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Turkey has just called Donald Trump’s bluff by going ahead with the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. The outrage in Washington is volcanic. Trump is vowing to rain fire and brimstone sanctions down on the disobedient Turks.

The S-400 is Russia’s premier anti-air missile. It is believed highly effective against all forms of aircraft – including stealth planes – cruise missiles, medium range ballistic missiles, drones, and some other types of missiles. It offers the choice of a self-directing version with its own radar seeker, or a less expensive, ‘semi-active’ version that is guided by its launch-battery radar.

What makes this AA missile (SS-21 in NATO terminology) particularly deadly is its remarkable 400 km range. The S-400 is said by Russia to be able to unmask stealth aircraft. I’ve been told by Soviet security officials as far back as 1990 that their radars could detect US stealth aircraft.

The missile’s remarkable range and detection capability puts at risk some of the key elements of US war fighting capability, notably the E-3 AWACS airborne radar aircraft, US electronic warfare aircraft, tankers and, of course, fighters like the new stealth F-35, improved F-15’s, F-22’s and B-1, B-2 and venerable B-52 heavy bombers used to carry long-ranged cruise missiles.

The Russian AA system can ‘shoot and scoot’ – firing and then quickly moving. Even more important, the S-400 system costs about half the price of its leading competitor, the US Patriot PAC-2 system. The S-400 may also be more reliable and accurate. The Great White Father in Washington is not happy.

The Trump administration brought heavy pressure on Turkey not to buy the S-400, threatening to cancel Turkey’s order for 100 of the new, stealthy F-35’s. Few thought the Turks would defy the US on this issue, but they failed to understand the depths of Turkey’s anger at the US.

Most Turks believe that the US engineered the failed 2016 coup against the democratic government in Ankara working through a shadowy religious organization run by the spiritual-political leader, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States. Turkey’s elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had been too independent-minded for Washington, clashing over US policy to Syria and the Gulf. He had also incurred the wrath of America’s Israel lobby for demanding justice for the Palestinians.

Turkey is now under economic attack by Washington. President Trump is threatening sanctions (read economic warfare) against Turkey, an old, loyal US ally. During the Korean War, Turkish troops saved American soldiers from Chinese encirclement. But Turks are mostly Muslim, and Muslims are hated by Trump and his allies.

S-400 missiles are now arriving in Turkey. What will Trump do? Cancel sale to Turkey of the F-35 and other military equipment or spare parts. Threaten to oust Turkey from NATO. Get Israel and Greece to menace Turkey.

Turkey can live without the F-35. It’s too expensive and may be more vulnerable than advertised. The Turks can get similar, less expensive warplanes from Russia. India and China are both buying the S-400. Even the Saudis may join them though Moscow is delaying the sale. S-400’s are also stationed in Syria with Russian forces and are slated to go to sea in a naval version.

If the US reacts with even more anger, Turkey could threaten to withdraw from NATO and kick the US out of its highly strategic air base in southeast Turkey at Incirlik. It’s worth recalling that Turkey provided NATO’s second largest army after the US. Someone has to remind the deeply unknowing Trump that NATO without Turkey will be declawed. Equally important, that a Turkey unconstrained by NATO membership, will seek sources of oil which it lacks and desperately needs, and new alliances.

Only a century ago, Iraq’s rich oil fields used to be part of the Ottoman Empire until taken away by the British and French imperial powers. The days of a subservient, tame Turkey may be ending.

 
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President Donald Trump’s attempt to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to the Palestinians – using Gulf Arab oil money – has so far been a resounding failure, as was widely predicted.

The so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ turned out to be a shabby swindle.

I watched Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, deliver the first part of his big deal to a bunch of tame Arab oil monarchs and assorted hangers-on. Kushner looked like a nervous sophomore taking a tough oral exam. There were no Palestinians or Israelis present. But Israel’s powerful American backers were watching from the sidelines as their ‘deal’ was enunciated.

Trump’s offer was pure New York City real estate hipper dipper. He would get the rich Gulf Arab states, all of them American protectorates, to offer some $60 billion in payments, credits, loans and other financial inducements to the Palestinian Authority – but nothing to the democratically elected Hamas government in the open-air prison of Gaza that holds two million Palestinian refugees.

The $60 million would be a payoff to the US-managed Palestinian leadership of Mohammed Abbas, another US pawn, to give up the PLO’s rights to most of the West Bank so Israel can annex it, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu just vowed. This follows Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights and growing US recognition of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem.

In other words, Israel hopes to gain most or all of the West Bank and Jerusalem by getting the rich but dim Gulf Arabs and Saudi Arabia to pay the proposed bribe money. The US and Israel will more or less divvy up the central Mideast. Just this week, the director of Israel’s Mossad said that his spy agency had played a key role in bringing the Arab oil monarchs into alliance with Israel.

Egypt, the leading Arab military power, has been bought off with Saudi money and US protection. The military dictatorship in Cairo is, in fact, acting as a co-jailer of the Palestinians of Gaza.

Turkey, long a supporter of Palestinian rights, has suffered US-backed coup attempts and intense economic warfare orchestrated from Washington that have left it destabilized and weakened.

If the tragicomical ‘Deal of the Century’ were to actually come to pass, what will become of the Palestinians, sold down the river by their Arab oil brothers? The Trump administration has not yet specified the details. The unwritten hope is that the two million Palestinians in the Gaza hellhole will remain there, locked up by Israel and Egypt.

The three million plus Palestinians on the West Bank – which is slated for Israeli occupation – will be `encouraged’ to decamp to other inhospitable Arab countries or simply driven into neighboring Jordan, 60% of whose population are already of Palestinian origin. Israeli rightists are fond of claiming that Jordan is really the true Palestinian state.

But Israel’s Arab neighbors, notably Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as Jordan, already have large numbers of Palestinian refugees and don’t want any more. Kuwait expelled 400,000 Palestinian refugees during the wars of 2001/2003. Israel, which drove the original Palestinian refugees from their homes, insists it will never take back these Arabs.

Meanwhile, no one in Washington seems to have bothered talking to the Palestinians, aside from a few quislings and yes-men. Palestinians totally reject the Trump-Kushner proposal. They have always looked on the Saudis and Gulf Arabs as traitors and back-stabbers. Young Mr. Kushner has not begun to understand these complexities.

This whole ‘peace deal’ is a big smokescreen to cover Israeli land expansion and more ethnic cleansing. Many thoughtful Israelis are dismayed by their far right-wing government’s expansionist plans, seeing nothing but more troubles and violence ahead.

In Trump’s world, almost everything can be bought. What he can’t buy directly, his mentor casino billionaire Adelson can. Trump’s real Mideast mover and shaker is Mr. Greater Israel Adelson, not junior Kushner.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Gaza, Israel/Palestine 
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Morgarten, Switzerland – Here, in 1315, a force of Swiss mountaineers ambushed an invading force of Austrian feudal knights who had come to reassert Hapsburg feudal rule over the rebellious Swiss.

The burly Swiss farmers and woodsmen from the forest cantons Unterwalden, Uri and Schwytz fell upon the close-packed Austrian knights and men-at-arms, using long pikes or deadly pole axes known as halbards, and massacred them without quarter.

Two years later, a second Austrian expeditionary force was caught by the Swiss peasant infantry near Lucerne at Sempach and crushed.

These fierce battles were the first time in modern history that foot soldiers had withstood heavily armored mounted knights. These epochal encounters marked the beginning of the end of European feudalism and the rise of infantry armies. They also freed Switzerland’s forest cantons of Austrian rule, creating Europe’s first independent democratic state, the Swiss Confederation.

The always astute Machiavelli said of the Swiss warriors: ‘Most heavily armed, most free.’ Indeed, most free to this day.

Those who think of Switzerland as a quaint land of cuckoo clocks and chocolate are sorely mistaken. To paraphrase Voltaire’s bon mot about Prussia, Switzerland is a giant fortress, disguised as a country.

I attended school and university in Switzerland. Over the decades, I kept hearing about mountains opening up to disgorge warplanes, or cliffs studded with hidden artillery. But even my Swiss friends didn’t know much about these seemingly fantastic sightings.

Fifteen years ago, I was the guest of the Swiss Fortress Guard Corps, a top-secret military outfit that operates Switzerland’s mountain fortresses. I was one of the first non-Swiss to be shown the mountain forts that guard the heart of the nation’s ‘Alpine Redoubt.’ What I was shown astounded me – and continues to do so.

In the late 1930’s, as one European nation after another bowed down to Hitler’s demands, the Swiss military and its popular rifle clubs, banded together and decided their nation would not bend the knee as the Czechs, Dutch, Norwegians, Belgians, and then the French had done.

A feverish program of fortress construction was begun across the Alps. Some 900,000 troops were mobilized. Orders went out from Gen. Henri Guisan: ‘leave your families behind in the lowlands. Man our mountain forts. We have no place or food for civilians in them. Fight to your last cartridge; then use your bayonets. No surrender!’

Every road and bridge was mined; all mountain passes were rigged with explosives. Particularly so the rail lines and tunnels that linked Germany to its erstwhile ally, Italy.

Hitler was furious. He denounced the Swiss as ‘insolent herdsmen.’ Mussolini, Hitler’s ally, rightfully feared tangling with the tough Swiss mountaineers who had ravaged Italy during the Renaissance. The Pope’s Swiss Guards are a memento of the era of ‘Furia Helvetica.’

Working 24/7, Swiss engineers created a warren of tunnels and gun positions guarding the main entry points into Switzerland at St. Maurice, Gothard, Thun and Sargans. These forts were equipped with 75, 105 and 150mm cannons, machine guns and mortars emplaced in mountain sides and camouflaged so they are almost invisible.

Inside the forts are barracks, engine rooms, headquarters, clinics, observation posts and magazines filled with shells. The hidden forts interlock their fire and support one another. Unlike the less heavily gunned Maginot Line, each fort was protected by a special infantry unit on the outside, linked by telephone to the underground garrison.

In addition, Switzerland built bomb shelters for most of its people.

The Swiss only began decommissioning their forts in the 1990’s – after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Switzerland was a prime target of the Soviet Red Army. Advancing from Czechoslovakia, the Soviets planned to race across lightly defended Austria into eastern Switzerland.

Then, into the Swiss lowlands on a Basel-Neuchatel-Lausanne axis to Geneva. From there, the Group of Soviet Forces powerful armored divisions would erupt into France’s Rhone Valley and drive north for the Channel ports, taking US and NATO forces in the rear and cutting their supply lines. It would have been a replay of Germany’s brilliant Ardennes offensive in 1940.

But Swiss forts and solid Swiss citizen troops stood in the way. The sons of the heroes of Sempach and Morgarten were on guard.

When Swiss mountaineers vote, they always carry rifles and swords as a symbol of how their freedom was attained and preserved.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Switzerland 
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Who is attacking oil tankers in the Gulf between Oman and Iran? So far, the answer is still a mystery. The US, of course, accuses Iran. Iran says it’s the US or its local allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Magnetic mines are blamed for the damage, though there have been claims of torpedo use. Last month, four moored tankers were slightly damaged, though none seriously. This time the attacks were more damaging but apparently not lethal.

A few cynics have even suggested Israel may be behind the tanker attack in order to provoke war between Iran and the United States – a key Israeli goal. Or maybe it’s the Saudis whose goal is similar. The Gulf is an ideal venue for false flag attacks.

One thing appears certain. President Donald and his coterie of neocon advisers have been pressing for a major conflict with Iran for months. The US is literally trying to strangle Iran economically and strategically. By now, Israel’s hard right wing dominates US Mideast policy and appears to often call the shots at the White House and Congress.

However, this latest Iran `crisis’ is totally contrived by the Trump administration to punish the Islamic Republic for refusing to follow American tutelage, supporting the Palestinians, and menacing Saudi Arabia. Most important, the Gulf fracas is diverting public attention from Trump’s war with the lynch mob of House Democrats and personal scandals.

Many Americans love small wars. They serve as an alternative to football. Mussolini’s popularity in Italy soared after he invaded primitive Ethiopia. Americans cheered the invasions of Grenada, Haiti and Panama. However, supposed ‘cake-walk’ Iraq was not such a popular success. Memories of the fake Gulf of Tonkin clash used to drive the US into the Vietnam War are strong; so too all the lies about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.

Curiously, Trump’s undeclared war against Iran has had unanticipated effects. Japan, which relies on Iranian oil, is furious at Washington. Last week, Japan’s very popular prime minister, Shinzo Abe, flew to Tehran to try to head off a US-Iranian confrontation and assure his nation’s oil supply – the very same reason Japan attacked the US in 1941. Abe warned an accidental war may be close.

Canada used to have warm relations with China. They are now in shambles. Canada ‘kidnapped’ Chinese bigwig Meng Wanzhou, the crown princess of technology giant Huawei, at Vancouver airport while changing planes on a US arrest warrant for allegedly trading with…wait for it…Iran. Canada foolishly arrested Meng on a flimsy extradition warrant from the US.

This was an incredibly amateurish blunder by Ottawa’s foreign affairs leaders. If they had been smarter, they would have simply told Washington that Meng had already left Canada, or they could not find her. Now Canada’s relations with Beijing are rock bottom, Canada has suffered very heavy trade punishment and the world’s biggest nation is angry as a wet cat at Canada, a nation whose state religion is to be liked by everyone.

Now, Japan’s energy freedom is under serious threat. China mutters about executing the two Canadians it arrested for alleged espionage. Meanwhile, US-China relations have hit their nadir as Trump’s efforts to use tariffs to bully China into buying more US soya beans and to trim its non-trade commerce barriers have caused a trade war.

The US-China trade war is badly damaging the economies of both countries. President Trump still does not seem to understand that tariffs are paid by American consumers, not Chinese sellers. Trump’s nincompoop foreign policy advisers don’t understand how much damage they are doing to US interests. Putting gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson in charge of US foreign and trade policy is not such a good idea.

A good way to end this growing mess is to fire war-lover and Iran-hater John Bolton, send Mike Pompeo back to bible school, and tell Iran and Saudi Arabia to bury the hatchet now. Instead, the White House is talking about providing nuclear capability to Saudi Arabia, one of our world’s most backwards and unpleasant nations. Maybe Trump will make a hell of a ‘deal’ and have North Korea sell nukes to Saudis.

And now we wait the all-time bad joke, the so-called ‘Deal of the Century,’ which Trump and his boys hope will get rich Arabs to buy off poor Palestinians in exchange for giving up lots more land to Israel. It’s hard to think of a bigger or more shameful betrayal by Arabs of fellow Arabs, or a more stupid policy by the US. But, of course, it’s not a made-in-the-USA policy at all.

 
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How fleeting is glory! Back in 1998, the South Asian Journalists Association proclaimed me ‘Journalist of the Year’ for a newspaper article I had written about India.

But the next year the award was angrily rescinded after I wrote that India should compromise with Pakistan over the festering Kashmir conflict. Prickly Indians didn’t like being criticized, even by an old friend like myself.

This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition won a landslide electoral victory, gaining 302 of the 542 seats in parliament. The venerable Congress opposition party, that long led India, was crushed.

We should pay attention. India is more or less the world’s largest democracy and is expected to be the third largest economic power by 2020. It’s also an important nuclear state with land and sea-launched ICBM’s that can strike the United States and Canada, Europe, and its rival, China.

I’ve been writing for decades about the threat of accidental or planned nuclear war with Pakistan over Kashmir. My first book, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ deals with the potential of future war between India and China over the high Himalayas and Burma, as well as India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

India, energized by growing economic power and nuclear Viagra is feeling its national oats. Prime Minister Modi is a hard-line religious nationalist determined to press his concept of ‘Hindutva,’ or religious power. He has vowed to confront India’s largest minority, some 200 million Muslims, 15% of its estimated 1.3 billion people, and make India a great Hindu power again.

Modi has sometimes been called ‘India’s Trump.’ He was governor of India’s most business-oriented state, Gujarat. Modi is openly antagonistic to Muslims and Sikhs, and failed to halt the massacre of thousands of Muslims during his tenure. He commands wide public support for his Muslim-bashing and anti-Pakistan invective. Modi likes to wave the scimitar and vaunt his military muscle.

Last February, he sent Indian warplanes to attack Pakistan after Kashmir nationalists (‘terrorists’ to Indians) attacked an Indian military convoy. India humiliatingly lost one of its MiG’s to Pakistan’s crack air force. Worse, Modi ran a very dangerous and totally unnecessary risk by attacking nuclear-armed Pakistan. But Hindu nationalist mobs loved it. Just as many ill-informed Americans love Trump’s war threats against Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and, of course, Russia.

Like Trump, Modi keeps invoking India’s past without really addressing its current problems like entrenched cast problems, growing crime, terrible national sanitation, rampant corruption, lethal air pollution and endemic communal tensions. Interestingly, in the recent elections, a majority of low cast ‘untouchables’ (now called ‘Dalits’ but still as untouchable) voted for the BJP. So did India’s always restive eastern hills states. These are positive signs for Modi’s BJP.

By contrast, the Congress Party that brought India to independence from British colonial rule in 1947 and gave it the elite Gandhi ruling dynasty, was crushed in the vote. Dynastic politics is always bad medicine, be it Gandhis, Kennedys, Bhuttos or Romanovs. The youthful but disappointing heir to the Gandhi’s Congress political machine, Rahul Gandhi, had no heart in the fight and even lost one of his two ‘safe’ seats.

That’s too bad. Congress has a fairly moderate policy towards Muslims and Pakistan. Not so the BJP which remains based on an extreme Hindu movement founded in 1925 that promotes grassroots Hinduisation of the nation, or even expulsion of Muslims, as just occurred in Buddhist Burma (Myanmar). Many on the Hindu hard right also call for the ‘reabsorption’ of Pakistan into Mother India, though, confusingly, that would add 213 million angry Muslims.

Meanwhile, India’s formerly stagnant economy is bustling, thanks in good part to lifting of punitive tax and absurd government restrictions known as the ‘license Raj.’ Foreign investment is pouring into India, and highly educated Indian immigrants into the United States. Back in the early 1990’s, I was given a early look at India’s just formed version of Silicon Valley, the city of Bangalore, (home of the ‘bangalore torpedo’ for breaching barbed wire.) This complex grew into today’s IT powerhouse, the pride of India.

India is on a roll. Now, even more so thanks to a strong central government that favors commerce and big business. But it’s not all sitar music and incense. India is a modern nation of 600 million atop an ancient rural nation of 700 million. Modern India will struggle to escape ancient Mother India. The Indian colossus still has political and financial feet of clay.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: India, Narendra Modi 
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President Donald Trump claimed this week that he does not want war with Iran. If he really believes this, the president ought to look into what his subordinates are doing.

Among their bellicose actions are deployment of the ‘Abraham Lincoln CVN-72’ carrier task force to the coast of Iran, massing a strike package of B-52 heavy bombers in Qatar, just across the Gulf from Iran, positioning more US warplanes around Iran, readying a massive cyber attack against Iran, and trying to stop the export of Iranian oil, upon which its economy depends.

Plus repeated attempts to overthrow the government in Tehran – something the US already did very skillfully in 1953.

If all this is not war, according to Trump, then what is? It’s war by another name. Just what the US did to Cuba, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, Nicaragua, Syria, and, since 1979, Iran. Like a shark, the US warfare state has to keep moving. So it finds threats popping up all over.

The latest alleged grave ‘threat’ to America’s security was an ancient wooden dhow. Spotted by US satellites, this decrepit old sail-powered tub was claimed by Washington war promoters, led by the enragé John Bolton, to be carrying Iranian missiles. What unbelievable rubbish.

Many moons ago, I used to oversee dhows based in Dubai smuggling expensive Western luxury goods and small gold ‘ten tola’ bars into India and Iran. They would dodge Indian and Pakistani patrol boats; if caught, ‘baksheesh’ (bribes) were paid. Some of the smuggled goods even found their way into the Soviet Union, via caravans through Afghanistan.

All this was worthy of Sinbad the Sailor and the Arabian Nights. Great fun and profitable, but hardly of any strategic consequence. But now, Washington’s war-mongers claim the dhows will threaten ‘US interests’ in the Gulf region. ‘US interests’ are, of course, whatever and wherever Washington says they are.

This is yet another charade that will be amplified by the tame US media, and gobbled up by the credulous public unsure if the Gulf is off Texas or Iran. It joins the huge lies about World War I – ‘Belgian babies spitted to German bayonets’ – Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, anthrax attacks, and Saddam’s ‘drones of death.’ Some cynics would add 9/11 and Osama bin Laden to the cast of manufactured villains.

We now know that all the reasons cited for attacking Iraq in 2003 where false. Pure lies. War propaganda. President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair led us into a war by a campaign of lies that fed off one another. Media that supported the war with false news was equally guilty.

Yet we still see, for example, the Murdoch-owned media, New York Times and Washington shamelessly promoting more war in the Mideast. US media has made little progress since the yellow journalism era of William Randolph Hearst. As the great Mark Twain said, ‘if you don’t read the daily newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them, you are misinformed.’

Which leads us to ask the question: given all these lies, is it not time for us to begin questioning the official narrative about World War II?

Trump is playing with fire by making threats against Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and China. He appears well on the way to a major war by either plan or accident. He is provoking and trifling with two major, nuclear-armed world military powers, Russia and China. Instead of capable diplomats, Trump keeps consorting with men of low character and even lower knowledge. It’s like the hostess who will never invite to her party another woman who is younger and more attractive.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
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Is it just a coincidence that TV networks are re-running old ‘Dirty Harry’ films just as a powerful US Naval armada and Air Force B-52 bombers are headed for what could be a clash with Iran? Here we go again with the ‘good guys’ versus the ‘bad guys,’ and ‘make my day.’

Maybe it’s more bluffing? The current US military deployment was scheduled before the latest flare-up with Iran, but the bellicose threats of White House neocon crusaders like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo certainly create the impression that the US wants war.

Adding to the warlike excitement, President Trump just ordered seizure of a large North Korean bulk cargo ship. This was clearly a brazen act of war and violation of international law. More dangerous brinkmanship by administration war-mongers who increasingly appear besotted by power and hubris.

So much for the president who vowed to avoid foreign wars – and so much for the millions of anti-war voters who believed him.

Why does Trump let his two horsemen of the apocalypse get away with this?

I’m following this latest gunboat diplomacy with particular interest because I had the privilege in 1994 of going to sea on the very same aircraft carrier, “CVN-72 USS Abraham Lincoln” that is now reportedly steaming towards Iran’s coast. With it are a nuclear submarine, a cruiser and a group of destroyers, all equipped with land-attack missiles.

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I was deeply impressed by the ‘Lincoln’ and her youthful crew. They were efficient, motivated and superbly well-organized. In our lifetime, no other navy will ever equal the skills of the US carrier fleet. The only real threat to America’s huge carriers is the growing power and accuracy of Russian, Chinese and Indian heavy anti-ship missiles.

The Navy task force is backed up by B-52 nuclear-capable heavy bombers now stationed in Qatar, and US warplanes from other bases in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Turkey, Jordan, and Pakistan that effectively surround Iran. The carriers are just for show and threat.

Israel, which is eager to see the US attack Iran, has helpfully provided ‘intelligence’ allegedly showing that Iran is planning to attack certain US installations in the Mideast. Interestingly, Israel and its American supporters did the same thing in 2001 and 2003, pushing the US to attack its foe Iraq. Washington largely relied on Israeli intelligence about Iraq since its own resources were so weak – and senior Bush administration neocons kept touting the claims from Israel.

President Trump sees himself as an emperor besieged by Washington Lilliputians. There’s nothing like a jolly little war to shut up all his critics and garner media support. Even better, the ‘bad guys’ in this case are ‘Eye-ranian’ Muslims. Trump’s religious base would thrill at the prospect of pounding the Islamic Republic. During the Bush administration years, over 80% of so-called ‘born again’ Christians backed war against Iraq. What happened to ‘turn the other cheek?’

This administration’s neocons have made it their life’s work to destroy Iran, which is considered Israel’s only serious enemy and a champion of the Palestinian cause.

The Trump administration has largely fallen under the influence of Israel’s hard right in foreign and military affairs. So Bolton and Pompeo are clearly trying to engineer an incident that would spark war.

Not full-scale war, but an excuse for the US and Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, key military sites and communications infrastructure as was done with Iraq. It won’t be back all the way to the Stone Age, but half way, so that Iran’s development is set back by a decade.

Israel will then use its control over the US Congress to keep Iran under a very tight embargo. The Pentagon’s original plan to punish Iran called for some 2,300 air strikes on Day 1 alone.

Washington’s hope, as usual, is that growing misery and hardship in Iran will provoke a revolt to oust the Islamic government, allowing the US to install the exiled Iranian royalists it has waiting in Southern California. This was the pattern in Cuba, Nicaragua, Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Venezuela. It’s not diplomacy, just brute force.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran 
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Sure. Let’s invade Venezuela. Another jolly little war. It’s full of commies and has a sea of oil. The only thing those Cuban-loving Venezuelans lack are weapons of mass destruction.

This week, leading US neocons openly threatened that if the CIA’s latest attempts to stage a coup to overthrow Venezuela’s Maduro government failed, Washington might send in the Marines.

Well, the coup was a big fiasco and the Venezuelan army didn’t overthrow President Maduro. The CIA also failed to overthrow governments in Moscow, Tehran and Damascus. Its only ‘success’ to date has been in overthrowing Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government and putting a bunch of corrupt clowns in its place at a cost near $10 billion.

The US has not waged a major successful war since World War II – unless you count invading Grenada, Panama and Haiti, or bombing the hell out of Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Libya. That’s a sobering thought given the Pentagon’s recent announcement that it is cutting back on little colonial wars (aka ‘the war on terror’) to get ready for real big wars against Russia and China, or even North Korea.

Venezuela is in a huge economic mess thanks to the crackpot economic policies of the Chavez and Maduro governments – and US economic sabotage. But my first law of international affairs is: ‘Every nation has the absolute god-given right to mismanage its own affairs and elect its own crooks or idiots.’

Now, however, the administration’s frenzied neocons want to start a war against Venezuela, a large, developed nation of 32.7 million, at the same time we are threatening war against Iran, interfering all around Africa, and confronting Russia, China and perhaps North Korea. Large parts of the Mideast and Afghanistan lie in ruins thanks to our ‘liberation’ campaigns.

Invading Venezuela would not be much of a problem for the US military: half the population hates the current government and might welcome the Americans. Venezuela’s military has only limited combat value. Right-wing regimes in neighboring Colombia and Brazil might join the invasion.

But what then? Recall Iraq. The US punched through the feeble Iraqi Army whose strength had been wildly exaggerated by the media. Once US and British forces settled in to occupation duties, guerilla forces made their life difficult and bloody. Iraqi resistance continues today, sixteen years later. The same would likely happen in Venezuela.

There is deep anti-American sentiment in Latin America that existed long before Col. Chavez. Recall, for example, the large anti-American riots that greeted Vice President Nixon’s visit to Caracas in 1958.

‘Yankees Go Home’ is a rallying cry for much of Latin America. Blundering into Venezuela, another nation about which the Trump administration knows or understands little, would stir up a hornet’s next. Their ham-handed efforts to punish Cuba and whip up the far right Cuban-American vote in Florida would galvanize anti-American anger across Latin America. Beware the ghost of Fidel.

Talks over Venezuela are underway between Washington and Moscow. Neither country has any major interest in Venezuela. Moscow is stirring the pot there to retaliate for growing US involvement in Russia’s backyard and Syria. Both the US and Russia should get the hell out of Venezuela and mind their own business.

Instead, we hear crazy proposals to send 5,000 mercenaries to overthrow the Maduro regime. How well did the wide-scale use of US-financed mercenaries work in Iraq and Afghanistan? A complete flop. The only thing they did competently was wash dishes at our bases, murder civilians, and play junior Rambos.

For those who don’t like the American Raj, a US invasion of Venezuela would mark a step forward in the crumbling of the empire. More aimless imperial over-reach, more lack of strategy, more enemies generated.
The big winner would, of course, be the Pentagon and military industrial complex. More billions spent on a nation most Americans could not find on a map if their lives depended on it, more orders for ‘counter-insurgency’ weapons, more military promotions, and cheers from Fox News and wrestling fans.

Worst of all, the US could end up feeding and caring for wrecked Venezuela. How did we do with storm-ravaged Puerto Rico? It’s still in semi-ruin. Few want Venezuela’s thick, heavy oil these days.

Venezuela could turn out to be a big, fat Tar Baby.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Neocons, Venezuela 
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The world is still reeling in horror from the deadly Sri Lanka bombings that may have been the work of Islamic State madmen. Poor Sri Lanka has suffered so much after three decades of civil war and communal strife. We weep for this beautiful and once gentle nation.

But behind the horror in Sri Lanka, a huge crisis was building up of which the world has so far taken insufficient notice: renewed tensions in the oil-producing Gulf. This is the latest attempt by the United States to crush Iran’s independent-minded government and return it to American tutelage.

The Trump administration has demanded that the principal importers of 1.2 billion barrels of Iranian oil halt purchases almost immediately. This imperial diktat includes China, South Korea, Turkey, India and Japan. The comprehensive embargo is very close to an all-out act of war. In 1941, America’s cut-off of oil to Japan provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The oil embargo not only violates international law, it sets the US on a collision course with some of its most important allies and vassal states. Brazen threats against Iran by Trump’s two main enforcers, National Security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have reinforced America’s unfortunate image as an imperial power that threatens war against disobedient satraps and independent-minded nations.

Iran, a proud, ancient nation of 80 million, has become, with Turkey, the most effective opposition to America’s imperial domination of the Mideast and a key supporter of Palestinian rights and statehood. This has put Iran on a collision course with Israel and its influential American supporters, notably the Evangelical hard right which somehow believes that Jesus will only return to earth after Israel expands its border and mankind is destroyed.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration, which has now become indistinguishable from Israel’s hard-line far right ruling coalition, has declared virtual war against Iran.

To benefit Israel, the White House cancelled a $20 billion order from Iran for Boeing aircraft, embargoed trade with Iran, reneged on the internationally backed nuclear deal with Tehran, cut off all aid to Palestinians, and keeps sustaining the savage Saudi/Emirati war against Yemen that has caused mass starvation and epidemics.

Trump has just unilaterally approved Israel’s illegal seizure of Syria’s Golan Heights, an act worthy of the 1916 Sykes-Picot treaty dividing up the Ottoman Mideast between Britain and France. US threats against Venezuela and Cuba grow louder.

Washington plans to use its naval forces massed around Iran to interdict Tehran’s oil exports. Two US aircraft carriers are now on station within striking range of Iran. I went to sea on one, the ‘Abraham Lincoln.’

China faces dire trade punishments for dealing with Iran. Welcome back to 19th century gunboat diplomacy. Even Washington’s European allies may be scourged for buying Iranian oil.

Iran, which has faced similar threats in the past, is digging in and threatens to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if its oil exports are interdicted. Twenty percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait. At its narrowest point, this strategic passage is only 21 miles (34 km) wide.

Iran could seriously interfere with oil tankers in the Strait, using armed speedboats, mines and land-based, Chinese-made missiles. Equally important, insurance rates for tankers would skyrocket. Add all this together, and Trump & Co.’s warlike actions will cause the price of gasoline to surge, just as America’s busy summer driving season is getting underway.

America’s satraps Saudi Arabia (which just cut off the heads of 37 of its subjects) and sidekick the Emirates have promised to make up oil shortfalls, but neighbor Iran’s special forces may have very different ideas. Look for missiles and commando attacks on Saudi oil installations.

Adding to this dangerous mess, Beijing may slow down or even abort its trade talks with Washington, which are of vital importance to the US economy. US markets have already factored in a deal being made.

Trump’s irrational quest to crush Iran could very well turn the rest of the world against Washington. But Trump & Co. don’t seem to care. Someone must tell Trump’s out of control administration to stop trying to overthrow governments it does not like around the globe and promoting itself as the Second Coming of Christ.

“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” Verily.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
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Peru’s former charismatic president, Alan García, once hailed ‘the John F. Kennedy of Latin America,’ killed himself with a pistol this past Wednesday. What a tragedy and waste of a brilliant man.

In 1985, I flew to Lima to interview García for New York’s Wall Street Journal. He had just assumed office; I believe I was the first non-Latin American journalist to interview him.
García was successor to the nationalist firebrand Haya de la Torre, founder of the militant APRA party, whose aim was to nationalize foreign holdings across the Americas and send the Yankees home.

Lima, Peru’s capital of 9.8 million, was founded by the Conquistador Pizarro in 1535, almost a full century before my own hometown, New York City. Peru’s capital was dark, dusty, cold and spooky. Millions of native Quechua-speaking Peruvians had flocked down to Lima from the impoverished high Andes. The streets teemed with beggars and pickpockets.

The crime situation in Lima was so bad that as I was being driven to the president’s palace by his chief of staff, he warned me to remove my watch and glasses. Why? “We can be attacked even on the steps of the palace,” he replied.

I was finally introduced to Alan García, the new president. He couldn’t speak English; my Spanish was awful. But we found we were both graduates of French-speaking universities, he the Sorbonne in Paris and I the University of Geneva. So we settled into comfortable French, which relaxed the amiable president and me. I quite liked him.

Our interview was his first chance to address Americans, and, notably, Wall Street. Peru was up to it ears in foreign debt and unable to exploit its vast minerals industry without new foreign loans. The country’s 19.5 million people were seething with misery, poverty and hopelessness.

Up in the high Andes, rebellion was underway, led by two indigenous Marxist outfits, the Túpac Amaru and larger Shining Path. The latter crazies adopted Maoism and actually sought to turn Peru into a second Stalinist Albania! Nutty as they were, the Shining Path wild men inflicted grave damage on Peru until the next president, the iron-fisted Japanese Peruvian Alberto Fujimori, crushed them. (Fujimori is currently in prison for murder and kidnapping).

In the course of our interview, I got García to admit that, yes, he was a socialist, but of the soft European type. After I reported García’s comment in the Wall Street Journal a big furor erupted in the US, where few knew anything about Peru.
Headlines: ‘García admits he is a socialist’. There were hysterical claims Peru was to be a beachhead for Moscow and Havana. All nonsense of course, but red alarm bells went off in Washington and New York and the bankers took fright.

I felt badly. My editors were looking for sensations, not factual news. What García was, in fact, was a poor economic administrator and an academic ivory tower dreamer with no idea how business worked. Under him, inflation hit 7,500%.
He was a forerunner to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

At the end of his first term in 1990, García left in semi-disgrace and went to hide out at his old sociology faculty in Paris. In my view, sociology is the biggest quackery in academia except for gender studies. Phrenology is more reliable. García and I discussed the tedious works of French sociologist Émile Durkheim well into the night.

In 2006, Garcia managed to get himself re-elected in Peru, this time promising financial rectitude, honesty, and sound economic strategies. His successors were deposed or jailed for corruption. Garcia started well but soon got himself into a peck of trouble.

The principal source was Latin America’s largest engineering/energy conglomerate, the Brazil-based leviathan Odebrecht that ignited the region’s largest ever corruption scandal. The Brazilian firm paid out at least $788 million in bribes to heads of state and politicians in 12 Latin nations to secure lucrative business contracts.

So far, the monster scandal, known in Brazil as ‘Lava Jato’ (car wash) has brought down former presidents of Brazil, Collor de Mello, Dilma Rousseff, Lula da Silva; three Peruvian former presidents, and leaders in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Dominican Republic. The Mother of all bribery cases.

Alan García was facing arrest in this scandal. As Peruvian police arrived, he shot himself in the head and died soon after – the true man’s way out. He was a charming man and I will miss him. Adiós, el presidente!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Peru 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

His internet column www.ericmargolis.com reaches global readers on a daily basis.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.

A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

A native New Yorker, he maintains residences in Toronto and New York, with frequent visits to Paris.


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