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TBR News May 2, 2019

May 02 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. May 2, 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 2 “Here, verbatim, is an aide memoir that I borrowed from one of my co-workers. It is an outline of several projects that Trump is planning to implement:

‘In order to stabilize the situation with our allies, those likely to become enemies, it will likely necessitate the decapitation of several regimes, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan initially.  Others will quickly fall into line though some will be directly under the control of Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in particular.  They will become indefensible except through massive airlift, resources that will be needed elsewhere.  Half the troops needed to secure America’s lines of supply left military service after multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq for nearly a decade.  Many are sick, some are homeless and hundreds of thousands are simply “fed up.”

This leaves the new citizen army, the one America had to turn to because of a “9/11 – Pearl Harbor” disaster fewer and fewer believe the cover story on as days go by.  Even in America, despite what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks, you can only fool people so many times.  The most glaring example of the lack of foresight some of our “War College” grads have can be seen in the Gwadar Port facilities, the only place American can use for supplies for the most difficult invasion in history, with, perhaps, the exception of Okinawa.

ECONOMIC BELT TIGHTENING AT HOME

The 2010 election paid for a war, there is no question of that.  Many of the puppets in America’s government had to be replaced as there was fear some of them might object to something as obscene as what is in the planning.  Lies, fear mongering and childish rhetoric had never reached the levels seen in 2010.  Never had a nation, since Germany in 1932, gone over to the “darkside” as clearly as America has done, a rejection of decency and common sense.

When the bill becomes due, and it most certainly will, that “smaller government” so many thought they would get will most certainly come true.  What won’t happen is a return to constitutional rule, that will be gone forever.  Habeas Corpus won’t be missed so much in a country where those without the cash to buy their way out of military service, yes, that great American tradition, will be one step ahead of the press gangs working to keep the military training camps filled to capacity.  America may, quite likely, have bitten off a bit too much, a world war, and this time, no allies, none, not a chance.

LESS GOVERNMENT, THE DREAM OF AMERICA’S RIGHT WING

  • SOCIAL SECURITY: Plans for less government have always been around, we have seen attempts to put these plans in place many times, starting with attempts to have Social Security declared unconstitutional back in the 1930s. This will be first to go, Social Security. Getting rid of Social Security has long been a dream of the GOP, either through outlawing it as “Socialism,” or “borrowing” the trust fund to cover war expenses or, more recently “privatization.”  Now, none of those will be needed.  The money will simply disappear overnight, not to pay war expenses, not hardly.  It will be split up and stashed in Swiss bank accounts the same place the “bail out” money went, the same place every 401k in America went, the same place the assets of our largest banks went.
  • MEDICARE/MEDIAID: They will be the next to go. States will be asked to pay fund this themselves. There won’t be any more questions about illegal aliens using our medical care, there won’t be any, not for them, not for the poor or not for the senior citizens who paid into medicare all their lives.  Just because it was paid for doesn’t mean the government can’t simply break its promise, there are loyalties more powerful and more important that our government has than to the people.  9/11 proved that to any rational person.
  • TAX INCREASES: The time for borrowing, counterfeit money, the “Federal Reserve System” and selling T -Bills will be over. China and Iran are close. China will be finished with us, India too and no more Arab money.  The dollar, the instrument we use to buy oil, fertilizer, metals and so many other things, will be worthless.  We are going to have to invent a new form of monopoly money or go on the barter system.  The dollar, as a world currency, will disappear.
  • SCHOOLS SHUT DOWN: One good thing, schools will shut down. Thus, America’s inferior education system will no longer do the damage it once did. Along with that, mothers will be home to take care of children, a “blast from the past.”  The downside, of course, the mothers will have lost their jobs, the homes will be unheated, some with no electricity, more with no water, all eventually repossessed and, unless the government starts giving out food as it had in the past, we will see starvation.  The money that financed Food Stamps will be long gone.
  • MILITARY AND VETERANS PENSIONS HALVED: Long seen as “freeloaders,” veterans and military retirees will be cut off. Pensions once seen as a “promise” have long been referred to as “entitlements.” Any entitlement can be “unentitled” and these will.
  • MILITARY PAY CUT: Troops in Vietnam were paid $30 dollars a week. We are going to see that again.

THIS IS THE INEXORABLE FUTURE, BOUGHT AND PAID FOR

The draft, worthless money, gas lines, martial law, metal detectors in supermarkets, cameras everywhere, everything filmed, recorded, everyone every day, biometrics, face recognition, these things will be part of our lives from now on.  These are the plans and putting this machinery in place, much of it “designed” in Israel, is what Americans voted for, this and the invasion of Iran, part of a war where only Americans will fight and die.

No one cares about Iran.  No knowledgeable person ever thought they had nuclear weapons or wanted them.  It was never about them.  They were never a target, they were never a threat.  The threat, the target, was always the United States.  We were the danger, a free people.

Free people can’t be trusted, can’t be managed.’

The plans are in place to bring that to an end.  How many Americans will continue to be a part of it?”

The Table of Contents

  • William Barr defiant amid calls to resign over his handling of Mueller report
  • Nord Stream 2: A failed test for EU unity and trans-Atlantic coordination
  • US to EU: Our liquefied natural gas is more reliable than Russia’s
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • As measles returns, U.S. states look to cut vaccine exemptions
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • What if Iran Retaliates and Shuts Down the Strait of Hormuz?

William Barr defiant amid calls to resign over his handling of Mueller report

A letter from Robert Mueller expressed concern that the attorney general’s summary did not reflect ‘the nature of this office’s work’

May 1, 2019

by Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

The US attorney general, William Barr, has defended his handling of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as Democrats called for his resignation and accused him of deliberately misrepresenting the investigation’s findings in the president’s favor.

Barr appeared before Congress on Wednesday, delivering his first public testimony since he released a partially redacted version of Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion or obstruction by Donald Trump and his associates.

He clashed with Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee over his credibility and dismissed Mueller’s concerns over the attorney general’s characterization of his office’s work.

Democrats seized on a recently revealed private letter from Mueller to Barr, dated 27 March, in which the special counsel stated that the attorney general’s initial summary did not “fully capture the context, nature and substance of this office’s work and conclusions”.

In testimony, Barr called the letter “a bit snitty” and suggested that it might have been written by a member of Mueller’s staff rather than the special counsel. After reading the letter, Barr told lawmakers, he called Mueller by phone to discuss the matter.

According to Barr, Mueller’s concern about his summary, which was released to Congress weeks before a redacted version of the report was made public, “focused on his explanation of why he did not reach a conclusion on obstruction and he wanted more put out on that issue”. He added that Mueller was not upset with Barr’s characterization but with how it had been interpreted and portrayed in media coverage.

“He was very clear with me that he was not suggesting that we had misrepresented his report,” Barr said.

The Democratic 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren called for Barr to resign, and was joined by fellow candidates and Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand.

The committee member Mazie Hirono, a Democrat of Hawaii, accused Barr of lying to Congress and called on him to resign.

“You used every advantage of your office to create the impression that the president was cleared of misconduct,” she said.

“You lied to Congress,” she added, referring to Barr’s testimony at an earlier hearing that he did not know what objections Mueller’s team had to his summary – even though Mueller had already written his letter. “You knew. You lied. And now we know.”

Barr called the controversy over his handling of the Mueller report “mind-bendingly bizarre”.

After a nearly two-year investigation, Mueller concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support allegations that Trump’s 2016 campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia.

But the report details a series of actions that Trump undertook in an effort to impede the Russia inquiry, though Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had obstructed justice. In his summary to Congress, Barr said that those actions did not constitute the crime of obstruction.

In a forceful defense of the president, Barr described Trump as a man who had been “falsely accused” who would have been justified in exercising his executive authority to end the investigation.

In another exchange, Barr was asked about one of the most explosive episodes in the report: when Trump ordered the former White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire the special counsel. Barr, in his testimony, said that Trump only wanted to remove Mueller because of alleged conflicts of interest.

“There’s something very different between firing a special counsel outright,” Barr said, “and having a special counsel removed for conflict, which suggests you’re going to have another special counsel.”

In his testimony, Barr said he was “surprised” that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice and contended that it was his role as attorney general to make a final determination.

“His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general,” Barr said. “At that point, it was my baby.”

In his letter, Mueller wrote that Barr’s summary of the special counsel’s 448-page report did not “fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his office’s work and findings and that “there is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation”.

Barr told lawmakers he called Mueller on the same day to discuss the letter, and insisted that he came away from the conversation assured that his interpretation of the report was accurate. He said Mueller complained that the media’s coverage of Barr’s summary of the report lacked nuance.

Barr said he released the initial summary characterizing Mueller’s “bottom-line conclusions” due to intense public interest.

“The body politic was in a high state of agitation,” he said, noting that TV analysts and commentators were suggesting that a delay in releasing the report might mean Trump was facing legal trouble.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, asked Barr why he had testified that he was unaware of Mueller’s concerns about his summary of the special counsel’s report, when he had spoken to Mueller about those concerns.

Barr made a fine distinction: he said he was responding to media reports that members of Mueller’s team had expressed frustration about the summary, as opposed to Mueller himself.

“I don’t know what that refers to at all,” Barr told Leahy. “I talked directly to Bob Mueller, not members of his team.”

“I feel your answer was purposely misleading,” Leahy said.

In another exchange, senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat of Rhode Island, asked why Barr hadn’t released Mueller’s letter after lawmakers raised the issue during his April testimony.

“He asked me a very different question,” Barr contended.

“Boy, that’s some masterful hairsplitting,” Whitehouse said, shaking his head.

Republicans followed with a markedly different line of questioning. They were interested in comments Barr made during a previous appearance before Congress in which he said he would investigate whether the FBI had engaged in improper “spying” on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Barr defended his use of the term “spying”. He said he was not aware of a pejorative connotation to the word and told lawmakers it was “a good English word” to use.

Barr was scheduled to testify on Thursday before the House judiciary committee, but that appearance was thrown into doubt amid a dispute over Democrats’ desire to have staff lawyers, as opposed to lawmakers, question the attorney general.

Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House judiciary committee, meanwhile, said the panel was still trying to nail down a date in May for Mueller to testify.

 

Nord Stream 2: A failed test for EU unity and trans-Atlantic coordination

April 22, 2019

by Giovanna De Maio·

The Brookiings Institute

Editor’s Note: The inter-European and trans-Atlantic tensions created by Nord Stream 2 over differing and at times contradictory European approaches to Russia look set to last, as the project shows little sign of being withdrawn soon, argues Giovanna De Maio. This post originally appeared in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

From its inception, the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has triggered a controversial debate in the European Union and the United States. Sponsored by the Russian Gazprom (which is the sole shareholder), the German Wintershall and Uniper, the French ENGIE, the Austrian OMV, and Royal Dutch Shell, the Nord Stream 2 is expected to extend and double Nord Stream 1’s existing capacity, transporting Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

While the EU Council has just established that pipelines with third countries must comply with EU gas rules, it remains unclear how this will impact Nord Stream 2––specifically, whether the pipeline will get an exemption or if its construction will be significantly delayed.

What is certain is that the political concerns the Nord Stream 2 project has raised over the years have not faded away. Building this pipeline not only involves European companies purchasing Russian gas at a time when the EU is targeting Russia with political and economic sanctions. It also implies bypassing Ukrainian territory that, so far, has been the main route for Russian gas supplies to Europe.

For these reasons, Nord Stream 2 is not just an economic project. Rather, its construction fundamentally redefines, and calls into question, the EU’s overall approach toward Russia and Ukraine, highlighting the divergence of interests amongst EU member states and exacerbating tensions between the EU and the United States.

Contradictory Approach Toward Ukraine and Russia

When completed, this pipeline would, at its full capacity, create a permanent alternative export route to the Ukrainian pipeline system and would eventually result in Kiev losing over $ 2 billion per year in transit costs.

Under these circumstances, Germany occupies an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been successful in building a consensus among EU member states to introduce sanctions against Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and instigated conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Complicating Berlin’s position, however, is the growing influence of some German political stakeholders who have advocated for a more cooperative approach with Russia. They see this project as largely beneficial to Germany’s energy market in terms of security of supplies and its potentially key role in determining gas prices in Europe.

Although the Nord Stream 2 consortium of German and Russian companies repeatedly claim that their project has wholly economic motives, the pipeline’s political implications are paramount. Proceeding with Nord Stream 2 risks weakening the credibility of both the EU’s sanctions regime against, and overall policy toward, Russia.

EU Inter-State Divide

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Croatia––all highly dependent on Russian gas––signed a petition against Nord Stream 2 in March 2016, highlighting the risks for energy security in Central and Eastern Europe.

Italy is in a similar bind. Russia is Rome’s main supplier of natural gas, most of which is delivered through Ukraine. If Ukraine’s transit routes are compromised, most Italian gas supplies would have to pass through Germany, unduly extending Berlin’s leverage over the Western European energy market.

In 2015, Italy accused the EU Commission of applying double-standards when the Commission did not reject the Nord Stream 2 project, as it did with the South Stream––a project which would have benefited Italy’s role as energy hub in the Mediterranean. For this reason, Italy complained about Germany’s influence in the EU Commission and called for equal treatment.

France, meanwhile, has opted for a less hostile attitude towards Germany’s support for Nord Stream 2 in the EU Commission. The country has the second-largest number of votes after Germany in the Commission, and the two reached a compromise on amendments to the Third Energy Package regulations so that the construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline remained viable. According to some, France opened up on this dossier as an incentive for an unrelated negotiation with Germany on  EU and Eurozone-related topics (in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s vision of a more integrated currency union).

Tensions with Washington  

Nord Stream 2 has also become an issue of dispute between Europe and the United States, casting doubts on trans-Atlantic security ties.

In his speech at the NATO Engages event in Washington, D.C.,Vice President Mike Pence echoed President Trump’s allegations at the NATO summit in July that Berlin’s dependence on Moscow for its energy supplies would increase to a point at which Germany would be “totally controlled by Russia.” Significantly, in this context, Trump has threatened to withdraw U.S. security protection for Europe if Brussels does not block the construction of the pipeline. The potential for U.S. sanctions on the German companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 only further exacerbates mistrust on both sides of the Atlantic. It is also important to note, though, that, in pushing key NATO allies to reduce energy dependence on Russia, Trump may have had an ulterior motive: namely, to encourage Europe to meet its energy needs through imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The Nord Stream 2 saga is not over yet, but its impact has already been harmful. On the EU side, it exposes divisions in regard to Russia policy, particularly when lucrative business interests are on the line. On the trans-Atlantic side, Nord Stream 2 highlighted the current political fractures that have fueled doubts about the United States’ commitment to European security.

As it looks like the Nord Stream 2 project will not be withdrawn anytime soon, the only way to preserve the EU consistency over its approach towards Russia and Ukraine would be providing Kiev with reverse flow gas supplies and supporting the upgrading of its existing pipeline system. As for internal divisions and transatlantic fatigue on this issue, Nord Stream 2 will keep on creating tension for a long time to come.

 

US to EU: Our liquefied natural gas is more reliable than Russia’s

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has encouraged the EU to buy liquefied natural gas from the US instead of Russia. US exports of LNG surged following a meeting between Donald Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker in July 2018.

May 2, 2019

DW

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday pitched US liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a way for Europe to diversify and secure its energy supplies, as the US attempts to steer Europe away from Russian gas imports.

“If just the cheapness of the supply is all you care about then you would not buy a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz or one of the fine automobiles that come out of the European Union,” Perry said in Brussels. “You might buy cheaper from someplace else but it might not be reliable and the point is the same with Russian gas.”

Speaking alongside Perry, the EU’s energy commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, said the increase in US gas exports to the EU was understandable.

“Diversification is important not only for security of supply but also for competition,” Canete said.

LNG has generally been considered overly expensive due to the effort required to liquefy and transport it when compared to gas transported in pipelines and other energy sources.

US tries to overtake Russia

But US President Donald Trump has criticized Europe for being overly dependent on Russian gas, particularly through the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

His administration has lobbied to stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, which has put it in opposition to Germany, the pipeline’s main backer, and siding with eastern EU countries, including Poland.

“This project would drive Russian gas deep into the heart of western Europe, empowering Russia to gain further leverage over European foreign policy and bend those nations to its will,” Perry. “We oppose using energy to coerce any nation and we remain a rock-solid reliable supplier of natural gas.”

US and Europe make amends

Trade tensions between the US and Europe have escalated since Trump raised metals import tariffs in 2018 and threatened to follow suit on European car exports.

In an attempt to mend bridges, Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July last year to reduce trade barriers in several areas.

Since then, cumulative EU imports of LNG have increased by 272%, over the previous period, to a total of 10.4 billion cubic meters, Canete said Thursday.

In the first months of 2019, the EU imported 13% of its gas from the US — the EU’s third biggest supplier — compared to 5% last year, he added.

Strong American feelings

Strangely enough, it is the distant Americans that have been loudest in their protest. And this resistance has only grown louder since Donald Trump took over the reins in Washington.

Since arriving in Germany in May 2018, his US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, has continuously mixed in his host country’s affairs. It was a break with long-standing protocol and annoyed many German businesses. Earlier this month it was reported that he escalated the Nord Stream 2 debate by sending threatening letters to German companies working on the pipeline.

And Thursday, Grenell along with the US ambassadors to Denmark and the EU sent a strongly-worded editorial to DW: “Make no mistake: Nord Stream 2 will bring more than just Russian gas. Russian leverage and influence will also flow under the Baltic Sea and into Europe, and the pipeline will enable Moscow to further undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and stability.”

Critics of those remarks point out that the US probably has its own business interests at heart as American companies would be more than happy to sell their own liquid gas to many European countries. DW earlier reported that German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier hadn’t ruled out importing from the US, but only as a supplement to Russian gas, and very importantly only if the price was right. This was surely not enough for Washington.

 

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

 Rebecca Rex & Dawn Richardson

Antivaxxers are very active in Texas, and antivaccine groups like Texans for Vaccine Choice have been quite effective in blocking commonsense measures and legislation, such as legislation that would have required school-level reporting of vaccine exemption rates so that parents interested in not sending their children to a school with high exemption rates could choose. No, Texans for Vaccine Choice isn’t really about choice; it’s just against vaccines.

Well, spineless major antivaccine groups like the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) (shades of Badger’s Law here: don’t peruse the NVIC site if you actually seek information) know to exploit the situation in Texas. For instance, in connection with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, antivaccine advocates Rebecca Rex and Dawn Richardson jumped in with the post “Texas Parents: Know Your Vaccine Choice Rights During Hurricane Harvey Flood Emergency” (discussed here) encouraging antivaccine parents to take advantage of the disaster to “stand up for their right” not to vaccinate their children and to wreak havoc in general, for instance by urging parents to take advantage of a law designed for what is normally a small number of homeless children to be enrolled in school immediately, to enroll their own children without the requirement for documentation of vaccine status.

Rex and Richardson are the founders of PROVE – Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education – which does not request vaccine education but that denialist talking points and conspiracy theories be given equal time in discussions of vaccine-related issues. Here is Rex trying on the Nirvana fallacy. Richardson, meanwhile, is also the NVIC Director of Advocacy, and has been in the antivaccine game for a while. She must for instance be credited with managing to get a personal belief exemption added to Texas law in 2003, and has been heavily involved in blocking efforts to restrict exemptions in a number of states.

Diagnosis: They seemingly try their hardest to avoid looking like complete and utter loons. They fail. But they have already been frighteningly successful in blocking efforts that would actually save lives, so it’s not just a matter of laughs

 

Tetyana Obukhanych

 

Tetyana Obukhanych is one of the only people in the anti-vaccine movement with genuine, relevant credentials, and they sure let you know. Obukhanych has a PhD in Immunology, and has apparently had a stint as postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and Stanford, although she does not seem to have a research or academic position at present. She has even (co-authored) genuine research papers. Of course, her academic publications, like her dissertation, actually show that vaccines are safe and effective.

But what matters to the antivaccine crowd is not what her research, what little there is, shows, but what she says, for instance in her self-published book Vaccine Illusion: How Vaccination Compromises Our Natural Immunity and What We Can Do To Regain Our Health(note both the appeal to nature and appeal to empowerment in the title) and in her “lectures”, public talks and interviews (e.g. for whale.to) – antivaccine activists often refer to these as “studies” (an example discussed here, snf further discussed here) – in which she pushes classic antivaccine information. What she says matters, since she’s got credentials, and therefore authority. Never mind that the 8000 members of the American Association of Immunologists disagree with her; Obukhanych’s credentials are, for antivaxxers, the proof that makes the whole edifice crumble. Apparently Obukhanych changed her mind about vaccines (and science) when she discovered that, although she allegedly contracted measles and whooping cough during her teens, her Ukrainian medical records showed that she had indeed received the vaccines; the discovery led her to outright reject the field of immunology rather than her trust in the quality of early Soviet-era Ukraininan records (or vaccine doses), despite it being well known that those fully vaccinated may still be susceptible to diseases, especially during outbreaks, which indeed did plague the Ukraine during Obukhanych’s teenage years.

Evidence: how does it work (hat-tip … unknown: tell me if it’s yours)

Indeed, among her standard canards is that since vaccinated people sometimes get the disease, vaccines are worthless, completely neglecting, as dumb and mathematically illiterate people are inclined to do, the rather obvious point that that vaccines reduce the risk often by way over 90% (in which case herd immunity would have protected the rest were it not for the fact that some people refuse the vaccines, which is a good thing even if protection isn’t 100%. Indeed, Obukhanych has some basic problems with grasping basic mathematical relations (or she is lying). For instance, she objects to the Hib vaccine by claiming that “the introduction of the Hib vaccine has inadvertently shifted strain dominance towards other types of H. influenzae (types a through f);” yes, by lowering the occurrence of Hib, the leading cause of bacterial meningitis among children <5, other H. strains have increased in percentage of all H-incidences! Concluding that this is an objectionto the Hib vaccine is probably one of the most inept pieces of reasoning we’ve had the opportunity to cover in our Encyclopedia thus far.

Despite her training, the antivaccine tropes Obukhanych is running are surprisingly trite and misinformed (more details here; and, to repeat ourselves, despite relying on her credentials she has done no actual research that backs up any of them, which is what should actually matter). According to Obukhanych, you should for instance be wary of the elite experts when discussing vaccines; after all, experts didn’t even know that the smallpox vaccine didn’t provide life-long immunity – at least not until the end of the 19thcentury. Also, she has claimed that there is no theoretical or evidence-based explanation for immunity, which reveals a surprising lack of knowledge of what should be her own field of expertise (alternative, she is lying, of course) – indeed, Obukhanych’s lack of expertise in her own purported field of expertise is stunning, to the extent that she doesn’t even seem to know what the field actually is; according to her immunology is “a science that studies an artificial process of immunization – i.e., the immune system’s response to injected foreign matter [… it] does not attempt to study and therefore cannot provide understanding of natural diseases and immunity that follows them;” this is false and blatantly contradicts for instance the description of immunology given by her own employer. Neither does she know really how vaccines work, or how they are monitored to ensure safety. (More here.) You can find a comprehensive discussion of Obukhanych’s misinformation here.

Now, Obukhanych seems occasionally to admit that “vaccines reduce the overall incidence of childhood diseases,” but maintains that the is a bad thing (the “vaccine paradox”, she calls it) since it makes them “infinitely more dangerous for the next generation of babies,” which does not sound likeit reflects the history of polio or smallpox or anything that is based on any remotely plausible mechanism. Obukhanych has, however, voiced her support for homeopathy, too, which may explain some of the cognitive patterns guiding her “reasoning”.

She is also a herd immunity denialist (“for most communicable viral diseases there is no herd immunity in the post-elimination era”), which is a confusion about math more than anything else. To bring the point home, she points out that “the apparent absence of major viral epidemics in the U.S. is now due to the absence of endemic viral exposure, not herd immunity.” Apparently some antivaxxers will read that and think “that sounds like reasonable point”. Those people are not only misinformed but genuinely stupid. (“What stopped polio outbreaks was not the vaccines but the absence of polio”.)

Given her credentials, however, Obukhanych has, as mentioned, become a major player in the antivaccine circus, being a central participant for instance in the Vaxxed tour and one of the “experts” involved in the The Truth About Vaccines “documentary” series. Recently, she has been involved in the website Building Bridges in Children’s Health, an antivaccine page that will purportedly “help parents learn about vaccines and develop communication resources” (i.e. learn antivaccine talking points to throw at doctors) and “educate” about perceived “vaccine dangers”, the benefits of childhood diseases (she is pro-disease), and how to manage if you are being bullied by a pediatrician or reported to CPS for your healthcare choices. Apparently she is also helping to “educate doctors” to overcome science their “indoctrination” at Physicians for Informed Consent.

Diagnosis: Crank and pseudoscientist, and certainly not a scientific researcher, regardless of the antivaxx crowd’s desperate attempts to portray her as such. But on paper she might look strong – if you are a bit selective with respect to what you put on that paper – and that illusion of credibility is used for all it’s worth and more to push the vaccine manufactroversy. Dangerous.

 

As measles returns, U.S. states look to cut vaccine exemptions

May 2, 2019

by Jonathan Allen

Reuters

(Reuters) – Maine could soon prohibit parents from citing religious or personal beliefs to avoid vaccinating their children, making the U.S. state one of a half dozen cracking down during the nations’ largest measles outbreak in 25 years.

State legislatures in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Minnesota and Iowa, are looking at similar bills, that would only allow exemptions from vaccinations for medical reasons as determined by the child’s doctor.

The United States has recorded at least 704 measles cases so far this year in outbreaks that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has called “completely avoidable.” here

Azar and other officials have largely blamed the outbreaks on the spread of misinformation, including a belief debunked by scientific studies that vaccine ingredients can cause autism. This has led to pockets of lower-than-normal vaccination rates in some communities.

U.S. public health officials declared measles eliminated in 2000, meaning the disease was no longer a constant presence in the country. The current outbreak traces its roots to travelers to countries including Ukraine and Israel facing outbreaks.

Maine’s Democratic-controlled Senate could vote on the vaccine measure as early as Thursday. The state’s Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed it last month in a nearly party-line vote, with some Republicans arguing it represented inappropriate government intrusion into personal belief.

Ryan Tipping, a Democratic member of Maine’s House of Representatives who sponsored the bill, noted in an interview that no major U.S. religion forbids vaccination.

“I worked with a lot of people of very strong faiths on this bill, and, when people look, it’s hard to find a religious objection to the incredible amount of good that making these diseases far more rare has brought to the world,” Tipping said.

Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, did not respond to questions about whether she would sign the bill into law if it passes the Senate.

It was unclear whether the similar bills in other states will pass. Some have been reintroduced after failing in earlier sessions.

Other states are considering less restrictive steps to increase vaccination rates. Washington is poised to pass a bill that would remove exemptions on personal grounds for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, while leaving in place a religious exemption.

MAINE: 5 PERCENT UNVACCINATED

Maine has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 5 percent of kindergartners holding a non-medical exemption from vaccination, compared to a national average of 2 percent, according to CDC data.

The World Health Organization has said at least 95 percent of a community must be immunized against measles to achieve the “herd immunity” needed to protect those unable to get the vaccine such as infants and people with compromised immune systems.

No measles cases have been recorded in largely rural Maine since 2017, but state officials have been worried by outbreaks of whooping cough, another childhood disease that can be prevented by vaccination.

The largest U.S. measles outbreak this year has been in New York City, clustered in the Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and city public health officials.

All 50 states require children to be vaccinated for various diseases in order to attend public schools, unless they have medical reasons for exemption.

Only three states already bar all non-medical exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: Mississippi, West Virginia and California.

While most states allow religious exemptions, Maine is one of 17 states that let parents also opt out based on personal or moral beliefs.

California outlawed non-medical exemptions in 2015 after a measles outbreak was traced to the Disneyland theme park. The state saw the proportion of kindergarten students who received all mandated vaccines rise to 95.1 percent last year, from 92.8 percent in 2015.

It also saw the number of claimed medical exemptions rise to 0.7 percent from 0.2 percent. Officials have blamed this in part on unscrupulous doctors issuing spurious exemptions, prompting lawmakers to consider new legislation that would give the state the final say over whether a medical exemption is valid.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

May 2, 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. 12 

Date: Thursday, May 2, 1996

Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:22 AM CST

GD: Good day to you, Robert. How goes the battle with you?

RTC: I think I’m slowly losing ground, Gregory, but I’m still fighting.

GD: I’ve been fighting for years so I understand the concept.

RTC: I hear the Germans are not happy over some of your writings. You are disturbing the Jewish community with your allegations that we hired the head of the Gestapo.

GD: Who cares?

RTC: You heard the old saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Well, the Beltway has no fury like a Jew ignored. How dare we hire the head of the Gestapo? How could we do such a thing to them? They are the Chosen of God, after all.

GD: What did God choose them for? To stand in the shower lines in some Polish camp?

RTC: Oh, now, Gregory, show some compassion.

GD: My God, why should any of us care about all of those nonsense stories? Lampshades and cakes of soap, my ass.

RTC: We are all supposed to care about that, Gregory. And if they use it right, they can get discount airline tickets and something off on that new sofa.

GD: Stunning revelations indeed, Robert. Another group of obnoxious nuts.

RTC: Believe me, Gregory, there are far worse.

GD: Who? The Pedophile’s Protective League? The Bellowing Jesus Freaks of Bad Seepage, Ohio?

RTC: There are worse things in this world than the Society of Professional Hebrew Moaners.

GD: The Sackcloth and Ashes League? The Humpback’s Tuesday Afternoon Bridge Club?

RTC: Why don’t you try the Scientologists? Now that group is really something to contemplate.

GD: I’ve read a little about them but not much. Started by some old faker named Hubbard. L. Ron Hubbard. I used to be a science fiction nut and I remember reading one of his stories years ago. Awful writing. Sounded like it was written by a ten year old.

RTC: That’s the one. He may have been an awful writer but he was a class A conman. Those people made more Goddam trouble for us. They were running all over the Med in the ‘60s in some rusty tub called the Royal Scotsman. My God, what a ship of fools that was. We were getting requests from DoS and other people to look into them. All over the place, docking here and there, chasing frantic deserters into towns, screaming at people…my God what a circus that one was. And old Hubbard waddling around in some naval uniform, shouting at people one minute and trying to bribe some public official on shore the next.

GD: That I knew nothing about.

RTC: We did, believe me. Hubbard was as crazy as a loon and Washington was afraid he would start a war. You ever read about them?

GD: Just something here and there. Hubbard died, didn’t he?

RTC: Yes, about ten years ago. His people got rid of him because he was getting to be a flaming nut and threatened to fire all of his top people. Since their scam brought in about a million dollars a day, those at the top had no intention of allowing a fat, old psychotic liar push them out.

GD: Was that in the press?

RTC: No. Hubbard was a raging paranoid, among other failings, and was convinced that everyone was out to get him so he went into hiding. That was where he was, out in California, when they gave him the needle. Of course they got the old idiot to sign a will leaving them everything and in with the drugs. As I recall, they cremated him as fast as possible and dumped his ashes into the Pacific off the stern of a sardine boat.

GD: Sic transit Gloria mundi, Robert

RTC: Isn’t that always the truth?

GD: How did they make a million a day? Print it?

RTC: No, Barnum was right, Gregory. There is a sucker born every minute. When I took Jim’s files out of there, I got the Scientology file, too. Three large boxes of files. My son read through some of them and said it sounded like a group therapy session over at St. Elizabeth’s The money? It came from legions and more legions of suckers who flocked to the tin can boys and paid until they were broke.

GD: Tin cans?

RTC: Yes. Hubbard had a very simple device that registered electrical skin responses. Works like the polygraph but has no value. We all have these electrical impulse things and of course the little needle jumps around. They have so called experts called auditors who tell the mark that this is helping to clear up their psyche so they can go out into the real world without a bag over their head. We know, and I am sure you do too, that the world is full of failures and worse. Now, instead of hanging themselves or jumping in front of Amtrak trains, they can grab the tin cans and let someone tell them that being ugly, stupid or a failure is really not their fault. Others are to blame. Of course they will never be free of their loads of guilt until the auditor tells them they are OK and that day never comes. As long as the marks have money, the tin cans are grasped and the wallets slowly empty. When it does, the sucker is tossed out on the street and then, broke, they jump off of railroad bridges and make messes on the tracks.

GD: A million a day?

RTC: Oh yes, at least. Hubbard once said that if a man wanted to be really rich, he should found a religion.

GD: Faking it with tin cans and some worthless meter is not a religion.

RTC: Oh, they turned it into one. They have a lock on a number of frustrated fanatics, fueled by vast sums of money pouring in from the army of suckers.

GD: You mentioned a boat?

RTC: Oh yes, in the 80’s, old Hubbard got it into his head that powerful forces were after him so he bought an old boat, filled it up with nuts and off they went, cruising all over the place and creating diplomatic havoc. Later, he got tired of his admiral’s uniform so he took over some town in Florida and terrorized the normal people before moving on to California, the true home of fruits and nuts. And in the meantime, before Hebe the Yench and the Dwarf, Miscarriage, terminated him, old Hubbard had his crazy followers break into government building and steal sensitive files. Of course they got caught but Hubbard claimed ignorance. He wasn’t stupid by any means but he had Borderline Personality disorder and couldn’t tell the truth when a lie would suffice.

GD: Who are the Hebe and the Dwarf?

RTC: In house for Heber Jentsch and David Miscavage. The first one is a front and the dwarf is the one who runs the show now that his founder is floating on the surf. Oh, you should read the nonsense….Gregory, do you know what a DC 3 is?

GD: Certainly. It’s an older commercial jet.

RTC: Hubbard said, and the ninnies still believe, that certain superior aliens, the father of all of the more enlightened of us, were brought to Earth from Venus millions of years ago on DC 3s.

GD: Robert…

RTC(Laughter) No, I’m serious. We don’t need to even discuss this moronic crap but thousands of panting believers accept it as the truth. The problem is, while they have stopped running around in the boat, they now try to take over small towns and are heavy in the electronics business. And of course swindling fools out of Daddy’s trust fund.

GD: You have material on them?

RTC: Yes, I do, Gregory.

GD: Any chance I could see it?

RTC: Of course, I can dig it out and ship it to you. But a word of caution here, Gregory, never try to use it.

GD: Why not?

RTC: My God, these twits sue everyone in sight for no reason. If you wrote that all up, they would sue you, your dog, your neighbors, your dead grandmother, your school and probably the mailman. The word ‘crazy’ is too mild to use in conjunction here. But, I will send this off to you with my caveat.

GD: You know, my sister’s cat keeps crapping on her bed. Maybe I could stuff it into a tin can and read the meter.

RTC: (Laughter) Be my guest. Why not audit a cat?

GD: I used to think it was books that were audited.

RTC: Gregory, these people can’t read books.

GD: Speaking of books, Bender is going ahead with the Mueller series so I guess Wolfe will hiss at you in the Archives like Loki.

RTC: Bill and I will look forward to the new books, Gregory. And we do need to get together in person sometime, right here. It’s safe enough here.

GD: Should we invite Kimmel?

RTC: Gregory, I have enough problems from the Justice people over you without fanning the flames. I think you love to fan the flames. Have you ever considered a gracious retirement?

GD: That takes money, Robert.

RTC: Yes, that it does. Sell more books.

GD: That’s not my bailiwick. Maybe I could start a religion, Robert. Tell people I came from Venus and if they are good, and give me lots of money, I can elevate them to a huge and invisible flying saucer and take them to Pluto where the men will have huge peckers and the women get to eat a ton of chocolates a day and not gain a pound. And they will all live forever and never worry about falling hair or sagging breasts. Why? Because I will turn them all into little green toads and eventually feed them to the Great God Dagon.

RTC: Well, that way we would get rid of everyone in Los Angeles and Washington.

GD: And our magic spaceship will be a 707 and we can call it the Ship of Fools.

RTC: I will look up those files for you Gregory.

GD: Thanks. It will beat reading the obits in the paper, looking for dead enemies.

 

(Concluded at 9:22 AM CST)

 

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What if Iran Retaliates and Shuts Down the Strait of Hormuz?

Some 18 million barrels of oil transit through every day. The economic impact would be catastrophic.

May 1, 2019

by Scott Ritter

The American Conservative

The effort on the part of the Trump administration to shut down Iran’s ability to export oil is predicated on the false notion that the rest of the world will fall in lockstep with U.S. policy. But has President Donald Trump really thought through what would happen to the economic health of the world if Iran retaliates, shutting the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil flows daily?

The Trump administration’s push to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero has entered a new, critical phase, with the United States refusing to extend the waivers it granted six months ago to eight nations, including China, India, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea, to purchase Iranian oil. Moreover, the United States has refused to allow for a “wind-down” period where impacted nations would be able to gradually wean themselves away from Iranian sources of energy. This means that, effective May 1, any nation purchasing oil from Iran will be subjected to punitive U.S. sanctions.

Iran has responded to the American decision not to extend oil waivers in typical fashion, with Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC) naval forces, warning on April 23 that “if Iran’s benefits in the Strait of Hormuz, which according to international rules is an international waterway, are denied, we will close it”.

This threat was clarified the next day, April 24, by Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, who declared “ships can go through the Strait of Hormuz,” noting that “if the U.S. wanted to continue to observe the rules of engagement, the rules of the game, the channels of communication, the prevailing protocols, then in spite of the fact that we consider U.S. presence in the Persian Gulf as inherently destabilizing, we’re not going to take any action.”

For now.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the most critical sea lanes in the world today, transiting some 18.5 million barrels of crude and refined products per day, representing roughly 20 percent of all oil produced globally. There is universal consensus among energy analysts that any closure of the Strait of Hormuz would result in “catastrophic” consequences for the global economy.

Less certain is whether Iran is serious about carrying out its threats. In July 2018, following the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to close the Straits in retaliation for renewed U.S. economic sanctions. Calmer heads prevailed, and Iran ended up taking the diplomatic route, working with the other signatories of the JCPOA to find ways to bypass U.S. sanctions.

In the intervening time, Iran’s efforts at crafting a diplomatic solution have fizzled, with Europe unable (or unwilling) to implement a meaningful alternative to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system, a financial network based in Belgium that provides cross-border transfers for over 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Because the SWIFT board includes executives from U.S. banks, federal law allows the U.S. government to sanction banks and regulators who operate in violation of U.S. law. As such, any financial transaction involving Iran or any other entity under U.S. sanction would provide a trigger for secondary sanctions to be applied to facilitating institutions and/or persons.

Iran has a history of bypassing U.S. sanctions, and while the Trump administration’s targeting of Iran’s oil exports has caused significant economic harm to the Islamic Republic, Iran remains confident that it would be able to continue to sell oil in enough quantity to keep its economy afloat. In a recent appearance, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that the American effort to block Iran’s oil sales will fail. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will be exporting any amount of oil it would require, at will,” Khamenei said.

There is a major difference between 2018 and today, however. The recent decision by the Trump administration to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC) a terrorist organization has complicated the issue of Iran’s oil sales, and America’s reaction in response.

The IRGC has long been subject to U.S. sanctions. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), determined that National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was an “agent or affiliate” of the IRGC and therefore is subject to sanctions under the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRSHRA). Other Iranian oil companies have likewise been linked to the IRGC, including Kermanshah Petrochemical Industries Co., Pardis Petrochemical Co., Parsian Oil & Gas Development Co., and Shiraz Petrochemical Co.

While in 2012 the United States determined that there was insufficient information to link the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) as an affiliate of the IRGC, under the current sanctions regime imposed in 2018 the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and the NITC have been blacklisted in their entirety.

By linking the bulk of Iran’s oil exporting capacity to the IRGC, the United States has opened the door to means other than economic sanctions when it comes to enforcing its “zero” ban on Iranian oil sales. Any Iranian oil in transit would be classified as the property of a terrorist organization, as would any Iranian vessel carrying oil.

Likewise, any vessel from any nation that carried Iranian oil would be classified as providing material support to a terrorist organization, and thereby subject to interdiction, confiscation, and/or destruction. This is the distinction the world is missing when assessing Iran’s current threats to close the Strait of Hormuz. It’s one thing to sanction Iranian entities, including the IRGC—Iran has historically found enough work-arounds to defeat such efforts. It is an altogether different situation if the Unite States opts to physically impede Iran’s ability to ship oil. This would be a red line for Iran, and a trigger for it to shut down all shipping through the Strait of Hormuz.

So far the United States has not shown any inclination to physically confront Iranian shipping. Indeed, as Iran’s top military commander Major General Mohammad Baqeri recently told reporters, U.S. naval and commercial vessels transiting the Strait of Hormuz continue to respond to the queries transmitted by the IRGC naval forces responsible for securing Iran’s portion of the strategic waterway—an awkward reality given that the IRGC has been designated a terrorist organization, which means the U.S. Navy freely communicates and coordinates with terrorists.

“As oil and commodities of other countries are passing through the Strait of Hormuz, ours are also moving through it,” Bageri observed, declaring that “if our crude is not to pass through the Strait of Hormuz, others’ [crude] will not pass either.” Bageri went on to explain that “this does not mean [that we are going to] close the Strait of Hormuz. We do not intend to shut it unless the enemies’ hostile acts will leave us with no other option. We will be fully capable of closing it on that day.”

The challenge will come when the U.S. effort to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero fails—and most observers believe this will be the case. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javid Zarif has bragged that “Iran has a PhD in sanctions busting,” and historical precedence is on his side. If the Trump administration proves unable to shut down Iran’s ability to sell oil through sanctions, and therefore fails to blunt what it describes as Iran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East, there will be increased pressure to be seen as doing something—anything—to effectuate policy objectives, especially during the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, where the Trump administration would be loath to provide any fodder to its political opponents.

Because any effort to restrict or deny transit through the Strait of Hormuz would be rightfully seen as a provocative act worthy of military intervention, it is highly unlikely that Iran would take any precipitous action in that regard. Instead, Iran would most likely seek a gradual escalation of restrictions grounded in its legal interpretation of the 1982 United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea, which grants Iran control over “territorial waters” extending to a maximum of 12 nautical miles beyond its coastline. Any ships using the northern and eastern routes through the Strait of Hormuz to gain access to the Persian Gulf would have to transit through Iranian waters.

Under the convention, Iran is permitted to deny free transit passage to nations, like the United States, which have not ratified the agreement. If the United States interdicts Iranian shipping involved in the transit of oil, then it is most likely Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz to U.S. shipping, citing the 1982 convention as its justification. The United States would either be compelled to back down (unlikely), or resort to military force, certifying it as the aggressor in the eyes of international law.

The military debate over Iran’s ability to close the Strait of Hormuz, and the U.S. ability to respond to such a threat, is moot—no insurance company will cover any oil tanker seeking to transit contested waters. The economic impact of any closure will be immediate, catastrophic and sustained. Even if the United States prevailed in a military conflict over the Strait of Hormuz (and it is not certain it would do so), any victory would be pyrrhic in nature, with the United States sacrificing its national economic health, and that of the rest of the world, on an alter of hubris that fails to advance the national interest in any meaningful fashion.

 

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