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Iran has out-foxed America again & backed “fake president” Trump into a corner…


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Author Topic: Iran has out-foxed America again & backed “fake president” Trump into a corner…  (Read 247 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: January 01, 2020, 09:43:26 pm »


from The New York Times…

American Airstrikes Rally Iraqis Against U.S.

Iraqi leaders say the United States violated Iraqi sovereignty with attacks
that killed 24 people in retaliation for the death of an American contractor.


By ALISSA J. RUBIN and BEN HUBBARD | 7:13PM EST — Monday, December 30, 2019

The headquarters of an Iranian-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, in Qaim, Iraq, on Monday after an American airstrike. — Photograph: Associated Press.
The headquarters of an Iranian-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, in Qaim, Iraq, on Monday after an American airstrike.
 — Photograph: Associated Press.


IRAQ has been caught for years in a tug of war between its two most powerful patrons, the United States and Iran. In recent months, public opinion began to tilt against Iran, with street protests demanding an end to Tehran’s pervasive influence.

But American airstrikes that killed two dozen members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend have now made Washington the focus of public hostility, reducing the heat on Tehran and its proxies.

Iraqi leaders accused the United States on Monday of violating Iraq's sovereignty and expressed fear that increasing tensions between the United States and Iran could escalate into a proxy war on Iraqi soil.

Even the tenor of the street protests has shifted, as anti-Iranian slogans have given way to anti-American ones. Demonstrators and others attacked what they deemed to be America's disproportionate response — the killing of 24 militiamen on Sunday in retaliation for the death of an American contractor on Friday.

By day's end there were calls to end the “American occupation” and demands for the American military to leave Iraq.

For Iran, the reversal comes at an opportune moment, as it has faced pushback around the region and unrest and economic distress at home.

The American airstrikes on the militia's bases in Iraq and Syria on Sunday wounded 50 people in addition to those killed, the militia, Kataib Hezbollah, said Monday.

The United States said the strikes were a reprisal for the more than 30 rockets Kataib Hezbollah launched against an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk on Friday, killing the American contractor and wounding four American and two Iraqi servicemen.

“What we did is take a decisive response that makes clear what President Trump has said for months and months and months,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday, “which is that we will not stand for the Islamic Republic of Iran to take actions that put American men and women in jeopardy.”


Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, center, discussed airstrikes on Sunday at a news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Mar-a-Lago, the president's Florida resort. — Photograph: Eric Thayer/for The New York Times.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, center, discussed airstrikes on Sunday at a news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left,
and Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Mar-a-Lago, the president's Florida resort.
 — Photograph: Eric Thayer/for The New York Times.


Despite the American justification, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called the airstrikes “a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation and threat to the security of Iraq and the region.”

Iraq's chief Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, condemned the American attack and warned that the government must “ensure that Iraq does not become a field for settling regional and international scores.”

Even if the American attack was “retaliation for illegal actions,” he said, the Iraqi authorities should deal with them, not the Americans.

Iraq's Iranian-backed militias have increasingly posed a problem for both Iraq and the United States.

The militias arose to help defeat the Islamic State, a battle they effectively fought on the same side as the Americans. They now represent a powerful faction in Iraq, both militarily and politically, controlling a large bloc in Parliament.

While they are technically under the supervision of the Iraqi security forces, some have strong ties to Iran and operate with significant independence. As the Trump administration has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran, the militias have increasingly struck at American targets.

An American official said on Sunday that the militias had carried out 11 attacks over the past two months on Iraqi bases and facilities housing American contractors and service members.

The group the United States accused of carrying out the deadly attack on Friday, Kataib Hezbollah, denied responsibility for it, a spokesman, Mohammed Muhi, said on Monday.

And while the militia is closely tied to Iran, many Iraqis see it primarily as an Iraqi force and were angered by an attack on it by an outside power.

“We are talking about a foreign force attacking an Iraqi force,” said Maria Fantappie, the senior adviser on Iraq for the International Crisis Group.


Protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Monday denounced American airstrikes over the weekend. — Photograph: Hussein Faleh/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Monday denounced American airstrikes over the weekend.
 — Photograph: Hussein Faleh/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


While there has been some criticism of the militias' attacks on Iraqi bases where Americans are stationed, most objections are now being leveled at the United States. The populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr, for instance, urged the militias to abandon “irresponsible actions,” saying he would work with them to use legal and political means to kick out the Americans.

Analysts also said the scale of the American attack — on five sites in two countries with two dozen people killed — made it likely that Kataib Hezbollah would feel compelled to respond and could rally anti-Americanism.

“Is that deterrence, or is this really risking the whole of the U.S. presence in Iraq?” asked Emma Sky, a senior fellow at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.

The United States may have been trying to send a message that killing Americans was a red line not to be crossed, said Ranj Alaaldin, director of the Proxy Wars Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Doha, Qatar. But the toll of its attack was likely to yield “more intense and expanded operations” against Americans.

“What the U.S. intended and what the U.S. will get could be two very different things,” he said.

The militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which is separate from the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, vowed unspecified “retaliation,” and Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Seyed Abbas Mousavi, said the United States “must accept full responsibility for the consequences of this illegal action.”

How Iran may respond is difficult to predict. If it chooses to escalate, it or its proxies could strike an array of American targets in Iraq, where there are troops on the ground and other Americans living and working.

The United States accused Iran this month of exploiting the chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles there.

Iran could also work with its partners to attack American allies elsewhere in the region as it has tried to do in the past. Such targets have included Saudi Arabia, Israel and ships crossing the Persian Gulf. Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized a ship in the Persian Gulf on Monday, the official IRNA news agency reported. The report did not say which country the ship belonged to.


An American at an American military facility in Iraq in November. — Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.
An American at an American military facility in Iraq in November. — Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

Over the last several months, Iranian-backed militias have repeatedly poked at the Americans in Iraq, firing rockets into the Green Zone that were apparently aimed at the United States Embassy. The militias have also hit several Iraqi bases where Americans were billeted, including in Gayara, just south of Mosul, and in western Iraq near Al Asad Air Base.

“I think Iran was reading that Trump really wants out of the region and is not willing to respond militarily,” Ms. Sky said. So the Iranians have been “trying to figure out how far they could go.”

Until Friday, the militias had never killed an American.

A senior administration official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity according to White House rules, said that the airstrikes were intended to restore deterrence. The official said that Iran's policy has been to conduct deniable attacks, a fiction that the United States would no longer allow.

The Trump administration placed economic sanctions on three militia leaders this month, including the leader of Kataib Hezbollah. The United States accused those militias of participating in an unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters that killed 15 people.

The American strikes in Iraq hit near a town on the Syrian border. The strikes in Syria were in the country's eastern desert, where Iran supports forces fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

Analysts said that the American message was clear, but that it may have been overshadowed by the high death toll.

“That puts the ball back in Iran’s court,” said Mr. Alaaldin of Brookings. “But make no mistake, that ball will, for now, be played in Iraq's political arena, where the United States is much weaker. Iran has a strategic game plan on the ground in Iraq aimed at protecting and enhancing its influence in Iraq. The Americans do not.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Farnaz Fassihi, Falih Hassan and Michael Crowley contributed reporting to this story.

Alissa Johannsen Rubin is the Baghdad bureau chief for The New York Times. She joined The Times in January 2007 as a correspondent in Baghdad and covered Iraq and Afghanistan, becoming bureau chief in Baghdad in the fall of 2008, and then moving to Afghanistan in October 2009, becoming bureau chief there a couple of months later. She was in Kabul for almost four years, leaving in the late summer of 2013 to take up the job as Paris bureau chief. However, she continued to work on projects in Afghanistan and joined the team covering the Islamic State's takeover of northern and western Iraq in 2014. That August, she was seriously injured and nearly killed in a helicopter crash in Kurdistan, covering the beleaguered Yazidis. Before joining The N.Y. Times, she was the Los Angeles Times co-bureau chief in Baghdad, and its bureau chief for the Balkans for five years. She started at the L.A. Times' Washington bureau in 1997, covering health care policy and financing, abortion politics and legislation, and the fight over tobacco legislation on Capitol Hill. Before the Los Angeles Times, she was a reporter for Congressional Quarterly magazine, where she covered health care and then taxes and trade on Capitol Hill. She came to Washington after working for four years as a reporter in Wichita, Kansas, for the Knight-Ridder newspaper then known as The Wichita Eagle-Beacon. She also covered taxes there as well as the troubled farm economy. Her career in journalism started at The American Lawyer magazine where she was a researcher. While in Washington, D.C., she freelanced for The New Republic, The Washington Monthly and The Washington Post's Outlook section as well as The Washington Post Magazine. Ms. Rubin, was born and brought up in New York City and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1980 from Brown University with an honors degree in Renaissance studies and a minor in classics (Latin). She received a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities to pursue her graduate studies in modern European history (with a focus on the history of the Catholic Church) at Columbia University, where she received an M.A. in 1986. She is a winner of a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting; the 2015 John Chancellor Award for journalistic achievement; a 2010 Overseas Press Association award for a piece on women suicide bombers titled “How Baida Wanted to Die”, and a 1992 Washington Monthly award for a piece that appeared in the Washington City Paper, “What People Talk About When They Talk About Abortion”. In 1992 she won an Alicia Patterson Fellowship to report on the medical and religious roots of the abortion controversy in the wake of the United States Supreme Court's 1989 Webster decision. She was twice part of teams that won the National Farm Writers of America Award at the Wichita Eagle in 1986 and 1988 for their coverage of farm issues. She also won the William Allen White Award in 1989 for her coverage of Kansas' overhaul of its real estate taxes. Her college thesis, which was a translation and annotation of some of the letters of Lionardo Bruni, a Renaissance humanist, was published in Allegorica, an academic journal. Ms. Rubin lives in Paris with her husband, James E. Castello, a lawyer who specializes in international arbitration.

Ben Hubbard is the Beruit bureau chief for The New York Times. An Arabic speaker with more than a decade in the Middle East, he has covered coups, civil wars, protests, jihadist groups, rotten fish as cuisine, religion and pop culture from more than a dozen countries, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Yemen. Before becoming a journalist, Mr. Hubbard studied history in Chicago, Arabic in Cairo and journalism in Berkeley, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa. A Colorado native, he lives in Beirut with his wife, a clown. They have no pets.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Tuesday December 31, 2019, on page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Strikes by U.S. Renew Anger Among Iraqis”.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • U.S. Intelligence Agencies Prepare to Pull Back Officers From Africa (December 30, 2019).

 • Iraq in Worst Political Crisis in Years as Death Toll Mounts From Protests (December 21, 2019).

 • Iran Is Secretly Moving Missiles Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say (December 4, 2019).

 • Iraq Protesters Burn Down Iran Consulate in Night of Anger (November 27, 2019).

 • The Iran Cables: Secret Documents Show How Tehran Wields Power in Iraq (November 18, 2019).


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/world/middleeast/iraq-airstrikes-us-iran-militias.html
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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2020, 09:44:22 pm »


from The New York Times…

Protesters Attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Chanting ‘Death to America’

President Trump blamed Iran after demonstrators breached the compound's outer wall.
Tensions are high after American airstrikes killed members of an Iran-backed militia.


By FALIH HASSAN, BEN HUBBARD and ALISSA J. RUBIN | 2:45PM EST — Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Protesters outside the American embassy in Baghdad. — Photograph: Ameer Al Mohmmedaw/Picture Alliance/via Getty Images.
Protesters outside the American embassy in Baghdad. — Photograph: Ameer Al Mohmmedaw/Picture Alliance/via Getty Images.

BAGDAD — Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and set fires inside in anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend.

The men did not enter the main embassy buildings and later withdrew from the compound, joining thousands of protesters and militia fighters outside chanting “Death to America,” throwing rocks, covering the walls with graffiti and demanding that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.

The situation remained combustible, with the crowd vowing to camp indefinitely outside the sprawling compound, the world's largest embassy. Their ability to storm the most heavily guarded zone in Baghdad suggested that they had received at least tacit permission from Iraqi security officials sympathetic to their demands.

President Trump, faced with scenes of unfolding chaos at an American embassy, lashed out against Iran, which he blamed for the protests.

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities,” he said in a tweet. “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”

He also spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi about the need to protect Americans and American facilities, a White House statement said.

Roughly 750 additional American troops will deploy to the region immediately, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said late on Tuesday. “This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities,” he said. The troops are likely to deploy to Kuwait.

Mr. Trump has long called for an end to American conflicts in the Middle East, but he has been reluctant to pull troops from the region despite his remarks on the campaign trail.


Protesters used a plumbing pipe to break the embassy's windows. — Photograph: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency/via Getty Images.
Protesters used a plumbing pipe to break the embassy's windows. — Photograph: Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency/via Getty Images.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by telephone with Mr. Abdul Mahdi and President Barham Salih in separate calls, and “made clear the United States will protect and defend its people,” according to a summary of the call from the State Department. It said that the Iraqi leaders “assured the secretary that they took seriously their responsibility” to safeguard American officials and property.

The State Department said that American personnel were safe and that there were no plans to evacuate the embassy. The ambassador, Matt Tueller, had been traveling and was not at the embassy when it was breached on Tuesday.

The American airstrikes on Sunday have resulted in the most serious political crisis in years for the United States in Iraq, stoking anti-Americanism and handing an advantage to Iran in its competition for influence in the country.

The airstrikes targeted an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which the United States accused of carrying out a missile attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded American and Iraqi service members. A spokesman for the militia denied involvement in the attack.

But the size of the American response — five strikes in Iraq and Syria that killed two dozen fighters and wounded dozens of others — prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum in Iraq, and accusations that the United States had violated Iraqi sovereignty. It also drew sharp criticism and serious threats of reprisals from Iraq's Iranian-backed militias.

The fact that the Iraqi government permitted militia members to enter the fortified Green Zone on Tuesday, allowing the protest to happen, demonstrated Iran's powerful influence as well as the government's difficulty in controlling the militias.

But the Iraqi leadership's success in averting a deeper incursion into the embassy compound and preventing any confrontation with American personnel suggested that the government may have intended to allow the militias to vent their anger with minimal damage.

The United States military made a show of force in response to the turmoil, with helicopter gunships circling overhead. From inside the compound, loudspeakers warned the crowd outside to keep away from the walls.


Guards fired tear gas toward protesters who broke into the United States Embassy compound. — Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.
Guards fired tear gas toward protesters who broke into the United States Embassy compound. — Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.

The Pentagon sent 120 Marine reinforcements to Baghdad from Kuwait, roughly the same number sent to the embassy in 2014, when the Islamic State was threatening Baghdad.

The protest began on Tuesday morning when thousands of militia members  gathered outside the Green Zone after prayer services for the fighters killed in the American strikes.

While few of them were armed, many were members of Kataib Hezbollah and other fighting groups that are technically overseen by the Iraqi military. Kataib Hezbollah is separate from the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, although both groups are backed by Iran and oppose the United States.

When the protesters pushed toward the entrance to the Green Zone, a heavily guarded district of government offices and embassies in central Baghdad, the Iraqi security forces did not stop them.

Their accession to the protesters was a marked contrast to their treatment of the anti-government protesters who have been demonstrating outside the Green Zone for months. Those protesters were met with tear gas and bullets and have not been able to enter the Green Zone.

Once at the embassy, the protesters on Tuesday used long poles to shatter security cameras. They covered the compound walls with anti-American graffiti and set a guardhouse on fire.

After breaking open a compound entrance, dozens of men entered and lit more fires while embassy security guards watched them from the embassy roof and fired tear gas.

One group of protesters ended up separated from United States troops by only a pane of glass, according to a video shared on social media. It was not immediately clear how many Americans were inside the compound, but officials said they sheltered in place and were unhurt.


Standing guard inside the American embassy in Baghdad. — Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters.
Standing guard inside the American embassy in Baghdad. — Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters.

The embassy complex, which opened in 2009 and cost an estimated $736 million to build, covers 104 acres, nearly as big as Vatican City, the world's smallest country. By 2012, nearly 16,000 people worked there — most of them contractors, but also diplomats, military personnel, intelligence officers and aid workers — but the staff declined sharply over the following years.

The embassy and an American consulate in Erbil, in northern Iraq, now have a combined staff of 486 people, with the majority in Baghdad.

The scenes there on Tuesday stirred memories of the seizure of two searing, politically consequential events in recent American history: the seizure of the embassy and 52 hostages in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the assault on a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

As a congressman, Mr. Pompeo became a political star among Republicans for blistering criticism of Hillary Clinton, then the secretary of state, over the Benghazi attack, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Mr. Trump also had Benghazi in mind, calling the Baghdad attack “the anti-Benghazi.”

The protesters eventually left the Baghdad compound, but some climbed on top of adjacent buildings, where they planted militia flags. Iraqi police and military personnel eventually arrived at the scene, but they did not disperse the protesters.

The Iraqi interior minister, Yassin al-Yasiri, said in an interview near the embassy that American attacks on an Iraqi militia had invited trouble.

“These are the dangerous ramifications of this strike,” he said. “What happened today is the danger that we were afraid of, and that the Americans should have been afraid of.”


Paramilitary fighters on Tuesday in Najaf, Iraq, carrying the coffins of the militia members killed in the airstrikes. — Photograph: Anmar Khalil/Associated Press.
Paramilitary fighters on Tuesday in Najaf, Iraq, carrying the coffins of the militia members killed in the airstrikes.
 — Photograph: Anmar Khalil/Associated Press.


While the protesters carried the flags of Iraq and a range of militia groups, the most prominent was that of Kataib Hezbollah, the group targeted by the United States.

A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, Mohammed Muhi, said his group intended to erect tents in the street in front of the United States Embassy for an open-ended sit-in to pressure the Americans to leave Iraq.

“We will not leave these tents until the embassy and the ambassador leave Iraq,” Mr. Muhi said.

About 1,000 militia members  remained camped out in front of the embassy overnight.

The upheaval comes at a critical time for Iraq and for the United States' role in the country. Mass protests in recent months against poor governance have weakened the government and underscored the criticism of Iraqis who feel that Iran has too much sway over the country’s politics.

At the same time, Iran and the United States have been competing for political influence in the aftermath of the battle against the Islamic State, which once ruled large areas of Iraq.

Iraqi militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, were formed in part to help fight the Islamic State in tandem with the national security forces, a battle that effectively put them on the side of the United States.

They have since evolved into a powerful military and political force with a significant bloc in Parliament. Some of the militias are backed by Iran and use their power to help advance its interests in Iraq.


A U.S. Army Apache helicopter dropped flares over Baghdad's Green Zone where the American embassy is sited on Tuesday. — Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
A U.S. Army Apache helicopter dropped flares over Baghdad's Green Zone where the American embassy is sited on Tuesday.
 — Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


The United States has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, down from a peak of 170,000 in 2007, in addition to a number of civilian contractors. The troops are stationed primarily at a base in Anbar Province, northwest of Baghdad, and at another in the Kurdish-controlled north of country. Their task is to train Iraqi security forces and help  prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State.

After years of military and political investment in Iraq, the United States finds itself in a position where few powerful Iraqis are willing to stand up for it and its role in the country.

Condemnation of the American airstrikes continued on Tuesday. Mr. Abdul Mahdi, the Iraqi prime minister, announced an official three-day mourning period for the men killed in the strikes, which he called an “outrageous attack.”

In a statement, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry reiterated the government's condemnation of the strikes, but called on protesters to stay away from foreign embassies.

“Any attack on foreign embassies or representatives will be firmly prevented by the security forces and punishable by law with the most severe penalties,” it said.


__________________________________________________________________________

Falih Hassan reported from Baghdad, Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon, and Alissa J. Rubin from Paris. Edward Wong and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Washington D.C.

• Falih Hassan is a freelance journalist, based in Baghdad, Iraq.

Ben Hubbard is the Beruit bureau chief for The New York Times. An Arabic speaker with more than a decade in the Middle East, he has covered coups, civil wars, protests, jihadist groups, rotten fish as cuisine, religion and pop culture from more than a dozen countries, including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Yemen. Before becoming a journalist, Mr. Hubbard studied history in Chicago, Arabic in Cairo and journalism in Berkeley, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa. A Colorado native, he lives in Beirut with his wife, a clown. They have no pets.

Alissa Johannsen Rubin is the Baghdad bureau chief for The New York Times. She joined The Times in January 2007 as a correspondent in Baghdad and covered Iraq and Afghanistan, becoming bureau chief in Baghdad in the fall of 2008, and then moving to Afghanistan in October 2009, becoming bureau chief there a couple of months later. She was in Kabul for almost four years, leaving in the late summer of 2013 to take up the job as Paris bureau chief. However, she continued to work on projects in Afghanistan and joined the team covering the Islamic State's takeover of northern and western Iraq in 2014. That August, she was seriously injured and nearly killed in a helicopter crash in Kurdistan, covering the beleaguered Yazidis. Before joining The N.Y. Times, she was the Los Angeles Times co-bureau chief in Baghdad, and its bureau chief for the Balkans for five years. She started at the L.A. Times' Washington bureau in 1997, covering health care policy and financing, abortion politics and legislation, and the fight over tobacco legislation on Capitol Hill. Before the Los Angeles Times, she was a reporter for Congressional Quarterly magazine, where she covered health care and then taxes and trade on Capitol Hill. She came to Washington after working for four years as a reporter in Wichita, Kansas, for the Knight-Ridder newspaper then known as The Wichita Eagle-Beacon. She also covered taxes there as well as the troubled farm economy. Her career in journalism started at The American Lawyer magazine where she was a researcher. While in Washington, D.C., she freelanced for The New Republic, The Washington Monthly and The Washington Post's Outlook section as well as The Washington Post Magazine. Ms. Rubin, was born and brought up in New York City and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1980 from Brown University with an honors degree in Renaissance studies and a minor in classics (Latin). She received a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities to pursue her graduate studies in modern European history (with a focus on the history of the Catholic Church) at Columbia University, where she received an M.A. in 1986. She is a winner of a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting; the 2015 John Chancellor Award for journalistic achievement; a 2010 Overseas Press Association award for a piece on women suicide bombers titled “How Baida Wanted to Die”, and a 1992 Washington Monthly award for a piece that appeared in the Washington City Paper, “What People Talk About When They Talk About Abortion”. In 1992 she won an Alicia Patterson Fellowship to report on the medical and religious roots of the abortion controversy in the wake of the United States Supreme Court's 1989 Webster decision. She was twice part of teams that won the National Farm Writers of America Award at the Wichita Eagle in 1986 and 1988 for their coverage of farm issues. She also won the William Allen White Award in 1989 for her coverage of Kansas' overhaul of its real estate taxes. Her college thesis, which was a translation and annotation of some of the letters of Lionardo Bruni, a Renaissance humanist, was published in Allegorica, an academic journal. Ms. Rubin lives in Paris with her husband, James E. Castello, a lawyer who specializes in international arbitration.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Wednesday January 1, 2020, on page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Iraqi Protesters Attack Embassy After U.S. Strike”.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/31/world/middleeast/baghdad-protesters-us-embassy.html
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« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2020, 09:46:33 pm »


It is plainly obvious that Donald J. Trump, America's “fake president” is floundering out-of-his depth with his toddler's intellect in an adult's world.
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« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2020, 09:47:08 pm »


from The Washington Post…

Trump threatens Iran after embassy attack, but remains
reluctant to get more involved in region


It’s unclear what moves President Trump will make next as he feels the tug between taking
a tough line with Iran and trying to avoid getting more involved in the Middle East.


By ANNE GEARAN, PHILIP RUCKER and JOSH DAWSEY | 5:43PM EST — Tuesday, December 31, 2019

President Donald J. Trump answers questions from reporters after making a video call to troops stationed worldwide at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 24. — Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
President Donald J. Trump answers questions from reporters after making a video call to troops stationed worldwide at his Mar-a-Lago estate
in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 24. — Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


PRESIDENT TRUMP on Tuesday was pulled toward the kind of Middle East tinderbox he has tried to avoid, as he blamed Iran for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq that further damaged U.S. relations with Baghdad and appeared to put Trump's hopes for diplomacy with Tehran further out of reach.

Hundreds of supporters of an Iranian-backed militia chanted “Death to America” as they breached part of the outer security layer at the vast compound in Baghdad's protected Green Zone.

U.S. diplomats were barricaded and unharmed inside the $750 million embassy, built as a powerful symbol of U.S. permanence after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that Trump has derided as the worst U.S. foreign policy blunder. But the hulking structure may now serve as a symbol of how difficult it can be to disentangle U.S. interests from Iraq and the region despite the president's stated desire to get out of “endless wars” and reduce the United States’ footprint in the Middle East.

Trump now faces a situation where the United States and Iran are elbowing for influence in Iraq as U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, along with some of Trump's in-house advisers, urge a more forceful confrontation with Tehran over its aggressive tactics across the Middle East — a potentially combustible situation.

The president struck a bellicose tone on Tuesday, but it's unclear what moves he will make next as he feels the tug between taking a tough line with Iran and trying to avoid getting more involved in the region.

“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” Trump tweeted late on Tuesday afternoon from Florida where he is spending the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “Happy new year!”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the president held what he called a good meeting with advisers and approved sending a small contingent of Marines and two Apache helicopters to reinforce security at the embassy while tweeting that “The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is, & has been for hours, SAFE!”

Senator Lindsey O. Graham (Republican-South Carolina), a Trump ally and foreign policy adviser, had breakfast with the president on Tuesday and said in an interview that Trump was determined to “have no Benghazi on his watch,” a reference to the 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Republicans harshly criticized the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the response to the Benghazi attacks and Trump's wariness over any comparisons between the two events was publicly on display on Tuesday.

“The Anti-Bengahzi!,” he tweeted about his administration’s response to the situation in Baghdad.

Graham said Trump is not looking for a fight and hopes that Iran will take steps that allow tensions to be ratcheted down soon.

“The goal is to de-escalate, but it takes two to do that,” he said, adding that Trump and his national security team are discussing “a lot of options” he would not detail.

In general, the United States has options to confront Iran indirectly through military action against its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and to increase economic and political pressure on Tehran. The United States could also retaliate against Iraq, an ally of both Washington and Tehran, for failing to do more to protect the embassy and the American contractor whose death on Friday at the hands of an Iranian-backed militia set off the current crisis. The United States responded to the contractor's death by carrying out airstrikes on Sunday against Kataib Hezbollah bases near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

“The president is determined not to let Americans be attacked without them paying a price,” Graham said of Iran.




The developments in Baghdad came on the eve of the new year, when Trump is seeking re-election on a platform that boasts of strong international leadership and a commitment that the United States will not be a global policeman for age-old conflicts.

“They're fighting for 1,000 years, they're fighting for centuries. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said in October, as he announced that U.S. forces had killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “I had absolutely nothing to do with going into Iraq, and I was totally against it.”

Trump has long viewed U.S. involvement in the Middle East as a political loser that only leads to the loss of money and lives, according to a Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the president's views.

“I can tell you 100 percent that the president has no desire to get into some kind of new conflict in the Middle East during 2020,” the person said.

This fall Trump withdrew all but a few U.S. forces from Syria to make good on his promise to shake off the sand of faraway Middle East conflicts, but the move was condemned by both Republicans and Democrats because it allowed Turkey to move against the Kurds, who had been allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump sought to portray his decision as a win after a cease-fire was declared, but his detractors countered that only occurred because Turkey had already achieved what it wanted in the region at the expense of the Kurds.

Trump has distanced himself from the current Iraqi leadership and criticized its stewardship of oil resources. The White House issued only a cursory summary of a phone call Tuesday between Trump and the country's placeholder prime minister.

“The two leaders discussed regional security issues and President Trump emphasized the need to protect United States personnel and facilities in Iraq,” the statement said.

“Regional security issues” is often shorthand for the White House view that Iran stirs up trouble throughout the Middle East and endangers Israel. Some of Trump's advisers view Iraq as a long-term U.S. partner and a foothold of U.S.-backed democracy in the Middle East, while others mainly see Iraq through the prism of its next-door neighbor Iran.

Trump has wanted to talk to Iran's president in an effort to strike some kind of deal, a move opposed by many in his administration, that he contends would be far better than the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration struck with Tehran and that Trump abandoned soon after taking office. But there has been little progress on that front and the attack on the embassy appeared to make those talks even less likely in the near future.

Tensions were also high between Washington and Baghdad before the embassy assault, as officials traded accusations over Sunday's U.S. airstrikes that Iraqi leaders called a violation of their country's sovereignty.

“I think the first thing he should be thinking about is stabilizing the Iraqi government and not putting more pressure on it,” said Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. “If the net result of all this is an unstable Iraqi political situation, we will be sucked into it one way or another.”

Ryan Crocker, also a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said Trump should think carefully about how his next steps will be viewed by Iran, which has its own calculations to make about how far to go in flexing its influence. Crocker welcomes Trump's stated interest in negotiating with Iran eventually, but said the president is raising the likelihood for conflict or miscalculation now.

“Trump sends a lot of different signals,” that Iran may not be able to interpret, he said. “I just hope that they took that into account before those F-16 strikes that with that level of force, the chances of some kind of response are pretty high.”

Former Army general Barry McCaffrey, who has led troops in Iraq, said Trump is making it harder for Iran to back down.

“The economic sanctions on Iran are choking them and they're looking for a way out. Our own demands have been maximalist — and in public,” he said. “It's a pressure cooker and it's going to blow.”

McCaffrey and Hill noted that Iran has more military resources in and around Iraq than the United States.

“Trump has dealt with this in the worst possible way. He's publicly, not privately, confronting the Iranians not on a conflict of our choosing but of their choosing,” McCaffrey said.

Iraqi security forces appeared to do little to prevent the initial assault on the embassy perimeter but later intervened, erecting a steel barrier at the smashed gate into the compound's reception area.

Some of the Iraqi protesters set up tents outside the compound on Tuesday night, condemning the airstrikes and vowing to stay until all U.S. troops and diplomats leave Iraq.

The strikes against the Iranian-backed group Kataib Hezbollah killed 25 militia members and injured more than 50.

Douglas Ollivant, a former Army officer and National Security Council official who served in Iraq, questioned why Trump didn't retaliate for the contractor's death with a strike on Iranian assets in Syria rather than in Iraq. The United States has no stake in the Syrian government the way it does in the Iraqi one, and both have interwoven ties with Iran, Ollivant said.

The militia attack that killed the U.S. contractor “clearly gave the Iran hawks the justification they needed to strike Iranian-affiliated groups inside Iraq,” said Ollivant, now managing partner at the Iraq-focused consultancy Mantid International.

As for what Trump does now, Ollivant said the president may have less leeway than he imagines to reduce U.S. involvement in Iraq.

“We're now on our second president in a row that seems unable to disentangle themselves from this just by clearly wanting to,” he said.


__________________________________________________________________________

Anne Gearan is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, with a focus on foreign policy and national security. She covered the Hillary Clinton campaign and the State Department for The Post before joining the White House beat. She joined the paper in 2012 from the Associated Press, where she served as chief diplomatic correspondent, Pentagon correspondent, White House reporter and national security editor. She has also covered the Supreme Court.

Philip Rucker is the White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post. He previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House, and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. Rucker also is a Political Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He joined The Post in 2005 as a local news reporter.

Josh Dawsey is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. He joined the newspaper in 2017. He previously covered the White House for Politico, and New York City Hall and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for The Wall Street Journal.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: How the seige of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad unfolded

 • VIDEO: Protesters breach gates of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

 • VIDEO: Video shows U.S. airstrikes in western Iraq

 • Militia supporters chanting ‘Death to America’ break into U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad

 • Why Iraq is at the center of the dispute between Iran and the United States

 • How this compares to attacks at other American diplomatic facilities

 • Max Boot: Iran just outplayed the United States — again

 • PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY: The scene at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad


https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-issues-warning-to-iran-after-embassy-attack-but-remains-reluctant-to-get-more-involved-in-region/2019/12/31/1704cf72-2be5-11ea-bcd4-24597950008f_story.html
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« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2020, 09:49:10 pm »


“Fake President” Trumpy-Wumpy is full of effluent. He huffs & puffs, but then his short attention span causes him to lose interest as his mind wanders elsewhere to his next “ra-ra-ra” support rally with his “deplorables” and other misfits who are his support base.

Iran's leaders will be quaking in their boots with laughter over Trump's idle, full-of-shit threats. Great entertainment & amusement to end the twenty-teens decade. Hilarious!!!






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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2020, 11:50:13 pm »

do you think war is a good plan?
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Are you sick of the bullshit from the sewer stream media spewed out from the usual Ken and Barby dickless talking point look a likes.

If you want to know what's going on in the real world...
And the many things that will personally effect you.
Go to
http://www.infowars.com/

AND WAKE THE F_ _K UP
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« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2020, 08:57:42 am »


Only Trump would be stupid enough to start a war with Iran.

You think Iraq was and still is a quagmire?

Iran would make that look like a sunday school picnic.

It wouldn't be conventional war … it would be asymmetric war and America has already shown they don't have a clue how to deal with that.

A war with Iran would result in American citizens, American bases, American businesses and American interests being attacked all over the world by faceless, uniformless proxy soldiers.

And as America has already learned, you can't fight asymmetrical forces of war using conventional military.

Why do you think America is still bogged-down in Afghanistan almost twenty years after they went in there?

It's because they are up against asymmetric war and their conventional military is out of its depth.

Vietnam was a classic example of asymmetric war and we all know what happened with America there.

Remember the photograph of the staff of the US Embassy in Saigon desperately boarding helicopters, with many not making it?

That's what happens with asymmetric war.

And the funny thing about Iraq is that around 80% of the population are Shiite muslims. They were ruled over by a minority which was a sect of Sunni islam, lead by Saddam.

So the dumb Americans invaded and overthrew Saddam, then forced a form of democracy on Iraq. Guess what happened next?

The majority Shiite muslims gained control of parliament and aligned with their Shiite brothers in Iran.

Haw haw haw, the dumb, stupid Americans (including Trump) still haven't managed to completely work that one out.

So now you have Shiite hordes surrounding and attacking the American Embassy in Baghdad while chanting “Death to America!”

Remember what eventually happened to the American Embassy in Tehran?

Are you intelligent enough to join the dots about how stupid Americans are?

And Trump is the most stupid and naïve of the lot of them. Look at how even Kim Jong-un has made an idiot of him.

This new decade is going to be one of huge entertainment & amusement watching stupid Americans lashing out while out-of-their-depth.
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2020, 11:55:19 am »


from The New York Times…

Pro-Iranian Protesters End Siege of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

Iran's ability to deploy militias to attack the American Embassy,
with Iraqi support, made clear how much power it wields in Iraq.


By FALIH HASSAN and ALISSA J. RUBIN | 4:35PM EST — Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Protesters gathered outside the United States Embassy in Baghdad for a second day on Wednesday. — Photograph: hmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Protesters gathered outside the United States Embassy in Baghdad for a second day on Wednesday.
 — Photograph: hmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


BAGHDAD — After a second day of tense protests at the American Embassy in Baghdad, thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators dispersed on Wednesday, ending a siege that had trapped American diplomats in the embassy compound overnight and winding down a potentially explosive crisis for the Trump administration.

The demonstrators had swarmed outside the embassy, chanting “Death to America!” Some tried to scale the compound's walls, and others clambered onto the roof of the reception building they had burned the day before.

In contrast to Tuesday, when some demonstrators forced their way into the compound and set some of the outbuildings on fire, the crowd on Wednesday was smaller and no protesters breached the compound's gates.

When the demonstrators — largely members of Iranian-backed militias angered by deadly American airstrikes over the weekend — reached the roof of the burned reception building on Wednesday, American security forces, including Marine reinforcements sent by the Pentagon the day before, fired tear gas to drive them back.

The full withdrawal came after leaders of the Iranian-backed militias who had organized the demonstration called on the crowd to leave, and most gradually drifted away on foot or drove off in trucks.

The leaders later announced that their agreement to withdraw was conditioned on a commitment from Iraq's prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, to move ahead with legislation to force American troops to withdraw from Iraq.

Whether or not such a law comes to pass, the episode reflected the new reality in Iraq.


Iraqi security forces standing guard in front of the U.S. embassy. — Photograph: Qassim Abdul-Zahra/Associated Press.
Iraqi security forces standing guard in front of the U.S. embassy. — Photograph: Qassim Abdul-Zahra/Associated Press.

Iran's ability to deploy militias to blockade American diplomats inside the embassy for most of two days made clear how much power they wield within the Iraqi government.

Despite a 16-year American effort to establish a government friendlier to Western interests, at a cost of more than $1 trillion and 5,000 American lives, Iraq's leaders lined up in opposition to the American airstrikes and its security forces allowed the militias to reach the American diplomatic compound. Some people wearing the uniforms of the Iraqi security forces were even seen attacking the compound themselves.

The Iraqi government's acquiescence raises the question of whether the continued American presence in Iraq is tenable.

The two-day standoff at the embassy evoked traumatic memories of earlier attacks on American diplomatic posts in Tehran and Benghazi, Libya, though it ended peacefully, without reports of deaths or injuries. But it was not likely to be the last word on the matter.

“This is one round of many rounds to come,” said Randa Slim, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C.


Troops guarding the United States Embassy in Baghdad used tear gas to disperse protesters on Wednesday. — Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters.
Troops guarding the United States Embassy in Baghdad used tear gas to disperse protesters on Wednesday. — Photograph: Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters.

Miscalculations by both the United States and Iran led to the standoff.

It began with a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base on Friday that killed an American contractor and wounded several Iraqi and American service members. The United States blamed Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia with close ties to Iran. The militia denied involvement in the rocket attack.

American forces retaliated with airstrikes on five sites controlled by the militia, in Syria and Iraq, on Sunday. The airstrikes killed at least two dozen people and wounded twice as many; Iran has put the death toll at 31.

Iran's proxy militias seemed to think they could conduct hit-and-run attacks on military bases without fear of retaliation, and the United States thought it could punish them with sweeping airstrikes without consequence.

Both assumptions turned out to be wrong.

The American airstrikes, set off a broad outcry in Iraq that the United States seemed not to have anticipated and that now looks likely to precipitate an effort to expel all American forces.


Pro-Iranian militia members and their supporters burned a U.S. embassy reception building. — Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.
Pro-Iranian militia members and their supporters burned a U.S. embassy reception building. — Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.

On Tuesday, thousands of Iraqi militia fighters marched on the United States Embassy compound in Baghdad to protest the American strikes, and some of them forced their way through the outer wall. They did not attempt to breach the embassy itself.

The Iraqi authorities, who had prevented previous demonstrators from even entering the Green Zone that encompasses the embassy, allowed the protesters to approach the diplomatic compound unimpeded.

In recent months, in the face of anti-government protests, it was Iraqi forces firing tear gas to dispel protesters. But this week, the Iraqi authorities left the task to the United States, rather than confront their own people.

The militias, although closely tied to Iran, are made up of Iraqis and fall under the umbrella of the Iraqi security forces, though they have a great deal of independence.

But the Trump administration sees both the killing of the American contractor and the attack on the embassy as the direct work of Iran.

“These are the kinds of tactics that they use,” Brian Hook, the administration's special representative for Iran, said in an interview on CNN on Wednesday. “Forty years ago they stormed our embassy. And then here we are 40 years later and they're directing these terrorist groups to then attack our embassy.”

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Iran “will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities.”

“They will pay a very BIG PRICE!” he said.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded on Wednesday, taunting, “You can't do anything.”


Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a gathering in Tehran on Wednesday. — Photograph: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/via Reuters.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressing a gathering in Tehran on Wednesday.
 — Photograph: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/via Reuters.


Iraqi militias played a crucial role in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS. While many of the armed groups, which are principally made up of Shiite Muslims, are backed by Iran, a Shiite theocracy at odds with the United States, the two powers had a common goal in their effort to defeat the Islamic State.

Once the Islamic State was largely demolished, however, the Iran-backed militias turned their attention to constraining United States activities in Iraq, especially after the Trump administration ratcheted up its sanctions against Iran.

The administration said that the militias had carried out 11 attacks on Iraqi bases housing American service members in just the past two months and that the airstrikes were a necessary deterrent to prevent further attacks.

There are about 30 militias under the banner of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, each answering to different leaders who do not always agree with one another. Neither the government nor any of the factions has the authority to corral all of them, making for a dangerous mix.

If the United States intended to send a message of deterrence with the airstrikes on Sunday, the Iraqi militias also had a message for the Americans.

Scrawled on a wall of the embassy was graffiti using a nickname for Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “He passed through here,” the message said.


About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy on Wednesday, many fewer than on Tuesday. — Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.
About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy on Wednesday, many fewer than on Tuesday.
 — Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.


Some militia members hung a green banner with yellow writing on the burned embassy reception area saying “Popular Mobilization Commission,” the umbrella group for the militias, as if to remove any doubt about who was in charge.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, the commission asked its members to end the protest “out of respect for the government's sovereignty.”

The protesters' message, it said, “has been heard.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Falih Hassan reported from Baghdad, and Alissa Rubin from Paris.

• Falih Hassan is a freelance journalist, based in Baghdad, Iraq.

Alissa Johannsen Rubin is the Baghdad bureau chief for The New York Times. She joined The Times in January 2007 as a correspondent in Baghdad and covered Iraq and Afghanistan, becoming bureau chief in Baghdad in the fall of 2008, and then moving to Afghanistan in October 2009, becoming bureau chief there a couple of months later. She was in Kabul for almost four years, leaving in the late summer of 2013 to take up the job as Paris bureau chief. However, she continued to work on projects in Afghanistan and joined the team covering the Islamic State's takeover of northern and western Iraq in 2014. That August, she was seriously injured and nearly killed in a helicopter crash in Kurdistan, covering the beleaguered Yazidis. Before joining The N.Y. Times, she was the Los Angeles Times co-bureau chief in Baghdad, and its bureau chief for the Balkans for five years. She started at the L.A. Times' Washington bureau in 1997, covering health care policy and financing, abortion politics and legislation, and the fight over tobacco legislation on Capitol Hill. Before the Los Angeles Times, she was a reporter for Congressional Quarterly magazine, where she covered health care and then taxes and trade on Capitol Hill. She came to Washington after working for four years as a reporter in Wichita, Kansas, for the Knight-Ridder newspaper then known as The Wichita Eagle-Beacon. She also covered taxes there as well as the troubled farm economy. Her career in journalism started at The American Lawyer magazine where she was a researcher. While in Washington, D.C., she freelanced for The New Republic, The Washington Monthly and The Washington Post's Outlook section as well as The Washington Post Magazine. Ms. Rubin, was born and brought up in New York City and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1980 from Brown University with an honors degree in Renaissance studies and a minor in classics (Latin). She received a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities to pursue her graduate studies in modern European history (with a focus on the history of the Catholic Church) at Columbia University, where she received an M.A. in 1986. She is a winner of a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting; the 2015 John Chancellor Award for journalistic achievement; a 2010 Overseas Press Association award for a piece on women suicide bombers titled “How Baida Wanted to Die”, and a 1992 Washington Monthly award for a piece that appeared in the Washington City Paper, “What People Talk About When They Talk About Abortion”. In 1992 she won an Alicia Patterson Fellowship to report on the medical and religious roots of the abortion controversy in the wake of the United States Supreme Court's 1989 Webster decision. She was twice part of teams that won the National Farm Writers of America Award at the Wichita Eagle in 1986 and 1988 for their coverage of farm issues. She also won the William Allen White Award in 1989 for her coverage of Kansas' overhaul of its real estate taxes. Her college thesis, which was a translation and annotation of some of the letters of Lionardo Bruni, a Renaissance humanist, was published in Allegorica, an academic journal. Ms. Rubin lives in Paris with her husband, James E. Castello, a lawyer who specializes in international arbitration.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Tursday, January 2, 2020, on page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Pro-Iran Clash At U.S. Embassy Ends in Baghdad”.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • How the U.S. Embassy in Iraq Became a Target (January 1, 2020).

 • New York Times editorial: Shock Waves From American Airstrikes in Iraq May Have Just Begun (January 1, 2020).

 • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his trip to Ukraine amid protests at the American Embassy in Iraq (January 1, 2020).

 • North Korea Is Not Done Trolling Trump (January 1, 2020).

 • Trump Bet He Could Isolate Iran and Charm North Korea. It's Not That Easy. (January 1, 2020).

 • Trump Warns Iran as Risk of Wider Armed Conflict Grows (December 31, 2019).


https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/world/middleeast/us-embassy-baghdad-iraq.html
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2020, 11:58:57 am »


Quote
President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Iran “will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities.”

“They will pay a very BIG PRICE!” he said.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded on Wednesday, taunting, “You can't do anything.”



ROFLMAO …… America's enemies aren't even scared of them, or their stupid “fake president” any more. Hilarious!!





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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2020, 09:34:37 pm »


from The Washington Post…

Iran vows revenge after U.S. drone strike kills elite force commander

The death of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani could plunge the region into a new cycle of violence.

By LOUISA LOVELUCK and LIZ SLY | 4:06AM EST — Friday, January 03, 2020

Burning debris are seen on a road near Baghdad International Airport, which according to Iraqi paramilitary groups were caused by three rockets hitting the airport in Iraq, on January 3, 2020, in this image obtained via social media. — Photograph: Iraqi Security Media Cell/via Reuters.
Burning debris are seen on a road near Baghdad International Airport, which according to Iraqi paramilitary groups were caused by three rockets
hitting the airport in Iraq, on January 3, 2020, in this image obtained via social media. — Photograph: Iraqi Security Media Cell/via Reuters.


BEIRUT — Iran on Friday vowed “severe revenge” in response to the U.S. airstrike which killed Tehran's most powerful military commander, Qasem Soleimani, and dramatically sharpened tensions across the Middle East.

Soleimani was a towering figure in Iran's power projection across the region, with close links to a network of paramilitary groups that stretches from Syria to Yemen. His death in the smoldering wreckage of a two-car convoy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, left U.S. outposts and personnel bracing for retaliatory attacks.

“With his departure and with God's power, his work and path will not cease and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy hands with his blood and the blood of the other martyrs of last night's incident,” Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement.

The country's defense minister, Amir Hatami, said that the night time strike by the “arrogant U.S.” would be met with a “crushing” response.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Friday urged American citizens to leave Iraq immediately, citing heightened tensions, and said in a statement that it was suspending public consular activities.

The U.S. attack appeared intended to cripple a force that has been the vanguard of Iran's decades-long effort to shape the region in its favor. Soleimani joined Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a young man, and took control of the Quds Force, its external wing, in the late 1990s.

Under his command, the force expanded its support for armed groups across the region, including in Iraq, where U.S. officials blamed Iran-backed militias for killing at least 600 American troops following the 2003 U.S. invasion.


LEFT: Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a commander in the Popular Mobilization Forces. | RIGHT: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qasem Soleimani.
LEFT: Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a commander in the Popular Mobilization Forces. | RIGHT: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qasem Soleimani.

In recent years Soleimani was regularly seen making visits to affiliated militias in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, demonstrating not just his military influence but significant diplomatic clout. Also killed in the attack was Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, one of Iraq's most influential militia commanders who is better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said the Pentagon had taken “decisive defensive action” against Soleimani.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” Esper said in a statement. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

The basis for that statement remained unclear, although it followed comments by the defense secretary earlier in the day suggesting that Iran and its proxies may be preparing renewed strikes on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

A video circulated by Shiite militia groups showed, accompanied by the sound of wailing, the crumpled wreckage of the vehicle in which Soleimani purportedly was traveling. A photograph claimed to show his bloodied, ash-covered hand wearing the same blood-red ring seen in earlier photos of him alive.

A U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the record, said the attack was conducted by a U.S. drone and struck a two-car convoy carrying Soleimani and others on an access road near Baghdad International Airport. At least half a dozen people were believed to have been killed.

In a statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the U.S. “assassination,” adding that the killing of the Iraqi militia leader was an act of aggression against Iraq and a breach of the conditions under which American forces operate in the country.


A mock U.S. flag is laid on the ground for cars to drive on in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 3, 2020, following news of the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard top commander Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad International Airport. — Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
A mock U.S. flag is laid on the ground for cars to drive on in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 3, 2020, following news of the killing of Iranian
Revolutionary Guard top commander Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad International Airport.
 — Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


The Russian Foreign Ministry said the killing was reckless and would fuel tension in the region and offered condolences to its ally, Iran. “Soleimani loyally served the cause of defending the national interests of Iran. We offer our sincere condolences to the Iranian people,” the ministry said.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia's parliament, told the state-run RIA Novosti News Agency that Soleimani's targeting is “the worst-case scenario” and predicted that Iranian retribution “will not take long.”

“I'll be happy to be wrong because wars are easy to start, but very hard to end,” Kosachev said.

Senior officials with the Popular Mobilization Forces, as the Iraqi militia groups are known, lamented the deaths in messages circulating on WhatsApp. “May God reward you for the loss of the brave leaders, Hajj Soleimani and Hajj Muhandis. May God accept them as martyrs in his vast mercy,” wrote Ahmed al-Assadi, the chief spokesman of the Popular Mobilization Forces, many of which are seen as being funded and directed by Iran.

Despite a long period of increasing tension between Iran and the Trump administration, which has vowed a tougher stance on Tehran's support for proxy groups, the attack against an incomparable figure in Iran's security establishment came as a surprise to many analysts, in part because it was seen as likely to ignite a significant Iranian response.

The attack, which Esper said was authorized by President Trump, raises fresh questions about the president's approach to the Middle East. While Trump has employed bellicose rhetoric and authorized several strikes against the Syrian government, an ally of Tehran, he has repeatedly voiced his desire to get the United States out of costly wars in the Middle East.


__________________________________________________________________________

Robyn Dixon and Isabelle Khurshudyan in Moscow contributed to this report.

Louisa Loveluck is The Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief. She joined The Post as the 2016 Laurence Stern Fellow, and later covered the war in Syria from her base in Beirut. Before that, she was The Daily Telegraph's Cairo correspondent, reporting on the 2013 military coup and deadly crackdown that followed. She graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2011, where she read Social and Political Sciences and earned a B.A.

Liz Sly is The Washington Post's Beirut bureau chief, responsible for coverage of Syria, Lebanon and the wider Middle East. She joined The Post in 2010 as Baghdad bureau chief, then in 2011 moved to Beirut to focus on Syria and the region. Before that, she covered Iraq for the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has spent nearly three decades as a foreign correspondent, based in the Middle East, Africa, China, South Asia and Europe. She began her career with Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper in Beirut in the 1980s. She graduated from Cambridge University with a B.A. and a M.A. in history.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • In major escalation, American strike kills top Iranian commander in Baghdad

 • Qasem Soleimani: Who was Iran's powerful military leader?


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iran-vows-revenge-after-us-drone-strike-kills-elite-force-commander/2020/01/03/345127d6-2df4-11ea-bffe-020c88b3f120_story.html
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2020, 09:36:43 pm »


Get ready for the world-wide asymmetrical warfare.

I'd be staying well clear of American-owned businesses, American embassies, American military bases and large groups of American citizens anywhere in the world.

You never know when they are going to be hit from now on.
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2020, 02:04:31 pm »

Trump just spent 2 trillion beefing up the US military
Do you think the Iranians are stupid enough to do anything
it will be a sad day for them

https://stevepieczenik.com/2020/01/03/alex-jones-interview-jan-3/
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2020, 06:18:10 pm »


A 2-trillion beefed up military is no good against asymmetric warfare.

The Americans found that out in Vietnam when they were operating multi-million-dollar aircraft against insurgents riding bicycles.

And we all know what eventually happened in Vietnam.

More recent examples include both Afghanistan and Iraq.

America has poured billions into trying to subdue those countries and all they've got to show for it is a huge fiscal deficit and the baddies still calling the shots in both countries.

And Trump is even dumber than past presidents who thought they could use military might against asymmetric warfare.

It's hilarious to watch though. I predict Iran using their cavitating torpedoes to sink an American aircraft carrier before this year is out.

The Pentagon has been shrill in their warnings to the American senate over those cavitating torpedoes in the possession of both the Russian and Iranian armed forces.

I'd actually love to see the results of a mass attack of cavitating torpedoes against an aircraft carrier. It would be great entertainment & amusement.
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2020, 01:56:52 pm »



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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2020, 04:28:59 pm »


Both you stupid Trump-supporters and Trump himself are fixated on Obama.

Obama was a president of the highest order.

Trump isn't even fit to wipe Obama's arse after he has a shit.

Trump is a toddler in an adult's world.

All that money spent in Iraq will be just like burning it in a furnace thanks to Trump's stupidity.

Iran got the ultimate revenge when the Iraqi parliament voted to boot America out of their country.

Which means that America is now an unlawful occupier in Iraq and is therefore subject to international sanctions.
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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2020, 04:53:41 pm »

you can lick Obamas arse

Obama was a weak half-white trash pussy con artist

Trump can destroy Iran's military assets in 45 min

no need to put troops on the ground
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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2020, 06:15:09 pm »

you can lick Obamas arse

Obama was a weak half-white trash pussy con artist

Trump can destroy Iran's military assets in 45 min

no need to put troops on the ground


Now where have we heard that stupid shit before?

That's right … it came from neocon Americans just before Dubya invaded Iraq.

Almost two decades later, the Americans are still in a quagmire in not only Iraq, but also still in Afghanistan.

Iran is many times bigger and more powerful than those two combined.

And Iran will still be around decades after Trump has died in a jail cell.





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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2020, 06:15:32 pm »


from The Washington Post…

How a ‘quantum change’ in missiles has made Iran a far more dangerous foe

Drones and precision guidance have given Tehran new ways to inflict pain in an all-out war.

By JOBY WARRICK | 7:00AM EST — Tuesday, January 07, 2020

A long-range S-200 missile is fired in a military drill in the Iranian port city of Bushehr, on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf on December 29, 2019. — Photograph: Amir Kholousi/Iranian Students News Agency/Associated Press.
A long-range S-200 missile is fired in a military drill in the Iranian port city of Bushehr, on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf on December 29, 2019.
 — Photograph: Amir Kholousi/Iranian Students News Agency/Associated Press.


WHEN a swarm of drones and cruise missiles attacked Saudi Arabia's biggest oil facility on September 14, an outraged Trump administration quickly blamed Iran for what it called an “unprecedented attack” on global energy supplies. But the real surprise was the strike's accuracy: Of 19 weapons used, all but two scored direct hits.

When the smoke cleared, Saudi officials counted 14 holes where incoming projectiles had sliced through petroleum storage tanks. Three other critical parts of the oil-processing facility had been hit and disabled, shutting it down and temporarily cutting Saudi oil production in half.

In subsequent reports, U.S. analysts would describe the attack as a kind of wake-up call: evidence of a vastly improved arsenal of high-precision missiles that Iran has quietly developed and shared with allies over the past decade. In the event of a wider war with the United States, Iran can be expected to deploy such weapons to inflict substantial damage on any number of targets, such as U.S. military bases, oil facilities or Israel, analysts say. On Tuesday, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq used by the United States, according to the Pentagon, which was conducting a damage assessment.

“They're saying, ‘We can now hit those’,” said Fabian Hinz, an expert on Iran's missile program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. “What we've seen in Iran in the past few years is a change from missiles that were mainly political or psychological tools to actual battlefield weapons. This is a quantum change.”

U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say the upgraded missiles — some with ranges of more than 1,200 miles — are but one of several potential avenues for carrying out Iran's promise to exact revenge for last week's killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani, Iran's most powerful military leader. Most experts believe the United States would respond forcefully to any direct military attack on U.S. assets, but Iran would possess the ability to launch a painful counterstrike — such as a truly crippling blow against Persian Gulf oil facilities or an attack on Israel.

Because Iran has provided its advanced missiles and bombmaking technology to proxy groups, it also possesses options for harming its adversaries while limiting the risk of reprisals. In the past, Tehran frequently tasked pro-Iranian militant groups — chiefly the Lebanon-based Hezbollah but also proxies and sympathizers based in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain — with carrying out a wide range of covert actions on its behalf, including bombings and missile strikes, kidnappings and cyber-warfare.

“Iran attacks where it sees vulnerabilities, and it exercises restraint when it thinks there could be major consequences,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.

For instance, Sadjadpour said, missiles could be launched by Iran's Houthi allies in Yemen against “soft targets” such as oil infrastructure, airports or desalination plants in gulf states. Such attacks could significantly damage the economies of key U.S. allies while triggering a spike in global oil prices.

Less impactful globally, but psychologically disruptive, would be a series of assassinations or kidnappings, conducted in such a way as to shield Iran from blame. After Israeli operatives allegedly killed several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, Tehran activated sleeper cells and dispatched hit men to carry out assassinations of diplomats around the world. “India, Thailand and Georgia — places you wouldn't expect,” Sadjadpour said of the attempts. “U.S. embassies throughout the world should be on alert, not just for the next few days but for at least another year.”




Iran's improved missile capability is the result of changes ordered more than a decade ago by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At the time, Tehran's most sophisticated missiles were derivatives of the Soviet-era Scuds that Iran and Iraq fired at each other's cities during their 1980s war. Since then, the country's military laboratories have funneled millions of dollars into creating guidance systems that would vastly improve the accuracy of new missiles and, through retrofitting, upgrade many older models.

The result is a line of short- and medium-range missiles that can deliver warheads with an accuracy range in the tens of meters, a Defense Department intelligence official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive assessments of Iran's military capability.

“We have observed consistent improvements in Iranian ballistic missile accuracy,” the official said. Among the more striking and potentially worrisome developments is technology on Iran's 500-mile Qiam missile that allows controllers to fine-tune its trajectory during flight. Even the Fateh-110, a short-range model provided to Hezbollah and other militant groups, has been refitted with electro-optical and radio-guidance systems so that it can zero in on highly specific targets, the official said.

The September 14 strike on two Saudi Aramco oil facilities used armed drones and cruise missiles that are both highly maneuverable and difficult to stop with anti­missile batteries. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for that attack, although U.S. analysts later concluded that the missiles and drones were launched from southern Iran. A U.N. investigation was unable to find hard evidence linking the missiles and drones to Iran.

Saudi Arabia's expensive, U.S.-built missile defense system failed to stop the drone and missile attack, leaving local security forces with no means of defending the facilities other than with small arms.

General Joseph Votel, the former U.S. Centcom commander who retired from the Army in March, said the gains in Iran's missile capability have been surprisingly rapid.

“We've been watching this for a while, with both these drones and with missiles and other things that can actually penetrate defensive systems and get in and hit those sensitive targets,” Votel said in an interview with the CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Most disturbing, Votel said, is the “maturation of these systems and how quickly [the Iranians] are learning.”

“When you look at our long learning curve here, theirs is much sharper,” he said. “They're taking advantage of what we have learned.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Joby Warrick joined The Washington Post's National staff in 1996. He has covered national security, the environment and the Middle East and writes about terrorism. He is the author of two books, including 2015's Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, which was awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. His first book, The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA recounts the 2009 suicide attack by an al-Qaeda informant on a CIA base at Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven U.S. intelligence operatives. Before joining The Post, Warrick covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe as a UPI correspondent and worked as a reporter at the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Daily Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. While in Raleigh, he co-authored “Boss Hog”, a series of investigative stories that documented the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. The series won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for public service.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/how-a-quantum-change-in-missiles-has-made-iran-a-far-more-dangerous-foe/2020/01/07/63020a0c-30c7-11ea-9313-6cba89b1b9fb_story.html
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« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2020, 11:55:01 am »


from The Washington Post…

Trump proved himself to be America's biggest security risk

Trump's posturing with Iran has freaked out the American people.

By JENNIFER RUBIN | 11:00AM EST — Thursday, January 09, 2020

Anti-war protesters stand outside the White House on Wednesday in Washington D.C. — Photograph: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Anti-war protesters stand outside the White House on Wednesday in Washington D.C. — Photograph: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

PRESIDENT TRUMP and his senior advisers' rhetoric and actions on Iran over the past week have deeply unnerved many Americans and even cracked the previously solid wall of Republican sycophancy. USA Today reports: “Americans by more than 2-1 say the killing of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani has made the United States less safe, a nationwide USA Today/Ipsos Poll finds, amid broad concerns about the potential consequences ahead. A majority of those surveyed, by 52%-34%, called Trump’s behavior with Iran ‘reckless’." Even worse: “[There] was overwhelming agreement — in each case by more than 6-1 — that the attack made it more likely Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East (69%), that there would be terrorist attacks on the American homeland (63%), and that the United States and Iran would go to war with each other (62%).” Finally, “By 52%-8%, those polled said the attack made it more likely that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.”

It was not just Trump's slurred words or the incoherent screed he delivered on Wednesday. It was not just his threat to commit war crimes. It was not just Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's arrogant dismissal of any skepticism about an “imminent threat,” nor the administration's contempt for Congress' role in war-making. It was not just the administration's blithe disregard for Iran's capacity to inflict serious harm on Americans through surrogates or cyber-terrorism. It was the recognition that we were dependent on the Iranians, of all people, to de-escalate and that left to his devices, Trump surely would have sent us careening into a disastrous war.

Each time Pompeo snidely declared we should take the administration's words as gospel, he heightened the conviction that we should not trust these people any farther than we could throw them. Vanity Fair's T.A. Frank aptly writes: “Trump looks less like a stealth strategist than a loony gambler who wins low rewards in exchange for sickening risks.” The administration is so reckless and thoughtless that even some Republicans or ex-Republicans who generally would defer to the president on national security matters are now hollering for Congress to tie his hands.

Brian Katulis and Peter Juul from the Center for American Progress remind us that Iran's most potent tools — its capacity for cyber-warfare and its “network of terrorist organizations, proxies and criminal organizations stretching from Afghanistan to West Africa and including the Western Hemisphere” — remain available in the weeks and months ahead to avenge Soleimani's killing. Katulis and Juul deadpan that “we need a more balanced and steady approach on Iran than we've seen in the past three years.” Yes, a sane, stable and informed president would be helpful right about now. Unfortunately, it turns out that Trump's unhinged conduct is not only self-impeaching, but self-enfeebling.

“We must restore trust and confidence in America's own intelligence and law enforcement institutions, not launch corrosive political inquisitions against them,” Katulis and Juul warn. "We must work with our allies and partners around the world to defend against terrorism and cyber-attacks, not undermine our credibility through social media bluster we're unwilling to back up.” But wait a minute. After the last week, does anyone think there is the slightest chance Trump can do any of those, let alone all of them? Americans can barely persuade Trump not to start a disastrous war. Indeed, removing Trump is a prerequisite to pursuing the smart objectives Katulis and Juul outline.

Trump and his advisers have nowhere near the understanding, judgment, self-discipline, competence or diplomatic deftness to conduct themselves in ways designed to lower tensions, and even if they suddenly acquired those qualities, the damage they already have wrought will take months or even years to reverse. Trump's trashing of the intelligence community, of allies and of cold-hard facts has done lasting harm to our international standing and to his ability to rally the country. He has bled himself dry of moral authority and credibility, both of which are essential to carry out the duties of commander in chief. Trump cannot lead us; he can only scare us.


__________________________________________________________________________

Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion from a center-right perspective for The Washington Post. She covers a range of domestic and foreign policy issues and provides insight into the conservative movement, the Republican Party and threats to Western democracies. Rubin, who is also an MSNBC contributor, came to The Post after three years with Commentary magazine. Prior to her career in journalism, Rubin practiced labor law for two decades, an experience that informs and enriches her work. She is a mother of two sons and lives in Northern Virginia.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/01/09/trump-has-managed-freak-out-american-people
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2020, 06:34:55 pm »









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« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2020, 10:22:55 am »



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« Reply #21 on: January 15, 2020, 08:25:24 am »

wow it sure looks like to me that he did the people of Iran a favour by deleting a vile terrorist who murdered a lot of his own people

well done Mr Trump
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« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2020, 01:54:44 pm »


from The Washington Post…

U.N. agency sees sharp increase in Iran's uranium stockpile,
potentially reducing time needed to build a nuclear bomb


Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran is blowing past
limits on the amount of nuclear fuel it had agreed to hold as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.


By JOBY WARRICK | 5:22PM EST — Tuesday, March 03, 2020

An Iranian flag flutters among other flags in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna in September. — Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters.
An Iranian flag flutters among other flags in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna in September.
 — Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters.


IRAN is dramatically ramping up production of enriched uranium in the wake of the Trump administration's decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed on Tuesday while also criticizing Tehran for blocking access to possible nuclear-related sites.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency reported a near-tripling of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium just since November, with total holdings more than three times the 300-kilogram limit set by the nuclear accord. Iran also substantially increased the number of machines it is using to enrich uranium, the agency said, allowing it to make more of the nuclear fuel faster.

The confidential report provided to member states and obtained by The Washington Post is the first since Iran announced it would no longer adhere to any of the nuclear pact's restrictions on uranium fuel production, in a protest of the Trump administration's decision to walk away from the deal. Iran has declined to formally pull out of the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in which it had to sharply curtail its nuclear activities and submit to intrusive inspections in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Inspectors confirmed that Iran now possesses more than 1,020 kilograms of low-enriched uranium — up from 372 kilograms in the fall — although the IAEA found no evidence that Iran is taking specific steps toward nuclear weapons production. Iran's low-enriched uranium, the kind typically used in nuclear power plants, would have to undergo further processing to be converted into the highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear bombs.

Independent analysts said the bigger stockpile and faster enrichment rate has substantially decreased Iran's theoretical “breakout” time — the span needed for acquiring enough weapons-grade material for a single nuclear bomb. When the Iran deal was fully implemented in 2015, U.S. officials said Tehran would need about a year to reach the “breakout” point if it chose to make a bomb. Based on the new figures, one Iran analyst calculated on Tuesday that the window has been reduced to about 3½ months.

Iran's enriched uranium soared to “levels not expected just a few weeks ago,” said the analyst, David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington non-profit specializing in nuclear weapons research.

The dramatic increase appears to be mostly due to the addition of about 1,000 centrifuges that Iran had put back into production in recent months. The report confirmed that Iran has restarted hundreds of centrifuges at an underground facility called Fordow, where all enrichment activity had been officially halted under the terms of the 2015 deal.

In a rare step, the watchdog agency criticized Iran in a separate report for blocking its efforts to investigate claims of undisclosed nuclear activity at three sites in Iran. The agency sent letters to Iran demanding access to the sites, which independent experts say were apparently used to conduct experiments or to store equipment from a secret weapons research program in the early 2000s.

After a 2019 visit to one of the sites — a building in a Tehran suburb called Turquzabad — IAEA officials reported finding unexplained traces of enriched uranium. Since then, inspectors repeatedly observed activities “consistent with efforts to sanitize” the site, the agency said in the report.

The watchdog agency began asking about the facilities after they were first identified in a trove of stolen nuclear documents taken from inside Iran by Israeli operatives in 2018. The stolen records exposed new details about Project 110, as Iran called its secret weapons program in the early 2000s. U.S. officials believe the program was halted by Iran's leaders in 2003, when the country shifted its focus to making enriched uranium. Tehran says the uranium was intended only for use in civilian nuclear power plants.

The IAEA reports are certain to rekindle a debate over President Trump's decision to walk away from the accord, which the White House says failed to address long-term concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions. Critics of the deal pointed to Tehran's lack of cooperation with IAEA inspectors as evidence that Iran cannot be trusted.

“The problem is not breakout at known facilities; it is sneakout at clandestine facilities through advanced centrifuges permitted by JCPOA,” Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in a Twitter posting on Tuesday, using the acronym for the nuclear deal.

Other experts said the report highlighted the administration's folly in torpedoing a deal that was demonstrably working, without having a viable alternative plan for keeping Iran's nuclear activities in check.

“The bottom line: Iran is closer to being able to build a bomb now than under JCPOA and the previous administration, and we are less capable of addressing that danger,” said Jon Wolfsthal, the senior director for arms control on the Obama White House's National Security Council, in an email.

Some experts who supported the JCPOA viewed the dispute over Iran's transparency as ominous. While the standoff stemmed from a research program that was abandoned nearly two decades ago, the issue is potentially “more serious than the increased stockpiles, in that it challenges the IAEA's verification role,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Failing to cooperate with the agency is a probable safeguards violation, which could trigger more IAEA board censure and reporting to the U.N.,” he said.

The 2015 Iran agreement was signed by the United States and five other world powers: Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. In it, Iran agreed to sweeping restrictions on its nuclear activities, including limits on its uranium stockpile and curbs on the number of centrifuges — machines used to enrich uranium — that it could operate. Iran also agreed to remove and disable a nuclear reactor that U.S. officials feared could be used to make plutonium for nuclear bombs. Some of the restrictions were set to expire after 15 years.

Trump ridiculed the Obama-era deal during his presidential campaign, calling it a “disaster” and the “worst deal ever.” Although Trump administration officials confirmed that Iran was honoring the terms of the agreement, the White House in 2018 said it was quitting the accord and reimposing economic sanctions in an effort to force Iran to agree to even tougher limits. The other signatories have continued to honor the agreement, although Iran's recent defiance has spurred concerns that the deal will collapse, freeing Iran to further accelerate its nuclear program.

Many current and former U.S. officials believe that Iran's defiant behavior is partly posturing, an attempt to pressure Europeans and warn the United States about the potential consequences of fully abandoning the nuclear agreement.

Iran has continued to grant IAEA inspectors access to its declared nuclear facilities. Kicking out the U.N. nuclear watchdog would be widely perceived as a sign that Iran intends to begin making nuclear weapons.


__________________________________________________________________________

This story has been updated to correct the codename for Iran's secret weapons program. It was Project 110 not Project 119 as originally written.

Joby Warrick joined The Washington Post's National staff in 1996. He has covered national security, the environment and the Middle East and writes about terrorism. He is the author of two books, including 2015's Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, which was awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. His first book, The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA recounts the 2009 suicide attack by an al-Qaeda informant on a CIA base at Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven U.S. intelligence operatives. Before joining The Post, Warrick covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe as a UPI correspondent and worked as a reporter at the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Daily Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. While in Raleigh, he co-authored “Boss Hog”, a series of investigative stories that documented the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. The series won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for public service.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: Trump announces U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal

 • The Iran nuclear deal, explained

 • European countries press Iran on violations of nuclear deal


https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/un-agency-sees-sharp-increase-in-irans-uranium-stockpile-potentially-reducing-time-needed-to-build-nuclear-bomb/2020/03/03/f3a85368-5d54-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
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« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2020, 01:59:58 pm »


from The Washington Post…

Archive of secret Iranian nuclear documents draws fresh
scrutiny as Tehran stockpiles enriched uranium


The records reveal the depth and scale of Iran's past nuclear research — expertise
Tehran could rekindle as its standoff with the United States escalates.


By JOBY WARRICK | 4:22PM EST — Thursday, March 05, 2020

Domestically built centrifuges on display at an Iranian uranium enrichment plant in Natanz in June 2018. — Photograph: Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting/via Associated Press.
Domestically built centrifuges on display at an Iranian uranium enrichment plant in Natanz in June 2018.
 — Photograph: Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting/via Associated Press.


IN EARLY 2003, a group of Iranian scientists began scouring the country on a secret quest for a place to dig an unusual tunnel. They searched Iran's vast Lut Desert until they finally found what seemed to be the right spot, a Mars-like dead zone regarded as one of the hottest and driest places on Earth.

Conditions in this stretch of salty desert are so extreme that almost no animal or plant can survive there. But it was ideally suited for what Iran wanted — an underground chamber for the country's first nuclear detonation. Photographs and measurements were taken and then stashed away, to await the time when the bomb was nearly ready for testing.

The tunnel was never constructed, but 17 years later the images and surveys still exist, part of a recently unearthed trove of secret Iranian nuclear documents. The records, now being studied in major Western capitals, are drawing fresh attention as weapons experts seek to answer a suddenly timely question: How quickly could Iran build a nuclear bomb if it decided to do so?

This week, the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported that Iran is accelerating its production of enriched uranium amid rising tensions over the Trump administration's withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The growing stockpile potentially gives Tehran a crucial ingredient for a future bomb — fissile uranium. And the long-hidden papers, stolen from Iran two years ago by Israeli spies, are offering new insight into how far Iran had already come in acquiring other critical components needed to build a nuclear weapon.

Newly released records from the document trove are testaments to the depth and scale of Iran's past nuclear research, showing the country's scientists racing to master key technical challenges. Summary reports provided to The Washington Post show that Iranian officials were conducting scores of complex experiments across a network of secret laboratories, while also seeking to answer practical questions such as where in the country they could sink an underground shaft for a future nuclear test.

The results of that work are still available to Iran, giving it a head start in the event its leaders decide to make a dash toward becoming a nuclear-weapons state, say U.S. and Middle Eastern weapons experts.

“In 2003, Iran had a nuclear weapon design and it was building things — doing the whole gamut of activities,” said David Albright, a nuclear-weapons analyst who has reviewed hundreds of pages of the documents while researching a book. “But are they truly ready to start producing a weapon? We still don't know, but we may soon have to figure it out.”

Albright prepared several draft analyses of the documents and provided copies to The Washington Post.


Amassing uranium

Since the Trump administration's unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic republic has renounced many of the nuclear restrictions and limits it had accepted under the landmark international accord, including a 300-kilogram cap on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Tuesday's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that Iran has blown past those restrictions, amassing more than 1,020 kilograms of low-enriched uranium and activating new centrifuge machines so it can produce even more nuclear fuel faster. Low-enriched uranium is used in nuclear power plants, but with additional processing it can be converted into highly enriched uranium for nuclear bombs.

With the bigger stockpile, Iran has dramatically shrunk its theoretical “breakout” time — the span of months it would need to acquire a bomb's worth of weapons-grade uranium — to less than four months, according to some independent calculations. Under the 2015 agreement, Iran had disconnected most of its centrifuges, exported the bulk of its uranium and dismantled a nuclear reactor. U.S. officials at the time estimated Iran's breakout threshold at about a year. Iran also agreed to extensive international oversight to guard against cheating, and many analysts believed that a nuclear crisis had been averted until at least until 2030, when many of the provisions were due to expire.

That changed when President Trump, who repeatedly blasted the deal as short-sighted and a “disaster,” walked away from the accord and reimposed sanctions against Iran. Since then, Iran has quickly gone from having a modest stockpile of about 200 kilograms of enriched uranium — far less than needed for a single nuclear device — to a large and growing mass of fuel that could soon allow it to make several bombs, if it decided to.

Supporters of the deal have criticized Trump for trying to scuttle an accord that, whatever its flaws, appeared to be working, as the president's own advisers acknowledged in congressional testimony. But several of them also noted in interviews that Iran's actions so far are reversible, and Iranian leaders appear to be more interested in sending signals than building weapons.

“To date, Iran's steps have not been irretrievable — the Iranians have been relatively calibrated in their response,” said Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group and an adviser on Middle East policy in the Obama and Clinton administrations. “If you're Iran right now, the tools you have in your arsenal are an ability to expand your nuclear arsenal, roil markets or threaten regional countries and the U.S. presence within them. And if those are the tools they have, those will be the ones they will consider using in response to U.S. pressure they view as tantamount to economic warfare.”

One of the architects of the 2015 deal, then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, said the Iranians have so far refrained from actions that would clearly signal an intention to make weapons, such as throwing out IAEA inspectors or withdrawing from the international Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“What's very important is that the verification regime continues to confirm that they are not in ‘breakout mode’,” Moniz said, “which would mean going all out.”


Project 110

The new disclosures from Iran's nuclear archives are a portrait of what “all out” looks like. Since at least 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies have known that Iran launched a covert program called Project 110 — part of a bigger initiative known as the AMAD plan — in the late 1990s with the goal of quickly building up to five nuclear bombs.

U.S. officials believe that Iranian leaders suspended the program shortly after the U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq in 2003. But the trove of nuclear documents, stolen from a Tehran warehouse by Israeli operatives in 2018, have provided an enormous amount of new details about the abandoned nuclear project, showing how Iranian agencies and laboratories worked feverishly to master critical technologies and skills on a highly compressed schedule.

The documents, consisting of tens of thousands of printed pages and computer disks, were shared with the Vienna-based IAEA, the United States and several other governments. IAEA officials confirmed in interviews that they are continuing to dig through the records and that they have confronted Iranian officials about several alleged research programs and facilities that were previously unknown.

“We take information very seriously, but we don't take it at face value,” Rafael Grossi, the newly appointed IAEA chief, said in an interview in Washington D.C. last month. Grossi cited a “very painstaking, meticulous effort” to verify the credibility of the information.

The documents show how Iranian nuclear researchers worked in tandem to try to solve several complex technical challenges in building a weapon. One of Albright's summaries shows how Iran conducted nearly 200 tests over a span of seven months, mostly aimed at mastering physics problems related to constructing an array of explosive charges around a core of uranium metal. With precision timing, the explosions cause the uranium core to implode, triggering a nuclear chain reaction.

According to a spreadsheet prepared by Project 110 supervisors, an average of 32 tests were conducted each month, a surprising figure indicating “more tests than previously known publicly,” Albright and co-author Sarah Burkhard wrote in one of the analyses.

Other documents show Iranians researching uranium metallurgy and warhead designs and also conducting computer simulations of nuclear explosions — systematically tackling each of the “key bottlenecks” on the difficult path toward a weapon, Albright said.

A separate batch of records details Iran's efforts to find a prospective site for the underground test chamber. It was known that Iran had looked at five potential sites, but new documents suggest that Iran's scientists had settled on a likely location — the Dasht-e Lut in southeastern Iran, near the Afghan border.

The documents show that Iranian officials were gathering geological and water-table data and taking photos of sites in the desert where they could potentially sink a shaft deep into the ground for weapons testing.

The hellish Lut Desert is one of the hottest places on the planet. Satellites passing overhead have recorded temperatures on the sandy surface of up 159 degrees Fahrenheit, or hotter than a well-done steak. The forbidding climate means the desert is reliably empty — and thus ideal as a nuclear test site.

Unclear from the documents is how much of the testing equipment and components Iran managed to preserve after the program was shelved. At least some of the nearly two-decade-old materials and facilities would have to be re-created or re-engineered, but Albright said other aspects of Project 110 almost certainly survived intact and are probably warehoused somewhere in the country.

“Any valuable equipment — explosives chambers, [ultra-high-speed] cameras — they would have been preserved and probably moved someplace else,” Albright said. “Whether they're ready to move [into new tests] is something that now has to be factored in. It enriches the discussion of how quickly they could take weapons-grade uranium and turn it into a nuclear weapon.”

Obtaining answers from Tehran appears unlikely. Iran has never acknowledged its previous efforts to build a bomb, and in recent months it has blocked IAEA inspectors from visiting three sites identified in the document trove, according to an agency report this week. Olli Heinonen, a former top IAEA official who led inspections of Iran's facilities in the early 2000s, said Tehran must open up its facilities and fully explain its past work if it wants to avoid suspicions that it is doing more than adding to its uranium stockpile.

“After 17 years, the IAEA has not been able to conclude that Iran is in compliance with its safeguards agreement,” Heinonen said. “This is not good news.”


__________________________________________________________________________

Joby Warrick joined The Washington Post's National staff in 1996. He has covered national security, the environment and the Middle East and writes about terrorism. He is the author of two books, including 2015's Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, which was awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. His first book, The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA recounts the 2009 suicide attack by an al-Qaeda informant on a CIA base at Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven U.S. intelligence operatives. Before joining The Post, Warrick covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe as a UPI correspondent and worked as a reporter at the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Daily Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. While in Raleigh, he co-authored “Boss Hog”, a series of investigative stories that documented the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. The series won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for public service.

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Related to this topic:

 • Iranian nuclear documents stolen in daring Israeli raid

 • How killing the Iran deal could make a secret weapons program more likely


https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/archive-of-secret-iranian-nuclear-documents-draws-fresh-scrutiny-as-tehran-stockpiles-enriched-uranium/2020/03/05/342894c6-5e44-11ea-b29b-9db42f7803a7_story.html
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