Mike Whitney — The Unz Review March 15, 2018
The replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo signals a hawkish shift in the administration’s foreign policy that is clearly intended to prepare the country for a confrontation with Russia. Pompeo was not chosen for his diplomatic skills or his nuanced grasp of foreign relations but for his hardline approach to issues like North Korea, the Iran nuclear agreement, and the so-called “Russian threat”. With the nomination of Pompeo, Trump has abandoned his campaign promise to end the foreign interventions and regime change operations and has instead aligned himself with a small group of arch-neocons who are fully committed to US global domination through the application of hard power.
Not surprisingly, the right-wing Weekly Standard is already celebrating Pompeo’s nomination although his appointment is far from certain. Here’s a short excerpt from an article that TWS published on Wednesday titled “Iran-Deal Critics Praise Pompeo Nomination”:
“The Senate’s top Iran hawks heaped praise on the president’s nomination of CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Tuesday, and critics of the deal on and off Capitol Hill expressed confidence that Pompeo’s presence would place renewed pressure on negotiations to fix the Iran nuclear deal—or nix it…
“Tillerson and his team really weren’t preparing for the possibility of a world without a flawed Iran nuclear deal,” the staffer continued. “But Pompeo is at least intellectually open to thinking about how does the United States prepare for a world without the Iran deal, and making sure that we prevail in such a world. He will come at the Iran issue with a fresh set of eyes.”…
“For those Europeans (and Americans) who think Trump is not serious about walking away on May 12th if there’s no agreement to fix the Iran nuke deal, I give you Exhibit A: his soon-to-be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.” (The Weekly Standard)
The Iran nukes deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as it is known, prevents Iran from building nuclear weapons and enforces the strictest nuclear weapons inspections regime in the history of the IAEA. Even so, it is despised by neocons and right-wing Israelis who see it as an obstacle to Tel Aviv’s ambitions for regional hegemony. Now, these extremists will have an ally at the State Department who will make every effort to sabotage the agreement in order to achieve their strategic objectives. (For the record, Pompeo has called Iran a “thuggish police state” and promised to “roll back” the nukes deal.)
Pompeo can also be trusted to put the kibosh on the upcoming face-to-face negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-Un. According to the Washington Post:
“Mike Pompeo has been in sync with President Trump from day one — on North Korea in particular,” said Patrick Cronin, a scholar at the Center for a New American Security. “There has been no doubt that he has been instrumental in shaping the administration’s maximum-pressure-and-engagement strategy.”
Pompeo, like Trump, believes that talking with North Korea is pointless and that the DPRK will only respond to force. He will demand that Kim Jong-Un take verifiable steps towards denuclearization in exchange for nothing, not even minimal security guarantees that the US will not unilaterally attack the North sometime in the future. Pompeo is entirely inflexible on this issue. He recently responded to a question in a televised interview saying: “Make no mistake about it, while these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made.” (March 11, 2018) He also added this ominous rejoiner: “We are focused like a laser on achieving (denuclearization). We are equally, at the same time, ensuring that the — if we conclude that it is not possible, that we present the president with a range of options that can achieve what is his stated intention.” (Jan. 23, 2018)
By “range of options”, Pompeo means overwhelming military force which suggests that he will encourage Trump to preemptively bomb (nuke?) the North.
It is already clear that Pompeo will not negotiate the terms of an agreement with the DPRK, Iran, Russia, Syria or anyone else for that matter. His job at State will be to inform foreign leaders what Washington expects of them and what the consequences will be if they fail to comply.
There’s also a good chance that Pompeo will be assisted in his duties by former UN ambassador John Bolton who met with Trump last week and may soon replace National Security advisor, HR McMaster. Bolton, who served in the GW Bush administration, is a radical war-hawk who helped to build the case against Saddam Hussein and who at various times in his career supported attacks on both North Korea and Iran. He also supported the partitioning of Syria to create what he dubbed “Sunnistan” in the eastern part of the country. Here’s more on Bolton from an article at VOX:
“Bolton’s history suggests a long and storied history of cherry-picking intelligence to support his preferred hawkish policies…… Bolton drafted a five-page memo detailing his proposal for tearing up the (Iran nuclear) deal, which he then published in National Review………In a 2015 New York Times op-ed, Bolton advocated for a US and/or Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities. “Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed,” he wrote. “Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”…
… And in February 2018, he published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the US needed to solve the nuclear standoff with North Korea by force….“Pre-emption opponents argue that action is not justified because Pyongyang does not constitute an ‘imminent threat.’ They are wrong,” Bolton wrote. “It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.” (“John Bolton, the ultra-hawk rumored to be Trump’s next national security adviser, explained”, VOX)
Bolton believes that war is the solution to every problem, which is why Trump’s biggest supporters are likely to feel betrayed by his appointment. It’s worth noting, that “candidate Trump” cast himself as an “America First” non-interventionist not a warmongering neocon. Here’s a couple of quotes from Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign that help to illustrate why many voters thought his policies might be dramatically different than Hillary Clinton’s:
TRUMP– “We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past…We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments…. Our goal is stability, not chaos because we want to rebuild our country [the United States]… We will partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism …In our dealings with other countries, we will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding, and goodwill.”
And there’s this: “We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that, frankly, if they were there and if we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems—our airports and all the other problems we have—we would have been a lot better off, I can tell you that right now. We have done a tremendous disservice not only to the Middle East—we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have been wiped away—and for what? It’s not like we had victory.
It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized a total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it was spent right here in the United States on schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart!” (Donald Trump)
The Pompeo nomination along with the possible replacement of McMaster for Bolton suggests that Trump has been swallowed up by the neocon-riddled foreign policy establishment (The Borg) and is now prepared to do their bidding. In recent days, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley has delivered a number of threats directed at Russia that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that Washington is laying the groundwork for a direct confrontation with Russia in the very near future. Here’s an excerpt from one of Haley’s recent hysterical performances at the UN:
“When the international community consistently fails to act, there are times when states are compelled to take their own action…..We warn any nation determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, but most especially the outlaw Syrian regime, the United States remains prepared to act if we must. It is not a path we prefer. But it is a path we have demonstrated we will take, and we are prepared to take again.”
Top Russian officials, including Army General Valery Gerasimov, are taking Haley’s threats seriously and are prepared to retaliate if the lives of their military personnel are endangered in any US-led attack.
“In the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s armed forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles,” Gerasimov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency. Gerasimov also said that Russia has hard facts about preparations for a false flag chemical weapons attack that will be followed by a US missile attack on Syrian Army positions in East Ghouta where US-backed jihadists have suffered heavy casualties lately in a major battle where their forces have been splintered into three small cauldrons that are surrounded by Syrian elite Tiger Forces that are rapidly tightening the noose. The jihadist defeat is imminent which is why Washington’s false flag operation should be seen for what it is: A last-ditch effort to assist its proxy-army of Sunni militants in their failed attempt to topple the government of Bashar al Assad. The US is desperate to reverse the course of a conflict that is clearly moving in Russia’s favor.
The situation in Syria is further complicated by British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spurious accusations that Russia was involved in the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Not only has May failed to produce a scintilla of hard evidence to verify her claims, she has also refused to provide Russia with samples of the prescribed substance which is required under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia needs these samples to acquit itself of the serious charges which May has leveled at them and to challenge her expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats who were declared persona non grata without due process and without any communication with the Russian Foreign Office. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that May is merely following Washington’s diktats as did Tony “The Poodle” Blair in the lead up to the war in Iraq.
In response to May’s claims, the Russian Foreign Ministry has made an official statement which it posted on its website on March 14, 2018. It reads:
“The March 14 statement made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament on measures to “punish” Russia, under the false pretext of its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter, constitutes an unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries.
We believe it is absolutely unacceptable and unworthy of the British Government to seek to further seriously aggravate relations in pursuit of its unseemly political ends, having announced a whole series of hostile measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the country.
Instead of completing its own investigation and using established international formats and instruments, including within the framework of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – in which we were prepared to cooperate – the British Government opted for confrontation with Russia. Obviously, by investigating this incident in a unilateral, non-transparent way, the British Government is again seeking to launch a groundless anti-Russian campaign.
Needless to say, our response measures will not be long in coming.” (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation)
The nomination of war-hawk Pompeo, the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK, and the tense situation developing in East Ghouta strongly suggests that the Trump administration is preparing to test Putin’s resolve and see if he will defend his Syrian allies (by retaliating against the United States) or whether it’s all just a bluff. In any event, the US is now closer to a shooting war with Russia than any time since the Cuban missile crisis only, this time, we don’t expect cooler heads to prevail. Colonel Patrick Lang, Retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets) who was the “Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism”– summed it up best in a recent post at his excellent website Sic Semper Tyrannis when he said:
“Pompeo’s nomination and his eventual confirmation brings the world closer to a US-Russia war. If that happens it will be difficult if not impossible to keep the war from escalating toward the use of nuclear weapons. Israel wants war, a wrecking war with Iran. Israel wants the US to win that war for Israel. In My Opinion, Israel would be wrecked in such a war whatever the outcome. This is an August 1914 moment.”
God help us.