Trump Retweets Image of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer in Traditional Islamic Clothing Before Iranian Flag

President Donald Trump took his attacks on Speaker Nancy Pelosi Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to a whole new level Monday morning, by retweeting a photoshopped image of the two in traditional Muslim garb before an Iranian flag.

The tweet came in a flurry of frenzied presidential tweets (and retweets) critical of Speaker Pelosi’s criticism of the Trump administrations handling of Iranian foreign relations, in particular, that following the deadly drone strike that took the life of Quds force leader and Iranian Republican Guard Major General Qasam Soleimani.

In the days that followed Soleimani’s death, a million Iranians reportedly flooded the streets of Teheran to protest the U.S. killing of the number two leader of Iran. But as Iran eventually admitted to shooting down a Ukranian airliner and killing 167 civilians, protests have started against the Iranian regime.

[Mediaite]


Trump believes Iran was targeting four U.S. embassies

President Donald Trump said on Friday Iran probably had targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and was aiming to attack four U.S. embassies when its top general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

“We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” Trump said in a clip of an interview on Fox News. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”

[Reuters]

Reality

However Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Face the Nation “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” completely rebuking Trump’s made-up claim.

‘Maybe we will, maybe we won’t’: Trump doubles down on threat to take oil from Syria

Donald Trump has renewed his threats to forcibly steal oil from Syria, a move which experts say would amount to a war crime.

The president defended his decision to leave a small number of American troops in the war-torn nation after a general withdrawal in October by claiming they were only there to secure Syria’s oilfields.

“They say he left troops in Syria… do you know what I did? I took the oil,” he said during a Fox News interview.

“The only troops I have are taking the oil, they are protecting the oil.”

When the interviewer, Laura Ingraham, attempted to correct Mr Trump by insisting the soldiers were not there to take the oil but to guard the facilities, the president cut her off.

“I don’t know, maybe we should take it, but we have the oil. Right now, the United States has the oil. We have the oil.”

This is not the first time the erratic former business tycoon has publicly mused about stealing Syria’s oil reserves.

In October, shortly after his abrupt withdrawal of US forces and abandoning of their Kurdish allies in the region, Mr Trump said he wanted an American oil firm to fly in to tap Syria’s oil on behalf of the government.

“What I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he said.

However, such a move would likely constitute pillage and looting, actions which have long been designated as illegal under international law and the rules of war.

The Geneva Convention, which the US is a signatory to, explicitly prohibits the looting of property during conflict, defining it as a war crime.

“The president appears to believe that the US can sell the oil, based on his statements in the past about Iraqi oil and Libyan oil … thinking that we can loot countries,” Benjamin Friedman, policy director at think tank Defence Priorities and adjunct professor at the George Washington University, told The Independent last year.

“I am sure people in the White House have tried to explain to him that is not how it works.

“Taking the profits from the sale of Syrian oil for the US treasury would be illegal. That would probably qualify as pillaging under the law.”

Ironically, experts say Syria’s oil fields are not much of a prize anyway. Even before the country descended in a chaotic civil war, it only produced about 380,000 barrels of poor-quality oil a day.

In 2018, after its production was several hampered by the conflict, it produced about the same amount of oil as the state of Illinois.

Before he entered the White House, Mr Trump had said several times that the US should have “taken the oil” from the other Middle Eastern nations its armed forces had intervened in, including Iraq and Libya.

Some commentators have speculated that defence officials desperate to persuade the president to permit some US forces to remain in Syria as a counter-balance to Isis and the Assad regime were forced to appeal to his oil obsession to gain his approval.

[The Independent]

Trump Blames Obama for Iran Attack Then Takes Credit for Obama’s Accomplishments in Off-the-Rails Address to the Nation

After three years there were likely few Americans hoping for some form of comfort from President Donald Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday night’s attack by Iran on air bases in Iraq that host thousands of U.S. Military troops. And President Trump, true to form, did not offer any.

The President descended as if from heaven (photo above) onto a stage filled with his military generals and advisors,

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. A clear attempt to show strength which the administration apparently felt the Commander-in-Chief could not summon if he appeared on camera alone. A sad statement.

“As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump, out of breath, declared as he walked up to the podium, flanked by his men in uniform. He then said: “Good morning.”

President Trump was expected to give Americans hope and comfort, and a clear indication that they are safe from attack.

Instead, he tried to show strength through military might – with no suggestion diplomacy might be a better route.

And he lied.

A lot.

“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump claimed, blaming President Barack Obama in a speech watched around the world.

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013,” Trump claimed. (It was actually 2015.)

He added, “they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the United States, they chanted ‘death to America.’  In fact, they chanted ‘death to America’ the day the agreement was signed.”

Those billions belonged to Iran, and reportedly were less than the numbers Trump quoted. They were Iranian funds frozen which had been paid to the U.S. for arms never delivered. It is a frequent trump lie he tells at rallies over and over.

“Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq,” Trump claimed  in his address to the nation – and to the world. “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.”

“The very defective JCPOA [the “Iran deal”] expires shortly anyway,” Trump said. That’s just false – another lie Trump often tells. Various parts expire between 2025 and 2030.

He claimed the JCPOA “gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” which again is false.

After falsely blaming Obama for Iran’s attack he went on to take credit for Obama paving to road to energy independence.

“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.”

Again, false.

Here’s CNN’s Keith Boykin with graphs showing just how false Trump’s energy independence remarks were:

https://twitter.com/keithboykin/status/1214950568013242370?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

[The New Civil Rights Movement]

Trump’s evidence that Suleimani posed an imminent threat was ‘razor thin’: US officials

On Saturday, New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi laid out on Twitter the basic points of evidence cited by the Trump administration that Iranian military leader Qassim Suleimani posed an imminent threat to Americans in the region — and how they do not really hold water:

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213421769777909761


https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213423621349224448

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213424489679196161

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213427304413777923

https://twitter.com/rcallimachi/status/1213430242079125505

[Raw Story]


Mike Pence shares 9/11 conspiracy theory about Qassem Soleimani in attempt to justify killing

Mike Pence has promoted an unsubstantiated theory linking the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Iran in his defence of the Trump administration’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Donald Trump‘s vice president posted a Twitter thread on Saturday in which he described Iran’s top military commander as “an evil man responsible for killing thousands of Americans”.

In the thread, Mr Pence claimed Soleimani had “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States”.

However, his accusation is undermined by the conclusions of the official government report on the attacks.

The 9/11 commission report found “no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack”.

The report added: “At the time of their travel through Iran, the al-Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their future operation.”

Soleimani’s killing is a major escalation in US-Iran tensions and has sparked fears of a direct war between the two countries.

The White House has said the assassination was a “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad”.

In response to the vice president, foreign policy experts were quick to point out there were 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks, not 12, and the majority of them came from US allies Saudi Arabia.

Katie Waldman, Mr Pence’s press secretary, later clarified that the vice president was referring to 12 of the 19 hijackers who “transited through Afghanistan”.

“For those asking: 12 of the 19 transited through Afghanistan. Ten of those 12 were assisted by Soleimani,” Ms Waldman wrote, without providing any further evidence for the commander’s involvement.

The 9/11 report does acknowledge at least eight of the hijackers “transited Iran on their way to or from Afghanistan”, but this is thought to be because they were “taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports”.

Although Soleimani was a senior figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps at the time of the attacks, he is not named in the 9/11 commission report.

It is also unclear why the commander, a leading military figure in a majority Shia Muslim country, would have assisted al-Qaeda, a militant Sunni Islamist group with links to Saudi Arabia.

In a 2018 study by the think tank New America, al-Qaeda is said to view Iran as a “hostile entity” and found “no evidence of cooperation between al-Qaeda and Iran on planning or carrying out terrorist attacks” in the documents studied.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said in 2019 he had no doubt “there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and al-Qaeda.”

[The Independent]

Reality

See pages 240-241.

Trump Told Mar-a-Lago Pals to Expect ‘Big’ Iran Action ‘Soon’

In the five days prior to launching a strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader, Donald Trump roamed the halls of Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Florida, and started dropping hints to close associates and club-goers that something huge was coming.

According to three people who’ve been at the president’s Palm Beach club over the past several days, Trump began telling friends and allies hanging at his perennial vacation getaway that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime that they would be hearing or reading about very “soon.” His comments went beyond the New Year’s Eve tweet he sent out warning of the “big price” Iran would pay for damage to U.S. facilities. Two of these sources tell The Daily Beast that the president specifically mentioned he’d been in close contact with his top national security and military advisers on gaming out options for an aggressive action that could quickly materialize.

“He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’” one of the sources recalled, describing a conversation with Trump days before Thursday’s strike.

Trump’s gossipy whispers regarding a “big” response in Iraq foreshadowed what was to come. After hours of silence, senior officials in the Trump administration argued that what had taken place in Iraq was not an act of aggression. Instead, they said both publicly and behind closed doors on the Hill that killing Qassem Soleimani was designed to “advance the cause of peace,” as U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook put it in a Friday interview

Those Mar-a-Lago guests received more warning about Thursday’s attack than Senate staff did, and about as much clarity. A classified briefing on Friday, the first the administration gave to the Hill, featured broad claims about what the Iranians were planning and little evidence of planning to bring about the “de-escalation” the administration says it wants.  

According to three sources either in the room or told about the discussion, briefers from the State Department, Pentagon, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence claimed that killing Soleimani was designed to block Iranian plans to kill “hundreds” or even thousands of Americans in the Mideast. That would be a massive escalation from the recent attack patterns of Iran and its regional proxies, who tend to kill Americans in small numbers at a time. 

“This administration has absolutely not earned the benefit of the doubt when it makes these kinds of claims. When you’re taking action that could lead to the third American war in the Middle East in 20 years, you need to do better than these kinds of assertions,” said a Senate aide in the room. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said publicly that the Iranians planned to kill hundreds of Americans before Soleimani’s killing.

Nor, said four sources who requested anonymity to discuss a classified briefing, did the briefers provide detail on a key question surrounding an act of war against a regional power: what next? 

[The Daily Beast]

Pompeo Tweet About Iraqis ‘Dancing in the Street’ Dismissed as Deeply Misleading, ‘Propaganda in Wartime’

Hours after the United States killed Iran’s top military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike Thursday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the people of Iraq were celebrating Soleimani’s demise by publicly “dancing” in the streets.

“Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more,” Pompeo tweeted, along with a 22-second video purporting to show the aforementioned celebration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. Soleimani, who had American blood on his hands, was the commander Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Forcewhich the Trump administration designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in April.

The tweet received a great deal of attention on the social media platform, garnering more than 175,000 likes and nearly 60,000 re-tweets, including the State Department’s Farsi Twitter account.

President Donald Trump even sent the post out to his 68.7 million followers.

But witnesses to the celebration depicted in Pompeo’s video told the New York Times that while the clip is authentic, his characterization of what happened was, at best, extremely hyperbolic and very misleading:

Witnesses in Iraq said that only a handful of men carrying Iraqi flags had run — not danced — along a road while the voice of a man speaking near the camera was heard praising the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani of Iran in a targeted United States airstrike on Friday at Baghdad International Airport.

The man whose voice is heard in the video exclaims that General Suleimani’s death has avenged the deaths of Iraqis protesting Iran’s presence in their country.

The witnesses said the men carrying the flags were celebrating General Soleimani’s death but that the group was very small — about 30 to 40 people in a crowd of thousands — that no one else joined in and that the minor demonstration was over in less than two minutes.

Conservative media outlets such as Fox News and The Blaze, however, echoed Pompeo’s narrative.

Syracuse University assistant professor of communications Jennifer Grygiel said that government officials can easily spread “propaganda in wartime” due to social media and the breakdown of traditional news media “gatekeeping.”

“When we think about government communication, it’s public diplomacy in peacetime, propaganda in wartime,” Grygiel told the Times. “Official sources can propagate a narrative they seek without context.”

Iran is already using Pompeo’s tweet to promote a narrative of its own on social media. Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, responded to Pompeo’s tweet on Saturday, calling the Secretary of State an “arrogant clown – masquerading as a diplomat.”

[Law and Crime]

Trump Authorized US Strike That Killed Iranian Military Leader Qassim Soleimani

The Pentagon confirms the U.S. was responsible for an attack that killed the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force at Baghdads International Airport Friday.

“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” a statement from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

The Associated Press said Iraqi officials whose names were not released had confirmed Soleimani’s death and said he was identified by a ring he wore. Other sources said the strikes hit two cars, which were set on fire, making it difficult to confirm the identities of those who died.

Soleimani is one of Iran’s most powerful and shadowy figures. As leader of the Quds Force, he is said to be responsible for the country’s development and coordination with militias and proxy forces throughout the Middle East. U.S. officials accuse him of coordinating Iraqi militia attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

U.S. officials have accused Soleimani of sponsoring terrorism and singled him out as a major figure for decades. The Trump administration placed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — which includes the Quds Force — on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups. It was the first time a government’s official military was placed on the list.

President Trump had vowed that Iran would “pay a very big price” for the unrest at the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad. After the strikes, he tweeted the image of an American flag with no comment.

The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), released a statement saying he is worried about the security aftereffects of the strike, which Engel said had gone ahead without notice or consultation with Congress.

“To push ahead with an action of this gravity without involving Congress raises serious legal problems and is an affront to Congress’s powers as a coequal branch of government,” Engel said.

Soleimani was a prominent figure

Norman Roule, now retired, tracked Iran through his career with the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence. He told NPR’s All Things Considered the death of Soleimani was significant.

“You can expect seismic waves to go through the Shia communities of Lebanon, Iraq and Iran,” Roule said. “You can expect that the Iranians and the Iraqi militia groups will certainly seek some sort of retribution.”

He also pointed to the death in the same attack of Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis whom he called Soleimani’s “senior-most lieutenant in the Iraqi military architecture.”

Roule said he believed the U.S. would not have carried out the strikes unless “a significant terrorist attack was underway or about to be undertaken by these individuals and if neutralizing these individuals would prevent that.”

Qassim Soleimani, the Iranian military leader killed by U.S. airstrikes at the Baghdad airport Friday, wielded power in his country that went beyond the elite Quds Forces he commanded. He had been given authority over Iranian operations in the region.

The AP reports that “Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of the embattled [Syrian President Bashar] Assad.”

Soleimani’s Quds Forces are “sort of a mixture of our special operations and Central Intelligence Agency,” according to Norman Roule, a former Iran expert for the CIA and Director of National Intelligence. “He [had] been given charge of Iran’s foreign policy in the region and in essence he used that authority to create a series of militias based on the Lebanese Hezbollah.”

“As a military commander he would not actually rank in capacity or stature with a first-world military commander, such as a U.S. general. However, his political reach was vast … in that Iran basically ceded its regional activities to his purview,” Roule said.

In 2018, Soleimani spoke with political authority when he responded to a tweet by President Trump, that Iran would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before” if it repeated threats against the U.S.

Soleimani was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency: “As a soldier, it is my duty to respond to your threats,” he said. “It is not in our president’s dignity to respond to you.”

“Come. We are ready,” Soleimani said, accusing Trump of using “the language of night clubs and gambling halls.”

“If you begin the war, we will end the war,” he said.

[NPR]

Trump sides with Putin on impeachment in late Friday night tweet

President Donald Trump continues to side with Russia on questions of domestic politics.

On Friday, the commander-in-chief tweeted out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s views on impeachment, adding that it is “a total witch hunt.”

Trump has received a great deal of criticism for believing the Russian military intelligence conspiracy theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in the 2016.

The scandal is at the heart of the impeachment trial expected to start in January.

[Raw Story]

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