Posts Tagged ‘War with Iran’

Steve Bannon’s wars, at home and abroad

February 13, 2017

Steve Bannon is President Trump’s most trusted adviser.   He is the second most powerful person in the Trump administration.

He is guided by a dangerously wrong philosophy.

He thinks that Judeo-Christian civilization is at war with the Moslem world abroad, and with secularists and Muslims at home.

He expects a shooting war with China and as well as a shooting war in the Middle East.

He sees himself as part of a global nationalist movement that includes the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and similar movements across Europe.

He has expressed admiration for Lenin and Karl Rove, and has compared himself to Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.

Trump owes him.  He and Jared Kushner, through their skilled use of data mining and social media, are responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 Election.

His idea that Americans are engaged in both a civil war and a global war could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Steve Bannon, born in 1953, has had a varied career as U.S. Naval officer, mergers and acquisitions specialist for Goldman Sachs, and executive producer in Hollywood.  He has degrees from Virginia Tech, Georgetown University and Harvard University.

He was a little-known but influential figure even before he joined the Trump campaign.  Among his films are documentaries on Ronald Reagan, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin and an expose of Occupy Wall Street.  He was on the board of directors of Breitbart News and became executive chair when founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012.  Another Bannon organization sponsored opposition research on Hillary Clinton which resulted in the book, Clinton Cash, and many articles in mainstream newspapers about the Clintons’ conflicts of interest.


Is Russia a worse threat than terrorism?

August 12, 2016

The justification of the whole military buildup of the past 15 years has been the need to protect Americans against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.

Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter

Yet Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in recent testimony (actually several months ago, but I’m just catching up with it) ranks ranks terrorism as a lesser threat to the United States than Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

The governments of Russia, China and Iran are in fact enemies of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the successors of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.  Targeting them indirectly strengthens terrorism.

What do Russia, China and Iran threaten?  They do not threaten American citizens.  They do not threaten the American homeland.

What they threaten is U.S. military superiority in eastern Europe, eastern Asia and the Middle East.  Protecting Americans from terrorism takes a back seat to what the Pentagon calls full spectrum dominance.

Risking war with any country without a good reason is both stupid and morally wrong.   But of all the countries in the world, Russia and China are the worst ones to pick as enemies.

Russia is the world’s second-largest nuclear power.  It is the only country in the world with the military capability to literally destroy the United States as a nation.

China is the world’s second-largest or maybe largest economic power.  It has the power to ruin the United States financially by ceasing to lend money and by cutting off supplies of essential U.S. imports.

The leaders of Russia and China, being rational, would not do this because they would ruin their own countries in the process.  The only ways this would happen would be if they were backed into a corner where they thought they had nothing to lose or—in the case of Russia—they found themselves in a situation in which nuclear war could be touched off accidentally.

The United States has by far the world’s most expensive military.  We Americans spend more on our armed forces than the next 10 countries put together.  But that doesn’t mean we have the world’s most effective military, especially when fighting far from home.

In fact, the big U.S. military budgets may be counter-productive.  Decision-makers may think the U.S. is so rich and powerful that individual instances of waste and ineffectiveness don’t matter.  Or that it is not necessary to set priorities.


Those who do not learn from history…

April 3, 2012

What’s driving up gasoline prices?

March 16, 2012

Republican candidates say rising gasoline prices are due to President Obama and his administration’s onerous restrictions on the domestic oil industry.  But I don’t see his administration as being all that restrictive.  There is more oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico that before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Overall U.S. domestic oil production is up 20 percent from 2008, according to energy expert Daniel Yergin.

Democratic liberals say that the cause is Wall Street speculators who are bidding up the price of crude oil.  Normally speculators account for about 30 percent of futures contracts on crude oil and producers and users 70 percent, but now they have 60 percent of the market, according to economist Robert Reich, or 80 percent, according to Senator Bernie Sanders.  They say speculators have free rein because the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s plan to limit what speculators can acquire has been overruled by a court decision.

But there wouldn’t be speculation if speculators didn’t have reason to think oil prices will go up in the future anyway (or if they were in a position to corner the market).  The emgargo against Iranian oil has tightened the world’s supply of oil.  Actual war with Iran would create a huge shortage.  More than 20 percent of the oil sold on world markets goes through the Straits of Hormuz, and that would be jeopardized by war with Iran.

Other factors are the increasing demand for oil from China and other emerging countries, and the fact that in the annual cycle of gasoline prices, prices normally rise a bit in the spring.

I think it would be a good thing for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to have the authority to limit speculation in oil futures, but I don’t think this will prevent gasoline prices from going up in the long run.  I don’t think President Obama’s policies toward domestic oil production affect oil or gasoline prices, but I think his war talk about Iran spreads panic about future oil supply, which leads to hoarders bidding up the price of oil.

Click on Q&A: What’s Going On With Gasoline Prices? for analysis by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine.

Click on What’s Behind Rising Gas Prices? for energy expert Daniel Yergin’s thoughts about the Iranian situation’s effect on oil and gasoline prices.

Click on Why Republicans Aren’t Mentioning the Real Cause of Rising Prices at the Gas Pump for economist Robert Reich’s thoughts on speculators.

Click on Wall Street greed fueling high gas prices for Senator Bernie Sanders’ thoughts on speculators.


President Obama’s deep game

March 14, 2012

President Obama’s admirers say that he plays a deep game, that he is always thinking three or four steps ahead of everybody else.   You shouldn’t take what he’s doing and saying at face value, they say; the logic of what he’s doing will be revealed after the fact.

Is President Obama playing a deep game on Iran?  If so, who is he playing it against?

Recently he gave an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Monthly.  Goldberg served as a young man in the Israeli Defense Forces and has good sources within the current government of Israel.   Here is part of what the President told him.

We are going to continue to apply pressure until Iran takes a different course. … … It means a political component … a diplomatic component …  and it includes a military component.  And I think people understand that.

I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff.   I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are.  But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.

via The Atlantic.

A day later the President said the following in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.


Now if President Obama’s aim is to avoid war with Iran, and to use sanctions and diplomacy as a stalling tactic, this interview was a terrible blunder.  If sanctions and diplomacy fail to pressure the Iranian government into abandoning its nuclear program, which seems to me quite likely, then Obama by his words has put himself in the situation in which he either has to go to war or admit that, in fact, he really was bluffing.

But what if his aim is not peace, but war?  What if his aim is to co-opt liberals into going along with an attack on Iran?  He has redefined the issue so that it is no longer war against Iran vs. peace with Iran.   Now it is war against Iran right away vs. war with Iran when and if economic sanctions and covert action fail.

An attack on Iran would not be an isolated event.  Iran is a larger, more powerful and more united nation than Iraq or Afghanistan were.  This would be the start of an open-ended conflict which would not be limited to Iranian soil.

Of course I can’t know President Obama’s mind.  I can only know what he publicly says and does.  And right now his statements and his actions duplicate all the mistakes of the George W. Bush administration, but on a larger scale.

Click on Obama to Iran and Israel: ‘As President of the United States, I don’t bluff’ for the complete interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Click on Transcript of Obama’s AIPAC speech for the complete speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Click on The 0% Solution: War as the President’s Private Preserve for analysis of the implications of President Obama’s statements by Tom Englehardt on his TomDispatch web log.

Click on Top Ten Dangers for Obama of Iran Sanctions on Behalf of Israel for moral and political objections to economic warfare against Iran by Prof. Juan Cole, professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, on his Informed Comment web log.

Iran and the bomb

March 10, 2012

The excellent documentary by Al Jazeera reviews the evidence that the Iranian government is working on nuclear weapons.  Unlike, say, CBS’s 60 Minutes, Al Jazeera goes beyond the usual English-language sources and the default assumptions of American journalism.  The documentary provides strong circumstantial evidence that Iran obtained nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, shows that a recent International Atomic Energy Agency report condemning Iran is based in part on a forged document, and concludes that it is impossible to say for sure what the Iranian government is doing.

My own guess is that the Iranian government probably is trying to acquire either nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons capability.  This is based partly on circumstantial evidence but more on the logic of the situation.   But I don’t claim to know, and I easily could be wrong.

My question is:  Why is the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons a worse threat than the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union, Communist China or other countries?  I’m old enough to remember that there were people who seriously advocated “preventive war” against those countries.  And while we Americans, thankfully, rejected those arguments, they were stronger in the case of Russia and China than they are in the case of Iran.

Both countries were totalitarian dictatorships which were much worse than the authoritarian governement of Iran.  Both were avowed enemies of freedom and democracy as we Americans understand them.  The governments of both countries were rivals of the U.S. government for world power, and both supported anti-American political movements across the world.

Moreover the Soviet Union, unlike Iran, was able to develop the nuclear missile capability to destroy the United States as a functioning society (which power is retained by the Russian Federation today).  Mao Zedong, at the time China acquired nuclear weapons, made statements that sounded a lot crazier than anything Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is saying.  Mao for example said that it wouldn’t matter if hundreds of millions of Chinese were killed in a nuclear war because hundreds of millions would be left.

But we Americans were able to co-exist with these two countries through a combination of deterrence and diplomacy.  There were two good reasons for not attacking Russia and China before they had the capability to retaliate with their own nuclear weapons.

First, it would have been a crime against humanity.  If Presidents Truman or Eisenhower had ordered such an attack, they would have made themselves mass killers on the same scale as Stalin and Mao, and an infinitely greater scale than Osama bin Laden.

Second, it wouldn’t have worked.  The Russian and Chinese nations would still have existed, and would have been more determined than ever to acquire nuclear weapons and strike at the United States.  Deterrence would not longer have worked because, if a nation is going to be attacked no matter what its leaders do, the fear of attack will not influence its leaders’ actions.

This would have meant that the United States would have had to repeat its attack every 10 or 15 years, with increasing murderousness and decreasing effectiveness—what an Israeli called “mowing the lawn” in the case of Iran.  Thankfully our Presidents in the early Cold War era had sense enough to refrain from going down that path.


What an attack on Iran would mean

March 5, 2012

We Americans talk of the Iranian leaders as madmen, but it is our leaders, not theirs, who are talking about launching an unprovoked military attack that could cost thousands of lives of people who have just as much right to live as the people working in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

In an Orwellian use of language, we said that for the Iranians to acquire the means to retaliate against an attack is an act of aggression.  Recently I came across an article by Marcia B. Cohen on Alternet about just what an attack on Iran might mean.  She quoted from a 114-page study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which devoted just two pages to the human and environmental consequences for Iran.

Bushehr nuclear plant

Any strike on the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume.

The bombs and missiles used against Iran would use depleted uranium, which is much heavier than lead, to give it greater penetrating power.  She went on to say:

No one is talking about the harm that “surgical air strikes” against “suspected Iranian nuclear facilities” with GBU-28 “bunker-buster” bombs, which derive their ability to penetrate concrete and earth from depleted uranium, would inflict on 74 million Iranians, nearly a quarter of whom are under the age of 14 and under and half of whom are under the age of 30. … …

No worries are being expressed about the release of radioactive materials into the biosphere of Central Asia (and by eventual extension, the entire earth).  If the depleted uranium in the bombs comes into contact with radioactive nuclear materials present in the targeted nuclear research sites–nearly all of which operate under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision–the potential for disaster would be magnified exponentially.

Israeli F-16

Israeli Military Intelligence Chief Major General Aviv Kochavi grimly told the hawkish Herziliya Conference recently that Iran possesses more than 4 tons of low-grade enriched uranium as well as almost 100 kilograms of uranium enriched at 20%.  If true, is it really a good idea to send these radioactive materials spewing into the air and water of Central Asia and beyond?  Is it any wonder that Russia, China and India–all whom are much closer geographically to Iran, as well as downwind of the direction in which radiation and toxin-tainted winds would initially blow–are the UN Security Council members most opposed to attacking Iran?

Nor is anyone questioning the wisdom of dropping unprecedented numbers of 5000 lb. “bunker busters” capable of penetrating 100 feet of earth or 20 feet of concrete into the bowels of an already earthquake-prone region.  No one seems to care about the irreparable and uncontainable environmental damage that could be done to miles of Iranian coastline: the adjacent Caspian Sea to the north, the Arabian Sea to the south, and the Persian Gulf to the west.  What about the permanent damage to the underground aquifers of Central Asia, where water is already scarce?  If fracking for natural gas can render US drinking water flammable, imagine what pounding some of the most plentiful natural gas fields with bombs could do.

via AlterNet.

President Obama is holding back on attacking Iran, but at the same time he says that it is unacceptable for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and that all options, including an attack on Iran, are on the table.  The U.S. already is waging economic war against Iran, and Israeli intelligence agents are believed to be murdering Iranian scientists.  Since it would be illogical for Iran’s leaders to stop trying to acquire the means to defend themselves when they are threatened by two nuclear powers, the United States and Israel, there doesn’t seem to be any way out.


Drifting into war with Iran

February 23, 2012

Colonel Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State in the Bush administration, says the United States is on course to war with Iran.  He draws parallels to the buildup to the invastion of Iraq, the Vietnam conflict and the Bay of Pigs invasion.

His hope is that President Obama, while appeasing the congressional war hawks, is secretly engaged in negotiations with Iran.  It’s a sad state of affairs when the main hope for avoiding disaster is that the President of the United States is not doing what he appears to be doing.

The Republican candidates are all agreed except for Ron Paul agree that Iran is somehow a threat to the United States, and that war would be an answer.  As the Who Is IOZ? blogger commented, Newt Gingrich was called crazy for wanting to establish a lunar colony, but starting a war with Iran—that’s a perfectly rational thing to discuss.

Click on Another March to War? for Matt Taibbi’s thoughts in Rolling Stone.

Click on The View from Iran for a report by Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, on what Iranians think.


Drifting toward war with Iran

January 31, 2012

In this interview, Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a former adviser to the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says the Obama administration has backed the Iranian government into a no-win situation—accept economic sanctions that will destroy the country economically, or risk a war with the United States and its allies that will destroy the country physically.

President Obama’s intentions toward Iran are, as usual, hard to interpret.  I have read commentators who say his earlier talk of dialogue with Iran a setup to show that the Iranians are unreasonable so that he could organize an anti-Iran coalition and justify anti-Iran sanctions, covert action and threats.  I have read commentators who say his anti-Iran sanctions and threats are a setup to neutralize war hawks in the United States and Israel.

Whatever his intentions, the threat to block Iran’s oil exports is a threat to destroy the Iranian economy.  The Iranian government must choose whether to surrender or fight.  The Obama administration would no doubt reply that all the Iranian government has to do to end the sanctions is to give up its nuclear program—that is, its ability to defend itself.  The Associated Press reported in my morning newspaper that Israeli hawks are openly pressing for an attack on Iran while the country is still unable to retaliate.

War to change the Iranian regime is a risky business.  We would risk loss of access to Persian Gulf oil and a worldwide economic crash.  We would risk military confrontation with China and other countries.  We would face the certainty that the surviving Iranians would be committed to revenge against the United States and Israel, and the likelihood of a new regime that actually would be completely fanatical and irrational.

Stepping back from this brink would be a risk to the President’s re-election.  Continuing in the present policy would be a risk to the country.  President Obama has said all options are on the table.  One of these ought to be diplomacy.

Click on The Iranian oil embargo blowback for insight from Pepe Escobar of Asia Times on the impact of an Iranian oil embargo on the economy of Europe and the rest of the world..

Hat tip for the video to Glenn Greenwald.

Risky business in the Persian Gulf

January 19, 2012

The Obama administration is drifting toward war with Iran.  Besides the obvious risk of a repeat of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there are risks of another oil price shock and of confrontation with China.

Click to enlarge

Iran is the world’s third-largest oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia.  The United States government is trying to organize a world oil embargo against Iran.  Saudi Arabia’s rulers promise to increase their own oil production to make up for Iranian oil being taken off the world market.  Iran’s rulers threaten that if that happens, Iranian forces will close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil exports go.

The United States gets most of its oil from domestic production and other Western Hemisphere sources, but the nations of Asia depend on Middle East oil.  The Chinese expect to more than double their consumption of oil within the next 10 years.  The Chinese government has tried to befriend Iran while getting along with the United States.  But if China’s oil supply is jeopardized, there could be a serious confrontation.  Since the United States and China are the world’s two largest oil importers, there could be a confrontation anyway, as oil becomes harder to find and more expensive to produce.

Click to enlarge

Nima Khorrami Assi, a security analyst at the Transnational Crisis Project in London, wrote recently that, until now, China and also India have sought to acquire oil supplies through a policy of neutrality, nonintervention and cooperation with all governments.  But he said that the two countries are adopting different policies over the U.S.-Iran confrontation.

Double click to enlarge

India aligns with the United States, Japan and the Arab kingdoms in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which so many Indians work overseas and which are potential customers for India’s information technology products.  But China, in his view, is joining Russia as a protector of Iran, splitting the world’s major powers into two competing blocs.  I can’t say whether is true, or whether there is any truth in reports that China is supplying Iran with advanced military technology.  But these are things that could be true, or could be true in the future if they aren’t happening now.

A writer for Forbes asserted that if the Strait of Hormuz is closed, even temporarily, world oil prices could triple.  That’s the last thing the United States or the European Union nations need, as they struggle to pull out of the deepest recession since the 1930s.

Double click to enlarge

But it might not come to that.  Pepe Escobar, roving correspondent for Asia Times, noted that Pakistan has given the go-ahead to a new pipeline which will bring Iranian natural gas to the Indian subcontinent, bypassing any naval blockage..  He noted that Iran has excellent relations not only with China and Russia, but also Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, not to mention Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and other nations of the non-aligned movement.

The great danger, as he sees it, is escalation of the low-intensity war that the United States is waging against Iran into a major military conflict.  The United States is losing economic power, but it still has military power.  The temptation will be to try to leverage military power into economic power.

Click on China and India: Rival Middle East Strategies for Nima Khorrami Assi’s article for Al Jazeera English.

Click on The myth of an isolated Iran for Pepe Escobar’s article for the Asia Times of Hong Kong, reprinted by Salon.

Click on Iran’s Real Weapon of Mass Destruction Is Oil Prices for Daniel Fisher’s article in Forbes.

Click on Pakistan speeds pursuit of Iranian pipeline, defying U.S. for a report in McClatchy Newspapers.

Are we already at war with Iran?

December 17, 2011

U.S. military bases in the Middle East (double click to enlarge)

Barack Obama is President of the United States because, alone of all the major Presidential candidates, he had sense enough to oppose the invasion of Iraq from the beginning.  He said he wasn’t against all wars—just stupid wars.

But now that Barack Obama is President, his administration is drifting into war with Iran, a larger and more powerful nation with a stronger government than the crumbling Saddam dictatorship.  All the reasons that made invading Iraq a stupid apply many times over to Iran.

In fact, all indications show that a covert war already is being waged against Iran.  Mysterious explosions have wrecked a uranium enrichment facility, a military base storing missile, a steel factory.  Nuclear scientists have been killed by car bombs, by shooting and by unknown means.  The Stuxnet computer virus attacked the systems that run the centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear facility.  All these things are covert.

On the record, the United States government continues to wage economic warfare against Iran.  An anti-government organization called the Mujahedin-a-Khalq (People”s Mujahadeen Organization of Iran), which the U.S. State Department declared a terrorist organization in 1995, has been taken off the terrorist list.  And U.S. drones regularly violate Iranian air space.

Suppose the situation was reverse, Glenn Greenwald asked.  Suppose there was a powerful foreign country with bases and 150,000 troops in Canada and Mexico.  Suppose there was reason to believe that this country’s agents were murdering American scientists, blowing up American nuclear facilities, and waging cyber-warfare against the United States government.  Suppose that country were openly trying to cripple the U.S. economy.  Suppose it was involved with a terrorist organization operating on U.S. soil.  Suppose its aircraft violated U.S. air space.  How would the U.S. government respond?  What would be our reaction as Americans?

The reason we Americans so seldom think this way is that we assume that our government can invade, bomb and subvert foreign countries with impunity.  We are under the illusion that this will never have any adverse consequences for ourselves.

Click on George Orwell on the Evil Iranian Menace for Glenn Greenwald’s comment on American policymakers’ hypocrisy on U.S. policy toward Iran.

Click on We’re already at war with Iran for a report by Jordan Michael Smith for Salon.

Click on Iran war: Has it already begun? for a Jerusalem dispatch to GlobalPost, a Boston-based on-line international news service.

Click on War on Iran has already begun for a report by Seumas Milne for Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

Click on Iran war: Mystery explosions at nuke sites fuel fears conflict is already under way for a report in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.

Click on Has a war with Iran already begun? for a report by the National Journal’s Michael Hirsch for The Atlantic.

[Update] Click on Ron Paul Was Right On Iran, and His Position Is More Popular Than You Might Think for Daniel Larison’s comment on the only Republican Presidential candidate clearly opposed to attacking Iran.