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Threats, pressure and possible wars dominate troubling U.S. foreign policy

By Brian E. Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: May 29, 2019 - 3:23:40 PM

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Worshippers chant slogans against the United States and Israel during a rally after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, May 10. A top commander in Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said that Tehran will not talk with the United States, an Iranian news agency reported — a day after President Donald Trump said he’d like Iranian leaders to “call me.”

Wars and rumors of war seem to be driving U.S. foreign policy these days. The U.S. has been in military conflicts for decades with no end in sight. And, whether it’s an American proxy war in Yemen led by client state Saudi Arabia, the longest running U.S. war ever in Afghanistan or increased shouting by war hawks toward Venezuela and Iran—the U.S. seems bent on combat, or at least the threat of combat.

President Donald Trump May 24 vowed to send 1,500 more troops to the Middle East over the Iran threat.

“We are going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” the president told reporters at the White House before setting off on a trip to Japan. “Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now and we’ll see what happens.”

Mr. Trump has in recent weeks alternated between tough talk toward Iran and a more conciliatory message, insisting he is open to negotiations with the Islamic Republic. He seemed to downplay the prospect of conflict when he spoke at the White House.

“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight and I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” he said.

The administration notified Congress earlier in the day about the troop plans.

The forces would number “roughly” 1,500 and would deploy in the coming weeks, “with their primary responsibilities and activities being defensive in nature,” according to a copy of the notification obtained by The Associated Press.

Their mission would include protecting U.S. forces already in the region and ensuring freedom of navigation, the notification said.

Earlier in the week, officials said Pentagon planners had outlined proposals that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners hadn’t settled on a figure.

“I don’t think we’re going to need them. I really don’t,” President Trump told reporters. “I would certainly send troops if we need them.”

Mr. Trump said, “we’ll be there in whatever number we need,” if required.

The U.S.-Iran friction is rooted in America unilaterally quitting a nuclear pact between the Islamic Republic and the five Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany signed by former President Barack Obama in 2015.

War thirsty administration officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have been vocal about regime change and destabilization in Iran.

Washington reinstated crippling sanctions designed to cut Iran off from selling oil on global markets. Analysts maintain sanctions are a form of economic terrorism and collective punishment of the Iranian people. The Trump administration has accused Iran of plotting attacks on America and its allies, which Iran denies.

Despite intensifying war rhetoric, a divide exists between war advocates and Mr. Trump who has criticized U.S. “endless wars” and pledged worldwide troop reductions.

“This administration is so erratic in the way that it deals with foreign policy,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the pro-peace organization Code Pink. “You have Trump on the one hand saying that he doesn’t want war, but then he brought in John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams— people with a history of supporting wars and aggression as primary parts of U.S. foreign policy,” said Ms. Benjamin in a telephone interview with The Final Call.

Mr. Trump dismissed charges of disunity in his administration: “There is no infighting whatsoever,” he tweeted May 15. “Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision—it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected any possibility of talks with Mr. Trump.

“Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” President Rouhani said, according to IRNA News agency.

At one-point Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif chided the U.S. president for being led by a war mongering “B-Team,” a reference to Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo, while contradicting them.

“With the #B_Team doing one thing and @realDonaldTrumpsaying another thing,” it is apparent “the U.S. … doesn’t know what to think,” Mr. Zarif said in a May 17 tweet.

Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan and Secretary of State Pompeo met behind closed doors with lawmakers May 22 to discuss alleged proof that Iran is a threat and justify more military resources.

The officials said attacks against American forces were averted based on “re-posturing of assets” in the region. In early May, Mr. Bolton announced the deployment of a battleship- carrier strike group and bomber taskforce replete with B-52s to the Iranian coast. The move set off days of intense verbal sparring between the two nations.

“Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate,” Mr. Shanahan told reporters after the meeting.

“The U.S. is the major supplier of weapons to the biggest aggressor(s) in the Middle East … Saudi Arabia and Israel,” said Ms. Benjamin. “The reality is that it is the U.S. that is the aggressor in both cases of Venezuela and Iran. In the case of Venezuela, the U.S. is not covertly meddling, its overtly trying to overthrow that government.”

Despite the legitimate re-election of President Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela, Washington decreed opposition leader Juan Guaidó is president sparking months of instability and protests in Venezuela. The administration has argued the elections were not fair and Mr. Guaidó, as president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, has the right to take over. Some 60 nations, with U.S. prodding, have recognized Mr. Guaidó as a head of state.

America has a long sordid history of military provocation, meddling and snooping in the affairs of other nations. As Mr. Trump faces the 2020 presidential election to run for a second term, foreign policy is being closely scrutinized.

It’s “diplomacy and using our economic power,” said Democratic presidential candidate and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio to The Final Call during a stop on the campaign trail in South Carolina.

“This country for a long time went into other countries and intervened militarily almost at a drop of a hat, and to the detriment of all,” said Mayor De Blasio. “Now they are saber rattling about Iran … saber rattling about Venezuela; that’s in my view absolutely destructive to consider military intervention in either place,” he said.

Intervention was tried in both countries with “horrible impact,” warned the mayor.

War should never be the first resort and, when considered, Congress must make the decision using the War Powers Act, he said.

The federal law is intended to check the president’s power to commit the U.S. to war without the consent of Congress. Congress used the law recently in a vote to pull U.S. financial and military upkeep of the war in Yemen, where a major humanitarian crisis has been spawned by the conflict. President Trump vetoed the measure. But the law has largely been ignored by U.S. presidents.

Mr. De Blasio criticized the hardline position of the Trump administration in removing America from international agreements like the Paris Accord on Climate Change.

A mid-May IPSOS/Reuters online poll of adults across America said 60 percent of Americans strongly oppose preemptive war on Iran and 36 percent believe that a war is likely within the next few years. Only 18 percent approve of Mr. Trump‘s handling of Iran. Despite Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian Nuclear pact, 61 percent of Americans still supported the agreement.

“The U.S. would never be so involved in Venezuela if it didn’t have the largest oil reserves in the world and Iran is extremely wealthy in terms of natural resources,” Ms. Benjamin observed.

Washington has been open about wanting American companies to produce the oil and control resources.

“They’re not masking that this is all about U.S. interests … U.S. corporations. It’s not in the interest of the American people,” added Ms. Benjamin. “Infact, the American people are paying for it with massive military budget.”

In its latest budget request to Congress, the Trump administration asked for a near-record $750 billion for the Pentagon and defense-related activities. That’s only a fraction of the total cost of National Security, according to military defense experts William Hartung and Mandy Smithberger in a article.

Considering all related budgets together the “final annual tally for war, preparations for war, and the impact of war comes to more than $1.25 trillion— more than double the Pentagon’s base budget of $544.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2020.”

The military budget takes enormous amounts of money away from programs that will benefit the American people, said anti-war advocates.

“This is capitalism at its worse and it’s going to ruin our country, unless we have a drastic change,” said Walid Nicola Hakim, director of Civil Defense Corps, a non-profit human rights organization.

Mr. Hakim is a disabled war veteran who experienced firsthand the devastating effect of hawkish U.S. foreign policy. He doesn’t want any young Americans or persons from “innocent countries” America is attacking and vilifying to experience war. “That has to stop, because it is evil,” he said. “We need to step away from that.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)