Iranian foreign minister downplays tension with US

As tensions continue to rise between Tehran and Washington, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is taking a less confrontational approach. He said, “There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region.”

2003 called…it wants its war rationale back

The case for the Iraq War was built on intelligence that suggested Iraq had WMDs, which were famously never found. Iran now appears to be using the “faulty intelligence” argument, still a sensitive topic for many Americans, to sow distrust of the current intelligence, which the U.S. claims shows Iranian ships armed with missiles. Iran’s ambassador to the UN has also sought to drive a wedge between National Security Adviser John Bolton and the president.

Iran runs a defiant posture

While the U.S. sends a carrier fleet and bomber strike force to the Middle East to defend its interests against Iran, Iran remains defiant and says that its missiles can easily hit U.S. warships. Iran also says that the U.S. cannot afford a war with Iran and says the U.S. as a country is in a “bad situation”.

US says it has pics of Iranian missiles

The U.S. has multiple images of Iranian commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf that it believes are carrying missiles and other munitions, according to a U.S. official. The freighters have been modified, the official said, with large areas of their decks removed. The official did not explain why these vessels would need to be altered to carry missiles, but surveillance has shown the freighters moving in and out of Iranian ports in recent days.

Jamsheed & Carol Choksy: Iran, give Trump a call

“Tehran’s leadership should bear in mind that for Trump, a deal seems to be ‘horrible’ unless it is proposed by his administration. Only then can it be deemed ‘fair’ if not ‘great.’ By making his willingness for a phone call clear, President Trump is laying the groundwork for an attempt, through his bipolar style of negotiations, at an agreement bearing his signature, instead of those of the previous U.S. administration and the other world powers. As Trump stated when he exited the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran deal, in May 2018, he seeks ‘to negotiate a new deal.'”

What’s going on with Iran?

No one seems to know. Republican lawmakers have complained that they’re “left in the dark.” There are rumors that the president feels he’s being coerced into a war he doesn’t want by National Security Adviser John Bolton. And to top it all off, our European allies are disputing the justification for a possible military operation, saying there has been no increased threat from Iran-backed forces in Iraq and Syria.

Sen Chris Murphy & Rep Jim Himes: Stop the march to war

“It is not too late to stop this mistake. Military brinkmanship, designed to provoke or cause an aggressive reaction, can be stopped. We ask that the administration brief Congress on the situation in an open and transparent way and acknowledge that the Constitution grants war-making authority solely to Congress, not the Oval Office. Critically, President Trump must understand that the authorization for the use of military force that Congress passed in 2001 against al-Qaeda does not authorize hostilities against Iran, no matter how much Pompeo would like to link Iran and al-Qaeda.”

White House exploring plan to send ground troops to Iran

At the direction of National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting Defense Sec. Patrick Shanahan last week presented top White House national security officials with a plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in the event that Iran should “attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.”

US deploys Patriot missiles to Middle East

Concerned about a military threat from Iran or its surrogates, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has authorized a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East. The Patriot missile system is defensive in nature and designed to intercept incoming missiles.

Intel showed Iranian leader OK’d attacks on US personnel

The recent bravado from U.S. leaders on Iran and the recent movement of an aircraft carrier strike force in the region appear to be based off of Iranian intelligence intercepted at some of the highest levels. The intelligence indicated that Iran was telling its proxy forces and surrogates in the Middle East region to begin attacking U.S. personnel and assets.

Administration trumped up intel on Iran

On Sunday, the National Security Council announced that the U.S. was sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Gulf in response to “troubling and escalatory” warnings from Iran. Justifying the move, government officials cited intelligence indicating Iran had crafted plans to use proxies to strike U.S. forces in the region. Now, multiple sources close to the situation say the administration blew it out of proportion, characterizing the threat as more significant than it actually was.

US deploys carrier and bomber task force to Iran

A statement from U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton reads, “In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

Pompeo: US to offer Venezuela ‘full range of options’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the Trump administration is offering a broad range of options to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, including “diplomatic options, political options, options with our allies, and then ultimately a set of options that would involve use of U.S. military.” He also said support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains strong, and he demanded that interfering countries end their involvement in the conflict.

Ignoring Navy’s advice, Trump reallocates funds wanted for cybersecurity

Donald Trump is still fighting the last century’s wars. A March report from the U.S. Navy said, “Navies must become information enterprises.” But on Tuesday, Trump reversed his decision to retire a 21-year-old nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, costing the Navy more than $20 billion it had planned to spend on advanced technologies.

US military sees spike in sexual assaults

An anonymous, internal survey shows that the military experienced a 13 percent increase in sexual assaults in 2018. The Pentagon is indicating that since the #metoo movement, reports of sexual assaults have increased by 37 percent.

Trump’s betrayal of Afghan and Iraqi interpreters

Working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan comes with enormous risks both to interpreters and their families. Despite this risk, the Trump administration is reducing the number of Iraqis and Afghans who get visas. In Iraq, for example, 200 Iraqis were cleared to receive visas, compared to 10,000 in 2016.

US military not ready for war in Venezuela

Despite statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggesting that the “military action is possible” in Venezuela, the Pentagon is responding by saying that it is not preparing to intervene in Venezuela. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said that the main focus of the U.S. military is to gather intelligence in Venezuela.

Mattis ignored Trump to prevent ‘bad things from happening’

Former Defense Sec. James Mattis declined to carry out orders from President Trump or otherwise limited his options in various attempts to prevent tensions with North Korea, Iran, and Syria from escalating. “The president thinks out loud. Do you treat it like an order? Or do you treat it as part of a longer conversation? We treated it as part of a longer conversation,” a former senior national security official said. “We prevented a lot of bad things from happening.”

Guantanamo Bay commander dismissed

Navy Rear Adm. John Ring was fired from his position as commander of the prison at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was let go because of “loss of confidence in his ability to command.” It is unclear what actually prompted the firing.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s new company is operating in Iraq with Chinese backing

A Hong Kong-based security company founded by Blackwater founder Erik Prince is reportedly operating in southern Iraq. Prince, whose private mercenary group Blackwater got kicked out of Iraq after killing 14 unarmed citizens during the Iraq War, reportedly founded the logistics company Frontier Services Group in 2014 and has since expanded it into Africa, China, Southeast Asia and Dubai.

Trump to withdraw US from UN Arms Trade Treaty

President Trump effectively “unsigned” an international arms sales agreement at the NRA convention on Friday. The UN’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) sets global standards for regulating transfers of conventional arms, from rifles to tanks and airplanes. The U.S. signed on to the ATT in 2013 but has not ratified the treaty. The U.S. withdrawal was expected. Trump made it official by pulling out a pen onstage and signing a paper that he said would take back the Obama administration’s signature on behalf of the U.S.

Navy Seals pressured not to report war crimes

Navy Seal officers in Seal Team 7 pressured their subordinates not to report any potential war crimes, especially those of their chief, Navy Seal Edward Gallagher. Despite this pressure, word broke of Gallagher’s crimes in Iraq, and he was arrested on 12 different charges, including premeditated murder and attempted murder.

Trouble in Tripoli

The World Health Organization estimates that about 200 people have died from fighting between rebel Haftar-led forces, and the UN-backed government in Tripoli. As Haftar forces continue their siege of Tripoli, casualties, especially those of civilians, are expected to climb.

US Naval Academy to bar transgender students in 2020

Following Donald Trump’s order banning transgender recruits from joining the military, the U.S. Naval Academy will bar transgender students from enrolling beginning in 2020. All transgender students currently at the Academy, will be allowed to remain enrolled and will be allowed to serve in the military.

IS Somalia leader killed in airstrike

The deputy leader of the Islamic State group in Somalia, Abdihakim Mohamed Ibrahim, has been killed in an airstrike. While Somalian officials are not yet saying if the airstrike was US-led, the US has conducted more than 30 airstrikes in Somalia this year, making this latest strike most likely American-led.