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Nuclear Brinkmanship With Russia And Drumbeat For War With Iran

Next Cold War Roundup 7/13/16

Various foreign policy realists in the United States believe that the communique issued by NATO at their Warsaw Summit is like a declaration of war against Russia. They believe it’s a deliberate provocation, nuclear brinkmanship, and that the NATO alliance “has lost its collective mind.” China threatened to declare an air defense zone in disputed territory in the South China Sea after a tribunal decision not in their favor. The US announced that THADD missile defense will be deployed in South Korea. The drumbeat for war against Iran becomes more strident each day as the Obama administration’s term comes to a close. Sec. State John Kerry is traveling to Moscow to discuss Syria, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh, the Middle East and Northern Africa. There is more confirmation that the US and allies are backing two different sides in Libya.

China May Declare Air Defense Zone in South China Sea

_ China rejects a tribunal decision against it and in favor of the Philippines, regarding its territorial claims in the South China Sea. “Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said Beijing could declare an air defense identification zone over the waters if it felt threatened, a move that would sharply escalate tensions.” But China “also extended an olive branch to the new Philippine government, saying the Southeast Asian nation would benefit from cooperating with China.” China says it has historical claims to the area and the tribunal said those “historical resource rights were wiped out if they were incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under the treaty, which both countries have signed.”

John Kerry Refers to Syrian Rebel Groups as Terrorist Subgroups

_ Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin, who often broadcasts the views of the neoconservatives and the war party, seems angry that Sec. State John Kerry is admitting that Syrian “rebel” groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam are terrorist “subgroups”. Rogin says Kerry is moving closer to Russia’s position (the article headline includes the disparaging phrase, “Kerry touts the Russian line”) and cites dismay of Obama administration officials over Kerry’s statements at Aspen in June and attempt to rehabilitate the groups.

_ Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov used harshly critical words about the situation in Syria, in a July 12 statement. First he complained that the US has still not gotten Syria rebels to detach from al Nusra in Syria and that “Jabhat al-Nusra has been changing its colour. It is creating groups under different names that are allegedly not connected to al-Nusra throughout Syria but primarily around Aleppo.” Lavrov also complained about the UN envoy and the direction of the Syrian peace talks:

Lavrov: “It is alarming that the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Mr Staffan de Mistura has been neglecting his duties of late. He has not convened the planned round of the intra-Syrian talks and has made public statements according to which Russia and the US should come to terms on a political settlement in Syria before the UN convenes the next round of the intra-Syrian consultations. This is the wrong approach. The resolution says clearly that the Syrians themselves must decide the future of their country. They can do this only if they sit down at the negotiating table, look each other in the eye and make their proposals. […] I see this as a very dangerous sign being sent to an irreconcilable opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, which has been advancing ultimatums on deadlines and demanded that Bashar al-Assad step down. This is not helping the settlement process.”

THAAD Missile Defense in South Korea

_ An advanced Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) U.S. missile defense system “will be deployed in a rural farming town in southeastern South Korea.” This angers “not only North Korea and China but also local residents who fear potential health hazards that they believe the U.S. system might cause.”

More Confirmation US Backing Two Sides in Libya War

_ Middle East Eye (MEE) has more information about the situation in Libya where the US (and the French) appears to be backing two sides. We reported on this here on June 28. “A multinational military operation involving British, French and US forces is coordinating air strikes in support of a renegade general battling Islamist militia groups from a base near Benghazi in eastern Libya.” Someone leaked air traffic recordings to MEE which show that airstrikes are being coordinated from this operations room at Benina air base.

_ Haftar (aka Hiftar, Hifter) is attempting to “gain control of eastern Libya from groups he has declared to be ‘extremists'”. The US backs Libya’s “unity government” created by the UN.  Haftar opposes it. Not only does Haftar oppose the unity government, he allied himself with the Libyan government formed in the east, in Tobruk, and according to the Economist, he is “often considered a spoiler of efforts to unify the country“.

_ MEE claims that Haftar has exploited the existence of ISIS in Libya to “secure foreign backing” and “notably Egypt and the UAE, which are thought to be responsible for night-time air strikes on sites controlled by Islamist-aligned forces.” The unity government is focused on getting rid of ISIS but “Haftar has been fighting his own war – against the same group that pushed IS out of Derna.”

_ On the leaked tapes, pilots and air traffic controllers with “Arabic and English. British, American, French and Italian accents” can be heard.

_ Gen. Haftar “has a well-documented history of affiliation with the CIA and even lived in Virginia for 21 years while exiled from the Gaddafi government.” He is often referred to as a “CIA asset” or an “ex-CIA asset” because he claimed to an agent only for the people of Libya.  The US-backed unity government has an alliance with Misrata militias. “The Misratans and Hifter’s troops have been known to square off against each other in armed clashes.” The EU has threatened to sanction Haftar for his undermining of the unity government.

_ Mattia Toaldo, a specialist on Libya from the European Council on Foreign Relations told MEE that France has some explaining to do about why they are also playing on two sides of the war in Libya — diplomatically supporting the unity government and militarily supporting Haftar. There are so many different regional countries involved in Libya (Egypt, UAE, Jordan, et al) that it’s possible that the US and France, and possibly Britain, are on both sides because of their alliances with regional powers. The US has competing interests in Syria too, as the CIA-backed forces and Pentagon-backed forces have been known to conflict and the CIA and Pentagon have different goals.

Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal’s Rally Speech to MEK

_ Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal gave a rally speech to the exiled Iranian extremist group, MEK (designated as a terrorist group in US until Hillary Clinton changed their status in 2012), in Paris. “Your legitimate struggle against the (Iranian) regime will achieve its goal, sooner or later.” Former US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was also at the MEK rally. Most recently, Gingrich has been “actively lobbying” to run as Donald Trump’s vice president. Iran’s foreign ministry released a statement saying that the Saudi prince’s speech at the MEK rally shows the Saudis are using well known terrorism and terrorists “to further their aims against regional Islamic countries” just as they do in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

_ “A bipartisan clutch of Americans, including former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and a host of others were on hand” at the MEK rally to overthrow Iran. Louis Freeh was director of FBI under Pres. Bill Clinton and was replaced less than 3 months before the 9/11 attacks. P.J. Crowley, former assitant secretary of state under Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, was there and gave a speech too. Crowley was fired for criticizing the Defense Department’s treatment of Chelsea Manning.

_ John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also at the regime change rally: “Among international supporters were former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, former Spanish prime minister Joze Luis Zapatero, former US Congress speaker Newt Gingrich, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.”

_ Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal was the head of Saudi intelligence from 1977 until 10 days before the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Turki “was named in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit by the families of 11 September victims, alleging that he and other Saudi princes, banks, and charities may have funded the terrorists involved in the attack.” Turki replaced Prince Bandar bin Sultan as the Saudi ambassador to the United States in 2005.

Think Tank Advises Interfering With or Shutting Down Iran’s “Airbridge” to Syria

_ The neocon think tank, American Enterprise Institute, has produced a white paper, “Iran’s Airbridge to Syria,” recommending ways that the US could shut down or interfere with commercial airline flights between Iran and Syria, some of which are part of the supply lines in the Syrian war.

“The US has several policy options for applying pressure on this network, including imposing penalties on businesses that facilitate Mahan Air’s flights to Western Europe. The removal of sanctions from Iran Air also merits serious reevaluation, as do the impending Airbus and Boeing sales to the airline. Iran’s air route to Syria is a significant vulnerability in Iran’s support to the Assad regime and its other proxies in the Levant. If the US is serious about pressing Iran to curtail its backing of Assad and other terrorist proxies in the region, then preventing Tehran from increasing its ability to maintain its airbridge should be a priority.”

_ AEI notes that the air route is critical to Iran’s support of the Assad government because: “Supply by sea is slow and vulnerable to interdiction by Western militaries. ISIS forces continue to control overland routes from Iraq into Assad-controlled Syria.” AEI urges the US government to make it a priority to hamper Iran’s ability to improve the “airbridge” that AEI says is being used to supply “terrorist proxies” in Syria. Iran-supported groups fighting in Syria include the Iranian Republican Guard, Hezbollah and some Iraqi militias. Some of these AEI recommendations would require reneging on the JCPOA Iran deal and seem to be aimed less at the Obama administration and more at the new president to be elected in several months. Neocon think tanks like AEI expect to gain an enormous amount of influence if Hillary Clinton wins that election

_ Another way that the US can interfere with supply lines to the Syrian government coalition is to pressure the Iraqi government to stop allowing Iran to use its airspace or to force the Iranian flights to land in Baghdad to make sure they are carrying only humanitarian supplies. “Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton secured a pledge [in 2012] from Iraq to inspect the flights” but the pledge was not kept. In 2013, in the months leading up to the planned US military intervention in Syria that was later aborted, Sec. State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Baghdad and “made clear to Iraq that it shouldn’t allow Iran to use its airspace to ship weapons and fighters to Syria.” Iraq’s elected prime minister at that time, Nouri al-Maliki, was later forced to step down. The US has more influence and control in Iraq now than it did in 2013.

Drumbeat For War With Iran

_ Germany’s state of Rhineland-Palatinate’s intelligence agency (a local intelligence agency comparable to an FBI regional office) issued a report saying that Iran “aggressively pursued” biological and chemical weapons technology even during the time it was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal with the West. The report claims that Iran “targeted German companies whose equipment could be ‘implemented for atomic, biological and chemical weapons in a war.‘ […] ‘These goods could, for example, be applied to the development of state nuclear and missile delivery programs.’” This is part of a Fox News “review of the voluminous German intelligence data and reports show Iran’s secret activities were documented in half of Germany’s 16 states.”

_ Hassan Beheshtipour, expert in the field of nuclear energy, commented on the claims by German media about Iran seeking nuclear technology “have nothing to do with reality.

_ The Guardian published a dramatic article today with no byline except “Tehran Bureau” which it describes at the end as “an independent media organisation, hosted by the Guardian,” around a poll conducted by a “Canadian outfit linked to Maryland University”: “Polling gives a dark forecast for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani is losing ground as his fundamentalists opponents push slogans oddly similar to those of Donald Trump and the Brexiteers.”

IED Drone in Manbij, Syria?

ISIS Attacks Near Near Palmyra

_ ISIS shot down Russian military helicopter, killing both pilots. The helicopter had been called in to help Syrian army fighting an ISIS advance near Palmyra. The pilots were reportedly instructor pilots who were testing the aircraft, which sounds like another indicator that Syrian coalition forces are stretched thin.

Bin Laden Resurrected

_ As ISIS declines, bin Laden is resurrected.  “The son of slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has threatened revenge against the United States for assassinating his father, according to an audio message posted online.” Have no fear, there will always be a symbolic and very public terrorist boogeyman in the Middle East who rises just in time to sustain the supply of American and western blood and treasure, indefinitely.

ISIS on Social Media

_ ISIS traffic on Twitter has been reduced by 45% over the past two years.

NATO vs. Russia

_ The Warsaw Summit Communiqué, issued at the end of the July 8-9 summit, reads like a declaration of war on Russia, according to Prof. Stephen F. Cohen, in his weekly radio talk with John Batchelor on Tuesday night. We’ll have more on that podcast in the Friday Next Cold War roundup here at Shadowproof.

Cohen: In “all of its communiques it blamed each and every conflict […] between East and West, between Washington and Moscow, from the Baltics, to Ukraine, to Syria,  solely on Putin, and, in a way (and this is not my interpretation but I don’t disagree with it) the documents were kind of a declaration of war against Russia. So it’s a very, very important event.” [Emphasis added]

_ New York Times journalists give their view of the state of affairs at NATO:

“NATO Review, a magazine published by the alliance, recently suggested that nuclear weapons once again had to move back to the center of the alliance’s defense plans. ‘The forces involved in the nuclear mission should be exercised openly and regularly, without undermining their specific nature,’ said the magazine, which the alliance said did not necessarily reflect its official position. ‘Such exercises should involve not only nuclear-weapon states,’ it continued, ‘but other non-nuclear allies.’” [Emphasis added]

_ Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) fellow notes that the trend over the past couple of decades of reducing forces in Europe, increasing cooperation with Russia, and calls to remove nuclear weapons from Europe has been reversed. This trend had been causing war hawks to lose sleep at night, no doubt. The CSIS fellow, Thomas O. Karako, said “the voices previously calling for withdrawal have become much more quiet.”

_ 1,000 US troops will be deployed in Poland.

_ Nobel Peace Laureate Helen Caldicott said: “Surely, the politicians and military personnel in Washington must realize that they are playing nuclear chicken with Russia […] “Large increases in NATO troops and equipment in countries once an integral part of the Soviet Union [and] antimissile bases in Romania, Poland, Turkey and Spain, are extremely provocative to Russia which is clearly concerned for good reason.”

_ Independent investigative journalist Robert Parry said: “President Obama and NATO leaders signed on to the false narrative” when they endorsed the Warsaw Summit Communiqué condemning “’Russia’s aggressive actions’ while knowing that these claims were unsupported by their own intelligence agencies.”  Parry says that: “It’s unnerving to realize that the NATO alliance – bristling with an unprecedented array of weapons including a vast nuclear arsenal – has lost its collective mind.”

_ Sec. State John Kerry will be in Moscow this week, his fourth visit over the past year, to “continue to discuss topical issues of bilateral cooperation and international agenda.” Kerry will be in France for Bastille Day celebrations and travel to Moscow from there. They will discuss the situations in “Syria, Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh.” RT reports that the “Kremlin has so far declined to comment on the reports” about a military cooperation agreement between the US and Russia in Syria.

Voice of America, Radio Free Europe Head Denied Entry to Russia

_ Russia detained Jeff Shell, the chairman of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and chairman of NBCUniversal’s Filmed Entertainment Division, when he arrived at an airport in Moscow, and then escorted him to a flight to Amsterdam, expelling him from the country. “Shell told colleagues traveling with him that airport security officials told him he was subject to a lifetime ban on entering Russia.” Shell, as chairman of the BBG, also oversees “Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other government broadcasters that are not well liked in the Kremlin.”

_ Last weekend, Russia also expelled two American diplomats accusing them of being CIA agents. Both countries have recently expelled or revoked credentials of numerous diplomats and the US has “tightened control over the movements of Russian diplomats” in America.

 Another Increase in US Troops to Iraq

_ Sec. Defense Carter announced another escalation, more troops to Iraq “to help establish a newly retaken air base,” the Qayara air base, about 40 miles south of Mosul. This will bring the official number of US troops in Iraq to 4,647. Nancy Youssef from Daily Beast says when you add troops on temporary duty the total is 6,000.

Chilcot Report Aftermath

_ UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn will “probably” back a Commons motion to find Tony Blair in contempt of Parliament over Iraq.

Analysis and Opinion

_ Jim Hale, former “media relations director for the Committee of the Liberation of Iraq (CLI) and as an evangelical Christian” who played a large role in selling the 2003 Iraq war, urges evangelicals to follow NC Republican Walter Jones’ anti-interventionist advice and stop being “puppets for neoconservative Republicans who exploit our ‘support the troops’ mentality in the same manner Democrats have exploited minorities” in this op-ed “Confessions of a War Propagandist.”

_ A Russian blogger from PolitRussia, in a Sputnik News op-ed, “The Implications of Europe’s Coming Tectonic Break With the USA,” said “Today, we are witnessing a third attempt [in a hundred years] to use continental Europe as a battering ram against Russia; moreover, Washington is hoping to use the same simple trick.'” The blogger believes the US strategy is to create a war between the Europeans and Russians, “politically and economically and perhaps even militarily” with the goal of “the US stepping in at the last moment to pick up the pieces, along with the spoils of victory.”

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Joanne Leon

Joanne Leon

Joanne is a blogger with focus on issues of war and peace, a mom, engineer, software developer and amateur photographer.