Trump Against Iran

The image of an oil tanker burning in the Gulf of Oman is a stern warning of the potential for war in the Middle East, as tensions continue to rise between the UnitedS States and Iran.

While few want a confrontation, those that do — including elements in the administration of Donald Trump, and significant parts of the leaderships in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel, as well as some Iranian hardliners — are well-positioned to make one happen.

After the US rushed to blame Iran for the latest attacks on tankers in the Gulf, the European Union issued a statement calling for “maximum restraint” from all parties.

The phrase was a deliberate jab at Washington and its “maximum pressure” strategy with Iran, a failing policy with potentially grave consequences.

Whether or not Iran was behind these attacks, as well as the previous acts of sabotage in May, Europe is striking the right tone in pressing for calm to avoid a third Gulf war. Read more at The Battleground

Operation ClusterFuck

Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and thirty-year veteran of the United States’ foreign service delivered a speech today that

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman

everyone in the United States should be paying attention to. It is a searing indictment of American policy in the Middle East from a man who was in the middle of it for decades.

The focus of Chas’ talk is the current battle being waged against Da’ish, or the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, whatever the name you want to use may be. If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve seen my view in this, but I’ll re-state it briefly.

I believe the entire approach we’ve taken to IS is completely off-course. It is, in fact, a repeat of previous errors. IS wanted the United States to intervene, just as al-Qaeda wanted the US to react with massive force to 9/11. Any losses IS suffers will be more than made up for by the increasing radicalization of the region caused by US intervention. This reality is doubled because the US will only bomb, which will greatly increase damage to civilian lives and infrastructure. And from that soil will grow many more IS recruits, eager to battle their foes in the region and in the West.

Chas lays all of this out very neatly in his speech. But there is an underlying point which, though Chas did make it explicit in his speech, he doesn’t spend a great deal of time on, as he decided to focus on current events. Let me give you my own take on it, so that you can be even more tempted to read and, more importantly, share widely, Chas’ speech.  Continue reading

New Report: From Crisis to Catastrophe, The Situation of Minorities in Iraq

In the United States, we seem to be surrounded by irrational hysteria these days. Two, perhaps three cases of ebola within our borders have

Click on the image above to download the full report

Click on the image above to download the full report

generated a great deal of fear despite the fact that there are far more virulent, widespread and equally deadly diseases around us all the time.

The Islamic State has generated similarly cowardly reactions in the US. The media and, especially, members of Congress from both parties are whipping up terror far beyond what IS is capable of on its own, despite its murderous ideology and actions so brutal even al-Qaeda is appalled. The hysteria is, itself, something to be addressed because rational decisions cannot be made under such conditions and no decisions call out for rationality than military ones. But more than that, the panic over IS allows the United States to reframe the entire view of the Middle East’s descent into ever-widening sectarian war.

It is the evil “ISIS” or al-Qaeda, or the “Nusra Front” or this or that Islamic cleric that is at the root of this. No one thinks in terms of the US’ own responsibility for the conditions in the entire region. But in fact the US, while certainly not the root cause of sectarianism in the Arab world, is very much responsible for unleashing the madness engulfing the region, through decades of politically invasive policy decisions based on US self-interest and rooted in an appalling ignorance of the social, economic, religious and political realities of the region and capped off by the invasion of Iraq over a decade ago which served as the spark to light the fire.

The problems in Iraq go far beyond IS, even of IS is the most horrifying symptom of them right now. That’s why this new report on the conditions for minorities in Iraq is so helpful. The perspective it brings goes beyond IS into the larger problems of sectarianism in Iraq and the difficulties that arise not only from the ongoing strife but also from the weakness of security and the Iraqi government. Americans in particular need to see this. The solutions lie in international law and international action, but the responsibility lies with us.

Bibi Goes to Syria

In this week’s piece at Souciant, I analyze Israel’s attack this week on a Syrian target, perhaps in Syria, perhaps on the Syria-Lebanon border. Much remains unknown but the act itself tells us something.

An Israeli Mother Courage

In this week’s piece at Souciant…well, it’s really more of a rant. I’m simply appalled at Benjamin Netanyahu’s cynical use of the murder of Israelis to advance his war agenda. And, it seems, no one, left or right, is calling him on it. Well, I am.

Bin Laden Got Way Too Much In Exchange For His Life

It is no surprise that the assassination of Osama bin Laden has brought a wave of celebration in the United States. I, however, found my sentiments best expressed by a 9/11 survivor, Harry Waizer:

American flags being waved passionately at a celebration of Osama bin Laden's death at the the former site of the Twin Towers

“If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that,” said Mr. Waizer, who was in an elevator riding to work in the north tower when the plane struck the building. He made it down the stairs, but suffered third-degree burns.

“But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.”

The crowds I have seen in New York and Washington have been chanting and waving flags in scenes that could easily have been taken from a global sporting event. I don’t mean to minimize the real feelings of anger that were justifiably raised by the barbarity of the 9/11 attacks. But if people are going to treat this as a contest of some kind, it’s worth looking at the score.

Bin Laden, obviously a fanatic, lost his life. But the cost to the world was so much greater. Continue reading