return to their own Islamic tradition.

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Interestingly, the Iranian revolution did not reject democratic-republicanism, but instead enshrined it in its constitution. Today, Iran is the Middle East’s only genuine democracy, with a supreme leader who is himself popularly if indirectly elected, and who enjoys powers comparable to the American president and chief justice.

Both the American and Iranian revolutions quickly came under attack by the forces of empire. The British, unhappy with the loss of their American colonies and bent on revenge, burned Washington, D.C. to the ground in the War of 1812, fomented the southern secession of 1860, seized control of America’s currency in 1913, and dragged the U.S. into two world wars it had no business fighting.

The 1979 American Empire, guided by New York bankers and their City of London and House of Rothschild friends, likewise tried to overthrow Iran’s Islamic Revolution. George H.W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld armed Saddam Hussein to the teeth with chemical weapons, which during the 1980s U.S.-imposed war were unleashed in vast quantity against the people of Iran—a much bigger catastrophe than Americans suffered when Washington, D.C. was burned by the British in 1812.

After the Empire’s then-puppet Saddam Hussein failed to overthrow the Islamic Republic, the Zionist-imperialists continued to plot against Iran, culminating in the 9/11 false-flag operation. As former National Security Council member Gwenyth Todd recently stated on my “Truth Jihad” radio show, the purpose of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan was to surround Iran with U.S. bases—and then invade and overthrow the Islamic Republic on behalf of Israel.

Bottom line: Both the U.S. and Iran face the same enemy: the Zionists. We Americans should resist and expel them—as Iran has—and regain our independence.

Kevin Barrett, Ph.D., is an Arabist-Islamologist scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror. From 1991 through 2006, Dr. Barrett taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin. In 2006, however, he was attacked by Republican state legislators who called for him to be fired from his job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison due to his political opinions.




Is Bolton Steering Trump into War with Iran?

John Bolton never met a war he didn’t like. If President Trump is serious about stopping U.S. involvement in wars, he’d better find a way to rein in his national security adviser.

By Patrick J. Buchanan

“Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” implored President Donald Trump in a Sunday night tweet.

Well, if he is serious, Trump had best keep an eye on his national security adviser, for a U.S. war on Iran would be a dream come true for John Bolton.

Last September, when Shiite militants launched three mortar shells into the Green Zone in Baghdad, which exploded harmlessly in a vacant lot, Bolton called a series of emergency meetings and directed the Pentagon to prepare a menu of targets, inside Iran, for U.S. air and missile strikes in retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted one U.S. official as saying Bolton’s behavior “rattled people. … People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

Bolton’s former deputy, Mira Ricardel, reportedly told a gathering the shelling into the Green Zone was “an act of war” to which the U.S. must respond decisively.

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Bolton has long believed a U.S. confrontation with Iran is both inevitable and desirable. In 2015, he authored a New York Times op-ed whose title, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” said it all. He has urged that “regime change” in Iran be made a declared goal of U.S. foreign policy.

When Trump announced his decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops now in Syria, Bolton swiftly imposed conditions: ISIS must first be eliminated, Iranian forces and allied militias must leave, and the Kurds must be protected.

Yet enforcing such red lines would require a permanent presence of American troops. For how, without war, would we effect the removal of Bashar Assad’s Iranian allies, if he declines to expel them and the Iranians refuse to go?

Bolton has an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In Cairo last week, Pompeo declared it U.S. policy “to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.

And though Hezbollah has been a “major presence” in Lebanon for several decades, “we won’t accept this as the status quo,” said Pompeo, for Hezbollah is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime.”

But how does the secretary of state propose to push Hezbollah out of Lebanon peacefully when the Israelis could not do it in a month-long war in 2006?

Pompeo’s purpose during his tour of the Middle East? Build a new Middle East Strategic Alliance, a MESA, an Arab NATO, whose members are to be Egypt, Jordan and the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

There are other signs a confrontation is coming soon. The U.S. has objected to Iran’s pending launch of two space satellites, saying these look like tests of missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads. Yet Iran has never produced weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and never tested an ICBM.

Pompeo has also called for a conclave in Poland in February to bring together an anti-Iran alliance to discuss what is to be done about what he calls “our common enemy.”

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Over the weekend, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s latest strike in Syria: “Just in the last 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.”

Israel brags that it has hit 200 targets inside Syria in recent years. The boasting may be connected to Bibi’s desire to strengthen his credentials as a security hawk for the coming Israeli election. But it is also a provocation to the Iranians and Syrians to retaliate, which could ignite a wider war between Israel and Syrian and Iranian forces.

What does the U.S. think of the Israeli strikes? Said Pompeo: “We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Iran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon.”

In short, forces are moving in this country and in Israel to bring about a U.S. confrontation with Iran — before our troops leave Syria.

But the real questions here are not about Bolton or Pompeo.

They are about Trump. Was he aware of Bolton’s request for a menu of targets in Iran for potential U.S. strikes? Did he authorize it? Has he authorized his national security adviser and secretary of state to engage in these hostile actions and bellicose rhetoric aimed at Iran? And if so, why?

While Trump has urged that the U.S. pull out of these Mideast wars, Pompeo has corrected him, “When America retreats, chaos often follows.”

Is Trump looking for a showdown with Iran, which could result in a war that might vault his approval rating, but be a disaster for the Middle East and world economy and do for him what Operation Iraqi Freedom did for George W. Bush?

One thing may confidently be said of the rhetoric and actions of Bolton and Pompeo: This is not what brought out the new populists who made Donald Trump president, the people who still share his desire to “stop the endless wars.”

Pat Buchanan is a writer, political commentator and presidential candidate. He is the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever and previous titles including The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, all available from the AFP Online Store.

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