The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Bolton Hijacks US Middle East Policy

The Daily Escape:

Spice market, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul – 2013 photo by Wrongo

The struggle between the neocons and Trump over control of foreign policy has become ridiculous. The WSJ’s Dion Nissenbaum reported on Sunday that John Bolton asked the Pentagon to provide military options to strike Iran:

The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, came after militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the US Embassy, on a warm night in early September. The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot and harmed no one.

Bolton’s team held a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response. Their request triggered alarm. The WSJ reported:

People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.


The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran, the officials said. But it isn’t clear….whether Mr. Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a US strike against Iran took shape at that time.

If that isn’t serious enough, the WSJ reported:

Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well.

Anyone surprised that someone like Bolton, with his neocon bone fides wants war with Iran? Since Bolton took his post last April, the Trump administration has been more confrontational with Iran. Some will say that the Pentagon already has detailed plans drawn up for a strike against Iran, and that this is completely routine for our military.

That may be true, but a request from the White House is a different matter. Bullies love to taunt the weak, but Iran isn’t weak. The Iranian military wouldn’t be the pushover for us that the Iraq army was. They are much better equipped, motivated and have a healthy stock of air defense missiles.

And where is our strategy? Once you send a few bombs into Iran, you’ve started a war, and you never know where it will go. Suppose the Iranians consider (probably correctly) that it was Israel’s influence on the Trump administration that led to the US attack.

And they launch a few missiles at Israel. What would happen next? Would Hezbollah again move against Israel too? If the US attacks Iran, then there is no reason whatsoever for Iran not to attack the various US military units scattered around the Middle East in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

And who would the Russians side with? If Russia intervenes, is the US prepared to lose an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean?

Finally, how would the conflict end? Iran can’t be occupied by the US, and there isn’t a significant loyal Iranian opposition to back.

Surely even Trump must realize that Bolton’s idea is lunacy squared. It would be a major ME escalation, with Trump’s name all over it. It would sink his 2020 chances. How would he justify his response to a few mortars that landed in a car park? How would he justify the certain loss of American lives?

We have to be thankful that Trump didn’t authorize military strikes against Iran, but it is time to revisit our alliances and policies in the ME.

We back our loyal ally Saudi Arabia, and have made Iran our enemy. But let’s compare these two countries: Would you believe that Iran has a Jewish population that feel safe there, and has no interest in living in Israel?

In Saudi Arabia, if you renounce Islam, it can be a death sentence, as we saw with the Saudi young woman who sought asylum in Canada.

Women have careers in Iran, and can drive cars. In fact, there’s a female owned and operated taxi company in Tehran with 700 female drivers. Women in Saudi Arabia have few freedoms.

Iran has taken in refugees from the recent ME wars. Saudi Arabia has taken virtually none from Syria or Yemen, where they are perpetuating a humanitarian nightmare.

Iran is a multicultural country. Saudi Arabia is a medieval monarchy that has been exporting the most extreme version of Islam (Wahhabism) around the world, fueled by their oil money. Many of the jihadis in the past few decades can be traced to Saudi’s Wahhabi teachings.

If you have a choice, and you will in 2020, which country sounds like a more attractive ally for the US?

When are we going to stop our failed “Assad must go”; “Gadhafi must go”; “Saddam must go”; and “Mubarak must go” foreign policy?

We shouldn’t even be thinking about bombing Iran.


Monday Wake Up Call – August 24, 2015

There was a curious story in the NYT on Saturday. They quote former Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak in a new biography revealing that Israel came close to striking Iran’s military facilities in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The biographers spoke on Israeli television, saying that despite Barak’s and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s desire to do so, the Israeli military refused.

Recorded interview excerpts between Barak and the biographers were aired by Israel’s Channel 2, which stressed that Mr. Barak had sought to prevent them from being broadcast, but that they had been approved by Israel’s military censor. Mr. Barak later confirmed that the recordings were authentic, but said he had provided the information on background to Ilan Kfir and Danny Dor, whose book, “Barak: The Wars of My Life,” came out this week in Hebrew.

The interviews confirmed a longstanding view that Israel’s security chiefs held back the political leadership, particularly in 2010. In 2012, the timing did not work out because of a joint US-Israel military exercise and visit by Leon Panetta, US defense secretary. Barak said he recalled “demanding” to postpone the joint military exercise. The NYT quotes Barak:

You ask, you demand that America respect your sovereignty to make a decision that you want to do that, even if America is opposed to that and it is against its interests…

The news is that the civilian leadership really wanted to start a war with Iran but first, the military leaders demurred, and then so did the Obama Administration. This confirms that the past 7 years have not been all Israeli bluster intended to play bad cop to our good cop. The bad news is that the administration has known for years that Netanyahu and his administration are off their collective rockers, yet Congress continues to send Israel weapons and billions of dollars every year.

The sad part is that there isn’t anything really new here. It has been well documented previously. Juan Cole reported in 2011 that: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

Netanyahu appears to have forced out Meir Dagan, the head of the Israeli spying agency Mossad… Dagan went on to accuse Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, of grossly exaggerating the threat from Iran, calling a [potential] strike on that country “stupid idea that offers no advantage.”

In 2012, apparently Obama stood firm in opposition to an Iran strike, since Israel didn’t have the capability to really damage Iran’s nuclear facilities and needed support from USAF in the form of B-52s and bunker buster bombs. Mr. Obama later compensated Israel for standing down by providing them with the bunker busters.

Here’s a thought worth polishing and spreading: That the unspoken concern of the US and the world is not so much that a nuclear armed Iran might someday attack Israel and further destabilize the ME, but that a nuclear armed Israel is now ready, able, and rehearsing their plans to attack Iran. Imagine for a moment the hysteria in Congress if the headline of this story was reversed: “Khomeini was on the verge of attacking Israel 3 times”.

It’s time to cut Israel loose, to eliminate the undue influence this nation has on American foreign policy.

So, wake up Congress Critters, modeling Netanyahu’s foreign policy behaviors will lead America to failure. To help with the wake-up, here is a photo that shows those in Congress just another example of life in the food chain:

Life in the Food Chain

(H/T Naked Capitalism)

Your Monday Hot Links:

This is how Bernie Sanders could win. OK it’s a long shot, but FiveThirtyEight says that if Hillary implodes, Sanders vs. Biden could be highly competitive. Clinton won’t drop out before the primaries and a Biden run could split the establishment vote, giving Sanders an opening.

Billionaires keep flocking to architect Robert A.M. Stern’s newest limestone creation at 220 Central Park South. Next is billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin, who we mentioned yesterday. Griffin’s new pad could cost him anywhere between $30 million and $160 million, which is really just chump change for the hedge funder who reportedly nets $2.2 million a day, and that’s after taxes!

In a related story in the Onion, a study finds it is easier than ever for American dollars to join the 1%.

First wolf pack found in California in nearly a century. On Aug. 9, the cameras photographed two separate black-furred wolves, believed to be adults. Five black wolf pups were photographed in the same spot. It was clearly a pack.

Doctors may have found a way to override the body’s evolutionary habit of storing fat with a discovery of a master switch for the body’s metabolism. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School discovered a new genetic pathway that controls human metabolism by prompting fat cells to store or burn away fat.

Grading Carly Fiorina’s tenure at HP. By a Silicon Valley journalist.


The Baddest Bad-ass GOP Hawk

This is Wrongo’s last column on Iran for a bit. There are several million words written every day about the nuclear deal, and events may yet overtake us all on the subject. But, it is difficult to let it disappear in the rear-view mirror without looking at the Republican presidential candidates’ trying to say that they will tear up the deal on the day they take office.

Consider Scott Walker, who, according to the Weekly Standard, wants to make it clear that he is the baddest Republican hawk. Walker spoke to reporters after an appearance at the Family Leadership Summit, saying that the next president must be prepared to take aggressive action against Iran, possibly including military strikes, on the day he or she is inaugurated. Walker said he would not be comfortable with a commander-in-chief who is unwilling to act aggressively on day one of a new presidency.

Makes you want to know what Walker thinks should happen on day two, or does his planning just stop on day one?

Jeb Bush tried to be the responsible baddest hawk. The Weekly Standard reported that Bush said in response to Walker’s statement:

One thing that I won’t do is just say, as a candidate, ‘I’m going to tear up the agreement on the first day.’ That’s great, that sounds great but maybe you ought to check in with your allies first, maybe you ought to appoint a secretary of state, maybe secretary of defense, you might want to have your team in place, before you take an act like that.

These positions aren’t really different, and both are reckless. Vowing to undo the agreement puts pressure on all GOP candidates to articulate an alternative. And why should voters trust the Republican nominee with the presidency when he is eager to boast about his readiness to start a war against a country that just negotiated a nuclear weapons agreement with the US and its allies?

The US would not be defending itself or anyone else, (that means you, Israel) by launching an attack on Iran, but it would be committing a breach of the UN Charter. In the process, it would also be exposing our forces and some of Iran’s neighbors to retaliation. And, it would risk dragging the rest of the region into a larger war.

Politically, Democrats will make the case that the only alternative to the Iran deal would be war, so supporting the agreement should end up being the majority position in the US. Already, a Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 56% of Americans support the deal, though about 60% are skeptical that it will work, suggesting that, Americans want to give it a try, even if success is far from assured.

Even the American Conservative’s Daniel Larison disproved:

If Iran were building a nuclear weapon, the US would be in the wrong to launch a “preventive” attack on them. To do so after Iran starts scaling back and limiting its nuclear program would be an even greater crime. Walker’s thinking about “very possibly” attacking Iran immediately after taking office would be indefensible warmongering even if there were no deal with Iran.

George W. Bush’s preventive war against Iraq was the stupidest blunder in the history of US foreign policy. That only 12 years later, so many Republican presidential candidates are considering the possibility of repeating that blunder in Iran is appalling.

While no one thought it was possible, Scott Walker is making George W. Bush look thoughtful. Walker is trying to out-hawk the rest of the Republican field, but instead, is coming across as a kook. Next, in an attempt to outdo Walker, some candidate will pledge he’ll launch a nuclear strike on Iran on Election Day.

Most of the Republican candidates basically are in favor of a war with Iran, and there is little doubt that the Republicans will beat that war drum all the way to November, 2016.

And if Walker is a real Republican, he’ll get America’s corporations to build a private nuclear strike capability; and he would pledge to use it after the New Hampshire primary.

His right-wing talking point would be that we can’t have the government picking winners and losers when it comes to manufacturing a nuclear crisis or nuclear weapons.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 11, 2015

Big week. Another black man killed, Hillary announces to no one’s surprise, the anti-Iran deal resistance cranks it up a notch and a Cuban handshake for Mr. Obama.

Let’s start with the cop-involved killing in North Charleston SC. Two memes that appear every time a cop kills an unarmed black man are “one bad apple” and “the victim probably deserved it”. Let’s unpack this: The knee jerk response in some quarters is that since there are so many good cops, and so few bad ones, that the cops who kill merit the benefit of the doubt, particularly when the shooters say they were in fear for their lives. No need to look at a systemic problem in policing.

The second is the steady drip of “facts” that amount to character assassination of the already-dead victim. They had a record, they were late with family support payments, they resisted, or they made a sudden move. Or, a cascade of other facts that indicate the victims were no saints.

But, none of these things merit vigilante justice.

It’ll always be “one bad apple” but that bad apple will most often be a white cop killing a black man. It’ll always be “maybe the victim deserved it”, and it will most often be a black victim who deserved it.

Here is the value of video:

COW Cop Violence

“Comply or die” is the state of the art in policing:

COW Hands Up 2

Republicans want Iran deal to go away. Obama too:

COW No Framework

Chicken Hawks count noses on Iran:

COW War on Iran


Iran hears a familiar song and dance:


COW Iran Inspector

SS Hillary launches:

COW Hillary Launch










In 2008, Barack Obama wrapped up the delegates he needed to be the Democratic nominee at a shockingly early point in the campaign. Even a very strong finish by Hillary Clinton did nothing to improve her chances. She was finished before she knew what hit her.

She learned a huge lesson. This time, getting the nomination seems more inevitable, but she’s out of the gate early.

Given the lack of bench strength in the Democratic Party, it’s no wonder that the New Republic worries that she is a single point of failure for Dems.

What could go wrong?


Sen. Cotton Must Bone Up on Strategy

“Empires are lost when inadequate men become leaders and wage war for base reasons or no reason at all.”Sun Tzu

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) Cotton accused President Obama of a “false choice” between his framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program and war. He then downplayed what would happen if we just bombed Iran: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days of air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.

Who cares what the generals, intelligence analysts and foreign policy experts think after war gaming various scenarios for a war with Iran? Hint: it’s not a pretty outcome.

But, for Sen. Cotton, the only opinion that really matters is Sen. Cotton’s, America’s new military strategist. Sen. Cotton was elected in part because of his prior military service, having served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He left the military in 2013. Sadly, not everyone who was in combat while serving is a strategic thinker. Given his military experience, he should know that geopolitics is not a Hollywood movie.

This guy has a romantic vision of how a “quick war” would proceed. He says it would be a few days of air and naval bombing against Iran’s nuclear facilities. He apparently thinks that Iran would not move against American shipping in the Gulf, against Israel, or even attempt to take out our military in the ME. And our allies? Who would support us, except Israel and Saudi Arabia? And once the party is over, and Iran dusts off and picks up the pieces, they would surely build nuclear weapons. Wouldn’t we then have to bomb them again?

Wouldn’t that make the US a pariah state?

This reminds us that Republicans, in their eagerness for war, often diminish the costs to America of pursuing the military option. Yep, only a four day war, and then we declare victory! Or, longer, and messier, and then what? Consider this:

• “We will be greeted as liberators”
• “Oil revenues will pay for it”
• “There is no insurgency”
• “The insurgency is in its last throes”

It was 12 years ago that pundits and politicians were touting how fast and cheaply we could turn Iraq into a model democracy. Well, the results are in, but they apparently haven’t registered for Sen. Cotton, who needs to come up with some new and better neo-con talking points.

The neo-cons, the hawks and their spokespersons, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have rarely met an international issue that doesn’t require more American military muscle, and this includes Iran. Perhaps Sen. Cotton is auditioning to replace the decaying Sen. McCain or Sen. Graham in the permanent warmongering Senator chair on the Sunday talkies? He is much younger (38) and could conceivably remain on the national political stage for the next 40 years. Would Sunday Show status give him the credibility to run for POTUS like McCain did, and Graham is attempting to do now?

A strategy tip for Sen. Cotton: “Negotiating from a position of strength” doesn’t mean, “We should negotiate only after we have our boots on their necks”, so if they refuse to accept our terms, we crush them, claiming that they wouldn’t negotiate. He thinks that anything that prevents us from exercising the “boot on the neck” option means we’re in a position of weakness. That’s awful on a lot of levels.

How can a smart guy, a Harvard grad, a lawyer, someone with significant military service, get it so wrong when it comes to geopolitics and military strategy? He should know the difference between Iraq and Iran. In Iraq, we had already decimated their military, destroyed their air defense system and made their airspace into a no-fly zone before our 2003 attack. Iran, which despite crippling economic sanctions, still has its air defense systems, its anti-ship missiles, (which, some war games showed can cripple our fleet in the Persian Gulf) and its military is intact.

Iraq was fractured by sectarian division. It has about 31 million people and is 60% the size of Texas.

Iran is not Arab, it is Muslim, and unified. It has 80 million people and is twice the size of Texas.

Sen. Cotton needs to bone up on military strategy and the Middle East.