America Just Declared War on Iran and Nobody Blinked
After a destabilizing move by Trump, it's no longer a question of if U.S. forces will die but when.
By Scott Ritter • April 11, 2019
It is no longer a question of if Americans will die in a conflict with Iran, but when.
The United States has long been engaged in a secret shadow war with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), dating back to the American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.
This conflict took the lives of hundreds of American troops and hundreds more IRGC members. The Iranian opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and the inability of the U.S. to militarily defeat Iranian forces inside Iraq, was just one reason that the Obama administration decided to withdraw American troops in 2011.
Since that time, a tenuous truce has existed between the U.S. military in the region and the IRGC. Even when American troops were re-deployed to Iraq in 2014 to help defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), they did so in concert with IRGC who were fighting alongside Iraqi Shiite militias. American forces inside Syria likewise avoided direct conflict with the IRGC, which was aiding the Syrian military.
But now, the Trump administration has made the decision to designate the IRGC a terrorist organization. This little reported move will have large consequences, shredding the prior truce and putting the lives of thousands of U.S. service members at risk.
“Today, I am formally announcing my Administration’s plan to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Qods Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” the president announced on April 8. The designation will take effect on April 15.
Trump further noted, “This designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as an FTO,” adding, “This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences. We will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activity until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior.”
The Quds Force, a unit within the IRGC that specializes in operations outside Iran, has long been viewed as a terrorist organization by the United States. The IRGC as an entity, however, operates as an integral part of the Iranian government. As such, the U.S. has deliberately avoided classifying it as a terrorist organization out of concerns that doing so would hobble diplomatic efforts with Iran and even destabilize the greater Middle East.
Given the fact Washington is currently engaged in a global “war” on terrorism, this designation—which places the IRGC on the same footing as ISIS and al-Qaeda—means that the U.S. is in effect at war with Iran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to the designation on Monday. He recommended in a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that—given the ongoing overt and covert support of U.S. military forces in the region for groups that have been involved in terrorist acts against Iran—the Supreme National Security Council should designate U.S. Central Command as terrorists.
The Iranians have long assessed that U.S. intelligence services and Special Operations forces have used militant Iranian opposition organizations as proxies in a bloody, undeclared war to undermine the legitimacy of the Iranian government and harm the IRGC. For example, last February, a Baluch separatist group, Jaish al-Adl, claimed credit for the bombing of a bus carrying IRGC soldiers, which killed nearly 30 people. The IRGC claims that the group received its instructions, training, and equipment from U.S. personnel operating out of Afghanistan.
Likewise, in September 2018, a group calling itself the “Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz” launched an attack on an IRGC parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, killing scores. Iranian state media put the blame for this attack squarely on the U.S. and its Gulf allies, remarking, “The attack comes after a U.S.-backed campaign to stir up unrest in Iranian cities fell flat. The effort, known as the Hot Summer Project, sought to whip up public anger over water and electricity shortages in the face of a protracted drought.” Foreign Minister Zarif likewise blamed the United States and Gulf states. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been foursquare behind the U.S. in trying to thwart Iranian influence in the region, the four-year war in Yemen being the most catastrophic example of how far they will go to achieve that goal.
Then-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley adamantly denied that the U.S. had anything to do with the September attack.
Zarif’s recommendation to designate Central Command as terrorists was echoed by Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee. The IRGC also made its position clear regarding the FTO designation. “If the Americans take such a stubborn measure and endanger our national security we will put in place counter-measures in line with the police of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the IRGC’s commander-in-chief, declared. He further noted that if this happened, U.S. forces would no longer be safe in the region.
The impetus behind Trump’s decision is clear—he wants to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu himself acknowledged as much in a tweet: “Thank you, my dear friend President Donald Trump, for deciding to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Thank you for answering another one of my important requests, which serves the interests of our country and the countries of the region.”
The other request referred to by Netanyahu was the decision made in May 2018 to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement. Since that time, the U.S. has found itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, especially Europe, which has opted to remain a part of the agreement, which it notes that Iran continues to fully comply with. The decision to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group is viewed by many as a mechanism for increasing pressure on Iran by expanding the scope and scale of economic sanctions against entities doing business with the IRGC. The timing of the announcement is seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of elections in Israel, where Netanyahu is struggling in a bid for reelection.
But another reason might be lingering resentment within certain American circles over the role played by the IRGC in fomenting resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. “In Iraq, I can announce today, based on declassified U.S. military reports, that Iran is responsible for the deaths of at least 608 American service members. This accounts for 17 percent of all deaths of U.S. personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011,” declared Brian Hook, the U.S. Representative for Iran, in a briefing this week.
Left unsaid was that during that same time, the U.S., through the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), was engaged in its own undeclared war with Iran on Iraqi soil. Far from being the fallout of unilateral Iranian acts of terrorism, the U.S. combat deaths referred to by Hook were part and parcel of a conflict waged in the shadows that only ended with the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq in 2011.
Given this direct link between American and Iranian aggression in Iraq, there can be no doubt that the Trump administration understands that by designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization, it has placed the lives of thousands of American personnel still serving in the Middle East at risk. There are currently between 1,000 and 1,500 U.S. troops inside Syria, and they are surrounded by IRGC-affiliated forces and militias. And more than 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed inside Iraq, where the IRGC controls powerful Shiite militias as well as significant portions of the Iraqi military.
There can be no doubt that if the U.S. acts kinetically against the IRGC, Americans will die. That this policy has been implemented in support of the re-election campaign of an Israeli prime minister, in furtherance of an effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear deal that was likewise implemented at the behest of Benjamin Netanyahu, means these brave men and women will not have died in the service of their country. They will have perished as pawns of a policy conceived in Tel Aviv that places the political fortunes of a foreign politician above the lives of our heroes.
Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of Dealbreaker: Donald Trump and the Unmaking of the Iran Nuclear Deal (2018) by Clarity Press.
https://www.theamericanconservative.com ... errorists/
Will The Indictment Of Iranian Hackers Prove The Pretext For John Bolton
Will The Indictment Of Iranian Hackers Prove The Pretext For John Bolton’s War?
This story reflects the views of this author, but not necessarily the editorial position of Fast Company.
On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of nine Iranians for conspiring to hack and defraud American universities and businesses on behalf of the Iranian government. Rosenstein vowed harsh repercussions for the Iranian hackers, including their extradition to the United States and imprisonment if convicted.
The strongly worded presser stood in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s approach to hacks by Russia, a far more pervasive threat to the United States. Since 2014, Russia has hacked the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Democratic National Committee, the Republican National Committee, the personal emails of millions of Americans, and most notably, critical infrastructure including the power grid. Despite a Senate ruling of 98-2 to impose sanctions on Russia for their aggressive actions, President Trump has instead mollified the Kremlin, refusing to meaningfully target Russia’s oligarchs and not even discussing the cyberattacks (or, for that matter, Russia’s recent chemical attack on U.S. ally U.K.) in his call this week with President Putin.
While the contrast between the Trump administration’s treatment of Iranian and Russian hackers is alarming in its own right, the most troubling aspect of the announcement may be the timing. Less than 24 hours before the indictments were revealed, Trump appointed notorious warmonger John Bolton as his new national security advisor, effective April 9. Bolton has been seeking to invade Iran for at least 15 years.
Much as he backed the Iraq War long after its premise was proven to be fraudulent, Bolton has insisted, without evidence and in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s assessment, that Iran is not honoring its commitment to constrain its nuclear program, and that military invasion is necessary. He has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. should abandon the Iran deal completely, appearing on FOX News–Trump’s main repository of policy advice–to argue that Trump should “just get out of it.”
But while Bolton decries the idea of Iran bearing nuclear weapons, he has no such aversion when it comes to the U.S. using theirs. In the fall of 2017, as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea ran sky-high, Bolton repeatedly called for a pre-emptive strike, one that would likely lead to nuclear war. Bolton differs here from Trump only in his experience and bureaucratic prowess: Trump has fantasized about using nuclear weapons for over 30 years – “If we have them, why not use them?” he famously said–and has proposed massive spending on a new nuclear arsenal. Trump is the only person in the White House authorized to order the use of nuclear weapons, but his hawkish cabinet has abetted his desire. In January, the Pentagon announced in its updated nuclear posture review that nuclear strikes were a legitimate response to nonmilitary attacks if they involved “extreme circumstances”, citing a major cyberattack as an example.
Nuclear weapons experts denounced the plan as reckless, but until Friday it seemed unlikely to be put into action: after all, Russia has been aggressively hacking us for all of Trump’s tenure and received sycophancy instead of strikes in response. But the Iranian indictments, combined with the implementation of Bolton, may change that. If the Iranian hacks–which, according to Rosenstein, caused $3.4 billion in damage–are considered “extreme circumstances” by the White House, nuclear strikes may be on the table.
So far, there has been little logic to Trump’s self-guided military incursions: he allegedly bombed Syria on Ivanka’s whim, dropped an unprecedented MOAB on Afghanistan after lapping up media praise for the Syria bombing, and spent the last 16 months antagonizing North Korea on Twitter while having various emotional meltdowns. His only steady foreign policy stance has been deference to Russia, and while both Bolton’s predecessor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are also hawkish on Iran, they have not proposed invading the country to enact “regime change”.
Bolton, who has vowed that the U.S. oust the current Iranian government by 2019, has no such hesitations. For Bolton, the answer to any international crisis is always war, and the indicted Iranian hackers, presented with much fanfare by Rosenstein, give the administration an ostensible pretext. Needless to say, an administration that runs on “alternative facts” will simply invent an excuse where none exists, but the timing of the announcement seems geared to direct the nation’s attention to Iran as a major threat, laying the groundwork for Bolton to pursue military and even nuclear strikes–now justified in official documents by the changes in the Pentagon’s nuclear posture review–when he begins his tenure in April.
Bolton is an apocalyptic appointment, one who endangers not only Iran but the entire world. Bolton’s bloodlust, bad temper, and blind faith in military solutions previously rendered him unhireable, but for Trump, whose most maniacal instincts will be validated, he is a gift—a like-minded sadist who, unlike Trump, knows how to effectively navigate bureaucracy.
There is almost nothing to keep the two of them in check. Bolton will enter a White House with a gutted State Department, multiple officials under investigation for illicit Kremlin ties (which Bolton also shares) and illicit work with Cambridge Analytica (with whom Bolton also worked), and a support team of religious zealots, Islamophobes, kleptocrats, and mercenaries, all of whom would likely find a rearrangement of the Middle East power structure advantageous. It is an administration that has long abandoned accountability, violating both White House protocol and the constitution with impunity, and firing officials—like James Comey and Andrew McCabe—who attempt to investigate the corruption.
Rosenstein presented the arrest of the Iranian hackers as a triumph for the rule of law, and in its own right, any clampdown on harmful hackers is a positive development. But no development exists in isolation, and no opportunity for exploiting the system for nefarious ends goes unused by the Trump team. Under Bolton, expect the worst.
https://www.fastcompany.com/40549085/wi ... oltons-war
Tomgram: Engelhardt, A "Ridiculous" War
Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 4:48pm, April 14, 2019.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.
American War Is Off the Charts
How the U.S. Military Feeds at the Terror Trough
By Tom Engelhardt
Here’s a statement it might be hard to disagree with: American war is off the charts.
Still, I’d like to explain -- but I’m nervous about doing so. I know perfectly well that the next word I plan to write will send most of you tumbling elsewhere in a universe in which “news” is the latest grotesque mass shooting; the craziest tweet from you-know-who; celebrities marching into court over college-admissions scandals; or even a boy, missing for years, who suddenly turns up only to morph into a 23-year-old impostor with a criminal record. How can America's wars in distant lands compete with that? Which is why I just can’t bring myself to write the next word. So promise me that, after you read it, you’ll hang in there for just a minute and give me a chance to explain.
Okay, here goes: Somalia.
A country in the horn of Africa, it once glued American eyeballs, but that was so last century, right? I mean, there was that bestselling book and that hit Hollywood movie directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien!) about the disaster early in Bill Clinton’s presidency that came to be known as Black Hawk Down (aka the battle of Mogadishu).
In the age of Donald Trump, wasn’t that a million presidencies ago? Honestly, can you even tell me anymore what in the world it was all about? I couldn’t have, not without looking it up again. A warlord, starvation, U.S. intervention, 18 dead American soldiers (and hundreds of dead Somalis, but that hardly mattered) in a country that was shattering. President Clinton did, however, pull out those troops and end the disastrous mission -- and that was that, right? I mean, lessons learned. Somalia? Africa? What in the world did it all have to do with us? So Washington washed its hands of the whole thing.
And now, on a planet of outrageous tweets and murderously angry white men, you probably didn’t even notice, but more than two years into the era of Donald Trump, a quarter-century after that incident, American air strikes in... yep, Somalia, are precipitously on the rise. Last year's 47 strikes, aimed at the leaders and fighters of al-Shabaab, an Islamist terror outfit, more than tripled the ones carried out by the Obama administration in 2016 (themselves a modest increase from previous years). And in 2019, they’re already on pace to double again, while Somali civilians -- not that anyone (other than Somali civilians) notices or cares -- are dying in significant and rising numbers. And with 500 troops back on the ground there and Pentagon estimates that they will remain for at least another seven years, the U.S. military is increasingly Somalia-bound, Congress hasn’t uttered a peep on the subject, and few in this country are paying the slightest attention.
So consider this a simple fact of the never-ending Global War on Terror (as it was once called): the U.S. military just can’t get enough of Somalia. And if that isn’t off the charts, what is? Maybe it’s even worth a future book (with a very small print run) called not Black Hawk Down II but U.S. Down Forever and a Day.
And now that I’ve started on the subject (if you still happen to be reading), when it comes to the U.S. military, it’s not faintly just Somalia. It’s all of Africa. After all, this country’s military uniquely has a continent-wide Africa Command (aka AFRICOM), founded in 2007. As Nick Turse has often written for TomDispatch, that command now has its troops, thousands of them, its planes, and other equipment spread across the continent, north to south, east to west -- air bases, drone bases, garrisons, outposts, staging areas, you name it. Meanwhile, AFRICOM's outgoing commanding general, Thomas Waldhauser, only recently told Congress why it's bound to be a forever outfit -- because, shades of the Cold War, the Ruskies are coming! (“Russia is also a growing challenge and has taken a more militaristic approach in Africa.”)
And honestly, 600-odd words in, this wasn’t meant to be a piece about either Somalia or Africa. It was meant to be about those U.S. wars being off the charts, about how the Pentagon now feeds eternally at the terror trough, al-Shabaab being only a tiny part of the slop it regularly digests. So, for the seven of you still reading, let me change the subject to something a little more appealingly -- to quote a well-known authority -- “ridiculous” when it comes to American war.
A “Ridiculous” War
Maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that what I have in mind is the war in Afghanistan, another of Washington’s off-the-charts affairs. It might even qualify as the original one (if you don’t count Vietnam, which would take you back to the Neolithic Age of the U.S. military’s infinite wars). Lest you think I only mean the war that began in Afghanistan after the terror attacks of 9/11, think again. I’m talking about the American war in that distant land that started in 1979, the decade-long conflict in which the U.S. supported extreme Islamists (including a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden) -- they were our guys, then -- to successfully force the Red Army out of Afghanistan.
That was in 1989, 30 years ago, and a triumphant Washington promptly took more than a decade-long holiday, while a brutal set of civil wars continued in already devastated Afghanistan and the Taliban rose to power in most of the country. Then, as in Somalia, having learned their lesson (the wrong one, of course), George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and crew decided after 9/11 to emulate... well, the Red Army (even though the Soviet Union had imploded a decade earlier) and occupy the Afghan capital, Kabul. For the only great power left on the planet, facing a lightly armed extremist group, what could possibly go wrong?
Seventeen and a half years later, Congress has rarely focused on the war (not) to end all wars and there are still 14,000 American troops (and the usual set of private contractors) there, along with enough U.S. air power to... well, blow up a lot but not change anything decisively. Of course, the Taliban was long ago sent to hell in a hand basket...
...Whoops! The Taliban in 2019 is stronger and in control of more territory than at any moment since it was driven from power in November 2001. Staggering billions of American taxpayer dollars have gone into the “reconstruction” of that land to little effect (while the domestic infrastructure of the United States has begun to crumble without significant new federal investment). Meanwhile, the security forces of the American-backed Afghan government have been taking casualties at a reportedly unsustainable rate.
After not paying much attention to all of this for something like a decade and a half, the American people did, however inadvertently, vote into the White House a presidential candidate who had long had dissident thoughts about the Afghan War. Typical was this 2012 tweet of his: “Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!”
And it’s not a set of thoughts Donald Trump tossed overboard once he entered the Oval Office either. Only the other day, he ludicrously praised the “great strides in Afghanistan” that the U.S. military and NATO are(n’t) making in an awkward meeting with that alliance’s secretary general (in which he also managed to claim that his father -- distinctly from the Bronx, New York -- had been born and raised in Germany). He then doubled back and termed the Afghan War “ridiculous” and “unfortunate.” And last December, soon after he announced that he was pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria (on which more in a moment), he essentially demanded that the U.S. military cut its forces in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 7,000 as part of its route (not rout!) out. That number was assumedly meant to include the 3,000 troops he had been persuaded to add to U.S. forces there in his first year in office.
As it happened, however, the Pentagon had its own forward-looking ideas on how to “withdraw” from Afghanistan. Having already turned that war into the longest in American history, the high command was now evidently vying for another awe-inspiring record: the longest withdrawal of American forces from a war zone ever -- a three-to-five-year span of time with perhaps an initial cut of 7,000 somewhere in the months to come (though I wouldn’t hold my breath on the subject). In that way, they were working to produce an American war of at least 21 years (USA! USA!), while perhaps also hoping to outlast this president and get one willing to commit to forever war forever.
Admittedly, the Trump administration has also launched peace talks with the Taliban and who knows where they might lead sooner or later. Still, when it comes to the “ridiculous” war the president continues to belittle, give credit where it’s due. It remains robustly, even disastrously, ongoing and off the charts.
The Trump Surge
And none of that compares to Trump’s Syrian debacle. In December, the president publicly overruled his advisers and ordered that the 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in that country be withdrawn within 30 days. “We have won against ISIS,” he declared in a video posted on Twitter. “Our boys, our young women, our men -- they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.”
I think of what followed as “the Trump surge,” the third of the era. The first, of course, was General David Petraeus’s 2007 surge into Iraq with more than 20,000 American troops. Its aim: to turn the disastrous occupation of that country that followed George W. Bush’s May 2003 “mission accomplished” moment into a raging success. Petraeus, in fact, made his reputation on that turn-around of a surge... until, of course, it wasn’t, and by then he had moved on.
The second surge was President Obama’s decision to send more than 30,000 new U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009 -- and, of course, you know how that turned out. (See above.)
Now, appropriately enough, we’ve had an upside down, inside-out surge in Syria. Honestly, it could have been a Saturday Night Live routine, complete with Alec Baldwin.
In response to Trump’s withdrawal decision, Secretary of Defense James Mattis promptly resigned and was almost instantly lauded as an all-American hero by a Congress and a media in an uproar over the decision. We’re talking, of course, about “Mad Dog” Mattis, the former Marine general who so classically said of fighting the Taliban, “It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
And then, in February, as the pressure on the president ramped up, there was the first partial retreat. Think of it as the beginning of a withdrawal from the withdrawal. The news leaked out that, in a “concession” to Pentagon officials, 200 U.S. troops would be left in Syria “for a period of time.” It only took another day for that number to rise to 400. Then, in mid-March, the Wall Street Journal reported that, in reality, 1,000 troops would be left in that country, a figure promptly and definitively denied (“factually incorrect”) by no less a personage than the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. By month’s end, however, that factually incorrect figure had been confirmed -- 1,000 U.S. personnel would indeed remain indefinitely, or at least until the fall of 2020.
Where the Trump surge will go from here we simply don’t know as the subject has largely dropped from the news.
The President From Riyadh?
Meanwhile, don’t forget the war that, unlike Afghanistan and Syria, Donald Trump may not be able to imagine ending, the only one on which, since 2001, Congress has taken a stand. I’m thinking, of course, about the grim U.S.-backed Saudi and Emirati war in Yemen. As April began, Congress passed a resolution calling on the president to “remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting” Yemen within 30 days. (Of course, you already know how well such 30-day deadlines work when it comes to America’s wars.) In the single most obvious situation in which a war (or at least American involvement in it) might possibly be ended, in which the president with the help of Congress might actually override the national security state’s urge to fight on anywhere and everywhere, President Trump may sign the second veto of his term in office and successfully nix the congressional resolution.
And if so, who could be surprised. It’s obviously the wrong off-the-charts war for the president from Riyadh to end -- or have I, like the president himself, gotten confused about which Trump was born where?
Oh yes, and talking about learning one’s lessons, as well as truly going off the charts...
As the 2020 elections approach, watch out. There’s one possible American war still to come in the Greater Middle East. You know, the one that won’t be off the charts, that’s bound to turn out well given the deep pool of experience and reflection on American war making that will have preceded it. I’m thinking, of course, about a potential war with Iran (the one the Bush administration's top officials wished for before they bogged down so disastrously in Iraq and Afghanistan). President Trump’s foreign-policy team -- National Security Advisor John Bolton (a relic of the Bush years) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- are visibly dying (if that’s the right word) for just such a war and the president who ripped up the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, recently declared Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terror group, and has been threatening Iran ever since, seems all too open to it as well.
So, for the last few of us still here thinking about American wars, I would say that when it comes to off the charts, it’s possible that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.
Copyright 2019 Tom Engelhard
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Congress is making clear Trump does not have the authority for military action.
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration would designate a branch of Iran’s military as a foreign terrorist organization Monday, he said, “The Trump administration is simply recognizing a basic reality.”
But critics say they are concerned that it may also be part of an effort to bend reality enough to provide legal justification for armed conflict with Iran.
(MORE: Trump administration designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a 'foreign terrorist organization')
“I am troubled that the administration can’t unequivocally say that you haven’t been given power. I can tell you explicitly, you have not been given power or authority by Congress to have war with Iran,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Pompeo on Wednesday.
The Trump administration will officially designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization on Monday, making it the first foreign government entity on the State Department list. But the IRGC is already under heavy sanctions through the State and Treasury Departments, including as a Treasury special globally designated terrorist entity.
In this Sept. 18, 2016 photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran.
(Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, FILE) In this Sept. 18, 2016 photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran. ...
That makes the State Department designation a more symbolic gesture, according to some experts, because it does not provide financial, prosecutorial or immigration authorities the administration didn’t already have. The goal instead is to further chill economic investment in Iran, by making the economy “radioactive,” according to senior State Department official Brian Hook.
But it’s also raised concerns among some that the foreign terrorist organization, or FTO, designation is part of laying the groundwork for strikes on Iranian forces, especially in Iraq or Syria where they may encounter U.S. troops.
(MORE: Iran hits back against US designating Revolutionary Guard as terrorist group)
“One of the reasons why this action occurred could be because there’s an actual interest to do things directly against the IRGC,” said Jason Blazakis, who served as the director of the State Department’s Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office from 2008 to 2018. While the designation doesn’t provide legal authority itself, it could be part of the administration’s argument, Blazakis said.
In particular, the administration is drawing a clearer line between Iran and the terror group al Qaeda. In its announcement Monday, the State Department said one reason for the designation is that “Iran continues to allow al Qaeda operatives to reside in Iran, where they have been able to move money and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”
“What the Trump administration is doing here though is that this seems to be part of a continued drum beat trying to create a narrative of a nexus between Iran and al Qaeda that started well before this FTO designation,” said Tess Bridgeman, who served as Deputy Legal Adviser to President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. "The Trump administration seems to be priming the public for an argument that the 2001 AUMF covers Iran."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) talks with White House National Security Advisor John Bolton before a news conference with President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in the Rose Garden at the White House, on June 7, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) talks with White House National Security Advisor John Bolton before a news conference with President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in the Rose Garden at the White House, on June 7, 2018, in Washington, D.C. ...
The AUMF is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a law passed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001. It provides the executive branch with broad authority to use force “against those nations, organizations, or persons” that it determines “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” on 9/11 “or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Pompeo refused to rule out whether the AUMF authorized military action against Iran or the IRGC, telling Paul, “I’d prefer just leave that to the lawyers.”
But he added that the connection between Iran and al Qaeda “is very real. … They have hosted al Qaeda, they have permitted al Qaeda to transit their country. No doubt, there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al Qaeda. Period, full stop."
The top U.S. diplomat also said this week that the U.S. will pursue Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the IRGC, just as it does the leadership of ISIS. He wouldn’t explicitly say whether that meant a policy of capturing or targeting Soleimani, but he told Fox News Tuesday: “He is a terrorist. … Soleimani has the blood of Americans on his hands, as does the force that he leads, and America is determined … to reduce the risk that any American will be killed by Qasem Soleimani and his merry band of brothers ever again.”
(MORE: US to impose 'far tougher' sanctions on Iran after nuclear deal withdrawal)
The Pentagon declined to comment on whether the U.S. would target the IRGC, although a spokesperson, Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, told ABC News, “DoD’s rules of engagement have not changed as a result of this announcement.”
The connection between Iran and al Qaeda has been documented by the United Nations. A U.N. Security Council report published last July found al Qaeda leaders based in Iran “have grown more prominent” in projecting authority and dictating orders to groups in other countries. Since 2012, the State Department’s country terrorism report has also said Iran has allowed al Qaeda “facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline” through the country.
But the terror group, which is Sunni Muslim, has also conducted attacks on majority-Shia Iran. There have been numerous attacks by al Qaeda or its affiliates on Iran or its affiliates in Iraq and Syria, including a February attack in Iran’s southeastern province that killed at least 27 IRGC forces. Jaish al Adl, a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility.
Wearing the uniform of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, lawmakers chant slogans during an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 9, 2019.
(AP Photo/Hamidreza Rahel/ICANA) Wearing the uniform of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, lawmakers chant slogans during an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 9, 2019.
To justify the use of force with the AUMF, the administration would have to show Iran either “aided” al Qaeda or “harbored” it. But Bridgeman said the latter is written in past tense for a reason; it was meant to go after the Taliban, which before 9/11 had allowed al Qaeda broad access to land in Afghanistan to train and prepare the attacks.
Harboring the group’s leadership now may not qualify under the AUMF, and it’s unclear how much support is being provided beyond allowing leaders to operate in the country -- and whether that passes muster under the AUMF.
"Members of Congress are wise to be going on record rejecting the notion that Iran was implicated in the 9/11 attacks or is an 'associated' or 'successor' force of those who were," said Bridgeman, now a senior fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security. "The argument is both dangerous and disingenuous."
(MORE: Trump issues threat to Iran: 'YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES')
But given the Trump administration’s hawkish views on Iran, Congress and some legal experts remain concerned.
“They’re susceptible to bending intelligence in a manner that conforms with policy objectives,” said Blazakis, now director of the Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism.
That’s why the FTO designation could help build the case for military action.
“If there is an idea, a policy pushed from, say, [National Security Adviser John] Bolton and some of the more hardline folks in the White House, this plays right into that initiative to bolster the argument,” Blazakis added. “This administration isn’t bashful about going right up to the legal line.”
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/concern ... d=62360052
B-52 bombers are off to rebuff Iran after threats to US troops; DoD won’t say what those were
The Pentagon is deploying a B-52 bomber task force alongside the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to the U.S. Central Command area of operations amid threats of “heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations,” according to defense officials.
While the carrier strike group was already planning to visit the region, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan ordered the vessels to go earlier than scheduled, canceling a port visit to Croatia, and expediting transit to the region, the Pentagon said in a series of responses Tuesday to provide more insight into a decision announced this weekend.
While the U.S. Air Force is also deploying B-52 bombers to the region, CENTCOM declined to say which squadrons are being tapped.
Officials did not provide a specific timeline for either deployment, nor would they say where specifically the aircraft and ships would operate, though carrier strike groups have sailed through the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf on similar missions.
The exact nature of the threat that was received was also not provided by the Pentagon. The mission comes as Iran is expected to announce plans to withdraw from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal this week, one year after the U.S. abandoned the agreement.
The shift in assets to CENTCOM was in response to “recent and clear” indications that the Iranian military or its proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack American troops in the region, according to Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a CENTCOM spokesman.
https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your ... hose-were/
How The U.S. Is Pressing Iran To Breach The Nuclear Deal
363 days ago the U.S. left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 'nuclear deal' with Iran, and reintroduced sanctions against trade with Iran...
The carrier deployment to the Gulf is routine. It had been announced on April 8. The U.S. has bombers on rotation in the Middle East since 2001. Moreover - a carrier in the Persian Gulf is a sure sign that the U.S. will not attack Iran. Within the restricted waters of the Persian Gulf a carrier is a too easy target.
This important video should raise questions about 9/11 and the coming war with Iran. Sy Hersh interviewed by Faiz Shakir, at a Campus Progress journalism conference. In this interview, Mr. Hersh discloses info, from his own White House sources, on Dick Cheney's plan for a false flag in the Strait of Hormuz. Cheney would have Navy Seals, disguised as Iranians, to attack US Navy vessels -- resulting in the Seals' deaths, and in the justification for an American attack on Iran. Hersh claims that this was only 1 of *12 ideas* to get a war with Iran started. Mr. Hersh has the *moral responsibility* to disclose what Cheney's other 11 ideas were. And it is the moral responsibility of the public to encourage him to do so.
White House considers deploying 120,00 troops to Middle East
By Joe Tacopino May 14, 2019
The White House is considering a military plan that would include sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East in response to what the Trump Administration has called a dangerous threat from Iran, a report said on Monday.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan made the proposal to President Trump’s top military aides last Thursday as a deterrent to Iran launching an attack of their own or continuing to develop nuclear weapons, according to The New York Times.
The aggressive stance was reportedly backed by Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton.
Earlier this month, Bolton issued a stern warning to Iran while announcing the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group along with a bomber task force to the Persian Gulf.
“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said in the statement.
The proposed deployment of 120,000 troops would be nearly equal to the amount of US troops that invaded Iraq in 2003.
A spokesman for the National Security Council told the Times that the president does not seek “military conflict with Iran” but that they are ready to defend US interests in the region.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan made the proposal to President Trump’s top military aides last Thursday as an encouragement to Iran to panic and provide the needed provocation, or to resume developing nuclear weapons as a rational response to the prospect of US aggression, in obvious ploys for getting the desired war that The New York Times helped to obscure by false analysis.
Details of tanker "sabotage" murky as Trump warns Iran and U.S. casts first blame
Updated on: May 14, 2019 / 5:09 AM / CBS/AP
A team of U.S. military investigators has made an initial assessment that Iran or groups it supports was behind an alleged sabotage attack on 4 tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
President Trump, asked about the incident on Monday, said "it's going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens."
The White House has ordered a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group and 4 B-52 bombers to the region as tensions with Iran soar.
Images of the ships show little apparent damage, apart from a large hole in one of the tankers, but U.S. officials say each vessel sustained similar damage.
Four oil tankers anchored in the Mideast were damaged by what Saudi and U.S. officials say were "sabotage" attacks, though images of the ships have shown clear visible damage to only one of the vessels. Details of the alleged sabotage to two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker on Sunday remained unclear, and none of the nations to which the vessels belong had assigned any blame.
However, on Monday American officials told CBS News senior national security correspondent David Martin that the initial assessment of a U.S. team sent to investigate the incidents was that Iran or Iranian-backed proxies had used explosives to blow holes in the four ships.
The incidents demonstrated the raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies as tensions soar between the U.S. and Iran in the wake of President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the nuclear deal agreed by world powers and to impose harsh new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
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