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Pentagon Denies Trump Claim That Saudi ‘Paid’ For US Troops

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump is the most explicitly transactional of modern presidents, and it’s gotten him into trouble. His offering of support from the U.S. government to Ukraine in exchange for a personal favor — an announcement of investigations into his political rivals — wound up making him the third American president to be impeached.

And in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham last Friday, Trump revealed he was engaging in another explicit quid pro quo — not, apparently, for a personal favor, but corrupting nonetheless — with Saudi Arabia.

“We’re sending more [troops] to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is paying us for it,” Trump said. “I said ‘Listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops? I’m going to send them to you. But you’ve got to pay us.’”

This is pretty much as direct a quid pro quo as you can get — an offer to do something on the condition of getting paid. And since what is supposedly being paid for is U.S. military personnel, critics argued that Trump was turning American forces into a de facto mercenary army.

“He sells troops,” said Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) on Twitter.

Trump even went further with his claim, saying the payment was already sent to “the bank,” though he didn’t specify which bank, and Ingraham didn’t press him.

“They’re paying us,” Trump said. “They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank.”

According to a statement from the Pentagon to Vox, however, none of this is right.

It said the Defense Department “has engaged Saudi Arabia on contributing to US activities that support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression,” and that the country had agreed. However, it doesn’t look like any money has actually changed hands, as the Pentagon said that “discussions are ongoing to formalize these contributions.”

The Pentagon also pushed back on the quid pro quo Trump laid out, without calling him out directly.

“Contributions of this nature do not lead to the deployment of additional US forces, and they do not drive DoD to take on new missions or responsibilities,” it said.

What’s left unknown is who is really telling the truth. Trump lies all the time, of course, but sometimes he has accidental bouts of candor. And administration officials often shade the truth, or contradict the known facts entirely, in an effort to avoid the horrifying implications of Trump’s claims. Regardless, Trump seems to want people to think the U.S. military is up for sale, which is terrifying enough on its own.

Did Israel Play A Role In Targeting Iranian General For Assassination?

This article was produced by the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Last October Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad, spoke openly about assassinating Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“He knows very well that his assassination is not impossible,” Cohen said in an interview. Soleimani had boasted that Israel tried to assassinate him in 2006 and failed.

“With all due respect to his bluster,” Cohen said, “he hasn’t necessarily committed the mistake yet that would place him on the prestigious list of Mossad’s assassination targets.”

Is Israel Targeting Iran’s Top General for Assassination?” I asked last October. On January 3, Soleimani was killed in an air strike ordered by President Trump.

Soleimani’s convoy was struck by U.S. missiles as he left a meeting at Baghdad’s airport amid anti-Iranian and anti-American demonstrations in Iraq. Supporters of an Iranian-backed militia had agreed to withdraw from the U.S. diplomatic compound in return for a promise that the government would allow a parliamentary vote on expelling 5,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Pentagon issued a statement confirming the military operation, which came “at the direction of the president” and was “aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” The Pentagon claimed that Gen. Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, under indictment for criminal charges, was the first and only national leader to support Trump’s action, while claiming that Trump acted entirely on his own.

“Just as Israel has the right to self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right,” Netanyahu told reporters in Greece. “Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the deaths of American citizens and other innocents, and he was planning more attacks.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed retaliation for the general’s death, tweeting that “Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.”

Soleimani was the most capable foe of the United States and Israel in the region. As chief of the Quds Force, Soleimani was a master of Iran’s asymmetric warfare strategy, using proxy forces to bleed Iran’s enemies, while preserving the government’s ability to plausibly deny involvement.

After the U.S. invasions of Iraq, he funded and trained anti-American militias that launched low-level attacks on U.S. occupation forces, killing hundreds of U.S. servicemen and generating pressure for U.S. withdrawal.

In recent years, Soleimani led two successful Iranian military operations: the campaign to drive ISIS out of western Iraq in 2015 and the campaign to crush the jihadist forces opposed to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The United States and Israel denounced Iran’s role in both operations but could not prevent Iran from claiming victory.

Soleimani had assumed a leading role in Iraqi politics in the past year. The anti-ISIS campaign relied on Iraqi militias, which the Iranians supported with money, weapons, and training. After ISIS was defeated, these militias maintained a prominent role in Iraq that many resented, leading to demonstrations and rioting. Soleimani was seeking to stabilize the government and channel the protests against the United States when he was killed.

In the same period, Israel pursued its program of targeted assassination. In an effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, Mossad assassinated at least five Iranian nuclear scientists, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman. Yossi Melman, another Israeli journalist, says that Mossad has assassinated 60-70 enemies outside of its borders since its founding in 1947, though none as prominent as Soleimani.

Israel also began striking at the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq last year. The United States did the same on December 29, killing 19 fighters and prompting anti-American demonstrations as big as the anti-Iranian demonstrations of a month ago.

Now the killing of Soleimani promises more unrest, if not open war. The idea that it will deter Iranian attacks may come to rank with George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” in the annals of American folly.

“This doesn’t mean war,” wrote former Defense Department official Andrew Exum, “it will not lead to war, and it doesn’t risk war. None of that. It is war.”

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported two years ago that Washington had given Israel the green light to assassinate Soleimani, as Haaretz recounted:

Al-Jarida, which in recent years… [has] broken exclusive stories from Israel, quoted a source in Jerusalem as saying that ‘there is an American-Israeli agreement’ that Soleimani is a ‘threat to the two countries’ interests in the region.’ It is generally assumed in the Arab world that the paper is used as an Israeli platform for conveying messages to other countries in the Middle East.”

Trump has now fulfilled the wishes of Mossad. After proclaiming his intention to end America’s “stupid endless wars,” the president has effectively declared war on the largest country in the region in solidarity with Israel, the most unpopular country in the Middle East.

Jefferson Morley is a writing fellow and the editor and chief correspondent of the Deep State, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has been a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., since 1980. He spent 15 years as an editor and reporter at The Washington Post. He was a staff writer at Arms Control Today and Washington editor of Salon. He is the editor and co-founder of JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of JFK. His latest book is The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster, James Jesus Angleton.

In Chicago Speech, Trump Says ‘We’re Keeping The Oil’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump attacked his predecessor and confirmed that he was risking American lives for Middle Eastern oil.

The president delivered a rambling speech Monday morning to the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, where he basked in applause for the successful military raid that killed Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria.

“They have been looking for him for a long time,” Trump said, as the police officers applauded. “They’ve been looking for him for many years. He was a sick and depraved man and now he is dead. He is dead, he is dead as a doornail.”

“And he didn’t die bravely, either, I will tell you that,” the president added. “He should have been killed years ago. Another president should have gotten him. But to me it was a very important — I would say all the time, they would walk into my office, sir, we called this leader at a low level. I said I never heard of him. I want al-Baghdadi. That’s the only one I know now. I want al-Baghdadi, get him. And they got him.”

Trump then defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but promised to leave enough forces behind to secure the oil in the region.

“We met some great generals,” he said. “I learned a lot about generals. I met some good ones and I saw some bad ones. Some that didn’t have what it takes, and others that had more than anyone would have thought.”

The president claimed that ISIS had been 100 percent destroyed under his leadership.

“It was supposed to take a year, maybe two years,” Trump said. “I said to one of them how long will it take? ‘I think we can do it in one week, sir.’ He was a little more like you. But we have now tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners under tight supervision, and now we want the countries in the region to police their own borders. We don’t want to be a policeman in this case of two countries that haven’t gotten along for centuries.”

“We’re keeping the oil,” he added. “Remember that, I’ve always said that — keep the oil. We want to keep the oil, $45 million a month, keep the oil. We’ve secured the oil.”