Who Says Economic Sanctions Work? | The American Conservative – Scott Ritter

November 21, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The imposition of new, more stringent sanctions targeting Iranian oil sales by the Trump administration has once again raised the question: is this even a viable policy?

The Council on Foreign Relations defines sanctions as “a lower-cost, lower-risk, middle course of action between diplomacy and war.” In short, sanctions do not represent policy per se, but rather the absence of policy, little more than a stop-gap measure to be used while other options are considered and/or developed.

Not surprising, sanctions have rarely—if ever—succeeded in obtaining their desired results. The poster child for successful sanctions as a vehicle for change—divestment in South Africa during the 1980s in opposition to the Apartheid regime—is in reality a red herring. The South Africa sanctions were in fact counterproductive, in so far as they prompted even harsher policies from the South African government. The demise of Apartheid came about largely because the Soviet Union collapsed, meaning the South African government was no longer needed in the fight against communism.

Source: Who Says Economic Sanctions Work? | The American Conservative

Trump Surrenders to John Bolton on Russia and Arms Control | The American Conservative

October 28, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Declaring that “there is a new strategic reality out there,” President Donald Trump’s hardline national security advisor John Bolton announced during a visit to Moscow earlier this week that the United States would be withdrawing from the 31-year-old Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. “This was a Cold War bilateral ballistic missile-related treaty,” Bolton said, “in a multi-polar ballistic missile world.”

“It is the American position that Russia is in violation,” Bolton told reporters after a 90-minute meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Russia’s position is that they aren’t. So one has to ask how to ask the Russians to come back into compliance with something they don’t think they’re violating.”

Source: Trump Surrenders to John Bolton on Russia and Arms Control | The American Conservative

Iran Deserves Credit for the Ruin of ISIS | The American Conservative

October 18, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Until recently the United States viewed the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as a major threat to regional stability in the Middle East. Barack Obama made it a mission to roll back ISIS’s territorial and propagandistic gain, and Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to “kick ISIS’s ass.” The United States expended considerable effort, both military and political, in a campaign to defeat the terror group in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Syria.

But there is also no doubt that the bulk of the effort came from Iran, not the United States. Without Iranian involvement, ISIS would still have a formidable presence in both Iraq and Syria.

ISIS was born out of the ashes of the American invasion of Iraq. Their rise was the logical extension of a process that saw the fabric of secular Sunni society torn asunder by an American occupier unwilling to further empower a Sunni ruling elite that had been loyal to Saddam Hussein. Washington failed to understand the resentment engendered within the Sunni community when Iraq’s Shia, some of whom were beholden to Iran, came to power.

Source: Iran Deserves Credit for the Ruin of ISIS | The American Conservative

Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Friend to America – Scott Ritter

October 9, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to the American spotlight. A career Israeli politician who attended school in the United States, he specializes in the kind of rhetoric that his American counterparts revel in—a kind of narcissism that’s more used car salesman than educator.

Netanyahu specializes in selling danger to the American people. This is an art he has practiced on numerous occasions, whether it be at the gatherings of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), his many appearances before the U.S. Congress, at televised events or during the general debate in the United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of global leaders and diplomats where each nation’s representative is provided the opportunity to address counterparts and the world on issues he or she deems to be of particular import.

Source: Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Friend to America

Is Trump Letting Al-Qaeda Sympathizers Survive in Syria? | The American Conservative

September 25, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

On September 13, 2018, two days after the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard addressed her colleagues from the floor of the House of Representatives. “Two days ago, President Trump and Vice President Pence delivered solemn speeches about the attacks on 9/11, talking about how much they care about the victims of Al-Qaeda’s attack on our country,” she observed. “But they are now standing up to protect the 20,000 to 40,000 al-Qaeda and other jihadist forces in Syria, and threatening Russia, Syria, and Iran with military force if they dare attack these terrorists.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson backed Gabbard’s statement by noting, “More than 10,000 rebels in [Idlib] province are believed to be aligned with Al-Qaeda. So that would mean that 17 years after 9/11, America could soon find itself bombing a country to protect al-Qaeda sympathizers. Why would we do that?”

The short answer is: Russia.

Source: Is Trump Letting Al-Qaeda Sympathizers Survive in Syria? | The American Conservative

U.S. Again Cries ‘Chemical Warfare’ in Syria | The American Conservative

September 13, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Author’s Update 9/12/18: The Syrian government, backed by Russian airpower and Iranian advisors, is preparing to undertake a major offensive designed to retake the province of Idlib from opposition forces. The newly appointed State Department Special Representative for Syria, Jim Jeffreys, claims that there is “Lots of evidence” that Syria is preparing to use chemical weapons, specifically chlorine gas, in support of the Idlib operation.

For its part, Russia claims to have specific intelligence that al Qaeda affiliates, working in conjunction with the White Helmet organization, is preparing to stage a chlorine gas attack designed to look like it was done by the Syrian government. The U.S. has warned that it would launch a major military strike against not only the Syrian government, but also Russian and Iranian targets in Syria, if chemical weapons were used in Idlib.

Source: U.S. Again Cries ‘Chemical Warfare’ in Syria | The American Conservative

Let’s See Who’s Bluffing in the Criminal Case Against the Russians | The American Conservative

August 20, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It was a remarkable moment in a remarkable press conference. President Donald Trump had just finished a controversial summit meeting in Helsinki with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and the two were talking to the media. Jeff Mason, a political affairs reporter with Reuters, stood up and asked Putin a question pulled straight out of the day’s headlines: “Will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?”

The “12 Russian officials” Mason spoke of were military intelligence officers accused of carrying out a series of cyberattacks against various American-based computer networks (including those belonging to the Democratic National Committee), the theft of emails and other data, and the release of a significant portion of this information to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The names and organizational affiliations of these 12 officers were contained in a detailed 29-page indictment prepared by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, and subsequently made public by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on July 13—a mere three days prior to the Helsinki summit.

Source: Let’s See Who’s Bluffing in the Criminal Case Against the Russians | The American Conservative

Let’s See Who’s Bluffing in the Criminal Case Against the Russians | The American Conservative

July 19, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 

It should be noted that the indicted 12 have not violated any Russian laws. But the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty doesn’t close the door on cooperation in this matter. Rather, the treaty notes that “The Requested Party may, in its discretion, also provide legal assistance where the conduct that is the subject of the request would not constitute a crime under the laws of the Requested Party.”

It specifically precludes the process of cooperating from inferring a right “on the part of any other persons to obtain evidence, to have evidence excluded, or to impede the execution of a request.” In short, if the United States were to avail itself of the treaty’s terms, Russia would not be able to use its cooperation as a vehicle to disrupt any legal proceedings underway in the U.S.

Source: Let’s See Who’s Bluffing in the Criminal Case Against the Russians | The American Conservative

Trump Needs to Put Up or Shut Up on Russian Arms Race | The American Conservative

July 15, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 

President Trump heads to Helsinki next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a summit that has drawn the ire of his critics and faint praise from his supporters. There is no doubt that this meeting is timed to stick a thumb in the eye of Robert Mueller, Congress, and a skeptical media, all of which have genuine concerns over the role played by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

It is doubtful that Trump will raise the issue of Russian electoral interference in any meaningful way, despite bipartisan pressure to do so. The United States has already ceded Syria to Russia and the Assad government, perhaps to gain Moscow’s support for minimizing Iran’s influence in that region. And while the Ukraine crisis will undoubtedly be discussed, Russia has made it clear that its absorption of Crimea is irreversible and non-negotiable, which makes the rollback of economic sanctions a virtual non-starter. Beyond reaffirming the bon homme that exists between these two leaders, the Helsinki Summit offers few opportunities for accomplishments of substance—unless one considers arms control.

Source: Trump Needs to Put Up or Shut Up on Russian Arms Race | The American Conservative

Trump Will Never Get a Better Deal With Iran | The American Conservative

June 12, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

In a span of a little more than five months, North Korea and the United States have gone from trading verbal insults and mobilizing for war to engaging in vibrant diplomacy. Pyongyang now appears willing to consider eliminating its nuclear weapons and bringing an end to the state of war that has existed on the Korean peninsula since 1950.

Concurrent with this seemingly stunning progress, President Donald Trump has sought to change the rules of the game vis-à-vis Iran, pulling out of a multilateral nuclear accord that everyone (including the United States) agreed Tehran was abiding by. In doing so, Trump appears to be trying to recreate the formula that’s worked so well with North Korea—impose stringent economic sanctions while threatening military action should Iran be foolish enough to reopen its nuclear program.

Source: Trump Will Never Get a Better Deal With Iran | The American Conservative

Mike Pompeo’s 12-Step Plan for Disaster With Iran

June 8, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

In what The Washington Post—no friend of Iran—has labeled “a silly speech,” Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, provided an American answer to the charge made by French President Emmanuel Macron during his State visit last month that, when it came to the Iranian nuclear agreement (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA), there was “no Plan B.” Macron’s observations were made in the context of President Trump’s threat to withdraw from that agreement, even though Iran had been determined by all parties (including the United States) to be in full compliance.

Trump made his decision to withdraw official on May 8, and since then the United States has been struggling to articulate a strategy to deal with the consequences of that action. Pompeo’s speech—titled “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy”—was intended to provide America’s “Plan B.” Upon reflection, however, Pompeo’s speech failed to accomplish this. Worse, the unrealistic demands made upon Iran in Pompeo’s address, coupled by the absolute detachment from reality and historical fact and/or context these demands were made, made Pompeo’s speech far more dangerous than silly.

Source: Mike Pompeo’s 12-Step Plan for Disaster With Iran

Iran Nuclear Deal and U.S. Pullout Reflect Epic Bipartisan Failures

May 20, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

With everything the U.S. and its allies threw at Iran, including having Iranian citizens pay a huge economic cost in terms of a devastated economy and reduced quality of life, the pressure campaign still failed. The U.S.-led economic sanctions, rather than forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear program, empowered it to expand it efforts dramatically. The consequence was a dangerous situation. The U.S., after falsely building a narrative of Iran aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapon, now needed to either militarily confront Iran (and its expanding enrichment capacity) or find a diplomatic way out of a self-inflicted wound without losing political face at home and abroad.

Source: Iran Nuclear Deal and U.S. Pullout Reflect Epic Bipartisan Failures

Iran’s Secret Nukes? Scaremongering Netanyahu Strikes Again | The American Conservative

May 1, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The timing of Netanyahu’s presentation—a mere two weeks before Trump is scheduled to make his determination about the fate of the JCPOA—is suspect, as is the methodology used to introduce the intelligence material to the world. If this trove of documents is, in fact, what Netanyahu claims, then there are mechanisms in place via the JCPOA framework to address the legitimate concerns raised by their collective content. The Israeli government could have shared this information with any of the signatory parties to the JCPOA, who then could have requested a meeting of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA where the issue of Iranian compliance would then be discussed. While the process involved is a cumbersome one, in the end any failure of the part of Iran to constructively engage would result in the matter being taken to the Security Council, where sanctions could be re-imposed.

Source: Iran’s Secret Nukes? Scaremongering Netanyahu Strikes Again | The American Conservative

A Shocking Lack of Intelligence in Our Missile Strike on Syria

April 26, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

It was a scene that has played out before the American public on multiple occasions in recent history: Representatives of the American defense establishment walked out onto a stage backed by light-blue drapery sporting an oval-shaped sign containing the words “Pentagon” and, below it in smaller letters: “Washington,” along with an image of the unique five-sided building of the same name. With an American flag standing in the background, and standing on a wooden podium emblazoned with the seal of the Department of Defense, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a former Marine general, accompanied by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, a current Marine general, briefed the American public on the details surrounding a U.S.-led missile attack against targets inside Syria, carried out with the United Kingdom and France, that had transpired the night of April 13, 2018, a little more than an hour before Mattis and Dunford took the stage at 10 p.m. (making the timing of the attack around 4 a.m. on April 14, Syrian time).

Source: A Shocking Lack of Intelligence in Our Missile Strike on Syria

Trump’s Rush to Judgment on Syria Chemical Attack | The American Conservative

April 11, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 

On Sunday, President Trump announced his intention to make those responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma, including the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies, pay a “big price” for their continued disregard for international law. The next day U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley declared that “The United States is determined to see the monster who dropped chemical weapons on the Syrian people held to account.”

Source: Trump’s Rush to Judgment on Syria Chemical Attack | The American Conservative

No, Putin Isn’t Bluffing on Nukes | The American Conservative

March 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Earlier this month in his State of the Nation address to the Russian legislature, President Vladimir Putin unveiled several new strategic weapons designed to nullify any missile defense shield the United States has deployed, is currently deploying, or will seek to deploy in the next 10 to 15 years.

Putin said these new Russian weapons were necessitated by former president George W. Bush’s 2002 decision to unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, thereby beginning a process that has led to the deployment of ballistic missile defenses on American territory, in Europe, and in Asia. He proclaimed that “Russia’s growing military power is a solid guarantee of global peace as this power preserves and will preserve strategic parity and the balance of forces in the world, which, as is known, have been and remain a key factor of international security after WWII and up to the present day.”

Source: No, Putin Isn’t Bluffing on Nukes | The American Conservative

Are You Listening, America?

March 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

On Thursday, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s much-maligned president, delivered his state of the nation address to the Russian Federal Assembly (the Russian national Legislature, consisting of the State Duma, or lower house, and the Russian Council, or upper house). While the first half of his speech dealt with Russian domestic issues—and any American who has bought into Western media perceptions that Russia is a collapsing state, possessing a failed economy, would do well to read this portion of the speech—it was the second half of the presentation that caused the world to sit up and listen.

In this portion of the speech, Putin outlined developments in Russian strategic military capability. The developments collectively signal the obsolescence of America’s strategic nuclear deterrence, both in terms of its present capabilities and—taking into account the $1.2 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program President Trump unveiled earlier this year—anything America might pursue in the decades to come.

Source: Are You Listening, America?

A Flawed Tale of Cyberwarfare Is Fueling ‘Russiagate’

March 3, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The hacking of the DNC server, and all that has since transpired, has been described by many in punditry as an attack on American democracy, a modern-day “Pearl Harbor” that represents the worst attack on the homeland since 9/11. Such comparisons are absurd. The surprise attack against Pearl Harbor took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans and led our nation into a world war, while the 9/11 terror attack killed just under 3,000 people and started a global war on terror that continues to this day.

Source: A Flawed Tale of Cyberwarfare Is Fueling ‘Russiagate’

Nunes vs. Schiff and the Allegory of the Cave | The American Conservative

February 27, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The major differences between Nunes and Schiff in their dueling memoranda revolve around the propriety of the FISA process as applied to Carter Page. Nunes, supported by Grassley, contends that the FISA warrant targeting Page was heavily politicized, making extensive, if not nearly exclusive, use of information derived from the work of Steele, who had been contracted by Fusion GPS to gather opposition research on Trump for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary for America. Moreover, Nunes contends the FBI went out of its way to shield specific details of the origins of the Steele research, noting that the FBI agent in charge of the FISA warrant process and underlying counterintelligence investigation into Russian collusion, Peter Strzok, demonstrated bias against Donald Trump in texts with paramour Lisa Page, a DOJ lawyer who was working on the Trump investigation. According to Nunes, the entire FISA warrant process showed Page’s constitutionally-protected civil rights were being violated in the name of partisan politics.

Source: Nunes vs. Schiff and the Allegory of the Cave | The American Conservative

The Ugly Truth in the Nunes Memo

February 7, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

The bottom line is that the memo exposed the ugly truth that, at least in the case of Page, the FBI and DOJ, on multiple occasions, deliberately lied to or otherwise misled the FISA court in an effort to violate Page’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure, or that the FISA court is, in fact, little more than a rubber-stamp entity incapable of adequate oversight of the enormous responsibilities it has been entrusted with—or both.

At a minimum, every FBI agent and DOJ official who signed off on any aspect of Page’s FISA warrant application should be subpoenaed to appear before Congress to explain the reasoning behind their actions, and to be held accountable to the rule of law if it turns out he or she in any way suborned the truth through actions or words.

Having started down this path, the GOP members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence must now finish what they started, even if this leads to the arrest and prosecution of former and current members of the FBI and DOJ.

Source: The Ugly Truth in the Nunes Memo

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