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EAW on Hiatus

June 17th, 2019 - by Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

The founding members of EAW say “Thumbs down to war.”

Environmentalists Against War will be on a brief break beginning June 12. We will be traveling to Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordan. We hope to post news and reports periodically, as circumstances allow. Regular posting will resume on June 27.

EAW on Hiatus

June 17th, 2019 - by Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

Environmentalists Against War will be on a brief break beginning June 12. We will be traveling to Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordan. We hope to post news and reports periodically, as circumstances allow. Regular posting will resume on June 27.

US Antiwar Billboard Banned During Trump’s Irish Visit

June 17th, 2019 - by The Times of London

World Beyond War Campaign against Troops at Shannon ‘Blocked’ During Trump Visit

(June 16, 2019) — An American anti-war organisation was refused permission to place advertisements featuring the slogan “US troops out of Shannon” on billboards in Limerick during Donald Trump’s visit to Ireland.

JCDecaux Ireland, part of a multinational outdoor advertising agency, told World Beyond War (WBW) that the slogan breached the company’s policy of not displaying campaigns of a religious or politically sensitive nature. JCDecaux did agree to display an alternative poster featuring a dove and the words “Peace, neutrality, Ireland”, but WBW did not go ahead with the alternative format.

David Swanson, WBW’s executive director, said it had been prepared to spend at least $5,000 (€4,500) of its donated funds on its Irish billboard campaign but no company would agree to rent it space for its “US troops out of Shannon” poster.

Swanson, who has been a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, said WBW planned the campaign to promote an international peace conference it is holding in Limerick in October. Although it would have coincided with the US president’s meeting with Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, at Shannon airport, Swanson said the campaign was not designed for that event.

Although the WBW billboard campaign did not proceed, at the time of the visit, Tarak Kauff and Ken Mayers, American members of Veterans for Peace, hung a banner from a road bridge near the airport. It read: “Respect Irish neutrality. US war machine out of Shannon.”

“Exit polls show that an impressive 82% of Irish voters say Ireland should remain a neutral country in all aspects,” said Swanson, a radio host and author. “But Ireland is not remaining a neutral country in all aspects.”

JCDecaux told The Sunday Times it was company policy “not to accept campaigns of a politically sensitive nature”. It did not say when the policy began. During the 2016 general election, a JCDecaux billboard in Dublin featured a Labour campaign image with Joan Burton, then the party leader, saying: “I will stand up for families.”

In 2012, anti-abortion publicity appeared on a JCDecaux billboard, featuring a picture of a baby and the slogan: “Abortion tears her life apart.”

The Irish government offered America the use of Shannon airport following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Since then, almost 3 million US military personnel have transited through Shannon.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Let’s Be Skeptical of the Administration’s Pro-war Bluster

June 17th, 2019 - by Trita Parsi / Think @ NBC News

Trump Blames Iran for the Tanker Attacks. But Let’s Be Skeptical of His Administration’s Pro-war Bluster

The speed in which the US government officially blamed Iran should give us pause, given our own history in the region.

Trita Parsi / Think @ NBC News

(June 14, 2019) — The Trump administration was quick to point fingers at Iran after explosions on two oil tankers from Japan and Norway in the Gulf of Oman.

Undoubtedly, Iran is a plausible suspect. It has repeatedly threatened to strangle the flow of Persian Gulf oil from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and the UAE if the US embargoes Iranian oil. But the presence of a potential motive does not amount to the presence of evidence, and the owner of the Japanese tanker is already contesting the US explanations.

But, if anything, the speed in which the Trump administration officially blamed Iran should give us pause, given John Bolton’s long history of fabricating intelligence in favor of war. The mere process of gathering evidence — let alone conclusive evidence — of how the attack on Thursday was conducted and who was behind it would take days and weeks, not hours.

In his press conference Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in fact, carefully avoided claiming the existence of any evidence and presented his accusations as a “government assessment,” which is different from a US intelligence assessment, of which this administration is historically rather skeptical. (Of course, that raises another question: If the administration doesn’t possess evidence and can only offer a “government” assessment — a theory, really — why give a press conference in the first place?)

Instead of evidence, Pompeo presented a series of accusations of past alleged activities by Iran. He repeated his previous allegation — still not supported by any public evidence — that Iran was behind the attack on four other commercial ships near the Strait of Hormuz on May 12. He cited as suspicious the movement of Iranian missiles earlier this month, after Trump threatened Iran with genocide over Twitter.

(Bolton, the national security adviser, had earlier tried to present these measures as offensive, even though US intelligence had interpreted them as defensivemaneuvers.)

And Pompeo even suggested that an attack against US troops in Afghanistan conducted by the Taliban — a long-sworn enemy of Iran — was evidence of Iranian aggression.

But given the Trump administration’s complicated relationship with the truth, including Bolton’s history of manipulating intelligence, these accusations must be subject to intense scrutiny.

Nevertheless, eyes understandably turned to Tehran as news of the explosions spread: Iran’s longstanding position has been that either all countries can sell their oil through the Strait of Hormuz, or no one can. With the US forcing more and more countries to cease buying Iranian oil, Tehran has appeared closer than ever to actualizing its threats.

Rising Persian Gulf tensions would likely lead to a surge in oil prices, which benefits Iran in three ways: It increases Tehran’s revenue from the oil it still sells, makes the US’s “maximum pressure” strategy on Iran more costly to Trump, and could make some countries more inclined to circumvent the sanctions if they prove too costly.

And, creating a crisis may serve Iran’s larger interests. The European Union’s promises that Tehran would receive the economic benefits that it was promised under the nuclear deal have all proven empty, while Trump’s sanctions have been very painful to Iran. But the US has paid no cost for this bellicose policy so, by counter-escalating and accelerating matters toward a showdown, Tehran potentially shifts some of the risks of his sanctions policy onto Trump.

Still, all this context leaves many questions about the explosions unanswered.

Iran can achieve most — if not all — of their objectives through much more measured moves than attacks on oil tankers. It could, for instance, slowly expand its nuclear program and approach the limits of what the nuclear deal that Trump abrogated allows.

Tehran did so last month when it threatened to disregard some of the limits imposed by the nuclear accord, unless the E.U. provided it with the economic benefits it had been promised.

Attacking tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, on the other hand, provides Iran with few additional economic or diplomatic benefits while drastically increasing the downsides. Iran has little to gain from a violent escalation in which it will be seen as the aggressor, let alone one that allows the Trump administration to portray its bellicose policy as defensive and justified.

Beyond that, the fact that one of the tankers, the Kokuka Courageous, belongs to a Japanese company raises additional questions.

The attack against it occurred while Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If the Iranian government were behind the attack, it would appear to have been designed to humiliate Abe. What Iran would gain from such unprovoked hostility, however, remains unclear.

If Tehran had been uninterested in Abe’s offer of mediation, it could have simply declined his request to visit the country; there would have been no need to humiliate him and thus sour Iranian-Japanese relations.

Could a different faction of the Iranian government have been behind the attack in order to embarrass President Hassan Rouhani’s pro-diplomacy administration? Certainly, Iranian hard-line factions have a history of sabotaging Iran’s diplomacy with the West. But if that was the goal, the attack should have occurred while Abe was meeting with Rouhani, not Ayatollah Khamenei. While Iranian hard-liners rarely miss an opportunity to embarrass Rouhani, there is no history of them going rogue to shame Iran’s supreme leader.

Again, Iran may very well have been behind the attacks; a case can be made that it has a strong motive. The potential motive, though, does not mean, as the president said on Friday, that “it’s got essentially Iran written all over it.” What the United States does in Iran is, after all, potentially a matter of war and peace — and the architects of the “government assessment” have a stated preference for one over the other.

Trita Parsi is the author of “Losing an Enemy — Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.” He teaches at Georgetown University.

Related News

•   Trump’s anti-Iran coalition is falling apart. There’s no back-up plan.

•  Trump’s foreign policy is all bark, no bite. And adversaries like Iran know it.

•  Trump’s potential war in Iran is all John Bolton’s doing, and may be his undoing

The Senate Just Votes to Arm ISIS with Your Tax Dollars

June 17th, 2019 - by Jack Hunter / The Washington Examiner

The Senate Basically Just Voted to Arm ISIS with Your Tax Dollars

Jack Hunter / The Washington Examiner

(June 13, 2019) — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on the senate floor Thursday, before a vote that would bar US arm sales with three Arab states: “The facts are not contested. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain have allowed US arms to be funneled to radical Islamist groups throughout the Middle East.”

Paul is right. No one really contests this.

President Trump, who supports the arms sale, agrees that these countries have supported extremists. If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, apparently she knew too. President Barack Obama knew.

Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state made clear the US was backing countries that aided our enemies. As Paul observed in his floor speech Thursday, “Even Hillary Clinton admitted in an email to John Podesta: ‘We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region'” (emphasis added).

Paul also noted that in 2009 — a decade ago, because, yes, this is how long this has been going on — Hillary Clinton sent the State Department a cable that read, “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda [and] the Taliban.”

Al Qaeda. The very group that attacked the US on Sept. 11 and who most Americans probably think we are still trying to fight. Also, the Taliban, the entire reason we went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 — apparently US foreign policy had indirectly bolstered both?

Again, these are not secrets. These leaders knew.

Congress knows. But that didn’t stop them Thursday from voting 43-56 to proceed with these arms sales.

The only Republicans who voted to stop this were Sens. Paul, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Every other Republican voted to give arms and aid to countries that have histories of coddling terrorists.

Every Democrat voted to stop arms sales, except for seven: Sens. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Angus King, I-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mark Warner, D-Va.

These seven Democrats apparently agree with the overwhelming majority of Republicans that allowing US weapons to end up in the hands of ISIS and al Qaeda is worth whatever security benefit the United States allegedly gets from these exchanges.

The senators who support this insist it is to guard against Iranian influence in the region, which is a lazy rationale at best. “Maybe we should consider a peace plan that doesn’t include dumping more arms into a region aflame in civil unrest, civil war, and anarchy,” Paul said on the floor.

“The argument goes that we must arm anyone who is not Iran. We are told that because of Iran’s threat, the US must accept selling arms to anyone who opposes Iran, even bone-saw-wielding countries brazen enough to kill a dissident in a foreign consulate.”

“What would happen if we just said no?” Paul asked. “What would happen if we simply conditioned arms sales on behavior?”

Great question. In addition to arming ISIS and Saudi Arabia murdering a US-based journalist last year, the American-backed Saudi war in Yemen continues to yield a civilian death toll so high we don’t exactly know what that number is.

One April statistic put it at 70,000, mostly from starvation, though our “allies” continue to kill hundreds of children with US weapons. In August, a US-supplied bomb killed 40 kids riding a school bus.

Just one of these horrors should be enough to at least question why we keep sending arms to these countries. The mere fact that these states have helped in the past, and no doubt continue to embolden, the groups that attacked the US in 2001 and carry out other acts of terror around the world should be enough to stop it.

But not in Washington. You can bet the majority of senators who voted for this deal today were more annoyed with Rand Paul asking all these questions than they were with terrorism, human rights abuses, and dead children.

Only in Washington.

Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is the former political editor of Rare.us and co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes

Ship Owner Contradicts US Officials on Tanker Attack

June 16th, 2019 - by Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

Japanese Ship Owner Contradicts US Officials on Tanker Attack

Trump Reiterates Pompeo’s Claims

Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com

(June 14, 2019) — The owner of the Japanese tanker that was attacked on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the Kokuka Outrageous, contradicted the US military’s claims about the attack. Central Command reported that the two tankers were hit with limpet mines, a type of mine that is attached to the hull of a ship below the waterline using magnets. But Yutaka Katada, the owner of the Kokuka Outrageous, said he received reports a projectile hit the ship.

“We received reports that something flew towards the ship,” Katada said at a press conference, “The place where the projectile landed was significantly higher than the water level, so we are absolutely sure that this wasn’t a torpedo. I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

US Central Command released a grainy black and white video of a boat alongside a ship, claiming it was an Iranian patrol boat removing a limpet mine from the Kokuka Outrageous, the claim being they were getting rid of the evidence.

The video does not conclusively prove anything, as it is hard to tell what the boat is doing. Iranian state media said Iran rescued the crew of both tankers, so the video could have just been a recording of the rescue efforts.

In an interview with Fox and Friends Friday morning, President Trump blamed Iran for the attacks on the tankers. Trump cited the video as proof, “Well Iran did do it, and you know they did it because you saw the boat. I guess one of the mines didn’t explode and it’s probably got essentially Iran written all over it.”

Trump, who has been known to sometimes contradict his more hawkish cabinet members, fell in line with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Thursday, accused Iran of attacking the tankers with no evidence to back up his claim.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt made a statement on Friday, “We are going to make our own independent assessment, we have our processes to do that, (but) we have no reason not to believe the American assessment and our instinct is to believe it because they are our closest ally.”

No US officials have responded to the Japanese ship owner’s claims.

Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US Foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave

German FM: US Video Not Sufficient to Prove Iran’s Guilt in Tanker Attacks

Warns video is ‘not enough to make a final assessment’

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(June 14, 2019) — Speaking to reporters during a visit to Norway, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has dismissed the US military’s video, saying it is not sufficient to prove Iran was behind attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” Maas said. President Trump insisted earlier in his own comments to reporters that the video was enough and clearly proved Iran was behind the attack.

The video itself was release late Thursday night by US Central Command, and is quite problematic. It is grainy black and white footage of a boat, putatively Iranian, alongside a ship, putatively one of the tankers. The first few seconds show movement that might suggest an interaction of some sort, then the next minute and a half show nothing, but zoom in and zoom out in jarring ways.

All of this is meant to prove Iranian sailors removed an unexploded mine from the boat, though there would be multiple problems with that, as the holes in the ships were far above the water line, where a mine explosion would take place, and the boat in question in the video also seemed to be focused on a part of the ship too high out of the water to possibly be a floating mine.

With the Japanese ship’s crew describing the attack as caused by something flying at the ship in the air, not the water, the entire mine story is on shaky ground, and to the extent the US believes this video is demonstrative of the mine narrative, it too is very weak.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Were Saudis and US Behind Gulf Incidents?

June 16th, 2019 - by Marc Ash / Reader Supported News & Lisa Barrington and Rania El Gamal, Reuters

Gulf of Oman tanker incident stokes fears of conflict.

Were the Gulf Tanker Strikes a Saudi-Run Operation?

Marc Ash / Reader Supported News

(June 13, 2019) — So navigating off the Reuters report below, and others like it in the mainstream media today, there are some obvious takeaways and some big questions.

Right now, the US and the Saudis are pointing fingers at the Iranians. Perhaps — but it begs the question, why? Tensions in the region, thanks to the highly inflammatory rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration, are already dangerously high.

National Security Adviser and longtime proponent of war with Iran John Bolton is predictably pushing Donald Trump to, for lack of a better phrase, make war on Iran.

The Saudis, who view Iran as a bitter regional rival, are pushing for the same thing. They would love for the US to use its military against its enemy.

Donald Trump has been in the middle up until this point. He profits personally from his business dealings with the Saudis, particularly on real estate transactions, so he wants to maintain that warm and profitable relationship. Perhaps in keeping with that premise, Trump invited Bolton to join the team as a warning signal to the Iranians?

Oddly, Trump seems somewhat reluctant to engage Iran militarily. He seems to think he can create the conditions and set the stage for war with Iran and control the factors that might lead to war without going to war. It is a dangerous game that could lead to catastrophic consequences.

The facts as reported below would seem to indicate fairly sophisticated military capabilities, ones normally associated with a nation-state. Based on the economic and military realities of the region, the three most likely suspects are Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

Israel gets thrown in only because they do have the military technology, they are in the region, and they do share the Saudis’ fear and contempt of Iran. However, striking Japanese or Norwegian shipping vessels is not the type of thing the Israelis are likely to engage in.

Iran too has the necessary military technology but stands to gain little by damaging or destroying Japanese or Norwegian ships. There is no economic or military logic to support that. To the contrary, with US sanctions constraining the Iranian economy, it would be in Iran’s interest to maintain good relations with Japan, Norway, and any other country willing to maintain trade.

Saudi Arabia does, however, seem to see its strategy of a US war on Iran furthered by these events. Would the Saudis coordinate these strikes? It bears noting that none of their assets were damaged. Of the most likely suspects, the Saudis to seem to have the most to gain.

Right now the US and the Saudis are pointing fingers at the Iranians and the Iranians are pointing fingers at the US and the Saudis. The odds are that the Iranian argument may be stronger.

Tanker Attacks in Gulf of Oman Fuel Security, Oil Supply Fears

Lisa Barrington and Rania El Gamal, Reuters

(June 14, 2019) — Two oil tankers were attacked on Thursday and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman, driving up oil prices and stoking fears of a new confrontation between Iran and the United States.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and that the US government would continue to assess the situation. Washington accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area, a vital shipping route through which much of the world’s oil passes.

Tensions between Iran and the United States, along with its allies including Saudi Arabia, have risen since Washington pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz, near where the attacks happened, if it cannot sell its oil due to US sanctions.

No one has claimed Thursday’s attacks and no one has specifically blamed them on any party.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the incidents as “suspicious” on Twitter and called for regional dialogue. Tehran has denied responsibility for the May 12 attacks.

The Saudi-led military coalition, which is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, described Thursday’s events as a “major escalation”.

Russia, one of Iran’s main allies, was quick to urge caution, saying no one should rush to conclusions about the incident or use it to put pressure on Tehran.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States: “Facts must be established and responsibilities clarified.”

He warned that the world cannot afford “a major confrontation in the Gulf region”.

Council diplomats said the United States told them it planned to raise the issue of “safety and freedom of navigation” in the Gulf during a closed-door meeting of the Security Council later on Thursday.

“It’s unacceptable for any party to attack commercial shipping and today’s attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman raise very serious concerns,” acting US Ambassador to the U.N. Jonathan Cohen told the U.N. meeting.

Crude prices climbed as much as 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, and other Gulf energy producers. [O/R]

“We need to remember that some 30% of the world’s (seaborne) crude oil passes through the straits. If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk,” said Paolo d’Amico, chairman of INTERTANKO tanker association.

The crew of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair abandoned ship in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran after a blast that a source said might have been from a magnetic mine. The ship was ablaze, sending a huge plume of smoke into the air.

The crew were picked up by a passing ship and handed to an Iranian rescue boat.

The second ship, a Japanese-owned tanker, was hit by a suspected torpedo, the firm that chartered the ship said. Its crew were also picked up safely. However, a person with knowledge of the matter said the attacks did not use torpedoes.

The Bahrain-based US Navy Fifth Fleet said it had assisted the two tankers after receiving distress calls.


Iran has not openly acted on its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz even though US sanctions have seen its oil exports drop from 2.5 million barrels per day in April last year to around 400,000 bpd in May.

Both sides have said they want to avoid war.

Bob McNally, president of the US consultancy Rapidan Energy Group, said “we see this as Iran trying to get negotiating leverage it doesn’t have”, and described the attacks as “upping the ante but not going all in”.

“I don’t think it tips us over into direct military confrontation. It is still deniable and denied. This is still going to be like the attack last month – everyone is denying it. It’s a blunt message.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Tehran when Thursday’s attacks occurred, carrying a message for Iran from Trump, who has demanded that the Islamic Republic curb its military programs and its influence in the Middle East.

Abe, whose country was a big importer of Iranian oil until Washington ratcheted up sanctions, urged all sides not to let tensions in the area escalate.

Iran said it would not respond to Trump’s overture, the substance of which was not made public.

Britain said it was “deeply concerned” about the attacks. Germany, which like Britain remains a signatory to the nuclear pact with Iran, said the “situation is dangerous” and all sides needed to avoid an escalation.

The Arab League said some parties were “trying to instigate fires in the region”, without naming a particular party.

Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which have coastlines on the Gulf of Oman, did not immediately issue any public comment.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both majority Sunni Muslim nations that have a long-running rivalry with predominantly Shi’ite Iran, have previously said attacks on oil assets in the Gulf pose a risk to global oil supplies and regional security.


Bernhard Schulte Ship management said the Japanese tanker Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line while transporting methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

Japan’s Kokuka Sangyo, owner of the Kokuka Courageous, said the ship was hit twice over a three-hour period.

A shipping broker said the vessel might have been struck by a magnetic mine. “Kokuka Courageous is adrift without any crew on board,” the source said.

The crew of about 21 or 22 people was picked up by the Coastal Ace vessel, Denis Bross of Acta Marine in the Netherlands told Reuters. He said they were handed to a US Navy vessel.

Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC said the Front Altair, owned by Norway’s Frontline, was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” around 0400 GMT carrying a Taiwan-bound cargo of 75,000 tonnes of petrochemical feedstock naphtha, which Refinitiv Eikon data showed had been picked up from Ruwais in the UAE.

Frontline said its vessel was on fire but afloat, denying a report by the Iranian news agency IRNA that the vessel had sunk.

Front Altair’s 23-member crew abandoned ship after the blast and were picked up by the nearby Hyundai Dubai vessel. The crew was then passed to an Iranian rescue boat, Hyundai Merchant Marine said in a statement.

Iran’s IRNA reported that Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 44 sailors from the two damaged tankers and took them to the Iranian port of Jask. The numbers in the Iranian media report could not be independently confirmed.

Iran’s state television showed what it said was a video of rescued crew members in Jask, showing them sitting on sofa, chatting and watching TV. There was one woman among them.

Thursday’s attacks came a day after Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis fired a missile on an airport in Saudi Arabia, injuring 26 people. The Houthis also claimed an armed drone strike last month on Saudi oil pumping stations.

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News. Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Senate Votes to Arm Middle East; House Votes to Ban Trump’s Nukes

June 16th, 2019 - by Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

US Senate Upholds Arms Sales to Bahrain and Qatar:Votes fail after tanker bombings in region

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

 (June 13, 2019) — In two surprising votes held on Thursday, the Senate rejected bills by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to block US arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar. The Bahrain vote was 43-56, and the Qatar vote was 42-57.

Sen. Paul has been leading pushes against selling US arms to countries with authoritarian governments. In Thursday’s comments he declared that “dumping more weapons into the Middle East won’t get us any closer to peace.” He also urged the US to “stop sending arms to people who abuse human rights.”

The Senate leadership dismissed such concerns, saying that Bahrain and Qatar would find arms somewhere even if the US didn’t sell them. Emphasis on the importance of the two nations centered on them hosting America’s 5th Fleet and Central Command headquarters, respectively. The White House had threatened to veto either of the measures if they’d passed.

Both votes were considered highly likely to pass up until they were rushed to the floor today. The timing appears almost certainly to have been related to Thursday tanker bombings in the Gulf of Oman, and shifted a number of Senators’ votes in favor of continuing the arms sales.

More votes are expected next week, on US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi votes are also considered likely to pass, as Senate support for the Saudis has soured since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and war crimes in Yemen, there have been growing calls for the US to limit backing to them.

The Saudi votes are also expected to be an argument between opposing US support of human rights abusers and the administration really wanting the large sales the Saudis are committing to. Expect growing US hostility toward Iran to also figure prominently in the Saudi debates.

SecDef: US Arms Saudis to Prevent Russia, China From Arming Them

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

 (June 14, 2019) — Facing growing opposition from Congress on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Trump Administration’s officials are lining up to dismiss concerns about whether Saudi war crimes and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi might warrant ending those sales.

The go-to administration argument was expressed by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Wednesday, when he insisted the US must sell the Saudis all the arms they want or risk losing those sales to Russia and China.

State Department officials were making the same argument, and while it’s plainly not a moral argument, it doesn’t appear to be factually correct either. Indeed China has long attempted to bolster its own relationship with Saudi Arabia, but has conceded that even without the US there isn’t a practical way for China or Russia to supplant those huge arms deals.

That argument may be all the administration has, however, as officials were very dismissive of Congressional questioning, declining to offer any details of their attempt to circumvent Congress by declaring a “state of emergency.”

Many in Congress are particularly angry about this declaration, since some of the arms in question aren’t to be delivered to the Saudis for more than a year, which hardly justifies the administration trying to skirt a 30-day oversight period.

House Panel Approves $733 Billion Military Bill, Drops Low-Yield Nukes

Republican amendment backing tactical nukes failed

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(June 13, 2019) — The House Armed Services Committee has passed a $733 billion version of the annual military spending bill. The vote was 33-24, largely along party lines, and will send this version to the House floor for a vote.

Once the House passes a version of this bill, it must be reconciled with the Senate version. That’s going to be a big job this year, as there are some major differences in the bills on some key subjects of debate.

One of the biggest issues is the question of low-yield nuclear weapons. The House bill ends funding for the low-yield nuclear missiles, and bars their deployment. A last-minute Republican amendment in committee to preserve the weapons failed.

Low-yield nukes are intended by the Pentagon to be more usable, tactical weapons, that would have a much lower threshold for deployment. This was the source of support among hawks, but also the source of much opposition, concern that more usable nukes would usher in an era where nuclear warfare is more routine.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) angrily condemned the failure of the amendment, saying that not having the option of tactical nuclear war  “does not make sense to me,” and that he didn’t understand abandoning the plan after it had already been funded in the past.

Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chair Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) said the tactical program is such a tiny fraction of the US nuclear force that it isn’t even a rounding error, so it is misleading for hawks to call it vital to the arsenal.

The House bill also adopted a measure that would create a Space Corps as a separate branch of the US military. The Senate bill also has a similar force, but with different language and differences in approach to establishing the force.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes

Pompeo Blames Iran for Attack Without Any Shred of Evidence

June 15th, 2019 - by Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

‘Deja Vu’ of Iraq War Lies as Mike Pompeo Blames Iran for Tanker Attack Without Single Shred of Evidence

Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

“I remember the Iraq lies. I know this administration is truthless from top to bottom and all the way out both sides.”
— Charles Pierce, Esquire

(June 14, 2019) — In a press conference that immediately evoked memories of the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday claimed Iran was behind alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman without presenting one single shred of evidence.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high-degree of sophistication,” said Pompeo, who did not provide any details on the intelligence he cited.

After asserting Iran was also behind a litany of attacks prior to Thursday’s tanker incident—once again without presenting any evidence—Pompeo said that,”Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security.”

Pompeo—who has a long history of making false claims about Iran—did not take any questions from reporters following his remarks, which were aired live on America’s major television networks.

“Mike Pompeo has zero credibility when it comes to Iran,” Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, told Common Dreams. “He’s long been actively campaigning for a confrontation with Iran. He has a track record of pushing bogus theories with no evidence such as the idea that Iran collaborates closely with al-Qaeda.”

“Once again Pompeo is not waiting for the evidence to come in,” Rainwater said, “he is picking facts to suit his campaign for confrontation with Iran.”

Video of Pompeo full statement: Official public Accusation of #Iran Gov in carrying attacks in #GulfofOman today, yesterday in Saudi, in May in UAE , Iraq & Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/8eo5nky5Ye

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) June 13, 2019

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of anti-war group CodePink, characterized Pompeo’s speech as a “deja vu” of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous weapons of mass destruction speech before the U.N. in 2003, which made the case for the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

“Secretary Pompeo gives zero proof but insists that Iran is responsible for ship attacks in Gulf of Oman this morning,” Benjamin tweeted. “Lies, lies, and more lies to make a case for war. Let’s not be fooled into another disastrous war!”

.@SecPompeo builds his case for attacking Iran by accusing Iran of sabotaging oil tankers. We call BS. #PeaceWithIran

— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) June 13, 2019

.@SecPompeo press briefing blaming Iran for oil tanker explosions is deja vu re Colin Powell and Iraq. Lies, lies and more lies to make a case for war. Let’s not be fooled into another disastrous war! #PeaceWithIran

— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) June 13, 2019

In a column following Pompeo’s speech, Esquire‘s Charles Pierce wrote that he is “not buying this in the least.”

“I remember the Iraq lies,” Pierce wrote. “I know this administration is truthless from top to bottom and all the way out both sides. I don’t trust the Saudi government as far as I can throw a bone saw. And this president feels very much like he’s being run to ground at the moment and needs a distraction.”

“And his Secretary of State is a third-rate congresscritter from Kansas who once advised American soldiers to disobey lawful orders, and who’s fighting way above his weight class,” added Pierce. “Also, too, John Bolton is eight kinds of maniac.”

On Twitter, Trita Parsi—founder of the National Iranian American Council—echoed Pierce, writing: “A serial liar is president. A warmonger and a serial fabricator who helped get us into the disastrous Iraq war and who has sabotaged numerous attempts at diplomacy is the [national security] advisor.”

“But go ahead, media, treat Pompeo’s accusations as ‘evidence’…” Parsi added.

A serial liar is President.  A warmonger and a serial fabricator who helped get us into the disastrous Iraq war and who has sabotaged numerous attempts at diplomacy is the NatSec Advisor. But go ahead, Media, treat Pompeo’s accusations as “evidence”…#OilTanker #GulfOfOman

— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) June 13, 2019

As Common Dreams reported earlier, critics warned that the timing and target of the tanker attacks on Thursday suggests they could have been a deliberate effort to “maneuver the U.S. into a war” with Iran. 

Iranian officials denied any responsibility for the attacks.

In a tweet following the explosions in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

Rainwater of Peace Action said what is needed to calm the dangerous tensions of the current moment is an “impartial investigation” into the tanker incident.

But Pompeo’s statement only served to escalate tensions further and move the U.S. and Iran closer to a military conflict, Rainwater said.

“At a time when the world desperately needs cooler heads to deescalate tensions in the Gulf, the U.S. Secretary of State is instead fanning the flames,” Rainwater said. “Our elected officials need to push for diplomacy now to take us away from the brink of war.”

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A New Surveillance Tool Is Coming to US Skies

June 13th, 2019 - by Justin Bachman / Bloomberg

(June 6, 2019) — An Arizona company developing a new type of high-altitude, long-range surveillance platform just completed a 16-day mission during which massive balloons floated over four western US states, all part of an effort to someday keep them aloft for months at a time.

World View Enterprises Inc. builds what it calls Stratollites, a system designed to offer the type of coverage satellites afford but without the need to launch incredibly expensive rockets into space. Effectively unmanned balloons, the untethered platforms operate with surveillance equipment payloads of as much as 110 pounds (50 kg) at altitudes of 50,000 feet to 75,000 feet, the company said, far above commercial air traffic.

They will be able to monitor mines, pipelines, transit infrastructure—and perhaps the contents of your fenced-off backyard—in hyper-accurate detail.

The company plans to start selling its commercial product early next year and has spoken with several potential commercial and military customers, Chief Executive Officer Ryan Hartman said Tuesday in an interview. World View sees its customer base as companies that operate critical industrial and commercial infrastructure.

The platform, navigated remotely using a unique altitude control system, can provide imagery that’s superior to orbiting vehicles, Hartman contends, because “we’re five times closer to the earth than the nearest satellite.” He said “our imagination is sort of our limit with regards to where and how these systems can be used. Certainly there is a market in target surveillance and reconnaissance on a global scale.”

“There’s a very real potential here that these kinds of systems will lead to a pervasive aerial surveillance.”

Given that satellites have the capacity to read license plates, World View’s product may have implications for privacy and civil liberties. Asked if the company would sell access to police departments, Andrew Antonio, director of business development for World View, said “flying a Stratollite is no different” than how “domestic law enforcement agencies leverage aerial technologies like helicopters and aircraft.”

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, isn’t so sure.

“Everything depends on how expansive it is and how high resolution it is and how wide of an area it can surveil,” Stanley said of World View’s Straollite. “There’s a very real potential here that these kinds of systems will lead to a pervasive aerial surveillance of cities where our every move will be tracked.”

He pointed to a sweeping 2012 ruling by the US Supreme Court that limited police power to track people using GPS devices. The reasoning used by some of the justices in that unanimous ruling could easily be expanded to other types of surveillance technology, Stanley said.

Jeramie Scott, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Domestic Surveillance Project, said that while high-altitude surveillance balloons may have beneficial uses, “they will also pose a serious threat to our privacy and civil liberties.

“The balloons will likely drive down the cost of surveillance, making persistent aerial surveillance of all our public movements a real possibility,” Scott said. “Traditionally, our privacy in public has been protected by the limitations of technology and the exorbitant costs of tracking everyone’s public movements, but surveillance balloons potentially remove these barriers.”

And the threat to privacy isn’t just from law enforcement misuse, he added. “Without safeguards, companies will seek to monetize the data that can be collected about individuals as they move about in public.”

World View’s own test showed that the ability for surveillance technology to linger overhead for long periods of time, covering a wide swath of America, is indeed in reach.

The company’s 16-day test flight started near the company’s Tucson headquarters and spanned more than 3,000 miles over Nevada, Utah and southern Oregon, ending Monday in the Nevada desert. The company said it plans to extend its next test flight to 30 days, and then 60 days.Several satellite firms do offer similar data to a range of clients, from agriculture to meteorologists to hedge funds.

Meanwhile, Alphabet Inc.’s Project Loon also uses balloons in the stratosphere, designed to provide Internet and communications services. The company said it’s worked with AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile US Inc. to provide infrastructure to Puerto Rico following its devastation by a hurricane.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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