Pompeo Shamefully Covers for the Saudis Again

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Pompeo has just proven once again that there is nothing the Trump administration won’t do to cover for Saudi Arabia as it prosecutes the atrocious U.S.-backed war on Yemen:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia on a U.S. list of countries that recruit child soldiers, dismissing his experts’ findings that a Saudi-led coalition has been using under-age fighters in Yemen’s civil war, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Pompeo has made a habit of overruling State Department experts when their recommendations don’t line up with the administration’s preference for giving the Saudis whatever they want. Last fall, he overruled them to make the bogus certification that the Saudi coalition was making an effort to reduce civilian casualties, and now he has overruled them to pretend that the Saudi coalition doesn’t use child soldiers when there is ample evidence that they have been doing that for years. All parties to the conflict have recruited child soldiers, and the Saudi coalition is no exception. There is no good reason to keep Saudi Arabia off the list of countries that engage in this awful practice, and so we are left to assume that Pompeo is doing it as a favor to a despotic regime because it happens to buy a lot of U.S.-made weapons.

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Of Course Iran Hawks Want War With Iran

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Iran hawks are always saying that they don’t want war with Iran, but somehow they always end up advocating for attacking Iran. Bret Stephens did that again yesterday:

Nobody wants a war with Iran. But not wanting a war does not mean remaining supine in the face of its outrages. We sank Iran’s navy before. Tehran should be put on notice that we are prepared and able to do it again.

When denying that they seek war, most hawks usually put some distance between their pro forma denial and their demand for unleashing havoc, but Stephens doesn’t want to wait. Calling for the U.S. to threaten sinking the Iranian navy is to demand that our government threaten massive escalation and the initiation of a major war over relatively minor incidents. It is also calling for putting thousands of US sailors in grave danger. The US Navy presumably would prevail in any fight, it would come at a much higher cost than most Americans expect. Harry Kazianis wrote an article for The American Conservative about the wargame he participated in that simulated a war with Iran in the Persian Gulf, and the results were very ugly:

Then Iran decides such an action cannot be allowed to stand, and decides to make a statement that not only is its military powerful, but it can cause serious damage to US naval assets in the region. They counterattack with a massive volley of anti-ship missiles pointed at the ultimate symbol of US military might: America’s only aircraft carrier operating in the region. Firing over 100 missiles, the carrier’s defenses are overwhelmed and the 100,000-ton vessel is destroyed, with over 2,000 sailors and airmen lost.

Iran doesn’t stop there. To make clear that it won’t tolerate any further US military operations against its forces, Iranian conventional attack submarines – purchased from Russia – launch a series of attacks on US surface combatants in the Persian Gulf. While Tehran loses two of its prized subs, one American Littoral Combat Vessel is sunk, with over 62 sailors killed.

There is no compelling reason for the US to go to war with Iran. What US interest is served by courting such a disaster? When we strip away the nonsense about a “pirate state,” Stephens doesn’t have an answer for that. If the US weren’t strangling Iran’s economy with unwarranted sanctions and inflicting collective punishment on the Iranian people, our governments wouldn’t be on a collision course. Instead of additional threats that will only worsen the tensions between the US and Iran, our government should be looking for a way to backtrack and de-escalate the situation as quickly as possible. The danger is that the Trump administration may be incapable of doing that after investing so much in their bankrupt Iran policy.

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Trump’s Latest Giveaway to the Saudis

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The New York Times reports that Trump’s bogus arms sales “emergency” is even more of a giveaway to Saudi Arabia than we suspected:

When the Trump administration declared an emergency last month and fast-tracked the sale of more American arms to Saudi Arabia, it did more than anger members of Congress who opposed the sale on humanitarian grounds.

It also raised concerns that the Saudis could gain access to technology that would let them produce their own versions of American precision-guided bombs – weapons they have used in strikes on civilians since they began fighting a war in Yemen four years ago.

The emergency authorization allows Raytheon Company, a top American defense firm, to team with the Saudis to build high-tech bomb parts in Saudi Arabia. That provision, which has not been previously reported, is part of a broad package of information the administration released this week to Congress.

The move grants Raytheon and the Saudis sweeping permission to begin assembling the control systems, guidance electronics and circuit cards that are essential to the company’s Paveway smart bombs. The United States has closely guarded such technology for national security reasons [bold mine-DL].

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Debunking Pompeo’s Lie About Iran and al-Qaeda

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Timecalls attention to one of Mike Pompeo’s many lies:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claim that Iran and Al Qaeda are collaborating is at best an exaggeration that is not supported by any available information, U.S. intelligence officers and officials with the State and Defense Department tell TIME.

It is important to emphasize here that Pompeo is not simply “exaggerating” things when he claims that Iran and al-Qaeda work together. He is grossly distorting it into the opposite of what the evidence shows. He is lying. Iran hawks have desperately sought to invent ties between Iran and al-Qaeda to further their aggressive policies against Iran, but it isn’t true and no one is falling for their deception this time. Pushing a fraudulent story about a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda before the 2003 invasion was an important part of the Bush administration’s propaganda effort to sell the war to the public. The main reason why someone would choose to repeat a lie about Iran and al-Qaeda is to provide an excuse for attacking Iran and then claim that the attack was authorized by the 2001 AUMF. It is part of top Trump administration officials’ concerted campaign to lay the groundwork for an unjustified attack by falsely claiming a working relationship between the two that does not exist.

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The Reckless Saudis Want To Start Another War

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Bruce Riedel reports that the Saudi government is agitating for a U.S. attack on Iran, and the crown prince is the leading supporter of a new war:

Saudi Arabia is eager for the United States to take military action against Iran in the expectation that it will lead to regime change in Tehran. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is the leading hawk, has a disastrous track record in military affairs. The Saudis have called for an Arab summit in Mecca on May 30 to rally support against Iran.

The Saudi government-controlled and -directed press is openly pushing for “surgical strikes” by the United States against targets in Iran.

Mohammed bin Salman has appalling judgment and a terrible track record, so it comes as no surprise that he thinks having the US start a war with Iran is a good idea. Bogged down in a disastrous war of his own making in Yemen, he would have the US set the entire region aflame with more reckless military intervention. The Trump administration should obviously ignore Saudi calls for war, but given the president’s history of doing Riyadh’s bidding there is no guarantee that a concerted push from regional clients won’t have the desired effect. Saudi support for attacking Iran is the latest example of their government’s destructive and destabilizing role in the region, and it is another reminder that the crown prince is reckless and incapable of learning any of the right lessons from his previous failures. With any luck, the anti-Iranian summit later this month will be as much of a flop as the Trump administration’s failed gathering in Warsaw.

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Bolton’s War Drums and the Credulous Media

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The Wall Street Journal reports some unsubstantiated speculation coming from a single anonymous administration official about alleged sabotage of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf:

An initial U.S. assessment indicated Iran likely was behind the attack on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels damaged over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, a US official said, a finding that, if confirmed, would further inflame military tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack and comes after a series of US warnings against aggression by Iran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region.

The US official, who declined to be identified, didn’t offer details about what led to the assessment or its implications for a possible US response.

We should be extremely skeptical of anything coming from administration officials about supposed foreign threats, especially when it concerns Iran. The president and top officials have lied so often about Iran in the last two years that nothing they say about this can be trusted. An anonymous official unwilling to offer any details about murky events is just about as unreliable a source as one could have. It is an open secret that National Security Advisor John Bolton is gunning for confrontation between the US and Iran, and he has been exaggerating and distorting intelligence to do it. For all we know, this lone official telling this story is a Bolton ally trying to ratchet up tensions. The American public has been burned often enough with dishonest claims and shoddy justifications for war over the last twenty years, and this feels like another phony pretext for a conflict that many in our government have been trying to start for a long time.

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