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TBR News December 5, 2020

Jan 05 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. January 5, 2020:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
‘Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose’
Commentary for January 5:”By a mixture of bribery, flattery and political pressure, Israel has convinced Trump that he ought to join Israel in attacking both Iran and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
The American assassination of a leading Iranian general is the beginning and Trump will begin to send American troops to Iraq ‘to protect our Embassy’ but in reality to prepare for a land attack on Iran.
The other part of the plan is to get the USAF to both carpet bomb southern Lebanon to destroy the Hezbollah missile sites and to bunker bomb suspected Iranian sites where Israeli intelligence claims atomic weapons are being fabricated.
This time, every sane person I know inside the Beltway thinks, Trump has gone too far and a number of people living in and around Washington are removing themselves and their families to more distant, and safer, areas.
A fishing boat, with an atomic device on board, could easily come up the Potomac, unchallenged, and if the device were detonated, from a distance or by a set time, the entire capitol would be drenched in highly radioactive river water.
That Iran will respond to the assassination, which Trump stupidly brags he ordred, is beyond a doubt and another scenario is their bombardment of the oil refineries well within the range of their missiles.
In that case, Amercans can buy their gas by the ounce.
No wonder electric cars are being touted so heavly.”

K

The Table of Contents
• U.S. killing of Iran’s second most powerful man risks regional conflagration
• The Trump Administration Just Killed Iran’s Most Famous Military Commander. We’re Not Ready for What’s Next.
• Pentagon to deploy thousands of additional troops to Middle East
• Qasem Soleimani: How strong is Iran’s military?
• US and allies on high alert as Iran threatens retaliation
• The Attack on Iran: Israel’s Plans for a US Action
• Operation Scrubber
• How Our Economic Warfare Brings the World to Heel
• The Season of Evil

U.S. killing of Iran’s second most powerful man risks regional conflagration
January 3, 2020
by Samia Nakhoul
Reuters
BEIRUT (Reuters) – The U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful figure after its supreme leader, is seen by Tehran as an act of war that risks regional conflagration.
By ordering Friday’s air strike on the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s foreign legions, President Donald Trump has taken the United States and its allies into uncharted territory in its confrontation with Iran and its proxy militias across the region.
The Iranian leadership may bide its time.
But most analysts believe this blow to its prestige, plus Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei’s personal commitment to Soleimani and his campaign to forge an axis of Shi’ite paramilitary power across the Levant and into the Gulf, means Iranian reprisals will be lethal.
It risks a slide into direct conflict with the United States that could engulf the whole region.
“The direct assassination of Soleimani by the United States is a naked challenge and Iran has to carry out a major face-saving act to respond,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “This is not the end of it.”
Soleimani, who made his name in Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s, rose in 1998 to command the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni rule and brought Iraq’s Shi’ite majority to power, the Quds Force built up a powerful array of proxy militias to harry the U.S. occupation.
They were modeled on Hezbollah, the Shi’ite paramilitary force Iran created in Lebanon – but in Iraq they were four times bigger.
When Syria was plunged into war by the Sunni rebellion that started in 2011, Soleimani mobilized Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias to save President Bashar al-Assad and establish a new Quds fortress.
That enabled Iran to link up its paramilitary proxies in a Shi’ite axis of power across Iraq and through Syria to the Mediterranean, alarming U.S. allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
NETHER FORGOTTEN NOR FORGIVEN
Soleimani, the architect of this muscular policy, then became a regional legend and popular icon in Iran after his forces spearheaded the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
But the seemingly inexorable success of Soleimani’s paramilitary strategy – permanently mobilized militias armed with precision missiles and drones – came at a cost.
In Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces, the 100,000-strong paramilitary alliance at the sharp end of the power struggle between Iran and the United States, may have over-reached.
At the instigation of Soleimani and the Quds Force, PMF units have stepped up harassment of U.S. troops in Iraq.
But the killing of an American contractor at a base in northern Iraq attacked by the Kataib Hezbollah militia last week prompted U.S. air strikes that killed 25 pro-Iranian fighters.
In response, the militias laid siege to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, breaking through the perimeter before withdrawing.
That reminder of the occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 – a humiliation Americans have never forgiven – may have prompted Trump, facing re-election as well as impeachment this year, to sign Soleimani’s death warrant.
“The Americans have never forgotten the storming of their embassy in Tehran and the hostage-taking,” says Sarkis Naoum, a leading regional analyst.
“This issue for them was bigger than Soleimani’s killing,” he added. “Their embassy was the symbol of the nation and their influence.”
MULTI-PRONGED RESPONSE?
From Iran’s point of view, protests against corruption and bad governance in Iraq and Lebanon are a reminder of the start of the Syrian conflict in which Soleimani’s forces intervened to save Assad.
Soleimani traveled to both countries in recent weeks to ensure his Hezbollah and PMF allies held the line to protect Iran’s political and military influence.
After the elimination of Soleimani, Iran is expected to double down in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen on what it regards as its forward lines of defense against a U.S.-led attempt to encircle it with the help of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Iran has already given examples of how it can respond.
After the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and other world powers in 2015, the IRGC and its proxies progressed from limited attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf to spectacular missile and drone assaults on Saudi oil installations.
Analysts now see a multi-pronged Iranian response against the United States and its allies as certain.
Already the Soleimani killing has united otherwise fractious Iraqi Shi’ite groups in demanding U.S. forces quit Iraq.
A senior official in the Iranian-led regional military alliance said: “When the Americans take this deliberate decision to kill Soleimani it means they have taken a decision for war.”
“There will not be a quick revenge,” said Carnegie’s Hage Ali. “Even in a situation like this they are cold, they consider their options and then they react. It will take time but all options are on the table.”
The Soleimani operation “is a strike into the heart of Iran: they have not just killed Iran’s military mastermind in the region but taken out a future leader of Iran”, Naoum said.
Additional reporting by Laila Bassam,; Writing by Samia Nakhoul; Editing by Giles Elgood

The Trump Administration Just Killed Iran’s Most Famous Military Commander. We’re Not Ready for What’s Next.
by Murtaza Hussain
January 3, 2020
The Intercept
Until his death last night in an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was the United States’s most formidable adversary in the Middle East. As commander of the Quds Force, the external operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Suleimani fought a decadelong proxy war against the U.S. and its allies across Iraq and the region. It was a conflict in which the Iranian side has largely come out on top, as their own leaked internal documents have shown.
The reported airstrike last night has taken this bitter conflict to an altogether new level. The killing of Suleimani, along with several other top Iraqi Shia militia leaders, is the single most significant lethal operation since the joint U.S.-Israeli assassination of Lebanese Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008.
It is also perhaps the most reckless foreign policy action by President Donald Trump since he took office. Unlike Mughniyeh or other nonstate militants that the United States has killed over the years, Suleimani was a ranking official of a foreign government. He was a popular figure among Iranian nationalists whose reputation as a battlefield commander in Iraq and Syria had been publicly promoted by a regime looking to boost its flagging domestic popularity. His killing seems to mark the beginning of direct hostilities between the United States and Iran, with top officials apparently not off-limits for violence. Late last night, the Department of Defense issued a statement claiming responsibility for Suleimani’s killing, saying that he and the Quds Force were “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
Although that claim is doubtless true, the statement did not indicate what the United States or its allies expect will occur in the wake of this extreme step. Despite their differences with Iran, neither the Obama nor the George W. Bush administrations thought it wise to kill Iran’s best-known military commander.
“This seems like a very shortsighted decision. I can’t imagine that much thought went into it besides the perception that killing Suleimani would look like a big victory,” said Dina Esfandiary, an expert on Iran at the Century Foundation. “The Iranians will definitely respond, but not in a way that triggers an all-out war, which they know they would lose.”
Based on past precedent, any Iranian response is likely to be asymmetric and carried out by proxy groups, and may also include physical or cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. To a degree not seen in years, U.S. personnel in Iraq may now also be at risk. In the past, directly targeting U.S. troops in the country was seen as taboo given the longstanding Iranian goal of preventing escalation that could lead to all-out war. But with the conflict suddenly turning into a hot war with the top-ranking Iranian as a target, that may well change. The consequences could be painful for both sides.
The killing of Suleimani is in many ways a watershed moment in a policy of confrontation with Iran that Trump has pursued since taking office. The relationship between the United States and Iran reached a relative high point following the signing of an Obama-era agreement over Iran’s nuclear program in 2015. From the beginning, that agreement had been opposed by hawks who recoiled against any compromise with Iran and pushed for the most aggressive stance possible. Trump’s decision to revoke U.S. participation in the nuclear deal after taking office helped set off the chain of events that has brought the two countries closer to full-blown war than at any time since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Suleimani’s killing has also likely eliminated the possibility of a future U.S. president reentering the nuclear agreement should Trump lose the 2020 election.
“The strike is bad news, as it takes off the table any prospect of future dialogue between Iran and the United States,” Esfandiary said. “Suleimani was a popular figure inside Iran and even many Iranians who are against the government are likely to be outraged about the targeting of a high-ranking official of their country. No Iranian leader will be able to spare the political capital to engage with the U.S., at least for the foreseeable future.”
The killing of Suleimani is the latest and most significant event in an intensifying U.S.-Iran conflict inside Iraq. In response to shelling by Iranian militias that killed an American contractor and several Iraqis, the U.S. carried out an airstrike earlier this week that killed dozens of Shia militia members tied to Iran. Days later, members of that same militia stormed the U.S. Embassy, smashing windows and forcing diplomatic staff to barricade themselves inside for safety. That brief siege ended without any casualties.
To be clear, Suleimani was a military commander who had spent almost his entire life at war. He was no stranger to violence and in all likelihood envisioned such a death for himself. In secret cables, Iranian intelligence officers lamented the brutal and sectarian manner in which he had waged the war against the Islamic State in Iraq. In April, the Trump administration took the unusual step of designating the Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organization. But the decision to kill such a powerful individual without any apparent idea of what comes next is chillingly reckless. What happens in the coming weeks and months is still a matter of speculation. But it is safe to say that if, as likely, bloodshed in the region immediately escalates, Iraqi civilians will pay the highest price.
“From the Iranian side, there will obviously be anger and a desire to retaliate,” said Thomas Warrick, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “It is safe to assume that the Iranians or any militias in Iraq that they support had plans they were prepared to execute if an attack like this occurred. It’s clear that this is not going to be over tonight.”

Pentagon to deploy thousands of additional troops to Middle East
January 3, 2020
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is sending nearly 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East from the 82nd Airborne Division as a precaution amid rising threats to American forces in the region, the Pentagon said on Friday.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said additional U.S. deployments were also being weighed, including sending elements of the Europe-based 173rd Airborne Brigade for tasks like embassy protection in Lebanon.
Iran promised vengeance after a U.S. air strike in Baghdad on Friday killed Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s most prominent military commander and the architect of its growing influence in the Middle East.
The overnight attack, authorized by President Donald Trump, was a dramatic escalation in a “shadow war” in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Pentagon said the Immediate Response Force (IRF) brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was being deployed.
“The brigade will deploy to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary action in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, and will assist in reconstituting the reserve,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The troops will be joining the roughly 750 forces that were sent to Kuwait earlier this week. Usually, a brigade consists of about 3,500 people.
U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this week that thousands of additional troops could be sent to the region and had been told to prepare to deploy.
The United States has already dispatched about 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East since May.
Reuters first reported on Friday that U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had canceled plans to take personal leave later in January amid rising tension with Iran.
The U.S. air strike followed a sharp increase in U.S.-Iranian hostilities last week when pro-Iranian militiamen attacked the U.S. embassy in Iraq following a U.S. air raid on the Kataib Hezbollah militia.
Iraq’s prime minister said that with Friday’s attack Washington had violated a deal for keeping U.S. troops in his country.
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler

Qasem Soleimani: How strong is Iran’s military?
December 3, 2020
BBC
Iran has vowed to retaliate after its most powerful military commander was killed by a US drone strike on Baghdad airport.
“Severe revenge awaits” those behind the attack on General Qasem Soleimani, said Iran’s Supreme Leader.
So what do we know about Iran’s military capabilities?
How big is Iran’s army?
There are an estimated 523,000 active Iranian personnel in a range of military roles, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a UK-based think tank.
This includes 350,000 in the regular army, and at least 150,000 in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
There are a further 20,000 service personnel in the IRGC’s naval forces. This group operates a number of armed patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz, the site of several confrontations involving foreign-flagged tankers in 2019.
The IRGC also controls the Basij unit, a volunteer force which has helped suppress internal dissent. This unit can potentially mobilise many hundreds of thousands of personnel.
The IRGC was set up 40 years ago to defend the Islamic system in Iran and has become a major military, political and economic force in its own right.
Despite having fewer troops than the regular army, it is considered the most authoritative military force in Iran.
What about operations abroad?
The Quds Force, which was led by General Soleimani, conducts secret operations abroad for the IRGC and reports directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It’s believed to be about 5,000 strong.
The unit has been deployed to Syria, where it advised military elements loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and armed Shia militias fighting with them. In Iraq, it has supported a Shia-dominated paramilitary force which assisted in the defeat of the Islamic State group.
However, the US says the Quds force has a wider role by providing funding, training, weapons and equipment to organisations that Washington has designated as terrorist groups in the Middle East. These include Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Economic problems and sanctions have hampered Iran’s arms imports, which are relatively small compared to those of other countries in the region.
The value of Iran’s defence imports between 2009 and 2018 was equivalent to just 3.5% of Saudi Arabia’s imports over the same period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Most Iranian imports come from Russia, and the rest from China.
Does Iran have missiles?
Yes – Iran’s missile capabilities are a key part of its military prowess, given its relative lack of air power compared with rivals such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
A US Defense Department report describes the country’s missile forces as the largest in the Middle East, comprising mainly short-range and medium-range missiles. It also says Iran is testing space technology to allow it to develop inter-continental missiles, which can travel much further.
What is the Patriot missile defence system?
However, the long-range missile programme was stalled by Iran as part of its 2015 nuclear deal with foreign countries, according to the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) think tank. But it added that it may have resumed, given the uncertainty surrounding that deal.
n any case, many targets in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf would be within range of Iran’s current short and medium-range missiles, and possibly targets in Israel.
In May last year, the US deployed a Patriot anti-missile defence system to the Middle East as tensions with Iran increased. This is meant to counter ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
What are its non-conventional weapons?
Despite years of sanctions, Iran has also been able to develop drone capabilities.
In Iraq, Iranian drones have been used since 2016 in the fight against IS. Iran has also entered Israeli airspace with armed drones operated from bases in Syria, according to Rusi.
In June 2019, Iran shot down a US surveillance drone, claiming it had violated Iranian airspace over the Strait of Hormuz.
he other aspect of Iran’s drone programme is its willingness to sell or transfer its drone technology to its allies and proxies in the region, says Jonathan Marcus, the BBC’s Defence and diplomatic correspondent.
In 2019, drone and missile attacks damaged two key Saudi oil facilities. Both the US and Saudi Arabia linked these attacks to Iran, although Tehran denied any involvement and pointed to a claim of responsibility by rebels in Yemen.
Does Iran have cyber-capabilities?
Following a major cyber-attack in 2010 on Iranian nuclear facilities, Iran ramped up its cyber-space capability.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is believed to have its own cyber-command, working on commercial and military espionage.
A US military report in 2019 said Iran has targeted aerospace companies, defence contractors, energy and natural resource companies and telecommunications firms for cyber-espionage operations around the world.
Also in 2019, Microsoft said a hacker group that “originates from Iran and is linked to the Iranian government” targeted a US presidential campaign and tried to break into the accounts of American government officials.

US and allies on high alert as Iran threatens retaliation
• US advises its citizens to leave Iraq immediately after Iran vows ‘severe revenge’ for general’s killing
• US kills Iranian general in Baghdad drone strike – live updates
• US citizens in Iraq: tell us about your situation
January 3, 2020
by Oliver Holmes
The Guardian
The US embassy in Baghdad has called on its citizens to leave Iraq in the wake of the assassination of Iran’s top general, as Washington and its regional allies scrambled to protect themselves against a possible military response.
“Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, the US embassy urges American citizens to … depart Iraq immediately,” the embassy said in a statement. “US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land.”
Several other US diplomatic missions warned citizens to be aware of their surroundings, and the US embassy in Kuwait said it had increased its security, although it said it was not aware of specific threats. Israel and Saudi Arabia, both US allies who consider Iran their arch-enemy, also braced for potential retaliatory strikes.
Without providing details, Iran has promised “severe revenge” for the killing of Qassem Suleimani. Its regional partners, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group and Iraqi militias have also said the death will be avenged.
It is widely feared that the pre-dawn attack, ordered by Donald Trump, could become a critical turning point in an escalating conflict between Washington and Tehran. As well as embassies and consulates across the Middle East, the US has multiple army bases, including in Kuwait, Turkey and Iraq.
Other countries have also taken measures following the attack. Germany’s defence ministry said it had ordered its soldiers in Iraq not to leave their bases. Germany has roughly 130 soldiers deployed to the country who are tasked with training Iraqi security forces.
Israel, which has fought an increasingly overt war with Iranian forces in neighbouring Syria, took defensive steps including closing a ski resort near the Syrian border and upping security measures at its embassies.
Benjamin Netanyahu was due to cut short a diplomatic visit to Greece and fly home early, his office said. In a short statement, Netanyahu – who has long been calling for more aggressive action against Iran – praised Trump for what he said was swift, forceful and decisive action. In Tel Aviv, Israel’s defence minister, Naftali Bennett, met the head of the army on Friday morning.
Speaking to the public broadcaster KAN, Ram Ben Barak, a former deputy director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, said the country should “prepare for the eventuality that Iran will decide to make a mistake and respond in our direction, even though we are not involved. That means increased intelligence listening, that means being prepared to intercept, that means operational ability if intelligence says that is necessary.”
China, Russia and France all criticised the US attack. “We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio. “When such actions, such operations, take place, we see that escalation is under way.”
Tensions between Iran and the US have been escalating for months. Washington has imposed tightening sanctions while Tehran has restarted nuclear activity and entrenched its military in neighbouring countries.
In some of the most explosive developments, the US blamed Iran for damaging oil tankers in the Gulf and for aerial attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Tehran has denied involvement.

The Attack on Iran: Israel’s Plans for a US Action
by Christian Jürs

1.The problem under consideration here is that Iran is strongly believed to have a nuclear weapon, either of their own constructon or obtained from another country, believed to be Russia. Israelis are afraid Iran will use it on them.
2.Israel would have logistical problems attacking Iran. Any attack would have to be an aerial attack, using fighter-bombers to pin-point known Iranian nuclear facilities.
The current opinion in some circles, mostly in the United States, is that at some point in the near future, the growing threat or re-imposition of devastating economic sanctions on Iran will convince its radical religious leaders to terminate their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Also, there is the growing hope that the CIA’s funded Iran’s Green Movement will overthrow, a la the Ukrainian Orange Revolution and replace the Muslim fundamentalist regime, or at the very least find the means to modify and secularize the regime’s ideological extremism. It is also possible that disrupting operations now being implemented by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through physical sabotage and, upon occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have derailed Iran’s progress towards achieving the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.
It is now planned in Tel Aviv that senior Israeli officials, representing both their political and military establishments, will come to Washington for conferences both with their American counterparts and, eventually, with President Trmup. These conversations, which have been carefully planned and scripted, will have the Israelis advising their American counterparts that they are planning an attack, nuclear or non-nuclear as the situation develops, on Iran because a nuclear Iran poses the ‘gravest threat since Hitler’ to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe that by launching a preemptive strike at all possible Iranian sites suspected of participation in their nuclear program they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years,. Further, talking-point secret Israeli memos state: Israel will inform their American counterparts that Israel has no other choice than to launch this attack. They will not ask for permission for this attack, because it will soon be too late to ask for permission.
Insofar as President Trump is concerned, the Israelis are considering the most important point of these interviews would be to discover as to what would be the circumstances under which President Trump would move to halt the Iranian projects. The primary point, then, is to convince the Americans that only military force, i.e., heavy bombing raids, would be able to “totally obliterate Iran’s attempts to get a nuclear weapon and, further, to prevent them from rebuilding their infrastructure in the foreseeable future.” From the Israeli point of view, all of their future actions, which also include the use of their own nuclear weapons on Tehran depends entirely upon the answers, primarily of the President but also of the American military leadership..
Also, in the possible event that the American President were to agree fully with Israeli wishes, i.e., to use American aircraft to obliterate the perceived Iranian threat by bombing specific, and even general, Iranian targets, could an Israeli-sponsored domestic American propaganda campaign to encourage sections of the American public, outside of the fully-cooperative Jewish community, to support such an American attack.
At the present time, it is well-established that Israeli agents, Mossad and others, have inserted themselves into all the instruments of power and propaganda in the United States where they have sent any pertinent information to Israel and kept up a steady offensive against the minds, and wills, of the American people. Also, many of the more prominent American newspapers, such as the New York Times is entirely Jewish-owned, this is stated to be the most receptive to the needs of both Washington and Tel Aviv.
Israel is fully prepared to take a chance on permanently alienating American affection in order to make a high-risk attempt at stopping Iran. If Iran retaliates against American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the consequences for Israel’s relationship with America’s military leadership could be catastrophic.
It has been seriously discussed in Tel Aviv and in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, that probably the best way to compel the American public and through them, the President, to unilateral action, would not be to launch an attack on Tehran but instead, attack America through a false-flag operation. This would consist of a believable attack, or attempted attack, on a major American target a la the 9/11 Saudi-supported attacks.
The most current plan would be for a known militant Arab anti-Israel group, Hezbollah, to actually deliver an atomic device to the city of New York, or, alternatively, to Washington.
The American Central Intelligence Agency, now seeking to reshape its negative image, would report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the exact details of the arrival and placement of the bomb.
The actual bomb would be genuine but would have a part that was malfunctioning, thus rendering the weapon impossible to detonate. The Arabs involved in this delivery would have in their number, a Yemeni Jew, such as the ones that instigated the 9/11 Saudi attacks, and this sleeper would carry numerous forged documents “proving” that Tehran was directly behind this planned attack.
Revelation of these documents by the fully-supportive New York Times and Washington Post would immediately swing a significant bulk of the American public behind an immediate attack on Tehran with the purpose of neutralizing its atomic weapons capacity.
This program is now on the table and undercover Israeli agents, posing as top-level Iranian operatives, have located a small group of Hizbollah in Lebanon who would be willing to deliver and prepare this device in New York or, as an alternative, Washington itself. Israeli intelligence feels that the use of Hizbollah personnel would entirely justify their obliterating Hizbollah-controlled territory in southern Lebanon that now house many thousands of long-range surface to surface missiles that could easily reach Tel Aviv and other vital Israeli targets.
This action, which has already been planned in detail, would be conducted by Israel alone and would compliment the projected American attack on Tehran. Israel stresses the fact that both attacks must be simultaneous lest a forewarned Hezbollah launch rocket attacks on Israel upon hearing of the American attack. Timing here is considered to be absolutely vital.
Both Israel and Hezbollah have accused UNIFIL of bias. Israel again accused them of failing to prevent, and even collaborating with, Hezbollah in its replenishment of military power. Hezbollah, in turn, said “certain contingents” of UNIFIL are spying for, if not assisting, Israel.
Israel has long been prepared a serious planning for a future invasion of Lebanon and such an assault would continue attacking until both Hezbollah’s membership and their system of tunnels and bunkers was completely destroyed, because Israel will never tolerate a “zone of invulnerability” occupied by a sworn enemy, or a double threat posed by Hezbollah’s rockets.
In the event that Israeli military aircraft attack Tehran, there is the vital necessity that these Israeli military aircraft would be under great pressure to return to base at once because Israeli intelligence believes that Iran would immediately order Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli cities, and Israeli air-force resources would be needed to hunt Hezbollah rocket teams.
Israel’s Northern Command, at its headquarters near the Lebanese border, is ordered that in the event of a unilateral Israeli or American strike on Iran, their mission would be to attack and completely destroy any and all identified Hezbollah rocket forces, by any and all means necessary, to include small nuclear devices that could destroy a number of square miles of what is called ‘terrorist territory’ and render it useless as any future base of attack against Israel. At the present time the Iranians are keeping their Hezbollah firm ally in reserve until Iran can cross the nuclear threshold.
During the years since the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon Hezbollah has greatly increased its surface-to-surface missile capability, and an American/Israeli strike on Iran, would immediately provoke all-out retaliation by Iran’s Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah, which now possesses, by most Israeli/American intelligence estimates, as many as 45,000 surface-to-surface rockets—at least three times as many as it had in the summer of 2006, during the last round of fighting between the group and Israel. It is further known that Russia has sent large numbers of longer range surface-to-surface missiles to Syria which has, in turn, shipped them to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. These missiles have the capacity to easily reach Tel Aviv and Israelis are very concerned that a massive rocket barrage deep into Israel could not only do serious damage to their infrastructure but could easily provoke a mass immigration of Israelis to other areas, thus depriving Israel of both civilian and military personnel it would certainly need in the event of increased Arab military actions against Israel.
Even if Israel’s Northern Command successfully combated Hezbollah rocket attacks in the wake of an Israeli strike, which American experts have deemed to be “nearly impossible” political limitations would not allow Israel to make repeated sorties over Iran. “America, too, would look complicit in an Israeli attack, even if it had not been forewarned. The assumption—that Israel acts only with the full approval of the United States is a feature of life in the Middle East, and it is one the Israelis are taking into account. A serious danger here to Israeli attack plans would be if the United States got wind of the imminence of such an attack and demanded that Israel cease and desist in its actions. Would Israel then stop? Though highly unlikely, this is an unpleasant and unacceptable
At this time, the Israelis have drawn up specific plans to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and the Bushehr reactor, along with four other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program that have been identified by joint past and present Israeli-American aerial surveillance.
If Israeli aircraft succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, all well and good but even if they fail to damage or destroy these targets ,such an attack is feared by American and other nations as risking a devastating change in the Middle East. Such an attack could initiate immediate reprisals such as a massed rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon as well as other actions from neighboring Muslim states.
This could become a major diplomatic crisis for President Trump that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the international price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of seriously endangering Jewish groups around the world, and especially in the United States by making them the targets of Muslim-originated terror attacks and most certainly accelerating the growing immigration of many Israelis to what they felt might be much safer areas.
An Israeli political and military consensus has now emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by December of 2019. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Trump administration. The Netanyahu government is already intensifying its analytic efforts not just on Iran, but on a subject many Israelis have difficulty understanding: President Trump.
The Israelis argue that Iran demands the urgent attention of the entire international community, and in particular the United States, with its unparalleled ability to project military force. This is the position of many moderate Arab leaders as well that if America allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, the small Arab countries of the Gulf would have no choice but to leave the American orbit and ally themselves with Iran, out of self-protection. Several Arab leaders have suggested that America’s standing in the Middle East depends on its willingness to confront Iran. They argue, self-interestedly, that an aerial attack on a handful of Iranian facilities would not be as complicated or as messy as, say, invading Iraq. The basic question then is why the Jewish state should trust the non-Jewish president of the United States to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.
For more than a year, these White House officials have parried the charge that their president is unwilling to face the potential consequences of a nuclear Iran, and they are frustrated by what they believe to be a caricature of his position. It is undeniably true, however, that the administration has appeared on occasion less than stalwart on the issue.
One question no administration official seems eager to answer is this: what will the United States do if sanctions fail?
In Israel, of course, officials expend enormous amounts of energy to understand President Trump, despite the assurances they have received from others. Delegations from Netanyahu’s bureau, from the defense and foreign ministries, and from the Israeli intelligence community have been arriving in Washington lately with great regularity. As an alternative to cooperation by Trump, Israel, through her supporters and lobbyists in the United States are preparing to offer extensive financial and other incentives to political opponents of Trump, mostly the right-wing Republicans and American Christian groups and cults. Both of these groups are being cultivated currently with the idea that if Trump will not cooperate, the Republicans will in the future as they always have before. Also to consider is the current antipathy of American Jews for Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and these American Jews, who are, like the president they voted for in overwhelming numbers, generally supportive of a two-state solution, and dubious about Jewish settlement of the West Bank.
Both Israeli and American intelligence agencies are of the firm belief that Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability, which is the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device.. The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state, the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons and the regime’s theologically motivated desire to see the Jewish state purged from the Middle East
Patriotism in Israel runs very high, according to numerous polls, and it seemed unlikely that mere fear of Iran could drive Israel’s Jews to seek shelter elsewhere. But one leading proponent of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, If Iran crossed the nuclear threshold, the very idea of Israel as a Zionist entity would be endangered. “These people are good citizens, and brave citizens, but the dynamics of life are such that if someone has a scholarship for two years at an American university and the university offers him a third year, the parents will say, ‘Go ahead, remain there,’ If someone finishes a Ph.D. and they are offered a job in America, they might stay there. It will not be that people are running to the airport, but slowly, slowly, the decision-making on the family level will be in favor of staying abroad. The bottom line is that we would have an accelerated brain drain. And an Israel that is not based on entrepreneurship that is not based on excellence will not be the Israel of today.”
Most critically if a Zionist Israel is no longer seen by its 6 million Jewish inhabitants and also by the approximately 7 millions of Jews resident outside of Israel that because of continuing threats from outside the country as no longer a natural safe haven for Jews then the entire concept of a Zionist haven/state is destroyed
To understand why Israelis of different political dispositions see Iran as quite possibly the most crucial challenge they have faced in their 62-year history, one must keep in mind the near-sanctity, in the public’s mind, of Israel’s nuclear monopoly. The Israeli national narrative, in shorthand, begins with shoah, which is Hebrew for “calamity,” and ends with tkumah, “rebirth.” Israel’s nuclear arsenal symbolizes national rebirth, and something else as well: that Jews emerged from World War II having learned at least one lesson, about the price of powerlessness.
If Israel is unable to change Trump’s mind, they will continue to threaten to take unilateral action against Iran by sending approximately one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—by crossing Saudi Arabia, and along the border between Syria and Turkey, and, without consulting the Americans or in any way announcing their missions by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)
The first belief by Israeli military planners is that Israel would get only one try. Israeli planes would fly low over Saudi Arabia, bomb their targets in Iran, and return to Israel by flying again over Saudi territory, possibly even landing in the Saudi desert for refueling—perhaps, if speculation rife in intelligence circles is to be believed, with secret Saudi cooperation.
Israel has been working through the United States to procure Saudi cooperation with an Israeli air strike against Tehran and other targets inside Iran.. The Saudis are treating this subject with great caution lest other Arab states learn of their putative cooperation in an Iranian attack with over flights of Saudi territory by Israeli military aircraft.
The current American/Israeli military plans are for the Saudis to turn off their radar after they have been noticed by the American embassy that an Israeli attack is imminent and also to permit the Israeli aircraft to land in their country for refueling The Israelis are not concerned with any kind of Iranian aircraft resistance because their airfields have been pinpointed by American satellites and one of the attacking groups would use low-yield atomic rocketry on all the identified Iranian bases. It is obvious that when, not if, the Saudis part in this becomes public, it will create immense ill-will in neighboring Muslim states, an impression the Saudi government is most anxious not to deal with.
Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.
The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: At the present moment, Israel possesses 135 nuclear weapons, most of them mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine (two of which are currently positioned in the Persian Gulf). Netanyahu is worried about an entire complex of problems, not only that Iran, or one of its proxies, would, in all probability, destroy or severely damage Tel Aviv; like most Israeli leaders, he believes that if Iran gains possession of a nuclear weapon, it will use its new leverage to buttress its terrorist proxies in their attempts to make life difficult and dangerous; and that Israel’s status as a haven for Jews would be forever undermined, and with it, the entire raison d’être of the 100-year-old Zionist experiment.
Another question Israeli planners struggle with: how will they know if their attacks have actually destroyed a significant number of centrifuges and other hard-to-replace parts of the clandestine Iranian program? Two strategists told me that Israel will have to dispatch commandos to finish the job, if necessary, and bring back proof of the destruction. The commandos—who, according to intelligence sources, may be launched from the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Iraq—would be facing a treacherous challenge, but one military planner I spoke with said the army would have no choice but to send them.
Netanyahu’s obvious course is to convince the United States that Iran is not Israel’s problem alone; it is the world’s problem, and the world, led by the United States, is obligated to grapple with it, not Israel alone. It is well-known that Israel by itself could not hope to deal with a retaliation against it by Iran and other Arab states but that a confederation of other nations, led, of course, by the United States could defend Israel against her enemies. The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, does not place and credence in the current sanctions against Iran, even the ones initiated by the United States at Israel’s urgent request. Is it known that Netanayahu is not happy with President Trumps’s reluctance to support an Israeli attack on Iran and has brought a great deal of political pressure to bear on the President by American Jewish political and business groups.
Netanyahu understands, however, that President Trump, with whom he has had a difficult and intermittently frigid relationship, believes that stringent sanctions, combined with various enticements to engage with the West, might still provide Iran with a face-saving method of standing down.
Israel’s current period of forbearance, in which Israel’s leadership waits to see if the West’s nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end this December. The American defense secretary, said at a meeting of NATO defense ministers that most intelligence estimates predict that Iran is one to three years away from building a nuclear weapon. “
One of the consistent aims of Israel is to pressure President Trump, who has said on a number of occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” into executing a military strike against Iran’s known main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.
Donald Trump is steadfastly opposed to initiating new wars in the Middle East and an attack by U.S. forces on Iran is not a foreign-policy goal for him or his administration. The Israeli goal is to compel him by public, and private, pressure to order the American military into action against Iran
President Trump has said any number of times that he would find a nuclear Iran “unacceptable.” His most stalwart comments on the subject have been discounted by some Israeli officials
If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Trump will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack.

Operation Scrubber
January 3, 2020
by Christian Jürs

Three B-2 bombers from the 509th Bomber Wing out of Whiteman Air Force Base, part of a U.S. Strategic Command bomber task force, were deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, U.K., which is U.S. Air Force in Europe’s forward operating base for bombers.
They arrived in theater August 17, 2019
They are slated to participate in ‘Operation SCRUBBER,’ an American/Israeli attack on Hezbollah missile sites located in southern Lebanon.
This is part of a joint US/Israeli preliminary action prior to a full-scale attack on Tehran and its atomic development program and is designed to neutralize the pro-Iranian Hezbollah Lebanese-based militia from launching retaliatory strikes on Israel when the Tehran attack is executed
509th Bomb Wing (509 BW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Force Global Strike Command, Eighth Air Force. It is stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit (40,000 lb) is termed a ‘Long Range Strike Bomber’ and is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet (15,000 m), with a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles (6,900 mi; 11,000 km) on internal fuel and over 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km) with one midair refueling.
To be used in ‘Operation Scrubber’ will be the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is a precision-guided, 30,000-pound (14,000 kg) “bunker buster” bomb
The areas to be bombed lie from Alma ash Shaab in the west to Blida in the east. Conventional bombs, to include napalm, will be used against villages and towns selected by previous and ongoing Israeli aerial observations.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese-based Shiite group, has fought the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) from the early 1980s to 2000, when the IDF was deployed in Lebanon. In 2006 the two sides clashed again, for 34 days, a war that ended in a tie but was not certainly an IDF victory.
Hezbollah is the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor, and has been described as “a militia trained like an army and equipped like a state.”
This is especially true with regard to its missile and rocket forces, which Hezbollah has in vast quantities arrayed against Israel.
The next round will happen when Israel believes that Iran has produced a nuclear weapon, a move which will certainly result in Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites.
Iran will retaliate with its proxies, mostly with Hezbollah.
Israel’s evaluation of the duration and cost of a war with Hezbollah, along with its other ramifications and consequences, will play a major part in Israel’s decision whether to bomb Iran or not.
Israel does not have long-range heavy bombers but the United States does, hence the constant prodding by the current Israeli government to procure an American strike on Tehran.
Meanwhile there is an ongoing tension between Israel and Hezbollah and a miscalculation by one or both sides might certainly ignite a major war.
The IDF, one of the strongest militaries in the Middle East, outnumbers and outguns Hezbollah in both troops and weapon systems. Yet Hezbollah has quite a powerful hybrid force, which has antiaircraft and anti tank missiles, hundreds of drones and above all up to 150,000 rockets and missiles, some of which cover all of Israel. Hezbollah could fire more than a 1,000 rockets a day during a confrontation with Israel and many of these missiles have GPS control systems and can strike accurately at specified targets.
Israel has systems to shoot down rockets, mostly the Iron Dome. Yet Israel does not have enough of them to intercept most of Hezbollah’s rockets, so the IDF can’t rely on a defensive strategy.
IAF (Israeli air force) has mostly fighter–bombers such as F- 15/16. The IAF has been training to launch thousands of sorties in Lebanon but the IAF might not be able to stop the pounding of Israel by Hezbollah. To do that Israel needs boots on the ground i.e. to carry out a major land offensive following a massive strategic bombing by U.S. heavy bombers.
On August 13, 2015, the IDF published the “IDF Strategy”, which explains how the IDF plans to operate in the next war. In September 2017 the IDF ran its biggest exercise in almost two decades, aimed against Hezbollah. The IDF, which had some major setbacks in the 2006 war, will be determined to prove it has learned its lessons. However, defeating Hezbollah is a tall order since Hezbollah, which is rooted inside the Shiite community in Lebanon, can always continue fighting with guerrilla and terror tactics. Israel will therefore strive for more limited objectives, mostly to destroy Hezbollah’s rockets and cause the group heavy casualties in order to deter it and other groups as well from confronting Israel.
The IDF will penetrate several dozen kilometers into Lebanon, on a wide front, to completely destroy all possible Hezbollah missiles and missile sites but it will stay there for a few weeks at most. Israel does not wish to renew its deployment in Lebanon, exposing its troops to attacks, as it was in the 1980s and the 1990s.
The IDF’s elite armor and infantry units will carry the burden of the offensive. Special Forces such as the 89th commando brigade will assist by launching raids behind the lines, collecting information etc.
The IDF relies on reserves. Tens of thousands of them will be mobilized. Many might be called while rockets hit them at their homes and on their way to their bases, where they get their weapons, vehicles etc. Rockets might continue to strike them when they will move to the frontline.
Israeli officials repeatedly warned about the danger of storing rockets in about 200 villages and towns in Lebanon. If rockets are launched from those places, the IDF will strike them, possibly causing huge collateral damage. The civilians living there will be warned in advance to evacuate their homes. Hopefully they will be able to do that, for Hezbollah might order some of them to remain behind, to serve as human shields.
The IDF can inflict a major blow to Hezbollah by catching it off guard. A massive surprise attack might be Israel’s best chance to handle the rockets and reduce Israel’s casualties. However, such an attack could cause significant collateral damage since the Lebanese population might not have sufficient time to escape.
Further, there is no guarantee that the United States would enter the conflict.
The IDF will have to run urban warfare, including underground, inside tunnels. The IDF has been training for that in various ways. Its troops must be familiar with the terrain of Lebanon so they exercise in similar areas, in the north of Israel. Cooperation between the corps such as infantry and armor is another important factor the IDF has been working on, as part of the preparations to fight Hezbollah. The IDF will also use its advanced C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) network.
Unfortunately for this thesis, this system has been compromised by Russian specialists and the results given to Hezbollah command.
Hezbollah got stronger and bigger during the Syrian civil war. The group is now more like a military organization, but this could actually benefit the IDF because it will be easier to find and attack Hezbollah fighters. The latter also got accustomed to enjoy air superiority and receiving air support from the Russian and the Syrian air forces while confronting Syrian rebels who had no aircraft. In a war against Israel Hezbollah will be both without air support and it will have to deal with a powerful air force, albiet one without long-range heavy bombers.
The newer Russian anti-aircraft defenses, however, are extremely effective and, like US bombers, the Israeli planes would suffer heavy losses.
The United States sees Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Prior to 9 / 11 Hezbollah killed more Americans than any other militant Muslim group. In the next war Israel will require US support. On the diplomatic level Israel will need the United States to stand by Israel in the UN Security Council, which, given the pro-Israel attidudes of President Trump, is fully expected.
Militarily the United States can provide Israel with weapons, ammunition and spare parts, without sending US troops.
The next round between Israel and Hezbollah is expected to be much more destructive than the 2006 war. The IDF wants to try to reduce the cost to Israel and to shorten the war by conducting a large scale and effective air, land and sea offensive. To accomplish this, they must somehow get the United States involved both to save the lives of IDF personnel and avoid the massive expenses of a major war. To prevent a Hezbollah missile attack on a very vulnerable Israel, the current IDF plan is to launch a sudden joint US/Israeli attack on all of southern Lebanon.
President Trump has expressed his “firm desire” to strike southern Lebanon with US forces but to date, the response of the Pentagon has been extremely negative. The area Israel wants flattened is full of very effective Russian anti-aircraft defenses and American losses of attacking aircraft would be “significant” in the opinion of American military experts.
Further, should the United States prepare to assist Israel, it is believed that Russian intelligence will quickly detect such actions and Hezbollah would be forwarned in sufficient time to launch pre-emptive strikes, to include silo-based heavy missiles.
Mashinostroyeniya, KBKhA
Specifications:
Weight: 220 tonnes
Length: 36.3 m
Diameter: 3.0 m
Warhead:10–24 MIRVs (various type and yield, including HGVs); At the maximum reported throw-weight of up 10,000 kg, the missile could deliver a 50 Mt charge (the maximum theoretical yield-to-weight ratio is about 6 megatons of TNT per metric ton, and the maximum achieved ratio was apparently 5.2 megatons of TNT per metric ton in B/Mk-41).
Engine: First stage: PDU-99 (RD-274 derived)
Propellant: Liquid
Operational range: approx. 10,900 kilometres (6,800 mi)
Speed: over Mach 20.7; 25,000 km/h (16,000 mph)
Guidance system: Inertial guidance, GLONASS, Astro-inertial
Accuracy: 10 m
Launch platform: Silo
These missiles could easily reach Amercan bases, not only in the Middle East but in Europe as well, hence the reluctance of the Pentagon officials to launch attacks against Lebanon or Iran.

How Our Economic Warfare Brings the World to Heel
Unprecedented hubris is drawing a global blowback that will leave America in a very dangerous place.
January 2, 2020
by Doug Bandow
The American Conservative
Economic sanctions are an important foreign policy tool going back to America’s founding. President Thomas Jefferson banned trade with Great Britain and France, which left U.S. seamen unemployed while failing to prevent military conflict with both.
Economic warfare tends to be equally ineffective today. The Trump administration made Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, and North Korea special sanctions targets. So this strategy has failed in every case. In fact, “maximum pressure” on both Iran, which has become more threatening, and North Korea, which appears to be preparing a tougher military response, has dramatically backfired.
The big difference between then and now is Washington’s shift from primary to secondary sanctions. Trade embargoes, such as first applied to Cuba in 1960, once only prevented Americans from dealing with the target state. Today Washington attempts to conscript the entire world to fight its economic wars.
This shift was heralded by the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which extended Cuban penalties to foreign companies, a highly controversial move at the time. Sudan was another early target of secondary sanctions, which barred anyone who used the U.S. financial system from dealing with Khartoum. Europeans and others grumbled about Washington’s arrogance, but were not willing to confront the globe’s unipower over such minor markets.
However, sanctions have become much bigger business in Washington. One form is a mix of legislative and executive initiatives applied against governments in disfavor. There were five countries under sanction when George W. Bush took office in 2001. The Office of Foreign Assets Control currently lists penalties against the Balkans, Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Nicaragua, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine-Russia, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. In addition are special programs: countering America’s adversaries, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, cyber warfare, foreign election interference, Global Magnitsky, Magnitsky, proliferation, diamond trade, and transnational crime.
Among today’s more notable targets are Cuba for being communist, Venezuela for being crazy communist, Iran for having once sought nuclear weapons and currently challenging Saudi and U.S. regional hegemony, Russia for beating up on Ukraine and meddling in America’s 2016 election, Syria for opposing Israel and brutally suppressing U.S.-supported insurgents, and North Korea for developing nuclear weapons. Once on Washington’s naughty list, countries rarely get off.
The second penalty tier affects agencies, companies, and people who have offended someone in Washington for doing something considered evil, inappropriate, or simply inconvenient. Individual miscreants often are easy to dislike. Penalizing a few dubious characters or enterprises creates less opposition than sanctioning a country.
However, some targets merely offended congressional priorities. For instance, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act Congress authorized sanctions against Western companies, most notably the Swiss-Dutch pipe-laying venture Allseas Group, involved in the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project. GOP Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson threatened Allseas: “continuing to do the work—for even a single day after the president signs the sanctions legislation—would expose your company to crushing and potentially fatal legal and economic sanctions.”
Penalizing what OFAC calls “Specially Designated Nationals” and “blocked persons” has become Washington sport. Their number hit 8000 last year. The Economist noted that the Trump administration alone added 3100 names during its first three years, almost as many as George W. Bush included in eight years. Today’s target list runs an incredible 1358 pages.
The process has run wildly out of control. Policymakers’ first response to a person, organization, or government doing something of which they disapprove now seems to be to impose sanctions—on anyone or anything on earth dealing with the target. Unfortunately, reliance on economic warfare, and sanctions traditionally are treated as an act of war, has greatly inflated U.S. officials’ geopolitical ambitions. Once they accepted that the world was a messy, imperfect place. Today they intervene in the slightest foreign controversy. Even allies and friends, most notably Europe, Japan, South Korea, and India, are threatened with economic warfare unless they accept Washington’s self-serving priorities and mind-numbing fantasies.
At the same time the utility of sanctions is falling. Unilateral penalties usually fail, which enrages advocates, who respond by escalating sanctions, again without success. Of course, embargoes and bans often inflict substantial economic pain, which sometimes lead proponents to claim victory. However, the cost is supposed to be the means to another end. Yet the Trump administration has failed everywhere: Cuba maintains communist party rule, Iran has grown more truculent, North Korea has refused to disarm, Russia has not given back Crimea, and Venezuela has not defenestrated Nicolas Maduro.
Much the same goes for penalties applied to individuals, firms, and other entities. Those targeted often are hurt, and most of them deserve to be hurt. But they usually persist in their behavior or others replace them. What dictator has been deposed, policy has been changed, threat has been countered, or wrong has been righted as a result of economic warfare? There is little evidence that U.S. sanctions achieve much of anything, other than encourage sanctimonious moral preening.
Noted the Economist, “If they do not change behavior, sanctions risk becoming less a tool of coercion than an expensive and rather arbitrary extraterritorial form of punishment.” One that some day might be turned against Americans.
Contra apparent assumptions in Washington, it is not easy to turn countries into America’s image. Raw nationalism usually triumphs. Americans should reflect on how they would react if the situation was reversed. No one wants to comply with unpopular foreign dictates.
In fact, economic warfare often exacerbates underlying conflicts. Rather than negotiate with Washington from a position of weakness, Iran has threatened maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf, shut down Saudi oil exports, and loosed affiliates and irregulars on American and allied forces. Russia has challenged against multiple Washington policy priorities. Cuba has shifted power to the post-revolutionary generation and extended its authority private businesses as the Trump administration’s policies have stymied growth and undermined entrepreneurs.
The almost endless expansion of sanctions also punishes American firms and foreign companies active in America. Compliance is costly. Violating one rule, even inadvertently, is even more so. Chary companies preemptively foregolegal business in a process called “de-risking.”
Even humanitarian traffic suffers: Who wants to risk an expensive mistake in handling relatively low value transactions? Such effects might not bother smug U.S. policymakers, but should weigh heavily on the rest of us.
Perhaps most important, Washington’s overreliance on secondary sanctions is building resistance to American financial dominance. Warned Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in 2016: “The more we condition use of the dollar and our financial system on adherence to U.S. foreign policy, the more the risk of migration to other currencies and other financial systems in the medium-term grows.”
Overthrowing the almighty dollar will be no mean feat. Nevertheless, arrogant U.S. attempts to regulate the globe have united much of the world, including Europe, Russia, and China, against American extraterritoriality. Noted attorney Bruce Zagaris, Washington is “inadvertently mobilizing a club of countries and international organizations, including U.S. allies, to develop ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions.”
Merchant ships and oil tankers turn off transponders. Vessels transfer cargoes at sea. Firms arrange cash and barter deals. Major powers such as China aid and abet violations and dare Washington to wreck much larger bilateral economic relationships. The European Union passed “Blocking Legislation” to allow recovery of damages from U.S. sanctions and limit Europeans’ compliance with such rules. The EU also developed a barter facility, known as Instex, to allow trade with Iran without reliance on U.S. financial institution.
Russia has pushed to de-dollarize international payments and worked with China to settle bilateral trade in rubles and renminbi. Foreign central banks have increased their purchases of gold. At the recent Islamic summit Malaysia proposed using gold and barter for trade to thwart future sanctions. Venezuela has been selling gold for euros. These measures do not as yet threaten America’s predominant financial role but foreshadow likely future changes.
Indeed, Washington’s attack on plans by Germany to import natural gas from Russia might ignite something much greater. Berlin is not just an incidental victim of U.S. policy. Rather, Germany is the target. Complained Foreign Minister Heiko Maas “European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the U.S.” Alas, Congress thinks differently.
However, Europeans are ever less willing to accept this kind of indignity. Washington is penalizing even close allies for no obvious purpose other than demonstrating its power. In Nord Stream 2’s case, Gazprom likely will complete the project if necessary. Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Niels Annen argued that “Europe needs new instruments to be able to defend itself from licentious extraterritorial sanctions.”
Commercial penalties have a role to play in foreign policy, but economic warfare is warfare. It can trigger real conflicts—consider Imperial Japan’s response to the Roosevelt administration’s cut-off of oil exports. And economic warfare can kill innocents. When UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright was asked about the deaths of a half million Iraqi babies from U.S. sanctions, her response was chilling: “We think the price is worth it.” Yet most of the time economic war fails, especially if a unilateral effort by one power applied against the rest of the world.
Washington policymakers need to relearn the meaning of humility. Incompetent and arrogant sanctions policies hurt Americans as well as others. Unfortunately, the resulting blowback will only increase.
Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

Preface
This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccurate.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 48

The week before Christmas was not a pleasant one for George Connors, head of the intelligence section of the Chicago Police Department. His girl friend, Natalie, had temporarily left him, one of his most valuable operators had vanished and he had received, through the good offices of a prominent Chicago attorney, a blistering series of criticisms from Charles Rush.
LeBec, his chief assassin for important targets, had totally vanished while on an assignment in northern Minnesota. Repeated calls to LeBec’s cell phone went unanswered. The instrument itself was now completely waterlogged at the bottom of a very cold and deep Minnesota pond but the system still acted as if the phone was in operation.
What was worse, LeBec was tending to Charles Rush’s nephew, an operation that Rush had already paid for in cash and when Charles Rush paid for something in cash, he not only wanted instant gratification, he demanded it often and very unpleasantly.
In addition to these problems, there was the extensive revenue lost when his team of badged art thieves had been blindsided by the North Shore cat burglar. The Morton Levinthal collection of Della Robbia pieces had been extracted from the Lake Forest Levinthal mansion one day before Collins’ men were preparing their own raid.
The unhappy Collins had already sold this collection and had been paid for half of it in advance and in cash. When his burglars had been thwarted, Collins had to return the money, prompting the petulant departure of Natalie.
There was also the unpleasantness about the holiday shooting, by very drunk Chicago police officers on the sidewalk outside a popular bar, of a blind black man who had the misfortune to collide with the pet tart of one of the officers. Aside from his blindness, the unfortunate man was also unarmed and there were two nuns who witnessed the fusillade of bullets that not only killed the clumsy blind man but a ten year old severely retarded child and its grandmother.
Collins had been ordered to persuade the witnesses that they had seen the shooting victim waving a pistol and shouting incoherently just before the completely sober officers, on the way home from a religious service, had fired at him in self defense.
It wouldn’t have proven difficult to convince a regular Chicago citizen of the practical necessity of possessing badly blurred vision but attempting to persuade nuns to perjure themselves was another matter entirely.
Also, the looting of the Police pension fund by a cousin of the mayor was another matter that needed to be plastered over.
Chicago was perpetually and quintessentially corrupt but Collins devoutly wished that the problems were less concentrated.
He sent two detectives to Minnesota to try and discreetly locate LeBec as well as to attempt to find where Cyril Rush might be living. The area was still clogged with snow and to date, the detectives had no luck. Collins, in his guise of the friendly magazine man, called the redoubtable Mrs. Cobb but she had thrown her husband out of the house and had the phone disconnected. Being young in spirit, if not in body, had its distractions and she had grown tired of the billiard king’s repeated whining calls, begging to be taken back into the fold. She had already embarked on a flirtation with a muscular and dimwitted twenty three year old county road worker in charge of removing road kill from the county highway system. He was more excited with his love gift of a new car than he was with her reconstructed, scarred and lumpy body. He performed his functions in a dutiful manner but Suzette took exception to the faint but very evident smell of corruption that clung to both his clothes and his body.
The detectives could find no trace of LeBec and no one in the town remembered him or anyone else they asked about. The county harbored a thriving industry in illegal alcohol manufacture that rivaled the activities of equally illegal market hunters so the general attitude of the natives was to see nothing and know nothing.
The baffled detectives eventually returned to Chicago but in order to avoid the anticipated rage of their superior, concocted the story that LeBec had been observed following some people who looked like the two men described by Collins to Terre Haute, Indiana just before the advent of the now-famous blizzard.
Collins was able to put this false news to good advantage and managed to obtain more money from Charles Rush on the strength of sending his men to Indiana to finally finish the job. As soon as this money went into the floor safe in his lakeside apartment, Natalie returned and was rewarded with a tasteful Christmas present consisting of a full kilo of uncut cocaine which Collins had obtained from his current inventory.

(Continued)

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