Opinion | Dear Joe, It’s Not About Iran’s Nukes Anymore – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times

“With the assassination by Israel of Iran’s top nuclear warhead designer, the Middle East is promising to complicate Joe Biden’s job from day one. President-elect Biden knows the region well, but if I had one piece of advice for him, it would be this: This is not the Middle East you left four years ago.

The best way for Biden to appreciate the new Middle East is to study what happened in the early hours of Sept. 14, 2019 — when the Iranian Air Force launched 20 drones and precision-guided cruise missiles at Abqaiq, one of Saudi Arabia’s most important oil fields and processing centers, causing huge damage. It was a seminal event.

The Iranian drones and cruise missiles flew so low and with such stealth that neither their takeoff nor their impending attack was detected in time by Saudi or U.S. radar. Israeli military analysts, who were stunned by the capabilities the Iranians displayed, argued that this surprise attack was the Middle East’s “Pearl Harbor.”

They were right. The Middle East was reshaped by this Iranian precision missile strike, by President Trump’s response and by the response of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to Trump’s response.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Tom Friedman. You always have something useful and important to say. I quit carried by your words, until I wading through some very bad comments, to get to some very thoughtful ones. I will print a few of my favorites, which I recommended.

Socrates
Verona, N.J.Nov. 29

One thing Trump is not is a diplomat. Trump thinks he understands ‘deals’, but what he’s referring to when he says ‘deals’ are cheap transactions counted in dollars, not diplomacy, which is counted in saved lives, security, lasting peace and international engagement. Trump got something ‘right’ in Saudi Arabia by accident the same way a clock gets it accidentally right twice a day. Look at Trump’s ‘diplomatic deal’ with North Korea; some highly rated photo ops at the DMZ followed by absolutely nothing. All hat and no cattle. Joe Biden and his Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken have plenty of global experience and are believers in diplomacy, reasoned discourse and de-escalation. That approach may not always ‘solve the problem’, but it will have a better batting average than the ‘art of the empty deal’ that he who shall not be named championed. The whole world is looking forward to American sanity and alliance-building starting Jan 20 2021. Let’s give it the old college try.

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Thomas
Seattle6h ago
Times Pick

The whole reason Iran needs threats (precision missiles, nukes, etc.) is to protect their sovereignty from the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Friedman flatly states that Iran is homicidal, but Iran expressly sought to minimize fatalities in both the Saudi oil strike and the American-Iraq base strike. In the past couple years, however, the Saudi crown prince had Jamal cut up, we precision struck Soleimani, and presumably Israel just assassinated Mohsen. Friedman also states that Iran’s preferred weapon for homicide is precision guided missiles, which, funnily enough, happens to be our favorite toy too. The deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia is not one made out of love, and I’m skeptical it will lead to a less polarized Middle East. Iran needs to be reintegrated into the world and the Biden administration would be wise to not fall for Saudi-Israeli manipulations.

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lin commented November 29

lin

Eventually, the point is to come to the negotiating table. Best not to have too many bodies to climb over to get there. Many homicidal drone strikes have Made in America written on them, even when they have not been launched by American forces. But when Friedman says ‘it’s complicated’ I don’t think he fully discloses how American and Israeli actions – including arms sales – are contributing factors.

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Meuphys
Atlanta41m ago
Times Pick

By all means, restart the nuke deal with Iran. I don’t really think it matters whether Netanyahu, an undemocratic indicted criminal, and Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi disapprove. Both nations badly need a shakeup in leadership, and while we are not and cannot be the agents of that, it’s important for US credibility that we be seen as returning to a responsible posture rather than accept Trump’s poorly-planned and poorly-executed policies as the new normal. The rest of Europe, also signatories to the Iran deal, would welcome our return to the table. As for the new Iranian missile capabilities, the way to address that is through negotiations and intelligence, not through the ham-handed bullying which has characterized US foreign policy in the Trump years. Iran is a democracy, if flawed, and Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Israel is a democracy technically, but one currently led by a criminal in thrall to hardline religious elements – a criminal whose party’s vote total in the last election was insufficient to win without going into coalition with the Blue & White party. Like Trump, Netanyahu is a criminal whose continued freedom has been dependent on his political position.

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George Cooper
Tuscaloosa, Al6h ago
Times Pick

Friedman doesn’t mention a key reason for Iranian influence in the gulf is the political disenfranchisement of the Shia minority ( Shia are majority in Bahrain ) giving the Persian Shia an opening to their Arab brothers. Likewise, Hezbollah came into existence and gained power in Lebanon as response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon ( shades of the Lon Nol coup coupled with the American/ARVN invasion of Cambodia that eventually ushered in Pol Pot Mr. Freidman also missed a second seminal event from a tactical military view. That is despite being armed to the teeth with worlds most advanced weapons systems by the US, the Saudi’s multi billion air force and African mercenary army (Saudi’s hate to engage their own men in Yemen ) has been given a thumping by a home grown guerrilla army, the Houthi’s. The UAE ( the only Gulf Army worthwhile) has pulled out and retreated. One can attach the word “homicide” to the Iranians, however it seems more appropriate alongside MBS and the Saudi’s for their carnage inflicted upon the people of Yemen.

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Public
Powerful piece by Tom Friedman, taken to task for his tone, and brevity, and possibly, his blind hatred of Iran, all though, what he says, is helpful in understanding one of the most dangerous quagmires in the world. Unfortunately, George W Bush contributed mightily to the instability and carnage of the war torn region.

Opinion | John Kerry: Diplomacy Was Working Until Trump Abandoned It – The New York Times

“Presidents make lonely, difficult decisions about the use of force to protect our interests — usually with the solace of knowing at least that diplomacy had failed. The tragedy of our current plight is that diplomacy was succeeding before it was abandoned.”

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

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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 | John Kerry: Diplomacy Was Working Until Trump Abandoned It – The New York Times

“Let’s get one straw man out of the way. General Suleimani was a sworn, unapologetic enemy of the United States, a cagey field marshal who oversaw Iran’s long strategy to extend the country’s influence through sectarian proxies in the region. He won’t be mourned or missed by anyone in the West. Occasionally, when American and Iranian interests aligned, as they did in fighting ISIS, we were the serendipitous beneficiaries of his relationships and levers, as were the Iraqis. But this was a rare exception.

That underscores the tragic irony of Mr. Trump’s decision to abrogate the nuclear agreement: It played into General Suleimani’s hard-line strategy by weakening voices for diplomacy within the Tehran regime. What Iranian diplomat would be empowered by a skeptical supreme leader to explore de-escalation with a country that broke its word on a historic agreement and then, in their words, “martyred” arguably Iran’s second most powerful figure?

Presidents make lonely, difficult decisions about the use of force to protect our interests — usually with the solace of knowing at least that diplomacy had failed. The tragedy of our current plight is that diplomacy was succeeding before it was abandoned.”

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 | Iranian Blood Is on Our Hands, Too – By Geraldine Brooks – The New York Times

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Ms. Brooks covered Iran as a Middle East correspondent for The Wall Street Journal from 1987 to 1995.

Credit…Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It was a hot day in June, 30 years ago. I was sweating in a chador, a speck in the black-clad throng of mourners pouring through Tehran for the funeral of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As the keening crowd surged dangerously toward the grave site, I was lifted off my feet, lost in a heaving mass of humanity.

Then, I was a Middle East correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. My job was to understand and explain why what may have been the largest crowd of mourners ever assembled wept hysterically for a man my readers considered monstrous.

Today, three decades of diplomatic failure later, I watch from afar on cable news as a similar crowd in Iran, this time a deadly one, mourns Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. I’m not a journalist anymore, so I’m reduced to groaning at the TV when commentators don’t help us understand what’s going on, but instead confound our understanding by providing incorrect information.”