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Contingency Planning
The Middle East’s Next Big War?

Saudi Arabia and Iran could be just one Houthi missile away from war.

Published on: April 11, 2018
Bilal Y. Saab is Senior Fellow and Director of the Defense and Security Program at the Middle East Institute.
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  • Everett Brunson

    President Trump will have an important decision to make before May 12: to stay committed to or withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran. If Washington leaves and reapplies sanctions on Tehran, U.S.-Iran tensions will skyrocket, especially if Iran itself withdraws and resumes its nuclear enrichment work. That scenario takes us back to square one, which under current circumstances is a formula for war. And it is a prospective war that could drag in the Saudis and other Gulf partners. The time to consult with Riyadh on these contingencies is now.

    Somebody needs to tell Tehran. Their continued provocations in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria appear to belie any stance they take on being left alone to continue their efforts at destabilizing the entire region. I have little love for the Saudi’s–much of 9/11 falls on their shoulders, but looking to the Saudi’s to de-escalate appears to me to be focusing on the wrong geographic region.

    Many has been the time when I wish we just walk away from the entire region as all involved seem hell bent on destruction. Also, why do you doubt the Trump Administration had conversations with MbS on the proxy war in Yemen? Trump certainly addressed the issue when he called for all parties to seek peace and unity during his visit to the Kingdom. Why would you think the conversation blew as dust less than one year later?

    • D4x

      How did you get past Bilal Y. Saab’s ‘imaginary screenplay’ descriptor of the 6’5″ KSA’ Crown Prince MbS “Like a cat on a hot tin roof,”? MbS did a lot more in DC than the “press conference in the Oval Office” cited by Bilal, a sign of his implicit biases, a common affliction of TAI guest writers. March 20, 2018 TeamTrump working lunch with TeamMbS, KSA
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4a1deca435490bea0f458aa25809bd5bb2b1ca88c979ef94b05e59031edf197f.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e112dd225f8265e474bdcf1c407625b5b33bf0efb97c0c88daad8e04af027126.jpg
      “March 22, 2018 — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis today affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia defense relationship in a meeting at the Pentagon with Saudi Defense Minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, […]”
      https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1473688/mattis-affirms-defense-relationships-importance-in-meeting-with-saudi-counterpa/ Photos, Honor Guard greeting to the Pentagon: https://www.flickr.com/photos/secdef/sets/72157691690207802
      MbS had a lot more team meetings in DC between March 20 and 22. SecEnergy Perry sat next to Trump at the working luncheon instead of Director Pompeo. Perry was also in the Oval Office meeting. And, the answer is: April 09, 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Meets with Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), Energy Secretary Perry and U.S. Business and Industry Leaders in Houston “[…] The event focused on SABIC’s growth aspirations globally, as well as, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to innovation and development, a core focus of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. In the event’s ceremony, SABIC recognized Houston as the hub of its Americas Region operations,[…]”
      https://saudiembassy.net/news/crown-prince-mohammed-bin-salman-meets-sabic-energy-secretary-perry-and-us-business-and
      Interesting how many Heads of State always visit Houston before or after their Oval Office meetings.

      Bilal is not a fan of MbS (or Pres. Trump), but is a “foreign policy expert”, and relies on being an “expert quoted” http://bilal-y-saab.com/in-the-news/ because his written analysis has not been in much demand http://bilal-y-saab.com/commentaryop-ed/ since November, 2017. He also lost his paid gig at The Atlantic Council since December, 2017, now only at the Middle East Institute http://bilal-y-saab.com/biography/ http://www.mei.edu/profile/bilal-y-saab MEI might be striving for relevancy in the age of John Bolton as NSA http://www.mei.edu/board Lebanon’s election is May 6, just before the already cliff-hanging May 12 re-certification of Iran’s JCPOA compliance, so Bilal needs to gin up demand for his ‘expertise’. An imaginary Saudi-Iran script that mimics the reality of the week of April 6 ‘Will USA again bomb Syria over another alleged use of chem weapons now that Israel has killed Iranians at Syria’s T4 air base’, gets Bilal off the hook for weighing in on THAT genuine cliff hangar as of April 11.

      It has been five months since Bilal’s previous TAI post: https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/11/10/future-saad-hariri/ His explicit bias towards MbS was so obvious that I posted a time-stamped critique, in four comments, between my read at 5:00 PM EST on November 10, 2017 and Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017 when French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife Brigitte, greet Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, his wife Lara, and their son Hussam upon their arrival at the Elysee Palace in Paris, before Hariri returned to Lebanon to withdraw his resignation on Nov. 4. My first comment, with photos and citations, started with:
      “It is 5:00 PM EST on November 10, 2017. Bilal Y. Saab Posted “News Analysis: The Future of Saad Hariri” Today [November 10, 2017] at 10:44 AM. simultaneous with “Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday that Saudi Arabia had declared war on Lebanon.” […] Even with the difference in time zones, TAI does readers a disservice by posting what might have been a starting point for speculation on the mysteries of three days after PM Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation on November 4. To post this at 10:44 AM EST on November 10 is an insult to TAI subscribers; to make the focus on Saad Hariri’s “political career” is irrelevance.

      Five months later, another Bilal Y. Saab post at TAI, this time a triple insult to TAI readers, and, possibly a threat to the national security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
      Someone in Teheran, or Lebanese voters in Baalbek, might get lost in translation, and think this imaginary screenplay is real.

      • Everett Brunson

        All too true. And though I don’t know I would have guessed that Mr. Saab is more of the Shi’a flavor over the Sunni one. I saw one of his scribblings some time last year and ascertained he was no fan of the House of Saud but seemed to excuse Tehran’s machinations–something I sincerely doubt a true Sunni would do.

        • D4x

          More likely a believer of Ben Rhodes pro-JCPOA ‘echo chamber’. Bilal’s disdain for Trump = disdain for anyone possibly allied with Trump, just like the TAI Editorial Board. MbS’s Vision 2030 has not charmed either US faction, or the foreign policy blob:
          January 01, 2017 “Saudi Arabia’s Flawed “Vision 2030″ ” by Hilal Khashan Middle East Quarterly Winter 2017 Volume 23: Number “Salman’s “Vision 2030″ plan to revolutionize the Saudi economy is visionary but unsound. The plan fails to address the fact that the Saudi state rests on the three pillars of religion, tribalism, and oil.” https://www.meforum.org/articles/2016/saudi-arabia-s-flawed-vision-2030-(1)

          • Everett Brunson

            In regard to silly Ben, yesterday he tweeted the following: “If traveling is a universal right then why does the Trump Administration restrict the right of American citizens to travel to Cuba? The pointless hypocrisy is not helpful. Neither is Trump’s decision to skip the Summit.”

            So starting a syllogistic argument with a falsehood (travel is a universal right) is supposed to reassure us of Rhodes’ intellectual acumen? I believe that train left the station a while ago. TeeHee.

          • D4x

            VP Pence is leading the delegation to the Eighth Summit of the Americas. April 11-14 with a big delegation from State: […] While in Lima, the Acting Secretary Sullivan will meet separately with leaders from Peru, Brazil, Haiti, and Mexico. He will also meet with representatives of the governments of the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and St. Lucia, as well as with leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
            The Acting Secretary will also engage with members of Cuban and Venezuelan independent civil society, regional business leaders, and U.S. Embassy staff. […]
            https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/04/280357.htm

            Cuba is another dead legacy for the echo-meister. Someone needs to shut him up, or down.
            Did you read the April 10 DPB? There is now a second Matt Lee. I skipped the Cuba questions. The Syria questions indicate the media story will be about ‘waiting for proof before bombing’

          • Everett Brunson

            I have enjoyed all year Trump’s tactical and strategic use of VP Pence in international matters. I hadn’t heard of Cuba having an independent civil society delegation. Do you think they will have a role of some significance in a post Castro gov’t in so far as domestic and economic policy?

          • D4x

            There is always American NGO money for “independent civil society delegation”s from nations with dictators, or ‘authoritarian populist nationalists’. What I found intriguing was the founder of the Middle East Institute made his money in sugar from Cuba: http://www.mei.edu/george-camp-keiser Not intriguing enough to dig further as to whether his ancestors were Protestant missionaries to the Ottoman Empire, the ancestors of so many future Arabic-speaking State Dep’t diplomats. I stopped paying close attention to Cuba after escaping my home for college, on what had become Calle de Cinco in Little Havana.

            My un-researched assumption is the delegation to Peru is from Miami, or Maijami as we used to say. Venezuela is topic #1, but Cuba is topic #2, and looks like Haiti, and Guyana! are getting some special attention, which is good. I wonder who Pence is meeting with, probably Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Panama & Paraguay. Yes, Pence has been invaluable in his foreign deployments. It’s amazing how much TeamTrump accomplishes with such a lean team of Prinicpals. Sec Perry was a huge hit with African energy ministers last December. Only learned that from a Ghana news report about why Tillerson was skipping Ghana on his last official trip. ever.
            Wait for my next reply.

          • D4x

            04 14 2018 VP Pence with Venezuela opposition leaders Carlos Vecchio, left, Julio Borges, David Smolansky and Antonio Ledezma
            during a meeting at the residence of the US ambassador, in Lima, Peru
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fb36ee187a141f6373f869d57b1af6ac6951cac21ee2d407f909374123970681.jpg “[…] USAID ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. You said it very well, so I’ll just add a few brief thoughts. To be clear, the humanitarian assistance [$16MIL to Colombia and Brazil] that we are announcing today is not about politics; it is about helping the victims of a massive crisis. This aid is based upon need, and need alone, because America will always stand with the hungry and the displaced. That’s simply who we are as Americans.

            However, we cannot pretend that this situation falls under the same category as the natural disasters that we have seen over the last year
            — hurricanes and earthquakes. Let’s be honest: In some ways, this is more tragic because it is entirely manmade and regime-made.

            Now, we have all heard stories of the terrible suffering and the hunger among Venezuelans. What I think many people don’t realize, especially those of us in the U.S., is that this crisis is also causing the largest displacement in Latin American history.

            Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing their homeland to escape the brutality and the corruption of the Maduro regime — 1.6
            million, in fact. They’re fleeing not only to their immediate neighbors, but to something like 20 other countries, as well.
            Remember, Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in South
            America.
            […] [Paco Palmieri, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Western
            Hemisphere at the Department of State.] This funding supports the regional response by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, international organizations, and NGOs responding to the crisis.[…] Unfortunately, the Maduro regime continues to reject offers of international assistance. President Maduro should welcome this
            international aid, including food and medicine, and we call on him to do so immediately.[…] [Compelling statements from real opposition leaders, in exile follow]”
            https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-meeting-venezuelan-opposition-leaders/

            WhiteHouse.gov posted all of VP Pence’s meets in Lima, Peru. He met with Venezuela opposition leaders; Cuban dissident; HoS of Colombia, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Peru, in that order. Pence is scheduled to go to Brazil next month. VP Pence’s speech in at the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru:
            https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-by-vice-president-pence-at-first-plenary-session-of-the-summit-of-the-americas/

            After reading all of this, I went looking for media coverage, and applaud Monica Showalter for this post, at American Thinker:
            April 15, 2018 “Trump’s hidden gem: Mike Pence hits it out
            of the park in Latin America” By Monica Showalter
            “Unless you read the Spanish-language tweets, or read all the way to the bottom of U.S. news accounts about the Summit of the Americas,
            you’d never know what a kickass job Mike Pence did for the U.S. this week in Lima, Peru.

            […]Presidents Bush and Obama so wanted to please the weaker
            countries. Trump just wants to get things done. Pence is a remarkable
            lieutenant for the project, tactful yet forceful, and easily carries the heft
            of a sitting U.S. president in the U.S.’s stead. He’s done a great job and President Trump notices people who do great jobs. Pence did us proud. It’s just a shame that the press has no intention of noticing.”
            https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/04/trumps_hidden_gem_mike_pence_hits_it_out_of_the_park_in_latin_america.html
            It’s a start. AmThinker usually posts about Israel/ME, but the trolls ruin the threads. Pence attracts a much better commentariat.

            WH.gov has NOT posted readouts of POTUS’ phone calls since April 12, 2018. MbS is hosting the Arab League this weekend.

        • D4x

          April 10, 2018: https://twitter.com/saadhariri/status/983773426337959937
          April 9, 2018: https://twitter.com/saadhariri/status/983459614732771328
          Last updated: April 11, 2018 | 06:24 PM “Hariri, MBS, Macron stress cooperation”
          BEIRUT: At French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation,
          Prime Minister Saad Hariri joined him Tuesday night for talks and dinner at the
          Elysee Palace with visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Macron’s
          office said. “Before the official dinner, the three leaders will briefly
          discuss subjects linked to stability in the Middle East, the fight against
          terrorism, and economic and cultural cooperation,” a statement issued by Macron’s office said.

          Later, speaking at a joint news conference with Prince Mohammad after the talks, Macron said France has “a common desire with Saudi Arabia to support Lebanon.”
          “We share with Saudi Arabia the need to confront Iran’s expansion in the region,” Macron added.

          […]It was Hariri’s second get-together with Prince Mohammad
          in less than 24 hours after having met with the Saudi crown prince in Paris
          Monday night, in the latest signal of improved Lebanese-Saudi ties, strained
          since Hariri’s resignation crisis last year.

          There were no immediate details on Hariri’s talks with Prince Mohammad.
          Hariri posted on Twitter a picture of the two men along with Morocco’s King Mohammad VI,
          […]Macron and the Saudi heir had already dined for nearly three hours Sunday at the Louvre museum. Prince Mohammad also had talks with France’s foreign and defense ministers.

          Hariri flew into Paris Monday for a meeting with Prince Mohammad just days after he attended an international conference in Paris aimed at bolstering Lebanon’s battered economy and aging infrastructure.

          The CEDRE conference held in Paris last Friday far exceeded expectations in terms of aid pledges made by donor countries. The Lebanese delegation, headed by Hariri, left Paris with pledges of over $11 billion in
          soft loans and grants from the international community. Lebanon went into the
          conference hoping to receive pledges of $6 billion toward the first phase of
          its Capital Investment Program that aims to revitalize the country’s dilapidated infrastructure […]
          http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2018/Apr-11/444773-hariri-mbs-macron-stress-cooperation.ashx

          Makes one wonder why TAI and Bilal Y. Saab chose April 1, 2018 to post this ‘imaginary’ script.
          What do they have against MbS, Macron, Hariri? (except they are all aligned with Trump.)
          Why not celebrate so much good news from Paris?

          It’s too twisted to consider why they bitterly cling to their hallucination that it is still 2016, and
          “THE year ‘s at the spring,
          And day ‘s at the morn;
          Morning ‘s at seven;
          The hill-side ‘s dew-pearl’d;
          The lark ‘s on the wing;
          The snail ‘s on the thorn;
          God ‘s in His heaven— All ‘s right with the world!”
          The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900. Robert Browning. 1812–1889 718. Pippa’s Song

          • Everett Brunson

            President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and the House of Saud have been in a strange dance since about this same time last year. After being torn apart by their last Civil War one would think they would run from any of the physical and meta-physical conflicts raised by the specter of being puppet to the Saudis, the Iran-is, or Hezbollah. Aoun’s penchant for Hezbollah seems self destructive to me. How much of Hezbollah funding comes from Iran? (Rhetorical question)

            That Hariri was able to obtain $11 Billion in loans and guarantees from the Saudis’ is a near miracle. I hope that Aoun is wise enough to not bite the hand that feeds them. Closer ties to the Saudi government would bring much needed stability and one wonders what a comprehensive rebuilding program might bring to the Lebanese citizens.

            Macron continues to impress. I’ve long considered the friendship and mutual admiration between Trump and Macron an enigma. But at this point who cares? The results Macron has crafted continues to impress me.

          • D4x
          • D4x

            Finally found a real non-partisan NGO: The Meridian International Center (MIC). WH just nominated “Bonnie Glick, of Maryland, to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development”
            https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/twenty-nine-nominations-sent-senate-today/ that is #2 at USAID, Glick was not only career foreign service, but also IBM, and then Meridian. She “speaks Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Amharic, French and Russian” http://www.meridian.org/profile/bonnie-glick/ Should be an easy confirmation. Should.

            Not much about the founder, very well-regarded former President of the University of Maine, Arthur Hauck. The fun part of MIC is their real estate. Follow the links about the two former US Ambassadors, Irwin Boyle Laughlin and Henry White, who built Meridian House and the White-Meyer Houses. Laughlin’s daughter, Gertrude Laughlin Chanler, funded MIC’s endowment. Gives hints of how much old money got recycled into the State Dept, and NGOs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meridian_House

            I stopped keeping close track of State Dept nominations, but this one on April 9 was a surprise: “David Schenker, of New Jersey, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Near Eastern Affairs), vice Anne W. Patterson, resigned” https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/five-nominations-sent-senate-today-3/ Currently director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
            http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/experts/view/schenker-david ; Good timing, because most of the ambassadorial vacancies are clustered in the ME: KSA, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Qatar, Libya, Turkey.

            Except for Pompeo hearing on April 12, SFRC still obstructing nominees in the pipeline. The next big event is Tuesday, April 17, 2018: Full Committee Hearing U.S. Policy in Yemen:
            The Honorable David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Near Eastern Affairs
            The Honorable Robert S. Karem, Assistant Secretary, International Security Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense
            Mr. Robert Jenkins Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID. https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/us-policy-in-yemen-041718

            SFRC did Lebanon on March 21, 2018: Subcommittee Hearing ‘ What’s Next for Lebanon? Stability and Security Challenges’, with testimony by Elliott Abrams, CFR;, and Robert Malley (6 April 2015 until it was over: Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region &
            Senior Adviser for the Counter-ISIL Campaign) Abrams’ testimony is well worth reading, includes insight on Aoun & Hezbollah, and much more:

            “[…] The Saudis are no longer willing to prop up Lebanon while it serves as the base for Hezbollah’s military and terrorist activities in league with Iran. Instead, they are asking what it will take for Lebanese to pressure Hezbollah to cut back on its actions and to allow the Lebanese state to govern again. What the Saudis are saying is, Enough—let’s start describing Lebanese reality instead of burying it. Let’s stop financing a situation that allows Hezbollah to feed off the Lebanese state, dominate that state, and use it as a launching pad for terror and aggression in the Middle East, all on Iran’s behalf. […]” https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/032118_Abrams_Testimony.pdf Abrams cites Schenker, and The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Had I been following SCFR closely, his April 9 nomination would not have been a surprise.

            Malley’s testimony is also worth reading, not just for his assessment of Lebanon, but also of MbS, Hariri, and Iran. Like Bilal, he thinks the Saudis forced Hariri’s resignation on Nov. 4, 2017. Whatever – I still believe it was part of the plan, the Hariri, MbS, Macron & Trump head fake to position Hariri as the strong horse in Lebanon’s May 6 election, because of all the successful donor conferences that followed. This, from March 21:

            “[…]Another missile strike fired by Huthis in Yemen toward a Saudi or Emirati city or an inadvertent clash in the Strait of Hormuz could provide justification for direct U.S. retaliation on Iranian soil, or for new sanctions that could jeopardise the JCPOA. All of which could – given its susceptibility to regional dynamics – quickly drag Lebanon into a regional escalation.
            [obligatory legacy comment]:
            Missing from this picture is any hint of diplomacy – between Iran and Saudi Arabia or between Iran and the U.S. Rather, the region faces a free for all in which the only operative restraint on one’s actions is nervousness over what it might provoke. That’s hardly reassuring and ought to change. That need not mean halting efforts to push back against Iranian destabilizing activities. But it would mean halting efforts to undo the Iranian nuclear deal and resuming at least some of the high-level U.S.-Iranian engagement that existed in recent years.
            […] But Lebanon is too weak, too vulnerable, too fragile, too finely balanced to be the vehicle for a transformative agenda. Lebanon is not the place where grand dreams are made. It’s where they crash. ”
            https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/032118_Malley_Testimony.pdf

            As if America is less vulnerable than Lebanon to ‘fundamental transformation’
            Plus, more insight into the underlying plot in TAI and Bilal Y. Saab’s April 11 imaginary screenplay here, and how the foreign policy blob influences Congress, through ‘expert’ testimony.

            Follow-up on the April 11 Houthi missile, besides it being blocked by Saudi missile defense & KSA tightening the siege of Yemen. Comes from “Al Bawaba.com, Inc, is a Delaware company with its headquarters in Amman, Jordan, with an office in Dubai.” (sounds safe for a link) citing Iran’s PRESSTV: “Saudi Warplanes Launch Seven Airstrikes on Yemeni Sana’a Airport and Airbase” Published April 12th, 2018 – 12:52 GMT
            https://www.albawaba.com/news/saudi-warplanes-launch-seven-airstrikes-yemeni-sanaa-airport-and-airbase-1116316

          • Everett Brunson

            From the March 21 excerpt you provided:

            Rather, the region faces a free for all in which the only operative restraint on one’s actions is nervousness over what it might provoke. That’s hardly reassuring and ought to change. That need not mean halting efforts to push back against Iranian destabilizing activities. But it would mean halting efforts to undo the Iranian nuclear deal and resuming at least some of the high-level U.S.-Iranian engagement that existed in recent years.[italics mine]

            Could this be correct? Is Iran’s endgame to provoke the US into some action whereby they can resume nuclear development while blaming it all on the US? Why go to such lengths? If things run their course as I expect, I rather doubted Trump was going to renew the IRAN agreement next month anyway. What does Iran gain if they are able to provoke the US into some unilateral action?

            AND is anyone, ANYONE? naive enough to believe the Iranians are not supplying the Houthis with weaponry despite the claims recorded in the al-Waba article. Saeed Al Batati in an al Jazeera article dated 29 Mar 2015 does a pretty good job of giving the background of the Houthi movement and its history. At its most basic it is the same Shi’a v Sunni religious war that has engulfed the mid East for the last 400 years.
            https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/08/yemen-houthis-hadi-protests-201482132719818986.html

            I also appreciate the update on the State positions being held up by the Democrats. You cannot imagine the anger I feel against them for putting both the mid East, Israel, Russia, the US and the rest of the whole friggin world at risk by playing reindeer games in order to score domestic points.

            As to through ‘expert’ testimony to me that is political cover–no more, no less. Anyone with two dendrites to rub together should have sense enough to not play with dynamite near a campfire. You and I have not spoken religion or belief systems but I am definitely a believer AND my sincere hope is that there is an extra special place in Hell for those who gamble so carelessly with our lives.

          • D4x

            April 13, 2018 The Syrian Tangle By George Friedman
            […]A threat of massive American action is even better than
            actual massive American action. A major U.S. attack could fail – or fail to impress. Instead, Trump has created serious uncertainty among all players in the region, save probably the Israelis. Syria, Iran and Russia do not know what, if anything, is coming, […]

            [neither does Turkey, but Geopolitical Futures’ George Friedman
            is otherwise is very insightful]
            https://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2018/04/13/the_syrian_tangle_112778.html

            Celebrating National Thomas Jefferson and National Gardening Days, but will reply over the weekend to your last comment, except, there are a few extra special places to consider: Somewhere between Dante’s 8th Circle, the Malebolge, Ditch/Trench 5 through 10: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malebolge and the 9th Circle of Treachery: Cocytus. The Second zone of Cocytus, Antenora, is reserved for traitors of cities, countries, and political parties. The 8th Circle, Malebolge, sounds better to me. The images are too dreadful to upload. http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/circle9.html#treachery

            Per Thomas Jefferson: “Those who write, tend to read.”

          • Everett Brunson

            I read Inferno so long ago that most of it went over my head. Thanks for the explanations from the UT site. I had forgotten so much.

            I later came across a sci-fi novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle also titled Inferno that put much of it into perspective. It is so well written I’ve read it three different times. Some twenty years after its publication they produced a sequel. Both are very much worth a read if you are ever so inclined.

            I’ve spent the morning going back two to three years re-reading various articles on Syria–especially focusing on the Russian entry to the scene. One of great interest is a New Yorker article from October 2016 that could have been written yesterday. Very informative regarding Russian attitudes towards the US and also Russia’s view of itself in a post-Crimea world.
            https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/putin-syria-and-why-moscow-has-gone-war-crazy

            I also did a little reading on Ivanka and Jared Kushner’s visit to Peru. The Daily Mail had a pretty decent spread on her wardrobe and some of the meetings she attended. The article, though factual, had a decidedly snarky bent–but I enjoyed the photo spread none the less.
            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5609411/Ivanka-Trump-makes-glamorous-arrival-Peru-1-700-dress.html

            Have a great weekend.

            PS–the Daily Mail also had a pretty good photo spread on the US Warships entering the region–types and capabilities–in today’s on line issue. Worth a peek.

          • D4x

            Thanks for the links. UK Daily Mail’s researchers need a tune-up. The USS Laboon (DDG-68) is in the Philippines April 13, commemorating the Battle of Peleliu: http://www.navy.mil/local/ddg58/ The USS Porter (DDG-78) was on port visit in Normandy April 7-10. Daily Mail missed the USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81), which departed Norfolk on April 5 http://www.public.navy.mil/surflant/ddg81/Pages/default.aspx My estimate, at top speed, was arrival in EastMed April 11, but more likely April 13. USN never reveals locations outside of joint exercises & port visits, or proving the ‘news’ media wrong: 11:04 AM – 13 Apr 2018: https://twitter.com/USFleetForces/status/984854956363669504
            links to: April 13, 2018 at 9:51 AM UTC http://www.c6f.navy.mil/news/winston-s-churchill-enters-us-6th-fleet […] USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) entered the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations April 10, 2018 […]”

            There is no one unofficially tweet-watching the Straits of Gibraltar, not like https://twitter.com/YorukIsik ‘BOSPHORUS OBSERVER: Obsessive ship-spotting by the Bosphorus’. Yoruk’s getting his photos picked up by Reuters, because, Russia is gearing up in Syria with cargo ships including “BMK-T bridge erection boat”. Had to look that one up: “Soviet military development in overcoming Europe’s many north-south water obstacles since 1965”: March 28, 2016 report: https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/engineer-river.htm The Euphrates River, oh my.

            Ivanka and Jared do not deserve the bi-partisan savaging. Good that ActingSec Sullivan gave them a ride to Lima, Peru. Under the radar is best. If Pompeo can not get confirmed, Sullivan will be just fine. It is possible that Sen Menendez might vote for Pompeo, but am not following that obstruction theater. I did notice Menendez used the Ankara trio photo with the three-way handshake as a prop, a signal of jihadi-sponsoring Turkey inching into the Senate crosshairs. TAI’s use of a different photo signals the clinging-to-appeasement faction.

            Since I cancelled my 40+ year subscription to The New Yorker in February, 2014, because editor, and Russia ‘expert’ Remnick hijacked the opening ceremony to 2014Sochi with a political rant, my implicit bias is that anything in TNY is tainted, especially about Russia. Also, since Remnick became the high priest of this treacherous, damaging obstruction/’resistance’ on Nov. 9, 2016 with his twisted “An American Tragedy”, avoid being triggered by TNY. Prefer to remember the weekly joy it used to be, before that swamp creature fundamentally transformed TNY into worse than Pravda, abusing TNY’s sterling legacy, especially for rigorous fact-checking.

            George Epstein’s Dec 12, 2011 “There at the New Yorker” is now among the deleted pages of The Weekly Standard. It was so good, I copied this into Word:

            “There at the New Yorker The wit and wisdom of Wolcott Gibbs” 12:00 AM, Dec 12, 2011 | By Joseph Epstein
            “[…]After Tina Brown left in 1998 to begin a short-lived
            magazine called Talk, the magazine was taken over by David Remnick, an earnest
            journalist who had written well on the Soviet Union and other matters. New
            Yorker staff members, seeing this as a return to seriousness, were pleased.
            Remnick’s ascension also meant a turn toward a more specific politics. The
            politics were liberalism now distinctly aligned with the Democratic party, both
            in a large number of its general articles that make American foreign policy
            seem what the left calls “the imperialist project,” and in its “Comment”
            editorials written most weeks by Hendrik Hertzberg, which read with all the
            complexity of old western movies: Good guys wear Democratic hats, villains wear
            Republican ones, and that isn’t the Lone Ranger but Barack Obama riding to the rescue.

            Relevance has its costs. In its covers, its coverage of events,
            its need to seem au courant, and its insistent politics, the New Yorker
            has begun to seem more and more like a weekly news or opinion journal (“of
            salvation”) than the magazine once adored by earlier generations of readers.
            The New Yorker Wolcott Gibbs wrote for—elegant, literary, ironic, laced with a
            bracing skepticism—was the spiritual house organ for people looking for relief
            from the clang of rivaling opinions, the barkering of each week’s Next New
            Thing, the knowingness of haughty punditry, the maelstrom of the world’s
            unrelenting noise. The New Yorker of the current day flourishes financially,
            its circulation in the ascendant. The New Yorker of Wolcott Gibbs’s time,
            published in the world we now live in, would probably not last out the year.”
            Joseph Epstein, a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, is the author,
            most recently, of “Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit”
            http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/there-at-the-new-yorker/article/610918
            page not found April 13, 2018.
            Have a great weekend too, looking forward to our next long conversation.

          • D4x

            04 10 2018 USS New York (LPD 21) depart Augusta Bay, Italy, after a scheduled port visit April 10, 2018. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/da47d4516f359a92487b99ccbba232aa802b9368c5bb82cf75cad709b2ab1dff.jpg After a month of trying to find the LPD 21, turns out the USMC has yet another, different website, and the USS New York only uses FB. Accidental find following a link from TNI http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/could-the-f-35-go-war-syria-25350?page=show on the USMC deployment of the F35B to 5th Fleet AoR, re: “the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) as part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit” from April 6:
            http://www.marines.mil/News/News-Display/Article/1486184/f-35b-visits-centcom-as-it-prepares-to-enter-theater/ Still, a port visit in Italy ending April 10 would be a good break after building three new OIR bases in Syria by April 1, and maybe deploying some of the LPD-71’s 26th MEU. Daily Mail did not mention the USS New York, or the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), probably still in the Red Sea, without F35Bs, but I do wonder if the USS Harry Truman carrier en route to the Med, might be making a delivery of some F35Bs to the LHD-7. We shall probably never know.

            The good read, about “The cacophony of events, the barrage of “breaking news” and “news alerts” and “happening now”[…]”:
            “American Politics In a Convex Mirror: Column: Losing perspective—and understanding—in the era of Trump”
            BY: Matthew Continetti April 13, 2018 5:00 am
            http://freebeacon.com/columns/american-politics-convex-mirror/

            Now about to try to have a good weekend 🙂

    • D4x

      April 11, 2018 / 10:47 AM / a day ago
      “Saudi Arabia intercepts missile over Riyadh: Al Arabiya Reuters Staff
      RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s air defence forces intercepted a ballistic missile over Riyadh on Wednesday, state media said, after at least three blasts were heard and three clouds of smoke were seen in the sky above the capital.
      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-security/saudi-arabia-intercepts-missile-over-riyadh-al-arabiya-idUSKBN1HI28K

      TAI was irresponsible posting Bilal’s ‘imaginary script’ (at the same time?). No wonder they stopped time stamping posts. Too much of a coincidence.

      • Everett Brunson

        Nonetheless, the reality is that Washington does not consult with its Arab partners on scenarios and contingencies that might lead to crisis and war. All talk and strategy is centered on deterrence, but should deterrence fail, what happens next? There is no joint planning when it comes to mutual threats beyond transnational terrorism.

        This displays the inherent fallacy of Bilal’s reasoning. DoD has plans on its plans in dealing with Mid-East war scenarios. Anyone with the snap God gave to a screwdriver should know that US planners have worked intricately with Saudi war planners and have gamed out a multitude of contingencies. Those that promote the idea of the US acting unilaterally in the ME promote disinformation.

        That said, the Yemen proxy war will certainly cause European nations with skin in the game to greatly coalesce around Saudi Arabia and withdraw from any thought of continued dialogue with Iran. While the lines become more firmly drawn I believe the current alignment of interest between Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia will begin to fray. At what point will Russia come to realize the cost in this game outweighs the hoped for benefits of being seen as a major player? Are Syrian ports and pipelines that much worth the risks?

        Putin has to realize the drumbeat for war by the American left will soon reach a volume that cannot be ignored–and then to what end? The information you sent of US notification to the Russian of probable targets in order for the Russians to get their men and equipment out of the way will be used as a bludgeon by the Left and the Media against Trump once they (the press) figure out how best to use it.

        There may be those who can figure out just who did what to whom in the latest Chemical Weapons attack in Syria, but the photos of Syrian Rebels staging photographs of dead children truly muddies the waters. PM May is being pilloried by the British press for not acting more decisively yet she cannot say at this time who the true bad actor was.

        Too many people are pushing for war against too few are trying to acting responsibly. I’m decidedly heartened that Pres. Trump is with holding action until the fog dissipates, but you and I both know that probably won’t last another 48 hours. Meanwhile, how long will the Saudi’s wait before they stage their retaliation against the Houthi’s?

        • D4x

          The Pentagon and Russian military have been talking for days. Today, looks like the ‘mission’ re: chem weapons has been handed over to NATO. (April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, but I picture turkey between American Sourdough and Russian pumpernickel). When I saw this earlier: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f76349e592ffe5e91ebd802202cc7f30a6c300d0b39a28c4580d77992ece1ac8.jpg “Il-76 planes today at Airport in Qamisli (moved from Damascus yesterday)” https://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2018/12-april-il76-planes-today-at-airport-in-qamislimoved-from I did not check the source: “7:03 AM – 12 Apr 2018 #Syria’n Regime “parking” now passenger & transport planes on their Airport in #Qamisli “, but wiki, and concluded: Maybe the Russians and the Pentagon talked about this too. Qamlishi is mostly SDF, also hosting many displaced Syrians. This might be about (joint effort?) getting aid to the
          displaced Afrinis in Tell Rifaat area, many still sleeping outside, no food.
          “The Il-76 has seen extensive service as a commercial freighter for
          ramp-delivered cargo, especially for outsized or heavy items unable to be otherwise
          carried. It has also been used as an emergency response transport for civilian
          evacuations as well as for humanitarian aid and disaster relief around the
          world. Because of its ability to operate from unpaved runways, it has been useful in undeveloped areas”
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilyushin_Il-76

          https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/04/09/less-meets-eye/ from April 09 is about Turkey/Russia/Iran. I used it to post the citations, SOHR video, photos, maps since March 29 about the 100,000+ displaced Afrinis in Tell Rifaat area. My biggest dissonance since Feb 20 UNSCR2401 has been no talk about this crisis, only talk about chem weapons.

          Elsewhere, I have mostly been posting about the Afrinis,
          those who stayed, and those who fled, but are stuck in Tell Rifaat area,
          protected by Russia, Assad & Iran, threatened by the Turks, and wondering
          what the new USA base between Al Hasakah and Tell Tamr as of April 6, 2018 is for, because the sat photo sure looks like an air base with a new runway in the lower left, for C-130s, and a covered depot on the right, for humanitarian aid. Ospreys and Chinooks are parked there: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dceadb1e1420fc47df75a23cc49ac21332bcec76487b56db6d3b215d9c7ccf5a.jpg The USS New York (LPD-21) has Ospreys and upgraded Chinooks (CH-46 & 53E’s).
          It’s the third ship in the Iwo Jima ARG, and the only one with no news, no joint exercises, no port visits, since they entered the Med on Feb 28, but AFP included it in an April 11 report on military assets available. Only remaining military asset on board is the rest of the 26th MEU that did not already deploy to Manbij and Tell Tamr. The 26th MEU excels at both fighting, and humanitarian aid.

          Turkey will be gobblesmacked by a joint US/Russia humanitarian airlift from Tell Rifaat to Tell Tamr.
          So will America’s ‘left’. (My ‘script’ has an even happier sequel: the Afrinis who stayed get their tractors back and save their fourteen million olive trees. It was also reported today that Arab fighter jets are in Cyprus. Good time to get a bit lost and accidentally bomb the shipyard in Istanbul with Turkey’s new LHD. Am still working on the Iran sequel)
          Next week, TAI will take a hard look at authoritarian populists in former French colonies in Africa who like Israel 🙂

    • Paul Lies

      Ironically, due to sanctions, collapse of oil output for decades, and general isolation, Iran has lacked the tools most states have, and can use, to influence affairs. The theocratic regime quite naturally looks to proxies and proxy conflicts, as well as ramping up sectarianism to stoke the fires for said proxies. Basically the equivalent of getting the big dummies in the locker room all pumped up and ready to go break a femur or incur some serious brain damage. But boy are they excited as they parade out the big doors and onto the field.

      • Everett Brunson

        Hey Paul. Yeah they do have a knack for stretching the terrorist dollar. And they ARE very good at spreading hate and discontent.

  • Anthony

    http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176409/ The purpose of all wars, is peace (St Augustine). Any war failing to yield peace is purposeless and, if purposeless, both wrong and stupid (Andrew Bacevich).

  • FriendlyGoat

    It’s hard to imagine anything more futile than being roped into taking sides in the Sunni/Shia divide (when both are colossal falsehood and generally recalcitrant against human rights forever). Having Saudi as a supposed ally against Iran is not far different from thinking that rattlesnakes are good partners to have against cobras.

  • Micah718

    Are we so sure that a conventional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a bad thing? In a conventional war, US can supply its allies with invaluable assistance. That way a whole lot of Muslims will kill a whole lot of other Muslims over a short period of time. Last time this happened about 40 years ago during Iran-Iraq war. Everybody roots for casualties and afterwards everyone can calm down. And get their nuclear weapons of course. Obama’s ultimate foreign policy legacy is going to be nuclear Middle East.

  • The Houthis should not be firing missiles over Saudi Arabia, but to be fair, the Saudis themselves are far from innocent, look at how many Yemeni civilians their air strikes have killed over the past decade — and supported by the West no less.

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