Italian politics are generally incomprehensible, even to Italians, but one trend is clear: a growing number of Italians no longer want to be under the EU’s thumb. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:
Italy is always good political theater. I remember years ago when I cared more about poetry than politics, a friend of mine saying, “Tom, seriously, you’re missing out, Italian parliament is better than cable.” And in the early days of reality TV he was probably right.
That grand tradition of Italian government being closer to performance art rather than public policy continues today. I’m being somewhat facetious, certainly, since this game is deadly serious. Italy is a lynch pin to the grand dreams of The Davos Crowd for global social and economic dominance, so what happens there politically is vitally important to the world.
And given that the annual convocation of those would-be world rulers is happening right now in Davos, it is only fitting that changes are occurring in Italy’s ever fluid political landscape.
Since the collapse of the populist government in August when Lega’s Matteo Salvini tried to force a new election that he would win in a walk, the situation in Rome has been tense, to say the least.
What sort of reprisals will the assassination of Qassem Soleimani lead to by Iran? From As’ad AbuKhalil at consortiumnews.com:
As’ad AbuKhalil analyzes the Trump administration’s decision to escalate hostilities with Iran and its regional allies.
U.S. paratroopers deploy to the Middle East following the Baghdad airstrike, Jan. 4, 2020.(U.S. Army/Hubert Delany, Wikimedia Commons)
Something big and unprecedented has happened in the Middle East after the assassination of one of Iran’s top commanders, Qasim Suleimani.
The U.S. has long assumed that assassinations of major figures in the Iranian “resistance-axis” in the Middle East would bring risk to the U.S. military-intelligence presence in the Middle East. Western and Arab media reported that the U.S. had prevented Israel in the past from killing Suleimani. But with the top commander’s death, the Trump administration seems to think a key barrier to U.S. military operations in the Middle East has been removed.
The U.S. and Israel had noticed that Hizbullah and Iran did not retaliate against previous assassinations by Israel (or the U.S.) that took place in Syria (of Imad Mughniyyah, Jihad Mughniyyah, Samir Quntar); or for other attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese commanders in Syria.
The U.S. thus assumed that this assassination would not bring repercussions or harm to U.S. interests. Iranian reluctance to retaliate has only increased the willingness of Israel and the U.S. to violate the unspoken rules of engagement with Iran in the Arab East.
Many of the factors responsible for the fading of US military dominance are directly attributable to US actions and policy. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:
Starting from the presidency of George W. Bush to that of Trump, the U.S. has made some missteps that not only reduce its influence in strategic regions of the world but also its ability to project power and thus impose its will on those unwilling to genuflect appropriately.
Some examples from the recent past will suffice to show how a series of strategic errors have only accelerated the U.S.’s hegemonic decline.
ABM + INF = Hypersonic Supremacy
The decision to invade Afghanistan following the events of September 11, 2001, while declaring an “axis of evil” to be confronted that included nuclear-armed North Korea and budding regional hegemon Iran, can be said to be the reason for many of the most significant strategic problems besetting the U.S..
The U.S. often prefers to disguise its medium- to long-term objectives by focusing on supposedly more immediate and short-term threats. Thus, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and its deployment of the Aegis Combat System (both sea- and land-based) as part of the NATO missile defense system, was explained as being for the purposes of defending European allies from the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles. This argument held little water as the Iranians had neither the capability nor intent to launch such missiles.
Are sanctions war by another means? From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:
Supporters of Donald Trump often make the point that he has not started any new wars. One might observe that it has not been for lack of trying, as his cruise missile attacks on Syria based on fabricated evidence and his recent assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani have been indisputably acts of war. Trump also has enhanced troop levels both in the Middle East and in Afghanistan while also increasing the frequency and lethality of armed drone attacks worldwide.
Congress has been somewhat unseriously toying around with a tightening of the war powers act of 1973 to make it more difficult for a president to carry out acts of war without any deliberation by or authorization from the legislature. But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been explicit in his explanations that the assertion of “extreme pressure” on countries like Iran and Venezuela is intended to make the people suffer to such an extent that they rise up against their governments and bring about “regime change.” In Pompeo’s twisted reckoning that is how places that Washington disapproves of will again become “normal countries.”
President Trump must be impeached because the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming! From Daniel Lazare at antiwar.com:
Jason Crow, the ex-Army Ranger turned congressman whom Nancy Pelosi has named as one of seven impeachment managers in the trial of Donald Trump, has dropped a broad hint about what angle Democratic prosecutors will pursue: it will be about national security and protecting our troops.
“This is about the abuse of power, it’s about jeopardizing our national security, our troops, it’s about undermining our free and fair elections,” Crow told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. Withholding some $391 million in military aid, he argued, didn’t just harm Ukrainian defense, but that of the US as well.
It’s a theme that Democrats have sounded repeatedly since the impeachment process began in September, and it’s one that Crow also stresses at nearly every opportunity. In late September, he and six other Democrats who are military or intelligence-agency veterans co-authored a Washington Post op-ed declaring that the hold on military aid amounted to nothing less than “a national security threat” – not against the Ukraine, but against the US. A week later, he told MSNBC that US-made weapons like the Javelin missile “are needed to prevent T-72, Russian T-72 tanks, from moving forward and invading Ukraine. We have tens of thousands of US troops in Europe that are in harm’s way if that would happen, so I take this very personally.” A week after that, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper:
Killing a general of a country with which you are not at war is criminal under international law. From Patrick Lawrence at consortiumnews.com:
Following the U.S. assassination of Soleimani, the Trump administration is leading American conduct abroad into a zone of probably unprecedented lawlessness.
Of all the preposterous assertions made since the drone assassination of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3, the prize for bottomless ignorance must go to the bottomlessly ignorant Mike Pompeo.
Speaking after the influential Iranian general’s death, our frightening secretary of state declaimed on CBS’s Face the Nation, “There was sound and just and legal reason for the actions the President took, and the world is safer as a result.” In appearances on five news programs on the same Sunday morning, the evangelical paranoid who now runs American foreign policy was a singer with a one-note tune. “It’s very clear the world’s a safer place today,” Pompeo said on ABC’s Jan. 5 edition of This Week.
In our late-imperial phase, we seem to have reached that moment when, whatever high officials say in matters of the empire’s foreign policy, we must consider whether the opposite is in fact the case. So we have it now.
We are not safer now that Soleimani, a revered figure across much of the Middle East, has been murdered. The planet has just become significantly more dangerous, especially but not only for Americans, and this is so for one simple reason: The Trump administration, Pompeo bearing the standard, has just tipped American conduct abroad into a zone of probably unprecedented lawlessness, Pompeo’s nonsensical claim to legality notwithstanding.
This is a very consequential line to cross.
There is no chance the Trump administration will get what it wants from Iran. From Moon of Alabama at moonofalabama.org:
U.S. President Donald Trump wants to destroy the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has threatened the EU-3 poodles in Germany, Britain and France with a 25% tariff on their car exports to the U.S. unless they end their role in the JCPOA deal.
In their usual gutlessness the Europeans gave in to the blackmail. They triggered the Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the deal. The mechanism foresees two 15 day periods of negotiations and a five day decision period after which any of the involved countries can escalate the issues to the UN Security Council. The reference to the UNSC would then lead to an automatic reactivation or “snapback” of those UN sanction against Iran that existed before the nuclear deal was signed.