The Wildcard President works particularly well when it comes to scaring the shit out of your big-talking haters.
I hope the taste of their own medicine is good.
I hope the taste of their own medicine is good.
Berlin and Brussels' initiative was provoked by the fact that US attempts to bring down the Iranian government run counter to Germany's Middle East policies. The German government seeks to not only open up Arab markets, but Iranian as well for German industry, and seeks to establish a balance between Riyadh and Teheran. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) This would have been possible, if the nuclear agreement would be observed; however, the Trump Administration seeks, in cooperation with Riyadh, to trim the Middle East to the pro-American line. Therefore, Berlin is distancing itself from Washington's Iran policy, even occasionally holding the option of pragmatic cooperation with Moscow and Beijing open, to be able to assert itself in the Middle East in opposition to the Trump administration. So far, however, without success..
If Berlin cannot prevent this, it would mean that its first attempt to oppose the USA on the world stage and making its mark as a global player would have been a failure.
Suleimani is a legendary leader of the Quds Force. This meeting is a big deal. The rest of the article is bullshit though.The Guardian said:
Iran’s most prominent military leader has recently met Iraqi militias in Baghdad and told them to “prepare for proxy war”, the Guardian has learned.
Two senior intelligence sources said that Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran’s powerful Quds force, summoned the militias under Tehran’s influence three weeks ago, amid a heightened state of tension in the region. The move to mobilise Iran’s regional allies is understood to have triggered fears in the US that Washington’s interests in the Middle East are facing a pressing threat. The UK raised its threat levels for British troops in Iraq on Thursday.
While Suleimani has met regularly with leaders of Iraq’s myriad Shia groups over the past five years, the nature and tone of this gathering was different. “It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but it wasn’t far off,” one source said.
The meeting has led to a frenzy of diplomatic activity between US, British and Iraqi officials who are trying to banish the spectre of clashes between Tehran and Washington and who now fear that Iraq could become an arena for conflict.
The gathering partly informed a US decision to evacuate non-essential diplomatic staff from the US embassy in Baghdad and Erbil and to raise the threat status at US bases in Iraq. It also coincided with a perceived separate risk to US interests and those of its allies in the Persian Gulf and led to a heightened threat that more than a decade of proxy conflicts may spill over into a direct clash between Washington and Tehran.
Leaders of all the militia groups that fall under the umbrella of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) were in attendance at the meeting called by Suleimani, the intelligence sources claimed. One senior figure who learned about the meeting had since met with western officials to express concerns.
As the head of the elite Quds force, Suleimani plays a significant role in the militias’ strategic directions and major operations. Over the past 15 years, he has been Iran’s most influential powerbroker in Iraq and Syria, leading Tehran’s efforts to consolidate its presence in both countries and trying to reshape the region in its favour.
The US has become increasingly vocal about the activities of Iranian proxies in the Middle East. Donald Trump this month named Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a western-designated terrorist group financed by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, as partly responsible for a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.
On Sunday, four ships – two of them Saudi oil tankers – were reportedly sabotaged off the UAE coast. The following day, drones launched by Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen attacked two Saudi pipelines. Saudi state media on Thursday called for “surgical strikes” against Iranian targets in response and its senior officials have told Washington that they expect it to act in its interests.
Adding to concerns is a belief that a convoy of Iranian-supplied missiles was last week successfully transported across Iraq’s Anbar province into Syria, where it was transferred safely to Damascus, regional diplomats told the Guardian. The transfer managed to evade US and Israeli intelligence, despite the latter’s interdiction of dozens of alleged missile deliveries in the past three years that have been flown into various Syrian airbases via an airbridge.
Fears of an Iranian-run land corridor emerging from the fight against the Islamic State, in which Shia militia groups played a prominent role, have been central to concerns that postwar Iraq and Syria could be subverted by regional manoeuvrings.
That Iran could emerge emboldened from the Isis fight has dominated recent discussions among Donald Trump’s uber-hawks, the national security adviser, John Bolton, and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, both of whom are central to an escalating US sanctions programme and Washington’s abandonment of an international nuclear deal signed by Tehran and the former US president Barack Obama.
The Trump administration has remained wary of the Iraqi militias. Although they jointly led the fight against Isis, such groups were integrated into the Iraqi state structure, and have drawn increasing comparisons with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. While they include some Sunni, Christian and Yazidi units, they are dominated by Shia groups, the most powerful of whom enjoy the direct patronage of Iran.
The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, appeared to align the UK on Thursday with US claims that Tehran’s threat posture had changed. “We share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran,” he said on Twitter. “As always we work closely with the USA.”
Earlier this week, a British general challenged the Trump administration’s claims that an imminent threat had emerged from Iran, creating a rare public schism between the two countries whose alliance has at times been tested by the erratic nature of Trump’s regional policy.
The UK, though, is understood to have been central to the recent concerns being raised, and efforts to de-escalate a crisis in which the US has imposed a “maximum pressure” strategy on Iran and Iranian officials have vowed to defend their interests, in the face of hardline sanctions and an oil blockade that is biting deep into Tehran’s coffers.
Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, told US broadcaster NPR that Iran was not interested in escalating regional tensions but had the “right to defend ourselves.”
The US has ordered a naval battle group and a squadron of B-52 bombers to the region, in response to the perceived increased threat. In Yemen, meanwhile, where a Saudi-led war against Iranian-allied Houthi forces is into its fifth year, early-morning airstrikes killed six people, including four children, a health ministry official said.
Radio Farda said:Iranian hardliner journalists and analysts have been suggesting this week that Iran should attack Saudi and UAE interests in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, attributing the UAE and Saudi attacks to "Islamic Resistance".
The sinister suggestions were made as international media were bubbling with the news of mysterious attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf region.
Sa'dullah Zare’i, a hardliner analysts wrote in an article for the Kayhan newspaper, affiliated with the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Monday 13 May that Iran should "impose a cost on the United States so that America's economic war would not be unilateral" any longer.
In the Kayhan article, Zare’i wrote that Iran has three different capabilities it can use in its confrontation with the United States: "economic attack, military attack and psychological warfare."
He then opined that Iran is in a better position "to strike America on the economic ground" and suggested that "Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates depend on the United States" for their security and at the same time, they are acting as "oil reservoirs" for America.
Both of those countries, wrote Zare’i, depend on two things: "Oil and spectacular buildings with glass facades on the coasts of the Gulf and the Red Sea," alluding to their vulnerabilities.
The analyst asked why Iran allows those two countries to run their economic affairs and trade in a normal fashion while Iran is suffering from the impact of sanctions. Instead, he suggested, "Iran should give hard blows to these two countries' capability to export their oil," reminding that oil is the lifeline of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Zare’i added that attacks on the two countries can take place in the Indian Ocean or the Red Sea, adding that not only such measures will not lead to a war, because the United States will not rush to defend them, but the attacks can prompt Saudi Arabia and the UAE leaders to make peace with Iran as they are not capable of confronting Iran militarily.
Meanwhile, other hardliner Iranian journalists were suggesting the same kind of threats, occasionally even more transparently.
On May 12, Amin Arabshahi, the bureau chief of IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim in Mashad wrote in a tweet that the blasts in Fujairah were carried out by "Islamic Resistance guys", the jargon Iran uses to allude to militant Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi militia.
Arabshahi later deleted the tweet and references to his job in his profile, but Twitter users captured both before he deleted the gaffe.
Also on May 14, Hamed Rahimpour, the editor of the International Newsdesk of hardline daily Khorassan, wrote in a tweet: "All of our options are on the table," adding that the ports of Yanbu in Saudi Arabia, and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, "Have been hit."
Unlike Arabshahi, Rahimpour not only has not deleted his tweet and profile, but added more hardline tweets reflecting the same line of thought. He names Yanba, Fujairah and Golan as theaters for the war against Iran.
Whether these bold expressions are the result of surging satisfaction at the attacks on tankers near UAE and oil installations in Saudi Arabia, or are deliberate signalling of Tehran’s ability to wreak havoc, is hard to tell. But this kind of boastfulness is not going to help Iran’s case in deflecting possible accusations of responsibility in dangerous provocations.
The Jerusalem Post said:The Riyadh daily Arab News called for targeted military strikes against the Islamic Republic of Iran because Tehran is suspected of using its proxies to attack Saudi and United Arab Emirates energy and oil installations.
In an eye-popping editorial on Thursday, the paper wrote: “The next logical step – in this newspaper’s view – should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.”
The English-language broadsheet added: “We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger.”
Arab News wrote: “As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.”
Yemen-based Houthis serve as Iran’s proxy in that country’s civil war.
The paper’s tough editorial was prompted by sabotage in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. “The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate.”
The Saudi paper’s editorial is among the strongest editorials written against the clerical regime in Tehran. The United States government classifies Iran’s regime as the leading international state-sponsor of terrorism.
The paper wrote, “Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region.”
The editorial concluded with a hope that other pressure points short of war can be exhausted but with the caveat of the need for military deterrence: “We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.”
The Saudi brothers Hisham Hafiz Mohammad Hafiz founded Arab News in Jeddah in 1975.
The Lid said:The surprise announcement came from the State Department.
Per news sources, the United States told people to ‘bug out” of Iraq because of “specific and credible” intelligence that Iranian forces and/or their proxies were planning to target U.S. forces in locations including Iraq. That was behind the Pentagon recommending a carrier strike group be moved to the region, and Secretary Pompeo’s rush trip to Iraq last week.Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.
U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.
Investigative Journalist and Iran expert Ken Timmerman gave insight into the source of the Iranian threats last week. Timmerman explained there was recent intelligence that Iran was planning “imminent” attacks on U.S. persons or U.S. assets in Iraq. The intelligence came from an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General in charge of information, who was fired by the supreme leader on April 19th and reacted to being fired by defecting to the west.
Iran Commentary, an online news portal that publishes information about Iran’s human rights abuses and illicit activity provided some of the details behind Timmerman’s Report. The defector, General Ali Nasir had a vicious argument with a superior officer, General Hossein Taeb. Nasari walked out of the meeting and left the country.
General Ali Nasiri (pictured above) is rumored to have taken refuge in a U.S. embassy or consulate in a nearby Persian Gulf state. And he brought gifts; including a large volume of documents recording the travels of senior IRGC commanders, intelligence personnel and operational units to foreign countries, all under cover of diplomatic missions. That intelligence information was given to the United States.
Per Timmerman, Nasiri knows where all the bodies are buried:
Nasiri is arguably the highest-ranking IRGC official ever to have defected to the West or Israel. As intelligence chief, he had access to the darkest secrets of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. He knows where the long-rumored secret uranium enrichment facilities were located because his men were in charge of guarding them.Along with troop movements and plans to attack U.S. assets in Iraq:It’s rare for the U.S. government to cite recent intelligence information, but in this case, the intelligence appears to have been so specific and the threats so imminent that our senior-most national security officials felt confident in tipping their hand to the Iranians.
Nasiri access to the darkest secrets of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. He knows where the long-rumored secret uranium enrichment facilities were located because his men were in charge of guarding them.The top-secret information from General Ali Nasiri is behind the recent increase in pressure from the U.S. on Iran. The American Government is not happy about what they’ve read in the documents provided by the General, and Iran is not pleased either, because they know what information the General gave the U.S.He may also know the whereabouts of former FBI Agent Bob Levinson, who was kidnapped by the IRGC while visiting Kish island on March 9, 2007, and is long-rumored to be held in a secret IRGC prison in Iran or possibly Afghanistan.
The naysayers who contend that President Trump is just trying to provoke a war with Iran are wrong. Our government sees a legitimate threat and are trying to protect our troops in Iraq and our homeland.
I say let ‘em do it, then it’s not our problem anymoreI figured Germany would oppose us on action against Russia, not Iran...
Fuck off Germany, do we have to kick your ass for trying to control the world a third time?
Sure, sure, we have sanctions against someone, because they keep attacking us, an "ally" goes against those sanctions, and we have no right to interfere? LOL not fucking them up in the first place was interfering, sanctions only work if people follow them. If everyone says "You have no right to have sanctions" then we'll have to use more extreme methods to discourage people from attacking us.I say let ‘em do it, then it’s not our problem anymore
Also if Germany and Iran wanna have a trade relationship I don’t believe the US should have the right to interfere, but we’ve never let that stop us before
We can have all the sanctions we want, I don't see why Germany should be obligated to follow them (or why we should be obligated to follow any sanctions Germany wants to levy).Sure, sure, we have sanctions against someone, because they keep attacking us, an "ally" goes against those sanctions, and we have no right to interfere? LOL not fucking them up in the first place was interfering, sanctions only work if people follow them. If everyone says "You have no right to have sanctions" then we'll have to use more extreme methods to discourage people from attacking us.
German money buys the same kind of explosives and bullets american money does.
Because that's how international politics works. The whole reason that you'd follow another (presumably friendly) country's sanctions would be so that they, in turn, will go along with yours.We can have all the sanctions we want, I don't see why Germany should be obligated to follow them (or why we should be obligated to follow any sanctions Germany wants to levy).
It's put tremendous economic pressure on Cuba (and to an extent, any ally of theirs that aids them), regardless of how stubborn they may be. Sanctions work, but again only if your allies follow them.I'm also just not sure what good sanctions do in the first place, look at the Cuba sanctions and how stupid that bullshit was for 50 years, and did nothing to help either country.
Eventually though they stopped being necessary and were basically just kept up out of spiteIt's put tremendous economic pressure on Cuba (and to an extent, any ally of theirs that aids them), regardless of how stubborn they may be. Sanctions work, but again only if your allies follow them.
If by "stopped being necessary" you mean "haven't given in yet", and by "spite" you mean "they're still a hostile communist dictatorship that treats their citizens like shit, that also happens to be within missile distance of the U.S. mainland" then yes, I agree.Eventually though they stopped being necessary and were basically just kept up out of spite
I honestly don't think they'd be a threat anymore, and the dictatorship part is shitty but if they wanna be communist that's their business. We shouldn't go around demanding countries change their form of government to ones we like.If by "stopped being necessary" you mean "haven't given in yet", and by "spite" you mean "they're still a hostile communist dictatorship that treats their citizens like shit, that also happens to be within missile distance of the U.S. mainland" then yes, I agree.
It's not so much that they are a threat, but their allies definitely could use it as a launching-off point. It's the same reason China funds North Korea. Which, speaking of, are you saying that governments shouldn't put pressure on places like North Korea to liberalize for the good of it's people?I honestly don't think they'd be a threat anymore, and the dictatorship part is shitty but if they wanna be communist that's their business. We shouldn't go around demanding countries change their form of government to ones we like.
USA Today said:WASHINGTON – A top Republican lawmaker said Friday that the threat from Iran picked up by U.S. intelligence – which sparked a U.S. military deployment to the Middle East and heightened tensions across the region – was very specific and involved the possible kidnapping and killing of American soldiers.
"To the extent I can discuss it, it was human intelligence," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told USA TODAY on Friday. He was referring to intelligence information that prompted the Pentagon to deploy an aircraft carrier, along with B-52 bombers and other military forces, to the Middle East.
Trump administration officials said the move was made to counter what they described as credible threats from Iran to U.S. forces in the region.
McCaul said U.S. intelligence officials learned that the head of Iran's Quds Force, a unit of Iran's military force, met with Iran's proxy militias and said: "We are getting ready to have a proxy war and target Americans."
He said the same message was delivered to a Hezbollah proxy group. Hezbollah is an Iranian-sponsored terrorist group.
"One of the Hezbollah cells is known for its kidnapping and killing operations, and their directive was to go in and kill and kidnap American soldiers," McCaul said.
McCaul made the comments in a brief interview with USA TODAY after delivering remarks on U.S. foreign policy at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. He made similar comments in a question-and-answer session at that event.
The Guardian newspaper first reported some details of this threat, citing unnamed sources.
The leader of Iran's Quds Force is Major General Qasem Soleimani, an extremely powerful figure inside the country and across the region. Experts say he has helped Iran extend its sphere of influence through proxy forces in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
"Without question, Soleimani is the most powerful general in the Middle East today," Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who handled several high-profile terrorism cases, wrote in an analysis last fall.
"More than anyone else, Soleimani has been responsible for the creation of an arc of influence – which Iran terms its 'Axis of Resistance' – extending from the Gulf of Oman through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea," Soufan wrote.
Until now, top Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have said the U.S. had specific, credible threats that Iran or its proxies might be preparing attacks against American forces or U.S. targets in the region, but they did not provide details.
In addition to the Pentagon deployment , the State Department on Wednesday ordered all nonemergency employees to leave Iraq immediately. The U.S. has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq.
McCaul did not directly answer a question about new reporting that suggests the increasingly aggressive moves by both Iran and the U.S. may have been spurred by a misreading of the intelligence threats. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Iranian officials believed the U.S. was planning an attack and that prompted
Tehran to prepare for possible counterstrikes.
The U.S. intelligence officials may have misread Iran's countermeasures as aggression, the Journal reported, noting there are divisions within the Trump administration over the meaning of the intelligence gathered in recent weeks.
The State Department declined to comment on McCaul's remarks or the Wall Street Journal story. A spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats did not immediately respond to questions on these matters.
The Hill said:Congressional leaders emerged tight-lipped Thursday from a classified briefing on Iran amid concerns about new tensions in the Gulf escalating to war.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters only that she “asked for a classified briefing for all members, but we’ve been asking for that for two weeks.”
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), said that while sensitive information needs to be safeguarded, “more members need to hear the story.”
But on questions such as whether they were satisfied with the briefing or whether alleged threats from Iran are credible, Pelosi, Warner and the briefing’s other attendees either declined to comment or did not respond to reporters at all.
Thursday’s briefing was given to the so-called Gang of Eight: Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Warner.
The briefing comes amid growing concern that the Trump administration is on a path to war with Iran.
Citing unspecified threats to U.S. personnel from Iran and its proxy forces, the administration has deployed more military assets to the Middle East and ordered the departure of nonemergency personnel from diplomatic missions in Iraq.
Asked Thursday about whether the United States is going to war with Iran, President Trump said “I hope not.”
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Trump told acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan explicitly that he does not want to go to war with Iran.
Lawmakers have been demanding immediate briefings on the intelligence behind those moves and the Trump administration’s further plans.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said Thursday the full Senate is scheduled to be briefed on the issue Tuesday.
A spokesman for Pelosi later confirmed the House will also get an all-members briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier Tuesday, Pelosi warned Trump that only Congress can authorize war with Iran, and that it has not done so.
"The responsibility in the Constitution is for Congress to declare war," she said. "So I hope that the president's advisers recognize they have no authorization to go forward in any way."
Earlier in the week, Trump denied reports that he is preparing to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East, but emphasized he would "absolutely" deploy the service members if he had to.
Reuters said:BEIJING (Reuters) - China offered strong support to Iran on Friday, with its top diplomat telling Iran’s foreign minister that China opposes unilateral sanctions and supports Tehran’s efforts to safeguard its interests.
U.S.-Iranian tensions have escalated in recent days, bringing increasing concerns about possible conflict.
Iran has said it is committed to its obligations under an international nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement last year, and has called the re-imposition of U.S sanctions unacceptable.
Meeting in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that given the important and rapidly-evolving situation, the two needed to strengthen communication and coordination.
“China resolutely opposes the U.S. implementation of unilateral sanctions and so-called ‘long arm jurisdiction’, understands the current situation and concerns of the Iranian side, and supports the Iranian side to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests,” China’s Foreign Ministry paraphrased Wang as saying.
China appreciates Iran’s full implementation of the nuclear deal and intention to stick to it, Wang added.
“The dispute surrounding the Iranian nuclear agreement is essentially a contest between multilateralism and unilateralism,” he said.
China’s Foreign Ministry cited Zarif as saying that Iran has no intention to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and opposes war. “The Strait of Hormuz maintains its status as an international transportation channel,” the statement cited Zarif as saying.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have threatened to close the strategic waterway, through which a significant part of the world’s oil supply flows.
China has close energy and business ties with Iran, but has to tread carefully as it has also cultivated good relations with Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.
DefenseOne said:The Sino-Iranian relationship advances Chinese interests — and particularly when Washington tries to turn the screws on Tehran.
China’s leaders may be anxious about the emerging trade war with the United States, but at least something is going their way: U.S. policy toward Iran is furthering their strategic interests.
Of the several “comprehensive strategic partnerships” that Beijing has struck in the Middle East, the Sino-Iranian one is the most comprehensive and the most strategic.
China has established similar close ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but Iran represents a contrarian’s bet and a vital hedge for China.
One reason the Iranian relationship serves China so well is that it is not a relationship of equals. China is Iran’s largest trading partner, supplying and consuming more than 30 percent of the latter’s imports and exports. The converse is not true at all: Iran represents less than one percent of China’s international trade. Iran needs China, but to China, Iran is expendable.
But part of Iran’s value to China arises because of U.S.-Iranian tensions, and heightened tensions increase that value.
First, Iran is the only major oil Middle Eastern producer that Chinese officials are confident will continue to supply China in the event of a breach with the United States.
The U.S. role as the preponderant defender of the GCC—both through the supply of troops and the sale of weapons—makes those states beholden to the United States. Iran owes no similar debt.
Second, China intends to make a lot of money in Iran. The country represents a huge investment opportunity for Chinese businesses, including state-owned enterprises.
Many countries shun Iran because of its estrangement from the United States, and the recent ratcheting-up of sanctions has only deepened the country’s isolation. Yet China sees Iran as a country of tremendous potential because of its mineral resources, its relatively large and educated population, and its strategic location in West Asia. It represents a vital node in the Belt and Road route to Europe, insulated from the United States. And the currency’s plunge and the paucity of international interest mean that investments can be had for fire-sale prices.
China’s Iran dealings also help it make money across the Gulf in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are eager to keep Beijing from falling firmly into the Iranian camp. Saudi Arabia exports more oil to China than Iran does. That is partly because the Saudis want to be present in the world’s largest oil import market, but partly also because the Saudis want to influence Chinese decisions.
Third, growing tensions with Iran now draw U.S. attention, troops, and materiel away from the Western Pacific. While the United States was enmeshed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the first decade of this century, China aggressively expanded its military operations in the South China Sea, and Chinese commercial and diplomatic ties exploded across the Asian continent. U.S. Central Command’s desire to keep an aircraft carrier — or two — in and around the Persian Gulf has kept the U.S. footprint lighter in East Asia. A United States that is focused on the Middle East isn’t focused on China.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, U.S. tensions with Iran have driven a remarkable wedge between the United States and its allies. The Iranian nuclear deal represented a rare moment of international comity, bringing together the United States, Russia, China, and Europe to constrain Tehran’s nuclear program. By abandoning the deal, the Trump administration has fractured the Western alliance, raising tensions with its closest allies and bringing them closer to the Chinese position. Beijing has no allies, and it much prefers a world of bilateral relationships. In these equations, China is the stronger party in every relationship except with the United States.
For 75 years, U.S. leaders have fostered a multilateral, rules-based world in which the United States forgoes maximizing its short-term gains in exchange for an embrace of Washington’s leadership. A world with diminished attention to rules and enhanced benefits to the powerful is precisely what Chinese leaders want.
The situation is not all rosy for the Chinese. The outbreak of full-scale hostilities between the United States and Iran would likely drive oil prices higher, and as a major oil importer, higher prices would hurt the already-fragile Chinese economy. Hostilities would also drive the United States to disrupt China’s ties with Iran, putting Chinese investments at risk. Of course, a U.S.-Iranian war that isolated the United States and portrayed it as an aggressor would serve Chinese interests in Asia, so war would be something of a trade off.
For now, U.S.-Iranian ties are just where China wants them. They not only enhance Iran’s value to China, but they advance Chinese interests in the country’s longer-term contest with the United States.
- Jon B. Alterman holds the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and directs the Middle East program at CSIS. FULL BIO
Al-Monitor said:Amid the Trump administration's all-time high pressure on Iran, manifested in its decision not to extend sanctions waivers granted to Tehran's key oil customers, Iran-US tensions are reaching levels unseen in recent decades. To alleviate the burden on its shoulders, Iran might not be fully capitalizing on China as its leading oil buyer.
Yet Beijing could continue to be a key part of Iran's solution to mitigate the impacts of biting US sanctions.
There is a lot about China to make it a valuable ally for Iran: It is Tehran's top trade partner, receives the largest share of Iran's crude exports and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Above all, China is one of the committed signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and one of Tehran's major political allies.
Iran-China relations have in recent decades been more trilateral than bilateral, as the United States has imposed its presence to shape those ties one way or another.
Washington's pressure on Beijing has placed restrictions on those relations, but shared concerns about US foreign policy have also brought Iran and China closer together, creating grounds for further cooperation.
US measures meant to minimize interaction between Iran and China are no novelty. Such policies date to the 1980s, when Washington relentlessly opposed Chinese arms sales to Iran as the latter was busy waging a protracted war initiated by neighboring Iraq. The US pressure on China in the mid-1990s over its nuclear cooperation with Iran worked to the point of bringing the collaboration to a complete halt. Nonetheless, despite ups and downs, China and Iran have over time maintained an overall close relationship.
Under the current global circumstances, the US-Iran-China triangle is being reshaped. Beijing and Washington are inching closer to a settlement in their trade war, which is crucial to China. The agenda of those talks includes a US request for China to stop buying Iranian oil. If reached, a US-China trade deal could thus deal a blow to Tehran-Beijing relations and hit Iran’s crude exports to its principal customer. But with recent changes in the positions of the United States and China in trade talks, a prompt end to their trade war is unlikely.
Still, much depends on how China will meet US conditions set on oil purchases from Iran. Beijing has a record of complex responses to International crises, especially when the United States is involved. The latest example was the Chinese stance toward President Donald Trump's overtures to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and how it left the US president with mixed feelings of gratitude and criticism.
On technical grounds, a suspension of oil imports from Iran would not be a simple decision for China. It would harm Chinese interests because Iran remains an important supplier at a time of international crises, which has seen producers such as Libya plunge into chaos. Elsewhere, Algeria suffers from instability, the US sanctions on Venezuela are complicating the oil market and output from Angola — which feeds a significant portion of China's demand — is declining. Meanwhile, by ending oil purchases from Iran, China would be risking the support of a major player in regional energy security. Furthermore, among China's Middle Eastern suppliers, Iran is the sole country that stays outside the radius of US influence. Given the heated-up Washington-Beijing strategic rivalry, this grants Iran a special status in China's foreign policy.
Zeroing out Iran's oil exports could be associated with other political and security implications as well, among them anticipated fresh tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz. China imports nearly half its oil from the Persian Gulf, meaning any disruption in crude transits there would cost Beijing dearly. Additionally, in the worst-case scenario, possible unrest in Iran as a result of US pressure could harm Chinese interests. From the bird's-eye view, it could also alter the power balance in the Middle East against China. Instability in the region would affect Beijing's dividends from its international megaproject, the Belt and Road Initiative, which includes a number of Middle Eastern nations.
On a larger scale, the US banning of Iran's oil exports is an act of unilateralism that jeopardizes China's interests. In parallel with that policy, Washington is pressing different countries to cut off business with Huawei, a Chinese tech giant that serves as the icon of the country's export-oriented economy. The US government has already launched a legal campaign against the wealthy corporation. It also keeps warning China's partners against involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative. Setting all those unilateralist precedents, Washington is rapidly closing in on China.
On the other hand, by maintaining its oil imports from Iran but keeping them at a minimum level, Beijing would be able to maintain its leverage over Tehran. If those imports are fully halted and consequently Beijing loses its status as Tehran's top trade partner, China's influence would decline. Furthermore, continued Chinese imports from Iran could serve as encouragement for the Islamic Republic not to depart from the JCPOA, a deal that promises great value to China's multilateral foreign policy.
Within that very framework, and ignoring US pressure, China has in recent months decided to augment its oil purchases from Iran.
Nevertheless, in the medium to long term, Iran cannot simply lean toward China to avert US pressure. Tehran only makes up 1% of Beijing's total foreign trade, while the United States is China's leading business partner, dominates the global financial system and remains the world's biggest market. In addition, the Trump administration's pressure on cooperation with Iran has proven to be working on Chinese firms.
Notwithstanding all that, Tehran can still expect Beijing to be an important part of a strategy against Washington's unyielding pressure. China is likely to ignore US punitive measures on trade with Iran, but at a minimum level, slightly below the threshold where it will be careful not to trigger any penalty. Put another way, Iran could still pin its hopes on China as a safety valve, but one that might exhibit less willingness to step up than expected.
Bourse And Bazaar said:On the same day that Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif traveled to Beijing for talks on "regional and international issues,” the Chinese oil tanker PACIFIC BRAVO began traveling eastward, having loaded approximately 2 million barrels of Iranian oil from the Soroosh and Kharg terminals in the Persian Gulf over the past few days, according to analysis provided by TankerTrackers.com.
PACIFIC BRAVO is currently reporting its destination as Indonesia, but the tanker was recently acquired by Bank of Kunlun, a financial institution that is owned by the Chinese state oil company CNPC. TankerTrackers.com believes China is the ultimate destination for the oil on board.
PACIFIC BRAVO is the first major tanker to load Iranian crude after the Trump administration revoked waivers permitting the purchases by eight of Iran’s oil customers. The revocation of the waivers, which sent shockwaves through the global oil market, was a major escalation of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
The purchase of Iranian oil in the absence of a waiver exposes the companies involved in the transaction—including the tanker operator, refinery customer, and bank—to possible designation by the U.S. Treasury Department, threatening the links these companies may maintain with the U.S. financial system.
Bank of Kunlun has long been the financial institution at heart of China-Iran bilateral trade—a role for which the company was sanctioned during the Obama administration. Despite already being designated, Bank of Kunlun ceased its Iran-related activities in early May when the oil waivers were revoked. PACIFIC BRAVO’s moves point to a change in policy.
China-Iran trade slowed dramatically after the reimposition of U.S. secondary sanctions in November, suggesting the Chinese government had chosen to subordinate its economic relations with Iran to the much more important issue of its ongoing trade negotiations with the United States. But these negotiations have since broken down.
This week, President Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on a further $300 billion in Chinese imports in addition to punitive measures against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which has been targeted in part for its alleged violations of Iran sanctions.
These announcements stoked anger in China, which has vowed to fight back. Last week, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China “resolutely opposes” unilateral sanctions on Iran. But until now, there had been little evidence that the Chinese government was encouraging its companies to ignore or evade U.S. sanctions in the interest of maintaining trade with Iran. While Chinese multinationals will likely remain wary of trading with Iran due to the risks posed to their increasingly global businesses, China’s apparent decision to use state-enterprises to purchase at least some Iranian oil represents a direct and significant challenge to U.S. sanctions. Earlier this week, Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro singled out China’s sanctionable activities in Iran’s metals industry in a Financial Times op-ed. With this kind of messaging, the Trump administration has made it impossible for China to keep the trade war separate from its disagreements with the United States over Iran sanctions.
For Iran, China’s decision to continue to purchase at least some Iranian oil could prove a vital lifeline as it struggles to withstand the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. The failure of Europe, China, and Russia—the remaining parties of the Iran nuclear deal—led Iran to announce last week that it would begin to reduce its compliance with parts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 60 days.
Iran’s announcement greatly concerned European officials who have urged continued compliance with nuclear commitments under the JCPOA. In private, European officials acknowledge that the decision by the Trump administration to revoke the oil waivers was a significant escalation to which Iran was compelled to respond. Noting that economic pressures are fueling political opposition to the JCPOA in Tehran, European officials have been urging Chinese and Russian counterparts to do more to support bilateral economic ties with Iran. Dispatching PACIFIC BRAVO may be just the first step.
The Guardian said:Iranian missiles could easily hit US ships in the Gulf, and any conflict would threaten global energy supplies, a senior Iranian military official has said.
As tensions simmered on Friday, Tehran blamed the US for an escalating regional crisis that western intelligence officials fear could lead to open conflict.
“If a war happens, the world’s energy supply will suffer,” Gen Saleh Jokar, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said on Friday. He added: “Iran’s short-range missiles can easily reach present [US] warships in the Persian Gulf.”
Iranian military leaders say the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” approach, which includes crippling sanctions on Tehran’s economy and a unilateral pullout from a nuclear deal, has forced an inevitable reaction.
On Thursday Maj Gen Hossein Salami, commander of the Revolutionary Guards and the country’s overall military leader, said the two countries were on the verge of a full-scale confrontation. “This is the most decisive moment for the Islamic revolution because the enemy has come to the battlefield with all of its capacities at its disposal,” he told a meeting of subordinates.
The economic stranglehold in particular is causing hardship inside Iran and squeezing its ability to sustain a regional proxy network that has been an essential pillar of its foreign policy projection. Before the latest flare-up, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said parts of the country were facing the most severe shortages since the height of the Iran-Iraq war.
The Guardian reported on Thursday that Iran’s most prominent general, Qassem Suleimani, had recently called a meeting in Baghdad in which he told Iranian-backed Iraqi militias to “prepare for proxy war”. Intelligence sources have said regional affiliates were “effectively sent to battle stations”.
“This wasn’t just in Iraq,” one official said. “The rest of their friends were told to wait for instructions. So far that hasn’t happened to the Iraqi proxies, and there’s a lot of effort going into ensuring that it doesn’t.”
Tensions have remained high since last Sunday when four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were hulled off the UAE coast. The UK and US believe Iran was ultimately behind the ships’ sabotage. The following day, Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen used drones to attack two Saudi pipelines.
Intelligence agencies have been monitoring the activities of the Quds force for an extended period to calibrate the extent of their influence on friendly militias operating in Iraq and Syria, with the focus intensifying in recent weeks as the Iran nuclear deal has unravelled.
British sources said the key was to ensure that “no miscalculation” was made in response to the developments in the region, and that the threat was neither under- nor overrated at a time when some voices are pushing for an escalation of US sanctions or even military action against Iran.
On Thursday Saudi state media called for “surgical strikes” against Iranian targets in response to the attack on the oil tankers. One intelligence official who spoke to the Guardian said the Saudis had specifically asked Washington whether it would act to defend their interests.
Britain has been eager to demonstrate it is acting in step with the US since a disastrous Pentagon briefing this week by a senior British officer who unexpectedly claimed there was “no increased threat” from Iranian forces in Iraq and Syria.
The UK has rowed back since, raising the threat level for its forces in the region. On Thursday the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the UK “shared the same assessment” of the threat as the Americans, and on Friday the Foreign Office advised against any travel to Iran by British-Iranian dual nationals.
The US and Iran have been engaged in a proxy war for much of the past 15 years, since shortly after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein and empowered Iraq’s majority Shias. Militia groups organised under Suleimani’s tutelage evolved into a formidable threat to US forces before the 2011 troop withdrawal. The Pentagon assessed at the time that Shia special groups were responsible for roughly 25% of US battle casualties.
When the war against Isis erupted, the US and Iran fought on the same side at times, with the US air force providing air cover to Shia units operating alongside the Iraqi military in central Iraq and Fallujah.
The detente coincided with Barack Obama’s outreach to Iran, which led to the nuclear deal. The pivot towards Iran came at the expense of Washington’s long-term relationship with Saudi Arabia, which for nearly 40 years had backed a form of Islam that had widely been seen to have underwritten Sunni extremism.
Since the US withdrawal from Iraq, Iran has consolidated its influence among the country’s political class. The Syrian civil war and its spinoffs have given Tehran a new platform on Israel’s doorstep. Iranian moves to entrench military interests in western Syria have been central to the Trump administration’s renewed hostility.
Traditional US allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have long viewed the Iranian leadership as subversive threats in the Sunni Arab world and believe the Obama outreach gave impetus to Iranian expansionism at the expense of existing partnerships.
Additional reporting: Mohammed Rasool
Reuters said:DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Friday it could “easily” hit U.S. warships in the Gulf, the latest in days of saber rattling between Washington and Tehran, while its top diplomat worked to counter U.S. sanctions and salvage a nuclear deal denounced by President Donald Trump.
Tensions have risen in recent days, with concerns about a potential U.S.-Iran conflict. Earlier this week, the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its embassy in Baghdad following weekend attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf.
“Even our short-range missiles can easily reach (U.S.) warships in the Persian Gulf,” Mohammad Saleh Jokar, the deputy for parliamentary affairs of the elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.
“America cannot afford the costs of a new war, and the country is in a bad situation in terms of manpower and social conditions,” he added.
Washington has increased economic sanctions and built up its military presence in the region, accusing Iran of threats to U.S. troops and interests. Tehran has described those steps as “psychological warfare” and a “political game”.
In Washington, a senior administration official said the United States is “sitting by the phone” but has heard no message yet from Iran that it is willing to accept Trump’s overtures for direct talks.
“We think they should de-escalate and come to negotiations,” the official, who declined to be identified, told a small group of reporters.
Trump has urged Iran’s leadership to hold talks over its nuclear program and regional influence amid rising tensions between the two countries that has fanned fears of armed conflict after the United States deployed an aircraft carrier group to the region.
Iranian army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi vowed: “If the enemy miscalculates and commits a strategic error, it will receive a response which will make it regret (its action),” the semi-official news agency Mehr reported.
Senior lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh called on Twitter for an Iran-U.S. “red desk” to help prevent a war.
“Top authorities in Iran and America have rejected a war, but third parties are in a hurry to destroy a large part of the world. A red desk should be set up in Iraq or Qatar with officials from the two sides ... to manage tensions,” said Falahatpisheh, head of parliament’s national security committee.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said this week Tehran would not negotiate another nuclear deal after Washington last year quit a 2015 international pact that put curbs on Iran’s potential pathway to build a nuclear bomb in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
Trump believes the economic pressure will force Tehran to accept tougher restrictions on its nuclear and missile programs and on its support for proxies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. He has said publicly he wants to pursue diplomacy after withdrawing from the deal and moving to cut all Iranian oil exports.
‘SUPPORTIVE STATEMENTS’ NOT ENOUGH
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a visit to Japan and China, said the international community and remaining signatories of the nuclear deal should act to save the accord as “supportive statements” are not enough.
Last week, Iran notified the five remaining signatories that it would reduce some commitments under the accord. Tehran has asked the other signatories, including Germany, Britain and France, to help protect its economy from U.S. sanctions.
“Safeguarding the (nuclear accord) is possible through practical measures, and not only through supportive statements,” Zarif was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.
“If the international community feels that this (nuclear) accord is a valuable achievement, then it should take practical steps just like Iran does,” Zarif said on Iranian state television. “The meaning of practical steps is fully clear: Iran’s economic relations should be normalized.”
Iran’s economy is expected to shrink for the second year running and inflation could reach 40 percent, an International Monetary Fund senior official said last month, as the country copes with the impact of tighter U.S. sanctions.
The curbs under the nuclear deal were aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to a year from roughly 2-3 months.
The United States and the U.N. nuclear watchdog believe Iran had a nuclear weapons program that it abandoned. Tehran denies ever having had one.
NBC news said:By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump may not need Congress to go to war with Iran.
That's the case his lieutenants have been quietly building as tensions between the two nations have escalated.
The key elements involve drawing links between al Qaeda and Iran and casting Iran as a terrorist threat to the U.S. — which is exactly what administration officials have been doing in recent weeks.
That could give Trump the justification he needs to fight Iran under the still-in-effect 2001 use-of-force resolution without congressional approval.
That prospect is unsettling to most Democrats, and even some Republicans, in part because there is a reluctance to engage U.S. forces in another theater of war, and in part because many lawmakers believe Congress has given too much of its war-making authority to the president over the years.
With Congress unlikely to grant him new authority to strike Iran under the current circumstances, and amid a campaign of "maximum pressure" against the regime in Tehran that has escalated tension between the two countries, Trump administration officials have sent strong signals that they will be ready to make an end run around lawmakers, using the 2001 authorization for the use of military force — or "AUMF" in Washington-speak — if necessary.
That law gave the president the power to use force against "nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Earlier this month, the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier strike group to the region. Three U.S. officials told NBC that a surge in American forces in the region was a response in part to intelligence-gathering suggesting that the Iranian regime had given proxies a green light to attack U.S. personnel and assets in the region.
And in recent weeks, the Trump administration has accused Iranof assisting al Qaeda, designated an arm of the Iranian military as a foreign terrorist organization and accused Iran of being linked to a terrorist threat against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
National Security Council officials declined to speak on the record with NBC about whether such incidents would satisfy the legal threshold necessary for the president to determine he had the authority to use force against Iran.
But former government lawyers familiar with the 2001 law and its applications say it's obvious from those moves what the Trump administration is trying to do.
"The whole thing is building up to the notion that they don't have to go to Congress for approval," Yale University law professor Harold Koh, who served as the State Department's top lawyer under Secretary Hillary Clinton, said in a telephone interview with NBC News.
Yet Koh said an attempt to shoehorn Iran into the 2001 AUMF is absurd and shouldn't pass legal muster.
"The theory of war powers has to be that Congress doesn't just sign off once," he said. "The suggestion now that Iran attacked us on 9/11 is ridiculous."
The original law essentially creates a two-part test for the president to make a determination that force is warranted: a country, group or person has aided al Qaeda and force is necessary to prevent a terrorist attack against the U.S. from that entity.
Under questioning from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a critic of the executive branch's expansive view of its war powers under both Presidents Barack Obama and Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he would "leave it to the lawyers" to sort out whether Trump had the authority to go to war with Iran absent a new authorization from Congress.
But he also forwarded an argument that he has been making since the early days of the administration that is tantamount to a case that the first part of the test has been met.
"The factual question with respect to Iran's connections to Al-Qaeda is very real. They have hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country,” he said at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop.”
There has been intense debate in recent years about the extent to which the remnants of al Qaeda have found assistance in Iran, with Iran hawks taking the position that the ties are deep and significant and others contending that attempts to link the Shia regime to terrorism carried out by Sunni groups are wrong or disingenuous.
But the deployment of more forces to the region to counter the threat of attacks on American personnel and assets, as well as the partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, could be seen as satisfying the second part of the use-of-force test. That is, the idea that force is appropriate to prevent a terrorist threat from a country that has given assistance to al Qaeda.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said last week that she appreciates that Trump has generally been reluctant to go to war and cast his advisers as the drivers of the current escalation of tensions. She said the president doesn't currently have the power to go to war with Iran.
“The responsibility in the Congress is for Congress to declare war,” she said. “So I hope the president’s advisors recognize that they have no authorization to go forward in any way. They cannot call the authorization, AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force, that was passed in 2001, as any authorization to go forward in the Middle East now,”
Trump himself has left the door open.
Asked about the possibility this week, he said, "I hope not."
But there's little question that his administration is getting ready — and getting ready to go it alone.
Now, onto the wonderful world of twitter sourced news:Bloomberg Opinion said:If there’s one thing Democrats and ayatollahs agree on these days, it’s that John Bolton is trying to start a war with Iran. President Donald Trump has said that he is open to negotiations and does not want a war, but his mustachioed national security adviser will not abide.
Popular as it may be in Washington, this theory has it backwards. Bolton’s antipathy toward Iran is well-known and longstanding, but the current administration strategy is not aimed at starting a war with Iran. It’s designed to avoid one.
Nevertheless, the anti-Bolton theme has been the centerpiece of a public diplomacy campaign for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. He consistently derides what he calls the “B-team,” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan and, of course, John Bolton. Zarif’s strategy is transparent: Blame Bolton to take the focus off Iran’s own escalations.
Many leading Democrats are on the same page. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, last week urged Trump to disregard Bolton’s counsel unless he wants “to stumble into a new and devastating military conflict.” Senator Bernie Sanders was even more alarmist, saying this week that Bolton wants to lie America into a war with Iran, just like he did with Iraq.
None of this is new. The Iranian regime, like the North Koreans and Venezuelans, has hated Bolton for years. As recently as 2015, Bolton openly advocated bombing Iran’s nuclear program, and before he joined the Trump administration he accepted paid speaking gigs for an Iranian opposition group that has attacked regime targets. Democrats’ enmity toward Bolton also has deep roots, dating to 2005, when they derailed his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations over accusations of hyping intelligence and being mean to subordinates.
For his part, Bolton seems to enjoy all the loathing. When he was undersecretary of state for arms control in the George W. Bush administration, Bolton displayed in his office the framed front page of Iranian newspaper denouncing him.
But now he works for the Trump administration, whose current Iran strategy is to bring a combination of crippling sanctions and diplomatic pressure to force the regime to dismantle its nuclear program and end its regional predations. Two senior State Department officials on Thursday told a small group of columnists there were no plans for an Iraq-style invasion. And they’re right. If there were, the White House would be working with Congress on a war resolution and establishing a casus belli.
So what explains the recent flurry of public statements and military deployment? They are best seen as tools of deterrence, not aggression. This is the message Secretary of State Mike Pompeo communicated to America’s European allies this week, when he asked them to use their channels to Tehran to urge the regime de-escalate.
Iran has historically attacked U.S. targets with its proxies when it assesses it will not face direct military reprisals. Iran used proxy forces to lay roadside bombs during the U.S. war in Iraq, for example, because its judgment at the time was that Bush lacked the support, in Congress or with the public, to respond with a strike inside Iranian territory. (In retrospect, this assessment was correct.) When Iran believes the U.S. will use force, however, it backs off. Iran has not mined the Persian Gulf, despite occasional threats to do so, because the U.S demonstrated three decades ago that it will destroy the Iranian navy if it tries.
This is where Bolton comes in: He’s kind of a one-man psychological warfare operation. If Iran’s leaders believe Trump’s advisers are trying to constrain him, they may assess they can get away with a proxy attack on U.S. positions. If they think Trump is trying to constrain his national security adviser, they may decide not to.
Bolton himself seems to understand this. I am told he deliberately brought a yellow pad to the White House podium earlier this year during a briefing on Venezuela that said “5,000 troops to Colombia.” The idea was to persuade Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro not to imprison or attack the opposition. So far, that bet has worked. Bolton may be following a similar strategy with Iran, with recent reports that he had ordered the Pentagon to provide war plans if Iran restarted its drive for a nuclear bomb.
Of course, this strategy is fraught. As tensions rise, so does the risk of miscalculation. And while the older generation of Iranian officers remembers when the U.S. sunk its navy, says Michael Rubin, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, the younger generation “knows only American weakness.”
It’s fair to point out the risks. It’s irresponsible to allege some kind of conspiracy to trick the U.S. into a war. It’s understandable why Zarif would push this nonsense; less so is why any Democrat would.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A rocket was fired in Iraqi capital Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies, but caused no casualties, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.
A blast was heard in central Baghdad on Sunday night, Reuters witnesses said and two Baghdad-based diplomatic sources also said they heard the blast.
“A Katyusha rocket fell in the middle of the Green Zone without causing any losses, details to come later,” the military said in a brief statement.
The Katyusha multiple rocket launcher is an inexpensive type of rocket artillery that can deliver explosives to a target quicker than conventional artillery, but is less accurate.
Police special forces found a rocket launcher in al-Sina’a district in eastern Baghdad and have sealed off the area, a police source told Reuters. An ordinance disposal team from the Baghdad Operations Command was on its way to inspect it, he said.
Police were searching for suspects in the area, he said, adding that the U.S. embassy was not hit by the rocket.
The embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Erbil evacuated non-emergency staff this week.
President Donald Trump’s administration has said it sent additional forces to the region to counter what it called credible threats from Iran against U.S. interests, including from militias it supports in Iraq.
Iran and the United States have both said they do not want war as tensions between them increase.
Is that a satire site?Netanyahu wary of being dragged into U.S.-Iran escalation
I say let ‘em do it, then it’s not our problem anymore
Also if Germany and Iran wanna have a trade relationship I don’t believe the US should have the right to interfere, but we’ve never let that stop us before
Which is why what the current admin is doing makes sense. O.K. you can trade with Iran, but it will alter some of our agreements and your companies that are doing things with Iran will be sanctioned too.We can have all the sanctions we want, I don't see why Germany should be obligated to follow them (or why we should be obligated to follow any sanctions Germany wants to levy).
I'm also just not sure what good sanctions do in the first place, look at the Cuba sanctions and how stupid that bullshit was for 50 years, and did nothing to help either country.
I’m just not crazy about the idea that German companies are beholden to us foreign policy goals. Why should they give a fuck? Not everything’s about military shit.Is that a satire site?
Which is why what the current admin is doing makes sense. O.K. you can trade with Iran, but it will alter some of our agreements and your companies that are doing things with Iran will be sanctioned too.
Overall, this looks a lot like the build-up to the peace talks in North Korea, so I am less alarmed. Trump seems to like using Bolton and Pompeo as barking dogs in this regard. The only fly in the ointment is "our greatest ally."
That is because the US doesn't have to do business with them either.I’m just not crazy about the idea that German companies are beholden to us foreign policy goals. Why should they give a fuck? Not everything’s about military shit.