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Here’s why Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US are not going to invade Iran

Is the Arab League fanning the flames of war or merely blowing smoke?

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Members of the Arab League have met in Cairo at the behest of the Saudi regime, to discuss the supposed “threat of Iran”. The meeting featured all the crude, undiplomatic and nonfactual language about Iran that one has come to expect from American, Israeli and Saudi Arabian spokesmen.

Highlights from the meeting included a statement from the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir who stated,

“We will not stand idly by in the face of Iran’s aggression….Showing leniency toward Iran will not leave any Arab capital safe from those ballistic missiles….

Iran created agents in the region, such as the Houthi and Hezbollah militias, in total disregard for all international principles”.

These meritless statements are almost identical to that which is frequently said by the US White House and Tel Aviv. In this sense, there was nothing novel about the meeting. What was remarkable was how hastily the meeting was organised as if to demonstrate Saudi’s commitment to its “clear and present danger” narrative about Iran.

Furthermore, a statement was released at the Arab League meeting, saying that there are no immediate plans to go to war with Iran but that at the same time, such plans have not been ruled out.

To quickly sum-up just how ridiculous the statements made during the Arab League meeting were

1. Iran’s missile programme is perfectly legal and is not covered by the JCPOA. The UN has said this many times.

2. Iran is currently at war with zero nations while Saudi is at war with Yemen causing one of the largest humanitarian disasters in the 21st century. Saudi Arabia has also been exposed as a major source of terrorist sponsorship, including in Iraq, Syria, Libya and beyond.

3. Iran has come to the legal assistance of Syria and Iraq in fighting terrorists groups including ISIS and al-Qaeda, while Saudi Arabia has known links to ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Of course, for the states with an obscene anti-Iranian agenda, none of this has ever mattered.

What does matter to the rest of the world though is whether the threats from the Arab league, indicated a short and/or medium-term readiness for war against Iran?

The short answer is, they almost certainly do not.

The Arab League today is a shadow of its former self. With the Syrian Arab Republic’s membership suspended, Qatar facing a boycott from proponent members, Iraq having better relations with Iran than most Arab states and Lebanon being deprived of its Prime Minister due to Saudi political meddling, the Arab League is hardly a united body of strong nations. It has declined so much so, that it is increasingly little more than a Saudi and GCC dominated organisation which is used in attempts to gain some form of broader international legitimacy for Riyadh’s often ridiculous foreign policy statements.

However, Riyadh’s ability to unite the Arab world over any matter, let alone an act of war, amounts little. Syria, Iraq and due to its multi-confessional history, Lebanon, would never go to war against Iran. In fact, the Iraqi armed forces, Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah and other volunteers from Lebanon would almost certainly fight with Iran, during the course of any Saudi led military action against Tehran.

Qatar, whose armed forces are small as it is, would never join any military ‘crusade’ led by its Saudi opponent and the fact remains that Doha’s slowly expanding relations with Iran have been one of the reasons for the Saudi led boycott of Qatar. Libya can no longer be called a functional state, while further into the Maghreb, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are far removed from Iran issue, in spite of their Arab league membership. Saudi’s GCC allies, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and to a lesser degree Oman, simply have little to offer in respect of any military coalition.

The biggest question mark which remains, is Egypt. Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world and likewise, boasts the biggest Army in the Arab world.

In order to even approach effectiveness, Egypt would have to join any would be anti-Iranian Arab League coalition. As to whether Egypt would join, one can objectively say that the incentives for not joining, far outweigh those that might compel Egypt to enter into a war pact with Saudi Arabia, against Iran.

Ever since secular rule was restored to Egypt in 2013, after US backed regime change against former President Hosni Mubarak briefly brought the once again illegal Muslim Brotherhood to power, Egypt has been in a position wherein promoting internal stability has been far more important than international outreach. Furthermore, while the Egyptian government is disproportionately dependant on Saudi cash injections in order to stay afloat, Cairo continues to show surprising amounts of foreign policy independence at times.

Egypt recently expressed disapproval of US attempts to extend a UN mandate for investigating “chemical weapons” in Syria. Egypt has further made strong statements in favour of Syria’s territorial unity, backed up by remarks that only a political solution can bring peace to Syria. This language is very similar to that used by Russian diplomats which should come as no surprise, as the foreign ministries of Egypt and Russia have a very good relationship. Furthermore, when it comes to Egypt’s most pressing international issue, that of terrorists in neighbouring Libya, Russia appears far more inclined to support the Cairo backed Libyan National Army than the fledgling Government of National Accord which is supported by the US and EU.

Furthermore, Egypt recently rejected calls from Riyadh to economically sanction the Lebanese party Hezbollah, in a move which shows a clear divergence from Saudi policies on Hezbollah.

While Egypt is compromised by its financial ties to Saudi Arabia, Egypt still seeks to balance out its old Arab Nationalist history as a fiercely independent and anti-imperialist nation with the modern realities of being far less influential than in the days of Nasser and the early days of Sadat.

Furthermore, in spite of its formal diplomatic ties with Israel, Cairo is all too aware that if the situation inside Egypt, especially in respect of the Sinai Peninsula were to become destabilised, Egypt could not afford to have its armed forces in distant Iran. This is especially true as Israel is ready to exploit any instability on Sinai to its own advantage. If anyone thinks that Israel somehow respects Egypt just because diplomatic relations were established, this view is, to put it mildly, delusional. Israel will exploit any country and any situation it can and Egypt is no exception. The same is true of Jordan, the only other country which has formal relations with Tel Aviv. Jordan, like Egypt is far more concerned with its own immediate neighbourhood than with Iran.

Israel’s designs on Gaza may indicate plans to invade Egypt

In this sense, in spite of whatever financial incentives Saudi might offer Egypt for backing military efforts against Iran, the preponderance of evidence would demonstrate that Egypt would refrain from actively participating.

When asked to consider the position of the Vatican in geo-political affairs, Josef Stalin is thought to have said, “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?”.

In this sense, looking at the disunity in the Arab world, Iran could easily turn to Riyadh and say “how many divisions have you got”? The answer is not enough to seriously challenge Iran, while Iran certainly has enough divisions and enough regional allies to challenge and beat Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies.

Then there is the matter of Israel, the US and Turkey.

When it comes to antagonising regional powers that Tel Aviv doesn’t like, the Israeli regime’s military is all too happy to conduct strikes and even occupy territory. Israel occupied party of Egypt between 1967 and 1982 and part of Lebanon between 1982 and 2006. Israel continues to occupy Syria and military strikes from Israel against Syria have happened on and off for the last several decades.

Likewise, Israel attacked Iraq in 1981 in a short airstrike against a French built Iraqi nuclear reactor.

All of these actions have been illegal and Tel Aviv simply doesn’t care. Why should they care about Iran in this case? The answer is because Iran today is far more powerful than any of the aforementioned countries that Israel attacked and it also has many regional allies stretching from Iran itself to the borders of Israeli regime controlled territory.

Israel has not attacked Iran in the way it has so frivolously attacked parts of the Arab world. Israel has not done this because Tel Aviv knows Iran would strike back and so too would Iran’s allies in southern Lebanon. Furthermore, with Turkey becoming ever more distant with NATO, the west and Israel, all the while growing ever closer to its Eurasian partners, including neighbouring Iran, there is no guarantee that Turkey would remain neutral in such a conflict.

Turkey does not want any instability on its border with Iran. This is one of the reasons that both countries cooperated in the building of an anti-terrorist rampart on their borders. Turkey knows that any further regional instability would only hurt Turkey’s short term security prospects and its long time financial prospects. If Turkey even gave air support to Iran, the entire conflict would be ‘game over’ for the anti-Iranian powers, unless Israel decided to use its nuclear weapons.

As Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah recently stated, Israel prefers short blitzkrieg style conflicts that it can win rapidly at little material cost or bloodshed from its own side. History has shown such an analysis to be absolutely correct. Furthermore, as Israel’s last attempt to conduct such a war against Lebanon in 2006 failed, Israel has reverted to measures which from its perspective are more realistically “productive” such as short, illegal airstrikes against Syria and military manoeuvres intended as provocations against Lebanon.

Any war with Iran would be much more difficult for Israel to conduct. In many ways it would be impossible, short of Tel Aviv using its nuclear weapons in what Israel watchers know to be called the “Samson Option”.

Such extreme measures would likely be opposed even by the United States. While the Trump administration continues to turn up the volume on anti-Iranian rhetoric, many more level headed individuals in the Pentagon and State Department are totally opposed to war on Iran. These people know that the cost of such a war would be incredibly high and that the US might ultimately lose.

In this sense, with Israel too afraid to attack Iran and while still too restrained by the US to go nuclear, with the Pentagon generally opposed to direct military action against Iran and with Saudi Arabia incapable of pulling together a genuine Arab coalition capable of fighting against Iran, there is little chance that any nation short of one on a suicide mission, would attempt to declare war on Iran.

Much like any war on North Korea, a war on Iran would bring unparalleled destruction to the entire region, and no invading party’s victory would be assured. In other-words, Iran has more or less checkmated the situation, largely in its favour and all without firing a shot, while if anything gaining rather than losing allies.

The Arab League, Israel and the US can certainly blow smoke, but when it comes to attacking Iran directly, even these countries are not quite foolish enough to start that fire.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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