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Westlake Legal Group > John Bolton

John Jenkins: Too many excuses are made for Iran – especially by the EU. We must get real, stand with America – and take decisive action

Sir John Jenkins is a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and co-author of the Government’s Muslim Brotherhood Review of 2015.  He is a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange.

How do we – the UK – solve a problem called Iran? The answer is more complicated than it should be, given the fragmented state of British politics, the way in which the Brexit debate has sucked all the policy oxygen from the room and now the absurd diplomatic spat with the Trump Administration.

But it is also urgent, given the way regional tensions are rising, bellicose noises from Washington DC and Tehran and our own self-understanding as a major international actor with a massive stake in global order and the reduction of conflict in the Middle East. What we decide to do about Iran now will also shape the views of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the US, France and Germany about what sort of power we shall continue to be after Brexit. It’s a test of our national will.

The general view of the commentariat seems to be that recent tensions are the fault of Donald Trump and his National Security Adviser, the belligerent John Bolton. They shouldn’t have abandoned the JCPOA, the nuclear deal negotiated over many painful years by the EU3+3, it is said. They shouldn’t have reapplied sanctions. They certainly shouldn’t overreact to Iran’s deliberate breach of the 300kg/3.67 per cent limits for uranium enrichment. And they should lay off Twitter. Is this fair?

Well, let’s remember that Iran has been an aggressive and often hostile presence in the Middle East since 1979. Under the Shah, it may have thrown its weight around from time to time. But it did so largely through OPEC and by trying to bully much smaller countries like Bahrain, backing down when confronted.

By contrast, the Islamic Republic tried from the start to export revolution. When this failed, it sought to subvert its neighbours by providing support to a wide variety of largely Shia Islamist groups. It helped to establish Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early 1980s. After 1983 it built similar groups in Iraq – and after 2011 in Syria – on the same model. It now backs the Houthis in Yemen.

Throughout this period, Iran has engaged either through others or on its own account in terrorist attacks on the US (Beirut and Kuwait 1983), France (Beirut and Kuwait 1983), Kuwait (1983, 1985, 1988), Saudi Arabia and the US (Al Khobar 1996) and Israel (Buenos Aires 1994, and Thailand and Bulgaria 2012). It sponsored kidnappings in Lebanon throughout the 1980s and the 2007 abduction of a British IT adviser, Peter Moore, and his close protection team in Iraq. Through its allies in Iraq it killed and maimed US and UK military personnel from 2003 to 2010. It has conducted regular assassinations at home and abroad.

During the latter part of the Iran-Iraq war, it indiscriminately sowed mines in international shipping lanes. It is almost certainly behind the recent attacks on shipping off the UAE, in the Gulf of Oman and elsewhere. For years it has offered tactical if intermittent support to Al Qaeda – and at one time to the Taliban – including training the operatives who carried out the 1998 East Africa bombings. It has given substantial and sustained military support to the Assad regime in Syria. It has illegally supplied missiles and advanced guidance systems to Hezbollah, some Iraqi Shia militias and the Houthis. And it continues to seek to establish permanent military bases in Syria in order to threaten Israel directly.

You’d think that all this would give commentators pause, especially when they wonder whether war is coming. They don’t seem to have noticed that it never really went away as far as Iran is concerned.

Now you could argue that this picture is exaggerated. Everyone’s doing it in the Middle East. And that in any case Iran is simply defending itself against sectarian Sunni revanchism and bone-headed US hostility.

But everyone’s not doing it. The brutal murder of Jamal al Khashoggi was shocking for many reasons. But one of them is precisely that the Saudis don’t normally do that kind of thing. They may, of course, do lots of other things people don’t like, including locking up human rights activists, executing people without what we would consider due process and exporting extremism.  There’s truth in all that – but Iran does the first two things on an even greater and the third on at least a comparable scale. And the point here is not whether a particular country has an unpleasant way of managing itself, but what the impact is on regional and therefore global security.

On this point, there is no comparison. The Saudis, together with the UAE, certainly helped fund popular opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. But such opposition already existed, was widespread, peaceful and growing from 2012 onwards. There has been regional competition for influence in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war there in 2011. But no other Middle Eastern power has sought so consistently as Iran to foment violent revolution in neighbouring states or exported vast quantities of weapons to those who seek to subvert them. No-one else since the collapse of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi has sponsored terrorist attacks across the region and abroad, obstructed maritime free passage, harrassed foreign naval vessels or laid mines. Virtually everyone else has made some sort of accommodation with Israel.

And no other state has talent-spotted, backed or created and sustained such an array of powerful and purposeful sub-state actors – from Lebanese Hezbollah to the Badr Brigade, the Leagues of the Righteous and Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq, the Afghan and Pakistani Shia militias in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. No doubt these groups have their own interests and their own purposes. Hezbollah in particular is also a global criminal enterprise with its tentacles extending through West Africa to Europe, Australia and South America, engaging in human trafficking, money laundering, the drugs trade – including a nice recent line helping smuggle Captagon out of Syria to pay for Iranian oil – and cheque fraud on a vast scale

But with the exception (mostly) of the Houthis, they all recognise the supreme religious and political authority of the Supreme Leader in Iran and in practice share the same overriding goals, of an expanded Shia hegemony over the greater Levant and, if possible, further afield under an Iranian umbrella and the eventual triumph in these areas of Khomeini’s heterodox doctrine of Wilayat al Faqih – the trusteeship of the righteous jurisprudent, in practice the Supreme Leader in Tehran.

The Houthis now fire missiles with gay abandon at airports, power stations and desalination plants in Saudi Arabia, and have threatened to do the same to the UAE. It turns out that the most recent drone attack on oil pipelines in the Kingdom – something that only makes sense in the context of Yemen – originated in Iraq. You might say that KSA is at war with the Houthis. But you can’t condemn Saudi attacks on civilian infrastructure in Yemen without doing the same for the Houthis. And what’s Iraq got to do with any of this?

The answer, of course, is that they’re all in it together. Iran has mobilised its allies and assets from the Bab al Mandab through the Gulf of Oman up to Iraq, Syria and indeed Lebanon in order to send a clear signal about its geographical reach, the variety and deadliness of its partners and the way in which it can use asymmetric and often deniable attacks to compensate for its conventional weaknesses as it seeks to preserve its gains in the wider region, face down the US and intimidate Europe.

The US under Trump seems incapable of transmitting such clear and consistent signals – there’s the constant hiss of tantrum-driven static instead. But you’d think in the circumstances that the EU would be inclined to stand with Washington – its single most important ally – and state clearly and collectively that we will not be intimidated, we condemn all targeting of civilian infrastructure and interference with shipping; that we will join forces to guarantee the freedom of navigation in the Gulf and adjoining seas, work to prevent further missile proliferation and respond robustly to attacks on the Arab Gulf States – at the same time as seeking to end the calamitous war in Yemen.

You’d be disappointed. The EU’s incoming High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs, the Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell instead simply shrugs his shoulders and says that the EU will continue to work with Iran – and if Iran wants to destroy Israel, well, we’ll just have to learn to live with it. His predecessor, Federica Mogherini, quixotically used her last months in office to promote a special financial mechanism to enable European companies to avoid the impact of US bilateral sanctions on Iran. They won’t use it, of course. Who in their right minds would? But it was important to show willing. Willing to help Iran, that is.

And this points to a bigger problem in the mindset of European and indeed US elites over Iran, quite separate from the question of whether the US was right to withdraw from the JCPOA. If there’s any benefit of any doubt going around, Iran gets it. This isn’t just because Iran keeps teasing Europe with the idea that they might be the ones to save the JCPOA (though it does). And it isn’t quite universal. There’s an excellent and acerbic account of the intense final stages of the nuclear negotiations by the then French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, which makes clear his view of how Iran played the Kerry team. And even Europe may eventually run out of patience with Iranian posturing.

But there has long been a strong thread of Iranophilia in European policy circles, particularly but not exclusively on the Left. This is not out of love for Iran: but because far too many people in these circles dislike the US and did so even before Trump. A year or so ago at an Iran-related event, I heard a senior European External Action Service adviser tell a friend that it was important to support Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia) because only Iran in the region stood up to US imperialism.

That’s not an uncommon view and is now combined with a visceral loathing for Trump. It’s reflected in the way that many liberal commentators can’t bring themselves to admit that Iran, the Houthis, Hezbollah and many of the Iraqi Shia militias are in cahoots. The argument tends to be twofold: (a) Iran has a right to defend itself and (b) proxies equals puppets – any suggestion that these groups are just proxies misses their functional independence within particular socio-political contexts.

It’s a classic straw man argument. No one serious claims that these groups are puppets or simply proxies. They’re actually lots of different things, most of them unpleasant. But none of that alters the fact that they will serve Iran when Iran calls. We have seen them do so repeatedly from the 1980s – when Badr fought with Iran against their fellow Iraqis and Hezbollah bombed and kidnapped with impunity – to the present – when the Houthis keep the Saudis pinned down and distracted with Iranian technology while pumping out their propaganda from the Hezbollah stronghold of South Beirut. And little of this is about Iran’s right to self-defence.

It’s still not clear to me that there will be open war between the US and Iran. The latest French outreach to Iran may encourage both sides to step back. Neither wants a real fight. Trump has made clear his aversion to one as the US enters an election year. Iran knows and seeks to exploit this just short of conflict, though it also believes that if something does kick off, Trump is likely to want to end it quickly.

But you never know. And there are some clear if unsurprising policy conclusions for the new Foreign Secretary – when one is appointed and has decided who will replace the admirable Kim Darroch in Washington. First, si pacem vis, bellum para. What stokes the flames at times of tension is weakness and a lack of clarity. During the 1980s, Iran backed off because the US was crystal clear about both sending and acting upon its signals. Barack Obama set a bad precedent by abandoning his red lines in Syria in 2013. Trump didn’t do much better by striking Syrian targets once in 2017, blustering, and then last month advertising the fact that he had aborted a military response to the Iranian downing of a US surveillance drone.

This can only be remedied in Washington. That’s going to do take a lot of work. We should certainly advise against war – there are other things we can do instead. But we must stand by the US when it acts – whatever we may think about the President, the US is more than one person and remains indispensable to our security. The instinctive wringing of hands in Brussels and other European capitals simply encourages Iran.

The French at least will probably also want to be robust. We should work with them in shaping a realistic response with the US. If that means joint military action, we need to be part of it. We also need collectively to be clear about the triggers for any escalation ladder – from the new Gulf maritime protection force proposed by the US to the use of proportionate force in self-defence against Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval forces, the possible targeting of IRGC command and control nodes if they persist in hostile action and so forth.

We should be hard over against the Iran-aligned Shia militias in Iraq – just as we’ve decided belatedly to get real with Hezbollah by ending the feeble pretence (which they publicly ridiculed) that they have separate military and political wings. The Iraqi Prime Minister has said he wants to bring them under proper central governmental control. Some people suspect that’s an excuse to let them take over the state instead. We need to work with partners – again the US and the French, the Kurds, elements of the Iraqi government and key Iraqi Shia clerics – to stop them doing so.

We need to push for a settlement in Yemen. The war damaging, draining and entirely counterproductive. The UAE have wanted a settlement for the last couple of years and are now drawing down their forces. We have our differences with them. This is an area where we can potentially work together.

In the longer term, British and indeed western policy towards Iran needs to be what it always should have been, clear, robust, sustained and collective containment and deterrence. I’ve recently seen some very prominent former Obama officials argue that that’s precisely what the JCPOA was.

I didn’t think that withdrawing from the deal was particularly sensible. But that wasn’t because I thought it was a great deal. It was because I thought it bought us time – around 15 years to be precise. The task was to agree how to use that time well. But that’s not what actually happened. When the deal was formally ratified in 2015, the Obama Administration did nothing about Iran’s horizontal escalation in the region. Instead, they urged western businesses to start flooding back.

But business was reluctant – they suspected rightly that they’d find themselves in bed with some alarming partners which would spell serious trouble for them back home if these partners didn’t stop doing what they were doing in Iran, in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, not to mention further afield. And that was the problem. There was no effort to stop them nor any plan for containment and deterrence, just relief that we’d escaped from the trap we’d set for ourselves when we’d threatened consequences we weren’t prepared to deliver.

I’m glad to see we’ve now had the guts to stop a tanker we believe is smuggling Iranian oil in defiance of sanctions on Syria. The fact that the Iranians have threatened to retaliate – and may already have tried – suggests the charge is true. This won’t have been an easy decision to make. Over the last decade, there has been a startling lack of action over Iranian smuggling – of weapons, missile components and oil, even in areas where international maritime task forces – with British participation – operate such as the Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa and the approaches to the Red Sea. So to stop a tanker now – even if it is Syria-related – sends a message of intent. It may also suggest that we are becoming more inclined to back the US – which has probably have supplied the intelligence on which the stop order was based.

And this is one way ahead. It’s not a question of toppling the Iranian regime. That’s a matter for Iranians. Nor is it a question of war: if the Iranians insist on continuing to threaten their neighbours, imperil shipping and subvert our friends, then we need to find and use ways to stop them doing so. But we need to do so proportionately, coolly and in partnership with others who are similarly willing, the US and the French in particular: the Germans will remain ambivalent. We also need to go after the criminal money flows around the world that sustain Iran and its allies in the region. The US Department of the Treasury and the FBI have been doing so for years. We should be part of all this.

In doing so we need to make sure that our military, our intelligence and security services and our diplomatic effort are properly funded, with the right equipment, staff and skills. And that they feel they have the full backing of ministers. That’s not been the case for some years now. Putting things right will be a generational task.

Needless to say, none of this will be remotely possible if a Corbyn government gets elected. So best get cracking now…

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Why wasn’t John Bolton included in Trump’s Korea trip?

Westlake Legal Group t Why wasn’t John Bolton included in Trump’s Korea trip? Tucker Carlson Trump trip The Blog North Korea national security advisor Mongolia Kim Jong-un john bolton denuclearization

Is it common for the president’s National Security Advisor to skip a high-stakes summit involving nuclear diplomacy on the Korea peninsula and, just maybe, a brief meeting with North Korea’s supreme leader? Let’s ask an expert.

The media, and not just the U.S. media either, noticed Bolton’s absence:

As he made history Sunday by becoming the first United States president to cross the demilitarized zone into North Korea, Donald Trump was joined not by national security adviser John Bolton, but by Tucker Carlson. In some ways, the choice makes sense—the Fox News host has counseled the president in the past, apparently including urging him not to attack Iran, something Bolton had encouraged. It also makes sense that Trump wouldn’t want Bolton around; it’s no secret Pyongyang considers the hawkish national security adviser, who once called for a preemptive strike against North Korea, persona non grata. Trump’s attempt to continue nuclear talks, which broke down in February when he walked away from the negotiating table, surely stood a better chance without Bolton there.

But allowing Carlson to tag along—and banishing Bolton to Mongolia to “to consult with officials on regional security issues”—only added to the bizarre spectacle of the impromptu meeting which was, like much of Trump’s diplomacy with North Korea, more about pageantry than policy.

It’s true that the North Koreans despise Bolton and target him sporadically with propaganda, but foreign countries don’t dictate which advisors accompany the president on diplomatic visits. If need be, Trump could have brought Bolton along and asked him to hang back during the visit with Kim. It’s also true, as a Twitter pal reminded me, that Bolton wasn’t off playing golf this weekend while Trump was in Korea. He was in Mongolia, a nation eyed by the U.S. as a potential player in diplomacy with the NorKs. Maybe Bolton was chatting with them about hosting a third Trump/Kim summit. He might not have been excluded from the Korean denuclearization process, in other words, so much as he was working on a different arm of it.

But why couldn’t he have met with Mongolia’s leadership after the Korean summit? And how can we overlook the symbolism of Tucker Carlson accompanying Trump on his Korean rapprochement while the NSA was off in another country? Carlson has attacked Bolton viciously on his show lately, describing him amid the debate over war with Iran as a “bureaucratic tapeworm” who “live[s] forever in the bowels of the federal agencies, periodically reemerging to cause pain and suffering but never suffering himself.” (An odd criticism in Bolton’s case, as he spent more than a decade out of government before reemerging as Trump’s NSA — much of that time on, er, Fox News.) The Tucker narrative is that Trump is forever being tempted by the sirens of interventionism, with Bolton the demonic face of that effort. Trump seems to share that belief, allegedly telling a “confidant” last week of his advisors, “These people want to push us into a war, and it’s so disgusting.” Trump watches Carlson’s show regularly, of course, and he’s discussed Iran policy with him personally. To have Tucker on hand for the Kim meeting while Bolton is on assignment abroad reeks of a deliberate snub.

And so the question: Is Bolton being marginalized by the president? This tweet, about the NYT story that Jazz wrote about earlier, got some attention online this morning.

Maybe he’s right and the Times piece is the product of some disgruntled aides trying to force a nuclear freeze onto Trump’s menu of options on the peninsula. (The Times stood by its reporting, for what that’s worth.) But maybe Bolton, the National Security Advisor, is simply out of the loop of the president’s thinking. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that Trump has soured on a top advisor and chosen to cut him out of his deliberations instead of firing him forthrightly. John Kelly, remember, was brought in as chief of staff with plans to serve as an absolute gatekeeper to the president. All requests for face time with Trump, even by Jared and Ivanka, would go through him. He’d attend all presidential meetings personally. “Discipline” was the West Wing’s motto at the start of the Kelly era. In less than a year, discipline had broken down so completely that Kelly was reportedly seen going to the gym in the middle of the day and telling friends that he didn’t care if Trump was impeached. And yet, he lingered. From Trump’s perspective, it seems, so long as Kelly wasn’t making too much trouble for him, it was easier for awhile just to keep him on staff and ignore him rather than fire him, endure another round of “White House in disarray” headline, and then have to go looking for a new chief.

Is that Bolton’s fate now? NSA in name only, a figurehead kept around to reassure hawks that they have a forceful voice inside the building while Trump charts a path for America’s future abroad with Fox News’s 8 p.m. guy? I’m thinking no: If Trump were to come out today and confirm that he’s considering a nuclear freeze with the NorKs, just as the Times said and Bolton denied, Bolton would have to resign on principle. It’s one thing to be marginalized, it’s another to look ridiculous.

Here’s Tucker sounding even more Tucker-y than usual yesterday on Fox.

The post Why wasn’t John Bolton included in Trump’s Korea trip? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Wow: Tucker Carlson Calls National Security Advisor John Bolton a ‘Bureaucratic Tapeworm’

Westlake Legal Group tucker-carlson-john-bolton-SCREENSHOT-620x330 Wow: Tucker Carlson Calls National Security Advisor John Bolton a ‘Bureaucratic Tapeworm’ washington D.C. War Uncategorized Tucker Carlson Politics Media john bolton Iran Front Page Stories Featured Story bureaucracy bret stephens Allow Media Exception

[Screenshot from TheDC Shorts, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=MR3h-_ZPgiQ]


Here’s a put-down you may not have heard before.

On Friday, Tucker Carlson gave National Security Advisor John Bolton a severe tongue-lashing, calling the official a “bureaucratic tapeworm.”

How’s that for original.

Tucker was excoriating John for, in his view, pushing from within the administration for a war with Iran.

The comment came in the aftermath of a tense sequence of events — Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz Thursday. Subsequently, the President eyed an attack, ultimately pulling back due to the projected casualties (here).

Trump expressed his preference for something more “proportionate.”

Tucker played a clip highlighting the above, capping it wth the wish that “our leaders contemplating war” would ask that “most basic of all questions.”

“The whole thing, in the end, offended his sense of decency,” Tucker praised. But, he asserted, “Policymakers in Washington crave a war with Iran”

The host cut to “CNN’s 36-year-old national security analyst attack the President yesterday.”

And then:

“Only in foreign policy circles do people say things that stupid. In fact, last night was a high point in the Trump presidency. … Ill-advised wars are like doing cocaine: The initial rush rises your poll numbers, but the crash is inevitable and in this case, it would be horrible.

How’d we get so close to war with Iran?

According to Carlson, in so many words, a bunch of people don’t care about its cost.

Tucker profiled “Left-wing New York Times columnist Bret Stephens” who “took a break from attacking Donald Trump” to celebrate “neocon” John Bolton’s hiring in April of 2018.  “Stevens assured MSNBC viewers that John Bolton was a great choice because he would push the president toward war.”

Next, the host played war-friendly (harsh and hilarious) clips of Bolton, followed by this:

“John Bolton is a kind of bureaucratic tapeworm. Try as you might, you can’t expel him. He seems to live forever in the bowels of the federal agencies, periodically reemerging to cause pain and suffering — but critically somehow never suffering himself.

“His life really is Washington in a nutshell: Blunder into obvious catastrophes again and again, refuse to admit blame, and then demand more of the same. That’s the John Bolton life cycle. In between administration jobs, there are always cushy think-tank posts, paid speaking gigs, cable news contracts. War may be a disaster for America, but for John Bolton and his fellow neocons, it is always good business.”


Watch the video above. And never get into an insult match with Tucker Carlson.



Relevant RedState links in this article: here.

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The post Wow: Tucker Carlson Calls National Security Advisor John Bolton a ‘Bureaucratic Tapeworm’ appeared first on RedState.

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Trump was right to not bomb Iran

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President Donald Trump’s decision to avoid an unnecessary war with Iran deserves plenty of praise. There is no need for another conflict in the Middle East – which would cost the lives of both civilians and military members – over the destruction of a drone ($130M price tag or otherwise).

The next steps for the administration will be quite interesting as it appears there may be a fracture within the ranks on foreign policy. Trump’s inner circle is set up almost as a team of rivals – to steal a line from Doris Kearns Goodwin – with a variety of opinions. The hawks enjoy powerful positions with John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. The more cautious parts include Marine General Joe Dunford, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Fox News host Tucker Carlson also weighed in on Iran during a talk with Trump.

Trump appears to vacillate from one side to the other depending on the issue. He called off last week’s strike but had previously approved attacks in Syria. The president has also approved a troop buildup in the Middle East with over 20K military members in the region and a thousand more headed there – per The Wall Street Journal. We’re still involved in the Yemen civil war with Green Berets helping out Saudi troops. Trump will hold summits and praise North Korea but won’t talk with Venezuela.

Restraint should win the day as there is no reason to go to war with Iran. The country is not a threat to the United States – despite their “Death to America” chants in Parliament.

There also needs to be more consistency with Iran. Trump pulled out of the Iran agreement by using the excuse it wasn’t approved by the Senate. He should have asked the Senate to vote on the agreement because it is a treaty, as required by the Constitution. Now he has Pompeo pushing for talks while doing a slapdash of sanctions in hopes of isolating Iran further.

Former President George W. Bush once admitted sanctions weren’t working.

“We’re relying upon others, because we’ve sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran,” he told the press in 2004. “We don’t have much leverage with the Iranians right now, and we expect them to listen to those voices, and we’re a part of the universal acclaim.”

The U.S. didn’t change its policy during Bush’s tenure, however, and former President Barack Obama kept major sanctions on Iran in place following the nuclear deal (which really should have gone through the Senate).

It should be pointed out the Iranian regime has figured out ways to get around the sanctions. Via National Interest in 2013:

Iran’s negative economic trajectory has led it to adopt a so-called “economy of resistance.” Over the short to medium term, this has taken shape in several ways, including maintaining a positive balance of trade through import controls and a positive balance of payments through utilizing domestic financial resources in funding projects; relying on foreign-exchange reserves; reducing the state budget’s reliance on oil revenue while boosting revenues from taxes and privatization; and increasing domestic refining capacity in order to use excess crude at home while shifting domestic energy consumption to free up gas for exports. At the same time, trade patterns have been forced to move away from official banking to unofficial financial networks, and merchants have been compelled to resort to barter trade.

The National Iranian American Council wrote in 2013 they believed the sanctions were enabling Iranian leaders to stay in power.

Supreme Leader Khamenei has remained steadfast in his approach to sanctions. The escalating sanctions regime has enabled him to strengthen a powerful pre-existing narrative that portrays Western powers as a brutal, immoral group of governments out to “get” Iran, and that their core interest is to keep Iran underdeveloped and dependent. This narrative serves to maintain unity in a fragmented power structure, through:

*Sustenance of the image of an unrelenting enemy.

*Justification of the need for a feared security apparatus as a means to counter that enemy.

*Mobilizing the support of a minority segment of society who can be paraded as “popular support” when needed – on the anniversary of the revolution, during elections, etc.

The President’s avoidance of military action against Iran is a good thing and one he should continue to keep in place. However, Trump is wrong to not end the current policy of sanctions upon sanctions. Diplomatic engagement and talk will do more to strengthen ties between America and Iran and encourage freedom in both through free trade and free markets.

The role of Congress should not be ignored in this. The Senate needs to vote on whatever plan is made: whether it’s airstrikes or a new agreement with the Iranians. The Constitution demands it, and if Obama was wrong for bypassing the Senate on the Iran Deal (and he was) then Trump should not go around them to enact whatever policy he’s planning. His decision to show restraint on Iran is laudable, but he should show more when it comes to sanctions.

The post Trump was right to not bomb Iran appeared first on Hot Air.

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Leaked Pentagon Plan: Calls For Deployment of 120,000 Troops to Middle East

Westlake Legal Group AP_06060409666-620x794 Leaked Pentagon Plan: Calls For Deployment of 120,000 Troops to Middle East President Trump Patrick Shanahan National Security Mike Pompeo john bolton Iran Garrett Marquis Front Page Stories Foreign Policy Featured Story Escalation donald trump Allow Media Exception

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech on the 17th anniversary of death of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, in his mausoleum just outside Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 4, 2006. Khamenei, warned Sunday that energy supplies from the Gulf region would be disrupted if Iran came under attack from the United States and insisted his country would not give up the right to produce nuclear fuel. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)


According to The New York Times, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented a military option for dealing with Iran if they should “attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.” Although the plan calls for the deployment of up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East, it does not include a land invasion. 

The newspaper was quick to point out the obvious – that the plan was ordered by National Security Advisor John Bolton, “one of the administration’s most virulent Iran hawks.

The plan sounds very un-Trump-like to me. Still, the military has to be prepared for all possibilities with a plan of action.

When asked about the escalating situation with Iran on Monday, Trump responded, “we’ll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.”

The New York Times said, “More than a half-dozen American national security officials who have been briefed on details of the updated plans agreed to discuss them…on the condition of anonymity. Spokesmen for Mr. Shanahan and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment.”

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The most likely trigger for a US military response is still an attack by the IRGC The guard’s fleet of small boats has a history of approaching American Navy ships at high speed. Though the plan includes provisions for a US response if Iran once again starts stockpiling nuclear fuel. If Iran does start stockpiling enriched uranium again, the US would have more than a year to formulate a more coherent response, since it would take at least that long for Iran to stockpile anything close to enough to fashion a weapon.
  • Cyberweapons would be used to paralyze the Iranian economy during the opening salvo of the conflict, in the hopes that this would be enough to cripple Iran before any bombs were dropped. Such an operation would call for “implants” or “beacons” inside US networks. Though, given Iran’s increasingly sophisticated cyberweapons, such an attack would still pose “significant risks.”
  • Though it’s widely believed that the president remains opposed to such an incursion. Bolton requested an update after Iranian-backed militants fired three mortar shells into an empty lot on the grounds of the US embassy in Baghdad.
  • One of the options offered up as a proportional response was a strike on a Iranian military facility that would have been “mostly symbolic.”

Military officials inside the administration are said to be divided over what the proper response to Iran’s provocations. One official argued:

Deploying such a robust air, land and naval force would give Tehran more targets to strike, and potentially more reason to do so, risking entangling the United States in a drawn out conflict. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

Two others said, “Mr. Trump’s announced drawdown in December of American forces in Syria, and the diminished naval presence in the region, appear to have emboldened some leaders in Tehran and convinced the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that the United States has no appetite for a fight with Iran.”

In the meantime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany over weekend. They are concerned that “tensions between Washington and Tehran could boil over, possibly inadvertently.”

On Monday, National Security Council spokesman, Garrett Marquis, wrote an email which said, “The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership. However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”

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John Bolton is sending a message to Iran

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The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, along with a collection of bombers, is on their way to the Middle East to send a “clear an unmistakable message” to Iran, according to National Security Advisor John Bolton. This was a curious way to announce a shift in military deployment (more on that in a moment) but it comes following some unspecified intelligence indicating that Iran was preparing to engage in some hostilities. It’s also happening at the same time that Iranian backed terrorists have been launching hundreds of missiles into Israel. (NY Post)

John Bolton warned on Sunday that the Trump administration would send a “clear and unmistakable message” to Iran as a carrier strike group was traveling to the region amid tensions in Gaza.

President Trump’s National Security Advisor said in a statement that the country was deploying USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the region.

“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said in the statement.

We probably don’t need to see the actual intel that was received to believe that Iran was up to something. They have a history of aggressive behavior even in the best of times and President Trump has been beating them up with sanctions and nixing Obama’s nuclear deal, so these are far from being “the best of times.” It’s also long been known that Iran funnels money and weapons to Hezbollah to assist them with attacks on Israel. None of this comes as too much of a shock to anyone who has been paying attention.

What is curious here is that the announcement came from the National Security Advisor. The NSA has no direct role in the chain of command of the military. Normally, an announcement like this would have come from either the President himself or the Department of Defense. Bolton wouldn’t have come out and made such announcement without marching orders from President Trump (or at least I hope he wouldn’t), so we can assume that this was done with the blessings of the White House.

Bolton is no doubt enjoying the role since he’s one of the more hawkish members of the administration, to say the least. He was recently rattling sabers in the direction of Venezuela, suggesting that military intervention there on behalf of Juan Guaido was still being considered. He’s also long been a stern critic of Iran. I’m not sure that having him deliver the message really does any damage, but it’s yet another example of the President’s frequently unconventional approach to policymaking.

The crews of the Abraham Lincoln and her escorts are in for some taxing duty in the days, weeks and probably months to come. Standing guard over Iran is no fun, I can assure you. Back in 1980, I spent nearly 100 days straight sailing in circles on a different aircraft carrier during the Iran hostage crisis without ever touching land. We were on a desolate stretch of empty water in the Gulf of Oman that came to be unaffectionately known as Gonzo Station (Gulf of Oman Naval Zone of Operations). The atmosphere tends to be stagnant and hot, with everyone operating on edge, waiting for a possible order to launch a strike.

Best of luck to our sailors, pilots and support crews. I don’t envy you the task in front of you.

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Why Is CNN Spouting Russia’s Propaganda About Venezuela

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Right now the protests against the illegal Maduro regime in Venezuela are entering a critical phase. Thousands have taken to the streets of Caracas, demonstrators are being run down in the street by police armored vehicles, and fences around military bases are being breached.

Let’s be clear, the legitimate government of Venezuela is not the Maduro regime. The United States and at least 50 other nations, including the Organization of American States, recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of the government.

Even Dick Turban has gotten on board:

Regional powerhouses Brazil and Argentina have weighed in on the uprising by the Venezuelan people in very unambiguous terms.

The only outliers are Russia and China.

For whatever reason, CNN has elected to parrot Russia’s propaganda

That’s right. To most of the western world, Maduro is an illegitimate usurper under popular pressure to leave power. To CNN, this is a coup, and they quote Cuba’s Jefe to make their case:

This type of reporting, unfortunately, is par for the course for CNN. Rather than journalism, they deal in whatever propaganda that they think will aid the political opponents of the administration. They spent over two and a half years trying to convince their audience that Russia had elected President Trump. They they turn right around a repeat Moscow’s talking points when the Venezuelan people, with the support of the administration, are about to throw off Maduro’s oppressive government.

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Bolton: Yes, we promised to pay North Korea $2 million for Otto Warmbier — but we didn’t pay it

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Via the Free Beacon. Says David Frum, “the North Koreans are the only people on earth so isolated from reality that they would accept an IOU from Donald Trump.”

That’s one possibility. Another possibility until this morning was that WaPo’s reporting about the $2 million pledge was simply incorrect. But that’s now been ruled out by Bolton himself, who admits that the U.S. agreed to pay North Korea for Warmbier — a decision made before he became NSA, he’s quick to add. There’s a third possibility, though: Not only did we agree to compensate the most degenerate government on Earth for horribly abusing an American citizen, we actually did pay them. WaPo’s sources claimed that the IOU went unpaid through 2017 but its fate since then is unclear. It’s conceivable that we forked over $2 million at some point since then and that Trump and Bolton are now engaged in a cover up, knowing that if news of the payment leaked Trump’s strongman image would be shattered. No doubt the media’s sniffing around for evidence of that as I write this. Better hope they don’t find anything, warns Matthew Walther:

This would be a lie concerning a subject about which most Americans have strong views — i.e., the lives of their fellow citizens in the hands of our enemies. I cannot imagine even Mitch McConnell defending Trump’s attempt to cover up something as sordid as a ransom paid secretly in order to secure an outcome that was later passed off as the work of a heroic and skilled diplomat. It would be the opening that Republican critics of the president such as Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse and others who have long been on the fence — Lindsey Graham comes to mind — have been waiting for to declare open war.

It would be hell in an election year. Nothing would play more into, say, Joe Biden’s hand than a real example of Trump cowering in front of America’s enemies and then lying about it. It would not even matter if Trump responded that his predecessors had done similar things in the past. It would become almost impossible for the president to pose as a tough, shrewd negotiator who defends the lives and liberties of Americans at home and abroad.

Trump’s base would invent whatever reason it needed to excuse the humiliating decision to pay a ransom (“Obama paid Iran more!”) but not everyone who voted for him in 2016 is part of his base. Democrats would club him with it every day from now until next November. He’d have to defend not only the decision to make the payment but overtly lying about it afterwards when questioned. Bolton would also be forced to explain why he was under the impression this morning that no money had changed hands. Did he lie to the country’s face on “Fox News Sunday” or is the National Security Advisor being kept in the dark about U.S. diplomacy with Pyongyang? Whatever the answer ends up being, it’d amount to a scandal. It’s a political disaster in the making.

But it’s already a scandal, really. Consider the two possibilities before us, that the U.S. did pay the $2 million to Kim or that it didn’t. If we did pay it, it’s blood money. Warmbier’s father told WaPo that it sounds like a “ransom” but it’s worse than that. A ransom payment ideally results in the hostage being returned to safety. Given Warmbier’s condition when he was handed over, the payment in this case would practically amount to murder for hire. (North Korea reportedly framed its demand as reimbursement for Warmbier’s hospital bills, which is like running someone down with your car and then billing their family for the damage to your fender.) If, on the other hand, Trump and Bolton are telling the truth and we pledged to pay the $2 million without ever having done so, how can nuclear negotiations advance? The NorKs would have firsthand evidence, replete with an instrument signed by a U.S. diplomat, that the Trump administration has no intention of keeping its diplomatic promises. Why would they ever agree to destroy their nuclear program knowing that Trump’s not only willing to break his commitments to them but has already done so?

It’s hard to believe Kim would have agreed to two separate summits despite the U.S. having welched on its Warmbier obligations. And it’s surprising that neither Trump nor Bolton nor anyone else has suggested that the issue has been resolved somehow since the Warmbier negotiations ended, e.g., “they agreed to forgive the debt in the spirit of compromise when the first summit was scheduled.” Either the unpaid $2 million bill is still hanging out there, capable of becoming an issue between the two sides at any time, or it was paid at some point and we’re being deceived. Which is it?

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Trump Administration Shifts Policy On Cuba ‘Because Dictators Perceive Appeasement As Weakness, Not Strength’

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got most of the attention Wednesday in announcing that Cuban ex-pats can now sue companies who have used their property confiscated by the Cuban government, opening the door to potential lawsuits on Canadian and European companies operating in Cuba even as Cuba is attempting to bring foreign investors to the island.

But Pompeo’s announcement was just part of a larger shift in policy related to Cuba; a shift National Security Adviser John Bolton laid out in a speech Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla., that represents a broader attempt to address socialism and the Castro regime’s support of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

Pompeo said that he would not suspend the bar on litigation in the Helms-Burton Act that has been renewed by every presidential administration since Bill Clinton. The move could affect dozens of Canadian and European companies doing business in Cuba – embroiling the businesses in litigation that could cost them billions of dollars and upending relations between Washington and its traditional allies.

“Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the administration was acting because it recognized the “reality” that the bar on lawsuits, which has been in place since 1996, had not achieved the goal of pressing Cuba to enact democratic reforms or reining in what he called its export of oppression throughout the Western Hemisphere, particularly in Venezuela.

“We see clearly that regime’s repression of its own people and unrepentant exportation of tyranny in the region has only gotten worse because dictators perceive appeasement as weakness, not strength,” he told reporters at the State Department.

Bolton’s speech — delivered at the invitation of Brigade 2506, Cuban exiles who participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion — went into greater detail and depth in describing the Trump administration’s new approach to Cuba.

The presidential adviser announced the policy changes during a speech that wove together several threads, starting with a contrast between Trump and Obama policies that was warmly welcome by an audience of Cuban exiles who felt betrayed by the engagement policies of the previous White House.

“To justify its policy of normalizing relations with Cuba, President Obama said Cuba quote ‘poses no genuine threat.’ Tell that to the American diplomats who were attacked in Havana. Tell that to the terrorized people of Venezuela. The reality is that the Obama government sought to normalize relations with a tyrannical dictatorship,” Bolton said. He reminded his audience that Trump met with opposition activists like the Ladies in White and called the late Fidel Castro “a brutal dictator.”

The new approach includes tightening restrictions on travel, unveiling a new, more generous remittance plan for families traveling to see relatives, and “increasing pressure on the island’s government in response to its support of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.”

“In no uncertain terms, the Obama administration’s policies toward Cuba have enabled the Cuban colonization of Venezuela today,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said Wednesday during a speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The changes were designed to reverse “the disastrous Obama-era policies, and finally end the glamorization of socialism and communism,” he added.

Under the new rules, travel will be limited to families while “veiled tourism” in the form of cruises, etc. will be restricted. Suspension of an Obama-era policy that allowed Cuban companies and banks to perform “U-turn” transactions in other countries as a way to evade U.S. sanctions were also announced. Bolton also mentioned the recent sanctions on tankers delivering Venezuelan oil to Cuba.

While the new policy could appear to be mostly about rolling back the Obama administration’s attempt to “normalize” relations with Cuba, the focus seems also to be on sending a message to the world about Venezuela and the Maduro regime. And, more broadly, the message is a condemnation of the recent fascination with socialism and communism in this country.

Bolton also announced new sanctions against the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments, which alongside Cuba make up what he’s called “the troika of tyranny.”

The Treasury Department will sanction the Central Bank of Venezuela, which has helped the Maduro regime to sell gold for hard currencies, and the Corporative Bank of Nicaragua, used by Daniel Ortega as his “slush fund.” It will also impose sanctions on his son, Laureano, and wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo, accused by U.S. officials of corruption in a Nicaraguan investment company.

“These steps against the Central Bank of Venezuela should be a strong warning to all foreign actors, including Russia, against deploying military units in Venezuela to shore up the Maduro regime,” Bolton said.

“We will need your help in the days ahead,” Bolton told the Florida crowd. “We must all reject the forces of communism and socialism in this Hemisphere—and in this country.”

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Bolton: We’re not withdrawing from Syria until Turkey guarantees YPG safety

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The withdrawal from Syria looks less imminent and more aspirational with every frequent-flier mile John Bolton picks up. Donald Trump’s national-security advisor met with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel yesterday to discuss plans for the region, including a withdrawal from “northeast Syria,” as Bolton specified in a joint presser. Furthermore, the US wouldn’t withdraw any troops until Turkey provided security for US allies in the region — which is the equivalent of never:

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday outlined conditions for a U.S. troop departure from Syria that appeared to contradict President Trump’s insistence less than a month ago that the withdrawal would be immediate and without conditions.

Speaking during a visit to Israel, Bolton said that certain “objectives” must be achieved before a pullout could take place. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.” …

“It’s also very important that as we discuss with members of the coalition, [and] other countries that have an interest, like Israel and Turkey, that we expect that those who have fought with us in Syria . . . particularly the Kurds,” not be put in “jeopardy” by the withdrawal, said Bolton, who plans to travel Tuesday to Ankara.

Bolton has changed the terms of this decision dramatically since Trump announced it three weeks ago. At the time, Trump declared that we had beaten ISIS and there was no need for us to stick around, later softening the first part to say that Turkey and Syria could mop up the rest of ISIS. Over the past week, Bolton has acknowledged that ISIS is not yet vanquished and still has the capacity for “reviving” itself; US allies in the region still require our protection; and that the withdrawal is limited to “northeastern Syria.” The latter is undoubtedly a gesture to Netanyahu, who would have to ensure that a pullout of American forces and allies in southern Syria didn’t give Iran a foothold from which to launch attacks on Israel.

Trump himself seems to be backpedaling a bit too, at least on the timeline:

Trump also commented Sunday on the timing of the withdrawal. “I never said we’d be doing it that quickly,” the president said from the White House. “We won’t be finally pulled out, until ISIS is gone.”

The remark came in contrast to the president’s statement from Dec. 19., when he said the withdrawal would happen quickly and that the U.S. had defeated ISIS. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now,” Trump said at the time. “We won.”

Everyone’s slowing their roll now, and with Bolton heading to Ankara, that roll will come to a complete stop. Recep Tayyip Ergodan considers the YPG to be a part of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that both Turkey and the US consider to be a terrorist organization. The US position on the YPG became considerably more nuanced once it became clear that they were the only group that could lead urban assaults on ISIS, and our alliance brought howls of protest from Ankara all along.

If the US plans on making a withdrawal conditional on Turkish guarantees of safety for the YPG in Syria, one of two things will happen. Either we will never withdraw from “northeastern Syria,” or we will stand by and watch our anti-ISIS allies get massacred as Turkey reneges on any security pledge they make. Want to guess which way our Kurdish allies are betting?

Update: Jeff Dunetz has a good analysis about Bolton’s trip and policies in a different context.

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