Thursday Reads: What does it mean when the prevailing cooler heads are in Iran?

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I continue to be gobsmacked by exactly how lawless the Trumpist regime has become. Fortunately, Iran decided to signal what it could do to US bases with a warning shot at US Troops rather than providing a full show of force.  The second and third order conditions are now playing out.  It appears that an Iranian missile may have accidentally taken down that Ukrainian commercial airliner killing all on board.

This is the latest from Newsweek on what may be the first tragedy in the fog of war in the latest hostilities between the two nations.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737–800 en route from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airpot to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, stopped transmitting data Tuesday just minutes after takeoff and not long after Iran launched missiles at military bases housing U.S. and allied forces in neighboring Iraq. The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet, the three officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told Newsweek.

One Pentagon and one U.S senior intelligence official told Newsweek that the Pentagon’s assessment is that the incident was accidental. Iran’s anti-aircraft were likely active following the country’s missile attack, which came in response to the U.S. killing last week of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, sources said.

U.S. Central Command declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Newsweek. No reply was returned from the National Security Council or State Department.

Of the 176 people on board, 82 were Iranian, 63 were Canadian and 11 were Ukrainian (including nine crewmembers), along with 10 Swedish, seven Afghan and three German nationals. None survived.

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The Senate is getting anxious to deal with Trump’s impeachment.  Here are some of the latest headlines.

Allan Smith / NBC News:
Top House Democrat: ‘Time to send’ articles of impeachment to Senate

Some Democrats in the House and Senate have joined Republicans in recent days in saying it’s time for Pelosi to send the articles to the Senate.

After initially saying in an interview Thursday morning that he thought Pelosi should submit the articles, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., backtracked, tweeting that he “misspoke.”

The initial comments from Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, came as several Democratic senators this week called on Pelosi to send the articles to Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., so the impeachment trial can begin.

“I understand what the speaker is trying to do, basically trying to use the leverage of that to work with Democratic and Republican senators to try to get a reasonable trial, a trial that would actually show evidence, bring out witnesses,” Smith told CNN. “But at the end of the day, just like we control it in the House, Mitch McConnell controls it in the Senate.”

 

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The sticking point continues to be allowing witnesses to Testify that were blocked from testifying before the House.  Also, if the Republicans will be able to force the country to go down the Biden/Ukraine conspiracy theory by bringing both Bidens in and subjecting them to the Benghazi treatment

Paul Rosenzweig / The Atlantic:
Trials Are for Evidence 

There was no pre-impeachment criminal investigation of Trump’s efforts to compel Ukraine to pursue the alleged corruption of his political opponent. There were no lawyers and FBI investigators interviewing witnesses. There was no grand jury—merely the cumbersome House-committee process. That process didn’t last nine months; it lasted less than three. Rather than produce tens of thousands of documents, the White House and the executive branch withheld almost all those subpoenaed by the House. Likewise, rather than eventually allowing executive-branch witnesses to testify, the White House stonewalled the House inquiry: President Trump successfully frustrated the House’s efforts to hear from witnesses like former White House Counsel Don McGahn and former National Security Adviser John Bolton. And of course, President Trump never told his side of the story under oath.

So, unlike with Clinton, the Trump impeachment investigation is incomplete. Far from being given an exhaustive record on which to make a determination, the Senate has received only part of the story from the House. The Senate is not in the position of wondering whether, for example, John Bolton was truthful in what he has said already. Rather, if he is called to testify, the Senate will hear what he has to say for the first time. The process now isn’t about credibility; it’s about establishing facts.

Senator McConnell’s proffered analogy to the Clinton impeachment is ill-considered, if not disingenuous. While the Senate might, with some justification, have thought that the evidence was complete and that no witnesses were necessary to decide the Clinton matter, it cannot reasonably make the same claim now. Though the analogy of a House impeachment to a grand-jury indictment is rather strained, it does carry a bit of truth: The House has found sufficient evidence to start an impeachment trial, and it is up to the Senate now to conduct a more in-depth inquiry—a trial. Trials are for hearing evidence. That task lies before the Senate.

Clearly, Speaker Pelosi is not impressed by McConnell’s posturing to date.

And, members of both Houses are not impressed with the briefing by the Trumpist regime on the assassination of Soleimani.

Greg Sargent / Washington Post:

GOP senator who erupted over Iran briefing shares awful new details

If President Trump made the decision to assassinate the supreme leader of Iran, would he need to come to Congress to get authorization for it?

The Trump administration won’t say.

That remarkable claim is now being made by a Republican senator — Mike Lee of Utah. He offered it in a new interview with NPR, in which he shared fresh details about why he erupted in anger on Wednesday over the briefing Congress received from the administration on Iran.

As you know, Lee’s comments went viral Wednesday after he ripped into the briefing given to lawmakers about Trump’s decision to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Lee, echoing the complaints of many Democrats, blasted the briefing on the intelligence behind the assassination as the “worst” he’d ever seen. He also fumed that officials refused to acknowledge any “hypothetical” situations in which they would come to Congress for authorization for future military hostilities against Iran.

Now, in the interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Lee has gone into more alarming detail. Lee reiterated that officials “were unable or unwilling to identify any point” at which they’d come to Congress for authorization for the use of military force.

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Trumpist Regime officials warned Congress to not ask too many questions and not to debate war powers.  This is really surreal since the Constitution is clear on this.   It’s just another pretzel we find ourselves in over the Constitutionality of a lawless president and the people protecting him.

On the eve of a House vote Thursday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Congress not to debate limits to President Donald Trump’s power to strike Iran because doing so might embolden Tehran and hurt U.S. troops, multiple sources tell ABC News.

The suggestion by Esper, in a classified briefing for lawmakers on Wednesday, enraged some members, including Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who swiftly marched to the television cameras following the 75-minute briefing to declare it “insulting.” Lee said the briefing felt like being told to be “good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public.”

“I find that absolutely insane,” he said.

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Pence is now justifying holding information back from even the Gang of Eight which is virtually unprecedented. The rationale?  Congress might compromise methods and sources.  That’s rich coming from  the shadow of the man whose speech just–and once again–presented highly classified information on sonic weapons under development.

Vice President Mike Pence responded Thursday to lawmakers, including Republicans, who criticized the lack of information shared by the Trump administration during classified congressional briefings on the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying the intelligence was too sensitive to share.

On NBC’s “TODAY,” Pence told Savannah Guthrie that the administration could not provide Congress with some of the “most compelling” intelligence behind the administration’s decision to kill Soleimani because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods.

“Some of that has to do with what’s called sources and methods,” Pence said. “Some of the most compelling evidence that Qassem Soleimani was preparing an imminent attack against American forces and American personnel also represents some of the most sensitive intelligence that we have — it could compromise those sources and methods.”

Pence said “those of us” who were made aware of the intelligence “in real time know that President Trump made the right decision to take Qassem Soleimani off the battlefield.” He added that Soleimani “was planning imminent attacks against American forces.”

In killing Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Trump administration said it launched the attack because of intelligence that showed Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on U.S. personnel. But the administration has yet to make public the evidence behind that assertion and, according to Democratic and two Republican senators, it did not detail that intelligence in a classified setting on Wednesday.

Trump–in a scrum today–mentioned it was because of attacks on the Baghdad Embassy even though it was clear all of that was coming from Iraqi proxies and there is still no real evidence of any actual bigger plans of an attack.

This increasing looks likes Benghazi reaction formation. He doesn’t want to be seen by any one in the same light as Clinton or Obama seriously overreacts at anything that might leak up to what he perceives as their weakness. However, his January speech definitely showed his continual physical and mental decline.

So, I really am revisiting more of those things that I assumed would remain as characteristics of our nation. Clearly, we are not in the position of claiming to be the temperament and thoughtful nation.  Maybe it’s because I finally got used to the No Drama Obama model where we sometimes took what seemed like ages to arrive at actions and policy. Now, it’s totally a shoot from the hip of a psychologically and neurologically challenged individual surrounded by End Times Nutters who lie the majority  of the time.  Fact Checking that speech gave us peek Pinocchio numbers. It’s a very long list.  Sit down with a good cup of coffee.

Anyway, I have to prep for a Financial Engineering class I teaching starting next Wednesday so I need to switch from the real weapons of mass destruction to the financial ones (h/t to Warren Buffet). It is quite math and a bit like teaching physics so it’s that too.  My hair will be totally gray by the end but at least it’s all good students from seniors to mbas to doctoral students so there’s that.  AND, it’s back on the ground at my old University so I will have a G/A.  Yippie!

What’s on your reading an blogging list today?

 

 


He Finally Did It Friday Reads

The interior view of a munitions factory showing the production of 15 inch shells by women factory workers. There are winches hanging from the ceiling and large steel shell cases sitting on wooden trolleys in the centre of the image.

Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells by Anna Airy. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2271)

Happy New Year!

I wish I could say this with a lot of hope in my heart but after last night’s late news we’ll be lucky at this point if we avoid World War III.  Also, this time there will be no allies because Cadet Bone Spurs thinks we can just go it alone and has managed to offend every friendly country in the world.  His Maximum Pressure approach to the world has not only left us friendless but more likely facing increased violence around the world.

Trump’s freaky christofascists have been frothing at the mouth for their mythical end times.  I suggest they grab a bucket and go help Australia if they’re really all concerned about the earth ending in fire.  Problem is my freakish friends, according to your specific mythology, a Temple has to exist that no one’s built yet so I’d think twice about travelling any where around the world or signing up for the diplomatic corps or the marine corps for that matter.  We are just one target rich environment now.

Since this assassination reminds me a bit of the Arch Duke Ferdinand one that kicked off World War I I decided to give you some paintings from the period.  This collection comes  from the UK’s Imperial War Museum: “6 STUNNING FIRST WORLD WAR ARTWORKS BY WOMEN WAR ARTISTS.”  You can read the backstories on the painters and their work at the site.   Basically, the IWM commissioned the women to capture the women’s effort in the so-called War to End all Wars.

So, here’s what’s gone down so far.  The U.S. directly targeted and killed an Iranian general that was, in fact a very bad man.  However, there are a lot of very bad men in the world that need to disappear and if they did, no one would care.  This one has quite a few people that care about him and they all have no problem with dying for a cause as they’ve proven over the last 40 years.   This is from the NYT: U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces”.

Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said.

The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.

General Suleimani was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades, and his death was a staggering blow for Iran at a time of sweeping geopolitical conflict.

The strike was also a serious escalation of Mr. Trump’s growing confrontation with Tehran, one that began with the death of an American contractor in Iraq in late December.

The interior view of a canteen with flags of the allied countries hanging like bunting along the top of the room. On the right the room is crowded with soldiers awaiting their meal. In the foreground and left are women preparing to serve them.

Christmas Day in the London Bridge YMCA Canteen, 1920, by Clare Atwood. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3062)

Please tell me we didn’t do all this for a Defense Department Mercenary Contractor.  I have yet to hear who this person actually was but if it’s the result of Rumsfeld’s war privatization efforts I’d totally believe it.

It took awhile for the Defense Department to take credit for the assassination of Suleimani and others so we all got our news from Iraqi and then Irani state TV.  Sort’ve like we always hear about news about Russia from Russian State TV first.  The Spawn of the Orange Swamp Thing seemed to  know more about the attack than just about any one but definitely more than Congress and the all important Gang of 8 who handle that sort’ve thing for the country.  Here’s a bit from Hill Reporter: “Deleted Tweet From Eric Trump Hints He May Have Known About Strike Against Iranian Military Leader Days Ahead Of Time’. Doesn’t that bring you comfort and joy or the season?  You know, Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man and all that jazz?

The protests that broke out around the embassy got an off the cuff tweet from Eric the Dim.

Those protests broke out on December 31 of last year, according to the New York Times. On that same date, Eric Trump sent out a tweet, which has since been deleted. Twitter user @realTuckFrumper had a screengrab of the tweet, which suggested military action was coming forth.

“Bout to open up a big ol’ can of whoop ass,” Eric Trump’s tweet read. It was followed with a flag emoji.

Other users on social media also verified the tweet as being legitimately posted by Eric Trump on that date. There’s no indication or confirmation that he was indeed aware of military action occurring later on in the week, but the words from Eric Trump caught many people’s attention after the airstrikes were announced.

A view along the cloister of an abbey, in which there is a row of beds filled with patients on the left. In the left foreground three nurses tend to a male patient, who sits up in bed.

The Scottish Women’s Hospital: In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont, 1920, by Norah Neilson-Gray. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3090)

The UK Guardian has a subtle lede this morning over an Op Ed penned by Mohammad Ali Shabani.  “Donald Trump’s assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt him. The Quds force leader had the status of national hero even among secular Iranians. His death could act as a rallying cry”

The US has assassinated Qassem Suleimani, the famed leader of Iran’s Quds force, alongside a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. To grasp what may come next, it is vital to understand not only who these men were but also the system that produced them.

Nicknamed the “Shadow Commander” in the popular press, Suleimani spent his formative years on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein – who at the time enjoyed the support of western and Arab powers – was attempting to destroy the emerging Islamic Republic. But few remember that his first major mission as commander of the Quds force – the extraterritorial branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – was involved in implicit coordination with the United States as it invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The Taliban were, and to some extent remain, a mutual enemy. That alliance of convenience ended in 2002 when US president George W Bush notoriously branded Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil”.

In the years after, Suleimani laboured to bleed the US military in places like Iraq. He succeeded. After having spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of troops, Washington withdrew from Iraq – partly as a result of Iranian pressure on the Iraqi government – in 2011.

But Suleimani had little time to celebrate. His attention was turned to containing fallout from the Arab spring, focusing his energy on propping up the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. That development saw the creation of a region-wide network of Iran-backed militias numbering more than 100,000 men, unprecedented Iranian military collaboration with Russia and the transformation of Hezbollah into a force capable of operating on significant scale outside Lebanon’s borders.

By 2014, when he successfully halted Islamic State’s attempt to overrun Iraq, Suleimani was feted as a hero among Iraqis, alongside the local commanders including al-Muhandis. The same response was evident in Iran, where he quickly became a household name and was rumoured as a potential future president – a trend that was strengthened by the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

So the US has not merely killed an Iranian military commander but also a highly popular figure, viewed as a guardian of Iran even among secular-minded Iranians. And with the assassination of al-Muhandis, the Trump administration has put itself in the position of having killed the operational commander of a large branch of the Iraqi armed forces.

Some will characterise the killings as a huge blow to Iran’s proxy capabilities and wider policy in the region. But such an approach ignores how the Iranian system is structured.

a soldier is lying propped on his elbow in an enclosed space, while a female figure in uniform lights his cigarette.

In an Ambulance: a VAD lighting a cigarette for a patient, by Olive Mudie-Cooke. © IWM (Art.IWM ART 3051)

As reported last night on MSNBC by a very shaken Andrea Mitchell on The Last Word,  this is exactly why Israel–who could’ve taken him out at a moment’s notice–never gave it a second thought.  The second and third order conditions were considered to be worse than any benefit from the assassination.  Mitchell actually interviewed SOD Mike Esper in what turned out to be an interview worth dissecting. 

Even more disturbing was an interview later on a special Rachel Maddow with “Brett McGurk, who served as special envoy on the global coalition to defeat ISIS under Pres. Obama and Pres. Trump, talks to Rachel Maddow about the serious implications of the strike on Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.”  You may watch the video but here’s the bottom line: ” McGurk on US strike on Soleimani: ‘We need to presume that we are now in a state of war with Iran’.

Iraq is truly in a bad place now.  And, I know, it’s not like we haven’t put them in a bad place since Dubya’s adventures there at the behest of all those Chicken Hawk Cabinet members of his.  But, this Op Ed from the UK Independent describes the situation in more detail “Iraq’s worst fears have come true – they are now at the centre of a proxy war between the US and Iran. General Qassem Soleimani made a terrible mistake in the final weeks of his life by underestimating the popular protests across Iraq. Donald Trump has made a bigger one in killing the influential commander.”  This is written by Patrick Cockburn.

I spoke to Abu Alaa al-Walai, the leader of Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, a splinter group of Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of whose camps had been destroyed by a drone attack in August. He said that 50 tonnes of weapons and ammunition had been blown up, blaming the Israelis and the Americans acting in concert. Asked if his men would attack US forces in Iraq in the event of a US-Iran war, he said: “Absolutely yes.” Later I visited the camp, called al-Saqr, on the outskirts of Baghdad where a massive explosion had gutted sheds and littered the burned-out compound with shattered pieces of equipment.

I saw other pro-Iranian paramilitary leaders at this time. The drone attacks had made them edgy, but I got the impression that they did not really expect a US-Iran war. Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, told me that he did not think there would be a war “because Trump does not want one.” As evidence of this, he pointed to the failure of Trump to retaliate after the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities earlier in September that Washington had been blamed on Iran.

In fact, events developed very differently from what both I and the paramilitary commanders expected. A few days after I had spoken to them, there was a small demonstration in central Baghdad demanding jobs, public services and an end to corruption. The security forces and the pro-Iranian paramilitaries opened fire, killing and wounding many peaceful demonstrators. Though Qais al-Khazali later claimed that he and other Hashd leaders were trying to thwart a US-Israeli conspiracy, he had said nothing to me about it. It seemed likely that General Soleimani, wrongly suspected that the paltry demonstrations were a real threat and had ordered the pro-Iranian paramilitaries to open fire and put a plan for suppressing the demonstrations into operation.

All this could have been disastrous for Iranian influence in Iraq. Soleimani had made the classic mistake of a successful general in imaging that “a whiff of grapeshot” will swiftly repress any signs of popular discontent. Sometimes this works, often it does not – and Iraq turned out to belong to the second category.

General Soleimani died in the wake of his greatest failure and misjudgement. But the manner of his killing may convince many Shia Iraqis that the threat to Iraqi independence from the US is greater than that from Iran. The next few days will tell if the protest movement, that has endured the violence used against it with much bravery, will be deflated by the killings at Baghdad airport.

 

The interior of a canteen filled with female workers. There is a counter to the right of the composition, and tables occupied with women in overalls and cloth caps to the left. There is a queue at the counter, with several women holding large white cups.

Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford, 1918, by Flora Lion. © The rights holder (Art.IWM ART 4434)

This Dexter Filkins piece in The New Yorker from September 2013 is a good place to read a profile on Soleimani.   The NYT also has a profile “Qassim Suleimani, Master of Iran’s Intrigue, Built a Shiite Axis of Power in Mideast. The commander helped direct wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and he became the face of Iran’s efforts to build a regional bloc of Shiite power.”  This link is for that article  which was published today.

General Suleimani was at the vanguard of Iran’s revolutionary generation, joining the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in his early 20s after the 1979 uprising that enshrined the country’s Shiite theocracy.

He rose quickly during the brutal Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. And since 1998, he was the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ influential Quds Force, the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s security apparatus, melding intelligence work with a military strategy of nurturing proxy forces across the world.

In the West, he was seen as a clandestine force behind an Iranian campaign of international terrorism. He and other Iranian officials were designated as terrorists by the United States and Israel in 2011, accused of a plot to kill the ambassador of Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s chief enemies in the region, in Washington. Last year, in April, the entire Quds Force was listed as a foreign terrorism group by the Trump administration.

But in Iran, many saw him as a larger-than-life hero, particularly within security circles. Anecdotes about his asceticism and quiet charisma joined to create an image of a warrior-philosopher who became the backbone of a nation’s defense against a host of enemies.

He was close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who on Friday issued a statement calling for three days of public mourning and “forceful revenge,” in a declaration that amounted to a threat of retaliation against the United States.

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission,” he said.

All this means is that many Shia Islam followers in quite a few countries are not going to let him go quietly into the great night.  It also means that Congress will have another likely investigation on its hands which means a lot more on Nancy Peolosi’s To Do LIst.

So, this is a long post and it has taken me a good deal of time to compile but I hope it will give us a basis for conversation today.  I hope that your New Year will be wonderful and that you will be surrounded by all the family, love, and happiness you deserve!!!  May all Goodness in the Universe protect us on this where yet another war seems inevitable!

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.

John Lennon