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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

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Zionist Organization of America

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Since the election of Donald Trump, the ZOA has faced a difficult balancing act. Although much of its funding comes from the family of Sheldon Adelson, the controversial casino magnate and Trump supporter, ZOA has attacked several administration figures, most notably National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster. In August 2017, after McMaster ousted several ideological Islamophobes and Iran hawks from the NSC, ZOA released a statement calling on Trump to reassign McMaster from the NSC because he had “purged from the NSC those officials who were carrying out President Trump’s policies of combating Iranian and radical Islamist transnational threats.” As one writer notes, the attack on McMaster pits a coalition of right-wing nationalists like Steve Bannon and Breitbart donor Robert Mercer and hardline pro-Israel conservatives “against Trump’s new chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, who is widely seen as bringing some discipline and order to a White House that constantly finds itself in chaos. Kelly is said to be closely allied with McMaster.”

James Mattis

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The Pentagon chief is taking a hard line on North Korea, echoing the extremely antagonist posture of his boss President Trump. As Pyongyang and Washington exchange increasingly dire threats, which include a warning from Trump that North Korea is facing “fire and fury” from the United States, Mattis has issued an ultimatum to the country, warning North Korea to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.” He added that “The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons” and that thee “regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

Mike Pompeo

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Is CIA Director Mike Pompeo ramping up efforts to use covert acton to undermine the Iranian government? Many neoconservatives seem to think so. A vocal Iran critic, Pompeo has already called for preemptive bombing of Iranian nuclear sites. A recent New York Times story painted Pompeo as one of President Trump’s “favorite cabinet members.” However, the very things “that have endeared Mr. Pompeo to the president — his hawkish politics and eagerness to speak his mind — have been met with a more mixed reception at the C.I.A. The agency sees its role as delivering hard truths that are unvarnished by political preferences, and there are concerns in the intelligence community that Mr. Pompeo’s partisan instincts color his views of contentious issues, such as Russia’s interference in the election or Iran’s nuclear program.” Commented Paul Pillar, “When analysts are preparing their assessments, they can’t blot out of their mind their awareness of what will be welcome and what will be not welcome. There is the hazard of a bias creeping in, even subconsciously.”

 

Mike Huckabee

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Mike Huckabee–former governor of Arkansas, evangelical pastor, father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders–has proven a reliable defender of President Trump. After Republican Sen. Jeff Flake lambasted the Republican establishment for abetting many of Trump’s wild antics and being “in denial” about the president, Huckabee went on the offensive, saying: “The problem is you’ve got globalists like Jeff Flake who are in total disarray with conservatives.” However, Huckabee has also used his media position to pressure Trump on a number of issues, like following through on the campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Isarel to Jerusalem.

David Albright

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David Albright, a controversial nuclear non-proliferation “expert” who heads the Institute for Science and International Security (aka “the Good ISIS”), has tried to play down fears over North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities, arguing that while the country may have found a way to build a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile, “it’s very likely it would not survive reentry or hit its target.” However, Albright continies to ramp up fears over Iran, feeding into Donald Trump’s invective against Tehran and his opposition to the nuclear agreement. A recent example of Albright’s misleading work is a report he coauthored with Olli Heinonen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that questions whether Iran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.” The basis for the original article was a mistranslation from Persian of a statement by the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, who according to Albright and Heinonen said in April that Iran had “initiated” mass production of centrifuges. In fact, he only stated that Tehran had the “capacity” to do so. When confronted with the error, ISIS said they would “re-issue” the report yet stick to its original conclusions. Notes one observer: “In other words, the Good ISIS published a report based entirely on the mistaken belief that Iran had initiated the mass production of advanced uranium centrifuges, but after learning that Iran has not initiated the mass production of advanced uranium centrifuges, that report’s findings haven’t changed.”

Newt Gingrich

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Newt Gingrich once called Trump an “unacceptable” presidential candidate. Since Trump’s election, however, Gingrich has repeatedly defended his administration, including pushing conspiracy theories aimed at discrediting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which Gingrich argues is a “deadly” threat to President Trump’s agenda. Gingirch, whose spouse Callista was nominated by Trump to serve as US ambassador to the Vatican, has also pushed discredited conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and harangued Congress about backing Trump regardless of the various scandals he has caused. “Republicans in general — not just Trump — are in a crossroads,” Gingrich said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “And if they don’t get their act together, Pelosi is going to become speaker and she’s going to impeach Trump. That’s how big the stakes are.”

 

Paul Singer

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Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, a “pro-Israel” megadonor, was once a “never-Trumper.” And then he donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration and has been a participant in key funders meetings convened by President Trump. A supporter of numerous neoconservative advocacy groups, one of Singer’s pet projects was the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group founded in 2009 to promote militaristic U.S. policies in the Middle East. FPI recently announced that it was closing down because of loss of funding. An anonymous source told The Atlantic that after the election of Trump, Singer decided that FPI was no longer worth the investment.

 

 

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From the Wires

President Trump and his Iranophobe supporters are itching for a war with Iran, without any consideration of the disastrous consequences that will ensue.


The war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea make a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis more difficult than ever to achieve.


The new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, is anything but non-partisan or apolitical. For the deeply conservative Kelly, the United States is endangered not only by foreign enemies but by domestic forces that either purposely, or unwittingly, support them.


The prospects of Benjamin Netanyahu continuing as Israel’s prime minister are growing dim. But for those of us outside of Israel who support the rights of Palestinians as well as Israelis and wish for all of those in the troubled region to enjoy equal rights, the fall of Netanyahu comes too late to make much difference.


Rich Higgins, the recently fired director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, once said in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program, that “more Muslim Americans have been killed fighting for ISIS than have been killed fighting for the United States since 9/11.”


This is how the Trump administration could try to use the IAEA to spur Iran to back out of the JCPOA.


President Trump seems determined to go forward with a very hostile program toward Iran, and, although a baseless US pullout from the JCPOA seems unlikely, even the so-called “adults” are pushing for a pretext for a pullout. Such an act does not seem likely to attract European support. Instead, it will leave the United States isolated, break the nuclear arrangement and provide a very reasonable basis for Iran to restart the pursuit of a nuclear deterrent in earnest.


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