further indications that the Pentagon is preparing for war on Iran

(I know it’s longish, but it’s all of a piece, and of major importance as well, imo.)

‘Amid tensions with Iran, US shifts Middle East command from Qatar to S Carolina’, Sept. 30, 2019, presstv.com

“The United States Air Force temporarily shifts its command center from Qatar to South Carolina amid US President Donald Trump’s escalation of tensions with Iran.

The unannounced operation marked the first time in 13  years that the US command and control was moved out of the region, reported The Washington Post, which had been invited to observe the measure.”

As a result, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar was left empty on Saturday and Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina was put in charge of controlling US operations from 7,000 miles away.

“The functions that the CAOC provides for air power are so critical and so essential that we can’t afford to have a single point of failure,” said Major General B. Chance Saltzman, using an acronym for the center.”

I did try to read about it the issue at the WaPo, but it’s still behind a paywall for me, and I sure wonder what angle they’re spouting./s.  But consider this lying rubbish from the good Colonel I’ve bolded, when actually what Rouhani and Zarif have said continually, the equivalent of ‘we won’t start a war, but if you come for us, we’ll finish it’.  My second bold is rubbish, as well.

“Colonel Frederick Coleman, the commander of the 609th Air and Space Operations Center, also claimed that, “Iran has indicated multiple times through multiple sources their intent to attack US forces.

“Frankly, as the war against ISIS winds down and as we continue to work through a potential peace process in Afghanistan, the region is calming down and potentially more stable than it has been in decades, except for Iran,” he alleged.” [snip]

“Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow specializing in aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, stressed the importance of the command center, saying that, “It doesn’t take a whole heap of imagination to look at it and think, if push came to shove and it was a full blown conflict, it would be one of the priority targets.”


The Middle East Eye explains some of technical issues that other coverage had stated, but were even more confusing to me: 

‘US air force temporarily shifts Qatar command centre to South Carolina’, Sept. 30, 2019

“The air base is the largest in the Middle East region, capable of housing more than 10,000 US troops. Although the move was only temporary, with al-Udeid taking back control on Sunday after 24 hours, it appears to indicate a significant tactical shift in US thinking.

While air force personnel said moving functions to a different base had been a long-harboured ambition enabled by new technology, the move comes amid renewed tension with Iran, which lies around 300km to the northeast.

The unannounced operation was the first time US command and control had been moved out of the region since the centre was established in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 First Gulf War.

Air force personnel told the Washington Post that recent incidents involving Iran – including the shooting down of a US drone in June and the attack on Saudi oil facilities this month with what the US said appeared to be Iranian-supplied weapons – had added urgency to the project.

If conflict with Iran were to occur, the base in Qatar would be a prime target for Iran.

The US air force aims to run the centre remotely once a month and remain the rest of the time at al-Udeid. 

Eventually, commanders want to work up to a schedule in which the centre is operated remotely for eight hours of every 24-hour period, either at Shaw or elsewhere.”

Bill van Auken’s coverage is quite blunt, and likely exactly right given that he’d read the WaPo version:

‘Pentagon shifts Mideast command center to US in preparation for war on Iran’, Bill Van Auken, 1 October 2019 (a few bits):

“The report added that issue had become more pressing following the September 14 attacks on Saudi oil installations, which temporarily cut the kingdom’s production in half and sent oil prices soaring by 20 percent. While Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, Washington, the Saudi monarchy and the major European imperialist powers have blamed Iran, while as yet providing no evidence to support their accusations.”

“This operational change constitutes a deadly serious warning that Washington is making active preparations for yet another war in the Middle East, this one against a country with nearly three times the population and four times the land mass of Iraq. Moreover, due to its massive oil and gas resources and its strategic centrality to control over the Eurasian landmass, a war against Iran would inevitably draw in all of the major powers, including nuclear-armed Russia and China. And, unlike Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Iran has made serious preparations to fight back.”

“In an interview broadcast Sunday on the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman warned that a war with Iran would lead to a worldwide economic collapse.” [snip]

“Whether he was speaking just for the Saudi monarchy or its patron in Washington is unclear. The Saudi regime has ample reason to fear a direct military confrontation with Iran. While inundated with tens of billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons from the US, the UK and other suppliers, Riyadh was incapable of defending its most vital facilities against a drone attack.”

“While the US has thus far refrained from carrying out military strikes against Iran, it has conducted other forms of warfare. This includes an economic blockade of the country. This “maximum pressure” campaign, aimed at slashing Iranian oil exports to zero, has been steadily tightened with escalating sanctions. It has resulted in the cutting off of imported food and medicine to Iranians, leading to numerous deaths of people denied drugs for cancer and other diseases.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif has also accused Washington of targeting Iranian infrastructure, including nuclear facilities, with cyberattacks.

“There is a cyber-war going on,” he said on the NBC news program “Meet the Press” Sunday. “The United States started that cyber war, with attacking our nuclear facilities in a very dangerous, irresponsible way that could have killed millions of people.”

This is FM Zarif’s interview with Snotty Toddy on Meet the Press (about 20 minutes):

Zarif: “There is a cyber-war, and Iran is engaged in that cyber war. Any war that the United States starts, it won’t be able to finish.”

Now some additional background behind this provocative Pentagon COAC move:


‘Iran’s Rouhani at UN: No talks with US without sanctions relief;
Iranian president invites Gulf countries to join coalition in Strait of Hormuz region’, middeleasteye.net, 25 September 2019

“About 24 hours before Rouhani’s speech, Trump tried to rally the world against Iran from the same stage.

“All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidise Iran‘s blood lust. As long as Iran’s menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened,” Trump said on Tuesday.

He (Rouhani) called for the two countries to return to the negotiating table without sanctions, urging Washington to abide by the framework of the original agreement and adding that the US should “pay more” if it wants a wider nuclear deal.

“The only way for talks to begin is to return to commitments and compliance,” he said. “Stop the sanctions, so as to open the way for the start of negotiations.”

Rouhani also said he was not interested in meeting Trump or top US officials in the early stages of talks.

Memorial photos are the last stage of negotiations, not the first,” he said.

Later on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to Rouhani’s speech, repeating Trump’s call to mobilise the world against Iran and accusing the Iranian leader of being deceitful.

“Rouhani is desperate to deceive because the world is awakening to the truth. The truth is that Iran responds to strength and not to supplication,” Pompeo said at an anti-Iran meeting in New York.

“More and more nations are beginning to stand up to Iran’s thuggish behavior, and disengaging economically. We will ensure that all of them do.” [snip]

Most recently, US officials also blamed Iran for an attack on Saudi oil facilities that temporarily disrupted energy markets, cutting global oil production by 5 percent earlier this month.

On Monday, France, Britain and Germany issued a joint statement saying it was clear that Iran was responsible for the attack, but also calling for a return to the negotiating table.” [snip]

‘Coalition of HOPE’

Iran has denied responsibility for the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities as well as on oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz earlier this summer.

Rouhani used his speech at the UN to invite Gulf countries to join what he termed the “Coalition of HOPE”, which he said stands for the Hormuz peace endeavor.

“The goal of the Coalition of Hope is to build peace, stability, progress, and welfare for all of the residents of the Strait of Hormuz region,” Rouhani said.

He added that the initiative would call for energy security and the free transfer of oil through the strait. Still, the Iranian president used the announcement to take a jab at the US role in the region.

The security of our region shall be provided when American troops pull out,” Rouhani said.

Security shall not be supplied with American weapons and intervention.”

File under hilarious snub (sorry, Chucky Toady): ‘Iran president refused to take Trump’s call arranged by Macron: Reports’, presstv.com, Oct. 1, 2019

‘Trump rejected Iran’s conditions for meeting Rouhani: Zarif’, Sept. 28, 2019, presstv.com

“Zarif said on Saturday that Trump was merely trying to hold a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the latter’s stay in New York this week, adding that the US president was unwilling to accept that sanctions imposed by his government on Tehran should be lifted as a main precondition for talks with Iran.

He said, however, that a direct meeting between Trump and Rouhani had never been on agenda and Iran basically wanted a meeting between heads of states signatory to a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear activity which has suffered since Trump’s administration withdrew from the deal in May 2018.” [snip]

“Iran had indicated that talks would be possible only if Washington returns to the Iran nuclear deal while insisting that Washington should remove all sanctions imposed on the country since November last year.

Zarif said in his Saturday interview that Iran would never commit to a “theatrical meeting with a president that has not observed his obligations”.

“If the Americans want to have the honor of being the conversation partner of the Islamic Republic, they must return to their commitments and stop the sanctions,” he said.”

Now let’s see; which nations had helped negotiate the 2015 JCPOA but refuse to pressure the US to end the sanctions and re-join the agreement again?  Oh, well:

P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany),, and the European Union.  Dontcha wonder why the bolded nations and the EU haven’t done that?

One analyst I’d read opined that as the President is busy with impeachment inquiries and Congressional demands for his tax documents, etc., it”s Thug Pompeo running his FP; perhaps the ghost of John McCrankypants and Joltin’ Bolton’s toxic fumes as well?

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

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OzoneTom's picture

...that we do not have reliable defensive capabilities against the sort of weapons we should now expect.

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@OzoneTom Other than Saudi incompetence it looks like American Patriot and other air defense systems were not capable and were ineffective. Basically it looks like Iran and Houthi drones, missiles etc can reach any part of the ME, and nothing to stop them. The move may be more about prudence than preparing for a war.

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wendy davis's picture

@MrWebster

never start a war, hasn't started one for 250 years, according to FM zarif: it looks as though the pentagon sees amerika as about to begin one.

i still have no idea what running the base 'remotely' means, but perhaps that's just another psyop to show iran.

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Creosote.'s picture

@MrWebster

with telling descriptions and photographs of them in action, here:
http://thesaker.is/new-weapons-and-the-new-tactics-which-they-make-possi...
The US pulling troops and ships out of the area is suggested somewhere in this report, dated October 2 like this essay.

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wendy davis's picture

@Creosote.

my friend. the saker's a busy dude; i was asked by a café commenter to look at his zelenzkiy
updated (steiner****?) solution to the 'problems' with the independent republics in eastern ukraine.

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Creosote.'s picture

@wendy davis
The closest I got was assisting in the publication of Elena Campbell's book, The Muslim Question and Russian Imperial Governance (University of Washington Press, 2015), an extensive historical investigation of the Crimean area and the weakness and strengths of its population groups.

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wendy davis's picture

@OzoneTom

of the reason, as the US and its client states sure learned in spades the houthi weapons (they claim to believe were iran's) kicked ass on the saudi refineries. KSA'a missile defense proved so crap that they'd asked south korea for some of theirs. putin hilariously said he'd sell them russian S400s (or whatever they're called) in a new twist on MAD, this time 'Mutually Assured Defense'.

thanks, ozone tom.

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bin Salman was talking about diplomacy with Iran. Don't know if it was just blowing smoke, or if real. But I can see it being real as he and the Pentagon must now know that they are powerless to stop both Iran and the Houthis from totally destroying the economic base of the kingdom. American counter measures are useless to stop them. Saudi Arabia would cease to exist in such a case.

Maybe even Trump understands what would happen if he went to war with Iran.

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wendy davis's picture

@MrWebster

real, and based out of fear, even the head-shopper knowing that his weapons are totally outclassed by iran's, as well as the huge danger that a far wider war would ensue, even if nuclear israel were to join any Imperial alliance.

now van auken's report was based on a 60-minutes interview, but i'll bring more of what he'd reported:

"In an interview broadcast Sunday on the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman warned that a war with Iran would lead to a worldwide economic collapse.

“The [Persian Gulf] region represents about 30 percent of the world’s energy supplies, about 20 percent of global trade passages, about four percent of the world GDP (gross domestic product),” bin Salman said. “Imagine all of these three things stop. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries.

The Saudi royal tyrant echoed US charges that Iran was responsible for the attacks on its oil facilities last month and called for world powers to take “strong and firm action to deter Iran.” At the same time, however, he stressed that a “political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one.”

Whether he was speaking just for the Saudi monarchy or its patron in Washington is unclear. The Saudi regime has ample reason to fear a direct military confrontation with Iran. While inundated with tens of billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons from the US, the UK and other suppliers, Riyadh was incapable of defending its most vital facilities against a drone attack.

then a lot about the houthis finally having outmatched the sauds after four and a half years, the death tolls, the starvation, eradication of infrastructure, capturing bases, taking prisoners of war, etc....

The Saudis and their US-backed puppet, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (now residing in Riyadh), had already lost control of the port city of Aden to forces of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), backed by Riyadh’s erstwhile ally, the United Arab Emirates.

i can see why the clown prince might hope for diplomacy, but as FM zarif said to toady: then they should just stop making war on yemen! yes, that would be a good start.

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wendy davis's picture

@MrWebster

'Highlights from this week's Mohammad bin Salman interview on "60 Minutes"; Four important questions "60 Minutes" asked Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia', sept. 29

oh, and this week bin salman's personal body guard was reported to have been murdered, fwiw.

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Cassiodorus's picture

but one that's too hard to chew. The sort of effort necessary to wage war on Iran would in all likelihood destroy Iran, which I'm not sure is their goal.

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"The degree to which liberals are coming to inhabit an alternate reality, impenetrable by facts or reason, is actually frightening." -- Steve Maher

wendy davis's picture

@Cassiodorus

by 'A major pretext for war -- ', whether signaling a US war on iran' or something else, as in a faux casus belli.

but many of trump's generals had warned him of the blowback of beginning a regional war with the russians, chinese, and other great powers and minor joining in, but i cannae say who's in charge now, not can rouhani and zarif.

the other wild card i'd forgotten to mention is that saudi arabia (for fuckssake) was recently given a seat on the board of governors of the IAEA, which board will choose the next director post-yukia amano (whom some say was murdered as he was too rational about iran's nuclear capabilities). given that the US usually needs to okey-doke that position, who can say who they might choose? but no one rational, that's for certain.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@wendy davis will get hairy quick. See e.g. the Iran-Iraq War in the Eighties.

That is all.

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"The degree to which liberals are coming to inhabit an alternate reality, impenetrable by facts or reason, is actually frightening." -- Steve Maher

wendy davis's picture

@Cassiodorus

and i sincerely hope that this move with the rest of the OP doesn't mean that the pentagon will strike iran. trump's generals (and others?) stopped him last time from doing so. my big Q is who else's orders would they take? paranoia strikes deep.

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wendy davis's picture

@Cassiodorus

then do you mean that my title is hyperbole, or a 'dress rehearsal' for war on iran? do agree that some wsws authors are hyperbolic. but consider a false flag by 'our' partners in crime' israel blamed on iran, for instance.

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wendy davis's picture

(EEU is eurasian economic union)

and you may have rad that at first he and rouhani weren't given visas to even enter the US to attend the unga (illegal threat), finally got them, but the zarif wasn't allowed to visit his sick friend in the hospital.

@JZarif Sep 30

On Rūmī's 812th birthday, our region and the world need his insight and wisdom more than ever before.

amen to that!

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if they attack Iran first.

Someone in the Air Force hierarchy has a brain and doesn't want a black eye in a future "Pearl Harbor" inquiry. Remember an Admiral and a General were sacked in that one.

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wendy davis's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

and over that they'd retaliate and win, as they only wage war in defense. it's part of their religious credo. thanks, voice; i'll have to think about your final sentence, but i just had a shot of heap scotch for end-of-a-long-day pain.

and thanks for reading such a tome, as well.

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wendy davis's picture

i'm zonked, as i get up long before first light.

this is dedicated to the US empire, the largest exporter of violence, not democracy™, on the planet. a nation cannot make war and expect it can lead to peace! good night; peace when you can manage it.

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wendy davis's picture

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