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Westlake Legal Group > Nuclear Weapons

Giuliani Pressed for Turkish Prisoner Swap in Oval Office Meeting

Westlake Legal Group merlin_128860991_515f45cd-79d9-4cb1-8039-df1c6a6e01e9-facebookJumbo Giuliani Pressed for Turkish Prisoner Swap in Oval Office Meeting Zarrab, Reza (1983- ) United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Tillerson, Rex W Sessions, Jefferson B III Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Nuclear Weapons Mukasey, Michael B Iran Giuliani, Rudolph W Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Embargoes and Sanctions Brafman, Benjamin Bharara, Preet Atilla, Mehmet Hakan

During a contentious Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph W. Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey.

The request by Mr. Giuliani provoked an immediate objection from Mr. Tillerson, who argued that it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case, according to two people briefed on the meeting.

The gold trader, Reza Zarrab, had been accused by federal prosecutors of playing a central role in an effort by a state-owned Turkish bank to funnel more than $10 billion worth of gold and cash to Iran, in defiance of United States sanctions designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

But at the White House meeting in early 2017, Mr. Giuliani and his longtime friend and colleague, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, pushed back on Mr. Tillerson’s objections.

Rather than side with his secretary of state, Mr. Trump told them to work it out themselves, according to the two people briefed on the meeting. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

In the end, no such prisoner swap took place. But the episode has opened a new chapter in Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to interject himself into the Trump administration’s diplomacy while at times representing clients with a direct interest in the outcome.

The Oval Office meeting occurred before Mr. Giuliani became Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer for the special counsel’s Russia investigation. In recent weeks, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign to press Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of one of Mr. Trump’s political rivals, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., has thrust him into the middle of the House impeachment inquiry. And on Wednesday, two of Mr. Giuliani’s associates in that campaign were arrested on charges of violating federal campaign finance laws.

Mr. Giuliani, in an interview on Thursday, defended his actions in the gold trader case, which were first reported on Wednesday by Bloomberg.

Mr. Giuliani, well known for his hawkish views on Iran, said he had been willing to represent Mr. Zarrab because the proposed prisoner swap would have secured the release of an American pastor who was being held in Turkey on terrorism-related charges the United States considered fabricated.

He likened his efforts — which also included apprising Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, of what he wanted — to maneuvers during the Cold War to trade enemy spies for Americans detained overseas.

Mr. Giuliani questioned how his actions were any different. “It happened to be a good trade,” he said. “I expected to be a hero like in a Tom Hanks movie.”

But his involvement, as a private citizen and friend of the president in the months after Mr. Trump passed him over for the role of secretary of state, left some in the administration uncomfortable, given the strained and complicated relationship between the United States and Turkey.

Mr. Giuliani’s moves also ran counter to a long-running American effort to curb Iran’s nuclear program as the United States was trying to punish players, like Mr. Zarrab, who helped the regime evade sanctions.

The case, called the single largest evasion of Iranian sanctions in United States history, revolved around a scheme by the Turkish bank in 2012 and 2013 to send billions of dollars in gold and cash to Iran in exchange for oil and natural gas.

Mr. Zarrab, who has Turkish and Iranian citizenship, was arrested in Florida in March 2016 on a family trip to Disney World, and was accused of an illicit operation that relied on false documents and front companies to move the assets to Iran from the accounts of Halkbank, the second-largest state-owned lender in Turkey.

Getting him out of the United States was a high priority for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, because Mr. Zarrab had information that would later implicate senior bank officials, as well as Turkish government officials, in the scheme.

Indeed, after the prison swap failed, Mr. Zarrab became a key witness and testified that in 2012, Mr. Erdogan, then Turkey’s prime minister, had ordered that two Turkish banks be allowed to participate in the sanction-evasion scheme.

Mr. Giuliani said that he was brought into the effort by Mr. Muskasey, who had been hired by Mr. Zarrab’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman.

The two men had been pressing their case with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in early 2017 when Mr. Tillerson joined the conversation, according to the two people briefed on the meeting. Mr. Tillerson, who could not be reached for comment, was surprised to find Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey at what he thought would be a regular private meeting with the president, the people said.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Giuliani to tell Mr. Tillerson what he wanted, which prompted Mr. Tillerson’s objections.

Mr. Mukasey’s spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Mr. Giuliani, in the interview on Thursday, disputed the account provided to The New York Times of his discussion with Mr. Tillerson about Mr. Zarrab — and the assertion that Mr. Tillerson replied that such a step was inappropriate. But Mr. Giuliani did not specify what aspects of the account he found inaccurate, saying he could not discuss the meeting because of attorney-client privilege.

“This is a completely malicious story coming from the consistent attack on me to try to destroy my credibility,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He added that at the time, “nobody ever complained” to him from the Trump administration about his role in the case.

Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mukasey were persistent in the effort. Court filings show that they discussed the matter with State Department officials in Turkey before meeting with Mr. Erdogan himself, and that Mr. Sessions and Preet Bharara, then the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, were informed “on a confidential basis.”

Mr. Giuliani argued in court filings that “none of the transactions in which Mr. Zarrab is alleged to have participated involved weapons or nuclear technology, or any other contraband, but rather involved consumer goods, and that Turkey is situated in a part of the world strategically critical to the United States.”

And Mr. Mukasey, in an April 2017 court filing, asserted that “senior U.S. officials have remained receptive to pursuing the possibility of an agreement.”

But officials at the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan remained opposed to the Zarrab trade, as did Mr. Tillerson. Mr. Giuliani, in the Thursday interview, said he wasn’t sure why the proposal fell apart.

What’s clear is that Mr. Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 to the charges, and became a key witness in federal criminal cases prosecuted in New York that led to the conviction of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at Halkbank.

During Mr. Atilla’s criminal trial in late 2017, the judge overseeing the case criticized Mr. Giuliani’s role in trying to secure Mr. Zarrab’s freedom, noting that such a move might benefit Iran.

“Most respectfully, the Giuliani and Mukasey affidavits appear surprisingly disingenuous in failing to mention the central role of Iran in the indictment, and indeed, failing to mention Iran at all in their affidavits,” the judge, Richard M. Berman, said, citing statements in which the men suggested Mr. Zarrab’s release might help the United States.

Mr. Atilla was sentenced to 32 months in prison. But he was released early from jail in July and then returned to Turkey, where he was greeted at the airport like a hero in Istanbul by Turkey’s treasury and finance minister, Berat Albayrak, who is also Mr. Erdogan’s son-in-law. Mr. Zarrab’s whereabouts have not been disclosed by the United States government.

The American pastor, Andrew Brunson, was also released, without a trade involving Mr. Zarrab, in October 2018. The move was credited with an overall improvement in relations between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan.

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How Iran’s President Left Trump Hanging, and Macron in the Hall

The telephone line had been secretly set up. President Trump waited on the other end. All President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had to do was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room where Mr. Trump’s voice would be piped in via speaker.

Mr. Rouhani and his aides were blindsided by the offer, presented to them by President Emmanuel Macron of France on an unannounced visit last Tuesday night to their quarters at the Millenium Hilton Hotel near the United Nations, where world leaders had converged for the annual General Assembly.

It was a mission lifted out of a Hollywood thriller. Mr. Macron has sought for months to broker a thaw in the standoff between the United States and Iran, which has threatened to escalate into a new Middle East war.

Accompanied by a small team of advisers, Mr. Macron awaited an answer outside the Iranian leader’s suite, according to three people with knowledge of the diplomatic gambit, which was first reported on Monday by The New Yorker. Messages were passed between them via Mr. Rouhani’s aides.

In the end, Mr. Rouhani refused even to come out of his room. Mr. Macron left empty-handed and Mr. Trump was left hanging.

With no guarantee that Mr. Trump would end the onerous sanctions he has imposed on Iran, Mr. Rouhani feared he would be trapped in an encounter that Mr. Trump could exploit as a headline-grabbing success, the people with knowledge of the episode said.

It also was clear that Mr. Rouhani might suffer a political backlash at home, where hard-liners were already fuming at the mere possibility that Mr. Rouhani would consider a dialogue with Mr. Trump.

For the Iranians, however, the incident underscored what they see as Mr. Trump’s eagerness, bordering on desperation, to connect directly to Iran’s leaders and defuse the spiraling hostility. For them, it was a validation that their strategy of escalating tensions in response to Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions was paying off.

“For Rouhani, talking to Trump is a liability,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran program at the International Crisis Group, a research organization on conflict resolution. Mr. Rouhani would not take such a risk, Mr. Vaez said, unless “he knew a reward would come out of it.”

Mr. Trump’s desire for a meeting or at least a phone call with Mr. Rouhani during the General Assembly reflected what some analysts called the American leader’s broader frustrations over international problems that keep piling up.

Those frustrations have only been compounded by the congressional impeachment inquiry over Mr. Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president in July, in which he pushed for an investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading Democratic challenger in the 2020 presidential election.

“Trump really wants a foreign policy win and can’t find one,” said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consulting firm in Washington. “He thinks talks with Iran now may be his best shot.”

Mr. Kupchan said Mr. Trump “was especially desperate at the U.N.G.A. — he wanted to flip the news cycle from Ukraine and Biden to a dramatic meeting with Rouhani.”

The people who recounted Mr. Macron’s ill-fated visit to Mr. Rouhani’s hotel declined to be identified by name or nationality because they were not authorized to discuss it. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Officials from the foreign ministries of France and Iran declined to comment.

Mr. Macron’s visit followed Mr. Trump’s speech that day at the General Assembly, in which he repeated his standard denunciations of Iran but signaled the possibility of a reconciliation, reminding the world that some of America’s current friends are former enemies.

But on Wednesday, when it was Mr. Rouhani’s turn to address the General Assembly, he appeared to all but rule out a meeting with Mr. Trump as he castigated the United States for quitting the 2015 nuclear agreement. For Iran, Mr. Rouhani said, photo opportunities must come after, not before, progress has been achieved. He did not hint that Mr. Trump had tried unsuccessfully to talk with him by phone the night before.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159662166_9e1ae01b-c320-48e3-a68a-8f7688ba17c3-articleLarge How Iran’s President Left Trump Hanging, and Macron in the Hall United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Rouhani, Hassan Nuclear Weapons Macron, Emmanuel (1977- ) Iran France Embargoes and Sanctions

President Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, at the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz, France, in August.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Richard Nephew, the former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department and now a research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said the Iranians had two reasons for keeping such an episode to themselves.

“They don’t see any upside internationally in them embarrassing Macron by showing the rebuff,” Mr. Nephew said. “They may want this channel in the future, so why undermine it?”

The second reason, he said, was that “Rouhani may be concerned about how his opponents in Tehran would use this regardless of him having said ‘no.’”

For the members of Iran’s hierarchy, which has largely defined itself by hostility to the United States government since the 1979 Islamic revolution, any hint of an easing in estranged relations comes with extraordinary political risk.

At the United Nations General Assembly in particular — the one place where Iranian and American officials could run into each other — Iran’s leaders have gone out of their way to avoid encounters.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton and Iran’s president at the time, Mohammad Khatami, had a near encounter at the General Assembly. Aides on both sides had orchestrated a hallway handshake that was meant to look impromptu, but Mr. Khatami had a change of heart at the last minute and hid in a bathroom until Mr. Clinton and his party had left the hallway, diplomats who knew about the incident have said.

In 2013, in the midst of the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, American and Iranian officials discussed the possibility of President Barack Obama and Mr. Rouhani shaking hands at the General Assembly.

Ultimately the two only shared a phone call — but even that was like a diplomatic thunderbolt, the first time leaders of the two countries had spoken since the Tehran hostage crisis more than three decades earlier. In Iran, hard-liners rebuked Mr. Rouhani for having spoken to Mr. Obama.

Later that year, Mr. Rouhani did not attend the funeral for the South African leader Nelson Mandela, partly over fear of getting cornered into seeing Mr. Obama. The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, a mouthpiece of Tehran’s hard-line faction, warned that the funeral would be a trap, leading to face-to-face contact “with the head of Great Satan’s government.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran accidentally ran into Mr. Obama at the sidelines of the General Assembly in 2015 and the two shook hands. But when news of the handshake leaked, Mr. Zarif sought assurances from the White House that a photograph of the handshake, taken by one of Mr. Obama’s staff members, would not be released.

Mr. Macron’s misadventure at the Millennium Hotel was not the first time he had been entangled in awkwardness involving Mr. Trump’s effort to talk with the Iranians.

According to Aftab, a semiofficial Iranian news agency, Mr. Trump made a spontaneous attempt to meet Mr. Zarif in August at the Group of 7 summit in France hosted by Mr. Macron, who had invited Mr. Zarif to discuss a potential meeting with the Americans.

Iran’s condition for accepting the invitation was that there would be no chance encounters with the American delegation, the Aftab account said.

When Mr. Macron told Mr. Trump that he would be meeting Mr. Zarif, Aftab said, Mr. Trump surprisingly insisted that he join Mr. Macron, but the French president said he had promised the Iranians there would be no such contacts.

During his meeting with Mr. Zarif, Aftab said, Mr. Macron joked that he could call Mr. Trump to join them. Mr. Zarif declined.

The persistent efforts of European leaders to broker a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rouhani has engendered jokes among Iranians.

They say the effort to push the two leaders into a meeting reminds them of a wedding where cousins who are locked in a family dispute encounter each other, and elders push them to kiss and make up without resolving their issues.

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The Urgent Search for a Cyber Silver Bullet Against Iran

WASHINGTON — After spending billions of dollars to assemble the world’s most potent arsenal of cyberweapons and plant them in networks around the world, United States Cyber Command — and the new era of warfighting it has come to represent — may face a critical test in the coming weeks.

President Trump is considering a range of options to punish Iran for this month’s attack on Saudi oil facilities, and has toughened sanctions on Iran and ordered the deployment of additional troops to the region. But a second cyberstrike — after one launched against Iran just three months ago — has emerged as the most appealing course of action for Mr. Trump, who is reluctant to widen the conflict in a region he has said the United States should leave, according to senior American officials.

But even as the Pentagon considers specific targets — an attempt to shut down Iran’s oil fields and refineries has been one of the “proportionate responses” under review — a broader debate is taking place inside and outside the administration over whether a cyberattack alone will be enough to alter Iran’s calculations, and what kind of retaliation a particularly damaging cyberstrike might provoke.

“The president talked about our use of those previously, but I’m certainly not going to forecast what we’ll do as we move forward,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” when asked whether a cyberattack might be an artful, non-escalatory response to this month’s drone or missile strikes on two of Saudi Arabia’s most important facilities. “This was Iran true and true, and the United States will respond in a way that reflects that act of war by this Iranian revolutionary regime.”

Mr. Pompeo noted that the American military was already sending additional troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, largely to bolster air defenses. But those moves alone are viewed as unlikely to be enough to prevent further Iranian actions.

The question circulating now through the White House, the Pentagon and Cyber Command’s operations room is whether it is possible to send a strong message of deterrence with a cyberattack without doing so much damage that it would prompt an even larger Iranian counterstrike.

At least three times over the past decade, the United States has staged major cyberattacks against Iran, intended to halt its nuclear or missile programs, punish the country or send a clear message to its leadership that it should end its support for proxy militant groups.

In each case, the damage to Iranian systems could be repaired over time. And in each case, the effort to deter Iran was at best only partly successful. If the American charge that Iran was behind the attack in Saudi Arabia proves accurate, it would constitute the latest example of Tehran shaking off a cyberattack and continuing to engage in the kind of behavior the United States had hoped to deter.

The most famous and complex effort was a sophisticated sabotage campaign a decade ago to blow up Iran’s nuclear enrichment center using code, not bombs. The Obama administration later began a program, accelerated by Mr. Trump, to try to use cyberattacks to slow Iran’s missile development. And this past June, Mr. Trump approved a clandestine operation to destroy a key database used by the Iranian military to target oil-carrying ships — and canceled a traditional missile strike he had ordered to respond to the downing of an American surveillance drone.

The June cyberattack, according to two American officials, also did damage that Iran has not yet detected.

“Cyber can certainly be a deterrent, it can be a very powerful weapon,” said Senator Angus King, the Maine independent who is a chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, created by Congress, that is examining American offensive cyberstrategy. “It is an option that can cause real damage.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161011344_fb46845c-6f82-4935-937c-bd1b2058e16a-articleLarge The Urgent Search for a Cyber Silver Bullet Against Iran United States Defense and Military Forces United States Cyber Command Trump, Donald J Saudi Arabia refineries Nuclear Weapons National Security Agency Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes) Defense Department Cyberwarfare and Defense Computers and the Internet

A Saudi military spokesman during a recent news conference in Riyadh displaying what he said were pieces of Iranian cruise missiles that hit the kingdom’s oil fields.CreditFayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. King and other experts said Iran would most likely respond to a cyberattack with one of its own, given the vulnerabilities that exist in the United States and the hyper-connected nature of American life.

But current and former intelligence officials say a cycle of retaliation need not be confined to one military domain. Just as the United States responded in June to the Iranian downing of a drone and sabotage of oil tankers with a cyberattack, Iran could respond to an American cyberoperation with a terrorist attack by a proxy force or a missile strike.

The Pentagon has long held that a cyberattack could constitute an act of war that requires a physical response, and there is no reason to think that Iran would not pursue the same policy.

One senior administration official recently acknowledged that even Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has warned Mr. Trump and his aides that the cyberarsenal is “no magic bullet” for deterring Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

In war games — essentially online simulations — held before the attack on the Saudi oil fields, officials have tried to figure out how Iran’s increasingly skillful “cyber corps” would respond to an American cyberattack. These Iranian fighters have already racked up a significant record: wiping out 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, freezing operations at American banks with a “denial of service” attack, and crippling a Las Vegas casino. Last year, they began to study the ins and outs of election interference, according to private experts and government studies of the 2018 midterms.

When General Nakasone was nominated for his job, he acknowledged that one of the biggest problems facing Cyber Command was that it had not cracked the deterrence problem. Nations that are attacking the United States via cyber “do not think much will happen to them,” he told Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska. “They don’t fear us.”

In his first 18 months in office, General Nakasone has raced to bolster Cyber Command’s authority to act preemptively — and its preparations to respond to attacks. New, classified directives given to him by Mr. Trump, and built upon by Congress, allow Cyber Command to place “implants” of malicious software inside foreign networks without lengthy approval processes that run up to the president. Congress has called such efforts part of “traditional military authority.”

Iran has reportedly been a major target — no surprise, since General Nakasone was a key player in designing a plan called “Nitro Zeus” to shut down Tehran and other Iranian cities in the event of a war. The idea was to put together an attack so devastating that Iran might surrender without a shot being fired.

The 2015 nuclear agreement between the Iranian leadership and President Barack Obama eased the threat of war, and the American cyberoperations plan was put back on the shelf, at least until recently.

At the Pentagon, and even at Cyber Command, many senior officers are cautious about cyberwarfare, arguing that it is difficult for such weapons alone to deter an enemy.

The attack using the “Stuxnet” virus that crippled Iranian nuclear-enrichment centrifuges a decade ago was successful in a narrow sense: It blew up 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges up and running at the time. But when it recovered, Iran built upward of 14,000 more, and counterattacked by crippling Saudi Aramco’s computer systems.

Iran’s Salman oil field. Shutting down Iran’s oil fields and refineries would not be easy, and even if it worked, there is no assurance that conflict with Iran would not escalate.CreditAli Mohammedi/Bloomberg

A long-running series of cyberattacks has slowed but not stopped Iran’s missile program — and Iran has continued to provide thousands of short-range rockets to Hamas and other terrorist groups. The Saudis are studying whether a new generation of Iranian-made missiles were central to this month’s attack on its oil facilities.

The Pentagon and other military officials have told the White House that neither another cyberattack nor the new deployment announced Friday will likely prove robust enough to re-establish deterrence and prevent another attack by Iran on United States allies.

Part of the problem is that most cyberactivity is clandestine, so it is easy for a government to play down the consequences of an attack or deny it even took place.

But some people who favor stepping up cyberoperations suggest that officials are simply thinking too small. If a cyberstrike is damaging enough — taking a refinery offline or shutting down an electric grid, for example — it would be hard to hide. That might have a much more deterrent effect than the smaller bore operations the United States has undertaken so far, they argue.

But such a devastating cyberoperation would also increase the risk of escalation — just as a bombing run on the oil refineries would. Iran, or any other adversary, could claim that people were killed or injured, and that might be difficult to disprove.

A key element of deterrence is ensuring that an adversary understands the other side’s basic capabilities. Unlike nuclear weapons, though, which are widely understood, the American cyberarsenal is shrouded in secrecy, for fear adversaries will develop counter measures if even basic capabilities are known.

General Nakasone has argued that his cyberwarriors must be roaming cyberspace “persistently engaging” enemies — a euphemism for skirmishing with adversaries inside their networks.

“We must ‘defend forward’ in cyberspace, as we do in the physical domains,” he wrote in a Defense Department publication in January. “Our naval forces do not defend by staying in port, and our air power does not remain at airfields. They patrol the seas and skies to ensure they are positioned to defend our country before our borders are crossed. The same logic applies in cyberspace.”

But there is a growing consensus within Cyber Command that if cyberweapons are going to shape the actions of adversaries, they must be used in combination with other elements of power, including economic sanctions, diplomacy or traditional military strikes.

Mr. King, the Maine senator, sees the decisions over the next few weeks on Iran as a test case. “The president’s instinct is not to get in a shooting war, and I think he is right about that,” he said. “So the question is how do we respond?”

He argued that there was no urgency. “This was not a strike on New York City,” Mr. King said. “This was not even a strike on Riyadh. There needs to be a response. But there is time to pause and take a deep breath and consider all of the options — one of which is cyber — but also to think about how we de-escalate the situation.”

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Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf

The oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf have relied for decades on the promise of protection by the United States military, a commitment sealed by the rollback of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and reinforced by a half dozen American military bases that sprang up around the region.

Now that commitment is facing its most serious test since the first gulf war: an attack last Saturday by a swarm of at least 17 missiles and drones that crippled Saudi Arabia’s most critical oil installation and temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply.

Washington and Riyadh blamed Iran, despite its denials, and President Trump threatened that the United States was “locked and loaded.” Yet despite months of such bravado, Mr. Trump has been hesitant to take military action that might risk an expanded conflagration. For better or worse, such a muted response could signal another turning point for the region.

“It is enormous,” said Gregory Gause, a scholar of the region at Texas A&M University. “This is the most serious challenge since the invasion of Kuwait to the status of the United States as a great power that would protect the free flow of energy from the region, and unless there is a big change in the response from the Trump administration I think Gulf leaders will start to question the value of that security commitment.”

Confounding expectations on all sides of the Persian Gulf, the attack and its aftermath have laid bare a cascade of revelations about the regional balance of power.

The stunning success of the attack has shown that billions of dollars in Saudi military spending has left the kingdom’s central industry vulnerable, and it has demonstrated to the world that the increasing availability of low-flying cruise missiles and drones may have rendered many other defense systems perilously obsolete.

It has also shown the world a new side of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the hard charging and often impulsive de facto ruler of the kingdom: He, too, has been forced in this case to back away from immediate retribution against his nemesis, Iran.

If Iran carried out the attack directly, as Washington and Riyadh say, then it has taken a brazen step beyond its familiar strategy of working through allied militant groups to strike at its foes, evidently surprising the White House.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161012769_abe13950-dc14-415d-8511-0fdc5722ac94-articleLarge Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf United States International Relations Saudi Arabia Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Iran Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Drones (Pilotless Planes)

Debris from missiles that the Saudi government says were used in last weekend’s attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Seeking to exact a price from the United States for its sanctions on Iranian oil sales, Tehran may also now be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war in the region. The attack on Saudi Arabia was just the latest in a string of recent attacks carried out by Iran or a proxy — including attacks on oil tankers and the downing of an American drone — with little or no cost to Iran.

And President Trump, focused on his re-election, has so far shown himself less willing to match Iran’s escalation than his ferocious tweets about “obliteration” and “the official end of Iran” had suggested. He recently fired the adviser most hawkish on Iran, John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser. And instead of emphasizing the traditional American interest in the free flow of oil, he appears to have returned to a view he espoused before his election — “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars,” as he wrote in a tweet in 2014.

That Iran would seek in some way to attack Saudi oil production, though, was hardly unexpected. Experts had predicted for months that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Iran’s oil sales would drive it to lash out against the oil production of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States.

The rulers of those Arab states had previously accused President Obama of trying to pull back from the American commitment to the region. They faulted him for negotiating a 2015 deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions without further constraining its military or other activities. And the Gulf leaders were outraged when Mr. Obama called off a planned strike against Syria, an Iranian ally, for using chemical weapons against civilians.

Now some prominent voices in the Arab Gulf States accuse Mr. Trump of an even greater betrayal. “Trump, in his response to Iran, is even worse than Obama,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of reversing the perceived pullback as Gulf leaders had expected, Mr. Abdulla argued, President Trump let down his Arab partners by failing to respond more forcefully to Iranian aggressions.

The United States has said that Iran was behind naval mines that damaged five oil tankers in the Persian Gulf this spring, and in June Iran boasted of shooting down an American surveillance drone. Yet President Trump did little in retaliation for the tanker attacks and called off a planned airstrike against Iran in response to the downing of the drone.

“His inaction gave a green light to this,” Mr. Abdulla said. “Now an Arab Gulf strategic partner has been massively attacked by Iran — which was provoked by Trump, not by us — and we hear Americans saying to us, you need to defend yourselves!”

The oil installation in the eastern city of Abqaiq burned after the attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

“It is an utter failure and utter disappointment in this administration,” he added.

Mr. Trump has not ruled out a military strike, and senior national security officials met Thursday to refine a list of potential targets should President Trump go that route. Still, he has made clear his opposition to another war, and has ordered new sanctions.

But Iran is already under acute economic pressure from the existing sanctions, which use the reach of the American financial system to try to choke off Iranian oil exports anywhere in the world. After pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration implemented the sweeping new penalties this spring to try to force Iran to accept a more restrictive agreement.

Iranian leaders have denounced the sanctions as “economic warfare,” and they appear to have orchestrated an escalating series of attacks that threaten the flow of Persian Gulf oil in order to inflict some of the same pain on the United States and Washington’s Arab allies.

“The Iranians do feel cornered,” Professor Gause said, and that is why they appear to be taking more aggressive action than they have in the past. “This is an effort by Iran to break out of what they see as strangulation.”

Defending the administration’s policies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued this week that the sanctions may have limited Iran’s ability to strike with even more sophisticated missiles or drones.

“They’d have more complex ones but for the sanctions we put in place that have prevented them from getting access to money, most importantly, but also parts, spare parts, information technology,” he told reporters on a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian leaders have denied responsibility for the attack last weekend, but at the same time they have openly reveled in its success. It showed the United States “that playing with the lion’s tail carries serious dangers and if they take action against Iran there will be no tomorrow for them,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp boasted Thursday, Iranian news media reported.

The Iranians may have previously worried about Mr. Trump’s threatening tweets and hawkish advisers, said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at Brookings Institution. “But now they see that he is not going to follow through on the bluff that he has carried out on behalf of the American people,” she said.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran this week. Iran may be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

Others analysts argued that the alarms from the Persian Gulf about an American retreat were overblown under President Obama and remain so under President Trump. American warships are patrolling the gulf to help protect tanker traffic. American satellite and surveillance drones patrol the skies. The many large American military bases deter invasions or other large-scale military actions.

But President Trump’s combination of tough threats and a weak response “is the worst of both worlds,” argued Jeremy Shapiro, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official in the Obama administration.

“It would be foolish to counter this escalation with an escalation, but it was foolish to get into this position in the first place,” he argued, leaving the Trump administration “to choose between an unwise escalation or a humiliating climb-down.”

Experts on military technology said Saudi Arabia should not be faulted for failing to stop the attack. Like those of other countries, Saudi Arabia’s defenses were designed to stop ballistic missiles. This attack appears to have been carried out with low-flying cruise missiles or drones that would escape detection by most radar systems.

“I don’t think that there is any country that could have defended any better than Saudi Arabia did, and that includes the United States,” said Peter Roberts, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, an international research institute.

Yet the attack appears to have caused some rethinking by Crown Prince Mohammed.

Soon after he was first named defense minister, in 2015, he plunged the kingdom into a military campaign in neighboring Yemen to drive from power a faction backed by Iran. Saudi media outlets proclaimed that the prince was asserting the kingdom’s power and leading a new drive to roll back Iranian influence.

“The Iranians, they’re the cause of problems in the Middle East, but they are not a big threat to Saudi Arabia,” the prince boasted confidently to Time magazine in 2018. “Saudi Arabia’s economy is double the size of the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that Iran’s army was “not among the top five” in the Middle East.

“We will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, and not in Saudi Arabia,” he promised on a Saudi news channel.

Yet the damage to the oil installation was a painful lesson in the potential costs of a wider conflict, at a time when the Saudi military remains bogged down in Yemen and Prince Mohammed has been pushing for a public sale of the Saudi state oil company.

The Saudi decision to call for an international investigation and not immediate retribution may be the choice of a chastened prince, analysts said. “I think there has a been a calculation that the costs might be too high,” said Rebecca Wasser, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf

The oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf have relied for decades on the promise of protection by the United States military, a commitment sealed by the rollback of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and reinforced by a half dozen American military bases that sprang up around the region.

Now that commitment is facing its most serious test since the first gulf war: an attack last Saturday by a swarm of at least 17 missiles and drones that crippled Saudi Arabia’s most critical oil installation and temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply.

Washington and Riyadh blamed Iran, despite its denials, and President Trump threatened that the United States was “locked and loaded.” Yet despite months of such bravado, Mr. Trump has been hesitant to take military action that might risk an expanded conflagration. For better or worse, such a muted response could signal another turning point for the region.

“It is enormous,” said Gregory Gause, a scholar of the region at Texas A&M University. “This is the most serious challenge since the invasion of Kuwait to the status of the United States as a great power that would protect the free flow of energy from the region, and unless there is a big change in the response from the Trump administration I think Gulf leaders will start to question the value of that security commitment.”

Confounding expectations on all sides of the Persian Gulf, the attack and its aftermath have laid bare a cascade of revelations about the regional balance of power.

The stunning success of the attack has shown that billions of dollars in Saudi military spending has left the kingdom’s central industry vulnerable, and it has demonstrated to the world that the increasing availability of low-flying cruise missiles and drones may have rendered many other defense systems perilously obsolete.

It has also shown the world a new side of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the hard charging and often impulsive de facto ruler of the kingdom: He, too, has been forced in this case to back away from immediate retribution against his nemesis, Iran.

If Iran carried out the attack directly, as Washington and Riyadh say, then it has taken a brazen step beyond its familiar strategy of working through allied militant groups to strike at its foes, evidently surprising the White House.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161012769_abe13950-dc14-415d-8511-0fdc5722ac94-articleLarge Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf United States International Relations Saudi Arabia Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Iran Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Drones (Pilotless Planes)

Debris from missiles that the Saudi government says were used in last weekend’s attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Seeking to exact a price from the United States for its sanctions on Iranian oil sales, Tehran may also now be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war in the region. The attack on Saudi Arabia was just the latest in a string of recent attacks carried out by Iran or a proxy — including attacks on oil tankers and the downing of an American drone — with little or no cost to Iran.

And President Trump, focused on his re-election, has so far shown himself less willing to match Iran’s escalation than his ferocious tweets about “obliteration” and “the official end of Iran” had suggested. He recently fired the adviser most hawkish on Iran, John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser. And instead of emphasizing the traditional American interest in the free flow of oil, he appears to have returned to a view he espoused before his election — “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars,” as he wrote in a tweet in 2014.

That Iran would seek in some way to attack Saudi oil production, though, was hardly unexpected. Experts had predicted for months that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Iran’s oil sales would drive it to lash out against the oil production of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States.

The rulers of those Arab states had previously accused President Obama of trying to pull back from the American commitment to the region. They faulted him for negotiating a 2015 deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions without further constraining its military or other activities. And the Gulf leaders were outraged when Mr. Obama called off a planned strike against Syria, an Iranian ally, for using chemical weapons against civilians.

Now some prominent voices in the Arab Gulf States accuse Mr. Trump of an even greater betrayal. “Trump, in his response to Iran, is even worse than Obama,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of reversing the perceived pullback as Gulf leaders had expected, Mr. Abdulla argued, President Trump let down his Arab partners by failing to respond more forcefully to Iranian aggressions.

The United States has said that Iran was behind naval mines that damaged five oil tankers in the Persian Gulf this spring, and in June Iran boasted of shooting down an American surveillance drone. Yet President Trump did little in retaliation for the tanker attacks and called off a planned airstrike against Iran in response to the downing of the drone.

“His inaction gave a green light to this,” Mr. Abdulla said. “Now an Arab Gulf strategic partner has been massively attacked by Iran — which was provoked by Trump, not by us — and we hear Americans saying to us, you need to defend yourselves!”

The oil installation in the eastern city of Abqaiq burned after the attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

“It is an utter failure and utter disappointment in this administration,” he added.

Mr. Trump has not ruled out a military strike, and senior national security officials met Thursday to refine a list of potential targets should President Trump go that route. Still, he has made clear his opposition to another war, and has ordered new sanctions.

But Iran is already under acute economic pressure from the existing sanctions, which use the reach of the American financial system to try to choke off Iranian oil exports anywhere in the world. After pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration implemented the sweeping new penalties this spring to try to force Iran to accept a more restrictive agreement.

Iranian leaders have denounced the sanctions as “economic warfare,” and they appear to have orchestrated an escalating series of attacks that threaten the flow of Persian Gulf oil in order to inflict some of the same pain on the United States and Washington’s Arab allies.

“The Iranians do feel cornered,” Professor Gause said, and that is why they appear to be taking more aggressive action than they have in the past. “This is an effort by Iran to break out of what they see as strangulation.”

Defending the administration’s policies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued this week that the sanctions may have limited Iran’s ability to strike with even more sophisticated missiles or drones.

“They’d have more complex ones but for the sanctions we put in place that have prevented them from getting access to money, most importantly, but also parts, spare parts, information technology,” he told reporters on a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian leaders have denied responsibility for the attack last weekend, but at the same time they have openly reveled in its success. It showed the United States “that playing with the lion’s tail carries serious dangers and if they take action against Iran there will be no tomorrow for them,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp boasted Thursday, Iranian news media reported.

The Iranians may have previously worried about Mr. Trump’s threatening tweets and hawkish advisers, said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at Brookings Institution. “But now they see that he is not going to follow through on the bluff that he has carried out on behalf of the American people,” she said.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran this week. Iran may be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

Others analysts argued that the alarms from the Persian Gulf about an American retreat were overblown under President Obama and remain so under President Trump. American warships are patrolling the gulf to help protect tanker traffic. American satellite and surveillance drones patrol the skies. The many large American military bases deter invasions or other large-scale military actions.

But President Trump’s combination of tough threats and a weak response “is the worst of both worlds,” argued Jeremy Shapiro, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official in the Obama administration.

“It would be foolish to counter this escalation with an escalation, but it was foolish to get into this position in the first place,” he argued, leaving the Trump administration “to choose between an unwise escalation or a humiliating climb-down.”

Experts on military technology said Saudi Arabia should not be faulted for failing to stop the attack. Like those of other countries, Saudi Arabia’s defenses were designed to stop ballistic missiles. This attack appears to have been carried out with low-flying cruise missiles or drones that would escape detection by most radar systems.

“I don’t think that there is any country that could have defended any better than Saudi Arabia did, and that includes the United States,” said Peter Roberts, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, an international research institute.

Yet the attack appears to have caused some rethinking by Crown Prince Mohammed.

Soon after he was first named defense minister, in 2015, he plunged the kingdom into a military campaign in neighboring Yemen to drive from power a faction backed by Iran. Saudi media outlets proclaimed that the prince was asserting the kingdom’s power and leading a new drive to roll back Iranian influence.

“The Iranians, they’re the cause of problems in the Middle East, but they are not a big threat to Saudi Arabia,” the prince boasted confidently to Time magazine in 2018. “Saudi Arabia’s economy is double the size of the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that Iran’s army was “not among the top five” in the Middle East.

“We will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, and not in Saudi Arabia,” he promised on a Saudi news channel.

Yet the damage to the oil installation was a painful lesson in the potential costs of a wider conflict, at a time when the Saudi military remains bogged down in Yemen and Prince Mohammed has been pushing for a public sale of the Saudi state oil company.

The Saudi decision to call for an international investigation and not immediate retribution may be the choice of a chastened prince, analysts said. “I think there has a been a calculation that the costs might be too high,” said Rebecca Wasser, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf

The oil-rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf have relied for decades on the promise of protection by the United States military, a commitment sealed by the rollback of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and reinforced by a half dozen American military bases that sprang up around the region.

Now that commitment is facing its most serious test since the first gulf war: an attack last Saturday by a swarm of at least 17 missiles and drones that crippled Saudi Arabia’s most critical oil installation and temporarily knocked out 5 percent of the world’s oil supply.

Washington and Riyadh blamed Iran, despite its denials, and President Trump threatened that the United States was “locked and loaded.” Yet despite months of such bravado, Mr. Trump has been hesitant to take military action that might risk an expanded conflagration. For better or worse, such a muted response could signal another turning point for the region.

“It is enormous,” said Gregory Gause, a scholar of the region at Texas A&M University. “This is the most serious challenge since the invasion of Kuwait to the status of the United States as a great power that would protect the free flow of energy from the region, and unless there is a big change in the response from the Trump administration I think Gulf leaders will start to question the value of that security commitment.”

Confounding expectations on all sides of the Persian Gulf, the attack and its aftermath have laid bare a cascade of revelations about the regional balance of power.

The stunning success of the attack has shown that billions of dollars in Saudi military spending has left the kingdom’s central industry vulnerable, and it has demonstrated to the world that the increasing availability of low-flying cruise missiles and drones may have rendered many other defense systems perilously obsolete.

It has also shown the world a new side of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the hard charging and often impulsive de facto ruler of the kingdom: He, too, has been forced in this case to back away from immediate retribution against his nemesis, Iran.

If Iran carried out the attack directly, as Washington and Riyadh say, then it has taken a brazen step beyond its familiar strategy of working through allied militant groups to strike at its foes, evidently surprising the White House.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161012769_abe13950-dc14-415d-8511-0fdc5722ac94-articleLarge Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf United States International Relations Saudi Arabia Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Iran Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Drones (Pilotless Planes)

Debris from missiles that the Saudi government says were used in last weekend’s attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Seeking to exact a price from the United States for its sanctions on Iranian oil sales, Tehran may also now be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war in the region. The attack on Saudi Arabia was just the latest in a string of recent attacks carried out by Iran or a proxy — including attacks on oil tankers and the downing of an American drone — with little or no cost to Iran.

And President Trump, focused on his re-election, has so far shown himself less willing to match Iran’s escalation than his ferocious tweets about “obliteration” and “the official end of Iran” had suggested. He recently fired the adviser most hawkish on Iran, John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser. And instead of emphasizing the traditional American interest in the free flow of oil, he appears to have returned to a view he espoused before his election — “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars,” as he wrote in a tweet in 2014.

That Iran would seek in some way to attack Saudi oil production, though, was hardly unexpected. Experts had predicted for months that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Iran’s oil sales would drive it to lash out against the oil production of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States.

The rulers of those Arab states had previously accused President Obama of trying to pull back from the American commitment to the region. They faulted him for negotiating a 2015 deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions without further constraining its military or other activities. And the Gulf leaders were outraged when Mr. Obama called off a planned strike against Syria, an Iranian ally, for using chemical weapons against civilians.

Now some prominent voices in the Arab Gulf States accuse Mr. Trump of an even greater betrayal. “Trump, in his response to Iran, is even worse than Obama,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of reversing the perceived pullback as Gulf leaders had expected, Mr. Abdulla argued, President Trump let down his Arab partners by failing to respond more forcefully to Iranian aggressions.

The United States has said that Iran was behind naval mines that damaged five oil tankers in the Persian Gulf this spring, and in June Iran boasted of shooting down an American surveillance drone. Yet President Trump did little in retaliation for the tanker attacks and called off a planned airstrike against Iran in response to the downing of the drone.

“His inaction gave a green light to this,” Mr. Abdulla said. “Now an Arab Gulf strategic partner has been massively attacked by Iran — which was provoked by Trump, not by us — and we hear Americans saying to us, you need to defend yourselves!”

The oil installation in the eastern city of Abqaiq burned after the attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

“It is an utter failure and utter disappointment in this administration,” he added.

Mr. Trump has not ruled out a military strike, and senior national security officials met Thursday to refine a list of potential targets should President Trump go that route. Still, he has made clear his opposition to another war, and has ordered new sanctions.

But Iran is already under acute economic pressure from the existing sanctions, which use the reach of the American financial system to try to choke off Iranian oil exports anywhere in the world. After pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration implemented the sweeping new penalties this spring to try to force Iran to accept a more restrictive agreement.

Iranian leaders have denounced the sanctions as “economic warfare,” and they appear to have orchestrated an escalating series of attacks that threaten the flow of Persian Gulf oil in order to inflict some of the same pain on the United States and Washington’s Arab allies.

“The Iranians do feel cornered,” Professor Gause said, and that is why they appear to be taking more aggressive action than they have in the past. “This is an effort by Iran to break out of what they see as strangulation.”

Defending the administration’s policies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued this week that the sanctions may have limited Iran’s ability to strike with even more sophisticated missiles or drones.

“They’d have more complex ones but for the sanctions we put in place that have prevented them from getting access to money, most importantly, but also parts, spare parts, information technology,” he told reporters on a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian leaders have denied responsibility for the attack last weekend, but at the same time they have openly reveled in its success. It showed the United States “that playing with the lion’s tail carries serious dangers and if they take action against Iran there will be no tomorrow for them,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp boasted Thursday, Iranian news media reported.

The Iranians may have previously worried about Mr. Trump’s threatening tweets and hawkish advisers, said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at Brookings Institution. “But now they see that he is not going to follow through on the bluff that he has carried out on behalf of the American people,” she said.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran this week. Iran may be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

Others analysts argued that the alarms from the Persian Gulf about an American retreat were overblown under President Obama and remain so under President Trump. American warships are patrolling the gulf to help protect tanker traffic. American satellite and surveillance drones patrol the skies. The many large American military bases deter invasions or other large-scale military actions.

But President Trump’s combination of tough threats and a weak response “is the worst of both worlds,” argued Jeremy Shapiro, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official in the Obama administration.

“It would be foolish to counter this escalation with an escalation, but it was foolish to get into this position in the first place,” he argued, leaving the Trump administration “to choose between an unwise escalation or a humiliating climb-down.”

Experts on military technology said Saudi Arabia should not be faulted for failing to stop the attack. Like those of other countries, Saudi Arabia’s defenses were designed to stop ballistic missiles. This attack appears to have been carried out with low-flying cruise missiles or drones that would escape detection by most radar systems.

“I don’t think that there is any country that could have defended any better than Saudi Arabia did, and that includes the United States,” said Peter Roberts, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, an international research institute.

Yet the attack appears to have caused some rethinking by Crown Prince Mohammed.

Soon after he was first named defense minister, in 2015, he plunged the kingdom into a military campaign in neighboring Yemen to drive from power a faction backed by Iran. Saudi media outlets proclaimed that the prince was asserting the kingdom’s power and leading a new drive to roll back Iranian influence.

“The Iranians, they’re the cause of problems in the Middle East, but they are not a big threat to Saudi Arabia,” the prince boasted confidently to Time magazine in 2018. “Saudi Arabia’s economy is double the size of the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that Iran’s army was “not among the top five” in the Middle East.

“We will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, and not in Saudi Arabia,” he promised on a Saudi news channel.

Yet the damage to the oil installation was a painful lesson in the potential costs of a wider conflict, at a time when the Saudi military remains bogged down in Yemen and Prince Mohammed has been pushing for a public sale of the Saudi state oil company.

The Saudi decision to call for an international investigation and not immediate retribution may be the choice of a chastened prince, analysts said. “I think there has a been a calculation that the costs might be too high,” said Rebecca Wasser, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Attack on Saudi Arabia Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf

The oil rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf have relied for decades on the promise of protection by the United States military, a commitment sealed by the rollback of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and reinforced by a half dozen American military bases that sprung up around the region.

Now that commitment is facing its most serious test since the first gulf war: an attack last Saturday by a swarm of at least 17 missiles and drones that crippled Saudi Arabia’s most critical oil installation and temporarily knocked out five percent of the world’s oil supply.

Washington and Riyadh blamed Iran, despite its denials, and President Trump threatened that the United States was “locked and loaded.” Yet despite months of such bravado, Mr. Trump has been hesitant to take military action that might risk an expanded conflagration. For better or worse, such a muted response could signal another turning point for the region.

“It is enormous,” said Gregory Gause, a scholar of the region at Texas A&M University. “This is the most serious challenge since the invasion of Kuwait to the status of the United States as a great power that would protect the free flow of energy from the region, and unless there is a big change in the response from the Trump administration I think Gulf leaders will start to question the value of that security commitment.”

Confounding expectations on all sides of the Persian Gulf, the attack and its aftermath have laid bare a cascade of revelations about the regional balance of power.

The stunning success of the attack has shown that billions of dollars in Saudi military spending has left the kingdom’s central industry vulnerable, and it has demonstrated to the world that the increasing availability of low-flying cruise missiles and drones may have rendered many other defense systems perilously obsolete.

It has also shown the world a new side of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the hard charging and often impulsive de facto ruler of the kingdom: he, too, has been forced in this case to back away from immediate retribution against his nemesis, Iran.

If Iran carried out the attack directly, as Washington and Riyadh say, then it has taken a brazen step beyond its familiar strategy of working through allied militant groups to strike at its foes, evidently surprising the White House.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161012769_abe13950-dc14-415d-8511-0fdc5722ac94-articleLarge Attack on Saudi Arabia Tests U.S. Guarantee to Defend Gulf United States International Relations Saudi Arabia Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Iran Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Drones (Pilotless Planes)

Debris from missiles that the Saudi government says were used in last weekend’s attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Seeking to exact a price from the United States for its sanctions on Iranian oil sales, Tehran may also now be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war in the region. The attack on Saudi Arabia was just the latest in a string of recent attacks carried out by Iran or a proxy — including attacks on oil tankers and the downing of an American drone — with little or no cost to Iran.

And President Trump, focused on his re-election, has so far shown himself less willing to match Iran’s escalation than his ferocious tweets about “obliteration” and “the official end of Iran” had suggested. He recently fired the adviser most hawkish on Iran, John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser. And instead of emphasizing the traditional American interest in the free flow of oil, he appears to have returned to a view he espoused before his election — “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars,” as he wrote in a tweet in 2014.

That Iran would seek in some way to attack Saudi oil production, though, was hardly unexpected. Experts had predicted for months that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Iran’s oil sales would drive it to lash out against the oil production of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States.

The rulers of those Arab states had previously accused President Obama of trying to pull back from the American commitment to region. They faulted him for negotiating a 2015 deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions without further constraining its military or other activities. And the Gulf leaders were outraged when Mr. Obama called off a planned strike against Syria, an Iranian ally, for using chemical weapons against civilians.

Now some prominent voices in the Arab Gulf States accuse Mr. Trump of an even greater betrayal. “Trump, in his response to Iran, is even worse than Obama,” said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.

Instead of reversing the perceived pullback as Gulf leaders had expected, Mr. Abdulla argued, President Trump let down his Arab partners by failing to respond more forcefully to Iranian aggressions.

The United States has said that Iran was behind naval mines that damaged five oil tankers in the Persian Gulf this spring, and in June Iran boasted of shooting down an American surveillance drone. Yet President Trump did little in retaliation for the tanker attacks and called off a planned airstrike against Iran in response to the downing of the drone.

“His inaction gave a green light to this,” Mr. Abdulla said. “Now an Arab Gulf strategic partner has been massively attacked by Iran — which was provoked by Trump, not by us — and we hear Americans saying to us, you need to defend yourselves!”

The oil installation in the eastern city of Abqaiq burned after the attack.CreditHamad I Mohammed/Reuters

“It is an utter failure and utter disappointment in this administration,” he added.

Mr. Trump has not ruled out a military strike, and senior national security officials met Thursday to refine a list of potential targets should President Trump go that route. Still, he has made clear his opposition to another war, and has ordered new sanctions.

But Iran is already under acute economic pressure from the existing sanctions, which use the reach of the American financial system to try to choke off Iranian oil exports anywhere in the world. After pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration implemented the sweeping new penalties this spring to try to force Iran to accept a more restrictive agreement.

Iranian leaders have denounced the sanctions as “economic warfare,” and they appear to have orchestrated an escalating series of attacks that threaten the flow of Persian Gulf oil in order to inflict some of the same pain on the United States and Washington’s Arab allies.

“The Iranians do feel cornered,” Professor Gause said, and that is why they appear to be taking more aggressive action than they have in the past. “This is an effort by Iran to break out of what they see as strangulation.”

Defending the administration’s policies, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued this week that the sanctions may have limited Iran’s ability to strike with even more sophisticated missiles or drones.

“They’d have more complex ones but for the sanctions we put in place that have prevented them from getting access to money, most importantly, but also parts, spare parts, information technology,” he told reporters on a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian leaders have denied responsibility for the attack last weekend, but at the same time they have openly reveled in its success. It showed the United States “that playing with the lion’s tail carries serious dangers and if they take action against Iran there will be no tomorrow for them,” Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp boasted Thursday, Iranian news media reported.

The Iranians may have previously worried about Mr. Trump’s threatening tweets and hawkish advisers, said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at Brookings Institution. “But now they see that he is not going to follow through on the bluff that he has carried out on behalf of the American people,” she said.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran this week. Iran may be emboldened to carry out further attacks, calculating that President Trump will balk at another war.CreditOffice of the Iranian Presidency

Others analysts argued that the alarms from the Persian Gulf about an American retreat were overblown under President Obama and remain so under President Trump. American warships are patrolling the gulf to help protect tanker traffic. American satellite and surveillance drones patrol the skies. The many large American military bases deter invasions or other large-scale military actions.

But President Trump’s combination of tough threats and a weak response “is the worst of both worlds,” argued Jeremy Shapiro, research director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and a former State Department official in the Obama administration.

“It would be foolish to counter this escalation with an escalation, but it was foolish to get into this position in the first place,” he argued, leaving the Trump administration “to choose between an unwise escalation or a humiliating climb-down.”

Experts on military technology said Saudi Arabia should not be faulted for failing to stop the attack. Like those of other countries, Saudi Arabia’s defenses were designed to stop ballistic missiles. This attack appears to have been carried out with low-flying cruise missiles or drones that would escape detection by most radar systems.

“I don’t think that there is any country that could have defended any better than Saudi Arabia did, and that includes the United States,” said Peter Roberts, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, an international research institute.

Yet the attack appears to have caused some rethinking by Crown Prince Mohammed.

Soon after he was first named defense minister, in 2015, he plunged the kingdom into a military campaign in neighboring Yemen to drive from power a faction backed by Iran. Saudi media outlets proclaimed that the prince was asserting the kingdom’s power and leading a new drive to roll back Iranian influence.

“The Iranians, they’re the cause of problems in the Middle East, but they are not a big threat to Saudi Arabia,” the prince boasted confidently to Time magazine in 2018. “Saudi Arabia’s economy is double the size of the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that Iran’s army was “ not among the top five” in the Middle East.

“We will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, and not in Saudi Arabia,” he promised on a Saudi news channel.

Yet the damage to the oil installation was a painful lesson in the potential costs of a wider conflict, at a time when the Saudi military remains bogged down in Yemen and Prince Mohammed has been pushing for a public sale of the Saudi state oil company.

The Saudi decision to call for an international investigation and not immediate retribution may be the choice of a chastened prince, analysts said. “I think there has a been a calculation that the costs might be too high,” said Rebecca Wasser, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Wants Big Diplomatic Wins. Here Are the Odds.

WASHINGTON — John R. Bolton has left the Situation Room, and President Trump is left at the table with a giant set of chips set on hot spots around the world.

In Mr. Trump’s view, the clock is ticking: He needs some big victories between now and the election in November 2020. But he also wants to prove that his idiosyncratic approach to foreign policy — as a series of deals rather than a philosophy of how American hard and soft power is deployed — can produce results that have eluded Washington’s foreign policy establishment for a decade or more.

Here’s a look at six issues on the table.

Ask Mr. Trump about his negotiations with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and he will tell you he is already winning: He was the first American president to meet a North Korean leader — three times now — and the first to step, briefly, into North Korean territory. He has gotten back the remains of American soldiers and won a pause, which has lasted nearly two years, in nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. It all led Mr. Trump to declare on Twitter, after his first meeting with Mr. Kim in Singapore, that North Korea was “no longer a Nuclear Threat.”

The only problem is that the North’s nuclear ability has increased since that meeting, by some estimates significantly. Intelligence estimates indicate that the North’s stockpile of fuel has swelled, and so has its missile arsenal. Short-range missile tests have improved Mr. Kim’s ability to strike American bases in South Korea and Japan with a new generation of weapons intended to avoid missile defenses. And the North hasn’t turned over a list of its weapons, missiles and facilities, which was supposed to be the first step.

Mr. Trump remains convinced that Mr. Kim will be impressed by the prospect of new hotels on the (heavily mined) beaches of North Korea’s east coast. The whole country, he notes, is a great property, with easy access to China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. The only issue is whether he can persuade his new friend to give up the weapons that, in the North Korean leader’s view, have kept him in office. That may mean settling with partial steps — starting with a nuclear freeze — on the way to a bigger deal that may or may not happen.

Prospects for a win: Next to none, unless Mr. Trump changes the goals. It is more likely he will agree to incremental reductions and call it a victory.


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President Hassan Rouhani of Iran with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear technology organization, in April.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

To the Trump administration, there is no more existential threat than Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sees it as the source of virtually all trouble in the Middle East, and Mr. Trump kept insisting to a series of aides that the only way to get a good deal with Iran was to destroy the 2015 nuclear agreement, which he dismissed as “terrible” and a giveaway because it did not forever ban Iran from making nuclear fuel.

Mr. Bolton, who before joining the administration was an advocate of American-led regime change in Iran, was an enthusiast of the “maximum pressure” campaign. And indeed it has been more successful than most experts expected. Iran’s oil revenues have plunged, its economy is shrinking and some of its elites are beginning to wonder whether it’s time to acknowledge the inevitable, which is to negotiate with a president they can’t stand.

All eyes are on the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in 10 days. Mr. Trump and even Mr. Pompeo have said they are ready to negotiate without preconditions, and could meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

“I do believe they would like to make a deal,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday. “If they do, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great, too.”

He insisted the goal remained the same. “They never will have a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If they are thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it.”

The wild card here is Mr. Rouhani because he is unwilling to meet until sanctions are lifted, or so he says.

Prospects for a win: Not bad. The Iranians have a long history of changing their minds and negotiating when there are no other options. And unlike North Korea, they have no nuclear weapons, so they have less to give up.


Every time Mr. Trump goes to Camp David, he sees pictures of Jimmy Carter, whose cabin-to-cabin diplomacy in 1978 brought peace between Israel and Egypt. Some aides think that inspired Mr. Trump to invite the Taliban — who gave haven to Al Qaeda to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — to the presidential retreat. Mr. Bolton’s argument that this was a crazy idea precipitated this week’s rupture.

But it’s hardly over. The “peace deal” Mr. Trump is touting isn’t the Camp David accords. It would call for a “reduction in violence” and the beginning of a dialogue about power sharing between the Taliban and the American-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. Few think it will lead to true peace. But it may be enough to give Mr. Trump the chance to significantly reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan.

Prospects for a win: Fairly high. The only people who want American troops out more than Mr. Trump are the Taliban.


President Xi Jinping of China at the Group of 20 summit this year in Osaka, Japan.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Trump miscalculated when it came to challenging President Xi Jinping of China: He thought Mr. Xi would fold as tariffs took their toll. So far, Mr. Xi has not folded, and market jitters are a reflection of the fear that the world’s two largest economies could tank simultaneously.

The bigger problem facing the Trump administration is that after nearly 32 months in office, it has no integrated China strategy.

Mr. Pompeo and many in the military establishment view Mr. Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, as determined to spread the country’s influence through Africa, Latin America and, increasingly, Europe — and to use its technology, led by Huawei-produced networks, to exercise control. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other members of the economics team are convinced that Mr. Xi, in the end, will take the best economic deal he can.

And Mr. Trump, forever seeking flexibility, gyrates between these two posts, sometimes declaring China’s progress on 5G networks, artificial intelligence and quantum computing a national security threat, and at other times suggesting that supplying those efforts is up for negotiation.

Prospects for a win: Poor. Mr. Xi is playing a long game, and Mr. Trump is playing for November 2020.


The president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have taken two years to study Middle East peace — “the deal of the century,” Mr. Trump called it — and when they revealed the first part of the plan, it was all about getting wealthy Arab states, among others, to invest tens of billions of dollars in the Palestinian territories, as well as in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

But key decision makers avoided the conference, and with Israel in the midst of its own campaign season, the political side of the plan won’t be released until after the election — if then. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pre-empted the whole proposal this week with his pre-election promise to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank — reducing any future Palestinian state to an enclave encircled by Israel.

Prospects for a win: On life support. No evidence supports the idea that Mr. Kushner will succeed where others have failed.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this month. Mr. Trump pushed for Russia to be allowed back into the Group of 7, despite the country’s annexation of Crimea.CreditMikhail Klimentyev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Alone among his foreign policy advisers, Mr. Trump believes the key to dealing with Russia is reintegration, letting the country back into the Group of 7, forgiving (or ignoring) its annexation of Crimea and never mentioning its effort to influence the 2016 election, a charge he has dismissed as a “hoax.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is gearing up for a fundamental shift in policy in which Russia and China are regarded as “revisionist” states that must be challenged. And the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency say they are constantly creating plans to counter Russian malign influence in the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump argues “there is no reason for this,” and says that with a little help to the Russian economy, President Vladimir V. Putin would be a lot easier to deal with. With Mr. Bolton gone, Mr. Trump may well try to negotiate an extension to the New START treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the United States and Russia.

But when it comes to lifting sanctions, Mr. Trump has run into a brick wall with his own party, whose leaders say they have no intention of reversing decades of hawkish views on containment.

Prospects for a win: Mr. Trump is not playing poker here — he’s playing solitaire. The only possible victory is an arms control treaty extension.

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Trump Leaves Open Possibility of Easing Iranian Sanctions to Spur Nuclear Talks

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WASHINGTON — President Trump left open the possibility on Wednesday of relaxing economic sanctions against Iran before starting new nuclear negotiations, seeming to undercut his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran in favor of striking a diplomatic deal.

Hours earlier, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said that the United States must lift its bruising sanctions before officials in Tehran would be ready to talk.

Mr. Trump stressed his view that Iran’s economy is suffering, and that the leadership in Tehran is eager for negotiations.

“I do believe they’d like to make a deal,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “If they do, that’s great; and if they don’t, that’s great too. But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.”

He shrugged when asked if he would consider easing the sanctions to secure a meeting with Iran.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said.

Though Mr. Trump has previously offered to talk to Iran’s leaders, his comments on Wednesday appeared to be the first time he has publicly left open the door to softening his administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. The shift would have been stridently opposed by John R. Bolton, the White House national security adviser who was unceremoniously ousted on Tuesday.

For nearly a year, the Trump administration has threatened economic penalties against foreign governments and businesses seeking to invest in Iran, or to buy its oil and other goods. The isolation campaign has crippled Iran’s economy and frustrated countries, including China and India, that rely on its oil.

Other allies, particularly in Europe, were infuriated in May 2018 when Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear accord that Iran struck with world powers during the Obama administration. They have sought to create a barter system with Tehran that would keep financial channels open but not violate the American sanctions, and President Emmanuel Macron of France has dangled the possibility of a $15 billion bailout to bring Iran back into compliance with the 2015 deal.

Under the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, the Treasury and State Departments have ramped up sanctions against Iran to force it back into negotiations. Brian H. Hook, the State Department envoy overseeing Iran issues, told reporters last week that sanctions were essential to financially starving the government in Tehran and, in turn, making it more difficult to fund Iranian-allied fighters in conflicts across the Middle East.

“We are maintaining the maximum-pressure campaign,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

In a telephone call with Mr. Macron, reported on Wednesday by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, Mr. Rouhani said that “if the sanctions remain in place, negotiations with the U.S. administration have no meaning.”

As he faces re-election next year, Mr. Trump has been searching for a diplomatic victory — not just with Iran, but also with North Korea and Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly offered to open talks with Iranian officials, without setting any conditions for the negotiations, and has raised the possibility of a meeting at the annual global forum at the United Nations this month.

A similar effort in 2017 to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Rouhani at the United Nations collapsed.

President Barack Obama never managed to meet with Mr. Rouhani, even after the nuclear deal was signed.

The closest the two presidents came was a 2013 phone call that lasted 15 minutes and was arranged by Mr. Rouhani as he departed the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Obama took the call at the White House; it was the first direct conversation between the leaders of the two countries since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that ousted the American-backed shah.

But Mr. Trump also made clear on Wednesday that he would not bend on his vow to block Iran’s efforts to escalate the country’s nuclear program, which had been largely shelved as a result of the 2015 agreement. “If they’re thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it,” Mr. Trump said. “Because it’s going to be very dangerous for them to enrich.”

Mr. Rouhani said over the weekend that Iran was preparing to restart its production of highly enriched uranium, the material needed to build a nuclear weapon. Doing so would most likely scuttle any hope of resurrecting the nuclear accord with world powers, as Mr. Macron has been trying to do.

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CNN: Did the Russians nuke themselves?

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Just what caused a mysterious explosion and the deaths of five key researchers in Russia’s equivalent of Los Alamos? The accident last week caused a spike in background radiation levels and prompted a scramble of nuclear-related support to Sarov, a secret city in northern Russia known for research and development on nuclear weapons. Western intelligence suspects that the new Russian nuclear cruise missile is under development in Sarov — or was, anyway.

The Russians finally broke their silence today, but didn’t actually offer any specific denials, CNN notes:

The Kremlin broke its silence Tuesday on the apparent explosion of a nuclear-powered cruise missile during a test, saying that accidents “happen” but that Russia remained “far ahead” in the development of advanced weaponry.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to confirm widespread international speculation that the accident — which claimed the lives of at least five nuclear specialists last Thursday — involved a nuclear-powered cruise missile known as the Burevestnik or Skyfall.

But in a conference call with reporters, Peskov denied that such mishaps would set back Russian efforts to develop advanced military capabilities.

The spokesperson said that only experts could speak with authority on such matters, but added: “Accidents, unfortunately, happen. They are tragedies. But in this particular case, it is important for us to remember those heroes who lost their lives in this accident.”

Russia had ordered the nearby village of Nyonoksa to evacuate, but then inexplicably canceled the order:

The Russian military on Tuesday told residents of a village near a navy testing range to evacuate, but cancelled the order hours later, adding to the uncertainty and confusion fueled by a missile explosion at the range that led to a brief spike in radiation that frightened residents and raised new questions about the military’s weapons program.

The initial notice from the military told residents of Nyonoksa, a village of about 500, to move out temporarily, citing unspecified activities at the range. But a few hours later, the military said the planned activities were cancelled and rescinded the request to leave, said Ksenia Yudina, a spokeswoman for the Severodvinsk regional administration.

The Associated Press suggests in the same report that this might have been a routine request:

Local media in Severodvinsk said residents of Nyonoksa regularly received similar temporary evacuation orders usually timed to tests at the range.

Even that seems significant, however. If they had a test planned and then canceled it, it might be because their nuclear facilities can no longer conduct tests. Or, alternately, the Putin regime figures they can sacrifice 500 of their citizens in order to maintain the Chip Diller routine.

That would be a long-term mistake. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 didn’t lead immediately to the collapse of the Soviet system, but it certainly contributed to the erosion of its credibility and hastened its end. The Washington Post’s editorial board offered Russia a reminder of that this afternoon and told Vladimir Putin to ‘fess up:

Initially, Russia’s defense ministry said two people died in the explosion, three were injured and there was no radiation release. Then officials in Severodvinsk, a larger city some 19 miles away, posted on its website a statement that sensors recorded a short-term spike in radiation, without saying how much. The report was subsequently taken down. Residents rushed to stockpile iodine against possible radiation exposure. Ambulances carrying the injured appeared to be sealed by some kind of plastic film, and personnel were wearing hazmat suits. On Aug. 10, the Russian state nuclear agency, Rosatom, said five of its employees had died in the accident, bringing the total to seven. Moreover, Rosatom said the blast resulted from the test of a jet engine “propulsion system involving isotopes,” or nuclear materials. On Aug. 13, residents of the small village of Nyonoksa were told they would be evacuated temporarily.

If this slow dribble of facts sounds familiar, it is — the same parade of misdirection happened during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. This accident is nothing like Chernobyl in scale, but the government response looks familiar, including a lack of transparency about radiation release. As the recent television series “Chernobyl” vividly illustrated, that accident, the worst in the nuclear age, was characterized by lies and deception. At the very least, Russia should immediately clear up what occurred at Nyonoksa.

They also raise the warning for the rest of us:

If the Nyonoksa blast was a test of the Burevestnik engine, Russia may be further along than previously thought. Mr. Putin has taken pains to brag that Russian can develop weapons with an asymmetric threat to the United States. Test failures are to be expected. But at a time when nuclear arms control is falling apart, this test raises a question: If successful, what kind of new nuclear threat will Russia possess?

Maybe it wasn’t so successful, which might be why Putin’s not talking much about it.

The post CNN: Did the Russians nuke themselves? appeared first on Hot Air.

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