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The last thing the overstretched US military needs is war with Iran

Why the U.S. Military Should Stay Out Of Iran…

Alex Christoforou

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Danny Sjursen is a fellow at Defense Priorities. He served combat tours with U.S. Army reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Via The Editor at Breaking Defense

It’s not that often that a major in the US military — albeit now a reservist — points the finger at the Defense Secretary and says, sir, you’re wrong, and does it in writing and in public. Here you have it. Army Maj. Danny Sjursen, expressing his own unofficial opinions, says Iran is Jim Mattis’ blind spot and that his boss is wrong in his assessments of the country. Why? Read on, Dear Reader!

Why the U.S. Military Should Stay Out Of Iran” by Maj Danny Sjursen…

Last week, after Israel reportedly shot down an Iranian drone and Prime Minister Netanyahu proudly displayed a hunk of twisted metal as a war trophy, Americans were treated to fresh calls for regime change from some prominent neoconservatives.

Granted, Iran is no friend to the U.S. and might even qualify as a modest adversary. Its nuclear ambitions should continue to be thwarted, as most reports indicate they are. Still, what Washington desperately needs right now is some perspective and an honest conversation about the realities of the Middle East. Not alarmism. The last thing the overstretched U.S. military needs is another hot war. It’s already pretty busy. President Obama bombed seven countries in 2016, and President Trump has continued apace.

There’s reason to worry. Trump, who ran on an eminently reasonable platform of disengagement from “dumb” wars in the region, quickly pivoted to a hawkish stance on the Islamic Republic. In December, when protestors hit the streets of Tehran based on mostly economic motives, Trump immediately rallied in support and not-so-subtlety tweeted “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever.” Except, that is, for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other illiberal authoritarian regimes we support.

Perhaps Trump simply meant the people of Iran would topple the ayatollahs, but if the recently released National Defense Strategy is any indicator — it lists Iran as one of four core threats —U.S.-imposed regime change is certainly on the table.

It shouldn’t be. At present, Iran does not present a clear and present vital threat to American national security. Statements from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, however, indicate he disagrees.

Mattis’ Blind Spot

The secretary is the boss, my boss, but his focus on the Iranian regime qualifies as his blind spot, a veritable Iran obsession.

Since at least 2011, Mattis has overstated the Iranian threat and hinted at toppling the regime in Tehran. And he’s only doubling down. This past May, Mattis told “Face the Nation,” that “what we find is, wherever there are challenges, wherever there is chaos, wherever there is violence, whether it be in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, the attempts to unsettle Bahrain. We always find Iran and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] at it.” He also once told then-President Obama that the top three threats in the Middle East were “Iran, Iran, Iran.” That sounds excessive.

Iran spends about as much on defense annually as the U.S. does on a single aircraft carrier. A simple comparison is instructive: Iran’s GDP was about $427 billion, and it spent some $11.5 billion on defense in 2016. U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia (GDP: $678 billion; defense spending: $66.7 billion) and Israel (GDP: $348 billion; defense spending: $19.6 billion) can more than hold their own. And remember, standing behind them is the real behemoth, the U.S., which plans to spend $716 billion on defense in 2019—that’s $300 billion more than Iran’s entire GDP. The numbers speak for themselves. Conclusion: some perspective is in order.

While Iran definitely is engaged in the Mid-East, its own neighborhood, it’s rarely behind much of anything and doesn’t have nearly the power or influence to pull all the various regional strings. Yemeni and Bahraini unrest were homegrown. Conflict in Syria and Lebanon preceded Iranian deployments there. And Iraq, well, the U.S. handed Baghdad to Iran on a silver platter after that ill-fated invasion. Iran use regional proxies, rather than its own military, precisely because it is weak and fearful.

Furthermore, though he’s recently backed off some of his most bellicose threats, Mattis regularly draws distinctions between the supposedly disenfranchised people of Iran and an ostensibly separate revolutionary regime. There’s something to this, but in Mattis’ statements, it sounds like he’s calling for the fall of the regime. “It’s not the Iranian people,” Mattis added. “We are convinced it’s a regime that is conducting itself in order to stay in power in Tehran as a revolutionary regime, not as a proper nation-state. They are not looking out for the best interests of their own people.”

Maybe that’s true enough, but surely dozens of governments fail to represent their populace the world over. That doesn’t necessitate regime change, does it? Such rhetoric raises tensions and threatens to stoke nationalist tendencies in Iran which work to the advantage of relative hardliners.

The View from Tehran

After all, try and view the last decade of U.S. military actions from Tehran. Washington toppled and seemingly permanently occupied Iran’s neighbors on its western (Iraq) and eastern (Afghanistan) flanks, encircled the country with its military bases, and intervened in just about every country in its neighborhood.

I remember way back in August 2002, and even then the rhetoric was chilling: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran,” a British official close to the President Bush team told Newsweek in the lead up to the Iraq War. Who could rationally blame Iran’s leaders for fearing they were next? And who would be surprised to see them turn to Shia militias to trap the U.S. military in a Baghdad quagmire? That’s basic survival instincts. While not excusing their tactics, it’s undeniable that their approach enhanced their standing vis-à-vis Iraq and the region—an unintended consequence of ousting Saddam Hussein.

Iranians also have a long memory. The CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected government in Tehran in 1953. Then, throughout the 1980s, the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s brutal invasion of Iran. Heck, President Reagan even sent one Donald Rumsfeld (remember him?) to make nice with Saddam.

None of this sordid history obviates Iran from acting responsibly in the region—but this must serve as a reality check for Washington’s triumphalism and an unfathomable commitment to strategic overreach. Walking the proverbial mile in an adversary’s shoes isn’t “soft,” it’s smart. Only by understanding the motives of other countries can we correctly predict and counter actions that undermine America’s interests.

Military Action: A Bad Idea

Iran’s military is far from the imposing behemoth threat of hawkish imagination. In fact, Saudi Arabia is much better armed and could likely handle Iran by itself—remember, it spends more than five times much on its military than Iran.

Nonetheless, Iran is spatially large and mountainous with an enormous, fiercely nationalist population. Make no mistake, U.S. military occupation of the Islamic Republic would make the Iraq War, for once, actually look like the “cakewalk” it was billed to be.

America’s armed forces are currently spread thin in a dozen simultaneous operations and deployed in nearly 70 percent of the world’s countries. The Army alone is rotating brigades to deter Russia in Eastern Europe; manning the DMZ in South Korea; training and advising across Africa; conducting raids in Somalia, Yemen, and Niger; and actively fighting in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

So where are the troops available to topple Tehran? They don’t exist. The U.S. military is already running at full throttle, and the American people won’t be flocking to recruiters to stave off an overhyped, distant Iranian threat. The polling data is clear: Americans don’t want another war.

Ubiquitous, over-the-top proclamations aside, Iran’s various regional interventions have been more cost than benefit for Tehran and largely defensive in nature—look no further than recent protests throughout Iran for proof. Iran isn’t seeking a New Persia any more, or less, than our purported Turkish (NATO) ally’s dream of a revamped Ottoman Empire. That’s rhetoric, not reality. And these days, with Turkish tanks just miles from U.S. forces in Syria and openly threatening Washington, guess who the greater threat is?

Indeed, it might be time for Washington to swallow its pride and admit to some common interests with Iran in the region—the defeat of ISIS, suppression on Sunni Islamists, and a stable, non-threatening Afghanistan—rather than harping on the exaggerated negatives.

Look, I don’t take any of this lightly. Iranian-supplied bombs killed two of my soldiers on January 25, 2007. Still, it’s important to remember, no Iranians have attacked the homeland since 9/11 (not something that can be said of our many autocratic “allies” in the region). The proper role of the U.S. military is to prevent enemies killing Americans, not to keep rival Mid-East factions from killing each other.

Forget a new war. Iran isn’t worth it. Not now, probably not ever. The U.S. military is busy, thank you very much. And any trouble it causes can easily be countered by our partners and allies in the region.

Washington should ditch the alarmism and get real in the complex Middle East.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

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Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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