If the US tries to invade Iran, it will face the same fate that the government of Saddam Hussein did when it launched a war against the Islamic Republic, Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said in a statement.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRSG) said it “will make sure the American regime will end up being destroyed just like Saddam’s regime,” if Washington chooses to go to war.
The threat comes after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and declared a 12-point ultimatum to Tehran, which includes stopping all uranium enrichment, withdrawing militia troops from Iraq and Syria, and otherwise submitting to US foreign policy goals.
Iran rejected the demands and is working with other parties to the deal, including China, Russia, Britain, France, and the EU, which criticized Washington’s decision to pull out of the deal and escalate tensions with Iran.
In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq engaged in a bloody eight-year war which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein received support from Western nations, including the US, despite committing well-documented atrocities like using chemical weapons against Iran.
More than two decades after the inconclusive end to the conflict, the Iraqi leader himself was targeted by the US and its allies, which ousted him during the 2003 invasion. He was later executed by the new Iraqi government.
In the Trump speech last night, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.
Presidents’ State of the Union speeches used to report on accomplishments of the past year and proposals for new programs and policy changes for the next. Just as the country we once knew, those days are long gone.
In the 21st century, the format is mostly theatrical: The president offers a short sentence about how wonderful America is, cuts his sentence short, and waits for applause. The Congress rises and claps longer than the spoken sentence that brought them to their feet. This goes on every 15 seconds. Sometimes less. Up and down, up and down. Turn off the volume, and it’s similar to canned laughter in a TV situation comedy—with the visual effect of bouncing butts replacing the canned laughter. Except it’s all more tragic than it is comedic.
A stranger viewing for the first time must conclude that something anatomically must be wrong with their backsides. Up-down, up-down. But when the incessant pattern of ‘short phrase, rise and clap too long, sit down’ threatens to become too repetitive, a new theatrical effect is introduced. Now it’s the president introducing staged character actors in the gallery above the floor, each introduction providing an appeal to the tv audience’s emotions. In the Trump speech last night, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.
First, there was ‘Ashley, the helicopter lady,’ then ‘Dolberg the firefighter,’ Congressman Scalise, whose only claim to fame was he got himself shot (definitely not on the level of the other ‘heroes’), followed. And how about the 12-year-old ‘Preston the flag boy,’ with whom Trump said he had a great conversation before the speech. (I’m sure it was of comparable intellect).
But clever by far was the next gallery event, the four parents whose kids were killed by MS13 gang members in Long Island, NY. All four were black, apparently to blunt the racist appeal by Trump injected into the scene, suggesting that all immigrants were gang members who came here as a result of ‘chained migration’ family policy. I guess MS13 gangsters never killed whites.
Not surprisingly, the next gallery scene was the ICE agent, a guy named Martinez who heroically smashed the MS13 gangsters. Of course, he too was Hispanic.
Both theatrical scenes dealing with ‘immigrant gangsters arriving by chained migration’ provided Trump a nice segway into describing his ‘4 pillars’ immigration bill, the only policy proposal he actually spelled out in his nearly hour and a half speech.
For a pathway to citizenship that would take 12 years for ‘Dreamer’ kids, Trump would have his $30 billion-plus border wall, a new immigration policy based on ‘merit’ (welcome Norwegians), as well as an end to family ‘chained migration policy’ (which somehow would also protect the nuclear family, according to Trump). The message: white folks’ nuclear families good; immigrant folks’ (especially Latino) extended families bad, was the suggested logic.
What it all added up to? If Democrats agreed to his pillars 2-4 right now, maybe there would be citizenship for Dreamers sometime by 2030! What a deal. But who knows, maybe the Democrats will take it, given that they retreated from their prior ‘line in the sand’ of pass DACA and dreamers or they’ll shut down the government.
The next theater event was no less interesting than the immigration scenes in the Trump play that was the presidential State of the Union address last night. In typical Trumpian worship of the police and military, Trump (the draft dodger) introduced an Albuquerque policeman in the gallery who had talked a pregnant woman on drugs from committing suicide. Seems the woman was desperate about bringing a kid into the world she’d be unable to afford to raise. The solution by the policeman was to offer to adopt her baby if she didn’t kill herself. It worked. The kid and mother were saved, and the policeman adopted the child. The policeman’s wife accompanied him in the gallery—with an infant in her arms of course. Not sure whose it was but no matter. Now that was double theater, a scene within a scene. Shakespeare would have been proud.
That impressive bit of theater, perhaps the high point of all the ‘gallery effects’ of the evening, was the intro to Trump’s solution to the Opioid crisis in America, where 60,000 a year now die from overdoses. In his speech, Trump’s solution to the opioid crisis was ‘let’s get tougher on drug dealers’. He failed to mention, of course, that the drug dealers in question most responsible for launching the opioid crisis were the prescription drug companies themselves who pushed their products like Fentanyl and Percoset on doctors a decade ago, telling them the drugs weren’t addictive.
As for the even larger prescription drug problem in American—i.e., the runaway cost of drugs that are killing unknown thousands of Americans who can’t afford them because of price gouging—Trump merely said “prices will come down substantially…just watch!” That solution echoed his press conference of several weeks ago when he publicly addressed the opioid crisis…but offered no solution specifics how. Watching Trump solve the opioid crisis will be slower than watching grass grow…in winter!
Trump’s speech was not all theater. Much of it was factual—except the facts were mostly misrepresentations and outright lies.
Like unemployment is at a record low. But not when part time, temp, contract and gig work is added to full time. More than 13 million are still officially jobless. The rate is still close to 10%. And that doesn’t count the 5-10 million workers who have dropped out of the labor force altogether since 2008, leading to record lows in labor force participate rates and employment to population ratios. That rate and ratio hasn’t changed under Trump.
Another lie was that wages are finally starting to rise. Whose wages? If you want to count average wages and salaries of the 30 million managers, supervisors, and self-employed, maybe so. But according to US Labor department data, real average hourly earnings for all non-farm workers in the US in 2017 rose by a whopping 4 cents!
Trump cited again his Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin’s, ridiculous figure that the average family income household would realize $4,000 a year in tax cuts. But no economist I know believes that absurd claim.
Perhaps the biggest facts manipulation occurred with Trump’s references to his recent tax cuts. He cited a list of so-called middle class tax cuts, leaving out wealthy individual tax cuts measures. Typical was his claim of doubling the standard deduction, worth $800 billion in tax cuts for the working poor below $24k a year in income. But he failed to mention the additional $2.1 trillion hikes on the middle class. (Or the $2 trillion in corresponding cuts for wealthiest households.) Independent studies show the middle class may get some tax cuts initially, but those end by the seventh year, and then rise rapidly thereafter by year ten. In contrast, the corporate, business, and wealthy household cuts keep going—beyond the tenth year.
What Trump conveniently left out in his speech regarding taxes also qualifies as lie by omission. He noted the corporate tax rate was reduced from 35% to 21% and the non-corporate business income deductions were increased by 20%. That was $1.5 trillion and $310 billion, respectively.
Or that the Obamacare mandate repeal saved businesses another $300 billion. And multinational corporations would reap the lion’s share of $1 trillion in tax cuts, at minimum. And all that still doesn’t account for accelerated depreciation under the Act. Or abolition of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. Or continuation of the infamous corporate loopholes, like carried interest, corporate offshore ‘inversions’, or gimmicks that corporate tax lawyers joke about—like the ‘dutch sandwich’ and ‘double Irish’.
Then there were the Trump jokes. I don’t mean anything actually funny. Nonsense statements like “beautiful clean coal” (the oxymoron statement of the year). Or that US companies offshore are “roaring coming back to where the action is”. And car companies are bringing jobs back (while laying off in thousands). “Americans (white) are dreamers too”. Or the phony infrastructure program that’s coming, where companies will be subsidized by the federal government in ‘public-private partnership’ deals. And his unexplained reference to ‘prison reform’ (really?). Perfunctory references to trade, job training, another non-starter.
Hidden between the lines were other serious references, however. Like his ominous threat to “remove government employees” who ‘fail the American people’ or ‘undermine American trust’, which sounded like a warning from Trump to the bureaucracy not to cross him or else. Or his slap at National Football League players for not saluting the flag. Or plans to expand Guantanamo and the US nuclear arsenal. Or reaffirmation of the definition of ‘enemy combatants’ (which may include US citizens). Trump re-established the fact of his threat to civil liberties.
On the foreign policy front it was mostly threats as well, new and old: To withhold UN funding. Renewed support for new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. But North Korea was left for last. Here the return to theater was among the most dramatic. The last ‘gallery scene’ involved a legless defector from North Korea, Seong Ho, brought all the way from So. Korea just for the speech. This was theater with props; applause was sustained as Mr. Ho raised and shook his crutches above his head after Trump’s introduction.
Trump then rode the emotional wave to conclusion with his closing theme that the American people themselves are what’s great about America. Too bad he doesn’t mean all Americans.
So far as Trump speeches go, it was a ‘safe speech’, a teleprompter speech. But typically Trump. Lots of false facts. Emphasis on dividing the country. Long on Theater and emotional appeals to ‘enemies within and without’. And short on policy specifics. But after all, apart from tax cuts and deregulation for corporations and the rich, and a failed Obamacare repeal, not much was achieved in 2017 for him to talk about. And so far as new ideas for 2018 are concerned, there’s ‘no there there’ as well.
North Korea, treated as a rogue nation led by crazy people, has developed a nuclear program they consider to be existentially important as a deterrent against the menace they perceive from the US, says Brian Becker from the anti-war Answer Coalition.
North Korea has conducted first missile test since September. The hermit nation fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which splashed down in the Sea of Japan early Wednesday, according to South Korean, Japanese, and US militaries. The Pentagon's initial assessment indicated it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Pyongyang said the missile reached an altitude of around 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles), more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station. It said it flew 950 kilometers (690 miles) during its flight, which lasted 53 minutes.
RT:Why do you think North Korea decided to conduct a missile test now, after a two-month pause?
Brian Becker: If you want to have an advanced missile technology program, they must be tested from time to time – at different times of the day, under different weather conditions, from different locations. I think the Kim Jong-un government and North Korea made it very clear in their New Year’s message to the nation that they were planning to go forward in what they call the final stage of the nuclear weapons program, so that DPRK would be understood to be a nuclear power by the world. And by having this kind of very advanced intercontinental ballistic missile test which was successful and traveled 2,780 miles straight up and could have, if flown horizontally, travelled about 8,000 miles, in other words, the distance to Washington DC. It is clear that the DPRK which has been treated as a rogue nation led by crazy people, a bunch of peasants, maybe ignorant, has in fact developed effective missile technology program and nuclear technology program which they consider to be existentially important for their having a deterrent against the menace that they perceive from the US – the largest military in the world.
RT: The US Defense Secretary said this latest missile went higher than any previous launch, and yet we've seen quite a muted response from the US administration, with Trump merely saying he will "take care of it". Why is that?
BB: We don’t know. Actually, Trump has been all bluster and bluff. In spite of the fact that Trump says that he’s a great negotiator, the art of the deal, you never what Donald Trump’s bottom line is because there’s so much bluster. He said from the podium of the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to totally destroy North Korea, he called its head of state “little rocket man,” he said that the US would use “fire and fury” the type of which the world has never seen to take out North Korea. And at the same time now he calmly says of this missile test “we’ll take care of it.”…It’s quite clear that if the US – and there are many advocates here who favor this – goes to war, carries out a military strike against the DPRK, the DPRK will not wait, they will fight back, and we will have a major war which will take the lives of tens of thousands…or millions of people.
Joseph Cheng, a political analyst and professor at Hong Kong City University says that the escalation in North Korea has become “almost routine”.
However, he explained, it is “quite expected because North Korea will certainly continue to improve its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities so as to achieve the objective of processing a minimum credible nuclear deterrent”.
“Obviously, Pyongyang calculates to achieve the maximum propaganda impact - it wants to make sure that the world will be reminded of the North Korea nuclear weapons issue,” he told RT.
According to Cheng, the Trump administration does not have “a credible strategy to deal with the issue”.
“Any military options on a part of the US will be very risky and strongly opposed by China and Russia. And will not be supported by South Korea. And it is obvious that economic sanctions alone will not be able to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program,” he added.
Iraqi militias have made huge sacrifices for their country and has become a legitimate force on the ground, Iraq’s FM told RT, describing as hypocritical the US demand for Iranian-backed militiamen to “go home.”
The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU/PMF) militias are sons of Iraq, whose sacrifices in the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists are immeasurable, and they deserve the “highest merits,” Ibrahim al-Jaafari told RT in an exclusive interview.
“Al-Hasd Al-Shaabi [the Arabic name for the PMU] fighters suffered huge losses, shed their precious blood for the sake of saving the Fatherland,” the official said.
“These fighters voluntarily went to other parts of Iraq and have been dying there. For what? What did they want to get there? They deserve the highest merits. These formations have the constitutional status and the real military presence on the ground.”
Recent demands by the US urging the “Iranian militias” to “go home” are a glaring example of US hypocrisy, al-Jaafari stated.
“The US is playing its own game, by own rules and relying on certain factions. Iraq, though, operates in its own territory within its own powers, relying on support of it sons, its political parties and movements, on support of those who sacrifice themselves for the good of their country,” the minister told RT.
The demands were voiced by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson last Sunday at a joint news conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir in Riyadh following a meeting with senior Saudi and Iraqi officials.
“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against… ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” Tillerson said, referring to the PMU units, some of whom, to a certain extent, are backed by Tehran. “The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control.
”Tillerson’s demand was met by a firm rejection from Baghdad, which condemned Washington’s interference into internal affairs of their country.
“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s said Monday, according to a Facebook statement issued by his office.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis joined militia units in 2014 after Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for a national uprising against IS terrorists by issuing a non-sectarian fatwa. Though there are no official statistics, PMU units numbered up to 100,000 fighters, according to some estimates. Iran has been funding and training some of the PMU units which fought alongside the Iraqi Army in the battle of Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities.
NATO is launching a new multinational force in Romania to counter Russia along its eastern flank and keep close tabs on the Russian presence in the Black Sea. The chief of the military alliance said NATO’s actions are purely “defensive and proportionate.”
“Here in Romania, our multinational framework brigade is now operational,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Bucharest on Monday, thanking Romania for hosting the brigade.
“We are also seeing increased allied presence in the Black Sea,” the alliance chief noted, adding that NATO jets are busy patrolling the skies over Romania and Bulgaria.
“Our deployments are a direct response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said, speaking at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in the Romanian capital.
“NATO’s actions are defensive, proportionate and entirely in line with our international commitments,” he concluded.
Stoltenberg went on to say that members of the alliance are “concerned by Russia’s military buildup close to our borders and its lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises such as Zapad 2017. This highlights the importance of our dual-track approach to Russia,” he said.
What the alliance chief said next, however, sounded more like a mantra.
“Russia is our neighbor. Russia is here to stay. We do not want to isolate Russia. NATO does not want a new Cold War. Our actions are designed to prevent, not provoke conflict.”
Details of the new force size are unclear. Once a small force relying on troops from 10 NATO countries, the land, air and sea deployments will complement some 900 US troops already in place, according to Reuters.
The land component of the multinational force is stationed at a base near the southern Romanian city of Craiova. Aside from Romania, Poland is the biggest troop contributor; Bulgaria, Italy and Portugal will train with the force in Craiova, while Germany is also set to contribute. Apart from routine NATO Black Sea naval patrols, a maritime presence will feature more allied visits to Romanian and Bulgarian ports, training and exercises.
Some Eastern Europeans reportedly want NATO's new ballistic missile defense shield, which includes a site in Romania, to be part of NATO's eastern posture vis-a-vis Russia.
"The Aegis Ashore system would add another level of deterrence," Maciej Kowalski, an analyst at the Polish Casimir Pulaski Foundation, told Reuters.
NATO’s military activities near the Russian border have been repeatedly criticized by Moscow, which has accused the alliance of undermining the security balance with its eastward encroachment and military provocations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York last month that NATO is currently seeking to revive the Cold War climate instead of building a dialogue with Moscow. Russia has long been trying to remove the legacy of the Cold War but received no support in its efforts from its partners in the West, the minister noted, expressing regret that “some countries still prefer force to dialogue."
"The West constructed its policy on the basis of a principle, ‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ and proceeded with hideous expansion of NATO to the east,” Lavrov said.
The Russian permanent representative to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, meanwhile noted in July that NATO activities in Eastern Europe “not only ensure a reinforced military presence of the allies in the immediate vicinity of Russia’s borders but in fact represent an intensive mastering of the potential theater of military operations.”
Last month, Russia conducted the Zapad 2017 (West 2017) military drills, which took place on the territory of Russia and Belarus. The exercises involved about 12,700 servicemen, including up to 5,500 from Russia and about 7,200 from Belarus.
The drills caused hysteria in several countries neighboring Belarus, including Ukraine, with the country’s commander-in-chief, Viktor Muzhenko, claiming in an interview with Reuters that Russia had allegedly withdrawn only a few units from Belarus.
"As for the units of Russian troops who took part in the joint strategic ‘West 2017’ exercise, they all returned to the points of permanent deployment," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov stated in September, adding that Muzhenko's allegations about "hidden" Russian troops in Belarus "demonstrate the depth of the degradation of the General Staff of Ukraine and the professional incompetence of its leader."