The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance 391

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now.

Such precarious balance as there ever was in Iraq was upset this last two months when the US and Israelis transported more of their ISIL Sunni jihadists into Iraq, to escape the pincer of the Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces. The Iranians were naturally not going to stand for this and Iranian militias were successfully destroying the ISIL remnants, which is why General Qassem Suleimani was in Iraq, why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack, and why Syrian military representatives were being welcomed at Baghdad airport.

It is five years since I was last in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it is extraordinarily heavily fortified with military barriers and checks every hundred yards, and there is no way the crowd could have been allowed to attack the US Embassy without active Iraqi government collusion. That profound political movement will have been set in stone by the US assassination of Suleimani. Tehran will now have a grip on Iraq that could prove to be unshakable.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion. Technology is a far greater factor in warfare than it was in the 1960s. The USA could destroy Iran, but the cost and the ramifications would be enormous, and not only the entire Middle East but much of South Asia would be destabilised, including of course Pakistan. My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen. We all have to pray it does not.

There will also today be rejoicing in Washington. There is nothing like an apparently successful military attack in a US re-election campaign. The Benghazi Embassy disaster left a deep scar upon the psyche of Trump’s support base in particular, and the message that Trump knows how to show the foreigners not to attack America is going down extremely well where it counts, whatever wise people on CNN may say.

So what happens now? Consolidating power in Iraq and finishing the destruction of ISIL in Iraq will be the wise advance that Iranian statesman can practically gain from these events. But that is, of course, not enough to redeem national honour. Something quick and spectacular is required for that. It is hard not to believe there must be a very real chance of action being taken against shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran can do with little prior preparation. Missile attacks on Saudi Arabia or Israel are also well within Iran’s capability, but it seems more probable that Iran will wish to strike a US target rather than a proxy. An Ambassador may be assassinated. Further missile strikes against US outposts in Iraq are also possible. All of these scenarios could very quickly lead to disastrous escalation.

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.


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391 thoughts on “The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance

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  • Ken Kenn

    Like the circles that you find in the Windmills of Trump’s mind.

    I suspect despite the BBC’s musings that there is more to this assassination than Trump’s impeachment charges.

    No matter what the Congress does, the Senate will not impeach him.

    He gained 5% points apparently only last week.

    So everyone- what’s the real story?

    More to the point – who’s editing it in the Whitehouse?

    My instinct is that it’s not Trump.

    Only an instinct though.

    • Los

      I suspect the intention is *exactly* to be a distraction from Trump’s impeachment charges.

      Be very afraid when National Leaders closer to Home start using this trick.

      Wag the Dog.

  • Bruce

    I seem to remember russia saying that any move against iran means nuclear war. Might explain why iran hasn’t been invaded yet. But still the US crazies goad and bait the Iranians into responding, which they will air 24/7 in the msm.

    • pretzelattack

      turns out we had a choice between (probably) a quicker start to a war with russia and a slower one. just grand. my hopes are with a sober and measured putin.

    • lysias

      Khrushchev’s nuke threats to UK and France were one of the factors that caused the climbdown over Suez.

    • Tom Welsh

      That may be shorthand for “once war starts escalation will proceed uncontrollably”. If the Yanks attack Iran and Russia helps to defend it… US ships will be sunk and bases destroyed. Washington will strike back, and it will proceed inexorably until in less than 24 hours the human race will be effectively extinct.

  • Jack

    US keep spreading lies even after the person in question is dead!,

    White House Adviser: Soleimani Planned December 27 Attack That Killed American Contractor

    Bullshit! Besides the protests outside the embassy came AFTER U.S. killed 25 iraqis!

    It followed Sunday’s deadly US airstrikes that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah”

    • Borncynical

      Yep. Just reported as breaking news on RT as well. No details as yet but “we will keep you informed as details come in”.

      • N_

        The Trump team is being deliberately provocative. See also the stories of how he praised the dog allegedly involved in killing al-Baghdadi and how he ate ice-cream to celebrate the Soleimani assassination. That isn’t a huge step on though from when US forces murdered Saddam Hussein’s sons and plastered photos of their injured corpses all over the media.

        The Russian government is keeping remarkably quiet.

  • George McI

    Interesting “exchange” about this assassination on Radio 2 today between Peter Oborne and …oh some prick from the Henry Jackson society where, for everything that PO said, the Jackson man just said “That’s a load of shite!”. It was like hearing broadcasts from different planets. The highlight was when the HJ man said that Soleimani was a threat to US bases in Iraq i.e. a threat to the bases of the force that destroyed Iraq.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Very simple question for cretinous US idiots: ‘Why are you allowed to go everywhere but foreign neighbours of Iraq are allowed nowhere?’

      ‘You are just murdering, psychotic racists at heart, aren’t you?’

      Do not back down: the message now to idiots like that has to be that they are racist, their racism is totally unacceptable and they need to go home, stay home and never come out again until others allow them to.

      ‘We are American so we can do everything. You are Iranians so you can do nothing.’

      Racism, pure and simple.

      Against the US Constitution, pure and simple.

      Shows that the US Constitution is not even any use as bogroll……

      • SA

        This racism is the driver of all US foreign policy , endorsed by their lapdog here.
        It is the basis of R2P, regime chain, humanitarian wars. It even goes back to the justification of killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians with atom bombs, to try their new toys, in the gift of other people’s lands on Palestine to mainly European origin settlers and is also an integral part of neoliber globalisation.

        • Carol

          This is just a sample of how the British “gifted” Palestine to the Jews:

          On 11th December 1917, the British Army captured Jerusalem. At that time there were approximately 50,000 Jews in Palestine, 10% of the population, amongst the half a million Arabs.

          In 1922, the League of Nations formalised British rule in Palestine under the British Mandate Document 1922. The second clause stipulated “The British mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under political, administrative and economic conduct that will secure the establishment of a Jewish National home”.

          Under the Mandate, the British seized empty or neglected properties, expelled farmers from their farmland and assisted the Zionist movement in the building of settlements, whilst at the same time concealing these activities from the Palestinians.

          In September 1937, the British declared Marshall Law and disbanded the Arab Higher Committee headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem. Five of its member were exiled to the Seychelles, others to Mauritius, both remote British colonies. Fearing imprisonment, other political leaders fled to Lebanon. By October there were no Palestinian political leaders left.

          Palestinians were banned from owning arms and the British continued to blow up the homes of anyone they considered dissidents. They would forcibly enter homes and leave the house wrecked. From 1936 to 1937 the British killed over 1,000 Palestinians. Whilst disarming the Palestinians, the British were arming and training Jewish special forces.

          During 1938-1939, 112 Palestinians were executed by the British, among them was 80 year old Farhar Al Sadt from Jenin, during the holy month of Ramadan. Trouble makers were rounded up and tortured. Food stuffs were deliberately contaminated – the mixing together of sugar with oil, wheat with flour and lentils. Homes demolished. Palestinians were starving.

          The British imposed the 1945 Defence (Emergency) Regulations, which applied to the whole of British Mandatory Palestine. The Regulations included, the establishment of military tribunals to try civilians without granting the right of appeal, allowing sweeping searches and seizures, prohibiting publication of books and newspapers, demolishing houses, detaining individuals for an indefinite period, sealing off particular territories and imposing curfews.

          In February 1947, at a meeting of the UN, the British announced their decision to end its Mandate in Palestine:
          “British public opinion will permit no more expenditure of life and treasure. It will acquiesce no longer in the use of British forces and the squandering of British lives to impose a policy in Palestine which one or other of the parties is determined to resist. It has brought down on our heads, the execration of the Jews and the bitter resentment of the Arabs. It has made us the butt of malicious criticism throughout the world.”

          The rest is history.

    • Carol


      Henry Jackson Society Press release: 9 September 2013:
      “Failure to persuade the US Congress of the need for military action against the Assad regime could prove disastrous for the people of Syria, lead to the normalisation of weapons of mass destruction use worldwide and irretrievably harm the US’s international reputation, The Henry Jackson Society has warned.”

      General Wesley Clark: “Nine days after 9/11, a decision had been made by US military, on or about 20th September [2001], to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off with Iran”

      The reason for switching from Iraq then Syria, to Iraq then Libya is this:
      “The US effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation. The State Department presence in Benghazi provided diplomatic cover for a hidden CIA/MI6 mission, which involved finding and re-purchasing heavy weaponry looted from the Libyan government’s arsenals, specifically the 20,000 MANPADS SA-7, surface-to-air anti-aircraft.

      A Libyan ship, the Al Entisar, carrying at least 400 tons of cargo, docked in southern Turkey on 6th September 2011, described as the largest consignment of weapons headed for Syria’s rebels on the frontlines. The man who organized that shipment, Tripoli Military Council head Abdelhakim Belhadj, worked directly with Christopher Stevens during the Libyan revolution. Christopher Stevens’ last meeting on 11th September 2011, was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin in Benghazi, to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get the SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.” Christopher Stevens was killed that evening.

      • George McI

        I knew the HJ society were neo-cons. I was a bit surprised to hear them represented on Radio 2. Not a good sign.

    • Mary

      Interesting that the HJS UK has Boris Johnson on their Twitter page banner.

      From their Twitter feed –
      Johnson is also in the photo on that link. Is he signed up to them and their evil?

      Just Mendoza, Foxall and Menard are listed on their website as ‘professional staff’.

      It’s a charidee! Six trustees inc Gisela Stuart.
      20 employees, and £1.4m income. They spend £200k more than they receive.

      I cannot see any mention of Douglas Murray. Has he fled the scene?

      I feel quite soiled having trawled over their stuff.

      • Mary

        Note their links to APPGs in our parliament. The identity of their donors was not revealed in spite of requests to the HJS to provide that information. The APPGs were closed down 6 years later. The parliamentary commissioner at the time was pathetic and rolled over. The transparency requirements were even changed. They seem to have carte blanche.

        ‘In 2009 the society became the secretariat of two all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs), for Transatlantic and International Security, chaired by Gisela Stuart, and for Homeland Security, chaired by Bernard Jenkin.’

        Also Lady de Rothschild sued them for the return of some of her funding. LOL.

      • pete

        Douglas Murray has his own Wiki page, strangely with no edits that I can see by Philip Cross.
        Wiki informs us that he was associate Director of the HJS up to 2018. So I guess he is no longer there. It also says he is an associate editor of the Spectator magazine, a dead wood, vanity publishing outfit.

        It is not clear to me how he came to hold the views he does regarding Islam or why he should believe that Christianity holds a higher moral ground than other religious faiths, nor is it clear why a gay man might believe Conservatism might be a better philosophical outlook than, say, libertarianism. I see nothing but contradictions and a peculiarly inflexible outlook of life, bereft of any sense of irony or wit. It is therefore not surprising that he seems to be urging us into another war a soon as possible.

        • George McI

          Douglas Murray has always been a cheerleader in the neo-con Islamophobic “war on terror”. Consider the bit from 2 mins 20 seconds on this:

          He just happened to be attending some social function in Iraq (?) and had to “endure” a Kurdish dance which he promptly mocks. The punchline to this is that those funny stupid Kurds cannot possible match the superior Western ballet tradition. He could have made equally disparaging remarks about any folk culture. How about Scottish Highland dancing, American barn dancing, English Morris dancing? The point is that there is no reason to consider folk dancing being in competition with ballet dancing. No matter what those “trendy lefties” are trying to say – assuming, that is, that these damned hippie philosophers actually exist outside the convenient assumptions of Murray’s mind.

  • Dennis Dvernychuk

    I am wondering how Russia and China, will react considering the considerable efforts already put forth in establishing an united trade system and development of trade routes—are they just going to walk away?

  • Wikikettle

    Yes, I agree that Iran has interfeard in Iraq and Syria. By so doing prevented the black flag of Isis being raised over Bhagdad and Damascus. Sullimani will be remembered for that by grateful Syrians and Iraqi’s. No doubt Fisk and Cockburn will write his obittuary.

  • Brianfujisan

    I Do Find myself Thinking what Happened to Trump’s Seeming reluctance to ( New ) Big full on War’s ..And in this Case WWIII.. Potentially the END

    Here be a great piece by Whitney Webb –

    “…Given the above, the question then becomes — is the Trump administration basing its assassination of a top Iranian general in Iraqi sovereign territory in clear violation of international law on the death of a single individual that the government will not even name? Even when five strikes were already launched to allegedly avenge that same individual?

    Risking a regional war to allegedly avenge the death of an individual who was already avenged raises questions

  • Goose

    If the aim is Iranian regime change (Trump denies that, John Bolton certainly desires it) lifting sanctions and making Iran more prosperous would be a quicker route. A healthier, wealthier population would demand more freedoms from the stifling conservative clerical rule. Alas, Israel and KSA hate that idea, because they believe a more prosperous Iran, would in the meantime, just divert more money into its weapons programmes and build its influence in the region. So we get the cruel sanctions and war option.

  • Antonym

    The Sunni Arab oil Sheikhs are the prime Anglo-mil movers in the ME; Israel is little more than a stationary aircraft carrier for them. Only they have the money and massive oil reserves to back up the US dollar, Israel has next to nada.

    Still, to get brownie points from Western Leftovers and Muslims it is best to keep on hammering on “the Zionists” over the Arab oil rulers. Underplay the age old Sunni- Shia divide combined with the Arab- Iranian gap because Muslims are our “friends”.

    • Curious

      Sure, and it is the Muslim countries that control Congress, of course, and that all US candidates pledge unwavering support to ….

    • Antonym

      After the Suez crisis the Arab oil sheikhs saw that biggest Arab nation was weak military, which was confirmed later on again in 1967 and 1973. The 1956 Suez war had shown the UK and France as equally weaker than the US, so the Sheikhs swapped their protection contract to the US. The rise of a Shia promoting Iran after 1979 got them up on their hind legs as Shia are all around them, in Yemen, partly in KSA itself, in Qatar, Iraq, Syria. Israel was and is a side show for them, but not for various anti Zionists around the globe.

    • SA

      Your understanding of the situation is over simplistic. We love the oil rich states because of the money we get out of exploiting their oil but we love the apartheid state for completely different reasons, mainly the extension of privileged settlers as happened in The US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and attempted but failed in South Africa and Kenya.

    • Dungroanin

      ‘Has…nada’ !!!

      I wonder sometimes at your vacuity antzy.

      Start with just how the state was conceived. Then when it was born and how. Then how it was raised and finally WHY? For what ultimate purpose?

      If any of your answer involves religion and safety – you will instantly FAIL.

      I’ll start you of with a relevant date, when a unprecedented – contract – was signed and PUBLISHED a…contract with 4 authors and ONE receipient WHO is still represented to this very day.

      A contract so short and precise as to be as easy to recite as the Gettysburg Address – yet it isn’t! Perhaps because half if it is broken!

      see if you can take it from there?

      November 2nd 1917.

  • Goose

    As Bernie Sanders says, none of this ramping up of tensions is necessary. There was a perfectly good nuclear deal in place.
    And even those hawks who make highly dubious claims its about fighting tyranny and bringing democratic ‘freedom’. They forget Iran has a pro-democracy “green movement” , and it came very close to toppling the clerical regime, by people power on the streets, a decade ago. They don’t need the US trying to starve and sanction the country, certainly not bombing it into submission.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      More defence contracts means Senators and Congressfolk get reelected.

      Killing a few greasy Arabs is acceptable collateral damage in getting elected.

      That is how the racists on Capitol Hill think.

  • Mrs Pau!

    Clearly the latest American actions in the Middle East have taken many people by surprise. I posted a link earlier to a piece in the Guardian which I thought might reflect some of the thinking in the Trump Camp about QS which led to his murder. I did this to seek a better understanding of why they did what they did. I also like to explore or speculate on what might follow from major events.

    This approach is always a risky course of action here. Some posters at once leap to the conclusion you yourself agree with the opposing views you have highlighted. Others go into an extended rant about the source of the opposing views and still others disagree with the whole concept of speculation itself: blanket condemnation is the only response permitted.

    I don’t see it like like that. I might not agree with Dominic Cumming say, but while he is Johnson’s advisor, I am interested to read his views. And if I or indeed anyone here, contributes a controversial view expressed by a close advisor to say Trump or Johnson, in the course of a discussion, it does NOT invariably mean we agree with them. Often we are just seeking greater insight into why certain actions occurred and what might follow.

    I realise some of you do not like to speculate, you just want to condemn. But some of us do. Please realise we can speculate without actually agreeing with those views we are discussing.

    • SA

      Yes Mary Paul
      I agree with you. People who say they do not listen to the BBC or read the Guardian are displaying a hear no evil head in the sand approach. I not only listen and read these but where appropriate I will also read the Mail, the sun, the mirror and so on and even some of the US. One must be acquainted with both sides of a conversation without condoning the side you disagree with otherwise one lives in a self delusional echo-chamber.

    • Jack

      Mrs Pau!

      Assassination/acts of war is never right. There are no two sides here besides those that want to justify the law breaching acts.

      • Mrs Pau!

        I am not trying go justify terrible acts, which could never be justified by my belief structure. Nothing I believe in for example could ever justify terrorist killings by religious extremists, whether the sectarian murders of the Provisional IRA or the vicious murders of ISIS, to take but two examples. Seeking explanations for why something happens. does not justify the fact that it happens.

    • Magic Robot

      “I might not agree with Dominic Cumming say, but while he is Johnson’s advisor”.
      ‘Advisor’ – he seems more like a latterday Colonel House or Rasputin.
      Makes Mr. Johnson look like no more than a sock-puppet, no?
      And, why do you equivocate concerning murder?
      Yet another example of the West’s fundamental problem: moral relativism.

      • Mrs Pau!

        All murders sanctioned for religious reasons are wrong in my view. Others do not share this view and indeed Christianity fought religious wars in its history. Once again, an explanation of why something is or was done, is not a justification that it is or was done.

    • Fwl

      Well said Mrs P. Let’s have more dynamic thought and less spouting of flat party lines.

    • SA

      I am not sure how murder, even of a vile human being, can bring joy and peace. It is this dehumanisation of your opponent that leads to the political actions that we condemn.

  • SA

    “I sort of think that when this Iranian general wasconducting operations outside of his own country that he must have known that he was a target“
    Typical . And the whole of the West has always conducted operations thousands of miles away and have the impunity and arrogance aplenty. He was in a country next door to his and was not an invader.

    • U Watt

      I doubt Assad himself would bother trying to deny his government is authoritarian, as was his father’s. So why try to get Craig Murray to deny it?

      • SA

        It is the underlying mindset behind using this term. For example you never hear Craig or anyone else saying “The bin Salman “ regime referring to KSA or the Netanyahu regime’. Perhaps U.K. with its unelected head of state is more appropriately labelled the’ Elizabeth regime’ or the ‘Windsor regime’.

        • U Watt

          Like I said, not even Assad himself would bother disputing the nature of his government.

        • Laguerre

          I quite frequently talk about the ‘British regime’ these days, because it merits that degree of disrespect. Though ‘Johnson regime’ might be better.

          • SA

            To the right with his folded arms is Michael Gove and to the left holding his hands is Jacob Rees Mogg, sometimes referred to as the Member of Parliament for the 18th century.

          • Tatyana

            Thank you, SA. And those sitting by Mr. Gove? I see one of them has distinctly mocking facial expression, and the other is copying Mr. Johnson’s jesture.
            Can you please name the others in the picture?
            The lady is also interesting, her facial expression indicates that she heard something funny, but tries to control her face and not show laughter (I would like to believe that she considers laughter to be something improper in that situation, I would like to believe in it, because obviously they make fun of Mr. Corbyn)

          • Mary

            The Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group is well represented in that front bench line up.

          • SA

            To the right of Gove is Dominic Raab Foreign Secretary. The man to his right I am not sure but may be Grant Shaps, transport secretary. On the left of Rees-Mogg is Stephen Barclay, secretary of state for exiting the EU and the woman is Pritti Patel, Home Secretary.

          • Tatyana

            Thanks a lot, SA. Now I know the name. Mr. Raab is the most unpleasant in the photo. His face is mixture of mockery and sadistic pleasure.

            litle by little I’ll know all your politicians 🙂 I remember people better if I use emotions. I imagine a “mental screenshot of a person”, sort of a ‘marker’ or ‘shortcut’, instead of wordy descriptions. It helps in conversations to quickly understand who we are talking about.
            Mister Raab marked “Joker”+”trollface”

          • N_

            In the British media, the royal family are getting their stamp on more and more things, from weather reports (“the east of the UK”) to stories about people being taken ill (“UK man in hospital”). Many many “experts” and functionaries gob off on regime radio, intoning the letters “UK” as if they’re an indicator of sophistication, of being above the “general public”, of being real latte-drinking global livers. They don’t realise what an absolute bunch of moronic charlies they sound.

      • Tom Welsh

        I really do wish people would trouble to say exactly what they mean by “authoritarian”.

        Just try ignoring the laws and regulations and guidelines of the UK or US government, and you will see “authoritarianism”.

        At least, they will use escalating degrees of force to make you comply – up to and including killing you.

  • SA

    US doubles down on the paramount aims of the nuclear armed nuclear superpower, salivating in the background. When Saudi Arabia oil fields were bombed and when the expensive drone was downed, there was no US retaliation. The assassination of Soliemani has the name of the nuclear superpower written all over it, and not that of the oil kingdom.
    Trump is really not a pacifist and although we might have had a war sooner with Clinton ( a big if that is unprovable) .
    I am sick of this argument proposed that Trump was the better of two evils. The system behind both is the same, the methodology might be somewhat different but ultimately lead to degradation of other nations slowly or quickly.
    The assassination of Soliemany and bow further bombing of a medical convoy north of Baghdad look like carefully pre planned operation to push Iran into a war not of their choice, or face humiliation. This of course uses Iraq as the proxy battlefield. In fact the cowardice of the US is that it will be sure that it will not be attacked.
    The US never has the interest of its allies at heart therefore the oil Sheikhdom and the Nuclear regional superpower beware. US in the recent past has abandoned the Kurds, conspired against Erdogan in Turkey and now treated the supposed ally Iraq with utter contempt.

    • U Watt

      True, that was why Putin laughed at the notion he favoured one candidate over the other in 2016. Because US interests remain unchanged regardless of who occupies the White House.

      • Tatyana

        Putin said about candidate Trump:
        “Trump is a notable man. Is not him? Notable. I did not give any other characteristics. But what I am exactly paying attention to, and definitely welcome, Mr. Trump said that he is ready for a full-scale restoration of US-Russian relations. What’s bad with it? We all welcome this. Aren’t you?”

        later in 2017
        question: “Trump breaks unpredictability records, maybe Clinton would be more understandable… seems so”
        Putin: “You know the folk wisdom says “if something seems to you, then cross yourself”* It only seems so. I stick to what I said a year ago. We are working with the president elected by the American people. His unpredictability is associated not only with him, but also with great resistance within the country. After all, he is practically not allowed to realize any of the election promises. Health care … He makes a decision on migrants, and the court blocks it. This is constantly happening. This unpredictability depends on the entire American political system…”

        * folk saying “Если кажется, креститься надо”
        translates “If you are not sure of what exactly you see, then cross yourself with holy blessing”
        alluding “You may have false visions bacause of the tricks of evil spirits”.
        Somewhat humorous.

        I like this Discussion Club format, many people come and ask questions. Very informative.

        • John A

          Apropos how Putin described Trump, a lot of it boiled down to what interpreters said and how Trump interpreted it. As I recall (vaguely it was almost 4 years ago,), Trump said “Putin called me a ‘brilliant man’. When Putin was asked, he provided the Russian word he had used, that apparently translates more accurately as ‘colourful’. I.e. Putin had described Trump as a colourful man, which is very different from brilliant as such, but sometimes people talk about ‘brilliant colours’ and in the heat of instant interpretation, it is quite feasible that the go-between, on hearing ‘colourful man’, hastily used the term ‘brilliant man’. Trump is never one not to ‘blow his own trumpet’ as it were, and latched on to ‘brilliant’ as how Putin had described him.

          • Tatyana

            funny, our news reported “Trump said that Putin called him a genius” 🙂
            In fact, Putin used the word “яркий”. It’s not about colors, this is figurative meaning, the most close translation must be ‘eye-catching’, or ‘notable’.

          • John A

            Yes Tatyana, eye-catching, notable, etc., when an interpreter has to come up with a translation straight off, it is easy to not quite get it absolutely right and there are nuances in all languages. Even when it comes to subtitles in films, where the subtitler is not under such acute time pressure, I sometimes see very strange translations between languages I do know. In most cases, it does not really affect overall comprehension, but Trump is so incredibly vain, and probably not the most intelligent or perceptive of individuals, he probably believed Putin was calling him a genius, because that what Trump thinks he is in his own mind.

          • N_

            “Colourful” is the best translation of “яркий” in this context. Doesn’t mean literally to do with colours.

          • Tatyana

            John A,
            the main difficulty of the translator is to find the right equivalent of meaning in two cultural strata. After all, the first meaning of the word that we see in the dictionary, does not always correspond to the meaning that follows from the context.
            And this ability to switch between two ‘encryption systems’, this is the skill of a translator. In my experience, the translator must be well-educated in broad variety of matters, to correctly understand the context and allusions.
            Information can be transmitted not only in words, but also in color, knots on a rope, electrical impulses, etc. One has only to define the “alphabet” and clear rules of the “syntax”. Apart from languages, we are surrounded by many such “cryptographic systems”. Singers are translators, too, if you understand what I mean.

          • Tatyana

            “colourful” has a strong connotation of “consisting of several colors,” and “яркий” means “standing out from a number of similar ones with a more prominent one / several qualities”
            in the meaning of the word “яркий” the concept of color is involved only as an allusion for the most common example of that same one / several possible qualitiies

  • Andrew Nichols

    ..why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack…
    Craig. Where was this mission reported? Where did you get your info from? Its highly relevant even if as with the OPCW scandal our despicable corporate media wont report it.

    • Republicofscotland

      Chomsky said you can tell how liberal a society is by what your allowed to openly discuss, and what your not allowed to openly discuss.

    • Tom Welsh

      “So, according to Mike Pence, Iran was responsible for the 9/11 atrocity”.

      Yes, obviously. That’s why they invaded and destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq. Do try to keep up.

    • N_

      Thanks, @Mark. That’s interesting. The ascription of responsibility for 911 could switch fast, especially given that the US has now supports Al Quaida for several years. Once upon a time (beginning about 1980) the term “Islamic fundamentalism” was used by US and pro-US propagandists against Iran and focusing on a tendency within Shia Islam. Western “experts” and brown-nosers often used the term “Islamic Republic” for Iran. Interesting too that Mike Pence wants there to have been 12 men who carried out the 911 operation, with Suleimani as the 13th, working from afar. There’s a lot of symbolism there.

  • David

    President supports Julian Assange, and is friends with Jeremy Corbyn…
    ( …Mexican President, but it’s a great piece of ‘sentiment analysis’ – he also accurately mentions that JA showed that the world was in an authoritarian place demonstrated how the world system functions in its authoritarian nature )

    and more serious Aussie Press are noticing “Assange Saga”

    • Tom Welsh

      Thirty pieces of silver, eh?

      The Iranians are too principled to take money in return for the murder of one of their best people.

      Besides, they can be quite sure the Americans are lying – they always do.

      • Tatyana

        Well, I would not underestimate the eastern ability to build an intrigue, which is probably even more powerful than a simple and predictable western lie. The Iranians can take the offered help and pretend to be satisfied, but still take revenge in such a sophisticated manner, that their involvement will not be easy to guess, not even to prove.

    • Dungroanin

      If true they better do so publicly and immediately because the 3 day mourning is finishing soon.

      Remember an eye for an eye is biblical justice!

      If the US generals and special forces want to remain safe they need to make it clear right now or be targeted all over the world.

      There will still be Justice down the line for the real perps from one side or another.

      Think PanAm, Le Mesurier …

      • Tom Welsh

        “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” may be Biblical justice…

        But there is not one single person in the USA whose value is as great as that of General Soleimani. One does not give up one’s queen in order to win a pawn, or even a knight. (Although to extend the chess metaphor properly to Washington one would have to add some new pieces: donkeys, swine, rats…)

    • N_

      Did the envoy deliver his message at the very moment the US were following up the first attack with the attack on the medical convoy north of Baghdad?

      There’s no way the US are about to lift all sanctions against Iran. They wouldn’t have the guts to annoy their masters in that way.

  • Athanasius

    I personally think that Trump is nowhere near as stupid as the MSM portrays him. This tribe, and the deep state behind them, are literally INSANE that the people of America have had the absolute, unregenerate gall to return a candidate to office that wasn’t one of them. They have flatly refused to accept that decision and have been working with a crazed treachery to bring him down. Trump has only managed to stave them off with the help of the Israel lobby, but that doesn’t come cheap. I suspect this is the payoff.

    • Dom

      All the interviews with staffers who have worked in the Trump White House suggest he is even stupider than portrayed.

    • Cynicus

      January 4, 2020 at 10:47
      “I personally think that Trump is nowhere near as stupid as the MSM portrays him.”
      All the close eyewitness accountsvinform us that he is even more stupid:

      “a fucking moron“ –Lex Tillerson;

      “an idiot “– General John Kelly;

      “the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader”- General Jim Mathis;

      “An even bigger idiot than he looks”-Janice Yellen.
      All of these have worked in positions at the highest level alongside Trump.

      But don’t worry. If you trawl trough Breitbart, Fox News other Trump fanzines then you will find support for your view.

    • Spencer Eagle

      Agreed, Trump has been very circumspect over his military actions, unlike ‘Obomba’ who in his last year of office sanctioned the dropping 26,171 bombs – that’s nearly three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day, largely on the Middle East. He’s been particularly adept at keeping the military and defence contractors on side whilst doing minimal harm elsewhere in the world. I can understand how the assassination of General Soleimani came about, in the previous few month’s there had been at least eleven missile attacks on US bases and resources by Iranian backed rebels inside Iraq, the last on 27th of December killed a US contractor and wounded several US soldiers at a base in Kirkuk. It would appear Soleimani was foolish enough to give the US an opportunity they could not pass up.

      • tunde

        So why not engage counter-batteries on the launch sites ? Why not engage the sovereigngovt of Iraq to put a stop to the attacks or else ?
        Don’t forget we killed a guest of the Iraqi government, with what was effectively an Iraqi military general accompanying him. Plus other Iraqi government personnel. This is the same President who claims he deterred a missile strike previously because “150” people would have been casualties.
        Trump’s circumspection has been about what is quick and how soon victory can be announced not because he is fundamentally anti war. Besides, we won’t ever know how many bombs Trump has dropped unless Congress demands the answers.
        “During Mr Obama’s eight years in office, 1,878 drone strikes were carried out, according to researchers. Since Mr Trump was elected in 2016, there have been 2,243 drone strikes. The Republican president has also made some of the operations, the ones outside of war zones, more secretive. As a result, things have different today: under Mr Trump, there are more drone strikes – and less transparency. ”

        • Spencer Eagle

          ‘During Mr Obama’s eight years in office, 1,878 drone strikes were carried out, according to researchers. Since Mr Trump was elected in 2016, there have been 2,243 drone strikes. ‘
          You clearly don’t understand the difference between drone strikes and bombing. Trump’s increase in drone strikes indicates a move away from ‘Obomba’s’ 24/7 use of indiscriminate bombing and consequential civilian casualties to precision strikes targeting small groups of people. A missile hellfire missile of the type that killed Soleimani would contain 9 kg of explosive, versus 400 kg of explosive in a single JDAM bomb of the type dropped in civilian areas all over the Middle East during Obama’s tenure. It begs the question the question how Obama was even nominated, let alone awarded, the Nobel prize for peace.

    • Tom Welsh

      Intelligence and stupidity are directional quantities, and relative. One can be very clever indeed in one way, and act like a complete fool in others. Mr Trump is very good at swindling and confidence tricks. Perhaps he is also good at politics. Fletcher Pratt described the art of military strategy as “one of immense and infantile simplicity”, which can be mastered only by someone who sees the wood as well as (a few) trees. “Infantile simplicity” sounds rather like the man.

      Moreover, intelligence is useless unless it is applied. “It is not enough to be a good player; one must also play well”.

  • Republicofscotland

    So the Pentagon has said that at another 3000 American troops will be sent to the region. Blowing theory out the water that the US would pull back after the murder of Suleimani.

    Trump in his haste to kill Suleimani didn’t even bother to inform his allies of the action, who have military and civilian personnel in the region. However Netanyahu has lauded Trump in his action, as China, France and Russia condemned the assassination.

    Foolishly the UK has fallen into line with Netanyahu on the murder. The EU created its own merchant shipping force to protect its ships in the Straits of Hormuz, the Americans offered to protect EU ships but the EU decided to distance itself from US belligerent action.

    The UK however openly welcomed US protection for their ships and in the process made themselves an even bigger target for attacks in the Straits.

    • Laguerre

      I don’t think anybody thought, or said, that the US would pull back after the murder of Suleimani. The question is whether they would be forced out. You may have noticed that there is a small difference between the 3000 extra now being sent, and the 100-150,000 troops that occupied Iraq after 2003. Now that Iraqi acceptance of the American presence has just disappeared, something like the latter figure is what is necessary to keep Iraq under US control by force. And such a figure is unlikely to prove popular in the States. It’s not a nice set of options for the US, with their consequent effects on the electoral base.

      • Republicofscotland

        “You may have noticed that there is a small difference between the 3000 extra now being sent, and the 100-150,000 troops that occupied Iraq after 2003.”

        That’s patently obvious as in 2003 it was a full scale invasion of Iraq. However the US will not abandon Iraq, and allow a Russia or China to gain a strong foothold, the great Satan will turf it out so to speak.

    • Cynicus

      “….. the UK has fallen into line with Netanyahu on the murder. ”
      When did this happen? Dominic Rab’s response preceded that of Netanyahu.

      Source and link would be much appreciated.

  • Richard Colvin

    The majority of people in Iraq are Shia Muslims and probably have at least a degree of support for Iran backing their country in various ways, inclding security. Shia Muslims have for years been targeted by Sunni Muslim extremists/terrorists including suicide bombers. A former PM of Iraq (Maliki) blamed Saudi Arabia for multiple attacks on Shia mosques, etc. These attacks continue today. To some extent, then, I would argue that Soleimani’s role in Iraq is one of justified defence and support for allies. The same, I think, can be said for Iranian support for the government in Syria, which was nearly toppled by Saudi backed Islamist extremists/terrorist, including ISIS and Al Qaeda. So, although I am sure Soleimani was a major part of theocratic Iran’s internal security/repression apparatus, I am also sure that Iran’s role in the Middle East is not the biggest problem; or at least Iranian influence is not the thing that worries me the most. I have seen comments from Iranian dissidents pointing out Soleimani’s role in Iran’s theocratic repressive state. I have no doubt this is true. The problem is Soleimani was killed by the Americans not by the Iranians.

  • Mary

    Speaking of the USA, we’re back to the Anne Sacoolas case.

    A group has been set up to campaign in the US for Anne Sacoolas to return to the UK after being charged with causing Harry Dunn’s death by dangerous driving.
    3rd January 2020

    ‘A peaceful demonstration calling for the US to support the extradition of Mrs Sacoolas is due to be held outside RAF Croughton, where her husband was based, between 12pm and 5pm tomorrow (Saturday, January 4).’

  • Willie

    Lots of speculation on why, this obvious enemy figurehead of Iran was executed.

    The US could have had him taken out years ago either in an assassination on his own turf, or by assassination elsewhere. So why now, and why in Iraq, in such a public way. Clearly, this in intended to send a message, or provoke a response, and one cannot but think that behind the scenes, the American economic sanctions against the Iranian opposition axis is not working. The American dollar as the reserve currency is being undermined, quasi militarily or should I say proxy-militarily the US is not winning. The huge destruction of around half of Saudi oil production a month or so back is further testimony to how the US alliance is not winning. Saudi was attacked despite it being an effective US protectorate.

    World War 1 was rough, world war 2 even rougher. Nothing much has changed since then save that the weaponry has gotten ugh more devastating. And wars now, in many eyes, favour the technological with the war fought from 40,000 feet and beyond – and this particular assassination was by a highly technological drone that both knew exactly when and where the Iranian general was to within a few inches.

    Could it therefore be that the US in losing ground simply wants to reignite another Gulf War where they can then deploy their huge military capacity in a fearsome show of strength. If so, I think the world is in for a rough ride.

    • Republicofscotland

      “So why now, and why in Iraq, ”

      Its always interesting to listen to the Western media after such an event. The narrative from them has moved slightly, to that Suleimani was about to order some sort of attack, and that they had to take him out before it occured.

      Of course we’ll probably never know if that’s true or not, but what we do know for sure is that for killing Suleimani, thrte will definitely be revenge attacks and fatalities will occur in the process.

      Also you have Trump praising the Iranian people, saying they have a great heritage and great potential, but no apology for the killing of Suleimani.

      The US has form on how to handle these types of situations, in 1988, the shot down a civilian passenger plane over Iranian territory killing all of the 290 people (66 children) on board.

      The US didn’t admit legal liability for it, nor did they publicly apologise for the incident to the Iranians. However they did pay compensation, calling the incident a great human tragedy.

      • Borncynical

        ‘The West’ has been referring to Suleimani as if he was a terrorist, employing the same ethics and m.o. as they do. The Daily Mail even had a headline (one of many they have produced on this one murder) to the effect that he was found and targeted after years of US surveillance to track down his whereabouts. On the BBC paper review last night one of the reviewers questioned the legitimacy and sense of the airstrike but went on to say that no one should mourn Suleimani “he was a very bad man who, among other things demonstrating this, assisted Bashir [sic] in Syria”.

        The simple fact is that Suleimani was an official, legitimate and highly respected senior General in the official Iranian military services. And guess what? The job of people like that is to come up with strategies to deal with combat situations to best effect. And unfortunately people inevitably get killed as a result. That’s the nature of military conflict.

        In my opinion (and admittedly it is just that) all the justification for killing him is complete fabrication. The US simply wanted someone to pay the price for being an unwelcome force against their proxy fighters in the ME and, unfortunately, Suleimani was that person. He was just too good at his job. There was the additional bonus of being able to take the opportunity to arrogantly send a warning to Tehran and others who might choose not to kowtow to the US. No one has as yet been able to explain where all these hundreds of US deaths occurred that Trump and Pompeo claimed were the result of Suleimani’s actions. Maybe they are actually referring to all the terrorists that he helped to eradicate.

    • Tom Welsh

      That may have contributed to Moqtada’s call to his followers to arm themselves and prepare the eject the US occupiers from Iraq.

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