Congresswoman: Russia Bombs Al-Qaeda Terrorists. Why Is That A Bad Thing?

By MSNBC

A Democrat that makes sense. Wow. Wait till Hillary declares Hawaii the stronghold of terrrorists and Russians and will do another benghazi on it. She serves on the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs.

Tulsi Gabbard tells Steve Kornacki: If we focus on overthrowing secular dictator Assad instead of defeating our real enemy, Islamic extremists who attacked us on 9/11, we’ll see a repeat of exactly what happened in Iraq, exactly what happened in Libya where ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, will walk in the front door, take over the country of Syria and they will be a greater threat to the people on the ground as well as the world with their heightened military capability.

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Obama Says Russian Strikes On ISIS Are “Strengthening” ISIS

isis-oilBy Steven MacMillan

Welcome to Obamaland, the mysterious, schizophrenic world where the truth is inverted. Washington is rapidly losing the microscopic amount of respect it had around the world, as US propaganda is becoming more childish by the week. Any rational person who is even remotely informed just sits back in amazement at the volume of deceptive, deceitful, and outright ludicrous statements constantly spewing from the mouths of top US officials. One of the latest comical episodes was when the US President, Barack Obama, actually tried to argue that Russian airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS/IS/ISIL) are “only strengthening ISIL”:

The moderate opposition in Syria is one that, if we’re ever going to have a political transition, we need. And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are [debilitated], and it’s only strengthening ISIL.

So in Obama’s mind, Russia pounding key ISIS positions and other affiliated terrorist groups isn’t halting the groups rise, but “strengthening” it. In the real world, however, Russia has been severely weakening ISIS and fellow extremist forces in Syria through bombing terrorist command centers, weapons warehouses, training camps and other enemy positions. Russian airstrikes have illuminated the complete sham of the US-led coalition against ISIS, as Russian airstrikes have been far more effective already, comparative to America’s campaign.

Russia has once again outmaneuvered the West in relation to Syria, after a stroke of diplomatic genius from Moscow in 2013, which led to the Syrian government giving up their chemical weapons arsenal and averting a full-scale invasion by Western forces.

Obviously, the Western narrative that there are “moderate” terrorists fighting in Syria which we can trust and we should arm, is (and always has been), a total fallacy. “In reality, from the beginning, there were never any moderates,” as Tony Cartalucci wrote in his article for New Eastern Outlook: “US Complains As Russia Bombs its Terrorists”. “The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” was the assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency in their declassified intelligence report from 2012. Just in case Obama doesn’t understand his own intelligence reports, al-Qaeda does NOT qualify as a “moderate” rebel group, they are as extreme as you can possibly get!

US Bombs a Hospital One Day after Claiming Russia Targets Civilians

You just can’t make this stuff up. One day after numerous countries – including the US – accused Russia of targeting civilians in Syria; the US committed a war crime by bombing a hospital in Afghanistan, which was run by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)). This abhorrent, repugnant and inexcusable act, killed at least 19 civilians (including at least three children), and wounded 37.

The previous day, large sections of the Western media had been filled with false stories that Russian airstrikes had killed civilians in Syria, with the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, even calling on Russia to “cease attacks on civilians”. Quoted in an article by Sputnik, Putin replied to these accusations by stating:

As for any information in the media on civilians suffering [from Russian airstrikes], we were ready for such information attacks. I draw your attention to the fact that the first reports on civilian casualties emerged before our planes even left the ground.

Author and independent researcher, Vanessa Beeley, wrote an excellent article for 21st Century Wire where she dissects the humanitarian propaganda promulgated by the West, and the role played by organizations such as the George Soros connected group, the White Helmets, in spreading this disinformation. Beeley also documents the fact that the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq has killed civilians, a reality that other news outlets such as the Guardian have reported on – the US-led coalition is accused of killing civilians in 71 separate air raids.

Could John McCain Be More Hawkish?

In an interview with Fox News, US Senator John McCain was asked: “If you were President… would you shoot down those Russian planes?” to which McCain said “no”, but he then went on to state that: “I might do what we did in Afghanistan many years ago, to give those guys the ability to shoot down those planes – that equipment is available.” I suppose US policy is quite consistent, as the US was also aiding extremists in Afghanistan by supporting the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets.

The interviewer then asks the US Senator “who would be shooting them down?” and McCain replied: “The Free Syrian Army, just like the Afghans shot down Russian planes after Russia invaded Afghanistan.” McCain also asserts that “we need to have a no fly zone” and “a buffer zone for refugees” in Syria.

The US Senator has been one of the most prominent public figures who has called for the overthrow of the Assad government. In 2013, he was accused of illegally entering Syria in violation of the country’s sovereignty to meet Syrian rebels, with McCain even being photographed talking with the so-called caliph of ISIS, Ibrahim al-Badri (who is also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).

Syria: Where the Wolfowitz Doctrine Dies!

There won’t be many people in Washington who are more distraught at the news that Russia is pounding the West’s proxy armies, than Paul Wolfowitz. Regime change in Syria has been an objective of Wolfowitz since as far back as 1991, a man whose previous roles include serving as the President of the World Bank, and the US Deputy Secretary of Defense. In a 2007 speech, former four star general and NATO commander, Wesley Clark, discusses a meeting he had with Wolfowitz in 1991:

It came back to me, a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz. In 2001 he was Deputy Secretary of Defense, but in 1991 he was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy – it’s the number three position in the Pentagon… I said to Paul (and this is 1991): Mr Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in desert storm? And he said: Well yes, but not really. Because the truth is, we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and we didn’t… But one thing we did learn; we learned that we can use our military in the Middle East, and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about five or ten years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran, [and] Iraq – before the next great superpower comes along to challenge us.

Clark adds that the US “was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup; Wolfowitz, and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and you could name another half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, [and] make it under our control.”

I have previously written about the PNAC group, and their desire to topple the governments in “North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria”. How the neoconservative war hawks will respond to Russia’s policy in Syria is difficult to predict, but most probably it won’t result in the US peacefully backing down.

The proxy armies of the West, Gulf states, Turkey and Israel, are getting annihilated by Russian airstrikes, which moves Syria one step closer to stability and a lasting solution to the refugee crisis.

One Secret Text Gives Any Police State Agency Total Control Of Your Phone – Even When It’s Off

snowden nsaBy Jay Syrmopoulos

Whistleblower Edward Snowden, in an interview with the BBC’s ‘Panorama,’ spoke in detail about a stunning array of cyber spying tools used by the U.K.’s GCHQ to hack smartphones with a single text message. The spyware package is named after the little blue cartoon characters; the Smurfs.

“It’s called an ‘exploit’,” Snowden said. “That’s a specially crafted message that’s texted to your number like any other text message but when it arrives at your phone it’s hidden from you. It doesn’t display. You paid for [the phone] but whoever controls the software owns the phone,” he added.

Smartphone users can do “very little” to stop security services getting “total control” over their devices, according to Snowden.

The “Smurf Suite” package arrives by text messages, without users ever being aware of the message or its payload, as the phone is not altered in any way, according to Snowden.

Dreamy Smurf: A power management tool, which allows the phone to be powered on and off without the user knowing.

Nosey Smurf: A ‘hotmic’ tool that allows the microphone on a phone to be turned on, even if the phone is powered off.

Tracker Smurf: A geo-location tool that tracks a person with much greater precision than the typical triangulation of cellphone towers.

Paranoid Smurf: Covers the tracks of the breach of phone security, as to not allow even a phone security expert to recognize that the device has been tampered with upon inspection.

Snowden said the spy agency could see “who you call, what you’ve texted, the things you’ve browsed, the list of your contacts, the places you’ve been, the wireless networks that your phone is associated with.”

“And they can do much more. They can photograph you,” he said.

According to a report in the Daily Dot:

The NSA, which Snowden said provided “tasking and direction” for GCHQ’s use of these tools, reportedly has comparable mobile surveillance capabilities, but it is unknown if the U.S. agency deploys it through a hidden text message like its British counterpart.

The NSA and its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance exploited flaws in a popular mobile app to gain access to phones running that software and searched for ways to hack into popular app markets. GCHQ and the NSA also tried for years to break into Blackberry devices, with an analyst celebrating their eventual success in March 2010 by writing “Champagne!”

Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013, has been charged by the U.S. with espionage and theft of government property after leaking documents to the media about widespread digital surveillance.

During the interview Snowden said that he would like to eventually return to the U.S., and would be willing to serve prison time for his massive data breach, but that he would not be willing to do so if he was being charged under the Espionage Act.

The heroic acts of Edward Snowden stand as a testament as to what it means to be truly willing to sacrifice for an ideal.

This little device delivers turnkey Internet privacy and security (Ad)

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Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, free thinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism.

Brzezinski’s “Retaliation” Agenda: Break Up Russia And Absorb It

By Brandon Turbeville

When the dark lord of the Anglo-American empire, Zbigniew Brzezinski, stated that the United States should retaliate against Russia as a result of the latter ruining the former’s credibility in the Middle East (which the U.S. needed no help in doing), the world got a glimpse into just how far the ruling elite is willing to take the world’s population in its quest for total hegemony.

After all, Brzezinski is no mere talking head or media mouthpiece. He is the architect of al-Qaeda and controller of much of the American geopolitical strategy. When he states that retaliation must be part of U.S. strategy, there is a very real possibility that it will be.

Indeed, in order to understand much of the U.S. geopolitical strategy at work today, it might serve us well to consult the work Brzezinski in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives.

It should be remembered that it was in this very book that Brzezinski uttered the famous statement that “America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being.”[1]

The book, written in 1997, seemed to lament the fact that the public would not support such blatant imperialism unless they truly viewed the crusade to be in their own immediate self-interest. Only fours year later, the public would receive such a “sudden threat or challenge” to their “sense of domestic well-being” in theform of the 9/11 attacks.

In regards to Russia, Brzezinski clearly laid out his desire to see a fractured Russia, a nation that was drastically smaller in size and much weaker in terms of its governmental structure. In other words, a Russia incapable of opposing Anglo-American hegemony.

Brzezinski wrote,

Given the enormous size and diversity of the country, a decentralized political system, based on the free market, would be more likely to unleash the creative potential of both the Russian people and the country’s vast natural resources. In turn, such a more decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.[2]

Brzezinski makes it clear that the strategy towards Russia is one that involves the breakup of the country into three parts, loosely confederated, partially beholden to NATO-dominated Europe, and blended with the other powers of Asia.

He writes,

A loosely confederated Russia—composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic—would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with Europe, with the new states of Central Asia, and with the Orient, which would thereby accelerate Russia’s own development. Each of the three confederated entities would also be more able to tap local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow’s heavy bureaucratic hand.[3]

Likewise, Brzezinski sees China and the greater Asian region uniting under a loosely confederal system, effectively forming the world into a realm of what is, essentially, three main trading blocks, full of impotent states and third world fiefdoms.[4]

Clearly, Russia is not going to allow itself to be destroyed and broken up into three parts for the benefit of the hegemony of world oligarchs. Yet Brzezinski’s desire are clearly the goals of the ruling elite and a plan to make them a reality is already in motion.

In order to accomplish such a task, it would require an enormous battle politically, economically, and militarily. Unfortunately for the world, it appears the ruling elite is prepared to do just that.

[1] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books. 1997. Pp. 40-41
[2] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books. 1997. Pp. 202.
[3] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books. 1997. Pp. 202-203.
[4] Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives. Basic Books. 1997.

US Officials Consider Nuclear Strikes Against Russia

By Niles Williamson

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is meeting today at the headquarters of the US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany with two dozen US military commanders and European diplomats to discuss how to escalate their economic and military campaign against Russia. They will assess the impact of current economic sanctions, as well as NATO’s strategy of exploiting the crisis in eastern Ukraine to deploy ever-greater numbers of troops and military equipment to Eastern Europe, threatening Russia with war.

A US defense official told Reuters that the main purpose of the meeting was to “assess and strategize on how the United States and key allies should think about heightened tensions with Russia over the past year.” The official also said Carter was open to providing the Ukrainian regime with lethal weapons, a proposal which had been put forward earlier in the year.

Most provocatively, a report published by the Associated Press yesterday reports that the Pentagon has been actively considering the use of nuclear missiles against military targets inside Russia, in response to what it alleges are violations of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Russia denies US claims that it has violated the INF by flight-testing ground-launched cruise missiles with a prohibited range.

Three options being considered by the Pentagon are the placement of anti-missile defenses in Europe aimed at shooting Russian missiles out of the sky; a “counterforce” option that would involve pre-emptive non-nuclear strikes on Russia military sites; and finally, “countervailing strike capabilities,” involving the pre-emptive deployment of nuclear missiles against targets inside Russia.

The AP states: “The options go so far as one implied—but not stated explicitly—that would improve the ability of US nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.” In other words, the US is actively preparing nuclear war against Russia.

Robert Scher, one of Carter’s nuclear policy aides, told Congress in April that the deployment of “counterforce” measures would mean “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.”

According to other Pentagon officials, this option would entail the deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles throughout Europe.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Skewers told AP, “All the options under consideration are designed to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from their violation.”

The criminality and recklessness of the foreign policy of Washington and its NATO allies is staggering. A pre-emptive nuclear strike against Russian forces, many of them near populated areas, could claim millions of lives in seconds and lead to a nuclear war that would obliterate humanity. Even assuming that the US officials threatening Russia do not actually want such an outcome, however, and that they are only trying to intimidate Moscow, there is a sinister objective logic to such threats.

Nuclear warmongering by US officials immensely heightens the danger of all-out war erupting accidentally, amid escalating military tensions and strategic uncertainty. NATO forces are deploying for military exercises all around Russia, from the Arctic and Baltic Seas to Eastern Europe and the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Regional militaries are all on hair-trigger alerts.

US officials threatening Russia cannot know how the Kremlin will react to such threats. With Moscow concerned about the danger of a sudden NATO strike, Russia is ever more likely to respond to perceived signs of NATO military action by launching its missiles, fearing that otherwise the missiles will be destroyed on the ground. The danger of miscalculations and miscommunications leading to all-out war is immensely heightened.

The statements of Scher and Carter confirm warnings made last year by the WSWS, that NATO’s decision to back a fascist-led putsch in Kiev in February, and to blame Russia without any evidence for shooting down flight MH17, posed the risk of war. “Are you ready for war—including possibly nuclear war—between the United States, Europe, and Russia? That is the question that everyone should be asking him- or herself in light of the developments since the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17,” the WSWS wrote .

In March, Putin stated that he had placed Russian forces, including its nuclear forces, on alert in the aftermath of the Kiev putsch, fearing a NATO attack on Russia. Now the threat of war arising from US policy has been confirmed directly by statements of the US military.

These threats have developed largely behind the backs of the world working class. Workers in the United States, Europe and worldwide have time and again shown their hostility to US wars in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Yet nearly 15 years after these wars began, the world stands on the brink of an even bloodier and more devastating conflict, and the media and ruling elites the world over are hiding the risk of nuclear war.

US President Barack Obama is expected to escalate pressure on Russia at the G7 summit this weekend, pressing European leaders to maintain economic sanctions put in place in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year. The latest outbreak in violence in Ukraine this week, which the US blames on Russia, is to serve as a pretext for continuing the sanctions.

Speaking to Parliament on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned of a “colossal threat of the resumption of large-scale hostilities by Russian and terrorist forces.” He claimed without proof that 9,000 Russian soldiers are deployed in rebel-held areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s military should be ready for a new offensive by the enemy, as well as a full-scale invasion along the entire border with the Russian Federation,” Poroshenko said. “We must be really prepared for this.” He said the Ukrainian army had at least 50,000 soldiers stationed in the east, prepared to defend the country.

Poroshenko’s remarks came a day after renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and Russian-backed separatists resulted in dozens of casualties. This week’s fighting marked the largest breach to date of the cease-fire signed in February.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia believed the previous day’s hostilities had been provoked by Kiev to influence upcoming discussions at the G7 summit this weekend and the EU summit in Brussels at the end of the month. “These provocative actions are organized by Ukraine’s military forces, and we are concerned with that,” he stated.

Each side blamed the other for initiating fighting in Marinka, approximately nine miles west of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. Yuriy Biryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, reported on Thursday that five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the fighting, and another 39 wounded. Eduard Basurin, deputy defense minister and spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), told Interfax that 16 rebel fighters and five civilians had been killed.

Ukrainian forces also fired artillery at the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Wednesday. Shells landed in the southwest districts of Kirovsky and Petrovsky, killing 6 people and wounding at least 90 others. The city’s Sokol market was severely damaged, with several rows of shops burned to the ground.

Responding to Wednesday’s developments, members of the fascistic Right Sector militia have been called to mobilize for battle. Andrey Stempitsky, commander of the militia’s paramilitary battalion, posted a message on Facebook calling on those who went home during the cease-fire to “return to their combat units.” He warned that the Right Sector would “wage war, ignoring the truce devotees.

Twelve Years Later, We Know the Winner in Iraq: Iran

Iran should send America a fruit basket to thank it for setting the stage so perfectly for its ascent.
 

The U.S. is running around in circles in the Middle East, patching together coalitions here, acquiring strange bedfellows there, and in location after location trying to figure out who the enemy of its enemy actually is. The result is just what you’d expect: chaos further undermining whatever’s left of the nations whose frailty birthed the jihadism America is trying to squash.

And in a classic tale of unintended consequences, just about every time Washington has committed another blunder in the Middle East, Iran has stepped in to take advantage. Consider that country the rising power in the region and credit American clumsiness for the new Iranian ascendancy.

Today’s News — and Some History

The U.S. recently concluded air strikes in support of the Iraqi militias that Iran favors as they took back the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS). At the same time, Washington began supplying intelligence and aerial refueling on demand for a Saudi bombing campaign against the militias Iran favors in Yemen. Iran continues to advise and assist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Washington would still like to depose and, as part of its Syrian strategy, continues to supply and direct Hezbollah in Lebanon, a group the U.S. considers a terror outfit.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has successfully negotiated the outlines of an agreement with Iran in which progress on severely constricting its nuclear program would be traded for an eventual lifting of sanctions and the granting of diplomatic recognition. This is sure to further bolster Tehran’s status as a regional power, while weakening long-time American allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States.

A clever pundit could undoubtedly paint all of the above as a realpolitik ballet on Washington’s part, but the truth seems so much simpler and more painful. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, U.S. policy in the region has combined confusion on an immense scale with awkward bursts of ill-coordinated and exceedingly short-term acts of expediency. The country that has most benefited is Iran. No place illustrates this better than Iraq.

Iraq Redux (Yet Again)

On April 9, 2003, just over 12 years ago, U.S. troops pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square, symbolically marking what George W. Bush hoped was the beginning of a campaign to remake the Middle East in America’s image by bringing not just Iraq but Syria and Iran to heel. And there can be no question that the invasion of Iraq did indeed set events in motion that are still remaking the region in ways once unimaginable.

In the wake of the Iraq invasion and occupation, the Arab Spring blossomed and failed. (The recent Obama administration decision to resume arms exports to the military government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt could be considered its coup de grâce.) Today, fighting ripples through Libya, Syria, Yemen, the Maghreb, the Horn of Africa, and other parts of the Greater Middle East. Terrorists attack in once relatively peaceful places like Tunisia. There is now ade facto independent Kurdistan — last a reality in the sixteenth century — that includes the city of Kirkuk. Previously stable countries have become roiling failed states and home to terrorist groups that didn’t even exist when the U.S. military rolled across the Iraqi border in 2003.

And, of course, 12 years later in Iraq itself the fighting roars on. Who now remembers President Obama declaring victory in 2011 and praising American troops for coming home with their “heads held high”? He seemed then to be washing his hands forever of the pile of sticky brown sand that was Bush’s Iraq. Trillions had been spent, untold lives lost or ruined, but as with Vietnam decades earlier, the U.S. was to move on and not look back. So much for the dream of a successful Pax Americana in the Middle East, but at least it was all over.

You know what happened next. Unlike in Vietnam, Washington did go back, quickly turning a humanitarian gesture in August 2014 to save the Yazidipeople from destruction at the hands of the Islamic State into a full-scale bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq. A coalition of 62 nations was formed. (Where are they all now while the U.S. conducts 85% of all air strikes against IS?)  The tap on a massive arms flow was turned on. The architect of the 2007 “surge” in Iraq and a leaker of top secret documents, retired general and former CIA Director David Petraeus, was brought back in for advice. Twenty-four-seven bombing became the order of the day and several thousand U.S. military advisors returned to familiar bases to retrain some part of an American-created army that had only recently collapsed and abandoned four key northern citiesto Islamic State militants. Iraq War 3.0 was officially underway and many pundits — including me — predicted a steady escalation with the usual quagmire to follow.

Such a result can hardly be ruled out yet, but at the moment it’s as if Barack Obama had stepped to the edge of the Iraqi abyss, peered over, and then shrugged his shoulders. Both his administration and the U.S. military appear content for the moment neither to pull back nor press harder.

The American people seem to feel much the same way. Except in the Republican Congress (and even there in less shrill form than usual), there are few calls for… well, anything. The ongoing air strikes remain “surgical” in domestic politics, if not in Iraq and Syria. Hardly noticed and little reported on here, they have had next to no effect on Americans. Yet they remain sufficient to assure the right wing that the American military is still the best tool to solve problems abroad, while encouraging liberals who want to show that they can be as tough as anyone going into 2016.

At first glance, the American version of Iraq War 3.0 has the feel of the Libyan air intervention — the same lack of concern, that is, for the long game. But Iraq 2015 is no Libya 2011, because this time while America sits back, Iran rises.

Iran Ascendant

The Middle East was ripe for change. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the last major transformational event in the area was the fall of that classic American stooge, the Shah of Iran, in 1979. Otherwise, many of the thug regimes in power since the 1960s, the height of the Cold War, had stayed in place, and so had most of the borders set even earlier, in the aftermath of World War I.

Iran should send America a fruit basket to thank it for setting the stage so perfectly for its ascent. As a start, in 2003 the United States eliminated Iran’s major border threats: Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to the west and the Taliban in Afghanistan to the east. (The Taliban are back of course, but diligently focused on America’s puppet Afghan government.) The long slog of Washington’s wars in both those countries dulled even the reliably bloodthirsty American public’s taste for yet more of the same, and cooled off Bush-era plans in Tel Aviv and Washington for air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. (After all, if even Vice President Dick Cheney couldn’t pull the trigger on Iran before leaving office in 2008, who in 2015 America is going to do so?)

Better yet for the Iranians, when Saddam was hanged in 2006, they not only lost an enemy who had invaded their country in 1980, launching a bitter waragainst them that didn’t end for eight years, but gained an ally in the new Iraq. As U.S. influence withered away with the failure of the March 2010 Iraqi elections to produce a broadly representative government, Iran stepped in to broker a thoroughly partisan settlement leading to a sectarian Shia government in Baghdad bent on ensuring that the country’s minority Sunni population would remain out of power forever. The Obama administration seemed nearly oblivious to Iran’s gains in Iraq in 2010 — and seems so again in 2015.

Iran in Iraq

In Tikrit, Iranian-led Shia forces recently drove the Islamic State from the city. In charge was Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the Qods Force (a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards), who had previously led the brutally effective efforts of Iranian special forces against U.S. soldiers in Iraq War 2.0. He returned to that country and assembled his own coalition of Shia militias to take Tikrit. All of them have long benefited from Iranian support, as has the increasingly Shia-dominated Iraqi army.

In addition, the Iranians seem to have brought in their own tanks and possibly even ground troops for the assault on the city. They also moved advanced rocket systems into Iraq, the same weapons Hamas has used against Israel in recent conflicts.

Only one thing was lacking: air power. After much hemming and hawing, when it looked like the assault on Tikrit had been blunted by well-dug-in Islamic State fighters in a heavily booby-trapped city, the Obama administration agreed to provide it.

On the U.S. side, the air of desperation around the decision to launch air strikes on Tikrit was palpable. You could feel it, for instance, in this statement by a Pentagon spokesperson almost pleading for the Iraqi government to favor Washington over Tehran: “I think it’s important that the Iraqis understand that what would be most helpful to them is a reliable partner in this fight against IS. Reliable, professional, advanced military capabilities are something that very clearly and very squarely reside with the coalition.”

Imagine if you had told an American soldier — or general — leaving Iraq in 2011 that, just a few years later in the country where he or she had watched friends die, the U.S. would be serving as Iran’s close air support.  Imagine if you had told him that Washington would be helping some of the same Shia militias who planted IEDs to kill Americans go after Sunnis — and essentially begging for the chance to do so. Who would’ve thunk it?

The Limits of Air Power 101

The White House no doubt imagined that U.S. bombs would be seen as the decisive factor in Tikrit and that the sectarian government in Baghdad would naturally come to… What? Like us better than the Iranians?

Bizarre as such a “strategy” might seem on the face of it, it has proven even stranger in practice. The biggest problem with air power is that, while it’s good at breaking things, it isn’t decisive. It cannot determine who moves into the governor’s mansion after the dust settles. Only ground forces can do that, so a victory over the Islamic State in Tikrit, no matter what role air strikes played, can only further empower those Iranian-backed Shia militias. You don’t have to be a military expert to know that this is the nature of air power, which makes it all the more surprising that American strategists seem so blind to it.

As for liking Washington better for its helping hand, there are few signs of that. Baghdad officials have largely been silent on America’s contribution, praising only the “air coverage of the Iraqi air force and the international coalition.” Shia militia forces on the ground have been angered by and scornful of the United States for — as they see it — interfering in their efforts to take Tikrit on their own.

The victory in that city will only increase the government’s reliance on the militias, whom Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi now refers to as “popular volunteers,” rather than the still-limited number of soldiers the Americans have so far been capable of training. (The Pentagon might, by the way, want to see if Iran can pass along any training tips, as their militias, unlike the American-backed Iraqi army, seem to be doing just fine.) That also means that the government will have no choice but to tolerate the Shia militia atrocities and acts of ethnic cleansing that have already taken place in Sunni Tikrit and will surely follow in any other Sunni areas similarly “liberated.” Claims coming out of Washington that the U.S. will be carefully monitoring the acts of Iraqi forces ring increasingly hollow.

What Tikrit has, in fact, done is solidify Iran’s influence over Prime Minister al-Abadi, currently little more than the acting mayor of Baghdad, who claimed the victory in Tikrit as a way to increase his own prestige. The win also allows his Shia-run government to seize control of the ruins of that previously Sunni enclave. And no one should miss the obvious symbolism that lies in the fact that the first major city retaken from the Islamic State in a Sunni area is also the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.

The best the Obama administration can do is watch helplessly as Tehran and Baghdad take their bows. A template has been created for a future in which other Sunni areas, including the country’s second largest city, Mosul, and Sunni cities in Anbar Province will be similarly retaken, perhaps with the help of American air power but almost certainly with little credit to Washington.

Iran in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen

Tehran is now playing a similarly important role in other places where U.S. policy stumbles have left voids, particularly in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

In Syria, Iranian forces, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Qods Force, and their intelligence services, advise and assist Bashar al-Assad’s military. They also support Hezbollah elements from Lebanon fighting on Assad’s side. At best, Washington is again playing second fiddle, using its air power against the Islamic State and training “moderate” Syrian fighters, the first of whom refusedto even show up for their initial battle.

In Yemen, a U.S.-supported regime, backed by Special Forces advisers and a full-scale drone targeted assassination campaign, recently crumbled. The American Embassy was evacuated in February, the last of those advisers in March. The takeover of the capital, Sana’a, and later significant parts of the rest of the country by the Houthis, a rebel Shiite minority group, represents, in the words of one Foreign Policy writer, “a huge victory for Iran… the Houthis’ decision to tie their fate to Tehran’s regional machinations risks tearing Yemen apart and throwing the country into chaos.”

The panicked Saudis promptly intervened and were quickly backed by the Obama administration’s insertion of the United States in yet another conflict by executive order. Relentless Saudi air strikes (perhaps using some of the $640 million worth of cluster bombs the U.S. sold them last year) are supported by yet another coalition, this time of Sudan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and other Sunni powers in the region. The threat of an invasion, possibly usingEgyptian troops, looms.  The Iranians have moved ships into the area in response to a Saudi naval blockade of Yemen.

No matter what happens, Iran will be strengthened. Either it will find itself in a client relationship with a Houthi movement that has advanced to the Saudi border or, should they be driven back, a chaotic state in Yemen with an ever-strengthening al-Qaeda offshoot. Either outcome would undoubtedly discombobulate the Saudis (and the Americans) and so sit well with Iran.

To make things even livelier in a fragmenting region, Sunni rebels infiltrating from neighboring Pakistan recently killed eight Iranian border guards. This probably represented a retaliatory attack in response to an earlier skirmish in which Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed three suspected Pakistani Sunni militants. Once started, fires do tend to spread.

For those keeping score at home, the Iranians now hold significant positions in three Middle Eastern countries (or at least fragments of former countries) in addition to Iraq.

Iran Ascending and the Nuclear Question

Iran is well positioned to ascend. Geopolitically, alone in the region it is a nation that has existed more or less within its current borders for thousands of years. It is almost completely ethnically stable and religiously, culturally, and linguistically homogeneous, with its minorities comparatively under control. While still governed in large part by its clerics, Iran has seen evolving democratic electoral transitions at the secular level. Politically, history is on Iran’s side. If you set aside the 1953 CIA-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and put the U.S.-backed Shah in power for a quarter of a century, Iran has sorted out its governance on its own for some time.

Somehow, despite decades of sanctions, Iran, with the fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves on the planet, has managed to hold its economy together, selling what oil it can primarily toAsia. It is ready to sell more oil as soon as sanctions lift. It has a decent conventional military by local standards. Its young reportedly yearn for greater engagement with the West. Unlike nearly every other nation in the Middle East, Iran’s leaders do not rule in fear of an Islamic revolution. They already had one — 36 years ago.

Recently, the U.S., Iran, and the P5 (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) reached a preliminary agreement to significantly constrain that country’s nuclear program and lift sanctions. It appears that both the Obama administration and Tehran are eager to turn it into an official document by the end of June. A deal isn’t a deal until signed on the dotted line, and the congressional Republicans are sharpening their knives, but the intent is clearly there.

To keep the talks on track, by the end of June the Obama administration will have released to the Islamic Republic a total of $11.9 billion in previously frozen assets, dating back to the 1979 Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. In addition to the straight-up flood of cash, the U.S. agreed that Iran may sell $4.2 billion worth of oil, free from any sanctions. The U.S. will also allow Iran approximately $1.5 billion in gold sales, as well as easier access to “humanitarian transactions.” Put another way, someone in Washington wanted this badly enough to pay for it.

For President Obama and his advisers, this agreement is clearly a late grasp (or perhaps last gasp) at legacy building, and maybe even a guilty stab at justifying that 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The urge to etch some kind of foreign policy success into future history books that, at the moment, threaten to be grim reading is easy enough to understand. So it should have surprised no one that John Kerry, Obama’s once globetrotting secretary of state, basically took up residence in Switzerland to negotiate with the Iranians. He sat at the table in Lausanne bargaining while Tikrit burned, Syria simmered, his country was chased out of Yemen, and the Saudis launched their own war in that beleaguered country. That he had hardly a word to say about any of those events, or much of anything else going on in the world at the time, is an indication of just how much value the Obama administration puts on those nuclear negotiations.

For the Iranians, trading progress on developing nuclear weapons for the full-scale lifting of sanctions was an attractive offer. After all, its leaders know that the country could never go fully nuclear without ensuring devastating Israeli strikes, and so lost little with the present agreement while gaining much. Being accepted as a peer by Washington in such negotiations only further establishes their country’s status as a regional power. Moreover, a nuclear agreement that widens any rift between the U.S., Israel, and the Saudis plays to Tehran’s new strength. Finally, the stronger economy likely to blossom once sanctions are lifted will offer the nation the possibility of new revenues and renewed foreign investment. (It’s easy to imagine Chinese businesspeople on Orbitz making air reservations as you read this.) The big winner in the nuclear deal is not difficult to suss out.

What Lies Ahead

In these last months, despite the angry, fearful cries and demands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Saudi royals, and neo- and other conservatives in Congress, Iran has shown few signs of aspiring to the sort of self-destruction going nuclear would entail. (If Iran had created a bomb every time Netanyahu claimed they were on the verge of having one in the past two decades, Tehran would be littered with them.) In fact, trading mushroom clouds with Israel and possibly the U.S. never looked like an appealing goal to the Iranian leadership. Instead, they preferred to seek a more conventional kind of influence throughout the Middle East. They were hardly alone in that, but their success has been singular in the region in these years.

The U.S. provided free tutorials in Afghanistan and Iraq on why actually occupying territory in the neighborhood isn’t the road to such influence. Iran’s leaders have not ignored the advice. Instead, Iran’s rise has been stoked by a collection of client states, aligned governments, sympathetic and/or beholden militias, and — when all else fails — chaotic non-states that promise less trouble and harm to Tehran than to its various potential enemies.

Despite Iran’s gains, the U.S. will still be the biggest kid on the block for years, possibly decades, to come. One hopes that America will not use that military and economic strength to lash out at the new regional power it inadvertently helped midwife. And if any of this does presage some future U.S. conflict with an Iran that has gotten “too powerful,” then we shall have witnessed a great irony, a great tragedy, and a damn waste of American blood and resources

Jaw-Dropping US Hypocrisy on Display re Saudi Aggression vs. Russian “Aggression”

Washington has for months been screaming about Russian “aggression” against post-US-backed coup Ukraine.  The screams are never accompanied by any clear evidence (perhaps highlighting why the screaming is so important), which the governments of Germany and other European countries recentlyannounced is for good reason: the claims are merely more of Washington’s characteristic, self-serving distortions.

Condemnation of Russian “aggression” was already a case study in US-American hypocrisy, as the US is the country that has carried out, and is continuing, the worst case of aggression of the century, the invasion of Iraq, which, as part of its ongoing, wider war for hegemony over the Middle East, has slaughtered somewhere on the order of 1 to 2 or more million people in the last ten years, according to a new study by the Nobel-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility.  (This is in addition to the approximately ten thousand of its “own” people the US has slaughtered domestically in the last ten or so years.)

Really?

Adding to this, the US is now openly coordinating another act of naked aggression committed by a tandem force of two US-collaborator countries competing for the title of world’s worst domestic dictatorship: Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Amazingly (though typically), the US and its media partners, such as NBC, are trying to spin the Saudi invasion as a Saudi “proxy” war…  It isn’t.  The Saudis are not using proxies.  They themselves are doing it…  openly, as terrorist states backed by the US are often wont to do.  If it is a proxy war in any way, it is a US proxy war, since the Saudis are using US planes and being coordinated by the United States, making them, arguably, US proxies.

All of this serves to continue to underline, for the X-thousandth time, the cornerstone operating principle of the United States: We can do anything, and places we want to conquer can do nothing (the principle of any unreasonable person or group with a lust for power over others).

Part of this principle involves ignoring that, while the Saudis are “desperate to portray this [their invasion of Yemen] as a counter to Iran”, and that is supposed to be the excuse for the aggression (legally, excuses for aggression are irrelevant and to be ignored), Russia would not be allowed to use “countering the US/NATO expansion” as a reason for supporting Ukrainian anti-coup democrats.  That would be violating the US principle: you are not allowed to counter the terrorism of the US or its collaborators, such as the freedom-loving Saudi “royal” dictatorship.  Thus Russian can have no involvement with eastern Ukrainian democrats, while the US can organize a terrorist army to destroy Syria, as it continues to do.

Also of continued note here is that Saudi Arabia is a semi-nuclear state: it has a deal to order nukes at any time from Pakistan (which the US openly helped go nuclear in the early 90s), and the Saudi Ambassador today announced that Saudi Arabia will not rule out making nukes, and will never negotiate about making nukes.  (The idea that the US cares about Islamic fundamentalist states having nukes was debunked long ago, as noted above re Pakistan.)  The US-backed Saudi example stands in contrast to Iran, which invades no one, loudly disavows nuclear weapons, has no nuclear weapons, is not pursuing them (according to the US’s own spies), and is the most inspected country in the world.  Millions of Iranians have been killed with US support since 1953, and Iran remains under harsh US-led threat and siege (sanction), with its civilian nuclear program as the pretext.  The international community supports Iran’s right to a nuclear program.

Also see Antiwar.com’s “No Proxy War: Saudi Invasion of Yemen just Flat Out Aggression“.

A researcher from the above-cited Physician’s for Social Responsibility body-count study notes: “A politically useful option for U.S. political elites has been to attribute the on-going violence to internecine conflicts of various types, including historical religious animosities, as if the resurgence and brutality of such conflicts is unrelated to the destabilization cause by decades of outside military intervention,” they write. “As such, under-reporting of the human toll attributed to ongoing Western interventions, whether deliberate of through self-censorship, has been key to removing the ‘fingerprints’ of responsibility.”