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Here’s why Trump’s allying with Saudi Arabia against Iran is complete folly

US President Trump is proposing to give $300 billion of arms to a Saudi regime led by the reckless Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is openly talking of launching a pre-emptive war against Iran.

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most concerning things about President Trump, which has become increasingly obvious ever since he was inaugurated President, is that he is a President who those around him find very easy to manipulate.  There are numerous reports, which I believe, that he tends to do whatever the last person he speaks to urges him to do.

Unfortunately Trump’s intense hostility to Iran means that he has just been manipulated by arguably the most dangerous man on the planet, with the result that the US is now drifting into an alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran.

That Iran is in almost every respect a far more modern and far more democratic society that Saudi Arabia is or can ever be I have previously discussed.  That under the leadership of its de facto ruler – the 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – Saudi Arabia is on course to bankrupting itself, making it an inherently unstable partner and ally, I have also recently pointed out.

The problems with the leadership Prince Mohammed bin Salman do not however end at the Saudi border.  His public comments show that he is also pathologically hostile to Iran, more so – if that is possible – that any other Saudi leader.  Consider for example his quite extraordinary and very alarming comments about Iran in his recent interview with Al-Arabiya, a media broadcaster funded by the Saudis which reflects their views

Can we see a direct dialogue with Iran in the future despite what it is doing in the region?

How do you communicate with someone or a regime that’s completely convinced that its system is based on an extremist ideology that relies on texts in its constitution and in Khomeini’s legacy and that stipulates that it must control Muslims in the Islamic world and spread the Twelver Jaafari sect in the Islamic world so Imam Mahdi comes.

How do I convince these of anything? What interests are there between me and them? How do I communicate with them?

When there’s a problem between me and another state, we begin by solving it. For example, if there’s an economic problem, we communicate and I see what you want and you see what I want and we understand how to address the problem.

If, for example, it is a political problem, like the case is with Russia and how we communicate regarding Syria, we discuss what their interests are and what my interests are.

How do we communicate on Yemen? We discuss interests.

But with Iran, how do we communicate? Their logic is based on the notion that Imam Mahdi will come and that they must prepare the fertile environment for his arrival and they must control the Muslim world.

They deprived their own people of development for more than 30 years and put them through starvation. The people have bad infrastructure because the regime only wants to achieve this aim related to Imam Mahdi.

The regime will not change its mindset overnight; otherwise, its legitimacy inside Iran will come to an end.

The mutual points, which we can agree on with this regime, are almost non-existent.

This regime was tested during more than one phase, like during the time of Rafsanjani and everything turned out to be mere charades. The strategy of expansion was adopted after the Khomeini revolution happened. When the world got angry, they brought a peaceful leader and at the time it was Rafsanjani. They did that to gain the trust of the world and our trust. They gained our trust.

After that they got to another phase of providing a good environment, an extremist leader was assigned so the expansion resumes. This is what we saw during the reign of Ahmedinejad and we saw how they expanded in Iraq, Syria and other areas.

Then they’d assign another leader to maintain the gains and satisfy the rest of the world (NB:this comment clearly refers to President Rouhani – AM).

Then they’d again assign an extremist leader to resume expansion.

This will not happen. This is over. A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.

We were bitten once. We will not be bitten again.

We know we are a major target for the Iranian regime. Reaching the Muslims’ qibla is a major aim for the Iranian regime.

We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but we will work so the battle is there in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.

(bold italics added)

This is paranoid stuff.  It says that regardless of what ruler the Iranian people choose, and regardless of what the Iranians themselves say, Iran is in reality always on a mission to conquer Saudi Arabia and all Muslims everywhere, supposedly because Khomeini programmed Iran that way and Iran’s constitution requires it, and nothing can ever change it.

I cannot speak of Khomeini, though I remember him well and I cannot remember anyone reporting him speaking in this way.  However the text of Iran’s constitution can be easily found, and it contains none of the apocalyptic and megalomaniac injunctions Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it does.  Instead it contains provisions like this

Article 11

In accordance with the sacred verse of the Qur’an (“This your community is a single community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me” [21:92]), all Muslims form a single nation, and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has the duty of formulating its general policies with a view to cultivating the friendship and unity of all Muslim peoples, and it must constantly strive to bring about the political, economic, and cultural unity of the Islamic world.

Freedom of religion

Article 12

Official religion

The official religion of Iran is Islam and the Twelver Ja’farî school [in usul al-Dîn and fiqh], and this principle will remain eternally immutable. Other Islamic schools, including the Hanafî, Shafi’î, Malikî, Hanbalî, and Zaydî, are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites. These schools enjoy official status in matters pertaining to religious education, affairs of personal status (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and wills) and related litigation in courts of law. In regions of the country where Muslims following any one of these schools of fiqh constitute the majority, local regulations, within the bounds of the jurisdiction of local councils, are to be in accordance with the respective school of fiqh, without infringing upon the rights of the followers of other schools.

Article 13

Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.

Article 14

In accordance with the sacred verse (“God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with those who have not fought against you because of your religion and who have not expelled you from your homes” [60:8]), the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

…….

Foreign Policy

Article 152

The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based upon the rejection of all forms of domination, both the exertion of it and submission to it, the preservation of the independence of the country in all respects and its territorial integrity, the defence of the rights of all Muslims, non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers, and the maintenance of mutually peaceful relations with all non-belligerent States.

Ownership of natural resources

Article 153 Any form of agreement resulting in foreign control over the natural resources, economy, army, or culture of the country, as well as other aspects of the national life, is forbidden.

Right to self determination

Article 154

The Islamic Republic of Iran has as its ideal human felicity throughout human society, and considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world. Accordingly, while scrupulously refraining from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of the mustad’afun (the oppressed – AM) against the mustakbirun (the oppressors – AM) in every corner of the globe.

Some of these provisions are based on general Islamic concepts universally shared by all Muslims, whilst others reflect the origins of Iran’s Islamic Republic in the revolution that brought down the Shah.  Others are standard provisions common to most constitutions.

The provision in Article 11 about the essential unity of all Muslims – including Sunni and Shi’a Muslims – and of all Muslims forming a single community of believers, is one that all Muslims share or are supposed to share.  It does not imply a desire to conquer other Muslim states as part of some apocalyptic project to pave the way for the coming of the Mahdi.  On the contrary Article 152 specifically rejects “all forms of domination, both the exertion of it and submission to it”, whilst Article 12 calls for respect to be shown to other forms of Islam – including Sunni Islam – and Article 13 calls for similar respect to be shown to Iran’s historical religious minorities, the Zoroastrians, the Christians and the Jews.

As for Article 154, the provision aligning Iran with the struggle of the oppressed everywhere reflects Khomeini’s ideas and the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary origins.  The Oxford Dictionary of Islam explains the concept in this way

Mustad’afun: the lower classes; the downtrodden; the meek; “the barefoot.” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (d. 1989 ) popularized this concept in revolutionary Iran. The term also refers to those who are deprived of the opportunity to develop their full potential. Khomeini spoke of two diametrically opposed versions of Islam: that of the mutakbarun (the rich and arrogant) and that of the mustadafun. This group was Khomeini’s popular base of support; he maintained that the Islamic revolution ( 1979 ) was made by the mustadafun and must serve their interests.

One can see why the Saudis and Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be not be happy with this, and might see Islam interpreted in this way as a threat to their positions.  However the fact remains that this is a stance ultimately rooted in the ideology of post Second World War anti-colonialist movements, possibly also drawing ideas from 1970s Catholic Liberation theology and Marxist class struggle theories, such as might be expected of a 1970s revolutionary leader, which is what Khomeini ultimately was.  It is not a theological call to conquer the Muslim world in order to pave the way for the Mahdi, and the wording does not allow for it to be interpreted in that way.

The problem is that not only does Prince Mohammed bin Salman make all these groundless and paranoid assertions about Iran, but in typical Dr. Strangelove fashion he talks of launching a pre-emptive war to prevent the terrifying things he expects from Iran from coming to pass.  How else is one to interpret his astonishing comment about “not wait(ing) until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but….work(ing) so the battle is there in Iran….”.

This is the man, with his alarming combination of recklessness and paranoia, with whom Trump is aligning the US.  Moreover Trump has now agreed to give this man – who is openly talking of launching a pre-emptive war against Iran – $300 billion of US weapons to upgrade his military.

Even Prince Mohammed bin Salman probably realises that even with this tidal wave of weapons Saudi Arabia can never by itself defeat Iran.  However by lending him US support Trump is also making it possible for Prince Mohammed bin Salman to leverage US support in order to create what he obviously intends to be a Saudi led Sunni grand coalition against Iran.

This is what the so-called Riyadh Declaration – signed by Trump and 55 other Muslim leaders during Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia – is all about.  That it is Iran and not Al-Qaeda or ISIS which is the primary target is obvious from the text.  This straightforwardly sets up a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia with its headquarters in Riyadh.  Its purpose supposedly is to fight terrorism.  However Al-Qaeda and ISIS – the two great terrorist organisations which straddle the Middle East – are mentioned in the case of ISIS only once, whilst Al-Qaeda is never mentioned at all.  Contrast this with what the Riyadh Declaration has to say about Iran

2- The leaders confirmed their absolute rejection of the practices of the Iranian regime designed to destabilize the security and stability of the region and the world at large and for its continuing support for terrorism and extremism.

3- The leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s hostile positions and continuing interference in the domestic affairs of other countries in a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and good neighborhood, confirming their commitment to confront that.

4- The leaders are committed to intensify their efforts to observe the security of the region and the world at large, and firmly confront the subversive and destructive Iranian activities inside their countries and through joint coordination.

5- The leaders underlined the dangerous Iranian ballistic missiles program and denounced the Iranian regime’s continuing violations for Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It is impossible to avoid the impression that alongside his wildly over-ambitious domestic and economic policies, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also intends a war against Iran, and is trying to involve both the US and the rest of the Muslim world in it.

In reality Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans are most unlikely to work out as he imagines.

Firstly, it is barely conceivable that most of the other Muslim leaders who signed the Riyadh Declaration seriously intend to involve their countries in a Saudi led war against Iran.  Probably they only signed the Declaration in order to get their hands on the Saudis’ money. Once it is in their pockets all the brave words about a Saudi led alliance against Iran will surely be quietly forgotten.

Secondly, one has to wonder how enthusiastic the US public will be if one day its leaders demand that the US go to war with Iran to extricate Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia from whatever mess they get themselves into.

As for the Saudi military, as my colleague Adam Garrie rightly says, its performance in combat has been dismal.  It has failed to defeat even the lightly armed Houthi militia in Iran, and even with $300 billion of extra weapons from the US it stands no chance of ever defeating Iran.

The fact that Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans for war against Iran are completely unrealistic – just as his grandiose economic schemes are – does not however make him any the less dangerous.

The fact remains that President Trump – almost certainly without fully realising it – is committing the US to support the reckless projects of a wilful young man with overweening ambitions and only a tenuous grasp of reality, who is talking – apparently in all seriousness – of setting the whole Middle East on fire by launching a war against Iran.

That in itself in itself should be a cause of serious concern.  However in the US it seems it barely is.

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Trump Weighs In On The Single Worst Mistake In American History

Trump hits Bush: Invading Iraq ‘the single worst decision ever made’.

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Via Zerohedge


In a wide ranging interview with The Hill on Tuesday conducted in the Oval Office, President Trump was asked to give his take on the biggest mistake in American history.

Considering just how open-ended a question that is, it’s perhaps surprising that he merely went back less than a couple decades into the Bush presidency, though Trump’s base will certainly welcome it as it hearkens back to his “America First” foreign policy vision of the campaign trail.

“The worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country: going into the Middle East, by President Bush,” the president during his interview with Hill.TV.

“Obama may have gotten them (U.S. soldiers) out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country,” he said.

Trump explained the reasoning behind this choice, and why it wasn’t something like the civil war or another defining and devastating event reaching far into American History.

“Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, ‘oh gee, let’s not do it. Seven trillion, and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives,” the president explained.

Some scholars and humanitarian groups estimate that over one million Iraqis were killed in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. A 2008 Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll, for example, found that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war.

“To me it’s the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.”

Various estimates on the Iraq war’s cost have put the total taxpayer bill as low as near $2 trillion, but none dispute that it is in the multiple trillions, and estimates will vary widely depending on if veteran care is factored into it.

The comments echo things Trump said on the campaign trail in 2016. For example during one of his first major foreign policy speeches then candidate Trump said, “I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.” And referencing the famous quote of John Quincy Adams, he said during the same speech, “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies.”

He had previously shocked pundits for being the first Republican nominee for president to trash George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and has more recently likened it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest”.

All of this is a hopeful sign considering the extremely heightened and dangerous tensions over Syria this week, and given Trump seems to have vacillated between “bringing the troops home” and getting more involved. On Monday Trump hinted that a decision on the U.S. role in Syria is coming soon.

Commenting on the over 2,000 troops now in Syria ostensibly as part of the “anti-ISIL” coalition campaign, Trump indicated this mission could end soon: “We’re very close to being finished with that job,” he said. He followed with: “And then we’re going to make a determination as to what we’re going to do.”

We consider it a hopeful and a good sign that Trump is possibly revisiting his “America First” foreign policy pledges by identifying the Iraq War as the worst mistake in US history.

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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