TBR News July 17, 2017

Jul 17 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., July 17, 2017:”Although it would be impossible to ascertain actual figures from any official American institution, nevertheless, figures found on many other business and other sources show that America has over 90 millions of unemployed citizens, 41.97 million on food stamps, 48 million without health insurance, with 43.1 million Americans existing below the official poverty level.

Taxpayers monies given to the government could provide significant assistance to these people but most of the money goes to an enormous, and not publicized, military budget.

The figures for this expenditure are carefully concealed from the public and official estimates are deliberately kept as low and obscure as possible. In actuality, there are more unemployed, by percentage, that were out of work at the height of the 1929 economic collapse in 1938.

Official figures and statements from government sources and from government-friendly media sources are never truthful and are designed to deliberately mislead the public.

For example, many media stories that proclaim the United States as the world’s largest source of oil are pure fiction.

Russia is the world’s leading source, followed by a number of MidEast countries.

Stories that “shale oil” production is vitally important are untrue.

Shale oil must be heavily refined before it can be used and is very expensive to produce.

The American public is no longer as reliant on print media news as it once was and the most important American newspapers are all teetering on the edge of economic collapse, as witness their “pay walls” and hysterical efforts to get readers to subscribe to their online fabrications.

Official Washington does not like to admit it but millions of self-employed Americans don’t pay income taxes and their government is frantically trying to force foreign banks to search for, and deliver to Washington, hidden American assets.

An empire in decline always manages to have excellent law enforcement and domestic intelligence agencies ready and willing to suppress and extract money from their increasingly impoverished citizens.”


Table of Contents

  • Space Cadets and Sex Changes: Our “Defense” Budget Is a Bad Joke
  • Congress Trying to Sneak Through Major Giveaway to Defense Contractors
  • Trump’s tax proposal would push US below Greece on inequality index
  • Decaying infrastructure taking a toll on America
  • Chicago anti-violence activist, nine-year-old, gunned down in rash of shootings
  • The Saudi Agents Next Door: Americans Who Cashed in on Campaign to Stop 9/11 Trial
  • Oil is a reality

Space Cadets and Sex Changes: Our “Defense” Budget Is a Bad Joke

The military-industrial complex wins – and we lose

July 17, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


The United States spends more on the military than the top eight countries combined – but that’s still not enough for our military-industrial-congressional complex. They want yet more tax dollars shoveled into that bottomless maw, and it looks like they’re going to get it.

The House of Representatives just passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2018, authorizing an all-time high of $696.5 billion. This is $72 billion over the budget cap required by sequestration legislation, and has to be reconciled with the $700 billion bill coming out of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both bills spend more on the military than even the Trump administration – which pledged a massive military build up during the campaign – and the Pentagon proposed. The bill passed with bipartisan support: only 71 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted against it.

The sole objection the Democrats had to this budget-busting bill was that military spending did not achieve “parity” with domestic spending: with 60 votes required in the Senate to abrogate sequestration caps, the Democrats are using their leverage not to reduce military spending, but to increase domestic spending. As Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, put it:

“[T]o simply gut the nondefense discretionary budget, to plus-up defense does not make this country safer. I care enough about national security that I would raise taxes to pay for it.”

Of course he would. That’s because the two parties have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to military spending: the Democrats go along with budget-busting “defense” bills as long as Republicans makes concessions insofar as domestic spending is concerned – and everyone gets to keep (and increase) their favorite boondoggles.

Speaking of which, an amendment offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), that would have lifted a ban on another round of base realignment and closure measures, was defeated. While this is outrageous, it’s hardly surprising: obsolete bases on American soil that serve no military purpose do indeed serve a political purpose – keeping federal dollars flowing to those congressional districts. This outcome dramatizes the entire budget process, especially when it comes to the military: it has little to do with actually defending the country, and everything to do with defending the political interests of members of Congress.

Of course, the McClintock amendment got almost no publicity, while the Hartzler amendment – which would have defunded sex change operations for military personnel – hogged the spotlight. This amendment failed, with 24 House Republicans – including “libertarian” Justin Amash – voting to kill it. Rumor has it that Defense Secretary James Mattis called Rep. Vicky Hartzler and asked her to withdraw it. The Hartzler measure was characterized as the “anti-trans amendment,” but in reality it was nothing of the kind. Transgender women and men are permitted to serve in the military, and nothing in the amendment would’ve changed that: if passed, it would have simply required transgender military personnel to pay for their own surgery.

Another amendment that got some visibility was one that would have stripped the proposal to create a “Space Corps’ from the NDAA. The Trump administration, the Pentagon, and Mattis all oppose the Space Corps idea, but the House never got to a vote: instead, the amendment was tossed out by the Rules Committee. No doubt about it, there are some powerful interests at play here, all of which are major contributors to Rep. Mike Rogers’ campaign chest: GenCorp, Lockheed, General Atomics, General Dynamics, Northrup Gumman, Honeywell International, etc. etc. Rogers, an Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is one of the chief Space Corps proponents.

The military-industrial-congressional complex would naturally welcome the addition of yet another bureaucratic structure designed to suck up tax dollars and expand the military contractor gravy train; and the nascent “space industry” is no doubt eager to open up new frontiers of political influence in order to subsidize their efforts – in the name of “national security,” of course. The Air Force, for its part, fears the addition of yet another rival for funding, one that could be expected to take a big chunk out of their own budget.

One ray of light in an otherwise dark procedure was the victory of two amendments that would prohibit any US involvement in the Saudi war on Yemen. It was a voice vote so we don’t know who voted how. I would expect that this will be stripped out of the reconciled version, but, hey, we celebrate such small victories in lieu of anything better to crow about.

The Trump administration asked for $603 billion in military spending: Congress upped the ante by $37 billion. The Senate version would up it by $40 billion. To update Everett Dirkson, and adjust for inflation: $40 billion here, forty billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about some real money.

I seem to remember then joint chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen telling us that the national debt is the single biggest threat to the security of the United States. Then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the same thing. General Mattis agrees.  It would be a typically American form of irony if our bloated-beyond-all-reason “defense” budget turned out to be a major factor in our ultimate undoing.

Around $75 million is devoted to an “overseas contingency” reserve, i.e. the cost of possible new wars. To say nothing of the costs baked into the “official” budget emanating from our myriad of overseas commitments, from maintaining our far-flung empire of bases to subsidizing our shiftless NATO “allies.”

The burden of empire weighs heavily on our shoulders, and frustration with this state of affairs was expressed by none other than President Donald Trump recently, when he said:

“We have to rebuild our country. Our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our schools. We will have in another few months, have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Seven Trillion. And then if you want to spend two dollars on building a school in Iowa, or in Pennsylvania, or in Florida, they don’t want to give you the money. How ridiculous is this?”

It’s pretty damn ridiculous, but then again it’s no less ridiculous than bombing Syria, threatening Iran, and sending more troops to Afghanistan – all of which have happened since the Trump administration took office. Is Trump campaigning against himself?

We are living under a President who proclaims “America First,” and yet we have a “defense” budget that does everything but defend this country’s borders from attack: our shipping is still as vulnerable as ever, and our borders aren’t any less porous than they were when Trump came to office. Oh, but don’t worry: our service members can change genders at will,and our Space Cadets will soon be bringing democracy to the red plains of Mars.

Congress Trying to Sneak Through Major Giveaway to Defense Contractors

July 14 2017

by David Dayen

the Intercept

Congress is on the brink of a major giveaway to defense contractors, tucking language into a must-pass piece of legislation that would broadly expand their ability to gouge the federal government on sole-source contracts.

The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is practically the only bill Congress passes on time every year. The last 50 NDAA’s, which authorize funds and set policy for the Department of Defense, have reached the president’s desk without a holdup. Education, healthcare, and jobs can wait, but supporting the troops — actually, supporting the defense contractors who make the weapons — must never face a delay. The bill even goes through a regular process, with dozens of amendments and bipartisan votes. It’s like nothing else in Washington.

This year’s version of the NDAA, which authorizes $696 billion in military spending, includes a nice gift for contractors, particularly those that have monopolized a particular part the Pentagon needs. Buried in the NDAA, which is scheduled to pass the House Friday, is an increase in the amount of products which can be sold to the military without providing cost information — data about the price of manufacturing and labor. Without this information, monopoly contractors could enjoy a huge markup on their sales to the government without anyone knowing about it.

Section 803 of the House NDAA raises the threshold for cost information in “noncompetitive” contracts — meaning contracts that are sole-source, with no other supplier for the government — from $500,000 to $2.5 million. The Senate version, in Section 813, raises that threshold to $1 million. If both pass as written, the gift to contractors will be assured; the only question would be how big.

Hiding cost information benefits a small group of sole-source contractors, including TransDigm, which I wrote about for The Intercept in April. TransDigm, a private equity-style conglomerate, specializes in cornering the market for proprietary parts for military aircraft and then jacking up the price. Several Democrats in Congress have highlighted TransDigm’s practices, and the Defense Department’s inspector general is actively investigating the company.

Increasing the threshold for disclosure could allow TransDigm to further avoid sharing information with the Pentagon. Critics charge that TransDigm has subverted the cost information requirement by creating the illusion of multiple suppliers for a product, when in fact they are all owned by TransDigm. The company wouldn’t need to always resort to such subterfuge if this new loophole becomes law. They can also split up contracts to stay under the dollar threshold and avoid disclosure.

The change updates the Truth in Negotiations Act (TINA), an important law passed in 1962 that almost nobody knows about. That law was part of a strong anti-monopoly tradition in military procurement, dating back to the exposure of profiteering by the Truman Committee during World War II. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Pentagon favored competitive bidding, and under TINA, any sole-source contracting required cost information, so procurement officers at the Defense Logistics Agency could ensure they were only paying a reasonable markup, without price gouging.

This model of competition in defense contracting ran aground after the Cold War, when policymakers made streamlining the primary objective. The number of audits of contractor facilities fell. Experienced procurement officers were let go. Buy American mandates were loosened. Contractors won an exception to cost information disclosure if they listed their items as “commercial.” Indeed, the House’s justification for raising the cost information threshold, obtained by The Intercept in a summary of the NDAA, is to “reduce administrative burdens” and “improve process timelines for smaller contracts.” Keeping costs down is no longer the focus.

In addition to creating fake markets, TransDigm uses the commercial item exception routinely (even if there’s no commercial market for the products), according to an Inspector General’s report in 2006. The increased threshold exemption just adds to the company’s bag of tricks.

Partially due to these procurement changes, the defense contractor sector has concentrated significantly since the 1990s. A handful of companies control the sector, and all these loopholes for disclosure prevent public understanding of whether the taxpayer is being harmed by exorbitant pricing.

“There’s a very serious monopoly problem in the defense industrial space, and it’s time Congress start taking it seriously,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow with the Open Markets Program of the New America Foundation, who is also an Intercept contributor.

It’s hard to identify how this loophole got into the NDAA, because the process is so secretive. Citing national security, the Senate Armed Services Committee did all its work on the bill this year in closed sessions. While the House Armed Services Committee markups were open, some of the subcommittee hearings lasted as little as 2 minutes, merely recording votes on their part of the bill. Seventeen organizations, led by the Project on Government Oversight, protested the closing of the NDAA committee process, insisting, “It’s time to bring the NDAA into the light of day.”

Some people are watching over the process: the ones paid by their defense contractor clients. Lobbying by the defense industry has exceeded $70 million annually for five of the past six years.

The Armed Services Committees claim they are cracking down on the acquisition process. The Senate bill authorizes a study on software acquisition, and enhanced training for procurement officers. The House version requires more oversight in service contracts, which make up about half of Pentagon contract spending. There’s even a provision in the House bill inserted by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who has led the charge on TransDigm, to study the ownership structures of defense contractors, to prevent “hidden monopolists with unreasonable prices.”

But the NDAA also gives a boost to another monopoly provider — Amazon. Both the House and Senate encourage the Pentagon to use online commercial sites for procurement, with speed and convenience again being the primary goal.

So far, no amendments have been filed in either chamber to eliminate the increase on sole-source cost information thresholds. If it becomes law, it’ll be hard to even gauge its impact, because the entire point is to prevent disclosure of how much monopoly defense contractors are overcharging the government.

Trump’s tax proposal would push US below Greece on inequality index

Researchers say tax reform plan would increase gap between rich and poor

US already does ‘very badly’ on global inequality index

July 16, 2017

by Amanda Holpuch in New York

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s tax reform plans would, if enacted, increase the gap between rich and poor Americans and see the US slip below Greece on a new global index of inequality.

According to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) index, developed by researchers at Oxfam and Development Finance International, the US already distinguishes itself among wealthy countries by doing “very badly” at addressing inequality.

But it would fall a further six places from its ranking of 23rd overall if Trump’s tax reform effort is successful, with the US’s specific rating on tax policies plummeting 33 places from 26th to 59th – just below Peru, Chile and Sri Lanka.

“When you already have countries like Portugal and Slovenia ranking higher than the United States on the overall index, we think that’s a concern considering the wealth of the US,” Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice-president for policy and campaigns, told the Guardian.

If the White House passes its budget, which would slash social service spending and could leave millions of Americans without health insurance, the US would fall behind Greece, which is crippled by a debt crisis; Spain, which for 10 months in 2016 did not have a government; and Argentina, which has been plagued by high inflation, according to the report.

O’Brien said global understanding of inequality has grown significantly in the past decade, but this awareness has not led to the creation of pervasive government policies. Compilers of the index spent a year looking at policies around taxation, social service spending and labor in 152 countries.

“The reason we did this comparative index,” O’Brien said, “is in large part to challenge policymakers like President Trump to look to other economies and other societies, to give people smarter ways to give everyone an opportunity to lift themselves from poverty.”

The US performance on the index is strikingly bad compared to other wealthy countries, including the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These countries account for 63% of the world GDP. The US is ranked 21st among them in the inequality index, despite being the wealthiest country in the history of the world.

Threaded through the new report are stark facts that explain some of the ways the US has earned its low ranking. In 2012, 43.3% of corporations in the US paid no federal income tax. US employers are required to provide zero days of paid maternity leave, while Sweden offers 480 days. The US federal minimum wage of $7.25 is well below the $10.60 an hour needed for a family of four to stay above the federal poverty line.

The report makes clear that inequality in the US could get worse if efforts to reform tax and repeal the Affordable Care Act are successful. If, instead, Trump decided to attack inequality in the US, O’Brien said he would need to create a more progressive tax system that lessens the burden on the poorest people, improve labor laws, and “ensure that investments in healthcare, education and social protection gave all Americans an equal shot at the American dream”.

The index does not assess laws that prevent inequality, rather focusing on policies that help redistribute wealth. The report identifies successful efforts to turn around inequality in countries including Namibia, where secondary education is free to all.

The index also emphasizes that the top performing countries, including Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, have room for improvement and that the success they have had could be reversed through legislative attempts to weaken laws that protect the poorest members of society.

“For most rich countries,” the report says, “the main body of policies measured by the index was introduced in a different period of history, when significant action in these areas was broadly accepted as the right thing to do and paid dividends in terms of social and economic progress.

“Today, in many countries, political support for these measures has eroded.”

Decaying infrastructure taking a toll on America

America’s infrastructure is in a state of crisis. Roads and train lines are old, dangerous and cost the country billions of dollars in economic growth. Trump wants to repair damages but he is at the mercy of investors.

July 17, 2017

by Lindsey Rae Gjording


The summer of hell began for New Yorkers last Monday. Beginning at four o’clock in the afternoon people hurried home from work, clogging midtown Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station. Over 600,000 people trek to Manhattan daily from faraway places like New Jersey and Long Island, entering the city via Penn Station. More people transit through Penn Station than all three of New York’s airports: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. Yet on Monday many tracks were shut down for the summer so the city can begin tackling urgently needed repairs.

“We are now beginning to see what happens when mass transit systems break down. We have a painful precursor, a series of breakdowns with Amtrak and Pennsylvania Station,” said New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo, “When you close down the tracks there is a series of dominoes that fall, that puts the entire system near collapse.” This was during the press conference where Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the transit system.

The old subways of New York

And it is not only the subway that needs repair: Streets are littered with potholes, dilapidated tunnels are increasingly dangerous and the sewage systems need maintenance. Electricity grids, gas and oil pipelines, ports, freight rail and internet broadband are all infrastructure that require constant maintenance, yet they are privately owned and well kept.

It is the infrastructure that falls under government watch that is failing. “Everyone wants the benefits of good infrastructure and nobody wants to pay, so things are allowed to deteriorate,” says Ingo Walter, Professor Emeritus of Finance at New York University, “Transportation is the lynchpin. Fixing our roads, bridges, tunnels and transportation hubs are a must and will have the biggest impact.”

Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) measures the conditions of bridge, water and transportation infrastructure within the US and publishes its findings through the Infrastructure Report Card. New York received a C- in 2017. With one-third of America’s entire public transport belonging to the state of New York, this is a critical and costly failure.

Why are they so off track?

The report card for America’s entire infrastructure system was even worse. The US scored a lowly D+.

“It affects how we are engaging in the economy,” says Brian Pallasch, the director of ASCE, “It hurts our GDP. By the year 2020 we are going to lose 4 trillion dollars of growth in GDP. And we have been able to calculate that aging infrastructure costs American families about $3,400 (2,940 euros) a year. Think about the time you waste, the fuel you waste.” This includes car repairs for tires busted on bad roads, higher costs for fuel used while sitting in traffic, not to mention the cost of a person’s time. ASCE estimated it will cost $3.9 trillion to get American infrastructure back on track.

Trump’s plan: More money (maybe)

During his campaign, Trump promised trillions of dollars to tackle this issue. Yet a look at the budget says otherwise: The government will spend only $200 billion on the infrastructure package. The remaining $800 billion must come from states and municipalities – no major problem for wealthy states. But the rural areas remain in disrepair.

Trump wants private investors to finance infrastructure projects though private-public partnerships. Trump wants to incentivize this through favorable loans and tax breaks, which could subsidize the private sector, create jobs and ease the burden on the government budget. On the flipside, private companies might charge additional fees in attempts to create return on their investment, essentially asking Americans to pay what would have been saved in taxes, in addition to their regular tax payments.

This model also opens the door to inequality, as the cities that need the most funding do not attract investors. Examples of this can be found in Michigan, where Detroit and Flint are essentially a shambles following a major loss of industry. WalletHub voted them the worst cities in America, leaving them at spots 149 and 143 out of 150 cities. There are no prestigious projects to attract investors there. “Congress has not looked after the infrastructure for a decade, and now we see the consequences,” says Pallasch.


Chicago anti-violence activist, nine-year-old, gunned down in rash of shootings

July 16, 2017

by Bernie Woodall


An anti-violence activist and a 9-year-old were among 10 people who were fatally shot in Chicago over the weekend, the latest in a rash of killings that has shaken the third-largest U.S. city and raised questions about how to staunch the bloodshed.

All told, more than 40 people were shot in Chicago from Friday to Sunday morning, including Willie Cooper, 58, who ran a South Side community center, according to police. No arrests had been made.

Cooper was gunned down on Saturday afternoon by the occupants of a dark-colored car that had stopped as the activist walked near the nonprofit where he worked, law enforcement and local media said.

“Willie is preventing violence, trying to find jobs for ex-offenders, working in this community. I almost want to name him the Mayor of 95th Street,” one of his friends, Bamani Obadele, told WLS-TV.

Chicago has become the focus of renewed national concern over gun crime in the United States, fueled by the perception of a spike in shootings in recent months, mostly related to gangs.

Over the Independence Day weekend, 101 people were shot in the city of 2.7 million, leaving at least 14 dead. In 2013, the last time the Fourth of July weekend spanned four days, 74 people were shot, according to the Chicago Tribune.

That said, data issued last week by the Chicago Police Department showed that less than 2,000 people have been shot through July 9 this year, down about 10 percent from a year earlier. Homicides numbered 353, in line with 350 deaths a year earlier.

Another victim of the weekend violence was Gustavo Garcia, 9, who was shot and killed while riding in an SUV on the South Side late on Friday, police spokeswoman Brandi Wright said. A 31-year-old man in the SUV was wounded, she said. No one was in custody yet.

Garcia was the 14th person aged 12 or under to be shot in Chicago this year, and the fourth to be killed, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The violence came a month after President Donald Trump tweeted that gun crime in Chicago had reached “epidemic proportions” and that he would be “sending in Federal help.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions later clarified that federal assistance will come in the form of a strike force that included local and federal law enforcement officers.

Chicago’s ongoing struggles with violence continue after a federal investigation found police routinely violated civil rights, and used excessive force and discriminatory conduct.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Frank McGurty and Phil Berlowitz


The Saudi Agents Next Door: Americans Who Cashed in on Campaign to Stop 9/11 Trial

Saudi Arabia spent millions trying to keep 9/11 families and survivors from presenting evidence against the kingdom

July 13, 2017

by  Brian P. McGlinchey


Last October, the Saudi government partnered with Qorvis MSLGROUP to launch a massive, nationwide lobbying effort aimed at undermining a new law that cleared the way for 9/11 families and survivors to sue Saudi Arabia for its alleged support of al Qaeda and its hijackers.

Now, a disclosure filing with the Department of Justice gives an indication of the high cost of the effort, and helps shine a light on Americans all across the country hired to execute the kingdom’s campaign to keep evidence of its links to 9/11 out of court.

Campaign Marked by Deceptive Premise, Misconduct

The principal weapon in the Saudi attack on the measure was a false argument—specifically, the claim that, if other countries adopted their own versions of JASTA, U.S. military service members and veterans of every war would face trials in foreign courts.

JASTA, however, doesn’t authorize suits against individuals—only governments. “JASTA poses no risk of exposing U.S. service members to lawsuits in foreign courts,” said William S. Dodge, former counselor on international law at the State Department, in a February interview with 28Pages.org.

In addition to its deceptive premise, the Saudi-Qorvis campaign has been characterized by rampant violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)—most notoriously, providing veterans with paid travel to Washington to lobby against JASTA without informing them that Saudi Arabia was organizing the effort. The misconduct prompted a 9/11 families and victims group to lodge a lengthy and detailed complaint with the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, despite the extraordinary effort of the kingdom and its American surrogates—which also included placing opinion pieces in newspapers, recruiting citizens to sign on to letters to Congress, contacting state and federal legislators and soliciting influential community leaders to call for changes to JASTA—the law remains intact.

This report shows just some of those who helped the Saudi effort to thwart the 9/11 families’ and victims’ civil suit. It’s organized by Qorvis disbursements ranked by size—from the biggest seven-digit heavyweight to the former Maryland GOP communications director who earned just $150.

$7,117,145: Community Strategies, Inc

Location: Washington, D.C.

Registered Saudi Agents: Michael Gibson, Sara Raak, Christina Gibson

In the early days of the emerging Saudi lobbying scandal, Michael Gibson’s name appeared on an email coordinating flight arrangements for one of the veterans invited to travel to Washington to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA)—without being told that Saudi Arabia was behind the effort.

Given his involvement in that low-level transaction, one may have concluded at the time that Gibson’s role in the Saudi campaign was relatively modest. The recent Qorvis disclosure filing revealed that, quite to the contrary, Gibson played a critical and commanding role.

A majority of the $7.1 million that Qorvis paid to Community Strategies was funneled out to dozens of other entities and individuals all across the country. However, Community Strategies itself received $3,123,936 for “grass roots activation and supervision.” Considering the widespread misconduct across Gibson’s sprawling operation, the suggestion that he had supervisory responsibility isn’t a flattering one.

Gibson also leads Advocacy Group Inc.

$825,990: Wisconsin Legislative Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Jason Johns

Location: Oregon, Wisconsin

Along with Scott Wheeler (found two entries below), Jason Johns ran the most infamous parts of the Saudi campaign against JASTA: programs by which groups of veterans were flown to Washington to lobby against the bill, without being told the initiative was organized and funded by Saudi Arabia.

Beyond failing to disclose his Saudi sponsorship, several witnesses say that Johns, without prompting, claimed that Saudi Arabia was not involved.

Veterans recruited by Johns and his associates were housed at the Trump International DC, where they enjoyed free meals and open bars. (Wheeler’s operation was separate and used different hotels.)

At the time of his work for Saudi Arabia, Johns was National Senior Vice Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH). According to MOPH emails shared with 28Pages.org, Johns has since been suspended from the organization for one year for a cause unrelated to his anti-JASTA activities.

When originally registering as a Saudi agent, Johns declared he would be paid $100,000. Much of the $825,990 paid to his firm may have covered travel expenses for the veterans he brought to Washington.

$569,090: Hard Count, Inc

Registered Saudi Agent: William D. “Billy” Horton

Location: Austin, Texas

Hard Count specializes in both grassroots and “grasstops” advocacy, the latter term referring to efforts that focus on opinion leaders and people with connections to elected officials.

$375,991: Capitol Media Group

Registered Saudi Agent: Scott Wheeler

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Though Wheeler’s operation was distinct from that of Jason Johns, above, it was very similar in that it entailed flying groups of veterans to Washington to lobby for changes to JASTA.

Like Johns, Wheeler failed to inform veterans that Saudi Arabia was paying their way—and paying him a $90,000 fee.

Wheeler’s registration as a Saudi agent came months after it was required under law, but just two days after 9/11 families and victims filed their DOJ complaint alleging broad misconduct, including the failure of many participants to register.

Wheeler’s registration indicated he reported directly to Saudi Arabia, and specifically to then-Saudi ambassador Prince Abdullah bin Faisal. However, Brad Owens, a veteran who recruited others on Wheeler’s behalf, says Wheeler claimed that—contrary to his attorney’s sworn declarations on Capitol Media Group’s registration—there were multiple intermediaries between him and the Saudis. Further, Owens said Wheeler asserted that he himself wasn’t initially informed of Saudi Arabia’s role.

Given Wheeler was paid by Qorvis, it may well be true that Wheeler didn’t report directly to the kingdom. If so, that would seem to indicate that his attorney—James Kevin Wholey, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole—mishandled Wheeler’s tardy DOJ filing, registering Capitol Media Group as a primary registrant when he should have instead filed using a “short form” indicating Wheeler was working under Qorvis.

In another apparent lapse, Elliott Schwartz of QE Intelligence is said to have performed substantial duties in Wheeler’s lobbying operation, yet his name does not appear in a search of FARA registrants.

Given the conflicting accounts, many questions remain about Wheeler; chief among them: Who recruited him, what exactly did they tell him about who was behind the operation, and when did he learn about Saudi Arabia’s role? Wheeler has refused 28Pages.org’s interview requests, and has emailed participating veterans, attempting to discredit the reporting here and to discourage them from talking as well.

$277,500: Vectre Corporation

Registered Saudi Agents: H. Benson Dendy III, Christopher J. Whyte, Philip F. Abraham, Lauren R. Abraham,  M. David Skiles, Richard Grossman

Location: Richmond, Virginia

This firm boasts several veterans of state government. For example, its president, H. Benson Dendy III, held the posts of secretary of the commonwealth and special assistant to the governor, while Philip Abraham was a special assistant and senior assistant for policy for two governors.

$237,400: Dixon & Company

Registered Saudi Agent: Jeffrey Dixon

Location: Chicago

Dixon is the son of the late U.S. senator Allen J. Dixon, a Democrat who represented Illinois for two terms. In addition to having served as a press secretary for Illinois House speaker Michael Madigan, Jeffrey Dixon has worked on a variety of political campaigns, including Rod Blagojevich for governor, Paul Simon for U.S. Senate, and Michael Dukakis for president.

$162,640: Integrated Legislative Solutions

Registered Saudi Agents: Terry Snyder, Shelbi Lewark

Location: Denver

Working under the supervision of Terry Snyder, Shelbi Lewark helped recruit veterans to travel to Washington to lobby against JASTA. Several of them have told 28Pages.org that she failed to disclose Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the initiative.

To accomplish her assignment, Lewark sought the assistance of a local veteran, who in turn invited others to join the effort. Contrary to Lewark’s claim to 28Pages.org, the veteran says she did not inform him about Saudi Arabia’s role; nor did she advise him of the need to register with the Department of Justice as a Saudi agent.

Lewark is also a past vice-chair of the Denver GOP. Integrated Legislative Solutions appears to have no website and Terry Snyder has a very low internet profile.

$131,600: Miller Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: James “Jamie” Miller 

Location: Sarasota

Jamie Miller is a Republican strategist who worked on Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign. He is also the director of business competitiveness initiatives for the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County.

$128,750: Novus Public Affairs

Registered Saudi Agents: Paul Young, Brennon M. Ward 

Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Novus president Paul Young was an advisor to two presidential campaigns: Lindsey Graham’s in 2016 and Rick Perry’s in 2012.  He’s also a principal at another firm that supported Saudi Arabia’s anti-JASTA effort: Hynes Communications (see below, at $56,000).

Brennan Ward has worked in a variety of roles supporting Republican electoral efforts in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

$106,925: Connolly Kuhl Group

Registered Saudi Agent: Patrick Connolly

Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Before launching Connolly Kuhl, Patrick Connolly supported Norm Coleman’s 2002 Senate campaign, and then became a Coleman staffer. Coleman has himself served as a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, while simultaneously chairing one of the nation’s largest GOP PACs. Earlier, as a senator, he signed a letter condemning the kingdom for fostering extremism.

$101,500: Schmett & Associates

Registered Saudi Agents: Kim D. Schmett, Connie L. Schmett

Location: Des Moines, Iowa

Kim Schmett ran for U.S. Congress in 2008, but, according to the Iowa Republican, he “struggled at every facet of the campaign.” Connie Schmett is an experienced Republican activist who, among other things, organized an Iowa caucus in 2016 that drew roughly 1,000 attendees and appearances by four presidential candidates.

$86,400: Kyle Moyer & Company

Registered Saudi Agent: Cylee L. Gutting

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Firm president Kyle Moyer, who does not appear to have registered as a Saudi agent, managed a GOP campaign for the Arizona legislature.

Cylee Gutting recently left the firm to work for Greater Phoenix Leadership.

$76,800: 29:11 Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: John “Wes” Farno

Location: Minster, Ohio

Wes Farno is chairman of the Auglaize County Republican Party, and previously worked for Advocacy Group, Inc (see the first entry above.)

Based in a small, rural village in western Ohio, his firm claims to have “values forged in the heartland,” bemoans that “our world is full of misguided truths,” declares that it uses “faith-based principles” in providing its services, and avows to “hold honesty and integrity above all else.”

Those advertised principles are starkly at odds with Farno’s participation in a lobbying effort built on a dishonest premise, marked by rampant misconduct and ultimately aimed at shielding a dictatorial Wahhabist monarchy from 9/11 families seeking justice for mass murder.

$76,500: LS2 Group

Registered Saudi Agents: Daniel Lederman, Charles W. Larson, Jr, Tyler Gregory Campbell, Bruceanne Phillips, Ashley Mae Hunt, Jay Harter, Tamara Ibach, James Gwinner

Location: Des Moine, Iowa

Daniel Lederman is chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party and a former South Dakota state senator. Charles Larson, Jr. is a former ambassador to Latvia in the George W. Bush administration, former state senator and representative. Army Reserve veteran. His father was director of law enforcement for Saudi Arabia’s “highway patrol project.” Campbell helped coordinate whistleblowing veteran Tim Cord’s lobbying trip.

$63,809: The Resources Group

Registered Saudi Agent: David Miner

Location: Cary, North Carolina

Miner is a former, six-term Republican representative in the North Carolina legislature, serving a district that includes Raleigh. Considered a moderate, he launched The Resources Group after being trounced in a 2004 primary challenge. Miner was a fundraiser for George W. Bush and Bob Dole.

$56,000: Hynes Communications

Registered Saudi Agent: Paul Young

Location: Concord, New Hampshire

According to its website, this firm focuses on digital media and online communications strategy. Founder Patrick Hynes, who appears not to have registered as a Saudi agent, is a current advisor to the New Hampshire GOP, advised the presidential campaigns of Jeb Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

He also ran a website that heavily promoted the Swiftboat Veterans campaign against presidential candidate John Kerry, wrote a column for The American Spectator, and authored a book: In Defense of the Religious Right. (Given his hand in fighting JASTA for Saudi Arabia, the world eagerly awaits his sequel: In Defense of Salafism.)

This is one of two firms in the Saudi-Qorvis universe that Paul Young works for; see Novus Public Affairs at $128,750 above.

$54,550: Peritus Public Relations

Registered Saudi Agents: Kevin E. Borland, Tim Mulloy, Sarah Durand

Location: Birmingham, Alabama and Louisville, Kentucky

Durand was directly involved in recruiting veterans to travel to Washington to oppose JASTA. A veteran that Durand contacted told Daily Caller that Durand and others “literally never told me anything about what the trip was for. It kind of ticked me off. I was asking very specific questions. I asked who was paying for it and they wouldn’t tell me.”

Durand was communications director for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and chief of staff for Kentucky first lady Glenna Bevin. Earlier, she was president of the Louisville Tea Party.

Mulloy and Borland recently launched MulloyBorland, LLC in Louisville, with Durand on the staff as well.

28Pages.org was unable to locate an initial FARA registration for Mulloy or Durand. However, both their names appear in a list of terminated Saudi-Qorvis registrations.

$52,350: Paul Stanley

Location: Savannah, Tennessee

Stanley is a former Tennessee state senator whose political career ended in a 2009 scandal. An evangelical Christian who ran on promoting family values, the then-47-year old Stanley had an affair with a 22-year old state capitol intern. He then became the victim of an attempted extortion and resigned from office.

Reflecting on the experience in a 2011 interview, Stanley said, “What I was doing was not so much hypocritical as it was sinful. I mean it was wrong…we’re all tempted in some area of our life. We just have to figure out how to deal with that.”

Stanley wrote a 2014 column exhorting his fellow Christians to support military action in Iraq in the name of countering terrorism. Now we find he took $52,350 from Saudi Arabia in exchange for aiding its desperate attempt to curtail scrutiny of its export of extremism and its links to the 9/11 attacks.

Unfortunately for society, it seems Stanley’s knack for jarring hypocrisy is fully intact; his ability to resist temptation, still impaired.

$51,500: Ballard Everett & Associates

Registered Saudi Agent: J. Ballard Everett

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Everett has been involved in Republican politics for more than 40 years, according to his firm’s website (which appears to have been hijacked by someone offering the sale of cheap online prescription drugs). He also helped lead a conservative drive against the death penalty.

$48,650: Dauntless Communications

Registered Saudi Agent: Eric Eisenhammer

Location: Roseville, California

Daily Caller reported that Eisenhammer’s firm set up a booth at a Reno gun show in January that was used to recruit veterans and others to oppose JASTA, to include asking about their willingness to travel to Washington. There’s no indication that those who were pitched at the gun show were notified that the table was sponsored by Saudi Arabia.

$40,050: Public Policy Solutions

Registered Saudi Agent: Cory Black

Location: Templeton, California

While the individuals selected for the Saudi-Qorvis campaign against JASTA skew overwhelmingly to the Republican side, Black worked on every Democratic campaign for the White House between 1992 and 2008.

$32,550: Steven Cohen

Location: Wheeling, West Virginia

Cohen is a former energy industry lobbyist and was executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

$31,750: Bickford Pacific Group

Registered Saudi Agent: Frank Bickford

Location: Anchorage, Alaska

Bickford is a prominent Alaska lobbyist who managed John Lindauer’s 1998 GOP campaign for the governor’s office. (Subsequently charged with perjury and violation of campaign laws, Lindauer entered a no contest plea and was spared prison time.)

$29,200: Jackson-West Consulting

Registered Saudi Agent: Christopher West

Location: Alexandria, Virginia.

Christopher West worked on the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign in Florida, in the offices of Virginia senator George Allen and of the Virginia attorney general. His partner, Charlie Jackson, started in media, including a position with The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

$25,313: Flywheel

Registered Saudi Agents: David Beightol, Brian Sailer, Brandon Peck, James S. McCleskey

Location: Washington, DC

According to forms filed with Flywheel’s FARA registration, the firm was engaged to “conduct outreach to governors and lieutenant governors…educating them on the impacts and potential risks/threats that JASTA poses on their states’ business and economic interests, members of the military and national security.” Among its goals: to persuade governors to contact federal legislators, write opinion pieces and make public statements opposing JASTA.

$24,950: Eaton River Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Kathie Summers Grice

Location: Manchester, Maine

Summers Grice was a George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Department of Labor and registered as a Saudi lobbyist last Oct. 9.

On Oct. 28, she tweeted: “I will never support a company or nation that oppresses human rights.” Weeks later, her firm received $24,950 for services rendered to the kingdom infamous for jailing dissidents, flogging journalists, oppressing religious minorities and mistreating women.

$24,900: Duane Morris Government Strategies

Registered Saudi Agents: Amy Kaminski, Michael Pehur, Kathleen Deland, Ashley Henry Shook

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Per the firm’s website, Duane Morris “provides expertise in a variety of government affairs, public policy and grassroots lobbying initiatives, from monitoring, drafting, amending, passing and stopping legislation to public relations and crisis management to coalition building.”

$23,300: Organized Karma

Registered Saudi Agents: Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, Charity Stevens, Aida Blankenship, Ronni Council

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

In March, 28Pages.org was first to report that Bilbray-Axelrod signed on to represent Saudi Arabia just 25 days before being elected to the Nevada state assembly. Follow-on coverage by the Las-Vegas Review-Journal led a fellow legislator to consider filing a formal ethics complaint, inspired an op-ed calling for her resignation and ultimately prompted Bilbray-Axelrod to resign from Organized Karma.

Ronni Council recruited former Clark County commissioner Dario Herrera to help fight JASTA. However, according to Herrera, she never disclosed that Saudi Arabia was behind the effort. “I wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot pole if I’d known about the Saudis,” Herrera told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

$17,150: Sherpa Public Affairs

Registered Saudi Agent: Gibson McKay

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

McKay previously worked as an aide to Senator John McCain and held a Republican national convention role in McCain’s 2008 presidential bid.

$16,800: Lynne Schlosser

Location: St. Louis

Schlosser has an exceedingly low internet profile. According to her LinkedIn page, she previously worked in government relations for the American Cancer Society.

$15,750: Hubbell Communications

Registered Saudi Agents: Chris Edmonds, Timothy F. Lussier, Clinton Harper

Location: Portland, Oregon

Edmonds has previously worked on the campaigns of U.S. senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and New Jersey governor John Corzine, and was named Best Campaign Manager by Oregon House Democrats. Lussier was a field director for the Trump campaign.

$15,600: Capitol Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: David H. Carroll, Jr, Rory Murray

Location: Annapolis, Maryland

Carroll is a founder of the firm.

Earlier in his career, he was director of the Democratic Business Council, a fundraising program that targeted corporations.

$13,700: Creative Communications

Registered Saudi Agent: Randal L. Hayden

Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Randy Hayden is on the board of directors of Louisiana Clean Fuels and also does communications work for the Louisiana Propane Gas Association. Earlier, he won AP and UPI awards for broadcast journalism.

$12,700: Cammarano Layton Bombardieri

Registered Saudi Agent: Jon R. Bombardieri

Location: Trenton, New Jersey

Bombardieri was executive director of the New Jersey General Assembly, and policy advisor to the New Jersey General Assembly Majority Office.

$11,000: Felkel Group

Registered Saudi Agent: D. Hollis Felkel II

Location: South Carolina

Active in the Republican Party, Hollis “Chip” Felkel previously worked on the 2000 and 2004 Bush-Cheney campaigns and the 1988 Bush-Quayle campaign.

$10,800: Advocacy Solutions LLC

Registered Saudi Agent: Francis X. McMahaon, Christopher Hunter

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

McMahon was Rhode Island governor Bruce Sundlun’s special counsel and deputy chief of staff.

$7,900: Kristen Sheehan Consulting

Registered Saudi Agents: Kirsten Kukowski, Kristen Sheehan,

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Together, Kukowski and Sheehan own KK & Co, a public relations, communications and fundraising firm. Kukowski served as national press secretary for the Republican Party for five years under chairman Reince Priebus. She was also communications director for Scott Walker’s 2016 presidential campaign, John McCain’s 2008 White House bid, and led communications for the 2016 national GOP convention.

Sheehan was political director for senator Norm Coleman’s 2008 campaign, which he lost to challenger Al Franken by 312 votes. Coleman went on to become a Saudi lobbyist as well.

$6,450: Wellington Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Joseph Kuklis

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Kuklis was deputy state director for Senator Rick Santorum. In 2012, he merged a former venture, GSP Consulting, with Duane Morris Government Strategies (see $24,900 above).

Kuklis wrote a book about his lobbying experience called The Robin Hood of D.C. For his sequel, he may struggle to find a flattering literary metaphor for someone who takes money from rich Saudis royals in exchange for protecting them from 9/11 widows.

$6,350: Resch Strategies

Registered Saudi Agent: Matthew Resch

Location: Lansing, Michigan

Resch earlier worked in communications for the Michigan governor’s office and state legislature.

$6,350: Strategic Advocacy LLC

Registered Saudi Agent: Roy Lenardson

Location: Portland, Maine and Ave Maria, Florida

Lenardson was chief of staff in the Maine senater, managed a gubernatorial campaign and worked at the Maine Heritage Policy Center. In 2014, he managed a controversial polling effort about Medicaid expansion in Maine. Critics called it a “push poll,” in which calls were meant to create and change opinions rather than collect them.

$3,750: KOFA Public Affairs

Registered Saudi Agent: Richard Abbruzzese

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Abbruzzese was director of public affairs for Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, and also served as his deputy campaign manager.

$150: Yocheved “Chevy” Weiss

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

There’s a rule in risk management: Don’t risk a lot for a little. Earning a grand total of $150 for her service to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Weiss seems to have profoundly violated that principle.

As 28Pages.org first reported in May, Weiss used Facebook to solicit others to join the anti-JASTA effort, but failed to include a disclosure of her Saudi sponsorship, which appears to be a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Willful violations are subject to prison terms up of to five years and fines of up to $10,000.

According to her LinkedIn page, Weiss was communications director for the Maryland Republican Party.



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 53

July 17, 2017


Last year, the National Archives (NARA) acquired a large number of historically valuable National Security Agency records. But they remain inaccessible to researchers, at least for the time being.

David Langbart of NARA described the situation at a closed meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee late last year. According to recently published minutes of that meeting:

“The [NSA] records consist of approximately 19,000 folders without any real arrangement. These records mostly consist of technical, analytical, historical, operational, and translation reports and related materials. Most of the records date from the period from the 1940s to the 1960s, but there are also documents from the 1920s and 1930s and even earlier. The NSA reviewed the records for declassification before accessioning and most documents and folder titles remain classified. Langbart concluded that the finding aid prepared by NSA was the only practical way to locate documents of interest for researchers, but it is 557 pages long and is classified.”

The National Archives confirmed that this description remains accurate today.

So not only are these thousands of half-century-old records still classified or otherwise unavailable, but the finding aid that would enable researchers to locate specific documents of interest is itself a classified document.

The Federation of American Scientists asked NSA officials to voluntarily declassify the 557-page finding aid as a first step towards making the NARA collection useful to researchers.

They agreed to do so.

“We can have a redacted version for you by September,” wrote Dr. David J. Sherman of NSA. “We of course will provide one to NARA as well.”

Dr. Sherman noted that the collection includes documents of widely varying complexity. “Judging by their titles, some almost certainly require significant training in mathematics and engineering to understand.  Others appear to have been written for more general audiences.”

Furthermore, although the collection as a whole is maintained as classified, “just under one third of the folders appear to be unclassified in full,” he estimated.

Under the circumstances, classifying the entire set of records along with its descriptive catalog was obviously not optimal, he agreed.

“I take the point about this foreclosing any possibility for researchers to know what might be available in the collection and agree it is something we should have addressed in this instance and need to fix in the future,” Dr. Sherman said.

Therefore, he added, “in any similar situations in the future — i.e. ones where we are transferring large, mixed collection such as this — we’ll make it standard practice to consider whether the percentage of unclassified materials is high enough to provide NARA with a redacted finding aid at the time of the transfer.”


Parliaments around the world have moved online, placing legislative information and other resources on public-facing websites. Fifty countries’ parliamentary websites — of differing degrees of depth and sophistication — were surveyed in a new publication from the Law Library of Congress.

“While the information on the parliamentary websites is primarily in the national language of the particular country, around forty of the individual websites surveyed were found to provide at least limited information in one or more other languages,” the Law Library report said.

“All of the parliamentary websites included in the survey have at least basic browse tools that allow users to view legislation in a list format, and that may allow for viewing in, for example, date or title order.”

“Around thirty-nine of the individual websites surveyed provide users with some form of tracking or alert function to receive updates on certain documents (including proposed legislation), parliamentary news, committee activities, or other aspects of the website.”

Unlike the United States Congress, which does not yet provide public access to most products of its Congressional Research Service, many of the websites portrayed in the new report do offer online access to their legislative research services. These include the Islamic Parliament Research Center of Iran, the Oireachtas Library & Research Service of Ireland, and the Knesset Research and Information Center of Israel, to name a few.

See Features of Parliamentary Websites in Selected Jurisdictions, Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Research Center, July 2017.

Oil is a reality

July 17, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Although the American media has had  various hints of some kind of an American/Israeli air strike on Iranian atomic facilities, to include production centers and possible missile sites, all of this is just calculated disinformation, designed to frighten Iran into dismantling her nuclear facilities, abandoning her missile development program (although most of Iran’s missile defenses are imports from Russia and China) and permitting permanent on-site inspectors. This bluff is being seconded by CIA organized Iranian dissidents.

However, that having been said, if Iran were to actually be armed with nuclear weaponry, thanks to Pakistani and Chinese assistance, the damage to the world’s stability is incalculable. If Iran gets atomic weapons, this would, without any doubt, initiate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East with Saudi Arabis, Turkey and Egypt striving to develop their own nuclear weaponry.

Although the broadcast threats of a military attack on Iran are false, should they be considered, as they have, facing facilities heavily guarded with Russian and Chinese aircraft missiles facilities, a saturation bombing attack would only succeed in merely delaying any weapons program Iran might have,. Such an attack would surely also invite reprisals from Iran’s proxies in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, or Iraq.

The Obama administration is scrambling to tighten trade sanctions against Iran after the disclosure last week that Tehran was hiding a heavily fortified facility that many believe is designed to make material for nuclear weapons.

The United States and its allies can tighten sanctions all they want – The United States already has extensive sanctions against Tehran. But without the Chinese on board sanctions don’t have the official weight of the United Nations Security Council, and are thus taken less seriously by the world community. Iran is vulnerable to sanctions on both oil it exports and the gasoline it imports. The oil side is where the country generates serious money, and an embargo could come in the form of restricting oil sales or imports of equipment designed to increase production from the country’s aging oil fields.

But the kind of sanctions that would really hit Iran’s economy – sanctions against its energy industry – are thought to be off the table because China and other nations are too reliant on Iran’s oil.


China oil imports, on a daily basis


  • 740 thousand bbls per diem from Saudi Arabia
  • 544 thousand bbls per diem from Iran
  • 451 thousand bbls per diem from Angola
  • 299 thousand bbls per diem from Russia
  • 275 thousand bbls per diem from Oman
  • 217 thousand bbls per diem from Sudan


Worldwide Buyers of Iranian oil on a daily basis


  • Japan buys 523 thousand bbls per diem
  • China buys 411 thousand bbls per diem
  • India buys 374 thousand bbls per diem
  • South Korea buys 258 thousand bbls per diem

Iran is the world’s fourth-largest crude exporter and holds the planet’s third-largest supply of proven oil reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. The country exported nearly two and half million barrels of oil a day in 2008. Despite being a huge oil producer, Iran lacks the refining capacity to turn all that crude into gasoline. As a result, it imports up to half of the gasoline it consumes. Much of that gasoline comes from India. But barring a Security Council resolution, India isn’t likely to stop these shipments for a few reasons: It’s big business; India imports a lot of crude from Iran; India doesn’t’ want Iran getting any closer to China, India’s long-time rival in the region; and India has its eye on getting natural gas imports from a huge field Iran controls under the Persian Gulf.

Oil exports account for nearly half the government’s revenues and most of those exports go to Asian countries, with China taking a big chunk.

The Chinese rely on Iran for 15% of their oil imports. Moreover, China has been investing heavily in the country as it looks to lock up resources for its growing economy. Meanwhile, interest from Japanese, European and Canadian firms wanes in the face of U.S pressure. State-run

Chinese oil firms are now thought to have deals worth over $100 billion with Iran.

And even though the Russians have signaled a recent willingness to step up sanctions – perhaps due to Obama’s plans to scrap a missile defense system in Central Europe – it’s thought that they’re still not willing to go after Iran’s energy sector.

Iran knows its navy is no match for the ubiquitous and powerful U.S. Navy. So any credibility Iran may have in its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz rests on its asymmetric assets like small speedboats and more conventional weapons like anti-ship missiles and naval mines.

In addition to its fast attack missile boats, which are part of the conventional navy, Iran also has much smaller speedboats employed by the naval arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These vessels gained some notoriety in January 2008 when they were used to harass U.S. warships in the strait.

There are many ways these boats can be employed against tanker traffic in the strait, but most involve massing them in swarms to overwhelm any shipboard defenses. Scenarios include using these small, highly maneuverable vessels to launch rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and other ordnance at larger vessels or packing them with explosives for use in suicide attacks. Although an RPG peppering is unlikely to do more than irritate a conventional warship that displaces nearly 10,000 tons, U.S. war-gaming has suggested that suicide tactics could present a danger to warships as well as tankers trying to maneuver in the cramped waters of the strait.

Modern, or semi-modern American warships — though hardly as agile or maneuverable as small boats — are heavily armed. U.S. surface combatants not only employ five-inch naval guns but also generally have multiple .50-caliber heavy machine guns arranged to cover all quadrants and often 25 mm Bushmaster cannons. Indeed, a potential attacker can now  find a Bushmaster mounted amidships not far from where the USS Cole was struck on any Arleigh Burke-class destroyer it encounters in the strait. In addition, the U.S. Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, designed as a final line of defense against anti-ship missiles, is being upgraded to include optical and infrared sensors for use against surface targets.

In addition, the size of the small IRGC boats significantly limits the amount of explosives they can effectively deliver. A single strike could be managed by effective damage control on the targeted ship, as was the case with the Cole, where a small boat packed with explosives detonated against the warship’s hull on the water line. Such a strike could well achieve a “mission kill” (scoring enough damage to prevent the ship from continuing to carry out its mission), but it would not likely sink the ship.

Also, the distance between the shoreline where such boats would lurk and the shipping lanes where ships transit the strait is considerable (on the order of 10 nautical miles), and even with suboptimal visibility, the armaments on a modern U.S. warship give it a substantial range advantage. Once hostilities commenced, swarms of small boats approaching alert warships would likely suffer considerable losses while closing the distance to the point where they could inflict damage themselves.

While a large tanker would lack the defensive and damage-control capabilities of a U.S. warship, its size would provide it with its own sort of protection. The bow wave alone would make it difficult for small craft to make contact with the hull. The flow of surface water along the hull of such a large, moving ship creates strong currents toward the ship’s stern. This would not necessarily prevent a small boat from making contact with the hull, but it would certainly complicate the effort. Indeed, though these small boats are maneuverable, they are not designed to operate a dozen miles from shore; the sea state itself in the middle of the strait could present its own challenges.

In addition, the size of the small IRGC boats significantly limits the amount of explosives they can effectively deliver. A single strike could be managed by effective damage control on the targeted ship, as was the case with the Cole, where a small boat packed with explosives detonated against the warship’s hull on the water line. Such a strike could well achieve a “mission kill” (scoring enough damage to prevent the ship from continuing to carry out its mission), but it would not likely sink the ship.

Also, the distance between the shoreline where such boats would lurk and the shipping lanes where ships transit the strait is considerable (on the order of 10 nautical miles), and even with suboptimal visibility, the armaments on a modern U.S. warship give it a substantial range advantage. Once hostilities commenced, swarms of small boats approaching alert warships would likely suffer considerable losses while closing the distance to the point where they could inflict damage themselves.

While a large tanker would lack the defensive and damage-control capabilities of a U.S. warship, its size would provide it with its own sort of protection. The bow wave alone would make it difficult for small craft to make contact with the hull. The flow of surface water along the hull of such a large, moving ship creates strong currents toward the ship’s stern. This would not necessarily prevent a small boat from making contact with the hull, but it would certainly complicate the effort. Indeed, though these small boats are maneuverable, they are not designed to operate a dozen miles from shore; the sea state itself in the middle of the strait could present its own challenges. In addition, crude oil does not easily ignite, so a supertanker’s load can actually serve to absorb explosions if such contact does take place. Indeed, tankers’ compartments for crude have long been segmented, limiting the damage from any one point of impact. Double hulls have been standard in new construction for nearly a decade now and will be required for all tankers by next year. This combination of design features and sheer size further limits the effectiveness of not only small boats but also anti-ship missiles and naval mines.

Though crude oil could certainly be spilled if both hulls were breached, even a series of impacts by small boats would have trouble doing more than bringing a large tanker to a slow halt. It is worth noting that when the French oil tanker Limburg was attacked by a small boat filled with explosives in 2002 in the more open waters of the Gulf of Aden, it burned for several days before being towed to port for expensive repairs.

Iran is also known to have a considerable arsenal of shore-based anti-ship missiles. Some of these missiles are U.S.-made, predating the Iranian revolution and fall of the Shah, and many were used in the Iran-Iraq War. Even in those days, Iran had begun to field Chinese missiles like Beijing’s copy of the Soviet SS-N-2 “Styx,” known as the “Silkworm.” A number of improved variants have been spun off from this basic design, including one reportedly built in Iran. Although slower and “dumber” than more modern anti-ship missiles, this class of weapons carries a bigger punch: a warhead weighing about 1,000 pounds. Warheads on Iran’s newer and smarter anti-ship missiles are one-half to one-third of that weight. These newer weapons include a considerable quantity of Chinese C-801 and C-802 anti-ship missiles (including indigenously built copies). The C-801 is a derivative of the widely proliferated French Exocet and U.S. Harpoon, while the C-802 is an improved version of the C-801. It was one of these missiles — almost certainly provided by Tehran — that struck the Israeli warship INS Hanit off the Lebanese coast during the conflict in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006

Missiles like the C-801/802 also have improved range and guidance systems. Even the shortest-range models (about 25 miles for the oldest Silkworms) have the reach to cover the strait’s designated shipping lanes from the islands of Qeshm and Larak. Longer-range variants put much of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman at risk from Iranian shores.

Iran has elements of its anti-ship missile arsenal deployed in batteries not only along its coast but also on key islands within the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz — with the islands of Qeshm, Sirri and Abu Musa most likely harboring significant quantities of anti-ship missiles. As a general rule, Iranian anti-ship missiles are launched from trucks and the batteries are mobile. Hence, they can be quickly repositioned as needed in a time of crisis. Fired from the coast, these missiles would emerge from the clutter of the shoreline and have very short flight times before impacting ships in the strait, leaving little time for defensive systems to react.

But the anti-ship missile option also presents fundamental challenges for Iran. Iran has only so many launch vehicles for its arsenal, so only a fraction of its anti-ship missile stockpile can be brought to bear at any given time. These batteries are not useful hidden in hills dozens of miles from shore. Most anti-ship missiles — including Iran’s — do not have a terrain-following capability, so they must have a relatively straight, clear shot at the ocean, with no major obstructions. This limits the depth within Iran from which launchers can threaten the strait, and it increases their vulnerability to American naval and air power.

Iran can also use air-launched anti-ship missiles of similar capability (and with similar payload limitations) in targeting vessels in the strait and the Persian Gulf. But fighter aircraft are much larger than anti-ship missiles and would provide additional warning when spotted by powerful American ship-borne radars. Moreover, Iran’s air force would be subject to rapid attrition at the beginning of any air campaign, and the United States would be able to quickly establish air superiority. Iran’s air force is in such a poor state of readiness that even in the early hours of a conflict it would not likely be able to sustain a high sortie rate for any significant length of time.

Thus, Iran must anticipate significant attrition of its anti-ship missiles once hostilities commenced, and it would certainly see an erosion of its ability to fully exploit the remaining missiles over time. So while Iran’s anti-ship missile arsenal could play a role in interdicting commercial traffic in the strait — and it would probably be an effective tool for a limited or controlled escalation — it would not be able to sustain anything more than a short-term campaign to close the choke point.






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