Reprinted from www.moonofalabama.org
The Trump administration is reacting to the pandemic stress by lashing out at perceived internal and external enemies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the external onslaught.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an "immediate global ceasefire" to focus on fighting Covid-19. He has appealed for the "waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic."
But Washington is not listening.
Requests from Venezuela and Iran for emergency IMF loans to buy medical supplies were blocked by U.S. interventions.
Just a month ago Pompeo announced an increase of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions block money transfers. They make it impossible for Iran to import the medical equipment it urgently needs to counter the epidemic.
While the U.S. renewed the sanction waiver which allows Iraq to import electricity and gas from Iran the waiver is now limited to only 30 days. One third of Iraq's electricity depends on those imports from Iran and, if the waiver is not renewed, its hospitals will go dark just when the epidemic will reach its zenith.
Parts of the Trump administration are even pressing for a wider war against alleged Iranian proxy forces in Iraq:
The Pentagon has ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of American combat in Iraq, issuing a directive last week to prepare a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group that has threatened more attacks against American troops.
But the United States' top commander in Iraq has warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran.
Some top officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O'Brien, the national security adviser, have been pushing for aggressive new action against Iran and its proxy forces and see an opportunity to try to destroy Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq as leaders in Iran are distracted by the pandemic crisis in their country.
Military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been wary of a sharp military escalation, warning it could further destabilize the Middle East at a time when President Trump has said he hopes to reduce the number of American troops in the region.
The plan is lunatic. One can not "destroy" Kataib Hezbollah and other Iraqi Shia groups which Iran helped to build during the war against ISIS. These groups are part of political parties with deep roots in the Iraqi society.
France, Italy and the Czech Republic have started to withdraw from Iraq. Denmark is also leaving and the UK is removing 50% of its force. There are less than 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a war on Kataib Hezbollah could mobilize hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to fight against the U.S. occupation. Such a war would also involve Iran and the U.S. would certainly lose it.
The U.S. has currently two aircraft carrier groups in the Arab sea to threaten Iran. But those ships are of no use right now. They are 'cruise ships with guns'. Nuclear powered five billion dollar petri dishes for novel coronavirus outbreaks. Two U.S. carrier groups in the Pacific are already out of action because they have larger outbreaks on board. It is only a question of time until the other carriers follow.
It is not only Iraq and Iran the U.S. is aiming at. The U.S. State Department cut its contributions to health care in Yemen just in time of the highest need:
Officials with the United States Agency for International Development said the decision to halt funding, reported earlier by The Washington Post, included exceptions for "critical, lifesaving activities, including treatment of malnutrition as well as water, sanitation and hygiene programs aimed at keeping people healthy and staving off disease."
But humanitarian officials said the agency's exceptions did not provide for continued funding of basic health care programs, which are heavily reliant on foreign aid, and did not seem to take into account what might occur when the coronavirus begins to spread.
Not happy with only messing up the Middle East the State Department also renewed its assault on Venezuela. On Thursday the Justice Department announced charges of 'Narco-Terrorism, Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Crimes' against President Nicolas Maduro and 14 former or current officials. It put up a $15 million reward for Maduro's arrest.
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