Majorityrights News > Category: Military Matters

The Coming Persian War

Posted by DanielS on Friday, 20 October 2017 00:09.



The Coming Persian War, Jason Reza Jorjani, 16 Oct 2017
:

On Friday the 13th of October, 2017, President Trump gave a speech on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that Persians will forever remember as “the Arabian Gulf” speech. Seven months earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the United States was initiating a “comprehensive review” of its Iran policy, including the JCPOA colloquially known as “the Iran nuclear deal.” About a month after Tillerson’s April 19th statement, the Secretary of State accompanied President Trump on a state visit to Saudi Arabia where the President addressed tens of Arab nations in a speech that identified Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. This, despite the fact that Iran has never carried out an act of terrorism on American soil whereas, during his campaign, Donald Trump himself rightly identified Saudi Arabia as responsible for helping to plan and organize the 9/11 attacks. A comparison of the remarks of candidate Trump regarding Saudi Arabia to the policies of President Trump on Saudi Arabia is one of the clearest examples of Donald Trump’s hypocrisy and charlatanry. Another is his not having included the Saudis in his “Muslim ban” that does prevent Iranians from immigrating to the United States. The candidate who lambasted Hillary Clinton for taking money from Saudi Arabia went on to literally do a war dance with the Saudis, and to form a coalition with them against Iran. Several weeks after this trip to Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Tillerson referred to the Persian Gulf as “the Arabian Gulf”.

During his Friday the 13th speech decertifying the JCPOA and laying out a strategy for regime change in Iran, President Trump echoed his Secretary of State when nearly six minutes into the twenty minute speech, he said that Iran “harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea.” Trump’s speech presented the outcome of the “comprehensive review” of Iran policy announced by Tillerson back in April. In summary, the new Iran policy includes renegotiating the nuclear deal to remove the time limits on the heavy restrictions of Iran’s nuclear energy program, to target Iran’s ballistic missile development, especially its efforts to acquire ICBMs, as well as measures not directly related to the nuclear program but targeting the regime, such as the imposition of crippling sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which “has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy”, and finally, to support “regional allies”, i.e. Sunni Arab states, in confronting the Iranian military and paramilitary presence in Shiite-majority countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

For someone who has long been involved in the Iranian opposition to the Islamic Republic, and who was outraged by Obama Administration policies toward that regime, there were certainly elements of Trump’s speech that, on the face of it, seemed positive. These included his description of the regime as a tyranny that does not reflect the character and will of “a proud people”, a regime that has “raided the wealth of one of the world’s oldest and most vibrant nations.” Trump rightly condemned the Islamic Republic for brutally crushing the peaceful mass demonstrations of the summer and fall of 2009. He rightly chastised Obama for a nuclear deal that “threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline, providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure…” Indeed, Obama was penning secret letters to the Supreme Leader at the same time that the latter was ordering the murder and torture of young unarmed protestors whose chants included “Obama, Obama, either with us (the Iranian people) or with them (the Islamic regime)!” Trump’s evocative description of Obama’s perverse physical transfer of “huge piles” of cash to the Mullahs by airplane was particularly compelling.

There is, however, good reason to question the sincerity of the President when he claims that in his proposed policy of confronting the Islamic Republic, the United States government stands “in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest suffering victims… The Iranian people [who] long to… reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization…” The bare minimum of showing respect for the people of Iran’s millennial Persian civilizational heritage is to refer to the Persian Gulf by its proper name, which dates from the time of classical Greek geographers and has since been officially recognized by all major international organizations. Wanting to get under the skin of the Mullahs and threaten them is no excuse, since from the moment that they seized power in 1979, they have been Arabizers that tried to suppress Iran’s Persian identity. At one point they even wanted to bulldoze Persepolis and change Iran’s language to Arabic. President Trump’s use of the bogus term “Arabian Gulf” was bound to terribly offend the Persian people themselves. It reveals that the rest of his rhetoric about Persians being oppressed and victimized by the Islamic Republic was primarily for domestic consumption, preparing Americans for the “liberation” of yet another country.

Trump’s deployment of the phrase “Arabian Gulf” was no more accidental than Secretary of State Tillerson’s seven months earlier. It signals the true end game of the new Iran policy: the transformation of the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Gulf through targeting Iran’s nationwide Persian cultural identity by engineering ethnic separatism, reducing Iran to an impoverished rump state of ‘Persia’ surrounded by resource-rich “microstates” exploitatively controlled by Saudi Arabia and the rootless global capitalists whose cancerous Deep State has destroyed America’s moral compass. That Trump and Tillerson intend to pursue a war with this outcome was made clear in statements that Walid Phares volunteered to Fox News on October 13th during a preview and preliminary analysis of the President’s “Arabian Gulf” speech.

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Trump gained presidency through pledge to YKW to undo Iran Deal: that promise he’s materializing

Posted by DanielS on Saturday, 14 October 2017 01:00.

Ending the Iran deal has been the veritable raison d’être for the Trump Presidency. Trump refers to an “international community” whose opinion on the matter he will take under consideration. The “international community”, i.e., YKW and other right wingers.

Way to go Alt-Right! Along with Donald, you sure know how to make a deal.

Donald Trump: Given the regime’s murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future. As I have said many times, The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one sided transactions The United States has ever entered into. The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement, for example, on two separate occasions they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tonnes of heavy water; until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges. The Iranian regime has also intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for; Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors onto military sites even thought the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. Importantly, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal. So today, in recognition of the increasing menace posed by Iran and after extensive consultations with our allies, I am announcing a new strategy to address the full range of Iran’s destructive actions. First, we will work with our allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region. Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.


What about Saudi, Donald
? He cites Iran’s backing of terrorists; this, coming from a man who just a few months back lavished Saudi - Saudi - with a 110 billion dollar arms deal. 

Related Story: 11 September Attacks: 28 Pages Declassified.

Related Story: What Saudi Arabia’s royal reshuffle means for the world.

The Hill, “Trump makes his move on Iran nuke deal”, 13 Oct 2017:

President Trump declared Friday that the Iran nuclear deal is no longer in the national security interest of the United States, but stopped short of withdrawing from the Obama-era pact.

“I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification,” Trump said during a speech at the White House.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” he continued.

The president said that Iran “has committed multiple violations of the agreement” and accused Tehran of “not living up to the spirit of the deal.”

Trump ticked off a list of problems with the deal and laid out a new, tougher strategy to confront “the rogue regime” over a series of other “hostile actions” unrelated to its nuclear program.

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Giving Islam it’s Due

Posted by DanielS on Friday, 13 October 2017 04:03.

Paul Weston, an ex-Muslim and Anne Marie Waters -


Tension with Tillerson, Trump & Mattis in frightening times as brinksmanship with N. Korea continues

Posted by DanielS on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 01:05.

NPR, “Tensions Rise Between Tillerson And Trump As The Threat Of War In N. Korea Looms”, 10 Oct 2017:


New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins describes Sec. of State Tillerson as frustrated amidst very scary negotiations with N. Korea and without sufficient support and staff - most Republicans with wherewithal have been purged from Trump’s administration. While Filkins describes General Mattis as a very well read, interesting and thoughtful man who prefers negotiation to his profession of war - which, in the case of war with North Korea, “would bring the worst casualties and the worst bloodshed that any of us have ever known in our lifetimes.”

New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins says Sec. of State Rex Tillerson is a diplomat in an administration that doesn’t value diplomacy: “Rex is a sober, steady guy, and the president is anything but that.”

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. Ever since NBC reported last week that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called President Trump a moron, speculation has increased about whether Tillerson will last much longer in the job. My guest Dexter Filkins has a new article in The New Yorker titled “Rex Tillerson At The Breaking Point.” Filkins started researching the article months ago. It’s about the tensions between Trump and Tillerson, Tillerson’s legacy at Exxon, where he became CEO in 2006, his strategies today in dealing with North Korea and Iran and how he’s presiding over a State Department in which most key positions remain unfilled.

One of the things we’re going to focus on is North Korea and the possibility of the escalating rhetoric actually leading to a war. Filkins’s previous article for The New Yorker was about Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, who Filkins first met when he was reporting on the war in Iraq. Filkins covered the war for The New York Times. He’s now a staff writer at The New Yorker covering foreign affairs.

Dexter Filkins, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Can we just start by acknowledging that the secretary of state you’ve just written about may not be the secretary of state much longer, which means your piece may’ve been written at exactly the right or exactly the wrong time (laughter)?

DEXTER FILKINS: Yeah, yeah, well, it’s great if you’re a journalist to have, you know, perfect timing. And in this case, I had perfect timing. I started working on that piece a long time ago, not knowing that all of this was going to come to a head. But I think he’s - you know, he’s still in the job as we speak. And I think he’s pretty frustrated. But that is a chaotic administration on any day of the week. And so who knows what tomorrow will bring?

GROSS: What are you hearing about the relationship between Tillerson and Trump?

FILKINS: Well, it’s funny. I’m the - initially, when I started talking to people, and the people around him say, it’s great. You know, they talk all the time. They talk several times a day. Trump calls him, you know, middle of the night, whenever he wants. And I think that’s true. But I - you know, there’s an anecdote, which many of your listeners will have heard by now, which is, Tillerson was apparently in a meeting after one of - he was complaining about one of Trump’s speeches. And he called him a moron, and there was a - you know, there was another word attached to the word moron, which I won’t repeat.

But I think - you know, I think he’s frustrated. I think it’s difficult for - you know, Rex Tillerson is, I think - he’s a pretty sober and a pretty steady guy. And of course, the president is anything but that. And I think Tillerson in particular has been trying very hard in places like North Korea, where we have a - you know, a terrible crisis on our hands, to make a diplomatic solution to try to avert war. I think, you know, the possibility of war with North Korea right now is very real. And so he - you know, he flies out to China to try to make a deal and - to try to make a diplomatic deal to stave off war. And the president makes fun of him. And he undercuts him - Rex, you’re wasting your time. And I - you know, he’s the secretary of state of the United States. It’s - I think he’s pretty frustrated with that, that he feels like he can’t do his job.

GROSS: One official told you, the only reason why Tillerson has stayed this long is loyalty to the country.

FILKINS: Yeah, you know, he’s an Eagle Scout. And there’s a lot of Eagle Scouts in the president’s cabinet, and there’s a lot of generals around him. And somebody said to me, the only people left around the president are generals and Boy Scouts. And they’re hanging in there out of - not because they like it or not because they’re, you know, pleased to go into work every day but because they feel a responsibility to the country.

GROSS: What have you heard about the so-called suicide pact - that if Tillerson is let loose, then Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin would leave as well? They would just - they would walk.

FILKINS: Well, I heard that. I - you know, Washington is - it’s such a chatterbox. And when you go down there, you know, it’s just an echo chamber, and everybody’s, like, gossiping. It’s hard to know what’s true. I do know that Tillerson and Mattis talk a lot, and they have a lot of respect for each other. And I think that they - you know, they talk a lot because it’s - they both deal with foreign affairs. And, you know, one is the carrot, and the other is the stick. And they’re trying to coordinate a lot. So they talk a lot. And so it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case.

GROSS: Is Tillerson much of a carrot? Is he holding out many carrots?

FILKINS: Well, I think the carrot’s getting smaller. I mean - and I think that’s the concern. And the hammer or the stick is getting bigger. And so if you look at their respective budgets, the Office of Management and Budget, which has drawn up the proposed budget for 2018 - for next year - which is what they’re fighting about right now - they would cut the State Department’s budget by 30 percent. And that’s about - the State Department is - the budget’s about - right now about $55 billion a year. And they are proposing - at the same time that they’re cutting the State Department by 30 percent, they’re proposing a $50 billion increase for the Pentagon. So they’re - the proposal on the table right now is to increase spending on defense as much as, or nearly as much as, the entire budget for the State Department.

And so if you stand back and think about that, what does that mean for American foreign policy? You know, you’ve got the guns over here, and you’ve got the diplomats over here. And they are cutting the resources for the diplomats, and they’re giving more resources to the guys with guns. And so I think that’s what’s disturbing to a lot of people right now - that the balance is changing.

GROSS: But Tillerson seems to be one of the people leading the charge in dismantling the State Department. I mean, you write that there are, like, 48 ambassadorships that are vacant. Twenty-one out of 23 assistant secretary positions are vacant or occupied by provisional employees because Congress hasn’t confirmed appointees to the position. How much of this is intentional on Rex Tillerson’s part?

FILKINS: Well, I - that there - I think there’s two answers to that question. The first is - to answer your question - he has his marching orders, and it’s to cut the budget and to cut the number of people - cut the number of diplomats working for the United States. And he’s doing that. He’s doing that, and he’s - or he’s trying to do it. And, you know, Congress is actually pushing back. Remarkably, even the Republicans in Congress are saying, look, this is crazy. This is too much. These cuts are too deep. You know, we have to have a diplomatic presence abroad.

And at the same time, I think that Tillerson is having a very, very difficult time - very difficult time - filling jobs and filling - you know, typically at the State Department, you have the secretary of state, and then he’s surrounded by assistant secretaries of state. And there’s 25 of them or so. And what’s happened, in this case, is because so many Republican - let’s say senior Republicans who - with deep experience on foreign policy - so many of them during the campaign publicly spoke against the Trump candidacy or signed letters, which were, you know, published in newspapers, et cetera, saying, Donald Trump is not fit to be president.

And so the whole Republican bench that you would call on to bring in to a new Republican administration, they’re essentially blackballed. And if you go down those lists, that’s a really long list. It’s most of the real brain power in the Republican foreign policy establishment. So the result is, Tillerson can’t get anybody to work for him.

GROSS: Let’s talk about North Korea. I mean, President Trump has said, we could totally destroy North Korea. North Korea has vowed to develop a nuclear missile capable of hitting the U.S. and warned it can conduct a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific. No ambassador to South Korea has been confirmed yet. Trump also warned recently that this is the calm before the storm. And nobody’s really sure what he means by that, and he’s declined to clarify. It’s kind of like, you’ll see.

So - and the president tweeted, presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years. Agreements made and massive amounts of money paid hasn’t worked. Agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators - sorry, but only one thing will work.

And I think it’s kind of implied what that one thing is. But we don’t really know for sure what he means. So what’s your sense of how close we’re getting to an actual nuclear war with North Korea?

FILKINS: Well, I don’t know if it’d be a nuclear war, but it would be - it’d be a very terrible war. I remember Secretary Mattis - I was on his plane earlier this year. And he said if - and he’s really sober about this. And he said, if there is a war with North Korea, it will bring the worst casualties and the worst bloodshed that any of us have ever known in our lifetimes. You know, that’s pretty strong stuff. And I think the - I think here’s where we are.

The Trump administration has decided, I think - it’s pretty clear - that the prospect of North Korea getting a workable ICBM with a nuclear warhead is worse than the prospect of war. So, I mean - and I spoke to people inside the administration who told me that. They said, we will not allow them to have a working ICBM. It’s not going to happen. And we will go to war if we have to. So short of that, what can you do? You can make a deal.

And so the plan - and I think this is what Tillerson has been working very hard on - is to squeeze the North Koreans. And there’s basically one way to squeeze the North Koreans, and that’s to squeeze China - to squeeze the North Koreans, and that it - because the Chinese economy is kind of - it’s the main - it’s the only lever, really, to pressure the North Koreans. And so the Chinese have been very reluctant to do that. They’re - for a lot of reasons - I mean, the main one is, they don’t want to have the North Korean state collapse on their borders. They’re terrified of that. They don’t want North Korea to have a nuclear weapon, I don’t think, any more than we do.

But so that’s the challenge right now, but I think it’s also the one means that the White House sees to make a deal is working with China. And that’s what Tillerson has been trying to do. So he’s been, you know, flying to China. He’s made several trips out there, and he’s pushing them. We have channels open to the North Korean leadership. And so, you know, to get back to President Trump, so the - so at the same time that, you know, the diplomats were trying to make a deal to stave off war, the president is sending out these tweets saying, I’m going to - you know, I’m going to annihilate North Korea, et cetera. And I don’t think there’s any calculation involved in that. I think the - you know, the president is just, you know, firing.

GROSS: OK, well, let’s take a short break here. If you’re just joining us, my guest is Dexter Filkins, a New Yorker staff writer who covers foreign affairs. His new piece is called “Rex Tillerson At The Breaking Point.” We’ll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you’re just joining us, my guest is Dexter Filkins, who is a staff writer at The New Yorker and covers foreign affairs. His new piece is about the secretary of state. It’s called “Rex Tillerson At The Breaking Point.”

Rex Tillerson told you - because you had a chance to speak with him - that he told China that if China and the U.S. don’t solve this - if he and his counterpart don’t solve this - these two guys - meaning Kim Jong Un and President Trump - these two guys get to fight, and we will fight.

FILKINS: Yeah. Yeah, it’s pretty scary.

GROSS: Did he elaborate on that for you? Like, what…

FILKINS: Well, yeah, a little bit. I mean, he essentially meant, look, the way this is - the way diplomacy works and works best is if it’s backed up by a threat of force. So when I walk in the room and I sit down with the Chinese, I say, look, you and I can make a deal, and we can, like, sign it on paper. And if we don’t, if diplomacy fails, there’s going to be a war. And nobody wants a war, so let’s do the deal. And I think, you know, that sounds right. Theoretically, that’s - and it sounds right. It’s just terrifying.

GROSS: Well, it - there seems to really be a game of brinksmanship being played right now.

FILKINS: Yes.

GROSS: And when you say you were told - and I forget who told you this - that if we go to war with North Korea, there will be more casualties than - what? - than…

FILKINS: Any of us know - have seen in our lifetimes. And that was Secretary Mattis.

GROSS: Oh, right. And I can - and he’s…

FILKINS: And you know…

GROSS: He (laughter)...

FILKINS: He’s seen a lot of war, you know? I mean…

GROSS: He’s seen a lot of war, right. So do you have any idea what kind of war he’s envisioning if we do go to war with North Korea? And I hate to even utter those words.

FILKINS: Yeah, God forbid. I think there’s a lot of different options. And, I mean, I’ve had some discussions about what those options are. I think they’re all terrible. I think that the easy scenario to imagine - I mean, it’s a terrible scenario - is the moment the United States strikes North Korea, say. And we’re speaking only theoretically here. The North Koreans have at their disposal thousands of artillery rounds that are within striking range of Seoul. And I think, you know, metropolitan Seoul has how many people - 20 million people. And so you can imagine.

So if the leadership of North Korea is, you know, still alive and if every piece of its army is still functioning - any piece of its army’s - is still functioning after that initial exchange, then they will fire everything they have at Seoul. And I think that’s - you know, that’s what’s got everybody’s attention. The prospect of that is terrifying because the bloodshed would be immense.

GROSS: OK.

FILKINS: And, you know, the numbers that you see are just - they’re terrifying. I mean, it’s, you know, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of casualties.

GROSS: I’m wondering if you feel any echoes of the eve of the Iraq War right now when President Bush and Saddam Hussein were threatened - threatening each other when President Bush decided to move forward not exactly unilaterally, but not really with the backing of the U.N. either. You know, we had some allies, but it wasn’t the full force of the U.N. Do - you covered the Iraq War. You covered it right from the start. So are you feeling any similarities now?

FILKINS: Well, the - I think the difference is, in Iraq, it was basically the United States. I mean, we’d - you know, Great Britain came along, but - and the United States was utterly determined to take down Saddam, you know? Come what may, we’re going to do it. And so there was this kind of, like, heedlessness involved. You know, we’re - we are going to do this. And the whole world was kind of freaking out.

It’s different in North Korea. I mean, I do feel like I have a - whenever I sit down and talk to somebody in Washington about - who knows the North Korean situation, I get these butterflies in my stomach because it feels like these are two - you know, North Korea and the United States, they’re both people who are - at the moment who are not willing to compromise. And that means, if that doesn’t - if they don’t reach a compromise, we’re going to go to war. And I think the prospect of war is very, very real.

And so in that sense, I’m feeling, like, pretty nervous about it. But I think that in - the difference between now and, say, in Iraq in 2003 was that I think the whole world is pretty worried about North Korea. You know, it’s a kind of crazy, unpredictable regime. And I think that the whole world is united in wanting to stop North Korea from acquiring an ICBM.

So to get back to what I had said earlier, I think the Trump administration - I spoke to somebody about this at some length - said that we - the reason why we cannot allow North Korea to acquire an ICBM is, think of the consequences. They would - they might use one. Oh, they’ll start threatening Japan. They’ll start threatening South Korea. They’ll threaten the United States. They - it will probably prompt, or could prompt, the Japanese to reversing, you know, decades of being a - having a very, very small defense force. They may have to go nuclear. So it could destabilize the whole region.

You - there’s no evidence that North Koreans would ever think twice about selling their nuclear technology to another country. So all of those things are terrifying as well. And so what the Trump administration has concluded is that this - or that scenario that I just painted - we cannot allow that, and we will not allow that under any circumstances.

GROSS: So if there is a war with North Korea, as it’s possible there will be, is there any scenario that you’ve heard in which the U.S. uses a nuclear weapon against North Korea?

FILKINS: Yes. Yes, I’ve had that conversation. It’s terrifying. I mean, it’s just not even something that you want to think about. But I will tell you about a conversation I had with a very senior person. He said, the problem, if the North Koreans, say, are 2 inches away from acquiring the capability - you know, a workable nuclear-armed ICBM - and we need to stop that, how do we do that? We kill the leadership, basically. We take out the whole leadership - Kim Jong Un, everyone around him.

Now, how do you do that? Because, you know, do we know where they are? Are they all scattered? And that’s where the nuclear weapon came in in the conversation that I had. So in other words, you decapitate the regime, and maybe you can avert the kind of horrible consequences that we’ve talked about with the North Koreans raining artillery shells down on greater Seoul. But that’s pretty terrifying. I think that option has been discussed. I think it’s on the table. That’s what was related to me. But, I mean, it’s pretty terrifying.

GROSS: How do you use a nuclear weapon to decapitate the regime?

FILKINS: God if I know. I don’t know. I mean, because - I don’t know. I mean, I think that the idea, at least in the discussion that I had, was that that would be the only way that you could guarantee that you would basically obliterate the leadership, wherever it was. The problem with that, obviously, is that you’re going to end up obliterating a lot of other things as well. And so I - you know, you - there’s no such thing as a surgical nuclear strike.

And so I think if - you know, if nuclear weapons came into play here, the consequences would be horrifying. And I don’t - you know, I don’t - this is what - I think this is what keeps people awake at nights. I mean, everybody’s thinking about these options, and there are no good options. They’re all bad - all of them. But the nuclear one, of course, is conceivably the worst.

GROSS: My guest is Dexter Filkins. His new article “Rex Tillerson At The Breaking Point” is in the current issue of The New Yorker. We’ll talk more after a break. And our jazz critic, Kevin Whitehead, will have an appreciation of pianist and composer, Thelonious Monk, who was born 100 years ago today. I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross, back with Dexter Filkins, a staff writer for The New Yorker who covers foreign affairs. His new article is titled “Rex Tillerson At The Breaking Point: Will Donald Trump Let The Secretary Of State Do His Job?” Filkins covered the war in Iraq for The New York Times and is the author of the book, “The Forever War,” which won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction.

After having written this piece about Rex Tillerson, for which you interviewed a lot of people in the State Department, and my impression is maybe some people in defense as well, people in the administration - what did you leave knowing that you didn’t know before, in terms of the larger story of where we’re going with North Korea and Iran?

FILKINS: Well, I think the most - you know, I’ve worked all around the globe, and I’ve been to, like, a zillion American embassies around the world. And, you know, they’re all kind of the same. You, you know, show your passport, and you go inside. And you meet the diplomats, and they’re all very competent. And they speak the language, and they know the history and the politics. And you kind of take it for granted.

You know, we have a really good State Department, and the embassies are filled with competent people. But you take it for granted. Like, what do they do in there? I think what I learned is that the world that we live in is governed by a very large kind of architecture of economic and political arrangements that have been, you know, whether by treaties or agreements - that have been kind of written, and orchestrated and erected since the second - the end of the Second World War.

And basically, if you go back to - I quoted Truman’s - President Truman’s secretary of state in my piece, Dean Acheson. If you go back that far, to the 19 - late ‘40s and early ‘50s, you know, Acheson says, we inherited a world that was in chaos and in ruins, and we wanted to, at - you know, at any cost, we wanted to avert another world war. And how can we do this? And so they came up with, you know, everything - all these institutions that we know today - The United Nations, NATO, you know, the European Union. And not - you know, this stuff was very ad hoc and, kind of - you know, this institution got formed in 1948 and the next one in 1950. And they kind of evolved over time.

But that - today, we’ve inherited this kind of vast architecture of arrangements, and relationships and treaties, and so that everything from bandwidth - computer bandwidth - to the number of bluefin tuna that you can take out of the water every year - just the number of things which are negotiated, and written down, and codified in treaties and which are managed every day by our diplomats because there’s disputes going on all the time and these arrangements have to be changed and altered - this is the world that we live in. And this is, you know, the world that we have - and, you know, for all of its problems.

But it’s - and I think the thing that is troubling is - and the thing it - which is worrying and which I think everybody needs to kind of think about is, if we - are we dismantling this? Is that what Secretary Tillerson and President Trump are doing when they say, we want to cut the budget of the State Department by 30 percent? If - I asked Secretary Tillerson, and he said no, that’s not what we want to do. But when you see what’s happening to our diplomatic corps and you see what’s the - what the budget cuts are potentially doing and the people who are leaving, the amount of expertise which is leaving, it’s scary. It’s scary.

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Trump’s cryptic warning ahead of the Iran decision: “this could be the calm before the storm”

Posted by DanielS on Saturday, 07 October 2017 06:48.



The Hill, “Trump: ‘You’ll find out’ what ‘calm before the storm’ means”, 6 Oct 2017:

President Trump on Friday kept the public wondering about his cryptic warning regarding a “calm before the storm.”

“You’ll find out,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked what he meant by his comment. 

The president left many people scratching their heads after he offered mysterious remarks before a Thursday dinner with military leaders.

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump asked reporters in the room. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

Asked what he was referring to — such as possible action against Iran or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — Trump responded, “We have the world’s greatest military people in the room.”

“You’ll find out,” he said when he was pressed again.

Later Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say whether the president was hinting at a military action.

“We’re never going to say in advance what the president is going to do,” she said.

Trump’s comments came after a meeting with the military brass that touched on Iran and North Korea. Multiple reports indicate the president is prepared to decertify the landmark nuclear pact with Tehran.

White House reporters were called in to cover the photo-op after staff informed them Trump would be making no more public appearances, raising speculation he was prepared to make a major announcement.

But the president has given no indication what he was referring to, an indication he may have been trying to be provocative rather than offering a hint of future action. 

Sanders said she believes Trump was making “just a general comment.”

“I’m not aware of anything specific that was a reference to,” she said.

READ MORE...


Trump expected to decertify Iran nuclear deal, official says.

Posted by DanielS on Friday, 06 October 2017 12:09.

Ending the Iran deal has been the veritable raison d’être for the Trump Presidency.

Reuters, “Trump expected to decertify Iran nuclear deal, official says”, 5 Oct 2017:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump is also expected to roll out a broader U.S. strategy on Iran that would be more confrontational. The Trump administration has frequently criticized Iran’s conduct in the Middle East.

Trump, who has called the pact an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever negotiated,” has been weighing whether it serves U.S. security interests as he faces an Oct. 15 deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with its terms.

“We must not allow Iran ... to obtain nuclear weapons,” Trump said during a meeting with military leaders at the White House on Thursday, adding:

“The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They haven’t lived up to the spirit of the agreement.”

Asked about his decision on whether to certify the landmark deal, Trump said: “You’ll be hearing about Iran very shortly.”

Supporters say its collapse could trigger a regional arms race and worsen Middle East tensions, while opponents say it went too far in easing sanctions without requiring that Iran end its nuclear program permanently.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly said Tehran would not be the first to violate the accord, under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions that had crippled its economy.

If Trump declines to certify Iran’s compliance, U.S. congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.

Whether Congress would be willing to reimpose sanctions is far from clear. While Republicans, and some Democrats, opposed the deal when it was approved in 2015, there is little obvious appetite in Congress for dealing with the Iran issue now.

The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, has worried some of the U.S. allies that helped negotiate it.

“We, the Europeans, we have hammered this: the agreement is working,” said a European diplomat who asked to remain anonymous. “We as Europeans, have repeated ... it’s impossible to reopen the agreement. Period. It’s impossible.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said last month there was no alternative to the nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A senior Iranian diplomat told Reuters on Thursday the end result of Trump’s expected move would be to isolate the United States since the Europeans would continue to support it.

“Many foreign investors told us that they will not be scared away from Iran’s market if Trump de-certifies the deal,” the diplomat said.

Trump has long criticized the pact, a signature foreign policy achievement of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

The administration was considering Oct. 12 for Trump to give a speech on Iran but no final decision had been made, an official said previously.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, last month said that unless provisions in the accord removing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program over time are eliminated, it should be canceled.

“Fix it, or nix it,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly annual gathering of world leaders on Sept. 19.

Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans who control Congress also have been critical of the deal.

‘CANNOT ABIDE’

Trump blasted the deal in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, also on Sept. 19.

“We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” Trump said, adding that Iran’s government “masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.”

Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi‘ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria and its support for militant groups.

Trump’s defense secretary, Jim Mattis, told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that Iran was “fundamentally” in compliance with the agreement. He also said the United States should consider staying in the deal unless it were proven that Tehran was not abiding by it or that it was not in the U.S. national interest to do so.

When Mattis was asked by a senator whether he thought staying in the deal was in the U.S. national security interest, he replied: “Yes, senator, I do.”

Last week, Iran’s foreign minister said Tehran may abandon the deal if Washington decides to withdraw.


Turkey threatens further sanctions, as Iraqi Kurds announce November poll

Posted by DanielS on Wednesday, 04 October 2017 05:29.

Middle East Eye, “Turkey threatens further sanctions, as Iraqi Kurds announce November poll”, 3 Oct 2017:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Iraqi Kurds should ‘come to their senses’ following last week’s independence referendum.

Turkey has upped its threats against the Iraqi Kurdistan region as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced parliamentary and presidential elections for 1 November.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to impose new sanctions on Iraq’s Kurdish regions if they don’t “come to their senses” following last Monday’s referendum vote to secede from Iraq.

Erdogan threatens further sanctions against Iraqi Kurds.

“We are managing with some embargoes in northern Iraq for now, but if they don’t come to their senses this will continue increasingly,” Erdogan said at a parliamentary meeting in Ankara on Tuesday.

“Any incident taking place in Syria and Iraq is not independent from us, they are linked directly to our domestic affairs.”

He added that the referendum was “a new attempt to strike the heart of our region with a dagger”.

Despite formerly good relations with the KRG, Turkey has been highly critical of the independence referendum over fears it could enflame

Iraqi Kurds gave a resounding 92.7 percent “yes” vote for independence in last Monday’s non-binding referendum, which has also sent regional tensions soaring.

KRG President Massoud Barzani originally announced the referendum in June, which provoked repeated calls from the US, EU and others for a cancellation or delay.

On Tuesday it was announced that presidential and parliamentary elections for the Kurdistan region would be held on 1 November.
Clinging to power?

The referendum in Kurdistan was seen by analysts as a means for Barzani to cling on to power by shoring up nationalist sentiment ahead of the elections.

The heir of a dynasty which has led the Kurdish struggle for independence for over a century, Barzani has held the KRG presidency since its establishment in 2005, two years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

His tenure was extended beyond his second term in 2013, as fresh turmoil engulfed the region and Islamic State overran about a third of Iraq in 2014, threatening the Kurdish region.

Despite this, it was unclear whether Barzani would or could stand in the November poll as Kurdish law says a president cannot stay in office for more than two terms.

Gorran, the second-largest party in the Kurdish parliament, announced it would be putting forward Mohammad Tofiq Rahim, the party’s foreign relations director, as its presidential candidate.

The party has been highly critical of the Kurdish independence referendum, which it denounced as “illegal” in June, and has accused Barzani of seeking to cling on to power and marginalise democratic opposition in the Kurdish region.

Barzani placing his vote in the independence referendum last week (AFP) further sanctions, as Iraqi Kurds announce November poll.

Barzani placing his vote in the independence referendum last week (AFP)

Neither Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) nor the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had declared candidates by time of publication, despite the declaration period being due to expire on Tuesday.

Although Kurdistan has been largely autonomous since 2005, the prospect of full independence - and, in particular, the disuputed future of areas like Kirkuk and Sinjar - has provoked a fierce backlash in Baghdad.

There was controversy on Tuesday as Kurdish media reported that Kurdish MPs in Baghdad had been prevented from attending parliament.

According to some media reports, Arab MPs had demanded that Kurdish MPs swear an oath to support a unified Iraq in order to attend the parliamentary session, which the mostly independence-supporting Kurds refused.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the suspension of international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan from Friday in retaliation for the Kurds voting for independence.

The Kurdish push for independence is meant to capitalise on their key contribution to the war on Islamic State after the group overwhelmed Iraqi forces in 2014.

The US administration, which had strengthened its alliance with Iraq’s Kurds during the anti-IS campaign, is taking the side of Baghdad in the crisis in refusing to recognise the outcome of the referendum.


“Miss Grand Myanmar”, Shwe Eain Si, stripped of her title for telling truth about crisis in Rakhine

Posted by DanielS on Tuesday, 03 October 2017 09:24.

“Miss Grand Myanmar”, Shwe Eain Si, has been stripped of her title just days before she was due to compete in a leading international beauty pageant by organizers Miss Grand International. The nineteen year old had released a video statement in which she basically told the truth about the cause of the crisis in Rakhine State - Mancinblack

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMF3OF7NbNk


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