War – Economic and Psychological – For Now
Hello this is Darrell Castle with today’s Castle Report. Today I will be taking you back to the Middle East since that seems to be where the action is this week. You probably remember that early in his term President Trump canceled the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama Administration.
No oil from Iran
In addition to canceling the deal he re-imposed economic sanctions that severely curtailed Iran’s ability to sell its oil on the world market. The sale of oil is 40% of the Iranian GDP so preventing its sale is a crippling blow to the Iranian economy. The President did leave Iran a way out however, by granting waivers to eight countries, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey. The exemptions were originally for six months, which expired May 2, and the President said he will not renew them thus cutting Iran’s oil sales to zero.
Closing the Straits?
A wise tactic in negotiating is to always leave your opponent an honorable means of escape. When you trap a wounded animal and he has no means of escape he has nothing to lose by fighting. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on all nations to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero. The Iranians responded by announcing the resumption of their nuclear program, and more ominously, threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping.
Iran’s statement regarding the strait was something like, if our oil doesn’t pass through the strait then no other country’s oil will either. If the Iranians closed or tried to close the strait then the U.S. would have to respond militarily and we would find ourselves in a dangerous war with the potential to spread rapidly. The Iranians have said that if attacked by the U.S. they would also hit Israel, and you can be certain that Israel would hit back even harder.
War – from economic to blood and flames?
The United States and Iran move ever closer to war, closer perhaps than we’ve been in many years. These things usually happen step by step until some small spark ignites the explosion. Do the lives and economies of millions of people really come down to the egos of one or two people? Does President Trump really want war with Iran and is therefore trying to provoke them to action? Wouldn’t he rather go to Florida and play a couple of rounds of golf than he would to command a war possibly involving nuclear powers? Is he really in charge of this government or not? If not, then who is?
Maneuvers for war: in policy…
If he doesn’t want war, why does he surround himself with neo-con hawks such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo? The two of them serve as National Security Advisor and as Secretary of State, and have been pushing their “get tough” policy since they were first appointed. It’s pretty clear that they were responsible for the decision to cancel the waivers which allowed Iran a way to sell its oil, thus giving Iran no face saving way out. This whole thing stinks to high heaven and I am starting to see a nation being maneuvered into a corner with war as the only possibility.
…and in the field
John Bolton announced last Sunday that the strike carrier Abraham Lincoln and its battle group would be sent into the eastern Mediterranean to support the carrier John Stennis already in the Persian Gulf. My understanding is that the “Abe”, as the sailors call it, transited the Suez Canal yesterday. In addition, four B-52 bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, have been sent to Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar as additional striking power, and as a psychological show of force.
There is intelligence that some type of Iranian attack against U.S. forces, possibly in Syria or Iraq, was imminent, or at least that’s the report released by the U.S. Mr. Bolton has said that any such attack would be met with “unrelenting force”. According to CNN, the Iranians have been moving short range ballistic missiles aboard small boats in the Persian Gulf. That would be an ominous sign if true, but who knows if it really is true. I know that I don’t believe any government and I don’t believe their media.
Once war starts, could it spread?
I do know this much, one spark could ignite a war that could rapidly expand into World War III, and very few people seem very concerned about it. I suppose that we’ve lived with the threat of nuclear war for so long that we are numb to it. People my age grew up with the Cuban Missile Crisis and a continuing state of war, which never ends and is never exactly won or lost. Why is that the state of our world? Didn’t the dismantling of the Soviet Union under Reagan and Gorbachev relieve the threat of ICBM’s on American cities? I suspect it has something to do with power and money and reorganizing the world for the benefit of a few, but who really knows for certain.
Iran is the world’s worst exporter of terrorism we are told, but if that is true, why do we import so many of their terrorists? Why do we leave our own border wide open for anyone to cross while sending two carrier battle groups to the Middle East? What would we as Americans think if Iran had a carrier battle group in the Caribbean and also off California as well as an army in Mexico and Canada? Those are just questions that I suppose we are not expected to ask.
The United States is obviously conducting economic and psychological warfare against Iran right now so what should, and will be, the Iranian response. Time will tell I suppose but the German media is reporting that the Abraham Lincoln is just a 100,000 ton bluff. and that the U.S. has no intention of conducting an actual attack. It’s true that the Lincoln was scheduled for a Middle East deployment in early April but Mr. Bolton made it sound as if it was in response to immediate Iranian threats.
Suspicious command succession
The commander of the United States 6th Fleet which is the Mediterranean Force is Vice Admiral Lisa M. Franchetti. That’s right, the 6th Fleet is now commanded by a woman, but I’m sure that if she commands aircraft carriers she is a qualified naval aviator. So the “Abe” was hers, but now it has passed into 5th Fleet control and is under the command of Vice Admiral James J. Malloy. He is the commander of the 5th Fleet headquartered in Bahrain, having taken command after the previous commander Vice Admiral Scott A. Stearney, was found dead last year in his home in Bahrain. His death has been determined to be suicide. Nothing to see here folks, just move along.
Perhaps the Iranians and Germans are right in what they have said about this maneuver, and that is that this is a tired old ploy used every time there’s a perceived crisis, but it is really just a 100,000 ton bluff. When John Bolton and Iran are involved you never know, because there is no love lost, and both are very volatile. Throw Israel and Saudi Arabia into the mix and you have a very dangerous situation.
The secret war
There seems to be a lot of behind the scenes goings on here as one would expect in the Middle East. Before the U.S. decided to have two carrier battle groups in the relatively confining area of the Persian Gulf, Iranian TV reported that Iranian forces had identified 290 CIA agents stationed across different countries, and this forced the U.S. to “reevaluate” its intelligence capabilities. Supposedly this is akin to 2009 when Iranian forces got their hands on U.S. intelligence software, identifying U.S. spies in the Middle East, resulting in several arrests. As usual, the U.S. will neither confirm nor deny the reports.
I’m hopeful that all this will just dry up and go away but there are war hawks running both countries now so we’ll see. Mr. Bolton, throughout his career, has maintained that regime change and getting the Mullahs out of Iran is the only way to eliminate the threat.
A dangerous month
This is the month of Ramadan in which devout Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. It might be reasonable to conclude that with this holy month for Islam war would not be likely, but history proves that not to be the case. Several groups are exempt from the requirements of Ramadan such as, anyone who is sick, anyone on a long journey, children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and those serving in the military.
Islam considers those in the military to be warriors, whether they serve in the conventional military or they are carrying out Jihad, so the holy war against the Infidels can and does continue during Ramadan. Quite often Ramadan is the deadliest month on the calendar for those of us in the path of the Jihad.
The Muslim Brotherhood designation problem
If that were all it would be plenty but there’s more; the Trump Administration is pushing, and being pushed, to issue an order designating the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization. Such an order would bring sanctions against a very influential group with millions of members across the Middle East. Such sanctions would place economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with that group. The President was reportedly asked by the leader of Egypt, Mr. El-Sisi to place the sanctions.
It’s interesting that countries such as Egypt, especially since the Brotherhood started in Egypt, and the Gulf Arab states and, of course, Israel, want sanctions against a region-wide and to some extent world-wide group because it has strong ties to Iran. The designation is working its way through the system, according to the New York Times, but apparently Bolton and Pompeo both support it.
The Brotherhood is a missionary movement founded in Egypt in 1928 by a school teacher and religious leader working near the Suez Canal. He believed that an Islamic religious revival was necessary and would allow the Muslim world to catch up to the West and throw off colonial rule. It’s pretty obvious that the movement has had the exact opposite effect from what he intended. Should the U.S. add the Brotherhood to its list of terrorist groups, it would join with Russia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in doing so.
The Brotherhood exists in many countries including some American Allies, such as Turkey, which is also a NATO member. How do you enforce sanctions against an ally, especially a fellow treaty member? The standard for designating a group as terrorist is a three pronged one: 1. It is foreign; 2. It engages in terrorist activity; 3. It is a danger to the United States. It is definitely a foreign organization but the other two will be difficult to prove.
Who runs the government?
What is easy to prove is how much the United States has come to rely on the opinions of certain regional players such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and of course, Israel. Should the United States choose to sanction its allies, it would be fair to say that the three governments I just mentioned are determining Middle East policy for the United States or they at least are very influential over it.
Finally folks, who runs this government? Who commands the United States military? Who determines when, if, and for what reason this country goes to war? Who even knows anymore?
At least that’s the way I see it.
Until next time folks,
This is Darrell Castle.