The delivery of Russian S-300 anti-missile rocket systems to Iran has started, Iran’s ambassador to Moscow said in an interview. Iran is getting one of the latest versions of the air defence complex.
The delivery is underway, ambassador Mehdi Sanaei told Persian-language daily, Etemaad, as cited by Tasnim news agency.
The news was not welcome in Washington, with US State Department spokesman Mark Toner reiterating the US stance on the issue in a briefing on Monday.
“We made clear time and again our objections to any sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran,” Toner told reporters.
Earlier this month Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan announced Tehran is going to get Russian air defence systems by the end of the year, which in Iran ends on March 20, 2016.
Brigadier General Dehghan stressed that a major batch of the hardware is going to be delivered in less than two months’ time.
“Iran has bought as many S-300 air defense systems as it needs,” Dehghan said, adding that Iranian operators of S-300 system are being trained in Russia.
The initial S-300 contract between Moscow and Tehran was signed in 2007 and implied the delivery of five S-300 squadrons worth $US 800 million.
In 2010 the contract was put on hold by then-President Dmitry Medvedev due to the UN imposing sanctions on Iran. In return, Iran lodged a $4 billion lawsuit at an international court in Geneva against Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport.
In April 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin repealed the ban. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the decision, saying Moscow’s voluntary embargo on S-300 deliveries was no longer necessary due to the progress in talks on Iran’s nuclear program.
In October, Iran’s Defense Ministry confirmed Moscow’s readiness to deliver the S-300 system under an agreement signed between the two countries.
Sergey Chemezov, the head of the Russian state-owned high-tech giant Rostec, said that the new contract came into force on November 9.
Iran has bought Russia’s most well-known air defense systems in one of its latest versions S-300PMU-2 Favorite, TASS reported earlier this month during the Dubai Airshow 2015.
The last time Russia supplied S-300 systems abroad was in 2010, when 15 squadrons were delivered to China.
World demand for gas is growing faster than any other energy source, and will grow by a third in the next 25 years, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The growing demand opens up great opportunities for increasing production and exports of gas. At the same time, it’s a major challenge, because there’s a need to dramatically accelerate the development of new deposits, modernize the refining capacities, expand gas transportation infrastructure, bring into operation additional pipelines and make new LNG routes”, said Putin at a Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Tehran on Monday.
According to Putin, Russia seeks to increase its gas output by 40 percent by 2035, reaching 885 billion cubic meters. One of the biggest tasks ahead of Russia is to boost the supplies of gas to China, India and other Asian countries from the current 6 percent to 30 percent, said Putin. Kremlin also intends to triple the LNG supplies. He added that Russia would be able to deal with all these tasks.
During his visit, Putin is meeting with Iranian leaders. He’s talked to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei about energy cooperation, Syria and other key issues. Putin’s also meeting Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.
Over the past 15 years the US has been engaged in a series of wars, which has led many writers to refer to the ‘rise of militarism’ – the growth of an empire, built primarily by and for the projection of military power – and only secondarily to advance economic imperialism.
The rise of a military-based empire, however, does not preclude the emergence of competing, conflicting, and convergent power configurations within the imperial state. These factions of the Washington elite define the objectives and targets of imperialist warfare, often on their own terms.
Having stated the obvious general fact of the power of militarism within the imperialist state, it is necessary to recognize that the key policy-makers, who direct the wars and military policy, will vary according to the country targeted, type of warfare engaged in and their conception of the war. In other words, while US policy is imperialist and highly militaristic, the key policymakers, their approach and the outcomes of their policies will differ. There is no fixed strategy devised by a cohesive Washington policy elite guided by a unified strategic vision of the US Empire.
In order to understand the current, seemingly endless wars, we have to examine the shifting coalitions of elites, who make decisions in Washington but not always primarily for Washington. Some factions of the policy elite have clear conceptions of the American empire, but others improvise and rely on superior ‘political’ or ‘lobbying’ power to successfully push their agenda in the face of repeated failures and suffer no consequences or costs.
We will start by listing US imperialist wars during the last decade and a half. We will then identify the main policy-making faction which has been the driving force in each war. We will discuss their successes and failures as imperial policy makers and conclude with an evaluation of “the state of the empire” and its future.
Imperial Wars: From 2001-2015
The current war cycle started in late 2001 with the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. This was followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003, the US arms support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the proxy invasion of Somalia in 2006/7; the massive re-escalation of war in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007-2009; the bombing, invasion ‘regime change’ in Libya in 2011; the ongoing proxy-mercenary war against Syria (since 2012), and the ongoing 2015 Saudi-US invasion and destruction of Yemen. In Europe, the US was behind the 2014 proxy putsch and violent ‘regime change’ in Ukraine which has led to an ongoing war against ethnic Russian speakers in south-east Ukraine, especially the populous industrial heartland of the Donbas region.
Over the past 15 years, there have been overt and covert military interventions, accompanied by an intense, provocative military build-up along Russia’s borders in the Baltic States, Eastern Europe (especially Poland), the Balkans (Bulgaria and Romania) and the mammoth US base in Kosovo; in Central Europe with nuclear missiles in Germany and, of course, the annexation of Ukraine and Georgia as US-NATO clients.
Parallel to the military provocations encircling Russia, Washington has launched a major military, political, economic and diplomatic offensive aimed at isolating China and affirming US supremacy in the Pacific.
In South America, US military intervention found expression via Washington-orchestrated business-military coup attempts in Venezuela in 2002 and Bolivia in 2008, and a successful ‘regime change’ in Honduras in 2009, overthrowing its elected president and installing a US puppet.
In summary, the US has been engaged in two, three or more wars since 2001, defining an almost exclusively militarist empire, run by an imperial state directed by civilian and military officials seeking unchallenged global dominance through violence.
Washington: Military Workshop of the World
War and violent regime change are the exclusive means through which the US now advances its foreign policy. However, the various Washington war-makers among the power elite do not form a unified bloc with common priorities. Washington provides the weapons, soldiers and financing for whichever power configuration or faction among the elite is in a position, by design or default, to seize the initiative and push their own war agenda.
The invasion of Afghanistan was significant in so far as it was seen by all sectors of the militarist elite, as the first in a series of wars. Afghanistan was to set the stage for the launching of higher priority wars elsewhere.
Afghanistan was followed by the infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, dictated by Tel Aviv, penned by presidential speech-writer, David Frum and mouthed by the brainless President Bush, II. The ‘Global War on Terror’ was the thinly veiled slogan for serial wars around the world. Washington measured the loyalty of its vassals among the nations of Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America by their support for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The Afghan invasion provided the template for future wars. It led to an unprecedented increase in the military budget and ushered in Caesar-like dictatorial presidential powers to order and execute wars, silencing domestic critics and sending scores of thousands of US and NATO troops to the Hindu Kush.
In itself, Afghanistan was never any threat and certainly no economic prize for plunder and profit. The Taliban had not attacked the US. Osama Bin Laden could have been turned over to a judicial tribunal – as the governing Taliban had insisted.
The US military (with its Coalition of the Willing or COW) successfully invaded and occupied Afghanistan and set up a vassal regime in Kabul. It built scores of military bases and attempted to form an obedient colonial army. In the meantime, the Washington militarist elite had moved on to bigger and, for the Israel-centric Zionist elite, higher priority wars, namely Iraq.
The decision to invade Afghanistan was not opposed by any of Washington’s militarist elite factions. They all shared the idea of using a successful military blitz or ‘cake-walk’ against the abysmally impoverished Afghanistan as a way to rabble rouse the American masses into accepting a long period of intense and costly global warfare throughout the world.
Washington’s militarist elites fabricated the link between the attacks on 9/11/2001 and Afghanistan’s governing Taliban and the presence of the Saudi warlord Osama Bin Laden. Despite the ‘fact’ that most of the ‘hijackers’ were from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and none were Afghans, invading and destroying Afghanistan was to be the initial test to gauge the highly manipulated and frightened American public’s willingness to shoulder the burden of a huge new cycle of imperial wars. This has been the only aspect of the invasion of Afghanistan that could be viewed as a policy success – it made the costs of endless wars ‘acceptable’ to a relentlessly propagandized public.
Flush with their military victories in the Hindu Kush, the Washington militarists turned to Iraq and fabricated a series of increasingly preposterous pretexts for war: Linking the 9/11 ‘jihadi’ hijackers with the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, whose intolerance for violent Islamists (especially the Saudi variety) was well documented, and concocting a whole fabric of lies about Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which provided the propaganda basis for invading an already disarmed, blockaded and starved Iraq in March 2003.
Leading the Washington militarists in designing the war to destroy Iraq were the Zionists, including Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle, and a few Israel-centric Gentile militarists, such as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. The Zionists had a powerful entourage in key positions in the State Department, Treasury and the Pentagon.
There were ‘outsiders’ – non-Zionists and militarists within these institutions, especially the Pentagon, who voiced reservations – but they were brushed aside, not consulted and ‘encouraged’ to retire.
None of the ‘old hands’ in the State Department or Pentagon bought into the hysteria about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, but to voice reservations was to risk one’s career. The manufacture and dissemination of the pretext for invading Iraq was orchestrated by a small team of operatives linking Tel Aviv and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s Office of Special Plans, a tight group of Zionists and some Israelis headed by Abram Shulsky (Sept. 2002-June 2003).
The US war on Iraq was an important part of Israel’s agenda to ‘re-make the Middle East’ to establish its unchallenged regional hegemony and execute a ‘final solution’ for its own vexing ‘Arab (native Palestinian) problem’: It was made operational by the powerful Zionist faction within the Executive (White House), which had assumed almost dictatorial powers after the attack on 9/11/2001. Zionists planned the war, designed the ‘occupation policy’ and ‘succeeded wildly’ with the eventual dismemberment of a once modern secular nationalist Arab state.
In order to smash the Iraqi state – the US occupation policy was to eliminate (through mass firings, jailing and assassination) all high level, experienced Iraqi civil, military and scientific personnel – down to high school principals. They dismantled any vital infrastructure (which had not been already destroyed by the decades of US sanctions and bombing under President Clinton) and reduced an agriculturally advanced Iraq to a barren wasteland which would take centuries to recover and could never challenge Israel’s colonization of Palestine, let alone its military supremacy in the Middle East. Naturally, the large Palestinian Diaspora refugee population in Iraq was targeted for ‘special treatment’.
But Zionist policymakers had a much larger agenda than erasing Iraq as a viable country: They had a longer list of targets: Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Libya, whose destruction was to be carried out with US and NATO blood and treasure (and not a single Israeli soldier).
Despite the fact that Iraq did not even possess a functioning air force or navy in March 2003 and Afghanistan in late 2001 was rather primitive, the invasions of both countries turned out to be very costly to the US. The US completely failed to benefit from its ‘victory and occupation’, despite Paul Wolfowitz’ boasts that the pillage of Iraq’s oil fields would pay for the entire project in a ‘few months’. This was because the real Zionist plan was to destroy these nations – beyond any possibility for a quick or cheap imperialist economic gain. Scorching the earth and salting the fields is not a very profitable policy for empire builders.
Israel has been the biggest winner with no cost for the ‘Jewish State’. The American Zionist policy elite literally handed them the services of the largest and richest armed forces in history: the US. Israel-Firsters played a decisive role among Washington policy-makers and Tel Aviv celebrated in the streets! They came, they dominated policy and they accomplished their mission: Iraq (and millions of its people)was destroyed.
The US gained an unreliable, broken colony, with a devastated economy and systematically destroyed infrastructure and without the functioning civil service needed for a modern state. To pay for the mess, the American people faced a spiraling budget deficit, tens of thousands of American war casualties and massive cuts in their own social programs. Crowning the Washington war-makers’ victory was the disarticulation of American civil and constitutional rights and liberties and the construction of a enormous domestic police state.
After the Iraq disaster, the same influential Zionist faction in Washington lost no time in demanding a new war against Israel’s bigger enemy – namely Iran. In the ensuing years, they failed to push the US to attack Tehran but they succeeded in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran. The Zionist faction secured massive US military support for Israel’s abortive invasion of Lebanon and its devastating series of blitzkriegs against the impoverished and trapped people of Gaza.
The Zionist faction successfully shaped US military interventions to meet Israel’s regional ambitions against three Arab countries: Yemen, Syria, and Libya. The Zionists were not able to manipulate the US into attacking Iran because the traditional militarist faction in Washington balked: With instability in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US was not well positioned to face a major conflagration throughout the Middle East, South Asia and beyond – which a ground and air war with Iran would involve. However, the Zionist factions did secure brutal economic sanctions and the appointment of key Israel-Centric officials within the US Treasury. Secretary Stuart Levey, at the start of the Obama regime, and David Cohen afterwards, were positioned to enforce the sanctions.
Even before the ascendancy of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv’s military objectives after Iraq, including Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen had to be spaced over time, because the non-Zionist factions among Washington’s elite had been unable to integrate occupied Afghanistan and Iraq into the empire.
Resistance, armed conflict and military advances in both Afghanistan and Iraq never ceased and are continuing into their 2nd decade. As soon as the US would withdraw from a region, declaring it ‘pacified’, the armed resistance would move back in and the local sepoys would defect to the rebels or take off for London or Washington with millions in pillaged loot.
‘Unfinished wars’, mounting casualties and spiraling costs, with no end in sight, undermined the agreement between the militarist and the Zionist factions in the Executive branch. However, the massively powerful Zionist presence in the US Congress provided a platform to bray for new and even bigger wars.
Israel’s vicious invasion of Lebanon in 2006 was defeated despite receiving massive US arms supplies, a US funded ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system and intelligence assistance. Tel Aviv could not defeat the highly disciplined and motivated Hezbollah fighters in South Lebanon despite resorting to carpet bombing of civilian neighborhoods with millions of banned cluster munitions and picking off ambulances and churches sheltering refugees. Israelis have been much more triumphal murdering lightly armed Palestinian resistance fighters and stone-throwing children.
Libya: A Multi-faction War for the Militarists (without Big Oil)
The war against Libya was a result of multiple factions among the Washington militarist elite, including the Zionists, coming together with French, English and German militarists to smash the most modern, secular, independent state in Africa under President Muammar Gaddafi.
The aerial campaign against the Gaddafi regime had virtually no organized support within Libya with which to reconstruct a viable neo-colonial state ripe for pillage. This was another ‘planned dismemberment’ of a complex, modern republic which had been independent of the US Empire.
The war succeeded wildly in shredding Libya’s economy, state, and society. It unleashed scores of armed terrorist groups, (who appropriated the modern weapons of Gaddafi’s army and police) and uprooted two million black contract workers and Libyan citizens of South Saharan origin forcing them to flee the rampaging racist militias to the refugee camps of Europe. Untold thousands died in rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea.
The entire war was carried out to the publicly giddy delight of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her ‘humanitarian interventionist’ lieutenants (Susan Rice and Samantha Power), who were utterly ignorant as to who and what the Libyan “opposition” represented. Eventually, even Hillary’s own Ambassador to Libya would be slaughtered by … the same victorious US-backed ‘rebels’ (sic) in the newly liberated Bengazi!
The Zionist faction destroyed Gaddafi (whose capture, grotesque torture and murder was filmed and widely disseminated), eliminating another real adversary of Israel and supporter of Palestinian rights. The US militarist faction, which led the war, got nothing positive – not even a secure naval, air, or training base – only a dead Ambassador, millions of desperate refugees flooding Europe, and thousands of trained and armed jihadists for the next target: Syria.
For a while Libya became the main supply-line for Islamist mercenaries and arms to invade Syria and fight the secular nationalist government in Damascus.
Once again the least influential faction in Washington turned out to be the oil and gas industry, which lost lucrative contracts it had already signed with the Gaddafi regime. Thousands of highly trained foreign oil workers were withdrawn. After Iraq, it should have been obvious that these wars were not ‘for oil’!
Ukraine: Coups, Wars, and Russia’s ‘Underbelly’
With the US-orchestrated coup and intervention in Ukraine, the militarist factions once again seized the initiative, establishing a puppet regime in Kiev and targeting Russia’s strategic ‘soft underbelly’. The plan had been to take over Russia’s strategic military bases in Crimea and cut Russia from the vital military-industrial complexes in the Donbas region with its vast iron and coal reserves.
The mechanics of the power grab were relatively well planned, the political clients were put in power, but the US militarists had made no contingencies for propping up the Ukrainian economy, cut loose from its main trading partner and oil and gas supplier, Russia.
The coup led to a ‘proxy war’ in the ethnic-Russian majority regions in the south east (the Donbas) with four ‘unanticipated consequences’. 1) a country divided east and west along ethno-linguistic lines, (2) a bankrupt economy made even worse by the imposition of an IMF austerity program, (3) a corrupt crony capitalist elite, which was ‘pro-West by bank account’, (4) and, after two years, mass disaffection among voters toward the US puppet regime.
The militarists in Washington and Brussels succeeded in engineering the coup in Ukraine but lacked the domestic allies, plans and preparations to run the country and successfully annex it to the EU and NATO as a viable country.
Apparently the militarist factions in the State Department and Pentagon are much more proficient in stage managing coups and invasions than in establishing a stable regime as part of a New World Order. They succeed in the former and fail repeatedly in the latter.
The Pivot to Asia and the Pirouette to Syria
During most of the previous decade, traditional global strategists in Washington increasingly objected to the Zionist faction’s domination and direction of US war policies focused on the Middle East for the benefit of Israel, instead of meeting the growing challenge of the new world economic superpower in Asia, China.
US economic supremacy in Asia had been deeply eroded as China’s economy grew at double digits. Beijing was displacing the US as the major trade partner in the Latin American and African markets. Meanwhile, the top 500 US MNCs were heavily invested in China. Three years into President Obama’s first term the ‘China militarist faction’ announced a shift from the Middle East and the Israel-centric agenda to a ‘pivot to Asia’, the source of 40% of the world’s industrial output.
But it was not profits and markets that motivated Washington’s Asia faction among the militarist elites – it was military power. Even trade agreements, like the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), were viewed as tools to encircle and weaken China militarily and undermine its regional influence.
Led by the hysterical Pentagon boss Ashton Carter, Washington prepared a series of major military confrontations with Beijing off the coast of China.
The US signed expanded military base agreements with the Philippines, Japan, and Australia; it participated in military exercises with Vietnam, South Korea, and Malaysia; it dispatched battleships and aircraft carriers into Chinese territorial waters.
The US confrontational trade policy was formulated by the Zionist trio: Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, Trade Negotiator Michael Froman (who works for both the Asia militarist and Zionist factions), and Treasury Secretary Jake Lew. The result was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), involving 12 Pacific countries while deliberating excluding China. Washington’s Asian militarist faction planned to militarize the entire Pacific Basin, in order to dominate the maritime trade routes and, at a moment’s notice, choke off all of China’s overseas markets and suppliers – shades of the series of US provocations against Japan leading up to the US entering WW2.
The ‘Asia-militarist faction’ successfully demanded a bigger military budget to accommodate its vastly more aggressive posture toward China.
Predictably, China has insisted on defending its maritime routes and has increased its naval and air base building and sea and air patrols. Also, predictably, China has countered the US-dominated TPP by setting-up a one hundred billion dollar Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), while contributing to the multi-billion dollar BRICS Bank. Meanwhile, China even signed a separate $30 billion dollar trade agreement with Washington’s strategic ‘partner’, Britain. In fact, Britain followed the rest of the EU and joined the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank – despite objections from Washington’s “Asia faction”.
While the US depends heavily on its military pacts with South Korea and Japan, the latter nations have been meeting with China – their most significant trading partner – to work on expanding and deepening economic ties.
Up until 2014, the “business-with-China faction” of the Washington elite played a key role in the making of US-Asia policy. However, they have been eclipsed by the Asia militarist-faction, which is taking US policy in a totally different direction: Pushing China out as Asia’s economic superpower and escalating military confrontation with Beijing now heads Washington’s agenda.
Ashton Carter, the US Defense Secretary, has China, the second most important economy in the world in the Pentagon’s ‘cross-hairs’. When the TPP failed to curtail China’s expansion, the militarist faction shifted Washington toward a high risk military course, which could destabilize the region and risk a nuclear confrontation.
The Pirouette: China and Syria
Meanwhile in the Levant, Washington’s Zionist faction has been busy running a proxy war in Syria. The pivot to Asia has had to compete with the pirouette to Syria and Yemen.
The US joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf Emirates, and the EU in sponsoring a replay of the Libyan ‘regime change’ — sponsoring proxy terrorists from around the globe into invading and devastating Syria. Damascus has been attacked from all sides for the ‘crime’ of being secular and multi-ethnic; for being pro-Palestinian; for being allied with Iran and Lebanon; for having an independent foreign policy; and for maintaining a limited representative (but not necessarily democratic) government. For these crimes, the West, Israel and the Saudis would have Syria fractured into an ethnically cleansed ‘tribal state’ – something they had accomplished in Iraq and Libya.
The US militarist faction (personified by Secretary of Defense Carter and Senators McCain and Graham) have funded, trained and equipped the terrorists, whom they call ‘moderates’ and had clearly expected their progeny to follow Washington’s directions. The emergence of ISIS showed just how close these ‘moderates’ stuck to Washington’s script.
Initially, the traditional militarist wing of Washington’s elite resisted the Zionist faction’s demand for direct US military intervention (American ‘boots on the ground’). That is changing with recent (very convenient) events in Paris.
Warfare: From Piecemeal Interventions to Nuclear Confrontation
The Washington militarists have again committed more US soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan; American fighter planes and Special Forces are in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, US naval armadas aggressively patrol the coasts of China and Iran. The militarist-Zionist ‘compromise’ over Syria was comprised of an initial contingent of 50 US Special Forces to join in ‘limited’ combat roles with (“loyal” sic) Islamist mercenaries – the so-called moderates. There are commitments for greater and heavier weaponry to come, including ground to air missiles capable of shooting down Russian and Syrian military jets.
Elite Factional Politics: An Overview
How does the record of these competing factions, formulating US imperial war policies in the Middle East over the past 15 years stack up? Clearly there has been no coherent imperial economic strategy.
The policy toward Afghanistan is remarkable for its failure to end the longest war in US history – over 14 years of occupation! The recent attempts by US-led client NATO forces to withdraw have been immediately followed by military advances by the nationalist-Islamist resistance militia – the Taliban, which controls much of the countryside. The possibility of a collapse of the current puppet in Kabul has forced the militarists in Washington to retain US bases – surrounded by completely hostile rural populations.
The Afghan war’s initial appearance of success triggered new wars – inter alia Iraq. But taking the long view, the Afghan war, has been a miserable failure in terms of the stated strategic goal of establishing a stable client government. The Afghan economy collapsed: opium production (which had been significantly suppressed by the Taliban’s poppy eradication campaign in 2000-2001) is the now predominant crop – with cheap heroin flooding Europe and beyond. Under the weight of massive and all pervasive corruption by ‘loyal’ client officials – the Afghan treasury is empty. The puppet rulers are totally disconnected from the most important regional, ethnic, religious and family clans and associations.
Washington could not ‘find’ any viable economic classes in Afghanistan with which to anchor a development strategy. They did not come to terms with the deep ethno-religious consciousness rooted in rural communities and fought the most popular political force among the majority Pashtu, the Taliban, which had no role in the attack on ‘9/11’.
They artificially slapped together a massive army of surly illiterates under Western imperial command and watched it fall apart at the seams, defect to the Taliban or turn their own guns on the foreign occupation troops. These “mistakes”, which accounted for the failure of the militarist faction in the Afghanistan war were due, in no small part, to the pressure and influence of the Zionist faction who wanted to quickly move on to their highest priority, a US war against Israel’s first priority enemy – Iraq – without consolidating the US control in Afghanistan. For the Zionists, Afghanistan (envisioned as a ‘cake-walk’ or quick victory) was just a tool to set the stage for a much larger sequence of US wars against Israel’s regional Arab and Persian adversaries.
Before the militarists could establish any viable order and an enduring governmental structure in Afghanistan, attention shifted to a Zionist-centered war against Iraq.
The build-up for the US war against Iraq has to be understood as a project wholly engineered by and for the state of Israel, mostly through its agents within the US government and Washington policy elite. The goal was to establish Israel as the unchallenged political-military power in the region using American troops and money and preparing the ground for Tel Aviv’s “final solution” for the Palestinian ‘problem’; total expulsion…
The US military and occupation campaign included the wholesale and systematic destruction of Iraq: Its law and order, culture, economy and society – so there would be no possibility of recovery. Such a vicious campaign did not resonate with any productive sector of the US economy (or for that matter with any Israeli economic interest).
Washington’s Zionist faction set about in a parody of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge to identify and destroy any competent, experienced Iraqi professional, civil servant, scientist, intellectual, or military official capable of re-organizing and re-building the county and war-battered society. They were assassinated, arrested, tortured, or driven into exile. The occupation deliberately encouraged religious parties and traditional tribes to engage in inter-communal massacres and ethnic cleansing. In other words, the Zionist faction did not pursue the traditionally understood policy of empire building which would incorporate the second tier functionaries of a conquered state to form a competent client regime and use Iraq’s great oil and gas wealth to build its economy. Instead they chose to impose a scorched earth policy; setting loose organized sectarian armies, imposing the rule of grotesquely corrupt ex-pats and placing the most venal, sectarian clients in positions of power. The effect has been to transform the most advanced, secular Arab country into an ‘Afghanistan’ and in less than 15 years destroying centuries of culture and community.
The goal of the ‘Zionist strategy’ was to destroy Iraq as Israel’s regional rival. The cost of over a million Iraqi dead and many millions of refugees did not prick any conscience in Washington or Tel Aviv.
After all, Washington’s traditional ‘militarist faction’ picked up the bill (costing hundreds of billions) which they passed on to the American taxpayers (well over one trillion dollars) and used the deaths and suffering of tens of thousands of American troops to provide a pretext for spreading more chaos. The result of their mayhem includes the specter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which they may consider to be a success – since hysteria over ISIS pushes the West ‘closer to Israel’.
The sheer scale of death and destruction inflicted on the Iraqi population by the Zionist faction led to thousands of highly competent Ba’athist officers, who had survived ‘Shock and Awe’ and the sectarian massacres, to join armed Islamist Sunnis and eventually form the ISIS. This group of experienced Iraqi military officers formed the strategic technical core of ISIS which launched a devastating offensive in Iraq in 2014 – taking major cities in the north and completely routing the US-trained puppet armies of the ‘government’ in Baghdad. From there they moved into Syria and beyond. It is fundamental to understanding the roots of ISIS: The Zionist faction among US militarist policymakers imposed a deliberate ‘scorched earth’ occupation policy, which united highly trained nationalist Ba’athist military officers with young Sunni fighters ,both locals and increasingly foreign jihadist mercenaries. These deracinated members of the traditional Iraqi nationalist military elite had lost their families to the sectarian massacres; they were persecuted, tortured, driven underground, and highly motivated. They literally had nothing left to lose!
This core of ISIS leadership stands in stark contrast to the colonial, corrupt, and demoralized army slapped together by the US military with more cash than morale. ISIS quickly swept through half of Iraq and came within 40 miles of Baghdad.
The US militarist faction faced military defeat after eight years of war. They mobilized, financed, and armed their client Kurdish mercenaries in northern Iraq and recruited the Shia Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to appeal to the Shia militia.
ISIS exploited the Western-backed Islamist uprising in Syria and extended their sweep well across the border. Syria had accepted a million Iraqi refugees from the US invasion, including many of Iraq’s surviving experienced nationalist administrative elite. The US militarists are in a dilemma – another full-scale war would not be politically feasible, and its military outcome uncertain… Moreover the US was aligned with dubious allies – especially the Saudis – who had their own regional ambitions. Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Kurds were each eager to expand their power territorially and politically.
In the midst of this, the traditional Washington militarists are left with no overall viable imperialist strategy. Instead they improvise with faux ‘rebels’, who claim to be moderates and democrats, while taking US guns and dollars and ultimately joining the most powerful Islamist groups – like ISIS.
Throwing a wrench into the machinery of Israeli-Saudi hegemonic ambitions, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have sided with the secular Syrian government. Russia finally moved to bomb ISIS strongholds – after identifying a significant ISIS contingent of militant Chechens whose ultimate aims are to bring war and terror back to Russia.
The US-EU war against Libya unleashed all the retrograde mercenary forces from three continents (Africa, Asia and Europe) and Washington finds itself with no means to control them. Washington could not even protect its own consulate in their ‘liberated’ regional capital of Benghazi – the US ambassador and two intelligence aides were killed by Washington’s own ‘rebels’. The competing and cooperating factions of the Washington militarist elite placed Libya on a steaming platter: Serving up invasion, regicide and hundreds of thousands of refugees, which they did not bother to even ‘season’ with any plan or strategy – just unadulterated scorched earth against another opponent of Zionism. And a potentially lucrative strategic neo-colony in North Africa has been lost with no accountability for the Washington architects of such barbarism.
Latin America: The Last Outpost of the Multi-Nationals
As we have seen, the major theaters of imperial policy (the Middle East and Asia) have been dominated by militarists, not professional diplomats-linked to the multi-national corporations. Latin America stands as something of an exception. In Latin America, US policymakers have been guided by big business interests. Their main focus has been on pushing the neo-liberal agenda. Eventually this has meant promoting the US-centered ‘free trade’ agreements, joint military exercises, shared military bases, and political backing for the US global military agenda.
The ‘militarist faction’ in Washington worked with the traditional business faction in support of the unsuccessful military coups in Venezuela (2002 and 2014), the attempted coup in Bolivia 2008, and a successful regime change in Honduras (2010).
To harass the independent Argentine government which was developing closer diplomatic and trade ties with Iran, a sector of the US Zionist financial elite (the ‘vulture fund’ magnate Paul Singer) joined forces with the Zionist militarist faction to raise hysterical accusations against President Cristina Kirchner over the ‘mysterious’ suicide of a Israel-linked Argentine prosecutor. The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had devoted his career to ‘cooking up a case’ against Iran with the aid of the Mossad and CIA for the unsolved, bombing the Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994. Various investigations had exonerated Iran and the Nisman Affair was an intense effort to keep Argentina from trading with Iran.
The Washington business faction operated in a mildly hostile Latin America for most of the past decade. However, it was able to recover influence, via a series of bilateral free trade agreements and took advantage of the end of the commodity cycle. The latter weakened the center-left regimes and moved them closer to Washington.
The ‘excesses’ committed by the US backed military dictatorships during the nineteen sixties through eighties, and the crisis of the neo-liberal nineties, set the stage for the rise of a relatively moderate business-diplomatic faction to come to the fore in Washington. It is also the case that the various militarist and Zionist factions in Washington were focused elsewhere (Europe, Middle East and Asia). In any case the US political elite operates in Latin America mostly via political and business proxies, for the time being.
From our brief survey, it is clear that wars play a key role in US foreign policy in most regions of the world. However, war policies in different regions respond to different factions in the governing elite.
The traditional militarist faction predominates creating confrontations in Ukraine, Asia and along the Russian border. Within that framework the US Army, Air Force, and Special Forces play a leading, and fairly conventional, role. In the Far East, the Navy and Air Force predominate.
In the Middle East and South Asia, the military (Army and Air Force) factions share power with the Zionist faction. Fundamentally the Zionists dictate policy on Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and the militarists follow.
Both factions overlapped in creating the debacle in Libya.
The factions form shifting coalitions, supporting wars of interest to their respective power centers. The militarists and Zionists worked together in launching the Afghan war; but once launched, the Zionists abandoned Kabul and concentrated on preparing for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which was of far greater interest to Israel.
It should be noted that at no point did the oil and business elite play any significant role in war policy. The Zionist faction pushed hard to secure direct US ground intervention in Libya and Syria, but was not able to force the US to send large contingents of ground troops due to opposition from the Russians as well as a growing sector of the US electorate. Likewise, the Zionists played a leading role in successfully imposing sanctions against Iran and a major role in prosecuting banks around the world accused of violating the sanctions. However, they were not able to block the military faction from securing a diplomatic agreement with Iran over its uranium enrichment program – without going to war.
Clearly, the business faction plays a major role in promoting US trade agreements and tries to lift or avoid sanctions against important real and potential trade partners like China, Iran and Cuba.
The Zionist faction among Washington elite policymakers takes positions which consistently push for wars and aggressive policies against any regime targeted by Israel. The differences between the traditional militarist and Zionist factions are blurred by most writers who scrupulously avoid identifying Zionist decision-makers, but there is no question of who benefits and who loses.
The kind of war which the Zionists promote and implement – the utter destruction of enemy countries – undermines any plans by the traditional militarist faction and the military to consolidate power in an occupied country and incorporate it into a stable empire.
It is a serious error to lump these factions together: the business, Zionist, and various militarist factions of the Washington policy making elite are not one homogeneous group. They may overlap at times, but they also differ as to interests, liabilities, ideology, and loyalties. They also differ in their institutional allegiances.
The overarching militarist ideology which permeates US imperialist foreign policy obscures a deep and recurrent weakness – US policymakers master the mechanics of war but have no strategy for ruling after intervening. This has been glaringly evident in all recent wars: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, etc. Improvisation has repeatedly led to monumental failures: from financing phantom armies to bleeding billions to prop-up incompetent, kleptocratic puppet regimes. Despite the hundreds of billions of public money wasted in these serial disasters, no policymaker has been held to account.
Long wars and short memories are the norm for Washington’s militarist rulers who do not lose sleep over their blunders. The Zionists, for their part, do not even need a strategy for rule. They push the US into wars for Israel, and once having destroyed ‘the enemy country’ they leave a vacuum to be filled by chaos. The American public provides the gold and blood for these misadventures and reaps nothing but domestic deterioration and greater international strife.
The recent events in Paris were undoubtedly horrific, and our thoughts are with those affected by these atrocious acts. The victims and their families, innocent people who did not volunteer to fight in any war, these defenseless civilians were attacked in the most heinous way possible.
And while the world’s media turns its gaze to Paris, there is another act of terrorism happening every day that the corporate media chooses to ignore.
It seems the main export of the USA and UK is terrorism, but sugar coated and wrapped in the PR-friendly guise of ‘promoting democracy’ and ‘protecting our freedoms’, making the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians easier to swallow, or more frequently, completely ignore.
Perhaps ironically then, is the fact that these acts are of course illegal and a violation of international law, and the sad truth is that these rouge nations, the USA and UK themselves are the biggest threats to freedom and democracy. We are witnessing doublespeak in action.
To date, the USA has been responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million people since the end of World War II, in 37 nations. A report by James A. Lucas of Counter Currents explains:
This study reveals that U.S. military forces were directly responsible for about 10 to 15 million deaths during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the two Iraq Wars. The Korean War also includes Chinese deaths while the Vietnam War also includes fatalities in Cambodia and Laos.
The American public probably is not aware of these numbers and knows even less about the proxy wars for which the United States is also responsible. In the latter wars there were between nine and 14 million deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sudan.
These figures do not include the full figures of more recent violations, such as drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan.
Statistics obtained by the Bureau Investigates reveal that approximately 2,464 – 7,177 people have been murdered in these nations. It is also estimated that 90% of those killed in these attacks are innocent civilians.
Make no mistake, each one of these 500-plus drone strikes is nothing less than a tax-payer funded terrorist attack.
At the time of publication, there are also a high number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the illegal invasions, which has cost in excess of a staggering $1,500,000,000,000.
This means nothing to the corporations who profit from global terrorism.
While the little amount of corporate media coverage that is devoted to exposing profiteering remains largely focused on oil firms, there are trillions of dollars being made in the supply of arms.
Companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and BAE Systems as well as many others – often with government connections, are raking in billions of dollars from government contracts.
For example, Lockheed Martin received $36 billion in contracts in a single year.
So while my heart goes out to the victims and families of those affected by the despicable acts carried out in Paris, should we not also turn our outrage and contempt for these cowardly acts towards our own governments – who not only obliterate innocent lives on a daily basis, but actually allow profiteering from mass-murder, resulting in a never-ending cycle of destruction that we’re funding with our taxes.
The ending of terrorism begins with us.
The Russian-made S-300 missile defense systems in Iran will prevent the US from exerting political pressure on Tehran and will strengthen Russia’s positions in the region, especially at a time when Moscow is leading a successful counterterrorism campaign in Syria, TV Channel Zvezda reported.
The United States fully understands that “Russian and Chinese weapons in the Middle East dramatically alter the balance of power in the region and beyond,” the media outlet quoted Ruslan Pukhov, who heads the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, as saying.
The S-300, believed to be one of the best missile defense systems in the world, has already demonstrated what it is capable of –not in military, but rather political terms.
For instance, the S-300 served as a potent deterrent in Syria in 2012, the media outlet stated. Three years ago Washington decided not to strike Damascus-led forces among other things because the Syrian Army had a number of these surface-to-air missile batteries in service. The Americans, according to Zvezda, did not want to see the S-300 in action.
American experts say that S-300 systems in Iran will ultimately create a no-fly zone for the F-16s and F/A-18s over the country, the media outlet noted. The B-2s and F-22s are capable of operating in areas guarded by the S-300 for a limited amount of time since the Russian-made missile defense system can easily change its location within hours.
“This missile defense system could deny access to the airspace over the Persian Gulf. … It could almost completely neutralize Turkey’s military capabilities. Israel and Saudi Arabia will automatically lose their air supremacy and will be unable to carry out airstrikes in the region as well as some parts of Syria,” he noted.
Moscow and Tehran signed an $800-million deal for the delivery of five S-300 missile systems in 2007. In 2011, Iran sued Russia in the Geneva Arbitration Court after Moscow suspended the contract in 2010, citing a UN Security Council resolution that placed an arms embargo on Tehran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the S-300 delivery ban in April 2015, shortly after the P5+1 group of international negotiators and Iran reached a framework nuclear agreement to remove all economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for its pledge to ensure that all nuclear research in the country will be for peaceful purposes.
A Russian official says Tehran and Moscow have signed a contract for the long-overdue delivery by Russia of 300 missile defense systems to Iran.
Sergei Chemezov, the chief executive of Russian state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec, was quoted by Ria Novosti as saying that the deal had been signed.
Russia committed to delivering the systems to Iran under a USD-800-million deal in 2007.
Moscow, however, refused to deliver the systems to Tehran in 2010 under the pretext that the agreement was covered by the fourth round of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The resolution bars hi-tech weapons sales to Tehran.
Following Moscow’s refusal to deliver the systems, Iran filed a complaint against the relevant Russian arms firm with the International Court of Arbitration in Geneva.
In April this year, President Vladimir Putin lifted a previous ban on the delivery of S-300 to Iran.
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said in mid-August that “all changes” that have been made to the S-300 system by the Russians over the years will be implemented on the battalions that are going to be delivered to Iran.
Like millions of Americans, this past week I was sitting on my couch, drinking a cold beer, watching Game 1 of the World Series – professional baseball’s hallowed championship. Suddenly the satellite feed went out, the screen went dark. Naturally, as FOX Sports scrambled to get their live feed fixed, many of my fellow Americans took to twitter to speculate as to what had caused the outage. I was, sadly, unsurprised to see that the most common joke people were making was that China must have hacked the World Series.
On the one hand, it is understandable given the barrage of propaganda about Chinese hackers as a threat to corporate and national security; seemingly every week there is a new news item highlighting the great red cyber-menace. On the other hand, it is a perfect illustration of the hypocrisy and ignorant arrogance of Americans who, despite being citizens of unquestionably the most aggressive nation when it comes to both cyber espionage and surveillance, see fit to cast China as the real villain. It is a testament to the power of both propaganda and imperial triumphalism that a proposition so disconnected from reality, and bordering on Orwellian Doublethink, is not only accepted, but is ipso facto true.
But there is a deeper political and sociological phenomenon at play here, one that begs further exploration. How is it that despite all the revelations of Edward Snowden regarding US intelligence and military snooping capabilities across the globe, Americans still cannot accept the culpability of their own government and corporate interests – the two work hand in hand – in global cyber-espionage? Even if they explicitly or implicitly know about the NSA, CIA, DIA, and Pentagon programs (among many others), their instinctive reaction is to blame China. Why? The answer lies in the complexity and effectiveness of the anti-China propaganda.
In his landmark book Public Opinion, the renowned writer, commentator, and theoretician of propaganda, Walter Lipmann, defined the term “stereotype” in the modern psychological sense as a “distorted picture or image in a person’s mind, not based on personal experience, but derived culturally.” In other words, the stereotype is an image in our mind’s eye, one that is constructed by outside forces; it is information filtered through a particular societal or cultural framework that then creates a picture of how something is to be understood. Lipmann went further, noting that carefully constructed propaganda could be used to shape stereotypes, thereby allowing the powers that be the ability to construct and manipulate information and narratives.
And this is precisely the phenomenon at work here. By repeating it endlessly, the US political and corporate media establishment have successfully convinced Americans that China is the real threat when it comes to cyberspace, playing on the stereotype of Chinese people in general, and the People’s Republic of China specifically. But, I would argue something far different: rather than seeing China as a threat, perhaps Americans, and westerners generally, should shine a light on what their own countries are doing, thereby gaining a broader perspective on the issue. For China’s moves in this field pale in comparison to those of the US, and are clearly a response to them.
China and the US: Comparing the Rap Sheets
The corporate media is replete with stories of Chinese hacking of US institutions. From alleged Chinese hacking of the University of Virginia employees connected with US government programs directed at China, to the infamous breach of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management which resulted in the theft of the personal information of more than 20 million Americans, such stories help to construct an image of China as the world’s leading hacker-state. This week it is Chinese hackers targeting health care providers, last year it was stealing the secrets of Westinghouse and US Steel, and literally dozens of other such examples.
The purpose of this article is not to deny the veracity of these reports; I’m not a computer expert, nor do I have access to the information that an expert would need in making a determination. Instead, my purpose here is to show the grossly unbalanced, and utterly dishonest, way in which the issue is presented to Americans especially, and to probe why that might be. For any fair and balanced approach to the issue would present the simple fact that the US is the world leader in cyber-warfare, having actually conducted what are to date the only recorded live uses of cyberweapons.
Take for instance the joint US-Israel developed Stuxnet virus, a pair of highly complex and severely destructive, computer viruses launched at Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to a group of independent legal experts assembled at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, the Stuxnet cyberattack was “an act of force.” Their report noted that “Acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force [and likely violate international law].”
Indeed, the US and its Israeli partners launched the very first true cyberweapon. As cyber security expert Ralph Langer wrote in Foreign Policy in 2013:
Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet’s smaller and simpler attack routine — the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and “forgotten” routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security… The “original” payload… attempted to overpressurize Natanz’s centrifuges by sabotaging the system meant to keep the cascades of centrifuges safe.
Essentially, the US and Israel employed the world’s first cyberweapon without even fully knowing the potentially destructive consequences. As the virus migrated out of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz and onto the internet, innumerable variables could have come into play, with the potential for disastrous outcomes.
But of course Stuxnet was not alone. The US and Israel also deployed both the Gauss and Flame viruses, two more sophisticated cyberweapons designed to cause major damage to online infrastructure. The Gauss virus, discovered by Kaspersky labs, one of the world’s most highly respected cyber-security firms, was designed to steal sensitive data such as financial records. According to the US officials who spoke with the Washington Post, the Flame virus was a: massive piece of malware [which] secretly mapped and monitored Iran’s computer networks, sending back a steady stream of intelligence to prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign… “This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action… Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.” said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today.
Clearly the US and Israel were not merely interested in surveillance and information-gathering, but actually having the ability to manipulate and destroy vital computer infrastructure in Iran. Any reasonable reading of international law should hold that such actions are, in fact, an act of war, though of course war with Iran has not come to pass. But just the very use of such sophisticated weapons, far more elaborate, technical, and dangerous than mere hacking by humans, should call into question the weepy-eyed condemnations of China for its alleged stealing of corporate and government information.
And then of course there is the seemingly endless supply of revelations from Edward Snowden regarding the US surveillance infrastructure, how all-encompassing it truly is, how it is used to manipulate political outcomes, how it is used as a weapon against foreign governments, and much more.
Just to name a few of the countless programs and initiatives of the NSA and the surveillance state designed to capture information for political purposes:
PRISM – allows “The National Security Agency and the FBI [to tap] directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs.”
BLARNEY – “Gathers up metadata from choke points along the backbone of the internet as part of an ongoing collection program the leverages IC (intelligence community) and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”
Boundless Informant – “Details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.”
US & UK Target G20 Leaders – “The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government.”
US Spied on EU Offices – “America’s National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions… in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the European Union representation’s computer network was also infiltrated.”
But of course, the US has also specifically, and successfully, trained its cyber-espionage and cyber-warfare sights on China itself. Thanks to Snowden, we now know that US intelligence repeatedly hacked into Beijing’s Tsinghua University, China’s top education and research institute. As revealed in the South China Morning Post:
The information also showed that the attacks on Tsinghua University were intensive and concerted efforts. In one single day of January, at least 63 computers and servers in Tsinghua University have been hacked by the NSA… The university is home to one of the mainland’s six major backbone networks, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) from where internet data from millions of Chinese citizens could be mined. The network was the country’s first internet backbone network and has evolved into the world’s largest national research hub.
But it wasn’t only Tsinghua University that was targeted. Snowden also revealed that Chinese University in Hong Kong was the victim of US hacking; the university is home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange, the city’s central hub for all internet traffic. In addition, it came out that US intelligence has repeatedly hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies, spied on users, and stolen data, including text messages. These are, of course, only what we know about thus far from the Snowden revelations. The scope of US hacking operations against China is not known, but could be safely assumed to be far-reaching.
In fact, the depth of US hacking and other intelligence operations targeting China, including those taking place inside China itself, has been alluded to repeatedly. The New York Times noted in August 2015 that the Obama administration was cautious about any retaliation against China for the breach of the Office of Personnel Management because “Intelligence officials say that any legal case could result in exposing American intelligence operations inside China — including the placement of thousands of implants in Chinese computer networks to warn of impending attacks.”
It is clear that what we do know about US cyberwar programs and tactics is really only the tip of the iceberg. It is likely that Washington has myriad other China-specific hacking programs and initiatives, including the much discussed attempts to subvert the oft referenced “Great Firewall of China.” Put simply, the US is engaged in the most sophisticated forms of hacking and cyber-subversion, and much of it is directed at China (and Russia and Iran). This should now be beyond question.
Keep this information in mind the next time another story about Chinese hackers attacking US interests runs in the corporate media. While the hack may or may not be true, it is the context within which such actions take place that really needs to be understood.
There is a cyberwar going on, of this there can be no doubt. But who’s got the biggest guns? And who fired the first shot?
Deutsche Bank will pay $258 million and fire six employees to resolve investigations by state and federal banking regulators into its dealings with countries like Iran and Syria in violation of United States sanctions laws.
Deutsche Bank, a German banking giant that has a big presence on Wall Street, will pay $200 million to the New York State Department of Financial Services and another $58 million to the Federal Reserve. It also agreed to appoint an independent monitor, the New York Times has reported.
It is the latest in a string of settlements over sanctions violations as regulators take aim at banks for doing business with blacklisted countries. Still, a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney and the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan are continuing, people briefed on the matter said.
In a statement, Deutsche Bank said: “We are pleased to have reached a resolution with the New York Department of Financial Services and the Federal Reserve. The conduct ceased several years ago, and since then we have terminated all business with parties from the countries involved.”
The activity under investigation occurred from 1999 to 2006, according to regulators. Deutsche Bank handled 27,200 dollar-clearing transactions valued at over $10.86 billion, for customers in Iran, Libya, Syria, Myanmar and Sudan.
Regulators said bank employees developed ways to hide the nature of the transactions from internal controls intended to flag problematic payments.
Several of the employees involved in the conduct have already left Deutsche Bank, regulators said Wednesday, but an additional six will be fired and three others will be banned from duties involving Deutsche Bank’s American operations.
Investigations and settlements of cases involving violations of United States sanctions are nearing their end just as Washington is easing its stance toward some foreign countries like Iran and Cuba.
With Iran testing ballistic missiles, the Russian military bombing in Syria, war grinding on in Yemen and Islamic State as deadly as ever, it may seem like a very dangerous time for the U.S. to find itself without an aircraft carrier near the Persian Gulf. Actually, it’s very unlikely to be a problem, and it’s a good occasion to reconsider the Navy’s plans to build a new fleet of superexpensive “supercarriers.” […]
A Navy war game in 2002 that simulated a swarm attack by speedboats of the type Iran has in the Gulf had devastating results: 16 major warships would be destroyed, including one aircraft carrier. Anti-ship weaponry has only grown more potent since then.
These massive ships were never intended to take on jihadists and other asymmetric threats. But it’s no longer clear that they would be useful in a war against a major power such as Russia or a middling one such as Iran. The Pentagon has spent billions outfitting aircraft carriers with air defenses that are unproven, and the relatively short range of their planes –- an F/A-18 Hornet has to turn around at roughly 500 miles — leaves them vulnerable to land-based missiles that can travel twice that far. … Full article
French bank Credit Agricole was accused by Washington of dealing with countries under US embargo and processing financial transactions for Sudan, Cuba and Iran through the United States. Several bank employees responsible for the transactions have already been fired, media reported.
The bank agreed to pay $800 million in fines for the illegal financial transactions carried out in the period from 2003 to 2008 on the territory of the United States, AFP reported, referring to a source familiar with the situation.
According to previous estimations, the bank had to pay US $900 million, but the amount was reduced through the course of negotiations.
The agreement may be announced this week, the source said. The bank is expected to fully recognize its guilt in violating US laws which would help it to avoid any prosecution. According to the source, some of the bankers responsible for the offense have already been dismissed.
Last year, French bank BNP Paribas agreed to pay $8.97 billion fine for violation of the sanctions regime against Cuba, Sudan and Iran.
The difference in the amount of the fines arises from the fact that the financial transactions carried out by Credit Agricole were smaller and that the bank agreed to cooperate with the authorities in a quicker manner.
The Iranian deputy foreign minister has criticized the US for employing double-standards in the fight against terrorism in Syria.
Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Washington has not taken any serious action against terrorist groups in Syria and continues its dubious strategy in the Arab country. Abdollahian was speaking with UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin in Tehran. He also called into question the sincerity of the so-called US-led coalition in Syria. Ezzeldin called Iran a major player in solving the Syrian crisis. He praised Iran’s effective role in restoring ceasefire in several Syrian regions, including Zabadani as well as Fuaa and Kafaria. Ezzeldin said the UN is seeking to form political committees, comprised of Syrians from across the political arena, to help end the crisis.
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Guest: Mohammad Marandi Professor, University of Tehran
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has made serious errors of law by insisting publicly that Iran’s recent missile test “was a clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929.” But, this reflects a basic ignorance of the UN-backed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which clearly states that with the new UN Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA, all the previous UN Security Council resolutions on Iran “will be terminated.”
Indeed, it is quite odd, and highly uncommon, that a top US diplomat should display such a grave ignorance of the content of an international agreement that has been endorsed by her government and in effect codified by the UN through the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was prefigured and explicitly anticipated by the JCPOA. According to the JCPOA’s “Annex on Implementation” (18.1),
“In accordance with the UN Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA, the provisions imposed
in UN Security Council resolutions…1929 (2010) will be terminated.”
In essence, this means that with the passage of Resolution 2231 (July, 2015), all the previous resolutions including 1929 have been rendered moot and, from the prism of UN laws, cannot be invoked by any UN member state, simply because those resolutions have been superseded by the new post-JCPOA resolution. Ambassador Power may need to consult with the law dictionary on the legal definition of “supersede”: Supersede “means to take the place of, as by reason of superior worth or right. A recently enacted statute that repeals an older law is said to supersede the prior legislation.”
Unfortunately, Ambassador Power’s errors are not limited to the careless oversight of the JCPOA’s content and extends to the new UNSC resolution as well. In her public statements denouncing the October 10th Iranian missile test, Ambassador Power has given the erroneous impression that the resolution 1929 “remains valid” until the JCPOA “goes into effect.” The mere fact that resolution 2231 has endorsed the JCPOA, which as stated above renders moot the previous resolutions including 1929, flatly contradicts this position of the US Ambassador, which reflects a serious oversight of the primacy of UN and international law. With the legal significance of resolution 2231 thus escaping her attention, Ambassador Power has clung to an untenable position that in effect makes a mockery of the Security Council and undermines its legitimacy.
According to the veteran US missile expert, professor Theodore Postol of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the US’s claim against Iran is “technical nonsense… We know the White House has made technically false statements about Iran in the past and it is astonishing that the US keeps engaging in this pattern that undermines US’s credibility.”
With respect to Ambassador Power’s categorical claim that Iran’s missile test represents a “violation of its international obligations,” suffice to say the following: First, Iran is among 30 nations in the world today that possess missile technology and no one ever accuses the other nations of flouting international norms and obligations by exercising their right of self-defense through missiles. Second, Ambassador Power has ignored the subtle language of resolution 2231 that imposes an 8-year ban on nuclear-related missile activity on Iran’s part and in Annex B calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Even the veteran US nuclear expert Anthony Cordesman has indirectly taken issue with Power’s position by admitting that the language of the new resolution is specific and raises the issue of purposeful design for nuclear warheads.
Indeed, the nub of the problem with the US’s condemnation of Iran’s missile test is that there is no tangible empirical and physical evidence to corroborate the accusation that Iran’s ballistic missiles are designed to be capable of carrying nuclear payload. As various Western nuclear experts have readily admitted, substantial technical modifications are necessary in order to substitute nuclear warheads for conventional warheads on Iran’s missiles. As the US’s own experience with the conventional modifications of the Trident missiles has shown, this is a formidable, and costly, task that requires a nuanced technical conceptualization — that is sadly lacking in the Iran-bashing discourse of Ambassador Power and other US officials who have made a giant leap of faith by misrepresenting Iran’s flight-test of its new generation of Emad conventional missile as “inherently nuclear-capable.” Attaching the latter label is clearly a clever public relations ploy rather than an apt, and sustainable, diplomatic move. Resolution 2231 Revisited Clearly, this resolution remains the new foundation of the UN’s approach to the Iran nuclear issue. The US’s interpretation led by Ambassador Power holds that the resolution requires a complete halt of all Iranian ballistic missile tests. Yet, this is not consistent with, nor mandated by, a straightforward reading of the text. If the Security Council is now poised, as a result of the US complaint, to revisit the provisions of resolution 2231, important evidence and interpretive tools on how that resolution should be read need to be examined. For one thing, the US interpretation omits the drafting history of JCPOA, that triggered the 2231, and was strictly narrow-focused on the nuclear issue and did not extend to the issue of Iran’s conventional arms (and their delivery systems). Also, parallel language in other UNSC resolutions, such as 242, can be used to shed light on the meaning of resolution 2231.
Specifically, this resolution’s nuanced and unambiguous language on the ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” suggests that the text has a fixed meaning, in light of the fact that “designed” is synonymous with a purposeful activity. In fact, what is lacking in the US claim against Iran above-mentioned is a “plain meaning” interpretation of resolution 2231 — that refers to deliberate design of any nuclear-capable missile. There is a full array of UN precedents and opino juris that supports Iran’s position that the resolution’s prohibition on missile tests is not absolute. In other words, the mere allegation that Iran’s conventional missiles can be, technically speaking, converted to nuclear-capable missiles, is not sufficient. By using unambiguous wording, the resolution has clearly implied a distinction between conventional missiles and those that are deliberately designed to be nuclear-capable, yet somehow this important yet delicate difference has evaded the US diplomats, whose arguments are based mostly on an illicit inference, one that generalizes a specific prohibited activity.
But, because Iran’s conventional missiles are not brared under international norms and require flight tests as part of routine upgrade, they do not fall under the prohibitions of nuclear-related tests envisioned in the new UNSC resolution. Any attempt to deprive Iran of its important missile defense capability would not only be illegal, from the prism of international law, it would also be a stab at regional stability, given the crucial role of Iran’s missiles in the context of regional arms race and the imbalances resulting from the sanctions on Iran and the huge arms sales to Iran’s Arab neighbors in Persian Gulf. Iran’s new precision-guided missiles represent a qualitative improvement in terms of the responsiveness, range, speed, precision, lethality, and freedom of maneuver, which cannot possibly be achieved without conducting flight-tests. As important and vital components of the nation’s strategic deterrence, these missiles cannot be put on the UN’s black list simply because a Western superpower might dislike their deterrent value and seek to target them through the UN machinery.