How Iran, the Mideast’s new superpower, is expanding its footprint across the region – and what it means

raqi Shiites of the Mahdi Army militia vow to fight ISIS in a show of strength in a 2014 military parade in Baghdad. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor)

 

Iran has achieved milestones of leverage and influence that rival any regional power in the past half-century. While there are limits to how far it can extend its authority, Tehran’s rapid rise poses new challenges to the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia as it undermines their previous dominance. How far can Tehran extend its reach?

With opulent furnishings and the finest cut-crystal water glasses in Baghdad, the new offices of the Iranian-backed Shiite militia exude money and power – exactly as they are meant to. At one end of the meeting room is a set built for TV interviews, with gilded chairs and an official-looking backdrop of Iraqi and militia flags, lit by an ornate glass chandelier. Continue reading

The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook

It’s quite possibly the longest article posted since Global Geopolitics has started, but is quite worth the read.

 

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2017/obama-hezbollah-drug-trafficking-investigation/images/_benin-lots-Artboard_1.jpg

Hezbollah’s used-car money-laundering operation in West Africa Satellite images show the growth of used cars in lots close to Port of Cotonou in Benin.

 

Part I

A global threat emerges

How Hezbollah turned to trafficking cocaine and laundering money through used cars to finance its expansion.

In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Continue reading

U.S. military could lose next war, report says

A study from the Rand Corp. warns that the U.S. military forces are poorly structured and argues that the military must reform its structure and strategies to better deal with challenges. (Associated Press) Photo by: Andreea Alexandru

 

A new study by the Rand Corp. is warning that U.S. military forces are poorly structured to meet the threats posed by China, Russia and other states, as well as the continuing war against Islamic terrorism.

The study, “U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World,” presents the stark conclusion that the American military needs to reform its structure and war fighting plans to better deal with military challenges.

Put more starkly, assessments in this report will show that U.S. forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight, despite the United States outspending China on military forces by a ratio of 2.7 to 1 and Russia by 6 to 1,” the report said. “The nation needs to do better than this.” Continue reading

Lindsey Graham: There’s a 30 Percent Chance Trump Attacks North Korea

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

 

“I don’t know how to say it any more direct: If nothing changes, Trump’s gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out.”

It’s become a grim ritual in Washington foreign-policy circles to assess the chances that the United States and North Korea stumble into war. But on Wednesday Lindsey Graham did something different: He estimated the odds that the Trump administration deliberately strikes North Korea first, to stop it from acquiring the capability to target the U.S. mainland with a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile. And the senator’s numbers were remarkably high.

“I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option,” Graham predicted in an interview. If the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb—their seventh—“I would say 70 percent.”

Continue reading

Russia Sharply Expanding Nuclear Arsenal, Upgrading Underground Facilities

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin / Getty Images

 

Pentagon to boost U.S. weapons under nuclear posture review

Russia is aggressively building up its nuclear forces and is expected to deploy a total force of 8,000 warheads by 2026 along with modernizing deep underground bunkers, according to Pentagon officials.

The 8,000 warheads will include both large strategic warheads and thousands of new low-yield and very low-yield warheads to circumvent arms treaty limits and support Moscow’s new doctrine of using nuclear arms early in any conflict.

In addition to expanding its warheads, Russia also is fortifying underground facilities for command and control during a nuclear conflict. Continue reading

Iran and Russia Just Revealed How They’ll Upend the Petrodollar

 

Iran and Russia just took a page out of Venezuela’s playbook.

Like Caracas announced on Dec. 4, Moscow and Tehran are looking into cryptocurrencies as a means of upending the U.S. petrodollar’s reign over the global oil market, Cointelegraph reported on Dec. 11.

For its part, crypto’s rise in popularity of late does make for an enticing investment choice, especially with Bitcoin’s 150% surge over the past month. Continue reading

China and India sail into choppy waters in New Great Game

Looking out at the port of Chabahar. Photo: Reuters / Raheb Homavandi

 

This shadow play is a heady vortex, churning with power projections, spheres of influence, security and commerce

The New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), will weave and interconnect six major economic corridors. At 12,000 kilometers, the Eurasia Land Bridge Economic Corridor is a rail network from eastern China to western Europe via Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus.

Then there is the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, while the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor runs from Xinjiang to Istanbul. Nine new road links in the Greater Mekong help make up the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor. Continue reading

Russia May Turn To Cryptocurrencies For Oil Trade

Putin

 

Russia may be looking to use cryptocurrencies for oil trade to avoid payments in U.S. dollars and limit the impact of the U.S. sanctions, Russia’s government-backed outlet RT reports.

The bitcoin mania—on which the jury is still out whether it will be the biggest bubble in history or a success—could be a “fresh catalyst” for countries that want to ditch the U.S. dollar in oil trade, according to Stephen Brennock, an oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates. Continue reading

Iran Threat to U.S.: Leave Syria or Else!

 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani sent a letter, via Russia, demanding every last U.S. soldier leave Syria or else “the doors of hell will open up.” Continue reading

Has Iran given cruise missiles to Hizballah as well as Yemen’s Houthis?

 

The maiden operational launch of Iran’s Soumar Kh-55 cruise missile was apparently entrusted to Yemen’s Houthis against a UAE target. Has it been given to Hizballah, another Iranian proxy?

Yemen’s Houthi rebels last week showed on their TV channel video footage of Iran’s most highly advanced Soumar.Kh-55 cruise missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead.  They claimed to have fired it at the unfinished Abu Dhabi power plant on Dec.3. The United Arab Emirates refuted this claim, saying that any missile reaching their air space would have been intercepted by advanced Emirati air defenses. Continue reading

De-Dollarization Continues: China, Iran To Eliminate Greenback From Bilateral Trade

 

The more Washington lashes out in anger at those who will not bow to the unipolar world order, the more the rest of the world fights back. As the launch of its Yuan/Gold-settled oil futures loomsChina is escalating its de-dollarization scheme further by seeking a bilateral rial-yuan agreement with Iran.

As a reminder, nothing lasts forever… Continue reading

US New Moves: War with Iran May Be Much Closer Than We Think

US New Moves: War with Iran May Be Much Closer Than We Think

 

The US does not intend to end or even curtail its military presence in Iraq (as well as Syria) after the defeat of the Islamic State. It is planning to turn Iraq into a major theater of confrontation with Iran. There are signs that a war with Iran may be much closer than we think.

CIA director Mike Pompeo, an official known for his staunch opposition to Iran, has warned Tehran that the United States would hold it accountable for any attacks it conducted on American interests. Addressing high-ranking US military and security officials on Saturday, Dec. 2, at a defence forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California, Pompeo said that he had sent the letter to General Qassem Suleimani, a leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds. “What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold him and Iran accountable… and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear,” the CIA director explained. Continue reading

War with Iran’s proxies could be ‘weeks’ away, Israel’s US envoy warns

A poster bearing an image of Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is seen in Damascus on September 7, 2017. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

 

Ron Dermer cautions that Tehran’s growing influence is likely to lead to military conflict, says regional peace deal is likely

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said Monday that his country is closer to a full-blown military conflict along its northern border than people think.

In a wide-ranging interview with US news site Politico, Dermer reiterated Israel’s assertion that it will not tolerate the presence of Iranian proxies in Syria. Continue reading

Israel Strikes Iran’s Syrian Base

Israel Strikes Iran’s Syrian Base

Israel reportedly fired its Jericho ballistic missiles for the first time to strike an Iranian military base south of Damascus in Syria.

 

According to Israeli media reports, the Jewish state’s military has conducted a missile strike on an Iranian military base recently completed near Damascus in Syria. Continue reading

New US military moves in the Mid-East & Israel’s Syria air raid were coordinated

 

The US hands-off to Iran’s top general in Iraq, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s changeover of sides in the Yemen war and Trump’s’ thinking on Jerusalem – all signal a new, proactive US strategy for the region.

Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo was uncharacteristically frank when he addressed high-ranking US military and security officials on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Reagan Presidential Foundation. He revealed that he had sent a note to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and explained: “I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests n Iraq.” Continue reading