TBR News May 13, 2018

May 13 2018

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. May 13, 2018:”Bureaucratic Washington is always a seething caldron of gossip intermixed with state secrets, lies and rampant self-importance.

At present, rolling waves of excited gabble about two subjects.

The first is about certain highly unacceptable chronic behavior patterns of the sitting President, unacceptable in the sense that if they became public and gained credence, would result a wave of pubic revulsion and demands for his removal from office.

The second concerns the official plans to launch a war against Iran.

As I have said, there are no secrets in Washington and all one has to do is to sit in the lobby of the Cosmos Club or certain restaurants and many rumors, truths and slanders can be heard from chattering people.”

Table of Contents

  • The planned US/Israeli attack on Iran
  • Iran’s military power: What you need to know
  • Rhetoric over U.S. exit from Iran deal rises amid sanctions threat
  • Europe moves to safeguard interests in Iran after U.S. pullout
  • Michael Cohen is ‘in business’. But just what sort of business is he in?
  • The Deep State First – Madness On Both Ends of the Acela Corridor
  • As Gaza Sinks Into Desperation, A New Book Makes the Case Against Israeli Brutality
  • Pentagon to keep backing Lebanon military, despite Hezbollah gains
  • We created poverty. Algorithms won’t make that go away

 The planned US/Israeli attack on Iran

May 13, 2018

by Christian Jürs

The initial attacks will be an early-morning surprise attack launched to coincide with religious services in Tehran’s Muslim mosques with the idea of catching not only the leading Mullahs inside but a large number of their congregations as well. One attack will concentrate on these religious centers and the other will hit both the underground nuclear facilities and identified (courtesy of U.S. satellite shots) missile launching sites.

The U.S. will supply observation and radio surveillance aircraft with radar-jamming capacities operating out of Turkey and Italy. The entire attack is scheduled to last no more than one hour with at least three waves of Israeli aircraft utilized.

No warning will be given to the Iranians and no declaration of war. The possible deaths of foreign diplomats in the attacks has been discussed and accepted as part of the price. This attack has the full support of the President who wants it launched before the elections.

He can then make a speech to the American people stating that the evil Iranian nuclear weaponry has been destroyed by the Israelis with the full cooperation of his government as part of his heroic war against terrorists.

Believe me, that speech has already been written and I have seen a copy of it.

The brass here feels that this will have a tremendous impact on the American people, just before the elections.

No U.S. ground troops will be used; Trump will stress that this is a joint U.S.-Israeli anti-terrorist project. Part of the speech deals with ongoing Shiite Iranian physical support of their Shiite brethren in Iraq and that by knocking out the Iranian nuclear weaponry, at the same time, they are protecting GIs from ongoing guerrilla warfare.Iran hates the United States and Israel.

Iran has atomic weapons and missiles (the Shahab, courtesy of North Korean/Russian technicians.)

It can easily reach Tel Aviv.

It can also reach US troop concentrations in Syria and Saudi Arabia. Israel is desparately frightened and  their pressure groups have leaned on the White House, with a great deal of assistance from Bolton and the Neocons.

The actual plan is this: The U.S. has no troops available for an Iranian adventure and the Israelis would rather not lose any warm bodies so it has been firmly decided that both Israel and the U.S. will launch a surprise attack against

1., Iranian missile sites,

  1. Iranian nuclear facilities and
  2. the leadership of Iran located in and around Tehran.

How will this be done? By aircraft attack using U.S. developed “smart bombs” and the so-called “bunker-buster” bombs designed to destroy underground reinforced concrete facilities .We just sent these to Israel. Because of the political ramifications, the Israelis will conduct the main strikes, supported by U.S. aircraft as needed. The aim will be to wipe out any vestige of nuclear weaponry, its delivery system and all the Iranian leaders capable of starting any attacks on Israel (mostly Tel Aviv…too many fellow Muslims in Jerusalem.) Since it would be a problem for Israeli Air Force units to fly round trip from Israel, the solution will be to launch these attacks from U.S. aircraft carriers located in the Persian Gulf area.

New age liquid fuel was used in the new multistage, satellite carrier simurg missile. It can produce the needed energy for putting a 60-72 kg weighted satellite into the orbit which ranged 500-600 km.

Simurg, with its engines, it can accelerate 7300 m/s for reaching to a 500 km ranged orbit.

Simug’s engine consists of four engines, each weighted 32 tons. The trast which was formed by clustering of these 4 engines, weighted 143-145 tons.

This engine system will be able to put 700 kg weighted satellites into the orbits which are ranged 1000 km.

Misbah 2

Misbah has a prominence because it is the most developed satellite system of Iran. The main features of Misbah are gathering information from ground stations and transferring them to control stations, providing communication between all military units of Iran across the country’s territory.

It was announced that Misbah 2 will work for providing communication and telecommunication but there is no doubt that Misbah 2 will be used for military intelligence.

Misbah 2 which is weighted 70 kg, can work in the orbits which are 700 km high from the ground and its operating life is three years.

The most important aim at constructing Misbah – 2 is expressed as developing satellite designing and construction technology. Iran interprets Misbah -2 as a new level for construction of more developed spy satellites.

Tulu Satellite

Another developed satellite system of Iran is Tulu Remote Measuring Satellite. It has a capability of launching with Simurg satellite carrier and also has technologic capabilities like sight taking, mechanisms and supervision of sun cells which are used for the first time. The main duty of the Tulu Satellite will be the taking cross-section sights, recording them and transferring information to the ground station with its 50 m ranged recognition capability. For achieving this, Tulu will be in communication with telemetric, pursuit and flight inspection stations in the ground. Tulu can scan and transfer any military action in Iran’s borders or within Iran’s neighbors (like Iraq, Turkey, Gulf of Basra, Caspian Sea) to the main station.

According to the Iranian officials, technique/expert cooperation between Iran and North Korea continues. Especially on missile technologies, at least 3 North Korean experts are working in Iran. Also Iranian experts are joining the instructions and development studies in North Korea.

There are various options for launching missiles to their aims which include freefall of missiles with using hunting-bombardment/bombardment planes, ballistic missiles which can be launched both from ground and undersea, cruise missiles, barrel artillery systems, space located systems, torpedoes with nuclear warheads and mines. Iran may try some of those options if it owns nuclear weapons but the safest and most effective option for Iran is ballistic missiles. Not only using biological, chemical or nuclear warheads but also using conventional warheads, ballistic missiles can be very effective both physically and psychologically when they are launched onto military gathering points and cities.

Another issue in this choice is actually the impossibility of winning a conventional war against US and US supported Gulf Region Countries. Because of this, a destructive asymmetric war doctrine has started to used in Iran against the threats. One of the basic elements of this doctrine is ballistic missiles.

According to the announcements of Iranian officials, Iran continues to produce unguided rocket systems named as Nezeat which can be considered as artillery rockets, this type of rockets have 100-200 kg of warheads and their range is between 100-160 km. At Zelzal rocket program which was started for a similar reason with Nezeat, INS guidance system was used and margin of error was so much decreased. Zelzal – 2 rocket’s another version which was produced with the cooperation of Syria is named as Fattah – 110. This 600 mm caliber rockets have a range of more than 200 km. It thought that Iran is transferring those rockets to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. If launched, those relatively small ranged Fattah – 110 rockets can hit many critical civil and military targets in Israel. Existence of these rockets leaded Israel to develop air defence systems (Like Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defence systems owned by Rafale) for destroying small ranged rockets. While the battle in Southern Syria in 2006, Hezbollah launched 4000 rockets (most of them were Handmade Kassam Rockets) and this attack caused death of more than 40 Israel citizen and temporary migration of 250,000 people.

Both Şahap-1 and Şahap – 2 rockets are derivations of Russian Scud (R-17) rockets which were using liquid fuel. Şahap – 1 was developed in the end of the 80s with the help of North Korea and it is a derivation of SCUD-B Rockets which are ranged 300 km. It was thought that Şahap – 2 had become operational in the middle of 90s. Şahap – 2 rockets are derivations of Russian SCUD-C rockets and it was developed by the cooperation with North Korea. They have 550 km range and they have a warhead weight of 700 kg.

Medium ranged ballistic rockets have a range of 1000-3000 km. Iran Revolution Guards are using Şahap-3 rockets actively and testing more developed rockets in these days. Şahap-3 rockets are also in this rocket class. Şahap – 3 rockets were designed in the basis of No Dong-1 rockets with the cooperation of North Korea. Rockets became operational in the beginning of 2000s. The rocket which was known as Şahap has a range of around 1300 km. More developed Şahap – 3A’s range is around 1500-1800 km. The triangular warhead which is atmosphere cycled, rises the suspicions about Iran’s development of unconventional warheads. Circular error probability of Şahap – 3 rockets is between 500 and 1100 m according to Iranian Officials. They have a capacity of carrying warheads which are weighted 500-800 kg. It is known that, Şahap – 3 rockets gained the capacity of carrying atmosphere cycled warheads which can carry nuclear weapons. All series of the Şahap – 3 rockets have one leveled engines which work with liquid fuel. Iran officials are complaining about the difficulty of launching the rockets which use liquid fuel, because those rockets needed to get filled with fuel before launching. This issue directs Iran to develop rockets which use solid propellant with the information and technology gained from North Korea and China.

Iran continues working on high level ballistic missile technologies like GPS/INS guidance system, warheads which have capacity to carry nuclear weapons and so on. Iran may take the developments to the further points which they can produce ballistic missiles have more than 3000 km of range, called as IRBM.

Iran’s action of putting satellites with its own capabilities is a signal for Iran’s inclination towards the dual use, both for civil and military uses. Iran’s space program may shade the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program in the near future. Officials from Iran state that Şahap – 5 and Şahap – 6 have been tested satisfactorily.

Mossad has Started Secret Operations

Possibility of an intervention on Iran is increased after Iran’s nuclear centrals has started to produce energy and at the same time Iran continues on missile development programs. Iran officials announced that according to the studies of Iran intelligence, MOSSAD has already started secret operations. According to those Iranian officials, secret operations of MOSSAD will be applied in three stages by the signed orders of Benjamin Netanyahu:

1) Planning assassinations for interrupting the Nuclear Program

2) Sabotaging nuclear facilities.

3) Hitting nuclear facilities with limited interventions.

According to Tehran death of nuclear physician Prof. Dr Mesud Ali Mohammed in a bombing attack is a part of these MOSSAD operations. Also murder of Mahmud al Mabhuh (one of the leaders of HAMAS) which was happened in his hotel room in Dubai was a part of these operations too. Iranian officials underline that Mabhuh’s role on Tehran-HAMAS relations, he was an important leader on this issue.

Tehran thinks that CIA and MOSSAD have a corporation on planning and organizing the attacks which are aimed through scientists who are working on Iran Nuclear Program. Iranian nuclear physics expert Shahram Amiri’s disappear while his umre visit to Saudi Arabia was a kidnapping operation of CIA, announced by senior official Manucher Muttaki. Besides this, Iran admits the Amiri’s role in the nuclear program. Iran Defense Ministry senior official Ali Rızari Asqhari’s disappearance in Turkey at February 2007 was thought as a part of those operations

Iran will become a military target.

It is already known that Israel is closer to the intervention option. Hitting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure with a US-aided Israel intervention option is an issue which is being be discussed often in both Pentagon, White House centers and the Israeli government. It should not be forgotten that Russia and China’s opposition towards an intervention on Iran will be stronger than their opposition towards the Iraq War.

Although the media has been full of 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 completely genuine, 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, Syria or Iraq.

The Trump 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 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.

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 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.


Iran’s military power: What you need to know

Iran may suffer from military disadvantages, but that doesn’t stop it from being a major military player in the Middle East. DW breaks down Iran’s military strengths and three parts of its asymmetric defense strategy.

May 13, 2018

by Chase Winter


Iran is a major military power in the Middle East, with an estimated 534,000 active personnel in the army, navy, air force and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Global Firepower Index, an online military ranking website, ranks Iran number 13 in the world out of 136 countries. Their listing is based on more than 50 factors including war-making potential in conventional (non-nuclear) forces, man power, geography and finance. To compare to other regional powers, Turkey ranks ninth, Egypt 12th, Israel 16th and Saudi Arabia 26th.

Iran’s population of 82 million means that it can draw on a deep well of manpower. This is a key factor in sustaining long wars of attrition such as the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

However, at $16 billion(€13.4 billion) in 2017, Iran’s defense budget falls short of individual regional rivals and is miniscule in comparison to the combined defense spending of countries it is most likely to come into conflict with: Israel’s $18.5 billion (plus $3.5 billion in military aid from the US); Saudi Arabia’s $76.7 billion; and the United States’ nearly $600 billion.

Asymmetric strategy answer to disadvantages

Shiite Iran is outgunned financially by those it perceives to be its main military threats — the United States, Israel and Sunni Gulf Arab states. It also nearly encircled by United States military bases and lacks the security guarantees its regional Gulf Arab rivals and Israel receive from the United States.

In addition, Iran has been under a four-decade-long US arms embargo and UN arms restrictions since 2006. This has forced Iran to rely largely on the domestic production of weaponry. Meanwhile, Iran’s regional rivals are provided cutting-edge Western military systems.

In order to compensate for its relative weakness, Tehran relies on asymmetric capabilities and cost-raising deterrence measures.

Forward defense

One plank of Iran’s defense strategy is “forward defense,” led by the special operations Quds Force of the IRGC.  The strategy involves the use of regional allies and proxies, known as the “axis of resistance,” as leverage to weaken, bog down, deter or fight Iran’s enemies away from its soil.

Such groups include the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq fighting the “Islamic State”; foreign Shiite militias fighting on behalf of Iran’s ally Syria; the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah; Houthi rebels in Yemen; and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran is also one of several regional countries exerting influence on the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Although aligned with Iran politically and militarily, these groups have to varying degrees their own agency and local political interests where they operate.

Ballistic missiles

A second plank of Iran’s military strategy is short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Israel, Gulf Arab states, US military bases in the region and parts of Europe.

As the International Crisis Group notes, Iran views these ballistic missiles as a deterrent against Israel and, in the event of an attack on Iran, as a means to hit enemies on their own soil or US military bases in the region. While Iran presents ballistic missiles as defensive weapons, its enemies consider them an offensive threat.

Ballistic missile policy can be combined with the forward defense policy, such as with Houthi ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia in response to its war in Yemen and Iran’s arming Hezbollah with an array of missiles in Lebanon. Iran denies providing the Houthis with ballistic missiles or components.

Bringing the world economy to a standstill

A third means of Iranian deterrence is the threat to choke the world economy by shutting down the flow of oil in the event of conflict. Around one-fifth of the world’s traded oil passes through the Straight of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Iran’s strategy is to block the chokepoint through mines and employ asymmetric and unconventional naval tactics against enemy warships, such as swarming enemy warships with small, low-cost watercraft and speedboats armed with anti-ship missiles and torpedoes.

Iran may be developing a similar policy in Yemen, calculating that in the event of a conflict with a regional enemy, the Quds Force and its Houthi partners could shutdown shipments in the Red Sea through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, through which four percent of the world’s traded oil passes.


Rhetoric over U.S. exit from Iran deal rises amid sanctions threat

May 13, 2018

by Valerie Volcovici and Richard Cowan


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Sunday threatened to impose sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran, as the remaining participants in the Iran nuclear accord stiffened their resolve to keep that agreement operational.

White House National Security adviser John Bolton said U.S. sanctions on European companies that maintain business dealings with Iran were “possible,” but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remained hopeful Washington and its allies could strike a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Bolton struck a more hawkish tone with his comments in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” program than Pompeo did when he was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

So far, China, France, Russia, Britain, the European Union and Iran remain in the accord, which placed controls on Iran’s nuclear program and led to a relaxation of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there.

Despite the U.S. exit, Britain and Iran on Sunday expressed their commitment to ensuring that the accord is upheld, according to a statement released by British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office.

And Germany said it will spend the next few months trying to persuade Washington to change its mind.

When asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton told CNN: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”

Pompeo said he was “hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior, not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well.”


The U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal has upset Washington’s European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

Germany’s minister for economic affairs, Peter Altmaier, said on Sunday that Berlin will try to “persuade the U.S. government to change its behavior.”

In an interview with ZDF public television, Altmaier noted the United States has set a 90-day deadline for foreign firms to comply with the return of sanctions and that this period can be used to convince Washington to change course.

Israel and Iran engaged in an extensive military exchange on the heels of Trump’s decision to leave the deal. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a telephone call that he was worried about stability in the Middle East, according to Macron’s office.

As a private citizen, Bolton in the past has suggested that the United States push for a change in Iran’s government. But in an interview aired on the ABC’s “This Week” program, Bolton said, “That’s not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons.” [L2N1SK088]

In the CNN interview, Bolton did not respond directly when asked whether Trump might seek “regime change” in Iran, or whether the U.S. military would be ordered to make a preemptive strike against any Iranian nuclear facility.

“I’m not the national security decision-maker,” Bolton said, adding that Trump “makes the decision and the advice that I give him is between us.”

When pressed by CNN on whether the Trump administration would sanction European firms that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton said, “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”

Bolton said Europe was still digesting Trump’s May 8 move.

“I think at the moment there’s some feeling in Europe – they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the reimposition of strict sanctions. I think that will sink in; we’ll see what happens then,” Bolton said.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici, Sarah N. Lynch and Richard Cowan in Washington and Michael Nienaber in Berlin; Editing by David Gregorio and Paul Simao

 Europe moves to safeguard interests in Iran after U.S. pullout

May 11, 2018

by Paul Carrel and Leigh Thomas


BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) – Europe’s largest economies lobbied to protect their companies’ investments in Iran on Friday, seeking to keep the nuclear deal with Tehran alive after Washington pulled out and threatened to impose sanctions on European companies.

the three countries’ foreign ministers plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss it.

That is part of a flurry of diplomatic activity following Tuesday’s unilateral withdrawal from what U.S. President Donald Trump called “a horrible, one-sided deal”, a move accompanied by the threat of penalties against any foreign firms doing business in Iran.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ways to save the deal without Washington needed to be discussed with Tehran, while France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said EU states would propose sanctions-blocking measures to the European Commission.

“Do we accept extraterritorial sanctions? The answer is no,” Le Maire told reporters.

“Do we accept that the United States is the economic gendarme of the planet? The answer is no.

“Do we accept the vassalization of Europe in commercial matters? The answer is no.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump agreed in a phone call that talks were needed to discuss how U.S sanctions on Iran would affect foreign companies operating in the country.

May’s spokeswoman said May had told Trump that Britain and its European partners remained “firmly committed” to ensuring the deal was upheld as the best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Both Le Maire and Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz had spoken to their U.S. counterpart Steven Mnuchin, urging him to consider exemptions or delays for companies already present in the country.

Le Maire said he was seeking concrete exemptions for countries already present in Iran, including Renault, Total, Sanofi, Danone and Peugeot. Scholz had also asked for concrete measures to help German companies, Handelsblatt newspaper reported.

The 2015 agreement between major powers and Iran set limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Europeans fear a collapse of the deal could intensify conflicts in the Middle East.

Germany, France and Britain want talks to be held in a broader format to include Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional military activities, including in Syria and Yemen.

“The extent to which we can keep this deal alive … is something we need to discuss with Iran,” said Merkel, who earlier spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the issue.

Divisions in Iran over how it should respond to the U.S. pullout were illustrated as senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University on Friday that European nations could not be trusted.

President Hassan Rouhani had said on Tuesday that Tehran would remain in the deal, provided its benefits stayed in force with its remaining signatories.

French exports to Iran doubled to 1.5 billion euros ($1.79 billion) last year, driven by sales of aircraft and automobile parts, according to customs data.

Exports of German goods to Iran rose by around 400 million euros to 3 billion euros. Around 120 German firms have operations with their own staff in Iran, including Siemens (SIEGn.DE), and some 10,000 German companies trade with Iran.

“We are ready to talk to all the companies concerned about what we can do to minimize the negative consequences,” Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio. “That means, it is concretely about damage limitation”.

The U.S. ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, said firms should question the morality of doing business with Iran.

“Germany, France and Britain, the ‘EU3’, say themselves that Iran poses a threat. Do they want to do business with a threat?” Bild newspaper quoted him as saying.

Altmaier said Germany wanted to avoid “a spiral of escalation” in transatlantic trade relations.

Merkel said at a church event in the western German city of Muenster: “It is in our interest to have a strong transatlantic relationship”.

But she also said: “If everybody does what they like, then this is bad news for the world.”

Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr and Andreas Rinke in Berlin and Laurence Frost in Paris; Writing and editing by Paul Carrel, Thomas Escritt and Andrew Roche


Michael Cohen is ‘in business’. But just what sort of business is he in?

For a man who was meant to fix problems for Donald Trump, his personal lawyer has left an awful lot of problems unfixed

May 12, 2018

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

The fixer is in a fix.

Michael Cohen, the most personal of the president’s personal attorneys, has cut an extraordinary figure in this totally abnormal administration

You might be forgiven for thinking his fixing was confined to mysterious payments to porn actors and Playboy models, in exchange for their silence. These are mind-grabbing, if not body-grabbing, stories involving actual sex, movies about sex, a president and one of his major donors.

But unlike fixers of yore, Cohen has been unable to fix anything without requiring a good deal of cosmetic after-fixing.

This is not a good look for any self-respecting fixer, or for the large corporations that paid him millions for his insights into Trump’s inner thoughts. AT&T paid Cohen’s firm $600,000 last year, while Novartis paid $1.2m. Columbus Nova, an investment firm linked to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, paid Cohen $500,000. Korea Aerospace Industries paid him a measly $150,000.

That’s a total of almost $2.5m – as far as we know – paid to the deliciously titled Essential Consultants, the company also used to pay hush money to a porn star and a model on behalf of Donald J Trump and a donor.

Most of the coverage of this giant wheelbarrow of cash has focused on the corporate giants who were so happily fleeced by the fixer, until the deals became public. AT&T now says the deal with Cohen was “a big mistake” and its head lobbyist is taking early retirement. Novartis blames its previous CEO for a relationship that involved all of one meeting with Cohen.

Some reporters claim these relationships and sums are normal in the influence-peddling business that thrives in the nation’s capital. Rest assured, they are not. Retainers of $100,000 a month are few and far between.

But the real mystery is not about the revenue: there are always suckers out there ready to believe the patter of a supposedly well-connected fixer. No, the unanswered questions are about where the money was going.

Most of the influence-peddlers have to support large teams and offices. They burn cash on glass-tabled conference rooms close to the White House, hugely inflated salaries for former congressmen, and steak dinners on Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s not true for Essential Consultants, whose staff amounted to one Michael Cohen. What was the fixer doing with all that money?

You’d think it was to pay off all those pesky women, right? But you would be wrong, because there are several public statements identifying other sources of cash for the hush money.According to the president’s less-competent lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Trump himself paid Cohen a retainer to cover the $130,000 so generously handed over to Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election for a relationship Trump says never existed.

Cohen also facilitated the payment of an astonishing $1.6m in hush money to another woman, Playboy model Shera Bechard – who had an abortion – supposedly on behalf of another man. But Elliott Broidy, now former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, apparently paid the money himself. So it’s still not clear how Cohen spent as much as $2.5m last year.

Now it’s true that his sideline business in taxi medallions has been more than a little distressed since Uber and Lyft burst on the scene. But Essential’s known revenues are trivial compared with the scale of Cohen’s taxi troubles. Cohen recently put up his $9m Park Avenue apartment as collateral, to back up reportedly as much as $12.8m of debt previously backed by his taxi medallions.

Who or what could Essential be paying? He does have one client with a remarkable ability to steer cash to his own enterprises, and we’re not talking about Sean Hannity of Fox News. Trump has managed to monetize his presidency thanks to foreign diplomats spending money at his hotel in Washington. He has monetized his Secret Service protection at his golf courses and in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Until we see the accounts of Essential Consultants, we don’t know if any cash has been spent at Trump-related businesses.

One thing is for sure. We can’t rely on Cohen’s account of his own fixing. Earlier this year, he claimed he paid the Stormy Daniels hush money out of his own pocket, without Trump’s knowledge or involvement. He said he had dipped into his home equity line of credit to do so. By the time Rudy Giuliani started blabbing to Fox News, and Trump started tweeting about the hush money, it was clear none of that story stood up.

That does raise a few questions about the $1.6m paid in the affair somehow involving Broidy. For some unusual reason, Cohen used the same alias for Trump and Broidy in the hush payment contracts. Inventing names must be difficult or costly.

Broidy was not known as a big spender on illicit affairs, but he was a big spender on government officials, pleading guilty to $1m in bribes and illegal gifts to New York state officials and their families to win $250m of investment from them.

Who could have known, back in mid-2015, that Cohen was capable of anything less than the highest standards of public service when he threatened a Daily Beast reporter with untold pain – economic, legal and unspecified.

“So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting,” he told the reporter. “You understand me?”

Yes we do, Mr Cohen. We understand very clearly that you are not a traditional lawyer advising a traditional president. You are instead the kind of lawyer who has carved out a series of businesses – including real estate deals, a casino boat and multiple taxi medallions – with immigrants from the former Soviet Union. And we all know how much the Trump administration admires immigrants.

Perhaps the most memorable (and least lawyerly) business was El Caribe, a Brooklyn catering hall that has been a beloved location for Russian and Italian mob weddings and Christmas parties.

Until 2016, Cohen had a minority stake in an establishment owned by his uncle, Morty Levine, who according to a sworn FBI affidavit was a personal doctor and fixer to a Lucchese crime family. Fixing is what you might call a family business. After all, Cohen is a businessman above everything else. At least that’s what his biggest client called him, in his recent jaw-dropping interview with Fox & Friends.

“Let me just tell you that Michael is in business,” Trump explained. “He’s really a businessman. Fairly big businesses, as I understand it. I don’t know his business. But this doesn’t have to do with me. Michael is a businessman. He has got a business. He also practices law. I would say probably the big thing is his business. And they are looking into something having to do with his business. I have nothing to do with his business.”

This may be the most reasonable thing Trump has ever said on Fox News, even if it is the least believable. Go on, admit it. You wouldn’t want to have anything to do with Cohen’s business either.


The Deep State First – Madness On Both Ends of the Acela Corridor

May 12, 2018

by David Stockman


At his so-called Cabinet meeting this morning, the Donald basically threatened Iran with annihilation if it does what 15 other signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) do every day: Namely, increase production of industrial grade nuclear fuel (3.5%-5.0% purity) at its enrichment plant at Natanz – which, in any event, is crawling with IAEA inspectors.

Moreover, it really doesn’t matter whether Trump was play-acting in the style of Art of the Deal or that the JPAOC could be improved.

The mere threat of a military attack from the White House is madness because it arises from blatant lies that have absolutely nothing to do with US national security. Nor, for that matter, the security of any other country in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The real purpose of the Donald’s missile-rattling is nothing more than helping Bibi Netanyahu keep his coalition of right wing religious and settler parties (Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Kulanu and the Jewish Home) together, thereby maintaining his slim 61-vote majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Netanyahu’s malefic political glue is the utterly false claim that Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel because it is hell-bent on getting the bomb.

But that’s where the whopper comes in. It amounts to the ridiculous postulate that Iran is so fiendishly evil that if it is involved in the nuclear fuel cycle in any way, shape or form – presumably even just operating a uranium mine – it is only a matter of months before it will have a bomb.

As a matter of record, of course, Netanyahu has been saying this since the early 1990s and he has always been wrong because there were never any facts or logic to support his blatant fear-mongering. For example, here is the cartoon-style, evidence-free “proof” that he offered way back in 2012.

The truth is more nearly the opposite. Not only the IAEA, but also the CIA and its 16 fellow spook agencies, agree that Iran has not had anything which remotely resembles a nuclear bomb weaponization program for the last 15 years; and that even the one it ran briefly in 1999-2003 – out of fear that Tehran’s mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, might be doing the same – was essentially a series of science experiments that didn’t get close to making even a single bomb.

The fact is, 98% of the enriched uranium that Iran had on hand at the time of the 2015 nuke deal was in the LEU (low enriched uranium) category and was not remotely relevant to a bomb. And the 2% balance (450 pounds) was enriched to the 20% medical isotope level (also non-bomb grade), which, according to IAEA verification, has all been shipped out of the country.

Iran never had, nor does it possess now, anything close to the 90% enriched weapons grade (HEU) material that is an absolute pre-requisite for a nuclear bomb via the U-235 route.

Moreover, it couldn’t possibly go the plutonium route to a bomb, either. Pursuant to the deal, its plutonium reactor core at Arak – which theoretically could have produced enough plutonium for two bombs per year – has been completely removed and filled with concrete. Even the tin foil brigade among the neocons can’t plausibly suggest otherwise because the whole process has been viewed and verified by the IAEA inspectors.

In sum, if the Donald succeeds in killing the JPAOC, Tehran would have every right under the 193-nation NPT (which it signed but Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and India didn’t) to go back to making more industrial grade reactor fuel for civilian power.

Back in the day, the great Dwight D. Eisenhower called the latter Atoms for Peace. But after yesterday’s blatantly stupid action, the Donald has in effect declared himself to be the middle east’s Spanker-in-Chief, promising to annihilate Iran for doing exactly what Ike had in mind.

Even that is not the half of it, however. By turning the US war machine into an auxiliary operative in Bibi Netanyahu’s political machine, the Donald has put the Deep State First like never before.

That’s because without the Iranian Bomb cover story, there would be absolutely no reason for the US to pick sides as between the Iran-Shiite crescent and the Saudi-Wahhabi-petro state axis in the middle east.

In the first place, there is no threat whatsoever in the region to the safety and security of the American people. With the strategic nuclear triad already in place, there is no risk of nuclear blackmail by either side, neither of which has nuclear weapons nor any prospect of an offensive intercontinental first strike capacity, anyway.

As for the threat of a conventional attack on the American homeland from the middle east, the very idea is preposterous. Saudi Arabia’s 21st century military would be grounded in a week without US technical aid and spare parts; and the GDP of Iran amounts to less than one week of US output.

Likewise, the Persian Gulf is not an American lake, and the solution to high oil prices is high oil prices. That is to say, it has now been unequivocally demonstrated during the nearly five decades since the 1973 oil crisis that global energy supply and price is a matter for the free market, not the Fifth Fleet.

As we explained awhile back, a true America First national security policy could be done for $250 billion per year – the amount needed to maintain the strategic triad and protect the airspace and shorelines of the homeland.

But the Deep State luxuriates in $800 billion of annual spending for the military and the empire, and the unspeakable prosperity of the military-industrial-surveillance complex and the beltway’s army of consultants, think-tanks, NGOs, lobbyists, “law” firms and racketeers.

So it desperately needs enemies and threats to justify the half-trillion dollar per year excess. Ironically, Donald the erstwhile Swamp drainer is now doing his part to ensure that this yawning gap remains permanently bridged.

In part, that is no fault of his own. The biggest threat inflation lies in the demonization of Putin and the anti-Russian hysteria that suffuses the Imperial City.

That already had a head of steam after the Deep State enabled coup on the street of Kiev got the anti-Putin war-drums beating loudly back in February 2014. But then when the Donald unaccountably won the Presidential election and Obama’s inner circle invented the Russia collusion hoax to explain it and potentially reverse it – the Russia threat inflation was off to the races.

Without the Putin demonization and anti-Russian hysteria – even the compliant congressional politicians who function as handmaidens to the Deep State would never have been persuaded to embrace a $700 billion military budget or confirm a war-mongering thug like Mike Pompeo to serve as Secretary of State.

Still, the Donald’s utter blindness to the Big Lie about Iranian nukes and its role as the purported greatest state sponsor of terror amounts to the coup de grace.

It will lead to a rapidly intensifying confrontation between the two blocks in the middle east and turn the Persian Gulf into the front-line of battle, drawing both the Russians and Chinese ever deeper into the confrontation on the side of the Iranian cause.

You’d think this directional dynamic would be more than obvious. And that it absolutely guarantees a fiscal trainwreck, and the bond market carnage which must inexorably follow.

And that gets us to the madness at the other end of the Acela Corridor. On a day in which there was no good news whatsoever – except that defense spending will go ever higher making the impending yield shock even worse – the stock market rose by another 1%.

There is no mystery as to why, however. Honest price discovery and the discounting of real world information was totally destroyed by the Fed’s monetary central planners years ago.

The only thing the casino discounts today is the trading points on the hourly, daily and weekly stock charts, and the presumption that both the fiscal and central banking branches of the state stand ready to “stimulate” whenever a serious breach occurs on the charts.

Nothing could be more mistaken – and for reasons we will amplify upon in Part 2.

But the spoiler alert is this: The private sector is now swamped under record and unsustainable debt in both the household and business sectors. By succumbing to the most incendiary Deep State meme of all – the Iranian Nuke lie – the Donald has now made a public debt catastrophe an absolute certainty.


As Gaza Sinks Into Desperation, A New Book Makes the Case Against Israeli Brutality

May 13, 2018

by Charles Glass

The Intrcept

Israel celebrates a double anniversary on May 15 this year, the founding of the state and the formal establishment of the Israeli Defense Forces, the name the state gave to its combined army, navy, and air force. Armed statehood fulfilled the political Zionists’ dream of gathering Jews from the ancient Diaspora under their own government in what they declared to be their “promised land.” During the battle over the land between 1947 and 1949, the IDF expelled three-quarters of the indigenous population. Of the 750,000 Palestinian Arabs who fled, 250,000 took shelter in Gaza, a tiny pocket of southwest Palestine then occupied by the Egyptian army. The destitute and traumatized refugees were three times more numerous than the 80,000 Gazans who took them in.

The United Nations passed but did not enforce annual resolutions calling for the refugees’ return. Israel invaded the territory in 1956, withdrew under American pressure in 1957, and invaded again in 1967. As its population grew to nearly 2 million souls packed into a pocket five miles wide and 40 miles long, Gaza has become a byword for misery. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, no advocate of the Palestinian cause, called it “an open-air prison.”

In his new book, “Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom,” Norman Finkelstein presents Gaza’s case like a veteran prosecutor at a homicide trial. “This book is not about Gaza,” he writes. “It is about what has been done to Gaza.” He asks the reader to decide “whether this writer is partisan to Gaza or whether the facts are partisan to it.” He dissects three major Israeli military actions against Gaza – Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 – as well as the Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid flotilla in May 2010. His blistering critique encompasses the international response to those events and the prolonged siege of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. The book makes for harrowing reading, replete with exhaustive research and detailed analysis to explain Israeli objectives in Gaza. Summarizing the IDF’s use of Gaza, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy in the New York Times last April called it Israel’s “training field, a giant lab — for gauging the reactions of the nearly two million people it keeps under siege there, and for testing its innovating weapons, as well as the limits of what the world will let it get away with.”

Recent history indicates that Israel can “get away with” a great deal. It long ago closed Gaza’s port, airport and land border. The Palestinians’ traditional supporters in the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt, ignore them. Russia and China express sympathy while doing nothing. Nominal aid comes from Iran in the form of mostly ineffectual weapons for Hamas, a rare instance of the Shiite theocrats arming Sunni fundamentalists. Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin spoke for most of his countrymen when he said of Gaza, “If only it would just sink into the sea.”

Gaza is sinking, if not into the sea, into desperation. The Israeli embargo has rendered 65 percent of Gazans under the age of 30 unemployed. Health care suffers from lack of equipment and medicine. People cannot leave to find work outside, and children live with the trauma of never knowing when their homes will be bombed. When I was there in 2002, Dr. Eyad Sarraj of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program told me that almost half the children under 16 suffered bed-wetting due to constant fear. That was before the military invasions of the last 10 years.

Finkelstein lists Cast Lead’s toll of sites destroyed or badly damaged: 58,000 homes; 28 schools and kindergartens; 1,500 factories and workshops; 190 greenhouses; 30 mosques; media centers (killing six journalists); and 80 percent of the agricultural crop. The ratio of Palestinian to Israeli civilians killed was 400 to 1. More than 300 of the 1,400 Palestinian dead were children. The onslaught included the deployment of white phosphorus, an illegal chemical agent that burns skin at temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 degrees Celsius).

“What was Israel trying to accomplish?” Finkelstein asks. For the answer, he turned to the usually conscientious American scholar Anthony Cordesman. Cordesman’s report, based entirely on IDF accounts, wrote that Cast Lead’s goal was to “restore Israel’s deterrence and show Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria that it was too dangerous to challenge Israel.” That is not the same as self-defense, the usual legal justification for war.

The enormity of Cast Lead emerged in the meticulous report commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council in April 2009 under the eminent and pro-Zionist South African jurist Richard Goldstone. Goldstone agreed to chair a commission of inquiry on the condition that it examined crimes by all sides, including Hamas. His report, writes Finkelstein, turned out to be “a comprehensive, full-blown indictment of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians during the occupation.” Goldstone’s forensic and eyewitness evidence, much of it from Israeli combatants, was beyond reproach; but his conclusions — that Israeli forces had violated international law and were liable to prosecution — drew immediate fire from Israelis who had expected a whitewash. Former President Shimon Peres called Goldstone “a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence.” “Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University declared that ‘Israel had the moral right to flatten all of Gaza,’” writes Finkelstein. In a wry aside, one of many in the book, he notes, “Steinberg founded the university’s program on conflict resolution and management.”

Israel’s hasbara, or propaganda, assault was so fierce that Goldstone recanted in the Washington Post on April Fools’ Day in 2011. He had not consulted his co-commissioners, who continued to defend the integrity of their report. The eventual effect of the campaign against Goldstone, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and some of Israel’s own human rights societies was to frighten critics of Israel’s Gaza policies into virtual silence. Operations Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge followed. They are unlikely to be the last as long as Gazans demand an end to the siege that cripples their lives, and Hamas refuses to disarm while insisting on its right under international law to resist military occupation.

No one who ventures an opinion on Gaza — which the U.N. predicts will be “unlivable” by 2020 — is entitled to do so without taking into account the evidence in this book. For that, at least, the people of Gaza owe a debt to Norman Finkelstein.


Pentagon to keep backing Lebanon military, despite Hezbollah gains

May 11, 2018

by Idrees Ali


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military is committed to supporting and providing assistance to the Lebanese armed forces, the Pentagon said on Friday, despite the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies making significant gains in parliamentary election

Shi’ite Muslim movement Hezbollah, together with parties and politicians aligned to it, won more than half the 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament on Sunday.

The United States, which has given Lebanon’s army substantial support, classifies the heavily armed Hezbollah as a terrorist group and condemns its role in the Syrian conflict.

The strong showing by parties and politicians who support Hezbollah’s possession of weapons risk complicating Western policy in Lebanon, which is banking on foreign aid and loans to revive its stagnant economy and receives U.S. military support.

Late last year, U.S. ally Israel said Hezbollah had gained control over Lebanon’s conventional military, a charge the Lebanese army denies.

“The United States remains committed to supporting Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability, security, and its state institutions, to include the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as the professional, multi-confessional and sole legitimate armed forces of the Lebanese state,” Lieutenant Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Reuters in a statement

“Strengthening the U.S.-Lebanon defense relationship is all the more important in light of the continuing threats emanating from Syria, including continued ISIS challenges and Iranian aggression,” Rebarich said.

She added that the United States and Lebanon shared a goal of building the Lebanese armed forces’ capacity as “the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon’s sovereignty.”

The United States has provided Lebanon more than $1.5 billion in military assistance since 2006.

A grouping of major powers urged Lebanon on Thursday to uphold a policy of keeping out of regional wars.

Hezbollah is heavily involved in the war across the border in Syria, sending thousands of fighters to help President Bashar al-Assad’s military.

Israel said it struck nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alistair Bell


We created poverty. Algorithms won’t make that go away

In the absence of political will to tackle America’s growing economic crisis, hi-tech tools can only serve to automate and amplify existing inequalities

May 13, 2018

by Virginia Eubanks

The Guardian

We live in a climate of austerity. In the past few months alone, we have seen a federal budget that proposes rolling back support for low-income housing, an executive order attacking welfare programs, and a plan to create a nationwide electronic registry of poor and working-class people. In the context of shrinking support, which families are able to access their basic human needs – housing, food, and healthcare – and which are not? Increasingly it is algorithms – not humans – making that call.

Since 2010, I’ve crossed the country studying and writing about the impact of hi-tech tools on public service programs. In Indiana, I investigated an attempt to automate and privatize the state’s welfare eligibility processes. In Los Angeles county, I explored the coordinated entry system, a digital tool intended to match the most vulnerable unhoused people with the most appropriate available resources. And in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, I studied a statistical model that is supposed to be able to predict which children might be victims of abuse or neglect in the future.

In each place I visited, policymakers, data scientists, and social workers told a remarkably consistent story: there is extraordinary need for public programs and not enough help to go around. The goal of automated decision-making, they told me, is to distribute limited resources more equitably, but also to help make the heartbreaking choices of whom among the most exploited and marginalized people in the United States will get help.

“We have extraordinary need [for housing] and can’t meet all of that need at once,” said Molly Rysman, the housing and homelessness deputy for Los Angeles county’s District 3, speaking in 2015 about coordinated entry. “So you’ve got to figure out: how do we get folks who are going to bleed to death access to a doctor, and folks who have the flu to wait? It’s unfortunate to have to do that, but it is the reality of what we’re stuck with.”

The result has been an explosion of digital tools for managing poverty – and for alleviating the uncomfortable feeling that we’re not doing enough to address economic suffering. Automated eligibility systems remove discretion from frontline caseworkers and replace welfare offices with online forms and privatized call centers. What seems like an effort to lower program barriers and remove human bias often has the opposite effect, blocking hundreds of thousands of people from receiving the services they deserve. In Indiana, for example, Omega Young of Evansville lost her Medicaid coverage when she failed to attend a telephone recertification appointment. She missed the call because she was in the hospital suffering from terminal cancer.

Algorithms act as moral thermometers, sifting survey data to rank unhoused people based on their perceived vulnerability. In the best-case scenario, this ensures that those most in need receive help more quickly. But because low-income housing is scarce, creating a spectrum of “deservingness” often means prioritizing those whose services are most cost-effective. Predictive models use statistics to predict which parents might maltreat their children. But the data that serves as their foundation is only collected on families that use public programs, leading to hi-tech risk detection systems that confuse parenting while poor with poor parenting. In Pittsburgh, the new Allegheny Family Screening Tool weighs 131 different variables available in the department of human services’ public service data warehouse – including whether a family receives Snap, support for depression, or county medical assistance – to decide which calls to the county’s abuse and neglect hotline should be screened in for child welfare investigation.

In other words, we are increasingly turning to digital tools to rank and rate which struggling families most deserve support. The trouble with this practice of hi-tech triage is that it treats social problems as if they are natural disasters – random, temporary, inevitable occurrences – obscuring the political choices that produce them. Take the housing crisis I witnessed firsthand during my reporting in Skid Row and South Los Angeles. There are 58,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles county alone, more than the figure for the countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland combined. The unhoused population of Los Angeles county has risen every year since 2014; last year, it increased 23%.

The housing crisis in Los Angeles was not – and is not – random, temporary or inevitable. In the 1950s, opponents blocked a plan to build 10,000 units of integrated low-income housing by reporting the housing authority to the House un-American activities committee. The attempt to shelter poor and working families was lambasted as an act of communism. In the 1960s, the city’s master plan demolished “blighted” neighborhoods without building replacement housing.

Homelessness is the product of austere policy. It is caused by inadequate supply of affordable housing, combined with stagnating incomes and a miserly public service system, which devotes far too many resources to diverting those in need from the assistance they are legally entitled to.

The good news about our collective responsibility for America’s housing crisis is this: if we created this catastrophe, we can fix it. Two simple, but politically challenging, remedies could go a long way towards stemming the growing tide of housing insecurity.

First, those of us who own homes could agree to forgo our mortgage interest tax deduction. Sociologist Matthew Desmond points out that as a nation we spent about $41bn in 2016 on housing supports for the needy. Yet we spent more than four times as much – $171bn – on homeowner tax subsidies that primarily benefit families making more than $100,000 a year. Pledging that money instead to creating and stabilizing low-income housing could solve homelessness in a single year.

Second, we could lower barriers to receiving social services and increase the payments for TANF, Snap, EITC and other means-tested benefits. Stagnating public benefits levels leave few options when a family faces a health emergency, housing crisis or work interruption. In Los Angeles, general relief payments have been stuck at $221 a month since 1982. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported that 13,000 people on public assistance fall into homelessness in the county every month, simply because their benefit levels are not keeping up with the cost of living.

In the absence of political will to tackle America’s growing economic crisis, hi-tech tools can only serve to automate and amplify existing inequalities. Yet we are doubling down on austerity instead of facing the root causes of extreme poverty head-on. Austerity fever requires a dedication to cutting the fat from already starving programs. Its systems engineering approaches replace our full panoply of social values – dignity, self-determination, equity, due process – with the twin imperatives of efficiency and cost savings.

The triage narrative absolves us of responsibility for our country’s unnatural disasters: the tragedies of malnutrition, homelessness, preventable death and family dissolution, by reinforcing the myth that extreme poverty is simply a fact of life – something to be managed rather than eradicated.

As the politics of austerity expands, automated decision-making systems act as empathy overrides, outsourcing inhuman choices about who survives and thrives, and who doesn’t. We empower machines to make these decisions because they are too difficult for us, because we know better. We know that there is no ethical way to prioritize one life over the next.









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