The Iran-Israeli War

There is an article in this morning’s Washington Post by Ishaan Tharoor entitled, “Is regime change in Iran part of Trump’s agenda?” The answer offered is an assertive “yes.” The following evidence is offered:

  • Rudy (Rudolph) Giuliani, The Donald’s newly-appointed personal lawyer, just said so in an unexpected speech (both in timing and given his role as Trump’s personal attorney with no role in the White House) on Saturday to the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights (IFCDHR) a front for the MEK, Mujahidin e-Khalq, stating that Trump was “committed to regime change” in Iran
  • Giuliani also said that, “We have a president who is tough… a president who is as committed to regime change as we are” and that confronting Iran is “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal.”
  • Giuliani has been a lobbyist for over a decade for the MEK (see Jonathan Vankin in the INQUISITR)
  • In 2012, Giuliani was widely credited with getting the MEK delisted from its fifteen-year-old U.S. State Department designation as a “terrorist organization” under a court-imposed deadline for a decision (cf. Spencer Ackerman in Share 12/09/2012)
  • The MEK as a proxy for the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq had been held responsible for the deaths of three American military officers and three military contractors
  • The MEK, following a 2004 NYT Magazine report, is widely regarded as a husband-and-wife cult led by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi given its controls over the sex lives and reading of its members, though it now presents itself as a pro-democracy organization and implacable enemy of the Islamic Tehran regime that provides intelligence (usually fake) on Iran’s nuclear program
  • In 2012, the MEK, in spite of the support it had gained among some American politicians and policy buffs, was still largely considered a fringe cult with limited appeal to Iranians
  • However, currently both John Bolton, Trump’s newly-named National Security Adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the newly-minted Secretary of State, are known supporters of the MEK
  • Trump in his campaign to be the Republican nominee, in his presidential campaign and as president, has repeatedly denounced the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as a “bad one,” the “worst deal ever”
  • This week it is widely believed that he will renounce the nuclear deal and re-impose economic sanctions contrary to the dire warnings against such a move by world political leaders such as Emmanuel Macron, President of France, and UN Secretary General António Guterres because of the imminent prospect of war (Boris Johnson, the UK Foreign Secretary, arrived in Washington yesterday to continue Macron’s lobbying campaign)
  • May 12 is the deadline for making a decision about renewing sanctions by the U.S.
  • Trump is highly unlikely to go to war against Tehran given his dedication to pulling troops out of the Middle East and Far East (“We are going to stop spending US$7 trillion abroad and start focusing on infrastructure at home.”) in spite of the propensities and preferences of the hawks among his reborn foreign policy personnel

By all reputable accounts and inspection reports, Iran has kept the terms of the nuclear deal, but it has not curbed, and likely enhanced, its missile program as well as its troubling interventions in Syria, not just to back the Assad regime, but to establish long term military and missile bases in Syria. If the U.S. re-authorizes economic sanctions, thereby renouncing its commitment to the nuclear deal, a deep schism will result between the U.S. and its European allies who are intent on continuing their support for the nuclear deal.

The likely result will be that the U.S. will give, and has already probably committed itself to giving, Israel permission to act as its surrogate in attacking Iranian targets in Syria. Note the following:

  • Retired Israeli military generals and intelligence officers have become very vocal and have openly warned that withdrawal from the nuclear deal will make matters worse
  • In The Guardian on the weekend, Mark Townsend and Julian Borger reported that an Israeli intelligence firm had been employed by the Trump campaign to discredit those in the Obama regime (Kerry, Rhodes, Kahl, Biden) that had been active in forging the deal by means of “dirty ops” thereby helping to discredit the deal
  • Netanyahu in the week before presented an elaborate show-and-tell with an impressive array of detail captured by the Mossad on the well-known pre-deal record of lying and cheating by the Iranian regime on the Iranian nuclear program
  • Netanyahu almost explicitly claimed that Iran was continuing its past practices of lying and cheating in the post 2015 nuclear deal period but provided absolutely no evidence to that effect
  • Most ominously, Netanyahu insisted that Iran had to be stopped and it was better to do that now rather than later
  • Israel insists on continuing its policy of absolute control over the skies concerning any threats emanating from Syria as evidenced when Israel shot down an Iranian drone in February
  • In the past several weeks, Israel has upped the ante in attacking Iranian facilities in Syria; in the most significant action, Israeli F-15 fighter jets destroyed a cache of Iranian missiles and, in the process, reportedly killed dozens of Iranian military personnel
  • On 30 April, the Knesset voted to give Netanyahu authorization, if the Defense Minister agreed, to “declare war under extreme circumstances,” thereby amending the Israel’s Basic Law Clause 40A that states that the “state shall not start a war save by force of a government decision” and that such a decision will be conveyed to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee ASAP; the revised procedure would sideline the traditional pattern that the IDF, the intelligence institutions and the Foreign Affairs Ministry would all be consulted before such a decision
  • Netanyahu has repeatedly drawn a red line in the sand insisting that Israel will not permit Iran to establish military bases in Syria; in fact, there are three red lines: 1) no Iranian or Iranian proxies (e.g. Hezbollah) on Israeli borders; 2) no Iranian precision-guided missiles in Syria; 3) no expanded Iranian military entrenchment in Syria
  • Putin’s meeting this week with Netanyahu is unlikely to dissuade Israel from any further military action in Lebanon but will seek reassurances and mechanisms that Russian facilities will not be targeted
  • Hawkish Israeli cabinet members have insisted that Israel’s security will remain in dire jeopardy unless Assad is removed, an unlikely prospect, but holding that goal up will make Netanyahu’s military initiative against the Iranian presence in Syria appear as a more modest effort, even if quite disproportionate to the provocation, and will put further pressure on Assad to accede to Israeli demands that Iran be required to remove its military bases from Syria
  • A distraction from the eruptions expected from Palestinian quarters to the imminent U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem in a week adds fuel to the increased prospect of a much higher military engagement of Israel against Iran in Syria
  • The disproportionate Israeli response to the Hamas efforts against the fence received relatively muted international criticism and Hamas has now been reduced effectively to pleading for a long-term military truce

Iran has become both very circumspect at the same time as it has been more vocal in warning the U.S. not to cancel the nuclear deal. More specifically,

  • Until 12 May, Iran has put further military initiatives in Syria on “pause”
  • On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not only threatened the U.S. if it reneged on the nuclear deal, but also announced that, “We have plans to resist any decision by Trump on the nuclear accord…Orders have been issued to our atomic energy organization … and to the economic sector to confront America’s plots against our country”
  • American and/or Israeli diplomatic and/or military initiatives will weaken Rouhani and strengthen his rival hard line Revolutionary Guard Corps leader, Qassem Soleimani and solidify support for him by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
  • Soleimani is almost surely planning a quid pro quo attack on an Israeli military operation after 12 May even though it will almost surely result in a much larger retaliation against the Iranian military presence in Syria
  • In the May 6th elections in Lebanon, Hezbollah has run candidates, even more hawkish than before and in all constituencies for the first time in an effort to extend its control over Lebanese political and military policies and put Lebanon even further into Iran’s back pocket
  • The prospect of war with Israel and the imminent likely cancellation of the nuclear deal has led to a further precipitous decline in the value of the Iranian currency, putting more pressure on the regime to find a distraction and a nationalist rallying cry
  • The radical forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially the Al Quds division, is highly unlikely to retreat from its efforts to provide the point of attack for Iran to project power in the region even though in the past it moved into vacuums created by others; Soleimani likely views himself at a point of no return or retreat, but this is the critical breaking point on which Israel is forging its new activist agenda against Iran (cf. the recent piece by Jonathan Paris in the Fathom Forum)

I have been a strong supporter of the Iran nuclear deal. I have also warned that the debates over the Iran nuclear were really over differences in how to respond to the increasing threat of a more conventionally militant Iran. Both issues are now merging once again and the most likely prospect is an Israeli enhanced military involvement in Syria targeting Iran and with an implicit backing of the U.S. I believe that such an enhanced response would be more effective if it was de-linked from the Iranian nuclear deal but the Netanyahu government seems to believe otherwise and that now is the time to take action in the interest of long-term as well as immediate strategic goals.

Expect war unless Soleimani backs away temporarily (unlikely) to increase his forces fighting in Yemen and with Turkish forces against the Kurds.

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AIPAC and the U.S. Presidential Candidates – Donald Trump

AIPAC and the U.S. Presidential Candidates – Donald Trump

by

Howard Adelman

Because of snow and fog, I am a day behind in sending out my blogs.

I know that as a Canadian I should be writing about the new Canadian budget, lauding the government for its generous and badly needed funding for projects for aboriginal peoples, but once again, as is the habit of Canadian governments, balancing or reducing budgets for jets and ships on the back of the Department of Defence by once again taking a billion dollars or so out of the defence procurement budget. I know that the government will insist that, given the way the procurement of the replacements for the CF-18s and the ships have been so delayed, the money cannot be spent anyway, but I find that an excuse rather than an explanation.

The contrast was very telling, for the budget came down to reducing the deficit by one billion dollars in a thirty billion deficit on the same day that Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that the United States military has not, and will not, compromise equipping troops going into harm’s way. “They have everything they need to ensure success.” Further, it was the same day that the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced a further allocation of £472 million for the Royal Navy’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship program. Canada does not adequately equip its troops and does not carry its fair contribution for burden sharing in the military for the Western military alliance.

But I am in America and more America-obsessed than usual. Yesterday, we began our day with a visit to the Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, South Dakota, appreciating the fine handicrafts of the Lakota Sioux nation, but also seeing once again evidence of a terrible series of battles and wars against the plains Indians in America and a record of false promises and betrayals in the nineteenth century when signed treaties stood in the way of 15,000 prospectors pouring into the gold fields in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is always such a somber and melancholy experience to relive both the intentional and inadvertent genocidal efforts to destroy a people. The displays were meant to be uplifting as well since they were dedicated to portraying everything from survival skills to the way the children were raised with positive reinforcement when children display the specific skills and talents with which they are endowed as they reveal their best attributes in imitating their elders. It is a superb museum.

But what most moved me was a video replay of a story told by a Lakota story-teller to their children, the story of Ikto’mi, the trickster. According to legend, Ikto’mi had the round body of a spider, an insect that spins webs to trap its prey, which looks and dresses like a human. Further, he performs in clownish ways to entertain and misdirect the attention of the people from his real intentions. In the specific story told on the tape in the museum, the women of the village were alone minding their children and doing their cooking and other domestic chores while their men were out hunting. They longed for the taste of choke cherries, but they were too far off to get them since they had to stay in the village to guard the children.

Along came Ikto’mi who charmed, amused and delighted the women and then offered to babysit the children while they went off to gather the choke cherries. They would not have to pay him; he was well off and could afford to give his time to a worthy cause. At first they insisted that they could not leave their children in the care of a stranger, but Ikto’mi assured them over and over again and in different ways that he was strong and dedicated to their protection and that of their children. No stranger or animal will touch them while they are under my care. “Believe me,” he insisted, “you can absolutely trust me. The children will be obedient and well-behaved if you leave them in my care,” he reassured them. He explained with a smile that he was the epitome of the strong leader who would guard their children from any external harm. Finally, beguiled by his charm, his clownish behaviour, his convincing rhetoric and the insistent and repeated promises, and also tempted by the delight of recovering the joys of the past when choke cherries were bountiful and of easy access for picking, the women gave in, went off to the hills to pick choke cherries and left Ikto’mi in charge of the protection and care of their children.

When they returned from a hard day of collection, they were tired and anxious to see their children, but Ikto’mi persuaded them that their children were fine and engaged in a game just over the hill and he would go fetch them while they ate of a soup that he had arduously prepared for them and that would help them recuperate from their hard day’s work. The soup would make them more relaxed when uniting once again with rambunctious children that had been all worked up and over-heated after the day’s activities. So when Ikto’mi went off ostensibly to collect the children, the women sat in a circle sharing stories and eating the wonderful soup with its tender meat and unusual flavour, marveling at what a terrific cook Ikto’mi was. You can imagine their shock and dismay, their distress and anxiety, when they waited and waited and Ikto’mi did not return with their children. They went out to look for Ikto’mi, but he was not to be found. Neither were their children. They went into shock and unparalleled grief as it gradually dawned on them what had been in the soup they had eaten.

In all the gothic children’s tales in Western literature, I know of none that compares with this horrid tale of misplaced trust over a sacred duty and the dire consequences of misplaced trust.

We finally reached the motel after a long day of driving, made longer because we began with the visit to the museum, and because we had driven the last few hours through a rain storm that gradually became a spring snowstorm as the temperature dropped. We were too tired to even go out to eat, put our feet up and watched the returns in the Arizona, Utah and Idaho primaries. In Arizona, both Trump and Clinton were declared early and overwhelming victors. Hillary won over Bernie by a 58:40 ratio in the competition for 85 delegates. Trump took 47% of the primary votes to his closest rival, Ted Cruz at 25%.

In the Arizona Republican primary, because it was a winner-take-all state, Trump won all 58 of the delegates. Further, and even more ominous, the results in Arizona looked to many observers like a harbinger of what could be expected in the California primary. However, in Utah, the results were overwhelmingly the reverse with Cruz taking 69% of the vote to Kasich in second place with 17% and Trump trailing at a mere 14%. Later this week, when the Republican Idaho caucus is held, Ted Cruz is expected to repeat his performance to prove he is the only one who can deter Trump in the preliminary race for the 1,237 delegates needed. But even if Trump maintains his current trend in the states that are not likely to be pro-Cruz, he is well on his way to coming the closest to the needed minimum number of delegates required, but will almost certainly not be able to make it. However, he may come close.

Since the total of Kasich delegates (143), Rubio delegates (166), Cruz delegates (463) comes to 772 to Trump’s 738, the prospect of a brokered convention is still in play. Much depends on California and whether it refuses to follow the pattern of Arizona given Cruz’s support among evangelicals and the support of Republican moderates for Kasich. Certainly, here in Idaho where the Republican vote will take place later this week, every third radio station seems to be Christian programming, every other third station broadcasts country music. However, there is always American public radio. But if discussions with a few random people in one town in Idaho are any indication, Cruz will emerge as the big winner. The people I have met in Idaho, Montana and South Dakota are so super-friendly, so helpful, so clearly honest and trusting, so smiley and positive thinking, so optimistic on the surface, that it is hard to match their despair with the Obama administration with their optimistic faith. The people seem so wonderful, I almost pray I could identify with the dominant political attitude I encountered.

As divisive as the Republican race has been, it will prove tame in comparison to the Republican/Democratic contest. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, as the saying goes. Yesterday, on talk radio, one female radio commentator averred that, given the open Democratic support for the murder of children, she would even vote for Trump if he was the Republican candidate, ignoring his support for Planned Parenthood. Other Republicans indicated they would sit out the election if Trump was chosen.

Bernie’s campaign against Hillary also received a new bolt of energy when he took the Utah caucus by 80% to Hillary’s 20% (18:5 delegates) and in Idaho won 78% to 21% (17:5 delegates). He also won the overseas primary and emerged from the evening with more delegates than Hillary. The race, which earlier in the evening appeared to be over with the Arizona results, was not over, especially when it is noted that if it had not been for Hispanic support, Hillary would have done even worse in Utah. But Clinton still enjoys a 1681:927 lead in delegates over Sanders. The latter remains a very long shot in spite of his tremendous victories in Utah and Idaho and his substantial win of overseas delegates..

However, I want to focus on the speeches of the candidates, especially the leading candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, delivered to AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) Monday meeting. I pay little attention to Cruz and Kasich, not only because the other two are leading, not only because it would take too many blogs or each blog would become too long, not only because I found nothing new in either the Cruz or the Kasich speeches from what I expected, but because the Trump and Clinton talks were both so revealing.

Donald Trump broke stride and read his speech from a teleprompter, probably to avoid the many trip wires when it came to Israel. As we shall see, he probably avoided those he was warned about, but nevertheless managed to trip over his own words and contradict himself several times. However, in spite of the frequent applause by parts of the audience, as well as cheers (Jane Eisner, the Editor-in-chief of Jewish news sources, expressed shame that “any of my fellow Jews could applaud Trump” and listen to “the pandering lies”), Trump managed to achieve the unprecedented – get the leaders of AIPAC to apologize for his speech. AIPAC President, Lillian Pinkus, and four other leaders were contrite because Trump had so blatantly broken the requirement that speeches to AIPAC were supposed to be non-partisan; disputes with other politicians were to be left at the door as the candidates simply addressed their take on policy issues with respect to Israel.

Three times, Trump went after Barack Obama, twice by offering ad hoc additions to his written text. “Obama in his final year – Yay.” In his usual extravagant and over-the-top clearly false claims, whatever one thinks of Obama’s policies, he called Obama the most dangerous for Israel. Obama is “the worst thing that ever happened to Israel.” “Believe me,” he said. Not Khomeini! Not Nasrallah. But Obama! And Trump repeated his usual claim that Obama had negotiated the worst deal with Iran, the leading centre of global terrorism according to Trump in this speech as if ISIS did not exist.

But he then contradicted himself. Instead of threatening to tear up the deal the next day after he took office, as Ted Cruz promised, he said his number one number priority was to roll back the disastrous deal with Iran. At the same time, he would make sure Iran kept to the deal, virtually identical to the pledge Hillary Clinton was making. He would enforce the deal – the worst deal ever made, “enforce it like you’ve never seen a contract enforced before, believe me!” BELIEVE ME. BELIEVE ME. BELIEVE ME. Why believe Trump? Trump should know, according to Donald Trump, for, after all, had he not written, in his own words as part of his speech, one of the most widely sold books of all time, The Art of the Deal. Later I learned, or had misheard, that he was citing his book as “the No. 1 selling business (my italics) book of all time, “at least I think, but I’m pretty sure it is.”

Though it is an aside, it is relevant to undertake a fact check, both to give an indication of the huge discrepancy between Trump’s boasting and reality on something that is relatively unpolitical and the data is readily available to him. (See Linda Qiu http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jul/06/donald-trump/donald-trumps-art-deal-best-selling-business-book-/) The Art of the Deal is more of a personal memoir than a business book, though, like many self-improvement books, it offers 11 steps for business success. It is not regarded highly and is not used in business schools. In the tallies of print copies sold by major booksellers (85% of the market), according to Nielsen data, The Art of the Deal sold about 177,000 copies with all its expensive publicity and celebrity promotion though claimed sales are one million.

Published Binding type Publisher Sales since 2001
Nov. 1, 1987 Hardcover Random House 17,000
Jan. 1, 1989 Mass market paperback Random House 90,000
Dec. 1, 2004 Mass market paperback Hachette Book Group 70,000

The book is an easy read and offered Trump’s usual claimed candidness in an enthusiastically self-promotional boastful style spiced up by dissing others and settling scores.  But in spite of its afternoon TV popularity, sales in millions using Nielsen data in regular brackets and gross possible estimates in square brackets, do not compare to any of the following:

  • Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman (1982) In Search of Excellence(.054) [3]
  • Stephen Covey (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (2.18) [10-25]

Biographies like those of

  • Steve Jobs (1.74) [3]

Best-selling self-help books

  • Dale Carnegie (1936) How to Win Friends and Influence People (2.27) [15]

Personal Financial Guides

  • Robert Kiyosaki (2000) Rich Dad, Poor Dad (4) [6.99]

Donald Trump has had a number of chances to correct this boast, but as is his habit, he ignores any facts that might contradict his beliefs and boasts and covers up by qualifiers – “I may be wrong.” So he is factually challenged. In his speech to AIPAC, he claimed that Iran painted on its missiles in Farsi and Hebrew, “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.”  Iran has enough horrific attributes without repeating sources such as Zerohedge that has, since offering this claimed fact, been delisted from the internet. Donald Trump not only repeats falsities over and over again and seems immune to any principle of falsification, but has also no respect for the principle of non-contradiction.

Donald Trump is also logically challenged since he repeatedly contradicts himself. There was another example in his speech to AIPAC. Trump reiterated that his number one priority was to tear up the “disastrous” and “catastrophic” deal made with Iran. He castigated the current administration for the $150 billion that the U.S. “stupidly and foolishly gave them (Iran)” when it was not American money. Further, the amount of Iranian monies released was $100 billion. Trump omitted to state that most of that money had been committed to pay bills. Then he made his usual absolutely preposterous remark. “I’ve studied this issue in great detail, I would say greater by far than anybody else.” Quite aside from his being in no position to make such a comparative claim, quite aside from every indication that he seems never to have even actually read the deal let alone knowing the deal in great detail, quite aside from absolutely making no effort to correct what he says when presented with actual details, Trump simply tries to pander to his Jewish audience.

After describing the UN as the worst organization, as utterly incompetent and weak, as “a total and complete disaster,” he insisted that the UN Security Council should properly monitor the agreement and then insisted that the UN was not enforcing a non-existent UNSC resolution that forbad Iran from testing missiles. Yet Trump vowed to veto “any attempt to impose UN will on Israel,” as if the incompetent UN was capable, let alone willing, to do any such thing. In the porridge of non-facts, outright lies, contradictions, ad hominem attacks, distractions, irrelevant asides and dodges, criticizing Donald Trump is akin to applying rational principles to Jello. Further, he always claims to have the power to correct situations nowhere within the power of any U.S. President, though the President can possibly have an influence if the situation is handled with diplomatic skill.

Palestinians glorify terrorists. “That will end and it’ll end soon, believe me,” claimed Donald Trump. He began his address by asserting that he was new to politics, but had been a lifelong friend of Israel. He then shifted to 9/11 and cited the fact that Rudy Giuliani after the attacks on the Trade Center in New York visited Israel to show solidarity with the terror victims. Presumably the reference to Giuliani was made because a panel of eight experts concluded for Haaretz in 2008 that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani had been the best presidential candidate as far as Israel was concerned in the 2008 election. Trump also boasted that he had sent his plane????? “Because I backed the mission for Israel 100 percent.” Once again, he repeated what he had said in numerous interviews that, at the height of the second Intifada, he had been the grand marshal of the 40th Salute to Israel Parade in New York at great risk since Israel was not in the favour of the public. He was always a lifelong supporter of Israel.

The regular American catechism was cited:

  • The U.S. and Israel enjoy an unbreakable friendship
  • Israel is America’s cultural brother
  • Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

However, Donald Trump avoided Wolf Blitzer’s question of his views on the settlements through his usual obfuscations and confusions. He addressed the issue of moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, but quietly added that the timing had to be determined by circumstances, a position identical to the current and that of previous American administrations. What about his claims to be neutral versus his current ultra-hawk position? What about his insistence that Israel repay all the monies given to Israel in military aid? Yet Trump insisted that, “When I say something I mean it.”

As Jair Rosenberg wrote in the aftermath of the AIPAC address, “whatever the reception to Trump’s speech says about Jews and AIPAC—little of it good—it pales in comparison to what the speech tells us about Trump as a viable politician and presidential candidate. And what it does tell us should frighten every American,” not simply because Trump could read a normal AIPAC speech from a teleprompter, but because he could be absolutely politically correct and avoid his usual misogyny and bigotry. As we shall see, whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, her talks reveal an expert both familiar with the details and capable of communicating facts and principles.

Listening to Trump is akin to being charmed by Ikto’mi.

With the help of Alex Zisman