Opinion | A Plea to Save the Last Nuclear Arms Treaty – By Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov – The New York Times

By Madeleine Albright and 

Dr. Albright is a former United States secretary of state and Mr. Ivanov is a former Russian foreign minister.

Credit…Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty Images

“The relationship between Russia and the United States has been mired in crisis for much of the past decade. Communication once considered routine has been cut off, deepening mistrust and making it more difficult to reduce tensions and avoid miscalculation. The current state of affairs does not serve the strategic interests of either country, and it puts global security at risk because Russia and the United States are the only countries that possess enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other — and all of humanity.

Rebuilding mutual confidence and putting United States-Russian relations on a safer track will be a challenging long-term endeavor, given the political climates in Washington and Moscow. But the two countries have a chance to head off even more instability by extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in one year, on ‎Feb. 5. While 12 months may seem like a lot of time, in diplomatic terms and in the present environment, the clock is ticking fast.

The United States and Russia can avoid a senseless and dangerous return to nuclear brinksmanship if they act soon. There is no reason to wait, and extending the treaty, known as New START, is the place to begin.

With the unfortunate dissolution of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START is the only agreement still in place that limits the size of American and Russian nuclear forces. It also provides vital verification and transparency measures, including on-site inspections, that have helped foster strategic stability. The treaty allows for a five-year extension if the leaders of both countries agree. President Vladimir Putin and President Trump should seize this opportunity.”

Opinion | Suleimani Is Dead, Iraq Is in Chaos and ISIS Is Very Happy – By Ali H. Soufan – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Soufan is a former F.B.I. special agent and the author of “Anatomy of Terror.”

Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

“In 2016, Donald Trump, then a candidate for president, described Barack Obama as the “founder of ISIS.” In the end, it may be Mr. Trump who comes to be known not as the terrorist group’s founder, but as its savior.

The Islamic State has been weakened considerably since its peak in 2015, when it controlled a territory the size of Britain, but the Trump administration’s targeted killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani may have poised the group for a comeback. Just as the misguided American invasion of Iraq in 2003 revitalized Al Qaeda, some 17 years later, a return to chaos in the same country may yet do the same for the Islamic State.

Granted, the White House was correct to identify General Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, as an enemy of the United States. Using the militia groups he cultivated and controlled, he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of coalition soldiers in the late 2000s and early 2010s. But war in the Middle East is nothing if not complex; General Suleimani’s proxies also indirectly served American interests by fighting the Islamic State — to great effect.

Still, contrary to the breathless eulogies to him in Iran, he was not some indispensable hero who single-handedly defeated the Islamic State. Other commanders will fill his shoes, if not in star power then at least in strategic expertise. The real boon for the jihadists will be the second-order effects of his death.

Iran’s Grim Economy Limits Its Willingness to Confront the U.S. – The New York Times

“. . . Within Iran, the killing resounded as a breach of national sovereignty and evidence that the United States bore malevolent intent. It muted the complaints that propelled November’s demonstrations — laments over rising prices, accusations of corruption and economic malpractice amid the leadership — replacing them with mourning for a man celebrated as a national hero.

A country fraught with grievances aimed directly at its senior leaders had seemingly been united in anger at the United States.

“The killing of Suleimani represents a watershed, not only in terms of directing attention away from domestic problems, but also rallying Iranians around their flag,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

Mr. Trump had supplied the Iranian leadership “time and space to change the conversation,” he added. Iranians were no longer consumed with the “misguided and failed economic policies of the Iranian regime,” but rather “the arrogant aggression of the United States against the Iranian nation.”

But then came the government’s admission that it was responsible for bringing down the Ukrainian passenger jet. Now, Iran’s leaders again find themselves on the wrong end of angry street demonstrations.

For now, the regime is seeking to quash the demonstrations with riot police and admonitions to the protesters to go home. But if public rage continues, hard-liners may resort to challenging American interests in the hopes that confrontation will force Mr. Trump to negotiate a deal toward eliminating the sanctions.”

Seven Days in January: How Trump Pushed U.S. and Iran to the Brink of War – The New York Times

“. . . . Nonetheless, Ms. Haspel was convinced there was evidence of a coming attack and argued the consequences of not striking General Suleimani were more dangerous than waiting, officials said. While others worried about reprisals, she reassured colleagues that Iran’s response would be measured. Indeed, she predicted the most likely response would be an ineffectual missile strike from Iran on Iraqi bases where American troops were stationed.

“If past is prologue, we have learned that when we enforce a red line with Iran, when Iran gets rapped on the knuckles, they tactically retreat,” said Dan Hoffman, a former C.I.A. officer who served in Iraq. “The retreat might be ephemeral before Iran probes its enemies with more gradually escalating attacks, but we’ve seen it repeatedly.”

There was little dissent about killing General Suleimani among Mr. Trump’s senior advisers, but some Pentagon officials were shocked that the president picked what they considered the most extreme option and some intelligence officials worried that the possible long-term ramifications were not adequately considered, particularly if action on Iraqi soil prompted Iraq to expel American forces.

“The whole thing seems haphazard to me,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior C.I.A. official who retired last year.”

Opinion | Trump Has Made Us All Stupid – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Eric Thayer for The New York Times

“Donald Trump is impulse-driven, ignorant, narcissistic and intellectually dishonest. So you’d think that those of us in the anti-Trump camp would go out of our way to show we’re not like him — that we are judicious, informed, mature and reasonable.

But the events of the past week have shown that the anti-Trump echo chamber is becoming a mirror image of Trump himself — overwrought, uncalibrated and incapable of having an intelligent conversation about any complex policy problem.

For example, there’s a complex policy problem at the heart of this week’s Iran episode. Iran is not powerful because it has a strong economy or military. It is powerful because it sponsors militias across the Middle East, destabilizing regimes and spreading genocide and sectarian cleansing. Over the past few years those militias, orchestrated by Qassim Suleimani, have felt free to operate more in the open with greater destructive effect.

We’re not going to go in and destroy the militias. So how can we keep them in check so they don’t destabilize the region? That’s the hard problem — one that stymied past administrations.

The attack is a way to seize control of the escalation process and set a boundary marker.”    DL: Please finish the article, it gets better. Did you know that the CIA decided that the rewards outwayed the risks, and supported the assassignation?

Gina Haspel – Wikipedia

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

“On May 9, 2018, Haspel appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing.[75]Haspel’s letter to Sen. WarnerOn May 14, Haspel sent a letter to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia stating that, in hindsight, the CIA should not have operated its interrogation and detention program.[76] Shortly thereafter, Sen. Warner announced he would back Haspel when the Senate Intelligence Committee voted on whether to refer her nomination to the full Senate.”[76]

Source: Gina Haspel – Wikipedia

3 Hours From Alert to Attacks: Inside the Race to Protect U.S. Forces From Iran Strikes – The New York Times

“But others around the long, rectangular table in the Situation Room had only modest foreign policy experience — including Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff and a former congressman from South Carolina, and Mr. O’Brien, who was a Los Angeles lawyer before spending two and a half years as Mr. Trump’s chief hostage negotiator and assumed the post of national security adviser in September.

Appearing on a video screen was Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, who was monitoring the crisis from the agency’s headquarters in Northern Virginia. In the days before General Suleimani’s death, Ms. Haspel had advised Mr. Trump that the threat the Iranian general presented was greater than the threat of Iran’s response if he was killed, according to current and former American officials. Indeed, Ms. Haspel had predicted the most likely response would be a missile strike from Iran to bases where American troops were deployed, the very situation that appeared to be playing out on Tuesday afternoon.

Though Ms. Haspel took no formal position about whether to kill General Suleimani, officials who listened to her analysis came away with the clear view that the C.I.A. believed that killing him would improve — not weaken — security in the Middle East.”

Opinion | The Dire Consequences of Trump’s Suleimani Decision – By Susan E. Rice – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Rice, a contributing opinion writer, was the national security adviser from 2013 to 2017.

Credit…Jonathan Drake/Reuters

“Americans would be wise to brace for war with Iran.

Full-scale conflict is not a certainty, but the probability is higher than at any point in decades. Despite President Trump’s oft-professed desire to avoid war with Iran and withdraw from military entanglements in the Middle East, his decision to order the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s second most important official, as well as Iraqi leaders of an Iranian-backed militia, now locks our two countries in a dangerous escalatory cycle that will likely lead to wider warfare.

How did we get here? What are the consequences of these targeted killings? Can we avoid a worse-case scenario?

The escalatory cycle began in May 2018, when President Trump recklessly ignored the advice of his national security team and the opposition of our allies in unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — despite Iran’s full adherence to its terms and its efficacy in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. Since then, the Trump administration has had no coherent strategy to constrain Iran’s program or to counter other aspects of its nefarious behavior.

Mr. Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” to impose ever more debilitating economic sanctions did not force Iran to capitulate; instead, predictably, it induced Tehran to lash out with a series of increasingly bold military provocations against Sunni Arab and Western targets while restarting important aspects of its nuclear program. Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, notably in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, have only intensified. At the same time, it has conducted a brutal crackdown on its civilian population. None of the Trump administration’s stated objectives have been met; if anything, the United States’ security and strategic positions in the region have weakened.”

American Airstrikes Rally Iraqis Against U.S.  – The New York Times

“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.

ANGER IN IRAQ
Protesters broke into the United States Embassy in Baghdad, chanting “Death to America” and lighting fires.
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.”

Protesters Attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Chanting ‘Death to America’ – The New York Times

By Falih Hassan and 

“BAGHDAD — Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside to express their 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 who chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks, covered the walls with graffiti and demanded that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.

The situation remained combustible, with protesters vowing to camp outside the compound indefinitely. 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.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, translated by Thomas Cleary, that nations should go to war only when all diplomacy, espionage and subterfuge failed. He went on to say, if you are ever such a failure in the arts of war to the point where you have to actually invade another country militarily, it is a primary rule that you have to make the invasion very short lived. If you don’t have limited goals and withdraw quickly, your occupation will turn the people of the occupied country against you, while your extended lines of suppy and the ongoing conflict will reduce and empty your treasury.
Sun Tzu might have been born around 512 BC, and might have lived through 300 years of civil war in China refered to as the Warring States period.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.