One week after we reported that the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (which two weeks ago was designated by the US as a terrorist organization), Qassem Soleimani, was observed in Erbil last Sunday where he met with Kurdistan regional president Barzani to “discuss” the growing crisis – the latest indication of Iran’s surging influence in the region – and just days before Iraq sent in troops assisted by Iranian militia into Iraq’s Kurdish region, which promptly regained control over the oil-rich Kirkuk region, on Sunday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Iranian “militias” need to leave Iraq as the fight against Islamic State militants was coming to an end. ‘Certainly Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fighting against (the Islamic State group) is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,’ Tillerson said during a press conference in Riyadh, where the U. S. diplomat is holding talks with top Gulf officials. “All foreign fighters need to go home,’ he added hopefully, quoted by NRT. Tillerson’s Gulf visit came as part of concerted efforts to curb Iran’s rapidly expanding influence in the region, including boosting the clout of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia in Shiite-majority Iraq, where Iran backs Shia militias fighting in the north – part of a wider regional battle for influence that extends from Syria to Yemen – even as there was scant hope of a breakthrough in attempts to reconcile Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 22, 2017.
Some people are living symbols, sheer embodiments of a concept that fits their persona as snugly as their skin: e.g. the Dalai Lama personifies Contemplative Piety, Harvey Weinstein is the incarnation of Brazen Vulgarity, and John McCain’s very person exudes the sweaty blustery spirit of Empire. His entire history – born in the Panama Canal zone, son of an admiral, third-generation centurion, the War Party’s senatorial spokesman – made it nearly impossible for him to be other than what he is: the country’s most outspoken warmonger and dedicated internationalist. *** As George Orwell remarked, ‘After forty, everyone has the face they deserve,’ and in McCain’s case this is doubly true. That Roman head, fit for a coin of high denomination, looks as if it might sprout a crown of laurel leaves at any moment: Grizzled brow, wrinkled with the tension of an inborn belligerence, eyes alight with a perpetual flame of self-righteous anger, McCain is Teddy Roosevelt impersonating Cato the Elder. In the extreme predictability of his warlike effusions, he’s become a bit of a cartoon character. Who can forget his enthusiastic rendition of ‘Bomb bomb bomb Iran!’ to the tune of ‘Barbara Ann’?
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 21, 2017.
With NAFTA negotiations going badly, Goldman Sachs has published a report, ‘Thoughts on the Potential US Withdrawal from NAFTA’, that concludes that the US is likely to withdraw from the trade agreement next year ‘At this point, efforts at revising the agreement look likely to be unsuccessful, though a deal is still possible, in our view. If the talks do not result in a revised agreement by early 2018, we believe that the Trump Administration could announce its intent to withdraw from NAFTA.’ The NAFTA agreement calls for a six-month notice period before a nation can withdraw and ‘we believe it would follow a similar pattern to the strategy the White House has used in recent decisions on immigration (the DACA program), Iran, and health subsidies. Each involved a disruption to the status quo pursuant to a campaign pledge, with delayed implementation and an expectation that a new arrangement might be negotiated in the interim.’ Trump has threatened to pull out of the pact several times if ‘America First’ demands are not met. Following an unsuccessful fourth round of discussions, the parties have accepted that end 2017 timeframe for reaching agreement will no longer be achieved and talks will extend into Q1 2018. According to Goldman, major sticking points in the talks are: 5-year sunset: The US has proposed that NAFTA would be terminated after 5 years unless all three parties agree to keep it in force. As a practical matter, this would result in a prescheduled renegotiation every ?ve years and increase uncertainty while the agreement is in effect, decreasing the bene?ts of the agreement on investment and cross-border trade ?ows.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 20, 2017.
Last Friday, Donald Trump made a hard-hitting speech demonizing Iran. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering candidate Trump made it quite clear that he despised Iran. Prior to that, he had spent the last few years criticizing Barack Obama for entering into a nuclear agreement with the Iranian government. President Trump has now further intensified his stance, threatening to derail the deal multiple times before announcing his plan to ‘decertify’ Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Donald Trump has vehemently voiced his opposition to the JCPOA over the course of the last few years. ‘The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States ever entered into,’ is just one of Trump’s lamentations. He also called it an ’embarrassment’ and a ‘catastrophe,’ at one point stating it was ‘incompetently negotiated.’ For the sake of this contention, let’s accept Trump’s assertion that the JCPOA is one of the ‘worst’ and most ‘one-sided transactions’ the U. S. has ever been a party to. If this is true, the simple solution would be to exit the deal completely. So why hasn’t he exited the deal? The president has been in office since January, has been bashing Iran the entire time, and has flirted with demolishing the JCPOA numerous times. Yet the U. S. is still a party to this deal (remember, it’s one of the worst deals of all time). Vox explains:
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who famously waited three months before offering a tepid endorsement of the JCPOA – largely echoed the threats of other Iranian government officials when he said Wednesday that Iran would adhere to the terms of the deal if other world powers respected it, but would ‘shred it’ if the US were to pull out. Speaking publicly about the future of the deal for the first time since President Donald Trump refused to decertify it five days ago, Khamenei confirmed that Iran would likely terminate the deal – and restart its nuclear program – if the US Congress decides to unilaterally rule that Iran is not in compliance, opening the door to reimposing sanctions. The ayatollah’s proclamation puts Iran at odds with the deals other signatories, who’ve maintained that the US doesn’t have the power to terminate a multilateral accord certified by the United Nations. Khamenei welcomed the support of the other signers – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union – but said it would not be enough to convince Iran to stay, Reuters reported.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 19, 2017.
In the previous articles, the military and economic means by which the United States initially aimed for global hegemony were addressed, detailing how the US became the (declining) superpower it is today. In both analyses I highlighted how the threat of US military power is no longer credible, and how sanctions and the strong-arming behavior of corporate giants and international bodies (IMF, World Bank, BIS, etc) have ceased their effectiveness. This has made the United States increasingly irrelevant, leaving in the process a vacuum to be filled by emerging powers like China and Russia, which effectively ushers in a new world order based on multipolarity. In this third and final part of the series, I will dive into the specific events that show how the military, economic and diplomatic combination of Iran, Russia and China have forged, by known as well as less-known means, an alternative world order to the unipolar American one. *** Russia, China and Iran have in recent years drawn enormous benefit from the declining military and economic power of the United States, further propelled by a general mistrust of Washington’s diplomatic and political abilities, both with Obama and now with Trump. The two previous articles showed that Moscow, Beijing and Tehran, even as they addressed different situations, shared similar interests and came to coordinate their military, economic and diplomatic strategy.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 19, 2017.
Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation, Among the many self-flattering epithets it gives itself, the US has always claimed to be the ‘leader of the free world’. It’s a rather patronizing notion that America views itself as a selfless protector and benefactor of its European allies and others. This fairytale depiction of the world is coming to a rude awakening as American power buffets against the reality of a multi-polar world. Less a world leader and more like a blood-sucking leech on international relations. We got a clear view of the contradiction in America’s narcissistic mythology with US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was disavowing the multinational nuclear accord with Iran last Friday. Trump didn’t axe American participation in the deal just yet, but he has put it on notice that he or the US Congress may terminate the accord over the next two months. How’s that for high-handed arrogance? However, there was near-unanimous push back around the world to Trump’s disparagement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was originally signed in July 2015 by the US, Russia, China, European Union and Iran. All the signatories uniformly rebuked Trump’s attempt to undermine the deal, which is supposed to lift international economic sanctions off Iran in return for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 18, 2017.
President Trump has been notoriously inconsistent in his foreign policy. He campaigned on and won the presidency with promises to repair relations with Russia, pull out of no-win wars like Afghanistan, and end the failed US policy of nation-building overseas. Once in office he pursued policies exactly the opposite of what he campaigned on. Unfortunately Iran is one of the few areas where the president has been very consistent. And consistently wrong. In the president’s speech last week he expressed his view that Iran was not ‘living up to the spirit’ of the 2015 nuclear agreement and that he would turn to Congress to apply new sanctions to Iran and to, he hopes, take the US out of the deal entirely. Nearly every assertion in the president’s speech was embarrassingly incorrect. Iran is not allied with al-Qaeda, as the president stated. The money President Obama sent to Iran was their own money. Much of it was a down-payment made to the US for fighter planes that were never delivered when Iran changed from being friend to foe in 1979. The president also falsely claims that Iran targets the United States with terrorism. He claims that Iran has ‘fueled sectarian violence in Iraq,’ when it was Iranian militias who prevented Baghdad from being overtaken by ISIS in 2014. There are too many other false statements in the president’s speech to mention.
Some in the news media and editorial page pundits are aghast that many of President Donald Trump’s executive orders and legislative proposals sent off to the United States Congress represent an attempt to undue the presidential ‘legacy’ of Barack Obama. The question is, why should it be presumed that presidents need to have policy legacies to leave behind after their term in office has ended? In this particular case, many of those on the political ‘left’ are focused on the proposals coming out of the Trump White House to repeal and replace ObamaCare – the (un)Affordable Care Act – as well as ‘climate change’ legislation and international agreements, land use and mining regulations, and the Iran nuclear armaments deal. Not All Presidential Legacies are ‘Equal’ in the Eyes of the Pundits An interesting question is whether the news pundits would be in the same public policy uproar if an immediately preceding president had been a classical liberal or libertarian and had left a ‘legacy’ of having dismantled the interventionist-welfare state, which his successor started to intentionally reverse by once more introducing all the same regulatory and redistributive legislation that had been repealed and abolished.
Photo-posted by local reporters- of a mass exodus from Kirkuk to Erbil as pro Iranian militias are advancing on the city. To be confirmed pic.twitter.com/x94bYbKDhT — Walid Phares (@WalidPhares) October 16, 2017
Iraq’s military has effectively gained control of major assets and government buildings in Kirkuk city, and is now set to fully pacify it after overnight clashes at a moment when oil prices rose toward a six month high as the conflict now threatens output. Iraq’s elite U. S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Force has taken over the provincial government headquarters in the center of Kirkuk after operations to seize the city from Kurdish forces began overnight – the contested city is now reportedly under the control of Iraqi national forces. Some of the first footage Western audiences woke up to Monday morning were of (ironically enough) US supplied equipment – including tanks, being used to bulldoze images of Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani. Iraqi forces have further pulled down Kurdish flags flying over government buildings throughout the city, while leaving the Iraqi flag flying.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 16, 2017.
The US has raised the level of tension with Iran without taking any concrete steps to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal. The reason why Trump is expected to limit himself to verbal abuse and continue threatening hostile measures against Tehran without executing them is fundamentally to avoid a breach between the US and the EU. The Nuclear deal is not bilateral, so the withdrawal of the US theoretically cannot scupper it. Nevertheless Iran is likely to consider the deal totally void if the US pulls out, with all that that implies. So the US continues its aggressive verbal campaigns against Iran, confusing the Europeans, who rightly fail to predict what decisions this US President is capable of adopting in the medium to long term.
Yet another purported example of Russia-linked hackers infiltrating the email accounts of powerful government officials has been conclusively debunked. The Guardian is reporting that a June incident where the accounts of dozens of UK ministers of parliament were infiltrated by shadowy hackers has been traced back to Iran. The UK intelligence community’s initial conclusion – that the attacks originated in Russia – has been refuted by an as-yet-unpublished report on the incident compiled by British intelligence. Indeed, the intelligence community’s initial assumption appears to be another example of investigators jumping to a conclusion before a thorough analysis of the evidence has been completed. In a way, it echoes the response by several US states last month to the revelation that hackers had attempted to compromise their voting systems. Some states, including California and Wisconsin, apparently assumed the attacks were linked to Russia, until DHS informed them that it had found no evidence to support this conclusion.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 16, 2017.
In an unexpected diplomatic turn of events which underscores the seriousness of escalating tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (which last week were designated by the US as a terrorist organization), General Qassem Soleimani, arrived in Erbil on Sunday and met with Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani to discuss the growing crisis at a moment when Kurdish Peshmerga forces are blocking Iraqi Army access to Kirkuk oil fields and military installations. Major General Qassem Soleimani reports directly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and his elite force provides training and weapons to Iraqi paramilitary groups (PMU or Popular Mobilization Units) backing the Baghdad government. The meeting comes just after President Trump announced his new policy against Iran on Friday that includes designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. Though the Unites States officially backs the Iran-aligned Baghdad government in the Kurdistan crisis, Trump’s speech could signal a monumental shift in policy for Iraq. This as Kurdistan officials and media are highlighting Iran’s role in attempting to stamp out the Kurdish move for independence.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 15, 2017.
The original, populist, “grassroots” Trump, the one who won the elections before surrounding himself with various Goldman Sachs-derived advisors, made a solid comeback this past week: just consider the flurry of recent actions undertaken by the president. When Trump ran for president last year, he frequently said that only he ‘alone’ could fix the nation’s problems. But once he took office, Trump attempted to follow the lead of Republicans on Capitol Hill, and he watched with dismay how little movement was made on priorities such as healthcare, immigration, and national security. And, after weeks of seeing his agenda imperiled by Republican divisions and infighting among his aides, Trump became a whirlwind of activity this week, reasserting his campaign priorities and trying to deliver wins for his fervent but frustrated base of supporters. Indeed, Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall along the Mexican border. In doing so, Trump reverting back to conflicts and fights that defined the core of his campaign, and which drifted as Trump became increasingly more institutionalized by the Washington swamp. Meanwhile, on Twitter Trump increasingly relished his feuds with the news media, senior Republicans in Congress, and National Football League players who have protested during the national anthem.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 14, 2017.
At the same time as the US Treasury’s declared Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization as part of Trump’s crackdown on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as Iran Nuclear Deal, a senior commander in Iran’s Quds Force, the elite overseas arm of the IRGC said that his forces have “buried many” like Donald Trump, and the US President’s threats against Iran will “damage” America. ‘We are not a war-mongering country. But any military action against Iran will be regretted … Trump’s threats against Iran will damage America … We have buried many … like Trump and know how to fight against America,’ deputy Quds commander Brigadier-General Esmail Ghaani said, cited by Tasnim news agency. The IRGC is Iran’s most powerful security entity and wields control over large swathes of Iran’s economy as well as considerable influence within its political system. The crackdown on the IRGC came just two days after Iran’s foreign minister warned of a tough response if Trump proceeded with threats to scrap a landmark nuclear deal signed under the Obama administration. Speaking during a closed session of parliament on Wednesday, Mohammad Javad Zarif told lawmakers that Iran ‘will never renegotiate’ the deal brokered between Tehran and six world powers, Fars news agency reported.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.
While Trump’s just announced decision to decertify the Iranian nuclear deal, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to unwind Obama’s landmark deal, was widely leaked previously even though few can point to what terms of the agreement Iran has violated, one aspect of Trump’s Iran statement was unclear: whether he would designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, or IRGC, the elite wing of Iran’s army, a terrorist organization – a move which Iran vowed would prompt “decisive , crushing” retaliation. Trump did just that, and the new, sweeping sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington both support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State militant group. This is what the Treasury’s OFAC unit posted on its sanctions website moments ago: Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority WASHINGTON – Today, the U. S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E. O.) 13224 and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. OFAC designated the IRGC today for its activities in support of the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), which was designated pursuant to E. O. 13224 on October 25, 2007, for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban. The IRGC has provided material support to the IRGC-QF, including by providing training, personnel, and military equipment.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.
It didn’t take long for Europe’s biggest nations – the other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the Iran Nuclear Deal – as well as Russia, to slam Trump’s unilateral decision to decertify the Iran agreement and, in the process, put the entire deal in jeopardy. Moments ago, in a joint statement, Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron all reiterated their commitment to the JCPOA, expressed their concern by the possible implications of Trump’s decision not to recertify the deal, and urged the US to think hard before taking further steps that might undermine it further. Here is the statement they released together moments ago: We, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump’s decision not to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to Congress and are concerned by the possible implications. We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPoA is in our shared national security interest. The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes. The JCPoA was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPoA through its long-term verification and monitoring programme. Therefore, we encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPoA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 13, 2017.
Last night, as I reflected on my recent three-part series filled with bold predictions, I began to question whether or not I was being too negative. Upon hearing Trump’s Iran speech today, I became convinced that everything I wrote had merit. The speech was downright terrifying, serving to confirm all my worst fears about what he’s up to in the Middle East. There’s no way you can listen to that disingenuous rant and not recognize that he’s already made up his mind about war with Iran. What comes next will be a series of U. S. imposed redlines and demands, which Iran will eventually be said to violate, at which point the U. S. will escalate bigly. I expect the most wretched cretins in America to rally behind the coming war push, including much of the corporate media. We already saw evidence of this earlier today. What did I tell you. All the biggest hacks in America are going to come out and push this Iran war. — Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) October 13, 2017
This post was published at Liberty Blitzkrieg on Michael Krieger | Posted Friday Oct 13, 2017.