The White House is targeting Iran but should instead focus on Saudi Arabia by PHILIP GIRALDI, JULY 11, 2017, on The UNZ Review
It is one of the great ironies that the United States, a land mass protected by two broad oceans while also benefitting from the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, persists in viewing itself as a potential victim, vulnerable and surrounded by enemies. In reality, there are only two significant potential threats to the U.S. The first consists of the only two non-friendly countries – Russia and China – that have nuclear weapons and delivery systems that could hit the North American continent and the second is the somewhat more amorphous danger represented by international terrorism.
And even given that, I would have to qualify the nature of the threats. Russia and China are best described as adversaries or competitors rather than enemies as they have compelling interests to avoid war, even if Washington is doing its best to turn them hostile. Neither has anything to gain and much to lose by escalating a minor conflict into something that might well start World War 3. Indeed, both have strong incentives to avoid doing so, which makes the actual threat that they represent more speculative than real. And, on the plus side, both can be extremely useful in dealing with international issues where Washington has little or no leverage, to include resolving the North Korea problem and Syria, so they U.S. has considerable benefits to be gained by cultivating their cooperation.
Also, I would characterize international terrorism as a faux threat at a national level, though one that has been exaggerated through the media and fearmongering to such an extent that it appears much more dangerous than it actually is. It has been observed that more Americans are killed by falling furniture than by terrorists in a year but terrorism has a particularly potency due to its unpredictability and the fear that it creates. Due to that fear, American governments and businesses at all levels have been willing to spend a trillion dollars per annum to defeat what might rationally be regarded as a relatively minor problem.
So if the United States were serious about dealing with or deflecting the actual threats against the American people it could first of all reduce its defense expenditures to make them commensurate with the actual threat before concentrating on three things. First, would be to establish a solid modus vivendi with Russia and China to avoid conflicts of interest that could develop into actual tit-for-tat escalation. That would require an acceptance by Washington of the fact that both Moscow and Beijing have regional spheres of influence that are defined by their interests. You don’t have to like the governance of either country, but their national interests have to be appreciated and respected just as the United States has legitimate interests within its own hemisphere that must be respected by Russia and China.
Second, Washington must, unfortunately, continue to spend on the Missile Defense Agency, which supports anti-missile defenses if the search for a modus vivendi for some reason fails. Mutual assured destruction is not a desirable strategic doctrine but being able to intercept incoming missiles while also having some capability to strike back if attacked is a realistic deterrent given the proliferation of nations that have both ballistic missiles and nukes.
Third and finally, there would be a coordinated program aimed at international terrorism based equally on where the terror comes from and on physically preventing the terrorist attacks from taking place. This is the element in national defense that is least clear cut. Dealing with Russia and China involves working with mature regimes that have established diplomatic and military channels. Dealing with terrorist non-state players is completely different as there are generally speaking no such channels.
It should in theory be pretty simple to match threats and interests with actions since there are only a handful that really matter, but apparently it is not so in practice. What is Washington doing? First of all, the White House is deliberately turning its back on restoring a good working relationship with Russia by insisting that Crimea be returned to Kiev, by blaming Moscow for the continued unrest in Donbas, and by attacking Syrian military targets in spite of the fact that Russia is an ally of the legitimate government in Damascus and the United States is an interloper in the conflict. Meanwhile congress and the media are poisoning the waters through their dogged pursuit of Russiagate for political reasons even though nearly a year of investigation has produced no actual evidence of malfeasance on the part of U.S. officials and precious little in terms of Moscow’s alleged interference.
Playing tough to the international audience has unfortunately become part of the American Exceptionalism DNA. Upon his arrival in Warsaw last week, Donald Trump doubled down on the Russia-bashing, calling on Moscow to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran.” He then recommended that Russia should “join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”
The comments in Warsaw were unnecessary, even if the Poles wanted to hear them, and were both highly insulting and ignorant. It was not a good start for Donald’s second overseas trip, even though the speech has otherwise been interpreted as a welcome defense of Western civilization and European values. Trump also followed up with a two hour plus discussion with President Vladimir Putin in which the two apparently agreed to differ on the alleged Russian hacking of the American election. The Trump-Putin meeting indicated that restoring some kind of working relationship with Russia is still possible, as it is in everyone’s interest to do so.
Fighting terrorism is quite another matter and the United States approach is the reverse of what a rational player would be seeking to accomplish. The U.S. is rightly assisting in the bid to eradicate ISIS in Syria and Iraq but it is simultaneously attacking the most effective fighters against that group, namely the Syrian government armed forces and the Shi’ite militias being provided by Iran and Hezbollah. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that at least some in the Trump Administration are seeking to use the Syrian engagement as a stepping stone to war with Iran.
As was the case in the months preceding the ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003, all buttons are being pushed to vilify Iran. Recent reports suggest that two individuals in the White House in particular have been pressuring the Trump administration’s generals to escalate U.S. involvement in Syria to bring about a war with Tehran sooner rather than later. They are Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Derek Harvey, reported to be holdovers from the team brought into the White House by the virulently anti-Iranian former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Cohen-Watnick is thirty years old and has little relevant experience for the position he holds, senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council. But his inexperience counts for little as he is good friend of son-in-law Jared Kushner. He has told the New York Times that “wants to use American spies to help oust the Iranian government,” a comment that reflects complete ignorance, both regarding Iran and also concerning spy agency capabilities. His partner in crime Harvey, a former military officer who advised General David Petraeus when he was in Iraq, is the NSC advisor on the Middle East.
Both Cohen-Watnick and Harvey share the neoconservative belief that the Iranians and their proxies in Syria and Iraq need to be confronted by force, an opportunity described by Foreign Policy magazine as having developed into “a pivotal moment that will determine whether Iran or the United States exerts influence over Iraq and Syria.” Other neocon promoters of conflict with Iran have described their horror at a possible Shi’ite “bridge” or “land corridor” through the Arab heartland, running from Iran itself through Iraq and Syria and connecting on the Mediterranean with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
What danger to the U.S. or its actual treaty allies an Iranian influenced land corridor would constitute remains a mystery but there is no shortage of Iran haters in the White House. Former senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar sees “unrelenting hostility from the Trump administration” towards Iran and notes “cherry-picking” of the intelligence to make a case for war, similar to what occurred with Iraq in 2002-3. And even though Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster have pushed back against the impulsive Cohen-Watnick and Harvey, their objections are tactical as they do not wish to make U.S. forces in the region vulnerable to attacks coming from a new direction. Otherwise they too consider Iran as America’s number one active enemy and believe that war is inevitable. Donald Trump has unfortunately also jumped directly into the argument on the side of Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of which would like to see Washington go to war with Tehran on their behalf.
The problem with the Trump analysis is that he has his friends and enemies confused. He is actually supporting Saudi Arabia, the source of most of the terrorism that has convulsed Western Europe and the United States while also killing hundreds of thousands of fellow Muslims. Random terrorism to kill as many “infidels and heretics” as possible to create fear is a Sunni Muslim phenomenon, supported financially and doctrinally by the Saudis. To be sure, Iran has used terror tactics to eliminate opponents and select targets overseas, to include several multiple-victim bombings, but it has never engaged in anything like the recent series of attacks in France and Britain. So the United States is moving seemingly inexorably towards war with a country that itself constitutes no actual terrorist threat, unless it is attacked, in support of a country that very much is part of the threat and also on behalf of Israel, which for its part would prefer to see Americans die in a war against Iran rather that sacrificing its own sons and daughters.
Realizing who the real enemy actually is and addressing the actual terrorism problem would not only involve coming down very hard on Saudi Arabia rather than Iran, it would also require some serious thinking in the White House about the extent to which America’s armed interventions all over Asia and Africa have made many people hate us enough to strap on a suicide vest and have a go. Saudi financing and Washington’s propensity to go to war and thereby create a deep well of hatred just might be the principal causative elements in the rise of global terrorism. Do I think that Donald Trump’s White House has the courage to take such a step and change direction? Unfortunately, no.
After six solid months of coordinated allegation from the mainstream media allied to the leadership of state security institutions, not one single scrap of solid evidence for Trump/Russia election hacking has emerged.
I do not support Donald Trump. I do support truth. There is much about Trump that I dislike intensely. Neither do I support the neo-liberal political establishment in the USA. The latter’s control of the mainstream media, and cunning manipulation of identity politics, seeks to portray the neo-liberal establishment as the heroes of decent values against Trump. Sadly, the idea that the neo-liberal establishment embodies decent values is completely untrue.
Truth disappeared so long ago in this witch-hunt that it is no longer even possible to define what the accusation is. Belief in “Russian hacking” of the US election has been elevated to a generic accusation of undefined wrongdoing, a vague malaise we are told is floating poisonously in the ether, but we are not allowed to analyze. What did the Russians actually do?
The original, base accusation is that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and passed them to WikiLeaks. (I can assure you that is untrue).
The authenticity of those emails is not in question. What they revealed of cheating by the Democratic establishment in biasing the primaries against Bernie Sanders, led to the forced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Shultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. They also led to the resignation from CNN of Donna Brazile, who had passed debate questions in advance to Clinton. Those are facts. They actually happened. Let us hold on to those facts, as we surf through lies. There was other nasty Clinton Foundation and cash for access stuff in the emails, but we do not even need to go there for the purpose of this argument.
The original “Russian hacking” allegation was that it was the Russians who nefariously obtained these damning emails and passed them to WikiLeaks. The “evidence” for this was twofold. A report from private cyber security firm Crowdstrike claimed that metadata showed that the hackers had left behind clues, including the name of the founder of the Soviet security services. The second piece of evidence was that a blogger named Guccifer2 and a website called DNCLeaks appeared to have access to some of the material around the same time that WikiLeaks did, and that Guccifer2 could be Russian.
That is it. To this day, that is the sum total of actual “evidence” of Russian hacking. I won’t say hang on to it as a fact, because it contains no relevant fact. But at least it is some form of definable allegation of something happening, rather than “Russian hacking” being a simple article of faith like the Holy Trinity.
But there are a number of problems that prevent this being fact at all. Nobody has ever been able to refute the evidence of Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA who designed its current surveillance systems. Bill has stated that the capability of the NSA is such, that if the DNC computers had been hacked, the NSA would be able to trace the actual packets of that information as those emails traveled over the Internet, and give a precise time, to the second, for the hack. The NSA simply do not have the event – because there wasn’t one. I know Bill personally and am quite certain of his integrity.
As we have been repeatedly told, “17 intelligence agencies” sign up to the “Russian hacking”, yet all these king’s horses and all these king’s men have been unable to produce any evidence whatsoever of the purported “hack”. Largely because they are not in fact trying. Here is another actual fact I wish you to hang on to: The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened. I am going to say that again.
The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened.
The heads of the intelligence community have said that they regard the report from Crowdstrike – the Clinton aligned private cyber security firm – as adequate. Despite the fact that the Crowdstrike report plainly proves nothing whatsoever and is based entirely on an initial presumption there must have been a hack, as opposed to an internal download.
Not actually examining the obvious evidence has been a key tool in keeping the “Russian hacking” meme going. On 24 May the Guardian reported triumphantly, following the Washington Post, that
“Fox News falsely alleged federal authorities had found thousands of emails between Rich and WikiLeaks, when in fact law enforcement officials disputed that Rich’s laptop had even been in possession of, or examined by, the FBI.”
It evidently did not occur to the Guardian as troubling, that those pretending to be investigating the murder of Seth Rich have not looked at his laptop.
There is a very plain pattern here of agencies promoting the notion of a fake “Russian crime”, while failing to take the most basic and obvious initial steps if they were really investigating its existence. I might add to that, there has been no contact with me at all by those supposedly investigating. I could tell them these were leaks not hacks. WikiLeaks The clue is in the name.
So those “17 agencies” are not really investigating but are prepared to endorse weird Crowdstrike claims, like the idea that Russia’s security services are so amateur as to leave fingerprints with the name of their founder. If the Russians fed the material to WikiLeaks, why would they also set up a vainglorious persona like Guccifer2 who leaves obvious Russia pointing clues all over the place?
Of course we need to add from the WikiLeaks“Vault 7” leak release, information that the CIA specifically deploys technology that leaves behind fake fingerprints of a Russian computer hacking operation.
Crowdstrike have a general anti-Russian attitude. They published a report seeking to allege that the same Russian entities which “had hacked” the DNC were involved in targeting for Russian artillery in the Ukraine. This has been utterly discredited.
Some of the more crazed “Russiagate” allegations have been quietly dropped. The mainstream media are hoping we will all forget their breathless endorsement of the reports of the charlatan Christopher Steele, a former middle ranking MI6 man with very limited contacts that he milked to sell lurid gossip to wealthy and gullible corporations. I confess I rather admire his chutzpah.
Given there is no hacking in the Russian hacking story, the charges have moved wider into a vague miasma of McCarthyite anti-Russian hysteria. Does anyone connected to Trump know any Russians? Do they have business links with Russian finance?
Of course they do. Trump is part of the worldwide oligarch class whose financial interests are woven into a vast worldwide network that enslaves pretty well the rest of us. As are the Clintons and the owners of the mainstream media who are stoking up the anti-Russian hysteria. It is all good for their armaments industry interests, in both Washington and Moscow.
Trump’s judgment is appalling. His sackings or inappropriate directions to people over this subject may damage him.
The old Watergate related wisdom is that it is not the crime that gets you, it is the cover-up. But there is a fundamental difference here. At the center of Watergate there was an actual burglary. At the center of Russian hacking there is a void, a hollow, and emptiness, an abyss, a yawning chasm. There is nothing there.
Those who believe that opposition to Trump justifies whipping up anti-Russian hysteria on a massive scale, on the basis of lies, are wrong. I remain positive that the movement Bernie Sanders started will bring a new dawn to America in the next few years. That depends on political campaigning by people on the ground and on social media. Leveraging falsehoods and cold war hysteria through mainstream media in an effort to somehow get Clinton back to power is not a viable alternative. It is a fantasy and even were it practical, I would not want it to succeed.
Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster, human rights activist, and former diplomat. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. The article is reprinted with permission from his website.
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Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence community or related professions who exemplifies Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences. Read more about the history here.
The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks: Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice and now National Security Director of Government Accountability Project; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency; Chelsea Manning, US Army Private who exposed (via WikiLeaks) key information on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as State Department activities; and to retired National Security Agency official William Binney, who challenged decisions to ignore the Fourth Amendment in the government’s massive — and wasteful — collection of electronic data.