Iraq Parliament Calls for U.S. Troops to Be Expelled (plus Cavalcade of Stupid)

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, this was originally going to be a pure cavalcade of stupid Tweets on Iraq — as usual, the problem was too much noise and not enough signal or, to put matters more structurally, the interference patterns generated by multiple and overlapping disinformation campaigns — but then events intervened, in the form of a vote in Iraq’s parliament to expel U.S. troops. As we shall see, this vote may be more equivocal than we think, but it’s surely significant, even historic, and so I’ll cover it first. Then I’ll segue into the cavalcade. (Also, for grins and to show that not all hope for humanity is lost, I will intersperse the occasional item that is not stupid.)

First, Iraq’s parliament. From (sigh) the New York Times, “Iraqi Lawmakers Urge End to U.S. Troop Presence as Iran Mourns a Slain General.” The Times, at least, consolidates a lot, though “Lawmakers Urge” implies that no legislative action was taken, which is untrue:

Lawmakers in Iraq voted on Sunday to require the government to end the presence of American troops in the country after the United States ordered the killing of the Iranian leader of the elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, on Iraqi soil…

The vote is not final until Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq signs the bill. But since he drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, there was little doubt he would sign it.

From what seems to be a Turkish source, more detail on the resolution:

And more detail on Abdul Mahd’s speech:

Big if true; I don’t see good reasons to believe Presidents in general. That said, whacking a host’s invited guest is hardly in keeping with Middle Eastern traditions of hospitality.

Back to the Times: The vote is more equivocal than it might seem.

Although the vote was 170-0 in Parliament, many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend the session and did not vote, showing the division in Parliament on the demands to oust American troops.

‘And:

The legislation threads a fine needle: While using strong language demanding that the government “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason” by foreign forces, it gives no timetable for doing so.

Indeed, Abdul Mahd’s bill would seem to be what in America we would call “centrist”:

But the measure would leave in place the Strategic Framework Agreement, which allows an American troop presence in Iraq in some form.

For example, “Iraq‘s Sadr Calls for ‘Humiliating’ US Troop Exit“:

Populist Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Sunday a parliamentary resolution calling on the government to end foreign troop presence did not go far enough and called on local and foreign militia groups to unite.

“I consider this a weak response insufficient against American violation of Iraqi sovereignty and regional escalation,” Sadr, who leads the largest bloc in parliament, said in a letter to the assembly read out by a supporter.

Sadr said a security agreement with the United States should be canceled immediately, the U.S. embassy should be closed down, U.S. troops must be expelled in a humiliating manner, and communication with the U.S. government should be criminalized.

As a sidebar: Couldn’t Sadr take a page from the Hong Kong playbook, and starve the U.S. embassy out? Block all the gates:

True, the U.S. could helicopter supplies in. Until one of them falls from the sky… End sidebar.

To the cavalcade–

Former real estate developer and wrestling promoter Donald J. Trump puffing the U.S. military:

Talking about our weaponry like it was Louis Quinze-style gold-plated bathroom taps. Which in a way it is, I suppose… .

House Leader Nancy Pelosi with a plea for civility:

Since when have our actions in the Middle East been anything other than “provocative and disproportionate”?

Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Christine Pelosi loyally reinforces liberal Democrat messaging:

Pelosi’s butchered the impeachment so badly that there’s no dog to wag, for pity’s sake. (Of course, a Senate trial in the next thirty days could wreak havoc on any Senators — ***cough*** Sanders and Warren ***cough*** — with a stake in the Iowa Caucuses, but when did liberal Democrats ever manipulate schedules to affect an election? #Kidding!)

UAE-funded thuggish enforcer Neera Tanden on strategery:

So our national interest is determined by what others say is not our national interest. Nothing game-able here!

Mitch McConnell shares a historical perspective:

George W. Bush is dead?

Atlantic editor David Frum reminds us that everybody who was wrong about the Iraq War was richly rewarded with power and status, and everybody who was wrong was punished and relegated to obscurity:

“Take It From an Iraq War Supporter…” Salt on the wounds.

Seeing from the vote that Iraq’s Sunni/Shia/Kurdish division persists, Marco Rubio advocates continuing the Great Game by breaking up Iraq entirely:

Concluding our survey of elite opinion with the New York Times Editorial Board:

Reread the above. Where is this “wise counsel” to be found? With the apparatchiks who want to impeach Trump because he didn’t want to go to war in Ukraine? Where, exactly?

Machiavelli with zero (0) followers:

So, if the United States leaves Iraq, is that so bad?

A Machiavelli with considerably more followers:

(Liberal Democrats no doubt working up the “Who lost Iraq?” talking points even as we speak.) Again, if the United States leaves Iraq, is that so bad?

Opposite World Machiavelli:

“Shocked,” I say! Once more, if the United States leaves Iraq, is that so bad?

Shifting over to the non-stupid, Nassim Nicholas Taleb asks a good question:

(I would have thought that whacking foreign leaders would put “skin in the game” on, oh, war crimes and stuff, but Talen didn’t go there.) I don’t know the answer to Taleb’s question, however.

And continuing with the non-stupid, Beto O’Rourke:

Good for Beto. Somehow, however, I don’t think he’s the sort of Senator the Times Editorial Board had in mind.

* * *

It will be amusing to watch The Blob attempt to maintain our presence in Iraq over the next weeks and months, and it will be especially amusing to see liberal Democrats like Pelosi and conservative Repubilcans like McConnell working together to that end. If the United States leaves Iraq now, is that so bad? Compared to what might come?

Why wait?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Banana republic, Guest Post, Middle East, Politics on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

193 comments

    1. J4Zonian

      “Atlantic editor David Frum reminds us that everybody who was wrong about the Iraq War was richly rewarded with power and status, and everybody who was wrong was punished and relegated to obscurity:”

      Is this one of the stupid things–mistakenly making the second “wrong” “wrong” instead of “right”?

      Reply
  1. marku52

    You missed Pompeo’s take on the whole thing:
    “We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq, but in Iran, will view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”

    This is our Secretary of State, for Dog’s sake.

    Do these idiots get up early in the morning to take their Stupid Pills?

    Un Family Blog Believable.

    Reply
      1. sierra7

        “Stupid, forever war is an extension of forever (no matter which major US political power) stupid foreign policies……by more violent means…..”

        Reply
    1. Plenue

      “Do these idiots get up early in the morning to take their Stupid Pills?”

      ‘Were you born stupid, or did you have to work at it’ is a phrase I picked up somewhere or other (looking it up now it’s apparently an alteration of a Robert Heinlein line). Being in the elite, Think Tank-infused bubble of DC does in fact seem to be a kind of permanent education in stupidity. If you actually know what you’re talking about, you’re likely to get kicked to the curb and exiled from the privileged circles.

      Reply
      1. Ignacio

        Yep, stupidity in most cases is worked or educated or cultured. This is the most dangerous form of stupidity because being cultured it can break through our natural instincts (survival etc.)

        Reply
      2. J4Zonian

        “Were you born stupid, Heinrich, or did you have to study?”
        ― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

        That reminded me of a quote even more appropriate to the right wing now:

        “Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.”
        —Heinrich Heine

        Reply
    2. Norm de plume

      Soprano, sorry Pompeo, is a Pentecostalist like my PM Morrison. Fire and flood and all sorts of chaos are the foreplay for Rapture aren’t they?

      It’s all going according to plan.

      Reply
    3. rd

      One of my favorite Google searches is “How not to be stupid” Really interesting stuff shows up that explains many government and corporate decisions by people in authority who should know better. A couple of my favorite links for that are below. The Farnam Street interview of Adam Robinson provides a definition of stupidity as as “overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information”. The same interview provides a list of factors that leads to stupid actions as:

      “When it comes to overloading our cognitive brains, the seven factors are: being outside of your circle of competence, stress, rushing or urgency, fixation on an outcome, information overload, being in a group where social cohesion comes into play, and being in the presence of an “authority.” Acting alone any of these are powerful enough, but together they dramatically increase the odds you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised.”

      https://fs.blog/2019/01/how-not-to-be-stupid/

      https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/top-stupidity-researcher-do-these-5-things-to-be-instantly-smarter.html

      https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150422-how-not-to-be-stupid

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        All true, but I think that the refusal to accept the possibility of being stupid,or even just mistaken, is the real problem. Everyone makes mistakes, gets stupid, but if you can accept that then you can fix, or at least hopefully, not do it again. It is part of being an adult. This is what I think I see in too many “leaders” today. The refusal to be humble enough to accept mistakes that they make.

        Reply
    1. Lee

      Hussain Abdul-Hussain ‏

      From the linked tweet:

      For non-Arabic speakers, reporting in the main news outlets NYT and Wash Post is so misinformed (either on purpose or because of incompetence) that you might think that the Iraqi State has officially voted for ejecting US forces from Iraq (because of Trump’s miscalculated move

      I don’t speak Arabic, but I do read tea leaves, and I would submit that the term “officially” is doing way too much work here and the fact that the measure was “non-binding” isn’t going to mean a great deal as to what shall follow. The power is in the streets and not supine.

      Reply
    2. timbers

      Interesting. If Iraq’s population is infact 70% Shia yet they have the tiniest of majority in Parliament, something is not right. This would suggest radical action outside of official government channels could be one result.

      Reply
    3. Plenue

      I’m calling BS on his verdict.

      He may well be correct about the exact nature of what happened in parliament today (though I’ll require other Arabic speaking sources to confirm his narrative before I accept it). But his conclusion that nothing will change other than ‘continued’ (we’re just to supposed to accept that this was already going on?) Iranian proxy war against the US is complete nonsense. I don’t see Iran going back to any kind of business as usual state of affairs, and he seems to be discounting Iraqi agency entirely.

      Also, looking at his feed, he’s retweeting people lamenting Obama ‘handing the mid-east to Iran’s mullahs’ https://twitter.com/eyad1949/status/1213942119859142657 so that doesn’t instill me with confidence as to his intelligence or rationality. Looks like a shill for a Saudi view of the world to me.

      Reply
      1. curious euro

        Obama already once “left” Iraq. Back then voluntarily.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Withdrawal_of_U.S._troops_from_Iraq
        However, after the US “left” there were still >5.000 soldiers constantly in Iraq for the next few years. Not diplomats, businesmen, tourists, etc.. SOLDIERS, and deity knows how many “civilian contractors” aka mercenaries.
        Then, for whatever reason, ISIS flared up and the US went all in again in Iraq.

        And the US wants and needs to stay in Iraq, otherwise their eastern syrian military position where they steal the oil is untenable

        Even if the US “leaves”, it doesn’t ever leave.

        Reply
  2. marku52

    Incidentally, the reason we will stay in Iraq (regardless of whatever noises the government there makes, they are just Brown people after all) it that we are doing Israel’s bidding in blocking a land path between Iran through N Iraq and S Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    Hezbollah, just a few years back, beat the cr*p out of the much vaunted Israeli army in a head to head fight. Israel remembers.

    “Fighting IS” and all that other nation building BS is just some pretty words.

    If Iran is smart, they’d assassinate Sheldon Adelson. Now *that* would be some strategic thinking.

    Reply
          1. ambrit

            MAD assumes that each ‘actor’ is being rational. Unfortunately, both sides of this particular conflict are being ‘run’ by theocrats. So, Magical Thinking is the order of the day, on both sides. The problem here is that Israel has atomic weapons. They are so fanatical as to have developed a Gotterdammerung strategy; the Samson Option.
            Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson_Option
            Religious fanatics are the worst people to have dealings with. That’s probably why the Middle East is in the mess it finds itself in today.

            Reply
      1. Cris

        Because israel was put in a box. Afraid to launch major atracks. Look what happened recently when they abandoned boarder positions fearing Hezbollah retaliatory atrack.

        Reply
        1. Phillip Allen

          Israel needs to be put in a box, preferably of high strength steel, along (at minimum) the 1967 ‘Green Line’. Perhaps that might roll back their land grabs and other usurpation a bit. The lid of the box should be left open, so Israelis can experience living in an open air prison, like they’ve imposed on Gaza all these years. #GoodForGooseGoodForGander

          Reply
          1. Bookdoc

            Good luck putting Israel in there. The combat abilities of the countries in the area are, shall we say, not quite first rate? Attack Israel and they will have an influence on the results.

            Reply
    1. Plenue

      It’s not the government that will be the deciding voice, it’s the militias who are already starting to hit the Green Zone.

      Reply
    1. Bill Smith

      Trump is an idiot, routinely lies and likely thinks Disneyland is a cultural site. So we have no idea what is really meant.

      In addition, a cultural site that is dual use, for example, also used as a military base would be a valid target.

      Reply
      1. Barmitt O'Bamney

        It’s a warning, sincere or not, that you will not be able to hide from our bombs in “culturally important sites” such as Imam Square. If the leadership of Iran thinks Trump actually means it, it possibly makes these sites safer because they may be deterred from trying to hide out there. I’ve wanted to see the mosques on Imam Square in Isfahan for a long time, but I know I’m never going now, war or no war. Shucks. There are other older and less intact sites in Iran, which as archaeological ruins could already be hosting bunkers for the Revolutionary Leadership for all I know. Always a lot of digging around archaelogical sites you know? You could put in a tunnel and comfy bunker or two over the years and no one would think anything unusual was afoot. One of the mosques in Isfahan features a underground secret entrance by original design. And an old mosque is a natural place for a mullah to turn up without attracting attention. Maybe the folks in the Pentagram want to have the Iranian leadership thinking, We know all about your little hidey holes, so don’t think you can ride out the bombing in personal safety ensconced in fragile ancient walls and protected by polite conventions of war, while your soldiers and people are meanwhile snuffing it under the bombs. We don’t give a crap about your cultural sites and will turn them all into deep, ashy craters to get you. It’s mind games, Yossarian.

        Reply
    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      and these are not sites important only to Iranian culture fer chrissake. Persia was a great empire for centuries before Europe let alone the US was even thought of and their civilization is an important part of WORLD history and the humanity of all of us.

      sickening

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        Didn’t stop the US Army setting up a base on the Babylon archaeological site, bulldozing areas and treating them with chemicals. Babylon would have to be one of the top world heritage sites in the world as it was one of the oldest cities in the world.

        Reply
        1. John A

          Maybe Trump has Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in mind. The Israelis have long wanted to demolish that on the grounds that it was supposedly built on the site of a Jewish temple.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            It’s even weirder than that. To Messianic Jews, the rebuilding of the Temple is supposed to usher in the Messiah and an analogue to the Christian “End of Days.’ This is a Neo-chiliastic goal. To rebuild the Temple, that ‘pesky’ mosque would have to go. ‘The Faithful’ would have some reservations about such a series of events.
            Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millenarianism

            Reply
            1. JBird4049

              Trying to bring along the End of Days is a reason for the Evangelicals to support Israel. Some Israelis think that all of Old Palestine belongs to Israel and want to rebuild the Temple. IIRC, the Christians think that rebuilding the Temple is a requirement for The Second Coming.

              Temple=Rapture=Tribulation=Day of Judgement

              Honestly, I also think that corrupt, neoliberal politicians like Netanyahu are taking advantage of their most fanatic supporters to distract people from their personal corruption, increase their power, and make some money from the slow genocide of the Palestinians. The American politicians are also using their Evangelical supporters who want them to support Israel regardless of what Netanyahu and his ilk do.

              Reply
  3. Synoia

    Re-posted from earlier thread.

    Trump has no interest in seeking wise counsel, so influential senators must force him to listen to it, to stop his rush to war with Iran. https://t.co/niCxVZ8YYh

    — New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) January 5, 2020

    Reread the above. Where is this wise counsel to be found? With the apparatchiks who want to impeach Trump because he didn’t want to go to war in Ukraine? Where, exactly?

    There are none because the Israel lobby wants a war with their existential enemy, Iran.

    Ignoring that Iran is a nation with a historical propensity to trade and bargain (negotiate a good deal). It has been a few thousand years since the Assyrians and Persians went about conquering.

    I personally suspect their change of heart had much to do with the silk road trade.

    Traders to Persian Emperor: The wives prefer trade, we’ve had too many dead sons! Stop trying to conquer Greece, and let’s sell them silk and china (pottery)……

    Reply
    1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

      Not that it matters very much in relevance to the subject in hand, but a certain Nader Shah who was known in Europe as the Napoleon of the East conquered India, Afghanistan & much besides in a relatively short lived reprisal of the Persian Empire. This occurred during the mid to late 18th Century not long before the East India Company & it’s private army defeated the Sikhs & added the first Indian word to enter the English language.

      Loot.

      http://www.iranchamber.com/history/afsharids/afsharids.php

      Reply
  4. JBird4049

    Another wrinkle. Apparently, most of the Kurds and the Sunni members were not there to vote on the legislation leaving the dominant Iraqi group the Shia to do the voting. Although the vote was 170 – 0 out of 328, that does not look good with the sectarian violence there.

    Reply
    1. Lee

      Perhaps hatred of the U.S. will unite them. I know it exists but I don’t have a good sense of the secular pluralist trend’s strength in Iraq.

      Reply
    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I am not so sure the absence of the Kurds and Sunnis from the Parliament is as equivocal as it seems on the surface. The outcome of the vote was decided before the vote was taken. For many of the Kurdish and Sunni representatives I imagine a vote either way might damage relations with some group of their constituents — making it wise for them to abstain by being absent.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        I agree their absence was clearly pre-planned and strategic. De facto, it reflected support. Otherwise, they would have been there and voted against.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I see the logic but I have a dim memory that one feature of Iraqi parliamentary (dys)function is failure to make quorum (by design). So I wouldn’t be so sure of what “de facto” means here.

          Reply
  5. Nakatomi Plaza

    I very much disagree that Nassim Nicholas Taleb belongs in the non-stupid section. No, unpredictable and random reactions are absolutely not elements of effective foreign policy.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Disagree.

      1. They are very effective if you are making war.

      2. Recall that Nixon went out and cultivated a mad man image, with Kissinger cast as the sane person who might be able to rein him in (which is wildly ironic given that Kissinger was a creator of the mutually assured deterrence theory of nukes). That resulted in the famed Nixon going to China, which certainly was not predicted on a close to universal scale.

      3. As an example of #1, until recently, Russia has had a policy of being secretive about its military tech advances, which among other things resulted in the US being surprised at the capabilities of the Russian air force in Syria.

      Reply
      1. John k

        Did not know Kissinger invented MAD. But we’ve enjoyed 75 years without a war between the current great powers, and I’m reluctant to credit brilliant us diplomacy for what is, historically a long hiatus… particularly considering the us continuous urge to bait the bear.
        Maybe he’s smarter than I thought.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          I admit to having been sloppy, but when Kissinger became Nixon’s national security adviser, my recollection (admittedly from my childhood) was that he was seen popularly at the time as strongly associated with the MAD doctrine, and thus his and Nixon’s indisputable Cold Warrior cred made Nixon’s China gambit even more of a perceived masterstroke.

          The phrase was not coined until 1962 by Donald Brennan of the Hudson Institute. There were earlier incarnations of MAD-type thinking with the introduction of other highly destructive weapons, like the Gatling gun. McNamara effectively made it his policy and Schelling’s classic article didn’t come until 1966.

          Yet when Dr. Strangelove was released (Jan 1964), and Kubrick and his screenplay consultant insist Dr. Strangelove was not modeled on Kissinger but was an amalgam of John von Neumann, Wernher von Braun (also lampooned by Tom Lehrer), and Edward Teller. But Kissinger was widely assumed to be the Strangelove figure.

          Point is that Kissinger is strongly associated with MAD whether that is exactly fair or not. For instance, this 2013 Wall Street Journal op ed which he co-authored argues for an end to MAD….because worked only in a bi-polar world:

          It is far from certain that today’s world can successfully replicate the Cold War Soviet-American deterrence by “mutually assured destruction”—the threat of imposing unacceptable damage on the adversary. That was based essentially on a bipolar world. But when a large and growing number of nuclear adversaries confront multiple perceived threats, the relative restraint of the Cold War will be difficult to sustain.

          https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324338604578325912939001772

          Reply
            1. Yves Smith

              No, he denied that. He had other nuke fanboys in mind. See my comment. Also Wikipedia, which cites sources (the #s have footnotes):

              There is a common misconception that the character was based on Henry Kissinger, but Kubrick and Sellers denied this;[18] Sellers said, “Strangelove was never modeled after Kissinger—that’s a popular misconception. It was always Wernher von Braun.”[19] Furthermore, Henry Kissinger points out in his memoirs that at the time of the writing of Dr. Strangelove, he was an unknown academic.[20]

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strangelove

              Reply
              1. RBHoughton

                Glad to see John von Neumann now rehabilitated in this series. I have forgiven him in consideration of his astonishing contribution to quantum mechanics

                Reply
          1. RWood

            Prolly invented by Dr. Strnglv himself

            and

            Of course, in the nuclear age, Donald Trump is hardly the first president to imagine that threats of nuclear war might enhance his foreign policy. Take Richard Nixon in the middle of the Vietnam War. As he explained to White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman in 1968:

            “I call it the madman theory. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘For God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button!’ And [North Vietnamese leader] Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”
            http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176646/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_america%27s_plans_to_%22win%22_the_afghan_war/

            Reply
      2. Tony of CA

        I have one question who in the Trump administration is supposed to counter-balance Trump’s impulses. Pompeo or Kurshner? Please elaborate.

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          With all due respect:

          1. Stop straw manning me.

          2. The President is supposed to be the boss, remember? Smart bosses usually seek counsel. Moreover, bosses in general do not have people around who “counter-balance” as in undermine them. That has been a factor in the high turnover level around Trump, him getting rid of people who interfered with him too much.

          3. Why should I know?

          Reply
        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I have one question who in the Trump administration is supposed to counter-balance Trump’s impulses. Pompeo or Kurshner? Please elaborate.

          Our system of checks and balances works between branches of government, not within it. “Energy in the Executive” is considered a good thing. The US Constitution: Worth a read!

          (Of course, by “works” I mean “was by design intended to work.” Your implicit concept that The Blob — which is acting like its a branch of government even when it isn’t — should be doing the checking instead of an elected official is part of the problem).

          Reply
      3. vlade

        It’s effective in war, but not as foreign policy, which is what the tweet had in.

        Total randomness means the cpty will assume you’re not-agreement-capable, because you can’t be even moderately relied on.

        The only reason why the US still has _some_ allies is because there’s some assumption that there will be life-after-Trump. One way how say Johnson could very quickly become unpopulare is to become visibly Trump’s poodle with nothing but dead bodies and terrorists attack to show for it. I’m pretty sure that even most Brexiters would not like that.

        IMO, you want to be unpredictably unpredictable in your foreign policy, i.e. most of the time be reasonably reliable and rational, but not and then whack in something wildly unreasonable. But if the underasonable becomes the new standard, it will be taken into account.

        Reply
  6. marku52

    Moderation ate this, so lets try again.

    The US purpose in Iraq is to serve Israel in blocking the flow of arms from Iran through N Iraq, S Syria, to Lebanon.

    All other answers are fluff.

    Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        That too, and of course the wealth transfer to the MICC, and a rocking horse for quite a few politicians and the people who vote for them.

        Reply
  7. allan

    Noninterventionism with Trumpian characteristics:

    These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!
    12:25 PM – 5 Jan 2020

    Exactly as the Founders intended, and the War Powers Act prescribes.

    Reply
    1. Lee

      When your citizens, assets, and interests, approach ubiquity it’s hard to avoid suffering from a sense of being trespassed upon.

      Reply
  8. Matthew Saroff

    The Japanese have a saying, “ない愚かさはない薬です,” which translates to, “There is no medicine for stupidity.”

    It applies here.

    Reply
  9. A FrenchGuy

    For the moment, I would note:
    1- a NYT op-ed (anonymous) ensured the readers that there was adult supervision around Trump. So is this decision a pure Trump decision, or was it actually vetted by the adults in the White House ?
    2- Since 10/01, there has been a cycle a violence in Iraq, including lot of killings by unknown people shooting demonstrators. Which again brings the question of who actually supported the rise of violence that lead to the occupation of the US embassy.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      People do not take account of the President’s real power. The supposed “adults in the room” are not the people who actually gives the orders to the military or makes all the ultimate decisions that he makes as head of the executive branch. Knowing that President Trump can be impulsive and has an overly inflated sense of how powerful the United States is, I really have to ask what fools thought to add the option of killing someone with diplomatic immunity in a second country’s capital’s airport. If nothing else, it kind of of gives permission for someone to kill Americans who have diplomatic immunity.

      What could the United States say? Only they can break actual centuries of precedent, agreements, and treaties because reasons?

      Just like the United States officially did not torture, did not openly justify torture during interrogations, and even prosecute members of its own military for using torture even “just” water boarding. When an American is captured, and it that will happen, if they are tortured too, just what say after openly violating at least a century of precedent, agreements, and treaties? And what what should we say to any possible living American, German, or Japanese who was tried, and possibly convicted, for using torture? We’re so sorry, but we changed our minds?

      I also have to note the similarities to modern American business practices, often illegal, frequently unethical, and almost always immoral, of pillaging whole companies and communities and then effectively burning the remains

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Don’t underestimate the attitudes of “American Exceptionalism” found in the elite circles of American foreign policy circles. These are people who expect to be thanked by the little colonial people.

        Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > So is this decision a pure Trump decision, or was it actually vetted by the adults in the White House ?

      It was totally vetted. Trump was presented with a list of options, and picked one.

      Reply
  10. Tomonthebeach

    All this post-Soleimani assassination blather and pearl-clutching strikes me as little more than the feathers in the air of a henhouse after the fox grabs a chicken and heads for the woods. Neither we nor the surviving hens have a clue if or when the fox might return, and there is damned little we can do to prevent another fox.

    If I was cynical, I would chalk this all up to a slow news week (Trumpily-speaking, of course). While the media is ranting about targeting historical sites in Iran, and Dems are ranting about being left out of the loop while Trump recklessly brags about his next war crime, the topic of impeachment has been off the weekend table. For Trump, Soleimani is a win-win situation. War I re-win; no war, Impeachment loses steam, and I still will likely re-win. It even steals the wind out of the Iowa caucus news. Oops, I guess I am being cynical.

    Reply
    1. Biph

      Iran could just bide their time until August or September then shut down the straits of Hormuz for 2-3 months and watch gas prices climb to $5-6 a gallon and Trump lose the election.

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        In the past, the American citizenry has been loath to remove the President during a time of turmoil (see the poster child for destructive Presidents, G.W.Bush).

        This feeling is somewhat captured by the statement some used to state their support for the US Government during Vietnam, “My country, right or wrong”.

        If Iran does shut down the straits of Hormuz and Trump is viewed as doing something “Presidential” about this at the time of the election, it could well help his chances of re-election.

        In this country there are a lot of inconsistencies, with conservative people channeling Ronald Reagan as he stated (really attacked the US government he was about to lead) “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” while simultaneously supporting the “we’ll get it right this time” problem solutions promoted by the government run US military.

        Shutting down the straits of Hormuz may only help Trump improve his re-election chances, especially if the Democrats fall in line behind his proffered military actions.

        Reply
    2. Plenue

      That may well be why Trump did it.

      But Trump isn’t the only one with a say in all this. If Trump merely wanted a distraction and to make himself look like a brave badass, there is absolutely no reason for Iran to accommodate him. Soleimani was a big deal. Trump chose the absolute worst person to kill if he just wanted a few days or weeks of wag the dog.

      The Pentagon definitely seems to be in a panic over these events.

      Reply
    3. Yves Smith

      Sorry, you are greatly underestimating the seriousness of this assassination, both in terms of the Middle East as well as America’s standing in the world. Hard to imagine we could do much to damage it further, but this was an astonishingly openly lawless move. As one reader put it, it would be as if a general of the stature of Grant were visiting Germany for a funeral and Russia assassinated him.

      Among many many other things, this now legitimates assassinations….at events where government figures are supposed to enjoy diplomatic immunity….not through coked-up stooges but openly by the government. If you think the Kims of NK are ever gonna give up their nukes after this, think again. The odds were always low but they’ve now gone to zero.

      It would also be perfectly reasonable for Iran to develop a nuclear capability. Not predicting they will but it is now an option that a lot of the world would have criticized before but now might concede quietly as arguably necessary given the US’ insane belligerence.

      Reply
      1. kiwi

        I thought the US standing in the world had already been irredeemably destroyed by Trump, and not only destroyed once, but destroyed multiple times by Trump (to hear the dems and news tell it). Doesn’t that happen, oh, about every other day?

        Reply
        1. John k

          Like most things, the spiral did not begin with trump.
          Dems rehabilitated Bush… one might expect Hillary will hug trump in a few years.

          Reply
              1. Michael Fiorillo

                Natch, and as with Shrub, because of “shared values.”

                If the #McResistance TM is allowed to set the terms of debate regarding Trump and Trumpismo, the Next Trump’s rise is guaranteed, and will make this one’s Presidency look like the Good Old Days…

                Reply
      2. ex-PFC Chuck

        I agree with how Pepe Escobar put it in a piece at Consortium News published Friday:

        In the short term, Tehran will be extremely careful in their response. A hint of — harrowing — things to come: it will be blowback by a thousand cuts. As in hitting the Exceptionalist framework — and mindset — where it really hurts.

        Their responses will almost certainly be asymmetric. I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran takes aim at Trump’s business empire to put him in the awkward position of trying to justify using state force in retaliation for personal loss. And if they take this route they may find no reason to end the cuts when he leaves office.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          And if “mysterious forces” reached out and touched some Trump properties in a serious way, followed by many little actions over time designed to show that a Trump property is not a defensible position, people might eventually become too scared to set foot on a Trump property.

          Perhaps every Trump property could be driven into roach motel liquidation by long term non-visitation inspired by fear of what might happen to one at a Trump property.

          Brain-warriors could also begin organizing worldwide extermicott campaigns against every bussiness connected to the Trumps, including all the Younger Trumplings, such that they, too, begin to run out of money over time.

          I saw an interesting and funny suggestion over at Reddit recently. If Iranian hackers really wanted to damage the U S Overclass, maybe they could hack into every record of every student debt holder . . . . and wipe out all of those debts.

          Reply
          1. Karla

            “driven into roach motel liquidation”

            You mean like letting millions of insects, obtained from a biological supply house, loose in his properties?

            Reply
            1. ambrit

              Think more sinister. Releasing a few thousand fleas infected with Yersinia pestis in his major properties. Easy (?) to do and extremely deniable. After all, his ’empire’ is addicted to the use of very low paid transient employees.

              Reply
    4. Acacia

      War I re-win

      Er, how does that work for Trump? If he launches a war with Iran, doesn’t that pretty much mean his chances of re-election in 2020 take a nosedive? We’re talking about the DJT who campaigned on making peace with Russia, and the DPRK, after all.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        Adam Davidson makes shit up all the time. Seriously. I’ve stopped shredding him but virtually everything he says is false.

        See:

        https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/04/bill-black-adam-davidson-the-1s-lord-haw-haw-mangles-economic-theory-to-attack-sanders.html

        https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/01/reader-critical-thinking-test-how-many-things-can-you-find-wrong-with-adam-davidsons-latest-article.html

        https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/08/project-shame-the-recovered-history-of-adam-davidson.html

        https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/06/adam-davidson-strikes-again-tells-us-to-ignore-downer-data-and-trust-the-confidence-fairy.html

        https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/05/adam-davidson-parrots-disinformation-as-he-extols-rule-by-the-top-0-1.html

        I have more but that gives you an idea…

        I know this site is generally opposed to ad hom, but Davidson is in the business of selling bunk. Please find an independent source that isn’t an established, blatant propagandist.

        Reply
  11. TroyIA

    As I posted earlier today the same people who have been saying Trump is irrational and leading us to WW3 would make a 180 degree turn and criticize him for pulling troops out of Iraq. “Trump didn’t fight the war we didn’t want him to fight.”

    Anyway a few links and tweets for added information.

    US Occupying Forces Should Be Evicted from Iraq and Syria ASAP
    Article from May 2019 but even before then Shia lawmakers have wanted to expel US troops but the killing of Soleimani gave them enough cover to finally pass a resolution.

    Today’s vote in Iraqi Parliament does not by itself compel the US military to leave Iraq. Troops are there at the invitation of the executive branch — not Parliament — so the vote is mainly symbolic, confirming a political mandate for the PM to kick out US forces.

    This is a complicated process:
    – Abdul Mahdi is interim PM, means current caretaker gov’t can’t do much to implement it.
    – Termination of Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and US takes one year
    – Next elected gov’t will have to finalize it.

    Reply
    1. kiwi

      Yeah, I can’t keep up with the whiplash.

      And recall the howling when Trump wanted to remove troops from Syria (or anywhere else)?

      Was it Obama or Bush that had cards used to order assassinations? Or maybe it was both of them.

      The keening over this guy is amazing. (but my preference would be capture and trial, of course, and I want us out of forever wars, too)

      Trump isn’t irrational or eratic. He has behaved the same in numerous situations, where he waits….waits….waits some more to see what the other guy does, then strikes.

      Watch when he waits.

      Reply
  12. Portlander

    Trump marked Soleimani and his Islamic Revolutionary Guards when he designated the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” in April 4 2019. This provides cover for drone killings, because war on terror, and the AUMF is still in force and covers military actions of this sort on Iraqi soil. The Iraq War is not officially over, you see.

    Trump action designating the IRGC as a terrorist organiation happened a week before Barr released the Mueller Report, and was another Trump PR distraction with huge consequences. To the best of my knowledge, no Democrats expressed meaningful opposition to this designation, which was also supported by Israel.

    Actions and omissions have consequences.

    Reply
    1. Mark K

      Good point. This is the first I’ve heard the designation mentioned, Kudos!

      It makes one wonder why Soleimani traveled so openly, given that he had a bullseye painted so publicly on the roof of his SUV.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I suppose he was following the teachings of his religion, which is (as I understand it) that God will do whatever he wants and we must surrender (what the word islam means in Arabic) to his will, that it is blasphemous to try to oppose God’s will. This, of course, is speculation on my part. I didn’t know the man.

        Reply
        1. ObjectiveFunction

          O Procopius, you yourself chronicled events very like these some two millennia ago…..

          When the Mirranes saw this letter brought to him, he replied as follows: “I should have been persuaded by what you write, and should have done what you demand, were the letter not, as it happens, from Romans, for whom the making of promises is easy, but the fulfilment of the promises in deed most difficult and beyond hope, especially if you sanction the agreement by any oaths.

          We, therefore, despairing in view of your deception, have been compelled to come before you in arms, and as for you, my dear Romans, consider that from now on you will be obliged to do nothing else than make war against the Persians. For here we shall be compelled either to die or grow old until you accord to us justice in deed.”

          Plus ca change

          Reply
      2. ambrit

        If reports are even close to correct, Soleimani thought that he was travelling to Irak at the behest of the American government. Officially travelling, thus under Diplomatic Immunity. If true, this was a complete ‘stab in the back’ of Soleimani by the Americans. No wonder everyone from ‘over there’ is up in arms. America has just openly declared itself to be an Imperial Power and Hegemon.
        So much for “Bringing Democracy to the Benighted Peoples of the World.”

        Reply
        1. Bill Smith

          “The information that #Iran Qassem Soleimani had an appointment with the PM in Baghdad and came to #Iraq to meet him the next day with established appointment, following a request of Trump for mediation”

          Wow.

          I’ve hunted around for this on other sites. I mean outside the mainstream and even on Russian sites. Anyone have a link to more details on this?

          Reply
          1. Yves Smith

            I don’t know either way but given the funeral and that Iraq was already treating the US killing of IIRC 25 Iraqi military personnel as a big deal, this is plausible. However, that also doesn’t mean even if the report is accurate, that this was anything other than a courtesy/social call (per protocol, even with Soleimani being a Big Deal, anything official should be handled peer to peer, like foreign minister to foreign minister). Soleimani is not a head of state.

            But the flip side is I can see the US being totally freaked out at the additional diss (aside from the PM declaring a three day period of mourning over the US killings) of rubbing it in by meeting Soleimani. Iraq is not acting like a good lapdog!

            Update: Rev Kev (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/01/iraq-parliament-calls-for-u-s-troops-to-be-expelled-plus-cavalcade-of-stupid.html#comment-3267310) linked to a tweet by Elijah Magnier, who is credible, who claims the US asked the Iraq PM to intermediate with the US and that was why he invited Suleimani to visit. Even if the PM didn’t say directly that the US sanctioned the visit, that meeting and therefore the entire trip most assuredly fell under diplomatic immunity. This was likely at most a “shape of the table” as opposed to substantive talk but those are still extremely important.

            What little reputation the US has in the rest of the world is toast.

            Reply
            1. RBHoughton

              You are too reasonable NC. Its difficult to attribute meaning to adjectives these days due to the mis-use of MSM hacks but I was ‘shocked’ in the real sense of the word to hear someone from State or White House saying any Iranian response would invite destruction of that country’s ancient sites.

              This is the main reason (for me) why ISIS is intolerable – they have greatly damaged the ruins in Iraq and Afghanistan and killed the aged curator of Palmyra for doing his job. Now it seems we are no better.

              Reply
          2. teri

            Bill,
            This was a primary reason the Iraqi parliament voted the way they did. Before the vote, the prime minister [Mahdi] told parliament that he was scheduled to meet with Soleimani a day after Soleimani flew into Baghdad. Soleimani was to present a letter to Mahdi from Iran to Iraq regarding some offer that Saudi Arabia had made to de-escalate tensions between countries.

            Furthermore, Mahdi said that Trump had asked Soleimani to mediate between Iran and the US. [Not such a ludicrous claim as one might think. We have to recall that Soleimani was a huge help to the US in fighting ISIS in Iraq, so we have used his services and partnered with him before.]

            Assuming this is true, and I see no reason to doubt it, Soleimani was totally set up by the US while on a diplomatic mission he was carrying out at the behest of Donald J. Trump himself.

            Reply
          3. xkeyscored

            “The information that #Iran Qassem Soleimani had an appointment with the PM in Baghdad and came to #Iraq to meet him the next day with established appointment, following a request of Trump for mediation”

            I’ve read so much about all this recently that I’m more lost than usual about where I came across different bits of (dis/mis)information, but I think that arose from a tweet by Iraq’s prime minister Abdul-Mahdi.

            Reply
      3. Plenue

        Because he thought he was safe. It probably never even occurred to him that the US might murder him publicly, when he was visiting a US ally, at the invitation of that ally, and on that ally’s own territory. Much less that the US would be willing to murder that ally’s own government officials in the process.

        Soleimani made the mistake of expecting the US to abide by some minimum standard of decorum and plain common sense.

        Reply
    2. anon in so cal

      Yes, that was posted on today’s Links comments. It also means Trump did not have to get permission from Congress.

      Reply
    3. Darius

      This reminds me of Netanyahu staging a provocation when things are too quiet or not going his way enough. Very much in the mold of a surprise assassination or random bombing of a neighborhood with a flimsy pretext.

      Reply
  13. mpalomar

    Tin foiling here but doesn’t this all have the wafting fragrance of the Democratic and Republican factions of the national security state conspiring to torpedo Trump while carrying out some of their fondest but mishappen dark dreams that they share with the Sauds and Israel.

    Trump, who to date has not oft committed to this kind of a deal breaker move, due to his monumental arrogance and ignorance, as M Blumenthal suggested, may have been tit for tatted into this by those that knew better.

    Two fer, Trump takes the hit and another essentially insane policy objective of the neo cons is realized.

    Reply
  14. Bill Carson

    Somewhat ironic that you end this post with an image of the evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon, when just a few days ago I read articles about Americans retiring to Vietnam to take advantage of that country’s cheap healthcare system.

    A hasty departure will heal the region much quicker than continued conflict.

    Reply
  15. The Rev Kev

    If you are looking for stoopid tweets, Mike Pence has added to the proposed propaganda that Soleimini was a terrorist by linking him with 9/11-

    “Assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.”

    https://twitter.com/Mike_Pence/status/1213189757708189699?s=20

    Whatever the Parliament in Iraq decides or does not decide, one thing is for sure. Any American that goes to Iraq in the next several years to work, whether soldier or civilian, will be taking his life in his hands.

    Reply
    1. George Phillies

      As there were 19 folks who hijacked the four airliners, we appear here to establish that Pence cannot count and should not be believed on anything else.

      Reply
      1. Tom Bradford

        I would offer that the Iranians are bright enough to avoid any acts that would antagonise the great American public. 9/11 was a brilliantly conceived and executed plan on the day, but it united the US public in supporting all manner of subsequent aggression against ‘terrorists’, both Al-Qeda and those who had nothing to do with it, like Iraq, that might otherwise not have been politically possible, and in that way was hugely counter-productive.

        “Softly, softly, catchee monkee” could well be the Iranian response, and a sensible one with a monkey in the White House.

        Reply
        1. Darius

          9/11 was a smashing success. It goaded the Americans into a forever war that is slowly reducing us to a weak pariah.

          Reply
      2. EarlErland

        Nasrallah said that in a speech he gave yesterday. He also spent time pointing taunting Trump by pointing out the failures and broken promises of his mid east foreign policy.

        The most interesting part of the speech is Nassrallah’s observation that the assassination represents a new US approach which requires a new type of response by what he refers to as the Axis of Resistance (Hezbollah, Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan). He speaks of the Axis response as independent of anything Iraq or Iran does.

        The speech is brief: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1213776667916800000.html

        Reply
  16. fdr-fan

    Dem standards:

    Killing a foreign leader on foreign soil = Okay, but we sort of wish you’d asked us first.

    Asking a foreign leader to check on unethical behavior = IMPEACH!

    Reply
  17. MichaelSF

    In re Rubio’s breaking up Iraq, why sure, let’s convince the Kurds to be U.S. catspaws once again and set them up to be stabbed in the back/left in the lurch as has been the ongoing U.S. policy. What could go wrong?

    Reply
  18. Misty Flip

    A resolution from the Iraqi Parliament is non-binding, not having the authority that a law has. Whether the US stations troops in Iraq is irrelevant in the short term. The US has about 5,000 advisors in Iraq. These advisors participated in anti-Daesh ops alongside the Shia militias as late as 2017. No doubt that there are contacts between these units that are, for both sides, too useful to burn immediately. The kinetics between Iran and the US will happen in a wider space:

    A) Any senior officers of either side have been evacuated from Iraq. If the Iranians can’t get back to Iran, they’d head to Syria. Command and Control has gone to ground. Ordnance and vehicles stowed among civilians for safe keeping until a critical moment. B) The Iranians will want to coordinate with Hezbollah as a multiplier. C) Battle-hardened Hezbollah has a smaller footprint for several reasons, including the lack of diplomatic protections. Hezbollah has unfettered networks in the Emirates, East Africa, and North Africa. The center of gravity will be in these places for the next few weeks until Iran can plan a new campaign secure from eavesdropping.

    *But* it is in the best interest of all parties to pretend the assassination did not happen. Consider the January 2010 assassination of a Hamas co-founder in Dubai. But for a few honest detectives in Dubai, all sides were committed in keeping the event secret… I guess Trump must draw the world into his impeachment-related psycho-sexual sturm und drang.

    Reply
  19. VietnamVet

    The United States has been at war with Iraq, hot and cold, since Desert Storm, a 30-year conflict. The United States kicked Iraq out of Kuwait, overthrew the secular minority Sunni Saddam Hussein regime in 2003 and then destroyed the radical Sunni Caliphate last year; deserted the Kurds in Syria; and is back to killing Shiite militiamen who now serve the Iraqi government.

    Iranians are not stupid. They know their survival is at stake. America has no allies left. All the Shiites need to do is to stop ground transportation and isolate the around 5,000 American troops. There will be a sandy replay of the Berlin Airlift. Occupation of Syria’s Oil Fields is untenable. If America starts bombing, the surrounded soldiers and contractors will replay the French at Dien Bien Phu.

    Donald Trump (although he doesn’t realize it) faces the exact same decisions as Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Does he escalate the war and risk a nuclear war that Ends the World or try to stand pat. When the draftees mutinied, Richard Milhous Nixon decided to withdraw and end the Vietnam War.

    It is frightening that the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of the United States are unable to face reality unlike previous leaders.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      You’re giving far too much credit to Americans for destroying “the radical Sunni Caliphate.” For almost two years the American air force refrained from attacking the daily ISIS convoys carrying oil from Syria to Turkey. It was not until Russia entered the fray and started bombing them that the Americans bestirred themselves. There is a declassified memo from 2012 in which the DIA warned the State Department that their policy of supporting radical jihadis would rebound on them.

      Reply
    1. ambrit

      I gather that Colonel Lang moderated the comments himself. He has crumbled under the strain before. I don’t blame him for the moratorium.
      As for the timing; I see it as independent of the anti-Iran bellicosity. Fatigue. Not quite up to the standards for cafard yet.
      Google is getting irrational lately. When I checked ‘cafard’ to be sure of my spelling, the right side bar showed “Cockroach.” Huh?

      Reply
      1. pjay

        You may be right about Lang’s suspension. But there has also been some “tension” between the positions of some of the contributors on certain issues, which are reflected in the comments as well. Perhaps the dissonance has become too great.

        I seen the Colonel as someone with considerable honesty. But given his background and beliefs, he simply can’t go all the way and comprehend the fundamental Evils of our Empire. To see so many of the rotten trees while refusing to perceive the forest must itself create a condition of “cafard.”

        Reply
        1. Foy

          Agreed he always puts it down to incompetence of the empire rather than evil of the empire. It’s a pity he’s stopping the comments, it’s a great blog, I learned a lot from it and there was a lot of valuable stuff in the comments, just like here.

          Reply
        2. JTMcPhee

          Don’t omit his strong Catholic Church background and orientation.

          And he did impose lots of gags on anyone he thought was disrespectful or did not toe his perceptual line or challenged any of his observations. Hates “communists,” too — but a valuable resource, I agree. Especially for giving place to good Guest Authors like TTG and Harper and Larry Johnson

          Reply
    2. Seamus Padraig

      Lang’s done this before; it never lasts. I predict the comments will be back by next month. Lang probably just got exasperated with one (or more) of the European ‘Marxists’ commenting there, contradicting his world-views. (I have to put ‘Marxist’ in sarcasm quotes here, because Lang sometimes seems to think that anyone who disagrees with him must be a full-on commie.) Lang is certainly capable of doing some excellent analysis from time to time, but he is definitely an ornery old coot!

      Reply
  20. Roland

    No comparison to Indochina. Why? Simple: In Indochina the USA was opposed by Great Powers. In today’s Middle East, the USA is not opposed by any Great Power.

    The USA could reinvade and reoccupy Iraq at will, indeed even more quickly and cheaply than seventeen years ago. For God’s sake, today’s Iraq can’t even rid itself of a few thousand lousy foreigners!

    Iran does not have enough power to stop them. Nobody else in the world would meaningfully interfere: not RF, not PRC, not EU, not India–nobody. Nobody is going to wage a major war to contest the USA’s hegemony in the region. Nobody is going to place crippling trade or financial sanctions on the USA in an effort to modify the regime’s behaviour. It’s not like Canada’s going to embargo electricity exports, or Mexico’s going to close the border, or the City of London would freeze US assets.

    While almost anybody with the least concern for human welfare is in the understandable habit of calling the Iraq War a stupid failure, nevertheless it all depends on what you think the real aims were, and from whose perspective you measure the results. If the real aim of the war was to smash the sovereignty, stability, and prosperity of Iraq, then the success is obvious, even heading into the long term.

    And when you look at things from the standpoint of the USA’s ruling class, they’re richer and more powerful than they were 17 years ago. They didn’t spill a single drop of their own blood. Their taxes are lower than ever. The only dissension in their ranks concerns which of them gets to start the next war–just look at the way US elites debate this latest outrage!

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Are you out of your mind?

      The US spent somewhere between $3 and $6 trillion on its Iraq II misadventure. Invading proves squat if you can’t hold the country. We can’t.

      And in case you weren’t paying attention, the US military was not overextended back then by virtue of having put soldiers on multiple back-to-back tours of duty.

      The enrichment of the US 0.1% has squat to do with our military misadventures. It has to do with lax anti-trust enforcement, Obama bailing out the banks and asset holders after the crisis, and Republican tax cuts.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        I think that starting at the 20%, and more strongly the higher they are, creates a bubble of unreality. The obscenely wealthy 0.1% along with the senior members of government and their staff live in their own little world. This makes insanity like Iraq II more likely and since almost all the money is going to 1% and their minions including think tanks and lobbying groups the unreality field grows.

        Reply
    2. VietnamVet

      The current Elite are as delusional as past aristocracies as their Empires crash around them. They really think they are invulnerable. But Russia and China have allied with Iran to stop the Western Empire’s exploitation. The Russians are very much in Syria. That is why the Assad Regime Change Campaign failed. If Iraq says leave and the USA stays, Iraqi Shiites will get aid from Iran and no doubt from Russia and China under the table. Another unwinnable war of occupation is on.

      If the USA bombs Iran, Saudi oil fields will be destroyed. A conventional war with Iran kills the global economy. Russia has promised a response if nuclear weapons are used against Iran. If you live within 10 miles of a US city center or military base, you are dead in a nuclear war. “The Day After” a movie from the first Cold War in 1983 indicates that may be preferable than living through the aftermath.

      Reply
        1. ambrit

          The question is, who is making the decisions? The “Invulnerable Ones” or the “Bunker Crowd?” I view this as a set of Venn diagrams, rather than a nesting series.

          Reply
  21. The Rev Kev

    Now here is a fellow that knows his stuff and is promising that a war with Iran would be a cakewalk. His biography say-

    Dr Stephen Bryen has 40 years of leadership in government and industry. He has served as a senior staff director of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the deputy undersecretary of defense for trade security policy, as the founder and first director of the Defense Technology Security Administration, as the president of Delta Tech Inc, as the president of Finmeccanica North America, and as a commissioner of the US-China Security Review Commission.

    With all that expertise, I guess that you can’t argue with that-

    https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/01/article/theres-a-silver-lining-in-a-potential-us-iran-war/

    Reply
    1. ObjectiveFunction

      ‘I don’t know him well,’ he said. ‘I guess I only met him twice.’ I liked him for that—to consider it was boasting to claim acquaintance with—what was his name?—York Harding. I was to learn later that he had an enormous respect for what he called serious writers. That term excluded novelists, poets and dramatists unless they had what he called a contemporary theme, and even then it was better to read the straight stuff as you got it from York.

      I said, ‘You know, if you live in a place for long you cease to read about it.’

      ‘Of course I always like to know what the man on the spot has to say,’ he replied guardedly.

      ‘And then check it with York?’

      ‘Yes.’ Perhaps he had noticed the irony, because he added with his habitual politeness, ‘I’d take it as a very great privilege if you could find time to brief me on the main points. You see, York was here more than two years ago.’

      I liked his loyalty to Harding—whoever Harding was. It was a change from the denigrations of the Pressmen and their immature cynicism. I said, ‘Have another bottle of beer and I’ll try to give you an idea of things.’

      Reply
    2. Michael Fiorillo

      According to the author of this article, “The US also has superb intelligence and situational awareness, something the Iranians lack.”

      Need anyone say more?

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Wut? Is that a joke, sarcasm, slick pro war propaganda? Or is the writer just completely uninformed about the Middle Eastern clusterfluck that has been the United States’ “superb intelligence and situational awareness” since Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh’s was overthrown for the sake of the profits of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, now know as British Petroleum or BP? By the CIA and MI6?

        There are reasons why the Iranians, and everyone else in the area, are suspicious of the United States. It has been focused on just having the complete control of the region’s oil, international corporations’ profits, and for whatever Israel wants without any regards to the damage it does to anyone or anything else for at least 70 years.

        The writer goes on and on about how formidable the United States’ military and its allies the Israelis, Saudis, and Qataris are and just how pathetic the Iranians and their military alliances are while ignoring all the weaknesses of the former and the strengths of the latter as well as their goals. I am not anything like a knowledgeable person on the Middle East, but the writer really must be an ignoramus, a fool, or a propagandist to write this

        Reply
  22. p fitzsimon

    Until this article I’ve heard no explanation as to why the Iranian second in command would fly into an airport not officially controlled by American forces but extensively monitored by Americans and thus putting himself in such danger.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      He was attending a funeral. That’s widely seen as conferring diplomatic immunity. Oh, and it was a funeral for Iraqi troops (who’d be comparable to our National Guard) killed by the US….leading the Iraqi PM to declare a three-day period of mourning for them.

      Reply
    2. The Rev Kev

      He was also a diplomatic envoy under protection of international law. Note the following-

      ‘We have learned today from #Iraq Prime Minister AdilAbdl Mahdi how @realDonaldTrump uses diplomacy:
      #US asked #Iraq to mediate with #Iran. Iraq PM asks #QassemSoleimani to come and talk to him and give him the answer of his mediation, Trump &co assassinate an envoy at the airport.’

      So in other words Trump enabled him to be a diplomatic envoy so that he could be murdered with ease.

      https://twitter.com/ejmalrai/status/1213833855754485762

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > If reports are even close to correct, Soleimani thought that he was travelling to Irak at the behest of the American government.

        That’s what Abdul Mahdi says, and at at the time of this post, he was the only source. I’d want better sourcing, though of course it’s significant that Abdul Mahdi says it, true or false.

        Reply
  23. wilroncanada

    Just a note re: Canadian visitors being held and questioned for 4 to 8 hours at the borders between British Columbia and Washington State. Just watched on Vancouver/Victoria local news an interview with two women, born in Iran but living in Canada since early childhood, stating they were detained and questioned for about 5 hours each at the “Peace Arch” border crossing because of their Iranian birth. After being questioned individually, they were put into a room with many other brown-skinned people to wait for their fate. One woman said in the interview that the last question she was asked was whether she had any weapons training. A complaint to US Homeland Security elicited a written response that they are not detaining people based solely on their birthplaces. One would doubt that individual agents would take it upon themselves to do this. It appears that Homeland Security, like most other US institutions, has learned from their President: lie…lie again….lie some more, bluff, bulls**t, we don’t care.

    Reply
    1. marym

      Thank you for this news. There’ve been some tweets about it.

      Congresswoman Jayapal: “Deeply disturbed by reports that Iranian Americans, including U.S. citizens, are being detained at the Canadian border with WA State.” Tweet includes a contact email

      Governor Inslee “My office is closely tracking reports that Iranian Americans, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, have been detained at the WA-Canada border.” Tweet says to contact his office.

      https://twitter.com/RepJayapal/status/1213896795409059840
      https://twitter.com/GovInslee/status/1213958239676592129

      Reporters: https://twitter.com/CBCtanya https://twitter.com/KatieNicholson

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        How nice. Actually being an American citizen does not guarantee your rights. Yes, yes I know it was at the flipping Canadian border, but twenty years ago there were places were you could just walk across. ID? What ID? And really, just how long could they hold Americans from coming back home?

        But no, apparently we need Fortress America to keep us aaaallll safe during this War on Terror. However, I ask just who is terrorizing whom? Getting rid of the TSA (God, I loath it.), most of CPB, all of ICE and quite likely at least half of the 17 intelligence agencies including all of that vile HSA and will probably make us safer.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          Always remember: You and I and the rest of us only have “rights” to the extent that we can enforce them. Of course, the “duties” and “responsibilities” half of the rights equation apply and can be unilaterally augmented by *power* as easily as those “rights” can be abrogated by the same.

          A republic, if you can keep it.

          Hang together, or hang separately.

          Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Pay the United States for an airbase it built, in part, to fight an organization created by the conditions created by a war it started on the territory of a sovereign state? That’s perfectly reasonable! /s

      Reply
  24. timbers

    Regarding the thingy of 50% Iraqi Parliament showing up for vote because Suni and Kurds boycotted:

    70% of Iraq’s population is Shia. Wikipedia says so, so it must be true. But apparently Israel…err…the US gerrymandered Iraq’s elections to prevent Shia majority governance.

    So procedurally the boycott matters, but the point that the People Of Iraq want their occupying American masters
    gone is valid.

    Reply
    1. Bill Smith

      You are leaving out the Kurds. They are mostly Shia. For this they split alway along ethnic not religious lines.

      Reply
  25. Bill Carson

    As an aside, it sure is refreshing that we don’t have to listen to John McCain bang the drums of war this time around.

    Reply
  26. Dave

    April, 2019

    The Russian General Staff has reinforced the air defences for Russians at the Iranian nuclear reactor complex at Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf, according to sources in Moscow. At the same time, Iran has allowed filming of the movement of several of its mobile S-300 air-defence missile batteries to the south, covering the Iranian coastline of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. More secretly, elements of Russian military intelligence, electronic warfare, and command and control advisers for Iran’s air defence systems have been mobilized to support Iran against US and allied attacks.

    The range of the new surveillance extends well beyond the S-300 strike distance of 200 kilometres, and covers US drone and aircraft bases on the Arabian peninsula, as well as US warships in (and under) the Persian Gulf and off the Gulf of Oman. Early warning of US air and naval-launched attacks has now been cut below the old 4 to 6-minute Iranian threshold. Counter-firing by the Iranian armed forces has been automated from attack warning and target location.

    This means that if the US is detected launching a swarm of missiles aimed at Iran’s air-defence sites, uranium mines, reactors, and military operations bunkers, Iran will launch its own swarm of missiles at the US firing platforms, as well as at Saudi and other oil production sites, refineries, and pipelines, as well tankers in ports and under way in the Gulf.

    http://johnhelmer.net/against-the-blitz-wolf-russian-reinforcements-for-irans-defence-in-war-against-all/

    Reply
  27. Tim

    I am shocked that 95% of Americans find it ok, to assasinate a military leader of another sovereign country!

    This basically ends the postwar rules based international order, now anyone can assasinate anyone wherever and whenever they feel like it.

    Defining the QUDs foorce a a terrorist organization is just being silly, so now Iran can define the US Marine Corps as a terrorist organization….
    It like defining water-boarding as enhanced interrogation -you can play with words all day long in the end it is still torture!

    Why is this not being raised more in the debate?

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      I believe Iran designated the USA’s armed forces a terrorist organisation a while back, in response to the USA’s designation of the IRGC. Certainly something like that.
      Where did you get the 95% thing from, not that it surprises me?

      Reply
  28. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Disclaimer: American ex-pat, temporarily living in the EU (i.e., the UK).
    One thing I have never seen mentioned anywhere is the incredible damage the President has been doing to Brand America (c), the country that invented branding.
    What will happen if the FAANGS, McDonalds, Starbucks etc. suddenly find themselves persona non grata [and being corporations, they ARE people] in entire swathes of Middle East and quite possibly the larger world?
    People living in the Washington bubble (a subset of the larger American bubble), have no idea how interconnected the economic world runs, usually independently of captive nation-states.
    But nation-states do retain the ability to make life very difficult for American corporations (cf. Boeing 737 Max) if they so wish.
    With one push of a button, the President has managed punch holes in Brand American (c) to an extent that the mullahs, the Kremlin and the National People’s Congress could only wish for in their wildest wet dream.

    Reply
  29. RJM

    Two quotes from Goethe seem relevant to the current situation: “He who cannot draw on 3,000 years is living hand to mouth” and There’s nothing more terrible (frightening) than ignorance in action.” We seem to forget the origins of the current impass has to do with the CIA’s black operation to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mosadeqq in 1953 and the reinstatement of the Shah and his SAVAK that led to the 1979 Revolution. The experiences in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq apparently have nothing to offer and guide us.
    Iran is undergoing a widespread serious thirty year drought. Half of it’s 600+ aquifers are dry, many hundreds of small villages have no water and are supplied by truck, and major subsidence is widespread effecting infrastructure including the Tehran area with sink holes up to 60 meters deep. Attacking a country with a seriously crippled economy and agriculture from economic sanctions that doesn’t have enough water certainly doesn’t make any military sense except to crazed neocons. Additionally Iran has had major demonstrations against the government because of food and medicine scarcity.
    We have murdered General Soleimani who might have been the best Irani to negotiate with.

    Reply
  30. PKMKII

    Your comment on where the wise counsel is to be found reminded me of an article I saw today about the problem in DC with Iranian expertise:

    Looking at the top experts working on Iran for the major DC-based think tanks between 2014 and 2016, roughly one-third had PhDs and even fewer had done their dissertations on a topic related to Iran. And though one does not need a PhD to be a subject-matter expert, members of the establishment use this academic qualification as their own internal marker of expertise. Thus, according to the establishment’s own standards, most of the leading, self-proclaimed Iran experts in DC do not qualify as such.

    Moreover, around half of the Iran experts based at think tanks in DC could not read, write, or speak Persian at the time of my fieldwork. And a similar number had never once stepped foot inside Iran. One research assistant working at a prominent think tank told me how, as someone who reads Arabic, he would read Persian language news articles aloud for another research assistant who could only speak (but not read) Persian. The two of them together would “translate” Iranian news articles for his boss, an expert who works on the Middle East and comments on Iran frequently.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *