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TBR News May 10, 2019

May 10 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. May 10, 2019: “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.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for May 10: “The building trouble, made in the USA, with Iran, is typical of the way things are run these days.

Iran is Shiite Moslem, supports Hezbollah and is an enemy of both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

There was a sort of balance in the area but Trump has trampled all over everything, stirring up everyone and listening to Belching Bolton.

He was told we could scare Iran into a change, pro-American and anti-Russian, of government, take their oil and use the country to mess with Russia.

This is not going to work and Bolton is a fool.

The Venezuelan putsch collapse goaded all of them into making more trouble and searching for more oil sources, sources they did not have to pay for but could rent out to oil companies for a fat kick back.

And Pompeo tells the Canadians that their coastal water belongs to the US and now the Canadians think that the White House should have barred windows to keep the lunatics from escaping.

If a war starts in the Persian Gulf, we had best not have any ships of value in it.

And believe it, oil prices will get so bad the public here will start sharpening garden implements with which to make an impression on public officials. And trees will bear strange fruit indeed.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Are All the World’s Problems Ours?
  • Trump’s Iran Policy Is Becoming Dangerous
  • Trump’s foolish Iran policy only makes war more likely
  • Iran Guards reject U.S. talks, cleric threatens carrier
  • US deploys B-52 bombers to Qatar amid Iran threat hiatus
  • U.S. warns merchant ships of possible Iranian attacks in Middle East
  • John Bolton is the problem
  • The Moloch of US hegemony now has Iran in its sights 
  • Iran tensions could drive Brent crude above $80 this summer, strategist says
  • Americans’ support for impeaching Trump rises: Reuters/Ipsos poll
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

Are All the World’s Problems Ours?

May 10, 2019

by Patrick J. Buchanan

In 2003, George W. Bush took us to war to liberate Iraq from the despotism of Saddam Hussein and convert that nation into a beacon of freedom and prosperity in the Middle East.

Tuesday, Mike Pompeo flew clandestinely into Baghdad, met with the prime minister and flew out in four hours. The visit was kept secret, to prevent an attack on the Americans or the secretary of state.

Query: How successful was Operation Iraqi Freedom, which cost 4,500 U.S. lives, 40,000 wounded and $1 trillion, if, 15 years after our victory, our secretary of state must, for his own security, sneak into the Iraqi capital?

Topic of discussion between Pompeo and the prime minister:

In the event of a U.S. war with Iran, Iraqis would ensure the protection of the 5,000 U.S. troops in country, from the scores of thousands of Iranian-trained and Iranian-armed Shiite militia.

That prospect, of war between the U.S. and Iran, had been raised by Pompeo and John Bolton on Sunday, when the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier task force and a squadron of U.S. bombers were ordered into the Middle East after we received reports Iran was about to attack U.S. forces.

The attack did not happen. But on Thursday, Tehran gave 60 days’ notice that if it does not get relief from severe U.S. sanctions, it may walk out of the nuclear deal it signed in 2015 and start enriching uranium again to a level closer to weapons grade.

The countdown to a June confrontation with Iran has begun.

Wednesday, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, for the second time in a week, test-fired two missiles, 260 miles, into the Sea of Japan. Purpose: To signal Washington that Kim’s patience is running out.

Kim rejects the U.S. demand that he surrender all nuclear weapons and dismantle the facilities that produce them before any sanctions are lifted. He wants sanctions relief to go hand in hand with disposal of his arsenal. Few believe Kim will surrender all of his nukes or his ability to replicate them.

The clash with Kim comes days after the failed U.S.-backed coup in Caracas, which was followed by Pompeo-Bolton threats of military intervention in Venezuela, a country 100 times the size of Puerto Rico with 10 times the population and a large well-equipped army.

This week also, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford told Congress that the U.S. will have to keep counter-terrorism forces in Afghanistan “until there is no insurgency left in the country.”

Which sounds like forever, as in “forever war.”

Before flying to Baghdad, Pompeo was in Finland. There, he warned the eight-nation Arctic Council about Russian aggression in the region, suggested China’s claim to be a “near-Arctic” nation was absurd, and told Canada’s its claim to the Northwest Passage was “illegitimate.”

Our Canadian friends were stunned. “Those waterways are part of the internal waters of Canada,” said the government in Ottawa.

After an exhausting two weeks, one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, “Why is this our problem?”

Perhaps the most serious issue is North Korea’s quest for nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the United States. But the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea, committed to attack the North should war break out. That treaty commitment dates to a Korean War that ended in an armed truce 66 years ago.

If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Iran has no nukes or ICBMs. It wants no war with us. It does not threaten us. Why is Iran then our problem to solve rather than a problem for Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and the Sunni Arabs?

Nor does Russia’s annexation of Crimea threaten us. When Ronald Reagan strolled through Red Square with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1988, all of Ukraine was ruled by Moscow.

The Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro was established decades ago by his mentor, Hugo Chavez. When did that regime become so grave a threat that the U.S. should consider an invasion to remove it?

During the uprising in Caracas, Bolton cited the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. But according to President James Monroe, and Mike Pompeo’s predecessor John Quincy Adams, who wrote the message to Congress, under the Doctrine, while European powers were to keep their hands off our hemisphere – we would reciprocate and stay out of Europe’s quarrels and wars.

Wise folks, those Founding Fathers.

 

Trump’s Iran Policy Is Becoming Dangerous                                                                      

Growing evidence suggests the U.S. president is traveling a path toward war—whether he knows it or not.

May 7, 2019

by Colin Kahl

Foreign Policy

On May 5, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton issued a stark warning to Iran.

The United States, he announced, would deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group along with a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf, “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” The United States, he continued, “is not seeking war with the Iranian regime” but is “fully prepared to respond to any attack.”

It remains unclear what triggered the deployment and Bolton’s strong language. Initial reports suggested that it may have come in response to indications that Iranian-backed Shiite militias were planning attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Other reporting suggested that Israel had tipped off U.S. officials to an impending Iranian attack against U.S. interests, personnel, or allies in the Gulf. An anonymous U.S. official said the deployment had been ordered to bolster “deterrence to what has been seen as potential preparations by Iranian forces and its proxies that may indicate possible attacks on U.S. forces in the region,” but the official added that there were no signs of an imminent Iranian attack.

Given Bolton’s long track record of exaggerating and manipulating intelligence to justify the use of force, it might be tempting to dismiss all of this as fake news. But the prospect of Iran engaging in a provocation that sparks a wider military confrontation is very real—even if it is the Trump administration’s own policy of cornering Tehran that has greatly magnified the danger.

Bolton’s warning comes against the backdrop of rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. One year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed severely damaging banking and oil sanctions aimed at starving Iran of resources and destabilizing the regime. Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on Iran’s economy, but the administration’s maximum pressure campaign has thus far failed to force Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear accord or to curtail its support for terrorism and regional militancy. In the face of failure, the White House has not reevaluated its position. Instead, it has doubled down.

Seeking to squeeze Iran to the breaking point, the Trump administration announced in late April that it would end waivers that had allowed China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey to continue importing about 1 million barrels of Iranian oil per day. The administration’s stated goal is to drive Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the country’s economy, to as close to zero as possible. Iran responded with renewed threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway off Iran’s coast through which about 20 percent of global traded oil flows. And regime insiders have hinted that Iran could take other steps to disrupt oil exports from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—archrivals of Tehran that have championed Trump’s maximum pressure campaign—by targeting oil shipments through the Bab el-Mandeb strait and the Red Sea, or by hitting Saudi and Emirati critical infrastructure with destructive cyberattacks.

In a further effort to dial up pressure on the regime, the Trump administration has also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, the first time Washington has issued such a designation against a component of another nation’s government. The Iranian parliament responded by passing a law, which President Hassan Rouhani signed last week, declaring all U.S. troops in the Middle East terrorists and calling the U.S. government a state sponsor of terrorism.

Meanwhile, Iranian leaders appear to be contemplating steps to restart the country’s nuclear program. To date, Iran has remained in compliance with the nuclear deal’s limitations on uranium enrichment and other prohibited activities, despite reaping few of the promised economic benefits from the agreement. Over the past year, Tehran’s goal has appeared to be to muddle through, diplomatically leverage international outrage over U.S. sanctions, and wait for regime change in Washington after the 2020 election. But the political consensus among Iranian elites in favor of continuing nuclear restraint seems to be crumbling. Iranian officials have recently suggested that Iran may begin to exceed the nuclear accord’s limitations on the country’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium or restart uranium enrichment at the deeply buried Fordow facility, and Rouhani is scheduled to make a formal announcement on Iran’s next steps on Wednesday. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has even said that factions within the regime are pushing for Iran to leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty all together. While such a drastic move seems unlikely for now, Iran’s patience on the nuclear front is running out.

Consequently, as the first anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord approaches, the action-reaction spiral the administration set in motion with its maximum pressure campaign has produced a very ominous situation—one in which the risk of military confrontation grows by the day.

Thousands of U.S. troops and Iranian-backed forces operate in close proximity to one another in Iraq, Syria, and the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to pursue their air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen despite international outrage over the world’s worst humanitarian disaster there. And Israel regularly conducts military strikes against Iranian arms shipments and infrastructure in Syria. In this volatile context, the scenarios for an intentional or inadvertent U.S.-Iran war are legion.

If Iran or its proxies respond to U.S. pressure in ways that draw American blood or deal a major blow to critical oil infrastructure in the region, things could quickly get out of hand

Unlike in the latter years of the Obama administration, there are currently no high-level lines of communication between Washington and Tehran to manage a crisis. And hard-liners on all sides seem keen for a fight, looking for opportunities to escalate, rather than de-escalate, tensions.

All else being equal, Trump probably doesn’t want another U.S. war in the Middle East. But, if past is prologue, his gut instinct will be to respond (likely via Twitter) to any Iranian provocation with bellicose rhetoric that pours fuel on the fire. It is also easy to envision Iranian actions triggering intense political pressure from the president’s right-wing donors, congressional hawks, and regional allies—the same forces that pressed Trump to exit the Iran deal—for military action. And Trump is no longer surrounded by former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and other cooler heads. He is now enveloped by advisors like Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who have long called for war against Iran.

Indeed, Trump’s advisors appear to be contemplating precisely this eventuality and its possible legal justifications. Last month, during a hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Rand Paul asked Pompeo whether the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and its associated forces gave the Trump administration the authority to go to war with Iran. Pompeo refused to give a straight forward answer, but—in a dark echo of the lead-up to the Iraq War—said the Trump administration believes there is a connection between Iran and al Qaeda.

Compounding matters, if Iran resumes its nuclear activities, we can expect a return to the type of Israeli threats of military action that were common from 2009 to 2012. Only this time, the U.S. administration is much more likely to encourage Israeli strikes rather than seek to constrain them. Trump’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government—which seems deeply rooted in the president’s domestic political calculations—has been unwavering and unconditional. And Trump’s closest advisors seem primed to encourage him to give Israel the green light to launch an attack. After all, in 2015 Bolton opined that the best way to address the Iranian nuclear threat was an Israeli strike backed by U.S. efforts to overthrow the Iranian regime.

This all adds up to a very dangerous moment. Before matters spin out of control, it would be wise for the administration to dial back the rhetoric, open high-level channels with Tehran, and signal a willingness to reenter the nuclear deal as a starting point for new negotiations. But there is zero prospect the administration will take this course. It is doubling down on a strategy of maximum tension, and there is growing evidence it is on a path toward war—whether Trump realizes it or not.

 

Trump’s foolish Iran policy only makes war more likely

Iran’s rulers face impossible choices as a result of unrelenting US hostility, which has one aim – regime change

May 9, 2019

by Simon Tisdall

The Guardian

It is unclear what, if anything, Iran can do to induce the United States and its regional allies to halt their escalating war of attrition before it provokes all-out conflict. When Donald Trump reneged on the UN-ratified nuclear agreement with Tehran last year, he said he wanted a better deal. Iran must change its behaviour, he said, and act like a “normal country”.

This was always disingenuous. Iran’s authoritarian and abusive rulers certainly need to mend their ways. But what Trump and his imperious advisers really meant was that they must do what America says, in conformity with American interests. What they want is an end to 40 years of post-revolution defiance. What they want is regime change in Iran.

Tehran’s leadership now has three choices – capitulate, wait or resist. Capitulation is no real option at all. Hassan Rouhani, the country’s moderate, conservative president, and senior allies such as the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, would not survive the sort of sweeping strategic and regional pullback required by the Americans.

The clerical establishment, led by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rightwing fundamentalists and the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards, would exploit any attempted compromise to vanquish the reformist remnants of the so-called 2009 Persian spring. In short, the mullahs would double down on repression.

If, on the other hand, the regime were to lose control in the face, say, of urban uprisings encouraged from abroad, Iran could break apart. This is a land of large ethnic minorities – principally Azeris, Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds – as well as smaller Baha’i, Turkmen, Christian and Jewish communities. None has particular reason to love the centre.

It is unlikely that the Americans have a plan for Iran in the aftermath of a regime collapse, any more than they had a plan for Iraq in 2003. Given that disastrous precedent, John Bolton, Trump’s neocon national security adviser and an architect of the Iraq invasion, should think twice. He and other myopic machinators must be careful what they wish for.

Iran’s second option – waiting for Trump to be voted out of office next year – is fraught with difficulty. For a start, he may win a second term. It is also improbable that any Democratic successor would reverse the current policy. He or she might ease the pressure. But in the turgid present-day US political climate, letting Iran off the hook is not on the cards.

The idea that the Europeans will ride to the rescue, implicit in Rouhani’s 60-day deadline for a resuscitation of the nuclear deal, is also far-fetched. Neither Britain nor France is happy with Trump’s tactics. But their hostile reaction to Rouhani’s threat to resume some nuclear activities was cautionary. They expect Iran, not the US, to back down.

Attempts by some European Union countries over the past year to circumvent renewed American sanctions have come to nothing. The commercial reality is that they cannot protect energy companies, banks and other businesses seeking to trade with Iran from Washington’s punitive secondary sanctions. Hopes that a discredited, divided UN security council will take the US to task for breaking international law are similarly chimerical.

Even with Trump out of the picture, Iran would continue to face the visceral enmity of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Without his reactionary soulmate in the White House, it might only be a matter of time before Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, revived past threats to bomb Iran. For the House of Saud, it’s an ancient blood feud.

Iran’s last option, resistance, has a dreadful air of inevitability about it. Bolton’s announcement this week of additional, nuclear-armed military deployments in the Gulf, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s melodramatic dash to Baghdad in the middle of a European tour, suggested that the White House was just spoiling for a fight.

Both men cited secret intelligence about an “imminent” attack by Iran or its proxies on American forces in Syria or Iraq. Perhaps it was accurate. Perhaps not. This vague, untested information reportedly came from Israel, which is skilled at putting the wind up the Americans. Whatever the truth, it had the desired effect.

Bolton, who has a long record of manipulating intelligence (he was at it again the other day over Venezuela), used the alleged threat to warn Iran that it would be held responsible for the actions of its proxies, however loose the links, wherever they may be. That means any stray Shia militia group in Iraq, or Houthi rebel in Yemen, now potentially has the power to trigger a direct, armed assault by the US on Iran itself.

Pompeo used his theatrical dash to Baghdad to dramatise the seriousness of a crisis he has helped to manufacture. His subsequent meetings in London with Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, and foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, became a propaganda platform for condemning Iran as a “lawless” rogue state. Pompeo misleadingly claimed to enjoy the UK’s full support. Hunt did not dare contradict him.

The US war of attrition is not merely economic and diplomatic. Iran has faced cyber attacks. Its scientists have been assassinated, its ballistic missile programme sabotaged. It is the target of fake news and disinformation about its past nuclear activities and present-day links to terrorism. It is a country under siege. And US officials say they are just getting started.

It is often suggested that Trump wants to avoid another Middle East conflict. But hawks such as Pompeo, Bolton and the vice-president, Mike Pence – who between them are running foreign policy while the president tweets and plays golf – are not so shy. Given past statements about armed intervention, they would probably relish it.

The Americans appear implacable. As threats to the regime’s survival escalate and intensify, the prospect of violent retaliation by hardline factions in Tehran, or their minions, grows by the day. Intentionally or not, the US is driving Iran down the path to war.

 

 

Iran Guards reject U.S. talks, cleric threatens carrier

May 10, 2019

Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Friday Tehran would not negotiate with the United States and a senior cleric warned that a U.S. navy fleet could be “destroyed with one missile”, as a U.S aircraft carrier headed toward the Gulf. The comments by the Guards and by Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad, a hardliner, appeared partly aimed at discouraging President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies in Tehran from taking up an offer of talks from Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leadership to sit down and talk with him about giving up their nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation given the heightened tensions.

The carrier Abraham Lincoln, deployed by the Trump administration to the Middle East as a warning to Iran, passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Thursday.

American B-52 bombers have also arrived at a U.S. base in Qatar, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. Iran has dismissed the dispatch of both the bombers and the aircraft carrier as “psychological warfare” designed to intimidate it.

The semi-official ISNA news agency, reporting from the central Iranian city of Isfahan, quoted Ayatollah Tabatabai-Nejad as saying: “Their billion (-dollar) fleet can be destroyed with one missile.”

“If they attempt any move, they will… (face) dozens of missiles because at that time (government) officials won’t be in charge to act cautiously, but instead things will be in the hands of our beloved leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” he said.

Tabatabai-Nejad is the representative in Isfahan of Supreme Leader Khamenei, who is widely seen to be close to hardliners who oppose Rouhani and his moderate allies.

DEFIANT

Separately, Yadollah Javani, the elite Revolutionary Guards’ deputy head for political affairs, said: “No talks will be held with the Americans, and the Americans will not dare take military action against us.”

“Our nation… sees America as unreliable,” said Javani, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Thousands of Iranians took part in state-sponsored marches on Friday to show support for the government’s decision to scale back curbs on its nuclear program agreed under a 2015 deal with world powers. Iran has threatened to do more if signatories do not shield it from U.S. economic sanctions.

State television showed the protesters marching after Friday prayers in Tehran and said similar marches were held across the country.

“America should know, sanctions have no effect!” chanted the protesters, many of whom carried signs reading “Down with USA”.

Trump, who last year pulled Washington out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, has expressed a willingness to meet Iranian leaders in the past to no avail and renewed that appeal in talking to reporters on Thursday.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said Tehran had been talking with the six powers, including the United States, within the framework of the nuclear deal.

“All of a sudden he (Trump) decided to leave the negotiating table. … What is the guarantee that he will not renege again?” Takht Ravanchi said in a U.S. television interview.

He dismissed U.S. allegations of an Iranian threat as “fake intelligence” and said they were “being produced by the same people” who did so in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the pieces of intelligence which caused U.S. concerns, indicated Iran had moved missiles on boats. One of the officials said the particular missile observed was perhaps capable of being launched from a small ship.

The media officer at Al Udaid air base, near Doha, Qatar, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the arrival of the B-52 bombers.

CENTCOM is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams and Gareth Jones

 

US deploys B-52 bombers to Qatar amid Iran threat hiatus

May 10, 2019

RT

The US Air Force released images of B-52 Stratofortress bombers landing in Qatar. The deployment is part of a larger US military build-up in the region touted as a countermeasure to an unspecified threat from Iran.

The strategic bombers arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on Thursday night, the Air Force said. They were provided by the 20th Bomb Squadron of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Other B-52s were moved to an unspecified location in “southwest Asia,” the statement said.

Earlier, the US Air Force released a video showing the bombers taking off from Barksdale for the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

The deployments come as the US threatens Iran with retaliation for a claimed plan to attack “American interests.” The White House earlier trumpeted the move of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group towards the Persian Gulf, which was touted as a strong warning to Iran. Washington is reportedly acting on a vague tip from Israel.

Officials in Tehran rejected Washington’s rhetoric and mocked the statements about the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying its movements are old news.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a veteran strategic aircraft designed with the capability to drop nuclear weapons. The current B-52H version has been in production since 1961, with dozens of aircraft delivered to the USAF. The bomber was used for Cold War era patrols as well as delivering strikes as part of numerous wars starting with Vietnam.

 

U.S. warns merchant ships of possible Iranian attacks in Middle East

May 10, 2019

Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. commercial ships including oil tankers sailing through key Middle East waterways could be targeted by Iran in one of the threats to U.S. interests posed by Tehran, the U.S. Maritime Administration said in an advisory.

The U.S. military said this week that a number of B-52 bombers would be part of additional forces being sent to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration calls “clear indications” of threats from Iran to U.S. forces there. The Islamic Republic has dismissed the U.S. contention of a threat as “fake intelligence”.

In the advisory posted on Thursday, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) said that since early May there had been an increased possibility of Iran or its regional proxies taking action against U.S. and partner interests.

These included, MARAD said, oil production infrastructure, after Tehran threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz chokepoint through which about one third of the world’s seaborne crude exports flow.

“Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf,” MARAD said.

“Reporting indicates heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against U.S. forces and interests.”

Millions of barrels of oil pass daily through the various bottlenecks from Middle East oil producers to markets across the globe.

Tensions have risen between Tehran and Washington since the Trump administration withdrew a year ago from a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions to throttle Tehran’s economy.

Vice Admiral Jim Malloy, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, told Reuters on Thursday that its forces were on a heightened state of readiness, although the U.S. military was not seeking or preparing for war with Iran.

MARAD added that U.S.-flagged ships were encouraged to contact the Fifth Fleet – which is tasked with protecting commercial shipping in the area – at least two days before sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Washington further tightened sanctions on Iran this month – eliminating waivers that had allowed some countries to buy its oil – with a goal of reducing Tehran’s crude exports to zero.

Iran has responded by scaling back some curbs on its nuclear program concerning material stockpiles though it remains compliant with commitments to restrict its uranium enrichment activity.

Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Mark Heinrich

 

John Bolton is the problem

Trump’s national security adviser is getting dangerous…particularly to the president’s ideals

May 6, 2019

by Douglas MacGregor

Spectator

Thanks in large part to John Bolton, America, the global cop, is back on the beat. This time it’s the Caribbean and the Persian Gulf in a near-simultaneous demonstration of resolve.

For Bolton, President’s Trump national security adviser, Venezuela is an exceptionally appealing target. Juan Guaidó, the democratic socialist who is Washington’s choice to lead Venezuela is dutifully following Bolton’s script asking for US military intervention to install him and his followers in power.

Why not? Venezuela harbors a few hundred Russian Special Operations Soldiers and at least 2,000-3,000 Cubans. Crushing the pathetic Venezuelan Armed Forces would be another exercise in clubbing baby seals on the Iraq or Afghan model.

Venezuela might also be the last place on the planet where a carrier battle group can sit just offshore in support of a marine amphibious assault. Against any capable opponent these operations would end quickly, far out to sea, in volleys of precision guided missiles and submarine attacks, but Venezuela is naked in the face of US military power. At most, Venezuela offers the potential for a low-level civil war launched from the interior on the Afghan model.

True, Moscow could escalate horizontally meaning that Russian forces could provoke an incident in the Baltic Littoral, particularly in Estonia where large numbers of Russians legally reside. In Ukraine, Russian air and ground forces could move suddenly to seize Odessa and establish a Russian military presence on the Romanian border. Putin, after all, plays chess, not checkers. But that’s not likely, is it?

Iran’s economy is reportedly on the verge of collapse. Iran is in a deep recession and inflation is running at about 40 percent, yet Iran still presents a threat to its neighbors serious enough in Bolton’s words to warrant ‘maximum pressure’ to suppress Iran’s appetite for war — the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force.

Why not? Iran’s defensive capabilities are modest, though still robust enough to sink a few ships and damage a carrier. If provoked, Tehran may simply conclude it has nothing to lose, but it’s not Iran’s capabilities that worry US military planners.

Russia is very unlikely to tolerate an American military intervention against Iran. US forces already sit on Russia’s borders and routinely sail close to Russia in the Baltic, the Black Sea and the North Pacific.

Iran may well be Putin’s line in the sand. Moscow’s space-based assets would share intelligence with Tehran. Russian ground, air defense and aerospace forces would move rapidly into northern Iran. Russian submarines would show up in short order in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Beijing is equally unlikely to sit still given its dependence on Iran’s role in developing China’s ‘One belt, One Road initiative.’ It’s already done so. The unmanned aircraft diverted to Iranian control did not find its way into Iranian hands without Chinese assistance.

How fascinating it would be to sit in the Oval Office when Bolton explains these unanticipated developments to President Trump, who ran on none of this? Senior advisers like Bolton who urge presidents to initiate military action always express confidence that the opponent, especially, a weak opponent, will back down, or, at most, put up weak resistance.

We’ve all seen this movie before in 1965, 2001 and 2003. The ability to employ military power, not the valid strategic need to do so, seduces presidents. In the history of the West, few advisers acquired fame urging their sovereigns to go to war, but one stands out — Don Gaspar de Guzmán, Count Duke of Olivares ― principal adviser to Spain’s King Philip IV.

Like his King, in 1621 Olivares was an ardent Catholic determined to restore Spain’s formerly uncontested military and political hegemony at any cost. Given that 40 percent of Spain’s national income was annually diverted to service Spain’s enormous national debt cost was not a small matter.

No matter, Olivares waged sporadic war against Britain, Holland and the north German Protestant states on and off for 20 years. Seeing Spain dissipate its military and economic power in the Americas and Europe, another ambitious minister in Paris named Richelieu decided in 1631 the timing was auspicious for France to ally with Sweden, Holland and Savoy against debt-ridden Spain and its overstretched army and navy.

Spain was suddenly in a two-front war that it could neither easily win nor afford. More important, at home, Olivares’s appetite for war increased taxes, and fomented rebellions against the Spanish crown in Catalonia and Portugal. Spain’s overseas military commitments meant that King Philip could not prevent Portugal’s independence. Spain faced an existential crisis.

King Philip removed Olivares from office, but the proverbial die was cast. Within a decade, it was clear that Spain must surrender its military and economic dominance to France or face total collapse. Today, Olivares is forgotten, but King Philip IV is infamous in European history for leaving Spain in a state of financial, political and military exhaustion from which Spain never recovered.

If any of John Bolton’s current military ventures trigger a confrontation with an alliance of Russian, Iranian, Chinese or even Turkish military power, on the Richelieu model President Donald Trump, not John Bolton, will be thrown under the bus. John Bolton will just shrug his shoulders as he did after the Iraq debacle and say, ‘Intervention was still the right call.’ He’ll simply return to his old job at the American Enterprise Institute, Foundation for the Defense of Democracy or another of the many neocon-friendly think tanks.

Donald Trump can’t do that. He needs to stop and think. Does he want to be remembered like President Eisenhower as having cultivated peace, prosperity and strength? Or, would he prefer to be mentioned in the same breath with President George W. Bush? Dubya was the president who ‘exported death and violence to the four corners of the earth’ with disastrous consequences for the United States and its economy.

The choice is clear.

Iran is an ancient nation that has survived more cataclysmic periods in its prolonged history than most. It is a country of 80 million people with more than half a million men under permanent arms. It possesses a vast arsenal of missiles of considerable potency, range and accuracy. The very best – and let me stress very best – that any attempt to unleash war against this country will achieve is a Pyrrhic victory.

Israel, which is yet to crush the spirit of the Palestinians no matter the inordinate apparatus of oppression devoted to the task over many years, suffered its only military defeat at the hands of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah in 2006. Hezbollah is a key ally of Tehran and constitutes a highly trained and motivated army which itself possesses a considerable arsenal of missiles capable of reaching every part of Israel.

As for the Saudis, theirs is an army of well-equipped and well-clad figurines whose most potent weapon is prayer.

I am not here to ridicule or disparage but instead to warn of the folly of unleashing war on Iran. Diplomacy not belligerency is the road to salvation in our time; and thus President Trump would be well advised to wake up to the fact that his real enemies are at home in the form of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

Iran now has no choice other than to prepare to defend itself by any means necessary. Let us thus hope that the outcome of this ill-conceived adventure on the part of Washington is that the country’s president in years to come continues to end his or her speeches with the refrain of ‘God bless America’ rather than ‘God help America’.

 

The Moloch of US hegemony now has Iran in its sights 

May 9, 2019

by John Wight

RT

The neocon assault underway against Iran is dripping in lies and deceit. It is one of the most mendacious examples of imperialist aggression in years.

The wilful and brazen inversion of the truth in matters of war and peace is the non-negotiable condition of every empire there has been. The fabrication of pretexts for intimidation, aggression and attack is crucial to the ability of an empire to run its writ wherever it so decides; and so it is today when it comes to Washington’s increasingly belligerent words, threats and actions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In an unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel, and with the usual clutch of supine European satellites going along to get along, the Trump administration, which two years after entering the White House promising to put an end to endless wars, has engineered a neocon renaissance in Washington. Now, not satisfied with bearing down on Venezuela, his administration is going after Iran with the gusto of a rabid dog that hasn’t eaten in days.

At the behest of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, two of the most crazed and fanatical neocons to ever walk the face of the earth, Trump has embarked on a trajectory which unless averted, and soon, will propel him and the United States over a cliff into a hell of his own creation. There he will be joined Benjamin Netanyahu and Bin Salman, his close confederates in this mission of madness.

Washington, it should be borne in mind, has never forgiven Iran for daring to throw off the yoke of its client king, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, otherwise known as the Shah, in 1979 in a popular revolution. And it has never, not for a single day, relented in its desire to return the country to its former status as a US neo-colony, one whose very existence is predicated on serving its imperial and hegemonic master.

Obama’s decision to enter into the negotiations which led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, was not the result of any benign intent on the 44th US president’s part. Rather, it was an acknowledgement of the delimitations of US hard power in a region where it was still recovering after suffering a humiliating defeat in Iraq over six long years of futile effort to pacify a country whose people, despite having been reduced to immiseration from 13 years of brutal sanctions beforehand, resisted with all their muscle and mind.

The outcome was a sectarian bloodbath, a country and society ripped to pieces, and the US military exposed as a giant with feet of clay.

Obama’s decision to negotiate the JCPOA with Iran in conjunction with Russia, Germany, France, the UK and China was also recognition of the abiding strength and determination of the Iranian government and people to resist any and all attempts at intimidation, economic war, and belligerence by the West over its right to exist as an independent sovereign state.

The end result, despite the slavish efforts of Israel’s Netanyahu and the Saudi kleptocracy to bounce his administration into open conflict with Tehran, was one of Obama’s few foreign policy triumphs.

Though every US president shares the same foreign policy objective of hegemony as a fundamental priority of office, Trump is no Obama. On the contrary, the 45th president’s inflated ego and caprice is evidence of a weak-minded dullard who has proved to be putty in the hands of assorted ideologues at home and abroad.

Bolton and Pompeo are men who have learned nothing and forgotten everything. They have learned nothing from Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan other than the lesson of futile repetition enshrined in the mantra given to us by Samuel Beckett: “Try. Fail. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

 

Iran tensions could drive Brent crude above $80 this summer, strategist says

  • The Trump administration has also targeted Iranian oil by effectively ordering countries worldwide to stop buying Tehran’s oil or face sanctions of their own.
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced his country will end compliance with two conditions of its nuclear deal if Europe did not step in to protect it from U.S. sanctions.
  • President Donald Trump ordered new sanctions placed on Iranian metals, Tehran’s largest non-petroleum-related sources of export revenue.

May 9, 2019

by Elliot Smith

CNBC

Tensions in key international waterways could drive up oil prices this year, according to RBC Capital Markets head of global commodity strategy Helima Croft.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Wednesday his country would end its compliance with two particular conditions of the nuclear deal if Europe did not step in to protect the country from U.S. sanctions.

Tehran has previously threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s busiest transit lane for seaborne oil shipments. Approximately 20% of all seaborne crude and condensates passes through the Strait of Hormuz, meaning analysts anticipated short-term upside risk to prices if Iran followed through on the threat.

Croft suggested Hormuz wasn’t the only waterway to look out for in pricing oil this year.

“There’s another waterway to watch — what happens off the coast of Yemen?,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Thursday.

“You had two Saudi tankers struck last year, there was a period where they re-routed traffic away from the Red Sea. In this type of environment, if something similar occurs, I think that would push oil prices higher.”

Croft suggested the geopolitical possibilities of Iran restarting its nuclear program and tensions around key strategic waterways could be key in escalating prices. RBC currently has Brent crude projected to average $75 a barrel for 2019, moving into the low $80s over the summer. Brent Crude is currently trading at $70.13 a barrel while WTI is at $61.60.

Croft also anticipates that the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate waivers on Iranian oil sanctions will not succeed in driving exports to zero, but will cause Iran to lose an additional 700,000 to 800,000 barrels.

“They won’t be at zero, they’ll be at around 500,000, but that’s still about 2 million down from a year ago,” she said.

“The issue is the dollar — it is access to U.S. capital markets. Any foreign refinery that wants to do business in the U.S., access U.S. markets, asked to choose between Iran and the U.S. will choose the U.S.”

Trump on Wednesday ordered now sanctions on Iranian metals, in the U.S. administration’s latest attempt to pressure Tehran over its support for weapons proliferation and extremist groups in the Middle East

Comment: It is known in American military circles that Russia has supplied Iran with their S-300 and S-400 anti aircraft missile systems.

If American aircraft violated Iranian air space and, for instance, tried to launch an attack on Tehran, the attacking aircraft would suffer “extreme damage.”

Also, a huge aircraft carrier and its auxilliary ships could easily be trapped inside the Persian Gulf and attacked with Iranian artillery and missiles. They would be sitting ducks and if the Strait of Hormuz was interdicted, trapped and either severaly damaged or sunk.

Trump is an individual with limited intellect but great powers of concentration.His fanatical advisers lust after what they think would be an Imperial war designed to get their hands on Iranian oil and rid themselves of objectionable religious leaders. That the United States is an empire in decline is not recognized by the self-deluded and Trump’s irrational behavior and crude manipulation, or attempted manipulation, of world leaders does nothing to bolster the neo-con plans for, as they dream,  continued world domination. Ed

 

Americans’ support for impeaching Trump rises: Reuters/Ipsos poll

May 9, 2019

by Chris Kahn

Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The number of Americans who said President Donald Trump should be impeached rose 5 percentage points to 45 percent since mid-April, while more than half said multiple congressional probes of Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

The opinion poll, conducted on Monday, did not make clear whether investigation-fatigued Americans wanted House of Representatives Democrats to pull back on their probes or press forward aggressively and just get impeachment over with.

The question is an urgent one for senior Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, who are wrestling with whether to launch impeachment proceedings, despite likely insurmountable opposition to it in the Republican-controlled Senate.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi re-emphasized that the leaders of the investigative committees in the Democratic-controlled House were taking a step-by-step approach.

“This is very methodical, it’s very Constitution-based,” Pelosi said. “We won’t go any faster than the facts take us, or any slower than the facts take us.”

In addition to the 45 percent pro-impeachment figure, the Monday poll found that 42 percent of Americans said Trump should not be impeached. The rest said they had no opinion.

In comparison, an April 18-19 survey found that 40 percent of all Americans wanted to impeach Trump.

The latest poll showed stronger support for impeachment among Democrats and independents.

It also showed that 57 percent of adults agreed that continued investigations into Trump would interfere with important government business. That included about half of all Democrats and three-quarters of all Republicans.

After a nearly two-year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, House Democrats are pursuing multiple inquiries into Trump’s presidency, his family and his business interests.

Trump is stonewalling at least a half-dozen such inquiries, refusing to disclose his tax returns, invoking executive privilege to keep the unredacted Mueller report under wraps and filing unprecedented lawsuits to block House investigators.

“It’s becoming a circus over there” in Washington, said Fatima Alsrogy, 36, a T-shirt designer from Dallas who took the poll. “There are so many more important things the country needs to pay attention to right now.”

Alsrogy, an independent, thinks Trump should be impeached. Yet she also wishes lawmakers would do more to improve the healthcare system for self-employed people like her.

“I bought my own (health) insurance on an Obamacare exchange,” she said. “It’s a huge expense, and I don’t know if Obamacare is going to be amended or taken away. It’s stressful.”

The poll also found that 32 percent agreed that Congress treated the Mueller report fairly, while 47 percent disagreed.

Trump’s popularity was unchanged from a similar poll that ran last week – 39 percent of adults said they approved of Trump, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,006 adults and had a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of about 4 percentage points.

Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Marvin Rosenthal

The Holy Land Experience is a theme park (or, as some visitor shave acutely observed, a series of gift shops) run by the Trinity Broadcasting Network with the purpose of showing people the historical Middle East as conceived of by US evangelical fundamentalists. The HLE was founded by Jewish-born Baptist minister Marvin (“Marv”) Rosenthal, and opened its gates in 2001; it was bought by TBN in 2007 after a period of financial difficulties. Rosenthal is also chief executive of Zion’s Hope, a ministry devoted (like previous entry’s Joel Rosenberg) to “reaching the Jewish people for the Messiah”.

Among the HLE’s many attractions are several “ISRAELI HOLY SITES – Authentically Reproduced” (where “authentically” should course to be interpreted with the fundie’s usual eye for accuracy, accountability and factual basis), including the Garden of Eden, the Bethlehem Bus Loop, the Shepherd’s Field, the “Eyes of the Lord” & “Pieta”, The Jesus Boat, the Tiny Town of Bethlehem, the Birth Place of Jesus and the Bethlehem Bell Tower, all with a strikingly Monty Pythonesque atmosphere (review here) Insofar as a central goal of HLE is to convert Jewish people to Christianity, the park has received some criticism from Jewish organizations. Rosenthal’s response was that they weren’t exclusively targeting Jewish people.

The park is currently run by Paul and Jan Crouch. But what is Rosenthal up to these days? Well, beyond the HLE Rosenthal is known for his book The Prewrath Rapture of the Church from 1990, a notable exercise in deranged nonsense. And his ministry, Zion’s Fire, seems to be chugging along merrily and zealously working to convert Jewish people to Christianity before the End Times, which are imminent, as always. With regard to said End Times, Rosenthal has been pretty explicit about Islam’s role; as such, one of the aims of the HLE was apparently to encourage American opposition to any sort of peace in the Middle East, given the importance of war, death, tyranny and suffering in the Middle East in bringing about the end of the world that Rosenthal is looking for.

Diagnosis: Yes, he’s evil. He is also laughably ridiculous, but we recommend keeping a safe distance.

Donna Martonfi

You’re probably aware of backward masking, demon-possessed toys and tales of Satanic cults involving priests and presidents, but there are those for whom such things are all too mundane. Donna Martonfi, for instance, will freely tell you about that time 80-foot tall demons got into her house and swallowed her whole. And then there are these Satanic baby farms she knows about. Apparently the proper response to these stories is to be scared and send her money.

Martonfi – might be pseudonym – runs the website Psalm 40 ministries, where she for instance laments the fact that even Christians won’t recognize that Santa and his elfs are a devious ploy to replace Jesus at Christmas time (“Hark the Harold Angels CRINGE”) is the unintentionally apt title of the article) and how the intrusion of superheroes, who are demonic idols (just look at how “Yoda is a demonic looking creature”; Martonfi would know), in popular culture and everywhere is evidence of the challenges faced by Christianity in the US today, which of course also shows that the end is near. You can also request prayers from her, and Martonfi’s prayers are powerful: from a young age Martonfi “prayed for the sick and they recovered;” she’s also once healed a washing machine and prayed her way out of a $2900 car repair bill. Apparently her broken watch required a bit more effort: to begin with, God did nothing, but after a week or so “[a]gain, I petitioned God, only now I was really serious. I remembered the acronym P.U.S.H. Pray Until Something Happens. I was not going to be deterred.” Eventually, she put away the kids gloves and reminded God of His duties to her: “Dear Lord, I stand on your Word that says that You shall supply all of my needs and dear Lord, I need to know what time it is!” This did the trick, and according to Martonfi her “watch has not missed one second since.” I think the lesson is that you just have to show God who da boss sometimes.

It seems that she’s also written an autobiography.

Diagnosis: Despite their content, her posts are mostly grammatical and semi-coherent. They’re completely unhingend nonetheless, and although she’s pretty obscure we suspect that her views are shared by a large enough group of people that they cannot be completely dismissed as harmless fringe delusions.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

May 10, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

Conversation No. 70

Date:  Thursday, February 27, 1997

Commenced: 6:15 PM CST

Concluded: 6:38 PM CST

RTC: Gregory? Have I interrupted your dinner?

GD: Not at all. I eat later, if I think about it that is. I thought you’d be in bed by now, Robert. A problem?

RTC: Actually, yes, there is…or might be. Do you have some time there?

GD: Sure. Not a problem.

RTC: It’s about that Atwood person we spoke of earlier. Remember the one?

GD: Oh, yes, I do remember Atwood. Did old Critchfield off him?

RTC: No, not as I understand but there is unhappiness about Atwood’s proclivity to talk to the wrong people and you are certainly considered the wrong people. By Critchfield’s crowd. Jim does not like me any more over that Angolia business but one of our mutual friends was in touch with me yesterday about this and I thought I ought to discuss it with you. There are, or were, certain aspects to Atwood’s activities, both on and off the board, that there is some anxiety about. It’s known he had very dubious dealings with you six or seven years ago and you are considered to be a loose cannon. Atwood is considered to be a loose mouth and in my calling, that is not considered to be either wise or conducive of a long and happy life. Might I ask you what, if anything, Atwood discussed with you concerning his activities with the Company? Can you recall?

GD: My memory is very good, Robert, as you might have noticed.

RTC: I have. At times a great asset, Gregory, but at other times, a great liability. If you take my meaning?

GD: Oh, I do. Atwood? I got to know him while I was living in Munich in ’65. I was selling German militaria via the Shotgun News….

RTC: And that was….?

GD: Is. It’s a trade paper for gun and military collectors. In Hastings, Nebraska. I was a guest of Franzi von Otting and I used his name. Con premise and he got a percentage of the take. Anyway, Jimmy saw the advert and since he was in Germany, decided to look me up. He wrote and made an appointment and I met him in the lobby of the Vierjahrezeiten.

RTC: Pardon?

GD: A posh Munich hotel. He was staying there with two tarts. Bargirl types if you know what I mean. He was very polite and civil. Slight southern accent. Anyway, we had a long conversation about the collecting trade. Jimmy had written a book on Nazi daggers and was, as he admitted over a drink or two, having these made up in Solingen and selling them. He was making very good money and was highly ambitious. Made up Hermann Goering’s wedding sword and shoved it off on some stupid collector and, as I recall, Hitler’s suicide pistol. A Walther with ivory grips. Got it on the cover of Argosy magazine and sold it to another sucker in Canada. Anyway, we had a talk about creative selling and, as I recall, he was interested in my expertise on the historical aspects. I pointed out to him that in the picture of the alleged Hitler gun, the maker was Walther but their factory was in Ulm, not in what was now the DR. He laughed and said, as I remember, ‘well…you caught me….’ and on we went. I don’t drink very much but he certainly could put it away. And we went out to a restaurant and continued the talking. I learned a lot about him, the more he drank, but he learned nothing about me. Considering everything, that was just as well. I know he had a good opinion of me because in ’90 we went to Austria and dug up some buried Nazi concentration camp loot an SS general buried there in ’45.

RTC: And who might that have been?

GD: A Slovene named Globocnik. Had been the Gauleiter of Vienna until Hitler sacked him for stealing.

RTC: I was told about him. Not a nice person.

GD: No, but you used him after his faked suicide. The Brits sold him to you and you sent him down to Syria to help the rag heads.

RTC: Gregory, you are most interesting and informative. And I hope you are also discreet.

GD: Oh, I can be. Why the interest in Jimmy?

RTC: It has slowly dawned on certain exalted people that perhaps you might have gleaned some forbidden information about brother Atwood in the course of your wild career. Do go on

GD: Well, I don’t know what was, or is, forbidden, and what isn’t.

RTC: Why not just go on and let me be the judge of that. Please continue about Atwood.

GD: I will. Atwood was one of your people and was not only involved in merchandising and otherwise making a profit selling fake German militaria…

RTC: By German, you specifically mean Nazi, don’t you?

GD: Yes, of course. I’ll tell you about the market in a few minutes. Right now, I am going to fill you in on what I learned from James. I give you some background here on the very off chance that you know nothing about it. Since at least 1981 and probably earlier, there exists a worldwide network of ‘free-standing’, or especially and specifically. no direct U.S. government ties companies, including airlines, aviation and military spare parts suppliers, and trading companies, set up that  have been put to good use by the CIA and the U.S. government to illegally ship arms and military spare parts to Iran and to the Contras. And, of course, to smuggle people who can’t go by commercial airlines and, let us not forget, drugs

RTC: I rather wish you would forget about drugs. I don’t think brother Atwood was involved with drugs. Do go on.

GD: Yes. These companies were set up with the approval and knowledge of senior CIA officials and other senior U.S. government officials and staffed primarily by ex-CIA, ex-FBI and ex-military officers. I am correct here?

RTC: Yes. Go on.

GD: You will probably end up hating me if I do, Robert, but I note you asked me to continue.

RTC: I think I am above that, Gregory.

GD: OK. Now let’s look at the Iran Contra business. I know all about at least a part of this so we can go into it a little. Secord’s arms shipments, arraigned through the CIA, transferred weapons destined for Central America to Merex. This was known officially as Merex International Arms and was, and is, based in Savannah. The Merex address was occupied by Combat Military Ordinances Ltd., controlled by Jimmy Atwood. He had been in the Army in MI and then went to work for your people. James was involved in major arms trades with your sponsored international buyers, specifically Middle Eastern Arab states. Monzer Al-Kassar utilized the Merex firm for some of his weapons transactions with the Enterprise.   Now Merex was originally set up, after the war, by old Skorzeny co-worker, one Gerhard Mertins. Gerhard had been  a Hauptmann (captain to you, Robert) in the German paratroopers and got the Knight’s Cross in, I believe, ’45. After the war, Mertins went to work in Bonn and the Merex arms business was considered a CIA proprietary firm. Mertex was close to and worked with the BND, the German intelligence service evolved from the CIA-controlled Gehlen organization. Atwood was involved with Interarmco, run by Samuel Cummings, an Englishman who ran the largest arms firm in the world. Cummings died in Monaco because he had looted his CIA employers and found that principality safer than Warrenton, Virginia. Also connected with Atwood’s firm were Collector’s Armory, run by one Thomas Nelson, whose nickname was ‘Red Nelson’ because of his hair color, not his politics, and a George Petersen of Springfield, Virginia, and one Manny Wiegenberg, a Canadian arms dealer. Jimmy was heavily involved in your support of Canadian separatists and I know something of his role in supplying weapons and explosives to the Quebec Libré movement. The head of your Canada Desk was actively encouraging this group to split away from Canada. I know for a fact that your people do not want ever to mention this little historical aside.

RTC: No, we do not, Go on.

GD:Also, I know all about Atwood’s connections with Skorzeny and the IRA/Provo wing. I can give you chapter and verse on this one if you want it. One of Atwood’s Irish connections is the man who blew up Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979 and I have a file on this as well in some safe and private place You might also be aware of the shipping of weapons into the southern Mexican provinces by Atwood and his Guatemala based consortium. Atwood had a number of ex-Gestapo and SD people on board, some of whom were wanted. I recall a former SS officer, Frederich Schwend who worked with your people and was down in Lima. Schwend had been trained by the OSS in the early 1940s after he had informed Allen Dulles that the German SS had hidden millions in gold, cash, and loot as the European war was winding down. Atwood knew about the Weissensee gold hoard that Müller told me about. Jimmy knew about it but I had the overlay so he courted me and we ended up, shovels in hand, in the beautiful mountains in ’90.

RTC: Thee are conflicting stories about that business. You murdered two British people as I understand it.

GD: No such thing, Robert. As I understand it, and I was there, they fell off the boat in the middle of the Caribbean. Such lies your people make up.

RTC: Well, there are always two sides to every story, Gregory. You are better than two cups of coffee, I must say. I think I ought to get some Pepto Bismol pretty soon. After the Treasure Island adventure, what happened next?

GD: To Atwood? Well, as Jimmy told me, about 1992, he and your Jimmy Critchfield, along with a Russian Jew, formed a partnership in order to obtain a number of obsolete Soviet atomic artillery shells which they then sold to the Pakistanis.  I think the two of them kept the money and no one ever saw the Jew again. If you don’t know this, I can tell you that both Critchfield and the Interarmco people had supplied weapons to the rebels in Afghanistan during their long and vicious guerrilla activities against the Soviet Union. Critchfield also worked with the Dalai Lama of Tibet in a guerrilla war against Communist China and headed a CIA task force during the Cuban missile crisis. He ran regional agency operations when the U.S. and the Soviets raced to secure satellites first in Eastern Europe, then in the Middle East. And note that in the early 1960s, Critchfield recommended to the CIA that the United States support the Baath Party, which staged a 1963 coup against the Iraqi government that the CIA believed was falling under Soviet influence. Critchfield later boasted, during the Iran-Iraq war that he and the CIA had created Saddam Hussein.

RTC: Gregory, where in the sweet hell did you get all of this?

GD: From Atwood when he was drunk.

RTC: You’ve just guaranteed that he will pass to his reward very soon. Does that bother you?

GD: I never liked him. He tried to rip me off once but he was so crude about it that I have no respect for him. Shall I go on?

RTC: I have approach-avoidance conflicts here, Gregory. You might as well ruin the rest of my evening. Proceed.

GD: Are you sure? You don’t sound too happy.

RTC: I am not but do go on.

GD: As you wish. When Arab oil became paramount, your Critchfield became your national intelligence officer for energy and was also an energy policy planner at the White House. He also fronted a dummy CIA corporation in the Middle East known as Basic Resources, which was used to gather OPEC-related intelligence for the Nixon administration. . Critchfield was the chief of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia division in the 1960s and a national intelligence officer for energy as the oil shortage crisis began in the early 1970s. Of course your people, along with the oil barons, forced the price of oil up and up. My, I wonder how much money you all made. Oh well, not important here. Critchfield retired in the mid ‘70s and ended up as both a consultant and the CEO of Tetra Tech International, a Honeywell Inc. subsidiary and which managed oil, gas, and water projects in the strategic Masandam Peninsula. This, in case your geography is weak, is located on the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the West’s oil is transported. And at the same time, Critchfield was a primary adviser to the Sultan of Oman, focusing on Middle East energy resources, especially those in Oman.

RTC: I should never have asked you about this.

GD: The Bible says ask and ye shall receive.

RTC: Yes. We can forget the Bible here. It has no part in the intelligence business. You mentioned Merex. Do you know of other friendly assets?

GD: Surely, Try Aero Systems, Arrow Air, Global International, and how about Zenith?

RTC: Did you get these names from Atwood?

GD: Of course I did. I told you Jimmy was not discreet while he was drinking. I listened to his tales of self-importance and remembered it all. Oh, and I write it up as well.

RTC: Gregory, for the Lord God’s sake, if not mine, or more important, yours, do not discuss any of this with anyone else, your son or people like Willis Carto. If you aren’t careful, Critrchfield will have you eliminated. I shall have to warn him off on that topic but…I mean why would Atwood tell you such terrible things and if he told you, who else could he have told?

GD: One of his German whores, probably. Jimmy goes on and on.

RTC: So I note. And we can ring the curtain down on that one ASAP.

GD: From your reaction, Robert, I assume Jimmy was accurate.

RTC: No comment but Atwood is a dead man.

GD: Well, I might have gotten my insights from the back of a Wheaties’ box but Jimmy is a better candidate. Do you know why I dislike Jimmy and would frame his death notice? His wife stuck with him when he was arrested for tax evasion in smuggling in the ‘60s and as a mark of his appreciation, he deserted her and his two daughters to run off with one of his bar girls. The rest of his activities are one thing but I do not tolerate such domestic treachery. Do you think I’m being too critical?

RTC: What a question. Who cares about his wife and children? This man has gone way beyond the bounds. Way beyond. Of course I believe you. You could never have made all that up and I can assure you it was never in the New York Times. They might know some of it but they wouldn’t dare publish it. No, you got it from Atwood or someone connected with him. Ah, well, I did ask and I did receive. They hate you Gregory, they hate you with a passion but at the same time, they are scared shitless of you. They would have killed you some time ago but others counseled them against it. Who knows what you put down on paper? If you were run over by a truck in the middle of a shopping mall or attacked and eaten by a leopard in your own living room, who knows what might find its way out of some hiding hole and into the public? The public is happy with its football games and beer so we had best not disturb them with such stories.

GD: They might make a good movie out of all this.

RTC: Never, Gregory, I can promise you that. A studio that even considered this would be bankrupt within a few months. No, none of this will ever see the light of day and if you want to continue walking around, remember that silence is golden.

GD: I have no problem with gold. Just think of all that looted concentration camp gold Jimmy and I dug up.

RTC: Yes and I understand you cheated him out of his share.

GD: When thieves fall out, Robert, honest men prosper.

RTC: Meaning no disrespect but do you consider yourself to be an honest man?

GD: Selectively, Robert, selectively. And Jimmy?

RTC: Don’t make book on his seeing Christmas.

(Concluded at 6:38 PM CST)

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