While Trump Fights Coronavirus, Pompeo’s on the Warpath

Keep your eye on Pompeo! President Trump is understandably distracted by the coronavirus outbreak in the US but in the “never let a good crisis go to waste” mode, the neocons in his Administration – led by Pompeo – are launching their war plots without the normal scrutiny. Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Russia – the long knives are coming out. Trump has been able to put the kibbosh on Pompeo’s plans before, but a distracted Trump is in danger of losing control of his foreign policy. Launching a foolish war in the midst of the current crisis would surely spell disaster for the president. On today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report.

Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.

Kremlinology 2.0: Is Vladimir Putin Still in Charge in the Kremlin?

This is not a question that figures in our Western commentary and analysis, since it is universally assumed that one man, Vladimir Putin, dominates Russian political life for a good reason: his unique ability to tame the contending factions at the center of power in Russia. He is the indispensable lynchpin.

However, I insist that this assumption may have become threadbare, and that there may well be a power struggle going on in the Kremlin today which Vladimir Vladimirovich no longer controls. Indeed, it appears he is receiving his script now from the stronger of the contenders around him and is not comfortable with his lines.

I hinted at this three days ago in my analysis of his address to the nation on the coronavirus, saying that perhaps “Putin’s command of the situation is faltering.”

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A Failed Secretary of State

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Jackson Diehl comments on Mike Pompeo’s terrible performance during the coronavirus crisis:

Has any secretary of state been worse in an emergency? It’s impossible to think of a more feckless performance since World War II. Pompeo’s dreadful week followed a month in which he has been all but invisible on the coronavirus issue, apart from one appearance at Trump’s daily press conference-cum-reality show.

While more responsible leaders have struggled to contain the pandemic, Pompeo has pursued pet causes as if nothing else were happening. That’s especially true of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which he, more than any other official, has promoted.

Pompeo was doing an abysmal job as Secretary of State in better times, so it comes as no surprise that he is doing even worse now that more is expected of him. His tenure has been defined by issuing lots of unrealistic ultimatums and flinging lots of undiplomatic insults. Neither of those is useful or constructive, especially in an emergency like this one. Pompeo’s main contribution to the administration’s response to the outbreak has been to troll Iran and China in public in a desperate bid to distract attention from the president’s bungling. Behind the scenes, he has been one of the leading officials agitating for military escalation in Iraq. In the ghoulish opposition to sanctions relief for the Iranian people, Pompeo has been the chief ghoul.

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Putin’s Nationwide Address on the Coronavirus Epidemic

As is his custom, this afternoon Vladimir Putin delivered a well-constructed speech to the nation in which, after expressing the nation’s gratitude to its medical cadres and other front-line personnel dealing with the coming epidemic, he spoke next about the issue that everyone knew was at the forefront of his concerns, the 22 April referendum on the Constitutional Reform. The referendum will now be postponed indefinitely, pending recommendations from health experts. As Mr. Putin reminded his audience the lives, health and security of the nation are the highest priority of his administration. In and of itself, this is a rather comforting message that contrasts with the confusion over serving the economy and serving the public health that we find in many Western countries, including the USA.

Then Mr. Putin set out an extensive list of immediate government measures intended to deal with the oncoming epidemic, which has in the past few days shown an exponential rise in the number of proven infections, generally in line with the experience of China and most recently of Europe. The need to act, the need to see the corona virus as potentially as devastating in Russia as it has shown itself to be in Italy, Spain and France, indeed the need for this address was tipped off yesterday by the televised remarks of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.

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The Ghoulish Opposition to Sanctions Relief for Iran

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

The Wall Street Journal predictably rejects sanctions relief for Iran, but it is worth noting that they have to tell a lot of lies to make their argument:

Easing sanctions would shore up the regime’s shaky position without providing relief to the Iranian people. Tehran has money for medicine if it cuts spending on missiles, nuclear-weapons development and military adventurism. Diverting billions from the mullahs’ violent imperial project is the best way to relieve suffering in Iran and the broader Middle East.

Iran is not engaged in “nuclear-weapons development” and hasn’t been for more than a decade and a half, so we can dismiss that as the utter nonsense that it is. The rest of the editorial is just as divorced from reality. The one thing that the editorial gets right is when it says that the “sanctions campaign has starved the government of hundreds of billions of dollars.” Starving the government of all that revenue means that it has fewer resources to combat the current outbreak. Unlike non-sanctioned governments, Iran’s government cannot afford to undertake the costly measures needed to safeguard public health. Mahsa Rouhi and Narges Bajoghli explain this in their recent op-ed:

At the same time, the American sanctions and falling oil prices have severely weakened the Iranian economy. An impoverished Iran needs financial and medical resources – from food and medicine to cash transfers – to carry out an effective nationwide quarantine and other measures to curb the outbreak.

Iran can’t afford to halt its economy and enforce a complete lockdown. Tehran has sought to shore up the financial security of its poorest families through cash transfers over the past week but faces a huge budget deficit. Pirouz Hanachi, the mayor of Tehran, explained that a quarantine was nearly impossible to enforce because the government would be unable to financially support people unable to work.

Hard-liners in the U.S. take great pleasure in the economic damage and dislocation that their sanctions have caused, but as soon as someone tries to hold them accountable for inflicting misery and death on Iranians they suddenly start pretending that sanctions are harmless and irrelevant to conditions inside Iran. They are quick to declare that “maximum pressure” is “working” because of the havoc that sanctions wreak on Iran’s finances, but they don’t want to be held responsible when that havoc results in the preventable deaths of innocents. It is indisputable that US sanctions block Iranians from making transactions with the rest of the world because financial institutions refuse to do business with them, and that prevents them from being able to obtain vital medicine and medical equipment. Sanctions are collective punishment that hurt the weakest and most vulnerable people in Iran, but sanctions advocates don’t want to own the consequences of the economic war that they fanatically defend.

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Bring Our Troops Home Now! (video)

Dan McKnight, of BringOurTroopsHome.us explains that we have to stop fighting endless wars. They are promoting bills before state legislatures around the country to stop deployments of national guard troops to these unconstitutional wars.

BringOurTroopsHome.US is dedicated to ending the war in Afghanistan, removing our military forces from the Middle East, and insisting the Constitution of the United States be faithfully observed.