Iran Making For An International Incident

A nation does not need to be a great one, to be a global one. That is a lesson playing out again this weekend.

New reports today that two Iranian Navy ships have rounded the Cape of Good Hope for the first time and are set to head off into the wild blue yonder of the Atlantic Ocean. An Iranian frigate and the Makran, a former oil tanker that was converted to a floating forward staging base are the ones being monitored hour-by-hour. The concern, is of course, that the sea voyage is to end in Venezuela.

The mission underway is perhaps the culmination of threats made by Iran for years that they would send warships to the West. The threats were always just bluster. While there is a chance the ships will disengage and return from whence they came there is also a strong possibility that an international incident is playing out.

At the center of the concern on this side of the globe is that Venezuela has expressed a desire to acquire ballistic missile technology from Iran.

It needs to be noted that it is unclear whether additional military hardware is onboard or what the final destination happens to be. But make no mistake about it, a successful crossing would be a significant demonstration of Iran’s naval capability, and would showcase their ability to have a foothold in this hemisphere.

That is why the words from the Biden administration need to be understood. They have issued a precise and stern warning to Tehran.

“The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and a threat to our partners in this hemisphere,” read a statement issued by the Pentagon. As such, we would reserve the right to take appropriate measures — in concert with our partners — to deter the delivery or transit of such weapons.”

The moves by Iran have consequences in Europe too. Any shipment of Iranian military hardware to Venezuela risks throwing the table upside down with the nuclear negotiations in Vienna. A move, this blogger need not remind readers, being necessary due to the dangerous and uneducated moves by Donald Trump in his single term in the Oval Office.

The next week will be telling about intentions, bluster, threats, and international policy.

And so it goes.

The Joe Biden Presidency Begins, International Relations Must Be Healed

Many people in the nation were looking forward to the inauguration of a new president since the last such occasion in 2017. I have been looking forward to a Joe Biden presidency since giving money for his first run for the Oval Office in 1987. Finally, after a marvelous ceremony at the United States Capitol on Wednesday, with perfect Washington weather, we can all say Welcome to the White House President Joe Biden! With a truly historic cheer, we also welcome Vice-President Kamala Harris to the seat of power in this new administration.

Now the nation needs to get to work on a bevy of issues that not only impact us domestically but also have an international import that requires all-out diligence. While there were multiple occasions during Biden’s inaugural address to feel the grandeur of the moment and gravity of history I was also much lifted by the calls to our attention of duty beyond our shores.

Over the weeks of the transition, I have been heartened by the selection of wise, pragmatic, experienced, and grounded people to fill out the cabinet and other high profile positions. None more so than the ones to be in charge of international relations and national security. International understanding is sorely needed at this time in the White House so Antony Blinken as the secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security advisor, and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence bring the skillset required for this time. Those who share my internationalist views are aware these selections and the views they hold are in direct opposition to the failed policies of the past four years.

The only top nominee in this area I have a concern about is that of Lloyd Austin at the defense department, as it is imperative a civilian hold the reins of power. The last couple of weeks has demonstrated the fragility of our democracy, and with some threats reported from members of the military (retired or otherwise), it is vital that we have civilian control over this department. Austin is surely a fine man, and a proven leader. But there was a logical reason why the National Security Act of 1947 demands that the head of the Defense Department must be a civilian. It simply reflects the balance of powers outlined in the Constitution.

The past four years have left many around the globe questioning the resolve of the US and what role we can still play on the world stage. But let us not forget some truths.

The United States is the undisputed indispensable nation. Alliances do matter. Allies are friends where policy coordination and collaboration are shared responsibilities. As such, I felt the weight of the words President Biden sent to the world-wide audience.

So here’s my message to those beyond our borders. America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. We’ll be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security.

From re-engaging with other countries to foster united solutions to climate change, seeking a healthy dialogue with Iran, and making it clear that territorial disputes in the South China Sea will be met with resolve are only the top tier items awaiting action. Throughout the coming years, it will be essential that we strengthen international institutions. Undoing the damage will take a very long time–more time than just during the Biden years. But we must, and can again demonstrate a resolve to be the leader the world needs. To think our national power and diplomatic might are not staples the world requires is to allow the rot of the past four years to linger.

That must not be allowed.

Our nation has been mocked, scorned, and laughed at for four years. But when it was announced that Joe Biden had won the election in November the sighs of relief and sincere messages of international hope made it perfectly clear what role the world wished our nation to again provide. Biden will make sure that the image of the United States as an unreliable partner is as removed as the former president is from power. At a time when illiberal democracy threatens nations globally makes it even more crucial we hold to the foundations of what makes America special…and then work again to promote it.

The past four years on the international stage can be summed up best when the U.N. general assembly burst into raucous laughter while Donald Trump was speaking. We can reverse the laugh lines. For instance, I am trusting that the Biden administration will demand that to gain preferential trading agreements means certain anti-corruption measures are first undertaken. This is a most vital point to press as justified anger over corruption in places around the world account for protests and unease which leads to instability in governments.

Much hope is in the air but much work needs to be achieved before anyone, anywhere can take a deep breath. We can meet the challenges with leadership and intellect. With our new leaders inaugurated today, I am confident we have secured both qualities in this White House.

And so it goes.

How Will Iran Retaliate?

Obviously, Iran will need to retaliate for the assassination of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the nation’s efforts to construct a nuclear warhead. No viable nation can allow for such an act to take place within their borders, by another nation, and not be expected to deliver a response to show justified anger. No matter what one feels about Iran there are certain steps that will be ‘required’ as a consequence of any nation being so attacked.

The international reporting has left little doubt about who is behind this killing. Armchair readers of news from that region need not be told that Israel was behind the attack on the scientist. While some urge restraint on Iran concerning retaliation there is no doubt what the bold reaction would be should such a dastardly act occur in France, Britain, or the United States. Iran has every right to make their move. But the type of response they deliver is the question to be considered.

This blog has been a proponent of the nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. I was therefore not in agreement with the reckless move by Donald Trump to undermine the work that was done by so many for so long.

Trump was not aware of what the accord was meant to achieve. Very long ago we all stopped being shocked by his severe lack of knowledge on a vast array of topics. He was never aware we need to make deals with those we have international problems with, knowing those final deals are only as solid as the circumstances allow.

Trump did not understand in his one term in office (hallelujah!) that it would have been a dereliction of duty by the Obama White House not to have strived mightly for a nuclear deal with Iran. To have not pressed hard to get a document that reduced the chances of Iran getting a bomb in the next decade would have been totally unacceptable.

No one ever laid claim to any illusion that Iran was an ally or someone that could be trusted.  That is why safeguards were placed into the accord to make sure that actions that ran counter to the deal could be dealt with in a fashion that left no doubt our international partners would demand accountability.

It was therefore dangerous for Trump to so foolishly toss aside the accord of which he never understood how it was grounded within the international community. It was just one prime example of Trump not knowing the wisdom of working with other nations in a common cause.

Now many in the international community are hoping that the expected retaliation by Iran will be limited in scope so that it does not create a scenario where new efforts at refashioning relations is truly harmed in the years going forward. There is every reason for Iran to be outraged but much can be gained by not over-reacting.

International relations always play out in slow and methodical ways. As such this allows for windows to be opened at certain times which fosters results that secures stability. Iran has been attacked by a foreign power but we must hope their retaliation in the days to come can be measured. Many around the world hope that a new tone from a new president can again establish a working coalition of countries who understand the need for working in concert for the bigger goals.

Internationalism will again be a force in America’s playbook. Thankfully.

And so it goes.

Did Not Make Front Page Of Newspaper…But…Iran Is Rightfully Angry

This story landed on page 13 of Sunday’s New York Times, but the impact of this growing problem is one that we can not dismiss.  Nor wait until it roars onto the front page.  While international reporting for months has discussed the blowback due to the United States assassinating Iraqi General Suleimani, there is now evidence that one path is materializing for their angry reaction.   While this blog took no glee whatsoever over the incredibly dangerous, short-sighted, and jingoistic actions from the Trump White House there is now the need to find a response to our self-created and growing threat in Afghanistan.  (Just another example of why educated people always must sit in the Oval Office.)

An Afghan helicopter was attacked in the country’s south this week by what United States and Afghan officials say was a missile rarely seen in the hands of the Taliban, raising new concerns for a beleaguered Afghan military and questions about who supplied the weapon.

On Monday, a Black Hawk helicopter was returning from a medical evacuation mission in Helmand Province and was preparing to land. It is unclear if the helicopter had touched down or was hovering just feet off the ground when it was struck by an anti-tank guided missile, American and Afghan officials said. At least two of the crew members aboard were wounded, one critically.

It was the second attack of its kind this year. In January, another Afghan helicopter was hit by an anti-tank guided missile in the same area near the Kajaki Dam, a swath of territory long contested by the Taliban, the officials said. Initial reports at the time were inconclusive about what had struck the helicopter.

American and Afghan officials claim the weapons used in both strikes were most likely supplied by Iran, but they offered no evidence to support the assertion. The accusation would be alarming if true, as the influx of anti-tank guided missiles could not only give the Taliban a tactical advantage over the Afghan military but also suggest Tehran was trying to undermine the American mission as it is poised to wind down. Iran has denied supplying weapons to the Taliban.

Your Tuesday Perspective (On Bernie Sanders)

As the Democratic Party is now about to run at full steam towards Super Tuesday I think we need to calm down just two seconds and ponder a fact.

As of now, three states have been involved in the process and about 687,000 Democrats have voted — 156,000 of them for Bernie Sanders — representing about two-tenths of one percent of the nation’s population.

Sanders has money and a determined machine to support his path in the days and weeks to come, but today the hype over it all is just that.  Hype.

The vetting that is about to take place for Sanders–especially concerning his views on international policy–will be illuminating.  In just a few hours on Monday, his adoration for a Fidel Castro literacy program was headlined.  Nothing wrong with literacy, but no smart and grounded candidate lauds Castro and interjects that into a contest where the objective is to beat Trump in the fall.

Then it was reported that when American hostages were being held in Iran starting in 1979 Sanders was giving vocal support to the entities who stood with Iran. 

Virtually all Americans—Democrats, Republicans and independents—united in support of the hostages and the international call for their freedom. One prominent political figure on the 2020 stage, then almost completely unknown, stood apart by joining a Marxist-Leninist party that not only pledged support for the Iranian theocracy, but also justified the hostage taking by insisting the hostages were all likely CIA agents. Who was that person? It was Bernie Sanders.  

Sanders would like the public to believe, as an AP story put it, that “democratic socialism [is] the economic philosophy that has guided his political career.” But that has not always been the case. In 1977, he left the tiny left-wing Liberty Union Party of Vermont that he’d co-founded, and in 1980 instead aligned himself with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the self-proclaimed Trotskyist revolutionary party, became its presidential elector in Vermont, and campaigned for its candidates and platform that defended the Iranian hostage seizure.  

Yes, much will happen with this process as we move to nominate our candidate for the fall ticket.  So do not hyperventilate if you fear what Sanders could do to the ticket if nominated, just as others should take air from a paper bag thinking this is all over and Sanders is the winner.

This is what a runner calls the warm-up exercises before the all-out strides take place.

Trump Had No Reason To Assassinate Suleimani

With all the folks who work at the White House, and within the Trump Administration, how is it that there is no one answer as to the reason a decision was made to assassinate an Iranian governmental official?

Could it be that there is no answer to be given?

The reasons have been jarring for those who believe that rational thought needs to be applied by the top members of our government when putting out the call for an execution.  We were told that Maj. Gen. Suleimani was planning an “imminent” attack.  When pressed by reporters about how imminent that threat was they could not say.  When queried about where such attacks were to be made, again there was no answer.

When pressed about the lack of credibility with their non-answers, given the gravity of the breaking of international law,  was the time when Trump and Company turned their PR to talk about the crimes Suleimani had already committed.  Trump started talking about four embassies being in the line of attack.  But what would have been comical had it not been so dreadfully serious, was when Defense Secretary Esper stated publically he did not have such information about four embassies.

Whoops!

The muck got deeper Monday when it was reported Trump authorized the killing of Soleimani seven months ago.  So the “imminent” attack line about the need for the assassination can be summed as just pure fabrication.  When a nation is being taken to the brink of war Trump and his team MUST have a better grasp of the facts, and also know the nation has a BS meter that is very finely tuned, given all we have had to deal with since January 2017.

This all just further confirms that facts don’t matter in this administration. The only thing that matters is what Trump believes.  That is a terrible place for a republic to find itself.  The supporters of Trump have no idea why that is so, and Trump’s enablers seem to be caught up in their partisanship and not caring.

All who are reading this blog can recall when actual intelligence data was the underlying foundation for actions taken and policies created.   We also know how dismaying it is to live at a time when a huge percentage of the citizenry does not trust anything this Administration has to say about a wide variety of issues.  This military action is just the latest.

Just another reason then that historians will write of Trump as unbalanced, and ill.  He will be judged, and rightly so, with the disdain of future generations.

Stop Flag-Waving Over War Fever Following Trump’s Ordered Execution Of Iran Governmental Official

If your Facebook page is being cluttered with people who have just found pictures of the American flag, newfound definitions for the word patriotism,  and tortured interpretations of history, well, you are not alone.  With lightning speed, a certain segment of the nation has started reposting the most ridiculous memes following the assassination of a top Iranian.

Whatever primal instinct takes over when international events erupt, which causes bellicose and strident nationalism to flow, is simply troubling.  History is littered with what happens when we do not allow for reason and logic to take top billing.  World War I is perhaps the deadliest chapter that underscores why passions must never lead policymakers when rational decisions need to be made.

There are so many spokes to the seismic event which started with the assassination of Iranian General Suleimani.   One of the national parts of this story is that since the start of the Trump Administration there is a lack of credibility when it comes to information and trustworthiness.  At a moment in the nation–the world–when the President of the United States must be viewed as honest and credible we are sadly left with Donald Trump.  Republicans who hear that fact, and get all defensive need to be reminded they are the ones who raised up and supported him and now must accept blame as this crisis simmers and grows.

Deceit has been a daily political tool of the Trump White House and now that credibility has been buried we are being told by many in this land, including those on Facebook who list in their bio they ‘attended high school’, that we should not ask questions and probe the crisis to find foundational truths.  If we do that we then are called unpatriotic. 

Reporters and journalists are the ones we now must rely on to get to the truth of what is unfolding.  By the minute the story grows with aspects coming from many parts of the world.  To be skeptical and questioning every aspect of what the Trump Administration is saying or doing is patriotism in action.  Anything short of an all-out examination would not only be a breach of their professionalism but a severe diminishing of confidence in the Fourth Estate. 

Sunday morning Secretary of State Pompeo was doing everything but headstands to try and walk away from the threatened international crime of bombing cultural sites in Iran.  The very thing that Trump had tweeted earlier in the weekend and then what he stated openly to the press as an option is but one of the examples of what needs to be covered, and why.

In the midst of all this chaos comes the silly crowd in the nation who wish to use their twisted propaganda and shaming of people who doubt what the Trump White House is saying about Iran.  Some of the chest-beaters in the land wish the rest of us to wear blinders.  But to those misguided and uninformed people, we must respond that there will be no end to our demand for accountability from this White House.

We know, after all that it is most patriotic to ask for evidence as to the actions of those elected to serve the nation. The citizenry has every right to ask why the public is being manipulated into a war with Iran.

I have no desire or inclination to wave the flag over the incredibly dangerous, short-sighted, and jingoistic actions from the Trump White House.  I also know that reporters and journalists must hold firm to their professional calling and seek information so to inform the citizenry.

Demanding evidence and accountability may seem of no account for the crowd who ‘attended high school’, but for the vast majority of this nation who knows the importance of being informed and who desire to see our nation operate on the rule of law, it matters.

And so it goes.

BREAKING: “Razor Thin” Evidence For Reason Trump Assassinated Iranian General

Rukmini Callimachi is a correspondent for The New York Times covering ISIS  and al-Qaeda.  Her reporting this morning is not only highly informative but also highly concerning. At a time when there is limited credibility from the Trump White House due to the lack of honesty exhibited by Trump and his team, and the ego-driven personality of Trump which is a major reason for his bad decision-making comes this news which will continue to build and grow.

I’ve had a chance to check in with sources, including two US officials who had intelligence briefings after the strike on Suleimani. Here is what I’ve learned. According to them, the evidence suggesting there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is “razor thin”.

In fact the evidence pointing to that came as three discrete facts: a) A pattern of travel showing Suleimani was in Syria, Lebanon & Iraq to meet with Shia proxies known to have an offensive position to the US. (As one source said that’s just “business as usual” for Suleimani)

More intriguing was b) information indicating Suleimani sought the Supreme Leader’s approval for an operation. He was told to come to Tehran for consultation and further guidance, suggesting the operation was a big deal – but again this could be anything.

nd finally, a) and b) were read in the context of c) Iran’s increasingly bellicose position towards American interests in Iraq, including the attack that killed a U.S. contractor and the recent protest outside the American embassy.

But as one source put it a) + b) + c) is hardly evidence of an imminent attack on American interests that could kill hundreds, as the White House has since claimed. The official describes the reading of the intelligence as an illogical leap.

One official described the planning for the strike as chaotic. The official says that following the attack on an Iraqi base which killed an American contractor circa Dec. 27, Trump was presented a menu of options for how to retaliate. Killing Suleimani was the “far out option”